Toddler troubadour sings against Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper
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If you’re under 10, this is your Woodstock: Children’s folk singer Dan Zanes — the Bob Dylan of the pre-school set — has joined the opposition to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and will headline an anti-project concert next month.

Zanes’s Brooklyn Blues
Dan Zanes says he doesn’t write overtly political songs, but his new tune, “Wander in the Summer Wind,” was inspired by a vision of Brooklyn that, he says, is jeopardized by Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development. Here are the excerpted lyrics:

Take a left on Kane Street
Another one on Henry
Take a look around us
For anyone we know
Up the hill and down again
Hand in hand
We’ll be feeling grand
When we wander in the summer wind

I’ll take you to the river
Maybe down to Red Hook
Eat a few tamales
Over by the soccer games
Basketballs are flying
Over by the schoolyard
I hear the breeze
Call your name

High and low
People that we know
They say, “Hey there”
And “How’ve you been?”
Good, good, good
And do you think you would
Like to wander in the summer wind
We can take the F train
Right on up to Ninth Street
Walk on to the park
To where the steel drums play
Dance around in circles
With anyone that we meet
All this could happen
On a summer Saturday

Zanes, a resident of Cobble Hill, became a member of the advisory committee of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn last month and now hopes to spread his anti-Ratner message through song.

“My opposition is mostly about saving the soul of Brooklyn,” Zanes (pictured right) told The Brooklyn Papers. “Everything I do is about community — in my case, the spirit that comes from making music. That’s what Brooklyn means right now. That’s why we came here. But Ratner’s project is in direct opposition to all that’s good, soulful and communal about Brooklyn.

“We need to remember what we love about Brooklyn and stop this.”

Across nearly a decade and on his eight best-selling albums, the former Del Fuegos frontman has been singing to kids. But in this fight, he’s playing to the adults.

“I was like everyone else who had heard about the project — busy with work and family and I thought, well, it’s ugly, but it’s inevitable,” said Zanes, who’s been so busy, in fact, that he even let his membership in the Park Slope Food Co-op lapse.

When he took the time to consider the “nuts and bolts” of the project — the 17 skyscrapers, the basketball arena, the 6,900-units of housing, the thousands of cars, the use of eminent domain to condemn buildings where people are currently living — Zanes said he could ignore it no more.

“I thought, ‘Well, I live in Cobble Hill, that’s not going to affect me.’ But this project is not just in ‘someone else’s’ neighborho­od,” he said.

Zanes, who is known by virtually everyone with a kid under age 12, said his job will be to spread the word to “busy, self-centered” people like himself.

“I tell people: get informed about the entire project and then make up your mind,” he said. “Atlantic Yards is everything Brooklyn is not. Check Bruce Ratner’s track record: Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal, Metrotech. Is this the guy we want doing the single biggest development in New York City?”

And then Zanes issued his most-damning edict (at least from the perspective of a dewy-eyed 10-year-old Park Slope Zanes fan): “Ratner gave us Chuck E. Cheese. Is that the best we can do for our kids?”

A spokesman for Ratner declined to comment.

Although Zanes will headline the Saturday, June 3, concert at the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church in Fort Greene, don’t expect any overt anti-Ratner songs.

“I’m not that kind of songwriter,” said Zanes, who will sing protest songs like “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “I Don’t Want Your Millions, Mister,” and the more-subtle “Wander in the Summer Wind,” a classic Zanes yarn that celebrates the serendipity of just taking a walk in a low-rise borough (see sidebar).

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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