For the past six years, thousands of people a day have descended on a 150-foot long stretch of black top across from Borough Hall. There, nestled among planters and folding chair, Brooklynites and visitors, workers, students and tourists would all relax, meet up, hang out, maybe enjoy a shack stack.
Willoughby Plaza was one of the very first asphalt strips formerly dedicated to cars that was closed to vehicles, taken over and transformed into a space for pedestrians, helping to inaugurate the city’s popular if occasionally controversial NYC Plaza Program. Before Times Square and the Broadway Boulevard, before the new Grand Army Plaza or Fordham Plaza, before Janette Sadik-Khan even became DOT commissioner, there was Willoughby Plaza.
And now it is permanent, a thoughtfully designed, well-integrated piece of the streetscape rather than a bastardized piece of roadbed dressed up as well as DOT and the local business groups could manage. This is the dream for all 50 (and counting) of the city’s new temporary plazas, and 16 finished spaces are already in the works. But standing in the freezing cold with Commissioner Sadik-Khan and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz trading barbs, one wonders how many more plazas might be in store for the city.