Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Times op-ed: "Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit." (+ new Impact Zone Alliance, biz backing bid)

I have an online op-ed in the New York Times today, Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit., arguing that there are logistical and ethical reasons to oppose bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn.

Below is an illustration of one major logistical problem: an entire flank of the arena will be a construction zone, given the delay in finishing the B2 modular tower at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street and the expected start of the B3 tower this year at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street.

The two tower sites flank the secondary entrance to the arena, which is where crowds on the arena plaza are typically sent. They also flank the loading dock for trucks and other vehicles entering the building. The residential neighborhood is across the street.

The ethical reasons include the notion of an oligarch-owned arena, a project in which a Chinese government profits by marketing U.S. visas, and "affordable housing" that backs off promises to fight gentrification.

New Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance

Also today: a new coalition, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, emerged to express concern about the convention and calling on the mayor "to immediately appoint a point-person to coordinate government agencies and the developer with the involvement of local community boards and elected officials as a means to minimize unnecessary adverse impacts."

The group also asks asks for a "plan to promote local businesses as well as a commitment to compensate for any lost income caused as a result of access limitations necessitated by such a high security event."

The alliance includes the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, residents of Newswalk, the Dean Street Block Association (6th to Vanderbilt), the Atlantic Terrace Outreach Committee and the St. Marks Block Association.

(For those who may wonder: though this article and my op-ed emerged on the same day, I submitted a version of my essay months ago.)

An administration response to the alliance

Capital New York updates its article:
De Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams responded by email with the following comment: “For months, the Administration has been engaging with residents, business owners, elected officials community and civic leaders and organizations, including the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance. Mayor de Blasio has been clear that this will be a collaborative process and our door remains open. We’ll continue to engage with community members as we work together to build a convention that will bring maximum benefit to the City as well as the Democratic Party. Additionally, we will name a community liaison when selected as the host city. From UNGA to the Super Bowl to the Thanksgiving Day parade, we have a long history of executing high profile events with minimal disruptions to the lives of everyday New Yorkers, and the convention will be no different.”
The Brooklyn Paper's coverage added a quote from a merchant support of the convention:
About six dozen businesses, from the neighborhood and beyond, signed onto a letter of support on Friday, telling Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic committee chairwoman, that they want to bring the convention here.
Francine Stephens, who owns Franny’s and Bklyn Larder, both on Flatbush Avenue, said she does see an uptick in business during big events, such as during the Video Music Awards.
“That night was very good for us,” Stephens said. “The people who would normally be attracted to my businesses, there were just more of them.”
She does acknowledge that during many events at Barclays people tend to go straight to the arena and then straight home. She said the mayor’s office will have to come up with a plan to encourage convention-goers to explore the area around the arena if local businesses are going to benefit.

Note this open letter to the DNC, which includes proprietors of several businesses along Flatbush Avenue, including Franny's, Pintchik Hardward, Eladia's Kids, and Woodland. Plus Dubai MiniMarket across from the arena.

Also note numerous restaurants, hotels, and tour businesses in the orbit of Downtown Brooklyn, though not in the immediate blocks around the arena.

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