Bruce Ratner may not have Barbra Streisand’s voice or Jay-Z’s rep on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant. But the developer had every right to trumpet himself as the King of Brooklyn after his long-delayed Barclays Center finally opened its doors.
Ratner beamed as the arena opened to sold-out shows by Babs and hip-hop’s big- gest star, both of whom were playing their first major shows in the borough of their birth.
Even more significant, he presided over the arrival of the NBA’s Nets. The move made the team the first major sports franchise to play in the borough since baseball’s Dodgers (underdogs immortalized as “Dem Bums”) moved to Los Angeles half a century ago.
Before the first tipoff, Ratner scored another coup when hockey’s Islanders announced that they too planned to jump on the Brooklyn bandwagon.
Ratner, 67, didn’t put the bounce back in Brooklyn’s step single-handedly. Property prices have been rising for decades, and the brownstone neighborhoods around his arena were drawing A-list names even before (some would say in spite of) the arrival of his Atlantic Yards project.
The scion of a well-connected Jewish family from the Cleveland area, Ratner is loved and hated in equal measures for his grandiose plans to transform a gritty but communally valuable stretch of downtown Brooklyn into a fancy and financially valuable arena and string of condos.
But after successfully negotiating nearly a decade of tricky political maneuvering and stop-start lawsuits, Ratner could be forgiven for popping the champagne as Streisand and Jay-Z showered praise on his plans.
Somewhere up there, Dem Bums might be smiling.