Monday, August 02, 2010

So much for "structured programs and services": meditation room planned for the arena would be 150 square feet, more the size of a living room

Remember that breathless 4/2/10 Brooklyn Paper article, headlined Finally, the Nets have a prayer! New arena to have ‘meditation’ room?

It somehow became the lead story in the next week's print edition, complete with an artist's imagining (right) of what a meditation room might look like.

It was way off, as was the sports management expert quoted in the article who speculated that the room could be a revenue generator if it could accommodate a large congregation.

It won't.

How big might it be?

Though Forest City Ratner would not reveal the design of the room to the Brooklyn Paper, a March 2009 document describing Atlantic Yards benefits, which I obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request to the Empire State Development Corporation, describes the meditation room as just 150 square feet.

That's the size of a modest living room in a New York apartment, or a roomy one-car garage, or a little more than one-third the size of a subsidized studio apartment planned for Atlantic Yards.

Yes, the design of the room may have changed since the Frank Gehry plan was superseded by the one from Ellerbe Becket. But Forest City Ratner hasn't offered details, so the estimate from last year should stand for now.

From chapel to atrium to meditation room

The Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who runs a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partner organization supported by Forest City Ratner, originally wanted a chapel.

That wouldn't fly, so instead emerged the meditation room or, as Daughtry declared in his dramatic 8/23/06 testimony at the hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, an atrium: "It will provide a place for our young, a place for the seniors, a place for the youth to come together in an atrium designed by us."

Well, the reference to "us" meant that Daughtry's Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance would offer some input, not that members will be responsible for the design.

How many people can "come together" in a 150 square foot space? Not many.

From the article:
Call it Zen and the art of basketball.

The Brooklyn Paper has learned that the Barclays Center will be the first sports arena to feature a meditation chamber — an intriguing element that is one of the few unreported details of the widely covered home of the future Brooklyn Nets.

The concept was envisioned by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the fiery pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church on Atlantic Avenue, who has played a behind-the-scenes role to acquire various “community benefits” from developer Bruce Ratner.

This meditation room appears to be one of them.

“The idea is to say to people there are values in reflection, contemplation,” explained Daughtry, who gave the convocation at the groundbreaking ceremony for the arena last month.

“Whenever you’re in the arena, you can go to meditate.”
(Emphasis added)

In this article, the Brooklyn Paper seemed to be channeling the spirit of the (now-departed) Stephen Witt in portraying Daughtry, who made a calculated decision to partner with Ratner, as simply acquiring benefits for the community.

Remember, a longtime progressive ally, the Rev. David Dyson of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, expressed a different perspective, telling the Brooklyn Rail, “We feel that Reverend Daughtry and ACORN have been brought in by Ratner not as advocates for the community but as private business partners in the deal.”

From the CBA

What does the CBA say about the "Meditation Room"?
(3) Meditation Room. Upon completion of the Project, located inside the Arena will be a meditation room to be used by the Community and patrons. As will be more fully described in the Project Implementation Plan described in Section III, Part G, DBNA will work with the Arena Developer to design this room for structured programs and services under the supervision and guidelines of the DBNA’s committee on Arena Related Programs, described below.
What structured programs and services would fit in 150 square feet? Not too many.

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