Film Review – Battle For Brooklyn

Battle For Brooklyn

Directed by: Suki Hawley, Michael Galinsky

Starring: Daniel Goldstein, Shabnam Merchant, Letitia James, Bruce Ratner

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

What would you do if you discovered the land your house sat on was earmarked for a commercial development? Not only your house would be demolished to make way for it, but hundreds of other people’ s homes and businesses as well. Would you take the money offered to you by the developer and relocate? Or would you stay and fight? Daniel Goldstein stayed and fought a long, exhausting and drawn out fight in this familiar David versus Goliath story of a community that would not lay down to a conglomerate that wanted to bulldoze an old and established section of Brooklyn full of history for a sports arena and a few skyscrapers.

It took Daniel several years to find his dream apartment. Once he did and had settled with his fiance, it was a bit like a fairytale. Then he got news that real estate company Forest City Ratner had devised the Atlantic Yards Development project, which would include a new arena to house the New Jersey Nets basketball team and 16 high rises – all on the land his beloved apartment stands. And so began his eight year battle to save his castle, a battle that would put him through some tough times and would give him an emotional battering. Yet, he never gave up.

Daniel and several others against the development formed the activist group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and tried desperately to convince anyone in authority that would listen that the plan was not a sound one. Forest City Ratner president Bruce Ratner claimed the development would greatly benefit Brooklyn and create thousands of jobs for struggling locals, but at what cost? Families and businesses had been established for decades in the handful of blocks he wanted leveled.

The company charges ahead while refusing to consult with residents, funds a community a support group for millions of dollars, the media did not fully understand the holes in the plan enough to expose them and New York council member’s hands were tied. Daniel declares the whole thing un-American, before promptly correcting himself in a revealing moment: “No, maybe this is the American way.”  The stress of this uphill battle puts Daniel through the ringer – his engagement breaks down and all the other people in his building pack up and move on, leaving him to be the only one living there. The stress of his cause is evident in his increasingly thinning and greying hair over the course of the documentary.

The frustration’s are vividly captured, but there is some light along this dark tunnel when Daniel meets fellow activist Shabnam and the couple marry begin a family. But even that relationship was strained by his dedication to oppose the development from going ahead. Riding the highs and lows with Daniel in this compelling documentary is a challenging and emotional, but rewarding experience. While the second half is nowhere near as balanced a view on the story as the first half  (interviews with company representatives are non-existent from the midway mark) the personal journey angle of one man’s never say die attitude is the perfect, inspirational subject.

Battle for Brooklyn screens as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival Friday, July 13.



One Response to “Film Review – Battle For Brooklyn”

  1. […] viewers in Perth have a special treat.  The Perth Film Festival actually screens this film this coming Friday, July 13th.  See it with an […]

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