It’s just a little street in Boerum Hill, you’ve probably never heard of it.
Honchos from a luxury housing developer petitioning the city to permanently close the block of Schermerhorn Street at Flatbush Avenue tried to convince members of Community Board 2 last week that the passage is a little-known lane they likely didn’t even realize was there and certainly wouldn’t miss driving on. But locals hit back that the artery to the borough’s major thoroughfare is already so mainstream.
“You don’t know it because nobody uses it,” said Alloy Development director David McCarty during a presentation on the closure on Sept. 14.
Actually, board members said, they were using it before it was cool.
“I disagree, people use it,” said one. “If you live in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill you veer right onto Flatbush Avenue to go south. [The Department of Transportation] knows that this is a vital lane for driving.”
The strip is part of a triangular nexus called Temple Square where Schermerhorn Street and Lafayette Avenue fork off Third Avenue, and is a popular passage for drivers looking to turn onto Flatbush without hitting traffic lights.
But don’t worry, the developers told the residents — “Temple” Square is just a name.
“It’s a triangle and there’s no temple nearby at all,” said executive vice president AJ Pires. “None of you probably know where it is.”
It is in fact directly across the road from the 100-year-old Baptist Temple, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, locals pointed out.
As this paper revealed last month, Alloy just bought up almost all the properties on the block-on-the-chopping-block, and is planning something big there. But the spokesmen did not mention their plans for the site at the meeting — and Community Board 2 members seemed none the wiser, betraying their shocking ignorance of our exclusive report.
The Alloy officials said it was the transportation department’s idea to close the street as a traffic calming measure — they are just offering their support as a “neighboring property owner.”
But an agency rep later said it was actually Alloy that in August first applied to close the strip as part of its public plaza program — in which the city converts under-utilized streets into open spaces.
Alloy wouldn’t be able to claim or buy air right from the shuttered strip to enable taller buildings, but it would gain an eye-pleasing, car-free entrance to its planned property.
As a proof of concept, the city shut the block on Saturday and Alloy held a street fair there.
Attendees at the meeting were told they could show up then to voice any concerns about a permanent closure to the transportation department — but no one from the agency was there on Saturday afternoon, and the Alloy architect running the show said the agency had actually come the day before to quiz people on the potential street shutter.
Visitors and vendors at the fair said they had no idea it was related to a full-time closure plan, but several said they liked the idea nonetheless.
“I think traffic calming is really good in general and this is a neighborhood that needs it,” said Andrew Page, who has worked at nearby gallery Urban Glass for 10 years. “I’m open to taking back turf from the cars.”
The department doesn’t actually know how many drivers use the strip currently and will now need to conduct a study if it pursues the closure plan. But an agency bigwig threw her support behind it at Wednesday’s meeting, arguing it would keep pedestrians safer.
“When you close this lane it makes it safer for pedestrians to cross,” said Borough Planner Abigail Ikner.
Since 2012, eight drivers have crashed at the intersection of Schermerhorn Street and Flatbush Avenue, and 16 at Third Avenue, with one person injured — a driver — in total, according to Police Department data.
— with Ruth Brown