Controversial Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has bought himself the Brooklyn Museum’s highest honor, nabbing the institution’s illustrious Augustus Graham Award thanks to his financial contributions to the arts, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
The museum will hand Ratner the award at its Annual Ball on April 3.
Museum spokeswoman Sally Williams said the honor stemmed from Ratner’s “contribution to arts and culture in Brooklyn and to the museum” and his “generous support of various activities of the Brooklyn Museum.”
Williams declined to provide specific numbers and said the museum’s selection of Ratner did not indicate its support for Atlantic Yards, the 16-skyscraper mega-development that has divided Brooklyn along class, race and socio-economic lines for more than four years.
She added that the museum’s selection of Ratner did not indicate its support (or lack thereof) for Atlantic Yards, the 16-skyscraper mega-development that has divided Brooklyn along class, race and socio-economic lines for more than four years.
“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” she said.
Ratner didn’t respond to a request for comment — but Atlantic Yards opponents were angry that the developer was getting an award from a publicly funded institution, despite spearheading a project that will cost taxpayers billions in direct and indirect subsidies.
“It's just this sort of symbiotic relationship between Mr. Ratner and Brooklyn's publicly subsidized civic institutions that has led to too much silence amongst the city's power elite who should know better, while the neighborhoods continue to oppose his destructive mega-project and its abuses,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
Indeed, like plenty of once-hated industrial magnates, Ratner appears to be following the Andrew Carnegie formula to win friends and influence people, gilding his shaky reputation through philanthropy.
Not only does his Joanne Minieri, the president of Forest City Ratner, serve on the board of the museum, but Ratner himself sits on the board of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and has supported public art projects in city parks.
Goldstein was nearly alone in his vitriol.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), one of the fiercest opponents of the project and most Ratner-related things, declined to comment.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), who has also been quite critical of Ratner, would only hedge.
“I imagine there must be some defensible track record of support over a period of years that precedes the Atlantic Yards development,” said Jeffries.
Danny Simmons, the Clinton Hill artist who is also on the board of the museum, agreed.
“Bruce Ratner has been a big supporter of all the cultural organizations,” said Simmons, who defined himself as “neutral” on Atlantic Yards.
Previous recipients of the Brooklyn Museum’s Augustus Graham award, the museum’s highest honor, include former museum board member and New Jersey Nets investor Robert Rubin (2004), a longtime executive at JP Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers; and the Altria Group (2006), which made its fortune selling Marlboro cigarettes.
The Brooklyn Museum’s ball will also mark the opening of the Takashi Murakami exhibit. Kanye West will perform at the event, where tables can be bought for between $5,000 and $75,000, and individual tickets can be had for a mere $1,000.