MANHATTAN — With neighbors sounding the alarm about the possibility of drunken hordes carousing outside the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, officials tried to downplay the venue's potential impacts Tuesday, pledging to run a "neighborly" facility that won't let "unruly" patrons wander the streets.
Barclays Center representatives made the goodwill statements at the first of two State Liquor Authority hearings on the 18,000-seat arena's liquor-license application.
Arena officials recently revealed plans to sell alcohol as late as 2 a.m. to high-roller customers in luxury suites and in other exclusive parts of arena — an announcement that worried some locals.
But at Tuesday's hearing, Barclays Center representative Julie Margolin said that at most 1,800 customers would have the late-night drinking privileges. Most arena guests would be in lower-priced seating areas where alcohol sales would stop at the beginning of the fourth quarter for NBA games, in keeping with league protocol, Margolin said.
Barclays Center officials said Tuesday that they had collected more than 50 letters of support from local residents, businesses and elected officials backing their liquor-license application.
But neighbors like N. Wayne Bailey, who lives in a 10-story residential building two blocks from the arena, want a strict 10 p.m. cut-off time for booze sales. Bailey said he and his neighbors, many of whom are families with young children, have "very serious" concerns about noisy, drunken crowds flooding their block until the wee hours.
"Our bedrooms face the street, and our kids and families need a good night's sleep," he said.
A Barclays Center official explained that the arena's operators share locals' concerns.
"All these issues are exactly the kind of thing we're worrying about and thinking about all the time," said Ashley Cotton, a spokeswoman for arena developer Forest City Ratner Companies.
Cotton said the arena would be "neighborly" and take steps to prevent "unruly" patrons from flooding the streets, making sure that sports fans and concert-goers don't leave the venue with alcohol or trash in their hands.
Bailey said he'd like to see the Barclays Center run similarly to Chicago's Wrigley Field, which is in a residential neighborhood and doesn't allow alcohol sales after 9:20 p.m, according to the stadium's website.
But an SLA official at Tuesday's hearing balked at comparing Brooklyn to the Windy City.
"I would take exception to calling us Chicago," said the SLA official, who did not identify herself at the hearing. "I can see comparing us to Yankee Stadium, but Chicago?"
In a letter backing the Barclays Center liquor-license application, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said the late-night cutoff time for alcohol sales was necessary to allow the Barclays Center to "fully deliver a world-class sports and entertainment venue" on par with Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.
But a spokesman for Brooklyn State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery slammed that comparison followingTuesday's hearing.
"This is not like Yankee Stadium or Citi Field or Madison Square Garden," said Montgomery spokesman James Vogel. "This thing has people living 45 feet across from it. It's in the middle of residential neighborhoods; it doesn't have a surrounding buffer of parking lots and highways the way Yankee Stadium and Citi Field do."
Vogel said most bars near the arena close by midnight during the week and 2 a.m. on weekends.
The recent announcement that the arena plans to serve alcohol as late as 2 a.m. caught some locals by surprise, because that cutoff time wasn't mentioned when Community Boards 6 and 2 were reviewing the Barclays Center liquor-license application.
State Sen. Montgomery and other local elected officials have asked the SLA to send the matter back to the community boards so they can provide their input again. Montgomery also requested a second SLA hearing, scheduled for June 20, where the public can voice its opinion.
Tuesday's hearing counted only a handful of attendees, but Vogel said he's hoping for a big crowd at the June 20 hearing, which is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"We need warm bodies in the seats," Vogel said, adding that he hopes neighbors will tell the SLA their concerns about raising kids alongside a major entertainment venue.
"[The SLA] also needs to hear the entire history this community has had of being stonewalled by this developer," he added. "The SLA doesn't have to be a party to this. They can make this work for Brooklyn. And the way to do that is to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m."