Councilman-at-Large Vincent DeSantis said today that the hay bales were placed at the corner to create bump outs to improve pedestrian safety downtown in advance of the Placemaking 101 Conference that will be held by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth later this week.
DeSantis explained that placemaking is a method of revitalization meant to create a sense of place in certain areas that will help draw people in. In the city, placemaking has been implemented downtown through a number of events and projects, like the upcoming conference.
Making an area more pedestrian friendly is another aspect of placemaking, DeSantis said. By calming traffic and making intersections safer, cities can make pedestrians a priority.
The hay bales were put out by DeSantis and Fourth Ward Councilman Steven Smith Saturday with the city’s permission as a first attempt at creating bump outs that allow pedestrians to safely step off the curb further into the crosswalk beyond where cars are parked along the road for increased visibility.
The triangular crosswalk along the intersection of North Main Street and Church Street was due to be painted with a bright, temporary paint by the Department of Public Works on Saturday as well to further improve visibility, but DeSantis said they were unable to complete the work due to the weather.
The bump outs implemented by DeSantis and Smith were facilitated by the CRG and Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings, with funds from the placemaking conference at no expense to the city.
According to DeSantis, the hay bales were meant to be in place for a one week trial to get a sense of what the bump outs would be like, but unfortunately the weather proved uncooperative, leading to the decision to remove the hay within 48 hours of their placement.
The hay bales were subject to a bought of criticism on social media by residents over the weekend before their removal by DeSantis and the DPW this morning.
Jennings said today that the bump outs were part of an experimental education project for the community and the planners. Like all projects, she said the hay bales were part of a well-intentioned project with a positive outlook towards the future.
According to Jennings, the action was suggested as something to do before the conference and the hay bales were a low cost, low intrusion and easily removable option. Jennings noted that the city has a very walkable downtown, however the flow of traffic makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street.
“The idea was meant to be a small intervention to get drivers to think about transit on North Main Street,” Jennings said.
DeSantis still thinks that bump outs are a good idea for the city utilizing different materials such as wooden planters at a time when painting can be completed as well.
While residents let their negative feelings about the hay bales be known online, Jennings said that it started a conversation leading to increased community engagement as a number of residents contacted her to ask about volunteering downtown.
She said there are no current plans to re-implement bump outs that she helped facilitate, but she encouraged residents and volunteers to learn more about ongoing downtown revitalization efforts and share their own ideas by attending this week’s conference or monthly Grassroots Gloversville meetings.