By Gersh KuntzmanThe Brooklyn Paper
Arena Bagels — the Atlantic Yards–area bagelry that ran afoul of Bruce Ratner’s opponents because the shop’s name suggested that the mega-development was inevitable — is now officially A.R.E.A. Bagels.
Owner Ravi Aggarwal agreed to change the name several months ago after Ratner opponents complained, but the altered sign — with its missing “N” and periods — only went up this week.
Aggarwal said the periods between the letters were not just space-holders, but abbreviations of the names of his family members. More than that, he wouldn’t say.
“I am so happy how it all worked out,” Aggarwal said at Wednesday’s grand opening. “Now, people are coming in and saying, ‘Thanks for changing the name.’ They don’t need to thank me. I gave in because I want to be part of this neighborhood, this community.”
It wasn’t always so festive. Back in May, Aggarwal walked into a firestorm over the Arena Bagels name. At the time, he said he picked the name only because his bagel store — on Fifth Avenue between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place in Park Slope — is so close to Ratner’s proposed basketball palace.
“For me, naming it ‘Arena’ was all about location,” he said at the time. “I just knew I wanted to come to Brooklyn with my bagels and bialys, which are the best, by the way. I don’t know anything about the Atlantic Yards project.”
Aggarwal quickly got an education about the mega-project — and the negative passions it provokes in some. Some of his would-be customers were openly hostile, he said.
At first, the native of Punjab — who worked himself up from a dishwasher to a manager to, finally, the owner of bagel stores in Queens, Long Island and, now, Brooklyn — said he would never change the name (or alter the $8,000 sign).
But he quickly relented, pledging his undying love for his neighbors.
The Brooklyn Paper got a first taste of Aggarwal’s products and can report that the bialys and spreads are outstanding.
The good news is that the sign-maker agreed to change the design for free. And Aggarwal says he intends to hang the absent “N” on the wall of his shop, surrounded by newspaper clippings of the controversy.
A.R.E.A. Bagels (55 Fifth Ave., between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place) is open Mondays through Saturdays, 6 am–10 pm and Sundays from 6 am–6 pm. Call (718) 230-8889 for information.