Brooklyn’s primary gay and lesbian political club came out against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development on Monday night — even as the developer and Borough President Markowitz are still discussing creating a gay community center in a Ratner-owned building Downtown.
In language similar to other clubs’ and local community boards’ rejection of Atlantic Yards last year, Lambda Independent Democrats declared that the project could not be supported because it “failed” to go through a “stringent, transparent and inclusive community review” before it was approved by the Empire State Development Corporation in the waning days of the Pataki administration.
The resolution also hit state officials for using eminent domain to hand private property to Ratner, superceding the city’s own land-use review oversight, and granting Ratner “special allowances and tax breaks.”
Many political groups and activists have opposed Atlantic Yards, but there is a deeper context to Lambda’s seemingly day-late/dollar short resolution. Earlier this year, Borough President Markowitz promised gay and lesbian activists that he would work towards developing a community center, much like the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village, in a Ratner-owned building in Downtown.
At Monday’s meeting, many members of the Lambda club honed in on the irony.
“I feel like our favorite borough president [Markowitz] is holding a carrot in front of our faces saying, ‘Ooh, gay people, you can have a community center if you support Atlantic Yards,’” said Lisa Badner, a member of the Lambda executive committee.
Markowitz, who has been under fire from gays ever since his endorsement of anti-gay former Councilman Noach Dear for Civil Court last month, never explicitly said the community center was a quid-pro-quo for gays, Badner pointed out. But she complained that many groups that might have opposed Atlantic Yards — such as the housing advocacy group ACORN — ended up supporting it after getting “payoffs” from the developer.
“This is how Ratner operates in Brooklyn,” Badner told The Brooklyn Paper.
Markowitz said in a statement on Wednesday that Badner should not feel that working with him or Ratner on a community center has any connection to Atlantic Yards.
“I called a meeting at my office [on] May 31 [with] representatives of many Brooklyn LGBT activist groups to discuss their needs and also to offer capital funding assistance in constructing an LGBT center in Brooklyn,” said the borough president, who has supported lesbian and gay issues, including gay marriage.
“I also reached out to developers to see if any were interested in providing space, which Bruce Ratner was, not to be located in Atlantic Yards but somewhere downtown.
“I asked that the groups work together to formulate a proposal regarding the specifics of the center and I have not heard back from them. As one who believes Atlantic Yards will be good for Brooklyn, I am disappointed in the recent LID statement regarding the project, but this position in no way impacts my ongoing support of LGBT issues or my offer to help in the establishment of a an LGBT center.”