Amidst little fanfare on Monday afternoon, the MTA opened up a new subway entrance. This isn’t just any old subway entrance. Rather, it is the subway entrance that leads to the Barclays Center, an arena that sits atop rail yards handed over by the MTA Board to Bruce Ratner for a well-below market rate of $100 million.
Over the years, the Atlantic Yards debacle has garnered more than its fair share of debate (and a very thorough website devoted to tracking the project in all its glory), but one element that has seemingly flown under the radar until recently concerns traffic, transportation and pedestrian flow around the arena. Simply put, the arena is in a terrible spot for pedestrian safety.
On its north side is a six-lane road that features cars speeding by at all hours of the day, and on the other side is a six-lane road that features cars speeding by at all hours of the day. Meanwhile, parking in the area is nearly non-existent, and the city, Ratner and the MTA has spent a few months telling anyone who will listen to just take the train. The Barclays Center has begun an ad blitz showcasing how subway-accessible the arena is, and the Harlem Globetrotters plugged the LIRR last week. It may take a trip or two from intrepid drivers to discover the reality of the situation, but beyond some loading areas that are slightly recessed from the rest of either Atlantic or Flatbush Avenues, car access to the arena is nearly a non-starter.
And so to accomodate the crowds, part of the arena work involved a new subway entrance that eliminated the need to cross these busy thoroughfares. Until Monday, passengers disembarking at the erstwhile Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. stop had to cross either Atlantic or Flatbush to reach the location of the arena. A new subway entrance that leads directly from the IRT and BMT Brighton Line platforms and features wide concourses is ready, willing and able to accomodate the crowds that will fill the 18,000-seat arena.
With no public ribbon-cutting or any sort of press release, Transit had what could be called a soft opening of the subway entrance and the surrounding plaza on Monday. I took my camera to the area at around 5:30 p.m. and found it largely empty. The benches behind the eco-friendly entrance were in use, but only a few curious subway riders were making use of the new entrance. That will change as word gets around.
So besides some plant life growing on the entrance building, what did I find? The new entrance is, as the green globe attests, open 24/7 and provides easy access to 5th Ave. in Park Slope as well as the Best Buy building as part of the Atlantic Terminal Mall complex. The station entrance itself has clearly been built to handle a large influx of crowds. With two escalators, an elevator and five stair cases to go with an ample number of turnstiles, post-game subway riders will find it easy to get from the arena to their trains.
Once inside the station, a wide concourse with two ramps directs riders to the IRT trains. The ramp heading up leads to the Manhattan-bound local (2/3 trains) while an underpass ferries passengers to the express island platform for the 4 and 5 trains or the Brooklyn-bound local tracks. The staircase to the B and Q train platform is right around the corner. In fact, this station could improve the transfer between the IRT and BMT as the walk from the back of the local 2 or 3 platform to the lower level BMT Brighton platform is much shorter. I do worry that with only two small staircases leading down to the rear of the B/Q platform, crowds could build up after events.
And so the station is ready for action, and it will be required to deliver. With busy roads and a relatively small sidewalk area surrounding the Barclays Center, getting subway-bound sports fans or concert-goers underground quickly and safely will be a paramount concern for event organizers. To the naked eye and with few riders around, the station looks ready to deliver. We’ll find out in ten days how it handles the crowd.
After the jump, a complete slideshow of photos from the new station entrance.