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Harassment incident outside the arena: construction workers (from project?) harass passers-by, throw beer cans (+ unresolved security discussion)

An ugly harassment incident, with perhaps homophobic overtones, happened recently outside the Barclays Center, though some key details--such as whether the workers involved were connected to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--remain uncertain.

A Prospect Heights resident, speaking Tuesday night at the meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, reported on a incident that occurred adjacent to the arena Saturday Oct. 8.

The incident, she said, occurred "two weeks ago" at 11 am on a Saturday. "My wife and I were on the Atlantic [Avenue] side of Barclays," she said. They walked by two construction workers, who were drinking, smoking pot, and harassing passers-by.

The resident--who was not comfortable sharing her name publicly--admonished the workers, to no avail. "They basically threw their beer cans at me," she reported. "I felt unsafe."

She didn't specifically identify the workers, but said "they were with the telco people."

The connection is murky. The two previous Construction Updates do not mention telecommunications workers at the arena site, or on a weekend. They state, "During this period Optimum and Verizon communications will have crews on Pacific Street between Vanderbilt & Carlton Avenues installing infrastructure for B11 and B14." That's one long block away from the arena.

During breaks, it's not unknown for workers to leave the immediate area of the work site, and it's also not unknown for work on site to not be foreshadowed in the Construction Update.

Following up

I wasn't able to get more information (and it was not stated that a police report was filed), though perhaps more will surface at the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Community Update meeting, which is Nov. 1 at 6 pm.

On Wednesday, I asked representatives of Greenland Forest City Partners, as well Empire State Development, if they knew about the incident, and whether workers related to the project--or another project--would have been outside the arena.

I didn't get a response, but will post an update if/when I do.

I also asked if workers from contractors like Optimum/Verizon receive the same training regarding sexual harassment as construction contractors now provide.

After all, if the workers were connected with the project, that suggests the need for some intervention. Starting in April, a long-promised color-coded identification system was introduced, making it easier to recognize project construction workers and putting them on notice. (See photo above right.)

That grew out of reports by a neighborhood resident that the daily harassment she experienced was like "living in a shark tank," and that she'd been a victim of sexual misconduct, at minimum, from men apparently leaving an arena boxing match.

Past discussion on security

The issue of security came up, perhaps presciently in retrospect, at the 9/20/16 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.




At about 18 minutes into the discussion, board member Barika Williams cautioned that ESD may classify certain incidents as closed while she considered them unresolved. "I don't think we closed the issue of security, not just for the Barclays Center itself but also for the area in general," she said, nothing that a reported issue was not a resolved one.

"We wanted a report on security issues and the security protocol not just for Barclays but for the area in general," she said. Williams proposed looking into the cost of putting up "emergency poles"--presumably bearing call-in devices--throughout the site.

"I think there's a real security concern going forward, especially with the number of construction workers on the site," she said. "We've already had one incident. I'm definitely concerned about what that looks like when we start to having kids and teenage girls on the same site with all these workers."

She got a partial answer from ESD's Marion Phillips III about increasing the amount of information to locals, and making Greg Lynch, a state employee tasked to observe question, more visible.

But the usefulness of potential security hardware becomes more clear in light of the recent incident.

Board member Jaime Stein noted that notes from a community meeting in June indicated that a representative from Tishman Construction, a contractor on the site, couldn't clarify how many workers had actually gotten ID stickers.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, executive directior of the AY CDC, said that reflected the fact that some subcontractors were on site temporarily. She added that the ID system was once centrally operated when launched by the project developer, but each contractor now has their own ID tagging machine.

Arena security issues

Asked to share information about the arena security protocol, Barclays Center spokesman Terence Kelly (since departed) said that, while arena officials regularly meet with police, and attend monthly 78th Precinct Community Council meetings, "the nature and extent to which I can discuss our security protocol would be limited, especially with such high profile events."

Phillips suggested that directors wanted to know how the arena put a plan together, and Williams asked how they dealt with "a situation unfolding, a crowd that's escalating, how do you handle that... when it's flowing into neighborhoods?"

Kelly said the arena does significant preplanning with law enforcement agencies. " I believe that we do provide an additional safety net with the personnel outside," to allow safe passage across Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, "to serve as a deterrent against bad behavior... We are mindful that it will not be the end of it."

"in reference to the boxing event"--the previous harassment case--"I can't comment on that, it's a matter that has gone to litigation," Kelly said, adding that "we have made adjustments and improvements" and will continue to make adjustments "based on feedback from community members, law enforcement and bodies such as this."

Note: I checked, and could not find any court case involving the boxing event.

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