Short-Term Fixes for Grand Army Plaza

June 19, 2006

Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri
Department of Transportation
16 Court Street
Brooklyn NY 11241

Dear Mr. Palmieri:

We enjoyed meeting with you and your staff to discuss Grand Army Plaza and some of the issues being investigated by the Grand Army Plaza Coalition (GAPCO). As a follow-up, we would like to bring to your attention a recent GAPCO community-based effort that we hope you can use as input into any improvement plans that you may have.

On May 6, 2006, over a dozen GAPCO members conducted an on-site review of non-motorized access and safety issues at Grand Army Plaza. We looked at eight separate locations around the Plaza with an eye towards improving pedestrian and cyclist accessibility and safety. The site review was organized and led by a GAPCO volunteer who is an AICP-certified professional transportation planner and has received Roadway Safety Audit Training from FHWA.

As a result of the site walk, multiple issues were identified, and in many cases participants suggested potential countermeasures to address those issues. Many of these would appear to be relatively short term and low cost. Both issues and suggestions at the different locations are documented in the enclosed report. In addition, Clarence Eckerson, a filmmaker and GAPCO member, documented the site walk on film. His video is available here.

We hope that you and your staff have the opportunity to review both the enclosed report and the short film.

Recognizing that these are suggestions from laypersons that have not yet been subjected to engineering analysis, we would respectively ask that NYCDOT consider investigating and potentially implementing the following improvement ideas that came out of this community-based process.


Lydia Denworth
Robert Witherwax

Prospect ParkWest /Union Street / Plaza Street West 

  • Implement traffic calming measures at the entrance to Prospect Park West, potentially including curb extensions to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians across Prospect Park West and bollards to protect them.
  • Create a longer walk phase at crossings of Prospect Park South, Union Street and Plaza Street West by lengthening the red phase for vehicles traveling from Grand Army Plaza south onto Prospect Park West and Union Street
  • Improve access for bicycles to Grand Army Plaza and channelize traffic by implementing a two-way bicycle lane on Prospect Park West along the park side of the avenue.

Prospect Park Entrance / Arch

  • Create a pedestrian crossing directly between the greenmarket space at the front of Prospect Park and the Memorial Arch. Utilize countdown pedestrian indicators at this location.
  • Install accessible curb cuts where they are lacking on the existing pedestrian crossing from the park entrance to the arch area.

Flatbush Avenue/Eastern Parkway

  • At the pedestrian crossing across Flatbush Avenue between the library and Prospect Park, the curb cut on the library side is not aligned with the crosswalk and, in fact, is located behind the stop bar. Realign the curb cut and move the stop bar back. This countermeasure was proposed by your office in a letter to the Prospect Heights Parents Association dated 6/14/04, but has yet to be implemented.
  • Extend the curb at the Library Plaza corner into the striped pavement area or find some other mechanism to force vehicles making a right turn from Flatbush Avenue to Eastern Parkway to slow down and take note of the traffic signal above the Eastern Parkway crosswalk. Drainage will need to be addressed.
  • In conjunction with the two previous suggestions, widen the existing crosswalks by extending them to the north in order to provide more pedestrian capacity. This will entail widening the curb cuts on the island and should result in additional pedestrian capacity on the island itself.
  • Also at the pedestrian crossing between the library and Prospect Park, provide a few extra seconds of red time for northbound Flatbush traffic to allow pedestrians to cross between the park entrance and the library without having to wait on the median island.

Flatbush / Vanderbilt / Grand Army Plaza (North of Fountain)

  • Create a pedestrian crossing on the northwest side of the oval (Flatbush Avenue), with crosswalks that mirror the pedestrian crossing from the northeast side (Vanderbilt Avenue).
  • On the northern end of Bailey Fountain, at the pedestrian crossing across the inner merge lane, make the push button "hot" to stop traffic within a few seconds after its being pushed.
  • We have observed that buses virtually never use the "bus only" queue jump lane on the northern side of the fountain heading north on to Flatbush Avenue. Buses that do use the slip lane end up getting stuck behind traffic. It appears that buses need to be given signal priority for this lane to work effectively. If this queue jump lane is not going to be used effectively, this space could be given back to pedestrians.

Vanderbilt Avenue / Plaza Street

  • Vehicles making a right turn from Plaza Street onto Vanderbilt Avenue northbound often get impatient and try to make the turn in front of pedestrians instead of yielding to them. Implement a leading pedestrian interval to allow pedestrians a head start when crossing Vanderbilt Avenue.

Flatbush Avenue / Plaza Street

  • Close the short stretch of St. John’s between 8th Ave and Flatbush Avenue to traffic. Vehicles would still be able to head south on Flatbush Avenue by making a right turn at 8th and Flatbush. This would eliminate an unnecessary and dangerous pedestrian crossing, simplify traffic flow and, in the longer term, this area could be landscaped and incorporated into the existing raised island.

Please note that this represents not a comprehensive list of concepts developed by GAPCO, but rather a priority list of short to medium term suggestions. We would certainly welcome consideration of other suggestions in the site review summary report or alternative approaches to addressing issues that GAPCO has identified.

Please let us know if you would like to discuss this further.


Lydia Denworth
Robert Witherwax
Grand Army Plaza Coalition