Celebs Oppose Brooklyn Development Containing Nets Stadium

A group of prominent actors and writers, including Heath Ledger, Steve Buscemi, and Jonathan Lethem, is lending star power to a neighborhood movement opposing the Frank Gehry-designed Brooklyn development that would include a stadium for the National Basketball Association‘s Nets.

Although the stadium gets the most attention, it is only a small corner of developer Bruce Ratner’s plan, which would essentially drop a whole new city of high-rises into the midst of established, low-rise Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has announced the appointment of a 30-member advisory board comprised of prominent citizens of the surrounding neighborhoods who agree with the community group’s contention that the plan, which includes office space as well as (mostly rental) residential units, is really a “destructive, secret, taxpayer-subsidized sweetheart deal” that would benefit the developer and not the community.

The advisory board also includes prominent local ministers, entrepreneurs, musicians such as Dan Zanes, actors Michelle Williams and Rosie Perez, and novelists Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Safran Foer. For extra political punch, it also counts US Congressman Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) as a member, along with Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. City of New London, the case that led to last year’s extremely unpopular Supreme Court decision favorable to eminent domain.

The proposed development has its own star power, and some community support: rap superstar Jay-Z is a Nets investor and a supporter of the project, and the local chapter of ACORN favors it because of the jobs and housing it would create. There is also favorable sentiment in the poorer nearby communities because of the construction jobs the development would create and the economic benefits that could be brought to the neighborhood by the presence of a major league sports team. (Brooklyn hasn’t had one since the baseball Dodgers left for the West Coast in 1958).

Opponents, however, contend that the number of permanent jobs and truly affordable housing units would be small, that the creation of new office space doesn’t make economic sense in a city that already has more than it needs, and that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the train yards over which much of the development would be built, failed to get the best price for its land. Some of DDDB’s objections could be construed as NIMBYism, but many are substantive.

Aside from community opposition, the proposal, which is favored by Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and Borough President Marty Markowitz, still faces procedural and legal hurdles before it can become reality.

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