City wants to make Atlantic Avenue more ‘pedestrian friendly’

City wants to make Atlantic Avenue more ‘pedestrian friendly’
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city is planning a major overhaul of the base of Atlantic Avenue — where pedestrians have been playing a game of “Frogger” since Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 opened last year — and it looks like the pedestrians have won.

The Department of Transportation’s plan — to be built out later this summer — will dedicate much less roadway to cars and much more space to pedestrians and bicyclists.

At Atlantic Avenue and Furman Street, the eastbound and westbound lanes will be reduced from 40 feet wide to 20 feet. Two northbound lanes on Columbia Street, about 15 feet each, will be shaved down to 12 feet to make room for foot traffic.

Here’s a breakdown:

• The city will create an expanded sidewalk and two-way bike path at Columbia Street, between Atlantic Avenue and the BQE entrance. Barriers will separate car lanes and the bikeway, which will replace one lane of southbound traffic on Columbia Street.

• One lane of traffic on the south side of Atlantic Avenue across from Furman Street will be replaced with a pedestrian plaza giving parkgoers stuck walking along the Pier 7 fence more room to navigate.

• A new crosswalk will be created at Atlantic Ave and the park entrance and a pedestrian island will be built in the middle of Atlantic Avenue, between Columbia and Furman streets.

• A bolder “no right turn on red” sign will be built on the north side of Atlantic Avenue at the BQE on-ramp.

The B63 bus will also no longer make a U-turn at the base of Atlantic Avenue and instead be rerouted onto park roadways, city officials said.

Since the southern leg of Brooklyn Bridge opened last summer, visitors have crossed heavy traffic from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to reach it, whether they’re coming from Atlantic Avenue or Columbia Street.

“The park is great, but it’s dangerous to get there,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill). “This plan is going to make it much safer and more comfortable to walk to.”

The city announced its plans after about 500 Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights residents signed a petition this spring demanding a fix to the dangerous crossings.

Locals have rallied for a safer gateway since last June, when Pier 6 opened and brought massive pedestrian traffic to an area that hardly had footfall before.

Day-trippers flock to Pier 6 for its mega-playground, volleyball courts, and rooftop gourmet concessions.

But getting there has been an odyssey of harrowing proportions, with people hoofing it past on-ramps to the BQE, sharing narrow sidewalks with cyclists, and dodging trucks leaving Pier 7.

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, welcomed the changes.

“The new roadway and sidewalk geometry recognizes the new usage patterns by pedestrians, cars and bicyclists, and helps to rationalize these movements for greater safety and ease,” Myer said.

The Department of Transportation made minor improvements last year, after a public outcry over the precarious traffic.

Those upgrades included a “stop here on red” sign on Atlantic Avenue at the east-bound approach to the BQE on-ramp and a “turning vehicles yield to pedestrians” sign.

The latest plans will drastically reduce the size of car lanes on Atlantic Avenue and Columbia Street, but supporters predict that it won’t effect drivers much.

“A year-and-a-half ago, you had almost no pedestrian traffic, and now you have massive amounts of it,” Lander said. “It’s appropriate to slow down the cars a little bit.”

The new Atlantic Avenue plans were announced on the heels of another street makeover along Brooklyn Bridge Park. At the park’s Pier 1 on Old Fulton Street, the city has proposed building a pedestrian plaza and landscaped medians to make a friendlier gateway to the waterfront — and to boot tour buses from illegally parking on the street.

Community Board 6 will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss the traffic plan at Long Island College Hospital [339 Hicks St. between Pacific and Atlantic avenues in Cobble Hill, (718) 643-3027], 6:30 pm.