Brooklyn pol wants DOT ‘reassessment’ of Fort Greene Open Street

Willoughby Avenue Open Street
The Willoughby Avenue Open Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on May 18.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Brooklyn Council Member Crystal Hudson wants the city to do a “reassessment” of the Willoughby Avenue Open Street in Fort Greene, the same stretch of road limited to car traffic that was briefly shut down without notice in February.

Hudson penned a letter to the group Willoughby Avenue Neighbors United on Tuesday, May 16, calling the city’s roll out of the scheme “flawed.”

“While I am personally a supporter of open space and Open Streets, it is clear that the implementation — especially the ‘Limited Local Access’ model — and communication (or lack thereof) around the designation of the Willoughby Avenue Open Street has been flawed,” wrote the freshman lawmaker in the letter, which was first reported by Streetsblog but independently obtained by amNewYork Metro.

“As such, I support your calls for a reassessment of the Open Street to make it more accommodating to the needs of all members of the community,” Hudson’s missive continued.

The Department of Transportation abruptly canceled a scheduled presentation to local Community Board 2 for Thursday about a community survey the agency did about the Open Street.

A DOT spokesperson said they were still “finalizing” the presentation.

“We are still finalizing our presentation and look forward to sharing with the Community Board in June,” said Vin Barone in an email.

The eight-block avenue has been closed to through-traffic since the launch of the citywide Open Streets program under former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020.

DOT designated the street as a “Limited Local Access” for pedestrians and cyclists, allowing local car traffic access at 5 miles-per-hour for things like parking, pickups and drop-offs, deliveries, emergency vehicles, Access-A-Ride, utilities, and city service vehicles.

The city in February suddenly shut down the Fort Greene pedestrian and bike-friendly zone and fully reopened it to car drivers, but after outcry from residents and safe street advocates reinstated the restrictions. DOT at the time blamed a “miscommunication.”

Hudson and DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez hosted a raucous meeting about the Willoughby Avenue Open Streets a few weeks later in early March, which quickly devolved into chaos as opponents shouted down the elected official.

The city lawmaker told amNewYork Metro in an interview Wednesday that her letter didn’t mean that she wanted to do away with the Open Street.

“I have never at any point advocated for the removal or the closure of the Open Street or the end of the Open Street program — in fact, I enjoy the Open Streets, I use the Open Streets, I walk down Willoughby Avenue all of the time,” she said.

“The sheer suggestion that I am opposed to Open Streets is absurd,” the pol added.

She said the reassessment should include things like adding wheels to the metal barriers at the intersections of Willoughby to make them easier to move, along with signage making it clear to Access-A-Ride and delivery drivers that they can enter, just not drive through the fenced-off sections.

“The reassessment doesn’t mean a removal, it just means a reassessment,” Hudson said.

Hudson has since reached out to DOT about the project to raise these issues she said she received from some locals, but said she did not make them push back their community board presentation by a month.

“Whatever that decision was, was a decision from the Department of Transportation,” she said.

“It had nothing to do with me and I have certainly not made any requests to DOT to delay anything — if anything I’ve been asking them to make sure they present and myself and my staff were prepared to go to Thursday’s meeting just like everybody else,” the lawmaker said.