By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BOERUM HILL — Approximately 100 additional parking spaces will soon be available for afternoon shoppers along Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, following the Department of Transportation's surrender to 20 years of community opposition to the parking ban along four long and busy blocks.
The decision to end the 4-7 p.m. no standing rule on the south side of Atlantic, between Smith Street and Third Avenue, comes as the area braces for a fresh surge of traffic problems when the Barclays Center opens just east of the strip in September.
The move was being hailed by commuity leaders as win from both a business and a safety standpoint.
According to the DOT, the change was made possible after enhancements last year to several nearby intersections, which provided more “green signal time” for eastbound Atlantic Avenue traffic, reducing the need for a third lane.
The blocks that are affected are part of an area that used to be known as Brooklyn’s “Antiques Row.” Some antique stores are still there, but they have been joined by other businesses, such as contemporary furniture and gift stores, clothing boutiques, beauty salons and restaurants.
Many of these stores are dependent on visitors, some of whom come by auto, as well as nearby residents. The restrictions particularly hurt stores that draw an “after-work” crowd, and those that sell items that are too big to carry or take into the subway, such as the antique stores.
Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, said, “We’ve been trying to get the parking back at least since 1994, when I came here. They started to take our parking away in the 1970s.
“This was a problem for businesses, and also a safety issue. Atlantic Avenue is a destination, not a highway.”
Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association, said that “businesses on both sides of Atlantic Avenue will benefit,” and that “the presence of a line of parked cars will help create safety for pedestrians.”
Similarly, Jo Anne Simon, Democratic district leader and a former president of the BHA, said the DOT believed that opening the parking lane to traffic "would help move traffic — but what happened was that that right-hand lane turned into a speed-up lane.”
The DOT did not respond to questions regarding how the Atlantic Avenue changes might relate to the Barclays Arena opening.
But one of the prime movers in lobbying the city to remove the parking restrictions, Councilman Steve Levin (D-Downtown), believes the changes are not related to the opening of Barclays but should be seen in the context of other traffic changes the DOT is planning, Levin's spokesman said.
These include new afternoon rush-hour “no left turn” restrictions for eastbound Atlantic Avenue traffic onto Smith Street — and only Bond Street at all times — as well as from westbound Atlantic Avenue onto Hoyt Street.
On this subject, Leslie Lewis, a longtime Boerum Hill community activist and board member of the Boerum Hill Association, said, “For me to go home, I won’t be able make a left turn onto Hoyt Street" from westbound Atlantic Avenue.
But he says he doesn’t mind. “It’s very tough traffic. It’s not safe to make a left turn onto a two-way street.”