**For Immediate Release**
January 19, 2010
Contacts: Amyre Loomis at (718) 260-9191, and Steve de Sève at (917) 330-6147
Midnight Vigil held outside of homeless family-shelter closed prematurely by Eminent Domain for the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards Project - groups fight to keep open till Spring, and to reverse the Eminent Domain taking of the building
Elected officials and homeless advocates vow to lie in front of bulldozers to save shelter - civil disobedience may escalate to stop Eminent Domain takings
(Brooklyn, NY) - After a weekend of protests, at midnight on the MLK holiday a group of 30 angry community members, politicians, and homeless and family group members were outside the Pacific Dean Shelter until midnight last night to see if Governor Paterson would enact an emergency moratorium on Eminent Domain that would re-open the shelter. The Moratorium was requested by New York City Council Member Letitia James, who, along with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, made the request to Governor Paterson this weekend.
Unbelievably, the shelter, which serves mostly African-American and Caribbean-American families who are without shelter, was closed, in the middle of winter, on Martin Luther King's birthday, sending shockwaves throughout the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene communities. In advance of last night's vigil, protesters held a rally at nearby Freddy's Bar, itself facing eminent domain eviction, on Sat. Jan. 16, in the middle of the MLK weekend, complete with pop singer Crystal Waters, who sang her hit Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless). They want the shelter to remain open until Spring, when the weather will be kinder to homeless couples and their children.
The much-needed shelter was instead condemned by Eminent Domain by Gov. Paterson's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) at the request of the highly contested Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project. The project is run by Bruce Ratner, the controversial developer who is currently embroiled in 3 indictment investigations involving alleged bribes to Yonkers City Council Members who subsequently changed their votes against a Ratner project, Ridge Hill, to votes for it. Many believe Ratner's political connections have been delaying his being charged in the ongoing Federal investigation. He is among the top 5 highest lobbying and campaign contribution spenders in New York State. Ratner plans to tear down the shelter for a parking lot for Barclays Center's construction. But community members, including one state senator say no way.
"I will put myself on the ground in front of the bulldozers. I will do anything I can to stop this," said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery at the rally to reverse the Eminent Domain closing of the shelter on Saturday.
It has been a busy Martin Luther King holiday weekend for those fighting to keep the shelter open till Spring, with the closing on Jan 15 - Dr. King's actual birthday, the rally with Crystal Waters on the 16th, calls to the Governor on the 17th, and finally the vigil as the clock counted down to midnight to see if Ratner and the Governor were going to stand by their decision to close the shelter, on this, of all Winter weekends.
The lack of response from the Governor on the Martin Luther King Birthday closing of the shelter has the protesters saying they will escalate their civil disobedience against those who refuse to let the shelter stay open till Spring.
Footage of the Midnight Vigil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRzXSTd92qU
RELATED COVERAGE FROM MLK WEEKEND FIGHT TO SAVE SHELTER TILL SPRING
New York Times coverage of Crystal Waters Save Shelter from MLK Weekend Closing Rally: http://fort-greene.thelocal.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/fighting-a-homeless-shelter-closing/
Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2010/01/15/2010-01-15_singing_out_against_closing_a_shelter_for_atlantic_yards.html
Footage of the Jan 16 rally with Council member Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Picture the Homeless, Dean St. Block Association, F.U.R.E.E., and others at Freddy's Bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bfdu5A_d0GE
DDDB Blog: http://dddb.net/php/latestnews_Linked.php?id=2611