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Barclays pays big bucks to be in Bklyn - Borough could become eastern hub of Worldwide financial center

Could Brooklyn be fast becoming the eastern hub of the new world financial headquarters? Speculation grew after last week’s announcement of the 20-year naming rights deal between England-based Barclays Bank and Bruce Ratner’s Nets basketball team to call the proposed Brooklyn Arena Barclays Center. A Barclays spokesperson said the deal is worth “north of $300 million,” but there are a number of clauses, particularly in the second half of the 20-year pact, making it hard to put an exact number on the pact. Interestingly, the spokesperson confirmed that the Barclays Center also is looking to provide retail establishments and commercial offices in the area, as well as their association with the arena. The Downtown Brooklyn area, whose MetroTech Center already has financial giants Bear Sterns and Chase Manhattan as tenants as well as housing other Wall Street back-office space, is fast becoming crucial to the New York area’s plans to retain its role as the global financial center. Some speculate that ultimately the borough will become the eastern hub of this world financial district that stretches from Brooklyn directly west across the East River to the Wall Street area, and then directly west across the Hudson River to Jersey City. The Barclays spokesperson did not discount the possibility of a stronger Barclays corporate presence in the borough. Barclays has a balance sheet of over $1.8 trillion worldwide in 60 countries and employs about 120,000 people. The company’s global investment headquarters are currently in San Francisco while their American headquarters is currently in midtown, and they have back-office space in New Jersey, according to the spokesperson. Barclays has in the recent past gone out of the retail banking business, having sold their West Coast operation to Wells Fargo Bank, and their East Coast business to the Bank of New York. The Bank of New York already has back offices as part of Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal Mall. The 20-year deal also came about a week before Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer announced a nine-point plan to streamline regulations, ease red tape and cut costs to help the city stay competitive with such fast-growing financial centers as London and Hong Kong. In addition, the agreement calls for the creation of a $2.5 million Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote athletics, education and mentor young people in Brooklyn. The alliance will, as its first objective, repair and renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout the borough, as well as sponsor amateur athletic tournaments and clinics for Brooklyn’s youth. The Barclays spokesperson said the alliance will mirror the Barclays Spaces for Sports program in the UK. The UK program helps local communities transform neglected land into the sporting facilities they want – from skateboard parks to soccer fields or multi-use game areas. Ratner called the Nets/Barclays partnership an important moment in Brooklyn’s history and its place on the international stage. “With this essential investment in Atlantic Yards and the borough, we are now one step closer to our goal of bringing thousands of jobs, mixed-income housing, and, of course, a world-class arena and franchise to Brooklyn,” said Ratner. The Nets are hoping to have the arena built for the 2009-10 NBA season.

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