Monday, March 23, 2015

Memo to the Atlantic Yards CDC: what about last week's bus inundation of Prospect Heights?

The agenda has emerged for today's meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, the second for this new body.

But if is supposed to monitor public commitments regarding the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project--and not just leave them for the periodic Quality of Life meetings (the next one is April 22)--the AY CDC must address the situation that emerged last Tuesday.

During the morning, hundreds of buses delivering arenagoers to a huge private event--the memorial for Orthodox Jewish educator Sara Schenirer--inundated neighborhood streets, double-parking on both Flatbush Avenue and residential streets (photos, video), and blocking bus stops and hydrants.

As I wrote, this in no way resembled the Barclays Center announcement that "Buses will be parked and staged downstairs in our loading dock, outside on the arena block and across the street at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Fort Greene Place."

Nor was there sufficient warning of public impacts. (This event didn't even make the monthly calendar distributed by the Barclays Center.)

How did it happen?

As one bus driver put it, "I don't see how they scheduled something like this for Barclays Center knowing there was no parking for 300 buses." (The total was 270, according to VosIzNeias, a news outlet aimed at the Orthodox Jewish community.)

So, why did this happen? The arena survives its very tight fit--backing into a residential neighborhood--because most people take public transit. (And, of course, those driving can find parking places in an area where there is no residential permit parking, as residents have requested.)

This time very few people took public transit. This has happened for certain other events--especially those involving children--but not quite on this level, as far as I can tell.

The event "worked" for those attending, thanks to arena-paid pedestrian managers, volunteers from the Jewish community (Shomrim), and a plethora of police, including counter-terrorism cops. 

It didn't "work" for the neighborhood. That would have been impossible unless most people took public transit. The city could have imposed fines on all the buses double-parking on residential streets, or in bus stops or at fire hydrants, but that would have ruined the event.

So that raises questions: why do the interests of arena operators and/or those holding the event hold sway? Who and what agencies gave the OK?

The AY CDC's job is to oversee the project and monitor public commitments. This episode surely deserves oversight.

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