The “Times” they are a changin’!
Local transit gurus endorsed the Department of Transportation’s plan to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the harrowing intersection surrounding the triangular Times Plaza, where Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues meet, in a unanimous vote at a Community Board 2 Transportation Committee meeting on May 18.
The group’s endorsement was accompanied by numerous suggestions for further safety improvements, but the committee’s chairwoman nonetheless commended the agency’s proposal.
“I think we all — other community boards and DOT, along with the public — worked together to achieve a good compromise,” said Juliet Cullen-Cheung.
The city, working in partnership with Barclay’s Center developer Forest City Ratner which is contractually obligated to fund the project, first proposed a redesign of Times Plaza last year that was panned by a coalition of elected officials including council members Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, and Steve Levin, who called out the transit department for placing vanity before safety.
“How could you plan a plaza here before you make it safe?” Streetsblog quoted Lander saying at a press conference last year. “The intersection has to be safe before the plaza is made lovely. Lovely is good, safety is essential, so let’s start there.”
The streets surrounding Times Plaza — which safety-concious locals have suggested transforming into a roundabout — were the site of 367 injuries between 2010-2014, and the intersection ranks in the top 10-percentile for traffic related fatalities in Brooklyn, according to Department of Transportation statistics.
The intersection is also home to several long crossings, particularly at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, where pedestrians schlep what is nearly the width of a football field to get from one corner to the other.
The city has already installed a rubber island at the midpoint between a crosswalk at Fourth and Atlantic avenues, and plans to install four similar concrete refuges at each side of the Atlantic–Flatbush intersection, along with a concrete extension on the northern edge of Times Plaza, near the entrance to Atlantic Terminal, that will shorten crossings at Flatbush and Fourth avenues.
Other proposed amenities would include a painted, on-street pedestrian area and a widened crosswalk at Fourth and Atlantic avenues.
The city would make room for future bike infrastructure by reducing curb space on the Downtown-bound side of the Fourth Avenue at Atlantic Avenue, which should eventually accommodate a planned bike lane that will be installed along the roadway as far down as Bay Ridge.
The plan, in addition to making the area safer for pedestrians, includes measures to improve the intersection’s abysmal traffic flow, which an agency representative told the board would “fail less” under the new proposal.
Adding the new concrete islands will require cutting the number of vehicle lanes on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, including one of two right-turn lanes from Atlantic Avenue onto Flatbush Avenue in both directions. But the proposal calls for increasing the turn signal’s length, which the transit agency expects will reduce delays overall.
It also would add an additional right-turn lane from Fourth Avenue onto Atlantic Avenue.
The committee’s endorsement came with additional safety suggestions, including that the sidewalk outside PC Richard & Son on Atlantic Avenue — which itself is being redeveloped by a joint venture between Forest City Ratner and Greenland USA, an offshoot of Chinese real estate company Greenland Group — should be broadened, although transit agency presenters noted that doing so would require a large capital investment as a result of existing infrastructure there.
The excuse didn’t carry much weight with some community members, including the president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, who said the city should spare no expense when it comes to the nightmare intersection.
“That intersection has been a mess for 40 years,” said Regina Cahill. “It deserves full court press.”
Cullen-Cheung also requested some form of barrier down the middle of Atlantic Avenue, which would prevent pedestrians from crossing the busy throughway mid block.
The committee’s endorsement of the plan still has to be ratified by the full board, which is expected to vote on the resolution at the general meeting on June 14.
If all goes well, the city hopes to begin work on the project sometime this fall.