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Downtown Brooklyn Partnership unveils plan to transform public realm over next decade

October 21, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On Thursday, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) unveiled the Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Plan, which puts forth a series of transformative measures to take Downtown Brooklyn from a traditional central business district geared to car-oriented uses to a citywide leader in reclaiming streets for greater pedestrian use and creating public spaces that prioritize people and the environment. 

The specific reforms stem from DBP’s broader vision for the neighborhood, unveiled in 2019, as well as lessons learned in the past year. With an emphasis on green spaces, the plan proposes planting 1,000 new trees, implementing permanent shared streets, and creating an Adams Street greenway that connects DOT’s dedicated bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge to an extensive Brooklyn bicycle network.

A re-imagining of the Fulton Mall, with a bike path and more green space. Rendering courtesy of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The plan was by DBP with design firms Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG Architects) and WXY architecture + urban design (WXY), and in close collaboration with NYC DOT, NYC Parks, and a 50-plus member steering committee including local resident associations, cultural organizations, educational institutions, businesses, property owners and houses of worship. 

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It calls for the overhaul of key public spaces to provide engaging, accessible outdoor areas for respite, wellness and recreation; expanding the network of shared streets into a core network for safer pedestrian and cyclist use; planting 1,000 new trees; transforming Adams Street into a multimodal greenway that builds upon DOT’s implementation of protected bike lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge; and finally, reimagining the Fulton/Livingston bus network to create a more streamlined experience for both transit users and pedestrians. 

“The pandemic has underscored the need to follow through on our public realm vision for a downtown that prioritizes people over cars and quality green spaces,” said Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “It has also shown that city agencies are capable of responding swiftly and strategically when necessary. This plan positions Downtown Brooklyn as a model for converting outdated infrastructure that no longer serves its constituents.”

Plantings and trees enliven the Atlantic Terminal Mall area, with the terminal at right. Rendering courtesy of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Since its rezoning in 2004, Downtown Brooklyn has grown to become a vital mixed-use neighborhood, with a 24 percent increase in population, a 19 percent increase in new businesses and a 16 percent increase in jobs. But the streetscape no longer serves its primary users — pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit riders. 

As the 2020 Census noted, Brooklyn experienced the largest population increase of the five boroughs, effectively tying it with Chicago as the third largest city in the nation. The plan, which DBP has begun implementing with projects such as the Hoyt Street streetscape improvements, focuses on the streets between Willoughby and Schermerhorn streets north and south of the Fulton Mall, mapping a core network of shared streets, new public spaces and increased biodiversity. 

The Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Plan proposes the following recommendations: 

  • Transform Columbus Park, Albee Square + Fleet Street, and University Place into public spaces that are inviting communal gathering places;
  • Reimagine Adams Street as a signature multi-modal boulevard that builds upon DOT’s upgrades to the Brooklyn Bridge, creating a more connected and protected bicycle network so commuters can travel safely to and from Manhattan;
  • Pedestrianize the Downtown Brooklyn core by widening sidewalks and creating a network of curb-less shared streets;
  • Plant 1,000 new trees using in-ground and raised planters, and incorporate green walls and rain gardens to improve air quality and reduce urban heat island effect;
  •       Re-evaluate the Fulton/Livingston bus network – adjusting routes to maximize efficiency, alleviate congestion and enhance the pedestrian experience.

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