Barclays Center traffic changes screwed Boerum Hill, residents say

Barclays Center traffic changes screwed Boerum Hill, residents say
Photo by Alice Proujansky

The city’s efforts to tinker with the traffic flow around the Barclays Center to reduce congestion near the under-construction arena have not only failed, area residents say — they’ve actually made things worse on Third Avenue in Boerum Hill.

The city started tinkering with the traffic lights on Third Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in August, when traffic on the stretch increased after changes were made to traffic flow to accommodate the coming Prospect Heights arena.

Residents said that the adjustments — including shunting Flatbush Avenue-bound Fourth Avenue traffic to Pacific Street or Third Avenue — has resulted in massive backups not only on Pacific Street, but all the way to State and Schermerhorn streets.

“In order to cross, you really have to weave in and out of traffic,” said Martha Kamber, the executive director of the YWCA on Third Avenue. “There’s also a lot of honking and cars regularly run red lights. It’s very messy.”

In hopes of a quick fix, the city increased the length of green lights and installed new left-turn signs on Third Avenue at Flatbush Avenue for drivers headed towards Downtown and the Manhattan Bridge.

“We will continue to monitor the area and address any concerns,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Monty Dean.

There may simply be nothing that the city can do, given the amout of traffic that is trying to get into and around Downtown.

The Atlantic Yards project’s environmental impact statement estimated that nearly 3,000 cars and 80 trucks will come and go from the site, mainly before and after basketball games. To accommodate them, traffic engineer Sam Schwartz devised the so-called “Fourth-to-Flatbush two-step,” closing Fourth Avenue north of Atlantic Avenue, and redirecting all of that Flatbush-bound traffic to Pacific Street or Third Avenue.

He argued that the changes would discourage arena-goers from driving to the Barclays Center, and reduce the perpetually clogged intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth avenues.

But Schwartz also warned that the changes would re-direct traffic up Third Avenue — and residents say that’s exactly what’s happened.

“As soon as they closed Fourth Avenue, all the cars started coming through here,” said Judie Stuart, who lives on Third Avenue. “Now it’s crazy.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.