Eyes on the Street: A Smorgasburg of Traffic in Prospect Park [Updated]

Gridlock at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road as Smorgasburg drivers snake through Prospect Park. Photo: Stanley Greenberg
Smorgasburg traffic snaked out from the interior of the park across the loop road yesterday. Photo copyright Stanley Greenberg

Yesterday, popular food market Smorgasburg launched its first outpost in Prospect Park — and brought a traffic mess into what’s ostensibly a car-free park.

The food market, which features 100 vendors at Breeze Hill, used the park entrance at Lincoln Road for vehicle access. Event staff were on hand to direct motorists but were quickly overmatched, says reader Stanley Greenberg, who said there was actually a traffic jam in the park as the event wound down at around 6 p.m. yesterday.

A van driver attempts to turn around, using a Prospect Park sidewalk. Photo: Stanley Greenberg
A van driver attempts to turn around, using a Prospect Park sidewalk. Photo copyright Stanley Greenberg

A line of vans and cars snaked out of the park from Breeze Hill and clogged the crossing where Lincoln Road intersects with the park loop. Some drivers turned around after sitting in line, performing three-point turns and backing up onto sidewalks to exit the park, Greenberg said.

Looks like a relaxing spot for recreation. Photo: Stanley Greenberg
The late-afternoon scene. Photo copyright Stanley Greenberg

Smorgasburg moved to Prospect Park this month after three years in a fenced lot at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. That space, which has nearby street access to Furman Street, will soon become parkland.

Update 2:50 p.m.: Only vendors were allowed to drive into the park, said Prospect Park Alliance spokesperson Deborah Kirschner. Drivers were allowed between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. to set up before the market opened at 11 a.m., and then had to find their own parking outside the park. They were allowed to drive back into the park between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., after the market closed, to clean up and break down their tents.

“A majority of vendors arrived with a vehicle, although some arrived on bike and a few wheeled their goods into the park by foot,” Kirschner said in an email. “Overall, vendor load in and load out on our first day went smoothly, particularly given that it was the first event and vendors were familiarizing themselves with the route, although we understand there were congestion issues on Ocean Avenue, and this is something we will work to address for future Smorgasburg events.”

Smorgasburg estimates 5,000 people attended yesterday’s market, Kirschner said.

  • Jeff

    Are we questioning whether Prospect Park is an appropriate venue for this type of event? Or the way the motor vehicle traffic was managed? Or whether motor vehicles are necessary to this degree to service such an event? Or what?

    I didn’t attend myself. And I’ve only really happened upon Smorgasburg by accident in East River State Park. All I know is that the community board really hates it for some reason.

  • Mike

    While taking over part of the park for private commercial interests is not cool at all, this was significantly less terrible than the Great Googamooga.

  • So private, for-profit vendors are allowed in the park “only” for four hours during one of the day’s of the week when the park is most crowded. As someone who uses the park and saw this traffic problem on Sunday (and, for some reason, Saturday too), this angers me to no end.

    At no point did the Prospect Park Alliance hold any sort of public hearing or discussion on whether the park is appropriate for this kind of use, and the idea of bringing more cars into the park at this point in time is both anathema to the new car-free park initiative and dangerous to anyone using the park.

    At worst, the load-in hours should end before 8 a.m. At best, this isn’t a use of the park that should be encouraged or condoned. There are enough other spaces in the city for this kind of use. Must cars encroach into every element of outdoor life in the city?

    /end Kabak rant

  • Brooklyner

    I went to the park Sunday to rent one of the surrey bikes right near the ice/roller rink only to be told they couldn’t rent one to me because the some of the biking paths were not accessible. So a fun excursion with my kid was ruined.

    The reason for the lack of access was an “event” that was blocking the paths.
    It is more than annoying. It’s private interests taking over a public asset. And, while I have been a contributor to the Prospect Park Alliance in the past, I don’t give money anymore because I think their mission is off base.

    The Alliance would say all the money they raise goes to benefit the park. Well, Sunday the entrance to the park near the rink was so full of litter you wonder of anyone ever picks up trash there. So where’s the Alliance?

  • On a fairly unrelated note, can someone tell me if a 5000 person turnout is good or bad for this type of event in NYC. In my small town of only 200k, in my local neighbourhood corn festival (which is a local event, not a big city event), we see 3000 visitors. 5000 for an NYC event in a major city park seems miniscule.

  • Chole

    Dan, it’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison you’re making. Smorgasburg isn’t an annual event, it’s a twice a week pop-up that happens all year long.

  • Ahh, I missed the part where it was twice a week. That’s extremely frequent to have your park full of cars like that.

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