Friday, June 06, 2008

Ratner Manufactures Rally In Support Of His AY Failure

The Atlantic Yards Project envisioned by developer Bruce Ratner has fallen on hard times. With the lackluster support and energetic opposition, he has had to scale back his plans and hasn't done much except petition for more of Brooklyn's tax dollars to pay for the start-up costs. That is why he held a "Brooklyn Day" to conjure up community support of his massive plan to redevelop downtown Brooklyn. He even helped sponsor last weekend's "Jazz 'n' Roses" at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, perhaps to show that he cares about the borough or something like that. Yesterday's spectacle though, was a little more over the top than just sponsoring a nice event.

From The Atlantic Yards Report:

Despite decent weather, free t-shirts, a full-page ad in the Daily News, an E-newsletter, requests from union bosses to attend, and promises of free food, free transportation, and “international recording artist Maxi Priest,” the disparate and soon-diminished crowd was often subdued, even bored, and a passel of Forest City Ratner operatives monitoring the event looked somber, despite the billing as a “fun day.”

3500 attendees?

At the event’s peak, with union members streaming in from Downtown Brooklyn job sites, seniors and kids (who had a day off from school) bused in from throughout Brooklyn, and downtown office workers and Greenmarket visitors mingling during their lunch hour, there were probably more than 2000 people present. (Note that a similar event in 2004 drew 1500, according to the developer, though it's hard to tell from the photo if it was more crowded.)

WNYC and the New York Post suggested 3500 people were at the rally--that Forest City Ratner overestimate may apply to the number of people on the plaza, as I don’t disbelieve that 5000 sandwiches and 3000 t-shirts disappeared. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle estimated there were more than 1000 attendees (and noted that some seniors were just there for a day out), while the New York Observer counted “hundreds” and the New York Daily News cautiously stuck with “scores.” The Daily News, which has cheered for the project on its editorial page, bluntly stated in the lead that the rally was "paid for by the developer" and headlined the article Ratner cooks up rally for Brooklyn project. The New York Times, not surprisingly, ignored the event. The New York Sun wrote a tough preview piece.

Many attendees, however, didn’t stay for the speeches, and as the hour-long program of speakers proceeded, the crowd diminished, with fewer than 500 listening until 1:20 p.m., when the speeches ended and the music began. (The event was billed as from 11 am to 3 pm.) By comparison, at the counter-protest May 3, where AY supporters at least had visible antagonists in those calling for a “Time Out” rally, the energy was much greater. In this case, only a few project opponents were spotted in the audience, though Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, in press coverage, called attention to the self-serving, even “desperate” nature of the rally. The Brooklyn Paper ran a scathing editorial questioning Forest City Ratner's correlation between "Brooklyn's renaissance" and the development of Atlantic Yards.

Check out the rest of their post for more details and lots of pictures.

On one hand, it is sad to see that quite a few local politicians are on board this sinking ship and that they have to try and engineer community support for something that clearly has next to nothing of the kind. On the other though, I'm glad to see these crooks going down in flames and on the defensive. For a while I was pessimistic about the fate of downtown Brooklyn and had almost given up on Ratner & Co.'s abuse of eminent domain to profit off of the borough. Gladly I can say I was wrong and hopefully all of this will be behind us soon enough.