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DOT Installs ‘Banker’s Anchor’ Pedestrian Plaza in Greenpoint 

At least this Greenpoint street safety project is moving along!

12:01 AM EDT on August 10, 2023

The new pedestrian space is on a redundant stretch of N. 15th Street. Photo provided by Banker’s Anchor

At least one Greenpoint street safety redesign is moving forward amid the battle over McGuinness Boulevard!

The long-awaited "Banker’s Anchor" pedestrian plaza is taking shape along a stretch of N. 15th Street, providing northern Brooklynites with a permanent car-free space in a booming neighborhood sorely lacking parkland.

City workers started repainting the street between Nassau Avenue and Banker Street with beige epoxy gravel earlier this week, expanding what has been a popular gathering spot and a pandemic-era open street since 2021.

“To be able to actually transform the street into a plaza in two-and-a-half years is amazing,” said Meghan Canale, a volunteer organizer with the group that helps run the auto-absent oasis. “It’s a really valuable space to be able to sit at a table, you don’t have to purchase anything to be there and you can just hang out as long as you want.”

The strip is unnecessary for car traffic, which can turn left off northbound Nassau Avenue at Banker Street on the near side of the plaza, and it became a natural gathering hotspot during the pandemic, sandwiched between the online radio station and bar The Lot Radio and the Shalom Catholic Community Church.

The pedestrian plaza Banker's Anchor (beige epoxy zone beyond the cones to the left) has been taking shape since DOT started painting gravel this week. Photo: Jonah Schwarz

Activists met up at Banker’s Anchor and in nearby McCarren Park during the George Floyd protests in 2020, and mutual aid groups set up a fridge of free food and held clothing swaps.

“The transformation of the street into the plaza is really just a formality of how it evolved as a space organically,” said Katie Denny Horowitz, the executive director of the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, an area parks conservancy group that has been DOT’s official plaza partner on the project. 

The city also expanded some nearby curbs with the gravel paint and will add a bike corral, movable furniture, and planters, according to a DOT spokesperson. 

“As we build on our flourishing Open Streets program, we’re developing permanent designs for existing locations to create safer, more vibrant community spaces. The creation of Banker’s Anchor plaza, in addition to the nearby Berry Bike Boulevard and intersection upgrades, will calm traffic, support the city’s historic growth in cycling ridership, and create new pedestrian space,” said Mona Bruno in a statement. 

The plaza makes permanent a pandemic-era open street. Photo: Jonah Schwarz

The agency has launched similar efforts elsewhere to transition from open streets to designs that don’t rely on volunteer labor of moving around metal barriers, such as W. 22nd Street in Chelsea. 

Banker’s Anchor is near the northern end of the delayed redesign of Berry Street, which DOT will implement this summer and fall.

That overhaul of Berry Street from N. 12th Street to Broadway, will feature markings for two-way bike traffic and shared streets, three pairs of blocks where the car traffic flips, and narrower pedestrian crossings. 

The Berry Bike Boulevard project. Map: DOT

Opponents have repeatedly tried to stop other efforts in the area to scale back car dominance in recent months.

Most recently, the powerful Argento family behind the sound stage company Broadway Stages managed to sway Mayor Adams against his administration’s own redesign of McGuinness Boulevard, forcing DOT planners to water down the proposal to cut a lane of car traffic and add protected bike lanes.

A nearby short stretch of Bedford Avenue dubbed "Bedford Slip," between Nassau and Manhattan avenues, was once an open street which advocates had also hoped to similarly transform into a permanent plaza. But some opponents launched a petition against the move, and DOT currently has no plans to pedestrianize that space full time, according to Bruno.

Things have been heated for a while: two years ago, opponents of the car-free spaces assaulted a volunteer at the former Driggs Avenue open street, and in the cover of darkness stole barriers in an Amazon-branded van and tossed them into the toxic Newtown Creek

Another much-awaited protected bike lane on Meeker Avenue beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has also been set back, but this time due to a lag in installing traffic lights, according to officials.

Additional reporting by Jonah Schwarz

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