Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Oughta Be in Pictures, . . On Stage, In a Book, In a Documentary

We got this solicitous request, from the Civilians, who are putting together a stage play having to do with the transformation of Brooklyn, for which they are interested in including stories about Atlantic Yards. For those out there who want to tell their Atlantic Yards stories, the Civilians want to interview you:

The Civilians want to hear from you. Brooklyn is changing fast. We are creating BROOKLYN AT EYE LEVEL a theater show inspired by interviews about the transformation of Brooklyn and the controversial Atlantic Yards Project. If you have something to say about the communities surrounding the proposed project (Downtown, Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights & Park Slope), we want to listen. We want to talk to long-term residents, recent arrivals, players in the Atlantic Yards story, as well as those who work or live in the area. Eager to hear from all perspectives. If you want to be interviewed send us an email with a little information about yourself to Michael Premo, Project Coordinator: Premo(at)thecivilians(dot)org. For more information: www.brooklynateyelevel.org . These interviews will be performed along with original music and dance by Urban Bush Women live at the Brooklyn Lyceum, December 4th – 7th.
To borrow a select few lines from the old Dana Suesse/Edward Heyman song.

. . .
A thought goes through my mind;
* * *
I am proud that I have you right by my side,
But I`d be satisfied
To lend you to the public to be seen!
* * *
Your voice would thrill a nation,
* * *
You’d make a great sensation
You oughta shine as brightly
As Jupiter and Mars;
A Rich Subject

A theater show featuring the subject of Atlantic Yards!

Atlantic Yards is such a rich subject to mine for material. We have always wondered about the wealth of works it will generate. That includes theatrical and artistic works.

There is already a beautifully crafted documentary on the subject, “Brooklyn Matters,” by Isabel Hill. That film does the remarkable job of explaining comprehensively in 50 minutes all the major issues concerning the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. I invariably note that no matter how much you learn about Atlantic Yards, it fits within the framework the film provides for a solid understanding of the project. Everyone interested in today’s New York City or urban planning should see Brooklyn Matters. Certainly, that includes any responsible city politician.

It is an inexplicable shame that the Brooklyn Matters has not appeared yet on our PBS Channels 13 and 21. When a question-sans-explanation like this comes up, one must wonder about the subtle/not-so-subtle influences of Bloombergain “charitable” giving. (See: Monday, October 20, 2008, “Charity?” We Begin to Groan and the newest story on the subject in today’s New York Times, Some Award Winners Share Trait: Bloomberg’s Charity, by Michael Barbaro)

Atlantic Yards Report has demonstrated how bottomless the Atlantic Yards drama is, proving that it can be fodder for one or more fascinating in-depth articles every day for years. The malefactions of Bruce Ratner, along with complicit and sloppy politicians, certainly help by spicing up and providing central themes to the narrative. We are certain AYR’s prolific Mr. Oder has a best-selling book in him with the heft and weight of Robert A. Caro’s “The Power Broker.” We are hoping to be reading it around the time some of the politicians involved were expecting to be continuing their careers. Like “The Power Broker,” we can expect the book to be an urban planning classic read by our grandchildren. Just the way “The Power Broker” vividly brings back to life Mayor Jimmy Walker, Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and Robert Moses himself when we read it today, we can expect that our grandchildren will be reading about billionaire Mayor Bloomberg and sidekick City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. They will no doubt be aghast.

Seedy Subject

I don’t personally hold myself to be a major player in the Atlantic Yards drama. Mainly I am an former government official whose familiarity with development and government conduct can assist by offering perspective and insight into certain Atlantic Yards shenanigans. Still, from where I stand, I see many seeds of the Atlantic Yards narrative busy growing. I’ve been interviewed for several documentaries, including student films. It also seems that there are a lot of students and young journalists writing about the subject.

What Next? You Oughta Be in Pictures

You have to wonder what else is coming. This is, after all, the same kind of material that made for a great movie like Michael Clayton. Surely there are Academy Awards to be farmed out of this material too.

What are the rumors to be heard about the works that might be forthcoming?

Let’s hold a vision of two future artistic projects succeeding in tandem. True, a really good documentary, “Brooklyn Matters,” has already been made. Next is the dramatized fact-based version of the story. There’s Steve Buscemi, a great actor and film make. And consider contributions by Rosie Perez, Michael Showalter and Michelle Williams. The production company with which Buscemi did last year’s “Interview” is Brooklyn-based and suited to this endeavor. Just imagine the great scene that occurs early on in the picture: It takes place on a golf course where Ratner snaps his cell phone shut and tells his golfing companion (a guy who owns a line of successful comic books)- “I just bought myself a basketball team!”*

* (This statement is used as a lead-in to a little explication, David Cay Johnston-style, of the freebie scam that is “stadium finance,” in this case an arena, with emphasis on what an exclusive, super-rich, secret-keeping club this is. A shorthand mention of George W. Bush is thrown in, just in case the audience needs a cue to what is going on and the side they should be taking.)

Now consider that this project is being done in tandem with another one- The documentary about the making of the dramatized movie version of the story- As part of the documentary about the making of the theatrical film, the actors assigned to play various politicians are going to want to deploy to interview those same politicians.

Scene from the documentary:

Tom Wilkinson: Yes, thank you, I am calling about my interview with Mayor Bloomberg.
Ms. Dunnin (Secretary to Mr. $B): Yes, we talked.
Tom Wilkinson: Right, I am playing Mr. Bloomberg in a new film.
Ms. Dunnin: Yes, I know we were setting that up, but we heard from Christine Quinn that the film is about the Atlantic Yards development.
Tom Wilkinson: Surely, indeed.
Ms. Dunnin: The problem is that the Mayor doesn’t think it would be appropriate to go through with the scheduled interview. He doesn’t see supporting a film about Atlantic Yards.
Tom Wilkinson: Excuse me?
Ms. Dunnin: He doesn’t see that it would be too flattering to him. Ms. Quinn is not satisfied with the way her interview went.
Tom Wilkinson: Well, if there is any problem maybe I can catch him tonight; I understand we are both going to be at the same charitable event.
For the actors who don’t get to interview and study their subject-politicians and real estate industry biggies in person, there will be scenes where they study video footage, commenting freely, (“See that long pause and then the way he pulls one side of his mouth down before he bites his lip? That’s the tell that he doesn’t believe what he is about to say.”)

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