Skip to main content

Times exclusive on arena transportation results says driving is down, but key is less subway than walking/limos; where do people park?; number of NJ fans has declined

See follow-up based on public presentation and neighbors' critiques.

Before the meeting tonight (pending questions) on the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, I asked if the report or any of the backing data would be made public beforehand.

I didn't even get an answer.

But the reason is clear. Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, is  happy to let Forest City Ratner leak/place the study with cooperative media outlets.

So, the news is that fewer people drive to the arena, but--contrary to a New York Times exclusive--that's not simply because Forest City Ratner reduced on-site parking and promoted public transportation.

The study also indicates that more people walk and take taxis/car services. (Unmentioned, apparently, is the persistent problem of idling and illegally parking black cars/limos.)

And there's no explanation regarding a lingering issue: if few people use the on-site parking garage, how many park free in the neighborhood, and what are the impacts?

The study does, in a backhanded way, undermine one of the selling points for state subsidies for the arnea: the arena would lure spenders across the arena from New Jersey.

Fewer cars than expected, but why?

Today New York Times transportation reporter Matt Flegenheimer has an exclusive, headlined online At Barclays Center Events, Fewer Cars Than Expected.

Note that the print headline was the much more misleading "Barclays Center Parking Lot Rarely Fills Up."

Also, the photo/caption was rather dopey, given that it pictured not the usually empty bike parking lot at the southeast corner of the arena block but the CitiBike station northwest of the arena.

The key paragraphs:
At a typical Brooklyn Nets weekday game, a quarter of the fans arrive by private car; more than half take the subway. The third most popular mode of travel is walking (6.9 percent), which outpaces the Long Island Rail Road (6 percent), taxis or car services (5.7 percent) and city buses (1.1 percent).
More than a year after Samuel I. Schwartz, a traffic engineering expert, recommended cutting the number of proposed parking spaces from 1,100 to about 540 — to discourage driving — the figures suggest that car use has been even lower than had been projected.
In fact, Mr. Schwartz said that so far, only eight events, including concerts by Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber and Andrea Bocelli, had filled even half of the on-site parking spaces.
“Nobody had ever achieved the numbers that we were projecting,” Mr. Schwartz said in an interview on Wednesday. “Not even Madison Square Garden.”
The goal was to reduce car share to 28.3% on weeknights, and it appears they met it.

What changed? Walking and taxis

The arena is in the section at right;
the first number is inbound, the second outbound
It seems that subway usage is not up hugely, but rather that more people take taxis and walk.

According to Chapter 12, Traffic and Parking, of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement, there were supposed to be 14,894 (1,529 + 13,365) people arriving inbound to the arena between 5-6 pm and 7-8 pm. (Note that 6-7 pm was not analyzed.)

Of those inbound visitors, 5,183 were expected to arrive by car. The number now is closer to 3,750, or 25% of 15,000.

Of the 14,894, 7,402, or nearly half, were expected to take the subway. So that percentage is close to the 50+% figure in the recent results (without analyzing the 6-7 pm hour).

So where's the big discrepancy? In 2006, the projection was that 1,147 people, or 7.7% of the total, would take the LIRR. That number is now 6%, a modest change.

However, initially only 447 people, or 3%, were expected to arrive by taxi. Now that number is 5.7%.

And only 402 people, or 2.7%, were expected to walk. Now the number is 6.9%. So Brooklynites have boosted the arena.

Where does parking go?

What goes unexamined in the article, however, is whether there's a direct connection between reducing the sole on-site parking lot by 560 spaces--where parking costs $25-$35--and less driving.

After all, if 25% of 15,000 people take the car, that's 3,750 people, or 1500 cars at 2.5 people/car. They have to park somewhere.

And Barclays Center ticketholders are offered the use of numerous other facilities in the arena, including remote ones, that cost less. (See graphic at right.)

How much are those facilities used? Or do they just get free parking on the street, as many frustrated area residents observe? (That's why many residents want residential permit parking.)

Other factors

The Times notes that other factors have reduced driving: Nets attendance, rather than the once-projected 18,000, is actually closer to 15,000, thanks to no-shows, and only 56%, rather than the once-projected 75%, arrived one hour before the game.

Fewer New Jersey fans = less NYS tax revenues

The article unwittingly undermines one of the key calculations regarding Forest City Ratner consultant Andrew Zimbalist's estimates of new city and especially state tax revenue from the arena, arguments that led Forest City and government partners to argue for the arena.

Zimbalist in 2005 estimated that 67.9% of Nets season-ticketholders lived in new Jersey, and that 51% of the rest of attendees were from New Jersey. So that makes a blended total of 55-57%.

Zimbalist then assumed that 30% of then-Nets fans would go to Brooklyn. (Such figures also influenced other analyses, such as that of the New York City Independent Budget Office.)

However, the Times reported:
Only about 8 percent of fans came from New Jersey, the Nets’ former home, which came as a relief to Mr. Schwartz.
“One of our concerns was if they really had very loyal fans,” he said, “we would have had a lot of people who could have come from car-oriented communities,” he said. “That didn’t occur.”
No one at the Times Metro Desk remembers Zimbalist, I'm sure, and Flegenheimer was still in high school in 2005.

Presumably many of those New Jersey fans also took public transit.

Impact on retail

Forest City placed another story based on this report, with the Wall Street Journal, Barclays Arena Gives some Assist to Retailers: But Impact Is Often Limited and Depends on the Event; Concert-Goers Spend More:
According to the results of fan surveys commissioned by arena developer Forest City Ratner Cos., an average of 2,675 arena-goers are spending money at local businesses before or after weekday Nets games. For weekend games, that number rises to 3,470.
"I can tell you both personally and professionally I have seen a great impact on the local businesses," says Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "You go into any restaurant or bar before or after a game or concert and they're packed."
Still, area businesses say that doesn't always translate into an increase in sales. "Even if there's no activity going on at Barclays, I tend to maintain my same numbers," says Andre Jordan, one of the owners of Die Koelner Bierhalle, a German beer hall that opened in August on St. Marks Place. Mr. Jordan says that the bar's core clientele is residents in surrounding neighborhoods like Park Slope and Boerum Hill.
On event nights, "my customers who would normally have come in will look and say, 'It's too busy in there, let's find some other place,'" Mr. Jordan says.
Others see a greater effect. At El Viejo Yayo on Fifth Avenue, manager Geronimo Diaz says that Barclays has helped boost business at the Latin restaurant to prerecession levels. On an event night, roughly 15% of its customers are Barclays-goers.
One commenter on Brownstoner stated:
The impact is super, super local. Over on Vanderbilt Ave, two restaurants hoping to profit from the arena are already out of business. People won't walk that far -- or aren't familiar enough with the area to even know where Vanderbilt is: "
Neil deMause's deadpan take in Field of Schemes, Brooklyn arena helps local businesses, also doesn’t help local businesses:
The basic problem here is the but-for factor: When you build a sports arena in an already-booming neighborhood — and Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights was about as booming as you could get, complete with an artisanal mayonnaise store — it’s hard to tell whether all the foot traffic came for the arena, or was there anyway. Or whether the arena traffic displaced the usual traffic, as Jordan told the WSJ: “My customers who would normally have come in will look and say, ‘It’s too busy in there, let’s find some other place.’”


  1. Anonymous8:07 PM

    I went to the Paul McCartney concert the other night and was amazed how none of the MTA escalators were not working. Major train entrances during a sold out show roped off by MTA. This lead to pedesterian gridlock and annoyance that a major hub during a sold out show couldn't have their major train hub working correctly

    1. I'm assuming you mean none of the escalators were operating. But it *may* not have been a mechanical failure. They sometimes rope off part of the stairs, at least, to narrow the number of people entering the platforms.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…