Responses to the Supporters
or "Why can't we just discuss this project on its own merits?"
The following are real arguments heard from supporters of the Atlantic Yards Development and responses to them. Many of these statements may seem absurd but they are actual points of discussion that residents who are opposed to this project are subjected to.
Statement: If you are against the Atlantic Yards you are against minorities getting jobs.
Answer: In truth, there may be very few, good paying, long-term jobs for Brooklynites, especially minorities. The 15,000 construction jobs the Ratner Company's chief salesman Mr. Stuckley keeps claiming is another lie; in reality it's 1,500 construction jobs a year over ten years of work, The project's construction has already been contracted out to an Atlanta-based company, and will be all union workers. And after its completion most of the offerings may be minimum wage jobs.
There will be lots of other jobs, but not the kind the community groups were led to believe. Ratner's office space will probably be filled with corporate office workers and other business people who will most likely live in the suburbs.
The union workers who show up at the hearings and chant for jobs (while being paid) are just pawns for the developers and their much bigger payday. They do not give a $#@* about the people that reside in the surrounding communities - nor do they care about the terrible environmental consequences of the project. They only care about themselves. And despite what many claim, they do not even live in NYC.
But look around the neighborhood. Are we not in one of the largest construction booms in recent NYC history? There are buildings going up everywhere in Brooklyn, which is something the Ratner people did not take into account at all when speculating about future traffic, condominium interest, market oversaturation, etc. The construction business is obviously booming. Isn't there employment for those workers now? There are scores of unemployed non-construction-based Brooklynites who are not even counted in the unemployment figures. Why should we feel sorry for construction workers and their jobs? They certainly do not care about the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected by this disaster waiting to happen.
Sure they'll be some short-term construction positions, and some other service-related jobs later. But what the workers don't get is: something will be built on those yards – whether it's the Ratner Plan or another more community-friendly one – and there will be construction jobs in either scenario, but mostly for union workers
Statements like "if you are against the arena you are against jobs" are one of the most reprehensible outcomes of this whole debate, the same as saying "if you are against the war in Iraq you are against the troops" or "if you vote Democratic you support the terrorists."
If one repeats a slogan enough times, like "affordable housing" or "‘jobs, housing, and hoops," eventually a portion of the population will believe they are true. Again, this technique is similar to the Bush Administration's manipulation tactics, where they repeat mantras like "no child left behind," "mission accomplished" or "strengthening our economy" until people actually think they are fact.
I blame the Ratner Company and their supporters for turning this whole process into a "black vs. white" or "rich vs. poor" conflict. These same "divide and conquer" techniques are used by beleaguered institutions like the Bush Administration to justify their own agenda and marginalize the opposition.
One more thing: why are these minority groups putting their faith in multimillionaires and billionaires like Ratner and Bloomberg to look out for their interests - while ignoring the protests and concerns of the middle class homeowners and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods? Who has the most to gain, or lose from this project? Follow the money.

Statement: Many of the people who oppose the Ratner complex are ex-Manhattanites who moved to Brooklyn. These interlopers have no right to an opinion since they are not real Brooklynites.
Answer: If one moves to Brooklyn from Manhattan, is there a residency requirement or time period one must live here for in order to be considered a Brooklynite, and not an ex-Manhattanite? Currently some supporters of the Atlantic Yards take the absurd position that only a bona fide Brooklyn resident has a right to express an opinion about this project. If these residency requirements were posted somewhere it would help clear up this interloper issue once and for all. Perhaps disgraced Assemblyman and flip-flopper Roger Green can clarify this residency issue for us, seeing how he used this loathsome argument in the recent Atlantic Yards feature in New York Magazine.
The fact that scores of people who live in Brooklyn now were not born here (were you, Roger?) further confuses this interloper issue. Some "Brooklynites" are from Trinidad, India, Jamaica, Africa, England, Russia, Pakistan, France etc... Do these "immigrants" have a right to have an opinion about this project because they were not born here? Perhaps only people who are Brooklyn-born should be able to speak out against the Atlantic Yards – like in fascist countries.
Many of the great people who helped shape Brooklyn were originally from someplace else. Charles Pratt was from Massachusetts, Henry Ward Beecher was from Connecticut, Charles Pfizer was German-born, Walt Whitman was originally from Long Island, as well were numerous unnamed distinguished persons.
People choose to move to Brooklyn and do so because they appreciate the sunlight, the low-rise neighborhoods, the historic buildings, the friendly small-town atmosphere, the low population density, etc.. Some relocate here for economic reasons. But in the end it really doesn't matter why people move to Brooklyn and where they came from.
The bottom line is, anyone who lives in Brooklyn today has a valid right to express their opinion about protecting the things they hold dear – whether they lived in Brooklyn for 5 months or 50 years. This absurd schismatic rationale is another example of the "divide and conquer" spin the Ratner PR people and their supporters have injected into this debate. We should just abide by our own government's residency requirements to vote and get a driver's license – 30 days.

Statement: Bruce Ratner does good things for Brooklyn and its residents.
Whatever the Ratner Company has done for Brooklyn they have done for their own profit. Metrotech, which destroyed numerous historic blocks in downtown Brooklyn is a cheesy corporate wasteland where after 5:00 PM you can't see a living soul. The first Atlantic Mall is a ugly insult to the community which appears to be have been designed specifically to thwart looters by its lack of interior storefront windows and narrow hallways. The newer Atlantic Terminal Mall, which houses big-box Target, is really an excuse for a corporate office building. It appears to have been designed and constructed from a catalogue of prefab building parts. The building's "open green space" is private property, policed by Ratner Security, where a person cannot even sit with their dog and sip a cup of mall-bought Starbucks' coffee. The only two buildings in that area that should be torn down are those Ratner buildings.
Many of Ratner's buildings, despite being built with public funds to create jobs, are rented to state and city government agencies. In other words, the same people who subsidized the buildings are now renting them. Where are the benefits to the community?
Most of the Ratner Company's actions relating to the Atlantic Yards Project have been pure Public Relations stunts, such as:
  • Ratner aligned with eight "community groups" to create a "historic agreement" for affordable housing. In reality most of those groups have nothing to do with the community surrounding the project and many were directly funded or created by Ratner though "donations."
  • Ratner's direct funding and creation of BUILD (a christian-based organization (see their website where they quote the bible) who are "committed to supporting development as a means of creating economic opportunities to promote financial self-sufficiency and prosperity in socioeconomically depressed communities" -- whatever that means). BUILD are a perfect example of what Karl Marx called "booty capitalism."
  • The "affordable housing" Community Benefits Agreement which the eight "community" groups signed may be bogus. If Ratner fails to comply with the agreement, the "groups" get a $500,000 payday from Ratner.
  • Using public relations-fueled nostalgia for the good-old-days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Bruce Ratner purchased the NJ Nets to supposedly bring back a professional team to Brooklyn and build an arena. The team purchase and their proposed arena is in reality just a front for a massive privately owned housing project surrounding the arena on which Forest City Ratner may make a billion dollars profit. Ironically, the Brooklyn Dodgers' stadium, Ebetts Field, was razed in the name of progress to build a housing project. The team should stay in Newark, where their officials want to build an arena in a real blighted area, and really are in need of real economic incentives.
  • Ratner's deposit of $1 million dollars into the black-owned Carver Bank was pure PR. The bank's near-empty retail space in 2 Hanson Place is probably subsidized by him as well otherwise it could not stay open.
  • Forest City Ratner's much publicized training seminars for non-union minority contractors, who are in reality excluded from working on the Atlantic Yards project - which will be all union workers.
  • The Ratner Company has sponsored many other bogus staged events, such as the well-publicizing "hijacking" of the only real "Public Hearing" for the project by the ESDC - documented in the web-based short film, "HOW TO RIG A HEARING"
Again I ask: why are these minority groups putting their faith in mulitmillionaires and billionaires like Ratner and Bloomberg to look out for their interests - while ignoring the protests and concerns of the middle class homeowners and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods? Who has the most to gain, or lose from this project? Follow the money.

Statement: When they built the original Williamsburg Saving Bank they tore down a nice row of town houses to build it.
Answer: The Williamsburg Savings Bank was built in 1929. There was absolutely no awareness then of historic structures and architectural preservation, nor was there any landmarks protection movement. There were also not 18,000 people going to the bank at one time. In 1929 there were very few cars and the population of Brooklyn was much lower. There were still farms and vacant land further out in Brooklyn and nearby Queens. And just because they did something in 1929 does not mean it is right to do the same today. They did a lot of stupid things in the past that would not be acceptable today, like forced child labor, not allowing women the right to vote, legal heroin (made illegal in 1918), the complete razing of numerous historic structures and entire neighborhoods, etc...

Question: Are you from Brooklyn or Manhattan?
Answer: I was born in Brooklyn and have legal documents like my Birth Certificate to prove it. I lived here for my first three years. Then I lived upstate in the Woodstock area for seven years. Then my father, who got a position with the NYPD moved the family to Westchester for seven years. After graduating high school I spent four years at Pratt Institute, in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill neighborhood. After Pratt I lived in Manhattan (oh my god!) for eleven years and then moved back to Brooklyn sixteen years ago. So, in my post-college adult life I lived eleven years in Manhattan and then sixteen years in Brooklyn. Am I a Manhattanite or a Brooklynite?
And why does the fact that I once lived in Manhattan exclude me from having an opinion about this project?
Statement: If you are against the Atlantic Yards you are against affordable housing.
Answer: This is another example of the disruptive rhetoric surrounding this project. Despite all the hoopla about affordable housing, real affordable housing will only comprise 4% of the total development according to FCRC's own figures (housing_chart.pdf from their own website). The low income housing can also be built off-site – which believe it or not, is legal. And, if the completed Atlantic Yards complex does not meet the low-income housing requirements of the Community Benefits Agreement, all Ratner will get is a fine of a few hundred thousand dollars.
While the average income in Kings County is $36,214 (according to the Year 2000 census), 69% of all the apartments in Atlantic Yards will be upscale condos. After that, another 27% will be “market rate” rentals - which means rents about from $1,800 to $4,000 a month for one to three bedroom apartments. In total that means 96% of all the apartments in Atlantic Yards will be for families making $28,341 and up.
More details: Yeah, the developer said he would include 2,250 units in total of "low, moderate and middle-income rentals." Of those 2,250 units only 225 apartments will be reserved for families of four that earn between $21,270 and $28,361. And they will be assigned via a lottery in 2016. And they will be rent stabilized. That means the rent will go up about 6% each year. For those lucky winners earning minimum wage their low-income apartments will only be affordable for a very short time. In truth the majority of the units in this "truly beneficial" project will be middle-class and up.
And most of those 225 apartments may already be spoken for. Beginning in 2003 the Ratner Company began orchestrating an environment of fear and anxiety on the Prospect Heights residents who lived in the project's footprint. The fear of losing homes and apartments to eminent domain and getting nothing in return became a motivating force for many residents to sell out to Ratner. Many of the area's residents were given a "deal." It was essentially something like: Leave now, we will pay your moving costs, brokers fees, and rent for three years, and then when the buildings are complete you will get first dibs on an "affordable apartment." These "buy-outs" also had to sign a gag order that they can never talk about their deal or the Ratner Company.
Unfortunately for the rental residents who sold out, their three years are almost up – and there are no buildings to live in, and may not be for many years.
Sadly, many of those $300 to $400 a month rent controlled residents may never get a living situation like that again in their lives in NYC. According to the DEIS, up to 3,000 people will be forced to move because of this project. So despite the promises of affordable housing, the Ratner Company is already evicting low income residents who were living in real affordable housing. The project is basically throwing them out of New York City entirely.
The truth is, if our government officials involved in this fiasco really want "affordable housing" they could take that already-earmarked $200 million (from the state and city) and renovate thousands of apartments now. Not 2016. In addition, the other competing designs for the Yards may (which were blatantly dismissed by the ESDC) may have a greater percentage of real "affordable housing" units in their plans. And the units would be available sooner.
Why do these minority groups putting their faith in mulitmillionaires and billionaires like Ratner and Bloomberg to look out for their interests - while ignoring the protests and concerns of the middle class homeowners and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods? Who has the most to gain, or lose from this project? Follow the money.

Statement: Brooklyn deserves to have a sports team again and I have a right to be able to go to basketball games in Brooklyn.
Answer: No one is stopping Brooklyn from having a major sports franchise. From what we are lead to believe some Brooklyn residents are still sad that the Brooklyn Dodgers left for L.A. fifty years ago. Most of the people involved in this project were not even born yet.
But it is absurd to put the arena in the middle of perhaps the busiest intersection in Brooklyn (Flatbush, 4th Ave., 5th Ave., and Atlantic Ave.). This major traffic intersection is also on the main route to Manhattan for thousands of Brooklynites with cars, as well as the main emergency evacuation route for central Brooklyn (Atlantic Avenue). The ESDC's own environmental report identifies something like 67 intersections in the surrounding area which will have unmitigated traffic problems. And the ESDC's report did not even cover a possible terrorist attack on a 20,000 seat arena in a densely populated area (i.e. a perfect target).
Put the arena in Coney Island or Sunnyside Queens where the locals want it. Coney Island has a great subway access right there, with room for parking, and a major highway. The Belt Parkway easily connects to the Veranzanno Bridge, the Battery Tunnel and Long Island. It also has waterfront property, beaches and an amusement park.

Statement: People from Long Island will not drive their cars to events at the arena. They will take public transportation because there are so many accessible trains and subway lines in the area.
Answer: If you live in Long Island and your home is not on the LIRR line that ends at the Atlantic Avenue station you will have to take the LIRR train into Manhattan and then take a subway to the event. You could also switch at the Jamaica stop and take the other LIRR line to Atlantic Avenue. Either way that's one or two trains to take. At the time the event ends (around 11PM) the LIRR trains home will probably only run once an hour, so you will be waiting around of you miss the train. You will want to drive.

Statement: People from New Jersey will not drive their cars to the arena. They will take public transportation because there are so many trains and subway lines in the area.
Answer: If you live in New Jersey - where your beloved Nets are from (and should stay in Newark, which needs a stadium) – even if you live in Hoboken (on the direct PATH line) you will have to take two to three trains to get to the Atlantic Yards Arena. If, for example, you live in Summit, NJ, you would first have to take the NJ Transit train to Penn Station and then catch a subway to the arena. You could also take the NJ Transit train to Hoboken and change for the PATH and then take the A, C or 2 or 3 train to the arena. That's three trains. In addition, the NJ Transit trains probably run on a limited schedule after 11PM. You would probably rather drive.

Statement: People who live in Manhattan will take public transportation to the arena in Brooklyn.
Answer: A proportion of people who go to Knick's games take cabs to the Garden. They don't feel safe in the subway. These same people will probably also want to take cabs to see the Nets. Numerous cabs (and limos) contribute to traffic jams sometimes more than private vehicles. Do you think Bruce Ratner and his cronies like Jay-Z will take public transportation to a game? Possibly – because the traffic will be backed up to Jackson Heights. Perhaps a Heliport on the roof?

Statement: People will drive to an event a few times and then after realizing there is limited parking they will take public transportation.
Answer: When people go to Yankee Stadium, despite the fact there is are a number of subway lines that go right there, they almost always drive. When they finally arrive there through the massive traffic jams they can either park in the expensive Yankees parking lots or drive around the local residential streets looking for free parking spaces. Many fans are willing to park a half mile walk from the stadium to save the money on a parking lot. Before and after any game there is always a tremendous traffic jam getting in or out of Yankee Stadium. The main route out of there, the Major Deegan Expressway, always backs up for miles in either direction when games start and end, and can cause at least an hour delay for travelers caught in it.

Statement: If you are against the Atlantic Yards then you are against progress.
Answer: This is another heinous statement against public dissent that was first uttered by the grand architect of the project, Frank Gehry. Yes, the belief that progress is always positive was prevalent in the 20th century, but the "progress" that Frank Gehry speaks about is often related to the economic gain of a few connected individuals. And because of people's blind faith in progress we may now be unwittingly careening out of control.
For example: the officials who deemed the automobile as the major means of transportation in the US – while ignoring real "public transportation" – have inadvertently fostered acid rain, air pollution, asthma, massive traffic jams, the destruction of the inner cities, the geographic alienation of the poor, and many other negative consequences, not to mention global warming. Despite the indisputable facts, many people including the Bush Administration still deny its causes and effects. The government's switch from the support of public transportation (like trolleys, subways and trains) was greatly assisted by the Automobile and Pretroleum lobbies in the first half of the 20th century.
In the 1950s and 1960s the word progress was attached to the sweeping urban renewal ventures that shaped many major cities in the US, including our city, often with severely detrimental consequences. The argument against "urban renewal" as it manifested itself in the late 1950s in NYC is best expressed in the renowned 1961 book from Jane Jacobs called The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This book is still in print and is just as relevant today as in 1961 and strongly relates to the debate over Atlantic Yards Development.
The book was described by The New York Times as "perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning..." Jane Jacobs' was fervently opposed to the creation of "Super Blocks," which refers to the removal of city streets to create oversized blocks filled with massive towers of alienation. Super Blocks cause the destruction of the fabric of local neighborhoods and the true life blood of cities: diversity, small businesses and street life. The modern "super block" housing project isolates people in towering ghettos, surrounded by empty concrete space. Many these towering soul-less housing developments have since been torn down and replaced with low-rise brownstone-like housing. It appears that history is repeating itself once again.
Recent NYC history is riddled with grand mistakes created in the name of progress, where the end result often caused severely detrimental consequences, many of which are not remedied for decades, if at all. Some recent examples are: the destruction and division of the Bronx caused by the building of the Cross-Bronx Expressway (which created the 1970s wasteland labeled the South Bronx); the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station to create the underground claustrophobic Penn Station (and the already-obsolete MSG); the segregation (and isolation) of Red Hook from Carroll Gardens by the BQE's construction; etc... There are many other examples.
There are also numerous civic undertakings initiated in the name of progress that were successfully stopped by the voice of the people: the office tower on top of Grand Central, the Jets Westside Stadium, Robert Moses' planned Manhattan expressway through Soho, the BQE's path through Brooklyn Heights (which was rerouted due to community activism, which jump started the creation of the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the first historic District in Brooklyn Heights) and the Westway project, among others. Coincidentally, Robert Moses, NYC's master builder was dead set against building a stadium at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic (see story).
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