seen @ the Dean Street playground, Brooklyn, NY
Even if you're not a sports fan, chances are you've heard by now of the new sports arena that has been built in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, at the nexus of several major thoroughfares in the heart of the borough. The one-percenters responsible for its creation would have you believe that it'll elevate the borough's cultural profile in the eyes of the world, as well as restore Brooklyn's glory and pride because a spectacularly mediocre pro basketball team will play there, the first major league sports franchise in Brooklyn since the Dodgers.
As a Queens native, I find this idea dubious, because I never realized that Brooklyn ever lost its pride. Yeah, it sucks that the Dodgers don't play there anymore, but as any Brooklynite - hell, any New Yorker - will tell you, Brooklyn is about a helluva lot more than a baseball team that moved away over fifty years ago. Its identity has changed considerably over the years, but one thing I've never doubted that Brooklynites lacked was pride.
|Atlantic Yards, the site where the Barclays Center was built
There's another side to this story, however, one ably presented in the 2011 documentary Battle for Brooklyn. In true underground cinema fashion, it played for free on the same night as the grand opening of the Barclays at a playground only a couple of blocks away. The Barclays occupies an area atop a commuter train yard in a wedge shape, pointing in the direction of the landmark Williamsburg Bank Tower.
Traffic in the surrounding area was a major issue during the arena's development, which is why both the Barclays and the city have aggressively promoted the use of public transportation to and from the arena (eleven subway trains, plus the commuter rail, lead there). As I made my way to the park Friday, the night of the opening concert at the Barclays by Jay-Z, I noticed the increased police presence on the streets, the traffic cops directing cars and buses, and of course, the laser lights shining from atop the Barclays in multiple directions. Traffic didn't seem that troublesome to me on Friday night, and as it turned out, it wasn't.
The doc shows that Goldstein had a case, and he, along with activists, local officials, and others in the area, fought the Barclays development tooth and nail. He faced long odds. To pick one example from the film: we see Goldstein and his allies at a public hearing attended by city officials. Representatives of the Barclays and their allies dominate the proceedings throughout much of the morning and then leave before Goldstein has his say, and he winds up getting much less time to speak by comparison. His anger at being slighted is keenly felt.
It was a damp night. The rain had stopped, but the artificial turf in the park was still somewhat wet, so garbage bags were provided for people to sit on. The crowd looked somewhat small at the film's outset (which was preceded by a performance by an actual, honest-to-god protest singer), but by the end the audience was much bigger. It was somewhat surreal to see a film about the development of the Barclays while one could easily see the finished product down the street. Also, it should be noted, one-way Dean Street had double parking as far as the eye could see, and while cars and buses were reduced to a single lane, the bike lane was blocked.
|Goldstein (center) at a demonstration outside of Borough Hall
Regardless, this is a powerful movie. The drama of Goldstein's struggle to keep his home is tempered by the "sub-plot" of seeing him fall in love with a fellow activist he meets after breaking up with his previous girlfriend as a result of his struggle. Even though Battle doesn't end on a happy note, there's still an element of hope.