Photo courtesy of Jordan Rathkopf/ Prospect Park Alliance
Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza may become the city’s next car-free space. As first reported by Gothamist, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering connecting the Prospect Heights plaza to the Open Streets program on Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues. The plaza, anchored by its ornate Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch and the official entrance to Prospect Park, has long been the target of safe street activists due to its vehicle traffic and poor sidewalk conditions.
The area in and around Grand Army Plaza is known by pedestrians and drivers alike to be hectic, marred by heavy traffic, deteriorating sidewalks, overflowing waste bins, broken benches, and more.
Short traffic light times force pedestrians to stand on small islands that are frequently overcrowded, bringing them within a distance of heavy traffic that is too close for comfort.
Brooklyn City Council members Crystal Hudson and Shahana Hanif last May wrote a letter to DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, urgently calling on the department to address these issues.
“[Grand Army Plaza] — the main entrance to Prospect Park and a key artery for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers — is home to more than 1,500 residents that reside in 900 apartments,” the letter stated.
“Yet the area is in a state of disrepair — defined by endless traffic, poor sidewalk conditions, broken benches, and overflowing trash cans and litter. Our offices have received multiple calls and emails in recent months about injuries resulting from the poor conditions.”
Over the past five years, at least 89 people have been injured at the plaza. Most notably in 2021, a woman and her one-year-old son were struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Plaza Street West and Berkeley Place.
The letter said future incidents could be prevented by the installation and synchronization of traffic lights at the surrounding intersections to prevent pedestrians from being trapped on the small slivers of islands as they wait for the light to change. Hudson also urged the DOT to implement more improvements to traffic flow.
Eric Beaton, the deputy commissioner at DOT, hopes that the agency can use some of the $990 million funding designated for street improvements that Mayor Eric Adams promised the city last April, according to Gothamist. Adams’ plan included $580 million for capital improvements.
In 2020, the Prospect Park Alliance unveiled plans to renovate the Soliders’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch and restore the landscape of the surrounding plaza. Work is expected to be completed in 2024.
The transportation agency is looking for feedback from community members about potential improvements to the area. The transportation agency will set up a table at the plaza on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will host a virtual workshop on November 16 at 6:30 p.m.
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Neighborhoods : Prospect Heights