Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted ‘no’ on a new pedestrians-only plaza on Gates Avenue in August 2022.

But, according to the City Charter, the New York City Department of Transportation doesn’t need community board approval. And so, despite the disfavor of some local residents, the city is moving ahead with its plan.

The new plaza, on Gates Avenue between Vanderbilt Avenue and Fulton Street, is right in front of where Daryl Rock has owned his condo since 1989. So when he woke up on Sunday, Nov. 13, to find a group painting a mural on the pavement outside his condo on Gates Avenue, he felt his and his neighbor’s concerns had been totally disregarded.

However, the arrival of the new plaza is far from arbitrary and is a response to an unfortunate crash that happened at the very location. In September 2021, a driver, whose license was suspended, sped down Gates Avenue in the wrong direction, crashing into a car, killing a 3-month-old baby named Apolline Mong-Guillemin and injuring the infant’s mother and one other pedestrian.

In fact, according to Crash Mapper, from January 2020, to Nov. 16, 2022, there have been 21 crashes and 28 injuries, in the three blocks surrounding the street where Apolline was killed.

Gates Avenue got a coat of primer before starting the mural which will outline where the plaza will be.  Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Gates Avenue got a coat of primer before starting the mural which will outline where the plaza will be. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

In response, the Vanderbilt Avenue Block Association launched a petition that gathered more than 1,800 signatures in late 2021, to turn the area into a pedestrian plaza, in Apolline’s honor.

“My son goes to school at Discovery PitStop, and I want him to live. I want everyone to be safe walking around,” said Mike Lydon, a Clinton Hill local and the founder of Street Plans. Nearly a year’s worth of planning and back-and-forth between the City and stakeholders went into the plaza, according to a spokesperson at the DOT and BKCB2 records.

Lydon designed the Discovery PitStop-backed initial proposal created with the DOT Toolkit and was hired by the city to complete the job. And it was Lydon with a handful of volunteers who was out on Sunday, Nov. 13, priming the street.

“Cars make more noise than people do. I can understand being sensitive to this being in front of your house, but, this plaza’s seating area will be put away every night,” Lydon said.

Vin Barone, a spokesperson from the DOT, said the plan for the plaza went through a few different iterations based on feedback from neighbors, BKCB2 and other stakeholders before its approval.

“DOT conducted robust public outreach and worked closely with elected officials before implementation, and we look forward to delivering these improvements for Fort Greene residents,” Barone said.

As part of the planning, the DOT hosted eight meetings with the community and reached out to residents of 15 Gates Ave. More than 500 people responded to its online survey about the plaza, according to the DOT.

The CB2 transportation committee did not approve the plaza and opted instead for a segment of the plan that included traffic-calming measures and a shared street.

The DOT adjusted its plans due to community feedback, and the current plaza is the scaled-back version of the plan. The original plan would have made the next block of Gates Avenue a one-way street and taken away more parking than the current plan does.

Mike Lydon, of Street Plans, shows the DOT's plan for the street. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Mike Lydon, of Street Plans, shows the DOT’s plan for the street. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

“The people who are living here, their bedroom windows are right here, are totally disregarded. It doesn’t make any sense,” Ernest Augustus, a BKCB2 member and Clinton Hill resident, said.

Augustus spoke as an individual, and not on behalf of BKCB2, which did not respond to a request for comment.

“The new Gates Plaza received grassroots community support to honor Baby Apolline through the creation of new public space and safer streets for the community,” Barone said.

However, what worried Rock the most was the DOT’s response to Gates Avenue residents’ concerns.

“The issue is how they’re treating the people that live here,” Rock said.

“When I first moved here, everybody was people of color. The new people that are coming in, they’re going to decide what happens to the neighborhood now, and there’s just resentment.”

A sign of change. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
A sign of change. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

Kathy Park Price, an organizer of Transportation Alternatives in Brooklyn, said support for the project was substantial, which is why the DOT pushed the project through.

In addition to the petition, FAB Fulton, the cohort of small businesses and building owners along Fulton Avenue, and local preschool Discovery Pitstop were announced as partners in a Dec. 16, 2021, meeting between BKCB2 and DOT Director of Public Space Emily Weidenhof.

“The campaign came about because of the tragedy and the desire to improve safety here in this particular location. I was excited about the DOT’s immediate response to the broad overwhelming support for it,” Park Price said.

However, Grace Pyun, the Fort Greene Partnership Homes president, said the residents felt blindsided and ignored.

“[The DOT] said it was just a proposal, and they were just listening for input and feedback from the community on the plaza,” Pyun said.

“We felt ignored, because we are the ones most affected by the proposal. We live right above it. It just sounded like it had all been arranged behind our backs.”

Pyun said FGPH met with Council Member Crystal Hudson, who represents parts of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and the council member supports the plaza plan. Hudson did not respond to a request for comment.

Next year, the DOT will return to the location to add curb extensions and bike corrals to further calm traffic and increase pedestrian safety, Barone said.

Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

Join the Conversation

13

  1. The fact that NYC Council Member Crystal Hudson failed to respond to a request for comment on this particular DOT project from the BKReader shows me what I know about this member of the NYC Council: Totally irresponsive to the needs of constituents in the District she’s supposed to represent. I live in Crown Heights (within the confines of NYC Council District 35) and it saddens me that NYCCM Crystal Hudson didn’t want to take the time to talk to this media outlet to express her views on what is happening on Gates Avenue.

    She’s got to do better than that!

    1. “Needs”? Oh sorry,I forgot not wanting people to talk outside your window outweighs children’s lives, my mistake!

    2. I have lived in the neighborhood for many years and I have never been hit by a car neither have my children. It is unfortunate what happened that tragic day but it could have happened on any NYC street. Changing that block into a pedestrian plaza has nothing to do with saving lives. If you believe the street is to blame for that accident and it is an issue then change it to a garden not a place for people to congregate. Since it is going to be a pedestrian plaza then it shall be enjoyed by all New Yorkers. Let’s all come back here a month after it’s finished to share how that’s going. So that it can be a success I hope everyone spreads the word about Brooklyn’s newest pedestrian plaza so that everyone all over this great city can come out and enjoy it especially native New Yorkers who have lived here and raised their children successfully and no one ever cared to “make the streets safe” for our/their children.

  2. Everyone should come to the eyesore of a similar project at the intersection of Lafayette, Patchen and Broadway.

    I lived on Vanderbilt for ten years. The problem has been the traffic going south on Vanderbilt. Accidents have been drivers crashing through the red light at Fulton St.

    The event that killed the baby was from the unlicensed driver not being patient waiting for the very same traffic light traveling east on Fulton- he purposely went the wrong way down a one-way street.

    When you include a vibrant shopping area, a NYC social services center, a special needs school, two bus lines, the new condo on Fulton St and the reopened Brooklyn Tech field- I predict more tragedies to come.

  3. We need more plazas and open space in the neighborhood. I’ve lived here for 25 years and am happy to see it. Besides, new people to the neighborhood have every right to demand safety. Living here a long time is fine, but it’s not that interesting a metric. Eventually everyone lives here a long time.

  4. A brightly painted closed street is about the last thing that would have saved anyone in the path of a known, uncurbed, violent, reckless, driver given carte-blanche to the streets.

    “On the evening of Sept. 11, Mott allegedly sped the wrong way down Gates Avenue near Vanderbilt Avenue in Clinton Hill, breaking a red light and hitting another car, and both vehicles crashed into the family pushing their baby in a stroller in the crosswalk. Mott was driving with a suspended license at the time and his car bearing Pennsylvania plates had racked up a staggering 160 traffic violations since mid-2017, 91 of them for speeding in school Three-month-old Apolline Mong Guillemin died from her injuries and her 33-year-old mom was seriously wounded, while her 36-year-old dad suffered only minor injuries, according to officials. The driver in the second vehicle was also hurt in the collision
    He was previously arrested in February for driving without a valid license, but a judge reportedly let him off the hook on the condition that he stay out of trouble”
    What are the speeding tickets for if not to point out repetitive reckless driving? Or their point is solely revenue.

  5. Entitled boomer car owners whining about a few less free parking spaces. They don’t mind when babies are killed by cars, but don’t you dare take away their free parking!

  6. So a few things:

    1. To frame this situation as the driver “going the wrong way” is lazy journalism on the part of the author, and based on her fluff story back in August about the dining sheds that most non-gentrifiers are against, it totally makes sense…

    2. The driver was not simply “going the wrong way”. The driver was spooked because they thought that the NYPD (which has a “do not pursue” policy) was after them, and so they made that turn in an effort to escape apprehension. This is a very simple fact that could have been cleared up with an email or a phone call to the local precinct, where upon getting in contact with Deputy Inspector Malcolm, you could have gotten some clarity.

    But I guess that sort of “journalism” and research does’nt get the avocado toast class as excited.

    By the way, Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee includes Brian Howald, who proudly proclaims that he has worked with TransAlt on their campaigns for almost a decade, as well as Nicole Murray aka Princess Performative Socialist, both of whom seem to be afraid to interact with members of their own community (at least not the ones who don’t ride bikes and don’t hate cars….) when these types of issues come up. Do not believe that these two, or the rest of the members of CB2 give two hoots about how their bike revolution and anti-car agenda affects you.

    To the Black people who live in Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights, I want to remind you again: Crystal Hudson DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU.

    Crystal Hudson does’nt, and Antonio Reynoso does’nt. We know this because when the time came to vote on the school budget, Crystal Hudson voted for the budget cuts. We know this because when neighborhood residents sent emails, and made phone calls to Crystal Hudson’s office regarding this situation, as well as the OpenStreet on Willoughby Ave., it seems like she was more concerned with people like Kathy Park Price (who does not live in this neighborhood or district) as opposed to the people who actually live here and have lived here since before any of the more bike zealotry inclined nabes (ie. Mike Lydon) decided that this was a great place to live. We know this because when we told Crystal that the DOT was making life harder for people who ALREADY LIVE HERE by removing parking spaces and replacing them with Citibike stations and planters instead of adding speed bumps to “problematic areas” she stood by idly on the stage at the Community Meeting at PS 20 when Ydanis Rodriguez (DOT Commish appointed by Mayor Partypants) said that there were no parking spaces removed. In fact, whenever Crystal Hudson has been confronted with these types of situations, she essentially runs and hides, has her aides speak or appear on her behalf or simply offers no comment.

    One wonders how someone of her age and background who grew up in Brooklyn, comes to the conclusion that these are the things that we not only want, but voted for her to do.

    Spike Lee’s statements back in 2014 about this area ring louder and louder all the time…

    This was a very simple situation that could have been alleviated with the transparency that Crystal Hudson consistently claims that her City Council tenure would be marked by. Instead, it seems that Crystal is more concerned with being a politician than being an ACTUAL community leader.

    Sadly, she will likely cruise quite easily to reelection as there is no one to challenge her for her seat in such a short time, AND considering that the primaries will begin in the summer, there is not enough time to draw attention to how she’s been conducting herself as the representative of this district.

    Not when most of the local papers and social media plants seem to fawn over her inconsequential “accomplishments”.

    We have been cornered into having no choice in political representation, except that of a City Council rep who caters strictly to the very people displacing us from the neighborhoods that we fought decades to own a piece of. And when we shout from the top of our lungs about the inequality, about the displacement, about the lack of actual community input, we are told that we, the people who have been marginalized, the people who were once redlined out of some of the very neighborhoods we FINALLY had an opportunity to live in and build wealth in and maintain families in, that we “don’t own the neighborhood” and “everyone should have an opportunity to live here”.

    I ask you…if the “progressivism” that Crystal Hudson, Antonio Reynoso and the rest of the “New Kings” BK Dems claim they represent, only results in greater displacement, increased gentrification, and a paradigm shift where many of the long time Black (and Latino) residents and homeowners, through no fault of their own, are now the owners of property that has skyrocketed in value, and are now considered “the rich”, what chance do the people in these areas have to maintain and obtain the wealth and opportunities that their younger, white counterparts have?

    Especially when as shown in this story, the cries of those who are already marginalized are shouted down by a vocal minority more concerned with what they perceive as “public safety” and “progress”, which happens to include silencing the voices of the remaining Black people that live in these areas in favor of people who think that the key to reducing the aforementioned inequality…is bike lanes and getting rid of cars…

    Your eyes do not deceive you. Your neighborhoods ARE changing. The things that are taking place in your neighborhood ARE being done without your input. The demographics of Brooklyn are easily found with a web search, and the decline of the Black population is verifiable along with the decline in self-determination of the places where we live.

    You can believe what FauxNews tells you, that we’re all just drug addicts, lazy welfare queens attached to the government’s teat, and gangbangers who can’t stop shooting at each other…

    Or you can take a look around and see for yourself, that all that glitters is not gold…even if there’s a “new” stick on it…

  7. How can you say that Community input isn’t necessary according to City Charter? It clearly requires impact studies for ZONING CHANGES meaning if a street goes from Public Traffic access to Private no access that is clearly a Zoning Change- How can you interpret this any differently???? Please do explain….

  8. Since the 1950s we have given over much too much space to the automobile. Kids used to play in the street, that is now unthinkable. I feel that the people of New York need space to live, more than drivers need a place to park.

  9. The gofund the city speed cameras on main streets are forcing the speedster s onto the side streets which has children playing
    Why not place speed bumps on most side streets ?
    Or is it only about the benjamins?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.