Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Brooklyn Nets Deserve to Fail

The Barclays Center has officially opened, and this upcoming N.B.A. season will be the inaugural season of the Brooklyn Nets. If ever a team deserves to fail, it is the Brooklyn Nets. Their very presence in Brooklyn is a monument to the worst elements of power in our contemporary New York. It is a case study in abuse of eminent domain, with the government forcing people from their homes so that property could be handed over to a private developer for private profit.

            Wherever your previous sports loyalties lie or whatever your political persuasion, there are enough reasons for everyone to want to watch the Nets drown in sorrow and mediocrity. Hating the Nets could be as proud of a New York tradition as having your heart broken by the Knicks.

The Barclays Center looks like a giant rusted George Foreman Grill that’s been fitted with a toilet seat. It is covered in large poop-brown tiles and screams BARCLAYS CENTER at passers-by with large light blue lettering. It looks like it was designed by Frank Gehry’s retarded cousin (Gehry was initially tapped to design it, which is bad enough). The designers couldn’t have put together a more fitting eyesore for the occasion.

Uglier than the building itself is how it came to be there. Never was there a more perfect illustration of government corruption, crony capitalism, racial pandering and ugly architecture in these five boroughs. 

            The stadium is the centerpiece of the “Atlantic Yards” project, a scheme hatched by developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner at the height of the housing boom in the early 2000s. The scheme was to get public backing for a sports stadium to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn and then use that to build lots of upscale condominiums and turn a big profit.

Ratner managed to get some people to sell to him legitimately. Work crews would install scaffolding around recently purchased businesses in order to get the area declared “blighted,” which would allow further land grabs for the purposes of rebuilding an area the very same developer helped destroy. Getting your politician friends to force homeowners to sell their land isn’t capitalism.

The government didn’t invoke eminent domain in order to build a hospital, a bridge, a highway or even a public pool. Instead it forced people to sell their homes to a private developer so he could build for private gain. Will Brooklyn see more money from the area now that there’s a stadium there? Sure, but so what? Should I be forced to sell my favorite guitar to Eric Clapton because he’ll play it better and make more money with it? 

            The stadium will be open to the public that can shell out money for tickets, of course, but the profits all go to the owners. It is not owned by the people of New York or Brooklyn. It will be a financial windfall for the owners, but it’s not going to give much back to Brooklyn. It’s not a victory for capitalism either. Capitalism is buying the land honestly from willing sellers to build your stadium.

            Local landowners and residents fought in court for years to stop the Atlantic Yards project from taking their homes, but to no avail. No court stopped the project, even though its backers were shown to have lied numerous times about the environmental impact of the development. And Forest City Ratner has yet to deliver on key promises it made to solidify political and public support.  

            With a few notable exceptions, New York City’s political leadership supported the project. Remember when conservative activists secretly recorded an ACORN official giving advice to a would-be pimp exploiting underage girls? That ACORN is a corrupt recipient of public graft surprised no one who had followed the Atlantic Yards debacle closely. The activist organization was bought and paid for by the developers and dutifully parroted the mantra about jobs.

            Most of the holdout homeowners were middle and working class whites, and
the buying of ACORN also helped draw a racial dividing line in the issue. That made it easier for liberal politicians like City Council speaker Christine Quinn to back the project. Black activists and politicians like Rev. Al Sharpton touted the project as something that would bring jobs to poor blacks.

            Ratner bought the help of Brooklyn-born rapper Jay-Z, who owns less than 1% of the Nets but is one of the most public faces of the project.  He is opening the new stadium with a series of concerts. An overrated rapper who owns high-end night clubs and the like, Jay-Z made a more honest living when he sold crack.

There’s not much mention of any of this in the coverage of the arena now, except the brief asides that the stadium is “controversial.” The New York Times, whose headquarters was built by the same developer, had a feature story on the different cultural foods available at the new stadium. At least the presence of turkey meatballs is news fit to print.

            Many fair-weather Knicks fans have already jumped ship and are sporting the obnoxious black and white logos of the Brooklyn Nets. I have friends who should be smart enough to know better bragging about scoring Jay-Z tickets.

If he has not been cremated, late Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch would be rolling over in his grave at the sight of Brooklyn Nets t-shirts emblazoned with “No Sleep Till,” a reference to the Beastie Boys’ song ‘No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn.”

It’s like being in the land of the pod people, where slack-jawed consumers take what you give them and hand over their money like trained animals. Am I delusional to think that New Yorkers were once made of stronger, smarter, more skeptical stuff? It would be forgivable to steal from such plump suckers if the Nets didn’t trample over people’s rights and build a shit-stain of a stadium to really blight once-proud Brooklyn. 


DCThrowback said...

Matt, great read. This reminds of some work by the great Steve Sailer where he contends the lowest and highest classes conspire to hose the middle. It appears that the Atlantic Yards project is in that same vein. Thanks for the informative post.

Avia Batya said...

amen...and plenty of Brooklyn residents didn't grow up there

Mark Zap said...

Very well put my's nice to know someone out there can still see the forest thru the trees!