Reason TV Replay: Billionaires vs. Brooklyn's Best Bar: Eminent Domain Abuse & The Atlantic Yards Project


After nine years, numerous lawsuits, and one egregious case of eminent domain abuse, Brooklyn's Barclays Center officially opened on Friday. Two years ago Reason TV covered the neighborhood's fight against the stadium and talked with the owners of Freddy's bar about their efforts to save their business. 

Here is the text from the original Mar 3, 2010 video:

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 vs. City of New London, 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. So, when are you going to rerun the Chipmunk vs. Olbermann video? I liked that one.

    1. Second

  2. Did they forget to include the update to this story? What happened to the Freddy’s owners and the other folks they booted out? Why didn’t they appeal? (I’m guessing the insane price tag)

    I do agree that the Kelo decision set a very bad precedent by giving state and local governments the power to take private property for “public use” under the eminent domain statute, sanctioning taking private property and giving it to another private developer for the “good of the community”. The big drug company Pfizer never got financing and never even developed the property. Not to mention the disgusting way the City of New London tried (unsuccessfully, thanks to Gov. Rell) to collect 5 years back rent from the citizens who stayed in properties while the fight went on. This clusterfuck will be a boon for developers in the future.

    1. Freddy’s is alive and well in South Slope. It worked out well since the new space is bigger, also more craft beer taps.

  3. Hail the Junior Fascist Fan Club State of America. You have no right to your stuff anymore. Hump Hump Hump your mundane ass.

    1. The article is titled “….Eminent Domain ABUSE….”!


  4. I keep waiting for a city to pull one of these deals, wait for the hugely expensive project to be built, and then use Eminent Domain AGAIN to seize the new construction from the multimillionaire pillock who started the whole mess.

    Probably won’t happen, but I don’t see why it couldn’t.

    1. Won’t happen, the multimillionaire is more than smart enough to let everyone who could take the property wet their beaks. Well except for the rightful, original owners.

      1. Yes, but are the politicians involved smart enough to STAY BOUGHT?

        Probably. But I can dream.

        1. You don’t really BUY politicians. You lease them for an unspecified duration.

  5. Eminent Domain is why only some people can have really nice things.

  6. Sometimes dude you just have to roll with it man!

  7. Ratner, Jay Z, and the rest of the filthy scum associated with this should be put down like rabid hyenas. Toads like these have no place in proper society.

    Oh yeah…feck Ratner. Drink! Arse! Girls!

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  10. Allah willing, there will be a blight on the Brooklyn Nets where no free agent will ever want to play there again for fear of the curse. Brook Lopez will break his foot going up for his first rebound ever and they will be doomed to perpetual mediocrity with the biggest payroll in the NBA and continue to miss the playoffs. It will be Deron Williams and Joe Johnson lobbing up bricks in front of a mostly empty arena.

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