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June 24, 2006

Response to "'NET' RESULT: TRAFFIC CHAOS"

Letter to the Editor from native Brooklynite Greg Holder in response to the NY Post article 'NET' RESULT: TRAFFIC CHAOS

Mr. Calder,

In reading your article in today's edition of "the NY Post" about the controversy surrounding the proposed 'Atlantic Yards' development you presented the basic viewpoints as represented by the opposing sides. However, there are a few points that the proponents of this project seem never to address in their public response to their critics.

As mentioned in your article this proposed project will add over 6,800 new residential units and approximately 20,000 new residents. Additionally, it proposes the addition of 853,000 square feet of additional office and retail space. The project's proponents, including Borough President Marty Markowitz, generally dismiss the impact of the additional traffic generated by these residents on the transit system, vehicular traffic and parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is also said that the additional influx of approximately 18,000 fans to the arena on game nights will also be of minimal impact.

To begin with, this is already the most heavily trafficked and congested area in the borough of Brooklyn on any average day. Conditions there already border on massive gridlock. In viewing their responses to critics, it seems that the developers and supporters of this proposed project would have everyone else assume that the none of the new residents would have vehicles of their own. This is illogical. It is also illogical to assume that they would neither attempt to drive their vehicles during peak hours, or need parking.

Similarly, it would seem as if they would also ask everyone to assume that none of the retailers and their employees, and none of the people working in the new offices would drive their vehicles into the area. That too is preposterously illogical. Their arguments also fail to recognize that where there are offices and retailers there will, inevitably, be deliveries, and delivery vehicles. Invariably, this means additional trucks on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, and the corollary increased congestion.

In your article you referred to their references to the 18,000 fans that would come to the arena for games. The implication of this is the suggestion that to the degree that these fans would be a problem, it is a problem that would occur only 46 - 60 times per year (41 home games + exhibitions and possible playoffs).

What this position tries not to address is the fact that nobody builds an arena such as the proposed arena, and expects to operate it only 40-60 times a year. Invariably, there will be other events - the circus, rodeo, ice skating, track and field, boxing, wrestling, conventions & exhibitions, college basketball, tennis, demolition derby, auto shows, concerts, etc. The operator of an arena of this type would certainly seek to maximize its profitability, and to do this they would book as many events as possible. Each of these events has the potential to draw thousands (or tens of thousands) of visitors to the arena, and into the neighborhood. With these visitors there will be additional traffic, and additional congestion.

In spite of suggestions that there will be financial incentives for season ticket holders to use public transportation, this only affects a small percentage of the events I just described. Moreover, it may only involve a small percentage of those, even, who attend Nets games.

Is there any place more crowded than midtown Manhattan? Is there anyplace where on-the-street parking is less available, and commercial parking more expensive, than midtown Manhattan? Nevertheless, there are many people attending events at 'the Garden', who choose, in spite of the cost and the traffic, to drive into midtown instead of using public transportation. I, myself, have done this on many occasions. One reason, is that when you consider the cost of using public transportation, even during off-peak hours, for a family of four or five it is sometimes cheaper to drive. Also, where MSG brings thousands of people into midtown for events, it is not situated in the midst of what is essentially a residential neighborhood.

There is also another issue that is 'glossed over' by the project's developers and supporters. This additional traffic would be added to the additional traffic from other developments in the 'downtown' Brooklyn area. There is the continued expansion of Metrotech. There is the Mark Morris Theatre and the other proposed arts venues. There is the proposed addition to the Brooklyn Museum (to be located in the space occupied by the BAM parking lot and a nursery between Ashland Place, Flatbush Avenue and Lafayette). There are already other residential projects underway, such as the tower on Flatbush near Seventh Avenue, that will add to the density of the area. Finally, just over a mile down Atlantic Avenue are the new piers with several cruise lines as their tenants. Is it likely that persons embarking on cruises from Brooklyn will travel to the piers on public transportation with their luggage?

Finally, one could have less fears about these types of concerns if there were greater confidence in the developer's sensitivity to these types of concerns. However, there are reasons why this is difficult for some. In presenting plans for Phase II of the Atlantic Terminal Development, the Ratner Group had initially proposed locating the loading dock for the site directly in front of One Hanson Place. As this was a one-way street, which because of the presence of the bank and the many doctors' and dentists' offices in the tower, had extremely heavy foot traffic, this did not seem to be a reasonable location for the loading dock and the traffic congestion it would cause. It was also pointed out that this was a street frequently used by school children utilizing the subways below to go to and from schools in the area, especially Brooklyn Tech. The dock was moved to the other side of the site.

There were also concerns raised about the effect of shadows that would be cast by the office tower proposed for that development project on the building at One Hanson Place and on the Methodist Church that is next door. It was suggested that the tower be moved closer to Atlantic Avenue on the development site. The Ratner Group's representatives responded that this would not be possible because, "a platform constructed over the rail yards wouldn't support the weight of an office tower of that size". Yet, five years later the same Ratner Group proposes the construction of an arena and seventeen high-rise buildings on platforms over the same railyards, some of these towers to be sixty stories high. I guess one could only be amazed at the advances in construction technology in just five or six years.

Sincerely, Greg Holder

Posted by amy at June 24, 2006 6:09 AM