Friday, June 13, 2008

Ratner Rally And Opposition

In the face of the nation’s economic downturn and rumor of the Nets basketball team sell off, Atlantic Yards backers chose Brooklyn Day, June 5, 2008, for a show of strength. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, union leaders, the elected and others carpeted Brooklyn Borough Hall steps that face the Supreme Court Building. Community Benefits Agreement Chair Dee Hunley-Adossa warmly invited speakers to the podium.

Speech content ranged from glowing memories of the Brooklyn Dodgers to jubilant prospects of jobs to searing threats to critics of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project. Curtis Sliwa described Brooklyn as “the emerald in the crown” and said, “Brooklyn needs the Atlantic Yards Project.” IronWorker Union Local 34 president pointed to “15,000 union jobs and 3,000 sustainable jobs as reasons to convince all opposition to step aside and let this project happen.” Sal Zarzana of the Carpenters Union Local 926 informed the crowd “all union members present lost three hours of pay to attend the rally.”

The crowd was predominantly Black adults and children with a sprinkling of Whites. Black senior citizens covered the benches. School children flanked the speakers at the podium. As large as the crowd was only one small food pushcart gave away free hot dogs. NYS Assemblyman Karim Camara asked, “Are you ready to bring basketball to Brooklyn?” He followed with, “We have a project that has significant provisions for housing for people like you and me.”

NYC Councilmen Lewis Fidler and Dominic Recchio spoke in favor of basketball, jobs and housing. They urged dissenting council members to join the bandwagon. Councilwoman Darlene mealy proclaimed herself “a union baby.” She named David Yassky, Hakeem Jeffries and Tish James as project blockers. Mealy declared, “If Tish James won’t build it, then we’ll knock her out of office…we have to think about who we vote for. If they’re not doing things in our favor, we have to get rid of them.” Upon hearing this statement, St. Senator Eric Adams who was absent from the rally responded, “This is the same idea we have for those elected that agree with using eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.”

Across town and hours later, Community Board 8’s Housing/ULURP committee met at the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation to deliberate on the same matter. Committee Chairwoman Nizjoni Granville read eleven points for inclusion in a letter of inquiry to FCR and the Empire State Development Corp. from CB 8. Claims of “no business when the arena is dark” were heard. Peter Krashes who lives within the projects footprint explained “the project is being done in two phases where the arena and commercial space are in Phase I. Housing construction is in the second phase and its estimated completion is in 2018. City and state government have no measures to hold FCR accountable to completing Phase II.”

Eminent domain was used to shorten the project from a 20-year timetable to a 10 – 12 year process. The community is concerned that a great portion of the project area is cleared, though it will be ten years before constructions occurs. Present at the meeting was ESDC Ombudsman Forest Taylor who affirmed that the state reimbursed FCR $105 million for assembling the site. Though invited, FCR didn’t send a representative to the meeting.

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