Hundreds rally for Ratner

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Anthony Taylor sat on a metal folding chair in the St. Bartholomew’s Church cafeteria, 1227 Pacific Street, and recalled the days when several buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint held jobs.

“We lost 40,000 jobs back there. We lost the Daily News building. We lost the bakery, the Chunky factory, the soap factory, the box company. Then these people came from Long Island and now it’s all condos. These gentrifiers don’t want to replace the jobs they took,” said Taylor, president of the Pacific Street Block Association.

“They are the real land grabbers, because they took the property first and turned back what was jobs into condos,” chimed in Charlene Nimmons, sitting nearby and a signatory to the Atlantic Yards community benefits agreement (CBA) with developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

So it went last Saturday following a huge counter-rally, in which some 800 local residents and union workers took to the street in support of the 22-acre, $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, including 2,250 units of affordable housing and an arena to house the NBA’s Nets franchise basketball team.

The rally was organized and called to counter the much publicized “Time Out” rally against the project on Pacific Street in the footprint, which drew about 200 people.

Three opponent organizations with many cross members including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and BrooklynSpeaks called the rally.

While sizably less than the supporters of the project, the opponents did have many local elected officials in their corner.

“The project has definitively proven itself to be a classic bait and switch,” said City Councilmember Letitia James, who represents the district where the project would be built.

“For this reason, the demolitions need to stop, the subsidies need to stop and eminent domain must be taken off the table,” she added.

Also asking for a freeze on the project was City Councilmember David Yassky, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries.

While both rallies had many people from outside the neighborhood, there were also some that have long lived in the footprint on both sides of the issue.

“This project is horrible because my family has to go,” said Hector Gonzalez, 28, whose family has lived on Pacific Street off Vanderbilt Avenue for over 40 years, and who is currently a litigant in court fighting the project.

I want to stay here. I enjoy my neighborhood. They [FCRC] are offering me $20,000 or $30,000 and that’s crumbs,” he added.

Gonzalez said FCRC has offered his family new apartments at the same rent once they are built, “but what they say and what might happen is two different things. There’s loopholes in everything.”

But Simeon Kitt, who lives on Dean and Vanderbilt, said that although the project will force him to move, he’s in favor of it.

“Let me tell you what they [FCRC] are going to do for me. My rent I pay right now is $500 a month. The rent where they are going to move me to is going to be $1,200 a month. All I got to pay is the $500. They are going to pay the rest. Now when they finish the project they will move me into a brand new apartment and I’ll pay the same $500 a month for the rest of my life,” said Kitt.

Updated 3:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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