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New LIRR terminal is a monument to fear and paranoia

The Brooklyn Paper

Why bother having the terror trials in a courthouse when we could have them at the new Long Island Rail Road terminal?

After all, the new “Atlantic Terminal” rail station that opened officially on Tuesday is one of the most heavily armored facilities in the borough — ringed by no less than 14 mammoth concrete coffins that give the beautiful new facility the look of an outpost in the Green Zone.

The appalling capitulation to the so-called “realities” of the so-called “post–9-11 world” have turned architect John di Domenico’s inspirational portal into a bunker.

Train stations are supposed to be about magic and adventure, not paranoia and fear. They’re supposed to inspire Americans to explore and look beyond narrow parochialism, not encourage it.

Instead, we get a train station that’s a fortress — designed in a style that architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff calls “21st-century medievalism.” It’s not a landmark of civic design, to paraphrase Ouroussoff again, but a line of civic defense.

Of course, you don’t have to believe me, a man whose formal architectural training ended at Lego. Genuine architects are coming out of the wainscotting to slam what the LIRR did.

“Those coffins are unfortunate,” said designer Brendan Coburn. “[Other buildings] do this more sensitively using stone and stainless steel bollards.”

Fellow architect Hayes Slade said that di Domenico was obviously ordered back to the drawing board at some point during construction because the bollards are so grotesquely out of step with the rest of the design.

“Obviously, the original design did not consider a terrorist attack,” she said. “In fact, the entryway presents a particularly open face to the street, which is aimed at transparency and access.

“Our society is at an odd transitional moment regarding how we deal with considerations of potential terrorism versus safety, mobility, openness,” she added.

We may indeed be at a “transitional moment,” but it’s one that we’ve created.

Certainly, no New Yorker needs to be reminded of the horrible damage done to our city by terrorists, but when we destroy our own civic institutions, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
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Kathy from Caroll Gardens says:
It's about time, how long have we been waiting for the fear and paranoia monument to be built? First there was the discussion about where to put, then we had the issues of funding. I think finally we can thank Trent Barrow and Hadley Smith Washington from the long island building works comission and the city of new york monuments administration for completing this beautiful monument.
Now that we have it, we must begin to use it.
Jan. 6, 2010, 2:59 am
Allan from Park Slope says:
There's nothing conceptually wrong with having barriers. My regret is that, instead of Stonehenge, the designers should have used an LIRR train as the template. Maybe my seven- and four-year-old sons should have been consulted.
Jan. 6, 2010, 9:49 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
That location certainly needs barriers- to protect pedestrians from careening cars, which cause havoc daily. The arrogance and irresponsibility of city drivers knows no bounds, and until the NYPD stops looking the other way, this will continue. Taking a nationwide average, some double-digit number of people died in car accidents during that fateful flight from Amsterdam to Detroit- but no one is calling the carnage on our roads "terrorism".

Still, the barriers should be elegant and unobtrusive to anyone using the sidewalk.
Jan. 6, 2010, 10:19 am
Chuck from BH says:
So... they'll have these same ugly coffins up and down Atlantic and Flatbush once Atlantic Yards is built, too, right? 'Cause there ain't no security plan there, either.

That's Ratner's/Marty's vision for "traffic remediation," right?

sadtrombone.com
Jan. 6, 2010, 11:22 am
Ace from New Utrecht says:
Boris you are exactly right! That intersection is a nightmare for pedestrians. 30mph is the legal limit folks! You know, you could slow down.

Just once I'd like to see a driver pulled over for a moving violation in New York City.
Jan. 6, 2010, 1:25 pm
Christopher from Bushwick says:
The question is why did they go these extremes and why was it allowed to happen without any type of public comment? Apparently there is an issue of (or lack of) design considerations in zoning. Lots of cities -- London, DC, Tokyo -- deal with protecting buildings against terrorism without building stone caskets in front of their buildings. (At it's worst, DC at least has blockades as temporary planters that can be updated and removed as needed.)
Jan. 6, 2010, 3:39 pm
Vale from Kashmir says:
Perhaps the barrier designer wanted to echo the stone sculptures on the staircases inside the Atlantic/Pacific street subway station. Given the lack of public sculpture in Brooklyn (other than in Greenwood and other large cemeteries), the barriers just might become our icons. At least they're not flimsy like the new exteriors of the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden.
Jan. 6, 2010, 4:21 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
the coffins are a reality of the times.
what is not a reality of the times is the filty conditions of the mta transit walkways and steps and the general maintence of the place. what is the point of building all of these new facilities and not keeping them clean?
Jan. 6, 2010, 5:54 pm
Michael from Park Slope says:
We are slowly but surely becoming ludicrously imprisoned by our own security procedures. The like of half-baked checkpoints, flummoxing travel restrictions and, in this case, yet another bunglesome set of concrete "coffins" are more to our embarrassment than our security. We are looking more and more like a pack of wimpish and cowardly fools in the eyes of the world...especially in the eyes of our enemies. If we ever win the war on terrorism, it will be because we caused the terrorists to laugh themselves to death.
Jan. 6, 2010, 8:50 pm
sam from downtown says:
just wait til you see what they come up with to protect Barclays Center if ever built. it will make these tombs look like the Pyramids.
Jan. 6, 2010, 10:53 pm
Chris from Boerum Hill says:
These look like something out of Bedrock.

"I'm not cookin' no !@#$% brontosaurus burgers in this @#$%! This ain't the !@#$% Flintstones, Gus !"
Jan. 7, 2010, 11:44 am
sid from boerum hill says:
a sidewalk without planters and no place for trees? You know that this could have been made to look a lot better and still serve the need of being protective. Its too bad that this could not have been done better. public input surely would have helped....
Jan. 7, 2010, 12:30 pm
Marc Fink from Flatbush born and raised says:
Coffins? Perhaps someone was referencing Thomas Wolfe's short story Only The Dead Know Brooklyn.
Jan. 8, 2010, 9:07 am
FSRG from Downtown says:
Truly ridiculous - Sure you need bollards to protect the building from careening cars and terrorists but these granite sarcophagi are HORRIBLE.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE replace them with planters or something more attractive.
Jan. 8, 2010, 9:38 am
Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
The planters would have attracted garbage and vermin. The property owner would have to hire custodial help 24/7 to keep the coffee cups, soda cans, trash and those rats out of the planters. And that ain't gonna happen! You know how lazy people can be, especially if there isn't a trash container around.
Jan. 8, 2010, 12:37 pm
Aaron from Slope says:
Fantastic. We have successfully prevented Al Qaeda from driving a tank down Flatbush Avenue and ramming it into the front of the LIRR Terminal. I'm sure that this kind of attack is near the top of their target list.

Gersh: You've gotta stay on this story. Find out who at the MTA actually made this design decision. I seriously doubt that the architect actually wanted to put these here. Who decided that this was the proper security measure? Who has so little regard for the public realm that they put these here? This person needs to be fired immediately.
Jan. 8, 2010, 4:31 pm
reality from bay ridge says:
That location certainly needs barriers- to protect pedestrians from careening cars

True, but the barriers will do nothing to protect pedestrians from arrogant and irresponsible bike riders who will still be careening down the sidewalks in front of the terminals. Same attitudes, different modes of transportation.
Jan. 9, 2010, 11:33 am
Steve from Slope says:
Everything about this project was done with incompetent set to the maximum.
Jan. 13, 2010, 5:17 pm
dreamking from Fort Greene says:
The whole terminal design is crap. It's like someone used a fun mirror to take a refracted photo of an old train terminal foyer and went with that, but had their budget cut in half about 2/3 of the way in.

Try walking through it sometime. The completely predictable passenger egress flows are at odds with each other. They collide for no good reason. It's like it was almost intentional for it to have been screwed up this badly. The whole entrance makes no sense. Just stop for a few minutes to examine the entrances. The garish archways to the mall area are ugly and won't even be used. They missed a chance to make the ground section have a massive floor-to-ceiling stretch, but instead they put in this balcony outside the mall arches that look to me will never really be used by any large number of people. The narrow staircases to the surface level are intentionally made even narrower by a handrail divider.

What kills me is they put in all this money but the freakin' tiny elevator continues to operate excessively slow. Worse, the slightly bent door further slows the travel time; you can hear it scrape the inner elevator wall and delay door closings.

It was a terminal entrance that was designed to discourage use. Wonderful. I'm glad the NYPD's security job is easier because no one would want to bomb this spot. The bollards are just an afterthought of stupid, considering the vast traffic of the building go through the other, less-secure mall entrances. Most of the actual LIRR traffic doesn't even leave the building; the transfer from LIRR to subway would have been a better focus. Money spent to connect the terminal to the closest A/C train station would have been even more worthwhile.

I live in the area, and even for the passthrough LIRR traffic it's useless. It's certainly useless to local pedestrians. Maybe if there were also a bus terminal right outside or attached in some fashion it might make more sense, but there isn't.
Jan. 22, 2010, 12:39 pm
Steve from Bay Ridge says:
Im just happy they finally rebuilt the damn thing. I guess the coffins can be hauled away after the threat is finally killed.
Feb. 9, 2010, 11:03 am

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