• Testimony

last modified October 5, 2006 by naparstek

Testimony to the Brooklyn Community Board 2 Transportation Committee on the Department of Transportation’s Plan for a Pedestrian Plaza at Willoughby and Adams Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. March 21, 2006. By Aaron Naparstek. Project Director for The Open Planning Project

Newspaper story about the meeting...

Meeting Testimony Below

Good evening. My name is Aaron Naparstek. I live in the neighborhood, write about urban transportation, environmental and public space issues and work as a project director for The Open Planning Project.


I am here this evening to urge Community Board 2 to approve the City’s plan to build a pedestrian plaza at Willoughby and Adams Streets.


Over the years, I have worked alongside many members of this committee in trying to reduce traffic congestion and improve public space and pedestrian conditions in and around Downtown Brooklyn. As you well know, it has at times been a difficult battle pushing New York City’s Department of Transportation to prioritize the needs of human beings ahead of motor vehicles. The Willoughby-Adams pedestrian plan represents a small but significant change in these priorities. We should support it.


The plan is good for a few reasons. Downtown Brooklyn needs and deserves better public spaces. Similar projects are working extremely well in Lower Manhattan. Recently a little alleyway called Stone Street has been transformed from a virtual parking lot to a vibrant outdoor food court. Likewise, the removal of traffic from Manhattan’s Fulton Street has been a boon for workers, residents, visitors, and businesses big and small.


There is always the concern that removing street space will increase traffic congestion. But there just aren't enough cars using these two small streets to have any impact on the area as a whole. Likewise, cities around the world are finding that when you take away street space from motor vehicles and give it to pedestrians, cyclists and buses, in fact, you reduce traffic congestion.

There is, however, one very important difference between New York City and other world cities when it comes to these kinds of projects. In London, England, for example, the City has methodically set out to create one hundred new public spaces using money raised through its congestion pricing program as part of a broader citywide strategy to reduce traffic.


In contrast, the plan before us today is not part of any clearly-stated, long-term strategy. It has, essentially, dropped down on Downtown Brooklyn from nowhere. London is able to transform streets into pedestrian spaces because these projects take place within the context of a broader policy to reduce traffic congestion.


That is why we urge the Community Board to approve this plan along with a resolution demanding that City Hall clarify its transportation and public space strategy for Downtown Brooklyn. Our area’s booming growth requires more than just a single pedestrian mall. It requires some real thinking, planning and policy-making. This is a great opportunity for the Community Board to send that message.


Finally, in considering this plan, what I hope members of the Committee will see is that there is no downside to approving this. If the pedestrian plaza doesn’t work out, all DOT has to do is pick up the tables, benches and planters and return the street to the illegal police parking lot that it is today. No concrete is being poured. No streets are being de-mapped.


This is exactly the kind of experimentation that we have long asked for and want to encourage at DOT. It offers very little risk and great potential rewards for workers, residents, visitors, and businesses big and small. The plan is a win-win on many levels. We urge you to approve it.