New pedestrian plaza opens on Brooklyn’s Underhill Ave Open Street

Officers reduce the ribbon Saturday on a brand new, everlasting pedestrian plaza on the Underhill Avenue Open Street in Brooklyn, in what the town is looking the “first step in the evolution of Prospect Heights’ Open Streets to permanent public spaces.”

The one-block stretch of Underhill Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, adjoining to the Lowry Triangle Park in Prospect Heights, has been painted a superb turquoise, outfitted with furnishings, and furnished with planters and granite blocks at every finish to halt car site visitors and permit it to flourish as a gathering place.

Underhill, together with its neighbor Vanderbilt Avenue, was among the many first of the town’s streets to be closed to site visitors and opened to pedestrians on the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the 2 have since change into a number of the hottest in this system. The part of Underhill between Atlantic Avenue and St. John’s Place is restricted solely to native entry auto site visitors, with by way of site visitors banned, on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The brand new plaza is step one within the Division of Transportation’s plan to rework the two-way avenue into a “bike boulevard,” which is predicted someday this 12 months.

Officers collect to chop the ribbon on the brand new Underhill Plaza in Brooklyn.NYC DOT

“I am proud to build on the success of our flourishing Open Streets program by cutting the ribbon on Underhill Plaza, a great example of how we’re developing our program locations with permanent designs that create safer, more vibrant community spaces,” mentioned DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez in an announcement. “This expansion of Lowry Triangle marks the first step in transforming Underhill Avenue into a Bike Boulevard that calms traffic by prioritizing cyclists and pedestrians — all without the need of moveable barriers.”

Below DOT’s plan, components of the two-way Underhill Avenue shall be transformed to one-way automobile site visitors with bike lanes in each instructions, whereas different blocks will retain two-way car site visitors however shall be outfitted with hefty heart medians, meant to calm site visitors.

The plan is an element of a bigger imaginative and prescient for Prospect Heights being championed by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Improvement Council, which operates the Underhill and Vanderbilt Open Streets. On Vanderbilt, DOT has proposed upgrades to the prevailing bike lanes and the addition of latest medians, pedestrian islands, bike corrals, and neighborhood loading zones.

Town can be contemplating its choices for a serious rehab of Grand Military Plaza, which may see the reunification of the Troopers and Sailors Arch with Prospect Park to switch certainly one of Brooklyn’s most chaotic intersections.

“The initial Open Streets program on Underhill Avenue has been very effective in keeping residents from getting hurt,” mentioned Gib Veconi, Chair of PHNDC. “Both Underhill Plaza and the additional street improvements to come are permanent safety features that will protect pedestrians, cyclists, and children at our local public school and playground.”

The plaza is step one of many metropolis’s plan to show Underhill Avenue right into a “bike boulevard” this 12 months.NYC DOT

Each Underhill and Vanderbilt avenues have seen reductions in site visitors crashes and accidents within the years since turning into Open Streets. Between 2019 and 2022, Underhill Avenue noticed 39.2% fewer crashes and 28.7% fewer accidents than had been seen from 2016 to 2019, in line with NYC Crash Mapper. On Vanderbilt, there was a 42.5% drop in crashes and a 41.5% discount in accidents in the identical time interval.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso — who has previously called for making Vanderbilt Avenue a permanent pedestrian plaza — took pleasure within the new plaza on Underhill.

“The transformation of Underhill Plaza into a permanent public space is a reminder that this city belongs to the people who call it home,” mentioned Reynoso. “[T]he kids who play on the sidewalk, the families who walk our streets, and the communities that have opened up businesses, restaurants, and more.”

A examine launched by DOT and Bloomberg Philanthropies in October discovered companies on Open Streets noticed a big increase in gross sales and business exercise, particularly in comparison with these on auto-centric roads. This system has nonetheless been controversial in some corners, with the occasional butting of heads between Open Street supporters and people involved with the lack of parking areas.

Underhill Plaza follows within the footsteps of a number of different Open Streets with blocks totally closed to vehicles. The primary was on Dyckman Street in Inwood, the place one block was transformed into pedestrianized Quisqueya Plaza in 2021. In Queens, the favored thirty fourth Avenue Open Street has been rechristened as “Paseo Park” with varied pedestrian enhancements and vehicles banned or restricted on a lot of the stretch.

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