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Stuckey's shocker: Ratner VP says Brooklyn Arena would use more mass transit than MSG

Would 65 percent of visitors to the planned Brooklyn Arena at the Atlantic Yards development use mass transportation? That's what Forest City Ratner VP Jim Stuckey told an audience on 11/22/05, even though two weeks later public officials expressed skepticism that the Brooklyn Arena could draw even half of its visitors via mass transit.

Stuckey, speaking at American Institute of Architects presentation along with Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry and landscape designer Laurie Olin, stated (according to a tape I recently listened to), "Most everyone believes and I think the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] ultimately will say that about 65% of the people who come to the arena... will be using mass transportation already." The EIS is expected in the next weeks or months. (Photo from Forest City Ratner web site.)

However, at a 12/5/05 Borough Board hearing on transit issues, transportation consultant "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz suggested that Madison Square Garden was the best model for Atlantic Yards arena traffic, with about 50% of visitors using public transit, 40% using cars, and 10% walking. But that drew contentious responses, as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said that such an estimate was overoptimistic.

As the New York Post reported:
"I don't think you can compare Madison Square Garden to Brooklyn. There's a huge part of Brooklyn that does not have public transportation," he said — adding that parts of Staten Island and Queens, too, are out of the reach of public transportation leading to the arena's designated site at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Note that Schwartz is now working as a consultant for Forest City Ratner, though he was not doing so at the time.

Stuckey on the mark?

I asked Stuckey to amplify his remarks, but he didn't respond to my email. I asked Stuckey's questioner, Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, if Stuckey's observation was legitimate. "Sixty-five percent does indeed seem to be an extremely inflated estimate, given that Madison Square Garden is at 50 percent," Lander responded. "It does not seem credible to me to suggest that more people would come to Atlantic Yards by train than to MSG--more likely the opposite (since I would guess that more New Jersey & Long Island residents would drive)."

Lander did note that the developer is considering the possibility of incorporating the price of transit into ticket prices to arena events, which could reduce traffic, but "much more would be needed in any case to make parking limited/expensive."

Remote parking?

During the November 22 Q&A session, Lander followed up Stuckey's "65 percent" comment by asking what arena had the next highest percentage of attendees via public transit. Stuckey responded by focusing on Madison Square Garden: "The interesting thing about the modeling is that they have Madison Square Garden, where there’s been an awful lot of modeling done... It obviously has to be adjusted."

Stuckey said any model must understand the number of people that are coming and the time of their trips. "I think you have to put in place programs, which we’re working with the government on, that will hopefully part of the EIS process, where you can encourage even further mass transportation. There are a lot of ways of doing that. One example, and this is a way of tying other parts of Brooklyn into the project, you could have people park remotely, you could have people come to games, you could have them then go to dinner in other places, enjoy other Brooklyn neighborhoods, and keep cars off the streets."

It remains to be seen whether Stuckey's "65 percent" estimate includes those who use mass transportation at the last leg of their trip, such as after parking in other parts of Brooklyn.

But so far, it's hardly clear that "most everyone believes" in that 65 percent figure. Schwartz didn't believe it in December. Now that he's working for the developer, will he be finding ways to make that work?


  1. If you want less people to drive, take away the parking spots! Don't build any garage space and give the neighborhoods surrounding the arena resident permit parking.


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