Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Forest City says arena acoustical panels part of three-way effort to limit escaping bass (though locals still hear it); no news on roof revamp

A Forest City Ratner executive last night acknowledged that yes, the company had installed 1,800 ceiling panels in an effort to deter escaping bass, but said the panels--which cost $500,000, as I wrote--were not aimed to block sound but rather to improve arena acoustics so musical acts stopped asking sound engineers to turn up the volume.
Ceiling panels, 2/16/14

Speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, which meets about every two months to discuss project-related issues, Chief of Staff Ashley Cotton said the acoustical baffles were one of three "corrections" deployed in recent months.

"It turns out the way the arena was built, there was distortion in the upper bowl of the arena, which was causing artists to say It doesn't sound right, turn up the volume," Cotton reported. At the same time, she said, "we were getting complaints from the rafters, people saying it was too loud."

So the arena hired a "sound concierge," aimed to help touring acts figure out how to get the best sound without going too loud. 

Also, Cotton said, "we have built in even more, in our contractual agreements with the artists, compliance with the city’s sound code." She didn't offer specifics.

Also, they've installed the ceiling panels, which, as I wrote, began after an application to the Department of Buildings was filed 8/28/13, with an expiration 12/4/13. “We think this has been incredibly helpful, particularly with musicians with heavy bass," said Cotton.

Is it working?

Asked by an audience member whether arena operators had evaluated the improvements, Cotton noted that the Sensation electronica show in October 2012 generated a violation from the Department of Environmental Protection  (which ultimately wasn't sustained), but the Sensation show in October 2013 did not.

"We're certainly aware of complaints since Sensation," Cotton acknowledged. "The system needs to be fine-tuned going forward."

Actually, according to Atlantic Yards Watch, there was a complaint regarding the more recent Sensation from a resident of St. Marks Avenue in Park Slope, who wrote, "Disturbed by distinctive bass sound thumping at 1AM inside bedroom with closed windows several blocks away."

And while Atlantic Yards Watch has logged fewer noise complaints in recent months than a year earlier, there have been complaints regarding loud noise from both the Jay-Z and Kanye West concerts. (The lesser number may result from some fatigue on the part of those reporting and logging the complaints.)

Dean Street resident Peter Krashes pointed out that bass also seems to be escaping from the lower parts of the arena, given reports from residents in basement or ground-level apartments near the arena.

Why no disclosure?

For months, Forest City reps had said they were working on fixes regarding the escaping bass. Cotton was asked why they didn't report on the baffles sooner. (The last Quality of Life Committee meeting was 12/4/13, well after the most recent Sensation concert.)

"We wanted to make sure that the whole package was put together," Cotton responded. "So today was the first Quality of Life meeting where I could report out.... Over the past few months, we've been working on these improvements." (Or, perhaps, my article forced their hand.)

No agenda was distributed beforehand, and the meeting was scheduled with less than a week's notice, so barely any residents attended the meeting, held at Brooklyn Hospital on DeKalb Avenue. 

(Other issues raised, which I'll address in subsequent posts, include problems with the circus load-in at the arena and a report that indicates that, on Nets game days at least, traffic isn't as bad as once feared.)

What about Greenland's roof revamp?

Cotton was whether the work she reported was part of the roof revamp project that's expected to be part of Forest City's pending joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group.

The answer was no.

Cotton briefly acknowledged reports that "we're considering some architectural and environmental changes" to the roof, but said she had no news about it.

She did note that, because Forest City is building the B2 tower adjacent to the arena, "we have as much motivation as residents in the neighborhood" to fix escaping noise, "so we will keep fine tuning."

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