Pro-Atlantic Yards Rally and A Question of Place

Decked out in a red that would scoff at being labeled “apple” or “ketchup,” a brigade of Atlantic Yards supporters from ACORN marched out of the auditorium of Brooklyn’s Polytechnic University on Wednesday evening during a pro-Atlantic Yards rally. In the lobby of the auditorium stood opponents of Bruce Ratner’s mammoth downtown Brooklyn development, some wearing yellow T-shirts.

After several no-shows to the auditorium’s podium, a 16-year-old African-American woman approached, announcing herself as an Erasmus High School student and proclaiming, “I am Brooklyn,” which sparked applause. Not long after, a middle-aged man, white, dressed in a suit less confrontational than the traditional black, read out to the audience the differences between a good development and a bad one, concluding, with his background in urban planning, that Atlantic Yards fit in the latter category.

Wednesday evening’s rally in favor of the project was like that: a bit haphazard—and sliced between largely African-American proponents and white opponents. 

The Observer approached a shaggy-haired, blue-eyed man fitted in a yellow “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” T-shirt who moments before was reprimanded for taking a picture. Currently a California resident, he was reluctant to talk, saying other members of his huddled group were more qualified representatives (the group of opponents totalled under a dozen, the proponents over 100).

Scott M.X. Turner, his grayish hair coiffed into a Mohawk and his middle name an extension of his mother’s sense of humor, was more forthcoming: “I’ve lived here for 20 years. … I was [living in the neighborhood] until we were priced out. … I know why everybody asks that question, I’ve been asked that a lot, because it seems you have a right to talk about it, you have a right not to talk about it depending on how long you’ve been in Brooklyn, depending on where you live in Brooklyn; somehow that matters. It doesn’t matter. If you live anywhere in the city … you’re going to be affected by it because of all the city money that’s going to it.”

Daniel Goldstein, a prominent opponent of Atlantic Yards, felt the question of living in Brooklyn or New York was irrelevant, though his participation in opposing the construction was personal. “My home would be taken to build this arena.” (Indeed, Mr. Goldstein’s condo falls in the development’s footprint.)

“I don’t think there’s a divide,” Mr. Goldstein said in response to a question about a community divide. “I think there are people who are partners with Forest City Ratner, paid partners … I  think there are plenty of people who support the project who are unaffiliated, unfortunately. … Who in the world wants to stop jobs? What Ratner’s doing, he’s not creating jobs, he’s not building a thing and they shout out, ‘Build it now?’… He doesn’t even know what he wants to do.”

As he finished, the crowds began filing out of the building, the vast majority moving out to the left, while a few minutes later, Mr. Goldstein and a handful of opponents veered off to the right.