City transit honchos unveiled ‘Shared Street’ in Downtown Brooklyn

City transit honchos unveiled ‘Shared Street’ in Downtown Brooklyn
Photo by Aidan Graham

City planning honchos officially opened Kings County’s first “shared street” on Sept. 16, giving locals a glimpse of the Brooklyn of tomorrow, where cars no longer rule the road.

“This is forward thinking. This is the future,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers. “This is the new Brooklyn.”

Pearl Street and an adjoining two-block stretch of Willoughby Street now boast narrowed roads for motorists in an effort to create a pedestrian-friendly street design — with tables, chairs, planters, and bike racks now scattered throughout the roadway.

The effects of the new shared street design was on full display during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony — as a food-delivery truck struggled to turn onto Willoughby Street while a cascade of young school children jay-walked across Pearl Street.

But Regina Myer, the President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said the chaotic scene was necessary to better utilize the borough’s bustling street grid.

“By rethinking and redesigning the streetscape to better serve the range of uses, we are able to improve the quality of life for our community, while enhancing safety,” said Myer.

The streets are not shut off to cars entirely, but motorists will now be subjected to a five mile-per-hour “advisory” speed limit when traveling the narrowed roads.

Open: City planning leaders cut the ribbon on the new shared street on Sept. 16.
Photo by Aidan Graham

“Very few cars actually use Willoughby and Pearl streets, because the street grid in Downtown Brooklyn is so complicated,” said Myer. “We’ve seen that most of the streets are used by people who are walking through Downtown Brooklyn.”

The radical redesign did not create a dedicated space for bicyclists, who are now expected to share the street with cars, said the Department of Transportation’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner.

“Because vehicles are driving slower, and we’ve restricted the space a bit…it’s safer for [bikes] to ride in traffic,” said Kieth Bray. “Outside of protected bike lanes, this is another form of treatment that we’re using to increase safety.”

One Brooklynite, who was enjoying lunch at a table situated on the once-car dominant road, agreed that the new design improved life for non-motorist.

“It’s nice,” said Naomi Fleder. “It gives you a nice place to sit in a very crowded area.”

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Backed-up: A food-delivery truck struggles to find enough room to turn onto Willoughby Street because of the new street design.
Photo by Aidan Graham