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If you judge only by the state’s seven-hour public hearing on Wednesday night, there are just two sides in the battle over Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development: thugs and nerds.
In the thug camp, hundreds of Ratner supporters shouted down those speaking against the project. This camp made the argument that if Atlantic Yards is not built, it is because the opponents — interlopers, yuppies and racists, all — don’t care about “the community.”
Some even suggested that Atlantic Yards must be built or under-served black youths will be forced to enter a life of crime.
“We don’t want to rob/We just want a job,” several men chanted outside the hearing.
The nerd camp also showed up in force, but with a very different approach. In the face of shouts, taunts and open hostility, the nerds testified that Ratner’s project is flawed and that their community will have to live with its adverse impacts forever.
The anti-Ratner crowd certainly didn’t win any sympathy by complaining that their vacations were shortened by the burden of reading the state’s 2,000-page draft environmental impact statement — but at least they did their job of picking through the flawed state document.
Supporters didn’t do their side any favors, either, blindly following “leaders” from ACORN, BUILD or Rev. Herbert Daughtry’s House of the Lord church — all of whom have received financial support from Ratner.
Many of those who spoke to bolster Ratner’s fortunes were woefully uninformed about key facts: They shouted about jobs, but didn’t know that the project would employ just 1,500 union construction workers — few of them black, by the way — each year over its projected 10 year buildout.
And few supporters seemed to know that the project includes only 2,250 “affordable” units — and 40 percent of them are earmarked for families earning more than $70,000.
Ratner supporters present a false choice: build or the black community suffers.
City Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights) saw through that lie. Like many elected officials and residents of the area, she wants development of the Atlantic Yards site — but she wants it done correctly.
James spoke eloquently about attending the funeral of a girl who died of asthma — and how many more youngsters would suffer from the chronic lung condition if Ratner’s project is built.
For this, she was shouted down by the thugs.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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