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"Roof sponsorship signage" coming to Barclays Center: does Forest City's plan meet Design Guidlines?

Guess what: "roof sponsorship signage" is coming to the Barclays Center, according to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, released yesterday by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

Preparation for the installation of the signage will begin this week or next, according to the document, which does not explain the nature and extent of such signage.

I've asked for more details; for example, will it look like the rendering above right, released in early 2010, announcing the Barclays Center?

Either way, however, roof signage was never officially permitted. So it should be seen as a multi-million-dollar giveaway.

Raising the question in 2010

I reported 3/8/10 that rooftop Barclays Center logo that appeared in the latest arena rendering arena seemed to violate the Design Guidelines as stated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the ESDC.

Asked in March 2010 if the pictured rooftop signage would be allowed, ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded:
Images of the arena used for promotional purposes are renderings. Anything that is built out -- including final signage -- will meet the design guidelines, which we continue to review with Forest City Ratner Companies as specific elements of the design are finalized and evolve from renderings to reality.
From the FEIS and Design Guidelines

The documents approving the project in 2006 did not mention roof signage, likely because there was supposed to be a green roof. There's been no update of the Design Guidelines nor disclosure of permission for roof signage.

From page 5 of Chapter 8, Urban Design, of the November 2006 FEIS:
With the exception of limited signage for ground-floor uses, illuminated and non- illuminated opaque signs would be limited to the westernmost 75 feet of the arena block and to the Building 1 façades along Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues and would be limited in terms of overall surface area and height. Additional signage and lighting would also be allowed on the Urban Room (80-150 feet in height) on Building 1 (to a height of 60 feet), and on the arena façade (to a height of 40 feet)...
The Design Guidelines state (p. 28, 30) that signage "shall be permitted on the Arena street wall" on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. There's no mention of the roof.

From the Design Guidelines
That lost green roof

There was never any discussion of roof signage because there were never any plans for roof signage. When plans were announced in December 2003, Forest City Ratner promised:

The roof of the Arena offers an exciting opportunity to create new public space, with 52,000 square feet in four lushly landscaped areas for passive recreation and a promenade along the outside edge of the roof with outstanding panoramic vistas facing Manhattan.
 Herbert Muschamp, then architecture critic for the New York Times, wrote 12/11/03:
Here, the stage will be activated by a running track around the perimeter of the arena's roof. In winter, the track becomes a skating rink. Other areas of the roof will be set aside for passive recreation. Restaurants for the surrounding towers are planned at the arena's roof level.
In September 2005, however, the space became private; the state reported that the "rooftop open space would be accessible to users of the buildings constructed as part of the proposed project." In a friendly 5/14/06 interview with the Daily News, architect Frank Gehry was asked about green space on the roof. His response:
The first thing we wanted to do was put a basketball court up there and invite all the kids up there to play, which was a wonderful thought until you found out what all the technical issues were: exiting requirements, soundproofing. So now the idea is making a garden that you look at, that's a piece of art from above and that becomes part of a sustainable system, which could become a bird sanctuary.

When the project was first approved, according to the November 2006 FEIS, the roof was supposed to be grass:
The approximately 850,000-sf arena would be approximately 150 feet tall and include approximately one acre of private open space on its roof... The roof would also contain approximately three acres of landscaped green space, a sustainable design feature that reduces stormwater runoff, but would not be accessible. 
Three years later, the project was later revised, and the green roof vanished. ESDC reported, in a June 2009 Technical Memorandum:
The arena roof would not incorporate stormwater detention tanks, a green roof, or rooftop private open space. Instead, the detention tanks would be located in the base of the arena and enlarged to accommodate the additional stormwater load associated with the elimination of the green roof.
No change mentioned

In no document was there mention of a change in the Design Guidelines, nor any illustration of "roof sponsorship signage." The rendering below from the Technical Memorandum--before SHoP came on board-- states that it "does not include signage, which will conform to Design Guidelines."

I read that as saying that they will only do what is explicitly permitted, not be able to do what is not explicitly banned. Roof signage was never permitted.


  1. Anonymous9:36 AM

    More sour grapes. Why don't you mention that the arena's green roof, and much of the original size and scope of the planned arena, had to be scrapped with the Frank Gehry design after repeated (and unsuccessful) litigation that you supported far delayed construction into the economic crisis of 2008? The multiyear delay dramatically and detrimentally affected the financing. The "[t]hree years later, the project was later revised" language glosses over the role you and other noisy activists played in forcing the revisions. The subway stop will have (already has, in fact) a green roof and will be a public area.

    That an arena is getting signage should not be a surprise, nor should the substance of the Barclays Center signage. What exactly are you complaining about: the much-publicized video screen inside the cantilevered oculus, visible only to those standing inside the oculus; the Barclays signage on the roof, visible to those in airspace or high-rises; or the blue signage over the main entrance that's substantially the same as the signage that's appeared on every iteration of the proposed building from the Gehry, Ellerbe Becket, and SHoP designs?

  2. To respond to the bravely anonymous commenter, yes, the project was delayed by litigation, which Forest City and the state should have anticipated. It was also delayed by economics. And Bruce Ratner later said ten years--the always-promised schedule--was never supposed to be the time to build the project.

    This article is about the roof signage, never approved--not the video screen, nor the facade signage.

  3. What up with the "bravely anonymous" snarkiness? If you don't want anonymous comments, don't allow them. If anyone is afraid to express an opinion on your blog, you're the one who should be ashamed, not the commenter.

    Jim Breckenridge

  4. I prefer that people use their names. Anonymity/pseudonymity makes it easier for people to be nasty and irresponsible, without consequences. Prime example: "Net Income" aka Bob Windrem.

    1. You didn't say the comment this morning by Anonymous was nasty and irresponsible, and it wasn't. You said, ironically I suppose, that he or she was "bravely anonymous". What did you mean by that?

    2. I responded below to Anonymous.

  5. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Attack me for being anonymous, but what exactly are you complaining about here? Who is this slighting?

  6. Um, you're more upset about my alleged "sour grapes" than evidence that the government isn't doing its job.

  7. Jeremy Berger1:43 PM

    Just the people who live there.

  8. Anonymous1:14 AM

    I totally agree with the anonymous writer and would like to go further. I find it amazing that sites such as these take the time to detail every possible issue that they can find with the arena construction. And while having issues is fine and surely allowed since its your blog, as a reader i cant seem to understand how you could write and complain about the design aspects of the arena. At the end of the day you could hide behind the idea that the economy stopped this project but really and truly it was the litigation and the constant lawsuits of people in the downtown area that caused us to lose the original design. If you gonna say in one breath that the developers should of foreseen people suing them for years upon years then the public should be held to same standard and expect that their actions would harm the project. In this case it harmed it so bad that we lost what all told would of been a better project. I don't blame the economy that was still churning along back when the original project was being talked about, i rest most of the blame on the same people doing all the suing. What did yall expect to happen when your goal was to delay and stop the project. How many times do projects come out different when it gets delayed, we could look at the World Trade Center for a perfect example, so don't complain about the final result when it appears as thou you often agree with those that caused all the delays...

    1. Well before the economy changed and the litigation started, project supporters like Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for NYC and project contractors like landscape architect Laurie Olin said it would take longer than the official ten years.

    2. Anonymous1:32 PM

      Yes but in reference to the project itself the timelines may of changed but the design itself was intact. Furthermore, as your stating the litigation started up before the economy change which as i stated above was what was holding back the project. If the project wasn't held up in the first place and had already started you cant sit there and tell me they were gonna break down the progress already made in construction and restart with this building. No the original design would of been built. At worst they would of done like they have at World Trade Center where they built the Freedom Tower and Tower 4 and elected to slow down on Towers 2 and 3. This is exactly why i blame the people in the community there for the design change and why i say they have themselves to look at for its change. Remember if you even looked at the cities plan for the Olympics, the arena was part of the plan thus one can assume that the arena would of had to be finish a while ago seeing as thou the Olympics are already going on. The arena would of done been finished.

  9. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Every day i come on this site and i read about people complaining about the worries of the public peeing and traffic and noise and how people down there hate the design so much. Where were these people though when Atlantic Yards stood there as a dirty hole in the ground. As a person that use to work and park in the area regularly 5 to 6 times a week do you know how many times i saw people peeing the area including residence of the same area before this arena was even brought up. Garbage would be blowing in the wind along the fence surrounding a ugly hole in the ground with dirty trains parked up. My point is people always want to complain about change. Your blog and some articles give the impression that the arena is somehow worst now then what was there when to be honest that couldnt be further from the truth. Where was the community back then coming together to create BIDS (Business Improvement Districts) to bring the area up. Where were the business owners to paint the fences that they left dirty sometimes full of spray paint and garbage all about. How come people within the area didn't buy there own garbage cans with lids on them, because if you seriously want myself and other readers to believe that RATS are a new thing you got another thing coming. I remember years go parking on Pacific, i opened my door to a bum who set up shop with 2 carts and a dirty towel, peeing near that old warehouse building. This all the while 3 subway size rats were running down into the train yard as i walked towards the DMV. In terms of the noise, why do people seem to forget that they live in NEW YORK CITY. Last time i checked cities are not known to be quiet and free of cars and traffic and noise. Especially not NYC. If you wanted peace and quiet and no cars or people that what SUBURBS are for as described by sheer definition. People need to get a grip, like seriously they have no problems taking the good when it comes to increase property values and all the little stores they particularly like to go too etc, but are not willing to take the other things that sometimes come with that such as traffic and or noise. As a resident of Mill Basin i pay taxes just like a person living down there. What makes people down there thou feel so special that things for the general public enjoyment cant be built. Its the city that never sleeps as they like to say where we build all the time, sometimes i think they need step back and remember that. And if you dont like it there is suburbs for a reason. I know that this is your blog and its your choice to take 1 side of the argument but i wish that if you gonna take the time finding all these articles complaining about ever aspect that sometimes you could paint the old picture. Remind people of how the are was before. Yea it had have nice brownstones in the area but the particular area of the arena was not so nice. Now back to the signage issue, like the anonymous writer stated what is the big deal if that is on top the building when 80% of people probably wont be able to see it from there houses. Not sure why this is news wrothy Oh and so that you don't think that im some how hiding or being "Brave" my name is Jay, i live in Mill Basin now.

    1. Well, you'd be a bit more brave if you signed your full name.

      It's simplistic for you to say that the issue is people complaining about "change." It's how change is managed. It's about accountability.

    2. Amen, Anonymous. The fact that nothing was built there for 50 years before the Arena was built is a monument to the corruption and incompetence of City government during those years. We had a major transportation hub (dirty and chaotic) underground and a wasteland above ground. Remember the fried chicken stand in the iconic station entrance? Remember the dives on Atlantic? Rumor has it the people used to drink alcohol in those dives and God knows where they used to pee.

      The arena opponents have killed the Gehry design, delayed the arena and made it more expensive. That's it. And this is what the bitter end looks like: taking petty shots at the "bravery" of commenters on a blog.

    3. I don't think Ratner would say his initial proposal was workable. Remarkable how you think it was.

  10. Jeremy12:46 PM

    Good to know, Jay of Mill Basin. Just remember: Next time you pay out your hard-earned income, you are paying for Forest City Ratner. Then, when you go to a game/concert/what-have-you, you're paying Forest City Ratner. The children you bring to the circus at Barclays will, if they choose to grow up in New York, be paying for Forest City Ratner when they pay their taxes. When you buy "Brooklyn Water" there, you're paying Larry King and his company… in Florida. And let's not forget that the use of eminent domain went towards a private organization, which means that your home in Mill Basin is only yours until the neighborhood gets popular. And if that happens when the real estate market is on the dive, you'll be stuck in a new home paying the old one off. Maybe it'll be for a stadium… or it could be for a mall with a tiny park that the ESDC sanctioned as qualifying for 'public use.' So let's stop the complaining about how abandoned and dirty the old neighborhood used to be, because that doesn't matter anymore. Because FCR probably owned it when it was like that, too. And yes, this is New York City. From what you're saying, you might be confusing the place with Moscow.

    1. Anonymous12:03 AM

      @Jeremy i am confused but its not with me thinking of the place as Moscow. I do think your disrespectful for insulting my intelligence. In terms of your point about tax dollars...Just as the barclays center will cost me tax dollars so would a park or some of the other things people claim they wanted there so telling me to remember that money was spent really doesnt hold much weight to me. The fact is it still better then what was there before and to that effect im happy. In terms of talking about the dirty conditions i was merely bringing that up to highlight the fact that the area wasnt all that good to begin with. I've never seen eminent domain used in its history to tear down properties that were in good condition to begin with. If people didnt have their place looking like ruins maybe it wouldnt of been treated as such

    2. Kind of a silly argument. See:

    3. Jeremy1:50 PM

      Therefore, our rights as homeowners is dependent on aesthetics? If I choose to paint my house plaid, the government can take it away? Where's the line? And I apologize if I have insulted your intelligence, I just wanted to point out that the seizure of a person's private property for the purposes of making it a company's private property is indicative of a socialist society. Especially when there was a plan in place to parcel out the Atlantic Yards footprint to several developers, who would have been able to pay for the train yard in full. As compared to FCR, who somehow got them to accept less money for it over the course of decades. Somehow, a cash-strapped public utility (the MTA) turned away millions of dollars from one developer to give it to another. If multiple developers had come in, and allowed for a level of competition instead of out-and-out nepotism, WE wouldn't be paying for ANYTHING. And you're right, eminent domain happens in some not-visually-appealing places. On the other hand, once you're booted by ED, it doesn't mean that a company has to do anything. In the case of Kelo vs New London, she got kicked out, and everyone was happy. Then Pfizer backed out of the deal, with no consequences. No harm, no fowl. Unless you lived there. Now it's a dump. Literally.


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