Monday, July 17, 2006

Anti-Ratner Rally Draws Thousands on a Blazing Hot Sunday

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A crowd estimated by organizers at 4,000 turned out in baking heat yesterday for a rally against the Atlantic Yards project sponsored by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. (The NY Times estimated 2,000.) While the crowd was not so large as to indicate a popular uprising againt the massive residential-commercia-arena plan, the turnout (whether 4,000 or 2,000 or in between) did signify that the anti-Yards movement has momentum. The opposition has clearly been attracting new supporters and contributors. (Check Norman Oder's perceptive-as-usual analysis of the rally and what it meant.)

"This is not a done deal," said City Council Member Charles Barron, who has been upfront in opposing the project. He urged the crowd to "mobilize and organize for 2009." Barron was referring to a strategy to try to hobble the project through litigation long enough for new leadership in City Hall and on the City Council.

While the majority in the crowd at the rally was clearly white, most speakers at the rally were African-American, which is significant given that the Atlantic Yards debate has taken on racial overtones in recent months. "This is not about race," said Rev. Clinton Miller. "It's about class and it's about asking the right questions."

Other speakers included Council Member Letitia James, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (who is being challenged by a pro-Atlantic Yards candidate), Assembly candidate Bill Batson, activist Bob Law and Fort Greene activist Ed Carter.

"This is the beginning of a citywide battle," Council Member Tony Avella, who also said he will run for Mayor in 2009, told the crowd.

DDDB co-founder Daniel Goldstein said, "This deal is coming undone. It's suffering from long-term illness. Let's put it out of its misery." Mr. Goldstein introduced the actress, T. Sahara Meer, that had been used in a Ratner promotional brochure who has since become a active DDDB volunteer. Ms. Meer thanked the developer for getting her very involved in the anti-Atlantic Yards fight.

Entertainer Dan Zanes, actor Steve Buscemi and actress Rosie Perez were among those that also took the stage. Ms. Perez called the plan "an insult to the poor."

"We have a real chance to undo this done deal," Mr. Buscemi said. "It aint done yet."

(More than three dozen photos are posted in my flickr photoset.)

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Rosie Perez and Steve Buscemi

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City Council Member Charles Barron

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DDDB Founder Dan Goldstein and Ratner "Poster Girl" T. Sahara Meer

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City Council Member Letitia James

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Assembly Candidate Bill Batson

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U.S. House Candidate Chris Owens

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On the sidelines

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