Photos by Lisanne McTernan.
The locals at Freddy’s Backroom — a cozy Prospect Heights bar with a rabble-rousing clientele — could be found getting sloshed at an especially early hour on Sunday. At high noon, and with the assistance of a group of mildly drunken onlookers, manager Donald O’Finn was fastening a giant metal chain to the bar’s wooden counter.
The locals then handcuffed themselves to the chain and spent the afternoon watching football, drinking whiskey with their free hands.
The so-called “Chains of Justice” were being erected for the day when mega-developer Bruce Ratner begins construction on his beleaguered Atlantic Yards project, demolishing the the buildings on the block. The project will span about 20 acres and will include a New Jersey Nets arena and a 16-high-rise complex.
That day could come as soon as January; Ratner’s bond financing has gone briskly and his #1 customer, Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov, is poised to take over the Nets, who hope to play at Atlantic Yards, bringing a flood of cash that should grease the project’s way.
The bar, which is owned by Ratner and is located in the footprint of the project, has been at the forefront of the opposition to it, hosting fundraisers to fund the various legal challenges to the project and anti-Atlantic Yards art exhibitions.
A huge hurdle to the project was cleared in November, when the New York’s highest court backed the state’s decision to grant Ratner eminent domain rights, though four other legal challenges remain).
State Senator Bill Perkins sent a letter to Governor David Paterson on Friday, questioning the legal authority of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation to issue the $500 million in tax-exempt bonds to Ratner.
“I don’t want it to come down to that,” said bar manager Donald O’Finn, referring to the possibility that he and the bar’s clientele would actually block the demolition by chaining themselves to the bar, whiskey in hand. “But if it does, we’ll do it.”