Our nabe in lights! Fort Greene gets fancy-schmancy sidewalks

Our nabe in lights! Fort Greene gets fancy-schmancy sidewalks
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Fort Greene is putting on the Ritz.

The blocks surrounding Brooklyn Academy of Music are getting a $3 million revamp that will bring in benches and replace workaday sidewalks with dark-colored cement lined with lights. The city approved the overhaul that is supposed to distinguish the area as a cultural destination the likes of Manhattan’s Lincoln Center.

“This is an incredible opportunity to create a unique identity for this world-class cultural district,” said Andrew Kalish, director of cultural development for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Starry way: Left, the walk down Rockwell Place towards Lafayette Avenue today. Right, what it is supposed to look like after a planned revamp.
WXY Architecture and Urban Design

The pricey pavement is slated to go into place along most of the streets bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Fulton Street, Fort Greene Place, and Hanson Place. In addition to holding embedded lights, the sidewalks will be engraved with patterns that are supposed to guide the way and impress visitors.

“That’s the wow factor,” he said. “We want someone to step foot in the area and know that they were somewhere different.”

The plan also calls for new tree pits planted with sweet gum, pin oak, Kentucky coffee, and honey locust trees, though it does not specify an exact number. The benches recommended in the plan are standard city benches, and, though they may not be flashy, they’re supposed to invite strollers to linger a while in the neighborhood.

Paving days: Left, a view of Fulton Street looking towards Flatbush Avenue. Right, the lit-up walkway as it is envisioned.
WXY Architecture and Urban Design

Developers currently building in the area will foot about half of the bill for the project, in part by building out the sections of sidewalk adjacent to their properties.

“The developers all agreed to build it into their plans,” said Kalish. “So as the buildings go up, the street-scape will, too.”

The idea for an official cultural district in the area has been kicked around since the Giuliani administration, when the Brooklyn Academy of Music was the only sizeable attraction. But now the community media group Bric’s Bric House in the old Strand Theater and the Shakespearean playhouse Theatre for a New Audience have entered the scene, prompting this paper to dub Fulton Street Brooklyn’s “Great White Way” (the city is calling the area the “Brooklyn Cultural District” after “BAM Cultural District” proved confusing). Coming soon to the area are a new library branch, another Brooklyn Academy of Music facility, and an outpost of the art-and-technology center Eyebeam. The spruce-up is supposed to give the new and old groups a sense of shared identity, Kalish said.

Name in lights: The city wants the area around the Brooklyn Academy of Music to be an attraction like the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. Lincoln Center was designed as a massive super-block and is now integrating into the surrounding neighborhood, while the Brooklyn Cultural District is trying to pop out of Fort Greene.
Creative Commons / Nils Olander

“We’re bringing together these disparate cultural groups that weren’t affiliated with each other before,” he said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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