Friday, August 25, 2006

Survivor: Atlantic Yards

Well, on the same day that CBS unveiled its brilliant new Survivor format, Bruce Ratner and friends also decided to showcase just how good a marketing strategy it is to play the race card.

By buying-off construction workers with phony claims about jobs, and housing advocates with phony claims about affordable housing (and by simply buying Rev. Herbert Daughtry), Forest City Ratner has managed to paint a portrait of a passionate and predominantly African-American pro-AY team facing off against a rather bloodless group of Anglo anti-Yarders.

It’s a powerful picture, and one that has made many a local elected official a tad antsy about weighing in against the development (Letitia James, to her credit, is a notable exception). No one in Borough or City politics wants to be against minority jobs or affordable housing, and few would want to be seen as anti-African American. I’m sure Ratner and his consultants had some idea all along that they might get so lucky.

Yes, I said “lucky,” for fanning the fires of racial animosity has served several well in New York City politics before. Most notably in the rises and reigns of Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani—both of who saw the advantages of conservative divide and conquer, play one community off another tactics.

But it’s a shame that groups like the Carpenters Union and ACORN took the FCR bait because it is so easily spit back. Two simple examples:

Ratner claims 15,000 construction jobs will be created—but that number is attained by multiplying the estimated 1,500 jobs the project will actually create by the ten years it will take to complete (and it is hard to say how many of those jobs will go to minorities).

Ratnerites make claims that up to half the new housing will be “affordable,” but counting the units set aside reveals a percentage closer to one-third. Of those called affordable, only 30% of the units—roughly 10% over all—will be for families that make below Brooklyn’s median income, and most of those are slated to built toward the end of the ten-year construction schedule. It should also be noted that these affordable units are only promised and in no way guaranteed.

But with these bad numbers and false promises—and 1,500 catered sandwiches—Ratner and his stooges at the ESDC managed to give Wednesday's hearings the flavor of the upcoming season’s White versus non-White Survivor. And just like with CBS and its hit show, the big corporation will make the real money, while most of the players just get voted off the island.


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