By Gary Buiso
Brooklyn isn’t the suburbs, and Whole Food Market must modify its plans for a new store to reflect that fact, a community group urged this week. Park Slope Neighbors is asking the company to alter plans for its store at Third Street and Third Avenue, calling on the implementation of a traffic management plan to reduce traffic and promote “alternate modes of travel.” “A lot of people believe the answer to manage traffic is to increase parking spaces,” said Eric McClure, the campaign coordinator for Park Slope Neighbors. “It’s the exact opposite—building ample parking only encourages more traffic,” he said. The petition asks for the reduction of at least 100 of the store’s planned 420 parking spaces, and to replace rooftop spaces with a green roof or solar panels. “Since only about 40 percent of households in this area own cars, we’d like to work with Whole Foods to de-emphasize vehicle traffic in favor of other modes of transportation to and from the store,” McClure added. In January, Whole Foods representatives told the Park Slope Civic Council that about 1,500 car trips are expected every day once the store is constructed. The petition, which the group said already has 500 signatures, recommends the “implementation of a jitney service to ferry shoppers to mass-transit points and their homes, ample bike parking, as well as a fleet of pedicabs.” Whole Foods Market spokesman Fred Shank said the status quo will prevail. “We are confident that our parking plan, as currently designed, features the appropriate number of spaces and will function well for our customers and the surrounding community,” he said. The petition cites the “energy and environmental benefits of green and solar roofs,” a proposal that was initially suggested by Brooklyn environmentalists Marni Horwitz and Madalyn Warren. Their idea was for the store’s rooftop to be layered with compost and vegetation, which would provide insulation to the building, while reducing air pollution. The green roof, Shank said, was considered “early on in the design phase.” “We subsequently determined that it simply would not be feasible for this particular project,” he said. McClure did not accept that response. “Whole Foods is planning a green roof for its future Hilldale store in Madison, Wisconsin, and is meeting a significant portion of its electricity needs at several stores (including Edgewater, New Jersey) with roof-mounted solar cells,” he noted. McClure said it was disappointing that Whole Foods appears “intent on implementing a suburban-style plan.” When completed, the store will hold 68,000 square feet and have a publicly-accessible waterfront esplanade along the Gowanus Canal. It is expected to open in 2008. During the 1800s through 2004, the site was home to a number of industrial operations, including an ice company, lumberyards, coal yards, a petroleum oil company, an automobile repair shop, a trucking company, a junkyard and a freight depot. Whole Foods is funding the environmental study and clean-up of the polluted 2.1-acre site, where over 11,000 tons of contaminated soil have already been removed, according to the DEC.