July 14, 2007 / Park Slope Courier / Perspective / PS … I Love You

Army Plaza must be really ‘grand’

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Grand Army Plaza is about to undergo a massive facelift and public reaction couldn’t be more, well, um, confused.

As reported in The Brooklyn Paper two weeks ago, the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, a citizens group, wants to calm traffic in the bustling circle by eliminating some roadways, transforming others into two-way streets and giving pedestrians the upper hand over cars.

It’s a sensible plan, of course — after all, that traffic circle has long been one of the city’s most dangerous intersections and the public hasn’t been able to truly experience the majesty of the Civil War memorial and recently restored Bailey Fountain in years — but convincing people of that isn’t always so easy. I discovered that when I journeyed to Grand Army Plaza armed with our exclusive schematic of the GAPCO plan from our June 30 front page. First reactions from people — even those who traverse the circle every day — ranged from squinty-eyed confusion to mouth-open stupefaction.

In short, the plan calls for the elimination of the roadway that connects Union Street to Eastern Parkway and the simultaneous transformation of Prospect Park West and the portion of Flatbush Avenue that runs through the circle into two-way streets.

The plan also calls for eliminating a shortcut that allows drivers to exit Prospect Park roadways at Grand Army Plaza and enter the circle.

Naturally, that confused some people. Phil Marriott, a Park Sloper, took a few minutes to really grasp the beauty of the proposal.

“A two-way traffic circle?” he said. “I’ve never such a thing.” But after studying all the plans ebbs and flows, Marriott was convinced. “If they eliminate that road between Union Street and Eastern Parkway, it could eliminate the traffic that backs up all the way down Union Street to Seventh Avenue. When I really look at it, it looks like the circle will indeed be safer. It won’t be like it is now, like that circle around the Arc de Triomphe with those insane drivers.”

Alex Beers, who described herself as “41, with two kids and a minivan, who is always driving through that circle,” also balked at the “counter-intuitive” two-way intra-circle traffic. But then, she added, “When you get over the shock, you realize it’s kind of beautiful.”

It’s more than that, says one of its chief backers, transportation activist Aaron Naparstek. Computer simulations done in 1999 show that the redesign would run fluidly. And changing the direction of streets and filling in empty areas with greenery is an inexpensive and simple way of changing the problem, added GAPCO member Robert Witherwax.

The other day, one park user said anything would be better than the less-than-grand Army Plaza. “I had to cross six streets so my kids could play in the fountain,” said Jonathan Gold of Kensington.

The Kitchen Sink

Our own Rep. Yvette Clarke has snubbed Barack Obama and thrown her weight behind Sen. Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency, citing Hil’s commitment to “[resolving] high unemployment in our inner cities, job creation, reducing poverty, gun violence and increasing affordable housing.” …

You gotta love Urban Optical on Seventh Avenue. Our editor went in there with a broken frame and the technician fixed it for free — even after the boss pulled out his wallet and prepared to pay. …

A new restaurant, Sidecar, on Fifth Avenue between 15th and 16th streets, just opened, serving “contemporary American fare.” It’s applying for a liquor license, so for now, the booze-friendly policy is BYOB. …

Slopers were coming out in force for a fundraiser for Pizza Plus at Southpaw on Friday night. The popular Seventh Avenue pizzeria was gutted in a fire in May. …

Our pals at New York Methodist Hospital have been real busy. First, they unveiled a new Department of Neurosciences, combining neuroscience, rehab and psychiatry into one discipline, calling the decision to merge the three fields a “no-brainer” (pun intended?). Later, the hospital announced an “insomnia clinic,” where patients will hopefully be able to find rest. ... Our pal, and contributor, Chris Varmus, is pumped up for kickball, and wants more people to discover their inner children. He’s got 50 red rubber ball enthusiasts signed up for his “Empire Division” league in Prospect Park, and needs just 10 more to enlist on …

Our pal Hollie Rosenberg, best known as the stage manager for the beloved 2005 Fringe Fest hit, “SUV: The Musical,” is now directing “Richard III” at the Brooklyn Lyceum on Fourth Avenue. The show has remaining performances at 8 pm on July 23 and 30, and August 6, 13 and 20. Check out for details, but Hollie assures us that her “Dick 3” kicks butt!

Updated 4:30 pm, July 9, 2018
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