Brooklyn Wins Eyesore-of-the-Month Award

2010 November 18
by Turk Studzel

Artist's rendering of Forest City Ratner's Barclay Center, rising now at the crossroads of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Special thanks to James Howard Kunstler for flagging the imminent monstrosity to the left for his website’s prestigious “Eyesore-of the-Month,” an ongoing survey of “architectural abortions from the USA and around the world.” Part of the vast and controversial Atlantic Yards project–which still faces challenges in the courts–the sports stadium is apparently now under construction, and slated to be new home to the Nets for their 2012-13 season. Kunstler, an architecture critic and expert on “peak oil” (see his bestselling The Long Emergency), describes the stadium thus:

Presenting the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, brought to you by real estate impressario Bruce Ratner. This basketball arena, designed to look like a Little Debbie Peanut Butter and Coconut Snack Cake, was designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. (Notice the “playfulness” of the SHoP logo (subtext: “…we’re all babies now…!”). Perhaps basketball players live on Little Debbie Cakes. I don’t know. But the cherry-on-top of the whole deal is the so-called “plaza” in the foreground — a leftover triangular scrap of undevelopable real estate that Mr. Ratner threw to the people of Brooklyn as a bone to dogs. Lovely spot, huh, sandwiched, as it is, between about eleven lanes of traffic.

So why does Brooklyn need a new sports stadium plopped down on one of its most congested intersections? No one really knows–and residents of surrounding neighborhoods are furious. Nevertheless, over the legal objections of many Brooklynites, Mayor Bloomberg and the quasi-public Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) were able to ram this project through the courts, using eminent domain to take possession of what they called the area’s “blighted” property. But talk about blight–if Barclay Center looks like a snack cake from the air, from street level it resembles some giant mutant reptile, its cavernous mouth angled to suck unsuspecting pedestrians from the sidewalk. How was this thing foisted on Brooklyn? As always, money talks… For the inside skinny on this travesty of taste, justice, and democracy, see the website of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the community group that has been fighting the Atlantic Yards project for much of the last decade. The quote from real estate robber baron Bruce Ratner at the top of DDDB’s homepage puts the story in a nutshell. He tells Crain’s in 2009, “Why should people get to see the plans? This isn’t a public project.”

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