New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner David Burney, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed and Muss Development Chief Operating Officer Jeff Kay, joined by representatives from the MetroTech BID, Shake Shack and NYU-Poly, today announced the opening of the newly reconstructed Willoughby Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn, providing 14,000 square-feet of pedestrian space, enhanced greenery, public seating and other amenities to the neighborhood’s many residents and visitors. Originally installed using temporary seating and other temporary materials on a stretch of Willoughby Street between Adams and Pearl streets in 2006, the plaza has become a hub for development, with Shake Shack, Panera Bread and numerous other businesses opening alongside the now-vibrant pedestrian area and serving major tenants in the area. Muss Development recently created a new building façade at 345 Adams Street to take advantage of the new pedestrian space, with plans to open ground-floor retail and restaurants. The reopened pedestrian space, featuring new planted areas, additional trees tables and other seating areas, is the first of the DOT Plaza Program’s plaza spaces built with temporary materials to be completely redesigned and rebuilt as part of a capital construction project, including extension of concrete sidewalks, underground utility work and new tree plantings. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the enhanced space as well as community programming and events in the reconstructed plaza, which will serve as an example of the numerous options available to other neighborhoods as additional plazas around the city are permanently rebuilt.
“With a down payment of just a few planters, seating and some shade, Willoughby Plaza became the anchor of a retail and dining destination, showing once again that better streets mean better business,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Now with a top-to-bottom redesign, this plaza is a model for neighborhoods across the boroughs that are transforming underused roadbed into permanent public spaces designed, supported and maintained by the community.”
“The new Willoughby Plaza will help connect Brooklyn’s civic center with the downtown commercial core, and hopefully, it will be a destination in its own right. However, this project is about more than just the visible plaza space: working with our partners at DOT and DEP, we also upgraded the area’s infrastructure, with new water mains and sewers, new roadways and curbs, and new street lights and signs. I look forward to continuing our work with Commissioner Sadik-Khan and her team at DOT to create public plazas in other key locations in Brooklyn and around the City,” said DDC Commissioner Burney.
“Public spaces help enliven neighborhoods and draw communities together, and the revitalized Willoughby Plaza is the latest example of where we’re doing that in Downtown Brooklyn,” said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed. “With new programming we are planning for the plaza, free WiFi drawing students from neighboring academic institutions, and a wealth of dining options nearby drawing visitors and shoppers to the area, Willoughby Plaza will help showcase Downtown Brooklyn as a dynamic 24/7 destination.”
“We've watched Downtown Brooklyn blossom over the years and are so proud to be a part of it. Knowing the Willoughby Plaza was coming was a key factor in why we decided to open in this area,” said Randy Garutti, Shake Shack CEO. “We want to thank Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and his incredible team, as well as Tucker Reed and everyone at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership who worked so closely with us to help find and open our Fulton Street location. The new Willoughby Plaza will certainly enable us to strengthen our connection with the local community even more.”
“The City has done a wonderful job of creating a new pedestrian plaza," said Jason Muss, principal of Muss Development. "With the spring and summer months approaching, this amenity will add another dimension to the total experience for our restaurant and retail tenants at 345 Adams, and the diversity of shoppers, tourists, professionals, and students who pass through here every day.”
As part of its Plaza Program, DOT works with local non-profit organizations to build neighborhood plazas in areas with few parks and open spaces, helping to achieve a key goal of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC agenda that all New Yorkers live within 10 minutes of quality open space and providing neighborhoods across the city with the safety and quality-of-life benefits of increased pedestrian spaces. In 2012 alone, the agency created more than two acres of community-requested space in seven plazas in neighborhoods including Fort Greene and Jackson Heights. There are now 50 plazas that have been implemented or that are in design or construction.
A recent DOT report, using real estate and retail data collected along pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and other street safety enhancements demonstrated that these projects lead to significant improvements for area businesses, including a more than 170 percent increase in sales near Dumbo’s Pearl Street plaza, the city’s first pedestrian plaza and a model safer and more efficient use of New York City streets. More information on the program can be found at nyc.gov/dot.