Out-of-towners in Downtown Brooklyn can now use 78 new directional signs to keep from getting lost in the borough. The signs are complete with colorful maps, points of interest and quotes paying homage to Brooklyn residents. The last one was installed a few weeks ago.
“Any world-class city has a good way-finding system and many of us think of Brooklyn as a world-class...borough,” said Michael Weiss, the executive director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID), which has been working for ten years on the $1.3 million signage project.
The signs are actually designated kiosks and directionals. Near the Jay St. MetroTech Station, there's also an information booth equipped with “ambassadors" to help get people headed in the right direction.
One recent afternoon, a handful of passersby grabbed paper maps and TKTS fliers from the front of the booth, and stopped to ask for directions.
“There are a lot of tourists and first-timers to Brooklyn,” said Ambassador Kuran Perry-Ali. “We make their experience more inviting.”
On average, 125 people stop to make inquiries at the booth each day, according to Weiss. One of them was Brighton Beach resident James McFadden, who picked up a pamphlet from the kiosk.
“They’re very helpful,” he said.
And yet although the signs are obvious to some — there are at least three kiosks installed on a two-way stretch of Jay Street — many people said they hadn't seen the new signs in Downtown Brooklyn.
In Brooklyn Heights, however, residents have been more perceptive — and critical.
Six signs in the neighborhood bear a quote by Truman Capote: “I live in Brooklyn. By Choice.” The opening phrase of Capote’s 1959 essay “A House in the Heights” has been cited by some as depicting the borough as a place residents were forced to live in. Capote once lived at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights.
Still, Weiss said he was optimistic about how the new signs would be perceived in the borough.
“We’ve received many comments about the signs," said Weiss. "And except for this one...people are very pleased with the design."
He added that signs up around MetroTech featuring a quote by the poet Walt Whitman, who called Brooklyn home for nearly three decades — he lived at 99 Ryerson St. in Clinton Hills and "Leaves of Grass" was published in Brooklyn Heights — have garnered no such a reaction. They read: "Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,” a line from his poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry."
Signs in Fort Greene feature this line by Spike Lee, whose 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks production company is still based in the neighborhood: "You have neighborhoods in Brooklyn, you know? You don't really have them to the same degree in Manhattan."
Before the signs were approved, roughly 30 Downtown Brooklyn groups and civic associations weighed in, as did the Brooklyn Community Board 2 and members of the City Review Process, which is comprised of the Department of Transportation, the Landmarks Commission and the Public Design Commission.
The information booth outside of the Jay St-MetroTech Station. (Erica Getto)