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‘Apolline’s Garden’ Project Scaled Back after ‘Community Feedback,’ Says DOT

4:00 PM EDT on October 12, 2022

The memorial for Baby Apolline is actually on the block that would have been turned into a one-way slow street, but is back to being a two-way car sewer. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It's a watered-down memorial.

The city Department of Transportation has scaled back its plans for a plaza and slow-street zone at the site of a fatal crash that killed a 3-month-old girl last year, responding to what the agency called "community feedback" that included some concern over the removal of parking spaces to create more safe space for pedestrians.

The plan presented by the DOT in June [PDF] would have closed the one-way westbound end of Gates Avenue between Vanderbilt Avenue and Fulton Street to all car traffic to create a plaza, much like other squib blocks in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. The June plan also called for Gates Avenue between Vanderbilt Avenue and Clinton Street — currently a two-way street that is exceptionally narrow because of parked cars on both sides — into a one-way eastbound roadway with pavement treatments and other infrastructure to make sure drivers slow down.

But in a plan quietly posted to the DOT website on Tuesday [PDF], the one-way transformation of Gates has been shelved. Also, two neckdowns at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Fulton Street have been eliminated.

See the after and before below. First, the new plan:

Maintaining Gates Avenue as a two-way street is a missed opportunity to divert car traffic off Gates so that the intersection of Vanderbilt and Gates doesn't back up due to car traffic as it does now. Under the June plan, Fulton Street-bound drivers on Gates would have had to use the wider and less busy Clinton Street.

This was presented in November, 2021, about two months after Baby Apolline was killed. Note that Gates Avenue remained two way.
This was presented in November, 2021, about two months after Baby Apolline was killed. Note that Gates Avenue remained two way.

It's unclear what specific community feedback the DOT is now responding to. After residents of the neighborhood were stunned by the Sept. 11, 2021 crash that killed Apolline Mong-Guillemin and badly wounded her mother, they rallied to turn the western end of Gates Avenue into a plaza in the dead baby's memory that would bar cars and remove about a dozen parking spaces (see graphic, right).

The DOT approved such a plan — and, indeed, expanded it to include the one-way Gates Avenue conversion — over the contempt from a few members of the community board, however.

“Every time something happens,” said CB2 member Esther Blount last year, referring to Baby Apolline’s death, “we lose more and more parking spaces.”

But there's also a less conspiratorial view, as well. As reported several times in the past few months by Streetsblog, the DOT is short-staffed and unable to complete its mandated bike- and bus-lane mileage requirements this year, forcing it to scale back.

"They don't have the resources, so they cut it in half," said one local source. "But they could come back next year and finish it."

How Streetsblog covered the Baby Apolline story.
How Streetsblog covered the Baby Apolline story.

DOT spokesman Vin Barone told Streetsblog that the project honoring Baby Apolline still "creates new public space and safer streets for the community," but for now, the agency "is focusing on building the grassroots, community-supported Gates Plaza," which will begin implementation soon.

The agency said it would indeed return next year with additional neckdowns and bike corrals.

Council Member Crystal Hudson said she had not been informed in advance about the change on Gates Avenue, and she declined to offer her opinion on the removal of the slow-street configuration from that block.

"For me personally, I've been focused on advocating for Apolline's Garden, which is happening," she told Streetsblog. "I don't know the details. I can have a conversation with DOT about it."

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