Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Friday, October 21, 2005

Out Come The Knives 

It's getting tougher to tell the truth about Bruce Ratner's desiccation of Brooklyn.

For writing truthfully about the Atlantic Yards project, brickbats have been launched at New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica, who for two years has been one of the few New York sportswriters to challenge FCR's p.r. machine. (Micheal O'Keefe and Steve Zipay being two other members of this pathetically miniscule grouping.)

Here's what Lupica wrote this past Sunday that got Ratner's and Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz's pants all knotted:


The mayor and the deputy mayor and the Jets get stopped on the West Side of Manhattan even as the next real estate con, not as big but close enough, grows in Brooklyn. This one comes from a developer named Bruce Ratner, who has convinced everybody he is a sportsman as he tries to buy himself an entire borough. Nobody stops him, at least so far.

But we get the same land grab from Ratner all the Manhattan hustlers tried with the Jets on the West Side, the politicians and the owner of the team and the developers. This one just plays out on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. This time Ratner, owner of the Nets basketball team, wants to build 17 high-rise buildings around his new basketball arena and act as if he is building cathedrals.

Ratner is just smarter than Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff was with his vision for a new West Side, built around a football stadium. Ratner does not try to hide one of the sweetheart real estate deals in the history of New York City behind the Olympics. Instead, he spreads money all over the borough, trying to buy influence and loyalty, acting as if this is all about jobs when it is mostly about highly profitable luxury housing.

Along the way, he allows this idea to grow exponentially along with his con:

That since he has so many blacks in Brooklyn with him, it must be the borough's gentrified whites who are against him. In this case, race is much more productive for him than the 2012 Summer Games. This has nothing to do with Ratner's slogan about "jobs, housing and hoops." No, this is Karl Rove's blueprint for how you get things done, right out of the Bush White House: Divide and conquer.

There is no Cablevision to fund the opposition this time, even though it is the same fight Cablevision fought against the Jets, and one that involves a competing basketball team this time.

So the opposition this time comes from neighborhood coalitions like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the constituency of which has seen through Ratner's game from the start. And from the start, the first lie, huge, was this one:

That this was all about bringing a major professional sports franchise to Brooklyn, which hasn't had one since the Dodgers left nearly 50 years ago.

No, this was a real estate deal all along, so much of it to be funded by taxpayer dollars, at least a billion of them before we are through, if Ratner gets his way.

"Ratner says this is about basketball and jobs," Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James was saying Friday night. "The fact is, it's a classic land grab, whose bottom line is that Ratner and his investors are going to get very, very rich."

She is the hero of the opposition for now, a young black woman from Brooklyn, a resident of the borough who hasn't shaken hands with Ratner and come away with money. She is south Brooklyn as a child and P.S. 39 and I.S. 88 and Fort Hamilton High School and Lehman College and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia. Her district is Fort Greene and Prospect Heights and Crown Heights and Clinton Hill. She doesn't fight alone, but she fights the loudest, saying things a mayor is supposed to say, unless he is the mayor of developers and big money before anything or anybody else.

"I'll risk my career on this if I have to," Letitia James said. "There is this ridiculous notion that if you're against Ratner, you're against development. That's not it at all. We want development. Just not like this."

Nobody is saying Ratner can't be a good owner. Nobody is saying he can't move his team to Brooklyn, build a brand new arena. Just not like this.

Letitia James talks about Marty Markowitz, the borough president of Brooklyn who nearly weeps at the loss of the Dodgers and was desperate for the Nets to be his legacy, who seemed giddy to be in the same room with Ratner. Now he can't find the basketball team or the arena because of all those tall buildings.

"Marty thought this was all about the sports team, but it isn't, and I think even he's starting to realize that," Letitia James said. "This is about Ratner building a new city. This is about profoundly changing the demographic of this borough forever, killing neighborhoods in the process, and for what? They say the affordable housing will be 30 percent (of the units), but the truth is, it will be a lot lower than that."

In the end, in a borough where the median income is still listed as $35,000, as few as 900 units will be truly affordable to the people about whom Ratner, Caring Bruce Ratner, says this development of his is all about.

And always there is the use of race by Ratner and his people, as if it is part of his business plan. Of course, this is all tied up with the neighborhood support Ratner says he has. If he has it, he bought it. We hear about groups like BUILD, about which Juan Gonzalez has written in The News. It stands for "Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development." Huge Brooklyn cheerleaders for Ratner. Lots of black faces. The use of innovative only applies here if you think it is new for guys like Ratner to spread money around to get what they want.

On Sept. 29, Joe DePlasco, who comes out of Democratic politics in the city and is now on Ratner's payroll as Ratner tries to buy Brooklyn, told Gonzalez that the only thing Ratner's company, Forest City Ratner, was providing for BUILD was "free office space." Now DePlasco suddenly remembers in the Times on Friday - it is always worth pointing out that the Times and Forest City Ratner are partners in building the Times' new midtown headquarters - that Ratner "disbursed" $100,000 to BUILD in August. It's the old Bob Arum dodge. Yesterday I was lying, today I'm telling the truth.

One of the headlines in the Times was this: "Arena Developer Builds Bridges to Achieve Goal in Downtown Brooklyn." Right. Builds bridges and buys BUILD.

The late Bill Veeck once said that a hustler is somebody who gets you to loan him bus fare, then makes it seem like he did you a favor. Ratner still wants you to believe this is about the Nets. It is about him building his own Brooklyn in Atlantic Yards. And you're supposed to help him. Sound familiar?


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There you have it. Lupica shines the harsh light on Ratner's racial divisiveness, under-the-table deals with local "community groups" (and we use "community groups" the same way one would label Paris Hilton a "useful, productive member of society"), the land-grab angle, the billions of public funds Ratner's trying to make off with, the misappropriation of Brooklyn's mythological past, the lies about Ratner's "affordable" housing...

You get the idea.

So did Ratner's people, who made their anger at Lupica's truthfulness known. Marty Markowitz, it is understood, called and screamed at the unlucky Daily News employee who took the call.

This isn't the first time Ratner and his minions have put pressure on a local paper to alter their coverage. Fans For Fair Play knows of another reporter who was the victim of Ratner's bully tactics, with more serious consequences.

Now would be a good time to write to the Daily News and tell them you appreciate Lupica's opinions on the Atlantic Yards colossus.

In fact, letters and calls should commend the Daily News' three journalists who've been cutting through the Ratner p.r. haze to analyze FCR's machinations: Lupica, Gonzalez and O'Keefe.

This, of course, is weird, since the paper is owned by Mort Zuckerman, a feller who made his fortune in -- yep -- the real-estate business.

Write to the Daily News and tell 'em that you support their incisive, bold reporting on Bruce Ratner's land-grab in Brooklyn. Newspapers, as with people, like to be liked. The Daily News, of course, prides itself on being "New York's Hometown Newspaper."

That's what is says on their Page One nameplate: "New York's Hometown Newspaper."

Write and push them to really live up to that billing by standing up for Brooklynites in Bruce Ratner's crosshairs. That would be all Brooklynites who aren't wealthy, or politically connected, or officers of BUILD and ACORN, or the Rev. Herbert Daughtry.

Particular to Brooklynites -- write to "New York's Hometown Newspaper" while you still have a home in this town.

Voice of the People
New York Daily News
450 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001

e-mail: voicers@edit.nydailynews.com

telephone: (212) 210-2100

fax: (212) 210-1505

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Next time -- after you've all contacted the Daily News -- check back in as we tell you why the "Brooklyn Nets" will never be the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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