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For Better or Worse, Barclays is Becoming a Brooklyn Fixture

By Janet Upadhye | August 13, 2012 11:16am | Updated on August 13, 2012 1:39pm
The Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn is slated to open in the fall of 2012.
The Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn is slated to open in the fall of 2012.
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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

BROOKLYN — Barclays is quickly becoming part of everyday life for Brooklynites. Now less than 50 days away from the Barclays Center's September 28 grand opening, excitement and fears are building in communities close to the arena.

And amidst the cacophony of welcoming cheers and voices of dissent, Barclays is steadily building its image as the friendly neighbor.

“We are putting the Brooklyn community first in everything we do,” said Nets and Barclays Center spokesman Barry Baum. “We are continuing to plan new programs that will help us further our goal of giving back and bettering the lives of those in the surrounding communities.”

Through their community relations organization, Barclays Nets Community Alliance, Barclays has partnered with Brooklyn YMCA, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, the City Housing Authority, and the Maimonides Medical Center, and more to provide free programs to residents.

They are also creating jobs.

"In preparation for opening day at Barclays Center, Forest City Ratner Companies created a hiring plan to staff about 2,000 positions in the arena," said Mandy Gutmann, spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. "And it is our goal to fill as many of the positions as possible with local NYCHA residents."

As of June 27 there are about 26,000 registrants, 47 percent of whom have self-identified as NYCHA residents; 87 percent of the total 26,000 applicants are Brooklyn residents, according to the Housing Authority. But the final hiring process is still underway, Gutmann said.

Barclays’ partnership with the YMCA provides low-income Brooklyn families with financial assistance. And according to the YMCA brochure, because of the Barclays Nets Community Alliance they can provide free after school and summer camp programs to almost 8,000 participants.

Barclays also donated $50,000 to the Brooklyn Public Library's Summer Reading Program.

"Over 300,000 Brooklyn public school students received new library cards, Summer Reading information, and were signed up for the program," said Jason Carey, Director, Marketing & Communications for the library. "And to date, over 42,000 people in Brooklyn signed up for Summer Reading, that's double last year's numbers."

And Brooklyn Academy of Music is partnering with the arena to provide three to four shows a year of BAM’s choosing. This will allow BAM to host much larger shows than they are used to, and Barclays will underwrite the costs.

Beyond community partnerships that emcpomapss longer term relationships and programs, Barclays has also given one-time funding shots to several groups.

They helped fund a playground in a Canarsie public school, provided t-shirts and school supplies to students, donated toys to the Salvation Army during Christmas, and gave funds to the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Historical Society, a summer reading program at the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Hematology and Oncology Program at Camp Sunshine.

These funds are benefitting thousands of Brooklyn residents.

But Norman Oder of the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report says that these partnerships and donations are just a way to further colonize the neighborhood.

“Using charitable donations to make friends and neutralize potential critics is not a new strategy,” he wrote in his blog. “And a few thousand here, a few thousand there will get their name out, with a bit of a halo.”

And some residents, especially those living quite literally in the shadow of the new Barclays Center Arena, could care less about Barclays community projects.

They are simply worried about the effect the arena will have on their neighborhoods, including the possibility of traffic, unchecked liquor licenses, high levels of noise, and a parking nightmare. They are also concerned about losing their say over what happens in their neighborhood. Moves by Barclays, such as the quiet name change of the Atlantic Av - Pacific St subway stop to Atlantic Av - Barclays Ctr, hasn't helped quell their fears.

"It just feels like there's no control over anything that's happening," said Deb Goldstein, owner of T-shirt design company, Miss Wit Designs, that created a t-shirt protesting the name change. "I have no problem with change, but change is something that evolves. You don't buy change, and that's what this feels like.”

But other residents are just purely excited that the Nets are coming to the neighborhood. To them, the prospect of a local NBA basketball team is well worth any downfalls it might bring to the community. 

And to the bright-eyed kids on the basketball court in Fort Greene Park, a Brooklyn team is nothing less than a dream come true.

“I am so excited to have the Nets so close to us,” said Tyshawn Simon, 13, a point guard for a community basketball team. “We are very proud to live close to the stadium.”