Eyes on the Street: At Knickerbocker Ave. Station, No Such Thing as TOD

With the Knickerbocker Avenue subway station visible in the background, this land is being used for a single-story building and a surface parking lot. The sidewalk, meanwhile, is blocked by federal employees headed to the armed forces recruitment center. Photo: Christopher Taylor Edwards.

This isn’t what transit-oriented development is supposed to look like.

Reader Christopher Taylor Edwards sent us these photos from two blocks of Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick. Immediately adjacent to the M train, suburban-style development  – complete with single-story buildings, drive-throughs and underutilized parking lots — marks the end of a vibrant commercial corridor.

One block down Knickerbocker from the subway is a single-story strip mall with a surface parking lot between the sidewalk and the door. The biggest tenant is a cell phone store, but for pedestrians headed to the subway, the most important might be the Armed Forces Career Center, which regularly hosts a fleet of government cars parked illegally on the sidewalk. Reported Edwards: “The cars parked on the sidewalk is a once a month or more occurrence. They are federally tagged cars generally or from Virginia and Maryland. No one is ever ticketed.”

This Burger King features a drive-through and surface parking lot, despite its location adjacent to a subway station. Photo: Christopher Taylor Edwards.

Directly underneath the Knickerbocker station sits a one-story Burger King. Behind the restaurant’s drive-through, which requires curb cuts on two sides of the intersection, sits a large surface parking lot. According to Edwards, the Burger King lot almost always sits empty.

Zoning may not be the chief culprit here. Head a block west along Knickerbocker, or follow the elevated subway tracks along Myrtle, and you’ll find vibrant commercial corridors with stores facing the sidewalk, not a parking lot. Even so, this seems like a location crying out for an intervention from New York City’s planners and economic development officials.