Barclays center expected to have huge opening despite polarizing boro
There's a new game in town, and Brooklyn will likely never be the same.
After years of wrangling, setbacks, lawsuits and, finally, construction, the Barclays Center will open Friday with the first of eight concerts by Brooklyn-born rapper -- and partial Nets owner -- Jay-Z.
While many Brooklynites and city leaders say the Barclays Center is going to put a bigger spotlight on, and give an economic boost to, a growing borough, New Yorkers are divided on what its long-term impact will be.
It's been welcomed by the likes of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and reviled by activists such as Daniel Goldstein, who went to court to shut the project down.
Markowitz, who cut the ribbon to Barclays on Friday, said the 18,000-seat, $1 billion arena is giving Kings County residents a great venue for world-class entertainment.
"I think overwhelmingly there is an excitement in the air and some anticipation that the biggest names in entertainment will finally come to Brooklyn," he said.
Markowitz said the arena, located in Prospect Heights and the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, will be a landmark for the borough.
"It's exciting for kids," Markowitz said. "The kids will have someone to root for and enjoy also other events."
Aside from housing the Nets, Barclays has big names on its calendar, such as Barbra Streisand and Justin Bieber. But even those who aren't interested in basketball and music could benefit. A 2006 economic impact study found that the project would produce more than 8,500 permanent jobs and 17,000 construction jobs.
Mayor Michael Bloomb-erg said the whole community was involved in successfully launching Barclays.
"Long-term planning, partnership and staying ahead of the curve continues to be our winning formula for jobs and growth in New York City," he said during his radio address Sunday.
Barclays opponents, however, contend that the center's glitz and glamour may have come at a cost.
Goldstein, who co-founded the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said the developers have not been quick to deliver on their proposed affordable housing units.
Goldstein, who joined a protest during Friday's ribbon cutting, said the first of 16 residential towers around the arena is going to break ground soon, but that only a few of the building's units will be for low and middle-income families.
He added that many businesses owners were upset they were forced to move as the city used eminent domain.
"People who go to the events enjoy the events. The problem is, this is not what Brooklyn was promised," Goldstein said.
Reps for Barclays declined to comment.
The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council -- a coalition of residents, civic groups and other organizations -- said many in the community feel promises were broken in creating Barclays.
Gib Veconi, the council's treasurer, said his group was particularly annoyed that the developers downsized a parking lot near the arena from its original 1,100 vehicle capacity to 550 spots.
"We're concerned there will be a lot of people cruising the streets looking for parking," he said.
Markowitz acknowledged the community's concerns and said the arena will adapt to fit the neighborhood's needs during events.
Further, Markowitz denied that the developers would go back on the promised new housing and said that the arena would bring a lot of benefits to the borough. "When you come to the arena for any event, take a look at all our fellow Brooklynites ... that now have jobs, who are now gainfully employed with health care and benefits, and can pursue a career, higher education, and so many other opportunities," he said.
Ultimately, the borough president said, no one could argue that a void existing since the Dodgers bolted Ebbets Field for Los Angeles in 1957 has been filled.
"There will be electricity in the air," he said.