When the roar of 18,000 Brooklyn Nets fans rocks the Barclays Center to life this fall, some will hear it as the clearest announcement yet that Brooklyn has arrived.There's a huge, unmentioned irony here: Atlantic Yards may be a symbol of Brooklyn's progress, but, employing relatively few locals, has not delivered the jobs and housing promised, nor proven a good investment of public dollars.
As Borough President Marty Markowitz put it, the sparkling new arena near downtown Brooklyn “will host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy.”
To proponents, the Nets' arena at Atlantic Yards is the exclamation point of the Brooklyn Renaissance—a flourishing of creativity, construction and coolness over the last decade.
But critics note that Brooklyn's economic gains have occurred predominantly in the northwest corner of the borough, where the Atlantic Yards development is situated. The neighborhoods in the central and eastern parts of the borough remain poor, and Brooklyn's overall poverty and unemployment rates outstrip the citywide numbers.
What's at fault?
Alan Fishman, chairman of Ladder Capital Finance, a commercial real estate specialty finance company--and, unmentioned, boards like the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership--blamed lack of job-readiness in a Brooklyn work force with low education.
James Parrott, the Fiscal Policy Institute's chief economist, blamed "an economy that doesn't create nearly enough decent employment opportunities."
Parrott's right that, as Crain's puts it, "Brooklyn's largest industries—health care and social assistance, retail, and food services—employ many local residents at low wages." And Fishman's right that the current economy rewards those who are better-educated and better-trained.
That's because Brooklyn, and New York, have lost a whole lot of well-paying blue-collar manufacturing jobs and, as with many other places, no one's figured out how to ensure a good quantity of well-paying blue-collar jobs.
A gloomy future
The article concludes:
Just as there is no consensus on the root of Brooklyn's economic inequities, there is no concerted effort to address them. Instead, city planners and private developers tinker with economic issues on a project-by-project basis.Maybe one could start by assessing whether the money spent on Atlantic Yards helped narrow Brooklyn's economic inequities.
“There hasn't been, to my knowledge, a really comprehensive plan done under the auspices of any government agency,” said Brooklyn Economic Development Corp. President Joan Bartolomeo.