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August 31, 2005

Downtown Clergy-Led Group Keeps the Pressure on Ratner

The Brooklyn Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition held a press conference to counter the "spin" from the Ratner alliance that the entire African American community supports the Community Benefits Agreement and Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

During the press conference the group, led by local African American clergy and politicians, passed out a list of the “Ten Commandments of a Community Benefits Agreement.”

Among them are, “Thou shall not hand-pick a few supporters and sympathizers of the project and pass them off as the representatives of a broad, diverse community,” “Thou shall not steal or evict people from their homes” and “Thou shall not displace local and small businesses.”


Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

August 30, 2005


NY Post columnist Robert A. George covers Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's bizarre squirms during the two Public Advocate debates as she was questioned on her support of Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, despite the use of eminent domain.

Her official spokeswoman told [George], "The public advocate believes Ratner to be a very respected and very responsible developer [who] will negotiate with all the tenants. [She has been] consistent on this. The public advocate supports the project, but will not if eminent domain is used."

George's conclusion:

In short, whether the issue is eminent domain or just plain transparency — Gotbaum refuses to give this project the same critical assessment as similar ones in the city.

Simply because she trusts the developer.


Also: NY Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez makes the case for supporting Norman Siegel over the incumbent Gotbaum ("Let's hire a true people's lawyer").

Posted by lumi at 7:17 PM

Goldstein to Gotbaum: "You are the public advocate, not the corporate advocate."

Press Release: Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum Lies About Bruce Ratner's Eminent Domain at Atlantic Yards
Homeowner Faced With Condemnation for Ratner Project Condemns Ms. Gotbaum and Mr. Ratner

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK-During two debates in the past week incumbent New York City Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, displayed an astounding dishonesty or detachment about eminent domain and the 17-skyscrapers and arena proposed in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn by Bruce Ratner's firm, Forest City Ratner (FCR). Ms. Gotbaum stated that Mr. Ratner will not use eminent domain for his project, and that she knows because he told her so.

A homeowner faced with a State seizure of his home to pave the way for the Ratner project, Daniel Goldstein, said, "I had to throw up my arms in disgust when I heard my public advocate speak such bald-faced lies. I'm sure Mr. Ratner has told her that he won't use eminent domain, it's in his interest to tell her that. But it's in her job title to reach out to the public, find out the truth and then represent the citizens she was elected to represent. She hasn't done this and that is a dereliction of her duties of office. She knows the truth, as I, and others, informed her office many months ago. I can only conclude that she is lying or disengaged from one of the key public debates boiling in New York City."

Ms. Gotbaum stated that she is against the use of eminent domain but supports the Ratner project as it's her understanding eminent domain won't be used. She did say that if she learns otherwise, she would not support the Ratner project.

"Its time for Ms. Gotbaum to engage the powers of her office and oppose the use of eminent domain for private gain at Atlantic Yards and everywhere else in the City," Mr. Goldstein said. "Having heard her comments during the debates, I had to write to Ms. Gotbaum to let her know the reality of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards, so she doesn't continue speaking untruths about it. I expect that she will realize that she was terribly incorrect with her debate comments and will withdraw her support for the Ratner project. Anything short of that is hypocrisy and advocacy for a billionaire developer instead of the public."

The letters sent by Mr. Goldstein to Ms. Gotbaum and Mr. Ratner are below:

Hon. Betsy Gotbaum
Public Advocate of the City of New York
1 Centre Street, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10007

August 29, 2005

Hon. Public Advocate Gotbaum:

On August 23rd, during a televised debate on NY1, and again at a second debate aired on August 28th on NBC, you stated that you would not support Forest City Ratner's (FCR) proposed arena/high-rise project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn if the project uses eminent domain. Currently you are on the record as supporting the project. You also said "...the developer has told me that he is still negotiating with holdouts, and will not use eminent domain."

The Ratner proposal would use eminent domain. Knowing that, do you support or oppose the project?

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Bruce Ratner, New York City and State on February 18th, 2005, my home is precisely at the location where the proposed arena would be constructed. In that MOU the State agency, the ESDC, agrees to use its eminent domain power and City money is earmarked to be used for "compensation."

As public advocate, it behooves you to fully grasp the public policy issues that are swirling around the FCR proposal. It appears that you are out of touch with those issues, including the threat and use of eminent domain that will be vigorously challenged in court.

I am not a "holdout," as you called my neighbors and me during the debate. I am a person trying to live in peace in the home and neighborhood I chose to reside in -- the State has no right to take it from me to give to a private corporation that will make billions in profit. While FCR has offered to buy my home from me, I have explained to their representatives that my home is not for sale. Those representatives then told me, in very clear terms, that if I do not sell my home to FCR then the State will seize it by using its eminent domain powers. I have neighbors in my community who have been told the same thing; these neighbors are business owners, homeowners and property owners.

Furthermore, any negotiation with the threat of the State's power of eminent domain as a hammer behind the back of the developer is a bad faith negotiation. If you believe that the use of eminent domain at "Atlantic Yards" is wrong, then certainly the threat of it during a negotiation is just as wrong. But your comments explicitly show that you are comfortable with the threat of eminent domain as long as the developer sits at a negotiating table.

You should also be aware that when selling to Mr. Ratner a property owner must first sign a contract infringing upon one's free speech rights (see: www.dddb.net/public/gag), which is not a normal part of property sales. It is immoral to infringe on a citizen's First and Fifth Amendment rights. Why would you support such un-American behavior? As public advocate you must promptly and publicly condemn these tactics.

For two years it has been very clear that eminent domain will be a tool used by the State on Mr. Ratner's behalf. He said just that as recently as two months ago on NY 1.

It is very disturbing that during the debate you said, "...the developer has told me..." Ms. Gotbaum, you are the public advocate, not the corporate advocate. Implicit in your comment during the debate is that you have only spoken with the developer about this issue. Some of us, living under this eminent domain threat for two years now, have spoken with your staff and have made it clear that eminent domain is an integral aspect of the Ratner development proposal. Unless your staff did not inform you of this, it appears that you chose to take the word of the developer over the word of citizens, or simply lied during the debates. Whichever reason it is, it is unacceptable that you'd favor the developer over the citizen.

The developer has lied to you, but you still have time to withdraw your support for the project as you stated you would during the debates. Please understand that I have no intention of selling my home to Mr. Ratner or anybody; my home is not for sale. Thus, for Mr. Ratner's project to proceed he will have to take my home by eminent domain as stated in the MOU.

I look forward to a prompt and public response.


Daniel Goldstein

Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner CEO (fax and mail);
Norman Siegel, Candidate for New York City Public Advocate
Andrew Rasiej, Candidate for New York City Public Advocate
Jay Golub, Candidate for New York City Public Advocate
Hon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Hon. Congressman Anthony Weiner
Fernando Ferrer
Hon. Speaker Gifford Miller
Hon. Borough President C. Virginia Fields
Dominic Carter, NY 1
Gabe Pressman, NBC
Jim Stuckey, Forest City Ratner VP

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

For L.A., utopia or dystopia

L.A. Times, Opinion
by Mick Farren

L.A., if you can believe it, was declared the most densely populated area in the US by the Census Bureau. It also shares NYC's strain for middle- and lower-income housing, transportation concerns and need to create a viable, livable city.

Superblocks, Blade Runner-stlye insta-skylines, managing terrorism security, traffic woes and organic street-level redevelopment can all be observed in our west coast rival. What can the sucesses, unintended consequences and plain-and-stupid mistakes inform us about redevelopment efforts on the drawing board in NYC, specifically Brooklyn?


Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Americans, Left and Right, Work to Counter Kelo Decision

Budget & Tax News (via, Heartland Institute)
by Paul Jacobs

Unlike many U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which leave no remedy except the arduous path of a constitutional amendment, the Kelo decision allows states to set tighter standards for use of eminent domain.

Accordingly, the country has erupted at the grassroots.

Read an update on legislatures that have taken action and opinions on whether or not their efforts will stem the tide of eminent domain being used in favor of wealthy well-connected developers.

New York state legislators have made a similar call for a moratorium until the issue can be addressed legislatively.


Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

August 29, 2005

Bulldozing Small Businesses

NY Sun
by Nicole Gelinas

This is an adaption of the City Journal article by Gelinas published on the web last week.

Can democratic candidates claim to support small businesses while supporting Ratner's plan which will displace several established successful small businesses?

These [small business] owners pay their property taxes and income taxes, and they employ dozens of New Yorkers at good wages and in good working conditions. “For someone to come and tell us that we have to” sell out to Mr. Ratner, “that is wrong,” said Simon Liu, who moved here from China more than 30 years ago, and who employs two dozen immigrant workers at his artsupply factory.


Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

NY1: Public Advocate's Debate


Check out the soundfile on NY1, if you missed last week's Public Advocate debate where Betsy Gotbaum first claimed that eminent domain would not be used in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards and then claimed to be concerned with the size and traffic.

link (Gotbaum on eminent domain at 24:00)

The second Public Advocate aired yesterday on WNYC was even more of a smash up, especially on Atlantic Yards. We'll link the sound file as soon as it is available.

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

August 28, 2005

Open Letter to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum

Dear Betsy,

It is a shame that my Public Advocate would refer to someone who wants to stay in his chosen place to live as a "hold out" (as said twice on the TV debate, August 28th). This is the language of the developer not of someone who advocates for peoples right to choose a location to live or set up a business and then stand by their choice. It is not the Constitutional Right of a developer to be able to force a resident out of his home or to buy out that resident using the threat of eminent domain.

Do you get your news from the developer who is forcing people out of their homes? Eminent Domain has been spoken about since the beginning of the public debate on the Atlantic Yards project. The developer has clearly said he would be using eminent domain from the beginning of the discussion. People have sold their properties because they were threatened with Eminent Domain. Is this your concept of free enterprise? Some people have principles that they believe in and some people do not want to leave the home and neighborhood that they have chosen to invest their time, money and energy into. Most people are outraged by the tactics and strategies that Bruce Ratner has used to get his way for a project that no one has asked for. You are choosing to wait until an unjust process is finished before speaking out against the tactics of the developer. Is that your concept of speaking out against an injustice or speaking out in support of the citizens who are being bullied? Is you principle then, "that the ends justifies the means?" If so then you should clearly say that this is your principle.

Why have you chosen to take your information from the developer rather than from the thousands of people who oppose this planned occupation of their neighborhood. We can't expect the developer to hold back his unbridled ambition but we certainly have a right to expect our Pubic Advocate to take the side of the people who are being displaced and bullied.

Lucy Koteen, Fort Greener for Organic Development

NLG: The Public Advocate's office is up for grabs - the primaries are September 13. One candidate with an impeccable record on eminent domain - and who is fighting the Atlantic Yards project - is Norman Siegal. His website is here.

From Norman's website:

Gotbaum continues to contradict herself on the role of eminent domain for private use in the Atlantic Yards/downtown Brooklyn project: “It’s not my understanding that the developer at Atlantic Yards is going to use eminent domain.” (NY1 debate, 8-23-05).

Norman said “The threatened use of eminent domain has been part of the Atlantic Yards project since day one. People need to know where the Public Advocate stands on this issue. My position is clear: I do not support eminent domain for private gain.” (WNBC debate, 8-28-05).

By the way, a developer does not initiate eminent domain proceedings—the government does.

The public advocate's website is here. Good luck finding an email address...

Posted by amy at 6:05 PM

August 27, 2005

Council to attack land grabs

From the Brooklyn Papers:

A bill was introduced in the City Council this week that would bar the city from using eminent domain solely for economic development purposes and prohibit city funds from being used for such projects.

Eighteen council members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, drafted by Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James. The legislation came in response to a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the right of state governments to take private property in the name of economic development.

The bill, if passed before developer Bruce Ratner works out a deal to purchase development rights from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and then gains state environmental approval for his Atlantic Yards plan, could cut half of the $200 million committed to the project by the city and state.


Posted by amy at 10:27 AM

Ratner arena foes pack Freddy’s Bar amid word of ‘NewsHour’ interview


From the Brooklyn Papers:

Not that the regulars of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in Prospect Heights needed an excuse to stop by the watering hole on Aug. 23, but a call for action, in the form of a mass e-mail, packed the bar more than usual for an early Tuesday evening.

The e-mail, which was subsequently picked up by various neighborhood newsgroups and Web logs, called for the troops to turn out and voice their opposition to developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards arena, housing and office skyscraper project for a national television program expected “at 6:00-ish 6:30-ish, to investigate the impact of the Ratner curse.”

The segment is expected to air on PBS in two to three weeks.


Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

'Times' to Commoners: Go Elsewhere


The Village Voice points out a textbook case of eminent domain abuse - of COURSE it involves Ratner.

In the Times deal, the city and state made a no-bid pact despite prior plans to seek competitive bids for the choice midtown site the newspaper company wanted. The Times also got tens of millions of dollars in city subsidies based on what it said were the high costs of keeping 750 workers based in the city instead of New Jersey—costs that, it was clear at the time, were vastly overestimated by Times executives, as the Voice has reported ("The Paper of Wreckage," June 17, 2002). The Times got these subsidies even though, as previously reported, another developer, Gary Barnett, said he would build a 50-story office tower without heavy tax breaks. Barnett—who made headlines recently by competing with Forest City Ratner Companies to build in downtown Brooklyn—even owned part of the site.


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

Green Party Candidate Ready to Debate Markowitz

From Hot Indie News:

The Gloria Mattera for Brooklyn Borough President Campaign handed in almost 8,000 independent nominating petition signatures to the New York City Board of Elections at 10:30am Tuesday morning. 4000 signatures are required for the office.

"These signatures represent grass roots support for my campaign to bring open government to Brooklyn," said Mattera. "I look forward to a vigorous public debate with Marty Markowitz in the coming weeks on the issues most critical to the people of Brooklyn, including affordable housing, support for public schools, responsible development, and a healthy environment."

Dozens of volunteers gathered the signatures in Brooklyn over the past six weeks. Petitioners handed out leaflets and discussed community issues with residents.

"This is the easiest time I’ve ever had getting signatures," said Maryianne Jackson from Prospect Heights. As soon as I told people Gloria was fighting the Ratner development, they were ready to sign."


Posted by amy at 10:11 AM

August 26, 2005

Is Gotbaum Master of Her Domain?

Public Advocate candidates dispute what's eminent and imminent in the Atlantic Yards deal

The Village Voice
Power Plays, by Jarret Murphy

Public Advocate candidate Norman Seigel had the incumbent, Betsy Gotbaum, on the ropes when confronted by her support of Ratner's plan.

During this week's NY1 debate, Gotbaum displayed her surprising lack of knowledge of Ratner's deal when she commented:

"It is not my understanding that the developer at the Atlantic Yards is going to use eminent domain. I have been told in fact that that is not the case."


NoLandGrab: Guess who "told" Gotbaum that there would be no eminent domain?

Betsy! Earth to Betsy! Why do you think it's called "NoLandGrab.org" instead of: NoBoondogglesForBillionarieDevelopers.org,
NoULURPForPoliciallyWellConnectedBuilders.com, or

Maybe we'll move this blog over to "NoIgorantPublicAdvocatesWhoSpentTheLastFourYearsDoingNothing.com."

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails)

The NY Times
by Linda Greenhouse

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens explains that in the eminent domain case of Kelo v. New London:

...that his majority opinion that upheld the government's "taking" of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result "entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program" that was under constitutional attack.

In other words, though he thought that the Constitution warranted upholding the taking of the property of the New London homeowners, he doesn't agree with the policy.


Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

August 25, 2005






SATURDAY AUGUST 27, 2005 5:00 PM
Between Willoughby & Fulton Street
718-624-7372 OR 646-207-5698

From the organizer: Donation is $10 for adults $5 for children. Families with 3 or more children please just give a donation. After all it's done for the spirit and unity of our people ALL people.

NoLandGrab: The folks over on Duffield Street are facing the threat of Eminent Domain from the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.

Posted by amy at 10:04 PM

Bulldozing Small Businesses

City Journal
Nicole Gelinas

The Democratic mayoral candidates claim to be champions of small business, but where do they stand on Ratner's plan that will displace the small businesses in Prospect Heights? [Hint: Three out of four candidates prefer Ratner for developers who choose eminent domain.]


Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

August 24, 2005

The price of progress

The Daily News
ER Shipp

Eminent domain was used to clear away Seneca Village, a thriving black community, to assemble land for Central Park. Shipp finds herself contemplating the lessons of Seneca Village when thinking of the recent Supreme Court ruling.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

August 23, 2005

Corruption in the Republic

by Joshua Holland

Pork sausage, pork chops and pork rinds -- pork is on everyone's mind these days. And what could be porkier than spending public money on stadium projects? Before you bash your local pols, consider that you could be the one to blame.

Start by reading this article about sports venues, fat cats and the lard-assed electorate.


Though NLG recently linked this other article (Bergen Record, "The sport of stadium building"), we thought you might like to ponder the recent changes in sports venue deals, packaged to make pork look less like bologna.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Businessman Battles the City for Power Plant

The NY Times
by Charles Bagli

At a time when the United States Supreme Court has granted local governments free rein to condemn private property on behalf of commercial projects, an energy entrepreneur says he is going City Hall one better: he plans to condemn some prime Brooklyn waterfront land himself.

TransGas is attempting to condemn property using an obscure State law dating back to 1909 that grants railroads and utilities the power of exercising eminent domain for its own interests. To add drama to the situation, weeks later, the City applied to condemn the same parcel for a waterfont park.


NoLandGrab: WOW, an eminent domain pissing contest!

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Forest City Enterprises push for casino gambling in Pittsburgh

Forest City Enterprises is one of several corporations lining the Pittsburgh campaign-donation feeding trough in order to secure a lucrative casino gambling license.

This deal doesn't involve "Caring Bruce" Ratner, but the mothership is doing their own bit to tarnish the corporation's reputation for progressive development.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Gaming Gamble
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Gambling interests leave nothing to chance

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

Yonkers charter panel wants IDA under ethics law

Though Yonkers lawmakers try to tackle the problem of political corruption with quasi-governmental agencies, their best efforts are thwarted because most "Local Development Corporations" are mandated by the State.

The 5,000-pound elephant in the room is the Ridge Hill Development Corporation, the State agency overseeing Ratner's controversial mixed-use development proposal in Yonkers.


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

City and State Comptrollers Oppose M.T.A.'s Railyard Plan

The NY Times
by Sewell Chan

The city and state comptrollers of New York have both come out against a plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use most of its surplus to build a big deck over its West Side railyard and then sell a developer the right to build commercial and apartment buildings over the deck.

Both officials said the proposal, which would represent an unusual foray by the authority into real estate development, involved too much risk. They suggested that the authority instead hold a competition among developers, who would take on the challenge of building the deck as part of their proposals.


NoLandGrab connects the dots: Speaking about financial risk, NYC Comptroller William Thompson supports Ratner's proposal in Brooklyn despite its being the low bid in this summer's bidding war.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

August 22, 2005

In the Fall, Look Out for More Conflict on Park, Atlantic Yards

This from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's late-summer wrap up of Brooklyn development deals:

Before mid-September, a deal will probably be cut between the MTA and Forest City Ratner to wrap up the sale of the Yards property. Sometime, probably by October, the state will have to host a scoping meeting for the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

More than usual, this will be an important session because it will give one and all, and there are a good many of them, to try to influence the content and character of this important document. People should pay important attention the number of housing units and the kind of buildings planned for this project. The density and scale of this part of the project is the key element, not the arena, nor one or two office buildings. The use of eminent domain is really a sideshow, and going to court over this issue cannot stop the heart of the project.

Contestants will be able to look quite judicial on this issue and the temptation will be present, but the project, if need be, can be built around the slivers that Forest City does not control. This issue is moon-looking.


NoLandGrab: "Moon-looking?" Is it just the heat? The full moon? Or has Dennis Holt stopped making sense?

Posted by lumi at 10:17 PM

URGENT: The News Hour with Jim Lehrer at Freddy's, this Tuesday Early PM


Daily Heights is reporting that The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (PBS) will be down at Freddy's tomorrow (Tues. Aug 23) at 6:00-ish 6:30-ish "to investigate the impact of the Ratner curse."


Posted by lumi at 10:10 PM

Supreme Court Won't Revisit Eminent Domain Case

Fox News.com, AP

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, given a chance to revisit a heavily criticized ruling, refused Monday to reconsider its decision giving local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development.

So contentious was the court's narrow 5-4 ruling in the so-called eminent domain case earlier this year that some critics launched a campaign to seize Justice David Souter's (search) farmhouse in New Hampshire to build a luxury hotel. Others singled out Justice Stephen Breyer's vacation home in the same state for use as a park.


NoLandGrab: No surprises here, the US Supreme Court has very rarely granted rehearings.

Posted by lumi at 9:59 PM

August 21, 2005

Nets leaving no stone unturned in effort to build ticket sales

Beside a platter of chicken satay, Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner schmoozes with his customers.

"I want to meet you, I want to talk to you, I want to answer your questions," Ratner says later in his welcome speech.

NoLandGrab: Is he talking to us? Does Bruce Ratner want to speak to the citizens of Brooklyn? Oh hell no. He's having another barbecue to sell Nets tickets.

"Please," he tells the group from the head of a 40-foot table, "do whatever (the Nets) ask of you because we really need the money."

NoLandGrab: The bake sale will be held next Saturday at Bruce Ratner's house. And when you donate, please be generous. Just think of the children....


Posted by amy at 10:37 AM

August 20, 2005


From the Brooklyn Papers:

The same day they signed a widely publicized agreement setting aside land for developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project, top officials of the Pataki and Bloomberg administrations signed a separate pact with the developer, granting him the right to build up adjacent urban renewal sites without city review.

That second agreement was never made public, but it turned up this week in the state’s response to a fairly broad Freedom of Information Act request made by a neighborhood group opposed to the Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

August 19, 2005

Brooklyn Activists Uncover 'Secret' Ratner Memo


In its usual snarky manner, Curbed.com facetiously comments that DDDb's clamoring about the double-secret Memorandum of Understanding (a.k.a. MOU2) puts Daniel Goldstein "in the potentially untenable position of lobbying for the sanctity of one of the saddest malls in the land."


NoLandGrab: The NYC real estate blog totally misses the points that MOU2 seeks an end run around the local review process, expands the footprint of the original project plan by 25% and proposes using eminent domain to force the sale of land owned by PC Richard. Also, though signed at the same time as the MOU announced in February, MOU2 was inexplicably kept under wraps.

Posted by lumi at 8:35 PM

August 18, 2005


The NY Sun
by Daniel Hemel

City and state officials, in a memorandum they never released, promised the developer Forest City Ratner six months ago that they would arrange for the firm to obtain the rights to build almost 1.9 million square feet of residential and commercial space in downtown Brooklyn, even if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rejected the firm’s bid for the development rights at a nearby rail yard.

In it, the officials agreed to facilitate Mr. Ratner’s development aspirations at a pair of nearby properties along Atlantic and Flatbush avenues: a Ratner-owned mall located north of the rail yard, Atlantic Center, and a commercial block on Flatbush Avenue, which is referred to as Site 5 in the memo.That site is currently occupied by a sporting goods retailer, Modell’s, and an electronics store, P.C. Richard & Son.

The development called for in that memorandum increases by 25% the square footage that Mr. Ratner — whose previously publicized project has been attacked in some quarters as too big — would construct in the area.


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites will remember early on that local residents called for Ratner to build the arena over the Atlantic Center Mall, one of the sites designated in this secret unreleased memorandum of underhanding. Such a move would eliminate the need to use eminent domain to take people's homes. Now it turns out that Ratner really DOES want to take down his failing mall, but he'll still take people's homes too.

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

MOU, Part Deux or: How I Learned to Start Worrying...

The first MOU was rolled out to great fanfare in February. The City, State and Ratner kept the lid on MOU2. Here's what they were afraid of the public finding out:

Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner claimed in April, 2004 that the project would be scaled back (see Brooklyn Papers, "Ratner, Gehry looking to scale back plans").

It's now even BIGGER! The neighborhoods of Park Slope and Fort Greene get a piece of the action too.


Soon-to-be-displaced homeowners begged Ratner to build the arena over his failed Atlantic Center Mall instead of building over their homes. He roundly rejected this idea.

It turns out that he was planning to take down his failing mall all along, but he's still asking the State to take peoples homes.


Ratner's guys swore up and down all last year that most of the state-owned MTA railyards comprised a majority of the site, therefore the project should go through NY State's land-use review process, called SEQURA. This process is less stringent than the City review process called, ULURP.

The MTA railyards comprise WAY LESS THAN HALF — it is just a scant eight acres of a project that is expanding well over the original 21-acre footprint.


Originally Ratner planned for the State to take private property from residents and small-buisiness owners.

Now he wants the State to take HIS property too!

Ratner so desperately wants everything to go through the State land-use review process that MOU (Part Deux) provides for a state takeover of his own property (The Atlantic Center Mall, PC Richards and Modells).

Just a hunch, but we get the feeling that the Ratner doesn't mind a State takeover of his property as much as homeowners displaced by eminent domain do. Maybe he would kick up a storm if the State took over his property to give to ANOTHER developer. We're pretty sure that it wouldn't happen, but it would make a fitting end to a morality tale.



Ratner spokesperson, Joe DePlasco was quoted by the NY Sun claiming,“The proposed development at Site 5 should not come as a surprise to anyone.”

The shrug from the Ratner camp and the fact that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn was able to obtain the second (secret) Memorandum of Understanding means that MOU2 was there for any reporter willing to do the leg work and get to the bottom of this story.

You know that the local media is really falling asleep on a story when a motley band of hackney local residents end up doing the investigative reporting that used to be done by gumshoe reporters.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Bill To Bar City Funds From Eminent Domain Introduced to Council

The NY Sun

A City Council member of Brooklyn, Letitia James, introduced legislation yesterday that would bar city funds from going toward projects that use eminent domain to transfer property from one private landowner to another.

The bill, co-sponsored by 14 council members, comes six months after Mayor Bloomberg endorsed a plan to seize privately owned homes and small businesses in the Prospect Heights neighborhood — which lies inside Ms. James’s district — to make room for developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards complex. Mr. Bloomberg has pledged $100 million in city subsidies for the Ratner project, which would include a professional basketball arena along with 7 million square feet of commercial and residential space.


More coverage:
NY1, Brooklyn Councilwoman Moves To Block Use Of Eminent Domain (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

August 17, 2005



NEW YORK, NY — On March 3rd, 2005, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) publicly released a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)–an agreement and understanding among Forest City Ratner (FCR), the City and State of New York with respect to the development of a sports arena and mixed-use residential, commercial and retail development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The agreement was dated February 18th, 2005.

What was not released was a second, secret MOU among the same parties, with the same agreement date. [emphasis added]

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson, Daniel Goldstein, said, "The whole Ratner deal has moved forward over the past two years in backrooms and with great secrecy. This unreleased second MOU raises serious questions about the developer's honesty as well as the transparency of the public parties and officials signed on to the agreement — the ESDC and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), represented by Charles Gargano, Daniel Doctoroff and Andrew Alper."

Goldstein continued, "This second MOU lays out plans for an even larger development, and more development rights, for Bruce Ratner than the public MOU. It agrees to a State takeover of this larger development plan, contingent on the approval of the plan outlined in the public MOU. Why has the City agreed to this? Also, if such an important document has been kept under wraps, why should we trust any of the information the public has seen from the developer and the public agencies? Is there any reason to believe the job projections, the revenue projections, the affordable housing claims or any other claims? The answer is no."

The second MOU, or "MOU 2," allows new development rights for FCR to develop millions more square feet over their Atlantic Center Mall and the PC Richards/Modell's mall (Site 5) at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. These sites are directly adjacent to the disclosed footprint of Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards (BAY) project outlined in the public MOU. "MOU 2" also refers to a mysterious previous MOU from May 2004. It also provides for a state takeover of yet more acres in addition to the 21 acres in the public MOU. This would add more than one million square feet to what is already 8 million square feet of development in the BAY plan, and what is already an overburdened traffic intersection and public transportation hub.

Unlike the MOU on the West Side Stadium, the MTA is not a signatory to the Brooklyn MOU. It is not known if the MTA is aware "MOU 2."

Goldstein concluded, "We need some answers as to why the already massive Ratner plan has grown in size, and done so in secret agreements among FCR, the City and State. Clearly, much greater scrutiny needs to be brought to the Ratner proposal, by political officials, public interest groups, and the media. Why hasn't this second MOU been made public? What other secret deals have formed behind the scenes? It is this kind of misinformation and secrecy that leads to so much public skepticism about this developer's intentions and this development proposal."

The two documents, the public MOU (MOU 1) and the private MOU (MOU 2) can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/mou.

Mayor Bloomberg's press release about MOU 1, which makes no mention of MOU 2, can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/crb2u.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 PM

DDDb Press Release: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Attorney, Jeffrey Baker Reprimands the MTA on Atlantic Yards

Says MTA Has Set Forth on a Misbegotten Course With Its Lack of Response to Eminent Domain Issue and Bad Faith RFP Process

NEW YORK, NY — Before the MTA made its inexplicable decision, on July 27th, to hold exclusive negotiations with low-ball bidder Forest City Ratner (FCR), Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s (DDDB) attorney, Jeffrey Baker, had warned the public agency that they must consider the eminent domain contingencies of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal. In Mr. Baker’s letter of July 26th he sought to make the MTA aware that his clients have a strong legal defense against the use of eminent domain which would jeopardize Mr. Ratner’s development proposal, and that if the MTA was seeking a relative quick and easy transaction, the Ratner proposal would not provide that desired goal.

The MTA’s director of real estate Roco Krsulic responded twelve days later with a form letter ignoring Mr. Baker’s warning. Mr. Baker responded to that tone deaf letter on Monday, August 15th. Daniel Goldstein, DDDB spokesperson, said, “The MTA has continued to act brazenly and without transparency. They have acted as the worst real estate agency in the land. If they continue this course of favoring low-ball bidders and acting in bad faith, we will make every effort to hold them accountable, and expect our elected officials and public interest groups to do the same.”

The text of Mr. Baker’s letter follows below: (The three letter correspondence can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/mta)

Dear Mr. Krsulic:

I am writing in response to your letter of August 8, 2005 which was in response to my earlier letter of July 27 to Chairman Kalikow. While I was pleased that you responded, I was surprised by the content of the letter.

Initially, it is striking that you chose to ignore the primary point of the letter — that MTA should not proceed to accept the FCRC bid when it was premised upon the use of eminent domain when the use of that power as envisioned by FCRC is contrary to the Supreme Court’s recent Kelo decision. Your letter and the MTA Board action on July 27th completely failed to address that important contingency.

I also take exception to your brazen characterization of MTA’s actions with respect to Vanderbilt Yards as “a full Request for Proposal process, and a review of competing proposals”. While making a statement like that in a letter may appear to make it true, the facts belie your position. As you know, FCRC has been in discussions with MTA for at least a year, has had privileged and unequaled access to the Vanderbilt Yards and MTA’s technical requirements and even entered into a letter of agreement in February 2005 with FCRC, which set forth many of the terms of a formal agreement for the disposition of Vanderbilt Yards. In contrast to those secretive negotiations, the “full Request for Proposal process” consisted of only two advertisements buried in the back of the New York Times and Real Estate Weekly and a requirement for bidders to submit responses in little over a month. Moreover, the technical details of the RFP were daunting requiring significant investment of engineering expertise associated with designing a platform and relocating MTA facilities.

If you continue to insist the RFP process was legitimate and properly advertised and if I am wrong that there were only two advertisements for bids, please provide me with proofs of publication in other newspapers or publications where potential developers may have been informed of the RFP. If it was mailed directly to potential developers, please provide of list of the addressees.

While MTA did its best to avoid publicizing the RFP, my client, a citizen’s group, Develop Don’t Destroy — Brooklyn, Inc., sent information mailings about the RFP to 96 potential developers around the country. That effort resulted in the competing bid from Extell Development Company.

Considering the enormous obstacles placed in its path with respect to the RFP, after a tremendous effort Extell put in a complete and responsive bid package. Not only did the Extell proposal present a scale compatible with the community and reflect community input, but it offered a price to MTA of $100 million in excess of the bid from FCRC.

Rather than give Extell the consideration it was due, its bid was summarily rejected as somehow incomplete. Any alleged deficiencies were never identified and if there was a lack of detail with respect to maintenance and relocation of MTA facilities, it would seem prudent to provide Extell an opportunity to undertake the further investigation and design to provide those details. Obviously, FCRC was provided that opportunity for many months prior to the release of the RFP.

I listened on the telephone to the July 27 Board meeting. There was virtually no discussion of the relative merits of the two proposals and no staff evaluation or recommendation. At one point, the Board took an unexplained recess and returned about a half-hour later with a resolution authorizing the Executive Director to negotiate exclusively with FCRC. That was a striking move since that proposal was $100 million less than the Extell bid and there was nothing else material in the FCRC bid that warranted MTA’s disregard of the Extell proposal. Mr. Kalikow’s statement that it would be “immoral” to negotiate with two bidders at the same time was preposterous. First, the MTA is a public authority whose fiduciary obligation is to its riders and the taxpayers. Second, there is nothing immoral or unethical when all the parties know there are multi-party negotiations.

Instead of being improper, further consideration of both proposals is mandated by law. MTA is bound by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). MTA cannot choose a final proposal on the basis of price alone but must also consider the environmental impacts of the action and choose the alternative that avoids or minimizes adverse impacts to the maximum extent practicable, balanced by economic and social considerations. Therefore, regardless of the negotiations with FCRC, MTA will have to consider the Extell proposal in an Environmental Impact Statement as an alternative. Thus, both proposals should remain under consideration until the SEQRA process is complete.

Nevertheless, the MTA Board decided to continue to ignore its legal obligations and work with its predetermined choice. Thanks to several press reports we know what really occurred. While the MTA had previously announced its intention of not taking action at that meeting, and that it would consider both proposals at least until its September meeting, Mr. Kalikow took telephone calls from Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki during the meeting, and acting at their direction pushed through the resolution to deal exclusively with FCRC.

We are dismayed by MTA’s callous disregard for the basic elements of due process, transparency and its fiduciary obligations. Its actions do not promote trust in the system but rather reinforce the prevailing perception of favoritism and cronyism. You should be aware that recent similar actions by other authorities, like the New York State Canal Corporation, have been overturned. Should MTA continue on this misbegotten course, we expect a similar fate will result.

Very truly yours,

Jeffrey S. Baker

Cc: P. Kalikow (fax and mail)
K. Lapp
Hon. Elliot Spitzer
Hon. Alan Hevesi
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Hon. Joseph Bruno
Hon. Richard Brodsky
Hon. Betsy Gotbaum
Hon. Letitia James
G. Russianoff, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
D. Dadey, Citizens Union
R. Touissaint, Local 100 – TWA
T. Taro, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
B. Dolinsky, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee
R. Yaro, RPA
J. Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute
K. Barwick, Municipal Arts Society
J. Vitullo-Martin, Manhattan Institute
Develop Don’t Destroy- Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 8:33 PM

'Times' to Commoners: Go Elsewhere

The Village Voice
by Paul Moses

NYTimesHead.jpg The lease, on file with the Securities and Exchage Commission for The NY Times-Forest City Ratner Times Square project bars renting space in the 52-story building for: * "a school or classroom or juvenile or adult day care or drop-in center." * "medical uses" ("including without limitation, hospital, medical, or dental offices, agencies, or clinics"), * employment agencies (other than executive-search firms), * job training centers, * auction houses ("provided, however, the foregoing shall not apply to high-end auction houses specializing in art and historical artifacts."), * discount stores, * welfare or social-services offices, * homeless shelters or homeless assistance centers, and * court or court-related facilies.

Lease restrictions that exclude the public may not be unusual in luxury office buildings, but there is an irony in this case. The Pataki administration, acting on behalf of the New York Times Company, condemned the property for a so-called "public purpose." This is the standard the Fifth Amendment sets for the state to invoke the immense power of eminent domain.

The rest of the article examines the question of whether or not the NY Times-Ratner project would pass constitutional muster under Kelo and if proposed legislation by State Asseblyman Brodky would have any effect on the liberal use of eminent domain in NYC.


Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

The proposed dissolution of a nonprofit entity created to develop the Ridge Hill property removes just one of three major hurdles that remain to win enough City Council votes to make the $600 million project a reality

Thought the dissolution of the Ridge Hill Development Corporation has a big step in eliminating obstacles to Ratner's controversial Yonkers project:

The council and Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner still face delicate negotiations over reducing the project's overall size and what it will pay in taxes, members of the council and Ratner officials said yesterday.


Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Eminent Domain Do It Yourself?

Mens News Daily, Guest Commentaries & News
by John Ryskamp, J.D.

The author detects a "sea change" in public opinion on eminent domain, evidenced by the backlash to the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision. He proposes that legislatures not only address the issue of eminent domain abuse, but examine the heightened public awareness for guidance in tackling the aspects of the issue that concern Americans the most.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Pirro Is Forced to Address Chapter of Husband's Past

The NY Times
by Michael Cooper

The press coverage of Jeanine Pirro's campaign has focused more on the liability of having a scumball (or is it sleazebag?) for a husband. No one has even asked the question on everyone's mind, if Pirro is running against Clinton, then which client is their hairdresser going to vote for?

Seriously, while the Albert J. Pirro's love-child story is running neck and neck with a Catholic Church hetero(!) sex scandal for page one tabloid attention, the NY Times had to get in on the action.

Even NoLandGrab can't seem to hold back on taking a gratuitous jab or two. But the real reason why we're bothering to mention the Pirro race is that The Times stumbled on one juicy tidbit about Al Pirro's second career and the company Ratner keeps:

Mr. Pirro, whose law license was suspended in 2003 for three years, has a lobbying firm, the Pirro Group. For several months in 2004, it was retained by Forest City Ratner, the development partner for the new Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company, to seek tax credits for an environmental cleanup of the site. The site was cleaned up according to state guidelines although the tax credits were not granted, said Michele de Milly, a spokeswoman for Forest City Ratner.


NLG Note: We're only pointing this out because we know you care — this is one time Brooklynites can't heckle the Times for not carrying a disclaimer about their partnership with Forest City Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

August 16, 2005

The sport of stadium-building

The Bergen Record by Evan Weiner

A keen look at the change in how sports team owners are structuring their deals with cities and states for new venues.

Politicians and sports owners are no longer using the argument that a football stadium or an indoor arena will serve as an economic engine and will be the linchpin of financial development.

An individual owner will build a new stadium or arena, paying for the facility out of his or her own pocket. The owner also wants acres upon acres of land complete with tax breaks and incentives such as making payments in lieu of taxes to build what sports owners now term an "urban village."

Sports used to be all about games, but the simple truth is that sports ownership looks at actual games as just a byproduct of a growing industry that includes media and real estate.

How does Ratner figure in this new trend?

The New Jersey Nets are moving to Brooklyn in a real estate deal. Bruce Ratner will build an arena and then an urban village complete with skyscrapers surrounding the new Brooklyn Arena. All Ratner wants is the land and tax breaks and incentives.

And if Ratner doesn't get all the land he needs he can always get New York City to seize land through eminent domain - and the Supreme Court has given its blessing to eminent domain seizures - to make sure he gets everything he needs to build his urban village.


NoLandGrab: What seems to be unique about the Ratner plan is that he's a real estate mogul exploiting the benefits of sports team ownership, instead of the other way around.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Nonprofit Corporation to Yield Control of Site in Yonkers

The NY Times
By Anahad O'Connor and Jennifer Medina

Forest City Ratner will be purchasing the land for their Ridge Hill Village development proposal in Yonkers instead of leasing the land through the Ridge Hill Development Corporation, a public-private state corporation formed to oversee the project.

Despite attempts to root out political corruption (see NLG note below) and to redirect profits directly to the City of Yonkers, the RHDC lost critical political support as Local Development Corporations are under scrutiny statewide. Recently quasi-governmental agencies have been cited by their detractors as instruments for public land grabs and sweetheart deals for well-connected developers.


NoLandGrab: Early on in the planning and approval process for the Forest City Ratner project the RHDC was surrounded by controversy since it had sole discretion over the allocation of profits from the project and also had the twenty-something son-in-law of the former Yonkers Mayor on the payroll at a six-figure salary. A year later, the lucky-ducky son-in-law showed up on Forest City Ratner's payroll as the "property manager" for the project.

For those of you who are keeping score, a disclosure of Forest City Ratner and the NY Times's business ties DOES NOT APPEAR in this article about the most recent development towards the approval of FCRC's controversial Yonker's project.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Eminent domain activist to visit supporters in Weare

The New Hampshire Union Leader
by Todd Morrison

The plan to condemn land owned by Supreme Court Justice Souter to build a hotel may still be just an ironic attempt to illustrate how eminent domain is rarely used to against the rich and powerful. But could the idea be gaining momentum?

Logan Clements, the California activist who has proposed building a hotel on land owned by Supreme Court Justice David Souter, announced yesterday he will come to town Saturday to next Tuesday to meet local supporters.

"I've got lots of supporters there, and I'd like to meet them," he said in a phone interview.

Clements, who seeks to claim Souter's land in Weare through the use of eminent domain, said he would meet with local allies who hope to put the proposal on next year's town ballot.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

August 15, 2005

State may limit use of eminent domain

Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin
by Amanda Erickson

"New York is one of the worst states in the country in terms of legislation that protects against eminent domain," according to Bert Gall, lawyer for the Institute of Justice.

Since the Supreme Court's Kelo ruling, a moratorium on the use of eminent domain has been suggested and is being considered by Gov. Pataki. Meanwhile, state representatives have proposed legislation to reign in the use of eminent domain.


NoLandGrab: Legislation restricting the use of eminent domain may have significant impacts on Ratner's plan

To find out more on legislation proposed in the NY State Legistlature, check out the update on the Castle Coalition's web site and scroll down to New York.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 PM

Ratner-Style Deal with Columbia University?

Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

West Harlem residents have been watching events in Prospect Heights since both communities have been confronted by developers armed with the coercive powers of eminent domain.

Now, taking another cue from Ratner's Brooklyn deal, West Harlem residents are looking to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with Columbia University who is seeking to expand their campus. The only difference, they are seeking to involve more than eight groups to represent the community.


Posted by lumi at 6:25 PM

August 13, 2005

Tax plan is said to be used as mayor’s own slush fund

From the Brooklyn Papers:

The Bloomberg administration illegally diverted more than $22 million in city funds, using the money as a slush fund to further the agenda of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city Comptroller William Thompson charged this week.

This was possible because of the lack of accountability in a financing scheme known as PILOTs — payments in lieu of taxes — meant to assist so-called economic development projects.

Two big Brooklyn developments — Atlantic Yards and Brooklyn Bridge Park — are each largely dependent on PILOTs like the one that Thompson’s audit says are roiled with a lack of accountability.


Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

Group Tries To Squeeze Into Atlantic Yards Process


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle discusses the newly formed Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, and includes a detailed description of how the Environmental Impact Statement process works.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods representatives said they recognize that it will be difficult for their proposals to influence the EIS, but if the ESDC, or whatever agency is put in charge of the development, is unwilling to consider their ideas, the group is prepared to litigate.

One of the potential areas for litigation, Carponter said, could come about if the ESDC does not consider other proposals such as Extell’s, Ratner’s sole competitor in the MTA bidding war.

After the meeting, Carponter said she realizes that the entire ESDC process — where a non-elected body that sits at the table with the developer can make all decisions — is the real issue at stake.


Posted by amy at 10:09 AM

August 12, 2005

Make eminent domain fair for all

Boston Globe, Opinion
by David J. Barron and Gerald E. Frug

In the rush to satisfy the political backlash against the US Supreme Court's recent eminent domain decision, many state legislatures are rushing to pass laws restricting it's use.

Harvard Law School Professors David J. Barron and Gerald E. Frug are cautioning against banning "eminent domain for economic development across the board." In the case of the Massachusetts's legislature, the House bill would still allow for seizures of "blighted" properties, thus creating a class system that protects only rich and middle class property owners.

The authors have a recommended list of requirements, some of which appear in NY State's Assembly bill authored by Richard Brodsky, that would strengthen the definition of "public use," provide more transparency (and political cover) for elected officials, and engage local groups in the planning process.


For info on legislation proposed by NY State legislators regarding eminent domain, see The Castle Coalition's web page of State Legislatures and scroll down to "New York."

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

August 11, 2005

Mayoral Debate: The candidate's views on eminent domain and Ratner's plan

Gotham Gazette

What are the mayoral candidate's views on eminent domain and Ratner's plan? Jamal Watson of the Amsterdam News posed the question to five mayoral candidates (Anthony Weiner was in Washington and couldn't attend) in the debate sponsored by Community Service Society.


Find out more on our politicians' positions.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Dope on the Slope, Friday Quiz: Who's the Boss?

theboss.jpg A transplanted hillbilly blogger knows a Boss when he sees one.

Dopey Slopey asks readers if they "can spot the differences between the 'bosses.'" Take your best swing — cheap shots permitted since some of you need to blow off steam to beat the heat.


Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM


Here's an article we missed sent in by a reader who is obviously paying better attention that we are.

The NY Sun
Monday, August 8, 2005

Regional tourism officials from the North West province of South Africa, which is preparing to host the 2010 World Cup, were briefed last week on developer Bruce Ratner’s plan to build an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team in downtown Brooklyn.

A pro-Ratner state assemblyman from the borough, Roger Green, said he saw “some similarities” between South Africa and parts of Brooklyn — noting that both face high rates of unemployment and HIV/AIDS — and added that the June agreement between community groups and Mr. Ratner’s firm, which pledged to channel 30% of construction dollars to female and minority contractors, could serve as a model for development in the North West province.

In response, a spokesman for the anti-Ratner group Develop Don’t Destroy, Daniel Goldstein, parroting Mr. Green’s words, said that there are “a lot of similarities” between the Ratner plan, which would seize Prospect Heights properties via eminent domain, and the apartheid regime’s forced removal of blacks in “slum clearance” projects. — Special to the Sun


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

August 10, 2005

‘Blight’ Is Code for Property Theft

The NY Sun
by Thomas Bray
(Mr.Bray is a Detroit News columnist.)

Look out for "blight." Though the US Supreme Court upheld the principle of using eminent domain for economic development purposes, there has been a nationwide citizen backlash. Now, local officials may be returning to their old standby of declaring neighborhoods "blighted" in order to seize private property to sell to private developers — and we're not just talking inner-city urban renewal here.


Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

Gehry's Brooklyn plan bigger than first thought

Architectural Record
by Ilan Kayatsky

In the excitment surrounding developer Bruce Ratnerr's proposed Nets Arena in downtown Brooklyn, less attention was paid to the scheme's other, much more expansive elements.


NoLandGrab: Look who just caught on! Folks here in BROOKLYN have been paying attention to the "expansive elements" of Ratner and Gehry's plan all along.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

Gehry will contribute to L.A.'s Grand Avenue project

Architectural Record
by J.T. Long

grandave.jpg Gehry "gets it" in LA.

Speaking about Frank Gehry's tower in LA's Grand Avenue housing, retail and cultural complex proposal, President of Related Companies Bill Witte said: "[Gehry] was sensitive to the placement and fit of the building, so it doesn't overwhelm Disney Hall and fits along the busy civic street."


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites wouldn't mind if Gehry was "sensitive to the placement and fit" of the buildings "so that it doesn't overwhelm" their neighborhoods and "fits along" the busiest intersection in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

Developmentally Challenged

The Architect's Newspaper
by Peter Slatin

Developers have been catching on that brand-name architects and community outreach can add dollar value to their projects. That’s a big development in itself, but doesn’t always translate to good development.Peter Slatin reflects on how developers can do good while doing well.

The sudden tussle between developers over Brooklyn’s Atlantic rail yards throws into grand scale a classic New York question: Do developers give a damn about how their buildings impact a given community?

Bruce Ratner, wearing Frank Gehry on his sleeve from the get-go, rode into Brooklyn Borough Hall in December 2003 to unveil a master plan for an arena-anchored district, which includes millions of square feet of office, retail, and residential real estate, much of which will rise from a platform built over the Atlantic rail yard. The plan, which would overwhelm the two adjacent, low-scale neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, has also had community opposition from the get-go. This hasn’t stopped it from ballooning in ambition, scale, and budget. But despite the project’s unwieldy size, difficult financing, and an angry community, Ratner’s chances of winning the bid for the rail yards, being auctioned off by the MTA, are excellent. He started from the top down, lining up powerful political supporters, sports celebrities, investors, and yes, a superstar architect. The MTA soft-peddled its RFP, which has given Ratner’s effort the appearance of a closed deal.

A community group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, began contacting developers in hopes of finding one that would make an alternate bid. Enter Gary Barnett and Extell Development Corporation with their scaled-down scheme: 2,000 units topping out at 28 stories compared to Ratner’s 6,000 units at 60, spread out over 8 acres instead of 21. Extell’s architect is Cetra/Ruddy, a decent if uninspired production firm whose vision lacks the punch and excitement of Gehry’s fistful of highrises. The Extell scheme does, however, provide connecting tissue and green space for the two low-scale, old Brooklyn neighborhoods that will be divided under Ratner’s plan.

What does all this say about whether developers care about the places they transform? The answer is, They do care…up to a point. Good development is almost always a trade-off that begins and ends with the pencil—and I’m not talking about the drafting pencil.

It also says that good-guy developers can switch hats, well, on a dime. Barnett is a white knight in this part of Brooklyn, but he is under heavy fire from Upper West Siders railing against his plans for two skyscrapers straddling Broadway at 99th and 100th streets. (The project is now under even more scrutiny after a structure on the 100th Street site collapesed on July 14.) Ratner, at one time the city’s commissioner of consumer affairs, is the cat’s meow to sports fans seduced by the idea of the major leagues returning to the borough, but others see his plan as antithetical to everything Brooklyn, even though he has hired one of the world’s great architects. The architects of Cetra/Ruddy might be regarded as heroes in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, but in Red Hook they are the bad guys, having designed the six-story residential project at 160 Imlay Street that the local Chamber of Commerce recently tried to halt (See “By Hook or Crook,” page 1). The point is, you never know who the good guy is.

The good news is that more and more developers want to be the good guy. They are patronizing good architecture, even if their motivations are not entirely altruistic. Good design sells, in the end, better than bad design. It lasts longer, both physically and psychically; it creates its own set of values. Developers have also realized that good design is not the province of well-known architects. Indeed, we’ve seen some pretty horrible work by high-profile architects in prominent locations—work that can drastically alter the character of a neighborhood, like Astor Place, for example. In such an event, one can only hope that the pre-existing condition has enough depth and breadth to sustain itself.

Given these circumstances and the multiple real-world challenges that confront any project, it’s especially exciting when good development—informed but not intimidated by context and community—comes into place. And good development is happening throughout the city on a wide variety of scales and property types. Even as examples of tired design and cheap production abound, one can find reason to celebrate smart efforts at different stages of development, especially in residential and office design.

Take the small Chelsea/Meatpacking District projects of developer Jeffrey M. Brown. From the start, both in Manhattan and Philadelphia, Brown has turned to SHoP Architects for his renovations and new projects, and has been unafraid to let them have their own ideas. Brown has pushed the envelope farther than did developer Robert Wennet, another Meatpacking District maven who was also active in neighborhood development in cities such as Miami and Washington, D.C. Developers like Time Equities have also long sought ways to use their project to enrich their neighborhoods, as well as themselves. Richard Meier’s fine Perry Street towers stand out in the way they draw on their neighborhood for context and then alter it with a single stroke. That effect is driven as much by siting as by design. Should developer Frank Sciame’s vision for Santiago Calatrava’s twisting residential palace ever be realized, it too will transform a historic district with a magnificent gesture.

On the office-building or commercial front, there are a handful of projects in the works that are significantly different from the standard-issue skyscraper to indicate that their developers have a committed vision. The least obvious of these is 505 Fifth Avenue, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox for developer Axel Stawski’s Kipp-Stawski Group. It’s a relatively small, neat design that is not all that unconventional. But Stawski has gone the extra mile inside, commissioning reclusive light artist James Turrell to transform the building’s lobby into a light sculpture that is intended to go beyond decoration, setting it a world apart from the granite/ marble standard by requiring something in turn from visitors.

Just a block west is the city’s second largest construction site, after Ground Zero (which is not something we can discuss here while considering good development). The big hole is for One Bryant Park, designed by Cook + Fox for the Durst Organization. In contrast to 505 Fifth, this is a huge building. It deploys crystalline forms in a tapered structure to minimize its undeniable bulk. But the developer’s announced intention to achieve LEED Platinum status is an important step for a commercial structure of this size, especially since about half of the space is being built on spec. The use of an efficient cogeneration energy system, recycled steel, sub-floor air circulation, and graywater recycling are all part of the package.

Finally, there is the Hearst Building at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, designed by Foster and Partners as a corporate and environmental showcase. Without flinching at the sharp contrast between historic and contemporary, the architects scooped out the guts of the old headquarters, built for Hearst by Joseph Urban and George B. Post & Sons in 1927, and inserted a new iconic structure in the base. Hearst is seeking LEED Gold certification. If one can accept (or even consider) the difficult premise that there is such a thing as good corporate citizenship, this building strives to express that.

While developers and architects will always do battle over design’s place in the hierarchy of place-making—still a very linear concept in the minds of most development practitioners—continued pressure can help move that mark. And then there will always be some who understand that architecture is the fulcrum that can successfully balance neighborhoods and returns.

Peter Slatin is the founder of www.theslatinreport.com, and writes our regular real estate column, Curbside. He lives in what was an unglam Upper West Side developer monstrosity when it was built that is considered highly desirable real estate today.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

August 9, 2005

NoLandGrab: Can real estate speculation be a public use?

The Puget Sound situation and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) case in the 1980's are both instances where the municipality, and therefore the "public," profited from the rise in real estate prices. In Puget Sound, perhaps the result was unintended, but in Atlanta, the purpose of taking additional property was to fully realize the financial benefit of rising property values where commuters would gain access to public transportation.

Since the Supreme Court upheld the expanded the definition of "public use" to include public benefit or public purpose, what is to stop a municipality from seizing private property for the purpose of real estate speculation in order to raise money for the public?

You are thinking, "that would be absurd." However, according to the syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts:

"MARTA was one of the first to condemn more property than it needed to serve "public purpose." The transit authority reasoned that property surrounding a new transportation station would rise in value because of the increased ease of commuting from the site. The authority decided that since its station caused the rise in property values, it should benefit by condemning property for resale after value rose. People with condemned property blocks from the new stations sued and lost."

Though these projects were technically supposed to be for transportation infrastructure, long considered to be a fair "public use," no one can deny that real estate speculation

Posted by lumi at 12:11 PM

Judge Tosses Condemnation Case

by Eric Peterson

Forest City Ratner's proposal to develop downtown Bloomfield, NJ has been spoiled by Essex County Judge Patricia K. Costello, who found that the properties sought by Ratner to be condemned by the town were improperly designated as blighted.

Ratner hasn't committed to a strategy for how the private property in Brooklyn will be condemned for his arena and 17 high-rise towers. Though the Supreme Court upheld the use of eminent domain for the purpose of economic redevelopment, there has been a stunning public backlash against the ruling as legislatures, including the US Congress, are seeking to restrict the use of eminent domain in such cases.

That leaves "blight" as the fallback strategy in Brooklyn.

The GlobeSt.com article, quotes local activist, Dan Goldstein on this matter:

“If Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. try to make similar blight findings in Brooklyn, we are sure they will meet the same fate they have in Bloomfield, NJ,” says Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community coalition in that borough’s Prospect Heights section. “Clearly, the lack of a planning process for the Ratner proposal in Brooklyn is a fatal flaw, as it was in Bloomfield,” he adds.


BLOOMFIELD, NJ-The US Supreme Court may have ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that it's okay for cities to use eminent domain to pave the way for redevelopment, but Essex County Judge Patricia K. Costello has tossed out a condemnation case filed by the Township of Bloomfield against 110 Washington Street Associates. It was the first such case filed by the township in its effort to redevelop its Downtown.

That redevelopment plan involves Forest City Ratner and Toll Brothers. Their proposal includes 650 residential condos, some 65,000 sf of retail space including a supermarket and a parking deck. Both declined to comment.

That plan was dealt a legal setback last week, however, when Judge Costello ruled that the site was improperly designated as blighted. "The record in this case is devoid of any finding that the property is detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare," she wrote.

Judge Costello also tossed a companion case that was consolidated with 110 Washington Street, Lardieri et al v. Township of Bloomfield, on the same grounds. "It is unlikely now, given the ruling, that the township will file any additional condemnation complaints for the project which would include the properties owned by the plaintiffs in the companion case," says attorney William J. Ward of Carlin and Ward, Florham Park, NJ. Ward and partner James Turteltaub argued the case for Lardieri et al.

The case has some implications for the major redevelopment, including an arena/mixed development that Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner has in mind for Brooklyn, NY. "If Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. try to make similar blight findings in Brooklyn, we are sure they will meet the same fate they have in Bloomfield, NJ," says Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a community coalition in that borough?s Prospect Heights section. "Clearly, the lack of a planning process for the Ratner proposal in Brooklyn is a fatal flaw, as it was in Bloomfield," he adds.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

Land grab: Property at issue if the monorail dies

Puget Sound Business Journal

To take your mind off of the strange goings on here in Brooklyn, things in Pugent Sound are getting "curiouser and curiouser." Here's a synopsis of an article about surreal twists of fate as eminent domain is used and city planning goes awry:

For decades the Puget Sound area's Fiorito family has been buying property to assemble a parcel for a mixed-use development.

The City condemned a prime parcel at the center of their holdings for a proposed monorail. Now that the financialy strapped agency is scaling back, or maybe even scrapping the entire idea, properties that were seized by eminent domain could be placed back on the market.

No worries: if the Fiorito's want their parcel back, they may have the opportunity to compete with other bidders to buy back their property, probably netting a pretty penny for the City in the process as property values in the area have risen.

The irony is that the City was also able to condemn a parcel that the Fioritos had been unable to purchase. If the family were to buy this parcel as well as buying back their former property, it could complete the assemblage of land needed to fulfill their dreams of redeveloping the neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

August 8, 2005

At Times Tower, Great Gray Lady Gets Less Green

The NY Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

The New York Times has repeatedly trumpeted national standards for “going green”—building environmentally friendly buildings.

For its own headquarters, though, The Times is opting for a more cost-efficient option. The Gray Lady, it seems, will keep its color.

The paper of record has chronicled how the new national standards for green-building designation are currently being adopted by the Hearst Corporation, Bank of America tower developer Douglas Durst and Ground Zero developer Larry Silverstein.

An Aug. 25, 2004, Business Day article, for instance, said the “group of green building standards” was having a “rapidly expanding influence” on the real-estate world.

But The New York Times and its co-developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, recently decided that it is not worth the cost or the fuss to get certified—and that they can do just as well without them, according to the co-architect on the project, Bruce Fowle.

“It is probably the equivalent of a silver or a gold rating,” said Mr. Fowle, co-founder and senior principal of Fox & Fowle Architects, who is designing the 52-story tower with Italian architect Renzo Piano. “They have decided it is time-consuming and costly, and they are doing so many things that are right and correct, and some of the prerequisites are not that meaningful.”

To help the newspaper-developer duo make its decision, Mr. Fowle’s firm drew up a chart showing the relative costs and merits of achieving certification under the five-year-old program, called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (or, in industry jargon, LEED). Mr. Fowle called the costs “substantial,” although he would not name a specific price.

Officials at The New York Times and Forest City Ratner would not consent to an interview for this story. But MaryAnn Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City, said in a statement, “With respect to the New York Times building, we consulted and incorporated LEED specifications wherever possible throughout the building. However, we wanted the architect to drive the design rather than design to LEED specifications.”

The decision by The Times and Forest City puts Mr. Piano, an acknowledged environmentalist, and even more so Mr. Fowle, a pioneer in sustainable buildings, in an awkward spot. Mr. Fowle’s firm designed the Helena and 4 Times Square, which is widely acknowledged as the city’s first green office building. It was never certified because it went up before the LEED system came into place.

For the Times headquarters, Messrs. Piano and Fowle will place hundreds of ceramic tubes on the outside walls of the building, running horizontally, which will keep sunlight from heating the structure. Computerized louvers will turn up to varying degrees depending on the time of day and angle of the sun, and the building will burn its own natural gas for electricity and use the excess heat to create steam and hot water.

But no longer will contractors be required to keep track of how much of the construction debris is recycled, which is a big component—and hassle—of certification.

“It becomes more of a point scheme as opposed to a means to encourage innovation,” Mr. Fowle said of the LEED specifications. “For all the innovation, we were only going to get a few points. You can create a zero-energy, neutral-climate building, 100 percent off the grid, and only get a few points for it.”

And those points are expensive—which is surely a consideration in the present real-estate environment.

Expected to open in 2007, the New York Times building will be half-occupied by The Times, with the other half leased out by Forest City Ratner. So far, Forest City does not have any leases for its 600,000 square feet, according to a source knowledgeable of the project.

Green-Building Greenbacks

The Times’ decision, made in June, is as much a reflection of the state of green buildings in New York as it is of the financial calculus of a team of developers. LEED standards specify a few prerequisites that developers must follow (clean air, energy-efficiency minimums), and then gives them a menu of items (use renewable energy, recycle storm water, plant a greenhouse on the roof), each worth a point or two, from which they can choose. Twenty-six points gets a new building certified, 33 a silver, 39 a gold, and 52 out of the possible 69 points garners platinum. Building according to LEED standards adds somewhere between 1 percent to 5 percent to the cost, and while some measures may save money in the long run, the main attraction financially has been the marketing pull that an officially green building will bring.

Then again, that marketing pull may not be that strong—or not strong enough to make up for all the headaches that developers and architects privately complain about with the LEED system: namely, that you have to keep track of how much construction debris gets recycled and shop for special materials not knowing if, in the end, you will even get blessed by the green gods who make up the U.S. Green Buildings Council, the nonprofit that runs the program. The council, according to spokesperson Taryn Holowka, has accredited 20,000 professionals that can provide guidance to developers, and their presence on a team earns another point for the project.

“LEED has not taken off as quickly as they anticipate, and the reason for that is it’s costly and time-consuming,” said Lou Mantia, managing director of asset services and a portfolio manager for Cushman & Wakefield, the real-estate services firm. “The majority of tenants are not willing to pay the extra cost for a LEED building. It’s a good tool, but it needs to be tweaked—maybe a little more than tweaked.”

Apartment buildings are the exception: The Solaire, in Battery Park City, and the Helena, on 57th Street, are both LEED-certified buildings whose owners can charge a premium for being green. But there, the same people who will benefit from more fresh air and light are the ones making the decision to rent or buy.

Ashok Gupta, the air and energy program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, defended the LEED standards.

“The question is: How does one independently verify if something that someone is doing is green?” he said. “If you want to do it, my belief is you want people to believe that you did it, and sure, you can go around telling people all that you did, but that will be long and complicated. That’s what LEED is for. It’s shorthand. What we are talking about is market transformation, and the more people who adopt LEED standards, especially in these beginning stages, the better.”

At the same time that LEED is being temporarily abandoned by environmentalists like Mr. Fowle, the rating system is under attack from the right. The old-line vinyl and lumber industries have established a competing certification system called Green Globes and have lobbied municipalities to adopt it as their standard. Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network, has called the upstart program “a textbook model of industry green-wash, designed to confuse the market and drive down standards by rewarding minimal efforts with a maximum public-relations bonanza.”

Follow the LEED-er Still, the complexities of the LEED system have not been enough to scare away the three developers who are competing to erect the first certified green office building in New York City. “Competing” is a bit of exaggeration, though, because, as in a high-school talent show, there is a category for just about everybody.

Larry Silverstein will probably cross the finish line first when his 7 World Trade Center opens next March. But Mr. Silverstein is applying for certification under a new rubric, reserved for buildings created by developers “on spec”—that is, without one majority tenant in mind—and therefore a bit easier to achieve. Anyone following New York real estate does not need to be told that 7 World Trade Center is being built very much on spec—and on faith. Only one company—his own—has committed to leasing space there, and then but a floor. A spokesman would not even confirm a report, first printed last week by Crain’s New York Business (and picked up in The Observer’s own daily real-estate blog, The Real Estate), that an American Express subsidiary would lease 20,000 square feet there.

Other structures at Ground Zero—Mr. Silverstein’s other four towers, the cultural buildings and memorial—will be required either to earn LEED certification or something very much like it. The something very much like it is what has environmentalists furrowing their brows now, but officials at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation argue that their guidelines, now in draft form, will ultimately be stricter than LEED guidelines and will be monitored by a panel of independent consultants.

Coming in second place will be Sir Norman Foster’s bigger and better Hearst Corporation palace uptown at Eighth Avenue and 57th Street. Or make that first place, for the Hearst tower—the original 1928 pediment has been gutted and a 42-story glass pyramid placed on top—will be the first gold-rated LEED-certified building in New York City for an owner-occupied property! Try writing that on the back of a ribbon.

All joking aside, there is plenty for Hearst to be proud of. The side offices have entirely glass exterior walls and glass interior walls also, so that even the lowliest fact-checker, the most poorly paid coffee-fetcher laboring in the central pod, will receive some natural light—and won’t have to bother bringing in that 40-watt high-intensity clip-on job from Target.

That and other environmental features, according to Brian Schwagerl, Hearst’s real-estate director, will save the company $50,000 a year in energy bills and $12,000 in water savings once the building opens next fall. It also qualified Hearst for $5 million in tax credits from the state’s energy program. You do the math.

Coming in third place—no, make that first again!—is the Bank of America tower, at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. That 2.1-million-square-foot building won’t open until 2008, but its developer, Douglas Durst, is trying for the city’s first platinum rating for a spec building. (It qualifies as spec because Bank of America is only going to occupy half of it.)

Mr. Durst emphasizes the word trying—it was the condition for his project being awarded $650 million worth of triple-tax-free Liberty Bonds, which were part of the post–Sept. 11 federal relief package for New York City. (Another $2.8 million in tax credits will fall out of the sky when it meets state standards.) But some onlookers doubt whether anybody can achieve platinum in a city like New York, where it is much harder than the suburbs to earn LEED points through elements like a bicycle room.

It’s not that people doubt Mr. Durst’s environmental commitment—he was the one behind 4 Times Square, and as far back as the early 1990’s was retrofitting his buildings to save energy. He got onto his tree-hugging kick as a business proposition.

“It really started with my wife and I,” he told The Observer. “We are avid horse people, and where we live in Westchester county, there is really no place to dispose of the horse manure, so we decided that if we could compost our horse manure and other people would pay us to take away their horse manure and use it to grow vegetables, we would have money coming in from two sources.”

This triangular horse-manure/compost/vegetable-garden trade only occasionally turns a profit—“It hasn’t been the financial windfall we had hoped”—but the tomatoes are said to be mighty fine!

Building green is sort of like that too. Mr. Durst said the green features played absolutely no role in leasing up 4 Times Square, while so far with the Bank of America tower, prospective tenants have responded with uneven interest. “To be honest with you, I don’t think anybody is going to lease in the building because it is platinum. I think the real selling point is that it’s going to increase productivity by 10 to 15 percent,” he said. “Some tenants get it just as some people do and some don’t.”

The New York Times may be one of those that gets it—but don’t bother to give it a ribbon. It doesn’t want one.

—Additional reporting by Sara Levin

This column ran on page 1 in the 8/8/2005 edition of The New York Observer.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

August 7, 2005

Ratner arena a terror concern

Letter to the Editor of the Brooklyn Papers regarding the inherent and dangerous flaws in the Ratner plan:

To the editor:

As a co-author of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s white paper, “Terrorism, Security & the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise & Arena Development Project,” I would like to clarify two points in your July 16 article headlined, “Atlantic Terminal Terror Fear.”

While the white paper identifies various terrorist scenarios, one of its primary purposes is to show how the project’s location and design flaws create serious consequences even if NO terrorist event ever occurs.

Not only will there be direct costs that have never been included in anyone’s budgets — such as what to do about the Arena’s easily targeted street-side glass walls, or the Fire Department’s need for equipment for handling highrise fires and rescues in a borough that has been low-rise up until now — but cumulatively these costs could be high enough to affect the underlying financing of the project. One cost alone, that of terrorism insurance, could easily run into hundreds of millions of dollars, over the life of the project, when current federal laws covering such costs expire at the end of this year.

Original article
The White Paper: "Terrorism, Security & the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise & Arena Development Project"

Other non-financial costs are equally problematic. The most devastating of them concerns the impacts of traffic with its public health — read asthma — implications. [And] the need to secure the arena during special events, such as NBAplayoffs will inevitably create outright gridlock.

Brooklynites only have to think back to last August’s massive three-day nightmare when an elevated terror alert out of Washington, D.C., required the inspection of all commercial vehicles crossing the Manhattan Bridge. As noted, no actual terrorist event was required for there to be real costs to all of Downtown Brooklyn and its economy.

I have been exploring the security-related issues of this out-of-scale project since well before ever hearing of DDDB. In fact, the article’s indication that this issue has been brought up in various community meetings over the past year is really a reference to my own attempt to make security concerns a part of the public discourse. So while I support DDDB in all their efforts, I have maintained an independent stance to better present my findings. Most of these concerns have now been included in various pre-scoping documents being readied for the upcoming Environmental Impact Study.

The response of politicians has been mixed. Some, like [Councilwoman] Letitia James, [state Sen.] Velmanette Montgomery and Chris Owens [legislative aide to his father, Rep. Major Owens, who has expressed interest in running for the congressional seat] have been very accepting, while others have not.

Some, like mayoral candidates [City Council Speaker] Gifford Miller or [Rep.] Anthony Weiner have been disingenuous at best. Interestingly, [Borough President] Marty Markowitz, at a meeting of the Dean St. Block Association said it would be a reasonable thing to conduct a thorough security review of the project as was performed for the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero. — Alan M. Rosner, Prospect Heights

Posted by amy at 2:03 PM

The Face of Eminent Domain

From The Real Estate:

The image problem plaguing the fight against eminent domain in this city—that it's a NIMBYish movement run by rich white people—was not helped much by a small press conference yesterday called by City Councilmember Letitia James. She’s black, and two others who stood beside her were black, and there was one Asian person in that crowd, but amazingly the press corps attending the City Hall event was more diverse (44 percent not white) than was the crowd around James (29 percent). And usually it's the newsrooms who are criticized for not reflecting enough diversity!

To be fair, a news conference held last week on the same issue at the same spot brought out some more black public officials, including state Senator David Paterson, and Daniel Goldstein, of Develop—Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said that others from the “eastern end” of the footprint that Forest City Ratner wants for his sports arena and residential complex wanted to come but couldn’t make it. There’s no question many of those who will be displaced in Brooklyn and in Harlem, where Columbia University wants to expand, are black and Latino, but unless they make their voices heard, the public will never know on whose side they stand.


Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

Eminent Domain Super Post!

Check out the recent coverage of eminent domain:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Public-use ruling has political backlash
Report on political backlash with some commentary by academic experts.

The Sun News, Myrtle Beach
Property, civil rights at root the same thing
This letter to the editor explains how property rights are civil or human rights.

First Amendment Center
Eminent domain: Seize a church, build a mall?
Religious right has cause for concern.

Washington Times
The Kelo calamity
The effects of the Kelo ruling.

"The takings were limited to the amount needed to provide a community with transportation or electric power. However, in the 1980s a major new development was initiated by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). MARTA was one of the first to condemn more property than it needed to serve "public purpose." The transit authority reasoned that property surrounding a new transportation station would rise in value because of the increased ease of commuting from the site. The authority decided that since its station caused the rise in property values, it should benefit by condemning property for resale after value rose. People with condemned property blocks from the new stations sued and lost."

Magic City Morning Star
The Supreme Court Takes the Fifth
Small business owners are often the victims of e.d. abuse in favor of politically connected big business.

Three links in reaction to Howard Dean's totally backwards comment on the US Supreme Court's Kelo ruling. Apparently, it initially went unnoticed in the mainstream press, but was picked up by sniggering conservative bloggers this past week:

Wizbang! Howard Dean is Just Loco
Village Soup Dr. Dean's misdirected outrage
Rocky Mountain News Kelo misunderstood

Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

August 6, 2005


'Not Just Nets' indeed, local development is out of control throughout our area. The Brooklyn Papers uncovers the latest addition to Future Skyscraperville - ahem - Ft. Greene.

A developer has quietly bought up property next to a Brooklyn Academy of Music theater, planning what neighbors believe will be a high-rise hotel and condo.

Manhattan-based developer The Clarett Group paid $12 million for three lots at the northwest corner of Fulton Street and Ashland Place, an assemblage that abuts the four-story BAM Harvey Theater.

Under the current C6-4 commercial zoning for that block, a more than 20-story hotel, office tower or mall could be built. The equivalent residential zoning, should a zoning change or variance be granted, could support up to a 30-story tower.


Posted by amy at 11:35 AM



The Brooklyn Papers covers the story NoLandGrab broke for you this week:

An attempt by real estate mogul Bruce Ratner to curry favor among local artists for his plan to build a basketball arena, skyscrapers and apartment high-rises in Prospect Heights backfired this week when an arts group not only turned down the offer of free publicity in his bimonthly Brooklyn Standard but then went on the Internet to slam both the Atlantic Yards developer and his publication.

“The Brooklyn Standard is [Forest City Ratner’s] promotional tool, posing as a community newspaper,” said Mark Elijah Rosenberg, artistic director of Rooftop Films, a Park Slope-based organization that screens independent movies throughout the summer at outdoor sites around Brooklyn.

“The purpose of the publication is to promote the Atlantic Yards project by creating the impression that the community — including arts groups like Rooftop Films — are in support of the project,” Rosenberg told The Brooklyn Papers

Which, he said, they are not.

NoLandGrab coverage
Come see the films that are too good for a Rat

Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

August 5, 2005

Press Release: Forest City Ratner Bloomfield Project in Jeopardy as New Jersey Loses Eminent Domain Case

Newark, N.J. -- Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello issued an order and opinion yesterday dismissing the condemnation case filed by the Township of Bloomfield against 110 Washington Street Associates. This was the first condemnation case filed by the township in its redevelopment project for the downtown center.

The decision of the court is a major setback for Bloomfield in its efforts to acquire property through eminent domain proceedings. The town’s plan was a joint venture of Forest City Ratner and Toll Brothers and included 650 residential condominiums and a 65,000 square foot Stop and Shop with an elevated parking deck.

The court found that the underlying planning process was fatally flawed. The Heyer and Gruel Planning Report improperly designated 110 Washington Street as meeting the definitions of blighted property under the Local Redevelopment Housing Law. The court said, “The record in this case is devoid of any finding that the property is detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare.”

Daniel Goldstein, spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community coalition fighting Forest City Ratner’s proposed use of eminent domain in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said, “If Forest City Ratner and New York’s Empire State Development Corporation try to make similar blight findings in Brookyn, we are sure they will meet the same fate they have in Bloomfield, New Jersey. And clearly the lack of a planning process for the Ratner proposal in Brooklyn is a fatal flaw, as it was in Bloomfied.” Goldstein continued, “We are very happy for our allies in New Jersey, and that justice has won out, as we expect it to do so in Brooklyn.”

In addition, the court ruled that it was improper for attorney Steven Martino to represent both the planning board and the mayor and council during the consideration of the redevelopment plan and the approval of the plan by the municipality. The court said, “The Defendant argues that the attorneys’ conflicts of interest in dual representation of both the Planning Board and the Township have tainted the determination that the subject property is in need of redevelopment. Clearly, the attorneys should not have represented both public entities at the same time. Such representation is expressly barred by statute. N.J.S.A. 40:55D-24. In addition there are numerous opinions criticizing the same conduct.”

110 Washington Street previously filed an action in Lieu of Prerogative Writ which was dismissed by order of Judge Claude M. Coleman on May 27. Judge Costello ruled that Judge Coleman’s decision did not preclude her from dismissing this complaint since Coleman’s ruling was based strictly on the matter having been filed after the 45-days within which a property owner can challenge municipal action. Judge Coleman did not make any findings of fact or conclusions of law on the merits of the case.

In a companion case which was consolidated with 110 Washington Street, Lardieri et al v. Township of Bloomfield, Judge Coleman entered an order dismissing that complaint on July 20. “It is unlikely now, given the ruling of Judge Costello yesterday, that the township will file any additional condemnation complaints for the project which would include the properties owned by Alessandro Lardieri, Victor and Debbie Lewis, Lewis Santus, and Myrna and Lita Cicero, the plaintiffs in the companion case,” said William J. Ward, principal attorney of Carlin and Ward of Florham Park, N.J.

Both Ward and his partner, James M. Turteltaub, appeared on behalf of the litigants in these cases against Bloomfield. The Township of Bloomfield was represented by Catherine E. Tamasik of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole, and Wieseler of Teaneck, N.J.

[Please find full text of the ORDER OF DISMISSAL and the OPINION at: http://www.dddb.net/BloomfieldDismissal.pdf]

For further legal information, please interview:
William J. Ward, Esq. Office 973.377.3350
Mobile 973.464.2114
Home 973.746.9167


James M. Turteltaub, Esq.
Mobile 201.704.1442

Posted by lumi at 11:42 AM

Brooklyn Coalition Aims To Limit Development Via Eminent Domain

edpressconference.jpg NY1

A coalition of lawyers, politicians and activists in Brooklyn wants the city to stop the private use of eminent domain for commercial development.

The group, “Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn” is calling for legislation that would prevent the city from supporting any future eminent domain claims by private companies.

Ratner has drawn up a memo advocating the use of eminent domain to force area owners to sell their homes and businesses. But Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James want to stop the developers by changing city laws.

“(The memo) basically says that they can use public funds from the city of New York to acquire property as a result of eminent domain and so this legislation that I am sponsoring would prohibit that and so they would have to pay for it through private means,” said James at a rally held in downtown Brooklyn Thursday.

report (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Silence on Bronx Market Is Mystifying

The NY Sun

Columnist Alicia Colon takes voters and politicians to task for ignoring the Bloomberg administration land grabs for politically connected developers such as the one in the Bronx.


Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

'Gilligan's Island' stars on hand to open new marina at Station Square

professor&maryann.jpg Beaver County Times

Ok, this has nothing to do with Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn land grab, but we just thought it was kinda weird that Forest City Enterprises hired "the Professor and Mary Ann" to appear at the opening at the Station Square Landing and Marina in Pittsburgh.


Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

Foreign Policy? Just Get Tips From the Cabby

The NY Times
By Clyde Haberman

Haberman rattles off some suggestions of how the newly appointed US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, might get acquainted with the island natives:

Don't just hang out in diplo-land, [Clinton's UN ambassador Bill Richardson] advised Mr. Bolton. "You have to engage the city," he said.

In that spirit, we'd like to offer Mr. Bolton some tips on possible places to visit and people to meet.

For instance, he might want to get together with the developer Bruce C. Ratner and also with critics of Mr. Ratner's plan to build a sports arena in Downtown Brooklyn alongside skyscrapers that may rise 60 stories.

Mr. Bolton could advise them on acceptable heights for buildings. He knows a thing or two on that score. It was he who once said of the United Nations: "The Secretariat building has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today " - and here he sliced the air with his hand to show how to do it - "it wouldn't make a bit of difference." The man is a born urban planner.


NoLandGrab: Never one to leave a stone unturned, Ratner has probably already lined up Bolton's political support.

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Leibovitz gets 2-year project to photograph Times building

Photo District News, runs Ratner's press release on the documentation of the construction of the NY Times's new headquarters by superstar photographer Annie Leibovitz.


Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Big Man, Small Bid: MTA Gives Ratner 45 More Days

MTABoardMeeting.jpg The Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Emily Keller

The Star reports on the many different voices and opinions expressed at last week's MTA Board meeting where Bruce Ratner was awarded with the exclusive right to negotiate for the railyard property.

Like a garbled subway station announcement, the actions of the MTA's Board of Directors left many Brooklynites feeling frustrated and confused last week.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

New Details Reveal Even Denser Atlantic Yards Plan

The Brooklyn Eagle
by Dennis Holt

More details of the Ratner plan have been revealed since their MTA bid submission.


The numbers are impressive; to some, frightening; to others, troublesome.

If this plan, or anything like it, is executed, it will solidify the extension of the downtown commercial area to east of Flatbush Avenue. With the large housing element in the Ratner plan, the goal by city and Brooklyn planners to make downtown Brooklyn a “24-hour city,” as is happening elsewhere in the country, will take a significant step forward.

As has been widely publicized, the Ratner plan calls for a sports arena, office buildings, retail outlets, and extensive housing units, all designed by Frank Gehry. The combination of all four of these elements, at this scale, has never before been attempted in New York City.


NoLandGrab Note: It's a neat Forest City Ratner PR trick to entitle the above image "Downtown Brooklyn" -- Downtown Brooklyn only appears in the background. The area in the foreground is called "Prospect Heights."

Obviously, if Ratner's plan is built, it will be called "Atlantic Yards," to go along with Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. Maybe he'll call the new section (though announced, it's not shown in the current footprint scheme) in Park Slope, "Atlantic Slope."

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

August 4, 2005

TODAY: Norman Siegel, Letitia James and Community Groups Call for Reform of New York City and State Eminent Domain Laws

normansiegel.jpg Thursday, August 4. 11 AM City Hall Press Conference.

WHAT: Brooklyn Councilmember Letitia James and Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel to be joined by community groups from across the City in calling for legislation prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private development.

WHERE: The Steps of City Hall

WHEN: Thursday, August 4, 2005. 11:00 AM

WHO: Brooklyn Councilmember Letitia James
Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
The Fifth Avenue Committee
Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition (DBLC)
West Harlem Business Group
Harlem Tenants Association
Residents and business owners faced with the threat and use of eminent domain

Posted by lumi at 10:34 AM

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods seeking neighborhood organizations to participate in community review of EIS

cbn.jpg The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) is inviting all local community groups, including block and merchant associations, churches and community organizations active in CBs 2, 3, 6, and 8, to join in preparation for the community review of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic/Vanderbilt rail yards.

Membership will entail agreeing to the mission and structure of the Council and paying nominal dues of $50 per member organization for administrative and operating costs.

The CBN invites community groups to send a representative(s) to a General Meeting:
WHEN: Tuesday, August 9th, 7pm
WHERE: Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 S. Oxford Street (corner of Lafayette).

The featured speaker will be Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning at Hunter College who will help explain the EIS process.

Download the official CBN solitication letter (including the mission and charter statement).

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Rooftop Films Press Release

Rooftop Films decided to publicize our decision to not appear in the Brooklyn Standard because we hope that like-minded people and organizations will see that it is possible to turn down free publicity and that it is possible for individuals and small arts organizations to stand up gigantic nefarious conglomerates.

We also hope that people who may have heard of Rooftop Films but don't have an opinion of FCRC's Atlantic Yards project will be swayed in opposition of their project.

To further that goal, on Friday, August 12, as part of our annual "New York Non-Fiction" show, Rooftop Films will be screening a trailer for a film about the Atlantic Yards project, which should be very informative.

Click the following link to read the complete press release.


Rooftop Films recently declined an invitation to appear in "The Brooklyn Standard." The Standard is FCRC's promotional tool, posing as a community newspaper. The purpose of the publication is to promote the Atlantic Yards project by creating the impression that the community -- including arts groups like Rooftop Films -- are in support of the project. Rooftop Films doesn't agree with FCRC's plan for the Atlantic Yards, and want to do what we can to stop the development from being built. We are not an activist organization, so we can't create a campaign of signatures or boycotts or the like. But we can refuse to partake in their ruse.

Not appearing in the publication was not enough, however, because no one would know that we chose not to appear. Rooftop Films decided to publicize our decision to not appear in the Brooklyn Standard because we hope that like-minded people and organizations will see that it is possible to turn down free publicity and that it is possible for individuals and small arts organizations to stand up gigantic nefarious conglomerates. We also hope that people who may have heard of Rooftop Films but don't have an opinion of FCRC's Atlantic Yards project will be swayed in opposition of their project. To further that goal, on Friday, August 12, as part of our annual "New York Non-Fiction" show, Rooftop Films will be screening a trailer for a film about the Atlantic Yards project, which should be very informative.

For more information about Rooftop Films please visit www.rooftopfilms.com or contact Artistic Director Mark Elijah Rosenberg at mark@rooftopfilms.com, or 718-417-7362.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

New York Skyline in the Balance As Real Estate Titans Square Off

by Nathaniel Popper

article (free registration required)

The Jewish weekly newpaper reports how a bunch of nice Jewish boys square off, stirring up controversy in tradtional bastions of Jewish liberalism:

It is a battle that has involved collapsing buildings, racially-charged protests and two of New York's most powerful Jewish developers, pitted against each other for the future of New York's skyline.

At stake, say community activists, are the characters of two iconic, heavily Jewish New York neighborhoods known as bastions of middle-class liberalism.

The main battlefield is a plot of land in downtown Brooklyn that has been opened for development by New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority. The authority agreed last week to enter exclusive negotiations for the site with Bruce Ratner, a well-connected scion of Cleveland's most prominent Jewish family, who is planning to build an arena and move the professional basketball team he owns from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

Ratner is facing heat from a competing developer: Gary Barnett, a reclusive, publicity-shy Orthodox Jew. Barnett's proposal has won over some community activists who complain that Ratner's mammoth plan to remake 21 acres of Brooklyn ignores the character of the storied neighborhood, in the heart of a borough that still calls itself "America's fourth largest city."

The Brooklyn battle, however, is not the whole story. While Barnett is depicted as a concerned citizen in Brooklyn, he is the subject of protests 10 miles north on the Upper West Side, the traditional nerve center of New York's Jewish cultural elite. Opposite a synagogue on 100th Street, Barnett's company, Extell Development Corporation, is building two high-rise apartment buildings that activists say will destroy the character of the quiet, middle-class neighborhood in the shadow of Columbia University.

Adding to emotions, the project is a partnership between Extell and the Carlyle Group, an international investment firm that has close ties to President Bush, and was famously portrayed in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" as a tool of Texas and Saudi Arabian oil interests.

"What's really interesting here is that there's a Jewish man in bed with the Saudis to build this project," said Miki Fiegel, the head of the main community group, who was interviewed at a protest at the building site last week. "The profits are going to go back to Saudi Arabia — a country that wants to push Israel back into the sea."

Similar criticisms of Barnett have been voiced at community meetings in Brooklyn by Ratner's supporters, even though Carlyle is not involved in that project. A spokesman for Barnett, Bob Liff, dismissed the criticism as "beneath the people who are raising that kind of comment."

The construction of the two Upper West Side towers was temporarily halted by the city July 14 after an existing building on the site collapsed during demolition work, injuring five passersby and garnering international headlines.

It is the proposals in Brooklyn, however, that have attracted the most attention, primarily because of their scale. At issue are the Vanderbilt Rail Yards, an 8.6-acre expanse of train tracks that the Brooklyn Dodgers once hoped to convert into a new stadium before they left for Los Angeles.

Ratner's plan would create a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, which he bought last year. His proposal extends far beyond the arena, however, to include a string of apartment and office buildings designed by the pop-architect Frank Gehry. Gehry's vision would reshape Brooklyn's downtown, currently an aging district dominated by pre-World War II architecture, with new structures rising as high as 60 stories.

The transit authority has been negotiating with Ratner for more than a year, even though the project was officially open for competing bids. A community group opposed to Ratner — called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn — sent letters to 100 developers asking them to submit alternative bids. Barnett was the only one to respond. Following the activists' guidelines, he submitted a plan that would cover only 8.5 acres and have buildings rising to 28 stories.

The transit authority was not impressed. On July 27, it entered exclusive negotiations with Ratner for 45 days to hammer out a deal. Ratner has offered $50 million for the site, far less than Barnett's $150 million. The authority hoped to push Ratner higher. Barnett's spokesman said his bid remains on the table.

Ratner's opponents come mostly from Prospect Heights, a gentrifying enclave just south of the rail yards. It sits at the edge of Park Slope, a sprawling neighborhood second only to the Upper West Side as a bastion of Jewish liberals.

Facing the protesters, Ratner has lined up his own cadre of community activists from mostly minority districts further east, who say his plan would do more for minorities. He has signed an agreement promising to give 35% of construction jobs to minorities. His plan also offers 2,500 middle- and low-income apartments, as compared to Barnett's 573.

At one community hearing, Ratner's supporters called the Jewish spokesman for the don't-destroy group a "trust fund baby," according to the New York Sun.

"I don't want to make this out to be a black versus white situation," said James Caldwell, president of a pro-Ratner group called Build, "but it seems like that's what it's turning out to be."

Daniel Goldstein, the spokeman for Develop Don't Destory, said the racial language is "a deliberate attempt by this developer to divide communities." Goldstein pointed to the black clergy group working with his organization, as well as to three local black politicians who have opposed Ratner.

On the Upper West Side, Barnett has made some effort to reach out to community members. At a community board meeting at a local synagogue, Barnett presented his plans for the two towers — one 31 stories and the other 37 stories — and then listened to two hours of criticism from community members.

The Upper West Side has undergone rapid change in recent years, as an influx of lawyers and bankers has driven up prices and forced out many of the middle class Jewish intellectuals and artists who long dominated the neighborhood. Community activists said Barnett's project, a mile north of other such high-rises, was one more sign of unruly development in the area.

Unlike Ratner in Brooklyn, Barnett does not have community members arguing his case on the West Side. However, he has secured the necessary legal rights and permits, making his plan all but unstoppable.

In a further irony, he won the right to exceed neighborhood height limits in part by acquiring air rights — the trading of height limits between adjacent properties — from a parcel recently sold by the cash-strapped Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The seminary had sold the parcel to a church.

In response to criticism that the towers hurt the area's character, Barnett's spokesman said: "People have a right to say their piece. It's important to note that everything has been done by the book. It will continue to be done by the book."

The collapse of the building has fueled opponents' hopes of winning changes in the zoning laws that allowed Barnett to win his building permits. The city is investigating whether criminal charges should be brought against the demolition company hired to take down the previous structure. A city spokesperson said construction will likely resume after the investigation ends.

The community activists who are backing Barnett in Brooklyn say they don't plan to join protests against him on the Upper West Side.

"Every large or medium developer in New York has problems with the communities they are trying to build in," said Goldstein, of the anti-Ratner group. "It's a much lesser of two evils here in Brooklyn."

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

August 3, 2005


ratnercheerleader.jpg NY Press columnist Aaron Naparstek examines last week's MTA Board meeting.

The large show of Ratner supporters has become:

standard practice at big public meetings where the Railyards are being discussed. Ratner buses in his supporters. They ensure that anyone who raises questions, concerns or objections about the project are literally shouted down and painted as racists and enemies of working people. The irony, of course, is that these self-proclaimed proletarians have the backing of a multi-billion-dollar corporation. The supposedly "wealthy, white" opponents have to take time off work to show up at meetings. Needless to say, the Brown Shirt tactics have been incredibly effective.

Though the muckraking Naparstek compares the whole affair to the 19th Century's Boss Tweed and the 20th Century's Robert Moses, he does find something positive to say about the 21st Century MTA:

In a funny way you almost have to appreciate the MTA's brazenness. Once public comments were finished, Kalikow could have gone behind closed doors for a half hour to give the impression that the public's input had some bearing on the board's decision-making process. But this is New York City. There's no time to waste on a semblance of democracy when business needs to get done.


Posted by lumi at 10:37 PM

New M.T.A. Panelist Takes a Walk on the Wild Side: He Disagrees

pally.jpg The local daily papers reported that last week's MTA Board vote to negotiate exclusively with Lowball Bruce was unanimous with only one vote against.

The NY Times profiles "the lone dissenter," Mitchell H. Pally.


Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM

Builders Targeted by Eminent Domain

WPVI, ABC Action News

As developers cheered the Supreme Court eminent domain decision, expansion of the powers of eminent domain may come back to haunt them. Here's a surreal case of "fact is stranger than fiction," "turnabout is fair play," and "be careful what you wish for" [emphasis added]:

An appeals court says the power that has been used to permit development can also be used to seize land from developers to preserve open spaces.

The ruling stems from Mount Laurel, where a developer received approval to build 23 homes on a 16-acre tract.

The Burlington County town moved to condemn and seize the property, saying it wanted to preserve open space.


NoLandGrab: This is one use of eminent domain where some liberals have championed the expansion of the government's powers.

In the past few months many have wondered why liberals have been relatively silent about this issue. Liberal views are not as concrete as conservative sentiment in this case. Liberals are split between supporters of eminent domain who cite redevelopment of blighted inner cities and protection of the environment and detractors who point out that lower income and minority citizens are inordinately affected.

Posted by lumi at 10:09 PM

Bruce Ratner Doesn’t Use Steroids, But His P.R. Machine Won’t Stop Pumping Up the Atlantic Yards Project

The Brooklyn Rail
by Brian Carreira

The Rail's update on June's development in the fight over development over the railyards includes:


NLG: Whew! June was busier than we remembered.

Posted by lumi at 9:54 PM

Bush Flip Flops on Eminent Domain

In January, conservative public interest groups and commentators lobbied the Bush administration to stand down in the eminent domain fight. The White House was seriously contemplating filing a friend of the court brief on the side of the City of New London in favor of an expanded definition of eminent domain in the US Supreme Court case (see, WSJ Editorial, "Ownership Society," January 13, 2005).

Since then, Bush has remained on the sidelines and has been silent on this hot-button issue, until this week when, as reported in the Des Moines Register the President:

Said he was "troubled" by a Supreme Court ruling that eminent domain may be used by government to take private property for use by developers. "I'm concerned about the government overreaching," he said. Bush said he has not seen proposed legislation in Congress rolling back the decision but would give it "serious review."


NoLandGrab: There's something for everyone, true conservatives will appreciate having Bush stick up for property rights and disenfranchised liberals love seeing Bush doing a flip flop.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 PM

DDDb wants you to contact your politicians

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has compiled a list of politicians who represent Brooklynites and point out those whose districts surround the footprint of Ratner's proposal.

If you don't know who your representatives are, check out NYPIRG's "Who Represents Me?" lookup by street address.

The point is to contact your representatives to tell them how you feel about Ratner's plan, the MTA's decision to negotiate exclusively with Ratner despite his unbelievably low bid, and the use of eminent domain for private developers (especially for the eminent domain-addicted Bruce Ratner).

Posted by lumi at 9:08 PM

Eminent-Domain Uproar

The Wall Street Journal
by Michael Corkery and Ryan Chittum

An update on the eminent domain controversy indicates that a public uproar has empowered legislatures nationwide to reign the use of eminent domain. In CT, 11-1 are against the use of eminent domain for private economic development according to a Quinnipiac poll.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments had broad power to take private property to boost economic development, real-estate executives cheered.

But an unexpected backlash against the ruling stopped the cheering and threatens to derail some projects that depended on the use of eminent domain to seize property.

In the six weeks since the Supreme Court's ruling in the Kelo v. New London case, bills have been introduced in Congress and in more than half of the state legislatures that would restrict, to varying degrees, the use of eminent domain for private development. Delaware has gone the furthest, passing a law restricting the use of eminent domain. In Alabama, legislation curbing eminent domain for economic purposes has passed both houses and awaits the governor's signature.



Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

August 2, 2005

"Bruce Walking" decoded

An astute reader brought to NoLandGrab's attention an interesting fact about the Tammany Hall LED installation sponsored by Forest City Ratner.

The letters of the title, "Bruce Walking" can be rearranged to spell WIN LARGE BUCK.


Posted by lumi at 4:59 PM

Rooftop Films to "Brooklyn Pravda:" Respectfully take our manifesto and shove it!

Q: When does a community-based non-profit film festival and workshop draft a policy statement on development in Brooklyn?

A: When approached by The Brooklyn Standard to be featured in a story in the next issue.

In an open letter, Rooftop Films not only turned down Forest City Ratner's offer for some free press, they then went a step further and stuck up for the community. Brooklyn owes Rooftop Films a thank you for having the guts to speak out.

Rooftop FilmsAn open letter to the editors and readers of The Brooklyn Standard:

July 28, 2005

Re: Isaac Dovere's request to publish an article about Rooftop Films in The Brooklyn Standard.

Rooftop Films is a community-based non-profit which works in various ways to strengthen the neighborhoods we work in. As an organization which works closely with the physical spaces we inhabit, we have strong views about building development.

Rooftop Films believes in small and diverse development, development which benefits more people and is less of a financial risk for the neighborhood than vast development by a single large corporation—one such as the Atlantic Yards Project. Rooftop Films believes the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene would benefit from small, locally developed and owned stores, as opposed to franchises from international chains, as proposed in the Atlantic Yards project. Rooftop Films believes that the area around the project would benefit from increased foot traffic, achieved by creating more through streets, as opposed to a plan which creates more car traffic by shutting down streets.

Rooftop Films believes that in order to create sustainable low and middle-income housing which will invite low and middle-income people to live in their houses for a long time, to care about their houses and their neighborhood, and to give them the freedom to earn more money without fear of losing their housing, developers should build small housing units with buyer options as opposed to rent-controlled apartments in high-rises.

As such, Rooftop Films believes that our neighborhood, our organization, and other organizations like ours will suffer if the Atlantic Yards project is built—as the neighborhood and small businesses have suffered in the wake of Forest City Ratner Companies' other development projects, such as the Atlantic Mall, Atlantic Terminal, and MetroTech.

The Brooklyn Standard clearly states that it is published by FCRC to share information about the Atlantic Yards project. But the paper does not offer balanced and diverse opinions about the project. Rooftop Films is fundamentally at odds with FCRC and the Atlantic Yards project, and we do not wish to appear in a publication designed for the sole purpose of promoting that project.

Thank you for your time, but Rooftop Films respectfully declines to appear in The Brooklyn Standard.  


Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Artistic Director
Dan Nuxoll, Program Director
Sarah Palmer, Festival Director
Rooftop Films, Inc.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

While the MTA's public-land subsidy program for Bloomberg Billionaires is going strong, New Yorkers can't seem to get a break.


Thanks to NewYorkGames.org for posting this last week.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

THIS LAND WAS YOUR LAND, Eminent domania comes to the movies

Filmmaker adds controversial high-court issue to plot

Nick Checker of New London, Conn. – the town at the center of the high court case – wrote the screenplay for "Trashed," which tells of a 20-something woman who is left homeless after the government takes her apartment, according to New London's The Day newspaper.

“It's a docudrama that conveys the fact that our society has a penchant for tossing things into the trash bin which we perceive as no longer having value or not enough value,” Checker said.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

Annie Leibovitz photographs New York Times headquarters construction

NY Newsday, AP

Forest City Ratner Co. announced yesterday that the photographer Annie Leibovitz embarked on a two-year project where she would periodically photograph the construction of the new New York Times headquarters [a project renowned for its use of eminent domain in Times Square].


Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

This Election Calls for Vote On Principle

The NY Sun columnist Alicia Colon cites the Billionaires for Bloomberg Development Plan as one of the reasons conservatives should votes their consciences and support Conservative Party candidate Thomas Ognibene.

Mr. Bloomberg has managed to grant Atlantic Yards to his friend Bruce Ratner, who is poised to make billions building expensive condominiums on the land surrounding the proposed Nets arena. Mr. Bloomberg tried to grab valuable land on the West Side for the Jets’ stadium and is eyeing Willets Point in Queens for a new Mets stadium. Olympics, football, baseball, my eye! It’s all about making billions. Meanwhile, developers who are not cozy with the mayor — the actor Danny Aiello and the principals of Stapleton Studios — had their Staten Island project quashed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation in spite of tremendous community support for it.


Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

August 1, 2005

Ruling Sets Off Tug of War Over Private Property

The NY Times
by Timothy Egan

Nationwide sentiment that the US Supreme Court wrongly decided the eminent domain case is causing state legislatures to act and local municipalities to start condemnation proceedings.

If reading about Ratner's plan elevates your blood pressure, this article will get your blood boiling.


Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the Lip

NY Daily News

Mike Lupica is either a super genius or the only columnist in a local daily paper that has the credentials and guts to make the following point:

And, oh by the way, the deal that Caring Bruce Ratner is getting on that land in Brooklyn is the same kind of sweetheart deal the Jets were trying to get from their friends in city and state politics.


Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM