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July 31, 2006

Community Boards 2, 6, & 8: Why now?


Why are Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 holding hearings this week and what do they hope to accomplish?


Our communities have requested that the Community Boards take a position on the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project since the project was first announced.  Since that time the Community Boards had stated that they intended to take a position once there was an official project to review. The Community Boards have actively participated in each step of the process thus far, from holding an extremely well-attended information meeting on the project early in the process to hosting public discussions of the draft scope of analysis for the proposed environmental impact statement to presenting testimony for the ESDC hearing on the scope of analysis. With the release of the General Project Plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement there is now an official project to review.

Community Boards always solicit public opinion before taking positions on any project; Public Hearings are an important form of input. At the Community Boards' Public Hearings on August 3rd the public will have an opportunity to share their opinion with us about the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project in a formal, official setting. Each speaker will have up to 3 minutes to present testimony to the Community Board, and leave us with a written statement for the record. The record will be held open as well so that others might share written statements after the hearing.

The Community Boards rely on the active participation of our communities at all of our meetings and hearings so that we can continue to be an effective, representative voice in government. We encourage anyone with an opinion to share to do so on August 3rd, and to participate in the ESDC Public Hearing on August 23rd as well.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 PM

Developers nix or delay condo projects as sales slow, costs rise

AP, via USA Today

This article about the slowdown in the luxury condo market appeared in papers nationwide (locally, in AM NY).

PHILADELPHIA — More and more developers are canceling or delaying condominium projects as home sales slow, construction costs soar and lenders balk at financing units that might not sell.

What's making the situation worse is a glut of high-priced condos and too few people who can afford them.


NoLandGrab: Locally, tons of luxury condos are already in the pipeline and the demand for Starchitect-designed luxury condos has never materialized.

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey has repeatedly claimed that the luxury condos "allows us to do the cross-subsidization" for affordable housing.

Are we expected to belive that in order to meet the affordable housing goals for the project, Ratner is pinning his hopes on a non-existent market for Frank Gehry-designed luxury condos? Or, does Stuckey make this stuff up because the public hasn't seen the financial projections for the project and can't tell if he's telling the truth or not?

Posted by lumi at 4:33 PM

THURSDAY: CB 2, 6 & 8, Atlantic Yards Hearings

The Real Estate Observer posted the locations of this Thursday's hearings held by the disenfranchised Community Boards 2, 6 & 8.

The latest round of public hearings will take place this Thursday, Aug. 3, in three separate locations, all at 6 p.m. Here's the lowdown:

Update: The Brooklyn Papers informs that the community boards are organizing these hearings on their own. They're a bit upset because they've been cut out of the traditional review process because the Atlantic Yards project is overseen by the state, not the city.


NoLandGrab: Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 have been "a bit upset" at Forest City Ratner for a couple of months now. (See Real Estate Observer and Atlantic Yards Report)

Back in May the Community Boards issued a letter requesting that Forest City Ratner "discontinue all mention, in any form" of the Boards "participation" in the Community Benefits Agreement, since they only had a "limited role that ended months before the agreement was signed, when some of the eventual signatories barred [the boards] from attending the working sessions."

The brochure stating, "Three local Community Boards [2, 6, & 8] and other elected officials also served as advisors in crafting the CBA," was handed out this weekend outside the gates of the Boricua Festival at Celebrate Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

Community Commentary: Law prof disputes Daily News

DavidReiss.jpgNative Brooklynite David Reiss — Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School and Community Board 6 member (Chairperson, Budget/Community Development Committee) — responds to the Daily News Editorial Board's assertion that community groups and critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project are "barking up the wrong legal tree," by explaining that these groups, according to the NY State legislature, are actually fulfilling their responsibility.


The editorial board of the Daily News took the members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to task last week because they were “scouring” the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), required by New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), for flaws.

The problem with that position is that that is exactly what SEQRA contemplates what members of the public are to do with a DEIS.

When enacting SEQRA, the New York legislature found that, “Every citizen has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the quality of the environment.” One of the ways that SEQRA contemplates that citizens were to contribute to the protection of the environment was by participating in the environmental review process.

SEQRA provides two important ways that members of the public can participate: by commenting on the DEIS and then by commencing litigation if they believe that SEQRA has not been complied with. It is important to note that the community has an uphill battle in any SEQRA litigation: less than 15% of SEQRA challenges to Environmental Impact Statements are successful. But – and it is an important “But” -- where a court finds that the government has failed to take a hard look at areas of serious environmental concern, it may, indeed, rule in the favor of the challengers.

Given that in New York, citizens have very few ways of making themselves heard through official channels (particularly when New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure has been suspended by the Empire State Development Corporation), it seems uncharitable for the editorial board of the Daily News to begrudge members of the public this one official outlet for their concerns, even if it disagrees with their position on the merits of the project.

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Push poll (likely from FCR) boosts Boyland against Montgomery in Senate race

Atlantic Yards Report

Central Brooklynites are getting push polled over Atlantic Yards (time and time again).

This time Norman Oder's number was up. Let's see if Oder took the bait or took notes...

Sometimes the news just falls into your lap. When I got a call yesterday from a pollster from Pacific Crest Research, the name rang a bell. The same company conducted a push poll last year to gauge and change attitudes regarding Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards (AY) project, almost certainly on behalf of the developer.

I was asked numerous questions, some quite general, but most focused on the race between last-minute challenger Tracy Boyland and longstanding State Senator Velmanette Montgomery for the 18th Senatorial District.

The point of the push poll apparently was to see if the information provided--including leading statements, with incorrect information--would nudge listeners into supporting Boyland, who backs the AY project, against the incumbent, who opposes the AY project.

...Finally, after about ten minutes on the phone with C.J., came the money shot: “Boyland says Montgomery is siding with people who have million-dollar brownstones and want to preserve their exclusive neighborhood instead of looking out for her own constituents.”


NoLandGrab: "Stupid gits!" We recommend that future call lists be scrubbed of the following names "Dan Goldstein," "Patti Hagan," and "Norman 'the Mad Overkiller' Oder," unless they're fixin' "to have an argument".

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Case Won on Appeal (to Public)

The NY Times
By Adam Liptak

ED-protester-NYT-sm.jpgSome views from legal experts on the issue of eminent domain, a year after the controversial Kelo ruling by the Supreme Court and on the heels of the Ohio State Supreme Court ruling for homeowners in Norwood (a case that is very similar to Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn bid to seize private property for his arena and 16 high-rise tower complex):

Sometimes, Supreme Court cases have a way of highlighting issues that had been absent from the national agenda, and the cases can provoke reactions that have a far greater impact than the ruling itself.

“I always tell my students,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Texas, “that one of the best things you can do is lose a case in the Supreme Court.”
“The decision brought to light this incredible rift between what lawyers and cities thought was the law and what the American people thought was the law,” Ms. Berliner said. “This is certainly the situation of losing the battle and winning the war.”

The cases that tend to provoke the biggest popular reaction are those in which justices seem to be out of touch with ordinary people, said Michael J. Klarman, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“Almost all of the instances of backlash,” Professor Klarman said, “are conservative, populist reactions to decisions that seem elitist.”
“There is no doubt that Kelo has inspired a level of reaction that denies power that a rational community would like a city council to have,” said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who opposes Kelo but expresses doubts about the initiative.


Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Yonkers shuts out villages over lawsuit

The Jounal News
By Revecca Baker Erwin

The latest salvo in the controversy over Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers is payback for one town's bid to sue over the stat's environmental impact statement (EIS):

The villages of Ardsley and Hastings-on-Hudson, which had a contract to dump leaves and branches in Yonkers, found themselves shut out of the Nepperhan Avenue dump this month.

Officials in both villages said Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone canceled the villages' contracts as punishment for joining Greenburgh's lawsuit to put the brakes on the $600 million Ridge Hill Village project in Yonkers, just over the town line.
Amicone spokesman David Simpson said city officials are getting tired of going to court with Greenburgh every time the city tries to boost development near the border, and didn't deny that canceling the contracts was payback.
Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner plans to start building 1,000 apartments, 1.3 million square feet of retail space, a hotel and entertainment venues by the end of the year. Greenburgh and the villages are challenging the project's environmental review.


NoLandGrab: Expect suits in Brooklyn over the Environmental Impact Statement, that is if many of the absurd claims in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement are left standing.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

July 30, 2006

Thompson backs Brooklyn project


By Erik Engquist & Anne Michaud

City Comptroller William Thompson offered "strong support" for the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn last week after a published report said he was rethinking his position. Mr. Thompson does not have an approval role over the project--the city has already budgeted its $100 million share--but he carries weight as a Brooklynite, fiscal watchdog and potential mayoral contender. Atlantic Yards has become a political bellwether, playing a major role in congressional and state Senate races in Brooklyn. Sources had told The Crain's Insider electronic newsletter that the comptroller was having second thoughts because the scope of the project had grown.

article (subscription required)

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Gossip Roundup



Are Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams leaving Brooklyn? Fucking Ratner, driving away all the good celebs.


Although Scary Ratner Syndrome is a creative sentiment, Ledger/Williams are here to stay.

Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

NYC high school students get a taste of the design life.


Real Estate Weekly reports on the CBA in action...

Twenty-three New York City high school students have completed a mentoring program, working under top names in the building trades to learn about construction and design related fields. Participating youth received certificates of completion for the program on Friday at the Atlantic Yards Information Center, where they have been meeting since November. Jamie Hector, star of the HBO drama The Wire, was on hand to congratulate the youth on their accomplishments, and PR maven Terrie M. Williams shared with the youth tips for success in business and life.

The atrium-domed recreation center, which included tennis courts, a track, pool, fitness center, basketball court, dance studio and internet cafe, was conceived and designed by the students and helped them to learn the principals of structural engineering, design development and teamwork.

The students collaborated with professional mentors from Gehry Partners, Ismael Leyva Architects, P.C., Flack + Kurtz, Thornton Tomasetti Group and team-leader Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), who helped draw up plans and a model for their project.

The youth did a formal presentation of the project before an audience in May.

The project was part of the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentoring Program, founded by the principals of leading design and construction firms to introduce high school students to career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering and to address shortages of qualified professional staff in those fields. The group was born in 1994 when seventeen firms banded together into three teams, each organized like a typical design and construction team, and "adopted" about 90 students from local high schools. In addition to exposing young people to real world activities in these fields, ACE provides scholarships to high school students who exhibit the greatest aptitude and decide to pursue a college curriculum in architecture, engineering or construction. FCRC is participating in the program as part of its ongoing commitment to the community as reflected in the recent Community Benefits Agreement developed for the Atlantic Yards project.

"These youth were extremely eager to learn and their level of dedication bodes very well for their futures," said Randall Toure, vice president at FCRC. "We are happy that many of them will continue their exposure to the design, construction and development fields as summer interns at the mentoring firms."

Under the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, internships, specialized classes and mentoring initiatives to train minorities and women for work in architectural, engineering and other fields havebegun to be established.

The CBA seeks to provide youth with business and career development opportunities and to assist hard-to-employ youth to develop skills.

Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

Each AY tower would dwarf (in sf) that 31-story public housing tower


Atlantic Yards Report

But what about the tallest established residential building nearby, Atlantic Terminal Site 4B, the city's tallest public housing tower, at 31 stories and 310 feet. It's located across Atlantic Avenue at Carlton Avenue, opposite the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, the site for several proposed towers.

Atlantic Terminal Site 4B covers 252,500 square feet, which makes it smaller than any of the proposed 16 towers in the Atlantic Yards project, including the six that are shorter. That's a testament to the density proposed in the Atlantic Yards plan and a reminder that height provides only a partial sense of a building's impact.


Posted by amy at 10:51 AM

How big would "Miss Brooklyn" be? Look across the river


Atlantic Yards Report

So it's hard to get a sense of scale in the immediate neighborhood. But head for the the South Street Seaport and you might see a substantial glass-clad office building, 180 Maiden Lane, which stands between Front Street and the FDR Drive.

Could this building serve as a cue?

Indeed, the building includes 1.08 million square feet and stands 554 feet tall over 41 stories. So it's not quite as tall as Miss Brooklyn would be, but it's nearly as bulky.

So if you're crossing the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridges, or just looking over from the Brooklyn shoreline, a view of this building gives a whiff of the future--at least as currently planned.


Posted by amy at 10:47 AM

Shooting from the lip

Daily News
Mike Lupica

I don't want to make a big thing of this, but I did tell Coach Frank the other day that the Nets are my team now, whether Caring Bruce Ratner ever scams his way to Brooklyn or not.

I'm currently just trying to decide which Nets cap I want to wear.


Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

A not-quite-correction in the Times

Atlantic Yards Report:

A Times editorial in the Westchester weekly July 16:
At another huge development in Brooklyn that Mr. Ratner proposes to build, an amazing 50 percent of housing units will be sold to low- and middle-income residents.

The correction published July 23:
An editorial last week about the Ridge Hill Village project in Yonkers mischaracterized the units earmarked for low and middle-income residents at another project, the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. These units will be rented, not sold.

While that correction is technically correct--yes, the affordable units would be rented, not sold--it still leaves the impression that 50 percent of the total number of units would be rented to low- and middle-income residents.

Rather, 50 percent of the 4500 rental units would be affordable, while the project would include another 2360 market-rate condos. The affordable housing percentage, announced and pledged at 50 percent, applies only to the rentals.


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

July 29, 2006

Affected community boards to hold public meetings on Atlantic Yards project Aug. 3

The Brooklyn Papers:

The three community boards that converge where Bruce Ratner wants to build Atlantic Yards are mad as hell at being cut out of the public review process of the largest development in Brooklyn history — and they’re going to host a public hearing about it.

Because Atlantic Yards is being overseen by the state, rather than the city, local boards have lost their traditional, though only advisory, role in the public review process.

But Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 — which cover Fort Greene, Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights — are fighting back, inviting the public to their own public hearings on Aug. 2.


Don't believe everything you read in the papers - the event is actually on AUGUST 3.

Posted by amy at 12:19 PM

It doesn't get any better than Brooklyn, except maybe...

First I take your pen, then I take your job.

Today NoLandGrab would like to share with you some inspiring words from Marty Markowitz:

While some people want to grow up to be mayor, governor, or President of the United States, my dream in life has always been to lead Brooklyn as borough president. To me, this is the ultimate job. There is no higher honor that anyone can achieve in life than that which a community bestows on one of its own.

Awww, that's sweet. Or it would be if it were true. The Brooklyn Papers suggests that Marty's filing with the Campaign Finance Board shows mayoral aspirations. I guess that's why he's trying to practice by creating a second Manhattan.

“I’m sure he wants to be mayor,” said one Democratic insider who likes Markowitz. “He thinks he’d be a good one and he has great fundraising ability because of his support of the [Bruce] Ratner [Atlantic Yards] project and other developers.”


Posted by amy at 12:00 PM

Looming Primary Turns Up Heat On 57th District State Assembly Race


Courier-Life's Stephen Witt covers the race in the 57th State AD. In the running:

Bill Batson talks about Atlantic Yards:

“The Atlantic Yards project is in the heart of Brooklyn and 16 skyscrapers would drive a stake through the heart of Brooklyn,” said Batson at the forum.

Hakeem Jeffries talks about Batson talking about Atlantic Yards:

“I think Batson has articulated a position that under no circumstances should anything be built, which fails to acknowledge the threat presented to our community of housing costs that have spiraled out of control,” he said.

Freddie Hamilton talks about the race and class of the people she imagines are fighting Atlantic Yards:

Hamilton said unfortunately, race and class are playing a role in the Atlantic Yards issue, in that those who oppose are generally white people of means.

To repeat ourselves ad nauseam, being against the Atlantic Yards Project does not mean you are against development, just BAD development. And not to undermine Freddie's credibility, but she signed the CBA for a group that received $350K from Ratner. And if you really want to see who is fighting the Atlantic Yards project, look at some pictures.

Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

Public Hearings On Atlantic Yards Set; Many Decry Bad Timing

Stephen Witt

Holding a public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project during the dog days of summer is a gross injustice, according to opponents and the community boards in which the project footprint sits.

“It violates the spirit of the law to hold it while the community boards are in recess,” said City Councilmember Letitia James.


Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

Was ATURA planning for (part of) the AY site--or just a framework?


Atlantic Yards Report:

It's already been established that the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA) would incorporate less than two-thirds of the proposed Atlantic Yards site, and an even smaller proportion of the properties subject to eminent domain.

So the incomplete coverage is an argument against ATURA being cited under the standard set in the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, which said that a community planning process was a prerequisite for the use of eminent domain.

(The project site is in blue, and ATURA in red, including the dark red, so the overlap is striped.)

But was ATURA actually a planning process? While it incorporated a broad area into a framework for urban renewal, the disposition of individual parcels was subject to specific planning decisions.


Posted by amy at 10:51 AM

Shadowy AY open space OK, says DEIS, because it's better than nothing


Atlantic Yards Report:

Yesterday I walked through Peter Cooper Village (PCV) in Manhattan in late afternoon, mindful of the warning by the Municipal Art Society that the open space at PCV's similar and co-managed neighbor, Stuyvesant Town, was more building backyard than true public park.

I was struck by how so much of the green space was in shadow--and from buildings only about 15 stories in height, less than half the height of most buildings proposed for the Atlantic Yards project. (And some AY buildings would be three times taller, at least.)

Would the seven acres of publicly-accessible open space proposed for Atlantic Yards be in late-afternoon shadow, when students return from school and adults from work?



Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

Spitzer to Empire State Development Corp.: Hold on a Minute


The Gowanus Lounge on Spitzer asking for more time for public comment and hearings for the EIS:

A cynical analyst might say that it is calculated move on Spitzer's part to throw a bone to the South Brooklyn voters that are against Atlantic Yards in its current form, without taking any stand on the project itself. (It is after all hard to ignore forever a major public project driven by state government when you're running for governor.) From Spitzer's point of view there is no political cost in asking for another 30 days of public comment and for a public hearing after summer vacation is over.

The less cynical observer might conclude that he's genuinely offended by the rush job of the hearings and the image problem created by scheduling a major hearing when all the concerned community boards are not in session. Whatever the motivation, the fact is that Brooklynites and Community Boards desperately need as much time as possible to honesty assess Atlantic Yards' impact, and the community needs a healthy debate, both pro and con.


Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

July 28, 2006

Spitzer, local officials tell ESDC: Give community more time to study DEIS

Atlantic Yards Report

Never one to rest on his laurels, Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder posts for a second time today, getting the scoop on New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's letter to the ESDC requesting postponement of the DEIS hearing by at least 30 days, in which Spitzer called an extension of the environmental review period "indispensable."


Councilwoman Letitia James and Assemblymembers Joan Millman, Jim Brennan and Roger Green praised Spitzer's action in a press release (after the jump).

July 28, 2006

Assemblymembers Roger Green, Joan L. Millman, Jim Brennan and Councilwoman Letitia James Applaud Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for Joining the Call to Extend Public Comment Period for Atlantic Yards Re-Development Project

Brooklyn N.Y.- In response to requests by local elected officials, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer called upon the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to extend the public review period by at least 30 days for the 1,400 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Re-Development Project. Currently the public only has 30 days to review the DEIS prior to the public hearing and then an additional 30 days to submit further written comments on what could be the largest single private development in Brooklyn's history.

In a letter dated July 25, 2006 Attorney General Eliot Spitzer stated, "In view of the expected contribution of development at the Atlantic Yards to the future of Brooklyn and the importance of public review of environmental issues associated with this project, I believe that an extension of time for public review of the DEIS by at least 30 days is indispensable under these circumstances."

The letter of support was welcomed by a coalition of local elected officials who represent constituents living close to the project and support a longer public comment period.

"It is imperative that enough time be allowed in the process for the public to review and respond to the DEIS," said Councilwoman Letitia James. "When it comes to analyzing the potential impacts of the proposed project at the Atlantic Yards, we need to take into account the concerns raised by all potentially affected parties. I thank Attorney General Spitzer for joining the call of the community to extend the official comment period."

"The 1,400 page DEIS is almost as overwhelming as the proposed project itself," stated Assemblywoman Joan Millman. "We need to ensure that the public has sufficient time to thoroughly analyze and review all of the potential impacts this project could have on our neighborhoods. I applaud Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for supporting the community in its efforts to meaningfully participate in the public review process."

"I am pleased to hear that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer stands with the community in advocating for an increased public comment period," said Assemblyman Roger Green. "Meaningful input from the public will only serve to enhance the Atlantic Yards project as it moves forward in the process."

"I am delighted that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has once again shown his commitment to adequate public review of development projects," said Assemblyman Brennan. "Lengthening the public comment period would benefit the public significantly."

The public review period for the DEIS is only one of two opportunities when the public can officially submit comments for the record. Past public projects administered by the ESDC have allowed for as many as 140 days for the public to submit comments.

Posted by lumi at 4:02 PM

AY plans revealed: temporary parking + staging slowly eclipsed

Atlantic Yards Report

Now we know what the Atlantic Yards site might look like--at least in part--thanks to graphics released with Draft Design Guidelines that are part of the General Project Plan.

Five buildings and the arena would be built in the first major stage, leaving the entire eastern segment of the site for temporary surface parking and staging. Then, according to the draft plans, buildings would be constructed one by one in 11 phases, moving east and then clockwise, each time reducing the amount of space for parking and staging.

Note that there's no official rendering of what might be called phase zero, which would show the entire site east of Sixth Avenue as either surface parking, staging, or railyards. Phase zero would persist during the construction of the first stage, over four years--so the first graphic below is adapted from the Laurie Olin renderings provided by the ESDC.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

Green must drop out

Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

It's bad enough that Bruce Ratner's biggest booster in the State Assembly pleaded guilty to ripping the taxpayers off and has direct ties to convicted party boss Clarence Norman, but with only $4,800 cash in hand for his bid to unseat Edolphus Towns, he won't fade away.

Brooklyn Paper's has three words for the languishing candidate:

Drop out now.


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Things looking up in Brooklyn, if you’re a skyscraper

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial
By Gersh Kuntzman

The Downtown Brooklyn Plan — an upzoning and condemnation law passed two years ago — is finally bearing young with at least eight buildings on the drawing board for just a short stretch of Flatbush Avenue Extension from the Manhattan Bridge to Willoughby Street.

Check out the list of buildings (a majority of which are luxury condos) at different stages on the drawing board. They're all pre-approved as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan and in the pipeline before Bruce Ratner receives the official nod for Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Your friends and neighbors are gonna freak when they wake up and realize what the City's plan has in store for Downtown Brooklyn.

Don't forget to tell them that the Mad Overdeveloper, Bruce Ratner, has 23 Williamsburgh Savings Bank Towers worth of development planned for the railyards and Prospect Heights, which would make that little corner of Brooklyn the densest residential community in the nation.

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Enjoy the show —movies will stay, Goldman says

Downtown Express By Ronda Kaysen

In this article about Forest City Ratner's sale of a Lower Manhattan property, which includes the only movie theater below Houston Street, Ratner is described as the developer:

"who is currently developing the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and a 75-story Beekman St. tower in Lower Manhattan."


NoLandGrab: This description is proof that Central Brooklyn's unprecedented land-use disaster is beginning to be recognized citywide, though the facts are still unclear in the press.

For the record, the "Atlantic Yards" project was made "official" by the Empire State Development Corporation last week. Hearings, approvals, eminent domain condemnations and litigation are still pending.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

July 27, 2006

Brooklyn arena foes have new brew

toastedlager.jpgMetro NY
By Amy Zimmer

Just in time for the 230th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Island, Freddy's Bar & Backroom has found a replacement for the other beer:

As an act of defiance, Freddy’s Bar & Backroom stopped selling Brooklyn Lager in April.

The Dean Street joint sits in the footprint of Bruce Ratner’s plant to build a $4.2 billion arena and 16 high rises. After learning that Brooklyn Lager’s President Steve Hindy supported the project, the bar’s manager Donald O’Finn decided to boycott the local brewery.

The bar now serves Blue Point Toasted Lager, brewed in Patchogue.

“It’s sold better than Brooklyn Lager ever did,” O’Finn said.

Freddy’s building is now owned by Ratner, but the bar remains a meeting spot for anti-Ratner organizers.


NoLandGrab: Word has it that Barbés, at 9th St. & 6th Ave., has also made the switch to Blue Point Toasted Lager from the Beer-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken.

Posted by lumi at 9:33 PM

Gehry's Guggenheim effect

gehry-abudhabi.jpgCBS News, Guggenheim to Build Museum in Abu Dhabi

The Guggenheim announced plans Saturday for a Frank Gehry-designed art museum in Abu Dhabi, a coup for the small Persian Gulf nation and the latest international franchise for the ambitious foundation.

The museum would sit on a manmade spit jutting into the Gulf from the currently uninhabited Saadiyat Island, which lies adjacent to Abu Dhabi. With a price tag of just over $200 million, the building would be completed in about five years.

Speaking to The Associated Press, the Canadian-born architect said the Arabian desert has a "much different feel" than the desert near his California home and would require him to "invent a different kind of architecture that belongs here.

"I want to play off the blue water and the color of the sand and sky and sun," Gehry said Saturday. "It's got to be something that will make sense here. If you import something and plop it down, it's not going to work."


NoLandGrab: Gehry's concern for context and character, "something that's going to make sense here," is touching.

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere...

CultureVulture, The Guggenheim effect

Is the Guggenheim today's equivalent of Planet Hollywood? During the 1990s, it seemed like anywhere lucky enough to acquire an outlet of the celebrity-sponsored restaurant chain had been admitted into some exclusive club of elite global cities. Now it seems you're not on the map unless you've got a Guggenheim, writes Steve Rose.

The latest grateful host is Abu Dhabi, where Frank Gehry - architect of the spectacular Bilbao Guggenheim - is due to design the biggest Guggenheim yet.

For 20-something Garfield fans who repeatedly dream of trying to ship Gehry to Abu Dhabi:
Abu Dhabi, it's far away. Abu Dhabi, that's where you'll stay.
Abu Dhabi, the place to be. For any kitten who's annoying me, yeah!
Abu Dhabi, it's off the track. Abu Dhabi, now don't come back.
Abu Dhabi, it's quite a thrill. For any kitten who can make me ill!
Now some take a train, and some take a plane.
But I am sending you, not on a boat, or even by goat. But in a box marked "Postage Due."
Abu Dhabi, you're what they lack. Abu Dhabi, now you're all packed.
Abu Dhabi, a far commute. For any kitten who is too darn cute!

Posted by lumi at 8:50 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Stay Free, Kelo Killed in Columbus
Commentary on yesterday's Ohio Supreme Court decision siding against eminent domain abuse makes an astute observation about Bruce's roots:

Ironically, Bruce Ratner is himself from Ohio; if he tried to pull this crap in his hometown he couldn't do it anymore.

NoLandGrab: Suppose someone should alert the owner of this banner that it is now illegal for Bruce Ratner to "plunder Cleveland," though it is still within the law for Ratner to "go home."

The Gowanus Lounge, Brooklyn Double Speak of the Week: "Friendly Condemnation
A blogger's musings on "friendly :) condemnations:"

happy_face.gifCan someone who speaks English, rather than Double Speak, please tell us this: What in the name of God is a "friendly condemnation"? Is it like "friendly fire," which even though it's a big, bad boo-boo, still leaves the recipient as dead as he who is on the recieving end of old-fashioned unfriendly fire? Or is it like what your significant other does when he or she is breaking up with you but still wants to be friends, berating you terribly--but in a very nice way--so that after 12 or so months of weekly therapy sessions you can still be friends?
Anyway you cut it, there will be a whole lot of good, old fashioned unfriendly condemnation going on if the project goes forward, and some of these takings of property will become the subject of the litigation that could ultimately determine the project's fate. Daniel Goldstein, who is the most outspoken of the Atlantic Yards opponents whose property would be taken in a most unfriendly way, is deeply convinced that the eminent domain will be the soft underbelly that kills the project.

yummy.jpg Dope on the Slope, Ice Cream Castles
Dope serves up "Superblock a la Mode" to Frank Gehry, inspired by this little tidbit from Slate's review of "Sketches of Frank Gehry."

An entire neighborhood of Gaudí—or Gehry—would be like a meal of only ice cream. Too much of a very good thing.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 PM


NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

Brooklyn activists are calling a technical foul over the timing of public hearings on the Atlantic Yards plan - saying the scheduling was done to "disenfranchise" the public and limit discussion of the colossal project's impact.


Posted by lumi at 7:36 PM

Atlantic center viability

An "anon" is wondering in the Brownstoner forum:

if atlantic yards is an attempt by the developer to shore up his retail before it all collapses? there is no way the stores in these two existing malls could be profitable!? (ok except for target). office max? burlington coat factory? circuit city with one cash register open? The worst mall in new york!

BINGO! Talk amongst yourselves, but remember, be nice.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 PM

Jeffries, Batson, Hamilton, Atlantic Yards

The Politicker ran a wrap-up of fundraising in the 57th Assembly District race.

Hakeem Jeffries has blown away his rivals financially in the three-way race for the 57th, bringing in $77,610 over the past six months in individual and corporate contributions, according to his July fundraising report filed with the state.

While rival Bill Batson successfully hit up Atlantic Yards opponents to net $32,841, Jeffries, a lawyer for CBS who has leaned in favor of the Forest City Ratner development, netted contributions from prominent professionals like Carver Bank CEO Deborah C. Wright ($500) and p.r. scion Steven G. Rubenstein ($2,000).


NoLandGrab: Wright's contribution to Jeffries will be seen by some area residents as quid pro quo for the time when Bruce Ratner was generously "sent by God" to deposit $1 million in Carver Bank, which is located in Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 PM

NYC Comptroller to endorse Atlantic Yards?

Thompson.jpgThe word through the grapevine is that NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. is going to come out in support of the Atlantic Yards project today.

His justification will likely be on the grounds that Forest City Ratner has "demonstrated" that the project will have a net fiscal benefit to New York City, no matter how miniscule.

UPDATE: No release or announcement today.

Then again, we were pretty sure that Thompson had already expressed support for the plan, even though he has taken tough stands against Payments In Lieu of Taxes (as proposed in the Atlantic Yards financing plan) and favoritism in MTA land deals.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM


WSB-NYPRess.jpgThe NY Press By Sushil Cheema

“FCRC believes that Atlantic Yards will help bring all of the surrounding communities together by bridging the rail yard, which has served as a scar on this part of Brooklyn for too long,” says Joe DePlasco, a spokesperson for FCRC.

But at a time when the use of eminent domain to seize land for private development projects has roiled communities throughout the country, this Brooklyn project is facing its own set of opponents. A large and loud set at that.

“We don’t like it. It’s a terrible plan, and there are a million things wrong with it,” says Scott Turner of FCRC’s project. A musician and graphic designer, Turner founded Fans for Fair Play, a local group that uses sports interests to oppose the Ratner plan. “Ratner is using sports nostalgia of the Brooklyn Dodgers,” Turner says, referring to FCRC’s 2004 purchase of the New Jersey Nets and goal of moving the team to Brooklyn in time for the 2009-2010 basketball season. “He bought a team to make the luxury condo project more sexy.”


NoLandGrab: Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder, who is probably really busy these days, wanted us to point out that the photo caption in the article isn't exactly correct.

The caption says, "Views of the Williamsburg Savings and Bank Tower will be lost with the Atlantic Yards Development." In fact, the photo was taken on 4th Ave., where the view of the "Clock Tower" would remain intact under the current proposal.

However, PC Richard, visible in the right-hand side of the photo, would be replaced by a 35-story building, which would be the tallest structure in Park Slope, by a long shot.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

"Miss Brooklyn" would be 3X the Williamsburgh bank (in sf)

Atlantic Yards Report has been skimming through the General Project Plan and stumbled upon another holy-sh*t revelation:

"Miss Brooklyn" would be huge. While it would be the only building in the Atlantic Yards project taller (by about 20 percent) than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank nearby, architect Frank Gehry's flagship tower would be three times larger than the iconic bank, in square footage.

In fact, ten of the 16 buildings planned, including each of the five slated for the first phase, would be bigger than the bank, in bulk.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Battleground: Atlantic Yards

Time Out NY
By Justin Rocket Silverman

No issue in Brooklyn is more contentious than Bruce Ratner’s vision for a massive complex of skyscrapers to be built on top of the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Yards and in the adjacent Prospect Heights neighborhood. ...
Though Ratner’s scheme garnered quick support from politicians, unions and some affordable-housing advocates, thousands of Brooklynites have heeded a call to fight the razing of Prospect Heights. United in the umbrella group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, opponents decry what they say is a sweetheart deal for Ratner that opposes the character of surrounding neighborhoods, one that would cause gridlock and waste the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city and state have agreed to contribute.

DG-TONY.jpgDDDB spokesperson Dan Goldstein makes a good point, which is another reminder that the City Council will have NO OPPORTUNITY to evaluate and weigh in on the project because NY State has taken it over in order to supercede local zoning regulations:

“They can’t build this project without my little apartment, and we have a very strong legal case,” Goldstein says. “Owning this condo gives me more power than the City Council.”

The article gets one major fact wrong:

Renters have lost their leases or taken payments to give up rent-stabilized units.

Atlantic Yards Report has posted a detailed report to the contrary.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

The embeds

TONY-War4Bklyn.jpgTime Out New York

Kudos to what Dope on the Slope fondly calls the "Brooklyn Blogade!"

The following "intrepid bloggers" were cited by TONY for sending "continual dispatches from the front lines:"

Brooklyn Record
Gowanus Lounge
Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn
Planet PLG
Set Speed

Missing from the list was Atlantic Yards Report, which can't seem to get any respect from the mainstream media. Maybe he should try writing more often!

The cover story features controversial development in Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards, Gowanus, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Downtown Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront and Red Hook.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

"Crookwood" Gambled and lost

Gambles-Horney.jpgNoLandGrab readers may be familiar with the Gamble case, which we've followed on these pages due to its similarity to Atlantic Yards.

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

Though the Gamble case was decided narrowly on matters of Ohio state law, the similarities between the two cases strikes a public-relations blow to Bruce Ratner's bid to have several blocks of Prospect Heights declared blighted, and then condemned, for his $4.2-billion highrise and arena development proposal.

Here's the coverage:

Institute for Justice (press release), Ohio Supreme Court Rules Unanimously To Protect Property From Eminent Domain Abuse

Today, in an historic ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously held that the City of Norwood could not use eminent domain to take Carl and Joy Gamble’s home of 35 years, as well as the rental home of Joe Horney and tutoring center owned by Matthew Burton and Sanae Ichikawa Burton, for private development—specifically, a complex of chain stores, condominiums and office space planned by millionaire developer Jeffrey Anderson and his Rookwood Partners.

The NY Times, Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Taking of Homes for Project
The Times points out that this case can't be appealed to the Supreme Court, where a ruling would have bearing on Atlantic Yards (drat!):

Since the Ohio case was argued based on the state’s Constitution, yesterday’s decision cannot be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which decides matters involving federal law.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Coming home to Norwood
After their big win, the Gambles and co- lead plaintiff Joseph P. Horney visited their homes, which have been fenced off after the remainder of the neighborhood was bulldozed. Reporters followed the homeowners to see what's left, which gives new meaning to "developers' blight."

Joseph P. Horney, the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, triumphantly forced open the temporary fencing Wednesday that surrounds what's left of the neighborhood, an 11-acre site. Once inside, he looked around and said, "It's painful to see the neighborhood. There's not much left of it."
what they fought for seems almost uninhabitable, surrounded by a desolate field of weeds and the drone of highway traffic.

The houses of the three plaintiffs in the case are still standing, under a Supreme Court injunction blocking their demolition. They are the only homes left in what used to be a densely packed working- to middle-class neighborhood.

They've been fenced off, salvaged for parts and neglected for more than a year.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Court limits eminent domain

In a closely watched case with national implications, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that governments and developers cannot use economic benefit as the sole reason for seizing private property.

LA Times, Ohio Landowners Win Eminent Domain Case

The ruling was the first from a state high court since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a controversial eminent domain decision last summer.
"It's a complete vindication for every home and business owner in the state of Ohio," said Dana Berliner, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice who represented the plaintiffs.

"Some of the justification the city gave was that the area was 'deteriorating' because different people owned different houses, and there were cul-de-sacs in neighborhoods, and people had to back out of their driveways," Berliner said. "And what the Ohio high court said is that cities cannot use standards for eminent domain that are so vague that they could apply anywhere."

NoLandGrab: It is a widely held view that NY State's legal definition of "blight" is so vague that there isn't a neighborhood in the entire city that doesn't qualify.

AP, via Baltimore Sun, Ohio court bars taking of homes

Property rights advocates, business groups and backers of city planning were watching the Ohio case because of the precedent it could set.

NoLandGrab: Much is being made of the fact that this was the first State Supreme Court to rule following the Kelo case. It should be noted that the last state court decision on an eminent domain case was in Michigan. In the August, 2004 Hathcock ruling, the Michigan State Supreme Court overturned the historic and controversial 1981 Poletown decision, which is widely cited as the first eminent domain taking justified by economic development. That makes the state courts 2-for-2 against eminent domain abuse in recent years.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

We'll always have Dusseldorf

dusseldorf.jpgIs this a sick joke, or a twisted attempt to show people in Prospect Heights that Frank Gehry's work ain't that bad when you look at it from a distance?

Either way, it's not playing well on Vanderbilt Avenue, just a stone's throw from the footprint of Frank Gehry's proposed superblock mega-city.

This ad for the City of Dusseldorf (click image for detail), spotted on a B69 bus shelter at Vanderbilt and Prospect Place, prominently features Frank Gehry's Der Neue Zollhof.

At a mere 12 stories, the project dominates the Rhine riverfront, making the prospect of Atlantic Yards, with 16 Gehry highrises and an arena, hard to swallow for the low-rise Brooklyn neighborhood.

Gehry buildings, such as Der Neue Zollhof or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, have become international calling cards for second cities touting their trendiness and "good taste." However, this up-close examination by Project for Public Spaces of Gehry's total lack of a knack for creating viable urban environments, doesn't bode well for Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Sierra Club Tries on Two Suits for Size

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

The local chapter of the Sierra club takes on some serious local land use issues:

Until this year, the nation's oldest and largest environmental advocacy group hadn't bothered to involve itself in any New York City litigation for over two decades. In just the last four months, however, the Sierra Club has now already filed briefs in two such cases - both in Brooklyn.

In March they got involved on the side of community activists hoping to change the Atlantic Yards project, and just last week they did the same in opposition to the current Brooklyn Bridge Park plans.

The "friend of the court" brief they filed along with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) against Atlantic Yards was limited in scope, addressing only process concerns surrounding a particular environmental lawyer's alleged conflict of interest. Their more recent "friend of the court" brief supporting the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund (BBPDF) is much more wide-ranging and dire.


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

News Analysis: Railyards a Path to Jailyards?

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Brooklyn railyard - a key component of the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment plan in Prospect Heights - a criminal hot spot? Yes, claims the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state agency charged with moving the project ahead and, along the way, evaluating its environmental impact.

However, the state's evidence can be picked apart by anyone who's taken a walk around the area. And the report simply ignores data that suggests alternative explanations for the crime rates cited.


Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Local CBs to hold forum on Atlantic Yards despite summer recess

cityseal.gifThe following statement is made on behalf of Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 & 8:

The Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project is the largest single project proposed in the borough of Brooklyn. Collectively, the project affects 3 community districts, specifically, Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8. The project has been years in the conceptual stage and has changed over time since it was first introduced in 2003.

With the release of the project plan there is now an official document to review. The document is lengthy and contains some highly technical language that will be a challenge for the average person to fully comprehend. Despite repeated requests of all agencies and officials having some jurisdiction over this project, the Community Boards have been denied resources that would have been used to help enhance the public's understanding of the document.

While the timing of the plan's release is most unfortunate, as it coincides with the most popular time of year that many New Yorkers traditionally take summer vacations, we believe it would be even more unfortunate if the affected boards did nothing and let this important moment pass without hearing from our communities. We cannot and will not shirk our public mandate. Regrettably, we are forced to respond reactively to a timetable laid out before us.

All 3 affected Community Boards will simultaneously and respectively conduct a Public Hearing at locations within each community district on Thursday, August 3, 2006 from 6:00-8:00pm. The respective locations of the hearings are provided in the public hearing notice (Download the full, official CB Public Hearing Notice, PDF). The Community Boards will continue to receive written comments beyond the hearing date and welcomes the submission of statements from interested parties via mail, fax, email and hand delivery. Comments can be forwarded to the respective Community Board to the District Office locations also noted in the hearing notice.

In addition to the Community Board public hearing the Empire State Development Corporation, the State lead agency for the project, has announced their public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 from 4:30-8:30pm at New York City Technical College, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn. The lead agency will also be receiving written comments through the close of business on September 22, 2006.

We encourage interested parties to share their views with us and with the state agency directly about this project plan. The project plan is available at the Community Boards' District Offices for review during regular business hours, and can also be accessed online at http://www.empire.state.ny.us/AtlanticYards.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

July 26, 2006

Lightning Striking Again


NoLandGrab had the honor of attending the Eliot Spitzer/Tom Suozzi gubernatorial race debate at Pace University Tuesday night. The lightning round at the end of the debate, where the candidates had to answer Yes or No to the questions with no exceptions, proved to be the most telling segment.

When asked if they supported the use of eminent domain for private development, as in the case of the Atlantic Yards proposal, Suozzi responded “That’s a very tough question,” which elicited groans and boos from the audience. He followed up quickly by saying “I’ll say no under the current circumstances.” The host Dominic Carter of NY1, pressed Suozzi for a clear Yes or No to which he responded “No.” Spitzer quickly and quietly answered “Yes.”

NoLandGrab also had the pleasure of asking Suozzi afterward why he hesitated in his answer. He explained that he is not against eminent domain being used for public benefit, but that he does not agree with it being used in the case of the Atlantic Yards proposal.

Click here for NY1's coverage of the debate

Posted by amy at 9:36 PM

Eminent domain abused

Ohio Supreme Court overrules Norwood home-taking

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Gregory Korte and Steve Kemme

Ohio's Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that a Cincinnati suburb cannot seize private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants.

In what was the first property rights case to reach a state high court since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Kelo vs. New London" last summer, the court found that economic development is not a sufficient reason under the Ohio constitution to justify the taking of homes.

The Ohio case involves the city of Norwood, near Cincinnati, which used its power of eminent domain to seize homes and businesses for a private development in an area it deemed "deteriorating."

“It’s a complete vindication of the rights of the Gambles and Joe Horney and the Burtons, and the rights of every home and business owner in the state of Ohio,” said Dana Berliner, an attorney for the Washington-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that represented the Norwood property owners.

The Ohio court also ruled that taking property because it is in a "deteriorating area" is unconstitutional, citing the vagueness of the term and the inherent need to speculate as to the future condition of the property in question.


NoLandGrab: It's probably safe to say that the Ohio ruling was not warmly received at Forest City Ratner headquarters today. The Norwood case is likely to be watched closely by states around the country - including New York - and the particulars of the proposed (and aptly named) Rookwood Exchange development project bear striking resemblance to those of FCRC's "Atlantic Yards".

Posted by lumi at 5:53 PM

It Ain’t Broke

Brooklyn’s neighborhoods, with skylines defined by church spires, are great urban success stories.
Why forsake what works? asks Francis Morrone

This month's issue of Civic News (the official monthly publication of the Park Slope Civic Council), features an interview with urban architectural historian, self-described "huge NBA fan," and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member Francis Morrone.

Civic News gets the ball rolling with a curious disclaimer, which begs the question, "what is the Park Slope Civic Council's position on Atlantic Yards?".

Our desire, in this interview with writer and teacher Francis Morrone, was to provide historical and cultural context to the proposed Atlantic Yards project and, more generally, the development boom that is already transforming large swaths of Brooklyn. We spoke to Morrone not because we agree with all his positions, but because he is an exceptionally informed and thoughtful observer of our urban scene; we would be happy to consider contributions offering differing points of view.

Morrone’s column, “Abroad in New York,” appears on Fridays in The New York Sun. He has written architectural guidebooks to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Philadelphia, and recently published, with Judith Stonehill, Brooklyn: A Journey Through the City of Dreams. He is a lecturer at New York University and a Fellow of the Institute of Classical Architecture, and is well known for his popular architectural tours of New York City.

morrone-006.jpgCivic News: You have characterized the battle over Atlantic Yards as a battle over what Brooklyn wants to be, as well as over what Manhattan wants Brooklyn to be. Surely, these are not battles that have just been joined in the 21st century. With apologies for asking a question that might require a doctoral thesis to answer fully, can you tell us a bit about how these battles have played out in the past?

Francis Morrone: I think that for a long time Brooklyn really didn’t know what it wanted to be, or it wanted to be something it couldn’t afford to be. Brooklyn’s identity has coalesced in the last 50 years around the decline-renewal dynamic. During this time, Brooklyn lost many of its characterizing institutions—the ones people wax nostalgic over. The Eagle went under, the Dodgers left, the Navy Yard closed, Steeplechase Park closed, the downtown movie palaces and department stores—Namm’s, Loeser’s, Martin’s, finally Abraham & Straus—closed, and so on.

A lot of this was sad, some of it was inevitable, and some of it is not what it’s cracked up to be. If Brooklynites loved their Dodgers so, then why did they stop going to the games? That old identity, the nostalgic one as I call it, was in part pretty shaky stuff. Suburban flight to the flimsy houses of Levittown was all it took to take away these characterizing institutions.

But in its place came something else, something I daresay that has the look of an enduring city culture, made up of newcomers in the last 50 years: the African-American newcomers from the southern United States (whose neighborhoods endured crushing desolation either from red-lining or urban renewal), the young (white and black) brownstoners, the energetic young people who occupy the brownstone “accessory apartments,” the gay and lesbian communities, and the post-1965 immigrants, such as those who revitalized Sunset Park.

None of these groups—not one—was part of nostalgic Brooklyn. I don’t want to sound like an architectural determinist, but, for God’s sake, isn’t it the urban form of the intact 19th-century streets that has proved Brooklyn’s salvation? One can live in Brooklyn with its European-scale neighborhoods and enjoy a full-blooded urban existence apart from the hypertrophied urbanism of Manhattan.

Skyscrapers are cool and bizarrely inhuman at the same time, and their clusters in Manhattan or in Pacific Rim cities may be awesome and exciting. They may, as with the prewar skylines of Manhattan, constitute an aesthetic fact as great as the Age of the Cathedrals. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make all kinds of human sense to check the spread of skyscrapers. Again, the word is hypertrophy, which means, in its original medical context, abnormal enlargement. The Frank Gehry-designed towers proposed for Atlantic Yards emphasize and celebrate this notion of hypertrophy; they emphasize and celebrate the sheer inhumanness of it all.

CN: Brooklyn has proved itself a resilient city and borough over several centuries. Assuming Atlantic Yards gets built to its full scale, how fundamentally would Brooklyn be changed?

FM: The old part of Brooklyn would never be the same, that’s for sure. The visual profile would alter 100 percent. The scale of this thing is hard to convey to people. We can call it gigantic, or super-colossal, but these words have devalued meanings. What I tell people is that this thing is so big, so out of scale, that it will place so much pressure upon an already barely adequate infrastructure, will suck so much electricity, will produce so much garbage, will cast so much shadow, and divert so many cars onto your neighborhood streets, that you will probably want to move. It’s as simple as that.

Would Brooklyn adapt? I go back to what I said about the coalescing identity. Yes, Brooklyn has survived big physical interventions, like the Brooklyn Bridge, which did, for better or worse, put an end to an older Brooklyn, maybe even more than consolidation did. Consolidation—Brooklyn’s incorporation into New York City—coincided with a massive wave of immigration that completely altered Brooklyn’s ethnic profile and that basically created the “nostalgic Brooklyn.” Then, great demographic shifts occurred—not without much pain—after World War II. It’s amazing to think that the poet Marianne Moore, fearing for her safety, moved out of Brooklyn in 1967, and that Harvey Lichtenstein took over a moribund BAM in 1969. The one seems symbolic of Brooklyn at its nadir, the other seems symbolic of Brooklyn’s regeneration.

I think as we study it more and more we’ll come to see that the decline and the renewal were all jumbled up, and the decline may have been more like birthing pains. So, yes, Brooklyn is resilient. But the changes that forced Brooklyn to adapt have been in the nature of overwhelming social and demographic forces. There are no such forces at work with Atlantic Yards.

And it’s not just Prospect Heights. I look at Greenpoint—Williamsburg, too, of course, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Greenpoint—and I literally break down in tears. Again, the scale of the new building in the rezoned areas—where there’s only the L train in one part of it and only the G train in another part of it—is so absurdly big that it defies all reason, except to make a handful of people who are already rich grow even richer.

CN: You have suggested that incremental development, like the development that has gone on for the last several decades in Park Slope and Prospect Heights, may be best for Brooklyn. However, covering over a rail yards is a major capital project. Could that occur without massive intervention from either the government or a mega-developer like Forest City Ratner?

FM: Forest City Ratner can’t do what it wants to do without a lot of help from government—government that has conveniently abdicated its oversight role, and that will be spending nearly $2 billion of our money to help out Forest City Ratner. In any redevelopment of the yards, government would have to get in on the act; there’s no way around that, and it isn’t a bad thing. The MTA’s RFP [Request for Proposals] for the yards clearly stated that it was willing to sell off the site in increments. Nowhere is it written that the yards have to be decked over all at once, and in fact in other such projects it hasn’t always been done all at once.

That said, I have to admit something. The Atlantic Yards plan has scared me into redefining “incremental.” I could possibly get on board with the Extell plan [ed: an alternative plan for the site], which would build above the yards and nowhere else, depending on the specifics of the design. At least democracy wouldn’t be thrown out the window.

I hear people say “cities have got to change” or “change or die.” What the hell does that mean? Does it mean anything at all? This is what it means to me: If you keep cities in constant churn, you make more work and more money, for lawyers, bankers, and developers.

CN: Do you think that the arena was added to the project for political reasons? For example, was it hoped that the arena would strike a chord among Brooklynites, drawing support to a project that they might otherwise oppose?

FM: Absolutely. It was a political masterstroke. It even worked with me before I looked closely at what was going on. I’m a huge NBA fan. I thought, man, I’ll get season tickets and walk to the games!

CN: Tell us a bit about the history of the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

FM: There have been yards on at least part of the site since the 19th century. But the present depressed yards date from around 1910 and were considered a major improvement to the surrounding area. This was because it partly hid the trains from view, partly muffled the noise, and eliminated grade crossings.

The yards were adjacent to the handsome old Flatbush Terminal, a building I was sorry to see go. At its height, that terminal handled 70 percent as many passengers as Grand Central Terminal, and more passengers than any of the fabled stations along the New Jersey waterfront. The electrification of rail operations, the depressing of the yards, the new terminal, and the relocation of BAM from Montague Street to its present location near the yards are not coincidental phenomena.

CN: Assume that the area around Vanderbilt Yards had not fallen under the wrecking ball of urban renewal – that, say, the Flatbush Terminal and Fort Greene Market had not been demolished. Is it possible to envision what the neighborhood would look like today?

FM: It’s hard to say—there are a lot of variables. Would the meat market still be operating as such? Would it, for example, have had any of the potential for gentrification that the Gansevoort Market in Greenwich Village had? The terminal was a lovely building in horrendous condition. I don’t know if it could have been restored as historic railroad stations across the country have been restored. The depressed yards would still be there, doing their “border vacuum” thing as Jane Jacobs put it – a physical barrier dividing Park Slope and Prospect Heights from Fort Greene.

Urban renewal made a mess of the area, that’s for sure, exacerbating the border vacuum problems it already had. One thing is for certain: We would have been spared the Atlantic Center.

CN: If you had a magic wand, what would you build on the Atlantic Yards site? What would be your dream project?

FM: In my dreams, different parts of the site would be sold to different developers who could build whatever they wanted, subject to strict height limitations and thorough environmental review. I’d like to see something like energy consumption guidelines—green buildings and the like. If we want affordable housing, and we should, then just make it a requirement, or set aside some parcels for Atlantic Commons-type development. (Yes, I know it’s not as easy as all that, but you asked me to dream.) I’d like to see development take place around publicly accessible squares—not plazas, not parks, not “open space,” but squares. Then one day you might be able to take a continuously joyous stroll from Park Slope to Fort Greene.

In short, my dream would be for development that would ensure that this oldest part of Brooklyn continues to present a strong vision of low-rise urbanity, that might one day be seen as being as truly remarkable in its way as the skyscraper urbanism of Manhattan.

Posted by lumi at 12:09 PM

“Friendly :) condemnations” (but not for renters): ESDC plans eminent domain for most of AY

Atlantic Yards Report explains why NY State is condemning Ratner's property too, in a "friendly :) condemnation."

ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen explained: "When a development site is assembled by eminent domain, it is typical for the condemning authority to run any properties already owned by the developer through a 'friendly' condemnation, so as to clear any title defects that may have accumulated over the years."

Copen's statement does reflect typical practice. However, George Locker, a lawyer who represents 15 of the remaining 55 tenants in the project footprint, contends there's another reason: to evict his clients, who live in FCR-owned buildings but are protected by rent-stabilized leases.

[For details on ownership of property occupied by tenants, click on map (adapted from the General Project Plan) to enlarge.]

"This is about getting protected residential rental tenants out of buildings," he charged. "ESDC is condemning rent-stabilized leases, contrary to the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], and in violation of the tenant's rights and benefits, and the landlord's obligations under rent-stabilization. All of this chicanery will be the subject of litigation."

Typically, a landlord who wants to demolish a building containing rent-stabilized tenants to build another building must apply to a state housing agency for a demolition permit and satisfy several requirements--a process that would take much longer than the projected timetable for approval of the Atlantic Yards project.


NoLandGrab: "Friendly :) condemnations?" What will they think of next? "I-heart-Bruce-Ratner" bumper stickers?

Posted by lumi at 11:44 AM

Dope slap

Nothing will earn ya a dope slap like greasing the wheels for wealthy sports team owners.

Today Dope on the Slope offers this image of the Newswalk watertower (which is enveloped by Ratner's plan footprint) then puts the squeeze on H.O.M.E.P.L.A.T.E. and overdevloper-slash-eminent-domain-abuser Bruce Ratner.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart...

The city government that brought you Developer Entitlement Zones is eagerly promoting another fine product to deliver maximum value for your tax dollar. Among the social workers in city government who work tirelessly to assist underprivileged elites, it's known as Handing Out Money to Empower Professional Lobbyists And Team Executives (aka HOMEPLATE).
Sports executives aren't the only fans of HOMEPLATE. Shortly after the program's inception, it received a hearty endorsement from the United Front of Unfettered Kingpin Developers (UFUKD).

Homeowners, The Pesky Little Blighters

According to the Real Estate Development "industry," as cited in today's New York Times, a bunch of pesky, small-time pipsqueaks (aka homeowners and small business owners) are ruining it for everybody with regard to the Atlantic Yards proposal...

As far as I can tell, this ["blight"] study concludes that individual property owners are a major inconvenience to big shot developers, and since threat of bodily harm is ostensibly illegal in real estate transactions, developers need another sort of weapon - namely, the threat of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

For a Veteran State Senator, a Rare Primary Challenge

Montgomery-NYT.jpg The NY Times
By Jonathan Hicks

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery is having to fend off a last-minute challenge from former City Councilmember Tracy Boyland.

Boyland's main point of attack on Montgomery is Atlantic Yards:

She also said that Ms. Montgomery had been outspoken on only one issue: her opposition to the Atlantic Yards project.


NoLandGrab: What the article doesn't mention is that Boyland's challenge is a retaliatory move by the Brooklyn Democratic Machine, which, though ailing, is not dead yet, and has pulled out all the stops to support pro-Ratner candidates.

Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

(Non) Blight in Prospect Heights

Daily Gothamist went "blight" hunting in Prospect Heights and found...

2006_06_nonblight1.jpga two-on-one basketball game, a water fight, one postal worker, two UPS workers, someone sweeping his stoop and at least four trucks delivering glass, some pipes (we think) and sheet rock for a number of construction projects.


Don't forget to check out the comments, in which readers are demanding some photos of real blight.

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM


New Life For the Gowanus

NY Sun
By Roberta Weisbrod

An article about the potential for - and problems with - redevelopment in the Gowanus Canal area of Brooklyn makes this observation about sewer overflows:

What is needed is keeping the old 1911 flushing tunnel in good repair, upgrading it, correcting the combined sewer overflows — especially before the Atlantic Yards development adds more flow, cleaning debris from the canal, repairing bulkheads, and dredging contaminated sediments. Mr. Scotto also says: "The development projects will create pressure for infrastructure improvements — with, of course, the community keeping politicians' feet to the fire."


Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Frank Gehry on Film

What a new documentary does and doesn't say about the famous architect.

By Witold Rybczynski

Gehry-Pollack.jpgA critque of Sydney Pollack's most recent film, "Sketches of Frank Gehry," not only points out that Pollack admittedly knows little about making documentaries or architecture, but also indirectly makes the case that Gehry knows little about urban design.

"It's not just that I didn't know anything about making documentaries. I didn't even know anything about architecture," says Hollywood director Sydney Pollack, recalling his reaction to Frank Gehry's request that he make a movie about his work. "That's why you're perfect," Gehry is supposed to have answered. After seeing Sketches of Frank Gehry, I'm not so sure.
Pollack includes a token negative critic in the film, art historian Hal Foster. The Princeton professor is unconvincing, but there is a real criticism of Gehry to be made. He is currently designing two large urban real-estate development projects, one in Brooklyn and one in downtown Los Angeles. How suitable will his whimsical, idiosyncratic approach be for city building? My guess: not very. It's not a question of size, or density, or art in the service of commerce. The urban renewal of the 1960s demonstrated the peril of architects designing entire neighborhoods. This is no less true of gifted architects. Expressionistic virtuosos—Borromini, Antonio Gaudí, or that Art Nouveau genius, Hector Guimard—created wonderful buildings, which are wonderful precisely because they are exceptional. An entire neighborhood of Gaudí—or Gehry—would be like a meal of only ice cream. Too much of a very good thing.


Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

"Near the planned Atlantic Yards"? The Times resists another correction

Atlantic Yards Report

With one word, The NY Times made a very weird error in the caption of yesterday's "blight"-in-the-Atlantic Yards-footprint story. Norman Oder pointed out the discrepancy to an editor, but after one illogical response, the Times blew him off.


Yesterday's caption...

This portion of Dean Street, between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues near the planned Atlantic Yards, is in a part of Brooklyn that a state agency has defined as blighted.

...should read (Oder has a slightly different wording in his commentary),

This portion of Dean Street, between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues in the planned Atlantic Yards, is in a part of Brooklyn that a state agency has defined as blighted.

NoLandGrab: Since the Times's editors probably have no love for Norman Oder, it's a wonder that they haven't blocked his email address yet.

Oder does make a good point though — the fact that those buildings are in the planned Atlantic Yards means you can kiss them goodbye if Ratner gets his way with Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Do the Math

New York Magazine, Intelligencer
By Mark Adams

In a week when the temperature hit 100, the numbers didn’t always add up... A new study detailed how Bruce Ratner’s rail-yard stadium complex—the price of which jumped from $2.5 billion to $4.2 billion, and which is looking less like a 21st-century Rockefeller Center than a Brooklyn Brasília 2.0—would result in gridlock. (Ratner offered his own fifteen-point plan in response, including embedding all 18,000 Nets tickets with MetroCard strips.)


NoLandGrab: New York Magazine should do its own "math." "Embedding all 18,000 Nets tickets with MetroCard strips" would be a HUGE cost that Ratner couldn't possibly assume and would be totally irrelevant to those traveling to games via automobile.

What Ratner's 15-point plan actually suggests is much more modest — a two-trip MetroCard may be offered to ticketholders at a 50 percent discount.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Yankee Lobbyists on Taxpayers' Tab

The Village Voice
By Neil deMause

File this under "unbelievable, but true," in the category "Public Funding of Stadiums:"

City documents newly uncovered by the Voice reveal that the New York Yankees billed city tax-payers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the salaries of team execs and high-powered consultants to lobby the city and state, thanks to the team's sweetheart lease deal engineered by the Giuliani administration.
The Yankees are apparently taking advantage of a clause in their lease with the city that allows "planning costs" of their new $1.3 billion stadium—groundbreaking for which could take place as soon as next week—to be deducted from the team's rent.

Amazingly, one of these taxpayer-funded lobbyist has also worked for Ratner:

The city even apparently paid the Yankees to lobby the city itself. Another recipient of city money, via the Yankees, was the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which, according to the New York City clerk's lobbyist database, has served as a registered lobbyist for both Tishman Speyer, the Yankees' project managers for the stadium, and the Yankees themselves. (Tishman's $1.9 million in 2004 was the number one billable item in the stadium planning account.) Working on the Yankee account, the documents show, was land-use lawyer and lobbyist Stephen Lefkowitz: The son of longtime state attorney general Louis Lefkowitz, he has been involved with nearly every major development project in recent city history, including Battery Park City, the Time Warner Center, the attempts to build a new New York Stock Exchange and a Manhattan Jets stadium, and Bruce Ratner's Metrotech and Atlantic Yards projects.
Skeezy as all this may be, lobbying experts say it's unlikely that any of it is illegal.


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Yonkers Plan Clears Hurdle, but Still Faces Opposition

The NY Times
By Fernanda Santos

Here's the latest on Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill development plan in Yonkers.

Now that the developer Forest City Ratner Companies has won approval for its ambitious Ridge Hill Village development here, officials representing the city and the developer are turning their attention to resolving an environmental challenge to the project from neighboring Greenburgh.

Construction on Ridge Hill is expected to begin by the end of the year, according to the developer. The $660 million residential, retail and commercial project, near the New York Thruway in the northern part of this city, is expected to create 7,000 jobs and generate $24 million a year in gross revenue for Yonkers — a virtual lifesaver that might just pluck the city out of its perpetual financial pit, its supporters say.

But Ridge Hill has also generated fierce opposition from the Town of Greenburgh, which abuts the project and has battled Yonkers before over development along the town’s border.

In April, Greenburgh filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the adequacy of the project’s environmental review. The pending suit does not prevent the Ridge Hill project from moving forward, but it could deter its progress down the line, city officials said.

The article includes this interesting observation about why the Ridge Hill development proposal has met with so much resistance:

“This process had a number of flaws,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County legislator who represents Yonkers. “Many of the parties could have been brought to the table way earlier and many of the deals could have been brokered more transparently so as to avoid a lot of the problems that came up along the way.”


NoLandGrab: To call exposure of cronyism and backroom dealing "a number of flaws" is being polite.

This article also includes a disclosure of the business relationship between Ratner and the Times, not that we're counting...

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

July 25, 2006

Despite rumors and Ratner, Ledgers staying in Brooklyn

Heath-n-Michelle.jpgIt's pathetic for NoLandGrab to have to stick our noses into the cauldron of celebrity gossip, but when OnlyTheBlogKnowsBrooklyn kissed the Ledger-Williams family goodbye in Sunday's headline, "HEATH: FAIR WEATHER BROOKLYN FRIEND," (OTBKB had it on good authority from Sunset Parker?) the blogosphere started a titterin' from Curbed.com to The Real Estate Observer.

A source close to the first couple of Boerum Hill has told us that Michelle and Heath bought Ellen DeGeneres's house in Hollywood so that they could have a local base for the family while in town for work. The Ledgers, "still consider New York, and specifically Brooklyn, home," they still support the opposition to overdeveloper Bruce Ratner and they'll be back again in the fall.

The couple might be sorry that they'll miss the Empire State Development Corporation's public hearing and forum, but other Brooklynites will show up to represent Boerum Hill.

In the meantime, it's totally lame when an amateurish information portal on Atlantic Yards has the scoop on the professional snarks.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 PM

Letter to the editor: Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for Nets arena

Metro NY

Aside from placing the proposed Nets arena in "downtown Brooklyn" (if built, the arena would be near "downtown" in Prospect Heights), our region's most prolific letter-to-the-editor writer Larry Penner, makes some good points and asks some serious questions about taxpayer-funding of Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Regarding “Protesters: Arena on slippery slope” (July 17): The article concerning developer Bruce Ratner’s plans to build a new stadium for the Nets in downtown Brooklyn was most informative.

In too many cases, projects like this one have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, commonly known as corporate welfare. Between direct government funding, indirect infrastructure improvements, low interest loans and long-term tax exemptions — the bill to taxpayers ends up being greater than the benefits. There also is a relationship between pay-to-play campaign contributions from developers to elected officials looking for favorable legislation, permits, subsidies and support. Is there any relationship between these donations to elected officials and their reciprocal endorsement of this project?

If the Atlantic Yards project is so worthwhile, shouldn’t major developers such as Ratner be able to finance it using his own funds, obtain loans from banks, issue stocks or bonds? Why the need to pick the pockets of taxpayers to pay a significant portion of the bill? Real business people who believe in capitalism build their companies on their own. How sad that some don’t want to do it the old-fashioned way: sweat and hard work. They are looking for shortcuts in the form of huge subsidies at taxpayers’ expense and favors from elected officials.

Posted by lumi at 12:16 PM

Battling Teardowns, Saving Neighborhoods

WardsBakery.gifThe fight against the "teardown" phenomenon to save historic neighborhoods and buildings isn't limited to opponents of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, which proposes to demolish the one of the best local candidates for "adaptive reuse," the Ward Bakery (pictured here, with its architecturally significant white terra cotta facade).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe gave a speech in San Francisco decrying the "teardown" trend. Text of this speech was recently published on the Trust's web site.

In some places, teardowns are acceptable or even desirable. Replacing outdated and inefficient structures is sometimes necessary if a community is to remain economically viable. But in recent years the pace of teardowns has amounted to an orgy of irrational destruction.

Sound older houses should be cherished as an irreplaceable legacy from the past — but instead, in community after community, they're being discarded like yesterday's newspaper.


Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

"ATURA, ATURA, ATURA" indicates FCR's nervousness over Kelo decision

All of this talk about a 38-year-old plan, called the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA), is an indication that Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) are sweating bullets over last year's Kelo ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yesterday's Daily News editorial made the point that:

"In 1968, most of the area was so blighted that city planners officially declared it an urban renewal zone, restating that designation as recently as 2004."

Today's NY Times "blight" article reported:

"The (blight) study also dwells in some detail on the eight-acre railyards that make up about one-third of the site, and which also fall within an urban renewal zone the city established along Atlantic Avenue in the late 1960’s."

Last week Brian Lehrer interviewed Jim Stuckey, Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President, who offered:

"This area has been considered blighted since 1968 when the first Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Plan was adopted. About 60, 65 percent of the area fell within that urban renewal area and was considered to be a blighted area. Those findings when the Downtown Brooklyn plan was approved two years ago were reaffirmed."

ATURA, ATURA, ATURA: Why all this talk about ATURA?
The case that some of Atlantic Yards falls within the ATURA boundaries and the project fulfills the 30+-year-old urban renewal plan's goal to eliminate blight, is a desperate attempt to meet a rational-basis review for use of eminent domain as defined in Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion in last year's Kelo case, cited yesterday by Norman Oder in Atlantic Yards Report.

Kennedy wrote:

A court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should treat the objection as a serious one and review the record to see if it has merit, though with the presumption that the government’s actions were reasonable and intended to serve a public purpose.

In reference to the City of New London, Kennedy concluded that certain criteria were met — criteria that would not apply in case of Atlantic Yards (see bold):

Here, the trial court conducted a careful and extensive inquiry into “whether, in fact, the development plan is of primary benefit to . . . the developer [i.e., Corcoran Jennison], and private businesses which may eventually locate in the plan area [e.g., Pfizer], and in that regard, only of incidental benefit to the city.” The trial court considered testimony from government officials and corporate officers; documentary evidence of communications between these parties; respondents’ awareness of New London’s depressed economic condition and evidence corroborating the validity of this concern; the substantial commitment of public funds by the State to the development project before most of the private beneficiaries were known; evidence that respondents reviewed a variety of development plans and chose a private developer from a group of applicants rather than picking out a particular transferee beforehand...

Kennedy added:

...a court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits.

Justice Kennedy agreed with the majority, that the New London private-property condemnations satisfied the definition of "public benefit," but acknowledged that there are cases of abuse that must be struck down by the courts. It stands to reason that Atlantic Yards would be one of those cases, that is, if FCR and the ESDC can't justify using eminent domain as part of an existing urban renewal plan — enter ATURA.

Embracing ATURA, but not before we OVERRIDE ATURA

On February 18, 2005 (four months before the Kelo decision was handed down), a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and State and FCR was executed, clearly stating [page 3, sec. 5(ii)] that the ESDC would seek "to exercize... its power to override local zoning and other local regulation where appropriate" (that includes ATURA).

In the Final Scope of Analysis released on March 31, 2006, the intent to supercede ATURA zoning was reiterated on page 10, where the document describes actions that must be taken to amass the different properties into one development site. The Final Scope declares that it will be necessary to: "Override by ESDC of the ATURA Plan as it relates to Site 5 and Site 6A." The rest of the railyard isn't part of this action because under ATURA, the railyard has no zoning.

OOPS! We have a problem


In order to override local zoning as mandated by ATURA, the ESDC must override the 30+-year-old urban renewal plan, because the Ratner proposal plans for much more density than ATURA would allow.

The eminent domain takings (most of which aren't even in the ATURA plan's boundaries anyway) will pass the "blight" test because NY State's definition of blight basically covers the entire City of New York. However, to pass the standard set by Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion in the Kelo case as the case winds its way through the court of appeals, FCR and the ESDC must now embrace ATURA and claim Atlantic Yards meets ATURA's blight-clearance goals.

Our intuition tells us that Ratner and the ESDC are running scared, and the best strategy their legal eagles could divine to justify this unprecedented land grab is this weak and desperate grasp at legal straws.

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Blight, Like Beauty, Can Be in the Eye of the Beholder

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore


Of all the real estate jargon, bureaucratic buzzwords and plain old insults exchanged over the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, no term has evoked quite such unruly passion as “blighted.”

During the last two years, the word has hung like a scythe over the 22-acre site, most of it on the northern edge of the Prospect Heights neighborhood, where the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, hopes to build its $4.2 billion project.

For the developer, it is a fitting description of the abandoned auto-repair shops, collapsing brownstones and gloomy vacant lots that blemish the area, and of the eight-acre railyards that slice through the neighborhood just south of Atlantic Avenue. For many of the several hundred people who still live there, “blighted” is a term of abuse, one that ignores the sleek, recently renovated buildings on Pacific and Dean Streets, the bustling neighborhood bar, and other signs of revival. Even some supporters of the project, like Assemblyman Roger L. Green, disagree with the description.


NoLandGrab: It is generally acknowledged that NY State's definition of blight, which includes outdated and under-utilized buildings, is so wide that there isn't a neighborhood in New York City that would fail the "blight test."

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

ATURA, crime, and the Times's blight story

Atlantic Yards Report allows that The NY Times did "a reasonable job surveying the issues regarding blight at the Atlantic Yards site," but adds two things that were left out of the debate.

1)ATURA likely will be cited to justify the use of eminent domain, given the Supreme Court's ruling that such use must be preceded by a governmental planning process. But what if the planning process excluded more than one-third of the project site?

2)The crime rates in two of the individual sectors were lower than in the larger precincts. Thus, the apparent crime increase could be attributed to only one of the three sectors, 88E. And there was no evidence that the footprint itself contributed to higher crime.


Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Instant gentrification? DEIS says no, statistics say yes

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Atlantic Yards project cause gentrification, also known as "indirect residential displacement"? The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued last week by the Empire State Development Corporation says no, in part because of ongoing gentrification, because new housing units could relieve market pressure, and because most of the at-risk households would be more than a half-mile away.

Those arguments, however debatable, can't be dismissed. The fourth reason, however, doesn't pass the laugh test. The DEIS suggests that the new residents would be similar economically to current residents in the area. But it fails to point out that the cost of the new housing would ensure that most new households would have to earn above-average incomes.
There's no evidence that the household income would be similar. By ignoring the actual income figures and relying improperly on affordability as a proxy for income, the DEIS avoids confronting "indirect residential displacement."


Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Daily News champions eminent domain, misreads ATURA

aturasmall-stuckey.gifAtlantic Yards Report marshals Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Group President Jim Stuckey, Municipal Art Society President Kent Barwick, the Supreme Court of the United States and, um, NoLandGrab to rebut the Daily News's editorial on eminent domain and Atlantic Yards.

Stuckey on the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area:

About 60, 65 percent of the area fell within that urban renewal area and was considered to be a blighted area.

[That hardly comprises an entire project.]

Don't miss the rest of the AYR takedown of the News's editorial.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Real housing for the real Brooklyn? Half of the affordable units--or less

Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is out, Atlantic Yards Report looks back to the July 17 Daily News editorial, headlined Real housing for the real Brooklyn, to see if the claims still hold up.

The editorial states:

The estimated 2,250 units of low-cost housing that would be built as part of Atlantic Yards, benefitting families who languish for as long as eight years on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

AYR author Norman Oder looked up the income levels for eligibility for public housing and Section 8 vouchers, compared them to Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan and concluded that around 1125 of 6860 (around 16.4%) would fall into the group of families who are waiting for public housing or Section 8 vouchers.

There are a few other allowances and variables that slightly shift the conclusion and can be found in the complete article.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

The Queens blackout: the brutal human costs of Con Ed’s drive for profit

World Socialist Web Site examines the lengthy blackout in Queens and calls for placing the critical utility in public hands, though they are pretty sure their calls will fall on deaf ears:

Of course not only Republicans like Bloomberg will oppose such a demand, but also the Democrats, some of whom have been making demagogic calls for the resignation of Con Ed’s CEO and a criminal investigation into the company’s practices. But these practices are hardly an aberration; rather, they are the rule for an energy industry that is run for profit. The same politicians who invoke “eminent domain” to help real estate developers like Bruce Ratner forcibly evict working class families from their homes and small businessmen from their premises will no doubt invoke the sacred right of “private property” in Con Ed’s defense.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner is becoming the poster child for eminent domain abuse.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Daily News Forum on Atlantic Yards

The Wonkster, Political blog of Gotham Gazette

Joshua Brustein notes that the Daily News has published two op-eds and one editorial on Atlantic Yards. The score: two pro-Yards and one against.


Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

State Agency with Corrupt Ties to Ratner Gives Fully Expected Glowing Report on Ratner's Project

Daily Gotham
By Mole333

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is the state agency that is reviewing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project and which has had a strange, corrupt relationship with Ratner that seriously calls into question their ability to judge his project. The ESDC has just come out with their long report on the project and there is no surprise that the upshot is a glowing recommendation of Ratner's proposal.

Mole333 is still pretty bent out of shape that Ratner and the ESDC used the same lawyer to work on the same project, though to be fair, the lawyer, David Paget, "resigned" from his work for developer Bruce Ratner just before he started working for the ESDC (no conflicts here, right?).

The fun stuff begins when Mole333 compares language from the DEIS to statements by third-party observers.


Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

July 24, 2006

Atlantic Yards Review (1 Letter)

The NY Times

Kent Barwick, President of the Municipal Art Society, makes a good point about the claim that Atlantic Yards has "undergone extensive public review" with more to come, in this letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

“Crowd Gathers to Protest Size of Atlantic Yards Plan” (news article, July 17) reports that the project “has undergone extensive public review, and more is assured once the developer releases an environment impact statement.”

The fact is that state-regulated projects developed in association with the Empire State Development Corporation provide for no serious opportunities for citizens to become engaged in planning for their neighborhoods. A brief chance to submit comments is hardly the extensive public review that the community should be entitled to.

With increasing regularity, the development corporation sidesteps the city’s land-use review procedures, state legislators, City Council oversight, local community boards and the voices of those most affected by new development: neighborhood residents.

Kent Barwick
President, Municipal Art Society
New York, July 18, 2006

NoLandGrab: The point Barwick makes about lack of public input is in addition to these five principles that the Municipal Art Society has suggested to make the project work better for Brooklyn:

Posted by lumi at 1:58 PM


The NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

If you thought that Brooklyn was in store for overdevelopment brought to you by Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, read what's already in store in Downtown Brooklyn as a part of the already formally City-approved "Downtown Brooklyn Plan."

Note: Most of these projects are luxury condominiums, which isn't exactly what NY City had in mind for the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn.

DowntownBklyn-NYPost.jpgAt least eight new construction projects are in the pipeline for a now-gritty three-block stretch of Flatbush Avenue between Tillary and Willoughby streets, just blocks from Bruce Ratner's $4.2 billion planned complex...

Among the projects being planned is a 60-story, multimillion-dollar hotel, office and condominium tower over a city-owned parking garage at Albee Square West, to be built by Thor Equities.

Down the block, on Myrtle Avenue, a $450 million pair of buildings - comprising a million square feet of space - are planned, according to John Catsimatidis, who will develop the projects.
Just across the street, BFC Development is hoping to break ground later this year on a roughly $200 million, 40-story residential and retail tower, by the architectural firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill, which designed the Freedom Tower.

"It's going to be in the area of a billion dollars between all [these] projects," said Ron Hershco, who broke ground on his own luxury 35- and 40-story buildings on Gold Street.


NoLandGrab: Before Atlantic Yards boosters waste their breath slamming Atlantic Yards critics for not opposing the current wave of Downtown Brooklyn development, let's make something clear — many of the same neighborhood activists were at the hearings for the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.

Readers may be familiar with the "Albee Square West" developer Thor Equities as the company re-envisioning Coney Island as a billion-dollar entertainment mecca. Coney Island is where Bruce Ratner and Marty Markowitz originally wanted to build the Nets arena — no reason has been given for their decision to pursue the Prospect Heights land-grab strategy instead.

Posted by lumi at 12:08 PM

TWU President Pushes MTA To Delay Vote On Development Rights of Hudson Rail Yards

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

The president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, Roger Toussaint, and the staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, Gene Russianoff, have asked the MTA chairman, Peter Kalikow, to postpone a vote, which could come at a board meeting Wednesday.

“If the property is sold for significantly less than it’s worth, that could mean hundreds of millions less for new subway cars, buses, commuter rail trains, station rehabilitations, and infrastructure, such as track and signals,” Mr. Toussaint and Mr. Russianoff said in a letter.


NoLandGrab: Where were these powerful voices when the MTA accepted the lowest bidder and awarded the Vanderbilt Railyards to Bruce Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 11:55 AM

New York Times weekend coverage not on Atlantic Yards

The McMansion Wars
In this NY Times editorial, Westchester communities deal with "American giantism" and some of the same issues as Central Brooklynites face: density, size and taste.

Communities around the country are becoming stricter about lot sizes, density and setback requirements to keep neighborhoods from being overwhelmed by residential supersizing.

New York’s Fat Political Budget
$100 million for Ratner, plus other gravy-boatfulls of spending, really add up in this editorial about next year's budget:

Comptroller Alan Hevesi reported last week in his department’s preliminary analysis of this year’s session that the state will spend over $114.7 billion, including federal funds, in the current fiscal year. That is an increase of $10.1 billion over last year’s spending. And the increase in state funds alone is about 13 percent, a full four times the inflation rate.

Admittedly, times are good. And the state suddenly has — make that had — a $2 billion surplus. But New York’s politicians spent the surplus and then some because nobody seems to have thought that this Wall Street boomlet might be temporary. Or that the price of oil might hit three digits.

Debate Rages on Housing at Planned Brooklyn Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park plan is worthy of consideration on a slow Atlantic Yards-news day, because it give us the chance to ponder how our city politicians and planners eagerly bend over backwards to developers.

The debate over the Brooklyn Bridge Park reprises controversies over the West Side of Manhattan and raises fundamental urban planning questions: When is a park not a park? And how far should government go in granting concessions to developers — in this case, allowing profitmaking housing on public land — to subsidize nonessential public services?

Why does a "park" have to be "self-sustaining" while Bruce Ratner is first in line to receive more than a billion dollars in subsidies for Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Three posts we missed last week in the post-rally-DEIS-release madness:

Gowanus Lounge, Marty Markowitz's Reply to Atlantic Yards Open Letter
Earlier in the week, GL posted an open letter to Marty Markowitz regarding Atlantic Yards and then posted Markowitz's reply.

Rev BillyThe Stop Shopping Monitor (Blogalujah!), DDDB — Rev Reflects

In my sermon, I tried to say some things that I knew the politicians who would speak that afternoon might not cover. Like — how in my neighborhood I can leave my house keys with George across the street at the deli, for when I lock myself out or when a friend comes in from out of town. That’s a little thing - but life in a healthy community is made of little things. And here’s a toast to Jane Jacobs! But contrast this with the vertical gated communities that Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry would bring in, with miles of blank walls and secret security systems everywhere.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality, Mayberry, Brooklyn?
"Dreadnaught" comes to Rosie's rescue after she was slammed by the Daily News's editorial board last week:

Obviously to the editors of the dailynews and Ratner who prefer "Pottersville" it's a negative reference. Imagine...Miss Perez had the gaul to imply that urban neighborhoods can have the same sort of friendly family/neighborhood based intimacy as a small town. At least Mr Potter paid for his is own crooked schemes, Mr. Ratner.

And, two posts that indicate that "Bruce Ratner" and "Atlantic Yards" are developing their own linguistic currency:

Field of Schemes, Putting the "wreck" in "Paper of Record"
When a post about the Times screwing the pooch on coverage of the Yankees' stadium bond approval, provokes the following comment, you know that "Bruce Ratner = developer overlord" is nearing the saturation point in the public consciousness:

No surprise, unfortunately -- the Times has a big cheerleader from the get-go. I even heard Charles Bagli say this plan was in the works for a decade. I guess people who deal with Ratner are reluctant to cast stones.

BuildingIHate.jpgDelicato Morosa, The Building I Hate

You know that "Atlantic Yards" has become the yardstick for overdevelopment, extreme-density and existing-neighborhoods-be-damned when you stumble across the reference in this post on a blogger's neighborhood nemeis:

All told, it’s no Atlantic Yards, but it’s still an oversized eyesore by neighbourhood scale, and a continually crooked project, to boot.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

David Yassky: Trojan horse for big developers?

NY Amsterdam News
By Saeed Shabazz

A lot of attention is being paid citywide to David Yassky's candidacy for the 11th Congressional district because of his ethnicity and race. Atlantic Yards opponents are a little wary of Yassky because of his split position on Bruce Ratner's proposal (YES to the arena, NO to the size).

All around, many folks are nervous about Yassky's deep pockets and the amount of money he has raised from real estate developers.


Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: PHNDC candidates forum

Atlantic Yards Report covered the candidates' views on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Eminent Domain at the Prospect Heights Development Council's candidate forum last week.

Batson, Jeffries say AY review deserves more time

They have different positions on the Atlantic Yards project, but Bill Batson and Hakeem Jeffries, candidates for the 57th Assembly District seat being vacated by Roger Green, at least agree that August 23 is too soon to hold a hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

No eminent domain for arena, says Jeffries, but for AY?

Hakeem Jeffries, a candidate for the open 57th Assembly District seat, is against the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena, as he said in an advertisement in May and at a forum last Thursday.

But what exactly does that mean? I caught up with Jeffries after the forum to ask him to amplify his statement. That produced some musings, but no definitive statement.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Eminent sense in Brooklyn domain

The Daily News editorial board makes a weak case for the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, calling Develop Don't Destroy "a group of naysayers" (name calling anyone?) and citing the recent Kelo case (emphasis added):

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that public agencies can invoke eminent domain to purchase land from holdouts and make it available to private developers, provided the project in question follows a preexisting governmental planning process and the public good is served. Atlantic Yards meets both criteria.

The "preexisting planning process" the News cites is the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). The News explains:

In 1968, most of the area was so blighted that city planners officially declared it an urban renewal zone, restating that designation as recently as 2004.

It's no surprise that Forest City Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky agrees with the Daily News analysis.

NoLandGrab "Oderizes" the Daily News:
Clearly the Daily News editorial board and Richard Lipsky don't check out AtlanticYardsReport.com. If they had they could have saved themselves from embarrassment when they would have noticed Norman Oder's area map showing ATURA, combined with the footprint of Bruce Ratner's proposal. ATURA is in orange, Bruce Ratner's footprint in blue and the striped area is where the two different plans overlap.

Guess what, most of the remaining private properties DO NOT fall into the ATURA zone. This includes property needed for the arena.

Since the Daily News's city news desk has a better grasp on verifiable facts than the editorial board, maybe the paper can do a story on this important detail that will no doubt figure into the eminent domain legal battle.

While we have the Supreme Court Kelo decision open, keep in mind Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion, which attempts to set limits on eminent domain abuse:

"...a court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits."

The Daily News, NoLandGrab and Richard Lipsky aren't lawyers, so maybe the courts should decide what is "insurmountable" or "frivolous."

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

July 23, 2006

Is AY right for Brooklyn? In Daily News, Markowitz, Shiffman disagree

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Daily News today, two brief but telling paired opinion pieces. Is Atlantic Yards right for Brooklyn? Yes, writes Borough President Marty Markowitz. A key line:
Without serious leadership in Washington or Albany, we must look to public-private collaborations such as Atlantic Yards to be part of the solution - that's reality, not theory.

Is Atlantic Yards right for Brooklyn? No, counters Ron Shiffman, professor of architecture and urban planning at Pratt Institute's School of Architecture (and also a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board member). A key response:
After the West Side stadium debacle, the city now wants to buy rights to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Hudson Yards and then have developers make proposals for projects that would go through the city's planning process. In Brooklyn, the city has endorsed a single-source deal. It's bad planning and deceptive decision-making and unworthy of a world city.


Posted by amy at 12:10 PM

Is Atlantic Yards right for Brooklyn? No

Ronald Shiffman
Daily News

The Atlantic Yards proposal is bad for Brooklyn and for every other community in the state. It codifies cronyism and places it above participatory and fair-minded planning.

When you strip away the rhetoric, this project is nothing but a 1960s megablock development dressed in a trendy sculptural façade by a star architect. It fails to weave together the communities that adjoin it, dramatically aggravates traffic and consumes open space. Atlantic Yards will cast a real and metaphoric shadow over its adjoining neighborhoods.

But it's in two areas that the proposal is particularly dangerous: its broken promises on housing and the public process the developers have wantonly ignored.


Posted by amy at 12:07 PM

Is Atlantic Yards right for Brooklyn? Yes

Marty Markowitz
Daily News

I am confident that in the coming months the public - especially those residing in the area surrounding the Atlantic Yards site - will contribute innovative, worthy ideas that will make this project even better. We all recognize the challenges of a project like this, and I know that by working together we can make Atlantic Yards a symbol of our Brooklyn Renaissance for generations to come.

Funny, Markowitz hasn't seemed to care for the community's ideas thus far.

Posted by amy at 11:57 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Comb Through New Study


Emily Keller

The work has begun. Brooklynites with a stake in the proposed Atlantic Yards Project are scrutinizing the 1,400-page draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project.

And despite the recent heat wave that sent Brooklynites vying for any bit of shade they could find, analysts are searching for, among other things, an accurate assessment of the shadows the project will cast on its neighbors – which could raise their heating bills and impact their future ability to use solar energy.


Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

Approval Process Branded a ‘Mockery’

Stephen Witt

“Sixty days to review a 15 inch thick document, requiring the input of numerous experts, for the largest project ever proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City and a project that would be by far the densest residential community in the United States is a contemptible slap in the face to the people of Brooklyn and the taxpayers of New York State,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.

“The ESDC is making a mockery of what has already been a completely flawed process,” he added.


Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

Hundreds Say No to Atlantic Yards Plans - Celebs Add Star Power to Weekend Rally

Stephen Witt on crowd counts at the rally. Courier-Life:

The much-hyped event, which featured Perez, actor/director Steve Buscemi and kiddie rocker Dan Zanes among a bevy of speakers, drew about 500, according to one police officer on the scene.

Later police officials estimated the crowd to be between 800 and 1,000 to include people who were in the shade on the scorching hot day.


Now really, if you want responsible reporting you have to ask at least five different police officers how many people they think are in the crowd. You must also indicate that there were different numbers of people at the park before, during, and after the rally. It would also be nice to differentiate between signholders and non-signholders, sitters and standers, and how many people were wearing hats. People not wearing hats who are seated are clearly excluded from the final count.

Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Atlantic Yards Plan Enters Into Next Phase of Development


Stephen Witt must know something we don't know, as he discusses the Atlantic Yards proposal as a foregone conclusion. Courier-Life:

Brooklyn’s march toward a planned future officially began last week with the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) adoption of the General Project Plan (GPP) and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

And while mitigation challenges remain, the clock has started ticking for opponents of the massive $4.2 billion Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) development that will bring a new skyline and NBA basketball team to the borough.


Witt should get some 'would' instead of 'will,' and perhaps reference some other things that the development would bring.

Posted by amy at 11:24 AM

July 22, 2006

Rally Against Ratner (videos)


see-los posts video clips from the rally.

Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

The housing switch: more affordable units would go to the middle-class

Atlantic Yards Report ponders the variety of affordable housing scenarios touted over the past couple of years, concluding with a plan where "affordable rents proposed for Atlantic Yards would range past $3000 for a family of six, and to $2658 for a family of four.":

There's been a small but significant switch within the allotment of affordable housing promised for the Atlantic Yards project. No longer would 900 of the 2250 affordable apartments be promised to moderate-income people earning 50%-100% of the Area Median Income, or AMI.

Rather, only 450 units would go to moderate-income people, and 900 would be aimed to the middle-class, earning above the AMI. Thus, some 40% of the units in the affordable allotment would have relatively high rent; a family of four would pay more than than $2000 a month.


Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

Clarification: AY affordable apartment sizes set by city program

Atlantic Yards Report finds another chunk of the claimed 50% affordable housing gone missing:

While the affordable housing would represent a little less than 33% of the units at the project, it would apparently represent only 22% of the square footage. (That's based on an even distribution of the four different sizes. Note that there would be 2250 market-rate rentals and 2360 market-rate condos.)

Is that correct? How much bigger would the market-rate apartments be, and what percentage of the total housing space allotment in the project would they occupy?

We know that the original pledge of 50/50 affordable housing has been put aside because of addition of the market-rate condos. Now project supporters emphasize that 50% of the rental units would be affordable. But would the affordable rentals occupy 50% of the space allotted for the rentals?


Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

At Ground Zero, Builder Is Barred but Not His Kin

The New York Times is full of disclosure today:

Empire Transit Mix, one of only eight concrete suppliers in the city, is providing concrete for the foundation and superstructure of the new headquarters of The New York Times Company at Eighth Avenue and 41st Street, which is under construction by Forest City Ratner, the newspaper company’s partner and developer.


Posted by amy at 11:24 AM

July 21, 2006

Friday black humor

WhatISee, Met Rooftop

More evidence that Atlantic Yards is becoming synonymous with "fighting the man" — the following was "overheard" in the comments section of WhatISee in reference to this photo taken on the Met Rooftop of the Cai Guo-Qiang sculpture of replicas of dead birds at the base of a large plate of glass.



the dead birds are ghastly and sur-real...

do they symbolize the bleak hopelessness of protesting against the Ratner-ville Nets area in Brooklyn??


...or, do they symbolize the hidden-in-plain-sight environmental impacts of Ratnerville?

Posted by lumi at 2:58 PM

Inside Ratner’s Atlantic Yards

State docs show massive impact By Ariella Cohen, Gersh Kuntzman and Dana Rubinstein
Illustrations by Sylvan Migdal

The Brooklyn Papers devoted A LOT of time and column inches to inform its readers about many of the environmental impacts described in the State-issued Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The impacts covered are below, along with excerpts from the analysis.

29_28icon_traffic.gifAccording to the draft environmental impact statement released on Tuesday, 68 intersections around the project’s epicenter — Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — would have “significant adverse impacts” from the project.

“Peak hour vehicular traffic through this intersection would increase by four to 15 percent,” the report states.

That’s bad news, considering that 57 of 87 signalized intersections around the project are already congested at least once a day.

29_28icon_unavoidable.gifSome impacts of the Atlantic Yards mega-project simply can not be fixed while still allowing Bruce Ratner to make a reasonable profit and build affordable housing — but the developer will buy air-conditioners for everyone who wants one, state documents reveal.

The irreparable harm, most of which cannot be mitigated without conflicting with “the project’s goals,” consists of:
• The demolition of the Ward Bread Bakery
• Obstructed views of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower
• “Significant noise” on Dean Street between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues
• Massive shadows
• Intense traffic

29_28icon_shadows.gifThe 16 towers of the Atlantic Yards project will enshroud the playground at the Atlantic Terminal Houses in Fort Greene in shadows all day, every day, during the winter, and place the northern portion of Prospect Heights in the same gloom every morning until noon all year long, according to the state study released this week.

As The Brooklyn Papers reported in June, Bruce Ratner’s skyscrapers will cast shadows on the area bordered by DeKalb Avenue Douglass Street, Grand Avenue and Bond Street.

The shadows would be at their worst during the cold winter months.

29_28icon_socioeconomics.gifAtlantic Yards probably won’t exacerbate the gentrification that’s already taking place in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, according to a new state report on the impact of the project on local socioeconomics.

State planners made that conclusion based on Census data showing that the number of “at-risk” households in the area has been declining for years — even before Bruce Ratner dreamed up Atlantic Yards.

The project would displace an estimated 410 residents and 27 businesses from its 22-acre footprint, plus the residents of 144 homes already purchased by the developer.
And although the DEIS frequently calls the Prospect Heights development site “blighted,” the document does admit that the neighborhood ranks among the wealthiest near the proposed basketball arena that is Atlantic Yards’ centerpiece.

29_28icon_infrastructure.gifThe ESDC says that Bruce Ratner’s behemoth project will not significantly affect Brooklyn’s existing infrastructure — but its own documents show that the project would cause overcrowded schools, create new challenges to police and fire coverage, and cause more sewage to flow into the East River.

[All three of these impacts can be mitigated according to the DEIS, but would require additional commitments from the City to get it done.]

29_28icon_culture.gifNew York State planners admitted that the 16-skyscrapers of the Atlantic Yards project are significantly larger than the surrounding neighborhoods — but concluded that the project’s size is a good thing.

“The proposed project would change the character of the project site, and for the better,” the state’s draft environmental impact statement said.

“The new taller buildings of the proposed project would have a positive effect by serving as new wayfinders in the Brooklyn skyline.”

[The DEIS is also including the enormous lobby, dubbed the "Urban Room," as "public space."]

29_28icon_openspace.gifAtlantic Yards will bring seven acres of lush green parkland to Brooklyn, but watch out: the open space closes early.

In contrast to the city’s public parks — which open at 5 am and close at 1 am — the green jewel of the development will open at 7 am and close at 8 pm or sunset — whichever is later — during most of the year.

From May to September, it will stay open until 10:30 pm.

Posted by lumi at 1:05 PM

State big to Brooklyn: You’re Manhattan now

2,000-page report reveals impact of Atlantic Yards
Clock starts on 66-day ‘review’ of massive Yards project

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Atlantic Yards will cost more to build and benefit the public less than Bruce Ratner said it would — and carry with it environmental impacts that can not be mitigated, a state analysis disclosed this week.

But the state’s development czar said the publicly subsidized mega-development would be worth the price because it advances the Manhattanization of Brooklyn.

“We are a city of skyscrapers,” said Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, which released the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Tuesday. “We are a city of towers.”

Gargano promised that if significant environmental impacts of the 16-skyscraper, 18,000-seat arena, residential, hotel, retail and office complex can’t be mitigated, the state “will respond.”
Beyond the project’s size and scale, the DEIS revealed the fuzzy math behind Atlantic Yards.

Focusing in on the project's unimpressive fiscal benefits:

Instead of generating $2.1 billion in tax revenue over the next 30 years, as Ratner promised in promotional materials and press releases, the plan certified Tuesday shows that the project would gross just over $1.9 billion — $1.1 billion for the state and $845.5 million for the city — over the next 40 years.

After subtracting $500 million in subsidies already committed by the state and city, the overall benefit to the public drops to $1.4 billion over those 40 years — $35 million a year split between the state and city.


Posted by lumi at 1:01 PM

Gargano to B’klyn: Get big

The Brooklyn Papers, editorial

The Manhattanization of Brooklyn is now official state policy. That’s what Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano said this week, as his agency released a disheartening draft environmental impact statement for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

The 2,000 pages of detailed analysis shows that the development is out of scale with its neighbors, would enshroud large areas in shadows, would tax an already-overburdened traffic and transit system, would create an intimidating superblock, and would require the city to spend untold millions to build schools, provide for more cops and add fire service.
From his Albany aerie, Charles Gargano has decided that the very thing that makes Brooklyn unique — its neighborhood scale — is the very thing that must change.

The editorial goes on to explain how Brooklyn Bridge Estate Park fits into Gargano's "narrative" for Brooklyn and how, if built, "Atlantic Yards would be the most-densely populated Census tract in the country."


Posted by lumi at 12:38 PM

Every group hates traffic

The Brooklyn Papers
By Brendan Mysliwiec

A coalition of 28 community groups — spanning a wide swath from Bay Ridge to Greenpoint — are demanding that Mayor Bloomberg focus more attention on the traffic that is “blanketing our streets with cars and trucks.”

The groups’ demands — contained in a July 13 letter to City Hall — come as traffic is increasingly perceived as a leading quality-of-life problem.
The traffic concerns are especially acute, given the pace of recent development, such as in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and along Fourth Avenue, where upzoning has encouraged rapid growth.

And hanging like a specter over central Brooklyn is Bruce Ratner’s nearly 7,000-apartment, 18,000-seat basketball arena proposed for Prospect Heights.


Posted by lumi at 12:35 PM

Rally on!

Ariella Cohen from The Brooklyn Papers collected these rally cries, amongst others, for this week's issue:

"Affordable housing, but eminent domain? I play a lot of crazies, but that sounds insane.” — Steve Buscemi, actor and Park Slope resident

“As a person born and bred in Brooklyn, without too much bread, this plan is insulting to poor people and we deserve better … Seriously, do the right thing.” — Rose Perez, actress and Brooklyn resident

“I’d rather be on my front steps playing mandolin … but for too long we have been complacent about a development that could destroy our neighborhoods.” — Dan Zanes, kiddie rock star

Posted by lumi at 12:24 PM

Democratic Space

Brooklyn Views has started perusing the "Draft Environmental No-Impact Statement" ("DEN-IS," pronounced "denies?").

It seems that BV was right about the "real FAR" all along [See BV, Street Logic.]:

The document now recognizes that a Floor Area Ratio without streets is a different measure of density than a Floor Area Ratio with streets.

JulyRally-BV.jpg But, the DEIS is less forthcoming on "open space:"

You may be surprised to read, as I was initially, that after building over 8 million square feet of concrete, steel and glass, plus parking for 3800 cars, the open space ratio for “passive” open space throughout the neighborhood actually improves! Incredible! How could this be? It’s because when an area is used as a public street, it is not counted as open space, despite Ms. Burden’s contention. But when the street is given to a private project to be used for “strolling, dog walking, and bird watching” it IS counted as open space.

One would think that a qualitative assessment of potential open space impacts would address how removing street right-of-ways impacts effective open space ratios. [Emphasis added.]

What about that "open space?"

Throughout the document, private “open space” is referred to as “publicly accessible open space” (not to be confused with real open space, which is public and doesn’t require authorization for access). But now we learn that “publicly accessible open space” is not public open space at all, and would only be “available for public use” during limited hours.

BV concludes by explaining the impact of "elected officials who are facilitating this defeat of our public realm" on the city:

So if you thought that this was your borough, think again. If you give away this amount of property, including the streets, you give away that essential quality of cities: democratic participation in public space.


Posted by lumi at 11:54 AM

Ever on Guard Against Scary Parades

The NY Times
By Clyde Haberman

Two days ago, Gothamist pointed out that the public hearings for the new NYPD guidelines for public gatherings and the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement are on the same day. Somehow, we figured that wouldn't be the last time the two issues would be linked.

JulyRally-NYT.jpgToday's Clyde Haberman column, about how the NYPD is making a mountain out of a molehill by proposing to severely restrict public gatherings, is illustrated by this photo from last week's rally with the following caption:

People gathered at Grand Army Plaza, where the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn group held a rally against the Atlantic Yards project on Sunday.

Haberman makes a good point about these absurd rules:

Bicyclists traveling in groups of 20 or more must first get a parade permit from the police. The same goes for groups of 35 or more people walking together on sidewalks. For that matter, a group of merely two people — that’s right, two people — will be defined as a parade if they walk or cycle “in a manner that does not comply with all applicable traffic laws, rules and regulations.”

Be honest. Have you never, while strolling or biking with a companion, crossed the street against a red light? Have you never, while strolling or biking with a companion, crossed the street against a red light? It would seem that the two of you will now, technically speaking, qualify as a parade. And since you probably will not have first asked the police for a parade permit, it appears that you will — again technically — be breaking two laws.
PRACTICAL considerations also come to mind. Will 20 people on a routine bike tour have to get a parade permit? How about 35 kids walking as a group on a class trip? Or a funeral procession? [Or a handful of Atlantic Yards opponents en route to another Ratner press conference?]

Paul J. Browne, a Police Department spokesman, dismissed all this as “grasping at unrealistic scenarios.”

article (online, Times Select subscribers only)

NoLandGrab: In the meantime, when is the NYPD going to scrutinize the feasibility and impacts of building glass-&-steel high rises and an arena over the third-largest transportation hub in the region?

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

Hugh Hardy: Architect Calls for Fresh Take on Public Life

Streets Blog


"The greatest achievement of New York is the streets," says architect Hugh Hardy. And he says we can achieve richer public places -- if New York's citizens can persuade officials to make those places serve people rather than cars.

Hugh Hardy, architect of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal, describes some of the goals and challenges of "placemaking" in NYC.

[Hardy's] premise: outdoor activity defines New Yorkers' lives and should expand beyond traditional sidewalks and plazas.
He warned that economic pressures can thwart this progress, especially on retail corridors. "How you can cultivate the diversity of street flow in new buildings is troublesome," he said. "The cost of construction is so enormous that a developer has to build something enormous. People who rent it have to be wealthy. That means they live in their hot tubs or they are a chain retailer." The profusion of national brands along Rockefeller Center and other shopping streets, he said, has made the "scale of the city bigger and more empty."

Discussion in the comments section concentrates on Hardy's Atlantic Terminal.


Posted by lumi at 9:57 AM

Mystery solved: ESDC should never have promoted 10,000 jobs at Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report uncovers the mystery behind the original inflated jobs figure touted by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

inflated jobs figuresThe industry standard for estimating the number of square feet of office space per job is 250, while the original 10,000-jobs figure released by Ratner and the ESDC was calculated using 200 squ. ft./job.

Atlantic Yards Report-er, Norman Oder, has been trying to get to the bottom of why the ESDC would depart from industry standards. Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been released, it appears that the ESDC actually DOES use the industry standard.

New mystery: why did the state agency go along with the developer's original claims?

Norman Oder give the ESDC the benefit of the doubt here:

Yes, it's likely that the press release--versions were issued jointly by the city, state, and ESDC--wasn't written by the ESDC. But it apparently didn't represent the way the agency calculates office jobs.

The ESDC and developers have a "collaborative" relationship in an effort to move projects forward. The Atlantic Yards job numbers, however, suggest that the interests--or at least the statistics--may not always be in tandem.


Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

A mega-development looms in Brooklyn

People's Weekly World
By Dan Margolis

PWW's report from the rally covers the growing opposition to the Atlantic Yards proposal, the bypassing of democratic institutions, eminent domain displacement, race and class divisions, the developer's past broken promises and massive taxpayer subsidies without legislative review of the project.

An estimated 4,000 people gathered here July 16 to protest a $3.5 billion development deal that critics charge would lead to “instant gentrification” and radically alter the political landscape of this borough.

Chris Owens, Democratic Party primary candidate for Congress in Brooklyn’s 11th District, recalled that three years ago, when the project was first announced, hardly anyone was against it. “It was very lonely,” he said. Now, though, there is a growing movement to stop Atlantic Yards, despite Ratner’s claims that the project is a “done deal.”

Local entrepreneur and activist Bob Law said the project has had no real community input. The developer bypased the “white, Black and Brown” City Council, preferring to work with the Republican mayor and governor. “This fight is not just about development,” Law said, but also about “power for the people.”

NYC Councilmember Charles Barron noted that much of the development would be done through use of eminent domain, or the threat of it. Ratner has been threatening residents that if they do not sell their property to the developer, their homes will simply be taken through eminent domain for less.


Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Rally photos, Diane Greene-Lent

A late addition to the shutterbug club from last weekend's rally is Diane Greene-Lent, who has posted rally photos on her web site.


Thousands gathered in 95 degree heat to protest the planned Arena project of Forest City Ratner. Develop Don't Destroy organized the rally to condemn the scale of the project and the lack of community input.

Also, check out Greene-Lent's Peace and Justice photo archive, covering activists, progressive causes and rebuilding the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Joint Partnership Announces Station Square Community Benefits Agreement

Yesterday, Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, announced a "community benefits agreement" signed with a local development corporation in Pittsburgh.

From the press release:

Details of the South Side LDC-Forest City partnership include: * a commitment to proactively enhance transportation along East Carson Street and alternate routes including: continued operation of the South Sider shuttle, a connection of the riverfront trail network from the South Side to the West End, advocating for the immediate rebuilding of McArdle Roadway and reconnecting the street grid at Bingham Street to Station Square Drive; * the creation of a working group that will include professional staff to work closely with Forest City to improve and provide input on the development; * plans to market and cross-market the existing business community in conjunction with the new development; * a commitment by Forest City to actively participate in community and municipal planning issues relative to the Station Square and the South Side community.

This news also got play in Commercial Property News.

The South Side Local Development Co. in Pittsburgh has endorsed a proposal by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises and Harrah's Entertainment in Las Vegas to develop the South Side's Station Square into a $1 billion gaming enterprise.

NoLandGrab: There's been much talk about the recent tinkering with the template for "Community Benefits Agreements." Atlantic Yards opponents point out that many stakeholders in the community have been left out, while the Yankee Stadium agreement was negotiated by local politicians who will have control over funds distributed to the community.

Signing a "Community Benefits Agreement" with a local development corporation, which is a semi-governmental-quasi-public-private non-profit corporation charged with promoting local economic revitalization and devlopment, is a real stretch, and hardly seems to pass the smell test for the definition of "community" typical to such agreements.

Also, both parties in the case of Pittsburgh's South Side have only agreed to work together toward mutual goals. That falls short of what Community Benefits Agreements were originally designed to accomplish.

At this point, CBAs seem to benefit developers as a publicity tool for securing approval for their controversial projects.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Business group divests its stake in the N.J. Nets

The Bergen Record
By John Brennan

When Bruce Ratner led an ownership group to purchase the NJ Nets in 2004, he came up short in his efforts to raise the capital, leaving the previous ownership holding a 20-percent stake in the team, "until a few weeks ago, when the Ratner group bought out most of its members. The transfer was never announced."

Meanwhile, some group members... invested additional money in the Nets franchise as it lost millions annually for the past several years. Some of those investors are thought to be merely reducing their holdings in the Nets.

David Gerstein is one of several Nets owners who had a controlling interest in the team from 1979-1998 before selling most of the franchise to the Katz-Chambers group. Gerstein, Alan Aufzien and Jerry Cohen are among a group -- once dubbed "The Secaucus Seven" -- that is not selling its remaining shares to Ratner.

"The majority owners are doing a good job, so we want to be part of that," Gerstein said. "The team is very viable, and we're keeping our money in."


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

July 20, 2006

Numbers for Jeffries

The Empire Zone, campaign 2006 political blog for The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

[57th Assembly District candidate Hakeem] Jeffries has already picked up endorsements from the Working Families Parties and several key unions. He’s raised $130,000, about half of it from individuals, and has $90,000 in cash on hand.

That’s about twice what his opponent, Bill Batson, has raised: $62,000, with $20,000 cash on hand. A big chunk of that was a loan Batson made to himself.

Those numbers tell you a little bit about the importance of institutional players in these local races. Mr. Jeffries, who once ran as an insurgent against Mr. Green, is the candidate of the political establishment this time around. Now Batson is the insurgent. Opponents consider Mr. Jeffries a supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, a big issue in that district. And they consider Mr. Batson their champion against it.


And don't forget to check out the comments, where the discourse is a step above (at least at this momemt) what usually goes on in political blogs where RatnerPolitik seems to make the political buffs' heads spin.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM



NY Post
By Rich Calder

Here's one we missed this morning, which, was foggy in more ways than one.

Yesterday, on The Brian Lehrer Show, James P. Stuckey, Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President, made mention of the developer's "progressive" and "innovative" 15-point plan to mitigate effects of the anticipated traffic nightmare, should the arena and 16 high rises be built.

Stuckey had an advantage on Lehrer and the rest of the audience since only he knew the details of this plan.

Today, in an exclusive by Rich Calder, the Post provides a sneak peak at the plan, which includes on-site parking for VIPs and HOVs (high occupancy vehicles) only, off-site parking (hope these sites were included in the Environmental Impact Statement traffic study), MetroCard incentives, "increasing subway service in Downtown Brooklyn during evenings and weekends, building an enclosed 400-spot bicycle station at the arena with lockers and reconfiguring roads and pedestrian crosswalks."


Calder, the Post transportation beat reporter, screwed the pooch on his coverage yesterday, providing the most favorable coverage of the Empire State Development Corporation's vote to accept the General Project Plan. Calder called Ratner's plan "all but a slam dunk."

Posted by lumi at 7:33 PM

"It is, after all, America": FCR's Stuckey, on Brian Lehrer, defends profit goals

Atlantic Yards Report


WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show yesterday featured another shadow debate on the Atlantic Yards project, this time keyed to the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), issued Tuesday by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

While Jeff Baker, attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and Jim Stuckey, president of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group, didn't address each other directly, and there wasn't enough time for all the questions that needed to be asked, both had a chance to get their talking points on the table.

Most notably, Stuckey would not reveal the company's expected profit--a required element in the company's bid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard--but said that such numbers would emerge after the project is completed. FCR's investment in infrastructure is considerable, he said, and deserves to turn a profit. "It is, after all, America," he added.

While it's hard to dispute that investment shouldn't have the opportunity to generate profit, the question of whether it "is... America" will be at the heart of the eminent domain lawsuit DDDB is expected to file.


NoLandGrab: Our favorite moment of the interview was when James P. Stuckey got a little cheeky during the discussion of shadows: "We worked for months to design a shadowless building, and we weren’t able to do it."

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

High crime in the footprint? ESDC blight study says yes, but it's a stretch

precincts.gifAtlantic Yards Report

Is the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards site blighted, a precondition for the use of eminent domain? Of course, says the Empire Statement Development Corporation, in a Blight Study that is part of the General Project Plan. And one of the reasons is a high crime rate--a manipulative allegation that crumbles under scrutiny.

Notably, in two of the three sectors studied that each included parts of the footprint, the crime rate was lower last year than in the larger police precincts they belong to. In the third of the sectors, the rate was dramatically higher than in the larger police precinct. That raised the average crime rate of the three sectors high enough to suggest that the footprint as a whole has a crime problem.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM



LOCATION: Duryea Presbyterian Church
ADDRESS: Sterling Place & Underhill Avenue

DATE: Thursday July 20
TIME: 7:00 – 9:00 PM. (Doors open at 6:45)

Prospect Heights is the home of two of the most important and hotly contested races of the Democratic Party primary on September 12.

This will be the only opportunity for neighborhood residents to see all the candidates up close and to question them about the issues important to us.

Invited Candidates for the New York State Assembly:

Invited Candidates for the United States Congress:

Presented by The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC).

Download flier.

Posted by lumi at 12:48 AM


UrbanRoom01.jpgYou've already heard it in the press: the Draft Environmental Impact Statement doesn't cover terrorism and security issues, despite their impacts on post-9/11 urban design and the fact that Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry are proposing to build the 60-story glass-and-steel "Miss Brooklyn" atop a major transportation hub.

While the State won't study or reveal the potential impacts of putting the densest residential project in the entire US over a major transportation hub, Prospect Heights resident Alan Rosner keeps asking the tough questions and entreating the press to get some answers.

Glass-clad skyscrapers, next to a glass sports arena, above the third largest transportation hub in the city, may soon be coming to… Brooklyn. And no one has assumed responsibility for the risks Brooklyn is being told to swallow.

The State agency in charge, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), declares it will NOT address post-9/11 security issues — issues that were raised by local elected officials, the three affected community boards and more than 30 community groups, as well as at official Boro Board meetings with the ESDC in attendance.

Governor Pataki will soon be leaving Albany. Has even one reporter asked any of the candidates vying to replace him about their positions on the ESDC’s disregard of the public’s safety concerns? Somehow, the press seems to have decided there’s no story there.

Meanwhile, public officials outraged over the 40% cut in New York's Department of Homeland Security grants have remained silent on security in the heart of Brooklyn: Mayor Bloomberg, who gave over control to the State, silent; our own Mr. Security, Senator Schumer, silent.

In high-profile Manhattan, publicized security problems at the Freedom Tower led to a re-thinking of that project, ultimately resulting in a far smarter design. Terrorism concerns did not prevent development from going forward. Here in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards project, roughly as big, easily as consequential … well it’s … fuggedaboudit!!!

Due to the ESDC’s unique understanding of due diligence, the developer, not the State, could easily end up being the party making the following crucial public safety decisions, behind closed doors, with no oversight: * How strong should all that glass be? * Should there even be that much glass there?
* What fire ratings ought the structural steel have?

So, when do we learn who will determine our safety and well-being? And, how come no one appears interested in finding out?

What Ratner Wins By Ignoring Security
Fortunately for Ratner, project financials will not have to include 30 years of costly Terrorism Insurance premiums. For 16 towers and a sports arena, premiums could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Will the public perhaps have to step in to cover this “unanticipated” cost? No one has addressed this question.

Also, the ESDC will never have to acknowledge that this project concentrates so much additional risk at this particular location, nor that it irreversibly alters Brooklyn’s existing risk profile. Neither will the ESDC be compelled to indicate that the alternative project proposals, without skyscrapers or sports arenas, would not create those concerns!

Finally, with State control trumping city building codes, we may be left with Ratner helping to determine: * standards for exterior glass blast resistance, * the fire ratings for the structural steel, * emergency stairwell sizes, * whether or not Fire Department radio repeaters will be installed in the high rises, * whether there will be bio-chemical detectors and proper air-circulation systems, * and a host of other critical design and construction standards.

Will cost or public safety prevail? And if “standards” are belatedly announced, will they include appropriate post-9/11 enhancements?

How Brooklyn Loses
Indirectly, the biggest cost to Brooklyn communities could be that increased risks lead property- and small-business-insurance providers to raise premiums or withdraw from the market altogether (See NY Daily News, So this is a terror target? 03/27/06).

Issues of uninsurability could affect affordable housing in ways that dwarf Ratner's pledges for the Atlantic Yards. Allstate’s response to Hurricane Katrina was to reduce its share of Brooklyn’s homeowners' insurance market (See, AP, HOMEOWNERS FAR AWAY PAY KATRINA'S DAMAGE, 06/22/06). Could this become one of those “who could ever have imagined” scenarios?

The greatest ongoing impact will likely come from the ESDC's ignoring of the traffic implications of the need for security barriers and vehicle inspections when the arena is in use, or when the Feds raise the Terror Alert Status. Likewise, since the NYPD can close streets for any security reason, the ESDC will not have to model those impacts, either. We, however, will have to live with whatever the ESDC’s Environmental Impact Statement ignores.

Indeed, the ESDC won’t have to address the implications for evacuations — or for that matter, NYPD and FDNY response times — in any sort of emergency situation. Given Brooklyn’s development-driven infrastructure overloads at the Atlantic Avenue transit station and the Flatbush, Atlantic & 4th Avenue intersections, such consequences would likely be unacceptable if publicly acknowledged.

What I haven't yet mentioned — just two years after the Madrid train bombings, a year after the London Metro bombings, and days after Mumbai’s rail bombings — is that the Atlantic Avenue station was the target of a failed suicide bomb plot in 1997.

One positive development: Ratner’s arena was originally to have sub-surface parking beneath the arena. The community protested and suddenly, it’s gone. However, it now appears that it was the NBA that determined it is unsafe to have parking beneath an arena, not any state or city agency — another story the press missed.

Alan Rosner
July, 2006

Posted by lumi at 12:23 AM

July 19, 2006

On Impact

WNYC, The Brian Lehrer Show


Lead attorney for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Jeff Baker, was interviewed by Brian Lehrer, followed by Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey.


If you missed the 10AM broadcast, you can listen online or download the MP3.

Posted by lumi at 11:11 PM

Brooklyn Arena Project Gets Approval From Key State Panel

By Michael Scotto

“It's a project of enormous magnitude, something that certainly will be important to the future and the economy of the city and state,” said Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano.

The $4.2 billion price tag is already nearly $700 million more than last predicted.

The reason? Rising construction costs, along with several other factors.
“Parts of it result from the fact that we’ve had to pay $50 million more in the MTA land,” said Jim Stuckey of developer Forest City Ratner.
The state has said it would issue $637 million in tax-exempt bonds to help the developer move forward with construction.
“This project is about massive taxpayer subsidies. It's about eminent domain. There are a lot of issues at stake here,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
link (video, dial up/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM

Headlines You Don’t Want to See Above a Photo of Your Block


"Study Finds the Potential Choke Points of Atlantic Yards"


The "potential choke point" depicted above, the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Union Street at the bottom of Park Slope, is half a block down the street from StreetsBlog headquarters.


NLG: Click here to see if your block is a potential choke point.

Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM

Brooklyn Downtown Star goes to town on AY coverage

There are four articles in this week's Brooklyn Downtown Star concerning Atlantic Yards, so we're going to collect them into one super post.

It's a Date: ESDC Sets 8/23 as 1st Yards DEIS Hearing
This week Norman Oder guest stars as a stringer for the BD Star, covering the release of the DEIS.

BDS-06-07-20.jpg1 Big Borough, 1 Big Project, 2 Big Rallies

Grassroots leaders on both sides of Brooklyn's big controversy convened a crowd of thousands last week - in both cases a mixture of committed diehards, curious onlookers, and a few spies from the opposition sprinkled in. Amidst all the hype and rhetoric, there was at least one thing they all agreed on: the fight is not over yet.

Public Won't Give An Inch, Or Take The "Yards"

A politician whose plan calls for a one-third reduction of the Atlantic Yards development was chastised for not doing enough. Assemblyman Jim Brennan received sharp criticism from audience members during last Tuesday's general meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN). Brennan had been on-hand to spread word about a bill introduced by his office. However, judging from the public's reaction to the proposed legislation, which was unveiled roughly two months ago, he probably made few converts.

Brennan said that his bill would subtract 3 million square feet from Forest City Ratner's (FCR) mammoth Brooklyn project. In addition, it would require that the state subsidize the affordable housing, and that any business and residential property seizures be compensated at 50 percent above full-market value, or the value determined during eminent domain proceedings.

'Atlantic Yards For Dummies' Could Be Smart Idea

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN)... unveiled a team of experts bearing a $130,000 price tag at its general meeting last week. These leaders in the fields of engineering and urban planning have been hired to help interpret Forest City Ratner's (FCR) upcoming environmental impact statement.

The group's co-chairperson, Candace Carpenter, introduced the team at the Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue. During her opening remarks, she said that the $130,000 used to pay for the consultants was allocated by the Brooklyn delegation of the City Council in this fiscal year's budget. Councilwoman Letitia James also confirmed that the State Assembly will appropriate an additional $100,000 for the experts.

The article goes on to cover the material presented by Professor Tom Angotti and John Shapiro in their presentation on how to examine the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) critically.

Posted by lumi at 9:30 PM

Environmental Review Downplays Arena Project's Impact

WNYC News Radio
By Andrea Bernstein

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, the densest project in the US and the largest single-source project in NYC history, will have little effect on Brooklyn, except for necessitating a new school, casting some shadows and maybe leading to more traffic.

REPORTER: The 4000 report finds the 16 high rises and Nets arena would have a negligible effect on air pollution, parking, sanitation, sewage, mass transit, or police and fire response times. Opponents reacted with disbelief, arguing that tens of thousands of new residents and sports fans would leave more of a footprint.

But developer Forest City Ratner's Jim Stuckey says the design took potential problems in account.

STUCKEY: Here, what we did, what the state did is work very hard to basically use the document as a way of appropriately planning the project to get rid of impacts before they occur.


NoLandGrab: If all this is true, NoLandGrab will suddenly seem very foolish.

Posted by lumi at 8:51 PM

Ball bounces the Nets' way for new home

The Bergen Record
By John Brennan

New York has moved "one step closer to bringing a world-class professional sports team to Brooklyn," a top state official said Tuesday of the New Jersey Nets.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., made the statement in a news release after the agency's board approved the General Project Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards development.

The article repeats Bruce Ratner's timeline:

The Nets owners hope to receive final approvals from Gargano's agency and from the Public Authorities Control Board by late fall, which might allow them to break ground on the arena by late summer 2007. The Nets could begin play in their new home as soon as fall 2009. The rest of the first phase is scheduled for a 2010 opening, with a second phase to be completed by 2016.

That's barring any legal challenges by project opponents.


Posted by lumi at 8:34 PM

1,000 Pages of Atlantic Yards Study to Sift Through

Gothamist contributor Jen Chung posted a synopsis on the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) with lots of links to the mainstream media and the blogosphere.

The Empire State Development Corporation released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards project - and the ESDC board gave the plan preliminary approval to move ahead. The public comment period starts now, and if you read the 1000-page document, you'll see it admits:

“The overarching goal of the proposed project is to transform a blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use community, incorporating principles of environmental sustainability. However, these social and economic benefits cannot be achieved without some adverse environmental impacts. There would be significant adverse impacts as a result of the operations of the proposed project."

Think traffic problems, the need to build more public resources and services, and many opens parts of downtown Brooklyn cast with shadows.


Posted by lumi at 8:22 PM

What a co-inky-dink!

Gothamist co-founder Jake Dobkin noticed that the date for the public hearings on the NYPD proposal to restrict gatherings of cyclists and pedestrians and the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statment are on the same day, August 23.


The NY Times reports:

The Police Department wants to require parade permits for bicyclists traveling in groups of 20 or more, and any bicyclists or walkers who take to the streets in groups of two or more and disobey traffic laws for things like parades, races or protests, according to a public notice filed with the city.

The department also wants to require a parade permit for groups of 35 or more protesters who restrict themselves to the sidewalk, officially clarifying a regulation that court rulings described as too vague, according to a police spokesman.

Taken together, the three new rules — which the department will discuss at a public hearing on Aug. 23, at 6 p.m. at police headquarters — would redefine the type of protest and the number of protesters allowed to demonstrate in New York City without first applying for approval from the Police Department.

Thank goodness there are two Hagan sisters to cover both meetings. But where's a serious transportation advocate supposed to go?

If the new NYPD guidelines are adopted, Atlantic Yards opponents may be restricted to a mere 34 protesters outside of any public hearing. Also, these new rules could put a crimp on NYC family reunions.

Posted by lumi at 7:42 PM

It came from the Blogosphere: DEIS

Guy2K Sudden Impact

Maybe everybody is playing hush, hush, rush, rush.

This report is released at a time when the city’s community boards are off for the summer, and, indeed, the next hurdle, a public hearing, has been scheduled for next month, traditionally a time when New Yorker’s flee for cooler pastures.

What’s the hurry? Besides the benefits of summer stealth, there is an unspoken rush to put a shovel in the ground before the end of the year. You see, barring a global cataclysm, on January 1, 2007, New York State will, by everyone’s assumption, swear in Eliot Spitzer as its next Governor. And, while Spitzer is technically a supporter of the Atlantic Yards development, he is less rah-rah than the current Governor, George (I’m delusional, I think I can get elected President) Pataki. Further, Spitzer has a reputation for scrutinizing things like 1,400 (or 4,000) page official documents a little more closely than the likes of Pataki and his ESDC stooge, Charles Gargano.

Gowanus Lounge, ESDC to Brooklyn Opponents: Drop Dead

The fix is in and the clock is ticking. With its vote on Atlantic Yards yesterday, release of the 15-inch thick Draft Environmental Impact Statement and scheduling of what is likely to be the only significant public hearing on the plan for August 23, the doggiest of the dog days of summer, the Empire State Development Corporation announced full speed ahead on Atlantic Yards planning.
Yes, the environmental impact document does admit "significant adverse impacts" on cultural resources, traffic, and noise, as well as construction impacts, but it argues that the provision of housing, improving railroad facilities, and "enhancing the vitality of the Atlantic Terminal area" outweigh the negatives. On WNYC yesterday evening, newscaster Amy Eddings asked reporter Andrea Bernstein, more than once, to explain how a project so massive in scale would, in effect, be a ghost. Forest City Ratner's James Stuckey's response: the impacts are manageable because of all the work to mitigate them.
it's safe to say that in voting for the Atlantic Yards project and in setting a hearing date of August 23, the Empire State Development Corporation signaled that it is in control of the rules of the game and that it doesn't care much either for public appearances or for an open public debate over the merits of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

DEIS release in the media

Here are today's headlines:

AM NY, Atlantic yards report released

AmNewYork City Editor Michael Clancy quotes the opposition...

"Sixty days to review a 15-inch-thick document, requiring the input of numerous experts for the largest project ever proposed by a developer in the history of New York City ... is a contemptible slap in the face to the people of Brooklyn," said Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

...and the state agency.

"We are one step closer to creating thousands of new jobs and much needed housing -- including affordable housing -- which will have a lasting impact on the borough," said Charles Gargano, the chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Metro NY, Living in the shadow
Reporter Amy Zimmer quotes the report...

“The overarching goal of the proposed project is to transform a blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use community, incorporating principles of environmental sustainability,” the report read. “However, these social and economic benefits cannot be achieved without some adverse environmental impacts. There would be significant adverse impacts as a result of the operations of the proposed project.” And while the developer would try to reduce these problems, “there would remain some unmitigated impacts.”

...and notes the escalating project costs.

The 1,000-page-plus report also said the costs of the Frank Gehry-designed plan has swelled to $4.2 billion from $2.5 billion.

The ballooning costs resulted from price increases of construction, fuel and financing rates, said Jim Stuckey, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner.

Metro NY, State report fans flames in Atlantic Yards controversy

More from Metro about the controversy over the release of the DEIS:

The buildings’ shadows, for instance, “would result in a significant adverse impact on” the stained-glass windows of the Church of the Redeemer and other sites, the report said. Traffic studies show that with the project’s completion by 2016, “a total of 68 intersections would be significantly impacted.” The document, however, said the plan wouldn’t affect police, fire or emergency services, or strain the subway system, which would have to carry more riders on game days.

“When Brooklyn comes to a standstill, what are they going to do?” asked Goldstein.

For traffic, Forest City Ratner executive vice president Jim Stuckey said his company put together a 15-point plan that would offer MetroCards to people who would drive to games and create a space to park 400 bikes.

“The 22-acre site has many abandoned and vacant buildings,” he said. “There have been years of failed attempts to redevelop this area.”

NLG: Stuckey fails to mention that Bruce Ratner bought and emptied those buildings. The dirty little secret about the blight study is that it was conducted in 2005, not 2003 when the project was announced. Since then, Ratner has had plenty of time to purchase properties, empty them of their inhabitants (that makes them abandoned?) and leave the windows open to accelerate deterioration. Nice trick.

NY Daily News, Yards impact report 'absurd,' critic says

The News points out that the DEIS draws some incredible conclusions:

State planners insist the project, which will include 16 condo and office towers and up to 6,860 apartments, would have no "significant adverse impacts" on emergency services in the area or on subways, libraries and hospitals - sparking criticism from opponents.

"These services are already overwhelmed, and they say adding approximately 18,000 new residents and an 18,000-seat arena will have no impact?" said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "How dare they make such an absurd claim?"

The News is also the only publication to report that Stuckey mentioned that the ballooning project "cost estimates did not include the $100 million the developer must pay the MTA for the Vanderbilt rail yards."

NLG: This is a noteworthy reminder that Ratner originally expected to receive the development rights for the railyards for FREE, as was the case for his Atlantic Terminal Mall (nicknamed "The Toaster").

The Post's headline writer and reporter Rich Calder really jump the gun in what would make a perfect Atlantic Yards News email blast:

Bruce Ratner's bid to build 16 skyscrapers and an NBA arena in Downtown Brooklyn became all but a slam dunk yesterday when the Empire State Development Corp. signed off on the megadeveloper's massive project - now estimated to cost $4.2 billion, nearly double the original estimate.

NoLandGrab: Calder was the one reporter who didn't understand that the Empire State Development Corporation "signed off" on the General Project Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, not the project. Though the ESDC will likely officially "sign off" on the project later this fall, when the Final Environmental Impact Statement is released. No mention of legal challenges, either.

NY Sun, In Push for Atlantic Yards Project, State Touts Eminent Domain
David Lombino's report has the eminent domain angle:

The state’s general project plan details the need for eminent domain to clear as many as 22 different tax lots, containing both commercial and residential property — and about 118 people — that remain in the project’s footprint but have not sold to the developer. The existence of blight will likely be used as the state’s rationale for using eminent domain to condemn the remaining properties, as well as circumventing the city’s land use approval process, which would ordinarily prohibit a project of the density proposed for Atlantic Yards.

NLG: To be totally clear, blight or no blight, NY State legally does not need to provide a rationale for taking over a project and superseding City zoning. If the State takes over a project, legally NYC has no standing, though under usual circumstances, the Mayor would use the City Hall soapbox to decry this type of usurpation.

NY Times, Measuring a Project’s Shadow, and Burden, on Brooklyn
Times reporter Nicholas Confessore provides the most comprehensive article of the lot, focusing on the potential environmental impacts described in the DEIS.

A new school’s worth of classrooms would be needed to handle all the children. Dozens of crowded intersections would be choked with more traffic. Brownstone neighborhoods would find themselves in shadow. The city’s sewer and water systems would face new challenges. And good luck getting a parking space on game day.

These were among the most striking findings of a 1,400-page study released yesterday, for the first time laying out all the potential effects of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, an 8.7-million-square-foot residential, commercial, and arena development that would spread over 22 acres near Downtown Brooklyn.

The study, released by the Empire State Development Corporation, was accompanied by a project plan that estimated the cost of the development at $4.2 billion, much more than the original cost, $2.5 billion.

Residents have known for more than two years that something big may be coming to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, something that would affect their lives and neighborhoods in countless ways. But until yesterday, they did not have a picture of the details.

The article briefly describes impacts to traffic (including maps of congested intersections), schools and shadows ("with a 'significant adverse impact'... near the Atlantic Terminal public housing complex").

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

DEIS released; AY cost reaches $4.2 billion; Gargano, Stuckey defend scale; hearing August 23

Atlantic Yards Report

What's a little itty-bitty 1,400-page document to "Stormin'" Norman Oder?

StuckeyDePlasco.jpg Oder makes his first pass at the General Project Plan document and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), providing a timeline, a report from Forest City Ratner (FCR) Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey's impromptu press conference, a definition of "vomitory," and a list of environmental impacts that the DEIS says are either unmitigable or won't have any effect on the surrounding environment.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods dubbed it a “mid-summer surprise.” Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn called it a “contemptible slap in the face to the people of Brooklyn and the taxpayers of New York State.” Jim Stuckey, president of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development Group, called it “a very good day for the thousands of families that will be looking for affordable housing.” And Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), called it another step toward—to paraphrase the developer’s now-shelved slogan—hoops, jobs, and housing.

They were reacting to the ESDC’s release of a massive set of documents, a General Project Plan and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with a tight schedule for approvals. Community groups and others concerned about the largest project in the history of Brooklyn must gear up for a public hearing on August 23 and a follow-up community forum September 12, with a public comment period ending September 23.


If all proceeds smoothly—a big if--a Final EIS could emerge in late fall, then the ESDC could approve the project, which then would have to get past the Public Authorities Control Board, one of whose three members, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, effectively killed the West Side Stadium project but has not expressed such concerns about Atlantic Yards.
The document acknowledges “significant adverse impacts” regarding cultural resources, traffic, and noise, as well as construction impacts, but says that the provision of housing, improving railroad facilities, and “enhancing the vitality of the Atlantic Terminal area” outweigh any negatives. Then again, such documents are shaped to encourage development, and lobbyist Richard Lipsky—now also a Forest City Ratner lobbyist--has described AKRF, which produced the DEIS, as “accommodating consultants.”


Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

Stuckey and Baker on the Brian Lehrer Show

Brian Lehrer Show
820 AM/93.9 FM 10AM

With over 4000 pages, the Environment Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards Development Project offers more ammunition in the battle between the developers and the neighborhood preservationists.

This morning, Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey will be interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

Stuckey will be followed at 10:20 by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's lead attorney, Jeffrey S. Baker.

DDDB points out on its website:

Jim Stuckey's firm and its ominpresent consultant AKRF has worked on this environmental review for 2.5 years, at least. The document is 15 inches thick. Mr. Baker, like all of the rest of us, just got our hands on it around 1pm on July 18th.

No worries, the document doesn't pass the laugh test, neither does the 36 days until the public hearing on the document.

NoLandGrab: For Stuckey's sake, we hope he brings along his 15-inch thick crib sheet (the Draft Environmental Impact Statement), because last time he was interviewed by Lehrer, he got busted by Brooklyn Views for misunderestimating the floor area ratio of the project.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

July 18, 2006

Brooklynian message board: EIS

Not so good news from some folks who are currently digesting the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Brooklynian message board:

If you've been waiting for a set of mitigations or perks for the community that might make this all palatable - you'll be very disappointed. Many of the impacts are simply unmitigatable, so, according to the DEIS, we'll just have to live with it.


Posted by lumi at 10:15 PM

Prisoner of Atlantic Avenue

The Real Estate Observer

Former NYC Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman issued a statment last week making this point about density:

If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of the suburbs of Paris.

3333Broadway.jpgObserver reporter Matthew Schuerman looks at the 2000 US Census figures and finds that it is all true:

The densest census tract in the country is located in West Harlem where a 1,190-unit former Mitchell-Lama building stands surrounded by numerous tenements (below). The two-block area has, according to the 2000 Census, 229,713 inhabitants per square mile.

Sounds positively suburban next to the density envisioned by Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn: between 436,363 and 523,636 inhabitants per square mile (based on estimated population of between 15,000 and 18,000 residents in 22 acres).

Read the entire post to find out how Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey explains this one away.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 PM

UPDATE 1-NYS agency initally OKs Brooklyn arena complex

Reuters reports on some of the general financial issues:

According to the general project plan, the state and New York City will each contribute $100 million toward infrastructure improvement costs currently estimated at $554.4 million. The rest will be covered by the developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCEa.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and its affiliates.

Jessica Copen, a spokeswoman at the Empire State Development Corp., said the state will either use cash or sell bonds backed by state personal income taxes for its share of infrastructure improvements.

James Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, said the $637 million arena will be financed through tax-exempt bonds backed by payments in lieu of taxes.

These so-called PILOT bonds are often used by local governments as an incentive to attract private developers because their payments are lower than what they would have had to pay in real estate taxes.

Some construction costs can also be funded through taxable municipal bonds backed by rent the developer will pay to the state, according to project documents.


Posted by lumi at 9:00 PM

Atlantic Yards Hearing Set for… When You’re Out of Town



The headline says it all.

NoOne's comment says more:

This goes beyond complete disregard for the community. The timing has to have been intentional; they are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to AVOID the community and ram this down our throats.


Developer Forest City Ratner, NY City and NY State have been taking a build-it-and-they-will-come attitude about the Atlantic Yards project. But how will "they" get there?

Probably slowly if the City doesn't get off it's duff and come up a comprehensive plan with innovative solutions for traffic and transportation in Brooklyn.

Today, StreetsBlog posted information regarding a "strongly worded letter," drafted by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and signed by 28 neighborhood organizations, "urging Mayor Bloomberg to 'formulate and implement a thorough, urgent traffic management and relief strategy' for Brooklyn."

Posted by lumi at 8:24 PM

State: Ratner Plan Won't Raise Rents

Power Plays, political blog of The Village Voice
By Jarret Murphy

What local activists had long feared was that Ratner's project, while devoting a share of its space to affordable housing, would change the neighborhood dynamics in such a way that rents in nearby buildings would soar, driving people out—so-called secondary displacement. With a stroke of the pdf, EDC casts this argument away, essentially saying that the population at risk of being forced out is already moving out because of other forces at work, and that the new housing Ratner will introduce will tamp down any rising rents. One can almost hear Ratner's opponents guffawing.

EDC does own up to "some adverse environmental impacts" on schools, cultural resources, shadows, traffic, transit and pedestrians, and noise. Somehow, the arrival of thousands of a major arena and thousands of new residents on the site won't require any new police or fire resources, or hospitals. Nor does the draft statement include any apparent mention of a terrorism threat, which some local opponents have raised as an issue in light of 9-11 and the Atlantic Ave. subway plot of not too long ago. But then, heck, any adverse impact is dwarfed—at least in terms of text the EDC devoted to it— by what EDC claims will be 27,000 jobs and $5 billion in economic activity during the construction phase and at least 8,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in annual economic impact after that.

Not that Ratner's foes believe those numbers for a second.


Posted by lumi at 7:56 PM

ESDC adopts plans for Javits, Atlantic Yards

Crain's NY Business
By Catherine Tymkiw

The ESDC gave a nod of approval for the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and released a 1,000-page draft environmental impact statement.

The project includes an 18,000-seat sports and entertainment arena, 606,000 square feet of office space and 6.8 million square feet of residential housing, including about 4,500 rental units, half of which would be set aside for affordable housing.

The draft EIS considers two version of the project in case developer Forest City Ratner replaces some apartments with offices.


NoLandGrab: Ratner is still hedging his bet on the luxury-condo-vs.-office-space conundrum.

There's no demand for Class-A office space in Brooklyn, as evidenced by the fact that only luxury residential housing is being built under the Downtown Brooklyn Plan. However, New Yorkers have given a big yawn to starchitect-designed high-rise condos being offered at a premium price.

Oh dear, what's an overdeveloper to do?

Posted by lumi at 7:13 PM

Nothing like a 15-inch stack of documents to cure a rally hangover

Atlantic Yards opponents had one day to get over their rally hangover before Forest City Ratner and the State of NY made their next move.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, web site http://www.empire.state.ny.us) met today, voted to make Atlantic Yards an official project and released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The ESDC's press release was posted online. The General Project Plan — the document which describes the project and whose release makes the plan "official" — can be found here.

Everyone knew the the ESDC could release the Draft Environmental Impact Statment during the dog days of summer, but who knew that they would really do it, especially since it seemed like a major middle-finger gesture to surrounding neighborhoods.

We're hearing that the document is nearly 15-inches high (double-spaced, we hope), and is available for downloading a chapter at a time at http://www.empire.state.ny.us/AtlanticYards/DEIS.asp.

What's more, "the community" has a whopping 36 days to digest this sucker (summer reading anyone?) and show up for the public hearing on August 23. There's also an "additional community forum scheduled for September 12." If anyone has a clue what role a "community forum" serves in the State Environmental Quality Review Act, please let us know.

Since Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder writes faster than most people read, and he reads faster than that, we'll expect his complete analysis by the morning.

Seriously, the NLG In Box is filling up, so we'll post commentary from the Grand Army of Bloggers, press releases, articles, letters and anything else that turns up, as they come in.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 PM

DDDB Press Release: Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Release Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Three Years into Ratner’s Brooklyn Proposal and Still Nobody Knows the Developer’s Profits or the True Public Cost
Project Balloons to $4.2 Billion from $3.5 Billion Financial Benefits for State Substantially Lower Than Promoted by Developer
Public Process Timeframe is Unacceptable

NEW YORK, NY – Two days after thousand attended a rally in favor of sane development and against Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) proposed 16-skyscraper, extreme density development proposal in Brooklyn, the developer and the State’s lead agency on the project-the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)–released a 15 inch thick Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) and announced a public hearing on that review in the dead of summer–August 23rd. Also announced was a "community forum" on September 12th..

"Sixty days to review a 15 inch thick document, requiring the input of numerous experts, for the largest project ever proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City and a project that would be by far the densest residential community in the United States is a contemptible slap in the face to the people of Brooklyn and the taxpayers of New York State. The ESDC is making a mockery of what has already been a completely flawed process," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The news today is that this bloated and reckless overdevelopment scheme has become even more bloated at a total cost of $4.2 billion up from $2.5 billion and then $3.5 billion. We still don’t have accurate figures for the public cost of the ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal, and three years into this development struggle the public, and presumably public officials, have yet to see the developer’s profit estimate. What is clear is that the project, if built, would cost New York taxpayers somewhere between $1.1 and 2 billion, and now possibly more."

At the ESDC meeting the agency announced that the project would bring $1.4 billion (net present value) in new tax revenue to New York City and State. Two years ago, FCR’s economic analyst, Dr. Andrew Zimbalist, had found that the project would bring $1.6 billion (net present value) in new tax revenue to the State of New York. The developer has been promoting and selling that number to City and State officials, in seeking subsidies, for the past two years. The $200 million deficiency in claimed tax revenues was left unexplained at the meeting.

Candace Carponter, legal team member of Develop Don’t Destroy, Brooklyn, noted, "Releasing this hugely important document and holding a hearing in the heat of summer when community experts and residents are preoccupied with family obligations, vacations, and child care is another sign of this public agency’s complete disregard for the public it is supposed to serve. There is simply no reason that the ESDC could not have waited a few weeks to release the DEIS for public review — by both project supporters and opponents — to afford the affected communities a meaningful opportunity to respond. It is clear that the environmental consultants were given a great deal of hard time to preparing this massive review of the Ratner plan; unfortunately, the ESDC apparently does not believe that Brooklynites should be afforded the same opportunity to study and respond to the claimed impacts of this huge development on their communities."

Sewage, traffic, public transportation, asthma–to name just a few of the impacts–will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to mitigate. Remarkably, the DEIS claims that there will be no adverse impacts from this mega-project on, among other things, police and fire protection, emergency services, libraries and hospitals, nor on the ability of the subway system to carry the anticipated 40, 000 to 50,000 additional riders on arena event days. And completely ignored in the DEIS is the major issue of security and terrorism planning for a project that proposes a glass walled arena, surrounded by glass walled towers, over a major transportation hub, at one of the City’s most problematic and congested intersections, with 225 proposed scheduled events at that arena. The subway hub was the target of a thwarted terrorist plot in 1997.

More fuzzy numbers were announced at the ESDC meeting including that the project would create 7,300 new jobs and 15,433 construction jobs. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) had previously said the project would create 700 new jobs and the developer itself put the number at 2,300 jobs (not new jobs). As for the construction jobs, any project would create construction jobs and this number is bloated. The accurate number would be about 15,000 jobs per year–meaning 1,500 jobs for construction workers each year over an approximate ten-year period. Only if each worker were fired or left the job each year would the number total 15,000. And these are temporary jobs.

The triple tax-free bond arena financing is set at $637 million, by far the most expensive arena ever built, with costs sure to go up.

"Why are we throwing mega dollars to a hulking building that will sit empty most of the time, when our true needs in Brooklyn and the city are affordable housing and education spending? Imagine the land and financing freed up if we removed that boondoggle from the picture," queried Mr. Goldstein.

"This is not a cost-effective project and the DEIS review will bear that out. There are far better ways to create jobs and housing in our City," said Goldstein. "Having said that, we are excited for the release of this document as it will provide, or should provide, a lot of disclosure — and non-disclosure — for us all and our lawyers to consider in charting the course for challenges to the inadequacies of the EIS and the proposed illegal use of eminent domain. In a way it makes sense that this document comes out in a heat wave, as we are ready to turn up the heat on the ESDC’s already flawed process. We and many community organizations will be studying this thick document over the coming weeks, in order to ensure that the true negative and unacceptable impacts of this project are disclosed.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 PM

Do The Right Thing

Veritas et Venustas

A SmartCode that came out of a public process might allow an arena and a tower or two above the mass transit at Atlantic Station, but it would never permit the superblocks and 17 massive towers of Ratner's plan that are so out of scale with the surrounding neighborhoods. A SmartCode would be part of a democratic pro-active process, instead of the reactive process in which Forest City Ratner's money determines so much of what happens, and the city inevitably gets more bulk and less good design than its citizens want.”
A few years ago, after one of public meetings following the bombing of the World Trade Center, a Bronx planner said to me, "Planning in New York will never be the same." What he meant was that from that moment on, city planners would have to pay attention to public process, as planners do in most of the country. In fact, the LMDC ignored the public process and did exactly what it wanted -- leaving us with the mediocre plan we have today.


NoLandGrab: Too bad for Brooklyn the Bronx planner wasn't right.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 PM


Timing of release strange, but “The Community is ready!”

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS (“CBN”) today announced in response to the release by the Empire State Development Corporation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that “The Community is ready!”

The release of the DEIS is much earlier than local politicians and Community Boards had requested of the ESDC. “While the timing of the release during the summer vacation and while the Community Boards are in recess might strike some as a ‘mid-summer surprise’, CBN and the communities we represent are eager to dig in! The report is the first opportunity we’ve had to see project details and to address the questions that have been building up in people’s minds. This is what we’ve been organizing for over the last year and a half. We have our consultants in place, we have our educational workshops up and running. We’re ready to go!” CBN will be holding 2 meetings to introduce to the public their new “DEIS Handbook” which explains how to approach reading the DEIS. The meetings will be held:

Tuesday,  July 18  Park Slope Methodist  Church
493 8th Street
(at Sixth Avenue)

Thursday,  July 20
St. Francis  College, Callahan Center
182 Remsen Street

Tuesday, July 25   Duryea Presbyterian Church
362 Sterling Place

Additional meetings and workshops are being organized. Organizations can contact CBN at cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com to arrange for presentations to their groups. CBN will be offering the DEIS, and the CBN Guides and Handbook at local public library branches. CBN materials are available for download from their website, www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com.

CBN also gratefully acknowledges the financial support being provided from the New York City Council through the efforts of Speaker Christine Quinn and especially of Councilmember Letitia James, as well as the ongoing efforts of Assemblypersons Joan Millman and James Brennan in obtaining funds from the legislature.

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups active in Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8. CBN is comprised of 40 community organizations that have joined together to ensure meaningful community participation in the environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. As a group, CBN has experience in civic advocacy, transportation planning, neighborhood preservation, urban planning, the development of affordable housing, safety and security improvement, quality of life promotion, and business development. CBN’s collective background enables them to represent the concerns of the area communities.

For more information please contact CBN at 718-408-3219 or via email at cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com.

Posted by lumi at 6:06 PM

Mayberry, Brooklyn?

NoLandGrab is calling a point of order here to come to Rosie Perez's defense.

It's plain nutty on the part of the Daily News to make an issue of Rosie Perez's "Mayberry" quote, which ran in The NY Times a couple of weeks ago, and just as odd that bloggers Norman Oder and Mole333 would tip their hats to the Daily News's reference.

Mayberry.jpgRosie Perez was quoted in a NY Times Metro article (archive link for Times Select customers only) about her directorial debut and community work:

"I'm all for progress and I'm all for development, but I'm not for the betterment of the filthy rich. If that eyesore comes to Brooklyn with the Nets, it's over, it's done. But why give in and let Bruce Ratner take over? My nabe was like my private [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayberry] Mayberry.''

Yesterday's News editorial ripped into Perez:

Yo, Rosie. This isn't Mayberry; it's Prospect Heights, and Prospect Heights and all of Brooklyn desperately need affordable housing. Those who would benefit are not the "filthy rich." Indeed, that term more aptly applies to smug celebs who are slamming the project from the comfort of their homes in California and the Hamptons.

Then in defense of transparency and smart and sustainable growth in Brooklyn, Norman Oder and Mole333 left Perez out in the cold. Oder said that the "quote can sound self-serving" and Mole333 wrote that it "may have been a bit silly at times."


Perez's quote implies that her old neighborhood was a "real neighborhood," the kind of place that people would want to live, as opposed to the pseudo-neighborhood, built "from scratch," that Gehry and Ratner have promised to deliver.

MayberryMetropolis.jpgPerez loved her 'hood as much as any Tom, Dick or "Andy." If "Mayberry" was white-bread, that isn't her fault (blame the mores of 1960s TV). If her neighborhood was the kind of place where folks could build a life, bring up and educate their kids, and make lasting connections with their neighbors, that is to the credit of all the families that lived there.

As one girlfriend to another, don't pay any attention to those guys. They may be intimidated by the fact that you are a babe with a brain.

Anyone who grew up in rural America can tell you that any town that lays claim to "Mayberry" ain't no "Mayberry."

Perez makes an important point: every inner-city neighborhood isn't some ghetto block that's begging to be swept away by misguided do-gooders and their grand urban-renewal plans.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Atlantic Yards and Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn: The Daily News is Inaccurate

Yesterday's Daily News editorial, which Forest City loved so much that they sent it to thousands of their dearest friends, struck a dissonant chord with Daily Gotham blogger Mole333.

The mysterious Mr. Mole (is that "mole," like the aminal, or "mo-lay" like the sauce?) usually blogs on the political spasms and intrigue in Central Brooklyn, but has from time to time shared his personal trials with sewage overflow, adding to his concerns over how Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan will overburden Brooklyn's aging sewer system, and the blatant (but is it "technical?") conflict of interest that occurs when Bruce Ratner and NY State use the same lawyer to work on the same project.

Today, Mole333 challenges the Daily News Editorial board (which seems to be totally tone deaf to their own reporters' coverage):

Yo, Daily News. You have no idea what you are talking about. Nor do you recognize that the audience of that rally included a representative slice of Brooklyn. You ignore the extremely legitimate objections that were the focal point of the rally, focusing only on the comments by a single speaker. You portray the opposition as wanting an "empty little underdeveloped oasis" ignoring the very viable alternative that the opposition has offered.


Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

Reality warp: Errol Louis, Daily News praise AY housing info session

Atlantic Yards Report reviews Errol Louis's latest efforts to promote the affordable housing segment of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

The "reality warp" between Louis's version of last week's affordable housing information session and the rest of the press leads Norman Oder to wonder if Louis was actually in attendance. [At this point Louis is no longer answering Oder's questions.]


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM


The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is expected to issue the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project proposal sometime this week. The agency has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, and there has been much speculation that the DEIS will be unveiled then.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

TV and radio coverage of rally

JulyRally-NY1.jpg NY1, Thousands Rally Against Ratner Development Plans
WNBC, Protesters Rally Against Size Of Atlantic Yards Plan
WNYC, Nets Arena High-Rise Opponents Rally at Grand Army Plaza

Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

July 17, 2006

Celebrity War Over Ratner in Brooklyn

Power Plays, The Village Voice political blog
By Neil DeMause

The Brooklyn celebrity war has been joined. Bruce Ratner, the would-be bringer of the Nets to Brooklyn and builder of Manhattan-style apartment towers on Atlantic Avenue, got the jump in 2003, when he hauled up Jay-Z to make an awkward speech the day Ratner unveiled his project. Yesterday, it was the opposition's turn, as the group Develop Don't Destroy rallied at Grand Army Plaza behind the likes of Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez, plus the star attraction, the Clapton of kid-rock, Dan Zanes, whose name merited its own extra-large type size on the promo posters.


All of which sounds silly--should someone's opinion about urban development count more just because he once saved the earth from a big rock?--except that as the ur-nebbishy Ratner (pictured) knew in sending his hip-hop investor before the cameras, when you're engaged in a media battle, glitz matters. If nothing else, the Park Sloperati command a bigger audience, whether it's local music hero Toshi Reagon plugging the rally from the Prospect Park bandshell last week, or Jonathan Lethem getting a soapbox at Slate for his open letter to project architect Frank Gehry--himself hired by Ratner in part for his own glitz value.


Posted by lumi at 10:27 PM

Jane Jacobs Revisited

On finally reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Metropolis Magazine

Metropolis-JJ.gifThe passing of Jane Jacobs and recent criticism by NY Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussof prompted Karrie Jacobs (no relation) to finally read The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the book that revolutionized urban planning.

Will Jane Jacobs' legacy be her ideas, or the influence she had on the modern planning movement, which often contradicts those ideas? Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan seems to be a perfect case study for considering this question.

Ouroussoff’s dismissal of the critics of Atlantic Yards is a misreading. I don’t know whether Jacobs, circa 1959, would approve or disapprove of Ratner, circa 2006, but her take on the project would likely be a bit more nuanced than the simple declaration “too big.” In certain ways the Ratner plan, with its arena, density, and mixture of residential and office uses is influenced—albeit indirectly—by her thinking. The project’s substantial number of “affordable” housing units adds to its overall heterogeneity. On the other hand, a huge project by one developer and one architect cannot be diverse, and it’s possible that Jacobs would have reacted to Gehry’s irregular forms much as she reacted to Googie-style coffee shops: “virtual sameness trying, by dint of exhibitionism, to appear unique and different.”

The biggest drawback to Atlantic Yards, according to my reading of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is that it will be constructed atop a rail yard that currently separates the neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. The new development is unlikely to knit together those two neighborhoods; instead, lacking the cross-streets that Jacobs thought were key to urban vitality, it will exacerbate the division, generating more of what she termed “border vacuums.”


Posted by lumi at 10:18 PM

Atlantic Yards News: NY Daily News Editorial

ay_news_banner_sm.gif With all of the media coverage today, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards News email blast only carried the Daily News Editorial.

Did they not like the rest of today's news?

Posted by lumi at 9:35 PM

Ratner protest attracts thousands

The Brooklyn Papers, online exclusive

JulyRally-BP.jpgReporter Ariella Cohen covers the rally "from the elected to the absurd," speaking to longtime supporters of the movement and recent converts:

Close to 2,000 people got all hot and bothered Sunday to protest Bruce Ratner’s plan to build 16 skyscrapers and a 19,000-seat basketball arena in Prospect Heights — the largest opposition rally since Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal was unveiled three years ago.

The protestors, toting bicycles, dogs, babies in stylish papooses and the ominous, skyscraper-emblazoned signs furnished by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, crowded around a makeshift stage at Grand Army Plaza and cheered Atlantic Yards foes ranging from the elected to the absurd.


Posted by lumi at 9:18 PM

Voices of Dissent

The Real Estate Observer
By Jonathan Liu

What's left to say about the rally that hasn't already been said? REO went to the rally and covered one of the strangest on-stage moments of the day.

The rally started promptly at 2 p.m. with a performance by the political-art troupe Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Billy, a wild-eyed blond, led his red-robed vocalists in a number that proclaimed, "This town ain't no supermall." A "flactivist" for the group later said that Billy had brought his anti-corporate, anti-globalization message as far as Zurich.

But many of the black leaders present did not want to sing along. Councilman Charles Barron, who followed Billy onstage, told the largely white crowd, "I have to say something about your mock reverend and all that. You can play jokes, that's fine. But don't mess with the black church."

Especially when two of the invited speakers are black ministers: the Rev. Dennis Dillon and the Rev. Clinton Miller.

Bob Law, a local luminary who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., was more blunt. "When you ask people to come here," he said at the beginning of his speech, "be careful what you say."


NoLandGrab: Take it from an Okie, with all respect to Charles Barron, Bob Law and reporter Jonathan Liu, Reverend Billy's act is a spoof of the Bible-Belt Holly-Roller televangelists, not African-American churches. Black churches aren't the only congregations that like to proclaim their faith in song.

No biggie; we suppose our local stations haven't televised a lot of inspirational programming on Sunday morning since Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker went bust.

Posted by lumi at 8:56 PM

More flickr photos...

from Dope on the Slope's photoset... JulyRally-DOTS07.jpg
JulyRally--axlotl.jpg ...and axlotl's photostream.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 PM


Brooklynites and New Yorkers Demonstrate at Grand Army Plaza Against Ratner Plan for 16 Skyscrapers and Arena Sweetheart Deal

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, at the shadeless Grand Army Plaza nexus of Brooklyn, thousands gathered to demonstrate against Forest City Ratner’s development proposal for 16 skyscrapers and an arena smack in the middle of the low-rise, residential neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill and Boerum Hill. The rally was organized by the leading coalition against the project, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and 29 co-sponsoring community-based organizations.

Councilmember Letitia James, the proposal’s leading political opponent who represents the district where the proposed project would be built, called the project a "big scam," a "boondoggle of all history," and a "hostile takeover" in which "elected officials are complicit in the conspiracy against their own people."

DDDB advisory board members, actor/director Steve Buscemi and actor Rosie Perez spoke to the crowd. "This plan insults the poor, and we deserve better," said Ms. Perez to cheers. "Stop insulting the people of Brooklyn, and do the right thing." Mr. Buscemi, in one line of his playful poem said, “Affordable housing / but eminent domain / I play a lot of crazies / but that sounds insane.”

"The spin from day one has been that this proposal is a ‘done deal.’ Let’s get real. As long as we live in a democracy we have the power and there are no done deals. This deal is coming undone. It’s suffering from a long-term illness and needs to be put out of its misery. When the time is ripe, they will have no defense to our eminent domain lawsuit,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein from the rally stage. “And if Brooklyn wants an arena there can be one without eminent domain. There’s a place called Coney Island with city-owned land. And the world’s largest subway terminal. Coney Island is built for crowds. A Coney Island arena has been long embraced by their elected officials, their Councilman Recchia, and Borough President Marty Markowitz wanted an arena there. Even Forest City Ratner wanted an arena there until they eyed their Prospect Heights land grab. Don’t be fooled if they oppose it now. In Queens they opposed a stadium then embraced it when the Jets West Side Stadium failed. This pitched battle can end, if Forest City Ratner ends its intransigence”

"Ratner is trying to recreate how our city operates,” Bob Law, a former radio host, activist, local entrepreneur and DDDB advisory board member, told the crowd. "We’re not opposed to development, but we’re opposed to the process. When people say we are opposed to jobs, I am. I’m opposed to the temporary, dead-end jobs Ratner is offering. My community needs careers."

An unscheduled speaker was Bayside, Queens Councilmember Tony Avella, who said, “We have to start saying no to overdevelopment and yes to people power.”

Other speakers included: Harlem Tenants Council Director Nellie Hester Bailey, Chief Executive Minister of The Brooklyn Christian Center and publisher of the Christian Times Reverend Dennis Dillon, minister at the Clinton Hill Brown Memorial Baptist Church Reverend Clinton Miller, representative of New York Solidarity Coalition With Katrina/Rita Survivors Joan Gibbs, and president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund Judi Francis.

The rally stage backdrop proclaimed:

“Brooklyn’s Neighborhoods, Say No To Ratner’s Land Grab
Our Taxes For Jobs & Housing, Not For Billionaires.
No Arena. No Extreme Density. No Eminent Domain.”

Demonstrators carried placards with the messages: “No Arena. Build Affordable Housing,” “No Extreme Density. They’re Too Darn Tall,” and “No Democracy, No Project. Respect the Community.”

“Today was a great day. People came out in force to say we know what’s best for our great neighborhoods and diverse communities and what our needs are; we know that we don’t need a corporate land grab formed behind closed doors, and a high-rise luxury housing complex with an arena; what we need is truly affordable housing with development that respects our communities. These are our tax dollars and they should go to truly public needs such as housing, education and city services, not a private development corporation.”

At 8.8 million square feet, equal two three Empires State Buildings, Forest City Ratner’s plan is the largest development proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City. It would cost the public, according to DDDB, at least $1.9 billion (dddb.net/documents/mou/AYardsSubsidies.pdf) or, according the developer, at least $1.1 billion. The proposal avoids oversight and a vote by local government from community boards to the City Council. Approval would be given by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) comprised by Assembly Speaker Silver, Senate Majority Leader Bruno (who are unaccountable to those most impacted by the project) and the Governor. If built it would be the densest residential development in the United States.

Posted by lumi at 6:29 PM

More blogo coverage of boffo rally against bizarro/blotto project

Accounts of the rally in the blogosphere have kept popping up throughout the day, so here goes Round Two:

Gothamist, Thousands Protest Atlantic Yards Project
A brief synopsis of the rally coverage and solicitation of comments from those who attended.

Dope on the Slope receives today's "Golden LandGrab" award (aka "Grabbie") for sheer output. After yesterday's "Parasol Power" post, he followed up with these:

JulyRally-DOTS.jpgRally Attracts Shutterbugs

Neither the heat, humidity or harsh lighting were particularly camera friendly yesterday at the DDDB rally. However, this didn't stop scores of photographers and videographers from turning out for the event.

Inadequate Commentary
The Times reports that yesterday's rally was called to protest the size of Atlantic Yards, and "what many called inadequate public comment," which unleashes the following tongue-lashing (amongst other vulgarities that one gets to use when one is one's own editor):

Inadequate comment?!


To employ a bit of the Brooklynese I've picked up in the four years I've lived here - "Hey Gray Lady, I gotcher comment...right here! (include appropriate vulgar gesture)"

Those three words demonstrate why development in New York City is completely dysfunctional. Comment has never been the issue. We can comment until we are blue in the face, and frequently do.

No, this isn't about comment. This is about empowerment and control of the destiny of our neighborhoods. As an earlier DDDB button used to say "our community, our taxes, our choice."


A Crowd Gathers, But How Large?

The New York Times estimated over 2000, the rally organizers said there were over 4000. Let's split the difference and say it was over 3000. During the two hours I was there, I would say they had enough passion and energy for 100,000.

JulyRally-DOTS03.jpgOne If By Landgrab, Two If By Boondoggle
Yesterday Steve Buscemi rhymed "Forest City Ratner" with "William Shatner." But what rhymes with "boondoggle?"

Find out in Dope's 21st-Century update to the classic Longfellow poem, which inspired NoLandGrab's costumed stunt at yesterday's rally.

Fight for Progressive Development Heats Up
JulyRally-DOTS-Barron.jpg"This is white and black and progressive and working class saying no to a billion-dollar developer.” — NY City Councilmember Charles Barron

JulyRally-DOTS-Miller.jpg "Ask the right questions...Why wait until 2009 to be building housing we need right now?” — Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church

JulyRally-DOTS-James.jpg “Turn up the heat on these greedy developers.” — NY City Councilmember Letitia James

JulyRally-DOTS-Montgomery.jpg "State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, assured the crowd that she wasn't the least bit intimidated by her developer backed challenger, Tracy Boyland."

JulyRally-DOTS-Carter.jpg"Legendary Fort Greene activist Ed Carter promised... that Brooklynites weren't about to kiss any developer's ass."

JulyRally-DOTS-Goldstein.jpg"This deal is suffering from a long-term illness and we need to put it out of its misery." — DDDB spokesperson Dan Goldstein

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Atlantic Yards and The Spanish Civil War
Richard Lipsky from NRA requests that we "hold the comments on how Richard Lipsky represents FCRC-stick to the arguments please," so we will.

The DDD people can out yesterday in Brooklyn and, depending on who you ask, generated somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 folks to a rally against AY. If you accept the lower Times estimate there were more people who came out last week to an informal forum of FCRC to discuss the affordable housing opportunities at the development.

NLG stick-to-your-ribs commentary: For once we agree with Lipsky on an Atlantic Yards issue. No one would be "surprised" if more folks flocked to an airconditioned hotel meeting room looking for affordable housing than came to a rally in 90-degree-plus weather, where promoters didn't give out free stuff or the vague promise of "affordable housing." No wonder the seekers of affordable housing went home largely disappointed.

NoLandGrab: We'll take this opportunity to explain that NoLandGrab booked Paul Revere to repeat his ride from 230 years ago. Paul Revere was riding Benny, a nine-year resident of Kensington Stables, Brooklyn. Many of Benny's friends lost their home when, last year, a barn leased by Kensington was sold to a developer, who has since razed the barn and plans to build luxury condos (for people, not horses).

Paul Revere warned rally attendees and picnicers in Prospect Park, "The OVERDEVELOPERS are coming!" Benny frequently chimed in with "Neigh, to Atlantic Yards."

JulyRally-Akinlock.jpgDoughnut, The Great Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Rally: Part 1. Power to the People
Klaus Kinloch posted some excellent images from the rally.

Curbed, Anti-Atlantic Yards Rally: Thousands Brave Blazing Sun,
Curbed carried coverage and photos from Gowanus Lounge. Don't forget to check out the slugfest on the comments page, where affordable housing advocates took the upper hand right out of the starting gate.

The Brooklyn Record, Atlantic Yards Update: Housing Prices and Rallies

The post is about last week's affordable housing info session and yesterday's rally with links to other blogs. The comments are about race and numbers.

Gumby Fresh, Swing A Dead Deal, Hit A Blogger
Though Gumby Fresh has been blogging on Atlantic Yards for a while, he was impressed with all the new voices that have joined the chorus.

For what it's worth, I got there a little late, and listened to Letitia James, State Senator Montgomery, Bob Law, Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez. What's amazingly weird was that there must have been seven or eight bloggers there that I read, yet I have no idea which ones they are.

For someone who has begrudgingly given up Brooklyn Lager, Steve Buscemi brought a little levity to the rally:

Best moment from Steve Buscemi's slightly scattershot speech (and I paraphrase very slightly here from memory):

"I live, sleep, eat and drink Brooklyn. Mostly drink Brooklyn. Yep, Brooklyn Lager. [Boos, quite few of them]. No, not Brooklyn Lager, what's the other one? Six Points, yeah, Six Points. Damn, gotta do my homework before I get up here."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Protest

After carpet-bombing the area with flyers for the protest, it finally went down at Grand Army Plaza on Sunday. While the NYPD estimated 600 to 700 people showed up, the Times and CBS estimated about 2,000. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn - one of the organizers - had an even higher head count that came in at 3,200, revised downward from 4,000.

Somersalt Grand Army Plaza Protest

Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez and several Brooklyn residents spoke about how they dont' want a Nets Stadium, apartment complexes that will overstrain the current traffic & sewer system (yikes), and basically want Bruce Ratner to go to Hell.

Posted by lumi at 3:00 PM

Today's rally coverage in the mainstream media

The press mostly hooked onto the celebrities who came out yesterday.

In addition, it seems like some in the press are obsessed with numbers and race, so we'll put our two cents in to start.

NLG on numbers:

4,000 or 2,000? What we DO know is that clearly more than 2,000 people came out on a 90-degree-plus day, for a rally where organizers weren't busing in crowds to give out free sandwiches & t-shirts, or disappointing folks seeking affordable housing applications.

NLG on race:

The opposition is never going to be as dark-skinned as the pro-Ratner crowd, because they are being drawn from folks across different neigborhoods, races and classes and the entire political spectrum.

If Ratner wanted more white faces amongst his supporters, he would have paid for them.

Here's today's coverage:

1010 WINS, Actors Join Atlantic Yards Project Protest
This brief and straightforward account of the rally leads off with Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez, and ends with Forest City Ratner's PR guru Joe DePlasco's stock assurance that "People have legitimate concerns that we have addressed."

JulyRally-Newsday.jpg AM NY, Neighbors and celebs protest Atlantic Yards
AM NY City Editor Michael Clancy's article focused on the program on the stage. The online version is running this slideshow and a readers' poll.

Metro NY, Protesters: Arena on slippery slope
Metro's Brooklyn beat reporter Amy Zimmer put the figure at "hundreds," which is pretty much disputed by all of the other coverage. Two paragraphs of copy went to Community Board 8 member and Ratner supporter Meredith Staton, who played the race card. The heat must have gotten to Zimmer who repriced the $3.5-billion project at a bargain-basement $2.5 billion.

NY Daily News, Real housing for the real Brooklyn
No rally coverage in the News, but the editorial page continues it's scathing attackes on Atlantic Yards opponents.

First the editorial slams Rosie trying to start a class war:

Yo, Rosie. This isn't Mayberry; it's Prospect Heights, and Prospect Heights and all of Brooklyn desperately need affordable housing. Those who would benefit are not the "filthy rich." Indeed, that term more aptly applies to smug celebs who are slamming the project from the comfort of their homes in California and the Hamptons. [Huh?]

...and then whitewashes Ratner's affordable housing information session:

Last week, more than 2,500 real New Yorkers packed a ballroom at the Brooklyn Marriott to hear a presentation on the estimated 2,250 units of low-cost housing that would be built as part of Atlantic Yards.

The New's editorial page is really going out on a limb these days. To call the 2,250 units "low-cost" goes well beyond ACORN's low- to medium-income claims.

The brief article homes in on the star factor:

Thousands of Brooklynites, including some born-and-bred celebrities, rallied in Grand Army Plaza yesterday to protest the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project - charging that it would turn Downtown Brooklyn into "Skyscraper City."

The NY Times, Crowd Gathers to Protest Size of Atlantic Yards Plan
The Times reporter Thomas J. Leuck writes that this was "the largest public demonstration so far by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project."

The event was organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group whose advisory board includes Brooklyn residents active in film, music and literature. The actors Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez, both Brooklyn residents and advisers to the group, appeared briefly on a makeshift stage in front of a sign that read “Brooklyn’s Neighborhoods Say No.”

“I’m not a politician or activist,” Mr. Buscemi told the crowd. He read a poem that he said he had written to protest the project, which included the line “I’ve played a lot of crazies, but this seems insane.”

The article also ran the DePlasco stock-quote-of-the-day and a disclosure of the Times-Ratner business relationship (is the "Gray Lady" is getting better at the disclosure thingie?).

Posted by lumi at 10:38 AM

Blogosphere coverage of the rally

JulyRally-Redbone.jpgA Redbone Speaks, Well hot damn! Rally Success!!!!
A few words and images from rally MC Robin "Redbone" Cloud:

Yesterday's rally was incredible!! That was the first time that i have ever been a part of something so big and so amazing. I had a chance to meet some of the leading champions of the [effort] and got to really see that the voice of Brooklyn is still going strong.


DDDB said there were 4000, the New York Times called it "over 2000." Hard to say exactly how many people were there but they were THERE for the largest public demonstration so far by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.
the demonstration made a strong impression and shows that there is a large and loud opposition willing to come out on a sweltering hot day to protest Ratner's controversial development designed by Frank Gehry, which will include a sports arena and numerous high rise condo buildings.

JulyRally-EnglishInNY.jpg Englishman in NY, Anti Ratner Rally Draws a Crowd

A tip for any developer wanting to put out publicity material: Make sure your models aren’t completely opposed to your plans.
Needless to say Ms. Meer, who lives in my neighborhood of Prospect Heights, was not pleased when she found out that she was the covergirl for a project she opposed. And today, she was one of almost a dozen speakers, including Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez, who spoke out against the development at a rally at Grand Army Plaza organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Neat Engine, Sunday, July 16, 2006

Just outside Prospect Park, at the Grand Army Plaza, Develop, Don't Destroy, Brooklyn held a rally against the Atlantic Yards project. For those of you unfamiliar with my views on public transportation, I am a strong advocate of trains, metros, subways, buses, trams, trolleys, and any other means of mass-transit. Any urban project that will bring car traffic, pollution, and expensive housing to my beloved city concerns me.

Gowanus Lounge, Anti-Ratner Rally Draws Thousands on a Blazing Hot Sunday

JulyRally-GowanusLounge01.jpgGL posted his flickr photoset and additional commentary:

A crowd estimated by organizers at 4,000 turned out in baking heat yesterday for a rally against the Atlantic Yards project sponsored by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. (The NY Times estimated 2,000.) While the crowd was not so large as to indicate a popular uprising againt the massive residential-commercia-arena plan, the turnout (whether 4,000 or 2,000 or in between) did signify that the anti-Yards movement has momentum. ...
Entertainer Dan Zanes, actor Steve Buscemi and actress Rosie Perez were among those that also took the stage. Ms. Perez called the plan "an insult to the poor."

"We have a real chance to undo this done deal," Mr. Buscemi said. "It aint done yet."

JulyRally-DopeySlopey.jpg Dope on the Slope, Parasol Power

A group of intrepid Brooklynites ( I think they're Brooklyn Bears) demonstrate that they are ready to keep Ratner from raining on Brooklyn's parade, and prevent him blotting out the sun.

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

MSM coverage can't beat AY Report

Since the mainstream media's coverage of the rally can't beat Atlantic Yards Report for depth and breadth (hey, blogs have no word count!), head on over to Norman Oder's dispatch from the rally.

The Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) rally yesterday at Grand Army Plaza was no watershed moment, neither a massive show of resistance nor an easily-dismissable handful of diehards, as Forest City Ratner’s Jim Stuckey describes the opposition.


Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

NoLandGrab's flickr photostream from the rally

Here's a sampling of photos from yesterday's rally, by NLG contributor Rebecca Cederholm, who knew her degree would come in handy one day. Click here to view the rest of the NoLandGrab flickr photostream of the rally.

Perez-Buscemi.jpg JulyRally02.jpg JulyRally01.jpg DanZanesRally.jpg

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Forest City Announces Leasing and Construction Milestones for New York Times Building

Daily Business News Cleveland

This is from the latest press release for Forest City Ratner's (a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises) portion of the NY Times Tower, built in partnership with The NY Times Corporation:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced a third major tenant for the New York Times Building near Times Square in Manhattan, and the topping-out of the 52-story, 1.5-million-square-foot office tower. The final 40-foot, 2,000-pound beam was raised 746 feet above street level, atop the building's steel frame on the 52nd floor.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, one of Canada's leading business law firms, agreed to a 15-year lease to occupy 60,000 square feet on floors 36 and 37. This agreement is the Times building's third major lease signing in the last month. As a result, nearly one-half of the 700,000 square feet owned by Forest City Ratner Companies, the New York City affiliate of Forest City Enterprises, has been leased.


NoLandGrab: The three corporations to sign leases in the Times Tower are all law firms, who should breathe easier now that OVERDEVELOPERS have probably passed lawyers and politicians as the most despised professions.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

July 16, 2006

Bklyn Papers Editorial Rips Ratner's "Dog and Pony Show"


The Gowanus Lounge

We've always loved the expression "dog-and-pony show" and use it whenever possible to describe distasteful and orchestrated displays, so we are very taken with Brooklyn Papers editor Gersh Kuntzman's smack down of the Forest City Ratner affordable housing session held at the Brooklyn Marriott earlier this week in an editorial headlined "A dog-and-pony show."


Posted by amy at 9:15 PM

Crap Shoot: Residents Vie For a Spot In Atlantic Yards


Stephen Witt

While FCRC Vice President James Stuckey and New York ACORN president Bertha Lewis explained the project, several in the audience clapped when it was announced the Nets and arena would be coming.

On the other hand, some were skeptical of getting an apartment and seemed disappointed to learn the timeline has the project several years away.

“Hopefully it [the project] can be beneficial for everybody,” Pennie observed. “The project could provide opportunity, but it’s a lottery and look how crowded it is here.”


Posted by amy at 9:11 PM

Ratner Opponents Say Brennan Bill Misses the Point


Emily Keller

Leading opponents of the proposed project spoke against a bill introduced by Assemblymember James Brennan that calls on the developer, Forest City Ratner (FCR), to scale the project down by 34 percent, saying he misses the mark by offering FCR state money to do so.

“What you have proposed...doesn’t address the biggest issues [including] that elected officials including yourself have been shut out of the process,” said Lucy Koteen, a local activist.

“The numbers in this bill don’t make sense,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), before the discussion was cut off by Candace Carponter, the co-chair of CBN, who said it went beyond the domain of what the organization was formed to do.


Posted by amy at 9:07 PM

CBN Watchdogs Dig In For Coming DEIS


Emily Keller

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), an organization of community groups in Community Boards 2, 3, 6 and 8 that formed to analyze the official environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, held the first of four meetings to begin preparing Brooklynites to participate in the process.

The packed meeting took place at the Belarusian Church, 401 Atlantic Avenue, and included a presentation by Tom Angotti, an urban planning professor at Hunter College who was born in Brooklyn, about what to expect and look for when the document currently being prepared by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) – the project’s sponsor – is released.


Posted by amy at 9:03 PM


Rally-Ad-fold.jpg Whatever your cause...

...join the fight for the Heart of Brooklyn.

Gathering: 1:30PM
Start: 2 PM

GRAND ARMY PLAZA (location of Saturday Greenmarket)

Photo by Newington, via flickr

Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

City on a Hill

New York Times opinion piece on Ridge Hill:

At another huge development in Brooklyn that Mr. Ratner proposes to build, an amazing 50 percent of housing units will be sold to low- and middle-income residents. It’s no coincidence that Brooklyn is home to one of the country’s noisiest and most energetic community organizations, Acorn, which Mr. Ratner took pains to make an early ally.

With enough effort, the little people can make themselves heard.

Apparently the Times did not hear the 'little people' who attended last week's affordable housing meeting only to be disappointed.

Atlantic Yards Report catalogs the cavalcade of errors:

To summarize:
1. Most affordable units wouldn't be sold.
2. The affordable percentage would not be 50/50.
3. Many attendees were dismayed by the affordable housing information session.
4. The affordable rental units would be rather small, and would occupy a small fraction--22 percent of the total square footage--of the project space devoted to housing.

Posted by amy at 5:10 AM

In a Clinch


3 Bikini finds out that it's not so easy being on the Atlantic Yards fence. Like a swing state voter in the '04 elections, she's being lobbied by both sides:

Each day I check my 3bikini mail and reply to anyone who says hey. Much to my surprise, after my post on the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing coverage, I found two emails written by representatives from FCRC and DDDB. They looked so innocent nested one atop the next-seemingly satisfied to live as neighbors in my inbox.


Posted by amy at 4:51 AM

"A Second Chance on the West Side"--but in Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report examines today's New York Times editorial:

A New York Times editorial today in the City Weekly section, headlined A Second Chance on the West Side, calls the city's plan to develop the Hudson Yards in Manhattan "impressive and bold." A key line: "Having failed to seek local input on the stadium project, Mr. Bloomberg promises to work with the City Council and local residents to find the best use for the property. This could animate a real vision for the area."

Again, the double standard is staggering. The City Council and local residents have been bypassed in plans for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, a key component of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by amy at 4:21 AM

The "sophisticated machine," "ostensible" independence, & Stuckey's spin

Atlantic Yards Report dissects this week's New York Observer article "After “Race” Battle, Dan Goldstein Charges On":

Am I merely "ostensibly independent" of DDDB? It's fair to say that I'm aligned with DDDB--we share similar concerns and critiques--as opposed to aligned with project supporters, but DDDB doesn't speak for me and I don't speak for them. I write a range of pieces, some straight reportage, some commentary. I can point out a DDDB error, question some rhetoric, and note where a DDDB affiliation was missing.

I'm a journalist and critic, not an opponent. My goal is to get it right, not some mythical notion of objectivity, if I may quote former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent. So if say that the project represents "extreme density," that's based on research. I'm in regular contact with a few people involved in DDDB or the broader opposition, but I talk or email regularly with a range of people interested in the Atlantic Yards issue.


Posted by amy at 4:01 AM

July 15, 2006

More than 19,000 new residents? Another look at "extreme density"


Atlantic Yards Report:

Of course the assumptions can be tweaked, but this set would lead to 19118 people over 22 acres. That represents 869 people per acre. There are 640 acres per square mile, so that would represent 556,160 people per square mile. That's "extreme density."


Posted by amy at 6:50 AM

Enter the Ratner candidate

Tracy BoylandThere's been much ado about anti-Atlantic Yards candidates emerging from the "warp" in Brooklyn's political landscape caused by the Atlantic Yards project proposal — now, enter the "Ratner candidate."

Word is that term-limited-out former NY City Councilmember (41st District), and scion to one of Brooklyn's most entrenched political dynasties, Tracy Boyland, is getting into the race against State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. A source tells us that, with the help of some 20 paid signature gatherers, Boyland has submitted petitions to run against the incumbent, who was, until recently, assured an uncontested waltz to another term in office.

Back in 2004, NoLandGrab identified Tracy Boyland as a pro-Atlantic Yards pol. We sent out letters requesting position statements from politicians and candidates whose districts contained, or were in close proximity to, the Atlantic Yards footprint; Boyland's office never responded. Two years ago, Boyland ran against Congressman Major Owens and was perceived at the time as the anti-anti-Bruce Ratner candidate. Her half-hearted campaign was largely developer-funded, and therefore we concluded that her no-response could only mean that she was for the project. Since that time, according to this "article" in Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's phony newspaper The Brooklyn Standard, Boyland attended the May 19, 2005 Ratner-Bloomberg-ACORN press conference announcing the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal.

The underbelly of corruption in the Brooklyn MachinePolitik has been exposed with: the "but-everyone-does-it" guilty plea to a misdemeanor by State Assemblymember and current 10th District congressional candidate Roger Green in 2004; party boss Clarence Norman's conviction in 2005; and, most recently, State Assemblymember Diane Gordon's bribery scandal. However, it's still business as usual for the Brooklyn Machine, which has been throwing support behind Atlantic Yards, from Cheerleader-in-Chief BP Marty Markowitz to a full plate of Ratner supporters, brought on board by Ratner's political man behind the curtain, Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender.

One of the ongoing mysteries of the current campaign season is why 57th-AD candidate Hakeem Jeffries and 11th-District Congressional candidate David Yassky continue charting a middle-of-the road course with their positions on Atlantic Yards, while making public appearances with staunch Ratner supporters, many of whom owe their jobs to Ratner. Might they be "Ratner candidates" lying in wait? The Machine has stepped up to the plate to support Jeffries, but has stepped back from the crowded field vying for the open seat in the 11th District.

With the exception of a trio of politicians whose districts contain Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal footprint - City Councilmember Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Congressman Major Owens - and a couple politicians from the last progressive political-reform era, Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Joan Millman, everyone else appears to have fallen in line behind Ratner.

In the two-and-a-half years since Bruce Ratner first announced his plans, the opposition has been working to build a political base. Strong showings in key state-assembly districts by Green Party candidate Gloria Mattera and Democratic candidate for Public Advocate Norman Siegel in 2005 (even for write-in Green Party candidate Susan Metz in 2004) indicate to those who understand the political calculus of election-day vote tallying that one or more of the anti-Atlantic Yards candidates stand a fair chance of getting elected, with the support of the grassroots.

NoLandGrab will be keeping an eye on whether the we're-not-dead-yet Brooklyn Political Machine will pull out all the stops against Montgomery, or whether this is another symbolic candidacy, a favor to the ghost in the machine, who will repay the debt to the Boyland dynasty's heir apparent further down the road.

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

AY snug or stingy? 575 sf for 1BR, 775 sf for 2BR

Atlantic Yards Report covers the incredible shrinking affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards proposal. Both the apartment square footage and the percentage of apartments that will be 'affordable' have a case of shrinkage:

The Atlantic Yards web site now offers some details that might have further frustrated attendees at the affordable housing information session Tuesday. Half the affordable rentals would contain two and three bedrooms (unlike some other affordable housing programs), but the apartment sizes would be comparatively small. In fact, the minimum size projected for a two-bedroom rental would be nearly nine percent smaller than the standard size for a two-bedroom unit in city public housing.
Atlantic Yards was originally touted as an innovative plan in which half of the residential units--at that point all rentals--would be affordable. When the Housing Memorandum of Understanding was signed in May 2005, Forest City Ratner had accomplished a crucial switch: the 50 percent affordable goal would apply only to the rentals, thus leaving the developer free to soon add market-rate condos, initially 2800, now 2360.


Posted by amy at 6:34 AM

Brooklyn Battles


Crain's Insider

Assembly candidate Bill Batson expected to file more than 3,000 signatures last night to qualify for the Democratic primary against Hakeem Jeffries and Freddie Hamilton in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, Brooklyn. In eight weeks, Batson has raised $60,000 and spent $25,000, opened a campaign headquarters and assembled a five-member staff. His backers are opponents of Forest City Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by amy at 5:38 AM

Hank on Point

The Real Estate
-Matthew Schuerman

Veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf is entering new territory: early last month a group of 10 of the largest companies at Willets Point in Queens hired him to do public relations for their group, the Willets Point Industry & Realty Corp., which is facing the possibility that the city may try to take their property under eminent domain to make way for a new office/hotel/convention center district.


Posted by amy at 5:29 AM

Events for July 14-16, 2006

The Politicker lists three upcoming events that appear to have something in common...

On Sunday, Green Party nominee for Attorney General, Rachel Treichler, will hold a press conference on the approval process for the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards development project.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will hold a rally in Grand Army Plaza.

Tom Suozzi will deliver a speech at the Grace Baptist Church in Brooklyn, addressing the need for the Democratic Party to show respect for issues in minority communities.


Posted by amy at 4:23 AM

July 14, 2006

Suffering From Fuzzy Math


Brooklyn resident Robert Puca proves that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do math, but you probably shouldn't be a reporter.

I would like to see a correction for the article written by Stephen Witt, “Independent Oversight of Atlantic Yds. Project.”

Mr. Witt writes, “The money committed... toward the project represents a little more than 10 percent of the $200 million the city and state gave to FCRC for infrastructure costs.”

My calculator places that percentage at 0.13%, to be exact.

Looking forward to your reply,

Robert Puca


NoLandGrab: That makes the Courier-Life figure off by... more than alot.

Posted by lumi at 11:01 PM

Brooklyn Eagle goes underground

Looking to drum up more customers than readers, current articles on The Brooklyn Daily Eagle are now available by subscription only. The 5,000-circulation newspaper and its columnist Dennis Holt have consistently supported Bruce Ratner's plan to build 16 highrise towers and a 19,000-seat arena.

Here are the links to today's articles, if you're into paying the $4.91 for one-week access:
Forest City’s Affordable Housing Plan: Here’s How It Would Work
Meetings Will Address Yards’ Environmental Impact Statement

Atlantic Yards Report added some comments and analysis of the affordable housing article in this earlier post.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 PM

Former City Planner To Oppose Stadium Project

Says Proposal Would Make Yards The Nation’s Densest Community

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Elizabeth Stull

An article on the latest additions to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Advisory Board features former New York City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman's concerns about density and flawed urban design:

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said yesterday that singer Toshi Reagan, authors Rick Moody, Myla Goldberg and Philip Gourevitch, architect Chris Doyle, actor Michael Showalter and playwright Lynn Nottage, as well as former planner Ron Shiffman, are joining its 41-member board.

“After participating in a planning charette sponsored by City Council Member Letitia James in 2004,” Shiffman “decided not to speak out on the issue in part because I believed that the inclusionary housing component was an important victory and believing that a more rational plan would eventually emerge.” Calling the development process “fundamentally flawed,” he argued that current plans “would scar the borough for decades to come.”


Posted by lumi at 10:43 PM

Going to Bat for Batson

Empire Zone [The NY Times campaign season blog]

Reporter Nick Confessore picks up where The Politicker left off in examining the donor list for the anti-Atlantic Yards candidate Bill Batson. Additional donors who were "outed":

There’s housing advocate Ken Diamondstone, a perennial political candidate in these parts, who is running for a state Senate seat this year and who also has harsh words for the Atlantic Yards. There’s Kate Suisman, a top aide to City Councilwoman Letitia James, who is a key ally of Develop Don’t Destroy. There’s the novelist Jennifer Egan, who is now on the group’s advisory board. There’s Eric McClure, who is active with the local group Park Slope Neighbors and heads its Atlantic Yards committee. There’s Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer who ran for public advocate last year; he lost, but it is interesting to note that he did well in the neighborhoods surrounding the project. There’s Chris Owens, another project opponent and a candidate this year for his father’s congressional seat.


NoLandGrab: If you are someone who's opposed to the Ratner project and have made a contribution to Bill Batson, but have not been ID'd by the Times, feel free to submit a comment.

If you are dead-set against the project, but haven't made your donation yet, visit Batson's web site.

Why is this race important? Bill Batson is running against Hakeem Jeffries (whose official position on Atlantic Yards is full of contradictions) for the open State Assembly seat in the district which contains the Atlantic Yards footprint. The position of the Assembly Member from this district could, theoretically, influence Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's decision to support or oppose the project.

Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM

Chris Owens grassroots campaign

Brooklyn's roots are showing, and they're green.

The Chris Owens campaign managed to submit petitions with 13,500 signatures the old-fashioned way - through a grassroots volunteer effort.

Here's some of today's commentary from the blogosphere:

Daily Gotham, The Brooklyn Grassroots Show Themselves in the CD-11 Race
The Politicker, Major + Brooklyn Yards = Campaign

Posted by lumi at 10:09 PM

Ask MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow

Ever want to know why the MTA repeatedly accepts the low bid for its pre-packaged real estate giveaways? Now you can ask the MTA Meister, Peter Kalikow.

Will from OnNYTurf posted this item regarding AskKalikow@dailynews.com:

Well you are not going to believe this, but it looks like Peter Kalikow is ready to take your questions. He and the DailyNews are running an Ask-The-Asshat feature where you can email him questions and the DailyNews will print the softballs with his boring answers.

Given that they announced this on a Friday the email account probably won't get shut down with complaints until 10 am Monday.

More details from OnNYTurf.com .

Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM

Screening "A Walk Through the Footprint"

Lerner.jpgBrooklyn Downtown Star, Cut and "Footprint" By Medi Blum

Unbelievably, the Brooklyn Downtown Star's review of "A Walk Through the Footprint" is longer than Atlantic Yards Report's piece on the same 18-minute film about the remaining residents in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal footprint.

When David went after Goliath, he had five stones ready for his slingshot; the shepherd just happened to bean the giant with the first stone he threw. The pebble-sized short film that several would-be local Davids have launched against the Forest City Ratner Brooklyn arena behemoth will most likely not render the same death blow.

Courier-Life's coverage of the screening, "Film Focuses On Ratner Holdouts," by Emily Keller is more straightforward.

A Walk Through the Footprint – an 18-minute film by George Lerner that made its debut at the Park Slope Food Coop, 782 Union Street – chronicles the determination of several tenants living within the 22-acre project site to remain in their homes.

Those interviewed refused to sell their apartments to FCR at the time the film – which was completed in mid-January – was made, and spoke against FCR’s plan to evict them through eminent domain if the project goes forward.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 PM

New York Times Tops Tower

NYTimesTowerTopping.jpg GlobeSt.com

NEW YORK CITY-The New York Times Building received its final beam today, completing the steel frame of the 52-story, 1.6-million-sf tower under construction at the junction of Eight Avenue and 41st Street. The beam was signed by the construction workers who took part in the building, as well as executives from co-owners Forest City Ratner Cos. and the New York Times.


Posted by lumi at 9:08 PM

NoLandGrab gets "A" for effort

The new Market Facts Guide from Crain's New York Business rates NoLandGrab at the top of its class, awarding NLG an "A" among NY-area blogs that tackle an issue.

E-PICKETING: Blogs for causes

Advocacy groups are increasingly turning to blogs to further their causes and rally their supporters. The most effective sites use full-time Webmasters who have the presentation and writing skills to attract and inspire readers. Other blogs seem to talk to themselves, featuring item after item with the lonely tag "0 comments.'' Here's a snapshot of some advocacy blogs that have grabbed New Yorkers' attention-or not: 


Aims to stop Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Serves as project opponents' bible and reporters' reference guide. Even Forest City's people visit regularly.

NoLandGrab: Aw, shucks, we don't even have a speech prepared. But we would like to thank the Academy, Forest City Ratner for providing us with such rich material, and of course, all of you, our readers, without whom none of this would be possible.

Just one question, though: did Jim Stuckey not get a vote?

Posted by lumi at 12:15 PM

Hey Kids, Brooklyn Fantasy Band Camp, this Sunday!

Dan Zanes is looking for some kids with brass.

Zanes, who'll be playing at this Sunday's Grand Army Plaza rally (details to the right), is seeking a few young horn players to join him on stage for a brassy musical number.

Dan would like to find about a half-dozen school-aged kids who can read simple music charts and who play one of the following instruments:

  • trumpet
  • sax
  • tuba
  • trombone
  • French horn
  • flute

Amazing ability is not as important as enthusiasm and willingness to get up in front of a crowd!

If you know someone who fits the bill, please send an e-mail to astrid(at)festivalfive(dot)com.

Posted by lumi at 11:47 AM

Zanes leads Sunday Ratner rant

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen


Kiddie rocker Dan Zanes will headline this weekend’s big rally against an even bigger development — Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

Zanes and a troupe of acrobats, activists, beat-boxers and actors — Steve Buscemi, anyone? — will convene at Grand Army Plaza on Sunday afternoon and entertain (and exhort, in the case of the politicians) an expected 10,000 fellow travelers in the fight against Ratner’s 16-skyscraper, 6,860-unit, 19,000-seat arena project in Prospect Heights.


NoLandGrab: Don't know where Brooklyn Papers got this number from — it would be some kind of miracle if 10K people showed up at the rally.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

On the cheap

Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

More than 2,000 New Yorkers lined up this week hoping for a shot at a cheap rental within Bruce Ratner’s proposed $3.5-billion Atlantic Yards development — but many left the developer’s affordable housing presentation disappointed by the harsher reality.

“I’m not sure what kind of chance I have to get one of their nice apartments,” said Canarsie resident Jennifer Haynes, a retiree who left Tuesday night’s presentation at the Brooklyn Marriott before it ended.

Ratner billed the event as an “affordable housing information meeting,” promoting it with full-page newspaper ads and targeted postcard mailings in neighborhoods far removed from the site of the 22-acre, 6,860-apartment, basketball arena and office space development, which the developer says would include 2,250 units of low, moderate and middle-income rentals.

Attendees shared a common frustration over the lack of affordable options in the city. Those frustrations were not resolved on Tuesday.

Some complained, for example, that they received a survey rather than an application for an apartment. Others wondered if they would qualify for the housing if their earnings didn’t fit into any of the development’s income-dependent programs.


This week's editorial takes a skeptical view of the affordable housing meeting:

And, indeed, thousands of people, from all over the city, showed up, eager to put in an application for a cheap rental in a Frank Gehry-designed high-rise.

Oh, but wouldn’t you know it: No applications were available — and won’t be for at least three years — because this full-house event was not really about serving apartment hungry New Yorkers, but about using them as props in the Forest City Ratner media campaign.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

The 3 pm lineup and more on the AY affordable housing session

More from Atlantic Yards Report on Ratner's affordable housing session on Tuesday:

I learned a telling fact about the 6:30 pm Atlantic Yards affordable housing information session Tuesday: the line started at 3 pm! That shows how desperate the need is for affordable housing, and also that Forest City Ratner and ACORN should have stressed that the information session would not give people a leg up on the future units.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

"We'll Always Have (the Suburbs of) Paris"

The Real Estate Observer highlighted Ron Shiffman's observation about X-TREME DENSITY:

If Forest City Ratner's proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of the suburbs of Paris.

REO posted two comments which outline the competing arguments for and against affordable-housing-driven density.


Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

"New Frank Gehry plans for my team"


The less-than-one-percent owner of the NJ Nets includes Frank Gehry's arena in the Hewlett-Packard commercial featuring the Hip-Hop mogul's CV.

Jay-Z might be a minority owner, but "Who's His Daddy?"

*PM UPDATE: We've received info that Jay-Z actually owns around 1.5% of the team, still making him a bit player in this mega deal. *

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Yonkers IDA OKs condemnation

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (IDA) cleared the way to start eminent domain condemnations if the city couldn't strike a deal with three property owners (the largest being Con Edison) for Bruce Ratner's recently approved Ridge Hill Village proposal.

In an agreement adopted by the IDA yesterday morning, the agency noted that Con Edison had agreed not to challenge the efforts to take the land the developer needs to build the road, as long as the IDA did not take more property than it needed and met other conditions regarding access and security for a nearby substation.

Mayor Phil Amicone, chairman of the IDA, said he also expected to amicably acquire property owned by the Boyce Thompson Institute of Plant Research, and Mark Herrmann, owner of Mark Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Yonkers.

"I believe we'll probably have negotiated sales," Amicone said. "This only clears the way to use condemnation, if necessary."


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Norman Oder affordable housing info session digest OnNYTurf


Norman Oder over at Atlantic Yard Report has an amazingly detailed wrap up of a public session ACORN hosted last night. The session was designed to inform people about the housing provisions in the Ratner plan for Atlantic Yards.

Norman's report is incredibly detailed and long, so here are some highlights...
As noted before, many of the apartments in this plan are going to START at market rate in Brooklyn. Amazing to see Bertha Lewis personally admit this!


Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Anti-Ratner group picks up support

metroBoard060713.gifMetroNY ran a brief piece on the newest members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Advisory Board (byline Amy Zimmer).

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

July 13, 2006

Gowanus Lounge explains Pruitt-Igoe

The Gowanus Lounge explains Ron Shiffman's reference to "Pruitt-Igoe" in his statment of support for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and his coming out as an Advisory Board Member.


Shiffman writes [emphasis added]:

I fear Forest City Ratner’s proposal will become the Brooklyn equivalent of Pruitt-Igoe, the notorious St. Louis public housing towers that have since been demolished. Quite frankly I do not believe that any of the decision makers from the Borough President to the Governor have a grasp on how overwhelming and out-of-scale this development is.

Gowanus Lounge:

Pruitt-Igoe is a planner code word for a project that is beyond awful, for something that is so fatally flawed that the only solution is blowing it up and, then, showing the video to an entire generation of planning students as a warning. That's Pruitt-Igoe coming down, of course, in the photo above.


NoLandGrab: Is Shiffman being hyperbolic? Perhaps not, when one considers - among a plethora of issues - the historic nature of the proposed project's scale and density, FCR's and the ESDC's refusal to include the East River crossings in the environmental study, and the failure of elected officials at every level to push for serious traffic-management solutions.

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

All Atlantic Terminal? The rebranding of the Atlantic Center mall

Atlantic Yards Report runs an "imaginary" memo from Forest City Ratner's rebranding consultant, regarding a very real advertisement the developer has in the current issue of Brooklyn's Progress, the Chamber of Commerce newspaper (click image to enlarge).

The stroke of genius? To rebrand the disreputable Atlantic Center Mall (originally designed to be hostile to kids from the 'hood and customers alike) as an extension of the Atlantic Terminal Mall, the newer retail center located beneath "The Toaster" (aka Ratner's Bank of NY building).


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Rally Preview airing on BCAT

bcat.jpgIn case you haven’t heard, there is the Mother of all DDDB Rallies this Sunday at 1:30 pm at Grand Army Plaza.

To promote the rally, Steve DeSeve produced three specials that will air on BCAT from Thursday through Saturday.

Check them out at the times listed below either on TV, if you’re in Brooklyn, or streaming live from anywhere at http://www.bcat.tv/bcat/default.asp (scroll to the middle of the page and click "watch live TV")

Appropriate channel and the dates and times are listed below.

Episode Date Time Time Warner/Cablevision
RALLY PART I Thursday, July 13th 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm 35/68
RALLY PART DEUX    Friday July 14th, Bastille Day    3:30 pm and 7:30 pm    56/69
RALLY PART III Saturday, July 15th 5:00 pm 35/68

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

July 12, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Atlantic Yards run-down
Bird to the North links the Manhattan User's Guide "Atlantic Yards Digest."

3BIKINI.jpgRatnerville affordable housing Roundup
3 Bikini shares her thoughts on yesterday's affordable housing info session, meeting with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and being on the fence about the project.

Ratner Meeting Draws a Crowd, Opponents Rally Sunday
The Gowanus Lounge summarizes today's Atlantic Yards news: affordable housing info session, additions to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Advisory Board and the rally on Sunday.

The high turnout was likely a reflection of the awful housing situation in Brooklyn for low- and moderate-income families. And, probably also the result of a mistaken belief that showing up would somehow give them a leg up on snagging an apartment that won't even exist for 4-10 years, assuming the project is built.

RobinCloud.jpgNow don't forget.....
A Redbone Speaks blogger Robin "Redbone" Cloud has the mic at Sunday's rally.

Please come out and support our rally against Ratner's Brooklyn. I will be mcing and promise to be entertaining!!

Posted by lumi at 11:54 PM

The Candidate from Develop Don't Destroy

The Politicker ran a brief item on 57th Assembly District candidate Bill Batson's support from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn board members and associates.


NoLandGrab: The headline is curious, since legally DDDB is prohibited from endorsing candidates.

NoLandGrab, on the other hand, has no restrictions and will soon be updating Pol Precinct with the Atlantic Yards position of the current crop of candidates.

Posted by lumi at 11:41 PM

The "Other" Affordable Housing Meeting

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey hosts episode of "The Twilight Zone," starring ACORN head Bertha Lewis

TwilightZone01.jpgHaving been ‘disinvited’ from the 6:30 session of Forest City Ratner's affordable housing meeting, NoLandGrab attended the 8:30 dog-and-pony show. Having read others' accounts of the 6:30 showing, it seems Jim Stuckey and Bertha Lewis loosened up once the press left.

The following quotes are transcribed from audio tape.

JIM STUCKEY: In a 24-48 hour period we had almost 5,000 responses.

-Funny, where were all of these people? There were approximately 200 people in a room that could hold 2,200. That makes a total of 2,400 people attending the seminar, if the first one was full. Makes one wonder why so many people did not receive an RSVP confirmation.

BERTHA LEWIS on move-in dates: The project is 2 or 3 years from move-in.

-She should have turned to read the timeline behind her, which stated:

  1. Construction of the first residential building (s) begins in 2008
  2. Marketing begins and applications made available in early 2009 for the first rental building (s)
  3. Building(s) available for occupancy anticipated to be mid-2010
  4. Final building complete in 2016

LEWIS: Most units are going to families in the $21,000 – $35,000 income range.

-Interesting math, since she was standing in front of a slide stating that 900 units go to this range and 1,350 units go to $42,540 – $113,440 range. 900 units are going to $70,901 – $113,440 alone!

STUCKEY’S explanation of using Income Bands: By doing these bands and making everyone pay 30% it really turns out that the people who make more are helping to subsidize the people who are paying less.
Amazing! Subsidies from everywhere! Even from affordable housing!

In the Q&A – interest in what happens to people between $35,450 and $42,540 who are missing from the income bands. Stuckey explains that the federal government defines low income as “50% of the AMI,” or $35,450, as the NYC Area Median Income (AMI) is $70,900. It is clear that Ratner’s definition of who needs affordable housing income goes as high as $113,440, or a whopping 160% of the AMI! To add insult to injury, Bertha exclaimed that the AMI for Brooklyn is considerably lower.

AUDIENCE: What happens to the affordable housing if the project is scaled back?
STUCKEY: In between the draft scope and the final scope we made reductions to the project size. When we made it, we did not touch a single affordable housing unit.

AUDIENCE: What happens to the people that are currently living in these homes?
STUCKEY: There really aren’t many people living there. There are virtually no homeowners left.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Where can those of us who do think this is appropriate development go – because I haven’t seen any place.
STUCKEY: Come speak to me after this.

Well, sir, you haven’t seen pro-Ratner gatherings because there are none that are not Ratner-sponsored. The community is against this. You can see the community rallying against this on Sunday.

Posted by amy at 10:48 PM

It's Tough All Around

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman reports from Forest City Ratner's Affordable Housing info session:

Tuesday's night informational meeting brought some fresh faces to the Atlantic Yards debate: instead of the overwhelmingly white neighbors who have objected on any number of grounds to the 22-acre housing complex and basketball arena, a striking number of individuals in the largely black crowd who showed up at the Brooklyn Marriott were disappointed to find that "affordable housing" was not that affordable, or accessible.


Posted by lumi at 10:38 PM

A Pot of Tax-Free Bonds for Post-9/11 Projects Is Empty

The NY Times
By Terry Pristin


A milestone was reached yesterday in the federal Liberty Bonds program, which was created to help Lower Manhattan and the New York economy recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by giving developers access to billions of dollars in low-cost tax-exempt financing.

Once officials issue the bonds that were earmarked yesterday, the $8 billion designated for the program will be depleted, ending a program that critics say has benefited developers and high-profile corporations at the expense of ordinary New Yorkers.

Two projects familiar to NoLandGrab readers and which received Liberty Bonds are Frank Gehry's IAC Headquarters in Manhattan and Bruce "the Juice" Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall (that's the Bank of NY office tower mentioned below).

If developers of residential projects were quick to embrace the Liberty Bond program, commercial developers were much slower to respond. So early on, officials awarded the low-interest financing to other projects that they believed would benefit the city’s economy. A division of Forest City Ratner got $90.8 million worth of financing to build a new office tower in downtown Brooklyn for the Bank of New York, which suffered heavy losses on Sept. 11. (Forest City Ratner, The New York Times Company’s partner in the development of a new headquarters building on Eighth Avenue, applied for Liberty Bond financing for that project but was turned down.)


NoLandGrab: We may be going out on a limb here, but hasn't development in Lower Manhattan been held up for years in a game of political football? If developers didn't queue up right away before the program was expanded, it was likely no fault of their own.

It's a little incredible to offer the lack of interest of commercial developers as the reason for expanding the program, in the face of criticism that the program was another porcine free-for-all for NYC developers.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 PM

Olympics Imperil Historic Beijing Neighborhood

The NY Times
By Jim Yardley

DDDBeijing.jpgAverage community folk banding together to take a stand against the Olympic development behemoth sounds like last year's news in NYC; only this time, it's in Beijing.

Will the Olympics, which organizers promised would enhance the city’s ‘‘cultural heritage,’’ instead help finish off what remains of old Beijing?

Many streets and hundreds of courtyard houses have been demolished, but the neighborhood is not yet entirely gone. Scholars, preservationists and residents are trying to save what is left and have generated enough publicity to turn the situation into a political controversy. For now, though, demolition crews are still slowly moving forward.
Mike Meyer, an American who lives in the neighborhood and is writing a book about it, said other international cities, like Vienna, managed to preserve their ancient neighborhoods. He said that Qianmen could also be restored, block by block, but that officials were instead methodically mowing it down.

“They are doing it in stages,” he said. “It’s progressing like a wave cresting.” He said the gradual approach had left many residents elsewhere in the city unaware of the scope of the demolition. Comparing it to New York, he added, “It’s like one morning you woke up and Chelsea was gone.”


NoLandGrab: Maybe they want to get with the Develop Don't Destroy franchise and incorporate "Develop Don't Destroy Beijing" (DDDB).

Posted by lumi at 10:12 PM

Underground Railroad or Parking Lot?

Chris Owens, Dan Goldstein, Joy Chatel

Chris Owens, Bill Batson

Downtown Brooklyn Star:

The attempt by residents of Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn to save their homes from seizure by the city drew a slew of political support this past weekend, but their fate may hinge on a forthcoming report they claim is intended to undermine the block's historical significance.

Last Saturday afternoon, Joy Chatel and Lewis Greenstein, along with FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equility), held a rally/block party to keep attention focused on Duffield Street, where they live at numbers 227 and 223, respectively. The pair claims that along with other houses in the area, their Duffield Street homes were an integral part of the Underground Railroad and should be preserved. The city, however, disagrees, and on January 7, 2004, notices were posted on the doors of Chatel and Greenstein notifying them their homes would be seized under eminent domain. The city wants to build an underground parking lot there to service luxury condos and a hotel proposed for the area as part of an ambitious development and rezoning plan spearheaded by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).


Click here for NoLandGrab's photo essay of the Duffield Street rally

Posted by amy at 9:56 PM

Shiffman speaks out, a summertime must-read

Ron ShiffmanFormer NYC Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman's statement of support for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explains his decision to serve on the group's Advisory Board.

Shiffman's concerns run the gamut:


If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of the suburbs of Paris.

An arena at Atlantic & Flatbush

Some viable sites already existed for an arena, the most obvious being Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall, a failed design with a limited life expectancy that constitutes a major blighting on the border of Fort Greene, near the proposed Atlantic Yards site.

Public property and private developers

A private developer shouldn’t be allowed to drive the disposition of publicly owned or controlled land without a participatory planning process setting the conditions for the disposition of that land.

Eminent domain and blight

Sadly, FCR is responsible for the “developer’s blight” that now plagues the area. The only pre-existing blighting influence was the Atlantic Center mall.

We thought that we'd link it directly since, though it was relegated to the end of today's DDDB press release, it is getting some notice today in the Blogosphere:

Gotham Gazette, "The Wonkster," Former City Planning Commissioner Weighs in on Atlantic Yards
Daily Gotham (Mole333), Former City Planning Commissioner Speaks Against Ratner

Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

Big Turnout For AY Housing Forum

Marriot.jpg Brownstoner hosted a little discussion in the comments section of today's post covering the local news of Ratner's affordable housing informational meeting.

Here's a smattering of the remarks:

You mean families making $99,261 - $113,440 a year need subsidies? So they can rent an apt for $2658 a month? I guess that makes me an unsubsidised pauper, in comparison. — CrownHeightsProud

So, I wonder, how will Acorn and the Rev. Daugherty spin their support of subsidized housing for people making 99,00 + (450 apts.) as opposed to low income people (21,000, 225 apts)? Seems to me me if you make that kind of money and you are willing to fork over 2658$ a month rent, you damn well don't need subsidies. — BX2Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: Critics of the project have been trying for more than a year to explain to anyone who will listen that the affordable housing program negotiated by ACORN with Bruce Ratner is in reality a housing subsidy plan for the middle and upper-middle classes, with a few crumbs for those who really need it.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 PM

The Atlantic Yards Digest

Manhattan User's Guide

Here's the Ratner plan, complete with the pros and the cons, all in a convenient digest for those who live in Brooklyn, or are just visiting.


Nothing like your run-of-the-mill grassroots web site, Manhattan User's Guide's digest looks more like "Atlantic Yards for Design-Conscious Dummies."


Posted by lumi at 11:29 AM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Continues Momentum Announcing Eight New Advisory Board Members:

Former NY City Planning Commissioner and Urban Planner Ron Shiffman Joined by Lynn Nottage, Rick Moody, Toshi Reagon, Philip Gourevitch, Myla Goldberg, Michael Showalter and Chris Doyle

BROOKLYN, NY – Today Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) announces eight new additional members of its Advisory Board, first formed in May, increasing the board to 41 members.

Former New York City Planning Commissioner and Pratt Institute Professor of Planning Ron Shiffman is joined by 7 other Brooklynites: author Rick Moody, playwright Lynn Nottage, Brooklyn singer Toshi Reagon, author Myla Goldberg, author and editor Philip Gourevitch, artist and architect Chris Doyle, and comedian and actor Michael Showalter as the newest members of the DDDB Advisory Board.

DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "Our Advisory Board continues to grow with prominent Brooklynites from diverse fields and areas of expertise. The addition of Ron Shiffman–an internationally respected urban planner–humbles us and shows that the Forest City Ratner proposal cannot stand up to scrutiny on the planning level, as well as so many others; and what was once considered a 'done deal' appears to be coming undone and dying. These new members have joined our Advisory Board to continue its work as doers, donors and door-openers."

"Until this month, I have chosen not to speak out publicly concerning Forest City Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project. After participating in a planning charette sponsored by City Council Member Letitia James in 2004 shortly after the proposal was first announced and after circulating some ideas about the developer’s proposal, I decided not to speak out on the issue in part because I believed that the inclusionary housing component was an important victory and believing that a more rational plan would eventually emerge.

However, that alternative has not emerged. Forest City Ratner (FCR) and, by extension, the City and State of New York, continue to follow a process that is fundamentally flawed in pursuit of a plan that, if implemented, would scar the borough for decades to come…"
— Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA — Urban Planner, Former City Planning Commissioner
Click to continue reading Ron Shiffman’s statement (or read it at the end of this release.)

"As a lifetime resident of Boerum Hill, I’ve watched the historic brownstone neighborhood move through several stages of evolution and blossom into a rich diverse community. I now seriously fear that Ratner’s colossal and ill-conceived "Atlantic Yards” project will destroy the integrity of our brownstone neighborhoods by comprising the environment with traffic and pollution created by such a large-scale development. Our tree-lined streets have long been the refuge of people seeking the light and tranquility of Brooklyn, and Ratner’s project threatens to jeopardize everything that we hold near and dear.

Why should our tax dollars be used to subsidize an unnecessary sports arena, when we so desperately need more middle schools, high schools and public services to accommodate our expanding population? Yes, develop the rail yard, but develop it in a way that establishes a dialogue with the surrounding communities and is truly sensitive to the needs of its residents."
— Lynn Nottage, Playwright

"From an urban design perspective, 'Atlantic Yards' is quite a magic act. In this case, the magician does something magnificent and showy with the right hand, while the left is under the table getting down to business desperately hoping his audience won’t notice. The project, as it is currently proposed, is all decked out with the intent to dazzle. Fortunately, we who love Brooklyn are not seduced by the shiny objects. As much as the perpetrators of this first-year architecture-school phantasmagoria would like us to embrace the flash, we can’t help noticing that the project is insensitive in every conceivable way. We cannot sit quietly while a private developer razes a neighborhood rich in history to satisfy his urges."
— Chris Doyle, Artist and Architect

"Ratner's grandiose objectives seem destined for disaster. I'm in favor of developing the community but this plan completely contradicts what I and others love so much about this borough."
— Michael Showalter, Comedian and Actor

"The Forest City Ratner development proposal in Prospect Heights is a proposal only a politician could love. It creates bad jobs, if any, destroys neighborhoods, displaces families, demolishes the community-oriented character of Brooklyn, and brings more out-of-town traffic through some of the most dangerous intersections in the city. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn represents an attempt by the communities of Brooklyn to be heard in this process. As such, the organization is crucial to attempts to repel this bloated, greedy, and ill-conceived project."
— Rick Moody, Author

"Jane Jacobs said, 'Design is people.' Forest City Ratner has ignored the latter half of this equation. It is our job to make sure that people are returned to their proper place in determining the fate and shape of their community. Brooklyn deserves no less!"
— Myla Goldberg, Author

The Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board is:

Mr. Pheeroan akLaff – Musician
Ms. Jo Andres – Artist
Mr. Marshall Brown – Professor of Architecture
Mr. Steve Buscemi – Actor, Filmmaker
Reverend Dennis Dillon – Chief Executive Minister, The Brooklyn Christian Center
Mr. Chris Doyle – Artist and Architect
Reverend David Dyson – Pastor, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
Ms. Jennifer Egan – Author and Journalist
Mr. Sean Elder – Professor and Journalist
Mr. Jonathan Safran Foer – Author
Ms. Marian Fontana – Author and Activist
Dr. Mindy Fullilove – Author and Professor
Mr. Peter Galassi – Museum Curator
Mr. Nelson George – Writer, Filmmaker and Cultural Critic
Ms. Myla Goldberg – Author
Ms. Christabel Gough – Preservationist
Mr Philip Gourevitch – Author and Editor
Ms. Sheri Holman – Author
Ms. Susette Kelo – Homeowner, Lead Plaintiff in Kelo v. City of New London
Ms. Nicole Krauss – Author
Mr. Clem Labine – Entrepreneur and Preservationist
Ms. Jhumpa Lahiri – Author
Mr. Bob Law – Entrepreneur and Community Activist
Mr. Heath Ledger – Actor
Mr. Jonathan Lethem – Author
Mr. Francis Morrone – Author and Literary Historian
Mr. Rick Moody – Author
Ms. Peggy Northrop – Editor, More Magazine
Ms. Lynn Nottage – Playwright
Ms. Evelyn Ortner – Preservationist
The Honorable Major Owens – United States Congressman
Ms. Rosie Perez – Actor
Ms. Toshi Reagon – Brooklyn Singer
Mr.Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA – Urban Planner
Mr. Michael Showalter – Comedian, Actor
Mr. Robert Sullivan – Author
Ms. Michelle Williams – Actor
Ms. Martha Wilson – Artist and Founding Director, Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.
Mr. Dan Zanes – Musician
Mr. David Zirin – Sports Commentator

DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "Ratner's ‘Atlantic Yards' proposal is the largest single-source development proposal in the history of New York City. Such a massive scheme, with its multitude of controversies, enormous public cost, potential impacts and ramifications, deserves much greater scrutiny from our elected representatives, from the press, and from the public. The astounding diversity and prominence of the members of our Advisory Board is conclusive evidence of the deeply important issues at stake and of the strength and breadth of the opposition to Ratner's undemocratic, destructive and costly plan. Mr. Ratner and his political supporters wish to marginalize us and the community, but with the formation and growth of our Board it is clear that the opposition is bigger and stronger than ever, and that Ratner’s plan is floundering."

"Our DDDB Advisory Board members were recruited because they predominantly hail from or reside now in Brooklyn. Like us, they respect and appreciate Brooklyn's special character, and have chosen to join with us and the community so that our collective voices resonate even more clearly in the cacophony," said DDDB President Eric Reschke.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and 30 co-sponsors will hold a rally against Ratner’s Skyscraper City this Sunday, July 16 at 2pm at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Performers will include Dan Zanes, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, and Beatboxer Entertainment. Speakers will include Councilmembers Letitia James and Charles Barron, Actor Steve Buscemi, Activist Bob Law and candidates from political races including the 11th Congressional District and the 57th Assembly District.
More information here: http://www.dddb.net/php/latestnews_Linked.php?id=108

Atlantic Yards: Staving Off a Scar for Decades
By Ron Shiffman

Until this month, I have chosen not to speak out publicly concerning Forest City Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project. After participating in a planning charette sponsored by City Council Member Letitia James in 2004 shortly after the proposal was first announced and after circulating some ideas about the developer’s proposal, I decided not to speak out on the issue in part because I believed that the inclusionary housing component was an important victory and believing that a more rational plan would eventually emerge.

However, that alternative has not emerged. Forest City Ratner (FCR) and, by extension, the City and State of New York, continue to follow a process that is fundamentally flawed in pursuit of a plan that, if implemented, would scar the borough for decades to come.

Like many of my Brooklyn neighbors, I did welcome the idea of Brooklyn once again being the home of a major sports franchise. Some viable sites already existed for an arena, the most obvious being Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall, a failed design with a limited life expectancy that constitutes a major blighting on the border of Fort Greene, near the proposed Atlantic Yards site.

The mall site would not require the use of eminent domain and would allow for the phased redevelopment of the surrounding area. It would necessitate the reconstruction of the Atlantic Avenue Subway Station, including the development of a concourse to accommodate larger numbers of people, the development of an enhanced transit strategy focused on regulating auto access, maximizing pedestrian access, and emphasizing public mass transit access within Brooklyn, as well as between Brooklyn, Long Island, New Jersey and other parts of the city.

I agree that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard—a portion of the proposed project footprint-- provides the opportunity to weave together the low-rise communities of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. While this area along the Atlantic Avenue corridor could accommodate higher densities, density is a relative term. The density proposed by Forest City Ratner far exceeds the carrying capacity of the area’s physical, social, cultural, and educational infrastructure. The Atlantic Yards density is extreme and the heights of the proposed buildings totally unacceptable.

If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of suburbs of Paris. There, the oversized designs gained applause from the architectural elite before residents found them inhumane. I fear Forest City Ratner’s proposal will become the Brooklyn equivalent of Pruitt-Igoe, the notorious St. Louis public housing towers that have since been demolished. Quite frankly I do not believe that any of the decision makers from the Borough President to the Governor have a grasp on how overwhelming and out-of-scale this development is.

When the project was announced in December 2003 with endorsements from the mayor and borough president, that signaled a planning process that is both fundamentally wrong and establishes a dangerous precedent. A private developer shouldn’t be allowed to drive the disposition of publicly owned or controlled land without a participatory planning process setting the conditions for the disposition of that land.

This flawed process is compounded by the proposed misuse of the powers of eminent domain. To use "blight” as the basis for eminent domain is ironic when every indicator is that this area of Brooklyn would have seen a regeneration along the lines of Soho and TriBeCa had the Forest City Ratner plan not stemmed the revitalization process already under way. There have been four recent conversions of manufacturing facilities to housing, and, Forest City Ratner bought one site—mainly a former bakery—for $40 million, from a developer who wanted to turn it into a hotel. Any plan, thanks to a zoning revision, could have accelerated this step-by-step revitalization of the area that was already underway.

Sadly, FCR is responsible for the "developer’s blight” that now plagues the area. The only pre-existing blighting influence was the Atlantic Center mall. Everything else was subject to step-by-step private investment that would have facilitated the revitalization of the area, albeit with some displacement of manufacturing and the absence of affordable housing. While courts usually do uphold the "blight” argument, bad law does not mean good planning.

I applaud ACORN’s effort to make sure the developer includes a large percentage of affordable housing—originally 50 percent but no longer—in this development. Such inclusionary housing should become the standard for all significant housing developments in the city that use public land and public funds, and ACORN now calls for 30 percent in new projects. But I believe that those units should be located in viable, livable, and enriching environments and not crammed into out-of scale developments that do not provide adequate open space, community, and/or educational facilities.

If the basis for eminent domain is economic development, I find it hard to see how it could meet any of the criteria of the Supreme Court’s controversial 2005 Kelo decision. The Supreme Court majority approved the use of eminent domain in New London, Connecticut, in part because the plan had emanated from a defined planning process. In Brooklyn, there’s been no planning, and the sole developer and beneficiary is Forest City Ratner–signs of a sweetheart deal.

I had hoped that, in the past two-and-a-half years, the city, the developer, or the civic community would propose a viable alternative to the "Atlantic Yards" plan. The Municipal Art Society’s plan falls short because it avoids discussing the process issues and attempts to apply a design solution to a fundamentally flawed and ill-conceived plan. In the absence of a democratically accountable process and without any rational and acceptable alternative on the horizon, I believe that the FCR plan must be defeated and the process of revitalizing the rail yards completely rethought. I have chosen to support the efforts of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s and have joined the group’s advisory board.

Ron Shiffman is a professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute, director emeritus of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, and from 1990-96 a commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission.

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

After “Race” Battle, Dan Goldstein Charges On

The NY Observer

Luckily for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey, today's Matthew Schuerman article about the growing Atlantic Yards opposition — described as a "sophisticated machine that is simultaneously fighting legal, political and public relations battles" — ran only in the online edition of The Observer.

NoLandGrab: In the article, Stuckey takes a pathetic swipe at NoLandGrab in the following comment:

Mr. Stuckey added that one of the opposition blogs, No Land Grab, evidenced "a lack of transparency" because it reproduced an ad for the forum without giving the time and place. (The blog did show a phone number and an e-mail address to reserve a spot, however.)

Wow, that's Stuckey's best pitch? As noted in yesterday's correction, NLG's "lack of transparency" was an oversight, as evidenced by the fact that the date and RSVP information were provided and all of the meeting details were posted on the NLG Events page.

However, we're willing forgive to Stuckey's snark, since it opens the door to talk about another one of his points.

In today's Observer article Stuckey says:

"What I think is amazing is that without us doing any work at all, we have received over 4,000 RSVP's," he said the day before the [affordable housing] information session. "That is not us working the crowd and putting up posters on lamp posts. That's a couple of newspaper ads and an e-mail sent around to people."

From today's Daily News reports on the affordable housing session:

Ratner sent out flyers about Atlantic Yards to 600,000 Brooklyn residents in May and nearly 20,000 people responded.

Add that to Schuerman's observation that the ads were "in major city dailies" and that "those e-mails... went out to about 20,000 people who had responded positively to a full-color brochure sent to 'several hundred thousand households' in the borough."

Stuckey would have us believe that "ads in major city dailies" and a 12-page four-color bi-fold direct mailer to 600,000 households in Brooklyn isn't "any work at all" — at a cost of well over a million dollars, it is certainly a lot of money.

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

AY affordable housing session coverage

Yesterday's Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Informational Session drew headlines from all the local dailies. Here's the coverage:

NY Daily News, B'klyn Yards pitch finds few bargains
The News is the first paper to report an actual number for those bizarre 12-page brochures:

Ratner sent out flyers about Atlantic Yards to 600,000 Brooklyn residents in May and nearly 20,000 people responded.

NoLandGrab: That means Ratner has spent over a million dollars on the direct mail campaign strategy.

The article highlights the reaction to the fact that "the 2,250 subsidized units won't be available for years - and there's a lottery to see who gets a place."

Not much here — a mere two-paragraph brief on the session.

NY Sun, Queue Forms For Housing In Brooklyn
The session made the front page of the conservative NY Sun. The article notes, " The presentation is timed to coincide with the state’s pending release of the draft environmental impact statement, which would commence a public comment period."

This tag line for the Forest City Ratner affordable housing marketing campaign emerged last night:

“If an elevator works for the rich folks, it is going to work for the poor folks,” Mr. Stuckey of Forest City Ratner said. “Everyone has equal views.”

The NY Times, Promises of Atlantic Yards Draw Thousands to Meeting

All of the articles (including the Post's) provided details on the different tiers (or "bands") of the affordable housing. The Times went as far as to provide this bit of analysis based upon the reaction of the attendees:

In the lowest income tier, a family of four making $21,270 to $28,360 a year would pay $620 a month in rent; in the highest, a family making $99,261 to $113,440 would pay $2,658 a month. About 225 units are set aside for families of all sizes in the lowest income tier, and 450 for families of all sizes in the highest tier.

Vilia Salas, 44, a bookkeeper, said she supported the project. Her only concern, she said, is that not enough units will go to “people who are really entitled to them.”

Some attendees of last night’s event, while expressing enthusiasm for the project’s hope of new housing in a borough that needs it, wondered whether the moderately priced housing was priced quite moderately enough.

So far, the only report in the blogosphere comes from Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report: Stuckey, Lewis face restive, skeptical crowd at AY housing session
Again the affordable housing campaign tag line was repeated, this time by Bertha Lewis:

“If the elevator works for them, the elevator’s gotta work for you."

Oder deems the tag line "a worthy point," since "many other affordable housing programs are relegated to separate buildings or other neighborhoods."

Oder's report provides the charts with the different income "bands," and points out that the income levels have increased since the program was first announced.

Stuckey explained how this program actually is an improvement over many current affordable housing programs. About half of the affordable units will be two- and three-bedroom units, thus accommodating families. “We’re talking about teachers, bus drivers, cops, civil servants,” he said.

A sticking point for many in attendance was the need for affordable housing for middle-income, which opened the door for Oder to point out that the middle-income affordable housing program is pretty much the same as market-rate housing:

Lewis cited the importance of affordable housing for the middle-class. She had a point, but some in the crowd didn't welcome it. Then again, Lewis pushed the envelope, claiming of the middle-class, “These people they’re paying a minimum of $2500 up to $4000.” Not so. A quick web search shows a good number of two-bedroom apartments in neighborhoods reasonably close to the project site—admittedly, not new Frank Gehry buildings—for under $2500.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Kings County Democratic Party, Developers and Corruption

Daily Gotham

Mole333 compares the Atlantic Yards backroom dealmaking to the bribery charges filed against NY State Assemblymember Diane Gordon:

But notice that behind the deal was a deal to smooth the path for a developer to get some property outside of normal channels. Here Gordon is doing nothing different than the same old backroom deals that Pataki, Markowitz and Bloomberg do all the time with developers. I don't think Pataki, et. al. are doing it for bribes the way Gordon is, but the cronyism behind Pataki law school pal Ratner getting special consideration on all levels of his development plans isn't really any less disgusting than Gordon's blatant corruption.


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

The News Interview: Eliot Spitzer

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Democratic candidate for governor, spoke with the Daily News Editorial Board on his priorities.

Q: Do you support the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, which includes a new basketball stadium for the Nets?

A: I'm for it. I'm not crazy about government subsidies, obviously, but this is a project where there's a hole in the ground. I see an enormous upside in terms of the stadium, the housing, the jobs.


NoLandGrab: Add 12 acres of Prospect Heights to that "hole in the ground."

Spitzer is using promises of "housing and jobs" as political cover for a position that runs contrary to his whining over transparency and fiscal responsibility for Public Authorities like the MTA and Empire State Development Corporation.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Yonkers council gives Ridge Hill zoning OK for 2nd time

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

Forest City Ratner clears another hurdle for the controversial Ridge Hill project in Yonkers:

"The City Council last night again approved a critical zoning change for Ridge Hill Village, one of several approvals redone after a council vote seven months ago was struck down by a court ruling."


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

July 11, 2006

Stuckey hair and will Ratner show

An Atlantic Yards Get-Together (But Will Ratner Show?)
The Real Estate Observer

Stuckey-REO.jpgAccording to reporter Max Abelson, this is the big question about tonight's affordable housing informational meeting:

"Is this get-together not huge enough to demand the presence of Mr. Bruce Ratner himself?"

Ratner spokesperson, Lupe Todd assures us, "Oh no, it's huge."

How huge is huge? REO cites "a source" who says "5,100 have already expressed interest."

Not to be outsnarked by other real estate blogs, the caption to Jim Stuckey's photo is just about the nicest thing that anyone has said in print about the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President.


Posted by lumi at 3:43 PM

PRESS RELEASE: Democratic Candidates Forum, 11th Congressional & 57th Assembly Districts


WHAT: Democratic Candidates Forum
11th Congressional & 57th Assembly Districts

Thursday July 20
7:00-9:00 pm Doors open at 6:45 pm

Duryea Presbyterian Church
Sterling Place & Underhill Avenue, Brooklyn

WHO: Hosted by Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council

Candidates for Congress: Carl Andrews, Yvette Clarke, Chris Owens, David Yassky

Candidates for Assembly:
Bill Batson, Freddie Hamilton, Hakeem Jeffries

Prospect Heights Candidates Forum

Prospect Heights is the home of two of the most important and hotly contested races for the Democratic Party primary on September 12. The Congressional race has attracted national attention , but this will be the only opportunity for the residents of Prospect Heights to address all the candidates up close and to question them about the issues important to their community.

All three Assembly candidates and all four Congressional candidates are scheduled to participate.

The member organizations of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) include: The Carlton Avenue Association, The Prospect Heights Association, The Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block Association, The Prospect Place Block Association, The Prospect Heights Parents Association, The Eastern Parkway Cultural Row Neighborhood Association, The Dean Street Block Association, The Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants District.

For more information, please contact: Raul Rothblatt
PHNDC Treasurer

Posted by lumi at 3:34 PM

NLG "my bad" on affordable housing meeting graphic

Lumi's taste of crow:

I got a call yesterday from NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman, who was doing some fact checking for a coming article.

In an interview with Schuerman, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey cited NoLandGrab's post on tonight's FCRC "Affordable Housing Information Session" as evidence that the Atlantic Yards opposition is guilty of "lack of transparency," a charge frequently leveled against the developer.

First of all, it was totally MY BAD.

I was planning on using excerpts of the ad, since the graphic was too big for the NLG format (the FCR designers are big on white space). However, while I was working on cutting and pasting, I had second thoughts and figured that the pubic interest would be better served if I posted the entire ad. Unfortunately, I accidentally output the image with the headline repeated, obscuring the meeting info.

This is what was posted (click images to enlarge)...

and this is what should have been posted.

Personally, I'm embarassed that the meeting info was left out. However, the RSVP info and web site (www.atlanticyards.com) still appeared in the image and we listed the event (free of charge) on our Events page, so it's doubtful that it appreciably affected the response rate.

You might be thinking that Stuckey's example of "lack of transparency" is small potatoes next to the fact: * that there will be no legislative oversight of the billion-dollars-plus of subsidies, * that Forest City Ratner still hasn't released its profit projections for the project, so no one knows how much Ratner stands to gain from the taxpayer's investment, or * many of those who sold to Ratner are contractually prohibited from speaking out against the project or the developer.

But a mistake is a mistake, and it deserves to be corrected. It's also shoddy work, even for a bunch of amateurs.

We would have sent out a press release to broadcast my error, but since most of the reporters occasionally check in with NoLandGrab anyway, it would've been redundant.

[See below for another NLG-eats-crow post. Bleechh! For the record, crow does not taste like chicken.]

Posted by lumi at 12:14 PM

Here's what's up with "what's up Chuck"

Two mea culpas in one day has gotta be some kind of blogger record.

The "Chuck" that a Yonkers activist forwarded to NoLandGrab, which we posted earlier in the day, wasn't any sort of Ratner-kin. It was Chuck Lesnick, Yonker's City Council President (though, eerily, he could crash a Ratner family reunion).

So you may be wondering, does Brooklyn care?

Sure, Brooklyn cares if Yonkers gets a fair shake while the city considers the effects of Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill proposal. But, to set the facts straight, Chuck Lesnick will not have a vote on the Atlantic Yards project... then again, neither will our own City Council.

Posted by lumi at 12:04 PM

"A Walk Around the Footprint" and one holdout no more

home.jpgAtlantic Yards Report on the screening of A Walk Around the Footprint, the situation for the residents who remain in the footprint, and why Ratner can't build without clearing out Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein:

There's a poignant aspect to the 18-minute film, A Walk Around the Footprint, a snapshot of people and places in the shadow of eminent domain and Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. When the film was shot six months ago, Vince Bruns was a holdout, one of the last loft residents in the handsomely-renovated former Spalding factory at 6th Avenue and Pacific Street. "I love the space. I'd be perfectly happy to die here," Bruns told filmmaker George Lerner, whose film was shown Friday night at the Park Slope Food Coop.

But Bruns had to be experiencing some pressure. A 6/30/05 New York Times article about the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Kelo eminent domain decision described Bruns as a holdout, noting that a sign in his window proclaimed: "I love my home and my neighborhood. I intend to stay here." But Bruns "acknowledged he might someday be forced to sell."

Indeed, though Bruns remains in his loft , he's agreed to leave by the end of September. He's bought an apartment in nearby Boerum Hill. And he took the sign down three months ago.
So why'd he leave? "I had a big investment in my space," Bruns said later, "and I felt we were getting close enough to condemnation." He added, "I think they treated me fairly. The only unfairness is that they had an unfair weapon, in the way that eminent domain is perverted."


Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Brooklyn Rail Two-fer Tuesday

BR-cover-07-06.jpg Brooklyn Rail editor Ted Hamm sounds off on recent Atlantic Yards/development press and the 11th District Congressional race.

Welcome to Bono’s Borough?

And so the fights will continue in the name of actually existing, livable neighborhoods that can handle sensible, compatible development. The obstacles are many, not least the insults that one may endure from those in power. Senator Schumer will say you belong to the “culture of inertia,” and Ratner’s spokesmen will call you “unpatriotic.” But it may help to remember the words of none other than Mayor Bloomberg, who’s never met a megaproject he didn’t like. Last year, as he explained that while he indeed is a supporter of projects on the scale of Ikea in Red Hook, he added, “But I think if I lived there, I don’t know whether I would be, quite honestly.” Just as honestly, it’s up to those of us who actually live in Brooklyn to shape its destiny: as either a place that caters to rock stars and luxury towers or one that nurtures sustainable communities.

Race Is On for the Future of Central Brooklyn

For central Brooklyn progressives, the choice thus boils down to an heir not just to a congressman father who is retiring, but to the traditions of local community activism and the Congressional Black Caucus; or to the protégé� of the New Democrat Chuck Schumer, a friend of large developers and half-hearted foe of the war in Iraq. Only time will tell which tradition will represent the future of central Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

MySpace: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Now you can hook up with Brooklyn's own motley crew of local activists on MySpace.com: http://www.myspace.com/developdontdestroybkln

Who I'd like to meet: Like-minded Brooklynites who care about the future of their neighborhood.

At the time of this post, that's 108 friends and counting.

Not to be outdone by Miss Brooklyn ("bleeechh"), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is a 30-year old single female — Sign: Cancer.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

What's up with Chuck?

ChuckSaid.jpgYonkers Tribune

A local activist in Yonkers with video editing software took Bruce Ratner's cousin Chuck Ratner at his word and produced a 40-second spot on sensible development.

What's that you said Chuck?

'I say it's not the province of the developer to say "You capitulate or we'll walk;" it should be the City that says, "you do what we want or you walk."'

Developer's say the darndest things.

An alert reader points out,

Maybe there is more than one Chuck Ratner and Bruce has a second or third cousin also named Chuck, but if this guy believes that he has filmed Chuck, Bruce’s cousin, the FCE CEO from Cleveland, he is totally incorrect. This isn’t that Chuck.

Now we're wondering, just which "Chuck" is up?

Correction posted here.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Batson for Brooklyn


Today (Tuesday, July 11) at midnight is the filing deadline for candidates. Included in the filing is the amount of money raised for a campaign. Mainstream media spends a lot of time comparing candidates by the amount of money they have raised. Raising large amounts of money should make someone look like a putz since it generally means they are beholden to whomever gave them the dough (like developers?) But raising a lot of cash through small donations (aka from the community) holds its own prestige.

Bill Batson is the best chance in the Brooklyn political fray to get the Atlantic Yards proposal stopped. Read why you should show Bill some love here.

Posted by amy at 12:14 AM

July 10, 2006

Independent Oversight of Atlantic Yds. Project

Courier-Life publications covers the $260K provided by local politicians for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods' review of the Ratner Environmental Impact Statement:

A coalition of community groups will receive $260,000 in government subsidies to hire independent engineers to look at the Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) plan for the Atlantic Yards.

Half of the money will come from an allocation through City Councilmember Letitia James’ office and the other half will come from state allocations through Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Joan Millman’s offices, according to James.

“We are very happy and grateful that the City Council and the State Legislature have stepped up,” said Council Of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) spokesperson Jim Vogel. “If the community is not involved, you don’t have an environmental review.” article

NoLandGrab: Math-reality check - let's just move that decimal a couple places to the left. The Courier-Life writes "the money committed... toward the project represents a little more than 10 percent of the $200 million the city and state gave to FCRC for infrastructure costs." NoLandGrab's calculator places that percentage at 0.13%, to be exact.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Pols earmark $260K for community analysis of Ratner Environmental Impact Statement

From Mole333 at Daily Gotham:

According to the July 10th Park Slope Courier, three Brooklyn Politicians have secured $260,000 to hire independent engineers to assess Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project. Those three politicians, Councilwoman Letitia James and Assemblymembers Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, have helped secure the money for a coalition of community groups which include Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Assn, Fort Greene Association and several others.

Community Average Folk 101 stumbles into all sorts of contradictions in a boneheaded attempt to "follow the money:"

The 35th Council District has money for CBN. Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods gets $130,000.00 and more to come from other local politicians. No money for community programs, but over a hundred thousand dollars for CBN groups. Follow the money from the budget and get the bigger picture. Money for the special groups ONLY in the 35th. Hiding behind CBN and including all of those others (check and see what groups are included). Who is buying who?

NoLandGrab: Yo dude! The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) is staffed with unpaid VOLUNTEERS from the COMMUNITY, which is more than we can say for these groups stumping for Ratner: BUILD, ACORN, Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium, and Sharpton's National Action Network.

The money for CBN will be used to hire an expert to analyze Ratner's Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of the COMMUNITY. Believe it or not, $260K will still leave the group well short of the funds needed to do a comprehensive study of the EIS.

And, to even mention the $260,000 going to experts to advise the community gives leave to cite the $200,000,000 (three more zeros than 260K) of direct cash subsidy already approved by NY City and NY State and the $3,000,000 (one more zeros than 260K) that City Councilmember David Yassky tried to secure for BUILD. The City-State $200-million could go a long way toward under-funded schools, housing, jobs programs, public transportation, etc.

NoLandGrab is committed to presenting all visible points of view, but if Community Average Folk 101 continues to stop making sense, we'll have no choice but to give up on the blog to focus on more rational pro-Ratner voices.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

AY affordable housing session: why now? (It could take six years, for 280 units)

Atlantic Yards Report

AY-AffordHousing.gifNorman Oder hasn't received his RSVP confirmation yet for the Ratner/ACORN information session, but that doesn't keep him from analyzing the situation:

"Learn more about affordable housing at Atlantic Yards," reads the announcement for the Forest City Ratner/ACORN information session scheduled for Tuesday.

Given that the project hasn't been approved, and the first units wouldn't be built til 2009--and possibly much later--this session seems to be another Forest City Ratner public relations move, furthering the notion that Atlantic Yards is a done deal.

I have some questions, but, despite my swift RSVP, haven't gotten a confirmation that I'll be allowed in. I'm not optimistic. Given the prescreened nature of the meeting, Robert Guskind at the Gowanus Lounge calls it "the Norman Oder Verboten/Nicht No Land Grab/Nein Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Clause."


Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

Eminent Domania: Kelo effect and local conundrums

The NY Times, Homeowners Settle, but Their Fighting Spirit Lives On

After the remaining Ft. Trumbull homeowners settled with the City of New London, Peter Cristafaro weighs the effect of their fight, which went all the way to the US Supreme Court:

"We lost the battle," he said, "but we're winning the war."

USA Today, Editorial, One year later, power to seize property ripe for abuse
In the year since the Kelo decision shocked the nation and made developers very happy, the Institute for Justice continues to study the effect the decision had on the rate of eminent domain condemnations and legislative reform:

Emboldened by the ruling, local governments have threatened or condemned 5,783 properties for private projects in the past year, according to the Institute for Justice, the libertarian law firm that defended Kelo. That's up from an annual average of 2,056 such threats and takings from 1998 to 2002, the Institute said.

Of 117 projects the Institute studied over the past year, most involved taking lower-income homes, apartments and mobile home parks to construct upscale condominiums or retail development, driving the working poor from their homes.

But the Kelo case also has inspired a political backlash unusual in the annals of Supreme Court rulings. It has united conservative defenders of property rights and liberals who say the seizures amount to corporate welfare at the expense of the powerless.

USA Today, Op-ed, Vital tool of last resort
In an opposing viewpoint, Donald J. Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, defends eminent domain as a "vital tool" for clearing blighted neighborhoods, though he sidesteps the frequent abuse of the definition of "blight":

Without eminent domain to clear title on abandoned and vacant properties — the primary use of eminent domain in this country — rundown buildings and empty lots would attract trash, rodents and trouble. Blighted structures would sit abandoned. If owners didn't want to sell or were holding out for more money, the cities and their taxpayers could do nothing to get rid of them.

The Baltimore Sun, Eminently Troubling
Many property owners who toughed it out during harder times are being told by the Baltimore Development Corporation that they must leave to make way for urban renewal, placing "some business owners in a debilitating limbo."

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Court clears way for Clifton house razing
This situation in Cincinnati would make a good joke if it were funny:

A state appeals court cleared the way for the city of Cincinnati to demolish two Clifton houses it took by eminent domain for a road project, ruling that the property owners can't appeal until after a jury trial to determine the properties' value.
The Ohio First District Court of Appeals based the decision on a strict interpretation of eminent domain law: Until there's been a jury trial to determine the property's value, there's nothing to appeal. But the law also allows the city to take possession after depositing with the court the estimated value of the property - so there could be nothing left to win back if they ever won on appeal.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Hudson Yards back in play

NewYorkGames.org links the local coverage of Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer's pronouncement that NYC's offer for the Hudson Yards is "grossy under market value" and concludes:

As predicted, they're trying to end-run the next governor, and he knows it.

It'll be interesting to see what guarantees West Side electeds have that the administration will propose a community-friendly plan. With the city planning a subway stop at this site, the proposed density is likely to be significant (arguably, appropriately so). It would be much cheaper to zone it to control development.

NoLandGrab: The call for "community-friendly" development grows louder as politicians and developers are seen as not having the community's best interests in mind.

OnNYTurf examines Assemblymember Richard Brodsky's stance on NYC's offer to puchase the development rights over the Hudson Railyards and wonders if Brodsky feels the same about Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

Dan Goldstein explains that the Public Authorities Reform Bill also applies to Atlantic Yards:

"The Public Authorities Reform Bill also raises serious questions about the legality of the below market sale of the Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Forest City Ratner–legal questions which are litigable. The FCR/MTA agreement for the yards has not closed and will not unless Ratner's proposal is approved. The Reform Bill applies to all land deals that haven't closed."

Today's NY Sun editorial outlines a market driven approach for development over the Hudson Railyards.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

July 9, 2006

Carl Andrews, Yvette Clark, Chris Owens, David Yassky

JAY DeDAPPER interviews the candidates for the 11th congressional district on WNYC. Here is what they had to say about local development:

Mr. YASSKY: OK. The--I think the real question is you can't take development in isolation.

Ms. CLARK: That's right.

Mr. OWENS: You can't say, `This is a project,' boom, you plop it down and you say, `This is magic, and we do X number of units of affordable housing.' You have to look at what's happening as the result of what you do. So, for example, there are many people who live in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area who--for whom David takes a lot of credit, and they are not happy with what's happening because there are ripple effects, and those ripple effects are not necessarily positive. In fact, the local congresswoman was not happy with that project, as well as Norman Siegel and others.


Posted by amy at 1:13 PM

Atlantic Yards: A Groundbreaking Venture


If you're wondering why this opinion piece in the New York Amsterdam News is filled with praise and hyperbole such as "The Atlantic Yards project will do nothing but empower the community and its citizens" just check the byline. Bill Howell is the chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory and Oversight Committee.

Who is the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory and Oversight Committee? From the Community Benefits Agreement:

"The Downtown Brooklyn Advisory and Oversight Committee (“DBAOC”) shall be the community liaison for the Arena and the Project and shall provide periodic status reports to the Community on compliance by the Developers and the Executive Committee with this Agreement."

One of Mr. Howell's former "status reports" included this observation:

"When Metro Tech was proposed, there were critics who said that Forest City would not provide jobs to the community," said Howell, president of Howell Industries, a minority-owned business in Red Hook. "They were wrong, and the evidence is clear. Just check the certified payrolls and the addresses of the workers at the job site and they will show that jobs actually went to the community," he told the council's Economic Development Committee.

Matthew Schuerman's report in City Limits, "THE RETURN OF METROTECH How to ensure the sequels to Brooklyn's back-office complex will share prosperity with the neighborhoods next door" seemed to come to an entirely different conclusion:

The new housing commitment got a lot of press the next day, but neither Golden nor anybody else did much to address another big concern that opponents raised: whether any of MetroTech's jobs would go to people who lived nearby, especially those in the Fort Greene public housing complexes on the other side of Flatbush Avenue.

Seventeen years later, while the buildings are still enjoying a property-tax holiday, no one knows how many low-income residents of adjoining neighborhoods are working at the complex. But business leaders and community activists agree that the number is very low.

Perhaps next time the New York Amsterdam News should fully disclose its authors' relationships to the objects of their praise.

Posted by amy at 12:44 PM

ESDC defends against appeal, says environmental review addresses AY's “merits”

Atlantic Yards Report explains why the environmental review process under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is not enough ammo for opponents of the project, as the ESDC has suggested:

Absent from the SEQRA review is any discussion of some of those larger questions . For example, was it proper for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to wait to issue an RFP for the railyards—the proposed project’s largest segment—until 18 months after city and state officials embraced the project? (The discussion of the need to bid on the West Side railyards offers a contrast.)

Also, though the EIS will contain a description of the project’s potential economic and fiscal benefits, how useful is that description if the costs of the project are not fully disclosed?

Or, perhaps most fitting, why did local officials agree to let a state agency evaluate the project? That means that no Brooklyn elected officials have a chance to weigh in, a point made even by more moderate observers like Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society.


Posted by amy at 12:37 PM

July 8, 2006

TODAY: RALLY & MARCH To Save Brooklyn's Legacy of the Underground Railroad Safe Houses

12PM - RALLY To Save Brooklyn's Legacy of the Underground Railroad Safe Houses
3PM- MARCH To The Ancestral Burial Grounds across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan

DuffieldSt.jpg227 Duffield Street, Brooklyn
(Btwn. Fulton and Willoughby, OnNYTurf Street/Subway MAP)

Come! Hear our Politicians, Candidates, Historians and Special Guests Speak out for these historical sites on Duffield Street.

Come hear some of the most prestigious speakers of our time speak on the legacy of the Under-Ground Rail Road. Learn about how our history is being destroyed under the laws of Eminent Domain in New York and throughout these United States of America for corporate dollars. Come find out more about Your History. Be unified for a great cause.

For more info: 347-731-5481, 718-852-2960 x307-303 or email.

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

"I've been to hell, I spell it...I spell it DMV"

From an anonymous source:

I had to unfortunately go to the DMV this afternoon, which I usually do in Manhattan, but decided it might be easier to visit my local branch situated in the hideous hulking mass called the Atlantic Mall. I have only been in this mall once and as I made my way through the labryinth, I was stopped 3 times by teenagers with petitions to bring the Atlantic Yards, & NBA basketball to Brooklyn! When I got to the DMV office, there was another kid in there asking people who were standing in line to sign his petition. Of course all of them only mentioned the basketball. I told the kids I couldn't sign because I'm opposed to the plan, and also advised the three people standing near me who were about to sign not to. From what I could see, very few people were signing. And the ones who did probably just wanted to help out the kids like the way you buy M&Ms when you don't want them.

My next visit to the DMV will be in Manhattan.

Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

W. Side railyards vs. Brooklyn railyards: the double standard

Atlantic Yards Report:

The double standard is staggering. First, city officials Thursday announced they were willing to pay $500 million for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side railyards once promised for the West Side Stadium, and the city would build a platform so the property could then be further prepared for development.

Now Democratic candidate for governor Eliot Spitzer says the bid is too low, and that the process should be more transparent. Except he won't say the same thing about the parallel issue at the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, a key component of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.


Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

Instead Of 'Destroying' Brooklyn, Maybe We Should All See A Nice Free Film

The Real Estate:

The most cinematic (and Brooklyn-centric) 18 minutes of your Friday night will surely be "A Walk Through the Footprint," a short film that's being screened tonight--gratis--at the Park Slope Food Co-op. The film follows "Prospect Heights residents who face eviction due to developer Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Arena [and 16-skyscraper mega-development] proposal."

Will the film be impartial? Maybe not: its "tour guides" are members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. They promise to introduce us to their "funny and poignant, passionate and compelling" neighbors.


Posted by amy at 9:36 AM

Trains, buses and automobiles

Field of Schemes:

In other New York City news, the New Jersey Nets are reportedly considering signing a lease extension through 2012 to remain in the Meadowlands, though it would likely include an escape clause if owner Bruce Ratner's planned Brooklyn arena is ready by then. If nothing else, it's a sign that Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards project isn't moving as fast as the developer would like through the public approvals process; who knew that Jonathan Lethem wielded such immense power?


Posted by amy at 9:34 AM

July 7, 2006

TONIGHT, Film Night: A Walk Through the Footprint

PARK SLOPE FOOD COOP • Friday, July 7, 7PM • 782 Union St.

FilmNight.gif This 18-minute short film profiles several Prospect Heights residents who face eviction due to developer Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Arena project. Ratner’s plan to erect not just an arena, but a 16-skyscraper mega-development complex, would displace some 800 people who live in the vibrant community of Prospect Heights.

The film follows the model of the PBS “Walk Through” series that profiles neighborhoods around New York, but in this film the tour guides are community activists, members of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, who visit several of the residents facing eviction. The characters are funny and poignant, passionate and compelling, as they describe the life of a vital community.

Coop member and filmmaker, George Lerner has made a series of short films on Brooklyn neighborhoods Crown Heights and Red Hook for the travel website TurnHere.com. As a long-time CNN producer, he spearheaded CNN investigative series on Al Qaeda links in Canada, Saddam Hussein's money trail and abuses by U.S. contractors in Iraq. As a reporter for Reuters in the 1990s, he covered global poverty issues, reporting on Latin America’s 1995 economic crisis and Asia’s 1998 financial meltdown.

A discussion with the filmmaker and the film’s subjects will follow.

Posted by lumi at 11:36 AM


CBN Presents Series of Meetings to Help Public Respond to Upcoming DEIS

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS (“CBN”) today announced the first in a series of meetings to prepare the community to respond to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development.

“With the Draft Environmental Impact Statement due to be released at any time, it’s crucial that the community understand how best to read and respond to what will doubtless be a very complex document,” said Jim Vogel, Secretary and Steering Committee member for CBN. “The DEIS addresses many different topics and can sometimes be technical, but with a little guidance the material should be accessible to everyone, no need to be afraid of it.” These meetings have been designed by CBN’s team of contracted engineers, led by Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates, to help the public understand what is in the DEIS and how to express their responses at any public hearings that will happen afterwards.

The first meeting will be held at St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral, Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street, on July 11th at 7 PM.

CBN is working with the Community Boards 2, 6, and 8 to finalize three later meetings within their respective districts. These presentations will take place during the month of July. Dates and times for these presentations will be released shortly.

(Text of flyer after the jump)

Handbook for the Environmental Review

Presented by:
John Shapiro
Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates
Dr. Tom Angotti
Professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College

Tuesday, July 11th
7:00 pm
St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral
401 Atlantic Avenue (at Bond Street)

The "Atlantic Yards" proposal for an arena and 16 high-rise towers for Prospect Heights is the largest single-source development ever proposed for New York City.

Before the project can proceed New York State must conduct a study to determine all impacts of the proposal. The results of the study will be published in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS.)  By law the public has a right to comment on the DEIS at open hearings and these comments must be taken into consideration before the project can be approved. Your participation can make a difference in the development of this historic site.

We are recruiting volunteers to work individually and in small groups.

Your Participation matters!

Please Join us.

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups active in Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8. CBN is comprised of 40 community organizations that have joined together to ensure meaningful community participation in the environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. As a group, CBN has experience in civic advocacy, transportation planning, neighborhood preservation, urban planning, the development of affordable housing, safety and security improvement, quality of life promotion, and business development. CBN’s collective background enables them to represent the concerns of the area communities.

(For more information please contact CBN at 718-408-3219 or via email at cbrooklynneighborhoods(at)hotmail.com.

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

Nets may sign an extension

NY Newsday
By Neil Best

The Nets, whose lease at Continental Airlines Arena is to expire after the 2007-08 season, are discussing an extension through 2011-12 with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a person familiar with the talks said.

A spokesman for the team declined to comment on the status of lease negotiations.

The deal being discussed, which could be announced within the next week or so, would include escape clauses if the Nets' proposed downtown Brooklyn arena is completed before then.


Posted by lumi at 10:54 AM

'Do the Right Thing' Is More Than Her Movie Debut

The NY Times
By Robin Finn

RosiePerez-NYTimes.jpg While Atlantic Yards proponents have been quick to criticize local celebrities who do not support Ratner's proposal, Rosie Perez has been going about her business, giving back to her community and standing up for what she believes:

She is ready to rhapsodize about Working Playground, whose creatively inclined but economically deprived student clientele conjures up memories of growing up the hard way in Williamsburg and Bushwick.

And, as a member, with Oscar figures like Heath Ledger, of the celebrity-enhanced board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, she is more than willing to vent about the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project that is, she frets, threatening to change her eclectic home borough into, horrors, "a mini-Manhattan."


Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

Yassky thinks Miss Brooklyn should be halved (but his web site stays quiet)

Atlantic Yards Report

Did you know that City Council Member (and Congressional candidate) David Yassky wants the taller buildings proposed for the Atlantic Yards project halved in size? That means the planned 620-foot Miss Brooklyn tower could shrink by hundreds of feet, and its bulk would be reduced even more significantly.

That disclosure came when Yassky was queried by The Brooklynite magazine, but Yassky, a chameleon on the Atlantic Yards issue, sure hasn't pressed the issue on his web site.

After the New York Times on Monday described how the Atlantic Yards project is influencing politics in Brooklyn, I decided to take another look at whether the candidates for the open seat in the 11th Congressional District, notably David Yassky, portray the Atlantic Yards issue on their web sites.


Posted by lumi at 9:58 AM

Work sites remain idle

An amNY article about the construction workers' strike mentions the effect on Bruce Ratner's Times Tower project:

Forest City Ratner, the developer of the New York Times building, had to postpone the "topping out" ceremony to celebrate placement of the structure's last steel beam, according to spokeswoman Jane Pook.


Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

City Offers $500 Million for West Side Railyards

Remember how the MTA held a sham bidding process for the Hudson Railyards? Then, just over a year ago, the Public Authorities Control Board nixed the entire deal.

Today, Charles Bagli in The NY Times is reporting that:

The Bloomberg administration and the City Council have offered to pay $500 million for the development rights to 26 acres of railyards on Manhattan's Far West Side, the site of a titanic but unsuccessful battle last year to build the world's most expensive football stadium.


NoLandGrab: Here's proof that the Mayor understands that sports stadiums and arenas are not the only way to spark development. It also shows that it is possible for NY City to go back to the drawing board to develop the Vanderbilt Railyards at Atlantic and Flatbush without undermining the existing fabric of the surrounding communities.

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

Bye bye Brooklynite

A final abbreviated web edition of The Brooklynite is now available on line. Last year, the newcomer created a buzz with the first issue's cover story, "Vanishing Vistas," by Brooklyn architectural historian Francis Morrone. We were so moved by the article, which one NLG reader called "a poignant love letter and call to action," that we begged editor Daniel Treiman to let us post the entire article on NLG.

The swan song issue — entitled, "The End" — contains several short items relating to Atlantic Yards:

The Brooklynite"The Content of David Yassky’s Character"
What's the deal with "Yassky’s curious behavior on the single biggest development issue facing Brooklyn?"

Part of the reason Yassky has been so quiet on Atlantic Yards is that he has tried to play both sides of the issue.

"Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe"
But enough of Yassky — what about the other candidates, their stands on Atlantic Yards, and the issues relevant to serving the 11th District in the House of Representatives?

Here's the skinny on the candidates' positions on Atlantic Yards:

Carl Andrews and Yvette Clarke both have been supportive of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards monstrosity.
Only Chris Owens has been consistently outspoken in opposition to Atlantic Yards.

"High-Rise Hubris"
Brooklynites get lectured by Senator Schumer, The NY Times and Frank Gehry on "progress."

According to the Downtown Brooklyn Star, Senator Charles Schumer derided Brooklynites opposed to development projects, like Atlantic Yards, as part of “the culture of inertia, this small group of self-appointed people.” The New York Times has editorialized that the transformation of Brooklyn’s low-rise skyline into a “thicket of skyscrapers” is “almost inevitable,” and that the Atlantic Yards development is good for Brooklyn, insofar as it “furthers the prospect that it will may yet [sic] emerge from the shadow of its smaller sister, Manhattan.”

Up until now, the closest Gehry has come to building something of this scale is a trio of sad-looking office towers in Dusseldorf. But that hasn’t stopped him from lashing out at Brooklynites who have the audacity to speak out against the gargantuan art project he wants to inflict upon us. “They should’ve been picketing Henry Ford,” Gehry said. “There is progress everywhere.”

"Brooklyn Brew-haha"
Commentary on the boycott of Brooklyn Brewery after Steve Hindy showed little regard for Freddy's Bar and Backroom:

While the boycott at first seemed like overkill, all of a sudden Brooklyn Brewery’s tasty lager became a little harder to swallow.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

The Best of Brooklyn

The Atlantic Yards fight has scored a few spots in the Brooklyn Downtown Star's The Best of Brooklyn.

Best Place to Hear Free Music and Meet a Protester: Freddy's Bar
6th Ave & Dean Street
Prospect Heights

Most Annoying Place to Try and Park a Car: Tie: Park Slope* at Night, DoBro Daytime
* Don't worry, Bruce Ratner says attendees of arena events will take mass transit.

Most Daring and Visible Solo Protest While Reporters and Developers Hobnob At Buffet: Patti Hagan, Across Atlantic Avenue From the 3rd Floor of the Atlantic Mall During Forest City Ratner's Unveiling of New Designs for the Atlantic Yards Project
Prospect Heights

Biggest Power Couple:
Senator Chuck Schumer**
DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall

Park Slope
** Schumer is a big booster of Atlantic Yards, but what do you expect from the senator who "reeled in $1.8 million from the real estate industry during his first term" (see NY Sun, 05/18/06).

Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

July 6, 2006

Forest City Ratner promoting affordable housing

Two months ago, Forest City Ratner sent out a brochure with a reply card to request information on affordable housing.

Yesterday, they took out this ad (click to enlarge) in the Daily News and distributed it via their Atlantic Yards email list.

The claims that the units will be "RENT STABILIZED" is news to us. Would that be under NY City's rent stabilization program, or Bruce Ratner's own plan?

UPDATE: The units in Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan will be in the NYC's Housing Development Corporation's "rent stabilization" plan. But as Will from OnNYTurf pointed out a year ago in an article on Atlantic Yards affordable housing promises, the devil is in the details.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

BUILD Goes Begging

The Real Estate Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman continues his coverage of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

After seeking taxpayer money to fulfill Bruce Ratner's promises to the community, BUILD's job training goals, though ambitious, may be difficult to fulfill since terms and conditions of the union's apprenticeship programs are beyond their control.

For one, BUILD's training program for union construction jobs would be so large--preparing 300 disadvantaged individuals a year, with about 230 of them actually finishing--that it would dominate the city's apprenticeship system. The union-run sytem typically offers 1,200 slots a year, just 35 percent, or 420, of which will be set aside for disadvantaged people, which is the category that BUILD's trainees would likely fall into.

The other thing is that while BUILD wants to give "priority enrollment" to "NYCHA residents, low-income individuals, moderate income individuals, disconnected young adults and young adults aging out of foster care," the Mayor and the unions have other priorities. They pledged last fall to give those 420 slots to graduates of public high schools, returning veterans and women, meaning that BUILD trainees may not find any space for them even in the new more progressive apprenticeship system.


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Sizing Things Up

The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC Radio

Lopate.jpg Leonard Lopate kicked off July 5th's show with "an assessment of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, by architects from the Municipal Art Society."


Audio links: Real Audio, MP3

Atlantic Yards Report has already posted a running commentary of the interview, including criticism of urban design topics that were overlooked, such as "density" and the necessity of street closings if an arena is located at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Most interesting in Norman Oder's AY Report analysis is the distinction between the opinions and statements of the two guests, Kent Barwick and Stuart Pertz. Oder's analysis implies that Barwick walks a fine line and comes across as the more politic of the two, while Pertz generally takes a more critical, less optimistic, view of the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

The Tangled Politics Of Identity

The Jewish Week
By Adam Dickter

Owens-JewishWeek.gif From an interview with 11th District Congressional candidate Chris Owens:

Owens’ message is overtly populist. “People must come first,” is the motto on his Web site. In his campaign literature he claims to be “the true progressive” in the race, a slap at Yassky that comes in handy in Park Slope, a key district battleground. Owens is against the massive Ratner development at the Atlantic Rail Yards, whereas Yassky has a nuanced position.


Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

TV on the Radio Rocks Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge walks a gauntlet of Atlantic Yards flyers on the way to the TV on the Radio concert at the bandshell.

Gowanus Lounge would be remiss if we didn't note that Celebrate Brooklyn is one of the fronts in the war for the hearts and minds of Brooklynites over Atlantic Yards. Therefore, as we walked in, we were first handed a modest postcard by a young woman who said, "Stop the Overdevelopment of Brooklyn." (The card is promoting the anti-Atlantic Yards Rally at Grand Army Plaza on July 17.) About eight or nine yards further into the park, was a gentleman handing out Forest City Ratner's big, glossy promo brochure full of happy, smiling people (including the model who says she's horrified to be "Bruce Ratner's poster girl").


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM


City Limits

Developers beware — Bruce Ratner isn't the only local developer whose crews have been caught on film performing illegal demolitions.

The South Park Slope Community Group, an organization formed to fight high-rise developments in the neighborhood, surprised developer Isaac Katan last month with video footage of his demolition crews working with illegal equipment, often past work hours.


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Sitt's Billion-Dollar Dream for Coney Island


Joseph Sitt's plan for Coney Island may not be quite as ambitious as the one Bruce Ratner has concocted for the Atlantic Yards, but so far Sitt's appears to be a whole lot less contentious. Perhaps it's because he's trying to build on the area's history, albeit to the nth degree, rather than trying to impose a vision that most locals don't share.


NoLandGrab: Ever wonder if Ratner wistfully contemplates the Coney Island alternative for the arena?

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

July 5, 2006

TODAY: WNYC, The Leonard Lopate Show

MASpanel01.jpg WNYC, 820 AM/93.9FM

Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Arts Society (MAS), and Stuart Pertz, a member of the panel at MAS's forum on Atlantic Yards, where the group concluded that "Forest City Ratner's current plan won't work for Brooklyn."

Photo, MAS Forum, June 15, 2006
(Moderator, Leonard Lopate)

Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

Columnist Louis resorts to name-calling, still bypasses facts

Atlantic Yards Report

OTPress.jpg Norman Oder addresses Daily News columnist Errol Louis's charges of "Swift Boating" the Atlantic Yards proposal, which appeared in Louis's monthly column in Our Time Press:

In his latest Commerce and Community column, in the 7/1/06 issue of the Bed-Stuy-based Our Time Press, Errol Louis devotes the longest segment to an attack on me. Given that Louis doesn't respond to the errors I've found in his and others' writings, it's a journalistic version of an old lawyer joke: "When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer names."

Louis has coined "Mad Overkiller" to describe Oder, an eerie reference to use just after a short item about a real killer. And he still hasn't debated Oder on his facts.


NoLandGrab: Louis claims Oder's cross-references create a "hall of mirrors," but try this one on for size: Oder analyzes Louis's complaints of Oder's analysis of the mainstream media coverage, to which Louis belongs. (Did we forget anything?)

Seriously folks, if Forest City Ratner put the facts on the table, that would shut up Stormin' Norman Oder, who could go back to his regularly scheduled life.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Liberty and Justices for Al-Qaeda

In an arch-Conservative condemnation of the recent Supreme Court decision Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Frontpagemag.com columnist Patrick Poole offers this attack on Michael Ratner:

Ratner, a law professor at Columbia University, comes from a family of means (think Paris Hilton with a law degree). His brother, Bruce, owns the New Jersey Nets, and his family controls Forest City Enterprises, a mega-real estate developer that has been called the poster child for eminent domain abuse. Should it be any surprise that the Ratner family’s favorite politician and campaign contribution recipient, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, was one of the first individuals to hail the Court’s Hamdan decision?


NoLandGrab: Poole misses an important point in his scattershot attack. Constitutional-rights lawyer and hero to the left Michael Ratner OWNS a minority stake in the Nets, and therefore stands to gain financially if the Atlantic Yards high-rise Nets arena proposal goes forward.

Executives at Forest City Enterprises, headquartered in Cleveland, should note that, even though the Forest City Ratner subsidiary run by Bruce Ratner is the branch of the company that has been branded the "poster child for eminent domain abuse," it's inevitable that the parent company's reputation will be marred as well.

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

Forest City Ratner, Sen. Golden Sponsor B-Ball Clinic at Xaverian

Darryl Dawkins Teaches Boys, Girls

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle publishes what sounds suspiciously like a Forest City Ratner press release, with this "quote" cooked up by some PR genius:

“Forest City Ratner is committed to enriching the lives of Brooklyn’s youth through sports,” said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. “Our clinics emphasize the importance of hard work, dedication and teamwork. We are also grateful to have some of our city’s most prominent instructors providing the campers with basic fundamentals at an important stage of their basketball experience.”

link (login required)

NoLandGrab: Snap! If only Bruce Ratner had been around when NoLandGrab was playing shirts vs. skins in the schoolyard, we could be playing for him in the NBA, rather than exposing his jive in the Blogosphere.

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

July 4, 2006

New York Games: "Team Ratner is nervous"

New York Games

Brian Hatch posted two recent quotes from Bruce Ratner's Press Secretary Joe DePlasco and concludes:

Team Ratner is nervous. "Our opponents are unfairly using grassroots tactics" (as though Ratner has eschewed, for example, single-issue campaign contributions). "Our opponents are unpatriotic." One can practically see sweat on the lip.

[BTW, that 'seditious' Lethem article points out NYg's solution to the problem: "Many might like to find a way to bring a major sports team to Brooklyn (and we recall the appealing Coney Island proposal for a sports arena)."]


Posted by lumi at 9:27 PM

Adventures in Petitioning

Daily Gotham

When Mole333 carried a petition for Chris Owens and Bill Batson in Ratnerville, things got interesting (emphasis added):

We petitioned in front of Pathmark. Response was okay but not great. The most interesting response, though, was from Ratner's employees. We were infomed (politely) that we couldn't petition there. Maybe they didn't like my DDDB T-shirt. When I told them that city law allows me to petition in a public place I was informed that Ratner owned the whole area (this was on the sidewalk along Atlantic Ave) and that he was the "biggest guy around." When I said he wasn't above the law, the employee wanted to argue, though reluctantly admitted that the law might apply to Ratner. Finally I told him that I didn't want a problem so I would check with the police. He backed off and called his supervisor...who said I was within my rights to petition along Atlantic Avenue. The Ratner employee was very polite and apologized, but it was very typical that there seemed doubt that the law applied to Ratner. Let's face it, Bloomberg and Pataki have exempted him from so many State and Local laws that it is no wonder Ratner and his people might view him as being above the law.


Posted by lumi at 9:10 PM

Eminent Domination Without Representation


Eleven score and ten years ago today (230 yrs.), 57 property/business owners declared that they were fed up with King George III of England and his failure to act in the best interests of his citizen-subjects.

At the risk of being labeled "screamers" and "kooks," these 57 men volunteered to represent their communities and publicly executed a radical and politically risky move. They pledged their lives and fortunes to fight against what was essentially a "done deal:" the arbitrary rule of law and the manipulation of legislatures to serve the purposes of a despotic power.

On this anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we offer you a transcript of the document (after the jump), so that you may ponder the contemporary significance of the usurpations of a despot who refused to allow local citizens to determine issues that directly affected their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

As you consider the "Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," your thoughts may drift towards more recent events concerning a major land-use headache in Central Brooklyn (where, coincidentally, the first major battle of the War for Independence was fought): * NY State's takeover, with Mayor Bloomberg's consent, of local zoning, land use and environmental review (in other words, putting an arena and 16 towers at an already congested intersection — economic, health and quality-of-life concerns be damned), * Eminent domain seizures without legislative oversight (no legislators get to vote if the project is under NY State jurisdiction), * Manipulations of the rule of law to serve the purpose of the politically connected (i.e. "emergency" demolitions, the inevitable finding of "blight" to justify private property condemnation), * Approval of the largest single-source development project in the history of NYC placed in the hands of un-elected representatives of the three most powerful men in Albany, * The spending of our tax dollars on Bruce Ratner's private development, with taxes generated by the project earmarked to the servicing of Bruce Ratner's mortgage on the property, * Government officials ignoring the petitions of redress by their subjects/citizens.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock

Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5 New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Source: http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

July 3, 2006

Atlantic Yards, Still but a Plan, Shapes Politics in Brooklyn

The NY Times
By Nick Confessore

An interesting article summarizing how the neighborhood opposition to Atlantic Yards is affecting local politics:

It will be months, if not years, before a single brick of the Atlantic Yards project is laid near Downtown Brooklyn. But as the fall election season draws near, the unbuilt, unapproved, multibillion-dollar development is shaping up as a major political issue in this corner of the borough.

"This is a litmus test for brownstone Brooklyn," said City Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes most of the Atlantic Yards site and who is perhaps the elected official most outspokenly opposed to the project. "But the issue is nonetheless important for all Brooklynites, whether or not you're a brownstoner, someone who lives in public housing, or you live in a condo."

Over the last two and a half years, the project's gravity has warped the political space nearby, as if a black hole had settled at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. It has bolstered some candidacies and bedeviled others here, where mostly white, affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope shade into the more diverse yet rapidly gentrifying confines of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.


Norman Oder analyzes the article at Atlantic Yards Report, noting that the story fails to mention what appears to be a quid pro quo between Yassky and his supporters at BUILD.

Oder also raps The Times for yet again referring to the Vanderbilt rail yards as "Atlantic Yards."

Posted by lumi at 10:26 AM

Nets face losses, tough naming-rights market

An article in Sports Business Journal predicts that the Nets mounting losses will probably NOT be offset by a big corporate-naming-rights windfall.

The Nets are counting on their relocation to Brooklyn to reverse their mounting losses, but find themselves facing a saturated naming-rights market for their planned new arena, a deal seen as a key revenue stream for owner Bruce Ratner, who paid $300 million in 2004 for the franchise.


In addition to the proposed Nets arena expected to open in 2009, the New York Giants and New York Jets are planning a new $1 billion stadium to open in 2010. The New York Yankees and Mets have both announced plans for their own ballparks to open in 2009; the New Jersey Devils already have broken ground on a new arena in Newark; Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, is planning a renovation or new construction of the famed arena; and the New York Islanders are pushing for a new facility in Nassau County. In addition, ISC has targeted Staten Island for a new motorsports race track.

Add it all up and experts said there will be vicious competition for the teams to land corporate naming-rights deals.

Full article after the jump.

Nets face losses, tough naming-rights market
Sports Business Journal

The New Jersey Nets continue to lose money, with the team suffering a $5.7 million operating loss for the three months ended April 30, according to a filing by one of its top investors.

The loss follows a 12-month loss ended Jan. 31, 2006, of approximately $24 million. The Nets are counting on their relocation to Brooklyn to reverse their mounting losses, but find themselves facing a saturated naming-rights market for their planned new arena, a deal seen as a key revenue stream for owner Bruce Ratner, who paid $300 million in 2004 for the franchise.

In addition to the proposed Nets arena expected to open in 2009, the New York Giants and New York Jets are planning a new $1 billion stadium to open in 2010. The New York Yankees and Mets have both announced plans for their own ballparks to open in 2009; the New Jersey Devils already have broken ground on a new arena in Newark; Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, is planning a renovation or new construction of the famed arena; and the New York Islanders are pushing for a new facility in Nassau County. In addition, ISC has targeted Staten Island for a new motorsports race track.

Add it all up and experts said there will be vicious competition for the teams to land corporate naming-rights deals. The Jets and the Giants last week tabbed Wasserman Media Group to secure naming rights for their new stadium.

"It's not that there will be stadiums coming on line, it is that they are coming on line at the same time and it will be tough," said E.J. Narcise, co-founder of Team Services, a naming-rights consultant that reportedly also bid on the Jets/Giants deal. "But the reality is that there will be the Jets and Giants first and foremost and virtually everyone else."

So where do the Nets, a franchise that has been hemorrhaging cash, fall in the expected glut of New York area naming-rights deals?

"It's the NFL, then MLB followed by the NBA, and then the NHL," Narcise said.

Added Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm, "The Giants and Jets are so high profile that they will be immune to a price drop, but the Nets are going to feel the pinch, as will the Devils."

Nets officials did not return calls, but that's not the pecking order of choice for Ratner and his Forest City Enterprises, the publicly traded real estate company that owns about 21 percent of the team and is responsible for 31 percent of the operating losses.

For the first quarter, the Nets reported a pretax loss of $8.7 million, which includes approximately $6.8 million in amortized assets related to the company's purchase of the team in 2004. The remainder of the loss, or $1.9 million, is related to the operations of the team. Extrapolating the percentage over the entire Nets ownership structure brings the total operating loss to $5.7 million. That is on top of the 12-month loss of approximately $24 million on Jan. 31.

Officials at Wasserman Media said that should the Giants/Jets naming-rights deal exceed the current record deal in Houston where Reliant Energy pays the NFL's Texans $10 million annually to put its name on the city's sports complex, the other New York teams could benefit.

"Depending on which deal goes first, the naming-rights cash value will be increased," said Jeff Knapple, president of Wasserman Media Group Marketing. "The fact that we will go to market early on will help set the tone."

Posted by lumi at 10:12 AM

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse is tryin' to turn it around by broadcasting from "within the footprint of the Bruce Ratner skyscraper Nets arena proposed development project."

TenantX.jpg This installment of the Roundhouse features a roundtable of residents and a tenants' rights attorney speaking about the coersive use of the threat of eminent domain, gag orders, and constitutional rights hero Michael Ratner's financial stake in the project.

The last 10 minutes is a uniquely uninformative interview with Tenant X, who is restricted by a gag order from speaking freely about Bruce Ratner's project. To communicate, Tenant X knocks once for "yes" and twice for "no." This interview will leave you grunting for more.


Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Branding alert: "Atlantic Yards" now sponsor of Coney beach volleyball

Atlantic Yards Report observes that this full-page ad for Coney Island Pro Beach Volleyball appears to be the first instance of "Atlantic Yards" branding outside of developer Forest City Ratner's direct appeals to the public and politicians to support the project.


"Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment" is "an affiliate of Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets ownership group Nets Sports" (see NY Post, Jan, 2006).


NoLandGrab: The producer of the event is pretty much "in partnership" with itself — another bizarre PR/marketing ruse brought to you by Forest City Ratner.

Is the average Brooklynite supposed to believe that a development project that is still awaiting approval is a partner in a professional sporting event? We're looking forward to the "Atlantic Yards" swag.

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Save Our Land getting wise to Ratner

Save Our Land

"In the Brooklyn Centre Historic District of the beautiful Archwood-Denison neighborhood, in Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga County" folks are learning that their "own Ratner family is doing some really tacky things" and "that these Ratners are not nice people."


NoLandGrab: More empirical evidence that Bruce Ratner's reputation as the poster child of eminent domain abuse, greed and overdevelopment is spreading beyond the shores of the East River.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

July 2, 2006

Critic Goldberger calls AY a corruption of Jacobsian "mixed-use"

Atlantic Yards Report

The New Yorker architectural critic Paul Goldberger takes issue, in Metropolis Magazine, with the use of Jane Jacobs's legacy to sell Atlantic Yards.

[Goldberger] offers some skeptical words about the project within a column in the July issue of Metropolis headlined Jane-washing, with the subtitle "The danger of Jacobs’s legacy lies with developers who co-opt her ideas to justify their megaprojects."
In downtown Brooklyn a single developer is now proposing an enormous complex of multiple towers, shops, and public space around the centerpiece of a sports arena, and he is trying to present it—like so many megaprojects today—as not just an effort at economic development but an enabler of a fine-grained urban life.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Sunday Comix: Eminent Domination, the Future Looks Bright

MarkFiore.com (click on image)


Via Big Cities Big Boxes, via Veritas et Venustas.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM


GAP-arch-bw.jpg Grand Army Plaza
(park side of the arch, site of the Saturday Green Market)
Sunday, July 16th, at 2 p.m.

Fight Ratner's Skyscraper City and arena over-development proposal!

On Sunday, July 16th, at 2 p.m., please join thousands of your friends and neighbors at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza to rally against Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" scheme, and in favor of appropriate, inclusive, and innovative development with truly affordable housing and sustainable jobs! Fight government support of eminent domain abuse at taxpayer expense!

Support a positive vision for Brooklyn's future!

UPDATE: The latest word is that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member and Musician-in-Residence Dan Zanes will be performing at the rally.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

July 1, 2006

TONY Grudge Report: #14 Bruce Ratner vs. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn

Time Out NY

The feud over the largest and densest private boondogglefest in NYC history ranks #14 on the TONY "Grudge Report."


#14. Bruce Ratner vs. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn

Of all the things the community coalition opposing development of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards has going for it, subtlety is not among them. The group’s name, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, pretty much sums up its feelings about Bruce Ratner’s proposed $3.5 billion, Frank Gehry–designed megaplex, which would include a new stadium for the Nets, as well as retail space and housing. Get ready to kiss your neighborhood good-bye, trumpets DDDB. And say hello to an epic NYC battle.

Grabbing the #1 spot on the Grudge list is the rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Marty holds his own against Manhattan Beep Scott Stringer, lobbing jovial barbs across the river.

However, on these pages the big question is: will Brooklynites be able to hold their ground against "The Manhattanizer" Bruce "The Juice" Ratner.

The image illustrates the rivalry between the boroughs, but may as well represent the Ratner fight, since Brooklynites are fighting back against a project that will be larger than THREE EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS!


NoLandGrab: Did we mention that the entire project is larger than THREE EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS?

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

Appeal on disqualification of lawyer challenges ESDC business as usual

ladyjustice-01.jpg Atlantic Yards Report maps out the arguments concerning the appellate court's recent reversal of the state supreme court's conflict-of-interest ruling.


On 5/30/06, the appellate court found that attorney David Paget's:

representation [of Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation] was consecutive, not simultaneous (as Edmead had erroneously said); that ESDC and/or the developer had waived their rights as to potential conflicts of interest; and that any appearance of impropriety is insufficient and must be balanced against other factors.

The appellate court ruling overlooked an important point that Justice Edmead made in the lower court ruling, which reveals a possible conflict of interest:

The oft bottom-line, profit-making pursuits of real estate development corporations may not necessarily align with the stated, valid environmental interests of the ESDC.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's appeal, filed with 15 other community and public-interest groups (including NYPIRG) notes:

Where, as petitioners allege here, a government agency puts other interests ahead of its duty to serve the public interest, it is the public, not the agency, that is harmed.

Atlantic Yards Report points out that this case "raises questions about the ESDC's review process," and if heard by the State high court, "the court would have to address some fundamental problems with the law."


Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Another Law Firm Takes NYT Space

By Barbara Jarvie

Forest City Ratner has signed a lease with another (here's a surprise) law firm for "64,000 sf of space on floors 36 and 37" of the NY Times Tower.


NoLandGrab: Have REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS passed LAWYERS on the list of most-reviled professions yet, at least in NYC?

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Institute for Justice, Press Release:
Susette Kelo Lost Her Rights, She Lost Her Property, But She Has Saved Her Home

Famous House That Was the Subject Of U.S. Supreme Court Eminent Domain Abuse Case Will Be Moved Probably Close to its Original Location

Arlington, Va. — Susette Kelo’s little pink cottage — the home that was the subject of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case and a national symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse — will be spared from the wrecking ball. In a compromise put forward by Kelo and accepted today by the City of New London, the home will be saved and moved to another location, perhaps close to where it originally stood over a century ago, on Pequot Avenue in New London. The U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London gutted federal constitutional protections against eminent domain abuse but, in so doing, sparked a national rebellion against these practices.   

“It is wonderful that Susette Kelo's little pink house, which is a national symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse, will remain standing,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, which continues to represent the remaining two homeowners. “The home will continue to serve as a tribute to her brave struggle and as a powerful symbol of the fight to stop land-grabs by cities and their developer allies.”

“I am not happy about giving up my property, but I am very glad that my home, which means so much to me, will not be demolished and I will remain living in it,” said Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. New London. “I proposed this as a compromise years ago and was turned down flat.”

Faced with eviction and the destruction of her beloved home, Kelo put forward an idea that she had originally proposed when first threatened with eminent domain abuse: preserving the home and moving it. When she first proposed this idea, it was rejected by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC). Now, the City, NLDC and the State of Connecticut have agreed to the move. While the precise location has not yet been determined, the house may be moved on or near Pequot Avenue, which is where the home originally stood before it was moved to Fort Trumbull over 100 years ago. There, the home, like Kelo’s property in Fort Trumbull, will be very close to the Long Island Sound. 

The City and the remaining homeowners had been at an impasse. The City gave them a May 31, 2006, deadline for accepting a settlement or face eviction. Two of the homeowners, Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family, refused. Conn. Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed moving the homes and giving real titles back the homeowners in Fort Trumbull, but the City refused to agree to that approach.  

“I will be able to continue to live in the home that means so much to me, with a real title to my property,” said Kelo. “Also, I will once again live in a neighborhood rather than a demolition zone.”

While Kelo’s agreement today signifies her deep attachment to her home, the agreement reached with the other remaining homeowner, the Cristofaros, reflects the family’s deep affiliation with the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, where they have lived for over 30 years. Although the Cristofaros will lose their current home, under the agreement, the City and the NLDC have agreed to support an application for more housing in Fort Trumbull, and the Cristofaro family has an exclusive right to purchase one of the homes at a fixed price. Moreover, a plaque will be installed in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to commemorate the loss of family matriarch Margherita Cristofaro, who passed away while the battle against eminent domain abuse occurred in New London. 

“Neither the Kelo nor the Cristofaro family wanted to lose their homes, but they are each keeping some part of their homes,” added Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner. “Susette Kelo will keep her house, albeit in another location. The Cristofaros want to stay on the Fort Trumbull peninsula. This agreement gives them the right to own a home in Fort Trumbull when one is built. The City also has agreed to move the trees that father Pasquale Cristofaro transplanted 30 years ago, when the previous Cristofaro home was taken by eminent domain.”

“The New London case was history-making,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “It is only fitting that the house that launched a grassroots revolt should be preserved.”

The Kelo decision touched off a firestorm of controversy and a grassroots backlash, leading to numerous legislative changes and citizen initiatives. Since the June 23, 2005, decision, legislators in 47 states have introduced, considered or passed legislation limiting the government’s eminent domain powers in instances of private use. Twenty-five governors have signed legislation into law. Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico are the only states whose governors vetoed eminent domain reform. So far, six states have constitutional amendments to limit eminent domain power on the ballot in November 2006.

While no firm details are yet set, Kelo’s home is expected to be moved sometime in the next year. 

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Kelo coverage

kelo-house.jpg Here's a sampling of the coverage of the announcement that a settlement has been reached between the city of New London and the remaining homeowners in the city's Ft. Trumbull neighborhood.

The New London property seizures were the subject of a bellweather US Supreme Court decision that sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse.

Besides being a hero to Americans who feel that private property rights are a human right, homeowner Susette Kelo also serves on the Advisory Board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

The [New London] Day, Lingering Hurt, Cautious Hope Greet News Of Settlement
The Day, Chronology
LA Times, Eminent Domain Plaintiff Will Keep Her House
The NY Times, Holdout Ends, Letting a City Seize Property in Connecticut
AP via Hartford Courant, Holdouts Agree To Move

Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM