Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held this week at the Nets’ new home, Brooklyn’s controversial Barclays Center, an occasion which prompts the New York Times’ Liz Robbins to remind the public there’s more to the venue than Barbara Streisand concerts and Mikhail Prokhorov’s sunny prognosis. In the words of one local non-profit housing advocate, “it’s the end of the community as we know it”.
Amid the festivities, the arena stands as an island, a reminder of what is missing. The 16 surrounding towers — primarily residential — that were originally planned by the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, for the 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project have yet to be built. The 10,000 or so jobs promised have not materialized. Of the 2,250 affordable housing units pledged out of 6,300, only 181 are planned for a first tower, and ground for the building has yet to be broken.
Surrounding residents fear that unruly basketball fans will stagger drunkenly onto their sidewalks, that Armageddon-like traffic will blockade their streets, that already-squeezed parking spaces will be swallowed, that crime and rodents will run rampant and that housing and jobs will never come about.
By promoting jobs and affordable housing, said the Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, Bruce Ratners’ Forest City was able to sell the project to members of the black community and create an early schism between them and the residents of the nearby brownstone neighborhoods, many of whom were white. Mr. Miller did not join the plaintiffs, led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, who first sued in 2006 to block the use of eminent domain to acquire the property for Atlantic Yards.
“We were never against the project; we just wanted the process to be fair and inclusive,” said Mr. Miller, who has formed a new group of 25 pastors to monitor the project.
When the company enlisted Jay-Z and engaged other leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton, Mr. Ratner made it difficult for some in the black community to criticize the project, Mr. Miller said.
“The racial dynamic,” he added, “was tremendously manipulated by Forest City.”
Echoing Miller’s sentiments, there’s more on the subject from a one-time supporter of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards initiative who now insists, “The whole of Brooklyn got played.“