Every day, thousands of cyclists and pedestrians jockey for space on a narrow strip along the center of the Brooklyn Bridge. A ballet plays out as cyclists commuting to and from work dodge eager tourists looking for the perfect photo op, as the soft chime of bike bells blending with the din of car traffic below. At the Brooklyn terminus of the bridge, however, the already-chaotic scene devolves into a dangerous confluence of cars, bikes, and pedestrians as the path abruptly ends in the center of a busy intersection at Adams and Tillary streets.
After five years of study, meetings, and schematic designs, however, accessing the Brooklyn Bridge will soon be improved under a plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area streetscape, encompassing Tillary Street between Cadman Plaza West and Prince Street and several blocks of Adams Street, with widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and increased landscaping.
A joint effort of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the Department of Design and Construction, the campaign to improve the bridge entrance began in 2009 with community workshops that identified project goals including improved safety and better aesthetics. At the intersection of Tillary and Adams streets, for example, the crash rate is nearly nine times the New York state average, with 117 crashes between 2008 and 2010. The dialogue resulted in a set of schematic plans presented in 2009 and 2011, but the proposal languished without federal funding until last December, when another update was presented to and unanimously approved by Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 Transportation Committee.
Last month, the full community board approved NYCDOT’s polished traffic safety and landscape plans showing the revamped Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area. The first phase of the project reconstructs the entrance to the bridge at Adams and Tillary streets, softening the busy intersection with widened sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, and more landscaping. Pedestrian and cyclist access has been streamlined by converting Adams Street into a tree-lined boulevard with a 30-foot-wide median containing widened and separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The design includes place-making amenities such as new benches, wayfinding signage, bollards, and even a water bottle filling station.
An access road along Adams Street will be reconfigured to accommodate the wider median, including removing a row of parallel parking and adding a bike lane. A group of neighborhood residents have expressed concern about these changes, citing construction noise and pollution from passing cars. The group has asked the city to conduct an environmental review, but NYCDOT has said such a study is not required by law.
Future phases along Tillary Street aim to increase safety and curb problems of motorists parking in bike lanes by replacing concrete jersey barriers along bike paths with extended sidewalks and new landscaping. The plan also streamlines bike access to Downtown Brooklyn. Throughout the target area, curb extensions at intersections—called neckdowns—and widened sidewalks will help slow car traffic, improve visibility, and reduce the length of street crossings. NYCDOT did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The city plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project along Adams Street by the end of the year. Construction is expected to last 18 months. Future phases are contingent on additional funding.