Ikea has meatballs, couches and … jams

The Brooklyn Paper
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Quiet Red Hook streets became bumper-to-bumper traffic jams when hordes of furniture-crazed shoppers flocked to the newly opened Ikea on its debut weekend.

Once-dreary roads that connect the Beard Street big box with the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway saw such a big uptick in traffic that cops from the 76th Precinct rushed in to police the area and bolster the efforts of 17 off-duty officers hired by Ikea to handle traffic.

More than three times as many cars drove down Bay Street during a one-hour period on Sunday, June 22, compared to one week earlier, according to a count by The Brooklyn Paper.

All told, 810 cars drove on Bay Street between Clinton and Columbia streets on June 22, compared to 235 the week before.

Red Hook residents say that the influx of cars made Columbia Street look more like a parking lot than a thoroughfare.

“It was unreal. I’ve never seen so much traffic in my life,” said Jay McKnight, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association. “I was fearful of crossing Columbia Street — it was bumper to bumper and everyone seemed like they were in a hurry, trying to inch up between cars.”

To handle traffic, Ikea built a 1,400-spot primary parking lot and acquired a temporary overflow lot on the neighboring site of the former Revere Sugar refinery, which it has secured at least until Labor Day.

Before opening, the furniture giant also paid to put up new signs directing drivers to the store, and hired 17 off-duty NYPD cops to form a “paid detail unit” that would help direct traffic.

But even with Ikea’s preparations, cars clogged Red Hook roads.

Employees of a private security company that was helping direct traffic said that both parking lots were near capacity on Sunday.

“There are just a few spots left. It’s overcrowded,” said one employee who was leading drivers to parking spaces in the main lot. “We’re waiting for someone to come out before we can let someone in. It’s pretty much car for car.”

And the traffic was so thick on the streets that the 76th Precinct had to dispatch additional cops to help the “paid detail unit” move traffic through Red Hook, a police source told The Brooklyn Paper.

Ikea officials will not release any information about the number of customers who visited the new store — which was expected to draw about 17,000 shoppers on weekend days — nor would they comment on the number of cars that pulled into its lots.

Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth said that traffic congestion in Red Hook will lessen as time goes on.

“Grand opening times are the busiest times of any store’s life cycle,” he said.

Ikea shoppers who spent a chunk of their day idling in backed-up streets and crowded parking lots sure hope that Roth is right.

“Traffic was just awful. It took 20 minutes from when we got off the BQE,” said Jason Bell, who drove from Ditmas Park to browse.

Traffic was a main concern of Ikea opponents when the Swedish furniture giant was seeking approval to build its first New York City location. Unlike existing big box stores, which are typically built near highways, the Ikea sits on Beard Street near the corner of Richard Street at the far southern end of Red Hook. It is also far from subways. It is expected that the vast majority of its customers will drive there.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Judith from Carroll Gardens says:
IKEA has disfigured our historic neighborhood. I am ashamed of the Brooklyn Papers for condoning the big box blight on our city.
June 27, 2008, 5:54 pm
Lydia from Red Hook says:
I applaud IKEA for bringing hope and prosperity to Red Hook,the land that Robert Moses disfigured. BP your view on traffic jams is very distorted. The DOT nor NYPD did not send or post any extra personnel because IKEA opened. The 17 cops are bing paid by IKEA not the City. Joe Roth is correct the worst of the traffic is over with the opening.
June 27, 2008, 9:35 pm
christine berthet from Hell kitchen says:
Lydia, I hope very much you are right, but I know you are wrong.

All these cars are going to IKEA and then leaving .. No local shopping or dining. In fact wiht the loacl preciicnt helping the traffi c, it will mean less cops tatking care of the neighborhood.. there are bringing nonthing to your neighborhood except , honking, and pollution.

Big box was desing for malls and suburbs.
The best you can do is convert the parking to a park..
June 28, 2008, 12:17 pm
Lydia from Red Hook says:
Christine, do your homework before you comment because the cops are working their second job (Paid Detail). IKEA is paying their salary.It's approx. $30 an hour, then the cops pay the city $3 an hour for getting them that second job. If they work 10 hours they owe the city $30. Sounds peculiar but it's true. They are not on city overtime and their presence isn't hurting the 76 Pct. manpower. As for the local shops. just ask the bar across the street. While the ladies shop the men sit and drink awaiting the return. I don't mind the honking because where this big box is located it is not a residential area although there are some houses around it.. The park offsets the pollution because the trees are our friend. Also if you play baseball in the park you can get a hotdog for 50 cents at IKEA. Believe me this IKEA thing was a no brainer.
June 28, 2008, 5:06 pm
Stan from Gravesend says:
Not to mention that it brought affordable furniture to the neighborhood.
June 29, 2008, 2:10 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Lydia, regardless of who is paying for the extra police presence all this extra traffic can't be good for building infrastructures or air quality in the neighborhood. (Plus I am not so sure if I like private companies hiring public police officers, they should only have loyalty to the city and public good, not to private interests)
I am not against the ikea store, but I really think that some kind of public transportation acess to the store would be a much better idea than having everything so car bases. It could be financed by a joint project between IKEA and the neighborhood. It's really in both of their interests.
June 30, 2008, 3:01 am
Lydia from Red Hook says:
Mike,the IKEA ploice are dressed like city cops but their loyalty is to the people that pay them, IKEA. Private companies like Target, BJ's and Macy's are hiring these cops on the norm.
IKEA has a water taxi financed by IKEA. As for the air quality remember the trees are our friends.
July 2, 2008, 12:49 am
Adam from Boro Park says:
How about offering FREE Valet service to move backed up traffic for parking?? and why wasn't a many level parking lot built?? from all the pics i see a flat leveled lot.
July 7, 2008, 12:51 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
How about non-car transport options?
This store is way to auto-oriented.
I have no issue with trees, but they can't undo the harm of auto emissions. More tree if you like, but that's no substitute for less car exhaust and this shop is significantly increasing car traffic.
Imagine if their buisness could be at all financially viable if they were responisble for the increased public health, road work, and reperation costs associated with the car traffic to their store.
July 8, 2008, 10:04 am
Lydia from Red Hook says:
What if Ikea ruled the world?
July 9, 2008, 1:08 pm

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