Anybody who has followed my journalism career – be they fans or haters – will tell you that I was the reporter most responsible for bringing the Nets and the Barclays Center to Brooklyn.
Which is why it pains me to write I take umbrage of the statue of gyro meat located on the Barclays Center Plaza at the Atlantic/Flatbush avenues intersection.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gyros, or shawarmas as they are sometimes called. In fact, I’ve eaten at nearly every gyro joint from Bay Ridge to Coney Island Avenue, but it just doesn’t make sense to have a statue of roasting meat in front of a NBA arena. It might work in front of a Mediterranean or Middle eastern arena say in Istanbul, Athens, Damascus, Tel-Aviv or Ramallah, but not here in America.
Detroit for example has a statue of boxing great Joe Louis’ fists in front of their arena and Chicago has one of Michael Jordan in front of their arena. So how is it that the Barclays Center in Brooklyn has a 12,000-pound monumental cast-bronze sculpture of gyro meat on its’ plaza?
As it turns out they gyro statue was chosen to represent Brooklyn by a committee of one: David Berliner, the former chief operating officer of Forest City Ratner (FCR), the company that bought the Nets to bring to Brooklyn and that built the arena.
I happen to know FCR’s former President Bruce Ratner, having covered the Nets coming to Brooklyn and the construction of the arena. In fact, I’ve broken pitas with Ratner on several press junkets and I can attest anecdotally that he’s a gyro eater if ever there was one.
Additionally, the FCR headquarters is in downtown Brookyn – a stone throw away from a number of Halal carts and a short walk from Atlantic Avenue, where there are several good Arabic shawarma joints.
But Ratner isn’t Berliner and I’m nothing if not a meat-sniffing investigative journalistic so I had to see what happened to Berliner.
After a lengthy two-minute Google search, KCP found that Berliner left Ratner and landed on his feet as the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Museum, which makes sense on why he was the person who chose the gyro statue.
So I got on the horn to the Brooklyn Museum where Berliner’s secretary answered and told me her boss was out (probably to lunch). I identified myself as a KCP reporter and said I didn’t have a message, but I did have a question. “Does your boss, David Berliner eat meat?”
“Yes he does. Why?”
“And do you know what a gyro sandwich is?”
“Of course. Everybody knows what a gyro sandwich is. They’re delicious.”
“So in your opinion does David Berliner eat gyros?”
“I think he does. I can’t say for sure, but I think he does.”
So there you have it. It’s obvious that Ratner was on some kind of deadline to deliver a statue for the arena plaza, but not being an art aficionado, he called on Berliner to find one.
Berliner in turn started researching public statues online, but it was around lunch time and his stomach got the best of him. Thus, he ordered the sculpture of gyro meat.
And that’s the tale of how a statue memorializing one of the most iconic sandwiches known to man – the gyro – came to rest in front of the Barclays Center Plaza.
Personally, I would prefer a statue of Jackie Robinson, but a gyro will do.
I’m never one to turn down some roasted and thinly sliced chicken or lamb meat served in a pita on a bed of lettuce and topped with raw onions, tomatoes and spritzed with both red and white sauce.