Tuesday, June 03, 2008

At Borough Hall on Thursday, another FCR-organized AY rally

First, Forest City Ratner quietly orchestrated a counter-protest in response to the "Time Out" rally on May 3. Now the developer is offering an Atlantic Yards rally on Thursday, complete with free lunch, and drawing on the combined efforts of construction trade unions and community organizations, notably those associated with the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Despite the fig leaf of a "Brooklyn Day" celebrating the borough, the rally suggests the developer's worried that the project, is not a "done deal." (Given the once-a-month schedule, should we expect another rally during the first week of July?)

It'll be interesting if we hear are any specifics regarding the developer's plans--when exactly might the project move forward, given the lack of arena bonds and housing bonds or an anchor tenant for Building 1? Will those lured to the rally be simply used as props for a photo op? Will they be cited in legal papers aiming to clear the three extant lawsuits? Will they be used to help leverage more subsidies?

The rally poster suggests that the developer is de-emphasizing the promises of affordable housing--after all, the developer has 12+ years to build Phase 1, and no deadline for Phase 2--and returning to the old mantra of basketball. After all, the basketball motif dominates the poster and, at the top, "The Nets moving to Brooklyn!" appears in larger type than "support the Atlantic Yards Project." Can the iconographic power of the flag and the Brooklyn Bridge nudge the stalled project forward? (Here's DDDB's skeptical take.)

Why now?

Why Thursday? It must have something to do with Brooklyn-Queens Day (once Anniversary Day), which is is a day off for students in all city public schools.

Even though the festivities are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., union members, as per the poster at right, are encouraged to come between noon and 2 p.m., so let's assume that lunch hour will be prime time. While the union poster suggests the rally would "jumpstart project for November start date," the general poster offers no such timetable.

Partly that might be because Brooklynites other than construction workers have little reason to be enthused about the mere start of construction. But it also might be that Forest City Ratner doesn't want to make promises about a project that has consistently been delayed despite confident utterings about "expected" groundbreaking.

(Photo by Tracy Collins; this was posted outside On Prospect Park, the Richard Meier-designed building under construction at Grand Army Plaza.)

A FREE event

An e-mail message from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the CBA Executive Committee, didn't say anything about Brooklyn's renaissance but emphasized the freebies:
Come out and support the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project... affordable housing, jobs and more bring... families, church's or schools this will be an excellent opportunity to come out to a FREE event... FREE food and give-away's. Get a chance to meet some celebrity basketball players from the NETS... and take pictures... and enjoy the day.

I don't think this was what columnist Errol Louis was talking about when he said, "There's something there for everybody, and that's kind of the whole point of the project."

(A similar event was held in June 2004, attracting 1500 people, according to the Atlantic Yards web site, as noted in the graphic above.)

It should be noted that the event is decidedly not free for Forest City Ratner. But it may be calculated as a prudent investment, as with lobbying or political contributions.

The work of the CBA

Hunley-Adossa (with megaphone, at the May 3 rally), heads a group called the Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), which has a Potemkin role in monitoring AY environmental assurances, given that the developer is in compliance by following the state-mandated process. Like five of the eight CBA signatories, the BEE had no track record in its assigned CBA role. There's no evidence of external fundraising, so, as with several other CBA signatories, BEE is likely funded by the developer. In other words, CBA signatories are funded by Forest City Ratner to generate public and political support for the project.

(Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

The lack of actual environmental monitoring leaves more time to organize rallies; Hunley-Adossa's e-mail message said she'd "make arrangements to transport large groups." It also referred to a (student?) organization, not known to me, apparently called "Help 2":
All HELP 2 participants and parents are to call Dee upon receipt...this is a day that we want our members to participate and volunteer their services.

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