« February 2006 | Main | April 2006 »

March 31, 2006

Straight From The Bleachers: State of the Nets

Ratner Holds Annual Sit-down With Brooklyn Sports Scribes

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Jon Torenli

Bruce Ratner was nearly 20 minutes late for his unofficial “State of the Nets” address to Brooklyn sports writers at the Continental Airlines Arena last Thursday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey. His tardiness may have been a sign of things to come regarding his ongoing fight to bring the Nets to Brooklyn as our borough’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers split town in 1957.


Posted by lumi at 4:09 PM

Boone Pickens's Gift To Oklahoma State Sparks Local Rivalry

Some Neighbors Jeer Plans For Huge Sports Complex; Lampooning the Largess

The Wall Street Journal
By Ryan Chittum

In Oklahoma, where college sports is professional sports, a multi-billionaire is funding a stadium expansion and "Athletic Village" for Oklahoma State University that stands to displace more than 1,300 residents in a "low-income neighborhood."

From an exchange at a community meeting:

"My house and my home is my special building," said longtime resident Liz Doyel. "You're trying to steal it."

"I'm not a thief," Mr. Schmidly replied.

link (login required)


Boone Pickens's Gift To Oklahoma State Sparks Local Rivalry Some Neighbors Jeer Plans For Huge Sports Complex; Lampooning the Largess


March 30, 2006; Page A1

Boone PickensSTILLWATER, Okla. -- Boone Pickens has seen legendary fights over oil and corporate takeovers. Now, a giant gift to help his alma mater build a huge sports complex -- and a winning football team -- has plunged him into a different kind of battle, with residents of a low-income neighborhood.

Mr. Pickens's recent $165 million contribution to build new sports facilities at Oklahoma State University is the largest single donation made to a U.S. collegiate athletic program and more than half the size of the university's entire endowment.

OSU wants to use the money to expand its football stadium and build an "athletic village" complete with practice fields and new stadiums for soccer, baseball and other sports. But to do so, it will have to clear out a large residential area adjacent to the campus.

The university owns part of the 100-acre tract and is offering buyouts for the rest -- deals that have some people balking and refusing to leave. The plan puts Mr. Pickens at the center of a skirmish featuring tenants, property owners and the university.

Last month, community members packed the local library to hear OSU officials present the latest details of the plan, which is backed by the state's power of eminent domain. Some attendees cried, and others groaned. A question-and-answer session with OSU President David Schmidly drew boos and emotional exchanges from the crowd.

"My house and my home is my special building," said longtime resident Liz Doyel. "You're trying to steal it."

"I'm not a thief," Mr. Schmidly replied.

Calvin Anthony, a pharmacist and chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce, supports the plan because he believes it will be good for both the school and local business. He told people in the crowd they should thank Mr. Schmidly for meeting with them despite the intense opposition. "He may feel like a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs," he said.

Here in Stillwater, a city of 39,000, the plan stands to affect hundreds of people -- from students to pensioners -- who say they can't afford higher housing costs. OSU says 550 students currently live in the neighborhood, but it is unable to provide total population figures. According to geoVue Inc., a company that culls demographic information for commercial real-estate searches, there were 1,315 people living in 725 housing units in the area as of 2004. The median household income of those over the age of 25 was about $20,000 as of 2000.

Mr. Pickens, 77 years old, isn't sentimental about razing the neighborhood. "You look at it and think 'Gosh Almighty, we've got to get this stuff out of here,'" he says. "I mean, it's so bad looking. Those houses are in horrible condition."

On March 3, the Board of Regents unanimously approved the athletics plan, which calls for the demolition of many properties by year's end. About one-fifth of the owners, however, still refuse to engage in price negotiations -- and some have threatened to stand up to the bulldozers. Mr. Pickens, meanwhile, says he recently met with university officials to discuss how to speed up the process. "It's gonna get done so we might as well get at it," he says.

Over the past 25 years, Mr. Pickens has given about $250 million to OSU. The bulk of contributions were in the past three years, with about 80% of the total earmarked for athletics.

Mr. Pickens, whose spokesman says he has a net worth "in excess of $2 billion," made his fortune running the Irving, Texas-based Mesa Petroleum Co. (now called Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and unaffiliated with Mr. Pickens). In the 1980s, he earned fame attempting corporate takeovers.

An Oklahoma native, Mr. Pickens first attended Texas A&M. The school took away his basketball scholarship -- "I wasn't good enough," he says -- so he went to Stillwater to enroll in what was then Oklahoma A&M. Mr. Pickens tried out, unsuccessfully, for legendary coach Henry Iba's basketball team. In 1946 it was the last OSU squad to win a national basketball or football championship. He graduated in 1951 with a degree in geology.

Today at OSU, Mr. Pickens's influence extends well beyond the treasury. Last year, the billionaire recommended the appointments of football coach Mike Gundy and Athletic Director Mike Holder. The latter is a longtime quail-hunting buddy of Mr. Pickens who was formerly the school's golf coach. While Mr. Schmidly, the university president, says Mr. Pickens has no veto power over any decisions, he acknowledges that the appointments "had a lot to do with Boone gaining confidence" to make his record contribution.

That happened just after Christmas of 2005. Mr. Holder met with Mr. Pickens in his Dallas office to pitch the idea for a sports complex, to be built near Boone Pickens Stadium, the football facility named for him in 2003. Mr. Holder had been angling for a big donation, throwing out numbers Mr. Pickens called "ludicrous."

A day after the meeting, Mr. Pickens wired $165 million to the university, enough to cover more than half of the $300 million project's costs. The funds were almost immediately invested in a hedge fund controlled by Mr. Pickens -- a move that drew some criticism and was the subject of a New York Times article. Mr. Pickens says the fund has waived all fees.

Chris Stellman, an OSU senior who would be displaced by the project, created an online comic strip (http://www.boonestate.com) lampooning the university as "Boone State" and featuring Mr. Schmidly bowing to Mr. Pickens's every whim. One strip depicts Mr. Pickens talking about building the football team a day spa.

Although some locals resist the plan on principle, others are haggling over price. Opponents say OSU is offering owners about 70% of the assessed value of their properties. They complain the university has them over a barrel by threatening to use eminent domain, the legal process that allows government-related entities (including public colleges) to appropriate private property for the public benefit.

The university says it doesn't want to use eminent domain, though will as a "last resort" if property owners refuse to sell, Mr. Schmidly says.

County assessor Jacquie Rose describes OSU's offers for property in the area, where the median home price is about $70,000, as "low." Mr. Schmidly counters that the assessed values are too high. Instead, the university's buyouts prices are equal to 105% of its own appraiser's estimates. The university is also paying a "longevity bonus" to homeowners based on years of occupancy, plus moving expenses.

If Mr. Pickens's largess boosts OSU's football team as he hopes, he and university officials expect other benefits to follow -- in both sports and academic programs. At rival University of Oklahoma, about 70 miles south, a national football championship in 2000 spurred a $110 million fund-raising campaign that renovated and expanded its stadium, according to school officials there. Applications for enrollment soared and the school had to turn away students for its incoming freshman classes for the first time.

Write to Ryan Chittum at ryan.chittum@wsj.com

URL for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114368225596311823.html

Posted by lumi at 2:18 PM

Arena and Stadium Money Flows Freely

The Wonkster (political blog for the Gotham Gazette)

Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you sports!

The Wonkster on the State money for the Nets arena:

The $33 million is less than the $100 million developer Bruce Ratner is seeking, but state lawmakers may have to explain why they included it as an amendment to the Education, Labor and Family Assistance section of the budget. [emphasis added]

When the Yankees couldn't earn the community's support for the Stadium, they decided to buy it:

The [Joyce Purnick NY Times] article (available only to subscribers) discusses an overlooked issue in the plan - how $700,000 in cash grants to community organizations and 15,000 Yankee tickets will be distributed and how that will affect the City Council’s vote on the project on April 5.


Posted by lumi at 1:53 PM

A Closer Look: The Rhetoric of Eminent Domain Abusers

(Online Publication of the Castle Coalition, the Institute for Justice's property-rights campaign)

Straight from the Eminent Domain Abuse Playbook:

"We are going to rescue and relocate individuals and we will put them in a better position than they’re living in now."
— Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown

"I can’t let the public be raped by greedy owners."
— California city official, Dom Betro

Eminent Domain -- "the only thing that makes both sides sit down and negotiate in good faith."
— Frenchtown, Mo., City Council President Rory Riddler

Throughout the country, defenders of eminent domain for private development are increasingly using such outrageous rhetoric in an effort to undermine citizens’ overwhelming opposition to their projects.


NoLandGrab: We still get choked up by the well-worn familiarity of the perennial, "Eminent domain will only be used as a last resort." [Read: If we can't make you sell your house, we'll take it (as a last resort), so you'd be better off selling it to us in the first place.]

Posted by lumi at 12:27 PM

How Cities Can Declare Nice Homes and Businesses “Blighted”

Legislative Reform is the Only Remaining Solution


What became of "blight?"

Decades ago, lawmakers enacted urban renewal statutes as a way to restore residential and commercial slums. The basic idea behind these programs—which have long been recognized as failures even to urban planners—was to improve communities and eliminate dangers that particular properties posed to the health and safety of the public. Generally, urban renewal programs gave local officials the power to seize buildings that tangibly endangered citizens in these communities (though the police power already provided that ability).

Unfortunately, City officials across the nation have employed these same statutes to take or threaten beautiful homes and businesses, and the very idea behind urban renewal programs has been perverted to allow the seizure of properties that just happen to be in locations that are desirable to developers.


Posted by lumi at 11:45 AM

Letter to the Editor: "The Battle in Brooklyn”

Shelterforce (Published by National Housing Institute)

In a letter to the editor, Steve Ettlinger takes on the National Housing Institute Board President John Atlas over Atlas's article touting ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner, "The Battle in Brooklyn."


Indeed, the essential point, which Mr. Atlas does not make clear, is that ACORN stands to gain financially from this agreement, through its contract not only to market the Atlantic Yards project’s affordable housing units, but also to promote the entire mega-development, including the basketball arena and 16 skyscrapers of market-rate condos and office space.

Atlas get's the last word in a rebuttal:

Ettlinger’s characterization of ACORN as profiting from this deal implies that it is engaged in some kind of nefarious self-dealing. That is neither fair nor true. While Ratner, like many people, is in the business of making money, and countless people have ripped off the poor as poverty pimps or service providers, it’s certainly not true of ACORN.

You didn't think Atlas would get the last word on NoLandGrab, did you?

Atlas cites a telephone poll conducted by ACORN as proof that the group is representing its member's interests.

In this poll, though 68% of participants would "support" the project if it contained "2,500 units" of affordable housing, 65% of those who were polled had a household income of "Under $30,000." That means that most poll participants would only be eligible for 5% of the "affordable housing" units.

Members were NOT polled on their likelihood to support the project if there were only 113 units (5% of 2,250 units) available to ALL applicants whose household income fell below $30,000.

Our point: detractors aren't against affordable housing, they just get suspicious when the rhetoric lacks substance.

Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

Forest City Enterprises embroiled in Pittsburgh politics over slot machine license and (get this) an arena

PITTSBURGH — The back-door politicking surrounding Forest City Enterprise's bid to build a railyard-sized slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh has just spilled into the street, with enough suspicions of political favoritism to fill the pages of the Pittsburgh press.

And what would a good political cat fight be without an arena deal hanging in the balance?

The Pitt News (University of Pittsburgh), Editorial, Honest politics an unsafe bet
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Swann backs firm on hockey arena
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pens' allies rip other casino plan
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Rendell's arena plan hinges on Pens, casinos
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Penguins officials react cautiously to Rendell's backup arena plan

Posted by lumi at 11:10 AM

Demolitions continue

DANGER2.jpg461 and 463 Dean Street have been cited by skeptics as examples of Bruce Ratner's over-reaching attempt to demolish properties in order to jump start a construction process that is already two years behind schedule. This step has been taken despite the fact that the project has NOT received final approval; in addition, the developer has never taken any significant measures to safeguard the public from alleged safety threats.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out that the townhouses, occupied until less than a year ago and now falling victim to emergency demolitions, have workmen standing on their roofs, despite having been classified as under imminent danger of collapse.

An alert neighbor asks why do the workers need asbestos protection suits and should the neighbors be worried?

The fight to save and reuse old buildings in urban centers under threat of out-of-scale redevelopment is being waged nationwide: AP, Communities Fight 'Tear-Down Phenomenon'

Posted by lumi at 10:30 AM

Yanks support shaky?

Bronx delegation split, says community’s Council member

Metro NY
By Patrick Arden

Here's one article about this week's Yankee Stadium City Council hearing that points out that the approval isn't a done deal, despite the lack of media coverage of the opposition to the project:

“Many Council members have concerns, many more than the media realizes,” said Foster, who represents the Highbridge neighborhood and opposes the project. “The Bronx delegation isn’t completely on board yet. I don’t see how between now and Wednesday the issues that we have can be resolved.”


OnNYTurf has taken the point and compiled a list of key City Councilmembers to contact to make your opinion heard on this very important vote.

Railyards, city parks -- these are public assets that Mayor Bloomberg has been hell-bent to hand over to sports teams despite inflated claims of economic benefit.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Ballpark figures

ballparkfigures.gifSports economists agree that cities--and taxpayers--get close to nothing from spending public money on sports teams. What they haven't figured out is why we're still doing it.

The Boston Globe
By Drake Bennett

Cities continue to spend millions of dollars to build new sports venues, though the economic impact is dubious. This is a must-read article for those who are trying to understand how these sports venue deals are sold to the public.


Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

NY Press Calls Developers "Loathsome"

The Real Estate Observer
By Michael Calderone

The Observer celebrates the year of the irrepressible developer on the NY Press's "50 Most Loathsome List."

...this year's list is quite different, with an influx of real estate big wigs. Bruce Ratner, Larry Silverstein, David Walentas, Shaya Boymelgreen, and Michael Shvo all make the list. Barbara Corcoran and Steven Roth--who were on last year's-- are spared.


NoLandGrab: Hey, don't forget that Bruce Ratner was #49 in 2004. Sidelined in 2005 due to injury, he spent the off-season working on his jump shot, mounting what could be a record-breaking almost-worst-to-first most-loathsome comeback.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Walk Softly But Carry a Big Batson

Bill Batson @City HallBrooklyn Downtown Star
By Rachel Monahan

An opponent of the Atlantic Yards project has announced his candidacy for public office. Bill Batson said Sunday at City Hall that he'd stepped down last week as director of community relations for state Senate minority leader David Paterson to run for the Assembly seat now occupied by Roger Green.

"I oppose the project," he said simply in his prepared remarks, saying it was but one example of the overdevelopment of the borough. That four-worder was the biggest applause line of the afternoon, causing an outpouring of cheers from the fifty or so supporters who braved the drizzly weather to flank his announcement.


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

March 30, 2006

State Legislators Bury $33 Million for Ratner Arena in Education Fund

"Atlantic Yards" Developer Receives Subsidy While Proposal Remains a Financial, Planning and Environmental Mystery

ALBANY, NY–State legislators have proposed to grant $33 million for Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal in Brooklyn.

Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) requested $100 million for its 16 tower and arena proposal, but both houses have granted and buried $33 million of it in the proposed budget in an amendment to the Education, Labor and Family Assistance Budget. The budget item is lined "Atlantic Yards Railway-Nets project."

Develop Don't Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "It appears that Albany has put a basketball arena in the education budget. To make matters worse, this giveaway has been made without any knowledge of the proposed development’s: cost-benefit analysis, scale, density, design, environmental impact, cost of mitigation, financial viability, and security measures­to name just a few of the unknowns about the development plan.

Goldstein continued, "Granting a single cent to Ratner at this point is grossly premature. We'd like to know what other backroom politics were at play 150 miles from the people of Brooklyn who would have a front row seat to Ratner's destructive, publicly-subsidized, sweetheart, backroom deal."

Brooklyn assembly members, such as Roger Green who represents the district where the development is proposed and is an avid Ratner booster, lost their one chance at using the Ratner request for $100 million as legislative leverage to gain any meaningful concessions or mitigations from the developer. In November, Mr. Green said, “"I didn't sign the C.B.A. and that was intentional, because my position was that my ultimate endorsement on behalf of this project would be the state legislation, the legislation that would authorize the resources that they would need to complete this project."

"We want an explanation about this giveaway from Assemblyman Green and his colleagues, and we want it before this budget item is voted on," Goldstein concluded.

The state has proposed this giveaway despite the fact that Forest City Ratner has only provided this indecipherable, meaningless 20-year profit/loss financial projection to Albany and the MTA (a real 20-year projection was required in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Request For Proposals for Vanderbilt rail yards.).

Reports say the body will vote on the budget package on Friday.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 PM


BRUCE RATNER NY PRESS COVER And the coverboy of The NY Press annual "50 MOST LOATHSOME NEW YORKERS," leading the field at #1, is the eminent-domain-addicted Sultan of Subsidy...

Nets Owner & Developer

Where’s Jackie O. when you need her? The Atlantic Yards project and the rest of the properties this comb-over-mini-Donald’s got his greenbacked mitts around aren’t exactly Grand Central Terminal, but bear with us. Think of all the upper-middle-class homeowners who will be displaced after long, hard years of work carving a viable neighborhood out of a once-desolate area of Brooklyn. Then there are the many working-class people living in Prospect Heights, and the small businesspersons in the area. Aren’t their homes and businesses worth saving? The Empire State Development Board, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz don’t think so. The centerpiece of the proposed development is a 19,000-seat arena that will house the Brooklyn (née New Jersey) Nets, in which Ratner has a major stake. Also on the table are 17 high rises, which will be as high as 55 stories, 628,000 square feet of commercial space and residences. The housing bit is a ruse to assuage the masses. The “affordable” residential buildings will, however, remain out of reach for a single mom of four surviving on a sub-poverty-line paycheck. Ratner’s attempts to evade official processes for major real estate projects and the use of Supreme Court-endorsed eminent domain have been met with challenges from underfunded groups like Develop Don’t Destroy. What really pisses us off is the imminent razing of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, which is in the 22-acre footprint. With the Freddy’s gone, where will we get our $4 beers when that’s all we have in our wallet? Oh, and don’t look for criticism in the Newspaper of Record: Ratner’s building theTimes’ gleaming new headquarters building west of Times Square.

And don't forget Bruce's Cheerleader-in-Chief, Marty Markowitz, who slipped from #21 a year ago to #31.

31 Marty Markowitz
Brooklyn Borough President

Instead of using what little power he has positively during the transit strike last Christmas (press releases and sound bites don’t count), the genial Marshmallow Man Markowitz turned Borough Hall into a coffee-and-tea joint for those commuters who decided to brave the winds on the Brooklyn Bridge. He stood at the foot of the entrance to the bridge cheering on the frostbitten, grumbling masses, essentially putting on a kissing-babies act. Gee, a bialy and hot coco really warms our toes, Marty. That’s his shtick. Smile, pat some backs, announce his support for the newest cause du jour as long as the press is around. Then there’s the real Marty, the backroom Marty. Case in point: his ebullient support for development czar Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Railyard, 20,000-seat, Frank Gehry-designed sports arena and the surrounding retail, residential and “public” (ironic quotes) spaces. Last summer, Markowitz held a press conference with Upstate and city politicians and Ratner’s puppet community groups—among them BUILD—to announce the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. They all agreed Ratner’s vision is in the best interest of Brooklyn. But the beep is really hot about pipe dreams of a supposed sports renaissance, heralded by the construction of a complex for what would be the Brooklyn Nets. The restless ghosts of the Brooklyn Dodgers would at last be laid to rest at Ebbett’s Field. Meanwhile, he oversees a borough in the midst momentous change, with neighborhood after neighborhood falling prey to rapacious developers, and long-established communities uprooted.

Other NoLandGrab regulars who made the list are:

#11 George Pataki -- who gets extra credit for the gaping hole at Ground Zero
#22 Michael Bloomberg -- with his "capo" Dan Doctoroff
#40 Bill Weld -- no mention of eminent domain; apparently, he already comes with plenty of loathsome credentials.

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Second Demolition Begins At Nets Arena Site In Brooklyn

189624.jpgNY1's lead paragraph covering the demolition of 585 Dean St. begins "The next step toward bringing a new Nets arena and residential complex to Brooklyn Wednesday..."

NoLandGrab: Local groups were right to be concerned that the demolitions would be portrayed as the first phase of the construction of the project.

To be clear, the environmental impact statement for the project hasn't even been released, though some of the backroom politics may have been sorted out during the recent budget negotiations.

The article continues:

Meanwhile, NY1 has learned the State Assembly and Senate will include a $33 million provision in the upcoming state budget for the project.

The only problem is the state inked a deal last year that secured Ratner's company much more financial support.

“The governor signed a memorandum of understanding for $100 million, and ultimately, I assume, he will find a way in which to fulfill that commitment which he made to supply the $100 million,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Ridge Hill, River Club seek Yonkers IDA assistance

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

Regarding the controversial Forest City Ratner project in Yonkers, a resolution has been approved by the city's Industrial Development Agency to grant sales- and mortgage-recording tax exemptions in connection with the Ridge Hill project.

Forest City Ratner also is seeking a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, according to the resolution.


NoLandGrab: "He's the master of subsidy. No one does it better," said Fred Siegel, a professor of history at the Cooper Union on Bruce Ratner (Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 30, 2005).

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM


NY Post
By Lois Weiss

It looks like Bruce Ratner may finally have a big tenant interested in taking space in The New York Times Tower now under construction opposite the Port Authority bus terminal.

The Post has learned the law firm Dechert is in the market for some 200,000 square feet, where they would move from 30 Rockefeller Center.
Disney's ESPN is another 200,000 foot tenant seriously considering the 708,000 feet Ratner has available.


Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Forest City Enterprises Reminder of Semi-Annual Earnings Conference Call Friday, March 31, 2006, 11:00 A.M. ET

For those who are closely watching the financial health of the Atlantic Yards developer's parent company, Forest City Enterprises:

Forest City Enterprises announced its fiscal year-end results yesterday, March 28, 2006, and will be conducting a conference call Friday, March 31, 2006 at 11:00 A.M. ET.

You are invited to dial into the conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.
The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Friday, March 31, 2006. To participate, please dial 1-866-356-3095, using access code -- Forest City Enterprises -- approximately five minutes before the scheduled time of the conference call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City Semi-Annual Earnings Conference Call. The live broadcast will also be available online at Forest City's Website -- www.forestcity.net.


Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

March 29, 2006

Ratner falls short of $100 million

Though it is far short of the $100 million that Ratner was seeking as a direct subsidy for his Atlantic Yards plan, the NY State Legislature's draft version of the new budget includes $33 million for "Atlantic Yards Railway -- Nets Project" (click image to view copy of budget draft).


This giveaway was added to the capital budget as part of the Dept of Education budget, despite the fact that there was: * NO comprehensive, independent cost-benefit analysis, * NO General Project Plan (GPP), * NO Environmental Impact Statement, * NO known cost for “extraordinary infrastructure,” and * NO 20-year pro forma financial projection from the developer (as required by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Request For Proposal).

In other words, millions of dollars were added to the Dept. of Education's capital budget for a project whose actual size, costs, enviromental impacts, and financial benefits are unknown.

LIFE LESSON: It takes a big stick to fund education, but there's always money for professional sports.

Posted by lumi at 11:39 PM

Roger Green's Version

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Back in November Roger Green told Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman:

"I didn't sign the C.B.A. and that was intentional, because my position was that my ultimate endorsement on behalf of this project would be the state legislation, the legislation that would authorize the resources that they would need to complete this project."

Back in January, Green claimed he was working on comprehensive legislation that would address density, traffic and "vegetative rooftops."

Today, at the eleventh hour before the State budget is approved, Green is about to "lose a very powerful means of leveraging any change" to the Atlantic Yards project.

But don't worry, he still plans to "introduce the green roofs and traffic bills."


Posted by lumi at 11:23 PM


hatfields&mccoys.jpgThe Libertarian Party is holding a rally in Albany against Eminent Domain abuse, inviting groups fighting some of the most egregious land grabs in the State (including Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project) along with Gubernatorial candidate William Weld, a past victim of eminent domain abuse himself, but a recent public supporter of Atlantic Yards.

This ain't no family reunion. We don't know how the Republican candidate has justified his puzzling position to rally organizers, but an event attended by representatives of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and William Weld may end up like a wedding of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Press release after the jump.

BELLPORT, NY -- (03/29/2006; 1115)(EIS) -- Libertarian Party of New York officials and concerned candidates, crying "No More Land Grabs," are launching a "spring offensive" to influence legislators towards amending state law to ban eminent domain abuse. Local Libertarians such as Eric Sundwall of Columbia County (running for Congress, 20th District) and Jeff Russell (of Clifton Park, candidate for U.S. Senate) have announced they will be emphasizing the misuse of eminent domain throughout their campaigns.

Representatives of groups who have been victimized by such property seizures have been contacted to participate, including African-Americans from the Park South community in Albany, and Develop-Don't-Destroy Brooklyn, where residents are threatened with being kicked out of their homes to build a new stadium for the NY Nets. A demonstration in the Capitol building area has been scheduled for Friday, April 28 to draw attention to stalled and piecemeal legislation currently pending on the issue.

"New Yorkers grow impatient that, nine months after the U.S. Supreme Court's widely criticized Kelo decision, no bill has yet emerged from the NY Legislature to prevent state or local government from using eminent domain to take property from homeowners, to benefit private developers," says LPNY Chair John Clifton. He asks: "Many states have already passed laws to halt this type of theft of land and housing, within weeks of the Kelo ruling. Why is New York lagging behind the country on this subject?"

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, now running for Governor of New York, opposes eminent domain abuse and has said giving broad leeway to local governments to seize property reminded him of "Communist China." Weld is himself a past victim of an eminent domain seizure of one of his properties. He has challenged would-be opponent and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to define his position on the issue.

"This case stands as an example of government overreaching and constraining a fundamental liberty. Title to every property in this nation is now effectively clouded by the threat of a government taking and transfer in the name of increasing the value upon which government can levy imposts. This practice must stop," Weld said.

Language to amend the current law was also drafted in 2005 by then-LPNY Legislative Director Jeff Shapiro, immediately following the Supreme Court decision. Clifton says the party prefers its "clean" version, to address the disruption of neighborhoods occurring across the state by way of the corporate demolition ball. "Eminent domain abuse for commercial and economic development purposes should be specifically outlawed, and the term 'blighted' needs to be very precisely defined in the law, before the designation is applied to deprive citizens or whole communities of their property."

Libertarians are determined to nominate a strong pro-property rights, anti-EDA candidate for Governor at its state convention at the Best Western in Albany on Saturday, April 29.

Posted by lumi at 10:04 PM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Letter and Documents Sent to Legislature

The NY State Legislature is making a mad dash to adopt an on-time budget for the second year in a row. March Madness includes Forest City Ratner's lobbying effort for a $100-million direct subsidy for Atlantic Yards.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is fighting back by sending a packet of information to legislators, explaining that it is premature to earmark money for a project that hasn't been approved and whose justification is based on a growing pile of mistruths and overestimations.

Link to LETTER & INFORMATION PACKET sent to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Yesterday, Atlantic Yards Report revealed that the $6-BILLION figure, used in the form letter Forest City Ratner provided for legislators to send to Silver in support of the project, was based on a discredited report, commissioned and paid for by Ratner.

DDDb sent the same form letter complete with annotations that reveal the extent that Forest City Ratner has resorted to PR tactics and half-truths to promote the proposal for the largest private real estate deal in Brooklyn in history.

NoLandGrab readers love a good joke so we saved the funny part for last.

Good government advocates argue, if BILLIONS of dollars of taxpayer money is going into the project, then the public has a right to know how much Forest City Ratner expects to make on the deal.

For months local groups have requested that Forest City Ratner's profit projections submitted in their formal MTA bid be released (rival bidder Extel's projections were released at the time that the bids were unveiled).

Finally, brought to you by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn through a Freedom of Information request, these projections are seeing the light of day.

The joke is that the 20-year cash-flow analysis turns out to be one page of meaningless figures.

CONCLUSION. Either: * the MTA is continuing to hide the rest of the figures, or * Forest City Ratner really did give them one sheet of paper with some numbers, knowing in advance that they had the "winning" bid (despite bidding $100 million less than Extel).

Hey, we just said it was "a good joke," not that it was on us.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 PM

Building in footprint of Nets arena faces demolition today

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

The former mattress warehouse, 585 Dean St., is expected to be demolished starting today:

However, according to... a report the developer released to project foes Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, “the majority of the building’s distresses observed are the consequences of the building being open to elements and water infiltration.”

Daniel Goldstein, DDDB’s spokesman, said in the 20 months Ratner has owned the building, “They have let it deteriorate so they can claim it’s ‘blighted’ and so they can claim that it’s a public hazard in danger of imminent collapse.” Goldstein said the call for demolition was “bogus” because the developer had for so long “left the building stand with no protection to the public.”


Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Forest City Reports Fiscal 2005 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results

Business Wire

2005 was a record-breaking year for Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company:

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, "Fiscal 2005 was an excellent year for Forest City. We reached a record-high $1.2 billion in consolidated revenues and reported our 26th consecutive year of EBDT growth. During the year, our balance sheet grew to record levels, with total assets of $8.0 billion and total real estate assets climbing 11.1 percent to $7.2 billion. Shareholders' equity reached $894.4 million, an increase of 11.2 percent compared with last year. We closed 2005 in a strong liquidity position with more than $540 million in cash and credit available."

Profits would have been higher if it weren't for the mounting losses by the NJ Nets:

The increase in EBDT for the year was partially offset by the increased loss for The Nets (basketball team), which the Company did not own in the first half of 2004; and 2004 EBDT from the Lumber Trading Group, which was sold in the fourth quarter of last year.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

March 28, 2006

Ratner's Capital

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

While Ratner is trying to raise $60 million for his money hemmoraging basketball team, he's trying to insure that $100 million will be earmarked in the State budget for his Atlantic Yards high-rise/arena proposal.

NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman is keeping an eye on Albany and whether or not the $100-million direct State subsidy is in.

Governor Pataki has always been portrayed as a big booster for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, but his rival in the state Assembly is apparently even more of one. Skip Carrier, Sheldon Silver's spokesman, told us that the Assembly Speaker's proposed budget includes $200 million for "economic development"--an unspecified portion of which would go to the Brooklyn arena and housing complex. Carrier said Pataki's budget included no money for any sort of economic development projects. We're waiting for confirmation from the Governor's media people on that.


Posted by lumi at 8:03 PM

Ethical Culture Society Hosts Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Thursday, March 30, 7pm
GutkinSklamberg.jpg 53 Prospect Park West (btwn 1st & 2nd St.)
Park Slope, Brooklyn. [MAP]

HEADLINING: Lisa Gutkin and Lorin Sklamberg from THE KLEZMATICS.

* Classical guitarist Robert Secrist * Julia & Leela, of the Jewel Odalisque Dancers, performing Middle Eastern dance.

A BAKERS' ROW featuring some of Brooklyn's top local bakers:

Erica's Rugelach & Baking Co.
Regina Bakery
Cheryl Kleinman Cakes
Shakoor's Sweet Tooth
Cousin John's
Voila Bakery

RAFFLES with prizes donated by local merchants, story-telling and singalongs, a photo exhibition, local crafts.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will be on hand to give updates on the battle to create respectful, community-friendly development.

Admission for the benefit is a sliding scale of $5-10-20.

Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM

The $6 billion lie: why Ratner's fiscal claim is Swiss cheese

Atlantic Yards Report

It's the $6-BILLION lie that won't die.

Lie, major misoverestimation... whatever you want to call it, Forest City Ratner is still touting the $6-BILLION figure divined by the Ratner-commissioned report written by sports-venue-economist-turned-hired-gun Andrew Zimbalist.

$6-BILLION LIECurrently the figure is playing a starring role "in a letter they're providing to state legislators in an effort to lobby Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver."

The Zimbalist report has been discredited and contradicted by reports issued since the Atlantic Yards proposal was in its infancy:

It results from manipulated statistics, an enormous (and methodologically flawed) overestimate of revenues, and an omission (and then an underestimate) of costs.

The study's conclusions--and FCR's manipulation of them--are challenged in reports by two city agencies and two outside analysts, not to mention an application of some economic common sense.

Atlantic Yards Report listed 10 reasons "to question the purported $6-billion figure," and ran out of gas at 15.


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

The Transportation Argument

We’re told that it makes sense to locate a major development at the proposed site, because it’s already a transportation hub. A nice sound bite, but it’s not the full story.

Brooklyn Views outlines the real-life traffic and transportation conditions that contribute to the reputation of the intersection at Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th as "one of the most congested in the borough, at virtually all hours of the day and night." In addition, BV cites many common-sense and innovative ideas that should be studied and considered.

On the other hand, if New York City and Forest City Ratner got serious about solving the existing problems, they might have to face the possibility that:

In a real study of possible sites, locating a surge of 19,000 additional people at one of the most congested intersections of a main artery in Brooklyn would not likely be selected as the best fit for this program.


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

The Gripe Against Gehry

Rogue's Gallery
"Rogue #4: The Sculptor"

"By definition, a building is a sculpture, because it is a three-dimensional object." — Frank Gehry

stairway.jpgPlace Performance takes sculptor-slash-starchitect Frank Gehry at his word and explains why his giant "attention getting," "whimsical," "wobbling," "kick-ass sculptures" are generally "not made to live in" because "the concentration is always on how the building looks instead of how it performs, or how it feels."

An example is Cleveland's great mistake:

Clevelanders were heartbroken to learn that their beautiful new five-story Peter B. Lewis Building with the complicated titanium roof at the business school at Case Western University is a nuisance and a menace. When the hot Cleveland sun is shining, the campus pedestrians are blinded by all that shiny metal - the CNN report says, "the glint off the steel tiles is so powerful that standing next to the building is like lying on a beach with a tanning mirror."

And here during its first winter, they're finding out that this $62 million masterpiece dumps snow off its sloping surfaces and hangs dangerous-looking two-foot icicles off at least one roof edge.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM


Looking to sell 25 percent of Nets

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner is trying to raise $60 million to keep the NJ Nets afloat now that the team "expected to remain in its New Jersey moneypit until the 2009-10 season or longer."

Here's a brilliant yarn spun by Ratner's crack PR team:

A spokesperson for Forest City Ratner told the Star-Ledger that the company was “looking to raise new equity to increase liquidity."



Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

March 27, 2006

KO aid to Ratner until school is built, pol sez

The NY Daily News
By Hugh Son

The controversial Atlantic Yards project shouldn't get $100 million in state funds until a desperately needed Sunset Park high school is built, a Brooklyn elected official said.

The stalled high school project - promised and then scrapped three times in 37 years - is more deserving of state funding than developer Bruce Ratner's $3.5 billion arena, office and residential tower project, said state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Fort Greene).


Posted by lumi at 10:57 AM

Should Brooklyn Brewery support developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project?

Metro NY

Fans For Fair Play Coordinator Scott Turner and Brooklyn Brewery Owner Steve Hindy stand toe-to-toe and make their respective cases against and for the largest private development in the history of Brooklyn.


FFFP advocates for responsible development, jobs, housing, democracy and equal opportunity for all. It’s the Brooklyn way. But it’s not Bruce Ratner’s. We urge everyone to Think Before You Drink a beer whose taste has soured as it cozies up to the neighborhood bully.


So the Brooklyn Brewery supports the development. Not because of any short-term financial reasons (we sell plenty of beer at the New Jersey Nets’ Continental Arena), but because we think it would be good for Brooklyn. And what is good for Brooklyn is good for all Brooklyn families and the Brooklyn Brewery.


The ever vigilant Atlantic Yards Reports corrects some of Hindy's figures.

Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: Catching up

Since the Atlantic Yards Report was on hiatus for two days, Stormin' Norman Oder spent the weekend catching up.

Will lawyer for ESDC remain disqualified? Tough to tell

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hired "provisional counsel" while the Appellate Court decides whether or not David Paget's employment by both Forest City Ratner and the ESDC is a "severe and crippling" conflict of interest.

There is an important debate going on in the friend of the court filings for this case. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) references a letter in which the ESDC cites Paget's firm as insurance that the "review process will be unbiased." Meanwhile, the ESDC believes that the CBN is an alter ego of the Atlantic Yards opposition despite the fact that many of the groups involved in the Council have no stated position for or against the plan.

Fiscal impact of Atlantic Yards? The city keeps report under wraps
New York City's analysis of the fiscal impact of Atlantic Yards has been cited in a City Hall press release, but has not been made public.

A recently obtained document from the New York City Economic Development Corporation shows that not only is the net fiscal impact less than the estimated $1 billion in City and State contributions and subsidies, but fails to take into account a biggie:

While the agency calculated new tax revenues, it made no attempt to factor in increased costs, such as for public safety, schools, and sanitation.

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Bill Batson announces run for State Assembly

Bill Batson has thrown his hat in the ring as the 57th Assembly District's candidate taking a stand against Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.



Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn’s Barack? Batson declares for Assembly, could block AY project
The candidate speaks and AYR outlines a scenario in which a Batson win, in one of the assembly districts carried by Norman Siegel in last year's run for Public Advocate against Ratner supporter Betsy Gotbaum, could make a difference in the approval process.

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Eminent Domainia: Fighting local takings

Columbia Spectator, Stringer Skeptical of CU Expansion
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's support for the community oppposing Columbia University's planned expansion could pose a problem for the project, which, unlike Atlantic Yards, must go through the local review process. At issue is eminent domain, forced displacement of tenants and a truly fair Community Benefits Agreement.

“I want to promise you that as long as I’m borough president I’m going to do everything I can so that Columbia cannot run roughshod over this community,” he said at a meeting of the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group that has protested the expansion plans.
Stringer expressed opposition to the use of eminent domain to take property in Manhattanville and suggested he would be willing to use his vote in the Uniform Land Use Review Process, the procedure for approving rezoning of the area, to leverage Columbia into taking it off the table. “I’m not for eminent domain, and I do have a role in this ULURP process,” he said. Columbia has asked the state to consider using eminent domain to forcibly buy properties from business owners who have refused to sell, though they say it remains a last resort.
“Columbia left to their own devices has a thirty year record of evicting tenants, of not dealing with the community,” Stringer said. ...
He said a CBA would have to be truly beneficial to win his support. “I’m not here to stand behind a false agreement,” he said, adding, “CBAs that are negotiated behind closed doors... set a dangerous precedent.”

Longbranch, NJ
Read the lastest developments in the MTOTSA residents' (Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview Avenue) fight to save their homes.

North Hills, NY
The NY Times, Of the Rich, Eminent Domain ... and Golf (Times Select login required)

If they ever decide to rewrite "The Great Gatsby" as a land-use and property law textbook, it will read pretty much like the battle between the haves and the have-mores now playing out on the North Shore of Long Island.
North Hills has just about everything except one thing: its own community golf course for the use of the village, which is something residents of the neighboring villages of Lake Success and Sands Point have.

And so, in a rather startling entry into terrain once associated with condemning land for highways or bulldozing blighted communities, North Hills is considering using powers of eminent domain to take the golf course from its current members and give it to the residents of North Hills.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

March 26, 2006

Batson For Brooklyn!


Hey look at this: A local political race that's actually about something.

Bill Batson, a David Paterson aide and Brooklyn activist (and accomplished artist), has his Web site up with the note that he'll be announcing his challenge to Roger Green this Sunday.

The issue: The Atlantic Yards project, which Batson has opposed and Green backs.

Bill Batson is announcing his candidacy for the 57th Assembly District this Sunday 3/26 at 2pm, on the steps of City Hall. All are invited.

Posted by amy at 11:00 PM

Critic Morrone: urban quality of Brooklyn at stake

Atlantic Yards Report offers a terrific recap of Francis Morrone's criticism of the Atlantic Yards proposal:

Historian and an architecture critic Francis Morrone, speaking to an audience in Brooklyn Heights as part of a 3/23/06 forum on the Atlantic Yards project, declared that "nowhere is the urban quality of Brooklyn so at stake as at the Atlantic Yards" and called for community vigilance toward inappropriate development. He also warned that architect Frank Gehry's "disjunctive esthetic" was inappropriate for the site.


Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

March 25, 2006

Tag Sale Continues...

Last weekend's tag sale was a huge success, and thanks to all of you for that. However, they have a lot of nice things left and therefore will have a FINAL CLOSE OUT SALE this Saturday, March 25, from 1-6 pm.

There is a beautiful antique Eastlake small settee for $300 and an antique Eastlake easel for $150. Other items include: housewares, great clothes of all sorts, crystal, books, toys, games, frames, vases, furniture, Tiffany baby procelain, small clocks and more.

Come and shop and help preserve our wonderful brownstone neighborhoods.

Remember...this sale benefits:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
The Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District

LOCATION: 104-106 So. Oxford St., Fort Greene, between Lafayette Ave. & Fulton St.

TIME: Saturday, Mar. 25, 1-6 pm.

It is right across the street from the Lafayette stop on the C line and near the G line. On the C, from Manhattan, be at the front of the train and take the left stair exit to So. Oxford St.

Posted by amy at 7:39 AM



Forest City Ratner is lobbying the State Legislature to include $100 million in the next state budget - due April 1 - for its Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. The developer was promised the money for infrastructure improvements in a memorandum of understanding signed last year. But the request has outraged opponents because the project has not been approved, lacks completed environmental reviews, and doesn't have a final design yet. Atlantic Yards is also expected to face a court challenge on several fronts, including its use of eminent domain.

Posted by amy at 6:31 AM

Atlantic Yards Counsel Case Points to Defects in Environmental Laws

Big Cities Big Boxes:

The real problem is with the environmental statutes, which in effect put the fox-developers in charge of the state environmental henhouse. As counsel for the state pointed out yesterday, the statute permits the developer to draft his own environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS, however, is what the entire environmental regulatory process must examine. Although counsel for the state would doubtless not put it this way, we have environmental statutes that in their very nature positively require a conflict of interest. To enforce the statutes as drafted means to put the developer in control of the state process that is supposed to regulate him.


Posted by amy at 5:43 AM

March 24, 2006

Willoughby plaza at Marriott nears OK

The Brooklyn Papers offers a dismal summary of one of Ratner's 'open spaces':

A space needs something that will make it a destination, not just a pass-through.”

That “something” never made a destination of the large pedestrian plaza a few blocks northeast of Willoughby Street — a commons area at the center of Forest City Ratner’s Metrotech office campus.

Though well-maintained and safe, the planter-bedecked Metrotech plaza feels more like a parking lot with benches than a vibrant public space.


Posted by amy at 6:19 PM

State Agency Boots Ratner Lawyer After Ruling


In a victory for opponents of the Brooklyn Nets High Rise project, a state agency has voted not to use a laywer who also works for developer Forest City Ratner. But the Empire State Development Corporation is defending its right to chose its own lawyer in court.


Posted by amy at 6:15 PM

Judges To Decide if Agency Can Rehire Lawyer Banned From Atlantic Yards Project

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Report from yesterday's appeals court hearing:

The state’s lawyer, Douglas Kraus, said yesterday that Mr. Paget’s role with the state would not include decision-making, and that opponents could challenge the state on its final determination on the project, but not on whom it hires as a lawyer.

A lawyer for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Jeffrey Baker, asked the court to uphold Mr. Paget’s ban, saying doing so would serve to regain the public’s trust in the state review process.

One judge said Mr. Paget’s dual roles gave the appearance of impropriety but on a deeper level might not be a conflict of interest. Another judge said the more appropriate forum for a challenge by opponents would come after the state’s decision.

After the hearing, Mr. Paget told reporters: “We’re lawyers. We abide by the law.”

Pending the outcome of the case, the state has hired a “provisional counsel” to avoid any delay on the project.


Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Watching the Takers

The NY Sun, Editorial

The Sun explains how the "collaborative" relationship between Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the state agency, The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), affects the use of eminent domain:

During arguments before Judge Edmead, lawyers for both the ESDC and Forest City Ratner argued that Mr. Paget could not have a conflict of interest in working for both because the two had a "collaborative" relationship. In other words, the state and the developer were starting from the premise that they are on the same "side" of this issue.

The ESDC also happens to be the agency responsible for invoking eminent domain when developers want to oust property owners for the sake of building shopping malls or factories or, in this case, a sports arena, commercial center, and residential complex. The environmental review process on which ESDC and Forest City Ratner purport to be "collaborating" will affect future eminent domain proceedings on the project site because the people conducting such a review have broad scope under New York law to find the kind of vaguely defined "blight" that would allow the state to seize property from a group of owners who have vowed to fight the project.
Regardless of the outcome of this appeal, New Yorkers have good reason to look at this case and ask, who's looking out for us?


Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM


NY Post
By Nicole Gelinas

Mayor Bloomberg is duking it out with Larry Silverstein, citing Silverstein's inability to finance the entire project. The irony is that Silverstein might actually run out of money after one or two towers are built, unless he has access to Liberty Bonds, $8 billion of low-cost financing meant to spur Downtown redevelopment.

Yet Bloomberg so far hasn't used the Liberty Bonds to aid Downtown's recovery. He awarded $114 million to developer Bruce Ratner for a Brooklyn office tower, and approved $650 million for a Durst-owned tower in Midtown. Neither project fulfills Congress' mandate - in fact, each competes with Downtown. (Gov. Pataki took flak for approving $1.7 billion in Liberty Bonds for Goldman Sachs - but Goldman's building Downtown.)

Bloomberg has awarded Liberty Bonds to favored developers - Silverstein isn't one of them - at the expense of Downtown redevelopment, further antagonizing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan and put the kabosh on the stadium deal.


Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

Ohio voters may get shot at slots in November

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Not merely content to bid on a railyard-sized slot-machine parlor in Pittsburgh, Bruce Ratner's parent company, Forest City Enterprises, is now vying for approval of slot-machine parlors in Ohio by funding a $12-million campaign to put the question directly to the voters.


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

A New Face for Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
Bu Matthew Schuerman

Yesterday, prior to the appeals court hearing, the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Board was:

expected to appoint a new lawyer to represent the agency on the Atlantic Yards project, until a dispute over the former lawyer, David Paget, is resolved.
Atlantic Yards opponents contend that Paget had a conflict of interest, since he earlier represented the developer, Forest City Ratner.

Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop—Don’t Destroy Brooklyn writes in an e-mail: “Their main argument for their appeal was that they couldn't find a new lawyer. Apparently that is specious.”


Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

Weld Backs Use Of Eminent Domain For Atlantic Yards

NY Sun

Slick Willy does a flip-flop:

Republican gubernatorial candidate William Weld, who has called the use of eminent domain to seize private property a policy better suited for Communist China than for America, yesterday cited two examples of when he would support such a move.


Ben Smith spells it out in The Politcker:

[Weld] framed his opposition to the Kelo decision as broad, and not limited to its endorsement of the role of a private developer:

"The fundamental problem with Kelo is that it represents statist central planning. The government decided that it wanted new real estate projects, and then let a private entity effectuate a transfer of wealth."

But asked about the details by Crain's Greg David, he said he supported the Atlantic Yards project becuase it's "imbued with public interest."

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

March 23, 2006

Handicapping the Court

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman gives his take on today's court hearing, but don't ask him to pick the trifecta:

If we were doing a Linda Greenhouse-style analysis of today’s court hearing on the Atlantic Yards case, we’d have to hand the Empire State Development Corporation at least two of the appellate panel’s five votes. The other three are harder to read.


Posted by lumi at 11:12 PM



The evening's agenda will feature: * Special Guest Speaker Francis Morrone: “About New York” columnist for The New York Sun. Author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, co-author of Brooklyn: A Journey Through the City of Dreams.
* Latest Updates
* South Brooklyn Legal Services:­ Ratner's proposal's Impact on Low-Income People
* Information on Volunteer Opportunities
* Community Q&A and open Discussion

First Unitarian Congregational Society
50 Monroe Place, Brooklyn Heights
(corner of Monroe Place and Pierrepont Street).

Click here for map with subway info (Firefox, IE, and Safari 1.2.4+ compatible).

2/3 to Borough Hall or Clark Street
4/5 to Borough Hall
A/C to High Street or Jay Street/Borough Hall
F to Jay Street/Borough Hall
M/R to Court Street
or the #25. 26, 38, 41, 51 or 52 Buses

Posted by lumi at 8:42 PM

TODAY: Appellate Division Arguments

NYSCourtSeal.jpgThursday, March 23, 2:00 PM
Appellate Division Courtroom, Manhattan
27 Madison Avenue (at 25th Street)

Appeal and Cross-Appeal Arguments to Be Heard Today
Arguments to be Made in Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies.

NEW YORK, NY - This Thursday, March 23, the Appellate Division, First Department will hear argument in the matter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies. (FCRC). The ESDC has appealed the decision of Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead, which disqualified ESDC's attorney, David Paget of Sive Paget Riesel, from his representation of ESDC in its environmental review of FCRC's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal. Mr. Paget was barred from representing ESDC as a result of a conflict of interest because of his recent representation of FCRC on the same project, and the ongoing representation by Mr. Paget's firm of FCRC in other matters.

The five member appellate bench will also hear argument on the cross-appeal of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Inc. (DDDB) and its co-plaintiffs of a separate portion of Justice Edmead's decision. Her ruling found that ESDC's pre-project approval declaration decision, permitting demolition of six buildings in the development's proposed footprint to proceed on the basis of the developer's public safety emergency issues, had a rational basis, and accordingly, could not be disturbed by the court.

Argument will take place in the Appellate Division Courtroom, located at 27 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

WHAT: Appellate Division Arguments: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies. (all court papers are here: http://www.dddb.net/litigationhttp://www.dddb.net/litigation)

WHERE: Appellate Division Courtroom, Manhattan 27 Madison Avenue (at 25th Street)


Thursday. March 23. 2:00 PM -30-

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 7:17 AM

Yankees Stadium Plan Mapped

OnNYTurf brought you the Google Map hack of Atlantic Yards to show just how incredibly big the project is.

Just released today, the new Yankee Stadium Plan Google Map.


The Bronx's land shuffle is as mind-boggling as Atlantic Yards is BIG. Details of the Yankee Stadium plan have caused the eyes of the local press corps to glaze over, and now you can see why.

Click here to see how the City plans to drop the Bombers on the Bronx.

Several different plan views
Locations of schools and senior centers
Neighborhood pics
And parking, parking, parking!

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Sweetheart Transplants

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

The Star reviews ACORN's most recent report on the state of affordable housing in Brooklyn, as critics point out inaccuracies in the report and problems with ACORN's pro-Atlantic Yards stance.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

Markowitz Sets Sights on Building New Jail, Condos at Old Detention Site

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Though Borough President Marty Markowitz declared that, "he would support nothing less than tearing down the existing jail [on Atlantic Avenue] and building something new," he has not yet used his lifeline to Brooklyn's development kingpin, Bruce Ratner:

Mr. Markowitz said he has spoken with several area developers who say they are interested in the site. He said he had not consulted with the developer of the Atlantic Yards project, Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

Financial follies at Ground Zero

Or are they political follies?

City Journal
By Nicole Gelinas

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center is at a very curious stalemate:

But so far, Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t used the Liberty Bonds to aid rational private-sector recovery downtown. He has awarded $114 million of these valuable, and finite, resources to developer and political darling Bruce Ratner for an office tower in Brooklyn. He has approved another $650 million in Liberty Bond financing for a Durst-owned tower in Midtown. Neither of these projects fulfills Congress’s mandate to rebuild Lower Manhattan. Worse, both projects will actively compete with downtown. (Pataki has gotten a lot of flack for approving nearly $1.7 billion in Liberty Bonds for Goldman Sachs—but at least Goldman is building downtown.)


NoLandGrab: New Yorkers are wondering what the end game is supposed to be in the Mayor's plan. If Bloomberg manages to bully Larry Silverstein off the project, does City Hall turn around and award the project to a favored developer like Related Companies or Forest City Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

March 22, 2006

Beer boycott is on over Brooklyn arena

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

Ever since Brooklyn Brewery’s president Steve Hindy publicized his support for Bruce Ratner’s proposed $3.5 billion basketball arena and high-rise development for the Atlantic Yards, bartenders at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom have discouraged customers from drinking the brew.

Now, they won’t have to.

“The boycott is on,” said Freddy’s manager Don O’Finn. “I have to find the right beer to replace it on the tap beer system, fix the beer list sign, and then Brooklyn is out.”

The article quotes Park Sloper Jon Scieszka, who has started a counter boycott:

“I understand people are upset with the deal proposed by Ratner and it’s something they should challenge him on, but I don’t think they should try to damage Steve Hindy,” Scieszka said. He said the boycotters were using a “kind of Bush tactic, like labeling someone a terrorist so then you don’t have to talk about the issues.”

NoLandGrab: The point of the boycott is that Brooklynites who support those trying to save their homes and businesses no longer wish to enrich those who seek to enrich Ratner.

What Steve Hindy's friend Jon Scieszka apparently doesn't know is that local activists are all about talking about the issues to anyone who will listen. Recently local groups sought a dialog with Hindy, who obliged by meeting and walking the footprint with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, after which Hindy declared his unequivocal support for the project.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

A thoughtful defense of eminent domain (but would it fit Atlantic Yards?)

Atlantic Yards Report considers a thoughtful defense of eminent domain for the purpose of urban re-development, but finds that the arguments fall flat in the case of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, where there has been no city planning process, community review or attempt to solicit bids from competing devlopers.


Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

NJ Eminent Domainia

The Newark Star-Ledger, Bloomfield, after legal battles, will postpone building condos

The [Bloomfield Town Council] gave developer Forest City Bloomfield the green light to build low- and high-rise apartment buildings, stores, and a Stop & Shop supermarket elsewhere in the 13.5-acre redevelopment zone, but removed the contested property along with a strip of stores and eateries on the eastern side of Bloomfield Avenue.

That means, that local businesses who stood with Brooklynites in the fight against the eminent domain addicted Forest City Ratner Company can breathe a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, in Long Branch, NJ, the fight to save bungalows at the shore from the city's redevelopment plan to build upscale beachfront condos moves into the courts...

Asbury Park Press, Long Branch eminent-domain battle heads into court

...as homeowners and property rights advocates take to the streets:

Friday, March 24
9:00 a.m.
Monmouth Vicinage Court
71 Monument Park
Freehold, NJ 07728
South Wing lawn

Stand up to New Jersey's tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers - come rally against eminent domain abuse this Friday!

Departing at 7:45 a.m.
Pick-up at 38 Ocean Terrace, Long Branch
Returning from Freehold at approximately 12:00 p.m.
Reserve a seat by emailing MTOTSA@aol.com

The City of Long Branch is trying to seize cherished homes in the MTOTSA neighborhood along the beachfront in order to give the land to a private developer so it can build upscale condos for the wealthy.  The purpose of the Friday hearing is to determine whether the judge will rule on the very limited evidence now available or allow the homeowners the chance to prove that the taking of their homes is an illegal abuse of the power of eminent domain.  Incredibly, in its initial filing with the court, Long Branch argued that the homeowners are not entitled to make their case because Long Branch has assured the court that its use of eminent domain is above board.

Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

March 21, 2006

Ratner to investors: AY approval expected by fall, Nets losses downplayed, 15-year buildout?

Atlantic Yards Report tunes into the webcast of the Forest City Ratner special investor event to learn more about the world according to Ratner.

Is the Atlantic Yards project on track? Despite delays from the original plan to open the arena in the fall of 2006, Forest City Ratner president and CEO Bruce Ratner told investors in the parent Forest City Enterprises that he expects goverment approval by mid-fall and construction to commence a few months after that. Ratner, sounding jovial and confident, also deflected concerns about losses suffered by the New Jersey Nets, saying he was confident the team would make money when it moved to Brooklyn. (Photo from Forest City Ratner web site.)

Ratner participated in a special investor event on 3/13/06. His portion goes from 1:22 to 1:54, but keep listening for another two minutes for an eminent domain anecdote. An investor conference call is scheduled for March 31.


Posted by lumi at 5:36 PM

Amusing eminent domain story

As transcribed by Atlantic Yards Report, here's an amusing little anecdote about eminent domain as told by Charles(?) Ratner at the investors special event:

So Albert tells this story. In 1950s, he was in the office, putting his coat on, he was going out of the building. His father, Uncle Leonard, said, "Al, where are you going?"

"I’m going to meet the Ohio Department of Transportation."

"How come?"

"Dad, you know the land we have on Mayfield Road. They’re going to take that and put a highway right through that land."

And Uncle Leonard looked at Albert and said, "That’s going to be terrific for our land. How much do we have to pay them for that?"

Albert said, “No, Dad, you have it mixed up. We don’t pay them, they pay us."

At this point, Uncle Leonard said, “What a country.”

NoLandGrab: As for property owners who are fighting for the right to live in their own homes, "Let them eat cake."

The Real Estate Observer observes:

Having a highway put through your living room, on the other hand, is a little different.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 PM

FCRC sells Hilton Times Square property to Sunstone

Despite Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey's claim that the development company is committed to holding the properties it develops for the long term, a deal to sell the Hilton Times Square to Sunstone Properties closed yesterday.

GlobeSt.com, Sunstone Closes on $243M Hilton Times Square Purchase

The Real Estate Observer reports that this deal, "netting $242.5 million," should keep Forest City Ratner flush for the time being. That would make sense if Forest City Ratner wasn't already turning to non-traditional lending sources and if most of the profits from the deal didn't flow back to the parent company.

Posted by lumi at 4:07 PM

What Will Happen with Ratner's Raw Sewage?

Daily Gotham

sewage1.jpgHoly crap! Where is all of Ratner's sewage supposed to go?

When sewage backs up into your Brooklyn brownstone apartment every time it pours, one of your "biggest concerns about the giant Atlantic Yards project is sewage."

Daily Gotham blogger Mole333's "personal, awful experience has been that Brooklyn's sewage system is grossly overtaxed as it is."

A link that stinks.

Posted by lumi at 3:23 PM

The warning signs against a Brooklyn Nets

Here's NewYorkGames.org's reaction to the news that Ratner is seeking new investors in the NJ Nets to cover mounting losses:

The warning signs against a Brooklyn Nets are accumulating rapidly:

  • The Nets borrowed another $60 million only last year for the same purpose. Looks like the banks won't give them any more.

  • With the resistence to placing the arena in a brownstone neighborhood strengthening, it's very likely that there'll be many more years of red ink.

  • The team was supposed to move in 2007 (with a worse case of 2008). Now they say 2009, but the new lease allows them to stay in New Jersey forever.

Link to the rest of NewYorkGames's list.

NoLandGrab: The previous $60-million loan NewYorkGames cites recalls the $40.5-million bridge loan Ratner took out in Dec, 2004, in another move to cover rising costs of the project from a non-traditional lender.

Posted by lumi at 3:13 PM

Sierra Club Joins NYPIRG Amicus Brief Supporting Lower Court Decision to Disqualify ESDC's Conflicted Attorney

Appellate Court Still to Decide to Grant Sierra Club Status as Amicus

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 21, 2006

MANHATTAN, NY–The Appellate Division, First Department of New York, today granted the Sierra Club's motion to join The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) in their request for amicus or "friend of the court" status in support of New York Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead’s decision to disqualify a lawyer in the environmental review of Forest City Ratner’s "Atlantic Yards" proposal.

Justice Edmead based her finding of a conflict of interest on lawyer David Paget’s representation of first Forest City Ratner (FCR, the proposal's developer) and then Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, the project reviewer) on the same "Atlantic Yards" proposal.

"Sierra Club and its nationwide membership understand the importance of this case specifically to ensure a fair environmental review of Forest City's 'Atlantic Yards' proposal and more broadly for the future integrity and transparency of New York State's environmental review procedures. The Sierra Club’s particular interest in this case and its issues stems from the erosion of protections for public health and the environment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)," said Timothy J.W. Logan, chair of the Sierra Club-NYC Group. "We are encouraged that the Court granted our motion to join NYPIRG in support of the lower court's enlightened decision to remedy ESDC's conflict of interest. We fully expect Justice Edmead's decision to stand on its merits."

The Sierra Club is a national, nonprofit organization of approximately 750,000 members, and is dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth; to practicing and promoting the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educating and enlisting humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to using all lawful means to carry out these objectives. The Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club has approximately 44,000 members in the state of New York, and the Sierra Club's New York City Group has approximately 15,000 members.

The original suit, filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community based organizations, was heard and decided on February 14th. "How can ESDC take a 'hard look' at the environmental impact statement for the Ratner proposal if it hires the very same lawyer who is helping prepare it and has represented the developer on the same project?" said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The agency has a clear conflict of interest."

The ESDC appealed Justice Edmead’s decision and the appeal will be heard at 2pm on March 23rd at the Appellate Division Courtroom (Manhattan, 27 Madison Avenue at 25th Street)

The brief can be found online here: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/index.html#amicushttp://www.dddb.net/litigation/index.html#amicus

The Sierra Club’s concerns encompass a broad range of issues related to the protection and preservation of the public’s health and the environment. Forest City Ratner's proposed "Atlantic Yards" development and takings of surrounding properties for additional development currently fails to adequately address or mitigate environmental concerns associated with said development. The Sierra Club’s particular interest in this case and the issues which the case concerns stem from the erosion of protections for public health and the environment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

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. www.developdontdestroy.org

Sierra Club. Contact: Timothy J. W. Logan, Chair, Sierra Club-NYC Group. 718-208-8864 Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Contact: Daniel Goldstein, DDDB. 917-701-3056

Posted by lumi at 2:50 PM

Gehryland, USA

Should one architect--even the world's most famous architect--be responsible for all of the buildings in two massive developments?

Metropolis, April, 2006
By Christopher Hawthorne
Posted March 20, 2006 (login required)

GehrylandIt is surely a sign of America's current state of philosophical eclecticism--or maybe just our deep confusion--that the architectural news in this country has been dominated in recent months by two contradictory developments: the success of the New Urbanists in helping shape the post-Katrina reconstruction and the stunning revival elsewhere of the megaproject.

Since the floodwaters receded, Andrés Duany, Peter Calthorpe, and others have been charretting much of the Gulf Coast into submission, preaching the gospel of walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development (and front porches). The more fascinating story, frankly, is taking shape on the other side of the cultural divide, in the territory where Robert Moses and Le Corbusier once tread. In each of the two biggest cities in the country, Frank Gehry has been handed a commission whose size and scope would lead both of those men to sit up and take notice.

In Los Angeles it is the entire first phase of the $1.8 billion redevelopment along Grand Avenue for the New York-based Related Companies, replacing a bunch of--what else?-- parking lots across the street from Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. In Brooklyn it is a $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project for developer Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner Companies, which will include not just the 18,000-seat arena for the NBA's Nets but also more than a dozen different buildings, the tallest of which tops out at about 60 stories. Both projects will be helped along by a substantial public subsidy.

More than four decades after the revelatory appearance of Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities, two of the greatest have charged ahead with a gargantuan building effort, thick with skyscrapers designed by a single architect. You might think of them as outposts of a new theme-park approach to architecture and development: Gehryland Brooklyn and Gehryland L.A.


Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

Eminent Domainia: The Kelo Effect

The Next American City
LAW: Condemning the Condemners: The Supreme Court's Decision in Kelo and Its Aftermath

Long Beach Press Telegram
Long Beach church protests RDA Board takeover
Taking land owned by a church (which pays no taxes) via eminent domain is one of those hypothetical situations that people think never really happens. Long Beach is the site of the latest of such abuses.

Yea and nay on public use. Two Long Island eminent domain cases show pros and cons of the law
Two cases on Long Island considering the use of eminent domain: * The Suffolk County Farm Bureau is stuck between conflicting interests, preserving farm land and using eminent domain to do so.
* The Mayor of the Village of North Hills wants to condemn a private golf course to create a public amenity to be used exclusively by village residents.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Before "Ratner's Folly": 2Bed, 2Bath, Constant SHRIEKING Traffic

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Grace

Boerum Heights?

If "Atlantic Yards" goes down in history as "Ratner's folly," the credit for the term goes to Matthew Grace.

The choke point at Atlantic, 4th and Flatbush is already a traffic nightmare, well before Ratner has gotten a shovel in the ground. But hey, that won't stop new luxury condo owners from flocking to Brooklyn:

Boerum Heights, the under-construction condo building on Atlantic Avenue at the intersection of Atlantic, Fourth and Flatbush avenues, is shaping up nicely. We took a look at its Web site, and there are still a few units left! But, as evidenced by the picture, traffic right now is a nightmare. Just think what it's going to be like once Ratner's folly is finally up and running.


Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Forest City Enterprises Notice of Semi-Annual Earnings Conference Call Friday, March 31

For readers who are following the financial performance of Forest City Ratner's parent company Forest City Enterprises and how "Ratner's Folly" is efecting the bottom line:

Forest City Enterprises will release its fiscal year-end quarter financial results on March 28, 2006 and will hold a conference call on Friday, March 31, 2006 at 11:00 A.M. ET to discuss these results.

Click here for details and info on the conference call.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

March 20, 2006

TONIGHT: Live Screening "Brooklyn vs. Bush," Anti-Ratner Anti-Bush TV

Show your support for Freddy's eviction fight.

Drop in for a live viewing of "Brooklyn vs. Bush," the anti-Bush anti-Ratner comedy hour.

Corner of Dean and 6th Ave.

BKLYN Mon at 11:30 pm on BCAT ch. 3 Time Warner ch. 56 CVision ch 69, no box: 10.

Posted by lumi at 11:29 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: Series on last Borough Board meeting

Trash on the streets? New buildings not required to containerize garbage (but they should)
Just how does New York City deal with trash from an arena and 7,300 new units of housing? Carmen Cognetta, Counsel to the Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee of the New York City Council, offers some ideas.

Density? FAR is elusive at hearing; Marty offers traffic soliloquy
We still don't know the real FAR of Ratner's proposal or whether or not the City would push for additional upzoning of the area. But the lack of obvious traffic mitigations doesn't stop Marty from waxing poetic about out-of-the-box solutions.

The Times on ACORN report: some context missing regarding Atlantic Yards
New and improved, with links to report, Regional Plan Association's very contrasting view to ACORN, and The NY Times's failure to acknowledge ACORN's obligations to Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

Jay-Z on air

Jayz in Bulls jersey?Jay-Z interviewed during ABC telecast of New Jersey Nets-Dallas Mavericks NBA game on Sunday afternoon.

Q: Brooklyn will be when for this team?

A: I hope '08. We hope soon as possible. We're going through the process. I hope 08-09 season.

NoLandGrab: Lay-Z may want to get off his butt and check the facts. In his defense, he owns less than one-half of one percent of the team so Ratner may not keep him in the loop.

In fact, since the Nets are stuck negotiating a Continental Arena lease through 2010, Ratner may ask investors to double down to cover annual operating losses of around $20 million to $30 million.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Nets investor seeks to impeach Bush

Michael Ratner While we're on the topic of Nets investors, Brooklynites wonder if civil rights crusader Michael Ratner will increase his commitment to eminent domain abuse by ponying up some more bucks to ensure that Brother Bruce retains control over the NJ Nets while the team awaits the move to Brooklyn in time for the 20?? season.

While local activists fight for their right to live in their own homes, Michael Ratner focuses on saving the free world from George Bush.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

March 19, 2006

Benefit Tag Sale


In support of:

*Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

*Fort Greene Park Conservancy

*Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District

Two storefronts wide, two stories high, filled with mission furniture, mint condition vintage handbags (Valentino!), antique lamps, vintage linens, designer clothing, crystal, sculptures, art, jewelry and much more!!!

The tag sale will take place:

Saturday Mar. 18, 11am-8pm

Sunday Mar. 19, 1-6pm

(with a preview sale Friday 3.17, 6-8pm - $5 at door, wine, music & door prizes!)

104 So. Oxford St (Fulton/Lafayette) Brooklyn, NY

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

A torched nabe & lives in ruins

Daily News covers the fires on Pacific Street:

Some in the community fear that indifference and neglect will help the blight spread like a cancer.

"Whether the fires are intentional or accidental, they mean displacement and blight, and can lead to land speculation and the threat of eminent domain," said Bill Batson, co-chairman of Community Board 8's fire safety committee.
A sign on the door of the four-story building of railroad flats reads, "One short sad week ago two mothers and two small children lost their lives ... murdered by arson fire. ... Who is trying to clear out Pacific St.? Why? Money?"


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

Ratner seeks investors to fund extra costs

Newark Star-Ledger:

Baum declined to comment on the team's losses, but the costs of running the team and getting an arena built in Brooklyn are growing steeper by the month, leading to the need for more cash.
However, the arena project has not received all environmental approvals, and the state and the city still need to approve $200 million in financing to improve roads and utilities near the arena. Decisions on that portion of the project are expected later this year, including a crucial vote by New York's Public Authorities Control Board, the same agency that killed the Jets' plan for a West Side stadium.


Posted by amy at 10:34 AM

Also, Bruce Ratner’s Penis Has Not Gotten Any Larger


Of course, Brooklyn Lager will soon be the least of Ratner’s worries. Today he’ll file an additional suit against Mrs. Miriam Abacha, from whom he has not yet received a single cent of her late husband’s fortune, despite her promises. Once she transfers a sum of $900 million (U.S.) to his bank account, he’ll buy you whatever beer you want.


Posted by amy at 10:01 AM

Eminent domain debate suggests states should respond; was there a plan for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report covers last week's debate over Kelo at CUNY Graduate Center, and discovers that the "sweetheart deal" aspect of the planning process could be the project's undoing:

Whether the Atlantic Yards project is a "sweetheart deal" will surely be debated. But it is clear that developer Forest City Ratner devised the project, and city and state officials endorsed the sole-source deal 18 months before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) solicited bids for its Vanderbilt Yard, which would be more than one-third of the project footprint.


Posted by amy at 9:18 AM

March 18, 2006

Bullseye: Third Brooklyn Target On The Way


Brooklyn Downtown Star reports that Marty has reached his ultimate goal for Brooklyn:

The Flatbush Junction is a transit hub similar to the one farther up the avenue, near its intersection with Atlantic, where another Target store just opened two years ago. "There will now be more Target's in this county," smiled the Beep of Kings, "than in any other. It goes to show you that Brooklyn is once again number one in something."

Markowitz extends his excitement into suggesting restaurants to complement the Target:

"How about a Red Lobster?" suggested Marty Mark, shovel still in hand, "or a Legal Seafoods?"


NoLandGrab: How about a locally owned and operated business to keep the profits in the vicinity?

Posted by amy at 10:21 AM

Downtown glitz jumps Flatbush Avenue


Brooklyn Papers:

Ground has been broken on a 40-story luxury condo building on Myrtle Avenue directly across Flatbush Avenue Extension from Forest City Ratner’s Metrotech office campus.
“I want to know who wants Brooklyn to look like Manhattan,” asked Vincent Battista, president of the Institute of Design and Construction located one block south on Flatbush Avenue Extension. Battista has opposed the Downtown Brooklyn Plan since its creators threatened to use the power of eminent domain to demolish his college to build a park.

“And the question is,” he added, “who will be able to afford it when it does?”


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

March 17, 2006

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

Atlantic Yards Report

Kate Suisman, aide to Councilmember Letitia James, debunked the myth that the Vanderbilt Railyards "have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them," at yesterday's Borough Board meeting.

Excerpt from Suisman's questioning of Deputy Director of the Department of City Planning Winston Von Engel:

"Had the city been looking at making use of the land?" Suisman pressed on politely.

"Not that I can recall," Von Engel said. He noted that there were once plans decades ago for a campus for Baruch College of the City University of New York, as part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). "This area was looked at in a very large context. What survived was the Atlantic Center mall [pictured], the Atlantic Terminal mall, the housing. So, in that sense there were plans at one point, but some of them were not realized."

Norman Oder fleshes out the details of Von Engel's statement with a must-read report on the history of the Atlantic Terminal Renewal Area (ATURA).


Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

I'm an R6B. What Are You?

For NoLandGrab junkies who have been trying to penetrate the jargon used to shape their neighborhoods, The Real Estate Observer just found themselves "thumbing through, then reading almost cover-to-cover, the City Planning Commission's Zoning Handbook, released this week."

Think of it as a Zoning for Dummies guide:

Pages and pages in the front of the book take obscure zoning classifications with names that sound like droid lot-numbers and describe in plain language the character and objectives of each zoning class, complete with diagrams and pictures showing existing streets that exemplify the zone type.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

March 16, 2006

ESDC, Ratner & job numbers: collaborative or not?

Atlantic Yards Report

How do developers and city planners arrive at job estimates? It's a simple calculation, using an industry standard.

Did Forest City Ratner use the same standard for their initial 10,000-jobs figure? [Hint: No.] Did the ESDC go along with the ruse?

Norman Oder tries to get some answers.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Are Tax Breaks for Builders Still Needed in Hot Market?

The NY Times
By Janny Scott

The headline says it all. With a residential development boom, should the city be missing out on millions of dollars of revenue by subsidizing the construction of luxury housing through the 421-a tax-incentive program?

ACORN has issued a report and proposals to improve the program by requiring more affordable housing.

The group's report comes less than a month after Mayor Michael A. [sic] Bloomberg appointed a task force of developers, housing advocates and others to rethink the program, which city housing officials say has fueled the construction of more than 110,000 units since 1971 but has also cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in lost taxes a year.


Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

The Times on ACORN report: some context missing regarding Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In reference to The NY Times's article on reconsideration of NYC's 421-a plan, "The Times offered one incomplete paragraph referencing the Atlantic Yards issue:"

New York Acorn, which successfully pressured the Forest City Ratner Companies to include mixed-income housing in its 9.1 million-square-foot Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, looked in its new report at 87 housing development projects in various Brooklyn neighborhoods starting at the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and extending toward Prospect Park.

Missing, however, was any explanation of what the developer would get from the deal. It would receive the 421-a tax break. More importantly, FCR got grassroots support for a project that would override city zoning and allow the developer to construct larger buildings--and thus more market-rate units--than would ordinarily would be permitted at the site.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Nassau Chooses Developer to Revive Coliseum Area

Apparently Atlantic Yards Report's persistent attempts to extract a couple of corrections from The NY Times is having some impact. It seems like a "style sheet covering some of the factual pitfalls in covering this controversy," as described to Norman Oder by Deputy Metropolitan Editor Patrick LaForge, has been distributed in the newsroom.

In today's article about Charles Wang's bid to redevelop "the area surrounding the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale," in a section about mixed-use development around sports venues, reporter Paul Vitello wrote:

In Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner plans to build a residential and commercial complex over and near railyards with a new Nets basketball arena as its centerpiece. [Emphasis added.]

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

March 15, 2006

PRESS RELEASE: NYPIRG, Elected Officials and Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Submit Briefs in Support of Conflicts of Interest Finding in Review of ‘Atlantic Yards’/Ratner Proposal

MANHATTAN, NY–The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) yesterday asked the Appellate Court for permission to file an amicus ("friend of the court") brief in support of New York Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead’s decision to disqualify a lawyer in the environmental review of Forest City Ratner’s "Atlantic Yards" proposal.

Justice Edmead based her finding of a conflict of interest on lawyer David Paget’s representation of first Forest City Ratner (FCR, the proposal's developer) and then Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, the project reviewer) on the same "Atlantic Yards" proposal.

"How can ESDC take a 'hard look' at the environmental impact statement for the project if it hires the very same lawyer who is helping prepare it and has represented the developer on the same project?" said Gene Russianoff, senior staff attorney for NYPIRG. "The agency has a clear conflict of interest."

The original suit, filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community based organizations, was heard and decided on February 14th. The ESDC appealed Justice Edmead’s decision and the appeal will be heard on March 23rd at 2pm.

"Justice Edmead was right that having Mr. Paget and his firm on both sides of the project 'has such a severe crippling appearance of impropriety on a project of such great magnitude' that to allow it to continue would irreparably undermine the public’s belief in the integrity of the environmental review process," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

NYPIRG does not have a position on whether the overall project should move ahead. "But," said Russianoff, "we are deeply concerned about the integrity and effectiveness of the environmental review process, and ESDC’s abdication of its public obligations to fairly review the project under the State’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)."

City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and U.S. Congressman Major Owens submitted a separate amicus brief. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), a coalition of community groups with the mission to provide a community voice in the scoping and the environmental review process as it pertains to the "Atlantic Yards" proposal, submitted a third amicus brief.

In its amicus brief, NYPIRG said that the "public interest served by the ESDC’s environmental review of the project necessarily diverges from the interests of Forest City as the Project’s private developer and sponsor, the clear, dramatic conflict of interest on the part of ESDC’s choice of counsel precludes ESDC from fully meeting its obligations as ‘lead agency’ under SEQRA to make decisions in the best interest of the people of New York State."

NYPIRG noted that very often lead agencies require sponsor’s to downsize their project and/or incur higher expenses to mitigate the environmental impacts of a proposed project.

The briefs can be found online here http://www.dddb.net/litigation/index.html#amicus.

NYPIRG is New York State's largest non-profit, non-partisan, student-directed research and advocacy organization, NYPIRG has 21 college campus chapter offices throughout the state; ten of these are in New York City, including a chapter at Pratt Institute, located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood near the location of the proposed Project.

NYPIRG’s environmental current and recent projects have focused on improving mass transit through the work of its Straphangers Campaign, and on environmental and public health, including drinking water protection, notification and reduction of pesticide use, clean air and energy, and toxic site clean-ups. NYPIRG has actively participated in the preparation and consideration of dozens of environmental impact statements.

This press release is online at http://dddb.net/litigation/NYPIRGamicus031506.php.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Beer battle brews over Nets arena

metro ny
By Amy Zimmer

Arena foes want a boycott of Brooklyn Brewery in response to president Steve Hindy’s support of the project. And while the boycotters have reaffirmed their call to stop drinking the beer, some are worried they’ll be sucked into a lawsuit filed by Ratner last week against an unidentified e-mailer sending nasty messages to Hindy and other community leaders in Ratner’s name. One e-mail said the brewer would not be selling in the new arena. The defendants are listed as “John Doe Nos. 1 through 10.”

“Some jokester either hacked in or created a fake e-mail address,” said Scott Turner, whose group Fans For Fan Play has backed the boycott. “What I find disquieting is that it’s the kind of lawsuit corporations bring on to bury grassroots groups. It’s possible they could subpeona us for our records.”

Hindy said he was “bemused” when he read the e-mail “because Bruce Ratner doesn’t send me e-mails.”

Ratner, however, didn’t find it funny.

Freddy's Backroom still carries Brooklyn Lager, though many patron have lost their taste for the local brew.


Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

Marty's Atlantic Yards Committee: not quite oversight, but not unimportant, either

Atlantic Yards Report

Just what has been going on at the Borough Board's Atlantic Yards meetings? Who has been participating (or not)? And, can these meetings be considered to be part of a public process, when they are merely a "vehicle for research, information and advocacy?"

Whatever your take is on these meetings, Norman Oder has been there and has reported on what new information has (or hasn't) been discussed.


Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM


The NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

New Jersey Net owner Bruce Ratner has filed a $150,000 federal lawsuit against opponents of his planned basketball arena in Brooklyn - all he needs is a defendant.

The developer is suing a group of anonymous pests who sent fraudulent e-mails, purported to have come from Ratner, to supporters of the planned $3.5 billion project.


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

E-gads! Fake mail sent to Ratner pals, suit sez

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Forest City Ratner is claiming that damage was done to its reputation, though the one email recipient who has gone public admits that the bogus email immediately raised suspicions:

"The e-mails were intended to interfere with the Atlantic Yards Development Project and did in fact damage [Forest City Ratner Companies] and Mr. Ratner," the lawsuit said.
"When I got it, I was immediately suspicious of it because, you know, Bruce Ratner has never sent me an e-mail and, secondly, it's absurdly rude," said Hindy. "I mean, I do know Bruce Ratner, and I couldn't imagine him ever writing something like that."


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

The C.B.A. at Atlantic Yards: But Is It Legal?

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

All the politicians, builders and rabble rousers who have been involved in these new-fangled community benefits agreements, from California to the New York island, have emphasized how these are “legally binding contracts” between developers and community organizations. But the eight experts that took part last night New York City Bar’s panel on the topic seemed less than convinced that these C.B.A.’s, including those at Atlantic Yards and Bronx Terminal Market, would hold up in a court of law....

Carl Weisbrod, the former president of the city Economic Development Corporation, criticized the use of C.B.A.’s in projects that receive public funds—one of which is Atlantic Yards --as fundamentally undemocratic.


Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

They Gotta Have Park

In the spirit of NoLandGrabbing and for our readers who have been following the push to build private sports venues on public land, here are two articles covering the hasty end-run around the community as city parks are being given over to the Yankees and Mets.

Metro NY, How the South Bronx lost its parks to Yanks
The Village Voice, Two Stadiums. No Waiting.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Eminent domainia

Meanwhile, in eminent domain news around the nation:

New London, CT
Fort Trumbull Plaintiff Dies

Wilhelmina Dery died Monday in the home where she was born, on New London's Fort Trumbull peninsula that became the focal point for a national debate spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court case on the taking of private property for economic development.

Weare, NH
Town rejects seizure of Souter house
Souter home safe, symbolic vote in his favor

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

The battle for Brooklyn turns to beer

The Brooklyn Brewery boycott and Ratner suit lands in the Jossip pages:

Then we saw this story, pointing out that there has actually been a push to keep people away from Brooklyn lager. (We think.) It's sort of long and complicated, but it all starts with Bruce Ratner, the developer who has a $3.5 billion plan to rebuild a portion of downtown Brooklyn to create a Nets arena and 7,300 units of housing.

Some weirdo, who is very determined to stop the stadium from being built, went ahead and sent a bunch of forged e-mails, claiming they were from Ratner. They were sent to the president of Brooklyn Brewery, Steve Hindy, who has supported the development, claiming the new stadium would carry the brew. Now Ratner's taking the case to court, with the only current evidence being a fragment of a March 3rd e-mail.


Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

March 14, 2006

BCAT Reporter Roundtable, ONLINE

bcat.jpgBCAT'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

Watch online.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Modern blueprint? In CBA discussion, Atlantic Yards is the elephant in the room

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from yesterday's Bar Association of New York panel on community benefits agreements (CBAs). Though not discussed specifically, Forest City Ratner's innovative approach to community outreach was the two-ton elephant in the room.


NoLandGrab: Interestingly, Ratner's CBA may indeed end up "in a class by itself," as Marty Markowitz touts, if it continues to be recognized as a hastily improvised and flawed process, a process to be avoided in future agreements.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Ratner Files Suit Over Rude E-mails Sent in His Name

The NY Sun
By Joseph Goldstein

Ratner responds to a dirty-tricks campaign by filing suit:

Before Bruce Ratner proceeds with his $3.5 billion plan to rebuild a portion of downtown Brooklyn, he first must deal with an unanticipated obstacle: a pesky e-mailer.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, lawyers for Mr. Ratner claim that someone has been sending insulting e-mails in Mr. Ratner’s name to at least one prominent Brooklyn resident. The writer of the emails is not yet known, but whoever hit the send button did so with the intent of “undermining public support” for the Atlantic Yards Development Project, the complaint states.
So far, the only public evidence of the alleged anti-Ratner e-mail campaign is a fragment of a disparaging email purportedly sent on March 3 by the developer to the president of Brooklyn Brewery, Steve Hindy.
 “Just a friendly messag [sic] to let you know I will not be selling any Brooklyn lager at the Brooklyn Nets Stadium,” court papers quote the email as reading.“Nothing personal, but I have to make a deal with the larger suppliers — Anheuser Busch for one — in order to really do the right thing. You’re small time and always will be.”


NoLandGrab: Who needs petty dirty tricks when Brooklynites are faced with the one of the dirtiest tricks yet, taking people's homes for a private project that the tapayers get to subsidize without any local input?

Brooklynites are definitely frustrated. We hope everyone can keep it clean and give that spell-check thingie a try.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Bruce and Sara Have Been Walking Without Permits for Five Months

The NY Sun
By Jill Gardiner

OK, this doesn't have anything to do with dirty tricks - heck, it doesn't even mention Ratner - but those who have speculated that "Bruce Walking" was named in tribute to its sponsor, Bruce Ratner, might be interested to know that Bruce and Sara have been walking for five months without a permit.

If you want one last look at Julian Opie's LED animations, you better hurry, 'cause they're coming down tomorrow.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

New Map of Atlantic Railyards

WBAI, Wakeup Call

OnNYTurf-Gehrazy.jpgDuring the 7-o'clock hour of yesterday's show, guests Will James from OnNYTurf and Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn discussed James's new Google Map illustrating the size and scale of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

March 13, 2006

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

Brooklyn Views asks "what's wrong with this picture?"

Categories include:
a. Neighborhood Context/Urban Design
b. Planning/Programming
c. Public Outreach/Process
d. Public/Private Development
e. Other


Not just content to lecture on principles of sound urban design, city planning and architecture, Brooklyn Views has posted these two images of current Forest City Ratner projects adjacent to the footprint of the Atlantic Yards proposal and opened the floor for commentary.

This is your opportunity to expound on what you've learned during the past year and a half.

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Atlantic Yards site = open railyard? The Times plays dumb (again)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder details his correspondence with various NY Times editors as he states his case for a delayed correction in The Times over the repeated characterization of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project as being proposed over the "open railyards."

For the record, the railyards only comprise 8.3 acres of the 22-acre site.


Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

Indian Casinos Raising Concerns

Property rights advocates in New York State are facing a political culture that is fairly deaf to their concerns.

Consider this example reported in Gambling Magazine of the Seneca Nation's bid to build an off-reservation casino:

The lack of an environmental review in Buffalo is by no means the only thing that makes the Senecas' efforts unusual. Light said he believes that in Niagara Falls, New York became the only state to help an Indian tribe assemble land for its casino through eminent domain.

That move has recently become something of a sensation among conservatives fighting such "takings" of private property. On Fox News, "Hannity and Colmes" recently featured the Niagara Falls situation. And the American Conservative Union issued an e-mail alert to members criticizing the state for taking land for the Senecas.


Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

These sham eminent-domain bills must be defeated

The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

Institute for Justice attorney Steven Anderson analyzes eminent domain reform bills before the legislature of the State of Virginia. The bills vary in effectiveness and size of loopholes and require caution by those who are seeking timely eminent domain reform.


NoLandGrab: Look for a similar range of bills to be considered in the NY State legislature.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

March 12, 2006

Reaching out


Daily News:

Fofana lost his wife and two children last month during an early morning fire at 1033 Pacific St.

Another tenant, Sherri Williams, also was killed in the blaze, which was deliberately set, police and fire officials said.

On Wednesday, a fund-raiser to benefit the victims of the fire will be held at Dakar.

The event is being organized by Thiam, Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Prospect Heights) and Bill Batson of Community Board 8.
The benefit begins at 8 p.m. at Dakar, 285 Grand Ave. Music will be provided by Kakande, a West African group featuring Famoro Dioubate on the xylophone. The suggested donation is $15.


Posted by amy at 11:20 AM

Multi-Tiered Wal-Mart Becoming Reality



3rd year architecture students at NYIT investigated the multi-level big-box in Matthew Dockery's Big Box vs Big Apple: Wal-Mart in New York City design studio last fall. The premise of the studio is based on "a hybrid public / private venture designed to allow New York City to reap the benefits of low-cost merchandise without suffering the negative impacts of Big-Box stores on public space, local business and the environment." The site of the project lies adjacent to Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, the Frank Gehry masterplanned mixed-use development at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and 4th Avenue in downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

Follow the Shoes


panopticonman takes us through the newfound complexities of buying sneakers in Brooklyn:

And so what that means is I’m buying shoes made in China from a corporation whose headquarters is possibly in Europe, but like Haagen Dazs could be in located in New Jersey, buying them from a discount store located on the site once offered by the Borough of Brooklyn to the O’Malley’s for a new Ebbets Field, but which, in fact, was never really seriously considered by same as secret talks were nearing completion with Los Angeles.

And right next door to that shopping center there probably is soon to be a Trojan horse of a basketball arena erected by a canny real estate speculator named in fine Dickensian fashion, Ratner, a project which is being sold to us as a means to bring Brooklyn back into the world of major league sport where we are told that we the people of Brooklyn belong and which some of the more gullible believe.


Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

Remembering the Underberg


Muckraked! rounds up locals reminiscing about the Underberg building online:

The first building to go - brick by brick - is the Underberg Building, named for Samuel Underberg’s kitchen and grocery supply company, which sits on a roughly triangular plot of land at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. (Photo credit: Curbed.com) The hulking structure was immortalized in Jonathan Lethem’s 2003 bestseller “Fortress of Solitude.”

Ratner hopes to turn the site into a public plaza at the heart of his 22-acre residential and commercial complex, which includes the Nets basketball arena.


Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

A Property Battle Pitting Two Giants


New York Times:

Deepdale, just north of the Long Island Expressway at the western edge of the village, is ranked 36th in Golf Connoisseur magazine's latest list of America's "100 Most Prestigious Golf Clubs." Over the years it has counted President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Duke of Windsor as members, and more recently Michael R. Bloomberg, Tom Brokaw and Sean Connery.

Now, the village and the club are entwined in a battle of Goliath against Goliath.

The village recently took some steps to prepare for condemning the club under eminent-domain laws, so that it can convert it into a public course. (Only a little bit public, though: it would probably be restricted to village residents.)


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

No Evidence of Threat, F.B.I. Says

New York Times:

The F.B.I. said Friday that there was no specific, credible threat of a terror attack aimed at college basketball arenas or other sports stadiums, but acknowledged alerting law enforcement to a recent Internet posting discussing such attacks.

The F.B.I. and the Homeland Security Department distributed an intelligence bulletin Friday to state and local law enforcement nationwide describing the online threat against sporting sites.


Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

March 11, 2006

Demolition begins for Nets arena


Brooklyn Papers gets it all wrong in this misleading headline. As pointed out in a press release from Develop Don't Destroy:

"It must be made very clear to the public that this demolition and the others that may come have nothing at all to do with an approval of Ratner's proposal or the start of the project. The project's review process has barely begun and the developer faces substantial political, legal and financial obstacles in his attempt to shove his misguided plan down the throats of Brooklynites," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The community's fight to determine its future landscape and well-being is stronger than ever."


For a more accurate description of the demolition, check out Courier-Life:

Here Comes the Demolition Man; Work begins to take down underberg building

Posted by amy at 10:02 AM

Hindy: I’m all in


Brooklyn Papers:

Let the boycott really begin!

Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project renewed their call for a boycott of Brooklyn Brewery beer after owner Steve Hindy officially declared himself in favor of the $3.5-billion mega-development this week.


Posted by amy at 10:01 AM

Ratner-ACORN deal is finalized

Brooklyn Papers:

Bruce Ratner has finalized a long-standing promise that his $3.5-billion arena and residential project would be linked to 600-1,000 below-market-rate condo units.

But the question is where.

Under Ratner’s agreement with the housing group ACORN, the units can be built anywhere in Brooklyn — and that has opponents screaming that the project would do nothing to solve the ghettoization of Brooklyn.

“We shouldn’t be segregating homeowners by class,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights).


Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

If Traffic Is a Disease, Where’s the Cure?


Courier-Life covers the transportation meeting of the Park Slope Civic Council:

Aaron Naparstek told the Council March 2 that traffic is viewed as inevitable the way cholera was viewed more than a century ago, whereas it should be looked at as a human-made problem, and mitigated as one.

To deal with the onslaught of vehicles that promises only to get worse as a smorgasbord of planned developments including the Atlantic Yards project and Brooklyn Bridge Park towers come to fruition – if in fact they do – Naparstek and colleagues are calling on the city to improve public transit and create new bike lanes, helping Brooklynites to leave their cars at home.


Posted by amy at 9:55 AM

Yards Plan Not Just Nets

Brooklyn Papers editorial emphasizes the wide gap between the Nets to Brooklyn smokescreen and the actual plan involving 17 skyscrapers, eminent domain, public subsidies etc...

Posted by amy at 9:51 AM

March 10, 2006

Atlantic Yards foes smell rat

NY Daily News
By Hugh Son

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner faces a $500,000 penalty if he fails to make good on a job-training program as part of the $3.5 billion mega-project - and foes call the fine chump change.

The job-training program - an essential part of the benefits agreement Ratner signed with Brooklyn community groups - is meant to send local workers into well-paying union positions.

"It's pocket change," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Fort Greene). "The penalties are obviously insufficient; he probably has that much under his bed."

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn called the fine "obscenely low" and said, "It could be the cost of doing business."

But Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender disagreed, noting the company also could be sued for an "unlimited amount" if it fails to provide affordable housing and parks.


NoLandGrab: What startles Brooklynites about the $500,000 figure is that, in a lucrative luxury housing market, the amount could easily be offset by conversion of "affordable housing" units into "market rate" units.

Posted by lumi at 9:58 AM

We All Live in Poletown Now

By Brian McKenna

Poletown, MI continues to live, as eminent domain seizures of private property for private development becomes more rampant. The vibrant neighborhood's dramatic demise, in the face of empty promises from a corporate behemoth, is as relevant as ever to the national discourse over property rights.

Twenty five years ago this March 4th, Poletown Michigan made CBS national news as the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to consider whether or not Detroit could demolish a vibrant multi-cultural neighborhood to build a General Motors Cadillac plant.
Today citizen homeowner fights are taking place all over the country. In places like Norwood, Ohio (contesting a shopping complex), Long Beach, New Jersey (contesting condominiums) and in Rivera Beach, Florida where a mostly black, blue collar community of 6,000 is fighting an eminent domain attempt to destroy their homes to build a yachting and upper-scale residential complex.

Welcome to Poletown USA, where no one's home is protected from capital's destructive winds.


Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Mayor Takes On The Fight Over Eminent Domain

By Sandra Endo

Mayor Bloomberg has been jetting down to D.C. to make the case for using eminent domain for private projects.

Bloomberg says sometimes it has to happen, otherwise, “Every big city would have all construction come to a screeching halt.”

Property rights attorney Mike Rikon counters:

“The basic bottom line is that some individual is going to make a lot of money and not necessarily improve the city.”

article & video (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: The reporter predicts that candidates in the race for governor could square off over this issue. That won't be the case if there aren't candidates who will take a strong stand against eminent domain (see next item).

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

Read his lips: No new state tax

NY Newsday

Another candidate for governor lines up to support eminent domain and Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. Suozzi & Spitzer

Asked whether he supports using eminent domain as in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, a massive office, housing and basketball arena project, [Nassau County Executive Thomas] Suozzi said he has already used that power in Nassau. "I believe that it's appropriate to use eminent domain to achieve revitalization of blighted areas," Suozzi said. "But it must be done in a responsible way."


NoLandGrab: Score Democrats Spitzer and Suozzi for eminent domain abuse and the Ratner plan. Republican Weld is against eminent domain for private projects, but in a surreal parallel universe supports the Atlantic Yards proposal.

The latest tally doesn't leave much hope for sweeping reform led by a governor who represents the rights of property owners and small businesses, leaving property rights advocates with the tough task of fighting for bottom-up eminent domain legislative reform in New York State.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

The Price of Bertha Lewis' Silence

Brownstoner notes that if Bruce Ratner "ends up not keeping up his end of the bargain to make half the units "affordable", all he has to do is pay [Bertha] Lewis' organization, Acorn, $500,000. A drop in the bucket to buy the silence of a woman who could have been a real thorn in his side."

An anonymous commentator adds, "Yes, I'm really interested to see how this plays out. He will make back the $500k on the first unit he sells that would have been an affordable one."


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

"Rezoning" for the Atlantic Yards project? The Times plays dumb

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times Logo All the news that's fit to print has come a long way baby, but Stormin' Norman Oder suggests that a couple more distinctions should be made in "shorthand" terminology used by The New York Times to report on city rezoning and the "Atlantic Yards project."


Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

March 9, 2006

The First Sign of a Brooklyn Development Is a Demolition

The NY Times
By Nick Confessore

Underberg Building

The first visible change to the site of the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards development near Downtown Brooklyn crept into view yesterday as workers began dismantling, brick by brick, a dilapidated four-story building on Atlantic Avenue.
The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, approved the demolitions in December, but opponents are hoping to block any future demolitions in court.

Technically, however, the demolitions have no bearing on the development's prospects for state approval, a fact opponents stressed yesterday.

In a statement, one opponent, Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, noted that the state review had "barely begun" and that the "community's fight to determine its future landscape and well-being is stronger than ever."

Forest City Ratner officials, meanwhile, reiterated that the demolitions were intended strictly to alleviate a threat to public safety.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Demolition Derby

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

In addition to demolition news, the Observer reports the latest Forest City Ratner ownership figures:

As for news from the other side, Forest City Ratner gave out updated ownership numbers today, showing that it controls 89 percent of the land it needs. That sounds like a lot except it is not much more than reported last fall in the Ratner-publishedBrooklyn Standard (88 percent). Compared to figures handed out at last May’s City Council hearing, the update shows that the developer has purchased two rental buildings and four commercial properties. Notably, the update mentions that there are “no deals with two condo unit owners.” We think we know who owns one of them.


Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

50% Becomes a Moving Target

The Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Rachel Monahan

"It's 50/50. That's the story." says Bertha Lewis, and she's stuck with it. Check out another account of last week's affordable housing forum, at which Lewis lost her cool over challeges by Develop Don't Destroy's Candace Carponter.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

The Sewage Starts at Borough Hall, and then Flows South

The Brooklyn Downtown Star reporter Nik Kovac can't seem to figure out what Forest City Ratner plans to do with storm water runoff from its proposed Atlantic Yards project, but then again, no one else can either.

From a meeting at which plans to contain runoff were discussed:

"When was this announced?" asked the late-arriving Councilwoman Letitia James, when she was informed of this new non-development.

"I'm not sure exactly when," said Atkins at the time. "It might have been in the scoping document."

"It was definitely not in the scoping document," immediately interjected both Dr. Franco Montalto of Columbia University and Dr. Paul Mankiewiz of the Gaia Institute.

Attempting to follow up:

When the Star asked [Forest City Ratner spokesperson Lupe] Todd who actually made decisions about how to contain stormwater, she referred us to the ESDC. A spokesperson for the ESDC, meanwhile, passed the buck back, sort of. "I think it's probably up to the developer," advised our source, "but I don't know for sure."

That's just the confusion over storm water run off. Then there's the matter of whether or not there is enough capacity at the Red Hook sewage treatment facility to handle the increase in sewage for Atlantic Yards and other nearby development.


Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Sheldon Silver Calls for Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's Removal

Downtown Express
By Ronda Kaysen

No doubt Forest City Ratner is keeping an eye on the mudslinging that's going on across the river in Lower Manhattan between Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and State Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver. Silver, who represents the district in Lower Manhattan, thought that he had a deal with the City to build a new public school at the Frank Gehry-designed Forest City Ratner project on Beekman Street.

The war of words has escalated between the Mayor and leaders in Albany, now that Mayor Bloomberg is holding up funding for the project in hopes of finally getting the State to pay out the full amount of money due to NYC Schools, as mandated by a State court.

The mayor has singled out Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Governor George Pataki in his attacks. The schools Bloomberg selected are in key legislative districts, with the two Downtown schools sitting squarely in Silver's district. A source in the mayor's office told Downtown Express that the Downtown schools were selected to get Silver's attention.


NoLandGrab: This public fight may affect more than the progress and composition of Ratner's project in Lower Manhattan. If positions harden and relationships sour between City Hall and leaders in Albany, approval of Atlantic Yards could end up being another pawn. Though in New York politics, you never know.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

RFPs & RFEIs--but not for the Atlantic Yards project

Atlantic Yards Report notes the Request for Proposals (RFPs) and Request for Expressions of Interests (RFEIs) that have recently been making real estate development news. By connecting the dots to Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano's own words, Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder draws the following conclusion:

By contrast, the MTA did not issue an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard--the main public property contained in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint--until 5/24/05, nearly 18 months after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced on 12/10/03. The ESDC never issued an RFEI. That means that developer Forest City Ratner had been in discussions with city and state agencies for an even longer period of time. That process hardly parallels the ones mentioned above.


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Council Member Letitia James: Statement on the Demolition of the Samuel Underberg Building

March 8, 2006

Let me make it clear that the demolition of the Underberg Building in no way signifies an approval or start of Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” project. The demolition of this building is an attempt by the developer to make the project seem like a “done deal.” It is not. It is far from it. The project is still in the very first step of the state review process.

I am not qualified to speak on the safety hazards caused by this and other buildings in the footprint. I repeat as I’ve said before that I am not an engineer. But my request to tour the buildings in question with a certified engineer was denied. Forest City Ratner has refused to allow anyone with an engineering background or any technical know-how inside the buildings, except a firm that is on its payroll.

Forest City Ratner Company has allowed this and other buildings to stand, unprotected, for months and months, and in some cases more than eighteen months. If these buildings are truly a public hazard warranting this pre-emptive demolition, this should be made clear to the public. There are no warning signs, no scaffolding, no protective netting, nothing to alert a passerby that there is any danger.

I ask my constituents to stand strong and remember this demolition is meant to create the illusion of progress but in fact, the project is months if not years behind schedule, incredibly over budget, and already tied up in a lengthy, costly court battle.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

March 8, 2006

DDDb Press Release:
Impending Demolition of "Underberg Building" By Forest City Ratner

Attempt to Stabilize Battered "Atlantic Yards" Proposal
Ratner's Demolitions Subvert State Review Process

BROOKLYN, NY - Developer and land speculator Forest City Ratner intends to begin demolition today on the "Underberg Building" at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Avenue within the footprint of its proposed "Atlantic Yards" development.

"It must be made very clear to the public that this demolition and the others that may come have nothing at all to do with an approval of Ratner's proposal or the start of the project. The project's review process has barely begun and the developer faces substantial political, legal and financial obstacles in his attempt to shove his misguided plan down the throats of Brooklynites," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The community's fight to determine its future landscape and well-being is stronger than ever."

Reverend Clinton Miller, Pastor of Clinton Hill’s Brown Memorial Baptist Church located a few blocks from the proposed development site said, "I have maintained from the beginning concerning this development, that he process will determine the project. If the process is wrong, then the project will be wrong."   (Reverend Miller’s full statement questioning the transparency and democratic principles of New York City and State governments is here:  http://www.dddb.net/clintonmiller.pdf)

The developer claims that five other buildings in the proposed development site are in such a terrible state as to endanger the safety of the public. Despite this claim, none of the buildings, most of which Ratner has owned for over eighteen months, currently have protective scaffolding, sheds or netting to safeguard the “endangered public”. 

"Ratner bypassed the City review process and City Council oversight for the far less stringent and much more opaque State development review process. Despite public and political outcry about that breach of process, the developer is apparently not content to just sidestep the City Charter but has now also chosen to take advantage of the very low standards of review set by the State process," Goldstein said. “By demolishing these buildings Forest City Ratner is destroying evidence, for all time, that would confirm that the neighborhood he claims to be 'blighted' is not at all 'blighted.' Instead Ratner's demolitions are his attempt to create 'blight' where there was none.” 

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation will eventually try to claim that the development site is a 'blighted' neighborhood in order to invoke the use of eminent domain to take private property and hand it over to the developer for his private, mostly luxury housing and arena project. 

An appeal, by DDDB and co-plaintiffs, to a February 14th court decision that paved the way for the demolitions will be heard in court on March 23rd. At the same hearing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will appeal a February 14th decision disqualifying ESDC's attorney on "Atlantic Yards" for having a clear conflict of interest as he represented Forest City Ratner on the same project.

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

Photos of some of the buildings slated for demolition: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/461_463dean.html

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Ratner Begins Demolishing First Of Six Buildings


Underberg Building

The plan to build an arena in Brooklyn for the Nets is taking a major step toward becoming reality Wednesday.

Demolition crews will begin taking down the first of six buildings in the area Wednesday morning.

A spokesperson for developer Bruce Ratner says all asbestos has been removed and the electricity and gas have been disconnected at the Underberg building on Atlantic Avenue.

article & video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM


Bruce RatnerThe NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

NY Post exclusive:

Developer Bruce Ratner starts demolition today on the first of the buildings standing in the way of his $3.5 billion NBA arena and skyscraper complex in Brooklyn.

Officials with Ratner's Forest City Ratner Companies said Gateway Demolition would raze the decrepit, four-story Underberg Building on Atlantic Avenue, which earned a prominent spot in Jonathan Lethem's acclaimed Brooklyn memoir, "Fortress of Solitude."
Ratner paid Gateway $1.3 million to tear down the Underberg and several other buildings in the area.


Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Atlantic Yards Report series on Historic Districts Council conference

Atlantic Yards Report continues its series on the Historic Districts Council conference on "Place, Race, Money & Art: The Economics and Demographics of Historic Preservation."

Process vs. projects, the 'race card,' and 'reluctant preservationists'
How does urbanism relate to preservation and what has been the effect of re-zoning? What about the influence of race and where are all the artists?

Brooklyn density, high-rise and low-rise
Urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz's views on density.

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM


The NY Sun

Mayor Bloomberg made his second trip to Washington in the last week yesterday, this time to meet with Senator Leahy and with Rep. Bill Thomas. Mr. Bloomberg said he talked to Mr. Leahy, a Democrat on the judiciary committee, about ensuring that Congress strikes the right balance when it considers legislation on the government’s right to seize private property through eminent domain. Mr. Bloomberg told reporters that eminent domain was an important tool for the city in reviving blighted neighborhoods by spurring economic development.“Times Square without eminent domain would have remained a cesspool that it was rather than the family place it became,” he said.


Also, there was a small item in the NY Post.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

The Second Generation

Overheard by Matthew Schuerman from The Real Estate Observer:

Richard LeFrak: “If you read about all the problems that Ratner has had in Brooklyn, when they should be rolling out a red carpet for him considering what he wants to do--there is so much democracy now, what with the community boards and everybody who wants to negotiate with him, I hope he lives long enough to see it done.”


NoLandGrab: What LeFrak fails to grasp is that the Community Boards have been locked out of this process, though he's right that everyone wants to negotiate with Ratner, only many haven't been invited. Brooklynites hope that "he lives long enough to" come to his senses.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Lawsuits in eminent domain fight over suburban golf club

AP, via Long Island Newsday By Frank Eltman

You know that the Kelo decision is ruffling a lot of feathers when a private golf club takes pre-emptive legal action against a Long Island village that's pondering an eminent domain takeover to reopen the course as a public amenity for other Gold Coast residents.

Lawsuits were filed Tuesday aimed at stopping an affluent suburban village from using the legal concept of eminent domain to take over a privately owned golf course.

"This proposed condemnation may be the most extreme abuse of eminent domain in the country," said John Wilson, a Deepdale Golf Club member named as a plaintiff.
The federal suit questions the village's right to seize the property through eminent domain; the state case challenges the village's alleged abuse of zoning law to cut secret deals with private developers.


Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

March 7, 2006

Eminent Domain Hurts Little Guy


From an editorial in Northern Star (Northern Illinois Univ.).

Click the image to enlarge.

Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

Brian Lehrer Plays Dumb with Michael Ratner


Last week, Will from OnNYTurf emailed Brian Lehrer during his interview with Michael Ratner, urging him to ask about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

A few minutes later, much to my surprise, Brian mentioned my email on the air, but this is what was said:

Lehrer: "'Please challenge Ratner on the Atlantic Yards.' That's a different Ratner."

Ratner: "Right"

WRONG! What Brian Lehrer has failed to grasp is that pre-eminent constitutional lawyer Michael Ratner is not only Bruce's brother - he is also an owner of a stake in the NJ Nets, the team for which eminent domain will be used to clear land for a new arena.

NoLandGrab: To be fair to Michael Ratner, he wasn't under oath when Lehrer popped the question.

It's also a free country — so what if Michael Ratner invests in a business venture that relies on the threat of the Fifth Amendment eminent domain clause to force property owners to sell out to Bruce and sign a gag order gutting their First Amendment right to free speech? Ratner knows his rights!


Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

Plans call for luxury condo high-rise in A.C.

Atlantic City Press
By Derek Harper

The latest plans for redevelopment of a 30-acre parcel in Atlantic City include a high-rise luxury condo.

The site to be developed has a history that traces back to a deal between Forest City Ratner and the Showboat Casino Hotel. FCR's early effort to get into casino gambling was killed when in 2002, "the Housing Authority ended the decade-long tax-free deal."


NoLandGrab: This article provides a couple historic details about Forest City Ratner for those who are trying to understand the development company's priorities and principles.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

Elite eight picked to develop vision for Iron Triangle in Qns.

The NY Daily News
By Donald Bertrand

Forest City Ratner is one of eight finalists to bid on Willets Point redevelopment project.


Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Historic preservation, the legacy of Robert Moses, and the enduring lessons of urbanism

Historic Districts CouncilAtlantic Yards Report attended The Historic Districts Council conference last Saturday on "Place, Race, Money & Art: The Economics and Demographics of Historic Preservation."

The take-home message: the preservation movement revitalized more than neighborhoods - it saved urbanism.


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

March 6, 2006

Atlantic Yards Photo Tour

Just released, probably the richest Google Map hack to date.

Powered by Google. Produced by OnNYTurf

Atlantic Yards Map

OnNYTurf took a photo tour of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal and overlaid it on Google Maps.

Included are:
onyt-red-icon.gifwide-angle montages that include in-scale renderings (created in the 3-D mapping/modeling utility Google Earth) that illustrate just how enormous Ratner's proposal really is,
onyt-blue-icon.gifinteresting landmarks and locations in the neighborhood, and
onyt-black-icon.gifDead Zones created by projects already built by Bruce Ratner.

Google Map hacks (also referred to as "mashups") have expanded the utility of the original Google Map as programmers have overlaid original content over the popular searchable map.

Last year, OnNYTurf made life easier for all New Yorkers with the searchable Subway Map and the Institute of Justice made their point about wide-spread eminent domain abuse.

OnNYTurf's new map represents a great leap forward for Google Map hacks, as Will, OnNYTurf's creator, will attempt to release a new map a week and plans "to open the editing tools to site visitors, so that anyone can create a map, or teams of people can create maps."

Posted by lumi at 12:28 PM

Atlantic Yards Report: Density Debate Contextualized & Equity-v-Livability

Atlantic Yards Report attempts to clarify two debates surrounding Bruce Ratner's proposed 22-acre mega-development.

New visuals of AY density; when does it become congestion?

The recent "citizen effort" to provide visual context concerning the density of the Atlantic Yards proposal attempts to address Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey's point that density should be situated near a transportation hub. Do the visually arresting images illustrate density or congestion?

Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder quotes Urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz, in her book The Living City:

"Density comes when many people are in the same place doing things that gain strength from their interaction; congestion results when there are so many of them that interaction becomes difficult, access in and out unpleasant, and frustration high."

Equity vs. livability: the false choice

Pratt Center for Community Development Director Bran Lander framed the affordable housing debate as divided between "'equity advocates,' as represented by ACORN, and 'livability advocates,' as represented by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)."

Are these convenient labels much too simplistic to further the debate over affordable housing and Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

Whose Regeneration?

Tony Fletcher's ¡JAMMING!

A busy intersection on the formerly unfashionable side of a major global city river languishes, un(der)developed, until it becomes an eyesore, a blight on the city’s reputation as a world capital. It’s clear that the real estate is worth money, that the location has vast potential, and that the neighborhood could do with the beautification.

What's a city/borough to do?

Read up on a transplanted Brooklynite's tale of two cities: one in which politicians, city planners and the community seek to nurture livable streets with sustainable neighborhoods, and the other... well, you know the story.

Posted by lumi at 10:38 AM

Big name developers eye Willets Point deal

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

Brooklyn real estate baron Bruce Ratner appears on a list eight finalists to bid on the 75-acre Willets Point redevelopment.

The developers were selected for their “clear understanding of the mayor’s standards for superior, sustainable urban development and an affinity for the needs and concerns of the community,” according to EDC President Andrew Alper.


Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM

March 5, 2006

Supreme power to seize land goes too far

Far from the Daily News' declaration of war on Prospect Heights of weeks past, today's OpEd leads a populist revolt against the undemocratic abuse of eminent domain:

Since the Supreme Court decided Kelo, politicians have been frantically trying to respond to voter outrage, introducing bills to "fix" the problem without gutting eminent domain. One proposal would compensate landowners with more than fair market value to soften the blow of having property stripped away. Bills like this one, however well-intentioned, do not address the root of the voters' rage.

Take, for instance, the proposed use of eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The decision to condemn properties, essentially, would be made by lame-duck Gov. Pataki through his control of the opaque and unelected Empire State Development Corp., which is allowed to condemn private land for "public use" in New York. That use can include the advancement of private interests that also further the government's economic development goals.


Posted by amy at 12:33 PM

Spotting Glut, Mayor Deflates Condo Cushion

New York Observer:

The 421a program, which accounts for about one-third of all new construction, explains a lot about all the recent condo activity in Brooklyn and Queens. A 100 percent tax exemption on the new construction lasts for 11 years in the boroughs, with four years at a reduced rate. In Manhattan, the full exemption lasts only two years, and the taxes are slowly phased in over the next eight. And an extra 10 years of tax breaks are added in Manhattan and the boroughs if the project includes affordable housing.
Just a small portion were located in up-and-coming or already arrived neighborhoods that will undoubtedly be the focus of any redrawing of program boundaries: the Lower East Side, Soho, Tribeca, the financial district, the East Village, Chelsea, Dumbo, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene and Williamsburg. Of those 209 addresses, all but 25 were certified since January 1999, and all but 79 in the last two years. Far from trailblazing, it looks as if the 421a program is merely gilting a well-traveled road.


Posted by amy at 12:08 PM

Backdoor Eminent Domain

CB9M Chair's Blog:

When the Atlantic Yards development gathered steam in Brooklyn, for a while it seemed that the Libertarians were at the forefront. Call them cults, call them extremists, they are not the enlightened anarchists who understand that government involvement in affairs can, in thought-out moderation, be beneficial (as long as Democratic hack politicians are kept accountable).


Posted by amy at 12:04 PM

NY-11 Congressional Race: The Wonk and the Preacher

Daily Gotham covers the Park Slope Democracy for NYC meeting:

In general I greatly admire wonks and steer clear of preachers. Yet in the race to determine who will succeed my Congressman, Major Owens, I am finding myself avidly supporting the preacher (poltically speaking, not literally), Chris Owens, over the wonk, David Yassky. Last night at the Park Slope Democracy for NYC meeting, David Yassky was our guest and I got to reaffirm what I liked about him and yet also reaffirmed why I am supporting his rival, Chris Owens.
One audience member challenged [Yassky] on the money issue, accusing him of being largely supported by development interests. He successfully countered some of her more specific accusations, but failed to address the underlying question of just who his supporters are. This is a critical question when you are portraying yourself as the reforming, progressive underdog. When you raise huge amounts of cash in these days of Abramoff and Halliburton corruption nationally, and Ratner corruption locally, people want to know where you are getting the money. I don't know if Yassky was ducking the underlying question or if he was merely distracted by the more specific accusations, which he did address.


Posted by amy at 11:49 AM

March 4, 2006

TONIGHT: Sing Don't Destroy

A Fundraising Event for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Saturday, March 4th from 8:00pm - 12:30am
Freddy's Backroom (485 Dean Street in Prospect Heights)

Sing Don't Destroy is an evening of musicians paying tribute to George Harrison and Bob Dylan, whose fighting spirit and spirituality continue to move and inspire anyone within listening distance of their timeless songs. Hear many of your favorite artists interpret your most-loved Harrison and Dylan tunes, including:

Anna Copa Cobanna • Michael Culhane & Circus Guy • Alice Dietz • The Extra Texture • 4th Street NiteOwls • Fred Gillen and Hope Machine • The Great Outdoors • Ixnay • The Larch • Liza and the Wonder Wheels • Mark Abrahams Band • Nine Mens Morris • Matt O'Grady • Peter Pierce • John Pinamonti • Evan Schlansky • The Secrets • John Sharples Band • Erica Smith • Hilary Spiegelman & John Laprade • Catherine Torrey • Rebecca Turner & Sue Raffman • The Umlauts • Tom Warnick and the World's Fair • Matt Dolingo • Andy Godsberg • Plastic Beef and more!

Over the last two years, the Freddy's music scene has come out for the cause time and again. Join us March 4th for a night of great music and fighting the Blue Meanies.

Posted by lumi at 12:08 PM

Atlantic Yards Showdown:Opponents debate merits of massive downtown plan


Courier-Life covers the Women in Housing and Finance sponsored forum, entitled ‘Affordable Housing and the Atlantic Yards Development’:

Lander did ask a tough question of Carponter, being that if the DDDB lawsuit is successful, wouldn’t that leave open the possibility the Atlantic railyards site would continue to remain fallow as it has for decades?

Carponter replied that she believed a successful lawsuit would open the door to the DDDB plan and other possible developers.


Posted by amy at 11:50 AM

Study:Yards feces to canal; Buddy: Developers’ poop stinks

Brooklyn Papers:

No matter how glistening Ratner’s 17 skyscrapers and Frank Gehry-designed basketball arena will be, the sewage created in its bathrooms will flow into an antiquated, city-run sewer and waste treatment system — which gets overloaded when rainwater mingles with untreated sewage during heavy storms.

As a result, 27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater drains into waterways around the city each year.

On the Gowanus Canal, there are 13 spigots spewing the bile after storms — burying that fetid corpse of water under more fecal bacteria.

Fixing the problem — by ripping up all the old sewers — would cost billions, city officials say.


Atlantic Yards Report offers a more in-depth report of Thursday's Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee meeting:

The acronym to learn is CSO: Combined Sewer Overflow. CSOs, says Riverkeeper, are occur "[a]bout half the time it rains in New York City, once a week on average, raw sewage and polluted runoff combine in sewer pipes and overflow – without treatment – into the City’s surface waters." Hundreds of such CSOs are triggered simultaneously in the city during steady rainfall, leading to the discharge of about 27 billion gallons of this untreated wastewater annually into bodies of water like the still-foul Gowanus Canal.

Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

Ratner seeks blacks, women

Brooklyn Papers:

Bruce Ratner is inviting “minority- and women-owned business enterprises” to an informational session to discuss bidding on initial construction at his proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development.
Project opponents were far from excited. “I find it curious that [they] will be able to review plans for the rail yard that officially haven’t been” approved yet, said Jim Vogel, a Pacific Street resident. Registration for Tuesday’s session closes Monday.


Posted by amy at 11:37 AM


Brooklyn Papers:

Lewis said ACORN cast its lot with Ratner because of the affordable housing promised by the developer, but Carponter said Lewis was ignoring the larger consequences of the project, such as environmental impacts and secondary displacement that the Frank Gehry-designed apartments and arena would create.

“It’s not necessary to build an arena to create affordable housing,” Carponter said.


Posted by amy at 11:33 AM

March 3, 2006

SNEAK PEAK: Google Map hack footprint tour illustrates the world before and after Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards

This image is a sneak peak of what has been billed as the coolest Google Map hack to date.

On Monday, OnNYTurf, the web site that brought you the clickable and searchable NYC Subway map, will launch a clickable Google map that offers wide-angle shots around the footprint with renderings of the Gehry-designed megalopolis, photos of dead zones brought to you by Bruce Ratner, and architecturally interesting places that make this neighborhood worth fighting for.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 PM

Yo, Bloomberg: It's time to solve the Brooklyn transit problem

Atlantic Yards Report (formerly TimesRatnerReport)

Norman Oder reports from last night's Park Slope Civic Council Forum of Traffic and Transportation.

Panelist Fred Kent from Project for Public Spaces provided an ominous quote from Frank Gehry, "I don't do context."

Faced with a tsunami of development, architects who "don't do context," and a City Planning Department without a plan, what's Booming Brooklyn to do? Click here and find out.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Beekman school was always in doubt, Klein says

Downtown Express
By Ronda Kaysen

Funding for the Ratner-built Gehry-designed public school in Lower Manhattan has been spent on other projects, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, possibly putting plans for the school on hold, as politicians argue over where the money was supposed to come from in the first place. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is not happy.


NoLandGrab: It's amazing how a much-needed public school can be a political football. There has been much discussion as to whether or not Atlantic Yards would require a school. If it were deemed necessary, as this article illustrates, it's easier said than done.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Finalists Picked To Bid for Willets Point Makeover

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

The city has selected eight firms as finalists to bid for the $2 billion to $3 billion project to remake a 75-acre site at Willets Point, Queens, with a mixed-use development including about 1 million square feet of retail space, a hotel, and a convention center.

Among the firms expected to compete for what real estate experts call a potentially profitable but challenging project are three of the most active in the city: Forest City Ratner Companies, the Related Companies, and Vornado Realty Trust, according to information provided by the city's lead development agency.

Willets Point is a long-neglected part of Queens, now zoned for heavy industrial use, with an inadequate sewer system and no paved roads. The proposed project is likely to require condemnation of private property through the exercise of eminent domain, as well as extensive environmental remediation and traffic work.


Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

March 2, 2006

A help for public or unchecked political machine?

Opaque Empire State Development Corporation backs many projects, but a judge's stop to Brooklyn project raises oversight questions

The Real Deal
By Jeremy Smerd

Beyond the immediate ramifications for the Atlantic Yards project, the [recent conflict of interest] ruling, which may yet be overturned, was also a blow to the image of the Empire State Development Corporation and emblematic of the kind of setbacks the authority's reputation has faced in the past two years. The ESDC has come under broad attack for being an opaque institution with little oversight; one that is generally more sympathetic to the needs of the developer than the local communities whose economies they are mandated to help reinvigorate. Advocates say that without the ESDC's authority and its power, major projects in New York simply wouldn't get done.

With a $700+ million annual budget, $6.6 billion of outstanding debt and presence in 12 offices throughout the State as well as eight foreign countries, the Empire State Development Corporation and its Chairman Charles Gargano are the biggest players in New York.

Read about the history of the Empire State Development Corporation, the controversy surrounding it and what recent developments could mean.


Posted by lumi at 3:47 PM

Stuckey's shocker: Ratner VP says Brooklyn Arena would use more mass transit than MSG

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey says:

Jim Stuckey"Most everyone believes and I think the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] ultimately will say that about 65% of the people who come to the arena... will be using mass transportation already."

For more about Stuckey's claim and what local experts think, check out Norman Oder's report.

Posted by lumi at 12:22 PM

Doing a Number on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer's Matthew Schuerman was trying to get to the bottom of the affordable housing figures, when Joe DePlasco dropped this bomb in response to an inquiry: “We have also agreed to build on or off site 600 to 1,000 first-time homeowner condos and will continue to work with ACORN on this and related issues.”

NoLandGrab: Once again, DePlasco forgot to issue a press release.


Schuerman does some number crunching and figures that the final tally could reach 2,850 on-site affordable apartments. If that were so, then it would comprise the most affordable units "built in one spot in this city since 1976." Schuerman also compares the affordable housing percentages with another project in progress, Schaefer Landing, a Williamsburg waterfront development.

The Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder does a number on the Real Estate Observer's comparison to Schaefer Landing and reveals that Schaefer Landing's affordable housing was targeted to low-income households earning 60% of the Area Median Income, as opposed to the Ratner plan, where only 40% of the affordable housing units would target that same group. In other words, Schuerman is not exactly comparing apples to apples.

Posted by lumi at 11:26 AM

Don't Kelo My House

The Wall Street Journal, Editorial

Believe it or not, the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London may yet unite red and blue America in at least one common cause. The 5-4 ruling, handed down last June, gives government more or less unlimited power to seize private property.

The latest blowback comes from South Dakota, whose Governor this month signed a law prohibiting the state from using its power of "eminent domain" to take private property for private economic development. No exceptions. No loopholes. The bill passed by unanimous vote in the state senate and 67-1 in the house.

Two-thirds of Americans own their own homes, which is perhaps one reason few seem to share the view of the five Justices who ruled that New London, Connecticut, was justified in evicting homeowners so that private developers could put up a hotel and condominiums that would bring in more tax revenue. Some elites on the political left endorsed the ruling. But the overwhelming, immediate reaction on both the grassroots left and right was: How do I keep the government's hands off my house?

It didn't take long for the political response to get rolling. The sponsors of the South Dakota law said they started work the next day. At the time of the Kelo ruling at least nine states already had outlawed the use of eminent domain to evict homeowners for private development. Nearly every other state has since come up with some sort of anti-Kelo effort via legislation, a constitutional amendment or citizen initiative.

In Michigan, the legislature decided not to leave so important an issue to the vagaries of future legislatures and approved an amendment to the state constitution outlawing the taking of private property for private use. The vote was 106-0 in the house and 31-6 in the senate; it goes to the voters in November. Constitutional amendments are also moving forward in Georgia, New Hampshire, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alabama.

Initiatives are under way in Colorado, Missouri, California, Arizona, Nevada and Montana. In Washington, D.C., the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in November that would withhold economic development aid for two years from state or local governments that use private economic development as a rationale for eminent domain. The Senate will soon take up somewhat less sweeping legislation.

In his majority opinion in Kelo, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "Nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power." It's good to see voters taking the Justice at his word and throwing the Supreme Court a brushback pitch.

  URL for this article:

Posted by lumi at 11:21 AM

CBA Signatories Tout Atlantic Yards In Albany

Courier Life Publications
By Steven Witt

The signatories to the state’s first-ever community benefits agreement (CBA) explained the document in a forum, in front of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Caucus.

“I thought it [the forum] was great. We had a very large turnout,” said Assembly member Roger Green, who co-chaired the event.
“This is the most far-reaching CBA in the country. It is so comprehensive and will benefit Brooklyn and New York City in ways that are unimaginable,” testified Bertha Lewis, of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

“This is the model that can be used not only by the city, but the state and the rest of the country.”


Posted by lumi at 10:58 AM


Likens Recent High Court Ruling To Ideology of Communist China

The NY Sun
By Jacob Gershman

Thrusting the heated issue of eminent domain into the forefront of the governor’s race, Republican candidate William Weld vowed that, if elected, he would bar state government from condemning private property and transferring it to another private owner.

In a speech yesterday in New York City, where protracted legal battles over eminent domain are playing out in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Mr. Weld, a former federal prosecutor who was also governor of Massachusetts, said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of giving local governments broad leeway in seizing private property reminded him of “Communist China.” And he challenged his Democratic rival, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, to define his position on an issue that is gaining traction in New York and other states.
While in that case the liberal justices sided with New London, in New York City some liberal community activists have joined forces with property rights groups to oppose development projects, such as Bruce Ratner‚s Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn and Columbia University‚s expansion of its campus into West Harlem. Mr. Weld said he has no problem with Mr. Ratner's project. [emphasis added]


Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM

Weld rails against expanding eminent domain

Bill WeldThe Real Deal [NY Real Estate]

Eminent domain has entered the New York governor's race. [Bill Weld,] the Republican frontrunner in the race came out strongly this week against the government's growing power to enforce eminent domain.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

The Darman Group: Atlantic Yards Information Forum

The Darman GroupThe Darman Group is holding a forum for Women and Minority Business Owners who are interested in learning more about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Tuesday, March 7
Sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies, The McKissack Group, NYSAMC, BUILD, and The Darman Group, Inc.

Click here for more information.

[Registrants must be pre-qualified.]

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

March 1, 2006

Introducing The Atlantic Yards Report

TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder has long since extended his attention beyond the NY Times's coverage to include all things Atlantic Yards.

Introducing Oder's new blog, The Atlantic Yards Report.

Fans of TimesRatnerReport will breathe a sigh of relief when they visit the new blog — The Atlantic Yards Report is still packaged in the familiar "Blogspot" wrapper and still has Stormin' Norman Oder's penchant for detail and analysis of events and news coverage.

And speaking of analysis...

Oder delivers blow-by-blow coverage of last night's affordable housing debate.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM