Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Everybody Knows": Leonard Cohen, the Barclays Center and remembering how "the fight was fixed"

Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen's coming to the Barclays Center on December 20, sure to attract a large if not sold-out house.

After all, he's a legend. As the promo describes it, Cohen's "a master songwriter, musician and poet whose stunning body of original work" cites "W.B Yeats, Irving Layton and Walt Whitman as literary influences."

But the Cohen lyric most appropriate for Brooklyn's glistening but tainted new arena is this, from the song "Everybody Knows": "Everybody knows the fight was fixed: the poor stay poor and the rich get rich."

Flashback: September 2009

On 9/17/09, as I reported, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) re-approved Atlantic Yards on developer Forest City Ratner's preferred terms, allowing--in ways we didn't fully learn until later--a 25-year project buildout, deferred payments for land needed via eminent domain, and payments for the developer's "soft costs" previously not permitted.

Michael D.D. White, lawyer, urban planner, and writer of the Noticing New York blog, testified (full text) with gravity and anger, warning that the arena had been calculated, by the New York City Independent Budget Office, to be a net loss for the city.



"ESDC’s phantom arrangements involving no designs, leave ESDC with absolutely no negotiating leverage to insist on benefit or counteract Forest City Ratner’s future blackmailing of the public for subsidy," White warned. "You shower Forest City Ratner now with additional multimillion dollar benefits such as excusing it from its railyard obligations, and we can expect that you will similarly shower more benefits upon them in the future, again without quid pro quo. What you are doing is destructive of neighborhoods, the city, our public finances, destructive of government and destructive of the basic fabric of trust required for a civilized society."

He made this statement before it was clear how the ESDC was speeding public money to the developer.

"Those who have never worked in a public agency and experienced the integrity with which they can operate probably wonder whether this is 'business as usual.' It is not," he said. "This is cynical corruption, the worst I have ever seen."

"There are words of a Leonard Cohen song we think apply here:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over *
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died?
"Everybody knows"?

"Everybody knows," White repeated, in closing. "You're not getting away with anything."

Well, yes and no. They've built the arena, pretty much on their terms. The more people who go to the arena, the more organizations that cross-market with the Barclays Center, the fewer people will remember.

But when even the not-so-radical New York Observer warns that "the brand, not to mention the family name, has been so blackened in Brooklyn, it will be a wonder if he ever builds there again," some people surely do know, and will remember.

1 comment:

  1. You lay down with Ratner, you wake up with rats.

    Old Brooklyn Proverb

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