Hoyty-toity: 11 Hoyt developer to expand Downtown sidewalks as ‘mini-plazas’

Hoyt looking to Fulton
The redesigned Hoyt Street looking toward the Fulton Mall
Bjarke Ingels Group/Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The developer of a Downtown Brooklyn luxury high-rise is looking to widen the sidewalks and spruce up the surroundings outside its new Hoyt Street building, which would create more open space for pedestrians amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a business booster said at a community board meeting on Aug. 20.

“In light of the health crisis, the idea of adding more sidewalk space and improving our sidewalk space has become more of an imperative for everyone in New York City as we realize how important it is to social distance and to walk places and bicycle places in lieu of taking transit,” said the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Regina Myer at the virtual presentation for  Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee.

Manhattan developer Tishman Speyer is wrapping up construction on its 51-story swanky condo tower with a wavy white facade — dubbed 11 Hoyt — at the site of the former parking garage for Macy’s department store between Fulton and Livingston streets, and has promised to fund the streetscape revamp along Elm, Hoyt, and Livingston streets next to their building.

The revamped Elm Street would double the sidewalk width from 8 to 16 feet.Bjarke Ingels Group/Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Working with high-profile Dumbo architects Bjarke Ingels Group and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the developer wants to expand the adjacent 8-foot sidewalk on Elm Street and the 10-foot sidewalk on Hoyt Street — making both paths 16 feet each.  

The scheme is entirely paid for by the developers, according to Myer, who said they would have had to rebuild the sidewalk as part of the building’s construction anyway.

The plans would not affect moving traffic along the two side streets, but will eliminate a parking lane on each road, according to Myer.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Transportation declined to give a timeline for the project or how many parking spots would be lost. 

A revamped Livingston Street between Hoyt and Elm streets.Bjarke Ingels Group/Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The new sidewalks feature 3-D printed benches and almost 900 square-foot of new greenery, including a handful of trees, planters, and rain gardens, according to Kate Cella, a landscape architect at BIG.

The street will be painted with extra stripes and the concrete sidewalk extensions will be in a reddish tint, inspired by the terra-cotta glazed tile of Macy’s building, Cella said. 

The planners want the street to become another one of the Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets, with lower speed limits and more space for pedestrians, like nearby Willoughby and Pearl streets.

The plans follow snazzy renderings of a reimagined Downtown Brooklyn with more space for pedestrians and cyclists which the Partnership and BIG released back in December, and the head of the CB2 committee said she was happy to see some of those plans become a reality.

11 Hoyt with its signature wavy white facade, as seen in late 2019.File photo by Craig Hubert

“You guys are doing it, you’re finding opportunities to really bring that plan to life and it wasn’t just pretty pictures. You’re showing us you’re actually doing it,” said committee chairperson Juliet Cullen-Cheung, who at a later community board meeting on Aug. 24 praised the proposal as “mini-plazas.”

The civic panel liked the scheme and gave their unanimous — albeit purely advisory — vote of approval for the city to sign off on the plans.

But one committee member worried that the new setup might deter street vendors, who are legally allowed to hawk goods along the Fulton Mall, but sometimes spill over around the corner onto Hoyt and Elm streets.

“As long as there’s nothing design-wise to prohibit [the vendors], that would be something that would concern me,” said Caroline Todd. “Like any kind of barricades or intentional street furniture that didn’t make that accessible.”

Myer did not directly address the vendors on the side streets, saying only that they were allowed on the Fulton Mall.

“I would say this [proposal] is silent on vendors. Obviously we have to follow the city-wide rules, but you are correct vendors are permitted on Fulton Street,” the Myer said.