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June 16, 2011
MICHAEL GALINSKY AND SUKI HAWLEY, “BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN”
by Brandon Harris
Eight years in the making, Battle for Brooklyn is Galinsky and Hawley’s in-depth portrait of the fight over this swath of Brooklyn property. Perhaps the most insightful film about urban planning and eminent domain to yet emerge, it is also a muckraking portrait of system corruption, of the ways that money causes undue influence within our political system and how the wealthy can muscle their preferred message through the media in increasingly draconian and anti-democratic ways. After playing at HotDocs, Rooftop Films and the Brooklyn International Film Festival, it opens this Friday at Manhattan’s Cinema Village and Brooklyn’s IndieScreen.
Hawley: The opposition tried so hard to effect this project and to change it. They found another developer who offered three times the money Forest City Ratner did for the rail yards. They found a developer who would have created housing and jobs without using eminent domain to remove people from their homes. The local politicians who represented the direct area were very against it and City Councilwoman James was very vocal, but she had no way of really effecting the outcome. It’s mindboggling really.
Galinsky: Part of the reason we made the movie is that we don’t approve of top down government that ignores the will of the people and the interest of the community.
Hawley: They want to run things more like a business. Communities aren’t a business. Schools aren’t a business. Human interaction is messy. It’s not simple. You have to dig in and challenge yourself and it’s not going to be easy, but our communities are going to be more successful if our leaders do that.
Galinsky: Michael Bloomberg says in the movie, “You don’t need any paper, you just need Bruce Ratner’s word.”
Booting those already in place didn’t seem an issue for some, as Ratner doled out hefty paychecks to those that vacated the premises. Others held out, including Daniel Goldstein, the sole resident of an apartment high-rise who shrugged in response to Ratner’s overtures. As a result, Goldstein ended up living a Kafka-esque nightmare, the only person holding out in his empty building. We see the toll this takes as his fiancée walks out on him, but it’s a testament to the influence of Develop Don’t Destroy that this documentary also features Goldstein finding love in the arms of another and even having a child.
A.V. Club, Battle For Brooklyn
It’s a fascinating, significant story too, though it proves a little too big for Galinsky and Hawley to wrangle. This is a movie about the state of grassroots organizing in the 21st century, and how politicians and the media have stopped even pretending to stick up for the little guy; instead, they make sweetheart deals with overly optimistic businessmen, then let those businessmen control how the deal gets explained. It’s also about how Goldstein develops as a spokesman for his cause, learning to throw numbers around and hit his talking points as forcefully as the developers do, while realizing that because of the laziness of the local media, he’s going to have to explain the opposition to Atlantic Yards over and over. (The fact that this movie takes place before, during, and after the real-estate crash only underscores how a lack of diligence by our watchdogs can screw the average citizen.)
Posted by eric at June 16, 2011 5:15 PM