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Posts from the Plazas Category

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Eyes on the Street: The Return of “Plaza 33” — Maybe for Good

Here's what happens when you close a street to car traffic in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

Here’s what happens when you make a street car-free in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

“Plaza 33” is back, transforming the eastern half of 33rd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue into a car-free public space — and it’s set to remain indefinitely.

This is the second iteration of “Plaza 33,” which was installed from July through October last year and is funded and managed by Vornado Realty Trust. Next to Penn Station, the space gets some of the most intense foot traffic in Midtown and was filled with people yesterday evening.

Some parts of "Plaza 33" remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

Some parts of “Plaza 33” remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Near-Unanimous Approval From Queens CB 5

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A one-day trial plaza on Wyckoff Avenue in April went off without a hitch. Photo: David Meyer

With 29 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention, Queens Community Board 5 overwhelmingly endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub last night. The project would significantly reduce potential conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians, mainly by creating a car-free plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

Pedestrians outnumber motorists at the six-legged Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, located at the junction of two subway lines and six bus routes, three to one, according to DOT. But it’s not safe — three people have been killed while walking there since 2009.

While the city implemented minor changes in recent years, the new turn restrictions weren’t enough. A turning bus driver struck and killed Edgar Torres in 2014 after the changes were made.

The car-free block will further simplify turning movements and give pedestrians a safer path between the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street.

In 2013, Judy Kottick lost her daughter, Ella Bandes, when a turning bus driver struck and killed her at the intersection. “It was very gratifying that Community Board 5 really considered the redesign and gave us their support,” said Kottick, who attended last night. Not one person spoke against the project during the meeting’s public comment section, she said.

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Tonight: Queens Community Board 5 Takes Up Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Queens Community Board 5 will vote on DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub at its monthly meeting this evening. The plan, which creates a one-block public plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF], won near-unanimous support from the CB 5 transportation committee three weeks ago.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed by drivers at the six-legged Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection. Initial changes that simplified turning movements failed to prevent the death of Edgar Torres, who was struck by a turning bus driver while crossing with the right of way in 2014.

In March, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said he was reluctant to go ahead with the car-free block, but recognized the need to prevent more injuries and deaths. “Something has to be done, obviously,” he told Streetsblog. “We’ve tried different things and we still haven’t stopped the fatalities. I have mixed feelings about the plaza, but what else can you do?”

While CB 5 members have warmed to the proposal, the same cannot be said for Brooklyn CB 4, which represents the southern side of the project area and failed to support the plan last month. Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents areas served by both community boards, has said he believes DOT should move forward with the project.

You can weigh in on the project at tonight’s meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrians Get Room to Breathe at Astor Place

The new "Alamo Plaza" awaits the return of the "The Cube" and the installation of new planted trees. Photo: David Meyer

People can walk across the new “Alamo Plaza” without worrying about Astor Place traffic. Photo: David Meyer

"The Alamo," also known as "the Cube," in July 2013. Google Maps

The 2013 Street View of Alamo, also known as “The Cube,” and the chunk of Astor Place that’s been pedestrianized. Image: Google Maps

The redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, first unveiled in 2008, is nearly complete. The new layout greatly expands pedestrian space in an area with lots of foot traffic.

While some construction work is still in progress around the subway entrance between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, the rest of the sidewalk expansions are all but finished — missing only final landscaping touches.

The capstone will be the reinstallation of Alamo, the sculpture famously known as “The Cube,” which previously stood on a traffic island between Astor Place and 8th Street. When it returns in August, the sculpture won’t be surrounded by traffic on all sides, instead sitting squarely in “Alamo Plaza” thanks to the pedestrianization of one block of Astor Place. Read more…

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Support From Queens CB 5 Transpo Committee

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Last night, the Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, including the creation of a one-block pedestrian plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

The project straddles two community board districts and was voted down by Brooklyn CB 4 last week. DOT can proceed without a vote from CB 4, however, if the agency chooses. Council Member Antonio Reynoso has said he supports the project and wants the city to take action.

The stakes for public safety are high. Three pedestrians were struck and killed at the intersection between 2009 and 2014, including Edgar Torres, who was hit while he had the right of way despite an initial round of changes to simplify vehicle movements at the site. The current project would do much more to prevent pedestrians from being struck by turning motorists.

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Antonio Reynoso: DOT Should Forge Ahead With Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

A one-day trial of the Myrtle-Wyckoff plaza worked wonderfully. Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants it to be permanent. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants DOT to move forward with its safety plan at the busy Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub, with or without the endorsement of the local community board.

Photo: NYC Council

Photo: NYC Council

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community 4 voted against DOT’s plan, which would dramatically reduce potential conflicts between drivers and pedestrians and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 5, which serves the north side of the future plaza, will vote on the project this evening.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed by turning drivers at the location. Minor changes implemented after Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a turning bus driver in 2013 failed to prevent the 2014 death of Edgar Torres, who was also struck by an MTA bus driver while he had the right of way.

Reynoso commended DOT’s plan, which he called “amazing,” on a phone call yesterday.

“I’ve been asking ever since I’ve been an elected official that we figure out a way to deal with this Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection and how dangerous it is,” he said. “The changes we made were progress but they didn’t stop one more person from dying.”

The community board voted against the project because it would reroute buses, according to CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted. But the safety improvements at the six-legged intersection won’t be possible without adjusting the routes of the B26 and Q55.

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Brooklyn CB 4 Not Sold on Myrtle-Wyckoff Safety Overhaul Despite Lives Lost

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A successful one-day plaza in April also wasn’t enough to convince the community board that the streets around the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub need to change. Photo: David Meyer

Three people have been killed by turning drivers at the crowded Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub since 2009, and the local community board still won’t vote for a city plan to improve pedestrian safety at the complex six-legged intersection.

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community Board 4 declined to endorse DOT’s plan to simplify the intersection and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. Since the project straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border, DOT will also seek a vote from Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee tomorrow evening.

People outnumber vehicles three-to-one at the Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is located at the convergence of two subway lines and six bus routes. The current configuration leads to too many conflicts between drivers and pedestrians: Three pedestrians were killed there between 2009 and 2014.

Two and a half years ago, hundreds of people gathered at the intersection to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements. Minor changes afterward were not enough to prevent the death of Edgar Torres, who had the right of way when he was struck and killed by a turning MTA bus driver in 2014.

Making a block of Wyckoff car-free would do what previous adjustments could not: give pedestrians safe passage between the train and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Turning movements would be dramatically simplified, reducing potential conflicts.

CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted could not provide a vote tally from Wednesday’s meeting but said only two board members sided in favor of the project. Whitted did not explain why the board rejected the project other than to say members did not like the “bus reroutes,” by which she was presumably referring to the B26, which currently utilizes the block of Wyckoff that would be pedestrianized.

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People Flock to the Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza for a Day

A mariachi band drew a crowd at the one-day plaza. Photo: David Meyer

On Saturday, neighborhood residents got an eight-hour taste of the one-block plaza DOT has proposed near the Bushwick-Ridgewood border. Going by the turnout, a permanent plaza would be a hugely popular public space for the neighborhood.

The block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Gates Avenue was car-free from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Foot traffic started slow, but by the afternoon the plaza was bustling with people. A mariachi band performed, a pop-up library had books for kids, and moveable chairs let people stop and rest.

This block abuts a major transit hub where two subway lines and six bus routes converge. In addition to serving as a public gathering place, the car-free plaza would vastly simplify vehicular turning movements, creating a safer walking environment. Thousands of people who walk by each day on their way to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station or the Ridgewood Bus Terminal, on nearby Palmetto Street, would benefit.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed at the six-legged intersection of Wyckoff, Myrtle, and Palmetto — two by MTA bus drivers.

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A Car-Free Plaza Is the Key to DOT’s Safety Plan for Myrtle-Wyckoff

wyckoff_myrtle

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

The dangerous intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue at the Bushwick-Ridgewood border is in line for a major DOT redesign this year. The proposal calls for pedestrianizing the block of Wyckoff between Myrtle and Gates to reduce potential motor vehicle turns at the intersection by 70 percent.

Myrtle-Wyckoff is a major transit hub, where the elevated M Train crosses paths with the underground L, and six bus routes converge at the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed at the six-legged intersection — two by MTA bus drivers. Two years ago, hundreds of people gathered there to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements.

In 2014, the city eliminated five of the 25 potential turns at the intersection, and last year the MTA rerouted the B26 away from the westbound turn from Wyckoff onto Palmetto. With the car-free plaza, the number of turns would fall even more dramatically — bus drivers would make five turns and drivers of personal vehicles would be limited to three turning movements.

According to DOT, three times as many pedestrians as cars pass through the block of the proposed plaza. Making it car-free would allow pedestrians to travel between the train station and bus terminal without having to cross motorized traffic lanes. The proposal also calls for demarcating the bus-only blocks by the bus terminal with red paint, and for converting Wyckoff to a one-way street south of the intersection.

On Tuesday night, about 60 people came to a public workshop hosted by DOT at International School 77 and weighed in on how they want to use the proposed plaza space.

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Better Rules for Plazas — It’s Not All About Times Square

Before today's hearing, Robert Burck, otherwise known as Times Square's famous "Naked Cowboy," spoke out in favor of legislation proposed by Council Members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick (second from right).

Robert Burck, a.k.a. the Naked Cowboy, has become the top spokesperson for clarifying which city agency regulates plazas. Council Member Dan Garodnick and Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins are to the right.

The City Council heard testimony today on Intro. 1109-A, which would give DOT authority over designating and regulating pedestrian plazas across the city. DOT has carved out nearly 70 plazas since 2008, but its jurisdiction over those plazas remains ambiguous.

This matters for a few reasons. The reason that gets all the attention is the made-for-tabloids storyline of Times Square and its desnudas and costumed hustlers. The city wants more authority to dictate where people can legally work for tips in Times Square, and investing DOT with that authority makes more sense than handing plazas over to the Parks Department, which would come with a host of drawbacks.

But it also matters for smaller plazas throughout the city, especially ones without a business improvement district to manage the space. The small organizations responsible for running these plazas often struggle to cut through the red tape involved in getting a permit for, say, an amplified performance.

The legislation does not specify new rules for plazas, but rather gives DOT the mandate to develop and implement such rules.

In Times Square, DOT intends to follow many of the recommendations from the Times Square Alliance and local electeds in last year’s “Roadmap for a 21st Century Times Square” report. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT will classify zones where commercial activity and vending are permitted, the intent being to keep walking routes and public seating areas clear of performers working for tips.

Speaking outside City Hall with council members and the Naked Cowboy, Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins said the legislation doesn’t aim to stop performers, but rather to get a handle on the overly aggressive behavior of some of them. “We want a variety of activities, but we need to also recognize that for years now this has been a consistently growing problem,” he said.

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