New York City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan, and Eric Ulrich of Queens are polling constituents to find out about needed capital improvement projects in local neighborhoods such as street repairs, new parks, and public artworks. The participatory budgeting process is based on a pioneering program in Brazil. Unfortunately, only one million dollars is being allocated for each council member's district. We need to think bigger and find ways to get federal job stimulus money to put people to work rebuilding Brooklyn.
Brad Lander is holding neighborhood budget assemblies throughout October. These are some Brooklyn suggestions starting small and getting bigger.
1. Prospect Park needs a lot of work. My wife Judi is in a wheelchair. We try to go for a walk around the lake every morning and the paths are in very bad shape. Starting small, the walking paths in the whole park need to be repaved. A bigger park project would be a parking garage on the site of the Prospect Park West maintenance lot. Maintenance work and vehicles could be kept on the ground floor where there could also be a bus drop off to accommodate school groups. On upper levels there could be paid parking for families who want to use the park and even long-term parking for community residents. This would both solve parking problems and raise funds for the park. I would also like to see more family-friendly attractions like a swimming pool (indoors for year round use) and scattered basketball and handball courts.
2. Starting small in the neighborhood, too many street corners do not have curb cuts for strollers, shopping carts and wheelchairs. These are a must. A lot of streets need repaving. The old trolley tracks are peaking through at Bartel-Pritchard Square near Prospect Park making it difficult to cross the street and a menace to people on bicycles. We also need more handicap accessible subway stations. The F line, which we use, has only three handicap-accessible stations in Brooklyn.
3. I have four suggestions for borough-wide large scale projects:
A. Brooklyn has a large number of small, antiquated, fire houses tucked away on nearly impassable side streets. We need modern large firehouses on main thoroughfares.
B. I would also like to see some of the through truck traffic off of the local streets. A cross-Brooklyn expressway connecting the Verrazano Bridge and Kennedy Airport was proposed in the 1950s but never built. It is time to bring back the idea. I would make it four lanes and charge a high toll. It would be worth it to trucking companies to pay the toll because they would save on shipping, fuel, and driver costs.
C. It is also way past time to extend the New York City subway system into neighborhoods without service. For a start, run the G line into Red Hook, the IRT 3 train to Kings Plaza, and the IRT 2 train into Spring Creek.
D. Last, I saw a photo in the New York Times of elevated aluminum bicycle paths in Copenhagen, Denmark. In Brooklyn, they would encourage safe bicycle commuting. Run them above major streets (Flatbush, Linden Boulevard, and Kings Highway) and highways (Belt and BQE). They would provide factory, construction, and maintenance jobs. By the way, let's keep these jobs in Brooklyn.