City Journal’s Nicole Gelinas reports on the latest lawsuit stemming from the Atlantic Yards boondoggle in Brooklyn, where the state of New York seized private property via eminent domain on behalf of a basketball stadium being built by real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner. As Gelinas notes, the seven Brooklyn residents who filed suit this month aren’t actually upset about the eminent domain abuse that occurred, they’re just mad at Ratner because he won’t let them get in on the spoils:
Ratner gained government backing only by marshaling community support: that is, he shoveled money into new “grassroots” advocacy groups like Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). Ratner signed a “community benefits agreement” under which BUILD chief James Caldwell would train residents—many of them low-income Brooklynites—for as many as 15,000 well-paying construction jobs at Atlantic Yards....
Now, seven job-seekers are suing, alleging that Ratner and Caldwell duped them into joining a “training” class last year that consisted of reading Wikipedia printouts and then working—unpaid and unsupervised—for two months on a dangerous Staten Island home-construction site owned by a third party. During their “training,” the seven “learned very little that they did not already know,” they said, because they were “already fully capable of performing construction work.”
It’s hard to feel much sympathy for anybody who believed Ratner’s bogus promises, but at least these seven dupes have a shot at learning from their erroneous ways. As Gelinas puts it:
So the Ratner Seven have learned something: to get a job, you don’t depend on the power of the state to seize other people’s property. You educate yourself, you learn a trade, and you work hard, sometimes at lower wages than you’d like, to gain experience. That is, the plaintiffs should have kept doing what they were doing before Ratner came along.