Corruption

Snapshots from the Atlantic Yards "Groundtaking" Ceremony

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A small and feisty group of protesters had already established themselves in front of Freddy's Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn when I arrived shortly after noon to witness today's big groundbreaking—or "groundtaking" as the protesters put it—ceremony for the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre eminent domain boondoggle that will bulldoze homes and businesses in order to make way for a basketball stadium and some office and apartment towers. Despite the fact that Atlantic Yards is a classic case of eminent domain abuse, New York's courts have shamefully abdicated their judicial responsibility and allowed this blatant land grab to proceed. So today was something of a last hurrah for the opposition, many of whom have been fighting this outrage for the past seven years. I'd estimate that a few hundred protesters had joined in by the time the crowd made its way from Freddy's to the heavily-secured tent where Ratner and his buddies in big government gathered to celebrate their chance to demolish a neighborhood and begin "building the community from the ground-up."

Here's the scene in front of Freddy's—one of the last remaining properties scheduled for demolition—where protesters held a mock funeral to "bury the soul of Brooklyn."

From left to right, the masked faces above portray Atlantic Yards supporters Eliot Spitzer, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gov. David Paterson, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, Russian billionaire and Ratner-partner Mikhail Prokhorov, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. I'm surprised rapper Jay-Z wasn't included in the cast of villains as well, since he's a part owner of the Nets (along with Ratner and Prokhorov) who gladly lent his famous name to the project. No sight of ACORN's Bertha Lewis either, even though she provided Ratner some crucial "political cover" in exchange for a $1.5 million bailout.

A common sentiment among today's protesters.

Here's a closer look at the leering face of disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, one of the state's many elected officials involved in the Atlantic Yards land theft (among other crimes).

And what's that yellow banner behind Spitzer?

The Brooklyn Libertarian Party! Chair and 30-year libertarian activist Gary Popkin (on the far left) told me he came out to protest because "it's wrong to steal." Amen, brother.

Now meet Matthew Sterling of Bensonhurst. He claimed that nobody paid him to be there, which made his support for the abominable Nets even stranger. Still, you've got to give him some credit for entering the mosh pit of Atlantic Yards opponents. And who knows, the way the Nets are playing, maybe they'll give Sterling a shot. He's already suited up.

Here's local celebrity protester "Reverend Billy." He's a cult figure among the anti-corporate set for holding faux religious revivals outside of Starbucks and other hated chain outlets with his "Church of Life After Shopping" choir. He was telling the press that Atlantic Yards meant "the community has been privatized." I didn't get a chance to ask him if meant to say nationalized or corporatized or something more accurate. After all, it's the government seizing people's homes and businesses in this case. Nonetheless, check out that mile-high pompadour!

Finally, a shot of the heroic eminent domain resister and tireless activist Daniel Goldstein, who has fought the good fight for seven years and is now living like a prisoner in his own home. He's the reason most people even heard of this outrageous government abuse in the first place. Like Susette Kelo did on a national scale, Goldstein's greatest accomplishment may be to spark a lasting movement to reform New York's atrocious eminent domain abuse. Here he is marshalling a massive street crossing by the protestors in order to outfox the police.

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  1. Why not build the stadium at ground zero? They’re not doing anything else with that land.

  2. I can’t wait to see how NYC-based NBC, CBS and ABC cover this on the Evening News? With (insert liberal anchor here). They care so much about the little people. Should be the top story. Right?

    1. Think of all the jobs this will create. The little guy will be so grateful when he has the opportunity to schlep peanuts and beer for the likes of b-ball fans Spike Lee and Jayz.

      This shit literally makes me ill.

      1. Cheer up, cap. There’s a remote possibility that those peanuts might be schlepped in the general direction of genu-wine celebrities! And who wouldn’t be thrilled to report to his homies that J-Lo or Jay-Z or Ice-something actually ate one of his fine stadium products? Dreams are made on such encounters.

        1. Back in ’76, I put gas in Rod Carew’s Lincoln.

          1. Didn’t he .388 one year?

  3. The fact that a prominent protester can blame this on “privatization” is precisely why things seem so hopeless.

    1. Exactly.

      Sad thing is, a decade from now, this will probably be hailed as some sort of revitalization success when they are going to taxpayers asking for more money to remodel the stadium or lose the team.

      1. It’s not a protester, it’s Reverend Billy, so “self-promoting lameass performance artist blowhard” is what you meant to say.

        1. Reverend Billy has come into my bar 3 times. Guess how many times he’s run out on the check.

          1. After the first 2 (and thats stretching it too far) you didnt demand cash up front?

    2. I dunno, usually when politicians talk about “privatization”, they usually mean handing over something they originally acquired through eminent domain, taxes, or nationalization to private citizens. Not to the original owners or taxpayers, of course, but to well-connected political cronies. The more euphemistic usage (scare quotes included) seems appropriate in this case.

      I’m personally inclined to say “repurposed”, but only because I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 1/2 recently.

    3. One lady had a sign blaming this on a failure of democracy. I tried to explain to her, maybe with a tiny bit of success, that this is exactly the result of democracy, evidence of the danger of democracy, because surely 51% of Brooklynites are in favor of the government stealing her home. She said that everyone she knew, everyone in her neighborhood, was against it. Well, yeah, duh.

      She said the “people” were not consulted. Well, yeah, duh, Bloomberg and Markowitz, driving forces behind this, were elected, re-elected, and (I might add) re-elected yet again democratically.

        1. After all, if you’re not willing to give up your private property for the greater good of the Elites, your undemocratic.

  4. In the first picture outside Freddy’s, I notice the neon beer signs are hanging upside down, which I take to be the symbol of barroom distress.

    1. That would be awesome were it true. One suspects the lingering effects of alcohol, but…but…

  5. No sight of ACORN’s Bertha Lewis either, even though she provided Ratner some crucial “political cover” in exchange for a $1.5 million bailout.

    You’re not allowed to know that. Cosmo card REVOKED.

  6. It really doesn’t feel right to me, but I want bad things to happen to Bruce Ratner. Something fitting, like a steel beam from one of the buildings he’s putting up dropping 40 stories onto his head. Is that wrong?

    1. You better hurry. I heard a NY congressman is drafting a law to revoke gravity’s occupational license. You gotta admit, that bastard has pulled a lot of people to their deaths.

      Update: Sir Isaac Newton has filed for an injunction on behalf of gravity. Eugene Volokh assisted with the brief.

    2. expect the Russian to f..k him. don’t know how, just expect it.

  7. Am I the only one who sees some potential irony in the libertarian stance on this issue? Ok, I can see limiting eminent domain to explicit “public uses.” But then consider what you’ve done there: if a government wants to achieve a public purpose by essentially “privatizing” the process, i.e., letting private actors actions achieve the purpose by transferring the property to them, then they will be thwarted by such a rule.

    Consider this. A government decides that it will promote parks and recreation by condemning private land next to an existing park and use that land to create something that could not have existed prior to the condemnation (I dunno, think ski slope or something, I can’t do all the hypo work). Now, you guys would have less hell to raise if the government just kept the land and operated the ski slope as a government project than if they sold the land to a private actor who would operate a for-profit ski slope (which would provide the “public good” at issue and would in theory raise tax revenues to boot). Does that really sound preferable to you (and hey, I understand you’d be against this government action, of course the hard-core libertarian would be against pretty much ANY taking for actual “public use” because you don’t think the government should do much of anything, so maybe bear with me).

    I’m sympathetic to the Kelo dissenters. Their reasoning that this power will work to the benefit of powerful wealthy actors against poor ones is dead on. I’m just not sure where a line can be drawn to make things better…

    1. This libertarian doesn’t think the government should be involved at all in the entertainment business. Not ice rinks, ski slopes, baseball stadiums, and one of my pet peeves, fucking golf courses.

      If the city government wishes to install some ball fields and tennis courts that are available to all citizens on a first come first served reservation system, I won’t be manning the barricades in protest. But this shit, like Poletown, is blatant plutocracy.

      The bought off politicians and “urban planners” who support this kind of crap can kiss my freedom loving, proprty rights supporting ass.

      1. Excellent Poletown reference. And how’s that working out, Detroit? Detroit? Hello? Is anyone there?

        1. Me. I’m somewhat a masochist and retired so I don’t worry about silly little thing about my own employment.

          1. I’m still workin for the man…fortunately,I’m with one of the companies that didn’t take the gubmint money 🙂 We’ll see how it works out – in the meantime, Poletown’s lost, the people long gone, jobs long gone, GM a ward of the state – what a shaft job.

    2. Am I the only one who sees some potential irony in the libertarian stance on this issue?

      Yes

      1. See J sub D’s comment for further information.

    3. Eminent Domain should be an absolute last resort for only the most necessary cases with a tremendous amount of oversight and checks and balances in place to ensure it is not abused.

      1. AJs: What is “absolute last resort”? Do you go into a business meeting with a gun, which you lay on the table in plain sight, and say, “I will use this gun only as an absolute last resort if I don’t get what I want through negotiation.”?

        Who will oversee the people who are exercising the “tremendous amount of oversight”? Do you know anyone in government, or anywhere, who can be trusted with “tremendous” amounts of power?

    4. Any libertarian would be against government stealng people’s land to build a ski slope or other entertainment for the “public.” Most libertarians are against the government stealing land for a public park. Some libertarians are against stealing people’s land for a road, school, or hospital. Build it somewhere else. I am against eminent domain for any purpose. If you need land, buy it from willing sellers.

    5. If a thief goes to your home and steals your tableware then gives it to another family, that isn’t “privatization,” it’s theft. Eminent domain, especially in this case, is when the government takes private property against the will of the current owner. If the government builds a shrine to Marx or hands it over to a private developer, it’s theft, not “privatization.”

  8. Hello Shit Facktory!

    EOM

  9. I’m tired of you damned libertarians always siding with the rich corporations over the little guy.

    Or something like that.

    1. [citation omitted]

      But what about the externalities? You didn’t take them into account. And the subsidies these corporayshuns get – you have to take that into account. Doing this project at least puts some of that moneys back into the local economy, for teh people instead of the corporayshuns.

      Building the stadium creates jobs, so this works like Keynes said. Plus it will be American jobs, not Chinese. So that helps with balance of trade. In fact, I’m pretty sure they ensure the steel is American made, so that helps, too.

      And the money’s from your precious corporayshun, not the government, so you should be OK with that anyway. Well, except for the subsidies, but like I said, at least that’s going back to the taxpayerses.

      You libertardians are so inconsistent. None of your arguments hold water when exposed to an actual, reasoned argument.

      Prove that I’m wrong. You can’t.

    2. Come on, you can parrot my arguments better than that.

      I have no problem with eminant domain for projects like this, though in this case, there was abuse. Ratner was out-bid for the property, and many of the former owners are not getting a fair shake. THAT is an injustice.

      But booting these idiotic morons out of their penny-a-dozen craphole is fine by me.

      1. Of course it is you shithead. Die in a fire.

      2. So you’d be fine if a big corporayshun worked with the mayor to boot you out of your penny-a-dozen craphole.

        Apparently, much like Sean Penn, you need to be punched in the dick.

  10. He was telling the press that Atlantic Yards meant “the community has been privatized.”

    This just pisses me off. That this guy can utter those words while protesting something that takes on the exact opposite meaning. The neighborhood was private property before this happened, and now it’s been commandeered by government and well connected government developers, AKA Ratner.

    The only reason Ratner got this land is because he convinced the government that he was doing their work. That’s how these takings occur in the first place.

    1. And furthermore, it’s just that kind of thinking from “Reverend Billy” that gets us eminent domain in the first place, and he sees no irony in his own phiolosophy. It’s the idea that property rights are “democratized” that has created this rampant abuse. If the government started taking Starbucks joints in say, the interest of “community diversity”, this would undoubtedly satisfy Reverend Billy’s sense of neighborhood justice. And yet he would see no connection between that kind of taking and the Atlantic Yards taking he protests now.

      How can people function with these kind of blinders on?

      1. Hahahahaha! You libertardians hate when your arguments don’t werk in real life. Reverend Billy just shows what mistaken fools you are.

    2. Exactly, it’s not the “evil corporations” running things, they are like the favorite pets of the state. Ratner and co. are simply doing what the state wants done.

      1. This happened as a result of the Citizens United verdict. Corporayshuns bought the politicians – then this happens. So it is the corporayshuns pulling the strings.

        OK, I’ll stop – being Chony for a day is getting to be fun…that’s scary…

  11. Thanks for the pictures. The place is even more of a bunghole than I expected.

    Can I drive the first bulldozer?

    1. About as shitty as the little hovels you and your AGW friends will live in when you get your way.

    2. If it looks like shit to you, don’t go there. What if this was someone’s house instead of a bar? If people don’t want to move, there is nothing outside of criminal violence that will get them move. Haven’t you see Avatar?!! (Note: not a good movie)

      I can’t wait until the rioting of alocohol fueled basketball fans after numerous losses (they are the Nets after all) ensures the area is a fucking vomit scented cesspool. If the bar was the last holdout, the damn Stadium pushers should have paid up or designed around it. If that is “impossible”, Tough shit. Scrap your plans and move on crooks. Their only other recourse would be criminal violence. Isn’t it convienient that their violence is conducted by the hand of the state, thus shielded from clear cut prosecution? Go to hell you fucking Technocrat.

    3. Come on, do you really think we’d believe you’re competent enough to drive a bulldozer?

  12. It’s like a zombietime post (except I don’t hate the participants here).

  13. What are these people complaining about? They are only having their homes taken against their will.

    It’s not like they are students suffering from tuition hikes or something.

  14. Chad you are a tool.
    The rest, what are you talking about?
    Today was a sad day, the richest powerful schmucks in NY stood around in hard hats eating lobster, while the neighborhood they grazed is in shattered dispersed pieces.

    The “public” street is “closed for private use.”
    Ratner won’t return for another good ten years. That is how committed to this project he is.

    Sad, just sad.

  15. I’m just not sure where a line can be drawn to make things better…

    How about the government doesn’t steal stuff anymore, ever? If that means government can’t exist in a form that we’d be able to recognize, so be it.

  16. “But on the other hand, imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few ? whether farmers, manufacturers, ship owners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so.

    The excluded classes will furiously demand their right to vote ? and will overthrow society rather than not to obtain it. Even beggars and vagabonds will then prove to you that they also have an incontestable title to vote. They will say to you:

    ‘We cannot buy wine, tobacco, or salt without paying the tax. And a part of the tax that we pay is given by law ? in privileges and subsidies ? to men who are richer than we are. Others use the law to raise the prices of bread, meat, iron, or cloth. Thus, since everyone else uses the law for his own profit, we also would like to use the law for our own profit. We demand from the law the right to relief, which is the poor man’s plunder. To obtain this right, we also should be voters and legislators in order that we may organize Beggary on a grand scale for our own class, as you have organized Protection on a grand scale for your class. Now don’t tell us beggars that you will act for us, and then toss us, as Mr. Mimerel proposes, 600,000 francs to keep us quiet, like throwing us a bone to gnaw. We have other claims. And anyway, we wish to bargain for ourselves as other classes have bargained for themselves!’

    And what can you say to answer that argument!”

    -Fredric Bastiat, “The Law”

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