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

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

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