Convoy to show Ikea traffic impact

The Brooklyn Paper
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South Brooklyn residents who think an Ikea on the Erie Basin waterfront would turn Red Hook and surrounding neighborhoods into a parking lot are planning to take their cars to the streets to prove the point.

Dozens of anti-Ikea activists are expected to take part in the caravan through the streets of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill to raise awareness about the potential traffic the megastore would bring.

Organizers declined to say when the procession would take place, or precisely where, citing fear of reprisal from Ikea supporters.

“What is becoming obvious it that it’s actually not Red Hook that is going to get creamed by traffic, it’s the surrounding neighborho­ods,” said Lou Sones, a founding member of Coalition to Revitalize our Waterfront Now! (CROWN), a community group opposed to the Ikea.

The Swedish home furnishings giant wants to construct a 346,000-square-foot store at the former New York Shipyard site between Dwight and Columbia streets along the Erie Basin.

Its plans also include 1,400 parking spaces and more than 70,000 square feet of additional retail and restaurant space along the waterfront.

The proposed store has exacerbated an already split community with one side, primarily from the Red Hook Houses public housing project, pushing for jobs while other residents are concerned about traffic and appropriate waterfront development.

Ikea estimates 600 jobs will become available at the store and has committed to opening a job training center inside or near the Red Hook Houses, home to approximately 70 percent of the neighborhood’s residents.

Sones and other critics are worried about the 50,000 cars per week — or 2.6 million per cars per year — they say Ikea will attract.

“What people don’t take into account is the cumulative effect,” said Sones, who ticked off a number of other large-volume stores that have already opened in the area including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Pathmark, as well as the Fairway grocery store under construction at the end of Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. All are stores that draw a large volume of drivers rather than mass transit riders.

Responding to word of the protest caravan, Jesse Masyr, Ikea’s land use lawyer, cited the company’s proposed subway shuttles and a free Manhattan-to-Red Hook ferry service. He also rebuffed CROWN’s traffic volume numbers.

“The suggestion that Ikea Red Hook will draw 50,000 vehicles per week is simply untrue,” Masyr told The Brooklyn Papers. “For example, our studies indicate that on a busy weekend day — our busiest days of the week — we expect to draw approximately 5,000 cars.”

Laura Goodwin, who lives on Van Dyke Street with her partner and twin 7-year-old twins just a block away from the proposed Ikea said she also plans to join in the caravan.

“[Ikea’s] attitude is they don’t care,” said Goodwin. “They don’t care that our kids are going to grow up with asbestos being released in the air — thousands of rats that will come across and infest our homes. There’s an apathy there that doesn’t work for me.”

Kit Hodge, a Red Hook resident who moved to the waterfront community a year ago said she is “horrified” about Ikea coming in.

Said Hodge, “People see it as a Red Hook issue, when in reality it’s an issue for all of Brooklyn.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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