By James Robinson
When the Brooklyn Nets debuted in the NBA last October in their fancy, Jay Z-endorsed new digs in the Barclay Arena in Prospect Heights, not everyone was applauding the news.
Daniel Goldstein, a local graphic designer, once lived in a nine-story apartment building plum in the developer's way. His neighbors left but he refused to budge, holding out for six years until he'd exhausted all legal recourse in 2010. He was protesting, joined by many from the community, what he saw to be corrupt use of 'eminent domain,' with a government seizing land for private rather than public use as the law was intended.
His losing struggle is at the heart of Battle for Brooklyn, a 2011 documentary from New York filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, which is coming to Oakland's New Parkway Theater for two screenings next week, following several successful festival airings.
Michael Galinksy, the movie's co-director, spent eight years working on Battle for
Brooklyn. He says that the fact that Goldstein ultimately loses, giving the movie a slightly disheartening air. "It is a depressing film, but life is depressing," he says. "The secret to resilience is to learn and move on."
Besides, Galinsky hopes that audiences can take heart from the endurance of Goldstein's resistance. At a recent screening in Italy, one film academic compared the movie to It's a Wonderful Life. "In some ways, this movie is just like a Frank Capra film, except the hero loses," he says.
Most frustrating to Galinsky is how a proponent of any alternative to the pro-stadium narrative is marginalized as a malcontent by the media. "Every promise that was made when this land was taken didn't come true. There's been no housing, no jobs. The environmental impact has been huge. It prices out at the moment at $700,000 of spending for every minimum-wage job generated."
Battle for Brooklyn is coming to Oakland as part of the Brooklyn Reconstructed film series, created by Adam Schartoff in New York. While Galinsky was shooting his movie, he kept hearing about other film projects in New York also covering the destruction of community in the name of development, which Schartoff eventually linked into a series. "Ultimately, it is all the same story," he says.
Michael Orange's Broaklyn Film & Theater Company has adapted the original program,
adding in stories from Detroit, Ohio, and the Fillmore. Battle for Brooklyn will serve as the denouement to this series.
For Orange, these stories are deeply relevant to Oakland today, and as the city increasingly becomes the Brooklyn of the Bay Area, he says that he hopes these movies interest people to examine the role they play in their city.
"We need to come up with a new word other than gentrification. Gentrification has become a brand. Everyone wants new coffee shops. Everyone likes restaurants. But it's the 'luxurisation' that really hurts," Orange says.
Galinsky chips in, "We need to try to find balance and improve, without overrunning these cities."
Battle for Brooklyn screens Tuesday April 16 at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland at p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Saturday April 20. Michael Galinsky will be speaking after each screening.