Saturday, August 22, 2009

Learning from the walking tour: Fifth Avenue and naming rights

I always learn (and forget) a few things when I give a tour of Atlantic Yards and environs, and today's tour was no exception.

The importance of Fifth Avenue

I know that urban analysts now say that closing streets can actually diminish traffic rather than merely divert it to cause bottlenecks elsewhere. But I think that the plan to close and demap Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues deserves more discussion. After all, we saw a lot of cars heading north on Fifth for drop-offs and pick-ups at the Atlantic Center Mall, notably Pathmark.

As I've pointed out, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), in its 2006 testimony on the project (graphic above), suggested that, with a north-south re-orientation of the arena, Fifth Avenue could be kept open. Now, though we don't have updated renderings, the arena has apparently been re-oriented.

So I don't think Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin ended the debate when she asserted last month that the reduction in the arena bowl "doesn’t change the general footprint for the arena itself… and the Urban Room has not been eliminated.”

After all, we haven't seen the site plan. And the Urban Room wouldn't arrive until Building 1 arrives, and that's on indefinite hold, given the market for office space.

Naming rights

One of the tour participants reminded me afterwards that, while I did mention the name "Barclays Center," I didn't discuss the naming rights deal for the arena or the subway station. 

The arena naming rights deal lowers the risk for the developer enormously, even though there's little justification for governments to simply give up naming rights. And the naming rights deal for the subway station is not a "goodly sum."



At the July 22 community information meeting (video above), moderator Craig Hammerman asked, "Why will Forest City Ratner get to keep the naming rights revenues for what the ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] claims will be a publicly-owned arena?" 

(The reported sum is $400 million over 20 years, which would pay for more than half of the arena construction.)

“It’s part of the financing for the project,” responded ESDC attorney Steve Matlin.

While it certainly is counted on by Forest City Ratner, it was never, as far as I know, suggested to be part of the benefits or part of the sources and uses for the project.

Perhaps someone will ask about that in comments (due by August 31) on the ESDC's pending Modified General Project Plan.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, closing streets can have beneficial effects, as the new pedestrian plazas in Herald and Times Squares are clearly demonstrating.

    But there's a big difference between replacing a through street with a lively pedestrian plaza and bike lanes and replacing that same street with a huge basketball arena. Betcha can't guess which of those two would have a deadening, detrimental effect on the neighborhood.

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