By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — “The reality is that the arena is coming, we want to be good neighbors, but we want a dialogue. We’ll bring the coffee cake,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association.
Civic groups, community residents and elected officials representing the neighborhoods around Barclays Center, believing their concerns haven’t been adequately met, yesterday unveiled a nine-point Neighborhood Protection Plan to address issues ranging rom sanitation to traffic to pedestrian circulation to open space.
The group — including City Council members Steve Levin (D-Downtown) and Letitia James (D-Fort Greene), state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Park Slope Civic Association, and Boerum Hill Association — wants to meet with the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the Atlantic Yards project.
Several of the speakers at yesterday’s press conference said they believed they had a shot at such a meeting because the new president of states development arm, Kenneth Adams, is a Brooklynite and the former head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
“There is a task force [sponsored by the arena’s management], but it’s made up only of the elected officials and the community boards, and it meets at night,” said James, adding that the civic associations tend to be shut out of the process.
Asked how she would characterize the extent of community input for the arena, James answered, “Minimal.”
Among the proposals in the plan are:
Making the NYPD's 78th Precinct responsible for policing the arena. Because the area falls into several precincts, there has been some confusion over who would have jurisdiction.
Making the arena operators responsible for maintaining sanitary conditions on the arena block and nearby, including providing recycling bins and street baskets and power-washing sidewalks.
Installing signs directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic to large arterial roads and hiring a “robust number” of traffic enforcement agents at the expense of Forest City Ratner or its affiliates.
Having official government regulation of shuttle and charter buses, taxis, black cars, “dollar vans,” vehicle noise, music and honking; and
Adding more transportation demand management, including a residential parking program, installing a tax surcharge on all parking lots and garages within a half-mile of the arena during events, and analyzing the impact of remote parking lots and shuttle buses.
Several of these initiatives are based on programs in use in other cities, such as Newark and Chicago.
“I used to visit my brother in Wrigleyville, Chicago, right next to Wrigley Field, and I was amazed at the orderliness of the neighborhood as a whole after events there. That’s because they have an active neighborhood protection plan there,” said Levin.
Many of those who who attended yesterday's event felt that Sam Schwartz’s recently unveiled traffic management plan, officially sponsored by the Barclays Center, was incomplete.
Gib Veconi, treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council., said that in Forest City’s Amended Memorandum of Environmental Comments in 2009, several measures were discussed, such as including subway or bus fares in Nets tickets and establishing park-and-rides on Staten Island.
“I was expecting [at the meeting where Schwartz spoke] a discussion of the outline of the items discussed in the 2009 environmental memo. Instead, I mainly heard about parking reduction and marketing of mass transit,” he said.
In response to the overall plan, a spokesperson for Forest City Ratner said, “The document they released suggests somehow that the Transportation Demand Management plan was insufficient, but it focuses, as the name suggests, specifically on transportation. There are others who are specifically focused on security, sanitation and other issues all relevant to operating an arena.
“Also, they requested a meeting. I think you know we already meet with most who were at today's event every two months at the Task Force meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall.”
Empire State Development's director of Atlantic Yards, Arana Hankin, added: "ESD looks forward to continuing the conversation with the local community to determine ways to minimize the arena's impact. The Transportation Demand Management Plan serves as the foundation, but we will continue to ensure coordination with FCRC, City DOT, NYPD, MTA, LIRR, and all other relevant city agencies to ensure that the best possible mitigation plan is put into place."