By Norman Oder, City Limits
From City Limits, Reporting from CityLimits.org
One anticipated—and delayed—element of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a promise to rent the arena “to community groups for at least ten (10) events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support nonprofit community organizations.”
That community events program should finally become visible when the Barclays Center begins its third season of operations, at the end of September. Given the “significantly reduced cost,” said organizer Sharon Daughtry, executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), who spoke at a launch event March 14, “a lot of money can be funneled into our community organizations.”
Such events—which could include fundraisers, concerts, job fairs, and banquets—may be held in various arena locations, including the arena bowl, the Cushman & Wakefield Theater (a truncated version of the bowl), the practice court, the Calvin Klein Courtside Club and the 40/40 Club.
Events already suggested include graduation ceremonies and community-wide programs like a Stop-the-Violence concert, said Daughtry. The organizations, which will have to pay for insurance and certain arena services, are encouraged to partner with each other.
Nonprofit groups in Brooklyn that wish to participate have until June 15 to submit applications and other paperwork to the DBNA, which is funded by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, which signed the CBA in 2005. A random drawing to choose the 10 events should be held in July. (The events will be spaced out during the year, given available dates.)
Tickets Program Came First
As the arena opened in late 2012, the DBNA began another program also described in the CBA, the distribution of free tickets to community organizations for nearly every arena event: 50 to the arena’s upper bowl (often split between at least two winning organizations), four to the lower bowl, and up to 10 to a suite.
More than 370 nonprofits—including those involved in health care, education, addiction recovery, and tenant representation—have participated in the ticket drawing, which was heavily promoted only at the outset in 2012, with initial publicity in the neighborhoods nearest the arena.
The tickets program has become quite popular with groups involved, many of which have sent the DBNA enthusiastic thanks. Given at least four allotments of tickets to some 200 annual arena events, the probability of winning is fairly high.
The DBNA holds a monthly drawing for tickets and regularly distributes extra tickets to registered organizations that respond quickly on its Facebook page.
Arena Events Program Details
The new and separate events program has emerged somewhat slowly. In May 2013, Daughtry said the organization was still planning the community events program, which was expected to start in the arena’s second year of operations, last September. That was nudged back.
The DBNA launched the events program at its ticket lottery March 14, with more than 150 people in attendance at the Brooklyn Job Corps Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Last month the DBNA began further publicity. “I am thrilled that we will be able to use the arena’s stature to help worthy local organizations raise funds that will help them carry out their important missions,” said Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner in a press release.
While rental fees will be discounted for community-based organizations, the groups will still face some costs, which vary by space.
Large events in the arena bowl or the Cushman & Wakefield Theater must use arena ushers. All catered events must use Levy Restaurants, the arena’s food and beverage concessionaire. “You cannot bring your pan of turkey wings,” Daughtry said jocularly at the March 14 launch event.
Nonprofit groups must pay for the Barclays Center’s security and housekeeping staff. Daughtry said she couldn’t offer cost estimates, since each event will differ.
Groups eligible include nonprofit charitable organizations, schools (public or charter), religious organizations, block associations, hospitals or similar organizations operating within Brooklyn. The DBNA will focus its outreach—including attendance at community board meetings—on Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8, the areas nearest to the arena.
(The Atlantic Yards CBA named CBs 2, 6, and 8 as the “neighboring community,” as they each contain parcels within the project site. It was later amended, according to Daughtry, to add the slightly more distant CB 3.)
The application packet requires documentation of nonprofit status, organizational tax returns and details about the proposed event, including its size, purpose, whether tickets will be sold and the organization’s experience in hosting such events. Organizations also must provide a certificate of insurance.
Terence Kelly, community affairs manager for the arena, speaking at the March 14 event, said interested groups can visit the arena to tour potential spaces. Smaller organizations can team up to apply for joint events.
Once applications are submitted, the DBNA will discuss with organizations the feasibility of and best location for the events. “My older sister is going to be in charge,” Daughtry said of Leah Daughtry, who oversaw the 2008 Democratic National Convention and whose consultancy includes event management. “She really knows about arena work.”
“In addition to helping community organizations navigate the system, she will be helpful in tweaking and developing ideas for events that will be viable as well as lucrative,” Sharon Daughtry said. “She will also interface with the staff of Barclays.”
In July, a random drawing will be held, involving groups that have submitted qualified, complete applications. “We need everything to be fair and transparent,” Daughtry said at the launch event. “Nobody will be able to accuse DBNA of giving it to their friends.”
“We want every program to be done in excellence,” she added.
The DBNA and CBA
Later this year, the DBNA, with support from Forest City Ratner, will launch a community foundation that will accept proposals from community groups pursuing worthy projects. If those organizations hold fundraising events at the arena, Daughtry said, the foundation will get ten percent. “We want it to be self-sustaining,” she said.
The DBNA, which also oversaw the creation of the arena’s meditation room and plans an intergenerational initiative, among other things, is the most active of the eight groups that signed the Atlantic Yards CBA.
The DBNA was organized by Sharon and Leah Daughtry’s father, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in Downtown Brooklyn, a leading advocate for the Atlantic Yards project.
The CBA, which was crucial to perceptions of Atlantic Yards gaining community support, also triggered significant criticism, given that most groups were set up after Atlantic Yards was announced and have been financially dependent on the developer. By contrast, CBA signatories in Los Angeles, where the concept was pioneered, have had deeper community presence.
One prominent signer of the Atlantic Yards CBA, the job-training group Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), closed in 2012 after accusations of fiscal irregularities and Forest City’s subsequent decision not to keep funding it. BUILD and Forest City remain defendants in a lawsuit brought by trainees who say they were promised construction jobs and union cards.
While New York ACORN, which signed the affordable housing agreement that’s key to the CBA, has dissolved, successor groups continue that initiative, though the configuration of housing in the first tower, under construction, falls short of CBA promises. Evaluation of the CBA as a whole has been stymied by Forest City, since the developer never funded the Independent Compliance Monitor promised in the CBA.