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September 30, 2006

Best Stubborn Activist in the Face of RAMPANT GENTRIFICATION


NY Press

Dan Goldstein

And we thought we were stubborn. Dan Goldstein, a bespectacled trouble-making mensch, is the last resident in his Prospect Heights condo not to sell out to Bruce Ratner (aka Ratzilla)—the pudgy Atlantic Yards mastermind. While his neighbors have accepted mega-bucks buyouts, Goldstein has spearheaded Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a grassroots nonprofit opposing Ratner’s stadium and skyscraper plans. Now, we’ve lived in Prospect Heights for four years, and we’re no fan of the proposed train yards stadium site. It’s a coal pit eyesore, as attractive as Giuliani in drag. We crave intelligent development, not brownstone-dwarfing luxury towers. But our motivation disappears as soon as we crack the night’s first beer. Not Goldstein. While Mayor Bloomberg, Dan Doctoroff and Ratner make plans to shiv Goldstein in his ghost-town condo, he fights on, sending strongly worded e-mails and waving angry, hand-painted placards. Its obstinate dedication, and it’s to him we cheer a beer from our comfy couch, far away from blocks threatened by eminent domain.


Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Is the 8% AY scaleback a "concession"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Again, we see evidence that reporters new to the Atlantic Yards story get key details wrong. Yesterday's Times "Public Lives" profile of the Municipal Art Society's Kent Barwick stated:
Now, with the planning commission publicly on board for Atlantic Yards, based on the developer’s acceptance of the commission’s suggestion to reduce its 8.7 million square foot project by 8 percent, a concession Mr. Barwick dismisses as a nonconcession, the society has aligned itself with several community groups and declared Atlantic Yards an unfit addition to the borough.

Why does the Times characterize it as a concession rather than a tactic? After all, the Times hadn't used the term before. Also, Brooklyn beat reporter Nicholas Confessore had reported the day before--in the voice of the newspaper, rather than attributing it to a critic, the new reduction only brings the project back to the original size proposed in 2003.


Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

DDDB attorney cites failure to plan, evasion of law, misrepresentation of Coney option

Atlantic Yards Report

The criticisms of the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) keep piling on, as some of the harshest responses were filed just before the deadline yesterday set by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) lawyer Jeffrey Baker, a veteran of state land use tussles, said that government entities failed to plan for the site. Also, he charged, the agency misdescribed the project under the law, ignored key evidence about the potential for an arena in Coney Island, conducted a flimsy blight study, and proceeded in a biased manner.

Failure to plan

Baker's charges set the stage for a challenge to the exercise of eminent domain, since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in the Kelo case suggests that eminent domain to support redevelopment can pass muster only if if derives from a democratically arrived at plan.


Posted by amy at 11:29 AM

Brooklyn nabes to state: Scrap Yards study

Brooklyn Papers Ariella Cohen clarifies yesterday's assertions by describing CBN's call to scrap the DEIS "last-minute".

Just hours before the close of the public comment period for the Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement, leaders of 28 Brooklyn neighborhood groups went to the Manhattan headquarters of the Empire State Development Corporation and demanded the state agency scrap its flawed DEIS of Bruce Ratner’s $4.2-billion mega-project.
“This report is missing adequate analysis that is needed to understand what impacts this project will have on the people and environment of Brooklyn,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of urban affairs at Hunter University who authored a section of the CBN’s 300-page report.


Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

September 29, 2006

CB6 motions

It has been reported in the local weekly press that on September 13, 2006 Community Board 6 adopted four motions which take a strong, vocal stand against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

The final draft of these motions has been released in a letter to the ESDC, just in time for the close of today's public comment period.

Click here to download the entire letter, which explains in detail the following excerpts:

Our first resolution, adopted by a vote of 35 in support, 4 against, with no abstentions, disapproves of the project as proposed in the July 18, 2006 GPP and DEIS because it will cause irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn.

Our second resolution, adopted by a vote of 37 in support, 2 against, with no abstentions, was to include the following procedural objections as part of our disapproval of the project as currently proposed:
a) Failure to involve the Community Board and the community in a meaningful way; misleading and overstating the involvement of the public in the process.
b) Failure to provide adequate or sufficient time for the public to review the GPP and DEIS.
c) Failure to provide resources to the Community Board to assist in their review of the project.
d) Failure to subject any aspect of the project review to the City’s uniform land use review procedures (ULURP).

Our third resolution, adopted by a vote of 37 in support, 2 against, with no abstentions, was to include the following general proposal-related objections as part of our disapproval of the project as currently proposed:
a) The project is out-of-scale with the surrounding community.
b) Several material project impacts have been identified as being unmitigable.
c) Portions of the data in the DEIS are insufficient, inadequate or questionable.
d) The scope of the DEIS is insufficient.
e) There has been insufficient modeling.

Our final resolution, adopted by a vote of 23 in support, 4 against, with no abstentions, was to include the following specific points that must be addressed as part of our disapproval of the project as currently. (see full letter for the complete list)

The letter to the ESDC is accompanied by a timeline of all actions taken by CB6 on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 1:00 PM

ESDC foils more FOIL requests

Apparently Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder isn't the only one who made a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Empire State Development Corporation only to get the brush off.

Yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's lawyer sent the ESDC a letter objecting "to ESDC’s failure to timely respond to a Freedom of Information Law request... submitted on August 31, 2006."

Unlike Norman Oder's request, which was inadvertently overlooked for several weeks, DDDB attorney Jeff Baker's request had been acknowledged in a timely manner:

On August 31, 2006, I submitted a FOIL request to ESDC requesting a copy of the “independent economic impact analysis” referenced on page 29 of the General Project Plan. In a letter dated September 8,2006, Antovk Pidedjian, the ESDC Records Access Officer, acknowledged my request and said he would respond as to whether it would be granted within ten business days of his letter. As of today, there has not been any response.

In the same letter, Baker explains the law to the ESDC. According to the UDC Act, the public comment period for the DEIS must extend 30 days after the public hearing:

When I wrote to you on August 28 , the focus of my request was based upon the comment period required under SEQRA. At the time I was unaware of the additional requirements for public comment under the UDC Act. Since then I have been made aware of the requirement of Section 16(3) of the Act (Unconsolidated Laws Sec. 6266(3)); which provides, that when ESDC determines to override local regulations, then the public comment period must extend 30 days after the public hearing. While I was unaware of that section, obviously you were aware of it. It is also obvious that for the same reasons set forth in my August 28 letter, the community forums constitute continued public hearings on the GPP. Therefore, as a matter of law, ESDC must extend the public comment period until October 18, 2006.

The failure by the ESDC to hold the public comment period open past today's deadline might constitute grounds for legal action, adding a new twist in the battle over the railyards.

Download letter (PDF)

Posted by lumi at 12:18 PM

CBN says AY environmental review so flawed it shouldn't be approved

Atlantic Yards Report

At 1 pm today, just a half day before the close of the comment period regarding the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) plans to deliver a detailed and harsh set of criticisms to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The full response, which runs to hundreds of pages, will be posted on the CBN site Saturday, but preliminary versions released Thursday paint a disturbing picture.


Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

Bowing to Bruce

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

We're not exactly sure, but we think that BP kinda missed the mark in part of this story. The purpose of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is to review the Environmental Impact Statement, not to go mano-a-mano with Bruce Ratner (though some member organizations have taken that tack).

PacificPlan.gifIn light of this, the lead paragraph seems to have missed the point:

A two-month, City Council–financed study found that the environmental impact study of Atlantic Yards is flawed — but not flawed enough to merit a halt in the project.

The article also covers the debut of BrooklynSpeaks and architect Doug Hamilton's Pacific Plan.


NoLandGrab: According to our sources, CBN's conclusion is that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is so flawed that it doesn't merit approval by the board of the Empire State Development Corporation.

The NY Times quoted CBN's co-chair as saying:

"Due to the number and profound nature of the errors and shortcomings” of the draft environmental impact statement, her group “does not believe the current document can be approved.”

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

More Find Fault With Atlantic Yards Review

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

On the final day for public comment on the state’s draft environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project, a coalition of Brooklyn neighborhood associations, churches and businesses will today be the latest to sharply criticize the review.

The criticisms are in a report that asks why the environmental review provided no evidence for its assertion that police and fire department response times would be unaffected by the project, which would house upward of 15,000 residents in an area now home to several hundred.

A 60-day period for public comment on the review, issued in late July by the Empire State Development Corporation, ends today. The state agency will consider the comments before making a final report.
Therese Urban, co-chairwoman of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, said in a statement, “Due to the number and profound nature of the errors and shortcomings” of the draft environmental impact statement, her group “does not believe the current document can be approved.”


Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

Beware the Gowanus Canal Sh*t Storm

Gowanus Lounge

shitstream.jpgNobody knows better than residents around the Gowanus Canal what happens when it rains real hard in South-Central Brooklyn. Gowanus Lounge published its own account earlier this year.

This description is from an article by Christopher Ketcham:

The sewer streams underground run down to the old swampland and surface in the storm eye into scuddable foam, two and sometimes three feet deep...Manholes pop open and dash in the stream like discuses, and from them white-brown geysers frolic, four feet in the air, and around the geysers the water bashes in boiling waves, pauses in eddies, and shoots off in a tomato-colored stream west, making for the waterfalls on the banks of the canal, which speeds in its ebb to the sea.

Don't worry, says Ratner's Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), when they're done, there will be less of that sh*t going around, causing the FROGGies (Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus) to raise their eyebrows in their testimony on the Combined Sewage Overflows.

The FROGGies point out that the weather data used by the engineering firm that wrote the DEIS is from 1988, and that data collected since then is showing that the existing problem is much worse than the DEIS admits.

This sh*t is serious, so click here for more details.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Will anti-Yards fight go on?

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

The public comment period for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement is coming to a close later today. Does that mean the fight is over? What's next? The Brooklyn Papers outlines possible legal action focusing on residential displacement and "a suit if the project’s impacts are not fully disclosed in the final environmental impact statement."


Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

Our invitation to Ratner

The Brooklyn Papers Editorial

BP got an earful from Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender, who complained that the weekly paper is biased and distorts the truth. But when BP offered a chance for The Bruce-ster (aka Caring Bruce) to speak uncensored, the VP backed down:

Bender claims we don’t care about accuracy, but our retort has always been that we are simply covering the known impacts of the Atlantic Yards project — impacts that state officials readily acknowledged in their environmental impact statement.

Bender and his spokespeople have done little to assist our understanding of that document — not even offering us their spin so that more of our coverage might reflect the company’s thinking. As it is, we feel we do a good job pointing out what project supporters see as its benefits.

So that’s why, as we were chatting with Bruce Bender, we reiterated our long-standing invitation: We would like to interview Bruce Ratner, one on one, and print the full, unedited transcript. The reader could then judge for himself if our questions are fair and balanced. And he’ll get to hear Bruce Ratner’s vision — not edited or taken out of context. We’ll even upload the entire audio to our Web site so no one could accuse us of malfeasance.

But Bender said no.


Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

City follows Ratner lead

Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

Was the 8% scaleback conspiracy or coincidence?

Just weeks after Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner floated a plan to trim the size of his 8.65-million-square-foot mega-project by 6- to 8 percent, the City Planning Commission rubberstamped that notion on Wednesday.
“A lot of this was precooked,” a real estate executive who works with Forest City Ratner told the New York Times after a commission hearing on Monday.

And what happened to the idea of shaving down Miss Brooklyn?

The City decided it was fine the way it is:

As it did with its recommendation for the modest size reduction in the overall project, the commission endorsed Forest City Ratner’s intention to keep the project’s spiritual centerpiece, the “Miss Brooklyn” tower at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, at 620 feet.

...even though project supporters have been publicly calling for a scaleback:

That was somewhat surprising, given that even project supporters like Borough President Markowitz have called for that building to be trimmed so it would not detract from the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower nearby.

It looks like the starchitect won this round:

Earlier this month, the Times reported that Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry “has objected to any changes in his design for Miss Brooklyn.”


Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

Atlantic Yards Countdown

From The Brooklyn Papers series featuring your testimony to the Empire State Development Corporation on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

What a strange time to live in. A humongous, for-profit development comprised of mostly condos for the rich can be framed as housing for the poor, jobs and hoops. It sounds like Bush administration-style doublespeak.
We are raising our children in what is sure to become known as Asthma Alley, as vehicular traffic sits gridlocked in 68 of the surrounding 93 intersections. There has been no mention of schools, parking, adding additional trains, or sewage and electrical infrastructure improvements for what will be the densest census tract in America.
The idea that a private developer can come in and dump practically an entire city into our town, make his billion dollars, and leave us to live in the mess seems more like Communist China than the United States.

G. Mayron-King and S. King, Boerum Hill

Read the entire published testimony here

Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM


The NY Post
By Adam Bonislawski

In recent coverage of One Prospect Park (see, The Brooklyn Papers), Richard Meier has made pointed references to the scale of the rhymes-with-hairy monster-o-city a half-mile down the road:

Unlike another big name (rhymes with "Hank Neary") with plans for the area, Meier took care to integrate his design with the neighborhood's existing structures.

"It doesn't have to do with the way it looks or the materiality," he says. "But it's a matter of scale. That's something that's important in all of my work.


Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Ratnerville: What Economic Impact Study?

Power Plays (the political blog of The Village Voice)
By Neil DeMause

The Atlantic Yards General Project Plan cites conclusions from an "independent economic analysis," only you don't get to read the report because it's on "double-secret probation," or something like that:

Leaving aside how "independent" a study can be when it's undertaken by the agency proposing to build the project, a bigger problem has emerged: The ESDC is refusing to let anybody see this report. Asked by the Voice last month who had conducted it, ESDC spokesperson Deborah Wetzel said she "didn't know." And now, two months after Norman Oder of the Ratnerville watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the study, ESDC FOIL officer Antovk Pidedjian has informed Oder that no such documents exist that are subject to disclosure laws. The reason, an ESDC attorney told the Voice: "It is ESDC's position that internal staff memos that address economic impact are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law."

Robert Freedman of the state Committee on Open Government explains:

While the law does exempt "intra-agency materials," he says, certain categories of material explicitly cannot be withheld—one of which is "statistical or factual tabulations or data," which presumably would include economic impact number-crunching.


Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Kicking People in the Shins, as a Vocation

The NY Times
By Robin Finn

Kent Barwick is serving his third stint as the head of the Municipal Art Society. Today's Times runs an article featuring the man at the helm of the organization that just jumped in the mosh pit of Atlantic Yards critics with the group's BrooklynSpeaks campaign.

[Barwick is] a busy guy, mirroring the society, which was formed in 1893 to fast-forward the embellishment of the city’s public spaces with murals, monuments and fountains but evolved into a public watchdog intent not only on preserving the historic but also protecting this boisterous metropolis from, well, outgrowing itself.
Now, with the planning commission publicly on board for Atlantic Yards, based on the developer’s acceptance of the commission’s suggestion to reduce its 8.7 million square foot project by 8 percent, a concession Mr. Barwick dismisses as a nonconcession, the society has aligned itself with several community groups and declared Atlantic Yards an unfit addition to the borough. This new coalition’s recommendations focus on reducing the project’s size and increasing its public space and subsidized housing. “It doesn’t seem to us that making repairs to the design will be fatal to the project.”

Mr. Barwick applauds the project’s ambitions (he says the site is right for high-density development and, if Brooklyn wants it, a sports arena), loves the fact that Frank Gehry and not some “off-the-rack architect” designed its “Miss Brooklyn” showpiece tower, but rejects the project’s overall bulk. In short, the society demands a redesign. Maybe two. Mr. Barwick wants the clock tower of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank unobscured: “That clock is Brooklyn’s wristwatch.”


Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

How Low-Income Can You Go?

Brooklyn Record scoops the other Brooklyn bloggers by getting their hands on the latest Forest City Ratner direct mail piece. This time the subject is the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing solution.


The flyer features Lacoste polo shirt-clad brownstone stoop-sitting Brooklynites.

Lauding the benefits of the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing solution, the flyer touts "over 6,800 new units of badly needed mixed-income housing."

Here's what the flyer left out: * 4610 of those units are badly needed "delux-ury" housing units. * Only about 900 units will be available to those earning Brooklyn's median income, or less. * Of the units in the "affordable" housing plan, 40% would rent for more than $2000/mo.

For details, check out this Atlantic Yards Report article from July, 2006.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

BrooklynSpeaks, But Did They Think First?

OnNYTurf analyzes the BrooklynSpeaks.net web site and tries to figure out the group's strategy:

Overall it is inescapable to conclude that the BrooklynSpeaks effort seems to be taking a go-it-alone tack. But it is odd that they have chosen this road this late in the game; and in days since the site launch they have not said anything to bring themselves closer to the existing opposition. So why choose this path? What is the possible strategic advantage?
My first observation on this is that, if the MAS/BS felt it could not win on fighting eminent domain and the very process by which this farce started, it certainly could have fought just the scale aspect without so publicly breaking itself off from the existing opposition. Since they have not replied to my emails for comment, I will have to continue to imagine their response. One possible response might be that they wanted to do the public letter righting campaign, which they are hosting on their site, to buttress their clout. And to do that they needed public principles. But let's consider this. What does the public letter writing campaign achieve? It lets public officials know that people think the project is too large. Well, duh, this is not news. Even Marty Markowitz and David Yassky read the writing on the wall a long time ago about public opposition to the scale of this project. So the MAS/BS did not need a new display of public opposition to scale to buttress whatever negotiating power they perceive they have. Why else then? I can't think of one. It is hard to imagine another reason why they have gone public with this division. I can not see any reason for it. I can not see that there is anything strategically to be gained, only confusion to be sown among people still learning about the project (and there are, crazy as that may sound to you reader), and a free card now for Bruce Rather to play.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

U.S. Senate tackles eminent domain

From the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation:

CapitolHill.jpgThe U.S. Senate could take action soon on a recently introduced eminent domain bill. The bill is similar to a House bill H.R. 4128, which overwhelmingly passed the House last November.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., introduced S. 3873, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2006 that would address at the federal level the 2005 Kelo decision. The bill would prohibit federal agencies from using eminent domain for private economic development purposes, and would prohibit states that receive federal development funds from doing so as well.

The House version of the bill passed last fall by a vote of 376-38.

"One of the biggest obstacles to passage of the bill could be the tight Senate schedule and the lack of time left in this Congress," said Adam Sharp, OFBF's senior director of national and regulatory affairs.
The Senate could take action on the bill by the end of this calendar year.


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Number8.jpgThe Real Estate Observer, Thursday: Timeshares, Booze, Bankruptcy; All Brought To You By the Number 8!
This post was brought to you by letters REO and the number 8:

Hilariously, Forest City has unanimously approved the City Planning Commission's suggestion to reduce the Atlantic Yards development by 8%. Earlier this week we were under the impression that an 8% cutback in size--try and follow the logic here--meant an 8% cutback in size. But apparently the newly "reduced" plan is exactly what the developer had in mind way back in 2003. (Check the bottom comment here for some wise foresight). (NY1)

Crain's Cleveland, Editor's Choice, 'The Manhattanization of Brooklyn'
The editors at Crain's in Bruce Ratner's hometown took note of the NY Times article on the well choreographed Atlantic Yards "scaledown," though they don't mention that the project is now pretty much the size that was originally proposed.

It appears Forest City Ratner Cos.’ Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has gotten a little smaller.

TimeWarnerCenter.jpgBird to the North, Time Warner Building, 2 years later and the state of local retail
A visit to the Time Warner "vertical retail expression" (aka "mall") and a panel discussion held by the Municipal Art Society yielded some additional questions:

I left before the bitter end of the Q&A, so I remain puzzled: what is going on with the development community and the Planning Department that major mixed-use developments like Atlantic Yards, Flatbush Nostrand Junction, East River Plaza, and Bronx Terminal Market continue to prefer non-New York-based chains when everyone seems to like local? It seems that private and public sectors want local to stay - so is the City's rich retail fabric being unravelled by free market weavers?

Gehry-jewelry.jpgDaily Politics, The Worst Thing About Atlantic Yards
On Frank Gehry from Ben Smith's style section:

Does Brooklyn really want to be cross-branded with Tiffany anyway?

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, AY SCALE DOWN?
OTBKB posts an NY1 article about the "scaledown" and asks, "What does this mean?"

A: It means that the project is now just about the same size as originally proposed in 2003.

Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods to submit extensive response to Atlantic Yards DEIS at September 29th event


WHO: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
WHAT: Submission of Official Response to the Atlantic Yards DEIS
WHERE: 633 Third Avenue, @ 40th Street, New York, NY
WHEN: Friday, September 29th, 1:00 p.m.

Brooklyn, NY – On Friday, September 29th, representatives of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) will formally submit the organization’s extensive Response to the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement at the Manhattan offices of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

CBN co-chairperson Therese Urban said, “Everyone involved in this review has done an amazing job in producing this Response. Even though the ESDC denied the community a reasonable period to analyze the huge DEIS they launched at us with July’s “Summer Surprise,” the community has made an heroic effort resulting in our Response. It is CBN’s hope that the comments of our consultants and community members will be carefully studied by the ESDC and government officials in considering the many, glaring shortcomings of the DEIS. Due to the number and profound nature of the errors and shortcomings of the DEIS, CBN does not believe the current DEIS can be approved.”

CBN’s representatives expect to be joined by several of the experts who worked on behalf of the organization to craft CBN’s response to the DEIS, and have invited other community groups and elected officials to join them in delivering their written testimony tomorrow. Expert contributors to the effort are listed below, along with the DEIS Tasks and production duties they addressed.

CBN’s response to the Atlantic Yards DEIS is expected to be highly critical of the document. The experts working for CBN have identified numerous inconsistencies in the environmental study, as well as a multitude of insufficient and inadequate analyses and examples of questionable methodologies.

Complete copies of CBN’s response will be available for download from the organization’s web site (www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com) on Saturday, September 30th.

Environmental Consultants Contributing to CBN Analysis of DEIS:
Dr. Tom Angotti (Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development) Chapters addressed: Land Use, Zoning and Public Policy, Public Health, Construction Impacts, Mitigations, Alternatives, Overview

Dr. Arline Bronzaft (Professor Emerita, Lehman College, CUNY) Chapters addressed: Noise, Public Health, Construction Impacts

Noah Budnick (Transportation Alternatives) Chapters addressed: Transportation

Ethan Cohen (City University of New York) Chapters addressed: Neighborhood Character

Brad Lander (Pratt Center for Community Planning and Economic Development) Chapters addressed: Socioeconomic Conditions

Dr. Jesse David (National Economic Research Associate) Chapters addressed: Socioeconomic Conditions

Dr. Edgar Freud P.E. (Sierra Club) Chapters addressed: Infrastructure

Daniel Gutman (Environmental Consultant) Chapters addressed: Air Quality, Public Health, Construction Impacts

George Janes    (Environmental Simulation Center) Chapters addressed: Photo Simulations

Brian Ketchum (Community Consulting Services) Chapters addressed: Transportation

Carolyn Konheim (Community Consulting Services) Chapters addressed: Transportation

Tim Logan (Sierra Club) Chapters addressed: Infrastructure

Dr. Franco Montalto (eDesign Dynamics LLC) Chapters addressed: Infrastructure

Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian (Hunter College CCPD) Chapters addressed: Socioeconomic Conditions, Community Facilities

Andrew Wiley-Schwartz and Phil Myrick (Project for Public Spaces) Chapters addressed: Open Space

James Vogel (ntelligence Inc.) Media Production and Website

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS (www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com) is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups active in Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8. CBN is comprised of 40 community organizations that have joined together to ensure meaningful community participation in the environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

James Vogel
Secretary, CBN

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
201 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

September 28, 2006

Atlantic Yards: Time to Take a Shower

Editorial commentary from Brownstoner:

Regardles of whether you're for, againt or somewhere in the middle on the Atlantic Yards project, it's hard not to be digusted by the transparent dog-and-pony show that's gone on in recent days culminating in FRC "accepting" the city planning commission's recommendation of a 8% cut in the scale of the project. Kinda makes you feel like you want to take a shower.

Click here to read the rest, including a public spanking of City Planning Chief Amanda Burden.

Posted by lumi at 10:46 AM

Have you called your Senator recently?

marge-phone-call.gifSee that clock ticking over there on the right? The deadline for the Senate to act on Eminent Domain reform legislation is about to expire.

If you haven't done so yet, please contact Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, and ask him to put Senate bill 3873 on the Senate's agenda and allow a vote. Let him know that the American people are strongly opposed to the abuse of eminent domain. Then contact Senators Clinton and Schumer and urge them to support eminent domain reform by passing S. 3873.

The Honorable Bill Frist

The Honorable Hillary Clinton

The Honorable Charles Schumer

Call today! The Senate goes into recess after Friday, and if they don't vote, the bill will expire.

Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

Her brick prison

Though the Atlantic Yards proposal has halted development within the footprint during the past three years, what about development around the footprint?

City Councilman Charles Barron calls Bruce Ratner's plan "instant gentrification." City Councilwoman Letita James riffed off that point to NY1 after yesterday's City Planning Commission vote:

"The adverse impacts of this proposed project outweigh all of the social benefits. They include traffic mitigation. They include the displacement of a significant number of poor people and people of color," said Brooklyn City Councilmember Letitia James. "It will result in instant gentrification."

If you've been thinking that Bruce Ratner is the only landlord in Prospect Heights who has been trying to evict low-income and elderly tenants in order to get on with his real estate bonanza, think again.

As reported in yesterday's Daily News, just two doors down from Ratnerville:

A Brooklyn landlord has bricked up all the windows in his Prospect Heights apartment building - except for one unit where a holdout tenant is still living.

Migdalia Barreto, her daughter and her elderly mother contend landlord Mark Scheiner is trying to drive them out of the eight-apartment building to pave way for a luxury conversion.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL: Public Comment Template

ATTENTION LAST-MINUTE SHOPPERS! The ESDC's public comment period ends tomorrow at 5:30PM. Please collect your thoughts and proceed to the deadline.

If you have things on your mind but haven't had a chance to put them down on paper, neighborhood activist and Fort Greene resident Lee Solomon created this handy template.

Download the PDF (MS Word available too), fill it out and email it (delivery receipt option selected) to the ESDC.

It's simple and painless. Forest City Ratner is even waiving the $25 filing fee payable to BUILD or the requirement that all answers must be written in verse (though they can be if you dare).

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

The CBA is Dead, Long Live the CBA

The Real Estate Observer

Last year Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement as historic. Then every overdeveloper who needed the cover of community support was cutting deals with whomever would sign on the dotted line. Bloomie put the kibbosh on the free-for-all once he realized that CBAs were circumventing the City's role in determining the pros and cons of large-scale developments. But now CBAs are back and the Mayor wants in.

Reporter Matthew Schuerman can't cure your whiplash, but he can explain what's going on.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Atlantic Yards Reporting

Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder is at it again. He's writing faster than we read. In an attempt to try to catch up and for your convenience, we're putting everything in a superpost.

ESDC stonewalls FOI Law request, won't release fiscal impact study
The Empire State Development Corporation claimed it "performed an independent economic impact analysis of the Project." When Norman Oder asked to see it, the agency replied:

ESDC has reviewed your request for additional documentation with respect to the financial analysis performed by ESDC. At this time there are no additional documents that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law. It is possible that additional information will be compiled and made available at a later date. If additional information is prepared for release to the public - ESDC will certainly make the same available to you.

NoLandGrab: So the ESDC is not saying the study doesn't exist, just that it isn't subject to disclosure, but if and when they do make it public, they'll be sure to disclose it to Norman Oder.

The Times gets the scaleback right, but what about the housing commitment?
Norman Oder analyzes today's coverage of the 8% scaleback - you know, the scaleback that gets the project back to square one.

AY Phase I down to 550 affordable units; more criticism from Tish James
This article ties up some loose ends, such as the City Planning Commission's letter, Letitia James' strong criticism of the CPC's inaction (see Brooklyn Downtown Star below), NLG's addendum to the Times and Mary Campbell Gallagher's conjuring of the ghost of Robert Moses.

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

San Francisco Mall May Supply Concept for L.A.

LA Times

Westfield-JimRatner.jpgThe opening of Forest CIty Enterprises's new mall in San Francisco prompted this article on vertical malls:

A new style of high-rise mall that may serve as a model for downtown Los Angeles and other big city centers will open its doors here today as the largest urban shopping center west of the Mississippi River.


NoLandGrab: On the home front, we distinctly remember that Related Cos. insisted that the Time Warner Center wasn't a mall, but a "vertical retail expression" (no joke).

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

If a Tree Falls in Brooklyn...

Would City Bureaucrats Be Able To Hear It?

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Coverage of this week's City Planning Commission meeting includes a strong reaction from City Councilmember Letitia James.

The day after the launch of BrooklynSpeaks, a new coalition of community groups more moderate than the established Atlantic Yards opponents, yet still calling for substantial changes, the CPC recommended an 8 percent decrease in the size of Atlantic Yards. That cut of 700,000 square feet would bring the project just below 8 million square feet, approximately the original size as proposed in December 2003 - and a far cry from the scale backs, from one-third to one-half, suggested by BrooklynSpeaks.

The reduction was hardly a surprise; developer Forest City Ratner's plans for a proposed cut of 6 to 8 percent had been predicted by confidential sources in a New York Times article earlier this month.
City Councilwoman Letitia James, who attended the session and shook her head in frustration several times, observed afterward, "I thought some of the comments from Regina were a little over the top. I think [DCP commissioner] Amanda Burden served as a spokesperson for Forest City Ratner, and judge and jury. The fact that they wanted to respect the Williamsburgh bank but did nothing to cut back on Miss Brooklyn is sort of a contradiction. There was no discussion of the overall policy issues, whether the city should be relinquishing its power to state, with a project of this size. They were just tinkering around the fringe."


Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Surprise! City Planning approves recommendations and Ratner agrees

Sometimes the press goes out and gets a story that tells the public something they don't already know and other times they just report the next scene in some carefully scripted dialogue. Yesterday's events was a case of the latter.

Predictably the City Planning Commission voted to accept their recommendations for Atlantic Yards:
NY1, City Planning Commission Votes To Decrease Size Of Atlantic Yards Project
The article contains the same dueling quotes as the WNYC press report posted below.

Then, surprise, Forest City Ratner agreed to accept the recommendations:
NY Daily News, Ratner will pare Yards plan a little

"We are committed to doing all the affordable housing," said James Stuckey, Ratner vice president, adding that the cuts will be made to market-rate condos.

Ratner has also agreed to build 550 of the subsidized apartments in the first phase of the development by 2010.
Critics called the cuts meaningless and said the project will still be roughly the same size as it was originally proposed in 2003, before it grew.

The NY Times, Atlantic Yards Developer Accepts 8% Reduction in Project

Ms. Burden also said the developer would ensure that at least 30 percent of the apartments built during the project’s first phase will be below-market rental units. A total of 2,250 such rental units are planned for the project, which will have 8.7 million square feet. The developer, according to the letter, has also committed to building the remaining 70 percent during the second phase.

That commitment will be stipulated in housing and infrastructure subsidies that the city is negotiating with Forest City, which is also the development partner in building a new Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.

AM NY, Commission recommends Ratner plan passage

A building dubbed 'Miss Brooklyn,' the largest structure in the Frank Gehry-designed arena, should be built as planned -- 10 stories higher than the Williamsburg Savings Bank building, which is currently the borough's tallest, according to the letter the commission sent to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Some proponents of the plan, such as Borough President Marty Markowitz, suggested scaling back that building.

For some reason, we don't get the feeling that the City Planning Commission strong-armed developer Bruce Ratner into making these concessions. According to Forest City Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco:

City Planning has been enormously helpful throughout the development process.

Since many aspects of the project and subsequent recommendations defy common sense and current urban planning principles, New Yorkers can only assume that "City Planning has been enormously helpful" in rubberstamping a project that is now just about the same size as originally proposed.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

Planners to Vote on Atlantic Yards

Dueling quotes from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Dan Goldstein appeared in yesterday's news item from WNYC on the City Planning Commission "vote."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says even with the changes, it will be impossible to make everyone happy.

"There are some groups that under any circumstance will never support this, either because they're against eminent domain, which will be very modestly used in this project, extremely modestly," he said. "There are those that are against major developments and they are not going to be swayed."
"City Planning has no say in this project. It's a recommendation," said Daniel Goldstein of Develop-Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "I think that it's a sad day yesterday for city planning and urban planners in general, because what we have is a massive plan with no urban planning going on, just recommendations."


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

September 27, 2006

TONIGHT: American Masters, 9PM


Frank Gehry is a rare architect, garnering both critical acclaim and popular recognition. His designs dramatically blur the line between art and architecture, creating dynamic structures and unpredictable interiors. Directed by Sydney Pollack, the program captures the shy, elusive and creative architect and illuminates Gehry's innovative process -- including expansive depictions of the Guggenheim Museum and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington. (Closed Captioning) (Stereo)

Click here for details and other airtimes.

Posted by lumi at 12:26 PM

Coming to Times Square, an Advertising Campaign by the Nets

The NY Times
By Richard Sandomir

The Nets, at least three years from leaving the Meadowlands for Brooklyn, are taking over advertising turf in Times Square.

A 70-by-45-foot billboard featuring Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson will hang from the side of a movie multiplex and face Eighth Avenue, just off West 42nd Street, by Friday. A smaller one, featuring only Kidd, will be mounted next week above a Modell’s Sporting Goods store around the corner on West 42nd Street.

It will not be lost on those who drive past the larger billboard or stare at it as they dash out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal that the advertising is less than a half-mile from Madison Square Garden. The Nets insist that renting prime space to showcase their stars so close to the Garden is not a competitive swat at the Knicks.


Posted by lumi at 12:06 PM

Pact Reached to Redevelop Far West Side

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

The Bloomberg administration is giving up on its plan to buy the development rights over the West Side railyards from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for $500 million.

Instead, under a new proposal worked out over the past week, the city and the authority would do what critics said they should have done in the first place: rezone the 13-acre railyard on the west side of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets for high-rise development and sell it to a developer through a bidding process. In addition, the MTA will be applying the same process to the Vanderbilt Railyards in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: OK, we made up the last part. It does make sense though, doesn't it?

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

2016 Is Whenever

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman highlights one important issue plaguing the Atlantic Yards affordable housing debate:

Rafael Cestero, deputy commissioner at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, is the first insider to say what some outsiders had already suspected: Forest City Ratner has made no commitment to complete the second phase of Atlantic Yards by any particular date, according to Norman Oder's account of yesterday's City Planning Commission meeting.


Posted by lumi at 10:46 AM

Lights! Camera! Eminent Domain!

ESDC-Clacker.jpgThe Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Channel 13 will give the "60 remaining holdouts" at Atlantic Yards their 15 minutes of fame (or maybe 30) on "New York Voices" Oct. 6.


Program info from Channel Thirteen's schedule:

New York Voices # 616

New York Voices: Ratner's Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan -- Segments include a story on the 60 remaining holdouts in Brooklyn and studio interviews with advocates of Ratner's redevelopment plan in Brooklyn and those who oppose it. Rafael Pi Roman hosts.

Posted by lumi at 10:35 AM

City Planners Look To Shrink Atlantic Yards Project

By Roger Clark

Markowitz-NY1.jpgThis news report about the City Planning Commission's recommendations has some interesting tidbits which beg a couple questions.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said:

"What they are attempting to do, like I'm trying to do -- and by the way, many very excellent community organizations -- is to fine tune, continue to fine tune the project, so that it becomes an even better project."

Q: Who are the "many very excellent community organizations" who are attempting to "fine tune the project?" Could Markowitz be referring to the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks?

DeBlasio-NY1.jpgThis week marks the public debut of City Councilmember Bill de Blasio on this issue:

"I think you still can make this a somewhat smaller project. You can still achieve those social goals, and you can still make it fit better with the surrounding community," said Brooklyn City Councilman Bill de Blasio.

Q: Is de Blasio angling for credit in a win-win solution when the long anticipated scaledown has finally been unveiled?

article/video (dialup/broadband)

More coverage on 1010 WINS News Radio, Project Reduction Recommended for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM


Fashionable expansion bringing the shoppers back to downtowns

The San Francisco Chronicle

This is the second article this week in The Chronicle about Forest City's Westfield Mall. Today's article uses Westfield as an example of the trend towards "urban malls."

The Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street is tripling its size at a time when urban malls are tapping into the revival of downtown shopping.

As more people come downtown to spend their dollars instead of retreating to the suburbs, retailers have been responding by opening flagship stores in urban malls and putting their smaller, satellite stores in outlying areas.


Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Gothamist, City Diet for Atlantic Yards: Lose 8% (Except for Miss Brooklyn)

An excerpt from the quickie The Gothamist posted on the City Planning Commission's recommendations for Atlantic Yards:

The City Planning Commission "raved," the Post puts it, about the tallest skyscraper in the group, Frank Gehry's "Miss Brooklyn" structure that would be taller than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank in the Brooklyn skyline. Instead, the CPC asked that another tower's height be reduced so views the bank could still be seen.

The Real Estate Observer, Tuesday: 'Green' Carpets, Yards' Yardage, East Harlem Hotness?

From The Real Estate Observer's quickie on the City Planning Commission's recommendations:

The developers readily admit that the CPC downsize suggestion was "precooked" in order to make the plans "more politically palatable."

RogerClarkNY1.jpgThe Wisdom of Roger Clark, From swim trunks to gray suit? It just doesn't seem fair...
An esoteric blog tracking NY1's Roger Clark got caught in our net this morning regarding Clark's report on Atlantic Yards:

Roger's in Fort Greene talking about the Atlantic Yards project. Clearly, he worked really hard on his report - he had a pre-cut montage with voice-over and everything, but geez, could he have at least presented it in his Guinness slippers and maybe a light blue terry robe? Sooo boring!

Shouting into the Void, All Eyes on Atlantic Yards
This post is a reminder that half-truths floating in the "public square" are not only a consequence of developer propaganda, but a failure of the media to publish important details concerning the project, and the difficulty project critics face in getting their message across.

The following key points from Shouting into the Void appear to be about some other Atlantic Yards:

We could go on, but we figure that someone is going to get out his or her fact-check bible and have a say in the comments section. All we ask is that you be nice. :)

Archinet, Atlantic yards through the wringer of NYC planning
Another CPC quickie is confused about a key fact:

Gehry's monstrosity is forced to shrink by 8% by the city planning commission. But will this appease the pissed off neighbors who think this is still too big and ugly?

NYC Planning isn't "forcing" anything on the Gehry "monstro-city." NYC Planning only made RECOMMENDATIONS (most news organizations, including the NY Times, have reported this fact). Atlantic Yards is being approved by a State (not City) process. The CPC role is only advisory in the planning phase and reactive if the project gets built.

Brit in Brooklyn, Walk Don't Destroy
Calling attention to:

A sponsored walk to help pay the legal fees for DDDB and raise awareness of the Atlantic Yards planning fiasco.

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Hakeem Jeffries And The Train That Left The Station

Room 8
By Maurice Gumbs

The newly elected Hakeem Jeffries, developer madness (Ratner and Co.) and the prehistoric Brooklyn Democratic Machine — the dynamic between them will shape Brooklyn for decades to come. What effect Jeffries will have is anyone's guess, but Maurice Gumbs is optimistic that the soon-to-be-elected State Assemblyman isn't anyone's patsy.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Nets thinking Queens?

Field of Schemes gives the Brooklyn Papers props for being the first to speculate on the meaning of the NJ Nets' lease-extention escape clause for Brooklyn and Queens.

We heard it on DealScape first.

FOS mulls over the possibilities:

Could there be a secret Plan B to relocate the Nets to Queens if Ratner's contentious Atlantic Yards plan falls through? (The Papers' Gersh Kuntzman speculates that the Sunnyside Yards near Long Island City could be an option.) Or could this just be a way of putting the heat on Brooklyn pols by making them think that they have a competitor for the Nets' affections? I'm inclined to believe the latter, but then, I'm the one who didn't believe the crazy rumors that Ratner would really try to demolish buildings and streets to move them to Brooklyn in the first place.


Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

September 26, 2006

Memo to Atlantic Yards Opponents: Can We All Get Along?

Gowanus Lounge


To: Atlantic Yards Opponents From: Gowanus Lounge
RE: Appearance of Split in the Opposition

We only have one thing to say: Can't we all just get along? ...
Not that you need us to tell you, but one of the most politically and financially powerful groups of politicians, developers and business leaders we've seen in recent years is pushing the Atlantic Yards project through before anyone can do anything to stop or change it. Relatively speaking, those fighting to block or change the project are doing so with comparatively few resources and almost no powerful friends in the political establishment. Perhaps you noticed that the City Planning Commission only called for a modest 8 percent reduction in the project yesterday and is okay with the height of Miss Brooklyn? Division in the ranks is the last thing that Brooklyn needs right now. As for you, BrooklynSpeaks, we'd take you to task for jumping in so late in the process and introducing extra confusion, but you've already done so, so what's the point?
The truth is, we're depressed that you didn't try to work this out privately and didn't come up with a division of labor, at it were, on Atlantic Yards before this all went public. But, it's not too late. It would be for the best if everyone involved in trying to shape the outcome of this fight were to hash out their differences and divide up the work.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

BrooklynSpeaks principals say it's about strategy

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, the day after the BrooklynSpeaks web site finally launched, backers of the project spoke at a press conference in Brooklyn--less than an hour after the City Planning Commission, in its only review of the project, essentially ignored many of the flaws in Atlantic Yards pointed out by BrooklynSpeaks, including interim surface parking and open space that looks more like the backyards of buildings.

While the site developers, led by the Municipal Art Society (MAS) and eight other groups, aim to get concerned Brookynites to send letters to public officials, many questions yesterday regarded the groups and their goals.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

City Planning Commission weighs in

AY-NYT.jpgThree years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced, the City Planning Commission (CPC) chimes in with "guidelines."

For the uninitiated, City Planning would typically come up with the design guidelines first, and then the City would seek a developer. As with many things Atlantic Yards, the process has been bass-ackwards.

All three papers highlight the CPC's recommendation of an 8% scaleback (reported three weeks ago in The NY Times). None of the papers mention that such a scaleback would peg the size of the project to just about its original size, when first unveiled in 2003.

It seems like architect Frank Gehry prevailed in his objections to the reduction of Miss Brooklyn, since the CPC did not recommend a scaleback of the building Gehry has referred to as his "ego trip."

Here's the coverage:
NY Daily News, City tweaks Atlantic Yards plan, sez tower height OK
CPC on Miss Brooklyn:

"We really do believe the height is appropriate at this location," said Regina Myer, Brooklyn director of city planning, though she called for three smaller buildings to be cut by about 100 to 200 feet.


The [Empire State Development Corporation], which is overseeing the project, could snub the Planning Commission's proposed changes with a two-thirds majority vote, but that's unlikely considering the city's financial backing for the plan.

The NY Times, City Planners Recommend 8% Reduction in Atlantic Yards The Times describes the project as three blocks long, but does not mention that it is two blocks wide. Also, the "roughly 8 million square feet" would make the project the same size as originally proposed:

At its meeting yesterday, the commission said the developer should cut back the massive project, which stretches three long blocks along Atlantic Avenue from Flatbush to Vanderbilt Avenues, from 8.65 million square feet to roughly 8 million square feet.

CPC ignores the view corridor to be dominated by Miss Brooklyn from Prospect Heights, but acknowledges the importance of sightlines to the Clock Tower from Park Slope:

The planning commission concluded that Miss Brooklyn’s height was appropriate for the location of the building, at the busy intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. But the bank building, which is being converted into condominiums, did figure into a recommendation that the developer reduce the height of a different tower, on an islandlike parcel across Flatbush Avenue from Miss Brooklyn. Planners said that tower should be cut by 100 feet to a height of 250 feet, because it would otherwise “detract” from views of the clock tower.

Ratner's PR guru Joe DePlasco says thank you very much:

“City Planning has been enormously helpful throughout the development process,” said Joe DePlasco.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says thank you very much:

“They’re calling for the maximum visibility of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, and that was my intention as well,” Mr. Markowitz said. “The good news here is that the city is saying it’s the right project at the right time and at the right location.”

What else went on at the meeting? Enter the Mad Overkiller to the rescue to fill in dozens of details left on the cutting room floor by the dailies.

Atlantic Yards Report, At City Planning, 8% scaleback surfaces, Phase 2 not guaranteed, and challenges ignored

City officials admit they have no assurances that Phase 2 (est. 2016) of the project would be built on time, if at all, thus jeopardizing planned open space and most of the affordable housing

The CPC sales pitch:

The review session got off to an inauspicious start as Regina Myer, director of the DCP’s Brooklyn office, described the project as “incredibly transit-oriented,” on “primarily state-owned land,” and located “in Downtown Brooklyn,” all highly debatable assertions that got some in the crowd muttering, including City Council Member Letitia James—who represents the Prospect Heights project location.

Norman Oder found the Commissioners' Q&A period enlightening. Good questions were posed, but the standard for accuracy isn't as high at the CPC as it is on Atlantic Yards Report, which is excusable since the Planning Commissioners and the CPC staff aren't really supposed to be experts on this stuff.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Hearing Voices on Atlantic Yards: "Brooklyn Speaks"


Another combatant entered the Brooklyn battleground known as Atlantic Yards yesterday evening with the launch of the BrooklynSpeaks website. BrooklynSpeaks is made up of a number of groups, most notably the Municipal Art Society and eight nabe groups. Notably absent is Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and several neighborhood groups closest to the Forest City Ratner project. BrooklynSpeaks' website runs down a long list of principles, including reducing the size of the project by 1/3 to 1/2 and a greater percentage of affordable housing for families making less than $35,000 a year. The group doesn't come out and say that it supports using eminent domain, but certainly looks like it accepts it.


Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Judge ponders linking land cases

Eminent domain news from Bruce Ratner's hometown from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge John E. Corrigan heard arguments Monday on a request to consolidate 14 lawsuits in Cleveland's Flats eminent domain case, and said he expects to make a decision soon. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority filed the cases in May and June after property owners refused to sell to make way for developer Scott Wolstein's redevelopment plans for the area. The port's lawyers say the key arguments about eminent domain are the same in all the cases and should be tried in one trial to save time and money. Attorneys for the property owners, however, said the properties are unique and that consolidation would be unfair to their clients. They've suggested consolidating into three or four trials.


Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

September 25, 2006

Pataki opens office in Iowa

AP, via NY Newsday

New York Gov. George Pataki this week will become the first potential presidential candidate to open a campaign office in Iowa.


NoLandGrab: To contact the Governor on Atlantic Yards-related issues, send mail to his Des Moines office, where he is busy at work on New York State's ethanol initiatives.

Pataki will also have plenty of time to familiarize himself with business owner Brad Hamilton. According to the Castle Coalition:

Des Moines, Iowa – The city is threatening to seize two buildings owned by Brad Hamilton – a T-shirt printing business and ZZZ Records – in the East Village area of Des Moines for private economic development. Since Hamilton bought the boarded up buildings five years ago, he has upgraded the plumbing, electrical work, floors, and facades, but city officials still insist it’s not enough.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 PM

Change-a-lujah! For Prospect Heights

From OnNYTurf:

RevBillyRevival.jpgSunday, feeling hollowness in my soul from helping my girl friend pick out a new ipod last week (and enjoying it), I felt a real need to go see the Reverend Billy and the Stop-Shopping Choir. The Reverend has been performing at the Spiegeltent at the South Street Sea Port all summer, and I needed to see this special venue as well. If you are not familiar with the Spiegeltent, you should check it out. It is a spectacular 1920's hand crafted traveling venue. BUT! this is the last week of performances before it moves on. The Spiegeltent is an exceptionally ideal venue for the Reverend's revival sermon.

This Sunday turned out to be extra special, as none other than Dan Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant of Develop Don't Destroy were sainted into the Stop Shopping Church! Fortunately I caught this transformative moment on film! Here it is, so you can witness it like you were there.


Posted by lumi at 6:32 PM

Eh, what's that you say? BrooklynSpeak up.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has released a statement on its web site welcoming BrooklynSpeaks to the conversation, but asking them to be clearer on their position on two important and potentially divisive issues: eminent domain and the arena.

From DDDB.net:

We call for the BrooklynSpeaks group to be forthright and clear on their position on eminent domain and the arena, and so that individuals who sign onto their “principles” understand that by doing so, they are explicitly endorsing the arena and implicitly endorsing use of eminent domain.

From a page three levels deep on BrooklynSpeaks.net:

While demapping Pacific Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues would be necessary to build the Arena, the other demappings are an urban planning choice that would create "superblocks." The sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks therefore believe that the project should: Keep Fifth Ave and Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues open.

NoLandGrab: To set the record straight, the planned arena block would also be a "superblock."

BrooklynSpeaks's position rests precariously upon this one paragraph on a discreet page on their web site.

By supporting the demapping of Pacific St. between Flatbush and 6th Ave, Brooklyn Speaks supports the arena, which necessitates the use of eminent domain. Therefore, the group has taken a weaker position than many other neighborhood groups on two bugaboos of the Atlantic Yards controversy.

Posted by lumi at 3:45 PM

Brooklyn Speaks Out!

BrooklynSpeaks.net (also ...com and ...org) broke from the starting gate yesterday evening with a whopping 688 supporters as of 7:44PM.

The strongly worded web site isn't quite the invitation to serve as Forest City Ratner's community doormat that many neighborhood stakeholders feared.

However, with many community groups still not on board, and the fact that the site principles were hammered out in secrecy amongst a handful of players, BrooklynSpeaks can hardly lay claim to the silent majority struggling to be heard.

Check out Atlantic Yards Report for a detailed analysis of the content of BrooklynSpeaks.net.

A practical criticism of the web site is that it is labyrinthian. Click through to the page about the group's principles, then don't forget to click on the text links to learn more about each set of principles, and then look for the subsequent text links to find out more details (you get the picture). Buried somewhere on the site are "other concerns," which mention, lastly, "eminent domain."

Another practical consideration is that any action generated from the web site requires the user to "join them!" (697 as of 7:13AM), though you can opt out of supporting Brooklyn Speaks by unclicking the checkbox at the bottom of the registration page.

*UPDATE: Norman Oder reports that unclicking the checkbox gets you nowhere. Could that be a nifty metaphor for BrooklynSpeaks's position, that not negotiating with Forest City Ratner will get you nowhere?

Other than this nitpicky stuff and a color scheme that reminds us of the canned blogspot template used by Atlantic Yards Report (is "tangerine" the new black?), BrooklynSpeaks: * takes a tough stand on the issues covered in their "principles," * gives honorable mention to those issues not adopted into their principles, and * somehow manages to sidestep the 800-lb. gorilla... the arena.

Where BrooklynSpeaks goes from here is anyone's guess. There has been chatter in the press and behind the scenes about negotiating with Forest City Ratner, but the web site does not indicate what their next move will be.

Additional coverage and commentary: Gowanus Lounge, "Brooklyn Speaks," But Who Will Listen?

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

Atlantic Yards: What would Tiny Tim say?

Metro NY
By Mary Campbell Gallagher

The Ghost of Overdevelopments Past reveals himself to Mayor Bloomberg in a dream:

Surrounded by flashing yellow flames, Robert Moses crosses his fingers. Will the “public authorities” dodge fail Bloomberg on Atlantic Yards as it did on the West Side Stadium? Or will CEO Michael Bloomberg of New York City Realty and developer Bruce Ratner get to sell a traditional lowrise neighborhood, Prospect Heights, as one heckuva great new product?


In Gallagher's tale, Tiny Tim might have to dive for political cover and declare, "God seize private property for private development, every one!"

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

No real winners in sport facility fights

Metro NY
By Jason Notte

To some, the facilities are an economic boon that can bring jobs and improved quality of life to their respective areas. For others, the buildings will seem like scars left by the deep, angry wounds opened by their construction.
These battles end up being much like the sports themselves — in the end, someone has to lose. For the competing sides in this conflict, however, there is no next season — no “wait ‘til next year.” When the stakes are no less than people’s homes and livelihoods, losing isn’t an option — and the wounds suffered don’t heal in the off-season.


Documentary filmmaker, Jevon Roush, observes:

“Grassroots organizations that sprung up [around the West Side Stadium] were very fortunate to have Cablevision behind them,” Roush said. “That the organizations in Brooklyn don’t have that is surprising... considering that given the state of the Knicks, we’ll all be Nets fans if they move in.”

NoLandGrab: Roush is discounting the likelihood that once the NBA franchise owners voted to approve the Nets' move to Brooklyn, the owners of the Knicks are prohibited by their NBA franchise agreement from fighting the move.

Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gowanus Lounge, Brooklyn Speaks Remains Mute
Guskind promises to keep checking in with Brooklyn Speaks:

Why the interest? Why does it matter? It's always interesting and it always matters when a player enters the game in the fourth quarter, especially one that might be angling to negotiate a change in the rules. Particularly one that claims the name "Brooklyn Speaks," which would seem to include a lot of people who might not want Brooklyn Speaks to speak for them. Which is why we're anxious to see what they're saying.

Greiner's Grumblings, Atlantic Yards opposition loses leader, project continues to lose public support

Links to news of Community Board 6's rejection of the Atlantic Yards plan as currently proposed and the passing of Evelyn Ortner, a community leader who "could possibly be the sharpest thorn in Ratner’s side."

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Forest City in the News

SF Chronicle, WESTFIELD SAN FRANCISCO CENTRE. Old Emporium dome has turned into symbol of the new Westfield.

Shoppers who plunge into Westfield San Francisco Centre when it opens on Thursday will see plenty of shopping mall mainstays, from brand-name clothing to a nine-screen movie multiplex. But the most memorable feature is unique: a 102-foot-wide skylit dome built in 1908. ...
As developers call the package "the largest urban shopping center west of the Mississippi," they also stress the historic pieces of the old Emporium that have been salvaged and reused. But it's one thing to prop up the Market Street facade while razing everything behind it. Protecting the dome during construction was a far more complex task.

BusinessWire.com, The New York Times's New Headquarters Will Feature Space for Public Use; The Times Center Will Open in September 2007

Space for "Public Use" will open in 2007 , according to a NY Times press release:

The New York Times announced today that The Times Center, part of The Times's new headquarters designed by Renzo Piano and developed in conjunction with Forest City Ratner Companies, will open to the public in September 2007. Located in the heart of Times Square on West 41st Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, The Times Center will include two major spaces: The Stage and The Hall. Both will serve an array of cultural offerings and will be available for rent for public and private events. Reservations for dates beginning in fall 2007 are now being accepted for both spaces.

"Public" is a keyword with big developers these days as the subsidies and use of eminent domain must somehow be justified. Is Forest City dreaming of the day when they'll issue a press release touting an 18,000-seat venue in Brooklyn for "public use?"

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

September 24, 2006

Crain's editor offers weak defense of poll

Atlantic Yards Report provides alternate ways the affordable housing question could have been phrased in the Crain's poll, such as "The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but more than half would be too expensive for people at Brooklyn's median income." AYR also speculates about the motives of the pollster:

David also offers two perhaps contradictory sentences regarding pollster Charney Research:
Mr. Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community and thought a joint project with Crain's might help... His company had no ties to developer Forest City Ratner or its opponents and no vested interest in the outcome, except to embellish its reputation for objective polling.

So one way of raising the profile might be to produce a poll that businesses would appreciate.

I'm willing to believe that Charney did not slant the questions deliberately to favor the outcome achieved. It could have simply been ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse.


Posted by amy at 7:34 PM

Contemplating Saying Ciao to a Palazzo on Madison

New York Times announces that the Municipal Art Society is considering moving to a very interesting location:

Kent Barwick, the society’s current president, acknowledged that his group, which was formed in 1893, was looking for a new home, though he said the society was not completely committed to moving. In January the group made an exploratory bid on the current quarters of the Museum of Art and Design, on West 53rd Street, but, he said, “We were rebuffed.” Now, the group is considering space in the New York Times tower rising on Eighth Avenue, among other buildings.


Posted by amy at 7:21 PM



City-wide and Brooklyn civic and community groups launch website to inform New Yorkers about Atlantic Yards Project and ask decision makers to only approve a plan that works for Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, September 24, 2006 - BROOKLYNSPEAKS has been created by city-wide and Brooklyn-based civic and community groups to inform New Yorkers about the proposed Atlantic Yards development and enable them to ask the decision-makers only to approve a plan that works for Brooklyn.

The interactive BROOKLYNSPEAKS website has features found on several national internet-based advocacy sites including blog and letter writing options, and puts forth several key principles for the development of Atlantic Yards related to respecting the surrounding neighborhood; including a substantial reduction in the project's scale, a transportation plan that works; including affordable housing that meets Brooklyn's needs and involving the public in meaningful ways.

WHO: Sponsors of BROOKLYNSPEAKS website: Atlantic Avenue LDC, Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Fifth Avenue Committee, Municipal Arts Society, Park Slope Civic Council, Pratt Area Community Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and others.

WHAT: Unveiling of the site and speaking with website sponsors

WHEN: Monday, September 25, 2006, 3:30 pm

WHERE: Fifth Avenue Committee at the FAC Center for Community Development, 621 DeGraw Street, Brooklyn, New York between 3rd and 4th Avenues in Park Slope. For directions go to www.fifthave.org

Posted by amy at 7:15 PM

NYC Dept. of City Planning Review Session

On the agenda for the next NYC Dept. of City Planning Review Session:

Brooklyn Non-ULURP

Atlantic Yards Civic and Land Use Improvement Project Plan; discussion of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards. (K2, 6, 8)

(Note: public may observe but not participate.)

Next Review Session:
Monday, September 25th, 2006
1:00 PM
Spector Hall
22 Reade Street, New York, New York

Posted by amy at 11:13 AM

"An objective view of Atlantic Yards"

Crain's defends itself from the widespread accusations that its recent poll was conducted unfairly:

The story behind the story begins with Craig Charney, president of Charney Research. Mr. Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community and thought a joint project with Crain's might help. I was receptive because it fit my overriding goal to make news every week. Mr. Charney and I then focused on potential topics. A me-too poll on who was ahead in any of the statewide political races had little appeal. The opportunity was to discover public opinion on crucial New York City issues that hadn't been measured by an independent source. Atlantic Yards fit the criterion precisely. Mr. Charney and his staff drew up the questions, which are available on our Web site. His company had no ties to developer Forest City Ratner or its opponents and no vested interest in the outcome, except to embellish its reputation for objective polling.
Many have complained that the questions could have been worded to bring about a different result. That would be true if either Atlantic Yards opponents or Forest City had a chance to influence the poll. Opponents of Atlantic Yards are trying to shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable.

While it's great to be 100% confident in the ability to conduct an independent poll, Crain's does not seem to realize that a lot of people get the information they use to answer poll questions from the poll questions themselves (especially the 56% of people who responded that they were not following the issue at all). An independent poll should at minimum brush upon some of the most controversial aspects of the issue at stake, such as, say, eminent domain abuse. Just because no one from DDDB or FCR wrote the questions does not mean they are automatically unbiased.

Full article after the jump.

When Crain's New York Business reported that an overwhelming 60% of New Yorkers supported the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, opponents of the development were sure the fix was in. Many complained that Erik Engquist, the Crain's reporter covering the Atlantic Yards controversy, must have slanted the questions to get the results Crain's reported. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's worthwhile to explain why the poll was commissioned, how the questions were drafted and what the results mean for the debate over the $4.2 billion arena and housing project.

The story behind the story begins with Craig Charney, president of Charney Research. Mr. Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community and thought a joint project with Crain's might help. I was receptive because it fit my overriding goal to make news every week. Mr. Charney and I then focused on potential topics. A me-too poll on who was ahead in any of the statewide political races had little appeal. The opportunity was to discover public opinion on crucial New York City issues that hadn't been measured by an independent source. Atlantic Yards fit the criterion precisely. Mr. Charney and his staff drew up the questions, which are available on our Web site. His company had no ties to developer Forest City Ratner or its opponents and no vested interest in the outcome, except to embellish its reputation for objective polling. I reviewed the proposed questions, as did a couple of other staffers. We made only one or two minor changes. Charney conducted telephone interviews with 601 New Yorkers in a way that made sure we sampled all economic and ethnic groups spanning all the boroughs. When the findings arrived, managing editor Rich Barbieri and Mr. Engquist reviewed them and discussed how to craft a story reporting the poll's findings. As is typical, I reviewed a final version of the story and made some editing suggestions. Each week we select a story to give to other media in an effort to spotlight our work, and that week we chose the poll. The story received widespread pickup in newspapers and the broadcast media because it did what we intended: It provided an objective look at public opinion on the project. Many have complained that the questions could have been worded to bring about a different result. That would be true if either Atlantic Yards opponents or Forest City had a chance to influence the poll. Opponents of Atlantic Yards are trying to shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable. The poll shows that an overwhelming number of New Yorkers support the project because they believe the complex will transform an underdeveloped neighborhood and the affordable housing units are desperately needed. The scale of the project doesn't worry them. More broadly, the poll shows a solid majority of voters know the city must grow to be prosperous. There's a message here, too, for those jockeying to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Antidevelopment rhetoric may play well in local elections dominated by activists, but it will cripple a candidate in a citywide race.

Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

Times's AY Op-Art more questionable than funny

Atlantic Yards Report:

So, was Bruce McCall's Op-Art piece in yesterday's New York Times a backhanded defense of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards design as presented or a suggestion that a six to eight percent cut would be meaningless and even self-defeating?

I've heard both arguments and, actually, am not sure what he was after other than a springboard for some whimsical treatments of imaginary past downsizings.

I still find his premise questionable. First, it assumes the project is a done deal--and Atlantic Yards still must get state approval at two levels, and survive a court challenge. Second, the piece doesn't make sense; there's no real comparison between a finished project (like the Eiffel Tower), and a design, and McCall doesn't acknowledge that a six to eight percent cut would bring Atlantic Yards essentially back to its original proposed size. (Oops, maybe he only read one of the two Times stories.)

Perhaps most importantly, the Times devoted two-thirds of the op-ed page to fanciful drawings but it still hasn't shown the public any images of what the Atlantic Yards project would look like in the context of the neighborhood.


Posted by amy at 10:39 AM

TODAY: Reverend Billy to exorcize bad planning in Brooklyn and big boondoggles for Bruce


Reverend Billy is dedicating his September 24th Tent Revival at the Spiegeltent to the Fight for Neighborhoods Against Forest City Ratner!

Details and tickets here.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

September 23, 2006

Six-to-Eight Percent Solutions


Sunday funnies came a little bit early this week due to the class clowns over at the New York Times. Mr. McCall makes a mockery of the idea of a 6-8% scaleback argument, but he could have used an example a little closer to home:.

The New York Times is planning to reduce the size of the newspaper, making it narrower by one and a half inches, and to close its printing operation in Edison, N.J., company officials said yesterday.

cartoon page
Don't forget to tell the New York Times what you think of their sense of humor. Write from the heart, and then scale back 6-8% of the vitriol.

Or, if your interpretation of the cartoon is still up in the air, take part in the Brooklynian poll.

Posted by amy at 7:21 PM

My Extroverted Introversion

Some of you might be following the controversy over BrooklynSpeaks and trying to figure out, who is this Brooklyn and what is she saying? Problem solved. BrooklynSpeaks has a blog. Following are excerpts to help you get the bigger picture...

I can see it both ways, and the fact that I can see it both ways makes me uncomfortable.
It makes me feel very very sick.
And maybe I'll just have to move out west.

Maybe BrooklynSpeaks doubts can be explained by her interests: playing basketball, coaching basketball and watching college basketball.


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

September 22, 2006

How did Ratner get to build a downtown Brooklyn tower? The state won't say

Atlantic Yards Report:

So Forest City Ratner will build a $186-million Renzo Piano-designed tower at a site owned by the City University of New York's College of Technology bounded by Jay, Johnston, and Tillary streets. That site now includes the Klitgord Auditorium, where the Atlantic Yards public hearing and community forums were held.

The building would be about 1 million square feet--almost as big as Miss Brooklyn, the largest building in the Atlantic Yards plan--which suggests it could be 50 to 60 stories tall. It will include classrooms, luxury condos, and some affordable housing.

While the size of the development is apparently as of right, given the recent rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, other questions remain. However, as the Brooklyn Papers reported, the state won't release details about the finances or the bid process.


Posted by amy at 11:18 PM

ESDC finally acknowledges Freedom of Information Law request


Atlantic Yards Report:

So maybe it was worth it for me to comment publicly at the Sept. 12 Atlantic Yards community forum regarding the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) failure to acknowledge my Freedom of Information Law request. I sent the ESDC a letter on July 26, and the agency should have responded within five business days.

I sent a follow-up letter in late August, as well. Both were ignored until I raised the issue in my testimony Sept. 12. On Tuesday I received, via email, a copy of a letter (above) mailed to me.


Posted by amy at 11:14 PM

The Masses and the Mayor Fight the Good Fights; Also, Staten Island Is Radioactive

The Real Estate Observer links yesterday's NY Times article about BrooklynSpeaks:

What kind of real estate power does the average New Yorker wield? Over in Brooklyn, citizen groups have banded together to "create room for negotiation" with Forest City Ratner. (FCR has already responded well to their "reasonable middle ground" position.) Then over in Stuy Town, the young Councilman Dan Garodnick and his 25,000 neighbors are fighting against multinational conglomerates. Who will win?! Tune in next week.


Posted by amy at 11:11 PM

Brooklyn Speaks to modify AY project--but which Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder does a better job than we do, or The NY Times for that matter, at explaining the issues and dynamics surrounding the BrooklynSpeaks campaign.

Essentially acknowledging that the Atlantic Yards project is a done deal, even before the most significant criticisms of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) emerge, several community groups in Brooklyn have lined up with the Municipal Art Society (MAS) to seek changes to the scale and design of the development. A new web site will be unveiled Saturday, BrooklynSpeaks.net.

Is a rift forming in the community that could play into developer Bruce Ratner's hands?

Unmentioned in the Times is the heated debate ongoing in Brooklyn, with some groups representing significant constituencies near the proposed project site, notably the Fort Greene Association and the Society for Clinton Hill, refusing to endorse the new venture yet.

Some groups endorsing Brooklyn Speaks are essentially repudiating some of the principles for responsible development for the Vanderbilt Yard that they endorsed, including no use of eminent domain and a project evaluated via the city's more stringent land use process, not the state's fast track. And the Boerum Hill Association just weeks ago reiterated major criticisms of the project, including the use of eminent domain.

The Times article suggests that "The new effort follows a series of legal and political setbacks for opponents of the project," citing a failed lawsuit and the recent losses by insurgent political candidates who emphasized their opposition to the project.

On the other hand, it's not clear what leverage--other than the MAS's capacity to earn the ear of some political leaders--this new group would have. After the Empire State Development Corporation approves the project later this year, it must receive the blessing of the three-member Public Authorities Control Board and one member, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, will be pressured to call for modifications.


NoLandGrab: What is apparent is that both voices in the debate over how to respond to the project feel that the other side is gambling on a risky strategy.

The individuals of the groups that secretly developed the Brooklyn Speaks campaign felt that relying upon a legal challenge would leave the neighborhoods surrounding the project with nothing to negotiate if the legal challenges were lost.

The groups that have led the fight thus far are wondering if Brooklyn Speaks does not go far enough and has already set a course for negotiating for a scaled-down project that is already in the hopper. These groups have what Forest City Ratner needs most, that's Dan Goldstein's condo, without which Phase 1 of the project cannot be built.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Paper Dragon at Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Talk about fighting bureaucracy with bureaucracy. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is waiting until the last day to submit a 250- to 300-page response to draft environmental impact statement on Atlantic Yards.

"The deadline is Sept. 29 at 5:30," said C.B.N. co-chair Candace Carponter. "We will submit our response at 5 o'clock, maybe a little earlier, like 1 o'clock."


NoLandGrab: It's interesting that reporter Matthew Schuerman characterizes a 250- to 300-page response as "bureaucracy."

The point of the exercise isn't to bury the government in paper, but to define the weaknesses of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the largest private project in NYC history which proposes the densest residential community in North America.

In light of enormity of the project, 250-300 pages seems disappointingly thin, but is the best effort community groups could muster in the incredibly short timeframe.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Atlantic Yards Countdown

The Brooklyn Papers

The Empire State Development Corporation invited Brooklynites to comment on the agency’s draft environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Yards project by sending letters to ESDC’s Maria Mooney, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 or e-mailing atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us by 5:30 pm on Sept. 29.

We’ve asked our readers to send copies of their testimony to newsroom@brooklynpapers.com. Here are this week’s letters:


Samples from the letters follow:

Planting enormous glass towers in an area of brownstones and townhouses makes no sense other than financial sense for the developer, and shows no respect for Brooklyn, its history or its residents.

While those in the outer reaches of Brooklyn or outside the borough may find the prospect of a sports stadium exciting, I find it horrifying.

But even more horrific is the response of elected officials like Borough President Marty Markowitz. He and other elected officials who have given this project their full support are playing games with our neighborhoods. They should be ashamed.

— Daniel P. Wiener, Park Slope

Brooklyn is known for its low-rise three- and four-story brownstone neighborhoods. This building type is so appealing that it is the image that Forest City Ratner uses in its publicity brochures.

However, the Atlantic Yards project would destroy this character and replace it with 16 buildings rising as high as 60 stories. This is completely out of context with the surrounding neighborhood.

Yet the DEIS states that “the new land uses ... would be similar to, and compatible with, those in the surrounding primary and secondary study areas.” There is nothing compatible with the building types in Atlantic Yards.

Xenia Urban, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Brooklyn Group to Propose Changes to Yards Project

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

A group of neighborhood and civic associations will propose a series of changes to Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards real estate development this weekend, taking a new tack in the bitter debate over the project. The effort will diverge markedly from the strategy of other project skeptics, notably Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a coalition of neighborhood groups taking a harder line against the development.

The group will prescribe substantial reductions in the project’s size and an increase in the percentage of subsidized housing allotted to poor families, among other changes, but will not take a position against eminent domain.
Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City, said that the developer was “pleased to see that these groups want to talk about ways to improve what we believe is a very exciting project for the people of Brooklyn. We look forward to meeting with them and discussing their ideas.”


NoLandGrab: This handful of neighborhood groups appears to be taking an interesting tack. However, since the BrooklynSpeaks web site isn't up yet, it's difficult to talk about specifics of their proposal.

Generally speaking, from what has been reported in the press, the BrooklynSpeaks position contradicts itself more than once, which leads neighborhood residents to wonder if it is just a platform for early negotiation, and if so, which planks of the platform will be readily conceded.

For instance, the Municipal Art Society shies away from the arena controversy, but takes a stand against street closings. It will be impossible to hold strictly to this stance if the arena is built.

Another contradiction was brought to light in the article in a quote from Dan Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who said, "One of their key principles is to respect the neighborhood, and by ignoring eminent domain and the arena, they are disrespecting the neighborhood.” That's a major concession to developer Bruce Ratner, and comes as a small comfort that BrooklynSpeaks is defining "neighborhood" as the surrounding neighborhood, not the existing neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Up in arms about the Yards

A project recalls the mistakes of the past

The Economist

Did you know that, "The Atlantic Yards, in the heart of Brooklyn, are now nothing more than a sunken set of tracks where trains are cleaned?"

Or, did you know that the Atlantic Yards is a 22-acre project proposed for the eight-acre Vanderbilt Railyards and 16-acres of city owned streets and private property?

If you believed the first description, then you are probably from The Economist or work for Forest City Ratner's PR department.

Aside from that first slip, the article is a pretty good attempt at giving Economist readers a taste of the battle in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Seaport’s early reviews are bad for Gehry’s tower

BeekmanSt-DEx.jpgDowntown Express By Ronda Kaysen

A presentation to Manhattan's Community Board 1 on construction impacts of the first Frank Gehry-designed Bruce Ratner project, planned for lower Manhattan's Beekman Street, gives Brooklyn residents who live near the Atlantic Yards project footprint a sneak peak at what's in store for their neighborhood if Atlantic Yards is built.

“It’s really going to change the neighborhood,” said Meghan French, a spokesperson of Pace University, which hosted the forum and is situated across the street from the new building.
For many of the residents who spoke at the forum, the new tower is not such a welcome neighbor. “I am absolutely appalled that a community board that was against a 12-story building in Tribeca has allowed a 75-story building on a narrow street,” said Phylis Salom, a resident of nearby Southbridge Towers.
And so residents heard the details of how constructing an 850-ft. building will affect their lives. For the next three and a half years, residents will navigate closed sidewalks, periodic bouts of excessive noise and a dearth of public parking.
Beginning in February, the construction project will involve a three-month period of pile driving—an extremely noisy and disruptive foundation building process. Forest City representatives offered little solace to neighbors.

“Pile driving is noisy, there’s not getting around it,” said Forest City senior vice president Joe Rechichi. “You’ll hear a boom, boom, boom and feel a vibration… it’s the course of doing business with piles.”


NoLandGrab: The article also mentions that the latest renderings were shown at last week's public forum, but no images were released to the press (the image to the right is an early rendering).

It is a testament to the pr savvy of Bruce Ratner that he and Gehry are making their mark on the Lower Manhattan skyline by building "a twisting, titanium sculpture that will rival the Woolworth Building in scale," but one has to attend a public forum to get a look at it.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

New deal lets Nets escape to Queens

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

When Nets owner and developer Bruce Ratner struck a deal to extend the lease at the Meadowlands for the team with an escape clause for moving the team to Brooklyn or Queens, we noted that developer Bruce Ratner had designs on the Willets Point plan. The Brooklyn Papers noticed that Ratner seems to be looking for a fallback position, but cites Long Island City.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has agreed to sell the development rights at the Atlantic Yards site to Ratner, also owns the larger Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City — and Queens lawmakers want it developed, too.

One, City Councilman Eric Gioia (D–Queens), has called for Ratner to build there instead of in the congested heart of Brooklyn.

“I don’t think people [would] fight this stadium,” Gioia said two years ago, when he first called for Ratner to look north.

Calls to the MTA and Gioia were not returned.


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Ratner to build City Tech tower

He’ll top off classrooms with luxury apartments

The Brooklyn Papers By Ariella Cohen

City University of New York has picked Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to build a skyscraper for New York City College of Technology’s Downtown campus — a $186-million Renzo Piano-designed facility that will include classrooms and hundreds of luxury units controlled by the developer, The Brooklyn Papers has learned.

The state will finance the CUNY portion of the development, while underwriting Ratner’s construction through bonds.

Ratner won the development rights in competition with one other builder — but state officials would not release information about either bid, nor what Ratner paid for the right to develop luxury housing at a crucial site at the corner of Jay and Tillary streets.

The majority of the residential units will be sold or rented at market rates, but Ratner’s winning bid included a commitment to reserve 20 percent of the rentals at below-market rates. That commitment would make Ratner eligible for additional subsidies.

CUNY spokesman Mike Arena said the “project deals with our academic needs, while reflecting an ambitious plan to create a stronger presence for the school in Downtown Brooklyn.” But other public officials, and Ratner’s spokespeople, declined to give details.


NoLandGrab: No one is disputing the need for CUNY to expand its presence in Brooklyn, but what we don't understand is why details of another state-subsidized plan has to be kept secret. The State and Ratner's knee-jerk no-comment pr spasms promoting secrecy only raises eyebrows.

The Brooklyn Papers editorializes on this matter:

Officials told us that Ratner beat out another developer for the lucrative contract, but would not tell us who the other would-be developer was and why Ratner’s proposal was better.

Considering that the winning bidder gets to sell luxury housing as part of the deal, it’s important to know the details of both parties’ bids.

When this administration doesn’t answer our questions, it is denying you information you need.
But its refusal to answer questions about those deals — or release documents that could let objective experts review the details — makes it impossible for the public to know whether those deals are good ones or bad ones for taxpayers.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Activist Evelyn Ortner dies at 82

The Brooklyn Papers
By Christie Rizk

Evelyn Ortner, whose four decades of preserving Brooklyn’s unique character started with a single brownstone on Berkeley Place in Park Slope and ended with her opposition to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, died Tuesday. She was 82.

An early advocate for restoring Brooklyn’s crumbling brownstone neighborhoods, Ortner — along with her husband Everett, himself a noted preservationist — reversed Park Slope’s steady decline in the 1960s and ’70s, by demanding that city and state officials protect a historical and architectural significance that others had overlooked.

“They were both pioneers and legends,” said Peg Breen, the president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which recently presented the couple with an award. “They were ahead of their time and they had great guts.”

After buying a brownstone on Berkeley Place in 1963, the Ortners began talking friends into moving into the neighborhood. They were soon fighting “urban renewal” projects that had slated most of Park Slope’s brownstones for demolition and convinced banks to start giving mortgages to prospective homeowners.

“They were the heart and soul of that movement,” said Maryann Feeney of the Park Slope Civic Council, who worked with the Ortners.
“She felt that Atlantic Yards was against most things she stood for,” says DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

“To have someone like that support what we were doing further emboldened us and showed us that what we were doing was right.”


Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM


CB6: Ratner’s mega-plan would ‘damage’ Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Atlantic Yards will cause “irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn,” members of Community Board 6 decreed last week, calling for Bruce Ratner’s mega-development to be redrawn before it is approved by state authorities.

In a series of four motions, CB6 crystallized criticisms of the scale and traffic impact of the 16-tower residential, hotel, arena and office-space development.

“Within a quarter-mile [of the arena], the population will increase by 60 percent. No mitigation scheme can prevent the dangers that such overcrowding will create,” said board member Jeff Strabone.

Atlantic Yards would bring 2,581 new cars, 14,410 residents and — on game nights — 20,500 basketball fans to Prospect Heights, according to engineers hired by the developer.

Yet even as they criticized the $4.2-billion Atlantic Yards, the board members emphasized that they supported development at the site abutting the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

September 21, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

SportsBiz - The Business of Sports Illuminated, Nets Still Heading to Brooklyn, But Renew in Jersey First

The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, of which the new arena is to be the centerpiece, has been delayed and the Nets didn't want to take any chances on problems in New Jersey, according to Nets offcicials.
The new lease agreement with New Jersey allows the team to move to Brooklyn when the project is complete without penalty. However, if for some reason, the Brooklyn porject falls through and the team wants to move somewhere else, it could be assessed penalties as high as $12.1 million.

Left Behinds, Links about crazy sh*t done by greedy people in Brooklyn
Illustrating what's wrong and what's right with the blogosphere, we're going ahead and linking a blog that's linking us linking another blog.

Via NoLandGrab, Will at onNYTurf describes how the MTA is now planning service cuts to close their deficit, in a year when they gave away $50 million in fare cuts to tourists, and are trying or tried to give away far more than that to the Jets and Bruce Ratner. Fun shit. Don't say we didn't warn you.

NoLandGrab: Back in January '06, the Left Behinds DID warn everyone of exactly the same [insert your own expletive here]. Now we're feeling ornery too.

NBACCION, Parece que los Nets retrasan su mudanza a Brooklyn

Los New Jersey Nets han llegado a un acuerdo para seguir jugando en el Continental Airlines Arena hasta el año 2013, por lo que en principio aplazan su idea original de jugar en su nuevo campo de Brooklyn la temporada 2009-1010.Si el equipo de East Rutherford decidiese abandonar el Continental Airlines Arena antes de tiempo deberá pagar una cláusula de indemnización con con cifras millonarias.En 2004 Bruce Ratner compró los Nets, y desde entonces está tratando de llevarse la franquicia a Brooklyn, que no cuenta con ninguna franquicia profesional. En el proyecto es capital el babellón para 18.000 espectadores que piensa construirse.

Translation for those whose Spanish is still limited to, "Su casa es Bruce casa."

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM


Making sense of last week’s political crapshoots

NY Press
By John DeSio

First up under the "Losers" column:

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, along with other activist groups that are vehemently opposed to Bruce Ratner’s basketball-and-skyscrapers Atlantic Yards development proposal, saw themselves on the short end of the stick last week. The two most notable candidates with the loudest anti-Atlantic Yards platforms, Chris Owens in the 11th Congressional District and Bill Batson in the 57th Assembly District, were both beaten handily with Owens finishing fourth behind Clarke, City Councilman David Yassky and State Senator Carl Andrews. Anti-development forces could take heart in one result: State Senator Velmanette Montgomery easily dispatched City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland in her race to retain her own seat.


NoLandGrab: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has taken a PR hit by coming up short on the elections.

Unfortunately, Ratner's showing in the election still leaves Brooklynites facing the same problems with the project as before: abuse of eminent domain, historic density, even more traffic congestion, massive taxpayer subsidies, rising asthma rates, crowded schools, the largest private project in NYC history going to one developer who owns all the recently developed commercial property adjacent to the plan (oh, don't get us started...).

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

CB6 Pans Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Emily Votruba

At a mostly warm-and-fuzzy Community Board 6 general meeting last Wednesday, September 13, the board reviewed and overwhelmingly agreed on four motions to be included in its written rejection of the Atlantic Yards Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Community Board 6 represents Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Gowanus, and the southwestern chunk of the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint in Boerum Hill. Community Board districts 2 and 8 represent the rest of the footprint.


Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Getting our money’s worth with Atlantic Yards? Few care, and here’s why

Atlantic Yards Report reports from the Drum Major Institute's forum on holding government and corporations accountable for public subsidies:

Who can oppose economic development, projects that bring--as Atlantic Yards proponents say--jobs, housing, and opportunity? But when major governmental subsidies are involved, the question gets more complicated. As former state Comptroller Carl McCall put it on Monday, “Somewhere along the way, someone has to say, ‘Are we getting our money’s worth?’”

Brodsky-Louis.jpgThe question hasn’t really been answered regarding the AY plan, but it’s not clear that anyone—besides a few civic groups and a journalist or two—is really asking. The panel discussion that McCall introduced, held at the Harvard Club by the Drum Major Institute, described a dysfunctional discourse in New York about such important civic issues. Reforms achieved in Minnesota, thanks to pressure from groups including unions, seem elusive here.

At the discussion, the most prolific journalistic defender of Atlantic Yards, Errol Louis of the Daily News, was chastised by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky for lacking a "principled response" to the general issue of subsidies.


Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

CUNY Readies Brooklyn Project In Partnership With Ratner

The NY Sun
By Michael Stoler

As part of the Downtown Brooklyn plan, Forest City Ratner is gearing up to develop a project for CUNY that is bigger in square feet than any single component of Atlantic Yards, except for Miss Brooklyn.

With all the hoopla surrounding the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, another significant development has been cruising stealthily below the real estate radar: The City University of New York and Forest City Ratner Companies plan to begin construction of a 1 million-square-foot mixed-use tower in the heart of downtown Brooklyn as soon as next year.


Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

In Honor and Memory of Evelyn Ortner

EvelynOrtner.jpgFrom DDDB.net:

A fighter for — and lover of — Brooklyn, architecture, communities, neighborhoods, preservation, art, justice and democracy.

DDDB was honored to have Evelyn on our Advisory Board. Her life's work is an inspiration for all of us.

We and many, many others will greatly miss her. Our thoughts are with her devoted husband and comrade Everett, and all of her friends and family.

— Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and our Advisory Board

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Pataki’s Hopes For Moynihan Being Derailed

NY Sun
By David Lombino

The Moynihan Station project is receiving more scrutiny from Albany Democrats than Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. "Governor Pataki's hopes of breaking ground on Moynihan Station before he leaves office are being derailed by Albany Democrats," such as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who have raised objections to project details.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

Rising Building Costs Send Gehry Project in Downtown Los Angeles Over Budget

The NY Times
By Jennifer Steinhauer

Escalating costs are threatening to drive architect Frank Gehry's Downtown Los Angeles project 40% over budget.

Increased construction costs have bedeviled projects on both the East and West Coasts and in cities like Las Vegas.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

September 20, 2006

MTA Loses Mind, Plans Big Service Cuts

OnNYTurf concludes that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is losing its "mind," as the agency makes plans for service cuts due to a budget crunch. The public is supposed to "get on board," even after the state agency was caught with two sets of books, gave away free rides during last December's busy tourist season and sealed deals with developers, like Bruce Ratner, after phony "open" bidding processes.


Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Brooklyn Is Burning

BklynBurning-NYMag.jpgDo Development and Brooklyn Fires Go Hand in Hand?

NY Magazine
By Mark Jacobson

The Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning and the state-sponsored Atlantic Yards project are fueling local real estate speculation. Could greedy speculators be fanning the flames as "Brooklyn is Burning?"

As the displaced survivors struggle to go on with their lives, some help comes via Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner:

Another, less-expected item was that the family of Kassoum Fofana, who’d fallen on top of Sherrie Williams the night of the 1033 fire, had a new apartment. This was good news, since the Fofanas had been more or less homeless since the fire. Weirdly, the Fofanas’ benefactor was the Forest City Ratner Companies, would-be builder of the hated Atlantic Yards project, which may do more than any fire to change the landscape of Brooklyn.

“Ratner got the Fofanas a place to live,” [Bill] Batson said, shaking his head at the irony.


Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

FCR's past plans for the railyard (and Nets), and future opportunities

Another myth-busting must-read from Atlantic Yards Report

MYTH (from NY Magazine, August 14, 2006, emphasis added):

The story of Atlantic Yards starts back in 1957, when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, breaking the heart of a 12-year-old Marty Markowitz. It took a while, but he got the chance to do something about it in 2002, when he noticed that the New Jersey Nets were for sale. Markowitz, Brooklyn’s borough president and corniest booster, began hounding Bruce Ratner, telling him that he was the perfect guy to bring big-league sports back to Brooklyn. Finally, as much to get Marty off his back as to enter the ranks of NBA ownership, Ratner launched a bid, bought the team for $300 million, and then set about figuring out what to do with his new prize.


FCR actually had toyed with a Nets plan more than a decade ago, according to Shirley Morillo's recent Columbia University master's thesis, titled "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:

In the early 1990s, in the midst of the Downtown Brooklyn planning and building cycle, the New Jersey Nets approached Forest City Ratner with a radical proposal – that he buy the team and build them a new arena on his project site. The developer initially dismissed the idea knowing that past stadium schemes had been attempted in the past and that they had failed.

The source: former Forest City Ratner executive Paul Travis.

MYTH (reported by AYR):
"The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years" — Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, 05/26/05

ATLANTIC YARDS REPORT: This myth was already busted by Norman Oder in March, 2006.

Today's post goes one step further, indicating that Forest City Ratner had designs on the railyards going back at least a decade. As Brooklyn Daily Eagle editor Dennis Holt recalls:

attending the groundbreaking for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall in the early 1990s. (The mall opened in 1996.) Within the press packet was an aerial photo of the development site, just north of Atlantic Avenue and part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA).

Superimposed on the photo, Holt recalled, was an arrow pointing to the MTA's railyard just to the south, between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, with the statement, "Potential office building site."


Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

The Frank Gehry-inspired toaster

GehryToaster.jpgWhat would a Frank Gehry toaster look like? A crumpled up toaster (duh!).

It was inevitable that someone would design the Frank Gehry-inspired toaster.

Since Gehry is known for creating environmental hazards caused by the heating of the titanium panels, we do not recommend laying hands on the toaster while in use.

In a purely juvenile exercise, we wondered what Bruce Ratner's toaster-shaped Atlantic Terminal toaster would have looked like if it had been designed by Gehry.


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

“There is progress everywhere” —Frank O. Gehry

Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader explains how Gehry's use of aerospace engineering tools as architectural design tools has changed the relationship between the architect and tradesmen. The future doesn't look as bright for Atlantic Yards's most vociferous supporters.

As Andrew Friedman reported in his evisceration of the Gehry spectacle in The Baffler a couple years ago, Gehry once said that his achievement has been to thrust the architect into a position of power over the myriad parties involved in construction of large projects because of his technological advances, specifically CATIA. ...
The workforce for a mega-project such as this one will be significantly smaller than it would be if Gehry were not the chosen architect. Rather than an army of Brooklyn locals engineering and building the project on-site, the buildings will be designed on computers, under Gehry’s direction, in California. Many pieces of the buildings will be prefabricated elsewhere (in China?) by subcontractors that have demonstrated their fidelity to Gehry’s economic and technological vision.


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Want To Keep Your NBA Team? Better Fix Up That Arena

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

Summer vacation is nearly over for NBA Commissioner David Stern in terms of on-court action, but Stern is facing more than a few concerns as training camp approaches. There are a number of franchises — including Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Brooklyn, and Orlando — that are still looking to resolve or negotiate arena deals. But finding a solution that will satisfy owners, customers, fans, and local politicians alike will not be easy.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Nets owner Bruce Ratner is still trying to win community support for his arena and mixed-use residential/commercial neighborhood plan. Ratner had hoped to move his Nets out of New Jersey by 2008, but that’s not happening. Ratner will probably be in New Jersey through 2010, maybe longer, or could wind up in the New Jersey Devils’ Newark Arena should the Brooklyn plan fizzle out.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Real Estate Observer links yesterday's NY Times article about the NJ Nets lease extension in the Meadowlands from this brief:

The Nets (whose stars include 'Jefferson Thomas') have extended their lease at New Jersey's un-glamorous Continental Arena through 2013. They can bail out, though, as soon as Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards glass arena is ready, which should be anytime now. (New York Times)

Left Behinds, Atlantic Yards simulations
Links to the Sim Center visual comparisons between Atlantic Yards and less overdevelopment-friendly alternatives.

Dealscape, If Brooklyn doesn't work out...

If the move to Brooklyn for the National Basketball Association franchise Nets doesn't work out, does the name the Queens Nets have a ring to it?
What's interesting to note, a summary of terms provided by the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority stated if the team were to move anywhere besides Brooklyn or Queens they would have to pay an escape fee. Did they say Queens?

Note: Forest City is one of the finalists bidding for the Willets Point project in Queens.

UPDATE: The DealScape link isn't working, so the entire text is published after the jump.

If the move to Brooklyn for the National Basketball Association franchise Nets doesn't work out, does the name the Queens Nets have a ring to it? The Nets made contingency plans Sept. 18 extending their lease at Continental Arena in New Jersey though the 2012-2013 season. For the Nets, the move is an insurance policy against the possibility of a delay in the finish of the planned 19,000-seat stadium in downtown Brooklyn. What's interesting to note, a summary of terms provided by the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority stated if the team were to move anywhere besides Brooklyn or Queens they would have to pay an escape fee. Did they say Queens? It's been widely reported Nets owner Bruce Ratner wanted to move the Nets to Brooklyn but Queens was never on the radar screen. The option would be a good second choice. Queens is accessible by the subway and has proven it has enough of a sporting fans base, financially buoying the Mets and U.S. Open for years. So, if Brooklyn doesn't work out, maybe Queens isn't such a bad idea ... — Gerald Magpily

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Gerrymandered To Serve King Friday's Make-Believe Agenda

The Onion

Brooklyn is not alone when it comes to facing government-sponsored overdevelopment schemes.

MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD, PA—A plan to radically redistrict Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood to further cement the control of the powerful King Friday XIII political machine is expected to pass this week and deeply affect current taxation structure, voting patterns, and services. "Meow-me-meow can't afford meow property tax as it stands now meow, and meow don't want everything I've worked for to be destroyed meow," said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. Among the anticipated changes are sharp cutbacks in speedy deliveries, the elimination of trolley routes to such low-income districts as Someplace Else and the platypus mound, as well as the destruction of the Museum-Go-Round to make room for a massive new headquarters for The Electric Company.


NoLandGrab: We knew that King Friday would want to get a piece of the action after Mr. Ratner got his own cardigan.

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

September 19, 2006

Final Atlantic Yards Forum

WNYC "scooped" the rest of the local media by covering the final community forum as a race and class conflict:

Supporters - mostly minorities and from low-income backgrounds - said the project will bring good jobs and affordable housing. Opponents - predominantly white and middle class - say the construction of 16 high rises and a sports arena will hurt the environment and destroy their borough of neighborhoods by changing its landscape.


NoLandGrab: Have any reporters asked themselves why developer Bruce Ratner hasn't given financial support to white middle class groups in exchange for their support of the project?

Posted by lumi at 5:58 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Big Cities Big Boxes, Community Board 6 Rejects Atlantic Yards

CB 6's opposition to the project could not be more clear.

Daily Gotham, Atlantic Yards Development: Become Part of the Process

This is NOT a conflict between pro- and anti-development groups. This is a conflict between pro- and anti-Ratner forces. Ratner is a private developer out for his own gain who just happens to be a law school buddy of Pataki's. He has been given this project through an unfair and corrupt process that does not measure up to free market standards, let alone community standards. The Ratner plan does not adequately provide for the massive impact of this scale of development on sewage volume, traffic, public transportation, classrooms, fire house coverage, etc. The DEIS report DOES NOT ADDRESS THESE ISSUES.

Sail Brooklyn, 2006 Atlantic Antic

We were not surprised to see some representatives who are lobbying strongly against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. Representatives from Develop don't Destroy and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods were there to inform the public about the the current plan for the Atlantic Yards site, alternative plans and ways to make your voice heard for people opposed to the current plan of action for the Atlantic Yards site.

The Generalist, Putting the Atlantic Yards online
The Generalist explains to a friend who has some "mixed feelings" about the Atlantic Yards project that:

according to the current plan to “demap” certain streets in the footprint, the section of Pacific Street where she had parked her car would be center court of the Nets arena by October 2009, Ms. Whaley’s jaw dropped: “No, really?”

Most Brooklynites have an opinion about AY, but from my unscientific experience it seems that the further you move from the “footprint” of the Atlantic Yards, the less people know about how big the project will be and how much it will change that 7 block section of Brooklyn (leaving aside any spill-over effects it may have on other neighborhoods).

The Generalist then explains that most blogs (we assume that includes NLG) don't go far enough with their online presentation of the plan.

NoLandGrab: To be fair, the General Project Plan wasn't released until two months ago, and even now, a full accounting of what the project will look like doesn't exist; nevermind that Ratner has submitted two versions to the state. But some of what is being suggested by The Generalist is starting to surface, with more to come. Regretfully, it is being produced in people's spare time.

Green Party of Monroe County, Walk Don't Destroy 2

Local "Greenie," B. Colby Hamilton, is seeking help from other Green Party members in his effort to raise money for the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon. Link to his fundraising page.

NetsDaily Blog, “Our long term objective is to build the Nets basketball team into a great franchise”
The official NJ Nets blog pulls quotes from last week's Forest City Ratner investor analyst conference call and offers this explanation of the ownership structure of the team:

While Bruce Ratner is the Nets’ “principal owner”, he owns only 7% of the franchise. His parent company, Forest City Enterprises, owns more than 20% and is easily the biggest stockholder in the franchise. Ratner’s extended family–mostly his Cleveland cousins–control the company. FCE is also responsible for more than 30% of the team’s losses under the partnership agreement that controls the Nets. So several comments by FCE officials during a conference call for investors earlier this week appear quite noteworthy. One by the company’s finance chief is particularly encouraging for Nets fans. In spite of continuing losses, he stated the company’s “long term objective is to build the Nets basketball team into a great franchise”.

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Reports from the last "Community Forum"

Power Plays (political blog of The Village Voice), Duck! It's Ratner Season in Brooklyn

The first two installments of the public hearings on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project were less than hugely informative—the first, on August 23, quickly deteriorated into a yellfest, while the second, on primary night, was mostly attended by people disguised as empty seats. So yesterday's rubber match promised to be an opportunity to finally weigh reasoned arguments for and against the 8.7-million-square-foot megaproject.

Yeah, right. While reason wasn't entirely absent—except maybe from the carpenter's union honcho who gave Bruce Ratner credit for Smith Street's restaurant row—the arguments were almost entirely of the apples vs. oranges variety. You could peg which side speakers were on by which buzzwords appeared in their first sentence: If they mentioned "jobs" or "affordable housing" they were pro, "traffic" or "scale" and they were con.

ESDCHearing-AYR01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report, At final AY forum, three voids—and some warnings about schools

Yesterday’s third and final public meeting on the Atlantic Yards plan, held by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), was in several ways a rerun of the points raised at the epic Aug. 23 public hearing and the barely-attended Sept. 12 community forum.

Some powerful testimony came from Mary-Powel Thomas, president of the District 15 Community Education Council, which includes part of the proposed AY site. Thomas warned that the DEIS uses two-year-old figures that are already stale. “The Brooklyn High School of the Arts, for instance, is shown at 47% of capacity. But last year a middle school moved into that building,” she said. “The high school is now bursting at the seams, with classes of 34 students.”

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

CONFIDENTIAL: Proposal Manager Wanted

A "CONFIDENTIAL" employer is seeking a Proposal Manager. If you're interested, "send letter, resume and salary requirements to: careers@akrf.com." [AKRF is the environmental engineering firm that authored the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.]

Stay tuned — the "confidential employer" may soon be seeking a human resources manager who pays close attention to detail.

Here's the description:

Marketing PROPOSAL MANAGER Prominent NYC environmental consulting firm seeks proposal mgr with 5- 7 years exp in the A/E/C industry. Must be energetic and able to manage high volume of submissions for EOIs, RFQs, and RFPs. Demonstrated success in developing winning themes and proposal/presentation strategies essential. Exp in corporate communications/PR pref. Must be proficient in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Quark; Indesign a plus. Must be able to multi-task under pressure. Excell oral/written communication skills essential; BA in English, Journalism or Marketing pref. Friendly, casual but hardworking environ. Excell benefits. Send letter, resume & sal reqs to: careers@akrf.com or to HR Dept, 440 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016 EOE AKRF, Inc.


AKRF has a non-confidential job listing as well:

Prominent NYC environmental/planning/engineering consulting firm seeks experienced (5+years) environmental engineer/scientist/civil engineer to work on major public works projects. Must have project management experience working with public agencies and with CEQR/SEQR or local equivalent. Technical environmental knowledge a plus. Ideal candidate must be a creative problem solver with ability to see unique solutions. Superb oral/written communication skills essential.


We offer a competitive salary commensurate with exp, an excellent benefits package and opportunity for career growth. Enjoy a casual, friendly but hardworking environment. Please send letter, resume and salary requirements to: careers@akrf.com or Human Resources, AKRF, Inc., 44O Park Awe South, New York, NY 10016. www.akrf.com EOE

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Bruce Ratner extends Meadowlands lease for NJ Nets

The official position is that the NJ Nets are still moving to Brooklyn for the 2009-2010 season, and "responsible planning" is the only reason they signed a lease extension with an option to stay at the Meadowlands through the 2012-2013 season.

Had Bruce Ratner tipped his hat to "responsible planning" in the first place, the team might have been gearing up for its debut next month, as originally planned.

Here's the coverage:
The NY Times, With an Eye Toward New Brooklyn Arena, Nets Extend Lease in New Jersey
NY Daily News, Nets extend N.J. lease
AP via The Journal News, Nets not leaving so soon

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Atlantic Yards on WBAI this morning

From NY Daily News, Radio, by David Hinckley

Deepa Fernandes' morning show on WBAI (99.5 FM) today looks at software piracy and the huge Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

September 18, 2006

At the Atlantic Antic: Nets promos, luxury housing, and some tough principles on AY

Atlantic Yards Report

This Sunday, the Atlantic Antic became the backdrop for the fight over Atlantic Yards and Norman Oder was there to take it all in: AtlanticAntic-AYR.jpg

With Forest City Ratner as a sponsor, there was heavy promotion for the developer's malls and Atlantic Yards project. The company sponsored three tables. Though each table promoted the Nets and the AY project, the first focused on the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls; I got a mug, a pencil, a keychain, and a mini-radio, all co-branded, in one fell swoop.
Was it a coincidence that the drumline gathered near the table of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the coalition opposing the Atlantic Yards plan? Well, the drummers were shepherded down Atlantic Avenue by two p.r. people who work for the developer.

NoLandGrab: It probably wasn't a coincidence, but it was a nice touch. Bruce Ratner has repeatedly demonstrated that he will use any means necessary to drown out concerns of actual residents in the existing neighborhoods.

Also in Oder's article, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods had a table featuring a Google Earth "flyover" of the project and an opportunity for concerned residents to videotape testimony to submit to the Empire State Development Corporation; and the "Boerum Hill Association distributed some detailed principles that would lead to significant modification--and possibly a scrapping--of the AY plan."


Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Doubts about Atlantic Yards poll

Project poll misses mark

Crain's NY Business, Letter to the Editor

Published on September 18, 2006

The Crain's poll purporting to show that 60% of New Yorkers approve of the Atlantic Yards project is biased (Sept. 4). Crain's doesn't report that 60% of survey respondent have doubts about the cost to the city, 58% question the scale and 72% have problems with the approval process.

The first clue that something's wrong with the poll is the first question: "How closely have you been following news about the Atlantic Yards development project?" Fifty-six percent say they haven't been following it at all. In other words, most respondents will learn what they know about the project from the questionnaire itself.

And the questions are leading. The question that got 60% of respondents saying they're somewhat or very favorable describes the existing site in negative terms. In a seeming attempt at balance, the survey asks three questions focused on criticisms and three about the project's purported benefits. In responses to the criticism, the researchers lump those expressing "some doubts" as being favorable.

The three questions about claimed benefits--affordable housing, construction jobs and bringing professional sports to Brooklyn--questions on which New Yorkers are more likely to have consensus, leave no middle ground for "some doubts," and the results sound more positive.

After hearing about benefits, respondents are asked if they approve of the project; their answers, of course, follow the script.

Daniel Goldstein
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Insider deals

The NY Daily News published a letter to the editor that points out one of the ideological problems plaguing Atlantic Yards supporters:

Brooklyn: Your endorsement of Eliot Spitzer cited the need for "responsive people's government" without "overspending" and control by "insiders." That type of government-by-cronyism gave us Atlantic Yards, a project you can't stop praising. Make up your mind.

Julie Rosenberg


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

NY Times Weddings

What does it take to get your wedding announcement into the NY Times? An Ivy League education is great for starters, but working for Bruce Ratner, who is a partner with the paper in the Times Tower, doesn't hurt.


NoLandGrab: What does this have to do with Atlanic Yards? Well, um, nothing, except for the fact that Bruce Ratner is like the "biggest guy around" and the NoLandGrab style section has been a little weak in the past couple of months.

Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Costco Fails Again in Bid for a Manhattan Foothold

The NY Times

Last month, Bruce Ratner and Edward Blumenfeld, partners in the East River Plaza project, gave Costco the heave ho and signed a deal with Tar-zhay.

Costco, along with Home Depot, was part of the deal when the City Council approved the land-use plan for the 485,000-square-foot shopping center in 1999.

Last month, however, Jeffrey H. Brotman, Costco’s chairman, took a call at his headquarters in Issaquah, Wash., from Bruce C. Ratner and Edward Blumenfeld, the developers of East River Plaza. Target, not Costco, would open a 135,000-square-foot store on the second floor of the shopping center, and there was no chance for a counteroffer because the lease had been signed.

“I was really angry,’’ Mr. Brotman said. “From Bruce I didn’t expect it.’’


NoLandGrab: For the record, this article DOES include a disclosure of the business relationship between the NY Times and Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

September 17, 2006

Progressive Democrat Issue 87: THOUGHTS

Mole's Progressive Democrat

Ratner's project permeated this year's elections, with some candidates being funded by Ratner specifically to eliminate veteran politicians who oppose him. Mostly he failed, but my Congressional race pitted a single candidate (Chris Owens) who opposed awarding the contract to Ratner, favoring the more community-based development plans for the region, against three candidates who supported giving the contract to Ratner. Ratner's biggest supporter in the race won. She won because unions have accepted Ratners promise of jobs almost without question. In effect, labor in NYC has become almost virulently hostile towards local progressives and community activists to the benefit of an extremely wealthy and corrupt developer all over some vague promises of jobs and affordable housing. The winner of the Congressional race, Yvette Clarke, won because of this union support. In truth, Chris Owens was by far the most pro-labor candidate in the traditional sense. But because a wealthy developer makes a few promises, unions abandon traditional pro-labor supporters in favor of someone who supports a corrupt and unfair process to award Ratner his dream project.

I should note that Ratner's previous projects have largely been failures, never filling up office space, creating few union jobs and providing not a single unit of affordable housing.


Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

Reflections on the Brooklyn Congressional Races

Our Time Press
Danielle Douglas

While everybody was up in arms about one of the three Black candidates dropping out of the 11th CD race, not enough stink was made about Green dropping out of the 10th, and there should have been. From the start, Barron always had more foot soldiers and more of a presence throughout the race than Green.

I'm almost positive that Green voters were Atlantic Yards supporters, who may not have backed the anti-ATY Barron if given a chance. But it's still probable that at least 8% of those folks may have seen the bigger picture and realize that having Towns remain in Congress is to the community's detriment. Oh well.,next time Barron,.next time.

As the New York Daily News/ Our Time Press columnist Errol Louis stated in his recent piece, the Atlantic Yards Project was really the biggest winner. Except for Velmanette Montgomery, none of the adamantly opposed ATY candidates won their races. Unlike Louis, I don't believe this necessarily suggests that most people want this project. The results reflect the acceptance that the project will go forward and the best thing to do at this point is select a candidate that will fight for as many concessions as possible. What everyone needs to focus on right now is ensuring that Forest City Ratner agrees to make the Community Benefits Agreement a legally binding document.


Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

Two panels of interest this week

Atlantic Yards Report:

On Monday morning in Manhattan (8 a.m.), the Drum Major Institute (DMI) will be sponsoring a panel on Increasing accountability for economic development subsidies, featuring former Minnesota State Senator John Hottinger. The senator sponsored a groundbreaking Minnesota law that requires that companies that receive public subsidies but fail to reach promised job creation goals repay the subsidy with interest.

A panel discussion on the implications of Hottinger’s work to New York will feature:
Errol Louis, Columnist, New York Daily News
Hon. Richard Brodsky, New York State Assembly
Adrianne Shropshire, DMI Fellow and Executive Director, New York Jobs with Justice.
BCAT panel

Also this week I'll be part of Reporter Roundtable, a 30-minute public affairs show on BCAT/Brooklyn Community Access Television. The topic: Atlantic Yards. The host is Gersh Kuntzman, editor of the Brooklyn Papers, which has often looked skeptically at the AY project, and the other panelist is Dennis Holt, senior editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which has often enthusiastically endorsed the project.

We'll be taping the show on Tuesday, the day after the second and final community forum on the plan. The show airs on Friday night at 9 pm and repeats several times.


Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

Instant gentrification at AY? The numbers are stark


Atlantic Yards Report:

84% of the 6860 proposed units would go to households that earn more than the neighborhood's median income. Now the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has prepared a handy chart, as part of a slideshow about the project's environmental impacts. The chart compares the household income distribution in the AY plan with that in the 3/4-mile area around it, and the contrasts are striking.


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

September 16, 2006

Loud & Clear: CB6 Rejects Atlantic Yards


Gary Buiso

Reasoning that the Atlantic Yards development will cause “irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn,” Community Board 6 this week overwhelmingly rejected the controversial project.
In its second motion, the board objected to the project from a procedural standpoint, agreeing that there has been, “a failure to involve the community board and the community in a meaningful way; misleading and overstating the involvement of the public in the process.”

Moreover, the board reasoned, there was “a failure to provide adequate or sufficient time for the public to review the [plan] and the DEIS.”

In its third motion, the board took aim at the complicated DEIS, saying that its scope is “insufficient, inadequate or questionable,” and that there has been insufficient modeling to predict future impacts on traffic, sewer, and public safety, to name a few.


Posted by amy at 3:48 PM

Many Thrilled to Blow Ratner’s Horn - 2nd Public Hearing Fails to Draw Significant Crowd On Primary Day

Although Stephen Witt declares that "even God is on developer Bruce Ratner’s side," some opponents showed up at last week's 'forum' despite the conflicts of primary day and the boycott:

Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council, said more subsidies should go into manufacturing jobs instead of to FCR, particularly at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Howard also lambasted the trade unions for not hiring enough minorities and said after construction, the FCR development would bring mainly lower-paying service jobs.


Posted by amy at 3:39 PM

Jeffries Heading to Albany

Stephen Witt

In specific regard to the Atlantic Yards project, Jeffries said his election was a triumph for a thoughtful approach to the development.

“An approach not designed to polarize the community, but to bring the community together, and beginning tomorrow we’re going to work to that end,” said Jeffries.

“I think it was important because of the decisiveness of the victory that thoughtfulness prevailed as it relates to this project as opposed to a divisive approach,” he added.

Jeffries also echoed Borough President Marty Makowitz’s position that no building in the project be higher than the Williamsburg Savings Bank.


Posted by amy at 3:34 PM

"Atlantic Yards win by a mile"? The evidence isn't there


Atlantic Yards Report responds to the Daily News editorial:

Yes Jeffries earned a much higher percentage of the votes, but he had a much longer history among voters, had at least three times as much money as Batson, had union and ACORN support, and his total of 5770 was only 2359 more votes than he earned in 2002. He earned votes from 9.6% of the Democrats in the 57th district.

Jeffries says he didn't change his position. Perhaps, but he certainly changed his promotion of his position, from a cautious text ad in the spring to one, as the election approached, with dramatic graphics and language. (Note that ad at right is augmented with box at the bottom.)

It's a victory, but it's hardly a definitive sign of Atlantic Yards support. After all, Freddie Hamilton, an unabashed supporter of the project, won only 1008 votes. A "win by a mile" would have carried Hamilton to the top. Rather, undecided voters might have voted for Jeffries based on his advertised call to scale down the project, fight eminent domain, and delay the deliberations.


Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

September 15, 2006

MTA: Hudson Yards

HudsonYards02.jpgTossing the MTA's Hudson Yards around like a political football for three seasons has exposed the surreal nature of NY State's public authorities.

Gone are the bad ole days when the MTA was able to quietly give away development rights, like the deal scored by Bruce Ratner for the Atlantic Terminal mall. The City and State overreached on the West Side Stadium deal and now the "smell test" is being applied to every move to strike a deal for the Hudson Railyards.

Meanwhile, it stinks in Brooklyn, as Bruce Ratner's low bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards still stands.

Here's the coverage on yesterday's Hudson Yards hearing, at which Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) grilled MTA chief Peter Kalikow for over an hour:
Metro NY, MTA’s ‘smell test’
NY Daily News, Railyards deal not on track
NY Sun, Assembly Member Wants Hudson Rail Yards Opened Up to Bids From Private Developers
WNYC, Kalikow Asked to Consider Other Bids for West Side Rail Yards

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Forest City CEO: Crain's poll a boost after New York mag article

FCE-OBrian.jpg Atlantic Yards Report listened in on the Forest City Enterprises (FCE) September 12th analyst conference call.

FCE exec Bob O'Brian outlined the process:

As we’ve indicated previously, we’ve acquired the vast majority of the land in Brooklyn necessary for the development. In the second quarter, the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] certified the draft EIS—environmental impact statement—adopted the General Project Plan, and authorized a public hearing. The first public hearing occurred in August and we expect a final ruling on approval of the EIS before the end of the year.

Joanne MinieriForest City Ratner's (FCR) Joanne Minieri added:

We are in the ESDC approval process. We’ve had a public hearing in August. There will be two more community forums, and basically by September 29, the record will be closed for all public comment. We expect that within the last few weeks of November, ESDC will move to get the Public Authorities Control Board approval for the project. Right now, we’re basically receiving public comment and the state and city are reacting to them.

Charles RatnerHead honcho Chuck Ratner mentioned the favorable results of the recent Crain's poll to combat negative publicity from this summer's New York Magazine article.

The official position on the FCE/FCR restructuring deal is that, "provides Bruce [Ratner], who is now 61 years old, with greater liquidity and a marketable asset for his estate planning.”

No one mentioned the law suits to be filed over eminent domain and the environmental review or the fact that Bruce Ratner has been having some trouble raising capital for the Atlantic Yards project.

Bruce Ratnerarticle

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Atlantic Yards win by a mile

Today's NY Daily News lead editorial points out that:

Candidates who back the [Atlantic Yards] development won in four of the contests - and the fifth went to one of Albany's impregnable incumbents.
Add these election results to recent polls, and the result is the same: A solid majority of Brooklynites want the thousands of jobs and affordable-housing units that are included in Atlantic Yards. And the opponents have revealed themselves, once again, to be a small but vocal group that uses press conferences, blogs and bluster to disguise thin support in the neighborhoods they so often claim to represent.


NoLandGrab: If Atlantic Yards critics are as small and insignificant as the Daily News editorial board says, then why does the board even bother paying attention? Hey, no one is forced to read a blog. We think they doth protest too much.

Seriously, at least we aren't burning money on deceptive flyers and insuring "support" from community groups.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Senate has Fourteen days to pass eminent domain legislation

From the Institute for Justice.:

Last week, Senator James Inhofe introduced S. 3873, the "Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2006." This bill is identical to the House of Representatives' terrific eminent domain reform bill, H.R. 4128, which has been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee since it passed the House last November by an overwhelming majority of 376-38. S. 3873 - which is now the vehicle for eminent domain reform in Congress - will go straight to the floor of the Senate, bypassing the hold-ups other eminent domain bills are encountering in the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will not put eminent domain reform on the Senate's agenda, effectively prohibiting the Senate from voting on this bill!

There are only 15 DAYS LEFT (now it's more like 14 days) before the Senate adjourns. It is more important than ever that you make your voices heard. Call Senator Frist NOW and ask him to put S. 3873, federal eminent domain reform, on the Senate's agenda and allow a vote. Explain that the American people are strongly opposed to the abuse of eminent domain, both politically and morally - and this opposition will only continue to grow. Then contact your own two senators and urge them to support S. 3873. You can find their phone numbers at the end of this e-mail. If you have the time, we also encourage you to send an e-mail to Frist and your senators by clicking on the following link: https://action.popuvox.com/default.aspx?actionID=286.

  1. Contact Senator Bill Frist at 202-224-3344
  2. Contact both of your own senators (phone numbers are listed after the jump)


ALASKA Murkowski, Lisa (R - AK): (202) 224-6665 Stevens, Ted (R - AK): (202) 224-3004

ALABAMA Sessions, Jeff (R - AL): (202) 224-4124 Shelby, Richard C. (R - AL): (202) 224-5744

ARKANSAS Lincoln, Blanche L. (D - AR): (202) 224-4843 Pryor, Mark L. (D - AR): (202) 224-2353

ARIZONA Kyl, Jon (R - AZ): (202) 224-4521 McCain, John (R - AZ): (202) 224-2235

CALIFORNIA Boxer, Barbara (D - CA): (202) 224-3553 Feinstein, Dianne (D - CA): (202) 224-3841

COLORADO Allard, Wayne (R - CO): (202) 224-5941 Salazar, Ken (D - CO): (202) 224-5852

CONNECTICUT Dodd, Christopher J. (D - CT): (202) 224-2823 Lieberman, Joseph I. (D - CT): (202) 224-4041

DELAWARE Biden, Joseph R., Jr. (D - DE): (202) 224-5042 Carper, Thomas R. (D - DE): (202) 224-2441

FLORIDA Martinez, Mel (R - FL): (202) 224-3041 Nelson, Bill (D - FL): (202) 224-5274

GEORGIA Chambliss, Saxby (R - GA): (202) 224-3521 Isakson, Johnny (R - GA): (202) 224-3643

HAWAII Akaka, Daniel K. (D - HI): (202) 224-6361 Inouye, Daniel K. (D - HI): (202) 224-3934

IOWA Grassley, Chuck (R - IA): (202) 224-3744 Harkin, Tom (D - IA): (202) 224-3254

IDAHO Craig, Larry E. (R - ID): (202) 224-2752 Crapo, Mike (R - ID): (202) 224-6142

ILLINOIS Durbin, Richard (D - IL): (202) 224-2152 Obama, Barack (D - IL): (202) 224-2854

INDIANA Bayh, Evan (D - IN): (202) 224-5623 Lugar, Richard G. (R - IN): (202) 224-4814

KANSAS Brownback, Sam (R - KS): (202) 224-6521 Roberts, Pat (R - KS): (202) 224-4774

KENTUCKY Bunning, Jim (R - KY): (202) 224-4343 McConnell, Mitch (R - KY): (202) 224-2541

LOUISIANA Landrieu, Mary L. (D - LA): (202) 224-5824 Vitter, David (R - LA): (202) 224-4623

MASSACHUSETTS Kennedy, Edward M. (D - MA): (202) 224-4543 Kerry, John F. (D - MA): (202) 224-2742

MARYLAND Mikulski, Barbara A. (D - MD): (202) 224-4654 Sarbanes, Paul S. (D - MD): (202) 224-4524

MAINE Collins, Susan M. (R - ME): (202) 224-2523 Snowe, Olympia J. (R - ME): (202) 224-5344

MICHIGAN Levin, Carl (D - MI): (202) 224-6221 Stabenow, Debbie (D - MI): (202) 224-4822

MINNESOTA Coleman, Norm (R - MN): (202) 224-5641 Dayton, Mark (D - MN): (202) 224-3244

MISSOURI Bond, Christopher S. (R - MO): (202) 224-5721 Talent, James M. (R - MO): (202) 224-6154

MISSISSIPPI Cochran, Thad (R - MS): (202) 224-5054 Lott, Trent (R - MS): (202) 224-6253

MONTANA Baucus, Max (D - MT): (202) 224-2651 Burns, Conrad (R - MT): (202) 224-2644

NORTH CAROLINA Burr, Richard (R - NC): (202) 224-3154 Dole, Elizabeth (R - NC): (202) 224-6342

NORTH DAKOTA Conrad, Kent (D - ND): (202) 224-2043 Dorgan, Byron L. (D - ND): (202) 224-2551

NEBRASKA Hagel, Chuck (R - NE): (202) 224-4224 Nelson, E. Benjamin (D - NE): (202) 224-6551

NEW HAMPSHIRE Gregg, Judd (R - NH): (202) 224-3324 Sununu, John E. (R - NH): (202) 224-2841

NEW JERSEY Lautenberg, Frank R. (D - NJ): (202) 224-3224 Menendez, Robert (D - NJ): (202) 224-4744

NEW MEXICO Bingaman, Jeff (D - NM): (202) 224-5521 Domenici, Pete V. (R - NM): (202) 224-6621

NEVADA Ensign, John (R - NV): (202) 224-6244 Reid, Harry (D - NV): (202) 224-3542

NEW YORK Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D - NY): (202) 224-4451 Schumer, Charles E. (D - NY): (202) 224-6542

OHIO DeWine, Mike (R - OH): (202) 224-2315 Voinovich, George V. (R - OH): (202) 224-3353

OKLAHOMA Coburn, Tom (R - OK): (202) 224-5754 Inhofe, James M. (R - OK): (202) 224-4721

OREGON Smith, Gordon H. (R - OR): (202) 224-3753 Wyden, Ron (D - OR): (202) 224-5244

PENNSYLVANIA Santorum, Rick (R - PA): (202) 224-6324 Specter, Arlen (R - PA): (202) 224-4254

RHODE ISLAND Chafee, Lincoln (R - RI): (202) 224-2921 Reed, Jack (D - RI): (202) 224-4642

SOUTH CAROLINA DeMint, Jim (R - SC): (202) 224-6121 Graham, Lindsey (R - SC): (202) 224-5972

SOUTH DAKOTA Johnson, Tim (D - SD): (202) 224-5842 Thune, John (R - SD): (202) 224-2321

TENNESSEE Alexander, Lamar (R - TN): (202) 224-4944 Frist, William H. (R - TN): (202) 224-3344

TEXAS Cornyn, John (R - TX): (202) 224-2934 Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R - TX): (202) 224-5922

UTAH Bennett, Robert F. (R - UT): (202) 224-5444 Hatch, Orrin G. (R - UT): (202) 224-5251

VIRGINIA Allen, George (R - VA): (202) 224-4024 Warner, John (R - VA): (202) 224-2023

VERMONT Jeffords, James M. (I - VT): (202) 224-5141 Leahy, Patrick J. (D - VT): (202) 224-4242

WASHINGTON Cantwell, Maria- (D - WA): (202) 224-3441 Murray, Patty (D - WA): (202) 224-2621

WISCONSIN Feingold, Russell D. (D - WI): (202) 224-5323 Kohl, Herb (D - WI): (202) 224-5653

WEST VIRGINIA Byrd, Robert C. (D - WV): (202) 224-3954 Rockefeller, John D. (D - WV): (202) 224-6472

WYOMING Enzi, Michael B. (R - WY): (202) 224-3424 Thomas, Craig (R - WY): (202) 224-6441

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Letter to the Editor, Our Time Press

Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader's unpublished letter to the editor of Our Time Press addresses columnist Errol Louis's reference to Metrotech, pointing out that eminent domain used for the project removed valuable blue-collar jobs from the community, the very community which Atlantic Yards claims to benefit:

Third, and most gravely, Mr. Louis fails to mention that one of the buildings razed with Mr. Ratner’s cherished eminent domain to build MetroTech was a factory, American Safety Razor Co.

Surely no yuppies worked there, but many of the 1,500-plus workforce staged sit-ins and other more aggressive protests against the removal of the factory. These were regular folk from the community, the type whom Mr. Louis believes Mr. Ratner’s current project will help. Deindustrialization in Brooklyn is a long and sordid tale, related to global economic trends as well as to municipal politics, so the blame cannot be dropped entirely at Mr. Ratner’s opportunistic feet. But it would be a mistake to think that the back-office jobs offered by companies that relocated to MetroTech or, perhaps someday to the Atlantic Yards, offer economic salvation to Brooklyn’s minority communities devastated by the loss of blue-collar employment. If anything, these jobs, and the accompanying condos, will bring more yuppies.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Jay-Z ends 'the worst retirement in history'

Jay-Z-Beyonce.jpgAP, via CNN

Call him the Michael Jordan of rap. Jay-Z, who declared that 2003's "The Black Album" would be his last, is coming out retirement and releasing a new CD.

"Kingdom Come" will hit stores this fall, Entertainment Weekly magazine reports in its new issue, due on newsstands Monday.

"It was the worst retirement in history," Jay told the magazine.

Actually, his post-retirement career looked pretty good. In 2004, the rap icon (real name: Shawn Carter) became president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. He became part owner of the New Jersey Nets that same year. Also on his resume: Not-So-Secret Boyfriend of Beyonce.


NoLandGrab: It's unlikely that his cash sucking investment in the Nets had anything to do with his decision to get back to work.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

September 14, 2006

It’s Clarke!

Analysis: How Yvette won the Fightin’ 11th

Clarke-win.jpgThe Brooklyn Papers
By Dana Rubenstein and Arielle Cohen

Analysis of the 11th District Congressional race shows that several factors led to Yvette Clarke's victory: union endorsements, growing power in the Caribbean community, a non-existent white vote and Yassky's tepid position for Atlantic Yards (or was it against?).


Posted by lumi at 11:18 PM

Big win sends Hakeem to Assembly

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

The race for an Assembly seat in Prospect Heights — the epicenter of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development — was won in a landslide by a supporter of the project.

Hakeem Jeffries took the three-way contest with a stunning 64 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Community Board 8 member Bill Batson, a Yards foe, got 24 percent, and Freddie Hamilton got 11 percent.

“Atlantic Yards is important, but it is not the only issue in this district,” said Jeffries.


Posted by lumi at 11:16 PM

Jeffries, Unmoved

The Daily Politics

This bit about whether or not Jeffries had softened his pro-Atlantic Yards stance was edited out of today's Ben Smith column, but was posted on his blog:

Since Hakeem Jeffries's victory in a key Assembly race that focused on the Atlantic Yards project, opponents have been claiming that Jeffries -- whom they campaigned against as pro-development -- had actually "moved" on the issue, and into their camp, as Tish James put it to me yesterday.

Jeffries wasn't really buying that.

“I don’t think so,” responded Jeffries. “It’s not an unexpected spin from someone who was on the other side of this campaign. But the position that the other side taken is that I was a supporter [of the project]. If on September 12 I was a supporter, it’s interesting that she thinks I’ve moved on September 13.”


Posted by lumi at 11:11 PM

Montgomery beats phantom opponent

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

A former City Councilwoman, Boyland ran a stealth campaign — she had no office, didn’t file campaign finance reports, had volunteers who disseminated inaccurate information, and didn’t return calls from reporters.
Last week, Boyland told The Brooklyn Papers that she had received “help” from the developer, but would not say if the help was financial.


Posted by lumi at 11:03 PM

Low turnout at Ratner hearing

ESDC-CommForum01.jpgThe Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

One group of Atlantic Yards opponents boycotted, and another group of over-eager public speakers — elected officials — was otherwise detained, thanks to the Primary Election, so this week’s public hearing on the Atlantic Yards mega-development gave some real people a chance to be heard.


Posted by lumi at 10:55 PM

Gaphattan builder: Stay small

The Brooklyn Papers

Manhattan architect Richard Meier — famed for his iconic, celebrity-filled glass-walled towers on West Street in Manhattan — celebrated his first Brooklyn building last week with a warning to his fellow master builders: Keep it small.
“Brooklyn has its own scale, a human scale — that’s why Brooklyn is great,” he said, in an implicit criticism of Frank Gehry’s skyscraper-filled design for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards.

“Other builders can build tall, but that’s not for me. I build to Brooklyn scale.”


Posted by lumi at 10:51 PM

Clarke Wins Race To Succeed Owens

Backing from unions, feminists aid candidate in racially loaded Brooklyn House contest.

More 11th Congressional District post-mortem, this time from Adam Dickter at Jewish Week:

As he left P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, Jay Klotz, a physics teacher at Ramaz School in Manhattan, said his vote was decided on the issues. “I based it on the candidate most against the Atlantic Yards, so I voted for Owens,” said Klotz. He was referring to the massive development proposed by Bruce Ratner, which includes a basketball stadium, office towers and housing, and has generated substantial community opposition.

Owens opposes the project outright while Yassky wants it downsized and Clarke and Andrews support it.

Clarke’s victory may be a significant boost for the project if politicians now see no risk in supporting it.


Posted by lumi at 10:40 PM

Clarke Claims Victory In 4-Way Congressional Race

Yvette-UnaClarke.jpg In an article by Stephen Witt, Courier-Life is reporting that:

According to unofficial tabulations, Clarke received 1,946 votes or 31 percent of the electorate.

The real unofficial tally was 14,946.

The article also notes that:

Of all the candidates, Clarke was the staunchest supporter of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 10:22 PM

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff Officially Opens Holiday Inn Express Brooklyn

Magna Hospitality Celebrated the Opening of the First Hotel in Brooklyn's Burgeoning Park Slope Neighborhood With Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

In the press release for the opening of the 4th Ave Holiday Inn Express, the hotel was touted as being "ideally situated to service visitors coming to see the Nets play in their new home at the nearby Atlantic Yards development, which will include an arena designed by architect Frank Geary (sic), and travelers on the Crown Princess and Queen Mary 2, both of which will be docking in the new cruise terminal in the borough's Red Hook neighborhood."


NoLandGrab: The only way you can consider Park Slope "burgeoning" is if you include the Gowanus side of 4th Ave. in The Slope, but then again, these are some of the same guys who think that the Atlantic Yards proposal is in Downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 PM

In the end, who was Roger Green running against?

Room Eight, Yvette Clarke & Charles Barron, New Brooklyn Stars

Maurice Gumbs's analysis of the two local Congressional races had this interesting tidbit about Atlantic Yards supporter Roger Green's last minute surge of campaigning:

One of the peculiar things was a sudden spurt of activity from Roger Green during the last few days of the election. Roger, who certainly knew that he was not in the running, had people putting up his posters in the areas where Barron was strongest. The act seemed determined to take away votes from Charles. Charles still would not have won, but he might have narrowed his loss to much less. Roger had no money to spend. So it would be interesting to find out who paid Roger to take away votes from Charles Barron

Atlantic Yards Report, So why did Green target Barron more than Towns?
Norman Oder considers some of Roger Green's campaign contributors:

Among Green's contributions were some from people connected to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement:
--$500 from Hallene Condon of the Darman Group, which has conducted forums for minority and women business owners
--$680 from Keith Lewis of Youth America, which is part of the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium
--$1500 from Richard Hill of Quantum Partners, a Virginia firm that is apparently the minority-owned business hired by Forest City Ratner to provide financial services.

The most recent financial disclosure reports are due by October 15, at which point voters will have a clearer picture of who paid for the last minute rush to target Charles Barron, one of the most outspoken critics of the Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 9:46 PM

Election results no anti-AY referendum, but not an endorsement either

57thAD.gifAtlantic Yards Report
Norman Oder's early analysis of Tuesday's election results considers the location of the Atlantic Yards project relative to the districts lines:

Also, let's remember that the lines for the election districts are not exactly coterminous with the areas where the greatest concern with Atlantic Yards might be found. In the 11th CD map and the 57th AD map, the Atlantic Yards project would be in the far west and center west fractions of the districts, leaving large populations to the east and south. In the 18th SD, there are large areas south and east of the footprint--no wonder incumbent Montgomery, in campaign literature I was sent, didn't mention that she opposed Atlantic Yards. (Boyland didn't mention her support, though many believe FCR helped in her campaign.)

Still, when Public Advocate Norman Siegel, a project opponent, won the 57th last year, that was seen by DDDB as a sign that an opponent could win the Assembly seat. But clearly there were more factors than Atlantic Yards at play in his success.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Yards Forum a Shadow of Predecessor

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder reports from the "Community Forum," where turn out was light:

The single largest contingent Tuesday came from the construction unions-and members got union credit for attendance. As expected, they urged that Forest City Ratner's project be built, pointing out that many other new developments in Brooklyn ignore organized labor. Still, some new supporters surfaced, and some substantial new criticism was voiced regarding the project's scale and the provision of affordable housing.


Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Call it political grave Yards

Daily News

Columnist Ben Smith tallies up the win and loss columns for Atlantic Yards opponents:

For Brooklyn politicians, it doesn's pay to oppose Atlantic Yards.

On primary night, candidates in favor of the mega-project won several key contested elections in Brooklyn: Yvette Clarke won an open congressional seat, and Rep. Ed Towns and State Sen. Martin Connor held off challengers.

In the closest thing to a public referendum on the plan to build thousands of apartments and a basketball arena, Hakeem Jeffries crushed Bill Batson, an outspoken foe of the project, in a state Assembly race in Prospect Heights.

For those who are looking to see if Jeffries will reach out to work with neighborhood activists who oppose the plan, the quote speaks for itself:

"To the extent the hard-line critics [of Atlantic Yards] attempted to make this a referendum on their position, the results speak for themselves," Jeffries said.


Smith goes into more detail on his Daily News blog, Daily Politics.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

A Reporter Asks Himself The Tough Questions

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder has been haranguing the local press to ask some of the tough questions about Atlantic Yards. Probably out of frustration, the resourceful reporter interviews himself.

What does "affordable" mean anyway?
The federal definition is 30 percent of household income, before taxes. So "affordable" in the Atlantic Yards plan would include low-income, moderate-income, and middle-income families.

How are those categories calculated?
It all comes down to percentages of Area Median Income, or AMI, which is $70,900.

That seems high.
That's because AMI includes both New York City and Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester counties. The median income in Brooklyn is almost half that number: $37,332. That means lots of families in Brooklyn earn too little to qualify for even the low-income segment of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

Winners and Losers in the 11th

The Wonkster (Political blog of The Gotham Gazette) rounds up commentary from the blogosphere on the 11th District Congressional primary race, including Gowanus Lounge's bit on Atlantic Yards.

And the losers? Gowanus Lodge says opponents of Atlantic Yards cannot be cheered by the results in the 11th (and in other races as well) “although it would be a mistake to read too much into the results.” In the 11th, the blog points out, Chris Owens, a fervent opponent of the megaproject came in fourth out of four candidate.


Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Primary Postmortem

The NY Sun Editorial

Though the NY Sun acknowledges that Yassky's stance on Atlantic Yards probably lost him the nomination for the 11th District Congressional seat, their analysis is based on the assumption that Brownstone Brooklyn is most concerned with preserving the free-market status quo:

Third, the rise in homeownership and property values is changing the shape of politics in the city. Close watchers of Brooklyn politics say that Mr. Yassky lost the primary in Brooklyn because of his ardent support of the Atlantic Yards project to bring a basketball arena and skyscrapers full of "affordable housing" to Brooklyn in a plan that the developer, Bruce Ratner, has stated in writing is aimed at stemming the harmful effects of "gentrification." The Park Slope and Boerum Hill Brooklyn gentry Mr. Yassky had been counting on to vote for him responded by voting instead for an anti-Atlantic Yards candidate, Chris Owens, in large enough numbers to put a third candidate, Yvette Clark, over the top. The gentry, it seems, want housing provided at market rates. What was Mr. Yassky thinking?


NoLandGrab: On the street, the brownstoned gentry seem rather unaware of Bruce Ratner's pr ploy of claiming to stem the tide of gentrification. In fact, the project is widely seen as insta-gentrification, and nearby residents have been occupied with dealing with the environmental effects of the project: traffic, pollution, extreme density, subway crowding, noise, shadows, wind tunnels and reduced open space.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

Forest City in the News

Miami Herald, Gulfstream Village plan is scaled back
Forest City adjusts development plans for one project in Florida due to the downturn in the housing market.

But at a public forum Wednesday, Will Voegele, the company's regional director of development, said that the market demand is not currently there for the residential units.

So the first phase of the 60-acre project, next to the Gulfstream Park horse track, will include around 70 shops and restaurants.

''We had plans to build residential with the first phase, but the market indicates that's not a feasible approach,'' Voegele said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jackson will take a gamble on slots
Forest City wants in on the action to bring slot machine parlors to Cleveland.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is ready to gamble.

Jackson on Wednesday announced he will support a November ballot proposal that would bring two slot machine parlors to the core of his struggling city.
The group hammered out the proposal this spring with the state's seven horse track owners, Forest City Enterprises Inc. and investor Jeff Jacobs.

The Learn and Earn issue would amend the Ohio Constitution to allow 31,000 slot machines at nine sites, including Forest City's Tower City complex and Jacobs' Nautica Entertainment Complex.

InsideBayArea.com, Upscale shopping coming to S.F.
Forest City is partners with Westfield Group in the newly renovated San Francisco Centre.

The San Francisco Centre is jointly owned by Australian shopping center developer Westfield Group in a partnership with Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland. All but 5 percent of the mall's space had been leased as of this week, Westfield officials said.

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

September 13, 2006


In the aftermath of 9/11, a cadre of developers move to reshape the landscape and culture of New York City.

NY Press
By John DeSio

Atlantic Yards in Downtown Brooklyn and Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, a renewed interest in the City from big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and a race to squeeze housing in anywhere possible, a new development culture has taken over the City. Though new construction is typically a sign of prosperity, many view this particuloar wave as an attempt to force feed the populace new development under the banner of rebuilding the City after 9/11.

Nowhere has this complaint picked up more steam than in Brooklyn, where the Atlantic Yards proposal has forced friends and neighbors to draw battle lines over the future of the borough. Developer Bruce Ratner’s plan would bring a new face to Brooklyn, and many residents who would eventually live in the project’s shadow are not pleased. Dan Goldstein is the head of the leading anti-Ratner group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. In his opinion, the new push to change Brooklyn and the rest of the City is part of a plan by Bloomberg, Doctoroff and others to radically alter the landscape of the City without effectively dealing with the needs of the communities surrounding the projects. To Goldstein and others, it is as if they just don’t care.

“The Mayor sits back while Dan Doctoroff does the deals,” Goldstein said, pointing to not only the Atlantic Yards project but also the failed push to build a stadium for the New York Jets on the West Side of Manhattan, multiple retail developments handled by Doctoroff’s friends at the Related Companies and others. “The deals skirt any serious urban planning and don't involve needs assessments. The deals are developer driven, classic ‘City for Sale’ stuff. They are characterized by land giveaways and privatization of public space.”


Posted by lumi at 11:39 PM

Bayview Redevelopment Referendum Could Limit 49ers Backroom Dealing

By Randy Shaw.

In San Francisco's Bayview-Hunters Point, the city's redevelopment agency wants to clear the predominantly African-American middle-class neighborhood to build a new stadium for the 49ers, along with a shopping center and housing complex.

Can you guess who one of the development partners is? C'mon, take a guess....

Lucky for residents of Bayview-Hunters Point they have the power of the ballot box.

FCLSF49.jpgThe San Francisco Department of Elections announced yesterday that proponents of a referendum on Bayview-Hunters Point Redevelopment had submitted over 33,000 signatures. This is over 50% more than the 20,800 required, and gives the campaign sufficient breathing room when the random sampling for signature validity occurs Friday. The petition count comes as the San Francisco 49ers and the Lennar Corp. have announced further plans for the Bayview-Hunters Point community---plans that have never been subject to a public hearing or community meeting, that have seemingly bypassed District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, and that run directly counter to the public participation process set forth in the Redevelopment Plan.
When the media reports that the 49ers, Lennar Corp., and Forest City Enterprises are developing plans for a 12,000 seat arena, a 68,000 seat stadium, a shopping center and 6000 housing units in Bayview-Hunters Point, does this not trigger questions about what role, if any, the public has had in deciding the future of this neighborhood?


NoLandGrab: The resemblance is eerie.

Posted by lumi at 11:20 PM

Yardwork: Atlantic Yards Forum Roundup

Gothamist runs an Atlantic Yards roundup for their readers featuring links to The Times, Atlantic Yards Report, Gowanus Lounge, and The NY Sun. We childishly added our post-election analysis to the comments section.


Posted by lumi at 11:12 PM

Atlantic Yards Game Plan

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Atlantic Yards opponents are trying to forget all the bad things they said about Hakeem Jeffries, the winner in the 57th Assembly race, like that he was a duplicitous panderer who wanted to have it both ways on the 22-acre arena-and-housing complex. It is time to make nice, after all.
Goldstein says he personally hasn't said anything bad about Jeffries, but fellow-travelling blogs certainly have. Unless you want to interpret Jeffries' last-minute flip-flop as a long-awaited conversion, which is how Goldstein prefers to see it.


Phew! For a moment we were worried that WE had said something bad about Jeffries. For the record, we said Jeffries was "very GQ" — and then we criticized his position.

Posted by lumi at 10:59 PM

FOOTPRINTS: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood

— an art exhibition footprints.gif

As debate over development rages, over 30 Brooklyn artists paint their portrait of the neighborhood around the Atlantic Rail Yards

On Thursday October 12th, 2006 (6-9pm), Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood, opens its doors to the public. Visitors will be presented with over 30 artists’ interpretations of the ‘footprint’ of Bruce Ratner’s proposed redevelopment of the Atlantic Rail Yards. The proposal, which includes the Yards and an adjacent portion of Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, is poised to be one of the largest urban redevelopment programs in the history of New York City.

In December 2003, when Forest City Ratner announced their proposal for the redevelopment, the effect on residents was immediate and dramatic. One moment they were residents of Prospect Heights. Then because their homes and business were within the re-development boundaries, they found themselves living in the shadow of an uncertain future. A new ‘neighbourhood’ was created which developers refer to as the ‘footprint’.

Using this metaphor as inspiration, curators Daniel Sagarin (photographer) and Belle Benfield (painter/printmaker) charged a group of local artists with the task of making artwork about their experience as they walk through the changing neighborhood outlined by the Empire State Development Corporation’s proposal.

The results are diverse, ranging from beautiful landscapes recording the skyline for posterity to abstractions dealing with the sensations of destruction or loss. Work from photographers, painters and filmmakers will be on display.

DATES: October 7th - November 3rd
RECEPTION: Thursday, October 12th, 2006 6-9pm
HOURS: W-F 5-8pm, S&S 11am-4pm
VENUE: Grand Space, 778 Bergen St. in Prospect Heights
(Corner of Bergen and Grand, near the Brooklyn Museum).

Press previews will be scheduled by appointment between October 7th-11th.

Posted by lumi at 10:05 PM

Chris Owens Statement On 11th Congressional District Primary Results

ChrisOwens4Congress.jpgChris Owens congratulates and endorses Yvette Clarke, the winner of yesterday's Democratic primary election for the 11th congressional district seat, in a statement released today, and calls on the democratic nominee to do the right thing on Atlanic Yards:

It is also necessary to state that I hope Councilmember Clarke will use her new political leverage to hold developer Bruce Ratner accountable for significant modifications in the Atlantic Yards project, and also hold the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority more accountable for their decisions regarding this project. We need an advocate for the people -- not simply corporate interests. Needless to say, all of us will be monitoring this situation very closely.


Posted by lumi at 10:02 PM

From World Trade Center to Atlantic Yards

Picketing Henry Ford is a new blog by writer Stuart Schrader whose first entry is a continuation of his graduate thesis on the history of the construction of the World Trade Center and a comparison to Atlantic Yards

Some similarities: the use of eminent domain, spurious designations of blight, and an alliance of state and private corporate interests (in the WTC’s case, the peculiar quasigovernmental Port Authority of New York and New Jersey acted as a development corporation; in the AY’s case, the state is allowing a corporation to build on publicly owned land, with heavy public subsidies enabling the development deal). Like the WTC, Ratner’s plan willfully ignores the local context, which happens to be near where I live, rather than something I can today only read about or see in photos. Ratner does not openly propose his project in terms of world history, but as Marshall Berman argued in All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, the modern construction site is “the stage for world history in our time.” More prosaically, because the proposed acreage of this project exceeds that of the WTC (and the square-footage is 3/4 that of the WTC), it is a grave mistake to see the project only in its local context.

The euphoria about centralizing the nitty-gritty of world trade in one complex, which animated the decision to build the WTC, today seems quaint, if not downright depressing, knowing that its planners envisioned their orchestration of world trade as the keystone of an irenic global project... The spirit of the WTC, like its decade’s polyester bell bottoms, characterizes a time, and although it is instantly recognizable as outmoded, it is destined to return again and again because of a peculiar attractiveness. The AY project will surely in 30 years be recognized as marking a specific moment in time, with its specific historical misconceptions, one we might label the total triumph of corporate real estate interests in spite of the urban environment and its inhabitants


Posted by lumi at 11:45 AM

Brooklyn and Belfast, sister cities in overdevelopment

From New York Magazine Letters to the Editor:

Having read Chris Smith’s article [“Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood,” August 14]‚ I have empathy for Brooklyn’s residents. I am an architect and resident of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a city emerging, like Brooklyn, with a new identity. Our famed shipyards occupy prime development land on the fringe of downtown Belfast. Original plans for the site touted new neighborhoods, packed with affordable housing. Recently, these plans have transformed into gated apartment developments having little to do with regeneration or integration. Unfortunately, a city new to such a process has sat idly by. In my visits to Brooklyn, I see the price for the Atlantic Yards development will extend far beyond the loss of sunlight. Perhaps next time, those who so eagerly support Ratner’s plans will have confidence in Brooklyn’s potential and avoid the bandwagon of politically backed developers in town for the next prized scalp.
—David Coyles, Belfast, Northern Ireland


Posted by lumi at 11:40 AM

The Atlantic Yards Vote

The Empire Zone (2006 campaign blog for The NY Times)

Opponents of Brooklyn’s proposed Atlantic Yards project were hoping to send a message to local pro-Yards pols today — by retiring a few of them.

Check out Brooklyn beat reporter Nick Confessore's analysis of the returns from an Atlantic Yards perspective. Some folks in the comments section "slice and dice" the returns differently.


Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

Retail Plans Lead Forest City Pipeline

By Marita Thomas

Northfield-Stapelton.gifCLEVELAND-Led by retail, the pace of development under way and planned by locally based Forest City Enterprises continues unabated. Four of the six projects that will begin within the next 12 months are retail.

They follow ground breaking for the 547,000-sf East River Plaza on a former industrial site in Manhattan and construction of a 180,000-sf Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World adjacent the company’s Victoria Gardens lifestyle center in Southern California, both of which took place during second quarter. In addition, San Francisco Centre on Market Street will open on Sept. 28, and, in third quarter, 673,000-sf third phase of Northfield Stapleton will open in Denver.


Posted by lumi at 11:29 AM

GL Primary Conclusions: Good Day for Atlantic Yards

Gowanus Lounge's take on yesterday's primary:

Primary day was not a terribly good one for opponents of the Atlantic Yards mega-development, although it would be a mistake to read too much into the results.
What messages does the primary send? It's hard to draw any conclusions from the Congressional races, which were dominated by their own issues. In terms of Mr. Batson's defeat, one can argue that poorly-funded grassroots candidates rarely fare well against candidates with more money and mainstream support. Yet, it would seem that, at least in terms of the Primary, large numbers of people did not turn out to vote based on their opposition to Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 11:22 AM

Ratner beats grassroots amateurs on his home court. Next stop, a more "civil court."

BossBruce.gifAtlantic Yards critics took their best shot and were beaten by Bruce Ratner at his own game. Where Ratner flexed his political muscle, the results were dramatic.

In the State Senate's 18th District race betwen Velmanette Montgomery and Tracy Boyland, Ratner Exec VP Bruce Bender led the fundraising effort for a campaign that stuffed voters' mailboxes with campaign litter that ironically proclaimed the need for reform in Albany. Meanwhile, Boyland's eight-week-old campaign never filed mandatory financial reports. Boyland's campaign even got off on the wrong foot by employing dirty tricks, when campaign workers claimed that Montgomery was an "old white woman."

Boyland received 35% of the vote. The campaign and result is probably meant to be a serious shot across the bow, intended to send a chill down the spines (or spinelessness) of other more sensible politicians who might share their constituents' concerns about Bruce Ratner's project, and who may be thinking of taking a stronger stance.

On the other hand, Montgomery won a 30-point victory while hardly lifting a finger.

In the 57th Assembly District, Ratner Community Benefits Agreement signatory ACORN got out the vote and rolled over Bill Batson in a stunning defeat, in which 64% of the votes went to Hakeem Jeffries.

On the bright side, vocal opposition to Atlantic Yards forced Jeffries to address a couple of the main criticisms of the project in his most recent campaign lit: "no eminent domain abuse," "no skyscraper city," and "no backroom deals." On the other hand, the NY Daily News endorsed Jeffries because of his pro-Atlantic Yards stance. What the real Jeffries will do remains to be seen.

That same vocal opposition was frustrated by 11th District US Congressional candidate David Yassky's wonkish centrist position, in which the candidate constantly tried to articulate that he wasn't exactly for Atlantic Yards since certain concerns have not yet been addressed. This probably cost him the election, as Chris Owens was able to pick up votes in the brownstone base of Yassky's City Council district. Yassky was edged out by Yvette Clarke by a mere 2,376 votes.

So where does that leave Atlantic Yards critics and residents near Bruce Ratner's proposed 16-high-rise-and-arena traffic-congesting asthma-producing tax-payer-financed boondoggle for a Cleveland real-estate dynasty?

There's still the litigation over the faulty Environmental Impact Statement and specious eminent domain claim, which means, as everyone has been saying all along, that this will be decided by the courts — that's civil court, not a basketball court.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Election coverage

Here are the returns, reported by NY1, from local races we've been tracking:

Congressional Primaries

House District 11
Yvette D. Clarke [Dem] 14946 31.20%
David S. Yassky [Dem] 12570 26.24%
Carl Andrews [Dem] 10983 22.93%
Chris Owens [Dem] 9403 19.63%
Reporting: 523 of 523 precincts - 100.00 percent

State Assembly Primaries

Assembly District 57
Hakeem Jeffries [Dem] 5770 64.08%
William R. Batson [Dem] 2226 24.72%
Freddie Hamilton [Dem] 1008 11.20%
Reporting: 110 of 110 precincts - 100.00 percent

State Senate Primaries

State Senate District 18
Velmanette Montgomery [Dem] 12142 64.67%
Tracy L. Boyland [Dem] 6634 35.33%
Reporting: 298 of 298 precincts - 100.00 percent

Here's the local news coverage:
NY Daily News, Clarke wins nasty race in Brooklyn


Clarke also had the backing of two unions - Service Employees International Union SEIU/locals 1199 and 32BJ - with strong get-out-the-vote operations.

AP, via 1010WINS, Clarke Wins Brooklyn Congressional Primary

AP, via NY Newsday, Black councilwoman wins B'klyn seat

In early balloting, Clarke, also a member of the city council, trailed Yassky, but as the night wore on her support from unions and the Caribbean community gave her the edge.

The NY Sun, Clarke Edges Out Yassky in Close Brooklyn Race

Much of the coverage of the 11th District race mentioned Atlantic Yards, which probably managed to elevate the profile of the issue:
NY1, Brooklyn Voters Hit Polls To Choose Candidate For 11th District Seat

As for the Atlantic Yards project, which brought out so many voters, Chris Owens has fiercely opposed it, while Carl Andrews and Yvette Clark support it. David Yassky said it's okay if the buildings are smaller.

The NY Times, Councilwoman Wins Primary for House Seat

All four candidates tried to outdo one another with their opposition to the war in Iraq. But they split when it came to the hottest local issue: the proposal to build housing, office towers and an arena for the Nets near Downtown Brooklyn. Mr. Owens was outspoken in his opposition to the plan; Ms. Clarke supported it.

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

ESDC Community Forum

The ESDC held a "Community Forum" during Fashion Week and "only a few dozen people showed up."

Without the fashionistas on both sides, no wonder the mood was "civil."

Here's the coverage:
The NY Times, At Atlantic Yards Hearing, a Gathering Small and Civil

Yesterday’s hearing was to allow for public comment on a draft environmental impact statement issued by the development corporation in July. Some speakers criticized the project’s potential to create traffic and hurt air quality, among other concerns.

But, for the most part, attendees debated the project’s general worth, or lack of it, in terms that have changed little since the project was proposed in 2003.

Atlantic Yards Report, AY forum on Election Day brief and low-key, though criticism of scale won't disappear

If a Martian had attended the community forum yesterday on the Atlantic Yards plan, the visitor would’ve concluded that citizens—except for a group of construction workers, a few community activists, two happy property sellers, and some other locals—weren’t much exercised about what would be the largest development in the history of Brooklyn.

Norman Oder devotes more air time than the Times to quotes from people who testified, including himself.

WNYC Newsroom, Second Public Hearing for Atlantic Yards Project
This newsclip ran several times yesterday, calling the "community forum" a "public hearing."

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

September 12, 2006

Fat Cat Ratner says, "Vote Early and Often"

Since there's not much Atlantic Yards action on primary election day, we offer you this Dr. Seuss remix.


Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

On 9/12, a day for an election--and a hearing

Atlantic Yards Report cites the list of security concerns about Ratner's Atlantic Yards project (posted yesterday) and explains:

Given that post-9/11 security is not within the scope of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), that responsibility--and the responsibility remains--will fall to our elected officals.

Whether they support Atlantic Yards or not--and Atlantic Yards Vote and NLG will let you know--our elected officials (and that includes ones not in races today) owe the public a responsible analysis.


Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

Jeffries endorsements cite Atlantic Yards, blogger says I told you so

Daily News endorsement of Hakeem Jeffries:

Lawyer HAKEEM JEFFRIES has been a cautious supporter of the Atlantic Yards project...

Courier-Life endorsement:

One candidate, Bill Batson, is an ardent opponent of the project, while another, Freddie Hamilton, is an ardent supporter.

This is why Courier-Life Publications wholeheartedly endorses Hakeem Jeffries, the only candidate willing to look at the issue from all sides, and who seeks to be a coalition builder.

"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide on the News endorsement:

Well, we had missed this one somehow. It sure contradicts Hakeem's Liar Flyer.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

September 11, 2006

Photoblogging at Daily Politics

One photo from the 11th Congressional District gallery at Daily Politics has an Atlantic Yards editorial twist. YasskyPoster.jpg


Posted by lumi at 10:15 PM

The Anti-Yards (or pro-neighborhood) Slate

The Empire Zone, campaign blog for The NY Times, on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's participation in the electoral process over the "public process":

In the past, the group has tended in the past to demand more, rather than fewer, opportunities for public input into the project. In today’s news release, the group cites the bad timing and poor organization of an earlier hearing — at which, some neighborhood groups have alleged, project boosters were let in earlier and allowed to skip the line — as reasons to boycott tommorow’s installment. Instead of going to the hearing, DDDB urges, the public should “engage in the primary day electoral process.”


Posted by lumi at 10:08 PM

Press Release: ESDC Atlantic Yards Public Hearing on Election Day is Unacceptable

Develop Don't Destroy Urges the Public to Forego Hearing but to Participate in the Electoral Process

Wow, with all of the pre-election news, we forgot that the ESDC is holding their first "community forum" on the Atlantic Yards project tomorrow at 4:30PM at Klitgord Auditorium. If you are forced to chose between voting/volunteering and testifying, DDDB recommends skipping the dog-n-pony "fiasco":

BROOKLYN, NY—Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) calls on the public to engage in the primary day electoral process and skip an Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hearing on Forest City Ratner’s "Atlantic Yards" scheduled for the same September 12th date.

First the ESDC gave only 66 days for public response to the 4,000-page "Atlantic Yards"Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS). Then the ESDC "ran" a public hearing on August 23rd that was a fiasco from any vantage point. That hearing was so poorly run that after eight hours only 100 people out of 500 wishing to speak were able to do so. With about 400 speakers left to speak the ESDC continues to schedule only four hours for its hearings.

"We urge and encourage the public not to go to the September 12th ESDC ‘Atlantic Yards’ hearing but rather engage in the political process as voters, campaign and poll workers," said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. "The ESDC’s scheduling of a public hearing on primary day is just the latest in a series of insults to the public by the public agency that views itself as Forest City Ratner’s partner. It is unacceptable for the State of New York to schedule an important public hearing on the largest single-source development proposal in the history of New York City coinciding with primary day. It is especially unacceptable and unconscionable considering that the last hearing required an eight hour commitment just to have a chance to testify. We've asked the ESDC to change the problematic hearing date but they have not budged."

The 66 day timeframe for public response to the "Atlantic Yards" DEIS is about half of the time given to the much smaller Yankee Stadium plan.

"Rather than giving up the electoral process for a fiasco of a hearing, we do strongly encourage and urge the public to attend the ESDC hearing scheduled for September 18th. And of course the public should submit written comment up to the current September 29th deadline," Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 9:38 PM

We shall never forget, but we are wondering

wtc-brooklyn.jpgFive years after our city and country lost so many loved ones on September 11th, many Brooklynites are wondering why Bruce Ratner plans to build: * a glass and steel skyscraper, * towering above an arena, * at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, * over a transit hub that has already been targeted by terrorists.

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

The unwritten story: Forest City Ratner and Brooklyn politics

Atlantic Yards Report

Ratner --> Money --> Politics --> Power!

Any questions? Check out Norman Oder's article about the story that the mainstream media is missing.

The outline has emerged, perhaps for the first time, of Forest City Ratner's extensive reach into Brooklyn politics. Of course the borough's leading real estate developer--in terms of major projects--would play a significant role, but little analysis has appeared in the press.

It's well-known that FCR spends a lot of money on lobbying, but not that Bruce Ratner and his lieutenants eschew local campaign contributions.

Still, that Watergate-era adage remains operative: follow the money.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Another AY error from the Times; mayor sanguine about subway crowding

Atlantic Yards Report

NY Times after-the-fact-checker Norman Oder catches another AY mistake:

"...the Atlantic railroad yards in Brooklyn may someday soon house the New Jersey Nets, as well as mixed-income apartments and 600,000 square feet of new office space."

The railroad yards could never house the Nets, the apartments, and office space because they're too small. For the umpteenth time, a reporter has assumed that Atlantic Yards and the railyards are coterminous, even as the latter would be a little more than a third of the AY project.


NoLandGrab: Note to Times reporters, there's a stylebook on Atlantic Yards collecting dust on some desk somewhere in the office.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Eminent Domain abuse endorsement

636Pacific-Candidates.jpgHere's a surprise, hunkered down in his bunker, the last remaining resident of 636 Pacific Street (located approximately mid court of Bruce Ratner's Nets arena plan) supports Bill Batson and Velmanette Montgomery in tomorrow's elections.

The other owner of 636 Pacific supports Jeffries and Boyland.

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Hakeem Mailer Says Albany is Broken, Batson Aims to Fix It

JeffriesEndorsements.jpg"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide

Three politicians (none from Albany, none from Brooklyn and one from Jersey) tell us why they think Hakeem is right for Albany.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

A Little More on the Atlantic Yards

A Perigrination says "this Tuesday vote for candidates that support the project and lets (sic) keep Brooklyn growing."

His reason?

I happen to be eating in a new local restaurant this weekend and met Marty Markowitz. The man is of course a Brooklyn cheerleader but there is no doubt in the man’s mind that the Atlantic Yards will happen.


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Letters to the editor

Fort Greene resident Daniel McCalla scores a deuce coup by getting letters published in two local weekly papers on the same weekend.

Brooklyn Downtown Star, Dispatch: What Movies, Yogi Berra, & Overdevelopment Have Taught Me
McCalla takes some lessons to heart from the August 23rd public hearing:

I admit I am a black guy who does not make a great living in the little work that I do. I love remembering the words of wisdom of Yogi Berra “You can learn a lot by watching.” Over the past three years and my travels dealing with overdevelopment, I have learned many things.
A) There is no honor among thieves.
B) There is no sorry in real estate.
C) Rich or poor, developers want to build right up to your lot line.
D) F.A.R. means floor area ratio.

Brooklyn Papers, The Atlantic Yards hearing [Full text of the letter after the jump.]

The hearing was an excellent example of how money is the god of this world and development will always be a bloodbath. A friend of mine likes to say anything in New York will get opposed, but the hearing showed why it should be opposed: the real-estate industry is running the state.

To the editor, Coverage of the Atlantic Yards hearing by your reporters (“Battle for Brooklyn,” Aug. 26) was not so bad — not old school Brooklyn Papers but acceptable, if not good.

The hearing was an excellent example of how money is the god of this world and development will always be a bloodbath. A friend of mine likes to say anything in New York will get opposed, but the hearing showed why it should be opposed: the real-estate industry is running the state.

Supporters of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards used every race-baiting trick in the book.

Why didn’t they talk about predatory lending, or when Brooklyn was redlined by the banks? Let’s not forget luxury decontrol of government housing. What about the education programs at Metrotech that did not provide jobs for residents of the Fort Greene projects? How about the condominiums built around the city with tax abatements? What about all the warehousing in the housing projects that the City Comptroller recently found?

Atlantic Yards will push out the last remaining black residents in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. The project will kill the air quality, cause traffic and bring in shadows that will result in real blight. We will forever suffer the consequences of Bruce Ratner.

I live one block from Atlantic Yards, but I can’t afford to live in the neighborhood I grew up in.

As a young black man, I was taught that the elders marched, risking their lives for civil rights and for the right to vote and equality. But Atlantic Yards is the start of an unfortunate future that will open Pandora’s Box forever.

DanielMcCalla, Fort Greene

To the editor, The “Battle for Brooklyn” began more than 40 years ago. Back then, there would have been no controversy over any development promising new housing, commerce, and jobs in the proposed site, because Downtown had fallen into decay and abandonment, was threatened by crime and poverty, and slated for “slum clearance” and highway development.

But then, a migration of many thousands of people flooded neighborhoods around Downtown. These people came, aware of the risks, to buy and restore houses one house at a time. They came to raise families, send their children to local schools, revive local commerce, restore civic pride and return these neighborhoods to the tax rolls.

Their shared vision resulted in landmarking these neighborhoods, something that’s meant more than just the preservation of buildings, but a whole quality of life: human scale, sun-lit and tree-lined streets with open vistas, and a quiet leisurely pace.

This “battle” saved Brooklyn. If Atlantic Yards is built, would these brownstone neighborhoods continue to attract people who would invest in homes and raise their families, and continue Brooklyn’s tradition of civic involvement?

John Golobe, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Congressional Candidates in Dead-Heat Race Look for a Last-Minute Edge in Brooklyn

The NY Sun
By Russell Berman

With the high-profile race to replace Rep. Major Owens in Brooklyn's 11th congressional district shaping up as too close to call, the four candidates were scrambling to energize their supporters and to raise last-minute funds in the final full day of campaigning.
Mr. Owens has been the most aggressive candidate in criticizing his opponents, and he stuck to that strategy in an interview yesterday. He said he was telling voters that he was the only candidate who was completely opposed to the Atlantic Yards project, and that he was the "only one who could beat David Yassky." Of Ms. Clarke, he said: "Yvette doesn't have the organization. Yvette is damaged goods, politically."


Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

September 10, 2006

Sunday Comix


From the The NY Sun Editorial Cartoon Archive.

Posted by lumi at 1:28 PM

Brooklyn vs. Bush's Eminent Domain Special


Wondering who the neighborhood artists are who painted the giant anti-Ratner murals? Brooklyn vs. Bush reveals the identities of the hooligans in their most recent episode, which can be viewed online:

Street Painting with Patti and Shelly Hagen featuring Letitia James & Ratner's hecklers

Posted by amy at 11:15 AM

Left Behinds Primary Endorsements: A Slate of Losers


Left Behinds steps up with their endorsements including Bill Batson, Chris Owens, and Charles Barron as well as a lack of confidence in the 'winningness' of the good guys. Remember, the only way to win this is to help out, not to sit around and pout. If you're not signed up yet to volunteer on primary day, contact your favorite campaign office or contact us to help out with NoLandGrab's efforts.

18th SD: Velmanette Montgomery
I almost didn't endorse here just because I'm pretty sure Montgomery will win, and that breaks the perfect streak of the post. But Tracy Boyland is Bruce Ratner's candidate. I'm sure 90% of our readership who gives a shit already knew that, but for the 10% who don't I'm screwing up my aesthetics, and if you know me, you know that means something.


Posted by amy at 10:52 AM

Boyland's $100 mystery campaign and the state's weak campaign finance laws


Atlantic Yards Report:

Just yesterday, I received three different Boyland mailings--one with the not-so-subtle message of "Progress for us," accompanied by three photo-ops at housing projects.

However, according to Boyland's filing with the New York State Board of Elections (BOE), Boyland has only $100 to spend--from herself.

That was from her required 32-day pre-primary report, due in early August. Her 11 day pre-primary report was due September 1. She hasn't filed yet. And if she doesn't tell the public who's funding her before the primary election in September 12, well, she'll get away with a slap on the wrist: a fine of $500.

Ratner's role?

Is Forest City Ratner backing Boyland, who supports Atlantic Yards (though doesn't say so in her mailings)? The Crain's Insider last month quoted sources saying Boyland was using the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR uses for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers. Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender.


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

September 9, 2006

CBN, CB reps slam AY hearing oversight; ESDC mostly shrugs

Atlantic Yards Report:

No crowd control. Atlantic Yards supporters allowed to cut the line. Failure to allow those waiting to enter the hearing room in a timely manner. Verbal abuse and racially inflammatory references.

Those are some of the charges in a blistering letter sent Thursday by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), complaining about how the agency "planned and executed" the Aug. 23 public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project, held at the Klitgord Auditorium of NYC Technical College.
CBN's letter began by noting that the ESDC, before the hearing, would not even provide information on how hearing procedures would be conducted, instead choosing to treat "CBN’s offer of assistance as a Freedom of Information request," which has not yet been provided. CBN collected the names of more than 300 people who never made it into the auditorium.


Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

Choose Montgomery, Not a Phantom


Courier-Life endorses Velmanette Montgomery:

On the one hand you have Montgomery: a hard-working, well-liked incumbent who regularly attends community meetings and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo (she is one of the few local legislators who is adamantly opposed to Atlantic Yards) and then you have Tracy Boyland, a former Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilmember (whose career in City Hall was lackluster at best) who apparently has no platform, no campaign office, and, although she has circulated some literature, hasn’t been seen in the downtown Brooklyn side of the district, which stretches from Sunset Park all the way to central Brooklyn.
That leaves us with just speculation and rumors that [Boyland] is the “Ratner candidate” and that her entire campaign is being paid by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC wouldn’t comment.)


Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

Could Ratner Be Shrinking Massive Yds. Project? Mega-Developer Mum On Downsizing At Recent Meet


Stephen Witt

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Jim Brennan has written to city and state economic development officials asking for assurances that the 2,250 affordable housing units would indeed be built.

“Currently there is no guarantee that 2,250 affordable housing units will be built,” said Brennan, noting that only 404 of such units are scheduled to be built as Phase 1 of the project.

The remaining 1,846 affordable units are scheduled to be built beginning in 2010, but there is no express contractual commitment at this time between city and state governments and FCRC, said Brennan.

“The affordable housing development should come first and be guaranteed,” said Brennan, adding that the public is being asked to support the project on the basis of that promise.

The affordable housing component of the proposed development came about as per a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between New York ACORN and FCRC.

“First things first, Mr. Brennan,” said New York Acorn Executive Director Bertha Lewis. “The ESDC has to approve the plan and once they do, the state Public Authorities Commission approves the plan, and the 2,250 affordable units are part of that plan,” she added.


Atlantic Yards Report points out Bertha's skirting of the enforceability issue, and wonders if ACORN will put on the pressure if the affordable units are up for compromise:

Would ACORN, for example, accept some compromises in the final number of units? Perhaps not, but ACORN has already accepted compromises in other ways:
--not protesting when Forest City Ratner turned the 50/50 housing pledge into a 50/50 rental agreement
--describing the project in the Brooklyn Standard as a 50/50 project, even though it's not
--not objecting when the developer decided to shift 450 of the affordable units to a higher income band, meaning fewer units for moderate-income people
--not objecting when FCR characterizes the subsidized apartments as 50% two- and three-bedroom, even though that refers to floor area rather than number of units
--not criticizing the construction schedule, as noted above.

Posted by amy at 10:04 AM

Ratner's Nets arena project is housing-optional

Field of Schemes takes a look at Matthew Schuerman's recent article in the New York Observer:

"Phased construction" has actually been a byword of the project since the very first press conference, but according to Mr. Schuerman, even the "community benefits" package agreed to with the housing group ACORN allows that "the developers may change the development phases in their sole discretion prior to commencement of the first development phase." Brennan is pushing for Ratner to sign a binding lease with the state to guarantee that the housing will be built, while shrinking the overall size of the project by 34% - in exchange for $590 million in additional state subsidies.

At least one fence-straddling local pol, famed white guy running for Congress in an African-American district David Yassky, took exception to this, and specifically the possibility that Ratner may have artificially boosted the project's size just to create leverage for more public cash. "It's typical of Forest City Ratner to inflate projections in order to get more public money from of the state," Yassky spokesperson Evan Thies told the Brooklyn Papers. "It's a deceitful way of doing business, and they should be committed to a project that works and can be vetted to the community."


Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

September 8, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

The GL political roundups cover more ground and have a lot more links than we can provide, so check them out.

JamesBatson02.jpgGowanus Louge, Thursday Political Round Up
Thursday's round up features Councilmember Letitia James's endorsement of Bill Batson, Ratner's campaign financing cabal from AY Report, a local blogger's beef with David Yassky, and the Daily News endorsement of Yvette Clarke.

Gowanus Lounge, Friday Political Roundup: Endorsements and a Dead Heat
Friday's local political news covers The Brooklyn Papers' endorsements and an exclusive report on how Sunday's donut missile was aimed at Yassky (not Bloomberg), NoLandGrab's (hey, that's us!) endorsements based on candidates' positions on the Yards, the latest scientific and un-scientific polling news in the 11th CD race and the deployment of supporters in the Orthodox Jewish community for David Yassky and Edolphus Towns.

HAKEEMmarchedwithACORN.jpgDaily Gotham, Hakeem Jefferies Flip Flop Flips on Atlantic Yards
Mole333 posts a report from a reader on a conversation with 57th AD Candidate Hakeem Jeffries:

Though I do not know Mr. Jeffries personally and have not had extended conversations with him on this issue, I feel I should relay to you what he told me around 6:45 P.M. on August 23, 2006. As I was waiting to get into the public hearing regarding the Atlantic Yards Project DEIS, Mr. Jeffries came down the line shaking hands. As he shook my hand, I asked Mr. Jeffries if he had a solid position on the project as it now stands. Mr. Jeffries looked me in the eye and said that he was "fully in favor of the project" and that he thought "it will be great for Brooklyn."

Clearly Hakeem wants both sides to vote for him so he tells people whatever they want to hear or equivocates. Why can't Hakeem make up his mind? Why can't he be honest with voters?

Nets Fan in NY, The Nets Arena Conspiracy Theory

I’m tired of hearing how supporters of the Atlantic Yards project are weak-minded individuals who are being paid off by the government. So, what be of me and the other 18,000 Nets fans anxiously awaiting a home away from home in Brooklyn? Clearly, we are the men and women behind it all (insert evil laugh… muahhaha).
For those against the arena, I ask that you take a step back and realize that it is not just some tasteless monstrosity, but the heart and soul of a project for many like myself.

Curbed.com, Storefronting: East River Plaza Shocker
ERP-Curbed.jpgFile this under the lookie-who-just-caught-on category. At the risk of proving that NoLandGrabbers are really the amateur hacks that we claim to be, we had no clue that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was one of the partners behind the East River Plaza big box-store bonanza. As Curbed.com reports "the bulldozers have started dozing."

The Empire Zone, Another Slugfest on the Way?
NY Times reporter Nicholas Confessore posted news of a possible boycott of the "community forum" scheduled for election day and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood's formal complaint about the conduct of the August 23rd hearing. In response to the CBN complaint, the ESDC told the Times:

At the public hearing on Aug. 24 (sic), ESDC followed the practices and policies regarding hearings. We intend to conduct the forums similarly. We hope that the attendees at the upcoming forums will respect all the speakers so that we can conduct the forums efficiently and maximize the number of speakers in the time available.

NoLandGrab: The Times may regret starting a blog which allows "the Mad O" to post commentary, but don't forget to scroll down and read Norman Oder's audition for the position of NY Times Public Editor.

Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM

More Ratner-related contributions: $10,800 to State Sen. Connor

Atlantic Yards Report

25th Assembly District candidate Ken Diamondstone has been a vocal critic of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, even almost getting the boot from Community Board 2 for his views.

But where does incumbent Marty Connor stand on Atlantic Yards? We know the answer, but in case you don't, here's a clue:

Incumbent State Senator Martin Connor, who's in a tough primary race against Atlantic Yards opponent Ken Diamondstone, just reported $5400 each from Michael Ratner and his wife Karen Ranucci (or, as it says, "Ranvcei"), along with contributions from developers David and Jed Walentas, and the District Council of Carpenters.


NoLandGrab: The District Council of Carpenters were the "orange shirts" at the August 23rd public hearing.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

18th Senate District

Velmanette Montgomery vs. Tracy Boyland

The Brooklyn Papers gave free "air time" to candidates to state their case, only Tracy Boyland was too busy stuffing our mailboxes with four-color campaign litter to take the call.

18thSD-BP.jpgVelmanette Montgomery gets the mic to herself:

What [sic] should voters choose you?
I am a full-time legislator who spends 100 percent of my time, attention and work on constituent services and representation in Albany. My years of experience as a teacher, community organizer, child-care advocate, parent and elected official gives [sic] me a breadth and depth of understanding and knowledge about important issues.

Why is your opponent unqualified?
She has no proven record of representation consistent with the standards expected by voters. And she has not disclosed the source of her campaign contributions as required by law. Voters have no way of knowing who is financing the Tracy Boyland candidacy.

Atlantic Yards?
I oppose the Ratner plan. I support the Extell plan, which is based on a set of development principals that respect the existing neighborhoods and does not require eminent domain. It does not close off streets or create a walled-in community or 20- to 60-story towers that will destroy our neighborhoods.


Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

57th Assembly District

Bill Batson vs. Freddie Hamilton vs. Hakeem Jeffries

From The Brooklyn Papers, the candidates speak for themselves:

Atlantic Yards?

I am absolutely opposed to the project as it stands. Not enough affordable housing for families making below $70K; no guarantee on the number of living wage jobs, increased traffic; lack of foresight on public transportation; air pollution from 10+ years of construction, which may lead to spike in rates of asthma; shadows; design insensitive and inconsistent with surrounding neighborhood.

I support Atlantic Yards because I believe that it will bring jobs, business opportunities, some affordable housing and support of services to the community through the Community Benefits Agreement.

The scale and density of the project should be reduced considerably and I am opposed to the use of eminent domain by a private developer to build a basketball arena.


Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

In other races…

The Brooklyn Papers

The Papers makes these endorsements:

  • State Senate, 25th District (Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill): No endorsement.

  • State Senate, 18th District (Park Slope, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights): We endorse incumbent Velmanette Montgomery.

  • State Senate, 20th District (Park Slope, Prospect Heights): We endorse former police officer Eric Adams.

  • State Assembly, 57th District (Prospect Heights, Fort Greene): In a close battle, we endorse Community Board 8 member Bill Batson.

Click here to read details of BP's endorsement.

NoLandGrab: Batson, yup; Montgomery, check; Adams, check; we got 'em and more in our candidates endorsement.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

FCR's secret scaleback options--and maybe a smaller Miss Brooklyn

EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS from Atlantic Yards Report

Forget The NY Times exclusive on Forest City Ratner's (FCR) 6-8% shavedown of the Atlantic Yards proposal, which impressed few Brooklynites earlier this week. If Norman Oder and his off-the-record source are right, the shavedown just primed the pr pump for a more dramatic scaledown that has been in the can all along:

A source tells me the developer has long had a scaleback model prepared that illustrates significant concessions. And documents from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) hint that several buildings could be considerably smaller than currently projected.

Indeed, no building is described as more than 40 stories tall, even though five buildings currently planned would be more than 400 feet in height. Proposed buildings are described with flexibility: 30-40 stories tall, 25-30 stories tall, or 20-35 stories tall. Still, the documents are not conclusive; they can be revised, and do not include market-rate space that could add to the size of the buildings.
A person with knowledge of the Atlantic Yards project, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that the developer has been girding for such a scenario. The source told me:
There was always a scaled-back model that made considerable concessions to the public's concern and dismay apropos of height and density issues. The model was to be hidden from public view, but would be revealed to the appropriate parties at the appropriate time.
The source said that the hidden, scaled-down model was to be produced only for "significant players."
Despite the apparent plain language of the documents regarding height and square footage, they're not definitive. I showed a few to Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, and he said they suggested four potential scenarios: * the buildings would be larger than described, because the documents don't include condos on top of the rentals * Forest City Ratner would ask for the documents to be amended and thus would increase the space * FCR could get approval for subsidies at one site but move them to another building * FCR would, as the documents hint, build the buildings at a lower density.

FCR didn't get its act together to respond to Norman Oder's inquiries before "post" time.

Extra! extra, get yer Atlantic Yards Report here!

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Closer look at Crain's poll: those who follow AY project are more critical

Atlantic Yards Report

So, are people who know more about the Atlantic Yards project more likely to oppose it? Yes, though the results from the Crain's poll weren't as dramatic as I'd have thought.

From Wednesday's Crain's Insider:

The Crain’s poll on Atlantic Yards prompted immediate spin yesterday from project detractors, who claim that the survey showed 60% support for the development because most people know little about it. But of respondents who said they are following the Forest City plan closely, 59% were favorable and 38% were negative. Of those not following it closely, 60% were favorable and 22% were not. The poll also showed that savvy advertising and public relations by Forest City could increase support further. After callers were read three negative statements and then three positive statements about the project, support rose to 71% from 60%. The statements moved Brooklynites the most, raising the borough’s favorable portion to 74% from 60% and reducing the unfavorable portion to 24% from 33%. Support went up among all demographic groups, but the biggest jump was among blacks and Hispanics.

That contradicts to some extent the assessment I made. Yes, those with close knowledge are more critical, but the difference comes from the undecideds, while the support, at least as expressed in this poll, seems consistent.


Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Improving Brooklyn?

The NY Sun, Op-Ed
By Edward Glaeser, "the Glimp professor of economics at Harvard, director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute."

Glaeser does not fear the return of the bad-old days of Robert Moses because:

I think that the orderly decision-making associated with representative government is more likely to look after interests of the entire city, but I understand the appeal of recreating an Athenian polis on Flatbush Avenue.

His support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is summed up in his conclusion:

Perhaps more money can be squeezed out of Mr. Ratner, especially in exchange for allowing higher densities. Perhaps the city can do more to compensate the current residents. But I can't see the case for lopping floors off of Mr. Gehry's skyscraper. Any serious project will impose costs on current residents by radically building up Brooklyn. Restricting heights will just destroy the project's benefits without significantly reducing those costs.


NoLandGrab: The question of "higher density" has not been given the attention it deserves, even by students "of land use warfare." Let's be clear, the Atlantic Yards project proposes historical levels of density. Our decision makers ought to be having this coversation in public, not behind closed doors.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Run for 11th is all tied up

The Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

The Daily Politics reported the results of the latest poll for the 11th Congressional District, conducted on Monday, that had Yassky and Clarke at 20% and Owens and Andrews at 19%.

The synopsis of the Owens campaign included his criticism of Atlantic Yards:

Owens has strong name recognition, and though once considered an underdog, appears from the poll to have gathered momentum, [political observer Hank] Sheinkopf said.

"We have been in an upwards position in this campaign," Owens said.

"The more people hear and see me, the more they like me," added Owens, who has garnered support in some brownstone neighborhoods for his staunch opposition to the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

Down to the Wire in Brooklyn

Gay City
By Duncan Osborne

In one of the final debates among the Democratic contenders for Brooklyn’s 11th Congressional District, the candidates offered voters a choice among four supporters of gay marriage and other goals sought by the lesbian and gay community.
The sole major disagreement among the four is the Atlantic Yards, a major and controversial development project that is slated for downtown Brooklyn near the terminus of the Long Island Railroad at Flatbush Avenue. Only Owens opposes the project, which has pitted those fearing the enormous scope of the development against Brooklynites eager for the jobs the project will generate and the building of a stadium for the Nets, a pro basketball team currently in New Jersey.


Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

September 7, 2006

Paying off Ratner

As developer slims project, public bill is likely to soar

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

If Atlantic Yards shrinks, the public will pay more.

Forest City Ratner brass said this week they plan to tweak the mammoth $4.2-billion mega-development by eliminating a few hundred luxury apartments and reducing the height of the 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn” tower — but the cost will be additional public subsidies for the 2,250 units of below-market-rate rentals that Ratner’s promised to include in the plan.

Real-estate executives were not surprised.

“If a part of their profit is gone [by eliminating some of the project], they have to come up with a way to make the income back,” said Real Estate Board of New York President Steven Spinola. “Public subsidy is a way to do that.”


NoLandGrab: The public is expected to cheerfully pay Ratner to NOT build more luxury housing?

We're already subsidizing the affordable housing. How about we forget the extortion and billowing boondoggle and subsidize someone else with a proven track record to build the affordable housing over the railyards?

Posted by lumi at 11:05 PM

Atlantic Questions From Pacific

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

In recent weeks, numerous Brooklynites have received calls from a polling firm based thousands of miles away in Fairfield, California. The campaign season questions from the west coasters are always about local politics, and usually revolve around issues and figures close to the controversial Atlantic Yards proposal in Prospect Heights. While neither the polling firm, Pacific Crest Research (PCR), nor Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), will confirm that FCR hired PCR, they won't deny it either.

Twice already in the last several weeks, this reporter has picked up his phone to discover a PCR pollster on the other end; the first a man in Seattle, the second a woman in Utah. Both times the questions pointed back towards a private entity - not a public candidate - with a serious interest in all things Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 10:56 PM

Reform, Community Ties Dominate Race

Gay City
By Paul Schndler

DiamonstoneConnor.jpgThe Democratic Primary race in the 25th State Senate District that covers portions of Manhattan and Brooklyn has been a wild seesaw of charges and countercharges over how close each of the two candidates is to the communities that make up the district and who best can advocate for reform in Albany. ...
Diamondstone talked about his work to ensure 170 new units of senior housing as a member of a Brooklyn community board, his leadership on the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board, and his opposition to the Atlantic Yards development near the Long Island Railroad terminus at Flatbush Avenue, and concluded, “In all of this and so much more work, I’ve come to know the elected officials, I’ve come to work with them closely, and there was one big empty space and that was the state senator. He was never there. Marty was never there.”


Posted by lumi at 10:50 PM

Atlantic Yards — small victory or big concession?

Amsterdam News
By Lateefa Morehouse

In an article about the recent rumblings of a reduction in the Atlantic Yards project's scale, Rev. Herbert R. Daughtry's quote could be taken to mean a couple of different things:

“As a supporter and negotiator of a legally binding community agreement that will give the people unprecedented benefits, I’m more concerned about the size of what people are going get than the size of the building,” said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in downtown Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Reverend Herbert R. Daughtry's group Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance "got" $50,000 from Ratner last year.

Posted by lumi at 10:36 PM

Forest City Reports Second-Quarter and Year-to-Date Financial Results

Business Wire

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 7, 2006--Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced revenues, net earnings and EBDT for the second quarter and six months ended July 31, 2006.

EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) for the second quarter was $56.7 million, or $0.55 per share, a 12.7 percent decrease on a per share basis compared with last year's second-quarter EBDT of $64.9 million, or $0.63 per share. EBDT for the six months ended July 31, 2006 was $120.0 million, or $1.16 per share, compared with last year's $132.6 million, or $1.29 per share.

Fiscal second-quarter net earnings were $7.5 million, or $0.07 per share, compared with $20.2 million, or $0.20 per share, in the prior year. Net earnings for the six months were $60.8 million, or $0.59 per share, compared with $42.4 million, or $0.41 per share, in 2005. The increase was primarily due to the gain on disposition of the Company's Hilton Times Square hotel property in the first quarter of fiscal 2006.


NoLandGrab: Could Atlantic Yards mounting costs and delays be causing some of the decrease in earnings?

Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM


Correct shortcomings of August 23rd Public Hearing before holding any future Atlantic Yards Hearings or Forums. CBN also file FOIL for records

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS (“CBN”) today released a letter (text of letter below) sent to Empire Stated Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano criticizing the administration of the August 23rd Public Hearings on the proposed Atlantic Yards development and calling on the ESDC to correct these deficiencies before holding further hearings.

CBN offered to produce affidavits testifying to questionable irregularities in the admission policy and conduct of the raucous Public Hearing. In addition CBN demanded that:

  • The ESDC perform a formal investigation into the manner in which this particular public hearing was conducted.

  • The ESDC hold a public hearing that complies with the legislative purpose and intent of providing a fair forum in which the community may raise valid issues of concern regarding the impacts of the project on the community, without intimidation or fears for their safety.

  • Until appropriate accommodations are made for the anticipated large number of hearing participants, and until appropriate controls for the method of conduct of the hearing and audience behavior are put in place - and these measures are publicly disseminated - no additional public hearings or forums should be held.

CBN also filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the official speaker sign-up sheets, actual order of speaking, transcripts of the entire August 23rd Public Hearing, and a copy of all videotapes (text of request below.)

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

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


Chairman Charles Gargano
Atlantic Yards c/o ESDC
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Re: Formal Complaint regarding the Conduct of the August 23 Public Hearing on the proposed Atlantic Yards Project

Dear Chairman. Gargano:

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. (“CBN”), by an award of $230,000.00, has been charged by the elected officials of both New York City and New York State with providing the community’s response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. To obtain this funding, CBN has undertaken to ensure that the community is effectively engaged throughout the environmental review process, and that the process is transparent and comprehensive. Because of our role and our mission, CBN is duty bound to make this formal complaint against the Empire State Development Corporation (“the ESDC”) for the manner in which it planned and executed the August 23rd Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) and General Project Plan (“GPP”) it issued July 18th for the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Plan.

As advertised by the ESDC this hearing was, and remains, the only Public Hearing in this environmental review process and therefore the only formal opportunity that the public will have to register their thoughts about the impact of this large and complex development plan upon themselves and their community.

The Public Hearing was advertised as starting at 4:30 PM and drew hundreds of citizens who lined up outside the auditorium of the NYC College of Technology, waiting for the doors to open so they could sign up to speak for their three (3) minutes. This was not only their right, but as explicitly stated in the very Act that created the Hearing, their civic duty.

Instead of being given the opportunity to be heard by the members of the ESDC board with respect and courtesy, these hundreds of citizens were subjected to numerous abuses over the course of this evening.

Initially, the ESDC took no steps to make sure that the crowds that should have reasonably been anticipated were properly managed and controlled. Prior to the hearing, CBN wrote a letter to the ESDC requesting specific information as to how the August 23 hearing would be conducted (a copy of that letter is attached.) Rather than responding with information that would assist the public and CBN in ensuring that the proceedings were orderly, ESDC chose to treat CBN’s offer of assistance as a Freedom of Information request (response attached), and has yet to provide the promised information.

Moreover, in light of the large numbers who attended the Scoping Hearing in October, 2005, resulting in many members of the community waiting in line for several hours to gain entrance, and the fact that since that time, the proposed Atlantic Yards project has only received more media attention, the ESDC’s decision to hold the sole Public Hearing in a hall with a 900-person capacity was certainly not intended to allow the large affected community to be heard appropriately. Literally hundreds of people were left standing outside once the hearing started. Anticipating the substantial overflow, CBN had volunteers remain outside, asking those who could not wait on line any longer to complete “sign-out” sheets to demonstrate the inadequacy of the forum. Even though many individuals left without signing the sheets, CBN collected more than 300 names of those who gave up after waiting, many for several hours, before leaving without even gaining access to the auditorium. (Upon certain confidentiality conditions, CBN is willing to share these lists with the ESDC.)

Unfortunately, even getting on line early did not guarantee members of the community at large admission to the hearing. We can obtain affidavits from at least two individuals - one an AP reporter, and both who were near the front of the line - attesting that the hall was half-filled when the doors were finally opened at approximately 4:10 p.m. In addition, the individuals manning the doors, who were variously described as being employees of the ESDC, the developer Forest City Ratner Companies, members of the New York City Police Department, and the security and/or management of the building, routinely allowed union members, members of BUILD (an organization funded largely by the Developer), and members of other organizations supporting the project to enter through a side entrance designated for press and electeds. When representatives of CBN and a member of Community Board 2 challenged those manning the doors, they were told that the individuals being admitted were either members of the press or were carrying speeches for elected officials, even though these admissions were witnessed at approximately 7:30 p.m., long after the electeds had completed their speeches. In order to prevent continued unfairness, the Community Board 2 member stationed himself at the side entrance for more than two hours.

Chaos ensued in the front of the lines outside as well. We have witnesses who can attest that busloads of children were unloaded and ushered to the head of the line; that gatekeepers allowed people wearing stickers and carrying signs in favor of the project to join others already at the front of the line while unaffiliated attendees were directed to the rear; and that members of the Carpenters’ Union were permitted to open the police barricades and crowd into the front of the line before the doors opened.

The situation did not improve as the evening wore on. Between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., many of the individuals who had gained early access to the auditorium, many of them apparently union members, left the hall. The individuals manning the front door failed to take adequate steps to fill the vacant seats with community members waiting outside to gain admission. For instance, CBN can provide an affidavit from a witness who will attest that at approximately 7:30-7:45 p.m. there were approximately 150 empty seats in the hall, with approximately 35 individuals standing. Despite being advised of the situation, the individuals manning the door took almost a ∏ hour before permitting more members of the public to trickle in.

In addition to failing to guarantee fair and impartial access to the hearing, the ESDC also did nothing to prevent the hearing from quickly developing an acrimonious tone, and in some instances, took action that only served to inflame the already heated emotions of the hearing’s participants.

Although individuals were required to sign up to speak, they were specifically told that they would not be given numbers, and that the speaking cards were going to be shuffled. As a result, many citizens who had prepared testimony, stood in line from early in the afternoon, and waited for hours for their three minutes were never afforded an opportunity to speak to the ESDC Board. Moreover, the request that each individual designate whether he or she was “for” or “against” the project, so that the speakers could be “balanced,” unfairly permitted many later-arriving individuals to be called long before testifiers who had arrived much earlier and waited much longer.

In addition, this method of permitting testimony gave the perception that support and opposition were evenly divided, and overtly encouraged the public to use the pulpit for only that – to declare their support for or opposition to the project, rather than to respond to the substantive issues raised by the DEIS and the GPP.

As we understand it, the purpose of the DEIS is to disclose and raise for discussion the potential impacts of the project on the community. That does not provide a basis for taking sides ”for” or ”against” the project. The fact that the ESDC asked the participants in the hearing to take sides furthered the impression to the public and the press that there were indeed “sides” to be taken.

Finally, the manner in which the hearing was conducted only served to further exacerbate the already-festering animosity created in the room by the “for” and “against” platform designations promoted by the ESDC.

Everyone in the auditorium was subjected to hearing verbal abuse, outright threats and continued racist references, which CBN will not allow to be disguised simply as rhetorical flourishes. The record of the Hearing will bear out the racially inflammatory nature of many of the ”supporter’s” testimonies.

However, rather than quelling the vitriolic rants of several ”supporters” of the project, the Hearing Officer appeared cowed by the inappropriate behavior, and permitted outright threats to go unchallenged; in fact, the most vocal “supporters” were allowed to remain at the microphone for more than the three-minute limit. (CBN can provide affidavits to support this abuse.) Grossly inappropriate and threatening comments were permitted at the microphone, among them this quote from a Community Benefits Agreement participant and one of the founders of BUILD, in describing the possible reactions of ex-convicts with whom he works, “So you better hope this project goes through or else you'll be the victim. If this project doesn't happen, I guarantee you: You will have chaos in this community."

Much inappropriate behavior also came from individuals not at the microphone. Some of the comments from the audience that were allowed to continue, unchecked, were: "No jobs means we WILL ROB!” and “You can say what you want, but we’ll be waiting for you outside when this is over."

Despite all of the foregoing, the Hearing Officer failed to take the steps necessary to control the forum so that the majority of appropriately behaved members of the public were not subject to such inappropriate actions by the very vocal minority. Many members of the community left as a result of feeling threatened and sickened by the palpable anger and hatred in the hall.

As your agency knows, there are two remaining “community forums”, one on Primary Election Day, September 12, and the other on September 18. The forums are scheduled to take place in the same auditorium as the August 23 Public Hearing, and at this time we have no reason to believe that the conduct of the hearing, or the resultant problems, will be any different than those experienced at the earlier hearing. While we have not urged our member organizations to refrain from attending the September 12 hearing because of its conflict with the Primary, we support the right of our member organizations to make such a call. However, CBN does believe that for the ESDC to hold any further hearings or forums on the Atlantic Yards before a full investigation of the foregoing is conducted would be a violation of its obligation to conduct a truly Public Hearing regarding the environmental impacts of the largest mixed-use development in the history of Brooklyn.

In light of the foregoing: * CBN demands a formal investigation into the manner in which this particular public hearing was conducted. * CBN demands that a public hearing be held that complies with the legislative purpose and intent of providing a fair forum in which the community may raise valid issues of concern regarding the impacts of the project on the community, without intimidation or fears for their safety. * CBN further demands that, until appropriate accommodations are made for the anticipated large number of hearing participants, and until appropriate controls for the method of conduct of the hearing and audience behavior are put in place - and these measures are publicly disseminated - no additional public hearings or forums should be held.

The community awaits your reply.


Candace Carponter
Therese Urban

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

August 21 email from CBN Chair Therese Urban to ESDC representative Jessica Copen

Ms. Copen:

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.


Therese Urban
Co-chair, 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.

Jessica Copen
Director of Communications
Public Affairs
Empire State Development Corp.


Records Access Officer
Atlantic Yards c/o ESDC
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request
To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act filed on behalf of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law. I request that a copy of the following documents and records be provided to me: 1. Copies of the Speaker sign-in sheets for the August 23, 2006 Public Hearing held at the New York City College of Technology, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY regarding the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. 2. A copy of the official order of actual appearance for all speakers for the August 23, 2006 Public Hearing held at the New York City College of Technology, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY regarding the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. 3. A copy of the official transcript of all proceedings and speakers for the August 23, 2006 Public Hearing held at the New York City College of Technology, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY regarding the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. 4. A copy of the official videotape made of the entire Public Hearing held August 23, 2006 at the New York City College of Technology, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY regarding the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. In order to help to determine my status for purposes of determining the applicability of any fees, you should know that I am the Secretary and Communications Director for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a not-for-profit organization funded by the New York City Council and the New York State Assembly to assure the thorough participation of the community in the environmental review process for the proposed Atlantic Yards Development project, and this request is not for commercial use. If my request appears to be extensive or fails to reasonably describe the records, please contact me in writing or by phone at Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, 201 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 10025, 718-408-3219, or by email to cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com.

I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not in any commercial interest. I file this request in response to queries placed with me by our constituent organizations. The requested information will be made available to any and all of our constituents including our 40 member organizations, the local Community Boards, the New York City Council, and the New York State Legislature.

I request that the information I seek be provided in electronic format, and I would like to receive it on a personal computer disk, CD-ROM or DVD.

I ask that my request receive expedited processing because of urgent queries and general confusion as to the conduct of the hearings and the events thereof. As charged by our funding organizations, it is imperative that we be able to address community concerns regarding the hearings, and access to these public records is vital to the performance of our charge.

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of said request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible, and look forward to hearing from you shortly.

If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing, and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.

I can be contacted during the hours of 9 AM to 5 PM at 718-638-3349, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my request.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.
James M. Vogel
Secretary, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

Posted by lumi at 9:48 PM

TONIGHT: CBN Neighborhood Impacts Forum

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is presenting preliminary findings from their experts‚ on-going review of the "Atlantic Yards" Draft Environmental Impact Statement this week and next:

Thursday, September 7th, 7:00 p.m.
Duryea Presbyterian Church
362 Sterling Place (at Underhill Avenue)
Prospect Heights

Posted by lumi at 11:47 AM

The CQPolitics Interview: Chris Owens (N.Y. 11)

The Congressional Quarterly web site has an interview with 11th District Congressional candidate Chris Owens, who cites Atlantic Yards as one of the main issues that distinguishes the candidates from one another (the other two are having kids who attend public school and experience holding down a real job).

Well, there are a couple of ways in which we distinguish ourselves.

One is that on some local issues we have a different position from a number of my opponents. There’s a development project known as the Atlantic Yards, and I’m the only candidate who’s opposed to the project. The other ones support it. So that allows me to distinguish myself. And that’s a very hot issue right now in a chunk of the district, particularly a chunk that overlaps with Mr. Yassky’s council district, and so he’s lost a lot of support he might otherwise have had because he took his position on that issue.


Posted by lumi at 11:13 AM

The First American Corporation Acquires the Businesses of KTR Newmark Real Estate Services and KTR Newmark Consultants

PR Newswire

One of Forest City Ratner's environmental consultants on the Atlantic Yards development proposal, KTR, is to be acquired by First American Corporation.

KTR's expert staff, which is involved in more than 1,000 projects per year, is also assisting with several large- scale projects currently underway in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, including the Hudson Yards condemnation and Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards redevelopment project.

press release

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

Foes taking elex to streets

Unions and Haitian voters eyed as 11th Dist. contest heats up
By Jonathan Sederstrom & Elizabeth Hays

The NY Daily News tallies up the support for the four 11th Congressional District candidates with Atlantic Yards activists squarely in Chris Owens's camp:

Chris Owens, who has gained backing among Atlantic Yards opponents but is considered the race's long shot, is focusing on the Haitian vote.


Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM

NLG Endorsements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2006candidateshorz.jpgStrangely, many of the candidates vying for the highly coveted NoLandGrab endorsement didn't get around to replying to our repeated requests for position statements on Atlantic Yards. That didn't stop us from doing the research, keeping an ear to the ground, showing up at candidates' forums and debates and taking a stand.

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" has nothing to do with the cadidates' looks (though Hakeem Jeffries is so "GQ"). Instead, it reflects the emotional intensity of these hotly contested races (along with the occasional smear tactic), and NoLandGrab's singular focus on the Atlantic Yards proposal.

The Good
These are simply candidates who are concerned about using eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena and 16 highrise towers, and who've spoken out against many of the complex issues surrounding the project, such as: massive taxpayer contributions, lack of local review, a troubling review procedure and schedule, backroom deals, the absence of sound urban planning, "misunderestimation" of traffic concerns, etc.

The Bad
We understand that politics often demands compromise, but we think that it's bad, very bad, when you can barely figure out candidates' positions they won't stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.

One can take positions on different aspects of a complex project, but trying to finesse both sides of individual issues betrays a lack of leadership. We figure if a bunch of amateur bloggers can navigate and articulate the complex issues surrounding this project, our politicians should be able to do so, too.

The Ugly
This gang contains candidates who have all publicly declared their support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Most have received financial support from the Ratner campaign-financing machine and have deep ties to the discredited Brooklyn Democratic Party Machine, which has been stumping for Ratner from the start.

Click here for NoLandGrab's endorsements.

There are some uncontested local races and third-party candidates running in the general election — those races were not included in this list for purposes of brevity and clarity.

We also invite any candidates who feel we have unfairly characterized their positions to contact us with a clarification (email).

Posted by lumi at 10:21 AM

See It Now Before It Disappears ... - Gallery Show Focuses On Temporal Bklyn

By Joe Maniscalco

OptimoGouche.jpgA local exhibit strives to capture our rapidly changing borough. One artist focuses on the Atlantic Yards footprint:

Warren Beishir’s drawings, meanwhile, are squarely placed in the here and now in illuminating sketches of the neighborhoods poised to be forever changed by the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

See the exhibit at the Object Image Gallery located at 91 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope from September 15 to October 16.


Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Candidates for governor break fundraising record

AP, via Newsday.com

A story about fundraising in the Ohio governor's race contains this tidbit about an Al Ratner campaign contribution and its possible relevance to Forest City Enterprises's (FCE) plans to expand into casino gambling:

[Republican candidate Ken Blackwell] received a $9,000 donation from Albert Ratner, whose family controls Forest City Enterprises. The developer owns a site where a slot-machine parlor would land in downtown Cleveland if voters approve a proposed ballot issue allowing the machines in Ohio.

Both campaigns have accepted money from backers of the gambling issue, despite their opposition to the slots plan. In June 2005, Strickland reported a $10,000 contribution from the finance director at Beulah Park, a track outside Columbus.


NoLandGrab: We link this article to make two points.

1. Though the Ratner clan typically donates more money to Democrats, they aren't shy about crossing the line — in the 2004 presidential campaign, large donations flowed to both candidates and parties.

2. FCE has built its reputation as a large-scale development company that embraces Smart Growth and New Urbanist principles; however, they have been planning to get into the lucrative casino gambling business for quite some time: FCE is one of the bid finalists for a slot-machine parlor in Pittsburgh; the NYC subsidiary has lobbied for casino gambling in New York State; and contributions have started flowing to an upstate candidate who has played a "key role in discussions of a Buffalo casino" (See AY Report, 09/05/06).

We fail to see how slot-machine parlors (the equivalent of casino crack) square with progressive development principles, but then again, we've never accused the Ratners of being progressive.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM


JeffriesMailer03.gif57th Assembly District candidate Hakeem Jeffries's latest mailer has caught the attention of "Atlantic Yards" Voters Guide and Atlantic Yards Report. Both blogs try to parse the mexed missages.

"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide, Jeffries-Come-Lately's Liar Flier
AY Voters Guide calls the mailer a "liar flier" and explains why. One of the strangest citations on the flier is Jeffries quote from his own ad in the Brooklyn Downtown Star.

Atlantic Yards Report, Where does Hakeem Jeffries stand on AY? The obfuscation mounts

So what does Hakeem Jeffries, the fundraising frontrunner for the open 57th Assembly District seat, really think about Atlantic Yards? His web site is silent. An ad he placed in the Downtown Brooklyn Star in May (right) was muddled, critical in many ways, but unclear on whether he was ultimately pro or con. And since then he has only made his bottom line more confusing.

Norman Oder hits the nail on the head when he points out that Jeffries repeatedly claims to be against "eminent domain ABUSE." But what about its USE?

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

A wait for Atlantic Yards affordable housing

Local real estate trade publication The Real Deal posted a link to yesterday's NY Observer article with the following blurb on its web site:

It may be years before developer Forest City Ratner gets to the affordable housing component of its planned Atlantic Yards project. The more lucrative parts of the 22-acre project, including the New Jersey Nets arena, are scheduled to start construction well before most of the affordable housing planned. In fact, it may be as much as a decade before that part gets under way.


Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Yvette Clarke for Congress

The Daily News editorial board gives support for Atlantic Yards as one of the reasons they endorse Yvette Clarke for the 11th Congressional District race.

Clarke has chaired the Council's Fire and Police Committee, authored legislation requiring landlords to install energy-efficient appliances, and advocated for van drivers, nurses and other working people in her district. She supports the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Brooklyn Record, Atlantic Yards Update

All the Atlantic Yards controversy can be hard to keep up with, so for all you Brooklynites who aren't tuned into the various blogs devoted to it (or devoted to putting the kibosh on it), here's the news in a nutshell.

Community Commentary: Andy Bachman, What He Says, What He Does
An account of last night's 11th District Congressional candidates debate casts Chris Owens and David Yassky as the heavies. The Rabbi contrasts the two candidates' styles as principled rhetoric vs. the effective compromise and gives the following as one example:

One, as distinct from the red-meat line about not standing up to Bush if you can’t stand up to Ratner, Yassky calmly explained how he fought developers as a city councilman and wrought huge concessions on the Brooklyn Waterfront Development as well as introducing hybrid taxis to the city’s fleet (I know, I’m a nerd).

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Kudos to the NY Daily News
Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky high fives the Daily News for yesterday's editorial supporting the Atlantic Yards project.

There is no compromise with the these folks and any further concessions, as the News points out, will only serve to hurt the project's recognized benefits. Let's just move forward and forget the human shields.

NoLandGrab: Sounds like the "newly minted volunteers" are ready to bulldoze those human shields!

Power Plays (political blog of The Village Voice, Mark Green's Three Questions
In the highlights from Tuesday's Attorney General debate, Maloney took a strong stand against eminent domain in a question about environmental issues:

Green said that getting GE to clean up the Hudson is the biggest environmental issue out there. Maloney said it was the use of eminent domain, which requires "a system that is open, transparent, and fair"—unlike the Atlantic Yards deal. Cuomo believes mercury emissions take the cake.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

The Mayor's Legacy: Educational Improvements and Poverty Reduction, Or Bold Budgeting and Economic Development?

Gotham Gazette

The Gazette examines Mayor Bloomberg's legacy as it begins to take shape. On the economic development front, he may be remembered for "his giving of huge subsidies to sports owners and real estate developers, the impacts of which will not be known for decades."

Much of the Bloomberg administration's economic development plans have focused on subsidizing stadiums for sports teams - the Jets football team, the Yankees and Mets baseball teams, the Nets basketball team. The stadium for the Jets is a broken dream. The ones for the Yankees and the Mets are being fulfilled, though critics grumble. (It's an interesting sidelight to the story that a report by the city comptroller found the Yankees more than a quarter of a million dollars in arrears in payment to the city for its use of the current city-owned stadium.) The arena for the Nets is a dream not yet realized that critics are broadcasting as a nightmare.

The Forest City Ratner basketball arena and commercial development plan in Brooklyn - controlled by the state's Empire State Development Corporation -- was challenged at a raucous hearing by neighborhood advocates who attacked the size and location of the project. Shortly afterward, the developer reportedly planned to reduce the size of the project; this apparently won over few critics.


Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Atlantic Yards: When is a Reduction Not a Reduction?

Gowanus Loungue

After yesterday's headline about a possible shrinkage of 6-8 percent in the massive Atlantic Yards project, coverage has gotten around to noting that the reduction would still leave the development at about the same size at which it originally stood.

To paraphrase your Brooklyn grandmother: That's a reduction?
Never mind the alleged 60+ percent "support" for Atlantic Yards in that recent Crain's poll, every public official in New York that backs the project must have breathed a deep sigh of relief when they saw the poll that found that 78 percent of people aren't paying attention to the project or to the controversy. The 20 percent that are following its trials and tribulations are the ones jumping up and down because of smoke and mirrors games like this latest "reduction."


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Ratner and the Gentry

The NY Sun editorial board stands alone among the local dailies for its criticism of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. They've editorialized on the use of eminent domain and massive subsidies; today they look at the gentrification conundrum:

AY-Flier-NYS.jpgIn a sense, Mr. Ratner is in a pickle of his own creation. He wants government subsidies and eminent domain condemnation power, so he needs to provide some public "benefits." In the upside-down world of New York City, stemming gentrification — meaning stemming a rise in property values, a decrease in crime, better shopping, and finer dining — counts as a public benefit. By our lights, the most logical of the Ratner critics fear that the high percentage of the project that is to be devoted to "affordable" — that is, outside the normal free market — housing, combined with the shadows cast by the huge towers, will lead not to gentrification but to a reversal of the improvements already underway in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ratner is carpeting the county of Kings with mailings claiming “The New York Times, Daily News & New York Post agree: Atlantic Yards is good for Brooklyn.” A subsidized apartment for the reader who can figure out which newspapers are for the project because it would promote gentrification, and which are for it because it would stem it.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM


SlatinReport.jpgSlatin Report
By Steve Garmhausen

The real estate-insider web site talks to industry folks off the record about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal. Most of the "Deep Throats" believe that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project will get built, though the programming of the project will change in the ensuing years.

One development consultant argued that the project is so big and intricate, and requires so much investment and cooperation between public and private forces, that some link in the chain is bound to snap. "There are a million reasons why it would change," he said. "I think it’s just too big to come out in 2016 the way it’s envisioned in 2006."
Another city official opined that Ratner was likely to get most of what he wants, saying that the developer had "played it too well."

That source, who can hardly be called a foe of development, said that Ratner's thousands of units of housing will rob other residential developers of business while straining area resources from schools to hospitals to parking. "It will be built pretty much as it's seen now," he predicted with a resigned tone.


Posted by lumi at 12:20 AM

September 6, 2006

Ratner Meets With Burden

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Bruce Ratner presented his plan for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project to city Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden and other commission members Tuesday, she said, but he did not mention scaling it back.


NoLandGrab: Three years into the planning and Ratner just got around to meeting with the City Planning Commishes?

Wonder if Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's City Planning Commission appointee and partner in the NJ Nets Dolly Williams was there?

Posted by lumi at 11:57 PM

Opponents Say Atlantic Yards Cutback Not Enough

WNYC News Radio

More reaction from Alantic Yards critics on the rumors of a miserly 6-8% scaledown:

Jim Vogel, spokesman for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, says the project - which would have several high rises and a sports arena -is still too big.

VOGEL: Reducing this thing by 8 percent is not going to alleviate any of those unmitigable effects - there's still going to be a great deal of negative environmental impact at the scale that is currently being proposed.


Posted by lumi at 11:53 PM

A Brooklyn Ticket

Daily Politics posted campaign lit from the "Anti-Atlantic Yards Ticket" and noted:

on the other side of the piece: One of Batson's opponents is apparently named "Hakeen Andrews."


NoLandGrab: Hakeen Andrews? Is he funded by Brooce Bloomberg?

At least everyone agrees that the "toops" should come home.

Posted by lumi at 11:40 PM

Press Release: City Council Member Letitia James Endorses NY State Assembly Candidate Bill Batson

BatsonJames.jpgFrom the Bill Batson press release on today's endorsement by the stalwart critic of eminent domain abuse and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, City Councilmember Letitia James:

"Bill has been described as a 'one-note candidate', but nothing could be further from the truth," James said. "In Albany, Bill will be dedicated to fighting for more affordable housing for this district, for increased subsidies for NYCHA residents, and for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money so desperately needed by our public schools," continued James, "I am honored to go to Bat for Batson."

[Full release after the jump.]

Brooklyn, NY – Today, Council Member Letitia James endorsed 57th Assembly District Candidate Bill Batson at an 11am press conference, in front of the recently closed Associated Supermarket at 176 Myrtle Avenue.

"Bill has been described as a 'one-note candidate', but nothing could be further from the truth," James said. "In Albany, Bill will be dedicated to fighting for more affordable housing for this district, for increased subsidies for NYCHA residents, and for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money so desperately needed by our public schools," continued James, "I am honored to go to Bat for Batson."

Sadique Wai, Batson supporter and member of the United African Congress stated, "I have known Bill for many years. He will fight for all of the people of this district—the recent immigrants and the long-time residents of this country. To Bill, we are all people that need to be heard."

The press conference was held in front of the shuttered market—which stands in the shadow of MetroTech—to illustrate the underdevelopment of parts of the district, while other portions are being overdeveloped.

"We cannot stand by any longer, watching developers get public subsidies from our city and state, allowed to run amok in our Borough, building things that do not benefit us. We watch as our hospitals close, our supermarkets close, and our schools suffer," Batson thundered. "I'm going to Albany to help Brooklyn fight back!"

Batson has already received endorsements from Norman Siegel, Major Owens, City Council Member Bill DeBlasio, and City Councilman/Congressional Candidate Charles Barron, Congressional Candidate Chris Owens, CSEA, the Sierra Club, CBID, and DFNYC, among others.

Posted by lumi at 10:35 PM

The Observer warns about AY delay; dailies tell us (duh) scaleback means little

Like, Atlantic Yards Report not only writes faster than we read, but Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder also gets it up right away.

Today's first post analyzed today's media coverage:

An online article in today's New York Observer, headlined In Big Slow Brooklyn Build, Is It Affordable Housing Last?, has some real news, while two daily stories tell us what the New York Times should've told us in a lead story yesterday: a six to eight percent cut in the Atlantic Yards plan means little.

Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM

In Big Slow Brooklyn Build, Is Affordable Housing Last?

TNYO.gifThe New York Observer

This is a must-read article by Matthew Schuerman, the one mainstream reporter who has done original analytical reporting on the Atlantic Yards project.

Schuerman looks at Atlantic Yards documents released by the state and recent history to try to answer these important questions:

What if Bruce Ratner never finished his gargantuan arena-and-housing development in central Brooklyn? Or, quite similarly but more likely, what if he put off fulfilling his commitment to affordable housing for years and years?

Here's the link to the article for those of you who want to get started and don't care to waste time reading the following highlights (emphasis added):

Bruce Ratner plans to build the arena and five towers at the western portion of the site first.

More than four-fifths of the subsidized housing, as well as seven acres of open space, will begin construction only in the second phase, between 2011 and 2016.

The article quotes different opinions on the matter:

“The point is that if the venture is not successful or not as successful as planned, much of the affordable housing will be at risk or not happen,” [State Assemblyman Jim Brennan] said. “The real-estate market is softening across the nation, interest rates have gone up, and three million square feet is a lot of feet to sell.”
A spokesman for Forest City, Joe DePlasco, said that “FCRC is committed to building affordable housing as part of the Phase 1 plan.” Forest City would not comment further. ...
“The question of whether people will buy these [luxury] apartments is an almost impossible question to answer,” said Julia Vitullo-Martin, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “This project is going to have a lot of trouble covering its expenses.”

“When you add a projected 50 percent affordable housing—whatever that means—and when you include a money-hemorrhaging sports franchise, the economics of it are illusory to me,” an experienced developer who has done work in Brooklyn said. “But I hope it will happen.”
“Right now we are absolutely comfortable with the phasing assumptions that are being used by the ESDC,” spokesman Jonathan Rosen said. ACORN is widely seen as the bulldog that will keep Mr. Ratner true to his promise, in part because it stands to make money by marketing the affordable units.

Here's one myth-busting point...

Mr. Ratner must make a large upfront investment that may make him less willing to postpone the second phase, but it is not as large as it seems. Last summer’s bid to the M.T.A. said that it would cost $182 million to create a new train yard. Those relocation costs, though, will be offset by $200 million or more in cash grants from the city and the state.

...and another interesting point that hasn't been brought up by the media, as far as we can remember:

And while his bid book dressed up the moving expense as part of Forest City’s lucrative offer to the M.T.A.—a way to construct a more spacious atmosphere for extracting sewage from commuter cars, which is apparently a primary function of the facility—it turns out that Mr. Ratner needed to get the yard out of the way for his plans. He is sinking the Frank Gehry–designed arena below ground, where the train yard currently is, and will construct a bi-level parking garage right next door, according to construction plans included in the state study.

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

The Ratner Touch

Bruce Ratner gets a lot of mileage out of telling anyone who will listen that he no longer contributes political campaigns to avoid the appearance of buying favors. But that doesn't stop the rest of his clan, especially "famed Constitutional Rights attorney–and brother of Bruce... –Michael Ratner."

DDDB comments on Atlantic Yards Report's revelations of large campaign donations from friends and family of Brooklyn's first developer, Caring Bruce Ratner:

Bruce Ratner doesn't just include his brother as a middleperson, but also his sister-in-law, his sister, and his girlfriend. Most astounding are Michael Ratner's contributions to convicted former Kings County Democratic party boss Clarence Norman, Democratic Party pariah Ed Towns and NY City Comptroller William Thompson. Thompson, as Comptroller, has given resounding support to the "Atlantic Yards" plan though he has never publicly scrutinized its various public funding mechanisms or the financial impact on the City of New York.

Michael Ratner has often donated using the 1 Metrotech address which happens to house Forest City Ratner's headquarters. Additionally his financial support of "Atlantic Yards," which arguably abuses the Fifth and First Amendments, has confounded us for quite a while, as we have great respect for the Constitutional and Human Rights work that he does.


Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Assembly Candidate Bill Batson to be Endorsed by City Council Member Letitia James at September 6th Press Conference

Media Release from BatsonForBrooklyn.com

Brooklyn, NY – On Wednesday, September 6th Council Member Letitia James will endorse 57th Assembly District candidate Bill Batson at an 11am press conference, in front of the recently closed Associated Supermarket at 176 Myrtle Avenue.


Bill Batson is the former Director of Community Relations for New York State Senate Democratic Leader David A. Paterson. He has a 20-year record of community-based, city and statewide activism. Batson has been an advocate for the homeless, renters, small business, and homeowners. He has also worked on behalf of labor, arts and culture groups, responsible policing, innovative youth programs, expansion and protection of voting rights, community-centered development, education, and multicultural cooperation and tolerance.

For the past two years, Batson has served as a member of Community Planning Board 8, Co-chairing the Fire Safety sub-committee and the special sub-committee on the Environmental Impact of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Development.

Batson has already received endorsements from Norman Siegel, Congressional Candidate Chris Owens, Major Owens, City Councilman/Congressional Candidate Charles Barron, and City Councilman Bill DeBlasio. WHO: Assembly Candidate Bill Batson, Council Member Letitia James and supporters WHAT: Endorsement Press Conference WHERE: 176 Myrtle Avenue between Ashland and Prince Streets WHEN: 11am


Support Bill Batson For NY State Assembly 57th District Vote September 12, 2006

For more information email: Abeni Crooms batson@batsonforbrooklyn.com or call: 917 627 6528

Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

TONIGHT: Congressional Candidates Forum

Congressional Candidates Forum
11th Congressional District

Wednesday, September 6th, 7:00 - 8:30pm
Congregation Beth Elohim
274 Garfield Place, at 8th Ave


Come and hear the candidates speak.
Question them on the issues that concern you most.

more info

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Developer’s Plan for a Smaller Yards Project Matters Little, More or Less, in Brooklyn

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

Ever since Forest City Ratner announced plans to build a massive residential, office and arena complex along Atlantic Avenue near Downtown Brooklyn, people have been demanding that it be made smaller.

But as word circulated yesterday through the neighborhoods near the proposed site of the developer’s reported plans to reduce the 8.7 million-square-foot project by 500,000 to 700,000 square feet, the reaction from people who work and live nearby was almost uniform: Big deal.
Mr. Shiffman speculated that the small reductions being contemplated are “more of a show than a substantive reduction,” aimed at politicians who do not want to stop the project but do want to claim credit for having gained concessions from the developer. “This is similar to the playbook and strategy that Ratner has used for all of his developments,” Mr. Shiffman added. “I think this is predictable, and that they concluded that the politicians needed something to go back to their constituents with.”

Forest City Ratner officials declined to comment yesterday.


Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Group moves to boycott Atlantic Yards meeting

By Chuck Bennett

The proposed boycott of the September 12th "community forum", which falls on the important primary election day, leads the AM NY story:

"That was not intentional at all," said Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman Jessica Copen. The date, she added, can't be changed.

"Rather than giving up the electoral process for a fiasco of a hearing, we do strongly encourage and urge the public to attend the ESDC hearing scheduled for September 18th," Goldstein said. That will be the final hearing, which was added after last month's raucous gathering.

The article ends with coverage of recent talk about the scaleback of the project:

Final design plans would be unveiled in late September to coincide with recommendations by the City Planning Commission.


NoLandGrab: By outlining the next steps in the Atlantic Yards "process," this artilcle highlights the fact that public planning is entirely backwards in the case of Atlantic Yards.

Really, what was the point of the DEIS if the City Planning Commission hasn't released any recommendations or principles? Unless, of course, the actions of the City Planning Commission are a cover-your-butt move to make the "process" appear legitimate.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

In Atlantic Yards dance, return to first position?

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

Though Forest City Ratner has not released any changes, the New York Times reported yesterday the plan will shrink by 6 to 8 percent. This, however, doesn’t appeal to some urban planners concerned with the overall design and other issues.

“Having something to give up is not a highly unusual tactic, and in this case, it doesn’t address the issues,” said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society. “It’s modeled on projects that have proven not to work, with its private but seemingly public space, like a campus.”

Metro sums up Atlantic Yards's long life of expansion and shrinkage:

Its original 2003 size was an estimated 8 million square feet. Two years later it swelled to 9.132 million square feet. In March, Ratner announced a five percent, or 475,000 square feet, reduction. This latest 500,000 to 700,000 shrinkage would bring the size back roughly to the original proposal.

The Regional Planning Association has some criticisms, but takes a more hopeful view:

Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Regional Plan Association, called these changes “clever,” adding they have not addressed concerns about the public space, especially in its eastern portion, which will contain the bulk of the apartments and open space.
“We’re basically talking about what the future of Brooklyn will look like,” Soffin said. “If this were the beginning of the beginning and end of the changes, I would be concerned, but our hope is this is the beginning.”


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Poll: New Yorkers like Nets arena if not told of cost

Field of Schemes has a look at the Crain's poll results and notices that the poll didn't question respondents about public subsidies.

A Crain's New York poll of 601 New Yorkers found that most supported developer Bruce Ratner's plan for the Atlantic Yards development project, which would include a Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets: 23% says they felt "very favorable" toward the project, 37% "somewhat favorable," 13% "somewhat unfavorable," and 13% "very unfavorable."

Support rose slightly after pollsters listed arguments made by opponents (the city will be forced to spend more on schools and water and sewer services for the project, it's out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood) and proponents (it will provide affordable housing and bring the Nets to Brooklyn) of the plan. But Crain's notably neglected to mention one issue that's proven decisive in prior polls: That the project would require several hundred million dollars in city and state subsidies.


NLG: The poll didn't ask respondents about eminent domain, either. Would that have changed poll results? Not if the public prefers to spend its tax dollars on historically large private projects that use eminent domain to take people's property.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Daily News deuce

Ratner offers to downsize again
By Elizabeth Hays

The Nets arena development planned for downtown Brooklyn could be scaled back by 8% - drawing cheers fom Borough President Marty Markowitz, but jeers from opponents who says the cuts aren't nearly enough.

The News covers Bruce Ratner's delicate tango with public opinion over the size of the project:

In 2003, the housing, office and basketball arena project was originally slated for 8 million square feet, before it ballooned to 9.1 million square feet last September.

The plan currently stands at 8.65 million square feet, following a 5% cut in March.

A source confirmed yesterday that Ratner is now considering chopping an additional 500,000 to 700,000 square feet as he negotiates with the city, which critics noted would bring the development to just over or under its original size.

Develop, don't delay Brooklyn

The New's editorial board continues to beat the drum in support for the project:

News that Nets basketball team owner and developer Bruce Ratner will scale down the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project - potentially chopping 7% of nearly 7,000 apartments and condos planned for Prospect Heights, Brooklyn - comes as no surprise in a city where too many economic development decisions are based on politics rather than merit.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who with Gov. Pataki will control approval of the project, have been quietly advising a small reduction in its scale, and the City Planning Commission is expected to make a similar recommendation in a few weeks.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Polling Atlantic Yards Report

Four out of five posts on Atlantic Yards Report recommend facts and analysis for reporters who chew on Ratner PR.

Crain's poll questions were stunning generalities--and described the CBA as a negotiation

So Crain's New York Business has posted the full results of the poll it commissioned regarding Atlantic Yards.

The conclusion: when asked about the project in stunning generalities, especially deceptive ones about the Community Benefits Agreement, people approve of it. (Yes, polls are by nature general, but we should have gone beyond "jobs, housing, and hoops" by now.)

That's about it, until someone conducts a more specific poll that actually addresses issues of density, public responsibility, facts and promises about affordable housing, and the use of eminent domain.

AYR posted poll details (link to Crain's poll) with some running commentary.

Another set of Pacific Crest Research calls

I'm told that Pacific Crest Research has also been calling Brooklynites about the 57th District Assembly race, involving Atlantic Yards opponent Bill Batson, AY proponent Freddie Hamilton, and Hakeem Jeffries, who has offered a range of criticisms but has said he would choose to support the project. And, as in the brief call I received, callers are asking about Atlantic Yards.

Note that Forest City Ratner has neither confirmed nor denied a relationship with Pacific Crest.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Chuck Schumer on MetLife's free-ride off eminent domain

Daily Gotham
By Liza Sabater

SchumerOnED-DG.jpg Thanks to Daily Gotham for pointing out that Senator Schumer is starting to sound like an eminent domain activist. Schumer in Stuyvesant Town from the video clip:

The City under Fiorello Laguardia used its eminent domain powers to clear this vast expanse. And while no one has come up with the exact number, it is very likely that MetLife hardly paid a fair-market value for the land. In fact, some people think they they may have been given it for free, the research hasn't c come clear yet, but the odds are they they not only got the benefit of the city using eminent domain, but a much lower price.

Daily Gotham on Schumer:

Upon reviewing these video clips, there's one thing that I just realized about Schumer's shpiel : He's calling out MetLife's possible use of public land for free due to eminent domain as a playing card in the negotiations.
More importantly, what effects, if any, could this have on development projects like Atlantic Yards and Williamsburg?


NoLandGrab: Perfect timing! The Institute for Justice wants you to know, "CONGRESS HAS ONLY 24 DAYS LEFT TO PASS EMINENT DOMAIN REFORM!" and that you should contact your senator TODAY.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Overseas coverage

Sohu.com, 网队梦想进军纽约 42亿美元“大西洋院”将筹建

Chinese coverage of the battle in Brooklyn over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.


Babelfish translation:

But because the project project huge also incurs some opposition sounds, many 抗议者 mainly worried this project will affect the Brucker forest region "originally to construct the style", will cause 周遍 "the environment not to be harmonious".

LaVanguardia.es, Diario de Nueva York, Homenaje al "stoop"

An essay on the "stoop" distinguishes the Brownstone stoop from Gehry's entryway to skyscrapers in a park.

Consciente de que crece la oposición vecinal a su mega proyecto urbano que crearía una edifcacion equivalente a tres Empire State, Frank Gehry y su diseñador urbano Laurie Olin anunciaron que el rascacielos de sesenta plantas –"Miss Brooklyn" lo llaman- de aluminio y cristal, obra totémica del polémico plan inmobiliario Atlantic Yards, tendría "el 'stoop' más grande de Brooklyn" donde "los chavales pueden sentarse y ver los partidos en la tele por los cristales".

Sorry, no hablamos español. If someone can translate this article for us, please email us. In the meantime, it's Babelfish to the rescue (again):

Conscious that the ocal opposition to its mega grows urban project that would create one edifcacion equivalent to three Empire State, Frank Gehry and his urban designer Laurie Olin announced that the skyscraper of sixty plants -"Miss Brooklyn" calls of aluminum and crystal, totémica work of the controversial real estate plan Atlantic Yards, would have "' stoop' greater of Brooklyn" where "the chavales can seat and see the parties in tele by crystals".

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

September 5, 2006


IJ_header.gifThis note from the Institute for Justice just landed in the in box:

Over ten months ago, the House passed H.R. 4128, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005, by an overwhelming majority of 376-38. This bill would discourage eminent domain abuse by withholding federal economic development funds for two years from local governments that condemn private property for private commercial development. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that private property can be seized through eminent domain on the mere promise of increased tax revenue or jobs, every home, business, church and farm across the country is endangered - because anyone’s property could make more money as something bigger and newer. Federal protections are essential to curb the abuse of eminent domain, but this bill has been languishing in the Senate since last November!

It is critical that you CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW and URGE THEM TO PASS THE HOUSE VERSION OF EMINENT DOMAIN REFORM! You can find their main phone numbers below. When you call, it's important that you request a written response from your senators. If you would like to call or visit their home state offices, you can find that information here: http://castlecoalition.org/legislation/senators.html. And although phone calls are more effective, if you'd rather send an email, you can do so through this link: https://action.popuvox.com/default.aspx?actionID=284.

After you call your senator, there are a number of other things you can do to make your voice heard:



Christina Walsh
Assistant Castle Coalition Coordinator
Institute for Justice

Posted by lumi at 2:25 PM

More reaction to the scaleback shavedown

Shavedown-Curbed.jpgThough a mere 6%-8% shavedown would return the proportions of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards to about the same size as when it was initially unveiled three years ago, most of the blogosphere — and the NY Times — missed that fact.

No worries; the Zelig-like Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report somehow managed to call attention to this fact in the comments section of nearly all of the local blogs.

Brownstoner, Word Leaks of Atlantic Yards Size Reduction

News today of Bruce Ratner's plans to reduce the size of the Atlantic Yards project comes as little surprise; we don't expect that the move will appease many of the projects strongest opponents, as it does nothing to address issues of density, services or environmental impact. In fact, a cynic might be forgiven for thinking that it smacks of well-choreographed political theatre.

Gothamist, Ratner to Put Miss Brooklyn on a Diet?

After the Atlantic Yards public hearing, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had suggested the project could be scaled down. A revised plan is supposed to be announced later this month. The article notes that architect Frank Gehry has "objected to any changes in his design for Miss Brooklyn." Heh! Frank Gehry, welcome to building in the city (building for Barry Diller doesn't quite count) - you hand over your designs, they will get the city treatment.

LiarFlier-Curbed.jpgCurbed.com, Atlantic Yards Trimmed, Propagandized

And speaking of the Atlantic Yards, the Ratner-produced propaganda for the development is turning up in some very interesting places, like—say—your mailbox, or even a seemingly harmless Brooklyn Cyclones game over on Coney Island. Corrupting the innocence of America's pastime, employees handed out free New Jersey Nets bags loaded with pamphlets explaining the virtues of the Atlantic Yards development. If what we see inside is to be believed, apparently the Atlantic Yards will make fathers reconnect with their sons, and young couples in love will frolic in grassy fields, taking camera-phone pictures of their creepy, gigantoid smiles. Play ball!

OnNYTurf, No Damn Difference In Size At The NYTimes-Ratner Dog and Pony Show
ONYT casts NY Times real estate reporter Charles Bagli as the Ringmaster:

Ah, welcome back from your summer slumber, hope you had a nice time at the beach, we now on your first day back present you with Positive Positve Positve, News News News!!! From the offices of your dear leaders, an all start lineup including Silver, Bloomberg, Markowitz, Quinn, Yassky, in conjunction with our sponsor Bruce Ranter... This is your announcer Charles Bagli, and today we bring you, ATLANTIC YARDS! Smmmmmmmaller.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Less Dense? Not Daniel
Bruce Ratner pays consultant Richard Lipsky to lobby for the arena among the local amateur sports leagues. Lipsky probably scored bonus points with Bruce with his commentary on the NY Times piece, which gets into Daniel Goldstein's face with zingers like, "Dan the destroyer," "Well Daniel, as we have found out over the past twenty five years, it's never just about you!" and, "The attack on the arena underscores the scorched earth nihilism of the DDD agenda."

Lipsky did manage to squeeze this message into his verbal endzone dance:

The arena and the Nets team will be the centerpiece of a resurgent Brooklyn that will link all of its diverse neighborhoods into one unified whole.

Develop Don't Destoy Brooklyn, More Money for Ratner and an Unhappy Architect
While Richard Lipsky high fives himself, the "scorched-earth nihilists" over at DDDB take another close look at the NY Times article and notice two interesting points:

The Times:

Forest City, they say, will continue to set aside 2,250 apartments for low, moderate and middle-income tenants, even as it seeks additional subsidies for that part of the development. (Emphasis added)..

The Times treats those "additional subsidies" as a throwaway line, but for a project whose true public cost is still unknown (though we believe its around $1.9 billion) and whose profit for the developer is also unknown (all we have to go on is an estimate from New York magazine of $1 billion and this unintelligible profit-loss statement form Forest City) the specter of MORE subsidies or corporate welfare for Bruce Ratner is news in itself.
Frank Gehry, who has called that building his "ego trip" does not seem happy. We sense some client/architect friction:

...But according to executives briefed by the developer, Mr. Gehry has objected to any changes in his design for Miss Brooklyn...

Posted by lumi at 1:33 PM

Real Deal podcast tackles Atlantic Yards

Daniel Goldstein lives in the middle of what would be one of the biggest developments in New York history - the Atlantic Yards project. He won't make way, and here's why.

Goldstein-TRD.jpgAll the other owners in Goldstein's Pacific Street building took buyout offers from Ratner. But Goldstein stayed in the now empty, stripped-bare building with a faulty elevator, awaiting a legal showdown and helping run Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group opposed to the Atlantic Yards project in its current form. That form would make it easily one of the biggest single developments in New York history.

In a recent podcast with The Real Deal, Goldstein talked about why his group is opposed to Atlantic Yards - but not necessarily opposed to development in downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 1:00 PM

DDDB Press Release: ESDC Atlantic Yards Public Hearing on Election Day is Unacceptable

Develop Don't Destroy Urges the Public Not to Attend Hearing but to Participate in the Electoral Process

BROOKLYN, NY—Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) calls on the public to engage in the primary day electoral process and skip an Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hearing on Forest City Ratner’s "Atlantic Yards" scheduled for the same September 12th date.

First the ESDC gave only 66 days for public response to the 4,000-page "Atlantic Yards"Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS). Then the ESDC "ran" a public hearing on August 23rd that was a fiasco from any vantage point. That hearing was so poorly run that after eight hours only 100 people out of 500 wishing to speak were able to do so. With about 400 speakers left to speak the ESDC continues to schedule only four hours for its hearings.

"We urge and encourage the public not to go to the September 12th ESDC ‘Atlantic Yards’ hearing but rather engage in the political process as voters, campaign and poll workers," said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. "The ESDC’s scheduling of a public hearing on primary day is just the latest in a series of insults to the public by the public agency that views itself as Forest City Ratner’s partner. It is unacceptable for the State of New York to schedule an important public hearing on the largest single-source development proposal in the history of New York City coinciding with primary day. It is especially unacceptable and unconscionable considering that the last hearing required an eight hour commitment just to have a chance to testify. We've asked the ESDC to change the problematic hearing date but they have not budged."

The 66 day timeframe for public response to the "Atlantic Yards" DEIS is about half of the time given to the much smaller Yankee Stadium plan.

"Rather than giving up the electoral process for a fiasco of a hearing, we do strongly encourage and urge the public to attend the ESDC hearing scheduled for September 18th. And of course the public should submit written comment up to the current September 29th deadline," Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

New York City made new

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff says it’s an historic time in our history

Metro NY
by Michael P. Ventura

If it seems like there’s a new development everywhere you look in the city, well, there is. City Hall’s point man for such projects talked to Metro about how these plans will transform New York.

How much say does the city have in how much affordable housing is created in the Atlantic Yards project?

We’ve been involved every step of the way. In fact, we negotiated the terms with Forest City Ratner. So, we’re comfortable — not to say that there might not be some more tweaks — and we’re confident in the commitment to affordable housing. We are providing a lot of the subsidies and other inducements to create affordable housing.


Posted by lumi at 12:44 PM

The Ratner campaign money trail leads to... Michael (& his wife)

Atlantic Yards Report scoops the mainstream media by following the money.

So how does Bruce Ratner get practically the entire Brooklyn Party Machine to march in lock step when he has "sharply cut back on donating funds to political campaigns?"

Enter brother Michael Ratner, famed constitutional rights lawyer/minority Nets owner, and the rest of the Ratner clan.

moneyhands.jpgNorman Oder uncovers several contributions of interest that answer some burning questions:

Why hasn't NYC Comptroller William Thompson subjected Atlantic Yards to the same scrutiny as the Hudson Yards/West Side Stadium project?

In 2001, Michele de Milly, whose firm has long done p.r. for FCR, organized five contributions of $4500--for a total of $22,500--to William Thompson's campaign for city comptroller. The donors were Michael Ratner, [Michael Ratner's wife Karen] Ranucci, [Bruce Ratner's girlfriend Pamela] Lipkin, Bruce Ratner's daughter Rebecca Ratner, and Ellen Ratner of Washington, another family member.

Why did Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum decry eminent domain abuse but support the Nets arena, and why hasn't she lifted a finger to help residents facing displacement now that eminent domain is still on the table?

Lipkin has made fewer contributions, though she did give $4950 last year to the campaign of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

What about the Brooklyn Party Machine?
The Michael Ratner/Ranucci political money machine sent: $5,000 to Roger Green, $5,000 to party boss Clarence Norman, $4,000 to Norman's sidekick Carl Andrews, $4,000 to Yvette Clarke, $4,000 to Edolphus Towns, and $10,000 to big booster Martin Malave Dilan.

Intense lobbying will occur around Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who will vote on Atlantic Yards through his representative on the Public Authorities Control Board. But should concerned Brooklynites even bother?

$6,000 to Sheldon Silver.

Get the picture? But wait, there's more. Based on the Ratners' pattern of giving, the family dynasty has plans upstate (casinos?), and they keep the tap flowing in the Bronx.


Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Purpose and Need

Brooklyn Views examines at one overarching flaw of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the statement of the "Purpose and Need" for the Atlantic Yards project.

According to the CEQR methodology followed for this particular project, the description of the purpose and need “should be framed in terms of how the action meets public needs and responds to public policies”.
Initially, the DEIS for Atlantic Yards is as clear as it can be about the project’s Purpose and Need: “The overarching goal of the proposed project is to transform a blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use community”.

But further on in the same Purpose and Need section of the document, more detail of the proposed design is provided. Does the Purpose and Need include providing an arena, a hotel, and exactly 6,860 units of housing? These sound more like specific features of the current plan. To include them as part of the Purpose and Need confuses the means with the ends, resulting in a document that can not be disputed but is ultimately meaningless: since the project is the same as the objectives, nothing can be changed. Because if it was, it wouldn’t meet the objectives. And, as we’ve previously noted, we see the results of this in the subsequent dismissal of the alternatives.

BV provides some examples of the conundrums and circular thinking that exists when the "purpose and need" is confused with the "description" of the project, and concludes:

If the arena is, in fact, part of the purpose and need of the project, say so, and show clearly how it furthers public policy. If the scale is required to make the project financing work, show us. The EIS should not be executed with a nod and a wink. Revise and resubmit a truly transparent document.


Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Ratner keeps unveiling smaller plans that are bigger than the first

Today's NY Times scoop, from its Times Tower business partner, about the possible "shavedown" of Atlantic Yards by developer Bruce Ratner, totally missed the fact that a 6%-8% shave to the project would still leave the project bigger than when it was originally announced.

This fact, among several other points, was noted by a few other online voices:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB.net), Impending Scaleback Won't Cut It
Last week DDDB called the scaleback game a "scam" and listed other important issues. They also give kudos to State Assemblyman Jim Brennan for having the balls to say that this scaleback was "really about aesthetics" and doesn't address many issues which concern the public.

Atlantic Yards Report, AY likely still larger than the original under new scaleback (but does the Times notice?)
AYR gets back to its original mission, analyzing NY Times coverage of its business partner. Norman Oder cruches the numbers:

Unmentioned is the sequence [of] proposals, which show that the project could still be bigger than originally announced:
December 2003: 8 million square feet
September 2005: 9.132 million square feet
March 2006: 8.659 million square feet

A reduction of 500,000 square feet would make the project 8.159 million square feet, while a cut of 700,000 square feet would mean 7.959 million square feet.

The masterstroke is that the Times is reporting that Ratner plans to unveil the new plans after all of the public hearings and community forums:

Today's article continues: The reduction in the project’s scope comes as the Empire State Development Corporation prepares to hold two more public hearings later this month before voting on the project in October. Officials say the developer is likely to unveil the changes around Sept. 25, when the City Planning Commission is expected to issue design guidelines for the project and recommend changes, including a reduction in density.

September 25 is conveniently after the two community forums, and just three days before the end of the comment period to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Capitoilette, Bruce Ratner Comes Out of the Closet (not so much)

You've got to wonder how slimy a deal has to be to get even the Ratner-friendly New York Times to admit in so many words that it is nothing more than some political log-rolling. . . .
And as the Forest City executive admits, this scale-back was planned all along, confirming what many opponents have been insisting for months: the original plan was purposely inflated to provide for a phony compromise later. As Daniel Goldstein from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said to the Times, FCR has had this proposal “in their closet for a long time.”

And it’s still in the closet. FC Ratner hasn’t actually unveiled these plans, they’ve just leaked that they are going to unveil some sort of revised plan “sometime later this month.”

Why not unveil it now? Well, that might give opponents of the development time to actually analyze the new proposal. And, so, show up for the next public forum (scheduled for, um, later this month) prepped to show this downsizing for what it is: a sham and a scam

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

September 4, 2006

Developer Is Expected to Snip Away at High-Rise Project in Brooklyn

Footprint-NYT.gifThe NY Times
By Charles Bagli and Diane Cardwell

Facing mounting criticism of its $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project, the developer Forest City Ratner plans to reduce the size of the complex by 6 to 8 percent, eliminating hundreds of apartments from what would be the largest development project in the city, according to government officials and executives working with the developer.

Forest City is also considering reducing the height of the project’s tallest tower, which is known as Miss Brooklyn, to get it under the height of the borough’s tallest building, the nearby Williamsburgh Savings Bank, according to real estate executives.
But both supporters and critics have expected Forest City to reduce the size and density of Atlantic Yards, which has been the focus of a series of raucous, standing-room-only public hearings, most recently on Aug. 24. The stage appeared to be set when the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, the project’s chief cheerleader, proclaimed at that hearing that no tower at Atlantic Yards should be taller than the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.
“I don’t think the bottom-line community concern is really about aesthetics, which is what shaving a few stories off the heights of the buildings is about,” said James F. Brennan, a Brooklyn assemblyman. “I don’t think this flies.”

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, added, “They could chop Miss Brooklyn in half in terms of the height and that won’t change our position.” Mr. Goldstein’s group opposes the arena, the project’s density and the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire some of the property.

Mr. Goldstein said he suspects that the developer has had this proposal “in their closet for a long time.”

At that point, there could be a long line of politicians and activists hoping to take credit, including the Bloomberg administration, Mr. Silver, Ms. Millman and Mr. Markowitz.

“Everyone’s going to take credit for something that everyone knew would happen,” said an executive who works with Forest City. “For these guys, it’s very important.”


NoLandGrab: Now we know what the puchline was to the big laugh had by the Forest City Ratner contingent during Marty's speech at the public hearing on August 23rd. Apparently the inside joke is that Marty was calling for things that were already "in the can," while opponents and reporters scribbled notes about the change in Marty's tune.

Brooklynites don't mind being played like a violin — too bad it's the taxpayers that still have to pay the piper.

Sorry 'bout the tired musical cliches - they're just about as lame as the typical game in which the developer proposes a project that's way too big, shaves it down, and calls it a win for the community.

The community has no details of any possible changes, but a 6%-8% shavedown of the project would still make Atlantic Yards the most dense residential community in the nation, by a lo-o-o-ong shot — and bigger still than when it was initially unveiled.

The line of those seeking "to take credit" for such a cosmetic change apparently won't include "everyone," since Assemblymember Brennan appears to have clearly seen through the smoke being blown by the developer.

Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere03-sm.jpgGothamist, Grains of Salt and Atlantic Yards Support

It'd be interesting if a poll did ask people if they felt informed about the issues - and then if the pollster gave people some of the pros and cons and asked questions about support all over again.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Some Questions I'd like Crain's Pollsters to Ask....

We don't have a copy of Crain's poll questions, but "Dreadnaught" has a few questions of his own.

Daily Gotham, Bill Batson's Statement on the ESDC's Analysis of Ratner's Plan

Mole333 posted 57th Assembly District candidate Bill Batson's official position on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

The Real Estate Observer, Monday: Everybody Loves Ratner (and Harlem)

Today's Crain's reports that 60% of Brooklynites support the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards development. A high number, no? Plus, nearly 9 out of 10 New Yorkers think the project will "be an important benefit to the community," on account of the affordable housing and new jobs. 10 out of 10 Bruce Ratners agree.

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Arena Foes Poll-Axed
Here's a big surprise, Ratner's consultant Richard Lipsky is declaring that:

In spite of all the publicity generated and policy expertise demonstrated by the DDD folks the group doesn't have the kind of traction needed to stop the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 PM

Hakeem's Insincerity on Eminent Domain

Hakeem Jeffries's latest campaign lit has "Atlantic Yards" Voters Guide as puzzled as the rest of us.

"Private abuse of eminent domain?" Huh? What we have with Atlantic Yards is a public and private abuse of eminent domain. How can Jeffries hold this position while at the same time talking about a "principled compromise" at Atlantic Yards. Either you are for or against the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 7:14 PM

Pacific Crest Research is back, asking about the Congressional race

Atlantic Yards Report

PCR.gifNorman Oder has to be some kind of telephone-poll magnet because Pacific Crest Research "reached out" again. This time the poll was pretty straightforward, primarily looking at the heated 11th Congressional District race with some Atlantic Yards stuff sprinkled in for good measure.

Oder took notes and then wondered:

So what’s the goal?

Is Forest City Ratner trying to figure out how to influence the Congressional race? Or is the developer trying to gauge the attitude of the supporters of various candidates so as to respond after the election? Or could it be some other patron altogether?

I asked a supervisor who’d commissioned the poll. He said staffers aren’t told, and that only the president of the Pacific Crest Research knows. His name is Matt Hewitt.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 PM

The beer you like supports the developer you can't stand

The Indypendent
By Scott MX Turner

Brooklyn Brewery, a heretofore favorite with Brooklyn-philes, has been a vociferous cheerleader for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Owner Steve Hindy, who built his business on the back of Brooklyn's history and mythology, backs a project that would overrun the borough's special qualities with box-store blandness.

In February, the political sports fans' groupv Fans For Fair Play launched a boycott of Brooklyn Brewery. The "Think Before You Drink" campaign intends to keep consumers who oppose Ratner from inadvertently aiding him. Brooklyn Lager is a sponsor of Ratner's New Jersey Nets basketball team, has hoted parties for the Nets, and owner Steve Hindy has spoken publicly in support of Ratner's luxury development.

Fans For Fair Play and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn met with Hindy, walked him through the neighborhood targeted by Ratner and presented him with evidence that Ratner's skyscrapers and arena are bad for Brooklyn. The next day Hindy told the press he was 100 percent behind Ratner. So much for loving Brooklyn.

Brooklyn bars have stopped selling Hindy's beerm, including Freddy's, the community pub that would be destroyed if Ratner gets his way. These days, "whattya got that isn't Brooklyn Lager?" is being heard more and more.

GWPorter.jpgAnd if you're thinking a beer boycott is just plain nuts, we offer you this copy we found on the back label of a bottle of Samuel Adams George Washington Porter:

George Washington's favorite brew was Porter. In fact, he felt so strongly that there should be an American Porter, he adopted and encouraged a policy of buying only American-brewed beer rather than imported British beer. This policy was part of the Non-Importation agreement of 1774 drafted by Samuel Adams. Washington signed the agreement at a meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

George Washington believed that the fight for independence was worthy of a beer boycott, giving new meaning to "DRINK RESPONSIBLY."

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

60% support big Brooklyn arena plan

Prospect of housing and employment sways New Yorkers, Crain's poll finds

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

The colossal and controversial Atlantic Yards development is favored by a solid 60% of city residents and disliked by only 25%, according to a Crain's New York Business poll.

Read the full text of the article after the jump.

surveysays01.jpgNoLandGrab: Without knowing what questions were actually asked, it is difficult to know what to make of this article.

Based upon poll results, it appears that Bruce Ratner's pr campaign, featuring blanket claims about "affordable housing" and jobs, has convinced many New Yorkers; however, the poll also indicates that only 20% of respondents follow the issue closely.

Conclusion? Most New Yorkers do not follow the issue of Atlantic Yards closely, but a majority support the plan.

The poll got some play in the local media (both newspaper bylines are from reporters who do not regularly cover Atlantic Yards) and triggered a response from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and and analysis from Atlantic Yards Report:

NY1, Poll Finds Majority Support Atlantic Rail Yards Development
NY Daily News, N.Y.ers all pumped up over Nets deal - survey
DDDB.net (Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn), Crain's Meaningless Poll
Atlantic Yards Report, Jobs & housing promises sway Crain's poll, but what was left out?

The colossal and controversial Atlantic Yards development is favored by a solid 60% of city residents and disliked by only 25%, according to a Crain's New York Business poll. New Yorkers cite the jobs and affordable housing that it promises for Brooklyn as the two most important benefits of the project. Support for the proposal is running at a robust 60% in Brooklyn as well, though opposition there is stronger, with 33% viewing it unfavorably. The poll, conducted by Charney Research between Aug. 23 and Aug. 28, surveyed 601 people representing a cross section of the five boroughs. It has a margin of error of 4%.

Permit us to hightlight in this next paragraph that it is presumptuous to assume that the "public's opinion" will influence state officials, when this project has been shephered through the pre-approval process at the highest levels of state and city government:

The public's opinion of the 8.7 million-square-foot project influences the state officials in charge of the approval process, which is nearing a conclusion. If they take their cue from local sentiment, the officials will probably demand only a modest reduction in the development's size--not a fundamental redesign. "The meaning of the poll is that New Yorkers are broadly pro-development, and that includes people in Brooklyn who are close to this project," says Craig Charney, the research firm's president. Support for Forest City Ratner's $4.2 billion plan runs across racial, economic and gender lines, the poll shows. The proposed complex of 16 office and residential towers and a basketball arena is viewed favorably by 56% of African-Americans, 58% of whites, 68% of Latinos and 72% of Asians. The results contradict the popular characterization of detractors as white elites and fans as poor minorities. Only 26% of whites say they are somewhat or very unfavorable toward Atlantic Yards, compared with 30% of blacks. Opposition among residents of households with income below $20,000 or above $100,000 was identical: 29%. It was 22% in households with incomes between those amounts. The poll shows why Forest City has trumpeted its deal with community groups setting aside apartments and construction jobs for local residents, and why opponents have tried to discredit the pact. A whopping 86% of respondents call it an important benefit. That figure is 70% even among those who don't like the project.

Housing important
The project's proposed 2,250 apartments for low- and middle- income renters receive a similarly robust endorsement: They are deemed an important benefit by 92% of the development's supporters and even by 66% of its detractors. Forest City's plan to move the Nets from New Jersey to the arena, at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, is less of a factor. Only 58% describe it as an important benefit, while 40% say it's not. More men than women praise the basketball component, and college-educated women are the least impressed, with 53% calling it unimportant. In fact, college-educated women are the least enthusiastic about Atlantic Yards as a whole. Yet half of them like it, while 32% do not. Interest in Atlantic Yards is intensifying as its day of reckoning nears. A public hearing last month drew an overflow crowd, and hearings Sept. 12 and Sept. 18 are also expected to be packed. A recent opposition rally and an informational meeting for prospective tenants each drew more than 2,000 people. The Crain's poll indicates that 28% of Brooklynites and 20% of New Yorkers are following the issue closely. Most New Yorkers are not bothered by some common criticisms of the project. Only 34% say its significant costs to the city--such as those schools and infrastructure entail--raise serious doubts in their minds. Just 29% express misgivings when told that the project, which includes a 62-story office tower, is out of scale with the neighborhood and will promote gentrification. Of greater concern is the fact that the city's land-use review process was not used to consult the community on Atlantic Yards. That raises doubts in 40%, including 53% of those who are college-educated, but just 27% of those who didn't get past high school.

City will deal with it
"I don't think the neighborhood had enough input, and I think it's too big a project," says Richard Wald, 64, of Far Rockaway, Queens. "I'd like it to go back to the drawing board." He says that though it would be nice to have the Nets, they should return to their former home on Long Island. "City land is too valuable," he explains. Edward Altman, 83, of Brooklyn Heights, sees the project differently. "There are problems with Atlantic Yards, but they'll be overcome and I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages," he says. The project would create jobs and residential units, he says. "I know most [of the housing] will not be moderate- or low-income, but enough of it will be. "The stadium for the Nets has been overemphasized," Mr. Altman says. "It's not like a football stadium where you get 70,000 people in the daytime. It's 19,000 people--at night." Though he acknowledges that traffic would increase, "the city will have to find a way to deal with it," he says.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Tracy Boyland: Albany isn't looking out for [Ratner] anymore

Daily Gotham

Mole333 explains why Tracy Boyland is campaigning to fight for Ratner's interests in Albany:

Tracy Boyland's campaign motto, from her campaign literature, is "I just don't think the politicians in Albany are looking out for US anymore..."

If the allegations that she is the "Ratner pawn" then by "us" she must mean herself and Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Two errors in nationwide AP story on AY

Atlantic Yards Report

There were two fundamental errors in an otherwise reasonably balanced Associated Press story that appeared in dozens of newspapers nationwide today. The article, headlined Project Divides Brooklyn Residents in most papers, states: The $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project, to be built over a rail yard...

NoLandGrab: If only that were true. The Vanderbilt Railyards only comprises EIGHT acres of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project.

The article also:

didn't acknowledge that the "extraordinary" coalition [consists] mainly of groups that stand to benefit from the project, and that the Community Benefits Agreement differs significantly from those pioneering agreements negotiated in Los Angeles, where signatories refuse to accept money from the developer.

Atlantic Yards Report
AP article, via Newsday

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

September 3, 2006

Rockefeller Group Urges Brooklyn to Build to the Sky With Atlantic Yards

By Stephen Witt

At last, the definitive reason to build Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

“New York is a city of such grand scale that the leaders of the past, the Rockefellers, the Astors and the Morgans, all recognized to have an impact or do anything meaningful in the city required it to be both spectacular and at a grand scale,” said "Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership For New York City (PFNYC), an organization founded by David Rockefeller."

Reporter Stephen Witt mistakenly placed Wylde's speech after Marty Markowitz at the "public hearing." Wylde may have submitted written comments, but her speech in support of what could be the densest residential community in the nation was in fact delivered at the Forest City Ratner press rally BEFORE the hearing.

While Forest City Ratner Companies is among the PFNYC members, it also includes a who’s who list of corporate giants including Microsoft and Bloomberg LP, both considered good corporate citizens.

The PFNYC board is currently co-chaired by the CEOs of Citigroup and the Hearst Corporation, and boasts such Brooklyn-born and bred alumni as Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner; Sy Sternberg, CEO of New York Life; Fred Wilpon owner of the New York Mets; and Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Wylde critiques the post-Robert Moses world and explains why high-density projects not in her back yard are important:

Wylde traced the anti-development sentiment in the city to the 1960’s as a response to some of the massive public works projects undertaken by Robert Moses.

“That led us to change the city charter in a way that allows the very parochial interests to triumph over the larger interests of the city,” Wylde said.

“I live in Bay Ridge and as far as we’re concerned, high-density development in the downtown corridor is one of the most important ways to preserve the borough’s residential neighborhoods and to regain the vitality of the local economy,” she added.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 PM

Nothing is uncontested with development project in Brooklyn

AP, via NY Newsday
By Desmond O. Butler

This update on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan begins with the curtain rising on the recent public hearing.

"Fair and balanced" coverage ping-pongs back and forth with quotes from project critic City Councilmember Letitia James, project manager Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and footprint homeowner Daniel Goldstein and ACORN's Bertha Lewis.

Like most coverage, what the article doesn't mention is that much of the "vocal constituency squarely in support of the developer" is rallied by groups who have received financial support from the developer or stands to benefit financially from the project.


UPDATE: The article is no longer available on line. Full text after the jump.

Nothing is uncontested with development project in Brooklyn By DESMOND O. BUTLER Associated Press Writer

September 3, 2006, 2:28 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- The tension over a project that would reshape Brooklyn with an NBA arena, office towers and thousands of apartments was quite evident at a recent hearing on the project.

A state senator stood up and endorsed the project, but was shouted down by a woman in the audience who opposes the plan. The woman was immediately engulfed in boos and jeers by an audience that included construction workers, affordable housing advocates and teenagers dressed in NBA jerseys. It was just one of many heated encounters in a hearing that dragged on for seven hours.

<A TARGET="top" HREF="http://ad.doubleclick.net/click%3Bh=v8/3467/3/0/%2a/h%3B45701811%3B0-0%3B0%3B12927808%3B4307-300/250%3B18127454/18145349/1%3B%3B%7Esscs%3D%3fhttp://www.newsday.com/other/special/ny-artinstructionform,0,3995880.customform"><IMG SRC="http://m1.2mdn.net/1242042/spacer.gif" BORDER=0></A> &lt;A TARGET="top" HREF="http://ad.doubleclick.net/click%3Bh=v7/3455/3/0/%2a/t%3B45835968%3B0-0%3B0%3B12927808%3B4307-300/250%3B18145241/18163136/1%3B%3B%7Esscs%3D%3fhttp://www.newsday.com/other/special/ny-kingqualsplash2,0,4815447.htmlstory"&gt;&lt;IMG SRC="http://m1.2mdn.net/1225116/kingQualcube.jpg" BORDER=0&gt;&lt;/A&gt; Supporters say the hearing illustrated the breadth of an extraordinary local coalition in favor of the plan _ a group that believes the poor and middle class will benefit through jobs and affordable housing promised by the developer.

But for opponents, the hearing _ along with the boos against the opponent _ was indicative of what they believe is a cozy, stage-managed public review process.

"The fix was in from the start," says City Council Member, Letitia James, one of the few New York public officials opposed to the project.

The $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project, to be built over a rail yard, was designed by star architect Frank Gehry. It includes an 18,000-seat stadium, 606,000 square feet of office space, 6,860 units of housing, retail space and a hotel in 16 towers ranging from 19 to 58 stories. The arena would become the home to the New Jersey Nets, owned by the developer, bringing a major professional sports team back to Brooklyn for the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers left in 1957.

The developer, Bruce Ratner, believes the project will breathe life into a void etched by the large rail yards. He has agreed to make substantial environmental improvements to the neighborhood _ recently declared blighted by the state _ and turn seven acres of the project into publicly accessible space groomed by an award-winning landscape architect.

"This project guarantees the growth of Brooklyn for the future," said Jim Stuckey, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner.

Opponents say the biggest blight is on the horizon.

"Atlantic Yards is inconsistent with the character of the community," says James, whose constituents include some people living in the proposed footprints of the project. "It's out of scale."

At the moment, two of the proposed towers would rival the nearby 34-story Williamsburgh Savings Bank, which at 512 feet has loomed in near isolation as the tallest building in Brooklyn since it was built in 1929. A tower dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" by Gehry will reach 620 feet in current plans.

The scale and striking design, with undulating, glass towers of varying size and angles, would transform the image of predominantly low-rise and brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods. Opponents say it will create a traffic nightmare.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of the opposition has emerged from neighborhoods both bordering on the project _ and if it proceeds, underneath it.

One vocal opponent has been Daniel Goldstein, the sole remaining condo-owner in a building within the plan's footprint.

Forest City has been buying up land and buildings with offers above market rate. It says it now owns or controls 93 percent of the condos and co-ops in the footprint _ all but five units _ and the majority of the rest of the real estate.

In early 2004, Goldstein and other owners helped start Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an organization he says has grown to include 21 community groups, more than 2,000 donors and 700 volunteers. Members, including a handful of celebrities, have dissected the developer's plans, proposed alternatives, published copious critiques in print and blogs, protested loudly against eminent domain seizures and threatened litigation.

"We want to see development over the rail yards that is in a reasonable scale for the existing community and we are against using eminent domain for a project like this," says Goldstein.

He suggests the basketball arena be built elsewhere, perhaps Coney Island.

But supporters of the project think the opposition is distinctly local and fueled by transplanted Manhattanites. Developers have the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki and the vast majority of the City Council, state Assembly and Senate.

They also have a key partner in ACORN _ the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now _ a national advocate for low- and middle-income urban families that focuses on issues like lowering crime, improving schools and affordable housing.

ACORN _ not an obvious bedfellow for the developer _ saw an opportunity in the project, said Bertha Lewis, executive director of ACORN New York. The group agreed to support the plan _ with the weight of its 40,000 active members in New York _ in exchange for a community benefits agreement that includes integrating affordable housing into Atlantic Yards.

Under the deal, 50 percent of the 4,500 rental apartments proposed would go to people within five income brackets starting at $21,270 per family of four and capping out at $113,440. Those apartments would be integrated so that low-income families and market-rate renters would live side by side.

"The elevator has to work for everyone," Lewis says. She says that if the deal can set a template for other developments, it might mitigate the plight of poor people, who have watched Brooklyn improve only to be priced out.

"This deal is a benefit not only to our members but in the neighborhood in general, for the folks who have lived here in Brooklyn for 20, 30 years," she says.

The deal brought a big, vocal constituency squarely in support of the developer. As evidenced by the hearing and packed informational meetings on the affordable housing units, ACORN has convinced a lot of people that jobs and affordable housing offset the downside raised in the environmental impact study, including traffic and the use of eminent domain to seize property.

The project awaits the end of a 60-day comment period on the environmental review before a state agency overseeing the project could approve and send it for final consideration to the Public Authorities Control Board, controlled by the governor.

Even with swift approval, the fight over Atlantic Yards is likely to spill into the courts.

But Forest City believes the Brooklyn Nets will be playing basketball in the new arena by 2009.

Posted by lumi at 7:16 PM

The Empire State Development Corporation: Who are they?

Daily Gotham

Mole333, momentarily stumped by a reader's question about the Empire State Development Corporation, does some research into the history and structure of the semi-governmental state agency, which can issue bonds and seize private property without the blessing of the voters.

Mario Cuomo was the first to begin ambitious use of it to get around official scrutiny for public projects. In 1981 voters voted against a $500 million bond issue for expansion of the state prison system to handle increased prison populations arising from the Rockefeller drug laws. At the time New York had 32 adult prisons. Cuomo was to use the bonds to build another 38 prisons -- most upstate.[6]


Posted by lumi at 6:27 PM

Are Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Rail Yards Chopped Liver?


There is a huge power and money struggle going on over the West Side's Hudson Yards. The MTA has just appraised those yards at 3 times the value that the City is offering the transportation authority.
Well, as we know Forest City Ratner offered the MTA $100 million for the Vanderbilt Yards–the 8.3-acre active rail yard that makes up about 37% of the acreage in Ratner's 22-acre "Atlantic Yards" proposal. The Extell Development Company offered $150 million. The MTA appraised Vanderbilt Yards at $214.5 million. ...
We are looking for some consistency here. And while we are at it, why isn't (or hasn't) the City offering to buy the Vanderbilt Yards, platform them and sell it off to developers? If that makes sense on the West Side it certainly makes sense at the real estate treasure going east from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic.


Posted by lumi at 5:53 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Roundup

While we were caught sleeping on the job, Norman Oder wasn't — we forgot to post yesterday's links to Atlantic Yards Report so here's the weekend roundup from the "mad overblogger":

AY displacement? Rev. Daughtry is incredulous (and uninformed)

Residential displacement around Atlantic Yards will be countered by the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's plan, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, ACORN head Bertha Lewis, Ratner spokesperson Lupe Todd, and Rev. Herbert R. Daughtry. Can we take their claims at face value?

Norman Oder provides some additional analysis.

New community forum coming; backlash against hearing "circus" continues

The Courier-Life article on the August 23 "Public Hearing" and the additional "Community Forum" needs some explaining. Norman Oder also highlights the coverage on some criticism of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The innocence of our Borough President

Atlantic Yards Report straightens out Marty Markowitz on differences between Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan and inclusionary zoning initiatives.

The more things change...
Oder offers a couple paragraphs about public hearings from Jane Jacobs. It's deja vu all over again:

A public hearing in a big city is apt to be a curious affair, simultaneously discouraging and heartening.

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

September 2, 2006

Atlantic Yards Shockwaves: Rent Hikes For Neighbors

By Gary Buiso

Fig4-6-CL.jpgThe massive Atlantic Yards development could threaten to displace the very people who last week heartily cheered the project’s arrival, according to the language of the plan’s voluminous environmental impact study.

Renters in unregulated buildings in Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Gowanus may be forced to search for new digs if the controversial project comes to pass, the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for Forest City Ratner’s plan reveals.

But in the future—and even already, there might be little to fear, the document notes. Real estate pressures have already forced out many lower- to moderate-income residents. It is assumed, then, that those left behind will have enough money to absorb the project’s impact. ...
“I don’t believe that at all,” [project supporter Reverend Herbert R.] Daughtry told this paper when asked about the displacement prediction. “Someone must be making that up.”

Daughtry said he has been arguing quite the contrary: “This project will ensure the presence of minorities…where everything around [the project] is in the luxury class.”


NoLandGrab: On another note, Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey counters the fact that, if built, Atlantic Yards would become the densest residential community in the nation, by arguing that critics should be looking at "census tracts."

That would be more convenient for the developer, since the 22-acre Atlantic Yards proposal is so large that it is divided by FOUR different census tracts (click on map to enlarge), which would statistically dillute the effect of the project's unprecedented density.

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Gowanus Lounge Weasel Word of the Week: "Appropriate"

Gowanus Lounge cites David Yassky and the Empire State Development Corporation for inappropriate use of "appropriate."

appropriate.gif"Appropriate" is Gowanus Lounge's Weasel Word of the Week, making an appearance in not one, but two, interesting explanations of things.

Case Number One: This week's Gotcha' Moment, in which Brownstoner caught City Council Member and Congressional candidate David Yassky moments before he was about to attend a fundraiser hosted by architect Robert Scarano. The fundraiser was iced after Brownstoner reported it because, a Yassky spokesperson explained, "the campaign didn't think it was appropriate."
Case Number Two: This week's Dress the Pigeon as a Duck and Hope They Believe It Quacks Moment, in which the Empire State Development Corp. extended the public comment period on Atlantic Yards by a week because it's "appropriate," in the words of ESDC's spokesperson. Not only "appropriate" in this case, but, um, legally required? Apologies if the question is inappropriate.

appropriate link

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

The Final Line Drawn Over the Ratnerena in the 57th?

"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide is reporting:

the leading Atlantic Yards political opponent, Letitia James, on September 6th, will be endorsing Bill Batson in the 57th Assembly District.... Batson is the only Atlantic Yards opponent in that race.


Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

My Wife Responds to the NY Times

Daily Gotham

Mole333 publishes his wife's Letter to the Editor that did not get published in The NY Times, regarding the papers endorsement of David Yassky for the 11th Congressional District [emphasis added]:

Although I fully expected it, I am disheartened to see that the Times has endorsed David Yassky's bid for Congress in the 11th District.

I live in Mr. Yassky's council district, and I disagree that his record in the Council has been as great as you say. "Job creation" and "affordable housing" are just buzzwords meaning "I support Atlantic Yards and take money from Ratner." Mr. Yassky has fallen flat on other issues that are important to the district, such as voting machine technology. Despite the fact that the question of which machines New York City will choose is directly before the Council, at a CD 11 candidate's form earlier this year, Mr. Yassky said "I don't care" when asked his position on the issue.


Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM


library.jpgThe Real Estate Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman notes the irony that:

The Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement finds that the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library would:

experience significant adverse impacts from noise associated with the Site 5 construction activities between 2007 and 2009, including demolition, utility work, and above-ground construction of structures.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Atlantic Yards $ Pit?

By Stephen Witt

The city is putting in an additional $29 million toward infrastructure costs surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project, according to documents unearthed by project opponents.

The $29 million comes from a section of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 budget titled, “FY 2007 Changes Pursuant to Section 254- Mayoral.”

The money, stretched out over three years, includes $5 million in 2007 toward relocated water mains on Pacific Street, Vanderbilt to Flatbush avenues, to Atlantic Avenue, $10 million for these same water mains in 2008, $10 million for these same water mains in 2009, and $4 million in 2008 to reconstruct a pedestrian underpass at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

City Councilmember Letitia James calls attention to the skyrocketing costs of the project; 57th Assembly District Candidate Bill Batson mentions that the pedestrian underpass has just been rennovated; Forest City Ratner Companies had no comment and the Mayor's office hadn't returned the call before press time.


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

ESDC Agrees to Add Another Hearing After Initial Yards Fiasco

By Emily Keller

This article about the additional "community forum" is reporting:

Although neither forum is called a hearing because doing so would extend the September 22 deadline for respondents to submit testimony to the [Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC)] prior to its creation of a Final [Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)], Copen said testimonies given at both will become part of the public record for the project, and that the forums will be similar to hearings.

It's possible the paper went to print before the extension of the deadline for public comment to September 29.

The ESDC was also criticized for scheduling the first community forum on Primary Day, which [ESDC spokesperson Jessica] Copen said was “not intentional.”

The article continues with quotes from attendees who were signed in to speak but were never called.

Carolyn Konheim of Community Consulting Services (CCS) was one of those who was never called to the podium, where she planned to read a testimony critiquing the technicalities of the DEIS, without professing support or opposition to the project. She handed in written testimony instead.

In her testimony, Konheim called the [Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)] process premature, and said a review of more than 1,000 pages on traffic, transit and pedestrians by CCS – a non-profit corporation that provides technical planning expertise to community leaders and public agencies – “reveals that the DEIS has stripped out at least 30 types of essential data, without which the reader is asked to accept the DEIS conclusions on faith.”

Konheim said that documents that were additionally requested were just recently received and “have been found to have major discrepancies with the DEIS and to be missing key elements needed to verify the impacts.”


NoLandGrab: Konheim and Hunter College professor Tom Angotti both referred to documents that were missing from the DEIS and were just recently provided. This means that the DEIS, which the ESDC adopted, was incomplete, and it was left to the community experts to research the document and provide a list of what studies and documents were missing.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

September 1, 2006

DG: Extra, Extra

LiarFlyer04-sm.jpgDaily Gotham posts a link to the latest prevaricating* pr puff piece on flickr and says:

According to Bruce Ratner, all the city papers are hugely in favor of the Atlantic Yards project. And why would he lie?

* The city papers really did say all those nice things about Atlantic Yards. It's some of the Ratner copy that is less than "actual and factual."

Posted by lumi at 10:34 AM

AY Phase I: 83% luxury housing and 40 low-income rentals a year

Atlantic Yards Report

Just how many "affordable" or "low-income" housing units are planned for the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project?

At last week's hearing, Assemblymember Jim Brennan cautioned that the affordable housing was not planned until the second phase of the project. Developer Forest City Ratner, and its affordable housing partner, ACORN, have refused to offer specifics.

Atlantic Yards Report digs up projections from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and learns that Phase I housing proposes:

That makes for nearly 83% luxury, market-rate units. If you add the 162 moderate- to high-income rentals, which would easily rent for more than $2000 a unit for a four-person family, that makes 2108 units, or nearly 90% of 2350 total units.

It provides strong evidence that, as Brennan and others have suggested, the financial success of the project as a whole--and the provision of most of the affordable housing--depends on the success of the market-rate units. Moreover, should the housing market change, Phase II--with most of the affordable units--could be delayed.

AYR compares the Atlantic Yards affordable housing plan with the Williamsburg/Greenpoint affordable housing incentives:

Atlantic Yards proponents say it's also important as a model. But the project build pattern would diverge from that established in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning last year. For the latter rezoning, negotiated by the City Council, Affordable units used to earn the [inclusionary zoning] bonus must be created no later than the development receiving the bonus.


Gowanus Lounge comments on AYR's post:

The entire picture is far, far bleaker overall for those who think Atlantic Yards will produce affordable housing for low-income Brooklynites. So, no problem if you are comfortable with affordable housing by 2016 in a phase of the project that is the most speculative. But, if you were thinking that there would be significant affordable housing as part of the mix by 2010, think again. Mr. Oder's full analysis is absolutely worth a read in its entirety.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Letter to Village Voice re ACORN/FCR responses

Atlantic Yards Report addresses two letters to the editor of The Village Voice, one from ACORN's Bertha Lewis and another from Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey.

Lewis's letter failed to mention that Ratner added more than 2,000 units of luxury condos after the "50/50" "affordable" housing deal was signed. Stuckey's letter left out the part about the current tenants' agreement that only covered the difference in rent for up to three years (the project is expected to take 10 years to build).


Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM

ESDC spin is in

NY1 is reporting(dialup/broadband):

At a public hearing last week, many of the people who oppose the project said they didn't have enough time to review the 4,000 page proposal.

The Empire State Development Corporation announced Thursday that the public comment period will be extended an extra week to September 29th.

According to the ESDC, they're extending the review period so that the community can have another seven days to study and compile analysis on nearly 4,000 pages of documents.

Maybe it had more to do with the fact that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's attorney, Jeff Baker, pointed out to the state agency that the additional "community forum" walked and squawked like a "public hearing" and therefore, by law, the comment period must be held open for 10 days after the second "forum."

The ESDC caved two days after the letter was sent and released to the public.

The extension was announced on the revised "notice" (PDF) posted on the ESDC website, and carried by The Real Estate Observer and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Forest City Enterprises Notice of Semi-Annual Earnings Conference Call Tuesday, September 12, 2006, 11:00 A.M. ET

Daily Business News

Find out what's new-&-diff at Forest City Enterprises:

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB):

TO: Interested analysts, brokers, and investors [and those of you who own a few shares just for funzies]

FROM: Forest City Enterprises

RE: Forest City Enterprises' Semi-Annual Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises will release its fiscal second quarter and first six months financial results for 2006 on September 7, 2006 and will hold a conference call on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 11:00 A.M. ET to discuss these results.

You are invited to dial into a conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.


The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Tuesday, September 12, 2006. To participate, please dial 1-800-299-7928, using access code 61430063, approximately five minutes before the scheduled time of the conference call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City Semi-Annual Earnings Conference Call. The live broadcast will also be available on-line at Forest City's Website - www.forestcity.net.

We hope you will be able to join us for this call, but if you are unable to participate, the call will be replayed from September 12, 2006, 5:00 P.M. ET to October 12, 2006, 11:59 P.M. ET. The number to hear the teleconference replay is 1-888-286-8010 and the access code for the replay is 16877735. Webcast replay will be available from September 12 to October 12 on the Forest City website - forestcity.net.

If you have questions, or if you have trouble joining the conference call, please call AnnMarie Fenske at Forest City Enterprises, 216-621-6060.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Appraisal Puts West Side Railyards’ Value at 3 Times the City’s Offer

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

There's been no scrutiny of Bruce Ratner's amazing $100-million lowball-bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards (Charles Bagli, where's the love?), so for your reading pleasure we offer you this Times article about the brouhaha over a recent $1.5-billion appraisal of the Hudson Railyards, and NYC's attempt to quickly seal the deal for $500 million.

The Bloomberg administration’s plan to buy the development rights to the 26-acre railyards on the Far West Side of Manhattan has hit another snag: money.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the railyards on both sides of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets, received an appraisal this week that pegged the value at $1.5 billion, according to authority board members and city officials.

That is three times the $500 million offered by the Bloomberg administration in a surprise bid in July.

The appraisal further complicates a deal that the administration had hoped to wrap up quickly.

The city’s offer has already come under fire from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is running for governor, as “grossly under market value.”
Buying the development rights, he said, would ensure that any development would be consistent with a comprehensive zoning plan adopted last year by the city.


NoLandGrab: After the West Side Stadium was killed by the Public Authorities Control Board, the City came up with a plan to buy the development rights over the railyards to "ensure that any development would be consistent with a comprehensive zoning plan."

The opposite tack is being taken in Brooklyn: one of the purposes of the NY State takeover of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is to override all city zoning, leading to a 22-acre project that would become the densest residential community in the nation (NOT "consistent" with local zoning).

NewYorkGames.org links some recent coverage of the bad blood between NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, and offers this explanation for the rush to close large real estate deals comprised of state-owned land, such as MTA railyards:

City Hall has been spoiled by an inert governor. The new team will likely show leadership, and not rubber stamp whatever developer or city plan comes through the door.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM