Bollard backtrack! MTA reverses course on Atlantic Terminal security sarcophagi

The Brooklyn Paper
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The MTA has agreed to tear out the massive granite barricades ringing the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal, finally admitting that the concrete coffins at the borough’s largest transit hub were excessive and ugly.

Starting in February, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will rip out the 14 stone sarcophagi and replace them with a series of short metal bollards at the entrance to the $106-million Atlantic Terminal, which opened to immediate criticism in January, 2010.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena acknowledged that the stunning reversal was a response to outcry over the massive security perimeter.

“The new, smaller bollards are less intrusive and more acceptable to the community,” Arena said.

The bollard backtrack is a major victory for critics — including residents, aesthetes, security experts, local officials and this newspaper — who recognized that the coffin-like roadblocks were not only unsightly, but far exceeded the NYPD’s security guidelines for protecting “high-risk” sites.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) hailed the news.

The transit agency “recognized the errors of its ways,” James said. “There’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about the bollards.”

The MTA would not provide details of the plan, but a new rendering reveals several dozen three-foot-high bollards stretching around the corner of Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at the terminal’s main entrance.

Spaced approximately four feet apart, the proposed stainless steel cylinders — which resemble the bollards seen in front of international consulates and other high-profile buildings — are far less obtrusive than the existing barriers.

Yet they appear to meet the criteria set forth in an NYPD security report which advised that bollards in front of high-risk buildings measure 30 to 36 inches high, and be spaced four feet apart.

Such barriers — classified by the State Department as K-12 — can withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound truck traveling 50 miles per hour.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said that the new bollards were “reviewed by and endorsed by the NYPD.”

To this day, it is unclear why the LIRR went with the massive stone blocks in the first place, a design element that was not in the original rendering of architect John di Domenico’s design for the terminal when it was unveiled years earlier.

At 50 to 52 inches high, and spaced in some cases as close as 36 inches apart, they’re significantly larger — and closer together — than the strongest bollards recommended by the police department.

At the terminal’s unveiling, LIRR President Helena Williams defended the Egyptian-style tombs as necessary “in this day and age,” and claimed that the NYPD had assessed the risk and demanded such a security ring.

But we later learned that the NYPD did not mandate such security measures. A counter-terrorism expert even weighed in, saying that the bollards were “overkill” and “excessive and ugly.”

Nevertheless the bollards remained — until now.

Straphangers and people who work at the terminal said they won’t miss the giant stone boxes.

“There’s a lot of police here anyway,” said Abdul Karim, a vendor who’s sold hot dogs outside of the station for the past three years. “It’s very safe.”

Updated 5:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike says:
What a boondoggle.
Aug. 29, 2011, 11:45 pm
pierre from paerdegat says:
Lotta ink, goodness.
Aug. 30, 2011, 7:36 am
Gintell from Park Slope says:
How could the LIRR ever justify using these ugly monsters? Did they actually mean to suggest that Atlantic Terminal was MORE of a terrorist attraction then is Penn Station in Manhattan, the 8th Avenue entrance to which is opposite the main Post Office? That terminal has the metal bollards. Me thinks someone got a fat contract for even fatter stones.
Aug. 30, 2011, 11:13 am
Ace from 4th Avenue Pub says:
Just when I was getting used to them! Also, there are benches built into them.
Aug. 30, 2011, 12:22 pm
j.b. diGriz from Fort Greene says:
I hope that someone with decision or influence in the design of the outdoor space watches this - - or reads the book it's based on ("The Social Uses of Small Urban Spaces").
Aug. 30, 2011, 2:40 pm
j.b. diGriz from Fort Greene says:
@Ace - that's the problem - there needs to be more seating space, and seating space done right. Check out the video if you have the time, to see how public seating really brings an outdoor space alive. They half of it right, with the food options.
Aug. 30, 2011, 2:41 pm
a happy citizen from Park Slope says:
Aug. 30, 2011, 7:21 pm
John from Westminster Road says:
Hey Ace. I was just getting used to them as well. There is a grandeur about them, however unintentioned. And they provided seating. Will the new bollards do that?
Now the MTA needs to replace the bland, unimaginative "sculpture" overhanging the balcony in the terminal with a mosaic.
Aug. 30, 2011, 11 pm
TheLandscape from UWS says:
Great news! We've been looking forward to the change. Some background info:
Aug. 31, 2011, 7:48 am
Roni Solomon DDS from Bed-Stuy says:
What a waste of time, money, and resources. I never found them to be "intrusive" or objectionable. What's going to happen to all that granite? Is this really necessary?

With all the other problems the MTA has, I think the bollards should be at the end of the "to do" list. How about improving service, or keeping the stations clean and well maintained? Oh no, gotta fix those pesky bollards.

The attitudes in NYC are truly nauseating. The removal of the "ugly stones" is considered a triumph when so many areas of the subway still require substantial improvement in regards to accessibility, service, and safety.
Aug. 31, 2011, 8:30 am
Josef from downtown says:
I wasn't a huge fan of the big old bollards, but I am even less of a fan of spending any money whatsoever on such a cosmetic concern when the MTA is short on dough and quite likely to raise fares in the near term. Even if the state ever gave the MTA a subsidy on a par in percentage of operating budget terms with what other transit agencies get, this would be a project that made the lowest priority list. Plus, as someone else said, they have benches. they're functional, if a bit ugly.

If people didn't like the concrete thingys that much, let those people raise the loot to replace them.
Aug. 31, 2011, 12:35 pm
Scott from PLG says:
Can we have them cut the granite smaller and made into tables and benches? It could be a nice public space with some more amenities.
Sept. 1, 2011, 6:26 am

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