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.,
“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.”
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.
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.
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.