Doing the Fort Greene shuffle

Doing the Fort Greene shuffle
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Vari

There are bad design concepts (like the manual can opener) and there are what-the-hell-were-they-thinking design concepts — like the intersection of Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene Place and Fulton Street.

Get off the G train at Fulton Street, and you’ll encounter a roiling whirlpool of cars and cyclists and pedestrians, a barely controlled chaos of three merging streets, bisected by two vest-pocket parks. The intersection has nine corners.

Add South Elliot Place to the mix and you end up with 17!

And let’s not even talk about the crosswalks leading nowhere, signals set at odd angles, and curb cuts sloping into traffic.

“This intersection is a comedy of errors,” said Fredrik Anderson, the Fort Greene Association vice chair who has been spearheading the fight to improve the neighborhood’s haphazard intersections.

Last week, Anderson and I made plans to meet at one of the corners of Fort Greene Plaza and Lafayette Avenue. But reaching his corner (in front of the medical center) from my corner (in front of Rocky’s Deli) was no easy task.

Equipped with my unerring sense of direction, I stepped off the curb and veered south toward one of the parks in the middle, walking between two crosswalks seemingly designed to confuse, rather than guide, me. Arriving safely at the park, I crossed its tip and descended the curb cut. But, alas!, the curb cut, while it did lead me in the desired direction, also pushed me straight into two-way traffic.

Graceful as a lily-pad-hopping frog, I maneuvered past hurtling bumpers, jumped a half-frozen puddle, and arrived at my destination — where Anderson was leaning nonchalantly on a fire hydrant. He wore Birkenstocks over socks.

“This summer, we stood at this corner and got 500 people to sign petitions asking DOT to make improvements,” said Anderson.

What did they get for their efforts? A sign reminding pedestrians to use the crosswalk. Which crosswalk?

“It wasn’t really what we were gunning for,” said Anderson.

Rather than a redundant sign, Anderson wants DOT to rearrange the intersection’s crosswalks and traffic signals — not that he criticizes the agency, which he says works closely with the community. A DOT spokesman would only say that agency staffers “are reviewing the concerns.”

“This intersection doesn’t make any sense,” said a woman named Lisa, who was heading south on Fort Greene Place. “Right when you want to cross, a car comes down on you.”

Make that cars. On my way back to the G train, I got stuck on the double yellow line in the middle of the road, a Pepsi truck blocking my view of oncoming traffic. Not much liking my bull’s-eye stance in the middle of two-way traffic, I raced across the remainder of the street.

Then I entered the subway, safe at last.

The Kitchen Sink

The servers at Tillie’s do more than just feed your coffee addiction. Many are (surprise!) aspiring artists. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Tillie’s is hosting an aptly dubbed exhibition, “We Do More than Serve Coffee,” opening during its Feb. 24 anniversary party, which begins at 8 pm. …

For youngsters looking to make it big in Hollywood, this is a must-see. The Brooklyn Academy of Music will host a panel for students of any age seeking careers in entertainment production. The celebrity-studded, Feb. 1 event — at BAM’s Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place manse — will include “Law & Order: SVU” star Tamara Tunie and others (including a guy who was an assistant director of “The Honeymooners” and the woman who cast “Inside Man” and “25th Hour.” Interested? Email [email protected]. …

Help is on the way for former convicts, thanks to Fort Greene pols Letitia James, Velmanette Montgomery and Hakeem Jeffries. The trio teamed up last week to push an “Ex-Offender Employer Tax Credit” bill that would increase incentives for creating new jobs for paroled prisoners. …

Our very own Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene) has snagged the chairmanship of the House Government Management, Organization, and Procurement sub-committee! Sure, it may sound incredibly boring, but it means that Towns can hold hearings on the no-bid contracts between the Bush Administration and Halliburton and Bechtel (among others). Give ’em hell, Ed!