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 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.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…