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Changing the subject—I was wondering what your take on Atlantic Yards is.
Savitri: [a tired sigh] It's so unbelievable. I think what's really frustrating about it is that if they had just sold Brooklyn on a stadium instead of saying that it was going to bring in all these jobs and affordable housing and all this stuff we could have just had a chance to respond to an arena...
Savitri: ...that would have been very different than what happened, which is this whole big re-zone was sold, this development project, none of which is going to happen.
Savitri: And everyone knew that. The lie of it is very frustrating and the way the democratic process was interrupted—we've seen that over and over in New York City. Also, it was racialized from the beginning and that was also upsetting and divisive at a time when Brooklyn didn't need to be divided that way. Gentrification was happening on so many fronts and we really didn't need to be divided. So that's, to me, incredibly distressing. We worked really hard against Ratner, but then on the day they broke ground I spoke to a woman who said, "I'm going to get a job over there. I'm going to get a union job over there." I can't remember what local she was in, but I asked her, how long ago had you had a union job and she said it had been twelve years. And I asked her how long that gig lasted her and she said seven months. So she's cool with whatever happens as long as she gets a union job. So this is a really different consideration. She really hasn't had a solid gig in twelve years. So—it's complicated. There's so much at stake for so many different kinds of people.
Billy: I just remember the one percent arrogance of the whole thing: Pataki, Bloomberg, and this completely poleticized developer Bruce Ratner. The three musketeeters, there they are. Twenty skyscapers. A two-mile shadow cast over fort greene. The whole thing was so arrogant and so massive and so not financed. But the finances were projections of corruption.
Billy: It was the one percent arrogance. It's a lot like what we're experiencing right now with the Spectra pipeline.
Billy: All the constituencies along the pipeline route from Pennsylvania, all the city councils, all the mayors—none of them want this pipe of eight hundred million cubic feet of fracked natural gas coming through their neighborhoods, along their roads, by their schools. None of them. All the way into New York, into the West Village. The company has a history of leaks and explosions but construction is about to begin. Because you have JP Morgan Chase and Spectra and then you have Mike "Wall Street" Bloomberg running the political coverage. So you've got the billionaire mayor, you've got one of the biggest banks in the country and you've got a Texas oil company and that's apparently all you need. And everybody else says no.
Savitri: And the community doesn't matter.
Billy: That's the same way it felt with the Atlantic Yards. It felt like—you have major opposition here on the ground and it doesn't matter.
Savitri: And Bloomberg is always saying that in 20 years no one will remember that there was opposition to this, that the legacy of this will be great, that people will be so happy to get to go to their basketball game. And you hear the same thing about privatization of the parks. And if you're not supporting this now, you're just not visionary enough to see what it means for our community and our city. And here are some wonderful things. It's amazing to go to Brooklyn Bridge Park, it's amazing to see these things. But wasn't there a way to do it that included some community determination?
Billy: And that's been one of the biggest projects in the twelve years of the Church of Stop Shopping: opposing the privatization of public space.
So with fracking right now, what is it that any of us can really do at this point?
Billy: Did you see our hot pink polka dots?
I think I missed that.
Billy: Ok, let me show you some of the pictures. This is our latest action. [Billy shows me photos of a construction site with large hot pink polka dots on the bulldozers and equipment. It is where the Spectra pipeline is set to end in the Meatpacking District.]
Why hot pink polka dots?
Billy: We felt there was some magic in hot pink polka dots. Hot pink polka dots on bulldozers: we just like that concept. So we're going back as much as we can. After a while they'll start arresting us… We went in on Sunday and it was very hot. There we are in our hazmat suits.
But you don't have one on.
Billy: Yeah, I stayed in my Reverend Billy suit. The gas is supposed to be, to some degree, radioactive. It has Radon decaying off of it.
How are the dots attached?
Billy: They're sticky-backed. Humor! Humor and music! Works for political action and works for…
Billy: And babies! That's why we got this piano. We thought it would be good for the baby. Now I need to learn how to play. [Bill plays a few chords.]