When Putnam Plaza opened nearly two years ago in Clinton Hill, it was welcomed with a dance party. Last Friday, the dancing continued as the Fulton Area Business Alliance, the local business improvement district, held one of its FAB Friday events in the plaza. The space featured games, live music, and a portable library allowing people to sit and relax with a book. On Sunday evening, the BID hosted Soul Aerobics in the plaza. FAB Friday events are also scheduled this summer for Cuyler Gore Park and Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene.
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Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol joined local residents on Park Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday to push DOT and other city agencies to implement recommendations from the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Partnership’s pedestrian safety plan. The plan calls for a set of pedestrian safety improvements and traffic enforcement measures to make Park Avenue less of a BQE service road and more of a neighborhood street.
“Government’s most primary responsibility is to protect its citizens,” Lentol said. “We definitely need traffic calming measures.” Lentol also called for an expansion of speed cameras in the city. “Speed kills,” he said. “We’ve got to slow these cars down.”
Over a two-hour period on a recent afternoon, MARP clocked 40 percent of drivers on Park Avenue speeding, with the fastest hitting 53 mph. When a student from Benjamin Banneker Academy broke out the speed gun yesterday afternoon, the first reading came back at 38 mph. New York City’s speed limit is 30 mph.
M. Blaise Backer, executive director of MARP, called on city agencies to begin design and implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Park Avenue is broken, and it can be fixed,” he said. “We have to get DOT’s attention.”
Council Member James echoed the sentiment. “We really need to get all of the entities involved to focus on this,” she said. James and Lentol were joined by representatives of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Transportation Alternatives at the event.
Community participation in formulating the plan has been significant. If you’d like to learn more about how MARP and its partners collaborated on the report, the Center for Architecture will host a panel Friday morning featuring architects, planners and community members.
In 1959, when the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was under construction, Park Avenue in the Wallabout section of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill was converted from a neighborhood street to a service road that would run underneath the new elevated highway. Walking on the street hasn’t been the same since. With 160,000 cars roaring by overhead each day, two lanes in each direction on the surface, and more than 300 parking spaces in the median, the street is not what you would call pedestrian-friendly. It’s also dangerous, with a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets.
More than 50 years after Robert Moses and the BQE changed Park Avenue, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project Local Development Corporation (MARP) is pushing to enhance the street for walking and public activity, unveiling a slate of proposals to reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety [PDF].
In 2009 and 2010, MARP hosted three community workshops as part of an effort to reuse spaces beneath the BQE. Based on community feedback at those events, the group decided to focus on traffic safety. In late 2010, Architecture for Humanity New York joined the project, working with MARP throughout 2011 to conduct research and host workshops. An advisory committee comprised of residents, community organizations and city agencies also helped guide the recommendations. Funding for the report was provided by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.
The recommendations are comprehensive and address everything from litter to traffic signal timing. In May, MARP went before Community Board 2′s transportation committee, which voted unanimously to support the proposals.
Intersections would receive significant upgrades. The plan calls for neckdowns and crosswalk markings on cross-streets along the median. Access points to parking underneath the BQE would be marked as pedestrian crossings, with raised crosswalks and stop signs. At North Portland, Clinton and Clermont Avenues, the report recommends closing auto access to parking under the BQE to improve safety for the higher number of pedestrians crossing Park Avenue at those intersections.
It only took Hilda Cohen and Ali Loxton ten weeks to collect 1,600 signatures supporting a traffic-calming redesign, including a bike lane, for Brooklyn’s Lafayette Avenue. Yesterday evening they took their petition to the transportation committee of Community Board 2 and made their case. The result: a 9-1 committee vote asking DOT to study Cohen and Loxton’s proposal.
There’s still a long way to go before an official redesign moves forward, but Cohen and Loxton’s impressive organizing has revived the idea of redesigning Lafayette, and it’s a great case study in how to mobilize for safer streets.
Cohen and Loxton both live in Fort Greene and bike, walk and drive on Lafayette with their kids. They told the CB 2 committee last night that the street feels like it’s geared more toward fast-moving cars than people, with two eastbound traffic lanes and two parking lanes. The galvanizing moment for them came last October, when two drivers crashed at high speeds at the corner of Lafayette and Vanderbilt Avenue, jumping the curb outside a packed church.
The next week, they started gathering signatures supporting “traffic calming and a bike lane” on Lafayette. Their regular sign-up spot was the farmers market by Fort Greene Park. Since the weekend of the New York City marathon in early November, 1,500 people have signed the petition in writing and another 100 have signed it online.
“You would just say ‘Lafayette’ and people would want to talk to us,” said Loxton. “In the cold, they would stop.”
“People can enjoy it now, and have been since about five minutes after the street was closed,” said Phillip Kellogg, the manager of the Fulton Area Business Alliance, which sponsored the plaza. Five minutes after the work crews left, he said, a skateboarder was trying out the new space. Immediately after tables and chairs were put out, locals brought out their chess sets. People escaped the heat of the laundromat and waited for their loads to finish out in the fresh air. “Everybody’s been giving it a thumbs up,” said Kellogg.
The plaza, still only a week old, has so far been the boon for business that the FAB hoped it would be. “Enhancing the pedestrian experience along Fulton makes it more appealing to walk on Fulton Street, to shop and come to our restaurants and get dinner or a drink,” said Kellogg. That theory was put to the test on Sunday and passed with flying colors, he added, convincing even the skeptical businesses that the plaza works, so far. “The deli sold a lot of soda and seltzer. The cafés were jam-packed, with lines out the door.”
Because Fulton cuts through the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill grids diagonally, said Kellogg, there are lots of underutilized triangular spaces created at three-way intersections. In addition to the Putnam plaza, which was built quickly with less permanent materials, FAB is also sponsoring the Fowler Square plaza, at the intersection of Fulton, Lafayette Avenue and South Elliott Place, which is going through the DOT’s formal plaza program and will be built with higher-quality materials. Right now, Fowler Square “is the kind of place where people just walk through on the way to somewhere else,” said Kellogg. “It’s really important that people realize that it’s theirs.”
Meet the city’s newest public space: Putnam Plaza. The epoxy and gravel surface just went down on the block of Putnam Avenue between Fulton Street and Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill. Seating and tables should arrive before the week is out.
NYC DOT is implementing this pedestrian plaza in partnership with the Fulton Area Business Alliance. We’ll have a detailed story on the project in the days ahead. For now, enjoy the pictures courtesy of our tipster.
The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted unanimously Tuesday night to advance the idea of improving cycling connections between Fort Greene and surrounding neighborhoods. The proposal put forward by committee member Mike Epstein envisions safer bicycling across Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, spanning intersections that are currently among the most dangerous in Brooklyn. A resolution asking DOT to study the plan's feasibility is now expected to come up before the full board at a meeting next month.
"The area between Fort Greene and Park Slope has been notoriously difficult to ride through," said Aja Hazelhoff of Transportation Alternatives. "This would produce safer and more reliable corridors between neighborhoods."
The proposal calls for a new connection linking bike lanes on Ashland Place, Schermerhorn Street, DeKalb Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, and Third Avenue, including a contraflow segment across Flatbush and down a few blocks of Third where motor vehicle traffic travels northbound only.
To the east, where the Carlton Avenue bridge has been indefinitely closed to accommodate Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, an extension of the Vanderbilt Avenue bike lane to Flushing Avenue would provide a much-needed alternate route across Atlantic.
The plan also envisions a new eastbound bike route on Lafayette Avenue and a Flushing Avenue connection linking Williamsburg's new two-way, protected bike path and the approach to the Manhattan Bridge.
Council members Tish James and Steve Levin have signed on in support of the proposal. According to reports from Tuesday's meeting, Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator Chris Hrones indicated that it's increasingly common for DOT to receive and move forward with ideas that originate outside the agency.
A two-block pedestrian plaza is coming to Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill, replacing an underused service road between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place. Last Friday, the local business improvement district unveiled eight potential ideas for the site (check out the BID's Flickr stream to see them all) and asked viewers for their feedback.
Although DOT and the Department of Design and Construction will ultimately select their own design team, local partners like the Myrtle Avenue BID were invited to hold "visioning workshops" for their sites. Rather than selecting a final design for the project, Friday night's event was intended to generate ideas and gauge public interest in different uses, with attendees writing their thoughts on clipboards and post-it notes.
The "New Wave" design featured an eye-catching centerpiece in its cantilevered awning, ecologically-minded materials like permeable pavement, and a sunken amphitheater for performances -- ideas that seemed to align well with the elements that participants asked for.Read more...
Q: Can you please let us know what the 88th is doing to keep the streets safe from criminal drivers? We regularly see drivers flying through our streets (perhaps especially along Washington Park, right along the park, where there is no stop light for two blocks). Running red lights is also common. I live on Clinton between Myrtle/Willoughby and it seems that that block is a continual double-park fest. I've lived here since 2000 and cannot recall ever seeing a police officer issuing a traffic violation -- I don't doubt that it happens from time to time, but clearly it doesn’t happen enough to deter dangerous behavior from drivers.
A: We've never heard that we don’t give enough summonses. I do have a summons officer and will send him over to Clinton and Willoughby if that's an issue. But so far this year, we’ve already issued 1,200 violations in the precinct for hazardous driving, including running red lights, speeding, talking on a cell phone and backing up unsafely. That’s in addition to many summonses for less hazardous moving violations. We've also issued 2,400 parking violations so far this year.
Citing the number of summonses handed out is typical of how NYPD measures traffic enforcement, and it doesn't come close to telling the whole story. Consider that nearly 40 percent of New York City motorists were clocked speeding in Transportation Alternatives' report Terminal Velocity [PDF]. Or that drivers burn through red lights in the city more than a million times every day, according to a 2001 study conducted by the city comptroller [PDF]. It stands to reason that those 1,200 citations issued in the 88th comprise only a very small fraction of all hazardous driving violations committed in the precinct this year.
The questioner on The Local gets at the crux of the problem by asking whether the precinct's enforcement actually deters dangerous driving. The answer doesn't address this at all, and in fairness to Captain Kight, hard information on deterrence isn't available because NYPD doesn't measure compliance with traffic laws. If the city is serious about preventing the hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries incurred every year by motor vehicles, getting a handle on the prevalence of driver malfeasance is a necessary step.
After the jump, an "exchange" with 88th Precinct commanding officer Anthony Tasso about police cars hogging the public right-of-way.Read more...
2008 quickly bring good news for commuters in Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. Eric Chang of Transportation Alternatives' Queens Committee snapped these photos of the new covered bike shelter that was just installed at the Vernon Blvd /Jackson Avenue station on the 7 line in Long Island City. The third photo is from Fort Greene where Gil Ronen (pictured) along with T.A. and Green Fort Greene & Clinton Hill were instrumental in bringing over 70 new CityRacks to the historic Brooklyn neighborhood.