New York City introduced the Open Streets program in the summer of 2020 as an emergency response to create more space for social distancing and to help restaurants survive through the pandemic. This created a unique opportunity to reclaim public space from traffic. The reaction and the success grew in participants’ imaginations to offer an idea of what city streets could be: a place to enjoy an evening stroll or a fun day out with family; a shared “living room” for neighbors to meet up or just run into each other; and a way to build community in and across neighborhoods. Owing to its success and popularity, in 2021, the City Council voted to make the Open Streets program permanent. A truly permanent open street on Vanderbilt Avenue could be transformative for Prospect Heights. That’s why the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council has been working with the New York City Department of Transportation and Arup to engage the Prospect Heights community and together develop a vision for the future of Vanderbilt Avenue. Here’s what we’ve done thus far:
We want to hear what kind of changes you—the Prospect Heights community—would like to see on Vanderbilt Avenue. If you missed our in-person design events, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn a little about the techniques designers use to create public space on city streets and then share your thoughts with us in the Envision Vanderbilt online survey.
October 2022: Implementation of street improvements
On October 26, DOT started implementing the first round of street design improvements on Vanderbilt Avenue, as well as on Washington Avenue and Plaza Street. They are adding curb extensions at various intersections, and more bike parking and loading zones. Curb extensions shorten the distance for pedestrians to cross and make the intersections safer by improving visibility and by slowing turns. Additionally, the northern block of Underhill Avenue (between Atlantic and Pacific) will become a new plaza!
The work will continue into November, and the next round of improvements is slated for the spring of 2023. DOT presented an overview of the work in the PHNDC General Meeting on October 27.
September 2022: CB8 EST presentationOn September 27, DOT presented detailed street improvement proposals in the Environment, Sanitation and Transportation committee meeting of Community Board 8. The DOT presentation is available online.
June 2022: CB8 EST presentationOn June 28, DOT presented an overview of community outreach to date and discussed detailed design proposals in the Environment, Sanitation and Transportation committee meeting of Community Board 8. The DOT presentation is available online.
May 2022: On-street design workshops #2
On May 19 and 21, DOT held on-street public design workshops to collect community feedback on design proposals for the Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenue Open Streets. This was accompanied by an online survey.
November 2021: Town hall and workshopIn an on-street workshop on November 13, and a virtual town hall meeting on November 15, we shared feedback from our previous community engagement sessions, presented ideas for how Open Streets can evolve as a permanent part of our neighborhood, and gave a preview of upcoming plans for Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues. The DOT town hall presentation is available online.
September 2021: On-street design workshops #1
PHNDC, Arup and DOT held on-street workshops on September 11, 17 and 19 to talk about the future of Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues. In interactive exercises, key questions were posed to residents and passersby:
- How can we build on the success of Open Streets to make it a permanent and special part of Prospect Heights and Brooklyn?
- What are the key challenges in creating a truly permanent Open Street on Vanderbilt Avenue?
- What do you like best about Open Streets on Vanderbilt Avenue?
- What issues do you think are most important to address next year?
July 2021: Preliminary stakeholder forum
On July 15, we brought together neighborhood block association leaders and Vanderbilt Avenue residents and business owners for an initial discussion about how the avenue could be designed to support the types of uses that have become popular during Open Streets. We met at—where else?—the Branded Saloon, where attendees heard a presentation by Arup and DOT about techniques and tools that help to create more public space on city streets. The ensuing discussion helped us better understand how a cross-section of stakeholders view the Open Street, and what concerns they have for its continued operation. The presentation, together with notes from the group discussion, is available to view.