A private developer's traffic plan won't work for Brooklyn

This evening at Brooklyn Borough Hall, a consultant hired by Forest City Ratner will present a plan to implement significant alterations to the streets surrounding the Atlantic Yards project in order to manage congestion at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues expected when the Barclays Center arena opens. The elements of the plan are taken from a five-year old environmental study which was also paid for by the Atlantic Yards developer, and which has not been updated to reflect changes to the roadway network over the intervening years. Whether Forest City’s plan will be an effective solution for the worst traffic intersection in Brooklyn remains to be seen, but there is no question it falls far short of what is required to handle the tidal wave of traffic—and stampedes of pedestrians—that its arena will generate. It is certainly not a substitute for the comprehensive transportation plan the City and State owe the people of Brooklyn.

The Forest City plan does nothing to address traffic congestion on the eastern end of the project, which is encapsulated within a residential neighborhood. It contains little information about traffic and pedestrian circulation between the arena and the 1,100 car surface parking lot, and it leaves out mitigations that would increase capacity for cars on streets and pedestrians on sidewalks described in the project’s environmental impact statement. It does nothing to address anticipated spillover traffic through the neighborhoods as drivers attempt to navigate around the project.

An even larger gap in the plan is its complete absence of any strategy to control on-street parking by arena patrons, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation identifies management of free and metered parking as one of the most important factors in a successful demand management program. Although the Atlantic Yards’ environmental study claims the project will include sufficient off-street parking to meet the projected demand on event days, it estimates that 3,000 drivers will opt to park on-street instead. Given the extreme shortage of on-street parking today in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill and Park Slope, the potential for a catastrophe of congestion on residential streets is truly frightening, and very likely.

Forest City may correctly claim it has no ability to regulate on-street parking. But after allowing the developer to override New York City zoning regulations and site its arena surrounded by residential districts, Mayor Bloomberg and Governors Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo have had four and a half years to coordinate a comprehensive traffic plan for impacted communities in Brooklyn and to establish a New York state local development corporation (LDC) to govern the project with broad local representation to give input into such issues. They have thus far failed to do so, and with barely more than a year until Barclays Center is scheduled to open, time is running out. The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors call on the Mayor and the Governor to:

  • Direct that ESDC engage NYC DOT in an analysis of traffic flow and pedestrian conditions in the extended Atlantic Yards study area that considers current state conditions as well as changes to the project. Require that FCRC and ESDC present a parking plan detailing the locations, number and pricing of spaces where arena and non-arena project-generated cars will park, as well as any shuttle services which will be provided. Consider these factors in developing interim traffic mitigations, roadway improvements, and the demand management plan.
  • Coordinate with the State legislature and New York City Council leadership to authorize NYC DOT to implement a residential permit parking program (or other program to control on-street parking by arena patrons) in the neighborhoods surrounding the site prior to the arena’s opening.
  • Initiate a comprehensive transportation planning exercise including major Brooklyn traffic arteries, bridges and tunnels with the goals of reducing demand for streets by through traffic, expanding the use of public transportation, and improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.