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Community Board 2 transportation committee: Yes on Putnam Triangle

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Staying Put-nam: Panel members want to keep controversial plaza

It’s safe, see?: The Department of Transportation’s Emily Weidenhof makes the case for keeping the Putnam Triangle in Clinton Hill.
for The Brooklyn Paper
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Members of Clinton Hill’s community board want a pedestrian plaza to stay on Fulton Street, despite opposition from local businesses.

The transportation committee of Community Board 2 voted 12–1 on Tuesday night to approve making Putnam Triangle permanent. Only board member Lucy Koteen opposed the move. The plaza on a de-mapped stretch of Putnam Avenue bound by Grand Avenue and Fulton Street has drawn complaints from neighbors and merchants with stores facing it, who say that it is a magnet for people who pound booze, do drugs, pee all over the place, and scare off customers.

A transportation department rep sang the praises of the space at the meeting.

“This plaza we feel has been incredibly successful,” said Emily Weidenhof, director of the Department of Transporta­tion’s public plaza program. “It’s provided a valuable open space for local residents.”

The city made the plaza on a temporary basis in 2011. The $3.75-million proposal to spruce it up and make it permanent calls for doubling the number of trees and adding more lampposts. It also includes a reserved space for art, benches with backs, and a water fountain.

The plaza hosted more than 60 events in 2014, including concerts and film screenings, drawing more than 6,000 people, the city said. Neighbors and business owners have said the plaza is desolate most of the time, populated only by menacing characters, and that the year of construction involved in making it permanent will keep patrons away.

Only one critic turned out for Tuesday’s meeting to make the case against the plaza, local gadfly Schellie Hagen.

“What we think is really going to happen here is that these small stores will die,” Hagen said. “The little stores are barely hanging on.”

Hagen said that the Department of Transportation has refused to answer questions about the plaza throughout the planning process.

The city has identified the intersection as a hotspot of “negative activity,” but claims the plaza is attracting more foot traffic and that additional lights will help make it a safer place.

“By drawing more people into the space, we’re getting more eyes on the street,” Weidenhof said, in a turn of phrase invoking the urban planning luminary Jane Jacobs, who argued that street-facing, sidewalk-abutting, mixed-use buildings made neighborhoods safe.

Some locals at the meeting were glad to see there is a push to make the space permanent.

“This is an incredibly valuable community amenity,” said Lauren Gumbs, a Clinton Hill resident. “When you talk about creating a space that’s green, that is active, that is safe, I think that’s really compelling.”

The full community board is set to vote on the plaza plan next month. The board’s decisions are strictly advisory and the city has final say on whether to keep the park.

— with Nathan Tempey

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Patrick from Clinton Hill says:
Whoever Lauren Gumbs is, she hasn't been to that loser triangle. It's all concrete! The only green things are growing out of druggies hanging out there and killing business!
March 18, 2015, 2:04 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Unfortunately, the anti-car fanatics will look for just about anything to justify keeping this plaza even if the opposition to it is high.
March 18, 2015, 3:59 pm
A.S. from Boerum Hill says:
That's a nice little plaza in a neighborhood that needs more public space. Good to hear that it's likely to become permanent.
March 18, 2015, 5:26 pm
Mike says:
Yes, Tal, the opposition to it is so high that exactly one person showed up to speak against it.

That's very, very high opposition.
March 18, 2015, 6:50 pm
BS from Boerum hill says:
There were letters from almost all the businesses save about 2-one being the post office-around the triangle. There was a representation by the one person who testified against that some of the businesses felt coerced to give the letters and wanted to come and testify but were too busy to. so the only thing in the record was the positive letters of support. Also two of the stores immediately on the triangle put in new glass storefronts. hence the 11 to 1 vote in favor,
March 18, 2015, 7:43 pm
BrooklynSandy from Ft Greene/Fowler Plaza...FABs Party Central says:
How about some truth...those of you commenting from Boerum Hill et al who are drinking the Kool-Aid? This is about real estate profiteering under the disingenuous avowal of it's "for the community".

Talk to the merchants instead of lazy acceptance & buying into the reprehensible omissions spoon fed by FAB, the DOT and abetted by CB2...

I dare you to open the following youtube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmSlC7dCDuc&feature=youtube_gdata_player
March 18, 2015, 9 pm
Pat from Ft. Greene says:
Mike, that wasn't the "real" Tal. Most likely his closet fan, ty from wherever.

They should both just get a job and a life
March 19, 2015, 9:55 am
Tal Barzilai from Peasantville, NY says:
I am the real one and only Tal from Peasantville. And yes, I have a job!

Call me a troll, but I can't stand by and let the anti-car people take away my parking spaces and force me to park in one of those (underutilized) garages! Free curbside parking (and sometimes sidewalk parking) is a basic human right!

I know it's not possible to give everyone a parking space on the street in this city (that's why I don't live here, lol), but at least give some people a parking space. And better me than some other schmuck!
March 19, 2015, 1:40 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, cut the impersonations especially when I wasn't even at my computer for the entire day until just now. Whoever that was using my name, it wasn't me, and I know who could have done that. Anyway, I did watch that video that BrooklynSandy gave, and it does state the truth. I don't see why that block needs to be made into a plaza when there is probably a park nearby that is probably neglected a lot. I can understand how important public space, but try starting with the ones you already have first. More importantly, if you think that those merchants are overreacting, I suggest try talking to them since they are looking at that plaza a lot on a daily basis. Of course, anyone who doesn't want to see that video is obviously afraid of hearing and seeing the truth. For the record, I don't support gangs and drug dealers that like to hang out on the streets, and they will find plazas like that one as a get a jail free card seeing that it's public space and there is nothing that can be done about it unlike what it was before.
March 19, 2015, 3:45 pm
Tyson White from UWS says:
I watched the video too. Sushi joint owner: I heard there are drug deals going on throughout the day.

You heard? From whom? I thought you owned a shop there and are there all day to see for yourself. Sounds like you have no idea what's going on outside right in front of your shop.

I'm sorry, but the community can decide what the street should look like. Not a few merchants. Of course we should listen to what their concerns are in case there are real issues we need to consider. But simply asking them what their preference is? Do we ask them where to put traffic lights or how wide the street should be?
March 19, 2015, 4:45 pm
benadam from bedstuy says:
i've been to that plaza many times and enjoy taking short breaks there. not sure how this "hurts" businesses in any way. sketchty characters? well, i guess i see some poor people sitting there but they've been pretty respectful, if that is what people are afraid of. maybe it is the fact that the community is enjoying "free" space that upsets the "business" interests.
March 20, 2015, 8:50 am
sid from boerum hill says:
here is the dot presentation

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2015-03-putnam-plaza-cb2.pdf

note no park at all within a half mile, reduction in accidents, the presentation does not downplay crime...
March 20, 2015, 12:49 pm
sid from boerum hill says:
. crime at plazas has always been an issue but this is "the old" new york of memory of those who left. the new New York is not the crime ridden place of old.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs088pct.pdf
March 20, 2015, 12:58 pm
James from Bay ridge says:
"Neighbors and business owners have said the plaza is desolate most of the time, populated only by menacing characters, and that the year of construction involved in making it permanent will keep patrons away."

i've been there several times, and I think this a huge exaggeration. Why are we so afraid to have people be in public together in groups? Is this becoming texas?

I end up spending more time in neighborhoods with plazas, when I take walks or ride my bike because they are a nice place to relax and chill. There is an east African restaurant right by there that I are at only because I stopped there to read for a bit, then got hungry and wondered into the restaurant.
March 20, 2015, 6:51 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
"note no park at all within a half mile"

According to Google Maps, there are several parks, playgrounds, and community gardens in that area that happen to be nearby not to mention Putnam Triangle that is right there for public space.
March 22, 2015, 3:42 pm

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