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Is a planted Atlantic Avenue median the latest design casualty at Atlantic Yards?

At today's Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting, Forest City Consultant Sam Schwartz presented the traffic mitigation plan to be implemented prior to the opening of the Barclays Center arena in September 2012. The plan presented by Mr. Schwartz consisted of the same mitigations included in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement prepared five years ago.

Well, almost. When asked about plantings on the raised median planned for Atlantic Avenue east of Flatbush, Forest City Ratner project manager Jane Marshall stated there would only be a poured concrete median. Ms. Marshall said that the existence of LIRR tracks beneath Atlantic Avenue made it impossible to include planting beds on the median. Councilmember Tish James pointed out that Park Avenue in Manahattan has railroad tracks running beneath it from Grand Central to north of 96th Street. Ms. Marshall quickly replied that the supports beneath Park Avenue were stronger.

A planted median certainly seemed possible at the time the EIS was issued. A rendering of Atlantic Avenue looking west from Sixth Avenue shows a row of shrubs and trees separating lanes of traffic on Atlantic Avenue. And an aerial landscape plan also shows trees on the median between Flatbush and Sixth.

Apart from some low shrub-like plants in the security bollards and on top of the planned subway entrance, the redesigned "interim" plaza doesn't have much green landscaping going for it. (Consider that landscape architect Laurie Olin, whose firm produced the renderings at to the left, left the project more than two years ago.) Enhancing the Atlantic Avenue streetscape with a planted median as originally intended could not only soften the impact of the arena, but could also serve as a more effective barrier to discourage pedestrians from crossing Atlantic Avenue mid-block, thereby improving pedestrian safety.