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Posts from the "Fort Greene" Category

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Last-Minute Venue Change for Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Bike-Share Meeting

This just in: Council Member Tish James has moved the location of tonight’s neighborhood forum about bike-share. The meeting starts at 6:30 and the new location is: Sacred Heart Church, 30 Clermont Avenue between Flushing and Park.

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Bike-Share Works Just Fine in Historic London, Boston, and DC Neighborhoods

Sumner Place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has homes dating to the 19th century, luxury SUVs built in the early 21st century — and a bike-share station sponsored by a multi-national bank. Photo: Google Maps

While polls have shown that upwards of 70 percent of New Yorkers support bike-share and DOT engaged in a multi-year public process for station siting, a vocal minority in Fort Greene is objecting to public bike stations in the landmarked district. At least one extremist has gone so far as to tar newly-installed stations with wheatpaste posters decrying the Citibank-sponsored kiosks. In response to the neighborhood chatter, Council Member Tish James has scheduled a community meeting about bike-share for tonight.

The historic preservation arguments simply fail to hold any water. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has signed off on the stations. Take a stroll in Boston or Washington, and you’ll see that other cities have managed to introduce bike-share stations on historic residential streets without harming their architectural legacy. And a quick glance at historic Fort Greene will reveal that its residential streets and sidewalks already have commercial activity in the form of bus shelter advertisements, newspaper boxes, and ice cream trucks.

One of the arguments against the bike-share stations is that sponsorship from a multi-national corporation like Citi has no place in historic neighborhoods. This, of course, conveniently overlooks the Coca-Cola logo on a Fort Greene storefront or the brightly-colored cars with BMW and Volvo logos parked throughout the neighborhood, which have failed to attract the ire of the anti-bike crowd.

It also doesn’t account for Boston, a city full of historic neighborhoods where the Hubway system is sponsored by footwear manufacturer New Balance, and London, where the bike-share system is named for another financial giant, Barclays Capital.

In fact, some of London’s most historic neighborhoods, including pricey West End districts like Mayfair, Kensington, and Chelsea, have Barclays-sponsored bike-share stations on residential streets. When the stations were first installed in 2010, neighbors raised an array of bizarre objections, from bird droppings to human rights violations — and yes, historic preservation.

But as the system has rolled out and proven to be a big success, the objections have waned. As the later phases of the system have come online, elected officials who had accommodated the initial complaints by slowing implementation have been less likely to give serious attention to the dwindling NIMBYs. “The administration was considerably less sympathetic to concerns that were purely subjective and hampered the roll out in phase one,” London bike blogger Danny Williams told Streetsblog.

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Speak Up If You Think Bike-Share Belongs in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

Remember the Fort Greene residents who complained last year that bike-share stations don’t belong in their historic, landmarked neighborhood — even though you can find cobalt-blue Volvos and banana-yellow, late-model Beemers taking up the curb on those same blocks?

Seen in Fort Greene: colorful products made by massive global corporations, stored by private owners on the public right of way.

Well, they apparently haven’t been convinced that public bikes belong on the street as much as private cars. Someone even felt entitled enough to deface Citi Bike stations with bike-share-hating flyers. Another small fraction of curb space could become useful to the car-free majority of residents — perish the thought!

The anti-bike-share crowd has been lobbying Council Member Tish James to remove stations in the neighborhood, and James is holding a public forum about bike-share on Wednesday evening. Whether you plan to use bike-share yourself or you just want to see the system succeed, if you live in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill this is an important one to turn out for. Otherwise, this is the message that’s going to come through the loudest:

The bike-share forum is happening Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, 71-77 Clinton Avenue.

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Citi Bike Stations Spotted in Fort Greene [Updated]

The brains and guts of the 33-dock bike-share station at Myrtle and Clinton. Photo: Joanna Oltman Smith

After the first Citi Bike stations were installed in Bed Stuy and Clinton Hill over the weekend, NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt told Transportation Nation that bike-share implementation will “be moving through the Brooklyn area and then into Manhattan over the next few weeks.” And it looks like stations have now been installed at least as far west as Adelphi Street and as far north as Flushing Avenue.

Reader Joanna Oltman Smith sent in the above photo of a 33-dock station going in on Clinton Avenue by Myrtle Avenue. And I passed this 23-dock station on Flushing between Adelphi and Carlton Avenue on the way into work this morning:

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Brooklyn CB 2 Committee Unanimously Supports Permanent Fowler Plaza

Last night Brooklyn Community Board 2′s transportation committee voted 7-0, with one abstention, to support the conversion of Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene from a temporary public space to a permanent feature of the neighborhood. The committee vote followed a DOT presentation showing that Fowler Square Plaza has had a minimal impact on traffic and is overwhelmingly popular with businesses, plaza users, and nearby residents.

CB 2's transportation committee wants Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene to be made permanent. Photo: Stephen Miller

For its report, DOT surveyed 360 plaza users and 100 residents who live within one block of the plaza. The agency found that 64 percent of plaza users visit the space at least once a week, and 63 percent come from Fort Greene and adjacent neighborhoods. Both users and nearby residents overwhelmingly support the plaza:

  • 83 percent said the plaza has made overall quality of life better. Only 1 percent said it’s worse, while 5 percent say it’s the same, and 11 percent are unsure.
  • 76 percent said the plaza has improved pedestrian safety and 81 percent said it has improved the area’s aesthetics.
  • 97 percent said the plaza is positive addition to neighborhood. This includes 99 percent of people surveyed in the plaza and 92 percent of residents surveyed door-to-door.
  • Of the adjacent businesses, 26 are in favor of a permanent plaza, with only one against (Mullane’s Bar) and two (Gourmet Deli and Fresh Garden) not taking a position.

DOT also studied traffic impacts between October 4 and 22, including days with events at the Barclays Center, as well as SAT and PSAT testing days at Brooklyn Technical High School. The amount of traffic diverted because of the plaza has been minimal. “We’re only talking about adding one to two cars maximum per minute onto South Portland,” explained DOT’s Emily Weidenhof, referring to a parallel street.

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Tonight: Permanent Fort Greene Plaza Up for a Vote at Brooklyn CB 2

It didn't take long for Fowler Square plaza to disprove the prophecy that it would "split the neighborhood apart." Photo: @LincolnRestler

A reminder for readers who live in and around Fort Greene: The Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee is taking up the matter of Fowler Square plaza tonight, and if you head over to 180 Remsen Street to weigh in, you can help this new public space become a permanent neighborhood fixture.

NYC DOT installed the plaza with temporary materials this spring and began evaluating its impact on traffic and street life. The agency will present the results of that study this evening before the committee vote.

If you’ve walked by the temporary plaza at the triangle where Fulton Street and South Elliott Place meet, you’ve probably seen that it’s quickly become a very well-used gathering place. The businesses around the plaza either appreciate it as a neighborhood amenity, or simply don’t mind the change to the street grid. Still, it’s hardly a given that the upgrade to a permanent plaza will sail through the CB 2 committee.

For whatever reason, this plaza project has brought out some especially outlandish NIMBY behavior from a small band of opponents. One early planning workshop was disrupted by a plaza antagonist who argued, “This is a city, not the country.” Anonymous flyers were distributed before the plaza opened, predicting it would “split the neighborhood apart.”

So you can bet the CB 2 committee will be hearing it from them tonight. If you’d like the committee to hear from you, too, the meeting gets started at 6:00 p.m. at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street.

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Eyes on the Street: New Places to Sit on Myrtle Avenue

A new tree guard bench on Myrtle Avenue near Carlton Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Combining public seating and tree protection, the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership has begun a second round of street furniture installations. The project is bringing 28 tree guards and 22 benches to Myrtle Avenue between Flatbush and Classon Avenues by the end of the year, joining 40 tree guards and benches that were installed in 2011.

At one of the tree pits on Myrtle Avenue this summer, local residents set up folding chairs and hung out on the street, making it an obvious candidate for a tree guard bench, said the Partnership’s Daniel Scorse.

Students in art classes at neighborhood schools created the designs for ten of the new guards, which were then prepped for fabrication by the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation.

The Partnership is seeking sponsors to help defray the cost of maintaining the benches and tree guards. The latest installations were funded by the Partnership’s BID, ConEd and New York State urban forestry and Main Street programs.

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Public Takes to Plazas in East New York and Fort Greene

Lights are strung on the Christmas tree at New Lots Triangle on Saturday. Photo: Stephen Miller

This weekend, three Brooklyn plazas became hubs of neighborhood activity.

In East New York, Saturday evening saw a community tree lighting, along with local performers and community organizations, at New Lots Triangle on Livonia Avenue. In prior years, the tree was situated in a tiny patch of asphalt between three streets, but in 2011 DOT expanded the plaza by reclaiming a small section of Ashford Street from motor vehicle traffic.

“The street was a real hazard for people,” said Catherine Green, founder and executive director of Arts East New York, which organized the evening’s events with Soul of Brooklyn and other partners. She added that the plaza has “changed the mindset of people in the neighborhood.”

After hosting a presentation and open house Thursday night, the Fulton Area Business Alliance BID set up shop in two public plazas – Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene on Saturday and Putnam Plaza in Clinton Hill on Sunday — to solicit input on a conceptual plan to revamp 26 blocks of Fulton Street in the BID service area.

Staff from architecture firms working pro bono through non-profit desigNYC joined the BID to get feedback from people walking past. Based on the responses it receives, FAB Alliance will adjust the plan, which focuses on street furniture, public space and redevelopment of key sites on Fulton Street.

“It’s a public plaza and this is a public process,” FAB Alliance manager Phillip Kellogg said. “What better way to engage people?”

FAB Alliance is planning a Christmas concert by the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble gospel choir in Fowler Square Plaza on Saturday, December 15, at 2:00 p.m.

DOT hosted a planning session for New Lots Triangle in August, and is scheduled to present results from business surveys regarding Fowler Square Plaza to the Community Board 2 transportation committee on December 18. Permanent plaza reconstructions are proposed for both locations.

On Saturday, the FAB Alliance solicited feedback on plans for Fulton Street in Fort Greene's Fowler Square Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Businesses on Fowler Square Plaza: Go Ahead, Make It Permanent

DOT is scheduled to go before Community Board 2′s transportation committee on December 18 with plans to make the new pedestrian plaza at Fowler Square in Fort Greene a permanent redesign. Before the city went ahead with reclaiming this block of North Elliott Place for the plaza, a small, vocal contingent — mostly upset that they would have to slightly alter their driving routes — predicted that the new public space would be unsafe for walking. Previously, another opponent claimed the plaza would “split the neighborhood apart.” Now that everyone has had the summer and fall to see the plaza in action, we thought we’d check in with some local business owners about what they think of the project.

Getting Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene ready for business yesterday morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

By and large, nearby business owners either actively welcomed the plaza or had no objection to giving people a place to sit, even if it changed their commutes a little bit.

J.J. Lee, owner of La Bagel Delight, supported the plaza. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s for everybody in this neighborhood.” Lee had heard some people complaining that the plaza removed parking spots. If they think that losing a handful of parking spaces would make or break the neighborhood’s businesses, he said, “they’re out of their mind.”

Ed Tretter owns 67 Burger on Lafayette Street and said he’s heard plenty of arguments for and against the plaza, but he likes what it’s done for the area. “It’s nice and clean and people are enjoying their neighborhood,” he said. He did say he would prioritize other initiatives above the construction of a permanent plaza, and wants something done about speeding. “We call this the Lafayette 500,” he said. “They don’t care if the light’s red or green.”

Jay Rajani owns the Sahil Magazines and More bodega. “I don’t care, actually,” he said. “I lost my parking, that’s it,” he said, adding that it didn’t have an impact on his business.

Sung Lee, manager of Luxury Nail and Spa, said he experienced one big change since the plaza was installed. “Now I have to go around” the block when driving, he said. “I don’t mind.”

Shira Glouberman lives in the neighborhood and was walking on Lafayette Avenue yesterday morning. “It’s a wonderful idea,” she said, noting that the plaza serves a different need than the grassy expanses of nearby Fort Greene Park. “A lot of people use it.”

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NYPD Cruiser Hits Cyclist in Fort Greene

Photo: Chad Kellogg

Streetsblog reader Chad Kellogg, a cyclist who lives and works in Fort Greene, came upon this scene earlier today. He writes:

A police car hit a cyclist (who had the right of way) at the corner of Myrtle and Vanderbilt at around 11:40 a.m. this morning. The cyclist was knocked to the ground and injured his elbow and shoulder. His front wheel was crushed under the right front wheel of the car as the car was turning right onto Myrtle. I witnessed the incident from from a very clear vantage point across Myrtle.

FDNY was called to the scene at 11:22. A spokesperson said the cyclist suffered “non-critical” injuries and refused medical attention.

Photo: Chad Kellogg

This crash occurred in the 88th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Scott M. Henderson, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 88th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at various locations. Call the precinct at 718-636-6526 for information.