August 31, 2006
City kicks in more Ratner cash
The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen
The city will kick in another $29 million towards Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards, The Brooklyn Papers has learned.
The new expenditures — which will fund infrastructure improvements around the proposed basketball arena — bumps up the city’s contribution to $129 million, a slight jump in spending that project opponents characterized as unnecessary.
“This is a project of unacceptable cost [to taxpayers] and questionable benefit,” said Bill Batson, an Assembly candidate.
Batson says he uncovered the new money in a final draft of the city’s 2007 budget.
City officials declined to comment.
IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky couldn’t confirm Batson’s discovery, but called the latest cash infusion “not unusual,” saying, “Twenty million is a lot to you and me, but in context of a $53-billion budget, it is not a huge amount.”
NoLandGrab: When was the public supposed to find out about the additional expenditure?
The cat-and-mouse games which have dominated the relationship between project critics and the developer-governmental complex is unrelenting, with project opponents constantly having to play gotcha.
For the umpteenth time, we have to ask: if the Atlantic Yards project is so great for Brooklyn, why can't Ratner and his political backers be more upfront about the public cost?
Posted by lumi at 11:11 PM
Ratner-backer runs for office
A "Ratner-backer" backed by Ratner is running to unseat controversial project foe:
So why does former City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland think she has a chance in the September 12 primary against 22-year state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Park Slope)?
The answer is Atlantic Yards.
According to Boyland, Sen. Montgomery's opposition to the Atlantic Yards project has hurt her in many parts of her district.
And this week, the candidate the daughter of a prominent [former] state Assemblyman, William Boyland Sr., admitted that the Atlantic Yards developer was "helping" her campaign.
"I love [Forest City Ratner executive vice president] Bruce Bender," the Yards supporter said. "We have a friendship. We worked together on the Council."
Click image to read the entire article.
Posted by lumi at 11:09 PM
Bruce to the rescue?
Library courts Ratner for big cash infusion
The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen
Big shots at the Brooklyn Public Library are eying developer Bruce Ratner as the key “partner” they need to jump start their long-delayed Visual and Performing Arts Library just two blocks from his proposed Atlantic Yards project.
No deals have been brokered between the institution and the developer, but officials from Forest City Ratner are talking to library trustees about funding the $120-million arts library, The Brooklyn Papers has learned.
“There have been several conversations,” said Danny Simmons, a member of the Brooklyn Public Library board and brother of rap impresario, Russell Simmons. “He would make a good partner. Ratner is building a huge, huge complex and one of the things that make it more attractive is surrounding cultural attractions. He has significant interest in making sure they succeed.”
NoLandGrab: This rendering of the proposed Brooklyn Public Library Visual & Performing Arts branch does not include Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, which would obscure most of the open sky from this vantage point.
Posted by lumi at 11:00 PM
State not discussing Atlantic Yards shrinkage with Bruce Ratner
The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman
State officials moved swiftly last week to deny they were negotiating behind the scenes with Bruce Ratner to decrease the size of his Atlantic Yards mega-development.
After the New York Sun reported on Tuesday that the Empire State Development Corporation had discussed “a reduction in the size of the project” with Ratner, ESDC blasted the report as untrue.
“ESDC has not been in discussion with Forest City Ratner about reducing the size of the project,” spokeswoman Jessica Copen told The Brooklyn Papers.
Posted by lumi at 10:46 PM
Two more chances to vent
The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman
Stung by criticism that it hasn’t done enough to solicit public opinion on the Atlantic Yards project, the Empire State Development Corporation has set up another hearing on the mega-development.
The original Aug. 23 public hearing drew thousands of people — many of whom waited hours to get inside. Roughly 300 people who signed up to testify did not get a chance to speak.
ESDC had previously announced that a second “community forum” would be held on Sept. 12 at 4 pm at New York City College of Technology’s Klitgord Auditorium (285 Jay St., Downtown).
But after critics — and many elected officials — sniped that Sept. 12 is primary election day, ESDC this week added a new “community forum,” on Sept. 18, at the same time and place. The new “forum” was posted on the ESDC Web site without fanfare.
The article wraps up with quotes from ESDC spokesperson Jessica Copen, Fans For Fair Play activist Scott Turner and 52nd Assembly District Leader Jo Anne Simon.
Posted by lumi at 10:37 PM
As we went to press… Public comment period extended!
The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman
Thursday afternoon, the Empire State Development Corporation announced that it had extended the public comment period on the Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement by one week.
The one-week extension — from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29 — was announced in a one-sentence press release. No explanation for the extension was given.
“We thought it was appropriate, and wanted to give the public more time to review and comment on the project,” ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen later told The Brooklyn Papers.
For a more plausible explanation, check out Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site:
We think that this August 28 letter [pdf] from our attorney Jeffrey Baker to the ESDC may have forced their hand, and convinced them that abiding by State statutes is the right thing to do.
Baker's letter explained to the ESDC that they might be in legal hot water if they didn't extend the comment period to at least September 28.
As you know, the SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] regulations require that the lead agency receive public comments on an DEIS for “no less than 10 calendar days following a public hearing at which the environmental impacts of the proposed action are considered”. 6 NYCRR § 617.9(a)(4)(iii). Clearly that regulation applies to ESDC’s “Community Forums”. We are not aware of any factual or legal distinction between the “public hearing” held on August 23rd and the “community forums” to be held on September 12th and 18th. At both the “hearing” and the “forum” comments are being taken on the DEIS, a transcript is being made and all of the comments are being considered... Clearly, the “forums” are nothing more than a continuation of the public hearing. Changing the name of the event does not alter its essential nature. Since the forums are functionally identical to the hearing, the forums must be deemed a continuation of the public hearing and thus comments must be accepted for 10 calendar days following the last public hearing/forum.
Two days later, the ESDC extended the comment period by seven days.
Posted by lumi at 10:12 PM
An evolution on Atlantic Yards
I tend not to have a problem with major development projects; I like big shiny things (it's a boy thing), and I'm aware, as some seem not to be, that this City will add another million residents in the next two decades, two over the next four. Our grandchildren will live in a behemoth of ten million souls, all of whom will need to be fed, clothed, housed, and entertained. Unless the pre-existing population is willing to double up still further, and see our already appalling vacancy rate of 3% citywide shrink still further, we will need to build new housing. This new housing, if we care about the environment and our carbon footprint, will need to increase the density of the City, and that in turn implies a larger number of high-rises, ideally serviced by public transport. One thing is for certain: those two million new New Yorkers will create dislocations for those of us already here; and considering how many of us came from elsewhere (I'm not a native either), we should welcome these new arrivals, and prepare for them. New York City is a global metropolis, and draws to itself the talent and vigor of every continent; that process has been the engine of our growth for two hundred years, and whether we deplore or celebrate it, it will continue. The least we can do is be prepared.
All of that said, I can't support the Atlantic Yards development any longer. That project amounts to the urban equivalent of rape.
NoLandGrab: This gradual conversion of NYC's intellectual set is inevitable, as Atlantic Yards becomes the poster child for overdevelopment, Abramoff-style backroom dealing, eminent domain abuse, taxpayer financing of pro sports and poor city planning.
If New Yorkers can't apply the brakes on this project, then anything goes in the Big Apple.
Posted by lumi at 9:36 PM
For the Fightin’ Eleventh, David Yassky
The Brooklyn Papers has given its editorial board endorsement for the 11th Congressional District to David Yassky.
Some aspects of their endorsement are more tepid than others, such as Yassky's weakness for developer money, but the Yassky back-and-forth-and-back-again position on Atlantic Yards doesn't bother the Brooklyn Papers as much as it does major project critics.
We’re not pleased by the strong support he receives from developers who fill his campaign war chest. Or with the fact that he moved to New York City from Washington, D.C. after the imposition of term-limits created open seats on the Council — or that he again moved so that he would reside within the 11th District before running for the seat.
But while Yassky has been supportive of development, he has also listened to the critics of the Atlantic Yards project. Yes, he supports Bruce Ratner building at that site, but at last week’s state public hearing he reiterated his position that the development must be halted if it is not scaled back.
Posted by lumi at 7:52 PM
CBA accountability? Where are the reports to the community?
Atlantic Yards Report has provided continuing coverage of events related to the signing of the Community Benefits Agreement: Bruce Ratner's funding of the signatories and training sessions, as well as the CBA: Meet & Greet, which was closed to the public.
But what about all of the compliance initiatives outlined in the "historic" document?
Has the developer funded an Independent Compliance Monitor, as the CBA directs?
And what about the environmental challenges posed by the project?
Project Implementation Plan?
Also, what happened to the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee, which was supposed to "establish a Committee on Environmental Assurances?" And who is BEE, Inc.?
Norman Oder made a few calls and snooped around on the web to bring you answers to those burning questions.
Posted by lumi at 12:10 PM
CBN PRESENTS FORUMS ON ATLANTIC YARDS IMPACTS
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods will be holding a series of community meetings over the next couple weeks, at which they will share preliminary findings from their experts’ on-going review of the “Atlantic Yards” Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Dates, times and locations for these “Neighborhood Impacts Forums” are as follows:
Thursday, September 7th, 7:00 p.m.
Duryea Presbyterian Church
362 Sterling Place (at Underhill Avenue)
Thursday, September 14th, 7:00 p.m.
Old First Reformed Church
126 7th Avenue (at Carroll Street)
The sessions, all free and open to the public, will be led by experts from Phillips, Preiss, Shapiro Associates, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. We encourage you to attend.
For more information, please visit http://cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com, send an email to cbrooklynneighborhoods-at-hotmail-dot-com, or call 718-408-3219.
Posted by lumi at 11:42 AM
Yassky Campaign Cancels Fund-Raiser at the Last Minute
The NY Sun
By Russell Berman
Three candidates in the race for Congress in Brooklyn's 11th district attacked David Yassky yesterday after the lawmaker abruptly canceled a fund-raiser with a controversial architect.
On Tuesday Brownstoner broke the news that Brooklyn's other developer with a bad rep, Robert Scarano, Jr.*, was holding a fundraiser for Yassky. Politicker picked it up and when reporters started to sniff around, the event was abruptly cancelled.
11th CD candidate and Atlantic Yards critic Chris Owens likens the reversal to Yassky's flippity-floppity position on Atlantic Yards:
"Mr. Yassky is a political chicken," a rival candidate in the race, Chris Owens, charged yesterday. "He has done this time and time again." Citing Mr. Yassky's recent criticism of the Atlantic Yards project, Mr. Owens said the City Council member frequently takes politically unpopular positions, only to change his mind. "He gets caught, and then he flip-flops."
* Scarano has recently been racking up column inches on blogs and the mainstream media for exploiting his self-certification priviledges (he was secretly constructing buildings larger than what was allowed under the city zoning code) and for dangerous conditions on a site that led to the death of one worker in March.
Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM
BATTLE IN BROOKLYN
The fight over Atlantic Yards heats up
The NY Press
By John DeSio
“Put the shirt on!” cheered one ACORN member, urging the developer to join them in wearing one of ACORN’s signature red shirts. Ratner obliged, and the crowd went wild. Obviously worried about spending too much time outside where he might be seen by the project’s critics and suddenly become a public spectacle, Ratner kept his comments brief. “We have a great mission to do,” said Ratner. “You’ve got wonderful leaders. I can’t thank you enough. It’s a good cause, and we are going to win.”
The crowd was now frenzied, much like fans at a ballgame. And as the enthusiastic group began their march to the hearing, Ratner took a few minutes to personally shake the hands of many ACORN members. High-fives and back slaps were in abundance, and Ratner was thrilled to see it. And then, just as quickly as he came, he was gone. While ACORN walked to the meeting, chanting, “the people, united, will never be defeated,” Ratner quietly headed back to his office in the adjacent Metrotech Center, which he also developed. The raucous nature of the hearing, which drew over 1,000 Brooklynites, was not something he wanted to be a part of.
NoLandGrab: The article mistakenly calls the September 12th "community forum" a "public hearing," a distinction that the Empire State Development Corporation adamantly upholds. It also assumes that the "forum" was scheduled after the hearing on the 23rd of August -- both dates were announced back in July.
Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM
EMINENT DOMAINIA: Long Branch edition
The Institute for Justice is back in the news. The "merry band of litigators" that fought the Kelo v. New London case all the way to the US Supreme Court, and recently scored a win for homeowners in Norwood, OH, have joined up with the homeowners in the MTOTSA neighborhood of Long Branch, NJ to fight the town's attempt to raze the seaside community to build a more upscale seaside community.
The similarity between Long Branch and Brooklyn
NoLandGrab has occasionally linked news about Long Branch because the issue of forced private-property transfer, from one owner to another, is a major sore spot in Bruce Ratner's attempt to build a community from scratch in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The main difference between the two plans, aside from the size and scope, is that Long Branch's plan was supposedly crafted in a city planning process, while Ratner's Atlantic Yards was crafted by the development company itself. Whether or not Long Branch is following that plan is one aspect of the homeowner's legal case.
Also, NJ's public advocate has joined the fight against eminent domain abuse, while NYC's Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, is in denial about Bruce Ratner intention to use eminent domain to seize private property in Prospect Heights (it's her understanding that he won't).
The press coverage
AP, via Houston Chronicle, Group Files Appeal for NJ Homeowners
Asbury Park Press, Eminent domain appeal is fight for property rights
The Newark Star-Ledger, Activists and state to fight home seizures in Long Branch
Asbury Park Press, Public advocate joins eminent-domain foes
Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Velociraptor.info, Lazy web, lazy web, spin me a yarn
Velociraptor is looking for some good advocacy Google Maps and cited OnNYTurf for the Atlantic Yards map (ONYT has Yankee Stadium and Williamsburg maps now too).
On NY Turf has a couple of good maps that illustrate propose monster real estate developments, but the sad cynic in me believes that the Atlantic Yards are going to be built, all six acres of them in all their 40 foot glory. I really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t have much hope. However, if the project is reigned in at all it will be at least in part because of maps that really illustrate life in the shadow of a 40 story high rise.
NLG nominates the Eminent Domain Map from the Institute for Justice.
Bridge and Tunnel Club, Out: Grimy Auto Repair Shops, Dingy Industrial Buildings And Dilapidated Private Houses; In: Glistening Office Buildings, Putting Greens And Super Bowl Parties
More evidence from the public square that "Bruce Ratner" = very bad developer:
Bruce Ratner should have set his sights on Long Island City in Queens, where apparently they'll build anything...
Don't Worry It's Just Reality, Shareholder Suit Against Nets Owner Ratner?
"Dreadnaught" dreams of a shareholder revolt against Bruce Ratner, which isn't likely because any shareholder action would have to be the result of a Ratner family feud.
Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM
August 30, 2006
DEIS Bogus Points: A flawed DEIS may increase the potential for increased impacts to the environment
The combination of substantial numbers of new pedestrian trips on the crosswalks and new vehicular traffic may increase the potential for vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian conflicts at this intersection, and thereby potentially increase vehicular and pedestrian exposure to accidents, especially during the weekday and Saturday pre-game and post-game peak hours when the greatest increases in travel demand would occur.
Page 82 states:
Overall, the combination of new vehicular traffic and substantial numbers of new pedestrian trips on the crosswalks may increase the potential for vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian conflicts at this intersection, and thereby potentially increase vehicular and pedestrian exposure to accidents.
As at the Atlantic Avenue/Flatbush Avenue intersection [see photo], the combination of new vehicular traffic and new pedestrian trips on the crosswalks may increase the potential for vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian conflicts at this intersection, and thereby potentially increase vehicular and pedestrian exposure to accidents.
And on page 83, you will find the following:
The combination of substantial numbers of new pedestrian trips on the crosswalks and new vehicular traffic may increase the potential for vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian conflicts at this intersection, and thereby potentially increase vehicular and pedestrian exposure to accidents, especially during the weekday and Saturday pre-game and post-game peak hours when the greatest increases in travel demand would occur.
Now we're not traffic-and-parking experts (and definitely not English majors), but we know doublespeak when we hear it.
From the Park Slope Civic Council testimony:
"May increase the potential" for conflicts? If traffic increases substantially, and the number of pedestrians increases substantially, doesn't that definitely increase the potential for conflicts? It's possible that it may not actually lead to more accidents, but doesn't it definitely increase their potential? This is but one of the many, many flaws in the analysis of traffic and parking. Sadly, for someone, it could be a fatal flaw.
This flagrant attempt at bureaucratic doublespeak earns a lowly ONE out of FIVE BOGUS POINTS. [We figure that since the authors of the DEIS used it not once, but four times, they actually believe what they are writing and can't be taken to task for their own feeblemindedness.]
We will also being submitting all four statements to the Department of Redundancy Department for a full accounting of the potential increase of redundancy, which may thereby increase the repeated potential for redundancy frequently and often.
Posted by lumi at 2:32 PM
NYTimes Endorses Ratner for CD-11
OnNYTurf smells a "rat," after the NY Times endorsement of David Yassky for the 11th Congressional District.
Today the NYTime's (Arthur Sulzberger) published an endorsement of David Yassky for the CD-11 congressional district in Brooklyn. Yassky is the NYTime's Atlantic Yards candidate.
If one wanted to be generous about David Yassky's position on Atlantic Yards, we could call him wishy washy or a flip flopper. That would be being nice.
Here is Yassky's typical position on Atlantic Yards [transcript from Atlantic Yards Reoprt]:
"...the current project is way too big. There’s no place for 60-story towers in Brooklyn. I believe the project will create traffic nightmares unless it’s inaudible back. I want to see a way to make this project go forward so we can realize the benefits that it does promise--good jobs, affordable housing..."
Not only is Yassky in lock step with developers in general, Yassky has asked city council for $3 million to fund the so-called jobs training organization BUILD. BUILD is a sham organization that has no experience in job training and was set up specifically to back Ratner's plan, and received funding from Ratner. The money Yassky asked for was to make up for additional funding Ratner seemed to pull back on after the embarrassing relationship between BUILD and Ratner was learned.
Posted by lumi at 2:00 PM
Letters: Role model
Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey is the latest voice from the Atlantic Yards camp to address an article profiling residents who stand to be displaced by the project.
Click here and scroll down nearly to the bottom.
I want to clear up some inaccurate impressions left by Cynthia Carr's piece on the Atlantic Yards Development ["Life in the Footprint," August 2–8]. All renters in the footprint of AY have been offered comparable apartments in the new development at comparable rents, even current tenants of rent-controlled apartments. Forest City Ratner is willing to help find and finance the relocation of homeowners and renters alike. Working families living in AY's below-market-rate units won't be segregated into second-class buildings. Low- and middle-income renters will be in the same buildings, on the same floors as market-rate renters. The AY project is the first development in New York City to sign a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement stipulating that 50 percent of the rental units will be affordable, and insuring the creation of 15,000 construction jobs and thousands of permanent Brooklyn-based jobs. The Atlantic Yards project won't solve the housing crisis, but it will begin to create a new model that ensures affordable housing.
FCRC executive vice president
NoLandGrab: Way back on the 5th of August, Atlantic Yards Report addressed the details from the renters' agreements that Stuckey fails to mention in this letter, but that doesn't stop Stuckey from talking.
So, has the developer agreed to subsidize differential rent for longer than three years for the renters who've already left the footprint? “I just won’t—even though it would be to my benefit to do so—violate confidentiality," Stuckey responded. "I just won’t do it.”
Posted by lumi at 1:39 PM
Richard Lipsky and the "booty capitalists"of the AY CBA
Atlantic Yards Report uses Forest City Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky's own words to deconstruct the "booty capitalitsts" (it's not what you think) lined up behind Ratner.
Credit Richard Lipsky, lobbyist around town against big box stores (yet for Atlantic Yards and other Forest City Ratner projects) for introducing the term "booty capitalists" to the local discussion. Actually, he's used the term regarding Wal-Mart's potential move to Brooklyn, but it's equally apt regarding Atlantic Yards.
As Lipsky has written in his Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog: We have referred to the potential Wal-Mart partners in this effort as "booty capitalists" and although the term was coined by Karl Marx its modern application refers to some opportunists, especially in the African-American community, who, while having few economic resources of their own, will use their political positions and a company's vulnerabilities to their own personal advantage.
(So "booty" is being used to refer to "treasure," rather than the more slangy you-know-what.)
Posted by lumi at 1:33 PM
Imagining a 50% scaleback: shrinkage is not surgery
Atlantic Yards Report says, "shrinkage is not surgery," nor is it rocket science. If a mere journalist like Norman Oder can wrap his brain around the issues of reducing the scale (density and bulk included), then we all can get it, except for maybe the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
As I noted, there's an argument that a 50 percent cut in the project should've been the ceiling for discussion, in terms of density. What might that look like? I asked graphic designer Abby Weissman to take a crack at project renderings. Above, a look at the project elevations facing south. Below, Weissman's rough attempt at a 50 percent shrinkage, including height and bulk. (Click to enlarge)
First, the renderings don't convey scale all too well. Consider that a 50 percent reduction in the density of three buildings, including the flagship "Miss Brooklyn," would still leave them bulkier than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.
But there's a certain ridiculousness to the exercise--a reduction in scale wouldn't be accomplished by shrinking the buildings; it would be accomplished by various forms of surgery.
Posted by lumi at 1:14 PM
Few New Positions Heard at Wednesday's Marathon Hearing
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt
[Published according to the "Fair Use" section of the US Copyright Law (section 17).]
BROOKLYN By 3 p.m. on an ordinary summer day, Wednesday, August 23, scores of union workers, most in bright orange T-shirts, had gathered on Jay Street and around the corner on Johnson. They had signs and buttons and they were waiting to get into a building to sit down. By the time the doors opened at Klitgord Auditorium at City Tech, the lines had swelled and the 900-seat auditorium filled up, mostly by these workers, in no time.
These were not studious souls reading books while they waited; they were there to cheer and roar their support for the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards plan.
And although these workers had not been invited personally by Bruce Ratner, who was across Jay Street with members of the "Brooklyn" Nets Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in particular anytime his name was mentioned, yells went up.
They, and several thousand other people who waited patiently in long lines, came to take part in formal public hearing hosted by the State of New York to offer comments on the, by now, well-known proposal.
But the setting really was for shouting rights, both inside and outside the auditorium, and those opposing the Ratner plan, while outnumbered for the first time, held their own.
By 5:15 p.m. 250 people had signed up to speak for three minutes. By 9 p.m., according to the New York Times, 300 people were waiting to speak. Obviously, not all managed to voice their thoughts. A tour of the line still waiting outside at 6 p.m. indicated that most people there at that time were not waiting to speak but simply to get in. The publisher of Time Out New York fretted about breaking into line to join friends waiting for her.
Members of the Municipal Art Society wondered whether their speaker, Stuart Pretz, had managed to get inside to sign up. Elected officials had no trouble getting in.
At 4 p.m., Bruce Ratner had called to order a press conference at 330 Jay Street, a building he had built, featuring a crowd of Brooklyn elected officials, several heads of unions including Randi Weingarten of the United Federation of Teachers, members of groups signing the city's first community benefits agreement, and religious leaders, plus members of the Nets. This was really a pep rally, and one almost expected to see some leggy cheerleaders (or whatever they are called these days) pop out to lead everyone across the street to the hearing.
But throughout all this shouting, cheering, and booing, serious people did have some serious things to say.
"Scale It Back"
Very late in the game the concept of an arena, office and retail and housing is three years old an effort is being made to modify the plan or "scale it back," a term now frequently heard.
In part, this could be summed up by a sentence by Pretz of the Municipal Art Society in his prepared testimony: "The MAS believes that the tremendous benefits of the project could still be achieved with a well-planned project that would integrate with, rather than overwhelm and divide, the surrounding neighborhoods."
One of the reasons these kind of thoughts appear late in the game, is that opponents of the project took a "winner-take-all" attitude from the very beginning; that there were no "tremendous benefits of the project." When the Society appeared in Brooklyn this summer with that kind of point of view, it was not really well-received.
"Growth Has Its Limits‚" Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights) was one of those who articulated the anti-Atlantic Yards argument.
"Growth is good but growth has its limits," she said. "If this project were built, there would be far-reaching negative impacts on public health, air quality, infrastructure, waste management, noise abatement, environmental progress and much else. This project would strain to the point of choking our community facilities and resources.
"There is no meaningful or honest discussion of reduced alternatives that would continue to provide affordable housing, open space, job opportunities and other benefits," she said.
A "community forum" is planned for September 12, again at Klitgord. No one at the moment has any idea whether that meeting will be a repeat of the exhausting meeting of August 23.
Posted by lumi at 12:36 PM
Brooklyn Broadside: "Miss Brooklyn" Not Williamsburgh Bank
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt
Accoring to Dennis Holt, the issue isn't the scale or density, it's the NUMBER of buildings:
BROOKLYN The hearts of readers of the New York Times who are also opponents of the Atlantic Yards proposal must have sunk last Friday when they turned to page B-5. There, by reporter Andy Newman, was a story on whether the proposed new building, "Miss Brooklyn," at 620 feet, should be taller than the Williamsburgh Bank building, at 515 feet. Borough President Marty Markowitz, for the first time, said it shouldn't.
The story was speculation on what that might mean and several cynical comments were made by various people, but no one stepped forth with the most telling observation and the reason for sinking hearts.
Posted by lumi at 12:18 PM
This article lists a littany of urban-planning concerns expressed at last week's public hearing about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, and concludes:
Overall, the plan justifies desolate streets by promising jobs and affordable housing. Isn’t that like justifying a team that can’t pass by promising lots of slam dunks? And does anybody remember how Team USA did with that strategy in the 2004 Olympics?
Whatever happens from here, project opponents and project supporters will have to share these streets.
Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM
Atlantic Yards Wednesday #2: Planned Shrinkage End Game?
Is the talk of shrinkage a spontaneous move on the part of public officials who have heard the drumbeat of opposition in Brooklyn? Or is it calculated ploy by the same powerbrokers so they can say they listened to the public while, in reality, simply cutting fat that was pre-built into project plans in anticipation of this day?
Most curious, of course, are the comments of Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has been Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief while voicing vague concerns about the project's density. Markowitz used the public hearing to declare that some of the buildings need to be scaled back, that Miss Brooklyn shouldn't exceed the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower in height and that transportation planning has been seriously flawed.
Forest City Ratner officials including Jim Stuckey reacted by laughing, according to community activist Philip DePaolo who was sitting behind Mr. Stuckey and took note of the fact they found the Borough President's remarks funny. One can only conclude that (a). Ratner's people knew ahead of time that Markowitz would be making these remarks in order to do some damage control or (b). They thought that Markowitz's modest suggestions were, well, laughable or (c). They find Markowitz himself a joke. (Note to Marty: You should ask Ratner staff people not to laugh at you in public. Or, at least, not to laugh when you're not telling jokes. It looks bad.)
Posted by lumi at 11:26 AM
Candidates Get Their Endorsements Crossed
Coverage of the Batson/Barron cross endorsement:
"You just keep being you," City Councilman Charles Barron told State Assembly candidate Bill Batson on the steps of City Hall this past rainy Sunday afternoon. "If you do," continued Barron, who is running for a political promotion himself this fall - to federal Congress, "then you'll have nothing to worry about. Don't sell us out, but I know you won't."
The two candidates have known each other a long time, having protested together in the wake of the Amodou Diallo shooting over seven years ago. Since then, Barron, a former Black Panther, has taken his street militancy inside the halls of municipal power. He has represented east Brooklyn in the City Council since 2001.
"Charles knows," admired Batson, "that we have to fight on the streets and in Albany and Washington. A lot of politicians go off to the corridors of power and disappear. I want to be like Charles. I want my constituents to hear me and see me."
Posted by lumi at 10:25 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
SubChat.com, Reopening old underpasses - Atlantic Av IRT
From a bona-fide transit-buff message board:
According to the Atlantic Yards DEIS, the closed underpass at the south end could be reopened, which is pretty cool. Anyone here ever use it back when it was open?
OnNYTurf, Worthy Watching: AY Public Hearing
ONYT is telling readers to check out coverage of last week's Public Hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Gothamist, Extra, Extra
From yesterday's coverage round-up at Gothamist:
Looks like the political tide around the Atlantic Yards is starting to shift: first Marty Markowitz called for size reductions, and now David Yassky has come out in favor of reducing the scale of the project. [Link to yesterday's Atlantic Yards Report article about Yassky.]
True Hoop, Legal Challenges to Nets' New Arena
Sportswriter Henry Abbott is "interested in the suggestion that this development could in theory happen without the Nets," and is hosting a discussion in the comments section of his website, which usually covers basketball proper.
Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Down The Ratner Hole...a Peak into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Dreadnaught starts reading the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and vents what seems like his first draft of public-hearing testimony on his blog:
I got around to reading some of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement this evening, particularly chapter 8 urban design. Certainly, the writers were inspired by Louis Carrol, because even Alice in Wonderland didn't have so magical a ride as Forest Cit - oops the ESDC is providing us.
He then cites a couple of instances in which the DEIS either defies reality or makes unsupported conclusions.
I could see why they don't want the public to scrutinize this too long, if I could find this just reading this in between the wash and dry cycles, just imagine what experts could do in a couple of months.
"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide, Mr. David Yassky, Yassky, Yassky.
He asked his voters, voters, voters,
If he made any sense, sense, sense,
Despite the flippity, floppity, flippity,
He sat on the fence, fence, fence.
Atlantic Yards Report, Another Atlantic Yards mailer from Forest City Ratner
(Does the parent New York Times Company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner have any influence on the editorial stance? Well, at least the Times discloses the relationship. No such luck with the mailer.)
...Nope, again there are no tall buildings. Like this:
Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM
NewYorkGames: Selling the silverware and height
NewYorkGames.org posted links to coverage about Forest City Ratner's sale of assets, corporate restructuring and operating losses from the NJ Nets, and concludes:
They continue to sell off the silverware and otherwise scramble to pay the rent. At stake: a $1 billion bonanza. But how long can this continue before the cash runs out? (Rhetorical question; it is very unlikely any editor will allow a reporter to find out.)
In another post NYG cites coverage of Markowitz's call for a scaleback and comments, "Markowitz is playing 'hardball': he wants Ratner to lop a few floors off of the one on the left. Don't worry, the record would be more than safe."
NoLandGrab: NYG is referring to the fact that even if the project is dramatically downscaled, by say even 30%, it would still be the densest residential community in the nation by a long shot.
Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM
Not Just an Ordinary Basement
Brooklyn Downtown Star covers Brooklyn's other land grab, where the city wants to replace the Underground Railroad with underground parking.
If a row of antebellum houses on Duffield Street are torn down to make way for a parking garage, then Brooklyn will lose access to a huge facet of its multi-racial history, and a dozen young children of color will lose access to a summer school for musical theater.
Both of these current resources were on full display last Saturday afternoon, as Joy Chatel and Lew Greenstein offered tours of their basements - which were likely used by DoBro abolitionists to hide fugitive slaves during the 1850s - to politicians and passersby.
Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM
Brooklyn Downtown Star stays to the bitter (and sometimes not so bitter) end
Unencumbered by a pressing deadline, Brooklyn Downtown Star stayed to the end of the only Atlantic Yards public hearing.
Brooklyn Exchanges Bronx Cheers
Star editor Nik Kovac covers the passion between the two camps, the bitter catcalling and veiled threats. However, through the din, Kovac manages to capture moments that were missed by the rest of the mainstream media, those fleeting moments, stripped of the artifice of color-cordinated t-shirts and pro-and-con stereotypes, where well meaning community folks talked about the issues and the neighborhoods about which they all care.
And Now For a Little Substance
Norman Oder covers the more geeky "substance" of the hearing. Several groups showed up to offer critique of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was the stated purpose of the hearing after all.
"Get real about traffic and parking." Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
Atlantic Yards is "not a transit-oriented development but a traffic-oriented development." City Councilmember Letitia James
"The DEIS admits that increased traffic around the arena could lead to slowdowns in service, but what does it propose as mitigation? More buses!" Lauri Schindler, Trustee Park Slope Civic Council
"The DEIS would have us believe that this arena lobby and main entrance to the Atlantic Terminal transit station should be counted as open space. But I don't know a lot of moms who bring their kids to play near the ticket windows at Madison Square Garden." Kristyn LaPlante, Park Slope Neighbors
"I cannot prioritize traffic jams and shadows over housing and jobs." M'balia Rubie, teacher
"The ESDC is a walking advertisement for Public Authorities reform." Eric McClure, Park Slope Neighbors
Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM
Brooklyn-Queens Diary: Forgive Me Darryl
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Kenny Bruno
...I was especially astonished to find that while I was away, the civil rights movement, feared dead since 1968, was reborn in Brooklyn. A new leader of the movement has been anointed. His name is...Bruce Ratner?
Yes, if you listen to the proponents of the Atlantic Yards mega-project, the mall builder from Cleveland is practically the re-incarnation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both names - King and Ratner - were invoked with reverence by an array of elected officials and celebrities on Wednesday, August 23, at a pep rally masquerading as a press conference.
But wait. Ratner's opponents also wear the Movement's mantle. As Yards supporters march around downtown chanting civil rights inspired slogans, a street full of anti-Yards bicyclists briefly eclipses them with similar chants! And while the pro-Ratner forces sing a mantra of Jobs, Housing and Hoops, anti-Atlantic blogs invoke Selma and Montgomery as the inspiring benchmarks of their tactical determination.
Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM
August 29, 2006
Liar Flyer IV: Coming to a mailbox near you
The latest "liar flyer" might be re-deemed the "tired flyer" after all, do neighbors of the Atlantic Yards proposal footprint need to be reminded over and over again that "New York's major newspapers all support" the project they love to hate?
Forest City Ratner has dropped another bundle of dough on a fourth direct mailer, trying to convince residents of Brooklyn, with a mere four pages, that Atlantic Yards isn't as bad as they think. This time Ratner lets the daily papers do most of the talking. [Click on pages to enlarge.]
The joke is that Ratner didn't include any pictures of tall buildings... again.
As for the expected prevarications? Atlantic Yards Report has written extensively on: * the "Guaranteed" seal of approval, * the jobs claims, and * the claims of billions in new tax revenues.
The new brochure backs down from what AYR calls the "$6-billion lie," this time going with the more vague claim "billions in new tax revenues."
But the most tired fabrication that Ratner is unwilling to let drop is the fallacy that the Atlantic Yards plan is in "Downtown Brooklyn" (it's still in PROSPECT HEIGHTS as far as we can tell).
The photo of the gratuitous happy mixed-race couple is a reprise from the previous flyer, which also featured several photos of happy brownstoners, the reluctant Ratner covergirl and many pictures of not-tall buildings.
Posted by lumi at 1:49 PM
DEIS Bogus Points: We're not as think as you stupid we are
Bruce Ratner scores BIG Bogus Points for this one.
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods hired experts to figure out if what Forest City Ratner's experts are telling the Empire State Development Corporation and the public is true.
One deception that the Environmental Simulation Center uncovered is so blatant that any grade-schooler could have spotted it, making it an instant candidate for special Bogus Points.
Here are a couple side-by-side comparisons of existing and proposed conditions, which were tweaked to make the project appear to have less of a visual impact.
In the first, the photographic perspective was tweaked and ZOOMED IN to show less of the tall buildings proposed by Ratner.
In the second, the perspective was left untouched, but the image was ZOOMED OUT to make the tall building in the background seem... less tall.
Using trompe l'oeil effects to tell visual white lies scores a whopping FOUR out of FIVE BOGUS POINTS. We based the score on Ratner's sheer chutzpah and bald-faced confidence that the public is either too stupid to notice or even care.
Posted by lumi at 12:29 PM
HOW TO RIG A HEARING - COVERAGE OF THE SCAM ATLANTIC YARDS D.E.I.S. PROCEEDINGS
Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse
28 min 57mb
Bruce Ratner bussed in and catered lunch for 1,500 hecklers to prevent public discussion about the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Is anyone's home safe from Eminent Domain Abuse? This film details how Ratner and New York State shut Brooklyn out.
If you missed the hearing, this video portrays the flavor of the hearing and some of the speakers who stayed late into the night to address the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM
Daniel Does Destroy: Goldstein Seeks End of Hoop Dreams
Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Richard Lipsky is going to tell anyone who will listen that Dan Goldstein plans to stop Bruce Ratner from plopping an arena on his home, but he won't tell you about the alternative.
Ratner, Markowitz and local politicians all supported siting an arena in Coney Island. Now that the Atlantic-&-Flatbush plan is on the table, they've abandoned the idea.
All that is meaningless to Lipsky, who is ready to line up the bulldozers to get Goldstein:
His opposition to the arena, something we are going to advertise far and wide throughout the borough, means that there are now thousands of newly minted volunteers who will be delighted to man the bulldozer when the legal green flag is waived to demolish this obstructionist's abode. He has now gone from being a legitimate critic to just some self-serving crank and a pest.
NoLandGrab: Wow! And we thought we were shrill.
But Lipsky does bring up a good question: Do those "thousands" of people still qualify as "volunteers" if their leadership receives financial support from Ratner?
Disclosure: Richard Lipsky is a paid consultant to Forest City Ratner.
Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM
New hearing, more questions
By Amy Zimmer
Metro's coverage of the addtional hearing also includes some pointed rhetoric from 52nd Assembly District Leader Jo Ann Simon, who wrote in a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) head Charles Gargano:
“This hearing treated the environmental process as an inconsequential hoop to sail through and be done with,” Jo Anne Simon, state Democratic committeewoman for the 52nd district, wrote in a formal complaint to ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano last week.
She was upset most backers neglected to comment on the hearing’s stated purpose — the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that ESDC released last month — and that a hearing was scheduled for primary day, Sept. 12. “That’s very Robert Moses-like,” she told Metro.
“Under the law, the public has both a right and a duty to comment on the impacts disclosed,” she wrote. “Instead, [ESDC] permitted the developer’s associates (labor unions and ACORN) to admit scores, if not hundreds, of their members ahead of those who had been waiting for hours to enter the building.”
Metro also published this bulleted list of criticisms of the Ratner "affordable" housing plan:
According to Forest City Ratner’s numbers, 40 percent of affordable units will be for families earning between $71,000 and $113,000 a year.
Ratner has not provided a schedule for when those units would be built. The “general project plan” states the project’s first phase — expected to be completed by 2010 — would have a mix of rentals and condos with “between approximately 1,275 and 2,350 residential units,” 50 percent of which would be affordable. It did not, however, specify how many of the units will be rentals.
Should FCR not meet its housing obligations, it has agreed to pay $500,000 to a fund for community groups backing the plan.
Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM
The murmurings of a scaleback, but not of a 50% goal
Atlantic Yards Report "Oderizes" today's NY Sun article.
Everyone expected the Atlantic Yards plan to be reduced somewhat as part of the endgame as state approval approached, and that discussion has now reached the press. A New York Sun article today headlined Pressure Mounts to Curb the Size of Atlantic Yards states: State officials have discussed with the developer, Forest City Ratner, a reduction in the size of the project, a source said.
The Sun writes that "opponents contend" that the project was upsized before it was downsized, leading Oder to comment:
Opponents contend? The press shouldn't have to attribute factual information to a partisan side. It makes it sound like proponents and neutrals would disagree about baseline data.
Oder, who has been on the forefront of the density debate, reiterates his opinion that a project half the size of the current proposal would have made a good starting point for discussion with city planners and the community.
Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is calling it a "Scale Scam." Whatever the name, the game remains the same.
Don’t be fooled.
Developers have long padded the scale of proposed projects, and then sat back while communities cried foul. Once the press has voiced the public’s concerns, the developers, amidst massive fanfare and a show of magnanimity, role back the project by 25% or less – removing the padding – and claiming responsiveness to the people’s concerns.
DDDB's assesment is followed by its growing list of concerns about the project which would not be addressed by a simple scaleback: * The proposed location of the basketball arena (There is a way out of that problem...) * extreme density, * environmental and socio-economic impacts, * eminent domain abuse, and * an undemocratic process.
For details and links, click here.
Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM
"Ratner's Rules of Order" are making a mess out of the public hearing and the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Legal, but Bad Box Office
First, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) public comment period was limited to a scant 66 days for nearly 4,000 pages of documents. It's legal, but a bad PR move, since every politician who gave a damn, one way or another, lined up to denounce the schedule.
The schedule included a "public hearing" and a "community forum" a curious distinction. The ESDC assured the community and press that the "hearing" and "forum" are the same thing, even going as far as to request a correction from the Brooklyn Papers, wich wrote that the August 23rd hearing would be the "only public hearing" (it still is).
A Tale of Two Forums
Just yesterday, the ESDC scheduled another "community forum," shoehorned between the previously scheduled "forum" and the last day of the comment period.
A Wrinkle in Time
This has caused a new wrinkle in the saga of the ESDC schedule. DDDB posted this explanation of the latest confusion on its web site:
By state law the ESDC is required to hold public written comment open for at least ten days after the public hearing. With the newly scheduled public hearing on September 18th, that would mean the written comment deadline should now be September 28th. Instead the ESDC has kept the September 22nd written comment deadline.
As you know, the SEQRA regulations require that the lead agency receive public comments on an DEIS for “no less than 10 calendar days following a public hearing at which the environmental impacts of the proposed action are considered”. 6 NYCRR § 617.9(a)(4)(iii). Clearly that regulation applies to ESDC’s “Community Forums”. We are not aware of any factual or legal distinction between the “public hearing” held on August 23rd and the “community forums” to be held on September 12th and 18th. At both the “hearing” and the “forum” comments are being taken on the DEIS, a transcript is being made and all of the comments are being considered. Furthermore, ESDC’s “Basic Protocol for the Community Forums” notes that persons who signed up to speak at the public hearing but were not given an opportunity to speak, will be given priority at the community forums and that persons, including public officials, who already spoke at the public hearing will not be permitted to speak at the forum. Clearly, the “forums” are nothing more than a continuation of the public hearing. Changing the name of the event does not alter its essential nature. Since the forums are functionally identical to the hearing, the forums must be deemed a continuation of the public hearing and thus comments must be accepted for 10 calendar days following the last public hearing/forum.
Therefore we request that you confirm and publish a new notice recognizing that written comments will be accepted until 5:30 PM on September 28, 2006.
Baker letter to ESDC (PDF).
By bending over backwards to accommodate Forest City Ratner, seemingly improvising new rules and law ("Ratner's Rules of Order!") along the way, the ESDC curiously looks like they are itching for a protracted legal battle.
Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM
Yassky calls (almost) for a 50% AY scaleback
Atlantic Yards Report
11th District Congressional candidate and NY City Councilmember David Yassky has been privately telling constituents that the project should be scaled down by about 50%. AYR reporter Norman Oder tries to get an answer for the record:
Q: You said to the Brooklynite something about 33 percent, one-third.
DY: I think it should be brought down more than that.
Q: So how much more? I’ve heard from four or five people that you’ve said 50 percent.
DY: I think 50 percent would be acceptable.
We were walking, so I wanted to make sure Yassky really meant it.
Q: It should be cut 50 percent, is that what you’re saying?
DY: It has to come down substantially. I don’t know if there’s a magic number.
Would a 50 percent cut--to about 4.35 million square feet--make the project palatable to community members who oppose the project? Perhaps, for those whose main concern is scale, rather than those who object to the use of eminent domain and the no-bid, no-planning process.
Right now, the project, in terms of population, would be twice as dense as the densest census tract in the country, as the New York Observer has reported. Halving the size of the project would bring it to the level, perhaps, from where the discussion should have started.
Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM
EMINENT DOMAINIA: Bruce is addicted to eminent domain and his flagship tenant ironically cries foul over Florida condemnation
ShakinDave, Does This Look Like Blight?
The pictures above show Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. The area contains homes, a neighborhood bar, a sporting goods store, a union hall, a self-storage warehouse, an electronics outlet, a pair of gas stations, and a Guyanese restaurant.
Developer Bruce Ratner wants to replace all of these with a cluster of high-rise homes and offices, and an arena to house the New Jersey Nets, the professional basketball team he bought two years ago for $300 million.
Eminent Domain Blog, Eminent Domain Decision: Appellate panel affirms Judge Costello in Twp. of Bloomfield v. 110 Washington Street
The NJ courts stopped the Township of Bloomfield from condemning property for Bruce Ratner (again). This is just the latest round in the legal fight by local merchants and businessmen to maintain the right to develop their own properties. It also makes one wonder, when does Bruce Ratner NOT use eminent domain?
Palm Beach Post, Target, state road agency tussle over eminent domain
Here's an odd case, in which retail giant Target claims that turn-about is foul play:
At issue is how much Tallahassee owes the retailer in business damages now that it has used eminent domain to force the sale of three Target-owned parcels at State Road 7 and Southern Boulevard in Royal Palm Beach.
First, most of the state road-building agency's eminent domain actions never make it to court, much less appellate court.
Second, it turns the tables on Target. Along with such businesses as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and CVS Corp. pharmacies, Target has benefited when cities or counties hungry for new business seize land through eminent domain and then make it available to the retailers.
"Target is not the first big-box store that, after having taken advantage of eminent domain, finds itself on the receiving end," said Dana Berliner, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice. The Washington think tank supports curbs on eminent domain.
The retailer's strategy has backfired occasionally. U.S. District Judge Charles A. Shaw rebuked Target in 2003 for strong-arm tactics involved in trying to get St. Louis to condemn a store site.
Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM
Pressure Mounts to Curb the Size of Atlantic Yards
The NY Sun
By David Lombino
State officials have discussed with the developer, Forest City Ratner, a reduction in the size of the project, a source said. The officials have said the downsizing should come in the next few weeks, before September 22, the end of the public comment period regarding the draft environmental impact statement, the source said. As proposed, Atlantic Yards would be the largest development project in Brooklyn's history and create the densest census tract in America.
City officials said yesterday that the Department of City Planning is drafting written testimony that it will submit to the ESDC that will include comments about the proposed height and how the project fits in the context of the low-rise neighborhood.
Previously, the Bloomberg administration has supported the plan without reservation based on its job creation and affordable housing components. City Hall does not have an official vote on the matter, because the proposal circumvents the city’s uniform land use review process.
If the developer reduces the project’s size, it should not expect instant community approval of the new plan. A spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella organization of opposition groups, Daniel Goldstein, said a size reduction would not halt a legal challenge over the proposed use of eminent domain.
Mr. Goldstein said the organization would oppose the project until the developer changes the 22-acre project footprint, considers not building the basketball arena, and takes eminent domain off the table.He said he expected a size reduction as part of the developer’s strategy to seek approval.
“They shoot for the sun so they can get the moon.When they get the moon, they act like they have listened to the criticism and responded,” Mr. Goldstein said.
Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM
A Brawl in Brooklyn
Public Hearing for Atlantic Yards project stirs anger, not consensus
The Architect's Newspaper
By Alec Appelbaum
On August 23, a public hearing on Forest City Ratner’s 22-acre Atlantic Yards proposal lasted over seven hours, and in its bitter tone, showed that positions for and against the project have hardened.
Technically, the hearing disposed of the Empire State Development Corporation’s obligation to consider the project’s effect on local life. If New York City had assembled the land in question, as it did for rezoning Williamsburg/Greenpoint and rebuilding Yankee Stadium, four public hearings and a 120-day review would have preceded a vote by the City Council. But the state used eminent domain to speed developer Bruce Ratner’s project. Under the state’s streamlined review, the public got 66 days to review a 2,000-page draft statement, which was released on July 18th, and one chance to comment on it. Opponents asked for a longer review period, saying it could generate consensus on a plan that would create jobs without distorting neighborhood scale.
Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM
Freddie Hamilton's campaign web site is back
The campaign web site of 57th Assembly District candidate Freddie Hamilton is back. Though she refused to answer any questions regarding Atlantic Yards at a recent candidates forum, her web site has this statement (in case you were confused as to where she stands on the issue):
The development of Downtown Brooklyn
The Development of Downtown Brooklyn which includes the Atlantic Yards project, The BAM Cultural District and the Development of the old Williamsburg Savings Bank Building.
While change is constant, it's still hard when the change happens to you. I am a signer of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement on behalf of six community based service organizations in the 57th Assembly District. They are Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Youth America Inc., REBUILD, Jackie Robinson Center for Physical Culture, Grandmothers as Mothers Again, Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center and Child Development Support Corporation.
Although I am a supporter of the Atlantic Yards development, I hope to keep open and honest dialogue with those who oppose the project. This is an evolving process and I believe that continued negotiations will ultimately provide the best outcomes for the community and for the district.
NoLandGrab: The pioneering Community Benefits Agreement for the Staples Center in LA outlined a process whereby the developer negotiates with the community. Since CBA-signer Hamilton has a "seat at the table," she is the one who should be having an "open dialogue" with the developer. To call for an open dialogue with the "community" is a waste of resources and precious time.
When the signers of the CBA accepted money from Bruce Ratner in return for their support, the onus for negotiating for a better project fell on the shoulders of project opponents the ones who do not have a seat at the table.
Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM
Overview of the Review of the Draft Environmental Review
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has a handy page for all things concerning the Environmental Reivew: * testimony, * hearing dates, * links to the documents, * letters calling for more time and * comparison of the draft and final scope of analysis.
Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM
DDDB Press Release:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Calls for Apology from NYC District Council Carpenters Political Director Stephen McInnis Should Apologize for Insensitive Remarks
BROOKLYN, NY—Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) calls for an apology to the communities of Central Brooklyn for a statement made today by a union leader.
In an article in today’s New York Observer (“Chris Quinn: Secret Establishment Favorite”), the political director of the New York City District Council Carpenters, Stephen McInnis, is quoted as saying that he sees officials as advocates of one of three worldviews: “build everything, platform over the Hudson River and build 60-story high-rises”; “let’s burn it all down, Atlantic Yards is the worst thing ever, and I’m going to get my name in the paper by saying it’s the worst thing ever”; and, finally, “the middle ground.”
Mr. McInnis’ statement that opponents of developer Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” proposal want to “…burn it all down…” is both insensitive and confusing. The statement is insensitive as the communities surrounding Ratner’s proposed project, along the Pacific Street corridor, have recently seen a rash of suspected arsons which have not only burned buildings down but have killed five individuals.
Mr. McInnis’ remarks are confusing because the communities fighting against the Ratner project are opposed to the abuse of eminent domain which would see the state of New York seize and demolish approximately 70 buildings. Presumably Mr. McInnis supports those demolitions. Those same opponents of “Atlantic Yards” favor a different http://dddb.net/php/community/extell.phpdevelopment plan for the rail yards–a plan http://www.nydailynews.com/boroughs/story/326092p-278717c.htmlsolicited by them–which would not tear down any buildings. That plan would construct eleven buildings up to 28 stories using union labor, offers the same percentage of affordable housing as “Atlantic Yards” does, and offered substantially more money to the MTA than the Ratner bid.
“We fully support the use of union labor for any development that might occur on the Brooklyn rail yard site and development anywhere in the city. We respect union labor–all we ask is that union leadership respect the communities they wish to come into and build,” said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “We hope that Mr. McInnis can show us that respect and apologize for his insensitive remarks in today’s Observer article.”
Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM
Press Release: Batson and Barron
Congressional Candidate Charles Barron and NY State Assembly Candidate Bill Batson Cross-Endorse
New York, August 27, 2006 – Today on the steps of City Hall, Council Member Charles Barron, running for the seat in the 10th Congressional District endorsed Bill Batson’s run for the open seat in the 57th NY State Assembly District.
“Mr. Batson is the only independent, real, progressive voice in this race for the Assembly; everyone else is part of the Brooklyn Democratic Machine,” Councilmember Baron said. “We need new leadership in this community,” Barron continued, “and that is why I enthusiastically endorse Bill Batson.”
Both Barron and Batson are running grassroots Brooklyn campaigns fueled by small donors. They are both independent thinkers with long histories of organizing and activism in Brooklyn.
“Charles Barron has been a long-time activist in this city; a man with great integrity who fights every day for his community,” Batson stated. “There is no one I see who is more qualified, more capable of serving the 10th Congressional District than Charles Barron, and I am proud to endorse him for the seat.”
Posted by lumi at 12:12 AM
August 28, 2006
It came from the Blogosphere...
Brooklyn Heights Blog, Nabe Photog Reveals Gargantuan Nature of Yards Project
BHB posts on the photos Brooklyn Heights resident Jonathan Barkey released last week.
He tells Brooklyn Papers, “I was bothered by the fact that Ratner’s renderings make the impact look less because the photos were from so far away…But when you show his plans in the proper context, you see how colossal it is.”
As you can see from Barkey's rendering (above) of the Dean Street Playground, buildings appear to be attacking kids enjoying an afternoon of play.
The Politicker, More Atlantic Yards Meetings
The Empire State Development Corporation sent the announcement of an additional "community forum," very official-like, by email:
The Empire State Development Corporation just announced (as in, I just got the email about) two additional meetings they will hold for purpose of "soliciting more comments on the Atlantic Yards Project."
The Long and Continuous Emergency, Scaling Down Atlantic Yards?
Jason at The Long and Continuous Emergency ponders the talk about a scale down of Atlantic Yards and thinks out loud:
This is probably what they intended since the beginning.
Gowanus Longue, Second Atlantic Yards "Community Forum" Added
It would appear that even the ESDC is anxious to avoid a process that looks more like Moscow circa 1986 than New York City circa 2006. In the end, though, unless the fundamental dynamics of the process are altered to allow genuine community input and a deliberate process that allows for full and honest analysis of the benefits and negative impacts of Atlantic Yards, then the ESDC's review and "vote" will still have a distinctly Soviet smell about it with a touch of Robert Moses mixed in.
Daily Politics, Remainders
Ben Smith is reporting that Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer is getting his way with the addition of another "community forum" date. It's hard to see why that would be the case, since Spitzer called for a longer period for review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, not another forum. The second "community forum" was shoehorned into the schedule, but the close of the public comment period remains September 22.
Posted by lumi at 11:15 PM
"Community Forums" mea culpa
We stand corrected. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn attorney Jeff Baker informed us that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), by law, must hold the public comment period open after a "public hearing" for 10 days, not 30 as we had earlier reported.
Since the next "community forum" is to be held on the 12th of September (ten days before the September 22nd close of the public comment period), it's a total mystery why the ESDC is intent on not calling it a "hearing." However, the September 18th "community forum" wouldn't satisfy that rule.
So we ask again: what's the difference between a "community forum" and a "public hearing," and why is the distinction so important if comments made at both will become part of the public record?
We'll bet the house that the ESDC and Forest City Ratner know the answer. The community, however, will have to wait for a reply to a Freedom of Information request.
Posted by lumi at 10:53 PM
YIMBY! The Williamsburg Hasids want an arena? (Not really)
Atlantic Yards Report
A group of Hasidic Jews from Williamsburg attended last week's public hearing on Atlantic Yards, carrying signs proclaiming "YIMBY: Yes In My Backyard."
That's ironic, because the project wouldn't be in their backyards, and according to a NY Times article unearthed by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, the same community is alarmed by "their neighborhood being invaded by 'artisten,' a Yiddish word that in local parlance is used to describe non-Hasidim who live on the north side."
Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM
ESDC: Community Forums (Additional)
The Empire State Development Corporation posted on its web site, to very little fanfare (where's the press release?), that there will be an "Additional" "Community Forum" (not a "Hearing") on Monday, September 18, 2006.
The "Community Forum Protocol" (PDF) reads:
As a result of the significant turn-out at the August 23, 2006 Public Hearing on the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project (“Project”) and numerous comments received from the public, ESDC has scheduled an additional Community Forum for the purpose of soliciting comments on the Project. There will now be two Community Forums scheduled as follows:
I. Tuesday, September 12, 2006 – 4:30 pm – 8 pm at the New York City College of Technology (Klitgord Auditorium), 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn
II. Monday, September 18, 2006 – 4:30 pm – 8 pm at the New York City College of Technology (Klitgord Auditorium), 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn
These two items headline the "protocol:"
The Community Forums will be structured similar to the August 23 rd Public Hearing. ESDC representatives will be in attendance. There will be an independent Community Forum officer and a court reporter present and a stenographic transcript will be prepared. There will be no Project presentation, except that the Community Forum officer will make some preliminary comments regarding the procedures to be followed at the Community Forum.
All comments at the Community Forums will be given the same consideration as comments received at the Public Hearing and will be considered by ESDC prior to final action on the Project. All comments will be made part of the public record.
NoLandGrab: So if "all comments" will be "part of the public record," then what's the difference between a Community Forum and a Public Hearing?
By law, the ESDC must hold the comment period open for 30 days after a "Public Hearing" for the submission of written testimony. This does not appear to be the case for a "Community Forum."
This NEW "Ratner rule" allows the ESDC to accommodate Forest City Ratner's schedule, while seeming to allow for ample public comment.
This still hardly addresses the call by nearly every public official, excepting the Brooklyn Borough President and the Mayor, for more time for study and analysis of the 4,000 pages released last month. Most community stakeholders can be seen with their noses to the grindstone as if they were studying for the bar.
Now the outstanding question is why the ESDC has no problem being seen publicly working within the framework of the "Ratner Rules of Order?"
Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM
The mysteries of Site 5: blight and development rights
Atlantic Yards Report
Recently, AYR pointed out that to call state-owned railyards "blighted" was a stretch, because they're RAILYARDS in active use by the Long Island Railroad (see "Bogus Blight" below for peek at the footprint map without the "blighted" railyards). One might just as easily call any street with a pot hole "blighted" under the same reasoning and take those too.
Today, AYR examines Site 5. This lot was deemed "blighted" back in 1960. What has happened since Forest City Ratner built the PC Richards and Modell's? It's still blighted.
According to the blight study:
Although the 30,780 sf lot can accommodate up to 184,680 zsf of built space under current zoning, it hosts a single-story 30,300 gsf building, utilizing only about 16 percent of the lot’s development potential. At the time the lot was developed, the market conditions would not support a large-scale development using all of the development rights... Given its key location in the midst of one of the largest commercial districts in Brooklyn, lot 1 is critically underutilized.
And who owned the air rights to this "critically underutilized" (read "short") piece of land? The City.
So according to the blight study, "market conditions" are to blame for the "blight" caused by the "critically underutilized" city-owned air rights.
Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM
DEIS Bogus Points: Bogus Blight
Atlantic Yards Report uncovered a couple examples of bogus blight after reading the Blight Study, released along with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan.
First, AYR quoted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's attorney Jeff Baker, who made a point about the railyards on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show (link):
They’re counting as an element of blight, the Vanderbilt Yard railyard. I’m not sure it qualifies as blight; it’s in active use by the MTA and LIRR… There’s been no effort by any state or city authority for at least the last 30 years to develop it. It could also be considered an asset.
If the state-owned railyards have never been developed, can they be considered "blighted?" If not, then the percentage of "blighted" property in the footprint drops dramatically, as seen in the side-by-side comparison.
In another post, AYR explained that much of the non-railyard property in the footprint is deemed "blighted" because it is underdeveloped, meaning either at least 50% of the lot is vacant or the property is developed to less than 60% of the allowable Floor Area Ratio (in other words it isn't big enough). Under the 60% rule, Bruce Ratner's own Atlantic Center Mall is, like, mad blighted.
The Empire State Development Corporation is bending over backwards to make the case that the area is "characterized by blighted conditions that are unlikely to be removed without public action."
It will be up to the courts to decide whether or not these claims are bogus, but we give the "blight" finding THREE out of FIVE BOGUS POINTS. [It would have scored higher except that it's totally unoriginal there has never been a blight study that has concluded that the study area was not "blighted."]
Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM
August 27, 2006
TODAY: Barron & Batson Cross Endorsement Press Conference
On Sunday, August 27, 2006, Charles Barron and Bill Batson will be holding a cross-endorsement press conference on the steps of City Hall at 3:00pm.
This cross-endorsement comes right on the heels of another anti-Atlantic Yards co-endorsement. Chris Owens and Bill Batson co-endorsed each other at a City Hall press conference and rally on Tuesday.
Posted by amy at 8:44 AM
Nobody Home on the Atlantic Yards Chatline
We received an email in the middle of the day yesterday from a reader alerting us to the creation of a party line devoted to the Atlantic Yards project. We were a little skeptical, not believing that pro- and anti-Ratner forces could actually engage in civil conversation. Our tipster had only found one other person on the line earlier in the day but had mentioned that evenings were supposed to be much higher volume. So we were a little disappointed when we dialed in at around 11 o'clock only to find that we were the only ones reaching out to touch someone. Has anyone actually had a conversation on this thing?
Posted by amy at 8:35 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Gumby Fresh, Hoop Drools
This came back to me as I watched Vince Carter and top wife-beater Jason Kidd mumble their way through a press conference organised by their boss Bruce Ratner aboout the stadium. Here's the low-down (Realplayer link) from Kidd on why he just loves his boss' project:
""He's doing it not just for the Nets, but for the community, for the youth to have role models tobe able to look up to not just for ten years but for longevity."
Carter's statement, which I haven't been able to hunt down, was if anything even less coherent than Kidd's. It's a tribute to Ratner's cynicism that he thinks that merely hauling two athletes onstage to repeat "Youth", "Goal" and "Unity" in an indeterminate order will provide the requisite publicity boost.
Capitoilette, Survivor: Atlantic Yards
Well, on the same day that CBS unveiled its brilliant new Survivor format, Bruce Ratner and friends also decided to showcase just how good a marketing strategy it is to play the race card.
By buying-off construction workers with phony claims about jobs, and housing advocates with phony claims about affordable housing (and by simply buying Rev. Herbert Daughtry), Forest City Ratner has managed to paint a portrait of a passionate and predominantly African-American pro-AY team facing off against a rather bloodless group of Anglo anti-Yarders.
It’s a powerful picture, and one that has made many a local elected official a tad antsy about weighing in against the development (Letitia James, to her credit, is a notable exception). No one in Borough or City politics wants to be against minority jobs or affordable housing, and few would want to be seen as anti-African American. I’m sure Ratner and his consultants had some idea all along that they might get so lucky.
vidiotspeak, Sorry for the light posting,
Nobody said what was really going on. Nobody talked about the fact that there is a myth called "private property" in this country. There is no such thing as private property. You may THINK you own your home. But you don't. The bank does. And even if you pay of the mortgage, you still don't own it. Just try to not pay your property taxes and see how long you get to live there. The crux of the Ratner project is the way he acquired the land -- through guise and eminant domain abuse.
Mr. Vidiot has coined a really good term for this and he doesn't want me say too much about it yet, and hopefully, he will blog about it soon. (He doesn't blog much. He'd better start. Hint hint.)
We're anxiously awaiting...NoLandGrab loves to propagate new words!
OMFG! I almost forgot about Will's maps. If you have not seen them, run ASAP. They totally kick ass and are an example of exactly the kind of information the city ought to be putting out for us constituents to review.
Why is it that even if we have a mayor who happens to be one of the biggest digital moguls of our era; New Yorkers cannot count on having this kind of information available on the internet and in kiosks around the city for "We The People's" review?
Posted by amy at 8:12 AM
August 26, 2006
Chris Quinn: Secret Establishment Favorite
New York Observer traces City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's trajectory from bare-breasted gay activist to "redder-haired, better-dressed" advocate for overdevelopment. Included is a puzzling quote from someone confusing community activists with arsonists.
Some of the projects Ms. Quinn has supported include the expansion of the Javits Center, a rezoning of the West Side and a citywide garbage plan that includes putting a recycle plant in her own Chelsea district.
The political director of the New York City District Council Carpenters, Stephen McInnis, says he sees officials as advocates of one of three worldviews: “build everything, platform over the Hudson River and build 60-story high-rises”; “let’s burn it all down, Atlantic Yards is the worst thing ever, and I’m going to get my name in the paper by saying it’s the worst thing ever”; and, finally, “the middle ground.”
Ms. Quinn, he said, is the latter category, skewing toward “build everything.”
Posted by amy at 11:13 PM
Pleasantville vs. Brooklyn, and other DEIS hearing footnotes
Atlantic Yards Report discusses what was missing from MSM coverage of the DEIS hearing and the Pleasantville conundrum.
That means those who spoke late, or never even had their names called, didn't get the ink. For example, other than in the New York Observer's blog The Real Estate and my blog, the critical yet convoluted comments of the influential Regional Plan Association got no coverage.
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn attorney Jeff Baker got no coverage outside of my blog, even though his contention--that a privately-owned arena does not meet the definition of a "civic project"--likely will be part of a major lawsuit. And, as I noted, Community Consulting Services and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) offered important criticisms about traffic. They were almost completely ignored, though the Courier-Life chain mentioned TSTC.
And reporters who didn't stay until the end didn't capture a potential metaphor: though project proponents for hours had outnumbered opponents, many of the former left earlier to return home, so by the last hour or so, the opponents--most of whom live closer to the hearing (and project) site--dominated the room.
Posted by amy at 11:08 PM
TODAY: Rally Against Eminent Domain Abuse!
Saturday, August 26
227 Duffield Street (between Fulton & Willoughby)
The City wants to destroy the slave safehouses from the Underground Railroad to create underground parking.
An engineering firm called AKRF (which is also Ratner's and the Yankee's firm) wants to rewrite history, and we need to make a lot of noise to make sure they don't destroy one of Brooklyn's important historical landmarks.
The rally is being hosted by one of our great community activists, Joy Chatel, and FUREE, a group that has been vocally defending the rights of public housing residents and other issues of economic racism.
The rally will include: * tours of the site, * speeches by community advocates, * food, * music, and * dancing.
It will be part street party, part political education, and fully about creating community!
Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM
DEIS Bogus Points: The GAP Gap
GRAND ARMY PLAZA
Grand Army Plaza is just inside the 1/2-mi. radius of Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards project. Currently six lanes of traffic keep the Plaza well defended from the public and make it one of the least accessible public spaces in Brooklyn. The recent renovation of the arch and fountain dressed up what is functionally a great big traffic circle.
OPEN SPACE, YES!
Grand Army Plaza is included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) tally of Open Space Resources, though pedestrians are limited to two access points at which to safely cross six lanes of traffic: the crosswalk near Vanderbilt Ave. and another near Union St. Cyclists who do not use one of the two crosswalks access Grand Army Plaza at their own peril. [Click on images to enlarge.]
On the other hand, the DEIS did not dare to include Grand Army Plaza itself in the analysis of Atlantic Yards traffic impacts. The study considered two intersections near the circle, but neglected to study the possibility of gridlock within the circle.
Also, drivers traveling southeast on Union St. are familiar with the "queuing" of vehicles (quaint technical term for lots of traffic) throughout the day, seven days a week. Neither the Union St.-GAP intersection, nor the Union-8th Ave. intersection, where gridlock frequently occurs, were analyzed in the traffic study. Why bother studying these intersections when everyone knows they already suck.
For sheer audaciousness and defiance of reality, we award this paradox in the DEIS FOUR out of FIVE Bogus Points.
Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM
Hurry Up And Wait At Yards Hearing
Shirley McRae, Chair of Community Board 2, was not called to speak until five hours after her arrival, and was denied early entry that is customary for board members. She waited in line for more than an hour to sign in.
“They would not have called me if I had not come out to ask them what’s going on,” she said, calling the organization of the hearing “ridiculous”. At 9:30 p.m., three CB2 members had spoken and seven were still waiting to.
Devin Cohen, Chair of the Community Board 6 Public Safety Committee, spent six and a half hours at the hearing but was never called.
“I really hope that people who represent constituencies like community boards will be guaranteed the opportunity to speak at the next hearing and I hope that the tone will be conducive to [allow more people to speak],” said Cohen.
Posted by amy at 3:02 AM
A Chorus of Cross Talk And Sniping : One Down And Just One More Yards Hearing to Go
Proponents and opponents of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project alternately cheered, booed and heckled each other in last week’s public hearing seeking input on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
But behind the drama of the hearing, held at the New York City College of Technology (Klitgord Auditorium), 285 Jay Street, were several interesting opinions on the 1,400-page DEIS document itself.
Among the more surprising of these opinions came from Borough President Marty Markowitz. Although he is a major supporter of the project, he recommended scaling it down considerably.
Posted by amy at 2:20 AM
August 25, 2006
Atlantic Yards Report on the Media
Today Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder returns to his original assignment, The NY Times and the media:
The Times on AY: skepticism about construction jobs, but not about revenue
Oder takes a look at yesterday's NY Times article and notices a "rowback," as the Times is suddenly expressing the 15,000-jobs figure as "1500 construction jobs."
What's a "rowback?" What's the difference between the two figures? When will the Times scrutinize the "$1.4 billion tax revenue" prediction? Read the "O-dair Report" to learn more.
Gather up the press and blog coverage, maybe add some video, and you can approximate the experience of the seven-hour public hearing Wednesday on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). But it really needed a writer with more "voice,” a columnist like Jimmy Breslin or Murray Kempton (R.I.P.).
Why didn’t a metro columnist, or even a sports columnist, from one of the dailies cross the river? After all, it was the day’s—maybe the summer’s--most striking piece of street theater. There were so many threads to follow, building blocks for 800 compelling words, stories with drama and maybe even a moral.
Oder lists several different threads that would've made great fodder for Gotham's bevy of columnists.
Posted by lumi at 12:03 PM
Follow the Leader on AY hearing
NY Press political blog Follow the Leader calls the Atlantic Yards hearing in favor of the Ratner supporters even going as far as saying:
Unions, apparently, are better at getting their people to show up on time.
Incivility ruled on both sides, but was particularly noticeable from the opposition, who were pretty personal towards elected officials when the room was quiet. To Marty Markowitz: "you sold out your borough, scumbag," to Roger Green: "you're a criminal," "you're a crook," to Karim Camara: "go hang out with Clarence." One elderly woman even had to be removed for her outburst during Martin Golden's pro-development statement.
Also, John D. notices that David Yassky's "nice-looking signs were displayed everywhere" and "Charles Barron's congressional campaign were (sic) handing out one of the most unprofessional looking pieces of literature I've ever seen."
Today's post on the hearing featured this photo of the de-spectacled Bruce Ratner leading the ACORN demonstration beside Executive Director Bertha Lewis, with the jubilant Bruce Bender in his wake.
NoLandGrab: Follow the Leader may not realize that union members are typically paid for time spent at demonstrations supported by the union leadership.
Also, Yassky's campaign war chest of more than a million dollars buys the "nice-looking signs" that Barron's grass-roots campaign can't afford.
More Follow the Leader coverage of the hearing:
Critical Endorsements, Athlete Edition
Taking a page out of the New York Jets' book, in which you have stars of the past and future come out in support of your stadium project, Atlantic Yards picked up the endorsements of the New Jersey Nets' Vince Carter and Jason Kidd today.
[This post also repeats the erroneous report on NY1 that Heath Ledger and Rosie Perez were at the hearing.]
During last night's hearing, Assemblyman Roger Green made it crystal clear what he thinks of those who would oppose the Atlantic Yards project: they should go back where they came from, or at least try to navigate the 'hood.
Posted by lumi at 11:31 AM
AY Ay Ay Ay, Canta, No Llore
Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky sticks it to project critics and sends shout-outs to his posse on the Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog.
At yesterday's ESDC hearing on Atlantic Yards the opposition was blown out of the gym. The intensity, diversity and numbers told the story.
Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM
Community Activist Philip DePaolo offers this observation and analysis in response to Marty's position tweak calling for the project, especially Miss Brooklyn, to be downscaled:
Just a small side note. At the ESDC hearing I was sitting right behind FCR'S Jim Stuckey. He seemed to get quite a chuckle over Marty Markowitz's comments. And his surrounding posse of yes men and women also got a good laugh. Marty was doing damage control with the community. Nothing more.
Posted by lumi at 10:51 AM
NYG gets back with AY coverage
When the Public Authorities Control Board put the kibbosh on the Jets Westside Stadium plan, New York Games's coverage split into several different streams. Lately, NYG has been following the US Olympic Committee's search for the US candidate for 2016 host city, and the latest mess of development controversies on the Westside.
This week, NYG gets caught up on the controversy over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal:
NYG posted links and excerpts from three recent Atlantic Yards stories, and offered this analysis:
Why on earth would the state and city support a project generating the most density in the country (by a factor of 2)? To preserve billion dollar profits for the developer, naturally.
Link and commentary on:
* Chris Smith's article for NY Magazine,
* the Coney Island site that is suddenly "no longer available" according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statment, and * Observer Reporter Matthew Schuerman's piece about how AY would be the densest residential census tract in the nation.
NYG also posted a recent NY Times article examining the "blight" claim. NYG concludes:
If [this, at right] is "blight," then 95% of New York is fair game. A dangerous precedent.
Posted by lumi at 10:42 AM
Two candidates who are running for, but do not currently hold, office and thus could not cut the line to speak before the "public" at the "public" hearing have posted their statements and comments on the Atlantic Yards hearing on their web sites.
After hundreds of hours of close examination of this project, with my neighbors and peers, I must condemn virtually every aspect of the Forest City Ratner (FCR) proposal for the following reasons: * The use of eminent domain for a private developer is wrong and is a precedent that should never be set. I remind the audience that the same consultants used by Ratner and the ESDC (AKRF) are also attempting to use eminent domain to take a known Underground Railroad location on Duffield Street. * Every promise made by this developer is worthless unless contained in a legally binding agreement with a local legislative body. In the past, FCR has promised street widening, an off ramp from the BQE, free parking and employment for local kids. Each promise was reneged on. * Substantial public subsidies should involve substantial public review. There has been NO LEGITIMATE PUBLIC REVIEW OF THIS PROJECT. I propose that any public subsidy to a single developer of over one billion dollars should be put up to a referendum * And finally, if built, this monstrosity will destroy the most storied county in American history. The shadows cast across Fort Greene would scar America’s first middle class black community. In 1820, African-Americans started Weeksville at the corner of Lincoln and Underhill and grew to Buffalo and Bergen. In Fort Greene Park, Richard Wright wrote Native Son and John Coltrane perfected his chops. Under the soil of the park, built by Walt Whitman, lie the bones of the 11,500 prison ship martyrs. This history, absent from this ESDC document should form the centerpiece of any development in Brooklyn, not an afterthought, or even worse, a victim.
Alison Duncan (Green Party candidate, Lt. Gov), Develop Brooklyn on a Human Scale
One of the four pillars of the Green Party is grassroots democracy. The Atlantic Yards project is fundamentally undemocratic. It is exempt from our local Urban Land Use Review Procedure and therefore not held accountable to the community boards, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Because the project is not accountable to local government:
- the housing and jobs proposed are not guaranteed
- there are numerous adverse impacts to the community including traffic and public transit congestion, increased sewage overflow, overcrowded schools, increased asthma and other health risks and strains on firehouses, law enforcement, public safety and hospitals leaving the community dangerously under served.
"Atlantic Yards" Voter's Guide looked on Hakeem Jeffries web site and in his latest campaign mailer and couldn't find one statement on the most controversial issue in the candidate's district.
Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM
Marty tweaks his tack?
The NY Times, A Little Change of Tune From Atlantic Yards’ Biggest Fan
To hear Mr. Markowitz tell it, the Atlantic Yards, comprising high-rise housing, a sports arena and retail space, is Junior’s Cheesecake, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a bag of chips and then some. He has always acknowledged that it might need a little fine-tuning, but he has saved his exclamation points for words of praise. At a news conference on Wednesday, for example, he said, “Brooklyn is a world-class city, and we deserve the Atlantic Yards!”
But a few hours later, at a public hearing on the 22-acre project’s environmental impact, Mr. Markowitz shouted a slightly different tune.
For the first time, he urged that the project’s centerpiece, a tower dubbed Miss Brooklyn, rise no higher than the nearby Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, the clock-faced icon that has defined Brooklyn’s skyline since 1929. “The Williamsburgh Savings Bank should remain Brooklyn’s tallest building!” he thundered.
Two views on Marty's move:
Assemblyman Roger Green, who has called for the project to be downsized, said of Mr. Markowitz, “In the context of negotiating with Ratner and the state, I think he’s calibrating his remarks to get to a compromise.”
Eric McClure, a co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, a civic group, said the operative verb to describe Mr. Markowitz’s remarks was “grandstanding” rather than “calibrating.”
Mr. Markowitz, Mr. McClure said, was reaching for some political cover so that he could say he stood up to the developers, an assertion that might be useful if he runs for higher office when his term expires in 2009.
The 620-foot-high "Miss Brooklyn" tower planned for the gateway to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project might not wind up being the borough's tallest building after all.
Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said yesterday the developer would consider suggestions by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz during a contentious public hearing Wednesday, including that the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Fort Greene remain the borough's biggest building.
Anonymous commentary on Brownstoner has another less politic take on Marty's tweaked position:
We are being played like the proverbial stradivarius. This is classic "foot in the door" sales technique - make a ridiculous, inflamatory statement to get in the door and then any compromise from that level makes it look as though you have made a major concession. It's no coincidence that Marty makes this statement in the most publicised forum on this topic.
Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM
The Brian Lehrer Show: Crossing Atlantic
Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM
Ratner’s bussed-in lovefest
The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen
While most papers covered the speakers at the press conference, Brooklyn Papers covered the press circus itself:
Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner bussed in basketball-loving kids, senior citizens and even a few of his New Jersey Nets stars for a pep rally minutes before Wednesday’s public hearing on his mega-development.
Looking for a gig, "The Magic Lady*" Roberta Flack, "said she couldn’t wait to sing 'at this great big arena;'" looking for a little love was Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, who "got so caught up in the lovefest that he gave Ratner a bear hug."
Meanwhile, kids, many sporting “Yes In My Back Yard” buttons given to them by the developer, giddily snapped pictures of Nets stars Vince Carter and Jason Kidd on their cellphone cameras.
* Back in the 90s, Roberta Flack's performance contract contained a rider that required all event staff to address the pop diva at all times as "The Magic Lady," and stipulated she was to only be transported in a black, not white, limousine.
Pure gratuitous snark: Earth to Magic Lady when is the last time you performed in an 18,000-seat arena in the States?
Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM
Sham choice, process
The Brooklyn Papers published this strongly worded editorial about the prevailing dynamic at the Empire State Development Corporation's public hearing on Atlantic Yards.
In one camp, the thugs -- in the other, the nerds.
In the thug camp, hundreds of Ratner supporters shouted down those speaking against the project. This camp made the argument that if Atlantic Yards is not built, it is because the opponents — interlopers, yuppies and racists, all — don’t care about “the community.”
Some even suggested that Atlantic Yards must be built or under-served black youths will be forced to enter a life of crime.
“We don’t want to rob/We just want a job,” several men chanted outside the hearing.
The nerd camp also showed up in force, but with a very different approach. In the face of shouts, taunts and open hostility, the nerds testified that Ratner’s project is flawed and that their community will have to live with its adverse impacts forever.
The anti-Ratner crowd certainly didn’t win any sympathy by complaining that their vacations were shortened by the burden of reading the state’s 2,000-page draft environmental impact statement — but at least they did their job of picking through the flawed state document.
According to our recollection, this editorial marks the first time that the fact that Bruce Ratner supporters at public hearings largely belong to groups being financially supported by the developer has appeared in print in the mainstream media. It's at the very least the first time is has been spelled out this clearly:
Supporters didn’t do their side any favors, either, blindly following “leaders” from ACORN, BUILD or Rev. Herbert Daughtry’s House of the Lord church — all of whom have received financial support from Ratner.
Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM
Some don’t get a say
By Ariella Cohen
Scores of people hoping to testify about Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project never got their three-minutes of fame, despite signing up before Wednesday’s hearing even got under way at 4:30 pm.
The scheduled four-hour public hearing was expanded to seven, but about 300 people who signed up did not get a chance to speak.
“Only 100 people spoke, less than 20 percent! It’s not fair,” said Timothy Logan, chair of the New York City chapter of the Sierra Club.
Those who did not get time at the microphone were invited to submit their speeches in writing or attend a second hearing on Sept. 12.
Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM
By Gersh Kuntzman
Here’s what the area around Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development will look like if the 16-tower, arena, residential, office and hotel complex is built, according to new renderings created by a Brooklyn photographer.
“I was bothered by the fact that Ratner’s renderings make the impact look less because the photos were from so far away,” said the photographer, Jonathan Barkey, a Brooklyn Heights resident.
“But when you show his plans in the proper context, you see how colossal it is.”
Barkey said all his photo illustrations were compiled using the density and bulk figures in the state’s draft environmental impact statement.
Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM
Atlantic Yards hearing pits pro vs. con in historic battle for Brooklyn
2,000 show up, only 100 get a chance to speak
By Gersh Kuntzman and Ariella Cohen
Because the hearing’s moderator chose to alternate pro-Atlantic Yards speakers and anti-Yards speakers, the visceral chasm between the two sides was abundantly on display.
For every unemployed speaker begging the state to approve the project — whose backers predict will create “jobs in the community” — there was a seemingly more affluent activist ticking off the traffic, transit, open space, noise and pollution shortcomings of the project.
For every Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who got $50,000 from Ratner after he came out in support of the project, there was a Lee Solomon, a resident of Fort Greene, whose opposition to the project has not earned her a dime.
For every union ironworker making brownie points with his union to testify, there was a community activist hoping to testify quickly so she could save on babysitting.
The article describes the cheering and booing (Marty Markowitz got both from both sides as he seemingly changed gears in mid-testimony), and some moments of comic relief from Community Board 6 Chair Jerry Armer and some guy named Mr. X.
NoLandGrab: Your Monday-thru-Friday NoLandGrabber was quoted in the article, dryly delivering part of the Park Slope Civic Council's testimony, which probably put everyone to sleep and disappointed those who were itching for a fight, or at least more theatrics.
Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM
Brooklyn Papers: Candidates' positions on AY
BP breaks down the 11th District candidates' positions as two for the project and two against. However, among those "against," it might be more clear to say that Owens opposes the project, while Yassky would like to see the project go forward if done right:
Carl Andrews: I support the project. There’s no such thing as a perfect plan [but] the [affordable] housing component is something I’m very excited about.
Yvette Clarke: I support the project [because] the benefits outweigh the burdens. As it is today, my observation is that the process has been completely legal.
Chris Owens: I oppose the project primarily because democracy has been stripped out of this — and that creates a foundation that you can’t go back from. In terms of benefits outweighing the costs: there is not that much housing.
David Yassky: I do not support the project. It’s way too big, it needs to be brought down significantly. I’d like to see a project go forward, but it must be done right.
Towns, Barron speak on Yards
Ed Towns makes an appearance at the offices of the Brooklyn Papers and even goes on record on Atlantic Yards (hint, he's for it because it worked in Cleveland Ratner's hometown DC and Baltimore).
Charles Barron says that "It’s environmentally disastrous for us, meaning the pollution, the congestion. The affordable housing is nonsense."
Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM
11th District Congressional Candidates Forum
AP, via WNBC.com, Candidates Clash In Brooklyn Congressional Debate
All four candidates pledged to bring affordable housing and better jobs to the district. They clashed over the Atlantic Yards, a $4.2 billion redevelopment project planned for downtown Brooklyn. Clarke said she supported the project, while Yassky and Andrews offered guarded criticisms.
Owens said he opposed it, noting it did not guarantee jobs for Brooklyn residents or for minorities.
Courier-Life, Candidates On the Firing Line At Courier Political Forum
This lengthy article on the candidates forum contains one of the more surreal bits of the current campaign season. Courier-Life is reporting that long-time project critic Chris Owens is "supportive" of the Atlantic Yards proposal.
When asked about the Atlantic Yards project, Owens was supportive, after noting that he is a resident of nearby Prospect Heights. “It should be developed sensibly,” he said, calling for affordable and market rate housing there, and an examination of the infrastructure to serve the area.
57th AD candidate Bill Batson also offered his views on Atlantic Yards:
“Brooklyn is the most storied county in the country. We must become a brilliant destination for the nation,” said Batson. And the Atlantic Yards proposal should not be a part of that, he said, voicing his opposition to the huge Ratner project.
The Sun is reporting that three of the four candidates have misgivings about Atlantic Yards.
Of the four candidates, only Ms. Clarke endorsed the controversial Atlantic Yards project as it currently...
Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM
August 24, 2006
Subsidized? Yes. "Affordable?" Hardly.
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, with a little help from Forest City Ratner, sets the record straight about affordable housing at Atlantic Yards.
According to Forest City Ratner: * If you or your family earn between $21,270 to $28,360/year 225 units would be set aside for you. * If you or your family earn between $28,361 to $35,450/year 675 units would be set aside for you.* * That's 900 units (or 13%) out of a total 6,860 proposed units. * If you or your family earn less than $21,270 there is no home for you in the proposed project. * 84% of the units will NOT be affordable to families making less than $56,000/year.
* The Brooklyn Area Median Income (AMI) is $35,000/year.
There is more, but too much to list here. If you want to learn more about Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing, click here.
Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM
Roaring Over Ratner
Power Plays, political blog of The Village Voice
Neil DeMause posted a colorful report of yesterday's public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
Inside, unity was decidedly not the flavor of the day. As a sea of orange carpenters-union t-shirts faced off against an ocean of yellow "We Are Not Blighted" placards, nearly every speaker was all but drowned out by a chorus of cheers and boos, or boos and cheers, depending on their particular proclivities. (Councilmember and wannabe Congressman David Yassky declared himself in favor of the project, but demanded it be scaled down, earning boos from both sides.) With speakers limited to three minutes and the ambient noise in the room at top volume, sound bites were the order of the day: "Our youth need jobs!" did battle with "Our youth are dying of asthma!"; by the scheduled midway point, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade had all been name-checked. Trying to follow the proceedings became like standing outside a Mets-Yanks game and judging from the crowd noise who was winning—all that was missing was Fran Healy doing color commentary: "They're not booing Councilman Fidler, they're shouting 'Lewwwwwwwwwww!'"
Though the hearing was called to a close - despite the fact that many people were still waiting to speak - "some pesky questions remain:" * Who exactly is going to be living in those 6,860 units of new housing—2,250 of them "affordable," in the Ratnerian calculus that deems affordability to be as high as $3084 a month? * What would the economic impact be, anyway? * How much of a public subsidy is Ratner getting?
Posted by lumi at 8:20 PM
The Atlantic Yards Hearing: A View From the Outside
A die-hard progressive and his two-year old are on the receiving end of hostility from union members when he takes a stand against corruption and cronyism.
Mole333 tried to get into yesterday's Empire State Development Corporation hearing on Atlantic Yards, but gave up when it was time to go home and make dinner. Instead, he posted a report from the queue.
Now let's talk about the crowd. It is clear that the unions were doing their best to pack in early. Fine, I am all pro-union. But then the unions have decided to take a hostile attitude and one that involves lying. Sorry to the unions, but I have to differ with you on this one.
I was wearing a Chris Owens and a Bill Batson button and my son was wearing his "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn" tank top (a shirt that reminds me of what my Japanese friends called a "middle aged man's shirt"). The union people sneered at us and were outright hostile. That, I think, is a big mistake.
Posted by lumi at 8:06 PM
"He's doing it not just for the Nets, but for the community, for the youth to have role models to be able to look up to for not just 10 years but for the longevity,” Kidd said of project developer Bruce Ratner.
While the project is still going through the approval process, the area's landscape is already changing. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
NoLandGrab: The article on the web site isn't the exact text from the televised reports. It also continues to erroneously report that NJ Nets Vince Carter and Jason Kidd "attended the hearing" (they attended the press conference) and that "Brooklyn residents, including actors Rosie Perez and Heath Ledger, testified against the project." Heath and Rosie have not had enough time to read the 4,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Posted by lumi at 7:34 PM
As Spitzer Flexes, Bloomberg Team Feels the Strain
The NY Times
By Diane Cardwell and Charles V. Bagli
Fresh off a decisive victory, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg started his second term this year with huge ambitions for economic development in the city. He wanted to restart the troubled rebuilding effort at ground zero, reshape the Far West Side of Manhattan, and push the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
In recent weeks, however, the administration has been finding its efforts stymied, at least in part because of a man who has little if any official say in these matters.
Posted by lumi at 7:30 PM
Pictures: Massive Turnout for Atlantic Yard Public Hearing
NYC Indy Media
By Brian Tubbs
The public hearing over Bruce Ratner's Development project had little to do with addressing those in power. Instead, roudy supporters faced off with the tempermental opposition. People for the project, mostly Union Laborers and the unemployeed are badly in need of jobs. Those against, are worried that the jobs and affordable housing are just a ruse. The proposal for the Nets arena and 16 skyscrappers is the biggest to ever hit NYC, but the communtiy and oversite committees have been closed out of the process. Here are some pictures.
Click here for more pics.
Posted by lumi at 7:08 PM
Atlantic Yards Public Hearing: Race Card Played
Curbed.com touched off an online race riot in their comments section today, by pointing out that the main distinction, made by three of the four paid-circulation dailies, between the supporters and critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, happens to be the color of their skin.
NoLandGrab: We were at the hearing yesterday and found that the same people could be just as simplistically distinguished as those belonging to groups who are receiving money from Bruce Ratner and those who aren't. This point was not brought up in any press reports.
Posted by lumi at 6:41 PM
Pol parade windbags and wonks
Yesterday's parade of politicians provided an opportunity to learn more about how some of their positions have evolved, though most used their (loosely regulated) three minutes to pontificate on the greatness of the Borough of Kings.
Big Ratner supporter - and City Councilmember - Lew Fidler shared his thoughts about his old Buick, while State Senator Carl Kruger served up a boilerplate special that could have easily addressed local Lions Club boosters.
The most interesting comments were made by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblymember Joan Millman and City Councilmember David Yassky - all of whom presented nuanced views of the DEIS - and City Councilmember Letitia James, who warned the room about the already high rates of asthma in the neighborhood (btw: the DEIS says that there will be no significant adverse impact to air quality from the project).
[Blockquotes from Atlantic Yards Report.]
The BP continued his cheerleading for the project, but added a few new twists, seemingly intended to pressure Bruce Ratner into downsizing the project and dealing with traffic:
[Markowitz] praised the project for providing affordable housing and union jobs. But he offered his own concerns, asserting that the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank, at 512 feet, should remain Brooklyn’s tallest building, not to be overshadowed by Frank Gehry’s 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn.” He declared that the building planned for the railyards opposite the Newswalk condos on Pacific/Dean streets—and home to numerous project opponents—“must be reduced.” And two other buildings bordering lower-rise Prospect Heights, he said, must be reduced.
“Next, build a school,” he declared, an acknowledgment that the project would bring many schoolchildren but be forced to disperse them. Make sure the open space is inviting and accessible, he added, echoing criticism from the Municipal Art Society and others that the projected seven-plus acres of open space would be too easily defined as backyards for the enormous residential buildings.
And, he added, “Get real about traffic and parking,” saying that to find “an urban transit solution, we need to engage the best minds.” It was a backhanded slap at Forest City Ratner transportation consultant “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, who surely is one of the better minds, but whose solutions have been met with much criticism....
Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who represents Park Slope and other areas near the site, began by expressing her “disappointment with ESDC and the developer for the failure to make this project work for Brooklyn.”
She said she agreed that the project should be reduced, then offered some prescriptions that surely conflict with the developer’s economic plan. Build affordable housing and the arena first, she said—even though the luxury housing, as several commenters pointed out later, is what fuels the project.
Millman cited traffic concerns and said she did not support redirecting Fourth Avenue traffic via narrow (and part-residential) Pacific Street to Flatbush Avenue.
Millman also cited the need for traffic officers to handle traffic on nights of arena games or events, a new school, and sufficient police and fire services. “I object to eminent domain,” she concluded, “not here, not now.” (That would put her advocacy for the arena in question, given that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, whose condo lies near the projected center court, has vowed to be an eminent domain plaintiff.)
Councilmember David Yassky warned the ESDC that its failure to address serious issues put the project in jeopardy, due to growing opposition to the project:
Yassky, a candidate for the 11th Congressional District, offered his “mend it don’t end it” prescription, calling for changes to help realize the benefits and avoid having the project killed.
The project, he said, must be reduced in height and bulk, though he offered no specific numbers. “The impact on traffic will be destructive without serious measures,” he said, adding that he’d submitted a “comprehensive traffic plan”—previously announced but not made available—to the record.
He also added a comment on the CBA that some other elected officials echoed. The promises must be enshrined in the Atlantic Yards approval document, not a side agreement, for them to be binding.
City Councilmember Letitia James has been consistent in her criticism of the project, but her testimony focused on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
“ESDC is not and could not be an honest broker,” James declared, citing the schedule for public hearings, questionable claims about revenue, and dubious statistics about such issues as noise. “Growth is good,” she said, “but growth has its limits.”
The DEIS, she said, is flawed, and findings were made without sufficient technical support. “There’s no meaningful discussion of alternatives,” she said. Scoffing at claims about the project’s location near a transit hub, she called it “not a transit-oriented development but a traffic-oriented development.” She declared that the project would trigger asthma attacks and said it would displace poor residents.
Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM
Late edition coverage
A rambunctious crowd packed a hearing in Downtown Brooklyn Wednesday to speak -- and more often shout -- their opinions on the controversial Atlantic Yards project.
Three hours after the meeting's start, hundreds of people were still standing on line, trying to enter the 800-seat auditorium of New York City Technical College.
In the early going, union members and others who support the project outnumbered the arena's opponents by at least three-to-one as a draft environmental impact statement was debated.
Metro NY, Raucous hearing for arena project
Hundreds of supporters were bused in by organizations that signed a Community Benefits Agreement with Ratner that promises affordable housing and jobs for Brooklynites. Union construction workers also showed up, many arriving earlier than the hundreds of opponents who wanted to voice concerns about the shadows of skyscrapers, the burdens of traffic and the loss of Brooklyn’s character. Both sides were rowdy.
“This could be my big break,” said Keith Brown, 32, an unemployed carpenter and member of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a group that brought him there at 11 a.m. to speak his mind. “I’ve been living here all my life and seen the changes coming. This could be my chance to get into the union. If I can keep employment for five or six years, I’m good for a while.”
“I look at [Ratner’s previous project] Metrotech, which promised jobs to the community and to help fix the area’s poverty,” said [Mary Wade, a public school teacher who’s lived in Clinton Hill for 25 years]. “Well, there’s still 75 percent poverty here. Ratner’s using jobs to hide behind something bigger — his profit.”
The Newark Star-Ledger, Owner gets an earful in Brooklyn over Nets
Within minutes, mayhem erupted, as police had to drag out a 68-year-old woman who couldn't stand to let a state senator explain why Nets owner Bruce Ratner's $4.2billion plan for downtown Brooklyn known as Atlantic Yards was the right move for the hard-luck borough.
"I wanted people who actually represented the area where the project is going to have a chance to speak first," Connie Lesold, a gray-haired activist who lives within walking distance of the proposed site of the arena, said after police dragged her out by the elbow.
NY Daily News, Stars shine in bid to back Yards plan
"I feel it's all about unity in the community," said Nets star Vince Carter, who was joined by teammate Jason Kidd in the packed New York City College of Technology auditorium in downtown Brooklyn.
Nearly 1,000 people, including singer Roberta Flack, Borough President Marty Markowitz and a host of politicians and union leaders, made it in while hundreds more waited outside, hoping for a chance to say their piece.
NY Post, HOOP DREAMS DRAW A FOUL
Critics of developer Bruce Ratner's plans for an NBA arena in Downtown Brooklyn cried foul during a raucous public hearing last night.
"I think it's depressing that people are coming here just to stand on a soapbox," said Deborah Goldstein of Sunset Park.
Celebrity supporters of the project include Net stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
"I can't wait to play here," Kidd said.
"I hope I'm not too old" when it's finished."
Yesterday’s hearing also represented the only time that property owners in the project’s footprint can go on the public record to oppose the state’s pending property condemnation.
An attorney who lives in the footprint,who requested anonymity,said he had discussed with the developer the idea of selling his home,which has been in his family for three generations.
“We’ve talked but I find the idea of selling out offensive,” he said. “It will create a lot of affordable housing, but in doing so it will kick out my grandfather, who could afford this housing 30 years ago.”
NY Times, Raucous Meeting on Atlantic Yards Plan Hints at Hardening Stances The early edition was posted last night see below for coverage.
Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Early blogosphere reaction to the hearing trickling in so today's roundup is a mixed bag:
Daily Gotham, Hundreds Pack in for Atlantic Yards Public Meeting
On yesterday's Empire State Development Corporation hearing:
City Councilwoman Leticia (sic) James, who is against the huge project, said, "If this project were built, there would be far-reaching negative impacts on public health, air quality, infrastructure, waste management, noise abatement, the environment and much else," while a unemployed carpenter expressed how the project would give him work for five to six years. Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner promised to employ only union labor, and while Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is pro-Atlantic Yards, he did suggest it could (and should) be cut down.
Brooklyn Ramblings, Riffing on Atlantic Yards
Painting about Atlantic Yards definitely makes more sense than dancing about architecture:
Here's an Atlantic Yards-inspired painting by one of my favorite artists, Alex Itin, who is the artist-in-residence at the Institute for the Future of the Book. This painting, archbuild, which is Alex's imagining of what the skyline might look like if Ratner's project is built, can also be seen at Alex's site IT IN place.
The Real Estate Observer, Atlantic Yards, the 60-Second Version
REO Speedwagon files a quick dispatch before rushing off to catch some r&r for a week:
Scene 1: "Rally" at MetroTech 12, interior
Bruce Ratner comes out of hiding; squints without his glasses. Jason Kidd likes the project, and not just because his boss is doing it. ROBERTA FLACK IS HERE!!!! Lots of jokes about what being a Brooklynite means. (Loud and in-your-face.)
Scene 2: Public Hearing, City College of Technology, down the street, interior and exterior
Line stretches down the block and around the corner. Caterer hired by Ratner is handing out 1,500 box lunches "to anyone who asks." Elderly lady holds impromptu press conference after getting escorted out because she won't shut up about how awful it is. Union carpenters get free T-shirt and meet one-day-a-year "mandatory participation requirement" by showing up. Boo. Hiss. Yay. Applause. Standing ovations. Whistle. Like real metal whistles INSIDE...
A Perigrination, Comments from the people at No Land Grab Are Shrill And Desperate
It seems the bloggers of No Land Grab saw fit to comment on my “Build The Arena” post below.
Anonymous said... dear blogger. there happens to be a little thing called the Constitution and another little thing called democracy which you seem to have forgotten.
NoLandGrab: Nope dude, that wasn't us. But we did post a comment today. And thanks for the links we need help from other bloggers to boost our Google ranking.
Daily Heights, goodbye newswalk views
"Rogersma" responds to photographer Jonathan Barkey's photo simulations of Atlantic Yards in the 'hood:
“Here are some pretty amazing new pix. Welcome to Manhattan –only twice as crowded!
Spitzerblog.com, Sounds Reasonable
The unofficial blog committed to electing Eliot Spitzer governor highlights NY Post coverage of his call for more time to study the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM
Coincidence or crony?
Lookie who is shilling for the NY Times online.
When Nets minority owner and Bruce Ratner business partner Jay-Z is featured in ads for Ratner's other business partner, The NY Times, some may conclude that there's a media conspiracy afoot.
Most cynical New Yorkers will likely shrug and call it "synergy" or "leveraging combined assets."
Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM
AY supporters out in force at epic hearing, but opponents go the distance
Unencumbered by a word count or advertisers, Atlantic Yards Report early edition is the start of the unabridged account of yesterday's Empire State Development Corporation hearing:
With cheers and boos punctuating most presentations, the hearing was as much rally as opportunity for comment, especially for the project supporters who touted jobs and housing, while opponents made often less-dramatic efforts to pick up apart the lengthy DEIS. (Clearly Forest City Ratner had learned an organizing lesson, and the hearing more resembled the 11/29/04 public meeting on the project, when project supporters ACORN and BUILD were out in force, than the 10/18/05 hearing on the scope for a DEIS, where project opponents dominated the crowd.)
In an email Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder explained that he "will be adding to this at some length."
Posted by lumi at 12:21 AM
August 23, 2006
Raucous Meeting on Atlantic Yards Plan Hints at Hardening Stances
The NY Times
By Andy Newman
An overflow crowd vehemently laid out the pros and cons of the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn for seven hours last night at a raucous public meeting. Their passions suggested that opinions had only hardened in the three years since development plans were announced.
“This project essentially separates the neighborhoods of Brooklyn rather than uniting them,” said Jonathan Barkey, a photographer, brandishing posters he had generated of proposed skyscrapers towering over existing brownstones and playgrounds. “I would call this development a Great Wall of Brooklyn.”
Bring it on, said Dan Jederlinic, an ironworker. “Bulldozers are coming,” he warned the project’s opponents to whooping applause, “and if you don’t get out of the way they’re going to bulldoze right over you!”
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a civil rights activist whose church nearly abuts the project site, was talking to reporters about the need for lower-income housing when Mr. Barkey, the photographer, interrupted him.
“Like this?” Mr. Barkey said sarcastically, pointing to his posters of huge, blank building faces towering over a neighborhood. “This is rich folks’ housing. Look at these walls.”
Mr. Daughtry was not impressed. “Don’t you understand that all we’ve been around is walls all our lives?” he said. “You need to take that somewhere else.”
NoLandGrab: During his testimony, Rev. Daughtry addressed criticisms that he lived in New Jersey, by explaining that he has a place in Brooklyn, a home in Jersey and even a house in Georgia.
He probably didn't mean to rub the fact that he has three homes in everyone's faces, especially those of the affordable-housing advocates.
Posted by lumi at 11:55 PM
Nets Arena Gets Glowing Endorsement from 2 Players
AP via 1010 WINS News Radio
BY David Porter
Finally something everyone can agree upon (emphasis added):
"You just don't know the magnitude of it until you're here and see just how big it really is,'' said point guard Jason Kidd, who along with teammate Vince Carter attended a news conference across the street from where a public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project was scheduled for later Wednesday.
More musings from newborn transportation advocates Carter and Kidd:
Carter and Kidd both envisioned a ramped-up rivalry with the New York Knicks if the Nets move to Brooklyn. Carter also noted the urban location as a plus.
"You'd love an ideal location where the fans can come from everywhere,'' he said. "Like when I played in Toronto, it was right downtown where everybody could get to it, and that's kind of how I see this.''
Kidd said Nets fans in New Jersey would still be able to attend games in Brooklyn via public transportation an option that is not currently available at the Meadowlands except on a small scale.
"It may attract a different fan base,'' he said. "But my own opinion was what hurt the Meadowlands was that there was no way to get to the game. Imagine being able to get on the train and get to the game, then get on the train and go home.
I think that will be a plus for many people from Bergen County or anybody who lives in New Jersey to come to a game.''
NoLandGrab: Um, pass the crib notes to Jason Kidd... the Long Island Railroad stops at Atlantic Terminal, not NJ Transit.
That's not good news for NJ fans. Imagine Bergen County fans being able to get on the train and then the subway to get to the game, then get on the subway and then the train to go home.
Posted by lumi at 11:33 PM
Brooklynites come out to comment on Atlantic Yards development
AP, via NY Newsday
Supporters carried signs that said: "Jobs, housing, hoops," while opponents lined up to complain, and hoisted banners reading: "Housing yes, Atlantic Yards no."
Proponents say Atlantic Yards will be good for the area. The mayor's office expects the project will create 12,000 construction jobs and 8,500 permanent jobs.
"I think this will financially benefit the whole downtown area, and everyone here," said Danford Stewart, 46, a construction worker.
But many residents booed, arguing the proposal would ruin the neighborhood aesthetic, and strain the area, causing overcrowding in schools and traffic chokepoints. ESDC's environmental impact study echoed similar concerns.
NoLandGrab: Reality check, that's 3,740 permanent jobs according to Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey, most of which are relocated, not new jobs.
Posted by lumi at 11:24 PM
Raucous Crowd Reacts To $4.2B Brooklyn Development Plan
By Jay DeDapper
Hundreds of people packed the Empire State Development Corporation public hearing. More than 300 of them had signed up to state their views on the controversial project.
An even larger number of people jammed the sidewalk outside the New York City College of Technology, unable to get into the packed hearing.
Pop singer Roberta Flack also spoke in support of the project, telling the media, "I wanna borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart, it is a good thing guys."
NoLandGrab: Ratner's new PR, er, Flack might be killing us softly, but the hearing was damn loud.
Posted by lumi at 10:57 PM
State's B-Ball Stats In a Fantasy League of Their Own
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder
Supporters of the Atlantic Yards project - a basketball arena and 16 mostly residential towers - cite the importance of bringing back professional sports and providing some affordable housing.
But the biggest boost - and probably the most questionable - would come to the public coffers. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) claims that the project would provide $1.4 billion in new city and state tax revenues in excess of "the public contribution" over the next 30 years. (It may be 40 years; see below.)
However, recently released ESDC documents don't back up that calculation. Professor Tom Angotti of the Hunter College Center for Community Preservation and Development says the agency "gives us no information about public costs, and we need to know that to assess the costs and benefits."
Posted by lumi at 10:44 PM
Public Hearing for Atlantic Yards Project Expected to Draw Crowds
By Elaine Rivera
Brooklyn residents will be lining up outside Klitgord Auditorium where they will be given three minutes to give their thoughts on developer Bruce Ratner's proposal. They will respond to the environmental impact statement which got preliminary approval from the Empire State Development Corporation last month. The 4,000-page report stated that the 16 high rises and a Nets arena in downtown Brooklyn would only have a negligible impact on the environment or city services.
But challengers say they don't believe it. They want to try to force the state agency to draft another statement. They also want to push for an extension for written statements, which are due at the end of next month.
Posted by lumi at 2:21 PM
Forum v. Hearing
The Empire State Development Corporation is being noticeably cagey about the distinction between a "public hearing" and a "community forum." Just yesterday, ESDC spokesperson Jessica Copen responded to a straightforward inquiry about hearing logistics from CBN co-chair Therese Urban by referring her questions to a Freedom of Information request.
And now, the ESDC is demanding a correction from the Brooklyn Papers for its report that today's hearing is the "State’s only Atlantic Yards public hearing."
Brooklyn Papers editor Gersh Kuntzman said, "They originally wouldn't tell us what a 'community forum' is, so clearly we construed them differently. Now they have told us that everything said at the forum will be on the record. So a correction is forthcoming."
It's not clear why the distinction is so important to the ESDC perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, by law, the public comment period must be held open for 30 days after a public hearing. If the September 12th event was a "hearing," and not a "forum," then Forest City Ratner and the ESDC would not be able to stick to their schedule.
Posted by lumi at 1:48 PM
DDDB Press Release: "Atlantic Yards" Public Hearing Today:
It's About Unmitigated Adverse Impacts, "Blight," Eminent Domain Abuse and Ratner's One Billion Dollar Profit
BROOKLYN, NY--The Empire State Development Corporation holds a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Forest City Ratner's (FCR) proposed "Atlantic Yards" development project. The hearing is the public's only chance to respond to the disclosure of the proposed project's environmental impact. Written comment is due by September 22, only 66 days after the 4,000 pages of documents outlining "unmitigable significant adverse impacts" was released. By comparison, the smaller Yankee Stadium project had a four-month review period. "Atlantic Yards" would be the twice the density of the densest residential community in the United States.
Thousands are expected at the hearing today which. The hearing is also the only opportunity for property owners in the proposed site to go on the record concerning the attempt by the State of New York to seize their property under the power of eminent domain and hand it over to the private developer Forest City Ratner for a primarily luxury housing project that would bring profits of at least one billion dollars for the real estate development firm.
DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein said, "The reality is that major adverse environmental impacts from “Atlantic Yards” are ignored or radically underestimated in the DEIS; those impacts have been ignored out of hand because this publicly subsidized land grab is about preserving a BILLION DOLLAR OR MORE PROFIT for Forest City Ratner, while the public would take all of the financial and environmental risks and impacts."
"While today's hearing is an important opportunity for the public to respond to the environmental review, the future of the "Atlantic Yards" proposal will be played out in the written comment, the political arena and in the courts," Goldstein said. "We urge the ESDC to take the use of eminent domain out of the plan, and allow a more reasonable project that does not allow the taking of homes and businesses in an area that is clearly not 'blighted', but would only be taken because this developer desires as much real estate as possible in an extremely valuable and desirable neighborhood. If the ESDC continues to insist on the use of eminent domain owners and tenants will have no choice but to litigate to save our homes and businesses, and no project will be built at this site for years, if ever. The foundational purported purpose of the 'Atlantic Yards' proposal is to clear "blighted conditions" on the development site. http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/08/east-of-6th-avenue-100-feet-of.htmlThe 'blighted conditions' claimed by the developer and the State are phony, and thus the entire project is a house of cards, and if built, a disaster."
Posted by lumi at 1:39 PM
FCRC News Advisory: NJ Nets' Jason Kidd and Vince Carter to Join Over 15 Brooklyn Elected Officials and Labor, Community and Religious Leaders in Support of Atlantic Yards
Press Conference to Preview Support for Atlantic Yards in Advance of DEIS Hearing
(Brooklyn, NY) - August 23, 2006 - A broad cross section of community, labor, religious, and over 15 elected leaders including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, President and CEO of the NYC Partnership Kathryn S. Wylde, New York Executive Director of ACORN Bertha Lewis and other Community Benefits Agreement partners will join Jason Kidd and Vince Carter of the New Jersey Nets, Jim Stuckey from Forest City Ratner Companies and young people from the surrounding neighborhoods at a press conference scheduled for 4 PM, Today, August 23, 2006 in the Lobby of 12 MetroTech.
At the press conference, elected officials, community, religious and labor leaders will express their support for the Atlantic Yards Project in advance of the Draft Environmental Impact Study public hearing to be held later today.
WHO: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Hon. Marty Markowitz, Jim Stuckey, Bertha Lewis, Randi Weingarten, Kathryn S. Wylde, and over 20 other elected, community and labor leaders.
WHAT: Press Conference in Support of Atlantic Yards Project
WHEN: 4 PM, Wednesday, August 23, 2006 Press Call Time: 3:45PM
WHERE: Lobby of 12 MetroTech (also known as 330 Jay St.) Between Tillary and Johnson streets Brooklyn, NY
Via Train: A,C,F to Jay Street (best route), 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall, M,N,R to Lawrence Street
# # #
Posted by lumi at 11:46 AM
Adieu, adieu, to you, and you, and you...
Another pair of the before-n-after renderings (below), forecasts what Dean Street would look like without Freddy's Bar and Backroom.
It also reminded us of the fate of the corner rowhouses on Dean St. where only three of the five have been declared "blighted" (because the properties are underdeveloped) by the Empire State Development Corporation the other two houses are just in the way.
View the rest of the photo simulations at PBase.com (©Jonathan Barkey).
Posted by lumi at 11:19 AM
Calling Time-Out on DEIS
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac
On issues of substance, the Atlantic Yards proposal for Prospect Heights has divided many Brooklynites. On issues of process, however, it has so far been a uniting force. They agree, nearly unanimously, that it stinks.
Indeed, it is hard for them (except a few diehard supporters like Borough President Marty Markowitz and the CBA signatories) to look at the limited public review period - both its timing and its scope - offered up by the Pataki administration and not blink. Then shake their heads. Then blink again.
What smells like a practical joke is, in fact, what the state's development agency - the ESDC - is offering up with a straight face. There are several overlapping reasons why almost everyone who has followed the massive development proposal closely finds the ESDC's position to be laughable.
Posted by lumi at 11:02 AM
First Public Hearing Held On Atlantic Yards Development Project
NY1 is reporting, "Many Brooklyn residents, including Rosie Perez and Heath Ledger, are expected to testify against the project at the hearing."
NoLandGrab: This info is totally erroneous our sources tell us that Rosie and Heath are not expected to speak this evening.
The purpose of this evening's hearing is to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, not grandstanding, though someone forgot to tell Forest City Ratner that we're hearing from press sources that Jason Kidd and Vincent Carter are expected to be at the Ratner press conference at 285 Jay St., 3:30PM.
The local news channel is also misreporting that, "Tonight's hearing is the first of two. The next one is scheduled to be held on Primary Day September 12th from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the New York City College of Technology."
NLG: September 12th's event is a "community forum," not "hearing." No one has a clue about the distinction. However, we are looking forward to the result of some Freedom of Information request to clear this one up.
Posted by lumi at 10:53 AM
DDDB Press Release: Massive, Overwhelming Scale of Ratner "Atlantic Yards" Proposal
BROOKLYN, NY--Want to know what the future of Central Brooklyn and Prospect Heights might look like if Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation have their way with the "Atlantic Yards" proposal?
Well, photographer Jonathan Barkey, combining multi-perspective photographs around the "Atlantic Yards" footprint with building renderings, offers some startling and dramatic new images of the proposed development area–today and projected.
DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein said, "Wow. In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement Ratner and the State of New York say that the project would not change the neighborhood character. Specifically the impact statement makes the following unfathomable claims:
'The project would be visible in the skyline from portions of several of the adjacent residential neighborhoods. However, this would be perceived as middle-distance or background conditions, and would not affect the character of the neighborhoods’ cores...
The proposed project would significantly change the character of the project site. Overall, the change, although it would be dramatic and would generate several localized adverse impacts on neighborhood character, would not have a significant adverse neighborhood character impact. ' (section 16, p.1-2)"
Goldstein continued, "Dramatic, yes. No 'significant adverse neighborhood character impact'–give us a break. See the renderings and draw your own unbiased conclusions."
Photographer Jonathan Barkey has posted the complete set of print-quality "Atlantic Yards" photo simulations at PBase.com. They are available for editorial use only (©2006 Jonathan Barkey).
Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM
ESDC to Community: Talk to the hand...
This morning AM NY reported that "state officials rebuffed questions about the forum -- such as what time doors will open and how overflow will be handled -- by treating them as requests under the Freedom of Information laws."
We hardly believed it, until we read it for ourselves. Here's the skinny:
On Monday, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Co-Chair Therese Urban sent an email to Jessica Copen, Director of Communications of the Empire State Development Corporation, asking several questions about today's public hearing and the purpose of and rules for the September 12 "community forum."
These questions weren't exactly hardball, mostly questions that Brooklynites and bloggers have been pondering aloud, i.e.: * What is a 'community forum'? * What is the difference between a 'commmunity forum' and a 'public hearing'? * At what time will the doors open? * Can you sign up to speak and then leave the building? (including for a telephone call or a smoke)
These are relatively benign questions, to which, one must assume, the ESDC and Forest City Ratner already have the answers (Forest City will conduct their own presentation at today's hearing).
Copen's response (emphasis added) illustrates the adversarial posture taken against the public by the State agency, which stands in stark contrast to their "collaborative" (their word, not ours) relationship with the developer:
We are handling this as a Freedom of Info request and will respond to you in the next couple of days.
Read the full text of the email exchange after the jump.
Lately the ESDC has managed to drag out FOIA requests for months, as in the case of the 622 Pacific Street demolitions.
From: Therese Urban (CBN co-chair) Subject: [cbneighborhoods] Attn: Jessica Copen, Questions on Community participation 8/23 and 9/12 Date: August 21, 2006 1:13:52 PM EDT To: firstname.lastname@example.org
I left a telephone message at the ESDC offices for you this morning, however I will follow up by email as it may be easier for you to get the answers to us.
We have some confidence in that you, as quoted spokesperson for the ESDC, are the right person to answer the following:
Given that we are still asking for, and just now receiving the first batch of, missing data and back up documentation from AKRF through your ESDC legal department Records Access Officer, isn't it appropriate for there to be an extension of time for the community's consultants to review the DEIS, and another Public Hearing be offered on this project?
Given that the ESDC now realizes that 9/12 is Election Day, isn't it appropriate that the ESDC change that date?
Also, given that a 'community forum' has no definition in the record, and carries no weight in the record, please tell the community 1. What is a 'community forum'? 2. What are the legal requirements for the ESDC to record and subsequently address the oral and written comments given at a 'community forum'? 3. What is the difference between a 'community forum' and a 'public hearing'?
Regarding the required Public Hearing 8/23:
1. At what time will the doors open?
2. At what time will sign up begin?
3. Can you sign up to speak and then leave the building? (including for a telephone call or a smoke)
4. What accommodations will be made for an overflow crowd of speakers?
5. Can you be signed up to speak by a representative, especially since most people are not home from work until 6:00PM?
6. Will the sign up sheet be closed to further names at some point?
7. If yes, what point?
8. What accommodations will be made for those who cannot sign up until they come home from work, and found the sign up list is closed?
9. Will the doors to the hearing be closed at some point?
10. If yes, at what point? 11. If yes, how will signed-up speakers access the building? 12. If all speakers can't speak, or all potential speakers can't get in to sign up, will there be a second hearing?
As you are well aware, we need these answers as soon as possible. Thank you for your prompt attention.
Co-chair, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
On Monday, August 21, 2006, at 06:39 PM, Copen, Jessica wrote:
Hi Therese, I am a media spokesperson for ESDC and respond to press inquiries. I will make sure your questions are sent to the appropriate person, who will get back to you shortly.
From: therese.urban Subject: [cbneighborhoods] Re: Questions about Atlantic Yards Date: August 22, 2006 10:50:30 AM EDT To: Jessica Copen
Thank you for your response. Unfortunately it came after hours here, therefore only the lack of response was available for our community meeting last night.
As it is 10:45 AM today and I have not heard from 'the appropriate person' perhaps you could identify that person to me.
I'm sure you forwarded my email to that person, however our need for answers is pressing. Perhaps I will get a more timely response if I present my questions to him/her myself.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
From: "Copen, Jessica"
Date: Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:28:46 PM America/New_York
To: "Therese Urban"
Subject: RE: Questions about Atlantic Yards
Dear Ms. Urban,
We are handling this as a Freedom of Info request and will respond to you in the next couple of days.
Director of Communications
Empire State Development Corp.
Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM
Atlantic Yards Photo Simulations
Photographer Jonathan Barkey has posted the complete set of print-quality Atlantic Yards photo simulations at PBase.com. They are available for editorial use only (©2006 Jonathan Barkey).
Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM
Ketcham: Traffic/transit analysis so bad a Supplemental EIS needed
Atlantic Yards Report
How bad would the traffic be? The Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) suggests it would be a challenge, but not unmanageable, by the time the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is issued.
Yes, 68 of 93 intersections analyzed would be “significantly adversely impacted,” according to DEIS Chapter 12, on traffic, but proposed traffic mitigations would take care of 29 of them, leaving 39 intersections with unmitigated impacts at certain hours by 2016. Moreover, “Additional measures to further address all unmitigated significant adverse traffic impacts will be explored between the DEIS and the FEIS.”
To transportation engineer Brian Ketcham of Community Consulting Services, that’s balderdash. “With Atlantic Yards, the entire Downtown Brooklyn area and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in 2016 will be at a standstill, radiating problems across the region,” he wrote in a recent unpublished letter to the New York Times. “It nearly is now and will be more so with completion of development in the pipeline by 2016, when Atlantic Yards is expected to be fully built.” (Ketcham has pointed out that the DEIS accounts for only about half of the planned development.)
Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
urbanseashell a collection, events August 23 — "Atlantic Yards" Brooklyn, NY
Urbanseashell's listing for today's hearing comes from Park Slope Neighbors.
Daily Gotham, The ONLY Chance the State is Giving Brooklyn to Preserve Their Neighborhoods
Mole333 posted an email blast alerting the neighborhood to the same hearing which will be the:
ONLY chance to comment on the project that former Clinton White House advisor and Attorney General candidate Sean Patrick Maloney called "...the face of what’s wrong with a corrupt culture that mixes business and politics, profits and tax dollars."
Nets Fan in New York, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
It’s sad because the war over Ratner in Brooklyn has cast a dark shadow over the upcoming season.
The stink being made over the new Nets stadium is worse than the subway stench on a hot summer day. Supporters argue that a new sports facility will bring forth a renaissance of economic development for Brooklyn while protestors argue that professional sports have no effect on economic growth whatsoever. In their eyes, a new stadium equals taxpayer robbery. Much of the public attitude is based on perceptions of fear and uncertainty. I also believe it is a matter of bad timing. New Yorkers are inherently skeptical about EVERYTHING and have been hit over the head with talk of new stadiums for not one but six different teams (Nets, Yanks, Mets, Jets, Giants, Rangers). And, let’s admit, it’s a much easier pill to swallow when the new stadium is moving across the street versus a state over.
I am not debating the economic benefits of this project. I’ll leave that for the economists and politicians. I’m just a fan trying to generate some love for the Nets amid the rants and rallies.
Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM
Atlantic Yards Friends and Foes Prepare To State Their Cases
The NY Sun
By David Lombino
Today's article about the Atlantic Yards public hearing quotes Mayor Bloomberg, who has now joined Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz as the only public officials who think that Brooklynites have had enough time to scrutinize the project:
Last week, Mr. Bloomberg said that calls to postpone the public hearing were barely disguised attempts to kill the project. He has supported the project based on the jobs and affordable housing he says it will provide.
“This is a project that has had its exposure to everybody so many times. There's nothing else you can possibly learn,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
It also appears that the opponents' legal strategy hinges on more than the Environmental Review:
A spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy, an umbrella organization of groups that oppose the Atlantic Yards, said the strategy to halt the project relies on the courts more than the state’s approval process. The spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, said the group would mount a legal challenge to any condemnation of private property necessary to complete the project.
NoLandGrab: No doubt there are project critics who are trying to stop the project, but on the other hand, there is still much to learn about Bruce Ratner's plans.
The Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner have not been forthcoming with financial projections, despite repeated claims that the project would provide a net fiscal benefit to the City and State, and there are also gaping holes in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, many of which will probably be presented at today's hearing.
Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM
How big? So-o big!
Here's another pair of before-n-after images of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, photographed and rendered by Jonathan Barkey.
Complete set of higher-rez images on Atlantic Yards Report.
Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM
Here are two non-Atlantic Yards items that make reference to the project:
Holy bajesus-- if you thought the Atlantic Yards plans were bad, you need to check out the documents on the Williamsburg Edge project. Or screw it-- just move to Philly.
NoLandGrab: Currently in NYC, "Atlantic Yards plans" = bad.
We have to admit, that the Billyburg Edge brochure is incredibly weird, sorta like the Ratner liar flier on acid.
NY Daily News, Pol wins unions' label in hot race
Ben Smith's column, covering Congressional candidate Yvette Clarke's endorsement by local unions, mentions other issues that are causing splits among voters.
All the campaigns say they expect a tight race in a district split along many lines: among African-American, Caribbean-American and white voters, and between supporters and opponents of the massive Atlantic Yards development.
Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM
Critics, supporters to weigh in on Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development plan
By Michael Clancy
Today's hearing gets the cover treatment:
Opponents say it is unconscionable that state officials are holding only one four-hour public hearing just 36 days after releasing a dense draft environmental impact statement.
"The amount of information that we are analyzing is, all told, just short of 4,000 pages," said Jim Vogel, spokesman for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, an umbrella organization representing 40 community groups fighting the project. "This is the largest development in the history in Brooklyn ... that they would give this the same amount of time as they would to a strip mall in Syracuse is kind of amazing."
Ratner's group, Forest City Ratner Cos., will give a presentation and residents who may lose their property to eminent domain were asked to make a statement, so it's not clear just how many other people will get to speak.
Opponents of the plan were fuming Tuesday because they said "obstructionist" state officials rebuffed questions about the forum -- such as what time doors will open and how overflow will be handled -- by treating them as requests under the Freedom of Information laws.
"We asked pretty simple basic questions and to hear that our information request is being treated as a Freedom of Information request -- could you slap the public in the face any harder?" Vogel said.
NoLandGrab: Brooklynites have been trying to find out answers to simple questions, such as how long will participants have to speak, what is the purpose of the Sept 12 "Community Forum." AM NY and Metro NY have reported 3 mins, but the official hearing notice doesn't say.
If it is true that the ESDC is now treating these questions as Freedom of Information Requests, this is very disturbing and a sad comment on our democracy.
Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM
August 22, 2006
How big? Way big! New graphics show projected AY impact
Hot off the presses, Atlantic Yards Report has published brand new dramatic before-n-after renderings of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal from different vantage points in the neighborhood, by photographer Jonathan Barkey.
Here are two views of the Dean St. Playground.
Check out AYR for more.
Posted by lumi at 10:41 PM
RPA Weighs in on Atlantic Yards Development
August 22, 2006 – On the eve of Wednesday's public hearing, Regional Plan Association (RPA) today released its position on the Atlantic Yards development proposed by Forest City Ratner Companies. The statement expressed the organization's support for the signature arena block but called for changes to the eastern portion of the site plan to make the open space unambiguously public and ensure design excellence over the full build-out. The statement also warned that the City and State must make additional traffic and transit improvements to support this and other major developments in downtown Brooklyn.
Press release after the jump.
Read the full statment (PDF).
RPA Supports Atlantic Yards’ Arena Block, Wants Changes in Second Phase of Development
Planning Group Supports Large Scale Development on Atlantic Transit Hub, Fears Public Spaces, Final Design Won’t Live Up to Expectations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 22, 2006 BROOKLYN – On the eve of Wednesday’s public hearing, Regional Plan Association (RPA) today released its position on the Atlantic Yards development proposed by Forest City Ratner Companies. The statement expressed the organization’s support for the signature arena block but called for changes to the eastern portion of the site plan to make the open space unambiguously public and ensure design excellence over the full buildout. The statement also warned that the City and State must make additional traffic and transit improvements to support this and other major developments in downtown Brooklyn.
“One of the core principles of regional planning is that large scale development belongs near transit hubs like Atlantic Terminal,” said Robert D. Yaro, President of RPA. “In this case, it is also critical that the impacts on thriving Brooklyn neighborhoods in the project’s vicinity are limited and that public benefits are maximized. The arena and the four signature Frank Gehry buildings that will surround it will become iconic images representing the borough and will bring tremendous benefits to the area. The public spaces and world-class design promised in the second phase, however, are unlikely to develop as planned and cannot be supported in their current state. We believe, however, that these flaws can be fixed within the parameters of the current planning process.”
In addition to supporting construction of the arena block, RPA made a series of recommendations, including a revised site plan and oversight for the eastern blocks; necessary public actions to support Brooklyn’s growth; and additional actions to be taken by the developer to mitigate the impact of arena events.
Changes East of Sixth Avenue
According to RPA, the eastern portion of the project is an appropriate location for dense residential development and the open space that is so critical to the success of the venture. Unfortunately, while this part of the plan features the bulk of the development, it is also the riskiest part of the project from both the public and private perspective. The current site plan calls for an experimental series of Frank Gehry-designed residential buildings connected by a non-traditional Laurie Olin-designed network of open spaces. Two outstanding designers have struggled to find an accommodation between the highly figurative massing of the buildings and the need to create an easily comprehended and rational network of public open spaces. In spite of the quality of the design, this tension results in two significant risks – that its open space plan will not successfully attract residents from outside of the project buildings themselves, and that the entire plan will not be built as designed.
To overcome these risks RPA proposed three major changes that could be implemented without delaying the project:
1) The open space plan should be altered to make it both unambiguously public and compatible with the variety of building footprints allowed in the General Project Plan.
2) The open space should be mapped as City park land and maintained either by the Parks Department or an independent non-profit with representative public and community participation in its Board of Directors through funding from the developer.
3) A design review process similar to Battery Park City should be established to ensure design excellence during build-out. This process will help guarantee that the finished product will meet a high standard, even as the market and the architects change.
“The open space is one of the project’s key benefits for the local community, so it’s critical that the parks truly feel accessible and open to the public,” Yaro said. “A reworking of the site plan and design guidelines will also provide the developer with the flexibility that he needs to adapt to changes in the market and in the architects chosen to design the buildings. The final project is not going to look exactly like the models, and it’s time to acknowledge that and plan accordingly to ensure the public gets the standard of design it was promised.”
Necessary Public Actions
RPA also warned that without sufficient investments from the public sector, the accumulated development in downtown Brooklyn will lead to unbearable congestion. RPA called on the City to meet its responsibilities in advancing the highway improvements assumed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and the City and MTA to devise and implement a long-term comprehensive transportation plan. That plan should include:
* Congestion pricing: The traffic that currently chokes Flatbush, Atlantic and so many of the streets running through downtown Brooklyn and the project area is not new and will only get worse. Rather than putting a halt to all development, proactive steps must be taken to limit the congestion and allow growth. Much of the traffic that ties up this part of Brooklyn for much of the day is generated by cars and trucks going to and from the free bridges over the East River. Over the long-term, the most effective way to reduce this congestion will be to implement a congestion charge for entering the Manhattan CBD from all directions that provides incentives for traveling in non-peak times and taking transit. This may not be a solution for this year, but if it is not in place by the time the bulk of this or any other development comes on line, the area’s congestion may become untenable.
- Improved transit capacity and access: While Atlantic Terminal is Brooklyn’s leading transit hub, arena patrons and additional workers and residents, both from the project and Brooklyn’s continued development, will put a strain on its many subway lines and crowd its platforms. To maintain the current level of service and safety, the MTA must:
- complete a more comprehensive study of how it can achieve a comfortable level of service on all lines passing through downtown Brooklyn;
- accelerate its study of bus rapid transit in Brooklyn, especially along Flatbush Avenue;
- consider how the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road can be made a more effective system for delivering large numbers of riders from the eastern and southern portions of Brooklyn, and from Queens and Long Island;
- and examine each of the proposed subway transfer points in Brooklyn to determine their cost-effectiveness and network benefits.
“Developers should not be punished for the public sector’s failure to provide the necessary infrastructure improvements,” Yaro said. “Instead, the City and State should be held accountable for ensuring that sufficient infrastructure is in place to accommodate growth with limited impact on the quality of life of existing residents and neighborhoods. We hope that the City’s upcoming Strategic Plan will be a big step in the right direction.”
Mitigation of Arena Impact
While the statement supported construction of the arena, RPA called for additional steps to minimize traffic and ensure that the arena functions safely and effectively. While many of the proposed mitigation measures should be effective, others need to be fully evaluated or improved. Specifically, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement does not convincingly address the following problems, and RPA called on Forest City Ratner to show more conclusively how the proposed mitigation measures address these issues:
Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM
Blogs weigh in on RPA weigh-in
The Real Estate Observer, RPA: Atlantic Yards Warm-up
Regional Plan Association, which staunchly opposed the West Side Stadium last year, is taking a milder position on the Atlantic Yards proposal in Brooklyn. In a statement issued today (in preparation for tomorrow's public hearing), the planning group ominously predicts that "without sufficient investments from the public sector, the accumulated development in downtown Brooklyn will lead to unbearable congestion."
Atlantic Yards Report, RPA offers more criticism than praise for AY, but says it's too late to go back
On the eve of the public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the influental Regional Plan Association (RPA), despite expressing significant and trenchant criticisms, essentially endorsed Forest City Ratner’s project. RPA asserted that "it would not be in the public interest to start from scratch," adding that, "Within reason, this 'Manhattan-ization' that is proposed for Downtown Brooklyn is part of an ongoing and necessary process."
So apparently a growth process, however initiated, trumps a public process that the RPA rightly sees as inadequate. That’s the essence of a detailed but, at times, convoluted position paper that has been distilled into a none-too-short press release, headlined "RPA Supports Atlantic Yards' Arena Block, Wants Changes in Second Phase of Development."
Norman Oder analyzes the RPA's arguments and finds some factual errors and a several relevant issues that the RPA completely ignores, for instance:
How dense is too dense? RPA seems to be endorsing FCR’s inalienable right to build as big as it wants--right now, the densest development in the country by a factor of two. Nor does RPA assess whether the open space for the project would be sufficient for the new population, despite overwhelming evidence that it wouldn't be.
Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM
Yes, we do requests
Thank goodness the Left Behinds are around to spell things out for the political neophytes at NoLandGrab. We couldn't understand why the Times awarded their highly coveted endorsement to Jeffries based on "star power," so we called on the more well seasoned snarks.
1) Bruce Ratner is building the Times's new headquarters on Eighth Avenue.
2) The Times editorial board endorsed the Ratner project.
3) Hakeem Jeffries basically supports the Atlantic Yards project, with some waffling.
4) A good portion of the 57th AD is pretty solidly anti-Yards. If the Times announces it supports Jeffries because he supports the Yards project, it undoes all his careful waffling and sinks him with much of the Times's mid-Brooklyn readership. Another reason must be found, and in the absence of anything substantive to say there's always the option of saying nothing.
Even without all that, Jeffries is the closest thing to an incumbent in the race, with the most money and the fanciest website.
NoLandGrab: We went to the LeftBehinds for wit and wisdom (and "snarkasm"), and all we got was "garden-variety backscratching and establishment politics?" Welcome to Ratnerville.
Posted by lumi at 9:42 PM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Today's Atlantic Yards blog roundup:
The Gowanus Lounge, More About Atlantic Yards Impacts and Problems
If ever there were a project that needed a full public examination and a local review process, Atlantic Yards is it.
"Atlantic Yards" Voters Guide, "Some White Guys"
Somehow AY Voters Guide manages to take a story about how the Tracy Boyland campaign is spreading bizarre rumors that the incumbent, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, is "white," and turns it into a story about how opponents want to remind everyone that Ratner and Gehry are the real white guys in this fight.
Clinton Hill Blog, Email from the Society for Clinton Hill
Well, Fort Greene, we can't duck this one. History is knocking at our door!
The Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Proposal is one of the largest developments ever proposed for New York City, the largest ever for Brooklyn, and it is located at our doorstep in Fort Greene. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors now and in the future to respond to the Empire State Development Corporation's Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the BAY proposal.
We MUST have a strong showing at the Official Public Hearing on August 23rd at New York City Technical College, 285 Jay Street, 4:30 to 8:30.
Atlantic Yards & Community Involvement Atlantic Yards - The Community has NOT spoken!
AY&CI kicks off its first post to one point we all can agree upon:
"Given the very limited role played by the three community boards in crafting the CBA and FCRC's overstatement of that fact, we are requesting that you discontinue all mention, in any form, of our participation." This statement is a reflection of BUSINESS AS USUAL!
...then quickly moves into one of the biggest myths about the project (emphasis added):
I support the HISTORIC CBA, which includes an UNPRECEDENTED agreement to dedicate 50% of the FCRC's Atlantic Yards Residential Units to the community.
The Atlantic Yards proposal contains 6,860 "Residential Units:" 4,500 rentals and 2,360 condos. Of those 4,500 rentals only 2,250 are part of Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan, that's something like 33%.
But what is meant by "the community" is unclear it could be argued that 100% of all residential housing everywhere is dedicated to the community.
Karrie Jacobs.com, Only the Developers Know Brooklyn
Karrie Jacobs alieviated her guilt last month by admiting that she had never actually read Jane Jacobs (no relation). She rectified the omission by penning a Jacobsean analysis of Atlantic Yards for Metropolis.
Now Jacobs has her own blog. Upon returning to the City from her summer vacation, she notices the layer of concrete dust that covers everything, and reminds readers that the public hearing is tomorrow:
The last such hearing I attended made me feel the way I did when I first saw the Costa-Gavras film Z. Sadly, political drama in Brooklyn lacks stirring theme music by composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Maybe we can all go and hum the theme from Z.
PeteBrush.com Atlantic Park at Brooklyn Yards
PB.C lets it all hang out he likes the project, but not before he trashes it:
There is a war on meanwhile, over the future of Brooklyn. I’ve been looking over the numbers and I’m coming out in favor of the Atlantic Yards project, mainly because that part of town is crap anyway. I hate to give it short shrift here; certainly many in Brooklyn are in a frenzy trying to stop this development project. And over 10 years it will be a painful eyesore over toward the Atlantic Ave. Terminal area as it’s built. Furthermore it’s clear that Rich Guy Bruce Ratner got the land from the City via a sweetheart deal that didn’t really work in the city’s favor in terms of price or sale and potential tax revenue — at least in the short term. But in the long run I think it’s the best thing for Brooklyn’s downtown.
We'd like to see the numbers he's been looking over, because project critics still can't make sense of them.
Posted by lumi at 11:45 AM
Brooklyn's Captain Marvel
The 57th AD race just got real interesting.
The Politicker is reporting that 57th AD candidate Billy Batson is in fact Captain Marvel.
So it's the NY Times endorsement versus a super hero. Now that's a race.
Posted by lumi at 11:18 AM
NOW RATNER FACES BOOT
By Patrick Gallahue
Atlantic Yards-footprint-property-owner Henry Weinstein has filed court papers to evict Bruce Ratner from the property that Bruce Ratner wants NY State to seize using eminent domain.
Confused yet? Why does Ratner need to take over the leases on a property he's going to take anyway?
The Post explains:
In 1999, Weinstein leased a former factory on Pacific Street to fellow developer Shaya Boymelgreen for 48 years.
This year, Boymelgreen turned the Pacific Street lease over to Ratner's development company, which could - with the state's aid - end up seizing Weinstein's building to put up the $4.2 billion professional basketball arena and residential complex.
Weinstein claims Ratner took over the lease so that he could tell the state he is in control of the property in making his case for the six-square-block project.
So Weinstein's suing Boymelgreen to cancel the lease.
Weinstein said he doesn't object to the buildings or arena that would make up the Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards.
He just doesn't want his and other private property seized via eminent domain.
"God knows I'm not against housing or economic development. I'm a developer myself," he said. "But constitutional rights are a much bigger issue."
Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM
ARENA FOES TRY ECO WRECKO
By Rich Calder
Advance billing of tomorrow's Atlantic Yards hearing indicates that critics will be focusing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
Their mission: point out what they say are errors contained in the project's draft environmental-impact statement released last month after the project received preliminary approval from the Empire State Development Corp.
The draft statement will be the subject of a public hearing tomorrow at Klitgord Auditorium on Jay Street, with more than 1,000 residents expected to take sides on what would be the borough's biggest development ever.
"If enough of us point out . . . errors, we will give the [corporation] no choice but to force a new [statement] to be drafted," said Patti Hagan, of the anti-arena Prospect Heights Action Coalition.
Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM
Verbeter Brooklyn, maar vernietig het niet
de Volkskrant, 7 Augustus, 2006
News of big changes on Atlantic Avenue and Bruce Ratner's plans to build "een nieuw basketbalstadion" and "zestien wolkenkrabbers" next to his "megawinkelcentrum" has hit the streets of Breuklyn! [Click article to enlarge.]
Aan de groezelige Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn moet een nieuwe, schone wereld verrijzen. New York blijft zichzelf heruitvinden, maar niet iedereen is blij.
NoLandGrab: No quotes from "Josef van Cobble Heuvel" in this article.
Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM
Who's NIMBY? The City Planning Commission on arena locations
Atlantic Yards Report
The city's decision to turn the Atlantic Yards project over to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) means that ESDC can override zoning that limits the height and bulk of the 16 towers planned. But let's not forget the zoning that regulates arena locations, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) point out.
As the Executive Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement notes (p.14):
The New York City Zoning Resolution prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use. (Arenas are permitted in most commercial districts allowing for residential use.) The arena block is adjacent to a residential district to the south, and accordingly, the arena has been designed to minimize its presence and effect on the residential uses on these blocks. Primary entrances and signage would be oriented toward the crossroads of two major commercial thoroughfares and away from these residences. Two primarily residential buildings (Buildings 2 and 3) on the arena block would occupy most of the Dean Street frontage, serving as a buffer between uses.
[Wouldn't the "primarily residential buildings" be as much a "district limited primarily to residential use" as a buffer?]
However, the preferred seating entry and entry to the loading area would be located on Dean Street and, while security screening and loading functions would take place entirely within the building, the residences along this street would experience some localized adverse impacts.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods own expert notes:
In order to understand the true effect of an urban arena, other examples from different cities should be referenced in the DEIS. Based on preliminary analysis, there are no urban arenas 200 ft or less from residential neighborhoods that are positive examples.
Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM
State unveils casino investors
Franco Harris, Bettis' parents among those with piece of action
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- The ownership stakes of investors in the three groups competing for Pittsburgh's lone casino license were released yesterday, and some well-known names are in the mix.
Former Steelers running back Franco Harris has a 4 percent stake in Station Square Gaming, the group headed by Forest City Enterprises that wants to put a casino at Station Square.
NoLandGrab: This isn't the first time that Forest City has leveraged a celebrity to help close a deal. In NYC, the Bruce Ratner-led ownership group includes Jay-Z as a less-than-two-percent minority investor.
Two years ago, Bruce Ratner tapped local b-ball hero Bernard King to help pitch his Brooklyn arena plan, until the former NY Knicks star was arrested for beating his wife. Most recently, Ratner has hired Darryl Dawkins, a former player who committed most of his fouls ON THE COURT (and lots of them).
NLG wonders if Dawkins, who was notorious in the NBA for his backboard-shattering dunks, is advising FCRC on the wisdom of locating its all-glass "Urban Room" so close to major thoroughfares.
Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM
Jim Dean is coming to NYC and going to bat for Chris Owens
Daily Gotham blogger "mole333" is stumping for Chris Owens for the 11th District Congressional Race.
Chris Owens is the only candidate in the CD 11 race to take a stand against big developer money and Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards Project. Chris is a strong supporter of verified voting and has been actively involved in the movement against the Iraq War since Day 1. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) recently endorsed Chris, stating: "Chris Owens has been the strong voice for an immediate end to U.S. involvement with Iraq and will join the Out of Iraq Caucus here in the House of Representatives," said Waters. "I want fighters beside me here in Washington. I support Chris Owens for Congress because he is a fighter and we need his powerful and progressive voice."
Oh, and Jimmy Dean is coming to town... link.
Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM
The most powerful person in New York politics, and certainly Manhattan politics, [Carolyn Curiel] spoke on Sunday in the Times City Section, and various campaigns are now hard at work clipping and mailing her editorials. ...
The Times also gave Diamondstone a boost, and did Hakeem Jeffries the tremendous favor of not simply endorsing him, but of doing so without making clear where anybody stands on Atlantic Yards.
NoLandGrab: The only reason the Times gave for its endorsement is that Jeffries "has the makings of a political star?" So, basically, the Times gave away its endorsement based on star power?
Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM
Why ignore wind? "Unconscionable," says Pratt prof
Atlantic Yards Report
Anybody who's walked around the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn's tallest building, knows that the wind can be vicious on a winter day. But the Empire State Development Corporation, in producing the Final Scope for the Draft Environemental Impact Statement (DEIS), ignored the call by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) to study the effects of wind created by 16 towers and an arena.
CBN had asked: Wind tunnel effects are already experienced in downtown Brooklyn and can cause problems for pedestrians, particularly people with impaired mobility. The EIS should study and measure wind tunnel effects caused by new construction, and the associated jobs will arise in proportion to the public cost.
Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM
NYPD BACKS DOWN ON REVISIONS TO PARADE PERMIT RULES FOLLOWING STRONG COMMUNITY OPPOSITION
Pedal Pushers Online is carrying the news on the Times's Up! Victory Lap.
Time’s Up! organizes Victory Bicycle Ride on Wednesday, August 23rd: “Still We Ride" Victory Bicycle Ride Wednesday, August 23, 2006 5:00 PM - Ride meets at Union Square Park South Ride.
Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM
PAUSE BEFORE YOU PRAISE
The latest salvo in the City Limits debate over Atlantic Yards comes from Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, who addresses (and redresses) John Atlas's commentary in support of Bruce Ratner's "affordable" housing plan.
Oder counters Atlas's claims on the 50/50 plan...
Atlas writes, “ACORN received the commitment from Forest City to include 50% non-market affordable housing,” but that no longer applies. Initially, the developer promised a 50-50 affordable/market split for all the Atlantic Yards housing. However, in the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, the 50-50 agreement applied only to the rental units—at that point the only housing planned.
With ACORN on board, Forest City soon added 2,800 market-rate condos (since reduced to 2,360), to ensure profitability. That lowers the onsite affordability percentage to below one-third.
...the definition of "affordable housing,"
Only 900 (or 13 percent) of the 6,860 total units would be affordable to four-person families with incomes under $35,450.
...Atlas's characterization of the disagreement amongst Brooklynites as a class conflict,
Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the country, by a factor of two. It's not a “middle-class” vision to question that, but a civic responsibility.
...and the importance of extracting concessions from private corporations now that the federal government is decreasing its commitment to support affordable housing.
Perhaps, but the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), signed by ACORN and seven other groups, differs greatly from the CBAs pioneered in Los Angeles. Groups in Los Angeles have agreed not to take money from developers, while several of the Atlantic Yards signatories have been funded by Forest City.
Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM
August 21, 2006
Victory ride for cyclist group
The bicycle advocacy group Times Up! had been planning to stage a large ride on Wednesday from Union Square to One Police Plaza to demonstrate against the NYPD’s proposed changes to the parade law.
They are still planning to ride, but now for a victory lap.
Wednesday’s riders won’t be going to Police Plaza, but to New York City Technical College in Brooklyn for a public hearing on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development.
Here's the event listing from Time's Up's website:
Title: Still We Ride Ride
Date: Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: Union Square Park South
Summary: Ride to public hearing about the Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn, draft environmental impact statement.
Details: HEARING ON ATLANTIC YARDS DEIS Wednesday, Aug. 23 4:30 - 8:30 p.m. New York City Technical College, Klitgord Auditorium 285 Jay Street (@ MetroTech, between Tillary & Johnson)
Join TIME'S UP! for a ride to the public hearing on the Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement. The project calls for 16 skyscrapers (of up to 53 stories!) and an arena that would cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion. The proposal abuses eminent domain and will create a traffic nightmare in downtown Brooklyn. More info at http://dddb.net/php/latestnews_ArchiveDate.php.
Posted by lumi at 4:50 PM
ESDC Radically Breakin' the Rules
Someone other than Atlantic Yards Report has been reading the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
In the Executive Summary of the 2000-plus-page document, buried in the litany of overrides of local zoning regulations, is one for the NY City zoning law that "prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use."
According to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn,
NYCDCP [New York City Department of City Planning] understands the severe inappropriateness of an arena in a residential district, while the ESDC is willfully ignoring the wisdom behind that understanding and overriding the zoning regulation.
There are several local zoning regulations that would prohibit the Atlantic Yards project from going forward as currently proposed. This would be a good reason, from Bruce Ratner's perspective, to "venue shop," and have the project taken over by New York State, which has a less-stringent review procedure and approval process, and can override local zoning laws if it chooses.
Posted by lumi at 4:26 PM
It came from the Blogosphere...
A few posts from fresh faces indicate that the conversation on Atlantic Yards is becoming more widespread.
"A Perigrination" Build the Arena
There are many in the sports media that are looking forward to the jobs that will be created and the transportation hub of the subway and LIRR will fill the arena and the shops and restaurants.
Brooklyn is on fire right now and needs this project. Should the displaced people be compensated, yes and the smart ones took the money and bought homes, in Brooklyn.
This election, please only vote for candidates that support the arena.
NoLandGrab: Of the 2,500 jobs the project would bring to the arena, most of them would be relocated existing jobs. Maybe the sports media can chew on that fact for awhile.
Times in NY, Pictures of the Atlantic Yards plan
BoyGabe from the nabe has assembled a couple before-and-after pics on his blog that have previously appeared on the usual suspects. It's not that hard to figure out which images are "after."
VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE, Ratner Nefaria
The newbie blogger of the group is Steven Hart, who appeared regularly on NoStadium (a predecessor to NoLandGrab) and has been a stong voice from the left against the project from the start. Hart makes several points along the way toward explaining how Atlantic Yards is not the problem, merely the symptom, of a system in which both political parties have failed our society.
It's NOT eminent domain that is wrong. We need that to conduct society. What is wrong is its use for something between a landgrab, a boondoggle and tax evasion, all of which we have here being presented with a boyish grin of self-satisfaction by the perpetrators.
NY Protest Calendar, 8/23 WED: Victory / Ratzilla Ride
The Still We Ride Ride on Wednesday August 23rd is now being referred to as the Victory Ride. Meet at Union Square South at 5pm this Wednesday. Ride to the Brooklyn hearing on Ratnerville/Atlantic Yards.
Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM
NY Times Endorses Diamondstone. Also Endorses Jeffries–But Why?
Atlantic Yards Voter's Guide comments on this weekend's NY Times endorsements:
The Times has endorsed Ken Diamondstone in the 25th Senate District and Hakeem Jeffries in the 57th Assembly District. The paper feels comfortable bucking the establishment with the none-too-loved Marty Connor, and, to nobody's surprise, endorses the candidate in the 57th–Hakeem Jeffries–who supports The Times' business partner Forest City Ratner in their effort to construct 16 towers and an arena, aka "Atlantic Yards."
Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM
In Brooklyn, a Fierce Contest to Be Assembly Successor
The NY Times
By Jonathan Hicks
Today's Times article about the 57th Assembly District race observes:
While the three candidates concur on the need to develop low- and middle-income housing, there have been some sharp areas of disagreement, notably on the proposed Atlantic Yards project near downtown Brooklyn.
Ironically, this is probably the first article that is so careful to describe the complex mix of existing structures and uses within the footprint of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards proposal, that it forgot to mention the 8-acre Vanderbilt railyard.
The project’s developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, wants to place a sports arena and more than a dozen buildings, some as tall as 62 stories, on 22 acres where a mix of vacant lots, low-rise apartments, abandoned buildings and condominiums now sit.
[So that makes something like hundreds of articles that mention only the railyards, to one that doesn't.]
Ratner Money Accepted by Community Benefits Agreement Signatory Hamilton
There's one BIG omission in the following description of Hamilton:
Ms. Hamilton is a staunch supporter of the project, saying that it will bring jobs, economic opportunity and affordable housing to residents of the area.
“It’s the kind of project that I feel strongly will do some good in this community,” she said.
The article mentions that Hamilton "founded a nonprofit organization to provide programs for youth," but fails to mention that the organization has received $350,000 from Forest City Ratner. In light of this important fact, Hamilton's quote sounds rather self-serving.
Oder Alert: No Disclosure?
To save Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report the trouble, we'll attempt to "Oderize" the Times by pointing out that reporter Jonathan Hicks makes three distinctions between the candidates, (1) their views on Atlantic Yards, (2) the amount of money raised by each candidate and (3) endorsements.
In light of the difference and importance of the candidates' positions on Forest City's Atlantic Yards project, and despite the reporter's attempt to be even-handed, the Times should have printed a disclosure of the business relationship between the NY Times Company and Forest City Ratner in the development and ownership of the Times Tower.
Jeffries's Carefully Crafted Position
Just what is Hakeem Jeffries's position? Atlantic Yards Voter's Guide quotes the candidate as saying he'd, “be more inclined to support it than not," and concludes, "when push comes to shove, Hakeem stands in support of the project."
Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM
Atlantic Yards Report goes historical!
In today's Atlantic Yards Report, Norman Oder takes a hard look at the role of Historic Districts in urban revitalization and the need to quantify the importance of "less tangible elements" like scale, neighborhood character and architectural resources.
The Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) argues that urban renewal "resulted in marked improvements in several low-income neighborhoods, including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, and East New York." What the document can't prove is that the urban renewal in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area brought about the improvements of the surrounding Brownstone neighborhoods:
So what helped revive the neighborhoods around Downtown Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s? If you read Chapter 1, Project Description, of the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, you'd conclude that somehow it was governmental investment in urban renewal, including condemnation.
And if you read the Chapter 7, Cultural Resources, the same message recurs.
But unacknowledged is the parallel process in Brownstone Brooklyn of mostly private reinvestment and revival via historic preservation, which was hastened by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
AY Report finds several instances in the DEIS in which the document characterizes the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project as wanting for government intervention.
The "Neighborhood Character" section does acknowledge the historic character of the surrounding neighborhoods:
The character of these neighborhoods changes as they approach the project site. The areas closer to the project site lack the cohesive character of the cores of their neighborhoods, indicative of the transitional character of these areas.
Norman Oder gathers these threads presented in the DEIS and observes:
Well, the "transitional character" of the real estate to the north of the project site is because of urban renewal--for example, land cleared for the Atlantic Center mall--while the "transitional character" of the neighborhood south of the railyard was in the process of being transformed privately, thanks to some spot rezoning before the Atlantic Yards plan was announced.
The question is how to transform the transition.
What's at stake: a "sense of place"
Recently, much importance has been given to "adaptive reuse" of buildings that have outlived their original purposes. In urban centers, this has given rise to conversion of manufacturing buildings to housing. However, when these buildings are converted, they often lose the characteristics that deem them worthy for protection under "historical preservation" efforts.
This is one of the problems examined in Shirley Morillo's master's thesis, entitled "Historic Preservation and the Changing Face of Large-scale Redevelopment Projects in New York City: An Analysis of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project."
From Morillo's thesis:
The shift from preservation of the object to preservation of more subjective characteristics of culturally and politically constructed places, only deepens the dilemma due to the fact that no recourse exists for effectively making these claims except for participation in a public process, which has, in the case of the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, been seriously restricted.
Other area resources include less fixed, and more difficult to quantify factors such as scale, the skyline, view corridors, and sense of place. Inherently a challenge to measure, claims for these characteristics are made more difficult because the scope of the project’s true area of impact is so difficult to limit. It is additionally difficult because natural growth and organic development of the city often impacts these factors and is not always, nor frequently, to be considered a negative effect. In the case at hand, however, the scope of proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project is challenging the scale of the area to a shocking degree.
AY asks a rhetorical question answered by Morillo:
Could redevelopment work? Not this one, Morillo suggests, citing the project’s planned departure from the contextual grid, open space patterns, and scale.
Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM
August 20, 2006
Brooklyn referendum Big names support Yards; foes eye Sept. 12 primary
All the most important names in New York politics support the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena project proposed by Forest City Ratner: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki, Comptroller William Thompson, Borough President Marty Markowitz, even gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer. But opponents are working desperately to turn the Sept. 12 Democratic primary into a referendum on the development. They are hoping that strong showings for half a dozen candidates who are against it will make community opposition too obvious for government power brokers to ignore.
Their top priority is helping Bill Batson succeed Assemblyman Roger Green, a supporter who is leaving the Legislature to run for Congress. "It is the key race when it comes to Atlantic Yards," says opposition leader Daniel Goldstein. "The entire district is very politically charged and active right now because of that project." Several dozen Atlantic Yards opponents collected signatures to put Mr. Batson on the ballot. They are raising money for his campaign and will be distributing his literature throughout primary day. Without the controversy to drive his campaign, Mr. Batson would have an uphill battle against Hakeem Jeffries, who ran strong--though unsuccessful--races for the seat in 2000 and 2002 and has more campaign money and institutional support. Mr. Jeffries does not believe the issue will decide the election, but he was wary enough to advertise in local newspapers his objections to the project's size and proposed use of eminent domain. At the same time, he calls Atlantic Yards "a step in the right direction" toward more affordable housing.
Owens sells issue in phone calls
Project opponents are also pushing hard to elect Chris Owens to replace his father, Rep. Major Owens, who is retiring. And the candidate--himself an early detractor--is adeptly feeding off their anger. His phone-bank callers begin by asking, "Did you know that Chris Owens is the only candidate in the race opposed to Atlantic Yards?" The pitch, directed first to households closest to the Prospect Heights project site, has paid dividends. "The whole thing is based on Atlantic Yards," Mr. Owens explains. "We've had people give us money on the spot." Several other races pit supporters against opponents in the Democratic primary; winning the nomination is tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Brooklyn. Former City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland, who is taking on state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, is said to be using the same consultant who promoted Atlantic Yards for Forest City. Ms. Montgomery believes she is being challenged as punishment for opposing the project. Opponents also want to demonstrate the level of community dissatisfaction with Atlantic Yards by boosting the vote totals of gubernatorial longshot Tom Suozzi, state Senate candidate Ken Diamondstone and congressional hopeful Charles Barron. With Mr. Spitzer supporting Atlantic Yards, opponents recruited Mr. Suozzi to their cause and helped him win the endorsement of a Brooklyn Democratic club. But with the candidate 60 points behind in the polls, the effect has been negligible.
Looking to Speaker Silver
Mr. Diamondstone, going up against state Sen. Martin Connor, has received contributions and other support from dozens of project opponents. Mr. Barron, who along with Mr. Green is challenging Rep. Edolphus Towns in a district bordering the site, appears regularly at anti-Yards rallies. "In my race, I'm the only one against Atlantic Yards," Mr. Barron says. The election results could be crucial to the project, which calls for a basketball arena and 16 towers, 11 of them at least 300 feet high. Supporters tout its affordable housing and its proximity to mass transit. They say it would create jobs and give Brooklyn its first major sports team, the New Jersey Nets, since 1957. Critics contend that it would snarl traffic, displace homeowners and businesses, and overwhelm brownstone neighborhoods. Opponents believe the election results could compel Albany power brokers to alter or reject the plans for Atlantic Yards, which needs to win unanimous approval from the Public Authorities Control Board this winter. The board is controlled by the openly enthusiastic governor and tacit supporters Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Opponents believe Mr. Silver could become an ally if the primary goes their way.
Posted by amy at 8:23 PM
Once Unintentional. Twice Purposeful?
Develop Don't Destroy
The ESDC, on July 18th, announced a scheduled "community forum" on the "Atlantic Yards" proposal on September 12th. We still don't know what a "community forum" is, but we do know its not the rushed public hearing coming up this Wednesday, August 23rd.
The problem with the September 12th "forum" is that the 12th also happens to be primary election day–a day candidates, political activists, and voters prefer to keep clear of any and all non-primary events. Its the latest, and perhaps most egregious, insult to the democratic process and a basic sense of fair play associated with the Forest City Enterprises and Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) development proposal.
In answer to criticims of the misguided September 12th date, an ESDC spokesperson said the following in the Courier Life papers this weekend:
[ESDC spokesperson Jessica] Copen called the scheduling of the forum on primary day “not intentional.”
Okay, we'll buy that. But if it wasn't "intentional" and that is the ESDC's response, then the ESDC can certainly see that "intentional" or not, it's a terrible choice of dates. So now that they are aware of the conflict and have excused themselves of intent, why are they not changing the date of the "community forum" (whatever that is?). Or will they?
Posted by amy at 8:20 PM
LEEDing the way? Some perspective on FCR's sustainability efforts
Atlantic Yards Report
"Atlantic Yards is committed to achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of all 16 buildings and the arena, with a goal of LEED Silver, when possible," Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, told three community boards on August 3.
It sounds good--and efforts to achieve LEED certification certainly represent progress, since most developers don't try.
Still, as the New York Times reported on August 13, LEED Silver--FCR's goal rather than promise--is not the highest rung, since LEED Gold and LEED Platinum demand greater commitment.
Posted by amy at 8:17 PM
Railyard platforms on W. Side and Sunnyside get critical look, but Brooklyn?
Atlantic Yards Report looks at yesterday's article in the New York Times where Spitzer makes demands about railyards. Just not the Vanderbilt ones.
Eighteen months after Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was announced as a fait accompli, the MTA put the railyard out to bid; even though a rival bidder, Extell, offered $150 million to FCR's $50 million, the MTA chose to negotiate solely with FCR, which raised its bid to $100 million, well under the $214 million appraisal.
The developer argues that the contribution toward a new platform should be added to the value of the bid, but there's been no engineering study, as Spitzer demands for the West Side Yards.
Posted by amy at 8:05 PM
Sunday Comix from the Brooklyn Papers
Posted by amy at 10:20 AM
Disputed Plan in Brooklyn; The State Assembly and Campaign Reform (5 Letters)
New York Times publishes responses to the editorial "The Atlantic Yards Project":
Re “The Atlantic Yards Project” (editorial, Aug. 6):
I live in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, an area that stands to be greatly affected by Forest City Ratner’s development plans. I am surrounded by past Ratner projects: the soulless MetroTech, a business district held afloat by renting to many of the city’s municipalities, and the Atlantic Mall, which was apparently designed in such a way as to prevent people from congregating.
My neighborhood, and those surrounding it, is filled with unique stores, restaurants and interesting and diverse people. I love the opportunity to see the sky above the rooftops and to walk down streets that are not crowded with people.
From what I can see, this area has been developing beautifully on its own. To turn such a massive development project over to the hands of one organization, especially one with the track record of Forest City Ratner, would most surely be a mistake.
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
To the Editor:
Your editorial “The Atlantic Yards Project” does not mention the findings of the state’s recently released environmental impact statement, described elsewhere in the same issue (“Cities Grow Up, Some See Sprawl,” Week in Review, Aug. 6): “According to the state study, however, the project would also create significant traffic and parking problems, require an extra school’s worth of classrooms, and cast shadows over nearby residential neighborhoods.”
Those of us who live nearby recognize the devastating impact this project would have on quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods, unless it is scaled back dramatically.
Cynthia Steele Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
To the Editor:
Only part of the Atlantic Yards area is “underdeveloped,” namely the air rights over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yards. Like SoHo, TriBeCa and Dumbo, much of the acreage sought by Forest City Ratner has experienced incremental revitalization in recent years — until stalled by the developer’s plan.
Increased density and low- and moderate-income housing are desperately needed — the 8.3-acre railyard would be a good site for that. However, density has limits. Even with the 15 percent cut you recommend, the proposed development far exceeds the capacity of the area’s social, environmental and physical infrastructure. The resulting community would be by far the densest in the country, and would be unlivable.
Of the 2,200 hundred units of affordable housing, only 900 would be low-income housing; 900 other “affordable” units would rent for $2,000 or more per month and take 10 years to complete. The subsidies for the housing would be better distributed to developers who could deliver the housing faster, in more livable and sustainable communities.
To say that the area constitutes “blight” since it is publicly controlled is specious. If it remains unchallenged, no community in the state is safe from the arbitrary actions of a private developer with ties to government.
Ronald Shiffman Park Slope, Brooklyn The writer, a professor at the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, was a commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission, 1990-1996.
To the Editor:
Brooklyn has prospered because of its intimate neighborhoods, its historic character and local development. That is the sort of growth that works long term; big boondoggle projects like Atlantic Yards will only kill the thing that made this borough so attractive in the first place.
You are correct that local residents are not happy about this. The astonishing thing is you don’t seem to care.
Malcolm Armstrong Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Posted by amy at 10:13 AM
Eleventh Congressional District
Brooklyn Papers posts an audio debate online with State Senator Carl Andrews, Councilwoman Yvette Clarke, Councilman David Yassky, and Chris Owens.
Posted by amy at 10:09 AM
Endorsements and Complaints
New York Times endorses Ken Diamondstone and Hakeem Jeffries. They do give a shout out to Bill Batson, but do not mention which side of the Atlantic Yards proposal any of the candidates are on. Voters will have to turn to more professional sources for that information.
Assembly District 57 (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn): Hakeem Jeffries, a bright and eloquent young lawyer, did such a good job of challenging outgoing Assemblyman Roger Green a few years ago that Mr. Green’s colleagues in Albany rearranged this district to carve out the Jeffries’ home. Now Mr. Green has moved on and Mr. Jeffries has moved into the district so that he could try again.
He is not the only good candidate in the running. Freddie Hamilton, who started Parents United to Rally for Gun Elimination, has had a real impact in this area. And Bill Batson, a former aide to State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, has raised the level of debate about the Atlantic Yards development. But Mr. Jeffries has the makings of a political star in a place that needs his intelligence and his energy. We endorse Hakeem Jeffries.
Posted by amy at 10:02 AM
August 19, 2006
Cops step back on parade plan
The NYPD backed off proposed regulations that would have required a parade permit for any event where two or more people gathered in the street.
The NYPD also dropped plans to require groups of 35 people or more to get a permit if they planned to gather on city sidewalks. No reference to sidewalks will be in any new proposal, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said yesterday.
A public hearing set for Wednesday will be rescheduled when the regulation language is finalized.
Posted by amy at 2:14 PM
TODAY: Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse
This Saturday, August 19th a special Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse, Develop Don't Destroy Rally episode will air with more Bill Batson, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, City Councilmember Letitia James, interviews with Dan Zanes, Charles Barron and music by beatbox entertainment. The special airs at 5:00 pm, Saturday, on TWC channel 35 / Cablevision 68 or streaming live from the BCAT website (scroll to the middle of the page and click watch BCAT live – Channel 3).
The candidates and incumbents for elected office featured in these episodes are the only ones with their integrity intact to oppose the Brooklyn land grabs. They have demonstrated that they represent and listen to our community voice over special interests, with no other interests than making $.
Posted by amy at 12:28 PM
Marty Gets Schooled
The Real Estate is ROTFL over Dope on the Slope:
Dope on the Slope, how we love ye! After the jump, check out Mr./Ms. Dope's Brooklyn Borough Cheerleader Marty Markowitz takedown. Clever, witty and to the point.
Posted by amy at 11:48 AM
Critics: 66 Days Ain’t Enough to Digest Arena Study
Elected officials, community board members and concerned area residents gathered on the steps of City Hall to declare that 66 days is not enough time to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and General Project Plan (GPP) that are thousands of pages in length. They are requesting a 60-day extension.
“Why do we have to be rushed into making a decision about a project that is larger than the densest development project in the whole country? This is an outrage,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery:
Speakers also criticized the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for scheduling a public forum on the project for September 12, which is primary day.
“That to me is the grossest insult to the democratic process,” said Montgomery.
Posted by amy at 11:44 AM
What Do You Think of Atlantic Yards? CBN Urges Residents to Get Involved In Process
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 project – held a meeting with the two civic groups to get neighborhood residents involved in the process.
Hundreds attended the meeting at Queen of All Saints Church, 300 Vanderbilt Avenue, to listen to a presentation by Jim Vogel, secretary and steering committee member of CBN, and Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) and a member of the steering committee of CBN representing PACC.
Posted by amy at 11:41 AM
Looking at the Look Book
We've no proof of this, but we bet Jarvis Wong, featured in this week's installment of New York mag's Look Book, lives in Brooklyn. The belt, the glasses, the iPod -- just a hunch. He's an architect who considers himself an "urban nerd" and likes to dress as as minimal as he designs his buildings. Or something.
Being an architect and all, what are Jarvis's thoughts on the Brooklyn Ratner project?
He's psyched because then he wouldn't have to go all the way to East Rutherford to see Coldplay.
Given that Jarvis doesn't really "do Brooklyn" these days, he still finds the whole thing a quite engaging topic of conversation during his bi-monthy petit degustation loft parties. Though he likes to pander to the Develop Don't Destroy coalition (his spectacles hookup works with Safran Foer and Lethem; can't burn that bridge), he secretly loves the idea of ginormous, hulking buildings juxtaposed with cobblestone hood-ness. It's so crossimilated!
Well, Jarvis submitted his own proposal for that same piece of land but it was rejected. Honestly, I'm sort of excited to live near a new basketball stadium, but I'd much rather've lived next to a life-size replica of the Ancient Klingon City, Glaarg.
Posted by amy at 11:34 AM
More hints of Ratner support for Boyland's run against Montgomery
Atlantic Yards Report:
"Some white woman"?
Mongomery reported evidence of some underhanded campaign tactics.“One of my constituents in Bed-Stuy told me some people came to her home and asked her to support Tracy Boyland," Montgomery recounted. "She asked who Boyland is running against and was told, ‘some white woman named Montgomery.’”
At Montgomery's campaign kickoff Wednesday at Habana Outpost in Fort Greene, she got support from several veteran politicians, including City Council Member Al Vann and Assembly Member Annette Robinson.
City Council Member Letitia James, whose district overlaps with Montgomery's and is the most vocal political opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, declared Boyland “nothing more than a pawn… of wealthy developers.”
Posted by amy at 11:23 AM
Atlantic Yards gets plug at AVP Brooklyn Open
Atlantic Yards Report:
So the AVP pro volleyball tour has come to the beach at Coney Island, and the temporary stadium just west of KeySpan Park brings a bit of Southern California to the boardwalk. Forest City Ratner, via its affiliate Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, is one of several sponsors of the Brooklyn Open--the stadium is a logo-fest--and, as noted, Atlantic Yards has been added as a sponsor.
Also part of the mix: a table next to the ticket booth promoting season tickets for the Nets--not the New Jersey Nets but the basketball Nets, who would move to Brooklyn at some time in the unspecified future.
Posted by amy at 11:18 AM
Gaps in ESDC's fiscal impact study: another look at unmentioned costs
Atlantic Yards Report looks at ESDC's estimate of $545 million in public contribution to the Atlantic Yards proposal. For starters, there is "no evidence that the ESDC is including public costs for schools, sanitation, and public safety.":
Public cost: over $1 billion?
Not including DDDB's numbers or the "green building" credits, the ESDC's calculations still require major adjuetments. Assuming that the other subsidies have been expressed in present value, it's possible that the $292.9 million in tax exemptions and $76 million in housing subsidies should be added to the total of $726.2 million. That would increase the public cost to well over $1 billion.
And the net fiscal impact would not be $1.4 billion but $778 million.
That still sounds like a significant sum, but that's 44 percent less than the ESDC estimate.
Posted by amy at 11:09 AM
August 18, 2006
From The Crain's Insider - Friday 8/18/06:
Suspicion is growing that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is behind former City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland's bid to oust state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery . Boyland supports the $4.2 billion project, and Montgomery opposes it. Insiders say that Boyland is using the same consulting firmKnickerbocker SKDthat Forest City used to produce its Atlantic Yards literature. An insider says that Forest City executive Bruce Bender is also helping Boyland raise money. Knickerbocker SKD's Micah Lasher and a Forest City spokesman both declined to comment, but project opponents will connect the dots when Boyland files a campaign finance report revealing vendors she worked with. She has missed two deadlines to do so, but requested filing software from the Board of Elections this week.
NoLandGrab: We told you a month ago that Boyland was the "Ratner Candidate" (we have our sources).
Retaining Knickerbocker SKD isn't exactly a smoking gun (Councilmember Letitia James has used the pr firm in the past), but having Ratner political guru Bruce Bender spend his valuable time fundraising for Boyland is a sure sign that the candidate got the nod from Ratner himself.
Posted by lumi at 10:26 PM
State’s only Atlantic Yards public hearing set for Wednesday
The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen
The state’s only public hearing on the Atlantic Yards arena, office and housing mega-development will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
Expect a standing room only crowd — including Atlantic Yards celebrities such as Forest City Ratner [Atlantic Yards Group President] James Stuckey, Develop Don’t Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein, Atlantic Yards-supporting Assemblyman Roger Green (D–Prospect Heights) and fiery Ratner foe City Councilman (sic) Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights).
The event is the only scheduled public opportunity to comment on the largest single-developer project in Brooklyn’s storied history. A “community forum” will be held on primary election day, Sept. 12.
NoLandGrab: Still no word on what the heck a "community forum" is.
It could be bureaucratic nonsense for "you can yell and scream all you want, but no one from the ESDC will be there to listen," or "ESDC presents the scaled-down version of the project we've been palming all along."
Wednesday’s four-hour hearing will begin at 4:30 pm in New York City College of Technology’s Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay St., Downtown.
Here's some new info (emphasis added):
People who want to testify will be asked to sign in, said Jessica Copen, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation. Copen also suggested that the hearing could go beyond 8:30 pm if people are still waiting to speak.
Posted by lumi at 10:18 PM
Sloppy Times says: Brooklyn arena is a done deal
Atlantic Yards Report
Lucky for The New York Times, every time they make even a slip up, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report is quick to pick up on it.
Lucky for Atlantic Yards critics, the Times hasn't hired Oder as a fact checker who would do Atlantic Yards Report?
A Times Metro section article today on the fate of the shopping and entertainment complex slated for the Meadowlands, headlined Some Call for New Jersey to Intervene to Save Xanadu Project, states: The Nets basketball team is abandoning the Continental Arena for Brooklyn, and the Devils hockey franchise is moving to Newark.
Reporter Laura Mansnerus may not be a regular reader of AY Report, otherwise she would have known that:
The Nets aim to move to Brooklyn, but the Atlantic Yards project hasn't been approved. In fact, the Nets are hedging their bets and are discussing an extension of their lease through the 2011-2012 season.
Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM
Subject: Edits to BUILD Flyer
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2005 02:38:46
Subject: edits to BUILD flyer
CC: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Attachment: See below
thanks for the flyer - the pics of jay-z and the nj nets in action are mad cool and are hanging up in my locker next to beyonce and my autographed portrait of marty markowitz.
i don't mean to by pushy, but (imho) i think you guys may have forgotten a few things on the flyer, so i made some edits/corrections (see below).
[btw: the esdc web site sez the hearing is @4:30, but you probably know best.]
Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM
Fourth-to-Flatbush two-step proposed as Yards traffic fix
The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman and Rebecca Ballhaus
If state planners have their way, the already clogged intersection of Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues — the gateway, if you will, to Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project — would be reconfigured to make the flow of traffic less straightforward.
NoLandGrab: No worries, the ESDC plans to explain this as well as other proposed traffic mitigations at the four-hour hearing.
Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM
Another look at the "Fourth-to-Flatbush Two Step"
Here's an alternate version of the map from this week's Brooklyn Papers, illustrating the 4th Ave. traffic mitigation scenario, which suggests that northbound traffic be diverted to Pacific St.
This version of the map considers some of the environmental impacts of diverting traffic through a side street by adding: * the location of the Bears Garden and * a satellite image showing the low-rise residential housing on Pacific St. between 4th Ave and Flatbush.
Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM
A $1.4 billion boon? The mystery of the ESDC's fiscal impact calculus
Atlantic Yards Report
Here's a surprise: after going through the documents released last month by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), no one can figure out how the State comes up with the astonishing claim that Atlantic Yards "would provide a huge fiscal boost, $1.4 billion in new city and state revenues in excess of 'the public contribution' over the next 30 years."
The problem: there's no way to see how the ESDC, in the General Project Plan (GPP), arrives at that calculation.
How exactly is "the public contribution" toted up? Does it consist of direct subsidies? Yes. Some tax breaks? Yes. Costs for public safety, education, and sanitation services? Subsidies for housing? There's no evidence that it does.
The GPP, along with the associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), goes into great detail about the projected benefits of Atlantic Yards. But they provide scant information on the costs, rendering these lengthy documents much less useful than previous reports by the Independent Budget Office and even Forest City Ratner consultant Andrew Zimbalist.
Professor Tom Angotti of the Hunter College Center for Community Preservation and Development points out that the ESDC “gives us no information about the public costs, and we need to know that to assess the costs and benefits.”
NoLandGrab: What we can't figure out is why Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder and the good professor try so hard. Just because the developer's projects haven't fulfilled their promises to the City and State in the past, doesn't mean that Bruce Ratner won't make good on his promises this time, right?
Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM
Village Voice, Letters
ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis counters the portrayal of Atlantic Yards footprint residents who face displacement by claiming that the project promises 50% afforable housing.
Cynthia Carr's piece on the Atlantic Yards Development ["Life in the Footprint," August 2–8] completely ignored the larger context. This development is about finding solutions to New York's affordable-housing crisis. In 2005, Brooklyn's vacancy rate was 2.8 percent, and this city's population is expected to jump 16 percent over the next 25 years. Real median incomes fell 6.3 percent between 2002 and 2005, while rents jumped 8 percent. We need to build more housing and it must be affordable. ACORN has worked with Forest City Ratner to guarantee that 50 percent of the 4,500 new units planned for Atlantic Yards will be rent stabilized and affordable to low, moderate, and middle-income families. We need to get serious about building more housing and Atlantic Yards is a step in the right direction.
Executive director, NY ACORN Brooklyn
NoLandGrab: Once again, Bertha Lewis ignores the inconvenient fact that after the 50/50 "affordable housing" plan was announced, Bruce Ratner announced an addition of thousands (currently 2360) of luxury condos to the plan. Now the percentage of "affordable housing" stands around 33%.
Also, Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report has noted, "some two-thirds of ACORN followers surveyed on the Atlantic Yards project have household income under $30,000; they'd be eligible for some 900 of the subsidized apartments.
Bertha continues to stand by her deal, but can she stand by the numbers?
Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM
DEIS hearing or Atlantic Yards rally? BUILD, ACORN, community groups muster the troops
Atlantic Yards Report
In some ways the hearing Wednesday on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is just a public relations exercise. After all, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is expected to approve the project after community comments are incorporated into a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
But advocacy and community groups are rallying their troops to criticize the DEIS and to urge for the project's approval--and to shape the media portrayal of the debate. So expect an energized, possibly raucous crowd at New York City Technical College's Klitgord Auditorium, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Location: 285 Jay Street @ MetroTech, between Tillary & Johnson. Poster [below] from Fort Greene Association & Society for Clinton Hill.)
Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM
August 17, 2006
4 hours seal Brooklyn’s fate
The Brooklyn Papers Editorial
All along, the ESDC has tried to discourage public review, analysis and discussion of the Ratner project. That’s the only plausible explanation for its release of a highly technical, 2,000-page draft environmental impact statement for the project while many people — and all three affected Community Boards — were on vacation.
And for scheduling the sole public hearing for Aug. 23 — just 36 days from the release of that 17-inch-thick document.
When even a developer’s allies argue that more time is needed to assess a project, it’s pretty clear that the review process needs to be decelerated.
Taken together, the ESDC effort amounts to a crime against democracy.
Hundreds of people are expected at Wednesday’s hearing at New York City Technical College between 4:30 and 8:30 pm. Brooklynites deserve to discuss the largest development project in their history with more time than it takes for dinner and a movie.
Posted by lumi at 10:12 PM
White flight … to Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Papers
By Dana Rubinstein
Brooklyn is getting whiter, the Census Bureau reported last week, confirming many residents’ unscientific observations.
Between 2004 and 2005, the number of blacks in the borough decreased by approximately 20,000, while the number of whites increased by more than 66,000 [see chart].
The “gentrification” trend has been obvious since the Brownstone Brooklyn revival took root in the 1970s. The trend accelerated in recent years as numerous upscale residential developments were planted in adjacent neighborhoods, and could advance further if projects such as Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards and the condo-infused Brooklyn Bridge Park come on-line.
Posted by lumi at 10:07 PM
More groups want more time
The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman
Dozens of elected officials, activists, Brooklyn residents, community board members and even some Atlantic Yards supporters called this week for an extension of the public comment period on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — but the state agency overseeing the project said the approval process is moving full steam ahead.
... “ESDC is committed to the public process and will be giving the public more opportunity to comment on this project than is usual,” said [ESDC] spokeswoman, Jessica Copen.
“Besides scheduling a public hearing on Aug. 23, we have a community forum on Sept. 12. We believe that the addition of this venue gives the public ample time [for] review and comment.”
NoLandGrab: The big joke is that no one knows what the hell a "community forum" is.
A "hearing," by law, becomes part of the public record. The ESDC keeps making the distinction between next Wednesday's meeting, which is a "hearing," and the "community forum" on Sept 12.
You can almost hear the tittering in Albany and the offices of Forest City Ratner in Metrotech.
Posted by lumi at 9:59 PM
Blight or Flight?
The spirit of restoration is sweeping the neighborhood, even into the "blight" zone.
One of these two houses is "blighted." Can you guess which one?
Posted by lumi at 9:12 PM
The Real Estate Observer reports that Forest City Ratner has landed another tenant for the upper floors of the Times Tower.
Investment firm Legg Mason signed a lease for six of Forest City Ratner's floors at the new New York Times headquarters at Eighth Avenue and 41st Street, the developer announced today, the largest lease so far.
Also: Reuters, Legg Mason to become big tenant in NY Times bldg
NoLandGrab: Legg Mason makes the first tenant at the Times Tower that's not a law firm.
Posted by lumi at 9:05 PM
Open Space in the Atlantic Yards Development
This Gotham Gazette article by Anne Schwartz provides a detailed look at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and what the document tells us about open space and parkland in and around Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.
For Brooklynites who are unfamiliar with the issues and orthodoxy of parks and open-space planning, this article is a great intro.
On face value, the amount of open space is respectable. It constitutes almost a third of the project's 22-acre site. But because the towers would have so many residents -- with a projected 15,000 to 18,000 residents, it would become the densest census tract in the country -- the area within a half-mile radius would actually end up with a lower ratio of public space per resident that it has now, .28 acres per 1,000 residents. The percentage of active recreational space would drop to .15 acres. The already fully booked sports fields in Prospect Park and elsewhere in the area would not be able to absorb the overload.
Compare that to Battery Park City, which also has about a third of its 92 acres of residential and commercial development set aside as parks and fields. When completely built, it will have about 14,000 residents, so the ratio of parkland per 1,000 residents meets the city's goal of 2.5.
Schwartz's comparison leads to these warnings:
At Battery Park City, much of the parkland was put in before construction of the buildings. At Atlantic Yards, however, no parkland is slated to be constructed until the second building phase, which includes most of the residential towers, estimated to be completed in 2016. For families affected by a lack of places to play, ten years is most of a childhood. Also, the economic and real estate climate can change drastically over ten or more years. Changing financial circumstances could prevent the developer from finishing the green space as planned or create pressure to increase the footprint of the buildings.
We could continue to quote from the article, which goes on to cover the effect of shadows on the Atlantic Terminal housing's open space, the public-access debate and programming. However, we recommend that you head on over to the Gazette and start reading.
Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM
More groups call for extension of AY review; large crowd at community meeting
Atlantic Yards Report has a couple highlights from yesterday's press conference, at which a couple more elected representatives and public-interest groups joined the chorus calling for more time for the community to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The second part of the article covers the "community meeting on the DEIS sponsored by the Fort Greene Association and the Society for Clinton Hill," which "drew several hundred people to the Church of All Saints."
Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM
DEIS dismisses Coney Island arena option
Atlantic Yards Report
What happened to the Coney Island site next to Keyspan Park for the proposed Brooklyn arena? After all, that was Borough President Marty Markowitz's original idea, which he maintained fondly through early 2003. (Graphic from the Brooklyn Papers 1/31/04).
Despite that, the Empire State Development Corporation, in the Project Description chapter of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, dismisses the much-discussed Coney option, thanks to project guidelines supplied by developer Forest City Ratner.
Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM
The Scarlet B Stands For Brooklyn...
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder
Oder pens an overview and explanation of "blight" in the Atlantic Yards footprint and compares the conditions to a few nearby properties that are currently under development.
If you've missed a few of Oder's Atlantic Yards Report posts about the issue of blight, then this would be a good place to get caught up.
Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM
Sneak Preview of Bloomberg’s 21st Century Urban Vision
As reported in today's Observer a team working under Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has, for the last year or so, been secretly developing a sweeping, new urban planning vision for New York City. In its scope and ambition, the Observer compares the plan to the 1811 layout of Manhattan's street grid system and the 1929 Regional Plan that gave us many of today's highways and parks.
StreetsBlog has been sitting on a copy of this plan since June but has now posted copies on the web site:
Not wanting to jeopardize the potential for this innovative plan to move forward, we held off on writing about it.
NoLandGrab: One big component of the plan is to create more elbow room for devlopment by building platforms over existing expressways and railyards. The scope of the Mayor's vision makes the debate over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards even more pressing and relevant to the future of NYC.
If a no-bid backroom deal is permitted to go forward for Atlantic Yards, the fear is that this type of development/approval paradigm will become official practice, rolling back many of the important community-based development reforms from the last half of the 20th Century.
The Mayor's "smart growth" innitiatives also seem to run counter to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, where the "smart" portion seems to have been overlooked.
Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM
Develop Don’t Delay Brooklyn
Our Time Press
By Errol Louis
NoLandGrab: We're assuming Louis came up with this great headline which, in our early morning pre-coffee stupor, seemed like a reference to Texas Congressman Tom "The Hammer" Delay, who recently resigned under the cloud of the Jack Abramoff scandal.
Could "Develop Don't 'Delay' Brooklyn" become a new rallying cry against the collaboration between special-interest powerbrokers and NY State's public authorities?
Seriously, Errol Louis's number-one reason to approve the project posthaste is:
a postponement might deny the Pataki administration – not just the Governor, but his top economic development aides – the satisfaction of seeing the project clear a key hurdle, approval by the Public Authorities Control Board later this year.
Whether Pataki gets credit or not for Ratner's next urban-planning mess is probably the farthest thing from people's minds these days.
The two other reasons Louis gives are:
Stopping the development clock would only allow the opponents more time to prepare their legal papers. It would also give them a measure of the thing they most want: to draw out the process long enough to whip up more anti-development fervor and bleed the project of money by tying up the developer in court.
NLG: We can't be sure, but our best guess is that DDDB has probably already started working on its legal strategy. Also, if more people grow to dislike the project as it gets more press, then that's their choice. It's not the public's fault that Ratner proposed a project that has become the next urban-planning-disaster case study.
Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM
Prospect Heights to media, "'Atlantic Yards' is a project proposal, not a place"
From Denis Hamill's Daily News column on next week's Coney Island Beach Volleyball tournament (emphasis added):
So when Armato was approached by Chris Brahe of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment - a division of Bruce Ratner's Nets organization that plans to build an arena and housing complex at the Atlantic Yards - to erect a temporary 4,000-seat arena on Bay 21 in Coney Island, he, um, jumped at it.
NoLandGrab: Last we checked, "Atlantic Yards" was a project proposed for the Vanderbilt Railyards and 14 acres of Prospect Heights and Park Slope, not an actual place.
In all fairness, Denis Hamill is a columnist and can't be expected to follow current events across the entire city. That's why press kits are so handy.
And while we have your attention, don't forget: the place that "Atlantic Yards" isn't, is not in Downtown Brooklyn.
Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM
The Big Apple's Most Active Thoroughfare
The NY Sun
By Michael Stoler
An article on recent development in the Times Square district has this interesting update on the Times Tower, a joint venture between The NY Times Corp. and Forest City Ratner:
Meanwhile, in June the new headquarters of the New York Times was declared "topped out," with the installation of the final steel beam.The 52-story tower sits on the east side of Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The site represents the westward expansion of Midtown and the most significant construction along Eighth Avenue since the construction of One Worldwide Plaza in 1989.
The tower, which will be the third tallest skyscraper in New York City, is a joint venture of the New York Times Company, Forest City Ratner Companies, and ING Real Estate.The building will have 1.54 million square feet of gross space.
The New York Times Company will occupy about 800,000 square feet on the second through the 28th floors, with Forest City Ratner and ING Real Estate owning about 700,000 square feet on floors 29 through 52, as well as 24,000 square feet of street-level retail space. In June, Forest City announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire ING Real Estate's interest in the tower.
Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM
This week's groundbreakings for Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center prompted a Daily News editorial on NYC's building boom which mentioned Atlantic Yards amongst projects on deck:
And there's much more in the pipeline. A new stadium for the Mets, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and countless projects large and small in every borough will push 2006 construction spending in the city well past last year's record $19 billion. That money will generate the vital benefits of well-paying jobs, affordable housing and renewed neighborhoods. Silvercup West, planned for Long Island City, is a prime example in that the movie studio is expected to have 4,000 permanent jobs, and residential towers will add 1,000 units to New York's housing stock.
Why is all this happening now? Two reasons. First, the economy is on an upswing. Second, Mayor Bloomberg devised zoning reforms and smart public investments, often in partnership with the state, that served as catalysts to development. This is a city on the move.
NoLandGrab: In some twisted way, the state override of local zoning for Atlantic Yards could be considered one of the Mayor's "zoning reform" initiatives. Lack of transparency and more top-down state control isn't what usually comes to mind when one says "reform."
Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM
August 16, 2006
Apparently David Yassky isn't participating in the Brooklyn Brewery boycott.
A very revealing piece in the new Brooklyn foodie mag, Edible Brooklyn, takes a sneak peek into the Yassky family fridge.
Complete with a running narrative, the City Councilmember and 11th District Congressional candidate had this plug for Brooklyn Brewery:
Brooklyn Brewery Beer
They are the model of a community-friendly business. And they have a great product.
Link to Yassky's fridge (PDF).
NoLandGrab: The Brooklyn Brewery boycott hasn't been easy for local beer lovers, who decry brewery owner Steve Hindy's public statements in favor of Atlantic Yards, and his support for Brooklyn Bridge Park (the "park" that must be self-sustaining while Ratner's Atlantic Yards receives a billion-plus dollars in subsidies).
Brooklyn Brewery wears the "community-friendly" label a bit more uncomfortably of late; just ask those who are being displaced by eminent domain, like Freddy's Bar & Backroom, and neighborhood activists who are fighting to save Brooklyn Bridge Park from luxury condos.
Posted by lumi at 11:42 AM
Patti & Schellie Hagan are at it again. The dynamic duo from PHAC, who first sounded the alarm over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal more than three years ago (back when Dan Goldstein had neighbors), unveiled their latest oeuvre yesterday, an update to the Carlton Avenue mural.
The Hagan sisters continue to riff on the eminent domain refrain, in the heart of what would be Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.
[After work, they celebrated with fellow artists at an art opening in Rockaway.]
These chicks are strictly old school preferring street action to online reaction, the mural is the closest thing PHAC has to a web site, giving new meaning to "hard copy."
Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM
Owens needles Yassky as 11th CD candidates take on AY
Atlantic Yards Report transcribed the sections of last week's 11th District candidates debate that addressed Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.
Here are some clips:
I support Forest City Ratner’s project. I believe that there are some very good things in the project.
I believe we have an opportunity to help shape it in a way in which the benefits will outweigh the burdens.
I’m opposed to the project. I’ve been opposed to the project. I don’t believe you jump on board a development that drops 18,000 people in an area—you jump on board and say, ‘Yes, it’s wonderful’--without asking the tough questions.
I want to see a way to make this project go forward so we can realize the benefits that it does promise--good jobs, affordable housing—but without destroying the neighborhoods around Atlantic Yards. I’m the only candidate here who’s put out a specific traffic plan for how to deal with the traffic that will be created by that project.*
* Note: Yassky's office has not made the "specific traffic plan" available to the public, despite a request from Norman Oder.
UPDATE: One item in Yassky's "traffic plan" that no one can seem to find, is the billion-dollar brainstrorm he shared with community groups to move Atlantic and Flatbush underground, only possible if some subway lines are moved. Let's call it "Brooklyn's BIG DIG."
Read the rest at http://www.atlanticyardsreport.com.
Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM
A response to John Atlas on ACORN & Atlantic Yards
Atlantic Yards Report
Norman Oder mad overkills ACORN Exec. John Atlas's City Limits editorial, published this week.
In the August 14 issue of City Limits Weekly, in a letter headlined YOU GOTTA GIVE IT TO ACORN, John Atlas, who's writing a book about ACORN, made some fundamental errors in his analysis of ACORN and its role in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
Oder describes how:
* the 50/50 affordable housing plan quickly became unraveled just days after its announcement,
* the polling of the ACORN membership was extremely skewed (Oder has a copy of the poll questions), * ACORN's core constituency would only be eligible for approximately 13% of the available on-site units of the Ratner "affordable housing plan," and * families that qualify for Section 8 vouchers would be eligible for fewer than half of the "affordable" units.
In light of these facts, other omissions and misrepresentations, one may argue that John Atlas is overselling Bruce Ratner's private project to the people he serves.
Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM
DDDB on WBAI
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) takes the affordable housing debate to the airwaves on WBAI. From DDDB.net:
On August 14th Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein was interviewed by Scott Sommer on his WBAI weekly Housing Notebook show.
"Atlantic Yards" issues including housing, public financing, impacts of the proposed project and eminent domain, were discussed during the half-hour segment. (The interview starts 12 minutes into the program.)
Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM
Atlantic Yards (WWJJD?)
abstract dynamics seems to be following the path of Brooklyn's intellectual class, which has recently started to wake up to the Atlantic Yards debate.
I've avoided taking a stance on Atlantic Yards for just a bit too long now. If anything I was vaguely in favor of it. A basketball team for Brooklyn is a fabulous idea, and developing that dead zone of the actual Atlantic Railyards (as opposed to the larger area encompassed by the actual development plan) is pretty much a fail safe venture. There is not that much room to get worse than a dead railyard. Things of course get more complicated when the plan reaches out past the borders of those yards an into the destruction of people's homes, and that was the point where I had decided it just wasn't worth thinking about the issue anymore... For a while my main thought, was "why couldn't they have picked a better celebrity architect than the highly overrated Frank Gehry, and if it has to be Gehry couldn't it at least be the good Gehry?"
Two articles have changed all that, and are well worth reading.
Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM
Atlantic Yards Question
Can Atlantic Yards be stopped or not, that is the question being discussed on the Brooklynian.com message board.
A sample of the commentary:
I personally think that something will be built there but hope that it will be scaled down from the current plan. I wish I could say that I hoped Ratner would be taken out of the picture (because in my opinion he has not made very attractive developments in the past), but I doubt it. I think he's too powerful and connected. Medusa
In short, it's going to happen pretty much just the way it's currently described, unless it gets stopped altogether. (It may be downsized some few more percent--the NY Times editorial seemed like a trial balloon for that--but it would still be ludicrously too large.) I suspect that's why DDDB has always aimed to stop this project, as opposed to "negotiate" (as some critics have said would be a more constructive approach). There's simply no leverage to negotiate with, when the developer already has his approval guaranteed. rogersma
ratner is too well connected to the state and city gov. so it will be built. armchair_warrior
NoLandGrab: The discussion board is still lacking in shrill, hyperbolic vitriol from screamers and kooks of all stripes, so there's still time to get into the action and ruin it for the well-meaning folks who got the discussion started... or not.
Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM
Brooklyn Soon Will Fete Its Literary Stars
NY Daily Sun
By Leon Neyfakh
Marty is throwing a party for Brooklyn's literary stars, including many whom are outspoken opponents of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development proposal and who serve as members of Develop Don't Destroy's Advisory Board.
The president of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, is throwing a party at Borough Hall on September 16. Guests will include Jonathan Safran Foer and his wife, Nicole Krauss, who moved to Park Slope last summer; Jonathan Lethem, who was born many years ago in Boerum Hill, and Jhumpa Lahiri, Rick Moody, and Colson Whitehead, who all live in Brooklyn. The list goes on and the shelves fill up. A lot of them have written articles for the New Yorker, and visitors to the Tea Lounge have probably witnessed them in the act without even knowing it.
The party — quaintly dubbed the Brooklyn Book Fest by Mr. Markowitz and his fellow organizers — will be a day-long celebration of their craft. For all the huffing and puffing the Jonathans have been doing against development in the Atlantic Yards, the borough is proud to host their creativity.
"There's no question that over the last five years Brooklyn has become the mecca for aspiring authors as well as accomplished authors," Mr. Markowitz, who is expecting between 5,000 and 15,000 people to attend the free event, said.
NoLandGrab: Lookie who just caught on someone may want to tell Marty that Brooklyn has long been the home to "accomplished authors."
Note to authors: If Steve Buscemi's experience at this year's Botanic Garden "Celebrity Path" ceremony is any indication, the mere mention of preserving Brownstone Brooklyn's quality of life will illicit a head-smoking reaction from the Borough President.
Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM
Please join Norman Siegel in supporting Bill Batson
This fundraising message was sent from Norman Siegel to local voters this past week:
The race for the 57th Assembly District is incredibly important and my friend Bill Batson is running for this seat.
We should all support him.
For those of you who don't know Bill, you should get to know him. He's the ideal candidate for the 57th Assembly District.
The Forest City Ratner plan will radically change this area. Bill's opponent, at best, double talks about the issue, doesn't respond to questions and, at worst, supports the plan.
That alone is sufficient grounds for everyone in the area to vote for Bill. But there are many more reasons to support Bill.
I've known Bill for over a quarter of a century. I've seen Bill, while he was working for me at the Civil Liberties Union and traveling across the state, listening to different people, talking with them. And that's what politicians should be about. Serving all the people, not just the rich, not just the elite, but everyone.
We all know about the battle here in Brooklyn. Bill is consistent in regard to the Forest City Ratner plan. From the very beginning, when I got involved in this issue, Bill was there. If he gets elected he won't change his position. That's not in his character. He tells it like it is. And he does it with passion, understanding and vigor.
Many of our current political leaders are unfortunately, in my opinion, mediocre. They are not very principled. What they focus on is getting elected, and once they are elected, they focus on getting reelected; moving up the political ladder. Bill is not like that.
Bill can win. It can happen with people like you who are willing to write checks to Bill's campaign.
Please support Bill. Make calls to your friends in the district. Send emails. Get others to contribute and volunteer. But right now, please contribute to this important campaign and to my friend, Bill Batson.
My experience in the electoral arena has been an eye opener. Money really does count. If you don't have the money to send out the fliers, to hire the people to walk the streets in the district, even if you should win, you might not. We can't let that happen to Bill. I wrote my check to Bill already, it was the largest check I've given to a candidate for office in my life. I encourage you to do the same.
You can contribute through the website or by making a check out to Batson for Brooklyn and mailing to:
767 Washington Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11238.
Bill will raise important questions once in office. And we need that in politics. We need role models like Bill, not only will he shake things up in Albany, but he will fight for us back here in Brooklyn.
- Norman Siegel, DFNYC/CBID fundraiser
Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM
MEDIA ADVISORY: CIVIC GROUPS, OFFICIALS TO URGE EXTENDED REVIEW PERIOD FOR ATLANTIC YARDS PLAN
A news conference will begin at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 16, on the steps of City Hall where a broad partnership of civic and community groups along with several elected officials will urge the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to extend the public comment period for the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal.
A number of city and state elected officials, local community boards, civic and community organizations, and local residents have already contacted ESDC Chairman Charles A. Gargano to request an extension of the review period. Among those scheduled or invited to attend tomorrow’s news conference are:
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
State Assembly Member James Brennan
State Assembly Member Roger L. Green
State Assembly Member Joseph Lentol
State Assembly Member Joan Millman
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn
City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio
City Councilmember Letitia James
City Councilmember David Yassky
Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8
The impact statement and project plan for Atlantic Yards are among the largest and most complex documents ever released by the ESDC. They are hundreds of pages long and contain hundreds of tables, maps, graphs and technical studies. The 66-day review period set forth by the state agency is inadequate for a meaningful review of the project, especially coming as it does during the summer vacation period.
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups active in Community Districts 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, contact James Vogel at 718-638-3349.
The Municipal Art Society of New York is a private, non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote a more livable city. Since 1893, the MAS has worked to enrich the culture, neighborhoods and physical design of New York City. It advocates for excellence in urban design and planning, contemporary architecture, historic preservation and public art. For more information, contact Brian Connolly at 212-935-3960.
Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM
August 15, 2006
Shrill Of The Week: Weeds
Last week Dope on the Slope fully embraced his inner-shrill. This week he rhapsodizes about "weeds" and wildflowers and wonders what Marty has been smokin'.
Posted by lumi at 11:11 AM
East of 6th Avenue: 100 feet of (arbitrary) blight
Atlantic Yards Report considers a section of the Ratner plan's footprint that is barely blighted, even by the Empire State Development Corporation's standards.
Why exactly does Forest City Ratner need a 100-foot-wide piece of land--the first five houses (right) east of Sixth Avenue on Dean Street, and counterpart property behind it on Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue, just southeast of the planned arena? According to the Empire State Development Corporation’s Blight Study, the 22-acre project area “is characterized by blighted conditions that are unlikely to be removed without public action.”
But blight is a weak argument, because those five houses, only some of which exhibit characteristics of blight, aren't much different from their neighbors, as I discuss in detail below. Rather, this rectangle of land likely has more to do with the developer's plan for staging and parking.
Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM
Two maps of blight: what a difference a railyard makes
Atlantic Yards Report
Since no one has attempted to develop the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Railyards, should they be considered "blighted?"
What would happen if the railyards were not deemed "blighted" (see map for comparison)?
The Blight Study's conclusion that the project area “is characterized by blighted conditions that are unlikely to be removed without public action,” wouldn't stand and there would be little justification for the use of eminent domain on the remaining private properties.
NoLandGrab: Has anyone heard of a "Blight Study" that didn't find blight?
Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM
Having it Both Ways in the “Atlantic Yards” DEIS
StreetsBlog highlights one of a few soliloquies from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement — noted by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) — which seems to contradict itself.
"During this period, it is anticipated that the DOT will implement traffic calming measures developed as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project (DBTCP). Under this project, which was initiated by DOT in 1997, a comprehensive area-wide strategy of physical and operational traffic calming measures was developed for Downtown Brooklyn on a corridor-by-corridor basis.... With the exception of the conversion of Smith Street from two-way to one-way northbound operation from Atlantic Avenue to Schermerhorn Street in November 2003, no specific measures in the DBTCP have been identified for implementation within the study area at this time. However, all measures remain candidates for implementation. DOT is working with the Community Boards on prioritizing these measures. DOT intends to implement measures based upon further detailed review, analysis of impacts, and community review. As no measures have been identified for implementation, the analysis of future pedestrian conditions therefore assumes that no additional improvements are implemented at analyzed pedestrian facilities in the 2010 future without the proposed project. (13-40)
StreetsBlog's teases out a syllogism that goes something like this: * There's a plan for Downtown Brooklyn that will be implemented. * Nothing in the plan applies to the Atlantic Yards study area. * Therefore, nothing will be implemented.
Despite the bureaucratic psychobabble, TSTC head John Orcutt practically makes sense of it in the comments section.
This is the project team’s way of saying “that’s the city’s job and there’s no way of knowing if they will ever really do it.”
Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM
YOU GOTTA GIVE IT TO ACORN
By John Atlas
ACORN continues to defend its position on Atlantic Yards with the latest City Limits editorial, written by John Atlas, the president and founder of the National Housing Institute.
Whether you oppose or support Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, you have to acknowledge the work of ACORN, the group that negotiated the affordable housing agreement (City Conversations - "Supporting Atlantic Yards: Simply Not Enough Housing in Brooklyn, July 31). ACORN's staff work for low salaries, their leaders are dues-paying poor and working-class volunteers, and they work long hours. More than almost any other group in NYC, ACORN has proved that it can mobilize low-income people of color, win concrete victories and build grassroots political power.
ACORN continues to contend that the Ratner affordable-housing plan allows for 50% affordable housing depite the addition of market-rate condos after the agreement was signed, and the fact that most of the affordable units would not be affordable for ACORN's constituents.
In this week's editorial, Atlas adds a new new term to Atlantic Yards Newspeak, "50% non-market affordable housing."
As Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report revealed, "the term 'affordable' was initially used to describe only the lower-income housing." The program from which Forest City would gain subsidies uses the term "Mixed-Income."
We can now assume that "Non-market" affordable housing means anything priced at 30% of the various income bands of Ratner's plan, even though some of those units would be offered at rates comprable to the marketplace. Oder points out, "Some 900 of the affordable units would rent for more than $2000 for a four-person family."
Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM
Succeeding Green in Fort Greene – and Beyond
By Alexander Perkins
The Gazette report from the 57th AD candidates forum covers the 800-lb. gorilla (Atlantic Yards) and other topics, in a race that is largely considered to be a referendum on Ratner's project and the political support behind it.
At a recent forum, Freddie Hamilton, a candidate for State Assembly in central Brooklyn, told the audience packed into an unventilated church basement, that she would not be answering any questions about the Atlantic Yards proposal. The disappointed crowd responded with boos.
The exchange illustrated how devisive the Atlantic Yards issue has become in the race for the Assembly seat being vacated by Roger Green, who is running for Congress.
We thought we were dreaming when we read, the following sentence in the Gazette article:
William Batson, former aide to State Senator David Patterson, is an outspoken opponent of the 6.5-acre real estate development.
Alas, a 70% reduction of the footprint has not been announced and the sentence should read:
William Batson, former aide to State Senator David Patterson, is an outspoken opponent of the 22-acre real estate development.
Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM
Bungalow Art Colony Beckons
The NY Sun
By Gary Shapiro
You gotta give it to the Hagan sisters. Somehow a NY Sun feature about an art opening in the Rockaways manages to get in a plug for Patti and Schellie's latest installment of agi-prop-art.
Also attending the show was Patti Hagan, wearing a flag scarf around her neck and a pin and button protesting “Eminent Domain Abuse.” An author of the “The Road Runner’s Guide to New York City” (Times Books), she herself had recently engaged in a painterly pursuit. “Just yesterday, my sister and I finished a 20-foot tall, 15-feet-wide wall mural” in Prospect Heights, protesting the Atlantic Yards development.
Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM
Ratner kin turns nice profit in realty deal
Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Henry J. Gomez
Here's one we missed last week. On the same day as the Real Estate Observer and NY Sun both quoted " Rich Moore, a real estate analyst who follows Forest City for RBC Capital Markets," the Plain Dealer quotes Moore as being bullish on the merger.
"Is it good to be Bruce?" Moore asked. "Oh, yeah."
NoLandGrab: So that's three articles quoting the one analyst who is following the stock, or is he the only analyst willing to overlook the mounting debt associated with Atlantic Yards?
It's hard to say from the outside looking in. If RBC holds a position in FCE, the FCE-Moore pr campaign is more than plain old-fashioned analysis.
Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM
Slate, in other magazines: Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Slate.com includes "Ratzilla Attacks Brooklyn" in its line up of summaries major magazine articles for the week.
The cover story analyzes the debate over Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry's controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Ultimately, it comes out against the development, partially out of skepticism of the proposed benefits, which include mixed-income housing and an economic boom, but mainly because of dismay at the strong-armed tactics of its proponents: "It's outrageous to see the absolute absence of democratic process. There's been no point in the past four years at which the public has been given a meaningful chance to decide whether something this big and transformative should be built on public property," the author writes.
Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM
CoStar Deals in the Works for Aug. 13th - Aug. 19th
Forest City To Restructure NYC Portfolio
The purchase of Bruce's company, Forest City Ratner, by parent company Forest City Enterprises was announced in industry trade mag CoStar, which pretty much republished the press release.
Forest City Enterprises reached a definitive agreement with Bruce C. Ratner to restructure their existing business relationship covering their combined interest in a total of 30 retail, office and residential operating properties, certain service companies and seven identified development opportunities that are currently owned jointly by Forest City and Bruce Ratner, as well as the pursuit of new real estate opportunities, all in the greater New York City metropolitan area.
The agreement calls for Bruce Ratner to contribute his ownership interests in the 30 operating assets, the service companies and participation rights in all future developments (except those named below) to a newly formed limited liability company.
Forest City will pay $60.8 million in cash and issue 3.894 million units in the new limited liability company. These units will be convertible (after a one-year lock-up period) to an equal number of shares of FCEA stock or cash based on the value of FCEA stock at the time of conversion.
Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM
August 14, 2006
New York Magazine, Letters: "Ratnerville"
Here are excerpts from Letters to the Editor from Brooklynites, published in this week's New York Magazine, in response to Chris Smith's cover story on "Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood."
"It’s important to note that this isn’t just a Brooklyn story. All New Yorkers are helping to subsidize this urban-planning disaster with their taxes—not to mention the public streets that are being given to the developer for free and the MTA’s acceptance of the lowest bid for a very valuable piece of property." Michael Rogers
"This isn’t the equivalent of a big-box retailer shutting down mom-and-pop shops; it’s burning down one city in the name of building a greater one—destroying a way of life for a quick dollar." Latrina Stokes
"Ultimately, our city must confront the reality that more residents are flocking to Brooklyn, as Smith himself did. And it is the responsibility of public officials like myself to plan for that growth today through projects like Atlantic Yards. You can call me a “booster,” but what I’m really advocating is a long-term vision that enables Brooklyn and New York City to preserve the income and ethnic diversity that define us." Marty Markowitz, Borough President
"For me, the debate about Ratner’s development comes down to two things: the Atlantic Center mall and the Atlantic Terminal mall—the ugliest, strangest, most horribly designed shopping centers I have ever seen.... Ratner had his chance to prove to Brooklyn that he could develop wisely, and we already live with the consequences of his mistakes." Kate Scelsa
Posted by lumi at 11:29 AM
Shrillfest: Lipsky goes shrillsky
Despite the heated reaction against the Ratner proposal, last week's best line in the "Shrill Slugfest" came from Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, who has curiously and repeatedly likened Atlantic Yards critics to the resistance against Franco, and has a talent for trashtalking his opponents:
* Chris Smith is the New York Magazine political reporter who wrote last week's cover story highly critical of the Ratner project, but didn't give great odds on the success of Atlantic Yards critics.
NoLandGrab: Suggestion for Lipsky's next post on Atalntic Yards opponents:
Na-na, na, na.
Na-na, na, na.
Hey, hey, hey.
Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM
State Senate's 20th District
The two candidates for the NY State Senate's 20th District, Eric Adams and Anthony Alexis, are both fence-sitting in the Hakeem Jeffries and David Yassky mold.
Adams has been outspoken in the past against the project, but now that he's the front runner, appears to be tempering his stance, claiming he has not yet taken a position.
Anthony Alexis is "doing a Jeffries" (who incidentally is "doing a Gotbaum") by claiming he's for the project, but not the use of eminent domain, which as the Draft Environmental Impact Statment explains, will likely be used to force tenants out and property owners to sell.
Here's the online coverage:
Gotham Gazette Debating Health, Education, Reform and, Yes, Atlantic Yards, in Central Brooklyn
Anthony Alexis, who served as legislative director for former New York City Councilmember Tracy Boyland, supports the Atlantic Rail Yards project because, he said, it will “support job creation for our community.” But while he supports the plan for high rises and a basketball arena, Alexis is opposed to one of its central aspects: the use of eminent domain. “I don’t support taking people’s homes or property,” Alexis insisted, “There are ways of sitting at the table with the developer and ensuring that the project happens without taking the homes of people.”
Eric Adams, the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, has not taken a position on the Atlantic Yards plan. He says he wants to look at the issues of environment, affordable housing and labor before reaching a decision.
"Atlantic Yards" Voters Guide, The Lesser of Two Weasels
AY Voters Guide is much more blunt and editorial (dare we say "virtiolic"?) in its conclusions.
Weasel words from Alexis and confounding prevarication from Adams.
Anti-"Atlantic Yards" voters in the 20th, we are sorry, but when it comes to the Ratner plan we guess we have to leave you to choose between the lesser of two weasels.
Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM
Atlantic Yards Report: "The Mad Overkiller" outdoes self
Norman Oder asks "Why the rush?" in today's opinion column in Metro NY, but the investigative reporter is clearly in a hurry to publish many of his findings before next Wednesday's hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Here's today's line-up for Atlantic Yards Report:
$2.25M worth of blight? Two lots for sale (?) on 6th Ave. in proposed footprint
Two lots in the Atlantic Yards footprint are on the market for $2.25M. Considering the development potential of these two lots and the fact that vacant lots are being developed just down the block, why has the Empire State Development Corporation determined that the properties are subject to "blighted conditions that are unlikely to be removed without public action?"
The "housing will go to those that need it the most"? A closer look
Atlantic Yards Report revists the issue of affordable housing for middle-to-upper-income families and finds that there's little political support for the type of program Bruce Ratner has proposed. In response, the Ratner camp adjusted its stride by re-labling all of the "subsidized" housing as "affordable." Problem solved?
AY vs. waterfront rezoning: affordable housing for 30 years or in perpetuity
Atlantic Yards Report points out that Ratner has promised "that the affordable housing program would be 'consistent with any applicable governmental programs,' not necessarily participating in them." Yet, in order to receive federal subsidies, by law, the units must "participate" in the plan.
In addition, there's a 30-year cap on the Ratner plan, which is not atypical, but less than what has been negotiated in Greenpoint-Williamsburg.
Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM
August 13, 2006
Thanks for Something
"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide
So the Times has endorsed Senator Montgomery despite her staunch and 3-year-old opposition to "Atlantic Yards." While it is surely welcome news to the Senator to receive the Times endorsement (and we congratulate the Times for not letting that issue get in their way and in the way of rejecting the last-minute, Ratner-fueled entrance of the Boyland family into the race for the 18th District) it seems the height of Manhattan-centric arrogance that the Times thinks it knows better than the district's 22-year incumbent Senator–who they say is a "far better voice for her district"–when it comes to the Ratner proposal. When it comes to "Atlantic Yards" we suppose the Times is a "far better voice"–is that their point?
(Remember, the Times also thought there were WMD in Iraq).
Further illustration of the Times' editorial distance from the district–after last week's under-informed and arrogant endorsement of the project (and inconsistent too)–is that they startlingly negate the neighborhoods in Senator Montgomery's district that would encompass and abut the proposed "Atlantic Yards": Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, a part of Park Slope and the part of Prospect Heights where Ratner's proposed footprint is located. (Not terribly surprising as the Times also has had frequent trouble locating the proposed development site.)
Posted by amy at 11:11 PM
Municipal Art Society Open Letter
Dear Concerned New Yorker:
Since the MAS announced its five principles to make a plan for the Atlantic Yards site work for Brooklyn, hundreds of people like you have told us they agree. It's gratifying to know that the MAS and the local community are not alone in advocating for proven planning principles to determine what gets built on one of the most important sites in Brooklyn. To learn more about the principles, click here.
Unfortunately, the latest news is not good. The state government agency leading the project, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on July 18 and scheduled a public hearing for August 23 - in the dead of summer, when the local Community Boards are in recess and many New Yorkers are on vacation. Sadly, this is further evidence that the state is not committed to conducting a fair, open and transparent public process for deciding what gets built at Atlantic Yards.
Recently, the MAS joined gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and several local officials and residents in calling on ESDC to allow more time for the EIS to be reviewed, and for hearings to begin after Labor Day. Read the MAS letter to the ESDC here, our letter to The New York Times here, and an op-ed in City Limits which discusses the public process here.
Some people wonder if the current Atlantic Yards proposal is a done deal. I can assure you that this project is not a done deal. But the MAS and local communities cannot win the fight for sound planning alone. We need your help. If you haven't done so already, go to our Atlantic Yards webpage and add your name to our growing list of people who support development in Brooklyn that works for Brooklyn.
Please forward this e-mail to your friends and neighbors. Widespread civic awareness and activism is the only way we can demonstrate to the decision-makers that the current plan for Atlantic Yards is not acceptable.
Feel free to contact the MAS staff members working on this project - Vanessa Gruen and Jasper Goldman - with your reactions, feedback and suggestions. And we'll stay in touch with you with more news and action steps.
Kent Barwick, President
Municipal Art Society
Posted by amy at 11:08 PM
A Disappointing Primary
New York Times
State Senate District 18 (northwest Brooklyn: Sunset Park, Red Hook, Downtown, Bedford Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill)State Senator Velmanette Montgomery is facing a challenge from former City Councilwoman Tracy L. Boyland, a member of the Boyland political family. Ms. Montgomery is a far better voice for her district, even though we don’t agree with her that the Atlantic Yards project should be scrapped. The senator is perhaps best known in Albany for speaking out for the disenfranchised, most recently arguing against the use of shackles for female prisoners giving birth. We endorse Velmanette Montgomery.
NoLandGrab: Would they still like her if they realized she also represents Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and part of Park Slope? And why would the Times be so supportive of the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards proposal? No idea.
Posted by amy at 10:59 PM
Hillary: Dems Can’t Afford to Lose Any Ground
Courier-Life's Stephen Witt covers Hillary Clinton's press conference in Sunset Park. Bonus points if you can guess which question is his...
Q:Developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn is one of the current controversies in the borough. Have you taken a stance on the project?
A:No, I have left that to the local community because I don’t have any direct role as a senator, but my only concern is that people be listened to. That the voices of the people that are going to be directly affected by the development be heard, and I agree with what Eliot Spitzer said the other day to let the comment period go on for another 30 days, because I just want whatever decision is eventually made [to be] based on the best environmental assessments, the best opportunity for people to be heard and that’s what I’ve been advocating for.
Q:What about this issue of eminent domain?
A:Well I think eminent domain can be misused and I thought that many of the concerns people raised after the Supreme Court decision were totally legitimate.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court basically threw the door open, so that’s the law of the land. Now we’ve got to figure out how to use the political process so that people are not taken advantage of .
Q:What about the high unemployment of among African-Americans and the need for affordable housing as opposed to the more moneyed people who are against it? Do you think they need a voice too?
A:Absolutely. I think from what I have learned following the public debate, this is not a one-sided debate by any means. People are on all sides of it. Maybe there are more than two sides.
There’s legitimate concerns with respect to employment and affordable housing just as there is in maintaining the character of the neighborhood, and the misuse of eminent domain.
That’s what the political process has to do at the local level, is try to sort this out in a fair, above-board, transparent way and that’s what I think. Therefore its important that the point of view of everybody be taken into account.
NoLandGrab: You forgot to ask her if the shrill bloodsucking leeches who oppose the project should have any say in the ESDC's benevolent, well-planned, offer of hope to the downtrodden?
Posted by amy at 10:48 PM
CB6 Cuts Summer Short to Tackle Massive Yards Study
“We have no [indication] that these comments will carry any weight,” said Jerry Armer, chairperson of the board, at the start of the hearing that consisted mostly of statements of opposition to the project.
“FCR’s been trying to spin this as a public project but it’s not. This neighborhood doesn’t [deserve] to be torn down any more than Bruce Ratner’s home or Mayor Bloomberg’s or Marty Markowitz’s,” said opponent Lee Anderson, referring to supporters of the project from the president of FCR to the Borough President.
“We are not interested in the Manhattan-ization of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is Brooklyn and that is why we choose to live here,” said Janet Zimmerman, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years.
Posted by amy at 10:43 PM
Prospect Place Takes a Stand Against Atlantic Yards
A new survey conducted by the Prospect Place Block Association – which has expressed apprehension and opposition to the proposed Atlantic Yards Project – says the majority of area residents want the association to take a stand against the project.
More than 150 people who live on the three blocks of Prospect Place from Flatbush Avenue to Underhill Avenue completed the survey, and of them, 87% said that they want the block association to take a position against the development proposed by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCR).
Posted by amy at 12:46 PM
CB2 Holds Hot Summer Hearing On Atlantic Yards - Precious Little Time For Public Weigh - In On Massive Project
Courier-Life's Stephen Witt says "Opponents were out in force against the proposed Atlantic Yards development at the Community Board 2 open hearing regarding the issue." But you wouldn't be able to tell that from his coverage of the hearing, which includes an equal number of comments from opponents and proponents, and a picture of proponents.
Carolyn Konheim, of Community Consulting Services, Inc., said that although the density of the project is repeatedly justified by the confluence of 12 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road nearby, the DEIS comes to the conclusion that the project will have no impact on subway crowding.
The DEIS assumed only about a quarter of the historic and predictable growth of subway trips from the rest of Brooklyn into Downtown Brooklyn and it leaves out trips from 53 percent of development in the pipeline to be built by 2016, Konheim testified.
Posted by amy at 12:35 PM
Hudson Yards project got three months for review
Atlantic Yards Report
Here's another example in which the enviornmental review process for a large project in New York got more time than the Atlantic Yards project, and avoided a late summer hearing. As with the Yankees project mentioned yesterday, the Hudson Yards project proceeded under the auspices of New York City, rather than the Empire State Development Corporation.
Here's part of the timeline:
June 21, 2004: Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS)
September 23, 2004: Public Hearing on the DGEIS held by the City Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in conjunction with the ULURP process
Ten days later: Close of public comment period
That's more than three months, as opposed to 66 days for the Atlantic Yards project.
Posted by amy at 12:22 PM
A New Dynamic: Atlantic Yards Challenges Brooklyn Progressive Politics
The Next American City offers an overview of the Atlantic Yards proposal, with such subheads as 'A Pact With the Community or a P.R. Whitewash?' and '“It’s Race And Class”… Or Is It?'
Because of the wide scope and high proﬁle of Atlantic Yards, the project is sure to be a deﬁning moment in New York City development politics. If successful, Forest City Ratner will have generated a road map for future developers: get a group of powerful elected officials on your side, choose a group of disempowered, but vocal, supporters in the community, and make an unenforceable promise to provide a few goods that the public sector has failed to deliver, such as community facilities or affordable housing. Because the public review process for Atlantic Yards is so limited and vague, a handful of organizations have negotiated on behalf of the community as a whole. Yet the entire community must bear the impacts on public services and infrastructure of such a large-scale project.
Atlantic Yards Report concludes that "While there's not much new for Atlantic Yards-watchers, and some information is dated or inaccurate (the project now would be 6860 apartments, not 7300, and Atlantic Avenue divides Prospect Heights and Fort Greene rather than serves as a Prospect Heights thoroughfare), the article does point out to a national audience how the project has fractured some typical community alliances, notably among progressives. The article cites criticism of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but not the important template established in Los Angeles, where CBA signatories, unlike in Brooklyn, agree not to accept money from a developer."
Posted by amy at 12:05 PM
Which Side Are You On?
The Empire Zone
A new blog tracks the positions held by Brooklyn politicians on the proposed Atlantic Yards project, so you don’t have to.
You can tell off the bat that they tend both toward an anti-Yards perspective and a hard line on what it means to support or oppose the project. By their measure, you’re either for it or against it; you can’t take a little from Column A and a little from Column B. So a guy like Councilman David Yassky, who likes the project generally but says he won’t support it at the current 8.7 million square foot size, is put down as a supporter.
Posted by amy at 12:01 PM
Letter to the Editor published in the Brooklyn Papers. Below is the original letter - the printed letter mysteriously dropped the reference to NoLandGrab...
Please let Dana Rubinstein know that being snarky and rude is not the same as being a journalist. In two articles in the July 29th paper she allows snide comments substitute for journalism.
1 "Candidate and 'Cosby' brother sing to seniors." Besides from being disrespectful to a hard working, highly respected candidate, Dana is also condescending to the seniors that the brothers were entertaining. Referring to them as the "silver-haired set" and belittling the seniors with unhumorous remarks like "in so doing, he's braved hordes of elderly ladies…" has no place in journalism. Is it alright to make fun of people just because they are older? I have news for you, Dear, you will be a senior one day yourself. This kind of mean-spirited remark has no place in society or journalism.
2 "Heath to Brooklyn: I can quit you" Besides from being woefully out of date with the story that indeed Heath and Michelle have not quit Brooklyn-see nolandgrab.org July 25 where it states… the Ledgers, "still consider New York, and specifically Brooklyn, home". This non-story is incredibly rude and simply gossip of the worst kind. A story like this has no place on the front page of an award-winning newspaper. Heath and Michelle have done their best to fit into their neighborhood by participating in neighborhood activity. The fact that they bought a second home in one of their regular work locations does not make them unusual, foolish or subject to your snide judgement. Further, they showed a good bit of courage by joining with Develop Don't Destroy and with their neighbors in the areas biggest issue-the Ratner project. Do you not want light and sky? Why would you mock them for this? You owe them an apology.
Lucy Koteen, Fort Greene
Posted by amy at 11:54 AM
Bouton throws heat at Ratner, Steinbrenner
NY Daily News
It's a good bet that Jim Bouton, blackballed from Old Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium for decades for his tell-all classic "Ball Four," won't be invited back any time soon.
And he can forget about being an honorary ballboy at New Jersey Nets games, too.
When Bouton joined the advisory board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn last week, he marked the occasion by ripping George Steinbrenner, Bruce Ratner and their controversial plans for the Bronx and Brooklyn.
"Now we have the Steinbrenner and Ratner projects, trampling on neighborhoods, ignoring citizens, and giving public subsidies to millionaires at the expense of schools, hospitals and fire departments," the former Yankee pitcher says. "And I think to myself that when we're finished bringing democracy to the Middle East, we can bring it to Pittsfield. And the Bronx. And Brooklyn."
Bouton, a 10-season Major League Baseball veteran, wrote about his battle to save historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass., in "Foul Ball," a look at his battle with government officials and politically connected developers.
Posted by amy at 11:46 AM
August 12, 2006
Gubernatorial frontrunner Spitzer likes AY, but needs a primer
Atlantic Yards Report has a play by play recap of Spizer's comments from yesterday's interview with Courier-Life:
An excerpt from the newspaper's interview, headlined "Exclusive Courier Interview With Eliot Spitzer":
Q. You recently wrote a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation in favor of extending the public hearing date for the Atlantic Yards DEIS. Do you still basically agree with the plan and how would you work with more developers to ensure more affordable housing gets built in the Downtown Brooklyn area?
A. A couple of quick observations. I have not been involved in the approval process. I conceptually am in favor of development of that site. I think building the arena is good for Brooklyn. It’s good for the city. We want to maximize the amount of affordable housing we get. We want to make sure the developments are scaled appropriately for the community and I’ve been generally supportive of the project, leaving it to those who have been involved to determine whether the size is increased or decreased or shifted one way or another based upon the zoning and based upon the capacity of the community to absorb additional people. So lest anybody think I’m changing my position, I am not. I’ve always been in favor of development there. I think the plan that is on the table is basically a good one, but should be reviewed methodically and carefully, which is why I favor giving it the extra 30 days so the review can be done properly. I don’t like to rush those decisions, but let’s make some decisions, get agreement and then get it moving because it’s better to have the housing and the arena than a hole in the ground.
A closer look
Maximize the amount of affordable housing? If the city and state wanted to maximize the amount of affordable housing, wouldn't they have issued an RFP (request for proposals) for such a project? And would they have encouraged the building of the most expensive arena ever?
Scaled appropriately? Does Spitzer know that, at the current scale, Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential development, by a factor of two, in the country?
Those who have been involved? The only people involved who can decide are the unelected ESDC, with an assist from the Mayor's office, and then the Public Authorities Control Board, which is controlled by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the governor. The City Council and local community boards are bypassed.
Remember, New York magazine called it an "absolute absence of democracy."
Based upon the zoning? The ESDC plans to override local zoning.
A hole in the ground? Lest we forget, the railyards would be about 8.3 acres of a 22-acre project. The city never talked to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) about putting out an RFP to build over the railyards.
Posted by amy at 2:05 PM
Yankee Stadium project got twice the time Atlantic Yards has for review
Atlantic Yards Report questions why the Atlantic Yards DEIS review is 66 days, versus Yankee Stadium's nearly four-month review period.
So how much time is appropriate for concerned parties to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and other documents released regarding the Atlantic Yards project? The minimum is 30 days, but larger projects get a longer review period.
For Atlantic Yards, the time frame is 66 days, The schedule has been defended by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Borough President Marty Markowitz.
Frontrunning gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and several local elected officials have called for 30 more days. The Municipal Art Society has advocated "significantly increasing" the time for comments.
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has called for an additional 60 days, pointing out that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement "itself is over 2000 pages and the General Project plan is in excess of 1000 pages."
Posted by amy at 2:00 PM
The Politicker reports on another candidate critical of the Atlantic Yards proposal, Ken Diamondstone:
Ken Diamondstone was reinstated to the ballot today in the race for Brooklyn's 25th senate district after a week's worth of court appearances. He will face Marty Connor in the primary September 12.
Diamondstone Press Release:
Ken Diamondstone Successfully Fends Off Opponent's Attempt to Limit His Access To Ballot
State Supreme Court Rules to Reinstate Diamondstone on Ballot; Finds Residency Challenge from Senator Connor to be Specious and Unfounded
AUGUST 11, 2006, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - The New York State Supreme Court ruled today that Ken Diamondstone, candidate for the 25th state senate district, is legally eligible to appear on the ballot as a candidate in the primary and general elections. Diamondstone had been challenged by his opponent Martin Connor, not on the issues and needs of the constituents, but rather by trying to limit Diamondstone's access to the ballot through legal action.
"My opponent's attempt to block my access to the ballot was an act of desperation," said Diamondstone. "The court decision proves that this type of action is not only unethical and undemocratic, but that, ultimately, the Board of Elections overstepped their bounds in removing me from the ballot. This entire process was a tremendous waste of time, money and resources and a perfect example of why we need immediate reform in Albany."
This action was business as usual for Martin Connor and is another installment in a long line of unethical and undemocratic actions that prove he is part of the problem in Albany. From misusing campaign funds to buy a car, to making a living on a legal practice devoted to knocking candidates off the ballot, Connor represents the worst of what is wrong in Albany.
Diamondstone proved in court that he moved into the district before the legal deadline of November 7, 2003 through testimony and evidence such as a lease signed for November 1, 2003 and a receipt from Ken's landlord showing payment for the apartment for the same date.
Diamondstone continued, "The 25th district deserves a state senator who is committed to reform in Albany--no one should have to go through what I did simply to gain access to the ballot. This election is a clear indication of the dire need for campaign and election reform to ensure that campaigns are about new ideas to improve our community. These reforms should include independent commissions for redistricting, campaign finance reform, and a fair process for access to the ballot."
"I expect Senator Connor to honor the ruling and join me in a race that engages the community. This election should be judged in the court of public opinion. I plan to refocus all my energies to a campaign based on the issues."
Posted by amy at 1:50 PM
Pol Position: If That’s Being Iconic, We’d Hate to See Normal
Queens Ledger discusses Marty's choice of architect Robert Scarano as the first "Brooklyn Icon":
We couldn’t determine through our sloppy research if there was ever a second Brooklyn Icon named, but if the first one is any indication of the type of candidate that is considered, we really can’t wait for #2. In fact, we even have a few suggestions of our own (come on, you knew that we would). Perhaps the borough president’s office could consider Bruce Ratner as their second Brooklyn Icon? Or what about Joshua Guttman, he seems like a pretty stand-up guy. And there’s always Clarence Norman.
Posted by amy at 1:34 PM
Friday: The Sad $12m NoHo Penthouse, the Happy Midtown Salad, Sickly Brooklyn
The Real Estate:
Ratner recap: The Bruce gets $60.8 million in cash, plus 3.9 million units of stock, from his pals at Forest City Enterprises. Sweet deal, right? Yet in return he hands over his 30% stake in Forest City Ratner to FCE, which means saying goodbye to 30 enormous properties--including Atlantic Yards and the new Renzo Piano Times HQ. Matthew Schuerman explains: it's all about philanthropy.
Posted by amy at 1:29 PM
August 11, 2006
The Atlantic Yards Vote
A new blog has surfaced that tries to keep track of the pro- and anti-Atlantic Yards positions of candidates running for office this year. It's authored anonymously by what appears to be an opponent of the project.
NLG readers pretty much know who has taken a principled stand against Ratner (in alphabetical order): Charles Barron, Bill Batson, Sean Patrick Maloney, Velmanette Montgomery, Chris Owens, and Tom Suozzi.
Posted by lumi at 10:53 PM
One David against two Goliaths
Bruce Ratner bought big-time Brooklyn developer Shaya Boymelgreen's leases to Henry Weinstein's property and then leased the property back to Boymelgreen. Weinstein smells a rat and will have his day in court against the two real estate giants who cut a deal behind his back. Even if the Goliaths lose, the issue will be moot when Ratner uses eminent domain.
Brooklyn Papers, ‘Little’ developer slaps ‘big boys’ for collusion BP has the story but gets the location of the dispute totally wrong and is missing a few key facts that are covered by...
Atlantic Yards Report, Landlord says Ratner has "unclean hands" in lease dispute
For instance, why did Boymelgreen send a notice of intent to transfer the lease to an old address when he had been sending lease payments to the current one?
It’s unclear how much difference the dispute might make in the long run, since the state could still use eminent domain to take the properties whether or not Ratner controlled the lease. But the transfer of the lease has been used to portray publicly that Forest City Ratner “controls” Weinstein’s property, Lots 5, 6 & 13 on the map; the asterixes hint at the dispute. (And should Forest City Ratner control the lease, that would mean one less commercial lease to be canceled in an eminent domain proceeding.)
Curbed.com, 'Two Gorillas Decided to Mate'
Blah blah blah this could go on forever, but we really just love the story because of the photo, where it looks like Weinstein is about to belly-bop that entire building down. Take that, Shaya!
Posted by lumi at 6:37 PM
Atlantic Yards "Embattled"? AP Thinks So
Gowanus Lounge noticed that an Associated Press story used one little-itty-bitty adjective, and wondered if it could "be a clear sign that the lines in the battle for the hearts and minds of Brooklynites (and reporters) have shifted slightly."
Together, Cleveland-based Forest City and Mr. Ratner have interests in 30 retail, office and residential properties, certain service companies and numerous developments in the New York metropolitan area, including The New York Times Co.’s new headquarters in Times Square and the embattled Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y.
NoLandGrab: It could be a slight shift, but then again the AP reporter (no byline) locates the project in "downtown Brooklyn," instead of Prospect Heights, so it shows you what he or she knows.
For a bird's-eye view of the difference between DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN and PROSPECT HEIGHTS, click here.
Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM
Atlantic Yards: A new Battle of Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Papers
On Aug. 27, 1776, the Battle of Brooklyn, the first and largest in the War of Independence, was fought right here in what are now the streets of Gowanus, Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery.
All too few Brooklynites are aware that their fate — and the fate of our fledgling republic — hung in the balance on that historic day. General Howe and Lord Howe had brought the entire British Army and Navy to New York and were determined to crush the American rebellion.
The irony is that today, we are truly engaged in the Battle for Brooklyn.
The very liberties and political freedom that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed and the blood and sacrifice offered in the Battle of Brooklyn by patriots are now being trampled and sullied by the tyranny of a distant state government and its unelected representatives.
Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM
HIL BACKS CRITICS OF PARKLAND LUXURY CONDO PLAN
NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays
Buried in the coverage of Senator Clinton's visit to Brooklyn, and strong words against the Brooklyn Bridge Park plan, were these minor points on Atlantic Yards:
Clinton was less outspoken about the Atlantic Yards Nets arena complex developer Bruce Ratner is pushing for Prospect Heights.
She has left that debate "to the local community," she said - though she joined a growing chorus calling for giving the public 30 more days to comment on the project's environmental impact. She also acknowledged that "eminent domain can be misused."
[The full article after the jump.]
Also, The Brooklyn Papers, Hillary rips ‘park’ condos
BP covered the same press conference, at which Clinton laid out one half of NoLandGrab's objection to Brooklyn Bridge Park's having to be self-sustaining while Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards is rich with public subsidies:
“If parks had to be self-sustaining, would anyone have ever built a park?” Clinton asked.
She also added that, “Public land should be public land."
Clinton's summer reading list included a relevant title:
The senator’s summer reading may have prompted her to speak out on the thorny issue. She’s just finished the still-unreleased autobiography of Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, a long-time green crusader in Kenya.
“One of her great accomplishments was stopping luxury housing in Uhuru Park in Nairobi,” said Clinton, who recommended the book.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON yesterday threw her weight behind community critics suing to block 1,200 luxury condos from being built in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Clinton said at a Brooklyn campaign stop she had "concerns" about setting a national precedent by having private homes in a public park, and called it "disingenuous" for state planners to argue the condos are necessary to pay for its upkeep.
"Public land should be public land," said Clinton to reporters at the United Senior Citizens Center of Sunset Park.
"I think it's a little disingenuous to say, 'Oh, we're going to make this self-sustaining by essentially taking parkland which was given to the city for a specific purpose and turning it into yet another luxury condominium project.' "
"I think we can do better than that," added Clinton. "If parks had to be self-sustaining, would anybody have ever started a park?"
Clinton's words come as local groups are battling the ambitious project overseen by Gov. Pataki's Empire State Development Corp.
When completed in 2012, the park will stretch along the downtown waterfront from the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Ave.
Critics say that concessions and other money-making venues were always envisioned for the park. But they argue the condos added by state planners are illegal because they would privatize public land.
The issue is before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel.
Park planners declined to comment on Clinton's remarks because of the ongoing suit, though they have argued the land under the condos won't be parkland, so it isn't illegal.
Clinton said that as a federal official, she has "no authority" to join the suit, but she added, "I've just spoken out about it; maybe that will help. I think it'll matter greatly who the next governor is."
Clinton was less outspoken about the Atlantic Yards Nets arena complex developer Bruce Ratner is pushing for Prospect Heights.
She has left that debate "to the local community," she said - though she joined a growing chorus calling for giving the public 30 more days to comment on the project's environmental impact. She also acknowledged that "eminent domain can be misused."
Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM
The spin is in
After last week's press release stating that Bruce Ratner was in talks with his Cleveland cousins to sell his share of Forest City Ratner to the parent company Forest City Enterprises, NoLandGrab outlined the difficulties that The Bruce was having in raising cash to lay the ground work for his Atlantic Yards proposal. We also pointed out that the press release was a little vague, an indication that the Cleveland-based real estate behemoth was still engineering the spin.
Since then, the deal has been finalized and the spin is in.
The Real Estate Observer, Bruce Ratner, Philanthropist?
Matthew Schuerman is reporting that Bruce needed some extra cash for philanthropic activities (Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is accepting donations):
"What happened was that Bruce was getting to the point in his life where he wants to do some philanthropy," Rich Moore, managing director at RBC Capital Markets, told us. "There is no liquidity to joint ventures because he has to sell a building in order to make any money."
The NY Sun, Ratner To Cash In on Stake in His Company
What are the chances that two media outlets coincidentally spoke to the same source? Sun reporter David Lombino quotes the same analyst who explains:
“It will be the same people, the same entities, the same decision makers. He will run FCR just as he ran it before,” Mr. Moore said. “Basically, this was more designed for Bruce personally to have more liquidity to make philanthropic donations.
“He is getting older, and it is time for him personally to do things a little differently,” Mr. Moore said.
NoLandGrab: It's practically as credible as, "the Congressman will be leaving office to spend more time with his family."
What the press hasn't yet pointed out, or found a source willing to go on record to say, is that Bruce's purchase of the money-sucking NJ Nets has gotten the project financials off to a bad start. To continue on, FCE took control of the entire upside, since (as evidenced by the status quo in non-recourse debt) they had already assumed all of the downside.
Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM
What's So Civil About Civil Discourse?
Fans For Fair Play
They themselves live in glass houses...and lately they've been throwing lots of rocks.
Some have resorted to curious vitriol in order to attack anti-Ratner forces for being vitriolic. They've insulted many of us for being "insulting." They've lost all sense of civil discourse when angrilly claiming we're not civil enough.
Fans For Fair Play has back-to-back dunks against team Ratner's latest accusations aimed at critics of the Atlantic Yards plan, and concludes with a comparison between the positions of legendary pitcher, activist, author, and recent addition to the Develop Don't Destroy Advisory Board, Jim Bouton, and anti-big-box activist/Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky.
Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM
MAS, Hillary call for more time on DEIS
The Municipal Art Society has joined gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and several Brooklyn elected officials in calling on the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to provide more time for citizen response to the massive Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Senator Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop Wednesday in Sunset Park, which was reported in several news outlets, but a front-page story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle yesterday, headlined "Hillary Visits Sunset Park, Chimes in on Issues Affecting Brooklyn," reported in detail on her views regarding Atlantic Yards.
Also, City Council Member (and Congressional candidate) David Yassky said Wednesday night that he had sent a letter to the ESDC as well.
Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM
August 10, 2006
Forest City Enterprises and Forest City Ratner Agree to Restructure New York City Portfolio
Whoa! Just one short week after announcing they were in talks, Forest City Enterprises and its subsidiary Forest City Ratner have reached an agreement for the parent company to buy Bruce Ratner's share of the company.
Brooklyn Papers, Ratner’s Ohio family chips in
Brooklyn Papers focuses on the fact that the company is publicly traded.
Bruce Ratner has called in the big guns — his cousins Charles and Albert — for a cash infusion just as his Atlantic Yards development nears state approval.
Ratner announced last week that he is planning to sell all his shares of his firm, Forest City Ratner Companies, to Forest City Enterprises, the publicly traded behemoth founded by his grandfather in 1921 and run by his two cousins.
“Decent move today,” proclaimed a Yahoo instant-messenger named Richmanspoor, calling FCE stock a “strong buy.”
Last week NoLandGrab pointed out the dark side of the deal the fact that Bruce Ratner has had trouble raising capital for this plan from the very start.
Posted by lumi at 11:40 PM
The survey says!
Three blocks near Yards hate Bruce
By Dana Rubinstein
The Brooklyn Papers and Forest City Ratner are not impressed by the local opinion survey that found 90% of residents oppose Bruce's 16-highrise and arena plan.
That stunning bit of news was revealed by the Prospect Place Block Association, which claimed it surveyed 150 people on Prospect Place between Flatbush and Underhill avenues.
And the survey says: 87 percent of local residents are against it, while only five percent are in favor (and the majority of that five percent is actually opposed to the state’s use of eminent domain and towers taller than 28 stories, of which there would be several).
Local residents are taking the less-than-shocking survey in stride. So did Forest City Ratner; a spokeswoman had no comment.
NoLandGrab: Project supporters frequently paint Atlantic Yards critics as a small band of white anti-everything obstructionists. Though Ratner and the news media are less than shocked, this survey shows that criticism of Atlantic Yards is widespread.
Posted by lumi at 11:32 PM
A Night Out With Jim Stuckey and His Entourage
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder, Phil Guie, and Medi Blum
It's hard to be in three places during two hours, so most of those concerned about the Atlantic Yards project had to pick which Community Board - 2, 6, or 8 - to go to last Thursday. The three CBs with jurisdiction inside the proposed Prospect Heights footprint had scheduled hearings on the project hastily, given the need to prepare for the August 23rd hearing on the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
But three VIPs on developer Forest City Ratner's payroll - with help from an army of aides, some stationed at each meeting and some escorting the precious trio - pulled off the trifecta. Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, transportation consultant "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz, and sustainability consultant Pamela Lippe were whisked among the three meetings, in Cobble Hill, DoBro, and Crown Heights, so they could get face time with each community board.
The Brooklyn Papers also sent out three reporters that night, who filed a story about everything but the "general complaints."
Posted by lumi at 11:21 PM
Mist-Cooled Bike Paths Being Built in Qatar
StreetsBlog gets a kick out of what you can get done if there are "no cumbersome democratic processes to get in the way ."
[The pet project of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, ruler of Qatar, is a 30-kilometer mist-cooled bike path.]
NoLandGrab: Forget New York's oligarchy, it's monarchies that make the trains run on time.
Posted by lumi at 10:53 PM
Dope on the Slope has a confession:
Some of my best friends are shrill.
As the tastemakers and trendspotters might say, "shrill is the new black," and I'm proud to be on the cutting edge.
Read the riotously funny and "shrill" op-ed from Dope that will have you reaching for a kielbasa!
Posted by lumi at 10:49 PM
Forest City Enterprises in deal with Ratner
Crain's NY Business covers Forest City Enterprises purchase of Bruce Ratner subsidiary Forest City Ratner.
Posted by lumi at 10:39 PM
Disney Settles with Contractors Over L.A. Concert Hall Overruns
By Tony Illia
A settlement was reached last month on construction cost overruns at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, three years after
General contractor M.A. Mortenson Co., Minneapolis, filed suit one month after the hall’s opening in October 2003, claiming that it and 10 subcontractors were owed $43.3 million because of design changes that resulted in delays and project overruns. The 293,000-sq-ft building, designed by Gehry Partners LLP, Los Angeles, finished six years late and $174 million over budget. The total tab came to $274 million.
NoLandGrab: Please don't tell us that this presages a 2017 tip-off for the Nets and an $11-billion tab for the entire project.
Posted by lumi at 10:26 PM
Times in Bruce’s corner
The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial
The New York Times, which is working with Bruce Ratner to build a new Times headquarters in Manhattan, continues to trumpet its enthusiastic view of its partner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development. In a City section editorial that capped a string of upbeat “news” articles and unreported stories, Times writers seemed to be working off a Ratner press release. As a service to our readers, some of whom may also occasionally read the Times, we present a more nuanced view.
Click here to read the Times editorial in support of Atlantic Yards with editorial footnotes from a newspaper that represents Brooklyn.
Posted by lumi at 9:45 PM
Ratner geopolitics in the blogosphere
"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide, Welcome. Guidance Offered. Geez, just before we were going to get around to updating Pol Precinct, someone beat us to the punch. Stated simply, "Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide lists the politicos on the campaign trail who are into spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and abusing eminent domain, to build the densest residential community in the nation and the largest single-source private project in NYC history, between two low-rise residential neighborhoods, at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, in the name of a few jobs, affordable high-rise housing, and basketball; and those who stand with the community.
My Direct Democracy, Lieberman's Last Minute Donations
My DD lists last minute campaign contributions to Joe Lieberman. It looks like nearly the entire Ratner clan maxed out (including several "student" Ratners). Cousin Brucie is not on the list he has pledged not to contribute to campaigns so as to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
NoLandGrab: How does a "college student" make the maximum-allowed-by-law campaign contribution and still have enough change left over for beer and pizza?
UPDATE: An NLG reader pointed out that there was a grand total of ELEVEN Ratners on the list. Even though Bruce Ratner has vowed not to donate to campaigns, remember, Bruce's subsidiary is about to be wholly owned by the Ratner real-estate dynasty, Forest City Enterprises. A comparison of the family owners (see SEC filing 14A) and family donors indicates that more than one Ratner-owner is concerned by the appearance of conflict of interest.
Posted by lumi at 6:40 PM
In Need of Some Restraint
Brooklyn Views has some "Sympathy for the Devil" in his latest post, in which he concludes the project is "in need of some restraint."
We’ve previously discussed the enormous scale of this project. Rather than an outgrowth of a rational planning process, it seems to us now that the project has developed as a collection of wish lists, assembled for maximum political support and financial gain: Affordable housing? We can do that. An arena? Not a problem, we’ll recoup our costs in other parts of the project. Market-rate housing? Check. Retail, office space, parking? We’ll do all that too - big time - and more! The best project EVER! By providing something for everyone, the project has ballooned into an enormous delirious wish list of desires; there is no push-back.
Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM
Atlantic Yards Report report
Atlantic Yards Report posted two articles today. Though each deserves more ink, we'll give you the lead and a short blurb to speed your trip over to Norman Oder's blog.
August 23 hearing covers a lot of ground: not just DEIS but GPP & eminent domain
There's more to the August 23rd "Public Hearing" than NoLandGrab initially reported. Norman Oder goes into the details as described in this Public Notice scotch taped to a doorway on Sixth Avenue.
The four-hour hearing scheduled by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to begin at 4:30 p.m. on August 23 doesn't just cover the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a document that's so long several political figures have called for a postponement of the hearing.
It's also a hearing on the General Project Plan (GPP), the project overview, which includes findings regarding eminent domain, as indicated by the notice (right) posted on the door of a Sixth Avenue building in the project footprint.
According to the Public Hearing Notice, the hearing will encompass a) the GPP; (b) the proposed acquisition by condemnation of certain property; (c) the terms of proposed leases and conveyances; and (d) the DEIS.
Why ownership & control would reduce eminent domain less than promised
Norman Oder explains the difference between owning and controlling property in the footprint and why Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation might still have to use eminent domain for properties in both categories to void some leases.
Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
So far, all of today's news is coming from the blogosphere. Here are a couple more interesting items:
Don't Worry It's Just Reality, Bruce Ratner Supporter of the Day
"Dreadnaught" wants to set the record straight about the history of gentrification and settlement in Ft. Greene:
Amy Patrick (Letter to The Village Voice) addressing "a bunch of white people":
Basically, they don't want to happen to them what they did to the neighborhood in the first place .
Umm, first thing Amy it was originally a WASP neighborhood, and before that Dutch farmland, and before that Indian hunting grounds, and second thing, those people that did move in didn't use eminent domain to remove other people they simply bought and renovated existing homes - often at a huge risk. And it was blacks and whites together led by Herbert Scott Gibson, a black man, who got it designated a historic area - in other words they wanted to preserve its character - something Ratner is intent on destroying.
Englishman in New York, ‘Done Deal’ Makes Depressing Reading
If, like me, you are a Brooklynite wrestling with the pros and cons of the Atlantic Yards project, you might want to take a look at this lengthy but persuasive article in New York Magazine that comes down hard in favor of the anti-development side. Interestingly, the article highlights just how much class and race are being used as a justification for the project by the pro-development camp.
Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM
Bruce Ratner must be stopped
Stellavision says Atlantic Yards critics pretty much have it wrong. Bruce Ratner must be stopped NOT because of lack of a democratic process or because he would ruin the neighborhood.
Conservatives are seeing red because Atlantic Yards would be a terrible use of taxpayer money and eminent domain.
It has to be stopped because it's using taxpayer money. (If Bruce Ratner can't make a profit on his own funds alone, why should I, or anybody else, be forced to help him?) It has to be stopped because people living on 13 acres of the proposed footprint are to be booted out via eminent domain. (Cavalier violation of property rights.)
NoLandGrab: While Ratner has tried to split the community, the project curiously manages to unite progressives and conservatives.
Nationally, the conservative-progressive split over property rights is slowly being bridged, as bleeding-heart liberals are beginning to realize that low-income/inner-city neighborhoods are most vulnerable to eminent domain abuse.
The affordable-housing debate is also an interesting one, and it's temporarily bringing together both sides over Atlantic Yards. Conservatives favor free markets and believe that the market can provide housing for all income levels; progressives are concerned that a majority of the available subsidies for affordable housing will be going to a single privately owned project that stands to make over a billion dollars in profit for a company in Cleveland.
There's more, but I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, NoLandGrab.org isn't promoting one side over the other, but regardless of your worldview, the upside primarily goes to the developer, Bruce Ratner.
Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM
NY Press says been there done that, even though they are so over the Atlantic Yards thing:
We’re trying to make sense of the recent pile-on of Bruce Ratner executed by New York Magazine and AM New York. NY Press has been pounding away at Brooklyn’s number-one real estate vampire for a while now, but it seems that everyone else just realized that Ratner has it in for the few remaining overlooked spots in Brooklyn—just when it’s so late in the game that any hardcore media coverage is essentially too little too late. Admittedly, New York Magazine did a nice job of photoshopping the new version of downtown BK in Ratner’s vision—it’s truly scary. Now if we could only muster up the testicular fortitude to cross the bridge and set foot in Brooklyn, we might care a little more.
Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM
BRUCE JOINS BANDWAGON, CALLS FOR MORE TIME FOR PUBLIC REVIEW
STUCKEY SAYS, "DOH!"
The Daily Snooze
By Joe King
NEW YORK, NY Developer Bruce Ratner stunned Atlantic Yards supporters and critics alike when he held a press conference yesterday on the steps of City Hall, calling on the Empire State Development Corporation to allow for more time for the public to review of the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The do-gooding liberal developer stated, "Fair is fair. We've had over two years to produce two-thousand pages explaining why Brooklynites will barely even notice that Atlantic Yards is there. The public needs more than two months to read the sucker and figure out we're right."
When reached for comment Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey replied, "Doh!"
Ratner attributed his flip-flop to concerns from project supporters, "Rog and Spitz (Assemblymember Green and Attorney General Spitz) told me that the current schedule of hearings was political suicide and that any progressive power-to-the-people mega-millionaire would give the shrill vitriolic liberal white anti-everything NIMBYs a chance to read the fine print."
Speaking at the press conference Rev. Darius N. Sundry, mentioned that "Ratner was sent by God." When asked to elaborate, Sundry added, "Jobs, Housing and what's that third thing? Hoops? yeah, Hoops!"
This announcement took Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder off guard. Uncharacteristically, he had nothing to say but explained that he would be posting "a 5337-word analysis of the recent development by first light."
Project critic and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein was scheduled to hold his own press conference, but was detained when he was stuck in an elevator for four hours.
Only Brooklyn Borough President and Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowtiz remains as the sole supporter of the current review schedule. Markowitz has publicly stated (this is no joke folks!), "Extending the public-comment period to 66 days more than double the required 30 for a DEIS and holding two open public sessions, including one in September, instead of the required one, represents a fair attempt by ESDC to address the concerns of some in the community regarding a summer hearing."
Rumors that Markowitz will not be testifying at the August 23rd hearing, due to a previously scheduled family vacation, have not been confirmed or denied by the Beep's office.
Forest City Ratner spokesperson Joseph deCobbleHill was not available for comment at press time.
Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM
August 9, 2006
Eradicate Many of Our Existing Parking Spaces by Rezoning to "No Parking or "No Standing"
South Oxford Street Block Association is trying to figure out what Atlantic Yards would mean for existing residents in Fort Greene by getting down and dirty with the nitty-gritty of the DEIS.
Buried deep within the 2,000 page Atlantic Yards DEIS report is the local resident's final parking solution, called Figure 12-4. Looking at the illustration, it appears that the plans for increasing traffic flow throughout the surrounding neighborhoods is to remap our local steets' parking regulations, changing many of the signs to "No Parking," "No Standing," or 1-hour metered parking.
South Oxford Street Block Association is looking for a little help from the neighborhood. The Block Association is asking that you download the actual map, look up your block and email them with any changes that Ratner is suggesting for your street.
The South Oxford Street Block Association also considers the lack of long-term parking facilities for the neighborhood and shares this reminiscence:
The map's parking facility "Number 1," located under Ratner's original Atlantic Mall, previously allowed long-term residential parking for Fort Greene locals. However, soon after the construction of the newer "Atlantic Terminal Mall," the Ratner Company kicked out all the Fort Greene residents to allow for the shoppers at Target (located in his new mall next door) to park by the hour. This was done despite Bruce Ratner's previous assertion that shoppers would take the subway rather than drive to the big box store. That claim sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?
Posted by lumi at 9:23 PM
BOUTON IN SPORTS DISS
By Rich Calder
Ex-Yankees ace Jim Bouton - who exposed the lives of major leaguers in the controversial book "Ball Four" - is looking to expose plans to build an NBA arena in Brooklyn and a new Yankee stadium in The Bronx as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"Now we have the Steinbrenner and Ratner projects trampling on neighborhoods, ignoring citizens and giving public subsidies to millionaires at the expense of schools, hospitals and fire departments," the pitcher said in a statement yesterday announcing he had joined the advisory board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Posted by lumi at 9:15 PM
Why the Atlantic Center mall is blighted (and it's not the design), as per ESDC
Atlantic Yards Report
Lookie who caught on while studying NY State's criteria for "blight," it suddenly dawned on Norman Oder that Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall is "blighted."
The ESDC states that 51 of the 73 parcels on the project site (70 percent) exhibit one or more blight characteristics, including: buildings or lots that exhibit signs of significant physical deterioration, buildings that are at least 50 percent vacant, lots that are built to 60 percent or less of their allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR) under current zoning; and vacant lots. (Emphasis added)
Atlantic Center, according to data on Property Shark, contains 767,748 square feet, at a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 4.67. That's less than half the maximum allowed FAR of 10...
...the current mall is built to less than half the allowable density, which constitutes blight under the definition cited above.
Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM
Rock Gets it Right
The Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky has been trying to explain how the "Nets coming to Brooklyn... create(s) a wonderful opportunity for the young people in the borough."
Lipsky offers the words of Tilden HS coach Eric "Rock" Eisenberg as proof that Atlantic Yards will be a "Net" positive for Brooklyn:
8/7/06 Coach Eric 'Rock' Eisenberg: 'I wanted to echo the words of Carlton Screen Sr. about the Nets Clinic that was run on August 31st at Tilden High School. Coach Screen as usual did not take enough credit for helping the Nets fine staff of Jeff Rothberg,Tom Tuffey and Matt Lipsky put together this super event. Besides the basketball lessons taught by the top flight Basketball City coaching staff I saw first hand the message that Mr.Ratner's group wants to bring to Brooklyn. I stopped by my office to get some extra basketballs for the clinic and I overheard a tall gentlemen speaking in a very positive way to a 10 or 11 year old boy. This fine man was telling this aspiring young hoopster to work hard in class,on the court and most importantly with his family, because he had a gift for the game.This high quality coach told this youngster that he should not let the game use him but rather he should use the game to help himself to work towards a better and more meaningful life. I only wish I had thought to ask this fine man his name but I did not want to interrupt his thoughtful conversation. It is moments like these that keep old coaches like me, Ted Gustus and Carlton Screen Sr. around this great game of basketball.'
On another note, NRA (that's "Neighborhood Retail Alliance" not "National Rifle Association") posted a defense of their position in support of Atlantic Yards and an appreciation of the shrill vitriolic namecalling for which Atlantic Yards critics are famous.
Yes, Richard Lipsky is retained by FCRC to represent its interests but wouldn't have done so if he didn't feel that the project's merits warranted it. This feeling emerged from the sheer level of passion and enthusiasm spontaneously exhibited by a diverse array of sports organizations in the borough.
RL got his start writing the definitive work on sports and politics in this country and knows better than most just how instrumental a role a sports can play in a community. So many of the critics, exhibiting a certain level of snobbery, have looked down on this plebian side of this development and, because of this manifest snobbery, missed the potential importance of the sports team for the community.
We emphasize potentially because it can only really occur if the team ownership is enlightened in this regard. Everything we have seen so far indicates that Bruce Ratner gets it. If FCRC and the Brooklyn Nets do not invest in the young people there will not be the kind of fan base that the franchise needs to succeed. It is enlightened self-interest not pure philanthropy, although BR is no slouch in this regard either.
So what do we have from all the critics? Name calling seems to be the hallmark of this opposition and the fish clearly stinks from the head. It all brings to mind the incident that William Buckley has talked about when he had the temerity to criticize Ayn Rand as a fascist. When the vitriolic and threatening letters came in Buckley observed that they "Dotted the i's and crossed the t's of my point."
So all the people who accuse Lipsky (or "Shilsky"-how clever) of being idiotic and morally bankrupt only mange to bring discredit upon what used to be a defensible and reasonable position, one that has long ago ceased to be anything like that because the shrillness of the opposition has sent reason to the showers.
NoLandGrab: Whether or not such descriptions of Atlantic Yards critics as "shrill" and "vitriolic" are fairly applied, they have come up enough in blogs and the mainstream media that they seem to have stuck.
On the other hand, Lipsky ("Shilsky" isn't THAT funny) doesn't seem to apply the same litmus test to Atlantic Yards as he does with other developments throughout the city. This has led to the constant criticism from the "shrill-sky" Ratner critics. [OK, "shrill-sky" isn't funny either.]
Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM
EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Ohio effect
Orange County Register (via, BellvilleNewsDemocrat.com), Simple sense from Ohio's high court
An editorial by eminent domain expert and author Stephen Greenhut explains the difference between the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision and the Ohio State Supreme Court's decision in Norwood v. Horney.
At the heart of Kelo, the court ruled that taking property from private owners and giving it to other private owners was indeed a "public" use.
"(W)hile the city is not planning to open the condemned land ... to use by the general public," the court ruled, "this court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for ... the public.'"
Why hasn't the court upheld the simple rights outlined in the Constitution?
Well, because it stopped doing that a long time ago! There's an argument lifted right from "Alice in Wonderland."
By contrast, the Ohio Supreme Court offered a different, refreshingly easy-to-follow take on the matter, right out of the finest traditions of America's founding:
"The rights related to property, i.e., to acquire, use, enjoy, and dispose of property ... are among the most revered in our law and traditions."
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Loving baseball, Supreme Court in Ohio
Reds fan, economist and NY Newsday columnist Raymond J. Keating makes a pilgrimage to Cincinnati and finds another reason to love Ohio:
The headline read: "Norwood loses case on property seizures." Here was a blow struck by the Ohio Supreme Court for homeowners, small businesses and, contrary to the views of many local politicians, sound economics.
A lawyer for one developer was quoted declaring: "This is a sad day for Norwood and other Ohio cities desperately trying to revitalize their communities." Norwood officials were counting on added tax revenues.
Undermining property rights, though, is not good for the economy. After all, the first duty of government is to protect private property, not steal it. Why would entrepreneurs set up shop in a place where government abuses property rights?
The Cincinnati Enquirer, The eminent domain superheroes of Norwood
Columnist Peter Bronson parties with the victorious homeowners in Norwood and takes a full accounting of what they've won:
Eminent domain is a legitimate tool, but in this abuse, the court got it right: "For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house. It is the taking of a home - the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made."
A few of those families fought back. The price of victory was steep. Although they can have their houses back, their neighborhood has been nuked.
But the court said their battle reminds us all that "the ultimate guardians of the people's rights ... are the people themselves."
Bronson also lists some of the absurd findings in the study which determined that the neighborhood was blighted.
NoLandGrab: As we scrutinize the US Supreme Court's Kelo and Ohio's Norwood rulings, keep in mind that two years ago the Michigan State Supreme Court ruled against an eminent domain seizure in the Hathcock decision, overturning their own 28-year-old precedent-setting Poletown ruling.
If you're keeping score, that's two state courts for property rights and one high court against.
Edison Sentinel, Eminent domain battle now on national stage
Long Branch, NJ has probably pulled ahead of Bruce Ratner in the race to the bottom for national eminent-domain poster child, with this week's Parade Magazine cover story.
The national outrage generated by the coverage of the Long Branch battle may be too late to save the MTOTSA members' homes, but it may steer the country's course when it comes to future cases of eminent domain abuse.
Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM
At Con Ed Site, Solow Takes a Cue From His Peers
The Real Estate Observer
Matthew Schuerman's article about redevelopment plans for the Con Ed site in the East 30s makes the comparison to other grand redevelopment plans, including Atlantic Yards.
The Con Ed site is hardly alone. Ground Zero is crawling upward, and Bruce Ratner’s plan for a 22-acre site in downtown Brooklyn is struggling with vocal neighborhood opposition.
But while the masters of those sites have grappled with, paid off, charmed or waged P.R. campaigns against their critics, Mr. Solow—whose plans for the site include seven high-rises, between 3,000 and 4,000 apartments and about one million square feet of office space—has remained aloof.
Mr. Solow recently hired the lobbying and public-relations firm Geto & De Milly—the same firm that is handling Mr. Ratner’s project—to do his community and political liaising.
NoLandGrab: More empirical evidence that Bruce Ratner's "savvy use of state-of-the-art political tactics," as described by Chris Smith in this week's New York Magazine, is changing the way business is conducted in this town.
Schuerman locates Bruce Ratner's project in "downtown Brooklyn" those who live across the street from the footprint will tell you that it is in Prospect Heights.
New York Magazine published a photorendering that illustrates why it is incorrect to state that the project is in "downtown Brooklyn" (neighborhood names added by NLG).
Why does this matter? Because a scaled-down version of Atlantic Yards (such as the 15% reduction envisioned by the NY Times editorial board), would be more appropriate for recently rezoned Downtown Brooklyn. In order to build in Prospect Heights, Bruce Ratner has had to override all sorts of zoning regulations, made possible by a NY State takeover of the project.
Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM
August 8, 2006
'Smart growth' turns dumb (Part 1)
US News & World Report
Columnist Bonnie Erbe explains the Liberal split over "smart-growth" vs. eminent domain, as the latest trend in urban planning is threatening neighborhoods in urban cores.
For decades, tree-hugging lovers of green and open space have campaigned against suburban sprawl, pushing so-called smart growth to preserve rural America. Smart growth promotes high-density development that, in one incarnation, revitalizes decaying innner-city neighborhoods by putting skyscrapers on large, empty, or low-density tracts. A new liberal movement, however, threatens to set back smart growth's popularity.
Some progressives are campaigning instead for the property rights of long-time denizens of those decaying inner-city areas. This group espouses a greater affinity for battling wealthy developers seeking to replace urban decay with expensive apartments. They stand up for the property rights of elderly and poor residents against dispossession through eminent domain.
Posted by lumi at 5:54 PM
By Nicole Brydson
Bill de Blasio has endorsed Bill Batson for the 57th Assembly District, despite the fact that they differ in their views on the Atlantic Yards project. De Blasio's district does not overlap with the 57th, but is just north and east of Flatbush Avenue from his Park Slope district.
Posted by lumi at 5:29 PM
Villiage Voice: Letter to the Editor
Re Cindy Carr's "Life in the Footprint" [August 2–8]: I find it fascinating that no one gave a damn about Fort Greene and all the changes until a bunch of white people decided they were being treated badly. Basically, they don't want to happen to them what they did to the neighborhood in the first place. It really shows where the media and society stand when groups like Develop Don't Destroy, the anti-Ikea people, and the Gowanus Project are all run by white people and no one brings that up. They are the defenders, the great white hope—with the exception of vote-whore councilwoman Letitia James you see no black faces. Boo hoo, white people; change happens long before you show up. Fort Greene is a beautiful and vibrant neighborhood. I have lived here for seven years and seen many changes, both good and bad. Change happens; you can't stall progress.
NoLandGrab: That's pretty extreme schadenfreude.
Posted by lumi at 5:25 PM
DDDB Press Release: Jim Bouton, Former Yankee Star, Author and Activist Joins the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board
BROOKLYN, NY Jim Bouton, former major-league pitcher and author of the seminal baseball book, Ball Four, has joined the Advisory Board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB).
Bouton, whose battle in Pittsfield (Massachusetts) to save historic Wahconah Park from politically-connected developers and local and state officials is documented in his book Foul Ball, will lend his expertise and eloquence to DDDB's efforts against Bruce Ratner's 16-skyscraper and arena development at Brooklyn's Vanderbilt rail yards and its surrounding 14 acres.
"As Pittsfield goes, so goes Brooklyn? A few years ago, a handful of politically connected power brokers blocked our privately financed $1.5 million plan to restore an old ballpark in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Why? Because our plan would have put a stake in the heart of their proposed $19 million publicly financed stadium - a stadium that the citizens of Pittsfield had voted against three different times!" says Bouton. "What is it with sports arenas, or are they just the deals we know more about? Now we have the Steinbrenner and Ratner projects, trampling on neighborhoods, ignoring citizens, and giving public subsidies to millionaires at the expense of schools, hospitals and fire departments.
"And I think to myself that when we're finished bringing democracy to the Middle East, we can bring it to Pittsfield. And the Bronx. And Brooklyn."
Bouton, a ten-season veteran, mostly with the New York Yankees, pitched in two World Series and was an All-Star in 1963. His account of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, Ball Four, has been called one of the great baseball books of all time. It generated controversy for peeling back the storied veneer of baseball and exposing readers to the real lives of major league ballplayers.
After his baseball career ended, Bouton worked as a television newscaster, actor, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and, with the Wahconah Park venture, a baseball preservationist.
“Jim Bouton is not a newcomer in opposing Forest City Ratner's plan, he spoke out against the Ratner plan in January 2004, right here in Brooklyn, before DDDB was even formed. So we are proud and fortunate now to have Jim join our Advisory Board," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Jim Bouton is a straight-shooting man who cares deeply about both community and sports. Something that we know is possible, despite Forest City Ratner’s attempt to tear communities apart by exploiting sports. We look forward to working with Mr. Bouton over the next phase of the struggle against inappropriate development.”
Posted by lumi at 3:57 PM
Press Release: SURVEY SHOWS MAJORITY OF PROSPECT PLACE RESIDENTS OPPOSE FOREST CITY RATNER'S ATLANTIC YARDS DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL
87% want block association to take stance against the development
Brooklyn, New York, August 8, 2006—The Prospect Place Block Association, a member of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), announced today the publication of the first comprehensive survey of local opinion about developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development. The survey focuses on both what Prospect Place residents think about Forest City Ratner's proposed development for Prospect Heights, and how they wish their local representatives to respond. It is the first such survey undertaken by any block association in Prospect Heights.
According to the survey, 87% of local residents want the Prospect Place Block Association to oppose the Atlantic Yards proposal, while 5% want it to take a position in favor. Of that 5%, most want to limit the size of development to 28 stories or less and are opposed the use of eminent domain, a position similar to the community principles endorsed by dozens of local groups. Those opposed outnumber those in favor by a 17-1 ratio. Only 2% are in favor of the proposal without height or other limitations.
Of those who responded, 94% support some development of the site, but 92% are opposed to development above 28 stories. The Ratner proposal calls for buildings up to 60 stories. 85% are opposed to eminent domain at the site.
"The large response to the survey suggests that residents are involved and informed regarding the issues," said Martie McNabb, a co-author of the survey. "The block association covers three blocks on Prospect Place from Flatbush Avenue to Underhill Avenue, and more than 150 people completed the survey. Forest City Ratner representatives like to proclaim that they are working to develop good relations with the community, but if they really have tried, they have failed spectacularly." The majority of residents expressed dismay at the density of the proposed development while voicing a strong commitment to their neighborhood. Some see the Atlantic Yards proposal as an affront to the spirit of Brooklyn, and almost all were strongly in favor of letting their views be known. The block association is the second in Prospect Heights to state its opposition to the Ratner proposal.
"I have always known that there was widespread opposition to Ratner's plan," said Claire Petrie. "But this survey provides the evidence that most of my neighbors reject the Ratner proposal outright, and support development that abides by the community's principles for responsible development at the Vanderbilt Railyards."
The Prospect Place Block Association formed an Atlantic Yards Taskforce to ascertain and represent the interests of the block residents; all residents of Prospect Place between Flatbush and Underhill were invited to join. The Taskforce made an intensive effort to reach every resident by mailing or delivering surveys door-to-door; it also posted flyers and approached residents on the street. The complete set of responses (without identities) is available on request.
(See PDF for more details)
For more information, please contact:
Prospect Place Block Association, Atlantic Yards Task Force >Representative
718-857-3150 or rrothblatt (at) gmail (dot)com
Prospect Place Block Association Atlantic Yards Taskforce
Posted by lumi at 3:12 PM
Ratner Sells to Parent
The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman
Here's another one we missed (several NLG "scouts" are on vacation this month).
After news was released on Forest City Enterprises's purchase of Bruce Ratner's subsidiary, Forest City Ratner, the Observer pointed out that "investors are neither impressed nor frightened. The parent company's stock is up just a few cents since the announcement was made after the market's closing last night."
NoLandGrab: The stock price for Forest City Enterprises Class-A and Class-B shares is hardly an indication of the market's exuberance for the deal, or trepidation (based on concerns that Bruce Ratner has had trouble coming up with financing for the Atlantic Yards/NJ Nets project from traditional lending sources).
Both classes of shares are thinly traded, and a majority of the Class-B Common Stock (representing nine seats on the board) is held by family members and executives of Forest City Enterprises. [See, SEC Schedule 14A, p. 1-2 for more details.]
Posted by lumi at 1:45 PM
Keeps coming from Blogosphere...
More response to Chris Smith's New York Magazine article from the bitstream:
Gowanus Lounge, New York Magazine Looks Under the Atlantic Yards Rock
Commentary on the NY Magazine article vs. the NY Times endorsement:
When all is said and done, Smith provides us with an excellent send-up of Atlantic Yards that makes the Times perfunctory editorial endorsement look intellectually challenged and ethically suspect.
We keep wondering whether one article or endorsement trumps another, but the real question may be whether any of this matters. The Atlantic Yards battle is likely to take place inside a courtroom and on the pages of massive legal briefs unless, of course, a powerful New York political leader experiences some sort of epiphany and turns on the project. It is hard to imagine Eliot Spitzer or Christine Quinn doing more than questioning the shut-up-and-take-your-medicine nature of the Atlantic Yards process.
As Smith points out..., Atlantic Yards has turned into one of the most anti-democratic development processes to come down the pike since a man named Moses held sway. So, when push comes to shove, we can all huff and we can all puff, but the Governor, Mayor, Borough President and Developer have put togther a project that can transcend public opinion because, in their construct, the opponents don't matter.
Brownstoner, Learning to Oppose the Atlantic Yards Project
Brownstoner notes that Bertha Lewis seems to be playing the race card while Roger Green's main objection to the opposition is aimed at opera-loving Brooklynites:
It's a long, personalized article with lots of color, but his Bertha Lewis encounter was arguably the most histrionic, providing the article's money-shot of a race-baiting quote (equalled only by the class-baiting of Assemblyman Roger Green).
Posted by lumi at 12:13 PM
Supporters of Eminent Domain Never Say “Great, My House First”
Footprint resident Leigh Anderson led off last week's Community Board 6 hearing on Atlantic Yards with a viewpoint that most people in New York City can relate to.
My name is Leigh Anderson and I’ve been a tenant on Pacific Street (in the footprint of the proposed arena) for almost ten years.
When I first heard about this project, I was surprised, because I thought that eminent domain was only used for public projects, like schools, and then only in areas that were blighted. Forest City Ratner has been trying to spin this as a public project—but it’s not. It is purely and solely for Bruce Ratner’s profit.
We can develop the railyards, we can create jobs, we can build affordable housing—we can even have an arena—all without razing my neighborhood. But Forest City Ratner has refused to consider any other options. They won’t scale back the project. They won’t tear down the ugly and failing Atlantic Center Mall. They won’t listen to the people who live in the neighborhood.
In fact, they deride us as “privileged brownstoners who want to preserve their exclusive community.” And then they say the neighborhood is blighted. You can’t have it both ways.
The definition of blight is now whatever a developer wants it to be.
My neighborhood is just an ordinary New York City neighborhood. Some parts are beautiful. Some parts are ugly. Some people are rich. Some people are poor. This neighborhood doesn’t deserve to be torn down any more than Bruce Ratner’s or Mike Bloomberg’s or Marty Markowitz’s neighborhoods deserve to be torn down.
[Editor's note: Bruce Ratner and Mike Bloomberg live in the same neighborhood on the Upper East Side.]
We’re a city full of intelligent people. There are solutions to our problems other than destroying an entire neighborhood.
Bruce or Mike or Marty wouldn’t want their houses torn down for a Chuck E. Cheese or a basketball arena or a Bath and Body Works—and neither would Bertha Lewis, who claims to speak for the community but signed a contract that obligates her to publicly support the project—and neither would the members of BUILD, which is now housed in a Forest City Ratner building.
We who live in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene and Park Slope and Crown Heights—we are the community.
I urge you to reject this project. Not in favor of no project, but in favor of a better one.
Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Left Behinds, New York Magazine Reads Left Behinds
In a previous post Solomon Grundy had described Gehry's Atlantic Yards design thus, "It's like some giant grey Transformer clomped its foot down on Park Slope." Imagine his surprise when New York Magazine thought the same thing too.
OnNYTurf, Imitation Is Nice, Credit Is Nicer
OnNYTurf blogger Will noticed the similarity between his street-level renderings of Atlantic Yards and this one in NY Magazine.
Will wasn't the only blogger that wasn't given props for their efforts, but Norman Oder posted a token "make good" in yesterday's analysis of this week's cover story about the project that ate Brooklyn.
Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM
Brooklyn Bear's Garden faces the (shadowy, noisy) future
Atlantic Yards Report
There's a tiny wedge of land that has been transformed into an urban oasis next to the Park Slope spur of Site V of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.
Norman Oder posts an article on the history of the Bear's Garden, how the neighborhood fought to save it and what will become of it if Atlantic Yards is built.
Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM
NY Times Gets One Right
Neighborhood Retail Alliance (aka momandpopnewyork.blogspot.com), run by Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky, says "The NY Times Gets One Right," but a NY Times letterwriter (posted on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site) "doesn't really get it."
The letterwriter asks, "Why exactly is it important for Brooklyn to have a major sports team-when 25% of the population of the borough lives under the poverty level?"
Lipsky cites economic development:
This guy doesn't really get it. In the first place a new franchise, one that doesn't preexist in the city, will be a tremendous revenue generator for New York.
In addition, the creation of youth basketball programs will, "build a successful foundation for the team."
Lipsky shares Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yard Group President Jim Stuckey's view about calls for more time for "meaningful review:"
The AY project has been the most reviewed project in our memory. When opponents talk about better review in this regard what they generally mean is for more opportunities to dramatize their grievances.
So AY has been inspected to death and the critics have given us an exhaustive array of faults that they say make the project unworthy of support. They'll have another chance this month and later in September. After which all we'll be waiting for is that first shovel in the ground that will signal the coming of the Nets to Brooklyn.
Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM
August 7, 2006
ATLANTIC YARDS DOESN'T ADD UP
The Ratner plan isn't the only way to redevelop Brooklyn.
By Chandru Murthi
A letter to the editor in rebuttal of Bertha Lewis's sales pitch for Atlantic Yards makes some good points and has some suggestions:
Regarding Bertha Lewis's “Supporting Atlantic Yards: Simply Not Enough Housing In Brooklyn” (City Limits, 7/31/06): Yes, developers need to make a profit. However, the scale of the Ratner project is so over the top that it clearly goes way beyond that need. Is it reasonable to believe that only such a gigantic project makes a profit? If the entire project were designed as, say, six-story buildings, would he not make a profit? If that were so, there would be no small- or mid-scale development in this city.
Pointing, as Lewis does, to other developments that do not have an affordable component is presenting a false positive. It has nothing to do with the objections to Atlantic Yards. One could equally well point to projects that do have affordable housing to prove Atlantic Yards is not viable.
Posted by lumi at 5:52 PM
'YANK' PITCHES FOR RATNER
By Patrick Gallahue
A quick check of Forest City Ratner's latest lobbying efforts for Atlantic Yards shows that a long-time Yankees' lobbyist is pulling in the big bucks from Bruce.
In the last six months, Ratner's lobbying costs have nearly doubled - from $206,000 to $358,000 - with the majority of the extra cash going to a single law firm with a history of working for the Bronx Bombers: Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.
The firm, which collected $200,845 from Ratner between January and June, employs Stephen Lefkowitz, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corp. between 1971 and 1975. The ESDC is the same agency that is now deciding the fate of the massive building plan.
NoLandGrab: We've been wondering why the ESDC has been deaf to the requests and pleas by the community and leading politicians to extend the comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Now we're wondering why, if this project is such a good deal for the City and State, Bruce Ratner has to shell out hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on a major-league lobbyist.
Given that the Yankees' deal with NYC allows them to bill Lefkowitz's fees through to the taxpayers, is it possible that Bruce Ratner might be able to do the same?
Posted by lumi at 4:37 PM
New York Magazine on the “Atlantic Yards” Project
StreetsBlog.org on the New York Magazine article:
For a few years now, the city's media elite has studiously avoided serious, honest coverage of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. That is why it is so refreshing to see that this week's New York magazine is running the single best story on the mega-development project that I have yet seen in any mainstream press. It's by political reporter Chris Smith and it is a must-read.
Smith has a few paragraphs about the Atlantic Yards' impact on traffic and transportation, but his narrative focuses on the empirical and he isn't saying anything that the average StreetsBlog reader doesn't already know. Instead, today's StreetsBlog post homes in on Smith's conclusions about the "absolute absence of democratic process" and "developer’s savvy use of state-of-the-art political tactics."
Posted by lumi at 4:02 PM
Atlantic Yards News
New York Times: Atlantic Yards ‘Deserves To Go Forward’
The pull quotes are positively glowing:
“The developers have addressed some of the community’s early objections, particularly worries about traffic.”
“Community outreach has been far better in the Atlantic Yards project than it was, say, in the now-defunct plans to build a Jets stadium in Midtown Manhattan.”
“The planners are correct in seeing an opportunity to build something grander and doing it at the one place in the borough that can handle it.”
Posted by lumi at 3:44 PM
New York magazine gets the big picture: "absolute absence of democratic process"
Atlantic Yards Report
Finally the epic Atlantic Yards story has been given some sustained attention, in New York magazine political reporter Chris Smith’s cover story, Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood, subtitled “Manipulative developers, shrill protesters, and a sixteen-tower glass-and-steel monster marching inexorably forward.”
Smith, who lives in Fort Greene, writes that he’d stayed out of the debate, having “shrugged off the complaints of Atlantic Yards opponents as shrill and reflexively obstructionist.”
But after immersing himself in the story, he comes out deeply troubled. While he acknowledges the concerns and claims of supporters, he's not fully convinced of the benefits, and, above all, he concludes that the project is profoundly undemocratic. It's a notable counterpoint to the credulous, compromised, and contradictory New York Times editorial published yesterday.
Smith does make a few small errors, some of which I’ll mention, but he gets the big picture and, in some instances, adds to it.
Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM
Mr. Ratner's Neighborhood
Manipulative developers, shrill protesters, and a sixteen-tower glass-and-steel monster marching inexorably forward. What the battle for the soul of Brooklyn looks like—from right next door.
Political reporter Chris Smith has been lying low, trying to avoid the issue stalking his front door, Atlantic Yards... that is, until now.
Taking into account all sides of the issue, Smith casts aside Marty Markowitz's creation myth, meets with all of the players (except for the elusive Caring Bruce), and pulls together all of the threads of the fight over Atlantic Yards.
When Chris Smith arrives at the end of his fact-finding mission, he is proof positive that when people are presented with all the facts about Atlantic Yards, they are most likely to oppose the project (at least that's NoLandGrab's take on the entire battle over the Yards).
The reporter finds someone who is willing to guesstimate Ratner's profit on the $4.2-billion plan.
“It’s difficult to quantify the profitability of the arena,” [real estate expert Jeffrey] Jackson says, “and the return will be impacted by the final mix of financing. But Ratner should make around $700 million to $1 billion—about a 25 percent return. That’s pretty good.”
This estimate is close to the 28% figure reported to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for large-scale private residential projects.
Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Here's some more reaction from the bitstream to the NY Times editorial supporting Atlantic Yards...
The Wonkster (political blog of The Gotham Gazette), Endorsing Atlantic Yards
The Times looks at the proposed Atlantic Yards project today and likes what it sees: desperately needed housing, the return of major league sports (the NBA Nets) to Brooklyn, Frank Gehry buildings that “would add a sense of excitement to the entire area,” and a boost for city and state revenues. The paper has a few qualms, saying there should be more public review, and that developer Forest City Ratner (which is also working with the Times on building its new headquarters) may be getting more in subsidies than it should. Most of all the Times thinks the project could use a bit of downsizing but by and large, it concludes, “the planners are correct in seeing an opportunity to build something grander and doing it at the one place in the borough that can handle it.” (Have they been at Flatbush and Atlantic recently?)
Most unfortunately this editorial does make you wonder if the NYTimes did any research about this project before writing their editorial, or if they just read their own back reports.
...one account of last week's Community Board 6 hearing...
Gothamist, Community Calls Atlantic Yards "Mistake" and "Kafka-esque"
Though opponents of Atlantic Yards are usually called shrill and vitriolic, blogger Jill Priluck "sensed an eerie quiet."
Armer and company heard from about 25 public commenters, who bemoaned the proposal for being out of scale, for "Manhattanizing" Brooklyn, for subverting public review, for its indequate relocation plan and for improperly addressing what are sure to be increases in pollution and street, pedestrian and park traffic. Community member Paul Heller accused "some public authorities" of collusion, cronyism and conspiracy and someone else described the plan as "Kafka-esque."
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President posted in response to evamn's "concern about the magnitude of the Atlantic Yards project," and made an assurance that the "comments are appreciated, and will be taken into account at the next development board meeting."
...and one soundbyte.
The Left Behinds The Atlantic Yards Footprint
"We’ve got a real community here," Patti Hagan says. "You don’t get a community in a 62-story skyscraper. You don’t even get a neighborhood. You just get a doorman."
Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM
August 6, 2006
Neighbor Editorial Policy
Today, The NY Times does a two-fer on its business partner, Forest City Ratner.
The Westchester regional-section editorial on Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project ("A Bad Neighbor Policy") seems the epitome of balance and reason, especially when compared to the same editorial board's position on Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
The Ridge Hill editorial chastizes Ratner and the City of Yonkers:
As Yonkers officials and the developer, Forest City Ratner (which is also the developer of the Times’s new headquarters in Manhattan), bulldoze forward with their Ridge Hill dream, they need to remain acutely aware of the facts on the ground. They can call it a “village,” but that doesn’t make it one. It’s a $660 million mini-city. If they are honest they will acknowledge that concerns about Ridge Hill have been raised by thoughtful critics from the earliest stages of the proposal, and that these concerns still have not been resolved.
The Times could do well to apply these same concerns to the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project. Instead, Ratner clearly has the editorial board's ear on the project in Brooklyn.
Though Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation, The Times calls for a scale reduction of just 15%, which would still make it a veritable mega "mini-city," and the nation's most dense neighborhood by a long shot.
While calling for all sides to work out traffic concerns in Yonkers, The Times's Atlantic Yards editorial cuts Forest City Ratner a lot of slack as it explains why, ultimately, Ratner isn't responsible for the traffic mess that even Ratner's own Environmental Impact Statement admits will be left in the project's wake:
Traffic will still be an issue when the project is finished, but the developers are not obliged to hold the neighborhood harmless. Their job is to demonstrate that their buildings will not make a bad situation intolerable, and the promises made by Mr. Ratner and his associates seem like reasonable responses to that challenge.
The NY Times editorial board has raised virtually all of the serious and legitimate concerns in the cases of Ridge Hill and the failed West Side Stadium bid. But inexplicably, in the case of Atlantic Yards, there seems to be a pattern of willful disregard for "thoughful criticism" of many aspects of the project, and unwillingness to hold Bruce Ratner accountable for the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena.
Failure to take into account all impacts of the project, and to accept on blind faith the assurances of Bruce Ratner, only undermines the public's confidence in The Times, as it already has with many of our local politicians.
The duplicity of the NY Times's editorial policy implies that Brooklyn isn't worthy of the same considerations as Manhattan or Westchester. It also does not serve the interest of readers or the public, and is deeply disturbing to those who have spent the past two years trying to bring to light facts about the project, facts not covered by The New York Times or willingly acknowldged by the developer.
Posted by lumi at 2:11 PM
Will the Government Take Your Home?
Across the country, Americans fight to protect their property.
By Sean Flynn
A year after the Supreme Court ruled that taking private property for private development in order to increase municipal tax revenue is legal, residents in Norwood, OH won their fight in the Ohio State Supreme Court to save their homes, and residents in Long Branch, NJ are gearing up for a battle with the town.
In each city, the process unfolded almost identically: A private developer, with the government’s backing, wanted a big piece of property—cliff-side homes with valley views in Lakewood, ocean-front cottages in Long Branch—and tried to negotiate deals with each owner. When some refused to sell, the cities threatened to invoke eminent domain to clear the holdouts.
In order to do that, however, city officials first needed to declare the neighborhoods “blighted.” But the legal designation of “blight” bears little resemblance to a commonsense definition. In Lakewood, for example, Scenic Park is a charming neighborhood of older, well-kept homes. But because they lack such modern touches as attached two-car garages and central air-conditioning, the city deemed them blighted—a standard by which more than 80 percent of Lakewood, even the former mayor’s home, would likewise be blighted.
“We always bit on the word ‘blight,’” says Julie Wiltse, 63, who helped neighbors distribute 20,000 fliers and sponsor a series of blight events: a Blighted Block Party, a Blighted Chili Cook-off, even a Blighted Groundhog Day (which predicted four more months of blight). TV cameras and newspaper reporters loved that stuff.
Read about what residents are doing to save their homes and what you can do to insure that it doesn't happen to you.
Posted by lumi at 1:59 PM
The Score: That chap Bruce is Doing a Ratner
NY Daily News
Sports columnists Michael O'Keefe and Teri Thompson carry an item you won't see on the telly, as they have a wee bit o' fun covering "Doing a Ratner."
According to Wikipedia, "Doing a Ratner" is a British phrase referring to a business executive who disparages his company's products and customers, frequently with disastrous results.
Wikipedia notes, however, that Caring Bruce Ratner has also suffered from foot-in-mouth disease: "On the other side of The Pond, a Forest City Enterprises executive, developer Bruce Ratner, characterized his own Atlantic Center mall as 'not something that we're terribly proud of.' Additionally, in May 2004, Bruce Ratner memorably insulted customers who live near the same mall to a New York Times reporter: 'Here you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids.'"
We don't know what "Doing a Dolan" means in England, but here in New York, it loosely translates to "running a premier sports franchise into the ground."
NoLandGrab: In Brooklyn, "Doing a Dolan" means shelling out $13 million dollars on a PR campaign to derail new sports-venue competition.
Regrettably, Dolan isn't "Doing a Dolan" on "Caring Bruce."
Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM
The Atlantic Yards Project
The NY Times editorial board believes that the advantages of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal outweigh the problems traffic, lack of city planning or review, and density be damned:
These advantages have been repeated endlessly by Mr. Ratner, who is also The Times’s partner in building its new Manhattan headquarters. More than 2,200 of the apartment units would have rents targeted to low-, moderate- and middle-income families. The Nets basketball team would bring major league sports back to Brooklyn. The buildings designed by Frank Gehry would add a sense of excitement to the entire area. And, when finished in 2016, the project will add substantially to city and state tax revenues.
The board's main objection is the issue of density, and they recommend a 15% reduction to the scale of the project.
Suffice it to say, if Ratner pulls a revised plan out of a hat that is reduced by about, say, 15%, *Times readers and Brooklynites will have a clearer picture of the relationship between the Times and its development partner.*
Though the board has supported Atlantic Yards in the past, it continues to take a position that is diametrically opposed to its earlier opinion of the Jets Stadium project. The board opposed the scuttled project due to the lack of public input, enormous public subsidies and fast-track approval all issues that have been voiced by Atlantic Yards critics.
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has posted an eye-opening side-by-side comparison of the NY Times's editorial against the Jets Stadium and today's editorial in support of Atlantic Yards.
We'll leave the heavy-duty analysis to Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report, who provides a point-by-point examination of the City-section editorial, with links to opinions other than those promoted by Forest City Ratner.
As readers can imagine, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn finds the editorial to be incredible:
The editorial board clearly did not delve into the DEIS, examine policy issues such as democratic process overrides, state overrides, Ratner's numerous broken promises, public financing, housing, myriad impacts that cannot and will not be mitigated if the project is built and, as usual, the Times and its board continues to have a glaring blind spot when it comes to eminent domain abuse.
Posted by lumi at 12:14 AM
August 5, 2006
Cities Grow Up, and Some See Sprawl
The NY Times
By Nick Confessore
Some call it "smart growth," others warn that it's "vertical sprawl." Whatever your view, "infill development" is gaining currency amongst city planners, politicians and well connected developers, and promises to bring higher density to "urban cores."
The article gives Atlantic Yards as an example:
Last month in Brooklyn, when a state development agency unveiled a long-awaited environmental impact study of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, critics complained that their worst fears had been realized.
The developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, wants to plop more than a dozen buildings as high as 62 stories onto 22 acres near downtown Brooklyn, where a mix of vacant lots, low-rise apartments, abandoned buildings and condominiums now sit. The developer says that the massive residential, office and arena complex would bring housing and jobs to a borough in need of both. According to the state study, however, the project would also create significant traffic and parking problems, require an extra school’s worth of classrooms, and cast shadows over nearby residential neighborhoods.
NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that the "smart growth" movement hasn't considered the implications of 8.7 million square feet on 22 acres, which would comprise the densest residential community in the nation, by nearly a factor of two.
In the case of Atlantic Yards, it's not just a matter of "high density" over a transit hub, but rather "Shanghai density."
Posted by lumi at 9:14 PM
Builder Working to Change Field’s White-Male Image
The NY Times
By Anthony Ramirez
In the world of big construction, contracts to lay foundations, hang drywall, install windows and the like often go to two kinds of companies: those owned by white males and bigger ones owned by white males.
Forest City Ratner, one of the latter, is trying to modify that image. As it moves forward on its $4.2 billion project to develop the 22-acre Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the company hopes to diversify the pool of potential contractors by offering a training program for smaller businesses to give them a better chance at competing.
And it hopes to calm some critics of the project by showing it is working to provide jobs to blacks, Latinos and others in the area.
Forest City Ratner and its partner, Turner Construction, helped organize a special eight-week instruction program at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, which held graduation ceremonies this week.
NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner has a better track record than most developers for hiring women- and minority-owned businesses. That being said, none of the three companies mentioned in this article as participants in the FCR/Turner program are from Brooklyn.
The question remains as to whether this program will satisfy the goals of Forest City Ratner's group, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, whose mission is two-fold: to increase contracts to minority-owned businesses, and to deliver jobs to people in the neighborhood.
Posted by lumi at 9:33 AM
What about the renters? FCR's Stuckey asserts, "We will take care of them"
Atlantic Yards Report
What about the renters in the Atlantic Yards footprint?
Yes, the [renter's relocation] agreements sound good. They'd pay the difference between their current rent and that charged for a new apartment, and they'd be guaranteed a space in the Atlantic Yards project at their previous rent.
However, the relocation agreements, according to [South Brooklyn Legal Services], “leave [renters] vulnerable.” The agreements would pay the differential in rent for only three years, which means that, given that the project wouldn’t be finished until 2010 at the earliest, the tenant would be left paying a high rent for some unspecified period.
Jim Stuckey (Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President) says:
“The three years was never meant to be a period that we would leave people out in the lurch," he said. "And if it turns out for any reason at all that we have to contribute to subsidizing them for a longer period of time, than we will certainly do that. This was negotiated with people earlier on, and the project has actually taken on new life, but there’s no question in my mind that if it takes longer, we will take care of them.”
Norman Oder tries to get to the bottom of the issue:
So, I asked, what agreements are now being offered to people still left in the footprint?
[Stuckey] wouldn't specify how many years of differential rent would be paid. “I think the answer is: 'we’ll take care of them,'" he said. "What I’m not going to do is get into the specifics with individuals.”
It would be good, I said, to see it in writing.
“In time,” he responded.
Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM
Coney Island, R.I.P.
We bring you another case in which "Atlantic Yards" has become the measuring stick for extreme overdevelopment and bad urban planning.
The Real Estate Observer picks up an item in Gowanus Lounge about the grand plans to redevelop Coney Island and concludes, "But at least it ain't Atlantic Yards ... right? Right?"
NoLandGrab: Believe it or not, as "barfalicious" as Thor Equities's plans for Coney Island may be, they still don't measure up on the extreme- overdevelopment scale against Atlantic Yards.
Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM
Forest City in Talks to Restructure Ratner Portfolio
By Tom Sosnowski
It's odd that the real estate business web site GlobeSt.com covers the recent news that Forest City Enterprises and Forest City Ratner are "in negotiations," "to restructure their combined interest." Does Globe.St really expect subsidiary Forest City Ratner to walk away from the table if negotiations aren't fruitful?
Atlantic Yards critics keep saying that the project isn't a done deal, however, you can take to the bank the corporate restructuring of Bruce Ratner's company into the parent company.
Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM
Errol Louis: a defense of MetroTech, weak math, and the walls of the ghetto
Atlantic Yards Report
Who knows why Errol Louis plays fast and loose with the facts when he knows that "the Mad Overkiller" (Louis's moniker for Norman Oder) reads faster than a speeding bullet, is more powerful than a logo-missive and is able to leap tall tales in a single bound.
Errol Louis, in his August 1 column in the black-oriented Our Time Press, continues his staunch support for the Atlantic Yards project, his badmouthing of opponents, and his casual relationship to facts.
The first segment of his Commerce and Community column is headlined Endgame at Atlantic Yards. I've already discussed some errors in both this column and his most-recent Daily News column, but some choice lines still deserve response.
Oder takes a hard look at Louis's defense of eminent domain, MetroTech and claims about affordable housing and jobs.
Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM
August 4, 2006
EMINENT DOMAINIA: No eminent domain abuse here
2theadvocate.com, N.O. officials won't seize property
Members of ACORN fight eminent domain in New Orleans, home to the group's headquarters.
“Land cannot be taken without due process of law,” Loyola University of New Orleans law professor William Quigley, surrounded by two dozen members of the ACORN and Common Ground community groups, told council members.
The ACORN members held a large banner that declared “NO To Plan To Steal Our Land!” and smaller signs that proclaimed “Hands Off Our Property” and “Save Our Homes.”
Council members and officials with Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration assured Quigley, the community groups and residents that the Aug. 29 deadline — established by an ordinance passed by the council in April — is not a land-grab attempt by the city.
NoLandGrab: ACORN's position on eminent domain in Louisiana is in stark contrast to the feelings of members of ACORN NY, who chanted "Tear them down! Tear them down!" in reference to private properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint at a November, 2004 "Informational Meeting" hosted by Community Boards 2, 6 & 8.
Fox 19, Cincinnati, Norwood Party Held To Celebrate Eminent Domain Ruling
A party was held in Norwood on Thursday night celebrating the Ohio Supreme Court's eminent domain decision.
The ruling kept the city from taking three homes there for a 125-million dollar development.
If developers don't go ahead with their project residents who took a buyout for their homes might be able to buy their land back and rebuild. ...
Carl Gamble, whose house was at the center of the battle, doesn't think that's likely.
"They'll never do that, you'll never see them again, when it first came out none of them wanted to move either, they all wanted to stay, but as soon as they flashed the money in front of their face, they were gone," said Gamble.
Posted by lumi at 11:37 PM
Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse
Where we turn the train around...
DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN RALLY SPECIALS are posted on the Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse website at http://freddysbrooklynroundhouse.org.
The Brooklyn Community gathered at Grand Army Plaza to fight the growing threat of neighborhood destruction by eminent domain abuse.
If you missed the Friday night broadcast on BCAT3, reruns are on line.
Posted by lumi at 11:22 PM
By Nicole Brydson
Bill Batson, apparently, was late to his own fundraiser last night as his official business at Community Board 8 kept him listening to testimony on the Atlantic Yards project. (Which, as you probably know, he strongly opposes.)
Posted by lumi at 11:19 PM
Speaker speaks out for more time
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the latest prominent politician that has called for an extension to the public comment period for Atlantic Yards.
Given the unprecedented size and scope of the proposed development, the fact that concerned community boards are in recess in August, and the coinciding release of the DEIS and the scheduling of public hearings with many families' vacations, I am specifically asking you to postpone the public hearing that is current scheduled for August 23 for 30 days, allowing the community enough time for public comment. This would in effect provide a much more reasonable 90 day review period.
Given the critical importance of this environmental review, I respectfully submit that an extension is required to truly accomodate serious public input.
Coverage in the blogosphere:
Atlantic Yards Report, Council Speaker Quinn calls for ESDC to extend DEIS schedule
Like Eliot Spitzer (as gubernatorial candidate rather than Attorney General) last week, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has asked the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to extend the time for review of the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
After Spitzer's comments, I asked for a response from the ESDC and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, for an article I was writing for the Downtown Brooklyn Star. Their answers weren't too encouraging to those who seek an extension.
Gowanus Lounge, City Council Speaker Quinn to Gargano: More Time Please
Quinn's letter to Empire State Development Corp. Chairman Charles Gargano also notes that the City Council has funded an analysis of the DEIS and that more time is needed to complete the study.
Posted by lumi at 10:32 PM
More Bad Timing?
The Empire Zone (The NY Times 2006 campaign blog)
By Nick Confessore
In response to the 60-day public comment period for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
Opponents of the project, led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a local umbrella group, believe the ESDC is trying to limit public awareness of the study and responsee to it.
Now the opponents are even more suspicious. They have noticed that the only public hearing on the impact statement is scheduled for Sept. 12 — the same day as the Democratic primary, which features several races where candidates are dueling over the project.
Posted by lumi at 10:25 PM
A tale of three community boards
The Brooklyn Papers
Moving faster than anyone but AtlanticYardsReport (and even Norman Oder couldn't be in three places at once), The Brooklyn Papers web site features reports from last night's Community Board 2, 6 and 8 hearings, in a handy tabular format.
Unlike Mr. Oder, however, Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey did manage to appear at all three meetings, and while the purpose of these gatherings was ostensibly to hear from the "community," Mr. Stuckey does at least earn his living in Brooklyn.
Even thrice counting Mr. Stuckey, though, The Brooklyn Papers tallied 31 speakers for and 83 against the project, and at two of the three CB meetings, employees, or paid consultants, of Forest City Ratner, accounted for the majority of Atlantic Yards' supporters.
[UPDATE: Apparently, Mr. Stuckey was not the only pro-Atlantic Yards speaker who should've been counted thrice. FCRC transportation consultant "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz and sustainability consultant Pam Lippe also made the rounds of the three Community Boards. If one subtracts the multiple appearances, that leaves 25 pro and 83 con. Hardly a ringing endorsement.]
Posted by lumi at 2:28 PM
Gowanus Lounge Double Speak of the Week: Publicly Accessible Open Space
Last week we had "friendly condemnations," this week our Double Speak of the Week is "publicly accessible open space." Whereas the "friendly condemnation" is an utterly reprehensible twist on the English language, "publicly accessible open space" is a more subtle affront because it is really more than double speak. It is an unfortunate indication of what has happened to our concept of open space after decades in which the private sector has been left to take the lead in creating amenities in the urban environment.
NoLandGrab: The term "Urban Room" should be added to the Atlantic Yards Doublespeak lexicon. What the heck is an "Urban Room?" As far as anyone can tell, it's an enormous glass-n-steel lobby imprudently sited at a very busy intersection.
Posted by lumi at 10:21 AM
EMINENT DOMAINIA: Local takings abuse small business owners
Both of these pieces focus on the injustice to small businesses as they face eminent domain abuse in New York City:
Castle Watch (Online Newsletter of the Castle Coalition)
Bring Out the Wrecking Ball, Columbia Says
In April 2004, the private, ivy league university nestled in the heart of New York City announced its plans to expand into West Harlem—a five billion dollar, five-square-block project to build a research facility, university housing and an art center, among other things. Only one problem: neither the university nor the City owns the land on which Columbia plans to build. But Columbia administrators say the university will simply use eminent domain to clear out the many existing businesses and apartment buildings that currently occupy the area. Interestingly, the university’s exceptional journalism program brought this to the public’s attention—after the Columbia Daily Spectator filed a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire this information.
NY Sun, Op-ed, An Eminent Threat To the City
Columnist Alicia Colon says, "Wake up New Yorkers: Eminent domain may be considered constitutional, but it can also be unjust and immoral."
NY Daily News, 'Iron'-willed bizmen fight city
With the city close to unveiling a redevelopment plan for Willets Point's "Iron Triangle," area business owners are mounting a campaign to short-circuit any such proposal.
"We are trying to get the word out that we are not a bunch of junkyards - that we have thousands of employees and probably do $1 billion in revenue a year," said Howard Feinstein of Feinstein Iron Works.
"We have had these rumblings through various administrations. We are going to fight this. We are trying to run our businesses and this is always a distraction. It is always looming," Fodera said.
Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM
Losing Brooklyn's uncivil war
Daily News, Ideas & Opinions
By Errol Louis
Louis devotes his Daily News pulpit to opining that the fight against Atlantic Yards is the fault of the "anti-project groups," and lays blame for the size of the project at their feet.
Opponents of the planned $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are likely to lose, and lose huge, when the Empire State Development Corp. takes up the project for consideration this year. Ironically, the deal is likely to end up bigger than it might otherwise have been, because somewhere along the way, the anti-project groups abandoned important tools - the ability to be reasonable and civil, and the willingness to negotiate - that seasoned New York activists deploy to great advantage.
NoLandGrab: It isn't clear what Errol Louis dislikes more, Atlantic Yards critics or their positions.
What is clear is that Louis prefers "long, informal conversation" with "bankers, politicians and other big shots," to sitting down with neighborhood activists and listening to their concerns.
Today's column has already spawned two responses in the Blogosphere:
Atlantic Yards Report, Errol Louis, negotiation, and the CBs' lost dialogue
While Errol Louis touts project supporters' ability to negotiate, Norman Oder points out a key difference between the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement and the pioneering Staples Center agreement:
Such CBAs represent an innovative aspect of development deals, but--this apparently must be repeated again and again--there's a crucial difference between the pioneering CBAs negotiated in Los Angeles and the CBA negotiated in Brooklyn: signatories in L.A. don't take money from the developer.
Oder continues with an examination of Louis's claim to "civility."
The Wonkster, Unreasonable, Or Anxious About Losing Their Homes?
The Gotham Gazette's policy and news blog juxtaposes Errol Louis's remarks with the Village Voice cover story on the remaining footprint residents.
Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM
Ratner's Atlantic Antic
NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays
The controversy surrounding the Atlantic Yards Nets arena complex has spread to this fall's Atlantic Antic street fair.
A group of Atlantic Ave. merchants is angry a local development group accepted $20,000 from Yards developer Bruce Ratner to be a "lead sponsor" of the Sept. 17 fair.
Members of the group are demanding the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corp. turn down the money.
"It's a bad decision, given the community opposition," said Sandy Balboza of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association. "There's a perception that if they're taking money from him, they're supporting him."
At least two merchants have vowed to boycott the event if the money is not returned.
Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM
SAY GOODBYE TO FOREST CITY RATNER
Bruce's company assimilated into the mothership
While everyone was focused on last night's Community Board hearings, this innocuous press release headlined, "Forest City Announces Negotiations to Restructure Forest City Ratner Portfolio" hit BusinessWire after the closing bell.
Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it is negotiating with Bruce C. Ratner to restructure their combined interest in a total of 30 retail, office and residential operating properties and certain service companies that currently are owned jointly by Forest City and Ratner. All of the properties included in this portfolio except one are located in the New York City metropolitan area. Currently Forest City owns a majority interest in its New York portfolio. Upon closing of the proposed transaction, Forest City will be entitled to substantially all of the remaining economic benefits of the underlying properties. The parties also are negotiating the restructuring of certain jointly owned projects under active development which will be valued when each development is completed. Beyond these development projects, Forest City will have the right to all future development.
IN PLAIN ENGLISH
What the press release fails to state in layman's terms is that Bruce Ratner's company was just purchased and assimilated into the Cleveland mothership.
Read: Bruce leveraged himself to the hilt on Atlantic Yards and the NJ Nets, and had to sell his company in order to keep afloat a project that hasn't yet been approved.
Signs that Bruce's company Forest City Ratner (FCR) was having trouble raising money started in November, 2004, when FCR was forced to take out a bridge loan from a non-traditional lender, Gramercy Capital, in order to cover the purchase of property in the Atlantic Yards footprint.
Earlier in 2004, when Ratner bought the NJ Nets, he was unable to come up with the entire $300-million purchase price, and the previous ownership group was left with a 20% stake ($60 million). The Ratner-led group just bought out the old owners several weeks ago, to little fanfare.
In March, 2006, Ratner was trying to raise $60 million to cover losses from the Nets.
$60 million is some sort of magic number because that is also the cash portion of the just-announced deal.
At this point, effectively, FCR will cease to exist and Bruce will go to work for Chuck and Albert Ratner.
The UPSIDE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) can take some credit for bringing down Forest City Ratner.
The DOWNSIDE: DDDB now has to fight the deeper pockets of Forest City Enterprises.
UPDATE: Under the old relationship between FCE and FCR, Bruce had autonomy to do his own deals.
Last November, "Richard Moore, from KeyBanc Capital Markets, [told the Cleveland Plain Dealer], Forest City puts up all the money for Bruce Ratner's developments. When they're completed, he said, Bruce keeps a third of the profits; the rest flows back to Cleveland. Cleveland has the ultimate say on investment decisions.
Bruce Ratner had the best of both worlds, FCE's deep pockets and freedom to do his own deals.
The question of why he felt he had to sell his equity to FCE is a good one. All signs lead to FCE wanting to increase their ownership position in exchange for the increased exposure on Atlantic Yards.
Judging from the fact that the press release didn't come out and clearly state that FCR is being wholly acquired up by FCE, we may see some positive spin from the developer in the future.
UPDATE, 08/11/06: It took one week for Forest City to engineer the spin... Bruce Ratner is at the time in his life where he needs more liquidity for philanthropy.
On the spin-o-meter that doesn't register much higher than, "the Congressman will be leaving office effective immediately to spend more time with his family."
Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM
Flawed from the get-go
Brooklyn Papers, Editorial
It looks like Norman Oder isn't the only one who has tackled the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS):
While many Brooklynites have spent the past two weeks complaining that the Empire State Development Corporation ruined everyone’s vacations by releasing its 2,000-page Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement during the summer, some people have actually rolled up their sleeves and started analyzing the flawed document.
One such analysis shows that the state’s DEIS grossly under-represents millions of square feet of development already built in and around the Atlantic Yards project site and ignores tens of millions more square feet of development that’s in the pipeline.
The grand total? According to Brian Ketcham, whose Community Consulting Services has been studying DEISes for 20 years, there will be 50 million square feet of new development in and around Downtown Brooklyn between now and 2025. But only 23 percent of that growth is included in the DEIS.
Ketcham's analysis lists a couple of railyards-full of buildings and projects that were left out of the DEIS traffic analysis.
Posted by lumi at 2:11 AM
At CB8 hearing, old arguments--and new warnings on the DEIS
At the Community Board 8 meeting, Norman Oder notices that, unlike his Mad-Overkilling self, "not many civilians had read much, if anything, of the DEIS."
So, in a sense, the hearings themselves backed up a message many people offered: the ESDC should postpone the hearing and delay the environmental review to allow for more time to review the massive and complicated documents.
Oder's observations include the racial make up of the attendees, transportation engineer Brian Ketcham's riveting findings, the FCRC touring show, Stuckey on the offensive, Dan Goldstein and Patti Hagan addressing "blight," more supporters, more detractors, and Al Rosner on terrorism insurance (which people keep pointing out, is not part of the DEIS, but that doesn't stop him from caring).
Posted by lumi at 2:03 AM
Frank Gehry can do Small
Missed this one from a couple of weeks ago, but we couldn't stop ourselves from sharing:
We on the footprint of the Atlantic Yards know that Gehry can do gargantuan wonky matchstick buildings. But did you know Gehry does small?
Posted by lumi at 1:53 AM
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn superpost
Here are two items on DDDB's site that caught our eye.
Oder Sniffs Out the Stories
A compendium of 12 of Norman Oders most recent posts for Atlantic Yards Report. All but one are based on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Wonder what he has in store next.
Forest City Ratner, their consultants AKRF and Philip Habib, and the ESDC have had at least two years to compile their 2,000 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). If built, the developer's proposal would not be completed until at least 2016. Yet the state agency and the developer are playing rush, rush, rush with the communities of Brooklyn.
They released the DEIS on July 18th and are holding the only public hearing on the 15 inch thick document 36 days later. The second thingee, which they are calling a "community forum" (we don't know what that is but it is telling that they don't call it a hearing), is scheduled to be held on September 12th, which happens to also be primary election day which includes heated races in districts encompassing the proposed development site.
Posted by lumi at 1:42 AM
Spitzer: Let’s weigh Yards pros, cons
By Gersh Kuntzman
Gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer — who said last year that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development should be built “immediately” — is now calling for a delay to allow the public to more fully weigh the project’s significant environmental impacts.
In a letter sent last week to Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano, candidate Eliot Spitzer — as opposed to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer — asked ESDC to postpone its Aug. 23 public hearing for at least one month to allow vacationing Brooklynites and their in-recess Community Boards to have enough time to digest the state’s just-issued draft environmental impact statement.
The DEIS “deserves the careful review that is essential for a project of this magnitude,” Spitzer wrote in the letter, which was sent on his campaign’s letterhead.
“An extension of time for public review … is indispensable.”
Posted by lumi at 1:31 AM
Atlantic Antic takes Ratner cash
By Dana Rubinstein
Atlantic Avenue merchants are blasting organizers of the annual Atlantic Antic for accepting developer Bruce Ratner’s sponsorship, especially after the state acknowledged the significant negative impacts that Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards would have on the avenue.
Ratner donated $20,000 to the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation for the 32-year-old street fair — up from $5,000 last year.
Local merchants don’t blame Ratner for angling to win community support, but they do blame the LDC for playing into his hands.
Posted by lumi at 1:27 AM
August 3, 2006
HEARINGS TONIGHT ON RATNER PLAN
By Rich Calder
Here's one we missed, which is kinda lame since the hearings have adjourned. But for the record, the NY Post had a notice in today's paper about the Community Board hearings and noted that:
Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, in a joint statement, criticized the timing of the Empire State Development Corp.'s July 18 decision to grant preliminary project approval.
Posted by lumi at 8:30 PM
Endgame at Atlantic Yards: Mark Your Calendars
In his latest column in Our Time Press, Errol Louis cleverly calls Atlantic Yards critics:
- antidevelopment protesters,
- antidevelopment brigade,
- antidevelopment groups,
- antidevelopment crowd,
- anti-development yuppies,
- middle-class people with loud voices, and
- liberal... serving as sentries guarding the walls of the Central Brooklyn ghetto.
Meanwhile the people Louis holds up as "local leaders with deep roots in our community," who "have been fighting the good fight" "organizations like ACORN and leaders like the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Freddie Hamilton and James Caldwell" have all received money from the developer Bruce Ratner, or, as in the case of ACORN, will financially benefit from an administrative contract for the project.
Louis brings up an important point:
The opponents constantly insist they are not antidevelopment, but do not have a serious answer when asked if they have ever supported any large-scale development project in Brooklyn or elsewhere in New York.
Louis may have written this before touring properties built and managed by the Fifth Avenue Committee or the Hoyt-Schermerhorn community-based development plan, both projects developed by some of the groups in the community coalition who have publicly stated concerns about Atlantic Yards.
Errol Louis also hastily calls the August 23rd hearing the "Endgame." Footprint resident Daniel Goldstein would probably ascribe that distinction to the inevitable eminent domain litigation.
A big suprise in this month's column is that Errol Louis cites David Reiss's commentary on NoLandGrab (Who could tell that Louis reads Brooklyn's pre-eminent anti-development blog devoted to anti-development liberal anti-everything yuppie middle-class kooks and screamers?). David Reiss points out that only 15% of the legal challenges to NY State Environmental Impact Statements are successful. Facing the largest private project in NYC history that proposes to build the densest residential community in the nation, project critics will gladly take 15%.
Posted by lumi at 12:01 PM
Community Commentary: John Ryskamp, Open Letter to The Village Voice
Immigration attorney and frequent eminent domain commentator John Ryskamp follows up this week's Village Voice cover story on residents in the Atlantic Yards footprint with a letter to the editor that outlines the legal case against eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's private development plans.
John Ryskamp concludes:
I don’t think it will take a genius to find out that private purpose has been substituted for government purpose in the Atlantic Yards case. There is already so much evidence of it in the press that it seems impossible that a judge would not grant an injunction—even at this relatively early stage—against the project on the basis that it violates minimum scrutiny because there is no government purpose, only private purpose.
Your article on the Atlantic Yards project mentioned the fact that in the Kelo case, the Court said the project could not be developer driven. My book on the response to the Kelo case, The New Constitution: The Eminent Domain Revolt and the Fourth Constitutional Epoch, will be published this fall by Algora Publishing. It contains a discussion of this important point, and perhaps your readers will find it useful for me to describe the legal struggle going on over the notion of a project being “developer driven.”
Eminent domain can be used if there is
- a rational
- to a legitimate government purpose.
That is, eminent domain need only pass this “minimum scrutiny” test. In the past, “government purpose” was construed so broadly by the Court that people felt they could never use it as a defense against eminent domain. In the 1984 Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff case, the Court said that the purpose need be “conceivable.” This led people to conclude that there did not, in fact, have to be a government purpose, that if government did not even have a purpose, the Court would step in and supply a government purpose.
However, the Court then realized that if there is in fact no government purpose, there is in fact no government, and the famous case of Marbury v. Madison established that under the Constitution people have a right to government. Not wanting to overrule Marbury and destroy the Constitution, the Court rethought the idea.
The Court then indicated that, in fact, there had to be a government purpose. It began in two 1996 cases. In U.S. v. Virginia the Court said that government purpose “must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation.” In Romer v. Evans, the Court expanded on this idea, saying that the government purpose must be “an independent and legitimate legislative end....”
Your article indicated that in the otherwise unfavorable Kelo case, there might be wording favorable to Atlantic Yards residents. There is. It is in Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion. Here’s how to determine if there is in fact government purpose. It is a list of evidence those opposed to Atlantic Yards will now obtain by deposition and document subpoenas:
“A court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should [conduct]….‘a careful and extensive inquiry into ‘whether, in fact, the development plan [chronology]
[1.] is of primary benefit to . . . the developer…, and private businesses which may eventually locate in the plan area…,
[2.] and in that regard, only of incidental benefit to the city…[.]’”
Kennedy is also interested in facts of the chronology which show, with respect to government,
“[3.] awareness of…depressed economic condition and evidence corroborating the validity of this concern…,
[4.] the substantial commitment of public funds…before most of the private beneficiaries were known…,
[5.] evidence that [government] reviewed a variety of development plans…[,]
[6.] [government] chose a private developer from a group of applicants rather than picking out a particular transferee beforehand and…
[7.] other private beneficiaries of the project [were]…unknown [to government] because the…space proposed to be built [had] not yet been rented….”
In the Kelo case, the New London newspaper The Day discovered that none of these conditions had been met and, several months AFTER the Kelo decision, published an account which showed that Pfizer—the drug company which wanted the land—had approached New London and THEN New London announced it wanted to “redevelop” the area. In short, New London had simply abrogated government purpose and substituted Pfizer’s purpose.
What difference does that make? Justice Kennedy is concerned about government entities substituting private purpose for government purpose. That is why he wants litigators to go back and find out such things as, who contacted who first, what facts went into the decision-making process, and so on. Substituting private purpose for government purpose is so common now that it even has a name in political science: “capture theory,” in which private actors simply do whatever is necessary to prompt government officials to adopt their purpose. But just because it is common, doesn’t mean that it is Constitutional. When it substitutes private for government purpose, it violates minimum scrutiny and cannot be allowed.
I don’t think it will take a genius to find out that private purpose has been substituted for government purpose in the Atlantic Yards case. There is already so much evidence of it in the press that it seems impossible that a judge would not grant an injunction—even at this relatively early stage—against the project on the basis that it violates minimum scrutiny because there is no government purpose, only private purpose.
However, when attorneys defending the Atlantic Yards residents go into court to make that motion, they better come prepared to show that they have done their homework: they better take the depositions and subpoena the documents implied by Justice Kennedy’s remarks. Attorneys have become so lazy under the former lazy definition of government purpose, that they don’t do their work. The Atlantic Yards residents should bring heavy pressure on their attorneys to do the work Justice Kennedy demands.
Posted by lumi at 10:37 AM
TONIGHT: Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 Atlantic Yards Hearings
* Brooklyn Community Board District 2
Long Island University
Health Sciences Center, Room 119
(Dekalb and Hudson Avenues), map
Brooklyn Community Board District 6
Long Island College Hospital
339 Hicks Street, Conference Rooms F&G,
(@ Atlantic Avenue, map)
Brooklyn Community Board District 8
Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation
520 Prospect Place
(enter on Classon Avenue, map)
Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM
Not quite public: FCR plans private events at Urban Room & AY open space
Atlantic Yards Report
Forest City Ratner counts the glass-walled Urban Room as part of the scant seven-acres-plus of open space offered as a public amenity.
Without even going into the imprudence of putting a glass and steel "room" at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, Norman Oder delves into the programming details of the "Urban Room" and learns that the space wouldn't be open to the public all the time:
A significant part of the open space promised for the Atlantic Yards project would be a soaring, 120-foot, glass-walled Urban Room at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. According to the General Project Plan released by the Empire State Development Corporation: An Urban Room connected to the Arena will serve as a significant public amenity by accommodating the major flows of people to and from the transit center during the day and night, serving as a direct subway entrance to the Arena and allowing for a variety of public uses and programmed events throughout the year.
While the Urban Room would be open to the public from 7 am to 10 pm daily, at minimum, the guidelines (p. 24) give the developer some slack: the Developer shall be entitled to close the Urban Room for security reasons on a temporary basis and shall additionally have the right to close the Urban Room, not more than 12 times in any calendar year for private events, provided that no such closing shall occur on any national holiday and notice of which shall be posted... Access to the transit connection shall be maintained during any such private events.
Oder provides an overview of other publicly accessible private open space, where in some locations private-events programming works better than in others.
NoLandGrab: Not to harp on the "security aspect," but it's noteworthy that there is a lot of leeway given in the Design Guidelines for "security reasons." In a post-9/11 world, "temporary basis" frequently means "until further notice."
Posted by lumi at 9:43 AM
Would half of the affordable apartments be 2br & 3br? No way (read the fine print)
Atlantic Yards Report
You've heard it before, "the devil is in the details."
Today Norman Oder explains why Forest City Ratner's and Bertha Lewis's claim that "about half of the 2250 affordable units will be two- and three-bedroom units, thus accommodating families," depends on what you mean by "half."
It turns out that the 50% refers to total square footage, not the actual number of units. That language is in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (p. 4) FCR signed with ACORN last year.
And it's also in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the Empire State Development Corporation. The Executive Summary states (p. 4): Affordable units would be reserved for households making between 30 percent and 160 percent of citywide AMI (area median income) and 50 percent of these units (on a square foot basis) would be two- and three-bedroom units.
NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Forest City Ratner claims that half of the rental units would be so-called "affordable." In this case, the developer uses the OTHER DEFINITION of half, meaning half of the UNITS, not SQUARE FOOTAGE.
To understand the developer's multiple claims, average community folk need to keep both definitions of "half" handy.
Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM
Judge: No case for park foes
By Amy Zimmer
Though it's a boondoggle of a slightly different species, occasionally we cover news about the Brooklyn Bridge Park proposal because it gives us a chance to make an important point about both projects:
Why does the Brooklyn Bridge Park have to be self-sustaining, while Bruce Ratner's private Atlantic Yards development will get nearly $2 billion in subsidies?
From the Metro article:
Brooklyn Heights residents who sued to demolish plans to build condos in the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park received a legal blow yesterday when a judge told them they had no case.
Although Brooklyn State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel made no official ruling at yesterday’s pretrial hearing on the lawsuit filed by condo foes, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Legal Defense Fund, he said, “I can see policy reasons for not putting these buildings next to a park. But why legally?”
Through a Freedom-of-Information request, Metro also uncovered a letter which bolsters the charge that the Condos-in-a-Park scheme totally ignores public input:
Foes of the Brooklyn Bridge Park condos who claim they’ve been shut out of the planning process had their concerns echoed by an unlikely source.
Top officials at the pro-park Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy wrote a letter obtained by Metro to deputy mayors Dan Doctoroff and Paticia Harris blasting the state agency in charge of the project for “poor communication [that] has lead to strong park opposition.”
Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM
News Analysis: With Friendly Condemnations Like These...
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder
An article about eminent domain in the footprint of Ratner's Atlantic Yards covers the Empire State Development Corporation's decision to use friendly :) condemnation, and how friendly :) condemnations can be used to evict rent stablized tenants.
Locker acknowledged that the law was not settled. "To my knowledge, there is no reported case where eminent domain was used to remove rent-stabilized tenants when the developer was also the landlord," he said. "There are examples when eminent domain is used to pull out rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenants from a landlord who's not the beneficiary of the condemnations."
While there is a process by which tenants in a rent-stabilized building can be moved if the building is demolished to construct another building, Locker said that the use of eminent domain would be faster for the owner, and incur fewer obligations.
What do the ESDC and FCR think of Locker's contention? It's hard to say, because neither returned our detailed requests for comment.
Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM
Spitzer Reaches For Pataki's Shovel?
Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder
A queue of politicians formed this last week to decry the timing of the release of the DEIS and the relatively short comment period, except for Bruce Ratner's Cheerleader-in-Chief, Marty Markowitz:
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards plan, defended the ESDC's timetable: "Extending the public-comment period to 66 days - more than double the required 30 for a DEIS - and holding two open public sessions, including one in September, instead of the required one," he reasoned, "represents a fair attempt by ESDC to address the concerns of some in the community regarding a summer hearing."
NoLandGrab: Marty appears to have lost all connection with - and all sympathy for - the residents of the exisiting neighborhoods.
Also, the first "open public session" is a "hearing." It still isn't clear that the second "open public session" would be entered in "the record," which would pretty much make it an unofficial vent-fest Ratner Rantapalooza???
Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM
Connor Seeks to Knock Primary Challenger from Ballot
Claims Ken Diamondstone missed residency requirement by one day
City Hall News
By Edward Isaac Dovere
State Sen. Martin Connor (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), who was knocked out of his post as State Senate minority leader in 2002, is looking to do a little deposing of his own. He has filed a complaint with the board of elections looking to remove his Democratic primary challenger, Ken Diamondstone, from the ballot. Diamondstone was served Wednesday morning, with a Board of Elections hearing expected Thursday and a court case expected sometime during the week of Aug. 7. ...
“Whatever it is, we’re not particularly concerned with what’s in there, but what he’s doing again what he always does,” Diamondstone said, calling Connor a man who will use his expertise in election law as an alternative recourse to campaigning.
“We’ve always thought that he would try and use his skills. He’s not campaigning, he’s not raising money. The only thing he has left is using his skills as an election lawyer,” Diamondstone said. “This is his stock and trade, trying to knock people off the ballot.”
But Diamondstone is not concerned.
“We can prove everything,” he said. “These are not issues that will be in dispute.”
NoLandGrab: The Party Machine is turning over every rock, looking for a way to kick insurgent candidate and Atlantic Yards-critic Ken Diamondstone off the ballot.
NLG readers may be familiar with the byline in what was probably not the high point in his journalistic career, Edward Isaac Dovere was listed as the Executive Editor of Bruce Ratner's phony newspaper, The Brooklyn Standard.
Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM
Atlantic Yards Dust Up: ACORN's Bertha Lewis vs. MAS's Kent Barwick
ACORN Executive Dir. Bertha Lewis and Municipal Art Society Pres. Kent Barwick go mano-a-mano in Round 1 in City Limits:
Where opponents say that Lewis' train derails is her argument for Affordable Housing Uber Alles (and the compact she signed with the developer). The Affordable Housing Uber Alles theory of shelter says that it's acceptable to toss up a bunch of 60-story buildings in a neighborhood of four-story buildings in order to get affordable housing. Opponents of the massive project, of course, don't see it that way.
Which brings us to Mr. Barwick, who argues that Atlantic Yards "fails to achieve a delicate balance." That is the way that someone from the Municipal Arts Society says that something is seriously flawed. (We could translate it as meaning that he's saying the project sucks, but then, we sometimes prefer the simple, crude approach to talking planning- and architecture-speak. That's the cool thing about blogs.)
Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM
August 2, 2006
In ‘A Stone Carver,’ a Father Fights Omnivorous Progress
Yesterday's NY Times Arts Section ran Andrea Stevens's review of the "The Stone Carver," a play loosely based on the playwrite's family's own experience with the State of New Jersey, which took their home to build a road. The online audio slide show gives more details of the real-life story New Jersey never built the road, used the family's house as an office and eventually bulldozed the house to plant a field of grass.
Mr. Mastrosimone’s play is timely, given the Supreme Court ruling last year that government can use the power of eminent domain to clear space for private development. That his father’s property was razed for a highway ultimately built elsewhere is the all-too-real-life ending of the offstage story. Agostino would understand. Is there a difference, he asks, between what he escaped — extortion by the Mafia in Sicily — and what he found, a government that can demolish an entire functioning neighborhood?
“A Stone Carver” continues through Sept. 3 at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, between Avenue of the Americas and Varick Street, South Village, (212) 691-1555.
Posted by lumi at 11:19 PM
Mayor Bloomberg Says NYC Traffic Congestion is Good
By Alec Appelbaum
If you're stuck in traffic at the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenue, don't expect any sympathy from Mayor Bloomberg. Short of letting them eat cake, the Mayor declared: "We like traffic, it means economic activity, it means people coming here."
The bottom line question to the Mayor and those who hold fast to the dying idea that Traffic = Economic Growth is this: If increasing traffic congestion is the sign of vibrant, growing economy, what happens when New York City reaches a traffic saturation point? What happens when we simply can't squeeze any more cars and trucks into the city's 19th century street grid? Must economic growth stop?
That question is most clearly being answered in the neighborhoods around Mayor Bloomberg's favored mega-development projects, most notably Manhattan's West Side Stadium and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. These projects are being fought and killed largely on the grounds that the traffic congestion they will generate is unmanagable and lethal to community life and local business.
Posted by lumi at 10:34 PM
"Doing a Ratner"
According to Wikipedia:
Doing a Ratner is a British business phrase referring to a chief executive or a senior person of a company who criticises the company's products or disparages the customers, frequently with disastrous results for both the person and the company.
The entry also notes that our own Bruce Ratner has occassionally been caught "doing a Ratner:"
On the other side of The Pond, a Forest City Enterprises executive, developer Bruce Ratner, characterized his own Atlantic Center mall as "not something that we’re terribly proud of" . Additionally, in May, 2004, Bruce Ratner memorably insulted customers who live near the same mall to a NY Times reporter: "here you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids," .
Posted by lumi at 11:21 AM
Ledger to take on Ratman?
Warner Brothers announced that Heath Ledger will play The Joker in the next Batman film, titled "The Dark Knight."
"Our challenge in casting The Joker was to find an actor who is not just extraordinarily talented but fearless," said Memento director [Christopher] Nolan.
NoLandGrab: Heath Ledger's stance against that other "Joker," Bruce "Ratman," and method acting techniques may come in handy.
[There's got to be a better joke in there somewhere (sigh).]
Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM
Errol Louis: AY site = railyard + junkyard (Voice: nope)
Atlantic Yards Report
Mad over-the-topper Errol Louis* trash talks the the neighborhood, making Caring Bruce Ratner sound more like a volunteer for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the $3.5 billion project, held an information session about the 2,250 subsidized apartments scheduled to be built on a site in Prospect Heights currently being used as a junkyard and a parking facility for Long Island Railroad trains.
Atlantic Yards Report:
That suggests that, outside of the 8.3-acre railyard, the rest of the 22-acre site is a junkyard. Well, tell that to P.C. Richard and Modell's, or to Freddy's bar (part of the row above), or to the 60 or so people still living in a dozen or so buildings in the footprint, many of whom may have to leave if the Empire State Development Corporation uses eminent domain to get rent-stabilized tenants out of Forest City Ratner-owned buildings.
* Errol Louis recently dubbed Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, the "Mad Overkiller," leading to the recent coinage of "Mad Overdeveloper" to describe Bruce Ratner amongst critics of Atlantic Yards.
Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM
Atlantic Yards as Seen in a Heatwave: Made in the Shade
Proof that it's never too hot to irony out the details, Gowanus Lounge makes lemonade out of a lemon.
As a world class creator of shade, (again, see the nifty graphic above) Atlantic Yards may be the most forward thinking bit of top-down urban planning and megastructure architecture to come along in years, especially with global warming coming at us faster than you can say "rising sea levels wreck havoc on South Brooklyn" or "I hope that Killer Hurricane bearing down on us hangs a right at Bermuda."
Thirty years from now--assuming all that glass that Frank Gehry would use in his building doesn't create a tragic magnifying glass effect--a future generation of Brooklynites will hail the forward-thinking Man from Bilbao and the Patron of Thoughtful Architecture Known as Bruce Ratner because they made shade.
Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry, on this bloody hot day, we salute you for thinking about putting a signficant part of Brooklyn in shade!
Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM
Bait and switch? Another look at the 50/50 affordable housing promise
Atlantic Yards Report looks at how the Ratnerites have rewritten the history of the 50/50 affordable housing promise and why Bertha Lewis still stands by her man.
Has Forest City Ratner broken its pledge to ensure that half the units of housing at the Atlantic Yards site would be affordable? The record says yes--unless you accept the most lawyerly of explanations.
At right, an excerpt from a 2004 flier sent to thousands of Brooklynites, which stated that half of the units in the project would be affordable. (Lawyerly alternative explanation: Half of the 4500 mentioned units would be affordable. You never know if more would be added.)
Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM
It came from the Blogosphere...
Two bloggers who don't usually tackle Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards have posted some commentary recently. This noteworthy coincidence and the volume of comments shows that Atlantic Yards seems to be on a lot of people's minds these days:
Is there no sin in it?, Irresponsible architecture
I don't often blog here about local problems, but the time has come for A White Bear to take a tiny little blogular stand against Frank Gehry's project in my neighborhood.
It can't just be out of ignorance that the Times rarely mentions the overwhelming opposition to the project by pretty much all the people who live here, except to depict the various groups as extremists.
Well, yeah, when you're about to plop a huge environmental and social disaster in people's backyard, they get a little extreme.
NoLandGrab: "Is there no sin in it?" and the posted commentary is evidence that more Brooklynites are understanding the negative impacts of the project. Though the blogger uses the most current $4.2-billion figure for the project cost, he mistakenly cites the figure as the total cost to the taxpayer.
SteveBerlinJohnson.com, Jane Jacobs And Atlantic Yards
Fantastic revisiting of Jane Jacobs by Karrie Jacobs, basically arguing that the patron saint of sidewalk culture wouldn't necessarily have been appalled by the Atlantic Yards project. I agree with almost everything here -- part of the charm and dynamism of the Greenwich Village that Jacobs celebrated came out of the fact that it was framed by much larger-scale developments, in Midtown and Wall Street. There's no reason that couldn't work in Brooklyn as well, if it's done right.
NoLandGrab has a couple of small quibbles with Johnson's small quibbles, but we're leaving them in the comments section of his blog (complete with early-morning, pre-coffee typos).
Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM
Further delays at Fulton Street
Wrangling continues over MTA’s evictions for new transit center, this time in court
By Patrick Arden
Even when eminent domain is used for transportation projects, it still takes a considerable toll on people's lives. Just because a condemnation adheres to the traditional definition of eminent domain doesn't mean that the state does the right thing.
Take for example, the story of Dr. Morovati:
Dr. Mehran Morovati runs his dental office and lab out of 11 John St. He’s having a hard time finding a new landlord who will let him install plumbing, and he’s afraid he’ll lose patients when he relocates. “If I move to Midtown, my practice is gone,” he said.
After 9/11, Morovati and other tenants had to take out loans from the Small Business Administration, but they will see no money from the MTA as long as these loans hold liens on their businesses.
“Even if I got the relocation money, I’d still be short,” Morovati said. “My business has just started to be what it was before Sept 11. That was devastating. And now this.”
Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM
August 1, 2006
Overdeveloper Bruce Ratner becomes posterboy for stopping at nothing, even evicting the elderly
Just in case they didn't notice at Forest City headquarters in Cleveland, the Ratner name has become synonymous in NYC (only the world's largest media market), with eminent-domain-addicted Mad Overdeveloper.
This week's Village Voice puts the ball in Ratner's court, telling the tale of several long-time Brooklynites who find themselves in the path of what would be the largest single-source development in NYC's history.
Ratner is a favorite of the city's alternative press, earning the Voice's cover and the New York Press's designation this past March as the "Most Loathsome New Yorker."
Other semi-related Brooklyn stories in this week's Voice cover the BAM Cultural District and the wounded-but-not-dead-yet machine Dems who are hard at work supporting Carl Andrews's bid to succeed Major Owens in the 11th District Congressional race.
BAM goes the neighborhood
While Atlantic Yards grabs the headlines, an art attack quietly transforms downtown Brooklyn
Compared to Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, the BAM LDC plan seems like small potatoes.
...but it's not without its own controversy.
Why are the media giving the scandal-ridden Norman pal a pass?
Why the mainstream media doesn't drop-kick Carl Andrews is anyone's guess. However, there's a clear Atlantic Yards angle, since the Brooklyn Democratic Machine is currently pulling out all the stops for pro-Ratner candidates -- witness Tracy Boyland's stealth petition drive to get into the 18th State Senate District race against staunch Ratner critic Velmanette Montgomery.
Posted by lumi at 9:20 PM
Life in the Footprint
The Village Voice
By Cynthia Carr
So what kind of person is unmoved by Ratner and the threat of eminent domain?
The Voice visited the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project to speak to residents and happenned upon the elderly, the headstrong and just plain ole feisty.
During the past couple of years, Ratner has been buying out property owners in the footprint:
Maybe the condo owners in particular had the most money and clout, but they were also the newest and least attached to the 'hood. Today, apart from the homeless shelter, 118 residents remain in the footprint. They are less moneyed, but rooted, and on the whole crankier.
Posted by lumi at 5:05 PM
The sunny-side of shadows
Concerned about the long shadows that could be cast by Atlantic Yards?
Don't worry, be happy.
BTW: The childish doodles were our own editorial contribution.
This little creative touch failed to cheer up the South Oxford Street Block Association, which used the magic of Photoshop™ to remind people that shadows aren't anything to smile about (except in 100-degree weather).
How about this for Ratner's next PR campaign, "Atlantic Yards mitigates global warming!"
South Oxford Street Block Association makes another good point:
Another ludicrous aspect of the map is that the open sidewalk area outside the new Ratner Atlantic Terminal Mall (at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic) is labeled as "Open Green Space." No grass, few trees, cafe tables, Starbucks, no dogs allowed. This is Ratner's idea of a park.
Posted by lumi at 3:11 PM
Bertha Lewis Defends ACORN's Deal with FCR
A handful of Brownstoner readers are taking Bertha Lewis to task for her defense of ACORN's deal with Ratner published this week in City Limits.
Here are some excerpts from the commentary:
It's difficult for me to read Bertha Lewis' comments without remembering she signed an agreement with FCR about public statements also. Bx2Bklyn
At the end of the day Ratner isn't stupid - he's playing the race card, and palming off his project as affordable housing, but at the end of the day its just a big fat boondoggle for him. dreadnaught
It's ridiculous to imply that only at Ratner's scale is it possible to profit. If that were so, there'd be no small or mid-scale development in this city. cmu
Let me just start out by saying I think Bertha Lewis and ACORN made a horrendous mistake when they allowed themselves to be bought out by FCR. Having said that, I really feel for her... Bertha Lewis is a canny, smart organizer and a highly intelligent woman, and I can only think that she thought siding with FCR would be to the best interest of the cause. CrownHeightsProud
Posted by lumi at 3:05 PM
WNYC, Brian Lehrer Show
Brian Lehrer interviews all four 11th District Congressional candidates, with a focus on some of the hot-button issues in the district, race and Atlantic Yards.
The first three candidates were all asked about Atlantic Yards Owens is against, Clarke and Andrews are for but Yassky got lucky when time ran out and Lehrer didn't pop the question.
Posted by lumi at 2:59 PM
Columbia modifies Harlem plan
By Amy Zimmer
NoLandGrab readers have been watching developments in Columbia's bid to expand their campus in West Harlem because both project will be using eminent domain to seize private property.
In today's article about the West Harlem project Brooklynites will notice that the two projects share even more issues in common: * public space design, * respect for the existing neighborhoods, and * "value" to the community vs. "value" to the developer.
NoLandGrab: One big difference between the two projects is that the Columbia expansion has to go through NY City's land use review process, while Atlantic Yards has been taken over by NY State in order to supercede local zoning and review.
Posted by lumi at 2:43 PM
The Debate Over "Affordability"
The Real Estate Observer notes that the affordable housing portion of the Atlantic Yards proposal falls short of Mayor Bloomberg's goals, announced yesterday.
But the Mayor today indicated that the city had different priorities: the majority of that trust fund--$70 million--is going to "hard to reach populations," including the very poor (those earning less than 30 percent of the median, who will not be served at all by Atlantic Yards), and households with moderate income (earning 60 to 80 percent of the median, who will receive just about 10 percent of the 2,250 affordable units at Atlantic Yards).
Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM
Fair fees for rich developers
A report to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors's Land Use committee may shed some light on some local issues associated with Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards: developers' profit margins and construction of affordable housing.
This report yielded an editorial in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (emphasis added):
According to a new city report, private developers will not even consider going forward with a big housing construction project unless the profit margin is at least 28 percent.
Think about it: Without a guaranteed profit about three or four times larger than what most normal businesses strive for, the developers won't pour an ounce of concrete. And they still complain that the city wants them to build more affordable housing.
As housing activist Calvin Welch pointed out at the hearing, it used to be illegal in most states to charge that much interest on loaned money. The word for it was usury.
NoLandGrab: Brooklynites have been trying to learn more about Bruce Ratner's margin for Atlantic Yards. If it is close to the 28% cited in the Bay Area study, that would undermine many of Ratner's justifications for the massive subsidies and extreme density that is planned for the project.
Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM
“Publicly Accessible Open Space” Closes in Manhattan
Brooklyn Views highlights what can happen to "publicly accessible open space," after The NY Times reported that Masaryk Towers, a middle-income housing complex, voted to close their walkway, often used by residents in a nearby low-income housing complex.
Forest City Ratner touts the scant seven acres proposed for what, if built, would be the most dense residential community in the nation.
Though "publicly accessible," Forest City Ratner would privately determine the use of the open space, which as Masaryk Towers proves, could change.
Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM
SUPPORTING & OPPOSING ATLANTIC YARDS
This week, City Limits publishes two viewpoints on Atlantic Yards.
SUPPORTING ATLANTIC YARDS:
'SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH HOUSING IN BROOKLYN'
The executive director of NY ACORN argues that the plan’s superior affordable housing provisions require citizens “to take yes for an answer.” By Bertha Lewis, Executive Director, ACORN NY
OPPOSING ATLANTIC YARDS:
'FAILS TO ACCOMPLISH A DELICATE BALANCE'
The president of the Municipal Art Society challenges residents to hold out for the high standards of planning, design, housing -- and democratic public process -- the city deserves. By Kent Barwick, President, Municipal Art Society (MAS)
Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM
ACORN's Lewis, MAS's Barwick debate AY plan in City Limits
Atlantic Yards Report
Norman Oder's analysis of City Limits's Atlantic Yards op-ed:
City Limits Weekly, the urban affairs publication with a strong grassroots following, yesterday ran two long but still not comprehensive pro and con articles regarding the Atlantic Yards project, featuring Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York ACORN, and Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS).
Lewis mostly reiterates arguments for the importance of affordable housing and pragmatism toward the AY plan, and Barwick mostly repeats the MAS's critique of the project's design principles.
However, Lewis adds that the rental units would be randomly distributed on each floor, an unusual and forward-looking aspect of the development. Barwick adds some new advocacy regarding affordable housing, suggesting that all new high-density development in New York include some affordable housing. It may help nudge the debate a bit.
Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM
Displaced homeowners glad to go back to neighborhood
AP, via The Canton Repository
The three Norwood homeowners will have the titles to the homes returned to them. But what plans do they have for the future when their neighborhood has already been leveled and houses vandalized?
Joy hopes to complete the paperwork to regain title to the couple’s suburban Cincinnati home, repair the damage to it and move back in when that lease is up.
Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM
Eminently sensible in Ohio
The Washington Times, Editorial
In a welcome respite from a year of bad property-rights news, the Supreme Court of Ohio availed itself of the more reasonable eminent domain option the U.S. Supreme Court declined to endorse in last year's ruling Kelo v. New London -- opening what we hope is a wave of common-sense originating in the states.
Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM