Lest anyone believe opposition to Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Center has fallen by the wayside since the arena’s opening last Autumn, poet Yasiin Bey — better known as MC/thespian Mos Def — has tackled the subject with the critical “On.center.stadium.status”. On Sunday, Bey spoke with New York Magazine’s Amos Barshad about his gripes with the Atlantic Yard project (“people lost their homes, people lost their businesses…the Drake lyric, ‘money over everything’? I just don’t agree with that as a business process or a worldview or anything.”)
Where’d you write “On.center.stadium.status.”?
I wrote that in New Orleans, on the day they were having the opening for Barclays. People were calling me and asking, “Are you gonna be there, are you gonna be there?“ And it just kind of came to me, rather quickly. I have been what some people might call an opponent to the stadium. I think the word opponent has many meanings. I was concerned about what the stadium’s presence in the community might do. I was concerned.
About what, exactly?
I saw one thing that was kind of a telling sign. I was on DeKalb Avenue and Flatbush, probably two months ago, and at the intersection I saw these not-quite-so-young men, in standing traffic, trying to sell bootleg Rolling Stones T-shirts. [Laughs] I thought, “This is the trickle-down economic effect of Barclays in the neighborhood?” I didn’t think of it as a positive.
I’d told Marty Markowitz, “Why don’t you just put it in Coney Island? You got the Brooklyn Cyclones, you got people coming from Jersey, Long Island, whatever. You go to Yankee Stadium — it ain’t in Soho. Get on the GW or whatever, the Van Wyck and you go to Yankee Stadium, you go to Shea.” Nah. They wanted it right there on On and Poppin’ Boulevard. But it’s already on and popping there!
And you know, for Barclays, they kind of got it on a song. They got the naming rights for a couple hundred mill and they get prime real estate on the exit and entry of the most populous borough in New York City. You’re talking about over the course of the year, millions of people passing through that corridor, and just psychologically, seeing Barclays when they leave and when they come home.