Before the $1-billion Barclays Center opened in Brooklyn, NY, the community expressed major worries. There were fears that the arena, home of the Brooklyn Nets, future home of the New York Islanders, and closely associated with Jay-Z, would push out residents and local businesses, basically changing the community for the worse. There were even protests at the opening.
With a few big events under its belt, the arena is getting a better reception from some small businesses in the neighborhood—though not all.
Among the businesses benefiting, reports The Wall Street Journal, is Versailles, the custom dress shop owned by Moussa Dia, who moved his business from Manhattan to Brooklyn because of Barclays. “What did it for me was knowing Jay-Z was involved,” Dia told the newspaper. “It would mean a lot of celebrities here.”
Christian Whitted agrees that being near Barclays is good for business. He owns New York Chess & Games Shop, which sells chess boards and game sets, teaches after-school classes and hosts summer camps. “As a business person, anytime you have 18,000 people coming within feet of your door, you want to figure out how to exploit that,” he told WSJ.
The Cake Ambiance, opened in 2006 and run by Nigerian-American Jude Nwabuoku, has found business booming. But Nwabuoku says there could be a downside to Barclays. “There’s also the fear that this will change the whole Brooklyn flavor, that it’s going to make the neighborhood commercialized, that our rent is going to go up,” he said. “But this is speculation. It’s no sure thing.”
But all this businesses aren’t pleased. Skilz Unisex Salon has been in the area since 1999, but now Reginald Dumornay, the owner, says he can’t afford to stay if his $4,000 rent gets increased (up to doubled) next year. “Just can’t afford it,” he explains to the newspaper. “I’ve been nervous. Can’t sleep. I’m 44 years old. When I was younger, it was a little easier to get up and go.”
It becomes another example of the ways in which dramatic change to a community not only alters its physical landscape, but reinvents the very nature of the neighborhood. Now, the cost of entry is thousands of dollars per month in rent, which determines who and what comes to the community.
Improvement is always welcome, but in these situations, it’s important to determine at what cost foot traffic, high profile and media attention comes.