This weekend, Barclays Center opened its rusty gates to the world, kicking off its bass pump of so-predicted demonizing the Prospect Heights area with several Jay Z concerts and I believe, some nights with the Harlem Globe Trotters. Being that tickets were out of my price range, I opted not to attend any of Jay's nine historic performances and listen from my rooftop instead. You see, the brand-new, arguably ugly, and very controversial Barclays Center is my next-door neighbor in my dear home of Brooklyn.
I know that many would like to hear me say Barclays Center has put my neighborhood in ruins, but I will not knock the new space-like creature in the middle of Atlantic Yards. I am what I call a Brooklyn positivist, which is quite rare, and much different from a Brooklyn elitist.
I get excited about new restaurants, be they Crown Fried Chicken locations or high-end hot dog shoppes. The appearance of a baby in a bar does not make me quit drinking. I don't particularly enjoy a popsicle sold for $4 made with strawberries and basil, but it is okay that such a treat exists. I like Brooklyn, the Brooklyn right now.
Being the positivist, I don't mind the arena. My only complaint is that I can't hear a thing from my roof. I respect the fact that before Jay-Z had even chosen his own performance dates they had the great Barbara Streisand booked and ready so they truly have some great people working there. And it's not that ugly, it kind of looks like a cool iPod speaker or something I'd buy on Groupon that I did not need at all.
Now, I know some may disagree with me and have already drafted a well-reasoned argument as to why the stadium is in fact, ugly, and why it has ruined your picture-perfect Brooklyn life. But let me tell you something:
Every time I read something about Brooklyn it has been written by someone with some sort of authority: the writer grew up here, they made several movies about the place, or their grandma lived in the Domino Sugar Factory before it sold out and became a factory.
I have zero authority; I've lived here barely more than a year and the only places that have employees who recognize me are the previously mentioned deli workers and uncomfortably attractive waiters in heathered grey American Apparel shirts at Chuko Ramen. Plus, I like things. I'm hardly allowed to be a writer at all.
I've refrained from forming any opinions on the beast that is Brooklyn because I never felt that I was allowed. But, considering there are people standing on my stoop holding signs that say "Barclays Center Parking this way" and I can probably make some money holding spots for people on my own block, I believe I am now allowed, nay, entitled to say something. And that is this: Leave Brooklyn alone.
Dare I welcome comments in the comment section, but was it always this way? Did people in the '50s, '60s, '70s and beyond relish to such an extent that writers do today on what it was like to grow up in New York, and specifically, Brooklyn? After reading last week's New York Magazine feature about Brooklyn and seemingly, every other love letter to Brooklyn in blogs and novels and the New Yorker, I have to wonder: is people openly complaining that their upbringing has more girth compared to those who are actually growing up just something that will always be the case? Is it a human condition to lament this, is it a specific trait of Brooklyners, or is it a specific trait of people writing about Brooklyn right now?
It seems a natural behavior to be pissed that you aren't young any more, and the amount of Brooklyn writers is surmountable (and the Brooklyn writers that are aging, hence all those babies in bars), but is Brooklyn the only place that experiences this? Maybe in St. Louis there's a bunch of blogs that write about how great the 90s rave scene was? Regardless, I have to plead; enough already, you're ruining it for the rest of us.
I will not apologize for moving here to this crappy, mice-infested apartment on Underhill Avenue after living in a similarly crappy apartment in the city for two years. Why did I come in the first place? Since the dawn of time (time beginning with that bead trade) young people have moved to New York and her boroughs to just be. I don't care if they're white, black, rich or poor, the majority of people who move here to pursue a dream outweigh the majority of people who move here to live on a quiet street making model airplanes (unless they are the dreamer who opened that high-end model airplane shoppe in Carroll Gardens).
New York is great because of dreamers. They don't know what and they don't know why, but they are constantly seeking the answer to that question and that is why this place is wonderful and awful and terrifying and beautiful. We come here confused and often stay that way. It makes for quite a commute.
Frankly, I'm sick of hearing about how great this place used to be, and it's throwing off my job of working to make this place vibrant.
Complainers, when I am your age, my memories will be riding my bike to Red Hook to spend my paycheck on a buttery lobster roll, and I feel bad about this because you tell me it is weakening my character to have this memory. Is that what you want? Do you want young and poor Brooklyners to not enjoy themselves at all? Do you want us to turn out like you and not realize how good we had it til we're old and have to take our babies to bars?
I understand some of this holier-than-thou diatribe. The new Brooklyn is full of people who never lived through rigorous Guiliani cleanup, through a crack-addled '80s, or through 9/11. We aren't real New Yorkers yet, and maybe will never be the New Yorker that is expected of us. But there are moments that define us as New Yorkers -- be it an earthquake or picking of pocket -- and a true New Yorker would never try to take that from someone else. A true New Yorker -- a true Brooklyner -- makes their block, their neighborhood and their borough a better place no matter what happened in the past, even if that means that block becomes attractive to a group of people who like frozen strawberries with basil.
Brooklyn took me in when the rent was too high in Manhattan. Brooklyn gave me high-end ramen and deli workers who admire me even in my errand clothes. Brooklyn is my home -- I pay rent, and it pisses me off when you tell me how much lower that rent used to be. Don't tell me that everyone used to play stickball in the street together in harmony because I live next to an elementary school and they have plenty of stick and ball equipment, but all of the kids have iPhone 5s for reasons I have not even begun to explore.
I don't feel guilty for living here, but I know it is impossible to change this beautiful place into what these writers fear. Plus, I'm sure by the time I'm having babies we'll have all moved on to take over Staten Island. I hope they like basil.