Since I moved to New York, many things have changed. Some restaurants closed down which were blooming 3 years ago. Areas have become gentrified and the so-called-hood of Bushwick slowly turned into Hipster-area. Change is natural and in a city as big as New York, it happens on a much faster scale than anywhere else in the world. This is something I’ve always known and always come to love. But sometimes I just wish that things wouldn’t change as rapidly, especially in the area I am currently living at.
I moved into my new apartment about a year ago. When I moved here, the Barclays Center (described by wiki as “a multi-purposed indoor area”) was still under its way of being built up. It was a hideous line of construction running across the entire beginning section of Flatbush Avenue. For the 2 years since I came here until last year, all I could do is first ignore it and then wonder what on earth was going on when walking past it. A little research on my part and stories from an old New Yorker revealed a more than hideous story behind the (almost a) decade-long project the city had going on: Initially purchased in 2004 with the intention to build a Brooklyn-centered stadium for the NETS (who are not even from New York but New Jersey) it had been halted several times during its construction. Local residents, caring citizens, and larger groups of demonstrators made sure to extend the project with protests revolving around “eminent domain.” Eminent domain refers to a private property being taken for public use by state.
You can see many examples of eminent domain throughout New York, especially in Brooklyn. Take a large part of the Williamsburg waterfront, for example. Take all those hideous condos blocking the neighbors’ view towards Manhattan and disfiguring the Brooklyn skyline. Not to mention the large project going on in Greenpoint right now, which includes further condo building and gentrifying of a neighborhood that once used to be traditional Polish. You might ask yourselves what condos have to do with public use (and you are not alone in this opinion). Bloomberg decided it would do the neighborhood good to have some high-income housing available so that the tax money can be used for poorer neighborhoods.
The city has systematically kicked out residents who were in ownership of their smaller apartments for decades, leaving them to decide where to move next. How does the government get out of it? There are a few ways but the most popular one is to claim that they will let a certain percentage of socially disadvantaged people live in these new housing “projects.” Which coincidentally never happens once the millionaires decide to buy it all up.
Back to the Barclays Center: The neighborhood was clearly upset about what was going on and had regular protest a few times a month. I once saw one when walking home from the subway station: A smallish group with signs in their hands who were furiously trying to get in the way of a bulldozer. What used to be projects and buildings owned by private people, has been reduced to rubble within a few months only. Century-old townhouses and projects which were once homes for Brooklynites – demolished in a relatively short time frame.
Well, as you can tell, protesting hasn’t helped much other than increasing public awareness and getting a news channel out here once in a while. So the Barclays was doomed to open at what must have been the end of September. The glorious Jay-Z performed on its opening night and several weeks thereafter. The Nets prepared for a good season. The subway ads were covered in pictures of young basketball players and their infamous quotes.
I once ran into a group of New Jersey people who were all dressed in white and drunkenly stumbling around the neighborhood, looking for a bar. They answered my curious question on their dress code by pointing out that there was an “all-white” house party going on in the Barclays, which they had been looking forward to for months. I wished to never see such a sight again… Oh how wrong I was! Not only did a new bar open up last August right across the street from where I live (the one and only KBH).
We also have a regular influx of Long Islanders, New Jerseyians, and other tourists overpopulating our area on random days of the week. My once favorite go-to-bistro has increased its prizes steadily ever since the monstrosity opened up. Bars and restaurants have switched their waiters for better customer service, which I approve of, but it’s seriously no fun to enjoy chips and guac if you have a screaming group of drunk Long Island chicks sitting next to you.
I sometimes feel transformed back into Manhattan, most likely the Lower East Side. In a way, the Barclays Center can be described as the Times Square of Brooklyn: it’s becoming more and more of a “landmark” attracting all the wrong people. Nowadays I always freak out when I hear German in my neighborhood. I used to be curious how these tourists heard about Park Slope but now I just sneer at them and try to be as rude as possible. “Perhaps that will get them out eventually,” was my initial thought. It doesn’t seem like it.
Now, in addition to the added stream of strangers in the neighborhood, the Barclays Center also happens to look quite hideous. If it at least had a classic appearance or a great architecture, I might be able to ignore all the tumult going on in the area. But no, it sticks out like a sore thumb in the crowd of appealing town houses. Its steel roof looks quite unfinished and a blinking hole in between makes it appear like an out of space invention. I’m sure it’s meant to be great modern architecture but so far I haven’t heard of anyone that it looks like art.
Well, what can I say? Rents have already looped up to a sky-rocketing price. What used to be affordable has now turned into one of the biggest real estate markets in town. I just hope I’ll be able to survive here for a little longer, because on normal weekdays, this neighborhood really ROCKS. And an added treat is the better customer service at Target, which was always one of the least friendly stores in town. Now if I could only remember to get off at “Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center” which used to be called “Pacific Street” when taking the subway… Phewww!
[For more pictures, go to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn (night view).]