Billionares vs. Brooklyn's Best Bar! Eminent Domain Abuse & The Atlantic Yards Project


Freddy's in Brooklyn is a happening place that has been named one of the city's best bars by the Village Voice, Esquire, and The New York Times.

Unfortunately, Freddy's—and the surrounding neighborhood—is smack-dab in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project, a multi-million-dollar, 22-acre development that is intended to create "an urban utopia" in the language of developer Bruce Ratner, and a new, publicly subsidized home to Ratner's Nets, who currently play NBA basketball (if you can call it that) in New Jersey.

But don't mistake Atlantic Yards as one more instance of the market-driven transformations for which New York is rightly famous. It's actually the latest case of eminent domain abuse, where private property is seized by the state on dubious grounds and then immediately handed over to private interests for private gain.

In this case, the Empire State Development Corporation has designated the thriving area as blighted to facilitate the taking of privately owned houses and businesses without having to pay full market value. Ratner, whose partners in the venture include rapper Jay Z and the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, stands to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars on the deal, all thanks to the brute force of the state.

This week, a Brooklyn Supreme Court ruling tossed out the eminent domain objections of residents and property owners who had held out for six years and Ratner plans to break ground on the site on March 11, if not before.

The workers and patrons of Freddy's, however, are not going gentle into that good night. They've pledged to engage in civil disobedience and chain themselves to the bar when the bulldozers and wrecking balls come for their favorite haunt. A state sentator has even declared that she'll lay down in front of the demolition machinery. The awful 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo, which held that governments can seize property to increase potential tax revenues, may have paved the way for Atlantic Yards, but Freddy's is the next last stand in an ongoing battle against eminent domain abuse.

Produced by Dan Hayes, who conceived, shot, and edited the video; Damon Root, who researched the legal issues and did logistics; and Nick Gillespie, who co-wrote the piece and hosts.  

Approximately 5 minutes.

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  1. An “Urban Utopia”? Why didn’t you say so before?

    This changes everything. Please proceed, with haste.

    1. Actually it would be totally worth it if they said a “rural utopia”, just too see how horribly off they would be in what rural is.

  2. Peering into my crystal ball, I predict Ratner will bribe generously offer the owners of this “Freddy’s” establishment square footage in one of his Utopian edifices, in exchange for their vow to shut the fuck up and bend over cooperation in his beneficent plan to improve the lives of Brooklynites.

  3. Good Morning reason!

    Hi PB!

  4. The fact that this is the Nets we’re talking about is really an unnecessary slap in the face to the neighborhood. Is Ratner’s next plan to build a football stadium in Prospect Park and relocate the Lions there?

  5. Gillespie’s video keeps talking up how great a place the pub is. Irrelevant. It could sell watered-down booze or be a Klan hangout or a cop bar or it could even be the inspiration for Joel’s Piano Man. It’s private property.

    1. True, this would be an outrageous power grab even if the place were a hole – but Gillespie is trying to make a point that will resonate with ALL viewers, including those who think the “authorities” should be able to do whatever they like – so naturally he makes the point that this theft does not even come close to meeting the criteria for legal theft that has been set by our “progressive” overlords.

  6. It all sounds kinda crazy to me dude, I mean seriously.


  7. I want to sign up for the cruise so I can see Matt in that outfit he is wearing in the ad. Mmm love the glasses 😉

  8. I thought Sharpton burned Freddy’s down.

  9. ………and another Obama power grab behind the scenes that is going on:…..ton-times/

  10. Great publicity for Freddy’s. Now that they have the public’s sympathy, they’ll be more popular than ever when they move two blocks away.

  11. The workers and patrons of Freddy’s, …pledged to engage in civil disobedience and chain themselves to the bar

    Then they sobered up.

  12. Another case where eminent domain, the government ‘s right to take private property for public use has become imminent domain, the government’s right to take private property for private use. The smell of politics and graft is the sweet smell of business as usual in N.Y.C.

  13. I could buy and sell Reason.

  14. Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” bar was in LA. See! You anti-progress paleo-libertarians are a bunch of know-nothings.

  15. I live in BK and like freddies.

    IF I owned freddies or was being displaced I think I would take the ruby ridge/branch davidian approach.

  16. L’Chayim!

  17. I like your point! It is of wisdom.

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