Barclays Center: What Does It Mean For 21st-Century Brooklyn?

While reporting on the ever-controversial Barclays Center across from Atlantic Terminal, is typically outside of Brooklyn Heights Blog’s purview, a lengthy essay in New York magazine is worth exploring, with its analysis of the impact of the arena on the future of the borough as a whole.

Barclays “is now part of the new Brooklyn reality. It is the centerpiece of how the borough, and the city, will be seen for generations to come,” writer Will Leitch surmises. “Imagine it is nothing less than the literal and symbolic centerpiece of a new, 21st-century Brooklyn, one as gleaming and modern as the shiny new structure itself.” Developer Bruce Ratner adds, “People will know this arena from Brooklyn, and people will know Brooklyn from this arena,” which he describes as “another leap forward” for the borough.

The story says: “Ratner & Co. believe Brooklyn as a whole is already well on its way to super-premium status and will never go back. They believe Ratner has built exactly the sort of architectural showpiece and modern sports-and-entertainment megaplex that newly gentrified Brooklynites want. They believe that the idea of Brooklyn itself—the Brooklyn brand, the actual word Brooklyn—has commercial power.”

On page 4 of the New York mag article is an odd observation: “Even in Brooklyn Heights, the borough’s most expensive neighborhood, no one fetishizes being ostentatious with one’s wealth; they’re all spending their money on the illusion of healthy food and preschool.” Uh, huh?

Read the entire piece here. You might want to pour a tall one first. Mighty long.

Flickr photo by AP

Share this Story:

, ,

  • Livingston

    i’d say Barclay’s immediate and practical impact to the borough will be JOBS. I was at Labcorp on Montague on Friday and the place was inundated with people there for a Barclay’s pre-employment drug test. By noon, they were turning them away because they had run out of cups (they gave them the address for another lab). Receptionist says that this had been going on for the last week and they’d run through about 500+ cups at this location alone — that’s a lot of prospective new job slots for the Brooklyn economy in the near future.

  • Cracked Pot

    Best observation and comment ever ^

  • HenryLoL

    Overall, it’s great — and hopefully somehow make the Atlantic Center less of a HOLE! We’ll see about that one. I’m hoping less MSG, more Wrigley Field in terms of what it does for the neighborhood. Only problem is traffic. It’s already hell on Atlantic approaching 4th Avenue coming from Heights. On a game day, it will be impossible.

  • Hortense

    Jane Jacobs is rolling in her grave

    There has not been one case for a single use facility of the scale of Barclays center to help the surrounding community. Mention Wrigley and Frenway and you fail to understand the differences.

    What brooklyn needs is diversified housing, expanding ubran emenities (parks, sidewalks, etc.), and good schools.

    I never heard a family or single person say, “I’d love to live near a basketball stadium”. The seediest place in Manhattan is around MSG – that is no accident. No developer in their right mind would develop along a street where throngs of bridge and tunnel sports and music fans flood the streets every other night.

    No other data exists of any other outcome than to thwart development on the human scale around the stadium. That’s ok – because Williamsburg is growing and Gowanus will connect Park Slope and Carroll Gardens one day and DUMBO is expanding both ways.

    Brooklyn Heights needs to buckle down and fight everything about this Stadium – there is nothing consistent with the Brooklyn Heights way of life and the stadium

  • PBL

    Hortense, while I am not disagreeing with you, this arena is not in Brooklyn Heights.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Hortense exemplifies the mindset that says no reflexively it seems. Could the area where the arena (not stadium) is being built get any more seedy than what existed before? Did you walk around there at night Hortense?

    While diversified housing, urban amenities and good schools are all wonderful things what does that have to do with Barclay’s Arena? If the arena wasn’t built is it your belief that somehow magically we would instead have you have parks and wonderful schools? What does one have to do with the other? Actually it is just the opposite? The Barclay’s Arena will bring in tons of tax dollars, it will bring in tons of money from outside the area to local merchants, it will employ hundreds of thousands of employees that will spend money. Economic development – That is what pays for the “amenities” you are talking about.

    Here we are in a horrendous economy with high unemployment and real suffering and people have the audacity to complain about a beautiful new arena that will be a huge jolt to the local economy while at the same time providing Broklyn residents the opportunity to see Barbara Streisand or Jay-Z or a professional sporting event or the circus or dozens of other cultural and sporting events right in our backyard. How many will get pleasure from that Hortense? Do they matter to you at all? Or is it just about the “way of life” of Brooklyn Height’s residents who of course are so much more important than all the people that will benefit from this project.


  • stuart

    I largely agree that the new arena will become a focal point that will improve the public’s perception of Brooklyn.
    I have not really understood the anti-arena attitude on the part of many. I get the usual “we don’t want more people here, streets are crowded enough” sentiment, which is usually the rantings of the uninformed and reactionary. What is odd is that even the supposed progressives see a problem in turning an ugly rail yard into a beautiful new sports and entertainment facility. Perhaps it boils down to personal jealousy and animosity among the boro elites.
    None of this matters though in historical terms. No one will remember the grumblings and hysterics. The facility will be an immense success and everyone will turn the page and never look back.

  • Willowtowncop

    I couldn’t care less about the Nets but the Who are coming in November! The few of them that are left, that is …

  • hortense

    PBL – thanks, I get that, but it will impact the neighborhood with traffic on Atlantic ave from the BQE to the stadium (arena or whatever the monstrosity is). That will affect the attractiveness of the burgeoning retail district that is along Atlantic and the attractiveness of walking to Pier 6.

    Mr. Crusty – where do I start? I feel I’m arguing the failed urban planning schemes of the 50’s – this was the thinking that tore down Penn station to build MSG which destroyed that neighborhoods potential while MSG exits.

    It’s a zero sum game – you either develop on a human scale or you don’t. We do have a choice for that site. Manhattan has done that well – 20 years ago you would not want to walk in certain doomed areas at night were it not for development that espouses multi use building – work, services, and housing in the same area. We also had no desire to walk around the piers along brooklyn heights but for a development of a park. same for Williamsburg. A stadium would not have spurred anything for those neighborhoods.

    The economics of a stadium are straightforward – developer is subsidized by us the tax payers for the fantasy of return on our investment through increased tax base and jobs. Never happens. Never.

    1) Tax base is a sales tax base – not real estate – no return to the schools – Don’t give me a trickle down argument – if people don’t burgeon in an area schools will not be built or improved.
    2) Jobs are few and largely min wage – support services are minimal, vs. a real neighborhood or light manufacturing. Hundreds of thousands of jobs??? Where is that figure cited? What are they creating another Fortune 50 company? It’s thousands at the most including support jobs – i.e. bars and shops that cater to outsiders and not the neighborhood.
    3) The return on investment is dismal relative to creating real neighborhoods like williamsburg, Dumbo – where families come in and create a sustainable tax base and employment base for amenities – restaurants, chain stores, services.
    4) This was a missed opportunity to develop at a human scale to connect fort greene to the Prospect Park – this will disrupt that and create a further barrier that the atlantic terminal had created. Manhattan almost made the same mistake with it’s stupid West side stadium and instead those rail yards will be housing and an extension of the High Line. That will help complete the very west side development that has been closed in from Chelsea and 42nd.
    5) It will not be a huge jolt to the economy – this does not create economic activity locally (studies in the modern urban planning era have shown that stadiums are failures to produce economic activity that helps a surrounding community)- it displaces activity from one region to another region. Most of those reaping the economics – developers, celebrities – sports and music, and food service corporations are based outside of brooklyn and will sprinkle min wage jobs. The alternative is a living and breathing neighborhood like that which is expanding brooklyn today.
    6) Brooklyn will not be defined by a stadium – it is legitimately the cultural capital of the country in terms of music, writing, and taste and living. It did that without a single use venue for generic sports and national music. The small venues in Gowanus and Williamsburg define the borough’s uniqueness. The local institutions of every neighborhood whether rich or poor do that too- not a stadium that has the same entertainment as any other city.
    7) I am not arguing the crowds are bad and I’m going to be annoyed by traffic – that’s any big city. It’s that this is a bad decision of where we should be investing and building – Once again – there is not a single major case for stadium to ever help the surrounding neighborhood either in the absolute sense or to help spring development.

    The argument is moot – it’s a done deal, our fate is sealed. just don’t justify it economically because the economics have been shown repeatedly to not work. Don’t justify it culturally – it brings no culture that is unique to the borough. Don’t justify it to spur development – it hurts human scale development as a single use facility (dormant for most of the day and year). It was a crass insider deal that was based on economics that will only pay off for the developer at the literal expense of the tax payer both today (subsidized investment structure) and the future (destroyed opportunity cost to build out Fort Greene in a better way.

    As I said before – despite it not being in Brooklyn Heights – any impact it will have will be negative to the neighborhood. it is inconsistent with Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, etc. It is not a project for real neighborhoods.

  • Bloomy

    @hortense: Brooklyn…”is legitimately the cultural capital of the country in terms of music, writing, and taste and living.”

    I love Brooklyn as much as anyone else, but this literally made me spit out my drink this morning. Thanks for the laugh.

  • slamdunk

    People! what’s better than watching the lakers get beat in Brooklyn?!!!

  • Clampdown

    Oh, yes. Thank Aqua Buddha for Bruce Ratner! Where would Brooklyn be without him? He has saved us and finally made Brooklyn a destination. I might even be able to let go of the Dodgers now.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    You actually outtalked Mr. Crusty. My hat’s off to you!

  • stuart

    hortense, you should realize that by writing a such a lengthy post, your sanilty comes into question.

    Really, keep it brief.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    Hortense took a stand for what she believes in. That hardly calls her sanity into question.

  • GT

    these replys are comical. Have you walked by that area before the stadium? There is no way it can get worse. I think it will be great for the entire area. yes traffic will suck but its NYC take the train or walk. I love some people that live on a hidden street on Willow Place complaining about an arena because the BQE may be more crowded on gameday. You could always move to Long ISland or Jersey..

  • Gerry

    @ Whoretense – work at bevity.

    @ Y’all I understand that Barbra Streisand who to date has shunned her native boro will perfrom at Barclays stadium for $300 – $500 a ticket and that sales to the event have been lackluster so far. Maybe if Babs let her sister Roslyn Kind who is a brilliant talent herself and a Brooklynite open for her sales will pick up?

    I agree with Whoretense the stadium will be a loser like MetroTech Center which remains 75% empty so the Fulton Mall and other surrounding business struggle.

  • resident

    @Whoretense – The Verizon Center in D.C. was essential in the rebirth of downtown, and it is largely on the same scale and in the same situation as Barclays. All the anti-Arena people leave that one out when claiming arena’s/stadiums never benefit an area.

    I do agree that the city likely won’t see financial benefits that even match the tax incentives paid to get the thing built, but the city might benefit financially if the site is fully developed and if the area helps contribute to further development in the area. I also don’t see this as an inherent negative. If the city wanted the site to be anything but a whole in the ground, it was going to cost money.

    Finally, I disagree with two other points you raise. The cost of covering the tracks limited any development to those on the scale of the Atlantic Yards development. Proposing anything on a smaller scale was a non-starter from an economic reality standpoint. And developers do want to develop near the arena. Steiner is developing a lot at Flatbush and third. There’s the citypoint project not much further up the road, and of course the Arena is more of a vehicle to drive development at the site than anything else.

  • stuart

    willow neighbor, sorry but posters who write thesis-like rants on sites like these have to have a screw or two loose. Not to mention a lot of time on their hands.

  • David on Middagh

    I appreciated Hortense’s well-composed rebuttals.

    (Gerry – Whork at graduating from the eighth grade.

    Resident – Don’t take after Gerry.)

  • resident

    In what way was I taking after Gerry? I don’t see any 8th grade insults in what I wrote.

  • hoppy

    The arena was not designed to properly accommodate an NHL rink. Therefore, it is useless.

  • stuart

    I just read -quickly- Hortense’s tedious post. I found it a tad reactionary.
    Really, Hortense, life is not so dour, step away from the keyboard and take a walk in the neighborhood. Things are not so dire. We will survive modernity.

  • David on Middagh

    Will someone please erase my ignorance on difference between a stadium and an arena?

  • hortense

    Thanks everyone for a good dialogue on this issue – this is a respectful blog and I appreciate the back and forth vs. some (most) other sites

    Just a couple things –

    1- the post is long because I’m passionate (and studied) about the wrong headedness of using sports arenas to spur economic development in living neighborhoods.
    2 – Downtown DC is a completely different situation – it was derelict and no one lived there. I’d equate that broad development with Times Square (which I have no objection to what has been done there) than to Fort Greene up to Prospect Park which are real neighborhoods. Downtown DC is a destination with limited housing still – the housing developments are going on despite it frankly – once again, no one of my friends living in downtown are doing so because a sports arena is there, that is wasted land use from their perspective and it didn’t fund their housing at all – once again that arena was 1/3 in kind subsidized by the government
    3 – on the need for scale for that area- once again mixed use development – ie Time Warner Center, Battery Park City, West Side etc. were of huge scale. The issue is what do you want to build – offices + housing + shops + parks or a sports stadium. I vote for the former given the multiplier effect is huge vs. a single use arena
    4 – have I walked by that area before the arena? No. Will I after? No. If it was mixed use development on a human scale – yes.
    5 – Modernity is not defined by building sports arenas in neighborhoods vs. housing and amenities

    That’s it – I’m walking away from the keyboard per Stuart’s adivce…

  • Mr. Crusty

    Arena: An arena is a circular or oval shaped public space (akin to a classical amphitheatre), designed to showcase theater, musical performances, or sporting events. It is composed of a large open space surrounded on all sides by raised, usually tiered, seats or benches for spectators. The key feature of an arena is that the event space is the lowest point, allowing for maximum visibility

    Stadium: A modern stadium (plural stadiums, Latin plural stadia) is a place, or venue, for outdoor sports, concerts or other events, consisting of a field or stage partly or completely surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event. Stadiums constructed primarily for viewing sporting events are often referred to as ballparks.

    I think in general ‘arenas’ tend to be ice (hockey etc. melted and drained for events) and a stadium is usually for football, baseball etc.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Hortense you make some good points but I just don’t get it when you say something like this:

    “the issue is what do you want to build – offices + housing + shops + parks or a sports stadium. I vote for the former given the multiplier effect is huge vs. a single use arena”

    Who was offering to build offices, housing, shops and parks? Private entities wanted to spend tins of money to build a sporting arena. The city could have said yes or they could have said no. The choice was not between an arena and all those other things you mentioned. The area would have remained the blighted, run down, decaying urban area that served no one’s purposes.

    @hoppy why is the arena useless if it can’t be used for hockey? It wasn’t built for hockey. It was built for the Nets and they have approximately 200 events lined up for the first year alone. It will have tremendous use: concerts, circus, Disney on Ice, College,sports, etc. to have an idea what their schedule looks like:

    I think the Arena would be great for Brooklyn. It will be a source of pride and will provide great entertainment for our residents. It will employ hundreds of Brooklyn residents and pump millions into our fragile economy (how could it possibly not?).

    Thank God that naysayers like Hortense, who are terrified about change, did not win the day. Let’s revisit this in a year and see if all of her “the sky is falling” fears come true or whether the Arena will be sen as a huge plus for the borough. I vote for the latter.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    Quite frankly I am sick of the word “naysayers”.
    Can’t we just agree to disagree.

  • resident

    Hortense, I agree with you in one sense, it is wrongheaded to expect a new arena/stadium to spur economic growth. But I don’t think that makes it wrong to build a stadium or arena. It is an amenity to an area. You may not see much use for it, just like a childless couple may not care about local schools, but it is an amenity to those that want to see concerts, shows, and a local sports team they can take pride in.

    It’s also wrongheaded to assume that a stadium/arena will be inherently bad for a neighborhood. There are plenty of examples of neighborhoods containing stadiums/arenas doing great. I think if cities are going to build arenas/stadiums (by the way I’m in favor of much higher private expenditures in building said athletic facilities), the Atlantic Yards development is the right way to do it. Rely heavily on mass transit, provide little parking, build in an area seeing rapid development.

    I also think you’re wrongly considering this an either or proposition between an arena and other mixed-use amenities. Ratner has always been more concerned with the surrounding development than the arena, the arena was just the vehicle. And he originally had planned just the type of mixed development you want. A recession and prolonged legal fights have already greatly changed the plan, but hopefully he comes through and provides that same type of development. It would be a complete shame to have an Arena and a whole in the landscape.

  • Mr. Crusty

    WilowStNeighbor, you seem to have something to say about all of my posts. Suggestion, skip them. No one has a gun to your head to read them.