Law­suits slam Bar­clays up­per deck as too steep, un­safe

New York Post - - FRONT PAGE - By KATHIANNE BONIELLO and DEAN BALSAMINI Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Melko­rka Licea kboniello@ny­

Blood be­ing spilled at Brook­lyn’s Bar­clays Cen­ter isn’t just on the ice, ac­cord­ing to four pa­trons who sep­a­rately claim they were crushed by fall­ing fans who failed to nav­i­gate the ill-de­signed up­per bowl’s steep, dark, nar­row rows.

No won­der these seats are called the nose­bleeds.

The steep up­per bowl of the Bar­clays Cen­ter has prompted at least four law­suits from folks claim­ing they were crushed by fel­low pa­trons who tum­bled over the sheer, nar­row, dark rows or stairs.

“I just heard a ‘Watch out!’ and like a split se­cond later, a pretty hefty guy landed on my back and on my neck,” said Ken­neth Sil­ver, 58, who was hit by a fly­ing fan at a March hockey game.

Sil­ver, who once had a reg­u­lar seat in the up­per level, said, “It’s al­most like peo­ple are stand­ing on top of each other. This is the most ex­treme arena I’ve seen in the New York area, and I’ve been in al­most ev­ery one.”

His lawyer said the 19,000-seat Brook­lyn venue’s “de­fec­tive de­sign” con­trib­uted to the in­ci­dent.

The Man­hat­tan man is just the lat­est to gripe about the At­lantic Av­enue arena’s pre­cip­i­tous cheap seats.

In 2015, a boy at WWE’s Sum­mer Slam was hit by a stum­bling, “vis­i­bly in­tox­i­cated” pa­tron who couldn’t nav­i­gate the stairs in Sec­tion 228, the child and his dad said in court pa­pers.

In 2013, Long Is­lan­der El­iz­a­beth Sil­ver was at Billy Joel’s New Year’s Eve show when she frac­tured her wrist sit­ting in Sec­tion 211. An ap­par­ently drunken fan top­pled into her, ac­cord­ing to her law­suit.

The prob­lem was clear as soon as the arena opened in 2012 with a se­ries of con­certs by Jay-Z.

Sara Smith of Man­hat­tan sued af­ter break­ing her wrist at one of those shows when the drunken lout be­hind her lost his foot­ing and sent her fly­ing.

She sought out se­cu­rity when the “rowdy” guy spilled beer on her hair, but af­ter 15 min­utes, no help ar­rived.

“He fell into me, and I flipped into the row in front of me. With force,” she said, ac­cord­ing to a court tran­script. “My face struck the rail­ing. My legs were all bruised, and you know, ev­ery­thing hurt at this point, so I didn’t know what I had bro­ken. I was just re­ally scared.”

Fans around her started scream­ing, and her friend tried to scold the fall­ing man, but he sim­ply shrugged and climbed back into his own seat, court records said. It’s un­clear if Bar­clays se­cu­rity made any ef­fort to iden­tify him.

Nearly 10 mil­lion peo­ple have gone to Bar­clays since it opened, said a spokesman who de­nied the arena has a fall­ing-fan prob­lem.

Smith and the boy’s fam­ily even­tu­ally set­tled their law­suits for undis­closed sums. El­iz­a­beth Sil­ver’s case is pend­ing, said lawyer Michael Cas­tro, who said he has got­ten at least a dozen calls in less than two years from in­jured Bar­clays cus­tomers.

While ine­bri­ated fans are part of the prob­lem, the steep in­cline of the up­per bowl is also a fac­tor in the fre­quent falls, as is the dense seat­ing, which leaves lit­tle room be­tween rows for peo­ple to safely pass each other, the lawyer be­lieves.

“I think you have a sit­u­a­tion that’s al­ready dan­ger­ous, and now you add in al­co­hol and it makes it ex­ceed­ingly dan­ger­ous,” he said.

The steep de­sign of are­nas is meant to bring fans who sit high closer to the ac­tion, ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers said.

“You don’t want to feel de­tached from the sport,” said Nader Tehrani, dean of Cooper Union’s Ir­win S. Chanin School of Ar­chi­tec­ture. “You want the sweat to hit you.”

Some fa­cil­i­ties, like opera houses and med­i­cal the­aters, are in­ten­tion­ally steep to al­low the au­di­ence the best view. Soc­cer sta­di­ums in Europe and South Amer­ica are “su­per steep,” Tehrani said, in­clud­ing the famed La Bom­bon­era in Buenos Aires, where the up­per deck has a ver­tigo-in­duc­ing 45-de­gree in­cline.

The up­per bowl at Bar­clays Cen­ter sits at a 36-de­gree in­cline.

An arena spokesman called that “stan­dard” for mod­ern are­nas, adding that at least nine other NBA are­nas have a 36-de­gree pitch, and three oth­ers have 35-de­gree in­clines. Some ex­perts dis­agreed. Most sports venues in the United States typ­i­cally have up­per seat­ing with an in­cline of 30 to 33 de­grees, said James Renne of the Detroit­based firm Ros­setti Ar­chi­tects, which de­signed Red Bull Arena in Har­ri­son, NJ.

The re­cently “trans­formed” Madi­son Square Gar­den re­shaped its up­per bowl dur­ing a $1 bil­lion, three­year ren­o­va­tion. It im­proved sight­lines, put fans 7 to 10 feet closer to the ac­tion, and made the area 17 per­cent steeper. But those changes still brought the up­per bowl’s pitch to only about 30 de­grees.

At Citi Field, which opened in 2009, the up­per-level in­cline is only 32 de­grees. Red Bull Arena, which opened in 2010, is 33 de­grees. Data for Yan­kee and MetLife sta­di­ums was not avail­able.

Golden 1 Cen­ter in Sacra­mento, where two fans fell in the up­per seats last year, has a slope of 34 de­grees.

The higher the de­gree of in­cline, the steeper the stairs. There also is less legroom, and a feel­ing that get­ting to a seat is like walk­ing a tightrope.

With lit­tle room to spare be­tween rows, and cup hold­ers which fur­ther block the space, fans in Bar­clays’ les­s­ex­pen­sive seats strug­gle to walk past each other.

“Many fans are not com­fort­able with a steep bowl. You want more room when you go up higher,” Renne said. “There is a per­cep­tion about the dan­ger of fall­ing.”

But there is no stan­dard an­gle for up­per-level seat­ing, and build­ing codes can al­low for steep seat­ing ar­eas, he said.

Still, in­clines of 34 de­grees or more can start to feel “too steep,” Renne said. “It’s just not vi­able to sit in a seat in that kind of sce­nario or an­gle. There’s a thresh­old.”

It’s un­clear how of­ten fans fall be­cause of the dicey de­signs, or if are­nas and sta­di­ums are re­quired to keep track of the in­ci­dents.

“I’ve heard of peo­ple fall­ing up there and peo­ple com­plain­ing it’s too steep,” said one Bar­clays worker who did not want to be named. “Most of the time when peo­ple fall, though, it’s be­cause they’re in­tox­i­cated. I al­ways tell peo­ple, ‘If you know some­one with ver­tigo, don’t bring them up there.’ ”

An­other worker added, “Even sober, I don’t even go past Row 15. It’s crazy up there.”

One Brook­lyn Nets fan said she re­fuses to sit up­stairs at the Bar­clays Cen­ter. “It makes me ner­vous,” she told The Post.

Ken­neth Sil­ver, who got hit at a New York Is­lan­ders game in March, was forced to leave the arena.

Bar­clays Cen­ter wouldn’t pick up his med­i­cal costs and has ig­nored re­quests for a copy of an in­ci­dent re- port, his lawyer, Dean Vigliano said.

“It’s a shame when a ded­i­cated hockey fan goes out for a night of en­joy­ment, and ends up spend­ing a night in the hos­pi­tal be­cause of de­fec­tive de­sign and in­ad­e­quate safety,” Vigliano said.

Sil­ver, who hurt his neck, knee and hip in the in­ci­dent, said he had seen oth­ers get struck by fall­ing fans in the Brook­lyn arena’s cheap seats but now that it’s hap­pened to him, he’s done with the up­per bowl at Bar­clays.

“I’ll never sit up there again. It’s just too dan­ger­ous,” he said. “It’s not a nor­mal arena.”

Bar­clays Cen­ter com­plies with the city’s safety codes and “was built to the high­est safety stan­dards in the in­dus­try,” said the spokesman.

It’s just not vi­able to sit in a seat in that kind of . . . an­gle. There’s a thresh­old.

— Ar­chi­tect James Renne

ISLE SEAT: A “pretty hefty guy” landed on Ken­neth Sil­ver (above) due to un­safe seat­ing at Bar­clays Cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the Is­lan­ders hockey fan.

IT’S A TIGHT FIT: A high in­cline and tight spa­ces be­tween rows may pose a dan­ger in the up­per lev­els at Bar­clays Cen­ter, law­suits al­lege.


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