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December 31, 2004

The year in review: The good, bad and mostly ugly

The Newark Star Ledger:

There were also plenty of changes here at home. And that wasn't necessarily good news.

New York developer Bruce Ratner bought the Nets for $300 million and announced his plans to move the team to Brooklyn by 2009. On the court, the team failed to reach a third consecutive NBA Finals. The Nets had their 14-game Eastern Conference playoff winning streak snapped en route to losing to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team parted ways with Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles in off-season cost-cutting moves.

"That was a dumb move," Kozlowski said. "Ratner decided to listen to people who knew nothing about basketball."

The Nets rerouted again this season by trading for Toronto guard Vince Carter in an attempt to pacify Jason Kidd and breathe life into the organization.


Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

Cousin Brucie: Ratner Lands Nets to Bring Big-Time Sports Back to Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Best of 2004

Though he’s still hearing it from local community boards, angry New Jersey residents and every Nets fan from Passaic to Park Slope who thinks he knows how to run an NBA franchise, Bruce Ratner made Brooklyn sports history this year.

“What was only an idea less than a year ago is quickly becoming a reality,” Ratner said in August after having his ownership ratified by representatives from all 30 NBA teams.

Ironically, the Nets’ scheduled relocation will fall on the 50th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ departure from our fair borough in 1957.


Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Top 10 Stories of 2004: #2, Tale of Two Stadiums

Gotham Gazette:

Brooklyn, meanwhile, wants the Nets basketball team, now in New Jersey, to play in a proposed arena on Brooklyn site Walter O'Malley spurned before taking his Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. In January, real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who now owns the Nets, presented a plan for an arena for them, designed by Frank Gehry. The plan for the area around Flatbush and Atlantic avenues also includes office space, residences and retail. Much of the opposition centers on the displacement of an estimated 1,000 area residents and businesses as well as concern about increased traffic in the neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

Change of Heart?

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

But something must have got to Ebenezer Bruce in the days leading up to Christmas because he admitted earlier this month that he had made a mistake in letting Martin go to the Nuggets for a pair of draft picks.

The first step to realizing you have a problem is admitting you have one.

Suddenly, and inexplicably, Ratner caught the basketball bug, and has probably grown tired of columnists like myself ripping his every move.


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

December 29, 2004

Residents fight to save homes. Developers out to prove neighborhood is blighted.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov 25, 2004: Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse formed in Norwood, OH to fight the city's use of eminent domain for reasons of blight.

New group leaders - as well as some council members - take offense to the possible blight designation. They call the study a ploy to pressure property owners.

"If this block is blighted, then 75 percent of Norwood is blighted," said Nick Motz, a new group leader who owns a business, Wilker Design, at Edwards and Edmondson roads. "There are people that want to sell their property. That's fine. But those who don't shouldn't be forced to hand it over to another private person."


This significance of the sister struggle in Norwood from the Nov. 25th Enquirer only became clear at the end of November when Forest City Ratner Exec. VP Jim Stuckey revealed that the State was planning on using "BLIGHT" as the reason for condemning private property in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Nick Motz's quote from the article can be adapted to Brooklyn:

"If the blocks between Flatbush, Pacific, Vanderbuilt and Dean are blighted, then nearly all of Brooklyn is blighted."

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Carter scores 25 in Nets win

NJ Nets beat Chicago 84-80 in the first game after Vince Carter's inauspicious debut.

Sportsline: "Carter stays cramp-free to lead Nets past Bulls"
NY Daily News:"Nets Bullish at end"

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

December 28, 2004

Ratner's brother and partner defends detainees' rights, but is silent on eminent domain

During a slow news day, NoLandGrab will cast its net over a wider area to see what comes up. Here's one for our readers' end-of-year contemplation:


Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, holds a copy of a report detailing the experiences of former Guantanamo detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, and Rhuhal Ahmed, while addressing reporters during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004. The report claims that the men were held in open cages in the sweltering Cuban heat, with scorpions and snakes roaming the cells, and that they were forced through brutal treatment to make false confessions. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


Brooklynites' beef with Michael Ratner is that while he tirelessly fights for the constitutional rights of detainees in Guantanamo, he continues to condone, with his NJ Nets investment, the threatened abuse of the 5th Amendment (eminent domain) to quell property owner's 1st Amendment rights (free speech). Property owners who have sold to "Brother Bruce" under the threat of eminent domain must sign gag orders that "prohibits them from speaking out against the arena or attending anti-arena rallies and public hearings" (Brooklyn Papers, May 15).

Michael Ratner has been a role model to many conscientious citizens who are fighting Ratner's plan. These activists are still scratching their heads and wondering when their hero will break his silence or divest his intrest in the Nets.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Carter debut promising, but...

Ratner's latest acquisition, Vince Carter scored 23 points in his debut in a performance that was pure Vintage Vince. Carter showed the flashy brilliance that made him the NBA's 1999 Rookie of the Year, but as he left the game in overtime due to hamstring cramps, questions persist as to his condition and ability to stay healthy during the season. The Nets lost 100-90 in overtime to fall to 9-17.

Sportsline game recap
Sportsline: "Calamity Vince off to typical start"
NY Daily News: "Vince & wince for Nets, Cramps & loss spoil his debut"
Newsday: "Carter limps off in debut"

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

December 27, 2004

Community groups seek inside track to Ratner bucks

The Brooklyn Papers:

Members of both BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) and the New York chapter of ACORN (Alliance of Community Organizations for Reform Now) — which both support the Forest City Ratner plan — say they are already providing to the developer services for which they could later be hired, acting as community gateways to jobs and housing.


Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Carter to make debut with Nets

Detroit News: Ratner hopes Carter will have many of the answers for his detractors: disillusioned fans, the press, & Jason Kidd.


"I'm going to make a lot of people eat their words when it's time," Carter told reporters in New Jersey last week. Carter was referring to the avalanche of criticism he took on his way out of Toronto about how his game and his status in the league had deteriorated.

The Nets are 9-16 heading into Carter's debut, and there are a lot of issues still on the table. Namely, will his acquisition be enough to keep Jason Kidd happy and in New Jersey? And, can he co-exist on the court with Richard Jefferson -- who plays essentially the same position and the same style as Carter.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

December 26, 2004

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the Lip

I love Caring Bruce Ratner acting as if the whole tri-state area should give him the game ball now that the Nets have made this deal for Vince Carter.

How come I have a hard time believing Rod Thorn, one of the good guys, every time he says Jason Kidd isn't going anywhere?

more Lupica...

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

December 24, 2004

Yard Battle: UNITY vs. FCRC

Brooklyn Downtown Star:

Until recently, one of Ratner's best arguments for moving forward with his mammoth vision was the lack of coherent alternatives. Marshall Brown and his political patrons are currently working overtime to change that. The UNITY plan, designed by Brown and sponsored by City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, has recently been making the rounds of press conferences, workshops, and community meetings.

Last Wednesday was the first time Brown got a chance to present his baby, formally, to a community board. "This is not a done deal," he immediately informed the Land Use Committee, speaking of Ratner's plans. "There are better options for this site and this is one of them."


Brown's UNITY Plan proposes: * no eminent domain condemnation * average height of buildings, 10 stories * no buildings over 17 stories * build on 11 acres, not 24 * no street closings * adding streets to "stich" neighborhoods together * more retail space

Check out the details in the article.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

Eminent Domain Watch: "Ask Bush Administration not to take sides in Kelo v. New London"

ED Watch:

The Bush administration is considering the submission of an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court supporting the City of New London in the appeal of Kelo et al to a ruling which allows the condemnation of private property other than for the "public use" stipulated in the Fifth Amendment. See Threshold of a misstep by Clint Bolick.

Please email or otherwise contact the White House and the Dept of Justice asking that the administration not take sides in this issue. The president won the last election in large measure because of the support of people who strongly believed he would defend their constitutional rights against overly intrusive government activism. While the use of eminent domain to increase local tax revenues may seem like a viable solution to current local budgetary shortfalls, it's a shortsighted approach that often does not work and is certainly not worth the undermining of one of our most basic principles.

The email addresses are as follows:
The White House: president@whitehouse.gov
The Dept of Justice: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov


Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Hearing on MTA fare hike

New York Games:

ASSEMBLYMAN BRODSKY: Are you prepared to open the MTA’s processes to other proposals for that site, if nothing else is noted to test what the market place value it might bring?

MR. KALIKOW: The problem with opening up the process is –- I don’t know if you open up the process if that doesn’t make it –- the buyers may be hesitant to make a firm bid not knowing whether absolutely positive if they could get the property. [p. 39]

MR. KALIKOW: We also need to remember that somebody, who is bringing an NFL team to the region, or somebody who is bringing an NBA team to Brooklyn, I agree that as long as they full value, and long as full value was achieved, I think there is a benefit of having an NFL team or an NBA team over just having five more apartment houses or ten more office buildings. [p. 70]

Download transcript

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

December 23, 2004

Groups call for MTA to get top dollar for Atlantic Railyards

The [MTA] will have to provide service for these new riders and pay for relocating the yard; it should not be made to sell its real estate for anything but a full, fair price.

Recent Newsday and New York Times stories noted how the MTA, in its time of fiscal crisis, was looking to its real estate holdings to make extra revenue. The Atlantic yard site is one of these valuable parcels of real estate that could provide the agency with hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue. This revenue is desperately needed to cover $16 billion in unfunded needs in the MTA’s 2005-2009 capital program, and to pay for service improvements in Brooklyn, like a pedestrian tunnel to connect the Jay Street-Borough Hall and Lawrence Street subway stations. Transit riders should not be forced to pay higher fares as private endeavors benefit from large government subsidies.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

2 Groups Sue to Halt Action on Jets Stadium

The New York Times:

The battle over a proposed $1.4 billion football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan entered the courtroom yesterday when Cablevision, community groups and transportation advocates filed two lawsuits that could tie up the project.

The lawsuits, which challenge the stadium on environmental grounds, could succeed in thwarting the plan even if they are thrown out of court, if they manage to delay construction for a significant period. Stadium opponents said they hoped that the litigation would push back the beginning of construction until July 6, when they expect the International Olympic Committee to skip over New York and pick Paris for the 2012 Olympic Games. Opponents predict that the stadium effort will then lose momentum and die.

Brooklynites are watching the West Side stadium process closely because the Atlantic Railyards will be going through the same process. Without a Cablevision-sized corporation to bankroll the lawsuit, Develop Don't Destroy is raising money from the community. REMEMBER TO GIVE GENEROUSLY. All donations are tax-deductible.

December 23, 2004

2 Groups Sue to Halt Action on Jets Stadium

he battle over a proposed $1.4 billion football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan entered the courtroom yesterday when Cablevision, community groups and transportation advocates filed two lawsuits that could tie up the project.

The lawsuits, which challenge the stadium on environmental grounds, could succeed in thwarting the plan even if they are thrown out of court, if they manage to delay construction for a significant period. Stadium opponents said they hoped that the litigation would push back the beginning of construction until July 6, when they expect the International Olympic Committee to skip over New York and pick Paris for the 2012 Olympic Games. Opponents predict that the stadium effort will then lose momentum and die.

The 75,000-seat stadium for the Jets is the centerpiece of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's effort to transform the Far West Side of Manhattan and win the city's bid for the 2012 Summer Games. City officials have said they expect to defeat any legal challenge to what they have described as one of the most rigorous environmental reviews in city history.

One suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday by West Side residents, a small-business owner and Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden and views the stadium as competition. It challenges the city's recently completed environmental review, saying it was a process "characterized by manipulated data, baseless assumptions, incomplete disclosure and a distortion of the project's significant environmental impacts." The other suit more narrowly focuses on the city's finding that more than two-thirds of fans will take public transit or walk to Jets games.

In a statement, City Hall dismissed the broader lawsuit as the work of "lying monopolists," referring to members of the Dolan family, which controls Cablevision. The statement called the suit an "ill-disguised and frivolous attempt" to rehash earlier allegations.

The Jets and their supporters say they are confident of winning in court, whether victory comes before or after the International Olympic Committee meeting in July. If the suits are thrown out, the Jets can immediately start work on the project, because they expect to have obtained all the necessary political approvals by that time. Under the terms of their deal, the Jets would invest $800 million in the project, while the city and the state would contribute $300 million each.

In any event, the broader lawsuit contends that the city underestimated the volume of cars and taxis that would flow to and from the stadium on game days because it relied on a flawed survey of 600 Jets season ticket holders. The survey found that about 70 percent of the fans arriving at the 75,000-seat stadium would arrive by public transit or on foot.

Quoting a phrase used in an e-mail message between a Jets executive and consultants for the city, the lawsuit said the survey contained "push questions" intended to elicit responses that would suggest a more limited effect on traffic.

City officials insisted that the survey was a legitimate effort and said they ultimately used a more conservative number in the environmental review: 68 percent of the fans would arrive by public transportation. Yesterday, they released a Department of City Planning memo from June 9 showing that in an initial response, 69.3 percent of those surveyed said they would use mass transit. In response to a push question, the number rose to 76.7 percent.

The results of the survey, the lawsuit said, distorted the assessments of traffic, noise and air pollution. Even so, the review acknowledges that the project would barely meet clean air standards, the suit said.

"Government decision makers cannot make rational decisions about one of the largest and costliest projects in city history when the information on which they are relying is inaccurate, misleading and unreliable," said Randy Mastro, a lawyer for the groups. "This intentional manipulation of traffic data undermines the entire environmental review process here."

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Mastro said the groups were seeking a new environmental review, which could take months to complete, and an injunction against the construction of the stadium.

The other suit, by two advocacy groups - the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Straphangers Campaign - was also filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. It says the city "underestimates the traffic and related impacts of the proposed stadium," because it relies on a survey whose methodology is "notoriously inaccurate," according to the Tri-State group.

The two groups wanted to separate themselves from Cablevision and the ongoing feud with Mayor Bloomberg to focus on the issues in a nonpartisan manner, one person involved in the suit said.

The plaintiffs say they do not oppose a $1.4 billion plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a separate but related element in the city's plans for the West Side.

The city's environmental review was undertaken by the Department of City Planning and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in connection with a proposal to rezone a 59-block area and to extend the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to 11th Avenue and 34th Street.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Impact on Minorities

Long Beach Press Telegram: Opinion

Municipalities across the nation are begining to come to terms with the fact that, "Redevelopment is a Democratic program that makes Republicans rich."

Redevelopment is not a partisan issue and it shouldn't be a racial one. However, in many redevelopment cities, low-income and minority residents are disproportionately impacted by the need to revitalize the urban core.

In "Redevelopment: the Unknown Government," [Municipal Officers for Redevelopment Reform (MORR)] exposes the myth of economic development by noting that "Redevelopment's extreme bias in favor of retail and against industry has created low-wage jobs at the expense of skilled workers." MORR also cites an enormous amount of data that demonstrates no net per-capita income gains due to redevelopment activity.


Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

Nets: Jefferson's 42 steal the show

The Newark Star Ledger: Can Richard Jefferson turn around the Nets' fortunes? For one night he owned the court by putting 42 points on the board as the Nets edged out the Celevland Cavaliers in a 92-90 victory to improve their record to 9-16.


Other Nets news:
* The New York Daily News: "LeBron is flashback to Vince's kid stuff"
* Los Angeles Daily News: "Carter vows not to let Nets down"
* Sports Illustrated: "Why Vince, but not K-Mart?"

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

December 22, 2004

Nets looking for tickets to ride

The Newark Star Ledger: Ratner has been faced with difficulties in generating ticket sales for the ailing Nets. Can marquis players from other teams boost ticket sales or will they have to keep giving away thousands of cheap seats and offer deep discounts courtside sections for every home game?


Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

December 21, 2004

NoLandGrab: Property Rights lines redrawn

Today's headlines illustrate emerging trends in eminent domain politics as the traditional lines have been redrawn. The property rights coallition is mostly composed of advocates against the abuse of the governments coercive powers (i.e. search and seizure, use of force, taxation and eminent domain). Nader's Raiders provided the organizational and legal support to Poletown residents who lost their battle to save their neighborhood and the libertarian Institute for Justice has been doing the heavy lifting for the past decade.

"The Condemned," which is running in the current issue of Mother Jones, signals the awakening of liberal groups who have remained silent on eminent domain because condemnations in blighted neighborhoods (slums and ghettos) have been used as last-ditch efforts to revitalize these areas. Eminent domain has also been recently explored by environmentalists as a way for the state to set aside land whose ecosystem is endangered. However, the growing use of eminent domain to seize land coveted by local developers inordinately affects minorities and the elderly. Their champions, the NAACP and AARP, have joined groups like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and traditional conservative groups to file friend of the court briefs supporting the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London. These groups are asking the court to reign in the definition of "public use" so that local governments can no longer act as realtors to favored developers. [All 25 briefs.]

"Threshold of a misstep," from the conservative Washington Times, reports on a troubling development. The Bush administration is planning on filing a brief in support of the City of New London. Conservatives are vexed by the administration's position and, thus far, have failed to get any response from administration representatives. Advocates for small government have long decried the government's excessive use of eminent domain, especially to seize property for private corporations. It seems that the Bush administration is siding with New London despite the fact that the federal government's position is not even represented in this case. Are the torchbearers of conservative values eschewing their base for the interests of big business?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

The Comdemned

Mother Jones: Things are getting ugly as a local developer has divided a neighborhood that the city has condemned because it is blighted. Five holdouts are causing a stalemate with other property owners who want to get on with their lives.

Standing in the Gambles' tranquil back yard, with its lilacs and bird feeders, it's hard to understand how anyone could think this property was blighted. Horney points out that by the study's criteria, nearly anyone's home could be taken by the government. "You could call the White House blighted because it's over 40 years old, it's got a lack of parking, it's surrounded by commercial development. I'm sure there is noise. If you tore it down and put in a big office building, certainly it would generate more taxes than Mr. Bush living there."


Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

Threshold of a misstep

The Washington Times: Commentary by Clint Bolick
Bolick, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice, reports on the Bush administration's betrayal of his conservative base by supporting the public misuse of eminent domain.

One would expect the Bush administration, with its professed support for strict constitutional construction and for property rights, to join the dozens of conservative and libertarian groups arrayed in this effort, or at worst to sit on the sidelines. But for reasons unfathomable to President Bush's core constituency, the administration is seriously considering filing a brief opposing property rights.

When opposition briefs are filed next month, expect a score of taxpayer-financed briefs by state and local governments seeking to protect their limitless power.

That the Bush administration would consider joining them is bizarre.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

December 20, 2004

7-16 Nets still down in division dumps

Last night's 110-99 loss to Toronto was a win for the Nets, in the "Battle of the Bums" for last place in the weakest division in the NBA.

Sportsline: "Murray pushes Raptors past New Jersey"
The Daily News: "Nets need help from Carter, quickly"

Of course, Ratner can't make a move without NoLandGrab rubbing salt in his wounds, so let's just say that Carter departs Toronto in a cloud of controversy.
The Daily News: "Report: Vince was a snitch. Told Sonics what to expect"

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

December 19, 2004

In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound

hellno.jpg The New York Times: Is this the end of the NY Times' blackout on covering the fight against the arena? Long time Prospect Park resident, Patti Hagan, points out the "ludicrous" nature of Ratner's plans to condemn parts of her neighborhood by declaring the private property in the footprint, "blighted."

""My house happens to be 135 years old, but that's what people seek here."

Besides, she said, few of her neighbors are fond of Mr. Ratner's recent work, especially the Atlantic Center mall.

"I don't know if one is allowed to make a counter-blight argument," she said, "but it could be made for everything that Ratner has built around here thus far."


Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the lip

Lupica on the "other" land grab:

Only an MTA as weak as the one we have at the present time would roll over this way for the Bloomberg-Doctoroff land grab on the West Side.

You know the land grab I mean.

The one where Bloomberg and Doctoroff - rich guys both - take care of other rich guys like Woody Johnson and try to build a new football stadium for Johnson while playing the whole town for suckers.

And not a single politician from Albany to the Henry Hudson Parkway has the guts to stand up to a mayor who still doesn't have an approval rating of even 50%.


Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Playoffs possible with Vince

carterv.jpg Newsday: Will the talented guard come back from his Achillies injury and give NJ a chance to squeak into the playoffs? Basketball columnist Barbara Barker reads the tea leaves for the Vince Carter trade.

Though it is clear that "Ratner has no one but himself to blame for the ugly transformation" from champs to chumps,"things just got a lot more interesting at the Meadowlands." Did Ratner get Carter as an early Christmas present for Kidd? Ratner hopes that a change in fortune will keep Jason Kidd from wanting out.


Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

December 18, 2004

Three Community Boards Hold Off Commitment to Ratner Project

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle recaps the most recent letter from the Community Boards.


Posted by amy at 11:10 AM

A New York City parable: Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk

The World Socialist Website draws a parallel between Pale Male and Brooklyn residents:

Not just individuals, but whole neighborhoods can be summarily evicted to build multimillion-dollar sports complexes and other high-profit developments. In one instance among many, a new arena for the Nets of the National Basketball Association, proposed in a lower-income Brooklyn neighborhood by developer Bruce Ratner, will most likely be built despite the protest of residents, who face the destruction of their homes.


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

'Zo Trade Removes Ratner's Chief Complaint Officer

NJ Nets owner, "Caring" Bruce Ratner, aquired Vince Carter from Toronto in a trade for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and two first-round picks. This deal removes his chief critic on the Nets, Alonzo Mourning, and signals to Nets fans that he is serious about winning. The gamble for Ratner is whether or not the injury-prone Carter will ever play at 100% and will it be enough to keep Jason Kidd from continuing to insist on being traded to a playoff contender.

And of course, The New York Post: "Killed in New Jersey by everyone short of Tony Soprano, the terms of Ratner's role as a villain are hereby completed." * "GOOD RIDDANCE"

Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

December 17, 2004

West Side Stadium Rubberstamp Hearing

The Empire State Development Corporation's West Side Stadium hearing is a harbinger of events just beyond the horizon for Brooklynites. Pro- and anti-stadium activists clashed during the rubberstamp hearing where the decision to approve the plan will come down to the representatives of "Three Men in a Room" (Pataki, Bruno and Silver).


* The New York Sun: Stadium Hearing "Resembles Rival Pep Rallies, CHANCE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT TURNS INTO SCREAMING MATCH"
* Newsday: Tempers flare at stadium hearing
* New York Daily News: "Friends, foes of stadium scrimmage"

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

"Abuse of Power" by Steven Greenhut on Holiday Wish Lists

Townhall.com: Thomas Sowell

For those people you think would appreciate a good book, even if it is not upbeat, there are a number of outstanding choices.


One is "Abuse of Power" by Steven Greenhut, a very eye-opening little book which exposes the misuse of the power of eminent domain by local politicians across the country to demolish working-class neighborhoods, in order to turn the land over to developers who will build shopping malls, casinos and other things that will pay more taxes than the homeowners were paying.

Those people who are constantly denouncing "greed" almost never apply that term to what the government does, no matter how unconscionable it may be, as the routine misuse of eminent domain has become, with its Robin-Hood-in-reverse redistribution of wealth.


Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Washington DC Council rejects MBL financing scheme

The Washington DC City Council narrowly approved the plan to build a ballpark for the Montreal Expos. The ammended plan called 50% of the stadium costs to be privately financed, which MLB has rejected.

The New York Times: "Baseball Rejects Terms for Washington Stadium"
Field of Schemes: "Whither Youppi?: The sequel"

The DC case has been watched with interest by Atlantic Yards activists because of it would require public financing and condemnation by private property by eminent domain, all this fuss for promises of jobs and economic development (familiar arguments to Brooklynites).

These recent developments in DC are interesting because it illustrates the increasing public backlash against stadium/arena deals that never make good on their promises. Politicians are beginning to react to increased public scrutiny of these sweetheart deals. Remember to WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

December 16, 2004

Supreme Court to hear New London eminent domain case Feb. 22


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Feb. 22 in a New London eminent domain case that could clarify when governments may seize people's property for economic development projects.

Twenty-five groups with assorted political views have filed briefs in support of the Fort Trumbull residents who are resisting the city's effort to take their houses to make way for offices and a hotel that will strengthen the city's tax base.

The 25 amicus briefs filed in the case represent the whole spectrum of political and social philosophy.

One theme common to many of the amicus briefs is the belief that eminent domain, specifically when invoked for economic development, inflicts harm on residents while awarding profits to private developers who might use their money and influence to win special indulgences from governments.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

Who Will Be Master of Eminent Domain?

Brooklyn Downtown Star:

NYU's panel discussion about the current state eminent domain offered several points of view at the national and local levels.

"Is there anyone here from the ESDC?" civil rights attorney Norman Siegel wanted to know, referring to the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency that is expected to condemn up to 13 acres of private land in Prospect Heights on behalf of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

"There was," replied an NYU law student, "but they left." Siegel was clearly hoping for a confrontation, but the departure of his foils in government gave him a chance to score a quick rhetorical point. "They're here for the national discussion, but not the local one," he commented disgustedly.


Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Summit Calls For Community Planning Reform

Gotham Gazette: Attendees at last month's Summit on Community-Based Planning examined the problems with NYC top-down urban planning model, the roles or the Community Board and what can be done to fix the system.


Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

December 15, 2004

TONIGHT: CB2 Committee Hears UNITY Plan

Community Board 2: Land Use Committee Meeting.

* Marshall Brown of the Atlantic Yards Development Workshop will present the community's UNITY Development Plan for the Atlantic Railyards.

6:00 PM
Dibner Auditorium, Polytechnic, 5 Metrotech.

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Eminent Danger: Cash-strapped cities use entrepreneurs' property to lure big businesses

Along with homeowners, small business owners are the usual victims of eminent domain abuse as local governments favor big businesses in economic development planing.

Entrepeneur Magazine:
By Joshua Kurlantzick

Dino Paspalakis was sure his business was secure. For 17 years, as co-owner of Joyland Amusement Center, a popular arcade in Daytona Beach, Florida, he's been pouring his money into upgrades, drawing a consistent clientele, and carrying on the family business. His father opened the arcade in the 1960s, after working every snack bar on the Daytona Beach boardwalk to make money to buy it, Paspalakis, 40, says.

But now he faces a threat. The city of Daytona Beach, using a legal doctrine called eminent domain, is trying to take the property and give it to developers to build high-rise condos and hotels. In February [2004], they told me they'll be seizing the land. Developers are pushing out [independent] shops, he says.

Paspalakis' story is hardly unique. Historically, city and state governments used eminent domain to take over property for public infrastructure, such as highways and schools. But in recent years, as cities have assumed more responsibility for encouraging economic development, they have extended the power of eminent domain and started repossessing property to give to developers and other large companies.

Eminent domain has increasingly been used as a redevelopment tool to transfer private property from one owner to another, argues Mark Brnovich of the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix think tank. And more often than not, the private property lost belongs to small companies.

A recent report by the Institute for Justice, a Washington, DC, public-interest law firm, found that about 10,000 properties across the nation were taken or threatened by eminent domain between 1998 and 2002. At least half those projects involved businesses being condemned or threatened with condemnation. In Colorado alone, the number of eminent domain cases rose 28 percent between 1999 and 2002, according to an investigation by The Denver Post.

While seizing these properties, cities argue they can transfer domain to private businesses seeking to develop the area because that economic development will be for the public good. Often, cities don't take into account how the move affects the small companies. Small businesses can be decimated by eminent domain, says Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. Location is crucial to their success, and when they move, they can lose out. And while property owners are supposed to get 'just compensation,' few states require that the compensation take into account improvements put in by an entrepreneur.

In Mesa, Arizona, Randy Bailey, owner of Bailey©'s Brake Service, claims the city offered him only one-fourth of what he estimated his moving costs would be. Paspalakis says the city of Daytona Beach is offering far less than the true value of his beachfront property.

Until recently, most small businesses haven't fought these eminent domain cases, in part because legal fees would be high. But Berliner believes that may be changing. A few entrepreneurs have tried to get their businesses listed on state and national registers of historic sites, which can protect them from seizure. More important, small businesses have begun to sue cities and win cases against eminent domain. In July, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned a 1981 ruling in the famous Poletown case, which held that cities could serve the public good by handing property to private companies. Attorneys representing small businesses believe the Poletown decision will make municipal officials think more carefully before using eminent domain. Already, small businesses are suing cities in more than a dozen other states. The U.S. Supreme Court has now decided to consider whether cities are abusing eminent domain.

But the eminent domain trend is unlikely to change without legislative action. In their most recent sessions, 10 state legislatures considered bills that would reform eminent domain by offering more protection to property owners. Yet only in Colorado did a piece of reform pass, and that legislation had less protection in it than the original draft of the bill. Small-business groups haven't been active in pushing against eminent domain, says Berliner. Unless that changes, more entrepreneurs might find themselves in Dino Paspalakis' position.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Ratner Mea Culpa

Ratner's mea culpa in yesterday's New York Times has finally dealt with the 6-ton elephant in the room. Now when are the Nets going to deal Kidd?

Sportsline: Knicks 87, Nets 79
Denver Post: "No signings, trades appear on horizon"
Rocky Mountain News: "Martin, on Nets' 'mistake' in trading him: too bad"

Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

December 14, 2004

Neighborhood Residents Divided Over Shopping Mall

Gotham Gazette: Community Gazette for District 35:

Ratner's malls have transformed the neighborhood, but what do chain stores & lack of parking this mean to the small business owners.


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Brooklyn Got a New Bogeyman.
Walter O’Malley, rest in peace. Here comes Bruce Ratner.

freddys.jpg New York Magazine:

Freddy’s, in effect, became not just the epicenter of the anti-Nets movement, but a metaphor for all of Brooklyn’s anti-development angst. Over the past decade, the borough’s quiet streets, regal architecture, and fuhgeddaboudit charm have been embraced by those priced out of Manhattan, but it wasn’t until this year that Brooklyn seemed on the cusp of an irreversible extreme makeover. Behemoth condos are sprouting up along the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts. A movie studio is being shoehorned into the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Corporate glass towers will soon rise downtown. And a cruise-ship dock may appear in Red Hook, where sunburned Carnival customers will stumble out to explore . . . what? Ikea? Brooklynites are gripped by an acute panic: This time, the outer borough really might become the new Manhattan. Or the new Long Island.


Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Box Stores in Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner has brought you box stores and national chains. Are box stores coming to a neighborhood near you and what are the consequences?

Gotham Gazette: "Shopping in the City"
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "Target Keeps An Eye on Competition in Brooklyn"

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

"It's nice to Rumor" about Kidd Trade

Ratner on Kidd trade:

"It's nice to rumor about it, but as far as I'm concerned... it's not in the cards."

More rumoring:
Newsday: "Nets keeping Kidd on hook"
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "Ratner Likely To Ship Point Guard Out"

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Nets' Owner Staying a Stormy Course

The New York Times: In a confessional interview, Caring Bruce is pulling out all the stops hoping that fans will forgive him for not standing up to his business partners and agreeing to trade Kenyon Martin.

The Nets have the second-lowest attendance in the league, behind Atlanta, at an average of 13,538. Ratner said the Nets gave away close to 3,000 tickets a game. He said that performance was obviously "the critical item."

But don't worry folks:

The Nets are upgrading the experience of the entertainment and providing greeters in the parking lot and at gates. They are sponsoring postgame concerts to draw fans.

Oh, and before we forget to mention it, the Times included a disclosure of their business relationship with Ratner. NoLandGrab is crestfallen -- it's hard to beat up on the Grey Lady when they adhere to common journalistic practices.

Nets' Owner Staying a Stormy Course

Bruce Ratner had not yet been approved as the principal owner of the Nets, and he knew next to nothing about basketball. But as he watched the Nets in the playoffs last spring and felt the electricity around the team, he recalled having this gut reaction, "We've got to keep Kenyon."

Ratner, a 59-year-old real estate developer, now spends his time trying to persuade fans not to abandon a team that plans to abandon New Jersey for Brooklyn by 2008 and a team that abandoned Kenyon Martin in a series of jumbled decisions last summer.

Ratner took responsibility for Martin's departure to Denver. "It hurt everything," he said during an interview last Friday at the Nets' offices. "It was a mistake."

The Martin trade caused a loss in attendance and in revenue, but more significantly, it might cause the loss of Jason Kidd, the Nets' franchise player. So upset about the organization's dismantling of a team that had won back-to-back Eastern Conference titles - Kerry Kittles was traded and Lucious Harris was let go - Kidd has asked to be traded.

Kidd has not rescinded that request since returning from knee surgery four games ago and helping the Nets win three of those games. But his tone is far different from 2001, when he first arrived and boldly predicted that the Nets would unseat the Knicks as the No. 1 team in the metropolitan area.

For three years, the Nets won 12 of 14 games from the Knicks and swept last season's first-round playoff series. But as the teams meet tonight for the first time this season - at Continental Arena - the pendulum has swung back to the Knicks, who are atop the Atlantic Division at 10-10. The Nets are 7-13.

"We're starting to play a little bit better; we still have a long ways to go," Kidd said with little conviction after a practice. "With the changes we made, everybody feels we're vulnerable, but you still have to go out and play the game."

Ratner does not want to trade Kidd, who has five years and $90 million left on his contract. "It's nice to rumor about it, but as far as I'm concerned, and as far as Rod is concerned, it's not in the cards," Ratner said.

"When you're looking at Jason, when he's healthy, he's one of the best players in the league," Rod Thorn, the Nets' president, said yesterday. "There are only a handful of players like him who make everybody better."

It was no coincidence that Richard Jefferson, whom the Nets have signed to a six-year, $73 million deal, was named the Eastern Conference player of the week yesterday. He averaged 24.5 points, 51.6 percent shooting, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in four games.

"You never want to trade a great player unless you can make a deal to make your team better," Thorn said. "I expect Jason to be here."

Several people within the Nets organization believe that Kidd will not finish the season with the Nets and that Ratner is focused instead on cutting costs for his real estate venture in Brooklyn and selling luxury suites for the new arena. "It's not better than a 50-50 chance he will stay," a person briefed on the Nets' decision making said.

Ratner denies that he wants to cut costs. But he sees the paradox in the Nets' losing money as a result of trading Martin.

"Compared to our sales last year, my guess is it will be off only 12, 15 percent in dollars, which isn't a lot, 5 or 6 million dollars," Ratner said. "Would it have cost us more than 5 or 6?" he said of re-signing Martin to a maximum contract starting at $12 million. "Yes, but when you think about it, it could be 5 or 6 million dollars for a whole bunch of years."

The principle mistake, Ratner said, was not committing to signing Martin weeks before Denver made its maximum salary offer along with a promise for upfront payments, something the Nets could not afford.

But Ratner's priority at the time of free-agent signings, was ensuring that the sale was approved. "There was a lot going on," Ratner said.

According to three other people who were involved in the Martin negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity, there was chaos between the group of investors from Goldman Sachs, which had put up close to $50 million of the $300 million asking price for the Nets. The Goldman Sachs group was opposed to Martin signing and threatened to pull out if he were re-signed.

"In hindsight, I should have felt more confident and pushed to do it earlier," Ratner said. "I got persuaded by people who I thought knew more about basketball than I did.

"They did know more, they probably still do, but I think I had a much better sense of the intangibles. I really tried to do a real analysis of the intangibles and my conclusion was overwhelming, it's better to keep Kenyon."

But the ownership group determined that the N.B.A. would have a luxury tax, doubling the team's expenditure if they re-signed Martin. Now it seems almost certain there will be no luxury tax assessed this season.

The Nets found they could not match Denver's offer sheet, which promised Martin front-loaded payments. He was traded for three draft picks, and he could earn $92 million over seven years.

Goldman Sachs pulled out as an investor just before the sale last August, and was replaced by a group of previous Nets owners. The deal was approved. Thorn, so frustrated by the experience, wanted to apply for the Toronto general manager's job, but Ratner would not let him be interviewed.

Thorn eventually signed a five-year deal worth roughly $20 million. Coach Lawrence Frank, 34, signed a relatively cost-effective deal worth roughly $2 million a year.

What has emerged from the summer, in Ratner's mind, is a new sense of direction and a comprehensive plan to win back fans. But is it too late?

During the Nets best seasons, attendance was still one of the lowest in the league. Kidd complained about the team's thin marketing efforts that did not promote him.

Now Ratner, who is the development partner of The New York Times Company in a new building for the newspaper's headquarters, has instituted sweeping changes. The Nets are giving out free tickets to school groups and trying to engender community sponsorship. Cheap seats in the upper decks cost $15, although on the night Kidd returned, they were mostly empty.

The Nets are upgrading the experience of the entertainment and providing greeters in the parking lot and at gates. They are sponsoring postgame concerts to draw fans.

And yet, the Nets have the second-lowest attendance in the league, behind Atlanta, at an average of 13,538. Ratner said the Nets gave away close to 3,000 tickets a game. He said that performance was obviously "the critical item."

Thorn and General Manager Ed Stefanski control that aspect. Ratner is hiring a financial officer.

"We're going to spend money," Ratner said. "Are we going to spend the Knicks' $100 million dollars? No, we can't do that. We're losing a lot of money. There's a limit."

Ratner, the chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, will often quote from the book "The Wisdom of Crowds," by James Surowiecki, the financial writer for The New Yorker. Ratner strongly believes that people - fans - and not experts have the right idea. He has met with season-ticket holders at breakfasts and focus sessions.

The only problem is getting the crowds into the arena. One player might have the power to do that.

"Yes, we don't have Kenyon but we have Jason," Ratner said. "If we keep Jason, there's no reason why we shouldn't be very good."

"If" being the operative word for the Nets these days.

Jason Diamos contributed reporting for this article.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

December 13, 2004

Kidd eases back, and Netssee immediate returns

The New York Daily News:

Kidd may not be quite his old flashy self yet after knee surgery. But he surely hasn't lost his touch when it comes to winning and making those around him better. The Nets have won three of their four games with their captain back, and that's with him averaging 21 minutes per game.

During the offseason, an unhappy Kidd told the Nets that he wanted to be traded to a team like Minnesota or Dallas, and the more the Nets win, the more Kidd's trade value should increase.

But of course, the more the Nets win, the harder it will be for Nets president Rod Thorn to trade his superstar since the Nets believe Kidd can help them win the division. Also, owner Bruce Ratner has become a big fan of Kidd's play.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

Yo Ratner!

NY Daily News: You know that "Caring" Bruce Ratner's profile is increasing when he lands in Rush & Molloy's celebrity gossip column.

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner huddled with Jay-Z for an hour at the Forest City Ratner/Nets holiday bash the other night at Jay-Z's 4-0/40 Club. Def Jam's new prez is part owner of the team...

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

December 11, 2004

ESDC Response Letter

At the last general meetings of Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 (on December 8 and 9 respectively) the response letter that was sent to the Empire State Development Corporation was distributed.

View the letter

Posted by amy at 6:37 PM

Institute of Justice opening Supreme Court Brief for Kelo v. New London

QUESTION PRESENTED: What protection does the Fifth Amendment’s public use requirement provide for individuals whose property is being condemned, not to eliminate slums or blight, but for the sole purpose of “economic development” that will perhaps increase tax revenues and improve the local economy?

View the brief

All 25 Amicus Briefs

Posted by amy at 6:31 PM

Kidd Going West

Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

The one thing New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has down pat is NBA double-talk. He doesn’t say what he means, and he doesn’t mean what he says.

...and I daresay he applies this skill in other areas as well...


Posted by amy at 4:08 PM

Ratner on Nets: 'I care a lot'


"You're always upset when somebody says something, but I know it's not true," Ratner said before dropping by the Nets' morning shootaround. "I know it's not me. I care a lot about winning. I'm very competitive. I care a lot about this team and it doing well."


Posted by amy at 3:57 PM

Arena $ analysis stalled

The Brooklyn Papers:

Five months after a city fiscal watchdog announced that it would analyze the cost to taxpayers of developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed $2.5 billion Atlantic Yards project work has yet to begin on the study.


Posted by amy at 3:45 PM

ABA’s ‘Heat’ will beat Nets to Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Papers discusses the new semi-pro basketball team coming to Brooklyn. Wonder of wonders, the 'Heat' will arrive here without 17 skyscrapers and illegal land grabs. "Sherman Givens, a co-owner of the semi-pro team, said the Heat will start play next December at either a renovated 3,000-seat arena at Downtown’s Long Island University, or at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights."


Posted by amy at 3:40 PM

The Defiant One: Art store in arena footprint expands


The Brooklyn Papers calls Simon Liu a "maverick" for opening an art store in the proposed footprint.


You can see more pictures of Simon's woodworking shop here.

Posted by amy at 2:41 PM

December 10, 2004

To Pay Debt, Transit Agency Considers Property Deals

The New York Times: This article looks into the real estate aspect of the MTA's scramble to close the gap on their staggering deficit. The Atlantic and Hudson railyards (Nets arena & Jets stadium sites) are part of their real estate portfolio for which they are seeking valuations for eventual sales and leases.


The Times mentions that the MTA is looking to use the profits from Jets and Nets railyard deals to help put their fiscal house in order. However, they fail to note that the MTA is not getting top dollar for these properties because they are not being offered to the highest bidder. Also, it will cost the City (i.e. local taxpayers) hundreds of millions of dollars to build platforms over both sites.

The MTA is proposing fare hikes. Also, after last week's "lukewarm" response in Albany to raise taxes across the state, the MTA has now proposed to divert $1 billion dollars in NYC sales-tax revenue.

Are City taxpayers getting shafted? You decide:
* No-bid real estate deals to hand-picked developers * Fare increases * Diversion of sales tax revenue * Service cuts * Booth closings


In an effort to raise more than $1 billion, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to sell or lease for commercial use many of its 14,000 properties, including train stations, commuter parking lots and maintenance yards.

The move to raise money comes as the agency, struggling to deal with a growing fiscal crisis, is expected to vote next week to increase fares. In a separate step to help the authority, state officials are also considering taking up to $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue that goes to New York City and instead giving it to the authority, people briefed on their discussions said yesterday.

As part of its proposal to raise money from its huge portfolio of properties, the authority is looking to hire a real estate consultant and broker to review its landholdings and buildings and draw up a plan for marketing them to developers and business owners. The agency has already solicited proposals to renovate a handful of historic train stations in the suburbs to accommodate retail shops and offices, similar to what it has long done at Grand Central Terminal.

At the Hastings, Pelham, Port Chester, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, Tuckahoe and Yonkers stations on the Metro-North Railroad, for example, the authority wants to retrofit the entire buildings for commercial use, with the exception of space for a ticket booth, rest rooms and a public waiting area. The authority said the distinctive antique stations, some with tile or slate roofs, offer businesses an "excellent opportunity to quickly create an acknowledged presence in each community."

In an 11-page request for proposals from real estate consultants that was issued last month, the authority said it was also interested in promoting development opportunities at other stations and parking areas on the Metro-North and Long Island lines, as well as "all rail yards, fan plants, substations, bus depots" and other properties belonging to the New York City Transit system.

The attempt to generate revenue from its vast real estate holdings is the latest example of unorthodox steps pursued by the transportation authority and government officials to deal with a growing financial crisis that has forced the authority to consider a mix of fare increases and service cuts when its board meets next week.

Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, said in an interview this week that by turning its attention to real estate, the authority hopes to raise $1 billion for its capital budget from the sale of property and air rights over authority-owned yards, as well as money for its operating budget from the stepped-up leasing of train stations for shops and offices.

"Given this agency, and the demands we have to meet, no stone can be left unturned," Ms. Lapp said. "A billion dollars is a real aggressive target. But it is possible. We've got to try, and that's what this request for proposals is all about."

The $1 billion goal, she said, includes estimated profits from the sale of air rights over rail yards in Brooklyn for a basketball arena for the Nets and on the West Side of Manhattan for a football stadium for the Jets. But Ms. Lapp said she could also envision, for example, selling parcels of surplus property for commercial development along the 1,000 miles of right-of-way the authority controls near commuter rail lines and bridges.

By committing the proceeds of property sales to its capital budget, which finances the construction or improvement of physical assets, the authority would not be narrowing the multibillion-dollar gaps projected for its operating budget in the next few years. But it would allow the authority to avoid going further into debt by using the cash to pay for capital improvements, such as the purchase of new subway cars.

The authority's plan to raise fares and impose service cuts to close deficits in its operating budget has angered rider advocates and politicians, who say the state and city must increase their subsidies for mass transit and the authority should do more to cut administrative expenses. Any additional income from leases and rentals, which currently total roughly $200 million a year, would help balance the operating budget.

Unlike some of its earlier initiatives, like the idea to sell naming rights, the real estate plan has elicited mostly positive reactions. Andrew Albert, who represents the New York City Transit Riders Council on the authority's board, said the transportation authority needs to seek all possible remedies for its fiscal quandary.

"It's probably a good idea," Mr. Albert said. "They are facing a tremendous shortfall, and anything they can do, shy of cutting service or safety, it seems to me is prudent to do."

Roger A. Lowenthal, a senior vice president of the Greenberg Group, a real estate consulting service in Hewlett, N.Y., said there would be a limited number of retailers interested in renting space in a small suburban train station, although larger transit hubs, like Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central, are more attractive. At most stations, he said, the customer base is "the breakfast crowd" in the morning, rather than at night, when commuters are in a hurry to get home and would not take the time to hang around and shop.

"At the smaller stations, you have a steady base of Monday-through-Friday traffic, but it is limited because you're only going to get the people who go in and out of that specific station by train," Mr. Lowenthal said. "From a retailer's perspective, it's a small percentage of the potential."

At the Pelham station, the authority recently signed a lease agreement with Houlihan/Lawrence, a Westchester County real estate company that is opening an office in a 500-square-foot part of the building that once housed a taxi stand. Stephen Meyers, the company's president, said Houlihan/Lawrence was paying for renovations needed for the new office, in keeping with requirements of the State Historic Preservation Office.

"Opening an office in a train station is definitely a little different, but that's part of the attraction," Mr. Meyers said. "We saw it as an excellent opportunity to have an incredible presence in town, because so many people come through the train station every day."

While the plan to generate revenue from agency properties was devised by authority officials, Gov. George E. Pataki has also asked his administration to explore options to raise money for the agency. Although the administration has not signed off on any plan, one of the options they are weighing calls for taking $1 billion worth of the city's sales tax, which had been used to pay off the city's remaining debt from the 1970's, and giving it each year to the authority.

That money is no longer needed to pay off the remaining 1970's debt, since the State Legislature agreed in 2003 to pay it off over the next 30 years to help the city recover from the economic aftershocks of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - a move that Governor Pataki vetoed, and then unsuccessfully sued to stop after his veto was overridden.

And that part of the sales tax - one percentage point - is set to be phased out in 2008, when the law that shepherded the city through the fiscal crisis of the 70's expires. But the city is counting on getting the tax extended in its future financial plans.

So if the money were to be diverted to the agency before or after 2008, it would have the effect of blowing a $1 billion hole in the city's budget, which is already facing multibillion-dollar shortfalls.

Aides to Governor Pataki emphasized that while the administration is weighing many options, it had not settled on any plans or proposals yet. "The governor hasn't made any decision, and there are any number of proposals out there," said Lisa Dewald Stoll, the governor's communications director.

But several people said that aides to the governor had mentioned the proposal to use the sales tax in recent discussions about how to carry the M.T.A. through its current crisis.

Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, declined to comment on the preliminary proposal.

But a city official said he had a hard time believing Governor Pataki would support such a plan. "The bottom line is it would create a $1 billion hole in the city's budget," the official said. "I don't think the governor's office would be interested in doing that."

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who oversees the transit agency as the chairman of the Assembly's committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, said he was troubled by the proposal to get city taxpayers to bear the burden of keeping the transit system afloat.

"The governor has no right to punish the people of New York City to keep the transit system of New York City in good repair," he said.

Last week, the agency's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, who was appointed by Governor Pataki, outlined his own proposal to increase a half-dozen business, real estate and fuel taxes to raise $900 million a year to help pay for the authority's five-year rebuilding program. His proposal got a cool reception in Albany.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Fact and Comment: Don't Junk Property Rights

Forbes Magazine: Publisher Steve Forbes outlines the "free marketeer's" case that the power of Eminent Domain "ultimately means less economic progress" and that local rent control laws results in developers choosing to build more lucrative coop and condos leading to less affordable housing for lower-income residents.


Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Sheldon Silver Says He Won't Back West Side Stadium Plan

NY1: NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has stated that he would not support the West Side Stadium, citing many concerns that have not been addressed by the Mayor.

"We are going to create 20 million square feet of commercial space in Midtown Manhattan to compete with the business looking for space downtown," said Silver. "That's the real question, and that commercial development is really the threshold of the financing of that stadium."

For the stadium to be approved, a three-member panel which includes Silver must unanimously support the plan.


Silver must apply the same scrutiny to Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. The tremendous amount of office and residential space "is the threshold of the financing" of the arena. State subsidies also extend to the fact that the cash-strapped MTA will not be getting top dollar for the railyards site. The representatives of the same "three men in a room" (Pataki, Bruno & Silver) could decide the fate of Ratner's plan. Silver could insist that Ratner's plan go through the local city Land Use review process (ULURP) or even withdraw his support, altogether during a state review process.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

December 9, 2004

City, Olympics bigs pushin' over Games budget cushion

The New York Daily News: Deputy Mayor Doctoroff is trying to sell the idea that the city won't be on the hook for any of the cost of the Olympics. From the sound of Doctoroff's quotes it seems like he doesn't believe it himself.


Background info & NewYorkGames.org commentary

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Supreme Court Asked To Take A Closer Look At Eminent Domain

The New London Day: The New London's local daily's coverage of the Supreme Court case filed by local residents. The brief for the petitioners, homeowners in the Fort Trumbull area, was filed last week.

Its brief contends that a man's ownership of his home or business is tenuous if the government, eager for more taxes, can seize his property and hand it to a developer who offers the promise of economic growth that will trickle down to the city as a whole.

To shore up private-property rights, the institute asks the court to shrink the broad interpretation of the Constitution's public use clause to allow eminent domain only for such traditional uses as the laying of utilities and the clearing of blight. If the court is not willing to go that far, the attorneys have asked that governments be allowed to use eminent domain for business growth only if they can present clear evidence that a project likely will produce the promised fruits of jobs and taxes.


Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Eminent Domain Watch posting Kelo briefs

Eminent Domain Watch links important articles and resources regarding eminent domain. They are posting links to the Kelo briefs.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

December 8, 2004

Board 6 Seeks Environmental Review of Ratner's Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Ernest Migliaccio, Land Use co-chair, began the discussion by saying an EIS is not enforceable enough, while Forest City has promised to sign a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Hammerman said the EIS was more important because it was required, while a CBA isn’t.

Board member Howard Graubard pointed out that it’s significant for CB 6 to give its input on the EIS, CBA and any other Atlantic Yards-related issues.


Posted by amy at 4:23 PM

Architect Presents Alternative Plan for Atlantic Yards Area

marshall.jpg Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

At a meeting sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn on Tuesday, a local architect, speaking to opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, talked about an alternative plan for the Downtown site.


See the UNITY plan here.

Posted by amy at 4:14 PM

Cities Use Eminent Domain To Clear Lots for Big-Box Stores

The Wall Street Journal:

"Desperate for tax revenue, cities and towns across the country now routinely take property from unwilling sellers to make way for big-box retailers. Condemnation cases aren't tracked nationally, but even retailers themselves acknowledge that the explosive growth of the format in the 1990s and torrid competition for land has increasingly pushed them into increasingly problematic areas -- including sites owned by other people."

The Wall Street Journal: MEDIA & MARKETING
Cities Use Eminent Domain To Clear Lots for Big-Box Stores

December 8, 2004; Page B1

Big-box retailers have a message for local landowners: Move.

And the command has the force of law, much to the dismay of Darrell M. Trent, a part-time developer in Pittsburg, Kan. Mr. Trent thought he scored a coup this year when he leased part of a seven-acre parcel his family had owned since the 1960s to a local plumbing supplier.

But the city took the property this spring through its powers of eminent domain and handed it to a developer with a different tenant: Home Depot Inc.

Says Mr. Trent: "After having carried it all this time, for them to step in and take it away from me -- it really denies me my corporate livelihood," Mr. Trent says.

Desperate for tax revenue, cities and towns across the country now routinely take property from unwilling sellers to make way for big-box retailers. Condemnation cases aren't tracked nationally, but even retailers themselves acknowledge that the explosive growth of the format in the 1990s and torrid competition for land has increasingly pushed them into increasingly problematic areas -- including sites owned by other people.

The village of Port Chester, N.Y., is clearing an entire business district -- including a marina, a housewares importer, an antiques store and several other businesses -- to make way for Costco Wholesale Corp., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and others. Costco took over another site after the city of Cypress, Calif., condemned a vacant lot as a "public nuisance" to stop a Christian group from building a religious center there. After a public uproar, the city found another site for the church , which says it is satisfied with the ultimate outcome.

The township of North Bergen, N.J., moved to condemn a store in a shopping center occupied by Kmart Holding Corp. in favor of a developer who plans another Home Depot. When the city of Maplewood, Mo., invited retailers to compete for a chunk of choice land, developers for Costco and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fought a nasty legal and political battle. Wal-Mart's developer won -- and 150 homes and businesses were condemned.

Next spring, Costco will face its second shareholder resolution in two years asking the company to "adopt a policy for land procurement and use that incorporates social and environmental factors," particularly, the wishes of local property owners and community groups. The resolution was brought by Christian Brothers Investment Services Inc., New York, which says its concerns include "reputational risk" from eminent-domain use. "If the company continues to operate in this manner, with the amount of publicity and protests, this could end up impacting shareholder value," says Julie Tanner, a Christian Brothers spokeswoman.

Property-rights advocates say the use of condemnation for big boxes is an abuse of government power that subsidizes big retailers at original landowners' expense. "They're the new generation of robber barons, like the railroads of the 19th century" says Gideon Kanner, a professor emeritus at Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles. "They look upon this as the new way of doing business."

The U.S. Constitution and most state constitutions allow the government to take private property, with compensation, for a "public use." But courts over the years have allowed cities and towns to stretch the definition to include economic-development projects, on the principle that one private owner can better create jobs and increase tax revenue than another.

Retailers say they're doing nothing wrong. Costco, based in Issaquah, Wash., is the most outspoken of the big retailers in defense of the practice. In a candid letter to a concerned shareholder two years ago, the company's senior vice president for legal and administrative affairs, Joel Benoliel, acknowledged that "probably dozens" of its projects involved eminent domain "or the threat of it." He wrote that if Costco didn't do the deals, "our competitors for those sites, like Target, Home Depot, Kmart, Wal-Mart, BJ's, Sam's Club and many others, would ... and our shareholders would be the losers."

Mr. Benoliel says the practice doesn't violate laws or any rules of the free-market economy and rejects as "simplistic" libertarian arguments that condemnations should be confined, as some property-rights advocates argue, to roads, bridges and purely public uses. He says communities, balancing their fiscal needs against the rights of a few, often clamor for a Costco store. "We are viewed as a solution to a problem," he says.

Whether condemnees get full value for their property is a matter of bitter debate. Property owners invariably complain they are strong-armed into accepting low-ball offers. In New York's Port Chester, a working-class city on Long Island Sound, developer Bart Didden says that village redevelopment officials this year offered him $250,000 for a lot that a separate local taxing authority assessed last year at $560,000. He is challenging the village's condemnation in federal court in White Plains, N.Y.

John Watkins, a special counsel for the village, says all offers were based on "highest approved appraisals," as required by state law. He says he understands Mr. Didden's reaction, but adds that tax assessments and appraisals serve different functions -- "apples and oranges," as he puts it.

Also in Port Chester, property owners and tenants alleged in several suits filed since 2000 in state court in White Plains, N.Y., that G&S LLC, the town-appointed developers, tried to prod them into settling pending condemnation suits by, among other things, removing sidewalks in front of a restaurant and filling its parking lot with rubble; tearing out street lights around an antiques store and shearing off the roof of a still-operating coin laundry.

Doug Riley, a partner with closely held G&S, Port Chester, says the allegations are both untrue and "100% frivolous." He says that under its agreement with the town, the firm was required to proceed with the project, while working around certain properties still the subject of litigation. "We were proceeding in due course with the project as we were required to do by the village," he says. Suits involving the restaurant, the antiques store and laundry are pending.

Lately, cities' power to condemn property has come under increased legal scrutiny. In August, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed a landmark 1981 ruling, widely cited by other states, that effectively barred condemnations for purely economic purposes in that state.

Then, in September, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a suit brought on behalf of New London, Conn., property owners challenging the city's plan to clear nonblighted homes and businesses to make way for an office-and-research park. The case, brought by Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C., property-rights law firm, is the first the high court has heard on economic-development condemnations since the 1950s.

Last year, a federal judge sharply criticized Target Corp. for its role in a condemnation of a St. Louis site. The case began after Target, which was already renting a store on the site, asked its landlord for permission to knock down the store and build a larger one. When the landlord asked for higher rent, Target never called back and turned to a local alderman, who started condemnation proceedings, according to an opinion by Judge Charles A. Shaw in U.S. District Court, St. Louis.

Judge Shaw also found that Target "falsely" threatened the city that it would abandon the store if the condemnation didn't take place. He also found that the Minneapolis retailer and the city commissioned a "blighting study" that found the store's electrical and heating systems had indeed deteriorated -- but failed to note that Target itself was responsible under the lease for keeping the systems up. Finally, the judge found, when the city scheduled a public hearing on the condemnation, in November 2002, it sent notice to Target, but not to the landlord -- a trust representing the Aaron family of New York and others -- which didn't learn of the hearing until a month later.

Judge Shaw issued a temporary order halting the taking. Earlier this year, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the order, ruling the case should have been heard in state court. Edward M. Goldenhersh, a St. Louis lawyer for the landlord said the family was disappointed with the appeals-court ruling because the court "ducked the issue." The two sides settled afterward.

A Target spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay didn't return telephone calls.

Mr. Trent, the Kansan, had a special hardship fighting his case: When it was filed, he was serving as a U.S. ambassador with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He says the case began after he rejected a "low-ball" offer from Home Depot's developer, then flew to Baghdad. His lawyer tried to fend off the taking, but a state court in Pittsburg let it go forward this spring. Mr. Trent is challenging the compensation. That case is pending.

Allen Gill, Pittsburg's city manager, says Mr. Trent was well compensated, receiving more than $1 million for his property -- a large sum for rural Kansas. He also says Mr. Trent and another owner's opposition blocked a badly needed project that has already sparked other development in town.

"Does the greater good outweigh the inconvenience to the two?" Mr. Gill asks.

In a statement, Atlanta-based Home Depot said the project would bring "good paying jobs and economic development," adding that "the City of Pittsburg identified this site as an area in need of redevelopment, and the Home Depot was receptive to working with the developer who was negotiating with the city."

Write to Dean Starkman at dean.starkman@wsj.com
URL for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110245261831593568,00.html

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Talk of the Town, Financial Page: "It Pays to Stay"

The New Yorker: NoLandGrab readers are familiar with the Toledo case of a eminent domain abuse filed by the Blankenships that is winding its way through the appeals courts (see, Eminent Domain, Nov. 28). The deal the City of Toledo struck with Daimler-Chrysler for a Jeep manufacturing plant has spawned another lawsuit that has determined that corporate welfare is unconstitutional.

James Surowiecki outlines the pros and mostly cons of states lavishing subsidies on corporations. A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling might provide relief to municipalities who are forced to compete against each other using money that otherwise could be put to better use. The court in Cincinnati "ruled that the credits interfered with interstate commerce, which only Congress has the power to regulate."

[Corporations] have mastered the location-shopping racket, pitting cities against each other in search of a sweetheart deal.

The cities are often easy marks. The classic example, of course, is the new sports stadium: a team threatens to leave, and the home town panics, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a white elephant.


What does this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Ratner has demanded infrastructure improvements for the arena or the deal is off. Also, the reason public officials give for supporting Ratner's plan to build over 2 million square feet of office space is that we need to keep corporations in NYC. They subsidize and support the developer, and then do the same for the corporate tenants (see Metrotech). Meanwhile millions of square feet of office space is CURRENTLY being built in NYC, making economists worry about high vacancy rates in the future should the economy stagnate.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

December 7, 2004

Holiday cheer in Ratnerville

Fans For Fair Play:

It's now more than a month into the NBA season, and we've gone from autumn leaves to twinkly lights on Main Street.

But in Ratnerville, Bruce Ratner keeps insisting we happily accept the same grimy bag of coal he's been offering all year long.

Ratner's proposal is still what it was upon introduction at a goofball press event last December at Junior's Restaurant: 17 buildings, one arena, more office space than the Empire State Building, open space that isn't necessarily public space, no clear numbers on public money Ranter's demanding, investors fleeing, dicey financing schemes, and most of project's land still owned by people and entities not named "Forest City Ratner."

Fans for Fair Play commentary

Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM

Kelo v. New London


What protection does the Fifth Amendment's public use requirement provide for individuals whose property is being condemned, not to eliminate slums or blight, but for the sole purpose of "economic development" that will perhaps increase tax revenues and improve the local economy?

Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

DDDb, Press Release: Develop Don't Destroy Attorneys File Brief with US Supreme Court

BROOKLYN—Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (“DDDB”) has submitted an amici curiae (“friend of the court”) brief to the United States Supreme Court in support of the petitioners in Kelo v. The City of New London, a case that could overturn decades of abuse of the Constitutionally-granted power to seize private property (“eminent domain”). The brief was filed by Norman Siegel (former Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union) and Steven Hyman and Richard Farren of the law firm McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. The Supreme Court’s decision, expected by or before June 2005, will have major ramifications on Bruce Ratner’s proposed high-rise and arena complex in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Ratner’s proposal includes the possible use of eminent domain by New York State and City, who would take 11-13 acres of private property in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and transfer it to Mr. Ratner’s development firm, Forest City Ratner.

Ratner’s proposal includes the possible use of eminent domain by New York State and City, who would take 11-13 acres of private property in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and transfer it to Mr. Ratner’s development firm, Forest City Ratner.

In February 2004, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) hired Mr. Siegel and McLaughlin & Stern to represent residents, business and property owners in the proposed Ratner footprint. DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein said, “We are ecstatic to file this brief in support of the petitioners in this historic case. We have great faith that the Court will make the right decision and restrict the use of eminent domain to its original public use intentions. We have contended all along that Mr. Ratner’s proposed use of eminent domain is an egregious abuse of the law. Within the next half year, we fully expect the Supreme Court to vindicate our position.”

The power of eminent domain, established by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, was intended to allow government seizure of private property for a “public use.” Over the past decades “public use” has been broadly expanded by many courts to include claims of “economic development” and increased tax revenue. But in the past few years, some state courts have turned back this tide of abusive interpretation. The Supreme Court, in hearing Kelo, beginning in February, has given hope to property rights advocates and property owners across the country that the highest court in the land will reinvigorate the “public use” limitation and prohibit eminent domain takings for the purpose of “economic development.”

Mr. Siegel said: “The use of eminent domain has run amok, both here in New York State and across the country. We hope that the United States Supreme Court will hold in Kelo that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution limit the power of government to condemn private property for public use, but not permit it for private economic development. The decision in the Kelo case could substantially change the way in which eminent domain is implemented. We look forward to the end of the abuse of eminent domain.”

The epidemic of eminent domain abuse is not just statewide, but a plague across the nation. Groups from around the country—including such diverse organizations as the Property Rights Foundation of America, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and the Rutherford Institute— have also filed their own amicus briefs in support of the petitioners in Kelo.

To download a copy of the amicus brief: www.dddb.net/public/DDDBamicusbrief.pdf

For more information on Kelo: http://www.ij.org/cases/property/new_london.shtml

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

The NY Times: All the News WE See Fit to Print

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Apparently DDDb is so frustrated with the NY Times's incessant coverage of the West Side Stadium and virtual blackout on coverage of Ratner's plan that they have resorted to rewriting last weekend's lengthy editorial in order to point out the issues that run parallel between the two controversial developments. Topics covered: The Plan, The Money, The Process, The Olympics.


Shabnam Merchant's letter to the Editorial Board of the NY Times points out that their editorial board has "flatly refused" to meet with DDDb when all of the other dalies and the Wall St. Journal has.

NLG has beat up on The Times before on this page because as readers are well aware, you have to read the local Brooklyn Papers, Daily News and Post in order to get news on this issue. We don't mean to imply that the oversight by The Times has anything to do with the fact that they are business partners with Forest City Ratner in their new headquarters (NY Times will own and occupy the lower floors and FCR will own and lease out the upper floors).

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Press Hails "Comeback Kidd"

The return of all-star point guard, Jason Kidd, last night was made sweeter by a hard fought 88-86 win over Toronto.

Sportsline: Game Recap
The Daily News: "Call him comeback Kidd "
The Bergen Record: "Woj: Kidd must behave like a star"
The New York Post: "COMEBACK KIDD"

Beat Up Bruce Quote of the Day: NY Post

The conference is even more shallow than Bruce Ratner's rationale for breaking up a two-time finalist to avoid a luxury tax that may never be applied, for a move to Brooklyn nobody knows for certain will take place. The neophyte owners either don't care or understand how precious is a team with a chance; how dreary will be lame duck years of mediocrity; how the bottom line will be better if a winner is loaded onto the moving truck; how self-defeating is alienation of the star who finally lifted a misbegotten franchise.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

December 6, 2004

TONIGHT: UNITY Plan, Community Workshop

Find Out How Good Development Can Unite Communities, Instead of Dividing Them!

Also find out more about:
• The economic impact on our communities of the Ratner plan.
• The work DDDb is doing and how to get involved.

There will be an open discussion, idea-sharing and Q & A.

When and Where
Monday, December 6
7:00--9:00 PM
Seventh Day Adventist Church 88 Hanson Place (enter on South Portland)

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

December 5, 2004

Station Square at 25
Competition pushes old rail complex to focus on entertainment

While The Bruce dominates Downtown Brooklyn, what is Forest City Enterprises up to? Remember folks, Forest City Ratner "is an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises, the nation's largest publicly traded commercial real estate development company."

Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

These days, Station Square likes to bill itself as "Pittsburgh's place to play." Al Ratner won't settle for anything less.

Forest City has made no secret about wanting to add gambling to the mix. In buying Station Square from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for $25.5 million in 1994, it did so with an eye toward docking a riverboat casino on the banks of the Mon.


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Games cities play

The Newark Star Ledger: Forest City Ratner can look to its hometown of Cleveland for a prime example of how a stadium did not bring economic prosperity to a city.

Stadiums worth $700 million were designed to host Cleveland's professional sports teams and foster economic development. Instead, the downtown is faltering, the U.S. Census revealed the city is America's poorest and old insults are resurfacing


Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Offenseless Nets Beat Defenseless Hawks

NY Times: Atlanta's Defense Makes Nets' Offense Look Good
Nets fly by Hawks, now wait for Kidd
Sportsline Game Recap

Not every Net is happy this weekend... NY Post: MEETING LEAK HAS 'ZO MIFFED

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

Jets' Pennington Is an Inspirational Leader Even When He Is on the Sideline

The New York Times: An illustration and contrast of the different styles of injured leaders of regional sports teams as they rejoin the lineup.

For the first time this season, Kidd was hoping to test his postsurgical left knee tomorrow in a game, while Houston may play for the first time on the Knicks' current road trip.

It is not hard to pick up on Kidd's disdain for the Nets, who have been dismantled by the new owner, Bruce C. Ratner, who apparently bought the team as real estate chattel so he could build an arena in Brooklyn.

The Nets let their chesty forward Kenyon Martin get away, as well as their stable shooting guard Kerry Kittles, thereby alienating Kidd and Alonzo Mourning, who are apparently with the Nets to win a championship ring rather than to lead for leadership's sake.

Kidd may be coming back, but only to play his way to a team that, in his opinion, deserves his cranky excellence.


Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

December 4, 2004

OK, so The Times has the weakest coverage of Ratner's plan, but...

...the Grey Lady does cover related issues:

"Stop the Stadium in Its Tracks"
The Times Editorial Board analyses the Stadium deal and takes a position against Bloomberg's boondoggle, but has glossed over the arena controversy. The issues of Financing, Process and the Olympics run parallel to Ratner's plan.

"M.T.A. Seeks Tax Increases Over 5 Years"
The M.T.A.'s financial crisis was revealed in a second set of books. Now they're introducing fare increases with service cutbacks and talking about tax increases. Meanwhile, the state agency REFUSES to get top dollar for the Hudson and Atlantic Railyard properties by auctioning them off to the highest bidder.

"Social Services In City to Lose $100 Million: Restoration of Aid Is Seen as Unlikely"
Can the City afford Ratner's plan while the neediest continue to suffer?

"School's Windfall's Challenge: Spending It Well"
Pataki balks at fully funding NYC schools, but he's willing to secure giveaways for his school chum, Ratner.

In case you are wondering, the lack of arena-specific coverage probably has nothing to do with the fact that Ratner is their partner in the new NY Times Headquarters building. Hmm...

Posted by lumi at 12:42 PM

Lots of shouting, little info, at CB2 Atlantic Yards meet

The Brooklyn Papers: Jess Wislowski's wrap up of the CB 2, 6, & 8 co-sponsored developer presentation includes groups in attendance (including those bussed in), DDDb's UNITY plan press conference, Darnell Canada's outburst, affordable housing details, and Stuckey's public financing admissions.


Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Crowd to Ratner big: ‘Blight’ back at ya
Jeers rain down as Nets arena site is called a wasteland

stuckeylive.jpgThe Brooklyn Papers: Jim Stuckey is laying the groundwork for NY State to condemn private property in the footprint of Ratner's Atlantic Yard proposal by calling the neighborhood "BLIGHTED" in public meetings.

As if opponents of Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” plan didn’t already have enough reasons to dislike him, a top official of the development company has taken to labeling as “blighted” the six square blocks of Prospect Heights that the project would subsume.

NLG Commentary: While eminent domain condemnations for private development are under national scrutiry, this is the latest by-hook-or-by-crook tactic to be deployed by the developer. Ratner has made generous deals with 48 of 52 LUXURY condo or coop owners, offering little or nothing for lower-income residents. Usually class warfare is waged by rallying the neediest to your cause, not the greediest.


Posted by lumi at 9:43 AM

Nets: Kidd's a hit in practice

The Newark Star-Ledger

The best point guard in the NBA will make his debut Monday night against Toronto -- that is, if tomorrow's practice is as productive as yesterday's, when there was a palpable energy and enthusiasm in the team's practice facility that had been missing all season.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM


The New York Post: Another pro-basketball team coming to Brooklyn? This is not a test. The defunct American Basketball Association lives and is coming to Brooklyn.

Yet another professional basketball team is coming to Brooklyn.

More than a year after developer Bruce Ratner announced his intentions to bring his New Jersey Nets NBA franchise to Brooklyn, another partnership is now planning to form the Brooklyn Heat, which will play in the American Basketball Association next season.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM


The New York Post

Alonzo Mourning has been most vocal in his criticism of the Nets for their past moves and uncertain future while making his desire to play for a contender equally clear. Well, the Nets have tried to appease Mourning on all fronts.


Posted by lumi at 9:33 AM

December 3, 2004

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey Speaks for Over Two Hours, Says Nothing

BROOKLYN—Monday night at a Community Board organized “informational meeting”, Forest City Ratner (FCR) Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey, poster boy of the government/corporate revolving-door system, and point man for the FCR proposed 17 skyscraper and arena complex in Prospect Heights, spun a one-way PR lecture. The “information meeting” provided no information for the hundreds of citizens, community board members and politicians hungry for facts and details about Mr. Ratner’s land grab and secret, taxpayer-subsidized backroom deal.

The deeply concerned community, having suffered through the corporate welfare queen’s year-long PR campaign to convince the public that a private developer’s gain is the public’s gain, and that the imposition of a destructive, senseless, and reckless development plan on a diverse neighborhood is merely “collateral damage,” grew increasingly frustrated. Mr. Stuckey used a lot of big words, some of them real big, but managed to say nothing. Members of his grassroots “backup band,” ACORN and BUILD, accompanied the Ratner front man, chanting slogans and cheering throughout.

When Mr. Stuckey evaded a question about whether or not the proposed development site in Prospect Heights is “blighted,” a frustrated citizen yelled out, “you’re blighted.”

The dapper, Community Board 6 District Manager, Craig Hammerman, lost control of the meeting within minutes of the Q&A session. His inability to maintain decorum or decoration at the meeting was directly related to the fact that his Board, as well as CB 2 an 8, had set up a “meeting” format that only allowed for written and moderated questions, with no opportunity for follow-up or rebuttal from a questioner, leaving Mr. Stuckey with the last unctuous, platitudinal word each time.

The reigning PR Diva, Mr. Stuckey hit all of his high notes. Below are a few Stuckey classics, and some new insta-hits: * An intergenerational facility will allow young people to interact with seniors in more positive ways than harassing or mugging them on the street (no joke folks). * We are going to raise the bar and set a new precedent for how development is done in this city. * From the very beginning we’ve worked very hard to involve the community, and our availability here tonight is proof. * There are going to be no taxpayer dollars spent on our development, only on the affordable housing and infrastructure, which is the job of the city anyway. * From the very beginning this project was about jobs, housing, and bringing basketball to Brooklyn, and did I mention jobs and housing. * We didn’t buy the team to get a real estate deal.

Nathaniel Goldmine, Decorate Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson, wondered aloud, “Where does this guy get the balls? We’re not as dumb as he sounds, or at least as he pretends to be.”

Elected officials were reduced to shouting out and heckling along with their constituents. The closest the community got to hearing from a governmental body was when Mr. Hammerman read a letter, written by the pseudo-governmental, and unaccountable Atlantic Center Mall tenant, Empire State Development Corporation. The MTA and the City’s Department of Planning sent heartfelt thank you notes for the invitation, but had to decline because “everyone in the office will be at home watching the end of Ken Jennings winning streak on Jeopardy!”

To view the Ratner Proposal, please visit: www.ratnerville.com

DECORATE DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for urban design that will unite our communities instead of blinding them with more tacky neon signage.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 PM

PERSPECTIVE: Homeowners against eminent domain tracking case

AP, The Akron Beacon Journal:

Akorn, Brooklyn, with eminent domain, the song remains the same. "Eminent domain obstructionists" and homeowners, Carl and Joy Gamble fight to keep the home they've lived in for 35 years.

Maybe Ratner, his PR frontman Jim Stuckey and the Emipre State Development Corporation might try the Norwood, OH tactic:

The city and the developer have contended - and a judge ruled - that the city of Norwood had the right to use eminent domain to acquire the property and turn it over to a private developer as part of urban renewal. They also argued that eminent domain applied not because the area is "blighted," but is "deteriorating."

Joy Gamble's response:

"They're going to take it away from us for what it might become?" said Joy Gamble, who has her own views on what's deteriorating. "Everything's deteriorating, including my health," she said. "Maybe they'll condemn me, too."


Posted by lumi at 6:30 PM

December 2, 2004

The Plucky Jim Show

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Reed Jackson

A huge crowd and high emotion gave a public meting regarding Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) Atlantic Yards proposal the feel of a rock concert this week. Hundreds of Downtown Brooklyn residents showed up early for the meeting, which was organized by FCR and Community Boards 2, 6 & 8, forming a bustling line that stretched for blocks outside of the NYC Tech auditorium where it was held. Compounding the furor were partisans of both the pro and anti-Ratner forces, who fanned out across the edges of the mass, handing out pamphlets and often engaging in very vocal arguments with the people waiting to get inside.

This meeting was the latest and the largest in a series of events revolving around the Yards development, which would place massive residential and office skyscrapers, as well as a 19,000-seat arena for the New Jersey Nets, near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Such an ambitious project would court controversy enough. But the Yards’ possible use of eminent domain, as well as a sizeable chunk of taxpayer monies, has made the development the hot button issue of the past few years, and this meeting provided its largest stage yet.

As the two players with the most information to divulge, the MTA and the Empire State Development Corporation, failed to show, the “informational meeting” as it was billed, ended up being a three-hour presentation by FCR main man “Plucky” Jim Stuckey.

The MTA owns the rail yard currently sitting in the middle of the site; FCR and the beleaguered transit agency are in negotiations over the site, but little is known about the specifics of the transaction. The project will most likely go forward under the aegis of the state, whose review process requires an environmental impact statement to be drawn up, and public comment solicited. But with details of the project as vague as they are now, no statement can be fashioned.

“It’s impossible for me to answer that question because the process has yet to begin,” Plucky Jim said towards the beginning of the night, in what was to become a trademark statement, along with the “The [Draft Environmental Impact Study] will be in charge of analyzing that.”

Left without any supporting cast in front of a large audience, Plucky Jim lived up to his name, standing for over three hours, answering questions, some of them hostile, written on note cards in advance, from the crowd, and pleading his case.

Stuckey divulged little truly new information, instead delivering a pitch well polished from repeated use at community board and civic association meetings during the past months. On many occasions, he could have submitted his answers in advance as well.

His main thrust centered on the pending agreements FCR has reached with various community groups; including providing a certain amount of affordable housing in the project, and firing a certain amount of minorities during the construction of the development, and after, in the offices and stores within the finished complex.

Some of these points will be drawn uop in a Community Benefits Agreement, a legally binding agreement currently being negotiated by a number of community groups and FCR.

Asked about the city government’s proposed participation in the project, he said, “We’re simply asking the city to do what the city does, build infrastructure, which will be necessary to support this project.”

When queried regarding the amount of taxpayer money that the project could use in subsidies, Stuckey allowed a little spin to be put into play. “We are not trying to divert funds that are in play today,” he said. “[Any funds] will be based on incremental revenues that will be brought in by the project.”

Of course, these “future funds” are completely nonexistent at this point, and the amount of actual money that will actually be brought in by the Yards has been debated in several studies. But of course, with exact specifics regarding financing still pending, all opinions on the topic are still highly theoretical.

Towards the latter half of the long evening, Stuckey veered a bit off message, saying things like, “A single project can’t cure all the housing ills,” which were greeted less than enthusiastically by the audience.

But though revelations were few and far between, a few fireworks did go off. About midway through the meeting, a group of about 30 people began yelling at moderator Craig Hammerman, and loudly stomped out of the auditorium.

Led by Darnell Canada, a one-time member of Ratner ally BUILD, the group expressed frustration at the slow pace of the proceedings, and its wish to spur the wheels of progress. “We’re for the project,” he intoned in an interview outside of the auditorium. “We want jobs. You’d better be glad that we want jobs, because if we don’t work, we gotta do something to survive.”

“Darnell is a good guy. His interests are that of the community,” said Bruce Bender, a vice president at FCR outside the meeting.

Canada promised that a “demonstration” in favor of the Yards project would soon be mounted by his group. “Nothing’s gonna stop us from getting it!” he exclaimed.

Judging by the regular outbursts that reupted throughout the night, the audience seemed more sympathetic to Canada’s point of view. This changed however, as the hours drgged on, and union members, some of which were seen filling out the forms verifying their participation in a picket-line-type activity, and MetroTech employees, who were asked by their supervisor to come, according to one, lost patience and headed home.

Before the meeting, the Ratner foes, Develop Don’t Destroy held a press conference, touting their alternative plan for the Atlantic Yards, dubbed the UNITY Plan, a product of architect Marshall Brown and the Atlantic Yards Development Workshop.

“This is a model project for community development and forward thinking,” Brown declared. The “competitive proposal” claim to offer less density, and more retail and open space than Ratner’s plan.

The UNITY plan will be presented to the land use committee Community Board 2 on December 15.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Hell No, We Won't Go! A south St. Louis neighborhood raises a ruckus over plans to demolish homes for a shopping center.

St. Louis Riverfront Times: Thriving residential neighborhoods declared blighted, displacing families from their beloved homes, politicians favoring developers over constituents, tax deferment financing. This time it's in St. Louis, but the tactics are the same. The scourge of eminent domain is being fought off across the nation.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Nets' one-game winning streak comes to an end as franchise hits new lows

Sportsline: The NJ Nets capped their winning streak at one game in their 95-68 loss against the Washington Wizards last night. The Nets, now 3-12 during the Ratner-ownership era, broke and tied a handful of franchise records in last night's drubbing:

The Nets made a franchise-low 20 of 64 field-goal attempts (31 percent) and 27 of 45 free throws (60 percent). They also tied their franchise low with seven assists. The Nets' 68 points were the third-lowest amount the Wizards have allowed in franchise history.

game recap

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

December 1, 2004

Ratner Applies Full-Court Press on the Downtown Arena

The Brooklyn Rail: Opponents to Ratner's plan are frequently asked, "what's the status of the fight?" Well folks, here it is -- a clearly written synopsis of the past couple months. Pass it along.

This article was also linked in Crain's Cleveland Editor's Choice, taking a special interest in the photo of the banner. Cleveland is the home of Forest City Ratner's mothership, Forest City Enterprises (ticker symbol FCE).


Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

Sid Dorfman: Schooled in the college game

The Newark Star Ledger: Sid Dorfman devotes a couple of lines in his regular column to sum up the regional stadium wars.

Bruce Ratner is having all the opposition he can handle trying to move his Nets over to Brooklyn, and it's a war in Manhattan over whether it should be the future home of the Jets. In Newark, there are two problems: Will there be an arena, and if so, will there be a team to play in it?


Posted by lumi at 12:17 PM

Kidd still out of Nets' picture

The Daily News: Nets fans are holding their breath for the hopeful return of Kidd. However:

As desperate as [the Nets] are, Rod Thorn doesn't want to see Jason Kidd sprint back into the lineup.

At 2-11, the Nets' playoff hopes are fading fast. Last season, the Celtics made the postseason with just 36 wins. In order for the Nets to win that many, they'll have to go 34-35 the rest of the way.


Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle runs two articles on joint-CB Info Meeting

Brooklyn Daily Eagle commentator Dennis Holt and reporter Ben Silverbush both cover Jim Stuckey's presentation for Forest City Ratner at CB 2, 6, & 8 Info Meeting.

"Unusual Meeting Hears of Arena Plan’s Progress," by Dennis Holt
"Hundreds Pack Meeting on Ratner Proposal," by Ben Silverbush

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM