DOT Minds the GAP



With city workers pouring concrete in the background (and StreetFilms’ cameras rolling), New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced pedestrian and cyclist improvements for Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza yesterday. The plan calls for 11,000 square feet of new, landscaped pedestrian islands, a separated bike path, new crosswalks and pedestrian signals.

The redesign should do a lot to help make pedestrian and bike crossings safer and more convenient, particularly on the Prospect Heights side of the Plaza. With new crosswalks connecting Prospect Heights residents directly to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and Bailey Fountain, two of the city’s most truly awesome historic monuments, DOT’s plan may also help activate the beautiful but under-used public space in the center of GAP’s traffic maelstrom.

DOT’s plan for the Plaza is a direct result of work done by the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, a group of community organizations that myself and others started up back in the spring of 2005 to begin to reclaim and re-envision Grand Army Plaza as the great public space that it was originally designed to be.

Yesterday’s press conference was notable not just for the physical changes taking place in the Plaza but for the changes that have taken place at New York City’s transportation agency. When we started GAPco, DOT staffers weren’t permitted to attend our meetings or even speak at our press conference with Danish urban designer Jan Gehl (Dalila Hall from the Brooklyn Borough office disobeyed the ridiculous order and said a few words anyway).

Yesterday, Grand Army Plaza Coalition organizer Rob Witherwax stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the podium with Sadik-Khan, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council member Tish James and Prospect Park Alliance president Tupper Thomas. The press conference, staged in front of the Brooklyn Public Library, was probably visible from the apartment window of former Commissioner Iris Weinshall who lives on Prospect Park West.

While the news at GAP yesterday was all positive, GAPco organizer Michael Cairl still qualifies DOT’s work as "a good first step." To get a sense of what he means by that, immediately after the press conference Sadik-Khan and DOT Alternative Modes Director Ryan Russo were peppered with questions from Park Slope Civic Council member Ezra Goldstein about why the agency still hasn’t done anything to change the seemingly malicious traffic signal timing that traps pedestrians — often dozens of them at a time — on a tiny strip of concrete in the middle of Flatbush Avenue between Prospect Park and the Library. Russo said DOT wanted to see how the new crosswalks worked before making any more changes in the Plaza.

For a "before," an "after," and one very compelling "long-term vision" plan, click through to the jump below.

Related:

    Existing Conditions at Grand Army Plaza:



Pedestrian and Cyclists Improvements Underway:


One Long-Term Concept Proposed by Community Members:

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