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Showing posts from May, 2013

From City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau: City Downplays Ratner's Role In Carousel Recovery

My story from City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau, City Downplays Ratner's Role In Carousel Recovery:
One highlight of Coney Island's new summer season is the city's restoration and relocation of the legendary B&B Carousel, now occupying a pavilion in the new Steeplechase Plaza adjacent to MCU Park.
Lost in the hoopla, however, is how at least one private party, leading Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, helped in the carousel's revival.
Unveiling the new plaza last week, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's office stated in a May 24 press release, “The carousel operated on Surf Avenue for seventy years until it was nearly sold in pieces at an auction in 2005. The City of New York instead purchased the carousel to preserve this important piece of Coney Island’s history and restore it to its former glory.”
While the city did write a $1.8 million check for the carousel, taxpayers didn't pay for it all. Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner contributed a good chunk, at…

What happened to the "Barclays Center Community Platform" announced in Long Island University partnership?

The alliance between Long Island University (LIU) and the Barclays Center, as I recently reported, involves public support from LIU for developer Bruce Ratner's plans and an honorary degree for Ratner, but there does seem to be something missing from the "multifaceted partnership" announced in March 2012: a public service component.

From a 3/14/12 Long Island University press release, LIU BROOKLYN AND BARCLAYS CENTER FORM MULTIFACETED PARTNERSHIP: New Arena to Serve as Home Away from Home for LIU Blackbirds Men’s Basketball:
Located just three blocks apart on Flatbush Avenue, Barclays Center and Long Island University Brooklyn have formed a unique multifaceted partnership, which includes athletics, education, community, and brand-building platforms.
...As part of the educational component of the alliance, Barclays Center will annually host five one-hour bi-weekly classes for students in the LIU sports journalism/management classes. The classes will feature Barclays Cente…

Now, valet parking for bikes at Barclays Center (after vague promises of "manned facility" and facility "operators")

After years of ambiguity about the commitment Barclays Center operators would make to bike parking, and distinct underuse of the outdoor bike racks, the arena is stepping up, thanks to a modest deal--$850 for the first event--with Transportation Alternatives for a free bike valet system.

According to the Wall Street Journal article posted last night, Barclays Center Pedals Out a Bike Valet Service: Brooklyn Arena to Test Bike Service for Concert-Goers:
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, will conduct a trial run of bike valets on Wednesday at a concert by the Brooklyn-based band The National. Workers will collect bikes and helmets of arriving concertgoers, store them in existing bike racks, and redistribute them after the show is over.
The charge to riders: nothing. Cyclists also won't have to tote a bike lock or carry a helmet around during the show
The valet system is an effort to nudge residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn to bike to events. While c…

From the latest Construction Alert: Forest City aims for second shift (until 11 pm) at B2 site; 50 trucks coming on June 4 for concrete pour

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is turning up the pace at the site for the B2 modular tower, aiming to work a second shift, until 11 pm, on weekdays. That request is pending Department of Buildings approval, which, based on past history with arena construction, is almost assured.

That's according to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 5/27/13 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by Forest City).

The document also describes a plan for 50 concrete truck deliveries on June 4 to complete a mat slab foundation. During that day, the pedestrian walkway outside the site, at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

On another, unspecified day, the foundation walls will be poured, and 25 concrete trucks will make deliveries. And work on Saturdays will continue from 7 am to 6 pm.

Excerpts from the document
• The second and final Mat Slab concrete pour is scheduled for June 4th. The day of the pour there will be approximately 50 …

The Barclays Center line problem they promised to fix? Still working on it

Remember how the Barclays Center pledged earlier this month that attendees showing up early for general admission tickets would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza, rather than clogging the sidewalk as they extended to Sixth Avenue?

Well, that's exactly what didn't happen at the next show. Last night, at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly was asked to respond.

He didn't quite explain. "I did make the statement that I would fix it, and it has been an issue," Kelly said. "We've had a queue outside... What creates a challenge is there's a construction fence at Atlantic and Sixth, and on other side there's two retail spaces, MetroPCS and Elbow Room... It does raise a challenge, and we are working with Guest Services to figure out long-erm solutions."
I think he was indicating that the retail outlets understandably don't want lines blocking their entrance. 
Then a…

Coming to the Barclays Center plaza area this Saturday: food trucks

I wrote April 9 how the promised greenmarkets and holiday fairs had not yet come to the Barclays Center plaza, just promotional activities.
Now, after eight months of operations, there's some movement. Arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly, speaking at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, said the arena would start hosting food trucks once a month, beginning this Saturday, June 1, from 11 am to 5 pm.

He said it was an "excellent opportunity to do a test" of the space, though he didn't specify whether the trucks would be placed on the plaza or in the adjacent lay-by lanes. He said the event would be run by the same promoters who run the Grand Army Plaza food truck rally, though the number of trucks would be fewer.

More information about the effort, he said, would be issued this morning.

I bet this will get the arena more publicity than its leaking bass.

Updated, with coverage

From the New York Observer, Barclays Center to Host Food Trucks for the…

With regular ads for replacement employees, how "happy" is the Barclays Center?

Remember how the New York Times Sports section in April ended its upbeat series, Section 15: Portraits of Nets Fans, with an upbeat profile of one employee, headlined The Happy Arena?

That video profile occupies the largest rectangle on the page mosaic.

"Wonder why everyone is so friendly at the Barclays Center?" the piece stated. "Ushers went through hospitality training from Disney professionals."

Well, yes, but, as I wrote, the part-time workers don't get benefits and can't earn enough to live on their own.

And there are regular calls for replacement employees, a sign that there's such turnover that either workers and/or their bosses are not too happy.

Also, there's an inflatable rat outside the arena, part of a union protest, which indicates a certain level of unhappiness.

Now hiring

Barclays is now recruiting for Housekeeping positions (register here for pre-screening event today):


There are also jobs with Levy Restaurants, though not necessari…

Nets CEO Yormark on first season: “I am happy, but not satisfied” (and we'll elevate the Nets brand)

Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark yesterday sent a letter to fans (as noted by NetsDaily): The team delivered a strong regular season performance in their new home and brought Brooklyn its first playoff series since the 1955 Dodgers who played down the street at Ebbetts Field. The organization is proud of how far we have come on the court as well as how quickly we have become accepted as a member of the Brooklyn community. The borough and our fans embraced us with chants of “BROOKLYN---BROOKLYN” and by wearing their Nets gear to show pride in the hometown team.

In the weeks ahead, stay tuned for an announcement of a new Head Coach, the NBA Draft, hosted for the first time at Barclays Center, and player personnel moves as Billy King continues to improve the team through free agency. Billy has done a great job and under his leadership the team will continue to excel on the court.

As I tell my staff, “I am happy, but not satisfied.” We have come a long way and will celebrate success,…

Are the Nets really Brooklyn's Team? Does it matter? They know how to fill seats.

The Nets are Finally Brooklyn’s Team, declared Brooklyn Game contributor Andrew Gnerre on 4/22/13 after attended the team's first playoff game, detailing the excitement in the arena and concluding:
Saturday night was the moment. A celebration. The resolution of all the promises of the past six years. They kept telling us that Brooklyn would be better. And so far it had been, but only because we all knew it was supposed to be better. Fans were acting on the assumptions being fed to us by billboards and hashtags. For most of this first season, the Nets were more marketing campaign—a stellar one, to be sure—than basketball team.
But on Saturday night, they finally became Brooklyn's basketball team, and not just because that's what it says on your t-shirt.How many fans from Brooklyn?

But exactly how much they are "Brooklyn's team" remains in question. A 5/24/13 piece in The Brooklyn Game by Steven Waldman mused Most Brooklyn Nets Fans Aren’t From Brooklyn?:
Firs…

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map expands to Vanderbilt Avenue (including Barclays Center) and other distant points (sort of)

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's maps keep evolving, and now the Atlantic Yards project and Barclays Center are more clearly part of Downtown Brooklyn, at least conceptually.

That makes it easier to conceive of the arena and associated towers as being part of a Business Improvement District (BID) run by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is significantly influenced if not controlled by project developer Forest City Ratner.

Also, it suggests that the scale of the Atlantic Yards project--the product of a state override of city zoning--should be consistent with and legitimized by the city's rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn.

Let's recap.

At right (click to enlarge) was a longtime map that could not quite fit in the arena, but contained an arrow pointing to the project.

Then, after the proposal for a new Barclays Center-area BID surfaced in January, a new map indicating current development projects (see below left; click to enlarge) found space for the Atlantic Yards site…

Barclays Center releases June 2013 event calendar: nine events (plus more unlisted)

The Barclays Center has released its June event calendar, which lists nine events in 30 days--busier than May, but slower than many earlier months.

Note that the Paul McCartney concerts are expected to draw 15,000 people, while other musical groups, like The National and The Postal Service, are expected to draw fewer: 11,000 and 13,000, respectively.

The arena capacity for concerts is 19,000, but usually some seats are not put up for sale, either because the views would be obscured, or the act doesn't have sufficient drawing power.

Note that the calendar does not include arena events that are not open to ticket-buyers, such as the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation Founders Ball, on June 12. I don't know how many other such events are scheduled.



The May calendar

Below, the May event calendar, as issued, which did not include a Nets playoff game on May 4 as well as two university commencements.

On award for Sports Facility of the Year, Yormark says the lesson is "adapt to change" and the Barclays Center "was always about the community first"

The Barclays Center was designated Sports Facility of the Year at the Sports Business Journal’s Sports Business Awards this week, as Sports Business Daily reported 5/22/13, in 'It Was Quite A Journey,' Barclays Center's Yormark Says:
“It was quite a journey," said [Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett] Yormark, adding that the Barclays Center has held 157 events, attracting 1.7 million people since opening with a series of Jay-Z concerts on September 28. "This is a culmination of an incredible journey, and it really is quite humbling.""Adapt to change"

As quoted on the accompanying video (which was paraphrased somewhat in the article), Yormark was asked about the lessons:
"Adapt to change. It's never going to end up the way it started. And that certainly was our case, obviously a little more than most. We ended up making a lot of changes along the way, and I think many of them were changes for the better." The changes, of course, included c…

Ratner asserts Nassau Coliseum would gain from "iconic" appearance, claims he didn't have inside track, won't talk about indirect subsidies

There are a couple of interesting tidbits in Coliseum rebranding needed: Ratner, a 5/23/13 article in The Island Now about Forest City Ratner's plans for the Nassau Coliseum.
First, the esthetic argument:
But for Ratner, the renovation is about more than programming or seating capacity. The Coliseum, an imposing concrete structure overlooking the Hempstead Turnpike, needs a complete aesthetic overhaul, Ratner said, to make it and planned surrounding developments inviting for both residents and performers.
“You want to rebrand it so an artist feels that its a cooler place to go,” Ratner said. “You want to go to a place that’s beautiful from outside to inside.
To achieve that, Ratner’s development team includes SHoP Architects, which designed the Barclays Center, and Gensler, an international design firm which would revamp the arena’s interior.
His group’s focus on redesigning the arena separates the proposal from competing bids by Madison Square Garden, Blumenfeld Development Group an…

So, is the B2 tower "part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex"? Not quite

From New York Times Opinionator columnist Allison Arieff, Prefab Lives!, 5/23/13:
It’s an exciting time for modular building, especially in New York, and as someone who has been deeply immersed in the world of prefabrication for over a decade, I am glad to see the much-maligned building technology finding its proper niche. It’s the killer app for the modular industry.  B2, a 32-story tower that is part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex designed by SHoP Architects for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, will soon be the tallest modular building in the world My comment:
Interesting that you call B2 "part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex" that's part of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Actually, the 1,500 units are just a phase in a project that's supposed to include 6,430 units.
Whether they all get built remains in question, since developer Forest City Ratner has no plans yet to build an expensive deck over the Vanderbilt Yard, the below-grade railyard that, among the lots desig…

What happened to community use of the arena? Program for ten events will wait until second year of operations

Among the arena-related programs promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), tickets have been distributed regularly to community organizations, but another element in that section of CBA remains on hold:
The Arena will be available to community groups for at least ten (10) events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support non-profit community organizations. The arena opened 9/28/12, but Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) is still working on the events. DBNA executive director Sharon Daughtry, as I reported 11/17/12, said arena developer Forest City Ratner had provided ten open dates available for potential community use. Such events could fill the arena, or a smaller portion, or even just the 40/40 Club or practice court.
I checked back recently. "We are in the planning stages now and we're working out the details with Barclays and FCRC before making a formal public presentation," she said.

Synergy! On June 12, FCR's Gilmartin to be honored at Brooklyn Hospital Foundation Founders Ball, held at arena

Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner has become the 800-pound gorilla of local philanthropy, offering not just relatively deep pockets but also an event space for certain groups.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center is a corporate partner of the arena, the latter presumably involving payments from the former in exchange for promotion. Now the hospital on June 12 will hold its 2013 Founders Ball at the arena.

Patch reported 5/15/13 that more than $1.3 million from the event will help modernize the hospital's emergency room, with all 840 tickets sold. (The event last year, held at Steiner Studios, raised $908,000.)

Gilmartin honored

The lead honoree? Forest City's new CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, who'll receive the 2013 Founders Medal for "Voluntarism, Philanthropy, and Service to the Community."

A co-chair of the event is Brett Yormark, CEO Barclays Center & Brooklyn Nets, and surely the arena, team, and company will be making significant contribution…

Barclays Center racks up awards; judge says "no one wanted to touch" scale issue of housing "because it's not built yet"

The Daily News (which sponsors the arena plaza) reports Barclays Center among Brooklyn's newest architectural standouts honored by Chamber of Commerce: The arena, home to the NBA's Nets, wins "Building Brooklyn" award for economic development. Other winners include Williamsburg's Wythe Hotel and the Botanic Garden's Vistor Center:
The Barclays Center — reviled by many during development, championed by many more, and filled by hundreds of thousands of screaming fans during its debut season — has won top honors for economic development in the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Building Brooklyn” awards to be announced Tuesday, the Daily News has learned.
“There isn’t a city in the world that wouldn’t beg for Barclays Center,” Chamber President Carlo Scisurra said. “It’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars what that means to the borough annually.”I think it's hundreds of millions of dollars for the operators, not the borough.

What about the scale?

The n…

Bruce Ratner: arena = "fortress real estate" because it can't be duplicated easily, has REIT-like qualities

There are a couple of interesting nuggets in the 5/15/13 CNBC Squawk Box interview with Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner, focusing on Nassau Coliseum Getting a Facelift.
"It's more exciting than I thought it would be," Ratner said of the Barclays Center. "I knew it would be great, never thought it would be this great. It's become an icon almost overnight, in eight months. It's amazing. It has to do with everything: it has to do with the team, the architecture, Brooklyn, it all really did come together in the kind of way that I think was almost unexpected by most people. I knew it would be special, this special I didn't expect."

It has to do with the team, or the rebranding?



The need for competition

One host, mentioning how Madison Square Garden's exterior hasn't changed--actually, the interior makeover approaches $1 billion--asked, "isn't it important to weave competition in this market for big events in New York City?"

Today's big story: the Barclays Center's "signature scent"

Apparently the Barclays Center, like some other sports venues, mists a "signature scent" (citrus-y, clean, depending on whom you asked)  to enhance the visitor experience, as DNAinfo reports in a story that got picked up widely, including by Deadspin, The Atlantic Wire, and Racked (where a commenter says it gets pumped outside the Calvin Klein VIP entrance).

While Leslie Albrecht's article quotes a sports reporter at SNYNets as saying, "It's a brand-new building. They've spent over a billion dollars. [The scent] kind of goes along with the whole over-the-top nature of the building," Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer is more skeptical:
The Nets have declined comment on the fragrance, and for good reason – even the best of press release mavens would have a hard time accurately describing why, exactly, one would decide to pay to have scented air pumped into Barclays Center, much less describing the scent in un-mockable terms and explaining why it’s fit …

Barclays Center reneges on promise to line up general admission patrons toward the plaza, not Sixth Avenue

So, here's how Barclays Center officials made a promise, and completely failed to honor it.

In April, general admission patrons for the April Green Day concert formed queues going east of the Atlantic Avenue entrance, clogging a narrow sidewalk, wrapping around to Sixth Avenue, and blocking and endangering ordinary pedestrians.

Arena officials seemed concerned. As I reported 5/8/13, Barclays Center Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly said at a community meeting that, going forward, people would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza.

That's not what happened this past Saturday, as would-be general admission patrons for The Killers began lining up at 7 am, and were again directed west to east, stretching around Sixth Avenue.

But why?
I haven't heard an explanation. Maybe this configuration helps the two businesses, MetroPCS and Elbow Room, that are open along the Atlantic Avenue facade.

But it sure won't be workable if and when a residential tower, …

Nets to open boutique in Coney Island, as Thor Equities' Sitt finally fills some space

It's sure nice when you have a newspaper on your side.

On Saturday, 5/18/13, the New York Daily News, the sponsor of the Barclays Center plaza, broke the news, complete with (at least online) four large photos of Brooklynettes cheerleaders in bikinis.

The headline and subhed: Brooklyn Nets boutique to open in Coney Island on Thursday: The Nets Shop by Adidas will feature beach balls, flip-flops, visors and the usual Nets gear, but the black-and-white bikinis for the ladies may be the biggest draw.
The article was attributed to Jason Sheftell, real estate correspondent, noted sycophant:
Nets bikinis and other fun summer merchandise will be available on the Coney Island beachfront this season in the basketball team’s signature black and white.
“After one year, we’re fourth in the NBA in apparel,” said Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. “But this isn’t about sports. The Brooklyn Nets are an international lifestyle brand. Our colors have become synonymous with the borough.”

So, is Atlantic Yards a wise example of cost-cutting (as per Observer)? Not exactly, since new arena cost not much off Gehry-era projections

The 5/14/13 New York Observer's article, PATH/Fail: The Story of the World’s Most Expensive Train Station, addresses the endless cost overruns in the Lower Manhattan project and presents a purported counterpoint:
In the private sector, these things often turn out differently. Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is one example. Despite Bruce Ratner’s “man crush” on Frank Gehry, in the words of one of his employees, and the nearly $100 million in fees that he paid for the design of the undulating apartment towers and stadium, Mr. Ratner didn’t hesitate to drop the starchitect from Atlantic Yards when the costs got too high—costs that were partly the result of Mr. Gehry’s insistence on designing the interior elements down to minute details like the stadium seats, something that should sound familiar to the Port Authority. While it's quite possible Ratner would have paid Gehry $100 million for the entire project, I highly doubt Gehry took in $100 million.

Looking more closely

More important…

Moving on: Margolin, Barclays Center head of food and beverage services, leaves for Anaheim arena

From the Anaheim Blog, 5/15/13, Honda Center Hiring 500 Employees for New Food and Beverage Co.; Julie Margolin Named Director of Food & Beverage Services:
ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 14, 2013) – The Honda Center announced today its plan for hiring more than 500 workers to become part of an industry-leading sports and entertainment organization. Interested parties are urged to go online to www.hondacenter.com to apply for a position and schedule an interview. Thousands of applicants are anticipated and appointments will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning immediately.
...Leading the new food and beverage operation will be Julie Margolin, the venue’s new director of food and beverage services. Margolin most recently worked for Levy Restaurants at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There she was part of the opening team, oversaw the food and beverage service for that facility and launched a number of unique programs which saw unprecedented success during their first year. …

Ratner, according to ESPN, can't promise Islanders games at new Nassau Coliseum, but developer remains confident

ESPNNewYork.com reported 5/15/13 Sources: Battle over Isles brewing:
There's a potential battle brewing involving the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, and it isn't even on the ice.

A major selling point of Bruce Ratner's pitch to win the renovation rights to Nassau Coliseum is the promise to bring the Islanders back to the arena for a six-game slate after they move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

And while that would appear to be enticing to the Nassau County executives who are currently deciding among four bidders, it's not a promise Ratner necessarily can deliver.

According to multiple sources, both Madison Square Garden and the NHL would have to sign off on that scenario, and that is not guaranteed to happen.

Madison Square Garden, which owns the Rangers, is also among the four bidders. While it's clear why MSG might disagree, why would the league? Because the Coliseum would hold only about 13,000 fans after renovations,rather than the current 17,686…

Do Nets really have the NBA's worst home fans, as study claims? Nah.

As noted in The Brooklyn Game, Study Concludes Nets Have NBA’s Worst Home Fans, Knicks Have Best. But is the NBA Fan Equity Study really solid?

I don't think so. Sure, many observers have noted that Nets fans are not as passionate as Knicks fans, or other teams with more established fan bases. But the Nets filled 94.9% of their arena, while the Knicks sold 96.3%. And the Nets, of course, sold a lot of gear, fourth in the NBA.

The authors of the study, at Emory University, finally put up some backing data (at my and others' request):


I don't think that helps much. The Knicks' attendance edge is magnified by an arena with greater capacity, and the willingness of Knicks fans to pay more has less to do with passion than a longstanding monopoly position in a large market.

What happened to the "B market" along the arena's Atlantic Avenue facade? Not a word; the area instead seems needed for egress, not commerce

Yesterday's post showing the arena as approved in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement includes a curious mention that has likely been forgotten by most arena-watchers: a "B market" along Atlantic Avenue at the north-center of the arena block. See emphasis on graphic.


What's a "B market" (or, as I've described it, a "b-market")?

It came up once, as far as I know, in a 9/25/06 City Planning Commission hearing, which I covered the next day.

Reflecting commission Chair Amanda Burden’s micromanaging concern that there be storefronts along Atlantic Avenue near the planned arena, the Department of City Planning's Regina Myer described a “b-market,” a narrow strip of retail to accommodate smaller shops.

The New York Observer had reported 11/22/05:
“City Planning is really on this one,” [then-arena architect Frank] Gehry said. “Amanda Burden is really working us and we believe in what they want but the idea of creating storefront…

As graduates gather today on residential Dean Street, remember how it morphed from preferred seating entry to "mid-sized" portal

The crowd gathering at 8:30 this morning at the Barclays Center's Dean Street entrance--sorry, the EmblemHealth Dean entrance--for the Long Island University commencement ceremonies was never supposed to be there.

(The graduates will arrive at the Dean Street entrance at the bottom of the arena, which is across the street from a residential cluster, while a larger group--their guests--arrive at the main plaza, at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.)

That's because, when the Atlantic Yards arena was approved in 2006, there was a minor entrance, only a few doors wide, on Dean Street, only slightly larger than the entrance on Atlantic Avenue just west of Sixth Avenue.

See the graphic below from the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement, which shows an arena oriented nearly east-west, as opposed to the current north-south orientation.

The Dean Street entrance, part of a plan designed to "minimize its presence and effect on the residential uses" in the area, was …