Ratner’s poster girl is unhappy

The Brooklyn Paper
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Sahara Meer is still angry. Place a copy of Bruce Ratner’s recent Atlantic Yards mailing on the table, and she’ll put her handbag over it. Show her the pictures of happy Brooklynites smiling for Ratner’s cameras and she’ll cringe.

Meer, you see, is one of those smiling Brooklynites — except that she doesn’t support Ratner’s plans for Atlantic Yards.

So she’s definitely not smiling.

Meer, a sometime actress with a “No eminent domain” sign in her Prospect Heights window, was between paying gigs when she became a “poster girl” in Ratner’s Atlantic Yards propaganda campaign.

It was a day like any other day last summer, when Meer got an email from a photographer friend asking whether she’d pose for a “day in the park” photo spread. The photos were being shot by the Getty agency and would be sold as stock photos — the kind of generic, “happy” shots you see in dating service ads or when newspapers need that hard-to-find image of people without a care in the world.

Meer said she spent five hours being photographed. “It was fun, and it was a pretty good deal because I’m an actress and they offered to let me use the photos, too,” she said.
She had virtually forgotten about that day — until the phone rang last week.

“Why the hell are you doing posing for Bruce Ratner?!” a friend asked.


Meer later received the “Atlantic Yards: A Vision for Downtown Brooklyn” pamphlet — which not only featured her photo, but even featured a deceptive rendering of the sprawling mega-development that actually made the 19,000-seat basketball arena disappear into a lush green meadow.

“I admit I have no one to blame but myself,” she said. “I signed the release. I got my $100 [for the shoot]. But I’m still mad at Ratner.”

Meer called her experience “the seedy underbelly of Ratner’s marketing campaign.”

“What, he couldn’t find actual people to smile for his cameras? He needed to buy stock images of people having fun?”

The greater irony of Ratner’s flyer is that the people in the pictures, smiling and enjoying their lives in Brooklyn, actual send a subtle anti-Ratner message: “Don’t change a thing, Mr. Ratner. We like things the way they are. That’s why we’re smiling.”

Meer said she wants to channel her anger and is now volunteering with Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“And one thing is for sure,” she added, “I’ll never do stock photo shoots again.”.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
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