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A more ‘humane’ Myrtle Avenue

Imagine a Myrtle Avenue public plaza full of pedestrians enjoying their newspaper or laptop while lunching at an outdoor table and watching a street performer.

The scene could happen in as little as five years when the Myrtle Avenue Service Road is redesigned – turning part of the strip into a public plaza, according to Randy Wade, director of the city Department of Transportation Pedestrian Projects.

Wade gave an overview of the redesign at last week’s Community Board 2 Transportation Committee meeting.

The narrow service road currently spans four blocks along Myrtle between Hall Street and Emerson Place in Clinton Hill.

The current makeup of the service road going north includes retail shops and a narrow sidewalk, then a lane of parking, a travel lane, a second lane of parking, a very narrow median strip, then more parking and bus stops before becoming Myrtle Avenue proper.

Under the new design, between Hall Street and Grand Avenue, the thoroughfare will function more as a driveway with the entrance removed from the intersection and the addition of several neckdowns to make for safer pedestrian crossings.

Additionally, the southern sidewalk will be widened to 12 feet, and the median to 10 feet, and include tree plantings.

This two-block stretch will also maintain one parking lane and one thru-lane within the driveway.

The other two blocks of the existing service road – between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place -- will be closed and turned into a public plaza.

Both Pratt Institute and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (MABBID) support the redesign, in which a final design has yet to be created.

In the case of Pratt, the plaza will front the school’s planned 120,000-square-foot building on the south side of Myrtle between Grand Avenue and Steuben Street.

MABBID, meanwhile, also feels the plaza will help the business climate in the neighborhood.

“The BID has felt very strongly that this is a good thing because nowhere on Myrtle do we currently have a public space for people to sit, gather and enjoy themselves with public programming,” said Michael Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, with includes MABBID.

Backer said the organization worked with both Pratt and the non-profit Project for Public Spaces in holding over the last three years to develop ideas and preliminary designs for the service road.

The process picked up steam when the partnership together with the Department of City Planning applied for and received $2 million in federal money, Backer said.

Additionally, $1.5 in city funds were allocated through the fiscal year 2009 capital budget including a $1 million request through City Councilmember Letitia James’ office and $500,000 through Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office.

Backer said a final price tag and design has yet to be drawn up, but the project is moving forward.

Following Wade’s presentation, the CB2 Transportation Committee unanimously recommended the plan as presented to the full board.

CB 2 is expected to put their stamp of approval on the plan at their Oct. 7 regular meeting.

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