Friday, September 21, 2012

Before the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting, a protest casts harsh light on Atlantic Yards' broken promises (though most media steer clear)

The elaborately staged Barclays Center ribbon-cutting event this morning, a testament to political power, corporate might, legal muscle, and significant chops regarding architecture, design, and construction--and, I'd contend, the "Culture of Cheating"-- drew a huge media crowd for what was more a celebration than anything else.

But the loyal opposition--a coalition of five organizations, best-known of which is Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)--was there to protest the broken promises regarding jobs and affordable housing and to remind people how the deal got done. In other words, the ground sure has shifted, but there are still grounds to not forget.

The 8:15 a.m. protest initially gathered catercorner to the arena at the northeast corner of Atlantic and South Portland avenues, but moved across the street to the sidewalk outside the arena. Some 40 local residents and "bobblehead" figures representing the project's powerbrokers cast harsh light on Atlantic Yards, though, as the Record's John Brennan observed, "with a line already building, most media members kept their spots rather than get close to the 'performance art."

Photo by Adrian Kinloch
Indeed, as Brennan suggested, there was some loss of energy compared to the March 2010  groundbreaking; I think that's not only because of the indubitable fact of the arena, but also because too much of the press has lost interest.

The list of the missing
Goldstein leads off; photo by Tracy Collins

The point man was Daniel Goldstein of DDDB, wearing, like several others, the "I'm still calling it Atlantic Ave-Pacific St" t-shirt designed by his sister. Before starting, he offered an acid "moment of silence for all of those who weren’t able to make it to the Broken Promise Land," including:
  • former Atlantic Yards executive Jim Stuckey, being sued for sexual harassment
  • Atlantic Yards cheerleader Sen. Carl Kruger, convicted of corruption 
  • Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky, convicted of bribery (though not regarding AY)
  • Atlantic Yards cheerleader and Carpenters Union leader Sal Zarzana, indicted for extortion
  • Forest City External Affairs VP and "fixer" Bruce Bender "who left the firm and can’t be here today to F the Bridge" (a reference to the Carlton Avenue Bridge)
  • former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, forced to resign because of the bank's LIBOR scandal, "though no doubt he got his wish to USE Brooklyn to spread the bank’s global brand"
The bobbleheads begin

The first bobblehead represented Borough President Marty Markowitz, with his broad Brooklyn accent. "I could never have imagined that, according to the myth, after hounding my buddy Bruce Ratner to buy the Nets nine years ago, this day would come where we’d be opening an arena that adds no housing in the middle of a citywide housing crisis, delivers only one percent of the jobs he promised, and loses millions of taxpayer dollars, all at the same time," the Markowitz character declared.

"Who ever thought that my Brooklyn boyhood dreams could be fulfilled by a Russian oligarch, another oligarch from Cleveland, and a British bank that manipulates global credit markets, thank you very
much," he stated.

He read a mock-proclamation:
Whereas, BrooklynΚΌs cherished traditions of fairness and respect for all are deemed moot and quaint, and are at odds with the contemporary and fashionable notions of wealth, arrogance, unethical behavior and exploitation, it is most fitting that we join in the celebration of an undertaking that both increases the wealth and power of those from elsewhere, AND disenfranchises Brooklynites more than ever before.

Videos by Jonathan Barkey

Bloomberg & Cuomo

The Bloomberg character stated, "What a grand day today is for Brooklyn, even without the jobs and
housing that I used as an excuse to justify supporting this project. But you can’t blame me. Everyone knows Atlantic Yards is a State project. I just show up to lend credibility to press conferences and pressure the MTA. If you want to talk jobs and housing, go talk to Andrew [Cuomo]. I gave
up on Community Benefits Agreements a long time ago, they’re extortion."

The Andrew Cuomo character entered: "I was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under

President Clinton, so at first I felt a little funny about cutting a ribbon for a project that wants to use scarce affordable housing bonds to build studio apartments for people who earn six figures. And since I am also the former New York State Attorney General, I thought it was a little weird last year when a court ruled one of my agencies broke the law by helping Forest City Ratner shove Atlantic Yards’ public benefits into the distant future."

Photo by Tracy Collins
The Bruce Ratner character continued in a similar vein: "I know it hasn’t lways been easy, like the time I told the press I never planned to build this project in ten years. Or when I told the Journal that your housing subsidies aren’t enough to build with union labor. Or after I fired Frank Gehry. Or the time I got the Empire State Development Corporation to cover up the change in the project schedule so I could meet a deadline to issue triple tax free bonds."

"Even today, with the jobs and housing we promised nowhere in sight, you’ve really stuck with me, and that’s what counts," he crowed. "I’m a lucky man! With friends like you, who needs the Community Boards, the City Council or State legislators?"

After remarks from a Mikhail Prokhorov bobblehead, Markowitz declared, "Let them eat cheesecake!"

Post-bobblehead remarks for the press




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