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

A call to re-name the Nets? That's grandstanding. Pursue accountability re Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park

What started as a proposal to add the name Jackie Robinson to the Barclays Center or environs has mushroomed.

The unbylined lead story in the (flimsy) Brooklyn Eagle print paper yesterday was "Rename Nets after Jackie Robinson, says a Brooklyn Assemblymember." It was picked up by Patch and then the Brooklyn Paper.

From the Eagle:
Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D/WF-Brooklyn) sent a letter on Tuesday to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Joe Tsai, the governor of the Brooklyn Nets to ask for the Nets to change their name to something that pays homage to Jackie Robinson, the first athlete to break the color barrier in professional sports in 1947 while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“The Nets moved to Brooklyn eight years ago but have still kept their New Jersey nickname. It’s time for the Nets to fully embrace their Brooklyn roots by changing their name to honor one of Brooklyn’s most iconic and important sports stars — Jackie Robinson. Brooklyn is a dynamic, diverse, and animated place, we shouldn’t have our team named after an inanimate object,” said Assemblymember Carroll.
Carroll says in the letter that he supports the idea of renaming the Barclays Center after Robinson, but thinks that Brooklyn’s only professional sports franchise, the Nets, should follow suit.
Commenters were quick to point out that the Nets haven't simply "still kept their New Jersey nickname," but also were descended from the Long Island Nets. Another wrote:
What does Jackie Robinson have to do with the Nets or with Barclay Center? If you want to honor a baseball legend, name a baseball field or a baseball team after him, not an unrelated team or building that has nothing to do with baseball.
It's grandstanding

While Carroll's sentiment has some value, as I'll discuss below, his proposal is simply grandstanding, as I tweeted.

It would be dumb to rename the Nets, as Carroll proposes, the “Jackies” “Jacks” “42s (forty twos)” or “Breakers."

This is not a situation with an offensive name, like the Washington Redskins, or a name recognized as unsettling, like the Washington Bullets. The Nets are an established brand, as with the New York Jets and New York Mets.

Carroll responded to my tweet: "I can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Well, below are some suggestions.

(Carroll, who represents Windsort Terrace, Kensington, and pieces of Park Slope and Borough Park, is my Assemblymember.)

What legislators could do: arena oversight

Rather, Carroll and fellow elected officials could fulfill their responsibilities by pursuing accountability regarding the Barclays Center and the associated Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project.

Regarding the arena, for example, they could confirm that operating company BSE Global has, indeed, committed to paying all furloughed workers indefinitely.

After the statement posted 3/14/20 on the arena web site, promising payments "through the end of May" has not been updated, though NetsDaily reported that the pledge was renewed.

Note: one group of workers--about 15 people who work the arena's Jumbotron, for a set of subcontractors--said in May that they were not being paid, according to the Observer and the Daily News.

Also, according to the Community Benefits Agreement, the arena was supposed to offer local non-profit groups access to arena spaces at least ten times a year. That program, while announced, never got off the ground.

As I reported for Bklyner, I just learned that the arena company controls the potentially valuable advertising/branding space at the arena plaza's entrance to the Atlantic Ave-Barclays Ctr transit hub. How much is that worth? When and how was it negotiated? Why wasn't this disclosed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority?

Given that the MTA is a state authority, such oversight is particularly on-point for Carroll.

Down the line, once the arena reopens to an audience, government officials should assess the historical lack of enforcement regarding no-standing and illegal parking during arena events, especially those that disproportionally attract seniors and families. That unacknowledged "tax" on neighborhood residents represents a shift of costs that the arena, and/or its visitors, should absorb.

What legislators could do: Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park oversight

If elected officials want to be useful, they could ensure that the bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings organized by Empire State Development (ESD), now moved to a virtual platform, include transparency, given criticisms after the first such meeting. Heck, they could even "attend" such meetings, along with staff.

They could write letters--or, better yet, hold a hearing--regarding the promise to build 2,250 affordable units in the project by 2025.

How will that deadline be met? Surely the developer has shared some notion, if not formal plans,  with ESD. The state authority in 2019 told its own advisory entity, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, it didn't think it should require the developer to share such plans, and the gubernatorially-controlled advisory board voted down a request to its parent.

The issue is not merely one of timing, though timing is an issue, especially since it is not unlikely that the pandemic would trigger an effort at an extension.

The issue is also one of affordability. After all, such income-linked housing has been disproportionately geared to middle-income households. Will that continue?

What about the platform planned for the two blocks over the Vanderbilt Yard. The first phase of the platform was supposed to start this year, but we've gotten no official information about when, or how long it would take, though I've reported three years.

Another question: the project's guiding Development Agreement calls for 200 on-site affordable condos, or for-sale units. Given the change in the 421-a tax law, no longer subsidizing condos in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, is that pledge dead? Can it be enforced?

What about Site 5? Since 2016, we've awaited news about plans for a giant two-tower office complex at the parcel now housing Modell's and P.C. Richard. That was stalled by resistance from P.C. Richard, which won a ruling (now on appeal) granting replacement space in a future project building. Now the state's pursuit of eminent domain is being challenged in court by P.C. Richard.

Where does that stand? And if ESD does prevail, how have the prospects for Site 5 change, especially given the coronavirus pandemic and the lowered demand for a ground-up, high-rise office building?

What about the project's overall 2035 deadline? Has there been any effort to extend it, given the pandemic?

What about the promises of MWBE contracting and the hiring of minorities, women, and Brooklyn residents in construction? Why haven't there been any official reports? (The state has supplied such cryptic information, in response to my Freedom of Information Law request, that I haven't yet written about it.)

The role of Jackie Robinson

Let's recap how this all came about. For Bklyner, I wrote 6/4/20,  What if… the Barclays Center Had Been the Jackie Robinson Arena? I suggested that, had the arena been named for Robinson, as once proposed, we might be reflecting more on his lament, as explained in his memoir, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem.”

In other words, as I wrote, "But Jackie Robinson should inspire not just pride in progress but also profound reflections on American injustice, and how major buildings reflect social priorities."

Maybe that's a little too subtle, since proponents of honoring Robinson (like Arthur Piccolo, and Carroll) mainly see Robinson as a trailblazer.

But after my coverage of Piccolo's renewed crusade, complete with a screenshot of his PhotoShop work, the Brooklyn Paper took it up, gaining support from Borough President Eric Adams.

Note that, rather than rename the arena,  Piccolo proposed "Jackie Robinson Arena and Barclays Center," while I suggested the "Jackie Robinson Arena at Barclays Center." I also explained why it was unlikely.

Academic Amanda Boston, who studies gentrification and Black Brooklyn, had some critical comments, suggesting that policy was more important than symbols. "In his final years, Jackie Robinson rejected the use of his legacy as a veneer for the racial inequality that pervaded sports and U.S. society more broadly," she commented on Twitter. "Renaming the Barclays Center -- of all places -- after him would do just that."

"Honor Jackie Robinson by making it easier for Black, poor, and other marginalized folks to secure quality affordable housing in Brooklyn," she added. "Or maybe start by making baseball more accessible to low-income Black youth (hello?!)."

I don't disagree, but the question is whether having there's any room for an arena like the Barclays Center to take on more of a civic purpose.

If Robinson's name were added in some way, it couldn't simply serving as a veneer for corporate branding or recount a gauzy story of racial progress. It would have to not only describe his important symbolic role, but also the disillusion about American racism that he conveyed in his memoir.