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Arena signage in a residential district: only during games?

The "party" has a curfew. While last year the proposed Brooklyn Arena was portrayed (left) with gaudy signage around it, the latest plans (right) show no such signage, and architect Frank Gehry is backpedaling in an effort to say the project would fit into the surrounding neighborhood--at least when there aren't basketball games.

A Daily News article published yesterday, headlined No neon for Nets arena, but foes still turned off, stated:
Don't expect flashy neon signs at the proposed Nets arena in Brooklyn.
Instead, developer Bruce Ratner plans to project images directly onto the glass building during games - but turn them off at other times to help it blend in with the surrounding area.
"This is more of a residential district. This would not be Times Square," architect Frank Gehry told the Daily News Editorial Board yesterday. "The question was how do you create activity at game time and have it disappear."
Ratner officials also are considering embedding light-emitting diode images into the glass that also could be turned off.

How firm is Ratner's pledge? Would they not turn signs on for the circus? The Ice Capades? A concert? Note that this was a lobbying visit to the editorial board.

Talking to Ouroussoff

On the 4/10/06 Charlie Rose show on PBS, Gehry explained it more expansively to New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff

NO: Let's be more specific--you're talking about a kind of layering--is it OK to talk about the models that I saw? We're talking about a layering around the exterior, this is around the arena in Brooklyn, it starts to peel apart, where the advertising and the facades of the buildings start to blur.

FG: So it's not there sometimes and it's there sometimes. There's a little bit of it, and there's more of it. And it can be used for community issues, as well as advertising. It has a social function, if it's played right, it can be used for art... How do you make that--everybody's getting it, whether they like it or not, it's all over us.

NO: Meaning people will have to live with this, so the question is: what can you turn it into.

FG: If I look at what Peter Arnell and I are doing right now, they're baby steps. I really think we've got to get into the technology and see where really the root of it. Y'know, LED is little tiny things, they sit on black background--it's not pretty yet. How do you turn it into something--that's the trick. And maybe there's something other than LED.

Light pollution?

Would the signage cause enough glare to be considered light pollution? At a hearing at Borough Hall in February, Borough President Marty Markowitz pointed out that the arena would bring new large-scale signage with "advertising lighting," and asked how the upcoming Draft Environmental Impact Statement would analyze it.

Panelist Michael Kwartler, an architect and planner, said the lighting might bring glare, perhaps so bright it would obscure the Williamsburgh Savings Bank. "You can either think of it as a positive or as light pollution," he added, noting that it might be helpful to pedestrians but a traffic hazard for vehicles.

Sometimes, a "party"

Interviewed at Columbia University on 10/31/05, Gehry discussed his dilemma:
[H]ow do you make buildings that fit, how do you make a new skyline, how do you develop a scale at the ground level, how do you create the opportunities, how do you fit an arena that at night brings a lot of people in, and is bright and sparky and a party, and the during the day what does that mean.
Those are all the issues, and they’re similar to the issues of my house, just at a bigger scale. I have a sense of responsibility to deliver something that’s a good neighbor. So I’m caught in this thing. And it’s a wonderful, scary place to be, I tell you. I have sleepless nights about it.

As we learn more about the proposed signage, some neighbors might worry that it too might cause sleepless nights.


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