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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Brooklyn LIRR terminal is on a roll

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After nearly six years of construction, the new entrance to the Long Island Rail Road's critical Atlantic Terminal at Flatbush Avenue is finally open to straphangers, according to The Brooklyn Paper. Commuters looking for the LIRR ticket office will find that it has moved to a new location on the concourse below the ground floor entrance, where natural light shines through glass that spans from the road to the ceiling, offering views of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower across the street.

Bringing in natural light to the concourse below street-level was one of the top priorities of John di Domenico, the head architect with the Queens-based firm, di Domenico and Partners, which designed the facility.

"As a commuter, light serves as a timepiece, as well as being pleasant -- and free," he said.

Though the ground-floor entrance is blocked off until next week's grand opening, The Brooklyn Paper got a sneak peak of the concourse, which can be accessed via LIRR platforms. One of the distinctive features of the new space is a rough-hewn granite sculpture featuring craggy geometric shapes that loom over commuters emerging from train platforms. Designed by Allan and Ellen Wexler, the sculpture is part of the city's "Arts for Transit" program. The inspiration for the cubist forms, according to Allan Wexler, came from scenic overlooks at state parks.

"It is a cross between mathematics and nature," said the artist. "I don't want it to be clear where the architecture ends and the sculpture begins."

More than 50,000 commuters come through the station daily, whether via the subway or Long Island Rail Road.

The renovations began in June 2004 with a projected budget of $116 million, according to an MTA press release. The railroad claims that the job was completed $8 million under budget.

Di Domenico said that the biggest challenge was accommodating that many commuters a day throughout construction.

"We had to design the new entrance without causing additional inconveniences," said di Domenico.

Despite the five years it took to build the new entrance -- which disrupted foot traffic on Hanson Place -- di Domenico said the lengthy construction time was a necessary evil.

"There weren't delays as far as I'm concerned," di Domenico said. "We had to be safe and make sure the trains ran on time."

A LIRR spokeswoman had told the New York Times in July that "unforeseen site conditions" caused the construction delays.

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