Why Barclays is new name on NY subway

There is a Barclay Square in London and a Barclay Street close to the where the Twin Towers once stood in lower Manhattan. But the maps of New York City will soon have to be reprinted to make way for a brand new name among the myriad already attached to stations along the subway system: Barclays Center.

In a deal signed this week, the people who run the New York subway – the Metropolitan Transport Authority – agreed that the second busiest station in the borough of Brooklyn that for decades has been known to train riders as Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street will soon be called Barclays Center.

The name change will coincide with the completion of the first phase in early 2012 of a huge redevelopment of train yards owned by the MTA in downtown Brooklyn, the centre-piece of which will be the largest and most expensive basketball arena in the country. A certain British bank will hold the naming rights to the arena and, New Yorkers are now learning, to the subway stop that will serve it.

It is not the first time that a public transport system in America has dabbled with corporate naming deals to raise extra cash. The monorail taking gamblers up and down the strip in Las Vegas is called the Nextel after the telecommunications giant, for example. But London-based Barclays is the first company to get its name attached to a stop on the New York subway.

Critics who think the tradition of naming stops in New York according to their geographical location works perfectly well will wonder what the MTA will come up with next. Could 42nd Street be renamed Disney Junction or, worse, Tinkerbell Terminus? Perhaps Continental Airlines would like to buy the naming rights to Columbus Circle.

Officials at the authority are indeed indicating that anything that would provide more cash for a system that is already bleeding dollars would be considered. "We're not closing anything out," a spokesman commented.

Not clear, however, is how much benefit such arrangements offer corporations. Barclays, however, may have a special motivation. It is one of the most powerful banks in the world and, since it purchased much of the defunct Lehman Brothers last year, also in New York. But few denizens of the city have ever heard of it. That will soon change, particularly for those riding the subway through Brooklyn.