Thursday, April 03, 2008

Brooklyn Museum Ratner Gala Continues to Stir Anger

Of all the events happening in Brooklyn tonight, one that will generate the most feeling among some people is the Brooklyn Museum Gala honoring developer Bruce Ratner. A protest has been organized and there have been angry letters circulating about the event, including an "open letter" to the Museum, which would seem to indicate that some of its members and supporters are upset. The letter said, in part: "I do not believe it is appropriate for a respected public institution like the Brooklyn Museum to be honoring Bruce Ratner...A museum should be a good neighbor to its community. You cannot be a good neighbor by promoting the activities of someone who is a bad neighbor, and worse, to the community."

From the museum's perspective, however, the Gala is a big-ticket institutional thank you to a major supporter. The museum refused to tell the Daily News how much Mr. Ratner has donated, but Atlantic Yards Report notes that IRS records show donations of $100,000 in each of 2005 and 2006 (with 2007 records not yet available) from the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation. AYR writes:
Given that tables of 12 with premier seating at the gala are going for $50,000 to $75,000, and tables of ten range from $5000 to $25,000, it's a good bet that the honor for Ratner will draw significant sums. And it's not unlikely that Ratner and colleagues have made individual donations.
Clearly, tonight's even will raise millions for the museum. Meanwhile, Rachel Monahan and Jotham Sederstrom look at the Gala in today's Daily News. Here's an excerpt:
At least two museum trustees have close ties to Forest City Ratner, with Joanne Minieri acting as president of the development company and former museum director RobertRubin a Nets owner. "Bruce C. Ratner is being honored with the Augustus Graham Medal at the Brooklyn Museum's Ball in recognition of his longstanding support of this museum and art and cultural institutions throughout New York City," [Museum Spokesperson Sally] Williams said. "For nearly three decades, the Brooklyn Museum has awarded this honor to a distinguished group of individuals who have helped to sustain the arts in our community."
Meanwhile, photographer Tracey Collins, who is producing an invaluable historical record of photos of the Atlantic Yards footprint, writes of his dismay in participating in the museum's "Click!" exhibit:
In a nutshell, I'm very reluctant to participate in, let alone, promote what I believe to be a great concept when the board of the museum chooses to bestow an honor on a developer whose signature project would leave a lasting scar on Brooklyn's "changing face."
Kanye West is performing at tonight's event. Whether the controversy will blow over quickly or whether the bitter divisions of opinion about Atlantic Yards will spill over into the museum's community fund raising, membership and activities remains to be seen.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why aren't there protests at BAM? Ratner gave more money to them than to the Brooklyn Museum!
Look it up, then direct your anger elsewhere.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Richard Nickel, Jr. said...

I too am very dismayed and disappointed by the Brooklyn Museum's decision to honor this scumbag. And I share threecee's dismay at having entered the "Click!" exhibit - ironically, I submitted a photograph of another threatened building in Brooklyn, and almost wish I could yank it at this point. Had I only known about this before the submission deadline, I would have made an "appropriate political statement" with my photograph...

11:41 AM  
Blogger Richard Nickel, Jr. said...

Oh and to the first commenter - the protest is a protest of the Museum's public laudation of Ratner, not of their acceptance of his money. I feel that there is no harm in taking money from Ratner - it means less in his pockets - but by making him the guest of honor at this gala, they are lending an air of legitimacy and support that could help him with more sleazy "wink wink" dealmaking.

11:42 AM  
Blogger sympathetic compass said...

I'm yet another individual who entered a photo in "Click!" and now wish I could pull it. I'm disheartened that Ratner can't be separated from his money; the man doesn't deserve commendation in the least. Be sure I'll be at the protest tonight.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Stanley said...

You guys all need to take a deep breath. Museums wouldn't exist without wealthy benefactors, and Ratner's made some significant contributions. So they're honoring him for it. Who cares? This is the way it is in the nonprofit world.

You're taking it all way too personally - and letting your sheer, irrational hatred of Ratner cloud your judgment.

If you have a problem with his developments or policies, then send him a letter or picket his office. But faulting a guy for donating to a museum? You people are pathetic.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we are picketing him. tonight. at the museum. you can't picket him at his office, the metrotech-pinkertons won't allow it.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Richard Nickel, Jr. said...


With all due respect (which isn't very much) you don't have a damn clue what you're talking about.

We're not "faulting a guy for donating to a museum". We're faulting him for trampling on Brooklyn for his own gain, for abusing the public trust, and for dirty deals done behind closed doors.

And we're faulting the Museum for honoring such a scumbag, regardless of his contributions. Tell me, if Fred Phelps or Mark David Chapman donated a couple hundred thou to the Museum, would you be OK with a gala event in their honor?

Us people are pathetic? Hardly. In your poorly thought out diatribe, you demonstrate nothing beyond the fact that you have only a surface understanding of the issues at hand.

3:11 PM  
Blogger The Phantom said...

There are plenty of people in Brooklyn who have no beef of any kind with Mr. Ratner, and who applaud what he has done ( Metrotech ) and what he proposes to do ( Atlantic Yards )

I'm not trying to provoke anyone here--its the truth.

4:40 PM  

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