Fears of a Tight Fit for Brooklyn’s Arena
This piece was originally published in the Atlantic Cities. Brooklyn journalist Norman Oder writes the daily Atlantic Yards Report watchdog blog and has contributed to the New York Times, Salon, Streetsblog, Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications.
As the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn builds toward a September 28 opening, the buzz surrounds mostly the shows: a series of Jay-Z concerts, a return of Brooklyn-born singer Barbra Streisand, and home court gigs for the newly-renamed Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.
But the public controversy dating back to the 2003 launch of the larger Atlantic Yards project persists. One current concern: neighbors fear a flood of drivers seeking free, on-street parking and visitors boozing it up at both arena events and the mushrooming number of bars just east of downtown Brooklyn.
Developer Forest City Ratner and project proponents have long stressed that the arena will take advantage of Brooklyn’s most diverse transit hub, with nine subway lines (plus two nearby) and the Long Island Rail Road within walking distance. Indeed, on two flanks the arena — which includes a new subway entrance and spaces remaining for four towers — is bordered by broad, busy avenues.
After all, as planners these days agree, arenas and stadiums work best as part of mixed-use density, as opposed to being mired in a sea of parking lots. The Barclays Center has avoided that fate, though not without fierce disputes over the state’s use of eminent domain, significant subsidies and tax breaks. The approval process also bypassed local elected officials, as captured in the 2011 documentary Battle for Brooklyn.
The arena’s snug setting, thanks, in part, to New York State’s willingness to override city zoning that prohibits sports facilities within 200 feet of residential districts, has compounded concerns.