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EXCLUSIVE: Gehry to Brooklyn Paper: Miss Brooklyn ain’t dead — in fact, she’s hotter than ever

More than 100 people rallied outside the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday night to protest the institute’s decision to honor Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner. Former Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Marilyn Gelber (left) joined the protest. Inside, more than 1,000 Museum patrons cheered Ratner as he accepted the Augustus Graham Medal, which honors a Museum benefactor.
The Brooklyn Paper / Adrian Kinloch

Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry told The Brooklyn Paper Thursday night that his “Miss Brooklyn” tower at Atlantic Yards is not dead.

In an exclusive interview, he told The Paper that not only will it be built, but it will “look better than anyone imagines.”

Gehry admitted that developer Bruce Ratner has struggled to find an anchor tenant for the 511-foot iconic, shimmering glass-walled skyscraper.

But Gehry quickly added: “Bruce will have a tenant soon — and then he’ll begin construction.”

The Miss Brooklyn tower, proposed for the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, would be the gateway to Ratner’s ailing Atlantic Yards project, which once called for 16 skyscrapers, a basketball arena and 6,800 units of housing, but has since been trimmed back to two or three buildings, the arena and hundreds of apartments.

The Brooklyn Paper / Adrian Kinloch

Whatever shape Miss Brooklyn finally takes, it will no longer include a hotel component, Gehry said.

Gehry’s comments come two weeks after Ratner admitted that he was having trouble finding an anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn, telling the New York Times that he “won’t build” the tower without such a tenant.

But if Ratner gets a tenant, Gehry said, his design is “better than ever.”

“We’ve made some adjustments that people will absolutely love,” he said. “This is the part of the process I enjoy — tinkering, making things better.”

Gehry suggested that he was disappointed by Ratner’s comments to the Times two weeks ago, in which the developer admitted that he cannot build the bulk of Atlantic Yards because of the current economic downturn.

The Brooklyn Paper / Adrian Kinloch

“He really does want to build it [all]” Gehry said. “But he can’t get the financing. I don’t know why he would tell the papers that, but it is true.”

Gehry spoke with The Brooklyn Paper during the Brooklyn Museum’s annual gala, where Ratner was given the Augustus Graham Medal, an award that honors a Museum patron.

Outside the Eastern Parkway art institute, hundreds of protestors started gathering at around 6:30 pm to greet more than 1,000 Museum supporters as they entered for cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres of miso-marinated cod and spicy taro with caviar.

Celebrities including designer Marc Jacobs and tennis legend John McEnroe were also on hand.

Protesters condemned the Museum’s decision to honor Ratner, some holding signs reading, “Con Artist” and, in a particularly nifty bit of memory, “Dung Deal,” a reference to the Museum’s 1999 controversy over its “Sensation” exhibition, which featured a painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.

Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry (right) laughs it up with artist Julian Schnabel at the gala.
The Brooklyn Paper / Gersh Kuntzman

Joining the protesters was former city Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Marilyn Gelber.

Referring to the protesters outside, Borough President Markowitz — a major support of Atlantic Yards — smiled and said, “It shows that this is a great country.”

In his acceptance speech hours later, Ratner did not mention Atlantic Yards, but merely said that he was honored to accept an award that “represents the essence” of what he does as a developer, namely, building with “a social purpose and responsibility.”

By the time he started speaking, at around 10:15 pm, there were no protesters left out front.

The Brooklyn Paper / Gersh Kuntzman

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