The Brooklyn Museum has expressed shock that its decision to award Bruce Ratner its highest honor has been so widely criticized.
We’re wondering why. Any institution as connected to the borough as the Brooklyn Museum certainly should have seen the attacks coming.
To be clear, we will not criticize the Brooklyn Museum for honoring a rich person like Bruce Ratner. Charities and arts institutions have always survived because of benefactors — a group that includes everyone from the most-responsible corporate citizens to those who earn their money in less-appealing, though legal, ways. And all those donations go toward something good.
In a perfect world, arts institutions would not have to go begging — or, worse, risk the appearance of impropriety by courting donations from controversial figures accused of not caring about the interest of the broader community.
So while we understand the Brooklyn Museum’s motivation in honoring Ratner, we are equally cognizant of why so many Brooklynites — many of them museum members — were picketing the institution on Thursday night.
Whatever contributions Ratner makes to the arts community (and it’s unclear exactly what they add up to, by the way), his Atlantic Yards mega-project has been an utter insult to the notion of community involvement and concern for neighbors.
For one thing, Ratner paid a bargain-basement price for a valuable publicly owned resource — the air rights over the MTA’s Vanderbilt rail yard. And his design for the now-truncated Atlantic Yards project called for massively out-of-scale towers and the much-reviled superblock configuration.
Lest we forget, dozens of residents are being evicted from their homes so those buildings can be turned over to Ratner — hardly an example of being a good neighbor.
Most important, his project was allowed to circumvent the city’s normal public review process.
That’s the same review process that countless other developers — even ones who give big money to charity — must undergo.
But not Ratner.
So while the Brooklyn Museum is free to honor anyone it chooses, the Museum should not be surprised when residents of the borough choose to picket that selection.
©2008 Community News Group
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