Published On: Sun, Aug 19th, 2012

The Cloud Over BK’s ‘Transformer’: Nets Arena Leaves a Community Behind, Ignored

Brooklyn’s Transformer has arrived.  It is here to stay.  There is nothing to stop it. Still, to protect the Public’s interest, there is an urgent call for Governor Cuomo’s oversight.

Story Highlights:

  • The Letter from central Brooklyn’s clergy leadership calling on Andrew Cuomo, “Governor of the People,” to step in for accountability and oversight in the taxpayer funded Nets Arena/Barclays Center (Atlantic Yards Project).
  • The Atlantic Rail Yards-Nets Arena developer failed to deliver affordable housing and job creation as promised. What are the final numbers? Who is pushed out and suffers?
  • The Shortage of visible leadership – Black and Latino especially.
  • What is next for Brooklyn’s influential clergy?
  • (Video and slideshow) The backstory on the Atlantic Rail Yards Project: How the Nets and Arena came to be with taxpayer dollars, for the benefit of a private developer.

BBN Special Report:

In September, the new Brooklyn Nets Arena – Barclays Center – will open with a spectacular concert, featuring Brooklyn-born rapper, Jay-Z.  Despite nine years of protests, community-developer wrangling, legal challenges and the displacement of residents and small businesses, proponents and fans of the massive real estate development will finally see the project come to life.

Still, for many, all is not fair, or right, in this high-stakes game of real estate and economic development versus public and community interests.

According to residents and community stakeholders who live in central Brooklyn, failed oversight and accountability of the Nets Arena project – also referred to as the Atlantic Yards Project (AYP) – has left many behind and ignored.  In anticipation of and amidst heavy marketing  of the new Nets Arena opening, not much has been covered in media about the other side:  the community that does not benefit from arena.

June 10 “Clergy for Arena Justice” Rally. (Photo: BBN)

In a candid letter addressed to Andrew Cuomo, a group of Brooklyn’s clergy outlines the impact of failed promises to the community, and asks the governor to step in and provide accountability and oversight in the Atlantic Yards Project.  (The centerpiece of the AYP is the Nets Arena-Barclays Center).

The group, “Committee for Arena Justice,” charges that the commitments, made by real estate developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and its chief Bruce Ratner, to jobs, affordable housing and contracts for Minority Women Business Enterprises (MWBEs), have resulted in a fraction of what was promised.


The Letter to Governor Cuomo, dated May 4, 2012 (As is/unedited by BBN):

The undersigned pastors of Brooklyn who make up the organization named “Committee for Arena Justice” ; have grave concerns regarding the progression of The Atlantic Yards Project.  We understand that the Barclays Center will open its doors in late September.  After observing the process throughout the years and being familiar with the history of the project, we tried to be hopeful that the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, (FCRC) and the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) would ultimately ensure that promises made to the community were delivered. Unfortunately, that is not the current situation.  We have reliable data that clearly confirms that the alleged overwhelming benefits to the community concerning jobs, affordable housing and contracts for Minority Women Business Enterprises, (MWBEs) are a fraction of what was promised.

We recognize that Kenneth Adams is competent and fair, however through no fault of his own, we believe that many of the challenges and obstacles he is faced with predates his appointment to lead of the ESDC. Furthermore, we are not convinced that the developer has even been forthcoming to the ESDC as it relates to numbers of hirings and contracts.

We have polled our congregations all over Central Brooklyn, and at this point, it is difficult to find anyone who has been hired or any minority or woman owned businesses who have received contracts at Atlantic Yards. We are presently outraged at how FCRC has taken full advantage of public tax dollars and has not honored their promises to the community.  At this point, we simply do not trust the developer at his word.  Additionally, testimonies from Federal investigations suggest that the developer does not operate with business transparency and integrity.

Due to many failed promises to the community, we are asking our congregants and larger community stakeholders not to participate in any activity at the Barclays Center unless the community of Central Brooklyn actually benefits from this project.  We fully intend on staging public protests at the site of the arena during its opening dates and beyond.

We are asking you as Governor and in accordance with the ESDC be open to furnishing more oversight ensuring that previous promises be fulfilled. Furthermore, we are asking that a much stronger financial penalty be placed on the developer if reasonable amounts of jobs, contracts and affordable housing are not afforded to the residents of Central Brooklyn. In addition, the community needs to be able to identify an independent compliance office that will hold this developer to his promises. We are willing to dialogue with your office and whomever necessary, with the provision that measurable progress and benefits be given to the residents of Central Brooklyn.  We fully understand that you have handled such matters of New York State by being a Governor of the people. This issue has far reaching ramifications that could ill affect the people of Brooklyn for years to come.

The letter was signed by 17 Brooklyn Church leaders:   Rev. Clinton Miller, Pastor Brown Memorial Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. Mark VC Taylor, Pastor Church of the Open Door; Rev. Conrad Tillard, Pastor Church of the Nazarene; Rev. Lemuel Mobley, Pastor Livingston Baptist Church; Rev. Washington Lundy, Pastor Evening Star Baptist Church; Rev. Steven Carter, Pastor Mount Ararat Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. Cleotha Robertson, Pastor Soundview Presbyterian Church; Rev. Dr. Clive Neal, Pastor Bedford Central Presbyterian Church; Rev. Michael Sniffen, Rector St. Luke and St. Matthew Episcopal Church; Rev. Ivan Washington, Pastor Mount Tabor Baptist Church; Rev. John Merz, Rector Church of the Ascension; Rev. Linda Bell, Pastor St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church; Rev. Shaun Lee, Pastor Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church; Rev. Anthony Trufant, Pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church; Rev. Daran Mitchell, Pastor First AME Zion Church; Rev. Reginald Bacchus, Pastor Mt. Ollie Baptist Church; Rev. Willie Wade Jr., Pastor Zion Shiloh Baptist Church.

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- Delivering news, views and information. @BBN_NYC and @BBN_NYC_ARTS

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