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Posts from the "“Atlantic Yards”" Category

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Atlantic Yards Could Become Much Less Car-Centric

Off-street parking for the Atlantic Yards project, which sits near one of the world’s great confluences of transit lines, was once projected to include space for as many as 3,670 cars. Now the number of parking spots could get chopped down to 2,876 or, in one scenario, a significantly less car-centric 1,200, according to a new review prepared for the state body overseeing the development.

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

The new environmental study, first covered by Atlantic Yards Report, is being prepared after a court ordered the state agency, Empire State Development, to examine the impacts of the project’s delayed construction timeline. The full Atlantic Yards proposal calls for approximately 6,430 residential units, about 180 hotel rooms, and nearly 600,000 square feet of retail and commercial space by 2035.

The study by consultants AKRF and Philip Habib & Associates offers two parking estimates. The first would entail 2,896 spaces in five garages. The second, labeled the “reduced parking alternative,” would create 1,200 spaces in three garages. Both numbers are significantly lower than the 3,670 spaces proposed in the project’s original environmental impact statement from 2006.

With less parking, the finished project would generate less traffic. There would be fewer curb cuts for garages, creating a safer, more cohesive pedestrian environment. Another potential benefit: Reducing the amount of parking could make the project easier to finance and lead to quicker housing construction.

Why the change? One factor is that the city’s environmental review guidelines are different than they were eight years ago. The guidelines now anticipate that car trips to the commercial uses at the site will increase at a slower pace than previously assumed, which accounts in large part for the drop from 3,670 spaces to 2,896.

To arrive at the option with 1,200 spaces, the report looks west, to recent parking reforms in Downtown Brooklyn. Despite the area’s rock-bottom car ownership rates, developers there were required to overbuild off-street parking. Facing a glut, the city halved residential parking requirements in 2012.

So instead of blindly using the city’s decades-old outer-borough parking requirements, the document offers a “reduced parking alternative” that applies the Downtown Brooklyn parking ratios to the Atlantic Yards project.

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Barclays Center Opening Weekend Traffic: Not a Total Disaster

Many residents and elected leaders from the neighborhoods near the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights are letting out a sigh of relief after steeling for gridlock this weekend. Sellout crowds for the arena’s first events — three Jay-Z concerts — did not completely overwhelm nearby neighborhoods with traffic, but the strain on local streets was still clear.

Traffic generated by the first events at the Barclays Center was not as heavy as expected, but there are still problems. Photo: Mark Bonifacio/Daily News

“It wasn’t as bad as we expected,” Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, told Streetsblog.

Council Member Letitia James said her office was “pleasantly surprised that we did not receive as many complaints as I had anticipated.”

Despite the relative smoothness of the arena’s opening, there were rough spots. Early indications show that the share of event-goers taking transit may not be as high as predicted during the arena’s planning, while free curbside parking on local streets seems to be irresistible to many drivers looking to avoid paying at parking garages and lots. Sidewalk space fell short of what was needed to handle the number of pedestrians, especially when the concerts let out, which led police to close Atlantic Avenue to vehicles in order to accommodate crowds leaving the arena.

After the concerts ended on Friday and Saturday, NYPD barriers proved to be ineffective crowd control, as sidewalks filled up near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street and along Atlantic Avenue. Presently, there is no crosswalk for people leaving the arena’s mid-block Atlantic Avenue exit. “The sidewalks are too small to accommodate the crowd,” said James.

Traffic management around the arena was supplemented by additional NYPD personnel for opening weekend. “One of the reasons it worked so well is that there were vast numbers of police officers on the streets,” Oratowski said. “I don’t know if that’s really a sustainable plan for the future.”

Not that the traffic management provided by police necessarily improved matters either. NYPD officers waved many drivers through red lights, leading to conflicts with crossing pedestrians and cyclists who had a green light. Safety apparently wasn’t the top priority. 78th Precinct Captain Michael Ameri told the Patch, ”I’m in a good mood because traffic is moving well.”

A large portion of concertgoers got to the event by subway. Turnstile exits at the recently rechristened “Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center” station increased 6,754 in the four hours before the show compared to other Fridays in September, according to MTA data analyzed by WNYC. If all of those additional riders were going to the Barclays Center, they would make up approximately one in three concert attendees at the sold-out 19,000-seat arena.

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DOT Study Rejects Residential Parking Permits For Stadium Neighborhoods

The Barclays Center, under construction. Photo: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880

The Department of Transportation has rejected neighborhood demands to implement residential parking permits around the Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium, according to a DOT report released last Friday. DOT cited the availability of on-street parking spaces during Yankee games, the large number of non-residents parking on the street for purposes other than visiting the stadium, and the heavy costs of administering and enforcing an RPP program.

The idea of a residential parking permit system has support from across the city — City Council members representing very different neighborhoods came together in support of the reserving on-street parking for locals in a hearing last year — but the Department of Transportation opposes the idea (the Bloomberg administration, however, did propose a citywide, opt-in RPP system as part of the push for congestion pricing in 2008).

At last year’s hearing, DOT representatives allowed that if residential parking permits belonged anywhere, they belonged around stadiums, and announced that the agency was in the process of studying RPP around Yankee Stadium and the Barclays Center. Now complete, that study has led DOT to believe that parking permits don’t belong there, either [PDF]. Another parking management tool is still on the table: DOT is considering modifying the parking meters near the Barclays Center to charge more or extend later into the evening, according to Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report.

At Yankee Stadium, DOT found, game day brings a parking crunch, but not one that the city feels the neighborhood can’t handle. Of those who drive to the park, 90 percent park in off-street lots (of which there are far too many in the area). The 10 percent who opt for on-street spaces cluster within a ten minute walk to the park. The on-street parking occupancy rate in the area rises by 3-14 percent on game days, hitting a high of between 77 and 93 percent.

Moreover, DOT found that Yankee fans wouldn’t be the group most affected by a RPP program. On non-game days, non-residents account for as many as 45 percent of parked cars, even adjusting for false registrations. “Most non-residents who park on-street during games are there for work, shopping, personal errands and so forth,” states the report.

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More Trains, But No Free MetroCards or RPP in Barclays Center Plan

The MTA will increase transit service to the Barclays Center on game nights, but Forest City Ratner won't be paying for that increased service or for discounted fares. Photo via Brownstoner

The MTA will be adding extra transit service on Barclays Center game nights. But past promises of free or discounted MetroCards for arena-goers did not materialize in the transportation demand management plan revealed yesterday by developer Forest City Ratner, which local advocates are calling “too little, too late.”

Under the plan to reduce the number of people who drive to the arena, developed by Sam Schwartz for Forest City, more 4 and Q trains will run at the end of a Nets game, according to Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report. LIRR trains will run from to Jamaica every 15 minutes, rather than every 25. Nine subway lines already run directly to the now-renamed Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station.

Additionally, 541 parking spaces will be built on-site, fewer than half what had been planned earlier this year. The reduction in parking capacity will make driving to the site that much more difficult. Four-hundred bike parking spaces will be provided, but despite past promises from Forest City Ratner, they will not be indoors.

Beyond that, the transportation demand management plan focuses on marketing measures urging fans to take transit. The arena’s website, for example, tells those who look for information on where to park, “Parking at Barclays Center is very limited. We strongly recommend using public transportation.”

But the plan goes neither as far as the developer had promised, nor as far as arena neighbors and sustainable transportation advocates would like. “The plan released today doesn’t even include the free subway fare for Nets ticketholders promised in 2009,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a member of the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, in a press release. As recently as last year, free or discounted transit fares were being discussed by Forest City Ratner. Now it looks as if riders will have to pay full freight.

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Bad News: Forest City Breaks Bike Parking Vow; Good News: Less Car Parking

The Atlantic Yards site may still have a giant surface parking lot at one end, but it will hold half as many cars as previously stated. Unfortunately, promised indoor bike parking has been put off until an unspecified future date. Photosimulation: Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council/Jonathan Barkey

When Brooklyn’s Barclays Center opens with a Jay-Z concert this September, it will be one of the most transit-accessible arenas in the United States. But as Streetsblog has noted before, the transportation planning for the stadium is excessively car-oriented. Developer Forest City Ratner had been planning to build an 1,100-space surface parking lot, marring the pedestrian environment and inducing more driving to the stadium. As opening day nears, there’s good news and bad when it comes to parking.

The bad news first: Forest City no longer plans to keep its much-touted promise to build a staffed indoor bike parking facility in time for the arena opening. Instead, for the foreseeable future, the bike parking will consist of plain outdoor bike racks.

In the December 2009 Atlantic Yards Amended Memorandum of Environmental Concerns, Forest City promised to implement a number of measures “prior to the opening of the arena” to encourage people to leave their cars at home when traveling to the Barclays Center. One of the commitments the developer made was to “provide any ticketholder traveling to the arena by bicycle with free indoor bicycle storage in a secure, manned facility designed to accommodate at least 400 bicycles on the arena block.”

That bike parking, Streetsblog has learned, won’t be available for opening day or anything close to it. Arana Hankin, the director of the Atlantic Yards project for Empire State Development, said in an e-mail that while there will still be room for 400 bikes at the arena, it will be provided via outdoor bike racks for the foreseeable future. The bike parking will be indoors once the project’s “Building 3,” located at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, is complete, at which point it will be located in the basement, Hankin said.

There’s currently no public timeline for the construction of Building 3, and Hankin didn’t respond to a Streetsblog inquiry about when the building might be complete. Right now, construction is only scheduled for one non-arena building, at the corner of Flatbush and Dean.

With the larger Atlantic Yards project stalled, it’s impossible to say when the promised bike parking will be provided, except to say not any time soon.

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Barclays Center Mysteries: Three Big Unknowns About Arena Transportation

In less than six months, toward the end of September, the Barclays Center will open and throngs of visitors will descend on the streets of Prospect Heights and nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods. While numerous concerts and sports events have already been booked, the transportation picture remains fuzzy even this close to opening day. Three big unknowns:

  • The plan to encourage arenagoers to use transit, originally due last December, is now expected in May.
  • Developer Forest City Ratner hasn’t revealed the size of the surface parking lot next to the arena, even though construction begins next month.
  • The long-closed Carlton Avenue Bridge (below), a key conduit between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene and a critical link in the Brooklyn bike network, is now due to reopen just before the arena debuts, and state officials don’t acknowledge that the bridge is behind schedule.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge has been closed since January 2008 and it's still not clear whether it will re-open in time for the first events at the Barclays Center. Photo: Tracy Collins

The arena location — next to Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub, with nine subways and the Brooklyn terminus of Long Island Rail Road — means, as Streetsblog suggested last June, that “the fundamentals for a smart solution are there.” Indeed, the arena website proclaims, “Public transit is the fastest, most convenient way to travel here.” A new subway entrance, leading to the plaza outside the arena, is under construction.

It’s not clear, however, how persuasive the inducements to ride transit will be. The promised Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan for the arena — which would define transit incentives, catalog nearby parking facilities accessible via shuttle buses, and present a cross-marketing program with local businesses — is behind schedule. At first, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, “anticipated” that the plan would be available by December 2011. That goal was nudged back to February 2012, and then to May – limiting the opportunity for public input promised by ESD.

At public meetings in January, representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), Forest City Ratner’s contractor, frustrated some observers by describing their work to date on a transportation plan without getting into specifics. Also unclear is whether transit incentives would be used at events other than Nets games, which could bring 19,000 concert-goers to the arena on some nights.

Similarly, major question marks remain about the enormous surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site. When Atlantic Yards was initially approved, the lot was supposed to hold 944 cars, but the size has since been increased to a potential 1,100 spaces – aimed mainly at luxury suite holders.

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How to Make Your Own Free Parking Near the Atlantic Yards Site

Via Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report, here’s a variety of parking scofflaw that we’ve never come across before on Streetsblog.

In the video, an early morning car commuter, presumably someone working on the nearby Barclays Center arena project, apparently decides that the last parking space on this block of Pacific Street (between Sixth Avenue and Carlton Avenue) is too small to accommodate his SUV, so he makes his own free parking by uprooting a No Standing sign. Oder says the vandalism and flouting of parking regs is symptomatic of the un-monitored violations around the Atlantic Yards construction zone, including trucks double-parking and idling.

This isn’t the first time that Atlantic Yards workers have torn out this particular No Standing sign, thereby adding about four or five illegal on-street spaces, according to Atlantic Yards Watch. In fact, the maker of this video predicted that the sign “would be destroyed within one day of installation again,” and he was right.

And you thought placards were the ultimate in free parking entitlement.

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Nets Fans Get No Assist From Atlantic Yards’ Shrinking Sidewalks

In June we wondered whether Forest City Ratner would make the most of the Barclays Center’s potential as a destination for pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists. Recent developments are less than encouraging.

Gib Veconi noted a couple of weeks back on Atlantic Yards Watch that a July proposal from Ratner to NYC DOT regarding bollard placement shows that sidewalks around the arena may be much narrower than what Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation originally led the public to believe.

“Effective width” refers to the portion of the sidewalk used by pedestrians for travel after a buffer zone (or “shy distance”) on each side of the sidewalk is subtracted from its design width. A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation describes the shy distance as two feet on each side of the sidewalk.

According to the FCR plans, among the sidewalks other than those next to the pedestrian plaza in front of Barclays Center, three of four have narrower effective widths than were analyzed in the project’s 2006 environmental impact statement.

Veconi notes that the sidewalk on the south side of Atlantic Avenue east of the arena entrance now has an effective width of 5.5 feet, or 40 percent of the 13.5 feet presented in the EIS. “This sidewalk will presumably be traveled by large groups of arena patrons leaving the Atlantic Avenue exit en route to arena parking to the east, and borders busy Atlantic Avenue. No bollards are shown to be installed along this section of sidewalk.”

In addition, Veconi points out that the Dean Street bike lane will be situated between a thru-traffic lane and parking bays designated for pick-ups and drop-offs, putting cyclists in the path of merging vehicles.

Via Atlantic Yards Watch. Click for larger image.

Public comments on the Ratner bollard plan will be accepted through September 22. See Veconi’s post for more info and links to numerous relevant docs.

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Can Brooklyn Build a Pedestrian-Friendly Arena at the Atlantic Yards Site?

Ready or not, come September 28, 2012, Brooklyn will once again be home to a major professional sports venue. The Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards is scheduled to open by next fall, while progress on the rest of Forest City Ratner’s mega-development is lagging far behind. In the words of local City Council Member Letitia James, “All we’re getting is an arena and a large parking lot.”

Forest City Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation and the City of New York can do better than paving acres of surface parking next to the new Brooklyn arena for an indefinite time to come. Photosimulation: Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council/Jonathan Barkey

James’s conclusion is perhaps a bit premature, as Norman Oder has noted at the Atlantic Yards Report, but the basic premise is right: The arena is moving ahead while the rest of the project languishes, and for a while the arena may stand all alone. The primary transportation planning challenge facing the area is how best to move the tens of thousands of people who will want to watch a basketball game or concert to and from the site in a way that is safe, sustainable and appropriate to an urban environment.

The fundamentals for a smart solution are there: The Atlantic/Pacific hub makes the area better-served by transit than almost anywhere else in the United States. Right now, though, the picture is more mixed. The state recently released its transportation plan for the arena, a plan largely in line with past promises from both the Empire State Development Corporation and the developer Forest City Ratner, which is intended to mitigate the increased traffic that the crowds heading to an arena event will bring to the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of the features, like free subway fares for certain Nets ticket holders and 400 secure bike parking spaces, will help make the Barclays Center more transit-oriented and bike and pedestrian-friendly.

But the developer is planning to build an 1,100-space surface parking lot, killing street life and inducing driving. And with some of the borough’s deadliest streets left in place as enormous traffic arteries, walking and cycling will remain overly dangerous, potentially keeping features like a temporary plaza from being much more than a hard-to-reach traffic island.

Between developer Forest City Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation and the city government, the capacity exists to make the Barclays Center a standard-setting example for urban arenas around the country, if only they have the will. At a public meeting tonight sponsored by several electeds and neighborhood groups, leading local architects and planners will lead a workshop to envision alternatives to the surface parking lots currently planned for the site.

What are the options? Streetsblog is going to explore how the transportation mix serving the new arena can emphasize transit, biking, and walking, creating the conditions for a quality pedestrian environment. First, we’re taking a look at what some other urban stadiums are doing to promote sustainable transportation, and then in a later post we’ll see what top planners think needs to happen to make this arena work for Brooklyn.

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Getting sports fans to come to games without driving is an uphill task. Madison Square Garden is perhaps the ultimate urban stadium. It sits on top of Penn Station, the busiest transit station in the United States, and according to the New York Times, does not have its own dedicated parking lot. Even so, only 52 percent of people headed to Knicks or Rangers games in 2003 arrived by transit or on foot. Everyone else drove.

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Ratner Arena Will Include 400 Satanic Bike Parking Spots

Well, this doesn’t make up for the eminent domain abuse, inexcusable subsidies-slash-dealmaking, crappy urban design and extensive surface parking acreage, but the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay reminds us that the Brooklyn basketball arena financed by Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and the taxpayers of New York State will include 400 bike parking spaces.

Four hundred bike parking spots will help, but oceans of surface parking could still make the new Nets arena a traffic magnet. Image: Jonathan Barkey and the Municipal Art Society.

Gay’s report on yesterday’s media event announcing the arena’s opening date of September 28, 2012 has some sharp commentary on NYC’s media-fueled bike bashing:

On Monday I rode my bike in Brooklyn, because I live there, and because that’s what terrible people do in Brooklyn — load up their hemp backpacks with baguettes and copies of “Das Kapital” and ride their bikes everywhere, ruining civic life in New York City.

But lo, the outlaw behavior gets crazier. I rode my Satan bike in a Satanic bike lane to see the Nets.

P.J. O’Rourke take note: This is great satire.

With the opening of the 18,000-seat arena less than 18 months away and the Nets saying that it will host 200 events a year, 400 bike parking spaces will come in handy. But what about those oceans of surface parking? There must be a better way to plan for people to get to the arena than to invite thousands of car trips to one of the most transit- and bike-accessible sites in the entire city. Streetsblog will be taking a closer look at the Atlantic Yards transportation equation in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.