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New Barclays Center video features Jay-Z over Ratner; claims arena is at Ebbets Field redux; says borough's transformation "has prepared Brooklyn for the Barclays Center"

A new Barclays Center Video, produced for Nets Basketball and released last month, is a curious document, with a sampled hip-hop soundtrack, an upbeat narrator, exactly one person interviewed (Jay-Z).

The m.o. is apparently collages of Brooklyn icons, artisanal/hipster creativity, and historic architecture. Of course, there's no recognition of any controversy over the arena, nor the larger project to which is supposedly tethered. Below, I reproduce the narrator's copy, then interpolate my analysis, coupled with screenshots.

Brooklyn. The word itself resonates. It is a lifestyle. It is an attitude. From its rich cultural identity to its diverse neighborhoods and sports heritage, the borough has stood proud for many generations. And now, a new renaissance is taking place. 

Watch how they fudge the timing here. A "new renaissance" implies that that's it's not the first.

Indeed, if you consider that the arena is coupled to a 16-tower project, achieved via a state override of local zoning, you might think that the developer that is building the Barclays Center might be capitalizing on one of those "old renaissances," namely a significant increase in property values.

Over the past decade, a new economic, professional, and artistic identity has helped shape Brooklyn, the nation's fourth-largest city, into an exciting destination. 

If independent, Brooklyn would be the nation's fourth-largest city, but it's a borough, not a city. If it were, it would have a mayor, an independent economy, and its own newspaper, one that might look more carefully at land-use issues.

The transformation of its residential and business areas has prepared this great borough for an even greater future. It has prepared Brooklyn for the Barclays Center.

As for preparing Brooklyn "for an even greater future," I'm not sure Brooklynites, however much they might want to see a pro basketball game or a circus every now and then, will consider arena attendance key to that greater future. Maybe jobs and housing trump hoops.

The Barclays Center will be a state-of-the-art facility. The design will represent a more graceful approach crafted to enrich the fabric of Brooklyn, all to achieve a cultural and environmental synergy. The architectural elements combine the glory of Brooklyn's past and the contemporary flair of the borough's present to bridge the gap for its tomorrow.

Yes, that's (unbilled) Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, partners (55%/45%) on the arena, looking at renderings.

The narrator seems to be saying that weathered steel cladding, an oculus with video, and a view from the street into the facility will make the arena more approachable than some others. That doesn't do anything for the fabric of Brooklyn. Ongoing construction problems (see Atlantic Yards Watch) and an interim surface parking lot raise some questions about that promised "synergy."

Through community involvement, sports and entertainment, the Barclays Center will become the next great Brooklyn landmark, providing all those who visit with an opportunity for a truly landmark experience. 

Whoever wrote the script overdosed on the term "landmark," but if you think "community involvement"--even if college and even high school teams get to practice there--is the priority, then you haven't seen the ad campaign debuting today. And if anyone can identify what the imagery above represents--the imagery coupled with "community involvement"--please let me know.

Professional sports were once a cornerstone of Brooklyn, and helped define its persona. Now, after decades without its own major sports league franchise, Brooklyn will once again rise and cheer proudly for its neighborhood team. And home will be at the very spot the Dodgers proposed for the new Ebbets Field over 50 years ago.

The imagery connected to "its own major league sports franchise" is the screenshot at left: the Nets Dancers. A "neighborhood" team? That's an insult to the New Jerseyites and Long Islanders being told that the Brooklyn Nets are a regional team as well. As for whether the arena site is the site destined for Ebbets Field redux, that's not true. Not at all.

The Barclays Center will be more than just a venue, it will be a destination. With basketball, boxing, concerts, family shows, and special events, the people of Brooklyn will be presented with what the world has to offer. And in return, as people from all over the globe attend these events, Brooklynites will be able to stand proud behind its new landmark venue.

Coupled with the first sentence is an excerpt from that fantasy rendering of Flatbush Avenue traffic, as shown in the screenshot. Wouldn't Brooklynites "stand proud" if they had a piece of the action? But it's not a publicly owned team or municipally owned arena. And the people who attend these events are likely less to be "from all over the globe" than all over the tri-state area.

Jay-Z: "The NBA's never seen this level of excitement. I think it's going to be something that's unexpected. I think you are going to hear some things you've never heard before, I really believe that."

Is Jay-Z talking about basketball? Or concerts? Unclear, but maybe the video makers are counting on the general genuflection to every Jay-Z utterance, no matter how casually nonsensical.

Getting to the Barclays Center couldn't be easier. It is located just five miles from midtown Manhattan, and only minutes from the Brooklyn Bridge. The Barclays Center is also serviced by nine different subway lines, as well as the Long Island Rail Road. Plus, it's near every bridge and tunnel in the metro New York area, including New Jersey and Long Island. So no matter where you are, you're never far from the excitement of the Barclays Center.

The practice apparently is to always try to couple the Brooklyn Bridge and the Barclays Center whenever possible. They're trying to have it both ways--to encourage use of mass transit, but not to discourage drivers using bridges and tunnels. As for "near every bridge and tunnel in the metro New York area," that is, shall we say, a wild exaggeration. Try the George Washington Bridge, for one.

Once you enter the arena, you'll be surrounded by imagery that celebrates Brooklyn's rich history, yet at the same time, you'll be anticipating the sheer excitement of celebrating that next historical moment. A perfect mix of the now, the then, and the next, that you'll only be able to capture at the Barclays Center.

Attending an event is attending an event--some are great, some are lousy, some are in the middle. Entering the arena does not guarantee "the next historical moment," even if there's imagery like that in the screenshot above.


  1. Other observations on the video you may or may not care about...
    -The shot of businesses on Smith St. at the :14 mark shows the sign for Patois, which closed three years ago. Patois did re-open... In Manhattan. Hardly proof of Brooklyn's vibrance.
    - The same shot shows Stinky Brooklyn, which has since moved two blocks north on Smith St.
    - Marketers & real estate agents alike tout the "nine subway lines" that go to Atlantic/Pacific, but the 5 doesn't go into Brooklyn on weekends, and the B doesn't run at all on weekends. And either way, the 5 & the B essentially replicate the 4 & the D, respectively, and the 2/3 is also duplicative, in the areas where people who actually have the money to see something at the arena will come from (Manhattan & nicer parts of BK). So to say "nine" isn't wrong, but for practical purposes, it's really only six. And that's before maintenance, construction or the MTA's general aptitude for blunders invariably screws up other lines on temporary bases.

  2. Just for the record, the B replicates the D in Manhattan and the Bronx, but the Q while in Brooklyn.


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