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‘Brooklyn Commons’ seeks an uncommon Downtown

The Brooklyn Paper
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In the future, the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway is a tunnel, vegetable gardens grow in Cadman Plaza — and bike lanes are in the sky!

Architecture and design students unveiled these revolutionary plans last week at Borough Hall, part of a city-sponsored project to turn Downtown’s blah infrastructure into Funkytown.

“If you think Brooklyn’s fabulous now, give us five years and see what we could do!” said Carl Skelton, a professor at NYU-Polytechnic Institute in Downtown.

City officials asked students from Polytechnic, City Tech, City College and Pratt Institute to redesign plazas and parkland from Borough Hall to the Brooklyn Bridge — and got ideas that bordered on fantastical.

Renee Crowley and Dora Blount, both of Pratt Institute, created sketches of Brooklyn with the BQE below ground, using its former on-ramps as a linear park that descends into Brooklyn Heights.

“The issue of taking away spaces for cars is really touchy,” Blount said. “People will be able to overcome it if they envision what the area could be instead of what it is today.”

Skelton presented Betaville, an online program that allows users to view and comment on proposed projects across Brooklyn and other cities. Think of it as the “Sim City” of urban planning, with 3D models by architects and average Joes alike.

He showed off his vision of a new baseball stadium (New Ebbets, anyone?) atop the intersection of the Manhattan Bridge, Jay Street, and the BQE. Traffic would be rerouted through the complex.

“We would not expect people to implement these ideas any time soon, but you need to have a fantasy life and a polestar to navigate by,” Skelton said.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Borough President Markowitz requested the student designs — which they collectively called the “Downtown Brooklyn Commons Project” — to stir up debate on improving the borough.

For the record, the Beep, who famously opposed the Prospect Park West bike lane, said he could support more bike lanes — if they’re far away from cars, as they were in a City College proposal.

“Elevated bike lanes — that’s the answer,” said Markowitz. “These are great ideas for tomorrow, but for right now, we’ll have to see.”

Updated 12:03 am, May 25, 2011
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Reasonable discourse

petra from williamsburg says:
any pictures of the plans?
May 23, 2011, 11:10 am
Mike says:
Can we please stop taking Marty Markowitz seriously?
May 24, 2011, 8:48 am
Really? from Brooklyn says:
Markowitz is still talking about bike lanes? Elevated bike lanes?

Brooklyn Borough President used to be an actual job.
May 24, 2011, 8:53 am
Joe from Hieghts says:
That last quote from Marty kills me - too funny. Reminds me of General Motors and Le Corbusier's 1950's vision of the "City of To-morrow" with elevated sidewalks to clear room for the super-wide lightly-trafficked freeways whisking you from megablock tower to megablock tower. "Wait and see" while third world countries like Columbia are developing extensive efficient and sustainable bike and surface transit networks far surpassing our own, and we still have politicians dreaming of some half-century old vision of elevated paths to clear the road for more cars. Sad, really
May 24, 2011, 10 am
John M from Downtown says:
@petra from williamsburg
You can check out some images from betaville at the site, betaville.net. You can even try the app itself!
May 24, 2011, 1:59 pm
Steve from Brooklyn says:
Markowitz is a total embarrassment to Brooklyn. Every time I see this guy on TV I cringe.
May 24, 2011, 8:50 pm

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