Thursday, April 05, 2007

Atlantic Yards #1: A Traffic Circle for Atlantic & Flatbush?!?

Some local officials are turning their attention to the traffic mess that the Atlantic Yards development would create at the already traffic-clogged intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues if the project goes forward. Jotham Sederstrom outlines some of the possibilities including "a Grand Army Plaza-style circle near the site" in a piece that we are reproducing, in part, because it did not appear on the "new & improved" Daily News site. (Note to NYDN: Can someone please work on New & Improved V.3.0 and launch it, like, tomorrow? V.2.0 is awful beyond words.) In any case, here's some of the detail:
In an April 2 letter to city and state officials, Councilman David Yassky and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries laid out a wide-ranging list of remedies to handle the 3,000 extra cars an hour expected to flood downtown Brooklyn at peak times once the controversial $4.2 billion project is completed.

"Everybody who lives near the area knows that traffic is already a nightmare on Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., but when the arena is built, the traffic will be utterly disastrous," said Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights), who said that if developer Forest City Ratner refuses to fund the ideas, the money should come from the city and state.

The recommendations, ranging from tunnels and overpasses to increased parking meter fees and express buses, comes as a response to an environmental impact statement that anticipates gridlock at intersections near the project but offers no solutions.

Among the most ambitious ideas are three options to combat traffic at Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Aves., including a circle, a tunnel under Atlantic Ave. and an overpass on Flatbush Ave.

"The core point is that that intersection is already impassible for hours each day, and it will only get worse," Yassky said. "I don't think you can deal with traffic in the area without first dealing with that intersection."

The recommendations are outlined in a letter sent to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Pat Foye, the new chairman of the Empire State Development Corp. They include:
  • A Park Avenue-style overpass on Flatbush that would rise over both Atlantic and Fourth Aves.
  • Designing the arena so that all loading and unloading of trucks takes place off the street.
  • Express buses on Atlantic and Flatbush Aves.
  • Reducing tolls at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to divert traffic away from free bridges such as the Manhattan Bridge.
  • Free LIRR, MTA or ferry passes with each Brooklyn Nets ticket sold.
  • Raising the cost of parking meters in the area to discourage commuters from driving.
  • Readjusting traffic lights to allow pedestrians more time to cross Atlantic and Flatbush Aves.
Some are cosmetic changes, some have already been proposed and some, like the overpass idea, get at broader urban design problems with the proposal. We will simply note that (a). the traffic concerns were downplayed during the Environmental Impact process and (b). it is interesting that the proposal has state and city taxpayers footing the bill for improvements if the developer won't and (c). the city's print media was either boosterish or unquestioning during the approval process. Had the review process been more straightforward, open and inclusive--and had print media given the story the space and analysis it deserved--transportation issues (and dozens of others) might have been dealt with before approval was even considered.

Today's Atlantic Yards Report touches on both general and specific issues in an excellent deconstruction of an Atlantic Yards story in today's New York Times.

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