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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Looking at southeast block parking: potential bottleneck at single Dean Street garage entrance for 758 cars, and 5 cars/minute (?) at peak hour

This is the third of eight posts regarding the 1/28/20 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting. The first regarded delays in B12/B13, the platform, and Site 5. The second concerned progress at B4, B15, and the railyard. The fourth concerned impacts from Barclays Center operations. The fifth concerned the Community Liaison Office, and impacts from workers. The sixth concerned the next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting. The seventh concerned questions for the Department of Transportation. The eighth concerned DEP digging.

Block 1129 garages, Reduced Parking Alternative;
Saturday 1-2 pm pre-game; 910 total spaces
The issue of parking on Block 1129, the southeast block of the 22-acre site, first raised at the previous Quality of Life meeting last November, remains confounding.

The bottom line: though the state studied the impact of far more cars using a three-entrance parking garage on the block, it never studied the impact of a larger number of cars--on a per-entrance basis--now destined to use the currently planned single garage entrance.

Moreover, according to 2014 state documents, when the Reduced Parking Alternative included 910 parking spaces on the block via three entrances, there would be a cumulative total of 357 cars in, 227 cars out during the Saturday 1-2 pm pregame hour.

What about now?

The number of spaces on that block has been further cut from 910 to 758, or 16.7%. So simple extrapolation implies 297 cars (5 cars/minute) coming in, and 189 cars (nearly 4 cars/minute) exiting from the single entrance on Dean Street east of Carlton Avenue, at the 535 Carlton (B14) tower.

Those totals are far larger than those estimated for any single entrance in 2014, as explained below, even before the parking on that block was reduced from 1,846 spaces to 910 spaces. And if those totals are met, you better bet that garage works perfectly to process incoming and exiting vehicles.

My analysis is hardly definitive, but it does point to lingering questions about a potential bottleneck, especially since the single entrance, which currently serves 303 spaces, has already experienced delays, according to neighbors.

Keep in mind that what was studied in 2006, or even when the project was reassessed in 2014, doesn't necessarily reflect today's reality. Double-parking street by the U.S. Postal Service, or others making drop-offs, congests narrow Dean Street.

Note that, while a Brooklyn Nets game, given the likelihood of 15,000-plus attendees, was assessed as drawing the largest crowds, experience shows it does not necessarily provoke the most congestion: basketball fans are more attuned to public transportation, while concerts (like Barbra Streisand) that attract older audiences and family shows (like Disney On Ice) that draw children are more likely to bring vehicles, whether for parking or for drop-off.

The back story

535 Carlton: one parking entrance for 758 spaces
Yes, the numbers are confusing.

As of last year, the number of parking spaces on Block 1129 had been reduced to 693, part of a reduction in overall project parking from 1,200 spaces (approved in 2014) to 1,000 spaces.

But that number didn't hold.

In November 2019, we learned there'd be 758 spaces on that block, once an additional 455 spaces would be under the B12 and B13 sites.

Contra previous information, those space would be served by that single Dean Street entrance.

At this week's meeting, Dean Street resident Peter Krashes, citing my coverage, said that "seems to exceed" what Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing the project, had previously studied.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, ESD's Atlantic Yards project director, didn't quite answer.

2014 parking plan, including B11
"The previous parking key," she said, "had a parking exit from 550 Vanderbilt [B11], and there isn't even a parking lot from 550." (It had three entrances to a garage purportedly beneath all four buildings on that block, as shown in the image at left, with 550 Vanderbilt marked with an arrow.)

Indeed, that's true, but the decision to exclude parking under 550 Vanderbilt was made after 2014 project changes were approved by ESD.

In other words, they never told us that B11 wouldn't have parking.

"There might have been an exit that was placed between [B]12 and 13, but that parking key was illustrative," Jaiyesimi said, using a magic word that excuses contradictory information. "And when the B14 [535 Carlton] garage was opened, the understanding at that time was that that would serve as the entrance and exit for all the Block 1129 parking garage."

That was new to me and, I suspect, most people in the room. That "understanding," as far as I know, had never been shared with the public. Nor was any updated map of garage entrances circulated.

The state's analysis, broken down

Jaiyesimi stressed the that overall number of parking spaces on the block had been cut, while the impact of the earlier number of spaces had been analyzed as part of the project's extensive environmental review. "So I don't think it's accurate to present it as now what's being built there is higher than what was previously studied," she said.

Well, not exactly, if you break it down.

As I wrote last November, the original 2006 parking configuration on Block 1129 was 1,970 spaces (of a total of 3,670 project spaces), with three entrances, so 657 spaces per entrance.

That plan, below, had three entrances on Block 1129. It also had two entrances on Block 1120 (the western block over the railyard), and at the B3, B15, and Site 5 towers.
2006 parking plan
That plan didn't last. As part of a project reassessment in 2014, a configuration with 2,896 parking spaces was proposed, with 1,846 spaces on Block 1129, via three entrances. See below. That plan, below had one (not two) entrances on Block 1120, the railyard block, and again at the B3, B15, and Site 5 towers.
2014 initial parking plan
The Reduced Parking Alternative proposed and approved in 2014 meant a total of 1,200 parking spaces overall, with 910 on Block 1129.  That plan, below, omitted parking on Block 1120 and at the B15 tower, but included parking at the B3 and Site 5.

Even then, however, the parking key indicated three entrances on Block 1129.
2014 Reduced Parking Alternative plan
The additional cut

Then the parking was cut to 1,000 spaces overall, with a purported 693 spaces on Block 1129 and, tellingly, no indication of the garage entrances.

Only later did we learn about the single entrance, at 535 Carlton.

Doing the math

With the original 1,970 spaces on the block, and three entrances, that averaged 657 spaces per entrance.

That's not much less than the 693 spaces indicated last year for Block 1129, but 13% less than the currently planned 758 spaces.

Either way, they never studied the impact of any entrance with that potential volume of cars.

Traffic volume?

Block 1129 garages, 2014 assessment;
Saturday 1-2 pm pre-game; 1,846 total spaces
At the meeting, Krashes said appendices in past state studies addressed the traffic on the street. Jaiyesimi said she'd follow up and send them.

Actually, key appendices to the 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Statement are available online.

Consider Appendix C, regarding Operational Transportation. It contains the page (next to last in the document) I've excerpted at right, regarding the expected Saturday 1-2 pm pregame traffic, before the parking was cut on that block.

As my annotations indicate, the volume for the three parking entrances, with 1,846 spaces, seems to be:
  • B14 (green): 29 cars in, 75 cars out
  • B13 (blue): 191 cars in, 104 cars out
  • B11 (red): 188 cars in, 106 cars out
Total: 408 cars in, 285 cars out.
Block 1129 garages, Reduced Parking Alternative;
Saturday 1-2 pm pre-game; 910 total spaces

For Appendix E, regarding the Reduced Parking Alternative, I annotated the same Saturday time period, from page 20.

As my annotations indicate, the volume for the three parking entrances, with 910 spaces, seems to be:
  • B14 (green): 26 cars in, 58 cars out
  • B13 (blue): 171 cars in, 84 cars out
  • B11 (red): 160 cars in, 85 cars out

Total: 357 cars in, 227 cars out.

That's a rather modest reduction in cars, given that the number of parking spaces was cut by more than half. Notably, that Dean Street entrance was expected to have a modest decline of 20 cars in and 20 cars out.

As calculated above, given that the number of spaces on that block has been further cut from 910 to 758, or 16.7%, that implies 297 cars coming in, and 189 cars exiting, from the single portal at Dean Street near Carlton Avenue.

Of course this is partly guesswork. Any current estimate would have to account for other factors, such as the magnet of the field house and fitness center coming on that block, under B12 and B13, or cultural changes that lead to less driving and more biking.

But the bottom line is: we don't know.

Fewer spaces at Site 5?

I had suggested that the increase in spaces at Block 1129 would decrease the number of spaces to be built above ground at Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's, and slated for a huge two-tower project.

Krashes asked if there been any request from master developer Greenland USA to reduce the number of parking spaces there.

"No, we haven’t discussed that with ESD," Greenland's Scott Solish said.

Is an amendment needed?

I noted that, in the 2019 amendments to the Modified General Project Plan, the text related to parking states that there will be 693 spaces on Block 1129, without referencing a minimum or a maximum, or using weasel words like "approximately."

Given the 758 spaces now planned, I asked, shouldn't ESD modify the Modified General Project Plan again?

Jaiyesimi offered an example: if there were only 690 spaces, the developer wouldn't be meeting requirements. "They’re meeting the project requirement for the parking spaces," she said.

I asked--snarky question--if the word "minimum" was written in invisible ink, given that the text seems pretty clear. Jaiyesimi said she didn't think there was any need for modification, "but I will follow up."

Indeed, as I wrote in November, ESD already said that "the developer would meet (and exceed) that requirement," but that didn't make sense.

This may seem like a minor matter, but it points to a bigger issue of credibility, as well as future leeway for the developer.

After all, other language in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan is more hedged: "The Project will generate at least 2,250 units of affordable housing" or "the Project would include approximately 5,325 to 6,430 residential units."

Meanwhile, the square footage and height of buildings has been expressed as a maximum.

Of course if they need an amendment to be passed by the rubber-stamp-y ESD board, it first would have to go through the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which could raise some pesky questions.

Below, just for reference, the original 2006 assessment.