Skip to main content

New Barclays Center Community Relations VP meets the public, brings buzzwords

The Barclays Center's new VP for Community Relations, Roland Guevara, has been on the job since July, but his rollout has been slow. Relations with the pricklier elements of the public were left for Terence Kelly, for four years the Community Affairs Manager, who recently departed.

Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton introduced Guevara at the Quality of Life meeting Tuesday night, noting that, at meetings four years ago, the discussion was "a hundred percent Barclays Center, now it's ten percent Barclays Center... We're proud of the work we've done." An active search is on to replace Kelly.

Despite the frustration aired earlier in the meeting by residents, Guevara, who formerly headed public affairs at Nickelodeon, gave off the vibe of a friendly guy expecting a cordial visit to the Rotary Club.

"It's great to be in this position," Guevara said. "I oversee Community Relations for the Nets, the Islanders, the arena, and a couple of projects we’re working on." (Presumably the Nassau Coliseum makeover, and the Paramount theater at LIU?)

"I’ve been doing this work for 20 years, and I’m really excited to be here," he said, saying he was "truly looking to scale the events that we're doing, to have a lot of impact."

While that might accurately reflect promotional or charitable endeavors that encompass much of Guevara's work, the term "impact" meant something else at this meeting, such as clogged streets. "Things like this are amazing," he also said of the meeting, though it actually had its Beckettian aspects.

"I really want to get a chance to meet you all, let you know my story, and truly figure out what we can do together," he said. "I drive what we're doing, and it's a true team effort;"

Facing questions: hockey fans

Several people did preface their questions by welcoming him, so the response was not hostile, but the dialogue soon became knotty. Dean Street resident Elaine Weinstein said that the advent of the Islanders had created enormous problems such as drunkenness, sex harassment, and beer cans all around. "It creates a very serious problem for people coming back [home."

She asked if arena staff could "position themselves a little further from the arena."

Guevara said he couldn't address all questions but would "figure out how we can create a plan."

Pacific Street resident May Taliaferrow said many hockey fans "don't seem to realize they're in midst of a residential neighborhood." She said there was noise on the arena concourse after hours, and "drums, which have calmed down."

Facing questions: event calendar and notice

"What kind of notice will the community get when there are major events?" she asked.

"It's the same protocol as always," Cotton said, acknowledging that the monthly calendar Kelly used to circulate, announcing expected crowd size for arena events (example at right), "obviously it's dropped off, something we have to fix, and we will."

She said if any major plan like a street closure, red carpet, or outdoor activities, "we've committed to extra notice."

Resident Steve Ettlinger recommended that the arena list an estimated egress time, since that would let residents know when parking spaces might be available.

Facing questions: early morning TV shoot

Taliaferrow brought up a recent WPIX-TV shoot on the arena plaza, the preparations for which began at 6 am, with a background crowd that "looked like construction workers," since locals otherwise wouldn't be out and about.

"Do you think it's reasonable to do a shoot at 6 am?" asked Weinstein. (Official construction hours don't start until 7 am, though residents do report that trucks rumble and beep/back up well before then.)

"I think we're up watching news at 6 am," Guevara responded.

"Could you make it 7 or 8, does it make that much of a difference to Barclays?" Weinstein asked.

"A lot of times, that comes directed from the news channels themselves," Guevara said. "From my perspective, again, I grew up in the Bronx, I’m very familiar with Brooklyn, going back and forth all the time as a kid.  When there was something in my neighborhood, and there was something positive about going on, I was happy about it. Any time I could look at newscast, as a kid, or even as an adult, that was great."

(That sounded to me like a circa 2001 Marty Markowitz statement, and rather tone deaf toward the people living through arena impacts.)

He said they'd do better at communication.

"In all fairness, if you communicated that it would start at 6 am, I would say, 'thanks for communication, but no thank you for that planning,'" Weinstein responded.

"The irony is the set-up makes more noise than event itself," said Flatbush Avenue resident Regina Cahill, "as we know from the art walls," the August 2015 block party in which preparations for painting walls on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues woke up residents shortly after 5 am.


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…