A majority of residents surveyed support efforts to reimagine public spaces, yet intervention by a vocal but limited opposition has gained traction with the Mayor
BROOKLYN — PHNDC announced it has launched a petition to gather support for public space initiatives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn—namely the Underhill Avenue Bike Boulevard, Underhill Plaza and the Vanderbilt Avenue Open Street—that increase safety, and provide economic, environmental and health benefits. Facing attacks from a vocal but limited opposition who fear neighborhood improvements may eliminate parking spaces, community organizers feel it is necessary to take preventative action to ensure these initiatives are not struck down by the Adams administration.
NYC DOT has conducted extensive community engagement over the past three years in support of thoughtful and responsive street planning in Prospect Heights. Despite these efforts, the Adams administration appears to continue a pattern of caving in to the demands of vocal but limited opposition groups. Earlier this year, plans to redesign Greenpoint’s McGuinness Boulevard and a proposed busway project on Fordham Road—both projects with significant community support—were blocked by Mayor Adams in favor of special interest demands.
Work on the Underhill Avenue Bike Boulevard in Prospect Heights, which began this summer, was inexplicably stopped just before completion. Mayor Adams confirmed to PHNDC that his office is reviewing the project based on opposition complaints.
“This news comes after other DOT initiatives were watered down or killed by City Hall,” said PHNDC Board Chair Gib Veconi. “Our programs on Underhill and Vanderbilt Avenues have proven extraordinarily popular, but they require commitments from neighborhood businesses and a large volunteer effort to operate. They can’t continue if the administration curtails them based on limited opposition. There is simply no substitute for the public support of our elected officials.”
“Shifting the way we think about and use our public spaces, especially streets, has the power to unlock joy and community,” said Emily Stutts, a teacher at P.S. 372 and the coordinator of the weekly Bergen Bike Bus. “Underhill is a beautiful example of how reimagining streets makes our neighborhoods more social, healthy and safe. Initiatives like bike buses and the bike boulevard on Underhill are so popular right now because they allow kids to be more independent and free. That should be protected and championed, not taken away.”
DOT’s own surveys found 86% of residents support permanent changes to make Prospect Heights Open Streets pedestrian and/or cycling priority corridors. Restaurants along Vanderbilt’s Open Street, which contribute funds to help run the program, have seen a 20% increase in sales compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
“Without Open Streets, our bar would have closed during the pandemic,” said Chris Maestro of BierWax, a Black-owned craft beer bar on Vanderbilt Avenue. “Instead, we were not only able to stay in business, but actually increase revenue and add a new location.”
Officially launched on Friday, September 22, PHNDC’s petition already has over 1,200 signatures. PHNDC urges everyone who values safe streets and the overall health and well-being of their communities to join them in advocating for these initiatives.
Please contact Alex Morano ([email protected]) to request interviews with key stakeholders, community members and activists who are engaged in these efforts.