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"Maddening": despite operators' pledges to improve, Barclays Center oculus flashes intrusive light overnight, disturbing residents' sleep

The Barclays Center is supposed to be a “state-of-the-art” venue, but one particular aspect—the striking oculus, the opening to the sky which displays digital ads and announcements on a wraparound horizontal screen—isn’t working right.

Since the arena opening in 2012, and at least three times in the last month, the oculus, which is supposed to go dark between midnight and 6 am, has restarted, flashing bright images at residents on nearby Pacific Street, disturbing the sleep of several, including parents and small children.

In fact, just a few days after a Barclays Center representative delivered an apologetic public account of oculus malfunctions, it happened again, turning a small segment of Brooklyn into a mini-Times Square. One resident called it “maddening.”

The below video is from about 5 am on 4/2/17, this past Monday. (That video, and the other oculus videos further below, was taken by a resident and shared with me.)

Pre-emptive apologies

Last week, at the 3/27/18 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, Sarah Berlenbach, Director of External Affairs at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, said that a malfunction had happened the night before, as the arena realized that its previous steps—to have security officials on notice and to set up a 24-hour number—were not enough. (See her remarks in video below.)

Not all staff were aware of the protocols, she acknowledged, and turning the switch off did not guarantee that the oculus wouldn’t pop back on later in the evening. “We are ordering a brand new computer system to handle this,” Berlenbach said, and staff training would be redoubled.

No residents were at the meeting to provide their perspective because, well, it had been announced with less than 24 hours' notice and was held during business hours in Manhattan.

They might have provided more skepticism. Indeed, such skepticism was redoubled when, on 4/2/18, the lights were on again at 5 am, as shown in the video above, Pacific Street resident May Taliaferrow told me.

Frustrated neighbors have a meeting tomorrow with Berlenbach and other arena managers.

Taliaferrow said she wasn’t too optimistic, since arena officials have long been “making empty promises…. It’s not their families that are being disturbed… As a community, we’ve been extremely, extremely patient.” Moreover, some neighbors wonder why the arena operating company can't solve this problem on its own.

A pattern of incidents

Taliaferrow shared with me some videos taped by residents, in the last month, below, and email messages about the ongoing problems. Since 2012, three different Barclays Center officials expressed apologies and promised the problem wouldn’t recur. But it did.

The issue should be known both to arena operators and public officials. The list the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance posted last November noted, among neighborhood priorities:
5). Lessen Barclays Center plaza impacts on immediate neighbors.
Improve Barclays Center oculus lighting by consistently maintaining turn off times, managing brightness and minimizing the pace of the animation.
For example, in March 2017, residents reported that the oculus had been on all night three times, in less than three weeks. Also--and this does not exhaust the list--residents reported problems in July 2016, October 2015, August 2014, April 2014, as well as in October 2012, shortly after the arena opened.

Berlenbach's remarks

Videos of the blinking oculus in March and April 2018