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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Parking garages on project's southeast block were once to have three entrances. Now one entrance to serve 693 (or 758?) spaces. Accommodates Chelsea Piers?

This is the third of ten articles on the 11/19/19 Quality of Life meeting, which focused on the new B12 and B13 towers. The first concerned plans to finally move forward with Site 5. The second concerned the timing of the platform over the railyard. The fourth concerned the design of the new towers. The fifth concerned open space plans on that southeast block. The sixth concerned B4, Times Plaza, and the railyard. The seventh concerned art on the Dean Street construction fence. The eighth concerned recent traffic chaos around Disney on Ice. The ninth concerned the Pacific Park Conservancy. The tenth concerned the Pacific Park Owners Association.

Update 5:25 pm 11/22/19: Empire State Development says the portrayal of the three parking entrances "was illustrative, not definite." That doesn't answer why, when the parking was reduced slightly earlier this year, the change was not disclosed.

ESD also says the the project "requires at least 390 parking spaces at B12 and B13. By delivering a total of 455 parking spaces, the developer would meet (and exceed) that requirement." That's poppycock. The new total of 758 spaces contrasts with the definitive statement that the project will have 693 spaces on that block. My guess: this helps the Site 5 project. See more here.

535 Carlton: one parking entrance for 693 (or 758) spaces
There was much interesting in the presentation by the architect and landscape architect behind the paired B12 (615 Dean) and B13 (595 Dean) towers--which I'll discuss in the future. And others published, without question, some pleasant images.

Unacknowledged at the meeting, however, was a change in the parking configuration on the project's southeast block. That change might have generated debate had developer TF Cornerstone and project overseer/enabler Empire State Development shared information before the meeting.

The large parking garage on that block, approved at 693 spaces but curiously cited at the meeting as 758 spaces, will have just one entrance and exit. That fairly narrow passageway, with two lanes in and one lane out, sits slightly east of Carlton Avenue along narrow Dean Street in the 535 Carlton tower. Currently containing 303 spaces, it has already generated delays and honking, neighbors say.

Single entrance to Block 1129 parking garage
That configuration changes from a previously planned three entrances, for a somewhat larger garage, with 910 spaces. It seems aimed to accommodate the installation of a large fitness center and field house from Chelsea Piers at the ground-floor level of the two new towers, mid-block along Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

Previous plans

Previously, when the project as a whole was to contain 1,200 spaces--a reduction from the original 3,670 spaces-- the four-tower southeast block was to contain 910 spaces.

They were to be below all four towers on the block, as shown in the screenshot below, from the 2014 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. There were to be three separate entrances for vehicles: along Carlton Avenue, Dean Street, and Vanderbilt Avenue, as indicated by the black triangles.

From 2014 Final Supplemental EIS;
 added arrow points to 550 Vanderbilt
However, as indicated with the red arrow, no parking was built at the 550 Vanderbilt condo building, presumably reducing the space for parking on that block by about 25%.

This year, Empire State Development approved a reduction in 200 spaces in the project overall, claiming dubiously that the parking reduction overall in the project since 2006 easily accommodated the addition of 96,000 new below-ground square feet for Chelsea Piers.

That involves 67 spaces on the arena block, at B3 (38 Sixth), 240 spaces planned at Site 5, and 693 spaces on Block 1129, of which 303 spaces are already available. The new parking diagram, below, did not include a discussion of the entrances to the parking garages.

There was no mention that the cut in 200 spaces from the previous overall configuration, or 217 spaces on Block 1129, represented an overall reduction of just 40,000 square feet or 43,400 square feet, respectively.

(The original configuration, studied in 2006, was 1,970 spaces, with three entrances. Arguably, there's not too many more units per entrance planned. But we now know how congested that corner can already get.)

As I wrote, a decision to modify parking on that southeast block was made in 2014, when 550 Vanderbilt was built without parking, and the new plan seems to relate significantly to that choice, rather than a post-hoc analysis of parking usage.

The current parking plan

Now, as shown in the TF Cornerstone slide below prepared by Handel Architects, the entrance to all parking on that southeast block will be from 535 Carlton (B14), as the garage can be expanded underground. The ground floor space at B12 and B13 will be devoted to retail, Chelsea Piers, and necessary lobby and BOH (back of house) space. That leaves less room for a parking entrance.

TF Cornerstone: design by Handel Architects
As shown in the slide below, the parking will stretch underground below the Chelsea Piers space well down the block, with a larger amount of space directly below 535 Carlton, which has parking below ground not competing with other uses.

TF Cornerstone/Handel Architects: Parking at bottom in gray; Chelsea Piers space in pink
Note that the image above says 455 spaces. It was also mentioned by the presenters, and not contradicted by a representative of master developer Greenland Forest City Partners nor Empire State Developer. However, 455 + 303 = 758 spaces, not the 693 approved. (See above.)

The image below, showing elevations along the block, also indicates the competition for street-level use. The 550 Vanderbilt condo at right has space for expensive maisonettes at the ground floor.

TF Cornerstone/Handel Architects: street-level use will be busy at B12/B13
Looking at the bigger picture

As I've written, the ESD argument was essentially that, since the new facilities--96,000 square feet below-ground, plus 9,000 square feet at street level--would generate less traffic than anticipated and studied in the 2006 iteration of the project, which had far more parking, no further environmental review was necessary.

The failure to assess, or even share, that the previous configurations would change from three entrances to one strikes me as unwise.

And while there's an argument for less and less parking in areas with good public transit, there's a logic for some parking associated with this project. For certain events, the Barclays Center generates significant vehicular traffic, with many drivers searching for free on-street parking (an argument for residential parking permits), and others idling or standing illegally.

The 1,000 spaces were assessed by the state as 676 for residential parking (6,430 apartments), 300 for arena visitors, and 24 for the New York Police Department, or NYPD. On some nights, there should be far more demand than 300 spaces for event-goers, but other garages may be closer and/or more convenient.

Will the cops choose the garage?

Dean Street entrance not far from Carlton Avenue
The 535 Carlton garage is supposed to provide 24 spaces for New York Police Department personnel, thus encouraging them not to park on the already congested streets (and sidewalks) near the 78th Precinct at Sixth Avenue and Bergen Street.

They haven't taken it up, with various secondhand reports that the distance, one long block away, is a deterrent.

Surely the increased chance of congestion getting in and out of that garage will be no further enticement.

Improvement, and assessment?

At the meeting, several people brought up the fact that streets are already congested in Prospect Heights, with narrow Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues facing double-parking from U.S. Postal Service vehicles.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, Atlantic Yards Project Director for Empire State Development, noted that a traffic study is required after the project hits 1,500 residential units, which should be triggered "in 2020 or 2021."

(I think that's more likely 2021 or 2022, given that 1,242 units have been built and the B4 and B15 towers likely won't open until 2022. That said, it's possible lower floors might open earlier.)

I noted neighbors' previous concerns about congestion at the 303-space garage, and asked how that was being factored into the new plans.

The already-established entrance, Jaiyesimi said, "is what’s there," but she said they'll "be sure to impress upon the garage operator" the need to better respond to the situation.

Update: no answer

Update: the Brooklyn Paper followed up, noting residents' vocal concerns about congestion, adding this: "A spokesman for the state agency did not respond to a request for comment asking why the number of parking garage entrances was scaled back."

Of course, had the presentation been shared beforehand, the issue might have been discussed at the meeting.


  1. Anonymous12:47 PM

    Would be awesome if they eliminated all parking from the project. I can't understand why we continue to build for the past.


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