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Union Avenue demapping

Union undone: City seeks to remove street in McCarren Park

The Brooklyn Paper
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Union Avenue will no longer divide two sections of McCarren Park under a city proposal that could turn a part of the Greenpoint roadway into parkland this summer.

The plan calls for demapping a stretch of the thoroughfare between Driggs Avenue and Bayard Street, barring automobile traffic from a short block inside North Brooklyn’s biggest green space.

Proponents of the plan say converting the street into 33,800 square feet of open space — enough room to fit about seven basketball courts — will make McCarren Park more inviting for visitors.

“It could be used to expand adjacent park uses, add park furniture, increase landscaped areas, and provide additional open space for the residents of the rapidly developing neighborho­od,” said North Brooklyn Parks honcho Stephanie Thayer, in her testimony to the Community Board 1 transportation committee.

Thayer is seeking community input for design features in the new park space, which she hopes will be rezoned this summer.

Under the plan, workers will install catch basins to capture excess storm water before it enters sewers on Driggs and Union Avenues, potentially reducing standing water on the asphalt site, where drainage has been problematic after heavy rains.

The proposal also calls for new planting beds with lush perennials and low-growing shrubs — not to mention improved loading zones for the farmers market vendors who currently set up shop along the strip.

Neighborhood activists seem supportive of the plan to remove the street from the grid — an idea first proposed in 2001 and modified by the Parks Department in 2010.

“They’re making it into a piazza, which would be appropriate for the market,” said Community Board 1 member Ward Dennis. “It would be great to get that whole triangular stretch of Union into a nice passive place.”

The Parks Department hopes to keep the Saturday morning farmers market on Union Avenue in the near future, but neighborhood sources say the Department of Transportation and greenmarket officials could move the popular outdoor food stands to a stretch of Bedford Avenue between Lorimer Street and Manhattan Avenue, creating another pedestrian plaza there.

Calls to GrowNYC, which operates the greenmarket, were not returned.

Community Board 1 member Ryan Kuonen said that several market vendors and open space advocates support the plan.

“It’s silly to have McCarren Park separated by a street that’s non-essential,” said Kuonen. “How many people drive south on Driggs and turn left onto Union? Not many.”

But Williamsburg resident Meredith Chesney, who lives nearby, says the street is a crucial viaduct for traffic.

“That block is a popular corridor down Union to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway or get onto Roebling to get to the bridge,” said Chesney. “Can we afford to have big trucks forced to stay on Driggs until they can turn onto small side streets to get back towards the direction they want to go?

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.
Updated 1:02 pm, April 4, 2012: Updated to add more commentary and clarify proposed changes to the street.
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