December 23, 2005
Forest City Ratner Denies Independent Analysis of Buildings It Wants to Demolish
Developer Goes Back on His Word to Allow Impartial Review
Press Release: Office of Councilmember Letitia James
For Immediate Release, Thursday, December 22, 2005
(Brooklyn, NY)- It appears that Forest City Ratner may be attempting to bypass the Empire State Development Corporation’s project approval process.
In an article in the New York Times on December 16th, Forest City Ratner Companies stated their intent to demolish six buildings in the “footprint” of the proposed arena/skyscraper Atlantic Yards development. In response, Council Member Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Congressman Major Owens wrote a letter requesting to tour the six buildings with an engineer to verify the need for demolition.
After receiving the written request, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) informed the elected officials that they would be able to tour the buildings with an independent structural engineer. But late yesterday, a Ratner spokesperson called Council Member James and stated that only the elected officials could tour the buildings, and that their certified engineer would not be allowed access.
“They told me that an independent review might “slow down the process,” said Council Member James. “I find this irresponsible, and overtly in contempt of the state environmental review process. We want to know what they are trying to hide by not letting us in. I have requested the Department of Buildings issue no permits until an analysis is done by someone not paid by Ratner.”
The $3.5 billion dollar plan is currently expected to receive over $1 billion in taxpayer money. The plan calls for 17 skyscrapers and an 18,000-seat arena. Some of the towers would rise over 60 stories, dwarfing even the Williamsburg Savings Bank clock tower and casting constant shadows on the low-rise brownstone community.
“Ratner has owned many of these properties for over one year. Some of the damage sustained by these buildings took place after Ratner bought them. And we all know Ratner is trying to say this is a ‘blighted’ area so he can have the state seize properties for him using eminent domain. Simply put, the area is not “blighted”. Real estate values in the footprint have risen at the same rate or faster than the rest of Brooklyn,” said Congressman Owens.
Two of the buildings (on Dean Street) were fully occupied prior to being purchased by FCRC. There are currently no permits from the Department of Building for demolition.
“The only ‘blight’ in the footprint is that which Ratner is trying to create. And where are those people who used to live in these buildings? They’re not being offered apartments in the new development, are they?” asked Senator Montgomery.
Jeff Baker, lawyer for community residents in and around the proposed footprint, said, "The law is clear. State regulations say you cannot commence physical alteration in the study are until the SEQRA (state environmental review) process is completed. If there is a legitimate public safety threat, we understand demolition may be necessary but we're skeptical that all these buildings reach that level or did so without purposeful neglect by Ratner."
“This is clearly an attempt by the developer to give the illusion of progress towards his goal of leveling a good part of Prospect Heights and replacing it with a hugely-subsidized mega-development. We live in Brooklyn because we love its character, its neighborhoods, and its street life. We say no to Ratnerville and yes to community-based development,” said Council Member James.
Posted by lumi at December 23, 2005 6:58 AM