2007_10_GrandArmyPlaza.jpg Like many, whenever we traverse any streets along Grand Army Plaza, we basically run (or bike) for our lives.

So we were relieved when we read the Department of Transportation's announcement that construction has begun on the $400,000 project to remake the oval plaza constructed in 1870 by Olmsted and Vaux. It was originally called Prospect Park Plaza, but it was renamed in 1926 to pay homage to the Union Army, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City.

The makeover, which was made public last spring, started after Labor Day. It will bring three landscaped pedestrian islands, five new crosswalks (and ten new signals) and a protected bike path to the area surrounding the Civil War memorial. The Bailey Foundation and Memorial Arch - which are impossibly difficult to enjoy because of the traffic nightmare surrounding them - already have been renovated. Overall, the project will convert 11,000 square feet of asphalt and street markings into space that can be used for pedestrians, cyclists and landscaping. The effort is one of several in the area over the last few years.

Streetsblog has devoted a lot of coverage to the GAP plan. Last spring, it covered the community-planning workshop held by the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, whose founder Rob Witherwax sought help from the Project for Public Spaces (a member of GAPCo). Ultimately, the DOT used GAPCo's ideas to remake GAP (one of GAPCo's community planners, Chris Hrones, later was hired at the DOT!). It even has a film on it. And here's a look at the plan itself. Today, Streetsblog's Aaron Naparstek writes about the project in the context of DOT's new approach of working with community groups.

It looks cars will be the losers, given the narrowed roadways. The winners (aside from walkers and bikers)? Community-based planners.

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Transportation