Observations on a Changing Neighborhood
by KT Kieltyka
I live a block from the Barclays Center, downtown Brooklyn’s much contested and controversial new arena. It’s so close that I could walk out my front door, throw a baseball, and it would hit [the ground and then roll] into the Nets store on the street level. These are my field notes.
What: Opening night, Jay–Z.
When: Sept 28, 2012.
Who: Me and my friend Murph, who decide 12 hours before opening night that we desperately need to be there and spend a stupid amount of money on Stubhub.
Notable quote: Though it was completely unjustifiable, Murph told me if we didn’t go, we would be “irresponsibly missing a really important moment in Brooklyn’s history,” and I caved. I have since recognized this as a classic symptom of FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, and sometimes wonder what the money for those $250 each, nose-bleed seats would have gone to.
What: Barbra Streisand’s homecoming.
When: Early October 2012.
Who: Older women wearing boxy, glittery tops that largely make up the inventory of Williamsburg thrift stores.
Notable quote: Having exited the Long Island Rail Road, a group of four women were standing on Flatbush Avenue, clutching their purses as though half of the people around them were currently in the process of being mugged. One lit a cigarette and said, “The last time I was on the LIRR, you could smoke a goddamn Virginia Slim without anyone batting an eyelash! Sheesh, I tell ya. Now which way do we go?” Note: They were across the street from the giant, totally impossible to miss, neon blue Barclays logo that sits over the entrance to the arena.
What: Justin Beiber concert.
When: A warm night in November that prompted me to open my window.
Who: 300 or so tweens, teens, parents of said young people, and, I am sure, 20-somethings who think, “I just feel like he has all the makings of a young Michael Jackson. No, like, he’s actually talented. Whatever, he is.”
Notable quote: As I am pondering breakfast for dinner, I jump as a blood-curdling scream — I’m talking the scream of someone about to be actually stabbed to death — drifts through my window. This is before I knew who was visiting the neighborhood that night, and I thought, “Okay, someone is dying. Do I call 911 or will I be one of those Kitty Genovese people?” when the scream is joined by a full chorus of banshees chanting the young superstar’s name. “JU-STIN! JU-STIN! JU-STIN!” I debate going outside to witness the madness firsthand, but choose safety and scrambled eggs instead.
What: Disney on Ice.
When: The 2012 Holiday Season.
Who: Children, so many children: little girls wearing momentarily un-scuffed patent leather shoes and tutus that poke out of their puffy winter coats, little boys in bow ties waving around light-up ribbon dancer toys. Note: This event dramatically increased the amount of stroller dodging required for the average Park Slope pedestrian, which is saying something.
Notable quote: A girl of about six holding a stuffed Ariel doll looked up at her dad and asked if mermaids were real. Rubbing his beard, he answered, “Well, they haven’t found one yet, so maybe you could be the one to do it!” before swinging her up onto his shoulders. My friend sitting on the bench outside of the bakery with me followed them with her eyes until he passed then said, “Um, DILF.”
What: The Rolling Stones Concert.
When: The first night of Chanukah! (Probably no correlation, but I remember I had latkes this night.)
Who: Quite a mix, but mostly middle-aged ex-rocker types who might prompt a “Your dad/mom definitely partied a lot in his/her day, huh?” kind of statement
Notable quote: I was trying to figure out if my car had been towed. Because I am not the type of person who frees up hard drive in her brain for remembering license plate numbers, I walked over to my local precinct rather than calling the city help line. As an extremely kind officer was actually trying to find my car based off of the description, “It looks like a refrigerator on wheels,” a drunken yelling arose from cells in the back: “Let me outta heurrrrr. I’m gonna sue you so bad! I’m GONNA SUEEEE YOUUU ALLLL.” Laughing with her fellow officers, the cop looked up at me and said, “That is what happens when you get too drunk at a Rolling Stones concert and bite the person who tries to cut you off.” It was probably because my car did indeed get towed that I didn’t think it was funny until the drunk guy yelled, “MICK JAGGER WOULD NEVER DO THIS TO ME.”
What: My morning commute.
When: Every weekday.
Who: People not giving up on protesting the arena.
Notable quote: “Shame on Barclays for hurting our community,” proclaimed a sign held by a guy who was holding a cup from the center’s ground-floor Starbucks in the other hand.
What: My evening commute/any time I am not actively reaping the benefits of my proximity to the arena.
Who: Any or all of these people.
When: Any given night
Notable quote: Me: “Excuse me, Excuse me, just trying to get ho — oh my GOD, EXCUSE ME.”
Katrina Kieltyka is moving to a quieter neighborhood in June.