At a City Hall press conference convened by Councilwoman Leticia James, several ministers, with church congregations located in the area of Ratner’s proposed development addressed the question of the arena proposal.
Reverend Perrin of Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church:
“Why no to the Nets arena?” Because economic progress cannot be made at the expense of our long-standing democratic rights and freedoms. Otherwise, we have no right to impose on a regime in Iraq, intervene in Haiti or keep an embargo against Cuba. Truth may be that what we are seeking to impose on other countries is a cynical application of certain capitalist values that sometimes have an ugly side.
This ugly side we are witnessing in the proposed new development of the sports complex, while threatening to run over the residents as if they are not to be counted. What is more troubling is the widespread feeling among many that there is nothing that anyone can do to stop this because “it is a done deal. Only God is ineluctable, against which it is vain to struggle. The voice of consciousness must be raised, however lonely that voice may be.”
Reverend Herbert Daughtry
House of the Lord Church:
Our church is located several blocks from where this arena is to be constructed. We have been in this community thirty-five years and no one has come to us about this project. They have pushed this on this community and some of us have stood to say you can’t do that. We are calling for a summit meeting of all the appropriate personnel and see what can be worked through. Our position is that we are not absolutely against anything or absolutely for anything, we are absolutely against the usurpation of authority and power in our community. If we use the model of the World Trade Center reconstruction process, we can perhaps do something that would be satisfactory to all concerned.
Emmanuel Baptist Church:
“I am not opposed to development being done. What I am opposed to is the manner in which it is being done. I speak not as a disinterested party, I have pastored and lived in this community for almost fourteen years, and the development makes my question not so much why it’s being done but rather where and how it’s being done.
I think there are other places where it could be done, for example, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where there’s more than ample space. There are other areas of Brooklyn where there are large tracts of land that are available. The project could be the impetus for economic development in those areas.
One of the things that doesn’t make sense to me is the placement of the development on one of the major thoroughfares, one that is already congested. This smacks of development that is not consistent with key concepts of contemporary development, where the stakeholders, the current businesses and residents and the developers have a win-win scenario. This seems to be a win-lose scenario, development done in the interests of big business.
It doesn’t seem to make sense that the people who have built this community and improved the quality of life in the corridor should be displaced.”
Reverend Clinton Miller of Brown
Memorial Baptist Church:
“We ask the question, ‘What are we going to be using the taxpayer’s money for?’ ‘Are we going to use it for building arenas and stadiums while there is still a dirth of affordable housing, quality education and jobs. Or are we going to give deference to those with resources we don’t have?’ Let’s use the taxpayer’s dollars for something that is needed first and build an arena later on.
Councilman Charles Barron
“I want to thank my colleague Letitia James who is doing an excellent job on this issue and who is bold enough to stand alone if she must. We have serious questions on this issue of the abuse of eminent domain and the government taking private property for use by a private developer. We are also concerned about commercial competition with existing businesses and the additional office space which may not be needed, given the develop going on in downtown Manhattan. There is the concern about displacement of people from their homes.
“Ratner says a hundred, the Prospect Height Action Coalition says 863, the census tract says 350-400. Traffic congestion and people suffering with asthma, we need to tell Jay Z and Bernard King that we know you are happy about basketball, but these issues are greater than basketball. They make cutesy remarks around a very serious issue. They need to come back to the community and get educated. How dare they leave these influential members of our community out of the process. Don’t think you are going to steam roll this through. This is not a done deal.”