Streetfilm: The Transformation of Willoughby Street

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This spring, the DOT transformed the corner of Willoughby and Adams Streets in downtown Brooklyn from a dull gray, little-used automobile pass-through (above) into a pedestrian space complete with chairs, benches, plants, tables and sun umbrellas.  But would the people come? Filmmaker Clarence Eckerson took his video camera to the corner to find out. The result is a 1-minute, 26-second Streetfilm on the Willoughby Street transformation.  He quotes Streetsblog’s own Ethan Kent:

They’ve created a destination for downtown office workers, for people from all over Brooklyn, to come and spend some time in a way they hadn’t been able to before. The great thing about this is they just went ahead and did this. It wasn’t a lot of studies. It wasn’t a long plan. They just said, "Hey, let’s try it. Let’s experiment, see if it’s possible."

Streetfilms, which you’ve seen here and elsewhere on the Internet, is coming to its big screen debut with a screening this coming Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, East 3rd Street between Avenues A and B.

  • iheartweinshall

    It’s great to do these films, but it would help to remove the unsightly legs from the end and, more importantly, to interview people at the location and businesses on the street to get their take on the improvement. Build credibility by letting people speak for themselves and sparing us the lecture from some random white guy who clearly doesn’t work there.

  • AD

    The unsightly legs? Help me out.

  • iheartweinhall – I don’t know if you have seen any of our other videos, but usually we spend plenty of time talking to people on the street to get their opinions.

    See many videos here, and many more in the works: http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video.php

    Our goal here was in about one minute to showcase a positive implementation taken by the DOT and encourage more of it. The “random” guy you referred to is Ethan Kent, an expert in public spaces, whose organization (PPS) is part of the NYCSR coalition and thus he gave us a quick assessment of the changes on the ground. It is not always possible timewise to interview people for EVERY piece we do.

    In this case, we wanted as many “eyes” to watch this. The longer a piece goes over 1 or 2 minutes, the more you have people not watch the full video. So we went with just his narrative.

    As for the “unsightly legs”, we are an organization that tries to be a little bit different and creative, we are very professional and serious about changing this city for the better, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun or be a little bit humorous. I tend to inject a little humor in the end credits or have an image people will watch for just a few more seconds. In this case those are my unsightly legs which it takes about 20 running miles and 100 biking miles a week to keep up.

  • Clarence – I’m personally and glad you don’t shave your legs – Glenn

  • Hmm, now I went to watch the film just to see what the fuss was about with the legs!

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  • iheartweinshall

    This is all good rationale, and I am certainly aware of all of the other great videos you’ve produced. But you need to be able to absorb this criticism because your videos need to stand by themselves. My reaction is more typical than you might guess, however irrational. I know you want to get videos out as quickly as possible, but you should consider that putting out something that’s significantly below your normal standards simply to get anything out, is not an effective campaign tactic.

    However untrue, this video appears to be an outsider white guy talking about how great things are now for the black folks working at the courthouse. And the legs at the end only reinforce the “out of touch white liberal” appearance.

    Even though this isn’t true, please be willing to absorb this criticism. I only make it in the spirit of helping NYCSRC be even more effective!

  • Matthew

    Clarence,
    If a long version is in the mix, Mike Weiss at Metrotech would be happy to discuss this. The pizza place on the corner would probably go on camera too. They actually store and maintain the movable furniture in a deal made with the BID to encourage stakeholder maintenance of this area. I think that interviews with others would be great, and I think that this obsession with “out of touch white liberal appearance” is reaching.

  • Clarence

    I’m up for a longer version. The trouble is time right now. I’m currently editing five other pieces. The good news: we just hired some help! (Thank goodness!) So maybe soon. I would love to talk to Mr. Weiss, the Pizza folks and everyday users. That’s what I had in mind when first concieved it back a few months ago, but time constraints won over.

  • I think it would be great to do a larger video and evaluation of this project, interviewing people, systematic analysis of who uses it and how, etc. – something that we at PPS regurlarly do for many of our projects here in NYC and elsewhere. I think the point of this peice was more to quickly highlight a positive effort of DOT and then talk about the larger lessons/opportunties that it represents.

    The flash of Clarence’s nice legs are just an exclamation point to a job well done by the DOT.

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