Red Hook Ikea prepares for auto onslaught

Red Hook Ikea prepares for auto onslaught
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

Ikea has added hundreds of parking spaces to its Red Hook store in advance of the hotly anticipated opening on Wednesday, June 18, which is expected to draw a cavalcade of shoppers that will continue for months.

The Scandinavian home-furnishings giant’s first New York City store will use the neighboring site of the former Revere Sugar refinery to handle any parking overflow from its own 1,400-car lot at least until Labor Day.

Company officials didn’t disclose how many vehicles can be packed onto the dirt lot, but it is large enough to hold several hundred.

By enlarging its car capacity, Ikea has revived concern in Red Hook that the heretofore remote corner of Brooklyn will be overrun by drivers, because mass transit is not an appealing option if you’re hauling home a futon (or boxes and boxes of Swedish meatballs).

Ikea’s own traffic consultant appeared to support that impression, revising his own projections from 14,000 visitors on a weekend day up to 17,000 — all of them traveling through the out-of-the-way neighborhood from the Brooklyn–Queens and Gowanus expressways to the Beard Street mega-store.

A staunch critic of Ikea, John McGettrick, of the Red Hook Civic Association, thinks the newer figure is still too low and said the store will generate “in your face congestion” that will harm local air quality — and the extra parking just confirms it.

Even store supporters are feeling squeamish on the eve of the opening.

“I’m getting stage fright,” said Tom Russo of the Red Hook Gowanus Chamber of Commerce, which supported the project on the grounds that it would create jobs in the hard-scrabble neighborhood. Ikea has declined to say how many people from Red Hook have been hired at the store, which is between Columbia and Richards streets.

Company officials say the additional parking was added to meet demand, but also for a calming psychological effect on potentially frazzled customers.

“The more spots you have, even if you don’t need them all, instill confidence in the customer that everything is going to run smoothly,” said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth.

Preparations for a seamless opening are all around. “Ikea Plaza,” directly in front of the blue and yellow compound, is the new terminus for the B61 and B77 buses. There are also exit signs for Ikea near the Hamilton Avenue exit on the Gowanus Expressway.

On the waterfront property itself, work crews are finishing the public esplanade that encircles the 22-acre former shipyard. Workers were installing benches and hastening to finish the dock for the free water taxi service to Manhattan that will operate seven days a week.