Archive for the Interviews Category

Its about Pride!

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Civilians Actor Greg McFadden
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

“My mother was a Dodger’s fan.  She went to Dodger’s games.  She taught me to love the Mets because they were INSTEAD of the Dodgers. The key thing to understanding, is it isn’t really a sports story.  The reason the Dodgers still loom so large is that their name was not the New York Dodgers.  Their name was the Brooklyn Dodgers.  And that is to say what the Dodger’s are a simplified emblem of is something that people are mourning even though many of them don’t know they’re mourning it – which is that Brooklyn used to be it’s own city.  So the real scar , the one the Dodgers leaving became the outward comprehensible more recent emblem of . . .  And that is what is so much at the heart of so much of this complexity in Brooklyn identity is this doubleness of shame and pride that we were our own city with our own vital urban centers.  At the same time we were a second city because Manhattan, New York was always greater than Brooklyn.  But Brooklyn was Brooklyn.  And then we elected or someone elected on our behalf that we should subsume this beautiful magnificent identity into this other one.  And so there’s always still this doubleness of “We’re proud to be New Yorkers.  We’re angry to be New Yorkers.  We’re really Brooklynites.”  And it’s this conflicted stolen identity that I think meant…it’s so often the case that people relate more to symbol than to an actuality.  This team is just 25 guys who went to LA and became another team.  This happens all the time.  But the BROOKLYN Dodgers spoke to Brooklyn as a city unto itself.  And if they had been named differently or played in another part of the city, it wouldn’t have meant anything at all.” – Met’s Fan and Fourth Generation Brooklynite

The Unity Plan and Lack of Oversight

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Civilians Actor Joaquin Torres, preparing for rehearsal
Photo: Michael Premo

“the Unity Plan would have been much better…it had affordable housing like 80 percent [sic] affordable. ..  It had lower, lower . . . buildings.  No skyscrapers.  It had some open space, and the plan was presented  . . . we had a fit because of “what kind of process is this?”  There’s no oversight of this project . . . they didn’t have to go through the ULURP process, which is the Unified Land Use Review Process by the City Council where you go to the Planning Board and from the Planning Board to the Borough Board then to the Planning Commission then to the City Council [for] a final decision.  Because it was state property, the rail yards, they didn’t have to go through ULURP.  But yet, they got money out of the City Council budget because the Mayor is supportive of it, the borough president, Marty Markowitz is supportive of it.” – Public Servant

Poor People Need to be Lifted out of Poverty

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Civilians Actor Billy Eugene Jones
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

“Here’s the TRICK…you say to poor people that you need affordable housing.  POOR PEOPLE DO NOT NEED AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Affordable housing is something that makes being poor more comfortable.  So if your income level is here (left hand low) and the housing market is here (right hand higher than left)…rather than increase your income and bring you up to where you can afford a house…we’re going to leave you where you are and we’re going to build some new lesser quality houses down here (brings one hand down to other), where you are, so that you can stay poor…and being poor is now a little bit more comfortable.  POOR PEOPLE NEED TO BE LIFTED OUT OF POVERTY.  The idea is to do away with poverty not make poverty more comfortable.” – An Elder from Around the Way

Economic Apartheid

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

“I really felt it was a blatant misuse of eminent domain [proposed Atlantic Yards development].  I was hoping that the best thing would be to tear down Atlantic Center and put the arena there.  . . . .there were 2 other better sites . . . including Atlantic Center, which is just a horrendous situation.  Up until a few years ago, everything that went in there went out of business.  It is basically subsidized by the state, they have a variety of state offices there…That’s how Ratner gets his income base.  It’s not…Have you been there?  It’s not a pleasant place to shop.  I think I’ve only been there once.  It really hurt Fulton St., the mall.  Which used to have a Macy’s, a Martins, etc. . . . Here, [proposed Atlantic Yards footprint] Ratner owned a couple of parcels but he didn’t own everything.  He needed eminent domain and the powers of the state…And I’m a great believer in eminent domain for a public purpose.  It’s a dangerous route to take; a public purpose is NOT what gets a greater economic benefit in a place, that replaces a low-income or manufacturing or low tax-generating facility site, with a higher use.  Or a low-income family with a middle-income family, then it becomes very difficult.  Because you’re making an economic judgment and using an economic measure to guide policy. . . That’s economic apartheid.  And that’s what we’re beginning to see.   Even though it isn’t around racial segregation of people, it’s around the economic segregation of uses.  It becomes very dangerous.” – A Student of Jane Jacobs

You Can’t Block the Sun

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Photo by Michael Premo

“Ratner was trying to help all these people.  He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value.  If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . . it’s gotta be this country, based on majority rules, right?  So, if the majority of people want something, you can’t have the few naysayers say no, cause then you know what?  You’d never make progress the rest of our lives. And you have some beautiful buildings that are gonna be built there . . . think about that one . . . the mayor approved it, the city council approved it, everybody approved of it, right? So everybody can’t  be wrong and these few people are right.  I had two ladies, one was a teacher, one was a stockbroker they were a couple  and the both of ‘em were both yellin at me, yelling and screaming, saying how could you be for this project don’t you realize if he builds a sixty story building the trees aren’t going to get sunshine. you actually believe that? How in your right mind you gonna believe that? You can’t block the sun . . . I can’t remember how many million miles and it still somehow reaches the flowers underwater. How you gonna block the sun with a building?  Manhattan never woulda been built with that theory. Am i right or wrong?” – Proud Brooklynite

I Want to be Able to See My Kids on the Street

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

“I don’t see the average family in Brooklyn, particularly a low-income family, being able to function in those buildings effectively [proposed Atlantic Yards Towers]…When we worked in Bed-Stuy, on BS Restoration Corps. . . there was this woman who leaned out her window and said, “give us affordable housing. But make sure I can yell at my kids on the street.” You just can’t do that in a 40-story building. If you don’t have a nanny, the kids have to play on their own.  They have to have some sort of relationship to the community. And it’s different, for any family. But it’s a lot easier if you have support and funds.  If you’re a low-income family, it’s impossible. That kind of high-rise building is not designed for families.” – Urban Planner

Where’s the Community in the Community Benefits Agreement?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

“I think it’s questionable to even call the Atlantic Yards agreement a “Community Benefits Agreement.”  Because if you think that one of the definite defining points is that there is a coalition of community and labor, I don’t think they have that.  They made a beeline to the developer…where was the community in that community benefit agreement?  There are…all of the surrounding neighborhoods have community-based organizations that were never consulted.”  – Urban Planner

All This is Predictable

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

“You know, I was brought up to think that the world actually is a somewhat rational place!  Well it is rational, you know, this is a guy who went to law school with Pataki who was the governor at the time, he dangles, you know the elephants in front of Marty Markowitz, he dangles part ownership of a football team in front of Jay-Z, he offers free events, you know, so that poor families can bring their kids to a basketball clinic, that then gets used to create a PR video, you know?  You know!  He gives half a million dollars a year to New York City political campaigns, he dangles you know, 10,000 construction jobs in front of the union – Oh, excuse me, that turns out, no, 15,000 construction jobs in front of the union he dangles, which turns out to mean 1500 construction jobs a year for 10 years, and oh by the way, if you go down to the where they’re creating the Rail Yards down on Atlantic Avenue and count how many people are working down there?  What is it.  15?  20?  You know.  But all this is predictable!  All this is predictable. It’s a trip.”  – Rational Brooklynite

Each Time I Refuse to Sell, The City Gives me Tickets!

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

“They raided me 13 times because they don’t want me in the neighborhood and it was basically simple.  It was a simple as that.  They trying to get me out because i refuse to go.  Most of my food is cheap 90% of my customers are minority  and they don’t like that.  They say they don’t want all these African-Americans back into the neighborhood. . . i said you know what, you need to stop harassing me. . . every time they raid me, the day before i receive a call from some real estate investor in the city that wants to buy my building.  when i tell them no, you guys raid me, so what the fuck you expect from me.  they tried to shut me down, my restaurant was clean, not mice, not rats, no garbage, no unhealthy, unsanitary, so when they come here they give you some tickets for some bullshit. you know what the funniest freaking ticket i got from the fire department just to give me a ticket. it was a grease spot.  you see how clean this back is up over here, over the filters, i have a company here the sticker right here, and they come clean this thing every month, right.  you see that there was a little grease over there on the filter, right there, you see right there.  i got a ticket for that. they couldn’t find anything. they give me a ticket for every little thing and i got hand washing everywhere towels, soaps, everything. you know. they couldn’t catch me.  they brought the building department they give me stupid tickets on my door.  ooo this is off a little bit.   so i went through a lot.” – Community Business owner (Busines is not one pictured)

Exit: The Concerts. Enter: Doggie Fountains.

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

“Oh, I know what disappeared! Concerts in the park! Concerts in Fort Greene Park. They got rid of those because I guess the people who live here now didn’t want the kinds of people who’d come to the concerts parking on their streets or hanging out in front of their houses. Didn’t want the noise. So those are gone. And now they got doggie fountains…where your dog could get a drink of water. Used to be your kids couldn’t get water outta those fountains, now they lowered them so the dogs can drink.” – Fort Greene resident

Arrogant, Cocky New Neighbors

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

“i knew everybody.  it was a neighborhood.  it was a neighborhood. it was family orientated neighborhood.  my customers, one of them or their family members or whatever . . . i went to their funerals i went to their wakes . . . it was a tight community.  it was like, you know, that type of community is like, where you were born and your next door neighbor was born right next to you and you guys grew up together, that was the neighborhood.. now you see these guys coming in.   first the elder black and the old black families in this neighborhood in 99, 2001, 2002, 2003 they got robbed out of all their brownstones over here, they was buying brownstones over here 200,000, 300,000. these investors held onto them and now they’re selling them for 1.5, 1.6, 2 million dollars. and now all these guys you see coming into this neighborhood.  they dont have time to say hi to you how are you, how ya been . . . they dont. that is nasty of them that is very rude . . . arrogant, cocky.”  – Brooklyn Old Timer

They dont care about Black Business!

Monday, November 24th, 2008

“Not good for business not good at all [whispers] because the white people don’t like our type of food, you know? They don’t come in. I been here for over three years but the store been here over ten years. But with this construction right here? We hardly get any people coming in at all. Cause the construction just make people wanna walk fast fast through here to get past all the dust and the debris. So nobody stop. We not doing too good. They said it supposed to be done by Thanksgiving but Thanksgiving is next week. So maybe by Christmas. By Christmas that would still be better. Been like this for long long time now. They turn the street one way so nobody can park anywhere and now the bus been re-routed so hardly anybody come by dis side, you see? It’s like in Third World countries. You know in third world countries when they drag the work out for long long time so more people can make more money? They don’t care about the Black business man cause all they see is we don’t vote for them. We don’t vote at all.  But I vote. But my one vote is not enough to get dem elected, you see? So they not gonna save my one business when the people coming in gwine vote for them in multitudes. They looking out not for me, not for my neighbor, not for my friend. They looking out for numero uno. You know what numero uno is? Number one”  – African-American Businessperson

Its a Binding Contract

Monday, November 24th, 2008

“It’s a binding enough contract [The Community Benefits Agreement] that when you see things happen in the community that are not going in that direction, that you can go back to that piece of paper say look this is what you promised us, to the developer, this is what we agreed upon doing and it was signed by the mayor. So I really feel . . . they had a whole press conference and everything and the signing and everything so I feel yes, it was a binding contract.  You can go back and say this is what you promised to do.” – Brooklynite

Official Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement information.

Where i’m gonna go?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

“If ya’ll do kick them out . . .I hope ya’ll got another house for them to move in. My grandmother been here for twenty years and she said she ain’t going nowhere. And I said grandma I’m right wit chu. Cause I love this building. Without Atlantic Terminal there wouldn’t be me. With all the talking and encouragement, you must stay on the right track, you know. Me talking to gang members out here, drug dealers. Some of them went back to school because of what I said to them, the good advice. You know it make me feel great. Me going to another complex? C’mon I don’t know nobody. I know people in the Clinton Hill area, Fort Greene area. I don’t wanna go out to no Bed Stuy. No Farragut. I don’t wanna  go there. I’ll go there to talk or whatever but I’m not going to live out there.” – A Firmly Rooted Brooklynite

(PHOTO: A Civilians company member on his way to an interview in Ingersoll-Whitman Houses)

A gardener remembers the way it was . . .

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

“I had gotten all these bulbs, and I was out with this little heart-shaped spade, um, planting them, and….I….I was up close to 127, and one of the drug dealers, this other neighbor and I decided that one of the ways that we could fight this, this problem was just to make the drug dealers feel uncomfortable. And so, when they would come out, instead of looking away, or crossing the street, we would just watch them – not say anything, but just watch them. So, I was planting, and, the bulbs, and, one of these guys came out, and I was just looking at him. And, and um, he, he charged me, and he grabbed my spade, and was about to cut up my face, and, and – attack me, with my spade, and fortunately, my neighbor who had sort of took over as like as my guardian on this block, and he . . . intervened. He was an older man, and he intervened, and stopped this guy from, from cutting me up. But it was – it was like that. . . you  just had to watch where you walked.”  Garden and a Guardian remembering the way it was not so long ago.

(NOTE: Picture is from the Bears Community Garden.  Click on COMMUNITY to see more photos from the Bears Community Garden by Alix Lambert.)

Crumb Snatcher?

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

“We’re the average joes and we’re the average janes.  We’re African-american, we’re asian, we’re hispanic we’re all these different things.  We struggle and yet we’re accused of taking the money.  But nobody’s taking account of moneys that come out to support the opposition.  It’s ok for them to have all of that.  It’s ok for my city council and my state senator to give them $100,000 so they can do an environmental to review the project that’s $200,000 but grassroots organization like us we couldn’t get 5 cents.  So if we get $50,000 from the developer again for things you’re showing and you’re doing, oh you’re taking the money and you’re running off and you’re doing whatever.  This is not a get rich quick scheme.” Hard working advocate

We Need Change!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

“Look, this is the reality.  Maybe for you life is comfortable for you here, you have a job, you’remaking pretty good money.  You like things the way they are.  So you don’t want change but when you look at some other people who also live here we need change.  We need things to get better.  We need opportunities.  Maybe it’s not as big of an issue for you because you don’t need these things but there are a lot of people who do and this project is something that can generate those opportunities for us.”  – Hopeful resident

What’s the NEXT wave?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

“My dad says he’s scared of what the NEXT wave is gonna be. Cause before you had the pioneers, who’d talk and be neighbourly. Then the millionaires came in and they speak sometimes but only to us cause they think we’re in the same class as them, you know, cause we’re owners. Dad says he’s scared of what the ones who buy their houses for 3 MILLION (and it’s their SECOND house, you know, their CITY house) are gonna be”  – anonymous long time resident

TALK, by all means . . .

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

“If ya’ll do kick them out cause they can’t pay rent I hope ya’ll got another house for them to move in. My grandmother been here for twenty years and she said she ain’t going nowhere. And I said grandma I’m right wit chu. Cause I love this building. Without Atlantic Terminal there wouldn’t be me. With all the talking and encouragement, you must stay on the right track, you know. Me talking to gang members out here, drug dealers. Some of them went back to school because of what I said to them, the good advice. You know it make me feel great. Me going to another complex? C’mon I don’t know nobody. I know people in the Clinton Hill area, Fort Greene area. I don’t wanna go out to no Bed Stuy. No Farragut. I don’t wanna  go there. I’ll go there to talk or whatever but I’m not going to live out there.”

“I like to talk. See, what it is with me, I’m studying to be a preacher. I like to talk. If somebody invite you to talk, TALK, by all means. If your schedule is not bad.” – Talented Talker

(NOTE: Man pictured is not Talented Talker)


Sunday, November 16th, 2008

“When you look at the renderings and what the finished product is going to look like, I think it’s wonderful. NYC is all about evolution, it’s all about re-inventing itself and my whole thing is…get on the bandwagon. If you really don’t like change then go to the midwest somewhere where communities– you could go there a hundred years later and it still looks the same.” – A New Yorker for Change