Sitting down with Michael Galinsky
Chapel Hill native Michael Galinsky’s film, “Battle for Brooklyn,” is a documentary that zooms in on New York City’s demolition of a Brooklyn community to make way for a basketball stadium and real estate development.
At the heart of the story is Brooklyn resident Daniel Goldstein, who fights for seven years in court, on the street and in the media, to defend his home and community from the project and its army of lawyers, public relations officers and political allies.
Staff writer Walker Minot talked with Galinsky, who will speak at the FedEx Global Education Center Wednesday, about “Battle for Brooklyn,” the Occupy movement and sports.
Daily Tar Heel: How did you come across the story for the documentary “Battle for Brooklyn”?
Michael Galinsky: My partner and I had wanted to do a documentary talking about the media, and our daughter went to day care about a block from the site. We read about the story in the (New York) Times and it sounded like a press release. The story was wrong; it said that this wonderful thing was going to happen and didn’t say that a lot of people lived there and how they were going to be affected.
DTH: How long did it take to make the documentary?
MG: Eight years. When you talk about these things, it’s weird to think that my daughter was one-and-a-half when we started and now she’s almost ten. When you get involved in something like this it is a very interesting journey.
DTH: How do you feel about the attention that the documentary has received?
MG: Good; you know when you make a film you want people to see it. And when you make it well, you want people to pause and think of it as something that’s not generic. We want people to think deeply about the issues presented in it and talk with people about the issues presented. The more attention the film gets the more conversations take place. It was great to see that two or three people with a video camera and some elbow grease can actually reclaim the narrative as opposed to what people want to believe and what was put forth.
DTH: The film seems to fit in well with a lot of current attitudes. How has the reaction been among Occupy groups and people looking to advance that cause?
MG: I think the film has resonated with people thinking about the Occupy protestors. It’s funny, now a development like this wouldn’t happen because there’s been a shift in public understanding of the process that I think has been significant. So that’s why it’s even more important to show the movie, to show people what the future can be like. I watched the Super Bowl Sunday night, and had a lot of fun, but the fact is that the Indianapolis Colts pay the city $250,000 a year to play there, less than they pay for a reserve fullback. The city’s on the hook, that’s what always happens in these cases.
DTH: So your film relates to people’s experiences in cities with sports teams elsewhere?
MG: Absolutely. There’s a situation in Los Angeles where the city council almost unanimously voted to build a football stadium near the Staples Center, and they don’t even have a team there. Developers say it will create 7,500 permanent jobs, but Yankee Stadium only has 27 permanent jobs. These things are said and they become quasi-fact, but they’re just not true. That’s something this movie is about. The media keeps printing press release after press release without scrutinizing if they’re lies or truth. This film tries to do a real investigation of the effects people experience.