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December 7, 2009

Tomb of the Unknown Ratner, or a sneak peek at the future Barclays Center security perimeter?

NoLandGrab

For seemingly as long as some people can remember, what will be the main street-level entrance to the Long Island Railroad's Flatbush Avenue terminal has been under construction, and, more often than not, hidden behind scaffolding. Not long ago, however, the scaffolding came down, revealing a curved, windowed fa├žade, framed in pale stone and fronting an atrium.

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Then, more recently, some scaffolding went back up, and crews began some work on the small plaza at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hanson Place. In the past few days, the nature of this work was revealed: a closely spaced series of enormous, intrusive, Sarcophagus-like — and butt-ugly — blocks.

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Our first thought was that the Brooklyn Museum was preparing an outdoor installation from its Egyptian collection, or that perhaps Green-Wood Cemetery had finally reached capacity. But then reality intruded, and we realized that we were looking at the Atlantic Terminal's new security perimeter — and perhaps, a test run for perimeter security at Bruce Ratner's planned Barclays Center basketball arena.

When several elected officials in November, 2007 called for an independent review of security plans for the arena, after Newark police required the closing of a busy street adjacent to that city's Prudential Center before and during events (and after Forest City Ratner misled journalists about the proximity of the arena to Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues), they were rebuffed by Forest City and city and state officials, and police spokesman John Kelly pointedly told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that the NYPD didn't "foresee any street or land closures, sidewalk widening around the arena or the installation of bollards [emphasis, ours].

OK, but what about massive concrete and granite boxes the size of small cars, likely to frustrate pedestrians as much, or more, than terrorists?

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If the MTA and Forest City believe it's necessary to place Gaza-sized security outside the Flatbush Avenue terminal, which is occupied by perhaps a couple thousand people in transit at any one time, what might they have planned for the space surrounding the Barclays Center, which, assuming significant improvement in the play of the Nets, would hold 18,000+ seated patrons for two or three hours at a time?

As the photo below (taken by Michael D.D. White) of the model of the latest iteration of the Barclays Center indicates, the arena would nearly overhang Atlantic Avenue (at right in photo; that's Sixth Avenue in the foreground). Would the sidewalk along Atlantic be lined with barriers similar to the ones being installed at the Atlantic Terminal? Would other "publicly accessible" space be cordoned in the same manner?

It's also worth noting that while NYPD spokesman Kelly didn't foresee the installation of bollards, the Barclays Center Arena Preliminary Official Statement anticipates the installation of "sidewalks, bollards and street trees" in the main entry plaza, or, as Bruce Ratner likes to call it, the "Urban Experience" outside the arena. So which is it?

The public has a right to know how allegedly public space will be configured. An independent security review need not reveal blast resistance and composition of materials, but it should certainly reveal whether or not sidewalks will be able to handle the flow of crowds, and, crucially, whether or not traffic would be restricted in any way. Because protecting a 21st century arena shouldn't depend on technology from Egypt's Fourth Dynasty. When Bruce Ratner promised "world-class design," we didn't think he meant the world circa 2500 B.C.

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Posted by eric at December 7, 2009 10:06 AM