On October 27, 2012, inspectors from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection visited several apartments in the Newswalk building on Dean Street. The purpose of their visit was to measure the level of sound escaping from the Barclays Center arena during the evening's "Sensation" electronica concert.
The visit was prompted by complaints from residents filed during the week of Jay-Z concerts that opened the arena. Inspectors had visited during one of the Jay-Z concerts, too, but had not been able to measure sound escaping from the arena in excess of City regulations. Some residents insisted that the inspectors had taken their measurements before Jay-Z had started his performance, however.
"Sensation" was different. On October 27, the inspectors took measurements at 10:40PM and recorded a sound level of 74dbc in a Newswalk apartment. New York City noise control code allows a maximum of 62dbc to escape from a commercial establishment. FCRC received a violation, and was ordered to appear at a hearing of the Environmental Control Board on January 8, 2013. (The violation and the inspector's notes are here.)
The violation carried a fine of $3,200. The ECB's records indicate the complaint was "dismissed." The New York Post reports that the complaint was technically inaccurate because it was served to Forest City Ratner instead of the subsidiary responsible for arena operations. A new ticket has been issued, and another hearing is to be scheduled for April.
During the bass-heavy Sensation show at Barclays Center it was observed by residents, and confirmed by NYC Department of Environmental Protection, that noise at the arena was audible and disruptive in nearby homes.
Numerous incident reports about noise from the arena were filed on AYW during Sensation and Jay-Z's concerts. The diagram above shows the approximate locations complaints were submitted to AYW for those two events. Jay-Z's music was heard as far away as the surface parking lot on block 1129. Jay-Z's performances ended by 11:30 PM. Complaints received regarding Sensation extend to 1:30 AM; according to some reports the event continued until 5:00 AM.
For the night of the Heat vs. the Nets, a small team of AYW volunteers surveyed the state of illegal parking and idling in the vicinity of Barclays Center. Above is a photo of a TLC driver sleeping in his car while parked in a crosswalk on the north side of Atlantic Avenue near South Oxford Street.
The study began at 8:30 and concluded at 10:30 PM. The streets were each only surveyed once. They are listed in the order they were surveyed. The survey preceded the end of the game which is by far the most impactful period of arena operation.
Based on our experience and AYW incident reports, the same locations are used over and over by drivers parking and idling illegally. We used a slightly larger set of boundaries for this survey than our previous survey on December 5th. Our western boundary was 4th Avenue in Park Slope and Fort Greene Place in Fort Greene; the southern boundary was St. Mark's Avenue in Park Slope and Prospect Heights. The eastern boundary in Prospect Heights was Vanderbilt Avenue; in Fort Greene it was South Portland Avenue. The northern boundary was Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue.
In total, we witnessed 77 parking and/or idling violations. 65 were parking and 12 were idling violations. In December we found 83 violations. 64 of those were for parking and 19 were for idling. Vehicles cited below as idling were not timed to see if they were idling for longer than the 3 minutes allowed in NYC, although in many cases the drivers appeared to sleeping, on the phone, or watching television. We did not file complaints with 311. Many of the illegally parked cars had out of state licenses.
Did problems with limos at Barclays Center start with omissions in its Transportation Demand Management plan?
The framework for transportation management around Barclays Center is contained in the “Transportation Demand Management Plan for Barclays Center” (TDM), produced by Sam Schwartz Engineering, release in draft in May of 2012, and updated in August of 2012. The plan has two stated goals: “The first is to minimize the number of vehicles that travel to the arena. The second is to minimize the impact on the surrounding area from the patrons who insist on driving, regardless of the available alternatives.”
Since the arena opening on September 28, many incident reports have been submitted to AYW documenting illegal parking and idling by limousines on the streets near Barclays Center. At the December 6 Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, there was extended discussion on a plan by the 78th Precinct and DOT to allow limousines to queue on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue. Several participants (including the writer) questioned whether essentially providing free parking to limos was consistent with the goals of the TDM. Representatives from the ESDC and Forest City Ratner were quick to suggest that limos should not be considered to be covered by the TDM.
A review of the TDM shows it considered patron travel by limousine. Further, an accompanying study by Clarion Research indicates FCRC had reason to believe the TDM strategies would not be effective in reducing travel to the arena by limousine. Looking more closely at the sampling used in the Clarion study also suggests that its results almost certainly understate the number of arena patrons likely to travel to events by limousine, a potential problem that should have been apparent to FCRC when reviewing the data.
Limos observed at Bocelli concert illustrate the scope of illegal parking and idling near Barclays Center
Since the September 28th opening of Barclays Center, complaints about illegally parked and idling limosines on streets in the vicinity of the arena have made up the largest category of incident reports filed with AYW.
Between approximately 8:15 and 9:30 PM on the evening of the December 5th Andrea Bocelli concert, a small AYW team documented the scope of the problem in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope.
We based our research area on the information contained in incident reports on AYW and our knowledge of the area. In our experience the same illegal locations are used over and over. The western boundary was 5th Avenue in Park Slope and Fort Greene Place in Fort Greene; the southern boundary was St. Mark's in Park Slope and Dean in Prospect Heights. The eastern boundary in Prospect Heights was Vanderbilt at Dean, and otherwise Carlton Avenue. The eastern boundary in Fort Greene was South Portland. The northern boundary was Hanson Place.
We identified 83 likely violations, 64 for illegal parking and 19 for idling. One parking ticket was found on a private car parked near a hydrant on Dean Street. The details of the conditions observed are below.
According to an article in today's New York Times, Forest City Ratner Companies has chosen to build the first residential building at Atlantic Yards using modular construction. At 32 stories, B2 will be the tallest modular building in the world. Groundbreaking for B2 has been scheduled for December 18.
The use of modular construction has been chosen as a means to reduce costs not only on B2, but throughout the remaining Atlantic Yards buildings. The project's approval in 2006, as well as its revised plan of 2009, anticipated conventional construction techniques would be used when considering Atlantic Yards' use of public subsidies and overall feasibility. In the Times article Thomas Hanrahan, dean of Pratt Institute's architecture school states, "The question is: Will the savings be passed on to the public in some form?"
With a presentation on the design of B2 scheduled for Thursday of this week, other outstanding questions about the building may finally be answered a short three weeks before the building's groundbreaking.
What are the construction plans for B2?
The 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) left B2 without publicly-disclosed construction plans. The original arena block plans anticipated office and residential towers integrated with the arena and built in quick succession. B2 was to be complete one month after the arena, with the entire block complete about a year after the arena opening. Now to construct B2 FCRC must contend with traffic and pedestrian demands generated by an operating arena next door. And because of the use of much of the remaining area FCRC controls for arena patron and broadcast uplink surface parking, there are fewer locations available for construction staging than anticipated when the plans for construction were originally approved in 2006. This may mean sidewalk and lane closures are more likely at the same time that demands on local streets and sidewalks have increased.
AYW has been informed by a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation that the NYPD intends to allow limos to queue during arena events on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues. [UPDATE: On November 13, we were informed by Council Member James' office that the block of Atlantic Avenue designated by DOT and NYPD for limo staging was between 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue, not Carlton and Vanderbilt.] The section of Atlantic Avenue is currently available for public parking except during overnight street cleaning hours. On Friday, November 9, use of the area was reserved for vehicles registered with TLC license plates, consistent with the NYPD proposal.
Idling of limos in unauthorized locations in Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene has been a major concern for residents since the arena's opening. AYW incident reports filed include 945, 947, 969, 970, 971, 972, 973, 989, 991, 997, and 998. 311 closed reports for many of these incidents noting "police action was not necessary," or "no evidence of violation." Idling of limos has also been documented by Atlantic Yards Report.
At an October 16 meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall, community members asked 78th Precinct Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri to address the problem through enforcement. Ameri responded,"Enforcement is part of the answer, but it's not the solution. The solution is to give them a place."
On Thursday evening, September 27, the Barclays Center 40/40 Club opened with a VIP reception. Invited guests were received through an arena entrance on Atlantic Avenue west of Sixth Avenue. The VIPs' drivers were provided a sheet with the following directions to arena patron parking on block 1129 (see photo at left):
- Go straight down Atlantic from VIP entrance and make a right on Vanderbilt
- Right on Bergen St.
- Right on Dean St.
- Drive to Middle of block and pull into the lot on the left
Neighborhood residents will notice that these directions omit a necessary right turn onto Carlton Avenue from Bergen Street before the turn onto Dean Street. It's not clear if this omission caused any confusion on the part of drivers.
The bigger question is why Barclays Center would have directed drivers to make a circuit through three of Prospect Heights' residential streets when the most direct route from the VIP entrance to the lot would have been to turn right onto Carlton Avenue and left onto Pacific Street, entering the lot from that block. That route would have avoided any residences.
In what is something of a surprise, the facade of Barclays Center is to be illuminated by multi-colored LED lights set in between the body of the arena building and the metal shell designed by SHoP Architects. The lights will shine from each of the slots in the rusted steel exterior. The colors of the lights are variable. So far we have witnessed purple, white, green and blue being tested.
Over the last month changes to the way truck deliveries take place at Barclays Center have increased meaningfully the number of violations of NYC law, the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments and Barclays Center Truck Delivery Rules and Requirements. With apparently no enforcement taking place, the consequence is a wide range of adverse impacts on the community: trucks idling for long periods; use of unauthorized truck routes; and blocking of bus lanes, bike lanes, no standing zones and travel lanes. Travel and the quality of life on Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenue is particularly affected.