PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Hallelujah — gospel has a new home at the Barclays Center.
Though most know the new arena as headquarters for the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, officials christened the Barclays Center on Thursday as New York's gospel music headquarters at a tambourine-shaking press event complete with a rousing choir performance that had Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner clapping along from his pew.
"Gospel now has a home," said the Rev. Al Sharpton at the press conference, held at the House of the Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue. "We will now have a home and an address where you can pull up and kick your shoes off and praise the Lord in the right rhythm and the right beats...And if you're a gospel singer, you have not performed until you've performed at Barclays."
Sharpton said the new arena will serve as gospel's hub the way Lincoln Center hosts classical music and the Apollo Theatre is famed for R&B and soul.
The Barclays Center's gospel line-up will include a Dec. 10 concert by Grammy winner Hezekiah Walker. The Brooklyn native wowed the audience at Thursday's event with an exhilirating performance of "Grateful" and "You're All I Need" with his Love Fellowship Choir.
"It's always been a dream of mine to have gospel music in this arena from day one...so this is a high moment for all us," said Ratner, who told the crowd that it was Walker who introduced him to gospel music "in a real way."
Other gospel shows on the Barclays Center calendar include an October performance by The King's Men (Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin and Israel Houghton), and "How Sweet the Sound," a national gospel competition, in November.
It was nearly eight years ago that The House of the Lord church hosted another press conference, where officials from Forest City Ratner Companies and the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance announced that they had hammered out a Community Benefits Agreement to guarantee that locals would benefit from the Atlantic Yards development, said the church's pastor, Rev. Herbert Daughtry.
With the arena now poised to open in September, Daughtry praised Ratner for delivering on promised amenities like a health center and meditation room at the new arena.
Sharpton echoed those comments. "I can say without contradition that Bruce Ratner has lived up to everything he said and more," Sharpton said to a hearty round of applause. "He is an example of what corporate accountability and partnership is all about."
But some critics disagree. The watchdog group Brooklyn Speaks is holding a rally Sunday June 10 to demand stronger oversight of housing and jobs promised as part of the arena deal.