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LIVE BLOGGING: Meeting Tonight on Proposed Fowler Square Plaza

Patch's coverage of Thursday's contentious gathering on planned pedestrian area.

7:40 p.m.: And that's a wrap for Patch's coverage of tonight's workshop. Thanks for sticking with us and stay tuned for more coverage on the Fowler Pedestrian Plaza issue. 

7:39 p.m.: A little bit more on the break-out table format of tonight’s meeting: Turns out it was rolled out at last June’s information sessions on the pedestrian plaza application. And it seems to be working—that is, if the goal of DOT and FAB is to get people to accept the pedestrian plaza as a fact. At each of the five tables set up, a diagram of the proposed Fowler Pedestrian Plaza is provided, along with markers so that participants can add features like bollards, planters, tables and chairs.

What’s missing from those tables, critics of the plan might notice, are erasers.

This plaza is happening, folks.

7:07 p.m.: A visit to one of the break out session tables revealed unanimous support for the proposed plaza. All three participants, Steven Matt of Fulton and St. Felix streets, Hari Khalsa of Ashland Place and Fulton Street and Dominik Eckenstein of Washington Avenue said they were for the plaza.

7 p.m.: Anger has begun to boil over with the DOT reps at the meeting refusing to allow residents to read statements on the proposal. Instead, the organizers of the meeting are trying to lead the meeting into separate "break out" sessions.

6:59 p.m.: There has been mixed reaction from businesses in regards to the plaza, according to Kellogg. Concerns include loading and unloading and other late night activity.

"We didn’t submit it without having the support of the key players," he said.

6:55 p.m.: In response to a question, flexible bollards will allow emergency vehicles to access S. Elliott Place, according to DOT.

6:49 p.m.: A resident of S. Portland Avenue asks a really good question: Who was General Fowler?

Fort Greene resident Ruth Goldstein has the answer: Fowler was a breveted, or honorary, general that got men to muster in Fort Greene Park in the run-up to the Civil War. The men, called the “red legged devils” for the socks they wore, later fought at Gettysburg. Fowler, she said, spent the rest of his days “taking care of his boys.”

6:45 p.m.: After temporary installation this summer, DOT will take add traffic and pedestrian counts and do a time-lapse analysis. The agency will then report back to Community Board 2 in the fall.

The presentation has ended. Now the public comments section of the meeting will commence.

6:40 p.m.: DOT notes that like the Putnam Pedestrian Plaza, a fire hydrant exists in the middle of the block of the proposed closed section of S. Elliott in front of The Smoke Joint. According to DOT, there is adequate access on Lafayette and Fulton for fire trucks.

Also, FAB Alliance made a commitment to pick up trash, clear the plaza of snow and water plants, among other maintenance tasks.

6:30 p.m.: The DOT presentation on the plaza has begun. One of the main points so far seems to be: The impacts on traffic in the area upon the closure of S. Elliott to vehicular traffic will be minor, and perhaps may even be beneficial for cars and trucks traveling along Lafayette Avenue without the option of making turns on S. Elliott.

According to the DOT, only 98 cars on average travel along S. Elliott between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street per peak traffic hour. During that same period, 398 pedestrian on average use the corridor.

6:23 p.m.: Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, reiterated her support for the Fowler Square pedestrian plaza, evoking the installation of another plaza in Clinton Hill:

"With the success of Putnam [Pedestrian Plaza], I can see how pedestrian plazas can bridge divides and bring the community together," James said.

James called the proposed pedestrian area a "summer plaza."

"I trust that with some time and use that the benefits will become clear to all of us," she said.

6:15 p.m.: Chris Hrones of the city Department of Transportation just kicked off the meeting explaining the history of the proposed pedestrian plaza at Fowler Square, which began two years ago with an application submitted by Fulton Area Business Alliance.

6:02 p.m.: With the room beginning to fill here in a meeting room at Lafayette Presbyterian (which by the way, is located at 86 S. Oxford St., around the corner from Lafayette Avenue), we spoke very briefly with Phillip Kellogg, manager of Fulton Area Business Alliance, about what he hoped to gain from tonight's meeting.

"First and foremost, it's about getting the facts out there regarding real traffic data that DOT has already collected," Kellogg said.

----

At various points called a "workshop" or an "informational meeting," tonight's event at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church promises to give a cross-section of community attitudes to the city's latest pedestrian plaza experiment—this time at Fowler Square, in the heart of Fort Greene.

Stay with us as we give blow-by-blow coverage of the meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Franklin Stamness February 17, 2012 at 08:01 PM
It was interesting to hear from a couple of people in Clinton Hill about how many problems the Putnam St. plaza has caused. DOT kept saying they would be closely monitoring the interim Fowler plaza to see how it was working. What are their findings on the Putnam St. plaza? Wouldn't it be wise to study that one before launching another one? It's upsetting to hear that plaza has caused problems traffic problems and brought garbage to the area.
Steven February 17, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Martin may be a stalwart of Fort Greene, but he was rude and blocked other people from asking questions.
Steven February 17, 2012 at 09:51 PM
It's hardly a Potemkin village if the majority of people who attended the meeting were in favor of it. If you had stuck around for the workshop you would have found a very nice, constructive workshop. Yes, there were some strong objections, but it was far from rancorous. Martin should have stayed for the rest of the meeting. I'm not sure why he is so important that he gets to hijack a Q&A session because he needs to leave early. I'm sure lots of other people were busy, too, but they made the effort to contribute to the workshop. I wasn't a DOT plant. I live here, have lived here since the 1980s, and would like us to use the opportunity to create something wonderful in the neighborhood. This street is hardly used by cars...let's give it back to the majority of people who don't drive!
Paula February 18, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I can't wait for this!!!! The neighborhood needs more safe, open spaces. Bring it on!!!!
Jennifer Self February 18, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Reality Much? Where you at the same meeting I was? There was plenty of opposition and its pretty obvious the word "plant" refers to their attendance as part of their job/position, volunteer duties at DoT, FAB, CB2, etc.
Jennifer Self February 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM
As a car owner and a parent - Im absolutely against the WASTE of public monies!
Jennifer Self February 18, 2012 at 07:02 PM
DOT, Parks and DOE money is OUR collective TAX PAYING MONEY - A dollar spent on chic and wasteful plazas IS A DOLLAR LOST on education. Budgets are adjusted when obviously wasteful! WALK three blocks to a huge expansive park. Enjoy the triangle as is, bring a chair, have a picnic - Id prefer my taxes NOT spend on construction from New Jersey and cheap French chairs!
Jennifer Self February 18, 2012 at 07:12 PM
This triangle is going to Bridge the divide between the poor lil smoke house and the isolated Connecticut Muffin. I think they deserve at least a million.
Jennifer Self February 18, 2012 at 07:50 PM
This neighborhood needs people to walk around the corner to a park. If it aint broke dont pay to get it fixed.
David February 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM
The neighborhood needs people to drive around the corner to any of dozens of other streets they can drive on. Something is broke, let's fix it. More green space, please.
Joseph February 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
DOT's presentation showed that the street gets very little traffic but that many more pedestrians use it. So how about allocate space based upon the best and highest use? I wouldn't mind driving one block out of the way in order to have a much better retail district and center of Fort Greene. This project will give our neighborhood a more attractive presence and it'll give me a great place to meet my friends before we go to BAM or eat at any of the great restaurants in the area. Support our businesses -- make the plaza!
Brooklyn Sandy February 20, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I want each and every one of you rabid supporters of this foolish waste of money...along with Phillip Kellog...to be available at 4AM, right there on the square, when the inebriated patrons of Frank's Lounge take their bottles and cups across to the new "plaza" ...sit themselves down and rant, accompanied by their car boom boxes (as they've done for years). Now, they'll be much more comfortable and the "divide" bridged will be for those who want to sleep and those who don't. An email (6/3/07) from Kellog to me: "This is Phillip Kellogg, FGA Chair, responding to your note about Frank's lounge. I am sorry to hear the problem continues.Noise complaints are tough. And the city makes it tough to get action. Noise inspectors don't seem to work at the hours you describe, which makes no sense. And history demonstrates that calls to Frank, or his son (?), are a waste of time. If I was you, I wouldn't bother."
paula February 20, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I want each and every one of you rabid opponents of this wonderful addition to the neighborhood to be available at 4 AM, right there on the street, when the inebriated drivers get behind the wheels of their cars and speed through the neighborhood. The good news, Sandy, is that with the road closed to traffic, it will be impossible for anyone to park their car in this area and blast their music.
Brooklyn Sandy February 20, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Paula...you're obviously great at monitoring traffic and sensitive to drunks...how about posting your information where you can be contacted at 4AM when Frank's patrons find their benches are awaiting and decide that their parking spot on Fulton or Lafayette is just right for music amplification while they enjoy another drink. Your dismissive comment is only worthy of someone who has not been impacted by what even Kellogg acknowledges is an ongoing problem. "Wonderful addition" needs to be shared by everyone...not just by the Smoke Joint getting a free front yard...the FAB businesses in their quest for more "walking traffic"...and those walkers who cannot seem to "walk" one block away to Ft Greene Park.
paula February 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM
So the plaza "needs to be shared by everyone," but a street that only benefits drivers is okay. Makes sense!
Jonathan February 21, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I was initially taken aback at the roughing over Martin Goldstein got from the DOT moderator, but on reflection realized we're deluding ourselves if we imagine he or any other bureaucrat cares about us or our neighborhood. Martin Goldstein means nothing to the DOT. A little more surprising was Phillip Kellogg's failing to intercede to let Martin speak. He certainly knows the esteem in which Ruth and Martin are held and a word from him could have kept the meeting from going off the rails. Steven thinks S. Elliott should become a plaza in order "to give it back to the majoity of people who don't drive" to "create something wonderful in the neighborhood." As a young couple, Ruth and Martin moved here when Fort Greene was called Needle Park, when every block had abandoned and deteriorating brownstones, when NYC pretended not to know there were four boroughs besides Manhattan. Fort Greene is desirable now because Ruth and Martin and others like them had the courage, the heart and the vision to move here and work for years to make it the "something wonderful" it had been. NYC didn't help. Now it can't stop meddling.
zinka February 22, 2012 at 01:19 AM
And now a new generation is working to make Fort Greene into an even better neighborhood by creating vibrant public places, open to everyone at no cost, and lessening our dependence on out-of-place automobiles in a dense city. It's a shame that Martin resorted to disrupting the meeting, but the mere fact of having been in the neighborhood a long time and having worked to make it better doesn't give him the right to be rude to his neighbors. And, of course, all people who value civic engagement and public amenities over a devotion to inappropriate use of cars are welcome to join us. It doesn't have to be a generational fight unless you make it one.
Jerry February 22, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I was at the meeting. There was supposed to be a Q&A session immediately following the presentation, and the DOT moderator politely asked that people please respect the rules and format of that session. That meant questions only, no statements. Many people on both sides had their hands raised to ask a question. But Martin stood up and said, "I have a statement." Yes, he is a longtime resident and deserves thanks, respect, and gratitude for his contributions to the evolution of this neighborhood. But there is no getting around the fact that he did not have a question at what was supposed to be a Question & Answer session. He prevented a lot of people, including other longtime residents, from asking genuine questions about the project that may have enlightened people. The time he spent pressing his demand to "make a statement" ate into the Q&A session so much that there was hardly any time for questions. Democracy means that every person is given an equal voice and an equal opportunity. Martin denied a huge number of people that chance. It was rude.
Justin February 22, 2012 at 07:58 PM
The rudeness, the insincerity and hypocrisy lie with DOT, FAB and our elected officials who pretended to hold an open meeting at which everyone could vote on the three different plans for Fowler: Renovating the triangle as it is; Enlarging it slightly, and taking over South Elliott Street. The Q&A was pretend, a pretense. In the end all DOT cared about was the taking of South Elliott, the only "choice" the attendees were given. I wonder how Leticia James, Hakeem Jefries and Velmanette Montgomery would like it if next "election" only their opponent's name appeared on the ballot, leaving those wanting to vote for them to have to ask for a write-in ballot. It's unsettling when our reverred electeds lend their names to manipulating their constituents. Why don't they spare us all the pretense and just say, "DOT is going to do what it wants. Nothing you can do about it. You don't matter." That would have saved us a number of hours at all the phoney "input" meetings.
zinka February 22, 2012 at 08:04 PM
No one (at least no one official) EVER said that there was supposed to be a vote between those three options at this meeting. FGA held a poll, but that was a separate matter. The vast majority of the neighborhood will enjoy, and will benefit from, this plaza. Please try to relax and realize that everyone's dire predictions about other plazas have simply not panned out; they are neighborhood assets, not liabilities.
Jerry February 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
And at the workshop, all the people who remained to discuss options for the plaza, including a partial closing, were overwhelmingly in favor of a full closure. Only two people at my table of nine were against it. Only one table reported an even split and no tables reported a majority against. It's a trial closure, for Pete's sake. If it doesn't work and the traffic and ill effects are as bad as a few people are predicting, then that will be evident pretty soon, don't you think? And if that happens, the street will reopen again to cars. Why are people afraid to try?
Brooklyn Sandy February 22, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Let's get back to the reasons for the passions which are fueling this push back. This is a clear case of "bait and switch" being foisted on those of us who will be impacted dramatically. Designating the would be plaza for the purposes of "walking" is a red herring and a quasi eminent domain takeover by FAB, the Smoke Joint, and the retailers who will happily exchange their potential profit for the adjacent residents' diminishing of quietude and quality of life. For those who cannot walk one block to Ft Greene Park...do not insult our intelligence. For those who've "videoed" the "untrafficked" street in question...do it on a warm night at 10 PM on the weekend & see the morass of traffic on adjacent Fulton where emergency vehicles can go nowhere in the back up...For those of you dismissing the impact of noise, and Frank's Lounge at 4AM when all the drunks exit and wish to continue to party...will you be responsible for keeping them neighborly? (Paula...quick with responses, seems not to have volunteered...) Phillip Kellogg...I refer you to my posting (2/20/12) about Frank's...you've obviously figured that we should just roll over and play dead in your "Occupation" of our serenity. Why not use your good offices along with Tish James, et al, to direct DOT to use that money for the locked up green space in front of BAM? Why...? Because no retailers would directly benefit...only the neighborhood pedestrians...but they are really not what it's all about...right?
Arthur February 22, 2012 at 09:59 PM
My mother, 85 years old, uses a walker. She's lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years and is in favor of this project. To suggest that she should simply walk one or two more blocks to Fort Greene park if she wants to sit outside somewhere is beyond insulting.
southelliottseer February 23, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I agree with Justin's comment about DOT,FAB and our elected officials' hypocrisy. A done deal,if there ever was one. Maybe they all looked down So. Elliott at the roof of the stadium looming in the "not so" distance and were inspired by another,albeit larger done deal. When I spoke to Rob Perris,at Community Board 2 in 2010,I questioned a rumor I had heard about plans for the Fowler Square area. He told me I lived in the "entertainment area". I replied that the residents of S. Elliott Place weren't part of the entertainment and that when I moved here 40 years ago,whorehouses and hustler bars were pretty much the entertainment,but that a number of us stayed and work tirelessly to make the area a better place. Now that we've made a decent area surrounding Fowler Square,we don't need to bring loads of people here hang out. There is plenty of free space to be had in nearby Cuyler Gore Park, Ft. Greene Park and with some effort something could be done about the BAM gated park and an area I have dubbed "the weedgarden" across from the beer garden opposite Cuyler Gore Park. Make no mistake about it, the Fowler Square issue is a charade. All about greed and power--Brooklyn Democracy 2012. I though Zinka's comment was interesting,but as a very nearby resident of Fowler Square I would like to add that although the vast majority of the residents might enjoy and benefit from the enlargement of the plaza, the nearby residents have been told they can go to hell if they don't like it.
Kurtis February 23, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I can't wait to cheer the Nets!!! That land was going to waste and S. Eliot is a wate. I'm really looking forward to partying hard on Fowler plaza when THE BROOKLYN NETS WIN!!! GO NETS!!!!
Jim February 23, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Arthur has let the cat out of the bag! His 85 year-old mother "has lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years in favor of this project." How come his mom knew about the project since the 1980s and the rest of us just found out about it last year? (By the way, Arthur, you say it's "more than insulting" to suggest she walk 1 or 2 blocks to Fort Greene Park. Do you mean Fort Greene has been an insulting place to live all these years without a plaza on S. Elliott St?
Arthur February 24, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Jim, it was a typo. She's lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years and, when she found out about the plan for the plaza this past year, was in favor of it. When you are 85 and use a walker or a wheelchair or have difficultly getting around, I hope you take kindly to people who tell you to just walk a block or two somewhere else. Fort Greene is a wonderful place and my mother has loved it for decades. It can continue to be an even more wonderful place and I'm so glad there are people who are working to make that happen.
Brooklyn Sandy February 24, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Arthur, and all the rest who are "insulted" by a wish (from 75 year olds who have lived here for over 25 years!) to maintain our own quality of life... would demonstrate their lack of hypocrisy by admitting the unfairness of their contention that they are the only ones by dint of their age to enjoy a quality of life issue at the expense of others. The invitation to walk another block proposal is at least an alternate choice...however, when one cannot move one's bed a block or two...when one is awakened by Frank's exiting drunks urinating, throwing bottles, raging in loud groups at 4AM like clockwork, as well as during late night hours,...with NO recourse (see Kellogg's quote above) it is a red herring to throw out age and longevity to preempt others' age and longevity. It is about profiteers who are "using" the community fractiousness in furtherance of their goals...85 year olds or teenyboppers could avail themselves of a restored BAM-fronting park which should be the recipient of DOT investment with consideration for all ages and all "walkers". In an ideal world a plaza with considerate visitors would be perched on each and every block where an 85 year old resides...until that happens this 75 year old needs the same opportunities to a "kindly" healthful residency & quality of life that has been described above. Finally, I will not cede the reduced accessibility for emergency vehicles as a result of the closure... also a lifeline issue for the elderly!
Brooklyn Sandy February 26, 2012 at 07:14 PM
From "Former Middletown Resident" with whose comments I concur...but I did NOT SEE posted on this blog...only by a Patch email alert of 2/25/12.at 7:25 PM. I'm taking the liberty of copying and pasting his salient remarks "for the record" as follows: ""Remember last summer when Habana had to hire at least 3 private security guards per night and charge every male $10 to enter to deter people who just wanted to harass women and not buy anything? These same folks would then sit on their Suzuki motorcycles outfitted with xenon lights and modified noise-making mufflers and just rev the engines... Does anyone remember that? That is going to be Fowler Square X 10. A BYOB party where you can drink, smoke, rev your engines which you will be able to have alongside or even in the square, and harass women just trying to get home. Thanks, DOT. Can I have your home numbers to call you at 3 A.M. when I get harassed?"
Tammy February 27, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Steven, the Potemkin analogy fits. The happy village DOT has on display is in the slide show, staged scenes of frolicking people and tables of tweaked statistics all set out to prove how great the plaza will be. DOT's mission is to put as many plazas in as many streets as possible. If what they really wanted is bring more green space, they would open up the BAM triangle that has been let go to waste for years. They're uninterested in it, an actual planted green space, because it doesn't involve the elimination of a street. If you don't believe me, check out the DOT site under plazas. Your liking the plaza on S. Eliott is gravy to DOT but means no more to them than if you didn't like it, or if no one did.

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