Fowler Square Workshop Thursday Night
Like any street in Brooklyn, South Elliot Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street has undergone tremendous changes in the intervening century or so since this photo was taken. As I often noted with Prospect Park West, only a through a selective view of history can one claim that a new design will change the character of a street. Yesterday’s authentic was once someone’s new.
The planned pedestrian plaza at what is now Fowler Square is ruffling the typical feathers and provoking the same tired arguments we see time and time again whenever this kind change comes to a neighborhood. According to critics of the plan, closing one tiny stretch of street, about the length of two store fronts, could cause massive amounts of congestion. Drivers are upset that they might have to go an entire extra block before making a turn. (Never mind that to be a pedestrian in New York City is to constantly have to go out of one’s way just to cross a street safely.) Others argue that creating more pedestrian space is somehow more dangerous than leaving them with a tiny sliver of a cement island on which to wait for the walk signal.
One neighborhood resident went so far as to say, “This isn’t Amsterdam — we need our street,” as if reading from the NIMBY playbook. I’ve even read people say that there’s a “perfectly good” park just a few blocks away that people can use if they want to enjoy some fresh air.
Ultimately, these aren’t really arguments against a pedestrian plaza so much as they are displays of a reflexive and unthinking resistance to change. Of course, much of this conflict is stoked by a media which likes to frame everything as a battle between different street users on Brooklyn’s “Mean Streets.” But if there is a “war here between bikers, drivers and people who never even go near a car,” then based on the body count and the amount of territory they’ve seized for their exclusive use, I’d say that drivers won a long time ago.
Fowler Square is worth far more to the community as a pedestrian plaza than as a shortcut for a small minority of drivers. To bring a safe and pleasant new space to a great neighborhood, please attend the Fowler Square Planning Workshop on Thursday, Feburary 16th at 6 pm. The workshop will be held at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street, between Fulton and Lafayette.