Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project
Friday, May 28, 2004
So there'll be a gap here and there.See the Archives for more...
Back on Wednesday, this being Friday, a few of us met with a New York City Council member. The group was Dan Goldstein from Develop Don't Destroy (Brooklyn), Patty Hagan from Prospect Heights Action Coalition, myself representing FFFP, and the person who set up the meeting, an act his employers would look disapprovingly upon.
It's weird talking with elected officials. Most of 'em wanna hear your pain without experiencing much on their own. I suppose on one level that plasticine distance is necessary -- they get hit up for a lot of pothole repairs, building condemnations, broken streetlamps, etc. A big etc.
But still, they asked for the job. And I wish they'd just feel freer about being themselves. Some do. Marty Markowitz does -- that's the only kind thing I can say about him. He's also ignorant of his constituents' wishes and puts himself before Brooklyn's betterment...but at least you know he's a pompous ass more concerned with cosmetic than substantive changes.
Most of the rest, though, size up their constituents and compartmentalize them as quickly as they can. They then proffer tightly cropped remarks that maybe will fix the problem, maybe will make the citizen in front of them feel better. Mostly, the issue just gets tossed back onto the IN box pile.
The councilmember we met with on Wednesday's a good guy, trying hard to balance what he believes is a good opportunity for Brooklyn with the obvious downsides. His assistant was helpful in shaping the meeting. He asked some vaguely hard questions, but not hard enough.
See, Dan, Patty and I -- most everyone in the struggle against the Ratner arena, actually -- can answer the hardest questions. Because we have facts and analyses and historic precedents to draw on. When you hit a softball question out of the park, people yawn. But when you handle a 98-m.p.h. question the same way, people take notice.
I think our councilmember took notice. He's already on record as being opposed to taxpayers getting soaked in order to fund Ratner's folly. But he also believes the arena's revenues will pay taxpayers back. He asked for more data and we'll get it to him.
A bigger lobbying effort comes this Tuesday, when buses are heading to Albany with members of PHAC, Brooklyn Visions, DDDB, FFFP, and all the other groups fighting the arena. They'll be lobbying members of the state legislature. It's an important day, since the city has abdicated its legislative responsibilities by handing the handling of Ratnerville over to the state. That would be agencies staffed by Pataki appointees loyal to the governor, himself loyal to law-school buddy Bruce Ratner.
They'll be urging legislators to come out against the project and against the secretive, undemocratic manner in which the project's gone forward.
Information on the lobbying trip, during which you'll receive training on how to deal with folks in the statehouse, can be found at http://www.nostadium.homestead.com.
Finally, a quote from Bruce Ratner himself. In Wednesday's New York Times, he was explaining why his atrocious Atlantic Center Mall was , well, atrocious...in design and execution. In particular, he was addressing a layout that feels institutional and literally turns its back on Fort Greene, the neighborhood it's supposed to be serving.
"It's a problem of malls in dense urban areas that kids hang out there, and it's not too positive for shopping." Look, here you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids. You know it's kids that cut school. In the burbs, a 15'-year-old can't get to the mall without his parents. Here, it's a little different."
The Times indicates that Ratner believes it was not an issue of class or ethnicity.
But of course, that's exactly what it is.
Ratner's quotes indicate a number of disturbing revelations about Bruce Ratner's mindset:
1) The Atlantic Center Mall was designed with the belief that kids from the "projects" (a label people who live in housing developments abhor) are "tough kids."
2) Ratner believes insuring conditions that are "positive for shopping" is worth the mall's back being turned on its neighbors.
3) Ratner casts kids from the neighborhoods around the mall as "kids that cut school."
4) He sees kids in the suburbs (primarily white) as better behaved with responsible parents. "Here, it's a little different" is code language for "blacks don't behave the same as the kids in the suburbs, maybe because they don't have the same parenting.
In fact, it's all coded language that says "we had to design the mall to protect shoppers from marauding black youth from the projects who don't have any parental guidance."
Ratner, of course, doesn't use this space to apologize for his and FCR's biased assesment of the mall's surrounding communities. He doesn't say "it was terrible of us to think that way, and I'm sorry. We'll do everything to never let that happen again."
Instead, Ratner believes he was right to think that way.
It's astonishing...these are quotes from a man trying to convince communities that he's working on their behalf, that he cares about them, that he'll make their lives better. As for the Times, this was supposed to be the latest in their series of Ratner puff pieces -- they are business partners, so don't look for objectivity on this issue from the Gray Lady.
These are just the latest remarks from a wealthy developer whose discomfort with the communities he's steamrolling is glaring.
Objectively, anyone who still believes Forest City Ratner cares about the people of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill and Boerum Hill, needs to ingest these remarks and re-think Bruce Ratner.