Block buster! State moves to close roads around Yards arena

Block buster! State moves to close roads around Yards arena
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown

The construction of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards will enter a new phase next month when three major streets are permanently wiped off the New York City grid to accommodate the developer’s basketball arena.

State officials announced on Monday that Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, plus two adjacent blocks of Pacific Street, will be closed starting on Feb. 1 to accommodate construction.

The streets will not reopen if the arena is built.

And the same announcement revealed that the Carlton Avenue bridge, which was closed almost exactly one year ago, will not reopen in January, 2011, but in April, 2012.

The controversial street de-mapping has long been a part of the proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development, but the announcement of the closures of Fifth Avenue, plus Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues, were criticized as premature by project opponents.

“They’re taking the streets prematurely,” said Dan Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “We’ll be challenging that [street seizure], which is part of [the state’s use of] eminent domain.”

Since leaping one of the last remaining major legal hurdles in late November, Ratner has moved forward with his project far more rapidly than a Nets fast-break. And in December, he sold $511 million in tax-free bonds — roughly half the money needed for the arena.

Ratner also installed “Future home of the Barclays Center” signs around that time. The street closures indicate that the pace of construction will likely intensify.

Still, the proposed traffic changes are relatively minor compared to the “Fourth to Flatbush two-step” that will close Fourth Avenue north of Atlantic Avenue. In the proposed traffic model, Downtown-bound drivers on Fourth Avenue will be forced to turn right on Pacific Street and then left on Flatbush Avenue to continue their journey.

What is more concerning for some Prospect Heights residents is that the longer build time at the Carlton Avenue bridge. As the Atlantic Yards Report revealed on Wednesday, the new delay is the result of a slower build-out plan by Ratner — longer than disclosed in the project’s final Environmental Impact Statement. The change in plans is permissible under Ratner’s contract with the state if it is the result of an “unavoidable delay.”

A spokesman from the Empire State Development Corporation, the quasi-public state agency overseeing the mega-project, could not be reached before The Brooklyn Paper’s eminent online deadline.

The state has announced that permanent road closures around the Atlantic Yards project — such as Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — will begin on Feb. 1.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler