A story in the Times today looks at the extent to which the blocks surrounding Atlantic Yards are in the midst of a retail transformation directly linked to the fall opening of the Barclays Center arena. While rents are no doubt going up nearby, we’re not sure we’re buying the basic premise of the story: “‘The neighborhood is now becoming an entertainment mecca — anything that’s hip and of the moment,’ said Robert Schulman, who fits prosthetic devices for Allied Orthopedics, which has been on Flatbush Avenue for 25 years. ‘The change was slowly growing, but once the arena came into play, it was exponential. Once a week, a new restaurant or clothing store is opening up.'” Yes, there have been many openings near the arena, but the story’s angle is that it’s changing the face of the surrounding neighborhoods so that old-time mom-and-pops like hardware stores are losing out to retailers that can afford higher rents. However, as the article notes, the Prospect Heights and Park Slope blocks very near the coming arena have been changing for several years now, and not in a mega-retailer sort of way: Witness Pintchick Row on Bergen Street off Flatbush, a block that now boasts Bark, Ricky’s, a vegetarian cafe, a bicycle shop, a comic book store and a yoga shop. All have opened in the past five or so years and it seems like a stretch to say they’ve hurt quality of life in the area. At the same time, the story points out what is perhaps of bigger concern to nearby residents: New, loud bars and noisy arena-goers ruining evenings on nearby residential streets when events let out. Here’s the kicker, from a small business owner near Barclays: “‘As a businessman it’s good. …As a resident not so much. It turns a neighborhood into Midtown Manhattan.'” Certainly the neighbors of the arena have legitimate quality-of-life concerns, but we’re not seeing MSG-level horror yet, though time will tell. Atlantic Yards Report has an extensive critique of the article up, including a note that there was a mis-characterization of people at a recent liquor license hearing as “die-hard opponents” of Barclays Center.
Impact of Atlantic Yards, for Good or Ill, Is Already Felt [NY Times]
Times Focuses on Retail Changes Near Arena Site [AY Report]
Photo by schmuela