Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A clarification on "The Battle Over Atlantic Yards," a look back at The Civilians' first AY performance (with video), and a look forward

Some more coverage of The Civilians' upcoming (and updated) show about Atlantic Yards left me confused as to whether TheaterMania and the Times got it wrong in calling it "In the Footprint: The Battle Over the Atlantic Yards," rather than the more precise "In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards," as noted in the bottom document from The Civilians' web site.

Answer, according to a Civilians rep: the press got it wrong. And that makes a difference, because "Atlantic Yards" is a project, and a marketing term, not a place.

Flashback

I also went to the group's YouTube channel to watch a segment from the 2008 show, "Brooklyn at Eye Level." However imperfect, it's riveting stuff.



There's anti-project activist Jezra Kaye saying "I come from a class where you don’t usually get fucked over in such an obvious way.”

"You can't talk about Atlantic Yards unless you can talk about the rest of Downtown Brooklyn," snarls Bertha Lewis, asserting that ACORN and allies created enemies because they made a deal without a political broker. But she's right when she asserts that the project was not dying.

"What community are they talking about?" asks an angry David Sheets, one of some 18 remaining residents of the footprint.

And then there's the wistful, kitchen-sink closing song that name-checks places and phenomena ("The TimeOut article/The day the rents doubled"). Renovated buildings like Spalding and Atlantic Arts are now doomed, shrouded by scaffolding.

The last line of the song, however, is, in retrospect, rather naive: "You are only entitled to the space that you have/You're not entitled to the space that's around you." Because the eminent domain cases are over, and eminent domain is in fact about that space.

Looking forward

When I reviewed the earlier show, I observed it was lacking perspective from Forest City Ratner. I'll add that it mostly ignored the role of the Empire State Development Corporation.

So the danger of a play about neighborhood people and community passions is that it misses those who more quietly wield the levers of power. We'll see in November how much more complicated the show gets.

The Civilians - In the Footprint

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