Streetfilms: The Transformation of Grand Army Plaza

In the second installment of his "Street Transformations" series (here’s the first), Clarence Eckerson shows the progress underway at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. The package of pedestrian and bicycle improvements you see in the video was first unveiled by DOT last spring. Says Clarence:

As one gentleman said to me while
admiring the new greenery and traffic islands in Grand Army Plaza,
“Wow, sometimes government does work!” It’s easy to quickly forget how
things were, but we here at Streetfilms aim to not let that
happen. Check out these extraordinary before/afters; especially the new
separated bike lane which safely transports riders from Prospect Park.

How’d we get here? Check out: Grand Army Traffic Survey, Reclaiming Grand Army, Minding the GAP.

What’s next for this iconic public space? Some ideas are sure to surface from the Re-inventing Grand Army Plaza competition, which is set to review proposals this month.

  • JK

    Thanks Clarence. This is terrific documentation. The changes are a vast improvement, and show you how relatively inexpensive improvements in the streetscape can significantly change the feel of everyday life. Congrats to GAPCO, but of course, it shouldn’t have taken the work of a highly motivated and effective community groups to get these things done. There are a hundred GAPs, maybe a thousand in NYC, and only a handful have citizens dedicated to remaking them.

  • mfs

    So I biked through this on Sunday and it was great- normally I would bike on the right-hand lane of Flatbush Ave through the plaza, but the bike lane out of Prospect Park guided me onto the side street into a bike lane.

    One problem though, is that connectivity to Eastern Parkway for bikes is still difficult. Any ideas on how to fix that?

  • I live a block from Grand Army Plaza (down Union St, towards 8th) and have young children. I must say that this change has made the Library and Museum truly accessible, where in the past it was a scary trip. Sometimes I have to drive (sorry) and since the change it is easier as well!

  • Blair

    Hate to be negative, but if that was the “after” out here in Portland, we’d all be complaining to our transportation Commissioner, Sam Adams, who happens to be our next mayor, and also happens to ride his commuter bike to work every day.

    I know NYC is trying, but the DOT there is still slave to the auto. Good work on the first baby step of transforming Grand Army Plaza, though.

  • william

    NYC DOT Commish Jeanette Sadik-Khan also bikes to work. She deserves enormous credit for a broad array of improvements around the city–some experimental and some simple. When Albany killed congestion pricing, she just pushed ahead with other projects designed to reduce the impact of auto traffic.

  • Welcome improvements. In defense of the project, Blair, before these changes, that area was uniquely, thoroughly covered with a bizarre web of car lanes. It was an especially difficult area to improve without removing cars’ through-routes entirely.

    Okay, now what’s wrong with me that I can’t get the “website” field in the comment signature here to work? I finally have something to put there, but if you click on my name as a link, it says the link is bad. Now, it’s not an actual website of mine I’m trying to link to, but rather a photo set on Flickr:

    I’m sure it wouldn’t take that much work for me to figure out what’s wrong, but what the heck, web functionality is not my “area of excellence,” as some guy I recently heard on the radio would term it.

  • Dave, the problem with the “Website” field seems to be a bug in the WordPress software that Streetsblog uses. It apparently assumes that the ‘@’ symbol doesn’t belong in a “website,” and removes it. Meanwhile, it’s used in these Flickr URLs for whatever reason.

  • Let’s see if it works when you put quotes around the address.

  • Nope. How about if I put a backslash in front of the ‘@’?

  • Thanks, Angus, I had a feeling it might be you who came my aid. I quite appreciate it.

  • Max Rockatansky

    This has been an amazing transformation. It’s not Portland but it’s a huge huge huge step in the right direction. As you can see from the film it was basically a auto free-for-all with people crossing that intersection at their own peril. The craziest part is the crosswalk between Prospect Park and the Library. The lights are timed oddly so that you can’t always make it all the way across the intersection but peds don’t realize that and commonly walk into traffic rushing across the plaza down Flatbush. Has that been corrected?

  • While it is a step in the right direction it still lack connectivity in many ways. Getting to Eastern Parkway and Prospect Park West is not easy. Also, if you are riding South up Vanderbilt/Flatbush/Union there is still no lane to get you into the park. I would have liked to see a design that addressed all the issues around the entrance to the park, just not this one side. I am glad that they did this and it has made it easier to bike and walk in the area.

  • Clarence

    Maybe someone from GAPCO can post here with more updates but I know there are future plans in the works to improve access.

    I will be the first to admit it is not perfect and if we could make Prospect Park car-free that would greatly allow even more monumental improvements but regardless of any negativity what the improvements have at GAP is so beyond what I ever thought we would get back in the 90s and most of this decade that I have no problem celebrating.

  • Geck

    I say close the entire West side of GAP to traffic and run Flatbush Avenue in both direction on the East side with left turn lanes at Vanderbilt and Eastern Parkway. Drivers from Union Street and Park Slope, etc. will have to go to Flatbush Avenue at 7th or 8th Ave or earlier to get around the Circle. Access to PPW will be by way of Union Street or Plaza Street (both Union and Plaza will loose the through traffic to GAP). That will really open up GAP for an expanded Green Market and connect it to Prospect Park.

  • Geck

    Plus a 2-way 9th Ave style bike lane on the Eastern side of PPW (traffic calming PPW), which will connect to the Plaza Street Lane and the Eastern Parkway Path (extended to GAP).

  • GAPCo

    This is in fact the ‘first step’ in what GAPCo hopes will be a comprehensive overhaul of Grand Army Plaza.

    I think Clarence’s film really demonstrates how much more efficiently this corner of GAP is being used by all modes. I find that many more pedestrians and cyclists are using this space now that it has these new islands and crosswalks and lanes. Car traffic is in no way impeded: they are merely given less roadway. And I will take greenery over zebra-striped asphalt any day!!

    Is this a final product? I hope not – the Flatbush crossing still takes two light phases at least. The connectivity with the Eastern Parkway median will come when that fully funded project is finally built. And other parts of the Plaza will be addressed in a similar manner.

    But more importantly than building more small-scale, short-term tweaks to the space, we are at the beginning of a process (see the ‘reinvisioning’ link in the original post) that may well result in a master plan that fully addresses all of GAP’s usage and access issues. Stay tuned!

  • I thought the zebra-striping was the first step. Didn’t that replace something much worse?


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New Grand Army Plaza Concept is “Brilliantly Obvious”

In the most recent issue of the Architect’s Newspaper, Editor-in-Chief William Menking has some very enthusiastic things to say about the Grand Army Plaza Coalition’s project, Rethinking Grand Army Plaza (download the proposal here) which was recently awarded a 2007-2008 Design Trust fellowship. Menking writes: This past month I served as a juror on the […]

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 […]

Pedestrian and Bike Improvements Coming to Grand Army Plaza

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Public Picks Grand Army Plaza Design

The people have spoken, choosing a design for Grand Army Plaza that connects it to Prospect Park, taking Flatbush Avenue underground and making pedestrians the primary users of the space. "Canopy," a plan submitted by a team of French designers, took people’s choice in the "Reinventing Grand Army Plaza" competition, sponsored by the Design Trust […]