The Flatbush Two Step! Major street changes coming to Barclays Center area

Bruce Ratner’s traffic consultant, Sam “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, poses at Ground Zero: the intersection of Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues.
Photo by Tom Callan

Get ready to dance the Flatbush-to-Fourth Two-Step — whether you like it or not.

The state this week unveiled its plan to ease traffic around the $1-billion Barclays Center at Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues, permanent changes that its creator predicts will untangle the maze of roadways near the rising basketball arena.

The changes, already ratified by the state and city, will take hold on July 15. They include:

• Conversion of Fourth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue into a one-way southbound street.

• Reversal of the direction of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues, changing it from westbound to eastbound.

• Installation of a new traffic light at the intersection of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, and a new crosswalk across from Flatbush Avenue, where vehicles will be able to make right or left turns onto Flatbush Avenue.

• Cars and trucks can use Third Avenue via Atlantic to get to Flatbush Avenue. Pacific Street will offer secondary access to Flatbush Avenue, but trucks are not permitted to use it.

The changes mean that Flatbush Avenue-bound cars on Fourth Avenue will either have to turn on Pacific Street, or take Atlantic Avenue to Third Avenue: the Flatbush Two Step is born.

But it’s not all about cars, said the scheme’s creator.

“This is a plan that can be implemented and it does a lot for what Brooklyn is — a walking city,” said Sam Schwartz, the consultant to developer Forest City Ratner who devised the plan. “This makes it easier to walk across Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth avenues.”

Schwartz said he approached the intersections the same way the city tackled traffic snarls at Herald Square in Manhattan — by removing one of the approaches, Broadway, on which drivers are able to access an epicenter of congestion. In Brooklyn’s case, that means that Fourth Avenue will no longer have an approach to Flatbush Avenue, improving or complicating things for drivers and pedestrians, depending on whom you’re talking to.

The plan was first broached six years ago in the project’s environmental impact statement, one that galled critics who claimed the changes splash lipstick on a pig — namely, an 18,000-seat arena surrounded by low-rise residential neighborhoods.

“They want to turn my street into a viaduct,” said Pacific Street resident Jim Vogel, who said he expects mayhem on game nights — when 500-800 cars will traverse Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues every hour, according to the developer’s estimates.

Other block residents were equally perturbed.

“What mitigation?” wondered Therese Urban. “You mean the one that doesn’t mitigate traffic and only adds to it. This was objectionable when it was first written six years ago — and it still is.”

But Schwartz said the direction of Pacific Street was reversed not for arena-goers but for block residents, making it easier to get to their homes. Yes, there will unquestionably be more cars on game days, he conceded, but the overall effect will be beneficial, he promised.

Moreover, he said, the primary route will be Atlantic Avenue to Third Avenue — not Pacific Street, which won’t get through traffic because the only way to approach it will be by turning. “Brooklynites who know the street system in the area will find that Pacific Street is not the desirable route,” he said.

But that’s leaving those near Third Avenue none too pleased.

“We are deeply concerned about traffic back-ups on Third Avenue and the diversion to local streets,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association. “This is one more step in a process that has little or no governance.”

The Empire State Development Corporation will host a forum about the changes at Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St. between Court and Adams streets in Brooklyn Heights) on June 14 from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Details can be found at www.esd.ny.gov/AtlanticYards or www.atlanticyards.com.

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