Skip to main content

As Amnesty International concert approaches, Barclays Center setting presents an irony; conservative intellectual Salam, "Brooklyn nationalist," hails Nets without skepticism

Tonight at the Barclays Center is the Amnesty International Benefit, "Bringing Human Rights Home," featuring, among others, the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, formerly imprisoned by the state.

As a 1/31/14 article in Newsday explained, Amnesty for more than 30 years has partnered with musicians, but this is the first a mega-show since 1998. Tickets range from $54.50-$255.

"Twenty-five years ago, Amnesty joined with some of the greatest musical artists of the era, and they used their talents to throw a light on human rights abuses around the world," Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told Newsday. "That helped inspire a whole generation of young activists. Our membership tripled during that period. Now, it's time to engage with a new generation of artists in the same way and inspire another generation of activists."

Not everyone's on board

Several people in Brooklyn have written to Amnesty International or posted on Facebook their dismay about the contrast between the concert's ideals and its setting. As Eric McClure (No Land Grab) wrote to Amnesty:
As someone who strongly supports Amnesty International’s important work, I am writing to express my grave disappointment at your selection of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as the site for your “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert on February 5th.
It’s sadly ironic that you’re staging this concert at a venue that was built with complete disregard for property rights, which many consider a human right. The Barclays Center was railroaded through by means of a series of anti-democratic back-room deals, fueled by massive taxpayer subsidies and reliant on the abuse of eminent domain. In fact, I wrote a blog post in March, 2010 for highlighting the uncanny similarities between the Brooklyn neighborhood in which the arena was to be constructed and Israel’s Occupied Territories:
Many of us who live here in the community surrounding the Barclays Center won’t set foot in it, as we know too well the abuses behind its creation. It’s dismaying that an organization like Amnesty International, which does so much to promote human rights and fight injustice, would choose such a place to stage this event. It’s a decision that, in my humble opinion, is entirely not in keeping with your core values.
Of course, as McClure acknowledged, life in Prospect Heights was not like life in the Occupied Territories. However, the behavior of the authorities was disturbing and unaccountable in its own way.

Or, as Gib Veconi wrote on Facebook, as noted on the Battle for Brooklyn page:
It's a strange world. A concert themed around human rights is being held at an arena built on property seized through eminent domain. And one of the acts was until recently imprisoned by the head of state whose political supporters include one of the arena's owners.
Winning people over

Still, entertainment and sports have power to trump other analysis.

New York magazine's Sam Anderson in a 9/16/07 article observed that Atlantic Yards had been “a rousing, unintentional success” in community building, but also offered a pregnant warning: “But sports, recent history has taught us, can transcend even the deepest cynicism—which is why it’s such a powerful tool for professional cynics.”

So, consider a 1/24/14 ESPN essay Learning to love the Brooklyn Nets by conservative intellectual Reihan Salam, who expresses unfettered, un-skeptical enthusiasm:
Before the Nets moved to Brooklyn, I knew almost nothing about professional basketball, or basketball in any incarnation....
Yet when I first heard that a professional sports franchise was planning to move to Brooklyn as part of a multi-billion dollar real estate transaction, I was intrigued. The reason is that I am, and have long been, a Brooklyn nationalist... Though I was born decades after the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, I grew up with a sense that a grave injustice had been done to my city -- a crime that would one day be avenged.
Truth be told, most of Brooklyn "got over the Dodgers," at least until Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer emerged.

Brooklyn didn't get respect in the 1980s and 90s, according to Salam, so--and I compress his logic somewhat--"how could I not love the Barclays Center, the beautiful alien vessel that is home to the Brooklyn Nets?"

So he began to learn the game of basketball, but "wasn't quite hooked" at his first game. Then Salam bought half-season tickets with a friend who's a die-hard fan. Now he roots for the players on a personal level. He writes:
Then there is the raw power of being in an enormous room full of people shouting “Broo-klyn” at the same time. These are my people. Yes, our team has been pretty terrible until recently. Yes, we have the worst mascot in the NBA. But whether it’s fans from the Jersey era who've stuck with the team or former Knicks fans who are sick of Jimmy Dolan and want to give Brooklyn a shot, or people such as me who are still extremely confused by foul calls (I do know that the refs are always biased against us), we’re sharing in this crazily intense collective energy. It is weird, and it is glorious. 
Thinking twice

Yes, that's how sports fandom often works. But it should be difficult to embrace the arena and team wholeheartedly while knowing the full story of how they came to be. Most people don't bother, understandably. (Paging Will Leitch.)

It's disappointing that Salam seems to have let his sports fandom trump his analytical politics. After all, writing in Forbes in April 2010, Salam noted that "eminent domain abuse almost always involves transferring wealth from the politically weak to the politically strong."

Could it be that developer Forest City Ratner, with enablers like Mayor Mike Bloomberg, constitutes the "politically strong"?

Shouldn't Salam be a little discomfited by Forest City executive MaryAnne Gilmartin's dubious claim that the Atlantic Yards site represented "massive blight"? Or the rest of the "Culture of Cheating"?

Oh, well, they're bringing human rights home.


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 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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …