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Danger zone! Getting to the new Pier 6 is no joyride

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When it comes to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s new Pier 6 playground, getting there is none of the fun.

The new mega-play area at the foot of Atlantic Avenue has been earning rave reviews for its water playground, swing area and even its “Slide Mountain” — but users say that walking or biking to the new amenity is a perilous journey fraught with danger at treacherous intersections and highway entrance ramps.

“It’s chaotic — especially with kids,” said Megan Moncrief, a nanny who was dodging cars on Monday afternoon at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Columbia Street, one block from the waterside Xanadu.

The area’s venerable civic group has quickly jumped on the call for the city to do something.

Judy Stanton, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association said she attended the Pier 6 ribbon-cutting earlier this month, and had a glorious time — up until it was time to go home.

“I walked back and thought, ‘Uh oh, this is scary!’” she recalled of her jaunt along Atlantic Avenue. “They will need to make it safer, and that is the Department of Transporta­tion’s job.”

Three approaches to the park have proved most vexing: Atlantic Avenue, Columbia Street and Pier 7.

• Approaching the pier along Atlantic Avenue is particularly formidable, as pedestrians must cross exit ramps to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, encountering eastbound vehicles on Atlantic turning left to get on the highway, along with right-turning cars and trucks.

And at the northern terminus of Columbia Street, a right-on-red signal that allows cars to turn east onto Atlantic is virtually ignored, as vehicles roll through what has now become a major crossing nexus.

With cars and trucks coming from every direction, park-users are befuddled.

“There are no yield signs anywhere,” said confused mom Kathryn Kempton. “It’s time to reassess the traffic pattern.”

• Taking Columbia Street is no walk in the park either.

On the west side, pedestrians must gingerly navigate a narrow two-way bike path without any protective barrier, a tight squeeze for a childless fun-seeker — and an impossible proposition for a parent with a stroller.

And cyclists aren’t immune to the poor planning either.

Hannah Miles said she was biking on her way from Red Hook to DUMBO, when she abruptly reached the end of the lane and headed into oncoming traffic on Furman Street, narrowly missing a car, but falling off her ride.

“The lane shouldn’t just stop like that,” she said. “I was expecting the bike lane to continue, and then I didn’t expect a car to come from Furman Street because there was a big ‘Do not enter’ sign there. It almost hit me!”

• And it’s no better to use the sidewalk that hugs Pier 7, whose entrance is on the south side of Atlantic Avenue, directly across from the playground. That’s because about a 100 trucks rumble in and out of the area each day from the Phoenix Beverage depot on the pier.

“At several places crossing over to the park entrance, children and adults are literally walking in between trucks and buses to hurriedly get to the park,” according to Judi Francis, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a group that opposes development inside the park.

“This is the fault of state planners for not listening to community suggestion for how to make it safer before it opened,” she added. “It’s irresponsi­ble.”

At one point, there had been talk of a pedestrian tunnel underneath the BQE, providing a safe passage to Pier 6, but Francis said, the idea was summarily ignored.

Brooklyn Bridge Park planners declined to comment, saying only that they are working on a solution.

In anticipation of the pier’s opening, the Department of Transportation did install a pedestrian signal across the BQE on-ramp on the north side of Atlantic Avenue west of Hicks Street. But not all crossings have traffic lights, and the existing lights offer precious little time to cross, according to one area mom too frazzled to give her name.

“Yeah, I was a little worried,” she said. “Let’s just say we ran across as fast as we could.”

Making matters worse, drivers are already dealing with a dangerous situation, as state transportation data reveals that the entrance and exit ramps between Columbia and Hicks have an astonishing 10 to 14 times the national average for accidents.

“The drivers aren’t used to the pedestrians,” noted park-user Ellen Martin.

By all accounts, it’s worth the hassle to get to the $55-million pier play area, with its cornucopia of child-themed attractions, including swings, jungle-gyms and water play zones.

And even more crowds are expected later this summer, as park developers say they will be adding a dog run, volleyball courts, a plant marsh and a restaurant.

— with Ben Kochman

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Reader Feedback

J from BK says:
"Taking Columbia Street is no walk in the park either. On the west side, pedestrians must gingerly navigate a narrow two-way bike path without any protective barrier, a tight squeeze for a childless fun-seeker — and an impossible proposition for a parent with a stroller."

Gary, did you actually go and see for yourself, or just listen to some complainer? The west side of Columbia Street is actually a wonderful off-street dual-lane multiuse path. If pedestrians didn't walk 4-abreast there, they might feel safer... For those unfamiliar with it, have a look at the Google Street view here: http://bit.ly/aVehcE
June 23, 2010, 8:16 am
J from BK says:
and btw, if that wonderful wide off-street path is an "impossible proposition for a parent with a stroller", methinks you need a smaller stroller!
June 23, 2010, 8:17 am
Mike says:
The best way to approach on foot or on bike seems to be along Joralemon Street. You can continue west on the extension of Joralemon west of the BQE, then follow the new waterfront promenade south to get to Pier 6. Smooth and easy.
June 23, 2010, 9:09 am
eliot from brooklyn says:
It's Car Lane War at Brooklyn Bridge Park!
June 23, 2010, 12:42 pm
Ursula Hahn from Concord Village says:
After walking along Atlantic Avenue to reach the Pier 6 playground on opening day, I quickly switched to Joralemon Street for all subsequent visits. Pedestrians from north of Atlantic Avenue are advised to use this shady street which also sports a lovely new neighborhood restaurant at the corner of Joralemon & Columbia Place (open for dinner only). Joralemon has a traffic signal at Furman, and the walk along the north side of One Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a magnificent view of Manhattan.
June 23, 2010, 4:19 pm
AO from BKLYN says:
Dose anyone know what the parking situation is down there? Is there any parking at all?
June 23, 2010, 4:52 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
very little parking....
June 23, 2010, 10:15 pm
karen says:
There is a QuikPark there- I parked there, really expensive- but there is tons of room.
Otherwise there are very little meter parking spots.
June 23, 2010, 10:27 pm
anneke berken from brooklyn heights says:
I have visited Pier 6 six times and Pier 1 more than that if last year's version counts. Some of these visits were with my friend Kathy who is in a wheelchair. On my very first visit to Pier 6 (opening day -scouting wheelchair accessibility- good as far as ramps are concerned, but limited as far as wheel chair access in the park itself) I realized that the access to it posed incredible danger, especially to families with children, because of having to cross the BQE access ramp when on the North side of Atlantic Ave and other traffic hazards when on the south side of Atlantic Avenue.

I called 311, I called the police precinct, I sent an e-mail to the Brooklyn Heights association, I posted messages in our coop building, etc. Judy Stanton did call me back a couple of days later and acknowledged, that she too, saw the danger.

I recommended to everyone I contacted that, temporarily, police barriers be put up at these dangerous crossings with warnings, so people would stay away from the cars/trucks almost touching the sidewalks, until the crossing light would come on.

Kathy and I were at pier 6 today. We scouted out a trip where eight to ten residents of the nursing home she resides in that is to take place next Friday would possibly be able to visit pier 6. Nothing has been done to change the dangerous access via Atlantic Ave . I am more worried about kids stepping into car traffic than adults.

We were at pier 1 last Saturday, but getting a wheelchair onto pier 1 while construction is going on is even more dangerous than the access for ambulatory people.

Anneke Berken
June 26, 2010, 6:56 pm

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