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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

Ratner's Arena Only 20 Feet from Streets

(We're sorry to ruin your Thanksgiving appetite with the following. Our Thanksgiving thoughts are here,)

Late Wednesday afternoon in a post on its City Room blog, the NY Times revealed that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena would be setback only 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

This short distance was misreported two weeks ago (as we pointed out and as in clear in renderings) in an article in the Times's print newspaper which stated definitively, but incorrectly, that Ratner's arena would be setback 75 feet from Atlantic Avenue and 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue.

Why doess this matter? Because in mid-October, two weeks before the grand-opening of Newark's new Prudential Center arena, Newark police officials realized that the new arena was too close to the streets abutting it, and those streets would have to be closed during arena events for terrorism protection. "You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy told the Star Ledger.

The streets in Newark are about 25 feet from the arena.

And today, on one of the deadest hard news nights of the year, Forest City Ratner has decided to reveal to the NY Times that if its Barclays Center arena is ever built it would only be 20 feet from two of Brooklyn's busiest streets.

What does the NYPD have to say about this? Well, it's a secret, says the Times:
...[Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren] Riegelhaupt confirmed that this meant that at all points, the arena would be set back at least 20 feet from the street.

Is that to say, he was asked, that at its closest point the arena would indeed be set back 20 feet from the street, or could “at least” mean 25 feet, or 50 feet, or more?

Mr. Riegelhaupt was initially unable to answer. The problem was that the location of the arena falls under the rubric of a “security issue,” a phrase that brings a magic cone of silence crashing down onto even the most innocent-seeming inquiry. Somehow the planned location of an 18,000 seat basketball arena had become as classified a piece of antiterror information as, say, the structural vulnerabilities of a bridge.

Finally, after more than 24 hours of tense negotiations, Mr. Riegelhaupt called at 1:43 p.m. today with the definitive number: at its closest point to the street, the arena will indeed be 20 feet from the street, on both the Atlantic Avenue side and the Flatbush Avenue side.

That is the same distance as the Newark arena is from its neighboring streets. So what’s different about the Atlantic Yards arena? That, Mr. Riegelhaupt said, is a security question, to be directed to the Police Department. The Police Department has said that its policy is not to comment on such matters.
(Emphasis added.)

Clearly, because the Times got it so wrong in its original article and the actual setback distance is of such great importance, the Times must publish this news in the newspaper. As Norman Oder writes on his Atlantic Yards Report:
...The Times's decision to publish the story first on its blog, in a rather un-Timesian narrative style, raises the question of whether the story will appear in print.

It should. The news that parts of the arena would be 20 feet from the street updates/contradicts/corrects the newspaper's previous report that it would be 75 feet from the street. Not putting that in print disserves the readers regarding a still-controversial issue.

(Read Oder's complete, incisive analysis of the Times's mishandling of this exclusive news, especially in contrast to other exclusives, which shall we say, which were favorable to the developer and perhaps not even newsworthy.)

More important than the Times mistake and downplaying of its rectification, is the fact that has finally been revealed: that the Ratner aarena is 20 feet from the streets, the Newark arena is 25 feet from the streets and they are closing the streets, yet the NYPD says they don't plan on closing streets abutting Ratnere's arena.

So how, exactly, is the situation in Brooklyn different than that in Newark?

Why did it take the passage of nearly one year since the project's political approval for Ratner to reveal that his arena is too close to the street? Why was this not revealed in the Environmental Impact Statement? Did the NYPD and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) know about these insufficient setbacks when their Board approved the proposal in December 2006? If they did know, why have they been so grossly irresponsible to the public by hiding it? And if they didn't know until reading the Times's City Room blog today, why have they been so grossly irresponsible to the public and what are they going to do about it now that it has been revealed?

Are Albany, Spitzer, the ESDC, and the Bloomberg Administration so in thrall to Forest City Ratner that they would ignore what any independent security expert would tell us, which is that: It's a security problem to have a glass-walled arena, 20 feet from major streets, surrounded by glass-walled skysrapers.

As the eight elected officials wrote to Spitzer and Bloomberg nearly one month ago, there needs to be an independent security study of the Atlantic Yards project.

With this newly revealed information it's time for the Governor and Mayor to stop ignoring the situation.

Posted: 11.21.07
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November 24, 2009
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