Sweeping redesign for Downtown Brooklyn would improve cyclist and pedestrian safety
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has devised a plan to cut cars’ access to the neighborhood and make pedestrian and cyclist safety a high priority.
The not-for-profit local development corporation has unveiled its Public Realm Action Plan, which seeks solutions for snarled traffic and dangerous pedestrian crossings in Downtown Brooklyn’s 240-acre core. The area is bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Tillary and Court streets and Ashland Place.
The partnership, which devised the plan with architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group and architecture and urban design firm WXY, intends to make Downtown Brooklyn “far more welcoming to pedestrians from its streets to its plazas to its parks,” Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer said in a statement. “We want to go further than any business district in the city by reorienting streets away from cars and toward pedestrian, cyclist and mass-transit use.”
The partnership will continue to meet with stakeholders about the plan and refine its design in 2020, she said. The need for improvements is crucial in light of a projected doubling of Downtown Brooklyn’s population.
The partnership formulated key recommendations it’s making to city and state agencies, which will have the final say on how to implement them.
For starters, its Public Realm Action Plan recommends that the city Department of Transportation’s Shared Street program — which cuts the speed limit to 5 miles per hour — be expanded throughout the shopping district in Downtown Brooklyn’s core.
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and DOT announced the opening of the borough’s first Shared Street in September.
It runs along Willoughby Street from Pearl Street to Lawrence Street and on Pearl Street from Fulton Avenue to Willoughby Street. Bollards and planters block vehicles from driving on portions of the Shared Street and street furniture encourages pedestrians to congregate.
The action plan recommends that pedestrian crossings be created and made safer at these locations:
- Jay Street between NYU’s 370 Jay St. building and MetroTech
- Flatbush Avenue and Schermerhorn Street, where Two Trees Management’s 300 Ashland Place stands and Alloy Development’s 80 Flatbush Ave. development site are located
- Flatbush Avenue and Adams Street
Bjarke Ingels Group and WXY have drawn up designs that add street furniture, plantings and lighting to Downtown Brooklyn’s outdoor spaces to make them more inviting to pedestrians.
The Public Realm Action Plan calls for the creation of new bike lanes on Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue, and Adams Street and an eastbound bike lane on Schermerhorn Street.
It also recommends a bike lane be created on Fulton Street by moving its eastbound buses to Livingston Street. Fulton Street currently has two-way bus traffic.
The action plan recommends that new developments include parks and plazas and that Columbus Park outside Brooklyn Borough Hall and University Place outside LIU Brooklyn be redesigned.
The plan also calls for measures to mitigate climate change, including the addition of four miles of green infrastructure and stormwater absorption through the construction of bioswales and planting of more than 900 new trees.
“We look forward to re-animating the neighborhood’s public realm, reclaiming the spaces between the buildings and creating an engaging and green environment for everyone to enjoy,” Bjarke Ingels Group Founding Partner and Creative Director Bjarke Ingels said in a statement.
Transportation Alternatives said the plan is a good start.
“We’ve dedicated so much space to moving and storing cars, so these efforts combined will help chip away at that, and in an area where pedestrians and cyclists really deserve more space,” said the group’s spokesperson Joe Cutrufo. “Shared street expansion is good. But why stop there? The plazas in downtown Brooklyn are some of the best places in the five boroughs. Let’s see more of that.”
The Public Realm Action Plan is separate from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s Brooklyn Strand plan, which it’s working on with help from Borough President Eric Adams. In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $10 million grant from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to carry out six elements of that plan.
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