On transit improvements at Atlantic YardsBy
At the crossroads of Atlantic Ave. and Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn rests one of the borough of Kings’ busiest subway stations. Over the next few years, it’s only going to get worse, but proposals to expand and adapt the station to new uses from the Barclays Center and, eventually, Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards complex have yet to see the light of day.
The brouhaha over the Atlantic Yards is a well-covered story. Under heavy pressure from local politicians, the MTA, as we know, sold out the air rights over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for well below-market. Originally, Ratner planned to build a new basketball arena for the Nets along with a massive mixed-use complex at the corner of three low-rise brownstone neighborhoods. Due to the financial crisis, though, the plans for the array of towers were shelved, but progress on the arena, set to open in September of 2012, has moved forward.
Late last week, though, Ratner announced plans to build some of the Atlantic Yards towers in 2012. With some financing in place, Ratner will build a 32-story residential building at Flatbush Ave. and Dean Street. that will house 350 units. The current plans include 14 other residential buildings, including one of 50 stories.
Enter the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. In terms of those swiping in, the station is the third busiest in Brooklyn and the 30th most popular in the city. In 2010, over 10.1 million straphangers entered the station, and the station saw an increase of traffic of 4.4 percent over 2009. That tells only part of the story though as the station serves as a major transfer point between the subway and the LIRR as well as an inter-system transfer point between the 4th Ave. lines, the IRT and the Brighton Line.
So what happens when the Barclays Center and, eventually, the Atlantic Yards complex opens? Right now, the station has a variety of entrances from various street corners. There’s an entrance to the 4th Ave. platform at 4th Ave. and Pacific St., an entrance to the LIRR and the local Manhattan-bound IRT station in the Atlantic Center and an entrance to the Brighton Line off of Hanson Place. It isn’t perfect, but it works.
Meanwhile, changes are in store. As the renderings for the Barclays Center show, work on the arena includes a new street-level entrance to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station that will go from the plaza outside of the arena to, well, somewhere, and the fact that the “somewhere” is undefined is concerning. Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked the MTA for renderings of the subway improvements, and although the arena and work on subway access has been long-planned and will open in ten months, the MTA doesn’t yet have renderings. They have only schematics that have yet to be released to the public, and we have no idea how the flow of people will be improved or addressed at a major subway location in Brooklyn.
When the Atlantic Yards project was first negotiated, transit improvements were part of the deal. To add so many people to a small area right on top of an already-busy subway station was simply inviting transit capacity disaster, and Ratner pledged to improve the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. subway station and also the LIRR terminal. So far, all we know for sure is that the subway stop will bear Barclays’ name when the arena opens. Anything else is conjecture.
Ultimately, these designs will be released for the public, but as Ratner begins to work on the new Atlantic Yards terminals, he shouldn’t get off so lightly. Transit improvements and a plan to address the added demand his units will bring must be a part of the planning process as his buildings move forward. To avoid the subject will leave straphangers out in the cold.