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Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood

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Every time I begin to buy into the lyrical people-have-the-power rhetoric of the opposition, to fantasize that Goldstein’s impending eminent-domain lawsuit has a prayer of succeeding, or to get revved up about the density trivia, someone smacks me back into reality. Most recently, it was a prominent Democrat. “In some cases, an army of Davids could take down Goliath,” he said. “But not this one. It’s a fait accompli.”

Brooklyn is vast, so it would be arrogant and silly to say how Atlantic Yards will change the borough. Maybe they won’t feel a thing in Sheepshead Bay and Greenpoint and East New York and Crown Heights. Atlantic Yards, though, would send ripples of gigantism far and wide. I’m no Spaldeen-and-egg-cream nostalgist, but Brooklyn has always been different and better because it’s been closer to the ground. That’s a significant thing to lose. And “in close,” to use Jim Stuckey’s dismissive description of Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Boerum Hill, we’ll feel the impact like a punch to the head. The small, warm neighborhoods around Atlantic Yards will become moons orbiting a cold planet. Shadows and noise can be modeled on computers, but their emotional effects can’t.

Brooklyn is changing every day, all the time; I wouldn’t want to live here if it didn’t. I don’t kid myself that all the changes are “organic” or even desirable. But it’s an evolution instead of a cataclysm imposed from above. The opposition to Ratnerville is sometimes vitriolic, unsympathetic, irrational. Sign me up. 

Additional reporting by Meghann Farnsworth.


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