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Progress: after meeting with neighbors, Barclays Center operators agree to better monitor oculus, accelerate replacement system to avoid intrusive light

Following repeated complaints from Pacific Street neighbors unnerved and awakened by after-hours malfunctions in the Barclays Center oculus--the opening to the sky which displays digital ads and announcements on a wraparound horizontal screen--arena operators have pledged to do better.

After a first-ever meeting between neighbors and high-level arena officials, coupled with attendance from some governmental representatives, arena operators pledged to install an already ordered custom replacement operating system by the end of June. That's faster than originally planned, said Mandy Gutmann, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment's VP for Communications.

Meanwhile, arena staffers are manually checking every evening at midnight to ensure the oculus has shut off. It is supposed to remain dark until 6 am, so security offers are instructed to check on it, both during rounds and via security camera.

Internal procedures--previously improved, but not fully effective--have been redoubled so security staffers can communicate with those in the department that controls the oculus, and neighbors have a 24-hour security hotline.

Neighbors appreciative but wary

"We are glad that it got to a level that substantial action is planned and after six years they are making a capital investment into new equipment," Pacific Street resident May Taliaferrow said, regarding the meeting last Friday. "It shows that they're now taking us seriously."

Still, she acknowledged some residual wariness, given that residents had previously felt that lower-level staffers in the community relations department had offered promises and apologies without resolution.

At a recent meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC)--before the latest incident triggered this latest meeting--BS&E's Sarah Berlenbach acknowledged that there had been problems at the arena's start in 2012, but then "a period of about four years when this never really came up."

That downplayed things somewhat; complaints were lodged periodically, though not every incident may have prompted a complaint. As noted, residents reported problems in April 2014, August 2014, October 2015, and July 2016, among other incidents, and in March 2017 reported that the oculus had been on all night three times, in less than three weeks.

"I don’t want to speculate on the history of this issue," Gutmann said, in response to my query, "but I can tell you that we have taken our neighbors’ feedback very seriously and are working diligently to address their concerns."

Tamping down the brightness

Residents learned that, for the relatively small number of Barclays Center concerts and events that run past midnight, police have recommended that the oculus remain on to enhance safety. In response to neighbors' concerns, Gutmann said "we have created a static dimmed message that replaces the circulating ads and begins at midnight."

Neighbors also have asked that bright animated ads be diminished in hours before midnight, because they can be intrusive. That's not off the table. "We have already begun discussing this internally," said Gutmann.

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