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One of the staunchest supporters of the Atlantic Yards project pulled her support in response to Barclays Bank signing a 20-year naming rights deal on the arena for more than $300 million. But Barclays insists that Clarke is misinformed and is willing to meet with the Brooklyns African-American community to discuss the situation. Newly-elected Rep. Yvette Clarke withdrew her support citing the banks role in the African slave trade, Holocaust and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. I have consistently given support to the Atlantic Yards project because of its real potential to significantly address the need for entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, as well as the affordable housing deficit that continues to grow each and every day in Central Brooklyn, said Clarke, an African-American of Jamaican heritage. However, my support for this project must not be interpreted as support at any cost, she added. Clarke said Barclays is a 400-year-old, $2 trillion, multinational financial empire that has been linked to Nazi Germany, apartheid in South Africa and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Forest City Ratner Companies [FCRC] has fallen short of community expectations in fulfilling certain commitments. I am concerned about this marriage and its ramifications in meeting the expectations of the residents of Central Brooklyn, said Clarke. Clarke said the naming rights deal highlights a growing lack of sensitivity to community interests throughout this process. I have a duty, as a representative of arguably the largest black community in North America, to voice concern when minority supporters are left in the dark about the arrival of an institution with such a troubling past, she said. Clarke said the development at Atlantic Yards can only succeed as a true public and private sector partnership. This process must be inclusive, transparent and structured so that community stakeholders are active participants in making key decisions, she said. There are a range of issues including tax breaks and eminent domain that can only be addressed by multiple levels of government, Clarke added. Barclays spokesperson Peter Truell countered that, We fear that the Congresswoman has been misinformed. Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki agree that Barclays was a strong positive force in the elimination of apartheid. Then house banking chairman, James Leach said that Barclays was a leader in righting the wrongs of Nazi Germany, said Truell. The history books agree that David Barclay was a leader in the abolition of slavery in Great Britain, and that James Barclay had no connection with slavery, he added. Truell said the company will stand on its record and not be mischaracterized. Barclays would be very willing to meet with the African-American leadership in Brooklyn, and has already offered to do that, said Truell. Barclays is very happy with its partnership with FCRC and looks forward to working with the Brooklyn and broader New York communities, FCRC and the Nets for many years to come, he added. Meanwhile, FCRC pokesperson Lauren Riegelhaupt said the company will also reach out to Clarke and address her concerns. We have worked closely with her and will continue to work closely with her to ensure that Atlantic Yards provides many needed benefits including jobs, affordable housing and job training programs to her constituents and to all the people of Brooklyn, Riegelhaupt said.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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