Thursday, May 31, 2012

As Nets don't get lucky in lottery, warnings about a gloomy season (though much maneuvering to come)

"Could be a big night for brooklyn nets," tweeted Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark yesterday before the NBA Draft Lottery. But it wasn't--the Nets wound up sixth, just about where the percentages would have put them, and thus lost the pick to Portland.

"Disasterous for Nets," tweeted CNBC's Darren Rovell. "Lose pick. No hype into offseason." (He had previously suggested that, among all the teams, the Nets needed the top pick the most for business reasons.)

Well, they don't gain the hype from the number one pick. And the inability to draft Kentucky's Anthony Davis sets them back. But the Nets didn't so much "lose" the pick as not be lucky enough to get it.

No was there any intervention, as (admitted conspiracy theorist) Charles Barkley predicted--unless you count Rovell's tweet, "Conspiracy theorists have a new one tonight: The NBA sold Tom Benson the [New Orleans] Hornets w/the promise of the #1 pick."

Ruining the Brooklyn welcome party?

Nets fan Pete Tenney wrote on Bleacher Report:
Are we about to see a gut-wrenching chain reaction ruin the team's welcome party in Brooklyn?
Without a first-round draft pick, the Nets will helplessly watch the rest of the league get better as they don't have much firepower to pull off a Dwight Howard deal.
Deron Williams was promised a competitive roster around him, and was probably promised Superman from the day he arrived in New Jersey. Now it seems D-Will will be gone if D-12 can't be part of the show at Barclays Center.
...
True, the Nets will have money to go patch up the roster with big names on their way down (Kevin Garnett), but it is starting to look like the fun of Barclays Center this year will be more about Jay-Z and Bieber Fever, and less about an NBA playoff run.

Well, the Nets surely will be maneuvering and spending in the off-season, and they still have a shot at Orlando center Howard, but it just got a lot tougher.

GM's message: patience

Nets General Manager Billy King was quoted on the team's website:
"I think they've just got to be patient," King said. "I think it's understandable -- we didn't get the pick. But what you've got to do is really work at the Draft. I think back to one year (in Philadelphia): we didn't have a pick in the first round, and we were able to get Willie Green in the second round and Kyle Korver at No. 57; both of those guys are still playing in the League, and there are guys drafted higher than them in the first round that are out of the League.

"I think fans have got to look at it and have faith that we're going to do our work. If there's players we can add in the Draft, we're going to do it. But if not, there's free agents out there that we're going to go after, and we have the ability to sign them because we have cap room."
Wrote Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick:
• That other sound you heard was Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov cursing the basketball gods when he should have been yelling at himself. When Nets general manager Billy King proposed a deal to acquire small forward Gerald Wallace in March in exchange for a package that included the team's first-round pick (top 3 protected), someone should have asked the question of whether or not the 29-year-old -- whose nickname ("Crash") likely means he has 35 years of mileage on his legs -- was truly the sort of player who could inspire point guard/free-agent-to-be Deron Williams to stick around.
King has said that he plans on signing Wallace to a long-term deal when he becomes a free agent this summer, but the pick would have come in handy when he continued shopping for other talent to put around Williams. And for what it's worth, I'm not convinced that it's Dwight Howard-or-bust when it comes to the Nets' chances. There are other moves that can be made to appease him, but those moves just got a little harder.
Stern on Brooklyn

NBA Commissioner David Stern predicted a rivalry, according to Fred Kerber in the Post, and also made that hoary Dodgers analogy:

We are awaiting the summer to see how the Nets fulfill their assurances and their aspirations, but we have seen the Knicks moving up quite a bit, and I think that we are going to have, two sold-out arenas, not just for games against each other, but for all games,” Stern said. “I’ve been out to Brooklyn. It’s going to be kind of interesting. I’m not sure how much I’m going to drive there, but I’m going to get there and it’s probably easier not to drive.
...“Why not? You know what’s interesting? It’s Brooklyn, New York, but I consider it could be Brooklyn, USA. If it were just Brooklyn, it would be like I think the fifth-largest market in our league,” Stern said. “And Brooklyn ... is incredible at all levels of corporate society and life, and there are lots of people, not just Howard Schultz, who are looking forward to going back to a game in their home borough, so to speak.
“I think there’s going to be a real conversation and there are lots of baseball fans that see the Brooklyn Nets as a legitimate successor to the Brooklyn Dodgers. I think that we are going to have a great rivalry.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Churches organize "Justice at Atlantic Yards!" protest for June 10; accountability and oversight might come before housing and jobs

In a sign of a new configuration of Atlantic Yards criticism, a group of churches, mostly from central Brooklyn and led by Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, is organizing a "Justice At Atlantic Yards" protest on June 10.

Protesters, including parishioners from some 25 congregations, as well as others from the overall Brooklyn community including some active Atlantic Yards critics from BrooklynSpeaks, will gather at 3 pm at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and South Portland Avenue, just north of the Barclays Center arena.

Several elected officials are expected to speak, though the line-up isn't yet set. Miller has a longtime close relationship with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who joined state Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Karim Camara at a press conference in January expressing their outrage at the lack of results.

Listed after Miller on the poster are the Rev. Mark Taylor of Church of the Open Door in Fort Greene and the Rev. Conrad Tillard of Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ in Bed-Stuy. Some of the church leaders involved have previously expressed concern or opposition, while others have not. Project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are promoting the rally, too.

Goal: fairness

The goal--"Stronger Oversight & the Housing and Jobs Promised!"--is a very difficult one, because the housing and jobs were premised on a full buildout of the project over ten years.

However, given the rather gentle oversight by the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development), the state agency overseeing the project, developer Forest City Ratner was given 25 years to build the project. Forest City faces specific penalties only for delays on three towers on the arena block and one tower elsewhere, and has repeatedly delayed the start of the first tower.

(Note that the 300 units of affordable housing in the poster is the minimum required over 12 years; Forest City Ratner surely would say it aims to build more units, and faster. And the developer's plan to hire some 1900 people for part-time arena jobs, however much those are not careers, should win some community support. But Forest City has continually fudged projections regarding permanent jobs.)

Talking with Miller, I pointed out that urging fulfillment of the promises might be seen as playing into Forest City Ratner's presumed effort to gain more public subsidies; Miller said he didn't support additional subsidies.

And while ESD now appears willing to accommodate some measure of community input, that's not the same as a governance body with representatives appointed by elected officials.

Nor is it a commitment to breaking up the site into several parcels and letting other developers bid, a proposal that echoes the community-derived UNITY plan and could deliver faster results--but was rejected by ESD CEO Kenneth Adams.

"When I talk about it on Sundays, it’s a matter of fairness," Miller said. "If taxpayers aren’t getting a benefit, that’s when they start to voice their displeasure." (At a meeting with Adams last September, Miller called for a a more "triangular" version of development, which involves the community.)

Beyond that, when such development helps cause indirect displacement--a trend already in process--people in the congregation are further dismayed, he said.

His congregation, Miller said, has generally not opposed the arena outright, but thought "whatever is done should be done fairly." And the use of eminent domain, and generous deals on public land for the developer, he said, are signs the project has not proceeded fairly.

Not a boycott, but a response

Miller was careful not to use the term boycott, and surely recognizes that the arena will serve diverse audiences depending on the events promoted.

But he said that "if something is not immediately done on the part of the state and the developer, we’re pledging not to go the arena." That may be more symbolic than significant, but it indicates the taint that the arena can't shake off.

The legacy of Battle for Brooklyn

The rally poster suggests a reference to the film Battle for Brooklyn, quoting a memorable line from Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the June 2005 signing of the Community Benefits Agreement (which Bloomberg signed as a witness): "You have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you."

On April 27, Brown Memorial sponsored a showing of that documentary, which tells the story of the project by focusing on activist Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. And though Goldstein is not exactly a stand-in for the Brown congregation, which is Baptist and mostly black, the audience gave the film, and Goldstein, hearty applause.

(In a rather odd moment during the post-film panel discussion, Council Member Letitia James invited audience member James Caldwell of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, to joint the panel. Audience members did not seem swayed by Caldwell's recounting that, at least for this development, "we" were at the table.)

Miller said he's had occasional, frustrating interaction with representatives of Forest City Ratner and even Irina Pavlova, Mikhail Prokhorov's deputy, but hasn't talked with them recently.

Justice, accountability, and credibility

If the aspiration is justice, accountability might be more achievable. What might accountability look like?

For one thing, I'd suggest, Forest City should hire the Independent Compliance Monitor promised in the Community Benefits Agreement. That would replace the developer's self-reporting of statistics in ways that mislead the public.

For example, the developer reports on minority- and women-owned business contracting without mentioning whether those numbers meet the goals in the CBA. It reports the number of construction workers without explaining what the (lower) full-time equivalent would be.

When at the 4/26/12 press conference at the Barclays Center I encountered Delia Hunley-Adossa, who chairs the CBA coalition, I asked when an ICM would be hired.

"Forthcoming," she responded. Only CBA signatories can enforce the CBA, but elected officials, and project backers could add their voice. After all, CBA signatory Bertha Lewis once responded to CBA doubters by citing the compliance monitor.

The ESD, and Cuomo's legacy

As for Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency lost twice in court (and is appealing) in the case challenging the project timetable. The agency did not study the impact of the 25-year project buildout it allowed, and withheld a document--the Development Agreement--that made that 25-year buildout clear.

In other words, the ESD, in the eyes of critics, has lost credibility. Should Gov. Andrew Cuomo truly care about his legacy--even if he looks forward to a ribbon-cutting, even if he inherited a project he might have shaped differently--shouldn't he make changes, such as enacting governance reform, to achieve credibility? (Or might Atlantic Yards be part of opposition research for his presumed 2016 presidential run?)

At a 9/26/11 community meeting, the ESD's Adams said, "We’re still fully confident that Forest City is going to build this whole thing and, over time, deliver all the promised benefits."

There's much reason for doubt. That was nearly months before Forest City Ratner announced a plan to build all the towers via modular construction to save money--likely lowering the number of workers and almost certainly reducing cumulative salaries and thus tax revenues. The state has performed no new recalculation.

At the same time, Bruce Ratner said, that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing, even though that's what he proposed--and the state approved.

In the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding, the developer pledged that 50% of the subsidized units, in terms of floor area, would be larger (2BR and 3BR) units. That pledge is not being met with the first building, even after a tweak in configuration in response to criticism.

The political dynamic

Beyond the Cuomo administration's general support, the political dynamic favors the status quo. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn favors the project, and has blocked any oversight hearing, despite requests from Brooklyn Council Members Letitia James and Brad Lander.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also favors the project, and has stymied--either directly or implicitly--any oversight hearings. Thus local legislators like Jeffries and Assemblyman Jim Brennan, the latter of whom chairs the Committee on Corporations and thus has oversight over ESD, are hampered.

As NBA lottery approaches, a "big night" for the Brooklyn Nets would be a statistical anomaly--and very good luck (or a conspiracy)

"Could be a big night for brooklyn nets," tweeted the ever-optimistic Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and the Barclays Center.

He's referring to the chance to land the first pick in the NBA draft, where the clear choice is 6'10" Kentucky star Anthony Davis. It's a longshot even for the team to get a pick, as the New York Post's Fred Kerber explains:
The Nets, who after losing a tie-breaker with the Kings would slot in sixth if form holds — and immediately surrender the pick — have a 7.5 percent chance to land Davis. They will keep their own pick only if the gods of fate decide to place them at one, two (8.33 percent chance) or three (9.36 percent chance). Anywhere else, and the pick goes to Portland through the Gerald Wallace trade.
So the Nets roughly have a 25 percent chance to get a top-three pick, which would be the sixth in their history. Their only pick at present is No. 57 in the second round.
League hopes and conspiracy theories

Then again, stranger things have happened. As the Post's Tim Bontemps wrote:
The NBA will be watching, as well, and maybe secretly hoping it works out that way, too. With the Nets making a highly publicized move to a new city and new arena, it would be far from a bad thing for the league to see a talent like Davis land in Brooklyn.
“With all things being equal, we’d love this team to get off to a good start,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said at last month’s unveiling of the Nets’ new color scheme and logos on the day they officially became the Brooklyn Nets. “We recognize that it’s a zero-sum game in terms of wins and losses in this league, so I don’t root for one team to have a win over another team.
I've heard a couple of people repeat what former star and TV commentator (and admitted conpsiracy theorist) Charles Barkley said last month: the league might be rigging the lottery to ensure that the Nets land Davis:
"I'm going to be very leery if Anthony Davis ends up in Brooklyn. You know, I'm going to be very leery because I know the NBA has a lot riding on that new arena, especially if Deron Williams leaves New Jersey. They didn't get Dwight Howard. I'm going to be very leery if New Jersey gets that number one pick."
There's no proof this has happened before, as Harvey Araton points out.


The importance of Brooklyn and some NBA fudging

In the Bontemps article, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is quoted:
“For financial reasons, [Brooklyn’s] hugely important,” Silver said. “In fact, the team is projected to become a revenue sharing payer, instead of a recipient, which makes a big difference. Enormous credit goes to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov, who are investing roughly a billion dollars in this new, state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn, which not only will be a fantastic venue for the NBA but will essentially be a community center, as well.
Well, it's sure no community center. Nor are Ratner and Prokhorov investing roughly a billion dollars. They are assembling funds from various sources, including green card-seeking Chinese investors and bondholders.

Coverage of the Neighborhood Protection Plan: the tabloids show up, but not the Times (or the Brooklyn Paper)

Here's a roundup of the coverage of the Neighborhood Protection Plan unveiled yesterday. Note the absence of the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Times, neither of which sent a reporter, though maybe the former will play catch-up. (I'm waiting to see if the Times's blog The Local has coverage.)


New York Post: Brooklyn arena foes turn to Chicago's Wrigley Field for improvements:
The plan offers no estimated costs. However, those who penned it want Forest City Ratner to dip into the millions of dollars it'll save annually after recently dropping a car-traffic-reduction plan to provide free MetroCards with Nets tickets.
NY1: Community Presents Plan To Preserve Life Quality Around Barclays Center, plus mostly critical email about the arena (with some pointed exceptions), on The Call.

News12: Barclays Center neighborhood introduces protection plan (link goes to log-in page, but story available from home page): "I'm always pessimistic when it comes to Forest City Ratner," says interviewee Nancy Cogen, a business owner in Boerum Hill.


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

Sen. Montgomery asks State Liquor Authority to move Barclays Center hearing to Brooklyn, hold it at night

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents the Atlantic Yards site and has been a longtime opponent of the project, has asked the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to change the location and time of the agency's required hearing on the Barclays Center liquor license.

The 500-foot rule hearing, required when there are other nearby establishments, is currently scheduled for 11 am on Tuesday, June 12 at the SLA office at 317 Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, at 126th Street. Community boards, as well as civic groups, have asked for assurances of outreach and other arena-related plans, though the community boards have not backed 10 pm cut-off of liquor sales.

The SLA is expected to approve the application; the question is whether the process will impose any conditions on the operator.

Making the hearing more accessible

Montgomery asked for "a weeknight evening in the downtown Brooklyn area," according to her letter, below.

"As you are aware, she wrote, "this is arguably the largest application Brooklyn has ever faced. While I appreciate the concerted effort your offices must be exerting to process this complicated application in a timely manner, my office has been inundated with calls from residents and organizations objecting to the current date, time, and location."

It would be a disservice "to both the applicant and the community," Montgomery wrote, unless all potentially affected parties get an opportunity to speak.

The letter
Montgomery Letter to SLA

Evaluating the arena transportation plan based on AY Watch's list of questions: lots of unknowns remain (hence push for more in Neighborhood Protection Plan)

Today, at a press conference, community groups involved in Atlantic Yards Watch (Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, and the Boerum Hill Association) will, along with local elected officials, unveil the Neighborhood Protection Plan.

The goal? Address issues ignored by Forest City Ratner in its release of the draft Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, as well as other arena-related issues not yet addressed.

I've already pointed out unresolved issues in the TDM plan and would remind readers that the issue that's generated the greatest concern is the protection of residential streets from those seeking free on-street parking.

But let me evaluate it based on the list of questions posed by Atlantic Yards Watch before its release. Below, I've reproduced the meat of the questions, with my scorecard in italics. Lots of questions remain unresolved.

Text below from Atlantic Yards Watch. Text in italics from AYR.

Extent of TDM

1. Does the TDM program apply to all arena events at all times of day? No. Only "large" events, and clearly not small events drawing under 5,000 people. But it's unclear what the cut-off for "large is: 8.000? 10,000? 12,000? 15,000?
The required TDM only covers Nets Games, (less than 20% of the 225 projected arena events), and the HOV requirement is in effect only after 5 PM. What is FCRC doing to implement an effective TDM Program for all Barclays Center events? It will go beyond Nets games, but not clear how far.
Why should the HOV requirement not also apply to daytime events, especially on Saturdays and Sundays? There was no discussion of the timeframe. Presumably when the draft is revised this will be discussed.

Performance goals

2. Setting of real performance goals.
What goals has FCRC established for the percentage of arena patrons who will (a) use private vehicles or taxis to get to Barclays Center and (b) use satellite parking lots? There are goals for number of drivers, though not necessarily broken down in this form. The satellite parking lots will have at least 612 spaces. Presumably we will get reports on use percentage.
How does the TDM address taxi usage? So far all we know is that post-event taxis will queue on the north side of Atlantic Avenue. We don't even know how many spaces there would be and what kind of back-up it would cause.
How does the TDM deal with displacement of vehicles beyond the 1/2 mile radius to parking garages in downtown Brooklyn, potentially resulting in congestion in that area while not reducing the number of vehicles on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the BQE, or north Flatbush Avenue. This was not addressed in the draft plan.


Parking

3. Parking controlled by FCRC.
What are the opening and closing times for Block 1129 [onsite, bounded by Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues] parking and the satellite lots? This was not mentioned.
What are the plans for the Block 1129 lot: access/egress routes, location of curb cuts, landscaping, screening etc? The main access/egress would be (privatized) Pacific Street, with secondary access/egress along residential Dean Street, and egress on Vanderbilt Avenue. The exterior will be landscaped and screened, but the interior will not be landscaped. The parking lot, officials say, need not conform to city landscaping regulations.
Will the number of HOV reserved spaces, an incentive to carpool, be reduced? Unclear. They have been reduced onsite, and relocated to off-site garages.
What type of users (such as HOV and VIP) will have access to the Block 1129 parking spaces? Not quite clear. VIP users, including 150 spaces reserved for suiteholders, will have access to Block 1129. It seems like HOV users will not have access.
Will they all be pre-reserved to eliminate queuing upon entering? Yes.
What measures will be in place on the lot to prevent queuing on adjacent residential streets? Beyond reservations and pre-payment, it's not clear what other measures are contemplated. Stay tuned.
What type of users have been displaced from Block 1129 parking and where are they going to park? Not clear, but some contractors may have been using the lot.

Local streets

4. Protection of local streets.
Bruce Ratner recently announced 800 employees may work some events. How many are expected to drive to work and where will they park? They are expected to take public transit.
Will FCRC, ESDC and NYC DOT support establishment of an arena parking tax surcharge, with the tax revenues flowing to The City of New York? No one brought this up.
What will FCRC, ESDC and NYCDOT do to restrict arena patrons from parking on residential and commercial streets near the arena? Nothing beyond exhorting people not to drive.
Will FCRC, ESDC and NYC DOT support the creation of a Residential Parking Permit program in the neighborhoods near the arena? Forest City and ESDC stayed away from this, which is blocked in the legislature by Southern Brooklyn legislators like state Sen. Marty Golden, an Atlantic Yards supporter. NYC DOT is still studying the issue.

Follow-up: monitoring and enforcement

5. On-going monitoring and enforcement.
Will FCRC monitor and report on its TDM activities at least annually? There are two studies in the first year. After that, unclear.
Will ESDC require that FCRC establish on-going performance goals? Not yet.
Will ESDC require TDM evaluation and adjustments on an ongoing basis? So far, there will be an evaluation in the first year.
Will ESDC impose penalties for the failure to meet goals? No mention of this yet.

Follow-up: data collection

6. Stronger data collection.
Will FCRC agree to additional data collection [beyond Nets fans] including but not limited to: the number of cars parking on local streets; the level of service at intersections, crosswalks and sidewalks; the number of riders on transit; and number of users of satellite parking lots? No mention of this yet.

Transit incentives

7. Effective transit incentives.
What is FCRC doing to “bundle” free transit fares with arena tickets so that the transit swipes are not available to persons other than arena ticketholders and not available except for travel to and from the ticketed event? This was dropped as not feasible and also not effective. However, it would save Forest City Ratner $2 million to $3 million a year.
What discounts will be extended to LIRR and Metro-North fares? Nothing mentioned.
What transit and commuter rail service enhancements are being implemented? Increased subways after events, as well as more frequent LIRR trains after events.
Will LIRR operate trains out of Atlantic Terminal after 12 midnight? If needed, though that's not yet planned.
Who is paying for the transit incentives? The public agencies, apparently. One big question is whether this is a net cost to the public or not. Forest City consultant Sam Schwartz suggested it might not be. The public agencies were silent. Given that many if not most of the attendees will have unlimited ride MetroCards, transit access adds no net cost. Perhaps Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who chairs the Corporations Committee, could look into this.


Shuttles and buses

8. Utilization of shuttle and other buses.
The MEC requires FCRC to establish at least 500 parking spaces near the Atlantic Avenue/BQE interchange and 2 park-and-ride lots in Staten Island.
Where will these or other remote lots being established? Along Atlantic Avenue. The Staten Island lots were dropped as not feasible, given that it would be tough for attendees to return to the lots during the event if they had to leave early.
Will these operate for all events? Not clear.
How many shuttle and other buses will be arriving on the arena block in the pre and post event hour? Not clear.
Where are the bus drop-off and pick-up locations on the arena block? Along Atlantic Avenue.
Where will shuttle buses and other buses be parked during events? Not certain, but possibly in Red Hook, or along Pacific Street next to the parking lot.

Bike access

9. Bicycle incentives.
Why should FCRC not establish an attended, covered bike parking facility on the arena block? There will be a facility that is attended during Nets games. It won't be covered. Presumably a tent would not be costly.
Will security personnel monitor the outdoor bike parking FCRC is proposing? Will security coverage apply to all events? Yes for Nets games and perhaps other large events.
How will FCRC protect cyclists who are riding adjacent to the Dean Street lay-by lane? Unclear.
What is the recommended north/south route to the bicycle parking area? Unclear.

Cross-marketing

10. Cross-marketing plan.
The MEC requires FCRC to develop a plan to "cross-market with area businesses to encourage ticketholders to patronize local restaurants and stores before and after games.” However, cross-marketing efforts might induce people to drive to the arena if they end up arriving or leaving the neighborhood when shuttle buses are not running or public transit is less frequent at night.
What is the scope of the cross-marketing plan with respect to its geographic range and time frame? Unclear. The plan is under development.
How will the planners ensure that cross-marketing efforts don't undermine other TDM measures - such as the use of transit, shuttles or satellite parking? Unclear. The plan is under development.
How will marketing opportunities be priced to ensure that a wide array of businesses are included? Unclear. The plan is under development.
Will additional shuttle or public transit service be provided along Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in the post-event hours? The MTA can add buses if necessary, but says it does not yet see the need.

WSJ on delayed Atlantic Yards affordable housing: no mention of modular gambit or KPMG report that said project was indeed buildable

There are a couple of interesting things unsaid about Atlantic Yards in today's Wall Street Journal round-up focusing on that project and Willets Point, Housing Pieces Delayed: 'Affordable' Apartments That Helped Sell Big Projects Have Yet to Materialize.

The newspaper reports:
At Atlantic Yards, the project's centerpiece basketball arena is nearing completion. But developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has yet to begin any of the 6,400 units of housing it once anticipated being built by 2016—2,250 of which would be for low- and middle-income families. Forest City has cited higher than expected costs and an inclement market, although it plans to break ground this year on its first building with 175 below-market rate units.

The delays have frustrated officials and given fuel to critics of the project, which went through a contested public approval process before the recession.

"They should do the affordable housing up front, now," said Assemblyman James Brennan of Brooklyn, who said the low- and middle-income housing aspects should be accelerated. "The only legitimate selling point for the entire project was the affordable housing."
Unmentioned, however, is the state agreed to give Forest City 12 years to build the first three towers and 25 years for the whole project, despite projections that the 16 towers would be finished in a decade.

The meaning? Bumps in the road or lies on the way?

According to the Journal, the "delays speak to broader challenges of building housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families in New York, once the main focus of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's housing agenda."

Well, yes, and no. The delays also speak to the willingness of the state to commission a dubious report from KPMG claiming that the project could be built in a decade, and the willingness of a now-retired Empire State Development Corporation official to dismiss the Kahr report, commissioned by community groups, that was far more pessimistic.

Forest City's commitment

The Journal reports:
At Atlantic Yards, the large number of affordable units—more than one-third—helped Forest City Ratner sell the project to elected officials and some community groups.

"That is of course what we're committed to doing at Atlantic Yards," MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said in an interview. "But it turns out not to be so easy."

The company plans to break ground on its first building before the end of the year, a date that has been pushed repeatedly. If the company doesn't start construction by May 2013, it must pay the city $5 million.

Unlike many low- and moderate-income housing developments, Atlantic Yards plans to use union labor, is being built in high rises, and has hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to acquire land, all of which make the development more expensive and challenging, Ms. Gilmartin said.

"We're really trying to do something that isn't something that's been done on a large scale in the city before," she said.
Of course, that project is exactly what was vetted and approved by the state.

Unmentioned is Forest City's plan, officially announced last November, to use risky/innovative modular construction at heights not previously attempted. Has Forest City given up on that?

At least the Journal points out that the start date for the first building "has been pushed [back] repeatedly." In January, I counted about ten times that the goalposts had been moved, with the timing "spring or summer." After that, the start was delayed until after the arena opens, and possibly early next year.

Note that the $5 million penalty kicks in if the building doesn't start by next May, but Forest City Ratner can gain a one-year grace period if it can certify a denial of city housing subsidies.

The Bloomberg record

The Journal's Eliot Brown summarizes the mayor's affordable housing record:
In 2005, Mr. Bloomberg called for building about 92,000 units of so-called affordable housing and preserving 73,000 units in which affordability programs were expiring.

But the city has shifted to preserving units—a tactic many housing advocates say is also needed. New construction is now likely to be roughly one-third of that total of 165,000 affordable units, said Mathew Wambua, the city's housing commissioner.
Earlier this month, the New York Times has reported, erroneously and generously, "On [City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden's] watch, the administration has undertaken financing 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014, of which more than 130,000 have been built...."

The phrase "been built" implies construction from the ground up, rather than preservation. No correction has yet been posted.




Monday, May 28, 2012

Sports Business Journal: 183 events set; "about" 75 percent of suites sold; Calvin Klein signs on; more hockey talk

From Sports Business Journal (via NetsDaily):
  • there are rumors that the 2015 NBA All-Star Game would be played at the Barclays Center (2014 is already out)
  • there are 183 ticketed events scheduled (which, if you add the ten "community" events, would be a total of 193, not quite at the 225 once promised)
  • "[a]bout 75 percent of the 100 suites in the arena have been sold, including four of the 11 Vault Suites." Previously, Nets/Barclays CEO Brett Yormark has flatly said 75 percent, which indicates some wiggle room
  • Calvin Klein has joined as a founding partner, while "Remaining, or at least unannounced, top-tier sponsorship categories in the building include insurance and automobile."
  • NBA CEO David Stern "called the new arena 'extraordinary' and noted that 'several owners told me this was never going to happen, even as the steel was going into the ground.'"
  • even before 2015, when the Islanders' lease expires, a minor league hockey team might move, or a team from the Russia-centric KHL might visit
Also note a pay-per-view wrestling event announced for December.

A myth multiplied: "5 Signs That China Is Colonizing America" said to include Atlantic Yards

If you search on Google for "45 Signs That China Is Colonizing America," you'll get a bunch of results, which include the same, misleading Atlantic Yards sign:
#8 Chinese investors have been gobbling up real estate all over New York City. The following is from a  recent Forbes article….
According to a recent report in the New York Times, investors from China are “snapping up luxury apartments” and are planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commercial and residential projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Chinese companies also have signed major leases at the Empire State Building and at 1 World Trade Center, the report said.
Except that not-by-Forbes-linked 8/11/11 Times article got it wrong. Providing a low-interest loan for infrastructure and loan replacement doesn't give them much purchase on Atlantic Yards. The immigrant investors seeking green cards would only control actual real estate if Forest City Ratner doesn't pay them back in seven years.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena: from 64% to how much? (Also, 15% of office leases for FCE from City of NY/U.S. government)

In late March, Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner reported that some "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Barclays Center] arena are currently under contract."

While that's a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December 2011, the developer has admitted that the 100% mark will not be met by the arena opening.

So we should keep watch for the next report, which will come with the FY 2012 First Quarter conference call. Last year it was held in early June.

Meanwhile, the documents embedded below show how FCE describes the Atlantic Yards project, among many others, to investors. Note that, even through early March, they were using the now-outdated 56 percent mark.

Also note, in last year's Third Quarter Supplemental Package, the document immediately below, one page (above right) pulls out a list of "significant office tenants as of October 31, 2011."

The largest, with 9.38% of total office square feet, is the city of New York. The third largest, with 5.82%, is the U.S. Government. Note that the latter is surely spread over several cities. And Forest City would say that it competed to bid for at least some of those leases.

But it's still notable how more than 15% of office leases come from governmental clients.

Forest City Supplemental Package Q3 2011 (1)

Forest City Enterprises Citi 2012 Global Property CEO Conference

Forest City Enterprises Q2-11 Investor Deck NAREIT REITWorld

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Deeming transportation plan inadequate and other issues not addressed, local officials, PHNDC will propose "Neighborhood Protection Plan"

Update: Joining PHNDC will be the Park Slope Civic Council and Boerum Hill Association, which together sponsor Atlantic Yards Watch.

There's lots of reason to think that the Transportation Demand Management plan announced this week by developer Forest City Ratner will not do enough to discourage drivers from seeking free, on-street parking. And there's much reason to wonder how other arena operations will be handled.

In the absence of such plans, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, backed by several elected officials on Tuesday will propose a nine point "Neighborhood Protection Plan."

I haven't seen the details, but presumably it draws in part on the example of Wrigley Field in Chicago.

As I wrote three years ago, in 2004, in exchange for being able to play 30 rather than 18 night games, the City Council approved the Wrigley Field Neighborhood Protection Ordinance. The Cubs agreed to "fund and operate expanded remote parking, print residential parking permits, and expand trash pick-up in and around Wrigley Field, as detailed in the annual report (also below).

Press conference details

From the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council:
Press conference announcing Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan
Atlantic Yards
Start Date:
May 29, 2012 - 9:30am
Sponsored By:
Council Members Stephen Levin, Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, other elected officials and community leaders
Location:
Corner of Atlantic Avenue and South Portland Ave., Brooklyn
Description:
Elected officials and community leaders will propose a nine point "Neighborhood Protection Plan," and will call on Mayor Bloomberg and developer Forest City Ratner to meet and endorse plan to protect the communities around the Barlcays Center arena.
Where:
Corner of Atlantic Avenue and South Portland St, Brooklyn
Why:
The Barclays Center arena is opening in less than four months and there is still no acceptable plan to mitigate the impact of the arena and its thousands of patrons on the surrounding neighborhoods. We have put together a 9-point “Neighborhood Protection Plan” to address what our neighborhoods need to mitigate the impact of Barclay’s Arena. The Bloomberg Administration and Forest City Ratner have not explained to our communities how the impact of foot traffic and neighborhood disruptions will be handled after Barclays events. We have not heard a real plan to address parking and transportation needs. Council Members Levin and James are calling for a public meeting with the Mayor’s office and Forest City Ratner to present the Neighborhood Protection Plan and allow for the community to have real input in the decisions that will forever change our communities.
Cubs Neighborhood Report 2011

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gridlock Sam goes rogue: "Don't even think of driving" to arena, but Barclays Center website offers driving directions (though parsimonious parking info), and Ticketmaster didn't get the message

Thanks to some uncurious and ahistorical reporting, mainly from the New York Times (and those who relied on it), Forest City Ratner's belatedly-released Transportation Demand Management plan for the Barclays Center was treated as a wise solution rather than an expected tactic with enduring question marks.

And paid consultant "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz was treated as an "expert" rather than an "expert" "consultant" delivering for a client.

Yes, we've known for years that they would emphasize public transit, and provide some increased subway (and train) service. And we've known since the beginning of this month that the number of spaces in the surface parking lot would be halved, a concession more to reality--surface capacity--than to public policy. (In other words, they aimed to build 1,100 spaces, but the oft-discussed use of stackers would have caused delays, as Schwartz's firm had warned.)

But the six-month delay in releasing a plan with little new--and even less than promised, given the loss of the free MetroCard--was obscured by some headlines that treated the smaller parking lot as a solution in itself.

And while promoting public transit as "the fastest, most convenient way to travel" on the arena website (above) is a clear message, it's not at all the same as saying, in Schwartz's sound-bite, " Don’t even think of driving to the Barclays arena."

Will it work?

So, besides marketing the heck out of the public transit option, and offering pre-paid parking, as planned, will cutting half the on-site spaces keep people away?

Well, it buttresses the public transit message, but that's hardly a foolproof solution, especially when partners like Ticketmaster--see screenshot at right (click to enlarge), supplied by a community member who filed comments with Empire State Development-- are stressing driving over transit..

There still should be a significant chunk--some 2500, they say--of spaces available for pre-paid parking, at $30 and up, except for the remote lots at half the market price.

But drivers may still seek free, on-street parking--and that's a big unknown, and a risk, given the lack of residential permit parking. After all, other residential communities with sports facilities, such as Wrigleyville in Chicago, have residential permit parking.

There are no penalties built in for failure to meet the goal to reduce driving. And, as pointed out by BrooklynSpeaks, it's clear that the 2009 revisions to the Atlantic Yards plan left the project sponsors unable to included the 1,100 spaces described in previous project documents--an argument for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ordered by two courts.

And Schwartz knows that more could be done. As Tom Boast of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented on Patch:
"Interesting to note that staff at Sam Schwartz Engineering described TDM in a March 2009 professional paper: "TDM measures frequently include encouraging a modal shift away from the single occupancy vehicle by improving the convenience and availability of other modal options such as public or private transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling. Other common TDM measures include congestion or parking pricing programs, or preferred parking for carpools and transit users." Concerned citizens should call on the State and the City (i.e., the Governor and the Mayor) to authorize and implement the other half of TDM plans excluded from the FCR plan presented by Schwartz: congestion and parking pricing programs (i.e., removing "free" parking on residential streets with a RPP program) and preferred parking for carpools."

In other words, Schwartz was working for a client that didn't--or couldn't--quite give him free reign.

Overpromoting Schwartz

The 5/23/12 New York Times, Traffic Plan for a Brooklyn Arena Cuts Parking Slots by Half, written by a reporter who's covered Atlantic Yards for a bare few months, turned the story into convenient drama:
The conundrum that Samuel I. Schwartz, the traffic engineering expert, faced was this: How could the already jam-packed streets in the heart of Brooklyn accommodate thousands of extra cars filled with fans traveling to a basketball arena and desperately searching for parking?

His answer, revealed on Tuesday to a panel of Brooklyn officials with all the flourish and detail of a general planning to storm the beaches of Normandy, was to discourage driving entirely, by cutting the number of parking spaces at the Barclays Center in half.

“We will scare drivers away from the arena,” Mr. Schwartz said in an interview. “My message to New Yorkers is, Don’t even think of driving to the Barclays arena.”
(Emphases added)

Well, Schwartz was either exaggerating for soundbite purposes or going rogue, because the Barclays Center has a page with Driving Directions, with no reminder to use public transit.

In other words, Gridlock Sam may discourage driving, but arena operators know that some people will arrive by vehicle, as Schwartz himself acknowledged.

Presumably some will be dropped off by taxis or other drivers, while others will seek parking.


The parking peekaboo

The Barclays Center web site, as of now, does significantly discourage parking, but it doesn't go nearly as far as Schwartz does. As noted at left, it declares that "Parking at Barclays Center is very limited. We strongly recommend using public transportation."

Suiteholders, at least, will get access to parking, as noted below right, but that's only about 150 spaces.

But will the Barclays Center pass on Schwartz's "don't even think of driving" message?

Not really, and that's an enduring tension.

Navigating the unresolved tension & getting brushed off  

After the morning meeting May 22 of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, Schwartz took questions from reporters.

I tried to ask about the tension between promoting transit yet providing a parking option. "You talk about, on the web site... trying to obscure information about parking," I noted, "but at the same give people the opportunity to pre-reserve, so it's kind of doing one thing and the other. How does that that work?

"You're showcasing public transportation," Schwartz responded, not quite answering the question. "Then if somebody is insisting on driving--and remember, this is based on focus groups that we had, and the surveys that we had... we had people who didn't know, from Queens and LI... that the Long Island Rail road went right across the street... so those are the effective strategies. We're banking on effective strategies."

However, it's clear that the parking option has to emerge, so I tried to follow up: "At some point they have to find--"

"It's not a debate," interrupted Forest City Ratner p.r. man Joe DePlasco, and Schwartz moved on to another questioner.

OK, not a debate, but it's an unresolved question, one to keep watch on as the web site evolves.

Where's the event-goer input?

And, as the community member pointed out:
The Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, and Forest City Ratner web sites make no mention of and have no links to the ESDC request for comment on the transit plan, nor have the Brooklyn Nets or Barclays Center twitter accounts made mention of it at all. The implication is clear: the owners and managers of the venues are not promoting the feedback or awareness of the transit options to the population that will most directly be affected, namely the customers. It behooves them to reverse course and actively promote the plan to the public with sufficient time to comment.
What Schwartz said on the evening of May 22



"The mission is clear: It is to reduce the number of cars coming to the arena," Schwartz said at the evening forum May 22. "That's our mantra. And we will be discouraging the number of cars. I was asked today by a reporter, 'What is the message?' My message is: 'Don't even think about driving to the arena.'"

As noted above, that's not really the Barclays Center's message.

"Because we're not providing any additional parking--half the spaces have been cut back. We're going to encourage sustainable--we're going to maximize transit," Schwartz continued. "We're encouraging transportation such as walking and bike riding, as well, to the arena. The goal is to minimize the effect of those who do drive. on the community. So there will those be that drive, no matter what, we recognize that, so what we're trying to do is reduce the impact of those people who drive on the community, and we'll show you the measures."

There are measures, and the question remains: are they enough?

What Schwartz said about promotion

"Every single piece of advertising will contain that [transit] information," Schwartz continued. "You've probably seen some of this already... But what you will not see is how to drive to the arena. What you will not see is where to park. Were not incentivizing, we're disincentivizing people from driving. We're using positive reinforcement for people to use public transportation."



"When you get a ticket., and turn over that ticket, it will show you, 11 trains, 1 destination...," he said. "Every single ticket will have transit, and none of the tickets will have driving, to the arena."

"The web site--the web site focuses on mass transit, and discourages driving," Schwartz continued. "You will get information on all of the services, the subway, the bus, the LIRR," he said. "Now what's so terrific about this location is, when you look at the extent of those 11 subway lines, more than half the people coming by transit will have a one-seat ride."

An empty train, he noted, can handle 1000 people each.

So all of that bodes well for encouraging use of public transit.

The parking strategy

But there will, in fact, be parking. "Our parking strategy goals are to discourage driving, and we will be repeating that throughout,"Schwartz said. "We are cutting on-site parking in half."



"We are keeping parking absent from the marketing materials, and we are lowering expectations to drivers to find parking," he continued, limiting the definition of "marketing materials."

"Now, short of flogging people, we still expect some people to drive," Schwartz said. "So nonetheless, the disincentives vs. the incentives of transit... which is going to be convenient, the cost of parking, which is going to be much higher than the cost of subway, we still know that some people will drive."

"And so our job, for those people, is to intercept drives before they approach the arena," he said. The first solution is remote parking off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which will connect to the arena via shuttle buses.

"We're going to try to get as many of the drivers to commit... to a parking facility that is convenient for them," he said. "So, to the extent possible if we can do that.... we'll have a reservation system for parking. And we'll have as much pre-sale of spaces and we'll provide the driving directions, which will be away from residential streets, and the walking directions, as well. So to the extent that we can keep people on the major arterials, we will do so."

The question remains: how many people will be seeking free, on-street parking?

Parking management

"We've engaged with a firm... Click and Park, an online parking management system," he continued. "The software will be seamless with the Barclays Center software. So when you've gone through all the discouragements of driving, and you elect to drive, you will then go to the Click and Park site... we will try to entice you with low-cost parking at the remote parking facility. That low-cost parking will be pegged at at least 50% off the market rate at the arena."

"If not, we will connect with some of the off-site parking facilities--again, a reservation system so you can directly to that parking facility without doing circulation. One of the worst problems that could come up is circulation. If we can get people directly into parking facilities where they've already reserved, we will reduce circulation."

"And also we will have HOV [high occupancy vehicles] spaces... to have three or more people in their cars," he said. "That way you can also reduce the number of cars to the arena." Unmentioned: the number of HOV spaces on-site has been cut.

"The on-site parking has been cut in half. It was 1100 parking spaces," he added. "It's now 565, but in effect, it's really 541, because 24 of the spaces will be dedicated for the NYPD. So, 541 vs. 1,100 that appeared in the Environmental Impact Statement."

"Again, for those people who still decide to try to drive to the arena, we're going to spread them out... in some 20 locations that are within a half mile or less, walking distance, to the arena. Click and Park is in the process of meeting with these parking operators, to get them to sign up to the parking reservation system.... Money doesn't change hands. Everything is done electronically."

The first few months, at least, will be an experiment. If the BrooklynSpeaks objections are not addressed, in part or in full, the experiment is far less likely to work.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Worth follow-up from the transportation meeting: disincentives, penalties, missing parking data, impact of tower construction, security, and truck routes

Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Following up my coverage of the May 22 public meeting on the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, I want to focus on some exchanges that deserve more analysis, given that the questions didn't quite get full answers.

I already wrote this morning about one seemingly inadequate answer: whether the halving of on-site parking, and other changes, should have triggered revision of project documents. The answer was no, but the evidence seems otherwise.

Below, the embedded video (shot by Jonathan Barkey) is keyed to the specific questions.

Disincentives

One of the biggest issues looming: What disincentives will prevent people from circling neighborhood streets to look for free, on-street parking? When Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman read the question, there were some titters from the crowd.



Forest City Ratner consultant Sam ("Gridlock Sam") Schwartz answered incompletely, stressing incentives: to use the parking reservation system that will direct them to nearby garages, and to “intercept drivers” so they use remote lots--at 50% of the rate of lots closer to the arena--near the BQE and use a shuttle bus along Atlantic Avenue.

He didn't discuss disincentives such as residential permit parking.

Later, Hammerman asked Schwartz to pull the data from the EIS (environmental impact study) and show us the original projections for driving, and then to explain "how these distributed [transportation demand management strategies"--including increased transit service--would each impact on the worst-case scenario.



Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Schwartz said he could provide the data, but said that such TDM measures "are taken in whole; they're not broken up so discretely. We think you need to take them as a whole. Discouraging parking is one thing and encouraging parking is another... and the cumulative effect from just the information alone, that part, we do know from the surveys [of future arena-goers], is [an increase of] 9% [taking public transit]." (That's a numerical increase from 45% to 54%; as a percentage change, that's 20%.)

Note, however, that as Tom Boast of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented on Patch:
"Interesting to note that staff at Sam Schwartz Engineering described TDM in a March 2009 professional paper: "TDM measures frequently include encouraging a modal shift away from the single occupancy vehicle by improving the convenience and availability of other modal options such as public or private transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling. Other common TDM measures include congestion or parking pricing programs, or preferred parking for carpools and transit users." Concerned citizens should call on the State and the City (i.e., the Governor and the Mayor) to authorize and implement the other half of TDM plans excluded from the FCR plan presented by Schwartz: congestion and parking pricing programs (i.e., removing "free" parking on residential streets with a RPP program) and preferred parking for carpools."
In other words, Schwartz was working for a client that didn't--or couldn't--quite give him free reign.

Barclays Center vs. MSG

Schwartz was asked to compare Madison Square Garden Knicks events--visitors, parking--to the Barclays Center.



He portrayed the Brooklyn arena as in a superior position, as MSG provides no parking, nor a pre-paid parking system. Nor is there the kind of TDM plan unveiled yesterday. He didn't mention, however, is that MSG is in a business district full of available parking.

Penalties, and parking

What if the goals in reducing driving aren't met: Are there any penalties for nonperformance?

"No, there are no penalties," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall.



Hammerman read the next question: do they have a document that details the number and locations of commercial parking spaces around the arena--details key to the promise that there are enough off-street parking spaces, even with the reduction in on-site parking.

"At the moment, we have the locations of every one of the parking facilities," Schwartz responded. "Soon we'll know which operators are participating." In other words, he doesn't even have a list of the participating locations, much less a count.

When will plans for the surface parking lot, on Block 1129, be presented to stakeholders?

Marshall responded by first augmenting her earlier answer: "I just want to point out that we're required to meet the levels in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement]. There may not be penalties, but there will be continuous follow-up."

As for the surface parking lot plans, she said this presentation wasn't the right forum for that discussion, and "Right now we are evaluating the responses we got" from lot operators.

Future snags from construction?

Remember, Forest City Ratner has plans to construct three or four buildings around the arena, with the first tower supposed to break ground this year. How will construction of Building 2 (at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street) and other towers affect traffic and pedestrian access to the arena block?



"We have plans to break ground on Building 2 sometime this year," Marshall responded. "At that time, we need to come up with a logistics plan to show how the building will be built... That plan will look at any impact it will have on the operation of the arena... In the months before we do that, we will start the process."

In other words, there sure might be impacts, but they don't know yet.

Who's paying for transit?

How much funding will Forest City be providing to the MTA for the additional service, such as the additional "gap" trains that add service after events?



The answer, apparently, is none, and Schwartz suggested--with no data yet--that it may be a net gain: "In the examples, we've had in the past, with the MTA, with New Jersey Transit and others, they see at as a way to provide service to their passengers. In the case of CitiField, it actually costs less and they made more revenue by introducing. So this isn't necessarily an additional cost."

Security

Given that the arena cantilever is closer than 20 feet from the curb at Atlantic Avenue, what protections will be needed to move traffic and curbside vehicles away?



FCR’s Ashley Cotton, a recent hire, said she didn’t fully understand the question, but said that arena operators had been working fully with the NYPD to ensure that the building is safe.

(Note that, because the arena in Newark was that close to the street, officials closed streets there, an issue that provoked obfuscation from Forest City.)

Trucks violating truck routes

Why are trucks leaving the construction site taking non-commercial routes, and how will that be controlled in the future?



Cotton gave a wobbly answer, saying that trucks routes are "encouraged and advertised," acknowledging that Forest City has seen photos (as posted on Atlantic Yards Watch) and saying the company was doing its best to stop the practice.
ESD's Arana Hankin photo and set by Tracy Collin

Arana Hankin, Manager, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project, got up and said the agency was “working very, very closely with NYPD... to step up enforcement.”

If so, it's taken a while.