On June 24, the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) unveiled a proposal to transform a stretch of Brooklyn’s central artery from an automotive speedway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. The master plan, designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, aims to slow traffic along Flatbush Avenue and soften the thoroughfare’s hard urban character.
The plan focuses primarily on the five triangular traffic islands between Grand Army Plaza and Atlantic Avenue, created where the surrounding orthogonal street grid intersects the diagonally-oriented Flatbush.
“Because of all the subways that run underneath it, Flatbush can’t be a tree-lined street,” Barbara Wilks, founder of W Architecture, told AN. The traffic islands, however, offer sufficient depth for a variety of new landscape elements, she said. “The triangles become an opportunity to add greenery—punctuations as you walk, drive, or bike along.”
But the makeover is about more than plantings. The master plan calls for distinct designs for each triangle that would respond to their unique surroundings. These designs will be filled out with seating, bicycle parking, and other amenities. The plan also proposes to narrow certain side streets that feed onto Flatbush to truncate crossing distances for pedestrians and slow vehicular traffic.
At its annual public meeting, the BID also announced the receipt of $200,000 in funding from Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, bringing total funds for the project to $600,000. In mid to late July, the BID and W Architecture will meet with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to decide on a next step in bringing the plan to fruition. The BID may be applicable for additional funding from the DOT under its Plaza Program, the same program that financed the transformation of Broadway around Times Square into its current status as a pedestrian oasis.
Sharon Davidson, executive director of the BID, said that the team was considering two possible approaches for the plan’s first phase. In one scenario, the BID might complete a redesign of one of the triangles, then hold a community event to get public feedback before moving ahead to complete the rest.
Another scenario would begin by upgrading the avenue’s long-defunct gas lamps with modern fixtures. While the technology would be advanced, the aesthetic of the lamps would still adhere to the district’s 19th-century character. “There are two replica Victorian clocks on Flatbush from the ’60s we want to match,” Davidson said. “We’re trying to keep in mind the neighborhood.”