Downtown Brooklyn

Barclays Center Buzz Continues

June 14, 2012 Heather Chin
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The long-awaited Barclays Center is nearly ready for its grand opening concert featuring Jay-Z on September 28 and the buzz about the new sports arena/events center is picking up steam.

A long list of celebrities the likes of Barbra Streisand, Andrea Boccelli, Rush, Leonard Cohen and Justin Bieber have already signed up to perform; college ball and boxing matches are already being scheduled; the center was just announced as New York’s new home of gospel – featuring Grammy Award-winning Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir; and Brooklyn Hospital Center has been designated the arena’s “Hometown Hospital.”

The Brooklyn Nets basketball team is also making Barclays Center its new home, moving over from New Jersey, debuting a sleek new logo, and triggering a rush by sports fans to buy more merchandise in the first week of sales than any other team at both the NBA store in Manhattan and online. Twitter even took notice, with the Brooklyn Nets trending across 39 countries when the brand launched on April 30.

“The Brooklyn Nets are resonating in Brooklyn and people are excited [that] we’re bringing major professional sports back [where it hasn’t been] since 1957, when the Dodgers went to Los Angeles” said Barry Baum, senior vice president of communications for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. “Brooklyn is a borough of 2.4 million people and it deserves its own professional sports team. We’re delivering that.”

Brothers Aaron and Darrin Rice agreed that being able to watch a game in their own backyard would be fun, but said they would make sure to walk or take the subway over in order to avoid what they say is sure to be a lot of traffic.

“Traffic is a mess now and would get even worse when it opens,” said Aaron, who lives in Red Hook. Darrin, who lives in Long Island, said that he would take the Long Island Rail Road in, even though he’s “not a rabid sports fan,” just for the experience. “It’s just the traffic, but overall I think it will bring a lot of business, which will be good for the economy,” he remarked.

Nancy Cogen, a local business owner and member of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, shared this concern, noting her fear that between foot, car and subway traffic, residential parking will be lost, sidewalks will be dirtier and “pedestrians will be forgotten.”

The Boerum Hill resident, who runs the Melting Pot, a decades-old boutique clothing store at Nevins Street and Third Avenue, with her daughter, is one of hundreds of residents and business owners who have attended public hearings, community meetings and press conferences in recent weeks in order to give feedback on traffic mitigation and public safety plans from the city Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Department of Sanitation, and Barclays Center developer Forest  City Ratner.

As Barclays Center goes up, so do heightened efforts to make sure that the new home of the Brooklyn Nets is a good neighbor to nearby residents and businesses.

According to the Transportation Demand Management plan presented by these agencies on May 22 during a joint hearing of Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, traffic mitigation will rely on a few main efforts:

  • Encouraging use of public transportation through promotional materials, directions at the time of ticket purchase, and street signs, in addition to adding more Q and 4 trains and bus service, plus “gap trains” to fill in the gaps in service;
  • Creating disincentives to drive via higher prices for on-site parking, no parking directions in ad materials, requiring ticket buyers to reserve an on-site spot, and reducing the number of available parking spaces (only 514 at the arena itself);
  • Encouraging off-site parking via a Click & Park online parking management system, and offering discounted prices of at least 50 percent;
  • Providing shuttle buses from areas nearer to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (i.e. Fort Greene, Red Hook) to the arena;
  • Cross-marketing with the MTA, DOT, business improvement districts, local businesses and social media.
  • Sam Schwartz, the transportation engineer and traffic consultant on the project, said that he is “optimistic” that the proposed plan will address the community’s concerns about congestion, excessive noise, loss of parking, public drunkenness, and sanitation. He emphasized that that the plan creates a transport coordinator to work with all city transportation agencies to prepare enough public transportation, and the use of both private and public (NYPD) security forces to ensure safety and monitor streets for disturbances.

Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman said that the DOT and developer Forest City Ratner’s plan have helped address many residents’ concerns over the last several months, but that since this is such an unusual and unique project – a sports arena in a residential neighborhood – “people are generally fearful of the project,” and community advocacy groups “hope to build more trust between the arena developers and the host community [because] if it does not work for us, it does not work for Barclays.”

Some elected officials and community groups still say, however, that there is more to be done to win their trust. That is why they have proposed the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan – a nine-point list of policies to be carried out by state and city agencies on behalf of the public.

The list’s proposals include making the 78th Precinct responsible for policing the arena as well as enforcement of traffic and parking rules; having the DOT install signs clearly directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic away from residential streets in Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights; having the state authorize city implementation of a residential parking permit program in these neighborhoods; requiring Barclays to provide at least one additional street basket at each corner within a half-mile radius and be responsible for emptying them by 8 a.m. the day after an event; and requiring that Barclays provide annual funding for a parks associate position to serve the local Dean Playground and South Oxford Park.

The NPP was developed by a collaborative of the Boerum Hill Association, Park Slope Civic Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, with support from Councilmembers Stephen Levin, Letitia James and Brad Lander.

With just under four months left to the big opening, even more news will continue to trickle out, from everyone who has a stake in how it plays out. Next up are hearings regarding the center’s liquor license applications.

There are also renovations in order for some businesses. At a furniture store at the corner of Fifth Avenue, manager Jeff said that although all the posters outside say they are closing up shop, they will reopen soon as “something else that will [fit in] better.”

Meanwhile, across the street at Modell’s Sporting Goods, store manager Nick Chang said that in order to prepare for the influx of customers who have already begun streaming in, the Flatbush Avenue location will be remodeled to reflect Barclays Center’s look better.

“I can see us growing bigger, compared to Modell’s in Times Square,” he said. “When the Giants won the Super Bowl, they were the first to open. We’re the Brooklyn Times Square.”

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