Brooklyn Matters

Urban Neighborhoods on the Brink of Change - Who Makes the Decisions?
Year Released
Film Length(s)
60 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


Brooklyn Matters is a riveting look at how big real estate, politics, community voices, and the desperate need for jobs and affordable housing clash in one of the largest development proposals in the history of New York City. The film is important for anyone concerned with who has a voice and who has a vote in shaping the future of our cities.

Featured review

It can be difficult to clearly communicate to the public the relevant details and urgency of such a complex and fraught project. For this reason BROOKLYN MATTERS is particularly welcome; the film is a clarion call on an issue of great significance.
Richard Moe
President, National Trust for Historic Preservation


A few powerful men have tilted the landscape in Brooklyn in favor of big real estate development at the expense of urban livability. Disregarding time-honored urban planning principals and manipulating a desperate need in the African-American community for jobs and affordable housing, they have pushed their own interests forward—luxury housing and a 18,000-seat sports arena.

The project poses vital, timely questions that are relevant to cities across the country: What role does economic justice play in government-sponsored projects? Who represents the community? Should taxpayer money go to acquire private property for a sports arena? What and who determines if an area is “blighted?” What is the proper use of eminent domain? Should traffic-intensive projects be approved without mandatory mitigation measures? Does the public have a right to know about the use of public finances in large-scale real estate projects? The dangerously close alliance between government and real estate is a condition that threatens many cities and a full exploration of the risks that come with this type of concentration of power is an important inquiry. Brooklyn Matters brings a depth of expert commentary to the debate and introduces many important community voices that have struggled to be heard.


Lays bare many of the challenges facing our nation's cities today, but none so compelling as the threat to democracy. Who benefits? Who pays? Most importantly, who decides?
Gregory D. Squires
Professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University
BROOKLYN MATTERS is a passionate film about the city's soul. In this film we meet people who are struggling to understand the costs and benefits of the biggest mixed-use project to hit New York City in years. The film's empathy with their need for housing and jobs makes Brooklyn's challenge come alive for viewers in all cities of the world.
Sharon Zukin
Professor of Sociology, City University of New York
A dramatic, incisive and clear-eyed portrait that will enliven both graduate and undergraduate courses in urban and community studies, race and class, economic and social justice, and related subjects.
Robert Lake
Professor of Planning and Public Policy, Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University
This is a superb teaching tool. Even those who don't share the advocate's view at the heart of BROOKLYN MATTERS cannot avoid the powerful questions it raises.
Xavier de Souza Briggs
Associate Professor of Sociology and Urban Planning Director, The Community Problem-Solving Project, MIT
A powerful documentary by a well-respected filmmaker, BROOKLYN MATTERS is a must see for all who care about the future of their neighborhoods and the role that public policy and process plays in determining that future.
Marilyn Gelber
Former Commissioner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection
Of all the protesting voices and hundreds of thousands of words in opposition to the proposed Atlantic Yards development, nothing is as convincing as Isabel Hill's excellent film.
Stuart Pertz
FAIA, Former Member of the New York City Planning Commission
It wasn't until viewing Isabel Hill's film that I realized the true scope of what is at stake for the future of Brooklyn in proceeding with the development of the Atlantic Yards in its present form.
Carmi Bee
FAIA, RKT&B Architects & Planners
BROOKLYN MATTERS is a remarkable film that slowly, quietly, calmly reveals the extreme ugliness at the heart of one of the most ill-conceived mega-development schemes in New York history.
Francis Morrone
Architectural Historian
Isabel Hill's revealing documentary about the proposed Atlantic Yards project takes an honest look at the complex role that race, class, power, and money play in the redevelopment of our communities and calls for a more open discussion about equitable urban development.
Stacy Sutton
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University
A powerful look and indictment of how red-carpet treatment for big real estate substitutes for any real planning skill or capacity by public agencies in New York City.
Jon Orcutt
Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
This brilliant, eye-opening film focuses needed attention on the most crucial development issues of the day.
Roberta Brandes Gratz
This hard-hitting polemic gives a new voice to the movement seeking to stop or redirect the project as currently proposed by Forest City Ratner Companies and Gehry Partners.
There are in fact unexpected harmonies among the diverse opposition chorus shown in the film.... Both left and right now seem to agree that this project is too large and dense, and that state officials are both abusing the government's condemnation powers by using them to favor one powerful developer, and overriding the city's normal public review process.
Gotham Gazette
Gotham Gazette
Throughout the film, which features interviews with community residents and civic leaders, Hill's background as an urban planner provides an astute, critical frame of reference for presenting the larger and more alarming aspects of Atlantic Yards.
Brooklyn Based
Brooklyn Based
...a fascinating case study of how class and race get wound up in development disputes, one that's relevant to Toronto's continual battles with developers.
NOW Toronto
NOW Toronto
The documentary "Brooklyn Matters," made by Brooklynite Isabel Hill, is a leading example of the explosion of advocacy films on local issues - particularly changing neighborhoods.
City Limits
City Limits

Awards and Screenings

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2014
American Institute of Architects, 2007
Historic Districts Council, 2007
Pratt Institute, 2007
Municipal Art Society, 2007

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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