New gripe against Barclays

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Barclays Bank’s partnership with Bruce Ratner is under fire again — but this time not because of the bank’s slavery- and apartheid-linked past.

The New York Libertarian Party is now calling for a nationwide boycott of the British banking behemoth on the grounds that its participation in the Atlantic Yards project is a tacit endorsement of the state’s use of eminent domain to condemn private property and turn it over to a private developer, Ratner.

“Barclays’ participation in eminent domain is an outrage as a private enterprise disrespecting property rights,” said Gary Popkin, the party’s Brooklyn–Queens chairman.

Earlier this year, Barclays agreed to pay Ratner $400 million to name the soon-to-be-built Nets arena “the Barclays Center.” The deal was immediately criticized by many black leaders, including several close to the developer, who complained that the bank profited from slavery, apartheid, the Holocaust and other ugly moments in human history.

But Popkin dismissed that controversy in one sentence.

“The actions of the bankers of centuries past do not taint the arena,” he said. “It is participation in the eminent domain scheme that taints whoever participates in it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision in 2005 allows the government to condemn privately owned land and turn it over to private developers, said the Libertarian Party Chairman Richard Cooper, but “millions of Americans were outraged by” that 5–4 High Court decision.

Cooper also decried Ratner’s arena as a public boondoggle that amounts to “corporate sports welfare.”

Thanks to city and state subsidies, tax breaks and out and out grants, Ratner will pay nothing to build his $637-million, Frank Gehry-designed arena. He will pay back the city and state with revenues generated by ticket, food and souvenir sales.

“To Libertarians, corporate sports welfare and eminent domain abuse are legalized theft, stealing from taxpayers and landowners,” Cooper said. “Barclays chose to become an accomplice of Bruce Ratner. They should both bear the outrage of indignant Americans who favor freedom and justice.”

Cooper’s outraged is joined by a higher power. No, not Libertarian demi-god, Harry Browne, but the Rev. Fred Jenkins of St. Luke’s Pentacostal Church on Long Island.

Cooper, Popkin and the Reverend will address the party’s state convention next month on Long Island.

Ratner and Barclays declined to comment.

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