Barclays Center, we hope you’re ready for your close-up, because more than a dozen police security cameras are honing in on the area around the 18,000-seat arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at any given moment, this paper has learned.
Police made the arena viewable from all angles at the click of a mouse when they quietly installed the cameras high up on lampposts surrounding the basketball palace about nine months ago, said Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri of the 78th precinct, which patrols outside the Barclays Center and, at its station house, has around-the-clock live feeds of crowds streaming past one of the borough’s busiest intersections.
“It’s a big arena and like any major venue or any bridges or tunnels or stadiums or schools and colleges, they will have cameras for safety,” the commanding officer said.
Behind the front desk of the cop shop, monitors show images from the eyes in the sky as they pan across the plaza, sidewalks, and subway entrances that ring the sports and music venue.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which has advocated against the expanded use of surveillance cameras by police and corporations, said that it does not have a problem with this particular kind of filming. Chris Dunn, a lawyer with the group, said that it is the widespread installation of secret cameras that his organization is worried about and that the arena’s camera boxes, which are marked with small police insignias, are akin to having officers standing guard in those spots.
It is unclear who owns two other rooftop cameras — one atop a building at Flatbush Avenue near Dean Street and the other on a Fort Greene Place Office tower above the Atlantic Terminal Mall — their lenses trained on the arena that is the centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, but affixing such cameras to a building one owns is perfectly legal. A Barclays Center spokesman refused to comment on those taping devices, but neighbors we spoke to say they do not mind having their every move recorded, though they wish more beat cops would actually patrol the streets.
“The cameras are probably a good thing, but it won’t stop the crime from happening,” said longtime Prospect Heights resident Marie Sankoh. “If I saw more cops, that would be better.”
Ameri said even though the home of the Brooklyn Nets is heavily surveilled, the surrounding area is quite safe. The top cop said that no violent crimes have been reported outside the one-year-old arena in nearly a year.
The neighborhood’s outgoing councilwoman and soon-to-be city Public Advocate Letitia James is a longtime critic of the Atlantic Yards project on issues including aesthetics, construction wages, and street parking, but she said that whether you like corporate and government surveillance or not — Brooklynites love it, by the way — Big Brother is a natural fit for the Barclays Center.
“It doesn’t come as any surprise that there surveillance cameras around the arena,” James said. “It’s not a question of good or bad — most arenas do have surveillance cameras.”