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Its role as a major traffic artery notwithstanding, Flatbush Avenue can also be a stroller’s dream−come−true.
That’s the goal of a new streetscape design for the avenue, between Grand Army Plaza and the Atlantic Center, that was unveiled during the annual meeting of the North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District.
The design is the brainchild of W−Architecture and Landscape Architecture LLC, which was hired by the BID to re imagine the strip.
Barbara Wilks, founder of W, presented the plan −− which has been created over the past four months −− to merchants gathered at Oceans 8 Sports Bar and Grill, 308 Flatbush Avenue.
“What we tried to do,” Wilks told the group, “is find ways we can build on the actions you all are taking independently and make a bigger civic gesture.”
To that end, Wilks’ firm aimed to make the strip more pedestrian−friendly, designing wider sidewalks at corners, reducing the width of traffic lanes to 12 feet, and utilizing decorative paving to divide the sidewalks into zones that are defined by their varied uses: One section for walking, another for benches and trees (that would also act as a buffer zone between pedestrians and vehicles), and a third which stores might be able to extend onto with outdoor tables and the like.
The design also takes into account the subway stations along the strip, altering signage, and incorporating the unsightly sidewalk grates into a fresh design that offers seating areas and bike parking.
The design presented by Wilks also offered many ways to “green” the avenue, with the planting of more trees, the creation of flower beds around trees, and the addition of free−standing planters. But, the heart of the new, greener Flatbush Avenue would be the redesigned triangular parks that occur at each intersection with a numbered avenue.
These triangles, noted Regina Cahill, the BID’s president, were “first put in in 1974, and need a face−lift and a complete makeover.”
To that end, each of the triangles would have “a unique character,” said Wilks, who also noted that pedestrians approaching the triangles would have a choice of walking through a more garden−like environment or hewing to the pavement running next to the businesses on the strip.
“We wanted to engage the triangles and really make them the green places of the neighborhood,” Wilks stressed.
The BID has a choice of styles, Wilks added. They can opt for a more historical look for street furniture or go for a more contemporary style, she said. Whichever the merchants choose, Wilks said, the idea is to coordinate all of the varied aesthetic elements so that a regular rhythm is developed along the length of the thoroughfare.
The goal of the project, Cahill added, is “to make Flatbush Avenue more inviting, and make it a crossroads, not just a conduit.
“I think the plan is beautiful, and I think it recognizes who we are and what we are,” Cahill told the crowd.
City Councilmember Letitia James concurred. She noted that one of the results of the project, which visually connects the disparate elements of the busy strip, would be to, “bring us all together, so we can talk about how we love brownstone Brooklyn so much.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz has already allocated money to the project. His representative at the meeting, Andrew Skinner, told the assembled crowd that they would be getting $200,000 from borough hall to help implement “this wonderful streetscape plan. You have to spend it quickly,” Skinner urged.
Other elected officials who have contributed funds to the project include James and City Councilmember David Yassky.
Nonetheless, the funding available to the BID is “limited,” Cahill said, Thus, she told the group, “The BID will need the city agencies to buy into this, so the plan is going to get shopped around.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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