Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Occupy Brooklyn" march against corporate greed features denunciation of Atlantic Yards

There was a distinct Atlantic Yards flavor to Occupy Brooklyn yesterday, which drew perhaps 110 people--and a plethora of watchful police--to the Cadman Plaza teach-in and the ensuing "March to Evict Corporate Greed."

Atlantic Yards was denounced as an example of such greed, and a half-dozen Atlantic Yards activists were present, repurposing protest signs, as well as some groups--Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Brooklyn Green Party, Sierra Club--who had participated in Atlantic Yards-related events.

(Photo at left by Tracy Collins. His set.)

But the overall group included more young people, and the message was much broader.

Given the huge buzz about Occupy Wall Street, the crowd was relatively small. There was a minority of people of color. Still, the diverse crowds that the march encountered--both on foot and in cars--seemed receptive to the "We are the 99%" message and to the handouts warning about public support for corporate deals.

Occupy Brooklyn events continue today, in specific neighborhoods and at Brooklyn College, so the leaderless movement has opportunity to grow. Alternatively, it could establish a permanent presence--you can bet those managing MetroTech are wary--and make its presence known more firmly.

(Photos above right, left, and set by Adrian Kinloch)

The group had a permit to march, so the marchers, including a festive brass band, were watched by at least 30 cops, on foot and on vehicles, including two pairs of not-very-incognito plainclothesmen. Were the cops overreacting? Well, they were likely anticipating a much larger crowd, which surely was possible. But everyone was very well behaved.

Observers from the National Lawyers Guild, wearing bright green caps, were also there to keep watch on potential conflagrations and police misconduct.

"End corptocracy"

"Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go," was one chant, and before the march, as protesters gathered at Cadman Plaza, participant groups set up information tables and volunteers held teach-ins.

For example, James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute discussed the extreme income polarization in the state and country, and possible solutions. (One solution: extend the current state tax surcharge on high incomes, the expiration of which would be "a $5 billion tax cut to the 1%.)

"End corptocracy" came the message from Common Cause, which several people carried as posters.

Ede Fox, Chief of Staff for Council Member Jumaane Williams (and a candidate for the Council seat occupied by Letitia James), also was present, speaking to WNYC: "[I]t brings a new generation and a new set of people who didn't want to go to Community Board meetings, or didn't want to go to a political club."

(Fox is the right-most marcher in the photo at left, by Tracy Collins.)

City Council Member Brad Lander visited Cadman Plaza to chat with a few people, but didn't march. Later, 52nd Assembly District Leader Chris Owens joined the march.

Otherwise, I didn't see any elected officials--it can be dicey for  them to associate with this movement, though more and more have been visiting Occupy Wall Street.

(At right, Michael D. D. White of Noticing New York wields his PhotoShopped rendering of the Barclays Center arena with massive traffic and the Independent Budget Office's assessment of the impact on New York City. Photo by Adrian Kinloch.)

Before the march

Before the march started, as shown in the video below, Susan Lerner of Common Cause pointed to Atlantic Yards as an example, detailing the promises unmet, including one of the most important: that the project was supposed to be built--and delivering benefits--in a decade.

"How do they get away with this," she asked. "A political system they game with their money." (More than that, I'd say: a willful blindness to the cost of "gaining" the scarce, cartelized commodity of a professional sports team.)


(Videos by Jonathan Barkey)

 "It's completely appropriate," Lerner said, "that we're starting here and ending at Atlantic Yards."

(Note that  a few of her numbers were off: not 7000 promised temporary construction jobs, but 17,000; not more than $5 million in tax-free bonds, but $511 million; not 100 current jobs but more than 400.)

Toward MetroTech and Atlantic Terminal

The march proceeded to an empty MetroTech--it would have been very interesting had the march occurred on a workday--where a representative of FUREE, which led a protest opposite Chase this past week, helped lead the chant, "Banks got bailed out/we got sold out."

After turning east on Hanson Place, the group moved south on private Fort Greene Place, between Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center mall, accompanied by watchful police on motorcyles.

(Photo above by Tracy Collins)

And, as shown in the video below, the group converged on the plaza just south of the Atlantic Terminal mall, opposite the under-construction Barclays Center arena.

Joining the police in keeping watch were several security staffers associated with the mall.

(Photo at right by Adrian Kinloch)

"Mic check," came the call and response, the solution to the no-amplification rules at Occupy Wall Street. "Mic check," responded the crowd, and Daniel Goldstein, longtime Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn activist, stepped forward.

The video



The Atlantic Yards denunciation

"We're at the epicenter of crony capitalism in Brooklyn and perhaps of all of New York," Goldstein said. "We're standing in front of the Atlantic Terminal mall, the Atlantic Center mall, the Barclays Center arena. This is Bruce Ratner's monopoly."

"There is no greater monument to crony capitalism in all of Brooklyn than the Atlantic Yards project," he continued. "It just took the OK of King Mike Bloomberg and Governor Pataki."

Now Goldstein (below), because of the $3 million settlement--much less valuable after the subtraction of lawyer's fees, taxes, and short- and long-term replacement residences--he signed after he lost title to his apartment in the middle of the arena site, remains vulnerable to sniping. See comment on Patch. But a focus on Goldstein distracts from recognition that Forest City Ratner spent what it took--including some of the nearly $300 million in public money--to clear its path.


Goldstein observed that Atlantic Yards represents crony capitalism, since "no citizen, and no politician ever voted to allow it."

(To be precise, no local elected official had a vote of any sort, but the governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader got to vote as the Public Authorities Control Board, which could have killed the state funding and thus the project. But no official had a vote to approve the project as a whole.)

Following Goldstein, and chants of "Shame," White took the "mic."

(Photo at left by Adrian Kinloch)

"Bruce Ratner could not have taken the land to add to his vast monopoly... without the aid and assistance of the courts," White said, recounting evidence of how Ratner never expected he could lose in court.

In the last segment of the video above, a representative of the Occupy Wall Street Journal named David, brought the latest, poster edition of the journal. He said he'd be back today at the General Assembly with hundreds of more copies.

Other stops, other motivations

As noted by McBrooklyn, the march also stopped at Joy Chatel's house on Duffield Street, the site of a fight to save (disputed) historic property targeted for redevelopment.

As noted by Patch, not everyone marching was motivated by development issues. Akosua Albritton of Prospect Heights (at left in photo by Tracy Collins), a member of Community Board 8 told Patch she participated to “awaken the general Brooklynite to the fact that we have the ability to change the world into something that is livable and that has integrity.”

The Brooklyn Paper

Also see coverage by the Brooklyn Paper, which reported:
Goldstein and others — who lost their years-long battle with Ratner and the state — continue to complain that the developer used his connections in government to buy the air rights for his proposed mega-development from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for far less than it was worth, then button-holed the same politicians to greenlight massive subsidies for the project — which is currently stalled because of the slack economy.
My comment:
It's just a "complaint"?

Maybe they "point out," or "argue," or "contend." But "complain" is dismissive language. Did Eli Rosenberg, who never covered any of this, come up with that word?

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