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Placemaking and Public Space Enhancements
In May 2006, we began collaborating with Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to survey, analyze, and produce conceptual recommendations for four underutilized public and quasi-public spaces on the avenue. Two public workshops were held, in October 2006 and March 2007, focusing on the four sites being studied: (1) Myrtle from Carlton to Ashland, which fronts Fort Greene Park and the Walt Whitman Houses; (2) the intersection of Myrtle and Vanderbilt Avenues; (3) the intersection of Myrtle and Clinton Avenues; and (4) Myrtle from Hall Street to Emerson Place, the 4-block section of the commercial district with a parallel service road and single-story retail buildings that resulted from an urban renewal project.
PPS recommends key physical improvements and regular programming to balance the allocation of our public spaces, that is, to re-emphasize pedestrian connectivity and gathering spaces over the accommodation of automobiles. Through simple changes, we can improve the avenue’s image and identity and create true destination places that are well loved by regular visitors and casual passersby alike. PPS’ recommendations provide a range of concepts for each site.
Click the following links to learn more about these findings:
Myrtle Avenue between Carlton Avenue and Ashland Place
In October 2006 and March 2007, PPS facilitated two public planning meetings, one of them co-sponsored with the Ingersoll and Whitman Tenant Associations, to get local input on the Ashland Place to Carlton Avenue area. Participants took part in a placemaking workshop, which brought them to Myrtle Avenue to view and discuss the street conditions and to complete a street audit.
This report summarizes the workshop process, participant input, and results. A concept diagram summarizes the community’s vision for possible improvements along Myrtle Avenue to “bridge the gap” between Ingersoll, Walt Whitman, Fort Greene Park, and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Area Map and Existing Conditions
Concept Diagram of Workshop Findings
The full report (in PDF Format, about 3.2 MB in size) goes into greather depth of the workshop process, and findings from the street audit that partipants completed.
Myrtle Avenue Intersection with Vanderbilt Avenue
The intersection of Myrtle and Vanderbilt is the site of Vanderbilt Auto Care and Exxon Station. The intersection is busy with both automobile and pedestrian traffic, and is the site of multiple bus stops, for both the B54 along Myrtle and B69 along Vanderbilt. While the station provides a valuable service to the community, the public sidewalks lining the space are in dramatic need of improvement, from repaving the concrete to planting trees.
Given the site's automotive use, potential improvements to the site are limited at this time. The primary goal is to prevent cars who are visiting the station from parking on the sidewalk, and softening the space with trees and landscaping wherever possible. Here is one proposed alternative, which while modest in scope, will go a long way toward improving this intersection. Other alternatives can be found in the full report, linked below.
One (of Three) Alternatives for Improvements
The full report (in PDF Format, about 3.1 MB in size) goes into greather depth of the site's challenges, and provides alternatives for improving the site, including the possibility of closing one of the five curb cuts.
Myrtle Avenue Intersection with Clinton Avenue
The intersection of Myrtle and Clinton Avenues is the site of two bank branches, a coffee shop, and a bodega, and has a relatively dense residential population as the site of the north campus of the Clinton Hill Co-ops. Both banks have small surface parking lots fronting the intersection. The intersection is busy with pedestrian traffic, and is the site of a bus stop for the B54. Clinton Avenue has relatively low automobile traffic, and is the site for occassional block parties and sidewalk sales.
Given Clinton Avenue's historic role as the primary north-south street of the Clinton Hill neighborhood, its intersection with Myrtle Avenue has great potential as a flexible public plaza and event space. Curb extensions at each corner would give pedestrians additional refuge, slow down cars passing through the intersection, and allow for the siting of future street furniture. With both bank branches closed on Sundays, the two surface parking lots have the potential to be used for open-air markets or other public programming that would help to draw foot traffic and business activity to the area.
One (of Two) Alternatives for Improvements
The full report (in PDF Format, about 3 MB in size) goes into greater depth on both short- and long-term improvements that could be made to this intersection to create a plaza-like destination, including a large collection of images from other locations in New York City and elsewhere that provide no shortage of ideas.
Myrtle Avenue between Hall Street and Emerson Place
This four block stretch of Myrtle Avenue is a complicated area that was created from an urban renewal project in the 1960's. A large superblock was created, with residentail towers and a single-story retail strip, and three north-south through-streets were de-mapped. Myrtle Avenue was widened to include a parallel service road with parking, in addition to its east and westbound traffic lanes. Given that the area is the site of a US Post Office, an Associated Supermarket, and the Prattstore, foot traffic is substantial, yet the sidewalk widths are inadequate and pedestrian connections are dangerous.
The area of Myrtle Avenue between Hall Street and Emerson Place is in the Clinton Hill neighborhood and on the eastern edge of the Business Improvement District (BID). The Willoughby Walk Co-ops are directly south of the site, and the main Pratt Institute campus is one block south at Willoughby Avenue.
The block bounded by Myrtle, Willoughby, Emerson, and Hall can be described as a "superblock." A product of urban renewal, superblocks were created by demolishing existing buildings and de-mapping city streets to create large redevelopment sites. Typical characteristics of superblocks include the separation of uses, large building footprints, poor pedestrian connectivity, and often a significant amount of surface area devoted to parking. The design of this particular superblock created a service road, and as a result, it set the retail buildings back from the original lot lines on the south side of Myrtle Avenue.
This portion of Myrtle Avenue measures approximately 1,000 feet long. The north side is composed of four 200-foot-wide blocks, with the southern side lacks through-block connections. Parking is the predominant feature with four parking lanes accomodating approximately 117 parking spaces, only 23% of which have parking meters. Sidewalk widths vary dramatically, ranging from 9 feet to 25 feet wide, while the typical Myrtle Avenue sidewalk measures 16 feet. None of the three intersections at Ryerson Street, Grand Avenue, and Steuben Street have traffic signals or crosswalks, making north-south crossings difficult. Four B54 bus stops serve the area, two in each direction, with the eastbound stops located on the narrov, 3-foot-wide median.
This cross section view of the same four blocks, looking west, demonstrates the amount of space devoted to automobiles versus the amount devoted to pedestrians. Overall, 71 percent of the avenue's 96 feet width is devoted to parking or travel lanes.
The site's existing challenges are numerous, with the images below giving a feel for the under-developed retail buildings, the narrow sidewalks on the south side of Myrtle Avenue, the median which too narrow for even tree pits, and the two lanes of unmetered parking on either side of the median, causing very little parking turnover.
The median is also the site of two eastbound bus stops, both of which are dangerous for transit riders who are sandwiched between moving and parked cars with no space to sit or stand. There are no traffic signals along the 1,050 feet between Hall Street and Emerson Place, causing higher than normal vehicle speeds with place for pedestrian crossings. The typical traffic signal spacing along Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill is approximately 200-250 feet. The limited pedestrian connections to the area south of the site makes it difficult for area residents and Pratt students and faculty to easily access Myrtle Avenue.
The following proposed concept for public space enhancements includes expanding the southernmost sidewalk and the median for two blocks of the service road, between Hall Street and Grand Avenue, and creating a new neighborhood plaza for public events and programming for the other two blocks of the existing service road, between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place. This concept has the potential to create a desination public space for Myrtle Avenue and the surrounding community. While the concept does propose a reduction in physical parking spaces, by adding muni-meters to the entire four block stretch of Myrtle Avenue (where only 23 percent of spaces are currently metered), we will actually be increasing the available parking during business hours from 720 spaces/eight hours to 903 spaces/eight hours by dramatically increasing parking turnover. Please see the full report, linked below, to read a more in depth explanation of this concept, as well as three other concepts, plans for maintenance and programming the public space, and the public planning process that helped to generate these ideas.
One (of Four) Alternatives for Improvements
The full report (in PDF Format, about 2 MB in size, landscape legal size layout - 8 1/2" x 14") goes into depth into the public planning workshops, findings, and provides four concepts for making improvements along this four block stretch of Myrtle Avenue. Additionally, plans for public programming and stakeholder contributions for maintaining the improvements are laid out.