Residents Raise Questions about Traffic, Noise, and Parking at the Dumbo Development Community Meeting

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A community meeting was held last night co-hosted by Brooklyn Bridge Park, the DUMBO Improvement District, and Councilmember Stephen Levin.

Presenters included Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer, Jay Valgora (Principal at STUDIO V Architecture) and Chris Hrones, the Downtown Brooklyn transportation coordinator for the Department of Transportation.

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The Brooklyn Bridge Park presentation included information on the new St. Ann’s theatre ground breaking (to be completed in 2015), John Street development, and the development of the Main Street area of the park (construction to begin in Q1 of 2014).

Midtown Equities selected STUDIO V Architecture, led by Jay Valgora, to create the architectural design for the adaptive re-use and addition to seven buildings that make up the Empire Stores. Jay Valgora presented their plans for Empire Stores redevelopment and the questions from the attendees at Galapagos Art Space were largely focused on the increase of traffic and noise coming to the neighborhood.

Mr. Valgora showed that the design includes retail space for restaurants, a cultural museum, offices for creative and digital firms, and a public rooftop park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The designs include restoration of the Empire Stores structure and facade and a new two story glass addition. To reconnect the neighborhood to the waterfront, there will be a courtyard entrance through the Empire Stores on Water Street that passes through to the Park. A green roof “may include an event space” away from the street on the Park side. The loading docks for trucks will be on Water Streeet (next to 85 Water Street (Almondine Bakery), and will be an enclosed dock. No semis will be making deliveries there.

Questions from the audience on the Empire Stores development include:

  • Q: Are there plans for how the development affects the community? Since there will be no parking in the buildings [Empire Stores], how will the building management deal with traffic? The resident referred to the Dumbo Arts Festival and the “traffic nightmare”. (Short paraphrased answer: it was always the parks plan to bring in retail)
  • Q: Regarding the event space on the roof, what is the size and capacity? (A: No decisions have been made on the size. A tenant has not been selected.)
  • Q: What were the loading dock considerations? (A: We have considered the space abd visibility. Also most of the space is office space which have less loading requirements.)
  • Q: The neighborhood changed dramatically in the past 30, 20, 10 years. Are there discussions on how we will handle the issues, including recent changes in Dumbo? (A: BBP include a community advisory committee and works with BBP and developers for input.)
  • Q: On the Water St side of the buildings, what are the setbacks? (A: 15 ft setback. However, per regulations, there will be an elevator bulkhead on the Water Street side of the buildings, 12 feet above the 16 foot addition.
  • Q: Why is the build up mostly along the side of the neighborhood and not towards the park? (A: The event space is away from residents. On Main Street side, it is set back farther in to minimize noise from the rooftop)
  • Q: As a gesture to the community, the builders should underwrite the cost of soundproof windows for residents facing the Empire Stores (comment).
  • Q: What controls do you have to get trucks in/out of the docks? (A: the building operators will set the availability of the three loading docks.)

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Chris Hrones, the Downtown Brooklyn transportation coordinator for the Department of Transportation then presented two parts: The $20 million capital reconstruction project (Phase 2) and street intersections and safety. The second phase of the $20 million capital project will begin Fall 2014 and will up to 2 years (anticipated completion in Fall 2016), according to Mr. Hrones. The DOT announced that there is an approval for all direction stop signs at the intersection of Water and Main Street, and will be installed in the next 90 days. There is ongoing research and data collection for other intersections. Water and Dock Street intersection did not meet the warrants for the pedestrian requirements and will not have a stop sign at this time. However, they are examining a cross walk or other optinos such as a yield to pedestrian sign.

The intersection of York and Washington Streets is currently an all ways stop corner. But because of the BQE wall, there are line of sight issues from cars that may not see pedestrians. The DOT is taking a look at how to address this.

Aside from delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles, Anchorage Place will be closed to traffic, as part of the street reconstruction project. For full presentation of the Reconstruction of DUMBO/Vinegar Hill Streets and Pearl Street Plaza, download a copy: PDF

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The presenters mentioned that they are open to ongoing dialogue and will hold future meetings. Please comment below on your concerns or thoughts on these development plans.

Other recaps:
{Recap DUMBO community meeting 11/4, Brooklyn Bridge Parents}
{Empire Stores Redevelopment Plan is ‘Terrifying,’ Some DUMBO Residents Say, DNAinfo}