Friday, November 30, 2012

Uh-oh: Dean Street sidewalk at B2 construction site, adjacent to arena entrance, will narrow to five feet; crowds already cause overflows

The current sidewalk: 13'11"
In presenting plans last night for B2, the 32-story residential tower slated to be the world’s tallest modular building, developer Forest City Ratner and its partners sounded like they had thought through almost every issue.

[See a full report on the meeting.]

They stressed that, by building most of the components inside a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, there would be less noise, fewer deliveries, and a faster construction schedule--all of which should add up to a decreased impact on neighbors near the tower bordering the Barclays Center at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

After an arena event, on Dean Street
The plan (full presentation)


But construction also means that, for one year, the sidewalk on the north side of Dean east of Flatbush--already periodically overburdened by crowds streaming to and from the arena entrance on Dean-- will narrow to just five feet, a situation that left some Prospect Heights neighbors incredulous.

That would leave only one lane of traffic on Dean Street.
Construction site in background on right

The current width, according to a memo by state consultants, is as narrow as 13’11”, with an effective width--minus obstructions and “shy distance”--of 9.4 feet.

(That would be the sidewalk condition when the building opens.)

With only five feet, that's a significant decrease.

Once the building is finished, the permanent effective width, however, could be functionally even more narrow, according to Peter Krashes of Atlantic Yards Watch, because the sidewalk will continue to be narrow while the demands on it will be increased -- in part because of retail on the ground floor.

As Krashes wrote, "the width of the sidewalk adjacent to B2... may now have a permanent effective width of 3.5 feet, hardly substantial enough for a busy sidewalk supporting a large arena entrance, a loading dock and a lay-by lane."

A 10-foot walkway will be maintained on Flatbush, with a five-foot walkway on Dean, Forest City construction chief Bob Sanna said last night at the meeting, held at Borough Hall. At the Dean Street entrance, a covered platform will protect the arena pedestrian entrance.

Can it work?

Crowds outside arena entrance where sidewalk bulges out
Questions from the audience, written on index cards, were read by the moderators, Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2 and Craig Hammerman of Community Board 6. How can that volume of traffic be accommodated--were any pedestrian counts done?

"They were all approved by the DOT [Department of Transportation], so they were responsible for doing the studies and determining that this is appropriate," responded Ashley Cotton, Forest City’s head of external affairs.

“You think five feet will be enough to accommodate arena patrons?” queried Prospect Heights resident Robert Puca incredulously, from the audience. "How is that possible?"

“Well, we believe it's possible, and so does DOT, and that's who approves it," Cotton replied.

“Ashley, you see what happens after games,” Puca responded, before he was quieted by the moderators for speaking out of turn.

(As Atlantic Yards Watch showed in a video, after a recent Nets game, crowds overflowed the Dean Street sidewalk and streamed into the street.)

Later, a question was raised: has any pedestrian count been taken after arena events?

“Not to my knowledge,” responded Marshall.

Perhaps, but there have been people with clipboards apparently counting monitoring pedestrians on Dean Street.

On video

[Note that the audio is out of sync--I will try to fix. Video shot by Jonathan Barkey.]


Adjustments coming

After the formal Q&A concluded, Cotton took the microphone. “Let's talk a little about sidewalks, and the crowds coming out of the arena,” she said. “To put it in a more human way, first of all, DOT says it's fine. We think it's going to be fine. But as you've seen over last two months, we adjust very well to arena occurrences."

“We're going to have look very closely at this, and get ready for a new model, and so we admit that,” she said. “We spend a lot of time with arena operations. They understand what's coming. We will monitor crowd control in a whole new way, with this adjustment. Clearly it's an adjustment. We don't want to pretend it's not.

DOT trying to cope

From the audience, DOT official Chris Hrones got up. “I don't know if I would use the word fine.” he said. “I think this is the best we can do. We worked closely with Forest City to try to get as much pedestrian space, to try to keep impacts off Flatbush Avenue. Five feet for construction is our minimum requirement. Would we have liked to have more? Absolutely... [but we] couldn't make it work.”

He said the arena is expected to pro-actively manage pedestrian flow. He noted that, for fire safety reasons, the Barclays Center can't keep the Dean Street entrance closed, so they’ll be “actively directing people to other entrances” to minimize the flow when they exit the building.

“I kept hearing DOT thinks it fine,” Hrones said, a little sheepishly. “I know what you're trying to say, but I just want to clarify, it's not our ideal, it does meet our minimum standards... but obviously, I can understand what people's concerns are, it's the best we can do... We're going to have to work as we go through it on measures that will help manage that pedestrian flow.”

Cotton said “we agree completely,” adding that “our partners in the police have been excellent... we understand your concerns and will monitor it," just as they've done in the past two months.

Truck routes

The modules, no greater than 50 feet wide and between 20 to 50 feet in length (and typically closer to 30 feet), will be shipped by truck during the day. Eight to 23 modules will be delivered between rush hours, taking a route from the Navy Yard to the site, down Flatbush Avenue.

One module will be delivered at night and stored overnight, so early morning crews can work on it. No night work is expected.

Sanna was a bit fuzzy on what happens to the trucks after the delivery. He first suggested that they could turn either right or left on Sixth Avenue to reach either Flatbush or Atlantic avenues. One of his colleagues corrected him, saying the only permissible route is a left on Sixth to Atlantic.

“That's a two-way street,” uttered Puca. "How can a truck possibly make a left turn?"

“We've done the truck turning radius, and it can be done,” responded Forest City executive Jane Marshall. “It's entirely possible to do.”

What about bike lane?

“Even with the [Dean Street] bike lane?” Puca asked. "What happens to the bike lane?"

“The bike lane is shared in the construction period with the drive lane,” Marshall responded.

"Is the bike lane on Dean maintained, or do cranes take up that space?" read Hammerman.

“It's maintained, but as a shared bike line,” Cotton added.

It will be only 12 feet wide.

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