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Vision for a radically different Downtown

Since its rezoning, Downtown Brooklyn has transformed into a mixed-use neighborhood with numerous commercial and residential spaces. A new vision plan aims to change the neighborhood even more.
The Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Action Plan, created by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, was first unveiled in 2019. The plan calls for thousands of new trees, permanent shared streets, and enhanced bike infrastructure throughout the area.
The plan has sat idle for the past two years, until this past week when the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership revealed an updated and expanded version that factors in lessons learned from the pandemic.
“The pandemic has underscored the need to follow through on our public realm vision for a downtown that prioritizes people over cars and quality green spaces,” said Partnership president Regina Myer. “This plan positions Downtown Brooklyn as a model for converting outdated infrastructure that no longer serves its constituents.
“Urban life has changed over the past decade,” Myer added. “Our membership has come to understand that to be competitive, we have to be a great walkable downtown.”
The updated plan calls for the transformation of Columbus Park, Albee Square, Fleet Street, and University Place into fully public parks. Secondly, and perhaps most ambitiously, the plan calls for Adams Street to be transformed into a “multi-modal” boulevard with wide bicycle and pedestrian connections to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lastly, the plan calls for 1,000 new trees in the neighborhood and alterations to the preexisting network of dedicated bus lanes.
At an online event this past week, the group was joined by representatives from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG Architects) and WXY architecture + urban design (WXY).
“Right now, the roads coming out of Manhattan are very angular,” said Claire Weisz, a founding principal at WXY. “We’re trying to slow down cars using curbs and create more spaces for planting, but also to create a sense of place.”
Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other transportation advocacy groups also offered input.
“This vision reinforces what we already know, reclaiming space from cars makes our city healthier, improves quality of life, and creates the urban spaces that will attract the businesses of the future,” a DOT spokesperson said after the event.
“You need to have automated enforcement, and that needs to be expanded,” says Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “We have speed cameras, but they’re not 24/7 and all across the city, even though we know how impactful they’ve been.
“We should have cameras for blocking bike lanes, too,” he added. “We need to acknowledge that the infrastructure being built now isn’t always respected by drivers.”
Rob Freudenberg, vice president for Energy and Environment for the Regional Plan Association, called for even greater changes.
“The next mayor of New York City and the new City Council have a unique opportunity to reimagine streets and public space,” he said. “If we see the city’s 32,000 acres of roadway as one interconnected network of public space that can be improved, streets become a greater asset. We can leverage them to address our greatest challenges and improve resilience, mobility and economic opportunity.”

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