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No "accidental town square," last night Barclays Center was in playoff (business) mode, with protest shunted across the street and new commercial signage activated at plaza and on Flatbush Avenue

Last night, on the anniversary of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis, a march was planned to start at 5 pm from Barclays Center, but that intersected with a Brooklyn Nets playoff game against the Boston Celtics (which the Nets won handily), with gates opening at 5:30 pm, two hours before game time.
The photos in my initial tweet were taken at about 5;30 pm, while the photo at left was taken close to 7 pm.

Nonetheless, several news reports used "Barclays Center" as a general gathering locations. From the New York Times, "At Barclays Center in Brooklyn, family members of people who were fatally shot by the police turned out."

From News12, "A march was held Tuesday night beginning at Barclay's Center." On video, the anchor said, accurately, "right across the street from Barclays Center" but the reporter said "right here at Barclays Center."

From ABC7/Yahoo, the anchor said "near Barclays Center," but the transcript said "here at the Barclays Center."

The accidental town square

Why does this matter? Well, as I wrote last June for Bklyner, the arena's status as an "accidental town square" was due partly to its "mothballed-by-pandemic status." I closed that essay with questions:
What next? At some point, even if the arena can’t hold large events, it will shift back to commercial activities–say, for example, welcoming Brooklyn Nets fans to the plaza when the NBA season resumes in Orlando, scheduled for July 31.

Will that MLK quote stay in rotation, even after the ads return? Will the Barclays Center welcome more dissent?

The arena will always have a complicated role as a symbol of gentrification or renaissance in Brooklyn, depending on whom you ask. For now, the plaza, however accidentally, has fulfilled a 2010 prediction from architect Pasquarelli: “it’s quite a significant space, it’s something that’s very civic.”
Last night, unsurprisingly, commerce took precedent. 

Moreover, as shown above right, the arena has since added commercial signage beyond the oculus, activating the area behind the entranceway glass.

And, as shown at left, the new team store (Brooklyn Style), which now occupies most of the arena's Flatbush Avenue frontage, has new digital signage.

It's about commerce

So much for pious quotes from Nets/arena company CEO John Abbamondi and team/arena company owner Joe Tsai about how they've welcomed civic action. (I wouldn't say they "endorsed, then embraced" the protests, but rather practiced "strategic accommodation".)

“If it continues to serve as a place where everyone from our community — from residents to businesses to police alike — gather peacefully to listen to each other and find common ground, then it’s good with me,” Tsai stated, downplaying the tension between cops and protesters.

Last night, the plaza was cordoned off, with a few pinch points for fans to enter, and full of cops and arena staff. The oculus blared advertising. The Martin Luther King, Jr. quote is gone, though arena managers have temporarily posted quotes when appropriate. 

The lines, not surprisingly, to get in were long.

At right, a photo taken around 7 pm shows the line to the arena's Dean Street entrance stretched around to Flatbush Avenue, blocking the doors to the 461 Dean Street tower and--at least if the retail were filled--to the stores in that building's frontage.

And, as shown below, extra police cars were parked on the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue north of Dean Street, encroaching on the already narrowed (for construction) street, and narrowing entrance to the 38 Sixth Avenue tower. 

The influx of police to monitor an arena tightly placed in a residential district--that's been an byproduct of the protests too.



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