Drivers cry foul over Fowler Square pedestrian plaza plan

Drivers cry foul over Fowler Square pedestrian plaza plan
Community Newspaper Group / Kate Briquelet

A tiny Fort Greene street is becoming a battlefield for pedestrians and motorists as the city prepares to turn the block into a plaza.

Some drivers are lashing out against the city’s plans to demap the teensy block of S. Elliott Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street to make room for a pedestrian piazza, saying that it will make life miserable for motorists trying to get to Fulton Street.

“This isn’t Amsterdam — we need our street!” said longtime resident Joe Napoli. “There’s already a war here between bikers, drivers and people who never even go near a car.”

Under the plans, the Department of Transportation would shut down the stretch of S. Elliott Place adjacent to Fowler Square — a largedly unused trianglular park cut off from the Smoke Joint restaurant and a bodega by a short swath of roadway.

Fowler Square currently houses a statue of Fort Greene’s famous Civil War general Edward Fowler, but doesn’t see much other action.

The Fulton Area Business Alliance, which started pushing for the plaza plans nearly two years ago, says eliminating the roadway would turn the dreary open space into a pedestrian hub, bringing new life to a dead and forgotten piece of land.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to transform an underutilized space,” said Phillip Kellogg, director of the business group. “If somebody doesn’t want to sit in it, they don’t have to. The beauty is that it’s there for people to use.”

But some neighbors are devastated that they’ll lose their speedy route to Fulton Street from the one-way, southbound S. Elliott Place. Instead, they would be forced to turn left on Lafayette Avenue and travel one block until they reach S. Portland Avenue, where they can turn right and reach Fulton Street.

Other neighbors called the proposed park unsafe for amblers, as the tiny triangle would be flanked on two sides with busy streets.

Kellogg said that the Department of Transportation would address traffic concerns at a community workshop on Thursday and that no designs were set in stone.

The Fort Greene Association is already working to find alternatives to uprooting S. Elliott Place.

“The rehabilitation of Fowler Square would be a win for the neighborhood,” said chairman Paul Palazzo. “It’s just a matter of making it work.”

The Fowler Square workshop at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church [85 S. Oxford St. between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 625-7515] on Feb. 16, 6 to 8 pm. For info, contact Emily Weidenhof at [email protected]

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

The city wants to transform Fowler Square — an underutilized triangle on Fulton Street — into a popping pedestrian plaza. But residents are outraged that the plans call for closing a segment of South Elliott Place.
Community Newspaper Group / Kate Briquelet