What is currently titled as Brooklyn Pacific Park was originally called Atlantic Yards and was lined with community owned businesses, a middle class residential building and dilapidated LIRR tracks. Atlantic Yards was a primarily Black neighborhood with its own unique, famous Brooklyn atmosphere that shaped renowned artists such as Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G. However, this area went through an evident transformation when real estate developer Bruce Ratner decided that the area was perfect for an enormous stadium that would become the home of the Nets, a NBA team that Ratner had just bought. The plan was proposed in 2003 in an attempt to return professional sports to Brooklyn. The plan was coupled with a promise that the stadium, along with luxury apartments that would accompany it, would provide jobs and affordable housing for Brooklynites.
Ratner bought many of the middle-class residents out of their apartments, in order to seize control of the land to build, but one citizen, Daniel Goldstein, resisted. Daniel Goldstein and other Brooklyn residents united to protest the stadium, and founded the group DDDB (Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn). DDDB fought against the gentrification and negative environmental impact that would accompany the construction of the stadium. Additionally, the stadium would use $1.6 Billion of public funding without consulting the locals about what they want. Moreover, because of this government backing, Ratner attempted to attain a tax exemption, which would shift the financial onus onto the people. However, there was a counter movement which embraced the stadium, titled B.U.I.L.D (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development). B.U.I.L.D argued that the stadium would bring in desperately needed jobs to Brooklyn and the protests were impeding growth. Despite claiming to be a grass-roots movement, headed by the people of Brooklyn, it was discovered on B.U.I.L.D’s tax filings in 2004 that it was to receive a $5 million donation from Bruce Ratner.
The fight between Ratner and the citizens of Brooklyn continued on several fronts. DDDB found a different development company which was willing to purchase the run down LIRR tracks for triple what Ratner was offering, and work with DDDB to create positive change for Brooklyn’s residents. However, the MTA voted to work exclusively with Ratner, actively going against what was economically practical.
When the Financial Crisis of 2008 occurred, all construction plans came to a halt due to funding issues. However, Ratner was still wrapped up in a law suit in an attempt to acquire the building that DDDB founder, Daniel Goldstein was still living in, along with several local businesses that refused to sell. Ultimately, the courts voted in favor of Ratner, and for the first time in history eminent domain was used to take private property from one citizen, to hand it over to another. Furthermore, after the Financial Crisis the MTA sells the tracks for one fifth of the originally agreed upon price to help get the project underway.
The Barclays Center was opened on September 21, 2012 and continues to bring challenges to a Brooklyn that it continues to change. The amount of jobs originally promised is far less than what has been delivered. In addition, the employment opportunities only function as part time jobs, and most Barclays Center employees have multiple jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. Moreover, the stadium has caused the cost of living in the area to increase tremendously, which has pushed many long-time residents out of their neighborhood causing an unsettling demographical shift. The Black population in Brooklyn Pacific Park has decreased by 6%, despite the overall increase in population. Meanwhile, Ratner sold the Nets and his Barclays related holdings for hundreds of millions of dollars.
The story is a testament to who has a voice in American society today. Laws are abused to favor the rich, while costs fall at the feet of the people. The top down fiats, given by people with power who have no contact or communication with local needs, are enforced. The story continues today as Ratner plans on adding luxury apartments around the stadium, but for now the ruins of the LIRR tracks can still be seen.
Berlinger, Joshua. “Why Half Of Brooklyn Hates The New Barclay’s Center Stadium.” Business Insider. August 28, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/why-half-of-brooklyn-hates-the-new-barclays-center-stadium-2012-8.
“Promises, Protests Continue After Barclays Center Opening.” Next City. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/promises-protests-continue-after-barclays-center-opening.
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Accessed May 23, 2018. http://dddb.net/php/aboutratner.php.
“Haunts.” Gloria Steinem on the Relationship Between the Black Power and Womens Liberation Movements — New York Magazine. Accessed May 23, 2018. http://nymag.com/news/features/brooklyn-barclays-center-2012-10/index1.html.
Battle for Brooklyn. Directed by David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley. Rumur Films, 2011. Accessed May 22, 2018.
“Ratner Exec Admits Funding Supporters.” Brooklyn Paper. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/28/41/28_41nets2.html.