May 26, 2006

Filling the GAP: Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza

"Today, Brooklyn's plaza rivals the grandeur of European plazas like the Parisian Etoile where the Arc de Triomphe is located. There is, however, one notable difference: Unlike the great European plazas, Grand Army Plaza is, for the most part, disconnected from the city around it and devoid of human life and activity," says the New York Street Renaissance in its most recent mailing.
Over the years, this great civic space has evolved into a gigantic traffic rotary. With minimal pedestrian connectivity, no accommodation for Prospect Park's countless cyclists, and six full lanes of one-way traffic whizzing around the plaza's grand arch and newly renovated $1.5 million Bailey Fountain, the message Grand Army Plaza sends to the public is, 'Look but don't touch.' It doesn't feel safe to cross the street to get to Grand Army Plaza so people simply don't go there, even on beautiful weekend afternoons with a bustling, crowded greenmarket, less than 100-feet away at the entrance to Prospect Park.

In recent months a diverse group of community stakeholders have come together to begin to re-envision Grand Army Plaza. What has emerged is one of the most exciting New York City Streets Renaissance projects. The Grand Army Plaza Coalition includes a rapidly expanding list of neighborhood groups, advocacy organizations and important local institutions like the Prospect Park Alliance, The Brooklyn Public Library and The Heart of Brooklyn which represents all of the cultural institutions around Grand Army Plaza, as well as neighborhood groups like the Park Slope Civic Council and the Prospect Heights Parents Association.

'Our mission is to fill the GAP,' says Coalition organizer Aaron Naparstek. 'We envision Grand Army Plaza as a great place for people, a place where Brooklyn's diverse communities can come together for concerts, festivals and simple relaxation and recreation. We believe that Grand Army Plaza is one of New York City's most valuable, yet under-utilized, assets.'

What a great idea. Public space best adds to a neighborhood's quality of life when it's integrated into the streetscape.

1 comment:

  1. The Grand Army Plaza could be a fantastic pedestrian space if they sank the interchange underground. Families and residents of the adjoining neighborhoods could walk directly to Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Botanic Gardens, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Even if you couldn't sink the streets completely below the current street level, doing so 4-5 feet and then building a roof raised 5 feet from the current ground level over the lanes would be a vast improvement.

    As it is, trying to cross GAP to anything along Eastern Parkway is taking your life in your hands.