Monday, February 19, 2007

Michael Ratner endorses DDDB over BrooklynSpeaks (not quite)

One lingering question in the Atlantic Yards saga is whether the generally hard-line opposition and legally focused battle by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) is a wiser tactic than the lobbying effort by BrooklynSpeaks to change the project.

Neither has succeeded so far, though they can be credited with affecting the debate and, in the case of DDDB, contributing to delay of the project. Still, DDDB's task is more pressing, while BrooklynSpeaks can take a longer view, and history will be the judge.

An interesting perspective, and an implicit encouragement for a hard-line approach to contested issues, comes from human rights lawyer Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

To the world, he's the laudable defender of the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo. To Atlantic Yards watchers, he's known as the brother of Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, a part-owner of the Nets, and a contributor to the campaigns of some Brooklyn machine candidates.

Risk-taking and principled opposition

The Winter 2006-07 issue of the Columbia University alumni magazine, Columbia, contains a profile (not yet online) of Ratner, a Columbia Law School alumnus. The final two paragraphs:
In Ratner's view, the purpose of CCR is to take risks that larger human-rights organizations cannot. In fact, he worries that the center, which has doubled in size since September 11 and is receiving increasingly large foundation grants, might one day become less aggressive. And he wrestles constantly with the paradoxes involved in pursuing his ideals in the realm of big-time politics.

"The whole issue of compromise came up immediately when I was lobbying Senators in Washington against the habeas provision this fall," says Ratner, who during the 1968 student riots at Columbia was "radicalized, in a good way" he says, when beaten up by police for blocking the entrance to Low Library. "There was a deal on the table that could have preserved habeas only partially for detainees. I said no, that's not what our center is about. What I believe is simple: Social change comes through principled opposition to the worst excesses."

(Emphasis added)

No comments:

Post a Comment