Update: Residents Decry Plans to Make Fowler Pedestrian Plaza Permanent

Small group of locals say more study is necessary to see if imminent opening of Barclays Center will clog public space.

The city Department of Transportation is poised to make changes to a stretch of S. Elliott Place between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue that would make  a permanent fixture in the heart of Fort Greene.

In response, a small group of residents sent a letter on Monday to Councilman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene, calling on her to help delay the sealing of the small stretch of street.

"There is no reason why there should be a rush to judgment in finalizing Fowler Square Plaza…and every reason to forestall its permanency until objective and residential based opinions are factored in once Barclay [sic] Center is in full swing," the letter, signed by five local residents, read.

The signatories to the letter, including South Portland Block Association president Peter Vitakis and S. Oxford St. Block Association president Abby Weisman, asked James to secure another six-month extension to study the effect  would have on Fowler Square.

James could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the contents of the letter.

According to DOT, work to permanently seal off the plaza will not take place until Community Board 2 votes in the affirmative at a meeting this winter.

So far, response to the plaza from residents, business owners and visitors has been generally positive.

In other pedestrian plaza news,  recently got some much needed shade in the form of large blue umbrellas— courtesy of Fulton Area Business Alliance.

Update, 8:32 p.m.: We're including the full text of the letter sent Monday to Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene:


Council Member Letitia James
67 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, Ny 11217

Re: Request for postponement of finalizing Fowler Square Plaza

Dear Council Member James,

Because the 6 month trial period observation by the DOT to finalize Fowler Square as a permanent pedestrian plaza is coming to an end, I’m respectfully asking you to lend your good offices to our plight. On behalf of the adjacent South Elliott Place residents as well as many discomfited South Portland, South Oxford, Fulton Street neighbors  (not to mention a vociferously protesting Brooklyn Tech) who are impacted on contiguous blocks, we ask for a delay of at least 6 months to evaluate the impact of the 18,000 plus Barclay attendees in the immediate weeks ahead. The reality of their car traffic…the evidence of the social networking which will encourage many of them onto our community (i.e. Habana Outpost Block Party)…into our streets… the business engineered welcome with its proliferation of FAB Alliance/BAM entertainment events…all must be measured with no favoritism nor pre-emptive dismissiveness.

There is no reason why there should be a rush to judgment in finalizing Fowler Square Plaza…and every reason to forestall its permanency
until objective and residential based opinions are factored in once Barclay Center is in full swing. .

Urgency is required as there have been surveyors on Fowler Square in several of the last few days…presumably on behalf of the DOT’s plans to make this a fait accompli. Your speaking out for a postponement on our behalf is vital, important and greatly appreciated.

Many thanks and kindest regards,

Sandy and Jay Reiburn…South Elliott Place 22 year residents
Abby Weissman…President-South Oxford St Block Association
Peter Vitakis…President-South Portland Block Association
Roslyn Huebener…Board Member Fort Greene Assn …27 year resident
Joe Napoli…FGA Member …41 year South Elliott Place resident
The Hill Rocks August 27, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Was on my way to the BAM Rose Cinema and walked through the plaza last Wednesday. It was a pleasant surprise. I hadn't walked that route in a while. I am so glad it is there. I love the new little perks in my nabe.
Enid Braun August 27, 2012 at 10:17 PM
This taking of a public street was contrary to the outcome of a survey of the community done by the Fort Greene Association. Everyone knows that street closings merely push traffic onto someone else's street. The connection to Barclay's opening is that we do not know how attendees will be circling looking for parking, and routes they'll use after events. An assessment of real traffic impacts should occur before permanent closing of ANY street is done, which is why I support at the minimum, a six month delay.
Brooklyn Sandy August 27, 2012 at 10:47 PM
To Zinka, Mary, Hill Rocks...the disregard by FAB with its unmonitored, amplified frequent music events (never feeling any compunction to adhere to the 2007 NYC Noise Code.... Habana Outpost's socially networked block party melees with the 88th Precinct shooing the crowd down Fulton where they ended up in Fowler thru the early hours...those of us on the blocked off So Elliott Place limiting "normal" access to emergency vehicles... the evidence that 18,000 Barclay attendees will be invited via social networking... the closing of So Elliott Place by the DOT which was monitored with fallacious and missing criteria... But if those of you who are having a lovely time in Fowler on your way to enjoy BAM...or on your way to the comforts of your own cherished entertainments in your home/apartments cannot empathize with adjacent residents who have been forced to be the audience to the "stage" that would hardly be "neighborly". What's the hurry...let's see if the over 200 protesting petition signers were just "imagining" a problem...
Carol August 28, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Enid, traffic professionals and urban planners would disagree with your claim that street closings push traffic onto other streets. It's not true. This plaza is loved by the majority of the community and always busy, even when it's not sunny. By the way, this "taking of a public street" gave it back to the public. Before it only belonged to private car owners. Since the majority of people in this neighborhood don't own cars, this is a much more democratic use of our street.
Carol August 28, 2012 at 01:20 AM
I have a small apartment with no outdoor space. I cherish this plaza.
Jenny August 28, 2012 at 01:37 AM
There seem to be an increasing number of these plazas all over the city and they look like a very pleasant addition to me. Most people welcome an opportunity to find a way to sit outside if they are not near a park.
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 02:06 AM
The plaza is wonderful and adds a modicum of safety to pedestrians in between 2 high-traffic throughways. Much needed calm and tranquility!
southelliottseer August 28, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Two parks with trees,shade and seating and a greenspace across from BAM that's off limits to the community within 2 blocks of Fowler Square and we need Fowler Square? No,FAB and their cohorts wants Fowler Square. Stop changing around and closing streets and making this area an obstacle course to drive in. Also stop the proliferation of amplified music events in the area where you have so many residents in close proximity. The city has noise codes or don't they apply to Ft. Greene?
Joe Gonzalez August 28, 2012 at 01:02 PM
The truth is Fowler Square Pedestrian Plaza is several things: One, its a waste of public tax money inasmuch as there are at least three City-owned public parks within two blocks of Fowler Square; they are Fort Greene Park, South Oxford Park and Cuyler Gore Park. Two, it is beyond discussion that additional traffic is added to Lafayette Avenue. They are those vehicles that had proceded down South Elliot to get to Fulton Street.Because of the huge choke points added to three of the four corners of the intersection of South Portland and Lafayette Avenues, we now see traffic backed up all the way to Flatbush Ave--a definite public safety hazard. I hope no one needs an ambulance or other first responders. They will be struck in traffic--and the Barclay center isn't even opened yet! Three, those new Putnam Avenue and Fowler Square Pedestrian Plaza umbrellas FAB spent our public tax money on were brought from a Miami Florida company--Tuuci. Why is it FAB doesn't buy locally? Nearly everything FAB spends our public tax money on is purchased from some non-Green Hill area establishment. Who is FAB working for? FAB needs to start answering some questions. I am calling on Mr. Phil Kellogg to hold a series of public meetings and take questions from all the stakeholders in Green Hill--not just a select few business owners but all residents, students, apt dwellers, etc.
Isheta Salgaocar August 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Joe Gonzalez: still waiting to touch base with you on sidewalks and the public tax expenditure in fort Greene. My email is isheta@gmail.com. Thanks!
Isheta Salgaocar August 28, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Enid: I would love to explore your point of view further, being a student journalist myself. Would you contact me at isheta@gmail.com please? Thanks, Isheta Salgaocar.
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 02:04 PM
A) anyone that starts off with "the truth is" already lost most credibility with me. B) traffic is no more backed up now than it was prior - I walk by several times each day.
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 02:06 PM
As a neighbor, driver, cyclist and parent of small children I see the plaza as an unqualified success! I see the fear stemming from the arena but believe that issues should be mitigated IF they materialize, not before. The plaza is here now and providing benefits now.
Joe Gonzalez August 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Dear FortGreener: Two questions for you: One, why do you post online hiding behind a fake name? Two, what do you have to say about FAB's purchase of those large umbrellas from a Miami Florida based company?
Brooklyn Sandy August 28, 2012 at 02:44 PM
The view that rescinding cemented-over Fowler Square Plaza after the DOT has made it permanent is naive. The plaza is indeed here and now...with unqualified and sanctified amplified music events... whose impactful decibel levels are not measured (per the 2007 NYC Noise Code) by FAB/Kellogg.The retail establishments are forced to pay tax levies in exchange for "more pedestrian traffic" as a result of the "entertainments". FortGreener, et al...what do you say to the parents of three small children, who are drivers, cyclists and want to measure the consequences ...or not...of the Barclay Center impact...who live virtually on top of Fowler Plaza on South Elliott Place, who cannot put their kids to sleep on a school night due to the amplified music? The "party central" & public safety concerns which go un-managed and unaccountable to those who live beside the plaza 24/7 must be paid full attention. Do you refute "the truthfulness" of Habana Outpost's annual block party incursion this year as the police shooed them down Fulton where many hung out in Fowler late at night loud .. partying? Are you comfortably at home with your children at 4AM when Frank's Saloon closes with some of their patrons finding the permanent benches at Fowler ideal to have thoughtless noisy fun? It is myopic to let "stuff happen" without due and pro-active consideration of consequences...especially when one sees how many failures our local institutional representatives have shown in the recent past.
Sara August 28, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Each plaza I've seen throughout the city seems to be a positive addition, I think this will be the same...
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Dear Joe, I am not using a fake name, I am using a user ID. I do not post my name, so that I do not get harassed by angry people like you. To your other point, I think buying locally is a good idea and should be pursued as much as possible. This can be suggested to FAB, and if that doesn't work you can apply pressure through the normal channels.
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Dear Sandy, I can imagine that living by Habana outpost with children would be very difficult. That is why when I moved here over a decade ago, I chose a place in the middle of the block. Places like Habana, only add to the neighborhood. There is a reason why avenues are zoned differently than residential streets. I am sorry about your situation, and hope that over time you will be able to affect sufficient change by working with police, the city and business owners. However, that is not a reason to reduce pedestrian space in a city where most residents either walk or use public transportation. If anything, I would be happy to close even more streets even if it inconveniences me as a driver. We may have to agree to disagree.
The Hill Rocks August 28, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Brooklyn Sandy, I just made an observation. I take issue with the suggestion that I am just having a lovely time and not being neighborly. I was not aware of the issues that the adjacent residents have with this plaza. As I said, I had not walked that route in a while. I have lived in this area for 30 years. Now that I am aware, of course I can empathize.
Isheta Salgaocar August 28, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Sandy: can you contact me at isheta@gmail.com to discuss this issue further? Thank you.
Joe Gonzalez August 28, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Dear FortGreener; I dont harass anyone. Just because I often post hardhitting provocative statements doesnt make me a harasser. Its wrong for you to frame me a haraser because you may disagree with my postings. Just think how boreing this blog would be without my frequent postings. There are fakes and frauds out there in cyperspace who post under fake names and some of them are local politicans and their ilk who do so to manipulate public discussion. The politicans may write in under various names posting a flurry of statements to make it seem like many different people are taking a given position when in fact its the same poster. I want to know, are you joining my call for FAB head Phil Kellogg to hold public forums and answer questions from all American citizens affected by FAB's actions?
Mary August 28, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Adding more space for cars only brings more cars. I say yes to more plazas like this.
King Beaumont August 28, 2012 at 08:18 PM
*don't *hard-hitting *doesn't *It's *harasser *boring *cyberspace *politicians x2
Brooklyn Sandy August 28, 2012 at 08:54 PM
To Ft Greener…we’ve lived here for more than 20 years and do not live on a “corner”…but hear the amplified music well up the South Elliott Place block when there’s a FAB/BAM/Mocada/Brooklyn Medical Plaza/Courtney Washington et al… entertainment event...more than 11 amplified events in a two block swath. Equally, the Habana Outpost block parties have social networked enormous crowds, again this year, in which someone pulled a gun (there are witnesses) and invaded side streets as the police tried to move many hundreds away from the Fulton St So Portland venue. After meetings with our various representatives and FAB’s Kellogg…with the 88th Precinct...with the DEP…with Community Board 2’s Perris and Dew… with failed attempts to speak with various “stakeholders” who manage to be AWOL at these same meetings, the lack of tangible “fixes” and the entrenched pushback which pass the buck to anyone but themselves speaks to broken community management. The apathy which allows quasi-governmental groups like FAB to do as they wish with no oversight must be addressed…we all share this neighborhood and those who are either deceived or too selfish to ameliorate these issues with good faith compromises will live with the idiom “what goes around comes around”…They are equally subject to deleterious consequences…though they haven’t figured it out yet.
FortGreener August 28, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I am truly sorry about your situation and based on what you describe you've tried quite a few civic options. I'm not sure anything short of demonstrating will have an impact. Still I don't think the solution should include closing down civic/green spaces. Similarly one can argue they've tried everything to stop road accidents but failed so we should ban all cars.
Jayson August 29, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Ah the wonders of Fowler Plaza.....the tables and chairs not under the umbrellas are moved to the sidewalk and on the cobblestones so people crossing from Fulton to Lafayette have to walk on the cobblestones if they do not want to disturb the patrons of the plaza.....and the wonderful DOUBLE dose of carbon monoxide which may make the food taste better(?), but will certainly help to kill us..... and the amplified music in this tiny plaza in which a singer with a tiny voice and be heard from one end to the other (as can a non-amplified musical instrument) is necessary according to Phillip Kellogg of FAB, because the sound of the buses on both major arteries will drown out the sound of music. Do I hear anyone saying "stop the buses during the concerts"? Restore the street crossing, put tables and chairs under the tree, and if necessary use un-amplified sound. With three parks (all much larger spaces than tiny Fowler Square) to use and BAM to go to, many of the residents of the apartments and houses nearby would hope these venues would suffice for open air dinning and/or music. Let us feed and house the poor before we spend the money on entertainment which most of the restaurants by the way, do not appreciate. Just ask them. Ambidextrous
fredrik anderson August 31, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Love the plaza - a pleasant surprise when walking around - people enjoy the outdoors. Some people just love complaining about things. This plaza is wonderful for the renters in the neighborhood, and is a pleasant place to hang out for the visitors. Everyone on the letter is old time Fort Greene. Not everyone has a million dollar brownstone with a garden on South Portland.
Brooklyn Sandy August 31, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Mr Anderson...this is not about class warfare...it's about apartment renters as well as 'million dollar brownstone" owners using and "enjoying the outdoors" in Ft Greene Park, Cuylor Gore Park, getting the BAM gated park unlocked and usable...and respecting those who are forced to live with FAB/BAM amplified event noise held repeatedly and the impending social networking draw as well as encroachment of Barclay's traffic used to further "business opportunities"& justify FAB's existence. Truly it is not about preventing your enjoyment...it's about sharing this residential community already under attack as "Party Central" and the rather reasonable request to see how Barclay Center's 18,000 attendees impact those who live on top of Fowler Square. As for "old time" Fort Greene...the irrelevance is startling. Should a "new" resident have any more or less right to their quality of life within the privacy of their own apartment than an "old timer" who "loves the plaza"... or vice versa ? Come on...let's play it fair. People "enjoy the outdoors" and have at all the places already open for recreation... but do consider that people do not enjoy being forced to be an audience at an adjacent "Stage" when they wish to sleep, to come home from a hard day's work, to be infirm, or to be bombarded while putting one's kids to bed... Snarky dismissive comments only divide further the prospect of a shared community.
Clara Freeman September 06, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Everything about this project has been based on manipulation: a traffic survey taken at an atypical time, and a community meeting at which there was no space to be literally counted as being in opposition. There has already been disturbance to the immediate neighborhood including Friday evenings with a sound system that could be heard at least a long block away. Why should the neighbors immediately impacted by the square not be given priority attention -- except that there are those so bent on getting their way that they have no concern for their neighbors? Certainly there should be no rush to judgment in finalizing a situation until we see what impact this stadium travesty has on the neighborhood. Why should any honest interests be afraid to allow more time? Let us see how much use the space has in winter. Is it really fair to give a space part time use for half the year rather than let it be used by traffic 24/7 all year? Enough has been said about other parks within two blocks. And how can public money go for this space when areas of Bushwick and Brownsville have no green space? Talk about class warfare, doesn't this seem a bit piggy of what has become a fairly "comfortable" neighborhood?
southelliottseer September 06, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Amen Clara,you got it right!


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