Myrtle Avenue will become more friendly to pedestrians with ample seating, shrubbery and a farmer’s market under a long-awaited city plan that unveiled to a largely supported public on Tuesday night.
The design for the dour stretch between Hall Street and Emerson Place in Clinton Hill also includes a large public art exhibit and a performance stage — elements that community members called for at a brainstorming session last year.
“They really tried to listen to what the community wants,” said Michael Galinsky, 42, who lives on Hall Street.
The reconstruction project spans the a formerly dangerous area once known as “Murder Avenue.” Today, crime is less an issue than the heavy vehicle traffic and narrow sidewalks that continue to make the stretch murder for those on foot.
The plans, slated for completion in August, 2013, would eliminate the service road between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place, creating a plaza for pedestrians where there was once only a three-foot-wide median separating the service road from Myrtle Avenue’s two-way traffic.
“The main purpose is to make the pedestrian experience more enjoyable,” said Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District.
At the last community meeting in October, residents said that public art and a water fountain ranked high on the list of things they would enjoy — although some of those requests proved more feasible than others.
“I’m definitely not promising a giant water slide,” said Matthew Geller, who was recently selected to design and install the public art. Instead, he plans to create an art project that will be “playful, humorous and disarming,” although he doesn’t have an actual design yet.
For the most part, the three-dozen residents supported the dreamy, Euro-styled vision — though several people opposed one nuts-and-bolts proposal to consolidate of two bus stops.
Currently, eastbound B54 buses have two stops on this stretch, one in front of the Blockbuster between Ryerson and Grand streets, and another between Steuben Street and Emerson Place. The plan would turn those two stops into one directly in front of the Pratt Institute administration building between Grand and Steuben streets.
“The bus stop in front of Blockbuster is very crucial for senior citizens in Willoughby Walk,” said Bianca Celestin, 37, who lives in the co-op housing apartments.
City officials defended the plans.
“We’re improving B54 bus service and creating fewer no-parking zones,” said Vaidila Kungys, the project manager for the Department of Transportation.
Even so, the current plans would claim approximately 60 parking spots, said Kungys — a change that worries some local business owners.
“It’s obvious that we’ll lose business,” said Ronny Moran, a manager at the Associated Supermarket between Hall and Ryerson streets. Moran noted that the supermarket’s sales decreased when the street was blocked off for fairs on Sundays in September and, more recently, as snow banks are occupying many parking spots.
Yet there’s a flip-side to making a street more friendly to pedestrians — pedestrians tend to use it more.
“I think the changes will help the businesses because so many more people will be walking by,” said Galinsky, the Hall Street resident. “It’ll even help the businesses past Emerson Street.”