Myrtle Avenue finally rises

The Brooklyn Paper

Could Myrtle Avenue become Fort Greene’s own Montague Street?

If it sounds far-fetched, tell me about it. But that’s precisely what the Myrtle Avenue Partnership is aiming for. The avenue’s principal business group issued a series of recommendations this week that, if implemented, could drag the neighborhood’s center of gravity from prosperous DeKalb Avenue and towards the once down-and-out (and outright dangerous) shopping strip.

Just imagine. Instead of uneven sidewalks devoid of any charm, merchants would create a paradise of commerce, complete with flowers bordering ornate window displays, street trees arching over orderly traffic, public plazas, ample benches and traffic lights!

I’m no fan of most aspects of gentrification — the destruction of the fabric of the community, the intimidation of longstanding tenants, endless construction, upper-middle-class homogenization, the eviction of me, the gentrifier! — but the Partnership’s ideas aren’t half bad.

The group of merchants hired the Project for Public Spaces, a respected planning non-profit, to churn out ideas for the avenue. The Project, in turn, enlisted the help of Pratt Institute urban planning professors, held community meetings, and ultimately homed in on four of the most decrepit strips of the avenue: the space between Fort Greene Park and the Whitman and Ingersoll Houses, bounded by Carlton Avenue and Ashland Place; the intersection of Clinton and Myrtle avenues; the crossing of Vanderbilt and Myrtle avenues, and the eyesore of a superblock between Emerson Place and Hall streets.

“We want to attract more foot traffic, make the avenue more interesting, a more creative, active public space,” said Vaidila Kungys, a program manager for the Partnership.

Frankly, the strip can’t get much less attractive. Myrtle Avenue may have more restaurants, beauty shops and bars these days, but it remains as grimly unappealing as Atlantic Avenue on a rainy afternoon.

The Project’s recommendations to change that are pretty commonsensical. But perhaps the most appealing and intriguing suggestion is breaking up the damned superblock.

Right now, between Hall Street and Emerson Place, Myrtle Avenue bifurcates into two roads — the main thoroughfare, and a thinner, 1,000-foot-long service road allowing cars easy access to the supermarket and evoking the sort of suburban, car-centric sprawl more commonly found in Dutchess County (no offense, mom).

The Project for Public Spaces made suggestions ranging from narrowing the service road to outright obliterating it and turning it into a greenspace. That is, turning it into a public plaza where one might actually want to spend some time.

Of course, most of these suggestions remain highly speculative at this point.

The Partnership, rightfully wary of stepping on anyone’s toes, has no concrete plans at this point, aside from more soliciting more community input. But Kungys did say one improvement is indeed imminent: keep your eyes peeled for some new gardening in front of the Vanderbilt Avenue Exxon station, and maybe even a few street trees.

Dana Rubinstein is a staff writer for The Brooklyn Paper.

The Kitchen Sink

Our pal, BCAT doyenne Megan Donis, made the move from her exhaust-choked apartment by the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway in Carroll Gardens to sunny, clean Fort Greene. Welcome, Megan. …

Clinton Hill beer swillers are hosting their very own Oktoberfest on Sept. 29, complete with Polka music, lederhosen, and, for the carnivores out there, sausage (for the veggies, there’s unlimited sauerkraut). There are only 100 tickets — and they’re only $15 (and our esteemed editor already scooped up two). For information, check out www.55lex.com/ oktoberfest. …

Ricardo Cortes, author of the controversial pro-marijuana kid’s book, “It’s Just a Plant,” has teamed up with our Clinton Hill pal Bowman Hastie to write, “I Don’t Want to Blow You Up!” (This one’s sure to furrow plenty of parental brows, too.) Hastie, best known for his painting dog, Tillie, says the book aims “to counter the terrifying messages transmitted in the name of ‘the War on Terror.’” …

Nothing says “civic-minded” like public gluttony. Show your support for the Fort Greene Park Conservancy on Oct. 1 by buying an $80 ticket, riding an elevator to the top floor of the Forte condos, tasting up to 100 wines selected by the Greene Grape, noshing on food from Olea, and then staggering home sloshed. For information on the Conservancy fundraiser, call (718) 797-9463 or visit www.greenegrape.com.

Reader Feedback

em says:
This "oktoberfest" was the worst party/event i've been to since i've moved to new york. the website and all of the write ups were extremely misleading. the space was someone's disgusting apartment. there was not half of what the website promised and it was NOT worth the $15. the "authentic german beer tent" was eight streamers hung to their disco ball, and the "rooftop" was the kind that we brooklyners are apt to use for ourselves but aren't technically supposed to. black tar paper, no edge/railings to speak of. the whole event was like a lame houseparty that we have to pay to get into.
Sept. 30, 2007, 1:20 am
adam quirk from clinton hill says:
Oh man! I'm just reading this now almost a year later. I notice that this "em" posted this at 10:20pm on the night of the party, so he/she obviously didn't stay very long. Oktoberfest is about beer and friends and food, all three of which we had TONS of. I'm sorry our decorating skills weren't up to your standards. This year we are ordering 4 more streamers and another package of balloons.

Hope you give us another shot.

-Adam
Owner of a disgusting apartment, a.k.a. the biggest loft in Clinton Hill, a.k.a. my home.
Aug. 5, 2008, 7:21 pm

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