« December 2005 | Main | February 2006 »

January 31, 2006

Municipal Art Society posts comments on Draft Scope EIS

MAS logoThe Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) posted their comments on the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Draft Scope of Analysis for an Environmental Impact Statement.

In outline form, it's a quick read and brings up some very good points, including some that were not considered in previous testimony linked/published on NoLandGrab.

TimesRatnerReport posted some excerpts with additional commentary.

Posted by lumi at 12:12 PM

DeMoines Register editorial writer states case for eminent domain

Rox Laird, editorial writer for The DeMoines Register, penned an editorial supporting caution in the eminent domain reform movement in Iowa.

Laird outlines several of the steps that must be taken in Iowa for approval of eminent domain condemnation for any redevelopment project, stating, "there is no evidence of abuse of eminent domain in Iowa."

After the editorial ran, Laird was also a guest on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation (see, "Misconceptions over eminent domain").

Posted by lumi at 11:18 AM

Will Ratner build offsite affordable housing? We don't know yet

At last week's Borough Board Meeting, Assemblywoman Joan Millman brought up the question of whether or not affordable housing promised by Ratner would be located in the Atlantic Yards footprint, or, as some rumors have suggested, be built off site.

Times Ratner Report discusses the latest info and the implications of such a move.


Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

Neighborhood groups seek benefit package from convention center developer

An interesting article about community groups in Albany who are seeking a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the developer of a new convention center.

Similar agreements have been signed over the past several years in California and New York City requiring such things as a minimum percentage of living wage jobs, job training, contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses, affordable housing and environmental improvements in neighborhoods.


NoLandGrab: The groups in Albany seem to be following the example set by Los Angeles' Staples Center CBA, where community groups banded together and formed a group to negotiate an agreement with the developer, instead of Brooklyn's Forest City Ratner model, where the groups have been brought together, and in some cases formed by, the developer.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Editorial roundup of BB&T's anti-eminent domain stand

Editorial pages are still sounding off in support of BB&T's announcement that they would no longer write loans for projects that use eminent domain.

Here's a sampling from today's papers:
The Bergen Record, A bank says 'no' to eminent domain abuse
The Mountain Press, Banks should not support eminent domain
Realty Times, BB&T Takes The Moral High Ground

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

January 30, 2006

Arena nabe is jumpin'!

Condos rise while Ratner fights

The NY Daily News
By Lore Croghan

While Forest City Ratner is wading through the approval process, other developers are "getting in ahead of Ratner and building sleek condo buildings on empty lots or sites that were occupied by auto-body shops and other single-story commercial buildings."

The neighborhood is being transformed with chic new development and skyrocketing prices for brownstones.

What about the prospect of Ratner's 10-year construction plan?

That hasn't stopped homebuyers from paying increasingly high prices to get into the neighborhood, undeterred by the possibility of noisy construction or traffic-snarled streets on game day.


NoLandGrab: All this fuss over a neighborhood that Ratner's PR machine still insists is "blighted."

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

Real FAR

Brooklyn Views is still thinking about Atlantic Yards's Floor Area Ratio (FAR), and makes two important points.


Brooklyn Zoning Map

NoLandGrab: Since Floor Area Ratio usually makes folks' eyes glaze over, it is great to have someone around to demystify the topic and explain what Forest City Ratner and the State might be up to while the rest of us have been in an urban-planning coma.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

January 29, 2006

Moves made in Albany to soften eminent domain's impact

The Journal News

If you believe that eminent domain often amounts to a shameful swindle of homeowners and small businesses, then here's something you can do about it.

Write to your representative in Albany and tell him or her to get behind a new piece of proposed legislation marked A09473, which was recently drafted by state Assemblyman Adam Bradley, a Democrat from White Plains.


Posted by amy at 2:32 PM

Ratners try, try, try try again for casino


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Forest City Ratner, a division of Forest City Enterprises, swept into the Big Apple two decades ago, gobbling up real estate in Brooklyn, Times Square and elsewhere. Fast forward to 2004. Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner's owner and a cousin of Forest City's Cleveland boss, Albert Ratner, had orchestrated a $300 million buy-in of the New Jersey Nets.

The purchase was complemented by a series of ambitious promises. They'd build an 18,000-seat arena, moving the Nets from their New Jersey digs to Brooklyn. They'd remake the part of Brooklyn known as Atlantic Yards, on and around a railroad junction. They'd tear down some old buildings, and replace them with more than a dozen new ones, office towers and up to 5,000 residential units. They'd create 10,000 jobs. They'd invest $3.5 billion.

None of that has happened, because, in large part, of community opposition. Among the concerns is the hundreds of millions in public subsidies which would be required.


Posted by amy at 2:31 PM

January 28, 2006




Hannity & Colmes want YOUR eminent domain stories! They are featuring six stories about eminent domain on their website.


Posted by amy at 10:30 AM

January 27, 2006

Brooklyn Papers, Letter to the Editor


Posted by lumi at 9:14 PM

Ratner paid for state’s lawyer

Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Take my lawyer, please.

Facing an environmental review by a state agency, developer Bruce Ratner recommended that the agency hire his law firm for the state’s assessment of his Atlantic Yards mega-project.

Ratner suggested the firm of Sive, Paget Riesel in a letter that also guaranteed the Empire State Development Corporation that he would pay all the legal and consulting costs incurred during their environmental review of his $3.5-billion arena, residential and commercial project.


NoLandGrab: To be fair to Ratner and ESDC, according to Matthew Schuerman of The Real Estate Observer, it is standard practice for developers to "pay government for the trouble of reviewing their applications for rezoning." The troubling question is whether Ratner should be allowed to pick the State's professional consultants.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Redeveloping New York City block by block

Several alert readers sent in the link to Amy Zimmer's Metro interview with Amanda Burden, chair of the City Planning Commission.

Burden slams superblocks for Lower Manhattan -- "once again, we’re repeating bad history."

And listen up neighbors, Fort Greene is slated for a downzoning (but not before the neighborhood is swallowed by Ratner's Atlantic Yards).


Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Marty's State of the Borough: Atlantic Yards gets less push than last year

markowitzinaugural.jpgTimesRatnerReport made it to the Borough President's, in-coronation. Though confessing to resorting to "reading the tea leaves," Norman Oder was left with the impression that Atlantic Yards was downplayed relative to previous state-of-the-borough addresses.

The star-studded occasion was also attended by true Brooklyn power brokers, with Bruce Ratner and his right-hand man, Jim Stuckey, sitting in the VIP section.

And, what public appearance by Marty would be complete without the improv performances of the Hagan sisters, who added their two cents about eminent domain?


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

BB&T makes national headlines

BB&T made national headlines yesterday as news spread about its decision to stop financing real estate projects involving eminent domain.

Here's a sampling of the press coverage:
The Washington Post, BB& T Restricts Loans to Developers

The Washington Examiner, BB&T cuts eminent domain development loans

North Country Gazette, Bank Won't Finance Eminent Domain Projects

In a press release issued by the bank, BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison, said, "The idea that a citizen's property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it's just plain wrong. One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Letter to the editor: Kudos to bank for protesting abuse of eminent domain

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

January 26, 2006

Community Forum, TONIGHT!

Maybe your invitation to Marty's party was lost in the mail.

If you're all dressed up with nowhere to go, come out to tonight's Atlantic Yards Forum!

Thursday, January 26th
6:30 pm

Old First Reformed Church
Corner of Seventh Ave. and Carroll St., Park Slope

DDDB, the Fifth Avenue Committee, Park Slope Greens and Park Slope Neighbors are co-sponsoring a community forum on Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Featuring: * the latest updates on the proposed project and community concerns * special guest speakers, including a presentation by architect Jonathan Cohn * information on volunteer opportunities * a community Q&A and discussion session

For mass transit access, please use the 2/3 subway to Grand Army Plaza, B/Q to 7th Avenue, F to 7th Avenue, R/W to Union Street, or the B67 bus.

For more information, please visit dddb.net or call (718) 362-4784.

Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

The big unknown: Borough Board punts on fiscal impact of Atlantic Yards

TimesRatnerReport covers yesterday's Borough Board meeting where the issue of the fiscal impact of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project "came up briefly, and inconclusively."

What do we know, what do we need to know and will we ever know?

TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder searches for some answers.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Seeing what develops

The Daily New published Dan Goldstein's rebuttal to the paper's editorial characterizing the community's law suit against Ratner and the ESDC as "ludicrous:"

Brooklyn: Re your Jan 22 editorial "Bounce this suit": It doesn't matter that the six buildings Bruce Ratner wants to demolish are owned by him. Since he chose to put his project through the state's review process, he has lost his right to demolish these buildings simply because he wants to. If the buildings are such an "immediate threat" to public safety, why are they sitting there right now with zero protection for the public, like sidewalk sheds? Why has Ratner let them sit there for 18 months? The developer who would level a neighborhood and create a traffic and environmental mess now claims to be protecting the public. What a joke. And if the Daily News thinks that Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. — which is supposed to objectively review the Atlantic Yards proposal — having shared the same lawyer, David Paget, passes the smell test, then you need to take a decongestant.

Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Mayor To Redevelop Iron Triangle in Bid To Transform Flushing

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

In an article in today's NY Sun about City Hall's plans for Willet's Point redevelopment, reporter David Lombino stated:

As with some of the other large redevelopment projects in the works that also have the city's approval, such as the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, members of the local community say City Hall's grand plans neglect neighborhood interests.

NoLandGrab: Bronx and Brooklyn residents are not aware that the City has approved the Yankee Stadium plan yet, and the Brooklyn Nets Arena isn't even getting the chance to be evaluated under the City's local review process.

It would be more correct to say that the projects have City Hall's (i.e. Mayor Bloomberg's) approval.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

ED in the news

Some interesting news for property rights advocates:

The NY Times, Humble Church Is at Center of Debate on Eminent Domain
By Ralph Blumenthal

Property rights activists have been warning that economic redevelopment as a "public use" is a slippery slope, because nearly everything generates more tax revenue than a church:

In what a local newspaper called "a battle between God Almighty and the almighty dollar," Sand Springs is moving ahead with a redevelopment plan to clear the church and other occupants from the rundown district near downtown to make way for superstores like the Home Depot.

Market Watch, BB&T won't lend to eminent-domain developers
The private sector reacts to the backlash against the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision:

BB&T Corp. said Wednesday that it would not lend to developers that plan to build on land seized under eminent domain, calling such projects "plain wrong."

Boston Globe, EDC board discontinues eminent domain to seize private land
The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation voted to reject the use of eminent domain for private developments:

"We're trying to send a clear message that when it's owner-occupied we're respecting those rights," said [Governor Don] Carcieri, who's chairman of the EDC.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

January 25, 2006

Zimbalist vs. Zimbalist

zimbalistvzimbalist.jpg For those of you following the debate over public funding of sports venues, Field of Schemes has posted a point-counterpoint between Andrew Zimbalist and Andrew Zimbalist, the authors of last weekend's startling NY Times op-ed in support of a new Yankee Stadium and the Ratner-sponsored economic analysis of the Nets arena proposal.

Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

D.C. Asks Judge to Make Landowners Move for New Stadium


Latest news on the other sports-venue land grab:

The D.C. government wants a Superior Court judge to help them move out property owners near the site of a proposed Nationals baseball stadium.

City officials say the current residents must be out by February seventh so they can begin construction to meet a March 2008 deadline for completing the ballpark.

The city has seized the titles to the properties through eminent domain but the property owners are fighting in court.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Pittsburgh: New Urbanism(?) from governor's pals

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Our dear governor

On Monday we were finally allowed to see who will, without a doubt, be the eventual "winner" of the slots license lottery, as Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises unveiled its (admittedly) grand proposal for a casino at Station Square ("Casino just part of plan for Harrah's," Jan. 24 and TribLIVE.com).

Of course, what is lost in all of this is that there never really was a "competition" to win the slots license, as Gov. Rendell has long since promised the slots license to his campaign contributors at Forest City.

NoLandGrab: Brooklyn isn't alone in the face of sham auctions with the participation of good buddies of the governor.

Hey, it could be worse for Brooklynites; the Bruce is only spending more than a half a billion dollars to bring basketball to Brooklyn, while the mothership, Forest City Enterprises, wants to build a slot machine parlor (aka, giant casino crack house).

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Eminent domain fight broadens

Crain's (via NewYorkGames.org)

The coalition of government and real estate interests lobbying Congress in favor of eminent domain is being joined by civic and professional groups. The coalition is fighting to uphold the power of governments to take land when a public purpose would be served. The Regional Plan Association and Municipal Art Society are joining, and the American Institute of Architects is leaning toward doing so, says organizer Jay Kriegel.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

January 24, 2006

Forest City Enterprises unveils mixed-use casino-commercial-residential complex

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two articles on the unveiling of plans from Forest City Enterprises and Harrah's Entertainment: Station Square proposal offers millions for tourism, nothing for arena
Giant Harrah's unveils plan for Station Square casino complex


Forest City Enterprises, the mothership of the Bruce Ratner-run subsidiary, is partnering with Harrah's Entertainment to vie for a coveted casino operating license by proposing a large mixed-use casino-retail-residential complex at Station Square in Pittsburgh.

Unlike competing bids, the Ratner-Harrah's bid makes no provision for millions of dollars to build a new downtown sports arena. Instead, they are banking on the boldness of their project and investment and support from local sports celebs and politicos.

NoLandGrab: And speaking of high rollers, why did Bruce Ratner lobbying interests in 1999 include casino gambling?

Posted by lumi at 3:42 PM

Camden trial to test eminent domain

A judge will decide whether the city's Cramer Hill section - target of a $1.2 billion project - is truly blighted.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
by Dwight Ott

A big "blight" case is getting underway in Camden, NJ. At stake for about 200 residents and four large businesses, is whether or not the city can declare their neighborhood "blighted," in order to facillitate the city's plan to move "as many as 1,200 households to make way for 6,000 new houses, 500,000 square feet of retail space, a marina, and a golf course."


NoLandGrab: "Blight clearance" was declared a "public benefit" (an expansion of "public use"), to save the people in slums from their own conditions. At least, that was the justification provided by the old liberal school of thought.

Nowadays, "blight" clearance is primarily being used to solve the difficult problem of amassing enough property for large-scale development in urban environments.

No one has suggested that courts revert back to a position representing a "strict constuctionist" definition of "blight clearance" as a tool for social engineering, a paradigm that has long since been abandoned.

Since the original purpose of "blight clearance" has been preverted, its definition, or even justification, could to be re-examined by the courts.

Posted by lumi at 2:43 PM

"Ludicrous" lawsuit against Bruce Ratner

Daily Heights Forum

At the risk of being slammed by Errol Louis and others for cross-referencing other "world wide web" sites (see, "hyperlinks") covering Ratnerville, permit us to call attention to commentary on this weekend's Daily News editorial on Daily Heights Forum.

Posted by lumi at 2:26 PM

Role of the Architect, Part Deux

Brooklyn Views

CarltonBergen.jpg...And then there's the downside of hiring a starchitect:

An architect with major commissions around the world may not have the time or interest to learn much about the unique site conditions of each one, preferring instead to explore common themes of interest across all of them. And while our site can benefit from lessons learned in other locations, that benefit may come at the expense of the genius loci here.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM


The NY Post
By Tim Arango


AVP [Pro Beach Volleyball Tour] is joining forces with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment — an affiliate of Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets ownership group Nets Sports and Entertainment — to bring the tour to Brooklyn next August and will build a 4,000 seat stadium on Coney Island.


Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

January 23, 2006

The '06 pack: Battling Brooklynite

From Time Out NY (login required):


Daniel Goldstein, 36 | Daniel Goldstein is not a fan of a certain headline-making local land developer. "Bruce Ratner has left a trail of broken promises all around Brooklyn," he says. Harsh words, but not surprising given that Goldstein's Prospect Heights home sits in the path of the bulldozers that would clear space for Ratner's proposed Nets Arena and high-rise complex. But while most other residents facing the effects of eminent domain got bought out by Ratner, Goldstein, a freelance graphic designer, got organized. He's a founder and steering-committee member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the group leading the charge against the project—and he's practically made fighting Ratner a full-time job. "People think this is a done deal," Goldstein says. "Far from it." — Ethan LaCroix

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Zimbalist, critic turned enthusiast

Andrew Zimbalist made his name exposing the downside of building new sports venues. Now Zimbalist is staking his reputation on supporting them.

After coming out with his Ratner-commissioned report, touting the public benefits for a new Nets arena in Brooklyn, Zimbalist has reappeared, this time on the NY Times Op-Ed pages, with his glowing assesment of the public benefits of the Yankee Stadium deal.

Too good to be true? Field of Schemes explains why.

Zimbalist's past work has forced sports team owners and government officials to play "hide the subsidy." Since then, the eminent economist can't seem to "follow the money."

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Eminent Domain’s Third Rail: Attorney Conflicts


Attorney Bill Ward explains the trouble with the conflict of interest when Ratner's attorney for the Atlantic Yards project starts working for the State on the same project:

The more serious issue in the lawsuit points to an insider deal with blatant conflicts among attorney David Paget who has represented FCR (the developer) and also represents Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the lead environmental agency for the SEQRA review of project with respect to Ratner’s efforts to demolish the six buildings in the project area.
New York Observer's The Real Estate obtained a document through a FOI request showing FCR actually recommended Paget’s lawfirm to the ESDC in a letter dated Feb 18, 2004. This is more than the appearance of conflict, this is actual conflict and taints the entire process. This puts the fox in charge of the chicken coop. [emphasis added]
The attorney conflict is important, and the public must have complete faith in the process, especially where a project of this size is being undertaken with the myriad impacts that it will have on downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

January 22, 2006

Must've Lost Their Train of Thought

andrewjlederer.com points out that the photos at the Atlantic Terminal Mall are not what they seem:

However, I noticed - as I have before - that the vintage train photos they have in some of their windows are of New York Central trains, while the LIRR's affiliation was with the Pennsylvania Railroad (its one-time owner) and Penn Station.
The pictures are wrong. They're perfunctory; the result of the kind of ignorance that comes from not caring.

Does it matter? Of itself, probably not. But it represents lapses of social memory that really are troubling.


Would Caring Bruce Ratner really make this mistake?

Posted by amy at 10:53 AM


The Eddie Kranepool Society

The worst are the schmucks in Downtown Brooklyn who are against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. As someone who grew up just a few miles from that area let me tell you, that back in the day, the only reason you went to that part of Brooklyn was to either go to the dentist, (One Hansen Pl) to score heroin, or eat cheesecake at Juniors. And as a person of the Caucasian persuasion, as the sun went down, you better get out of town. That has all changed. The same way you can walk down Times Square with a $1,000 camera and not get a knife in your back, you can walk the streets of Downtown Brooklyn and not need mace, brass knuckles or hardware from Smith & Weston. A new arena with a hotel and shops and restaurants will be a huge boon to Brooklyn.

Hmmm...a neighborhood (not Downtown Brooklyn incidentally, which someone who "grew up just a few miles from the area" should know) comes into it's own. Knock it down!


Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

Bounce this suit

New York Daily News appears to ignore information freely available to them that could quickly and easily correct their 'facts':

Ratner, who owns the Nets basketball team, has been fighting to build a sports arena and 7,300 units of housing on a tract of land that now includes a set of ramshackle structures, some of them contaminated with asbestos. He did the responsible thing by asking the Empire State Development Corp., which is managing the project's environmental review, for permission to remove the asbestos and raze the buildings before they harm anyone. But when the ESDC gave the thumbs-up, the not-in-my-backyard crowd rushed to court, claiming the demolitions are a ploy to advance the arena project before the review is done.

As the Daily News points out, you can e-mail the Daily News editors at voicers@edit.nydailynews.com. Please do.


Posted by amy at 10:37 AM

Fair Ball

The NY Times

PLANS to build a new Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx have kicked up a small storm of local protest. Many people who live near Mullaly and Macombs Dam Parks, where the new stadium will be built, are concerned about what it will mean for their neighborhood, and rightfully so. But the crucial public policy question here is whether there will be a net benefit for residents of the Bronx and the other boroughs. The answer is yes.

Those who want no disruption and the maintenance of the status quo need to think again. The existing stadium was built in 1923 and grows more unsafe and expensive to maintain with each year. The Yankees have been spending nearly $10 million a year on maintenance at Yankee Stadium -- money that their lease allows them to deduct from the rent they pay the city. Engineering studies say it's time to build a new stadium.

The Yankees are proposing a fair financial deal to the city. Nationally, during the last 15 years, the public share in stadium development costs (that is, the stadium plus roads, utilities and so forth) for professional sports has averaged around 75 percent. The Yankees are planning to spend $800 million of their own money on the new stadium (no major league baseball team has spent more than $300 million on their own playing field). The city and state together will spend about $210 million for improvements in the neighborhood. By this reckoning, the public share is only about 21 percent.

Yet most of this public spending will be of direct benefit to the community, and a significant share will come back to the state and city. As part of the $210 million, the city will spend a projected $130 million to replace and upgrade the parks and their athletic facilities. According to the plan, there will be 10 percent more park space, more ball fields, an upgrade to the existing running track and soccer field and the addition of basketball, handball and tennis courts.

Contrary to some reports, these fields will be at ground level. Other than the new tennis center, which will be on the river (part of a 5.5-acre riverfront park with esplanade and bubble for winter use), the fields and open space are linked, and adjacent to the new stadium. Together with the development of surrounding commercial space and the prospect for a new Metro-North platform, the project will be a major facelift for the area and help gentrify the South Bronx.

Also part of the $210 million is the state's investment of $70 million into new parking garages. Under the proposal, all parking revenue would go back to the state and more than pay off the investment. The city and state would each contribute $5 million toward other improvements.

Further, the city will be able to sell off all the seats and other memorabilia from the present Yankee Stadium, lowering its net cost on the project. The Yankees are also agreeing to cover any cost overruns on the new stadium.

Naysayers will object that the Yankees contemplate getting a substantial part of the construction financing from tax-exempt bonds issued by a new local development corporation. Debt service on these bonds will be covered by the Yankees via payments in lieu of taxes to the corporation. The critics will argue that if the Yankees cover the debt service instead of paying taxes, then, in effect, the public treasury is paying for the bonds and the stadium through forfeited tax collections.

This objection was valid in the case of the vetoed West Side stadium for the Jets, but it applies only to a small degree to the Yankees project. The Bronx is already in a tax abatement zone -- commercial developers in the borough don't pay real estate taxes on new projects for 15 years.

So while it could be argued that in net terms, the Yankees are contributing only $756 million to the new stadium and not $800 million, the team is still paying 75 percent of the total project costs.

All major investment projects, no matter how positive they may be for a community, disrupt the life of somebody. Undoubtedly, some residents will be made worse off. But as an investment, the Yankees' stadium plan is a winner for the Bronx and all of New York.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

January 21, 2006

DDDb and Coalition Sue Ratner; Meeting this Thursday

About.com New York: Brooklyn Blog

DDDb and Coalition Sue Ratner; Meeting this Thursday Last Wednesday, local group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDb) and a coalition of more than 10 community and civic organizations sued the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner (FCR) in an attempt to halt demolition of six buildings located in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development site, claiming FCR has no right to begin work while the plans are still undergoing environmental review.

On Thursday, January 26th, at 6:30 p.m., DDDb, the Fifth Avenue Committee, Park Slope Greens and Park Slope Neighbors are hosting a community forum on the Atlantic Yards project. The agenda includes updates on the proposed project and community concerns, special guest speakers, including a presentation by architect Jonathan Cohn, information on volunteer opportunities, a community Q&A and discussion session

Meeting will be held at the Old First Reformed Church, at Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street. Free and open to everyone.

For more information, visit www.dddb.net or call 718.362.4784


Posted by amy at 7:59 PM

January 20, 2006

Ratner demolition goes to court

Brooklyn Papers:

On Wednesday, a coalition of Brooklyn block associations and landowners sued the developer and the state Economic Development Corporation, alleging that the state had no right to allow Ratner to demolish six buildings within the project’s footprint while his plans are still under environmental review — essentially, beginning work on the 24-acre development before officials approved it.

“We believe that the demolition of the buildings before the completion of the [environmental review] process is a violation of the law,” said Jeff Baker, attorney for the plaintiffs.


Posted by amy at 11:28 PM

Eminent threat, not "imminent"


After a lawyer for Forest City Ratner said the demolition was "not imminent," Justice Carol R. Edmead said she would not grant the restraining order before a full hearing - scheduled for Feb. 14 - on whether the planned demolition is legal.

NY Daily News, Judge won't stop Ratner wrecking ball:

Ratner officials charge the buildings are unsafe, but opponents are demanding an independent evaluation. They also charge a lawyer who used to represent Ratner now represents the Empire State Development Corp., and signed off on the demolition.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Some "blight" back story: replacement was planned for building that Ratner wants to raze

TimesRatnerReport gets the back story on some of the buildings Ratner wants to demolish before the environmental review has been completed and ponders "developer's blight."


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

And in other Ratner news...

Bruce's brother and head of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner is making headlines this week, taking a stand against President Bush's authorization of possibly illegal domestic wiretaps.

Wonder what Michael would think of Bruce's abuse of the Fifth Amendment's eminent domain statute to seize private property for a Ratner-owned Nets arena?

Sorry Brooklyn, the constitutional-rights super hero actually owns a stake of the Nets basketball team.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

January 19, 2006

Life in a Small Town

The Real Estate Observer

Reporter Matthew Schuerman looks into the details of attorney David Paget's work double dipping with the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner.


It turns out, according to a document The Real Estate obtained through a Freedom of Information request, that Forest City actually recommended the law firm to the E.S.D.C. A letter, dated Feb. 18, 2004, states that “[Forest City] has requested that [E.S.D.C] authorize and/or oversee the following services to be performed with the project” including “legal services to be provided by Sive, Paget & Riesel in connection with the environmental analysis of the project.” One of the services that attorney David Paget performed for E.S.D.C., according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Atlantic Yards opponents, was approving the developer’s application to demolish six buildings it owns on the project site, near Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.


Posted by lumi at 10:47 PM

Judge Won't Stop Arena Site Demolition

Breaking news from WNYC Radio:

NEW YORK, NY, January 19, 2006 — A Manhattan judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order to a coalition of community groups seeking to bar developer Forest City Ratner from beginning to tear down buildings on the Brooklyn site where it wants to build an arena for the Nets basketball team.

But the developer said it wouldn't do any demolition until late February at the earliest, and the judge said she would hear further arguments before then. Although the project has not been approved, Forest City has bought several buildings and has said these pose a threat to public safety.


Posted by lumi at 10:26 PM


Future Prospects
NY Press

Prospect Heights resident Joshua Bernstein portrays the neighborhood before it's gone:


Prospect Heights came into its own long ago. There has always been the park and the museum, and a quiet you can’t find in Manhattan. Prospect Heights is family and friends, bucolic living in big, bad New York City. The buildings are low-rise gems. Rental prices remain affordable ($1,800 for a two-bedroom is, sadly, inexpensive in NYC). And now it’s coming into its own? Because you can stuff your belly and get drunk beside upper-middle-class folk? Or perhaps because of Bruce Ratner’s proposed New Jersey Nets arena complex. If constructed, it will carve up northern Prospect Heights, demolishing businesses—like divine dive Freddy’s—and residences like Godzilla. Then a neighborhood will not have come into its own; it will have come and gone.


Posted by lumi at 10:15 PM

More coverage...

Here's some more morning media coverage on the law suit:

NY1, Brooklyn Resident Fight Atlantic Rail Yards Project
The Bergen Record, Suit aims to block demolition for new Nets arena

Posted by lumi at 8:31 PM

Same lawyer repped state, Ratner: suit

The NY Daily News story on the lawsuit, by Elizabeth Hays, leads with the conflict of interest claim:

The same well-connected Manhattan lawyer has represented Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and the state agency charged with overseeing the project, a new lawsuit charged.
The critics charge that high-profile lawyer David Paget represented the Empire State Development Corp. when the quasi-state agency signed off on the demolition request this winter - just months after he represented Ratner on the same project.

"Mr. Paget's representation of both the private applicant and the public agency reviewing the application undermines public confidence and the expectation that ESDC will undertake an objective review of the project," wrote attorney Jeff Baker in the lawsuit.

Paget did not return calls for comment.


More coverage:
The Village Voice: Power Plays, Nets foes shoot suit

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

Local Groups Sue to Halt Big Project in Brooklyn

The NY Times's reporter Nicholas Confessore covers the bases, with requisite quotes from all the players and this third-party opinion:

Philip Weinberg, a professor at St. John's University and an expert on the state's environmental review law, said the lawsuit faced "an uphill battle" in trying to get Mr. Paget disqualified. "There's nothing in the law or the regulations saying they can't have the same counsel," he said.

In general, he said, courts have tended to defer to public agencies on questions of fact, which might include whether the buildings are unsafe enough to warrant demolition. Still, Mr. Weinberg added, the agency "is supposed to play it down the middle," and "courts are supposed to step in if it doesn't pass the smell test."


Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

Blogo coverage of bizarro lawsuit

In the bizarro world of big time real estate development, there are no conflicts of interest and the developer always speaks the truth.

Meanwhile, in the Blogosphere:

OnNYTurf covers the suit in, "Brooklyn Community Groups File Suit to Block Ratner Destruction Plan " and "Brooklyn Groups Ask Court to Remove State Lawfirm from Atlantic Yards Process ".

TimesRatnerReport reviews the coverage, reflects on the delay in FCR's actions and is the only place you're going to find out what an independent engineer said about the properties under threat of demolition:

Based upon that review I cannot conclude that the buildings pose an imminent threat to public safety. Any defects to the buildings or threats to public safety appear to be consistent with conditions found at countless other buildings in New York City. Such defects can be safely stabilized with commonly-used repair measures.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

re_lapse: the atlantic terminal timeline

atura.gif Hmm... Ratner wasn't the first developer with designs on the railyards afterall.

This amazing animated timeline of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, should dispel that myth.

It's too bad that the designer didn't finish the piece to include the model of Ratner's Atlantic Yards. To compare the Ratner proposal to the other plans would have made a great illustration of the enormous scale of the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM


NoLandGrab and TimesRatnerReport weren't the only ones who noticed that The NY Times covered eminent domain as a development tool, without covering themselves.

NY Post columnist Steve Cuozzo sums up the case:

The Times-Ratner project is entirely the product of a widely discussed eminent-domain condemnation that took years wending its way through the courts, and whose final cost to the taxpayers is yet unknown.

No better local example exists to dramatize the eminent-domain controversy in all its textured complexity. Yet yesterday's story avoided the Times saga altogether — the proverbial elephant in the room everyone pretends not to see.


NoLandGrab: After reading Cuozzo's piece, it should be clear to Brooklynites why there has been no sympathy for arena opponents in the Editorial Pages of The Times.

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

UPI blooper

Just moments after DDDb issued their press release, UPI sent out a wire report headlined, "Jets stadium opponents turn to courts."

The report has since been corrected to read "Nets," but the "stadium" is still being used interchangeably with "arena," which makes you wonder if the UPI writers are eating their Wheaties.

NEW YORK, NY, United States (UPI) -- Community groups opposed to building an NBA arena in New York were poised Wednesday to file a lawsuit to halt the plan, The New York Post reported.

The suit seeks to stop New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the new owner of the NBA team, from demolishing six Brooklyn buildings to make way for the $3.5 billion sports arena as well as commercial and residential skyscrapers.

The suit also asks for an independent engineering analysis of buildings that Ratner claims are danger of collapsing, the newspaper reported.

Stadium opponents claimed the building danger claim is an intimidation tactic against holdouts.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

January 18, 2006

If the suit fits...

Did you hear the one about the lawyer who was representing BOTH Bruce Ratner and NY State on the Atlantic Yards project?

Well, it's no joke, not even a laughing matter.

nojoke.jpgDDDb and local community groups have jointly filed suit against the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, citing the law firm Sive, Paget & Riesel's work for both entities as a conflict of interest.

The groups are also seeking an injunction to prohibit demolition of the six buildings Forest City Ratner is planning on razing, in hopes that the courts will order an inspection by an indepenent engineer.

Get all the details from the DDDb press release.

This morning The NY Post scooped other media outlets with this article, but didn't provide any details.

Posted by lumi at 4:02 PM

DDDb Press Release: DDDB and Community Co-Plaintiffs File Suit Against Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner

Suit Seeks Injunction on Developer's Proposed Demolitions Around "Atlantic Yards" and Disqualification of ESDC's Counsel–Sive, Paget & Riesel–for a Conflict of Interest

MANHATTAN, NY - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and a coalition of more than ten co-plaintiffs are filing a lawsuit today against "Atlantic Yards" lead agency, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), and the developer Forest City Ratner (FCR). The plaintiffs seek to annul ESDC approval of FCR's plans to demolish six buildings owned by the developer and located in the footprint of the proposed "Atlantic Yards" development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

The plaintiffs also seek the disqualification of ESDC special outside counsel, Sive, Paget & Riesel (SPR) on the grounds that SPR represents FCR and has previously represented FCR on the "Atlantic Yards" proposal, constituting a serious conflict of interest. The plaintiffs insist that the process requires independent legal counsel to the ESDC and not the use of the law firm that has represented FCR on the same project*.

The plaintiff group consists of community based organizations and individuals who are stakeholders in and around the proposed development site, including: Fort Greene Association, Boerum Hill Association, Society for Clinton Hill, Pratt Area Community Council, Fifth Avenue Committee, Prospect Heights Action Coalition, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, East Pacific Block Association, Dean Street Block Association (4th to 5th) and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The plaintiffs represent a broad coalition of community organizations with diverse views of the "Atlantic Yards" proposal who have joined together to ensure the integrity of the review process.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Baker, of the law firm Young, Sommer, said, "We believe that the demolition of the buildings before the completion of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process is a violation of the law and will act to promote and pre-determine the outcome of the environmental review. We will seek injunctive relief prohibiting demolition of the structures until the court determines our claim and will seek an order providing for an independent inspection of the buildings by a structural engineer."

The plaintiffs contend that ESDC is in violation of the law by allowing demolition to proceed without benefit of an independent engineering review of the buildings or the need for demolition. The plaintiffs claim that there is insufficient evidence of imminent threat to public safety from the buildings and that any threat can be alleviated by reasonable measures to stabilize the buildings. To date the developer has refused to allow a second and independent structural engineer to inspect the buildings.

"It appears that the ESDC may be breaking the rules of the state's review of the Ratner proposal. The plaintiffs question the integrity of a process that relies solely on Ratner's engineer's report and Ratner's former lawyer for approval of the demolitions. It is deeply troubling that the state agency charged with an objective review of the proposal is represented by Ratner's lawyer; it throws the entire review process into question,” DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said. “Since the ESDC appears to be compromised by this conflict of interest, and appears to be rubber-stamping whatever Ratner asks for, we have to wonder: who is representing the interests of the public and who exactly are we to trust throughout this process? To protect the integrity of the process, Sive, Paget & Riesel must be removed from any involvement with the ‘Atlantic Yards' proposal.”

FCR owned three of the buildings in question for more than eighteen months. Two of the buildings** were occupied by residents before FCR's purchase in June of 2004, and the third building*** was occupied by a business as recently as six months ago. Forest City Ratner claims the buildings need to be demolished now to remove a public safety hazard. The same buildings have stood on the site for months with no prior designation of risk to the public and no protection for the public from FCR's claims of a potential collapse. ESDC has not undertaken its own inspection of the buildings and has based its approval of the demolitions solely on Forest City Ratner's report. Additionally Forest City Ratner has left windows and some roofs of the buildings open for a long time, allowing the weather to expedite deterioration, indicating willful neglect to propel the proposed project's schedule. To date the developer does not have demolition permits.

Sue Wolfe, president of the Boerum Hill Association, said, "We've joined this lawsuit because we want to ensure a fair and transparent environmental review process. We are concerned that what appears to be a preemptive measure by Forest City Ratner and the ESDC will taint the integrity of the review process and shut out any meaningful community involvement."

Philip Kellogg, president of the Fort Greene Association said, "We expect the ESDC to ensure that the rule of law is followed and that the public is legitimately represented throughout this review process for 'Atlantic Yards.' The public deserves nothing less. We have joined this litigation because of the actions of the ESDC and Forest City Ratner in regard to these demolitions, along with the apparent conflict in legal representation."

All links below can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

The filed complaint can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/complaint.pdf

* Sive Page conflict:

Working for FCR:
(See the fifth bullet point at the above link. In case that bullet point has changed, as of January 18 the text read: "Among his current engagements, David represents the Forest City Companies regarding the development of a basketball arena and major mixed-use development in Brooklyn...") Screenshot of Sive, Paget & Riesel webpage on January 16, 2006: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/spr.pdf

Working for ESDC:
(See last paragraph on first page of each of these letters from ESDC to elected representatives, declining their request for funds for the community to hire independent consultants to review the Environmental Impact Study) "... we must decline your request in that regard. Please note, however, that AKRF and Sive Paget are independent firms retained by ESDC and taking direction from ESDC staff. As a result, we believe that the review process and work product will be unbiased ..."

** Photo of two residential buildings FCR wants to demolish: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/461_463dean.html

*** Photo of commercial building FCR wants to demolish: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/585dean.html

Photographs of some of approximately 50 other buildings on the proposed "Atlantic Yards" development site which would be demolished if the proposal is approved: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/buildings.php

Posted by lumi at 2:35 PM

A newspaper covering itself: "like getting your left fielder to cover your baseball team"


Today's Times article on eminent domain as a tool for developers prompted TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder to post some ideas on how newspapers cover themselves:

Public Editor Calame wrote his 6/29/05 Web Journal: The Times's most important obligation, of course, is to make sure there's no bias in any articles it does publish about Mr. Ratner. But avoiding the perception of any tilt toward Mr. Ratner in its pages is also essential.

Because of that, he offered a recommendation: The New York Times, I believe, has an obligation to alert readers when they are reading substantive articles about a company or individual with whom the newspaper has some business or professional relationship.

That same recommendation would seem to apply to the Times's coverage of eminent domain in general. To adapt Calame's language: The New York Times, I believe, has an obligation to alert readers when they are reading substantive articles about a controversial issue that has been crucial to the newspaper's business strategy.


NoLandGrab: Wanna bet that Oder will NEVER land the Times gig to cover Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 12:14 PM


The NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

It looks like the legal fight against Forest City Ratner's superblock scheme is about to begin.

The Post is running a small item about a law suit being filed by several unnamed community groups, seeking an independent engineering evaluation of the buildings Forest City Ratner has announced they will demolish, before receiving final approval on the project or even release of a final Environmental Impact Statement.

Ratner, claims the buildings are in danger of collapsing; opponents call that an intimidation tactic against the holdouts.


Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Developers Can't Imagine a World Without Eminent Domain

The NY Times
By Terry Pristin

This story about eminent domain being an important tool for developers becomes more interesting, if you read the first two paragraphs and substitute "The NY Times" for "Bank of America" and "Bruce Ratner" for "Douglas Durst" (emphasis added).

Bank of America agreed to join the developer Douglas Durst in 2003 in building a 54-story tower in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, giving a psychological and economic lift to a city that was still reeling from the destruction of the World Trade Center.

The New York Times agreed to join the developer Bruce Ratner in 2003 in building a 52-story tower in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, giving a psychological and economic lift to a city that was still reeling from the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Durst said he would not have been able to negotiate with Bank of America or other prospective tenants had the state not authorized him to use eminent domain, a redevelopment tool that is coming under fire in the wake of a United States Supreme Court ruling last June in a Connecticut case.

Mr. Ratner said he would not have been able to negotiate with The NY Times or other prospective tenants had the state not authorized him to use eminent domain, a redevelopment tool that is coming under fire in the wake of a United States Supreme Court ruling last June in a Connecticut case.

Ok, we know that the deals aren't exactly the same, but it's eerie to read what is practically a defense of The Times's own eminent domain actions in the lead.

Q: Is a disclosure in order here, of the fact that the most prominent eminent domain case to be disputed in NYC in recent years involved The NY Times?


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Boro's Target one of busiest in the nation

The NY Daily News
By Jego Armstrong & Joyce Shelby

Not sure that this is news, but the Target in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall is one of the top performing stores for the national retail chain.

"It's in a good location," Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said of the store at Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. in the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

The mall is a major transportation hub, with 10 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road and five bus lines all stopping there. An average of 1 million shoppers come to the mall monthly, most by public transportation.

There's also no other big-box store for miles. BJ's Wholesale is 7.5 miles away; Costco is 3.4.

Wal-Mart stores don't exist in the city, but Barnard said if they did, Target would face stiff competition.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

January 17, 2006

Bloomberg Boots Yankee Stats

Village Voice
By Neil DeMause

This article wasn't posted yesterday because it's about the Bloomberg administration's extraordinary efforts to fudge the numbers to make the deal for a new Yankee Stadium look good.

However, several avid readers sent the link to us, so we offer it to you as another example of why the public no longer believes politicians and team owners when they claim that the benefits of new sports venues outweigh their costs.

Here's an astonishing example of fuzzy math from the economic analysis commissioned by the city's Economic Development Corporation:

To generate the report's projected $74 million a year in added ticket revenues solely from out-of-towners, the Yankees would have to average 63,000 fans a night—a neat trick in what would be a 53,000-seat stadium.


Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM


The NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

“It’s the supernova borough,” says Brooklyn Councilman David Yassky, about all the development coming our way.

Brooklyn is expecting to see many more projects breaking ground this year, compared to years past. Projects the pipeline: * Brooklyn Bridge State Park (if you could call it a park), * Atlantic Yards (we're working on this one), * IKEA, * Whole Foods, * the cruise-ship port, and * the opening of the expansion of the Marriott.

While Yassky, Marty Markowitz and Michael Burke, president of the pro-development Downtown Brooklyn Council, are looking forward to the exciting changes, others, like Community Consulting's Brian Ketcham, express concern and dismay over the lack of infrastructure improvements.

Brian Ketchum [sic], an urban-planning consultant, said, “If all of this gets built, [every week] it will generate another half-million subways trips, another 100,000 to 120,000 car trips and 100,000 bus trips — and there is absolutely nothing being done to accommodate that.”


Posted by lumi at 10:12 AM

The Role of the Architect

architects.jpgBrooklyn Views examines the role of the architect, explains why Brooklyn is better off with a "starchitect," and why Gehry needs to get it right.

Let’s tackle the difficult question: what do we think about Frank Gehry doing this project in our neighborhood? Our typical answer: Gehry is known to be a great architect, but there are real problems with this project.
Well-known architects can pick and choose commissions, and if a client proposes a direction that is not of interest, they can always decline to participate. Lesser known architects work at the behest of the client, knowing that satisfied clients will give them more work. A star architect plays to a different audience: his place in history. It behooves him to do the right thing, or to not do it at all.


Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Jobs at Atlantic Yards: overpromised from the start (and here's another reason)

jhhbutton-temp.jpgTimesRatnerReport sifts through reams of reports to find that the numbers show that the demand for office space in Brooklyn is dubious and falling, and that Brooklyn's biggest developer, Forest City Ratner, probably knew that all along.

[The Downtown Brooklyn Plan's] November 2003 Draft Environmental Impact Statement suggests that Forest City Ratner should have known that the market for additional office space was questionable, even office space well-located at a transit hub, as at the proposed Atlantic Yards. But the slogan "(Temporary Construction) Jobs, Housing, and Hoops" wouldn't work as well.


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Where Old and New Collide

pratt02.jpgThe Metropolis review of the new addition at the architecture school at Pratt Institute, by Fred A. Bernstein, references Frank Gehry's suggestion to Bruce Ratner to bring other architects on board and examines how different styles of architecture not only can co-exist, but make for a more vital urban environment.

When Frank Gehry was hired to design the vast Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, he tried to persuade developer Bruce Ratner to assign parts of the project to other architects. Gehry told me he was worried that by handling the entire job himself he would deprive Brooklynites of the variety of styles that makes cities generally (and their borough in particular) vital. Some kinds of architecture, he seemed to say by asking Ratner for help, are most effective when forced to coexist with other kinds of architecture.


So far Gehry hasn't convinced Ratner to farm out parts of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. But proof of the wisdom of his approach to urbanism is visible just a mile away, where a new building for the architecture school at Pratt Institute opened last year. Steven Holl's 22,500-square-foot light box, known as Higgins Hall, slips cleanly between a pair of elaborate nineteenth-century buildings. Holl's glowing object would have looked out of place (even otherworldly) on an empty lot. Paradoxically it seems right at home sharing a block front with the two Victorian-era structures, which have themselves been smartly updated by Rogers Marvel Architects (who were also architects of record for the Holl addition).


Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

January 16, 2006

Property Rights is a Civil Right

king-gandhi.jpgThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the first civil-rights activists to speak publicly about civil rights beyond the rubric of race, which, at the time, was to the dismay of many in "the movement."

In 2005, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference filed a friend of the court brief in support of the homeowners in the case of Kelo v. New London. The organization, founded by Dr. King, recognizes that, in order to protect civil rights, they must extend their support and the public discourse beyond the debate of equality for all races. For the civil-rights movement to endure, equality must be extended to all those who are disenfranchised.

In recent times, Liberals have watched the "war against poverty" turn into the war against the poor, while Conservatives have witnessed the fight for the individual against the power of special interests become a campaign especially in the interests of the powerful. Both groups have watched in dismay as eminent domain, the government seizure of private property, has become a coercive tool used to benefit private real estate development.

Americans are beginning to understand that eminent domain generally displaces those who are poor and politically disenfranchised for the benefit of the wealthy and politically connected and that property rights is a civil right.

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

The Kings (Martin Luther & Albert) highlighted in Ratner-sponsored Brooklyn hoops tourney

SponsoredByFCR.jpgTimesRatnerReport checked out the Seventh Annual Basketball Challege, where Forest City Ratner was the headliner and got marquee billing for their sponsorship of the event (declared by the curious type treatment on the program).

The event was held in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King. Local hoopster Albert King made an appearance (Albert replaced his brother Bernard, who held the gig until he had a run-in with the law).

All fodder for the next issue of the Brooklyn Standard...


Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

Governor Pataki Signs New Oversight Law


Important news on the role of NY State government in large development projects:

Governor George Pataki has signed a new oversight law to ensure public authorities follow state guidelines.

Pataki has allotted $1.5 million in his executive budget for the creation of the Public Authority Budget Office.

The office will oversee the spending, compliance and the general ethics of agencies such as the MTA.


More coverage:
AP, via NY Newsday, Pataki tightens reins

[The measure] establishes codes of ethical conduct for authority directors, officers and employees.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Pataki supports measure to rein in, reform state authorities

The new law mandates new regulations for disposing of property owned by the authorities.

The new measure is an important step forward but is weakened by the fact that the governor will appoint the inspector general, said one good-government lobbyist.


Pataki has been criticized for stonewalling a bill passed in June. Some say he wanted to wait as long as possible to minimize the impact on his administration in his final year in office. Aides argue he just wanted six months to prepare for the changes.

NoLandGrab: Support for this law spread after several backroom real-estate giveaways, benefiting politically connected developers, caught the public's attention.

Until now, development corporations have been formed to act on behalf of the state or local government, but, since they are private entities, they have not had to adhere to the laws governing "spending, compliance and the general ethics."

These quasi-governmental corporations with access to the deep pockets and political muscle of the state, coupled with the freedom to act as private companies, will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Ratner's deal with the MTA for the Vanderbilt Railyards does not close until the proposal goes through the state's environmental review process.

So, we are left wondering, will the Public Authorities Reform Act require the MTA to re-open or re-structure their land deal with Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

It Was Wrong 9 Months Ago, And It Still Is

The Brooklyn Downtown Star published a letter from Gib Veconi, Chairman of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, decrying "the reprise Theodore Ross’ attempt to link community concerns about Forest City Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project to race issues."

The agitation around race and the Atlantic Yards proposal displayed at the February 2005 meeting Mr. Ross covered can now be confirmed to have been caused by individuals who were at the time working with the project’s developer to secure contracts for their organizations. Unfortunately, the disturbance at the PHNDC meeting was typical of the political theater groups seeking a financial role in the Forest City Ratner project put on at many public events during 2005. This is the real story in retrospective analysis, while the issue of a real racial divide on Atlantic Yards at the end of 2005 remains unsubstantiated fiction.


Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

January 15, 2006

Atlantic Yards Moment of Zen


Fiorenzoli/Schaut Thesis Seminar

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

Gehry in New York

Bird to the North sparks an interesting discussion about Frank Gehry's New York Times TimesTalk appearance:

Architects do design for large contexts - their designs don't end at the building edges - so it is worthwhile to really understand the urban context, especially for those who profess to be "do-gooder, lefty types." I have always felt that Gehry just didn't get what he was doing to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards neighborhood, either by not asking enough questions from the people he's working with, or by simply not having the experience of asking. This talk corroborates my impression. Or perhaps it's more simple: ignorance is bliss.

I'm looking for a more pro-Gehry account of the talk, but nothing has shown up yet. Let me know if you see one!


Posted by amy at 10:56 AM

Life Getting Hot For Architect Rafael Viñoly

New York Observer:

But it is the Kimmel case, first reported by the Associated Press on Nov. 27 last year and later splashed on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that is proving to be the 62-year-old architect’s biggest headache. The managers of the Kimmel Center, the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, blame Mr. Viñoly’s firm for going $23 million over budget in the center’s construction.

The case sheds light on an issue that has dogged architecture firms that attempt massive and politically difficult urban projects, while at the same time attempting to deliver state-of-the-art design.

Witness Mr. Libeskind’s increasing marginalization at Ground Zero, or the recent shouting match from which architect Frank Gehry absented himself over the weekend over his plans for the Atlantic Yards terminal.


TimesRatnerReport points to two apocryphal phrases in one sentence.

Posted by amy at 10:38 AM

January 14, 2006

Ratner’s plan kills 1,100 parking spaces

Brooklyn Papers:

In other Ratner-related news, Councilmember Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights) pledged this week to ask new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to fund an independent study the environmental impacts of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

“I’ll start by asking for a half a million and hope that I will be joined by other delegates,” said James, following Tueday’s meeting.

James said the cash is needed to hire professional environmental engineers to study traffic, air quality, affordability and other elements of life in Brooklyn that will be affected by the $3.5-billion development that Bruce Ratner wants to build on 24 acres primarily within James’s district.

Such a study would be an independent review of the Ratner-produced enviromental impact statement, which is required to show how problems created by the project would be mitigated.


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

C.B.A.’s: Coming to a Bar Near You

The Real Estate Observer:

In March, the New York City Bar will hold a panel discussion on the topic March 13 at the association’s headquarters, 42 W. 44th St. Entitled “Community Benefits Agreements: Who is the Community and What is the Benefit?” and sponsored by the association’s land use, planning and zoning committee, the panel will include City Council Member Melinda Katz; Joshua Sirefman, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff’s chief of staff; Carl Weisbrod, former president of the city Economic Development Corporation; and Brad Lander, executive director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development.

It turns out that the bar association tackled C.B.A.’s once before. In a report to Mayor Ed Koch in June 1988, the bar association recommended the developers only be required to provide improvements that were included in the zoning code (such as building a subway entrance in order to get a density bonus) or that would mitigate environmental disruption that the project would cause (such as traffic).

The report concentrated on the role of government, and less on community groups striking their own deals with developers. And back then these improvements were called “amenities” and had less to do with jobs—today’s hot topic in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, the Gateway Mall in the Bronx, and Columbia University's expansion in Harlem—and more to do with parks or senior housing.


Posted by amy at 11:14 AM

Ratner Sponsors Two Tourneys

From the Brooklyn Eagle:

In his continuing effort to bring a major professional sports franchise to Brooklyn, Downtown developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner will be sponsoring two high school basketball tournaments this weekend.


Set speed aka onehansonplace.com calls it "trying to buy some street cred."

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

January 13, 2006

Why The Nets Don't Matter, But Fake Street Cred Does 

Fans For Fair Play

As the NBA's All-Star weekend approaches and the Nets catapult to first place in the mediocre Atlantic "Yards" Division, the list of Ratner's pandering to the African-American community in exchange for "street cred" grows.

Fans For Fair Play cautions:

Don't believe for a second that a Nets win or loss matters in the fight against Bruce Ratner's paean to greed and avarice, the Atlantic Yards megablocks.


Posted by lumi at 7:38 PM

More Fun with Math, or Why 7 Acres Is Not Enough

The Real Estate Observer

According to Matthew Schuerman of The Real Estate Observer, Forest CIty Ratner is making a big deal about publicly accessible open space at Atlantic Yards, though it's a bad deal for Brooklyn:

The three community boards closest to the project site, at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, have between 1.25 and 1.7 acres of open space per 1,000 residents, according to the city parks department. Assuming 15,000 new residents and 7 acres of publicly accessible open space, Atlantic Yards would provide only 0.47 acres per 1,000 people.

That would result in what environmental impact statements call a “negative impact.”


Posted by lumi at 7:29 PM


trafficNYT.jpgAnother thoughtful post on parking from Brooklyn Views:

Anonymous responded to a previous post: “Parking for 4000 cars is the same as about 19 miles of roadway”. We're not sure if this was in support or in opposition to providing venue parking, which we oppose, but let’s consider this a bit more.

BV calculates 4000 cars to equal 15 miles of end-to-end cars stretching back to NJ, from whence 30% of the current fan base must travel in order for the project to realize a net fiscal gain for NY City.

Then there's the matter of whether or not the pre-game rush overlaps with the regular rush hour; Forest City Ratner says no way, but Sam Schwartz, FCR's newly retained transportation guru, says yea.

BV's endpoint?

Economically “successful” projects are not necessarily successful quality of life models, witness Metrotech and the Atlantic Center mall. This is something difficult for developers to be responsive to: quality of life is not just an economic measure.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

On insufficient open space, the question of shadows, and the role of historic buildings

TimesRatnerReport covered the Borough Boards meeting on Open Space, Shadows and Historical Resources.

OPEN SPACE Representatives from NYC parks planning groups joined Borough Board members for a public discussion of the State and City standards for open space and how Ratner's Atlantic Yards project compares. Even though the open space component is one of the big selling points of Ratner's proposal, the numbers do not impress and could contribute to a lower ratio of open space per resident.

On the matter of the private arena roof garden, one panelist offered, "If rooftop open spaces are not very carefully programmed, they can be very desolate spots."

Discussion focused on the effect of shadows on the Bears Garden and if "the state analysis [would] include the impact of shadows in denying access by those at nearby buildings to solar energy."

Noting that a handful of buildings have been identified by the community as potential historical landmarks:

Lisa Kersavage of the Municipal Arts Society handed out a map detailing the nearby historic districts, landmarks, National Register Buildings (like the Atlantic Avenue Control House on the triangle between the Atlantic Terminal mall and Site 5), and "potential historic resources."

In what will be a small consolation for preservationists:

"Isn't it possible for historic buildings to be documented" rather than preserved, asked Greg Atkins, Markowitz's chief of staff. Responded Ruth Pierpoint of the New York State Historic Preservation Office, "I think that's probably the last alternative."


Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

Finally! A Mega-Development Looks to Transit

From Mobilizing the Region, "a weekly bulletin from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC)."

Forest City Ratner told the New York Post recently that it is considering building the price of transit fares into Nets basketball game tickets for the proposed 19,000 seat arena in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
Linking transit fares to sports tickets is a good method to reduce car use to the arena.  If fans have already paid for transit fare by the very act of buying a game ticket, they will be more likely to use transit. Other stadiums, such as the ice hockey and NFL Europe stadiums in Duesseldorf, Germany, have had similar programs for years.

But even if Ratner reduces car trips to the arena, that will only be a start in solving the transportation impacts of the project.

TSTC suggests other measures to help solve impacts on traffic and transportation: * reduction of scale, * traffic calming and * reducing parking.


Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

Marty Markowitz faces the questions: "process" inevitably involves substance, like unresolved issues of scale


Marty Markowitz dropped in to speak and answer questions at this week's monthly meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, "a coalition of recognized diverse community groups" advocating for an effective and transparent public review process.

In typical Marty fashion, the Beep, "was alternately conciliatory, jovial, thoughtful, and fiesty, but became tense, if not testy, at times when pressed," while defending his position supporting Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

CBN members questioned Markowitz on the surprise demolition announcement, funding for planning experts to review the Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of the community, the troublesome scale of the project proposal and the public meetings being conducted by the Borough Board (a process that is viewed by many Brooklynites as being an ad hoc substitution for a real local review process).


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Marty Markowitz — scaled down

MartyTaleoftheTape.jpgNot that this has anything to do with Atlantic Yards, but we couldn't help noticing that Marty Markowitz's portrait posted on the Borough President's website has been "scaled down," or more specifically, the "Floor Area Ratio" has been decreased, in an effort to "Lighten Up Brooklyn."

We offer this comparison between the image from the BP's website and the same pic posted on Gothamist in April, 2005.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

January 12, 2006

Stuckey says...

TimesRatnerReport and The Real Estate Observer attended Rev. Jesse Jackson's minority business forum, "Real Estate Development in the 21st Century: Revisiting Opportunities for Minority Developers."

TimesRatnerReport, FCR's Stuckey: no under-arena parking, Gehry's (sort of) a free agent
After the forum, TimesRatnerReport got some answers about venue parking and Frank Gehry's community relations conundrum, from Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey, who was "cordial enough to answer some questions."

The Real Estate Observer, Blight, Revised
The Observer's Matthew Schuerman quoted Stuckey on the issue of gentrification and pointed out that it may affect the perception of "blight:"

“There’s always gentrification taking place in parts of Brooklyn. One could argue it’s a phenomenon—if you look at the people who have come out and opposed the project, they’ve only been in the neighborhood for a few years.”

Characterizing opponents as newcomers will surely push a few buttons. On the other hand, it's an admission the neighborhood is "improving" on its own.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Ohio eminent domain case news round up

gamlescourt.jpgOral arguments were heard in the Ohio eminent domain case. At issue is the definition of "blight" and whether or not it can be expanded to include "deterioration."

AP, via ABC News, Ohio Court Hears Case on Eminent Domain
AP, via NY Newsday, Ohio court hears first case since fed ruling on homeowner rights
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Eminent domain battle goes to court
The Columbus Dispatch, Eminent domain has day in court
The Cincinnati Enquirer, What limits on eminent domain?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Gehry Grilled Over Atlantic Yards

Daily Heights Forum started a discussion with The Real Estate Observer post on Gehry's appearance at the NY Times's Arts & Leisure Weekend.

Talk honed in on Gehry's claim to the "liberal do-gooder" title, with some commentary on style:

Gehry assumes responsibility for forcing 864 residents from their homes. Some "lefty do-gooder". — Flute

His buildings are POMO craptaculars at their best. — metulj

I can't help but believe [Gehry] is being ENTIRELY disengenuous. — qtrain

They're exactly the type of lefties that give The Left a bad name. — bklyngrl

Pete_c believes the railyard should be developed, but finds the Gehry/Ratner plan unworkable and suggests that people email the master designer himself.

as long as you lot promise to behave, present civilized arguments and hard facts, and not go off into long flaming rants, tell him what you think: fog AT foga.com.


Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

Gehry in Chelsea Update: 'Without a Compass'

Curbed.com, offers this description of Gehry's IAC project for Barry Diller, from the The Wall St. Journal, as their "daily dose of starchitecture bullshit:"

The geometric façade has eight skyward arcs of glass that will mimic wind-whipped sails of boats making their way along the Hudson River, just across the West Side Highway. Besides reflecting both men's love of sailing, the design of the building in the West Chelsea neighborhood incorporates Mr. Diller's admission that IAC is forming itself without a compass for guidance. "We're making it up as we go along in the interactive [commerce] area, and because of the nature of interactive revenue, there are few rules," Mr. Diller says.

Nice narrative, though somewhat familiar.


Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Arguments Heard For And Against A New Yankee Stadium


The City Planning Commission held hearings yesterday on a new Yankee Stadium under NYC's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Bronx residents are fighting against the loss of parkland, increased traffic and support of the political machine and unions.

But things got heated between opponents prior to a public hearing on the project Wednesday.

Even before the hearing got underway, a shoving match broke out between advocates and opponents of the plan.

Construction workers were there, saying they want the new stadium because that means jobs for them.

Opponents say the last time a hearing was held, they didn't get a chance to air their complaints. This time around, the commission assures them they will.


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

January 11, 2006

...and let's not forget the eminent domain

An alert reader brought to our attention that the East River Plaza project featured in today's Times, to be developed jointly by the Blumenfeld Group and Forest City Ratner, is another dark chapter in the City's history of using eminent domain for private gain.

The tale was told in a Village Voice article, "Property Rights and Wrongs," from December, 2000.

M. Robert Goldstein, an attorney who helped draft New York's eminent domain process law nearly 25 years ago and who has represented clients on both ends of the bulldozer, says it's time to reconsider how the law is implemented. "You cannot run government without eminent domain, but you must not confuse the right with the possibility for abuse," he says. The use of eminent domain has evolved from explicitly public projects like hospitals and schools to current schemes like East River Plaza. "The result," says Goldstein, "is that anything goes."

Posted by lumi at 5:25 PM

Home Depot and Costco Set for a Mall in East Harlem

The NY Times
By Terry Pristin

After years on the drawing board, with lapsing lease agreements and permits, Harlem's East River Plaza project, featuring anchor tenants Home Depot and Costco, is moving forward, this time with a little more flair.

In May 2004, Blumenfeld Development Group, the Syosset, N.Y., developer that came up with the idea of bringing suburban-style retail to Manhattan, acquired a new partner, the Forest City Ratner Companies, which is also a development partner for the new Midtown office tower being built for The New York Times.


Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

FOLKLORE: The Battle in Brooklyn

NIH Shelterforce Online

This half-hearted attempt to analyze the ACORN/Ratner deal is filled with so many mistakes, incorrect numbers, and a totally skewed take of the "Kelo effect," that we offer the article as an example of the folklore surrounding Atlantic Yards.


A cursory glance picked out several problems and inaccuracies in the article, listed after the jump.

Folklore findings:

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

January 10, 2006

Brooklynites watch eminent domain case in Ohio

The Ohio State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in an important eminent domain case in Norwood, this Wednesday.

Two couples are contesting the City of Norwood's right to condemn their property for reasons of blight in order to make way for an expansion of Rookwood Exchange, a mixed-use private development.

At stake is the definition of "blight." The Ohio Supreme Court's decision in this case could affect how state legislatures define "blight," as they craft property-rights legislation in response to the public backlash of the US Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London, handed down in June, 2005.

This case is being watched carefully by developers, municipalities, legal scholars and property owners under threat of eminent domain, because it could be headed to the US Supreme Court, where the magnitude of a decision would be similar to that of the Kelo ruling.

The Norwood case bears more resemblance to the situation in Brooklyn than Kelo.

When Forest City Ratner first announced plans to build an arena and 17 highrise towers, two justifications were given for condemnation of private property: "economic redevelopment" and "blight."

Though the Supreme Court decided the Kelo case for the City of New London, Justice Kennedy provided some guidance for lower courts against government's abuse of power in his concurring opinion. Kennedy wrote, "a court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits."

Kennedy's statement, providing a legal basis to challenge the Ratner plan, and the public backlash against Kelo, made the "economic redevelopment" strategy tricky, maybe even untenable, in the largest media market in the world. That leaves Ratner and the State of NY with Plan B, the "blight" justification.

Though the Brooklyn case is no doubt headed to the courts after the eminent domain notifications are issued, the Norwood case is further along.

Both cases involve: * politically well connected developers, * with plans to build a privately owned mixed-use development, * who own the adjacent recently developed commercial real estate, * who want the government to condemn property to expand their real estate holdings (in Forest City Ratner's case, they are already the largest private property owner in Brooklyn), * who are claiming that the neighborhood is "blighted," despite evidence to the contrary, and * in a bizarre coincidence, the Gambles' home is on Atlantic Avenue in Norwood.

If the Norwood case is ever heard by the US Supreme Court, it could be the final word from the high court for a long time on the definition of "blight" used to justify making way for private development.

Here's a sampling of local coverage in the Ohio press:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Eminent-domain case goes to court

[The attorneys for Norwood and the developer will] contend that Norwood was serving the public good by trying to replace a deteriorating neighborhood with a new development that would create jobs, housing and generate badly needed tax revenue.

Cincinnati Business Journal, Rookwood heads for showdown

Lead plaintiff Joe Horney... said it's not about money.

"I feel very strongly that my case can re-establish property rights and protect Ohioans from what I believe to be a terrible injustice," Horney said. "The fact that they took my case speaks very loudly that my case has merit, and that to me is perhaps just as important as winning."

Lawyers for each side will get 15 minutes to present. A ruling could take months.

AP, via Beacon Journal, Property rights case may set precedent

How the Ohio court deals with the issue of blight has important ramifications for municipalities around the country, said Steven Eagle, a George Mason University law professor.

For those who want to learn more about the Norwood case, check out, "The Condemned" published last year in Mother Jones.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM


The NY Sun
By David Lombino

A page-one article on corporate welfare in NYC mentions that:

"The company with the largest tax break, as calculated by the city Office of Management and Budget, was Chase Manhattan Bank, part of JP Morgan Chase. Chase saved about $8.7 million this year for its building in the MetroTech commercial development in downtown Brooklyn. The deal was struck in 1989 under the Koch administration."


NoLandGrab: Large amounts of government subsidies typically factor into Forest City Ratner projects, like Metrotech and the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Taxpayers and politicians should follow the money and decide if these are dollars well spent.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Wall Street Project, Request for Coverage

JesseJackson.jpgA media release for Reverend Jesse Jackson's Wall Street Project is promoting today's panel discussion, featuring Ratner's Community Benefits Agreement, the one "negotiated" by supporters of the project and groups supported by Ratner.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Apprentice star Kwame T. Jackson, Jim Stuckey, executive vice president, Forest City Ratner Companies, and Cheryl McKissack Felder, president and CEO of the McKissack Group, headline a special panel entitled "Real Estate Development in the 21st Century: Revisiting Opportunities for Minority Developers," as part of Rev. Jesse Jackson's 9th Annual "Wall Street Project" Economic Summit on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the Empire West Ballroom on the second floor of the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, 811 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan.

Panelists will discuss new opportunities for minority firms, which have been traditionally marginalized in real estate development projects. Kwame Jackson will moderate the panel, which will also talk about trends in the real estate development field and how they affect minority firms.

NoLandGrab: Who wants to bet that eminent domain won't be discussed by today's panel?

It's ironic that the Wall Street Project, founded on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday, is promoting the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (founded by Dr. King in 1957) filed a friend of the court brief last year in support of the homeowners in the eminent domain case of Kelo v. New London.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

January 9, 2006

FB Survey: Americans Oppose Eminent Domain

American Farm Bureau

Americans remain strongly committed to protecting private property from the possibility of unjust seizure, according to the results of a nationwide survey released today by the American Farm Bureau Federation during the organization’s annual convention.

The poll shows, regardless of geographical, partisan and other demographic differences, Americans are unified nearly 2-to-1 against government use of eminent domain to take private property, except in limited circumstances such as when the public at large would clearly benefit from a new road, electric utility or similar project.

Likewise, 83 percent of Americans oppose the use of eminent domain to further private development initiatives.
In the survey, when respondents were asked about the Kelo ruling, an overwhelming 95 percent expressed disapproval; of those respondents, 87 percent said they disagreed strongly with the ruling.


Posted by lumi at 7:50 PM

Gehry Grilled in Manhattan

The Real Estate Observer

GehryREO.jpgMichael Calderone reports on NY Times architecture critic Nicholai Ouroussoff's conversation with Frank Gehry "before a sold-out audience at the CUNY Graduate Center, part of the newspaper’s Arts & Leisure Weekend."

A self-professed “do-gooder, lefty type,” Mr. Gehry spoke of the future Nets arena and, and shockingly blurted out, “First of all, it’s an empty site.” A handful of jeers followed. Admitting he was getting into “deep shit,” Mr. Gehry switched gears and said that the project will be built in an “existing neighborhood.”


NoLandGrab: Did Brooklynites play the spoiler during polite discussion with the master designer? Or, as a last resort are Brooklynites forced to getting their point across in public forums?

If you missed it, there's more coverage of the same event by TimesRatnerReport.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

Learning From Los Angeles

Brooklyn Views

DowntownLA.jpg Is Downtown LA a cautionary tale, or a vision of the future of Brooklyn?

BV offers us this review of Downtown LA from a Washington Post article by Jon Pomfret:

“More pets than children live downtown, and no schools serve the area. Because much of downtown was rebuilt at the height of the automobile age, at some intersections it’s impossible to walk across the street. At night, the area is desolate and its nightlife is more like a dusk life. The kitchen at the swankiest restaurant, Pinot, closes at 9. It is impossible to hail a cab because the police department refuses to allow random stops, but even if it did, most Los Angeles cabbies would not take short fares. Local redevelopment boards have hired their own security services and trash collection services because city services are stretched too thin.”


Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

Owners Ousted From Times Site Awaiting Payout

From Page 1 of The NY Sun, Staff Reporter David Lombino updates New Yorkers on the case of displaced property owners and tenants in condemnations by NY State for the Forest City Ratner/NY Times building in Times Square.

After three and a half years, compensation has still yet to be determined for "nearly all the property owners and more than half the tenants." In addition, many of the business owners were forced to pay higher rents at their new locations, meanwhile business has dropped.

The displaced tenants and owners said their experience over the last three and a half years serves as a warning to those who may be ousted by condemnation in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the planned expansion of Columbia University in Harlem, or other projects that might now surface as a reaction to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London, which allows a city to invoke eminent domain for the sake of private economic development.


TimesRatnerReport suggests, "This is another article that could be linked to by the New York Times, if it followed the Public Editor's cue and provided links to others' coverage "about a news-making development at The Times."

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Reaction to "A Traffic Knot, Pulling Tighter"

Reaction to yesterday's Times piece about traffic at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues:

Forest City Ratner: Gridlock of the Mouth
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn says it's "difficult to keep a straight face" when Forest City Ratner claims:

on one hand... ...on the other

"[Community Consulting Services's traffic predictions] overstated the vehicle trip increase by 40 percent to 50 percent, in part by failing to subtract trips generated by homes and businesses that would be replaced by the project." — NY Times

When it comes to displacement and eminent domain Bruce Ratner says: "about 100 people". When it comes to the proposed footprint Bruce Ratner says: "It's primarily train tracks" and Frank Gehry says, "First of all it's an empty site" — DDDb

Hmm... DDDb does have a point.

Should "not that much" displacement, be figured into the net increase of traffic, by subtracting a whopping 16,000-20,000 car drivers per weekday from Community Consulting's figure of 40,000?

The Times on traffic: a "nightmare" intersection or "not that bad when it's functioning"?
TimesRatnerReport analyses each point in the article, concluding that the Times "sketched the issue, ventilated some conflicting views, but still--partly a function of space--missed some important aspects of the issue, including the costs, the responsibilities of public agencies, and some innovative strategies."

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

Connecting the Dots: The Transit Strike and the Ratner Land Giveaway

Solomon Grundy, contributor to the Left Behinds blog inventories MTA misdeeds and the public and media backlash against striking transit workers.

Grundy find himself in a "Bizarro alternate universe where no one can make the simplest connections between events" and asks:

What about the hundreds and hundreds of millions in giveaways to any real estate tycoon that approaches the MTA with his hand out? That's our money, too.


NoLandGrab: Apparently "connecting the dots" not only doesn't happen in Washington D.C. As far as the media and public are concerned it's, "out of sight, out of mind."

Posted by lumi at 7:03 AM

January 8, 2006

Ratner Taking Out the Trash


From the Downtown Brooklyn Star:

So far, all they're doing is taking out the trash. But if it's happening inside the proposed footprint of Forest City Ratner's arena and high-rise construction project, even a simple chore becomes complicated and loaded with consequence.

In the case of the Samuel Underberg building on the southwest corner of Atlantic and 6th Avenues, removing the interior debris is so critical because it is the first step towards demolition of the mothballed and cobwebbed structure, which in turn could be the first in a series of falling dominoes extending all the way to Vanderbilt Avenue.


Posted by amy at 2:29 PM

Carolers of a Different Tune


From the Brooklyn Downtown Star:

The Prospect Heights Action Carolers were out singing during the holiday season throughout Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Here they are in front of Gates Restaurant & Bar on 5th Avenue at 3rd Street. Although these weren't your traditional holiday carols, instead they had a decidedly anti-Nets arena theme. Among the PHAC classic favorites: "O, Holy Blight," "Ave Arena," "Wreck the Malls," "Condemned for Christmas," "The 12 Days of Ratner," "Marty, the Two-Faced B.P.," "Hey, Listen Marty Markowitz" (sung to the tune of "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen"), "Blighted Heights" and "Christmas Is Coming, Ratner's Getting Fat." This was the Prospect Heights Action Carolers third annual Christmas Sing Out, with music and lyrics by Bruce 'n Marty; arranged by Big Bertha Lewis.


Posted by amy at 2:15 PM

They need more than Band-Aid

Mike Lupica of the Daily News shoots from the lip:

Everything that happened started with having the right man in charge. You can make a pretty good case that Caring Bruce Ratner - who would be the basketball version of Woody Johnson without Thorn as his wing man - doesn't even think about buying the Nets or making his real estate grab in Brooklyn if Thorn didn't make them something of value.


Somewhat the same as waiting for $1.3 million dollar lofts in Prospect Heights before grabbing land in Brooklyn.

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

A Traffic Knot, Pulling Tighter


The New York Times writes about our future nostalgia for the current Flatbush/Atlantic intersection:

A few feet below lies a major transit hub - the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations, which handle 10 lines, and a Long Island Rail Road station - that serves about 50,000 riders a day. And on the intersection's north side sits the Atlantic Terminal, a mall that houses, among other things, one of the busiest Target stores in the Northern Hemisphere. But in the coming years, drivers, pedestrians and those who live nearby may remember these days as a time when traffic was not really so bad after all.
"If you slow things up on Flatbush, you're backed up to Prospect Park," noted Mr. Schwartz, who has been hired by Forest City Ratner to consult on the project. "If you slow up Fourth Avenue, you're backed up to Park Slope. And if you slow down Atlantic, you're backed up to Central Brooklyn."


TimesRatnerReport covers what the Times missed: "the issue of cost, the responsibilities of public agencies, and some innovative strategies."

Posted by amy at 11:02 AM

Gehry, in Manhattan, hit with Atlantic Yards questions: “I didn’t expect this to be a thing about Brooklyn"


TimesRatnerReport details Gehry's appearance at the Times Talk segment of the New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend:

During the session, Gehry had said of his projects, "If I think it got out of whack with my own principles, I’d walk away." Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, wearing a "Welcome to Ratnerville" t-shirt and a sticker saying "Eminent Domain Abuse," picked up on that.She asked, "Have any of your previous projects involved the use of eminent domain or eminent domain abuse? Does that square with your principles and would that be enough to make you walk away from the Ratner project?"

"No comment," Gehry responded, to applause, though not as much as he received previously. (Gehry fans had to perform a quick calculation: it’s one thing to admire the architect, but another to endorse eminent domain.)


Posted by amy at 10:53 AM

Sunday Comics


From an alert reader:


Make your own here - and don't forget to send a copy to start@nolandgrab.org


(via DailyHeights)

Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

Nets' sales pitch: lots of curves

Newsday profiles hard-working Brett Yomark, whose solutions seem to ride on people taking their cars to games:

For another, they are trying to woo New Jersey fans even as they plan to leave by 2009 for Brooklyn, two rivers and a small fortune in tolls closer to their ancestral roots on Long Island.
The Nets paid New Jersey Turnpike tolls before a game last season. They offer free ferry service from Manhattan. They have furiously signed sponsors.

Kidd attended first grade with a 6-year-old who won a contest. Rapper Jay-Z, a part-owner, advises on entertainment.


Posted by amy at 10:38 AM

January 7, 2006

The Top Ten Dumbest Reasons to Build a Stadium of 2005

From Field of Schemes:

James Caldwell of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a new community group that has backed developer Bruce Ratner's plan for a Nets basketball arena, called Ratner "like an angel sent from God" and said, "If this thing doesn't come out in favor of Ratner, it would be a conspiracy against blacks." It was later revealed that BUILD's entire $5 million budget for 2005 and 2006 was to be supplied by Forest City Ratner, the Nets owner's development company.


Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

Throw another $500M on the fire

Field of Schemes reveals the newly adjusted post-Katrina cost of building stadiums (emphasis added):

Anyone remember that $1.2 billion expansion of the Javits Convention Center that was supposed to go along with the now-defunct Manhattan stadium for the New York Jets. Turns out the cost will now be $1.7 billion, and the state is considering selling land adjacent to the rejected stadium site to help pay for the difference. The reason for the half-billion-dollar cost overrun, reports Newsday: "[State development chief Charles] Gargano and [Javits development czar Michael] Petralia said the spike in projected construction costs for the center stems in part from the rebuilding along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, which has cut into the availability of labor and materials." **That sets the Katrina Effect factor at a new high of 30%; adjust your stadium cost projections accordingly.**


Posted by amy at 11:24 AM

Point and counterpoint on Ratner's 'Domain'

lucyBendersm.gif Click here to read the full smackdown between local resident Lucy Koteen and FCR vice-president Bruce Bender regarding manufacturing blight.

You can read Koteen's unabridged letter to the Brooklyn Papers here:

Always Look at the Blight Side of Life Bruce Ratner desperate for some activity at his Atlantic Yards project decided to take blight into his own hands. Because his project is under review of the State Environmental Quality Review Process (SEQRA), jurisdiction over his properties are in limbo. NYS requires that once a review is under way the site must remain in the same condition throughout the review. So what's an eager developer to do? He manufactures blight!!! In this case, claim hazardous building conditions. Buildings that were recently occupied are now considered unsafe. Anyone involved with rehab of old buildings knows that a property does not go from fully habitable to unsafe in less than a year. Is it possible that these buildings received human assistance in an effort to accelerate decay under Ratner's ownership?

What is most suspicious is that after agreeing to allow local elected leaders to enter the buildings with a licensed structural engineer, the Ratner clan rescinded their permission for the engineer to accompany the elected officials. For a company that claims to do their work in full view of the public, the public must ask themselves, "what are they hiding?" I can only guess that Ratner's motive is to scare local residents and businesses into thinking that the project has begun and they should get out of his way, now. He also must convince his impatient investors that there is activity at the yards, so they should sit tight with their investment. The result could be that an intact neighborhood will have holes punched into it. With enough empty lots Ratner hopes to create enough “blight” to justify eminent domain condemnations. This is nothing more than old fashion block busting.

Lucy Koteen

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

Gas station owner stuck in neutral


From the Brooklyn Papers:

The owner of a Flatbush Avenue Mobil station within the footprint of Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project says the developer is having second thoughts about a generous offer made this fall to buy out Tsao for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At the time, Tsao, a popular figure who calls his customers by their first name, had no desire to leave the neighborhood. He also was uncertain whether Ratner would ever build his sports, residential and commercial Xanadu anyway. But he took the vice president’s business card anyway.

Tsao is wishing he had taken the money and run.


Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

January 6, 2006

Jets vs. Nets

The Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

In the Jets v. Nets pissing contest, it looks like the Nets come out way ahead on contracting with women- and minority-owned firms, according to a copy of the Jets' minority hiring plan, recently obtained by The Real Estate Observer.

What are the numbers? Well, the Jets have been touting around 5% of total project cost, "but the plan doesn’t even mention that figure as a goal, let alone guarantee it."

Q: Who knew that Reverend Al Sharpton's support came so cheap?

The Observer does point out one weakness in the FCRC Community Benefits Agreement that hasn't been discussed by the media:

Yet one element that the Jets included that Forest City did not was a conflict-of-interest clause: the politicians, association heads and consultants who were on the minority advisory board for the stadium and were to continue on as supervisors of the agreement “will be precluded from entering into any service contract work with the NY Jets and its consultants on the [New York Sports and Convention Center] project.”


Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

After the CBA, will Ratner negotiate a Neighborhood Benefits Agreement?

TimesRatnerReport reports on last night's Park Slope Civic Council monthly meeting, at which Atlantic Yards was on the agenda.

Forest City Ratner seems willing to meet and negotiate with representatives of Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods around the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint over issues like traffic and urban space. Still, it's unclear whether the company would hire an urban designer to facilitate a community planning process and doubtful that it would agree to not use eminent domain. Those are some conclusions from a meeting last night of the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC), which sent a delegation to meet with the developer five weeks ago.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Nets' sales pitch: lots of curves

NY Newsday
by Neil Best

"If you like us in New Jersey, you'll love us in Brooklyn," proclaims Nets' President Brett Yormark.

From the poaching of Petra Pope, to "influencer" parties, at which players and even Bruce Ratner will make appearances to sell season tickets, Yormark is aggressively marketing the Nets as a tri-state area team.

Is it working? So far, attendance is up, averaging:

16,413 after 14 games, up from 14,443 at this point last season. (There have been plenty of no-shows at times, notably opening night; figures refer to tickets distributed.)


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

January 5, 2006

"Brooklyn Views"

The Real Estate Observer first takes a poke at anti-Ratner sites and then reviews Brooklyn Views:

Typically anti-Ratner sites are a bit ranty, and fall back on community board and planning jargon that is too boring to sift through for most people.

In contrast:

[BV is] a rather sober architect's view--though decidedly anti-Ratner--and develops as simple and straightforward an argument against the scheme as you'll find anywhere on the Web, without a lot of vitriol. And a lot of neat little models.


NoLandGrab: Read carefully, the position of Brooklyn Views seems less "anti-Ratner" than "Why Ratner(?)."

And in our defense, NoLandGrab prefers to be called "plucky," not "ranty."

Seriously, we're glad to see that the mainstream-ish press is paying attention to Brooklyn Views, because Jonathan Cohn is making points that have been missed by the usual anti-Ratner ranters.

Posted by lumi at 11:34 PM

Errol Louis responds to "smear," but still fudges the issue

Errol Louis, writing for Our Time Press, and TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder are trading barbs online over the issue of minority- and women-owned businesses that are receiving contracts from Forest City Ratner for the company's Atlantic Yards proposal.

The latest salvo by Oder involves a contradiction in Louis's argument:

Here [Louis] says he'd "be overjoyed to see any minority- or women-owned businesses — from any borough or city — secure contracts and subcontracts." But in the previous column, he wrote, "At this stage of the game the question should be how and when the dollars will begin flowing into central Brooklyn."


Oder offers an additional post where he considers the late August Wilson's Radio Golf as a cautionary tale of "hard truths on development deals."

Posted by lumi at 11:32 PM

Atlantic Yards and Black Business Development

Our Time Press

In his pointed rebuttal to TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder, Errol Louis states:

Opponents of the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards Project have a strategy of spreading innuendo and personal attacks against any and everyone who thinks the plan should be improved rather than scrapped. Much of the smear campaign is conducted through Web sites and blogs that endlessly cross-reference one another, creating the false impression that a groundswell of popular opposition to the project is rising.

NoLandGrab is opposed to use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project (though not opposed to development of the railyards). However, we have not attacked "any and everyone who thinks the plan should be improved rather than scrapped." In fact, NoLandGrab hasn't taken a swipe at Mr. Louis, and feels that his sweeping generalization is an example of the hyperbole which he condemns.

Posted by lumi at 11:24 PM

The Biggest, Boldest Urban Land Grab in History

We don't want to go too far off topic here, but didn't we warn our readers that land grabs could be on the horizon in New Orleans?

Check out Daily Kos commentator Jim Hill's response to an article in today's edition of the eminent domain-luvin' NY Times titled, "A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans."


Posted by lumi at 9:50 PM


CityLimits.org asked NYC's Borough Presidents about their "top priorities" for 2006.

At the forefront of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's "top priorities" is... you guessed it:

"My first order of business will be Atlantic Yards and making sure it will be the model of how urban development can benefit diverse neighborhoods."

NoLandGrab: Hey, what gives? Didn't Marty just rip that line from Develop Don't Destroy's platform?

A quick check of Marty's BIG PLANS (Atlantic Yards, attracting jobs, Newtown Creek, and Coney Island) indicates that Marty has been boning up on his Brooklyn since this NY Daily Sun profile from August, 2004.

Marty on the record:

"Brooklyn’s gravest problem now? “I don’t know, I really don’t know.” Looooong pause. “I think Sheepshead Bay could be and should be a great place for tourists to go to, and I think we have to do something to increase the fishing village atmosphere. So that’s a challenge.”

He fishes around for a more thoughtful answer, and then — eureka! — he remembers, “I think the biggest problem in Brooklyn is the lack of affordable housing.”


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Quinn's Trail

Fifth Estate

quinn.jpgAn astute Brooklynite passed this item along from Fifth Estate, NY Press's political blog, citing 2005 political contributions to NYC's new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn from:

$3,400—Friends of Vito Lopez


NoLandGrab: That makes Ratner supporters - Acorn and WFP head Bertha Lewis and the Democratic machine - visible supporters of Quinn. Does this have implications for Ratner support in the Council chambers?

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

Toward transparency: where's the Atlantic Yards web site and the latest Brooklyn Standard?

Transparency and information junkie TimesRatnerReport wonders when we're going to see the new BBall.net and Brooklyn Standard.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

January 4, 2006

Street Logic

Just when you thought that you understood Floor Area Ratio (FAR), Brooklyn Views illustrates how Ratner has "gamed the system."

This post illustrates how the overall project claims open space and Floor Area Ratios (FAR) in a manner inconsistent with the intent of these measures in New York.


Ratner calculates a lower FAR, more open space by taking our streets. And what about those streets?

The street is not some other architect’s mistake, waiting for Forest City Ratner to correct; it is the deep structure of urban form. This is not about replicating 19th Century architecture, but about learning from the large-scaled mistakes of 20th Century interventions.


Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Real Estate Observer Update

A Tad Defensive?
Matthew Schuerman is reporting on Real Estate Observer that BUILD's web site offers Psalms 27:1 for a New Year's greeting: "Though an army besiege us/our hearts will not fear."

In the same entry, Schuerman reports that local activist Darnell Canada, who left BUILD to later form REBUILD, has now left that organization. Anyone giving odds on the birth of THREEBUILD?

Piling on ACORN
There has been even more commentary posted on the Drum Major Institute blog since the original posting last week.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

"Struggling" Gehry on "out of scale" project: "If it turns out great, that's what's right"

TimesRatnerReport covers Frank Gehry's Columbia University interview:


Gehry, who described himself as "a do-gooder, liberal," said he was trying to design the project "within a very open dialogue with the people who are involved," but acknowledged that success on the project was subjective: "What’s right is, if it turns out great, that’s what’s right." Indeed, though Gehry comes off as an earnest, well-meaning fellow, it's apparently not his role to be worried about a planning process that urban affairs expert Tom Angotti calls "all backwards."


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

January 3, 2006


QuinndeBlasio.jpgThat sound you heard this morning was the collective sigh of relief of Brooklyn's neighborhood activists, upon hearing the news that big Ratner booster Bill deBlasio has thrown in the towel and announced his support for Councilmember Christine Quinn (Manhattan) in the race for City Council Speaker.

Chirstine Quinn led the opposition to the West Side Stadium deal and, to date, has publicily stated concerns about the other Big Bloomberg Boondoggle, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

Brooklynites' frustration with City government stems from Bloomberg's and Ratner's City Council supporters' willingness to cede local planning and oversight of Ratner's proposal to NY State, where the environmental review process is less stringent. Under State review, local representatives have no authority to try to improve the project.

Brooklynites are looking forward to bold leadership in the Council that represents the interests of the entire city, not just those making backroom deals with Bloomberg.

Here's today's coverage:
NY Daily News, History in the Council

[Kings County Democratic Chairman Vito] Lopez said he wanted to make sure Brooklyn participated in the final decision.

"Although my objective was to get a Brooklyn speaker, I didn't want history to repeat itself," said Lopez, noting that Brooklyn members were shut out of important committee posts because they didn't support Miller.

Sources said de Blasio is pushing for a leadership position in the Council.

The NY Times, Council Ready to Fill the Job of Speaker

The speaker wields enormous influence over the city's $50.2 billion budget, and most land use and zoning issues.

Ms. Quinn, a close ally of Mr. Miller's, is perhaps best known for rallying opponents against the Bloomberg administration's plan to build a football stadium in her West Side district.

The NY Sun, Quinn Appears Set To Accede As the Speaker

The job is one of the most powerful in the city because the council has important land-use authorities and control over part of the budget. It also serves as a counterweight to the mayor’s authority.

In exchange for its support, Queens is likely to hold onto the chairmanships of the council’s two most powerful committees, land use and finance. It was unclear yesterday what Brooklyn and the Bronx would get for their support, but the chairmanships of several committees, including education, health, and government operations, are now up for grabs.


NY Newsday, Quinn close to top job

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

Giving Away the Store to Get a Store

Tax increment financing is no bargain for taxpayers.

It's been a while since Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been discussed on this page — in NYC the program has been assigned a more bullish moniker, PILOTs (Payment In Lieu of Taxes).

Here's commentary by Daniel McGraw from Black Enterprise magazine about how TIFs have been added to local goverments' bag of tricks to promote the welfare of politically connected corporations.

At a time when local governments' efforts to foster development, from direct subsidies to the use of eminent domain to seize property for private development, are already out of control, TIFs only add to the problem.

Originally used to help revive blighted or depressed areas, TIFs now appear in affluent neighborhoods, subsidizing high-end housing developments, big-box retailers, and shopping malls.


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

January 2, 2006

A Mayor With Lofty Goals, and Better Than Average Odds of Reaching Them


From the New York Times:

Yet whether Mr. Bloomberg can emerge in 2010 with the "great" designation is unclear, as many of his goals may not be realized for a decade or more: today's first graders will still be years away from their high school graduations when he is finished; the fruits of his huge rezoning initiatives along the Brooklyn waterfront and at the Atlantic Yards will not all be realized within four years, nor would the impact of all his fiscal policies.


TimesRatnerReport finds two errors in that single sentence. Maybe they should make their sentences shorter to improve their sentence/error ratio.

Two errors in one sentence: the Times cites "rezoning ... at the Atlantic Yards"

Posted by amy at 3:28 PM

Brooklyn wildlife


From Flickr:

These were made in response to the proposed Nets arena; a lot of the discussion in support of using eminent domain to seize property and make room for the stadium centered around the idea that the area was "blighted". The plants depicted all grow in the area: the idea was [to] show the natural beauty of the area and challenge the idea of a neighborhood being blighted and expendable.


Posted by amy at 10:06 AM

January 1, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Three Days in December The News Blog draws a connection between the TWU strike and Ratner's methods.

Tearing Down Brooklyn No Better Place takes a walk down Dean Street.

Mike Lupica: When Bloomberg and Pataki Say They Are Trying To Save The Gov't Some Money, Hold Onto Your Wallets reality-based educator calls out the media for missing the link between the MTA's attempted land give-aways and the strike.

Anti-Ratner Crowd Changes Its Tune Brooklyn to Harlem sees irony in Ratner foes supporting TWU workers, but not in the MTA itself.

Blogging The Telecommute Gumby Fresh is forced to shop at the "vile Ratner mall" during the strike.

Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

ACORN, Ratner and Bad Development Ideas in Brooklyn

The Daily Gotham rounds up community commentary on ACORN, from sources including the Drum Major Institute and Chris Owens:

But there is another disturbing aspect of the whole development issue under Bloomberg. This issue is dividing the left. Labor is too blindly in favor of any and all development plans, even if they are directly contrary to the vision the neighborhood has for its own development, as indicated by neighborhood 197-a plans which the city approves then ignores. Labor is slowly losing its credibility with progressives, the very people who originally supported the labor movement in the United States. By blindly trusting Bloomberg and his developer friends, the construction unions are making a pact with the devil that will alienate entire neighborhoods as well as the progressive movement in general.

But there are even a handful of traditionally progressive organizations that, partly due to links to labor and partly due to unenforceable promises of “affordable housing” from the developers, are also buying into the Bloomberg, grandiose development plans.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

Eminent Domain: Home for the holidays

New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog has an interesting, emotional post about eminent domain abuse in Long Branch, New Jersey.

The public will get to hear all the facts when Judge Lawson conducts hearings on Long Branch’s right to take the properties recently condemned for Beachfront North Phase 2. There are 36 homeowners left in Beachfront North. If the city is allowed to proceed with eminent domain, we will be reading a list of senior-citizen homeowners who have lost their property, not unlike the daily litany of young soldiers who gave their lives defending our freedom on foreign shores. How have we come to this: that government is permitted to take property from one private land owner for the benefit of another private landowner? This is not the “public purpose” that our Founding Fathers envisioned when they permitted in the Constitution private property to be taken for public use. The concept of public use has been distorted and bastardized through the expanded definition of blight to which our courts have acquiesced.


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM