Skip to main content

Did Brooklyn "do it again" or just get played? The endless marketing and unbearable banality of borough iconography

This week and next I'll try to compensate slightly for the failure of any metro columnists to show up and glean insights from the rich spectacle of the Barclays Center groundbreaking March 11.

They've already started milking it. "Brownstone" and "loft" suites planned for the Barclays Center arena. Regular invocations of the ineffable notion of "Brooklyn."

And copious use of Brooklyn iconography, as in the tote bag and hat pictured at left, among the parting gifts given to attendees at the event.

Get ready for even more "Brooklyn" as marketers for the arena gear up, and when Jay-Z--the minority owner who sucked up media attention in place of the Russian oligarch who'll soon own the Nets--wears some Brooklyn gear, well, it'll go flying off the shelf.

And when Jay-Z (as is likely) opens the arena with some concerts, expect much more "Brooklyn" in words, signs, and gear.

What does it mean?

But what is Brooklyn? Attitude? Street cred? A curated flea market? Family? Community? Desserts of high quality (as listed at right and pictured below, from the ceremony )? A massive police presence to tamp down peaceful protesters? A Borough President for Life?

It pretty much means what people want it to mean. Former Brooklynite Jonathan Silverman said at the Dreamland Pavilion conference last October, "New residents are using this idea of authenticity to soften their entrance into Brooklyn."

Count the Barclays Center as a very big new resident.

As seen in with the tote bag, where a homey-looking Barclays Center is flanked not by bollards, traffic, and "vaportecture" but the Brooklyn Bridge, the borough's most famous icon is a default example of "Brooklyn."

Indeed, on the cover of its special section (close to an advertorial, though not marked as such, featuring columnist Denis Hamill's Dodgers' reminiscences) the Daily News put not the Barclays Center but the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Barclays Center, rest assured, appeared in advertising. And, despite design guidelines that seem to ban rooftop signage, the arena roof serves as a giant billboard.

What they said

"Today is a great day for Brooklyn and for the soul of Brooklyn, which is very much alive," asserted Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in a nod to the effort by protesters to mourn and bury the soul of Brooklyn.

Markowitz's longrunning tag line is "as Brooklyn as they come," a nod to his embrace of cultures and cuisines, amid endless boosterism. Still, Rebecca Mead's 4/25/05 piece in the New Yorker (Mr. Brooklyn) portrayed, in devastating detail, Markowitz's willingness to play nice with developer Bruce Ratner.

The team "is really the catalyst to the revitalization of Brooklyn, one of the world's greatest places," Governor David Paterson said, somehow ignoring all the previous catalysts.

"We are bringing national professional sports back to Brooklyn, back to one of the greatest sports boroughs ever," added Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Indeed, there's a lot of sports spirit in Brooklyn, but who is "we"?

"Barclays shares our love for Brooklyn and is committed to our community," declared Markowitz, introducing Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays Capital, a British bank aiming to establish a consumer foothold here in the United States.

"It's truly an exciting day for Brooklyn," said Delia Hunley-Adossa, chairperson of the Community Benefits Agreement executive committee. "Once again, thank you, and congratulations, Brooklyn!" she declared in closing, lifting both fists in triumph.

The "Brooklyn" she congratulated consisted of people who made the guest list. The event was not open to Brooklynites, not even via a lottery. The people who made the deal happen got pride of place, and the people paying for it--the sponsors--got sweet treatment.

Meanwhile, in the background of the groundbreaking, Brooklyn industrial buildings on Dean and Pacific Street, once renovated into lofts by people catalyzing revitalization, face the wrecking ball. (Photo by Norman Oder)

Brooklyn's finest

Brooklyn native Jay-Z, whose banal statements generated genuflection from the media and elected officials, declared, "I stand here representing hope for Brooklyn, New York City."

(In 2007, he summed it up for Charlie Rose: "The heart of Brooklyn—Brooklyn, you notice, when we love something, when we get into something, our love for it is unmatched." Should it be pointed out that he now lives in Manhattan?)

"It gives me so much pride I'm going to get a little nervous about it, but I'm very happy, I'm very excited on this day," he said in closing. "We did it again, Brooklyn. Shout out to [Notorious] B.I.G."



From Biggie to Bruce

MTV added some context:
The tail end of Jay's speech hearkened back to the 1995 Source Awards, where Biggie shouted out Brooklyn during his multiple acceptance speeches. After Jodeci presented him with Album of the Year, Big — wearing a white towel on his head — and a horde of others came onstage to address the crowd.

"I wanna give mad love to my daughter, my moms, my manager, Gucci, my wife," he said. "We did it, Brooklyn. We did it. All them sh--. [I won] all of them [awards]. One love to all y'all mutha----as."
From Biggie to Bruce Ratner (an Upper East Side resident), it can all be seen as Brooklyn.

The connection to Biggie was a bit broken, however, given that no one spoke in quite such earthy cadences.

And, more importantly, Brooklyn didn't "do it again."

It was done by Forest City Ratner, thanks to copious assistance from government agencies and political leaders, such as a giveaway to the developer of naming rights, subsequently sold to Barclays.

Brooklyn "didn't do it again."

Brooklyn got played.

Comments

  1. Played is right. Another word is used.

    Brooklyn (the place and the brand) got used to sell a multi-billion dollar, multi-national monopoly and land grab, to benefit:
    A Cleveland developer
    A Russian oligarch
    A British megabank
    A Kansas City architecture firm
    A Manhattan architecture firm
    An Arizona construction company
    A Seattle sugar water company
    A Manhattan Mayor

    Brooklyn—done again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. where can i get the barclay's branded panini maker in the picture?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Funny thing is, I just saw parts of the movie "Notorious" the other day on HBO. I mean, I admit he was good at rapping but to elevate this individual to the likes of truly talented people in music and art is quite something else and speaks to the low self-esteem many people have to think of someone who fathered children out of wedlock with different women and rapped about drugs and gangs as someone to be lauded.

    It is not hard to see why some slicksters would use a Biggie Smalls or a Jay-Z to scam their way through the process. At least Jay-Z knows a thing or two about hustling. The residents of his old block are getting played for the fools that they really are.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…