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Drivers cry foul over Fowler Square pedestrian plaza plan

The Brooklyn Paper
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A tiny Fort Greene street is becoming a battlefield for pedestrians and motorists as the city prepares to turn the block into a plaza.

Some drivers are lashing out against the city’s plans to demap the teensy block of S. Elliott Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street to make room for a pedestrian piazza, saying that it will make life miserable for motorists trying to get to Fulton Street.

“This isn’t Amsterdam — we need our street!” said longtime resident Joe Napoli. “There’s already a war here between bikers, drivers and people who never even go near a car.”

Under the plans, the Department of Transportation would shut down the stretch of S. Elliott Place adjacent to Fowler Square — a largedly unused trianglular park cut off from the Smoke Joint restaurant and a bodega by a short swath of roadway.

Fowler Square currently houses a statue of Fort Greene’s famous Civil War general Edward Fowler, but doesn’t see much other action.

The Fulton Area Business Alliance, which started pushing for the plaza plans nearly two years ago, says eliminating the roadway would turn the dreary open space into a pedestrian hub, bringing new life to a dead and forgotten piece of land.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to transform an underutilized space,” said Phillip Kellogg, director of the business group. “If somebody doesn’t want to sit in it, they don’t have to. The beauty is that it’s there for people to use.”

But some neighbors are devastated that they’ll lose their speedy route to Fulton Street from the one-way, southbound S. Elliott Place. Instead, they would be forced to turn left on Lafayette Avenue and travel one block until they reach S. Portland Avenue, where they can turn right and reach Fulton Street.

Other neighbors called the proposed park unsafe for amblers, as the tiny triangle would be flanked on two sides with busy streets.

Kellogg said that the Department of Transportation would address traffic concerns at a community workshop on Thursday and that no designs were set in stone.

The Fort Greene Association is already working to find alternatives to uprooting S. Elliott Place.

“The rehabilitation of Fowler Square would be a win for the neighborho­od,” said chairman Paul Palazzo. “It’s just a matter of making it work.”

The Fowler Square workshop at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church [85 S. Oxford St. between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 625-7515] on Feb. 16, 6 to 8 pm. For info, contact Emily Weidenhof at EWeidenhof@dot.nyc.gov

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
Updated 5:30 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

mike from GP says:
How many "drivers" are complaining? This one guy? The article doesn't make that clear.

There's one thing I've learned over the years -- that drivers don't like change, even if it's in their favor. They will whine and moan about the smallest of changes as if it's the end of the world.

Officials should listen to these folks, and then move on. We are not going to please everybody. It's time we finally started pleasing the non-driving majority for a change.
Feb. 15, 2012, 7:04 am
Steve from Bklyn says:
Drivers are the most entitled, spoiled minority of new Yorkers around.
Feb. 15, 2012, 7:37 am
manhatposeur from Portlyn Lakes Park says:
Hey, bikes, motorist, & pedestrians should all get along. Those crumudgeons only wish for the bad old days.
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:31 am
Jacob from Clinton Hill says:
I still haven't heard a rational reason why this shouldn't happen. "We need this street" is not a reason. Nor is "This isn't Amsterdam", "FAB lies", or some vague notion of "countrification" (whatever that means). Some have even said that the new park would be unsafe for pedestrians because it would be small and flanked by traffic on 2 sides. This is the most ridiculous argument, because the new park would be bigger than the old park and surrounded by traffic on fewer sides. I could understand if this project represented a serious loss of parking and businesses were concerned. However, the Smoke Joint would be the only business really affected and they seem to be ok with it. I would also understand more if this project represented a major disruption to traffic flow, but that isn't true either. S Elliot is 3 block long, and only 2 of those blocks are in the same direction.

This project would greatly improve pedestrian space and safety in a thriving business area. Since the opposition has yet to present a real reason for opposing this project, I find it hard to take them seriously.
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:35 am
Brooklynite from Fort Greene says:
Look at the picture of Fowler Square accompanying the article. Just one lonely minivan on the street - no traffic, no congestion. Doesn't look like a big deal to close that tiny street.
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:35 am
Jacob from Clinton Hill says:
Oops. Looks like I missed another ridiculous argument -- that this project would somehow make traffic worse. Seriously? It would make traffic worse? What, because of the huge number of people who DRIVE the 2 blocks from Fort Greene Park to Atlantic Terminal Mall? Unbelievable.
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:41 am
InTheSlope from Park Slope says:
I laugh every day gas goes up & up.... every where in the world except in oil producing nations gas is expensive so why does the US think we should have cheap gas?
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:53 am
Mike says:
If they need this street so badly, how come no one drives on it?

The comparable street on the other side of the intersection, Fort Greene Place, has been closed for years, and hasn't created any problems.

Ridiculous whining about a project that's clearly good for the vast majority of the community.
Feb. 15, 2012, 9:16 am
Fort Greene G from Fort Greene says:
What is going to be done to the other underutilized gated park across the street from the triangle?
Feb. 15, 2012, 9:31 am
VLM from Fort Greene says:
The author of this piece should decamp back to her native Wisconsin if this drivel is the best she can produce.
Feb. 15, 2012, 9:49 am
S from PPW says:
Please please please attend the workshop on Feb 16 at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church at 6 PM.

There are no rational arguments against this plaza, just hysteria. But unless people show up, the hysteria will win.
Feb. 15, 2012, 9:51 am
thinks like S says:
S makes a good point. Usually the only people who attend public hearings are those in opposition. If you think a plaza here is a good idea, you might want to get your butt over to the meeting before the whole idea gets killed. I hear that the naysayers have the ear of Leticia James.
Feb. 15, 2012, 11:08 am
Otto from Fort Greene says:
There will be alot more traffic on S Portland, currently people drive down DeKalb and make a left on S Elliott to get to Fulton St. Lots of drivers do use that "one little block".
There is enough places to sit, the BAM garden never gets used, Cuyler Gore Park, rarely gets used, Fort Greene Park is just one block away, how many more parks/sitting areas that need maintaining do we need in this area?
Feb. 15, 2012, 11:55 am
G from FG says:
There is enough places to drive. How many more roads/driving areas that need maintaining do we need in this area?
Feb. 15, 2012, 12:09 pm
Joe Napoli from Ft. Greene says:
Since I wasn't quoted fully in the article,I would like to clarify things here. Traffic gets extremely intense on the streets surrounding Fowler Square on many occasions. The video obviously wasn't shot during evening rush hours! It's hard enough to drive around here now. The last thing we need is another street closing, such as a "teeny" little block of So. Elliott,which might have to be used for an occasional emergency vehicle. The traffic flow problem in this area has not been studied,just like the traffic situation surrounding the stadium. There is no COHERENT plan. But we're willing to shut down another street so a few people can sit in a pedestrian plaza,surrounded by traffic. I would also like to know how many seats benches and table are planned for each of the 3 pedestrian plaza visions. Some people don't seem to be aware that Fowler Square is not supposed to be a new park,but a rather small pedestrian plaza. Curiously, no one seems much interested in doing anything to improve Cuyler Gore Park just 2 short blocks up Fulton Street,a much larger and saner place to relax and one that could be policed because it's a city park. I was told that policing Fowler Square could be difficult since it is a public space. Has anybody given the thought to what would happen if Fowler Square became an overcrowded hangout? " No problem",you say. "I'll just avoid the area". Wow,this will really help the surrounding businesses.Just do the sane thing and lavishly landscape Fowler Square. Concentrate on making the very close park spaces,like Cuyler Gore Park,more hospitable. And do something about the fenced in park opposite BAM and across from Fowler Square before it becomes a sinkhole.
Feb. 15, 2012, 12:15 pm
VLM from Ft. Greene says:
"It's hard enough to drive around here now. "

Boo hoo. Take the subway or walk. This is New York City, not Dallas.
Feb. 15, 2012, 12:55 pm
Liz from Fort Greene says:
Joe, you should have kept your quote to just the paper. Your explanation makes no sense and is incoherent.

The surrounding businesses, Smoke Joint and the bodega, are in support of this plan.

Is anyone really thinking that this is a park? We all know it's a pedestrian plaza.

What does Cuyler Gore Park or the fenced in park near BAM have to do with anything? I might as well say that there are perfectly good roads for drivers to drive on, so this little stretch isn't needed. Fix those up, please, but they have nothing to do with Fowler Square. Did you know there's a huge park in Manhattan that's just a 40 minute subway ride away?

How would policing this tiny pedestrian plaza be any harder than policing a sidewalk or any other part of the neighborhood?

If Fowler Square becomes an "overcrowded hangout" then that will be a fairly good example of why more pedestrian space is needed.

Jerry, this isn't Texas. We don't need more space for drivers.
Feb. 15, 2012, 12:56 pm
Pete from Fort Greene says:
This is one thoroughfare that needs to remain open to vehicles. But it can still accommodate a substantially enlarged pedestrian plaza by at least absorbing the "no parking" lane.

Several times a year, there are citywide exams and other events hosted by Brooklyn Tech. Those events attract great numbers of vehicles from all over the city and beyond, tying up traffic into knots throughout the day, paralyzing traffic circulation for several blocks. Not to mention the honking and drivers breaking into fights over the snarled circulation. Eliminating that one short through-street to Fulton, will make a bad situation even worse.

Furthermore, by removing that one street from circulation, makes the school block more solitary for pedestrians and less safe at night, with fewer vehicles circulating. (That block is 25% school.)

That street is also important to be maintained open to traffic, particularly for emergency vehicles.

An enlarged pedestrian plaza can be attained, without jeopardizing traffic circulation.
Feb. 15, 2012, 1:34 pm
Liz from Ft Greene says:
No permanent, 365-day-per year ped plaza because of events that happen "several times a year"? What a lousy argument. Seems unlikely that all the congestion and honking and anger is the result of this little street being open or closed. What makes a bad situation worse is people driving when they can choose other options.

A ped plaza that attracts people will not be more solitary. The streets around here are so unfriendly, who wants to linger? Unfriendly street environments breed solitude. Besides, when's the last time a driver saw something, stopped, and ran to the assistance of a pedestrian in need. Again, terrible argument.

A few things that might make it easier for emergency vehicles to move around:

a) Fewer parking lanes.
b) Fewer drivers taking up space.
c) Fewer double parkers.

Don't blame the neighborhood's congestion on people who don't drive.
Feb. 15, 2012, 2:32 pm
j.b. from Fort Greene says:
Cry me a river, drivers. It's two parking spots and going 2 blocks more out of the old driving pattern. In exchange for losing a tiny patch of street hardly anyone ever uses, the neighborhood gets a nice-sized sitting/gathering place right smack in the middle of many places of business? I don't even understand how this is counter-gentrification. It's more mindless reflex than anything else.
Feb. 15, 2012, 4:57 pm
Jake from Clinton Hill says:
This is an example of when a "newspaper" becomes a "blog" - publishing an ill-reported, screed in order to drive up "hits."
Feb. 15, 2012, 7:02 pm
S from PPW says:
Exactly. Did Kate interview any professionals or urban planners who objected to this or who could enlighten readers about the plaza's effects on traffic and safety?

No. She just spoke to a crank who's brilliant logic is that Brooklyn isn't Amsterdam. Thanks, pal.
Feb. 15, 2012, 8:20 pm
dave from bay ridge says:
since when did new yawkers become so american. we all walk and take the subway the vast amount of time, so why shouldn't our infrastructure reflect that. i think a lot of this is media driven, rather than full-throttled opposition. you want to drive so much, move to the suburbs and see how it looks and feels to have cars covering everything.
Feb. 15, 2012, 9:55 pm
Joe Napoli from Ft. Greene says:
S from PPW(Prospect Park West,,I assume)--I did reply to the article because I felt my comment about Amsterdam was taken out of context. It's a fact--we have lots of traffic in Ft. Greene and we need to keep all streets open to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible,especially as we are soon to have a lot more traffic in the area courtesy of the stadium. I talked about the need for a full study of the traffic problem to be done here (like maybe during evening rush hour or on some nice busy weekends--not like the lame video FAB did). Oh yeah,and they might even work along with the group studying the stadium's traffic problems. By the way, pardon "my brilliant logic",but I'm thinking that you're from Prospect Park West and I don't know why you are so interested in this little plaza,but next time you're here,take a look at the fenced in,unused park across the street from Fowler Square or Cuyler Gore Park,two short blocks up Fulton Street.
Also take a look down So. Elliott toward Ft. Greene Park. Do we really need to enlarge Fowler Square to make a pedestrian plaza? To me,it seems like a blatant land grab by FAB without any regard to what nearby residents want.
Feb. 15, 2012, 10:53 pm
Jym from PLG says:
• Not Amsterdam? Are you as ignorant of Brooklyn history as Marty Marks? Brooklyn is the proud home of the world's first greenway (it was called a "parkway" in those days), which is something that Amsterdam -- and Breukelen, our namesake -- learned a great deal from.
Feb. 16, 2012, 3:07 am
Josef from Clinton Hill says:
ok, let us review:

The city wants to make a new park/plaza out of a short block at a diagonal intersection. The Brooklyn Paper publishes an article about how this proposal annoys some local drivers. The only one quoted says something absurd and harms Napoli's reputation more than Yanina Screpante:

“This isn’t Amsterdam — we need our street!"

In reality the terrible hardship that would be forced on drivers

"would be forced to turn left on Lafayette Avenue and travel one block until they reach S. Portland Avenue, where they can turn right and reach Fulton Street."

The only thing that strikes me (a local resident) as a moderately sensible objection is the fact that Cuyler Gore Park, right down the block, is indeed often rather deserted; additionally, Fort Greene Park is not far away. As such, it's not as if the neighborhood is completely starved for parks.

On the other hand, I'm stridently anti-car. If Mr. Napoli is correct that “There’s already a war here between bikers, drivers and people who never even go near a car,” the part he left out is that the Drivers are the Decepticons of this war, clearly the bad guys, straight-up evil in their efforts to ruin the world.
Feb. 16, 2012, 10:37 am
Patrick from Ft. Greene says:
Does anyone else suspect Joe Napoli lives on the next block and doesn't want to be inconvenienced by having to make those turns? That has to be the only possible reason to object to this.

I love the "emergency vehicles need this block" argument also. What a ridiculous falsehood. This is a one way block headed in the OPPOSITE direction from the hospital and nowhere near any active firehouse. What emergency vehicles are using this block to get anywhere?

I would like to see the park opposite this plaza get better utilization though. Why is it fenced in at all? Why does it seem that the gates are never unlocked? There should be some benches there for all the people that congregate outside waiting for their bus connections.
Feb. 16, 2012, 12:11 pm
M to the I from Park Slope says:
I go by this intersection every day on my way to work. I don't understand drivers objections to closing this block. It will probably help congestion rather than hurt it.

Everyday there are one or two drivers trying to make the right turn from S Elliot onto Fulton. And everyday, traffic on Fulton is backed up at the light at Lafayette to S Elliot. So what happens, the turning drivers block the box, block the bus lane, or make their turn after the light changes to red.

If the block is closed to auto traffic, these issues would be alleviated since the block of Fulton between S Elliot and S Portland is longer and doesn't get as backed up.
Feb. 16, 2012, 3:26 pm
For the Children from Fort Greene says:
I attended the public meeting on Thursday. DOT's analysis was quite thorough. Apparently only 95 cars use the street during the peak hour (during Bkln Tech testing) but over 400 people use it.

So my argument is that unless the cars had 4 people inside each car on average, then the equitable thing to do is to make it for pedestrians since more of us are using it.

I just hope the Fort Greene Association (FGA) comes around to support this or I'm going to have to begin an anti-FGA campaign...Is there ANY reason FGA should not fully support this quality of life proposal for Fort Greene?
Feb. 19, 2012, 12:18 pm
James from Fort Greene says:
I'm shocked at the number of anti-article arguments presented especially as so many are from people who live distances away and don't understand the history of Fowler Square, it's importance as a gateway to fort Greene and the enormous amounts of money already raised to renovate the General himself and make plans for better lighting, landscaping, etc.
Both the principal of Brooklyn Tech and owner of Mulanes are totally against closing that "small stretch of street" realizing benches, an enlarged plaza, etc. would have on the already apparent school aged crown which "hangs around" yearly, winter and summer, noisy, pot smoking, etc. They fear the enlarged plaza with benches would cause even more disruption! No mention of them or other opponents as made at the Thursday fiasco meeting.
Compromise? There was none. Fab and Dot, Mr. Kellogg all worked well to force a "done deal: down our neighborhood throats. And poor South Portland Avenue ,mentioned about 7 times regarding how it will be forced to bear the greatly increased traffic...Please! The entire project is a vast joke, not needed at all. Just repair the planting bed, install better lighting and don't give us promises that FAB will remove garbage, shovel and tie up chairs and benches each evening. Nonsense, There's NO money set aside for this!!!!!
Feb. 20, 2012, 3:16 pm
Mike says:
"greatly increased traffic"? That's less than 1 car per minute except at the very peak hour of the day. The opponents are showing themselves to be hysterical and saying all sorts of things that aren't true. But that's ok: their fearmongering will be shown to be lies when the plaza is installed and it doesn't cause the neighborhood to go to hell.
Feb. 20, 2012, 8:23 pm
fultonst from Fort Greene says:
I still don't understand how adding closing off that small stretch of street is going to make this a pedestrian haven, where people will sit and gather. Please. What convenience will this provide pedestrians? An easier walk from the smoke joint to the corner of lafayette and fulton?
I get that some people thinking closing off this one street won't make much of a difference, citing Fort Greene place, etc. But every little bit makes a difference. Look what happened when 5th ave was closed because of the arena. 5th ave between Flatbush and Atlantic wasn't the busiest street, but now 6th ave is a giant clusterf*** most of the day.
And who would want to hang out between these two extremely busy streets? You want your kids running around that square? Especially when closing off the street will increase traffic on Fulton and Lafayette?

I'd say if you want to close of any street, close off S. Portland on the same block. At least S. Portland is full of restaurants and shops, and people would want to hang out there. But then I'm sure the residents of the small stretch would all —— and moan about the noise. Much easier to accuse drivers of being selfish.

And Brooklynite- just because one picture doesn't show much traffic or parking... oh forget it. Just look up "small sample size."
Feb. 23, 2012, 11:36 am
Jim from Fort Greene says:
Fort Greene Brooklyn NY Bicycle Tour

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu49oGWvbyw
Jan. 21, 2013, 10:01 pm

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