For Barbra, I'll Take the Subway -- Brooklyn's Barclays Center Passes Second Traffic Test

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 10:22 PM

What do Jay-Z fans and Barbara Streisand fans have in common? They both take mass transit.

Long orderly lines of flamboyant ladies in finery stretched from subway steps to the flickering marquis of Brooklyn's new Barclays Center arena for Thursday night's Barbra Streisand concert.

"I am in Brooklyn which is where I was born.  I haven't been here since I was born. I'm about 120 years old," gushed Laura Slutzky of Manhattan, which she insisted on referring to only as New York City. "This is fabulous here. I took the subway, used my Metrocard for two-dollars and 25 cents. I was going to take a limo for $4,550 but this was much easier... I love Brooklyn, I love the whole thing."

The 18,000 seat arena with just 541 on-site parking spaces has raised hackles and hellfire predictions of clogged streets and desperate fans circling the nearby residential neighborhoods for parking, blocking traffic and usurping local car owners; curb space.

Twenty minutes before showtime the shuttle bus bringing concert-goers from remote lots was mostly empty. The attendant said people were using the lots, but they weren't full.

A small army of police and citizen "pedestrian traffic managers" played crossing guard to usher the throngs of walkers safely through the always busy intersection at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Cars and limos that tried to stop to drop off fans, usually in groups, were forced to drive to pre-determined drop off locations that wouldn't block traffic. This operation was in force for the first set of concerts as well.

After the eight Jay-Z shows failed to cause vehicular mayhem, rendering all but irrelevant the "gridlock alert" that preceded opening night, many still feared the pedestrian calm was a fluke, that it was something about Jay-Z fans that predisposed them to use the 11 subway lines, 11 bus lines, the Long Island Rail Road or walk.

In fact it seems that at least 1/3 of fans on opening night got out at the subway station right below the arena, according to our analysis of turnstile data.

The data isn't in yet on the Streisand fans, but after chatting with a few of gaggles of giddy women of a certain age in front of the gates, it was clear, Barbra, as fans know her, draws a crowd from far beyond Brooklyn. And rather than drawing them by their usual mode of automobile, these groups behaved like the Brooklynites. When in Rome ...

Robin Schrieber and her friend took an hour-long train ride on Long Island Rail Road, which stops right next to the arena. "We had to change at Jamaica...We had to walk up and over at Jamaica which we didn't love, but it took us right here."

The LIRR arriving at 7:18 at Atlantic Terminal might as well have been called the Babs Express.

"Everybody was going to the Barbra concert," Schreiber said. "People we knew, people we didn't know, everybody was talking to each other. No one knew where they were going, it was like 'Are you going to Barbra?' 'Where do we get on?' 'Where do we get off?' We all just kind of went en masse together."



Comments [6]

Norman Oder

Here's coverage of the Oct. 13 Streisand show, with video of the chaotic scene at Atlantic Avenue and South Portland Avenue, especially the honking/crowding on residential South Portland:

Norman Oder / Atlantic Yards Report

Oct. 14 2012 05:10 PM

The writer definitely did not go beyond the subway stop. Limos parked illegally everywhere. Midnight traffic on side streets was ridiculous. Dean between 4th and 5th 7:30 and 11:30. 3rd Avenue and Atlantic 11:30, idling limos, then chaos corners. Remember the affordable housing.

Oct. 14 2012 11:49 AM
Andrea Bernstein

Park Slope Peter -- we've had a team of reporters out both nights and haven't seen this. But if it's happening, we'd like to know. Can you send us photos? Times you've seen a lot of traffic? Your exact location? Be a citizen journo and we'll post!

Send stuff to

Oct. 12 2012 12:14 PM
Park Slope Peter

I continue to be baffled by WNYC's coverage of arena traffic. I've been caught in the pre-show traffic twice now, and have heard from many others who have as well. I'm mindful that this is anecdotal evidence of traffic problems, but it does suggest that analysis of turnstile data alone is not an effective means of gauging what is happening on roads.

More troubling has been the level of reporting itself. WNYC unblinkingly repeats Gridlock Sam's reports of free-flowing traffic as if he were an impartial observer, when, of course, he serves as Forest City Ratner's paid traffic consultant. On Morning Edition, it plays a clip of a Streisand fan saying how wonderful her train ride to the concert was, as if that were dispositive of anythin. C'mon, guys, bring up your game!

Oct. 12 2012 10:10 AM
Norman Oder

Here's documentary evidence of the problems at the end of the concert, including honking, double-parking, noise for neighbors:

Norman Oder/Atlantic Yards Report

Oct. 12 2012 09:16 AM
Norman Oder

A tad conclusory. Lots of chaos on Atlantic Avenue after this article was filed. Lots of limos/black cars idling, double parking on nearby streets.

Oct. 12 2012 12:40 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.