When a security bollard goes too farBy
Outside the new Atlantic Ave. LIRR terminal building in Brooklyn, security bollards double as benches but leave little room for anything else. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
When the new terminal building at Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, critics and columnists praised the light and airy nature of the building. Featuring a seemless integration of art and architecture, the new terminal building is representative of the MTA’s current approach toward offering its customers a convenient and mostly state-of-the-art facilities when it opens new structures. Outside, though, the security bollards tell a different story, one of overreaction and blocked sidewalks to a public structure that needs to be able to handle heavy pedestrian flow.
When the new building first opened, attention was focused on the inside, but the security bollards, shown above, drew some warranted criticisms. Gersh Kuntzman in The Brooklyn Paper was particular critical of their appearance and size. He noted the bunker-like mentality of the security measures and called the giant bollards “14 mammoth concrete coffins that give the beautiful new facility the look of an outpost in the Green Zone.”
I ventured to the new terminal last week to snap some pictures and saw first hand the problem of the bollards. These things are massive. They take up the entire sidewalk and ring from one entrance to another. With little space between them, people are finding it hard to navigate, and anyone with bags or strollers will be out of luck. When trains let out and commuters come pouring out of the building to head to Fort Greene, pedestrian congestion too becomes an issue. As a security measure, these bollards are woefully in everone’s faces and serve as a stark reminder of the threat of terrorism.
This afternoon, Streetsblog took a tape measure to the bollards and found them to go well beyond the NYPD recommendations for security measures. While police handbooks recommend four feet of space in between bollards and a height no greater than 36 inches, these granite slabs are over 50 inches high and have less than 3.5 feet of space between them. As some serve as benches too — a last-gasp attempt to make them functional — their widths are tremendous as well.
So far, no one has laid claim to the design. The Empire State Development Corporation is notoriously tight-lipped with its plans, and the architects, the MTA and NYPD haven’t yet responded to Streetsblog’s request for clarification. The bollards were not, however, in the original design for the building.
The specter of terrorism and counterterrorist measures make for uncomfortable subjects. New York City’s subways are notoriously porous, and New Yorkers try not to dwell on the ways our city has become a target for America’s enemies. Still, these bollards do nothing to make a new train terminal accessible or user-friendly. They exacerbate fears about our safety while blocking the city’s sidewalks and its transit access points. There are tasteful ways to guard against terrorism, and then there are these granite blocks, seemingly dropped from a quarry onto Flatbush Ave. with no regard for purpose or appearance.