Barclays — the $800-billion financial giant that will pay Bruce Ratner $400 million for the naming rights at the Atlantic Yards arena — has co-founded a non-profit that will dole out $1 million a year in grants to Brooklyn organizations — a sum that critics called patronizing.
Half of the money, or $500,000 a year for 20 years, will come from Barclays. The other half will come from Forest City Ratner, the $9.5-billion firm behind the 16-skyscraper-and-arena project.
Barclays’ naming-rights deal with Ratner has sparked controversy because of the bank’s historic links to Apartheid, the Nazi regime, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
And last week, the bank received another round of criticism after the Times of London reported that it had loaned $1 billion to a program run by Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, whose repressive policies have devestated the economy of his African nation.
Given Barclays’ history, one opponent of the bank called the company’s $500,000-a-year contribution “a joke.”
“This is unacceptable,” said the Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene. “I’ll do everything in my power to hold Barclays accountable for its misdeeds to humanity.”
Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) was also disapproving.
“This gesture of goodwill on the part of Barclays … doesn’t go far enough,” said James. “Forest City Ratner should name this proposed arena after Jackie Robinson or some other sports hero, and should get a more reputable bank.”
Nonetheless, the non-profit’s inception was welcomed by some black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D–Bushwick) and state Sen. Eric Adams (D–Crown Heights).
And Gerard LaRocca, a Barclays spokesman, said he was “delighted to partner with Forest City Ratner and the Nets in this alliance to foster youth development in Brooklyn and other nearby communities,”
The non-profit’s first grant, for $150,000, was awarded to Out2Play, a non-profit that builds and refurbishes playgrounds.
Barclays has consistently denied its involvement in the slave trade.