Sunday, December 27, 2009

At another Freddy's media event, a makeshift guillotine is used to execute an eminent domain effigy

Last week the staffers and regulars at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated to be demolished for the Atlantic Yards arena, installed "chains of justice" so resisters can handcuff themselves to the bar to protest the anticipated eviction.

This week came another media event, the guillotine, a creative structure made out of Pabst beer cans, used to execute an effigy representing "eminent domain theft."

And yes, the media came out--far more than at some of the important legal arguments or governmental meetings. Everybody loves a good metaphor.

At left above, executioner Steve de Sève (producer of video at Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse) and Death, portrayed by Elliot Crown, in action.

(Photos on left by Amy Greer/No Land Grab.)

The action begins

Bar manager Donald O'Finn read from a scroll, declaring a revolt against eminent domain law and criticizing the role of ACORN, the British bank Barclays, which bought the arena naming rights that the state gave away, and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, slated to become majority owner of the Nets.

"It's just like a foreclosure, except they're foreclosing on a neighborhood, and we're not even behind on the mortgage," O'Finn declared.

He passed it over to Death, who pronounced, "Poor eminent domain, born of a noble purposes of building hospitals and roads... is being used to take Americans from their homes, not just for a British bank but also for Russia... eminent domain, you are hereby condemned."



With a straight face, de Seve predicted, "Sometime soon in the next weeks and months, a battle of epic proportion will be fought. Around here, it's known as the bars vs. banks smackdown."

And when he sentenced the effigy to death, he pulled a Blue Point beer tap, the handmade guillotine fell, and the head indeed was severed. He then collected money for those facing eminent domain to put armor plate on their buildings or--more likely--use for other purposes in fighting back.

O'Finn's comments

I shot a brief video of O'Finn answering press questions, in this segment mainly from Stephen Witt of the Courier-Life chain.

Witt asked if O'Finn had asked for a spot in the Atlantic Yards project for the bar--kind of a non sequitur, given that sports facilities don't accommodate quirky bars like Freddy's.

"We're not so great at getting a lot of money, we're great at getting local talent," O'Finn responded, noting that artists from all over the world want to perform at the bar.

"Why not in this massive project, why don't you try to give back to the community, letting us do what we do," he said, suggesting a community center with day care (the latter is actually planned), free legal aid, studios for artists, and an art gallery--all rather antithetical to the corporate plans for the project.



Witt pointed out that Freddy's is a for-profit operation.

"We're $2.75 a Pabst, we're not ripping anybody off," O'Finn responsed. "We don't have a cover charge, no drink minimum, nobody's getting rich here." And moving the bar, he said, would be tough, given the prices of real estate.

Freddy's operates in a building owned by Forest City Ratner but has two years left on its lease, which is why the state would use eminent domain to move Freddy's out.

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