Monday, March 10, 2014

Barclays Center mystery meditation room gets spruced up, but mostly ignored; dedication coming tomorrow

Meditation Room, Oct. 2012
The Barclays Center meditation room has gotten an upgrade and, after nearly 18 months, is having an official opening. (Update: News12 offered a report.)

When I went to visit 10/15/12, just weeks after the arena opened, it was essentially used to store chairs and wheelchairs (left), with no signage inside or out.

Med. Room, Feb. 2014
Now, the meditation room--agreed to as part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)--does have an exterior sign, messages on the wall (Love, Faith, Joy, Forgive, Rejoice, Peace) inside, and more comfortable seating.

It does make more of a meditative design.

Then again, the Meditation Room does not appear in the Barclays Center's online A-Z guide nor the pocket-sized Arena Guest Guide patrons can pick up.

No wonder I didn't seen anyone use it in two visits to the arena last month.

In both cases, the room--about 150 square feet--was locked; in one, it was dark.

Official dedication March 11

The official, invitation-only dedication is tomorrow, March 11.

According to the invitation posted online, it's hosted by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, founding chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), one of the few CBA signatories that's active.

According to the DBNA:
The DBNA Meditation Room is the first of its kind to exist in any Arena in America! It is a peaceful oasis located inside of the bustle of Barclays Center that may be scheduled as a meeting space or used as a place of quiet reflection during your visit to Barclays Center.
The House of The Lord Church held an unofficial dedication ceremony of the DBNA Meditation Room in October 2013.
That date was presumably after the room was spruced up. The Rev. Daughtry has written:
Originally, we called this a chapel. Because the critics kicked up such a furor, we decided to name it a meditation room. We wanted to emphasize the values that we believe in. Significantly, I am told that it is the first in all of the arenas built in the country.
In a 4/2/10 Brooklyn Paper article, he recognized a larger issue, acknowledging, "I got plastered for that. You can’t use public funds for religious purposes."

(The arena is publicly owned--a fig leaf to enable tax-exempt financing--but leased for virtually nothing to an operating company co-owned by affiliates of Forest City Ratner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.)

Structured programs and services?

What's the room for? The CBA states, under the section regarding the DBNA:
EMS room is next to closed, dark Meditation Room, 2/14
(3) Meditation Room. Upon completion of the Project, located inside the Arena will be a meditation room to be used by the Community and patrons. As will be more fully described in the Project Implementation Plan described in Section III, Part G, DBNA will work with the Arena Developer to design this room for structured programs and services under the supervision and guidelines of the DBNA’s committee on Arena Related Programs, described below.
It's not clear what "structured programs and services" are, as the Project Implementation Plan has never been released.

Nor has the developer hired the promised Independent Compliance Monitor, which Daughtry has said was one of the conditions for his support. That monitor presumably would report back on implementation.

But there are some rules. You can't visit outside of an event, unless you make special arrangements, which may include payment. According to the Meditation Room Guidelines (below), posted outside the door:
  • The Meditation Room shall be used only during public events, is accessible at the time of general doors opening, and no time before... Any requests outside of this time must be made with our Community Affairs Department and may incur labor and rental fees
  • The Meditation Room will close shortly after the conclusion of the event
  • Click to enlarge
  • The Meditation Room will be available upon request to any guest by visiting the Guest Services Center located next to the Meditation Room and requesting for the room to be opened
  • Users must participate in the 'private silence' environment promoted in the Meditation Room
  • The Meditation Room cannot be reserved
Trying to visit

During the LIU-St. Francis College basketball game on 2/16/14, the room was locked and dark. I asked at the nearby Guest Services Center about getting inside.

A staffer cordially exited the center and tried to open the door. Her key didn't work.

She called for a supervisor. It took about eight minutes for him to arrive, but he cordially opened the door.

I went inside, meditated for a little while, then shot the video below.

Lost in translation?

Below is the take from one fan, who surely doesn't know the history.
Below is the view of the Meditation Room through the door's window, shot earlier in February, during a Nets game.

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