Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brooklyn authenticity, Atlantic Yards, and those "Brownstone" and "Loft" suites now being marketed for the Barclays Center

The term "authenticity" is being bandied about a lot these days, thanks to sociologist Sharon Zukin's new book Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, subject of a major article in Sunday's New York Times and a forum at CUNY's Gotham Center for New York History. (Also see this interview with Zukin.)

And the concept has been used, rather aggressively, both to justify a new basketball arena in Brooklyn and to market arena suites named Loft and Brownstone, both references to Brooklyn features erased for the project.

What's authenticity?

But what exactly is authenticity? Zukin writes:
Claiming authenticity becomes prevalent at a time when identities are unstable and people are judged by their performance rather than by their history or innate character. Under these conditions authenticity differentiates a person, a product, or a group from its competitors; it confers an aura of moral superiority, a strategic advantage that each can use to its own benefit. In reality, few groups can be authentic in the contradictory ways that we use the term: on the one hand, being primal, historically first or true to a traditional vision, and on the other hand, being unique, historically new, innovative, and creative. In modern times, though it may not be necessary for a group to be authentic; it may be enough to claim to see authenticity in order to control its advantages.

If authenticity has a schizoid quality, it can also be deliberately made up of bits and pieces of cultural references...
At the panel

At a panel Monday night, Hunter College planning professor (and AY critic) Tom Angotti stated, "Every year we're reminded there's a project being proposed that will bring the Brooklyn Dodgers back. This is as if we missed the Brooklyn Dodgers."

"I really don't care if they ever come back," he said. "I would rather see our children have spaces to play baseball... as those parks that are built are increasingly crowded... while the city is being marketed for global athletic events."

Last March I wrote about a new book on the Dodgers called Forever Blue, excerpted in Sports Illustrated:
Was it true? Had O'Malley crushed Brooklyn's spirit? The answer is no. In 1963, after the Dodgers vanquished the Yankees in the World Series, a New York Times editorial titled Joy in Flatbush declared, "At last the wounds have healed." In 1969, when the New York Mets won the World Series, Brooklyn honored them with a rally at Borough Hall. The victory made the Dodgers seem like ancient history.
Back in November, 2005, Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Play savaged the relevance of Dodgers nostalgia in the context of the Atlantic Yards saga, contrasting owners, their devotion to sports, their commitment to local fans, the players, ticket costs, and commitment to local businesses, among other things.

An exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York in 2007 about the “Glory Days” of New York baseball (1947-57) added a gloss:
Why do the Glory Days continue to exert such a hold on the fans who experienced them? In part, is is because baseball was the big game in town, not yet truly challenged by the other league sports such as football or basketball. But while it was the big time, it was not yet the big business it is today.
Enter the suites

According to a 2/23/10 press release regarding suites:
With construction ongoing at the Barclays Center site in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), an affiliate of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC, is introducing Barclays Center suites to prospective buyers as 'Your Home Away from Home.'

BSE will initiate its public suite sale in March when prospective suite buyers can visit the multi-media interactive Barclays Center Showroom, located on the 38th floor of The New York Times Building in Manhattan.

...The Barclays Center, to be located at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, will be designed with 104 suites, including 68 Loft Suites... In addition to the Loft Suites, the arena will include 15 Brownstone Suites (16 seats each)
Loft? Brownstone? Both brownstones and lofts have already been demolished--and more would be demolished--for the arena.

Note the phrasing: "construction ongoing at the Barclays Center site." Not "construction of the arena." They haven't had a groundbreaking yet.

"Brooklyn's industrial heritage"?

Last September, two architectural critics interviewed on the Brian Lehrer Show took aim at the quote from Borough President Marty Markowitz, who called the arena "a luminous, iconic structure that celebrates Brooklyn’s industrial heritage."

"Now, I think of Brooklyn's industrial heritage and there are people who want to try to bring back manufacturing to Brooklyn," Lehrer mused. "This is instead building a high-rise complex..., and a sports arena. So... Is there something a little untoward about invoking Brooklyn's industrial heritage here or is there is at least something visually accurate?"

"When I heard that from Marty Markowitz, I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry," replied Francis Morrone. "Among other things, Forest City Ratner has been demolishing wonderful Brooklyn industrial buildings as part of this project, including Ward Bakery, which was one of the best industrial buildings ever built in Brooklyn... given that Ward Bakery and other buildings were demolished--to say that this building celebrates Brooklyn's industrial heritage is really actually a pretty disgusting thing to say."

"I agree with Francis," added Paul Goldberger. "I think that line wins the prize for the most disingenuous architectural comment of the year."

How many suites?

According to the latest press release:
The Barclays Center, to be located at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, will be designed with 104 suites, including 68 Loft Suites... In addition to the Loft Suites, the arena will include 15 Brownstone Suites (16 seats each) -- 14 of which are sold -- six Studio Suites, and four Party Suites. The arena will also include 11 Backstage Suites, which will offer exclusive access to a Champagne bar.
Though they seem to have added four suites, it looks like they lost one Brownstone Suite and that the Backstage Suites were once called Courtside Suites.

According to a 9/9/09 press release:
There will be 100 luxury suites, including 16 Brownstone Suites (16 seats each), 67 Loft Suites (10 seats each), 11 Courtside Suites, four Club Suites and two Party Suites. The arena will also include 40 loge boxes, six clubs and restaurants, and the Barclays Center Practice Facility on site.

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