Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elected officials, community groups propose Neighborhood Protection Plan: new policies, oversight, and funding commitments aimed to mitigate impact of arena on residential neighborhoods

At a press conference this morning, City Council Members Stephen Levin and Letitia James, along with state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, announced the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP), a set of initiatives "aimed at mitigating safety and quality of life impacts expected to result from locating the Brooklyn arena within residential neighborhoods."

The plan, which addresses not only transportation issues left out of last week's Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan but also police, signage, sanitation, and more, is also backed by Council Member Brad Lander and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

It was put together by the three community organizations behind the Atlantic Yards Watch initiative: the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, and the Boerum Hill Association.

As noted in the press release, the NPP addresses not only policies to be instituted (and paid for) by the Barclays Center operators, but also efforts at regulation and enforcement by state and city agencies. Several examples--paying for street cleanup, for a police hotline, and for traffic enforcement agents--are drawn from experiences around Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Cubs support various community initiatives.

In Chicago and the District of Columbia, there are residential permit parking (RPP) programs around sports facilities, while Newark imposed a tax on arena parking garages.

Some elements of the new plan are more practical in the short term than others; it would take at least nine months, a city official said last week, to institute an RPP program that backers see as crucial to keeping cars off residential street. And RPP is currently stalled in the state legislature by opponent Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn.

Other proposals will require developer Forest City Ratner and its partners to reach into their collective pocket, to pay for new staffers and fund additional services like sanitation and snow clean-up. The NPP calls for annual monitoring of all obligations, rather than a one-time review, with an annual report (as the Cubs provide), and monetary penalties if goals are not met, and an ESDC staff person funded by Forest City.

Backers did not suggest a price tag, but I'd point out, Forest City is already saving some $2 million to $3 million a year it might have once budgeted for the now-scrapped effort to link a free MetroCard to each Nets ticket.

James said any savings should go into the plan, and Levin said the plan was worth it for the long-term health of the arena.



Time is short. "To put it into basketball terms, not only are we in the fourth quarter, we're in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter," declared Levin.

Can it work?

The elected officials may have little leverage beyond the bully pulpit, some expected meetings with government officials--and the practicality they might demonstrate.

"One incentive for these plans to be adopted is that they would work," Levin suggested. "I think it would go a long way to building good will. I like to think of these as more of an olive branch than a shot across the bow."

Some proposals, such as a proposed 10 pm cut-off for alcohol sales, would cut into arena revenues, and are less likely than others.



James characterized community engagement so far as "minimal," noting that, at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings (which she referred to as a "task force"), the public is not allowed to speak, and that other occasional meetings only go so far.

She also said that it was not enough to ask for a community response (comments until June 22) on the TDM plan.

Montgomery suggested that there's "some indication" that Kenneth Adams, the new CEO of the ESDC, is willing to at least listen to the community. (Yes, he's cordial, but he hasn't bent much.)

Montgomery added that the pending court case that requires a new environmental impact statement, will allow another look at the long-range impact of the plan. "I remain hopeful," she said.

"The narrative thus far, from ESDC and Forest City Ratner," James said, "is the project has been approved. We're going to provide you with some information, we're going to put forth our plan, and you can respond in kind. That's been the relationship. And we're trying to change that relationship. We're trying to change those dynamics."

Forest City/ESD response

John Sparks, Barclays Center General Manager, issued a comment via Forest City Ratner:
“We are very sensitive to the concerns of our neighbors and will do everything possible to minimize the impact of the arena. We are working closely with NYPD, the Department of Transportation and other City and State agencies to ensure a smooth operation for every event and activity that takes place at the Barclays Center.

“We have already addressed many of the issues raised through our initial Transportation Demand Management program and through compliance with the Environmental Impact Statement. We will, however, look at each suggestion and, where possible, identify steps that we believe, in partnership with elected officials and community groups, help us to achieve the shared goal of minimizing the arena’s impact on surrounding communities.”
Asked to comment, Forest City Ratner indicated spokesman Joe DePlasco said, "Also, as you know, we meet with many in this group every two months. And we would certainly meet to discuss operational issues. The TDM presentation was of course transportation specific. Others are specifically responsible for sanitation, security, etc."

Empire State Development issued a statement:
"ESD looks forward to continuing the conversation with the local community to determine ways to minimize the arena's impact. The Transportation Demand Management Plan serves as the foundation, but we will continue to ensure coordination with FCRC, City DOT, NYPD, MTA, LIRR, and all other relevant City agencies to ensure that the best possible mitigation plan is put into place."
Summary of top proposals

The Neighborhood Protection Plan has nine components:
1. Arena Operations
2. Public Safety and Crowd Control
3. Pedestrian Circulation
4. Sanitation
5. Open Space
6. Traffic and Parking
7. Transportation Demand Management
8. Citizen Information and Communication
9. Documentation, Monitoring, Accountability and Oversight

The press release summarizes the most crucial proposals:
· NYPD’s 78th Precinct be responsible for policing the arena as well as enforcement of traffic and parking rules, protection of pedestrian safety and regulation of public behavior within a one-half mile radius around the arena block.
· NYCDOT install signage clearly directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic, including directing vehicles to use 4th Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, 6th Avenue north of Flatbush Avenue, and Vanderbilt Avenue, instead of residential streets in Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.
· The State authorizes and the City implements a residential parking permit program in the above neighborhoods.
· Barclays Center provide at least one additional street basket at each corner within a half-mile radius of the arena, as well as be responsible for emptying all street baskets within the half-mile zone and cleaning sidewalks on blocks between the arena and five nearby transit stations and the arena’s parking facilities by 8:00 AM on each day after an event.
· Barclays Center provide annual funding, as established by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, for a Parks Associate position to serve the two existing impacted public open spaces near the arena, Dean Playground and South Oxford Park.
The context

“State overrides of New York City zoning regulations allowed Barclays Center to be built among residential neighborhoods,” said James in a statement, suggesting that the state and city have delegated the main decisions to a private developer.

“The State must take an active role to manage the impact of an arena operating in a residential district,” said Jeffries in the statement.

“The traffic on event-nights after the arena opens is likely to be atrocious,” added Lander, calling the measures "sorely needed."

More details

Below I'll excerpt some of the other key proposals:
  • Policies for use of the interim plaza west of the arena must adhere to NYC noise regulations and lighting must be directional such that a minimum of light escapes the perimeter of the Plaza after 11:00 PM.
  • Because many events will have limited runs and require their own equipment and props, there will be continual set-up and knock-down operations and access to and from the arena loading dock. Brooklyn Arena LLC must establish and enforce rules for hours of operation and access to/from the arena loading dock to prevent truck queuing and traffic disruption on Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue. All trucks leaving the arena loading dock must turn left on 6th Avenue to reach Atlantic Avenue and must not use Dean Street east of 6th Avenue.
  • Arena- and event-related vehicles and equipment must not be staged on residential streets or sidewalks.
  • FCRC must be responsible for snow removal on sidewalks between the arena and the six pedestrian collectors, in particular the FCRC-owned parking lot on Block 1129.
  • FCRC and/or its affiliates must be responsible for maintaining cleanliness on both the arena block and within a ½-mile radius of the arena block in the surrounding neighborhoods. 
  • Provide annual funding, as established by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, for a permanent Parks Associate position to serve the two existing impacted public open spaces near the arena, Dean Playground and South Oxford Park.
  • Within the first year of the arena opening, plant street trees in the following areas: the eastern side of 6th Avenue between Pacific and Dean Streets, the northern side of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues and the western side of Vanderbilt Avenue between Pacific and Dean Streets.
  • Deployment of a robust number of Traffic Enforcement Agents, to be funded by FCRC and/or its affiliates. 
  • Regulation of the following, to be determined by NYCDOT in conjunction with local elected officials and Community Boards:
  • Shuttle and charter buses, including routes, drop-off/waiting/pickup locations, parking, idling, and hours of operation.
  • Taxis, black cars and “dollar vans,” including drop-off/waiting/pickup locations, parking, and idling.
  • Vehicle noise, music, and honking.
  • Design and landscaping of the parking lot will conform to NYC zoning requirements for landscaping surface parking lots.
  • Lighting, except for minimal security lighting, will be used only during parking lot operating hours.
  • Operating hours will begin no more than three hours before events begin and end no more than one hour after events end.
  • Public toilets will be available at the lot during its hours of operation and maintained by the parking lot operator.
  • Use TDM measures for all Barclays Center events, not just Nets games.
  • Reserve minimum HOV spaces for all Barclays Center events, not just Nets evening events.
  • Price and regulate metered parking on and near commercial streets in order to preserve parking for patrons of local businesses and discourage arena patrons from parking when meter restrictions expire in the evening.
  • Impose a NYS/NYC arena parking tax surcharge on all hourly parking lot and garage use within ½-mile of the arena during all arena events plus one-hour shoulder times..
  • Establish traffic reduction goals that are tied to 2012 baseline traffic conditions, rather than to out-dated 2006 baselines and projections for arena operations, with continuing annual review by NYC DOT, including liquidated damages for non-performance.
Opening remarks by Levin

Levin is introduced by Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. "Our neighborhoods need to have a seat at the table," Levin said. "The reality is, whether you were in favor of the arena or against the arena, it is with us."



Opening remarks by James



Veconi summarizes plan provisions



BHA and PSCC

Howard Kolins of the Boerum Hill Association and Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council speak. Cairl cited the work of Tom Boast and Peter Krashes of the PHNDC and Dean Street Block Association in devising the plan.



Montgomery speaks

After James criticizes the lack of community input, Montgomery speaks.

Also note, at the 1 minute mark, Forest City Ratner's designated lurker.



Q&A, first round

Council Member James says she thinks the 78th Precinct will be responsible for policing the arena.



Q&A, second round

James said it was important for the city and state transportation departments to cooperate with communities.



Montgomery said it was not unusual to request some mitigation in exchange for the significant subsidies going to the project.

Levin said his brother used to live in Chicago near Wrigleyville, which he suggests "works" because "they have a very strong Neighborhood Protection Program.

Q&A, third round



James said a meeting with the ESDC has been requested, involving the civic organizations. Levin said a request has been sent to Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway.


 NPP FINAL

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