A terminal opens in Brooklyn, over two years late

By · Published in 2010

The new LIRR terminal at Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. is now open for business. (Photo courtesy of New York City Transit)

In 2004, the glaringly suburban and sterile Atlantic Terminal Mall complex opened as the first part of Bruce Ratner’s plan to take over a little corner of Brooklyn that doesn’t really want him there. Yesterday, after $108 million and over 30 months past due, the LIRR’s new Atlantic Terminal Pavilion finally opened.

The new building, designed by John di Domenico, is one of soaring ceiling and natural light that replaces construction tunnels and, before that, a rundown terminal. Sitting atop 10 subway lines and a busy LIRR hub, the new three-story structure is indeed a welcome improvement. According to the LIRR, the building was made of limestone, granite and glass, and its soaring atrium “allows natural light to reach the below ground LIRR concourse and subway station.” The building also features a new ticket office, public bathrooms and a new waiting area.

Efforts to rebuild and replace the Atlantic Terminal have a rather tortured history. The original station, built in 1907, was torn down in 1988, and the area has been in a state of flux since then. (For views of the old terminal, click here and here. John di Demonico’s design was chosen 13 years ago and construction began, with a price tag of $82 million, in 2002.

A.G. Sulzberger of The Times had more:

The completion of the $108 million update to the transportation hub — which has been called “Brooklyn’s Grand Central Terminal” for its approximately 25,500 Long Island Rail Road passengers and 31,650 subway riders each day — coincides with major redevelopment efforts in the neighborhood, including a new mall directly above the station and a proposed $1 billion basketball arena just blocks away.

Jay H. Walder, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, described the improved Atlantic Terminal as “a place, simply put, that you’d want to take a subway from or to.”

The semicircular outside walls and ceiling of the three-story pavilion are paneled with glass, allowing light to flood through the half-moon shaped atrium — replete with an artistic interpretation of a craggy bluff — and down a granite staircase to the remodeled limestone-clad platform level below. The architect, John di Domenico, said the design remained essentially unchanged in the thirteen years since it was chosen.

While many — from commuters passing through to Borough President Marty Markowitz — praised the new structure, others are dismayed with the anti-terrorist designs seemingly thrown in with little regard for the building. The Brooklyn Paper slames the coffin-like bollards that mar the sidewalk in front of the pavilion’s entrances. Gersh Kuntzman calls the building, airy on the inside, a “bunker” outside, and other architects agree.

“Obviously, the original design did not consider a terrorist attack,” Hayes Slade said. “In fact, the entryway presents a particularly open face to the street, which is aimed at transparency and access. Our society is at an odd transitional moment regarding how we deal with considerations of potential terrorism versus safety, mobility, openness.”

After the jump, a video tour of the Atlantic Terminal Pavilion, via the LIRR’s YouTube account.

Categories : LIRR

26 Responses to “A terminal opens in Brooklyn, over two years late”

  1. Kai B says:

    I’ll be checking it out this afternoon. So far, judging by the photos and the video, it looks great.

    • Kai B says:

      Pretty nice, although it having no escalators is pretty annoying. I used the elevator that has already been open for a few years to get to street level with my luggage.

      • herenthere says:

        For a modern terminal, it is strange to not have increased accessibility to improve traffic flow.

        And, I agree-the glass works with transparency and letting natural light in, but the granite on the outside just makes it look dated already…or maybe its the photo used here.

  2. Jerrold says:

    That’s right, a major transportation terminal needs to include an above-ground building.
    If only it were possible to do the same thing with Penn Station!

    • Alon Levy says:

      Don’t worry, Amtrak’s proposing to spend $1.3 billion of high-speed rail funds on Moynihan Station. Because clearly, Penn Station is incompatible with fast trains.

      • Nathanael says:

        Penn Station as currently built (with the demolished headhouse) is incompatible with popular trains, which fast trains will be…. There’s simply not enough waiting room.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    It’s boondoggles like this that make me and many others question the spending priorities of the MTA.

    • Jerrold says:

      Who told them to throw down the old Flatbush Ave. terminal?
      It was old but useable.
      Maybe they could have RENOVATED it, like Grand Central,
      instead of demolishing it and building a new terminal from scratch.

      • Joe says:

        I think the old Flatbush terminal had a lot of issues, and had essentially been neglected for a couple of decades. Considering how crappy the underground portions were before the MTA rebuilt much of the terminal (which still is a maze and has flaws, but people can move easier through the space), the above ground structure might have been beyond repair.

      • Aaron says:

        From looking at the old terminal, I have to agree. That thing would have probably cost more to restore and repair than it would have to build a new one, and unlike Penn or GCT, by doing that, they were also able to untangle Atlantic-Pacific to the best of their abilities, which for wheelchair users is just an absolute G-dsend. When I’m in NYC I usually stay with friends along the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, and being able to use Atlantic-Pacific means that even insane weekend service changes don’t affect me since I can transfer from the BMT to nearly anything at Atlantic-Pacific.

        It’s a shame though, it looks like at one time it was very beautiful, it reminds me a bit of Hoboken Terminal.

        Does this mean that the elevator to the LIRR terminal and Atlantic-Pacific is no longer blocked off? When I went to the Pathmark there the last time coming from Manhattan on the way back to Crown Heights I had an absolutely horrid time getting to the elevator from the Pathmark due to all of the construction barriers, nobody could give me proper directions and it was late at night so I spent literally an hour walking within and the circumference of the entire facility before I finally found the way to get to the elevator. I was rather shocked because back in ’02 I had to go there on the way to Brooklyn Botanical (not sure how we ended up there to start with, probably had to do with the different makeup of accessible stations in 2002) and I had the exact same problem then, just without all of the buildings around. At least it wasn’t dark the first time ;p.

      • Kai B says:

        I’m not entirely sure of the state of the old Flatbush terminal, but I took the Atlantic Branch in from Jamaica last night and I can only imagine it had similarities to East New York and Nostrand Ave, which are in a pretty horrible state.

        • Jerrold says:

          I believe that the Nostrand Ave. and Eat New York stations happen to be located in high-crime areas.
          Therefore, those stations must have suffered a lot of damage from vandalism, which cannot be blamed on the LIRR or the MTA.

          • Jerrold says:

            I meant, of course, East New York.
            My typo was hilarious but unintentional.

          • Kai B says:

            Right, but Fort Greene wasn’t exactly Disneyland in the 70s and 80s either! But most of the damage I saw at those two outer stations looked like simply aging infrastructure though. I doubt any of the three stations received much maintenance in the later half of the century.

  4. JAR says:

    I was in there this morning switching from the subway to the LIRR. The entry looks great and the bathroom was spotless – hope it stays that way!

  5. Phil says:

    Although the pavilion has been declared “completed” there is still a fairly significant unfinished portion immediately adjacent to the Manhattan bound 2,3 platform with blue-painted temporary construction walls that narrow the platform and exposed and unfinished ceiling beams. Any idea when this section is slated for completion? (I won’t hold my breath).

    • Scott E says:

      Much of the area at the end of the LIRR tracks isn’t done yet. There’s a temporary room built above the tracks on LIRR track 1, and there is (I think, still) a temporary walkway/LIRR Information/Agent booth (now closed) spanning LIRR tracks 4 and 5. Obviously, trains can’t pull all the way into the terminal because of these.

      • Scott E says:

        At 3:25 in the video, they note that the name will change to Atlantic Terminal “by the spring, when every last renovation within the facility will be complete”. Admittedly, it’s not done quite yet.

  6. Miguel says:

    Your statement that Ratner’s mall occupies a little corner of Brooklyn “that doesn’t really want him there,” seems to be belied by the enormous crowds that I witnessed throughout both wings of the mall when I lived nearby last summer.

    • So the people who go to the mall want it there, and the people who don’t would rather not see it at all. It doesn’t fit, and the whole Atlantic Yards project is an insult to the neighborhoods surrounding it. That’s just my opinion, but it’s one shared by many who live near the area.

  7. Brian H says:

    0:28 in the vid, “finally Brooklyn gets something it can be proud of.” Whoever told this guy to say that should be shot. Yes, between the parks and all of the music events from classical to ironically hipster, the festivals, restaurants, etc etc, plus something about a bridge a guy wanted to sell me, I no longer have to hang my head in shame because of this decade-in-the-making skylight. Thanks, LIRR!

  8. AlexB says:

    The whole Atlantic Terminal complex is a great idea in terms of putting an office and shopping hub over a major train station, but the architecture is terrible from both utilitarian and aesthetic points of view. The sidewalk on Atlantic is small, Fort Greene Place has been turned into a loading dock street where you always have to walk by 18 wheelers. The buildings look very suburban and out of place in a big city. Honestly, I can’t wait for the Barclays Center, assuming it’ll be the Shop design. It won’t be contextual at all, which is fine by me, but it will be well designed.


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