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January 31, 2005

TONIGHT: Park Slope Neighbors & DDDb co-sponsor presentation of UNITY Development Plan


Park Slope Neighbors, a newly formed neighborhood activist movement, and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are co-sponsoring a local presentation of UNITY Development Plan, featuring Architect Marshall Brown.

Monday, January 31, 6:30PM
Old First Reformed Church
126 Seventh Ave. (corner of Caroll St.)

Sponsors' web info:

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Nets Arena Foes Offer Alternative For Ratner Site

The NY Sun:

Community groups opposing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn are advancing an alternative proposal to develop the site. The "unity plan" calls for the development of the 11-acre rail yard but does not include a new home for the New Jersey Nets.

"The point of the unity plan is to elevate the discussion away from the arena and try to make it about real issues, such as the value of the Atlantic Yards to the community," the director of the Atlantic Yards Development Workshop, Marshall Brown, said. The workshop is the architecture group that designed the unity plan.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

Stadium Land Could Cost Jets $300 Million

The NY Times: Real Estate beat reporter Charles Bagli breaks the story on just how much the independent appraisal of the Hudson Railyards has valued the site for the Jets Stadium.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants the Jets to pay nearly $300 million, or nearly three times what the team has offered, for the rights to build a 75,000-seat stadium over the railyard on the Far West Side of Manhattan, according to executives who have been briefed on the negotiations.

The gap between the two numbers, which are based on each side's land appraisals, sets up a showdown on the value of the property, which represents one of the last hurdles in the Jets' quest for a new home in Manhattan.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Secrecy Adds Suspicions About M.T.A.

The NY Times: The secrecy behind the release of the MTA's appraisal of the Hudson Railyards site has raised suspicions that things have slid back to business as usual, where favored developers cut sweetheart deals with representatives of elected officials who sit on the board of state agencies.

"The authority obviously needs as much as it can get from the Jets for its property, for the subways, buses and trains and those who depend on them.

"Nothing secret about that. Ask riders of the A and C lines."


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites can look forward to some similar drama over the Atlantic Railyards appraisal. Originally, the MTA planned to GIVE the development rights over the Atlantic Railyards to Bruce Ratner. Why not? They gave him the rights to build over the station for his Atlantic Terminal Mall across the street.

Now, while the MTA's fiscal woes are playing on the front pages of the dailies, the state agency has promised to get "top dollar" for the Hudson and Atlantic Railyard sites by commissioning independent appraisals. Local watchdog groups suggest that the only way to get full value for the sites is to auction the development rights off to the highest bidder.

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

January 30, 2005

Cb6 Member Quits, Citing Neighborhood Freeze Out

Park Slope Courier: Former Community Board 6 Member Edie Stone cites "private meetings with developers" and connections between Board Chairperson, Forest City Ratner, and IKEA's lobbying firm as reasons for her resignation from the board.

Former Community Board 6 member Edie Stone wasn’t surprised that her resignation registered barely a blip on the radar at an early January meeting of the board. Her voice, she claims, was silenced long ago.

I feel it is no longer worth my volunteer time to attempt to represent Red Hook on a community board that seems to regularly disregard the opinions of our residents and board representatives on issues of critical importance to our community,” she wrote in a Jan. 10 resignation letter to the board’s district manager and its chair, Jerry Armer.

Stone, a Red Hook resident, said she was frustrated by what she said is a stifling atmosphere on the board.

She said the board’s executive committee has failed to “heed the voices of the affected board members, preferring instead to hold private meetings with developers whose projects will change the landscape of Red Hook and other CB 6 neighborhoods forever.”

The breaking point, she said last week, was the board’s stance on Ikea, which is readying to build a superstore along the Red Hook waterfront.

“They come to the board and expect us to rubber stamp whatever they do,” she claimed. “No one asks for our opinion.”

The board last year supported – with a series of reservations – the land use requests made by the Swedish home furnishings giant, a position the City Council and City Planning Commission would later adopt.

Meetings between board officials and representatives of Forest City Ratner (FCR), the development company behind the controversial Atlantic Yards arena project, have also been irksome, Stone said.

Armer works for the MetroTech Business Improvement District – an FCR project – that has as its lobbying firm the same company, Yoswein New York, hired to represent Ikea.

“Joni Yoswein [the former assembly member turned consultant] can call Jerry on his cell phone 24 hours a day, I’m sure,” Stone said. “Community board members are supposed to represent the community,” Stone said.

Armer did not return calls for comment at press time. The board’s district manager, Craig Hammerman, was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Asked to respond, Yoswein New York Vice President Jamie Van Bremer said,” Ikea Red Hook earned the nearly unanimous support of the entire community board, the City Council and the City Planning Commission for one reason: it is a great project for Red Hook and Brooklyn.”

Stone said that until term limits are implemented at community boards, “I feel that Community Board 6 will continue to see that economic growth and diversification are only for the already wealthy,” she wrote in her resignation letter.

“Red Hook and Gowanus will be forever reserved for toxic industry, big box stores, and public housing, none of which would be tolerated in our ‘brownstone’ neighborhoods,” she continued.

Board member Lou Sones, himself an outspoken Red Hook activist, was reserved in his assessment of Stone’s resignation.

“Whatever my frustrations are with the community board, it’s better, I feel, to work in the process so that we have a board that better represents the community,” Sones said.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 PM

Ratner: City Playing Ball

Park Slope Courier: City fianancing for the Ratner arena project is is cited as reason for NYC being added as a signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding with the State, MTA and Forest City Ratner. Tthe state's Empire State Development Corporation will still be the lead agency, which will keep the project from going through the city's Uniform Land Use Procedure.

Atlantic Yards Kingpin Confident Deal Is Near By Stephen Witt

Forest City Ratner Companies officials confirmed last week that the city will be one of the signatories on the memorandum of understanding (MOU), paving the way for the Atlantic Yards arena project.

“It was always undershoot that the MOU would include the city, state and Forest City Ratner’s Companies,” said FCRC spokesperson Barry Baum.

FCRC spokesperson Joe DePlasco said the city would sign the MOU because they will contributing money to the project, as will the state.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which DePlasco said would represent the city in the MOU, refused comment.

Previously, the thinking was that the state’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the MTA and FCRC would be the only signatories to the MOU.

This raised eyebrows from some in the community, who want the entire 22-acre project to go before the city’s ULURP (Uniform Land Use Procedure) process.

While the city is expected to sign on to the MOU, the state will continue to be the lead agency through the ESDC, and therefore the project will continue to come under the state review instead, according to sources.

According to published reports, the city will contribute $100 million to the project and the state will put in the same amount, mainly to cover infrastructure costs.

Originally, FCRC wanted $450 million from the city and state for the project, according to published reports.

An ESDC source said the MOU is still being stalled while the financing for the project is put together and FCRC completes a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with neighborhood groups.

“Once all allowances are made and the people [signing the CBA] are satisfied, I think there’s no stopping the project. People are understanding the economic benefit and the housing in particular,” the source said.

FCRC has previously said they will pay market value for the rail yards.

As for further government subsidies on the project, DePlasco noted these would come from standard subsidy programs that already exist for developers who agree to also building low-and middle-income housing.

In principle, FCRC has agreed to half of the proposed 4,500 units of rental housing going for low- and middle-income residents. This principle will become legally binding once the CBA is signed, which is expected to happen next month, said DePlasco.

DePlasco said the MOU would also trigger the city’s Independent Budget Review Office to study all the financing.

Baum also said FCRC is considering adding more housing to the proposed $2.5 billion project.

“There is a shortage of housing in Brooklyn, as there is throughout all of New York City, and we are considering the possibility of increasing the housing component of Atlantic Yards, which would decrease the number of office building,” said Baum.

Baum said if the housing component is increased, the plan to keep 50 percent of the rentals earmarked for low- and medium-income residents with the other 50 percent leased out at market rate will stay in place.

Meanwhile, about 50 people attended a special Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association meeting at the Belarusian Orthodox Church, 321 Atlantic Avenue, to hear an alternative plan for the Atlantic Yards site.

Marshall Brown, an urban design architect, designed the proposal, dubbed the “Unity Plan.” It calls for dividing the 11-acre MTA-owned Atlantic Yards into 1-acre parcels and issuing 11 separate Request for Proposals (RFP’s) to develop the site.

The plan would include 2,300 unites of mixed housing with local non-profits such as the Fifth Avenue Committee or the Pratt Area Community Council overseeing this component.

Brown also proposed that a Local Development Corporation (LDC) be created to oversee the entire plan, which does not include an arena.

“The arena is a Trojan Horse that doesn’t make that much money,” said Brown. “That’s why he [Bruce Ratner] wants all this other stuff in addition to this arena.”

Brown said the MTA property is extremely valuable, sitting between the Fort Greene and Prospect Heights neighborhoods, where real estate is skyrocketing in value.

Brown said his plan is not so much about opposing FCRC’s plan as it is about creating an alternative plan.

Once you take out the developer’s profit, you can use that to spread the wealth around, he said.

“I think It’s a myth developers have created that things cannot be done without them, which is how they get properties in the first place,” said Brown.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 PM

You Can’t Buy Mayor–So Give To 2012 Games

The New York Observer discusses Forest City Ratner's $200,000 donation to the Mayor's pet project.

You Can?t Buy Mayor? So Give To 2012 Games.

by Ben Smith

At first, the rich-guy thing looked like a political liability for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the magnate has turned his wealth into a selling point, using it to declare his independence from the usual forms of sordid City Hall influence peddling. He likes to emphasize that he doesn?t have to raise money to run for re-election and, therefore, doesn?t have any contributors seeking favors or government contracts?a practice known in the political trade as "pay to play."

"I challenge every elected official to join us in ending pay-to-play," Mr. Bloomberg said in his State of the City address earlier this month. "Pay-to-play taints policy decisions ?. It isn?t about how much money you can spend. It?s about what you owe if you take the money."

But when the Campaign Finance Board begins hearing testimony on pay-to-play on Jan. 31, the focus won?t solely be on the relationships between contributors and elected officials. The board is also awaiting testimony on a fund-raising niche that may cut closer to the Bloomberg administration: the nuanced world of philanthropy and the private charities dear to public officials.

"The board would appreciate hearing testimony on all of the potential avenues of influence, including contributions to candidates from people who do business with the city, as well as contributions to charities affiliated with political candidates or officeholders," the board?s spokeswoman, Molly Watkins, told The Observer.

That broad focus means the hearing could draw attention to what some observers and lobbyists see as a back door to influence in a City Hall that prides itself on the purity of its decision-making: contributions to charities favored by the Mayor and his top aides. Mr. Bloomberg himself hit the phones like a traditional politician to solicit donations to the Republican National Convention, which was held in the city last summer. More recently, the Daily News called attention to the Mayor?s Fund to Advance New York City, a charity that makes few public disclosures and whose contributors include, among others, top real-estate developers.

But the charity closest to the heart of one key City Hall player, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, is NYC2012, the vessel for Mr. Doctoroff?s decade-old dream of bringing the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to New York. Last year, the city?s Conflicts of Interest Board issued a formal opinion allowing Mr. Doctoroff and Mr. Bloomberg to raise money directly for NYC2012, something city officials are usually barred from doing. As far as many key business players are concerned, Mr. Doctoroff is the most important man in the city. Building an Olympic Stadium is atop the city?s development agenda. And Mr. Doctoroff?s favorite charity is prospering.

Contributions to NYC2012 nearly tripled from $4.5 million in 2002, Mr. Bloomberg?s first year in office, to $14.5 million in 2003, after the city advanced to the International Olympic Committee?s final round. According to NYC2012?s Web site, donors include virtually all the big names in city real estate and many major players in finance and construction. Among them are the recipients of six of the seven multimillion-dollar corporate-subsidy packages issued since Mr. Bloomberg took office, including the Hearst Corporation, Bank of America and Pfizer.

There?s also the growing perception among many involved in development that, in a general sense, if they want to stay in City Hall?s graces, they?d better support the Olympics bid.

"Support for the Olympic plan has become a real litmus test of whether city government responds to you," said Robert Yaro, the executive director of the Regional Plan Association, the nation?s oldest city-planning group.

More narrowly, that support means giving money to NYC2012, according to three lobbyists who spoke to The Observer on the condition of anonymity.

"It?s no different from political contributions?it may not help get you over the finish line, but it certainly can help the horse in the race," said one lobbyist who represents real-estate clients.

Said another: "If a client came to me and said, ?Look, I want to get in with this administration,? I?d say, ?Hey, give to the Olympics.?"

A call to Mr. Doctoroff was referred to Mr. Bloomberg?s communications director, William Cunningham, who vigorously objected to the suggestion that money buys anything in this City Hall.

"This is no different than raising money for a public-private partnership, the Fund to Advance New York City or the host committee for the Republican National Convention," Mr. Cunningham said of NYC2012. "Companies gave to all those entities and they received nothing in return."

He dismissed the apparent perception among lobbyists that the NYC2012 could constitute a back door to influence.

"These are things you do because you want to support the city," he said. "If you think you?re going to get anything else for your money, keep it."

Tricky Business

This is where identifying pay-to-play gets tricky. As with political contributions, there are two sides. On the one hand is a perception that contributions to NYC2012 are good for business. On the other hand, there?s no evidence that Mr. Doctoroff has done a single favor for an NYC2012 contributor. Contributors deny that they have received any special treatment from the city.

"For us, the two have nothing to do with each other," said Paula Zirinsky, a spokeswoman for the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, which received subsidies worth more than $6 million to stay in lower Manhattan. The firm contributed at least $50,000 to NYC2012, according to the partial list of donors made public on the group?s Web site. "We would love to see the Olympics in New York, period."

In addition, NYC2012 was prospering well before Mr. Doctoroff got into City Hall. The Partnership for New York City, a top business group representing the finance industries, liked the Olympic idea, and its members wrote Mr. Doctoroff some of his first checks, said the executive director of NYC2012, Jay Kriegel. They also introduced Mr. Doctoroff to then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who made winning the Olympic bid official city policy.

Later, leaders in the real-estate industry came aboard, led by Lewis Rudin, Mr. Kriegel said. Big property owners, literally invested in the city?s future, now appear to make up the bulk of contributors, as they do for many city causes. The NYC2012 list includes many companies with properties whose value could rise if the planned Olympics-related parks and other improvements come to fruition. These companies include Park Tower Realty, which owns property near the Brooklyn waterfront, and the Related Companies, which own property on the West Side.

Mr. Kriegel attests to personally raising most of the money for the bid.

"I?m not aware of any way in which that has or would influence any decision of the city," he said. "There are people out there who have had the incredible backbone to say no to Kriegel, and they haven?t suffered any bizarre consequences. I haven?t put a hex on them, and they haven?t lost their business with the city."

It?s not clear how the list of contributors to NYC2012 has changed since Mr. Doctoroff joined city government. NYC2012 at first offered to make available a list of donors from 2001 for comparison with the current list, but its spokesman, Laz Benitez, later said his office was unable to assemble the list before The Observer?s deadline. A 2002 list of supporters includes many of the same companies backing NYC2012 today, though some have been added.

One of those is JC Decaux, a giant French company that specializes in outdoor advertising and street furniture?an odd donor considering that Paris is New York?s closest competitor in the race to snag the Olympics. Decaux is currently bidding on a contract for New York?s long-awaited public toilets, and it gave $50,000 to NYC2012. Its lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, former City Councilman Ed Wallace, said the donation was made because the company would play a role if the city winds up hosting the Olympics.

"The idea that the city is going to play favorites with this contract is preposterous," he said.

In his assault on pay-to-play, Mr. Bloomberg, like most reformers, has focused on eradicating the appearance of conflicts, without waiting for investigators to unearth outright bribes. The system which he has proposed, and which officials at the Campaign Finance Board seem inclined to accept, would bar companies that do business with the city from giving money to candidates for public office. To avoid overwhelming candidates, or creating unnecessary bureaucracy, that system would put the burden on the contractors, imposing fines on companies that give contributions.

It?s unclear how a system like that could extend to charities. Mr. Doctoroff has no formal connection to NYC2012, besides the Conflicts of Interest Board opinion permitting him to raise money for it. He is not a political candidate and, like Mr. Bloomberg, he?s not regulated by the Campaign Finance Board.

Still, a glance at NYC2012?s lengthy contributors list reveals many companies that, by the broad definition of pay-to-play being considered by the city, would be disqualified from giving to political candidates, though they?d still be allowed to give to NYC2012.

That long roster includes everyone from major real-estate players like the Rudin family, which gave $750,000, and Forest City Ratner, which gave $200,000, to Vollmer Associates, a planning and engineering firm that consults on projects around the city and gave $50,000 to NYC2012.

As the hearings on getting money out of city politics approach, Mr. Doctoroff?s critics talk about NYC2012 in much the same tone that Mr. Bloomberg reserves for donors to City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. When they talk about the charities, though, the Mayor?s critics and his supporters switch sides.

"I?m not sure if it?s easy to say that there?s tit-for-tat here, but it would also be naïve to think that contributing to the Deputy Mayor?s favorite cause doesn?t give you access that the rest of us don?t have," said Bettina Damiani, the project director of Good Jobs New York, a group critical of corporate subsidies.

NYC2012?s Mr. Kriegel, however, dismissed the notion that any implication could be drawn from the mere presence of city contractors on his list of donors.

"There ain?t no smoking gun anywhere," he said. "There?s no smoke."

Posted by amy at 7:24 PM

Trouble underground

The Daily News reports that "Satan himself would be hard-pressed to beat the MTA at fouling up subways"

Take the ridiculous refusal to make public the MTA's appraisal of the market value of the air rights over its far West Side train yards. The brass gave the study to the Jets, who want to build a football stadium there. But when it comes to letting the public know the magic number, suddenly the document is private.


Posted by amy at 7:19 PM

There Goes the Old Neighborhood, to Revitalization

The New York Times reports from New London:

"It is usually an effort to go from lower to middle class, and from middle to upper class," Ms. Berliner went on. "It is almost always an attempt to replace poorer people with richer people and middle income businesses with upscale businesses."


Posted by amy at 11:03 AM

Stadium's fans, foes await court decision

The Star-Telegram discusses the New London case in relation to a stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. They include some great quotes from Jane Jacobs, who has filed a brief:

"The costs of development takings are disproportionately inflicted on poor and minority communities, because these groups are disadvantaged in the political process, especially relative to the powerful corporations and private interests that benefit from economic development condemnations," she writes.

Stadium's fans, foes await court decision

By O.K. Carter

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Proponents of building the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington publicly dismiss the possibility of an upcoming Supreme Court ruling limiting the city's ability to use eminent domain to acquire property for the facility.

Privately they fret.

Those opposing the taxpayer-funded investment hope the high court will so narrowly restrict eminent domain that this will derail the project. They're joined by property owners in the area proposed for the stadium, not so much because these people oppose the project, but in hopes that a favorable ruling will improve their bargaining power and thus their windfall.

When will this process unfold? The Supreme Court plans to hear Kelo vs. City of New London, Conn. on Feb. 22. A ruling is expected no later than the end of June.

New London wants to use eminent domain to take a neighborhood for economic development and then turn the property over to a private builder. Those opposing the condemnation want nothing less than the complete prohibition of eminent domain for private development. The government taking someone's land for private gain, they say, violates the public trust.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives government the power to condemn property for "public use" through eminent domain so long as due process is followed and "just compensation" paid to property owners. Though originally considered only a component of federal power, the 14th Amendment expanded the authority to all governmental levels.

Most such condemnations originally involved taking land for highways, public buildings and the like. But beginning in the 1950s, many local governments began using eminent domain for projects like urban development.

The practice was contested in the courts, but in Berman vs. Parker (1954) the high court ruled that aesthetics alone sufficiently justify use of eminent domain. Though Berman vs. Parker involved "blighted" property, the precedent was also established for such uses involving preservation of historical properties.

What hasn't been clear is if this ability to condemn extends to taking property purely for economic development and the turning over of that property for private purposes.

Though some of the Cowboys stadium area involves property that might loosely be defined as blighted -- a classification open to debate -- much of it is clearly not blighted. The city's attorney argues that the city technically will own the property and lease it to the Cowboys -- not the same as turning it over to a private investor. But it's doubtful that if the court rules against New London it would leave such a formidable loophole. Why bother, if all that's necessary is for the governmental taker to establish a long-term lease with a private user?

Meanwhile, interest in the New London case ratchets upward.

No less an urban prophet than Jan Jacob, author of the urban studies classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has filed a brief in the court on the case.

Jacob complains in the brief that too much use of eminent domain involves replacing what she calls "real neighborhoods."

"The costs of development takings are disproportionately inflicted on poor and minority communities, because these groups are disadvantaged in the political process, especially relative to the powerful corporations and private interests that benefit from economic development condemnations," she writes.

Jacob might as well be talking about the Cowboys endeavor. Much of the displaced population living within the "blighted area" will be low-income minorities.

Stay tuned, along with the other 112,000 Arlingtonites who voted on the stadium question. It'll all sort out by June.

Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

Carril on the prowl

The SacBee presents a story of frustration in New Jersey:

He located a public relations man, thinking he might be Ratner, and scolded him for even considering moving the Nets to Brooklyn, saying, "You've got to get the owner to cut the crap and stay in New Jersey. I wish he knew what the hell he was doing. And you can quote me on that. The thing that bothers me is, they've been doing it right for three years, and he wants to move. I mean, what's the matter with that guy? I really feel bad about this."


Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

January 29, 2005

CB6 discusses Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Papers provides and in-depth report of Monday's CB6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection Committee Meeting.

For the past two weeks, CB6 committees discussed concerns they’d like addressed in the early stages of the project’s planning. The board will collect and prepare those ideas into a statement “once the scoping documents are prepared and released for comment,” wrote CB6 Chairman Jerry Armer in his January report to the board.


Posted by amy at 12:04 PM

January 28, 2005


Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky was left no choice but to subpoena for the release of the independent appraisal of the Hudson Railyards after MTA officials refused to make the figures public.

The NY Sun: DISAGREEMENT ON AIR RIGHTS GROWS HOTTER; Kalikow Has Said They’re Worth $1.2B
The NY Daily News: Pols subpoena MTA

NoLandGrab: The MTA has promised to have the Atlantic Railyards appraised by a third party in order to assure that the public receives full-market value. What assurances do we have that the MTA is protecting the public when they insist on keeping the numbers secret?

Posted by lumi at 10:07 PM

Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough Address

BP Marty Markowitz delivered his State of the Borough Address Thursday evening. He outlined his reasons for supporting the Atlantic Yards project (there was no mention of Ratner) & affordable housing throughout the borough.

Markowitz also spoke eloquently about "fighting for our character, our neighborhoods, and our way of life" in the face of "unplanned development." He went on to call for "smart development," specifically for "Brooklyn's most suburban neighborhoods."

NoLandGrab: How come Brooklyn's "suburban neighborhood" deserve "smart development," but our brownstone neighborhoods get RATNER?

Excerpt below on topics mentioned above:

I expect Atlantic Yards to result in two things that are vital to Brooklynites — more jobs and more affordable housing. I want to say right now, that I fully understand — and I share the concerns — of local area residents who have spoken out in opposition to this development.

People of good will can differ. And constructive opposition is something I value and cherish — because I honestly believe that, in the end, it makes for a better plan.

The Nets arena — and the Atlantic Yards project — will go forward, but it must work for both Brooklyn and for the community surrounding the arena.

Because people do not move out of Brooklyn today seeking a better life. They move out because they can’t afford the good life we have here.

It is estimated that Atlantic Yards will create about 10,000 permanent new jobs. That is above and beyond the 15,000 construction-related jobs that it will create over the next decade. And we can all be proud that 100 percent of those workers will be union employees.

Under a proposed groundbreaking Community Benefits Agreement, as many as possible of those new jobs will be filled by Brooklyn residents, and I promise you, those jobs will go to those who need them most — particularly low income residents living in public housing nearby.

I believe this project will help give individuals and Brooklyn families the chance they need — and deserve — to break the cycle of poverty, with opportunities to work at jobs that will grow into careers.

I want every Brooklynite to be given the same chance I had.

As someone who grew up in poverty — and who grew up in public housing — I know what an opportunity can mean. And with this project designed by a world class architect, Brooklyn-born Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards will be an unmistakable statement that the new center of this universe we call New York City has shifted to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic!

Downtown isn’t the only place where we need more affordable housing.

Brooklyn is proud to be home to residents of every income level. If we lose that economic diversity, we will lose the very character that makes Brooklyn great. While there is no question that Brooklyn is undergoing a real estate boom — everywhere you look there’s construction. The benefits of that boom are not shared by all Brooklyn residents.

The fact is that most Brooklyn residents — more than 70 percent — rent their homes.

I know exactly what that means. I’ve been a rental tenant every day of my life. And almost 50 percent of my take home pay goes for rent — despite the fact that I make a decent living.

The reality is that fewer than 10 percent of those living in Brooklyn can afford to rent or buy the housing that is being built today in any Brooklyn neighborhood. Housing that is built in Brooklyn must, first and foremost, be good for Brooklyn — and that means all of Brooklyn.

So, whenever I have a role in the process, affordable housing will continue to be my number one priority. For any new construction where public review is required, I will continue to demand the inclusion of guaranteed affordable housing.

That means when a sale of City property is involved — or when zoning changes or special permits are required for development.

In fact, this just came up in my review of the proposed Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning. Two weeks ago I recommended that the City Planning Commission and the City Council reject the city’s Greenpoint-Williamsburg Plan, not because I’m against rezoning the area — I’m in favor of it, because it reconnects our communities with our magnificent waterfront — but because this plan is flawed.

I have asked the City to guarantee a minimum of 30 percent affordable housing in a revised plan. And I urge the City Council to adhere to my recommendations — do not accept anything less.

There was a time when our federal and state governments understood that housing is a right — and not a privilege. In the not too distant past, government took seriously its role in subsidizing this basic need, as it did with the Mitchell-Lama program. But with Republican administrations in Washington and Albany — the burden is now on us, on the local level, to fight for affordable housing in our neighborhoods.

Because whether you were born on the other side of the world or right here in Brooklyn — we’re all Brooklynites. And an essential part of anyone’s dream is to live in a home they can afford — and still have money left over to live a decent life.

Speaking of fighting for our character, our neighborhoods, and our way of life, we are also seeing how rapid, largely unplanned development throughout the borough is changing the character and scale of some of our communities.

Too often, we see the demolition of single family homes that fit in with the character of a community — only to be replaced by buildings of questionable appropriateness. This infringes on residents’ quality of life and — ironically — threatens to erode property values, rather than enhance them.

One of my goals for 2005 is to convene a community forum on this issue of neighborhood preservation in the face of unbounded, unplanned development. Make no mistake — I’m for development — smart development. But smart development is not destroying the lovely character of Brooklyn’s most suburban neighborhoods.

Southern Brooklyn has many neighborhoods that are primarily residential and dominated by single family detached homes.

I am committed to the down-zoning of these neighborhoods, because we must preserve the community pride that makes Brooklyn great.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 PM

Toilet Paper? Ask the Jets

The NY Times:

Op-Ed Columnist Bob Herbert points out that the City and State have no extra money to spend on anything, except for the Jet's "Bloomberg Boondoggle."

But if there's any justice at all, this stadium will never see the light of day. To take the public's money, which should be used for schoolkids, for subway riders, for hospital patients - for any number of projects that might truly serve the public's interest - and hand it over to a billionaire who will use it as seed money to further his already fabulous interests is obscene.


NoLandGrab: A year of government cutbacks is not the time to be throwing away public money to further enrich favored developers. The Mayor is apparently isn't worried that his willingness to push these projects through at any cost will blow his chances at reelection, despite the fact that the Democratic candidates have honed in on this issue and are circling like sharks around chum.

Posted by lumi at 5:58 PM

SURPRISE! BUILD files brief with rest of Ratner coalition. ACORN stays on sidelines.

NoLandGrab: The Ratner arena coalition has filed a frend of the court brief in support of the New London Development Corporation in the US Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London. Though Ratner's arena plans are promoted, the actual signers are:

This list contains the entire Ratner "community" coalition except for ACORN. The national fair-housing advocacy organization wouldn't be caught dead supporting eminent domain whose coercive powers inordinately affects lower-income neighborhoods.

download the brief

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Time to cool Mike's Jets

The NY Daily News:

[Gifford] Miller and [Fernando] Ferrer and all those New Yorkers who don't want so much public money given away to another rich sports owner have stood up.

This is still a democracy, not Bloomberg News. You want a stadium, Mr. Mayor? Let's have a show of hands.


Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Thorn: Kidd staying put, for now

The NY Daily News:

It appears that Jason Kidd will remain with Nets, much to Vince Carter's delight.

While that doesn't mean [Nets GM] Thorn won't entertain a Kidd trade if a spectacular deal presents itself before the Feb. 24 deadline, owner Bruce Ratner wants Kidd to remain a Net for the time being.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

January 27, 2005

A test for property rights

The Orlando Sentinel: The briefs have been filed in one of the most important property rights cases in history, which will soon determine what President Bush's "ownership society" will look like.

The president shrewdly avoided a misstep this week in deciding not to undermine the constitutional rights that protect all American property owners and bolster our nation's economy.

A test for property rights

Throughout his campaign and in his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush struck a chord with millions of Americans when he outlined his plans to create an "ownership society." This message resonated with average voters who understand the motivating desire to own their own homes and businesses.

Property ownership provides the means for ordinary persons to secure economic independence and security. For most, the home is their single largest investment and greatest financial asset. Many small businesses are financed by entrepreneurs borrowing money against the value of their homes.

Economists who have studied why free markets succeed, when the economies of less developed nations fail, have determined property rights and the rule of law are essential to developing the prosperity associated with free economies. A nation's commitment to the protection of property rights is a key factor in assessing a nation's future economic potential.

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear one of the most important property-rights cases in its history. The case, Kelo v. New London, was filed by Susette Kelo and her neighbors when their homes were condemned by the city of New London, Conn., through eminent domain. The basis for condemnation was purely "economic development" purposes: to make way for a private company to build a new plant and associated amenities adjacent to the plant.

Twenty-five organizations, including renowned urban-policy scholar Jane Jacobs, the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the AARP, the American Farm Bureau, legal scholar Richard Epstein and others have filed amicus curiae (or friend of the court) briefs supporting the Kelo appeal. These groups recognize the alarming abuse of power occurring across the country. In its report, Public Power, Private Gain, the Institute for Justice which is litigating the Kelo appeal, has documented more than 10,000 properties similarly targeted by government countrywide.

The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution established government's power to take private property for public use. Historically, this meant building new roads, schools, bridges, and other public facilities. Local governments are now stretching the terms "public purpose" and "urban renewal" to hide their transfer of an individual's private property to private for-profit corporations.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported the U.S. Department of Justice was considering filing an amicus brief in support of New London's power to take Kelo's home. Such an action would have openly contradicted Bush's statements regarding the importance of private-property ownership.

This week the deadline for filing amicus briefs passed without intervention by the Bush administration. This case now goes to the Supreme Court, which will establish whether or not government has unlimited power to seize your property and transfer it to another private entity if the government can simply project greater tax revenue than you now pay.

The president shrewdly avoided a misstep this week in deciding not to undermine the constitutional rights that protect all American property owners and bolster our nation's economy.

Carol Saviak is the executive director of the Coalition for Property Rights, based in Orlando.

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

MTA mum on Jets' site worth

The NY Daily News:

The MTA has told the Jets what an appraiser says the West Side stadium site is worth - but refused yesterday to give that information to state lawmakers.

"The only people who have the appraisal document are the chairman [Peter Kalikow] and the Jets," MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp told lawmakers....


NoLandGrab: The best kept secret in Albany is how much are the MTA railyard properties worth? Atlantic Railyard activists call for open bidding on the properties to find out, not secret backroom smokefilled meetings.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Libertarian Litigants

American Lawyer/Law.com: Profile of the Institute of Justice -- the merry, well-dressed, band of litigants -- who are representing the homeowners in the case of Kelo v. New London.


Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Nets: Thorn's rejecting all calls for Kidd

The Newark Star-Ledger:

Rod Thorn has put it as bluntly as possible: No more calls, he has told his peers.

Jason Kidd is a member of the Nets, he will remain such for the foreseeable future, and even if you offer something that blows us away, even if it has hurricane-type force, be prepared for us to hang up the phone.


Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

January 26, 2005

Friend of the court briefs filed in support of City of New London

The following is a complete list of groups who have filed friend of the court briefs in the case before the US Supreme Court of Kelo v. New London ("interested parties" who support Ratner's proposal are in bold, "BUILD et al." available for download):

New York State Urban Development Corporation (dba Empire State Development Corporation)
Massachusetts Chapter of National Association of Industrial and Office Properties
Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), et al.
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, et al.
American Planning Association, et al.
National League of Cities, et al.
California Redevelopment Association
Mayor and City Council of Baltimore
Law Professors Robert H. Freilich, et al.
City of New York

US Supreme Court docket No. 04-108

NoLandGrab: Conspicuously absent from this list is the White House. Rumors were flying around DC for the past few weeks that the White House intended on filing a friend of the court brief supporting the New London Development Corporation. Liberals howled that this was evidence of Bush's "ownership society." Conservatives cringed at the thought that the Bush administration would turn its back on a key conservative cause.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 PM

MTA Looks to the Sky for Cash

The NY Sun: The cash-strapped MTA is going to have to use sale of air rights over railyards and postpone expenditures such as purchases of new buses and trains and station renovations in order to make up for the $2.4-billion difference between what they requested from the State and what Pataki has budgeted for "core" operations through 2009.


NoLandGrab: It is imperative that the MTA get top dollar for the Atlantic Railyards by auctioning off the air rights. The agency can't make a secret back-room deal with favored developer Bruce Ratner when the condition and safety of the transit system is at risk.

Posted by lumi at 4:00 PM

Secret city land deal a whopper

NY Daily News Exclusive: Mayor Mike, The Spin Doctoroff and the EDC dupes the City Council over secret land grab deal with Doctoroff's pal and former business partner Steve Ross.

When the City Council approved the massive Hudson Yards development project last week, it gave the Bloomberg administration permission to condemn and acquire several parcels of land on Manhattan's far West Side.

But the Council was never told the city had no intention of condemning the site.

The city had quietly decided last fall to sell it to one of this town's biggest real estate developers, Stephen Ross, for the price of a song: $100,000.


NoLandGrab: Business as usuall at City Hall. This article was published yesterday. A day later, the news media is too busy to follow up on stories of blatant corruption.

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Letter to the Editor: Eminent Domain Not Popular For A Reason

The Day: Letter from Scott Bullock, senior attorney with Institute for Justice.

By fighting over “legalities” for years, at whatever the cost, the [New London Development Corporation] has not focused on the wisdom, morality, or constitutionality of its actions.

On Feb. 22, Fort Trumbull homeowners stand poised to make history before the Supreme Court.

Eminent Domain Not Popular For A Reason

Letters To The Editor: The numbers are in and it is not surprising that a majority of New Londoners are against eminent domain in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. People do not like it when government attempts to kick people out of their homes.

But according to New London Development Corp. President Michael Joplin, people turned against eminent domain in New London only because of the public relations efforts of the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represents property owners fighting to save their homes. (“New Londoners back change in city government,” Jan. 16.) Mr. Joplin blames the Institute for problems of his and his failed organization's own making.

Mr. Joplin also claims that NLDC has “won every time we've gone to court.” The truth is that a majority of the homeowners won in the trial court and lost by a 4-3 margin in the Connecticut Supreme Court, setting up the appeal now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Joplin also states that NLDC has focused on “legalities.” By fighting over “legalities” for years, at whatever the cost, the NLDC has not focused on the wisdom, morality, or constitutionality of its actions.

On Feb. 22, Fort Trumbull homeowners stand poised to make history before the Supreme Court. They can hold their heads up high knowing they have fought for their rights and for the rights of every homeowner in the nation. In contrast, New London city councilors, NLDC members and their lawyers should hang their heads in shame at what they have done to Fort Trumbull property owners, the citizens of their city and state, and to the Constitution of the United States. 

Scott Bullock Washington, D.C.

The writer is a senior attorney with Institute for Justice.

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Burning Questions


Newark Star-Ledger: Matthew Futterman interviews new Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

What can you do to get more people interested in the Nets?
I don't know if there is a silver bullet. The efforts Bruce and his team have made have been great. When you hear about what they are doing with half-time, with the corporate partners, the deal with the Apollo, there seems to be an energy and an excitement that was missing there. My job is to continue that momentum and build on that.

So will you work in New Jersey or Brooklyn?
For now, I'll be spending most of my time in East Rutherford, but I'm sure I'll be spending some time in Brooklyn.


Brandweek: New Jersey Nets Name Yormark as CEO

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Nets notebook: Ratner's plan to move Nets angers Carril

Newark Star-Ledger:

Uh-oh, now Bruce Ratner has really done it. He's got the King of Jersey Basketball mad at him.

In fact, Pete Carril marched up to some stranger last night, demanded to know whether he was the "new owner," and immediately started scolding him for moving the Nets out of New Jersey. Then he had to be told that he was speaking to a team publicist, and that Ratner is not with the team.

Either way, the legendary coach wasn't done. Even a half-hour later, long after he had calmed down, The Great One said, "You've got to get the owner to cut the crap and stay in New Jersey. I wish he knew what the hell he was doing. And you can quote me on that."


Nets Update:
NY Daily News: Frankly, Nets ripped
Sportsline.com: Kings 113, Nets 93
Newark Star-Ledger: Frank takes blame for loss

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

January 25, 2005

Groups Back NLDC's Eminent Domain. Cities, States File Briefs For Case In High Court

The Day: State and municipal groups filed friend of the court briefs last Friday on behalf of the New London Development Corporation in the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London. Entities on this list familiar to Brooklynites who track this issue are: * The City of New York * The Empire State Development Corporation * Columbia University Professor Tom Merril (for American Planning Association & the National Congress for Community Economic Development)

Featured in Region Groups Back NLDC's Eminent Domain Cities, States File Briefs For Case In High Court

By TED MANN Day Staff Writer Published on 1/25/2005

A broad range of states, cities and economic development groups have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the New London Development Corp.'s use of eminent domain at Fort Trumbull as a proper use of the government's power to seize private land.

Among the groups coming to the defense of the city and the NLDC, in friend-of-the-court briefs filed last week, were the National League of Cities and International Municipal Lawyers' Association; attorneys general from 13 states and the District of Columbia; and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

CCM assembled a coalition of more than 30 other state municipal associations to argue that “the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit the State of Connecticut from empowering a distressed municipality to use eminent domain to assemble small urban parcels into a unified package suitable for modern economic development.”

The briefs were filed as attorneys for the NLDC and the city prepare to defend their condemnation of 15 properties at Fort Trumbull, where the city hopes a planned hotel, office and residential development will generate much-needed tax revenue for the city.

The seven property owners have appealed the city's efforts to seize the land to the nation's highest court, arguing that the economic development proposals do not represent a proper “public use” for their land, and asking the court to require more stringent judicial oversight of eminent domain applications.

Oral arguments in the case, known as Kelo v. New London, will be heard by the justices Feb. 22.

A slew of advocacy groups filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Fort Trumbull property owners, and by Friday a similarly large group had leapt to the city's defense, depicting eminent domain as a harsh but necessary remedy for urban woes.

“The assembly of urban lands for economic growth is a ‘public use,' as it eliminates the accretion of small parcels that has acted to hinder old cities like New London from competing in the market for economic development projects,” attorneys for CCM and 32 allied organizations wrote. “...As such, it plainly falls within the police powers of the State of Connecticut, which has determined that its municipalities need the power to assemble lands to create developable urban parcels that the market itself has been unable to supply.”

The briefs argue that eminent domain is an invaluable tool for cities and states trying to further redevelopment plans, or, as in New London's case, to boost a sagging tax base.

“We've focused on both New London and the broader question ... of the importance of economic development to municipalities, especially in Connecticut,” said Allan B. Taylor, an attorney at Day, Berry & Howard in Hartford, who wrote the CCM brief.

Attorneys from the Institute for Justice, a public-interest firm representing the property owners, have said taking land purely to bolster private business — even to improve the city tax base — is unconstitutional, and have criticized the NLDC's development plan as speculative and vague.

CCM's lawyers reject that assertion, as the NLDC and the city did in their own brief, and warned that asking the courts to make decisions on the specifics of eminent domain uses, as the institute suggests, would give the judiciary a responsibility intended for legislatures.

“The appropriate authorities looked at that question and reached a reasoned judgment that the benefits would probably be realized and that should be sufficient,” Taylor said.

Also filing a brief were the American Planning Association, the group's Connecticut chapter and the National Congress for Community Economic Development, who argued that the property owners would hurt efforts to develop urban plans by restricting eminent domain seizures to blighted properties.

“The planning association and the congress ... are not particularly eager to engage in eminent domain, nor do they think it should be the first option of local governments,” said Tom Merrill, a professor of law at Columbia University who wrote the brief for the groups. “But they think it's an important power to have in the mix of things. Severely limiting it ... could distort the process of sound planning.”

Among the other organizations filing briefs in support of the city and the NLDC were: the City of Baltimore; the California Redevelopment Association; the City of New York; the New York State Urban Development Corp.; the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties; and a group of 13 law professors.

The Institute for Justice and the property owners have until Feb. 11 to submit reply briefs to the court.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Ratner Considers Increased Housing. May Alter His Plan for the Atlantic Yards.

The NY Sun:

Bruce Ratner is said to be considering a plan for his Atlantic Yards development in Downtown Brooklyn that could increase the number of new apartments while shrinking the amount of new office space. No exact figure has been determined, although a final plan should be decided in the next several months for the 21-acre, $2.5 billion complex, which would include a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets.

A potential glut in the commercial office market, with the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, and the rezoning of the far West Side, has not been a factor in the decision to rethink the balance of commercial and residential units in the development, Mr. Stuckey said.


Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

January 24, 2005

Seeking school at Ratner site

NY Daily News:

In the wake of Pace University's withdrawal from Bruce Ratner's big development in lower Manhattan, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is negotiating with him about including a city school in the project.

Silver (D-Manhattan) is championing a combined public school and intermediate school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at Ratner's site near City Hall.

If Ratner were to build a public school, he'd gain political capital that could come in handy as he seeks approval for his plan to build a $2.5 billion Nets arena and real estate project in Downtown Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Silver has been outspoken in his criticism of the West Side Stadium project, but curiously mute on Ratner's arena dream, though many concerns over both proposals are the same. Behold the power of Albany-style political quid pro quo.

Posted by lumi at 12:08 PM

January 23, 2005


The Brooklyn Papers announces Ratner's change in plans: fewer jobs, more housing. Not that we want to be cynical, but it seems only a hop skip and a jump away from changing any of the promised plans, such as guaranteeing affordable housing.


Posted by amy at 2:52 PM

Just another building block. Local stadium plans never have the blight stuff.

The Daily News: A synopsis of seven stadium/arena proposals for Metro NY sports teams. The blurb on Ratner's Nets arena plans strives to be well-balanced but misses the mark by getting swept up in a couple of Ratner's PR lies.

Bruce Bender, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, points to a smashed car window parked along Pacific St. and says, "This is the old Brooklyn."


NoLandGrab: Bruce Bender is an idiot - everyone knows that those cars with broken windows are put there by the police after they've towed them from accidents and joy ride abandonment. Why should he care to learn about the neighborhood that he's trying to destroy?

Posted by lumi at 11:53 AM

January 22, 2005

Will Bush Side with the Property Thieves?

From The Baltimore Chronicle:

Governments justify such plunder on the grounds that the higher tax revenues produced by the new uses will benefit the public. Bah! That's a tissue-thin rationalization for land grabs on behalf of the well-connected, but courts, unfortunately, are buying it.


Posted by amy at 3:49 PM

Eminent Domain Defended In New Brief

From The Day Newspaper:

Attorneys for the New London Development Corp. and the city argue in a new filing with the U.S. Supreme Court that the use of eminent domain to seize property for commercial development at Fort Trumbull is constitutional and in keeping with the prior use of state power.

Read to the end of the article to see how the Empire State Development Corporation has their fingers in the pie...

Eminent Domain Defended In New Brief Attorneys claim Fort Trumbull property seizures constitutional

By TED MANN Day Staff Writer Published on 1/22/2005

New London — Attorneys for the New London Development Corp. and the city argue in a new filing with the U.S. Supreme Court that the use of eminent domain to seize property for commercial development at Fort Trumbull is constitutional and in keeping with the prior use of state power.

In a brief submitted Friday, the attorneys dismissed the claims of seven Fort Trumbull property owners who had argued in an appeal that allowing the city to seize land for private development violated their rights under the Fifth Amendment and would allow the government to seize homes for essentially speculative development projects.

The attorneys called such fears “Chicken Littleism” and asked the court to reject the petitioners' calls for greater scrutiny by the judicial branch of eminent domain use, saying the courts had traditionally deferred to legislative bodies on the issue.

The property owners, with the assistance of the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm devoted to fighting use of eminent domain, have won a hearing before the high court on whether, as they argue, the city's plans violate the Constitution's “takings clause” because the NLDC is seizing the lots for private commercial development in an effort to invigorate the city's anemic tax base.

The city attorneys countered Friday that property seizure in an attempt to improve the city's economic development –– even indirectly, through spurring private growth –– is as much a public use of eminent domain as when the land is used for reservoirs or railroad tracks.

“Such holding is no less valid merely because the economic improvements in question will be achieved by allowing private entities to lease the property taken through eminent domain,” the brief said. “The principal focus of the public use equation has always been whether the taking will produce a significant benefit to the public and not the means by which that benefit comes into being.”

Opponents of the Fort Trumbull redevelopment, which would put a hotel, offices and luxury apartments near the Pfizer Inc. complex, have said that any potential benefit for the city is purely speculative, and that the primary beneficiary will be Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, itself.

Not true, the city's attorneys said.

The need for development in the city is “undisputed,” according to the brief, as a result of “staggering economic woes,” including high unemployment, a declining population and the loss of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in 1996.

Despite what they called “quibbles” from opponents of the NLDC's development plan, the brief argues that there is “more than a reasonable likelihood that the projected benefits of the (plan) will come to pass and that the proposed takings are therefore necessary to the economic rejuvenation of New London.”

“On the specific facts of New London, there's enormous evidence of careful municipal planning and evidence of the particular economic benefits that are going to come out of this plan,” said Daniel J. Krisch, an attorney representing the NLDC. “What's being done by the city has a really clear relationship ... with the stated public goal.”

The attorneys also cited a lower court's finding that “the record clearly demonstrates that the development plan was not intended primarily to serve the interests of Pfizer, Inc., or any other private entity but, rather, to revitalize the local economy ...”


Attorneys at the Institute for Justice said the NLDC's statement to the court was roughly what they had expected.

“There really weren't any surprises in the brief,” said Scott Bullock, the attorney handling the property owners' case, which is known as Kelo v. New London.

“I think the fundamental problem with their brief and their position is that they really do not recognize any constitutional limits on eminent domain for private parties,” Bullock said Friday, after reviewing a copy of the NLDC brief. “They essentially say that if the government jumps through the necessary hoops, then they can take your home, they can take your business and give it to another private party in the hope that the trickle-down benefits from that private party will benefit the city.”

While the NLDC attorneys say their counterparts “prophesy a world in which churches are replaced by Walmarts (sic),” and call that view “cynical,” Bullock said he wasn't so sure.

He hadn't heard of any Wal-Marts, Bullock said, but “they've certainly been after churches for Costcos and Ikeas. This is a very real threat that property owners are under.”

The institute's attorneys will start work immediately on a reply brief, due Feb. 11, in advance of oral arguments Feb. 22.

Friday also was the deadline for amicus briefs on behalf of the city and the NLDC, and the city's attorneys hoped to stack up nearly as many as the 25 filed on behalf of the Institute for Justice.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal weighed in on behalf of the state, calling eminent domain a power eight centuries old and vital to the state's well being.

“The delicate, difficult balance between the rights of private property owners and the larger public was rightfully and responsibly considered in this case — both by governmental officials and the courts,” Blumenthal said in a written statement. “Regional economic hardship requires that government have the right and power to foster recovery.”

In a draft of his brief, the attorney general argues that the challenge to the NLDC is a challenge to the state's primary strategy for fighting economic stagnation in its cities.

Among the others expected to file briefs, according to Krisch, were the National League of Cities, Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Empire State Development Corp. and a group of 13 professors specializing in property law.

“Obviously,” Krisch said, “the cities have a great deal at stake in what's going on here.”

Posted by amy at 3:43 PM

NJ Nets sense chance to make the playoffs

With their 104-98 win against the division rival Celtics, the NJ Nets win three straight, and, voila, find themselves only 3-1/2 games behind the division-leading Sixers (18-20).

NY Daily News: Kidd, Vince power Nets
NY Newsday: Kidd's 3-pointer helps repel Celtics
Bergen Record: Nets get a team player in Carter
The NY Times: With a Three-Game Winning Streak, the Ever-Changing Nets Head West
AP via CBS Sportsline: Nets' Jefferson has surgery to repair wrist ligament

Posted by lumi at 3:31 PM

January 21, 2005

One-Sided Debate Over the Stadium… Continues

Brooklyn Rail: The Rail's update of recent developments in the Ratner-proposal controversy.

It is this [Metrotech] track record that has many in the area worried about Forest City’s latest proposal, the Atlantic Yards. Exponentially dwarfing Ratner’s previous Brooklyn projects, this 10-year construction project stands to bring more of the same failure, though now wrapped in dilettantish postmodern architecture. Perhaps realizing this, Forest City’s PR team seems to have mostly abandoned attempts to convince those in the community that Atlantic Yards will be engaging or in any way enjoyable for local residents. Forest City has instead turned up the volume on its promises of jobs and affordable housing.


Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

Gramercy Capital Corp: $29.1MM of $40.5MM FCR Bridge Loan Funded

Business Wire:

$40.5 million first mortgage loan commitment to two entities sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies ("FCRC"). As of December 31, 2004, $29.1 million of the $40.5 million was funded. The loan permitted FCRC to acquire various residential and commercial buildings in Brooklyn, New York. This is the first phase of a multi-year $2.5 billion project being undertaken by FCRC that will include the development of a new Frank Gehry-designed arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team and an extensive office, retail and residential project at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. The loan has an initial maturity of twenty-four months, bears interest at a rate of LIBOR plus 350 basis points [currently approx 6.74%], and is expected to be repaid prior to development of the arena.

In plain English: As of 12/31/04, Forest City Ratner has closed on $29.1 million of the $40.5 million in total private property transactions under contract in the footprint of the proposed development site.

Gramercy Capital Corp 4Q & Year-end Highlights

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

Slicing up the pie


NY Daily News: Daily News columnist Errol Louis takes local politicians to task for not supporting initiatives created to help women- and minority-owned businesses get a larger slice of the pie in recent development boom. Louis singles out Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James and describes how her local office was recently picketed by union and ACORN members.


NoLandGrab: Like Letitia James, Errol Louis is an ardent champion of groups who have traditionally been shut out of economic opportunities. Their visions for lower income neighborhoods is not that different.

The fact that they are not allies in the Ratner-arena controversy, is a testament to Ratner's ability to divide and conquer. While Louis is satisfied to accept what concessions have been extracted from Ratner, James is pursuing an alternative vision that includes affordable housing and jobs, but avoids destroying existing housing, jobs and neighborhoods.

Also, has anyone noticed that Errol Louis and Letitia James both have first names for last names?

The ACORN/union rally is just a taste of the power of Ratner's new alliances and how he will use their voices to try to defeat Letitia James in her bid for reelection. Consider this rally a "shot across the bow." Just because Ratner's coalition pickets James's office doesn't mean that her position has failed.

Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

January 20, 2005

Ratner To Sponsor Annual Brooklyn Hoops Tourney

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

This week, the New Jersey Nets owner announced that his Forest City Ratner Companies will be sponsoring Sunday’s sixth annual Brooklyn Basketball Challenge on the campus of Long Island University as part of the borough-wide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.


Posted by lumi at 3:27 PM

Pro sports owners’ extortion scam: Stadium swindle

Socialist Worker Online:

Sports columnist DAVE ZIRIN reports from Washington, D.C., on how cities and states have been ripped off to build sports stadiums and arenas.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Ratner introduces new Nets CEO, Brett Yormark

Hired away from NASCAR, Brett Yormark returns to the NJ Nets in the top sales and marketing position. He compares the daunting task of "selling" the Nets to a disgruntled fan base to the challenges he faced in bringing national attention to NASCAR.

Asbury Park Press: New CEO wants Nets to be NBA's star
New York Newsday: CEO hopes to sell move to Brooklyn
The New York Times: Nets' New C.E.O. to Focus on Move
CBS Sportsline: Nets get Yormark as chief hoop dreams

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

Political Basketball

New York Daily News:

Don't expect Donald Rumsfeld at a Nets game anytime soon. Nets owner Bruce Ratner this week helped honor his leftie brother Michael, the Center for Constitutional Rights chief who filed a criminal complaint against the defense secretary recently in German courts.

As it happens, Michael, who was arrested in the 1968 Columbia University student protests, received Columbia Law School's medal of honor this week.

"I'm extremely proud of my brother," capitalist Bruce told us.


NoLandGrab: Nice to know that Bruce is proud of Michael. Michael Ratner has been the hero to many disillusioned liberal Brooklynites who want to know if he is proud of Bruce. In case Michael Ratner's group, The Center of Constitutional Rights, has misplaced the Fifth Amendment click here.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Rezoning creates B'klyn cyclone.
Investors buy into downtown frenzy; overheated market?

Crain's: The rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, a nearby arts district in the works and Ratner's plans for mega-development in Prospect Heights is creating a feeding frenzy on available property as developers are driving up prices on commercial real estate. Where some see great potential upside, others worry about impending glut of commercial real estate in New York City.

By Steve Garmhausen Published on January 17, 2005

Last spring, it was just another gritty parking lot at Flatbush Avenue and Myrtle Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. Today, even $25 million isn't enough to buy the 25,000-square-foot parcel.

Welcome to the new downtown Brooklyn. Following a sweeping rezoning of the district in June, the area's property market has taken off, with developers and investors poised to build office towers, hotels and luxury condos, and willing to pay top dollar to do so.

"There's very little inventory, and guys are getting crazy numbers," says Bob Klein, a senior director at real estate brokerage Kalmon Dolgin whose client dropped out of the bidding for the parking lot when his $25 million offer came up short. According to Mr. Klein, the latest bidding was up to $31 million--more than $100 per buildable square foot.

City leaders pushed the higher-density rezoning to make the area a more vibrant commercial core and a magnet for businesses that might otherwise seek space out of town. They expect the changes to result in 4.5 million square feet of new office space within 10 years.

With an office vacancy rate of only 6%, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc., the area is being scoured by investors for industrial buildings that can be replaced with offices. Prices for such treasures have risen about 30% since the rezoning, says Ralph Trionfo, president of Upside Ventures, a Manhattan-based real estate investment firm. "There are no existing office buildings, and these landlords know it," he says.

Money no object

Mr. Trionfo, who is mining the area for an office tower site on behalf of an investor group, says his clients are raring to go even with the rising prices. One reason is that offices in Brooklyn cost at least 25% less than comparable product in Manhattan, and are expected to remain a cheaper alternative despite the current bidding wars.

Another reason is that Manhattan companies want nearby backup offices on a separate power grid.

"I'll pay the price if I can find the right site," says Mr. Trionfo. "My guys are saying, `We're not going to wait for a tenant--we want to have product available.' "

For all of the interest in office space, there is at least as much buzz about residential development. The HSBC Bank tower and the Verizon building at MetroTech Center are generating strong interest from buyers who plan to convert them, at least in part, to luxury housing units. The Verizon tower is said to have drawn a recent bid of $68 million.

It's easy to understand why. Residential developers can sell condominiums at $525 a square foot, according to Mr. Klein, while Class A office space downtown might bring in $40 a square foot. That means it would take roughly more than a decade of office rents to earn the same return as a condo sale.

A hotel is also in the works in the neighborhood. Mr. Klein reports that a client bought a 15,000-square-foot plot at Willoughby and Bridge streets three months ago for a hotel that could be about 22 floors and 210,000 square feet. The Manhattan-based developer paid $9 million--a huge leap from the $2 million that Mr. Klein says the land was probably worth before the rezoning.

But the rezoning is not the only factor behind all the activity. Just outside the rezoned area, in Fort Greene, an arts district is being developed around the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Nearby, developer Bruce Ratner is moving ahead with his plan to build a residential and office complex around an arena for the Nets, which he acquired last year.

Architect Frank Gehry is designing the arena, and rising star Enrique Norten is designing a sleek arts library for the cultural district.

Will they come?

"I think developers are seeing that there is much more upside in Brooklyn than probably anywhere else in the city," says Cushman Executive Director Glenn Markman.

Of course, the deals could come back to bite those who make them if the tenants don't appear on cue. Some believe that the speculation is getting a bit overheated. As Mr. Klein says, "The question is whether you can fill up the buildings."

Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

January 19, 2005

Ridge Hill survey puts spin on issues, critics say

The Journal News: Forest City Ratner [FCR] has taken another page from the PR playbook to create the impression of local support for a controversial proposal in Yonkers.

Under the guise of a telephone survey, the FCR push poll, "included questions about how city residents would like to see millions in tax revenues from the proposed development spent. The surveyor asked if the respondent would like to see money from the project benefit public schools, police or cultural institutions."

Also, by focusing on the sorry state of schools in Yonkers, "[FCR is] pitting homeowners associations and community groups against the education community." (The familiar divide-and-conquer strategy that has been employed in Brooklyn.)


NoLandGrab: Ratner's PR machine has to be commended for using some of the most successful strategies from political campaigns. Yonkers has been treated to push polling and the ole divide-and-conquer strategy. Residents should brace themselves to receive thier own "liar flyer" mailing, full of half truths and misleading info gathered from this "telephone survey."

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

January 18, 2005

An Arena That Pencils Out?

New York Games: Brian Hatch from New York Games attempts to get to the bottom of where The NY Times got its numbers in last weekend's article ("Stadium Games: Give and Take and Speculation," January 16). Result: a brief synopsis of the conflicting cost estimates of Ratner's Nets arena.

Read NewYorkGames.org synopsis.

Posted by lumi at 8:04 PM

Take a fresh look at stale arguments over stadiums

Sports Business Journal, Op-ed, Nov 15, 2004: New York Games has posted commentary by Andrew Zimbalist, the sports venue economist whose Ratner-commissioned report stirred controversy and debate last year.

This Zimbalist statement from the op-ed piece is one of the arguments arena detractors cite in the face of the conclusions of Zimbalist's original cost/benefits analysis of the Nets arena:

"...if the goal is strictly economic development, building a stadium should always be compared to the best alternative use of the city's land and resources."

Read more at NewYorkGames.org.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 PM

Mayoral Candidates' Responses to Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City Address

gothamgaz.jpg Gotham Gazette: In response to Mayor Mike's State of the City Address, the candidates jockeying for attention in the Mayoral election overwhelmingly point out that the Mayor has misplaced his priorities away from education and jobs for all New Yorkers, towards building sports stadiums and arena for his rich friends.

Charles Baron: He has turned New York City into New York City Inc., a playground for rich developers - Nets, Jets, and the Olympics - that is not trickling down into neighborhoods like East New York, where there is double-digit unemployment.


Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

January 17, 2005

NPR, Justice Talking: Profile on Freddy's

Justice Talking: Profile on Freddy's Bar broadcast TODAY at 4:00 PM on WNYE 91.5FM.

If you miss the local broadcast, tune in online next week at www.justicetalking.org or check out the program schedule — the show is broadcast at different times on many NPR affiliates who feature live online audio streaming.

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Landgrabs under assault.
Supreme Court ruling could change the rules for eminent domain; Columbia, Nets, West Side plans endangered.


[Columbia University] expects the state to invoke eminent domain to force out any recalcitrant owners to make way for its real estate project. Columbia's uptown expansion, like Forest City Ratner's proposed Nets arena and development in downtown Brooklyn and the massive plans for Manhattan's far West Side, is counting on the broadest interpretation of eminent domain to acquire critical real estate.

When Anne Whitman saw Columbia University's model for its planned campus extension into West Harlem at a community meeting last spring, she was more than a little shocked. The school's first project, and the centerpiece of its proposal, was a building on Broadway and West 129th Street housing a biotechnology research facility. It wasn't Columbia's desire to build a science center in Manhattanville that surprised Ms. Whitman, the owner of moving company Hudson North American, but its location.

"My business is right where their front door is," she says.

The fact that she'd already told Columbia representatives she wasn't selling hadn't deterred the private university from including her property in its plans. That's because the university expects the state to invoke eminent domain to force out any recalcitrant owners to make way for its real estate project. Columbia's uptown expansion, like Forest City Ratner's proposed Nets arena and development in downtown Brooklyn and the massive plans for Manhattan's far West Side, is counting on the broadest interpretation of eminent domain to acquire critical real estate.

But even as these three private developments have thrust the issue into the spotlight, changes are afoot that legal experts and city real estate insiders alike say could undermine those plans. "New York state has expansive eminent domain powers, but there's legal pressure coming from outside the state that could rein in its aggressive use of condemnation in the name of private redevelopment," says Robert Von Ancken, executive managing director of Grubb & Ellis, who has worked with property owners and developers on many eminent domain cases.

A nationwide wave of public opposition and legal criticism has led to several court rulings that have narrowed the prescribed use of eminent domain in some areas of the country. The true test is likely to come in June when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on an eminent domain case in which the city of New London, Conn., condemned land for a new Pfizer Corp. plant. The decision could have vast repercussions for New York's permissive eminent domain rights.

"The Supreme Court taking the Connecticut case will change the landscape for the abusive and unfair way eminent domain is exercised in New York," says Norman Siegel, former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who is representing community groups both in Manhattan and in Brooklyn who are challenging the Columbia and Forest City Ratner projects.

The power of eminent domain, which allows the government to take away privately held property in the name of public use--such as parks, schools or roads--is a state right guaranteed under the "takings clause" of the Fifth Amendment, as long as there is "just compensation." A 1954 Supreme Court ruling broadened the definition of "public good" to include "public benefit," such as when a private project would result in increased tax revenues or job creation.

Both the state and New York City have aggressively taken advantage of the public benefit ruling to clear the way for privately developed megaprojects. Eminent domain was instrumental in building Lincoln Center and more recently in revitalizing Times Square. In the last two years, the state initiated condemnation proceedings to obtain property for The New York Times Co.'s new home in midtown, as well as for the Durst Organization's Bank of America tower on Sixth Avenue. Plans going forward

The city, the state's economic development agencies and the private developers involved would not comment on the likelihood of using eminent domain for the three new projects. However, an attorney who is providing outside counsel to the Empire State Development Corp. claims the pending Supreme Court decision has had no impact on plans to use eminent domain in either the Columbia or Brooklyn developments.

"The Supreme Court's taking the Connecticut case is making people very apprehensive here," he says. "But those projects that are in the pipeline will go forward."

Lawyers disagree as to how broad the Supreme Court's ruling is likely to be and whether it will have an impact on the way New York uses eminent domain. Currently, public agencies in the state have great latitude in interpreting what constitutes blight and therefore most eminent domain actions fall into the category of public good, not public benefit.

"The (three) projects will invoke eminent domain for reasons of blight elimination," says Charles Webb, a partner at Berger & Webb who often represents the state in eminent domain cases. "The question the Supreme Court will consider is narrowly focused on whether eminent domain can be used in the name of economic benefit to the public."

But Robert Goldstein, a partner at Goldstein Goldstein Rikon & Gottlieb, who represents both condemners and condemnees, says the court "might very well expand the scope of its decision to include how states define blight as well."

Noting the pro-private property stances of many Supreme Court justices, Mr. Goldstein believes the court may call for heightened scrutiny at the state judicial level to determine whether the public good is the primary beneficiary in a given eminent domain case.

Opponents of the three major projects, however, aren't sitting idly awaiting the highest court's decision. Instead, they are actively trying to win their case in the court of public opinion. Observers say the toughest battle will be in Brooklyn. Bruce Ratner, the owner of the Nets and the force behind the arena development, is a veteran of eminent domain battles, having weathered opposition to developing MetroTech in Brooklyn with the help of state condemnations.

Strong support Mr. Ratner also has local political support. Borough President Marty Markowitz, who declined interview requests, has spoken strongly in favor of Mr. Ratner's plan and its promise to create new jobs and housing.

Even the local community board chairmen are backing the project, despite local opposition. "We're fighting a real uphill battle here," says Gustave Von Peebles, a local resident whose apartment is in the 13 acres of privately owned property Forrest City wants to demolish.

It's a very different story in Manhattanville, the strip of West Harlem from West 125th to West 133rd streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue that Columbia has earmarked for its new campus. The local business community and politicians are united behind the six holdout property owners, who have organized as the West Harlem Business Group.

"Columbia must pledge not to use eminent domain against the West Harlem Business Group if it wants the support of the Harlem business community," says Marita Dunn, chairwoman of the Manhattan Area Community, a group of 50 Harlem businesses.

The local community board voted 29-0 to oppose the use of eminent domain, and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who is trying to bring the two sides together to broker a compromise, says, "Columbia and the state need to publicly say that eminent domain is off the table." University officials have said that invoking eminent domain would be a last resort and there have been indications that Columbia's architects are working on an alternative plan that might allow existing businesses to remain. "I'll be surprised if some sort of compromise isn't worked out," says the attorney working with the ESDC.

It's unclear how effective opposition will be in the area affected by the proposed development of Manhattan's far West Side. The political muscle behind the plan from both Albany and City Hall is considerable and will only grow, should New York win the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ms. Fields, however, intends to weigh in on the side of the owners threatened by the condemnations. Federal Express, which has spent more than $50 million on a building it leases in the area, has announced its intention to fight any eminent domain action.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

NJ Nets struggle, but Kidd retracts trade demand

Nets Update:

NY Daily News: Reeling Nets deal with reality

Losing Jefferson didn't mean this season was lost. Or so the Nets hoped.

Nearly a week later, the Nets have played some of their best basketball only to find themselves with four straight losses. At 12-24, the Nets somehow trail the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks by only five games.

NY Daily News: No Kidding: Jason wants to stay
The Bergen Record: Nets approach a trading crossroad

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

January 16, 2005

Stadium Games: Give and Take and Speculation

New York Times:

Three years later, the city faces a $2 billion gap in the coming fiscal year's $47 billion budget. Nonetheless, the mayor and Gov. George E. Pataki are on the verge of approving three new sports sites - a football stadium for the Jets, a baseball stadium for the Yankees and a basketball arena for the Nets - that will require a combined public investment of at least $1.1 billion.

It is not easy to assess precisely what the taxpayers will get out of their investment, which is equivalent in cost to a major Manhattan skyscraper or 25 schools with 600 seats each. In part, that is because the economic benefits are based on studies commissioned by the teams themselves, and promoted by the government sponsors of the projects.


Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

Apple polishers fatten Mike fund


The Daily News exposes a conflict of interest involving Forest City Ratner's large donations to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. Bruce Ratner sits on the board and has donated more than $60,000.

The story also notes that "For the most part, the fund's donors are philanthropists or people with no interests in city business, such as author Mary Higgins Clark..." Mary Higgins Clark, you might remember, is an investor in the Nets.


Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

Times: NYC sports tab to be $1.1B

Field of Schemes:

The New York Times' Charles Bagli, citing "interviews with public and team officials," has come up with total public price tags for the three sports facilities under discussion in Gotham: $600 million for the Jets stadium slated for Manhattan's West Side, $300 million toward a new Yankees stadium that would replace the House That Ruth Built, and $200 million in subsidies to a Nets arena in Brooklyn - this last "whittled down," according to Bagli, from an initial $450 million demand by Nets owner/developer Bruce Ratner. The grand total: $1.1 billion in taxpayer money, for a city that's already facing a $3 billion budget gap. And it could easily be worse than this, as Bagli leaves out some additional public costs that could send the bill still higher:

continue reading

Posted by amy at 10:56 AM

January 14, 2005

Kidd tells Nets: Don't trade me


NY Daily News:

After months of constant speculation, Jason Kidd surprisingly said yesterday that he will not ask the Nets for a ticket out of New Jersey anytime soon.


Bergen Record: KIDD: NO DEAL

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

January 13, 2005

Ownership Society Includes Property Confiscation?

Cato Institute:

"On the campaign trail last year, President Bush said a priority of his second term would be to 'build an ownership society, because ownership brings security, and dignity, and independence.' Sounds good to us," reads a Wall Street Journal editorial today. "But the rhetoric doesn't square with news that the administration may file an amicus brief against property owners in an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning eminent domain."

Cato Institute Online Daily Dispatch

Posted by lumi at 12:04 PM

REVIEW & OUTLOOK: Ownership Society

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

On the campaign trail last year, President Bush said a priority of his second term would be to "build an ownership society, because ownership brings security, and dignity, and independence." Sounds good to us. But the rhetoric doesn't square with news that the Administration may file an amicus brief against property owners in an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning eminent domain.

Never mind that there's no pressing reason for the federal government to weigh in at all on the case, Kelo v. New London, since the issue before the court is a matter of state and local authority. What's more strange, given the President's ownership agenda and stated affinity for strict constructionism, is that the Bush Justice Department would consider siding with opponents of property rights.

Eminent domain stems from the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which allows the government seizure of private property for "public use" with "just compensation." Historically, courts and local governments have understood "public use" to mean roads, bridges, schools and the like.

But in a 1954 decision, the Supreme Court allowed Washington, D.C., to use eminent domain to appropriate land in a slum neighborhood and sell it to private developers. In time other cities, seeking higher revenues from richer taxpayers, followed course and cited urban renewal as a "public use" justification for taking a citizen's private property.

Matters worsened in 1981 with the Michigan Supreme Court's infamous Poletown ruling, which stretched the definition of "public use" further by blessing the city of Detroit's decision to seize an entire community on the grounds that expansion of a nearby General Motors assembly plant would create more economic benefits.

The GM plant was never built, but the floodgates were opened. One analysis of cases between 1998 and 2002 found more than 10,000 instances where local governments -- often citing the Michigan precedent -- had attempted to use eminent domain to obtain properties not for "public use" but for private development. And nothing is sacred. In 1999, two Atlantic City churches were bulldozed for an MGM casino.

Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned Poletown, calling it a "radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles." In a unanimous ruling, the Court said reversal was necessary "to vindicate our constitution, protect the people's property rights and preserve the legitimacy of the judicial branch as the expositor, not creator, of fundamental law."

Elsewhere, however, eminent domain abuses continue. Just last week a federal judge in New York upheld a Village of Port Chester decision to condemn well-maintained rental properties belonging to William Boyd, a small-business owner, and transfer them to a developer with plans for a Stop & Shop parking lot. And in Norwood, Ohio, a judge has ordered Carl and Joy Gamble out of their home of 35 years to make way for office and retail construction.

The Kelo case, which is scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court on February 22, also involves developer-driven encroachment. A Connecticut developer in cahoots with local officials and Pfizer is seeking to raze more than a dozen homes and small businesses. This will be the High Court's first chance in 50 years to provide some guidance on eminent domain, and property rights advocates nationwide are hoping the Justices will use the opportunity to remind states and lower courts of what the Founders intended.

Worried that a Bush Administration brief against land owners is in the works, the National Taxpayers Union, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other free-market groups signed a missive sent to the White House in October. No doubt, Business Roundtable-types are pressuring Mr. Bush on the other side, along with states and localities that feel that private property can be taken and then parceled out to maximize tax revenues. The letter urges the Administration to "affirm its support for property rights and refrain from filing a brief in Kelo." So far, the response has been a troubling silence.


Posted by lumi at 9:41 AM

EDITORIAL: Eminent domain case

Las Vegas Review Journal: An editorial citing and supporting the Wall St. Journal Editorial position (see above) on the Bush administration's betrayal of one of the bedrock principles of conservatism — property rights.

The Journal reports that "Business Roundtable types" are likely pressuring the administration to come down on the side of New London. But if the Bush administration hopes to be remembered as a friend of liberty and property rights — in other words, key ideals on which this nation was founded — it should stay out of Kelo v. New London or, better yet, file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the beleaguered property owners.


Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

COLUMBIA’S EXPANSION: Summit Is Set For University

The New York Sun: The controversy behind Columbia University's proposed expansion was related to Ratner's arena because of the use of eminent domain. Now Columbia is taking another page from the Ratner playbook in proposing to draft a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Community Board 9.

The university and the community board view the proposed meeting as a way to smooth over their disagreements over the expansion plans and perhaps forge a binding “community benefits agreement” between the parties. The nature of that compact would be similar to that of a proposed agreement between Brooklyn community boards and Forest City Ratner involving plans to move the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise to the Atlantic Yards complex.      A community source familiar with the negotiations between the community board and Columbia said the board wants a legally binding agreement that would include guarantees concerning job growth, employee training, and “affordable housing.”

The community board also wants Columbia to rule out supporting eminent domain proceedings against any holdout businesses. Seven of the businesses have sought to pre-empt any government move toward condemnation by hiring a prominent attorney, Norman Siegel, formerly with the New York Civil Liberties Union, to represent them.


Funny how preceptions are stronger than facts. Brooklyn's Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 have been insisting that they were only paticipating in the CBA negotiations with Ratner "in an advisory capacity." Local activists warned the Brooklyn Community Boards that Ratner would promote their involvement in order to create a perception that the Community Board actually negotiated the deal.

Just because the activists were paranoid doesn't mean they weren't right.

At least Manhattan Community Board 9 is sticking up for its property owners by opposing the use of eminent domain. What do property owners in the footprint of Ratner's proposal have to do to get government support in this town?

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Nets lose, eye moves to replace RJ

Asbury Park Press: The NJ Nets haven't thrown the towel in on the season. Amidst of strum und drang, Ratner names new Nets CEO.

New chairman
The Nets are close to naming Brett Yormark as their new CEO.

A spokesman for Nets owner Bruce Ratner said the deal "was not completed yet," but Yormark, 38, submitted his resignation as NASCAR vice president of corporate marketing on Tuesday to take the new job.

Yormark started his professional career as an accountant executive with the Nets in 1988. In 1994, he returned to the organization as vice president of sales.


Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Troubled Times

The Newark Star Ledger: A recap of the Ratner reign.

July 16 — Kenyon Martin is shipped out to Denver in exchange for three draft picks.

July 29 — The fire sale continues, with the Nets sending Kerry Kittles to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round draft pick.

July 30 — Jason Kidd returns from vacation and is granted an immediate meeting with owner Bruce Ratner and president Rod Thorn, whom the point guard asks to explore trade possibilities.

Oct. 4 — During media day, Kidd and Alonzo Mourning contend that the Nets are no longer a playoff team, and Mourning publicly admits his desire to leave New Jersey.

Oct. 6 —Thorn confirms that Mourning has requested a buyout, but the two sides are $8 million apart in an agreement.

Oct. 7 — Mourning's agent, Jeff Wechsler, ratchets up the rhetoric and suggests that Nets fans should chant, "Let Zo Go."

Nov. 22 — Mourning challenges Ratner in front of his teammates, asking him for specific reasons why he purchased the team. It is the first in a series of setbacks, which include a torn finger tendon, an exhaustive road trip and John Thompson's assertion that the Nets center should retire.

Nov. 28 — The Nets lose their ninth straight game to fall to 2-11.

Dec. 18 — The Nets trade Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two draft picks to Toronto for Vince Carter, who makes his debut on Dec. 27 at Detroit.

Dec. 27 — Jefferson taken down by Chauncey Billups at Auburn Hills during a fast break, landing on his left wrist. He later identified this as the moment his ligament was ruptured.

Jan. 6 — Carter admits during a TNT interview that he didn't work as hard as he could while in Toronto, which creates a firestorm of criticism.

Jan. 11 — The Nets announce that Jefferson requires surgery on his left wrist and will be out for the season.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

The Curse of Ratner

And how are the NJ Nets fans feeling about "the product?"


Somewhere, there's a Prozac prescription with every Netsfan's name on it.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

January 12, 2005

Nets Update: Jefferson out for season, Ratner playoff hopes dashed,

NJ Nets playoff hopes are dashed when the team announced that their leading scorer, Richard Jefferson, would need wrist surgery due to an injury sustained in late December from a flagrant foul by Detroit guard Chauncey Billups.

Jason Kidd is reported to be sitting tight for the time being, though the speculation from earlier in the seaon that he will demand a trade haven't disappeared. The trouble with a trade demand is that Ratner wants to keep the future Hall of Famer.

The slumping Nets, dealing with the loss of Jefferson and Kidd recovering from the flu, fell to during last night's 89-80 loss to Detroit.

NY Daily News: Nets lose Richard Jefferson for season with wrist injury
NY Newsday: Nets lose Jefferson for year
Sportsline: Jefferson ruptures ligament in wrist, points finger at Billups
The NY Times: PISTONS 89, NETS 80 -- Nets Looking to Pick Up the Slack
NY Daily News: Offense stalls vs. Pistons
ESPN.com, Mark Stein: Kidd going nowhere... for now.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

January 11, 2005

Yesterday's Tenant Activist, Today's Landlord


The New York Times: Tenants in East Harlem are feeling confused and betrayed by ACORN as the housing activist group assumes the role of landlord.


Brooklynites are not clear as to what ACORN's role will be if Ratner manages to build the 4,500 units of new housing as a part of the arena complex. Apparently a deal has been cut for ACORN to determine the eligibility of applicants for the affordable housing units, but no details of any arrangement have been made public.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 PM

Carter trade has not delivered instant results


Bruce Ratner was counting on the acquisition of Vince Carter to turn around the NJ Nets in the standings and generate ticket sales as fans talk of making the playoffs once again. The Nets are only five games behind the first-place Knicks who, at .500, leads the mediocre Atlantic Division.

Though Carter and Richard Jefferson are putting up big numbers, the Nets are counting on them, along with Jason Kidd, to carry the team. While the Nets are hoping they stay healthy, Ratner's CEO Rod Thorn is shopping around for a center to replace the disgruntled Ratner-baiting Alonzo Mourning, who was traded in the deal for Carter.

The New York Daily News: Nets playing with fire as Pistons approach
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Not So Fast. Nets Not Heating Up with Carter
The Newark Star Ledger: Diminutive Nets say they measure up to competition

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

January 9, 2005

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the lip

On Bruce's attempts to spruce up his image:
"I absolutely love the idea that it was Caring Bruce Ratner's mean partners who chased Kenyon Martin all the way to Denver."

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Americans deserve better

Advertiser-Tribune: The talk in conservative circles is that the Bush administration may file a friend of the court brief supporting New London's attempts to seize private property to hand over to a private developer in the case of Kelo v. New London, CT.

Brooklynites are watching this case unfold because it could effect Ratner's attempts to sieze private property in the footprint of his arena/17-highrise-tower plan.

Some reports suggest that the Bush administration, under pressure from big business interests that benefit from eminent domain abuse, may actually file a brief against property rights in this case. If so, that is certainly not in keeping with what most Bush voters surely would expect.

Concern about the administration's possible hostility to ordinary property owners is so great that 44 conservative and libertarian organizations, ranging from the Institute to the National Taxpayers Union and the Family Research Council, have sent a highly unusual joint letter to the White House pleading for the president to order his lawyers to at least, if they can't bear to do the right thing and support limitations on the government's condemnation power, to stay on the sidelines.

But Americans deserve better than that. They deserve to have the White House stick up for ordinary Americans' property rights and for a recognition that there properly should be limits to government power, especially the power to take property gained by the sweat of one's brow.


Americans deserve better

Next year the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in an extraordinarily important property rights case, one that could - and should - put legal limits on "public use" of property seized under the government's power of eminent domain. Most Americans readily support the notion that there are times when the government must have the power to buy land from unwilling sellers, such as to build a road. But in recent years local governments across the nation have begun to abuse the awesome power of property condemnation merely, in the words of attorney Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice, "to transfer property from one private owner to another, more politically powerful private owner in the name of economic development."

The victims usually are ordinary people. In a current case, the city of New London, Conn., wants to demolish a working-class neighborhood of modest homes to make way for private office space and other unspecified commercial development adjacent to a Pfizer plant. In Arizona, a city recently attempted to condemn an independent brake shop to make way for a big hardware store that wanted the location for expansion. And in one of the more infamous cases of abuse, an entire community in Detroit's "Poletown" was condemned for a General Motors plant that was never built; the Michigan Supreme Court recently overturned that taking.

The Institute for Justice has documented more than 10,000 cases of such obvious abuse of the government's power of eminent domain under the Fifth Amendment.

Sadly - infuriatingly, actually - the Bush White House appears to be having a difficult time deciding which side it should be on in this case. Some reports suggest that the Bush administration, under pressure from big business interests that benefit from eminent domain abuse, may actually file a brief against property rights in this case. If so, that is certainly not in keeping with what most Bush voters surely would expect.

Concern about the administration's possible hostility to ordinary property owners is so great that 44 conservative and libertarian organizations, ranging from the Institute to the National Taxpayers Union and the Family Research Council, have sent a highly unusual joint letter to the White House pleading for the president to order his lawyers to at least, if they can't bear to do the right thing and support limitations on the government's condemnation power, to stay on the sidelines.

But Americans deserve better than that. They deserve to have the White House stick up for ordinary Americans' property rights and for a recognition that there properly should be limits to government power, especially the power to take property gained by the sweat of one's brow.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

January 7, 2005

House not for sale


CNN/Money: New London, CT and Norwood, OH cases that could affect eminent domain seizures here in Brooklyn. Kelo v. New London (photograph: Susan Kelo) will be heard in February by the Supreme Court. The Norwood, OH case uses "blight" as the justification of condemnation. The Empire State Development Corporation is planning on using a finding of "blight" to condemn private property in the footprint of Ratner's proposal.


Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM

CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT? 2012 through the prism of 1964.

New York Press:

Bloomberg continues to hope that by attaching these projects to something as soul-stirring as the Olympics, he can sway public opinion. Similar tactics are being employed by Bruce Ratner in the stalled push for a proposed basketball arena in downtown Brooklyn, and in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where developers have grafted Olympic facilities onto their luxury high-rise dreams for the waterfront. An unprecedented 10-year "no strike" pledge from the city's powerful construction unions indicates the length of the Olympic gravy train.


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

NYC communities fear superstore invasion

NY Newsday: While Ratner is proposing more large-scale commercial retail next to his Atlantic Terminal Mall (Target) and Atlantic Center Mall, New Yorkers debate the benenfits of box stores on our neighborhoods and small businesses.


Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

PROFILE: REVEREND HERBERT D. DAUGHTRY SR. Former Firebrand Refuses ‘To Go Out to Pasture’


New York Sun: A profile of the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who has born the mantle of community representative in talks with Ratner for a Community Benefits Agreement.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

January 5, 2005

Forcibly taking one person's home or shop to attract a better taxpayer

Jewish World Review: Commentary about the state of eminent domain.

You don't have to be a property-rights fanatic to see what's wrong with forcibly taking one person's home or shop to attract a better class of taxpayer. Let us hope that the Supreme Court drives a stake through this scary idea.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Nets Update

Carter scores 31 points as the Nets lose to the Washington Wizards to fall to 11-19. Kidd's public comments on trade demands are softening. Can the ailing NJ Nets lead the mediocre Atlantic Division to make the playoffs?

And, what was Ratner doing attending an away game in DC with his sister?

Bruce Ratner, who has been particularly interested in how the MCI Center handles its parking demands in the middle of a busy district, was in attendance last night with his sister, Ellen, who has frequently appeared as a liberal political commentator on the Fox News Channel....
Newark Star Ledger: "Nets: Carter or K-Mart? If Jordan knows, he's not saying"

Sportsline: Carter scores 31 for Nets in ugly loss to Wizards
Sports Illustrated: Acquiring Carter puts Nets back in Eastern Conference driver's seat

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

January 4, 2005

Court sets eminent domain case. Ruling could impact Ratner’s Nets site.

The Brooklyn Papers:


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

The high court’s decision is expected to affect development of Atlantic Yards, a plan put forth by Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner to build a professional basketball arena, more than a dozen apartment buildings and office skyscrapers that will tower over the borough’s largest structures.

The site is on a 24-acre stretch of Prospect Heights emanating from the downtown intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. Like the Connecticut case, the Ratner project relies on government condemnation of private property under eminent domain.

Twenty-five groups with assorted political views — including Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an anti-Atlantic Yards group represented by noted civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel — have filed briefs in support of the New London 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. Among others who have rallied behind the Connecticut property owners are the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, urban policy scholar Jane Jacobs, Congress for New Urbanism, AARP, the American Farm Bureau, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Associated of Realtors.

New London homeowners are represented by the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.based group that fights eminent domain abuses nationwide.

At issue in the case is whether governments, claiming the need to produce jobs and tax revenue, can take private homes and businesses and hand them to developers who make promises of economic growth.

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Shaya eyeing hotel-condo in Ratner arena footprint

The Brooklyn Papers: The latest news on Boymelgreen's plan for redevelopment of 800 & 750 Pacific St. despite the fact that the land is in the footprint of Ratner's proposed development.

A five-story concrete warehouse on Pacific Street that has been empty since the former owner, a records storage company, moved out in August was plastered with large “Space Available” signs this week, advertising the property for lease through a broker.

In any other neighborhood an old warehouse going up for rent wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but the building at 800 Pacific St. stands smack in the middle of a site proposed to be cleared for developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner wants to build a $2.5 billion complex of office skyscrapers, apartment highrises and a professional basketball arena on property bounded by Dean Street and Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues.

The Brooklyn Papers revealed last month that the property at 800 Pacific St. is owned by Shaya Boymelgreen, a rising star in Brooklyn’s soaring real estate development community, who some sources suggest has an increasingly rocky relationship with Ratner.

Boymelgreen has posted on the Web site of a joint investor, Africa Israel, plans to turn the 250,000-square-foot former baked goods factory into 1.1 million square feet of luxury condominiums spread over seven parcels of land. The condo, on a lot bounded by Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues, between Pacific and Dean streets, would be similar to Newswalk, one block down at 700 Pacific St., which Boymelgreen also converted.

Henry Weinstein, who owns adjacent land leased by Boymelgreen at 750 Pacific St., thinks the property going on the market brings the luxury housing plan one step closer to happening.

To get a zoning variance that would allow Boymelgreen to build in the manufacturing district he would have to offer proof that he was unable to lease to a manufacturer or other commercial use acceptable within the current zoning restrictions.

A spokeswoman for Leviev Boymelgreen shared what she said her company thought of as “ideal” uses for the site: either a chain hotel or office space.

The spokeswoman, Sara Mirski, director of development for Leviev Boymelgreen, said the 800 Pacific St. project is still in a “pre-development phase,” and the developer was trying to figure what could work before applying for a zoning change or variance.

“We believe that a national hotel chain servicing the brownstone Brooklyn community and Downtown Brooklyn, or office-commercial space would be the most ideal permitted uses,” said Mirski.

Boymelgreen, who is building a combination boutique hotel and luxury condo high-rise at Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street in Boerum Hill, has invested more than $1.5 billion into the development of downtown Miami, many of which included hotel projects.

“We are hopeful that the highest and best use for the site will be determined within the next six months,” said Mirski, adding that a new tenant “ideally would be one user” not a group that would divide the space.

And if Ratner succeeds in his bid to seize the land within the footprint by having the state deem it blighted? Mirski reassured that provisions would be made with the tenant for a dissolution or transfer of the lease if that should happen.

Through a spokeswoman, Forest City Ratner declined to comment for this story.

“I think that is probably driving Ratner nuts,” said Patti Hagan, a vocal anti-Atlantic Yards activist, who noticed the new space available signs in her neighborhood.

“I think [Shaya Boymelgreen] is probably ultimately planning to do a residential conversion similar to what he did with the Daily News [Newswalk] building,” she said.

“If it needs to go through the hotel phase before it can be straight residential, that’s OK with me.”

Asked how a national hotel development would fit in, Hagan said, “That would be OK. Right now all we have in the neighborhood is the little bed and breakfasts, but that’s all, unless you want to put people down in the Marriott [on Adams Street near Metrotech]."

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Nets have great opportunity to run wild. Scary thought: Kidd coming up court with Carter, Jefferson on wings.

The Sporting News, Commentary: Sean Deveney

Did the Carter trade come in time for the Nets to make the playoffs?

The Nets have time. It's nearly impossible for any team to fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff race. New Jersey can be patient with Kidd's knee, continue limiting his minutes and hope that he is at full strength in time for a playoff run. The Nets can make up for their rebounding deficiency with Kidd and Carter, who can be one of the league's best pairs of backcourt rebounders. They can work Carter slowly into the offense -- Carter, too, has suffered through knee problems and has not been healthy for any of the past four seasons.


Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

January 3, 2005

From Gold Medal Idea to Olympic-Sized Mess

Downtown Brooklyn Star/The Queens Ledger:

Rather than craft a modest Olympic bid plan that would live within the city's means, Doctoroff, along with his old friend Mayor "Diamond" Mike Bloomberg, have tied New York's Olympic hopes in with a raft of gigantic, highly controversial projects, including Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development and the New York Jets West Side stadium. The Bloomberg administration has openly admitted that it hopes to use the Olympics as a "timeline" to ensure speedy construction of the Jets stadium and other projects, which, it contends, will greatly contribute to the city's economic health. Such a view has merit, but it also looks like an attempt to steamroll opposition and critical comment through a sort of passive bullying. Much like the purity of athleticism itself has been sullied by sponsorship deals and ratings-driven spectacle, New York's attempt to attain Olympic glory has been tarnished with the grubby smear of entrepreneurial real estate. New York's honchos have attached hosting the Games, a popular idea that could require some amount of public funding, to planned stadiums for private sports teams and developers, a contentious idea that could require lots more public funding.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM