A Park Circle Where Walkers Feel Welcome


This proposal for Brooklyn’s Park Circle — Grand Army Plaza’s twin traffic disaster at the opposite end of Prospect Park — comes from Streetsblog Flickr pool contributor Sean Kenney. Currently, extraneous asphalt and accelerating vehicles abound here (check after the jump for a shot of existing conditions). Says Sean about his re-design:

With this concept, the intersections (and
traffic lights) force motorists to negotiate
standard, slow, 90-degree turns. The
reclaimed street space for plazas or park
space (the tan areas) can also host a
separated bike lane for access to the park
and greenways.

Like GAPCo’s proposal for Grand Army Plaza, this design could revive a rarely used public space by connecting it to the park and making it more accessible to pedestrians. The Department of City Planning showed a similar concept for Park Circle at a meeting sponsored by Community Board 7 last month, presenting it as more of a far-off vision than a near-term possibility. (Read Sholom Brody’s write-up on the Livable Streets Community site for a full recap.)

Based on the results of a DOT public workshop at that same meeting, safer pedestrian crossings around the perimeter of the circle could be in the offing later this year. While we’re re-envisioning this space, I’d also like to see some enterprising developer raze that curb-cutting Commerce Bank at the corner of Prospect Park Southwest and replace it with a building that actually engages the sidewalk. Other suggestions?

park_circle_before.jpgWhat Park Circle looks like now.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If the point is that given the level of traffic just two moving lanes are enough, why not just expand the outside areas of the circle leaving just two moving lanes toward the center?

    The entire circle could be green for motor vehicles for a long light cycle, and then green for pedestrians in all directions. Vehicles would not be delayed by other vehicles making turns. A smaller circle would leave the cars to queue on the side streets.

    The problem with expanding the center is that given the limited pedestrian traffic in the area, it does not feel safe at night. I know people who walk through this area all the time, and they walk around the edge — not even currently legal on the overpass side.

    Just imagine that the area in yellow toward the center, instead of being the place where the motor vehicles were not, was the place where the motor vehicles were — with a smaller area on the park side.

  • I agree with Larry. Note that, if you move the lanes toward the center, you also make the cars go around a circle with a tighter turning radius, which would slow them down a bit.

  • Doug

    Close the park to traffic. It requires no redesigning, costs nothing, and is an easy way way to eliminate one at least one dangerous crossing for pedestrians at Park Circle.

  • Rhywun

    The bank story reminds me of the time I tried to walk through a BK drive-through across the street from my college dorm, many years ago. The restaurant was closed but for some reason cars were entitled to longer hours. Needless to say, they refused my business.

  • Commerce Bank is no more — it’s now TD Bank. But whatever it’s called, it could benefit from a redesign.

  • speaking of that Commerce /TD Bank… streetsblog had a interesting story and lots of comments previously about it too…


  • oscarfrye

    interesting, Larry…would love to see a photoshop’d mockup of your idea

  • Larry Littlefield

    (would love to see a photoshop’d mockup of your idea)

    Don’t have those skills, I’m afraid. I could ask my kids, but they’re not interested.

  • Thanks, streetsblog, for featuring my idea! I must admit I was really surprised to see it pop up here and on the sidebar last week… it was just a quick idea that I wanted to digitize and share.

    I just wanted to get people to think about what the area could be like if it was treated like a “normal” road, and not a circle or a roundabout. This was just a high-level “metal sketch”, and not based on traffic data or the like. I’m know there’s a zillion other things to consider in any design.

  • One person’s opinion

    Sean’s idea is good, but I personally prefer Larry’s. Move the vehicular lanes towards the center to create a tight circle that slows cars, and put the new public space towards the outside. Operate the signal 2-phase – one all-car, one all-pedestrian, with a clearance phase in between if necessary.

  • With Sean’s idea, how about giving buses their own lane near the circle so they are not delayed with other traffic?

  • Cars in middle sounds good. Would it make it less like a circle?
    Also, i like the Bank building. It looks great on that corner.

  • On the other hand, putting the lanes on the outside, as in Sean’s design, gives more space back to the park, which I like. What I think is particularly exciting is reconnecting the island to the mainland, so to speak, and reclaiming it for the park.

  • With Sean’s design, how about putting a bus lane near the circle, so they don’thave to get stuck with other traffic?


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