NYCDOT Opens Plans to Public Review

It’s an ambitious goal: invite hundreds – perhaps thousands – of opinions from community members with oftentimes drastically different needs, wishes and histories.  And then take these many visions and incorporate them into the design of a single community plaza.

Myrtle Avenue Plaza Community meeting

On Myrtle Avenue in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, the NYCDOT’s Plaza Program set out to do just that. The participatory processes–led by DOT’s community partner the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, the local BID and LDC– incorporates the community’s experience and vision into plans that will transform a busy street dominated by traffic into active places where people will linger or sit, talk with neighbors, shop at local businesses.

The new Myrtle Avenue Plaza was one of nine projects selected to transform neighborhoods as part of the NYCDOT Plaza Program’s first round of interventions. Since then, budget cuts forced the Plaza Program to scale back. Now on its fourth round, the Plaza Program will reclaim three underutilized streets and create pedestrian-oriented plazas and hopefully three new plazas per year in the future.

Myrtle Ave. between Hall St. and Emerson Place was selected as the location for a new plaza because that section in particular, “met the criteria of the NYC Plaza Program and, in addition, had the support of elected officials’ discretionary funds, the Department of City Planning and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program funding,” according to Vaidila Kungys, Project Manager at the NYCDOT. In addition to funding, Kungys relayed that “section also had more space than other sections of Myrtle Ave we were considering.”

Plans for the reconstruction of Myrtle Avenue Plaza. For more, click on the image.

Early workshops and on-site visits involved the public early in a Placemaking process. At the start of the project in 2007, PPS began working with Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership to create a framework where community members’ voices were incorporated into the design process alongside design professionals’.

“They really tried to listen to what the community wants,” Michael Galinsky, a community member present at the February 1, 2011 community meeting, told the Brooklyn Paper.

The Myrtle Avenue project, said Kungys, capitalized on the “underutilized road space” on the section between Hall St. and Emerson Place and that its “flexible design” will cater to the varied needs of the community.

A recent photo of Myrtle Avenue by Shravan Vidyarthi from The Brooklyn Paper

The plans include a variety of seating and additional greenery with flexible public spaces to host performances. There’s even talk of hosting a farmers market.

These improvements–funded with $6.5 million in public money raised by the partnership–will change the character of this stretch of Myrtle Avenue from one that’s dominated by cars to one that welcomes people.

“The main purpose is to make the pedestrian experience more enjoyable,” said Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, to the 50 community members and local reporters at the February 1st community meeting.

We’re inspired by the hard work and dedication of members of the partnership in working to create a place their community can treasure.

Next Steps

The design team will present revised plans to the community board  transportation committee in March or April and construction is tentatively slated for summer 2012. We’ll be watching the plaza’s progress closely.

What do you think of the new plans?

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Will Stein is an intern at PPS. Meg MacIver also contributed to this post.

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