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Pedestrians get a leg up Downtown

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Major changes are coming to one of the worst intersections in Brooklyn — changes that would give pedestrians a leg up on cars for the first time in years.

Pedestrians will soon have 31 traffic-free seconds, up from the current eight seconds, to cross the confusing and dangerous intersection of Atlantic, Fourth and Flatbush avenues — a big change that’s part of a larger plan to lighten vehicular traffic at the clogged corner that will soon be home to a glitzy new Long Island Rail Road terminal, and, perhaps, a basketball arena.

The traffic-calming measure, known as a “Barnes dance,” stops traffic in all directions at confusing intersections and allows pedestrians to range freely, a Transportation Department traffic engineer told Community Board 2 on Tuesday night.

The permanent changes will go into effect in the next few weeks. Other major changes include:

• Transforming Third Avenue to one-way northbound between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues — which would relieve congestion by giving drivers another way to get to Flatbush from points south.

• Eliminating the ability of drivers to enter Hanson Place from Flatbush or Fourth avenues — a key move that will allow pedestrians to easily stream out of the LIRR station and Atlantic Avenue subway hub and head towards Downtown.

The busy intersection sits at the head of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, where 19,000 sports fans may someday rush to the Nets basketball arena. Meanwhile, several other development projects are coming on line in the area.

“Clearly, it’s going to be a major area for pedestrians, and we want to be proactive,” said Chris Hrones, the Transportation Department’s Downtown coordinator.

“Pedestrian safety is tantamount, and in some cases we may have to sacrifice direct vehicle routes to keep pedestrians safe.”

Traffic engineers would also create a “greenstreets” pedestrian plaza at the now sealed off intersection of Hanson Place and South Oxford Street, near the intersection of Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

Some of the changes will eliminate head-on intersections in Fort Greene, which are dangerous for pedestrians and bikers who are susceptible to collisions with drivers at blind intersections.

The project all but eliminates the “Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step,” a plan buried deep within the state’s Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement that routed traffic through neighborhood streets. Drivers heading north on Fourth Avenue towards Flatbush Avenue would have been forced to turn right on Pacific Street and then left onto Flatbush.

A Transportation spokesman did not respond to questions about what happened to the alleged Atlantic Yards traffic fix.

Community members were largely in support of the pedestrian-friendly traffic changes.

“I think there’s certainly some good ideas,” said longtime Boerum Hill resident Bill Harris. “It’s good for them to be thinking about these issues.” “One thing we’re very aware about in Downtown Brooklyn is that pedestrian safety is tantamount, and in some cases we may have to sacrifice direct vehicle routes to keep pedestrians safe,” he said.

Traffic engineers would also create a “greenstreets” pedestrian plaza at the now sealed off intersection of Hanson Place and South Oxford Street, near the intersection of Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

Some of the changes will eliminate head-on intersections in Fort Greene, which are dangerous for pedestrians and bikers who are susceptible to collisions with drivers at blind intersections.

The project relates to the “Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step,” a plan buried deep within the state’s Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement that routed traffic through neighborhood streets. Drivers heading north on Fourth Avenue towards Flatbush Avenue would have been forced to turn right on Pacific Street and then left onto Flatbush.

A Transportation spokesman said that implimentation of the “Two Step” would take place if Atlantic Yards gets built.

Community members were largely in support of the pedestrian-friendly traffic changes.

“I think there’s certainly some good ideas,” said longtime Boerum Hill resident Bill Harris. “It’s good for them to be thinking about these issues.”

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Reader Feedback

Ace from New Utrecht says:
Excellent, I remember getting out at Atlantic/Pacific the day of the Antic and how frustrating it was crossing there.

An aside to NYC drivers by way of J.Tull: You know, you could slow down.
Oct. 23, 2008, 4:08 pm

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