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August 30, 2005

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 August 30, 2005 7:53 AM