“We don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.”
– Charles Cloth, Parks Department Director of Concessions, September 8, 2008
One of the most visible and vexing issues surrounding the concession is the enormous amount of automobile traffic drawn to it. During the approval process, the concession was presented as nothing more than a restaurant similar to the cafe that had existed before. No additional traffic was anticipated by Parks and no environmental review was performed. The Parks Director of Concessions in fact told the Franchise and Concession Review Committee at their hearing of 9/8/2008 that:
“This is an existing use, previously a [marina] cafe, for at least, I believe, 15 years. I don’t know the exact number; at least the last 10 years. So this is not a new use of this space. Therefore, we didn’t do any [environmental assessment], because typically it is existing use and we know what the conditions that were there before. We don’t think there is going to be any — the concessionaire has offered to work with local garages to make sure that there is valet parking; to encourage people to come by public transportation. And we don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.”
More than three years later, the architect of the complex (Andrew Franz) made similar lofty claims about how the concession would not rely on auto traffic in a January 2012 interview with an environmental news website:
“We think Dyckman Landing will emerge as an alternative to getting in the car and going to the beach. By boat, bike or mass transit, visitors can quickly reach an urban oasis – a destination with a quiet sense of old New Amsterdam, right in the big city. Where else in New York City can you jump on your bike, spend the afternoon on the water, and then enjoy an idyllic riverside dinner?”
Oops. Because the concert and nightclub use was added, capacity increased by 600%, and hours were extended, traffic quickly became a problem after opening in July 2012. Attracting club- and concert-goers from across the region, traffic backups became the norm on Friday and Saturday nights and, most frustrating for area residents, all day and late into the night on Sundays. The congestion was not only a problem for those trying to navigate the area in the early evening, but also a major noise generator late at night after the concession closed and the traffic police had all gone home.
Plus the question of where to put all of the cars resulted in a separate, equally disruptive issue of a massive and unprecedented illegal valet parking operation.
Northbound traffic backed up 800 ft before the exit on Sunday June 22, 2014 at 10 pm, due to a concert at the concession.
Over and over again there have been meetings, and more meetings, and more meetings, all ending in the same way — a promise to add more police officers, to discuss traffic patterns with DOT and to add another bike rack or fine print to take the subway.
The concession operators even admit that the streets cannot handle the traffic, but blame the street design and DOT and talk vaguely about government task forces rather than look at their own activities.
This is treating the symptom and not the cause. The cause is the unapproved nightlife and concert use of the concession, which is fundamentally incompatible with a site located in a residential neighborhood on a dead end disconnected from the Manhattan street grid and also the main on- and off-ramp to the main highway to the area. Stop allowing concerts of thousands of people and auto-dependent nightclub uses and the traffic will disappear, just as it does on the few nights when the restaurant has operated but the main entertainment was unexpectedly cancelled. (See Sept 14, 2013 and Sept 6, 2014 images below).
And in case anyone thinks things have improved after 6 years, they have not. Police resources continue to be spent, but the fundamental fact remains that hundreds of cars drawn to La Marina traffic overwhelm the residential neighborhood. On Sat, Aug 6 2017 there was no concert at La Marina. It was sunny weather but it was public beach day, and no concert was held. Not surprisingly, there was no significant traffic on nearby streets. Twenty-four hours later, a “day party” was held from 3 pm to 1 am, and traffic was backed up in all directions.
Restoring Dyckman Marina to its original and approved uses means restoring traffic to normal levels. The one cannot be done without the other.