On Thursday in front of Borough Hall, Bruce Ratner sponsored a rally to celebrate “Brooklyn’s renaissance” and “the progress of Atlantic Yards.”
As if they are the same thing.
Hundreds of union members showed up at this “Brooklyn Day!” rally to pledge support for a stalled project that has actually not played any part in Brooklyn’s revival. Just the opposite is true: Ratner’s wholesale demolitions have blighted parts of the thriving Prospect Heights neighborhood.
Those at the rally — many of whom were bussed in — said they support Ratner because of the jobs that his project will create. But it’s hard to take such tributes to Ratner seriously given that Ratner paid for the stage on Thursday — and that union workers are required to attend such mass rallies under their organizations’ rules, a union boss told us this week.
As such, this rally is not a spontaneous show of democracy, American-style. It’s democracy as they practice it in North Korea, where lackeys are paid to show up and sing paeans to the Great Leader on command.
The irony, of course, is that if the very elected officials who continue to sing from Ratner’s choir book — we’re talking about enablers like Borough President Markowitz and the croneyists at the Empire State Development Corporation — had not rubber stamped Ratner’s overly large, impossible-to-finance mini-city, those hard-working union men and women might now be building a rationally scaled, multi-developer project that everyone could admire.
Instead, Ratner’s forces continue to advance a false choice that unless he builds his Xanadu, nothing will get built on the state-owned Vanderbilt Rail Yards.
But that has always been a fallacy created to project Ratner as a civic do-gooder, regardless of the fact that taxpayers are underwriting all the supposed public benefits of his project, such as the promise of publicly subsidized below-market-rate rentals, the publicly subsidized return of major league sports to Brooklyn, the publicly subsidized improvements to local infrastructure and the publicly subsidized open space.
Now, as at the beginning of this excruciating process four-and-a-half years ago, there remains no organized opposition to development at the Vanderbilt yards. Indeed, the principal group opposing Ratner’s vision is called Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
There are alternatives to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — which is having trouble getting financing because of its many flaws. The time has come for Ratner, his paid union allies and flacks like Markowitz to abandon this failed project and work with those who seek sane, viable, broadly supported development for this valuable publicly owned site.