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June 30, 2005

NYC stadium subsidies hit $1.3 billion and rising

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

Neil deMause shatters Andrew Zimbalist's lowball calculations and misunderestimassumptions that appeared in Zimbalist's column in the Sports Business Journal.


NoLandGrab: DeMause looks at the arena portion of the Nets deal for his comparison of stadium deals. This doesn't even include the housing subsidies that Bruce Ratner is seeking for the residential towers portion of the project.

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

With West Side Stadium Dead, Bloomberg Does About-Face on PILOT Funds

NY Sun

Mayor Bloomberg signs legislation requiring Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) to be paid to the City's general fund, but reserves right for Mayor to request approval for special projects like sports stadiums.

 According to the council, the new bill is a modified version of one the mayor vetoed this month.It requires all money collected from PILOTs to go into the city’s general cash pool, but, unlike the previous bill,it allows the mayor to request approval to use some of that money for a specific project, such as a stadium.


Also: The NY Times, Mayor Agrees to Council's Review of Revenue Source He Uses

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Government theft gets Supreme backing

Julia Vitullo-MartinNY Daily News
Be Our Guest (Columnist)
by Julia Vitullo-Martin

Though traditionally no friend of "the left," Vitullo-Martin's city government experience and Manhattan Institute credentials often leave her criticism unanswered. A NoLandGrab must read — here are some excerpts from her opinion piece:

More than any other place, New York is threatened by the Supreme Court decision allowing private property to be condemned and turned over to other private citizens in the name of fostering economic development.

This is bad news for New Yorkers, who have for decades endured the destruction of their neighborhoods - and the demolition of entire blocks - in the name of urban renewal. Indeed, scholar Martin Anderson once noted that New York State accounted for 34% of all urban renewal funds - nearly all of them spent in New York City. East Harlem alone had one-third of its land cleared - destruction from which it is only now recovering.

New York State has one of the most expansive eminent domain laws in the country - and one that has been upheld by the state's Court of Appeals. The only recourse in New York is political.

New Yorkers successfully halted the old urban renewal in the 1970s. Now they must fight to halt the new urban renewal by securing the same protective legislation already enjoyed by four other states whose big cities had had enough.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM


NY Press, The News Hole


"I cannot agree," [Justice Clarence Thomas] writes in his dissent, that "a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a public use." Change "Pfizer" to "Forest City Ratner" and Clarence Thomas is talking about Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

An economic development plan for the boroughs.

by Jonathan Bowles

Mayor Bloomberg gets high marks from the business sector and urban planners for reorganizing local governmental agencies, widening the focus of economic development to the outer boroughs and opening the planning process to community input.

However, there is still much criticism over his "top-down approach" to large-scale development projects that favor prominent local developers:

In almost every neighborhood where prominent real estate developers have expressed an interest--including Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Atlantic Yards, Red Hook, the far West Side of Manhattan and the Bronx Terminal Market--the administration takes a distinctly top-down approach to economic development. Though the prospect of significant private investment in these long-overlooked neighborhoods is in many ways a welcome sight, the administration often seems overeager to cut deals with developers and uninterested in whether a project will displace existing businesses or significantly alter the unique character of a neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

The Green Party, Press Release:
Green Party Calls Supreme Court Decision on Eminent Domain a Legalization of Theft

From the Green Party press release on eminent domain abuse and the recent US Supreme Court ruling:

"Working class and low income homeowners will be at special risk, since they provide less tax revenue, and the Court now gives permission for city councils and statehouses to evict and replace them with commercial and residential development for the sake of a wealthier tax base," said Steve Kramer, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. "The Court has legalized theft -- theft from the poor for the rich."

press release

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

Even more news on the Community Benefits Agreement:

Commercial Property News, Nets' $3.5B Brooklyn Project Makes Community Provisions
Brooklyn Downtown Star, (Some) Community Inks CBA

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

June 29, 2005

Press Release, Employment Policies Institute:
John Edwards Should Separate Self From ACORN’s Baggage On Columbus Minimum Wage Tour

NoLandGrab: A watchful Brooklynite pointed out that the source of this press release is specious due to the fact that they are a think tank whose true mission is to keep minimum wage low to serve the interest of the business commuity. This explains the inflamatory tone of the study.

EPI Research Director warns John Edwards:

ACORN's history of voter registration fraud, hypocrisy, abuse of federal grant programs, and disregard for sound economics should raise a red flag for John Edwards or anyone lending their name to this group.

[UPDATE, 2/10/06: According to Brian Mellor, the claim of voter registration fraud led to a law suit filed by "lawsuit filed by Mac Stuart against ACORN (Stuart v ACORN Case No. 04-22764-CIv)," which "has been dismissed with prejudice."]

Read the and then read the summary to EPI's report, "The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big-Business."

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

More coverage of Ratner's CBA

Ratner says the Community Benefits Agreement is "legally binding." Bloomberg says, "You have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you and for everybody else in this community."

We feel better about the whole thing -- don't you?

NY1, Bloomberg Pushes Ahead With Prospect Heights Nets Arena Plan
NY1 reports that: * the press conference was held nowhere near Prospect Heights where the arena is to be built, * demonstrators against the plan were barred by police, and * Ratner's plan has "widespread political support – including members of the Albany board that put the kibosh on a Manhattan stadium." NY1 online video: dialup/broadband

Field of Schemes, Mets, Nets work the media
Neil DeMause reveals that WCBS-TV and WCBS-News Radio reported that Ratner "giving the Atlantic Yards community where he wants to build the new Nets Basketball stadium $3.5 billion in community improvements."

NoLandGrab: $3.5 BILLION in community improvements? That would make Bruce Ratner the George Soros of Prospect Heights.

The Bergen Record, Nets owner reveals Brooklyn agreement

Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

Burning Questions

The Newark Star-Ledger

Interview with Rick Eiserman, the chief executive of BrandBuzz, the New York marketing firm that was awarded the account for the Nets' advertising campaign.

But how to you bridge New Jersey and New York, since the team plans to move to Brooklyn in three years?

The current fan base is 50 percent New York, according to the team's data. We're not marketing to New Jersey. We're marketing to the tri-state market. It's the tri-state area's team.

We've got more relationship building to do in Brooklyn. We need to lay the groundwork, but we're really looking at the tri- state area.


NoLandGrab: Anything BrandBuzz does will be an improvement on last season's campaign, "Kidd, Carter and the rest of the Nets. SEE 'EM LIVE!"

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

June 28, 2005

Bloomberg Stops Making Sense

"This is a guy, if you don't understand that, you don't know how great this guy has been for Brooklyn and for New York City." — Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Bruce Ratner

Report on NY1

Posted by lumi at 10:02 PM

The False Promise of Ratner's Affordable Housing - Redux

OnNYTurf.com demystifies the 50/30/20 affordable housing plan that is being touted by the pols as Bruce Ratner's big win-win for Brooklyn.

Upon closer examination the 50/30/20 is not truly a guaranteed affordable housing plan and turns out to be a big fat handout for developers.


NoLandGrab: In the technocratic world of publicly subsidized affordable housing plans, this is the first explanation written in plain English we’ve come across.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 PM

Big Apple can take a shine to this new threesome of sports facilities

zimbalist.jpgSports Business Journal
by Andrew Zimbalist

Zimbalist touts the Mets, Nets and Yankees stadium deals:

Compared with the typical deal in the sports industry and previous proposals in New York, the new facility plans for the Yanks, Mets and Nets are good news indeed.

Zimbalist never discloses in the column that he was paid by Forest City Ratner to author an economic analysis of Atlantic Yards. Then he reveals that he has no understanding of the financial structure of Ratner's proposal:

[T]he Ratner project includes not only $500 million of private funds for the arena but also an additional $3 billion in private funds for residential and commercial development.


CORRECTION: By Zimbalist's account the $3.5 billion project will be entirely privately funded. He is forgetting the $1.1 BILLION in public subsidies that Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey claimed the company would seek in hearings before the NYC Council.

Either Zimbalist is still shilling for the man or this leading analyst of sports venue deals doesn't know his facts.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 PM

DDDb Preess Release: Ratner’s So-called “Community” Benefits Agreement

Ratner’s 20-year History of Broken Promises Show Bad Faith

BROOKLYN, NY– On Monday the Mayor's office released a press statement headlined, “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Forest City Ratner CEO and President Bruce Ratner and Civic Leaders Sign Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).” Some press accounts had visuals showing the Mayor signing a document. The Mayor, as well as the City, are not signatories to this agreement. The agreement is between a smattering of 8 groups and Forest City Ratner (FCR). None of those 8 groups represent the areas that would be directly impacted by FCR’s proposal.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, “Bruce Ratner’s firm, for the past 20 years, has left a trail of broken promises through the Borough of Brooklyn. The so-called ‘CBA’ announced yesterday leaves room for FCR to continue breaking promises, as the penalties will simply be the cost of doing business. With the FCR track record, there is no reason to believe there is good faith involved here.”

Goldstein continued, “The Mayor’s little PR dance is dangerously misleading. It pretends that this document has accountability to the City and the Administration. It has no such accountability. The only accountability is between Ratner’s corporation and 8 groups that, overall, do not represent the wide spectrum of community groups* surrounding, and in, the proposed development site.”

Further misleading statements appeared in the Mayor’s press release, including the claim that the FCR proposal “will create 8,500 permanent new jobs, 4,500 mixed-income apartments…” FCR themselves only claim 6,000 jobs and have admitted at a City Council hearing that they cannot guarantee that any new permanent jobs would be created or that local residents would get the jobs. FCR said at the same Council hearing that they now plan on building 6,000 or even 7,300 housing units, with no commitment to make those additional units affordable. This would reduce the percentage of so-called affordable units to a mere 18 percent.

Monday's DDDB "CBA" press release: http://www.dddb.net/062705CBArelease.php

Posted by lumi at 8:00 PM

Ridge Hill developer promises money for schools American dream of homeownership into a nightmare.

The Journal News
by Michael Gannon

The developer [Bruce Ratner] of the proposed $600 million Ridge Hill Village has pledged to contribute $100,000 to seed a fund for the city's public schools, a tactic that has some opponents of the project alleging a game of eleventh-hour divide and conquer.


Posted by lumi at 6:11 PM

Ratner, Bloomie tout CBA in press conference

Ratner CBA Press Conference
An "historic Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)" was signed yesterday by Bloomberg, Ratner and various developer-acknowledged community groups. What makes this CBA historic was the number of community groups left out in the cold, but that didn't put a damper on the festivity of the occasion. Police kept the good vibes flowing by barring pesty community members of groups opposed to the project.

The event drew a lot of media coverage:

This one is particularly complimentary to the developer and quotes Ratner saying "This is the first time a developer has signed a Community Benefits Agreement." * WCBS, New Deal to Move the NJ Nets to Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Joining of hands on Ratner's site

NY Daily News

Denis Hammil's report from the opening of Cold Stone Creamery in the Atlantic Terminal Mall:

Teenagers with vital summer jobs literally sang his praises.

Then the Rev. Herbert Daughtry gave him his blessing.

On top of that, Bertha Lewis, one of the most vocal tenant rights activists in the city and president of ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - was on hand to support real estate developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner's quest to build a 20,000-seat arena and 4,500 units of housing, 50% of which will be "affordable," on the site of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

Could it get any better than this for Ratner?


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

DDDb Press Release: Ratner’s So-called “Community” Benefits Agreement Bypasses Community and Local Elected Officials

"CBA" is Insufficient Band-aid on a Fatally Flawed Development Proposal and Process

BROOKLYN, NY– Four days after a sharply divided Supreme Court decision, perceived to give a green light to Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) use of eminent domain for its private, for-profit, 20 high-rise and arena development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the developer announced a so-called Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with eight signers.

“There are 48 known community organizations (*see below) and three of the district’s four elected officials who are opposed to or very deeply concerned about the FCR proposal,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman, Daniel Goldstein. “None of these groups have been involved in the ‘CBA’ negotiations, while all of the groups that have been involved have supported the project from the beginning. Those most directly affected by the proposed project have not been involved either. What was announced today may be an agreement, but it is patently not a community agreement.”

The “CBA” concerns itself, primarily, with jobs and housing. Any developer who builds on the Atlantic Yards should negotiate with the community. However this “CBA” is extremely weak and lacking because it has excluded all the concerns that deal with community quality of life which will effect everyone in the area: building scale, character and density, land use, secondary displacement, eminent domain, environmental impact during and after construction, health issues, project urban design and serious traffic and transportation issues–even though these are major concerns of the five communities surrounding the proposed development site. The State approval process also includes no genuine opportunity for community input.

The Ratner “CBA’s” very foundation is in violation of a key principle of effective CBAs–they are meant to be the end result of a negotiation process between the developer and a wide spectrum of community groups opposed to, and supportive of, a development proposal. But in this case, all oppositional and most longstanding community stakeholder groups were excluded from the outset.

“An insufficient band-aid like this 'CBA' does not cure any of the ills of the Ratner proposal or make up for the utter lack of an accountable, democratic process. A ‘community’ benefits agreement that excludes most of the community, ignores serious impact concerns, is negotiated behind closed-doors, and accepts eminent domain that disrupts the bedrock foundation of communities–homes and businesses–is dangerous and destructive to communities,” Goldstein concluded. “And the timing of the Ratner ‘CBA’, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision–a decision that raises serious questions about the legality of using eminent domain for the FCR project–leads us to believe that Mr. Ratner is not intent on genuinely engaging the community but would rather steamroll it with his $1.6 billion taxpayer subsidized, sweetheart deal.”

For more information on CBAs–Community Benefit Agreements: Making Development Projects Accountable by California Partnership for Working Families and Good Jobs First: www.dddb.net/cbahandbook2005.pdf

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Coalition, www.dddb.net/position.php, comprised of: 6. Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association (AABA) 7. Boerum Hill For Organic Development 8. Brooklyn Bears Community Garden 9. Brooklyn Vision 10. Cambridge Place Action Coalition
11. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Inc. (DDDb)
12. East Pacific Block Association
13. Fans For Fair Play
14. Fort Greene Association (FGA)
15. Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG)
16. Kings County Greens
17. New York Preservation Alliance
18. North Brooklyn Greens
19. Park Slope Greens
20. Revel Arts
21. South Portland Block Association
22. Times Up!
23. Warren St. Marks Community Garden

*Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition (DBLC), comprised of: * 24. Black Veterans for Social Justice (Job Masharaki) 25. Church of the Open Door (Rev. Mark V.C. Taylor) 26. Brooklyn Christian Center (Rev. Dennis Dillon) 27. Brown Memorial Baptist Church (Rev. Clinton Miller) 28. Emmanuel Baptist Church (Rev. Anthony L. Trufant) 29. Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church (Rev. Patrick Perrin) 30. Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (Rev. David Dyson) 31. Old First Reformed Church (Rev Daniel Meeter)

  1. Good Jobs New York
  2. Kings County Affiliate, Libertarian Party of New York
  3. National Taxpayers Union
  4. NYCBasketball.com
  5. Park Slope Civic Council
  6. Park Slope Neighbors
  7. Pratt Area Community Council (PACC)
  8. Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED)
  9. Prospect Heights Action Coalition (PHAC)

Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), www.phndc.org/about.php comprised of: 41. The Prospect Heights Association 42. The Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block Association 43. The Prospect Place Block Association 44. The Prospect Heights Parents Association 45. The Eastern Parkway Block Association

  1. Senior and Retirees Committee of Willoughby Walk Cooperative Apts.
  2. Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter
  3. The Fifth Avenue Committee

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

June 27, 2005

Yonkers developers talk to NAACP

The Journal News
by Ernie Garcia

In a move towards coalition building or breaking (depending on your feelings about Ratner), reps from Forest City Ratner showed up at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Yonkers NAACP to tout their record of women and minority hiring and the affordable housing component of the controversial Ridge Hill Village development project.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

New York State to Shine Light Into Shadows

The NY Times
by Al Baker

In the waning minutes of the NY State legislative session, Assemblymember Richard Brodsky's (D-Westchester) bill requiring oversight of the state's Public Authorities, such as the MTA and Local Devlopement Corporations (LDCs).

This bill requires that Public Authorities get "fair market value" when selling public land, such as the Atlantic/Vanderbilt Railyards. However public interest groups heed caution because the Inspector General to be appointed to head oversight will be chosen by Governor Pataki.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

'Taking' for public good

Supreme Court's property decision is logical but could easily be abused.
NY Newsday, Editorial

Newday predicts that the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain could make it easier for:

crooked pols and dubious developers striking up an alliance somewhere to force honest folks to sell their homes so that a wholly speculative real estate venture - not crucial to the public's interest - might arise


Had this decision gone the other way, some crucial projects, including some here in the New York region, might have suddenly been in jeopardy. Example: A group called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has opposed the use of eminent domain as Bruce Ratner works to rebuild downtown Brooklyn.

Ratner's project - complete with a pro basketball arena and office and residential towers - is the most promising revitalization plan Brooklyn has seen in decades. With some public help, he would give the area around the Long Island Rail Road terminal an urban panache it hasn't seen for decades. Ratner needs help. He does not need new legal hurdles to jump.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

June 26, 2005

Stadium, Anyone?

Bruce Ratner

Questions for Bruce Ratner from New York Times Magazine. Here's our question for the New York Times:


This article is a fluff piece straight out of the clearly deranged Forest City Ratner PR machine.

It has been a bad week for Brooklyn. We can't trust the Supreme Court. We can't trust the New York Times. We already knew we couldn't trust our Borough President and Mayor. But we can still trust our neighbors. It's time to join your neighbors and friends in our fight against injustice. No one will protect Brooklyn but Brooklyn itself.

In Ratner's own words, "Like so many things in life, it was just a matter of money." It's just a matter of money that citizens don't have a say in our own neighborhoods and government? Mr. Ratner needs to realize that everything in life is not about money. Unlike Mr. Ratner, we don't see Brooklyn as a giant piggy bank that needs to be smashed to get at the cash.

Read the article here, if you can stomach it.

Watch DDDB skewer the rat here.

To contact Byron Calame, who represents the readers of The New York Times as the Public Editor, please e-mail public@nytimes.com.

To check out The New York Times Limited Edition Development Partner action figure click here.

Posted by amy at 10:33 AM

June 25, 2005

Ratner Discusses Possibility Of Using Eminent Domain To Help Build Brooklyn Arena


From NY1:

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize private property against the will of its owner, and give it to private companies to develop. In Ratner's case, that would mean a 21-acre arena for the Nets and an apartment complex in place of the Atlantic Rail Yards and the surrounding properties.

While some business and apartment owners have already sold to Ratner, the ones who haven't could be kicked out if the city resorts to eminent domain. Ratner says that could be for the greater good of the neighborhood.


Posted by amy at 12:20 AM

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Property; Opponents Of Brooklyn Arena Cry Foul


From NY1:

Opponents say the arena does not serve the public interest, and the use of eminent domain would be illegal.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner has bought some of the land needed for the arena, but eminent domain may still have to be used to get the arena project done.

The group "Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn" says it will keep fighting the project. Members call Ratner's plan, “an illegal and unnecessary use of eminent domain to force tenants, homeowners, and businesses from the footprint."


Posted by amy at 12:17 AM

Relax, Brooklyn

Ben Dover of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle asks Brooklyn to accept our pillaging more gracefully.

Almost all of us are at some time either pedestrians or drivers, and, depending on which one we are the moment, we adopt the attitude of that mode. The drivers within us are going to have to learn that we drive in the city only on sufferance, and that we’ll be paying more both in money and time is we enter downtown.


Posted by amy at 12:10 AM

Supreme Court Decision Could Directly Impact Ratner Controversy


From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

“Justice O’Connor is absolutely correct, and the Ratner project’s use of eminent domain is a poster child for what she describes,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group opposing the Ratner project. “Today the Court has kept and reaffirmed the status quo, but in a severely split decision. The Court has made a federalist decision, which means it is now Albany’s responsibility to curb and restrict New York’s abusive eminent domain laws.”


Posted by amy at 12:01 AM

June 24, 2005

Slope group rips Ratner plan

From the Brooklyn Papers:

A civic group in Park Slope that began by successfully pressuring Commerce Bank into modifying the look of a new branch to fit in with the neighborhood, is now taking aim at developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards basketball arena and skyscraper project.

Park Slope Neighbors, which formed last October to bring together block associations and residents who felt estranged by other area organizations, made a splash when they convinced the bank to reduce the area allocated to a suburban drive-through design for a more Brownstone Brooklyn facade.


Posted by amy at 11:56 PM

Civic leaders join to fight Ratner

From the Brooklyn Papers:

Claiming that their elected officials have not represented their concerns, a broad-based group of activist, neighborhood, block and civic associations have come together to represent their own concerns about the Atlantic Yards project.

Incorporating leaders of the Boerum Hill Association, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation, Park Slope Neighbors, Fort Greene Association, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the newly formed Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) is in the early stages of identifying the concerns of the communities neighboring the project as it moves through procedures specified in the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).


Posted by amy at 11:53 PM

Atlantic Yards community deal due Monday

The Brooklyn Papers describes the difference in viewpoints between those drinking the kool-aid, and those who abstain:

Atlantic Yards opponents argue the CBA is merely a ploy by the developer to give the appearance of broad community support for his project. Supporters, meanwhile, say it is the best thing any new development in the city has promised its surrounding community.


Posted by amy at 9:44 PM


From the Brooklyn Papers:

Letitia James is no fan of Gifford Miller.

And, the councilwoman said this week, she wants to make that point perfectly clear in light of mailings to Democrats in her district — paid for by taxpayers — that imply an alliance between the City Council speaker, who is running for mayor, and the Fort Greene-Prospect Heights legislator.

It’s not so much that the mailings carry the air of impropriety — despite emanating from the City Council they amount to little more than campaign literature for the Upper East Side councilman — although that, too bothers James. No, in this case it is the implication that the councilwoman is an ally of someone who supports a project which she has risked her politcal career fighting — developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards.

“I have not endorsed Gifford Miller,” James told The Brooklyn Papers this week. “I want that stated unequivocally, and will not be endorsing Gifford Miller unless he changes his position on the Atlantic Yards.”


Posted by amy at 9:42 PM

Unfair & un-American, biz cries


From the Daily News:

Down the block, Henry Weinstein could lose an eight-story building he bought over 20 years ago. "It's un-American," seethed Weinstein, who recently renovated the old warehouse and plans to rent out office space.

"How can you take property from one person and give it to another?" he asked.


Posted by amy at 9:36 PM

Mattera Campaign Calls On Brooklyn Borough Hall for Restraint After Supreme Court Ruling

From Hot Indie News:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s eminent domain ruling Thursday, Green Party Candidate for Brooklyn Borough President Gloria Mattera called on Borough Hall to issue a binding declaration of restraint on the Ratner Arena proposal.

"The community is asking Borough President Markowitz to honor his commitment to the citizens of Brooklyn by promising us that eminent domain will not be abused," Ms. Mattera said. She noted that the Mattera campaign is asking for an official acknowledgment from Brooklyn Borough Hall.

"We completely disagree with the Supreme Court," she added. "When government officials have free reign to bulldoze people’s homes and destroy communities so that a few well-connected people can make a lot of money, something is terribly wrong."

Gloria Mattera for Brooklyn Borough President

Posted by amy at 9:31 PM

Some Prospect Heights Residents Fear "Future Brooklyn"


WNYC reveals what's REALLY happening to residents in the footprint, and being made an instant millionaire is not part of the deal:

YOST: I would love for them to come to me and say we’re sorry about you having to move, we realize the inconvenience we’re going to give you an apartment on the 31st floor facing west by southwest so you can see the sunset, a small little terrace so you’ll be able to charcoal your lamb chops out there.

REPORTER: Instead, Yost says, he’s moving to a small basement apartment nearby at the end of this month, where his rent will essentially double.


Posted by amy at 9:21 PM

Local coverage on Kelo and the Atlantic Yards Land Grab

arenamodel2.jpgSupreme Court's Kelo v. New London ruling mean for Bruce Ratner's plans for NY State to evict homeowners in the footprint of his Atlantic Yards development proposal? Here's the local coverage:

NY Sun, Property Ruling Could Affect N.Y. Development
One of the nation's pre-eminent legal scholars of eminent domain, Columbia University Law Prof. Thomas Merrill, had some cautionary words for jubillant politicians and developers:

[Merrill] said the court warned it would apply more stringent standards in cases where a local government invokes eminent domain for a project by a private developer, such as with the Atlantic Yards development.

“The court responded more favorably to New London than they would have if it had been the Ratner plan they were considering,” Mr. Merrill said. “The overall message of the case is a cautionary one, that the court is willing to go along with the use of eminent domain this time, but if something extreme happens, they could change their mind.”

NY Daily News, Home's up for grabs. Ruling raises anxiety in the city
Quotes from Councilmember James, DDDb spokesperson Goldstein, civil-rights attorney Norman Seigel and esteemed eminent domain attorney Michael Rikon. No comment from Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco.

NY Sun Opinion, Eminent Danger

It's hard to imagine a Supreme Court decision more fraught for New Yorkers than that handed down yesterday in Kelo et al v. City of New London et al, in which the court signaled that no property is safe from the government seizing it for vague "economic development" purposes.

Quotes from Tish James and Dan Goldstein and assurances from Marty.

Patti Hagan makes a good point about the use of eminent domain for larget-scale private development:

Supposedly it’s [to bring in] more taxes, but in fact, every one of these developers get such enormous tax subsidies and tax exemptions on property taxes, that I’m not sure exactly how much of a benefit it is. At least for the first 25 years.

NY Newsday, Reaction to Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court eminent domain decision


Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Nationwide headlines on Kelo decision

kelo2.jpgNews of the high court's decision on Kelo v. New London lead nearly every national and local TV news broadcast yesterday evening and this morning and is featured on page 1 of most of the dalies. Here's a sampling of the coverage:

And, don't forget the op-ed pages:
* The Washington Post, Eminent Latitude
* NY Times, The Limits of Property Rights
* NY Sun, Eminent Danger
* NY Post, George Will, NO LIMITS
* Wall Street Journal Editorial

(Text of the Wall Street Journal Editorial)

The Supreme Court's "liberal" wing has a reputation in some circles as a guardian of the little guy and a protector of civil liberties. That deserves reconsideration in light of yesterday's decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The Court's four liberals (Justices Stevens, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg) combined with the protean Anthony Kennedy to rule that local governments have more or less unlimited authority to seize homes and businesses.

No one disputes that this power of "eminent domain" makes sense in limited circumstances; the Constitution's Fifth Amendment explicitly provides for it. But the plain reading of that Amendment's "takings clause" also appears to require that eminent domain be invoked only when land is required for genuine "public use" such as roads. It further requires that the government pay owners "just compensation" in such cases.

The founding fathers added this clause to the Fifth Amendment -- which also guarantees "due process" and protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination -- because they understood that there could be no meaningful liberty in a country where the fruits of one's labor are subject to arbitrary government seizure.

That protection was immensely diminished by yesterday's 5-4 decision, which effectively erased the requirement that eminent domain be invoked for "public use." The Court said that the city of New London, Connecticut was justified in evicting a group of plaintiffs led by homeowner Susette Kelo from their properties to make way for private development including a hotel and a Pfizer Corp. office. (Yes, the pharmaceutical Pfizer.) The properties to be seized and destroyed include Victorian homes and small businesses that have been in families for generations.

"The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. Justice Kennedy wrote in concurrence that this could be considered public use because the development plan was "comprehensive" and "meant to address a serious city-wide depression." In other words, local governments can do what they want as long as they can plausibly argue that any kind of public interest will be served.

In his clarifying dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas exposes this logic for the government land grab that it is. He accuses the majority of replacing the Fifth Amendment's "Public Use Clause" with a very different "public purpose" test: "This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a `public use.'"

And in a separate dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that the use of this power in a reverse Robin Hood fashion -- take from the poor, give to the rich -- would become the norm, not the exception: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

That prospect helps explain the unusual coalition supporting the property owners in the case, ranging from the libertarian Institute for Justice (the lead lawyers) to the NAACP, AARP and the late Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The latter three groups signed an amicus brief arguing that eminent domain has often been used against politically weak communities with high concentrations of minorities and elderly. Justice Thomas's opinion cites a wealth of data to that effect.

And it's not just the "public use" requirement of the Fifth Amendment that's undermined by Kelo. So too is the guarantee of "just compensation." Why? Because there is no need to invoke eminent domain if developers are willing to pay what owners themselves consider just compensation.

Just compensation may differ substantially from so-called "fair market value" given the sentimental and other values many of us attach to our homes and other property. Even eager sellers will be hurt by Kelo, since developers will have every incentive to lowball their bids now that they can freely threaten to invoke eminent domain.

So, in just two weeks, the Supreme Court has rendered two major decisions on the limits of government. In Raich v. Gonzales the Court said there are effectively no limits on what the federal government can do using the Commerce Clause as a justification. In Kelo, it's now ruled that there are effectively no limits on the predations of local governments against private property.

These kinds of judicial encroachments on liberty are precisely why Supreme Court nominations have become such high-stakes battles. If President Bush is truly the "strict constructionist" he professes to be, he will take note of the need to check this disturbing trend should he be presented with a High Court vacancy.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

US Supreme Court hands down decision from surreal parallel universe

ussupremecourt.jpgThe US Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London is viewed as a set back for private property owners nationwide. The decision gives the green light for cities and states to make the claim that economic development to revitiliize the local economy by bringing more jobs and increasing the tax base is a reasonable "public use."

In the world of legal abstractions, it came as no surprise to court watchers that the liberal justices further broadened the definition of "public use" of the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, while conservative justices expressed concern that it would lead to further abuses. However, in this surreal parallel universe, the liberal penchant for social engineering has turned away from the concept of government-mandated social equity and protection of those less fortunate, leaving conservative justices such as Clarence Thomas to express the concern that the Kelo decision would lead to abuses whose affect would fall "disproportionately on poor communities."

At this time property-rights advocates are carefully examining the ruling for guidance from the high court on how to distinguish between reasonable public use and "public abuse."

Though the majority opinion, written by Justice Stevens, dismisses the effects of New London homeowners' case as "hypothetical," the separate consenting opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, provides more clarity on where courts must draw the line in the sand to protect property owners from the coercive governmental powers of eminent domain.

According to Kennedy, "a court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits" Kennedy's opinion goes further to state that "plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should treat the objection as a serious one," though he balances that statement with the view that any examination should take into account the "presumption that the government’s actions were reasonable and intended to serve a public purpose."

For more on Kennedy's concurring opinion check out SCOTUSblog: Kennedy: A limit on Kelo's reach

Dope on the Slope's take on the prospects of eminent domain abuse in Brooklyn, "Giff Grilled on Air America".

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Exceprts from the Justices' opinions on Kelo v. New London

Download the Court's opinion here

Justice Stevens (Opinion of the Court):

    Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government. Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose.

    The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but by no means limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue.

Justice Kennedy (Concurring Opinion):

    A court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should treat the objection as a serious one and review the record to see it if has merit.


justiceoconnor.jpgJustice O'Connor (Dissenting Opinion):

As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.

The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory.

The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.

Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded.

justicethomas.jpgJustice Thomas (Dissenting Opinion):

The court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution.

Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the public use clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning.

Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

DDDb Press Release: The U.S. Supreme Court Misses Historic Moment

Develop Don’t Destroy Urges Albany to Curb Eminent Domain Abuse

For Immediate Release: June 23, 2005

BROOKLYN, NY– Today the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, deferring to the City of New London’s determination that the destruction of homes in a working class neighborhood in order to build a commercial development is not unconstitutional. The decision stands in sharp contrast to the unprecedented public outrage over eminent domain abuse across the U.S. Nevertheless, the decision will do little to dim civil rights advocates' efforts to curb the actions of developers–and their sponsoring state and municipal agencies–who intend on making the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment a dead letter.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," Justice O'Connor wrote in the dissenting opinion. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

O'Connor's words should strike fear in the hearts of all citizens around the United States. "Justice O'Connor is absolutely correct, and the Ratner project's use of eminent domain is a poster child for what she describes. Today the Court has kept and reaffirmed the status quo, but in a severely split decision. The Court has made a federalist decision, which means it is now Albany's responsibility to curb and restrict New York's abusive eminent domain laws; here in Brooklyn, and all over the state, where private, politically-connected, corporate powers are benefitting off the backs of everyday citizens."

In December 2004, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) was one of 25 organizations that filed amici curiae briefs in support of the homeowners in Kelo. The briefs represented an extraordinary expression of solidarity among the disparate groups, cutting across racial, political, and social lines. The briefs in support of the City of New London, in contrast, were predictably filed in large part by developers and municipal agencies. To legal observers, the overwhelming public support for the homeowners and recent state court decisions reining in eminent domain abuse signaled a sea change, which the Supreme Court would likely acknowledge in its decision. Regrettably, the Court failed to seize the historic moment and tamely deferred to the City of New London’s determination that an increase in tax revenues justifies the destruction of homes.

Despite the ruling, Bruce Ratner’s plans to build a high-rise and arena complex in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn still contemplate an illegal and unnecessary use of eminent domain to force tenants, homeowners, and businesses from the footprint. DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein said, “If Ratner uses eminent domain, it will be up to him to make the case that the neighborhood is blighted, which it patently is not, or the project makes economic sense, which is pure fantasy. We will pursue all legal channels available to us, and we are confident that a court of law will see the project for the boondoggle that it is.” Indeed, Goldstein sat on a panel on Kelo held at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York on June 8 where even pro-eminent domain panelists were deeply disturbed by the Ratner project’s reliance on eminent domain.

DDDB calls on Albany to follow the lead of states like Utah, whose Governor on March 17 signed into law a bill effectively banning the use of eminent domain for economic development. As DDDB’s retained counsel Norman Siegel said, “So long as the Supreme Court will defer to the states, it is up to our legislators to take up the challenge in putting an end to egregious eminent domain abuse.”

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

National Taxpayers Union (NTU) Press Release

Supreme Court's Kelo Decision Trashes Taxpayer Rights as Well as Property Rights, Citizen Group Says

The NTU press release in reaction to the Kelo decision makes a notable observation that pertains to the situation in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

From shopping malls to sports stadiums, the Court has unjustly given its blessing to many crony-capitalist projects that depend more heavily on public funding than free-market principles to succeed.

Supreme Court's Kelo Decision Trashes Taxpayer Rights as Well as Property Rights, Citizen Group Says

6/23/2005 1:13:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: Pete Sepp or Annie Patnaude, 703-683-5700, both of the National Taxpayers Union

ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 23 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court's narrow 5-4 ruling in the Kelo v. City of New London case today has wide implications for taxpayers, not just property owners, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a non-partisan citizen group that filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case on behalf of the homeowners. John Berthoud, President of NTU, offered the following reaction on the heels of the decision:

"By giving governments a green light to bulldoze citizens' homes in the name of development schemes that supposedly promise higher revenues, the Supreme Court is also granting politicians a license to trample on overburdened taxpayers. Property rights have always been inseparable from taxpayer rights, which is why this ruling is one of the most shocking setbacks for economic freedom and limited government in a decade.

Within hours of this decision being issued, overreaching bureaucrats and their political allies around the country began declaring victory on behalf of subsidized development schemes that will not only cost citizens the residences and businesses they worked hard to build, but will also cost taxpayers the money they worked hard to earn. From shopping malls to sports stadiums, the Court has unjustly given its blessing to many crony-capitalist projects that depend more heavily on public funding than free-market principles to succeed.

Justice O'Connor was absolutely right when she pointed out that the beneficiaries of this ruling 'are likely to be those with disproportionate power and influence in the political process.' Even the majority of Justices acknowledged that states are free to enact restrictions on eminent-domain power grabs. At least these two facts give taxpayers hope, and give NTU a mission. As an organization that has fought back against big government for 35 years, we will not surrender our property rights or taxpayer rights because of this ruling. We the people will take back the Fifth Amendment, state by state, community by community, if necessary."

NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. In addition to joining an amicus brief with eight other groups on behalf of the property owners in Kelo, NTU also signed an October 2004 coalition letter from over 40 organizations urging the Bush Administration to "affirm its support for property rights and refrain from filing a brief in Kelo." Note: Copies of the brief and the letter are available online at http://www.ntu.org.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

June 23, 2005

Institute for Justice Press Release

Homeowners Lose Eminent Domain Case

Institute for Justice Warns:
Supreme Court Leaves Homeowners Vulnerable
To Tax-Hungry Bureaucrats & Land-Hungry Developers

Washington, D.C.- Today, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to home and small business owners throughout the country by allowing the government to use eminent domain to take homes so that businesses can make more money off that land and possibly pay more taxes as a result.

The Institute and its clients issued the following statements after learning of today’s decision.

Chip Mellor, the president of the Institute for Justice, said, “The majority and the dissent both recognized that the action now turns to state supreme courts where the public use battle will be fought out under state constitutions. The Institute for Justice will be there every step of the way with homeowners and small businesses to protect what is rightfully theirs. Today’s decision in no way binds those courts.”

“The Court simply got the law wrong today, and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice. “With today’s ruling, the poor and middle class will be most vulnerable to eminent domain abuse by government and its corporate allies. The 5-4 split and the nearly equal division among state supreme courts shows just how divided the courts really are. This will not be the last word.”

“One of the key quotes from the Court to keep in mind today was written by Justice O’Connor,” Bullock said. “Justice O’Connor wrote, ‘Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.’”

Dana Berliner, another senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “It’s a dark day for American homeowners. While most constitutional decisions affect a small number of people, this decision undermines the rights of every American, except the most politically connected. Every home, small business, or church would produce more taxes as a shopping center or office building. And according to the Court, that’s a good enough reason for eminent domain.”

Mellor said, “Today’s decision doesn’t end the Institute for Justice’s fight against abuses of eminent domain. We will work to ensure not only that the property owners in New London keep their homes, but that all home and small business owners are protected from these unconstitutional land grabs by governments and their business allies. This is a terrible precedent that must be overturned by this Court, just as bad state supreme court eminent domain decisions in Michigan and Illinois were later overturned by those courts.”

Susette Kelo, one of the homeowners challenging eminent domain abuse, said, “I was in this battle to save my home and, in the process, protect the rights of working class homeowners throughout the country. I am very disappointed that the Court sided with powerful government and business interests, but I will continue to fight to save my home and to preserve the Constitution.”

Mike Cristofaro, another one of the homeowners whose family has owned property in Fort Trumbull for more than 30 years, said, “I am astonished that the Court would permit the government to throw out my family from their home so that private developers can make more money. Although the Court ruled against us, I am very proud of the fight we waged for my family and for the rights of all Americans.”


Posted by lumi at 1:49 PM

Letters to the Editor: All eyes in Brooklyn


Read the letters to the editor (published, June 14) in response to Amy Zimmer's article, "All eyes in Brooklyn" on the Borough Hall/City Hall March and Rally.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

June 22, 2005


DollyMarty.jpg Dolly Williams's construction company A. William's Constuction was slapped with two violations when a crane owned by the company was cited in a Brooklyn building collapse.


NoLandGrab: Williams is the City Planning Commissioner appointed by Borough President Marty Markowitz and Bruce Ratner's business partner in the NJ Nets. In response to accusations of conflict of interest, the City Planning Commission has already announced that the bleach-blonde bombshell must recuse herself from any discussion of the Atlantic Yards proposal by the City Planning Commission.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 PM


The New Yorker, The Talk of the Town
by Nick Paumgarten

Ry Cooder gets it. Here's the socially conscious musician's take on Ratner's arena complex:

“I got the idea that there was some kind of controversy about all this in New York,” Cooder said last week, from his home in Santa Monica. “Is it all driven by this multi-use concept, where they have the corporate boxes and the restaurants and the stores? In other words, a mall?”

Read about Cooder's musical lament for the neighborhood demolished for the LA Dodger's stadium. Ironically, the ballpark was built when Robert Moses refused to let O'Mally build a Brooklyn ballpark at Atlantic and Flatbush.


Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

The Planning Vacuum

New York stumbles into a good stadium deal
Wall St. Journal, Opinion
by Ada Louise Huxtable

Huxtable's post mortem of Jets stadium and the state of large-scale development in NYC.

Here's her little bit on Ratner:

Savvy developers know how to navigate the civic shoals with singular skill. Forest City Ratner, currently engaged in a vast project for the Atlantic Yards on the Brooklyn waterfront, which includes a basketball stadium for the Nets designed by Frank Gehry, has made token changes in cooperation with community representatives, although questions remain about densities and scale. There are builders who sugarcoat their proposals with big-name architects, irresistible bait in a city that shamefully settles for the ordinary. New York has never managed, as Chicago has, to make Donald Trump use a different architect in exchange for a prime site.


NoLandGrab: Maybe someone could point the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic in the right direction.

In case anyone else is muddled up over Brooklyn development controversies:
* Brooklyn waterfront controversies are in Greenpoint/Williamsburgh and Brooklyn Bridge Park. * Atlantic Yards is planned for Prospect Heights & Park Slope (nowhere near the waterfront).

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Forest City Splits Stock 2-for-1 and Increases Quarterly Dividend

Good news for FCEB stockholders -- Board of Directors announce split and increase in dividends.


Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

June 21, 2005

SCARY GEHRY: Frank Gehry's Sexy Lingerie

Gehry's Nets ArenaCurbed.com takes a well deserved pot shot at this publicity pic of Gehry's Net's Arena.

Click here for a chill or thrill (depending on what turns you on).

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Are stadiums worth it?

This NY Newsday article by Liam Pleven looks at the plans for local sports teams to spend their own money to build new facilities.

Forest City Ratner scores a publicity coup -- the article considers the $100-million subsidy from the City and State to be "relatively small," in comparison to the Jets Stadium deal. Pair that with the additional taxes generated by relocating a team from out of state and the "roughly 6,000 housing units" and "it looks like it would be a positive flow to the city," according to Independent Budget Office Spokesperson Doug Turetsky,


NoLandGrab: Seriously, if you add in the 17-19 high-rise towers (the 6,000-7,300 housing units) to the financial equation, then you must consider the additional subsidies that apply.

The total subsidy is $1.1 BILLION by Forest City Ratner's accounting and $1.6 BILLION according to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Since details of these additional subsidies have yet to be provided, how is Doug Turetsky making his assesment?

Considering the billion-dollar-plus subsidy for Atlantic Yards, does Bruce Ratner's plan really square with the analysis made by Newsday staff reporter Liam Pleven?

Hand in your assigment to letters@newsday.com.

Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

June 20, 2005

No Room at the Inn: Ratner Continues to “Game” Officials and the Public

The Brooklyn Rail
by Brian Carreira

Atlantic Yards City Hall RallyThe latest update in Carreira's series on the fight over Atlantic Yards published in The Rail covers: * the City Council Public Hearings (including a poignant observation by a security guard who was overheard commenting to his colleague that there was, "No room at the inn." * the Affordable Housing MOU between FCRC & ACORN (that's "Memorandum of Understanding between Forest City Ratner Companies and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now"), and * a sneak peak at the Employment MOU that has yet to be released.


Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Ratner Publishes Tabloid Paper Pushing Atlantic Yards

NY Sun
by Jacob Gershman

The Brooklyn Standard

A glimpse at the Brooklyn Standard, the borough’s newest community newspaper, reveals a publication adamant about the goodness of Bruce Ratner’s development plans.

“Brooklyn’s Booming,” the front page cries out. “Atlantic Yards Will Bring Jobs, Housing and Hoops.” Another article touts the firm’s purchases of property without resorting to eminent-domain proceedings. The tone extends to the op-ed page, which features a piece by the Reverend Herbert Daughtry Sr. about the “new hope” provided by Mr. Ratner’s proposal. It’s headlined: “Building Blocks of Life.”

Indeed, if Mr. Ratner could a design a newspaper that captured his sense of excitement and optimism about his $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project, the Brooklyn Standard would seem to be it. And it is.

The newspaper’s publisher is Mr. Ratner and its editors in chief are Forest City Ratner Companies vice presidents Barry Baum and Scott Cantone. The company paid Manhattan Media, which publishes four Manhattan community newspapers and Avenue magazine, to produce and write the content. The developer, however, has ultimate editorial control.


News 12 Brooklyn, Newspaper rolls out to campaign for basketball stadium at Brooklyn Atlantic Yards (video report)

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Atlantic Terminal Chuck E' Cheese site of stabbing

These pages are usually devoted to the fight over Ratner's developments, not fights IN his developments. However, this wekend, amidst growing concerns over security in Forest City Ratner's retail complexes, a fight between two girls at Chuck E' Cheese quickly developed into an all out melee with two samaritans getting stabbed while trying to save another man who was being beaten by three others.

Both stabbing victims were reported be in stable condition.

The Daily News, Stabbed trying to end fight. Kid's pizza place melee.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

June 19, 2005

A Moment of Truth in Dodgerless Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: The New York Times provides the nostalgia reason for why we need unprecendented amounts of development in Brooklyn. "I remember as a youth in Brooklyn when there were clusters of skyscrapers on every block..."

My friend and his guests were appalled at the idea. The arena, they said, would mean traffic, noise and development too grand for a neighborhood whose great attraction was block after block of affordable brownstones, modest backyards and a communal life that faced out onto the street. Vindication for the Dodgers? That idea moved them not at all.

Read the article here.

Write letters to the editor here.

Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

June 18, 2005

New Democratic Majority Meet and Greet w/ Mayoral Candidate, Anthony Weiner.

Saturday, June 18, 4pm.

Magnetic Field. 97 Atlantic Ave. (btwn Henry & Hicks), Brooklyn.

New Democratic Majority invites you to meet Congressman Anthony Weiner, candidate for Mayor last week. Congressman Weiner will be there to tell you more about himself, his record, and his vision for our city. Candidate Weiner support Ratner's proposal.

-You can read Weiner's statement on Atlantic Yards here

Posted by amy at 11:28 AM


From the Brooklyn Papers:

If he wants to build a new home for his New Jersey Nets basketball team atop rail yards at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, developer Bruce Ratner will have to pay for more than air space over the Long Island Rail Road tracks — he’s also going to have to help pay to move those tracks.

According to an agreement negotiated among the city, state and Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer’s Atlantic Yards plan calls for moving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) train storage yards.


Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Dumped by beep, member is back

From the Brooklyn Papers:

It’s a hard battle, fighting the man. Especially if that man has veto power, and many of your opinions are diametrically opposed to his.

That is a lesson Ken Diamondstone — a briefly former, and now reinstated, Community Board 2 member — learned this week.

Diamondstone, whose appointment was tenuously renewed for one year June 9, less than a week after Borough President Marty Markowitz discharged him from his 11-year tenure on the community board, held a press conference Monday to shed light on what he characterized as an epidemic of shutting out dissenters. Diamondstone said he was dismissed for disagreeing with Markowitz over developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan.

“I am a former vice chair and a current member of Community Board 2. Or, rather, I was a member of Community Board 2 until I made the mistake of disagreeing with Marty Markowitz about the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project,” said Diamondstone.


Posted by amy at 10:33 AM

Nets' yard sale


And now for something completely different...while we in Brooklyn are being threatened with an arena in the next few years, across the river in New Jersey, fans hear this: "What we're telling people is for the next few years we're going to be here. We're going to market like we've never marketed before as if we're staying for another 20..."

Oh yeah, and if you buy season tickets, Bruce Ratner will come to your house. I don't know if that's more of a threat or a promise, but when you are holding "Howard Dean" style house parties to sell tickets, I'd say your franchise is in trouble.

Read more on NorthJersey.com

Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

'Young, Educated Black Man’ From Ft. Greene Says Bertha Lewis Doesn’t Represent His Interests

Letter to the Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Daniel McCalla of Fort Greene speaking of Bertha Lewis of Acorn:

I do know several things Bertha Lewis does not represent my interest, I 'm an unemployed, educated black man, I honestly can't afford to live in my own neighborhood. Almost everyone I grew up with in Fort Greene can't live here any more.

My block association will have to put up with the Ratner proposal. How can we trust a real estate company, that still operates behind our backs? We still have a number of black members, but I rarely see Miss Lewis at our meetings. Bertha’s statement 'All they care about is preserving their precious Prospect Heights community' is a disgrace. FCR pushed their Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Malls on the Fort Greene Community. Ratner is obsessed with destroying historic neighborhoods, so if the white liberals, according to Lewis want to scream they can—it’s America.


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

Official Report Sees Downtown Traffic Nightmare

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, notes from the Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Blueprint (DBTB)'s "Technical Memorandum":

“If future employees in projected office developments commute by auto at rates near existing rates, existing travel levels combined with future vehicular demand would not be accomodated on the existing roadway network.”

“If existing through traffic follows current patterns of using the downtown network, these additional trips will push demand well beyond available capacity at major intersections such as Flatbush-Tillary, Adams-Tillary, and Flatbush-Atlantic Avenues.”

The memorandum contains a lot more of the same, and some traffic consultants suspect that this frightening memorandum might even be understated.


Posted by amy at 10:09 AM

June 17, 2005

Central Brooklyn Independent Dems (CBID) get their mojo back

Dipping into their old mojo and reminding folks why they're "Independent Democrats", CBID passed a resolution last night in opposition to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

CBID Resolution:

Whereas the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) support the following development guidelines:

  1. Eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain should be used sparingly if ever and should never be used on a private profit project.

  2. Major development projects should go through stringent, inclusive community review process.

  3. The dispensing of all public property should be done to maximize the financial health of the government agency.

  4. RFPs should be issued at the beginning of a disposal process.

  5. All projects in The City of New York should comply with both he letter and spirit of NYC’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and not destroy the character and scale of a neighborhood.

  6. Due to the density of New York City, the environmental rules should be strictly adhered to and enforced.

Therefore, let it be understood that the position of CBID is that failure on any one of these grounds would be sufficient for this club to reject any project and, as the Forest City Ratner (FCR) proposal does not adequately address the above-referenced issues or fails said issues, CBID rejects and opposes the FCR Atlantic Yards proposal.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Ratner rolls out tabloid to sell $3.5 billion arena plan

NY Daily News
by Deb Kolben

Just weeks after a group of Brooklyn clergy published a newspaper bashing the proposed downtown Brooklyn Nets arena complex, developer Bruce Ratner has gotten into the newspaper game.

The Brooklyn Standard, a glossy 16-page tabloid with information about the $3.5 billion project, is scheduled to hit the stands today.

The News quoted Ratner spokeperson Joe DePlasco's attempt to negate the impression that "The Brooklyn Standard" was published to neutralize the message of a tabloid recently published by the Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition.

"We said from the beginning that we are going to provide as much information as humanly possible," said Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco. "This has been in the works for a long time, and certainly way before they came out with their newsletter."


Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Greenburgh backs anti-Ridge Hill mailing

The Journal News
by Michael Gannon

And speaking about dueling publicity pieces...

The Westchester township of Greenburgh has spent $50,000 to send "a four-page glossy mailer to 10,000 registered Yonkers voters this week" in opposition to Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill Village proposal.

[Chairperson of the Ridge Hill Citizen's Committee Mary Jane] Shimsky said the pamphlet was an attempt to combat Ridge Hill developer Bruce Ratner's deep pockets. Ratner has spent an undisclosed sum on cable television advertising and a 12-page mailing of his own in recent months, intended to offset criticism of the project.


Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

June 16, 2005

Bertha Lewis = Moron

I Love Capitalists If I Can Use them To Screw White People
The Noble Savage

The words of one African American who is not down with Big-Time Bertha playing the race card while shilling for an Upper-Eastside Billionaire developer:

Its a shame that Bertha Lewis is soiling the image and reputation of ACORN. When I heard about the MOU between ACORN and Bruce Ratner, I was shocked; but after hearing her words on the MOU, I knew she saw this as a way to screw those she saw as gentrifying the area -- in other words the white people.


Posted by lumi at 9:11 PM


By Doug Hamilton

A new blockbuster sequel opened on May 24th in Brooklyn when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) quietly issued its Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. In this case, the original hit show was the MTA’s tragi-comedic RFP for the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side.

In Episode One, the MTA bowed to public pressure for competitive bidding on its West-side property by issuing an RFP heavily slanted towards the Jets’ stadium proposal which enjoyed the advantages of an approximately two-year discussion and design period as well as support from the mayor and governor. The time period allowed for responses was ridiculously short and the only competition came from organizations with obvious political axes to grind. Not surprisingly, their hastily thrown-together submissions were roundly rejected by an MTA board packed with the governor’s appointees. The lack of genuine public debate on budgetary priorities and the site’s future is evidenced by the recent refusal of Democratic Speaker Silver and Republican Majority Leader Bruno to support the project.

Now in Episode Two, the MTA is following the same tired formula. After a virtually clandestine announcement in the back pages of the Times, the embattled state transportation agency is allowing only 43 days for potential competitors to prepare bids on a spectacularly valuable and very complicated Greater Downtown Brooklyn site that the State’s preferred developer has been working on for more than a year-and-a-half.

For those who have not been following this saga, Forest City Ratner Companies – Brooklyn’s largest developer – has been engaged for the past two years in preparing and promoting a proposal to develop 7.8 million square feet of residential, office, and retail space on the site of the Vanderbilt rail yards at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. At the urging of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Bruce Ratner – CEO of the Forest City Ratner Companies – put together an investment group that bought the New Jersey Nets in 2003 with the express purpose of moving the team to Brooklyn. The real estate deal provides a way for Mr. Ratner to cross-subsidize the arena with profits from Brooklyn’s largest development since FCRC’s MetroTech in the late ‘80s. In addition, New York City will kick in at least $143 million in direct subsidies for the arena as well as unknown millions in tax abatements. New York State, for its part, is adding $100 million to the pot for infrastructure improvements, plus its backing for a $500 million bond to finance arena construction. Finally, since the whole project is outside the Manhattan exclusion zone, it qualifies for 421a property tax abatement for a period of thirty years. The developer will defray some of this expense over time through Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOTs), but any way you look at it, the amount of public money involved is huge, at a time of citywide fiscal belt-tightening.

The six-week period that the MTA is allowing for this project is laughably brief, given the size and complexity of the site, and falls seriously short of standard practice. If the MTA was serious about receiving competitive proposals, it would have sent RFP packages to a number of major developers directly and it would have allowed them about three months to prepare submissions. It will be a miracle if any viable developer steps up to the plate given the transparently non-competitive nature of this RFP. Nevertheless, that is what the community is trying to do. If it can find interested parties, they will at least have the benefit of several months of groundwork by dedicated neighborhood activists, including experienced urban design and transportation professionals.

Another grave shortcoming of this process is the lack of a publicly approved zoning framework for the Yards site. Currently zoned for manufacturing, our Planning Department has abdicated its responsibility to provide rational land use planning and development guidelines for this site. Consequently, Forest City Ratner has been allowed to set the terms for the debate with a grossly over-scaled proposal. If the chief criterion for a winning bid is the size of its payout, then competitors will likely be forced into the same quality of giantism that has Prospect Heights and Fort Greene up in arms over the Forest City Ratner scheme. The RFP contains some vague language about “taking into account the respective goals and needs of the MTA, the State . . . the City . . . and the community . . . “ but what this means is anyone’s guess. Does it mean that unless you have another arena in your back pocket you will not be considered? Does it mean that the community’s quality-of-life concerns will be taken seriously? These issues will not be interpreted by our elected officials because the Mayor has allowed the approvals process to be hijacked by the State, despite the inclusion of several acres of City and private land within the project footprint.

The New York business community should be deeply concerned about the message that this kind of back-room deal-making sends to the larger world of commerce. In essence, we are posting signs at all ports of entry to New York saying, “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS (Unless you have inside connections)”. A truly free and democratic market is essential to the efficient functioning of our economic system. Unfortunately, the actions of our mayor and governor simply prove that, despite the march of time, the ghosts of Tammany Hall and Robert Moses are still lurking in the back corridors of City Hall and the Statehouse.

R. Douglas Hamilton, RA
Fort Greene resident and Senior Design Strategist, Street-Works LLC

Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

BCAT, Brooklyn Review: Atlantic Yards


"If you’ve visited the neighborhood of Prospect Heights in the past year, you’ve no doubt seen the signs opposing Bruce Ratners Atlantic Yards project. They’re the signs of a coalition of community organizations opposing the proposed Nets Arena and surrounding development. Up next Megan Donis takes us to meet the people behind the protests."


Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

PILOTS for Dummies
(or those who are kinda smart but can hardly believe it's true)

Here's how PILOT financing works in a nutshell: * Ratner's project is declared exempt from property taxes. * A local development corporation (LDC) is set up to issue bonds to finance the construction of Ratner's project. * Property taxes Ratner's project would have generated (if they weren't exempt) go to the PILOT fund instead. * PILOT fund pays back bonds.

An analogy for property owners
Imagine not having to pay property taxes and using that money to pay off your mortgage instead.

NO WAY: Developers and politicians who support their plans emphasize that the bond repayment does not come from the general fund. Furthermore, this investment in the future of the City will generate additional sales and income taxes that will eventually flow into the general fund coffers.
HELL YEAH: Detractors and many good-government watchdogs point out that it's a great deal for the developer (who assumes no risk, unlike regular property-owning folks) that diverts revenue from the general fund. So what if the bucks comes from one account or another? If this project goes forward, it will still means less money for schools, while the City is financing Ratner's plan.

More info:
NY Observer, The Jets vs. Nets: Brooklyn Arena Deal Template for Stadium
Local coverage, City Council legislation to restrict Mayor's control over PILOTs
NY Sun, Flying Solo With PILOTS
Field of Schemes, Nets arena questions and answers (and more questions)
NY Newsday, Scrutiny for stadium funding
The Bond Trader, N.Y. Jets out, PILOTS in?

Pay your property taxes online
While we're on the topic, you can now conveniently pay your property taxes online (http://nycserv.nyc.gov/NYCServInquiry/NYCSERVMain).

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

N.Y. Jets Out, PILOTs In?

New Type of Debt May Outlive Stadium Deal

The Bond Buyer
June 10, 2005
By Elizabeth O'Brien

What the hell are Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs), why does the City Council care and what does the Jets stadium financing have to do with Ratner's arena and 17 (or is it 19?) high-rise tower proposal?

bloomberg.gifMayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to pay for New York's portion of the stadium costs called for a type of debt that officials and market participants say has not been used before in the city. The plan involved the creation of a local development corporation to issue bonds backed by PILOTs - payments in lieu of taxes - which are offered as incentives for companies to stay in the city and generally are lower than property taxes. While PILOT-backed deals have occurred in other parts of the country, such transactions remain rare, market participants say.

Regardless of whether the stadium is ultimately built - the Jets and the city have both said they are weighing alternate funding - this new type of PILOT-backed debt will likely find other uses in New York City for city- and state-financed projects.

(complete article)
N.Y. Jets Out, PILOTs In?
New Type of Debt May Outlive Stadium Deal

An unusual approach to debt involving payments in lieu of taxes might become the public finance legacy of New York City's thwarted attempt to build a stadium in Manhattan for the Jets football team.

The city's plan to construct the stadium on the far West Side suffered a serious and perhaps fatal blow last week when a state panel quashed the $2.2 billion project. The stadium proposal also served as the centerpiece of New York's bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and many believe last week's setback effectively killed the city's candidacy. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to choose from among New York, Paris, London, Madrid, and Moscow on July 6.

bloomberg.gifMayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to pay for New York's portion of the stadium costs called for a type of debt that officials and market participants say has not been used before in the city. The plan involved the creation of a local development corporation to issue bonds backed by PILOTs - payments in lieu of taxes - which are offered as incentives for companies to stay in the city and generally are lower than property taxes. While PILOT-backed deals have occurred in other parts of the country, such transactions remain rare, market participants say.

Regardless of whether the stadium is ultimately built - the Jets and the city have both said they are weighing alternate funding - this new type of PILOT-backed debt will likely find other uses in New York City for city- and state-financed projects.

Critics charge that PILOT-backed debt is a potentially risky financing mechanism that gives the mayor too much control over the revenue as well as the ability to shape development without legislative oversight.

doctoroff.gifThe proposed West Side stadium is only one of many development projects the Bloomberg administration has proposed for the city and its waterfront, and deputy mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff told The Bond Buyer last week that PILOT-backed bonds may be used to finance some of these other projects.

Dedicated PILOTs are the main source of backing for $3 billion of bonds to be issued by the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corp., another local development corporation, to finance redevelopment of rail yards just east of the stadium site. The project involves the extension of a subway line and the creation of as much as 24 million square feet of office space and will continue even though the stadium's future remains uncertain, Doctoroff said.

"We're moving full steam ahead," Doctoroff said of the development on what's known as the eastern rail yards parcel controlled by the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In addition, PILOT-backed debt has been proposed to finance a new basketball arena in Brooklyn for the New Jersey Nets and a new baseball stadium for the Yankees in the Bronx. A PILOT-backed financing proposal for the Nets project has already been made public, and a banker familiar with the less-advanced Yankees plan said it would also involve PILOTs.

Moody's Investors Service analyst Robert Kurtter said that while he talked to city officials about this new type of PILOT-backed debt, Moody's hadn't received a formal presentation on it because neither the Hudson Yards agency nor the local development corporation for the West Side stadium bonds had been close to going to market.

"We didn't develop an approach to it," Kurtter said, adding that PILOT-backed debt will be rated on a transaction-by-transaction basis.

"It would be a brand-new security type," said Standard & Poor's analyst Robin Prunty. She said her rating agency also had not yet developed criteria for such financings.

Potential credit concerns involving PILOT-backed debt include whether the entities making the PILOT payments are creditworthy, Kurtter said. Depending on its structure, a particular PILOT-backed deal may be assigned a corporate credit instead of a public finance one, he added, since most of the entities paying the PILOTs are companies.

Under the stadium-financing plan, debt issued by the unnamed local development corporation to fund the city's $300 million contribution would have been backed by broad PILOT payments that the city collects, as opposed to dedicated revenue from the site.

Roughly $40 million in PILOT payments goes into the city's general fund annually, and this revenue stream is expected to grow to $70 million by 2009, according to city officials. The $30 million of incremental growth was to go towards debt service on the city's $300 million of bonds, said Raymond Orlando, spokesman for the city's budget office.

The Bloomberg administration has argued that state and city law empower the mayor to receive and dispense PILOTs. The city has termed PILOTs "non-surplus personal property" instead of "revenue," a legal distinction that allows the aggregate payments to be absent from the budget's accounting of revenue and expenses.

This interpretation has serious implications, attorney Eugene W. Harper Jr. said in an opinion piece last month in the New York Sun. Say "the mayor has a pet project," he wrote. "... He has no money in the capital budget. Borrowing has exceeded the city's debt limit. He needs over $100 million to finance the project. Annual debt service exceeds $5 million for 30 years. Simple: He identifies property producing the requisite level of debt service in taxes, instructs an agency to negotiate a PILOT arrangement (or allocates existing PILOTs), and then 'assigns' the PILOTs to bondholders willing to finance the project."

Under this system, mayors can set their own development agenda for the next 30 years while depriving the city of a revenue source, Harper argued.

Some critics have derided PILOTs as the mayor's "slush fund," saying he should not be allowed to divert this revenue stream from the city's general fund. The first person to use that term was City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a Democrat who is expected to challenge Bloomberg when he runs for re-election this November.

Budget watchdogs also have bemoaned the lack of a central, public accounting of PILOT payments that the city bills and receives. They say that while the city's general fund takes in $40 million of PILOTs per year, the total that the city collects remains unclear.

"We have a big transparency concern," said Stephanie Greenwood, research analyst at Good Jobs New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes accountability in the use of government subsidies.

Doctoroff countered that PILOTs are a valuable resource.

"We've used PILOTs to finance projects for a long time," Doctoroff said, even if they weren't previously securitized. "People have benefited from that use."

The City Council passed legislation last month requiring that PILOTs go through the normal budget process. Another part of the legislation would require the mayor to provide the council a monthly report detailing the amount of PILOTs received, the source of the payments, the amount of the real property or other tax for which the entity paying the PILOTs would have been responsible, and other information.

The administration's proposed use of PILOTs is expected to wind up in court. Yet even if the City Council's legislation stands, the law would not preclude the use of such payments to back debt, according to council Finance Committee chairman David I. Weprin. A majority of city lawmakers support the stadium, he said, and if the city gets another shot at building it, they would likely support the use of PILOT-backed debt to fund part of it.

Weprin disputed the view that PILOTs, which are set by the city's Industrial Development Agency, constitute a risky revenue stream.

"Once the City of New York enters into a contract with a developer, these are long-term contracts, and to me, that's a very good backing for bonds," Weprin said.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

June 13, 2005

How Can New York Get Its Groove Back

The NY Times

After last week's fatal blow to the West Side Stadium, the Times asked prominent New Yorkers about what NYC's next steps should be. Apparently no one asked Bruce Ratner, because his development scheme for Prospect Heights Brooklyn is not on anyones radar (though Donald Trump whines about "contextual zoning" and community boards).

Philip K. Howard, chairman of the Municipal Arts Society, makes the case that the City should rethink the way it deals with Land Use issued since the current process results primarily in one-developer-driven megalopolises like Ratnerville.

Today, however, instead of investing in public buildings the government tries to cut corners and generate financing for projects like the Moynihan rail station by selling zoning rights so that public buildings and parks find themselves in the shadow of oversized private development. This approach also leads to single-developer schemes with super-blocks and large plazas, which destroy the organic vitality of the city. Their public space is too calculated and cold. Just as important as placing a higher priority on public buildings and parks, we must ensure that private development is set in the traditional street grid, so that it is easily adapted for new uses as the economy and city evolve.


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Handicapping the Kelo Case is a Difficult Call

The Day [New London, CT]
by Kate Moran

The US Supreme Court will soon announce their decision on Kelo v. New London, an eminent domain case that could affect projects like Bruce Ratner's arena and high-rise tower proposal. As interested parties await the decision, they are wondering if the court's ruling in Lingle v. Chevron indicates how the Justices might rule in Kelo.

Handicapping The Kelo Case Is A Difficult Call
Supreme Court ruling in New London eminent domain case could come tomorrow

Day Staff Writer, New London
Published on 6/12/2005

New London — Attorneys on opposing sides of the Kelo v. New London case dispersed onto the plaza outside the U.S. Supreme Court immediately after oral arguments ended Feb. 22 to take questions from reporters on the proceedings in the most important property rights case in two decades.

Inside the court, the justices were hearing arguments in a second property rights dispute, Lingle v. Chevron, a sleeper of a case that was eclipsed in the media by Kelo but which will have profound effects on the way government can regulate private property.

At issue in Lingle was whether courts can toss out regulations they deem to be bad law — not law that is simply unfair but law too poorly conceived or crafted to accomplish its objective. If the justices had allowed courts to meddle in lawmaking in such a way, they would have touched off a flurry of challenges to laws that regulate land use, enact rent caps and protect the environment.

But the court took a hands-off approach with its unanimous decision on May 23 that the judiciary should let the legislatures conclude whether a particular regulation will be effective. The ruling, possibly a harbinger of what will happen in Kelo, was a disappointment to conservative groups who would limit the government's ability to decide how individuals can use private property.

Attorneys in Connecticut who have followed both cases were hesitant to predict what Lingle might mean for the outcome of Kelo, which should be decided by the court on a Monday in June. But they said the decision does not contain much good news for the homeowners who are trying to prevent New London from taking their property by eminent domain to make way for offices.

The best the homeowners can hope for, attorneys said, is that the Lingle ruling is a neutral indicator of what might happen in the Kelo case.

“It's very hard to read the tea leaves. To predict what's going to happen based on what the court said in Lingle would be risky,” said Michael Shea of the firm Day Berry and Howard, who wrote an amicus brief in the Kelo case for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. “Having made that disclaimer, I'd say as somebody who supports the city that we were pleased by the decision in Lingle and what it says about the standard of review the court is going to use for takings claims.”

The Lingle case arose after the Hawaii legislature passed a law in 1997 that capped the amount oil companies could charge dealers who rented retail gas stations from them. The state's isolation meant competition was limited, and the legislature hoped that the rental caps would help to deflate the price of gas for consumers.

Chevron, the oil company that controlled 60 percent of the market in Hawaii, sued the governor and the attorney general, claiming the rent ceiling amounted to a taking of property. The company also argued that the taking was improper because it did not advance the interest of the state. Consumers never saw a reduction in price so the law was ineffective.

The trial court and a federal circuit court sided with Chevron. In their decisions, both relied on a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave judges the right to examine whether a law “substantially advances” the interest of the state. When the Lingle case went to the Supreme Court this term, however, the justices used it to repudiate their earlier decision and renew the practice of deferring to legislative judgment.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the author of the unanimous decision, said courts would be unduly burdened if they had to review every challenge to a regulation that limited what could be done with private property.

“If so interpreted, it would require courts to scrutinize the efficacy of a vast array of state and federal regulations — a task for which courts are not well suited,” O'Connor wrote. “Moreover, it would empower — and might often require — courts to substitute their predictive judgments for those of elected legislatures and expert agencies.”

Here is where some prognosticators believe the Lingle decision bodes poorly for the homeowners in the Kelo case. The attorney for the homeowners, Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, asked the court to rule that governments never have the right to seize private property to generate land for business development, even if such projects help the public by producing jobs and tax revenue. If the justices reject that argument, Bullock asked them to review whether developments have a reasonable chance of coming to fruition before courts authorize the taking of private property.

Some attorneys guessed that the court, given its history of deference in Lingle and other takings cases such as Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, would not agree to conduct that sort of review.

“The Scott Bullock arguments are eclipsed, I believe, by the powerful statement in Midkiff about deference to legislative discretion. The fact that this is reiterated in Lingle suggests a pro-government stance,” said Dwight Merriam, a Hartford land use attorney who is editing a book about the Kelo case that will be published by the American Bar Association in October.

Bullock, however, was not particularly distressed by the Lingle decision. He said the Supreme Court used a separate line of analysis than it would be using in the Kelo case. While Lingle focused on questions of compensation, he said, the Kelo case revolves around whether the jobs and taxes created by private business development are enough of a “public use” to warrants the taking of private property. He noted that the Lingle decision never mentioned the court's seminal takings cases, the 1954 case Berman v. Parker and the 1984 Midkiff case, which will doubtless play heavily in the Kelo decision.

Bullock also said the Institute for Justice is asking courts for a different sort of review than Chevron was demanding in the Lingle case. He says his law firm, based in Washington, D.C., is trying to prevent the seizure of property for developments that are purely speculative. He said some of the property owners in the Kelo case could lose their homes even though the city has only nebulous plans for the property once the houses are gone.

“What Lingle was really talking about was whether this rent control statute would be effective, whether it would do the things it claimed to do,” Bullock said. “The court said it shouldn't be making those types of judgments. We're not asking if the office park will be successful or if it will create tax revenue, but we're asking if there is some likelihood that it will come about at all.”

Matthew Berger, a New London land-use attorney, said he thought Lingle was “devastating” for Kelo after he read the decision for the first time. But in a later reading, he homed in on a paragraph in which O'Connor points out that the question in Lingle is whether the rent control regulation is effective — not whether it served a valid public purpose. The primary question in Kelo, however, is whether economic development takings serve primarily a public or private use.

“Whoever wins, people will look back and say in retrospect that Lingle foreshadowed it,” Berger said. “The emphasis on legislative deference would seem to support the city's claims in Kelo, but having read Lingle, I still don't know who will win.”   

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

June 11, 2005

Talk Radio Interviews with Working Family Party leaders Letitia James and Bertha Lewis

The Brian Leher Show

Brian Lehrer talks to Letitia James about Ratner's plan, then Bertha Lewis attacks James and points out race and class divisions.

listen up

Check out DDDb.net for their response to Bertha Lewis's on-air comments.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

June 10, 2005

Atlantic Yards Foes March Across Bridge to City Hall

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

With some saying they were encouraged by the defeat of the West Side Stadium, several hundred opponents of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena/highrise housing plans marched from Borough Hall over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall Tuesday, to stress their continued opposition to the plan.

As reasons for their opposition, they said the project would be subsidized with taxpayer’s money, that there was little public input in the planning process, that the RFP process for the arena site was “stacked” in favor of Ratner, and that the development would change the low-rise character of the neighborhood.


Posted by amy at 10:27 PM

Bridge march rips Brooklyn development


From the Brooklyn Papers:

Nearly 500 protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday evening in a show of solidarity against Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards development and other contentious projects.

[T]he project is expected to require as much as $1.6 billion in public subsidies to pay for facilities to accommodate the new residents, including schools and roads, according to literature provided by the developer and statements made at a City Council hearing on May 26. article

Posted by amy at 10:19 PM


From the Brooklyn Papers:

During a residents-only meeting of the Dean Street Block Association June 2 at the Latin Evangelical Free Church, on Bergen Street at Sixth Avenue, Markowitz urged renters not to move from their apartments even if landlords threatened eviction or refused to renew leases, according to Robert Puca, a resident of the Newswalk condominium on Dean Street, who attended the meeting.

Markowitz said that developer Bruce Ratner had assured him that tenants in Ratner-owned buildings would retain their protections and their rents, Puca said.

article [NoLandGrab files this under "I've got a bridge to sell you."]

Posted by amy at 10:12 PM

Not everyone’s invited to Marty’s public meet

From the Brooklyn Papers:

Borough President Marty Markowitz demanded this week that the general public, other politicians and the press be barred from what was being described as a “public” meeting about the Atlantic Yards held by the Dean Street Block Association — or he wouldn’t attend.


Posted by amy at 10:09 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Reaches First Base


Bertha Lewis

So just how did the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) get put in charge of processing the applications for the affordable housing units that are part of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development plan?


Posted by lumi at 12:25 PM

All over but the shouting

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

In the synopsis of the hoopla surrounding the imminent death of the West Side Stadium, deMause mentions what is becoming known in NYC as "the other stadium."

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Brooklyn Nets arena plans are "quietly coming to fruition" thanks to "a seasoned team of lobbyists who immediately went to work building support among political leaders." This is the latest in the Times' "Lobbyists rock!" series, following a pair of articles by reporter Jennifer Steinhauer bemoaning how hard it is for developers to get politicians to do their bidding.


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

This Land is Your Land until Pfizer comes to town

edabuse.jpgThis Land is Your Land

An interview with Matthew Derry, New London "holdout" or property-rights hero, depending on your view of government seizure of private property for private development.

Hear what Dery has to say about living under the threat of eminent domain, family ties to the neighborhood, and the bigger picture.


NoLandGrab: The US Supreme Court calendar ends in June, expect a ruling on Kelo v. New London in the next several days.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Markowitz Press Release: ACORN MOU Press Conference

Brooklyn Borough HallWonder why Marty is always SHOUTING? IT'S SCRIPTED!

From the May 19 press release:



Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Stadium loss is a win-win

by Dan Ackman

Ackman points out that the stadium plan was a liability to the Olympic bid:

But the way to win the Olympics is not to impress the IOC with how much the Olympics will do for the host city; it's to convince them how much the host city will do for the Olympics.

Here's a point that detractors to Ratner's arena proposal take seriously:

In recent years, developers have grabbed every available site to build. If the rail yards were made available for other uses, developers would build there, too. Not a stadium, but someone would build something.


Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

Forest City Reports Fiscal 2005 First-Quarter Results

Daily Business News Cleveland

Forest City Enterprises, the "mothership" of Cousin Brucie's subsidiary, announced first quarter earnings. Here's their update on the Brooklyn urban-open-air-closed-door-high-rise-mixed-use-lifestyle center:

In fiscal 2005, Forest City signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. This long-term development project's main attraction and catalyst will be a new 850,000-square-foot arena for the Nets NBA basketball team, in which the Company is an investor. As anticipated, The Nets recorded a loss in the first quarter, and additional losses are expected in this segment for the balance of the year. Forest City's long-term objectives are to build a great franchise, move it to Brooklyn, and develop a large-scale, mixed-use real estate project. The Company is currently in the process of pursuing the appropriate entitlements and acquiring land.

1Q report

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Brooklyn arena foes hold protest

The Bergen Record
by John Brennan

An even-handed update of the arena fight, listing problems with the arena and reasons why the arena has more political support than the West Side Stadium, garners a "no comment" from Forest City Ratner press spokesperson Barry Baum.


NoLandGrab: Baum's no comment is a stark contrast to the PR campaign Forest City Ratner conducted on the New York City media on rally day (see NY Times PR puff piece and Daily News exclusive).

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Gif Comes Out to Play in the Yards (Debate)

giff&marty.jpg More on Giff's support of Atlantic Yards:

As the Brooklyn political machine, generally supportive of the Yards plan, and grateful to Miller over minor concessions made in the Williamsburg plan, has lined up behind the speaker in his race against the other Democratic mayoral candidates, Miller's pro-Yards stance was unsurprising. His choice did require some sacrifices, however: the governmental review process over the Yards will be carried out by the state, instead of the city, thus taking it largely out of Miller's control.

"It should, and I wish that it would," Miller responded, when asked whether the project would be subject to city review. "But the important thing is that the [city] money for the project will be going through the Council process."


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

June 9, 2005

Letter to the Editor: Brooklyn Fairy Tale

Dan Goldstein's Letter to the Editor in response to "Brooklyn Fairy Tale" was published in today's NY Sun.

at a City Council hearing on the Atlantic Yards proposal, FCR announced that what was once 4,500 proposed housing units is now 7,300 housing units, with no commitment at all to make any of those 2,800 additional units “affordable.”So what was loudly called a “groundbreaking”50-50 agreement is now, in reality, a nonbinding agreement that would include a minuscule 6% of housing for truly low-income earners and 24% for “moderate” earners, leaving 70% luxury.

That’s called bait and switch. And guess what? Half of the rents of the so-called affordable units are market rate rents that you could find walking into any real estate office in the areas surrounding the proposed development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. We, the taxpayers of New York City and State, are subsidizing Mr. Ratner’s market and luxury rate housing — as well as the most expensive private sports arena ever built — to the tune of $1.6 billion,and rising,in public subsidies. Why?



Posted by lumi at 8:17 PM

Ratner: Have A Gehry, on Me 


What's up with Ratner's offer to tenants? This from Curbed:

UPDATE: What, you thought a crazy offer like this wouldn't have its naysayers? An insider emails: "FYI: the Daily News story saying that FCR is offering comparable apts is simply lies. Ratner's evicting people right and left--suing them in one case--and demanding that landlords deliver buildings empty."


Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Unlike Stadium on West Side, an Arena in Brooklyn Is Still a Go

The NY Times
by Jim Rutenburg & Michael Brick

The Times claims that Atlantic Yards has the support of Bruno and Silver:

Yet, in a reflection of the relatively smooth sailing the Brooklyn project has enjoyed, one of two men on that board who scuttled the West Side plan this week, Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, indicated yesterday that he would support the new arena for the Nets, who would move to Brooklyn from New Jersey. The other, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said yesterday that he would be far less likely to stand in its way, since it would not hurt business in his Lower Manhattan district.

Though the Grey Lady remembered to print a disclaimer in their coverage this time, this article oddly depicts Forest City Ratner as being in partnership with the community (yes, the same troika again, ACORN, BUILD and Daughtry), and the opposition to the Atlantic Railyards as being virtually non-existent.


NoLandGrab: If you were Forest City Ratner and the Public Authorities Control Board just voted down the West Side Stadium, what wou you do? You'd unleash your PR machine to convince your development partner (the only NYC daily whose editorial board opposed the West Side Stadium) that your project is TOTALLY different.

On the other hand, if you think you are the paper of record and your reporters did a great job investigating the details of the West Side Stadium, why would you consistently publish PR puff pieces for the "other stadium," quoting public figures, without checking things out for yourself?

The inaccuracies and misstatements in this piece are too numerous to list on this page. Check out Fans For Fair Play's point-by-point rebuttal.

Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM


Fans For Fair Play

A point-by-point rebuttal to the NY Times article which covers the follow issues:

... and more.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

Blogosphere: Rally Photos & Response

march&rally06.jpg Rally photos and public commentary posted on various blogs.

Curbed.com, You Bring the Linens, I'll Bring the Cardboard
NYC.IndyMedia.ORG, Brooklyn Stadium Protest
Brownstoner, Anti-Nets: We're Not Dead Yet, Just Badly Burned
Fred Askew Photography, Brooklyn Stadium Protests
A New York City Blog, Atlantic Yards Redux

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM



A new name for the neighborhood in Ratner's Yard's footprint.

Boundaries: Starting at the the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, ending at Dean.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

June 8, 2005

All eyes in Brooklyn

strangebed.jpgStadium rejection revives protest against Nets arena

by Amy Zimmer

As foes of the West Side stadium rejoiced yesterday after the project’s apparent defeat at the hands of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, many Brooklynites engaged in their own stadium fight hoped for a similar outcome.

Letters to the Editor (published June 14, 2005)

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Board That Nixed Jets Stadium Could Also Sink Atlantic Yards

NY Sun
by Julie Satow

The board that threw the knockout punch at the proposed Jets stadium could deliver a second blow if it rejects Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn. Governor Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno control the Public Authorities Control Board, whose 3- 0 approval of $100 million in state subsidies is required for the Brooklyn project to proceed.


Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Rat Pack at rally

ratpack.jpg The Bruce sent his Rat Pack to check out the rally. Frequent Forest City Ratner spokesperson and former Gifford Miller mouthpiece, Lupe Todd, hung out with two FCRC employees and a mysterious guy in shades at the back of the crowd during the evening's event. [Click on image to enlarge.]

FCRC employees shot video of the rally (probably for their web site) and took notes. None tossed money into contribution buckets despite repeated passes by rally volunteers.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Scenes from the March and Rally

Photos by Gotard

march&rally01sm.jpg Leaving Borough Hall
march&rally02sm.jpg Marchers over Brooklyn Bridge.

Demonstrators are buoyed by honks from drivers crossing the bridge to Brooklyn.

march&rally04sm.jpg Demonstrators dressed as Metrotech.
march&rally05sm.jpg Councilwoman Letitia James leads line up of speakers.

More photos at gotard.com

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Ratner sweetens the deal

NY Daily News
by Deborah Kolben

Forest City Ratner leaked details about plans to relocate tennants to the News on the same day that Atlantic Yards detractors held a rally.

Ratner will offer all displaced tenants new apartments in one of his soaring Frank Gehry-designed towers for the same rent they now pay. Ratner also will pay for tenants to move to a new apartment nearby and subsidize their rent until they move back.

"I haven't heard of anybody offering any deal like that," said attorney M. Robert Goldstein, a condemnation expert. "And I've only been doing this for 55 years."

Ratner will announce the deal in upcoming weeks when he finalizes a community-benefits agreement with neighborhood groups.


NoLandGrab: In a transparent PR stunt, the Ratner PR machine leaked details of the still non-existent deal with tenants on the day of the rally, to a major daily publication that has provided New Yorkers with ongoing coverage of the Atlantic Yards development proposal.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

UNITY Fans Don't Get Along With Ratner Vision

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Reed Jackson

Only hours after a City Council hearing on developer Bruce Ratner's massive plans for the Atlantic Yards, the project's opponents gathered for a less crowded, if no less feisty meeting to discuss an alternate conception for the abandoned MTA property. Dubbed the UNITY Plan... this alternative project aims to deliver the same benefits as Ratner's plan with much less impact.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

June 7, 2005

Brooklyn Traffic

NY Observer, The Politicker

The wonky wing of the Nets opposition, though, makes an interesting case about how much traffic the Ratner project and a host of other developments are going to bring to downtown Brooklyn in a letter to Gifford Miller from consultant Brian Ketcham, obtained by the Politicker, and set to be released later today.


NoLandGrab: The Potlicker ultimately casts aside traffic concerns by stating that "traffic is largely self-regulating -- if there's too much, people take the subway." This is what politicians like Marty Markowitz can only hope for. They won't even be in office to answer for the consequences.

There is a lot of development being planned for Central Brooklyn. To wait for something to break and self regulate is foolish if it can be avoided in the first place. That's like hoping that the economy sucks so that the next President will be a Democrat.

Posted by lumi at 2:58 PM

No-look pass

Stay Free! Daily

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller has been as helpful as he could be in trying to block the giveaway of the Hudson Yards to the Jets, but he has come out on the wrong side of the Atlantic Yards giveaway to the Nets.


Posted by lumi at 2:49 PM

Silver lining for West Side Stadium Opponents

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Leader Joseph Bruno's representatives on the Public Authorities Control Review Board pulled the plug on the final step in the approval process. Here are the local headlines:

NY Daily News, W. Side story: No way!
NY Daily News, Mike Lupica, West Side glory

Silver stood up to the mayor and the deputy mayor yesterday. He stood up to Gov. George Pataki and Woody Johnson and Jay Cross, the Jets team president in charge of stadium building. In the process, Silver also delivered the speech of his life.

NY Daily News, Editorial, Shelly Silver: Wrong, wrong, wrong
NY Daily News, Juan Gonzales, It was one vote he couldn't buy
NY Times, Olympic Bid Hurt as New York Fails in West Side Stadium Quest
NY Times, Editorial, A Stand Against the Stadium

The board meeting was packed yesterday with protesters, mostly out-of-work laborers pushing for the stadium.

"If someone goes against us politically, we promise retribution," said James Mahoney, business agent for Local Union 580 of the Ornamental and Architectural Iron Workers.

NY Post, John Podhoretz, WEST SIDE BLUES
NY Newsday, Lawmakers say no to stadium
*NY Newsday, Shaun Powell, *No West Side stadium? Fine

Taxpayers should not give a dime to sports owners to build stadiums or arenas. If they want one, let them cover 100 percent of the cost and then charge whatever their football or basketball or hockey nuts will pay.

NY Newsday, A defeat for Bloomberg?

Monday, the former Bronx borough president [Fernando Ferrer] said Bloomberg had "done his best to make New York City a playground for the rich instead of doing his job."

Bloomberg's campaign would rather hear those statements in early June than during the fall general election. In fact, the mayor's public relations and political staff have fretted for months over the damage a long and publicly embarrassing West Side war would have on his re-election chances.

Some have questioned the influence wielded by dollar-a-year Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the architect of the plan and prime booster of the city's Olympics bid, people familiar with the situation said.

NLG, Q: Though the West Side Stadium and Atlantic Yards proposals have many issues in common, will yesterday's vote mean that the media will turn their attention to the Ratner's plan?

Q: The West Side Stadium fight has embarassed the MTA into issuing an RFP for the Atlantic/Vanderbilt Railyards, but will that be enough?

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

N.J. Nets Hire BrandBuzz Before Bklyn Move


Ratner hired the marketing firm BrandBuzz to get Brooklynites stoked on the Nets.


NoLandGrab: With billings estimated between $3-4 million, maybe BrandBuzz will come up with something better than "SEE 'EM LIVE." [That's "LIVE" as in "jive," not "live" as in "sieve".]

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Subway Woes: Follow the Money Speaker Giff hits Mayor Mike for starving the agency, but will Brooklyn deal do it right?

The Village Voice, Power Plays
by Jarred Murphy

Murphy's column points out the different positions of mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller on the sale of MTA railyards.

twoface.jpgMiller's position on Hudson Yards:

"It is the height of hypocrisy for the mayor to complain about the state of the MTA's finances after he recklessly pushed the agency to sell the West Side rail yards for over $700 million less than it's worth - money that could have been used to update the aging subway system and begin vital projects such as the Second Avenue line"

Miller's position on Atlantic/Vanderbuilt Yards:

Miller's campaign spokesman Reggie Johnson told the Voice, "It's clear he thinks that the MTA's going to get the best price for the Atlantic Yards property."


NoLandGrab: It was a few short months ago when the two-faced Miller was sitting on the fence on the West Side controversy. He changed his tune when the other mayoral candidates led the charge against Bloomberg.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

June 6, 2005

Daily Heights: At This Point, Bruce Ratner Can Pretty Much Do Whatever He Wants, So He Might As Well Build a 62-Story Hotel at Atlantic and Flatbush

The Daily Heights' entry covering the Brooklyn Papers story about the expansion of Atlantic Yards into Park Slope has resulted in a scathing point-counterpoint between some anonymous no-name commentator devoted to developer "prop" and a frequent Daily Heights commentator (code name "ratnerville").


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

A Little Giff and Take for Brooklyn Pols

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Reed Jackson

As mayoral candidate Gifford Miller is picking up endorsements from Brooklyn Democratic clubs, he dances around the issue of his support of Atlantic Yards:

Regarding one issue central to the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner's plans for the Atlantic Yards, Miller delivered a somewhat more ambiguous position. "We need development of the Atlantic Yards," he asserted, "and there needs to be infrastructure." Miller said that he would try to ensure an "open, creative process to decide what's best for this site," to make sure "that whatever happens there is in the best interest of this community."


Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

It's a whole new ballgame

Foes of Jets stadium back arena

NY Daily News
by Deborah Kolben

Mayoral candidates who oppose the Bloomberg-backed Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side are now falling in line to support developer Bruce Ratner's multibillion-dollar Nets arena project in downtown Brooklyn.

After City Council Speaker Gifford Miller announced his support this weekend of the massive housing and commercial development, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields also pledged her approval.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Brooklyn Fairy Tale

NY Sun, Editorial

A quick history of ACORN, Bertha Lewis and why conservative free-marketeers should be wary of the affordable housing deal that was sealed with a kiss.

New York's housing market certainly needs many things, but an extra 2,250 units of market-distorting, dependence-inducing housing on a prime spot in the heart of Brooklyn isn't on the list. Would Bruce Ratner or Mr. Bloomberg like to turn over 50% of their own residential blocks to "affordable" housing?


Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

June 5, 2005

Gifford Miller Endorses Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Proposal Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) Says He Now Stands on the Side of Bloomberg and His Sweetheart Deals

DDDB Press Release:

BROOKLYN—Today Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), a community coalition fighting for the rights of communities to determine their futures, is denouncing Council Speaker and Mayoral candidate Gifford Miller’s announced endorsement and support for Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) $3.5 billion development proposal for a sports arena and 20 high-rises in Prospect Heights Brooklyn. This proposal will cost the taxpayers of New York City and State at least $1.6 billion.*

“Speaker Miller has made it clear that he stands firmly on the side of billionaire developers’ backroom deals and against the people and communities of Brooklyn,” said DDDB spokesman, Daniel Goldstein. “It is the height of hypocrisy and inconsistency that Mr. Miller, a staunch opponent of the West Side Stadium boondoggle and a rigged MTA bidding process, is now supporting the same kind of sweetheart Olympics arena deal and rigged MTA process in Brooklyn. While he attacks the Mayor’s budget cuts and misplaced priorities, Mr. Miller has decided that this City’s priorities are sports arenas, massive overdevelopment, and luxury housing.”

Speaker Miller has been making the rounds of various Brooklyn community groups and political clubs over the past months, and at each stop, including last week, he has said that he does not have “enough information, facts or figures” to take a position on the Ratner proposal.

“I don’t know what new information Mr. Miller has,” Goldstein continued, “because at last week’s Council hearing on the Atlantic Yards proposal the Speaker attended for five minutes and then left the room, missing all the testimony on both sides of the issue. One thing he missed was Ratner’s announcement that he would now build 7,300 housing units, 2,800 more than originally proposed, and none of those added units are affordable. He also missed FCR’s testimony that they cannot guarantee any permanent jobs. He also missed that there is absolutely no infrastructure, transportation, traffic, schools, fire and police plan to deal with the 15,000 new residents and 20,000 arena visitors. Apparently he supports massive public subsidies for an arena, luxury housing, the creation of temporary jobs, unsustainable development, as well as the abuse of eminent domain.

Candidate Miller has run a campaign declaring that the City needs leadership, both for the City and as the leading urban center of the country.

Goldstein concluded, “Mr. Miller is correct, New York needs leadership. But what kind of a leader allows the City’s oversight of a massive 7.8 million square foot project to be completely taken away by an unaccountable State agency (the Empire State Development Corporation), without so much as a whimper from the Speaker of the City Council? As Speaker, he took all power away from the body he leads, while giving $100 million directly to FCR for a private arena. That’s not leadership; it's abdication at the people's expense. ”

Posted by amy at 10:56 AM

Miller Backs $3.5 Billion Plan for Brooklyn Sports Complex

From the New York Times:

The announcement did, however, raise questions about Mr. Miller's opposition to the proposed West Side stadium supported by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others. Like that project, the Atlantic Yards project would include a sports complex - an 800,000-square-foot home for Mr. Ratner's basketball team, the New Jersey Nets - benefit from millions of dollars in subsidies and be built in part on land owned by the authority.

"It is the height of hypocrisy and inconsistency that Mr. Miller, a staunch opponent of the West Side Stadium boondoggle and a rigged M.T.A. bidding process, is now supporting the same kind of sweetheart Olympics arena deal and rigged M.T.A. process in Brooklyn," said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in a statement released yesterday.


Posted by amy at 10:05 AM

June 4, 2005

Ratner lands Giff's backing

From the Daily News:

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller - a vocal foe of the Jets' proposed West Side stadium - is coming out in favor today of developer Bruce Ratner's $3.5 billion Nets arena complex in downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 10:59 AM



From the Brooklyn Papers:

The only public hearing before a committee of the City Council on the Atlantic Yards project was held in a room so small that dozens of people — including, for a time, Borough President Marty Markowitz — were barred by police from entering.

Even for those who did get into the May 26 hearing, there was little time for public input, although the committee allowed pro-development testimonials by elected officials and representatives of the developer, Forest City Ratner, to go on for more than two hours.

“The general public didn’t get to speak,” said Daniel Goldstein, a persistent critic of the plan to build high-rise housing and office buildings as well as an arena for the New Jersey Nets.


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Ratner site expands — into Park Slope

From the Brooklyn Papers:

But at a City Council hearing last Thursday, a presentation by Forest City Ratner said the developer was considering plans to greatly increase the amount of housing on the site, both by scaling back the amount of office and retail space and by expanding the site westward — jumping over Flatbush Avenue to include plots now occupied by Modell’s and PC Richard & Son.


Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

Breakin' Bread with Bruce


Curbed passes along info about how YOU can have dinner with Bruce Ratner!

honoring Bruce Ratner
at Gotham Hall
1356 Broadway at 36th Street
Cocktails 6pm Dinner 7pm
School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Real Estate Institute


Posted by amy at 10:39 AM

Towering egos


Guardian Unlimited discusses "tyrants, kings and tycoons [erecting] grand monuments to their own vanity" and introduces the term "Ediface Complex." Also included are stories about Frank Gehry bending over backwards to design bathrooms and garages for the influential.

There is a psychological parallel between making a mark on the landscape with a building and the exercise of political power. Both depend on the imposition of will. Certainly, reducing an entire city to the scale of a doll's house in an architectural model has an inherent appeal for those who regard the individual as of no account. Architecture feeds the egos of the susceptible. They grow more and more dependent on it to the point where architecture becomes an end in itself, seducing its addicts as they build on an ever-larger scale.


Posted by amy at 10:27 AM

Crowd pleasers


Financial Times describes the evolution of stadiums, introducing the phrase "Stadiums may be the new cathedrals."

Traditional stadiums started disappearing in the US first. By the 1950s, most American families owned cars. They moved to the suburbs, and the stadiums followed them because there wasn’t enough parking in their old neighbourhoods. As fans grew richer, they also demanded more food, toilets and comfort. Stadiums had to be big, with car parks, and next to a motorway.

Jacques Herzog, the Swiss architect, sits in a leather armchair looking out over the Munich football stadium he has just built. Thin and shaven-headed, Herzog exudes nervous energy as he scours the grey stands.

In 2001 Herzog and Jacques de Meuron, his business partner and friend since kindergarten in Basle, won the Pritzker prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel. They got it mainly for their Tate Modern gallery in London, but Munich’s Allianz Arena will displace the Tate as their best-known building next year when it hosts the opening match of football’s World Cup. Hundreds of millions of people will see it. The Allianz Arena - named by the insurance group - opens with friendly matches next week. Herzog won’t be there: he is booked for the opening of an exhibition of his firm’s work at the Tate.
Today he is seeing his finished stadium for the first time. He has just marched through it in yellow helmet, raincoat and sneakers. What does he think? He sighs: “Like always, unfortunately, you discover those little things that you would have liked to have done otherwise, and that jump at your eye. But it works very well, I think.” What should he have done differently? “Let’s say, I wish I had added a bit more colour. But the people, and the illumination, that’s also an integral part of the whole thing.” When the stadium’s full, he says, you’ll hardly notice the grey stands.
Few famous architects had sullied their hands with stadiums before Herzog and de Meuron did so in Basle (for the club they support, FC Basle) and Munich. They are still building Beijing’s Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Games. All this signals a new era: stadiums are becoming keynote urban buildings, as cathedrals were in the Middle Ages and opera houses more recently. When Norman Foster’s new Wembley opens in 2006, it will be his first stadium in more than 40 years in architecture.
Months ago, in the converted villa in which he works in Basle, Herzog mused about stadiums: “This is a new issue, like museums were at some point. It was for a long time the domain of more technically oriented people. It was totally neglected. It was done with very little money. A lot of stadiums were built with pride by the community, but if you look very closely lots of things were not thought through.”

Over the past century, after many mistakes (and while Americans have approximated the ultimate baseball ground) Europeans have learned what makes the ideal football stadium. The Allianz Arena is Herzog’s attempt to build it. Some things he has got right. Some he hasn’t, because cities have changed. In sum, his attempt illuminates the nearly 3,000-year history of stadiums.
The first one, Olympia, opened in Greece in 776BC and lasted 1,145 years. The Colosseum in Rome survived about half as long, until the sixth century AD. After that people got along fine without stadiums for nearly 1,500 years, notes Simon Inglis, the great chronicler of the breed. (Few topics are so dominated by one writer, evidence of how far stadiums have been neglected.)
After the Victorians invented modern team sports, stadiums reappeared, still looking rather like the Colosseum. These English grounds were built on the cheap: barns to house the devoted. Most of the legendary ones - Old Trafford, Anfield, Highbury, Ibrox, Twickenham, Craven Cottage - were partly or wholly the work of an obscure Glaswegian architect called Archibald Leitch. When Leitch died in 1939 he seems to have had just one obituary, a brief notice by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, which didn’t mention stadiums. In a sign of what Americans call the “ballpark renaissance”, Inglis has just published a biography, Engineering Archie: Archibald Leitch - Football Ground Designer.
Leitch didn’t bother making his stadiums look good. His clients didn’t care. To quote Inglis’s maxim for stadiums: “Form follows whatever the club chairman’s builder pal from the Rotary Club could come up with at a cut-price.” Herzog, who has possibly never heard of Leitch, says: “The stadiums I love - Anfield or Old Trafford - are ugly stadiums on the outside.”
Yet Leitch created what would become Herzog’s inspiration: the traditional English stadium. The type was usually surrounded by terraced streets. To save space, its stands towered steeply from the edge of the field. There was no athletics track, because athletics didn’t pay. The stadium’s roof was cheap and simple. The great baseball grounds of the early 20th century, such as Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, looked similar.
Comparisons between religion and soccer are overused, but European stadiums undeniably took over certain functions from the emptying cathedrals. It was increasingly in stadiums that 20th-century citizens gathered in community, sang, cried and felt part of something larger than themselves. An English stadium, says Herzog, was “the living room of a religious community”. The stadium also became the home of civic pride: the biggest and best-known building in many cities.
Traditional stadiums started disappearing in the US first. By the 1950s, most American families owned cars. They moved to the suburbs, and the stadiums followed them because there wasn’t enough parking in their old neighbourhoods. As fans grew richer, they also demanded more food, toilets and comfort. Stadiums had to be big, with car parks, and next to a motorway.
In 1988, just when everyone was sure the “urban ballparks” were dying out, a minor-league baseball team opened one in the decaying city of Buffalo. Pilot Field stood not in the suburbs but downtown. It even made reference to the old urban buildings around it, with its white brick and big arched windows. The seats were very near the foul-lines. Fans liked this “retro ballpark”, and they came in droves. Pilot Field, incidentally, was built by an architecture firm called HOK. Though little known outside sports, HOK is responsible for most extant baseball stadiums, for Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Arsenal’s future stadium and Wimbledon’s new centre court.
Pilot Field (now called Dunn Tire Park) inspired minor-league baseball teams everywhere to build retro ballparks. In 1992 the major-league Baltimore Orioles opened Camden Yards, and that settled the matter. Camden Yards, built by HOK, is downtown, in red brick, and has an asymmetrical field with real grass just like the old ballparks. At the front is a statue of local boy Babe Ruth. Fans love it, and retro ballparks have since conquered the major leagues.
In Europe, the ballpark renaissance has taken a different turn. Few European city centres have the deserted stadium-sized spaces found in downtown US. In Munich and across the continent, the new stadiums are outside town. Here too, however, architects have learned from the past. The new stadiums don’t have athletics tracks, which ruined the atmosphere by keeping fans far from the action. Football and athletics simply don’t mix.
What football fans crave in a stadium is communal emotion. Leitch’s stadiums offer it. He built perfect places for football, chiefly because he put fans near the pitch. His grounds inspired the Allianz Arena. “It’s somehow an attempt to go back to the roots of soccer,” says Herzog, “to take some of these archaic ingredients. The Shakespearean theatre, probably it was even a model for the soccer stadium in England - this closeness between the actors and crowd. If you can achieve this proximity, the people become the architecture.” The Swiss quips that the Allianz is “too good for Germany”. “I would rather have made the stadiums for Manchester United or Liverpool,” he says.
Sitting in the Allianz’s top tier, he points almost straight down towards the pitch. The stands here climb as steeply as the law allows, keeping all 66,000 fans close to the action. There’s no track: there would be little point, as football now attracts more spectators than any athletics event. The roof is simple and dark, and shuts out all but a small patch of sky, leaving fans with nothing to look at except the field. This is the traditional emotional football stadium - “the witch’s cauldron”, as the Germans call the type - taken to its extreme.
It’s a perfect place to watch football. However, it is traditional only while you are watching. The Arena’s catacombs are stuffed with restaurants and business lounges unthinkable in Leitch’s day. These novelties irritate some fans, including apparently Herzog himself. Striding through the business club, he gestures at the ceiling: “It’s gold, or goldish, referring to the Mastercard or whatever.” He accepts this corporate lacquer as inevitable. “Older versions of soccer stadiums were working-class cathedrals. Here there is no more working class: it’s a totally different public. It’s a kind of contemporary opera house. You could ask me, do I like the name Allianz Arena? No, I don’t. But this is a fact. We cannot be moral in this respect.”

The Arena’s worst breach of tradition, however, is on the outside. The stadium is in the middle of nowhere, near an industrial terrain. Herzog has hit upon a clever device to connect it to the world: during games, the stadium lights up on the outside. It will glow red when Bayern Munich play, blue for 1860 Munich, and white for Germany. But whereas in the Basle of Herzog’s childhood, cheers for a goal would resound through the surrounding neighbourhood, now even the drivers passing the Arena on the motorway won’t hear them.
The other thing lacking from the Allianz Arena are the details that, as Herzog has observed, make a stadium feel like home to the fans: a clock, a statue, the sign in Liverpool’s tunnel saying “This is Anfield”. The Allianz Arena lacks local touches, Herzog admits, partly because the stadium was built for three different home teams, and partly because the teams scarcely bothered talking to him. He explains: “Even though architecture is so visible now, soccer is still much more in the living room of the whole world, so soccer teams don’t need architecture to highlight their identity.”

As we sit in a business lounge, a familiar figure materialises on the turf below: Michael Ballack, Germany’s greatest current footballer. The script has him leading Germany to the World Cup next year. Today he is filming an advertisement. Herzog starts: “Ballack is here! It’s amazing how young they look.” Ballack, by contrast, would probably never have recognised the old gent upstairs. Stadiums may be the new cathedrals, but their architects are not yet the new footballers.

Posted by amy at 10:12 AM

June 3, 2005

Forest City a leader in urban revitalization

Washington Times

Report from the National Building Museum annual awards dinner where the Ratner clan turned out en masse.

No one thought Cleveland-based Forest City would drop Mr. Gehry from designing its proposed basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn, given the company's commitment to innovative civic projects. article

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

Forest City spearheads D.C. waterfront project

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Washington- The Washington branch of Forest City Enterprises completed an agreement Thursday with the federal government to spearhead a 44-acre development project along the Anacostia River in the District of Columbia that the city's mayor called "one of the largest waterfront transformations in the country."

It will include 3.2 million square feet of housing, 2 million square feet of commercial, retail and cultural space, and a five-acre park.


Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

State Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn's ruling

Download ruling


If there is a rational basis for theBoard’s action, even if the court or the public might have arrived at a different conclusion, the MTA Board’s decision must be affirmed. — page 12

Ultimately, the issue of which plan should be accepted, or whether all of them should be rejected, must be decided by the MTA Board. Those issues are public policy issues which are best left to the Board appointed by the elected officials with that authority, as long as there is no arbitrary or capricious decision. — page 12

The MTA counters that the Jets’ proposal would create more revenue for the City and State, as well as to the MTA. While each side has experts on whom it relies, the court cannot find that the MTA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by choosing to accept the estimates made by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York State Economic Development Corporation, which gave favorable estimates regarding the Jets’ proposal. — page 14

NoLandGrab: Alas, there's nothing arbitrary or capricious about Bloomberg and Doctoroff's ambitious proposals to award large-scale developments to their favorite politically connected pals.

A point in favor of those who claim that five weeks is not enough time for the MTA to solicit bids in the case of the Vanderbilt (aka, Atlantic) Railyards:

The court is not insensitive to MSG’s complaint concerning what might otherwise be considered an unreasonably short period of time (27 days) to respond, within the context of such a complex project. However, given the actual circumstances herein, MSG fails to demonstrate in what way the 27-day deadline benefitted the Jets over MSG. — page 22

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Hudson Railyards suits tossed out by judge

You've heard the news. Here's the coverage:

WNYC, Major Victory for West Side Stadium
The NY Times, Hurdle Cleared, West Side Stadium Backers Turn to Albany

NY Daily News, Judge throws out lawsuit against West Side stadium

The judge also shot down the lawsuit claim that the MTA had not allowed bidders enough time to prepare their proposals. Both sides were working under the same 27-day time constraints, [Justice] Cahn said.


The state's top fiscal watchdog — sounding a lot like his longtime Democratic ally, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — unexpectedly declared that it would be "premature" for the Public Authorities Control Board to vote for approval of $300 million in state funding for the project.

NY Newsday, Stadium future still uncertain

Despite stern words from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki -- both staunch stadium backers -- Silver suggested to reporters he might seek to again postpone the decision.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

After Cheering Stops, Arenas Would Endure

The NY Times
by Charles Bagli

If the city succeeds in winning the Olympics, it will mean changes in many neighborhoods around the city, where Olympic planners envision many of the sporting events taking place.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Utah Bans Eminent Domain Use by Redevelopment Agencies

Heartland Institute
Henry Lamb

Utah has become the second state in the nation to outlaw the use of eminent domain to seize private property to assemble land for private development under the protective cloak of Local Development Corporations (LDCs). This action by the state legislature is In response to growing public sentiment that the practice is abusive to the rights of private property owners and fundamentally unconstitutional.


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Analyst: Mayor's Bronx Market Deal Shows His Hubris

The NY Sun
by Julie Satow

The Bronx Terminal Market illustrates the Bloomberg administration’s tendency to promote development of underutilized land while allowing small businesses to be bulldozed in the process, according to a report published yesterday.

“Beyond the Olympics,” the result of a five-month examination by the nonprofit think tank Center for an Urban Future, found that Mayor Bloomberg has habitually sought the rezoning and redevelopment of property, resulting in the eviction of local businesses.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

June 2, 2005

Revs rip Ratner plan

Demand he discuss Atlantic Yards
NY Daily News
by Deborah Kolben

A group of Brooklyn ministers is stepping up its attack on developer Bruce Ratner's proposed multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards basketball arena project in Prospect Heights.

Fed up with what they call a "well-oiled public relations machine," the group is fighting back with a 12-page newspaper that hit the stands last weekend.

"The developer is painting a very rosy picture," said the Rev. Dennis Dillon, pastor of the Christian Center.


Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Highlights Absence of Transport Planning in NYC’s Big Projects

Mobilizing the Region
A Weekly News Bulletin from the
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

The lack of any transit and transportation plan for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards was apparent during last week's City Council Hearings when the presentation glossed over the topic by showing a slide of the current area subway and LIRR map.

Meanwhile: * Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street is the third largest transit hub in New York City and collects the fourth highest number of fares in Brooklyn. * Many of the rush hour trains that come through it now are packed upon arrival and don’t become less crowded until they have reached Manhattan. * Many of the lines rate near the bottom of a number of key statistics compiled by the Straphangers Campaign. * The R train ranks the lowest in interior cleanliness and second lowest in breakdown rate. * The 5 train ranks the lowest in regularity of service, while both 4 and 5 trains are near the bottom in chance of finding a seat, beat out only by the ever crowded L train.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

Forest City Projects

For those of you following the Ratner clan of mighty developers, here are some updates of Forest City projects (open-air regional lifestyle centers included).

The Allentown Morning Call, Revised Summit proposal gets varied reactions
The Pennsylvania Express-Times, Summit mall plan applauded

Dallas Morning News, Mercantile deal may not be dead yet WFAA.com (Dallas/Ft. Worth), City, developer revive Mercantile plan

The Journal News, Greenburgh's attorney muted

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

June 1, 2005

New Urbanism in Denver

The NY Times covers the highly touted Stapleton mixed-use development, a recent Forest City Enterprises project. Stapleton has become the most high-profile development in the nation which embraces the principles of the New Urbanist movement.

This article is complete with a disclosure of the relationship between FCE's subsidiary, Forest City Ratner and The Times.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Enterprises is getting a lot of respect for the Denver project.

Meanwhile Forest City Ratner is defying current urban planning standards to embrace the Battery-Park-style planning model for Atlantic Yards, complete with high-rises, private "public" spaces, and street closures. Past errors in city planning, such as these, inspired urban designers to analyze successful mixed-use neighborhoods, the foundation of the New Urbanism movement.

The development of the Atlantic Railyards is an opportunity for NYC to learn from itself. Unfortunately, it is being proposed as the next step in Bruce Ratner's learning curve.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM