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Fourth-to-Flatbush two-step proposed as Yards traffic fix

The Brooklyn Paper
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Call it the “Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step.”

If state planners have their way, the already clogged intersection of Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues — the gateway, if you will, to Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project — would be reconfigured to make the flow of traffic less straightforward.

Under the virtually unheralded plan — buried deep within the state’s Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement released last month — drivers heading north on Fourth Avenue towards Flatbush Avenue would instead turn right on Pacific Street and then left onto Flatbush.

Currently, such drivers can drive directly from Fourth Avenue to Flatbush Avenue. [See map, right]

State planners believe that forcing drivers to turn onto Pacific Street — and into game-day traffic — before turning onto Flatbush will alleviate the traffic that clogs the multi-street intersection most of the day.

A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development — the quasi-public state agency overseeing the Ratner project — said the elimination of the short block of Fourth Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues would eliminate a several-block “spillback” down Fourth Avenue and also allow for longer green-light timing at the gridlocked Fourth and Atlantic intersection.

But at least one independent analyst thought the change amounted to window-dressing.

“It won’t work,” said traffic consultant Brian Ketcham.

“Such a mitigation still leaves the intersection with an F rating. That means breakdown conditions with traffic backing up through other intersections. This community will be gridlocked even without Ratner.”

And with Ratner? The deluge.

“At Atlantic Avenue, the Fourth Avenue approach would be impacted in all peak hours, while Atlantic Avenue approaches would be impacted in all but the weekday am,” the DEIS admits. “At Flatbush Avenue [and Fourth Avenue], Flatbush Avenue would be impacted in all but the weekday 10-11 pm post-game peak hour.”

The Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step is just one of hundreds of mitigations recommended in the DEIS — almost none of which have been presented in public or fully analyzed on the eve of the sole public hearing on the controversial, $4.2-billion project.

That’s particularly troubling to residents and opponents of Atlantic Yards, who have joined a chorus of elected officials demanding more than the allotted 66 days to determine whether the highly technical, 2,000-page DEIS really solves those admitted impacts of the development. [See story below.]

The ESDC spokeswoman said the mitigations would be presented further at the public hearing.

“The elimination of the northbound Fourth Avenue-to-Flatbush Avenue connection will be discussed by our traffic consultant at the public hearing on Aug. 23,” said ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen. “Hopefully that will be helpful to you.”

To reporters, perhaps, but not necessarily to residents of Pacific Street, who are trying to figure out what their currently westbound street will be like after it is reconfigured as an eastbound street carrying Flatbush Avenue cars it never saw before.

“If they want to really fix the problem, they should widen the street, take down the PC Richard store and make Pacific two-way,” said Dean Zias, when shown an ESDC diagram of the proposed traffic change.

“What they’re planning is a big mess.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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