Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Walking it back: Nets/NBA claim, unfoundedly, they confirmed Nets debut because they didn't think mass transit would be so hampered

There's some serious revisionism going on in a New York Times article posted tonight headlined Nets’ Opener Against the Knicks in Brooklyn Is Postponed.

No one--not the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA, nor Mayor Mike Bloomberg--apparently will grapple with the fact that the Nets and the NBA, apparently with the cooperation of City Hall, confirmed that the Nets home opener was on even though they knew the subways would not be restored by the time of the game.

The article states:
About 19 hours after saying the Nets would make their regular-season debut Thursday night at Barclays Center against the Knicks, the N.B.A. on Wednesday accepted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s recommendation that the game be postponed because of Hurricane Sandy’s lingering effects on the public transportation system.
...The league’s initial optimism — expressed Tuesday in a tweet that said, “Knicks-Nets game will be played as scheduled this Thursday at 7 p.m. — followed hopeful remarks by Bloomberg earlier that day when he said he hoped that the game would be played and that he expected to attend.
Was it optimism?

I wouldn't call it merely "initial optimism" or that it was limited to the NBA, which sent out a tweet at about 8 pm, cited by Times reporter Howard Beck: "As tweeted by NBAPR, Nets-Knicks game for Thursday is a go, with or without subways."

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, at about the same time tweeted that television network TNT "makes it official."

This morning, Yormark told WFAN that it was a joint decision: "We worked very closely with the NBA and the Mayor's office... At the end of the day, for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward.... This isn't a decision the NBA, or the Nets, made in a silo."

Walking it back

The Times seems to be letting Yormark and the NBA walk that back. The article states:
Adam Silver, the N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, said in a telephone interview that the Twitter message was sent out because “at that moment, the game was on. Games are on until they’re not.” He added: “At that moment, so many fans, arena workers and telecasters were waiting on the decision. And at that point, none of us thought there’d be so little mass transportation this far into the week.”
But expectations that the game would proceed were eventually overwhelmed by the city’s assessment of the subway and rail obstacles created by the hurricane.
Eventually overwhelmed by the city's assessment? C'mon.

More than nine hours earlier, Times staffers were quoting Bloomberg:"Mayor: 4 or 5 days before subways return."

In the new article, the Times reports:
Brett Yormark, the chief executive of the Nets and the arena, said by telephone that the mayor’s “further due diligence and assessment of the damage made it clear that there were higher priorities than hosting the first Nets game in Brooklyn, and we agreed that was the case.”
The Times doesn't mention Yormark's assiduous argument this morning on WFAN that "for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward. We're working with the MTA... We also feel today this can be in many respects a rallying cry for New York."

So what happened?

Silver told the Times it was the mayor's call. Was the mayor blindsided by the statements by the NBA and Yormark? Maybe, but Yormark claims the mayor's office was in on it.

Was the mayor's office unaware that the subway system wasn't ready? Highly unlikely.

Was the mayor's office acquiescing to a priority expressed by developer Bruce Ratner, a man Bloomberg calls a friend? Perhaps.

So what happened? I don't know. I can only imagine.

Update 6/12/13: I should add that Forest City Enterprises, in its October 2012 Investor Day presentation, had a slide promising a debut on national TV.

A columnist gets it

ESPN columnist Ian O'Connor wrote, in Postponing Nets-Knicks a no-brainer: Staging the Barclays' basketball debut in Sandy's wake would've been a mistake
Yes it was heartless, clueless, lacking in any redeeming social value -- all those things and more. If David Stern thought playing basketball in the immediate wake of Hurricane Sandy would be a great way to kick off his retirement tour as NBA commissioner, he should have retired a long time ago.
Mayor Bloomberg finally called off the madness Wednesday, telling the NBA's elders what they'd likely already heard from their right-minded fans: There was no way they could go ahead with this game. No way they could throw this party in the middle of what will be an enduring human disaster.
And O'Connor doesn't let Yormark and Silver off the hook:
Brett Yormark, whose official title is CEO, Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center and whose unofficial title is carnival barker, was out there rattling on about ticketholder demands to preserve the game. When Bloomberg slam-dunked the opener for good, Yormark released a statement that ended this way:
"Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. We know these are trying times for so many of you and our thoughts are with you."
If your heart was going out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, Brett, why didn't you apply a little common sense and decency to the process and fight for the postponement of the game?
The same question stands for Adam Silver, commissioner-to-be, who confirmed Bloomberg's recommendation to the league -- Why did the league even need that recommendation before acting? -- and sang the standard our-thoughts-are-with-the-victims song.
The Nets and the league wanted their big night in their $1 billion arena. 
The fans speak

On the fan site NetsDaily, commenters were mixed, though one stated:
Really happy we are getting a game all about Brooklyn. Sad it comes at such an unfortunate circumstance.

The league and Yormark are made of the same sludge. They really wanted this game with people dead, houses gone, and subways ruined?

Thank you Bloomberg. You did the right thing, even if it means me missing the first game ever.

How did the Nets game get postponed? What if a top local cop put his foot down? (a speculation)

(Note: Dialogue 99% invented. Ameri, when I've spoken with him, can be pugnacious but not profane.)

How exactly did New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose office on Tuesday let the NBA announce the Brooklyn Nets' home opener with the New York Knicks was on for tonight, despite the shutdown of the subway system, change his mind and yesterday announce the postponement of the game?

Press accounts are rather confusing. But it might have gone down in a conversation between NYPD Captain Michael Ameri (MA), Commanding Officer of the 78th Precinct (which includes the arena), and a Deputy Mayor (DM).

MA: I just heard this clown Brett Yormark on the radio saying the game was on after a "collective decision" involving all parties, including local government.

DM: Well, yes. We did all talk.

MA: Did you ask me?

DM: Well, we spoke with One Police Plaza.

MA: Did you call freakin' me?

DM: No, but--

MA: I gotta run the 78th freakin' Precinct--

DM: Yes--

MA: Lemme finish. I have police officers, right?

DM: Yes--

MA: I have to deploy them where I think they're best, right?

DM: Yes--

MA: Then why the freak do I need these guys managing traffic for freakin' basketball fans when we have freakin' people in freakin' Brooklyn who lost their homes? Or they don't have freakin' power or can't take a freakin' shower? Why? Half my cops don't have electricity.

DM: The mayor says--

MA: The mayor my--

DM: Let me finish. The game is gonna be historic, Nets versus Knicks. National television. They're even bringing back some retired Brooklyn Dodgers.

MA: The Dodgers aren't coming.

DM: What do you mean?

MA: They gotta drive, right?

DM: Yes.

MA: And they're old, right?

DM: Yes.

MA: They're gonna wait so long in traffic they're gonna pee their pants. These guys have 85-year-old prostates. Not a good idea. They're gonna stay home.

DM: The game's going to be on national TV. TNT. That's good for New York. That's good for Brooklyn.

MA: TNT my freakin' ass. I'm not moving my officers to the freakin' Daily News Plaza just to make sure people paying 400 bucks a ticket can cross the street in peace. Some people in Brooklyn lost everything. There could be looting.

DM: Well, we made the decision.

MA: Way I heard it, the NBA and TNT made the decision.

DM: We were part of it.

MA: Not. Gonna. Happen.

DM: What do you mean?

MA: I cannot in good conscience send my officers there. We're already freakin' crucified because we can't stop the freakin' bass from the freakin' concerts from entering their homes. You can feel it in the freakin' precinct house. What am I gonna do, shut down Jay-Z? Shut down those weirdos in white who came for Sensation--the ones all wired on Ecstasy? That noise is another thing you better G.D. work on. And don't get me started on the black cars. We don't have a place for the freakin' limos. And they keep freakin' honking.

DM: You're not going to cooperate?

MA: Listen to me. Lis-ten to me. Talk to my officers. They don't wanna work the arena tomorrow. They know what's going on. They work for the people of New York City. Not the NBA. Not the Barclays Center. Not the Brooklyn Nets. Not T-N-freakin-T. Not tomorrow.

DM: Okay... I'll bring it up with the mayor.

MA: You better. We're already working double shifts here. We have better things to do.


Later today, Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference, declaring, among other things, "our police have plenty of other things to do."

Bloomberg, with no chagrin about reconfirmation yesterday of Brooklyn Nets debut, announces inaugural game against Knicks postponed "at my recommendation"; NBA expresses sympathy with "all those affected"; CEO Yormark does a 180-degree turn

Screenshot from
In a blow to the grand plan to have the Brooklyn Nets debut on national TV, the team's "historic" home opener tomorrow night at the Barclays Center against the New York Knicks has been postponed, even though it was reconfirmed yesterday despite the devastation of the subway system in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Was that the right thing to do, or was it because they couldn't get people to the game? Maybe both.

Asked yesterday about the postponement, he replied (in the video below) that he didn't know: "I did see the story on a well known news service that said that the NBA was going ahead with the three games, I guess tomorrow night, and they had not decided yet about Thursday night's game. Um, I hope they do it. I plan to go. It's going to be tough to get there because, remember, one of the great things about the Barclay's Center is the great mass transit that runs under it, unfortunately for the moment, not a lot is running under it. What they are going to do, I don't know, but if it's scheduled I will go. I think it's going to be a great arena and it's a great thing for Brooklyn, and so..."

This afternoon, he spoke at a news conference, beginning rather bureaucratically, "At my recommendation, the NBA has canceled tomorrow night's game between the Knicks and the Nets. It was going to be the first Nets game in the new stadium. Now the first Nets game will be Saturday at 7:30 at the Barclays Center. The Nets play the Toronto Raptors, and this game will be rescheduled. The NBA will be working with the city to provide extra bus services for Saturday night, because the subways may not be back. After that, there's plenty of mass transit, that's one of the beauties of the Barclays Center."

Bloomberg didn't express any chagrin about the announcements yesterday, apparently with coordination of his office, reconfirming the game. "Unfortunately, we didn't count on Sandy," he said, his style a bit warmer. "Hopefully Sandy doesn't come along very often. I'm sorry about the game, I was personally going to take my daughters and [companion] Diana [Taylor]. We were looking forward to it. It's a great stadium, it would've been a great game, but the bottom line is: there is just not a lot of mass transit; our police have plenty of other things to do. I know lots of fans are going to be disappointed. And the players are disappointed--the players wanted to play this. But I did talk to the NBA and recommended that--ask them to cancel the game. It's all up to me.

A mistaken decision yesterday?

Overall,  it's a repudiation of what I called a "stone cold power move," the decision to hold "the game before anyone knows if mass transit will work--when the arena was built to rely on mass transit." That decision, I observed, suggested that the interests of the league, the network, and the arena operators trumped those of the ticket holders and the citizens of Brooklyn.

USA Today yesterday reported that the decision was made after the NBA consulted with Bloomberg's office and the Nets.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday told "I am confident that the NBA, in conjunction with the MTA, the NYPD and all of the necessary city agencies, will make a decision that represents the best interests not only of sports fans but of all of our citizens in New York City."


The NBA backed off, according to the AP:
"Mayor Bloomberg informed us this afternoon that after further analysis of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy that he felt it was in the best interests of the city of New York, the teams and our fans that we postpone the Knicks-Nets game scheduled for Thursday night," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with all those affected by this devastating storm."
They didn't say that yesterday.

Nets CEO's tune

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and the arena, yesterday tweeted, "Tnt makes it official. Brooklyn nets debut will happen on thursday. Going to be a huge night."

This morning, as noted by Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy, "Nets CEO goes on the radio saying that playing Thursday was best possible solution and New York could use it as a rallying cry."

On the radio

"You know I love you, and you know I think that going to Brooklyn's a great thing for you guys and for the franchise, and ultimately for basketball in New York," WFAN host Craig Carton said in the interview. (Also check podcast.) "I think it's terrible that this game's being played tomorrow night, and hope you can walk me through the decisionmaking."

Yormark responded, "At the end of the day, there was a lot of people involved. We worked very closely with the NBA and the Mayor's office... At the end of the day, for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward. We're working with the MTA... We'll have that posted on sometime today. We also feel today this can be in many respects a rallying cry for New York. obviously, it's a devastation... We do need to move on, and we're going to do the best we can."

Co-host Boomer Esiason, a Long Island resident, "The problem is, we're not going to be able to watch it at home.. .I think it's one of the reason why Craig and I have been talking about it... I know what they're going to say to you: there are no trains. Are they going to increase bus service?"

"The plan is to increase buses, to provide shuttle services," Yormark responded, "We're going to work on what that plan is going to look like, in order to mitigate any problems."

"You're going to have a half empty building and no one watching on TV in the tri-state area," Esiason retorted. "It takes away from the that it's the first sporting event since 1957, and ther ality so so many people have real life going on, and frankly offended that the game is being played."

"My heart is going out to anyone who's in a bad spot," Yormark said. "But we felt collectively that it was the right thing to do. We received an enormous amount of emails form our season ticketholders... and we're going to try to make the most of it... the timing obviously is not good, but we have to move on, because it could be days before the subway system is back in order.

Carton asked, "Who makes the ultimate decision?"

"I think it's a collective decision," Yormark responded, "The league has their perspective, we have our perspective, local government officials have their perspective."

Esiason asked if Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was "all on board."

"We spoke to Marty, our people did yesterday, we collaborated with everyone," Yormark responded. "This isn't a decision the NBA, or the Nets, made in a silo... we think we had a good process in coming up with this decision."

"Did anyone say no?"

No, Yormark said.

"That's fascinating to me, Carton responded, suggesting that Markowitz, representing Brooklyn, would know different neighborhoods might have different opinions. (I think that's a bit generous.) "I gotta tell you, this game should not be played. How much does [cable network] TNT have a voice in it?"

"Safety's paramount in all our decisionmaking," Yormark responded. " TNT, obviously collaborated with the league. This is not about television or TNT." (Really?) "This was about what we felt was best for all concerned. Again, I think we made the decision to move forward... I do expect a great crowd and a great moment."

"Was the thought process: if you didn't play tomorrow night, you'd find a date later in the season... or open up on Saturday night?" asked Carton.

"The next thing would be opening up on Saturday, and I'm not sure how much improvement we'd have," said Yormark. (And that's what they're doing--transit access will be better because there are two days more to fix the system, and no commuters will be going home.)

Carton also asked Yormark if they'd run "special buses solely for getting people... specifically to the center?"

"We're exploring every and all options," Yormark responded.

A letter from Yormark

This afternoon, Yormark wrote fans a letter, with a different message:
Mayor Bloomberg recommended to the NBA this afternoon that after further assessments of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, he felt it was in the best interests of New York City for the NBA to postpone the Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks game scheduled for tomorrow night. As a result, the game has been postponed for a date to be determined. Tickets for the November 1 game will be honored for the rescheduled game.

The Brooklyn Nets home opener at Barclays Center will now be Saturday, November 3 against the Toronto Raptors. We will have a transportation plan in place, including additional bus options, for this game.

Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy select food and beverage specials from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. We know these are trying times for so many of you and our thoughts are with you.
That 5:30 door means they really want people to start getting there early.

More from the mayor

Bloomberg said there'd be no subway service below 34th Street in Manhattan, where there is no power and cited "a very complicated process"  to get water out of tunnels. He said service under the East River was "unlikely"until sometime in the weekend.

While all the East River bridges are open, most tunnels remain closed. To reduce number of cars coming into Manhattan, the four East River bridges will be be restricted to High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) containing three or more people from 6 am until midnight.

Also, bus lanes are being established. Schools are still closed for students the rest of the week.

Times critic Kimmelman salutes Barclays Center (antithesis of MSG), raises doubts about overall Atlantic Yards plan, suggests "variety of architects... with different developers"

New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman finally weighs in with his review of the Barclays Center, saluting the arena for its design, fan experience, and operations--and calling it the antithesis of Madison Square Garden--yet raising significant doubts about the overall Atlantic Yards plan, both as urban design and urban planning.

He suggests that, by hiring SHoP to wrap the much-derided Ellerbe Becket design, the architects "have created something tougher, more textured and compelling, an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough."

I think Kimmelman lets the Barclays Center off too easily on some fronts--if the Times had had better coverage of arena operations, that would have been avoided--but I'm glad he waited until after the arena opened 9/28/12 to write, since he does acknowledge some lingering issues. It's by far the most wide-ranging, and thoughtful of the reviews, as it recognizes this fundamental fact: Atlantic Yards is not just an arena.

And if  Kimmelman--who contrasts his starchitect-loving predecessors with a serious interest in larger issues of urbanism--only partly acknowledges episodes that are part of what I call the Culture of Cheating, he comes to a slyly subversive conclusion that surely infuriates developer Bruce Ratner :
Notwithstanding that [original architect] Mr. [Frank] Gehry’s involvement sold many skeptics on the development in the first place, the area doesn’t need a single architect for all 22 acres because a multiplicity of designers, or better, a variety of architects teamed up with different developers, would avoid the monotony of all such megaprojects and accelerate construction.
Take the project away from Ratner? Well, let's see if the long-delayed, court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) addresses that possibility.

(Kimmelman, unfortunately, does not mention that SEIS nor the lawsuit that led to it, a response to the surprise news that the state would give the developer 25 years rather than the promised ten years to build the project. And there's no mention of the fact that the developer plans to build on the railyard--the blight removal that was a prime justification for the project--only after building on the southeast block of the project. Nor is there mention of the absurdity of declaring this oddly-shaped 22-acre site blighted.)

Leading off

Kimmelman writes, in An Arena as Tough as Brooklyn. Now How About Some Street Smarts?:
The arena opened around a month ago, a hunkered down, hunchbacked, brooding sight at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. At first blush it’s a shocker, which is one of its virtues....
The panels swoop and curl lengthwise around the building, ancient chains binding a giant Gulliver. They leave openings here and there for ribbons of windows that provide peekaboo views out from and into the interior. At night the center mostly dissolves in the darkness, save at street level, where a monotonous concourse of shiny shops flanks its glossy front door..
In operation

Kimelman, who attended both a Jay-Z concert and a Nets game, likes crowd circulation and sight lines, praises the "sophisticated chill" of design, "warmed by an eager, Disney-trained staff."

He found getting to and from the arena by mass transit easy, and points out that "dire predictions" of Carmageddon haven't panned out, thanks in part to increased policing. I'd add that those going directly to the subway like him miss the problem of honking livery cabs--ignored by the Times in its myopic article on yellow cabs--and the unplanned shutdown of Atlantic Avenue after some events.

He does acknowledge a doubt:
The sound system needs adjusting, and alarming reports have surfaced via the local watchdog-blogger Norman Oder from neighbors complaining about noise and vibrations.
It may be a design flaw, or something that will force arena operators to turn down the bass. And neither the arena operators nor state overseers seem willing to respond.

He also calls the building "technologically smart" because Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan swoons, believing that the truck elevators and underground turntable reduce truck backups. Maybe on paper, but the record is of extensive problems.

The issue of money

Like every other critic, Kimmelman misses the fact that the arena plaza was supposed to be the site of an office building, crucial to the cost-benefit analysis that supported the arena.

But he does argue wisely, as no other critic has, that "naming rights and other financial gains from the arena should be factored into the subsidized housing equation that remains one of the major obligations made by the developer, Bruce C. Ratner."

And he points to Ratner's repeated efforts to "ask for more money and concessions about the mix and layout of apartments."

The rest of the project

Kimmelman criticizes the "titanic complex" to be formed by three towers around it, wondering "who wants to live next to it." (I'd say people who get in cheap and others who don't mind booming bass.)

And he offers a larger urbanist criticism:
Sort of, because the Atlantic Yards project also exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway.
The city wasn't so much hamstrung by the state as cooperating with the state.

Kimmelman suggests more attention to the linking neighborhoods, "more pedestrian-friendly avenues and finer-grained architecture, possibly taller than now proposed in places but less monolithic at street level."

And there's still time, he suggests, "to hold Mr. Ratner, the city and the state to their word about creating jobs and building the promised number and type of subsidized apartments." (Well, if there's political will.)

Kimmelman even takes a swipe at Ratner's "obviously profitable malls," suggesting an upgrade, concluding that "the arena might yet become the start of something good."

Some comments from the Times web site

Nikil Saval, Philadelphia, PA
"SHoP has also spared Brooklyn another retro stadium," the author writes. But surely pre-rusted steel, though it ain't brick, is retro enough, recalling the fabled age when the borough supplied both industry and industrial workers. It also calls to mind the somewhat more recent "blight" that supposedly characterized the area, before a cynical use of eminent domain cleared the way for this disastrous project to be pounded into the neighborhood. I concede that Barclays Arena's brand of prefab blight enjoys more modern tax benefits than the original.
Binky, Brooklyn:
You don't really mention what the arena looks like from any side other than the front plaza approach. The view from the neighborhood, around the back, is of just a great big hulking void. Not a very welcoming presence from the back where we live. The biggest bait-and-switch around, and for we who have lived here, the beginning of 20+ years of actual blight.
Keefus, East Village
Now living 5 blocks from the arena, I was concerned about traffic (automobile and foot) when it opened, but to my pleasant surprise, it has not shown much effect on my street.
I do like the design, both inside and out (made it to a Nets preseason game), but find the fact they took factoring in NHL hockey off the table as a cost cutting factor absolutely unforgivable. They knew there was an NHL team an hour away with Arena problems and went ahead and built with hockey only as an afterthought. Now, with a new agreement with Barclays Center in hand, the Islanders will move into a new arena with the smallest capacity with no seating at one end. So short sighted, who actually made that decision?
Mike Richards, New Jersey
Ratner should live up to the promises made on housing and related development, which made the original Atlantic Yards package a good deal for the city (sorry, NIMBY local residents). But New York has a weak policy towards these so-called "Community Benefit Agreements," (CBAs) and the city pays the price. Bloomberg opposes them so they are negotiated deal by deal, without much real enforcement (see the debacle around Yankee Stadium where huge benefits were given in response for virtually nothing from the developers).
In contrast, Los Angeles has a strong CBA policy and has achieved both development and real community benefits in terms of good paying jobs around the Staples Center, the expansion of LAX airport, and the new LA ports expansion agreement. These linked development deals can be good for cities and low income communities but they need a strong, enforceable city legal framework to make sure that developers come through with their promises. Bloomberg's hostility to such a framework has ensured that we get this patchwork of deals that can't be effectively enforced.
(I'd say it wasn't Bloomberg's hostility to such a framework, it was Bloomberg's trust in Ratner.)

threecee, Brooklyn
"Ratner should live up to the promises made on housing and related development."
The problem, as pointed out by us so-called "NIMBY local residents" and many others, is that these promises weren't worth the paper the CBA was printed on. Ratner, himself, has almost literally admitted as much as he seeks more subsidies and more union concessions so that he makes the profit that he feels is necessary.
The Barclays signage is indeed a disaster.
Meanwhile, in the interests of public safety, street trees would be a non-starter. The sidewalks around the arena are already perilously narrow and struggle to accommodate the thousands leaving after events. The entire site will become more dangerous during and after the construction of the three high rise apartment buildings. Walk around the arena and ask yourself where they fit them in. It beggars belief.
enJ, NJ
I appreciate Mr. Kimmelman's vociferous stance here, calling Ratner and co. out for the outrageous fleecing of Brooklyn. We who opposed this greedy land grab from the start only wish the critics in seats of power were more vocal about their outrage along the way. The criticism is valuable. But I'm afraid it will be too little, and it's definitely too late. Thanks anyway.

Nets game tomorrow without full subway service, but arena CEO promises some transportation news; expect NYPD to again prioritize traffic flow over ticketing scofflaws, despite promises of enforcement

In spite of the worst damage in the history of the New York City subway system after the storm Sandy, the Brooklyn Nets "historic" home opener tomorrow night against the New York Knicks will go on as planned, likely because the temptation--for the NBA, team, and arena brass--of a nationally televised debut was just too great.

Ticketholders will be challenged to drive, carpool, take the LIRR, ride buses, and perhaps use limited subway service to reach the arena, which was sited to rely on subway service. Nets CEO Brett Yormark tweeted that a plan would be announced today on the Barclays Center web site, though there's nothing yet.

Many Nets fans cheered, though one understandably groused that the Nets "don't care about the NJ fans." One commenter on Twitter called it "NBA hubris at its worst." WFAN's Craig Carton said,  according to CBS, "First off, half of us don’t have power, not gonna be able to watch the game anyway on TNT, number one. Number two, it’s offensive. It’s offensive to everybody that doesn’t have power, that’s displaced from their homes or far worse.”

Official push

But it seems clear that those behind the transit system, surely with a push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, will do what they can to make things work, even if the expenditure of resources detracts from more pressing needs. (Perhaps a few subway lines will be open, at least as shuttles within Manhattan and Brooklyn, and there may be some express or charter buses. But the subway system could be out four to five days, Bloomberg said yesterday.)

Does anyone believe that the New York Police Department, which answers to Bloomberg (a backer of the team and the new Barclays Center, and who said he's going to the game), won't do its best to ensure traffic runs smoothly, even if that means residents in the blocks surrounding the arena will continue to face idling livery cabs and illegal parking?

Expect a lot of business at the official arena lot, and other lots associated with the arena, via ClickAndPark, as well as others services, such as ParkWhiz. In fact, anyone with a lot will likely be promoting it--maybe even people with driveways to rent out.

Atlantic Avenue, Wed. 8:41 am
And expect some heavy traffic by 6 pm Thursday. The arena itself was mainly unscathed. But the fear will be gridlock like that at about 8:40 am today, in the photo at left of traffic on Atlantic Avenue near Downtown Brooklyn, via Aaron Naparstek.

Markowitz support 

Even before the decision was made yesterday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was on board.

"Right now, our biggest priority in Brooklyn is helping with the recovery from this terrible storm," Markowitz told "I am confident that the NBA, in conjunction with the MTA, the NYPD and all of the necessary city agencies, will make a decision that represents the best interests not only of sports fans but of all of our citizens in New York City."

"If the game is played Thursday, I certainly encourage fans to carpool and to take city buses -- which will begin running with limited service at 5 p.m. today," Markowitz continued. "I expect that adequate numbers of traffic agents will be employed to move traffic swiftly, as has been the experience with the previous events at the Barclays Center."

How can anything Markowitz says be taken seriously, after he's proven his willingness to shill for arena developer Forest City Ratner? And how can there be "adequate numbers of traffic agents" when the situation--likely without 10,000-plus people taking the subway--is different?

Media coverage

The Times (which didn't get the news into its print edition, right, for which the page closed at 7 pm) reported:
Rescheduling the Knicks-Nets game would have been challenging, given national television and arena commitments. On the plus side, the league would not have had to factor in travel schedules.
Any delay would have been a blow to the Nets — who are set to host the first major sporting event in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957 — and to their fans.
Not all the fans, I'd bet. It was a business decision.

In the New York Post, Brooklyn-born Knicks star Carmelo Anthony stated, “I hope they don’t [postpone it]. That would be a monumental game for Brooklyn as an organization, as a borough."

USA Today reported:
The decision was made to play because players and referees will be in the New York region, and the NBA consulted with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office and the Nets, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
That doesn't sound like a full accounting of the interests at play. Will Leitch of New York magazine enthused:
This might turn into one of those "can't keep New York down!" nights, and hey: The game's cheaper to go to now too.
From the New York Daily News
A predictable shill

But USA Today found a predictable shill:
A choked public transit system, streets blocked by debris and scattered power outages are doing little to shake public confidence in a timely recovery.
"It's New York," says Eddy St. Louis, co-owner of Machavelle Sports Bar and Lounge, nestled across the street from the new arena. "The trains will be back on schedule, the buses will be running. Everything will fall back into place. We prepare for stuff like this."
No, the trains won't be all back on schedule, though the buses will be running. If they're going to interview someone whose business depends on the arena, why not talk with residents down the block?

A Yormark defender

Note the debate on Twitter between Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy, who often seems in sync with Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark (Bondy tweeted, in Yormarkian style, "Sandy can't keep Brooklyn down"), and Brooklyn activist Daniel Goldstein.

Bondy cited a post-9/11 Yankee game as part of bringing people together; Goldstein suggested this was about TV revenues. Bondy suggested it's "right decision for more than money," and Goldstein responded that it "seems tone deaf." I'd add that the effects of 9/11, though enormously traumatic, were concentrated in one section of the city, and did not cripple the transportation system.

What will the cops do?

At the 10/16/12 first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Commitee, neighbors near the Barclays Center cited rampant illegal parking by livery cabs and limos, as well as idling illegally and in driving lanes. 

They were told that the solution was less enforcement than finding a place for those vehicles to queue. But that wasn't what they were told two months earlier, as described below.

“We know there's a big issue with black cars and limos,” said Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development who added that the agency was “working closely with Forest City [Ranter], NYPD, city DOT to find an area where black cars can queue legally... We’re in the process right now of finalizing that location.” (It hasn't been announced.)

Captain Michael Ameri of the 78th Precinct said the Taxi and Limousine Commission had, at the second Barbra Streisand concert, “confiscated 27 illegal livery cabs.” The second solution, he said, is to find a location for such cars.

Promises of enforcement

However, Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council observed, people were talking “if black cars were invented for the opening of the Barclays Center--they weren’t."

"The answer, to all of this, was: enforcement: the NYPD was simply not going to allow these cars to park and queue and idle,” Veconi continued. “It’s great to hear we're working on a location for these cars now that the arena has opened, after the eight years of study.. but at some point, we’ve got to get enforcement."

“Enforcement is part of the answer, but it's not the solution,” Ameri responded. “The solution is to give them a place... There’s no reason to expend resources on issuing summonses when the long-term solution is to find a place for them to queue."

The issue will come up tomorrow night, surely. And it will be discussed at the next meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, which was supposed to be held Oct. 30 but has been rescheduled to Nov. 13 at 7:30 pm, at the station house, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Street.

The promise of enforcement

This past August, ESD issued a RESPONSE TO PUBLIC COMMENTS regarding the proposed Traffic Demand Management Plan. The document referred repeatedly to enforcement:
34. Frustrated drivers, finding the search for free on‐street parking fruitless, will be inclined to park illegally: in curb cuts, at hydrants, in sidewalks, in no‐standing zones, or anywhere parking is not allowed but the curb is accessible. We do not doubt the NYPD and other forces will ticket, boot, or tow these drivers. But the fact that such lawlessness will occur in the first place, and that such enforcement will be needed, is a direct consequence of arena patrons driving to the Barclays Center.
The TDM Plan is intended to reduce the number of vehicles driving to the arena and will encourage off‐street parking to the extent feasible for those who do choose to drive, thereby minimizing the number of drivers seeking on‐street parking. As the comment states, parking regulation enforcement will be handled by NYPD.
41. Will no honking signs be installed and enforced?
As part of an effort to reduce excessive and ineffective signage on our streets, DOT no longer will be installing No Honking Signs. DOT has found that signage does not act as an effective deterrent to excessive honking, which can be enforced in any part of the city.
64. Who will monitor double‐parking in front of the Atlantic mall? Patrons currently use Atlantic Avenue across from the arena for drop‐off and pick up.
NYPD is responsible for enforcing parking regulations.
65. Who will monitor traffic violations and how?
NYPD is responsible for enforcing parking regulations and traffic laws.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nets-Knicks home opener will be held Thursday; decision made before anyone knows if subway system will be working

The NBA has announced that, yes, the regular-season home opener for the Brooklyn Nets, a nationally-televised (TNT) game against the New York Knicks, will go on as scheduled at 7:00 pm on Thursday.

That's a rather aggressive decision, given that we don't know how much mass transit will be up and running by then, given that Mayor Mike Bloomberg said today that it could take three to five days before the subway system is back, after the devastation of the storm known as Sandy.

(Then again, you can bet arena developer Bruce Ratner has been in contact with the governor and mayor, urging them to make sure that lines serving the arena are functional.)

Whose interests rule?

It suggests that the interests of the league, the network, and the arena operators trump those of the ticket holders and the citizens of Brooklyn. USA Today reported:
The decision was made to play because players and referees will be in the New York region, and the NBA consulted with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office and the Nets, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

After all, a good number of ticket holders may--if things don't improve--have a very tough time getting to the arena. And if many more people drive, or even take the bus, then the likelihood grows of untoward impacts on the neighborhoods around the arena.

Daily News beat reporter channels Yormark
That's not to say they can't pull it off, with some luck.

But to decide on holding the game before anyone knows if mass transit will work--when the arena was built to rely on mass transit--is a stone cold power move, as well as something of a bet. Apparently, the money, the publicity, the inevitable Brooklyn Dodgers tie-in are all too inevitable to be stopped.

"Going to be a huge night," arena/team CEO Brett Yormark predicted on Twitter.

You can say that again. People are already asking him how to get to the arena.

After storm, city/region/MTA face recovery; delay in subway reopening places cloud over Nets' planned home opener Nov. 1; Albert, Prokhorov offer optimism about Nets (updated)

There's been no word yet about the impact of the huge storm Sandy on the Barclays Center, other than the predictable (and early yesterday) announcement that tonight's Journey concert would be canceled.

On Dean St. side of the arena; photos by Raul Rothblatt
However, given that the subway system "has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," according to Chairman Joseph Lhota, and the city faces enormous challenges after power outages and flooding, as reported by the New York Times, it will take days, perhaps more, for the city and region to recover.

So I'm not going out on a limb to predict that tomorrow's Smashing Pumpkins concert at the arena will be canceled. (Update: it was postponed.) Last night, the first in a week of Jimmy Kimmel shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music--a series keyed to the Brooklyn Nets season--was canceled. It's not clear whether tonight's show will go on.

The Nets opener

What about the much-anticipated Brooklyn Nets home opener Thursday, Nov. 1, against the New York Knicks? The Times's Howard Beck confirms "no definitive word" from the NBA.
Another view of Dean Street

But the prospect seems less likely, given statements this morning that it could take "four or five" or "three or four" days to get the subways up and running.

It still remains possible that, if subways are functioning by Thursday afternoon, the game could go on.

If it does go through as planned, even if billed as a salute to the resiliency of the city and of Brooklyn, the excitement surely will be muted, given that New Yorkers have been forced to recognize that sports fandom, and entertainment, however a part of the fabric of life, run well behind survival of the city and its systems.

The Atlantic Avenue side
That would also put a damper on plans to bring back some Brooklyn Dodgers for a ceremony to install the flag from Ebbets Field (and a plaque) on the arena plaza.

There were reports on Twitter that some construction materials on the Dean Street side of the arena were flying away in the wind.

As seen in the photos, part of the construction fence was lost.

Also, one small tree outside the arena was downed (left), and some metal fencing at the parking lot was overturned (below right).

Run-up promotion

Meanwhile, in the run-up to the anticipated home opener, the New York Times offers a bit of synergy, an essay by new Nets play-by-play announcer Marv Albert, Back Home in Brooklyn, Marv Albert Welcomes a New Resident:
On Pacific Street east of Carlton 
The Nets have come to Brooklyn, where I grew up. And even after nearly 50 years of calling basketball games, I can’t wait.
But when I call their first regular-season game at Barclays Center, on Thursday night against the Knicks, I will not be curious about whether the move from New Jersey will go well. It will. I will want to know if a hard-core Nets crowd will be at the arena. One of my measuring sticks for the success of the Brooklyn Nets will be their ability to overwhelm the sound and presence of Knicks fans.
Around the city, people keep asking me about the Nets — at a rate that I never thought possible. Fanatics from New Jersey used to be the only people who wanted to chat me up about the Nets. Sometimes, you hardly knew they had taken the court at Izod Center. Far more often, people wanted to talk to me about the Knicks — and kept asking after I left the Knicks’ TV booth to call Nets games.
The Nets are a likable group, and even without playing a game they’ve become popular. I think they’ll win over kids who haven’t developed loyalties yet.
He closes with a reference to one of Brett Yormark's favorite terms, "relevance":
Back then, of course, there was no pro alternative in New York to rooting for the Knicks. Now, the Nets can challenge them as they never did from Long Island, Piscataway, the swamps of New Jersey or Newark. They are finally relevant, and it should be fun to watch.
The New York Post offers Serby's special Q&A with Mikhail Prokhorov, in which the Nets' owner tells Steve Serby (conversation or written back-and-forth?) that he expects the Nets to win an NBA championship in June (highly unlikely) and offers numerous ripostes:
Q: Why did you want to own an NBA team so badly?
A: I have a lot of experience with basketball, having owned CSKA in Russia. We made it to the Euroleague semifinals every year during the time I was there, and won the championship twice. Plus, this was just a wonderful opportunity — a down-and-out franchise about to make a historic move to Brooklyn, a new arena, a chance to really build something and make my mark. I wasn’t interested in buying any team at any price. I really wanted a big market, and when this opportunity came along with a great partner in Bruce Ratner it was obviously the right thing to do.
I suspect that making a big profit and buffing his reputation might also have been part of the equation.

The 78th Precinct Community Council

The next meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council was supposed to be held tonight but has been rescheduled to Nov. 13 at 7:30 pm, at the station house, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Street.

It will give neighbors an opportunity to discuss arena impacts--at least those that the police can deal with, such as traffic and parking. (The cops can't do much about arena noise, but I bet they felt the bass from Sensation in their building, too.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Times says Barclays Center serves as magnet for yellow cabs; "clear ripples" from arena, but no mention of impact of black cars, livery cabs idling on residential streets. That's part of "new normal," too.

Update: in print, this article takes up 3/4 of the front page of the New York section. Contrast that with the five paragraphs devoted to the June 2009 renegotiation of the MTA deal, when the Times buried a story that suggested developer Forest City Ratner might be getting a sweetheart deal from a government agency.

Would you believe that the opening of the Barclays Center has doubled pickups by yellow cabs in the vicinity?

The New York Times explores that phenomenon in an article published tonight on the web, in print tomorrow, headlined Yellow Taxis, Rare Brooklyn Sightings, Multiply on Event Nights at New Arena.

It's a fairly sunny portrait:
Interviews with drivers, residents and traffic guards nearby, combined with city data, suggest that a pattern has emerged: throughout the evening of an event, drivers become more willing to perform drop-offs in the area, or even cruise in adjacent neighborhoods, because they can reasonably expect a return fare to Manhattan. And once an event ends, they descend on the arena to greet the crowd as it leaves.
...So far, though, the arena appears to have created some clear ripples. Mo Mullen, 32, from Clinton Hill, said that while she often used for-hire vehicles, she had in recent weeks stumbled upon yellow taxis on Atlantic Avenue on weekend afternoons. “I’ve been about to call a car service and then a taxi drives by,” she said.
The rest of the story

I tweeted to the author, Matt Flegenheimer, pointing out the failure to mention some other clear ripples: black cars and livery cabs idling on residential streets.

noted that a reliance on consultant Gridlock Sam Schwartz, TLC Commissioner David Yassky, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz missed the rest of the story, which includes video of idling limos and frustration expressed by the police, who don't have a solution.

Flegenheimer replied:
Hear ya, but story doesn't make a quality of life argument. Just laying out what appears to be a new normal for yellows.
My response:
 Ecosystem = public transit, yellow cabs, black cars, etc. Why not address rest of the story? Video is glaring. Cops are frustrated
Another new normal

I also pointed him to another "new normal," with some concerts: pounding bass *inside* people's homes. He said he'd pass it on. Will the Times portray this as residents "finding another reason to complain"?

Or will the paper recognize the failure of design, operation, and oversight? Heck, I couldn't get acknowledgments, much less responses, from the purportedly 24/7 representatives of the arena and state, Terence Kelly and Derek Lynch.

Video: state overseer for Atlantic Yards says "I can only imagine people will love to have Sensation in their backyards" (but no response yet on booming bass)

The Sensation EDM (electronic dance music) shows this past Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26 and 27) at the Barclays Center drew an international audience and, going by the six-hour video at bottom from the first show, lasted until 4 am.

The excerpt below, taken from a canned promotional segment taped sometime before the show, includes enthusiastic words from show promoters and, astonishingly, the state official overseeing the Atlantic Yards project.

Arana Hankin's effusiveness contrasts starkly with the inability or unwillingness of Empire State Development, the agency in charge of Atlantic Yards, to protect residents on blocks near the arena from pounding bass inside their homes, a repeat of impacts from the Jay-Z concerts that opened the arena and, by some accounts, even worse.

It strikes me as another example of the Culture of Cheating.

New York as destination

The first video opens with a few words from Sensation creator Duncan Stutterheim, "So I hope now with all our knowledge and experience that this is the perfect timing."

Then comes Live Nation New York President Jason Miller, who says, "One of the great things about New York as the destination for the premier edition is that we're so centrally located that it's as easy for someone to get on a plane from London or Paris or Amsterdam and fly six hours to get to the event, as it is for somebody to come from Los Angeles or San Francisco. So we really become kind of a central hub for others around the globe. So, it makes it cool and unique."

"We have this amazing opportunity to be part of a launch of a brand new facility, the newest, most state-of-the-art arena in the United States, be part of their grand opening and initial rollout of programming, one of the first events," Miller continues. "Once the light bulb went off for everybody, it was like, Of course. And Brooklyn! Let's not forget that it's in Brooklyn."

Dropped into Brooklyn

Brooklyn-born DJ Danny Tenaglia, with his outer-borough accent, then declares, "It's sensational that this is right here, right dropped in the middle of, like, a Brooklyn neighborhood. It's kind of overwhelming, actually. I guess if you would've told me that you were opening up a stadium here, I would've been like, How? How are they going to traffic the people and park the cars and all of that? But they did it."

They did it, of course, with a few side effects unmentioned by the next interviewee, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, ESD.

"People will love to have Sensation in their backyards"

"Well, y'know, Brooklyn's a really young, hip, lively community," Hankin states. "We love to party and dance here in Brooklyn, and I can only imagine people will love to have Sensation in their backyards and be able to walk to the arena to party at an amazing event like Sensation. So I'm hopeful that folks will want to come back year after year."

Sure, people who love EDM and are willing to spend $200 and up for a night of partying might love being able to have Sensation "in their backyards." Other people, not so much.

As I stated, I don't think it was wise for Hankin to be promoting arena events. That's doubly true when her agency should be helping make sure arena operations don't boom into neighbors' living rooms.

Nor has her agency nor the arena responded to community concerns, though Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, between the first and second shows, claimed, "we are looking into it and we take the concerns very seriously."

Most of the show

The video below from the first show starts at 10 pm, after pre-show DJs, and lasted until 4 am. Doors opened at 7 pm. It was a very long night.

After Nets' coveted home opener, tickets at three games already significantly discounted

Yes, there's huge demand for the Brooklyn Nets' home opener Nov. 1 against the New York Knicks, with tickets on the secondary market starting at about $175. (They were $200 last week.)

But the third, fourth, and fifth games are already on discount--and that's without some number of the elusive but highly promoted $15 seats coming open.

CBS Local, via Crowd Seats, has an offer for tickets from 44% to 51% off three games in the following two weeks. (And those aren't the biggest bargains--see below.)

Check StubHub

Also, StubHub--which is establishing a retail storefront on Atlantic Avenue west of the arena--has lots of even cheaper seats for those games, likely from season ticket holders who see these as less interesting and/or bought the seats as an investment.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Daily News, partner with the Barclays Center, presents 44-page special section honoring the arena (plus belated, deceptive Ratner apology to Globetrotters attendees)

The New York Daily News, sponsor of Golden Gloves boxing at the Barclays Center and sponsor of the arena plaza, today offers a "44-page special section introducing the Barclays Center," which includes a belated but slippery apology from developer Bruce Ratner to those who had to wait a long time for one show.

There's no disclosure of the business relationship, but the Barclays Center and its sponsors  (and a few others) have lots of advertising: Foxwoods, P.C. Richard, Modell's, Cookie's (with Nets gear on discount), Maimonides Medical Center, metroPCS, the Barclays Center, Bay Ridge Honda, Brooklyn Hospital Center, Queens Public TV (!), Disney On Ice, Brooklyn Cyclines, AECOM/Hunt (builders of the arena), Dello Russo Lasik Vision (official Lasik partner of the Nets), Elbow Room (new arena retailer), Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz, National Grid, and the Brooklyn Nets themselves.

Hamill on Ratner

Of course, columnist Denis Hamill gets the big one, Barclays Center: The house that Bruce Ratner built: Bruce Ratner now just wants to enjoy the fruits of a long and hard battle to build the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

And of course Hamill doesn't mention the significant public assistant Ratner got, the unfulfilled promises of the Atlantic Yards project, and the court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding the second phase of Atlantic Yards. The columnist accompanies the developer to a Barbra Streisand show:
Tonight, the successful Cleveland-born builder and CEO of Forest City Ratner no longer has to worry about eminent domain, scores of lawsuits, community protests, pickets, a national economic collapse, a major architectural modification, landing Dwight Howard for the Nets or an often hostile press that plagued him from conception to development to construction and opening night of the Barclays Center.
Ratner tells Hamill about two years of negotiations with Streisand's people, with help from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

What went wrong with Globies

Ratner reveals how things went wrong at the Harlem Globetrotters show earlier that week, with long lines of frustrated people on the plaza:
"First off, I want to take this opportunity to apologize from the bottom of my heart to all those good people who were kept waiting outside Barclays Center the day they arrived to see the Globetrotters. But, see, we do research and the Globetrotters never sell more than 6,000 seats to a show. So we staffed the arena for that kind of crowd at the box office, at the concessions, inside the arena."

But when the Globetrotters dribbled into Barclays 10,000 fans put a full-court press at the front gates.

"It was astounding," Ratner says, blinking like a man watching a UFO land. "On the one hand you're elated, thrilled. On the other, panic explodes inside you. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, whole families, three generations, full school classes, children's sports teams, fans from every corner of Brooklyn arrived at once. People had promotional coupons to exchange for tickets. And we were just caught off guard. We didn't have the staff to print tickets fast enough, usher people to seats, and sell food and beverages. We didn't have enough magnetometers. I went crazy. I raced into the box office and told the workers to just keep printing tickets as fast as they could. We called workers to come in. I was sweating."
Actually, the Barclays Center predicted (and, presumably, planned for) 8.400 attendees, which is closer to 10,000 than 6,000.

Unmentioned: with the Streisand show, they stopped using metal detectors.And while the feared "Carmageddon" of gridlock has been avoided, the events have not gone off without other hitches: the shutdown of Atlantic Avenue for those exiting the arena, livery cabs idling on residential streets, and the bass from Jay-Z and Sensation concerts penetrating residents' homes.

Bruce's odyssey

The centerfold; the member of the
Brooklynettes isn't named
Hamill asks if "the eight-year odyssey of building Barclays Center" has changed Ratner:
"Yes, big time," he says. "Even though my company built MetroTech, Atlantic Terminal, and other projects in Brooklyn, this one makes me feel like a Brooklynite. I just fit in here. Oh my God, I feel at home here now. I should have been born here. This is a place where people come from all over the world. Growing up in Cleveland I was embarrassed, self-conscious that my father was the only one in my class with a foreign accent. Here in Brooklyn that would have been the norm. A badge of honor. A son of an immigrant with a dream."
I doubt the percentage of people visiting the arena with foreign accents is commensurate with the population of Brooklyn.

Music history

In For many who grew up there, Brooklyn was a borough of music way before the Barclay’s Center: The new stadium is helping to restore the borough's former glory, music writer David Hinckley surveys a long history, concluding:
"You can really see how much change there's been in a community like Williamsburg," [photographer Bryant McInnis] he says, "but it's almost everywhere. And even though Brooklyn values tradition, it's letting some of our community slip away. We're losing a lot of our old buildings, a lot of churches."
Still, he says, "A lot of the changes have been positive. Twenty years ago, there were parks you couldn't walk in.
"And now, with Barclays, Brooklyn has this huge new center for the arts, too. People don't have to go to Madison Square Garden or Nassau Coliseum."
"Getting Barclays is a great addition," says [DJ Cousin Brucie] Morrow, "to what Brooklyn has always had."
The path of the Nets

In The Nets have finally found a home in Brooklyn: From Dr. J to Deron Williams, from Teaneck to Long Island, and through the swamps of Jersey, the Nets arrive at the Barclays Center, basketball writer Stefan Bondy writes:
Along the way, the Nets were defeated by drug use and tragedy, dogged by their status as second bananas to the Knicks and as temporary tenants in sub-par facilities.
...After flirtations with a new ownership group and a Newark relocation, the team was sold to real estate developer Bruce Ratner in 2003. Ratner was determined to move the franchise to Brooklyn, bringing about the uncomfortable lame-duck New Jersey era. Kidd wanted off the sinking ship. He faked a migraine before a 2007 game as a form of protest, two months before he was traded to the Mavericks.
...The Rock might've been the Nets' permanent home if they had stayed west of the Hudson River, but it was the source of considerable distress for players accustomed to greater amenities. They were holed up in the smallest home locker room in the league, and treated like visitors by fans who cheered wildly for more capable opponents, whether it was the Knicks, Celtics, Bulls or the Heat. The Nets acted and played accordingly, falling to 9-24 at home during a strike-shortened season in 2011-12.
...It's not just a sorely needed re-branding, it is a change in culture, a shot of energy. In their final season in New Jersey, the Nets gave press credentials to 12 people for media day, compared to over 100 in Brooklyn. The first game at the Barclays Center this month was the highest-rated and most-watched Nets preseason telecast ever on YES Network.
The building

 In Inside the Barclays Center: Take a tour of the hidden gems in Brooklyn's new arena: The Barclays Center isn't just the hottest ticket in town - it's the hottest newly designed space in the city., noted sycophant Jason Sheftell lauds the oculus, the concourse, the Vault suites, the 40/40 Club, the locker room, and the seats, designed in black so the arena doesn't look empty when it's not full.

Unmentioned: the meditation room (aka chair storage area).

The food

In Barclays Center to offer 'culinary greatness' from all over Brooklyn: From Cobble Hill to Sunset Park, the Barclays Center offers food from original Brooklyn neighborhood restaurants, Patty Lee lists many of the Brooklyn purveyors, old and new, at the arena.

Check out the prices:
When the Nets play, they'll [Tumbador] offer the Sweet and Salty ($6.50), a bar of milk chocolate with pretzel nuggets and buttery toffee pieces, and the vitality ($6), a snack bar made from a blend of apples pecans and almonds.
For concerts, keep an eye out for the crisp bar ($6.50), chocolate and puffed rice, and the health bar ($6), a blend of almonds, cashews, raisins and cranberries.

Sensation again pounds bass into residences, as arena CEO claims "we are looking into it and we take the concerns very seriously"

It wasn't likely that those behind the second of two nightly Sensation shows at the Barclays Center would turn down the music, and arena operators were not exactly able to retrofit the building.

So for the second straight night, residents even three blocks away heard and felt the bass. One resident posted on Atlantic Yards Watch:
Can hear and feel bass from Sensation show at corner of St. Marks and 5th, and can hear it inside our home with window closed.

Totally unacceptable, annoying, upsetting.
Tweeted Daniel Goldstein:
4 blocks away too. RT @lynfield: #barclays #atlanticyards the noise is coming into the house a block away - wow - just like jayz
David Bivins tweeted:
@MartyMarkowitz Please follow up on incredibly loud noise from Sensations at Barclays Center. It's unreasonable. They're a bad neighbor.
The arena brush-off

Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, responding to my tweet citing ""Loud, wall shaking noise from event" Again? Explanation?", claimed that "we are looking into it and we take the concerns very seriously." It didn't seem to help.

Nor did the arena's Community Affairs Manager and the Empire State Development's Government and Community Affairs Manager respond to queries I sent yesterday morning.

Yormark also added a personal dig: "As for you, you have no credibility with me." I was just the messenger on this, but I have long documented Yormark's not-so-credible claims.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Attendees love first U.S. Sensation show; neighbors feel bass in their apartments, just like the Jay-Z show; where are government overseers? (saluting Sensation, actually)

Pic via @dancingastro
"No words needed," tweeted one attendee at last night's first-ever U.S. version of the European dance party Sensation, an event that drew people from around the country and world to the Barclays Center. "What an epic night."

"WEARING ALL WHITE AND IT FEELS SO RIGHT," another tweeted. "you were more than I could have ever asked for," added another.

Feeling Sensation at home

Neighbors near the Barclays Center also considered the concert an extreme experience, but in a different way: they cited bass seeping into their residences, as with the Jay-Z concerts that opened the arena, problems that provoked a belated response from the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and no apparent action.

"Incessant bass from Sensation show from 9pm to time of report at 12:41," reported a resident of South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, northeast of the arena, on Atlantic Yards Watch.

Another resident, even closer at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, cited "continued incessant bass," at 1:42 am.

Here's a report from 1:30 am on South Oxford Street northeast of the arena:
incredibly disturbing dance music that was so loud my noise machine and pillow on my head couldn't block it out. Even more disturbing was the stop/start nature of the noise. I couldn't believe how late this was going on. This was the first event that could be heard in our building, 212 S. Oxford St (at Atlantic.) This building has over 100 kids in it. This cannot be repeated...worse than the 24 hour work permit that we suffered through.
"Loud, wall shaking noise from event at arena" at 1 am, reported another resident of the building. Another report, from 1:30 am on Pacific Street east of the arena:
Bass was worst yet from Sensation show. 311 did take the report and someone from the 88th [sic; surely the 78th Precinct] called at 1:30 to say it was the Arena, and it was really shaking the precinct house, but there was nothing they could do about it. The officer did tell me that there was another show tonight.
Tweeted resident David Bivins:
@TishJames Anything you can do about the deafening noise from Barclays Center would be appreciated. It's after midnight.
The concert ran late, perhaps until 2 am, maybe later. (I'll update this when I learn more.) One arena worker reported a long shift: "I straight up worked 11hrs at #Barclays tonight for #sensation."

Any response likely?

Will there be any response, especially for tonight, the second of two Sensation shows? It's a good bet that the interests of the arena, and its operators, will again trump those of neighbors who didn't choose to live this close to sports facility that gains the benefit of a state zoning override. (Otherwise, sports facilities are banned from being within 200 feet of residential districts.)

At a meeting earlier this month on neighborhood impacts of the Barclays Center, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development, brushed off community complaints about the penetrative bass. "I’m confident that the work [DEP has] done was sufficient to date," she declared.

Last night, on the YouTube livestream of the Sensation show, Hankin appeared briefly in a pre-recorded introduction. As I tweeted:
Wow. ESD #AtlanticYards Director Arana Hankin on video promo: "I can only imagine people will love to have Sensation in their backyards" 1/2
She was referring to the accessibility of the show to fans in New York and elsewhere, but it was unwise cheerleading and had an unfortunate double meaning, as it turned out. I followed up:
Not sure ESD #AtlanticYards Director Arana Hankin should be promoting acts at#BarclaysCenter. Too many lingering oversight issues.
That was before I knew how bad the bass would be.

Early this morning, I contacted Derek Lynch of ESD and Terence Kelly of the Barclays Center regarding the noise complaints. (They're supposed to be accessible 24/7.) If/when I get a response, I'll post it.

Is it fixable?

I'm no expert on arena design and acoustics, but it strikes me that there are likely at least four factors at work, not all of them fixable:
  1. the arena's placement in/near a residential neighborhood; that can't be changed
  2. the arena bowl's below-grade location, which may hasten conductivity of bass; that can't be changed
  3. the arena's internal soundproofing; that likely could be changed, but would represent an unanticipated, un-budgeted cost
  4. the volume of arena events; that's surely adjustable, but that goes against the arena's business model, since the volume is obviously satisfying to event-goers.

Outside the Barclays Center, partiers on Sixth Avenue before the show, about 8 pm

Excitement under the oculus before the show

Trucks on the pad outside the arena on Dean Street, plus ambulances