Resolved: Manhattan Community Board 10 Rejects Bradhurst Plaza

This plaza isn't happening. Image: DOT
Instead of the plaza you see here, this short stretch of pavement will remain a dangerous cut-through for drivers turning off Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Image: DOT

It was loud. It was messy. And in the end, Manhattan Community Board 10 decided against turning a short section of Macombs Place in Harlem into a car-free public space. Supporters of the proposal spent years trying to get CB 10’s backing but came up a few votes short last night.

DOT won’t proceed with the project without a vote in support from the community board, and last night a resolution backing the plaza failed with 12 in favor, 18 against, and four abstentions. An earlier resolution to hold a town hall meeting on the plaza before revisiting the issue at the community board in October also failed, 13-19, with one abstention.

“We’re being bullied into delay, delay, delay, which means it doesn’t happen,” said CB 10 member Daniel Clark, who voted for the plaza. “We have to make decisions.”

“It’s what, four years this project’s been going on?” CB 10 transportation committee chair Maria Garcia said via telephone this morning. “My job was just to get a vote on it, and that is what I accomplished last night with my team.”

Although Garcia voted for the plaza, she took its defeat in stride. “The point was just for it to be heard in the public forum,” she said. “We have to vote. We have to say yes or no. We can’t just drag everything on for four or five years.” Plaza supporters, while disappointed, also seemed relieved to at least have an answer from the board after years of back-and-forth.

The plaza would have been maintained by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc., which did not return a request for comment this morning. DOT says that while a plaza is now off the table, it will consider other safety improvements for the intersection.

As at previous meetings, the loudest voices last night belonged to plaza opponents.

The loudest of them all was Barbara Nelson, a CB 10 transportation committee member who lives near the proposed plaza site. She and others trotted out a series of familiar (and repeatedly debunked) claims that the plaza would endanger seniors and the disabled, create a traffic safety hazard, impede emergency response, and make parking harder to find by eliminating three on-street spaces.

“These people are trying to force this thing down our throat. They’re forcing it down our throat,” said Bobby Jones, president of the residents association at Dunbar Apartments, which is adjacent to the plaza site.

At times, the meeting devolved into shouting matches. At one point, CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle threatened to stop the meeting. “Are we gonna finish this tonight or are we gonna close the meeting down?” she asked. “We cannot get anywhere like this.”

“Close it down!” plaza opponents shouted from the audience. But the meeting continued.

Garcia voted for the plaza, which would have been home to a farmers market, because she believes it would have improved street safety. Currently, drivers make quick turns off Frederick Douglass Boulevard on their way to the Macombs Dam Bridge. But Garcia believes last night’s vote was really about something else.

“We’re not talking about the underlying issues in underserved communities, which would be gentrification,” Garcia said. “That’s what I believe the issue is about. I don’t believe it’s really about transportation, in this particular project.”

“If they make it more attractive, it’s going to attract new people… and people are afraid of that,” Garcia said. “I understand why they were so angry. I get it. However, you don’t keep the neighborhood unsafe just so the real estate values don’t go up.”

  • Matthias

    When was the end of Hancock Place given the park treatment?

  • Eric McClure

    [Sigh.]

  • mattkime

    its disappointing but must be accepted. there continue to be plenty of opportunity to improve the streets without fixating on opponents

  • Faith in Humanity Restored

    Welp, I guess that solves the pesky problem of gentrification in Harlem.

  • NYC Resident

    Trogs.

  • qrt145

    Minor question: how is it that the plaza would only eliminate three parking spots? Google Maps shows ten cars parked on that block. Would this be offset by adding seven spaces somewhere else, or are seven of those ten parked illegally? (Which wouldn’t be surprising 🙂

  • jimmyd

    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Screen-shot-2014-05-16-at-1.21.27-PM.png

    Adds a few legal spots, gets rid of a few more legal spots, total loss of 3. Gets rid of four or so illegal parking spots.

  • qrt145

    Thank you, that definitely answers the question!

  • Matthias

    It’s pretty sad when people have to fear that any kind of improvement, no matter how small, will increase their rent.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    eliminates 3 FREE parking spots

  • Alexander Vucelic

    this precisely the long term consequence of these bone headed moves – the neighborhoods embracing complete streets are already seeing their property values outpacing the rejectionist CBs.

    prediction – a decade from now; the rejectionist CBs will be baffled why their neighborhoods are crime ridden dens of poverty and abandoned buildings

    meanwhile, there will be ever expanding pedestrian zones and protected bike paths in the insanely desireable areas of lower Manhattan & Brooklyn. Children will play happily in fully open and safe streets. Smartly dressed women will bike in heels and skirts running errands effortlessly. The banishing of motorized death machines from most of these neighborhoods transformed them into quiet happy healthy places of joy

  • Bernard Finucane

    I love the idea that American cities have to be borderline uninhabitable to make sure the poor get the neighborhood they deserve.

  • keenplanner

    Too bad. Shortsighted opponents. It’s time that the DOT started enforcing its own policies and just blow off the neighborhood NIMBYs.

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