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August 17, 2011

The passing of Darnell Canada, Fort Greene community activist, job finder, ex-con, "moral compass," Atlantic Yards intimidator

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder publishes a thorough (does he know any other way?) examination — including extensive interview footage shot by Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky — of the life and times of the late Darnell Canada.

Fort Greene resident Darnell Canada, one of the most memorable characters in the Atlantic Yards saga--aggressively interrupting public meetings to shout that "jobs" should trump concerns about the megaproject's impact--died May 27, of pneumonia. He was 52.

A bulky black man from the 'hood, Canada could speak powerfully and extemporaneously from the heart--and from the gut. His performances at public meetings made for crucial cameos in both the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn and the 2007 film Brooklyn Matters. If Atlantic Yards didn't pass and the fellow ex-cons he was helping didn't get work, he warned ominously, "you're the victim."

This echoed the mau-mauing author Tom Wolfe described in 1970, but it came with an Atlantic Yards twist: Canada took on middle- and upper-class neighbors, mostly but not exclusively white, who opposed the project, and even challenged officials holding public meetings.

Thus his intimidation ultimately served "the man" represented by developer Forest City Ratner and its governmental partners. No wonder Forest City paid his funeral expenses. [Correction: I originally wrote "hospital bills."]

Indeed, Canada's role in Atlantic Yards--which he saw less as support for the project than as urgent advocacy for his community--defined him such that the program for his memorial service featured a photo of him speaking at a 7/30/09 public hearing (also above, by Tracy Collins).


Posted by eric at August 17, 2011 10:52 AM