Barclays Center Neighbors Say MTV Stiffing Community on Donations, Meetings
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — They want their MTV, if the M stands for meetings and money.
Neighbors near the Barclays Center, where MTV is hosting the Video Music Awards on Aug. 25, say the music network has refused to meet publicly with community members about the impact of the awards show, and hasn't donated to neighborhood groups.
The internationally televised event, where megastars such as Kanye West and Lady Gaga are scheduled to perform, will include fans watching from bleachers as celebs in limos pull up outside the arena, sources familiar with the plans said.
Preparations have already begun inside the Barclays Center, and neighbors should start noticing increased truck traffic to and from the arena around Aug. 21, a Barclays Center representative said last month.
Details about street closures and traffic re-routing were laid out in a July letter to the community, but locals say their requests for a public meeting where they can air their concerns have been ignored.
"The only thing we’ve received so far is a notice about when the streets are going to be closed," said Tom Boast of the Carlton Avenue Block Association. "We’re pretty frustrated."
Boast said he and his neighbors are worried about "traffic, sanitation, crowd control, and other neighborhood disruptions," but have yet to hear from MTV or the Mayor's Office of Film — which issues permits for street closures — about how those issues will be handled.
Representatives for MTV and the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting didn't attend the public forum where Barclays Center officials first unveiled the list of street closures. A meeting with neighbors, MTV, the Mayor's Office of Film and the 78th Precinct — which oversees the arena — was scheduled for late July, but abruptly canceled at the last minute, angry locals said.
"Are they really paying attention to this neighborhood? Who knows. It doesn’t seem like it," Boast said.
Community members are also wondering why the music network hasn't made monetary donations to nearby block associations or other groups, a common goodwill gesture when film and TV companies shoot for several days in a neighborhood.
So far the only compensation locals have received was an offer of discounted tickets to the awards show, which has been the scene for some memorable pop culture moments, such as Kanye West's notorious on-stage interruption of Taylor Swift in 2009, and Beyonce's unveiling of her pregnancy in 2011.
Neighbors were given a special code good for 12 hours on TicketMaster where they could buy a maximum of two tickets for $75 a piece. They were asked to keep the offer confidential.
Locals say they deserve more for the headache the awards show will create, especially because MTV wants to use their blocks to as a backdrop.
"I don't care about discounted tickets," said Community Board 8 member Robert Puca. "I want mitigation of the impacts, or compensation for it."
MTV spokesman Jake Urbanski said the network has met privately with local residents and "community leaders," and "will continue to engage the community as we get closer to our event date." He added, "We welcome any questions or concerns and have set up a dedicated e-mail account and toll free number to contact us."
As for donations to neighborhood groups, they'll come in the form of "free VMA tickets to dozens of worthy, local organizations benefiting youth, students and the arts," Urbanski said.
A Barclays Center spokesman said arena staff and representatives from MTV and the city have "met with nearby residents and have also reached out to many more to outline the planned closures and to provide parking alternatives for those impacted." He added that arena staff has responded to "any questions raised by neighbors."
A spokesman for the Mayor's Office of Film said the agency "work[s] closely with the community daily to ensure production citywide runs smoothly," and noted that neighbors were given a phone number they could call with questions or concerns.
Elected officials have called the Video Music Awards an honor for Brooklyn.
"Brooklyn is home to icons like the Cyclone in Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge, and now it can lay claim to the MTV Video Music Awards," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement when Barclays Center first announced it was hosting the awards.
He added, "Bringing the VMAs to Brooklyn will mean hundreds of jobs as crews work on the production and provide a boost to our local economy as attendees stay in hotels, visit local eateries and experience all Brooklyn and our city have to offer."