Last night Brooklyn Community Board 2’s transportation committee voted 7-0, with one abstention, to support the conversion of Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene from a temporary public space to a permanent feature of the neighborhood. The committee vote followed a DOT presentation showing that Fowler Square Plaza has had a minimal impact on traffic and is overwhelmingly popular with businesses, plaza users, and nearby residents.
For its report, DOT surveyed 360 plaza users and 100 residents who live within one block of the plaza. The agency found that 64 percent of plaza users visit the space at least once a week, and 63 percent come from Fort Greene and adjacent neighborhoods. Both users and nearby residents overwhelmingly support the plaza:
- 83 percent said the plaza has made overall quality of life better. Only 1 percent said it’s worse, while 5 percent say it’s the same, and 11 percent are unsure.
- 76 percent said the plaza has improved pedestrian safety and 81 percent said it has improved the area’s aesthetics.
- 97 percent said the plaza is positive addition to neighborhood. This includes 99 percent of people surveyed in the plaza and 92 percent of residents surveyed door-to-door.
- Of the adjacent businesses, 26 are in favor of a permanent plaza, with only one against (Mullane’s Bar) and two (Gourmet Deli and Fresh Garden) not taking a position.
DOT also studied traffic impacts between October 4 and 22, including days with events at the Barclays Center, as well as SAT and PSAT testing days at Brooklyn Technical High School. The amount of traffic diverted because of the plaza has been minimal. “We’re only talking about adding one to two cars maximum per minute onto South Portland,” explained DOT’s Emily Weidenhof, referring to a parallel street.
Speakers last night were mostly pro-plaza, including some who’d been skeptical at first. Peter Steinberg lives on Carlton Avenue and was worried about traffic impacts before the plaza was installed. “We were kind of worked up about it. It was kind of a let down,” he said, to chuckles from the audience. “That was sort of a lost intersection before, and it’s improved.”
Only one speaker, Jay Reiburn, cleaved to the hardcore anti-plaza line, questioning DOT’s survey data and offering up a classic stall tactic. “All we ask is that you delay this decision until the Barclays effect can be measured,” he said, after DOT had presented the analysis that included traffic on days with Barclays events. “We’re not asking the DOT to stop this. We’re asking them to wait 6 months.”
The committee voted 7-0, with an abstention from Lucy Koteen — who had suggested that DOT keep the street open to cars during the winter months — to recommend that the full board support the capital reconstruction project.