A Resistance Mounts to Ratner’s Brooklyn Project

By Maurice Pinzon
Brooklyn residents held a news conference today to announce their opposition to Bruce Ratner’s proposed development in Brooklyn, a project purportedly anchored by a basketball arena for the Nets.

In addition, tenants, homeowners, and business and property owners announced that they had formed a coalition called “Develop — don’t destroy Brooklyn,” which would be led by Norman Siegel, a long-time civil rights advocate who had successfully challenged Rudolph Giuliani’s policies when Mr. Giuliani was mayor.

Patti Hagan, Daniel Goldstein, Jezra Kaye and about 20 other community residents stood with Mr. Siegel and insisted that there were alternatives to Mr. Ratner’s proposed project. The group promised to present better, less disruptive ways to develop and improve their community. In addition, the groups said there were alternative sites for the Nets arena.

Council member Eric Gioia, who represents part of Queens, attended the news conference to support the group. He came to the attention of Brooklyn residents when Newsday Columnist Jimmy Breslin mentioned his name in relation to the Brooklyn development. Council member Gioia suggested that the parking lot of Shea Stadium would be a fine location for the Nets arena.

Indeed, the assembled group promised to mount a citywide campaign to highlight land use, legal, community and political issues arising due to the Mr. Ratner project.

Mr. Goldstein, a local resident, said Mr. Ratner “intends to wipe off the map the sweat, hopes, dreams and monetary investments made by hundreds of people in this community over decades.”

Then, taking a deep breath, he said, “I am outraged that many of this City[‘s] and State’s most powerful elected officials have actively supported and guided Mr. Ratner’s land grab.”

Mr. Goldstein continued, “I am outraged by the proposed use of public funds from a financially strapped city for the benefit of a private entity. Is there anyone in this city who thinks it’s acceptable for a developer to use our tax money for a private development built to benefit the developer while destroying those same taxpayers’ lives?”

Mr. Siegel said the “the Atlantic Yards proposal raises complex issues inherent in the relationship of modern-day 21st-century urban government/private development.”

He also questioned whether it is “constitutional and legal to employ eminent domain procedures to condemn the private property of the residents and business owners of Prospect Heights for the benefit of a private developer, especially when that developer owns property and has rights to property adjacent to the proposed condemnation site.” Mr. Siegel said the project brought up legal questions about whether there was proper community input in the proceedings of eminent domain.

Rather than wait for the proper developers to act, Mr. Siegel said the group would begin to organize the community and mount a citywide campaign.

Mr. Siegel continued, “This project is by no means a slam dunk. I will be putting together a Develop — don’t destroy Brooklyn legal team that will analyze the constitutional, legal, policy, environmental and other issues involved in this project. No area will be unquestioned. No premise will go unchallenged.”

Mr. Siegel said he was optimistic that the group would get a proper hearing and support from City Council members, who do not want their neighborhoods disrupted by similar development projects.

In questioning the government’s use of the power of eminent domain, Mr. Siegel said, “We will argue vigorously this is not a blighted neighborhood.”

Neither Mayor Bloomberg’s Office nor Mr. Ratner’s spokespeople had comments on the matter.

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