Thursday, May 16, 2013

As graduates gather today on residential Dean Street, remember how it morphed from preferred seating entry to "mid-sized" portal

EmblemHealth Dean Entrance
The crowd gathering at 8:30 this morning at the Barclays Center's Dean Street entrance--sorry, the EmblemHealth Dean entrance--for the Long Island University commencement ceremonies was never supposed to be there.

(The graduates will arrive at the Dean Street entrance at the bottom of the arena, which is across the street from a residential cluster, while a larger group--their guests--arrive at the main plaza, at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.)

That's because, when the Atlantic Yards arena was approved in 2006, there was a minor entrance, only a few doors wide, on Dean Street, only slightly larger than the entrance on Atlantic Avenue just west of Sixth Avenue.

EmblemHealth Atlantic Entrance
See the graphic below from the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement, which shows an arena oriented nearly east-west, as opposed to the current north-south orientation.

The Dean Street entrance, part of a plan designed to "minimize its presence and effect on the residential uses" in the area, was supposed to be for VIPs.

Instead, thanks to a change in plans and some fuzzy and misleading language that I'll address below, it became a much larger secondary entrance--in fact, the secondary entrance, deemed "mid-sized" by an arena official.

So now, as indicated in the photo above right, the Dean entrance has nine double doors. (That's actually more than the seven double doors on the main plaza, though they are spaced more generously and offer far more opportunity for people to gather.)

By contrast, as shown in the photo above left, the EmblemHealth Atlantic Entrance has just two double doors. (There are several other doors on Atlantic, as I'll explain below, but mostly for exits, not entrances. Dean Street also offers another set of doors for workers to enter.)

The arena as approved, 2006

From Figure 1-22 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Nov. 2006. Atlantic Ave. at top, Dean St. at bottom.
From the Final EIS

According to the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Executive Summary:
The New York City Zoning Resolution prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use. (Arenas are permitted in most commercial districts allowing for residential use.) The arena block is adjacent to a residential district to the south, and accordingly, the arena has been designed to minimize its presence and effect on the residential uses on these blocks. Primary entrances and signage would be oriented toward the crossroads of two major commercial thoroughfares and away from these residences. Two primarily residential buildings (Buildings 2 and 3) on the arena block would occupy most of the Dean Street frontage, serving as a buffer between uses. However, the preferred seating entry and entry to the loading area would be located on Dean Street and, while security screening and loading functions would take place entirely within the building, the residences along this street would experience some localized adverse impacts. 
(all emphases added)

Note that there was no statement about where workers would enter, which turned out to be Dean Street.

Also note the misleading notion of "primary entrances" oriented toward the commercial crossroads. There's only one primary entrance.

The term "primary entrances" was again used in Chapter 3, Land Use:
GEICO Main Entrance: seven double doors (+ Starbucks)
As also noted above, the arena has been designed to avoid and minimize operational effects to the extent feasible on adjacent and on-site residential uses by orienting the primary entrances and signage along Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue away from such residences and locating all servicing activities (e.g., deliveries, screening) internally.
But Chapter 8, Urban Design, more accurately described one primary entrance and other secondary entrances:
The arena’s primary entrance would be located at the Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue intersection; secondary entrances would be located on Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street.
Calvin Klein VIP Entrance, Atlantic Ave.
This left the impression, not inaccurate based on the graphic above, that the secondary entrances on Atlantic and Dean would be roughly commensurate in size.

A change in 2009

Then things changed, when the arena was redesigned and shrunken, part of a revised project plan re-approved in 2009. According to the ESDC's June 2009 Technical Memorandum:
The VIP entry to the arena would be relocated to Atlantic Avenue, although an entrance from Dean Street would remain.
According to the Technical Memorandum:
The proposed access and circulation reconfigurations would not create any notable changes to the site’s urban design; while the VIP entry to the arena would be relocated to Atlantic Avenue, a secondary arena entrance on Dean Street would remain.
...Although the arena’s VIP entry would be relocated to Atlantic Avenue from Dean Street, this would affect only a relatively small number of arena pedestrian trips, and a substantial change in pedestrian flow patterns is not anticipated. There would continue to be a secondary entrance for arena patrons located on Dean Street as assumed in the FEIS.
The shift is understated, but it's significant.

Dean Street loading dock, worker entrance at left near
EmblemHealth Dean Entrance
Yes, "a secondary entrance" would remain, though at least some language in the Final EIS left the impression that the only function as of 2006 of the Dean entrance was for preferred seating, leading to the not unreasonable conclusion that the shift in the locations for VIPs would mean no functions for Dean shift.

Note that a "preferred seating entry" is not the same as a "secondary entrance."

Again, there was no mention of where the workers would enter--and, for that matter, go across the street to smoke, hang out.

The oprating arena


As I wrote in June 2012, then-arena General Manager John Sparks estimated that between 70-75% of arena visitors would enter the arena from the arena plaza (with new subway entrance), 5-10% of the crowd, mainly suiteholders, would enter on the VIP entrance on Atlantic Avenue, with another 5-10% going through small entrance on Atlantic near Sixth Avenue.
Atlantic Avenue exit doors

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


In other words, Dean Street, though clearly secondary to the plaza entrance, was by far the largest of the secondary entrances.

The photo at left shows two clusters of three double doors on Atlantic Avenue--on in the foreground, another down the block--used only to exit the arena.

Flatbush Avenue near Dean Street exit
That makes nine sets of double doors on Atlantic, counting the two entrances (VIP and EmblemHealth), but, again, only to exit. There's too little room on the sidewalk outside to make it a plausible entrance.

At right is the "secret"--as in unrevealed in documents, as far as I know--exit from the arena at Flatbush Avenue just west of Dean Street.

Going forward

It will be interesting to see what happens when, as noted in the FEIS, "two primarily residential buildings (Buildings 2 and 3) on the arena block would occupy most of the Dean Street frontage, serving as a buffer between uses."

Presumably those residents--adding significantly to the Dean Street population--will have their own concerns about Barclays Center crowds in the morning and evening, and surely even greater concerns if the arena can't solve the problem of bass penetrating nearby residences.





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