Downtown Brooklyn’s New “Shared Streets” Popular With Locals

Downtown Brooklyn’s New “Shared Streets” Popular With Locals
Pearl Street looking toward Willoughby Street. Ben Brachfeld/Bklyner

The newly unveiled redesign of Downtown Brooklyn’s “shared street” is seen as a positive development by those who work in the area, even if the long-awaited change to part of Pearl and Willoughby Streets is somewhat underwhelming.

“It’s wonderful,” said Pedro Minaya, a construction worker employed in the area. “We can sit down to eat, make a phone call.” He said that he hopes more streets in the neighborhood will be redesigned in a similar manner.

The city finally unveiled the new shared street last month, after years of planning. The section starts at Pearl Street and Fulton Street, turns right at Pearl and Willoughby, and ends at Willoughby and Lawrence Streets two blocks later, with the non-shared Jay Street intersecting Willoughby between Pearl and Lawrence. Once the domain of vehicular traffic and parked cars on all sides, the shared streets have brought bike racks, potted plants, and, most significantly, small tables for the tired to rest their legs.

Willoughby Street looking toward Jay Street. Ben Brachfeld/Bklyner

Parking is still allowed in some places, but other sections of the streets have been cordoned off for pedestrian use. Cars are allowed on the street but are limited to driving at 5 mph. The result is less car traffic and more foot and bike traffic, which can use the roadway with relative impunity most of the time.

To call the shared street a “game-changer,” like the 14th Street busway or the pedestrianized Times Square, would be a misnomer. But locals are still happy.

“It’s better for the people,” said Ali Asif Ali, who has worked a halal cart on the street for the past seven years. While Ali said he hasn’t noticed a marked uptick in business and foot traffic at his cart, he nonetheless is a fan of the redesign. “It’s like a food street, people have more space to sit down,” he said.

In contrast, Shaquille Mahmoud, an employee at the bustling Good Luck bodega, said he’s noticed an uptick in walk-in customers since the street redesign was completed. And, like others in the area, he’s a fan.

“It’s nice,” Mahmoud said. “You get a good breeze.”