By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It is now only a matter of months before the Barclays Center opens, changing the face of Downtown Brooklyn forever.
We’re used to audiences pouring out of shows by modern dance companies or a symphony at BAM, but that's nothing compared to the huge crowds that will be coming to the huge 19,000-seat venue for Nets games or to see such blockbuster acts as Rush, Neil Young or The Who. And it will be even busier if the Islanders decide to relocate there.
What will the scene be outside the arena after the events? Will “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz’s transportation plan work? Will Barclays’ security plan work?
We don’t know. But we do have a clue.
We just have to look across the river, at Madison Square Garden. Not only do the two venues share sports team and major concerts, but both are a stone’s throw from a major Long Island Rail Road station.
Looking in the area around Madison Square Garden, we see that there is a residential community to the south (Chelsea), but the few blocks south of the Garden are completely dominated by businesses catering to Garden-goers (although not exclusively). There are sports bars, convenience stores, fast-food outlets, and even one or two “real” restaurants.
We also see, in the five or so blocks between the Garden and the residential area and in one or two blocks west of the Garden, garages that offer discounts to people going to games or concerts. Gridlock Sam’s transportation plan relies heavily on the use of garages that are near, but not on top of, Barclays Center. The garages on West 31st Street, West 30th Street and so on are real-life examples of the same thing, and they seem to work.
What about the crowds, which some neighborhood residents fear will do such damage? Of course, as in any public event, you do have some rowdy, drunk kids hitting the streets near Madison Square Garden.
But before and after every event, we almost always see groups of cops standing around — and when I see groups, I don’t mean two or three, but 10 or 12, with cop cars, EMS vehicles and vans nearby. These cops’ mere presence keeps mayhem to a minimum. Yes, we do see scalpers — and we’re likely to see them at Barclays, too. But we hardly ever see gang fights or violent robberies.
Of course, there are important differences between the areas around the two arenas. Madison Square Garden is not a stone’s throw from two giant shopping malls, as Barclays is from Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal. The presence of the malls must be taken into account in any security plan. But bear in mind that most, if not all, of the stores in these malls will be closed by the end of games and concerts anyway.
No, we still don’t know if the traffic, transit and security plans for Barclays Arena will work. But the example of Madison Square Garden shows that something like these CAN work.
Raanan Geberer is managing editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle