Rocking and rolling against Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan

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I n its four-year battle against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has had substantial backing from the artist community. From its who's who advisory board, including writers Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Safran Foer, to benefit projects like the novel Brooklyn Was Mine, where proceeds went to the organization, Brooklyn's artistic community has found creative ways to support the organization while raising awareness about what it sees as irresponsible and undemocratic development of their neighborhood.

On May 15, several musicians will come together in a benefit concert at Park Slope's Southpaw to aid in DDDB's fight against the $4 billion, 22-acre housing, retail and stadium project for Prospect Heights.

Over the past four years, DDDB has had approximately 15 benefit performances with more than 30 artists in genres ranging from klezmer to hip hop to punk. For the upcoming benefit, event coordinator Rob Reilly wanted to feature up-and-coming indie talent in Brooklyn.

“I haven't gotten another response beyond 'I would love to do this, schedule permitting,'” says Reilly, a Cobble Hill resident who volunteers his time to put together benefit concerts for DDDB. “For me, it was a matter of setting up the right line up for the night out.”

Those whose schedules permitted and made for a good, indie-heavy line up, are John Wesley Harding, Clare and the Reasons, Richard Julian and Jolie Holland.

A native of England who has called Brooklyn home for the past seven years, this is the second benefit concert for John Wesley Harding, a prolific musician with eight records released and a member of the DDDB advisory board.

“I've long been an opponent of [the Atlantic Yards project],” says the musician. “Just on a very basic level, I think it's a heinous place for a stadium, and the process that got it through [was] an undemocratic process it seems to me.”

For his set, Harding plans on pulling from new material from an upcoming album he's working on as he lends his support to the cause.

For Clare Muldaur of pop string act Clare and the Reasons, the decision to play was a “no brainer.” “This concept sounded right up my alley,” says the Ditmas Park-based musician.

Coming off the release of their album “The Movie” on Frogstand Records last September, which features guests such as Van Dyke Parks, Gregoire Maret and Sufjan Stevens, the group has become a fixture in the New York music scene, playing regularly at venues like The Living Room.

For the benefit, Muldaur will be joined by her regular string section doing “the classic Clare and the Reasons Tunes.”

“I'll sing about shoddy construction, traffic and tearing down old things,” jokes the singer.

On a serious note, Muldaur finds the current direction of development in New York City “really dark.”

“New York will totally lose its great look in the next twenty years. I find that really depressing,” says the singer. “I'm speaking purely out of passion, aesthetic and taste, and I know it's all money.”

Also lending their voices to the cause are Richard Julian, a New-York based songwriter, guitarist and vocalist who is on tour to support his latest album, “Sunday Morning in Saturday's Shoes,” released this past February off of Manhattan Records/EMI, and Texas-born folk musician Jolie Holland.

In addition to music, preceding the concert will be a screening of the short film, “Brooklyn Matters,” a documentary directed by Isabel Hill and a hard-hitting expose on the Atlantic Yards proposal.

Watching the film was what originally propelled Reilly to volunteer his time to DDDB, and the screening will be a chance to remind concert goers why they are there.

“I have been to a lot of benefits where the cause isn't mentioned that much,” says Reilly. “I want everyone to know this is about preserving the character of Brooklyn and being against the Atlantic Yards development.”

Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, declined to comment on DDDB's benefit and charges.

The benefit concert for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will be on May 15 at Southpaw (125 Fifth Avenue). Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, and can be purchased at “Brooklyn Matters” screens at 7 p.m., with the music starting at 8 p.m. Proof of ticket purchase good for limited 10 percent discount at Bogota Latin Bistro (141 Fifth Avenue). For more information go to or

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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