Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Coming this weekend: The Civilians' "Brooklyn at Eye Level"

After watching Danny Hoch's one-man show about gentrification in Williamsburg, Taking Over, I wondered "if The Civilians, the not-quite-documentary theater troupe working on a project inspired by Atlantic Yards, will capture the layers involved in the AY saga."

Well, we'll see beginning Thursday, when the work-in-progress Brooklyn at Eye Level debuts at the Brooklyn Lyceum. (Reservations required; tickets Thursday-Sunday are pay-what-you-can. More here and here and note that )

The challenge of fact-checking

While theater can add layers, it also can obscure context, especially if there's no fact-checking. All opinions are not of equal value, especially when an opinion contains facts that are untrue.

One interviewee quoted on the Brooklyn at Eye Level blog stated that "the mayor approved it, the city council approved it," which immediately provoked critics to point out that, no, Atlantic Yards was approved by the unelected board of the Empire State Development Corporation.

That interviewee also pointed out that developer Forest City Ratner "offers fair market value," which is both true and not-true. It's true that property owners gained significant appreciation on their investment.

However, the city contributed $100 million for land acquisition. In other words, taxpayers paid for Forest City Ratner's purchases.

Moreover, according to my calculation, FCR was reimbursed at a rate of less than $100 per buildable square foot, while the city nearby has asked for $150 per buildable sf.

Had the city used that latter value, the city's $100 million would've gone to a smaller amount of FCR's purchases. Instead, by my estimate, the developer saved another $55 million.

Hosts at the show

According to the Brooklyn at Eye Level web site, "Community Guest Hosts will introduce each performance and participate in a post-play discussion with the artists."

Those hosts are:

Thursday, December 4th: Theo Moore of FUREE

Friday, December 5th: Michele De la Uz of Fifth Avenue Committee

Saturday evening, December 6th: Deb Howard of Pratt Area for Community Council

Sunday, December 7th: Gilly Youner

That doesn't exactly cover the spectrum. Youner is a staunch AY opponent, while the groups represented by housing advocates de la Uz and Howard are part of the mend-it-don't-end-it BrooklynSpeaks coalition. FUREE has focused critically on the effects of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and occasionally has allied with Atlantic Yards opponents.

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