Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

GL Analysis: In Ten Years, Will They Ask "How Did This Happen?"

November 29th, 2007 · 17 Comments

Whether one supports or opposes the Atlantic Yards project, an arena that ignores the threat of truck bombs and other terrorist attacks is far more than a planning blunder: it is a calculated and almost unthinkable act of public negligence. Bromides from city government that the security threat is under control and that the issue simply can’t be discussed are unacceptable and dishonest. The Atlantic Yards security issues need to be dealt with publicly before a single shovel of Brooklyn soil is moved.

Like any other facility where thousands of people gather, the arena will, sadly, be a potential target. Unlike facilities that were planned in a pre-9/11 world, however, or are post-9/11 acts of public stupidity like Newark’s new arena, things can be done to make a possible Brooklyn arena safer and less disruptive. There are not many alternatives–the cost of knowingly putting thousands of people in harm’s way is too awful to contemplate. The prospect of creating a situation that will create a bigger traffic nightmare in the heart of Brooklyn during events is more benignly negligent, yet reckless too.

What if nothing is done? Our fear is that in ten or fifteen years, when maniacal mass murderers espousing a cause no one has even contemplated yet detonate trucks loaded with explosives outside of the Atlantic Yards arena during a basketball game or concert, there will be terrible loss of life. It will be followed by one of those wretched “How did this happen?” moments that inevitably follow catastrophes that could have been prevented. There will be an investigation and a blue ribbon commission. In Albany, there will be a legislative panel that points the fingers of blame at Gov. Pataki and at Gov. Spitzer. In Washington, Representatives and Senators will demand national security standards for arenas so there will “never be another Brooklyn.” Then, the arena will be rebuilt, set back further from the street, and become the “Barclays Memorial Arena” or the “Freedom Center.” More children will lose fathers and mothers, millions of hearts will be broken and billions of tears will be shed.

The risk of a terrorist attack on Atlantic Yards demands impartial studies, public hearings and corrective action before thousands of people are slaughtered in the interest of expediency. To do otherwise would be criminal negligence on the part of every public official that will have a role in a future tragedy.

One hopes such a scenario will never play out and that this will all prove to be unnecessary worry, but a more honest public process than has previously been the case in planning and approving the Atlantic Yards development is a minimal step to ensure that it is less likely to happen.

Tags: Atlantic Yards

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Yes, ten years from now after a ‘terrorist’ blows up this NBA basketball arena we will only be able to say “If only we moved that entrance back 15 feet!”

    Please, this is silly.

  • 2 Leah K. // Nov 29, 2007 at 7:55 am

    I disagree. I think it was well said. It should be like 75 feet from the street. But this leads to the obvious conclusion that… it’s an unsuitable place to put an arena.

  • 3 Sam // Nov 29, 2007 at 10:09 am

    While I disagree with the Atlantic Yards project all this talk about making it terrorist proof is ridiculous and resorts to fear mongering. Just because it works for the bush administration doesn’t mean people opposed to the atlantic yards should use it as a tactic

  • 4 Marc // Nov 29, 2007 at 10:37 am

    That was the most ridiculous piece I’ve read. If you don’t want an arena say that. Urban environments mean that people gather densely. If we build everything so that it can’t be blown up by a truck New York will look like the Paramus Mall.

  • 5 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I completely disagree. If we follow this line of thinking, then all important buildings (concert halls, arenas, government offices, office building with major tenants) should be set far back from the street. This would kill the City and totally undermine what makes New York great. Eveything is a potential terrorist threat and everything is subject to the threat of a truck bomb. Should we therefore make our city a fortress? This is really a digusting tactic to further fight the project.

    This is absolutely the most perfect space for an arena. It is incredibly well served by public transportation. I say this and I live in Prospect Heights.

  • 6 threecee // Nov 29, 2007 at 11:31 am

    sam: were the officials in NJ fear mongering when they decided that they had to close streets there, or were they being realistic? maybe, as leah says, Atlantic and Flatbush is not a suitable place to locate an arena, for security and other reasons.

  • 7 J$ // Nov 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    let’s just put some concrete planters by the curb and call it a day. wouldn’t setting the arena back 50 more feet just allow for a truck to gain more speed as it heads towards the building?

    also nobody’s addressing the issue of where 15,000 people leaving the arena at once will congregate (as crowds leaving arenas often do). most arenas have a large entry plaza.

  • 8 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Thank god I’m not the only one disgusted by this whole argument. This has to be the most craven use of terrorist hyperbole I’ve heard since the last time I watched a Bush news conference.

    If you object to the arena project, fine. But don’t wrap yourself in the flag and scream about terrorism. At best, you come across as a paranoid nut. At worst, you come across as the worst kind of deliberate fear-monger.

  • 9 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    “This is absolutely the most perfect space for an arena. It is incredibly well served by public transportation. I say this and I live in Prospect Heights.

    12:38 PM”

    Right, because as we all know, there is just so much AMPLE room on all the subway cars with the current population in this and the surrounding areas. Not to mention that there are NEVER any service changes or disruptions or construction being done on any of these lines, at any given point in the day.

    The MTA can hardly handle the current demand on the subway, how will it handle an additional 15,000 – 20,000 people flooding the system at once, and all at one hub? I’m really excited to hear more of those “due to an earlier incident…” messages while I’m trying to get to/from work.

    And what about traffic? That intersection is a nightmare, for both drivers and pedestrians. It will only get worse.

    I’m really curious to know what the city officials and the MTA have devised as a solution to these problems. For real…is there any data out there on this? Because I haven’t found any.

  • 10 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    “wrap yourself in the flag?” what on earth are you talking about. project critics, opponents, and supporters are asking the NYPD what impact their security and terrorism planning and precautions will have on the streets, street lanes and surroundings.

    That’s fearmongering and false patriortism? Are you suggesting that the NYPD isn’t doing any security/terrorism planning? that’s odd because they aren’t saying that.

  • 11 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Folks ought to be real careful. The security argument has a nice political potency to it these days (Rudy has made a presidential campaign out of it) but the results of it lead to a far more awful city than even the one Bruce is planning for us. Commenter 12:38 nailed it. NYC is full of targets. The arena is just another and it’s probably not the softest either (If I’m a terrorist, I’ll take a packed, high-rise megaplex movie theater any day. Anyone worrying about security for the Court Street 12plex?)

    And why is it all about moving the building away from the street? Why not move the cars and trucks away from the building? If NYC is going to continue to function then we’re going to have to start talking about streets like Atlantic and Flatbush and 4th as conduits for moving more buses, light rail, bikes, pedestrians and, of course, subway cars. Every Lower Manhattan arena event attendee should be getting on a ferry to the Atlantic Avenue pier and hopping on a free trolley to 4th Ave along a pedestrianized Atlantic Avenue. Period.

    Get rid of most of the cars and trucks. There’s your security plan. And economic development plan. And long term sustainability plan. And quality of life plan. And public health plan….

  • 12 calm the f down // Nov 30, 2007 at 10:49 am

    jesus christ, people. it’s fear mongering to bring up the fact that there is a precident for shutting down local streets due to how close an arena is to the street? regardless of how you feel about the project i think everyone can agree that it should be built in a way that will not require them to close streets every time there is a game. this isn’t to say that i agree or disagree with the idea that being close to the street will make it an easier target, just that i saw what happened in newark and would be pretty pissed off if the same thing happened here even with the benefit of hindsight.

    and yes, it is a bit of a ridiculous piece but it seems like it did it’s job (more comments than i’ve seen on this blog might mean that people are at least thinking about the issue).

  • 13 Anonymous // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    well said Gowanus Lounge!!
    this is is an unspeakable lack of public safety in the hands of too few people…what will it take for planning that is safe and well thought out in NYC? is it so hard to combine new development with the public good? something is seriously wrong in Brooklyn when the lack of planning is called “fear mongering”….that seems like it was the attitude after the first World Trade Center attack as well…people wake up we are at war for Gosh sake…and we will be for years to come and to not plan for the safety of Brookynites when we have the chance with a NEW building is insane!!

  • 14 minerva // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I think some of the nay-sayers are not taking some of the special attributes of this building into account. Besides being a transportation hub, it is covered with a glass sheath, which make it a particularly good target for a terrorist, as the breaking glass will injure far more people, and also the location has already been the object of a plot a few years ago, which was only stopped because on of the terrorist’s roommates went to the police. So yes, I think they have some work to do here.

  • 15 you've got to know when to close 'em // Nov 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Calm the F,

    Closing the streets down every time there’s a game might be the best thing that ever happened to Downtown Brooklyn and surrounding neighborhoods. As I listen to the sound of no one blasting their horn, boom stereo or revving engine in front of my house I’ll try to remember to say thanks to Al Qaeda.

  • 16 Anonymous // Dec 1, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Fear mongering sucks. Really. And I’m on your side. Please give it a rest. The terrorists do not want to blow up Jason Kidd. And they aren’t going to set off a bomb a block away from the heart of Islamic Brooklyn on Atlantic Ave.

  • 17 Anonymous // Dec 2, 2007 at 10:19 am

    “…they aren’t going to set off a bomb a block away from the heart of Islamic Brooklyn on Atlantic Ave.”

    Didn’t seem to matter in the 90’s when the pipe bomb in the Pacific Street station was thwarted one hour before happening.

    I don’t get all these people calling this “fear mongering.” Nothing about the Atlantic Yards boondoggle has stood up to close examination; the powers that be have known from the start that it was so bad they moved it to oversight by a corrupt and secretive state agency (ESDC) to minimize any ability to ask the most obvious questions. Security at the arena has been questioned for 3 years now, and the ESDC has been relying on a favorite of both Bush and Giuliani when he was mayor: “We can’t tell you for security reasons.”

    I know everyone would like to avoid the smell of bullshit, but it’s a good idea to look where you’re going when you smell it.