‘NIMBY’ Bloomie films TV ad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
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If it’s in Brooklyn, build away. Just don’t build it anywhere near Mayor Mike’s backyard.

Despite promoting the largest economic development projects in Brooklyn for city approval in the past year, including the Atlantic Yards housing and arena development, and an Ikea big-box store in Red Hook, the mayor continues to say he might not like the projects so much if it was his quality of life that was in jeopardy.

In a surprise visit to Fort Greene Aug. 24 to film a re-election campaign commercial, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed surprise at how close Forest City Ratner’s proposed 19,000-seat arena and 17-tower residential complex was to Brownstone Brooklyn.

And, upon finding out the proximity of the 60-story Frank Gehry designs for a futuristic cityscape would be to some of the borough’s most cherished six-story brownstones, a resident says the mayor told him that if he lived there, he wouldn’t be so keen on the project, either.

Michael Decker, who lives near the Mexican restaurant Pequena, on South Oxford Street between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, where Bloomberg was filming his commercial, said he called some of his neighbors about the mayor’s presence on the block.

The neighbors, all members of the Fort Greene Association, and two who are involved with the anti-Ratner arena group Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), asked the mayor about his support of the Atlantic Yards project.

“[His comment] was in regard to our opposition to the project,” recalled Decker, “and I believe what he said was, ‘If I were in your position, I’d feel the same way,’” recalled Decker, a member of DDDB.

The mayor’s not-in-my-backyard, or NIMBY, message sounded much like comments he made the day after the City Council approved rezoning to allow the construction of an Ikea big-box store in Red Hook last October.

Talking to reporters about the Ikea project, Bloomberg said candidly, “I happen to be a supporter of [the Red Hook Ikea plan]. But I think if I lived there, I don’t know whether I would be, quite honestly.”

Lucy Koteen, an organizer for DDDB and member of the Fort Greene Association, said the site, a tiny Mexican restaurant, seemed to have been location-scouted for the Spanish-language commercial, but pointed out that the area, unlike the surrounding neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Bushwick and Park Slope, doesn’t have a very large Hispanic population.

“I thought, ‘Those don’t look like the usual Pequena people.’ Pequena is the yuppie place; it’s a nice place, but they have a lunchtime special with margaritas,” she pointed out.

“There were two Spanish-looking men, playing dominos at a table outside the restaurant as a backdrop,” she said with a laugh. “[Bloomberg] spoke in Spanish from his teleprompt­er.”

Afterwards, she, Decker and another neighbor approached the mayor, and brought up the Atlantic Yards project, which would begin two blocks from the restaurant.

“We told him this community did not want it, and that those people who were behind the project were not from the community, and that over 40 groups with deep roots in the neighborhood opposed it,” Koteen said.

“They started walking, and [Bloomberg] said, ‘Gee, I don’t know what to tell you, I wouldn’t be happy about it if it was in my neighborhood either,” said Koteen.

Mayoral spokesman Jordan Barowitz could not confirm the statement.

“I asked about that from someone who was with the mayor all day, and she doesn’t recall that conversati­on,” he said.

“I believe he was sympathetic to the individuals who lived in the area, but as the mayor’s reiterated, this proposal means tens of thousands of jobs, and thousands of units of affordable housing,” he said.

Koteen agreed that the mayor seemed sincere.

“He showed real concern in that he was listening,” she said.

Decker said it was “funny” that of all neighborhoods, Bloomberg chose Fort Greene to film a campaign commercial.

“He’s using our beautiful neighborhood as a backdrop in re-election commercials,” said Decker, “while carelessly supporting a developer’s land-grab that will irreparably damage this very community.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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