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Givin’ the People What They Want, pt. 1

Ed.’s note: The following is fiction based on real-life events.

Developer Bruce Ratner calls New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to talk shop.


"Yes, Bruce."

"I’ve been thinking about something, Mike."

"What’s that, Bruce."

"Mike, do you really think people want stadiums everywhere?"

"Now Bruce, I’m not hearing doubt, am I? Remember, I’m counting on you to take care of the people of Brooklyn."

"Mike, it’s just that people are starting to hate me, that’s all."

"Take it from me, Bruce, that’s ok. I know what it’s like to be hated."

"How’s that, Mike?"

"Well, it started when I took away people’s cigarettes. Now, I’ve started firing people who won’t flunk third graders, and my poll numbers spiked. People say I’ve finally found my ‘inner Rudy.’"

"What does that mean, Mike?"

"New Yorkers like petty tyrants, Bruce."

"So what are you suggesting, Mike?"

"That you need to find your ‘inner Trump,’ Bruce."

"What does that mean, Mike?"

"For starters, instead of false promises about jobs, just start firing people before they’re even hired."

"But won’t that make people hate me even more, Mike?"

"Bruce, you’re missing the point. You want people to hate you."

"Why, Mike, why?"

"Simple. People don’t want eyesore skyscrapers from a ‘nice guy.’ ‘Nice guys’ don’t tear up neighborhoods and line their pockets with public funds. What you’re doing is not nice, so I say you should embrace that fact."

"But I’m making some people besides myself happy, aren’t I, Mike?"

"Oh yeah, who’s that, Bruce?"

"Well, Nets fans, Mike."

"Have you ever met a Nets fan, Bruce?"

"Well, umm, no, not really. Have you ever met a Jets fan, Mike?"

"Yes, they’re fat, and they smoke. I’m telling you, Bruce, it’s more fun to be a tough guy."

"Mike, I’m starting to get the picture. Instead of pretending that people really want more of my signature ugly buildings, I start telling them that it doesn’t matter what they want."

"Yes, Bruce."

"Instead of saying things like ‘all the politicians have been wonderful,’ I start saying that they’re all on my payroll, and are scared of me."

"That’s right, Bruce."

"Instead of claiming there’s ‘not much opposition,’ I say that the opposition just consists of oddballs who don’t like being evicted, and who prefer real neighborhoods to chain stores and traffic jams."

"Yes, Bruce, Yes."

"And that instead of ‘this will be great for Brooklyn,’ I start saying ‘this will be great for Bruce Ratner.’"

"Sure, Bruce, you do that, and I’ll start saying ‘what’s good for Woody Johnson and the Jets is good for Woody Johnson and the Jets.’"

"Wow, Mike, this is a real breakthrough. No more meetings ‘listening to the community,’ no more ‘pretending to be Mr. Nice Guy.’ Now I can devote my time to the project I really love."

"Which one’s that, Bruce?"

"Turning Prospect Park into an 18-hole golf course."

"Incredible, Bruce, incredible. But one question."

"What’s that, Mike."

"Is golf an Olympic sport?"


Theodore Hamm


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2004

All Issues