Members of a Park Slope block association are hoping to make their street a little bit safer, and a little bit prettier, one extra-legal flower at a time.
During a block party over the weekend, Doug Gordon and his neighbors took to the intersection of 5th Avenue and 2nd Street in Park Slope to fill in a crosswalk with spray-painted flowers. The goal is to slow down drivers, many of whom speed dangerously from 5th Avenue to 4th Avenue, according to Gordon.
"Like a lot of blocks, we have a problem with drivers taking turns really fast to get onto our street," Gordon (better known in corners of the internet as Brooklyn Spoke) told Gothamist. "We were just talking about ways to send a signal that this isn't a thruway from one street to another. It's a neighborhood where people live."
The new flowers were added after similar crosswalk art, painted last summer by the block association, received widespread community approval (those flowers slowly faded throughout the year). "The inspiration was certainly, 'How do we solve this [speeding] problem?' but the ancillary effect is the extra level of joy this brings to people," Gordon said.
There's also a broader inspiration for the colorful flowers. Known in other cities as guerrilla crosswalks, the act of modifying pedestrian crossings for the purpose of traffic-calming has become an increasingly popular form of tactical urbanism in recent years.
In Portland, the pioneering City Repair Project began as an illegal street painting initiative after two young girls were killed by a driver. Since then, the artist/activist group has been legally sanctioned, and now has painted intersections throughout the city. Similar guerilla crosswalks have found permanent homes in Montreal, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
While painting flowers on public streets remains illegal in New York, no one has given the block association any problems so far. At one point last year, the city even repainted the white lines in the crosswalks, while ignoring the flowers.
"Obviously it's not technically legal, and I'm not suggesting that every intersection in the city be covered with designs, but if its starts a conversation about what and who streets are for, then great," said Gordon. "We need to stop seeing crosswalks as rickety bridges over raging streams of traffic, but as places where people feel safe."