Brooklyn's Barclays Center: the food, the art, the shops

The oculus at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The oculus at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (2012) (Credit: Bruce Damonte)

The neighbors didn't want it. It took nearly a decade for developer Forest City Ratner to get it approved and built. But the Barclays Center is now open for business, recently hosting concerts by Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand (Jay-Z is a part owner).

The Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks NBA season opener scheduled for Thursday night has been canceled due to Sandy. The Nets' opener will be Saturday when they host the Raptors.

The recently struck deal to host the Islanders hockey team means that Long Islanders will have yet another reason to check out the new center (Barclayscenter.com). Here are some things to look for when your eyes aren't trained on the stage, court or rink.

MORE: Things to do in NYC | Weekend trips

THE FOOD

The eating options couldn't be more Brooklyn-centric if borough president and ceaseless booster Marty Markowitz himself was cooking. Some 37 vendors are on hand, led by famed cheesecake purveyor Junior's and hot dog king Nathan's. Bensonhurst pizza destination L&B Spumoni Gardens is on hand, as is Mexican purveyor Calexico, with branches in Red Hook and Greenpoint.

But the big story is the presence of Fatty 'Cue, serving chef Zak Pelaccio's inventive Southeast Asian-inspired BBQ. His Williamsburg outpost has legions of fans, and his presence here shows the developers mean business.

THE SHOPS

As you'd expect, there's no shortage of black-and-white T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts at the Nets Team Shop by adidas, next to the Geico Atrium. (During games, two additional stands will pop up inside the arena.) Since Jay-Z is the face of the Barclays Center, his Rocawear line is front and center, too -- the inimitable street style is all over items like a "Can't Knock the Hustle" T-shirt. Even Starbucks is getting in on the Brooklyn act -- it used reclaimed local basketball gym flooring for its bar cladding, and commissioned a local artist to do a special ''hub''-themed logo for its signs.

THE ART

One of the biggest trends for sports arenas is adorning them with serious artworks (the new Dallas Cowboys stadium led the way on this). Barclays has gotten in on the game by commissioning Brooklyn resident Mickalene Thomas to do an engaging, 120-foot-long mural for the South Club area that combines photo collage and painting in an ode to the local stoops, facades and landmarks. (She has a big show at the Brooklyn Museum now, too.)

On the LED display inside the oculus is a 2010 work by OpenEnded Group called "After Ghostcatching" -- the animated figural motions are based on the dances of choreographer Bill T. Jones. Another Brooklyn-based artist, José Parlá, is addressing his own history in the borough, and the transformation of the Atlantic Yards, in a long painting at the Dean Street entrance.

GETTING THERE

Situated at the intersection of two major thoroughfares, Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, in the center of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center is easy to drive to -- but it's tough to find parking. A special mini-site, barclaysparking.com, gives you some options, but they aren't great. A smarter option would be taking the subway or LIRR to Atlantic Avenue, a station with a brand-new entrance right in front of the building. It's a 16-minute ride from Jamaica, and despite the railroad's many woes this week, hourly service between the stations was restored Wednesday.

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