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New Barclays Center Community Relations VP meets the public, brings buzzwords

The Barclays Center's new VP for Community Relations, Roland Guevara, has been on the job since July, but his rollout has been slow. Relations with the pricklier elements of the public were left for Terence Kelly, for four years the Community Affairs Manager, who recently departed.

Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton introduced Guevara at the Quality of Life meeting Tuesday night, noting that, at meetings four years ago, the discussion was "a hundred percent Barclays Center, now it's ten percent Barclays Center... We're proud of the work we've done." An active search is on to replace Kelly.

Despite the frustration aired earlier in the meeting by residents, Guevara, who formerly headed public affairs at Nickelodeon, gave off the vibe of a friendly guy expecting a cordial visit to the Rotary Club.

"It's great to be in this position," Guevara said. "I oversee Community Relations for the Nets, the Islanders, the arena, and a couple of projects we’re working on." (Presumably the Nassau Coliseum makeover, and the Paramount theater at LIU?)

"I’ve been doing this work for 20 years, and I’m really excited to be here," he said, saying he was "truly looking to scale the events that we're doing, to have a lot of impact."

While that might accurately reflect promotional or charitable endeavors that encompass much of Guevara's work, the term "impact" meant something else at this meeting, such as clogged streets. "Things like this are amazing," he also said of the meeting, though it actually had its Beckettian aspects.

"I really want to get a chance to meet you all, let you know my story, and truly figure out what we can do together," he said. "I drive what we're doing, and it's a true team effort;"

Facing questions: hockey fans

Several people did preface their questions by welcoming him, so the response was not hostile, but the dialogue soon became knotty. Dean Street resident Elaine Weinstein said that the advent of the Islanders had created enormous problems such as drunkenness, sex harassment, and beer cans all around. "It creates a very serious problem for people coming back [home."

She asked if arena staff could "position themselves a little further from the arena."

Guevara said he couldn't address all questions but would "figure out how we can create a plan."

Pacific Street resident May Taliaferrow said many hockey fans "don't seem to realize they're in midst of a residential neighborhood." She said there was noise on the arena concourse after hours, and "drums, which have calmed down."

Facing questions: event calendar and notice

"What kind of notice will the community get when there are major events?" she asked.

"It's the same protocol as always," Cotton said, acknowledging that the monthly calendar Kelly used to circulate, announcing expected crowd size for arena events (example at right), "obviously it's dropped off, something we have to fix, and we will."

She said if any major plan like a street closure, red carpet, or outdoor activities, "we've committed to extra notice."

Resident Steve Ettlinger recommended that the arena list an estimated egress time, since that would let residents know when parking spaces might be available.

Facing questions: early morning TV shoot

Taliaferrow brought up a recent WPIX-TV shoot on the arena plaza, the preparations for which began at 6 am, with a background crowd that "looked like construction workers," since locals otherwise wouldn't be out and about.

"Do you think it's reasonable to do a shoot at 6 am?" asked Weinstein. (Official construction hours don't start until 7 am, though residents do report that trucks rumble and beep/back up well before then.)

"I think we're up watching news at 6 am," Guevara responded.

"Could you make it 7 or 8, does it make that much of a difference to Barclays?" Weinstein asked.

"A lot of times, that comes directed from the news channels themselves," Guevara said. "From my perspective, again, I grew up in the Bronx, I’m very familiar with Brooklyn, going back and forth all the time as a kid.  When there was something in my neighborhood, and there was something positive about going on, I was happy about it. Any time I could look at newscast, as a kid, or even as an adult, that was great."

(That sounded to me like a circa 2001 Marty Markowitz statement, and rather tone deaf toward the people living through arena impacts.)

He said they'd do better at communication.

"In all fairness, if you communicated that it would start at 6 am, I would say, 'thanks for communication, but no thank you for that planning,'" Weinstein responded.

"The irony is the set-up makes more noise than event itself," said Flatbush Avenue resident Regina Cahill, "as we know from the art walls," the August 2015 block party in which preparations for painting walls on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues woke up residents shortly after 5 am.