Sunday, May 13, 2007

The silence of the (Brooklyn hoops) fans, and a not-so-sustainable escalator

Yesterday was a make-or-break playoff game for the New Jersey Nets, down 2-0 in a best of seven playoff series against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. So I figured it might be time to check the pulse of Nets fandom in Brooklyn, the team's putative destination.

The Nets played well, especially stars Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson, winning 96-85, but I didn't find much passion among the Brooklynites I observed.

Sure, a stop at single sports bar is hardly a scientific sample, but I did pick the closest sports bar to the planned Brooklyn arena, the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar in the Atlantic Terminal mall operated by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Just across Atlantic Avenue from the planned AY site, it's the city's first Buffalo Wild Wings, among more than 416 nationally. The motto is "Wings Beer Sports."

Remember, FCR's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls may be about chains, but Atlantic Yards retail is promised to be "for local businesses."

The Brooklyn fans

When the game came to an end, some home team fans in the Continental Airlines Arena were on their feet, but, despite a decent crowd inside Buffalo Wild Wings, there wasn't any applause. People were watching--the game appeared on the majority of the room's 50+ screens--but they just weren't that invested. One Nets fan had clapped occasionally through the game, but that was about it.

Should the Nets complete the planned move to Brooklyn, the promotional effort from the team and its corporate and governmental partners undoubtedly would generate much more support.

Maybe fans are a little skeptical. One self-described Knicks fan told me that the Nets would certainly have a different and worse lineup. Carter will be a free agent this summer, and he or Jefferson are likely to be traded. Then again, smart trades, along with an injury-free team, could bring improved results.

Kidd is a superb point guard, but he's 34, which makes his presence iffy should the Nets arrive in Brooklyn in 2009 (as promised) or 2010 (as Forest City Enterprises executives have acknowledged).

So there's a good bet that Carter and Kidd, who helped sell the project at press events before the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the 1/8/07 Barclays Center naming announcement, wouldn't play in Brooklyn as Nets.

The escalator to (almost) nowhere

There's an odd aspect to Buffalo Wild Wings: an escalator to nowhere, almost. Walk north along the Flatbush Avenue sidewalk bordering Atlantic Terminal and there's a set of doors leading to a singular escalator, housed in its own corridor. It deposits visitors in the back (and takeout) entrance to the bar, and also leads to a mall storage area.

(A reader sent the picture.)

The bar's main entrance is within the mall, so presumably during business hours most patrons use the mall's central escalators, as I did. This singular escalator may be used more after mall hours, but I've also seen it churning up and down with no riders.

If sustainable development is the goal for Atlantic Yards and for Mayor Mike Bloomberg's New York, the escalator situation here (and elsewhere) probably could use a rethink.

That Atlantic Yards FAQ

As Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab pointed out, the Nets Atlantic Yards FAQ dodges the presence of the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls to offer this fantasy league description:
7. Where is the new Arena located? What type of neighborhood is that?
The new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be located at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, an area in close proximity to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum. It is within easy walking distance from several neighborhoods, such as Park Slope and Fort Greene. The new arena and development will add a dynamic, diverse, and urban cultural center to the area.


Rolley observed that the "FAQ forgets to mention the cultural resources in Ratner's malls—like Buffalo Wild Wings and Chuck E. Cheese and the DMV—just across the street."

Moreover, none of those three cultural institutions in "close proximity" were close enough to be included in the traffic study that was part of the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

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