Atlantic Avenue merchants are blasting organizers of the annual Atlantic Antic for accepting developer Bruce Ratner’s sponsorship, especially after the state acknowledged the significant negative impacts that Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards would have on the avenue.
Ratner donated $20,000 to the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation for the 32-year-old street fair — up from $5,000 last year.
Local merchants don’t blame Ratner for angling to win community support, but they do blame the LDC for playing into his hands.
“I think 95 percent of [Atlantic Avenue] is against the project,” said Charlie Sahadi, owner of the Middle Eastern food store that bears his name, who has been involved with all 31 prior Atlantic Antics.
“The perception is that we’re accepting their money, so we’re accepting their concept,” Sahadi added.
He’s not the only merchant upset.
“I’m not participating in the Antic” because of the contribution, said Rachel Leibowicz, owner of Circa Antiques.
This is not the first time that Ratner has raised hackles by spreading his money around. He sponsored a school auction at PS 321 that caused some parents to boycott that event.
Ratner’s support of the Atlantic Antic might not have made any great waves were it not for this irony: the state’s recently released draft environmental impact statement confirms that his proposed 16-skyscraper, arena, hotel and office space complex will not only aggravate the notorious traffic on Atlantic Avenue, but the only way to help fix it would be to add an hour of “No Parking” at meters along the shopping strip.
Merchants oppose that extra hour because it would make it tougher for their would-be customers to park.
“The mitigations are outrageous,” said Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association. “So that this project should happen, we should all suffer?”
LDC members fired back.
“Forest City Ratner is a longtime supporter of the Antic and their sponsorship of the event does not constitute an endorsement by the LDC of the Atlantic Yards project,” said Ian Kelley, president of the LDC board.
A spokeswoman for the LDC went one step further, insinuating that the LDC would come out against the project in the near future.
“The LDC will be one of the groups testifying in the upcoming hearings on the Atlantic Yards, and I think folks will see at that point that the LDC thinks for itself, independent of any outside sponsors,” said Michelle Karshan.