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The changing face of Midwood

Plaza organizers: We don't want to divide the community

Brooklyn Daily
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A controversial plan to turn a small Midwood street into a pedestrian plaza is dead in the water now that a development corporation backing the proposal has pulled out of the deal, sources close to the project say.

The plan, which called for replacing cars on Elm Avenue between East 15th Street and Avenue M with tables and chairs, crumbled under complaints from Midwood’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Orthodox leaders claimed the city disrespected them by scheduling a key meeting about the plaza within days of Passover and failed to consult the Hatzolah Ambulance Corps, an Orthodox volunteer ambulance service, to see if closing the block to traffic would affect emergency response times.

Members from the Midwood Development Corporation — which had agreed to clean and maintain the proposed pedestrian plaza, which the city wanted to call Dorman Square — said they didn’t want to go ahead with the plan if it meant dividing the neighborhood.

“There was too much opposition from people who didn’t like the idea or had concerns, and we decided it was not appropriate to go forward,” said Linda Goodman, the director of the Midwood Development Corporation.

Without anyone pledging to maintain the plaza, the city has no choice but to shelve the project, a neighborhood source close to the Department of Transporta­tion’s negotiations said.

“The city isn’t going to be able to do this without the support of a private organizati­on,” the source said.

The Department of Transportation couldn’t be reached for comment by BrooklynDa­ily’s breakneck online deadline.

City officials held multiple community meetings about the plaza in an attempt to win over neighborhood residents. The Department of Transportation argued that the plaza — which is a short distance from the Avenue M train station — would be a boon to neighborhood businesses and would close a dangerous car slip lane. Elm Avenue feeds into Avenue M, an unfavorable street design that merchants say causes many accidents.

Yet many balked at the city’s proposal, claiming that closing Elm Avenue would cause traffic backups. Others said the plaza would attract nothing but hooligans and vagrants.

Community Board 14 was expected to vote on the proposal this Monday.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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