Wegmans Bracing For ‘Absolute Gridlock’ On Opening Day
When Wegmans opened a store in Raleigh, North Carolina a few weeks ago, around 30,000 people showed up, a company record. On Sunday, Wegmans will open a 75,000 square-foot store in the Navy Yard, an event that has been heralded like an all-pizza rat performance of Hamilton.
In an invitation to a private opening-day party, the developer behind the Wegmans, Doug Steiner, urges VIPs to use a shuttle “to avoid the absolute gridlock associated with a Wegmans Opening Day.”
Traffic around Flushing Avenue and Navy Street is expected to be bad in part because Wegmans encourages people to drive to their stores. The Navy Yard location will have 700 total parking spaces—a free parking lot with 259 spots directly outside the store, and a 441-space garage that Wegmans will share with other retailers (that lot is free for now but will cost money soon, though parking will be validated with a $15 purchase from Wegmans). For comparison, the Red Hook Fairway has parking for around 200 cars.
“We’ve been coordinating with the New York City Police Department for the past several years, including a grand-opening traffic plan,” a Wegmans spokesperson told Gothamist. “NYPD has an extensive plan in place for the roads surrounding the store…We’ve also hired numerous police officers that will help manage traffic at the site beginning early Sunday morning, and many more officers will be present during the week and following weekend.”
But when the glow from the multigrain snack puff machine fades, lots of people will still be driving to Wegmans, putting strain on an already bustling Flushing Avenue, where bikes, buses, trucks, and cars compete for space in a single westbound lane while the Department of Transportation creates a two-way bike lane.
“Providing such a huge parking lot in that neighborhood is certainly a bad idea,” Zhan Guo, the director of urban planning at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, wrote in an email. “It may bring customers to a particular vendor quickly, but will hurt Navy Yard in the long run.”
In consideration of the new Wegmans traffic, the DOT says they have installed a traffic signal at a new entrance on Nassau Street and adjusted signal timing to increase green lights around surrounding streets. The driveway on Navy Street will allow for inbound and outbound right-turns, and left turns will be limited. The bike lane won’t be finished until the summer of 2020.
Brendan Gray, a cyclist who frequently uses Flushing Avenue to commute to work in DUMBO from Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, said the construction on Flushing has created an “unsafe situation” that he is concerned will be made worse by drivers heading to Wegmans.
“My largest frustration stems from the poor management of the site by the contractors and the failure to provide any effective oversight or protection for the vulnerable people on the road,” Gray said.
“There’s a 700 car capacity lot that’s been created, which means they’re anticipating a relatively high volume of traffic,” Gray added. “The track record of the DOT does not encourage me.”
Despite its car-friendly reputation, Wegmans pointed out that the garage will have 46 parking spots for bicycles, and there will be 15 bike racks in front of the store. The B57 and B69 will also stop next to the Wegmans. (The High Street A/C/E and the Jay Street F stations are a little more of a walk.) Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ferry service stops at Dock 72 in the Navy Yard. And of course there’s a dedicated ride-share drop off/pick up area.
Christopher Clay, who lives in NYCHA’s Farragut Houses directly across from the new Wegmans and works as a security guard nearby, said that the traffic may get worse, but that having a new supermarket within walking distance will be worth the trouble.
“You know what they did wrong? When they put the bike lane in,” said Clay, who drives a car to get around, referring to the raised bike lane in the center median on Sands Street. “Because there was two lanes, and now it makes it crowded. And you got [the] buses.”
Sharon Henderson, who grew up in the neighborhood and frequently visits her friends there from her home in Queens, said she takes the J to the A and then catches either the 57, 67, or 62.
“It’s gonna be bad right there,” Henderson said, pointing to Navy Street. “Traffic is already bad now. You got people going in and out, people with children. The tow yard is right there. Not to mention the buses.”
Salisa Hudson, who was pushing a baby stroller outside the Farragut Houses on a recent Monday afternoon, said that she has seen traffic slowly increase over the years.
“It’s been a process. We got the bike lane, we see things picking up, I think we’re about prepared [for the Wegmans],” Hudson said.
Told about the large amount of parking in the Navy Yard, Hudson replied, “That’s great. Because then people won’t park over here and make things ten times worse.”