Skip to main content

"Shame!" Crowd outside museum shouts "Ratner's bad for Brooklyn"

Maybe it's because a major anti-Atlantic Yards rally was held on a sweltering day or that the annual Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn walkathon fundraiser takes place in comfortable weather, while last night it was cold.

Maybe it was the ostentatious elegance of the tables set for the Brooklyn Museum's gala honoring Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

(Photos by Adrian Kinloch, except the Gloria Mattera shot. Click to enlarge.)

Maybe it was the parade of limousines and SUVs bringing well-dressed guests--at $500 to $1000 and more a plate--to an event that protesters likely arrived at via the 2/3 subway line. Maybe it was a sense that Forest City Ratner, however stalled in its plans for most of Atlantic Yards, is in the driver's seat, with most elected officials yet to challenge the developer. Maybe it's that demolitions promise increased blight around the Atlantic Yards footprint. Maybe it's just the accumulation of grievances.

But the protest organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn last night outside the museum was notably angry, with some 80 people gathering at one point, many chanting "Ratner is a liar" and "Shame on you" at vehicles coming to drop off their passengers. (More people arrived later, as others left, so total attendance probably topped 100.) Taking off from the museum's function, several people carried signs calling Ratner a "con artist."

Lawyer and urban planner Michael White, he of the lengthy open letter to the museum, wore a cape and recited quotes through the ages about "honor." (Sample: "Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong."--Thomas Jefferson.)

A few protesters, including Green Party stalwart Gloria Mattera (left), wore evening dress.

(Here's the Brooklyn Paper's editorial justifying the protest and the contention by Sid Meyer that protesters went too far.)

A long night

The protest started at 6:30, when guests began arriving for the cocktail hour. Tables set in the museum's entry pavilion were joined by art from the museum's Murakami exhibition; projections on brick columns suggested the latticework of the Brooklyn Bridge.

As the night wore on and got colder, the crowd diminished somewhat but remained feisty. Because several still and video camerafolk had been filming, the protesters seemed unsurprised when a well-dressed man approached them and began snapping photos.

"Where are you from?" he was asked, the question implying an affiliation with news media.

"Brooklyn," he responded, and began a testy exchange. Closer inspection revealed he was wearing a laminated ID that said "Security." He continued to take pictures, then returned inside the museum with, likely, documentary evidence of Brooklyn residents never to appear on the museum's short list for the Augustus Graham Medal.

Though some people walking into the gala took protest flyers and others cordially ignored the protesters--heck, many were likely from Manhattan and points distant--not everyone bringing guests to the gala liked what they saw, as the photo shows.

Through the windows

Given the glass walls of the pavilion, speakers at the podium were visible, at least from the back.

The protest dissolved before the guest of honor spoke--he was to be introduced by Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry--but protesters did spot Borough President Marty Markowitz at the podium.

"Marty's Ratner's whore," some in the group shouted. That was soon amended to "Marty sucks" and then, more cordially and with more participation, "Marty sold out Brooklyn."

That almost surely was not the sentiment inside the museum. Perhaps not coincidentally, yesterday Crain's New York Business announced a "Business of Arts and Culture" breakfast April 30 on the topic "Dealing with controversy."

One of the three speakers will be Brooklyn Museum head Arnold Lehman, who famously clashed with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani over the "Sensation" show in 1999.

Now he has a fresher issue to discuss. After all, as one sign stated, "Elephant dung can be art. Eminent domain abuse can't." Another decried a "'Dung' Deal."

Comments

  1. Yep that was me expressing my opinion.

    Sid Meyer

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sid Meyer's logic is deeply flawed, and his ignorance really speaks to the reason this protest was direly needed.

    The gala in Ratner's name was basically a non-monetary honorarium, which would be all well and good if the honoree weren't completely corrupt. I would want to ask Meyer the simple question: if Charles Manson were wealthy enough to make several $100K donations to the Museum, should the Museum likewise honor him?

    Though a reductio ad Hitlerum, this line of rhetorical probing gets to the heart of the issue.

    The Brooklyn Museum made a fundamentally bad decision in honoring an amoral, opportunistic slime like Ratner, someone who is anything but positive for the communities of Brooklyn.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Full coverage of what happened INSIDE is on The Brooklyn Paper website at http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/14/31_14_gehry_to_brooklyn_paper.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. I want to share with people the “quotes through the ages about `honor’" I was reading last night- . . .
    . . . .It seems to me that when “honors” are handed out at grand events the use of time-tested quotes is a tradition worth observing.

    I hope the quotes below are choicely apt (they were also on placards at the event) :

    "Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong"
    Thomas Jefferson

    "Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them."
    Aristotle

    "Those who give, hoping to be rewarded with honor, are not giving, they are bargaining"
    Philo Judaeus

    "Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you"
    Lao Tzu

    "Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud."
    Sophocles

    "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be."
    Socrates

    "The most tragic thing in the world is a man of genius who is not a man of honor"
    George Bernard Shaw

    "He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so."
    Walter Lippman

    "Honor sinks where commerce long prevails."
    Oliver Goldsmith

    "One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them"
    Thomas Sowell

    "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I’d also like to note that I think the Brooklyn Museum still has a debt to pay to the community over this event so I do not view the matter as entirely at rest.

    I refer people to my open letter to the Museum. It was not designed as a “petition” (it is personal, and it isn’t short or written in vague consensus-generating bromides) but it is something that people are signing on to endorse. Though it’s only been publicly available a few days it has over a hundred endorsements so far. I think there is value to continue collecting endorsements just as I think there would be value for there to be days when we are again outside the Museum to collect signatures and acquaint and educate Museum attendees about the rectification I believe the Museum now owes to the community with respect to this matter.

    The letter, for those who want to sign on as endorsers or to it or pass it along to others is at:

    http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/MuseumLetter.php

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ratner is not Charles Manson. He is has been the chair of BAM for over ten years, clearly a laudable institution. My logic may be flawed but you comparison is insulting and probably intentionally so. So my statement that this is part of the no hold- no prisoner attacks is probably quite apt.

    I assume if Charles Manson made such a donation it would be rejected.
    You may disagree with Ratner but so far as I know he has violated any criminal law, except to the extent that he has had the state set aside the New York City zoning laws with the City's approval.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Regarding this “Charles Manson” “reductio ad Hitlerum” debate that is going on in these comments: David Cay Johnston in his interviews typically makes the point that the critical problems we are facing are not what is done that “is illegal” but what is legal that absolutely shouldn’t be and that has been obtained through abuse of influence. (Along these lines, One of his books is even titled “Perfectly Legal.”) My letter points out that what Ratner has done in the way of collecting no-bid subsides through influence makes it very hard to distinguish his actions from other situations where people do get sent to prison. To the extent that a legal difference might have been created it has been done in the name of very bad urban planning practices and egregious governance. And that doesn’t mean that the activities are not antisocial. This is not to say that I am giving Ratner a pass on legality. I don’t think we know enough about what has been done in terms of influence since it was covert.

    I remember that money has been rejected from Arab Sheiks though they have not “broken any laws.” The question here is not whether money should be accepted (some would not) but whether an honor should be awarded. It is also a question of timing. Ten years ago, before Atlantic Yards, maybe someone could have honored Ratner for something BAM related notwithstanding the poor quality of some of his development or his over-reliance on subsidy. That was then. This is now. Atlantic Yards is poised to do incredible harm to Brooklyn. That harm is intrinsically related Ratner’s abuse of process including the gratuitous abuse eminent domain for greater windfall. The use of what this site has referred to as his “shadowy foundation” for promotion of these practices is a serious problem and the public is thereby harmed. Accordingly, the activities of the protestors, myself included, are proportionate to the ills Mr. Ratner is visiting upon the community.

    I know I have repeated myself in these remarks. That is for the sake of those for whom what I said in my letter has not yet registered.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.