Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yes, arena impact's less than feared, but Times downplays idling limos and leaking bass as "everyday irritants"

It's not surprising that the New York Times would say everything's pretty much fine.

Yes, compared to the fears expressed before the opening of the Barclays Center, there's been what the Times called in an initial headline "Smooth Debut for an Arena That Rocked Brooklyn" but has revised, rather snarkily and conclusory, to Neighbors Predicted Chaos. Now They’re Just Annoyed.

Yes, most people do take public transit, and gridlock so far has been managed away. (More towers will complicate things.) Crime is low (though crime was hardly the top fear). And residents admit the impact isn't as bad as they'd imagined (though that throng of Justin Bieber fans was, in fact, chaotic).

"Everyday irritants"

But there's no mention of things like buses and trucks idling outside the arena on "the pad" and beyond.

And it's irresponsible to dismiss as "gripes about everyday irritants" some issues that were not--and should not be--everyday fare:
Many car owners say that when they return from work on basketball game or concert nights, it is almost impossible to find a parking space.
That's why local elected officials have advocated--and will continue to advocate--for residential parking permits.

Another capsule description:
Another nuisance has been the double-parked or illegally parked chauffeured town cars that idle around the neighborhood during high-end events like a Barbra Streisand concert.
[Forest City's Ashley Cotton] said the company had tried to address the problem of so-called black cars by designating a parking area for them on Atlantic Avenue south of the arena.
First, the company hasn't designated anything; that's the job of city agencies.

And, actually, that hasn't worked, as regular reports on Atlantic Yards Watch indicate: "2.5 hours of gridlock/blaring horns." In fact, that was a design flaw in the Transportation Demand Management plan.

Funny that the Times would devote a whole article to the phenomenon of additional yellow cabs near the arena, while dispatching the black car issue in two paragraphs.

Note the main photo, at right, with the caption: "A busy street near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before a concert this month."

Um, that's Fifth Avenue, an existing retail corridor, about three blocks south of the arena. A different picture--or video--might emerge of cars idling on residential streets, or honking at intersections.

Another "everyday irritant": leaking bass

The Times reports:
And some residents say they are upset by thrumming bass sounds that seem to escape from the arena. During some performances, like Jay- Z’s, residents a block or two away say they can hear or feel the vibrations. Barclays Center received a $3,200 summons for noise violations during a Sensation dance-music event after inspectors from the city’s Environmental Protection Department recorded excessive decibel levels in a loft-building apartment on Pacific Street.
“It’s like having a subway go underneath your apartment,” said David Stevens, 47, a history teacher at St. Ann’s School who lives in the same building.
That's not an "everyday irritant." It's something that was pointed out during the first weekend of concerts, and still hasn't been solved.

Cotton said "the company was talking to engineers to see what could be done about muffling the noise." She wasn't asked for an apology, or whether the arena would pay the fine.

And why couldn't the cops shut down the concerts? Too big to shush, apparently.

Citizen activism

The Times quotes resident Wayne Bailey as giving "most of the credit for any improvement to a watchful network of community advocates who have confronted Forest City Ratner and city agencies and have prodded them to make improvements." Unmentioned is the main forum for such advocacy: Atlantic Yards Watch.

About those trees

The Times reports:
residents on Pacific Street are bracing to have their lives further disrupted by the widening of the Long Island Rail Road rail yards, with 20 trees scheduled to be cut down, more parking spaces eliminated and sidewalks occupied by construction vehicles.
In contrast, the Daily News publishes a full article tonight, Forest City Ratner to chop down trees to clear path for construction at Atlantic Yards: No plans to replace the 20 Pacific St. trees anytime soon, which addresses the issue in much greater detail and quotes three unhappy residents.

The money quote's from Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association: “It’s a prescription for construction delay induced blight." (And here's a video report from NY1 and an article from the Brooklyn Paper, De-Forest City Ratner! Barclays builder wants to chop down 20 trees on Pacific Street.)

I'm actually surprised that the tree issue got such extensive coverage, in individual stories. But maybe that makes up for the cramped, in-passing mention in the Times.

In closing

In the Times article, the closing paragraphs are sunny:
But businesses in the area, particularly restaurants, say the arena has been great for sales. Some residents also say it has made the area more vibrant.
Athalie Laguerre, 29, a writer who lives in a fourth-floor condominium in the Newswalk building, bought a small share of a spectator suite in the arena so she could go to many Nets games and concerts. The presence of the busy arena in what was a quiet mix of factories and brownstone-lined blocks has made the neighborhood feel safer at night, she said.
“I have less tolerance for the neighbors who complain about the noise than I do for the noise,” she said. “I’m proud of Brooklyn and excited about the Barclays arena.”
Yes, for some businesses, the arena's a boon; others are moving or closing.

As for that final paragraph, well, Bruce Ratner couldn't have written it better himself. Even better, the Times no longer feels it has to disclose that the developer and the newspaper company were partners in building the Times's new headquarters.

Some comments on the Times web site:
Roger BroomeSullivan County, NYNYT Pick
The author gets the tone wrong here. As many comments point out, the concern of most people in the area is about the overall development, not the arena in particular. The arena is the first piece that Ratner has got vaguely right -- look at the horrible mall structures to see what precedent has been set. The proposed towers that will fill the rest of the site are poorly scaled and are unlikely to be anything other than generic developer-grade work. I love the idea that the rail yards could be a new neighborhood but my fantasy for it is a thoughtful urbanism composed with an intimate scale that maintains some acknowledgement of the trains passing below. Alas, what we will get will almost certainly be more akin to nearby Metrotech but with apartments instead of offices. Sigh...

JohnBrooklyn, NY
I live very close - the stadium takes up one and half of the two windows in my bedroom - and I don't notice anything much. Increased foot traffic? yes. Do I avoid my local spots when I know a game is on? yes. Does that affect me much? No. All the local businesses are raking it in, they're happy, and it shows in their attitudes.

ESnew york, ny
I'm not sure this journalist walked around the Barclays neighborhood on event nights-- Okay, maybe his titular "chaos" did not ensue, but it's pretty stressful. Just this past Saturday night, I witnessed five pedestrian almost get run over, in five separate incidents, when they had right of way. These drivers are not used to pedestrians or city driving, are aggressive, and knocked one of my friends to the ground. When we spoke the next day, we all wondered why such a high percentage of drivers got especially crazy and dangerous on certain nights in Brooklyn.... we had all had, separately, harrowing experiences. We've been here for over a decade and never seen anything like it before. And then we realized-- ah, yes, the Barclays Center.

LindaNew York, NY
What the NY Times has failed to include in its analysis of the situation in this article is that the arena is only part of Ratner's redevelopment plan. He plans to build an enormous number of new housing units - - as cheaply as he possibly can - -that will overcrowd the area, pack the already-packed subways, and wreck the character of the area and its surrounding, low density, mainly brownstone neighborhoods. He was only able to come up with the $$ to build the arena by going into business with a reputed Russian mobster - a friend of mind from the state department was amazed that the government did not intervene. And let's not forget how our NY state/city government/officials allowed him to do this in the first place. In partnership with the Empire State Development Corporation, which was initially established to allow the state to condemn "blighted" areas and build low income housing, using a self-serving study that declared the area "blighted" (which was nonsense), Rather was allowed to eject people from their homes and use the land for his own purely private gain. And by the way, because this was done through the Empire State Development Corporation, he was allowed to by-pass the most stringent environmental laws that most developers would have to comply with. I am still astonished that the power of condemnation could be used in this way and that he got away with it. Business as usual in NYC.

LiamBrooklyn, NYNYT Pick
I live right in the area and I love this stadium. Yes, the whole land grab of knocking down neighborhood establishments and homes was really sketchy and bad policy. But the events they have hosted are great. Havent been to a Nets game yet, but I am excited to have them right near by.

The customer service there is better than I have experienced at ANY major venue in NYC. And it has brought a little class to an area that was a bit on the rough side before.

The whole flatbush & 4th ave district near by has been booming with nice restaurants and good shops. The whole area has had a facelift.

And very minimal impact of crowds and traffic. All you 'brooklyn native' haters are missing out. I am sure there was similar hating going on when any other big stadium went in like Yankee or the old time Dodger stadium.

grilledsardineBrooklyn
I largely agree with the article, but I also find the article disingenuous. Most of the damage to the neighborhood had already been done!

I happen to like and be excited by the arena, but to just brush off legitimate concerns the way the Times just did is sophomoric reporting.

Also, does the Times not think that the arena's success as described in the article is also not a result of the pressure that different groups put on Ratner and Bloomberg?

RBBNYC
So the moral of the story is that the ends justifies the means?

Bob MarvinBrooklyn, NY
No, even worse it's "might makes right.

ChrisBrooklynNYT Pick
The issue was never NIMBY-style concerns about noise, crowds, etc. (although these problems are present to a degree not really indicated in this article). Barclays and the entire Atlantic Yards project represent inappropriate and, in the opinion of many, illegal development, enabled by an abusive interpretation of the meaning of eminent domain. As has often been the case under the last few mayoral (and gubernatorial) administrations, neighborhoods that were doing a perfectly good job "developing" themselves have been targeted by greedy developers with the approval of city government over the loud protests of a large proportion of local residents.

RobNYC
The area used to be a total pit. It is now marginally better. I do not understand why people are complaining.

Daniel GoldsteinProspect Heights Brooklyn
You know what did materialize starting in 2003 but the NY Times has failed to acknowledge by continually downplaying Atlantic Yards as yet another "NIMBY" issue to pat on the head? The fundamental corruption of a government giveaway (private and public land, and money), by fiat, to a corporation at the expense of a lot of people.

You know what else hasn't materialized? 15,000 construction jobs and 10,000 office jobs. Not to mention 2,250 units of so-called "affordable housing." not to mention 8 acres of "privately owned publicly accessible open space, not to mention the removal of bogus blight.

You know what else hasn't materialized, good reporting by the NY Times.

Yes, there are exciting and entertaining events at the arena, as any arena would have. But the bill of goods the public was sold by Ratner, NYC, NYS and, yes, NYT, was that there would be Jobs, Housing and Hoops. Focusing on an early analysis of the neighborhood impact while ignoring the much larger issues....reeks.

As for impact on local businesses, Mr. Berger, I suggest you check with the 5th Avenue BID how the arena is doing for the bulk of the businesses along the avenue that stretch from Flatbush southward.

MikeNYC
I live nearby, and here are three more legitimate complaints for you:

The big glowing sign in front blinds drivers and will cause an accident some day -- I've seen several people drive dangerously because of it.

The ugly rust is getting everywhere. It is noticeable on nearby windows, and there's a big stain on the sidewalk all the way around the building. Don't walk under it in the rain in clothing that you like.

While restaurant and bar owners may be raking in the money, it's now too crowded for neighbors who want their quiet local hangouts in the evenings.

BNYgalbrooklyn
The writer of this article asked a few people in the neighborhood how they felt, or perhaps cherry-picked those who actually aren't bothered by it. HOWEVER, most people that live in the neighborhood DO NOT like the center. It most certainly HAS BROUGHT CRIME into the area. Maybe not directly around the Center where the police are, but certainly a couple of blocks away it has. Muggers come into my neighborhood now looking for those people going to their cars after the game or walking around. The TRAFFIC has gotten much worse at game time -- friends of mine won't even try driving into Brooklyn on in the evenings any where near time there is an event. There is honking on my street from the backed up traffic. And, all the missing parking spaces are a problem. There is absolutely NO UPSIDE for the people living near the stadium. Also, property values have stagnated in the direct neighborhood surrounding the stadium while going up everywhere else in BrownStone Brooklyn. We who live here don't actually want all the bars and outdoor restaurants. And the only reason things aren't worse is that the community is doing A LOT if work to try and keep things in order. The reporter should have attended a community meeting before writing this very one-sided view.

1 comment:

  1. Bailey sent me a comment:


    If there was the promised independent oversight then the “enduring critics” & the community wouldn’t have had to create www.AtlanticYardsWatch.net to document continual impacts to the quality of life in the neighborhood from arena concert noise (violation issued), idling of buses on the pad, black cars, traffic congestion, loss of parking with the addition of the never ending LIRR rail yard work that had 24 hour a day high pressure sodium lights (as much light as a baseball stadium) for months on end.

    An environmental report prepared by Sandstone Environmental Associates (a company that FCRC & the State has used) documented the various dust, noise & other impacts from the LIRR rail yard on the community & how to fix those impacts. The fact is that if there was no negative impacts on the quality of life there would be no reports on Atlantic Yards Watch or Sandstone Environmental report. http://www.atlanticyardswatch.net/sites/default/files/atlantic_yards_air_noise.pdf

    As for anyone that has “less tolerance for the neighbors who complain about the noise” attending a Barclays Arena event from their “spectator suite in the arena,“ those patrons wouldn’t have any reason to complain about the noise that caused the Barclays Arena to be summoned $3200 for violating the NYC noise code!

    ALL of the issues both pre & post opening of the arena that were presented to the reporter have been well documented from many forums including public meetings. They're now ignored further by minimalizing them in the article & the headline “Neighbors Predicted Chaos. Now They’re Just Irked.”

    The best way to deal with the “enduring critics” & the community that desires a reasonable quality of life is to denounce them as “those Arena Haters….” once again…

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