Nets arena reviews: Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live near there

So the Brooklyn Nets home opener won’t be played tonight after all: The NBA announced yesterday that the game was being postponed, with the first game now scheduled for Saturday evening. The announcement came a couple of hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that subways will be running today, but not between Brooklyn and any of the other boroughs, meaning any fans from outside of Brooklyn would have faced a daunting task in getting to the arena. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg took credit for the postponement, though as Atlantic Yards Report pointed out, he’d earlier said, “I hope they do it. I plan to go.”)

Newspaper deadlines being what they are, though, news outlets had already assigned their “Welcome the Nets!” stories, so we have a couple of those today. First and foremost is the New York Times’ long review of Barclays Center, in which architecture critic Michael Kimmelman calls arena “a shocker” and “a giant billboard for corporate naming opportunities (my favorite: the Calvin Klein V.I.P. Entrance)”, as well as “an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough” that avoids “a civic blight on a scale of Madison Square Garden.” It mostly comes down to “it’s kind of ugly, but at least it’s a different kind of ugly,” which I guess is one way of looking at it.

After the architecture-speak, though, Kimmelman then touches on some deeper points about urban planning of the arena and its surrounding development:

The Atlantic Yards project also exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway. Development on this scale may take its lead from a developer’s vision but needs to proceed from public-spirited, publicly debated plans for what the city and streets should ultimately look like.

This area needed to have the conflicting street grids of the abutting neighborhoods linked. It needed more schools and public services to support the thousands of new apartments. It needed more pedestrian-friendly avenues and finer-grained architecture, possibly taller than now proposed in places but less monolithic at street level, with subtler and more humane massing of towers so that new buildings would improve the experience of walking along sidewalks and not just add square footage to the blocks.

This is all fine, Jacobsian analysis, but it’s hard to see what can be done about it now: Kimmelman recommends that the maybe-they’ll-be-built-someday housing towers “ought to be sent back to the drawing board” to include “smarter streets, different scales of development and diverse public services”; the arena, though, has already blocked off existing streets to create the kind of superblock that Kimmelman (and Jacobs) disdains, and it’s going to be tough to wedge in different scales of development in a project that was predicated on mammoth housing towers as the only real public benefit of the plan.

Over at Time.com, meanwhile, Sean Gregory calls the arena “a very nice place,” apparently because the concesions stands sell lobster and sushi, though he’s no fan of the outside of the building either. (“You could have used anything. Why rust?”) He also credits the Nets for requiring advertisers to use the team’s black-and-white color palette, so you get things like a McDonald’s logo in black — though Gregory doesn’t bother to mention that the same rules don’t apply to the McDonald’s ads on the outside of the arena.

Then there’s the Times trend story about how Knicks fans are converting to the Nets, according to “social media and anecdotal accounts” … but maybe let’s leave it there. We’ll no doubt get another round of Nets stories this weekend — assuming enough trains are running by the weekend to hold Saturday’s game, that is.


One comment on “Nets arena reviews: Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live near there

  1. I wouldn’t want to live near there either. Apparently a bunch of hipsters inhabit the neighborhood, and have been there well before Brooklyn became “cool”.