Friday, May 31, 2013

From City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau: City Downplays Ratner's Role In Carousel Recovery

My story from City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau, City Downplays Ratner's Role In Carousel Recovery:
One highlight of Coney Island's new summer season is the city's restoration and relocation of the legendary B&B Carousel, now occupying a pavilion in the new Steeplechase Plaza adjacent to MCU Park.
Lost in the hoopla, however, is how at least one private party, leading Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, helped in the carousel's revival.
Unveiling the new plaza last week, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's office stated in a May 24 press release, “The carousel operated on Surf Avenue for seventy years until it was nearly sold in pieces at an auction in 2005. The City of New York instead purchased the carousel to preserve this important piece of Coney Island’s history and restore it to its former glory.”
While the city did write a $1.8 million check for the carousel, taxpayers didn't pay for it all. Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner contributed a good chunk, at a time when it was likely a wise business move to deliver for Bloomberg.
For more, go to City Downplays Ratner's Role In Carousel Recovery.

What happened to the "Barclays Center Community Platform" announced in Long Island University partnership?

The alliance between Long Island University (LIU) and the Barclays Center, as I recently reported, involves public support from LIU for developer Bruce Ratner's plans and an honorary degree for Ratner, but there does seem to be something missing from the "multifaceted partnership" announced in March 2012: a public service component.

From a 3/14/12 Long Island University press release, LIU BROOKLYN AND BARCLAYS CENTER FORM MULTIFACETED PARTNERSHIP: New Arena to Serve as Home Away from Home for LIU Blackbirds Men’s Basketball:
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.
...As part of the educational component of the alliance, Barclays Center will annually host five one-hour bi-weekly classes for students in the LIU sports journalism/management classes. The classes will feature 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, radio, or print.
(Emphasis added)

As far as I can tell, the Community Platform, whatever that is, hasn't been mentioned since. (A search comes up empty.)

Perhaps it was renamed, or delayed. But my query to LIU's press office has not been answered.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now, valet parking for bikes at Barclays Center (after vague promises of "manned facility" and facility "operators")

After years of ambiguity about the commitment Barclays Center operators would make to bike parking, and distinct underuse of the outdoor bike racks, the arena is stepping up, thanks to a modest deal--$850 for the first event--with Transportation Alternatives for a free bike valet system.

According to the Wall Street Journal article posted last night, Barclays Center Pedals Out a Bike Valet Service: Brooklyn Arena to Test Bike Service for Concert-Goers:
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, will conduct a trial run of bike valets on Wednesday at a concert by the Brooklyn-based band The National. Workers will collect bikes and helmets of arriving concertgoers, store them in existing bike racks, and redistribute them after the show is over.
The charge to riders: nothing. Cyclists also won't have to tote a bike lock or carry a helmet around during the show
The valet system is an effort to nudge residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn to bike to events. While concert and game attendees have largely used trains and subways to reach the arena, which sits at a major transportation hub, the 400 bicycle racks at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street have often stood mostly empty.
In part, that's a function of winter weather....
Transportation Alternatives sees it as an organizing tool, and uses both paid workers and volunteers for the service. (The Brooklyn Paper also followed up.)

It's a smart deal for both the arena and TA, since the latter can apparently hold its nose regarding, say, developer Forest City's inside track for a deal to control valuable MTA property.

The back story: a "manned" facility?

According to the WSJ article:
Bike transportation was supposed to play a bigger role at the Barclays Center. The developer initially pledged to have a bike-storage center with room for 400 bikes in a tower planned for the space next to the arena. But as developer Bruce Ratner adjusted his construction timetable, the construction of that building was pushed back, and with it the bike room.
The racks for 400 bikes that now occupy the southeastern corner of the development have taken the place of the bike room.
It's a little more complicated.

According to the December 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Concerns, Forest City committed to “provide any ticketholder traveling to the arena by bicycle with free indoor bicycle storage in a secure, manned facility designed to accommodate at least 400 bicycles on the arena block.”  (Emphases added)

The facility has been "manned" to the extend security guards wander over and keep watch, but it's not "manned" in the sense that it's managed by staffers with particular expertise. Still, valet parking was never promised.

During a 6/4/11 Q&A (video) at a forum on Atlantic Yards traffic changes/mitigations, Forest City consultant Sam Schwartz was asked if the bike parking would be open beyond arena events and whether it would be sheltered and be a secure parking facility.

"In terms of the bike parking facility, it will be open during events. We're working with some operators, as part of the the TDM [Transportation Demand Management] program, we're going to come back with you with the details of seeing whether it would be open around the clock," Schwartz responded.

"It will be secure, that was your first question," he continued. "The bike parking, 400 spaces, will be provided in the temporary condition and will be provided in the permanent condition. And it will always be secured during the arena events. And we're going to get back to you about the other hours.

He did not answer whether it would be sheltered, but of course it's not. 

And there were no "operators" for the facility, not until this upcoming show.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From the latest Construction Alert: Forest City aims for second shift (until 11 pm) at B2 site; 50 trucks coming on June 4 for concrete pour

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is turning up the pace at the site for the B2 modular tower, aiming to work a second shift, until 11 pm, on weekdays. That request is pending Department of Buildings approval, which, based on past history with arena construction, is almost assured.

That's according to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 5/27/13 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by Forest City).

The document also describes a plan for 50 concrete truck deliveries on June 4 to complete a mat slab foundation. During that day, the pedestrian walkway outside the site, at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

On another, unspecified day, the foundation walls will be poured, and 25 concrete trucks will make deliveries. And work on Saturdays will continue from 7 am to 6 pm.

Excerpts from the document
• The second and final Mat Slab concrete pour is scheduled for June 4th. The day of the pour there will be approximately 50 concrete trucks delivering to the site during the course of the day. A separate logistics plan has been submitted and approved by the OEM for this work. As with the first concrete pour for the mat slab, trucks will be unloading the concrete behind the MPT barrier on Dean Street and utilizing the Pacific Street queue area when needed in order to avoid queuing and idling on Dean Street and/or adjacent roadways. The pedestrian walkway will be closed during this operation; a flag person will be posted to direct pedestrians.
• Pouring of the concrete foundation walls will start during this reporting period. The day of the pour there will be 25 concrete trucks delivery to the site during the course of the day. A separate logistics plan has been submitted and approved by the OEM for this work.
• Construction Activities are scheduled for upcoming Saturdays. Work hours will be 7am till 6pm, pending DOB approval. Work will include, installing reinforcement steel for mat slab and walls, formwork, general clean up.
• A request has been made to the DOB to extend the work hours Monday through Friday. The work day will be extended to up to 11pm pending DOB approval. Construction activities will be limited to installing rebar in the foundation walls. No deliveries will be made during this shift
Atlantic Yards Construction Alert 5-27-2013

The Barclays Center line problem they promised to fix? Still working on it

Remember how the Barclays Center pledged earlier this month that attendees showing up early for general admission tickets would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza, rather than clogging the sidewalk as they extended to Sixth Avenue?

Well, that's exactly what didn't happen at the next show. Last night, at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly was asked to respond.

He didn't quite explain. "I did make the statement that I would fix it, and it has been an issue," Kelly said. "We've had a queue outside... What creates a challenge is there's a construction fence at Atlantic and Sixth, and on other side there's two retail spaces, MetroPCS and Elbow Room... It does raise a challenge, and we are working with Guest Services to figure out long-erm solutions."

I think he was indicating that the retail outlets understandably don't want lines blocking their entrance. 

Then again, why can't the arena line up general admission patrons on the plaza it controls, rather than on public sidewalks?

Coming to the Barclays Center plaza area this Saturday: food trucks

I wrote April 9 how the promised greenmarkets and holiday fairs had not yet come to the Barclays Center plaza, just promotional activities.

Now, after eight months of operations, there's some movement. Arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly, speaking at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, said the arena would start hosting food trucks once a month, beginning this Saturday, June 1, from 11 am to 5 pm.

He said it was an "excellent opportunity to do a test" of the space, though he didn't specify whether the trucks would be placed on the plaza or in the adjacent lay-by lanes. He said the event would be run by the same promoters who run the Grand Army Plaza food truck rally, though the number of trucks would be fewer.

More information about the effort, he said, would be issued this morning.

I bet this will get the arena more publicity than its leaking bass.

Updated, with coverage

From the New York Observer, Barclays Center to Host Food Trucks for the First Time:
The food trucks are coming! The food trucks are coming!
Daily News Plaza outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will host an array of Brooklyn-based food trucks this summer for some good eats and treats.
Barclays Center, its developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, and the NY Food Trucks Association have partnered to bring Brooklyn food trucks to the plaza Saturday June 1, July 6 and September 7. The food truck grub and bistro-style seating will be available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The trucks participating offer a wide range for tantalizing flavors from savory Korean BBQ at Kimchi Taco Truck to sweet ice creams and desserts at the Treats Truck. Other food trucks include Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches, Mamu Thai Noodle, Frites’N’Meats and Thai Mobile.
Forest City Ratner Companies made some big promises about eight months ago to bring greenmarkets, holiday fairs and other promotional activities, but as The Atlantic Yard Report noted, it was slow going. The food trucks are the first step in keeping those promises, with this weekend being “an excellent opportunity to do a test” on the space, Arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly said. (Cause who doesn’t love trucks that emit tastiness rather than harmful toxins? Oh wait…)
“New Yorkers love food trucks, and some of the best are from Brooklyn,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, in a news release. “We are thrilled to have these local favorites at the Daily News Plaza bringing Brooklyn residents and visitors some savory and sweet treats to enjoy.”
The Observer is pumped Ms. Gilmartin and company started off with the tasty promise. See you at Frites’N'Meats!

From the New York Post, Top Brooklyn food-truck vendors coming to Barclays Center’s public plaza
(note how they avoid saying "Daily News Plaza"):

It's the Barclays Center foodie experience -- but outdoors and without having to shell out bucks for tickets to a Nets game or concert.
The arena, which scored rave reviews for tapping many of Brooklyn’s top restaurants to supply its grub, is now bringing top borough food-truck vendors to its main-entrance plaza at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.
Food trucks and bistro-style seating will be featured outside the arena beginning this Saturday and return July 6, and September 7. The feeding frenzy will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Barclays Center is about bringing Brooklynites together to share a memorable experience,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. “As guests of Barclays Center know, food is an essential part of our venue experience. Now, we are excited to offer a delicious culinary selection on the … plaza.”
Since Barclays Center opened in September, the plaza has long been eyed to hold outdoor events. Among the earlier ideas arena honchos have said they’d consider are greenmarkets and seasonal fairs.
Participating food trucks for Saturday as described in a press release are:
* Kimchi Taco Truck (@kimchitruck): This popular Korean BBQ food truck offers traditional fresh kimchi bowls as well as street food classics,including tacos, burritos and -- a culinary first -- the Tofu Edamame Falafel Taco.
* Treats Truck (@TheTreatsTruck): For a sweet break in the day, 2008 Vendy winner the Treats Truck serves up a variety of different cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts and more, including caramel crème sandwich cookies, pecan butterscotch bars and ice cream cone cupcakes.
* Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches (@CoolHausNY): As the weather gets warmer, everyone’s favorite Coolhaus build-your-own ice cream sandwiches will be available with their creative flavors and delicious cookies.
* Mamu Thai Noodle (@MamuThaiNoodle): From Pad Thai to boat noodles,the family-owned and operated Mamu Thai Noodle truck brings Thailand street food to [the] Plaza.
* Frites’N’Meats (@FritesNMeats): Frites’N’Meats dishes out some of the tastiest Burger & Frites to be had in NYC. And while those are the stars of Frites’N'Meats, they are by no means the only players. Everyday you can find tasty Soups and Homemade Dessert Treats.
* Taim Mobile (@TaimMobile): NYC’s best falafel hits the road with Taim Mobile’s falafel and smoothie truck. It’s Tel Aviv street food with a gourmet twist!
From Gothamist, Food Trucks Roll Up To Plaza Outside Barclays Center Saturday
Because you can never have too many food trucks, Brooklyn's Barclays Center is flagging some down for the plaza outside the arena this Saturday, as well as two more Saturdays this summer. The trucks will be there from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 1st, July 6th, and September 7th, and Barclays will also be putting out tables and chairs in the plaza for your dining pleasure. According to a Barclays' rep, the trucks this Saturday include:
Kimchi Taco Truck (@kimchitruck): This popular Korean BBQ food truck offers traditional fresh kimchi bowls as well as street food classics, including tacos, burritos and -- a culinary first -- the Tofu Edamame Falafel Taco.
Treats Truck (@TheTreatsTruck): For a sweet break in the day, 2008 Vendy winner the Treats Truck serves up a variety of different cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts and more,including caramel crème sandwich cookies, pecan butterscotch bars and ice cream cone cupcakes.
Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches (@CoolHausNY): As the weather gets warmer, everyone’s favorite Coolhaus build-your-own ice cream sandwiches will be available with their creative flavors and delicious cookies.
Mamu Thai Noodle (@MamuThaiNoodle): From Pad Thai to boat noodles, the family-owned and operated Mamu Thai Noodle truck brings Thailand street food to Daily News Plaza.
Frites’N’Meats (@FritesNMeats): Frites’N’Meats dishes out some of the tastiest Burger & Frites to be had in NYC. And while those are the stars of Frites’N'Meats, they are by no means the only players. Everyday you can find tasty Soups and Homemade Dessert Treats.
Taim Mobile (@TaimMobile): NYC’s best falafel hits the road with Taim Mobile’s falafel and smoothie truck. It’s Tel Aviv street food with a gourmet twist!
A Tofu Edamame Falafel Taco Bowl followed by a stellar Coolhaus ice cream sandwich? That's our kind of Saturday.
From the New York Daily News, Food trucks coming to Barclays Center three Saturdays this summer: Even opponents of the no-rent trucks support the weekly street food event. Local trucks will include Kimchi Taco Truck and the Treats Truck.:
The Barclays Center is getting in on the food truck craze.
Starting Saturday and continuing two more times this summer, the arena’s Daily News Plaza will host locally based trucks from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The offerings include: Kimchi Taco Truck, a Korean take on the Mexican standard; Treats Truck, famous for its caramel crème sandwich cookies; Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches, a build-your-own ice cream treat machine; Mamu Thai Noodle, a family-owned and operated truck; and Taim Mobile, a gourmet falafel and smoothie truck.
"We are always excited to find new places to showcase our cuisine," said Phillip Lee, the owner of Kimchi Taco and Kimchi Grill restaurant on 766 Washington Ave. near the arena.
Visitors will be able to chomp down their food at bistro-style tables and chairs set up throughout the plaza, which is in front of the arena.
"It brings attention to downtown Brooklyn and showcases some of the finest food that's available on four wheels," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
The food trucks were even welcomed by a traditional opponent.
"Having the food trucks on private property is much better than having the Wild West when trucks are parking directly in front of brick-and-mortar restaurants," said Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a restaurant umbrella group.
The organization has been pushing for legislation that would bar food trucks from parking directly in front of restaurants.
The Barclays Center event mimics a popular food truck rally held Sundays at Grand Army Plaza in the fall.
Residents in downtown Brooklyn were excited about their new chance to chow down outside.
“When I don’t cook, I go to the truck,” said David Polk, 38, as he bought lunch from a gyro truck in front of Borough Hall.
The main inhabitants of the arena, the Brooklyn Nets, didn’t survive the first round of the playoffs. Perhaps humble pie is on one of the trucks’ menu.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

With regular ads for replacement employees, how "happy" is the Barclays Center?

Remember how the New York Times Sports section in April ended its upbeat series, Section 15: Portraits of Nets Fans, with an upbeat profile of one employee, headlined The Happy Arena?

That video profile occupies the largest rectangle on the page mosaic.

"Wonder why everyone is so friendly at the Barclays Center?" the piece stated. "Ushers went through hospitality training from Disney professionals."

Well, yes, but, as I wrote, the part-time workers don't get benefits and can't earn enough to live on their own.

And there are regular calls for replacement employees, a sign that there's such turnover that either workers and/or their bosses are not too happy.

Also, there's an inflatable rat outside the arena, part of a union protest, which indicates a certain level of unhappiness.

Now hiring

Barclays is now recruiting for Housekeeping positions (register here for pre-screening event today):

There are also jobs with Levy Restaurants, though not necessarily at the volume that requires a pre-screening event, as three positions as posted online (and may mean multiple people are hired):

Nets CEO Yormark on first season: “I am happy, but not satisfied” (and we'll elevate the Nets brand)

Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark yesterday sent a letter to fans (as noted by NetsDaily):
The team delivered a strong regular season performance in their new home and brought Brooklyn its first playoff series since the 1955 Dodgers who played down the street at Ebbetts Field. The organization is proud of how far we have come on the court as well as how quickly we have become accepted as a member of the Brooklyn community. The borough and our fans embraced us with chants of “BROOKLYN---BROOKLYN” and by wearing their Nets gear to show pride in the hometown team.

In the weeks ahead, stay tuned for an announcement of a new Head Coach, the NBA Draft, hosted for the first time at Barclays Center, and player personnel moves as Billy King continues to improve the team through free agency. Billy has done a great job and under his leadership the team will continue to excel on the court.

As I tell my staff, “I am happy, but not satisfied.” We have come a long way and will celebrate success, but we will not rest on our laurels. Our fans' experience at Barclays Center will continue to set the bar for venues around the world, and the Nets brand on a regional, national and global level will be elevated as our marketing efforts continue to connect with consumers of sports and entertainment.
I don't think that the significant sales of Nets merchandise can be attributed purely or even predominantly to "pride in the hometown team." Rather, people like the design, and think anything associated with "Brooklyn" is cool.

Also, note how Yormark looks on the bright side: there's no mention of the two coaches who were fired this year, Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. 

While both surely made choices that were questionable, doesn't Carlesimo at least get a thank-you for getting the Nets into the playoffs? Nope. Sports entertainment is a business, and the Nets are a brand.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Are the Nets really Brooklyn's Team? Does it matter? They know how to fill seats.

The Nets are Finally Brooklyn’s Team, declared Brooklyn Game contributor Andrew Gnerre on 4/22/13 after attended the team's first playoff game, detailing the excitement in the arena and concluding:
Saturday night was the moment. A celebration. The resolution of all the promises of the past six years. They kept telling us that Brooklyn would be better. And so far it had been, but only because we all knew it was supposed to be better. Fans were acting on the assumptions being fed to us by billboards and hashtags. For most of this first season, the Nets were more marketing campaign—a stellar one, to be sure—than basketball team.
But on Saturday night, they finally became Brooklyn's basketball team, and not just because that's what it says on your t-shirt.
How many fans from Brooklyn?

But exactly how much they are "Brooklyn's team" remains in question. A 5/24/13 piece in The Brooklyn Game by Steven Waldman mused Most Brooklyn Nets Fans Aren’t From Brooklyn?:
First, just 16.7 percent of those who watched the Nets on YES Network are from Brooklyn, according to information provided The Brooklyn Game by Scarborough Research. By contrast, 30.7 percent were from New Jersey, and 46 percent came from New York City as a whole. (Chart below)
Second, The Brooklyn Game's own web traffic follows a roughly similar pattern. Our recent user survey indicated that 26 percent or our readers come from Brooklyn vs. 40 percent from New Jersey. Our site traffic is in the same zone, and, according to, 30.8 percent of @TheBKGame followers come from New York City. In the state breakdown, 35 percent come from New York State compared to 14.7 in New Jersey.
The Nets declined to provide numbers on the geographic distribution of ticket buyers.
Note that, in September 2012, the New York Post reported that season tickets, at least, were tilted to Brooklyn:
“When you look at our season ticket base, you’re talking about roughly 45 percent from Brooklyn, 25 percent from Manhattan, 12 percent from New Jersey, and the rest is from the outer boroughs and Long Island,” explains Yormark. “We’re a fresh new alternative in the marketplace.”
But we don't know about overall ticket patterns.

The statistics quoted by The Brooklyn Game are not necessarily proxies for fandom. Surely some number of people who watch the Nets on YES are basketball fans in the area, not Nets fans. And serious fandom, reflected in those following The Brooklyn Game, surely excludes those who just want to see games because it's new and local.

Waldman suggests that it's understandable the Nets have yet to fully penetrate Brooklyn, given that serious local hoops fans already followed the Knicks, who had a surprisingly good season this year.

Is not drawing Brooklyn a problem?

Waldman writes:
Even if the diffuseness of the Nets fan base doesn't relate to either "brand equity" or the home court performance, it can't be a good thing in the long run that Brooklyn -- a city of 2.5 million people -- isn't supplying the bulk the Brooklyn Nets' fans.
Maybe, but as long as they have a base of season ticket-holders, they're doing fine. 

And if they're selling out the cheaper seats--remember, they raised the low price from $15 to $25--it's clear the Nets don't need "Brooklyn" to fill last-minute empty seats. They're free to try to maximize revenue from basketball fans within commuting distance, which includes a good range of locations in New York, New Jersey, and even Connecticut.

Waldman thinks that, though the Nets do have a presence in Brooklyn at community events and via local food, it would help if a player lived in Brooklyn.  

I agree, and wonder if the next rookie to sign will have a "Brooklyn clause" requiring him to live in the borough and become a "resident Brooklyn-credibility totem" (to quote David Roth).

I also wouldn't be surprised if the Nets' marketing expands well beyond the heavy Brooklyn themes. No Long Islander wants to wear a "My borough is thorough" t-shirt. (Frankly, no sentient Brooklynite should buy that either.) So I'd expect some regionalized branding.

Failed promises deter fans?

Waldman writes:
And it would be nice if the Forest City Ratner folks keep their promises about the development. Otherwise, some portion of Brooklyn will feel like rooting for the Nets is an endorsement of dishonest business practices.
While I appreciate that some people notice the Culture of Cheating surrounding the Atlantic Yards project, and others scorn the failure to deliver jobs and housing, I don't think dishonest business practices really deter fans. After all, the Knicks sell out despite a completely unnecessary annual tax break.

If the Nets want to sell out every game, all they have to do is practice some dynamic pricing.

Also, as Bob Windrem (aka "Net Income") wrote on NetsDaily:
And we suspect there is a huge growth in Nassau and Suffolk, which the Nets see as their next frontier. The two counties represent 11 percent of the TV audience and Bruce Ratner said Long Islanders represented only 10 percent of those attending Nets games at Barclays. Associating the Islanders with the Nets through the prism of Barclays Center is likely to help. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map expands to Vanderbilt Avenue (including Barclays Center) and other distant points (sort of)

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's maps keep evolving, and now the Atlantic Yards project and Barclays Center are more clearly part of Downtown Brooklyn, at least conceptually.

That makes it easier to conceive of the arena and associated towers as being part of a Business Improvement District (BID) run by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is significantly influenced if not controlled by project developer Forest City Ratner.

Also, it suggests that the scale of the Atlantic Yards project--the product of a state override of city zoning--should be consistent with and legitimized by the city's rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn.

Let's recap.

At right (click to enlarge) was a longtime map that could not quite fit in the arena, but contained an arrow pointing to the project.

Then, after the proposal for a new Barclays Center-area BID surfaced in January, a new map indicating current development projects (see below left; click to enlarge) found space for the Atlantic Yards site, albeit with the assistance of an inset.

(By the way, after the two meetings scheduled for May 2 regarding the proposed BID were postponed, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has yet to announce a new date.)

Enter a new map

Now, as shown below, there's a new two-page map that manages to transcend the graphical limits of the earlier maps.

First, there's a map focusing on the more traditional boundaries of Downtown Brooklyn, with Tillary Street at the north and Fulton Street at south, and Flatbush Avenue at the east and Clinton Street (one block into Brooklyn Heights from Court Street) at the west.

The second page, however, posits a sort of Greater Downtown Brooklyn, encompassing DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Fort Greene, which are all marked.

There's no notation for  Prospect Heights, but the map indicates the Barclays Center and extends to the eastern boundary of the Atlantic Yards site, to Vanderbilt Avenue.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership May 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Barclays Center releases June 2013 event calendar: nine events (plus more unlisted)

The Barclays Center has released its June event calendar, which lists nine events in 30 days--busier than May, but slower than many earlier months.

Note that the Paul McCartney concerts are expected to draw 15,000 people, while other musical groups, like The National and The Postal Service, are expected to draw fewer: 11,000 and 13,000, respectively.

The arena capacity for concerts is 19,000, but usually some seats are not put up for sale, either because the views would be obscured, or the act doesn't have sufficient drawing power.

Note that the calendar does not include arena events that are not open to ticket-buyers, such as the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation Founders Ball, on June 12. I don't know how many other such events are scheduled.

The May calendar

Below, the May event calendar, as issued, which did not include a Nets playoff game on May 4 as well as two university commencements.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On award for Sports Facility of the Year, Yormark says the lesson is "adapt to change" and the Barclays Center "was always about the community first"

The Barclays Center was designated Sports Facility of the Year at the Sports Business Journal’s Sports Business Awards this week, as Sports Business Daily reported 5/22/13, in 'It Was Quite A Journey,' Barclays Center's Yormark Says:
“It was quite a journey," said [Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett] Yormark, adding that the Barclays Center has held 157 events, attracting 1.7 million people since opening with a series of Jay-Z concerts on September 28. "This is a culmination of an incredible journey, and it really is quite humbling."
"Adapt to change"

As quoted on the accompanying video (which was paraphrased somewhat in the article), Yormark was asked about the lessons:
"Adapt to change. It's never going to end up the way it started. And that certainly was our case, obviously a little more than most. We ended up making a lot of changes along the way, and I think many of them were changes for the better."
The changes, of course, included cutting the arena from 850,000 square feet to 675,000 square feet to preclude major league hockey--and then lucking out by having the New York Islanders agree to move.

One of the most important, but least discussed, was to treat the arena as a standalone facility, with no planned office tower at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Community first?

On the video, Yormark states, "From Bruce Ratner, to our new partners at Onexim Sports and Entertainment, it was always about the community first, and embracing the community in every way we can. I think those that have visited the venue have realized it is all about Brooklyn, from the architecture to the people that work there to the food. It's been a great nine months."

And what about those $15 tickets "for the community"? After one year, they're $25.

As noted by Meadowlands Matters, the other nominees were Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas; JetBlue Park, Fort Myers, Fla.; Marlins Park, Miami; and Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles.

Ratner asserts Nassau Coliseum would gain from "iconic" appearance, claims he didn't have inside track, won't talk about indirect subsidies

There are a couple of interesting tidbits in Coliseum rebranding needed: Ratner, a 5/23/13 article in The Island Now about Forest City Ratner's plans for the Nassau Coliseum.

First, the esthetic argument:
But for Ratner, the renovation is about more than programming or seating capacity. The Coliseum, an imposing concrete structure overlooking the Hempstead Turnpike, needs a complete aesthetic overhaul, Ratner said, to make it and planned surrounding developments inviting for both residents and performers.
“You want to rebrand it so an artist feels that its a cooler place to go,” Ratner said. “You want to go to a place that’s beautiful from outside to inside.
To achieve that, Ratner’s development team includes SHoP Architects, which designed the Barclays Center, and Gensler, an international design firm which would revamp the arena’s interior.
His group’s focus on redesigning the arena separates the proposal from competing bids by Madison Square Garden, Blumenfeld Development Group and New York Sports LLC, Ratner said. Ratner has compared the redesigned Coliseum’s importance to Nassau to the Eiffel Tower and the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“It becomes iconic instantly.” Ratner said. “I don’t know that the other proposals dealt with that.”
This may be Ratner's strongest selling point, even if the numbers--and no developer's numbers should be taken at face value--may favor one of the three competing plans, notably that led by Madison Square Garden.

Ratner plays defense: inside track

The article states:
And though the county did consult with Ratner after the Islanders departure, he said his company gave verbal advice about the site and was not involved in the writing of the request for proposal that the county released in March.
“I sat down with the people in the county and said this is what works. I think you can do stuff outside, I think you should cut it down to 12, 13,000,” Ratner said. “That’s what I did.”
Ratner also dismissed the idea that his firm gained any advantage over competitors by advising the county prior to the issuing of the request for proposal.
“All three developers had been in the county for more years [than me,]” said Ratner. “They all know that Coliseum. They know the entertainment better than I do, they know the population better than I do. So that’s just silly.”
It's not silly at all. His firm gained a relationship with the country government.

Ratner plays coy: subsidies

The article states:
And while Ratner’s group, like the three competing developers, have said they will not seek any public funding for the project, Ratner would not comment on whether the county’s Industrial Development Agency would offer financing, saying that was up to the county.
Sure, there may be no direct funding, but will there be governmental assistance: almost surely.

So, is the B2 tower "part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex"? Not quite

From New York Times Opinionator columnist Allison Arieff, Prefab Lives!, 5/23/13:
It’s an exciting time for modular building, especially in New York, and as someone who has been deeply immersed in the world of prefabrication for over a decade, I am glad to see the much-maligned building technology finding its proper niche. It’s the killer app for the modular industry. 
B2, a 32-story tower that is part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex designed by SHoP Architects for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, will soon be the tallest modular building in the world
My comment:
Interesting that you call B2 "part of a 1,500-unit, mixed-use complex" that's part of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Actually, the 1,500 units are just a phase in a project that's supposed to include 6,430 units.
Whether they all get built remains in question, since developer Forest City Ratner has no plans yet to build an expensive deck over the Vanderbilt Yard, the below-grade railyard that, among the lots designated blighted in the controversial eminent domain case involving Atlantic Yards, is the most clearly blighted. That platform is required before the full project buildout.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What happened to community use of the arena? Program for ten events will wait until second year of operations

Among the arena-related programs promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), tickets have been distributed regularly to community organizations, but another element in that section of CBA remains on hold:
The Arena will be available to community groups for at least ten (10) events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support non-profit community organizations.
The arena opened 9/28/12, but Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) is still working on the events. DBNA executive director Sharon Daughtry, as I reported 11/17/12, said arena developer Forest City Ratner had provided ten open dates available for potential community use. Such events could fill the arena, or a smaller portion, or even just the 40/40 Club or practice court.

I checked back recently. "We are in the planning stages now and we're working out the details with Barclays and FCRC before making a formal public presentation," she said.

Not until second year

Daughtry said the program likely won't get off the ground until the second year of operations, which begins 9/28/13.

"At this point, we haven't definitively put any event on the calendar because the program in still being formulated," she said. "In fact, we haven't made a public announcement regarding guidelines and rules for participation yet. We want to make sure that this process is fair and transparent to all, so we are taking our time, crossing our 't' s and dotting our 'i'. I feel safe in saying that the events booked with our program should take place during the following year."

Daughtry said some proposals have been submitted, but have done so "simply because they heard about it" rather than responding to a call for submissions.

Graduations, fundraiser don't count

I asked Daughtry if any of the arena events already scheduled or held for nonprofit organizations--the Long Island University commencement last week, the NYU-POLY commencement today, and the fundraising event next month for the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation--qualify as among the ten community uses.

No, she said, as none of the events were scheduled via the DBNA.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Synergy! On June 12, FCR's Gilmartin to be honored at Brooklyn Hospital Foundation Founders Ball, held at arena

Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner has become the 800-pound gorilla of local philanthropy, offering not just relatively deep pockets but also an event space for certain groups.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center is a corporate partner of the arena, the latter presumably involving payments from the former in exchange for promotion. Now the hospital on June 12 will hold its 2013 Founders Ball at the arena.

Patch reported 5/15/13 that more than $1.3 million from the event will help modernize the hospital's emergency room, with all 840 tickets sold. (The event last year, held at Steiner Studios, raised $908,000.)

Gilmartin honored

The lead honoree? Forest City's new CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, who'll receive the 2013 Founders Medal for "Voluntarism, Philanthropy, and Service to the Community."

A co-chair of the event is Brett Yormark, CEO Barclays Center & Brooklyn Nets, and surely the arena, team, and company will be making significant contributions to honor Gilmartin. It is not unlike the commencement activities held by Long Island University (an arena corporate partner) held at the Barclays Center, with Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner getting an honorary degree.

Alternatively, Gilmartin also deserves credit for savvy business and rather bare-knuckled tactics.

As I reported last October, she spoke at an investor update 10/22/12, and revealed that, rather than build a platform over the blighted Vanderbilt Yard as plans long indicated, Forest City would first build four towers over the southeast block, now site of the arena parking lot.

Forest City's generosity & the media halo

Forest City's seeming generosity has strategic aspects. An award to Gilmartin helps establish the company's newly-elevated CEO as a significant player in Brooklyn, to which she has just moved from Westchester.

The money of course comes easier when the developer saves all kinds of money on free or discounted public land, from the city and the MTA.

And such events have already generated a media halo for those involved, while the press tends to ignore less flattering news, like the arena's leaking bass.

As New York Times columnist Michael Powell wrote yesterday, regarding Maurice R. Greenberg, the former C.E.O. of American International Group:
Mr. Greenberg has also trumpeted his good works. He has long spread money like seed corn to local charities. It’s a practiced turn; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg uses his charitable giving as a sort of political force multiplier.
“New York,” a business leader notes, “tends to appreciate charitable giving no matter its source.”
TWO weeks ago, the Community Service Society, one of the city’s best-known left-liberal groups, put on a grand party in honor of Mr. Greenberg and that trusty lawyer, Mr. Boies. As the crowd showered the philanthropist with applause, they perhaps pushed out of their consciousness that Mr. Greenberg had supported the conservative Gov. Rick Perry of Texas for president and given heavily to efforts to beat back tighter financial regulation.
A tip-off event at arena

As seen in the screenshot below, the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation held a tip-off event at the arena, featuring "basketball legend" Darryl Dawkins, who's always handy to lend some giant authenticity and fun to a Nets event.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Barclays Center racks up awards; judge says "no one wanted to touch" scale issue of housing "because it's not built yet"

The Daily News (which sponsors the arena plaza) reports Barclays Center among Brooklyn's newest architectural standouts honored by Chamber of Commerce: The arena, home to the NBA's Nets, wins "Building Brooklyn" award for economic development. Other winners include Williamsburg's Wythe Hotel and the Botanic Garden's Vistor Center:
The Barclays Center — reviled by many during development, championed by many more, and filled by hundreds of thousands of screaming fans during its debut season — has won top honors for economic development in the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Building Brooklyn” awards to be announced Tuesday, the Daily News has learned.
“There isn’t a city in the world that wouldn’t beg for Barclays Center,” Chamber President Carlo Scisurra said. “It’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars what that means to the borough annually.”
I think it's hundreds of millions of dollars for the operators, not the borough.

What about the scale?

The newspaper reports:
“The impact of architecture on society and its impact is either ignored, not known, or a very subconscious thing,” said Brooklyn architect Walter Maffei, a jury member. “The discussions became heated when we got into how exactly these buildings affect their surroundings. Everyone has an opinion on that.”
And the Barclays decision?
“All the judges agreed overwhelmingly that Barclays Center is a world-class building and economic engine,” Maffei said. “The idea that the housing aspect was out of scale was ignored. No one wanted to touch it at this time because it’s not built yet.”
But aren't there models? And don't the jurors know that the plaza view of the arena was never planned, because a tower over 510 feet is supposed to be built, and the jobs inside were crucial to the cost-benefit analysis?

An award from Architizer

Architizer, an online architecture database, reported 5/17/13, Go Brooklyn: SHoP Architects’ Barclays Center Wins Architizer A+ Building Of the Year Award:
Having garnered the most Popular Choice votes among all of the Architizer A+ awards entries, SHoP Architects was presented the Building of the Year award by Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Bret Yormak at Thursday evening’s Architizer A+ Awards Gala.
“It’s impossible to describe the thrill of seeing a building you drew sitting in the heart of Brooklyn and filled with 18,000 screaming fans,” said SHoP Architects’ Chris Sharples & Jonathan L. Mallie. “Brett and Forest City Ratner are special. Clients with vision and a belief in the power of architecture. No good building gets built without that kind of support.”
“That’s why this award that celebrates breaking architecture out of the echo chamber is such an honor to win. This building is designed for every sports fan, every concert goer, every commuter that passes by the Center every day,” said the designers. Indeed, SHoP Architects are living their Multifesto: “Redefine Design Practice.”

Bruce Ratner: arena = "fortress real estate" because it can't be duplicated easily, has REIT-like qualities

There are a couple of interesting nuggets in the 5/15/13 CNBC Squawk Box interview with Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner, focusing on Nassau Coliseum Getting a Facelift.

"It's more exciting than I thought it would be," Ratner said of the Barclays Center. "I knew it would be great, never thought it would be this great. It's become an icon almost overnight, in eight months. It's amazing. It has to do with everything: it has to do with the team, the architecture, Brooklyn, it all really did come together in the kind of way that I think was almost unexpected by most people. I knew it would be special, this special I didn't expect."

It has to do with the team, or the rebranding?

The need for competition

One host, mentioning how Madison Square Garden's exterior hasn't changed--actually, the interior makeover approaches $1 billion--asked, "isn't it important to weave competition in this market for big events in New York City?"

"This is an area that's 16 million people, the tri-state area. you have to have competition," Ratner responded. "And if you think about it, having basically one arena can't serve everybody... and that's what this created. and, of course, the brand is critical. The Brooklyn brand, the idea of an arena, which is iconic looking, that's important too. Everything is really new and up to date on our arena and that's what really makes a difference."

You have to have competition. That's a huge irony, given the story of the Atlantic Yards project--in which the city and state agreed to back Ratner's plan from the start.

Arena = "fortress real estate"

One host asked, "Are you surprised by the fact that live sporting events and concerts continue to draw such premium prices?"

"No, I'm not at all surprised. and I realized that for a long time," Ratner responded. "It is all about content. Content, content, content. Whether it's sports or content or concerts and live is critical. So I realize that and having an arena is a very special thing because I use the word fortress. It's fortress real estate in a way. meaning it is something when you create it that can't be duplicated easily. Look, in almost half a century, this is only the second arena after MSG in an area this large."

That's why a non-competitive process seems more glaring.

Arena like a REIT?

Ratner added, "I will say arenas today because they are in some sense franchises and they are live content, my guess is that they sell in the REIT [real estate investment trust] category. They're like REITs almost. That's the kind of multiple, I think."

What are the attributes of REITs? According to
REITs are required to distribute at least 90 percent of their taxable income to shareholders annually in the form of dividends. Significantly higher on average than other equities, the industry's dividend yields historically have produced a steady stream of income through a variety of market conditions.
In addition to the investment performance and portfolio diversification benefits available from investing in REITs, REITs offer several advantages not found in companies across other industries. These benefits are part of the reason that REITs have become increasingly popular with investors over the past several decades.
REITs' reliable income is derived from rents paid to the owners of commercial properties whose tenants often sign leases for long periods of time, or from interest payments from the financing of those properties.
Most REITs operate along a straightforward and easily understandable business model: By increasing property occupancy rates and rents over time, higher levels of income may be produced. When reporting financial results, REITs, like other public companies, must report earnings per share based on net income as defined by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
In short, REITs over time have demonstrated a historical track record providing a high level of current income combined with long-term share price appreciation, inflation protection, and prudent diversification for investors across the age and investment style spectrums.

Today's big story: the Barclays Center's "signature scent"

Apparently the Barclays Center, like some other sports venues, mists a "signature scent" (citrus-y, clean, depending on whom you asked)  to enhance the visitor experience, as DNAinfo reports in a story that got picked up widely, including by Deadspin, The Atlantic Wire, and Racked (where a commenter says it gets pumped outside the Calvin Klein VIP entrance).

While Leslie Albrecht's article quotes a sports reporter at SNYNets as saying, "It's a brand-new building. They've spent over a billion dollars. [The scent] kind of goes along with the whole over-the-top nature of the building," Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer is more skeptical:
The Nets have declined comment on the fragrance, and for good reason – even the best of press release mavens would have a hard time accurately describing why, exactly, one would decide to pay to have scented air pumped into Barclays Center, much less describing the scent in un-mockable terms and explaining why it’s fit for the team’s arena.
...No, the Barclays Center should naturally smell like the high end artisanal pretzel rolls and craft brews it offers its patrons, and not some imperceptible, “citrus” (which is a descriptive word all of us go for when we have no idea what a certain wine, cigar, or perfume smells like) odor that the Nets are paying for on top of the four years and $89 million they’ll pay Joe Johnson between last summer and 2016.
It’s their arena, their money, and their ventilation options. We’re just wondering why this ownership group even bothers, for just a first round team.
Well, that's likely because the arena has many more events than Nets games.

Neil deMause of Field of Schemes writes:
It’s only fitting that the Nets are resorting to this, given that they were among the first franchises [in 1997]  to pipe in fake crowd noise to make it sound like fans were actually cheering.
We'll see if any other story about the Barclays Center--like its "signature noise leakage" and consequent fine--gets such play.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Barclays Center reneges on promise to line up general admission patrons toward the plaza, not Sixth Avenue

Fans wait outside Atlantic Ave.
entrance for tickets for The Killers
So, here's how Barclays Center officials made a promise, and completely failed to honor it.

In April, general admission patrons for the April Green Day concert formed queues going east of the Atlantic Avenue entrance, clogging a narrow sidewalk, wrapping around to Sixth Avenue, and blocking and endangering ordinary pedestrians.

Arena officials seemed concerned. As I reported 5/8/13, Barclays Center Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly said at a community meeting that, going forward, people would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza.

That's not what happened this past Saturday, as would-be general admission patrons for The Killers began lining up at 7 am, and were again directed west to east, stretching around Sixth Avenue.

But why?

I haven't heard an explanation. Maybe this configuration helps the two businesses, MetroPCS and Elbow Room, that are open along the Atlantic Avenue facade.

But it sure won't be workable if and when a residential tower, with ground-level retail, opens at the northeast corner of the arena block (which is the southwest corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues). Then again, that's the third residential tower planned, some years off.

Any explanation?

Given that Kelly typically does not respond to my queries (nor does the arena spokesman), I contacted him via Twitter yesterday morning to raise the issue. No response.

Nets to open boutique in Coney Island, as Thor Equities' Sitt finally fills some space

Daily News photo
It's sure nice when you have a newspaper on your side.

On Saturday, 5/18/13, the New York Daily News, the sponsor of the Barclays Center plaza, broke the news, complete with (at least online) four large photos of Brooklynettes cheerleaders in bikinis.

The headline and subhed: Brooklyn Nets boutique to open in Coney Island on Thursday: The Nets Shop by Adidas will feature beach balls, flip-flops, visors and the usual Nets gear, but the black-and-white bikinis for the ladies may be the biggest draw.

The article was attributed to Jason Sheftell, real estate correspondent, noted sycophant:
Nets bikinis and other fun summer merchandise will be available on the Coney Island beachfront this season in the basketball team’s signature black and white.
“After one year, we’re fourth in the NBA in apparel,” said Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. “But this isn’t about sports. The Brooklyn Nets are an international lifestyle brand. Our colors have become synonymous with the borough.”
The Coney Island store will feature beach balls, flip-flops, visors, the usual Nets gear, and of course shiny new two-piece bathing suits for about $80.
There's a "towel cutting" this Thursday, May 24.

Who's the landlord?

“We want to do everything we can to constantly better the Coney Island experience,” claimed Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt, the store's landlord. “Right away, this adds to the quality of the retail.”

Here's Tricia Vita of Amusing the Zillion, writing 6/14/11 (plus more on Sitt and Thor Equities):
Joe Sitt is infamous for evicting amusement rides from his Coney Island properties. In 2007, the real estate speculator evicted the Zipper from 12th Street. He also evicted Norman Kaufman’s Go Karts, Bumper Boats and Batting Cages from Stillwell Avenue to “allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner,” but has built NOTHING there except a failed flea market in 2009 and another flea market this summer. (“Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt,” ATZ, March 3, 2010)
It’s bad enough that the City has let Joe Sitt continue to get away with blighting the amusement area. Why do the New York Times and other mainstream media continue to enable Sitt’s bad behavior with clueless coverage referring to him as a developer? Read the graffiti scrawled on his so-called construction fence: It says“Blight for Spite.”
Back in Coney

Meanwhile, the annual Mermaid Parade, its income sources devastated by Sandy, is raising money via Kickstarter, with two weeks to go.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

So, is Atlantic Yards a wise example of cost-cutting (as per Observer)? Not exactly, since new arena cost not much off Gehry-era projections

The 5/14/13 New York Observer's article, PATH/Fail: The Story of the World’s Most Expensive Train Station, addresses the endless cost overruns in the Lower Manhattan project and presents a purported counterpoint:
In the private sector, these things often turn out differently. Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is one example. Despite Bruce Ratner’s “man crush” on Frank Gehry, in the words of one of his employees, and the nearly $100 million in fees that he paid for the design of the undulating apartment towers and stadium, Mr. Ratner didn’t hesitate to drop the starchitect from Atlantic Yards when the costs got too high—costs that were partly the result of Mr. Gehry’s insistence on designing the interior elements down to minute details like the stadium seats, something that should sound familiar to the Port Authority.
While it's quite possible Ratner would have paid Gehry $100 million for the entire project, I highly doubt Gehry took in $100 million.

Looking more closely

More importantly, Gehry was not dropped mainly because of his fees, or because of his desire to design interiors. The arena was once supposed to be 850,000 square feet, and could've accommodated hockey and basketball equally. It was downsized to 675,000 square feet, and focused on basketball.

Yes, the arena got smaller and thus less expensive. But also significant was Ratner's need to decouple the arena from the four towers planned around it. Once Ratner recognized he couldn't finance and build those towers simultaneously as originally planned, there was no need for all the buildings to share mechanicals with the arena.

Also, the growth in cost of the arena was attributable in part--though not in whole--to the overall growth in construction costs. The entire project went from $2.5 billion to a projected $4.9 billion.

A "billion-dollar arena"?

Gehry's arena was initially $435 million in 2003, then $637.2 million at approval in 2006, and then $950 million in 2008. One factor: the cost of glass needed for security.

So, they shrunk the arena and what do they have? A "billion-dollar arena." Forest City executives call it a $934 million project, which "covers the cost of this building, the transit connection, the site work, etc." Construction of the arena itself cost

As I've written, documents cite $617.3 million in hard costs for arena and transit connection construction, and $192.85 million for soft costs, plus $34.7 million in additional costs. That's nearly $845 million.

How do they get to $934 million? Unclear.

Moving on: Margolin, Barclays Center head of food and beverage services, leaves for Anaheim arena

From the Anaheim Blog, 5/15/13, Honda Center Hiring 500 Employees for New Food and Beverage Co.; Julie Margolin Named Director of Food & Beverage Services:
ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 14, 2013) – The Honda Center announced today its plan for hiring more than 500 workers to become part of an industry-leading sports and entertainment organization. Interested parties are urged to go online to to apply for a position and schedule an interview. Thousands of applicants are anticipated and appointments will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning immediately.
...Leading the new food and beverage operation will be Julie Margolin, the venue’s new director of food and beverage services. Margolin most recently worked for Levy Restaurants at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There she was part of the opening team, oversaw the food and beverage service for that facility and launched a number of unique programs which saw unprecedented success during their first year. Prior to that time, Margolin was an integral part of the food and beverage operations at STAPLES Center and Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Universal CityWalk.
I doubt Margolin has quite the array of local vendors--from newfangled to classic to ethnic--to work with in Anaheim as she did in Brooklyn, though there are certainly a substantial number.

But her departure hints that others who manage the Barclays Center may be recruited by other arena operators. Just not the person responsible for sound insulation.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ratner, according to ESPN, can't promise Islanders games at new Nassau Coliseum, but developer remains confident reported 5/15/13 Sources: Battle over Isles brewing:
There's a potential battle brewing involving the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, and it isn't even on the ice.

A major selling point of Bruce Ratner's pitch to win the renovation rights to Nassau Coliseum is the promise to bring the Islanders back to the arena for a six-game slate after they move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

And while that would appear to be enticing to the Nassau County executives who are currently deciding among four bidders, it's not a promise Ratner necessarily can deliver.

According to multiple sources, both Madison Square Garden and the NHL would have to sign off on that scenario, and that is not guaranteed to happen.

Madison Square Garden, which owns the Rangers, is also among the four bidders.
While it's clear why MSG might disagree, why would the league? Because the Coliseum would hold only about 13,000 fans after renovations,rather than the current 17,686, and the Barclays Center would be the smallest arena, at 14,500 for hockey.

Then again, couldn't they just charge premium prices in Nassau?

The irony

Ratner's proposed deal is a bit strange, as a commenter on this blog observed:
Politics at its finest. While the team that put Long Island on the map is forced to move to Brooklyn, the very same developer is now vying to rebuild the coliseum. The Islanders will move to an undersized arena with unknown sight lines in Brooklyn and have their former home reduced in capacity by the same developer. Does any of this make sense? How about building a true home for the Islanders and let them stay where they belong. 
 Too late for that.

Ratner's response

As reported yesterday on IslandersPoint Blank,  Ratner, in a radio interview, expressed confidence the plan would work:
“The NHL has to approve it,” Ratner replied, dodging MSG’s possible involvement in the process. “Given the fact that the team has been there before, the fans are gonna want it, I’m sure [the NHL will] approve it.”

Previous to that, the Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner also fielded a question about ‘stealing’ the Islanders. Host Tom Keene said a few Long Islanders had expressed to him a sentiment that Ratner and his group, now attempting to develop the Coliseum, were ‘stealing’ the Islanders by taking them to the Barclays Center and ‘abandoning’ Long Island.
“The opposite!” Ratner exclaimed in response. “Basically what you have is the Islanders would have left this state. Charles Wang is really a hero here in the sense that he got offers to buy that team and move them out of state. What we really did together is save them, here, for New York State and we’re only a Long Island Railroad ride away. It’s very easy to get to. On top of that we’re going to play six games in Nassau if we wind up doing the Coliseum.”
Why arenas? Entertainment, not sports

Also worth noting:
He also said that the main reason he and his group are getting into the arena business is because in the digital world, the future is live entertainment and live content.
So it's not about bringing sports to the people?

Among the comments;
"On the show, Ratner said that his group is “going to do the kind of architecture that we did at Barclays,” with the Coliseum. He also said that he felt the arena “is in a great location and it’s actually a pretty good arena in terms of sightlines, but it’s old.”
He's kidding right, the architecture they did in bklyn created a arena that has terrible sight lines for hockey compared to the Coliseum which isn't just "pretty good" it's probably among the best in the whole NHL, please mr ratner don't turn the Coliseum into a basketball gym like you have in bklyn.
Ratner of course meant exterior architecture, but his point is vulnerable to such criticism.

Another comment:

This is all a ploy so Wang can get out of the NVMC lease a year sooner. He plays nice with the politicians by getting on board with Ratner's refurbishing plan and promises to return to the NVMC to play 6 games, and in return he blows out of town a year earlier. I just wonder if Ratner's proposal is not accepted will Wang still get to leave after next season?, and would he still come back to the old barn to play 6 games anyway? I think as long as Wang gets to break the lease he doesn't care what happens to the NVMC. Hopefully he is prepping this team for sale so we can be done with him...
I think it's a safe bet that the Islanders will leave early.

Do Nets really have the NBA's worst home fans, as study claims? Nah.

As noted in The Brooklyn Game, Study Concludes Nets Have NBA’s Worst Home Fans, Knicks Have Best. But is the NBA Fan Equity Study really solid?

I don't think so. Sure, many observers have noted that Nets fans are not as passionate as Knicks fans, or other teams with more established fan bases. But the Nets filled 94.9% of their arena, while the Knicks sold 96.3%. And the Nets, of course, sold a lot of gear, fourth in the NBA.

The authors of the study, at Emory University, finally put up some backing data (at my and others' request):

I don't think that helps much. The Knicks' attendance edge is magnified by an arena with greater capacity, and the willingness of Knicks fans to pay more has less to do with passion than a longstanding monopoly position in a large market.

Friday, May 17, 2013

What happened to the "B market" along the arena's Atlantic Avenue facade? Not a word; the area instead seems needed for egress, not commerce

Yesterday's post showing the arena as approved in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement includes a curious mention that has likely been forgotten by most arena-watchers: a "B market" along Atlantic Avenue at the north-center of the arena block. See emphasis on graphic.

What's a "B market" (or, as I've described it, a "b-market")?

It came up once, as far as I know, in a 9/25/06 City Planning Commission hearing, which I covered the next day.

Reflecting commission Chair Amanda Burden’s micromanaging concern that there be storefronts along Atlantic Avenue near the planned arena, the Department of City Planning's Regina Myer described a “b-market,” a narrow strip of retail to accommodate smaller shops.

The New York Observer had reported 11/22/05:
“City Planning is really on this one,” [then-arena architect Frank] Gehry said. “Amanda Burden is really working us and we believe in what they want but the idea of creating storefronts on Atlantic Avenue–there’s not much depth to deal with.”
What happened?

The B market never materialized--and maybe it wouldn't have, even if the arena had not been redesigned to present a narrower east-west facade. (No one's mentioned it at any meeting, as far as I can recall.)

Today, a good stretch of the Atlantic Avenue arena facade is apparently needed for egress. Note six sets of doors--in the foreground and background--in the photo at left.

Perhaps once towers emerge along Atlantic Avenue there will be more foot traffic, and the existing businesses built into the Atlantic Avenue facade--Metro PCS and Elbow Room--will benefit. Right now, they've appeared quiet when I've walked by during non-event times.

But there's no room for a B market. Could there be some food carts or other vendors? Maybe, but the strip of sidewalk is already pretty narrow.

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.