Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sensation dance show at Barclays Center in October was twice as loud as permitted, according to notice of (unresolved) violation; neighbors' complaints about pounding bass seem validated; Forest City trying to "improve" structure

Last October, the two Sensation techno shows at the Barclays Center were called an "epic night" by enthused attendees, but they drove neighbors nuts, as the bass penetrated their apartments blocks away.

"Can hear and feel bass from Sensation show at corner of St. Marks and 5th, and can hear it inside our home with window closed," one resident wrote on Atlantic Yards Watch. "Totally unacceptable, annoying, upsetting."

It sounds like such reports have been validated.

In a notice of violation that recently surfaced, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found a 72 decibel reading on 10/27/12. That, according to an expert I consulted, is double the permitted level of 62 decibels.

(The reading was taken at the Newswalk apartment building on Pacific Street east of the arena.)

Violation dismissed, hearing re-scheduled

Operators of the Barclays Center now face a $3200 potential fine--a relative slap on the wrist, given that the event proceeded without incident--but nonetheless some official attempt at redress.

However, the notice of violation was dismissed at a hearing last month because it was filed against Forest City Ratner, the developer of the arena, rather than an affiliate, Brooklyn Events Center, which is the operator.

The notice was re-submitted, and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge of the Environmental Control Board has been scheduled for April 2 at 1:30 pm.


I queried representatives of the arena and Forest City Ratner, but got no response. A Forest City spokesman told the New York Post, not so responsively, “We are aware that there have been some complaints about sound and we are looking into those.”

Update: At a meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee on February 7, Arana Hankin, the state official who oversees Atlantic Yards, said, "Forest City Ratner has been working diligently with their sound engineer to improve the structure so sound doesn't escape. It's a very complex process."

"Can you give us an idea of what you're doing?" one community member asked.

"Not yet," responded Ashley Cotton, Forest City Ratner Executive VP for External Affairs. She later said she didn't know whether the arena operator was contesting the violation. (Shouldn't they know?) 

But given that Forest City is building a 363-unit apartment building adjacent to the arena, the developer surely has an interest in finding a solution to leaking sound.

Part of a pattern

Map via Atlantic Yards Watch
Certain Jay-Z concerts at the end of September and early in October also prompted reports of pounding bass, turning the arena into a giant neighborhood sub-woofer.

However, when the DEP came to test during one Jay-Z concert, it did not find a violation.

As I reported in October, a DEP representative said they heard sound from the concert, which was perplexing, but didn't find a violation. However, as resident Wayne Bailey said at the time, “they didn't measure when the concert was playing.”'

Atlantic Yards Watch has compiled a map of the locations of 23 complaints lodged during the Jay-Z and Sensation shows, well beyond the radios of the arena into Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, and Park Slope. There were no complaints, for example, during the Justin Bieber shows, but the next noise test is likely the electronic dance group Swedish House Mafia, coming to the arena on March 2.

What it means: "clear violation"

"The citation shows a very clear violation of the stipulated noise limit," commented the expert I consulted, Robert Andres, INCE, Technical Advisor to Noise Free America, a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting noise, in response to my query about the Sensation notice of violation.

"A 72dBC reading represents 10 times the sound energy of 62dBC, but, as dramatic as that may seem, it is only perceived by the human ear as a doubling of the sound," he said. "This kind of thing usually happens when inexperienced, irresponsible and inconsiderate young people are left in charge of sound system volume controls."

In this case, it was the first Sensation show in the United States, but hardly produced by young people. It was presumably produced at the volume preferred by attendees used to such dance parties, with some relying on drugs like Ecstasy to power through the night.

Did those in charge care?

The first night of Sensation, 10/26/12, provoked complaints; as one commenter on this blog wrote:
Who do we complain to? I'm at 535 Dean and felt this about two blocks away at 2AM. I went to the police station and they said they'd been getting inundated with calls, but there was nothing they could do about it. I own a restaurant in Brooklyn, and if we were shaking our neighbors out of their beds two blocks away we'd be getting shut down on the spot.
As one cop said to me, "how do you file a complaint on a stadium?"
Early on the second night, at 7:45 pm on 10/27/12. arena CEO Brett Yormark claimed, "we are looking into it and we take the concerns very seriously."

Arena neighbor David Bivins tweeted at 9:12 pm that evening:
@MartyMarkowitz Please follow up on incredibly loud noise from Sensations at Barclays Center. It's unreasonable. They're a bad neighbor.
Markowitz, so far, has been silent.

At around 11 pm that night, a city inspector took readings that led to the violation.

ESD official in promo

As I wrote 10/29/12, the video below, taken from a canned promotional segment taped sometime before Sensation, includes enthusiastic words from show promoters and, astonishingly, the state official overseeing the Atlantic Yards project.

"Well, y'know, Brooklyn's a really young, hip, lively community," states Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development. "We love to party and dance here in Brooklyn, and I can only imagine people will love to have Sensation in their backyards and be able to walk to the arena to party at an amazing event like Sensation. So I'm hopeful that folks will want to come back year after year."



As I stated, I don't think it was wise for Hankin to be promoting arena events, especially with such an unfortunate choice of words like "Sensation in their backyards." That's doubly true when her agency should be helping make sure arena operations don't boom into neighbors' living rooms.

1 comment:

  1. The arena is owned by the state of New York, which is responsible for the conduct of its FCR tenant, whomever it is

    If FCR doesn't turn down the volume, the sound levels will continue to be unlawful

    It would then be the State's duty to evict its non-law abiding tenant

    As an expert in noise issues, the onus is completely on those who cause the sound, not on those who hear and feel it.

    Prediction: Those aggrieved will get no relief until a judge issues a court order.

    ReplyDelete