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Barclays Center is once again Brooklyn’s ‘town square’


It wasn’t long after Joe Biden was named President-Elect by America’s news organizations, that Brooklynites and others gathered at the entrance plaza outside Barclays Center, now dubbed Brooklyn’s “accidental town square” to celebrate.

And by early afternoon, even Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was at Flatbush and Atlantic to join constituents. Schumer who still has an outside shot at Senate Majority Leader, literally danced in the street at the arena.

He also spoke to the crowd...

Schumer joined a primarily young crowd who quickly gathered at the plaza even with the impediment of metal barriers that had been set up outside the arena on Monday by arena management to protect Barclays in the event of violent protests.

It looked like they’d party all night long.

By sunset, a new quote adorned the giant LED sign surrounding the oculus...

Finally, in the predawn hours of Sunday, Joe Tsai tweeted a simple message...

In the original plans for Atlantic Yards, the 22-acre housing, office and arena complex, what’s now the plaza was to be the site of a 50+ story tower nicknamed “Miss Brooklyn,” but the 2008 recession short-circuited that plan and the plaza became a gathering spot, an amenity for the community.

Things changed this spring. During the COVID-19 crisis, the plaza hosted food pantries for the poor of the borough. Those nine subway lines that brought thousands to the games and concerts were now carrying those in need.

Then, at the end of May, came the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the inauguration of the plaza as something very different, very political and very much as big —if not bigger— as the arena itself. As Norman Oder, critic and chronicler of the Atlantic Yards wrote of the phenomime in the BKLYNer.

Since May 29, though, crowds protesting police brutality and racist killings—triggered by the gruesome killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd—have converged at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, turning that plaza into Brooklyn’s new Town Square. The Barclays Center, thanks to its location at Brooklyn’s largest transit hub, its proximity to residential neighborhoods, and its mothballed-by-pandemic status, has become the locus of activism in Brooklyn.

It went on for days and the Nets ownership and management first endorsed and then embraced the use of the plaza for political protests, as long as they were peaceful. Joe and Clara Wu Tsai also made the arena the site of a massive polling place from October 24 through Tuesday. Schumer had made a stop there last week...

Earlier this week, John Abbamondi, CEO of the Nets and Barclays, told Brian Lewis that the arena, team and ownership not only welcome the role, but consider it an honor.

“The fact the citizens of our borough felt this was the appropriate place to gather … we’re honored to be associated with that,” said Abbamondi, noting as well that Nets players activism played a big part. “We have a long history in this league of social activism, particularly around issues of racial equality.

“That’s a history all those who work in and around the NBA are proud of, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The players have spoken out on issues that not only did they care about but resonate with many, many, many of our fans and fellow citizens. Those two things coming together is behind what you saw this summer.”

And maybe, next summer, the plaza will once again be the scene of bigger impromptu celebrations!