FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 17, 2005
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CONGRESSMAN OWENS ANNOUNCE THE RECONSTRUCTION OF EASTERN PARKWAY BETWEEN WASHINGTON AVENUE AND GRAND ARMY PLAZA
$5.9 Million Project to Improve Pedestrian Safety and add Landscaping, Lighting, and Benches
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Congressman Major R. Owens today joined Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, Prospect Park Alliance President Tupper Thomas and Robert Witherwax of the Eastern Parkway Cultural Row Neighborhood to announce a $5.9 million reconstruction of Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway, between Washington Avenue and Grand Army Plaza. The reconstruction plan, developed with the Prospect Park Alliance, will restore Frederick Law Olmsted's and Calvert Vaux's vision of a beautifully landscaped median along the Parkway and Prospect Park that affords vistas of Grand Army Plaza.
"The reconstruction of this important stretch of Eastern Parkway will make it significantly safer for pedestrians and motorists and more attractive for residents and visitors alike," said Mayor Bloomberg. "After years of discussion and planning, funding is now in place to begin the process of narrowing some of the roadway and creating a more spacious, beautiful and accessible pedestrian space. I want to especially thank Congressman Major Owens and Tupper Thomas for their commitment and dedication to this important project."
"The proposed renovation will improve the safety and accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists to three of the most magnificent institutions in Brooklyn: the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Public's Central Library," said Congressman Owens. "Supporting pedestrian and vehicular safety is crucial for these institutions that are witnessing a renaissance in Brooklyn."
The reconstruction plan is the product of over five years of discussions between the Prospect Park Alliance and the community, and will return approximately 1,700 linear feet of landscaped median to public use to make the area safer for pedestrians. The project is being funded with $4 million from the Mayor's Executive Budget and $1.9 million dollars of federal transportation funds allocated by Congressman Owens. It is scheduled to begin in fall 2007 and will be completed in 2009. New street trees, lighting, signage and benches will be installed to the medians and Parkway. The median runs past Brooklyn's major cultural institutions, the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Public Library, and was narrowed and partially removed years ago.
The Prospect Park Alliance is currently working with the DOT on a number of modifications to the traffic flow on Eastern Parkway and its cross streets to improve pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle safety. Currently, this section of Eastern Parkway consists of two wide roadways (a service road and a main road). When the reconstruction is completed the service road will be narrowed and the pedestrian mall widened to make the Parkway more pedestrian friendly and to reduce speeds on the service road. On the main road, traffic moving in opposing directions will be more significantly separated by removing a lane for westbound traffic. At Washington Avenue, the slip ramp between the main road and service road will be removed and replaced with an extended mall, slowing traffic and greatly enhancing the pedestrian connection between the adjacent neighborhoods and the Brooklyn Museum. Finally, a key feature of the plan is the connection between the existing bicycle path on the Parkway east of Washington Avenue and Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park.
"Not only was Eastern Parkway the country's first parkway, it was also one of America's first greenways, opening up a grand new thoroughfare for recreation in Brooklyn," said Commissioner Benepe. "Olmsted's and Vaux's design for the parkway, like so much of their work, laid the foundation for the development of parks and green thoroughfares in cities across the country and around the world."
"After working together with the community we now have the funding necessary to get started on the transformation of Eastern Parkway," said Commissioner Weinshall. "This project will dramatically improve conditions for all of the Parkway's users by expanding pedestrian space, calming traffic, and filling a key gap in the City's growing network of walking and cycling trails and paths."
"This part of Eastern Parkway is the front door to the Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Garden, Public Library and Prospect Park," said Prospect Park Alliance President Tupper Thomas. "We are so pleased that a restored Eastern Parkway will enhance the visitors experience to these great institutions."
"The project was initiated by residents of Eastern Parkway who were concerned about the deterioration of the median and the dangerous traffic flow," explains Robert Witherwax of the Eastern Parkway Cultural Row Neighborhood Association. "The Prospect Park Alliance partnered closely with us in the design process, and the community lobbied year after year for funding. This is a wonderful example of how neighbors can come together to make their little part of the City better."
Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux are heralded as the creators of America's most celebrated parks, including Brooklyn's Prospect Park and Manhattan's Central Park. Less well known is that the two men also designed Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway, constructed between 1870 and 1874, which is considered America's first parkway. The term parkway was coined by Olmsted and Vaux to describe the landscaped road for "pleasure-riding and driving" they designed to provide scenic access to Prospect Park. Eastern Parkway was designated a National Scenic Landmark in 1978 by the United States Secretary of the Interior.
Some of Eastern Parkway's lesser-known features are bronze plaques set in the sidewalk to memorialize Brooklyn residents who died in WWI. The plaques, placed at the foot of trees planted after the war, are today nearly illegible due to years of foot traffic, past sidewalk repairs and grime. The plaques will be restored and reset as part of the reconstruction plan.
The Prospect Park Alliance, in partnership with the City of New York and the community, restores, develops, and operates the Park for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers. The Alliance is dedicated to serving visitors through its facilities and programs, caring for the Park's natural environment, and preserving its historic design. Prospect Park's 585 acres of meadows, waterfalls, forest, lakes, and athletic facilities comprise a masterwork of urban green space.
Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson (212) 788-2958
Warner Johnston (Department of Parks & Recreation )
Kay Sarlin (Department of Transportation)
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