Crown Heights

Grand Army Plaza car-free zone touted for possible construction

The century-old problem of car accidents and pedestrian injuries at Grand Army Plaza could be solved with DOT plan to curb car traffic

November 14, 2022 Daniel Cody
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CROWN HEIGHTS — At the nexus of some of Brooklyn’s busiest avenues, the city Department of Transit is considering the transformation of Grand Army Plaza into a car-free zone, Gothamist reported in an exclusive piece on Friday.

Gothamist also explained that Grand Army Plaza could be connected to Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues nearby, which regularly close for events via the Open Streets Initiative, according to WNYC. The Open Streets initiatives on Vanderbilt and Underhill terminate at Atlantic Avenue.

Crossing the street can be a headache for pedestrians among the dense traffic that culminates around Park Slope and Downtown during peak commuting hours, and the landmark is notorious among residents for being traffic-choked and hard to get around. NYCDOT had a table at Grand Army Farmer’s Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, and they will host an online workshop available to the public on Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

The Death-O-Meter, which displayed the amount of traffic-related injuries and deaths in the borough, on display at Borough Hall in 1924. Eagle photo

The DOT is gunning for the over $900 million that Mayor Adams allocated to turn the tide on traffic violence. Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Transit Eric Beaton told Gothamist in an interview that preventing traffic injuries around Grand Army Plaza requires serious structural changes to the area, “There’s [only] so far you can get with paint, planters and barricades.”

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In a May 2022 letter, Ydanis Rodriguez, Commissioner of the NYCDOT, along with Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, wrote a letter detailing pedestrian accidents and crashes that have increased in recent years, as well as the proliferation of trash and waste in the area.

The lawmakers commented that over 1,500 people live in the vicinity of Grand Army Plaza, and that it remains one of the most prominent landmarks in the borough.

In 1924, the Brooklyn Eagle reported on the Death-O-Meter, a large disc that was planted at Borough Hall as a reminder of the deaths related to high-speed automobile traffic. The Brooklyn Safety Council moved the disc to Grand Army Plaza in 1927. In 1935, the sign was rededicated to Park Circle at the southern portion of Prospect Park, according to Brownstoner. Two other Death-O-Meters were installed on Kings Highway and East 34th Street in Flatbush. labeled the project as “shocking” and warned that making Grand Army Plaza car-free would separate the Jewish community from Methodist Hospital, which they said is an asset to the neighborhood and makes it so that the medical center is “suddenly slightly out of reach.”

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