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February 28, 2006

BCAT Reporter Roundtable

BCAT's Reporter Roundtable discussion of Atlantic Yards moderated by Gersh Kuntzman of Brooklyn Papers.

Brian Carreira, Brooklyn Rail
Patrick Gallahue, NY Post
Steve Witt, Courier Life

Here is the full schedule:


Day Time Time Warner/ Cablevision
Saturday (Premier)9:30pm 56/69
Monday 10:30am 56/69
Wednesday 10:30am/6:30pm* 56/69
Thursday 12:00pm/8:00pm 56/69

*(also seen on Manhattan Neighborhood Network - TW ch. 34, RCN ch. 109)

Posted by lumi at 2:33 PM

ESDC: terrorism not part of Environmental Impact Statement


The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) was drafted long before the security concerns of the post-9-11 world became a fact of life in New York City and other highly populated urban areas.

That means the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is not only not required to examine the security concerns and impacts of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, it apparently won't.


NoLandGrab: The New York Police Department will issue its own security analysis, but there is no guarantee that the NYPD leadership will stick their necks out in order to influence the final design as they did in the case of the Freedom Tower.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Impact studies must be put on Web

Environmental law begins in N.Y. this week

Poughkeepsie Journal
By Dan Shapley

A new state law requires all environmental impact statements be accessible on the Internet.

The state Environmental Quality Review Act, known as SEQRA, defines the review process, and gives the public its single-greatest opportunity to influence projects considered by government.

The article has a sidebar that outlines the basic steps in the SEQRA sequence.

NoLandGrab: A positive step foward, this means the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be available on line when it is released.

The EIS is a long and fairly technical document that requires professional expertise and experience that is often not available to most communities. Community groups in Central Brooklyn will have difficulty weeding through the Atlantic Yards EIS if they are not able to hire experienced consultants.

So far, there has not been the political will to make funds available in order to help local community groups hire a consultant, despite the availability of hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies to Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

TODAY: Affordable Housing and the "Atlantic Yards"Development

On Tuesday, February 28th, at 6 p.m., Women in Housing and Finance will sponsor "Affordable Housing and the 'Atlantic Yards' Development," a panel discussion focused on the affordable housing component of the proposed arena and high-rise project.

The panel will feature:
* ACORN Brooklyn Executive Director Bertha Lewis, * NYU Law Professor Vicky Been, and * Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Candace Carponter.

Moderated by Brad Lander, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

There is an admission fee for this event:
Members of Women in Housing and Finance $25 in advance,
$30 at the door.
Non-members, $35

Admission includes refreshments, which will be served beginning at 6:00 p.m. The panel discussion will run from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

The Captain's Ketch
70 Pine St (cross street Pearl St.#2, 3, 4, or 5 subway to Wall St.)

Please RSVP to 212-439-1056, or click here for more information.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

February 27, 2006



PRESS RELEASE: Fans For Fair Play

According to Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, the Williamsburg beer maker will no longer have anything to do with the New Jersey Nets, whose suggested move to Brooklyn is part of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development -- a project Oliver is personally against.

"In any event, we're no longer having any association with the Nets or either side of this mess - we're just going to make beer" Oliver wrote to Ian McLaughlin, a Brooklyn resident who lives just a half-block from the project's footprint. In the same e-mail, Oliver wrote "I live in the area, and personally oppose the project."

On February 12th, Fans For Fair Play -- a Brooklyn based sports-fans organization opposed to the Ratner skyscraper project -- announced the Think Before You Drink Brooklyn Lager campaign because of Brooklyn Brewerey owner Steve Hindy's support for the Nets' move to Brooklyn. (see http://www.fansforfairplay.com)

"Hindy believes he can cheerlead for the 'Brooklyn' Nets but not take a stand on Ratner's 17 sksycrapers, emiment domain and empty jobs-and-housing promises," said Scott Turner, FFFP's coordinator. "It's a cowardly stance -- support the fun thing and lay low on the hard issues. That's not the behavior Brooklynites pride ourselves on."

Since the Think Before You Drink campaign was called two weeks ago, Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy has received e-mails and phone calls asking for the brewery's support for the Nets' move to Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards project to stop.

In addtion, Oliver told McLaughlin that "[w]e work directly with Develop Don't Destroy," a claim rejected by DDDB. Said Turner, "That's desperate. There's no relationship with DDDB. They're using DDDB's status to appeal to those fighting the project. I wonder how that fib's working out for Brooklyn Brewery.

"We don't want Brooklyn Brewery to go under. We just want them to withdraw support for a project that would destroy the very Brooklyn that they've ridden to success."

Commenting on Oliver's statement that Brooklyn Brewery is done with the Nets, Turner said "if what Oliver says is true, it means that Brooklyn Brewery will no longer be an Official Sponsor of the New Jersey Nets, won't be selling any more beer at Ratner's team's home games, and won't be hosting any more Nets parties at their brewery."

Posted by lumi at 10:42 AM

Ratner project brought "to a screeching halt"

Did we hear this right? Two articles this weekend (Brooklyn Papers and NY Post) quoted Empire State Development Corporation's attorney Douglas Kraus as saying that Judge Edmead's ruling disqualifying David Paget from consulting with the ESDC has brought the project "to a screeching halt."

Apparently, the ESDC will argue that David Paget is the only attorney in the State of New York qualified to work on this project, and therefore, an exception should apply.

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey was quoted in the Brooklyn Papers saying, “[Further] delay would subject FCR to severe, irreparable harm. These losses would be devastating … and could jeopardize the project.”

Are Brooklynites expected to believe that a $3.5 BILLION project has been brought to a "screeching halt" and that David Paget's disqualification "could jeopardized the project?"

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

NJ Nets Sweepstakes

The team is HOT! Attendance is NOT!

FREE tickets are still available for New Jersey Nets games.

YES Network wants to send you out for a "high five" with the Nets at NJ's Continental Airlines Arena, along with four seats on the floor, dinner, Nets merchandise, and transportation.

Click here to enter sweepstakes to win FREE tickets to see the team Bruce Ratner wants to bring to an arena built on a neighborhood near you.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

February 26, 2006

Hakeem Jeffries not on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate:

Over at the Politicker, Nicole Brydson talks to Hakeem Jeffries, who (again) is toying with the idea of running for Roger Green’s Assembly seat, but won’t take a position one way or the other on Atlantic Yards.

Actually, the more we think about it, the more reasonable this sounds. Why tick off a constituency when the issue will be resolved by the primary? (Or will it?)


Posted by amy at 2:12 PM

Sunday Comix


Posted by amy at 12:36 PM

February 25, 2006

Brooklyn vs. Bush


This week's episode: Brooklyn vs. Bush Anti-Ratner anti-Bush from Brooklyn with Freddy's regulars & video art by Donald O'Finn.

Watch the show on t.v. in Brooklyn MONDAY NIGHTS and in Manhattan on WEDNESDAY NIGHTS.

BKLYN Mon at 11:30 pm on BCAT ch. 3 Time warner ch. 56 CVision ch 69, no box: 10. MANHATTAN weds 9pm MNN1/Time War 34 RCN 110 as "Tales of the New Depression"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Brooklyn vs. Bush Comedy Show reluctantly backs the Brooklyn Beer Boycott, and Says So on T.V. Monday Night in a debut, 2 part special, of local artist Donald O’Finn’s Art Show.

Brooklyn public affairs television producer Steve de Sève announced today that his show, which airs Monday night at 11:30 p.m. on BCAT 3, (Time Warner ch. 56) will be taking sides on the controversy started by Brooklyn Beer owner Steve Hindy when he announced his support for the oversized Ratner complex at the Atlantic Yards.

Brooklyn vs. Bush Comedy Show, which airs at 11:30 p.m this Monday night, is part 1 of a 2 part series that features the current art show of Donald O’Finn, the Freddy’s bartender who will be out of work if the plan Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Breweries supports goes through. O’Finn is a painter and video artist who has cultivated a unique community of writers, musicians and visual artists over the last 10 years. This community has made Freddy’s their home because of O’Finn. Many interviews on the 2 part series on O’Finn’s art show had strong opinions about the pending destruction of their community center. And two sketches, an ad for Brooklyn Beer “the beer that wants to throw you out on the streets and into the sewers,” and a longer piece about Hispanic residents being thrown into the streets and their struggle to understand Bruce Ratner’s need for a legacy at the cost of their neighborhood, will air this Monday night.

The decision for the Brooklyn vs. Bush show’s support for the Brooklyn Beer boycott comes from de Sève’s family’s personal experiences.

“Brooklyn Beer is great, but I can’t drink it for a while,” de Sève said at last week’s show’s viewing party at Freddy’s Backroom. “I have had two very bad experiences with eminent domain, and I think Brooklyn Beer’s owner Steve Hindy has not had any. Once you live through a 17 year threat to your family home, and then move to a town that is 75% underwater because of the state seizure of property, it makes things very clear.”

de Sève is from the small hamlet of Raymertown, NY, in the Berkshire Mountains. “My hometown, Raymertown, was seized by eminent domain for a reservoir. We were an agricultural community. The state took our most fertile farmland in the valley that made up most of the town, and made a reservoir for the nearby city of Troy. We not only lost most of our arable land, but several of the older farmers who lost their livelihoods and their homes died soon after the destruction of our town. It was a tragedy. And you know what? We didn’t even get access to the water. Folks back home still drink well water.”

Back when they were building highways like they were going out of style, de Sève’s grandmother’s Italian neighborhood was threatened with being torn down for a highway. The neighborhood was built on a hill, formerly called “mudslide hill,” where the Hudson River Valley met the foothills of our Berkshire Mountains. The Irish who had settled earlier in Troy to work in the collar and cuff factories and iron foundries, never figured out how to live on mudslide hill. Eventually, Italians migrated to Troy, and a man from de Sève’s grandmother’s anscestoral town of Cardinale, was looking for cheap land and saw mudslide hill. It was exactly like the hill where Cardinale had been for centuries. The people from his town had figured out centuries ago how to tame mudslides with terraces and concrete. “You gotta love Italians and their concrete.” de Sève said.

Mudslide hill soon attracted a number of families from Cardinale, who loved living together on the hill. Beautiful terraced gardens were built along with the sturdy homes, many of which were built during the Depression, if you can imagine that. It was a labor of love and of community, and the sites and smells of the gardens above the modest houses, as well as the food cooked from what the gardens produced made for a rich life for these poor immigrants.

Then, in the 1950’s the state announced plans to level the neighborhood to build a highway. Seventeen years of legal battles followed, and the neighborhood became blighted, because nobody wanted to put money into upkeep in a doomed neighborhood.

“The highway planners were told again and again that they couldn’t build a highway on mudslide hill if they wanted to. Those who acknowledged this fact were fired or transferred. The fix was in. It was in insider deal.”

The upshot? The highway was never built. BUT the neighborhood was seized anyway because the state had given out the demolition contracts on the houses! The land where the neighborhood stood is blighted to this day. And you can still see the sturdy terraces.

“It was, and is, very sad. We lost 6 old Italian women who died from broken hearts within months of the land seizure. My grandmother stayed and fought for another year. She told everybody to save the houses that were left, because no highway could be built. But intimidation tactics and the loss of her husband finally got to her and she called a family meeting and announced she had been beaten.”

“And THEN do you know what the state did?” asked de Sève. “They charged my grandmother RENT for living in her own house after the official date of the eminent domain seizure!” said de Sève. “They took it out of the small payment they gave her for her two houses, gardens, and four car garage. I think she got $8,500 for everything, after they made her pay rent for a house she helped pay to build by working in clothing factories during the Depression. She lost everything. Her neighborhood, her home, her rental income from the second house, and many of her friends. It was a rough year on an old lady who had recently lost her husband.”

de Sève started working with the local historical society at age 12, and interviewed many of the town’s remaining elderly about the loss of their homes and friends. “They were changed by this. Make no mistake about that.” The next year he was hired as the photographer for the local weekly newspaper, The Pittstown Centinal, and worked closely with the communities surrounding the Tomahannock Resevoir. “You can’t imagine what these people went through when the water reached the steeple of the old church in the valley. Although I can, because of what happened to my Grandmother and her neighbors.”

The other eminent domain tragedy that touched the de Sève family, which includes Beevis and Butthead director Mike de Sève, Filmmaker Jim de Sève who directed Tying the Knot which is now in DVD release, and Dr. Charles de Sève, who was the economist on the team that recently defeated the west side stadium in Manhattan, was the loss of their family home in Troy, NY to eminent domain in the 1970’s.

“We are against Eminent Domain in almost any situation,” said Mike de Sève, who plays George W. Bush on the show. “It kills people. And what about the American Dream? And now supporters of the oversized stadium project are telling people who live in the footprint, ‘all you’ve worked for all your lives, and the stability of your home and your neighborhood are going to be taken from you because some Billionaire who is a crony of the Governor is using the law to make your homes his. That’s deeply messed up, and completely wrong.”

Sketches in the works to educate people to the unseen dark side of eminent domain include “Ratman and Marty,” the dynamic duo in action, as they evict folks while chugging Brooklyn Beer. “How come you need more money, Ratman?” asks Marty, dressed in a “robin” costume, and sporting an enlarged Brooklyn Beer-belly, “don’t you have enough money already?” Ratman reaches for his utility belt and zaps Marty’s electric dog collar. “Oh, I get it,” Marty says, “You WANT MORE MONEY. That’s cool.”

“Art imitates life sometimes,” de Sève said. “We make a show that is educational, and contains a lot of parody. But our goals are serious. Bush and Ratner are the biggest local issue in Brooklyn. Eminent domain kills people. So does war. So does asthma from the kind of traffic increase that has prompted talk of widening Flatbush Avenue. That’s not funny.”

“A multi-billionaire is like a crack addict, child,” says a Hispanic mother in this week’s sketch called, Mother and Child. “He just needs more and more money, and he doesn’t care who he hurts. Maybe we need money, too. Or maybe we need our homes. But that don’t matter to the billionaires and the politicians. You’ll see when they show up with the police next week to give our home to Mr. Bruce Ratner.”

Although eminent domain has yet to be invoked formally in the Atlantic Yards proposal, the threat of eminent domain HAS been invoked already, and Ratner has been intimidating people in the footprint to sell out based on this threat.

“Brooklyn Beer is in with some bad company. And they favor putting Freddy’s Bar, one of their most loyal customers out of business. We at the show hope Steve Hindy will educate himself as to what eminent domain means to each of its victims, and to the families of each of its victims, and will turn around and support the people of Brooklyn instead of one greedy billionaire. After what I have personally experienced in Raymertown and in Troy, NY. it is clear to me that he will have at least a few deaths on his conscience, and we are hoping to turn him around and save him from a life of regret at his uninformed decision to support the Atlantic Yards project and it’s inhuman tactics.”

Sabine Aronowsky, 917-370-8268 Sabine13@gmail.com http://www.brooklynvsbush.com/

Posted by amy at 1:30 PM

A Pay Cut for Public Office?


New York Observer Politicker discusses Hakeem Jeffries possible run for Roger Green's seat:

On the stadium proposal, Jeffries told the Politicker, "It’s going to be incumbent upon the people who really care about the community as I do, to figure out how we can find a principled resolution, a principled compromise that recognizes that there are legitimate arguments being made on both sides of the equation."

Jeffries confirmed that he will work with people on both sides of this issue, and admires the recent actions of Letitia James on behalf of activists.

"There is a problem with the scale and size of the development that’s being proposed and the strain that it is going to create on social service delivery in the community," he continued. "There are issues with eminent domain that I think are not just being discussed locally but there's a national debate as to how eminent domain should be used when it's questionable how much public benefit will inure. When a private developer is behind the use of eminent domain there are concerns there that I have. I think there are also concerns that I have in terms of the strength of the community benefits agreement."


NoLandGrab: Just to snarkily clarify, the Observer means "Atlantic Yards Proposal," which does not include a stadium, when they say "stadium proposal."

Posted by amy at 1:11 PM


New York Post:

Time is money — and court delays to a planned NBA arena in Brooklyn are costing developer Bruce Ratner a small fortune, project executives say in affidavits.

The state and Forest City Ratner officials are pleading to the courts to reverse a recent legal decision they say has brought the $3.5 billion project "to a screeching halt."
Ratner claims in court papers to be spending a whopping $2.5 million a month on the property his company has already acquired — "a figure that does not include legal fees and also does not include the operating losses that the Nets basketball team [that Ratner owns] . . . continues to incur."


Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

Albany is among seizure targets

Albany Times Union:

Some eminent domain cases in New York. Many, however, have stalled or haven't gotten to the point where property has actually been condemned:

New York: Developer Bruce Ratner wants city help to acquire 21 acres of homes and businesses in a Brooklyn neighborhood for a new Nets basketball stadium and residential, retail and office development.


Posted by amy at 11:45 AM


Brooklyn Papers:

“[Further] delay would subject FCR to severe, irreparable harm,” Stuckey wrote in the affidavit. “These losses would be devastating … and could jeopardize the project.”

Taken together, the two affidavits give the impression that the opponents’ first of several expected legal challenges might make the Atlantic Yards as wobbly as the Knicks defense.

“Stuckey said any delay would jeopardize the project and now the ESDC is using the term ‘screeching halt,’” said Jeff Baker, lawyer for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the lead plaintiff in the suit.

“That’s financial Armageddon for Ratner.”


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM



Brooklyn Papers:

Pugliese estimates that his union will get 10,000 jobs at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards megadevelopment — which won Ratner union support.

“The construction industry has sway over elected officials and its support [of the project] has a major impact,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights), who opposes the Atlantic Yards project.

NoLandGrab: Interesting that the Brooklyn Papers is reporting 10,000 construction jobs when they (and Pugliese) pointed out in their June 26, 2004 issue that "the project will really only create 1,500 construction jobs, which will continue each year for 10 years."


Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

Redefining Economic Development

Gotham Gazette:

But Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, is very clear on the practical uses for a new economic development blueprint. The Fifth Avenue Committee is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop Bruce Ratner from demolishing six buildings en route to building the Nets stadium and hundreds of commercial and residential units over Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn.

What de la Uz envisions is a set of standards for job creation, environmental impact, buy-in from the surrounding area, etc. that the city or a private developer could be held to whenever they planned to use public resources. In her opinion such a standard would have set a much higher bar for Ratner to clear before he was able to pursue the Nets Arena project. The surrounding neighborhood, in de la Uz’s opinion, would have had “real” community benefit “guarantees” instead of what she considers to be the highly questionable and unenforceable promises for job creation and affordable housing that Ratner was able to negotiate.


Norman Oder asks, "Was the Atlantic Yards plan just a few years too soon for economic development groups to get organized?" Check out TimesRatnerReport for an analysis.

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

February 24, 2006

Public Debate: Kelo and its Consequences

Should homeowners fear the Supreme Court’s decision?

Scott Bullock vs. Michael Dorf

The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation presents a debate:

Scott Bullock
Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
Counsel to Susette Kelo in her Supreme Court case


Michael Dorf
Columbia University School of Law
Author, "No Litmus Test: Law and Politics in the 21st Century"

Harvey Shapiro
Contributing Editor, Institutional Investor

March 14th
6:30 P.M. Prompt
(FREE and open to the public - Reception to follow)

RSVP for this event at www.thesmithfamilyfoundation.org.

The Graduate Center
The City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue, NY
(Corner of 34th St. & 5th Ave.)

Co-Sponsor: The Federalist Society New York Lawyers Chapter

Last year’s Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London drew much attention. It held that the state’s eminent domain power can be used to take private property from home and small business owners and turn it over to another private party for private commercial development. By reading the Fifth Amendment’s “public use” broadly, the Court created unlikely political allies of poor/minority advocates and property rights libertarians. This coalition has taken their case to the states and is advancing restrictions on what Kelo allowed. Should democratically elected representatives alone be able to decide what is “public use?” Will this decision become the preferred tool that well-connected developers use against disenfranchised communities?

Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Conspiracy Corner: Municipal Government Colluding With Developers to Shut Out Poor?

Daily Heights

One question in the debates over the Atlantic Yards proposal is how thousands of new units of luxury housing may affect the social demographics of the neighborhood. Do we even know if these impacts are being studied in consideration of all the other luxury housing that is already under construction?

Some folks on the DailyHeights message board take it a step further and contemplate the possibility of a government conspiracy against the poor. One participant's suspicions are hardened when the developer and government agency share the same lawyer, as in the case of Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation.


NoLandGrab: The rationale for the argument that there's a conspiracy against the poor presented in the DailyHeights message board isn't unassailable, but certainly NYC is doing a better job at alleviating the housing crunch for the rich than for the poor.

The picture gets more complicated when one wonders if the affordable housing negotiated by ACORN for Atlantic Yards will be enough, soon enough, or it it will even be built on site. Affordable housing units, using goals that are established by regional (not local) median household income figures, are not scheduled to be built until Phase II of the project, which could be more than a decade away.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Zoning stasis (for 45 years), the local downzoning push, and the Atlantic Yards bypass


Zoning regulations in New York City have been neglected for decades. One result is that residents find their historic neighborhoods miscast, when new "as-of-right" development is incongurous with the rest of the neighborhood.

This has led to a move to downzone neighborhoods like South Park Slope, Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. Next up for consideration is Fort Greene.

How does this affect Bruce Ratner's plans to build Atlantic Yards? Not at all, since New York State is overriding local zoning. But remember, the density in Ratner's plan will have an effect on surrounding neighborhoods.

Looking on the bright side:

"Brooklyn has been complacent," observed architectural historian Andrew Dolkart, who noted that the last sizable historic district in Brooklyn was established in 1982. "If nothing else good comes out of Atlantic Yards," he said, "it will be that people have woken up to the fact" that they must much more closely consider the built environment.


Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

New York Wonders: An Island Fit for What?

The NY Times
By Nicolai Ouroussoff

Some see the Bloomberg administration's hemming and hawing over Governor's Island as an indication that City government is out of practice when it comes to planning. Forget red tape, is it possible that nothing is even conceived in NYC until it's been turned over to a large developer?

In asking developers to take the lead, government officials risk quashing creativity at the outset. More broadly, their appeal raises questions about how American cities — New York in particular — are approaching large-scale urban development these days, handing over enormous swaths of public land to private interests. In the past, such a process tended to favor conventional design solutions.


Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Knicks' Air of Desperation Thickens With Francis Deal

The NY Sun

An article about the laundry list of Knicks woes posits:

Nets owner Bruce Ratner is probably trying to see if he can get his team into Brooklyn as soon as possible to capitalize on the hoops ennui that has gripped local fans who haven't decamped for other teams and is set to continue into the next decade.


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

FCE in the News

Today's headlines covering Bruce Ratner's parent company, Forest City Enterprises, features a deal in San Francisco and casino profit projections in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Slots revenue forecast looks high to some
San Francisco Examiner, Deal afoot to buy Metreon

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

February 23, 2006

The Underberg Is Falling Down

The Real Estate Observer

Reporter Matthew Schuerman has learned that Forest City Ratner could start demolishing the Underberg building as early as Monday if Brooklyn's biggest developer receives a permit from the NYC Department of Buildings.

But they better hurry. Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project will get another chance to delay the demolitions of several buildings—the Underberg will be just the first--when they file a motion for a preliminary injunction March 1, according to Candace Carponter, spokeswoman for the opposition group Develop—Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. That preliminary injunction, if successful, would forestall all tear-downs until a full hearing the week of March 13.


Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Hevesi calls for boost in powers

Comptroller wants more oversight of public authorities, which he claims abuse rules

Albany Times Union
By Rick Karlin

Alan Hevesi is the latest NY State politician trying to reign in the power of the quasi-governmental public/private authorities, like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). These public authorities function as agents of the government, sometimes even issuing debt, but operate with the autonomy and independence of a private corporation.

While oversight of public authorities was strengthened earlier this year, Hevesi said there are still gaps, as contracts by these authorities don't have to undergo the same review required of state agencies.

"We have completed dozens of audits that show that too often public authorities are not following the rules when awarding contracts and are wasting public dollars," said Hevesi.

The state's 255 public authorities and subsidiaries, which maintain bridges, foster scientific research, run convention centers and finance construction, have also been criticized as a "shadow government," with unelected leadership. All told, they employ more than 100,000 people and have amassed an estimated $125 billion in debt.


Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM


The NY Press
By Steven McCauley

A short list of alternatives to Mayor Bloomberg's vision for Governor's Island includes this one that's not so nice:

Invite Bruce Ratner and the Dolans to build something there. Then when they arrive for the ground breaking, just sink the whole damn island. Nitro, C4, Acme-brand TNT; whatever it takes.


Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

February 22, 2006

Judge refuses injunction, demolitions to start soon

A judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order to block demolitions before a hearing scheduled on the matter on March 1. The Daily News is reporting that Ratner could start demolitions as early as next Monday.

The NY Daily News, First building block to Yards set for raze

Posted by lumi at 9:43 AM

nolandgrab - could you clarify please?

Sorry to say, NoLandGrabbers don't check DailyHeights as often as they should, otherwise the discussion around one reader's confusion over last Friday's super-post on the luxury-housing market would not have gone on so long.

Thanks to everyone who explained how a drop in the luxury-housing market would not necessarily cause Bruce Ratner to lose his shirt on the deal, and that a "Bruce Ratner white elephant" means that taxpayers are likely to pick up the tab, with municipal and state agencies becoming tenants (thus subsidizing the project on the back end, even though the project has already received every subsidy available on the front end).

Basically, the lack of demand for Class A office space has forced Ratner to convert much of the planned office space to luxury condos (he has reserved the option to change that back). A subsequent drop in the luxury housing market would not leave much flexibility regarding the financial health of the project. A nationwide increase in construction costs, related to demand for labor and materials to rebuild the Gulf Coast, could make things even worse.

The point isn't that opponents of the project are contradicting themselves, debating affordable vs. luxury housing and gentrification vs. diversity. As Councilwoman Letitia James likes to say, these are "false dichotomies."

Keeping an eye on market forces and Ratner's changing configuration of the project (BTW: Ratner hasn't released the profit projections that accompanied his MTA bid for the railyards) makes Brooklynites as concerned as Ratner must be about the economic success of the biggest private project in the history of Brooklyn.

Ratner is known for making bold moves, but what is the risk to him if the projects are heavily subsidized and eventually are "carried" by the public until market forces are more favorable?

These issues and questions must be taken into consideration when pondering the big question: do the project's benefits outweigh it's negative impacts?

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

The C.B.A. Tourney

The Real Estate Observer's Matthew Schuerman provides a glance at two local Community Benefits Agreements. In the red corner, we have Forest City Ratner, and in the blue corner, The Related Companies.

While you are checking it out, keep in mind that the devil, as always, is in the details.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Where streets are paved with mud

Local businesses fear eminent domain abuse as city plans to redevelop ‘Iron Triangle’

By Patrick Arden

Willets Point Eminent DomainLong ignored by the city, basic services like paved streets and sewers have been scarce in Willets Point, Queens. But plans to build a new ballpark for the Mets include redevelopment of the surrounding area, making it the next New York neighborhood to be placed under the threat of eminent domain.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation estimates it will have to spend $214 million to relocate 80 businesses from a 75-acre area, mostly through eminent domain. Yesterday Monserrate accused the city of lowballing that figure, putting total businesses at “approximately 250.” A local business group, the Willets Point Association, claims 284 members. In an effort to nail down hard numbers, Monserrate’s office is working on a formal economic survey of the area with Hunter College professor Tom Angotti.


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Mr. Eisner Builds Dream TV Backdrop

Frank Gehry Wall Street Journal Frank Gehry Designs a Set For the Disney Ex-Chief; Warming the Titanium

The Wall Street Journal
February 11, 2006; Page A1
By Joe Hagan

Ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner asked Architect Frank Gehry to design the set of his new CNBC talk show.

The day after Christmas, before the CNBC show was even announced, Mr. Eisner phoned Mr. Gehry. "I said to him, 'What would you do?' " recalls Mr. Eisner.

"He immediately said: 'Titanium.'"


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Ratner Foes See Victory in 'Loss'

The Village Voice, Power Plays
By Jarret Murphy

On a first glance at the ruling handed down last week, it seemed they lost. Justice Carol R. Edmead rejected the request for a stay of demolition.

But over at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, they saw it as a win, because Justice Edmead sided with the opponents on the issue of David Paget, a lawyer for ESDC who has also worked for Forest City Ratner. DDDB saw a conflict, and so did the judge:


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

February 21, 2006

States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes

The NY Times
By John Broder

In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.
The issue is not whether governments can condemn private property to build a public amenity like a road, a school or a sewage treatment plant. That power is explicit in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, provided that "just compensation" is paid. The conflict arises over government actions to seize private homes or businesses as part of a redevelopment project that at least partly benefits a private party like a retail store, an apartment complex or a football stadium.

"It's open season on eminent domain," said Larry Morandi, a land-use specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Bills are being pushed by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and they're passing by huge margins."


Posted by lumi at 11:44 AM

Demolitions timeline: what do "emergency" and "immediate" mean?


Super Norman Oder goes through court filings to piece together how Forest City Ratner got the go-ahead to start demolition before the project has been finally apprpoved or rejected.

The nagging question in the minds of Brooklynites is, if the buildings are so decrepit as to require "emergency" demolition, then why have no moves been taken to safeguard the public during the past year? Or, is this just a ploy where Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are exploiting a technicality in the State Environmental Quality Review Act?

TimesRatnerReport tries to make sense of it all.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Artist's Electronic Pedestrians To Take a Hike

walkingbruce.jpgThe NY Sun
By Jill Gardiner

Officials with the Public Art Fund told The New York Sun last summer that there is no link between the electronic "Bruce," comprising a series of orange blinking diodes, and the owner of Forest City Ratner, Bruce Ratner.

Yeah, sure... He's brought to you by "Bruce," his name is "Bruce" and he's gone by the end of the week.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

February 20, 2006

Meadowlands mess requires intervention

New Jersey Star-Ledger points out that your neon lights may not shine for you, Xanadu, and that the Nets staying put until at least 2010 compounds the problem.


Posted by amy at 1:19 PM

Owners, private bidders up in arms over seizures


Four years ago, Syracuse power plant owner Adam Victor sized up the lucrative New York City electricity market and proposed building a generating station to help serve it. He found what he thought was the perfect location: a rundown parcel of industrial land on the Brooklyn waterfront whose owner was willing to sell. The plan then hit a major obstacle. The Bloomberg administration, working on a 175-block rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, said it wanted to create a park in the same location.

The city's move was, essentially, game over. Even though Mr. Victor has dropped $15 million in environmental, design and legal fees, he is likely to lose his courtroom challenge because of the city's power of eminent domain, the arcane doctrine that lets governments seize land. "Eminent domain is a draconian solution that should be used only for roads and other public infrastructure," Mr. Victor says. For decades, property seizures, known as "takings," have prompted long-shot fights like the one he is waging. Until recently, eminent domain was largely an obscure political issue. It is now the subject of a national debate over the rights of property owners. Eminent domain is used in New York for real estate projects that help generate jobs, raise property values and rebuild struggling neighborhoods. But it can be a severe hardship for those who get caught in its gears.

Home economics

Interest has intensified since last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that officials in a seaside Connecticut city could raze a woman's home to make way for a pharmaceutical research plant.      The court, which long ago affirmed invocation of eminent domain for public works, set a new precedent in Kelo v. New London by approving a private project that officials argued would rejuvenate an economically depressed area.

In Washington, Congress is threatening to cut some forms of federal funding to any local government that uses eminent domain on behalf of a private developer. A bill that passed the House last fall could cost New York City $240 million a year, and other municipalities throughout the state could lose a total of $60 million. The New York state Legislature is also considering clamping down. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, has submitted a bill that would reinforce individual property rights. "Nobody who's a victim of eminent domain likes it," Mr. Brodsky says. "After the ability to execute and incarcerate, this is the third-biggest power we give to government."

The Bloomberg administration, which is trying to jump-start dormant or underdeveloped neighborhoods, has a lot at stake in the proposed congressional ban. Land takings are involved in some of the most prominent developments in the city. The list of projects includes the New York Times Co.'s new headquarters on Eighth Avenue, Hudson Yards on the far West Side, Columbia University's expanded campus in West Harlem, Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn, and Willets Point and downtown Jamaica, in Queens.

The little guys

In the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, developer Forest City Ratner has reached deals to buy out many residents and business owners whose property it needs. But Daniel Goldstein, who owns a condominium on a block that Forest City wants to use for a basketball arena, refuses to sell. He says he will hold out as long as it takes to make the point that big developers should not benefit at the expense of individuals.

A locksmith who was displaced in Times Square by the New York Times project says that business has dropped in his new location two blocks away. Taghi "Teddy" Pazooki says his relocation cost him $60,000. He resisted the state's offer for seven months but finally settled for $14,000. After paying lawyers' fees and taxes, Mr. Pazooki was left with $4,000. Lisa Bova-Hiatt, deputy chief corporation counsel for New York City and the lawyer who handles all eminent domain takings, concedes that the process can be unpleasant. "Nobody wants to have their property acquired through eminent domain, but [government] always has the right to take it for a valid public purpose," Ms. Bova-Hiatt says. The process here has built-in safeguards, she says.

These protections include the requirement that the city successfully argue that an area is economically blighted before it seize land and turn it over to a private developer. A Kelo-type seizure could not happen in New York, she says. Ms. Bova-Hiatt argues that the use of eminent domain has resulted in enormous public good over the years. For example, she says the MetroTech office complex in downtown Brooklyn began the transformation of a district that was in a downward spiral and helped the borough attract its first large hotel in 30 years.

Many of New York City's most valuable development accomplishments--Lincoln Center, the World Trade Center, Stuyvesant Town, the restoration of Times Square--involved some degree of private pain, Ms. Bova-Hiatt says. "These are not the results of a municipality running wild," she adds. Mr. Victor, of course, believes that his dream of a power plant on the Brooklyn waterfront qualifies as a vital, beneficial project and that it is being blocked only by the city's heavy hand. "I am offended," he says. "Everybody in my industry has seen how I've been treated. None of them wants to come to New York City."


The nation's founders, having declared their independence from a grabby king, felt strongly about the government's power to seize people's property. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution makes it plain: The government shall not take private property without "just compensation." Here's a summary of the legal process governing the practice in New York state today. Compensation An independent appraiser is hired to set a price based on the property's present value, not on how valuable it might become.

Urban renewal

When eminent domain is used to create economic development, an independent planner must determine that the area at issue is blighted. Notice The government must serve notice to the property owner. Until 2004, officials could simply place a legal notice in a newspaper. They must now mail a letter directly to the owner. Review under city law City takings go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Public hearings are held at which anyone, including the property owner, can testify, though each person's testimony is limited to three minutes. Ultimately, the City Council, and sometimes the mayor, must approve the taking.

Review under state law State actions go before the Empire State Development Corp. and the Public Authorities Control Board. The latter includes representatives of the governor, Senate leader and Assembly speaker. Both ESDC and the control board must hold public hearings.

Court review After a taking by the city or the state is approved, property owners can object that they are not being offered enough. Objections are heard by the Appellate Division, a panel of state Supreme Court judges who review the public hearing testimony and make a final decision. No live testimony is allowed, and there is no jury.

Posted by amy at 1:08 PM

Six Reasons to Close the Streets / Not!


Brooklyn Views:

Last week, City Planning Chair Amanda Burden made a strong case for an open Cortlandt Street at the World Trade Center site. “We need our streets,” she said, “we need connectivity, we need an open Cortlandt Street for light and air and to create normal blocks”. But that’s Manhattan. Brooklyn is different. In Brooklyn, there are six reasons to close Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton.


Posted by amy at 1:00 PM

Nets foes foul out

Daily News declares war on Prospect Heights in a no holds barred 'ask not what Ratner can do for you, but what you can do for Ratner' editorial:

Sticking to the law rather than politics, Edmead said the development's opponents "have failed to allege a single valid deficiency" in the way state officials analyzed the danger posed by crumbling buildings, some of which have asbestos contamination. So out went the entire case except for a rather technical claim of a conflict that arises from the fact that an environmental lawyer working for the state agency overseeing the project once worked for Forest City.

The happy result is that the developer has moved a giant step closer to beginning the demolitions that are necessary for this vital $3.5 billion development. Let the bulldozing begin.


Posted by amy at 12:54 PM

February 19, 2006

Show Your Support for Chris Owens


Daily Gotham:

For Brooklyn's progressive Democrats, there is no political race this year more important than in the 11th District to succeed Congressman Major Owens.

We have an opportunity to elect someone who is courageous, bright, compassionate, articulate, a good listener, and a very good friend to us all – Chris Owens. Chris is right on the issues that we care about, and he is the ONLY one of the five declared candidates who has shown the foresight and the guts to oppose Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development scheme. Anybody who saw him debate his four opponents at the Lambda Independent Democrats meeting last month can tell you that no candidate is more outstanding than Chris Owens.

But Chris cannot get to Congress without our help. That’s why I’m inviting you to join Chris and his staff for a short get-together at Magnetic Field on Tuesday, February 21, at 7:00 pm. Chris will give a short speech and then answer any questions you may have for him. Please come out to see what you can do to help elect Chris, and please bring your checkbooks.


Posted by amy at 12:44 PM

Sunday Comix 2


Posted by amy at 12:30 PM

Sunday Comix


For the full clickable image, visit Develop Don't Destroy.

Posted by amy at 12:25 PM

State Agency’s Lawyer Disqualified; Proposed Demolitions Approved

Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Justice Edmead reportedly observed that the state environmental agency could potentially have a conflict with the developer because it is charged with protecting the environment and regulating individuals and corporations. She noted the appearance of impropriety created by the agency’s hiring of Ratner’s lawyer to review Ratner’s proposal.

“The outcome means that we are right in having continued skepticism of the objectivity and transparency in this approval process,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the lead plaintiff, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. He said the plaintiffs would consider whether to take further action in this matter.


Posted by amy at 12:06 PM

The Battle of the beer

Daily News:

"It's been known for quite some time that Hindy is desperate to be part of Ratner's hoped-for Brooklyn: bland high-rises, national-chain box stores and a paucity of small Brooklyn businesses…" Turner writes. "Hindy's support of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is so misguided, opportunistic, cruel and pathetic. Every Ratnerville ever built in America ignores small businesses, local flavor and the cool eccentricities of regional traditions."


And just in case your heartstrings are pulled by Hindy's business "being priced out of Williamsburg," you might be interested to know that he publicly supported the Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning that helped skyrocket the real estate prices in the area.

Some residents have fought new industrial plants and new residential towers. But Steve Hindy, owner of the Brooklyn Brewery on North 11th Street and a member of Community Board 1, said allowing towers was necessary. "There's a pretty large number of people in the community that are opposed to anything above five or six stories," he said. "But 30 years of saying no to housing proposals on the waterfront is what brought us the proposal for a garbage transfer station, which we were very lucky to defeat, and it's what brought us the proposal for the power plant, which we hope to defeat. So I hope people realize that they've got to say yes to something here."

Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

February 18, 2006

ESDC appeals decision, says loss of lawyer puts Atlantic Yards project on hold


Until the decision on February 14 disqualifying a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) because he previously worked on the Atlantic Yards project for developer Forest City Ratner, ESDC had planned to issue the Final Scoping Document--a prelude to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement--within 30 days.

Now, with the potential loss of attorney David Paget, "the order of the court below has brought the environmental review process respecting the Atlantic Yards project--and thus the project itself--to a screeching halt, since experienced outside counsel is required for a project of this nature," said ESDC attorney Douglas Kraus in a statement filed with the appeal of Justice Carol Edmead's decision.

What about finding a new lawyer? Well, said Kraus, relatively few such qualified counsel exist, and three are already working for other parties in this case: two for Forest City Ratner and one for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He asked for an expedited appeal "in the interest of fairness," and called for a schedule that would lead to an oral argument before the state appellate court during the week of March 6.


Posted by amy at 3:22 PM

Judge Gives Green Light to Ratner Demolition Project


DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein hailed the part of the decision to disqualify Paget.

“The burden is now on the ESDC and its chairman Charles Gargano to restore the public’s faith in the agency’s objectivity,” said Goldstein.

“Until that is done, we have every reason to view the ESDC, the developer, and the review process with skepticism,” he added.


Posted by amy at 3:14 PM

Nets seeking Jersey fallback option?

Field of Schemes:

Don't get all excited just yet (especially you, Marty), but the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that the New Jersey Nets are in "serious negotiations" to extend their lease at the Meadowlands should plans for a new arena in Brooklyn fall through. According to the paper, the lease extension would last until 2010, with options to extend it further; the $600 million Brooklyn arena is still officially planned to open in the fall of 2008, but faces community opposition and has yet to begin a months-long state land-use review. (And you also have to wonder what the Katrina Effect is doing to the price tag of the multi-billion-dollar Frank Gehry-designed development project that Nets owner Bruce Ratner has planned for the blocks adjacent to the arena.)


Posted by amy at 3:06 PM

Round One in the Atlantic Yards Project

Radio Gotham:

For more than a year, community groups have voiced their fierce opposition to a plan that would turn part of downtown Brooklyn into a 22-acre complex containing residential towers, a hotel and a sports arena. So they went to court against the developer. Each side won a little and lost a little, in what is sure to be a lengthy legal battle.

link to broadcast

Posted by amy at 3:00 PM

February 17, 2006

Beer war brewing


Brooklyn Papers:

This week, several opponents of Bruce Ratner’s arena, residential and commercial mega-project, called for the boycott, citing brewery owner Steve Hindy’s increasingly public support for the developer.

It started last week, when Hindy invited arena booster Borough President Markowitz, Ratner vice president Jim Stuckey, former NBA star Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins and four Nets cheerleaders to the brewery to watch the Nets-Cavaliers game on TV and open a few brewskies.

Days after the party, the blogosphere slammed Hindy, calling him a toady and suggesting that his Brooklyn Brown Ale should be called “Brown-Nose Ale” for the manner in which he was supposedly sucking up to Ratner, who already sells Hindy’s products at Nets home games in New Jersey.


Posted by amy at 7:48 PM

Ratner’s Yards pretty dense


Brooklyn Papers:

The architect, Johnathan Cohn, came up with the startling conclusion that the 17-acre residential and office village slated to surround Bruce Ratner’s proposed Nets arena would include as much built space, per acre, as the Ground Zero project, which will include more than 8 million square feet of office and commercial space plus the world’s tallest building, the Freedom Tower.

Cohn used a standard city zoning measurement called the floor-to-area ratio, or FAR, to compare Ground Zero’s bulk with that of Ratner’s 9.1-million-square-foot residential and commercial development.


Posted by amy at 7:43 PM


Brooklyn Papers:

But at one point, [Justice Carol R. Edmead] blasted Braun as “bone-headed” for claiming that Ratner did not even have to inform state authorities that he intended to demolish the buildings he owns.

And Baker scored points when he presented evidence showing that Ratner had filed a demolition plan months before his engineer declared the buildings an imminent danger.

But it was too little, too late; Edmead accepted Ratner’s argument that the demolition was legal because the buildings are at risk of immediate collapse.


Posted by amy at 7:37 PM

Nets seek to extend NJ lease

Brooklyn Papers:

Should Ratner get his lease extension, it could cost him dearly. According to the Star-Ledger, the state of New Jersey is seeking to eliminate a requirement that the state buy $750,000 of Nets tickets each year.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs the Meadowlands, may also ask the team to bear more game-day expenses, the paper reported.


Posted by amy at 7:31 PM

State Appealing for Right to Use Ratner Lawyer


The state economic development authority is appealing a judge's ruling that it had a "crippling" conflict of interest in its review of the proposed Nets arena and high rise complex in Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 7:29 PM

Will there be a demand for Ratner luxury housing in the future?

Could an ominous grouping of clouds presage a perfect storm of market forces that could put a damper on the need for Ratner's 2,800 luxury condos and 2,250 units of market-rate (aka luxury) rentals, on top of the thousands of units of luxury housing already in the pipeline in Brooklyn?

NoLandGrab: The growing concern is, if the Atlantic Yards project is approved and the bottom falls out of the luxury housing market, Ratner-Gehry luxury housing would be an enormous Forest City Ratner white elephant.

Posted by lumi at 11:14 AM

Eminent Domain: A Conflict Grows in Brooklyn

NJ Eminent Domain
By Bill Ward

The NJ Eminent Domain blog posts a legal update and analysis of Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

Concerning Judge Edmead's ruling for the plaintiff on grounds of conflict of interest, Bill Ward cites the New York State Code of Professional Responsibility and connects the dots to Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion in the case of Kelo v. New London.

From the NYS Code of Professional Responsibility:

A lawyer shall not continue multiple employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment on behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the lawyer’s representation of another client, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests.

From Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion:

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


NoLandGrab: If Judge Edmead's ruling stands, then David Paget's representation of both Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation could be deemed a conflict of interest and be used to ilustrate the "impermissible favoritism" that Justice Kennedy clearly states as legal area of concern in an eminent domain condemnation benefitting a private party.

This may explain why the Empire State Development Corporation (in "collaboration" with Forest City Ratner) has decided to appeal the ruling, at the risk of more bad press and publicity.

Posted by lumi at 10:41 AM

NLG Raps: Jay-Z seeks tracks for new Nets "theme"


Def Jam honcho Jay-Z needs a theme song for his New Jersey Nets, the NBA franchise he owns with real-estate developer Bruce Ratner.

This week Jay launched a contest that will give novice rappers a chance to write and record the tune. If you win the competition, co-sponsored by Sprite and New York radio station Hot 97, you'll get a chance to hang with Jay and perform the cut at a Nets home game. A recorded version of the track will also go out over the PA at all the team's home-court showdowns. Submissions will be accepted through March 5 and must be recorded on either a CD or cassette tape. More information on where to send your track can be found at Hot 97's Web site and www.whosnextsonline.com.

NoLandGrab: Look for a submission from Eminem Domain.

You're gonna...
Lose your house! Face the music! You've blown it!
You think you "own" it, but you better let it go, go!
You only get one shot -- now the city needs its chance to grow
So with impunity, we can fuck your life up, yo...

Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Onward & Upward

The Real Estate Observer on the Empire State Development Corporation's appeal on the conflict-of-interest ruling:

An E.S.D.C. spokeswoman was not able to confirm the move or comment immediately, but Goldstein said he thought the agency was just inviting bad publicity. “Why are they going to the mat to defend this guy?” he told us. “This guy” being David Paget, who represented developer Forest City Ratner and then, on Ratner’s request, was hired by E.S.D.C. to advise on the environmental review process.


The move to appeal was carried by The NY Times in Metro Briefs (see, "STATE WILL APPEAL LAWYER'S DISQUALIFICATION").

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Judge Fires Ratner Lawyer!

Dope on the Slope on the judge's order to the Empire State Development Corporation to drop its outside counsel:

David Paget

This is just the first of what are likely to be numerous legal challenges to the ill-conceived project, which Ratner is hoping to shove down the throats of Brooklyn taxpayers before they know what hit them, AND before his investors get skittish. Look for an increasing sense of urgency and panic in their PR in the coming months. Use of words like "naysayer" and "obstructionist" will increase as they seek to recharacterize the legitimate concerns of Brooklyn residents and taxpayers as a barrier to "progress." I don't think it will work though.

To parphrase the Rolling Stones...tiiiiiiiiiiime is on our side.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

The Brooklyn Beer Rebellion

sixpoint.jpgDope on the Slope switches to Six Point Rebellion after his April Fools joke backfires:

Last year around April Fool's I posted a jest that the Brooklyn Brewery had signed an exclusive deal with Forest City Ratner to be the preferred suds vendor for the proposed arena. I claimed they were going to whip up a very special "Slam Dunkel" lager to celebrate the occasion.

Apparently it was no joke.


Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Feisty Forum

The feisty Daily Heights Forum is hosting an Atlantic Yards discussion that starts with the Brian Lehrer show and quickly moves to push polling, Judge Edmead's ruling and the Brooklyn Brewery boycott.

JamesOnDean has some insight into push polling:

Having worked for such a polling place in college, I can say that often they're the equivalent of the Jedi Mind Trick.


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Four-Letter Acronyms Exchange Four-Letter Words

By Nik Kovac

At issue are up to thirteen buildings on Atlantic Avenue and on Pacific and Dean streets in Prospect Heights. FCRC wants to demolish them all ASAP, and the ESDC has already given its approval. DDDB, along with seventeen neighborhood co-plaintiffs with names like AABA, EPBA, PHAC, PACC, SFCH, DSBA and PCDC are crying foul.


Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

February 16, 2006

DDDb, Press Release:
Empire State Development Corporation to Appeal Decision to Disqualify Conflicted Attorney David Paget from Review of Ratner's "Atlantic Yards"

Move By ESDC Raises Serious Questions About Its Desire to Retain Lawyer So Roundly Rebuked by Justice Carol Edmead on Tuesday

MANHATTAN, NY - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Inc. (DDDB) was informed today that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will appeal the ruling of the Honorable Carol Edmead (Justice New York County Supreme Court) that disqualified its attorney, David Paget, from representing the ESDC with regard to Forest City Ratner's (FCR) proposed "Atlantic Yards” development because of a clear conflict of interest. The conflict involves Mr. Paget's representation of Ratner for "Atlantic Yards" until October 2005 when he then began representing the ESDC on the same development proposal. Mr. Paget's firm, Sive, Paget and Riesel also represents Forest City Ratner on other matters. DDDB was notified that the ESDC will seek a stay from the Appellate Division of Justice Edmead's order directing replacement of ESDC counsel within 45 days, and will ask that the appeal be expedited.

After hearing oral argument on the issue this past Tuesday, Justice Edmead commented from the bench that Mr. Paget's continued representation of the ESDC gave a "severe, crippling appearance of impropriety", and could not be countenanced under the ethical rules of this State.

"You have to question why ESDC is fighting so hard to keep Mr. Paget after the court has found that there is a hopeless conflict between his representation of Ratner and ESDC, the agency charged with an objective review of the project, and the power to exercise eminent domain in the appropriate case. With so many attorneys available to the ESDC, why wouldn't it simply retain another attorney, and restore the public's faith that it is actually acting in the public's best interest, rather than as Ratner's collaborative partner?" said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

The decision by ESDC to appeal will require that DDDB and the community organizations that joined DDDB in this lawsuit to not only defend the court's determination to oust Mr. Paget, but also to defend the public's right to a fair and objective review by the ESDC when reviewing any proposed development in New York State.

"We initiated this litigation not just because of our deep concerns about the project proposed by Ratner, but also because the environmental review process, as executed by the ESDC, is stacked so heavily in favor of developers, and against community," said DDDB legal chair Candace Carponter. "We are optimistic that the Appellate Division will agree with Justice Edmead that 'business as usual' at the ESDC is no longer acceptable when it comes to sharing attorneys with developers."

DDDB and its co-plaintiffs are considering whether to appeal Justice Edmead's determination to allow demolition of certain buildings within the proposed project footprint to proceed–a determination based solely on a report submitted by FCR and reviewed by the conflicted lawyer, Mr. Paget.

For more on ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano and Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" visit: http://timesratnerreport.blogspot.com/2006/02/collaborative-arms-length-or-just.htmlhttp://timesratnerreport.blogspot.com/2006/02/collaborative-arms-length-or-just.html

All lawsuit related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigationhttp://www.dddb.net/litigation

Posted by lumi at 7:04 PM

Collaborative, arm's length, or just cheerleading? ESDC's Gargano embraces Ratner plan


Justice Edmead didn't buy Forest City Ratner's and the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) argument that the relationship between the parties is "collaborative."


ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano gives little cause for confidence. He recently said he knew nothing of any conflict of interest posed by the agency's lawyer, didn't know the agency rents space in a mall owned by Ratner, and endorsed the Atlantic Yards project without reservation, even before the environmental impact statement has been issued.

Norman Oder looks back at Gargano's past statements to illustrate how the ESDC — a public agency whose organizing principle is to do large projects without a lot of red tape — became Bruce Ratner's business partner.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

February 15, 2006

Judge Rules State Must Find New Lawyer in Ratner Case

WNYC News Radio

Andrea Bernstein has been closely following events surrounding Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal and explains why the demolition ruling went against neighborhood activists.

The developer says the buildings are unsafe and must be torn down. Area residents disagreed and went to court. But State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead say there was no basis in law for her to second guess the state economic development agency when it green-lighted the demolitions.


Posted by lumi at 11:38 PM

Marty's "Evolving" View on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz, running for re-election last fall, criticized the bulk of the proposed Atlantic Yards housing complex. We knew he was only joking, but thought the joke might last a bit longer

Click here for the punch line.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 PM

Hon. Justice Carol Edmead's Decision

gavelFor NoLandGrab addicts, primary-source junkies and land-use geeks, download your own personal copy of Hon. Justice Carol Edmead's Decision.

Posted by lumi at 11:30 AM

Ruling Encourages, Frustrates Atlantic Yards Factions

The ever snarky Curbed calls yesterday's ruling a "split decision" and posits:

While the OK on the demolition seems like a bigger deal, opponents feel they can use their win as a wedge to further claims that the whole ordeal has been shadier than the Gowanus Canal ... used to be.


Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

TimesRatnerReporting: Expanded coverage and digging through legal papers

TimesRatnerReport has expanded its article covering yesterday's hearing to include oral arguments, press links and some blow-by-blow accounts that explain why The NY Times decribed the hearing as "raucous."

Typical for Norman Oder, the investigative reporter goes digging through legal papers and affidavits filed by Ratner's side in yesterday's hearing, emerging with some cool tidbits.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Demolition Can Proceed for Brooklyn Arena Project

Nicholas Confessore's article in The NY Times spends the column inches necessary to explain the details of the suit and the Justice's ruling.

In an unusual move for a highly charged case turning on fine points of law, Justice Carol R. Edmead of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled from the bench immediately after a long and at times raucous hearing in a suit brought by opponents of the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The ruling hinged on the Justice's determination that the law did not give her the power to change the Empire State Development Corporation's determination that five Bruce Ratner-owned buildings may be demolished:

State law forbids developers to alter the site of any proposed project until it has been approved, but the law makes an exception for "emergency actions." Justice Edmead said that there was no basis for challenging the agency's determination that Forest City Ratner's buildings merited the exception, and that the agency was under no obligation to obtain an independent engineering review.

Jeff Baker, lawyer for the community groups, points out that the Justice's "conflict of interest" ruling:

...bolstered a potential future challenge to the agency's environmental review findings.

"It colors everything else," he said. If the agency's environmental impact statement is released quickly, he argued, it will be "per se tainted" by Mr. Paget's recent involvement. "If the final scope is lopsided, and says, for example, that we are not going to look at any other locations for the arena, then that process is tainted," he added.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Ratner aide, key buildings get heave-ho

The NY Daily News article by Elizabeth Hays covers the big conflict of interest when it's business as usual in NY State:

The Judge's ruling:

In an unprecedented move, Edmead disqualified a lawyer who has worked for both Ratner and now works for the state agency charged with approving the project.

"It's just so tainted in appearance," said Edmead, ordering high-powered lawyer David Paget "be removed as counsel effective immediately."

During the contentious hearing, Edmead lashed out at one of Ratner lawyer's reasoning calling it "bone-headed, stupid ...[and] killing trees to make a point.

"I would not rest my partner bonus on that," Edmead said.

Ratner views the relationship with NY State as a collaboration:

Ratner's lawyers argued the two sides worked "collaboratively" so it was not a problem that Paget worked first for the developer and then in September 2005 began advising the Empire State Development Corp. on the same project.

Opponents claim process is not "objective":

Opponents' attorney Jeffrey Baker said he was "disappointed" the buildings were not saved but applauded Paget's disqualification.

"It shows that the court is convinced that to date the process hasn't been as objective as it should have been," said Baker, who may appeal.


Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Conflict of interest in Ratner bid

Metro NY

Reporter Amy Zimmer focused on the Justice's conflict-of-interest ruling:

Underberg Building

Judge Carol Edmead of New York’s Supreme Court said Paget’s “dual role” had a “crippling effect” on the project’s public review process. The decision heartened Ratner foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and the 11 other groups that joined the lawsuit to halt the demolition of the buildings and to disqualify Paget.

“This dual representation [by Paget] explains the public cynicism of the body politic,” said Brooklyn City Councilwoman Leticia James, who represents the area and filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the plaintiffs. “It taints the integrity of the project.”

According to Jeffrey Braun, Ratner’s lawyer, “We knew the ESDC would hire Paget.” Braun called him the “pre-eminent environmental lawyer in New York,” and said Ratner hired him because “we felt he would get the process done most effectively.”

Judge Edmead was not persuaded.

“The ESDC essentially hired the sponsor’s current lawyer, at the sponsor’s expense, to assess the environmental ramifications of the sponsor’s project,” her decision read. “I do agree with the petitioner that objective public interest is not being met. It’s destructive to the public good.”


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM


The award for best headline in the opening legal salvo goes to the NY Post for Patrick Gallahue's coverage of yesterday's ruling:

While [Justice Edmead] refused to block the demolition of buildings within the Prospect Heights development site, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead chastised Ratner and his governmental partner, the Empire State Development Corp., for an apparent conflict of interest.

Attorney David Paget was paid $30,000 by Ratner for work unrelated to the Atlantic Yards project. At the same time, Paget worked on the project's environmental review for the state authority.


NoLandGrab: For clarification, the word is that Paget's firm is currently doing outside work for Ratner and billed about $27K (not $30K as the Post states).

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Opponents of Atlantic Yards Plan Say Court Ruling Is Auspicious

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Both sides of the debate have billed yesterday's hearing, which lasted about three hours, as the opening salvo in a protracted legal battle over the project's approval.

The Ratner reaction to the ruling allowing demolition to go ahead:

Yesterday, a lawyer representing Forest City Ratner, Jeffrey Braun, said the lawsuit was an attempt by the opponents to "hijack" the process. Mr. Braun said that the buildings must be demolished to mitigate a public safety threat and the need to avoid liability if they collapsed. He argued that it was within the rights of the developer to demolish the buildings.

Mr. Braun, said yesterday he was "very happy" with the court's decision to allow the demolition to continue. Mr. Braun said no date had been set for demolition but that the buildings are a public safety risk to the people who live and work in the area. The state will soon release a final scoping document outlining the parameters for an environmental impact statement.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Manhattan Judge Rules In Favor Of Developer In Nets Arena Case


Although community groups tried to stop him, the judge says Ratner has the right to tear down 5 buildings near the Atlantic Railyards. Ratner says they're unsafe while plaintiff's argued an independent evaluation should be required.

The buildings sit on land owned by Ratner. Asbestos removal is underway and with this victory, Ratner hopes to start demolition as early as next week.

"It's a relief to think that we're very close to demolishing these structures, which are a hazard to the people who work and live in the adjoining buildings," said Jeffrey Braun, an attorney for Ratner.

There was a victory for the dozen community groups that banded together against Ratner. They were able to get a lawyer removed from the case.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

February 14, 2006

Press Release: State Court Judge Rules ESDC and Ratner Lawyer Have Conflict of Interest

DDDB and Co-Plaintiffs Win Case to Disqualify Lawyer Representing Ratner and ESDC

MANHATTAN, NY - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and twelve co-plaintiffs won a major victory in State Supreme Court today. Honorable Justice Carol Edmead enjoined the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to dismiss its retained attorney David Paget who had a clear conflict of interest as he was representing both Forest City Ratner and the public corporation charged with an objective review of the developer's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal.

Justice Edmead ruled that to protect the public interest Mr. Paget must immediately be removed from providing services to the ESDC on the proposed project. The judge stated that by continuing to retain counsel with a clear conflict of interest would harm the public interest and have a "crippling" effect on the integrity of the review process.

"The burden is now on the ESDC, and its Chairman Charles Gargano, to restore the public's faith in the agency's objectivity. Until that is done we have every reason to view the ESDC, the developer, and the review process with skepticism," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

On January 18th when the suit was filed, Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano said he was unaware of any problem. "I don't know whether we are using the same lawyer," said Gargano to the Daily News. "I don't know of any conflict."

DDDB legal committee chair Candace Carponter said, "The agency is supposed to have an arms length relationship with Forest City Ratner; today's decision shows that instead ESDC and Ratner have been tied in a tight embrace leaving the public out in the cold. ESDC and Ratner vigorously defended their right to share lawyers claiming that they are supposed to have a collaborative relationship. The judge didn't buy it."

The judge ruled that Ratner could demolish six buildings in the "Atlantic Yards" proposed footprint. DDDB was seeking an injunction on the demolitions arguing that the ESDC's declaration of emergency­that the buildings are an imminent threat to public safety and should be demolished­was based on nothing but a questionable report from the developer's engineer, without the requisite independent "hard look" by the state agency. Ratner's engineer did not file an affidavit swearing to his findings on the buildings. The demolition approval was made under the watch of the same lawyer, Mr. Paget, whom the judge ruled had a clear conflict of interest. Additionally Forest City Ratner drew up demolition plans for the buildings in question eight months before their structural engineer determined the buildings required demolition.

"We disagree with the Court's decision on the demolitions," said Goldstein. "We believe that Ratner's public safety claims warranting demolition, for most of the buildings, are a sham. If the buildings are near collapse and a threat to the public why are there no warning signs posted on the buildings and no public protection measures like sidewalk sheds?"

Over the next few days DDDB and co-plaintiffs will consider further action including appeal.

Carponter concluded, "our victory today and the judge's scathing rebuke of the ESDC's defense of its conflicted attorney shows that business as usual is bad business."

Posted by lumi at 7:11 PM

Brooklyn beer boycott on tap

Bar that’s epicenter of anti-arena fervor mulls not serving suds from pro-Nets brewer

By Amy Zimmer


Freddy’s Bar & Backroom — a dive joint in the footprint of where Bruce Ratner wants to build a $3.5 billion basketball arena and residential high-rises — has become the epicenter for opponents of the project.

That’s why bartender Bleu-Jasmine Liverpool faces a quandary: Brooklyn Lager, the bar’s top seller, is produced by the Brooklyn Brewery, whose owner Steven Hindy is pro-arena and hosted a party last week for Ratner officials and Borough President Marty Markowitz that included New Jersey Nets dancers.


Posted by lumi at 4:13 PM

Boycott Brooklyn Brewery

"Hey, barkeep, whattya got beside Brooklyn Lager?"

The hometown brewery isn't as homegrown as you think. Fans For Fair Play makes the case for boycotting Brooklyn Brewery.

Posted by lumi at 3:51 PM

Judge won't block demolitions, disqualifies ESDC lawyer who worked for Ratner


Breaking news on the judge's ruling on the first lawsuit filed in the Atlantic Yards fight:

After a lively and contentious three-hour hearing today, Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead denied a lawsuit by Atlantic Yards plan opponents to stop developer Forest City Ratner from demolishing five properties within the project footprint. Edmead also gave those opponents a partial victory, ruling that David Paget, a lawyer reviewing the project for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), should be removed from the case because he formerly worked on the project for Forest City Ratner. Lawyers did not immediately announce an appeal, though Edmead as much as invited one on the latter issue.
Edmead enjoined the ESDC from taking further action that requires Paget's services until new counsel is engaged, within 45 days. However, she also said from the bench, "I don't doubt that the court's determination may not stand, but I believe the objective public interest standard has not been met. Paget should not be in a dual role. It has such a severe, crippling appearance of impropriety."


Posted by lumi at 2:30 PM

Brooklyn Community Groups Appear In Court To Block Nets Arena



Brooklyn community groups are in court Tuesday, fighting plans for a new Nets stadium in their neighborhood.

A hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court could bring a stop to the demolition of six buildings near the Atlantic Rail Yards.

A dozen community groups have banded together against developer Forest City Ratner. They're also trying to get a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation thrown off the case.

David Paget is responsible for giving environmental approval to start the project.

But the coalition of groups claim Paget has a conflict of interest because he once represented Forest City Ratner.

The buildings in question stand in the footprint of a new basketball arena for the Nets.

Posted by lumi at 2:06 PM

In Ratner's Shadow: Caroline Gleeman

WNYC, News Radio

Reporter Andrea Bernstein's series about artist being displaced in Ratner's footprint leads to jewelry designer Croline Gleeman's moving day at 475 Dean St.


Posted by lumi at 1:40 PM

Forest City Ratner Begins to Push the Design Envelope

New York Construction
By Alex Padalka

When it first began its real estate development efforts two decades ago, Forest City Ratner Cos. made its name with standard, profitable projects - shopping malls, movie theaters, and office buildings that while functional and practical, did not break architectural ground.

That changed in 2001 when the developer joined forces with the New York Times Co. to design the newspaper's new headquarters building that would also house speculative office space for Forest City. They hired a world-famous architect - Italy's Renzo Piano - to design his first building in New York City


Posted by lumi at 1:00 PM

February 13, 2006

Day in Court for Plaintiffs Suing Forest City Ratner and The Empire State Development Corporation

Hearing on a Preliminary Injunction

Tuesday, February 14th. 9:30am Supreme Court of the State of New York 60 Centre Street, ROOM #228 Manhattan*

Plaintiffs Seek Injunction on Developer's Proposed Building Demolitions and Disqualification of Conflicted Attorney Who Rubber-stamped Demolition Approval

Tomorrow, February 14th, over a dozen plaintiffs will have their day in court–New York County Supreme Court–at a hearing on a preliminary injunction on six building demolitions by Forest City Ratner (FCR) in the developer's proposed "Atlantic Yards" footprint. The suit was filed on January 18th against FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The suit also seeks the disqualification of ESDC's attorney David Paget for a conflict of interest–Mr. Paget represents the state agency charged with conducting an objective environmental review and approval process on the "Atlantic Yards" proposal, while he has also represented FCR on the very same "Atlantic Yards" proposal. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Paget rubber-stamped the developer's legally necessary request to demolish buildings without taking a "hard look" at the condition of the buildings in question.

Plaintiffs question the need for demolition, and seek an injunction on the demolitions until the ESDC takes the "hard look" mandated by law. To date the developer has not allowed an independent review of the buildings in question, refusing to allow analysis by an independent structural engineer.

In the past week South Brooklyn Legal Services joined the lawsuit as counsel for four low-income tenants who live in the proposed footprint. Additionally City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Congressman Major Owens filed an amicus, "friend of the court," brief in support of the plaintiffs.

All information and documents regarding the lawsuit can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

WHAT: Court Date for hearing on a preliminary injunction on the lawsuit filed January 18th by:
Develop Don't Destroy
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
Fort Greene Association
Boerum Hill Association
Fifth Avenue Committee
East Pacific Block Association
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Pratt Area Community Council
Society For Clinton Hill
Dean Street Block Association (4th To 5th Ave.)
Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council
Pacific Carlton Development Corp.

Supreme Court of the State of NY
60 Centre Street in Manhattan. ROOM #228

Tuesday. February 14. 9:30 AM

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition

fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. http://www.developdontdestroy.orgwww.developdontdestroy.org

Posted by lumi at 1:44 PM

Keep on pushin'

According to Bruce Ratner push polling pays. Why else would he turn again to this telemarketing tool, perfected in the hardball world of political campaigning?

For some, push polling is plain irritating. For others it's the perfect opportunity to educate Canadians on the pronunciation of last names of some of our elected officials.

This warning about Bruce Ratner's latest hearts-and-minds campaign was posted on Sunday to a local listserve by a Clinton Hill resident who was contacted around 10 am:

Listmembers might be interested to know that Ratner is sponsoring a push-poll for Brooklynites that's focused on the stadium issue.

I got a phone call this morning putatively asking my opinion about the development of Atlantic Yards, but clearly offering "information" that would convince me that this development was the best thing for Brooklyn since the Bridge (e.g. "Were you aware that the development will bring x many new jobs to Brooklyn? Does that change you opinion" etc., etc.).

The firm they were using had people calling from Quebec -- I asked the woman who was surveying me where she was, having been tipped off by her inability to pronounce "borough," "Pataki," and "Markowitz."

These kind of dirty tricks are pretty typical of political campaigns, particularly on the ideological right. Not much we can do about it, but it's clear that Ratner's nervous about the future of the Atlantic Yards project, and this is another attempt on his part to win hearts and minds.

NoLandGrab: What part of "Jobs, Housing and Hoops" includes outsourcing jobs to Canada?

Posted by lumi at 11:20 AM

Eminent domainia! Cheney vic, battling ed abuse

This comment about VP Cheney's shooting victim from The Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

[Harry Whittington, Esq.] is an Austin, Texas, lawyer currently fighting a battle against his hometown, which has attempted to condemn a downtown block he and his family own to build a parking garage. That’s right, according to the Austin American-Statesmen, Cheney’s hunting buddy is one of the crusaders battling against the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo decision, in which the Court allowed private eminent domain “takings” for economic development purposes.

Justice Scalia, Cheney’s other hunting buddy and a dissenter in Kelo, would be proud.

Posted by lumi at 10:58 AM

In Ratner's Shadow

Part I: The Creative Sector

By Andrea Bernstein

On Dean Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, there’s a six-story factory building from the turn of the last century. Its walls are brick and stone, the window frames are made of huge swathes of green metal. The building has been emptied now, by developer Forest City Ratner. Ratner wants to build a basketball arena here, and 17 high-rise towers. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein has been following the stories of the tenants who are being displaced. Here’s one of them.


Today, Andrea Bernstein is scheduled to discuss her series on displacement in the footprint of Ratner's proposal on the Brian Lehrer Show (10 am-12 noon, WNYC).

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

News from the mothership

For readers following the business dealings of Forest City Ratner's parent company, Forest City Enterprises (FCE), here's a sampling of news from around the nation in the past couple of days.

The Dallas Morning News, A Lot to Chew On: The Merc is eating up funds
Tax-increment funding (sort of like public subsidies for private developers) for a large FCE project in Dallas has dried up the public trough, putting "the kibosh on new tax abatements and tax-increment deals for other downtown projects for something like 10 years," upsetting other local developers.

The Boston Globe, Haverhill is the picture of progress
"This small city on the Merrimack River is poised for its second renaissance," with the help of developers like FCE. [No mention that the Globe's parent company, The New York Times, has a business relationship with FCE's subsidiary Forest City Ratner. OK, maybe that's a stretch.]

Crain's Cleveland Business, Case's downtown move 'on hold'

Case Western Reserve University's plan to relocate 325 administrative employees to [FCE's] Halle Building downtown from University Circle — a move that has been viewed as an encouraging sign for downtown’s languid office market — is on what the university calls "a temporary hold."

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jury awards $700,000 over silt in Solon lake

[Dr. Stephen] Luczek sued the developers of the nearby Thornberry neighborhood, accusing them of fouling his lake with silt and mud and of failing to adhere to strict government water regulations.

On Thursday, after a seven-day trial in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, a jury awarded Luczek $700,000 in damages.

The jurors ruled that Granite Development Partners, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, was negligent in its construction practices and caused the erosion that damaged Luczek's lake.

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

Also sprach Bubbathustra

The Real Estate Observer has relaunched with a new look and a section for comments.

First out of the box to comment on the first two Atlantic Yards entries is "Bubba," who warns that "the thugs will be back" if the project falls prey to a downturn in the market and high costs for approval.

Upon word that plans for the Nets' move to Brooklyn has been delayed, the project supporter grumpily predicts that "the naysayers, NIMBY-ites and anti-everythings are losing the battle but winning the war.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

On a Gritty Shore, California Dreaming

The NY Times
By Jake Mooney

A short article about plans to bring beach volleyball to Coney Island, contains this disclosure (emphasis added):

The tournament, to be televised live on NBC, is scheduled for Aug. 17 to 20, and the league plans to build a 4,000-seat stadium and 12 outer courts next to the Boardwalk. Its promotional partner is Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, a company controlled by the developer Bruce Ratner, who is a development partner in the Midtown office tower being built by The New York Times Company.

The Times has been criticized in the past for not disclosing their business relationship with Forest City Ratner. Is today's disclosure part of a change in policy, or a haphazard application of journalistic principles?

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

February 12, 2006

Helloooooo Rheingold!

Gumby Fresh writes an open letter to Steve Hindy, proprietor of Brooklyn Brewery:

Your support for moving the Nets arena to the Atlantic Yards site is wrong on so many levels. First, it alienates large numbers of people in the Borough, many of whom are natural customers. While residents of Williamsburg may have become resigned to huge skyscrapers growing up amongst them, those living in the vicinity of the Nets project have become very alarmed at the scale of the development.

More importantly, the plan calls for the demolition of a bar that sells consistently drinkable Brooklyn Lager, at a very reasonable price. I refer, of course, to Freddy's, and your connivance at its destruction will repel every discerning drinker in the P Heights neighbourhood.


Posted by amy at 11:53 AM


Common Financial Sense looks at the financial relationship between NY TImes and Forest City Ratner:

The other thing the [New York Times] did with its cash was to make a huge bet in New York real estate, again during a bull market. In 2004, the company sold its old building on West 43rd Street for $175 million. Earlier, in 2001, it had committed to pay about $639 million for a majority share of a 52-storey building across the street from Port Authority. (The Times paid $86 million to New York State to clear the lot, evict the tenants, and lease the land for 99 years. Bet you didn’t read the tearful details of that eviction in the paper?) Its minority partner is Forest City Ratner (FC), a real estate company that, as I read the small type, got the better of the Times when it came to cutting the deal. When the tower, which looks like a giant paper shredder, is finished around 2007, the Times will own 58 percent and FC 42 percent. But as the 2004 annual report notes: “Because NYT is funding its contribution equity first, a portion of those funds will be used to fund FC’s share of Building costs (the “FC funded share”) prior to the commencement of funding of the construction loan.” In other words, Ratner gets his 42 percent share for nothing down. The company believes the new headquarters will solve problems ranging from office politics to television production. But Raines is more cryptic, concluding offhandedly: “If and when it is built, the space for the broadcast and digital activities central to the Times’s future will be inadequate.” Gee, Howell, whaddaya want for $639 mill?


Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

Brooklyn’s Ratner Problem Likely Delayed Until 2010


Can't Stop the Bleeding comments on the Nets staying in New Jersey till 2010:

It’s funny that [New York City] didn’t just give him the money, because the city’s totally flush right now and Bruce shot the moon on his similarly expensive MetroTech Center, which recently changed its corporate motto from “We Have Our Own R Train Stop!” to “Now 60% Occupied.” Still, while some could’ve or should’ve seen Ratner’s problems coming, it seems like Jersey’s willing to let him and his team crash at least until the second year of the Vilsack/Obama administration. For their kindness, they get to…not have to subsidize the franchise quite so much.


Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

February 11, 2006

Ratner’s adviser will advise MTA

Brooklyn Papers:

One of the eight brokers hired last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to assess properties is none other than Mary Ann Tighe, a longtime adviser to Forest City Ratner.

Currently, Tighe finds commercial tenants at the tower that FCR is building for the New York Times, as well as at Metrotech in Downtown Brooklyn, another FCR site.

And her spokesman said Tighe has no plans to leave the FCR payroll.


Posted by amy at 3:20 PM

Pacific paved


Brooklyn Papers:

Why did the city repave part of Pacific Street that Bruce Ratner plans to eliminate? Hey, you never know.

Last week, the city fixed Pacific between Sixth Avenue and Bond Street in Prospect Heights, despite the fact that Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project would transform Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Flatbush avenues in Boerum Hill into green space.

Then again, explained a Department of Transportation spokesman, maybe it won’t.

“An ‘if’ is still an ‘if,’” explained the spokesman, Craig Chin.


Posted by amy at 3:15 PM

February 10, 2006

The NY Times sports section: arena a done deal or just maybe?

TimesRatnerReport stays on top of the coverage, this time turning attention to the sports pages.

New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey began yesterday's column about local NBA teams thus: "EVERYBODY knows where the Nets are going: Brooklyn. But where exactly are the Knicks going?"

This pointed comparison prompted a reaction by Ratner foes in Brooklyn who are always quick to point out that the arena isn't a done deal.

Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

Nets renegotiating lease, may stay in current arena until 2010

TimesRatnerReport analyzes the recent news about the NJ Nets move to Brooklyn in "Nets renegotiating lease, may stay in current arena until 2010."

The Star-Ledger, in July 2003, broke the initial story on the move and sale of the Nets, so the New Jersey reporting here should be taken seriously. Some of the reference to the Brooklyn project, however, contain errors.

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

Memory and the Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Rail

Brian Carreira considers the state of myth and memory, as he ponders the latest developments in the Atlantic Yards fight.

The myth of Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards, sometimes hokey or just plain ridiculous, is slowly beginning to eclipse events as they have transpired and are likely to unfold. The actual potential for jobs continues to evaporate and the affordable housing is being relocated to other parts of the borough, but the project, its supporters, and its sound bytes live on. It is a willful attempt to reinvent the situation through sheer velocity of money and influence, relying on a preoccupied public to recall the myth as opposed to the shifting plateau of fact.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Nets might stay in N.J. until 2010

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Matthew Futterman

With delays mounting for their proposed arena in Brooklyn, the Nets and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority are now in serious negotiations to keep the team at Continental Airlines Arena through the end of the decade.

Officials involved with negotiations for a new lease for the Nets said the agreement would last at least through the 2010 season with options to continue playing at the arena as long as the Nets need to be there. If the parties reach an agreement on a new lease it would replace the current lease, which is set to expire in 2008.


NoLandGrab: Futterman's article provides an interesting snapshot of the sports venue scene in Jersey, though there are some arbitrary facts and figures about Ratner's Brooklyn plan.

Just remember, there are 7,300 units of housing, the process hasn't been delayed (it only started last year with the Draft Scope hearing in October), and there is no City approval process in play (everything is happenning through the NY State approval process) — in Ratnerville, minor details seem to be a big deal.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

February 9, 2006

DDDb back online at libraries

Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Was it public censorship, a corporate prank, or something more benign? It seems that the web site filtering service for the New York Public Library had classified DDDb.net as containing "adult content," blocking it from being viewed on Library computers connected to the Internet.


NoLandGrab: That's a first, no one has ever accused Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn of being "adults."

Posted by lumi at 5:16 PM

Following suit: Pols join filing against Atlantic Yards razing

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

Three Brooklyn elected officials yesterday joined a high-profile lawsuit to bar Bruce Ratner from demolishing six buildings in the proposed Atlantic Yards site.

"My colleagues and I stand 100% with the plaintiffs," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Prospect Heights), who filed the supporting brief with Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights) and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Fort Greene).

James, who is a lawyer and an outspoken critic of Ratner's proposal, also plans to argue the brief personally when the two sides next appear in court Feb. 14.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Her Day in Court

The Real Estate Observer covers recent developments on the first Atlantic Yards suit and notes:

South Brooklyn Legal Services joined the crusade Tuesday. So far, there is a widespread perception that everybody who is against the project is rich, and everybody for it is poor, and SBLS' participation may change that--if only a wee bit.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

Creating Media That Are Free From Corporate Interests

The Village Voice

NYC Grassroots Media Conference
New School University
65 Fifth Ave
Saturday at 9 a.m.
$5 to $30

For the third year in a row, activist group Paper Tiger Television organizes a full day of panel discussions, workshops, and brainstorming sessions, all geared toward those interested in creating fair, diverse, accurate media that are free from corporate and government interests.

Among the highlights are the NYC Radical Cheerleaders, satirical singing group Missile Dick Chicks, and Time's Up Bicycle Clown Brigade's talk "Making Folks Think, When They're Laughing Too Hard to Realize It . . . Performance as Creative Resistance."

Members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Philadelphia Independent Media Center examine "Models for Independent Media Making and Political Organizing."

And Adrienne Brown of the League of Pissed Off Voters leads a discussion on "Grassroots Media in an Election Year: Creating Community Voter Guides."

For more information and a complete schedule visit nycgrassrootsmedia.org.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Stadium news

The big new-sports-venue news yesterday was the release of the Good Jobs NY analysis and report on the Yankee Stadium deal.

Here are a bunch of links for readers who want to learn more about how such deals are structured these days. Team owners pay for the venue while taxpayers get to foot the bill for all the extras:

The NY Daily News, New stadium report: Thee Yankees win!
The NY Sun, Watchdog Group Gives Proposed Yankee Stadium a Bronx Cheer
GlobeSt.com, Group Cries Foul Over Yankee Stadium Proposal
Field of Schemes, Yankees stadium cost to taxpayers nears $500M
Field of Schemes, The empire strikes back

[WARNING: Gratuitous weekly pot shot at the "paper of record."]
The NY Times, OOPS... must have missed something. It's got to be here somewhere. Hmm, the only items that turned up in the Times on the Yankees' deal are two letters (one from a Good Jobs NY research analyst), published in response to last month's op-ed piece supporting the project by Andrew Zimbalist.

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

News media still riffin' on BB&T move

A search of news and public-policy websites for eminent domain news is still turning up editorials in support of BB&T's policy announcement that they will not finance real estate developments that use eminent domain.

The State Journal (WV), BB&T Takes a Stand on Issue of Eminent Domain
Courier Post (Camden, NJ), Bank shows courage on eminent domain
Mackinac Center for Public Policy (conservative think tank), Supporting Companies That Oppose Eminent Domain Abuse

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

February 8, 2006

Demapping Planning

Brooklyn Views turns a critical eye to the demapping of streets, a topic discussed at a recent Borough Board meeting:

At the recent Brooklyn Borough Atlantic Yards Committee’s meeting, Winston Von Engel from City Planning was asked what the department’s position on demapping streets is. His initial reply: "I don't think there's one policy for demapping or mapping streets".
But that doesn’t mean that there is no policy. In fact there is a policy, and we know what it is: agree to demap streets only if doing so supports sound urban design principles. City Planning’s public silence in the wake of the planning failure at Atlantic Yards is uncharacteristically deferential to the developer, at the expense of the public realm.

Who but Brooklyn Views blogger Jonathan Cohn would have information on Downtown Brooklyn street demappings at his disposal?

There the 1,025 square feet at the end of Pearl was already a dead-end, used only for on-street parking. And the 3,395 square foot sliver of Adams was a non-traffic remnant of a 1940’s street widening.


Posted by lumi at 11:05 PM

Beep Beep: Gloria Gives Marty a Nudge

The Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Nik Kovac

Green Party Brooklyn

"I guess I'm the borough president of Brooklyn High School of the Arts," former Green Party candidate Gloria Mattera told a crowd of several hundred inside a Park Slope church last month.
One of Mattera's campaign workers, Mike McCullough, took the time to sort through the Board of Election's 660-page breakdown of the borough's election results. He reworked the data into a map of each polling site in the borough. On his map, the more votes Mattera received at a particular site, the darker green that region appears.

The geographic breakdown is stunningly clear. The closer you get to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, where the proposed NBA arena and 17 high-rise buildings are slated to go, the darker the green.


Posted by lumi at 10:46 PM

Press Release: City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Congressman Major Owens Join In Filing an Amicus Brief Against The Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner

Elected Officials Representing Proposed Ratner Development Site Support Suit Seeking Injunction on Rubber-stamped Demolition Approval and Disqualification of Conflicted Attorney

MANHATTAN, NY - Three elected officials, each of whom have fought to protect the public's interest in respect to Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal, have asked a Manhattan Justice to accept their amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief. The brief is in support of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community organizations in their lawsuit challenging the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) Declaration of Emergency that would allow Forest City Ratner (FCR) to demolish six buildings in the proposed development footprint. The lawsuit also calls for the disqualification of the ESDC's retained counsel on "Atlantic Yards" who quite apparently has a conflict of interest. The attorney, David Paget of Sive, Paget & Riesel, has, until very recently, represented FCR on the same development proposal the ESDC is charged with reviewing objectively. Mr. Paget approved FCR's proposed demolition.

Councilwoman Letitia James said, “My colleagues and I stand one hundred percent with the plaintiffs–the people who would be most impacted by Forest City Ratner's project. Our lawsuit asks for nothing more than what the state law requires–that the environmental review be conducted in a fair and methodical way, with objectivity and integrity.”

The districts represented by Councilwoman Letitia James (35th District), State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18th District) and Congressman Major Owens (11th District) include the entire footprint of FCR's proposed publicly subsidized, 22-acre, mixed-use redevelopment project known as "Atlantic Yards." Councilwoman James will argue in court on February 14th on behalf of the application she and her colleagues have filed.

DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "We believe Ratner’s proposed demolitions are intentionally pre-emptive and illegal. The demolitions would serve to subvert and severely taint the integrity of the environmental review process, already tainted by Mr. Paget’s apparent conflict of interest." Goldstein continued, "We are proud to be joined by these three elected officials who are standing up for the public interest, while too many elected officials are willing to ignore such conflicts and breaches of process. Our lawsuit is about protecting the integrity of the sole avenue for public review of Ratner’s massive proposed development; every elected official who is concerned with good government and democratic process ought to support this lawsuit."

Yesterday South Brooklyn Legal Servics (SBLS), a non-profit law firm serving low-income clients, joined in the same lawsuit. SBLS is seeking to intervene on behalf of a building of low-income, rent-stabilized, long-term tenants in Prospect Heights who would be displaced by eminent domain, and whose homes, situated where Ratner's arena is proposed, would be demolished if the project is approved.

Jennifer Levy, Co-Director of SBLS's Housing Law Unit is the attorney on the case. "Our plaintiffs challenge the demolition on the grounds that ESDC failed to seek any independent evidence that the buildings slotted for demolition are unsafe," Ms. Levy said. "In addition, ESDC's special counsel appears to have a serious conflict of interest and should be disqualified."

In order to obtain an emergency declaration, the developer had to show that the emergency measures to be employed were limited and temporary, and designed to cause the least possible environmental damage under the rules of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which currently governs the Ratner proposal. Demolition is not limited and temporary, and the ESDC has failed to even consider whether there might be a less drastic remedy than demolition until the environmental review process can be completed.

The court date for the hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for: Tuesday, February 14th. 9:30 AM.
Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County. 60 Centre Street.
before the Honorable Justice Carol Edmead

All lawsuit related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

Posted by lumi at 10:31 PM

Two Bits, Four Bits...

Dope on the Slope chides Dennis Holt for skipping The Brooklyn Daily Eagle's last sensitivity-training seminar.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "They frown if someone calls them cheerleaders rather than dancers, and attractive people should never be allowed to frown."

Dope: You've come a long way baby. What was your name again?


Additional research uncovers the surprising fact that Brooklyn's Official Cheeleader in Chief (aka "Dancing Marty" for you NY Rangers fans) doesn't mind being considered a sex symbol.


NoLandGrab: Holt's cheery dispatch from the Brooklyn Brewery hang — attended by Marty, Stuckey and family, Darryl Dawkins, and members of the Meadowlands Modern Dance Company — was a great puff piece, full of the self-assurance that an old guy gets when ogling a pretty girl whose job requires her to stand around in a short skirt.

Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM

Press Release: South Brooklyn Legal Services Joins Lawsuit Against Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner

Low-income Advocates Seek Injunction on Rubber-stamped Demolition Approval and Disqualification of Conflicted Attorney

MANHATTAN,NY - South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), a non-profit law firm serving low-income clients, has joined Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community organizations in a lawsuit challenging ESDC's declaration of emergency that would allow Forest City Ratner to demolish six buildings in the proposed "Atlantic Yards" footprint. The lawsuit also calls for the disqualification of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) outside attorney on "Atlantic Yards" who appears to have a conflict of interest. The attorney, David Paget (Sive, Paget & Riesel), has represented Forest City Ratner (FCR) on the same development proposal the state corporation is charged with reviewing objectively. Mr. Paget approved FCR's proposed demolition.

SBLS is seeking to intervene on behalf of a building of low-income, rent-stabilized, long-term tenants in Prospect Heights who would be displaced by eminent domain, and whose homes, situated where Ratner's arena is proposed, would be demolished if the project is approved.

Jennifer Levy, Co-Director of SBLS's Housing Law Unit is the attorney on the case. "Our plaintiffs challenge the demolition on the grounds that ESDC failed to seek any independent evidence that the buildings slotted for demolition are unsafe," Ms. Levy said. "In addition, ESDC's special counsel appears to have a serious conflict of interest and should be disqualified."

In order to obtain an emergency declaration, the developer had to show that the emergency measures to be employed were limited and temporary, and designed to cause the least possible environmental damage under the rules of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which currently governs the Ratner proposal. Demolition is not limited and temporary, and the ESDC has failed to even consider whether there might be a less drastic remedy than demolition until the environmental review process can be completed.

Develop Don't Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "These demolitions would serve to subvert the environmental review process and sully the integrity of that process. We and our co-plaintiffs are proud to be allied with such a well-respected organization as South Brooklyn Legal Services. We are pleased that they concur with the merits of the lawsuit we have brought and have joined us in representing the interest of the public, especially some of our most vulnerable neighbors."

The court date for the hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for: Tuesday, February 14th
9:30 AM
Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County
60 Centre Street
Honorable Justice Carol Edmead presiding

All lawsuit related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

South Brooklyn Legal Services is a not-for-profit organization that has been providing free civil legal services to low-income people in Brooklyn for over 30 years.

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

House panel rips Riviera Beach over use of eminent domain

Palm Beach Post
By Alan Gomez

While Brooklyn activists are busy trying to make Bruce Ratner the national poster child for eminent domain abuse, they find that they have competition from Riviera Beach, FL, where mogul Wayne Huizenga Jr. and the city are working on a billion dollar waterfront redevelopment project that threatens the use of eminent domain to acquire the private property.

Pro-Poster Child:

"Riviera Beach, I promise you... is going to be the poster child of eminent domain abuse in this nation." -- Rep. Everett Rice, R-Treasure Island

Anti-Poster Child:

"Riviera Beach, as opposed to being a poster child for abuses of eminent domain, is going to be a model in terms of how we use that tool." -- Floyd Johnson, executive director of the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency

Pro-Project, Pro-Poster Child:

While Rep. Ron Greenstein, D-Coconut Creek, said he supports what the city is trying to do, he said he believes it is becoming a national poster child because of its mishandling of the entire project.


Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Two commercial real estate firms, the MTA, and inevitable Forest City Ratner ties

TimesRatnerReport reacts to the The Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, "MTA Names Real Estate Firm Advisors" (login required).

Fortunately for Ratner, the MTA has hired consultants to help "assess the MTA’s real estate portfolio and create and execute a program to maximize the properties’ revenue potential," AFTER the two parties struck a deal for the Vanderbilt Railyards.

TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder notes that there are connections between the two firms, Massey Knakal Realty Services and CB Richard Ellis, and Forest City Ratner.

The business relationship with CB Richard Ellis, and especially CEO Mary Ann Tighe, is closer. CBRE is theexclusive leasing agent for the office portion of the proposed Ridge Hill Village development in Yonkers, NY.

Tighe served as agent for Forest City Ratner on leasing of the Bank of New York tower at Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal mall in Brooklyn. Also, representing the New York Times Company, Tighe, according to the firm web site, "arranged a network of joint ventures enabling the construction of a new 1.5 million square foot tower at 8th Avenue and 41st Street...The transaction included a joint venture between NYTC and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which becomes 2 condominium interests upon construction completion..."


NoLandGrab: Maybe Norman Oder can save himself and his readers a lot of time by doing an article on who is NOT in on the fix.

Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

Brett Yormark, 39
Chief executive, New Jersey Nets

Netting fans' allegiance

Crain's NY Business, 40 Under 40
By Aaron Elstein


When running the business side of a basketball team whose owner has clearly stated his intention to move the operation, what's a chief executive to do? If the CEO is the Nets' Brett Yormark, he graciously thanks ticket holders for their loyalty and hopes some of them will follow the team down the turnpike, through the tunnel and over the bridge to the new promised land.

"I don't know if the team has thanked you over the years for your continued support, but that's what I'm here to do," Mr. Yormark told a group of 10-year season ticket holders before a game earlier this season. "As for moving to Brooklyn, yes, that's going to happen.


NoLandGrab: The brief Crain's profile cites some of Yormark's initiatives, but politely leaves out the embarrassing interview with Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN in which Yormark was busted on the live call-in show for having "totally misled everyone," claiming the home opener was sold out, while empty seats were conspicuous to even the casual observer.

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Empty Storefronts on Flatbush Ave.

"Gentriblightification? Blightifigentrification?

A heated discussion is going on in the DailyHeights Forum, pondering the reason there are so many empty storefronts on Flatbush Ave.

Is the culprit the up-zoning of Flatbush Ave. or speculation over Ratner's arena deal? What about those damn lies? And, will White Castle get the last word?

linky, linky

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

February 7, 2006

Community groups say they were left out of Bronx market benefit pact

Metro NY
by Patrick Arden

Local politicians are touting the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) struck with Related Companies for the Bronx Terminal Market development, calling it a possible template for a CBA for a new Yankee Stadium.

However, only FOUR of the "13 named community groups" are signatories. What happened to the other groups?

“Only three signatories were necessary to make it binding,” said Anne Fenton, a spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. “Because the negotiations were going up to the last minute, they called seven people and stopped after they had three who could take off work to be there. They wanted to get it signed before the vote.”

But according to a nonparticipating neighborhood group called Bronx Voices for Equal Inclusion, the benefits agreement didn’t have the support of the majority of community representatives. This claim is backed up by several people who participated in the CBA negotiations and requested anonymity.


NoLandGrab: Politicians and developers have a way of taking the community out of CBA.

Posted by lumi at 2:37 PM

Eminent domainia!

Concord Monitor, Editorial: "Souter's neighbors take back their town"

The most recent example of great protest theater was brought to an end, as the residents of Weare, NH turned down "a warrant article seeking the seizure of" Chief Justice David Souter's "longtime home."

The revised article gives voters next month the opportunity to call on the Legislature to strengthen private property rights in the state.

Note: A campaign to seize Justice Souter's home, to make way for the "Lost Liberty Hotel," was spearheaded by California property-rights activist Logan Darrow Clements, in protest of Souter's support for the City of New London in this year's controversial eminent domain ruling.


AP via, New York Newsday, "Mayor proposes compromise in eminent domain dispute"

New London's mayor is proposing a compromise to end what has become a national dispute over the taking of homes for the city's Fort Trumbull development project.

Under a plan presented by Mayor Beth Sabilia to city council Monday night, four of six homeowners would be allowed to stay in their houses, and two of those houses would be moved within the development site.

The city would maintain ownership of the properties and the residents would have to pay rent or payment in lieu of taxes to the city.
Two of the six remaining homeowners were excluded from the plan. One does not live in home he owns in Fort Trumbull and the other moved in after the court battle began.

NoLandGrab: In the article, Susette Kelo makes the point that this plan shows that existing homes and potential development can co-exist. If that's so, then why should the homeowners be forced to give up title to their homes and pay rent to the City of New London for the rest of their lives?

Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

The Brooklyn Brewery Meets The Ratner Crew in Williamsburg

The Brooklyn Eagle Editor Dennis Holt hangs out with Forest City Ratner Exec. VP Jim Stuckey, Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn Brewery's owner Steve Hindy, to celebrate the "Brooklyn Nets":


On Wednesday night, February 1, Stuckey got rid of that “too much world” for awhile as he and his wife, two sons and daughter dropped in at the Brooklyn Brewery to root on the New Jersey Nets, before long to be the Brooklyn Nets, in what turned out to be a losing cause in Cleveland, the home town of Bruce Ratner.
There were four Nets dancers present to add luster, and a lot else, to the proceedings. They frown if someone calls them cheerleaders rather than dancers, and attractive people should never be allowed to frown.


Posted by lumi at 9:43 AM

Curious FCR omission in Times story about Senegal-to-NYC rower

Though Forest City Ratner figures prominently in the story about Victor Mooney and his plans to row from Senegal to New York to call attention to AIDS prevention, The New York Times makes no mention of the developer and its business partner's support in yesterday's article, "A Slow, Solo Crossing of the Atlantic Is One Man's Response to the AIDS Crisis ".

TimesRatnerReport ponders the decision:

Why leave Forest City Ratner out of the article? It's a judgment call, and not an easy one. Is the donation of a work space more worthy of mention than the donation of supplies? Maybe the omission was a question of space, and that paragraph got cut from the final version of the article.


Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

February 6, 2006

How Big Is It?

You say you "get FAR" — but what does it all mean?

Brooklyn Views offers another post, tying in everything we've learned on Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to the Atlantic Yards proposal.

Attempting to compare apples to apples, Jonathan Cohn uses Ratner's figures and takes a stab at calcuating the FAR of Atlantic Yards, first for the entire site, then subtracting the city streets to be assimilated by the project, and subtracting the arena.

Enitre site 9.5 All 22 acres.

Minus city streets


FAR (a measurement used for comparison of density and for calculating impact on city services) for non-superblock projects do not include city streets.

Minus arena


The arena's air rights are distributed over the rest of the project, thus making the rest of the project seem less dense.

Yes folks, that's an FAR of 12 for the non-arena portion of the site.

The BV post goes into detail about these calculations and compares this project to Downtown Brooklyn and the World Trade Center site.

Norman Oder of TimesRatnerReport goes a step further and considers the question of whether an effective FAR of 12 is appropriate for a site that's in Prospect Heights or Downtown Brooklyn (depending on who you believe).

Posted by lumi at 10:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Visualization in Google Earth


Since the Atlantic Yards project was announced, people have been grumbling that someone should create a 3-D computer model of Atlantic Yards in relation to the surrounding neighborhoods, so that others would realize how big this thing really is and that the arena is only a small part of the project.

Enter Google Earth and Prospect Heights artist and resident Jon Keegan.

Playing with a Beta version of the software and "using the developer's own figures," Keegan has plugged Atlantic Yards into the surrounding streetscape, and violá, insta-skyline.

Atlantic Yards on Earth

Check out Keegan's post on Invisibleman for more details and links to Google Earth.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Congress weighing role in eminent domain debate

San Jose Business Journal
Commentary by Karen Kerrigan, who is founder and chairwoman of the Small Business Survival Committee.

Homeowners are not the only property owners vulnerable to the expansion of eminent domain seizures:

A renewed focus on property rights is taking shape on Capitol Hill and in the states. Small business owners have an enormous stake in this debate as their property has increasingly become the target of local governments and politicians aggressively applying their eminent domain powers in the name of "economic progress."
Few issues of late have spurred the right combination of citizen outrage and activism that leads to the political attentiveness that eminent domain abuse is currently receiving.

The article has a summary of federal legislative actions and proposals.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Firm says past displays commitment, strength

The Sayerville Suburban
By Michael Acker

Forest City Enterprises' (FCE) sales pitch in Sayerville, NJ for a new mixed-use development, featuring a minor league ballpark, includes collaboration and good corporate citizenship.

“We came here tonight with our vision,” [FCE Executive Vice President David] Levey said. “It is collaborative. Some things you will love, some things you will not love.”

“You look at a company like ours,” Levey said, “and the new stuff looks really good, but look at what we did 40 years ago.

“Do not just talk to community leaders. Find out how we have been as citizens of the community. We are long term.”


NoLandGrab: The question is does one hold the parent company responsible for the actions of its subsidiary, Forest City Ratner, which clearly does not fit the description above?

Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM

The fighting Irish at Beep’s party

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen


Patti and Schelli Hagan have crashed the Borough President’s annual ball each year since 2004, when the Beep came out as chief cheerleader for the borough’s largest and most-controversial development, Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena and skyscraper project.

The Brooklyn Papers reports that, "Security guards tried to escort the duo out," but, "Eventually, the guards gave up and left."

“We’re Irish,” said Hagan, “We weren’t going to leave before the step-dancers.”


NoLandGrab: Nice quote, but for a more sober account of what REALLY happened, check out TimesRatnerReport.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

40 States Re-Examining Eminent Domain

Home Sweet Home? States Debate When Governments Can Take Homes to Make Way for Development

AP, via ABC News
By Robert Tanner

Eminent domain action in Longbranch, NJ illustrates the nation's fight for property rights.

The property rights POV:

"Right now government, I think, is using eminent domain to take people's private properties and hand it over to another owner," said [New Jersey state Sen. Diane] Allen, a Republican. "It's really putting a hole in the American dream. Ownership of private property plays such a large role in that dream."

Local government's case:

Municipal leaders across the country are pushing back, arguing that it's false to claim eminent domain is widely abused and warning that an emotional backlash to the court ruling is putting at risk an important tool that has helped turn around neighborhoods including Baltimore's Inner Harbor and New York's Times Square.

Why do homeowners resist?

But it's not the money, [80-year-old retired pre-school teacher anna DeFaria] said: $1 million wouldn't convince her. "They're taking my home away not my house. My home. My life."


Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

February 5, 2006

Political Relevance: Grassroots politicians need to prove their worth

Daily Gotham coverage of the Democracy for NYC meeting in Park Slope:

Who are the best grassroots candidates? They are the ones who are KNOWN by the community because of community involvement. People like Marty Markowitz and David Yasskey become well known because they show their faces everywhere. That is fine, but I don't know that either of them is connecting solidly with any communities through actual activism that directly helps their community. They are kind of semi-grassroots candidates who get the need for a community connection but don’t really deliver when push comes to shove. Both have been willing to go against their community’s best interests in the name of collecting political backing from people with money or influence. People like Chris Owens do connect through activism. Chris Owens, at least, is active in trying to preserve our neighborhoods and small businesses from developers with grandiose plans that require the destruction of entire neighborhoods. I have seen him out with neighborhood organizers fighting Ratner's scandal-ridden Atlantic Yards project.

But, there are indeed so many issues of considerable importance to communities that need addressing and people like Bloomberg are, far from helping, actually hurting communities by closing firehouses and by making secret, back-room deals with developers and threatening eminent domain when neighborhoods don’t welcome those developers. I think a politician that takes a solid leadership role in these community issues will be a stronger candidate. And I don't mean lip service, but actual involvement.


Posted by amy at 4:34 PM

Yes, Towns Can Seize Land, but Aren't There Limits?


NY Times

At least 27 other state legislatures, including those in New York and New Jersey, are considering new restrictions on eminent domain, and more states are expected to follow, said Larry Morandi, director of the environment, energy and transportation program for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.

In Westchester, property owners from New Rochelle to Port Chester are fighting in the courts to stave off condemnations. The County Legislature is considering a bill that would prevent the county government from condemning private property for use by another private entity. The measure would also cut off county financing for municipal projects involving eminent domain that are intended to spark economic development. Some have welcomed those actions as much-needed checks on government power.


Posted by amy at 12:26 PM

February 4, 2006

City official Andrew Alper: "not up to us to find a better deal"


It's old news, but the question still gets asked: did the city ask any other developers if they were interested in bringing basketball to Brooklyn? The answer: no.

See what Andrew Alper, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, had to say here.

Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

5 Candidates Vying for Major-ity of ex-Major Votes


Brooklyn Downtown Star covers a debate held by the Lambda Independent Democrats to hear from the candidates for Major Owens' congressional seat. Chris Owens addressed the Atlantic Yards issue:

"We've been made promises," he said of the Forest City Ratner (FCRC) PR machine, which has been trying for years to paint the Atlantic Yards debate in the colors of race, "in order to pit one part of the community against the other."

"You have to be there at the beginning saying no," said the black candidate, taking the supposedly white position on the controversial Atlantic Yards development proposal. "I still oppose it as it stands. That is my position."


Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

February 3, 2006

Bruce Ratner Could Get Tax Credit For Going Green


Park Slope Courier

Assemblymember Roger Green is proposing state legislation aimed at giving FCRC Companies’ Atlantic Yards plan a tax credit for the installation of Green Roof Technology.
The proposed legislation would expand the green building tax credit program by making available an additional $25 million tax credit for the Atlantic Yards site.


So let's check this math...Green + Green = $$$Green $25 million tax credit for FCR. FCR will benefit from green building legislation while depriving others of the ability to install green roofs or solar panels on their own buildings due to the looming shadows?

The other exciting math is in the outdated graphic. The number of housing units is currently 7300 (not 4500) and office space is currently at 628,000 square feet (not 2.1 million).

Posted by amy at 10:58 PM

Biz Buzz: Until they move, Nets treat die-hard fans like VIPs

New Jersey Star-Ledger

What might the Nets' marketing gurus be thinking about to keep the most lucrative fans happy despite plans to move to Brooklyn in a few years? A free-throw lesson from point guard Jason Kidd, voice lessons from coach Lawrence Frank, or even a real estate seminar with owner Bruce Ratner just might be on the team's drawing board.


Posted by amy at 10:55 PM

Orchestrating a Brooklyn Building Boom

By Pranay Gupte

Check out the lunchtime interview charting Forest City Ratner big wig and Brooklyn native Joanne Minieri's meteoric rise.

Joanne Minieri and Kali

Joanne Minieri of Brooklyn was born a Catholic, but it seems perfectly appropriate to liken her to the multilimbed Hindu goddess Kali.

Like the mythical Kali, Ms. Minieri does many things at once and in seamless synchronization. As executive vice president and chief operating officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, she’s responsible for implementing the 21-yearold company’s business plan.


NoLandGrab: Yikes, wanna bet that the Ratner PR posse didn't invent the Kali analogy?

Either Manieri's "attention to detail" isn't as what it's cracked up to be or The Sun has the scoop on what appears to be a 1.4-million square-foot reduction of the Atlantic Yards mega-project, from 9.1 to 7.7 million.

Posted by lumi at 12:19 PM

On a "backwards" design process, "blocking the clock," and a zoning bypass

TimesRatnerReport's latest dispatch from the Borough Board Meetings — this week's meeting focused on Urban Design, Visual Resources & Neighborhood Character — highlights the "backward" nature of the urban planning process.

Community Board 6 Chairperson Jerry Armer stated it best: "We're doing an [Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)], with design guidelines to follow. It seems to me it's backwards. The design guidelines should be established so the EIS could evaluate what's really going to be there."

Have you been wondering how city officials can keep a straight face as Atlantic Yards completely bypasses local zoning? Winston Von Engel from the City Planning Department explained, "We are an agency that listens to the mayor, and supports the mayor, who has expressed his support for the project."

But negative impacts of the project be damned, it's all going to be worth it, since whatever Ratner wants to build in Prospect Heights will look better than the view from the Sixth Avenue bridge:

Greg Atkins, chief of staff for Borough President Marty Markowitz, asked whether the EIS would analyze the effect of "negative views," like the view of the railyard from the Sixth Avenue bridge. "Are views not as beautiful analyzed in the EIS?"

[Architect Mark] Ginsburg said yes, that the state guidelines say that creating new visual resources "can be a mitigation" of a project's effects.

Check out the rest of Norman Oder's report for more on how de-mapping streets isn't so bad after all if you put up a few plaques, "blocking the clock," and light pollution vs. illumination enhancement.

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Brooklyn Rail reaps Ippies!

Congratulations to The Brooklyn Rail, reporter Brian Carreira and editor Theodore Hamm for being recognized by the Independent Press Association's 2005 Ippy Awards for outstanding community journalism.

3rd Place, Best Investigative/In-Depth News Story Brian J. Carreira, "No Room at the Inn: Ratner Continues to 'Game' Officials and the Public" (June 2005)

2nd Place, Best Editorial/Commentary Theodore Hamm, "Arthur Miller's Brooklyn Legacy" (March 2005)

1st Place, Best Overall Design: Amelia Hennighausen
1st Place, Best Story About Immigrant Issues Gabriel Thompson, "When Even the Minimum Wage is a Distant Dream" (December 2004/January 2005)

Over the last couple of years, Brain Carreira's series on Ratner's land grab has provided Brooklynites with, hands down, the best updates on the fight over the fate of Prospect Heights.

Ted Hamm's editorial, "Arthur Miller’s Brooklyn Legacy," explores the theme of rampant overdevelopment in Brooklyn in "Death of a Salesman," in which "Willy [Loman] wrestles mightily not only with what’s happening to himself and his family but also with what’s happening to his home and neighborhood."

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

February 2, 2006

What changes might make you support the AY Project?

Hmm... what changes might make you support the AY Project? Good question.

Click here to take the Daily Heights poll, see what other people think and post your own comment.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Google Map hack, shows eminent domain is rampant and spreading

The Institute of Justice's Castle Coalition came up with this great Google Map hack that was brought to our attention by Curbed.com.

GoogleMap.gif The Castle Coalition's clever disclaimer warns that, "Due to widespread abuse, this map may take time to load."

Curiously Bruce Ratner's 21-acre superblock arena/15-17 highrise tower land grab doesn't appear on the map.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

If blight isn't holding up progress...

NewYorkGames considers press about Prospect Heights's recent prosperity (see, Daily News, "Arena nabe is jumpin'") and quips:

Overkill by Ratner's PR folks. If the courts believe there isn't blight holding up progress – and this puffery says there isn't – no project.


Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

NY State's Hollow Reform of Eminent Domain

OnNYTurf took the time to read the Brodsky and Bradley eminent domain reform bills and concluded:

Their real function is only to give political cover to elected officials and false comfort to the public. They do nothing to actually stop the fundamental abuse of Eminent Domain that is going on.

To quickly summarize, the bills provide better compensation to property owners and renters, and shift power over oversight to local governments like the City Council. The problem is they do nothing to addresses the abuse where private property is grabbed and handed over to other private developers.

Contrary to the call to action in this weekend's Journal News editorial (quoted by us), OnNYTurf calls upon New Yorkers concerned about eminent domain abuse to call up their State elected representatives to "tell them the Bradley and Brodsky bills are BS and don't address the real issue."


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

"Intense verticality" of Prospect Heights transformation would have ripple effects

TimesRatnerReport has published a third report on last week's (1/25/06) Borough Board Meeting (the first two covered Affordable Housing and Fiscal Impact).

Norman Oder's latest report depicts State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, representatives of local government and a Columbia University professor voicing concerns over possible negative impacts on small businesses and residential displacement, while Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz:

...was more sanguine, noting that new residents and arena visitors would lead to an economic spillover and new businesses. In his lifetime, Markowitz said, there were once 100 kosher delis in Brooklyn. "Consumer tastes have changed," he said.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Aiming To Influence City Development, Group Opens ‘Livable Streets’ Exhibit

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Livable Streets Exhibit

A coalition of advocacy groups wants to put stickball on Mayor Bloomberg’s second-term agenda. New York’s iconic sport and other idyllic neighborhood activities have been swallowed up, they say, by a transportation infrastructure that has overwhelmed neighborhoods and damaged the city’s quality of life.

The coalition today is opening a two month exhibition at the Municipal Arts Society, “Livable Streets: A New Vision for New York,”the goal of which is to influence the Bloomberg administration’s development goals.

A co-sponsor of the exhibition, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul White, said New York is falling behind other major cities like London, Paris, and Chicago, which have moved toward upgrading their public transit and are planning for friendlier, safer, and more engaging streets and public spaces.


Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

February 1, 2006

Times architecture critic Ouroussoff gets political--regarding the Javits Center

TimesRatnerReport compares NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's political assessment of the Javitz Center expansion to the lack thereof in Ouroussoff's previous comments on the Gehry/Ratner Atlantic Yards project.

The question remains if Ouroussoff will mention the "political maneuvering behind the [Atlantic Yards] project, and the potential, for example, of ruinous traffic," in future commentary.


Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

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

A Google News search of "eminent domain" turned up another two editorials on BB&T's apparently popular decision to turn down loans for real estate development projects that use eminent domain.

TownHall.com, Corporate Courage
The Virginian-Pilot, Eminently good sense, banker takes sides

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM