Skip to main content

Gridlock Sam goes rogue: "Don't even think of driving" to arena, but Barclays Center website offers driving directions (though parsimonious parking info), and Ticketmaster didn't get the message

Thanks to some uncurious and ahistorical reporting, mainly from the New York Times (and those who relied on it), Forest City Ratner's belatedly-released Transportation Demand Management plan for the Barclays Center was treated as a wise solution rather than an expected tactic with enduring question marks.

And paid consultant "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz was treated as an "expert" rather than an "expert" "consultant" delivering for a client.

Yes, we've known for years that they would emphasize public transit, and provide some increased subway (and train) service. And we've known since the beginning of this month that the number of spaces in the surface parking lot would be halved, a concession more to reality--surface capacity--than to public policy. (In other words, they aimed to build 1,100 spaces, but the oft-discussed use of stackers would have caused delays, as Schwartz's firm had warned.)

But the six-month delay in releasing a plan with little new--and even less than promised, given the loss of the free MetroCard--was obscured by some headlines that treated the smaller parking lot as a solution in itself.

And while promoting public transit as "the fastest, most convenient way to travel" on the arena website (above) is a clear message, it's not at all the same as saying, in Schwartz's sound-bite, " Don’t even think of driving to the Barclays arena."

Will it work?

So, besides marketing the heck out of the public transit option, and offering pre-paid parking, as planned, will cutting half the on-site spaces keep people away?

Well, it buttresses the public transit message, but that's hardly a foolproof solution, especially when partners like Ticketmaster--see screenshot at right (click to enlarge), supplied by a community member who filed comments with Empire State Development-- are stressing driving over transit..

There still should be a significant chunk--some 2500, they say--of spaces available for pre-paid parking, at $30 and up, except for the remote lots at half the market price.

But drivers may still seek free, on-street parking--and that's a big unknown, and a risk, given the lack of residential permit parking. After all, other residential communities with sports facilities, such as Wrigleyville in Chicago, have residential permit parking.

There are no penalties built in for failure to meet the goal to reduce driving. And, as pointed out by BrooklynSpeaks, it's clear that the 2009 revisions to the Atlantic Yards plan left the project sponsors unable to included the 1,100 spaces described in previous project documents--an argument for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ordered by two courts.

And Schwartz knows that more could be done. As Tom Boast of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented on Patch:
"Interesting to note that staff at Sam Schwartz Engineering described TDM in a March 2009 professional paper: "TDM measures frequently include encouraging a modal shift away from the single occupancy vehicle by improving the convenience and availability of other modal options such as public or private transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling. Other common TDM measures include congestion or parking pricing programs, or preferred parking for carpools and transit users." Concerned citizens should call on the State and the City (i.e., the Governor and the Mayor) to authorize and implement the other half of TDM plans excluded from the FCR plan presented by Schwartz: congestion and parking pricing programs (i.e., removing "free" parking on residential streets with a RPP program) and preferred parking for carpools."

In other words, Schwartz was working for a client that didn't--or couldn't--quite give him free reign.

Overpromoting Schwartz

The 5/23/12 New York Times, Traffic Plan for a Brooklyn Arena Cuts Parking Slots by Half, written by a reporter who's covered Atlantic Yards for a bare few months, turned the story into convenient drama:
The conundrum that Samuel I. Schwartz, the traffic engineering expert, faced was this: How could the already jam-packed streets in the heart of Brooklyn accommodate thousands of extra cars filled with fans traveling to a basketball arena and desperately searching for parking?

His answer, revealed on Tuesday to a panel of Brooklyn officials with all the flourish and detail of a general planning to storm the beaches of Normandy, was to discourage driving entirely, by cutting the number of parking spaces at the Barclays Center in half.

“We will scare drivers away from the arena,” Mr. Schwartz said in an interview. “My message to New Yorkers is, Don’t even think of driving to the Barclays arena.”
(Emphases added)

Well, Schwartz was either exaggerating for soundbite purposes or going rogue, because the Barclays Center has a page with Driving Directions, with no reminder to use public transit.

In other words, Gridlock Sam may discourage driving, but arena operators know that some people will arrive by vehicle, as Schwartz himself acknowledged.

Presumably some will be dropped off by taxis or other drivers, while others will seek parking.

The parking peekaboo

The Barclays Center web site, as of now, does significantly discourage parking, but it doesn't go nearly as far as Schwartz does. As noted at left, it declares that "Parking at Barclays Center is very limited. We strongly recommend using public transportation."

Suiteholders, at least, will get access to parking, as noted below right, but that's only about 150 spaces.

But will the Barclays Center pass on Schwartz's "don't even think of driving" message?

Not really, and that's an enduring tension.

Navigating the unresolved tension & getting brushed off  

After the morning meeting May 22 of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, Schwartz took questions from reporters.

I tried to ask about the tension between promoting transit yet providing a parking option. "You talk about, on the web site... trying to obscure information about parking," I noted, "but at the same give people the opportunity to pre-reserve, so it's kind of doing one thing and the other. How does that that work?

"You're showcasing public transportation," Schwartz responded, not quite answering the question. "Then if somebody is insisting on driving--and remember, this is based on focus groups that we had, and the surveys that we had... we had people who didn't know, from Queens and LI... that the Long Island Rail road went right across the street... so those are the effective strategies. We're banking on effective strategies."

However, it's clear that the parking option has to emerge, so I tried to follow up: "At some point they have to find--"

"It's not a debate," interrupted Forest City Ratner p.r. man Joe DePlasco, and Schwartz moved on to another questioner.

OK, not a debate, but it's an unresolved question, one to keep watch on as the web site evolves.

Where's the event-goer input?

And, as the community member pointed out:
The Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, and Forest City Ratner web sites make no mention of and have no links to the ESDC request for comment on the transit plan, nor have the Brooklyn Nets or Barclays Center twitter accounts made mention of it at all. The implication is clear: the owners and managers of the venues are not promoting the feedback or awareness of the transit options to the population that will most directly be affected, namely the customers. It behooves them to reverse course and actively promote the plan to the public with sufficient time to comment.
What Schwartz said on the evening of May 22

"The mission is clear: It is to reduce the number of cars coming to the arena," Schwartz said at the evening forum May 22. "That's our mantra. And we will be discouraging the number of cars. I was asked today by a reporter, 'What is the message?' My message is: 'Don't even think about driving to the arena.'"

As noted above, that's not really the Barclays Center's message.

"Because we're not providing any additional parking--half the spaces have been cut back. We're going to encourage sustainable--we're going to maximize transit," Schwartz continued. "We're encouraging transportation such as walking and bike riding, as well, to the arena. The goal is to minimize the effect of those who do drive. on the community. So there will those be that drive, no matter what, we recognize that, so what we're trying to do is reduce the impact of those people who drive on the community, and we'll show you the measures."

There are measures, and the question remains: are they enough?

What Schwartz said about promotion

"Every single piece of advertising will contain that [transit] information," Schwartz continued. "You've probably seen some of this already... But what you will not see is how to drive to the arena. What you will not see is where to park. Were not incentivizing, we're disincentivizing people from driving. We're using positive reinforcement for people to use public transportation."

"When you get a ticket., and turn over that ticket, it will show you, 11 trains, 1 destination...," he said. "Every single ticket will have transit, and none of the tickets will have driving, to the arena."

"The web site--the web site focuses on mass transit, and discourages driving," Schwartz continued. "You will get information on all of the services, the subway, the bus, the LIRR," he said. "Now what's so terrific about this location is, when you look at the extent of those 11 subway lines, more than half the people coming by transit will have a one-seat ride."

An empty train, he noted, can handle 1000 people each.

So all of that bodes well for encouraging use of public transit.

The parking strategy

But there will, in fact, be parking. "Our parking strategy goals are to discourage driving, and we will be repeating that throughout,"Schwartz said. "We are cutting on-site parking in half."

"We are keeping parking absent from the marketing materials, and we are lowering expectations to drivers to find parking," he continued, limiting the definition of "marketing materials."

"Now, short of flogging people, we still expect some people to drive," Schwartz said. "So nonetheless, the disincentives vs. the incentives of transit... which is going to be convenient, the cost of parking, which is going to be much higher than the cost of subway, we still know that some people will drive."

"And so our job, for those people, is to intercept drives before they approach the arena," he said. The first solution is remote parking off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which will connect to the arena via shuttle buses.

"We're going to try to get as many of the drivers to commit... to a parking facility that is convenient for them," he said. "So, to the extent possible if we can do that.... we'll have a reservation system for parking. And we'll have as much pre-sale of spaces and we'll provide the driving directions, which will be away from residential streets, and the walking directions, as well. So to the extent that we can keep people on the major arterials, we will do so."

The question remains: how many people will be seeking free, on-street parking?

Parking management

"We've engaged with a firm... Click and Park, an online parking management system," he continued. "The software will be seamless with the Barclays Center software. So when you've gone through all the discouragements of driving, and you elect to drive, you will then go to the Click and Park site... we will try to entice you with low-cost parking at the remote parking facility. That low-cost parking will be pegged at at least 50% off the market rate at the arena."

"If not, we will connect with some of the off-site parking facilities--again, a reservation system so you can directly to that parking facility without doing circulation. One of the worst problems that could come up is circulation. If we can get people directly into parking facilities where they've already reserved, we will reduce circulation."

"And also we will have HOV [high occupancy vehicles] spaces... to have three or more people in their cars," he said. "That way you can also reduce the number of cars to the arena." Unmentioned: the number of HOV spaces on-site has been cut.

"The on-site parking has been cut in half. It was 1100 parking spaces," he added. "It's now 565, but in effect, it's really 541, because 24 of the spaces will be dedicated for the NYPD. So, 541 vs. 1,100 that appeared in the Environmental Impact Statement."

"Again, for those people who still decide to try to drive to the arena, we're going to spread them out... in some 20 locations that are within a half mile or less, walking distance, to the arena. Click and Park is in the process of meeting with these parking operators, to get them to sign up to the parking reservation system.... Money doesn't change hands. Everything is done electronically."

The first few months, at least, will be an experiment. If the BrooklynSpeaks objections are not addressed, in part or in full, the experiment is far less likely to work.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…