3:20 pm Oct. 24, 20123
There was a lot of bro-hugging this afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the borough would be getting its second suburban sports franchise, the New York Islanders.
Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner hugged Islanders owner Charles Wang. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who came up with the whole idea for the arena in the first place, hugged Ratner, too.
"This Barclays Center has already been a huge boost for Brooklyn, and I think we should all go and say 'thank you' to Barclays for making all of this possible," said the mayor.
He lauded the "thousands of construction jobs" created by the arena, and the 2,000 additional jobs created to staff it.
"It has also created unprecedented economic activity in the area surrounding Atlantic Yards, which means more businesses, more jobs and more opportunities for New Yorkers," Bloomberg continued. "The arrival of the Islanders and their fans from around the region will add to that in a major-league way."
Bloomberg is, in some sense, correct. The long-delayed opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn has already begun to spawn some new sports bars and restaurants, and the Nets' first regular season in Brooklyn hasn't even begun.
But with the crowds and the drunks and the urine, the arena is also bringing to downtown Brooklyn some of the charms of the area around Madison Square Garden. The Islanders, with their Long Island fan base, would presumably also bring more cars into the neighborhood.
Naturally, Bloomberg's boosterism also elided the controversial narrative underlying the creation of Barclays Center—the reliance on eminent domain to clear out residents so a private company could build a sports stadium; the city's collusion with the state to avoid putting the project through a public review process; the questionable community benefits agreement; the broken promise of a Frank Gehry-designed complex; the developer's failure as of yet to follow through on his affordable housing commitments.
The new deadline for completion of the project, originally envisioned as 16 skyscrapers and an arena, is 2035, which, as Councilwoman Letitia James recently told the Times, means there will be a construction site in the middle of several residential neighborhoods for the foreseeable future.
Though the process was by many accounts (including an ex-deputy mayor's) flawed, and those flaws rendered the ensuing legal brawls basically inevitable, today Bloomberg blamed Ratner's failure to complete that project, including all of the promised affordable housing, on the people who opposed the project to begin with.
"You'd obviously like to get things done quicker," said Bloomberg. "But given all of the angst that Bruce had to go through to get the building going, the fact that the housing is a little bit behind schedule isn't the least bit surprising. Those people that tried to stop the project or delay the project are the ones that really caused all of that. The marketplace also wasn't terribly helpful."