Skip to main content

NPR: "Inside Brooklyn's New Barclays Center" (and the larger issues not addressed)

Yesterday, NPR's All Things Considered offered team coverage for Inside Brooklyn's New Barclays Center, an eight-minute piece that, according to the blurb, aimed to address "Questions [that] remain on whether the new arena project delivered on its promise of helping to transform Brooklyn — and the Nets."

The background

So we learn about the "Brook-lyn" chant, the (lousy, to me) "locavore black-and-white cookies" in the arena, and we hear some exaggeration: "much of the footprint of the arena sits atop a once troubled and deserted area that the city had been trying to develop since 1968."

First, not so deserted, given the gentrification. Second, about half of the footprint of the arena sits on the the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). Third, the city, while designating ATURA in 1968, did not try hard to develop it.

Here's a summary of Bruce Ratner's purported thought process:
You want to move the team to one of Brooklyn's most crowded intersections from the New Jersey Meadowlands. Your team hasn't had a winning record in seven years.
So you partner with a Russian billionaire. You engage in nearly a decade's worth of planning, and you're constantly aware of Brooklyn's reputation as Manhattan's lesser relation. You want to open the arena with a slam-dunk. Luckily, there's a fellow who owns about .075 percent of the team who can help with that.
That's a pretty quick hop-skip-and-a-jump over subsidies, tax breaks, and skirting of environmental review to get to Jay-Z.

The Jay-Z effect

Magazine editor Danyel Smith is quoted: "I think what Jay-Z and what Barbra Streisand represent for Barclays Center is, frankly, success, hard work, great music, hometown spirit, sort of a let's-go attitude."

Or, perhaps, also entertainers who distract from the larger story behind the project.

Smith later tells Frannie Kelley of branding the arena with Jay-Z: "It's major. It's huge. It's a pride-filled moment." (Kelley pretty much said the same thing last October.)

Underdogs and traffic

Yes, there's a mention of "some real underdogs," Freddy's Bar & Backroom, that were displaced for the project. And manager Donald O'Finn does get to say:
 "I don't want to be in that neighborhood anymore, and I want Brooklyn to have a basketball team. That's great. But what I don't want is I don't want millionaires when they want something to just be able to come and take it."
But the narrative is upbeat:
The construction of Barclays certainly caused disruptions, but the most dire predictions by the arena's opponents haven't all been realized.
That's true--there isn't gridlock at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Then again, a look at Atlantic Yards Watch shows reports like this, from Saturday, February 16: "9pm and 2.5 hours of gridlock/blaring horns (some for 90 seconds at a pop) just ended."

In closing

The end is a little cheeky, recognizing that the Nets got good by spending big, and that a "slice of Brooklyn that plays the role of greedy underdog while raking in the bucks." But it doesn't touch the larger story.

My posted comment:
The issues addressed in this piece--the basketball team, the lineup of musical acts, the role of Jay-Z, the level of traffic--were not the transformational issues debated during the long battle over the Atlantic Yards project (which includes the Barclays Center).
(And, by the way, a look at AtlanticYardsWatch.net shows that there are still significant problems related to illegal parking and idling in the residential neighborhoods around the arena.)
Rather, public support was premised on jobs and housing. The 10,000 promised office jobs are off the table--three of four office towers were swapped for housing, and the flagship office tower is on permanent hold. The 15,000 promised construction jobs are hard to fathom--especially since developer Forest City Ratner has decided to use modular construction to save money. The "2000 arena jobs" include 1900 part-time jobs without benefits. 
The first tower is going up, two years after it was first promised, and it will contain 50% subsidized units. However, the small number of family-sized "affordable" units will go mainly to middle-income rather than the low-income households who marched with ACORN for this project.
There are also larger questions about public subsidies, tax breaks, and free land--as well as the highly suspect use of eminent domain to acquire land and the acquisition of cheap funding from immigrant investors seeking green cards (who were told, misleadingly, they were investing in an arena).
The NYC Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss for the city. I call the process the "Culture of Cheating." All these issues might be part of a full midterm report.

Comments

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…