Ikea hires 17 cops to handle Red Hook traffic

Ikea hires 17 cops to handle Red Hook traffic
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

Ikea is so concerned about traffic after its opening in Red Hook on Wednesday, June 18, that the Swedish furniture giant will pay the NYPD to deploy 17 uniformed cops to keep cars flowing through the summer, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Renting more than a dozen of New York’s Finest is part of Ikea’s multi-pronged approach to dealing with the thousands of shoppers every weekday, and the estimated 17,000 customers each weekend day. Its plans also entail free ferry and subway shuttle service to Borough Hall and Smith–Ninth Street — but these forms of transportation may not appeal to shoppers lugging home cumbersome furniture (or stockpiling Swedish meatballs).

For drivers, Ikea has paid the city to put up new signs on highways and local roads directing drivers to and from the Beard Street mega-store. Clinton Street will be the main artery for drivers to reach the 22-acre waterfront store — Ikea’s first in the city.

The anticipated increase in traffic in what has been a remote neighborhood was one of the chief arguments levied by critics six years ago against permitting the store to open.

But Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper, the commanding officer of the 76th Precinct, which covers Red Hook, has heard these unfulfilled hypotheses before, like when the city opened a cruise ship terminal off of Imlay Street in 2006.

“Every time that a ship is in, we have thousands of cars in and out of Red Hook,” Kemper said, adding that the additional traffic is not a big deal.

But cruise ships only come in once a week on average — and only during the sailing season — unlike Ikea, which will be open from 10 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

With traffic expected to be steady and severe, Ikea lined up the 17 cops from the NYPD’s “paid detail unit.”

That unit is a pool of off-duty cops who make more than $30 per hour by doing additional, city-sanctioned police work on their time off. Rockefeller Center, Yankee Stadium and synagogues and merchants associations have paid for cops in the past, the NYPD said.

Despite concerns about traffic, Red Hook residents remain pleased at the big blue giant hulking at the southern edge of their hardscrabble neighborhood, where unemployment is around 20 percent.

Though the company, citing employee privacy, will not divulge how many of its 600 positions have been filled by Red Hookers, neighbors are still lavishing praise.

“It’s a large number,” said Dorothy Shields, president of the Red Hook East Tenants Association, who added that she personally knows five people who became managers.

“I’m well satisfied. They kept their promise.”