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Arena block sidewalks proposed to be narrower than analyzed in 2006 environmental review

FCR bollard plan

In July, Forest City Ratner submitted to the NYC Department of Transportation plans to install 206 bollards on the sidewalks surrounding the Barclays Center arena. The plans appear to mirror the renderings of Barclays Center submitted by ESDC in December 2010 with its response to a State Supreme Court remand order. However, the plans reveal for the first time that several sidewalks surrounding the arena, including one in front of an arena entrance on Dean Street, will have narrower effective widths than were analyzed for the 2006 environmental impact statement under which the project was approved.

"Effective width" refers to the portion of the sidewalk used by pedestrians for travel after a buffer zone (or "shy distance") on each side of the sidewalk is subtracted from its design width. A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation describes the shy distance as two feet on each side of the sidewalk.

According to the FCR plans, among the sidewalks other than those next to the pedestrian plaza in front of Barclays Center, three of four have narrower effective widths than were analyzed in the project's 2006 environmental impact statement. (The 2006 figures below are from tables 13-10 and 13-30 in FEIS Chapter 13. The proposed effective widths were calculated by subtracting a shy distance of four feet from the minimum design width for each sidewalk as shown on the FCR plans.)

Effective widths of arena block sidewalks (ft)
  2006 EIS existing 2006 EIS analyzed 2011 FCR proposed
Atlantic Av btwn Ft Greene Pl & S Portland Av - south 7.5 13.5 5.5
Dean St btwn Flatbush & 6th Av - north 11.5 11.5 9.0
6th Av btwn Atlantic Av & Pacific St - west 7.0 8.5 7.0
6th Av btwn Pacific St & Dean St - west 11.5 8.5 17.0

 

The sidewalk along the south side of Atlantic Avenue east of the arena entrance has very narrow effective width in order to accomodate the site for Building 4 and a protective security wall and fence. The effective width of 5.5 feet is only 40% of the 13.5 feet anticipated in the 2006 FEIS, and is barely more than the U.S. DOT suggests for a sidewalk bordering a residential street. This sidewalk will presumably be traveled by large groups of arena patrons leaving the Atlantic Avenue exit en route to arena parking to the east, and borders busy Atlantic Avenue. No bollards are shown to be installed along this section of sidewalk.

On the other hand, due to the location of bicycle parking and "interim" public open space, the sidewalk on the west side of 6th Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets has an effective width nearly twice that analyzed in 2006.

The FCR plans also highlight a potential challenge for cyclists traveling to arena events. Cyclists coming from the west and desiring to park in the arena bicycle lot would presumably travel on Dean Street in the bicycle lane. Because the bicycle lane separates the lay-by lane in front of the Dean Street arena entrance from the roadway, cyclists on their way to the bike lot will need to stay alert while dodging cars dropping off arena patrons. (The bike lane and lot are shaded in green in the plan excerpt below.)

The narrowing of the sidewalks and contention between the lay-by lane and bike lane on Dean Street resulted from modifications to the Atlantic Yards project plan that were approved by ESDC in 2009 without environmental study. The lack of a supplemental environmental impact statement for the 2009 Modified General Project Plan prompted a lawsuit by community organizations, local residents and elected officials. In July 2011, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the community, and ordered ESDC to prepare an SEIS. ESDC has not yet said if it intends to appeal the ruling.

The FCR bollard plans can be downloaded here (9MB PDF file). DOT is accepting comments on the plans through Thursday, August 25 Thursday, September 22 by email to Emma Berenblit at eberenblit@dot.nyc.gov.