Wednesday, June 15, 2011

FILM REVIEW: BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN

Daniel Goldstein in Battle for Brooklyn.
The way the ball bounces


Since 2003, real estate developer and then majority owner of the New Jersey Nets, Bruce Ratner, has been planning to relocate his Nets to a "blighted" area of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood. Ratner’s Barclays Center is just one part of a larger $3.5 billion development project called Atlantic Yards, which is also slated to include 16 skyscrapers for business and residential use. Ratner's Forest City Ratner Enterprises, a real estate development company with powerful allies in the state and local governments, began a long and arduous process of clearing the local businesses and residents from their desired site; for those who will not oblige, the city threatens the use of eminent domain to expedite the eviction process.

Daniel Goldstein is one of several Prospect Heights residents who refuse to oblige -- he cannot wrap his head around the fact that the city intends to utilize the power of eminent domain to condemn his relatively new apartment for the financial benefit of Forest City Ratner. Goldstein and several of his neighbors attempt to rally against Ratner in a modern day retelling of David’s struggle against Goliath. Goldstein and his comrades form the group “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” in a feeble attempt to derail Ratner’s proposal, but “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” loses momentum as residents living in the Atlantic Yards footprint sell off their homes to Forest City Ratner. Suddenly, Goldstein discovers that he is truly the last man standing.

Shot over the course of seven years and compiled from approximately 500 hours of footage, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's documentary showcases just how quickly individual rights can be eradicated in the interest of capitalist concerns and political tomfoolery. Battle for Brooklyn lends some screen time to the supporters of the Atlantic Yards project -- including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz -- but Galinsky and Hawley leave absolutely no doubt as to whose side they are on, as they reveal Forest City Ratner’s highly questionable tactics of ignoring community input and aggressively seizing people's homes and businesses.

Those of you who have been following this saga in the news headlines already know how this story ends. The Nets -- whom Ratner has since sold a majority ownership share to Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov -- are scheduled to begin playing basketball in the Barclays Center in time for the 2012-2013 NBA season. In other words, the corporate interests of Goliath trounced David.

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