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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

NY Times Tries to Buff Ratner Image With "News" of Arena Alliance With Tone Deaf BAM

So this, apparently, is what The Times deems to be front page arts newsworthy: Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Academy of Music board member, former BAM board director, minority owner of the Nets, majority owner of a basketball arena and roughly 18 acres of a demolition zone/interim surface patking lot is, maybe, going to allow the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hold "three or four shows a year" in the taxpayer subsidized billion dollar arena named after Barclays.

Newsflash for The Times: just because your business partner comes to you with an exclusive story doesn't mean it is anything more than a press release. And pretty much the only time Bruce Ratner himself will talk with The Times or any reporters is when his company feeds you the news.

Speaking of irony, as Bruce Ratner does below, isn't it just a wee bit ironic that the Brooklyn Academy of Music is so tone deaf about the Atlantic Yards project?

Below is the article, which starts with the howler that there has been a debate as to whether or not Atlantic Yards is a "community uniter." Say what you will about Ratner's PR crew, but even they have never tried to convince anyone that the project was an attempt to unite the community.

The Times "reports":

In Alliance, Nets Arena to Offer Arts
By Melena Ryzik

It's been a springboard for Brooklyn nostalgia, a debate about urban design and the politics of eminent domain and, depending on your perspective or basketball affiliation, a community uniter or divider. Now Atlantic Yards, the development that will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will also be a cultural center.

The Barclays Center, the 18,000-seat arena at the heart of the project, will host performances by artists selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a programming alliance between the two neighboring institutions, their directors said. The collaboration will include three or four shows a year and allow the academy to bring to Brooklyn work that would not fit into its theaters — the largest of which has 2,000 seats — with costs underwritten by the arena.

"I always like to put things that are a little bit ironic together," Bruce C. Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the arena, said in an interview Tuesday. "So here you have a place like BAM, which is a great contemporary-arts cultural institution, and then you have an arena, which, people think about sports and circus and so on," he said from his office overlooking downtown Brooklyn. "And then you put them together, and then I think you've got something special."

Not sure that is ironic. But it is true, Bruce Ratner likes to "put things that are a little bit ironic together," such as:

Thousands of parking spaces for a "transit-oriented" project.
The president of the Center for Contitutional Rights (Bruce's brother Michael Ratner and an investor in the Atlantic Yards project) and a project founded upon eminent domain abuse and 1st Amendment violations.
A Community Benefits Agreement with signatories funded by Ratner.
A public ice skating rink on top of a private arena (oh, wait, he didn't do that, he just once promised it.)
Ellerbee Beckett and Frank Gehry.
Jobs, housing and hoops.
The New Jersey Nets and Brooklyn.

Okay, we'll stop there. The article continues:

The idea for the collaboration came from Mr. Ratner, who was chairman of the board at the Brooklyn Academy for a decade. (Mr. Ratner's company also helped develop the headquarters for The New York Times.)

Karen Brooks Hopkins, the academy's president, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Ratner "called me and said that he really was hoping that this arena would be different from every arena, from the basic commercial fare." She said she expects the performances to be "on a very large scale, large nouvelle cirque kind of work, big dance kind of things, music."

The Brooklyn Academy will receive a curatorial fee but no share of ticket sales. It expects to present a slate of half a dozen potential shows a year for the arena, whose management can choose those that best fit the space, which can also be subdivided. Even so, Ms. Brooks Hopkins said programming for the arena would be a challenge.

Sure, but you're likely to get more folks out to see "nouvelle cirque kind of work" than your typical Nets game.

"For us this is a new kind of thing, to be working as a part of a consulting team, to be working, obviously, on this scale," she added. "But in these days the idea of not-for-profit arts institutions like ours that have a certain kind of expertise to earn some income and work in a different context is great. We feel like we're pioneering some new territory here."

Mr. Ratner said he was not qualified to be much of an artistic curator. But he recalled the academy's staging of a piece by the avant-garde French director Ariane Mnouchkine as representative of the grand work he thought made an impact. Ms. Brooks Hopkins referred to the prospective programming as "spectacle," while Mr. Ratner called it an "extravaganza." (The shows will be separate from other nonbasketball events at Barclays, like concerts and boxing matches. And, of course, Forest City Ratner hopes to profit from all of them.)

Asked if there was overlap between a Brooklyn Academy audience and a Nets game crowd, Mr. Ratner paused for a bit before saying yes. "People who grew up urban in Brooklyn, and in other places, you have people who have played basketball since they were zero, of all intellect and education," he said, offering Bill Bradley, the Hall of Fame basketball player turned senator, as an example.

Uhm, what on earth is he talking about?

Ms. Brooks Hopkins agreed that the psychic distance between the Brooklyn Academy and the Barclays Center, which are physically two blocks apart, was not as large as it may seem. "Everything about it is in line with New York as a cultural capital, with Brooklyn as an interesting and adventurous arts community," she said.

Now, for some more irony. The Times reporter decides to go, near the article's end, to the Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers for some counterpoint. One wonders if this arts writer has seen the film. But the ironic part is that you can bet your basketball that, despite his love for irony, there is no way Bruce Ratner would ever let his fellow BAM board members screen a run of the critically-acclaimed documentary at the BAM Rose Cinemas.

The article continues (by the way," doubters" proven correct time and again are actually what would normally be called experts or sources):

But as with all things related to Atlantic Yards, the cultural plans have their doubters. Michael Galinsky, the director with his wife, Suki Hawley, of the new documentary "Battle for Brooklyn," which chronicles the years-long fight against the project, was skeptical that the Barclays Center would deliver on all its promises to the neighborhood. He pointed to the changes in the original Atlantic Yards plan, from the departure of the architect Frank Gehry to the exclusion of a rooftop track to the number of jobs created.

"Any time the arts has more of a venue that's a wonderful thing," Mr. Galinsky said. "But the question then becomes at what cost to public process." He added, "this is a much greater benefit to Ratner from this P.R. perspective than it is to BAM."

Mr. Ratner said the partnership with the Brooklyn Academy was not meant to appease critics. "I don't care," he said, then corrected himself. "We care a tremendous amount about the community, but we don't do it to get credit," he said. "We must do stuff here because we think it's good to do, not because it just happens to make a splash. Everything has to be substantive. Most of it has to be as substantive as possible."

The first answer—"I don't care"—is telling and honest, the second answer—"we care a tremendous amount about the community"—is perenially (and most recently) proven nonsense, and the rest of it is too much protesting.

By the way, besides Ratner and BAM, who is this Barclays/BAM alliance going to benefit?

Posted: 6.29.11
DDDB.net en español.
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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
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November 24, 2009
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Click for a summary of the lawsuit seeking to annul the review and approval the Atlantic Yards project.

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