Can Atlantic Ave Become a Great Street? DCP Will Study the Possibilities

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP
The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

Atlantic Avenue is one of the most prominent streets in Brooklyn, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The major thoroughfare, paralleled by the LIRR and a subway line just two blocks away, remains a barrier between neighborhoods, plagued by speeding traffic and lined with auto body shops. Can it become an urban street that welcomes people instead of repelling them? The Department of City Planning is going to look at the possibilities along 2.4 miles of Atlantic Avenue.

DOT made Atlantic the first arterial slow zone in the city to receive a 25 mph speed limit, and volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have adopted it as one of their advocacy priorities. Borough President Eric Adams imagines a completely revamped Atlantic Avenue with new development and pedestrian-friendly streets. “In ten years’ time we want to see a completely different Atlantic Avenue,” he told Streetsblog in April.

That effort is getting an assist from the Department of City Planning’s transportation division, which launched a study of Atlantic between Vanderbilt Avenue and Ralph Avenue. While it doesn’t cover the entire stretch to East New York and into Queens, these 2.4 miles includes key sections of Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights.

DCP kicked off its work with a visit to Community Board 8’s transportation committee last Tuesday. After giving a short presentation [PDF], planning staff divided attendees into groups. With large maps on each table, they asked residents to mark areas that could use improvement. DCP says it will eventually narrow its focus on specific intersections and recommend changes before wrapping the project next spring. Implementation and construction will be left to other agencies, including DOT.

Last month, CB 8 supported a DOT plan for Franklin Avenue that included a new turn restriction and expanded concrete pedestrian island at Atlantic Avenue. DOT says the new pedestrian space will be installed next year.

In 2012, CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Rob Witherwax drafted a memo to explore options for improving the area beneath the elevated LIRR viaduct [PDF], but it remains substantially the same today. “We need to devote some resources to ensuring that the north-south pedestrian movements across Atlantic are safe and efficient,” Witherwax said in an email. “And we need to figure out ways to encourage economic development along the east-west axis that benefits the community.”

This isn’t the first time the planning department has planned a makeover for a car-centric arterial: The redesign of Queens Plaza, which included a two-way bike path and more pedestrian space on the approach to the Queensboro Bridge, began with a DCP study.

DCP will be holding more meetings on the project, but has not announced a schedule. In the meantime, volunteers with Transportation Alternatives will continue their advocacy along Atlantic Avenue. Previous efforts for a safer Atlantic have gained traction west of Flatbush Avenue. With the city’s new study, advocates are shifting their focus to the rest of the street.

A couple weeks ago, volunteers walked the avenue in Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy to identify businesses and community organizations that could have a stake in a safer Atlantic. TA volunteers will be reaching out to local groups and conducting walking audits over the coming weeks to prepare for a community walk of Atlantic Avenue scheduled for August 16.

“We’re going to be in touch with [DCP] and giving them our feedback as we get it,” said TA volunteer Michelle Chai, who lives near Atlantic. “I imagine we’ll have a good amount of information for them by the end of the summer.”

This piece has been updated to more correctly describe the event scheduled for August 16.

  • Jeff

    I’ll put $50 on a handful of curb extensions, a few minimally-sized pedestrian refuge islands, and maybe a little picture of a bicycle with arrows.

  • Guest

    I hope we can be a little more long term than that 🙂

  • r

    And, perhaps, some magical configuration that adds parking.

  • BBnet3000

    Are they going to look at the parking mandates that have historically (and continue to though some have been reduced) drive new traffic into this sewer?

  • BBnet3000

    Sharrows that will wear off the road in 30 seconds flat because they put them where car tires go instead of in the center of the lane.

  • Andres Dee

    As long as people need service businesses (body shops, plumbers, etc.) our goal is not to eliminate or move them. We should make every street, Atlantic included safe and friendly for people on foot, while leave the businesses in place. There’s little to be gained shuffling them to another street.

  • AnoNYC

    There’s a lot to be gained. Move auto-centric businesses away from rapid transit.

    Imagine how much mixed use construction could be built along Atlantic Avenue?

  • Michael Klatsky

    I’m not sure if we can look at that sort of thing within this study.

  • Michael Klatsky

    Hopefully my team can do better then just that! 😉

  • LS

    Is there any method for community input in to this process?

  • Jake Stevens

    Why would we want to add parking?

  • Michael Klatsky

    Yes, we will be launching a website in the next month or so with background materials, insights, facts and maps. I hope those items can help everyone provide the most valuable input possible.

  • J

    Why not? If you want this to be a great street, why wouldn’t you want to reduce car traffic? Why wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to make housing more affordable? Isn’t that a major goal of the current mayor? Why tie your hands behind your back before you even get started?

  • J

    Doesn’t sound like it, if you can’t even CONSIDER changes to parking regulations on this transit heavy corridor.

  • Michael Klatsky

    The simple answer is this: The parking mandate regulations are not generally looked at within a neighborhood level transportation study. It would be looked at in a broader study, such as the Inner Ring Study http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/transportation/inner_ring.shtml or something similar.

  • J

    How will this study prioritize the following?:
    -Pedestrian safety
    -Pedestrian convenience
    -Bicycle safety
    -Bicycle convenience
    -Transit Access
    -Housing Affordability

    -Mixture of use
    -Automobile access

    Based on many previous studies, automobile access has always been the trump card that supersedes everything else, including safety and affordability. I really want this to change, but so far de Blasio has not actually done that much to actually change things.

  • Michael Klatsky

    What sort of parking regulations? minimum parking requirements? I think they will try to look at that

  • Michael Klatsky

    Don’t put both commercial vehicles and personal autos in the same category is what I would suggest.

  • J

    Great another Inner Ring Study. http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/01/23/dcp-inner-ring-parking-policy-report-de-blasio-department-of-city-planning-dcp/

    Sorry, but this study and subsequent actions were mediocre at best and did not heed the actual recommendations of many groups pushing for greater affordability and less traffic. So basically your answer is to punt.

    As a result, DCP will never actually deal with the issue of parking in a serious manner, despite all the progress evidence from other jurisdictions with dramatically less transit service and use.

  • J

    fair enough. but can we actually put pedestrian and bicycle safety/access above automobile access for once? Can we put freight movement above personal car movement? Can we prioritize the most efficient and accessible modes? Will this be burdened by an LOS analysis that inherently favors moving cars at the expense of all other modes?

  • Michael Klatsky

    I would think that is already happening in a city as progressive as ours.

  • Michael Klatsky

    Streetsblog was overly critical in my opinion. While the report stopped short of making any regulatory recommendations, it did a fairly good job of presenting the evidence for parking reform. Given the choice between having the study present that w/no reform vs. small reforms with a select few (approved) pieces of evidence, I would prefer the former.

  • J

    Great! Parking minimums should be examined based on market demand for parking, impact on affordability, etc. Curb space should be examined for locations where meters or loading zones could be implemented or where they’re not needed.

    Basically, when we make a plan for an area, shouldn’t the plan examine the area’s problems and describe a future that does its best to solve those problems?

  • J

    Given the progress on parking reform being made in other parts of the country (like, say Nashville) and the minuscule reforms made by DCP, I can’t see how someone could say with a straight face that DCP is showing leadership on this issue, and this failure is costing NYC affordable housing and creating unnecessary congestion.

    The ONLY place DCP has made any movement on actually changing parking reforms is in Downtown Brooklyn, which has a whopping 13 subways lines, and countless bus lines. Developers and the community were practically begging for the city to scrap the parking requirements. Despite all this, DCP still only made fairly minor changes, maintaining minimum requirements for parking in one of the most transit accessible and unaffordable places in the entire country.

    Please don’t tell me DCP is showing leadership on parking reform, because they’re not. They’re just not.

  • cityrat_wrangler

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