Eyes on the Street: At Knickerbocker Ave. Station, No Such Thing as TOD

With the Knickerbocker Avenue subway station visible in the background, this land is being used for a single-story building and a surface parking lot. The sidewalk, meanwhile, is blocked by federal employees headed to the armed forces recruitment center. Photo: Christopher Taylor Edwards.

This isn’t what transit-oriented development is supposed to look like.

Reader Christopher Taylor Edwards sent us these photos from two blocks of Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick. Immediately adjacent to the M train, suburban-style development  — complete with single-story buildings, drive-throughs and underutilized parking lots — marks the end of a vibrant commercial corridor.

One block down Knickerbocker from the subway is a single-story strip mall with a surface parking lot between the sidewalk and the door. The biggest tenant is a cell phone store, but for pedestrians headed to the subway, the most important might be the Armed Forces Career Center, which regularly hosts a fleet of government cars parked illegally on the sidewalk. Reported Edwards: “The cars parked on the sidewalk is a once a month or more occurrence. They are federally tagged cars generally or from Virginia and Maryland. No one is ever ticketed.”

This Burger King features a drive-through and surface parking lot, despite its location adjacent to a subway station. Photo: Christopher Taylor Edwards.

Directly underneath the Knickerbocker station sits a one-story Burger King. Behind the restaurant’s drive-through, which requires curb cuts on two sides of the intersection, sits a large surface parking lot. According to Edwards, the Burger King lot almost always sits empty.

Zoning may not be the chief culprit here. Head a block west along Knickerbocker, or follow the elevated subway tracks along Myrtle, and you’ll find vibrant commercial corridors with stores facing the sidewalk, not a parking lot. Even so, this seems like a location crying out for an intervention from New York City’s planners and economic development officials.

  • dporpentine

    Someone send this to Christopher Gray. In the comments for that Times piece:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/realestate/streetscapes-the-pedestrian-loses-the-way.html
    He claimed he’d never seen a car on the sidewalk.

  • SoBronx Resident

    I saw a car driving down the sidewalk yesterday at 150th Street and Cedar Lane in the Bronx. Physically driving along the sidewalk, not just parking or accessing a garage. My first thought was that I wished Christopher Gray was there to see it.

  • How much of this might have to do with the elevated nature of the tracks?  Seems natural to me (and I believe there’s research to back me up) that elevated structures, whether freeways or subways, would lead to dead space beneath.  Bad development next to this station is probably a function of elevated-track-induced urban rot.

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