Jun
29

Times kinda sorta supports naming rights deal

By · Published in 2009

Six days ago, I helped break the story of the MTA’s first naming rights contract. To recap: As part of the Atlantic Yards deal with Bruce Ratner, the MTA will receive $4 million over 20 years to add Barclays Center to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. subway stop. While the new name would identify an above-ground attraction, the agency did not want to give free advertising space to Barclays.

Today, The Times editors chimes in with their take on the deal. Based on the short editorial, it’s tough to tell what they really think of the day. They waver on the pluses and harp on the minuses:

We know [$200,000 a year] is a goodly sum and times are very tough for the M.T.A. But there’s reason to be skeptical about all of this, which probably explains why it took so long to sell even this one.

When you get off the train at a subway station, you want to know where you are, not who your sponsor is. Names aren’t as easily changed as all that, especially when they correspond — as the names of subway stations do — to the actual geography of the city.

The names of subway stations are beautifully utilitarian just as they are, shifting only as rapidly as the streets above them shift. The names of their sponsors are likely to shift with the economic climate, and somehow adding a name like Barclays to what is, after all, a public transit station — in Brooklyn — feels even more dissonant. So when it comes to selling naming rights, we’d like to urge the M.T.A. to take another approach: sell the naming rights to individual subway cars. Some Metro-North commuters already know the pleasure of stepping aboard the Thelonius Monk or the John Cheever or the Sojourner Truth. But in these times, it would have to be cash on the barrel from the M.T.A.’s honoree. Perhaps the Donald Trump?

Of course, this ignores the reality that plenty of spots around the city already bear corporate names. Rockefeller Center isn’t a public trust; it’s a private, corporate area. The Yankee Stadium stops, while signifying that a major attraction is nearby, existed at 161st St. and River Ave. long before the original stadium opened in 1923. Ditto for the Mets at Willets Point. If anything, this line of reasoning makes the case against naming rights.

In the end, the MTA isn’t going to stray from identifying the stations. The complex at 42nd St.-Times Square will always carry that name even if it becomes “42nd St.-Times Square brought to you by the Walt Disney Corporation.” If the agency can get some money out of the naming of a station with sacrificing the integrity of the name, then by all means, do it.



17 Responses to “Times kinda sorta supports naming rights deal”

  1. SEAN says:

    What about the A or the E, J, Z stops at JFK airport or even the Port Authority Bus Terminal for the A, C, E? Charge the Port Authority a naming rights fee for all those stations. Of course the Mets & Yankees should pay in to the MTA for having there name on there stations as well.

    Now there are business improvement districts throughout the city such as one in Times Square. Join these groups to help keep stations cleaner & safer.

  2. Rhywun says:

    Meh… whatever. NYC is already full of official appellations that absolutely nobody uses (“Avenue of the Americas”). What’s one more. If Barclay’s wants to pay $4M to confuse and annoy travelers, that’s their business.

    • I don’t really think it’s goin to confuse or annoy travelers. The Atlantic Ave./Pacific St./Barclays Center stop is going to be the one you want for events at the Barclays Center.

      • rhywun says:

        It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I bet 1/2 to 3/4 of subway announcers will not add the required “Barclays” when they announce it.

  3. Jerrold says:

    There’s nothing wrong with including the name of some well-known place(like a stadium, a university, or a hospital) in the name of the nearest subway station.
    But there WOULD be something confusing, and therefore wrong, if they were to permit “sponsorship” of a station that is NOT near some place with that name. For instance, if Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, or AT&T wanted to sponsor some randomly chosen station, it would just confuse the passengers who get off at that station.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    There’s a basic quality of life issue there. Billboards are annoying. Billboards on the subway map are even more annoying. Billboards on the subway map, purchased for what is de facto -$96 million not including inflation, are an outrage.

  5. Jerrold says:

    How did you figure $96 million?
    I thought that we were talking about $4 million spread over 20 years,
    which is $200,000 a year.

    • Alon Levy says:

      The MTA’s getting $100 million for Atlantic Yards, plus $4 million for the naming rights. The property is valued at $200 million. Hence, the MTA is essentially selling it for -$96 million.

  6. Lumi says:

    Furthermore, “42nd St.-TIMES Square” is, in reality, a corporate name too.

    • rhywun says:

      Yes it is. And if Barclay’s decided to have an actual presence at that intersection beyond a name–or even managed a “Barclay’s Square”–I might relent. One should remember that in 1904 newspapers were an institution–much more so than now. The only other corporate examples that predominate these days are sports teams–also institutions. A financial services provider than no one in this city has ever heard of–not so much.

  7. Ed says:

    Why not sell the naming rights for the entire subway system?

    So the subway system would be called the “JP Morgan Subway System” or whatever. You put the company’s name and logo on all the maps. However, riders would be confronted with the advertising only when they looked at a map.

    You could potentially raise alot of money this way.

    • SEAN says:

      True, but to avoid the corporate nonsence it is better I think to allow each station to go to a local community group or follow the examples I posted above with the Port authority or the Yankees & Mets.

      At major transfer stations you could have a corporate sponcer such as Barns & Noble at Union Square. The money goes to station upkeep, safety & the like.

      Does anyone realize just how much Contenental Airlines alone must be spending on ads in the MTA system? There ads are everywhere you look. So why on some level cant the MTA adopt some steady stream of income with naming rights.

  8. StreetsPariah says:

    The Portland Streetcar has a form of sponsorship on its stops. The automated announcement says, if I recall correctly as it’s been a while, “This is 11th and Glisan, sponsored by [some company adjacent to the stop].” I didn’t find this annoying at all. The intersection was named so I still knew where I was. Now as for the pokey speed of the streetcar…

  9. StationStops says:

    This is a bad idea, similar to the confusion embraced by visitors when they reach the north end of the FDR and attempt to locate the exit for the Triborough bridge (labelled now only as the ‘RFK Bridge’).

    Ironically, if you are coming south on I-95, its labelled as the Triborough, so, not only confusing, but not even consistent.

    NYC is a tourist destination, you can’t make transit labels so easily subject to change. Every day there are thousands of people who have never been here before with their 2007 Fodor’s guide or whatever.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Unfortunately, the only thing the community groups and the elite reformers agree on is that tourists are bad people. They walk slowly! They look up to see buildings! They don’t know the subway map by heart!

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