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Article Summary

This article is sports and urban development research that explores a $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards projects and the politics of race, class and environment that surrounds this project (Sze, 2009). The project’s name is the Atlantic Yards project for Brooklyn Nets basketball team. A professional basketball team is the biggest outcome that developers expect from this project in the historically African American habitat New York City. Besides the construction of a professional sports stadium, the project will create open space and recreational facilities. Previous environmental justice studies have focused on construction of pollution facilities that mainly affect surrounding community which is politically side-lined. This article, on the other hand, finds some politics of race, class and environment in the so-called positive amenities construction. Critics describe the open space expected from this project as public parks or undeveloped land in the city.

The author uses Pellow’s environmental justice framework in addressing environmental justice in this project. An analysis of conflict should encompass four important factors analyzed by this environmental justice framework. The problem of environmental racism emerges in this study, and the author defines this as the unequal distribution of environmental benefits and pollution burden based on race. In New York City, there exist liberalization of urban space that has associated social, political and historical factors.

The multi-billion project has numerous economic, legal and architectural issues. Politics of race emerge because the project takes 13 acres out of public space into private hands and with these displacing people previously occupying the place. Neoliberalization of urban space in the city is an issue in this project (Sze, 2009). Ratner Company is the corporate developer of this project and is in competition with another company which is in a coalition called Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Ratner Company has strong political connections and has past development projects in Brooklyn that are the main point of focus for the competing company.

The two competing companies hold different positions for the Atlantic Yards project and have material evidence to support their positions. Various scholars have examined the controversies of this project and have found data with critical and political implication. The author concludes that there is a fourth face of power hidden in the controversies of this conflict. This hidden face of power neutralizes environmental justice movements and community empowerment projects. A paradoxical existence of this power appears because the author says that the face might not be so hidden. The investor in this multi-billion project engages in publicity to market the project and make it acceptable to the surrounding community (Sze, 2009). The politics of race and environment that emerges from neoliberal urban development projects emerges in this article and the importance of environmental justice, and other movements as well.

This article finally explores some important interlinking themes in environmental justice studies. According to Pellow’s framework for environmental justice, there are some implications on social stratification by race and class where those negatively affected by the stratification shape the struggle for environmental justice. There is, however, a recognition that the community struggling for environmental justice may be in support of neoliberal economic development which later affects them. This creates a paradox in the field of environmental justice which many scholars talk about.

Sze, J. (2009). “Games” of Race, Place, Nostalgia, and Power in Neoliberal New York City. Sports and Environmental Justice, 33(2), 111-127.