Friday, May 10, 2013

LIU commencement May 16 at Barclays Center; Ratner, Markowitz to be honored (another round of reciprocal favors?)

Long Island University (LIU) next week will hold the first commencement ceremony ever at the Barclays Center and--guess what, arena developer Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz are being honored, along with retiring LIU President David J. Steinberg.

Yes, it makes sense that LIU, just up Flatbush Avenue, might want to use the arena for commencement, but it also looks like another round of friendly dealing: LIU has fervently supported the Atlantic Yards project during legal battles and the university, in turn, has gained by playing basketball games on the prominent Barclays Center stage.

LIU did not respond to my query about whether they were getting free or discounted use of the arena.

The ceremony, which will bring nearly 2500 graduates to residential Dean Street at 8:30 am on May 16, was not announced in the May arena event calendar, which was subject to change.

Ratner, Markowitz "help enrich lives"

According to an LIU press release:
Provost [Gale Stevens] Haynes noted that this year’s other award recipients, through their commitment to excellence, also have helped enrich the lives of millions of individuals.
Mr. Ratner, who has led FCRC to prominence as one of the nation’s foremost urban real estate developers, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Mr. Ratner, a 1967 cum laude graduate of Harvard University and a 1970 graduate of Columbia University Law School, is a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, and his company successfully built the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the centerpiece of the $3.5 billion [actually $4.9B] Atlantic Yards complex. FCRC owns and operates 11 million square-feet of property in the New York area, including the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn; the New York Times Building; and the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan, which is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.
Mr. Markowitz — the political sparkplug and tireless advocate for Brooklyn’s economic, social and cultural interests — will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service. Elected Borough President in 2001, Markowitz is serving his third term in office. During three decades of public service, Mr. Markowitz has enacted programs to boost pride within the Brooklyn community, improve the health of local residents, promote tourism in the borough and empower the area’s young people.
Scratching each other's bacl: LIU's support for Atlantic Yardsk

On 3/3/11, I wrote about a curious affidavit from Provost Haynes, which accompanied a motion from the (Ratner-influenced) Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) to file a "friend of the court" brief in the then-pending Atlantic Yards court case, regarding the impacts of and the need for the Empire State Development Corporation study a delayed timetable.

The DBP supported Forest City Ratner and the state, but the defendants lost the case, and the court ordered a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

The case, as well as the Atlantic Yards project as a whole, could have been a teachable moment, but instead Haynes emerged seemingly challenging Markowitz as the project's most fervent cheerleader. Among her quotes:
The students and faculty at LIU-Brooklyn are very supportive of the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project. The advantages of the Project are abundant.
...Aside from breathing new life into Downtown Brooklyn, our students have a great many needs. The Project would fulfill some of those needs by augmenting our academic programs, and by offering housing, jobs, and transit and infrastructure improvements to our students, who live, work, study and travel in Downtown Brooklyn daily.
...The unemployment and poverty across our student body is real. The Project represents not only an investment in Downtown Brooklyn, but an investment in our students. The creation of thousands of new jobs means more career options for local residents, including our students, while in school and after graduation.
...The new affordable housing related to the Project would provide additional opportunities for our students to reside closer to the school. For many of our students, the new housing will offer an opportunity to move out of inferior or over-crowded housing.
Despite all the linkages, real and fantasy (that affordable housing won't help many LIU students, if any), it likely comes down to the fact that LIU has gotten to play basketball at the Barclays Center and thus established its brand (even though it wasn't selling out its own athletic facility for its game against local rival St. Francis and its commuter students aren't bursting with school spirit).

Haynes even suggested that "[a]nything that would delay or stop this [project] advancement would have a devastating impact on the University and many of our future planning goals."

Had she said anything about Ratner's statement a few months earlier that the ten-year project timetable so long used by project supporters "was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in”? Nope.

The March 2012 partnership announcement

As I reported 3/14/12, the arena announced Barclays Center Forms Multifaceted Partnership With LIU Brooklyn:
BROOKLYN – Located just three blocks apart on Flatbush Avenue, Barclays Center and Long Island University Brooklyn have formed a unique multifaceted partnership, which includes athletics, education, community, and brand-building platforms.
Barclays Center, the world-class sports and entertainment venue scheduled to open on September 28, will be the home away from home for LIU’s men’s basketball team. The Blackbirds, who have advanced to the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship for the second consecutive year in which they will face Michigan State on Friday, will play a minimum of four home games each season at Barclays Center during the length of the agreement. LIU is already confirmed to participate in the Barclays Center Classic, presented by Sheets™ Brand Energy Strips, on November 9 and the BROOKLYN HOOPS™ Holiday Invitational on Dec. 22.
As part of the educational component of the alliance, Barclays Center will annually host five one-hour bi-weekly classes for students in LIU sports journalism/management classes. The classes will include Barclays Center and Nets Basketball executives serving as guest lecturers. In addition, at least five LIU students will annually receive internships with Barclays Center or Nets Basketball.
Educating more than 11,000 students annually at its Brooklyn campus, LIU will hold commencement exercises in Barclays Center.
In conjunction with Barclays Center’s plans to be actively involved in public service throughout the borough, LIU will serve as the presenting partner of the Barclays Center Community Platform. Through this involvement, LIU will receive branding when the Community Platform is promoted during Barclays Center events via signage or through www.barclayscenter.com, radio, or print.
In addition, LIU students, staff, and faculty will receive discounts on tickets to select Barclays Center events.
How much will commencement cost?

In 2006, a report to the Empire State Development Corporation from KPMG, which analyzed some financial protections related to the project, stated:
However, the base rental rate for other events (e.g., graduations) of $62,000 plus the estimated $41,000 in event-related expenses appears to be high. Although these rates could change subject to actual negotiation with prospective users, it is likely that these rates need to be further reduced to accommodate various civic groups that cannot afford "market" rental rates, particularly given the competitiveness of the market.
Forest City later said those numbers were overblown.

I asked LIU yesterday if the arena was donated--as it was for Markowitz's State of the Borough Address last month--and what they paid. I didn't hear back.

The schedule in Brooklyn
  • 8:30 a.m. Graduates arrive enrobed at the EmblemHealth Dean Street Entry (southeast corner of the arena on Dean Street)
  • 9:00 a.m. Guests enter through the GEICO Main Entry & Barclays Center Box Office (corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues)
  • 9:30 a.m. Student Procession
  • 9:45 a.m. Faculty Procession
  • 10:30 a.m. Ceremony Begins
  • approx. 12:00 p.m. Recessional

A not-quite unified LIU

According to a Message from the President, the original plan was to have all four LIU campuses, including LIU Post (formerly C.W. Post) in Brookville on the north shore of Long Island, to join their formerly separate ceremonies at the arena.

However, only three--LIU Brooklyn, Pharmacy (also in Brooklyn), and Hudson (graduate programs in Rockland and Westchester Counties)--will meet at the arena, while LIU Post will have its commencement today on the campus Great Lawn. Steinberg wrote:
The opening of Barclays Center offered LIU an opportunity to come together for the first time to hold a grand, unified commencement, an embracive ritual showcasing the scope and dynamism of our University. The facility is dramatic, indoors, beautiful, and conveniently located. It speaks of the renaissance not only of Brooklyn but also of all of Long Island.
Over the past several weeks it has become clear that the notion of participating in a common ceremony has presented a host of problems for some members of the LIU Post community. Students have wondered about transportation to Barclays. Others were concerned that each student would receive just two guest tickets until we could see how many students would be marching. Additionally, the length of time between the last day of finals and the ceremony presented logistical problems, especially for those who live far from campus. Equally important, many expressed a sense of loss, fearing that the LIU Post identity would be swallowed up in the larger event, however grand. It seems that the tent on the Great Lawn has become a cherished symbol of campus identity.

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