By Raanan Geberer
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Nets’ plans for a new training facility in Sunset Park’s Industry City will not only help the Nets become an all-Brooklyn team, it will help raise the profile of Sunset Park, too.
As Eagle sports editor John Torenli recently reported, starting in 2015-16, the Nets will abandon their current practice digs in East Rutherford, N.J., and move into a new 70,000-square-foot facility at 148 39th Street. The Nets will partner with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which will give its name to the center.
Torenli quoted Nets general manager Billy King as saying, “This is the only pro basketball team that will play and practice in New York City, alluding to the fact that the Knicks practice in suburban Tarrytown, N.Y. The team also claims the new center will create at least 60 full-time jobs.
The practice facility will hopefully do more than that. Its presence could spawn other businesses, such as souvenir shops and sports bars. These, in turn, will hire more local residents, helping the local economy even more.
The industrial portion of Sunset Park, west of the Gowanus Expressway, has needed improvement for some time. True, there are many thriving, important businesses there, such as Costco and the Virginia Dare flavor-extract company.
The city-administered Brooklyn Army Terminal, so named because it was once an Army base, does an admirable job as an “incubator” for start-up industrial and commercial businesses, from art studios to biochemical companies to a Ford service facility. (The terminal, by the way, is also the place where Elvis Presley embarked for Europe as a new Army recruit in 1958.)
Lutheran Medical Center on 55th Street is an active, thriving hospital. The Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison, also contributes to Sunset Park’s economy, even though the feds aren’t too forthcoming about what goes on there.
Still, industrial Sunset Park is no longer what it was back in the days when it was lined with piers that bought raw materials straight to the factories. Until fairly recently, it was known for its strip bars and adult bookstores, and it’s been difficult to shake that image. But lots of space is still available in the old industrial buildings, and the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center, as the Nets facility will be known, will surely raise Sunset Park’s profile and create more demand.
Back in the early 2000s, a friend of mine, now deceased, lived on 42nd Street and Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. He contended that “Sunset Park is the next hot neighborhood – everything is set as soon as the elevated Gowanus Expressway is torn down.” The late Dennis Holt, author of the Eagle’s “Brooklyn Broadside” column, similarly believed that the elevated highway’s demolition was imminent.
It hasn’t happened yet. But hopefully, the coming of the Nets’ training center will act as a catalyst for change in Sunset Park. The improvements will also help Sunset Park’s nearby residential section, home to many low-income immigrants from Latin America and China who need good-paying jobs.
The economic development that will be spurred by the new facility is just another reason why, in the words of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Brooklyn Heights writer Arthur Miller, “Brooklyn is the world.”