Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The serious street shutdowns outside the Newark arena

So, how's the security situation outside the new Prudential Center arena in Newark? The answer, according to a visit I made in late afternoon last Saturday before a Bon Jovi concert, is that the two intersecting streets that lead to the main entrance are completely shut down, though emergency vehicles are allowed on both blocks and one partially accommodates some cars heading into a private parking lot.

(Photo at right of four-lane Mulberry Street looking north from Lafayette Street. A police vehicle is parked at left.)

Barriers and planters

Remember, on Oct. 10, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that city officials were planning to close, or partly close, one or two streets bordering the arena--a decision that caused some consternation, because it was made only two weeks before the arena was to open.

The Star-Ledger reported that "the so-called 'standoff' -- the distance between the building and a potential terrorist threat -- was not sufficient on Edison [Place] and Mulberry [Street]." The solution has been to use concrete "Jersey barriers," like ones used as highway dividers, on both streets.

(At right, two-lane Edison Place is shut down completely at the intersection with Mulberry Street and the main entrance to the arena.)

This raised questions in Brooklyn about whether the streets around the Atlantic Yards arena would have to close, in whole or in part, to protect against potential terrorist attacks, and led to calls for a state hearing on Atlantic Yards security. So far, city and state officials, and developer Forest City Ratner have stressed their extensive security preparations, but have not answered the questions about potential street closings.

Six-hour shutdowns

In Newark, streets north and east of the Prudential Center--Edison Place between Broad and Mulberry streets and Mulberry Street between Edison Place and Lafayette Street--are both shut down to vehicle traffic two hours prior to an event until at least one hour after the event, confirmed Newark mayoral spokeswoman Lupe Todd. When the streets are closed, emergency vehicles are permitted through.

While some events may only last two hours, others could easily last three hours, so the street shutdowns could last six hours.

A quiet downtown zone

In Newark, on a Saturday at least, this didn't look like a huge problem. Newark's business district is to the north; civic buildings like a courthouse and post office are to the south, but operate on a business schedule.

Broad Street one block to the west is a busy, downmarket shopping area, a Newark equivalent to Fulton Street, but many shops shut down by the evening.

There's a small residential district to the immediate southeast of the arena, but it's not nearly as densely populated as, say, the Prospect Heights blocks that would border the Atlantic Yards project. Across the train tracks in Newark is the busy Ironbound district.

(At right, a fire department vehicle blocking access to Edison Place. A short stretch of Edison Place east of Broad Street admits vehicles going to a private lot, but that stretch does not extend to the arena.)

Enough of a stand-off?

It's still unclear whether the stand-off would be sufficient in Brooklyn. From the looks of the closure of four-lane Mulberry Street, Newark officials are aiming for a significant distance between the arena and traffic.

(At right, another look at the police vehicle stationed at the corner of Mulberry and Lafayette streets, near the second entrace to the Prudential Center.)

And what about AY?

While a Community Board summary of a meeting at the Empire State Development Corporation indicates that the Atlantic Yards project would be set back from the street 20 feet (this has not been confirmed by the ESDC), that doesn't mean the arena wouldn't be set back farther.

(Atlantic Yards rendering by Frank Gehry; the design could change.)

And, based on the Newark example, a deeper setback would seem to be prudent. Otherwise, to emulate the distance achieved by the closure of Mulberry Street, parts of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues might have to be closed. And closures of even parts of those busy thoroughfares could cause havoc on days when the arena would draw large crowds.

Another look

At right, another look at the intersection of Edison Place and Mulberry Street. The Prudential Center is set back at least 20 feet from Edison Place, but the street is still closed.

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