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Barclays Center to open as largest voting site in Brooklyn

September 1, 2020 John Torenli
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Not a lot has been decided at Barclays Center since the Brooklyn Nets edged the Chicago Bulls on March 8, three days before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NBA season to pause and shuttered the Downtown arena, which also hosts the New York Islanders and New York Liberty.

That will change come next month.

Nets, Liberty and Barclays Center owner Joseph Tsai will re-open the doors of the arena to serve as a 2020 early voting and Election Day polling site, making the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush the place to be for Brooklynites eager to take part in our nation’s biggest decision.

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“As a part of the Brooklyn community it is only appropriate to be an early voting and Election Day polling site,” John Abbamondi, the CEO of Tsai’s Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Group, announced Tuesday morning from the Barclays Center Plaza.

“The Nets and Barclays Center are committed to doing our part in providing a safe and convenient option for the community to vote in the upcoming general election,” he added.

Abbamondi was joined by Michael Ryan, the director of the city’s Board of Elections, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo for what had been hailed as a “major announcement” Monday night.

Barclays will be hosting early voting from Oct. 24-Nov. 1, and on Election Day, Nov. 3, from 6:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Now this beautiful space where we use the basketball court, we use the arena to entertain, is now going to be a place where we’re going to entertain a possibility of choosing the next president of the United States, the next local officials,” said Adams.

It will also be the biggest polling site in our borough, with tens of thousands of local residents eligible to cast their ballots at the arena, which opened in 2012 and has become a flashpoint for Brooklynites during times of social unrest.

“It is critical that at this time we come here not only to protest and rally, but we come here to use our right to vote,” Cumbo said.

“I am so pleased that Barclays Center has stepped up in such a crucial election,” added Ryan. “The more options voters have, the smoother and safer the voting process becomes, especially in what is still a uniquely trying time for the city.”

Barclays joins Madison Square Garden and several other team-owned NBA arenas across the nation in this endeavor following last week’s player protests sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

After initially threatening to walk out on the remainder of the playoffs, players agreed to resume the postseason Saturday, but not before insisting on certain social justice initiatives from the league, including using arenas as polling stations during the election.

“In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with the local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID,” the NBA announced.

“If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.”

Nets, Liberty and Barclays Center owner Joe Tsai will open the doors to his Downtown arena next month for early voting and Election Day. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Tsai’s Nets completed their interrupted campaign at the NBA’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida last week, losing four straight games to the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The Liberty are currently playing their regular season at the WNBA’s bubble site in Bradenton, Florida, posting a 2-13 mark thus far in the league’s abbreviated 22-game campaign.

The Islanders are one win away from closing out their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers entering Tuesday night’s Game 5 at the NHL bubble site in Toronto.

The franchise, which has played at least a portion of its home games at Barclays every year since 2015, hasn’t competed in Brooklyn since dropping a 6-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens here on March 3.

While many thought that would be the Isles’ final game in our borough, the closing of the renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., may force them to play at Barclays next year in advance of the opening of their new state-of-art arena in Elmont, N.Y., in 2021.

For now, there is no forecast on when any of our local teams will return to play ball in Brooklyn.

But there will be a major buzz throughout Barclays next month and into November, when local residents will get to make history of their own in the home of Brooklyn sports.

“The NYC Board of Elections has been a great partner during our discussions over the past two months to determine the safest way to host polling for early voting and Election Day at Barclays Center,” Abbamondi noted.

“We are proud to be a part of the incredible effort that many NBA arenas have shown to ensure that people exercise their voting power.”

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