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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

A Jane's Walk moment: our tour group bounced from the "public" Barclays Center plaza (overzealous guards?)

How public is that Barclays Center plaza? Well, not as much as I thought, because, on my Jane's Walk tour last night, our group of 16 was ejected--the first time ever, after leading such tours for several years and not getting bounced from the plaza.

Then again, as far as I can tell (and will explain below), we weren't violating any of the rules. It wasn't the first time a group with me had had a run-in with arena security--last year we were asked to leave the pavement outside the Dean Street entrance.

It's an interesting counterpoint to the ideals of Jane's Walks, which are in the spirit of the late urbanist Jane Jacobs and supposed to underscore the role of citizens and communities in city-shaping.

Let's back up.

Public and private

I've long kept track of the curious nature of the plaza, once the Daily News Plaza, now the Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza, a branded corporate space, open to the public but not always, offering a key amenity for arenagoers, and periodically exploited as a revenue-enhancing commodity.

Barclays Center is one of "The New Shapes of New York" (but how public is that plaza?), I wrote 11/20/16, reacting a cover article in the Times Metropolitan section aiming to catalog emerging icons.

The article quoted Justin Garrett Moore, Executive director, Public Design Commission:
“Barclays Center has become one of the most important new public spaces and landmarks in the city, part of a larger narrative of the transformation of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Cultural District. Despite all the criticism about Atlantic Yards and the history of the development, the Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue crossroads is an important part of the city’s future and growth. Part of that is a network of pedestrian-oriented public spaces that connect people, transit and multiple uses.”
That's a disappointingly narrow response, I wrote, because the open space was accidental, and the preservation of the "public" plaza was (and is) being used to argue for a huge shift of development rights--from the unbuilt "Miss Brooklyn" tower--across the street to Site 5.
My links connected to evidence that the plaza was clearly used to support arena events, like hockey pre-game "live band and other interactive activities," a live body painting pop-up, and a boxing weigh-in.

It's not a park, I wrote. "It's a private amenity that has some benefit to the public."

After all, a report from consultant Conventions Sport & Leisure stated, "The Arena leveraged a new landmark (the plaza outside the main entrance) to generate a 51 percent increase in the casino category."

That's why, as the sign says, "Resorts World Casino" plaza. (The sign is a little dated, actually, since it refers to the "Adidas Nets Shop," since supplanted by the Swag Shop, incorporating hockey gear as well, and the "Pacific Park Sales Gallery," a retail space on Flatbush.

Gathering and talking

I met the group last night at 6 pm on the plaza, near the "Ona" sculpture, and we spent perhaps 20 minutes talking about the surroundings and the plans, realized and not, for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. 

Then a cordial guard asked us to leave, saying we should go to the adjacent sidewalk, which we did. (There was no event scheduled at the arena, by the way, so we weren't blocking any potential crowds.)

I mentioned, a bit sardonically, how the architect and author Vishaan Chakrabarti had praised the Barclays Center and its plaza as an exemplar of the "high-low city," melding high rises with more modest structures, and maintaining urbanity with crucial open space like plazas. 

Chakrabarti did not, however, explain that the plaza was an accident, and instead was to be the site of a large Frank Gehry office tower with atrium--as shown in the rendering at left--at least before the Gehry arena block design was ditched and a smaller, less expensive arena was built.

Checking back

After the tour, I walked back to the plaza to check the rules. Were we really in violation?

It turns out there are rules, in small type, at the bottom of that piece of street furniture pictured at top.

Actually, we weren't pursuing any of the "strictly prohibited" behavior. We weren't using amplified sound. The rules prohibit "solicitation of any kind, street performances," but the latter--unlike a walking tour--is designed to attract a mushrooming crowd and, typically, solicit money. We were just talking, and not aiming to attract more people.

Maybe I'll clarify this with the arena. 

Public space encroachment

Last year, I wrote that I thought they did have the power to eject our group from the pavement outside the Dean Street arena entrance. That said, the strict policing of that boundary contrasts enormously with the arena's historic deployment of, and encroachment on, public space.

After all, vehicles in the arena's loading dock have stuck out on the sidewalk, as shown in the photo at right. Other arena-related vehicles have parked in No Standing zones. And there's often an arena vehicle on the Dean Street sidewalk.

By the way, as shown in the photo below, the down escalator at the arena plaza--often out of service--was again out of service last night.

A few more reflections

It's always interesting to walk around Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park with "civilians," people who haven't been following the project. 

Will the platform be built? one asked. The answer: well, probably, but it will have taken a lot longer.

What about the open space? Well, given that it relies on building that platform and also turning Pacific Street--used for staging--into green space, it could take until 2035.

Why are you critical of the project? another asked. The answer: well, it's complicated. Remember, even the film Battle for Brooklyn and the play "In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards" are from 2011 and 2010, respectively. Time passes.

What do you think of the arena design? Well, after showing the Ellerbe Becket design, which was rescued by SHoP's rusted metal "skin," I know it's a lot better than it could have been.

By the way, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream has, in fact, opened at the southern end of the 550 Vanderbilt retail space, as shown in the photo at right. At about 8:15 last night, it was fairly busy. Just two blocks away, the original location of Ample Hills Creamery was even busier. Perhaps the two can coexist?

I noted that the retail in the residential towers has turned out to be local retail, albeit fairly established, so no big-box stores, as some feared. That said, the retail projected for Site 5 has been likened to the Time Warner Center. I was intrigued to learn from one tour participant that Brooklyn Clay, the pottery studio at 535 Carlton, has a liquor license, which--update--I'm told is used for receptions and small pottery-themed parties, (weddings, birthdays, etc.)

For the record, the group was split on the esthetics of the arena. More approved of the two CookFox residential towers at the southeast block of the site, 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt. That said, as I pointed out, there will be two towers between them, and also three over the adjacent railyard block, and that should change our perspective.

Or, maybe there won't be. Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, as I said, is a "never-say-never" project. Stay tuned.


  1. Actually, if you look at the public record, there are small potions of the plaza, near the subway entrance that are city land from which the guards cannot evict you, (even if you are busker).


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