Thursday, September 30, 2010

FCR's Gilmartin asserts "groups of four or more" youths will be dispersed at plaza, as at malls (and claims mall policy is "fairly typical")

Forest City Ratner MaryAnne Gilmartin, speaking calmly and clinically, raised numerous eyebrows at Borough Hall when she revealed that the developer would transfer a much-criticized policy of dispersing youth groups at its malls to the open space at the arena plaza.

Such is the difference between privately-operated publicly accessible space and, say, true public parks.

The question came up at a meeting last night on the plaza. Carlo Scissura, the Chief of Staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, read the question: "Adjacent malls have a 'split-up-the-group' security policy that applies to young people. Will that policy be extended to the plaza?"



Gilmartin's response

"The policy at the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls is a policy that is fairly typical and consistent with mall properties across the country," Gilmartin responded.

(Actually, as the Times reported, "Such a sweeping restriction is rare... Of the 1,418 malls in the United States, 66 now practice some form of constraining youthful visitors, up from 39 in 2007, said Jesse Tron of the International Council of Shopping Centers.")

"That policy is to disperse groups of four or more in a way that encourages a safe and comfortable shopping environment," she said. "It is our expectation to put policies forward to create a safe and comfortable environment for people to utilize that space, whether that's a mall or an open space plaza."

The unspoken underlying issue is race, with the belief (if not the proof) that minority youth are more likely to be targeted. That's why City Council Member Letitia James told me she's asked the city's Human Rights Commission to look into the developer's practices.

And, though it was meant partly tongue-in-cheek, my suggestion that a winning youth basketball team at the arena could be dispersed when it went to the mall now seems doubly true regarding the adjacent arena plaza.

Brooklyn Paper update

Here's coverage in the Brooklyn Paper, which has some after-the fact amplification:
“We will work closely with the local precinct and security experts to ensure that the plaza is safe, just as the police and security officials ensure that other public spaces in Brooklyn and throughout the city are safe,” said Joe DePlasco, spokesman for Forest City Ratner. “As of now, we have not developed a policy for the plaza, but our hope that it is used by lots of people in many different ways — all of them safely.”

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