Thursday, June 28, 2012

Consistently inconsistent: Marty Markowitz wants the Barclays Center (liquor license, metal detectors) to be treated like other sports facilities--except regarding its fundamental placement in a neighborhood

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in recent comments on the proposed liquor license for the Barclays Center and the plan to use metal detectors, has had a seemingly consistent message: treat the Brooklyn arena the same as any other sports facility.

The inconsistency? From early on, the Brooklyn arena was not treated the same as any other sports facility.

The state agreed to override city zoning that bars sports facilities from being within 200 feet of residential areas, as well as override many other zoning rules.

So the tight fit of the arena into Prospect Heights has to be recognized, as even Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams--whose agency overrides the zoning--acknowledged this week, pointing to the dicey operation of the arena loading dock, with no ramp or holding area for trucks.

Markowitz on the liquor license

At right is testimony Markowitz submitted to a June 12 State Liquor Authority hearing.

All other arenas in the area have been granted liquor licenses, he wrote:
In keeping with NBA regulations, Barclays Center will stop selling alcohol at all concession stands before the start of the fourth quarter during basketball games. So to deny the Barclays Center a license out of spit, or to hyperventilate over the idea that Brooklynites are not responsible enough to know their limits and that our streets will be inundated by misbehaving visitors is disrespectful...
Of course, this was a bit of a dodge: the arena will not, after all, stop selling alcohol to 1,800 VIP patrons, and reserves the right to keep selling alcohol for an hour after the game. (A Markowitz rep said they weren't concerned.)

So the issue was not about whether the Barclays Center should get a liquor license. It's whether there are limits on the liquor license that are appropriate to the setting.

Nor is it "hyperventilating" or "disrespectful" to recognize that some fraction of a large crowd attending a sporting event or concert might get rowdy.

Advocates from BrooklynSpeaks, drawing on the 9:30 pm cut-off, for only 30 night games, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, have gotten more than 1,300 signatures asking for a 10 pm cut-off in Brooklyn.

On the one hand, that's a far cry from the 2 pm last-call that would occur, according to arena operators, at very few events. On the other, it's not that distant from what seems to be the likely cut-off at most evening events, as BrooklynSpeaks' Gib Veconi noted at the second SLA hearing.

The question, again, is: will the SLA evaluate whether there are limits on the liquor license that are appropriate to the setting? Markowitz didn't recognize that.

Markowitz on the metal detectors

At the meeting June 26, Barclays Center operators described security procedures, including the use of metal detectors. They offered no explanation for the need for metal detectors, nor did any community members, nor agency officials, raise any questions.

Notably, Markowitz had a couple of representatives at the meeting. None said anything about security.

Yet Markowitz was willing to further press coverage, in denouncing the metal detectors.

Credit Rich Calder of the New York Post for highlighting the metal detectors and, more dubiously, finding a potential fan--as did WABC--who said that the metal detector would keep him from visiting the arena.

Are potential arena-goers really going to boycott the venue because of metal detectors?

People go through metal detectors frequently, such as at government buildings. (The Barclays Center, technically, is a government building, the fig leaf of state ownership necessary for tax-exempt arena bonds.)

The issue, I suspect, is whether the metal detectors used at the arena will be relatively unobtrusive, as officials suggested, to allow through shoes and belts and jewelry, or whether it will cause delays and dismay. If the latter, it'll be a disaster.

"I am vehemently opposed to metal detectors as standard operating procedure, and I expect patrons to be subject to security policies consistent with similar venues in our region," Markowitz said in a statement to WABC.

But he never objected to an arena being placed across the street from a residential district, nor a parking lot two blocks away, with event attendees sent down residential streets on their way to the venue.

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