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Brooklyn Battle II
2004-02-03 21:21
by Jon Weisman

The news of the New Jersey Nets' plans to move to Brooklyn is old, but not so old that I have to ignore it, especially when an insightful article comes along. And so, as Walter O'Malley and Robert Moses look on with great interest, the more things change ...

"Ten days ago Bruce Ratner announced he bought the Nets for $300 million with the idea of rehousing them in a massive complex in downtown Brooklyn," Brian Braiker writes for Newsweek.

"But locals in the abutting Prospect Heights and Fort Greene neighborhoods are promising to fight the plan, which could force between 350 and 900 Brooklynites (depending on whose count you believe) from their homes. They claim their ouster would be illegal and that the project would bring more traffic to already-overburdened streets, ruining the hardscrabble flavor unique to the ethnically and economically mixed area."

Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry has been hired for the project, which would also include office and residential spaces.

On these kinds of issues, there are three main areas for contention.

1) What are the merits of the project, functionally and aesthetically?
2) What is the compensation to those disrupted?
3) For the greater good, does the city have the right to forcibly remove people from property that they own?

The first two questions are negotiable, but the third is fundamental.

If the answer to No. 3 is "yes," then give the people a fair voice and everything should be resolvable.

On the other hand, if the answer to No. 3 is negative, then there's no point in dickering with Nos. 1 and 2.

I'm going to argue that yes, the city does have the right to disrupt the few to serve the many. After all, at some point, any violation of one's property can be addressed through compensation - no property is infinitely valuable. Just don't kill anyone for it.*

That might settle the philosophical question, leaving the admittedly difficult negotiations of the other questions. Perhaps those negotiations end in a stalemate, and the project does not happen. But there is no reason not to talk.

I've posted this entry because it relates back to the Dodgers' Brooklyn roots. When I apply it to what Frank McCourt might propose to do in Chavez Ravine, I get uneasy. In fact, I get queasy.

Let's just say that in the case of Dodger Stadium, a stalemate might be the result we live with.*

*What if tearing down Dodger Stadium gives me a heart attack?

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