Railroaded! Streetcar’s promo video misquotes activist

Railroaded! Streetcar’s promo video misquotes activist

An opponent of the mayor’s proposed streetcar system who publicly criticized the plan says that the city used his critique out of context in a promotional video — making it look like he supported the very plan he is fighting against.

Over the summer, the Economic Development Corporation asked residents to help plan the trolley’s Sunset Park-to-Queens route, and it later produced a publicity film using footage from the meetings. The video quotes longtime Sunset Park community leader Bob Bernard as saying the project “made potential open up for this community,” but Bernard says an unscrupulous editor cut him off just before he could finish his thought — that the potential for bad outweighs the potential for good.

“If you look at this thing, it’s clear I’m being misquoted from my body language and tone,” said Bernard who looks unnerved in the clip and is clearly cut off mid-sentence. “I’m against what they’re proposing. And you would have heard that if they used the full quote, because I said there is potential for good, but I also said that there is more potential for bad than good with this project.”

The five-second sound bite was snipped from a roughly 20-second critique where Bernard explained that the streetcar — dubbed the “BQX” — would lead to jacked-up rents and locals’ displacement.

The film was published online on Nov. 3, but Bernard wasn’t even aware he was featured in it until recently. Members of Sunset Park social-justice group Uprose who were at the June meeting later saw the video and alerted Bernard, a former director of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, that he was taken out of context. One activist called out the Economic Development Corporation at a contentious Dec. 12 meeting, alleging the agency cherry-picked quotes to suit its needs.

“He is adamantly against the BQX, and he was making a long point about why this is a problem,” said Uprose organizer Ana Orozco. “However the EDC used it to promote the BQX, so what is the point of these visioning sessions? What is the point of these feasibility studies if they’re supposed to be neutral and the city comes away from them saying, ‘Yay the community loved it — next meeting.’ ”

Officials could not explain the error but agreed that it should be corrected.

“You’re right, it should be accurate, but I’m sorry I can’t speak to the specifics of that situation,” said Adam Giambrone, who was hired by the city to head the streetcar system’s design.

It is apparently not the first suspect promotional video for the contentious project.

The cadre of waterfront developers pushing the plan paid hipster media company Vice to produce a trolley-boosting video that featured Brooklyn-born hip-hop artist Talib Kweli in the spring. But a spokeswoman for the artist later told blog Patch that Kweli was not aware of the proposal’s finer points and was not sure whether he supported the plan as proposed or simply the broad notion of improving Brooklyn transit.

Here’s the full video — Bernard’s comments are at 1:10

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.