Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Battle of Brooklyn

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Rumur is raising funds for Battle of Brooklyn, their documentary on the Atlantic Yards fight. Check out the trailer here.

From their site:

Battle of Brooklyn, a documentary which chronicles the efforts of local community activists to stop a massive development that threatens to decimate their neighborhood. Our main character, Daniel Goldstein, refused to sell to the developer and now New York State is attempting to seize his home via the power of eminent domain — a hot button issue that has made headlines across the country. (Dan and his family are not the only ones whose home is threatened. However, in order to tell the most compelling story the film increasingly focuses on him and his family.).

Now we’re approaching the end of this incredible story: If the developer doesn’t get shovels in the ground by Dec 31, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to proceed. If he does, Dan, his family, many other owners and renters, and the larger community outside the project footprint that have come together, will have lost their fight…and their homes. After shooting 300 hours of footage over six years, we have a character driven film that shines a bright light on the world of New York politics, billion dollar real estate, urban renewal, and the power of grass roots community activism.”

We Want To Hear From You, Here . . .

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Dramaturg Jocelyn Clark
Photo: Michael Premo

Brooklyn, USA is a proud layered tangle of diverse communities, united by – if nothing else – a love for the borough.  Over the past couple months The Civilians have been intently listening to people passionately sharing stories about their neighborhoods and the development reshaping our communities.  New York City is in a constant state of change.  The process and powers represented – or not represented – in how it occurs is an important theme running through every chapter of the cities history.   As students in one of our Community Labs discussed, many of the issues in the contemporary story of NYC development are not new.  Change is, arguably, a vital force in the kinetic energy that electrifies the city.  With such a richly layered history rooted deeply in the fabric of our city, change that threatens to dig up that history and build anew  has the potential for seismic reverberations.

Countless hours of interviews were recorded with people across the political, social, and class spectrum from tenants to homeowners, developers, business owners, business patrons, politicians, community organizers, the dispossessed, the displaced, the old, the new, the elderly, the youth, and on through the spectrum.  Our ears were wide open to all as we traversed the borough block-by-block, listening to people in their homes, and around their neighborhood at cafe’s, bars, restaurants, bodegas, community gardens, barber shops, church basements and community centers.  Some were more forthcoming then others, all had something to say.

This part of The Civilians process is called the investigation phase.  It is just the first step in our process as we explore the complicated layers of community and community change.  Take a moment to peruse through some of the excerpts posted here.  They represent just a fraction of the stories  and opinions we heard.  Some of the stories here represent a voice often visibly absent from popular media.

Today our work-in-progress presentation of Brooklyn At Eye Level opens at the Brooklyn Lyceum.  As a part of The Civilians Investigation phase we invite you to share your own stories or reflections on the performance, by posting a comment below.  Please use this space to share your own neighborhood stories, or thoughts on your community and the dynamics of change you’ve experienced.  We are also interested to hear reactions to stories in our presentation, keeping in mind that this is the first iteration of a series of outcomes.  Were there stories you hadn’t heard before or pieces you felt were missing, for example? I ask that you reserve comments about the specifics and details of the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yard’s Project to other blogs.  If  you would like to make comments privately please email us at projects (at)

- Michael Premo, Project Coordinator

Brooklyn at Eye Level
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Community Lab: Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Civilians Actor Joaquin Torres
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  Last week author Carl Hancock Rux lead a workshop with students at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival’s affiliate school Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School.  The workshop began with a lively discussion exploring neighborhood observations that weaved together notions of community, class, and even perspectives on vacillating trends and personal habits. The students read an essay by Rux,  Rich Man Poor Man: A History of Fort Greene, that referenced an 1858 New York Times article titled “Homes of the Poor.”  Rux writes “the Times item said the real estate boom has resulted in class conflict among a majority of the area’s longtime residents (identified as “renters or squatters”) and its new neighbors—middle to upper income homeowners (identified as out-priced Manhattanites attracted to the spatial wealth of Brooklyn and able to afford the high price of its grand scale Neo-Gothic brownstones.)”  With the background of a broad historical perspective the students wrote observations about their neighborhood and aspirations for the future of their communities.  Here is a short selection of excerpts from their work.

Come to The Performance Dec 4 -  7th to see selections of student work from our Community Labs.

My neighborhood is not that bad.  It’s like a bunch of brownstones with three apartment buildings close to the end of [Brooklyn] Ave.  The houses vary in color from the brightest being white, and the darkest being brown.  In my neighborhood it was all black people except for one white guy, but no one ever sees him.  And now there is like two full houses of white families.  And the people that used to live there moved down South to take care of their family.  I don’t think I can really  describe her because i have never seen her before, but the one time I did see her she was talking on the phone to one of her friends and she was laughing. . . if there was one thing that I would say and come true is to be more unified. we should come together and do things as a community, and block parties are not enough.  It should be a 365 thing.

- By Shakira A Bynoe

My neighborhood looks like any other neighborhood would.  There’s alot of people that are just like anyone, that i can guarantee. Something that has changed was the people.  They have aged and become less of who they were before.  We haven’t had any block parties and I dont think we will be.

- By Terrence W.

The things that changed was the people living around me. The people in the brownstone move in and out like the way the water flow. They build more things where you can spend money you don’t have.

They see me living good but still another nigga. They see me as the person who’s not trying to make things good but bad. They see me as a taker and not a giver.

- By Malcolm A Salley

Community Lab: Atlantic Terminal Community Center

Friday, November 28th, 2008

(L-R) Civilians Artistic Director Steve Cosson and
Actors Marsha Stephanie Blake & Melanie Nichols King
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  Playwright Lucy Thurber has been working with kids at Atlantic Terminal Community Center.  The students have been writing plays and songs about their neighborhood and community.  Come to The Performance Dec 4 -  7th to see selections of student work from our Community Labs.

COMING SOON: Keep checking back here to hear plays written by youth from the Atlantic Terminal Community Center performed by The Civilians actors.

My Home, Your Home
By: Evelyn McLaughlin

My home, your home, our home together-
You have one hand, I have another-
Put them together and we’ll have each other
1st verse
Sweet smells from the kitchen
Entrance me in the weirdest way
I feel so comfortable when I’m at home
I love you so much, not you but my home
4 is heartful, helpful and happiness
O is oblivious, Omni, octopus and mysterious
E is for everything, everywhere in my home
My home, your home, our home together-
You have one hand, I have another-
Put them together and we’ll have each other
2nd Verse
Love and happiness makes up a home
Stay with me and you’ll never be alone

Deep Inside My Mind
By: Ashley Jones

Deep inside my mind as my words go elsewhere. I hear parts of me take down.
As the light from the sky come down I see inside of me as if a x-ray came over me.
My heart beats fast as if I just heard a bell ring
My mind takes over my heart as if I’m dead but I’m walking as if I’m hear my mind goes around come back down as a fear, as everyone look and wonder why is this girl hear.
I fight their words but their power takes over me as they cut me with there power.
I drop blood as if rain have came over. I’m inside of a box locked down like a slave that have been shot down, walking under the rail road trying to find a life,
I’m still in this box and I won’t even fight.

Untitled Song
By: Ashley Jones

It’s twelve o’clock and the base from the music stops.
The room is filled with silence while the teens search for their tops.
Hurry hurry move swiftly it’s the cops!
Two teens approach the door with fear written across their face.
The sounds of their hearts beats loud like hip-hop base.
“We got a call from a neighbor, loud music and foul play”
The teens stood in the doorway neither knew what to say.
“Who’s the chaperone in charge of this party guys?”
No one could vouch everyone was under eighteen.
The conversation got cut short by a loud scream…..ahhhhh!
The cops ran straight in, trying to assemble where the sounds came from.
As they approached, the girl lay shot by a fully loaded gun.
She layed in the hallway trembling like a mountain of erupted rocks.
“Breath breath” one of the screamed!
But it was to late the girl was pronounced dead on the scene.
Who could have done this?
A drunk out of control teen.
A lesson hopefully learned, a girl pronounced dead on the scene.

Community Labs: Brooklyn Tech

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Civilians Actor Diana Sanchez
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  One of these Community Labs is an Investigation Workshop with students at Brooklyn Tech High School.  Students have been exploring The Civilians Investigation process and approach to conduct interviews of their own.  The following is from an interview conducted by a Brooklyn Tech student.

“My initial understanding of the project was that it was just a Nets stadium, and I thought, “Well what’s so wrong with that?” I’m not a huge basketball fan but I didn’t see the huge problem. Then I realized that there were houses being torn down as a result of the project and I thought, “Okay that’s crossing the line.” Eventually the whole problem of the project dawned on me: It’s not just that the project is making housing more difficult, which it is, but it’s a complete and total blight on Brooklyn itself, and me living close to it it’s just horrendous. Traffic will go through the roof, entire blocks will be cast in shadows throughout the entire day because of the office buildings and apartment complexes, which are going to be very expensive and as if housing in New York wasn’t expensive enough already. Ratner’s plans are ultimately going to only grant him a load of money and meanwhile put a total blemish on the face of Brooklyn. I said earlier that Brooklyn was like a rainbow in its diversity, and one might argue that this project is just another hue in the cultural rainbow; I respond, if you threw a dull brown-grey into the middle of a rainbow, it would seem out of place and ugly. That’s the problem with Atlantic Yards: It’s a total eyesore, a housing and traffic nightmare and there is simply so much more harm that can come out of this project than good.” – Brooklyn High School Student

Civilians on the Street

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Construction Next Door

BROOKLYN, USA.  If Brooklyn were an independent city it would be the fourth largest in the country.  New York’s most populated borough is a layered patchwork of neighborhoods and communities comprised of a diversity of class and cultures.  Like the entire City of New York, Brooklyn is constantly in flux; seething with the energy of millions of people suffering and smiling.  Brooklyn today is a different place then the Brooklyn where Vince Lombardi, Mel Brooks, or Rosie Perez grew up.  And the Fort Greene beautifully captured in Spike Lee Joints may be just a memory.  Or is it?  Depends who you ask.  One thing there is no shortage of in Brooklyn is opinions.

For several weeks now The Civilians have been walking Brooklyn, block by block, listening to anyone with something to say about the changes happening on every corner of the borough.   Over the coming weeks we will be posting notable highlights from our conversations. We invite you to post a comment or email us if you feel you have something to say.

What do you miss?  What do you like about the changes?


Post a comment or send an email to Michael Premo, Project Coordinator at Premo(at)

Got Something to Say?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

The Civilians want to hear from you. Brooklyn is changing fast. If you have something to say, we want to listen. We want to talk to long-term residents, recent arrivals, players in the Atlantic Yards story, as well as those who work or live in the area. Eager to hear from all perspectives. If you want to be interviewed send us an email with a little information about yourself to Michael Premo, Project Coordinator: Premo(at)thecivilians(dot)org. For more information: These interviews will be performed along with original music and dance by Urban Bush Women live at the Brooklyn Lyceum, December 4th – 7th.