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‘Battle For Brooklyn’ — How Politicians and a Developer Trashed a Neighborhood for an Arena

A fabulously rich developer with powerful political
connections promises to build a sports venue that will create tens thousands of
jobs and spark an economic revival of an entire downtown.

It may sound like what Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz
and his man in L.A. Tim Leiweke are promising their NFL stadium and a rebuilt Convention
Center by bringing millions of people from far and wide to downtown Los Angeles
and filling the city treasury with cash as hotels, restaurants and bars are
built on every corner.

But it’s not. It’s what has happened to downtown Brooklyn
over the last eight years as a healthy neighborhood was bulldozed, property
seized by the state under eminent domain, and promises made to the community by developer Bruce Ratner were broken.

The story of the community’s struggle, the personal efforts of the last holdout, Daniel Goldstein, and the resistance of thousands of New Yorkers to having their rights trampled and their interests ignored is told in a powerful new
documentary film “Battle for Brooklyn” by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley which
will open Friday in L.A. at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd.,
Beverly Hills.

brooklyn.jpg

“The promises of developer Bruce Ratner — that he
was bringing world-class architecture, affordable housing, and, most important
of all in his sales pitch, tens of thousands of jobs to the corner of Flatbush
and Atlantic Avenues — are turning out to be expensive fictions,” New York
magazine reviewer Chris Smith
wrote recently.

Battle for Brooklyn” is at its best
showing how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the
powerful, but how it also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight … though,
there’s little comfort in being noble losers
.”

So
many of us here know the feeling of fighting for healthy neighborhoods, a city
that works for its people and respects their values only to see our public
servants sell us out for the benefit of the rich and powerful while making a
mockery of democratic processes.

That’s
clearly what politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Charles Schumer and
a lot of others did in the fight over the heavily-subsidized Atlantic Yards
development, a proposed 22-acre, $4 billion project that includes a new arena
that will house the NBA team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets.

What
developer Ratner and his family company, Forest City of Cleveland, proposed was
a mixed-use commercial and residential with the arena and 16 high-rise
buildings designed by architect Frank Gehry in Prospect Heights, adjacent to
downtown Brooklyn and very close to where Walter O’Malley long ago tried to
build a baseball stadium to keep the Dodgers in town..

After years of delay because of community resistance and
legal battles, it’s far from clear what actually will be built besides the
arena which is supposed to be ready for the 2012-13 NBA season. Gehry was fired
two years ago and only a few hundred jobs have been created.

Like the heavily-subsided mixed-use developments that are
supposed to be part of Eli Broad’s Grand Avenue Project, it’s not at all clear what
if anything will be built or when or how much public money will be involved
given the city’s financial troubles and today’s economic uncertainties.

Much to the dismay of construction unions who supported this
deal with the promise of so many jobs, Ratner is considering building a
prefabricated 34-story apartment building – the largest ever built anywhere
off-site – because factory labor costs would be dramatically cheaper. 

It’s all too familiar a story to so many of us in LA. It may help to know we are not alone in
feeling betrayed by the people elected to serve us and to see in the “Battle for Brooklyn” how so many fought so hard for so long.

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24 Responses to ‘Battle For Brooklyn’ — How Politicians and a Developer Trashed a Neighborhood for an Arena

  1. You don’t have to go to new york to see how the city council treats the diluted political constituent. A small group of people in South Central Los Angeles has been fighting a similar type of project. Everybody has told them to give it up. But they keep fighting because we all want healthy communities support them. Here is your local problem… send a email to the politicians…. http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=92

  2. I hear you Healthy Communities. We think the Garden is a tremendous film- and we are happy to call Scott a friend- we’ve done what we could to spread the word about the film in Brooklyn.
    I hope that the film can bring attention back to these problems in LA. That’s our goal
    michael galinsky

  3. Anonymous says:

    As your previous article indicated there is a new normal on the rise and people are just refusing to accept it. People just look at the statistics post world War II, and are assured that the stock market and the housing market always come roaring back. Somehow, the last 20 years have passed them by & everyone expects the old normal to return anyday.
    Within the context of a stadium, here is the reality. We have two perfectly good, established historic stadiums–the Coliseum & the Rose Bowl. Why do we need a new one? If NFL, as they have done in the past decide to desert us, little harm is done. The cities are not left holding the bag. But we hear, that NFL demands there be luxury boxes. For WHOM? Are the 1% of the country’s wealthy going to congregrate in LA for those football games? Who are these fat people who can’t enjoy a day game without sitting in luxury eating and drinking themselves to insanity.
    Once again, the NFL like bulk of the population can’t get used to the new Norm. Why is that everything about current LA reminds us of the Roman Empire where the emperor & the wealthy sat in their luxury boxes enjoying gladiators beat each other into a bloody mess. It all ended & the ruins are there to see.
    If it is football we want, then let’s invite NFL to either of the two existing wonderful stadiums. If it is a circus we want, then go to the 30 million city-gifted to CIM Cirque-de-Soleil in Hollywood where the $250 tickets will soon be be its’ demise.
    No where in this scenario does Farmers Field make any sense.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And of course, there is the film: “Art of the Steal” that connects the dots in a “who done it” story of the theft of the Barnes Collection from its historic and intended place of exhibition into a sterile downtown Philadelphia museum location in order to create a tacky tourist destination.
    A similar theft is underway by the Autry Museum with respect to the extensive collection of the Southwest Museum — the Los Angeles’ first museum. Autry, led by Mrs. Autry herself, misrepresented its wealth in order to get its hands on the Southwest’s assets. Right now, Autry is trying to move the exhibitions of the Southwest Museum out of its National Register of Historic Places building and put it in the basement of the Autry Museum in Griffith Park.
    The complicity of the City’s Recreation and Parks Department and Tom LaBonge demonstrate that they will go down in history as accessories to the theft of the Southwest Museum by the Autry — if Los Angeles and its elected officials fail to act to stop it.
    We do live in a new world — where integrity has been tossed out the window in favor of greed and arrogance. Rome is burning — who’s doing the fiddling?

  5. michael says:

    Some people worry that Battle for Brooklyn is too much of a local story- but I think its clear from the comments that it’s the same story everywhere over and over.
    I was doing an interview about the film today and I said that one thing that drove us to make it- and I think it drove Dan to fight- was that everyone I talked to thought it was idiotic and wrong – but they saw the governor and mayor and senators lining up behind it so they felt helpless. If we all feel helpless they’ve won. I think the movie shows that even a small band of community fighters can make a huge difference.
    I want this film to show Los Angles that it doesn’t have to accept a bad deal.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As the once successful Dodger franchise’s impending bankruptcy shows is that most sports organizations are functioning on an old paradigm that is past its age. The sooner we re-orient ourselves to the new realities, the less grief we’ll have.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to be off-topic in a way, but not entirely. Our village idiot Antonio had his high-paid media people write this on Huffington Post under his name.
    “I know because my mother, who raised me and my siblings on her own, struggled to support us. She rode the bus every day, sometimes working three jobs to pay the bills. But she also encouraged us to read Shakespeare and memorize poetry. She taught us to believe in ourselves and challenge ourselves. She taught us that education is a civil right, but that it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that education is put to good use’.
    Wow! a Shakespeare reading man who had no problems selling our city to AEG. Education taught him no critical thinking other than to find the easy way to feed at the public trough.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anon 6:11pm
    I wonder why that was necessary. I bellieve
    the story about his Mom. But somehow I am wondering about Vilar.

  9. James McCuen says:

    And don’t forget about Chavez Ravine: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/chavezravine/film.html

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor is responsible for AEG’s Farmer’s Field. It was a done deal a year prior to recent Council approvals.

  11. Wayne From Encino says:

    On Election night 2008 I stated: “Obama will be THE MOST UNPOPULAR PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY AND WON’T RUN FOR A 2ND TERM.”
    Now I’ll make this one:
    THE NFL WILL NOT RETURN TO LOS ANGELES AND THE FARMERS FIELD SCAM WILL NEVER BE BUILT…
    Why? L.A. doesn’t have sufficient private corporate HQs to buy the season tix sufficient to guarantee TO THE NFL a healthy team. And the NFL can’t trust City Hall to TAX THE FANS TO DEATH AND FORCE A TEAM TO MOVE OUT OF L.A.

  12. Anonymous says:

    We all need to do our part and get the word out. We need to show those bastards in City Hall that we have a voice even if they don’t want to listen to us. We can stop this corrupt AEG NFL stadium. Why isn’t anyone inviting Majestic to their meetings so we can hear the other side. THE TRUTH. I was sent this website by Majestic that shows a whole different story on the NFL Stadium. Pass it on to everyone you know http://www.losangelesfootballstadium.com
    Last night on TMZ the Failure of a Mayor was on camera saying “Since I was elected I’ve been working to bring an NFL team to LA.” The video isn’t posted but I’m sure we can get it. This is how corrupt our Mayor and city council members are. I found this story to be quite interesting from out of San Francisco Chronicle.
    “In all his years in office, Mayor Villaraigosa is better known for his personal scandals and ethics violations than for improving Los Angeles or creating jobs,” she said. “Latino voters want someone they can look up to, and Mayor Villaraigosa has routinely come up short.”
    http://bettinainclan.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/la-mayor-villaraigosa-questionable-past-and-future/

  13. Anonymous says:

    WTF?? I read this and couldn’t stop laughing. We have the biggest failure of a Mayor running the 2nd largest city in the nation and he has the audacity to criticize the Gov for the budget when he can’t even run his own City and has run LA into the toliet. In the same breath he said Tuesday he is skeptical about the idea of the Legislature giving the project (AEG)an exemption from environmental lawsuits. “I don’t think they are going to do that, and I don’t think they should,” Villaraigosa said.
    Mayor Villaraigosa says the state budget signed by Brown earlier this year simply “patched the leaks,” but did little to solve the state’s long-term problems

  14. Anonymous says:

    This was the gist of the comment made by 6:11 p.m. Reading classics or Shakespeare is not an easy task, and if you had the brain power to do it, wonderful. These are the critical thinkers who understand all sides of an issue & have the vision to be leaders. But we have a Mayor who claims to have done that and yet devolves to the lowest common denominator where his guide are his high, tax paid speech writers or developers. Big words are not going to save a city sunk deep into a morass of corruption and misery, most of it caused by the Mayor.

  15. Anonymous says:

    See the corrupt mess Antonio Villaraigosa and his office created when it took the Los Angeles City College Satellite Campus at the historic Van de Kamps Bakery away from residents/taxpayers of Northeast Los Angeles.
    http://www.hollywoodhighlands.org/HollywoodHighlands.org/MPV.html
    Now State Controller John Chiang has issued the first truly independent audit of the Los Angeles Community College District’s $5.7 billion bond construction program. More than $140 million of improper expenditures, hiring of an unqualified crony as Inspector General, and a passive, perfunctory, and ineffective Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee.
    More details at:
    http://www.hollywoodhighlands.org/HollywoodHighlands.org/MPV.html
    Including the LACCD’s new Inspector General swinging on a Playboy Mansion stripper pole…..

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’ve read a lot about this issue. The sad thing is that LACCD is being asked to pay the price for something that the Mayor forced upon them. When will Chiang investigate this corrupt Mayor. As someone, who makes twice the Mayor’s salary, I can say with confidence that the Mayor’s lifestyle is unsustainable on his pay check. Do Chiang, the AG or the DA have the balls to investigate this corrupt man. Someone else or a publicly funded program is paying his bills. Let’s get to the root of LA corruption before we go after low-level flunkies who will be sacrificed even as our Mayor is promoted to greater glories.

  17. Anonymous says:

    There is a call out to all activists, Los Angeles Community College District employees and students to come to the Special Board meeting that President Miguel Santiago called for Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm at the District headquarters building at 770 Wilshire Blvd.
    There’s going to be a protest for the District’s waste and abuse of bond funds at 6 pm just before the Board meeting.
    http://www.hollywoodhighlands.org/HollywoodHighlands.org/MPV.html

  18. Anonymous says:

    When the above are willing to protest outside the Mayor’s office on the 3rd floor of City Hall at 200 Spring Street, I’ll join the fight.

  19. James McCuen says:

    Grand Crossing/Industry doesn’t have a chance and I would be happy to eat crow on this.
    But there is time to go through the Downtown LA Stadium MOU between AEG and LA.
    1. Find out the factual problems with the deal.
    2. If there are key negatives for the City and its taxpayers, make a list and get it out on talk show, newspaper editorials, articles, even paid commercials (I don’t think Majastic has the balls to pay for it though) so find another sugar daddy.
    3. Leverage those with common interests in preventing the Stadium deal to go through.
    Then if public opinion really turns, call the City Council and Mayor’s bluff on the “non-binding” nature of the MOU.

  20. Mr. McCuen
    These are very good points. One thing I noticed, as an outsider, was that almost every article about the project was a restatement of the press release. In fact the only way I found this blog was searching through the articles until I found one that wasn’t just a restatement. As such it’s going to be very difficult to get the media and the politicians to pay attention to realistic numbers. It’s also going to be difficult to find anyone to crunch them.
    The fight is defenitely worth it- even if people don’t want to stop it completely- but simply want it to be a good deal for taxpayers. It does seem from these comments that more and more people are crying foul about all of these abuses.

  21. James McCuen says:

    Mr. Galinksy,
    Yes, I agree with you. Since the MOU is non-binding on either party, there is at least a chance to thoroughly vet the MOU.
    And even if the mainstream won’t pick it up there are other avenues to get the word out including following the playbook of AEG by having a group of people speak daily on it.
    Also there are sources that will pick up on this if the issues can be backed up and it withstands a fact check.

  22. Steve says:

    Just saw the movie at Laemmle’s Music Hall. Not only a poignant story for any city these days, but well done. It was engaging, with a number of inspiring characters. Extremely well edited for a movie spanning at least three years – the storyline was deftly held together by the skilled film crew. My wife, who was born in Brooklyn was deeply moved.

  23. Steve says:

    Just saw the movie at Laemmle’s Music Hall. Not only a poignant story for any city these days, but well done. It was engaging, with a number of inspiring characters. Extremely well edited for a movie spanning at least three years – the storyline was deftly held together by the skilled film crew. My wife, who was born in Brooklyn was deeply moved.

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