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Atlantic Yards poll transcript

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The following are excerpts from Prospect Heights anti-arena activist Patti Hagan’s conversation with a pollster asking questions about developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan. Hagan tape-recorded the call, which she received at her home on March 20, 6:30 pm. Read our related story.

Pollster: As you may know there is talk of moving the Nets basketball team from New York to Brooklyn. The new owner of the team is proposing …

Hagan: No, from New Jersey. I believe it’s from New Jersey …

Pollster: Yeah, New Jersey. I’m sorry ma’am. Yeah, New Jersey. The new owner of the team is proposing to build a sports and entertainment arena for the Nets in Downtown Brooklyn at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Generally speaking, are you inclined to favor or oppose plans to build a sports team for the Nets basketball team at this site in Brooklyn?

Hagan: OK, could you start that question again? Because you sort of messed up on it.

(The pollster repeats the question.)

Hagan: I absolutely oppose it! And I am the leader of the opposition. I started the fight to stop this boondoggle.

Pollster: OK. There has also been talk of building a new football stadium for the New York Jets at a site on the West Side of Manhattan near the Javits Convention Center. Generally speaking, are you inclined to favor or oppose plans to build a football stadium for the Jets at the site in Manhattan?

Hagan: I oppose that also. It is a waste of public money.

Pollster: That’s “strongly oppose,” right ma’am?

Hagan: Strongly. I testify against it every chance I have. The next time will be on Thursday.

Pollster: OK, next, turning back to the proposed basketball arena in Brooklyn. This arena would be the centerpiece of a large commercial and residential complex that would be built on the same site. It would include retail stores, office space and more than 4,000 units of housing for all levels of income and needs.

The retail stores and office buildings would be located adjacent to the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. The residential units would be built along Atlantic Avenue between Sixth Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue and part of the project, six acres of land in and around the site, would be landscaped and made into public open space.

Having heard more information, do you favor or oppose plans to build a sports arena for the Nets basketball team and a commercial and residential development at this site in Brooklyn?

Hagan: I absolutely oppose the whole damn thing!

Pollster: OK.

Hagan: And by the way, that [information being read] doesn’t say that they’re going to destroy the homes and offices and businesses of more than a thousand people, and just kick them out of this neighborhood. They don’t say that.

Pollster: OK, now let me read you some different opinions about this project. Supporters of this project say that the basketball arena and the surrounding office and residential complex will bring great benefit to Brooklyn. The project will create thousands of jobs and provide some badly needed housing space for people from all different income levels in Brooklyn. It will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra tax revenue each year that could be used for schools and other vital services.

And the new arena would serve as the centerpiece of a revitalized Brooklyn. It would be a striking symbol of the borough’s re-emergence. OK?

Opponents say that the project will cost as much as $200 million in taxpayers’ money, which could be better used for schools, police and housing and other things that are more important than bringing a sports team in Brooklyn. They also say the project is too big, will create too much traffic and that some people could lose their homes or jobs because of the project.

With this in mind, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, oppose or strongly oppose building a team arena for the Nets basketball team and commercial and residential development at this site in Brooklyn?

Hagan: Strongly oppose!

Pollster: Supporters of the project say that no taxpayer money will be used to build the arena or the surrounding complex. The only taxpayer money involved will be to cover the cost — what are known as infrastructure improvements — which are things like fixing roads, improving subway stations and putting new sewer lines in and around the arena complex. The cost of the arena and the other buildings themselves will be entirely funded by the developers of this project and would not require any taxpayer money.

Does hearing this information make you more likely to support this arena project, somewhat more likely to support it, or does it not change your opinion of the project?

Hagan: That is a damn lie! The whole thing. It doesn’t change one bit of information that I have about it. I have facts about it. This developer is looking for more than $1.3 billion in public subsidies. It’s absolutely outrageous!

Pollster: OK. Supporters of the project also say that it will bring in much more new tax revenue than it will cost. Having a professional basketball team and sports arena in Brooklyn will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra tax revenues for the borough each year. It would also create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, many of which would go to Brooklyn residents.

In addition, economic studies show that a major sports arena in the Downtown area will provide widespread benefits to the surrounding community and generate sharp increases in business at local stores, restaurants and other businesses.

Does hearing this information make you more likely to support the arena project, somewhat more likely to support it, or does it not change your opinion of the project?

Hagan: It does not change my opinion because I don’t believe any of that because I’ve read enough books about how this bankrupts and kills the small businesses in the area and as far as bringing in tax money, that’s just a crock. The developer gets tax exemptions for 25 years and more.

Pollster: The developer of this project is negotiating an agreement with a community housing organization to set aside 50 percent of the housing units in the residential complex for low- and moderate-income families.

If the developer did go ahead with this agreement would it make you more likely to support the arena project?

Hagan: It does not change my negative opinion at all because it is all lies. Three is no way that 50-percent subsidized housing can happen because the city doesn’t have the money to support that level of subsidy. It’s not gonna happen — it’s just talk.

Pollster: OK. The developer of the project has also agreed to enter into what’s known as a community benefits agreement, after negotiating with local community leaders. This voluntary agreement is the first of its kind in New York and is legally binding. It sets out the level of jobs, job training and affordable housing in this development that the project will provide with the local community. Does hearing this information make you more likely to support the arena project?

Hagan: Does not change my negative — absolutely negative — opinion at all. He’s only met with handpicked groups, some of which he started and funded, and many of the community groups most impacted by what he [developer Bruce Ratner] wants to do are not being included and not being talked to and, by the way, they all happen to be people who are not — who are white or Asian or Hispanic and they are all being excluded. He’s only dealing with black groups.

[The pollster also asked how favorably Hagan supports a roster of elected officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, District Attorney Charles Hynes, Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, Gov. George Pataki, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and also Gotbaum’s potential opponent, Norman Siegel, the noted civil liberties lawyer representing arena opponents in their fight against eminent domain.]

Pollster: OK. Now that you have heard this important information, let me get your final opinion. Would you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the new sports arena for the Nets basketball team and commercial and residential development at the site?

Hagan: Strongly oppose! With every breath, every day I’m fighting this thing and by the way, it doesn’t say it’s 17 skyscrapers in a low-rise residential neighborhood. And it doesn’t say that one of them is 60 stories tall. And that the whole thing is totally out of scale and out of place and out of sync with our neighborhoods. It doesn’t say that it’s gonna cut off three big roads, make traffic even worse than it is here now.

Pollster: OK. The main person behind the efforts to bring the Nets basketball team to Brooklyn and build this arena complex is a man named Ratner and his firm is called Forest City Ratner. Were you aware that Bruce Ratner and Forest City Ratner were involved in the effort to bring the Nets to Brooklyn? Or is this the first time you’ve heard mention of him?

Hagan: [laughing] I’ve been aware since July 23, 2003, when I first read about it in a newspaper article and I got alarmed.

Pollster: OK. Generally speaking, do you have a very favorable, favorable, unfavorable or very unfavorable impression of Bruce Ratner?

Hagan: The most unfavorable impression one can have. The guy lies. He buys off people. He destroys neighborhoods. This is predatory, imperialistic development and it’s basically targeted at communities of color; poor, working-poor communities.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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