Reconnecting Grand Army Plaza

One of the most ambitious New York City Streets Renaissance projects currently underway is the Grand Army Plaza Coalition’s initiative to re-conceive New York City’s biggest, most chaotic traffic rotary into one of the city’s finest public spaces.

A couple of weeks ago GAPco hosted a "Livable Streets" forum at the Brooklyn Public Library to present findings from a community workshop conducted in March. The big idea? Reconfigure traffic to allow the fountain and arch to connect directly to the front of Prospect Park, as depicted above. The Brooklyn Papers reported:

Grand Army Plaza could be transformed from an intimidating,
speeder-friendly highway in the center of Brooklyn to a calmer traffic
circle under a revolutionary plan that continues to gain speed of its
own.

At a meeting last week at the Brooklyn Public Library’s
Central branch, a citizens group presented its most fully drawn plan to
reconfigure the plaza and reconnect the landmark Soldiers’ and Sailors’
arch with the entrance to Prospect Park, creating a safe, car-free
walkway (see map).

Currently, the circle is a mess of misleading
crosswalks and dangerous traffic islands that separate park users from
the recently restored Bailey Fountain and Arc de Triomphe-inspired
Civil War monument in the center of Grand Army Plaza.

Thanks, in part, to GAPco’s work, captured in this StreetFilm, the Dept. of Transportation is
already forging ahead with short-term pedestrian and cyclist
improvements
around the dangerous Flatbush Ave. and Eastern Pkwy.
intersection.

Below is an aerial shot of the Plaza as it is currently designed. Note the six lanes of one-way traffic running along each side of the interior circle and the intimidating crossing between the Prospect Park and the Arch.

gapaerial.jpg

  • Ed Crotch

    No, Ed, I don’t think cars will disappear, I just think that people will drive less. And because I see significantly reducing the use of private automobiles as a priority for NYC, I support measures that will bring that about. I’m not sure what your agenda is — care to enlighten us?

    My agenda is to have a civilized city where everything works. A city that realizess that it is growing that we need better traffic solutions, not just less lanes mean less traffic. I’d say there are better ways of reducing traffic then just making people’s life while driving extremely unpleasant. I’d say put more tolls on the bridges, all of them! I’d say congestion pricing is a start. I’d say make it so no single occupancy vehicles could enter Manhattan.

    It’s OK, I know you never drive in NYC and despise anyone who does. I drive on the weekends sometimes but never during the week.

    I don’t see how this plan or any of these “traffic calming” plans will really work in the next ten years. Even in an area such as Park Slope there are more and more car owners than there were ten years ago.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The question is: how far are we willing to go to accommodate people who choose to drive from Flatbush and Crown Heights to Park Slope? So far we’ve sacrificed an important part of Vaux’s plan, placed a significant psychological roadblock between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, and created a dangerous situation. How long do you think we should maintain that for the convenience of these drivers, Ed?

  • Ed Crotch

    Vaux’s plan? That was made before there were automobiles, so give me a break. So you’re saying that people from Crown Heights and Flatbush and beyond (obviously areas with a majority of people who are not like Park Slopers) should not be able to drive to Park Slope for whatever reason. Or, if they do choose to, they should be stuck in some traffic hell so that they never even think of doing it again.

    Good plan.

    And you don’t think this new plan will cause any dangerous situations? Wake up.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Wake up yourself. Danger is a matter of design, and if it has any relationship to how easy it is to drive, it’s an inverse relationship.

    Last I checked, there were still plenty of Black, Latino and Orthodox people living in Park Slope. People from Crown Heights and Flatbush, of whatever ethnicity, are welcome to visit Park Slope by subway, bus, bicycle or foot. I guess for you, people don’t count unless they drive?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I meant to say: if safety has any relationship to how easy it is to drive, it’s an inverse relationship. The harder it is to drive, the slower the cars go and the more the drivers are paying attention. Of course, that’s not true under all circumstances; there are a lot more factors involved.

  • Ed Crotch

    Oh, OK, so your doctor is in Park Slope, too bad, take a subway. So you want to go to the new Whole Foods, too bad, that was built for Park Slopers only. OK, I guess for you, people don’t count unless they DON’T drive?

    So, the drivwers may not be going as fast but they will be twice as angry. Real good.

  • Ed Crotch

    The harder it is to drive, the slower the cars go and the more the drivers are getting angry looking for the one opening where they CAN go a bit faster thus not really paying attention to the road because they are so wound up, anxious and stressed out because they have been sitting in a traffic jam for no reason except that they chose to drive to (insert Park Slope area business here).

    Why don’t you go stand at GAP and see how many cars go from Flatbush ave/Eastern Parkway to PPW. Heck, with the plan above you can’t even go from Eastern Parkway to Flatbush ave southbound. I guess all that traffic will be “moved” to Washington Ave. which doesn’t matter as it’s not Park Slope.

  • lee

    can the pictures be oriented north to south please? flatbush runs north west-ish

  • gelston

    The objective is dual: reduce speed and keep it moving. Slow and steady. It’s the speed-to-a- bottleneck that is causing the most pollution, the most driver frustration, and the most damage to the environment of neighborhoods and parks they traverse.

    To accomplish this will require reducing the volume of vehicles. C’est la vie.

  • Ed Crotch

    So here we have a city that is increasing the volume of people yet trying to reduce the volume of vehicles. The amount of subways that can be run on one line is still years off from being able to be increased.

    Still, I have yet to see any data that says that by reducing the number of lanes will actually reduce the number of over all drivers through out the city. It will reduce the volume of vehicles on those streets (less lanes means less vehicles on those streets), but I think people will just drive elsewhere thuis causing gridlock and traffic on streets where there is none now.

  • epkwy

    Ed: I think you need to sit down with someone who understands this plan’s traffic flow implications – which, granted, are in the early stages of design. I think you are seeing a lot of problems that don’t exist, so I am going to spell it out for everyone.

    The idea is, as I understand it, to transform what is now a roundabout into 3 major intersections: 1, where Union, PPW, and the Plaza traffic meet, 2, where Flatbush, Eastern Pkwy, and Plaza traffic meet, and 3, where Flatbush, Vanderbilt, and Plaza traffic meet.

    By Plaza traffic I mean roundabout traffic, traffic flowing around the Arch/Fountain island.

    Intersections 1 and 2 would be the confluence of 3 two-way roads, presenting a driver with 2 choices.

    A driver westbound on Eastern Parkway could turn right onto Flatbush north bound, or left onto Flatbush southbound. A driver northbound on Flatbush could turn right onto Eastern Pkwy eastbound, or go straight on Flatbush northbound. A driver southbound on FLatbush (which in this plan runs EAST of the Arch Fountain, not west as currently) could turn left onto Eastern Pkwy east bound or continue straight on Flatbush southbound.

    On the opposite side of the new green plaza, a driver northbound on PPW (currently impossible) could turn left down Union westbound or go straight northbound on roadway WEST of the fountain (this too is new: in the current configuration all northbound traffic runs EAST of the arch). A driver eastbound on Union Street could turn right onto southbound PPW or left onto northbound roadway. And a driver southbound through the Plaza could go straight onto PPW or turn right onto Union St eastbound.

    At the ‘top’ of the Plaza, intersection 3, would be the confluence of 4 two-way roadways, each presenting the driver with 3 choices. A driver southbound on Flatbush could turn right WEST of the Arch toward intersection 1; go straight EAST of the arch toward intersection 2; or turn left onto northbound Vanderbilt Avenue (tho whether this is necessary remains to be seen). A driver on southbound Vanderbilt could turn right onto northbound Flatbush (again, maybe unnecessary); go straight WEST of the Arch to Intersection 1; or turn left EAST of the arch to Intersection 2. A driver northbound from Intersection 1 (WEST of the Arch) could turn right onto roadway EAST of the Arch toward Intersection 2; go straight onto Vanderbilt Avenue northbound; or turn left onto Flatbush Avenue northbound. A driver northbound from Intersection 2 (EAST of the Arch) could turn right onto Vanderbilt Avenue northbound, go straight onto Flatbush AVenue northbound, or turn left on roadway WEST of the Arch toward Intersection 1.

    Is it complex? You bet. Especially when you write it our turn by turn like that. But when you think of it, it doesn’t add any lights, it lets traffic stack up where it logically should, and it gives pedestrians clear, logical intersections to navigate. It doesn’t lose a single piece of current ‘functionality’ for drivers. And it might even make more sense for drivers than what we have now!

  • lee

    wow, thorough. thanks.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Oh, OK, so your doctor is in Park Slope, too bad, take a subway. So you want to go to the new Whole Foods, too bad, that was built for Park Slopers only. OK, I guess for you, people don’t count unless they DON’T drive?

    They count, but not as much as people who don’t pollute the air or put other people’s lives at risk. Why should people who live in Park Slope make their neighborhood more dangerous because someone can’t be bothered to get on a bus?

    The harder it is to drive, the slower the cars go and the more the drivers are getting angry looking for the one opening where they CAN go a bit faster thus not really paying attention to the road because they are so wound up, anxious and stressed out because they have been sitting in a traffic jam for no reason except that they chose to drive to (insert Park Slope area business here).

    Show me an arrangement where one person puts up with inconvenience and danger because the other person might get angry and hurt them, and I’ll show you an abusive relationship.

  • Ed Crotch

    Well, what I’, saying is that now, since it is a roundabout, vehicles going northbound from Eastern Parkway or Flatbush ave do not have to cross 2 lanes of traffic to get to PPW. So I guess there is going to be a turning lane? That lane will be so backed up the traffic will be in the non-turning lane. So if you have two lanes for traffic and one for turning and the turning lane backs up, then you have one lane of traffic going into Flatbush ave which is two lanes (sometimes three but really, even then one lane is for deliveries, etc.)

    Obviously, the city wants to create a traffic nightmare so as to reduce the number of vehicles that use GAP, which will just make the side streets worse.

  • Brooklyn Driver

    Ed,

    In fact, vehicles spinning around Grand Army Plaza from Flatbush or Eastern Pkwy to PPW actually have to merge into and cross over FOUR lanes of, very often, fast-moving traffic.

    This move from Eastern Pkwy to PPW is one of the scariest and most dysfunctional aspects of Grand Army Plaza in its current incarnation.

    The idea discussed above seems like it could be a whole lot better for motorists and the other users too.

  • Ed Crotch

    Actually, if you noticed, there is a traffic light there, actually two. Perhaps the light could be timed differently? Just because there are bad drivers out there who can not figure out how to merge does not mean you have to recreate the world for them.

    Anyway, a merge is one thing, crossing oncoming traffic is another. I’d rather have the merge. I know how to drive.

  • epkwy

    Ed: I am not following your last post – cars n-bound from Flatbush or EPkwy who want to go to PPW would go through 1 light where they do now, and stop at another light at the north end of the Plaza – there would in fact be a turning lane, just like there is now (the protected lane closest to the Fountain island) that would probably have its own light, feeding directly down to PPW. May I remind you that current patterns dictate a sharp lane change to the right – across essentially 4 lanes of parallel traffic – to get to PPW? This plan makes that EASIER. Also, it eliminates those cars from EPkwy who want to go south on Flatbush, so fewer cars would be stacking up in this queue.

    But the point is – GAPCo freely admits that it hasn’t done rigorous traffic flow analysis yet. This is not a city plan – this is a plan hatched and designed to date by private citizens, granted with the co-operation of a number of city agencies. So enough about “the city wants” a traffic nightmare. As you can probably tell, I drive A LOT around GAP – from Crown/Prospect Heights to 7th Avenue – and I walk a lot too, and I think this plan would make my life a lot easier

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