It'll be fine, says the Department of Transportation (DOT)--but that required not one but two technical memoranda produced by a consultant to to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to say that a narrow sidewalk, with an effective width in one spot near the arena of just 2 feet, would be OK.
So that means installation of 206 security bollards--178 fixed, 28 removable, one foot in diameter--and other street furniture has gone on as planned.
And, I'd bet, we'll see arena-goers stepping into Atlantic Avenue lanes adjacent to the sidewalk.
As explained by Peter Krashes in Atlantic Yards Watch, when Forest City Ratner's plans for the bollards were made available to the public, AYW pointed out that some sidewalks would be far narrower than disclosed, with an effective width--after subtracting obstructions--sometimes less than six feet.
For example, as shown in the photo above looking west along Atlantic Avenue from Sixth Avenue (the extension of South Portland Avenue), the sidewalk looks narrow, but it actually will be two feet narrower when the arena opens.
One main reason: delayed plans to build a tower at that corner. "It is important to note that a portion of Atlantic Avenue west of Sixth Avenue will be nine feet eight inches during this interim condition but will increase to 20 feet" with the development of Building 4, a Forest City Ratner official said at a DOT hearing in October.
Although the plans submitted by FCRC in August showed both temporary and permanent departures from conditions analyzed in the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement, ESDC apparently did not ask its environmental consultant HDR to review the plans until after AYW's initial analysis was published.So what happened? First, the deadline for public comment was extended twice, after the wrong Community Board was sent plans, and also a security wall was missing. Then:
A Technical Memo written by HDR was released to the public less than 24 hours before the revocable consent hearing on October 5th, which acknowledged narrower widths but maintained that the level of service (LOS) of the sidewalks would remain within an acceptable range. Our review of the Technical Memo pointed out shortcomings in its analysis, stating the analysis did not take into account in full the obstructions and shy distances evident in the bollard plans, or changes to pedestrian walking routes on sidewalks.Here's what residents were told, in a 12/14/11 memo from DOT:
DOT has now advised us that it has approved the bollard plans. In order to counter unacceptable LOS at the intersection of 6th and Atlantic Avenues, FCRC has agreed to leave a "bulb-out" of the sidewalk to the south of the street corner on 6th Avenue.
This analysis was prepared by HDR Engineering on behalf of Empire State Development (“ESD”) and was reviewed and accepted by DOT. It demonstrates that although the narrowing of sidewalks in some areas would cause an increase in pedestrian density, the LOS remains acceptable per City Environmental Quality Review guidelines in all but one instance. The exception was the southwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenue. On 6th Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, the revocable consent drawings show a straight curbline, eliminating the existing “bump-out” near Atlantic Avenue. To ease any potential pedestrian congestion, DOT has decided to retain the existing bump-out. With this change, an acceptable LOS will be achieved. HDR’s technical memoranda in response to DOT are available upon written request.The second Technical Memo
The second Technical Memorandum arose after the 10/5/11 hearing before DOT, where citizens questioned whether a smaller sidewalk would hamper pedestrians and whether HDR had analyzed it propertly.
Krashes points to a 12/12/11 letter from DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri to the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and other documents, including that second HDR memo, which was prompted by the citizen comments. He writes:
In this analysis, HDR discovered an unacceptable level of service at the street corner. HDR also revised its effective width estimates for the sidewalk along Atlantic Avenue from 5 feet 2 inches to 3 feet 8 inches, a few inches greater than PHNDC's estimate at the revocable consent hearing. HDR had initially used a lightpost to curb width of 1.5 feet, which is not typical in New York City. After receiving a drawing from the sidewalk's engineer for their second analysis, HDR understood the post's distance to be 3 feet, reducing the effective width on this sidewalk adjacent to an arena to less than the effective width of many residential streets. And the lightpost also reduces the clear path of the sidewalk to 6 feet 8 inches, less than the 8 foot clear path detailed in DOT's own Street Design Manual guidelines for a commercial street. (DOT Street Design Manual, p. 62).So, HDR acknowledges that the modified plans may block people pushing strollers or in wheelchairs, but service will, with the "bulb-out," will be, at worst, at the lowest acceptable level. Note that the planned security fence--red line at sidewalk--will reduce the sidewalk by 2 feet to 9 feet 8 inches, and the circles indicate bollards, a lightpost, and the street corner where the "bulb-out" is planned.
Optimistic expectations and questions of oversight
Krashes notes that HDR's second memo uses "the optimistic assumption that the number of pedestrians relocated to the VIP entrance"--relocated from Dean Street to Atlantic Avenue--"will be insignificant because VIPs will use more than one entrance."
And, he points out, the ESDC responded only after citizens raised questions, and then HDR had to issue two memos:
Why didn't HDR find it on its own? And keep in mind that, unlike most plans related to Atlantic Yards, the bollard design was released for public comment based on the requirement for revocable consent from DOT. It is likely many other issues related to the capacity of streets and sidewalks in the vicinity of the project have not received much, if any analysis at all. That means there is a real risk the demand management and operational plans being developed behind closed doors by FCRC anticipate greater capacity on streets, sidewalks and lay-by lanes in the vicinity of the arena than actually exist.