park slope library

Earlier this month residents in seven Brooklyn city council districts had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to fund a large number of projects using money allocated by the city to each district. The process, known as participatory budgeting, is designed to give citizens more of a voice in how city funds are spent. And now council members representing three of those Brooklyn districts have announced the results of the vote.

In District 39, which runs from the Columbia Street Waterfront, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens through to Park Slope, Kensington and Windsor Terrace, eight projects were funded, including $150,000 for greening Union Street and 9th Street, $250,00 for building a story telling garden at the Park Slope Library (pictured above) and $200,000 for draining a chronically muddy path in Prospect Park. A full list of projects approved by voters in district 39 can be accessed here.

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Renderings released Tuesday by Rybak Development at a Community Board 15 meeting show the developer is planning an ambitious mall with condos above as well as a large public plaza in Sheepshead Bay.

The glass-fronted retail space is broken up with zig zagging and horizontal concrete divisions, and the whole thing comes to nearly a point at one corner, like the prow of a ship. (Perhaps the marine look is a reference to the nearby waterfront area.) The architect of 1809 Emmons Avenue is Brooklyn-based Zproekt.

The renderings were first published by Sheepshead Bites. The developer plans eight stories with 50 to 60 condos. Rybak will need a zoning variance to build that many apartments, which is where the big public plaza comes in. (more…)

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For years now, an anonymous Brooklyn Heights resident has been taking his frustration with the U.S. Postal Service to the streets. Graffitied mailboxes outside his front door remained tagged, even after he submitted unfulfilled requests to the department for refurbishment.

All of this led the sort-of street artist to take matters into his own hands and personally restore them. He estimates he’s repainted about 20 pieces of public property in recent years, including mailboxes, lampposts, call boxes, tree guards, and bike racks.

He’s been profiled in local media and is well-known in the Heights for his efforts, which are technically illegal. Here’s a peek at some of his best work, and what some of it looked like before he “tricked out” chosen objects. (more…)

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We witnessed a group of about 10 activists for safer streets wheatpasting a public art installation on the construction fence at Domino Site E at 325 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg Saturday afternoon.

Incredibly, after we left, a truck crashed into the very same fence, according to an article in the Daily News — an ironic turn of events that sounds like it might be a prank, April Fool’s Joke, or Onion article. (more…)

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A highly anticipated installation at the Flatbush Trees will happen May 18 through May 22, artist Dave Eppley told Community Board 9 last week. Eppley has been working for the last six months with students at a nearby school to design flower bouquets made out of sign vinyl that will be applied to the dilapidated 1970s-era tree sculptures, located at the intersection of Ocean Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard, right across from Prospect Park.

Apparently made of concrete and some other weather-impervious material, the tree-shaped sculptures also serve as a street signs and mark a park entrance.

A sign maker by trade as well as an installation artist, Eppley said he does not expect the decorations to last more than a few years, and that is intentional. “I hope another artist will adopt [the Trees] as their own in a year or two,” and do something else with them, he said.

President, 7th, 8th Ave, Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

One of the fun parts of writing this particular column is matching a vintage photo or postcard to its present-day site. Sometimes a perfect match is possible, and other times, the scenery has changed so much, it’s impossible to tell exactly where a building or event was located. The clues or markers that place or date a photo just don’t exist any longer. But that’s not the case here.

The historic photograph was taken in late February or early March of 1906 on President Street, between 7th and 8th avenues. This is the north side of the street, closer to 8th Avenue. The men are tearing up the sidewalk area to lay down new sidewalks and curbs.

My vintage photo had a caption, President Street, 1906, which narrowed down the street and date. A bit of research turned up public notices in the Brooklyn Eagle announcing road and sewer work throughout the borough, as well as the “regulating, grading, curbing, flagging and laying cement sidewalks” on many blocks, as well.

The paving and road work were spread out with great planning, so traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, could get around without too much difficulty. The notices began appearing at the end of February, 1906, and continued through March. One by one, block by block, the city infrastructure was improved. (more…)

vision zero brooklyn

The Department of Transportation released its Vision Zero plan to improve pedestrian safety across Brooklyn today. The plan calls for safety improvements at 50 high-traffic corridors and 91 intersections throughout the borough. New safety measures include increasing pedestrian crossing times, installing more speed-limit signs, creating more neighborhood slow zones, and changing traffic signals to reduce speeding during off-peak hours.

The DOT also plans to install 60 new speed bumps annually throughout Brooklyn and add more lighting underneath elevated train tracks. And there will be more speed cameras and enforcement at busy intersections. Apparently Brooklyn averages 46 pedestrian deaths each year — the highest of any borough. Read the summary or the full report over on the DOT’s Vision Zero page.

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Former transit commissioner Sam Schwartz will present transit group MoveNY’s plan to charge tolls on East River bridges tomorrow at a public forum in Downtown Brooklyn. Neighborhood groups, community boards, and elected officials are organizing the forum to discuss how to reduce congestion in Downtown Brooklyn and Brownstone Brooklyn, modernize and expand the mass transit system, and fix roads and bridges.

Members of the public will be invited to discuss the proposal in breakout sessions after the presentation. The town hall meeting will take place from 6 to 8 pm at the Brooklyn YWCA at 30 3rd Avenue. RSVP or find out more details here.

Yay or Nay to Tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges? [Brownstoner]

Photo by Axel Taferner

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If transit group Move NY has its way, moving between boroughs via car will become dramatically more expensive. The group is pushing to revive its failed plan to charge a toll of $5.54 in each direction when crossing the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. (The plan also calls for a toll on the Queensboro Bridge, as well as crossing 60th Street in Manhattan or taking the West Side Highway or FDR, and to lower tolls slightly where they already exist.) What do you think of the idea?

Transit Group Would Add Tolls to Four New York Bridges [NY Times]
Proposal to Add Tolls on Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg Bridges [Eagle]
Photo by Anne Holmes

caton avenue and east 7th street

Last week, the DOT unveiled a lengthy list of street changes to improve pedestrian safety in Kensington, including slow zones, one-way streets, improved signage, speed bumps and high-visibility crosswalks. Local parents and politicians were particularly concerned about safety at the soon-to-open P.S./I.S. 437 campus at Caton Avenue and East 7th Street (the corner shown above), where a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a 14-year-old boy in November.

Ditmas Park Corner and DNAinfo both wrote about the packed meeting last week at P.S. 130, which was attended by Councilman Brad Lander, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Councilman Jumaane Williams, among others. By the end of the summer, the DOT is expected to implement curb extensions at East 7th and East 8th streets on Caton Avenue, convert East 7th and East 8th streets to one-way streets, and reduce speed on Caton Avenue, according to Ditmas Park Corner. You can also see the full DOT presentation here [PDF].

Major Safety Upgrades Planned for Area Roads; Hundreds Attend Meeting [DPC]
Kensington Street Safety Upgrades Will Be “Dramatic Improvement,” DOT Says [DNA]
Photo by DOT

atlantic and washington avenue DOT

The Department of Transportation wants to make the three-way intersection of Atlantic, Washington and Underhill Avenues less dangerous for pedestrians with some safety improvements. DNAinfo reported on the agency’s presentation to Community Boards 2 and 8, both of which must approve the proposal for changes to be made.

The intersection is on the border of Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights. The plan calls for:

*Shortening crosswalks by building larger median islands.

*Building a new crosswalk between Lowry Triangle, which sits between Washington and Underhill avenues, and the north side of Atlantic Avenue. There will also be a new crosswalk between the east side of Washington and the small triangle in the middle of the street.

*Increasing the length of crossing signals and delaying traffic lights to give pedestrians more time to cross.

*Restricting left turns from Washington Avenue to Atlantic Avenue and from Atlantic Avenue to Underhill Avenue.

Do you think these ideas will work?

Pedestrian Safety Measures Proposed for Dangerous Atlantic Avenue Crossing [DNA]
Image via DOT

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Construction on the Pulaski Bridge bike lanes has been pushed back once again. Streetsblog reported that the protected bike lanes, originally scheduled to finish this year, likely won’t open until the end of 2015. Last week, we reported construction would wrap in the spring.

Then the DOT gave a presentation [PDF] on the project and said the contractor will start work in April and continue through October or November. Pedestrians and bikers currently share the crowded walking paths, but the DOT plans to convert one lane of Brooklyn-bound traffic to a two-way bike lane.

Officials blamed the delays on the engineering of the 60-year-old drawbridge, which can’t support an additional concrete barrier, and the fact that funding for the bike lanes is tied to work on 10 other bridge projects that needed approval first. The cost of the improvements has also increased from $3,460,000 to $4,200,000.

At least the DOT has finalized a design, which will include textured rumble strips at both entrances to the bridge reminding cyclists to slow down.

Pulaski Bridge Bike Path Now Scheduled to Open by End of 2015 [Streetsblog]
Pulaski Bridge Coverage [Brownstoner]
Rendering via DOT