Get ready for gridlock.
Construction on a series of major traffic changes in anticipation of the 2012 opening of the Barclays Center arena will get underway as early as Wednesday, but residents in the arena’s footprint charge that plans to mitigate the thousands of new vehicles that will crowd the neighborhood on game days just doesn’t cut it.
In expectation of the car crowds the new arena will net on event days, developer Forest City Ratner has proposed a series of — some slated to take effect beginning July 31.
Changes proposed to take effect this summer include:
- Conversion of Fourth Avenue into a one-way street going southbound between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues only.
- Reversing Pacific Street from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound between Fourth and Flatbush avenues.
- Installation of a traffic signal at Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, as well as a crosswalk.
- The ability for motorists to make a right or left turn from Pacific Street to Flatbush Avenue.
- Truck traffic will be barred from Pacific Street. Northbound Fourth Avenue truck traffic will be diverted to Third Avenue via Atlantic to get onto Flatbush.
But while it is still unclear whether this fix will improve the situation at the intersection — which FCR traffic consultant Sam Schwartz admitted has “perplexed traffic engineers for about 100 years” — for residents, the real issue is the areas that the traffic mitigation plan does not take into account at all.
At a hearing for the plan at Borough Hall on Tuesday night, residents were dumbfounded by the lack of plans for blocks such as State Street and Third Avenue — blocks likely to be affected by massive amounts of traffic spillover, but apparently not close enough to the arena site to be considered in the plan.
“This is a gaping hole in the plan,” said Jonathan Glazer, 51, a resident of State Street near Third Avenue. He noted that the Final Environmental Impact Statement, on which the traffic mitigation plans are based, does not take into account that Third Avenue was converted to a one-way street two years ago. Without the conversion, Third Avenue likely would not have been able to accommodate such a heavy traffic flow from the direction of the arena.
In the current mitigation plan, developers hope that arena-goers will come down Fourth Avenue, cut down Atlantic to Third Avenue and then continue on Third Avenue past State and Schermerhorn streets to Flatbush.
Unlike busy, wide Fourth Avenue, Third Avenue is merely a two-lane truck route — and is already likely to become overburdened with traffic with the 2012 at Third Avenue and Third Street.
Residents worry that not only will the blocks between Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue — largely quiet and residential — become saturated with traffic, pollution and noise, but that drivers will likely skip Fourth Avenue and travel largely down Third Avenue, crowding what is in comparison a small street.
“The traffic flows will be enormously increased,” Glazer vetted, pointing out that FCR’s traffic consultant seemed to not even know where State Street was on the map.
“That alone is very telling,” he said.
Residents said that with the change of Third Avenue to a one-way street, the avenue has already become unbearably overcrowded with cars.
“There’s traffic all the way up Third,” said Drew Jarrett, 50, another State Street resident. “It’s already jammed. There’s so much aggression.”
Jarrett, who unlike Glazer does not own his home, said he planned to move.
"I'm screwed," said Daughtry Carstarphen, another State Street resident. "Traffic is going to be at a standstill. They're making all these changes on behalf of the people coming to events, they don't give a flying patookie about those of us that live there."
The Department of Transportation will have final say over what traffic mitigation efforts ultimately go into effect.
"The key question," said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association, "is when does the study of the plan begin? When will the community have a chance to weigh in? '90 days, 60 days 30 days we'll report back,' that's what we'd like to hear."
A full copy of the plan presented to the community is available at the Atlantic Yards’ project website.
Georgia Kral contributed reporting.