ACORN's Bertha Lewis had her own thoughts, which
Goldstein, last Yards holdout, speaks!
By Daniel Goldstein for The Brooklyn Paper
For nearly seven years, at considerable personal risk, I used my home to
fight the abuse of eminent domain and Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards
project. Without my home, the misguided project — opposed by a fierce
community movement I came to lead — could not happen. With no democratic
political process available to the community, the not-so-simple act of keeping
my home was the best way I could affect what was clearly a fixed deal.
But I never promised to be an ineffectual martyr.
On March 1, the state took title to my home, effectively ending the possibility
of winning the fight on eminent domain grounds. Those who wish to deem me
a “sellout” are flatly wrong. After condemnation, I had nothing
meaningful left to sell that might affect the fight or achieve a single one
of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s goals.
The state sought a court order to evict me on May 17. Facing that —
and a judge who wanted the parties to resolve the eviction — I agreed
to leave on May 7 rather than the 17. Ratner also demanded a gag order and
complete disassociation from DDDB. I refused both demands, affirming my First
The media, agape at the settlement figures — though never agape at
the size of Ratner’s public subsidy — missed some key things last
In the past six years, Ratner’s representatives approached me four
times, offering to buy me out in exchange for my abandoning key eminent domain
litigation, which threatened their project. Each time, they knew that the
opposition to Atlantic Yards would suffer a huge blow if I sold my home.
Their most recent approach came early this year, before the final eminent
domain court hearing, but after I had learned that the state’s “just
compensation” offer would be just half the market value of my home —
a gut-wrenching offer. I resisted any settlement in exchange for dropping
litigation that would affect the outcome of the fight.
I rejected a settlement every time I met with Ratner’s people, instead
offering to help facilitate a negotiation with the community about the project.
That, however, was of no interest to them.
So, what was of interest to them last week? Was it an attempt to buy my silence,
which would, at this stage, provide them very little value? They would like
the public to believe that was their goal.
But for all the frothing in the media, I’m not aware of a single analysis
as to why Ratner agreed to the settlement he did. It had nothing to do with
some pressing matter of public interest, nor speeding the building of affordable
There was one overarching reason they paid me to leave early. Basketball.
The court was unlikely to agree to an accelerated eviction date of May 17
— it would be just a few days after the state would by paying me its
original “just compensation.”
However, the billionaire Russian oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, could not assume
ownership of the Nets, nor prepare for the NBA draft and free-agent market,
in his effort to rebuild the NBA’s worst team until my apartment was
The state’s May 17 eviction date may have appeared arbitrary, but May
18 is the NBA draft lottery, and Prokhorov wanted to be at that lottery. That’s
not what ESDC or Ratner told the judge or the press last week. But that was
As to why the state thought it so important to evict my family and me on
Prokhorov’s NBA schedule, so he could encrust his plaything with diamonds,
is something that speaks for itself.
Daniel Goldstein is former spokesman of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn,
and more commentary can be seen here.
He will be moving out of his Pacific Street condo before May 7.