The Empire State Development Corporation recently held a public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project in a New York City College of Technology auditorium on Jay Street Downtown. Both supporters and opponents of the program made strong showings, although the pro-Yards contingent — a varied collection of Union workers along with members of ACORN or BUILD — vastly outnumbered opponents of the plan, including many members of Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. After six long years of public hearings and court fights, both camps had plenty to say about each other: supporters of the project tarring opponents as effete elites and opponents claiming supporters were either paid for their participation or naïve. Here’s what a few Brooklynites have to say about the project.
Vincent Haynes, 49, works as a Civil Servant at an unspecified city department and is a consultant to Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) and lives in Crown Heights.
I think [the opposition is] a lot of smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, pomp and circumstance, but they know like we know that the project’s going to go through and it’s only a matter of time before they’re going to climb aboard and they’re going to be in the caboose. Too much money has been invested, contracts have been drawn up, we have things in writing. It’s not just a verbal agreement, it’s a written agreement and if [Forest City Ratner] doesn’t follow through [on affordable housing and/or jobs], the courts will handle it.
Sal Tagliaferro, 46, is a member of the Carpenter’s Local #926 and lives in Bay Ridge.
It’s been over fifty years, we’ve been trying to develop downtown Brooklyn. And there’s some ignorant people who probably have a boatload of money and don’t care about their neighbors and don’t care about the community who are trying to stop this for their own selfish reason. [The people in the footprint] are not losing their houses, they’re getting paid more money than it’s worth! And 90 percent of those people weren’t born and raised here, they bought their houses. How many of them are natives from here? We get no compensation, it’s costing me money to be here. I could’ve been working overtime, my partner and I, we’re on a job. Might I add, we get paid fifty dollars an hour, so overtime is seventy dollars an hour, which we walked away from to come here.
Mike Sternfeld, 24, bartends and lives in Prospect Heights. Both his home and his workplace are slated to be demolished under the current Atlantic Yards Plan.
Generally, there’s a whole mess of union guys here, they get paid and get sandwiches and why not? You get paid to stand and yell. I don’t really blame them, they’re looking for work. One guy I was talking to last time was out of work for three years. He needs a job! I’m not pissed off at him or anything. I’m all for bringing a franchise to Brooklyn and I’m aware that there’s a huge hole in the ground, but you don’t need to tear down my house as well. Also, [Ratner] originally wanted sixteen buildings and the stadium, now he only wants to build two buildings, but he’s still asking for the same amount of land and to tear down everything. He’s going to tear down my job and my house because the lot itself is worth more than my house, so he’s not going to let anything just stand around. Once it goes through, he has the right to kick me out in a month. I was born and raised in the slope and I’m a fourth generation New Yorker.
Scott MX Turner, 49, a Graphic Designer/Musician, lives in the Greenwood Cemetery area, and serves as a staff member of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
They’ve been lied to in terms of the number of jobs, the amount of affordable housing, that sort of thing, and I thought that was the sad unifier of Brooklyn, that Brooklyn is unified in this project, but we’re unified in how we’ve been sold a bill of goods. I think it’s worse than being duped, I think they’re being exploited, those are guys who need jobs, the ones who are union workers, everybody should be unionized. I think those guys are fearful, just like we all are, about affordable housing, where we’re going to live, what’s happening in our communities and are we going to have jobs tomorrow? They, like anyone else, are terrified.