Barclays Center Opening Night: Jay-Z Fans and Protesters Converge

For concertgoers and activists at the Atlantic Yards arena there was plenty of Brooklyn pride—on both sides.


After nine years of contention and protest, planning and anticipation, Barclays Center opened Friday night with rapper and Brooklyn Nets minority owner Jay-Z’s sold-out show.

Thousands converged from the subway, the sidewalks and the streets to line up in front of the arena’s entrance on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

As hip-hop fans, police and protesters made the crowd pulse in numbers, the smell of Red Bull, cologne and marijuana surrounded the steel-and-glass arena for its inaugural event.

“This is historic, it’s like being at the opening of Yankee Stadium, except this is our stadium, all ours,” Roberto Ay from Bushwick said while waiting in line and holding two tickets. “This is good all around for the borough. There’s always going to be causalities no matter what you do, I know many people were displaced, but in the end this is going to be good.”

The crowd was yelling “Hova” as they filed into the doors and through metal detectors. And if the concert goers loved one thing more than Jay-Z, who grew up in the Marcy Projects, it was Brooklyn.

“I love Brooklyn! It’s 55 years in the making — the first Brooklyn sports team since the Dodgers left now has a home right here,” said a man who goes by Bo and lives in Sunset Park. “I love Brooklyn so much that I named my daughter ‘Brooklyn.’”

One group of girls wore Brooklyn Nets apparel to show their pride.

“I’m excited, I am proud. I am from Brooklyn and this is the biggest thing we’ve had in a while,” Charlene Dougan from Canarsie said.  

The crowd moved well expect for one blip where one man was detained by cops after a short dispute broke out. Police said that he was not arrested.

As vehicle traffic kept good pace in the street, the Commanding Officer of the 78th Precinct, Captain Michael Ameri said that traffic was lighter than other Friday nights he’s seen.

“I’m in a good mood because traffic is moving well. But this is what we expected, we have a plan in place and it’s working. I can’t ask for a better night,” Captain Ameri said, whose precinct expanded to include the arena on Sept. 25. “We dedicated a lot of planning with numerous city agencies like the MTA and DOT, with the FDNY and the community and it worked out exactly how we wanted.”

Protestors from Occupy Wall Street and local civic groups, the latter of which was holding its second protest of the day, stood their ground between the subway and the Barclays Center. Handmade signs shook along with chants reminding concertgoers of broken promises and nonexistent affordable housing. Fingers strummed guitars and vocalists sang: “Forest City Ratner, your kingdom must go down.”

As 8:30 p.m. rolled around, the crowd grew thinner as more and more people funneled into the arena for the start of Jay-Z’s concert.

“We are just glad to have some place to celebrate,” said Ken Pimentel, who was born in this borough. “We just hope the night goes on without a hitch, we just want to celebrate Brooklyn.”

More Barclays Center Stories:

  • Brick By Brick: Final Edition
  • 'This Arena is a Gentrifying Machine': Atlantic Yards Critics Rally at Barclays
  • Pols Criticize Forest City Ratner's Promises at Rally
  • Residents to Barclays Owners: You Have the Clout to Protect Our Neighborhoods
  • Community Residents Have Reservations About Barclays Center Liquor License
  • A Sneak Peek Inside Barclays Center: [VIDEO]
  • Barclays Center's Liquor License Approved
  • Budget Woes For Atlantic Yards Job Development Group: Report
Todd Jake September 29, 2012 at 08:26 AM
We love the Barclays how nice is it going to be to take at five min train ride to see a game or show or wrestling or anything go nets I think it's great and I love it . Great work guys the place looks beautiful thanks to all union workers
Catherine Jhung September 29, 2012 at 12:01 PM
But wasn't there supposed to be 7 acres of parks, more retail space and lots of new and even affordable housing all along Atlantic there...? All I could see was the arena and a really big parking lot.
Norman Oder September 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Here's some more coverage, including video of the crowd massing on Atlantic Avenue exiting the arena at about 11:45 http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2012/09/barclays-center-debut-no-traffic.html
stephen witt September 29, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Check out The Street Singer, the gonzo novel about the Atlantic Yards project.
Eddie September 30, 2012 at 06:25 AM
No, Catherine. Didn't you read the comment in the article that "...many people were displaced but in the end it's all going to be good"? It's an arena and a really big parking lot that is going to rake in a lot of revenue for Jay Z and Ratner while the rest of us get bubkis. We need another arena like we need another nail salon, sneaker store or cell phone outlet.


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