Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NBA All-Star Promo Concert Featuring Mystery "A List" Performer Not Welcome At Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (North) 23rd and Fifth Avenue. Residents and businesses are upset over a large promotional concert scheduled for February. The Plazas were created by the Department of Transportation and designed for passive use. It is CB 5's understanding that these types of events would not be returning to the Plaza after a smaller NBA event was allowed which upset residents and business owners.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge)


By Geoffrey Croft

Flatiron residents and businesses are incensed over a proposed concert in the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza scheduled for Feb 12th.

An NBA All-Star weekend tie-in promotional event featuring an “A-list” entertainer which the city refuses to disclose will feature entertainers and athletes and is expected to draw 10,000 attendees.

Fifth Avenue and Broadway traffic will be shut down and vehicles diverted for hours in order to accommodate the proposed 45 minute concert. Critics counter that the event would be much better situated in Times Square.   CB 5 called on the city to "put an end to out-of-scale commercial events in spaces that are far too small or otherwise inappropriate."

Organizers will announce the performer's name a week before the event and begin distributing tickets.  Several Community Board members speculated at a recent meeting that the entertainer might be hip-hop mogul Jay Z whose club 40/40 is a half a block away on W. 25th street and whose company Roc Nation is involved with producing the TNT cable channel festivities.   

According to the city VIP's are expected to be a part of the event.   During the meeting a board member it was also pointed out that Jennifer Lopez and Chelsea Clinton are area residents (along with NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon) who all live a half a block away in the same building. 

The special event would take over the Pedestrian Plaza for at least 4 days between February 10th-14th and wreak havoc on Fifth Avenue and Broadway traffic, including shutting down traffic for hours all for a 45 minute concert.  

The event will require many street closures and vehicle diversions: 5th Avenue and Broadway from 23rd Street at least to 26th Street and possibly beyond, 24th and 25th Streets between Broadway and 6th Avenue, and the length of 26th Street from Madison Avenue all the way to 6th Avenue.    

The massive production will require moving over 100 granite blocks and standing planters, a CitiBike docking station, A BID information booth, trash receptacles and two solar-powered charging stations. Many of the items are expected to be relocated to the southern pedestrian plaza btw. 23 & 22nd Street rendering the southern plaza equally unusable for the four days required for the event.

The production would require moving a CitiBike docking station.

The sidewalks on the western side of Madison Square Park will also be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel.

Community Board  5 blasted the proposed commercial festivities calling it, "grossly inappropriate for the space," at its last Parks Committee meeting.   

The board was baffled why this was not being proposed for Fr. Duffy Square in Times Square as it was originally proposed instead of being merely a backup location, which the board called, "a far more appropriate location for an extremely large,  entertainment-focused commercial event. "

The Board fired off a letter last week to Mayor De blasio stating that is was "perplexed about why an event of the size and nature of this example is being shoehorned into a space where it so clearly does not belong." 

The event will install six lighting towers, audio and video equipment resulting in excessive amplified sound.   The staging for the event will require that all of the open space and all of the amenities presently enjoyed by the public in the north Pedestrian Plaza - including DOT’s recently installed public art program to be off limits.  

The set-up will be twenty-four hours a day beginning at 12:01 AM on February 10, with three active overnights involving the use of forklifts and heavy equipment operating in close proximity to residential buildings and scores of local businesses. A steel stage structure 60-feet wide is to be constructed over an existing fire hydrant on top of the Pedestrian Plaza, rendering it unusable the board noted.

The CB 5's understanding that these types of events would not be returning to the Plaza after a smaller NBA event upset residents and businesses. 

In October 2013,  TNT was allowed to take over the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza for its NBA pregame studio show for the opening night of the basketball season,  part of a three-day celebration. They installed a basketball court,  NBA 2K14 video game kiosks. A large videoboard perched 30 feet above Broadway and Fifth Avenue for fans to watch the show which included live coverage of the Miami Heat's championship ring ceremony.

"Why are we here talking about this,"  Clayton Smith, chair of the parks committee asked Emil Lissauer, the Deputy Executive Director of Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO).  

Smith stated that the board got a commitment from the city not to hold these types of large scale events in the future after the previous event.

"I don't remember it that way," Mr. Lissauer replied. 

Mr. Smith pointed out that this event is even bigger. 

Worth Square- between 24-25th St.  The proposed concert area would extend up to 26th Street and include Broadway and Fifth Avenue. 

The SAPO representative also said area residents and businesses would be given priority to tickets but did not say how many tickets would be available or how they would be distributed to the pre-ticketed event.  

The representative also said the Parks Department requested an eight-foot high fence be erected so that the public cannot view the event from Madison Square Park, an idea that the parks committee chair described as, "gulag weird."

A Parks Department spokesperson disputed SAPO's claim regarding who requested it.

"Parks did not request this fence. It was a suggested solution to a concern we raised of protecting plant beds in areas where site lines might allow viewing to an otherwise ticketed event," said Sam Biederman.  

At the meeting  Mr. Lissauer also said that there was a possibility that at least part of the park property would be utilized on the park's west side.

"The western sidewalks of Madison (Square Park)  will be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel – these areas are not being used for production or viewing purposes," the Parks Department spokesperson said. 

The community board also did not appreciate that the Street Activity Permit Office rep did not present a site plan at the January 5th meeting. 

In their letter to Mayor De blasio the Board said they, "unanimously found that the event is inappropriate in terms of scale, duration, volume, and impact for this dense commercial and residential area of our district, and will result in an unacceptable impact on neighbors and businesses.

Community Board Five strongly stands in opposition to this and, frankly, any event of this scale in this pedestrian plaza, whose creation by the Department of Transportation was designed for passive use.  We do not support the usurping of this public space, the dislocation of all of its public amenities, and the considerable inconvenience to the neighborhood’s stakeholders by events of this size and magnitude, " the January 9th letter stated.                  

The Board was also not pleased that the city was bypassing submitting a special event application for park activities which the Community Board would normally have the opportunity to officially weigh in on and vote even though the event would be utilizing two parks properties - Worth Square  -  and the sidewalk in Madison Square Park. 

When asked how the applicants were able to get away with this the Parks Department spokesperson said the application for the backup site in Times Square was amended after the January 5 Parks Committee meeting. 

"The application requesting Duffy Square was amended to list Madison Park.  It is our practice not to require applicants to file anew if a requested venue is decided against or unavailable; rather we allow an amendment to the application." 

The Flatiron/23rd Street BID will get a "significant fee," according to the SAPO representative.  The city confirmed that the Parks Department was also getting a fee but that nether fees had been worked out yet.

The sidewalks on the western side of Madison Square Park will also be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel.  An eight-foot high fence will be erected to prevent the non-ticketed from being able to see the event, an idea the CB 5's Parks Committee chair described as, "gulag weird."

The Community Board also questioned why the Street Activity Permit Office is being given sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for pedestrian plazas instead of the Department of Transportation which is the city agency responsible for their oversight.

The board stated that no mechanism had been put in place to ensure proper public review of large events in the district’s pedestrian plazas and said that to date, there have been no modifications to the existing procedure by which the Street Activity Permit Office manages the placement of large events in these public spaces.

They also ripped into the fact that there was no mechanism for public review of these events.

"Residents and business owners in our district are deprived of any notification of proposed events in these public spaces. Nor does the community have any opportunity to make their voice heard at a public hearing, as they have come to expect from event applications that are submitted to the Parks Department for events that take place on parkland. This is a systemic dysfunction that it is past time to address," the letter said.  

They called on the city to "put an end to out-of-scale commercial events in spaces that are far too small or otherwise inappropriate."

Despite repeated requests for comment  the DOT refused to answer questions from A Walk in the Park.   The city says SAPO is still reviewing the site plan,  including any items the BID and Community Board have raised.

 The massive production will require moving over 100 granite blocks and standing planters. 

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (South) Many of the items moved from across the street to accomidate the event are expected to be relocated to the southern pedestrian plaza btw. 23nd & 22nd Street, rendering this plaza equally unusable over the four days.

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (South) 

The proposed concert area would include Broadway (L) and  Fifth Avenue (R) and the Parks Department's Worth Square between 24-25th St. seen in the background.

1 comment:

  1. Rihanna is the mystery guest.
    The conservancy at Madison Square Park has decided to close the park the day of the concert.
    This event is an outrage.