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Barclays Center debut: no traffic nightmare and empty (paid) parking spaces (on a work night), but still reasons for concern: narrow sidewalks mean paparazzi gridlock and later a flood of people blocking Atlantic Avenue

Traffic flowed fairly well outside at the Barclays Center debut with Jay-Z last night, and the event appeared relatively orderly, given the sold-out house, which drew a crowd wearing everything from flashy nightclub duds to Brooklyn Nets gear.

Though he'd been on many stages around the world, Jay-Z told the crowd, "Nothing feels like tonight, Brooklyn."

(While the fans I spoke to all said they enjoyed the show, and people chanted "Hova" as they left--and, of course, inside--I heard multiple secondhand reports, including this tweet, that said that Jay-Z's performance, actually, was subpar.)

"Welcome to the house that Bruce built" was flashed across the arena screen, as reported on Twitter; I countered that developer Bruce Ratner had a "wee bit" of government help.

Perhaps the most prominent disorder, according to reports on Twitter, was lots of pot-smoking inside the arena, as well as a wait, which lasted until about 8:45, just to get past security into the building.

 However, as some reported, the crowds after the event could get disruptive; see below.

Jay-Z's speech

Significant use of transit

The vigorous promotion of transit coupled with mostly pleasant weather and the generally young audience meant few drove automobiles--at least to paid parking. (Watch out when Streisand appears.) The surface parking lot in the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards site, in fact, was perhaps 20 percent full.

WNYC reported:
In the four hours before the show, the Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center Station saw turnstile exits increase by 6,754 people -- roughly one-third the Barclays Center capacity -- compared to the average of previous Fridays this September, according to a WNYC analysis of MTA data.
That's actually not as many as the 7600 or so trips predicted--albeit including two other subway stops, the G at Fulton and the C at Lafayette--between 5-6 pm and 7-8 pm in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

So, where were the rest? Some came after 8 pm. Others managed to park or get  dropped off. At about 7:30 pm, as shown in the video below, traffic flowed well on Atlantic Avenue.

And the commitment to making the Barclays Center debut work, as well as the numerous VIPs, meant a massive number of police, including white-shirted brass who surely will not be there every day. (Then again, there may be some more law enforcement inside.)

It also featured extra transit staff and extra trains, as well as numerous yellow-jacketed pedestrian monitors hired by the arena. (Those monitors are not a permanent feature, so it's not clear how long they'll be there.)

Gathering outside 78th Precinct, 6:10 pm
“I’m in a good mood because traffic is moving well. But this is what we expected, we have a plan in place and it’s working. I can’t ask for a better night,” Captain Michael Ameri of the 78th Precinct, which now is responsible for the arena, told Patch. “We dedicated a lot of planning with numerous city agencies like the MTA and DOT, with the FDNY and the community and it worked out exactly how we wanted.”

Some snags and reasons for concern

Well, not quite. Given that a lot of people took public transit because they came from work, the two weekend shows beginning tonight should feature more cars.

(Presumably arena planners and city officials will make adjustment; spotted walking around were several people from Sam Schwartz Engineering, the consultant working for the Barclays Center, including "Gridlock Sam" himself, as well as Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation.)

Still, there were reasons for concern, some perhaps a product of the debut, others fixable, notably congestion on the Atlantic Avenue sidewalk.

After the event, various musicians played on the plaza, then also on Pacific Street across Flatbush in front of a bar, despite the presence (right) of a police eye-in-the-sky.

There were numerous boisterous people, a good number drunk. While the bars and restaurants on nearby blocks (like Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street), didn't look busy before the event, some might do better afterward.

One WNYC commenter wrote:
I live a few blocks away and beeping horns, police sirens and yelling people persisted until at least 2am. There clearly was a traffic disruption.
(See coverage of the debut in the Daily News, Wide-eyed fans descend upon Brooklyn to christen Barclays Center for soldout Jay-Z show; the New York Times, For Brooklyn’s New Arena, Day 1 Brings Hip-Hop Fans and Protests; the New York Post, Jay-Z rap concert highlights Barclays Center's coming-out party; DNAinfo, Jay-Z Concert Opens Barclays Center for Brooklyn's 'Big Moment'; EW,
Jay-Z at Brooklyn's Barclays Center opening night: On the scene; Rolling Stone, Jay-Z Represents Brooklyn at First Barclays Center Show; NY Mag's Vulture, Jay-Z Makes History With Pretty Good First Show at Barclays Center; and MTV, Jay-Z Puts The Focus On Brooklyn At First Barclays Show.)

The Times captured the moment:
The crowd was growing fidgety as the lights finally dimmed at almost 9:45. A slide show recounted aspects of Brooklyn’s history, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Beastie Boys, Ebbets Field and finally the Brooklyn Nets. Jay-Z took the stage in a white Nets hat and a black Nets jersey — No. 4, with “Carter,” his actual last name, across the back. Before a projection of city projects, he said, “Today is a celebration, a celebration of the place where I’m from. When I say, ‘Is Brooklyn in the house,’ I want to hear everybody. Is Brooklyn in the house?” The crowd roared.

Get More:
Jay-Z, Music News

In the Daily News, Jim Farber wrote:
On this night, Jay-Z’s well-known hit “We Run This Town” never felt more literal.

Here's NetsDaily's Net Income (aka Bob Windrem) reporting a message from a member of the Nets' front-office staff, a "basketball purist":
As Jay-Z was wrapping up, his Nets cap and Nets jersey matching the thousands in the audience wearing Nets black-and-white, he messaged us, "I'm starting to understand how big this is."
On the plaza

Below, some 90 minutes before the event began, there were still protestors. Later, the counter-activity moved to the Dean Street playground, where perhaps 125-150 people by my quick scan (organizers counted 250) watched the documentary Battle for Brooklyn. (Other coverage of the counter-events in the Observer and Patch.)

VIP area congestion

By 7:45 pm,  before the event began, a large crowd gathered near the VIP entrance on Atlantic Avenue, impeding foot traffic, waiting for celebrities such as Magic Johnson and current Nets players, many of whom attended.

One neighborhood resident nearby pointed out, with not illegitimate dismay, that if there had been a demonstration, the police would have made sure to clear the sidewalk.

Atlantic Avenue becomes block party

After the concert let out, a huge crowd spilled out along Atlantic Avenue, first into the lay-by lane, then, as police relented and removed barriers, into the street, stopping eastbound traffic for about  ten minutes. Note the calls for Nets player Jerry Stackhouse.

Given the time of night, about 11:45 pm, the amount of backed-up traffic ultimately wasn't huge. mBut this clearly can't be the solution on weekend afternoons.

Other traffic issues

Before the concert, the cops also kept traffic moving at some peril to pedestrians, several times waving traffic through red lights to maintain traffic flow.

Not only was the for-pay parking barely used, virtually no one used the newly-installed bicycle parking. Then again, the rain had threatened.

Delays on Dean Street

Major delays in getting ticketholders into the building--apparently because of the lengthy security process, involving metal detectors--sent a flood of event-goers from the main plaza around Flatbush Avenue toward the Dean Street entrance, filling the available space in front of it for some 25 minutes.

There's no residential tower next door, but such a crowd and a residence wouldn't mix.

(DNAinfo reported, "Some concertgoers Friday night were taken aback by the strong security presence, which included guards in military uniforms carrying assault rifles.")

Adjusting to the change

Indeed, nearly all the houses on Sixth Avenue between Bergen and Dean streets, just below the arena, were dark, a suggestion that their occupants decided to spend the night away. They can't do that every night, so surely they, and arena operators, hope the kinks get worked out.

(I spoke to the one resident standing guard; he was wary, but hopeful: he said he already had Nets season tickets.)

Subway escalator out

After midnight, with a crowd remaining at the plaza but most event-goers gone, I noticed that the down escalator was out. (It may have been down longer.)

But there was more than sufficient capacity on the stairs. Still, it's a new station, so escalators should work, right?

Vehicles on the street

There also were numerous black cars and other luxury vehicles idling, often in No Parking or No Standing zones near the arena and, I was told, in Fort Greene. Also taking advantage of such zones were official vehicles from the MTA and NYPD. I did see, however, a car blocking the bus stop on Dean Street opposite the arena get ticketed and towed.

One Prospect Heights resident commented on Atlantic Yards Watch regarding the corner of St. Marks Avenue and Carlton Avenue:
When I got home from work I noticed that there were two Hot 97 vans parked on my corner. They had NYP license plates and were taking up two parking spots. As a result it took my family, with a small child, as extra ten minutes to find a parking spot. I did not report to 311 because didn't realize it was illegal, just thought it was a nuisance. I have the license plates of the vans if anyone is interested in them.

Below, vehicles, most if not all private cars for police officers, are parked on the east side of Sixth Avenue from Bergen Street (home of the 78th Precinct) nearly to Dean Street (catercorner to the arena).

Below, media vans gather on Fort Greene Place, the private street owned by Forest City Ratner between its Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls. A pedestrian manager is below left. Note the sign directing people to walk above-ground to the Long Island Rail Road.

Below, a limo idles on Dean Street opposite the arena, in a No Standing zone.

Below, an MTA vehicle parked in a No Parking zone on South Portland Avenue just north of Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene.

An after-party

One Atlantic Avenue bar operator, the Social Butterfly, was welcoming patrons to an after-party.

Bus layover area

At Vanderbilt and Park avenues, the bus layover area.

Some trash on the street

Arena-goers (presumably) left some trash on newspaper boxes on the east side of Fourth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue.


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Got home from work at around 10. Couldn't find legit parking near my home so parked on the corner of Fulton and Clermont with part of my car in the hash lines. Found a parking ticket time-stamped 7:15 am this morning when I went to move it at 7:30 am. Meanwhile, saw a car at 10 pm parked in front of a FIRE HYDRANT on Gates that left around 12:30 am, no ticket. Are the NYPD being told to "wink" at illegal Barclays parking?

  2. Anonymous2:55 PM

    On one whole side of Pacific St. btwn. 6th Ave. and Carlton there are "No Standing from 9/28 to 10/2" signs. No hours or explanation, you just can't park there for 5 whole days and nights. There has to be almost 50 parking spots there, and when the cops do use them they are only there for the event. Plus they park all over the sidewalks anyways.
    I know they need extra security for these large events, but this seemed excessive and wasteful. From what I saw there must have been 500 cops there, plus soldiers with machine guns in the subway entrance.

  3. Anonymous1:01 PM

    I live on Carlton between Bergen and Dean Streets came home from work and grocery shopping to be greeted by cars without tickets on them parked in front of both fire hydrants on the block and police near by. I explained to the officer about the cars by the hydrants and his response was that if there is a fire they will put the hose through the car. finally after driving around for half an hour someone came out of a space a block away from me. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

  4. If that's really what the cop said, you should report that you local elected officials, etc.

  5. Anonymous12:01 PM

    Brooklyn Ink put out an article that was pretty positive on fans getting there via subway- hopefully that's what more people decide to do:

    1. I'd say that article needed a few more caveats, such as mention of huge presence of police, traffic officers, demographics of crowd, etc. Still tests coming up, with Barbra Streisand concerts and Nets games.


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