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June 17, 2011

The Times punts somewhat on Battle for Brooklyn (was film edited to make officials look bad? nah), and a review roundup

Atlantic Yards Report

The documentary Battle for Brooklyn has mainly been reviewed by film critics, assessing it first as a narrative and the second in terms of thoroughness and accuracy.

From the perspective of the directors, that must be a double-edge sword: most reviewers have been more gentle to the film than, say, someone (like me) who'd been covering the battle steadily, while some have really missed the point. ignoring some of the gaps.

Below, a roundup of several recent reviews, and some comments.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Battle for Brooklyn

You have to admire the tenacity of Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, who spent seven years documenting the sadly doomed grass-roots struggle to stop the Atlantic Yards project, a development boondoggle built around a basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately for the film, it's clear from the outset this is a totally one-sided battle that well-connected developer Bruce Ratner is fated to win. With powerful allies like Mayor Bloomberg, (clownish) Borough President Marty Markowitz and the New York Times, Ratner gets huge economic concessions when the economy goes south.

The Village Voice, Memory Lane: A Look Back at the Campaign Against Atlantic Yards in Battle for Brooklyn

Coming to theaters just as the Barclays Center emerges from behind partitioning at the northern tip of Prospect Heights, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s Battle for Brooklyn recounts the tireless anti–Atlantic Yards efforts of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein. The documentary opens with a title-card definition of “eminent domain,” and a scene of last-holdout Goldstein standing up to the goons patrolling his condo building’s rooftop. Instances of project-proponent doublespeak follow: Podium-banging Nets owner/AY developer Bruce Ratner invokes “the royal ‘I’ ”; Chuck Schumer says that job creation “enervates” [sic] him; a Forest City Ratner VP appears to spin displacement as a grand American tradition.

The Icehouse Gang, Matt Brinckerhoff and the Battle for Brooklyn

Okay folks, here is your first, truly must-see movie for the summer: a harrowing documentary, opening tomorrow, about how in today’s America almost any wealthy businessman who wants to can find a judge to drive you out of your home. For a reason as important as…basketball.

The Times, like just about every newspaper that has reviewed The Battle For Brooklyn so far, including The Wall Street Journal, gave it a very good review—albeit objecting that it is “unabashedly slanted and as a result will probably be dismissed by those it portrays unflatteringly.”

How very Timesian! Just what is the “unslanted” side to a story where a developer convinces a city government to hand over an immensely valuable property to him, evicts all the longtime residents on that property, lies about what he’ll build there, rips off local commuters to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars…then absconds, selling the whole site off to a mysterious foreign businessman?

And “it will probably be dismissed by those it portrays unflatteringly”? Right. Like if it had all been just a little more nuanced, Bruce Ratner, and Mayor Bloomberg, and all their flunky judges and MTA apparatchiks would have been kept up at night, walking the halls, wondering, ‘Did we do the right thing?’

The Times, like so many of our elite institutions, has wandered so far from any understanding of what a true democracy should be that it really thinks convincing developer rip-off artists and the mayors who love them is what counts.

Curbed, Our Top Five Favorite Moments From Battle for Brooklyn

2.) At one point Dan Goldstein’s wife Shabnam Merchant points to a woman laughing blissfully in a pamphlet distributed by Forest City Ratner to promote Atlantic Yards. She mentions that when taking the stock photo the woman assumed the worst that could happen was that it would be used in a Herpes treatment ad. Apparently, she thought Atlantic Yards was worse.

1.) Freddy’s bar co-owner Donald O’Finn being a badass.

Posted by eric at June 17, 2011 10:08 AM