Skip to main content

From theater critics, "In the Footprint" draws raves and mixed reviews; no one agrees with BPaper's claim that play would "appall" project opponents

Updated Dec. 3

Well, after a dubious pan by the Community Newspaper Group's Gersh Kuntzman (oddly and hastily endorsed by the Observer) and my mixed but appreciative review, theater critics are either raving or offering mixed reviews about IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, by The Civilians.

The key review, from the New York Times's Charles Isherwood, sums it up:
This simple, scruffy-looking but smartly put-together production, written and directed by Steve Cosson and featuring songs by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), is as fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall.
(He does, erroneously, refer to the "the redevelopment of the Atlantic Yards, the abandoned railway lines near downtown Brooklyn." The Vanderbilt Yard is in continuous use, and the project would be over and around the railyard. Remember, "Atlantic Yards" is a brand, not a place.)

Some mixed feelings


TheaterMania's review calls the show "often-compelling" though it acknowledges the challenges:
There's a lot of material here to squeeze into 100 minutes, and while director Steven Cosson does an admirable job, the staging can feel unfocused.
Similarly, the Village Voice's review focuses on the challenges:
Though Cosson provides much innovative staging, his attempts to cram so many viewpoints into the show and create balance among them produces a somewhat jumbled piece
Backstage offers:
Steve Cosson and co-writer Jocelyn Clarke have expertly curated the views and feelings (taken from interviews and the public record) of a wide array of people about the plan to use eminent domain to secure the land for the development... The company... consistently delivers these individuals' words with passion, but a lack of specificity in characterization sometimes leads to confusion.
People's history

All the reviews counter (as I and "Rebecca from Boerum Hill" did) the curious Kuntzman conclusion that the play would appall Atlantic Yards opponents. The L Magazine's review states:
In the Footprint is necessary viewing for every Brooklynite and, really, every American—it's a Times-hating, Markowitz-trashing People's History of the Atlantic Yards Project that lays out, in plain and often emotional terms, a decade of corruption, activism and David-and-Goliath loggerheads.
New York Magazine's review states:
Footprint is social theater at its querulous best, picking up the significant slack left by a vitiated journalism.

Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg come off the villains of the piece (they're played by a backhoe, a basketball, and an empty suit, respectively, if not respectfully), but there's precious little demonizing going on here. The Atlantic Yards debate was and is monstrously complex, turning black political leaders against black community coordinators, white liberals against progressive city fathers, and made unlikely bedfellows of ACORN, Jay-Z and Frank Gehry.
And writer Sean Elder, a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board, observes:
But having just come back from In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards at the Irondale Center, next to the Lafayette Presbyterian Church, was kind of like having personal history repeat itself, practically in my bedroom.

As my wife said when we went to see Fair Game, the movie about the Valerie Plame affair, “It makes you mad all over again.”

From the Architect's Newspaper, Review> Ratner to Neighborhood: Drop Dead:
Audiences who followed the dispute will be familiar with the play’s sentiments, but not with its dramatic architecture. Steve Cosson structures In the Footprint as a no-budget framework of available materials for his dozen energetic young performers (none looked over 30) who play characters speaking, singing, and shouting their lines, with Cosson as the sole accompanist on piano. The show advances briskly enough to avoid overkill by tears or speechmaking. If developer Bruce Ratner sees In the Footprint, he might leave wishing that his Atlantic Yards project were just as streamlined.
More raves

TimeOut New York offers five stars:
In the hands of the incisive docutheater company the Civilians, this ongoing struggle between residents and developers is less about politics and real estate and more about the fragility of communities and the ephemeral nature of home. Assembled from interviews with neighbors, politicians, activists and business owners, In the Footprint combines low-tech theatrics with intimate monologues to create a profoundly personalized collage. Supplemented by documentary video and zippy pedagogical songs by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), the show cuts through the political spin to expose the backroom machinations and racial tensions beneath the surface of the Atlantic Yards controversy.
The New York Post's brief review calls it A thrilling look at a boro haul:
Performed just several blocks away from the project site itself, "Footprint" is as entertaining as it is enlightening. Clearly impassioned, it never stoops to polemics.
The New York Daily News (belatedly) calls it Urban planning made fun!:
Leave it to the ace docutheater company the Civilians to turn a convoluted and contentious saga of urban planning into something concise, juicy and entertaining.

And with playful tunes, to boot.
Critic Aaron Riccio writes on his That Sounds Cool blog:

It is also one of the year's most sincere, clever, and enjoyable shows, period.
Some gaps

I can't say I find the reviews fully astute. They don't grapple with the play's unresolved tension between the specific Atlantic Yards "footprint"/project and the larger issues of gentrification and Brooklyn identity.

That means "The Neighborhood Song," the show's tuneful, poignant closing number, is, when you think about it, something of a muddle.

And the Times's review closes with a straightfaced recounting of what I thought was one of weakest scenes in the play:
But there is a chorus on hand, at least briefly. This being Brooklyn, it is an assembly of bloggers, all with firm opinions on the matters at hand. Which does not mean that they can be bothered to get out of their bathrobes.

Comments

  1. Funny, I wrote a column about Atlantic Yards two weeks ago including unreported news in my At Wit's End Column for Our Time Press. You can pretend I no longer exist, but I am the only journalist, blogger or mainstream, who has covered the Atlantic Yards project from day one. And I'm back - bigger, badder and better

    ReplyDelete
  2. And you provided a link, right?

    ReplyDelete
  3. am i remembering incorrectly, but didn't the "brooklyn paper" (and gersh kuntzmann) take a fairly skeptical approach to the AY project up until a few years ago when the newspaper was bought by someone who was a giant cheerleader for the project?

    i supposed it's not shocking that the wondefully named kuntzmann would be practically the sole theater "critic" who did not "find In the Footprint" to be largely an extremely interesting drama.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …