PROSPECT PARK, Brooklyn (PIX11) — It’s one of tri-state’s busiest traffic junctions for automobile traffic, and it’s next to one of the region’s busiest parks for pedestrians.
Now, a process of making the traffic junction, Grand Army Plaza, into a more pedestrian friendly space, is starting in earnest.
The city began a public input process with an in-person public comment session on Saturday, at the plaza. It’s being followed by an online workshop this Wednesday, coordinated by the city’s Department of Transportation. Hundreds of people have already signed up. Anybody who wants to join can do so here.
A variety of people passing through the plaza on Monday on foot or by car agreed that a redesign of the plaza is welcome.
“Expanding more pedestrian area, [and] cut off the cars,” said local resident Dan Robinson, “I’m into it.”
He was walking across part of the periphery of the plaza when he spoke with PIX11 News. It was minutes before Claire Norville drove through the plaza in her SUV.
“I wouldn’t mind it,” she said about a redesign. “Anything to simplify,” she continued, “because this is a complicated roundabout.”
While it’s true that she, Robinson, and others walking or driving through the three-city-blocks-long traffic circle and plaza agree that they’d like to see an alteration to the space, just what the change should look like was not necessarily something everybody could agree on.
One driver told PIX11 News, “I think it’s okay” to keep the plaza basically the way that it is.
His opinion is reflected in one of three basic redesign templates that the DOT is considering at this point.
The first of the three templates would basically take the current format of the plaza and extend pedestrian spaces slightly.
Another proposal would replace some traffic lanes with pedestrian areas that are larger than the ones currently in place.
The third redesign proposal, which the DOT calls a “big impact” change, would eliminate automobile traffic on one side of the plaza altogether. The south side of the plaza, which faces Prospect Park, one of the largest and busiest parks in the city, would see Prospect Park extended into the plaza.
The advocacy group Transportation Alternatives (TA) has positioned its workers and volunteers at the plaza in recent days, it says, to try to talk with residents and encourage them to push for the “big impact” change.
Kathy Park Price, the Brooklyn borough organizer for TA, said, in an interview, “The current design prioritizes vehicles primarily. It is time to make big changes at Grand Army Plaza.”
For its part, the DOT says that it’s considering the full range of choices. Casey Gorrell, the lead designer of the pedestrian unit at the department, said that changes to the plaza need to accommodate a variety of transportation needs.
“We have to improve transit access,” he said, adding that that includes different modes of transportation. “How can we also improve bike connections?” he continued, “and how do we accommodate freight end vehicles, since Flatbush is a key corridor?”
The DOT said that more than 400 people have already signed up for Wednesday’s public input workshop, and they welcome as many additional participants as possible.