Wednesday, June 27, 2012

At (belated) meeting on arena operations, some specifics on parking, questions about loading dock and traffic agents, and a flat statement that the public will pay for extra police

A long-awaited meeting last night on Barclays Center operational issues--parking, security, sanitation--was deemed useful but frustrating by community members who’ve been watching developer Forest City Ratner plow ahead with arena-related construction, even without official approvals.

“This is a start, six months late,” observed Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, noting the tight timetable before the arena opens Sept. 28. He said he told Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams, a convenor of the Borough Hall meeting, that he almost didn’t attend because he was so frustrated by Forest City’s decision, for example, to proceed on the planned surface parking lot without a work permit.

The Barclays Center operational team, which did most of the talking, delivered a good amount of boilerplate, as well as occasional specifics, such as the configuration of parking lot and planned entrances and exits. Krashes pointed out, however, that a lot of questions remain unanswered, such as the location of Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) to steer traffic so it doesn’t overly impact the residential neighborhood, or plans for emergency and fire service in the neighborhood. (Neither was the location of pedestrian managers noted.)

Carlo Scissura of the Borough President's Office
speaks, with ESD CEO Kenneth Adams at right
Community consultation will continue, but mainly after the arena opens.

Adams led off by saying that ESD, the Borough President’s Office, and Forest City will convene an Atlantic Yards quality-of-life committee once the arena opens. It will involve state and city agencies, and unlike the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which meets during work hours, will “meet regularly, in the evenings.” Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, is working on it.

Forest City’s Ashley Cotton added that a community affairs officer would be hired for the arena.

Metal detectors coming

The headline, to the New York Post, is that the Barclays Center would use metal detectors (as well as wands). The paper, noting that metal detectors are deployed by few sports facilities nationally and none in New York, called it a “stunning diss to the Borough of Kings” and noted that Borough President Marty Markowitz was in “vehement” opposition.

While arena security head Bob Sena noted that the use of metal detectors would not make the procedure as thorough as at the airport, he did not explain the reason arena operators went beyond the local standard, nor did any of the community members in attendance--who had other priorities--raise questions about the issue.

Update: "This is new technology that is more efficient, more effective, and less intrusive than a wand," Barclays Center spokesman Barry Baum told DNAInfo. "We take security very seriously and these detectors will allow us to most effectively screen arena visitors."


(Also see my coverage of plans for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement and a potential governance entity, and a live blog from Patch. The slide presentation should be posted shortly on the ESD’s Atlantic Yards web site.

Knotty questions: loading dock

Even Adams, who promised to work cooperatively with the arena, acknowledged that the arena would be a very tight fit, notably the loading dock, at the west end of residential Dean Street as it encounters Flatbush Avenue.

To operate the loading dock off resident relies on a turntable and two truck elevator rather than a ramp and adjacent parking lot (as with most such facilities), arena operators will stage trucks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and schedule deliveries, while requiring them to use truck routes--Flushing and Flatbush avenues, most likely--that may have their own snags guarantee on-time deliveries.

Steve Rosebrook
"We know Barclays Center is a very unique facility," observed Steve Rosebrook, the arena VP responsible for "back of the house" operations. "But in my world, [the loading dock is] the most unique aspect."

Acknowledging that things don't always go according to plans, Rosebrook said, "we'll have to make adjustments on the fly."

“I'm struck by the uniqueness of that, and the challenge to that operation,” Adams said, “and wish you the best of luck in making it all run smoothly, especially when you’re dealing with"--he referenced an arena act he'd brought up jocularly, by way of example--"Justin Bieber and his producers."

Later, Krashes said that the track record with construction deliveries was dismaying; though there’s a plan in place, trucks often go off-route, going through residential streets.

Arena GM John Sparks, who stressed that arena operators had tried to learn best practices from facilities around the country, deflected a question about what operational issues regarding arenas in residential neighborhoods worry him.
"
All this keeps me up at night," he said, referring to the panoply of issues raised at the meeting.

Who's paying for extra cops?

Community Board 2 Chairman John Dew, noting announced plans to bolster security both with off-duty law enforcement officers (aka “paid duty”) as well as an increased police presence, asked who’d pay for the latter.

Forest City security chief Steve Bonano, a former New York Police Department official, noted that, as with any large-scale event, such as the West Indian Day Parade, police officers will be moved. “The city is very good at handling big crowds,” he said.

“I think we all know that, but this takes from resources,” Dew pressed on, in his low-key manner. “In this particular instance, is there an opportunity to bill back to Forest City Ratner?”
Ashley Cotton (r.) and Jane Marshall of Forest City

“The answer is no,” replied FCR’s Cotton, taking the question, though there were city police and special projects officials in the room. Just as with new housing being built on Flatbush Avenue, said Cotton, a former city official, “the city has to adjust... The arena is not alone in adding new work to the city.”

For the record, Andrew Zimbalist, the sports economist hired by Forest City Ratner in 2004 to declare Atlantic Yards a fiscal boon to the city and state, deferred to his client, declaring:
Based on conversations with former budget officials, FCRC concludes that the increment in fire and police budgets would be negligible.
The New York City Independent Budget Office, surprisingly, leaned toward Zimbalist regarding fire protection, saying that the additional costs "would be relatively low." (The agency, however, didn’t use the term "negligible.")

However, the IBO disagreed with Zimbalist on costs for police, asserting that "costs to the city for policing the new Nets arena could be significant."

Nor was it made clear at the meeting who will be paying for increased sanitation service on Dean Street and Pacific Street, the blocks between the arena and the arena parking lot.

John Sparks
Arana capacity, planning

Sparks said there would be about 220 events a year, with varying capacities. For example, he said, for Brooklyn Nets games, there would 18,200 sellable seats, including suite and premium tickets.

In the configuration for hockey, there would be 14,500 seats, of which about 1500 would be obscured, the totals a consequence of an arena built specifically for basketball.

For concerts, there would be from 2000 in a theater-style setting to about 17,500 for a sold-out event. The Barbra Streisand concerts, for example, have 16,458 sellable seats.

From Barclays Center website
"You may have heard larger numbers," Sparks observed, regarding arena capacity. Indeed, the Barclays Center itself has regularly announced 19,000 seats for concerts, as well as 18,200 seats for pro basketball.

Each event, Sparks said, has its own planning process, including events of the same type, since an NBA game on a weeknight against a lesser-known opponent would draw a smaller crowd than a Saturday night game against the New York Knicks. The planning includes consultation with arena operators, tour managers, and local officials in other cities to evaluate potential scenarios.

Arena hierarchy

Sparks explained that he works for Brooklyn Events Center, a subsidiary controlled by Forest City Ratner. BEC has hired AEG as an operational arm, and Levy Restaurants to handle food service.
David Anderson heads the “front of house,” including guest services, ushers, ticket takers, and ticket sellers.

Working under Anderson is Sena, the director of security, who works with Bonano, who oversees security at the Atlantic Yards site. Working the “back of the house” is Rosebrook. All the officials, noted Sparks (who also cited Levy’s Julie Margolin) have extensive experience running sports facilities or operating in Brooklyn.

Foot traffic

Sparks estimated that between 70-75% of arena visitors would enter the arena from the new subway entrance on the arena plaza, walking under the oculus, an area also where the box office is located.

He estimated that 5-10% of the crowd, mainly suiteholders, would enter on the VIP entrance on Atlantic Avenue, though he said suiteholders on the other side of the arena wouldn’t likely use that entrance. Another small entrance on Atlantic, closer to Sixth Avenue and the broadcast parking lot, will have 5-10% of the crowd.

It seemed unlikely that that large a percentage of the crowd would be press.

Sparks also said that the “mid-sized” entrance on Dean Street would accommodate arena staff--estimated at 800 people for major events--as well as some 20% of attendees, which could mean 3,600 people.

He didn’t supply calculations, and it was unclear whether the estimates, for example, factored in the numbers of people expected to arrive in Brooklyn well before event times, lured by planned cross-marketing programs. If, for example, people arrive from Fort Greene and Park Slope, they could choose entrances other than the one leading from the transit hub.

Type of events

Beyond the 44 NBA games (three of them pre-season), Sparks described other planned events.
Hockey, he said, will be a preseason event, “and we'll see what happens after that,” Sparks said, with a distinct lack of the promotion attributed to arena CEO Brett Yormark and Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner.

Right now, he said, the only hockey plans are the preseason game between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, and a doubleheader involving the European league centered in Russia.

There also will be a fall and spring session of Disney on Ice events. “Other than that, it's not likely,” Sparks said, “It’s not economical to keep ice down unless you use it.”

He said that, “on a busy year, we'll be shooting to do 50 concerts,” though in the first year, “it’s going to be a stretch” to meet that.

There’s a “large college basketball program,” with 26 games scheduled to date, mostly involving nationally-known teams, but also including local power Long Island University.  Sparks also cited the Ringling Brothers circus.

He described four or five “major neighborhoods” in which events are distributed: Brooklyn Show, Brooklyn Hoops (college), the Nets, Brooklyn Family, and Brooklyn Boxing.

Details

Sparks said the arena would be “in communication” with the mall--actually two--across the street, given that operations can impact each other.

Anderson explained what various front of the house staffers would do, boilerplate that didn’t interest many of the community attendees. There will be 12 box office windows at the plaza, open during the week and during event.

Various items will be prohibited, including laster pointers, alcohol, skateboards, cans/bottles, glass, metal, and plastic containers. That list is published on the arena website.

Guests are encouraged to report any kind of behavior to the nearest usher or to arena staff via texting.

Bonano, a 30-year veteran of the NYPD, said the arena would be policed by a supplement to the 78th or 88th precincts, noting it had not been determined. Contract security guards would be posted along routes to the arena, and to the C train and G train.

Security officials at the Long Island Rail Road and Metropolitan Transportation Authority “assured me they would beef up their manning levels,” Bonano said.
Sena, a former city cop who headed public safety at colleges in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and upstate New York, repeated a good deal of what previous speakers already said.

He noted there will be an evacuation plan and drills, perhaps a tabletop exercise, in preparation. One ambulance will be on staff for all events, two for NBA games, as a separate ambulance for players is required. The arena will be a nonsmoking building.
Regarding event security assessments, Sena said, “we look at best practices of other arenas.”

Entering the building, after people go through metal detectors, we “will also ask them to put bags on table,” he said, and will look at them but “not rummage through.” Hand wands will be used if necessary. The arena will have closed-circuit TV coverage.

Sena said “we will be working very closely with Steve [Bonano] and security on the arena block,” and also with security officials at the malls and transit stations.

Unmentioned--and, officials said later, they wouldn’t give details--is exactly where security will be beefed up in Prospect Heights, a concern of the dozen or so community representatives sitting in.

Loading dock

Referencing the loading dock as the “most unique aspect” of the arena, Rosebrook called it “one of a kind, so it demands a lot of attention.”

There will be “a secured, private, web-based scheduling system,” he said. “If you're not scheduled to come into the building, you're going to get turned away.”

There will be “a lot of pre-planning to get them there,” he noted, though, because “things don't always go according to plans, we'll have to make adjustments on the fly.”

(Despite the arena operators’ experience in the business, they’re still new to Brooklyn. Rosebrook referred to the staging area at one point as the “Naval Yards,” rather than “Navy Yard,” while Sparks referred to “Pacific Avenue,” not “Pacific Street.”)

Sanitation

Rosebrook said a third party contractor will have a cleaning crew that will be in charge of arena block cleaning, working events, and post-events.

Outside of the arena block, “we're working very closely” with the Department of Sanitation “to outline roles and responsibilities,” such as extra containers, more frequent pick-ups, and snow removal, though it was not established who would be paying for what.

Parking

Brian Collins of Central Parking, speaking quickly, described information that very much intrigued community members: the design of the parking lot, with 565 spaces, 24 for police, 541 for the arena. The lot is located on the block between Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

The area described in yellow is self-parking, while, brown is attended. There will be entrances from Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues, with exits on Vanderbilt and Dean and Pacific.

While the lots has been described as completely prepaid, Collins called it “prepaid, by and large,” allowing for the option of payment on site for remaining spaces.

Brian Collins
The lot devotes 150 spaces for VIPs, who get free parking, with the balance (391 spaces) for HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) parking, involving three or more people. All the spaces not designated for VIP/NYPD will be HOV up until a day or two before the event, and then, if not sold out, will be made available.

Other area parking lots that are part of prepaid arena parking, he said, will be required to offer 20% of parking capacity as HOV, at a lesser rate. (Forest City committed to offering 600 HOV spaces at the project site, a commitment that surely must be amended.)

Pacific is a closed private street, open only during event hours, with two openings and stgaffers directing traffic. Operators want to fill all the self-park spaces first.

“Even if we park the car, the individuals will be asked to take keys with them,” he said.

“While you ordinarily wouldn't love to have four-deep parking in an event parking venue,” Collins said, indicating potential pile-ups inside the lot, “we are more than 1000 feet away from the arena, so there will be some time lag in people getting back.”

There will be no exit on residential Carlton Avenue, but, those exiting on Pacific can turn onto Carlton.
During nonevent days, the lot also will be used for construction worker parking.

Questions

Veconi, who called the parking presentation detailed and helpful, asked if cars exiting mid-block on Vanderbilt would be required to make a right.

Collins said yes.

The question, Veconi, observed, is where drivers go next. There could be traffic backed up on Vanderbilt, which means drivers “are going to look to make rights or lefts on residential streets,” or ending up at Grand Army Plaza. He asked if egress could be on Pacific Street, whereupon drivers could make a left, at a light, on Vanderbilt, proceeding to broad Atlantic Avenue.

Collins called it “a good point,” and noted it did come up with Forest City's traffic consultant, Sam Schwartz (who was not at last night's meeting). “It’s clearly better to utilize the Pacific Street roadbed.”

Still, he left the issue open. “We're not traffic management people,” he said. “Our goal is to get the lot empty. If the plan is to shut off and not leave VB open, we're more than happy to provide that service.”

Truck route

Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council asked about truck route between the Navy Yard and arena.

Cotton said it hadn’t been finalized.

Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation noted that the shortest north-south route is not a legal truck route.

Marshall cited Flushing and Flatbush avenues,, but added “there are probably other options.”

Taxis

Where will taxis and limos go?

Forest City’s Marshall said arena lay-by lanes exist for pick-ups and drop-offs. “There is no staging area for black cars.”

“We are looking at the use of the lane just in front of the Atlantic Center mall to support yellow cabs and black cars after an event opens,” she added, but said it hasn’t been finalized.

Jim Vogel, a representative of state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, brought up the Neighborhood Protection Plan supported by Montgomery and others, and noted that it proposed sanitation coverage in the neighborhood paid for by the developer.

Rosebrook said there have been discussions but “nothing’s been solidified yet.”

Vogel pointed out that Levy Restaurants is familiar with the operation of Wrigley Field in Chicago, which has its own Neighborhood Protection Plan, which inspired the effort in Brooklyn. “We'd hope that Barclays steps up.”

Cotton said, “Obviously, a clean neighborhood is in our best interest as well.”

Newswalk impact

Wayne Bailey, a representative of the 171-unit Newswalk condominium between Sixth and Carlton avenues, said residents were quite worried about the security implications of glass walls and doors on the route from the arena to the parking lot. “Are you guys aware of that?” he asked.

Marshall responded evenly, “I think that’s why we’re here, and I think that’s why we’re talking about an operations plan, and that's why we want to hear your ideas.”

Krashes followed up, saying he wanted to reinforce Bailey’s concern. “We had hoped to
get these plans earlier,” he said, asking of Forest City reps would make themselves available for more meetings with the community.

“That’s why we’re here,” Cotton responded.

“I serve at the pleasure of Forest City,” Collins said.

Cotton followed up, “If we had this six months ago, maybe we would’ve brought it.” Her statement echoed the six-month delay in the Transportation Demand Management plan, which was promised last December but delivered in May.

Later, Bailey said Newswalk has been told it has to spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade the building. “When we will hear about security?” he asked.

“We're not going to show you a map with dots saying where people would stand,” Cotton said, but noted that, by bringing security staff, they were trying to convey their commitment.

Loading dock

Krashes said it was helpful to consult the community, given that there are residents living right across from the loading dock. “This is about a relationship between a residential community and the arena.”

Parking

He asked if the parking lot, as per a request from a landscape architects’ organization, could meet Department of City Planning standards, including use of medians.

The ESD’s Hankin said that the state has overrun local zoning, so the lot is not subject to we're not subject to DCP guidelines. “But more importantly, this is a temporary lot,” she said. “Forest City Ratner is required to work on the lot by 2020.” (Actually, on one building.) “If we plant trees, we're going to have to rip them out.”

An added median or barrier extension would require stackers, which would add delay to the lot operations.

Krashes said that, despite the reduction of on-site spaces from a once-planned 1,100 spaces, there would be “more cars introduced to Dean Street than anticipated.” He said there would be “a huge delay of cars at Dean and Carlton,” plus more pedestrians on sidewalks that have effective widths narrower than anticipated.
So the community, he said, was facing something that hadn’t really be assessed.

Broadcast lot

Krashes asked about screening plans for the broadcast parking lot, located just east of Sixth Avenue above Dean Street.

Marshall said a proposed screening plan would be implemented with ArtBridge, which added art by local artists to part of the arena construction fence.

Marshall noted that the fence is not chain link but a mesh fence, a steel fence with
one-inch square holes.

Worst-case

Richard Goldstein of the Carlton Avenue Block Association asked about worst-case scenarios.

“What we're worried about is what we presented,” Cotton said, noting that they hadn’t talked about other issues not important to the community, such as interior food operations. “This whole presentationwas supposed to be proactively addressing what I think communities are concerned about,” she said, citing trash, noise, drunk driving.

Sparks referenced the arena’s capacity to control anyone unruly and call on the police, but, as noted above, wouldn't specify concerns raised at similar venues.

Security

Alan Rosner, representing Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, brought up issued he’d raised earlier in the process. Given that, according to his calculations, the cantilever arena would be from four to ten feet closer to curbside vehicles than when it was first approved in 2006, that raises questions about the arena’s vulnerability to terrorism.

(As I wrote last August,  despite previous claims by Forest City Ratner that the arena would be 20 feet from the street, new city documents confirm that the structure would be considerably closer--less than 12 feet--above ground level along Atlantic Avenue.)



The city of Newark closes streets fronting the Prudential Center, Rosner pointed out, and the Freedom Tower was set back for security reasons. Street-level glass, he said, should be eliminated.

Marshall responded sharply, saying there had been a threat and risk assessments by the responsible agencies, that hardening had been applied, “the arena is not five feet closer,” and “the glass is required by the [arena] design guidelines,” which is why we had to design the glass to withstand forces, which were studied.”

“All I'm saying: everything was studied, it's all done,” Marshall continued. “You keep asking about this. And I just want you to know: it's safe.”

Rosner said there were still reasons to be skeptical.

“Alan, thank you for sharing your concerns,” Adams responded placatingly, moving the meeting along.

Local officials, however, have asked for more details on the security review, to no avail, citing the closeness of the arena.

Impact on Bear’s Garden

Jiwan Choi, from the Pacific Bear’s community garden catercorner to the arena, asked if the Code of Conduct will apply to people outside the arena. “If we notice something is going wrong, are we going to be able to reach out to you?”

Cotton said there’d be a community affairs liaison. Bonano said the polcie would be actively involved.

“The theme is, you've got a residential neighborhood that feels vulnerable,” Krashes
followed up, citing the potential impact on the Dean Street Playground. “The community is going to want to see that operated successfully during arena events,” he said.

He also noted that there would be a lot more trash on local streets, especially on
Pacific Street between Fourth and Atlantic avenues. Property owners often get citations. “I think we deserve a lot more detail than we've been given as to how you're going to protect private property,” such as broken car windows or an aerial snapped off.

Is that an arena issue, or not, he asked.

Cotton looked at Bonano.

“No, it’s police department, Bonano said, acknowledging valid concerns but said there’d be more coverage, both “paid detail” and additional officers.

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