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‘General’ consensus on need for better Fowler Square

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The statue of Gen. Fowler may soon get some swank renovations to his Fort Greene home, thanks to a business group’s plan to completely refurbish the tiny, relatively unused vest-pocket park.

On Wednesday, the Fulton Area Businesses Alliance earned the support of Community Board 2 for its plan for a vibrant, green community plaza on the eastern side of the bowtie intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street — one that would “dramatically change the area” by completely cutting off the portion of South Elliot Place that currently forms the eastern leg of the triangular intersection.

“It’s going to be much more pedestrian friendly, and will dramatically change what is pretty much the opening to and heart of Fort Greene,” said CB2 member Lincoln Restler, who is working on the proposal. “Plus, we’re looking at programming, like partnerships with [the Brooklyn Academy of Music] and local businesses.”

The idea is to extend Fowler Square north, cutting into one lane of Lafayette Avenue that’s currently a no-parking zone, and cutting off a small portion of South Elliot Place completely, along with two parking spaces.

Restler said that the South Elliot Place strip is virtually unused by car traffic, and that long-awaited benches and greenspace in the area will benefit everyone. The community board and nearby businesses seem to agree.

“It’d bring in more walking traffic and even more business,” said Cassidy Vare, owner of Bespoke Bicycles near the square. “I would love to see it expanded.”

This isn’t the first time changes have been proposed to Fowler Square — lights, foliage, and even the removal of the statue of Civil War legend, Brigadier Gen. Edward Fowler, have been discussed — but the latest idea for the square is certainly the most ambitious.

— with Alex Rush

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Reader Feedback

Jack from bay ridge says:
"Re-furbishing" a park that doesn't need it is a waste of money. I'm sure that there are so many other things that this business could use their money on.
June 11, 2010, 5:20 am
Mike from Ft Greene says:
It actually really does need it. There's no place to sit or linger, in what could be a real asset for the neighborhood, but currently isn't. The sidewalk also needs work -- lots of settling has occurred and there are tons of tripping hazards.
June 11, 2010, 8:47 am
Mai from Fort Greene says:
I think your ideas for the community are great and you know I'm a big fan of yours, but I have to disagree with this plan.

The notion that the South elliott place strip is virtually unused by car traffic, and that long-awaited benches and greenspace in the area will benefit everyone, is not true.

I live across the street from the square and there is always traffic on that strip.. The strip is also needed for those who drive down DeKalb to get to south Elliot, Hanson pl etc.

By expanding the square, it will only create more pedestrians traffic which is not cool, especially at night when tons of folks are spilling out the bars, while intoxicated and hanging on the corners talking loudly. with benches there, they definitely wont leave after partying. Its the long term residents who have to live with that noise and rowdy behavior 7 days a week.
These homes are old and we hear everything that goes on outside. It sounds like these folks are in our bedrooms.

Another issue folks have on South Elliott place is that the garbage that accumulate on Fulton st and Hanson pl due to excessive pedestrian traffic, blows into our streets. Everyday the home owners are getting $100 dollar fines because of it. while FAB hires people to do light cleaning on Fulton, they dont and are not obligated to clean the side streets.
theres nothing wrong with that square except for the neglect during winter snowstorms when the city and or FAB dont shovel.
Again its a little square , not a Park. if folks want a park, they can walk over to Dekalb or up to Greene and Fulton.

The only folks that will benefit are the business owners. Just like the New German Beer Garden. I would love to know who paid for the extension and garden of that corner. I hope it was not paid for with tax payer dollars.
You need to go door knocking and speak to the home owners ask them how they feel about it. I'm also tired of Institutions like BAM controlling our community. They already control the little square on Lafayette ave and Fulton st. It is not accessible to the community its only used for BAM EVENTS.

Given the state of our economy and the lack of services in our communities especially for low income and struggling working class folks, Plans like this really upset me. Think about what you will be doing to the community.
June 11, 2010, 12:50 pm
Mai from Fort Greene says:
Lincoln,

I think your ideas for the community are great and you know I'm a big fan of yours, but I have to disagree with this plan.

The notion that the South elliott place strip is virtually unused by car traffic, and that long-awaited benches and greenspace in the area will benefit everyone, is not true.

I live across the street from the square and there is always traffic on that strip.. The strip is also needed for those who drive down DeKalb to get to south Elliot, Hanson pl etc.

By expanding the square, it will only create more pedestrians traffic which is not cool, especially at night when tons of folks are spilling out the bars, while intoxicated and hanging on the corners talking loudly. with benches there, they definitely wont leave after partying. Its the long term residents who have to live with that noise and rowdy behavior 7 days a week.
These homes are old and we hear everything that goes on outside. It sounds like these folks are in our bedrooms.

Another issue folks have on South Elliott place is that the garbage that accumulate on Fulton st and Hanson pl due to excessive pedestrian traffic, blows into our streets. Everyday the home owners are getting $100 dollar fines because of it. while FAB hires people to do light cleaning on Fulton, they dont and are not obligated to clean the side streets.
theres nothing wrong with that square except for the neglect during winter snowstorms when the city and or FAB dont shovel.
Again its a little square , not a Park. if folks want a park, they can walk over to Dekalb or up to Greene and Fulton.

The only folks that will benefit are the business owners. Just like the New German Beer Garden. I would love to know who paid for the extension and garden of that corner. I hope it was not paid for with tax payer dollars.
You need to go door knocking and speak to the home owners ask them how they feel about it. I'm also tired of Institutions like BAM controlling our community. They already control the little square on Lafayette ave and Fulton st. It is not accessible to the community its only used for BAM EVENTS.

Given the state of our economy and the lack of services in our communities especially for low income and struggling working class folks, Plans like this really upset me. Think about what you will be doing to the community.
June 11, 2010, 12:51 pm
Lincoln Restler from Fort Greene says:
Thanks, Mai, for your kind words and your thoughtful criticism.

Last night Community Board 2 voted in favor of writing a letter of support to the Department of Transportation for Fowler Square to be a site for their Public Plaza Program (for more information visit www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/publicplaza.shtml). If DOT were willing to... See More allocate funding for this public plaza, there would be a series of additional community forums where residents could have input on this plan. This is far from a done deal and I encourage you to get involved in the process.

The Fulton Area Business Alliance (FAB) is the organization applying to DOT. Along with a number of community residents, I have been working with Phillip Kellogg, the director of FAB, to help develop this proposal. In addition to Community Board 2, the Fort Greene Association, a number of local homeowners, businesses, and other neighborhood groups have indicated their general support for this proposal.

The idea of this public plaza is to create a community space on a generally underutilized strip on South Elliott between Lafayette and Fulton. With movable tables and chairs, benches, greenery, and additional open space, this would be a space that neighborhood families and residents could gather and linger in the heart of Fort Greene.

Experts in commercial corridor development strongly support the creation of these types of small open spaces, which can give neighborhood shoppers a respite as they walk the strip. I am a big proponent of ‘shop local’ campaigns and I believe that as we support neighborhood entrepreneurs as shoppers, we ought to insist that they 'hire local' from our community.

In drafting this proposal, some of the ideas discussed about potential programming for this plaza included:
- Neighborhood nonprofits hosting events that can build community awareness around their areas of service
- Small street fairs, like the BAM sponsored Afro Punk festival, which provide a great opportunity to emerging entrepreneurs
- A sidewalk café for the Smoke Joint or a small concessionaire

I know that the noise and spillover from Habana Outpost and other neighborhood establishments has been a real nuisance to neighbors – and we need to address this with the local proprietors. However, I do not think this would be the case for a Fowler Square public plaza. Any tables and chairs would be cleared by nightfall and there would be no (legal) consumption of alcohol in the plaza.

Because South Elliott Place is a southbound street for just one block on each side of this proposed plaza and there are convenient alternative routes, my sense is there would be only minor disruption to motor vehicles. Since this is just a proposal, a formal traffic study has not yet been completed, but when informal counts were conducted there were a small number of cars crossing this portion of South Elliot during a few different rush hours. The current proposal recommends that approximately five parking spaces would be sacrificed for the plaza.

I believe this could be a great community asset for Fort Greeners and a boon to our neighborhood small businesses. But you raise a number of critically important points that would need to be addressed for this plaza to be successful. I would like to work with you and other neighborhood residents who have concerns about this plan.

I would also be happy to try to secure a copy of the proposal that is being submitted to DOT and discuss it with you in greater detail. Please email me at Lincoln@LincolnRestler.org
June 11, 2010, 4:36 pm
Bob from Gravesend says:
I am not a resident of Ft. Greene, but I am familiar with the spot where Gen. Fowler stands. I am always in favor of improvements to city parks. I do hope that whatever is done, that the statue of the General is respected. Gen. Fowler was the commanding officer of the 14th Brooklyn Regiment, NYSM. The regiment bravely represented the City of Brooklyn during the Civil War.
June 15, 2010, 8:18 am

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