After nine years of being a construction pit, a site of contention and protest from the community, an inevitable arena drenched in planning from the NYPD and city government and a place of anticipation, Barclays Center opened on Friday night with rapper and Brooklyn Nets minority owner Jay-Z’s sold-out show.
Thousands and thousands of people 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 wafted up to the top of 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, all wearing Brooklyn Nets apparel, had feelings of 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.”
Mild protests from Develop Don’t Destroy and Occupy Wall Street stood their ground between the subway and the Barclays Center. Handmade signs shook along with chants and words about 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.”
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