Impersonator Elliot Crown, wearing a three-foot long Marty Markowitz mask, stood in front of Freddy’s Bar and bellowed.
“We’re here to mark the greatest urban planning blunder since Cleveland,” said Crown, in his best Brooklyn warble.
Crown was one of about 50 protesters who demonstrated the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony, held March 11, with a counter event dubbed ‘Burying the soul of Brooklyn’, held in front of Freddy’s Bar, 485 Dean Street.
The event included a march around the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site, accruing one arrest along the way.
Some analysts considered this the anti-Atlantic Yard movement’s last stand because the courts recently upheld the eminent domain decisions, evicting about 35 occupants.
Freddy’s Bar manager, Donald O’Finn, said he was glad that the protest took place in front of the business because the bar has always been a center for the opposition. O’Finn said he won’t know the last stand until it happens.
“There’s been no respect along the way,” he said of the city government’s handling of the project. “No coming in, shaking our hand and saying, ‘You know you guys are doing a great job here. We don’t want to push you out and we want to make this as smooth a transition as possible.’”
Freddy’s bartender, Anna, who refused to give her full name, gave a different perspective.
“It’s already changed the neighborhood,” said the Greenpoint resident, adding she’s already looking for another job. “With all the bulldozers around we’re not the friendliest place to have a beer anymore.”
But Abdul Ibrahim, who runs the Dubai Mini Mart on 6th Avenue and Dean, kitty corner from the bar, said while he will miss the watering hole and its patrons, he also feels confident the arena and Atlantic Yards project will lift the local economy.
“It will pay off for us in the long run and it’s good. We need jobs, People here are suffering,” Ibrahim said.
Many protestors echoed O’Finn’s sentiment, however.
“They’ll have to come with a wrecking ball,” said Rain Chacon, 36, of Gowanus. “We’ve got chains.”
“We’ll keep on protesting,” said Jay Tooley of Queers for Economic Justice. “People will still come out.”
Park Slope resident Dennis Hurley said he initially supported the Atlantic Yards project, but lost faith once eminent domain and shrinking budgets came into play.
“Look! These aren’t derelict buildings they’re knocking down,” said the 32-year-old, motioning to the buildings around him as the protesters marched. “It’s sad they managed to get all these people out.”
Laurika Harris, 21, who lives in the area, said that she doesn’t believe that the proposed low-income housing is coming anytime soon, and doesn’t believe the stadium will help locals.
“Stadiums are self-contained. People don’t want to wander around the neighborhood,” said Harris. “They park there and eat inside the stadium.”
—with Stephen Witt