Come to shop…just hold your water

By Stephen Witt

Bladders may be bursting in the city’s third largest commercial hub, but currently there are no plans to install public toilets in Downtown Brooklyn. And this was the loudest criticism at last week’s Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting, where two landscape architect firms presented their plans for a new Flatbush Avenue streetscape and revitalized Fulton Mall. “There’s no public toilets anywhere in this downtown area. How can these people be making these plans to try to entice the public to come down and feel happy and buy when the planners don’t have the courtesy to install some toilets for people’s use,” said an outraged CB 2 member Bill Harris. “A lot of the folks who shop here come great distances from way out in central and southern Brooklyn, and here they are stuck with bursting bladders. It’s insulting, stupid and very short-sighted, and just plain cheap,” he added. The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), in conjunction with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, hired the landscape architects. This includes the Donna Walcavage firm to design the streetscape for Flatbush Avenue going south from Tillary Street to Hanson Place, which is deemed the gateway to Brooklyn. The streetscape firm EDAW Inc. designed a new streetscape for the Fulton Mall running from Flatbush Avenue to Adams Street. Along the Flatbush Avenue streetscape, Walcavage explained that the plans call for a sculpture in a new median at Tillary Street. A short list of four artists have been made for the sculpture design signifying the entrance to Brooklyn and their proposals are due back February 1, said Walcavage. Walcavage said on the northern four blocks, the medians will be fairly wide and include trees and other plantings. The sidewalks will also be widened and some parking will be eliminated, she said. Walcavage said this includes 15 spaces in the morning and 40 spaces during midday and in the afternoon hours. However, the parking will still exist from Fulton to Willoughby streets, which caused several members of the committee to point out that there is already a lot of double parking in front of Junior’s restaurant. The EDAW group explained that 2,000 pedestrians flood the Fulton Mall during peak hours and 50 buses operate per hour on the thoroughfare going in both directions. The firm said traffic would be helped if the green signal timing would increase on Fulton Street and decreased on the side streets. The firm also said street furniture is needed including bike racks, multiple-seat benches and state-of-the-art bus shelters and lighting. However, when they mention the street furniture for the small triangle between the Albee Square Mall on Dekalb Avenue and Fulton Street, they were questioned about public toilets. EDAW senior landscape architect Mark Minkley responded that they approached the Department of Transportation (DOT) about bathrooms on the triangle and were told it was not envisioned at this time. This response prompted the outcry from CB 2 members. It also came about the same time the city announced a contract to install 20 pubic toilets. The City Council will ultimately have final say on the toilet locations. According to a newspaper report DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall said the DOT is looking at several possible sites for the toilets in the Bronx and Manhattan. But DOT spokesperson Kay Sarlin would not confirm these comments. “The decision has not yet been made where the 20 public toilets would be installed, but the department of Transportation will be meeting speaker Quinn in January to discuss potential sites,” said Sarlin. Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan did not return several phone calls on the issue at press time. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz expressed confidence that the borough will get its fair share of everything. “The community review process works to ensure the next chapter in Flatbush’s storied history will include amenities appropriate for a center of commerce consistently populated with large congregations of visitors and residents alike,” said Markowitz.

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