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October 31, 2006

FOIL follies III: Ratner's mysterious tower at City Tech

Atlantic Yards Report

While the controversy over the Atlantic Yards project continues to brew, Forest City Ratner was awarded the bid to develop "a huge mixed-use facility on the New York City College of Technology campus (aka City Tech), in Downtown Brooklyn."

When this project was announced, The Brooklyn Papers noted that:

Though two bidders competed for the rights, state officials would not release information about either bid, nor what Forest City Ratner agreed to pay for the right to develop the tower on the site of the Klitgord Center, where the Atlantic Yards hearings were held.

Norman Oder started poking around; armed with Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, he got... pretty much nowhere.

The NY State Dormitory Authority sent a copy of the Request for Proposal, but other than that, Oder got nothing: no financial plans, budgets, technical proposals, nada, not even the name of the other bidder.

In a familiar refrain, the City University of New York told Oder he'll get answers, "only after the 'final agreement.'" Apparently, like the Empire State Development Corporation and Atlantic Yards, they are still "negotiating" with the developer even though Forest City Ratner has already been named.

Two things Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder did get for his trouble was: 1. fodder for the third installment of his series on FOIL requests (links for Part I and II) and 2. a mysterious reference to a property located in the Atlantic Yards footprint (the building where Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and eminent domain litigant Dan Goldstein lives).


Some good news on the FOIL front: NY State agencies can now send documents (or decline Norman Oder's requests) by email, according to the Journal-News (see, "E-mail FOIL law request takes effect today").

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM


Big development decisions have local pols and citizens sitting up and taking notice of a powerful yet obscure state board.

City Limits Weekly
By Rachel Nielsen

The Public Authorities Control Board is a little-known government body that's been giving its yes or no to the financing behind giant public projects across the state for years. But just recently it’s gotten a lot more attention in New York City because it's the PACB – widely considered lacking in transparency and accountability – that will in essence make the final decision about the controversial Atlantic Yards development that could transform downtown Brooklyn. [Note: Um... the Atlantic Yards project was still in Prospect Heights when we checked this morning.]

Mayor Bloomberg is making a big stink that the Public Authorities Control Board (proxies of the proverbial "Three Men in a Room") get the final say on large city development projects. This is a big change of pace for the Mayor, since he welcomed the usurpation of local authority over the Atlantic Yards plan by the Empire State Development Corporation. However, during the past two years, the Public Authorities Control Board has doled out defeats to two of the Mayor's coveted projects, the Westside Stadium and Moynihan Station.

Who are these proxies of the Three Men in a Room [and who are these three men, for that matter]? How does the Public Authorities Control Board get to vote on projects sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation? How do they come to a decision? What happens when they don't? Who knows? Who cares?

Answers to these burning questions and more in this article at CityLimits.org.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Urban Memory Project: Lost in Translation

UrbanMemoryProj.jpgThe Urban Memory Project works with students to introduce them to the changes in the physical landscape occurring around them, and to analyze and document those changes.

Tuesday, November 14

Lost in Translation:
Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens
Hosted at the New Visions for Public Schools
320 West 13th Street
6th Floor
New York, NY

Opening Reception: 5-7 PM

Click here for more information and to view a slideshow.

NoLandGrab: We were interviewed by students this month at the New School for Social Research for "Bring Your Favorite Eminent Domain Activist to School Day." Look for the students' projects on the Atlantic Yards issue to be published on NoLandGrab in the coming weeks.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

Empire of the son

The Daily News
By Douglas Feiden

SpitzerFamily-NYDN.jpgThough gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer talks tough on reforming quasi-governmental corporations like the Emipire State Develop Corporation — the state "agency" that is sponsoring the Atlantic Yards project — don't hold your breath on him taking a hard look at the Atlantic Yards project itself.

According to the Daily News, Spitzer's fortune comes from the NYC real estate empire built by his father, and the candidate has already expressed support for the project, calling the 8% scaleback to the original size a "reasonable compromise."


Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Forest City in the News: Malling America, One Open-Air Mixed-Use Regional Lifestyle Center at a Time

Business Wire, Forest City Announces Grand Opening of Northfield Stapleton Retail Center in Denver

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. today announced the grand opening of the 1.2-million-square-foot Northfield open-air regional lifestyle center at the Company’s Stapleton mixed-use project in Denver.

NoLandGrab: An "open-air regional lifestyle center" is commonly known as a mall.

The [Lehigh Valley] Morning Call, Summit mall set to break ground

Ground could be broken by year's end at the Summit Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem Township, the only one of the Lehigh Valley's four proposed malls that has not announced which stores would fill the bulk of its space.
The new timetable calls for an opening date of September or October 2008, according to Brian Ratner, president of East Coast development for co-builder Forest City Enterprises.

Ratner said the Summit's backers are still eyeing a mix of high-end and mass-market stores in an open-air setting. The project also is slated to include homes and office space.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

October 30, 2006

Plotting offense in Atlantic Yards fight

Attorney for project foes says developer-driven Brooklyn plan is unconstitutional

Metro NY

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court gave states broad powers to seize private property for projects benefiting the public. Yet last week a group of Brooklynites in the way of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the $4.2 billion development would rely on an unconstitutional use of eminent domain. Plaintiffs’ lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff explained how he intends to prove that Ratner’s plan for a basketball arena surrounded by 16 towers does not meet the court’s definition of public use.


Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

The unreality of Atlantic Yards

Metro NY, Op-Ed By Norman Oder

Norman Oder has become a one-man campaign to shed light on some simple facts about Atlantic Yards:

Before we can debate a major project like Atlantic Yards, we must get the facts straight. Regarding some key aspects of the development — its size and the cost or benefit to the public — too many people are in the dark.


Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Three Men in a Room: our dysfunctional state government--and how to change it

Atlantic Yards Report

Three Men in a RoomNorman Oder recently read former State Senator Seymour Lachman's book, "Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse." This in-depth analysis and exposé of the political workings of NY State has given the Atlantic Yards analyst much food for thought.

The phrase “three men in a room” describes much more than the PACB, as former State Senator Seymour Lachman describes in his timely book of analysis and advocacy, Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse. Indeed, the entire legislative and governmental process is distorted by an absence of democracy. (Lachman, who calls Albany “one of the country’s most secretive and misruled statehouses,” will be a guest on WNYC radio's Brian Lehrer Show today at 10 a.m.)

Few of our elected representatives come off well. Is it no surprise that several of the officials who back the Atlantic Yards plan are among those who benefit from and support the systematic dysfunction? Or that Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who has tried unsuccessfully to foster transparency in the state’s budget process (and found himself on the outs with legislative leaders), has been out in front in seeking more financial details about Atlantic Yards?

The push for reform has come less from politicians than from a handful of good-government groups and the press. Given that the New York Times has editorially chastised the Legislature for a lack of transparency and for a perpetually late budget, it becomes all the more glaring that the Times has failed to fill a vacuum and editorially scrutinize the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

A View from Brooklyn

The Center for Study of Brooklyn
By Paul Moses

Have you been wondering how a $4.2-billion project, on 22 acres, the size of the Empire State Building three times over, using eminent domain, sited at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, near neighborhoods with some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, next to the developers two other malls, and which also happens to be the largest single-source private development in NYC's history, is a mere footnote in the media coverage?

Veteran Brooklyn journalist Paul Moses says it most succinctly:

Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.

Though the situation looks bleak, Moses examines how Cablevision's News 12 could make a difference.


Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM


WreckingBallReform.gifPoughkeepsie Journal, VOTER'S GUIDE: Comptroller
Libertarian candidate for State Comptroller John J. Cain focuses on eminent domain abuse in his party's platform. It seems that Cain and Hevesi answered the candidates' questionnaire.

US News & World Report, A Host of Questions. Voters will take on eminent domain and a lot more

Rod's Grill, in Arcadia, Calif., has really been Manny Romero's grill since he bought the place 10 years ago. And in that decade, he has built a loyal following. So when the city wanted to seize the restaurant property through eminent domain and turn it over to a nearby car dealership seeking to expand, the community objected-and the restaurant survived. "I have the same right to do business ... as the Mercedes-Benz dealership," Romero insists.

He isn't the only one chafing under the current use of eminent domain. Twelve states-including California-will vote November 7 on limiting the government's ability to regulate and seize property. The ballot measures signal outrage at the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London, which seemed to broaden governmental power to take private land. But opponents of the measures see them as a misleading effort to further a radical property-rights agenda.
Zoning? Polling suggests all four regulatory takings initiatives will pass; backers are focusing on examples of eminent domain abuse. But Howard Rich, a New York real-estate investor who has spent millions of dollars trying to get the measures on the ballot, says, "It doesn't matter if government takes your property outright or regulates it to the point of little or no value; the result is the same."

Critics of the regulatory takings measures, including conservation and anti-tax groups, say they could strain government budgets or severely limit the ability to enforce environmental or zoning regulations. In Oregon, where a similar law has been on the books since 2004, the state has largely waived any sort of property restrictions rather than compensate landowners. Suzie Kunzman, an alpaca farmer in Molalla, Ore., became a cautionary tale after her neighbor tried to build a gravel mine behind her house; that issue is still unresolved.

The Arizona Republic, Prop. 207 ads don't tell complete story
Courts in the state of Arizona have already ruled that private-to-private property transfers are an illegal use of eminent domain. So why is an eminent domain abuse initiative on the ballot?

The ads for Proposition 207 may be most notable for what they don't say: much about the other part of the initiative that requires compensation for "regulatory takings."

The only commercial that mentions it briefly is the one with Richards. But that is the part of the proposition that has drawn opponents' attention. They characterize Proposition 207 as a Trojan horse: It is being sold to voters as eminent domain reform while the real danger is hidden.

Environmental groups, neighborhood associations, cities, developers, public safety associations and veterans groups warn that the measure could freeze zoning, neighborhood protections and environmental laws because of fears of costly court battles.

LA Times, Stopping the government's property grab
California's Proposition 90 is being sold as an eminent domain abuse bill, but critics say that eminent domain is just a Trojan Horse for limiting land-use regulations.

THE PROPERTY rights movement has been building for years, but the Kelo decision lighted the fuse. In some respects, the states with measures on the November ballot are taking their cue from Oregon, which for more than 30 years had the most restrictive statewide land-use regulations in the nation. Fed up with the restrictions, in 2004 voters overwhelmingly passed a retroactive measure that requires the relevant agencies to either compensate owners for their losses or waive the restrictions. Not surprisingly, most have chosen the latter course.

When made to pay for the goods it otherwise acquires through regulation, "the public," it seems, has second thoughts.

Lincoln Tribune, State News : N.C. Property Rights Coalition Releases Legislative Voter Guide
A group in North Carolina published a voter's guide which lists candidates’ positions on a potential state constitutional amendment to prevent eminent domain abuse.

Statesman Journal, Measure 39 rightly limits government power
In Oregon, Measure 39 on this year's ballot really does seem to be a straight-up effort to limit eminent domain abuse.

If you've read or scanned the other articles linked in this post, you'll know that Oregon already has some of the toughest laws in the nation requiring compensation for changes in land-use.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

October 29, 2006

Walking tour of proposed Atlantic Yards footprint next Saturday

Atlantic Yards Report

A walking tour with "The Mad Overkiller" seems perfect for Halloween!

I have a small walking tour business, New York Like a Native, and have been giving tours of Brooklyn neighborhoods since 2000. For the past years, the Atlantic Yards plan has intersected briefly with a couple of tours.

Given how much time I spend thinking the Atlantic Yards project, I decided to offer a tour about it. The best way to understand the controversy--including issues of scale, design, and blight--is to take a look around the proposed site and the surrounding neighborhood. (Here are some contrasting views of the site and the proposals.)

Saturday, November 4, 1:30 p.m. $15/person. (Rain date: Sunday November 12 at 1:30 p.m.)

The tour will last 2-2.5 hours. We'll meet outside Brooklyn's tallest building (for now), the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Hanson Place at Flatbush Avenue, near the Atlantic Terminal transit hub. More info here.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

Taking 'Takings' to the Voters: The California, Idaho, Arizona, and Washington initiatives.

The Weekly Standard

Save a wetland, get a bulding permit! Enviro organizations should really consider that as their new premium. Does anyone really need another miniature plush spotted owl?

But the hypocrisy of this tactic was recently exposed by Steven Greenhut of the Orange County Register. He reported that the California Public Securities Association--a group of financiers and attorneys, much of whose business consists of providing services to local governments--has donated $400,000 to California's "Vote No on Prop. 90" campaign. Similarly, Forest City Residential, a Cleveland-headquartered real estate company with many building projects in California, has contributed $250,000 to the "no" campaign. These businesses are big enough to absorb the costs of complying with wetlands and other land-use regulations. What they want most is a good relationship with local authorities so that they can obtain speedy variances and building permits for their mega-projects. "Their support is motivated by business, not ideological reasons," says David Gilliard, spokesperson for the "Protect Our Homes" or "Yes on 90" coalition. "This is simply Big Business's attempt at pay-to-play." No developer has made donations anywhere near this large to the pro-initiative side, he notes.

article (subscription only)

Posted by amy at 10:53 AM



The “Hardfire” community access television show presents Libertarian Party of New York State Chair Richard Cooper on the topic of eminent domain abuse in New York. “Hardfire” is a libertarian cable-TV political discussion program, produced in Brooklyn, NY, by Gary Popkin. The show will air the first time on Monday, November 6th but is available now on the show’s website, www.hardfire.net. “Hardfire” appears on Brooklyn cable on Mondays at 10:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time on Time-Warner channel 35 and Cablevision channel 68. Reruns of “Hardfire” are also seen on Manhattan Neighborhood Network on Tuesday evenings at 8:30, on Time-Warner channel 56 and RNC channel 84.

Interviewed by Manhattan Libertarian Party Chair Joseph Dobrian, Cooper explains what eminent domain abuse is and why libertarians oppose it. He recounts the partial victory of the Libertarians in achieving a better result for St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church in New Cassel (a hamlet adjoining Westbury, Long Island). Cooper takes aim at Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Nets Arena and links it to the earlier NY Times eminent domain case that he dubbed “Time$cam.” Not all is grim as he recounts the story of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s designs on the neighboring building. Cooper advises that “You can’t buy eminent domain insurance but you can do the next best thing. Vote Libertarian.”

All of the Libertarian Party’s candidates are opposed to eminent domain abuse. The statewide candidates are Jeffrey Russell for US Senate, John Clifton for Governor, Donald Silberger for Lt. Governor, John Cain for Comptroller, and Christopher Garvey for Attorney-General. The Libertarians are running Dr. Steve Finger in the 11th District and Mike Sylvia in the 24th District for Congress.

Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

October 28, 2006

Atlantic Yards Plan: Be Afraid. Very Afraid

NY Times letters to the editor in response to last week's "resident" profiles:

To the Editor:

I know the Atlantic Yards project will affect a number of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but why wasn’t anyone from Prospect Heights featured in “On the Block”? Isn’t Prospect Heights where the project will be based?

Susan Fein
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

To the Editor:

In “On the Block” (Oct. 22), about the Atlantic Yards plan in Brooklyn, all the Fort Greene residents you interviewed were against it and all the Crown Heights residents were for it. It is easy to be in favor of a project that is more than a mile from your home, is a convenient destination for shoppers or basketball fans, and is far enough away to avoid the many negative influences on quality of life for the real neighbors of the project.
Projects of such scale should be planned much more carefully than this one has been planned, and should not be rammed through by cynical politicos.

Frank A. Rogers
Park Slope, Brooklyn
The writer was an urban designer in the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay.


Posted by amy at 9:50 PM

Drum Major for the Marchers of New York

NY Times proves you can't throw a rock without hitting someone protesting Atlantic Yards. Who's throwing those damn rocks anyway? Owwwww....Just glad no one threw this one...

To Todd Eaton, the gregarious 44-year-old who is behind NYProtest, a two-year-old daily listing of progressive street demonstrations and gatherings in the metropolitan area. The listing appears on Riseup.net, a site that offers “mail, lists and hosting to those working on liberatory social change.”
Around age 8, he attended his first protest, against the proposed widening of Atlantic Avenue. During his years at New York University, he participated in the No Nukes movement, and since then, he said, he has taken part in more than 100 street demonstrations, protesting everything from the militarization of space to the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by amy at 9:42 PM

Bloomberg on eminent domain: majority rules!


Atlantic Yards Report catches Bloomberg adding another descriptor ("frivolous"!) to the eminent domain lawsuit plaintiffs on WABC's call-in show. Misguided, myopic, and selfish wasn't enough?

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is clearly a savvy businessman and, many believe, a good public official. But he's never claimed to be a constitutional lawyer, and it shows. During his weekly appearance yesterday on the WABC AM call-in show hosted by John Gambling, Bloomberg offered a grab-bag defense of eminent domain that failed to engage the issue and suggested that, if most people want a project, condemnation for it is defensible.

The first caller from the public was Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and a plaintiff in the eminent domain suit filed Thursday. He referenced Bloomberg's recent criticism of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), the state body controlled by three members (Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno) that had just rejected the Moynihan Station plan.

DG: Last week on this show you called three men in a room in Albany undemocratic and unconstitutional, perhaps. And that same three men in a room will decide the fate of Atlantic Yards. And, as you know, yesterday, I and others filed an eminent domain lawsuit to protect our constitutional rights and you called us plaintiffs misguided, myopic, and selfish for trying to protect those rights. I’d like to ask you why you would call us that.

MB: Number one, Daniel, the courts, I guess, will decide whether or not the suit that you filed has any merit. That’s our system and, if the courts say you have merit, then you have recourse, and if the courts say you don’t, they’ll dismiss it. Our belief is that it is a frivolous lawsuit and there is no merit to it. But you’ll have your day in court and that’s exactly what democracy should give you.


Posted by amy at 7:32 PM

City Planning, April 2005: "Public input on the Brooklyn stadium has not started yet"

Atlantic Yards Report

As late as April 22, 2005, nearly a year and a half after the Atlantic Yards project was announced, a city official acknowledged that there had been no public input. The issue came up during the American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter’s 2005 Annual Conference.

According to the proceedings, Richard Barth, Executive Director, New York City Department of Planning was on a panel titled "New York Area Mega-Projects: Prospects & Priorities." He was asked:
Many of the mega-projects, such as the Brooklyn arena and the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning do not appropriately consider scale, neighborhood appropriateness, integration to surrounding communities, and other quality of life issues. Why?

His response, at least regarding Atlantic Yards: Public input on the Brooklyn stadium has not started yet.

This is a summary, not a transcript. And it's not clear that public input is the same as public planning--a requirement for the use of eminent domain, according to the Kelo decision.


Posted by amy at 7:29 PM



Pratt Collaboratives

A Conference Exploring the Role of the Arts
in Contemporary Struggles over Urban Space

November 3, 2006

Pratt Institute
Higgins Hall
61 St. James Place
Brooklyn, NY

Our overriding goal is to open a dialogue around the intersections between art, culture and urban development so that we at Pratt Institute and around New York can envision new academic initiatives, critical engagement, and collaborations in this area. The key themes of this dialogue will include:

-the increasingly powerful role played by arts and culture in community development -the place of artists and the arts in current struggles over urban space -the impact of the housing and studio space shortage on contemporary art practice -innovative collaborations between artists and social movements addressing issues of sustainable urban development -funding opportunities in the growing field of arts and community development


Posted by amy at 7:25 PM

Fodder for "The Onion"

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition

There are some quotes that are ridiculous you stop and check the source...is this a spoof? Sadly it isn't: Mayor Bloomberg:
Bruce Ratner is as good a developer as you can find in terms of building quality projects and including the neighbors,

If the Mayor's idea of 'quality' is Metrotech and Atlantic Mall, then scary times are head..and I don't mean Halloween. Including neighbors? Is the mayor at all aware that Ratner kept our community boards out of the process and all of them have publicly complained about this and have serious objections to the size of this project and the use of eminent domain? That politicians would say things like this, which fly in the face of reality indicates to me either Ratner is extraordinarily charming at Upper East Side cocktail parties (doubtful) or extraordinarily good at backroom deals (likely).


Dreadnaught apparently does not know about Ratner's Visionary Leadership...

Posted by amy at 7:20 PM

Kelo v. Pataki. Not.

Homeland Stupidity

When Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003, it was made clear that property within its perimeters would ultimately be acquired via eminent domain, under the aegis of New York State’s powerful and quasi-public Empire State Development Corporation. The “public use” justification required by the U.S. Constitution would be the projected trickle down effect of increased tax revenues, construction jobs, and “affordable” housing. Over the past few years Forest Ratner has been buying out property owners. Some went willingly. Others bowed to what they feared was inevitable. But a hard core didn’t move or mourn. Instead they organized an surprisingly effective resistance.

The resistors’ latest gambit is a federal law suit (Goldstein v. Pataki) filed on October 26th in the Eastern District, charging that the use of eminent domain on behalf of Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards is unconstitutional. Among those named as defendants are Governor George Pataki, Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner in its various permutations, Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

No one can say Brooklynites lack brass.


Posted by amy at 7:16 PM

The World is Round


flavorpill NYC

Ratner enters the fray of the burgeoning Brooklyn art world with a public art exhibit in the oh-so-public space of Metrotech:

Public Art Fund makes the best of Brooklyn's MetroTech Center — the original Forest Ratner neighborhood-crushing behemoth — by commissioning young artists to create new installations on the premises. Masters of polystyrene foam, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg cast a trio of soapboxes in aluminum and, fittingly, place them near Oratory Place. Diana Guerrero-Maciá's enormous, flattened icosidodecagon (a 32-sided shape) is a soccer ball spread out like a world map; Matt Johnson's boulder, 4eva, on the MetroTech lawn, also speaks about universal languages if you look closely enough at its quartz veins. For digs at the institution, Ryan McGinness, the splashy manipulator of corporate iconography, has embedded imposter wall signs among the real ones at MetroTech Commons.


Posted by amy at 12:00 AM

October 27, 2006

Atlantic Yards Suit Highlights Eminent Domain Issues


Commercial Property News

The court’s decision may ultimately hinge on whether the public process was appropriately carried out, a concern cited by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his concurring opinion on the Kelo case, said Cliff Levine, a partner and land-use specialist at Thorp Reed & Armstrong L.L.C., a Pittsburgh-based law firm. The Supreme Court also ruled that economic redevelopment is a legitimate use for eminent domain, but a compelling question for Atlantic Yards is whether the project’s different uses are linked. “You have to show here that this is integrated, good planning,” Levine said—a gray area that the courts may be reluctant to address.

A spokesperson from the city law department said that the city had not seen the lawsuit, but in a press briefing yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg said the lawsuit was without merit. “The Atlantic Yards project is something that Brooklyn and this city really needs. Bruce Ratner is as good a developer as you can find in terms of building quality projects and including the neighbors, and there will be more traffic in some places and less in others, but that's the real world. You cannot sit here and not have development.”


Posted by amy at 11:14 PM

Lane, Fierstein, Osmond, Jersey Boys and More Help Christopher Reeve Foundation's "A Magical Evening"

Playbill News
Sunday Funnies. Except it's not Sunday. And they're not joking.

The Christopher Reeve Foundation will present the first-ever Dana Reeve Hope Award to Cristina Carlino, founder and CEO of philosophy, inc. The Visionary Leadership Award will also be bestowed upon Forest City Ratner Companies President and CEO Bruce C. Ratner and The Honorable Thomas H. Kean.


Guess they missed the NY Press Super Villain edition...

Posted by amy at 10:55 PM

Ratner plan hit with suit

Eviction targets seek to stop Yards

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays and John Marzulli, with Lisa Colangelo

The plaintiffs will have to overcome a landmark decision last year by the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that governments have the right to seize private property for public use.

But the suit contends the Atlantic Yards project is being driven by the personal "needs, motives and vision" of the developer, and not the public good.

"The exercise of eminent domain to seize plaintiffs' property in this case is not only unconstitutional, it is unnecessary," the complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court argues. "Development in this section of Brooklyn can be done successfully and profitably without taking a single piece of privately owned land."

City Councilwoman Letitia James (D, WFP-Prospect Heights) ridiculed the state's argument that the area is blighted, noting that condos in the area have sold for more than $1 million recently.

"This is nothing more than the biggest land grab in the history of New York City," she said.

Oh, and the Mayor called the reasons cited by people who want to stop the Atlantic Yards project as being "either misguided, myopic or selfish." Take your pick.


Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

Brooklyn residents sue to stop Atlantic Yards

A group of ten Brooklyn property owners and tenants sued the city, state and developer Forest City Ratner to try and stop the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project from going forward.

Crains NY Business
By David Jones

"Plaintiffs will not stand idly by while their properties are seized by the state and given to Bruce Ratner to maximize his enrichment," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff in a statement.
The Gelin Group, which owns a one-family residence at 491 Green St., two other residential property owners and six rent-paying residents, along with Freddy's Bar and Backroom on Dean Street are among those suing.

The plaintiffs would like for the eminent domain issue to be settled before Ratner is given the go-ahead to start knocking more buildings down.

The plaintiffs want the Public Authorities Control Board to postpone a vote on the Atlantic Yards project until the courts have ruled on the eminent domain issue. They are also asking the court to force the Empire State Development Corp. to delay its approval until the issue has been resolved.


Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

Some credulousness, some skepticism: two AY stories in the Times

Atlantic Yards Report

A tale of two articles — Norman Oder compares recent articles from The New York Times:

First up, the 9/5/06 page-one story about Forest City's announcement that the project was scaled back. There was no mention that the the "scaleback" returned the project to approximately the original size that was announced in 2003.

Today's story about Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's eminent domain lawsuit ran on page B4. The Times calls the suit a "legal maneuver," even though this suit might end up being an important property-rights case on the national stage. [The case seeks to challenge the Atlantic Yards project on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and has crossed the line set forth by the US Supreme Court in last year's Kelo decision.]


NoLandGrab: What Norman Oder is too polite to say is that it sure seems like the Times has a thing for Forest City Ratner, or is allergic to news about eminent domain law suits. [Back in 2002 the Empire State Development Corporation seized private property via eminent domain for the Times Tower project, developed by Forest City Ratner and the NY Times Corp.]

Posted by lumi at 11:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Local blogs are billing the eminent domain lawsuit as the "High Noon" of the Atlantic Yards fight.

A couple blogs featured images from threecee's flickr photoset on Prospect Heights.


Blogs that allow comments indicate that most people are unaware that the US Supreme Court Kelo decision attempted to describe cases that would be unconstitutional. Atlantic Yards seems tailor-made for a legal challenge along those lines.

Gowanus Lounge, The Decisive Atlantic Yards Battle Begins: Critical Eminent Domain Lawsuit Filed

It's on. What will be the decisive lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards proposal was filed in Federal court yesterday by eleven property owners and tenants within the big footprint of the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project.

Brownstoner, Goldstein et al. File Suit Over AY Eminent Domain
B-stoner wraps up the coverage and asks, "What do you think the suit's impact will be?"

RationalReview, NY: Suit challenges land theft for development
A Libertarian legal blog posted an excerpt and link to the NY Times article.

Curbed, Goldstein et al. File Suit Over AY Eminent Domain

The fight over Atlantic Yards is going to court. (Again.) Ten property owners and tenants on the site where Forest City Ratner would like to build Atlantic Yards have filed a Federal suit to stop the development. This should be the lawsuit over the project and the key legal issue, as expected, is eminent domain, and whether the state's use of it to take property is constitutional.

BRatner-RD.jpg The Real Deal, Group files lawsuit to stop Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella group opposed to the Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against several defendants, including Forest City Ratner, the developer of the proposed 8.8-million-square-foot project. The lawsuit includes 10 plaintiffs, all tenants or owners who would be displaced by Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM


NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

The Post went as far as saying that:

Bloomberg laughed when asked about its chances.

"The Atlantic Yards project is something that Brooklyn, and this city, really needs," he said.


NoLandGrab: We want to know if the Mayor's laugh was a mere "heh-heh" or a bona fide "Bwa-ha-ha" belly laugh?

Either way, it might be the first sign of a crack-up, typical for strong-armed NYC mayors in their second administration.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Project Abuses Uses of Eminent Domain, Suit Says

NY Sun
By Joseph Goldstein

EDPressConf01-NYS.jpgThe Sun's article focuses on the actual complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. [DDDB posted the complaint on its web site.]

"This is a case about a conscious effort to circumvent community input and the lawful processes of open government; about the misuse of government's power to take property by eminent domain; and, ultimately, about a betrayal of public trust in service of the interests of a private developer," the legal complaint reads.

Later in the article, the reporter missed the point about last year's US Supreme Court Kelo ruling.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Matthew Brinkerhoff, said at a press conference yesterday, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London could prove a setback for his case.

“That case did erode some of the rights we are interested in,” Mr. Brinkerhoff said. “Not withstanding Kelo, this remains unconstitutional.”


NoLandGrab: Regular readers of NLG will know that the Kelo case was a setback for private property seizures for private developments in general.

However, in more than one instance, the Justices' opinions provided guidance for the lower courts on where to draw the line between private-to-private transfers that are allowed (i.e. projects resulting from a city planning process with legislative oversight), and private projects entailing impermissible favoritism towards a private party and whose public benefits are merely "pretextual." In other words, the lawsuit uses Kelo "to its advantage," as pointed out yesterday by NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman.

For more on this point, check out yesterday's NY Law Journal article.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

Brooklyn Property Owners And Tenants Announce Lawsuit Against Forest City Ratner


EDPressConf01-NY1.jpgThe ten plaintiffs say the state is abusing its right of eminent domain to take their properties for the project.

They say eminent domain cannot be used to benefit a private developer, which is being done in the present case with Forest City Ratner.

"This is a textbook case of the government taking a person's private property – their homes and their business – and giving it a private entity, a private company, Mr. Ratner, so that he can benefit," said plaintiff attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff. "And that is absolutely forbidden by the Constitution."


Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Slideshow from the City Hall Eminent Domain press conference

Click here to view the flickr slideshow.


Photo by NoLandGrabber Steve Soblick

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Groups Aiming to Block Atlantic Yards Project Cite Eminent Domain

The NY Law Journal
By Tom Perrotta

What is the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn lawsuit filed yesterday in Federal court about? This article provides the best explanation we've come across:

Residents and businesses who oppose the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn yesterday filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the project would rely on an unconstitutional use of eminent domain to seize their property.

The complaint, which was assigned to Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis and Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, seeks to attack the state's power of eminent domain via channels that the plaintiffs' attorney says were left open in a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling decided last year by a 5-4 vote, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469.

In Kelo, the majority of the Court held that local governments could use the power of eminent domain to take property for a private development deemed in the public interest.

In a concurring opinion, however, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that while a taking was consistent with the Public Use Clause of the U.S. Constitution, it must be "rationally related" to a public purpose.

"The determination that a rational-basis standard of review is appropriate does not, however, alter the fact that transfers intended to confer benefits on particular, favored private entities, and with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, are forbidden by the Public Use Clause," Justice Kennedy wrote.

The Brooklyn suit, Goldstein v. Pataki, led by the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, alleges that the project does not meet the public use requirement because it was conceived by a developer, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies, not by officials with the public interest in mind. It further alleges that the project did not involve a competitive bidding process or a means of gathering public opinion before it was conceived.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, and co-counsel on the Kelo case explains:

"Kelo left open the possibility that a pure one-to-one transfer, or a condemnation that was made not according to the proper planning procedures, would not pass constitutional muster," Ms. Berliner said. "What the plaintiffs in this case have done is take the Kelo decision and challenge this condemnation under the possible constitutional violations left under Kelo. They are not asking the court to reverse Kelo."


Groups Aiming to Block Atlantic Yards Project Cite Eminent Domain

By Tom Perrotta
New York Law Journal
October 27, 2006

Residents and businesses who oppose the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn yesterday filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the project would rely on an unconstitutional use of eminent domain to seize their property.

The complaint, which was assigned to Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis and Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, seeks to attack the state's power of eminent domain via channels that the plaintiffs' attorney says were left open in a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling decided last year by a 5-4 vote, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469.

In Kelo, the majority of the Court held that local governments could use the power of eminent domain to take property for a private development deemed in the public interest.

In a concurring opinion, however, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that while a taking was consistent with the Public Use Clause of the U.S. Constitution, it must be "rationally related" to a public purpose.

"The determination that a rational-basis standard of review is appropriate does not, however, alter the fact that transfers intended to confer benefits on particular, favored private entities, and with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, are forbidden by the Public Use Clause," Justice Kennedy wrote.

The Brooklyn suit, Goldstein v. Pataki, led by the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, alleges that the project does not meet the public use requirement because it was conceived by a developer, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies, not by officials with the public interest in mind. It further alleges that the project did not involve a competitive bidding process or a means of gathering public opinion before it was conceived.

"What matters is the purpose, or the intent, of government officials in making this decision," Mr. Brinckerhoff said in an interview. "And they made this decision before knowing almost everything."

Mr. Brinckerhoff's clients are 10 residents of the area, including a condo owner, rent-stabilized tenants, and a bar, Freddy's Bar and Backroom. The lead plaintiff, Daniel Goldstein, is the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said in a statement that the lawsuit was "a sad attempt" to delay the project.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also criticized the suit while speaking to reporters at ribbon-cutting ceremony for a community health center on Staten Island.

"There are people that want to stop this project in Brooklyn for, I would argue, either misguided, myopic, or selfish reasons," the mayor said, adding that he assumed the suit had "no real merit."

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a non-profit libertarian group that opposes eminent domain, said the suit offers numerous issues for a district court to consider.

Ms. Berliner was co-counsel on the Kelo case for the plaintiffs, who opposed a development plan created by the city of New London, Conn.

In Kelo, she said, the city had followed a specific process, and did not have a developer when it conceived of the project.

"Kelo left open the possibility that a pure one-to-one transfer, or a condemnation that was made not according to the proper planning procedures, would not pass constitutional muster," Ms. Berliner said. "What the plaintiffs in this case have done is take the Kelo decision and challenge this condemnation under the possible constitutional violations left under Kelo. They are not asking the court to reverse Kelo."

As it stands now, the Atlantic Yards project would span 8 million square feet along Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues. Forest City Ratner plans to build an arena, designed by the architect Frank Gehry, for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, as well as a hotel, condos, business and retail space, and rental residences. Among the 16 planned towers, one would stand 650-feet tall.

Jeffrey L. Braun, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, represents the developer.

-Tom Perrotta can be reached at tperrotta@alm.com

Posted by lumi at 1:27 AM

The next eminent domain donnybrook? AY controversy goes to court

As usual, Atlantic Yards Report fills in some blanks in the mainstream media's coverage of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn eminent domain lawsuit:

Kelo permitted the use of eminent domain, but it indicates that there must be a planning process, with the beneficiary unknown—which differs from the process in Brooklyn, according to the complaint. Brinckerhoff acknowledged that it did erode some rights, but emphasized that “the Supreme Court has always said you cannot take private property for a private benefit.”

Why sue now, even before the [Empire State Development Corporations] has voted? Brinckerhoff responded, “The plantiffs have an absolute right to have claims heard in federal court. If we wait, that would be jeopardized.” While he said that the plaintiffs have enough evidence to go to trial, he predicted that, during the discovery phase, “We will find documents that support our theory that this decision was made years ago.” By filing in federal court rather than state court, the plaintiffs also seek redress in a forum that is more insulated from the local political winds.


Posted by lumi at 1:15 AM

Brooklynites sue over Atlantic Yards eminent domain

AP, via NY Newsday
By Larry McShane

"This is a case about a conscious effort to circumvent community input and the lawful processes of open government; about the misuse of the government's power to take property by eminent domain; and, ultimately, about a betrayal of public trust in service of the interest of a private developer," said the filing in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. ...
"We want to stay in our homes, keep our businesses, and keep our properties," said Goldstein, who owns a Brooklyn condominium. "Our case, at its core, is very simple: Bruce Ratner does not have the right to ask Gov. Pataki to take my home ... and the governor does not have the right to oblige Mr. Ratner."
"I think this is just a delaying tactic, and I assume there's no real merit to the case," Bloomberg said. "This is a project whose time has come, that we need in this city."


Posted by lumi at 12:56 AM

Welcome to Forest City Spindale

There were many interesting quotes from the coverage of yesterday's press conference announcing the lawsuit to block the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, but the most surreal ones came from Der Meisterspinner, Ratner PR Flackey Joe DePlasco.

DePlasco on "fair and beneficial":

“We have tried everything in our power to negotiate fair and beneficial transactions. However, a small group of people have either refused to speak with us or, for whatever reason, we have been unable to reach an agreement.”

"For whatever reason?" The Ratner camp can't seem to understand that there are people for whom unconstitutional, not to mention wanting to keep their homes and businesses, is reason enough.

Another DePlascoism:

"This is simply a sad attempt to delay a project that is supported by over 60 percent of Brooklyn."

Rather than a delay attempt, it looks more like a straight-up plan to defeat the project outright, on the grounds that taking private property for a private development project without a city planning process is illegal.

It's hard to believe that DePlasco gets paid a lot of money for this. Maybe he has some additional hidden talents.

Posted by lumi at 12:42 AM

Suit Against Atlantic Yards Challenges Eminent Domain

The NY Times
By Thomas J. Lueck

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, from firms in Manhattan and Albany and from South Brooklyn Legal Services, said the use of eminent domain would be unconstitutional because it would result in the transfer of private property to a developer without the public benefit that eminent domain is intended to bestow.

“The Atlantic Yards proposal is premised on the abuse of eminent domain,” said Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer. It would mean “the taking of one citizen’s property to benefit a powerful and influential private citizen,” he said.

That citizen, Bruce Ratner, the president of Forest City Ratner, was named as a defendant, along with Gov. George E. Pataki and his chief development official, Charles A. Gargano, the chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation. Other defendants include Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding.


Posted by lumi at 12:37 AM

Lawsuit looks to block Nets’ shot

Metro NY
By Patrick Arden

In a case that could have national implications, the 10 property owners and tenants in Prospect Heights believe the plan to build a basketball arena and 16 surrounding towers illustrates “the misuse of the government’s power to take property by eminent domain.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court gave governments broad condemnation powers for projects benefiting the public, and Atlantic Yards will supposedly create 15,000 construction jobs and 2,500 office jobs. Ratner has also promised to set aside 2,250 of the development’s 6,860 planned residential units for affordable rentals. The plaintiffs call the job claims “grossly misleading,” with no more than 1,500 construction jobs created per year over a decade, and 40 percent of the affordable rentals would go to families earning between $71,000 and $113,000 a year.

This article focuses on whether or not the public benefits are accurate, even though Justice Kennedy was concerned with whether or not the benefits were "pretextual."

In light of the difference between actual and pretextual benefits, the quote from Matthew Brinckerhoff makes more sense:

“This process has been driven by the developer from the very outset. There has been very little public input; there has been no attempt to even consider any other developers. These are the hallmarks of a pure private taking.”


Posted by lumi at 12:31 AM

DDDB Makes a Federal Case out of it

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

REO takes note of two things in Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal strategy:

For one, far from trying to battle last year's Kelo v. New London all the way up to a U.S. Supreme Court re-hearing... the plaintiffs will use the 5-4 decision to its advantage. In the Kelo case, New London, Justice Stevens wrote, "has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community."

NoLandGrab: The Atlantic Yards process has been developer-driven, not a product of a city-planning process.

Two, the plaintiffs are first filing in federal, rather than state, court, and before eminent domain procedures actually have begun ("because otherwise it would be too late," Brinckerhoff said), which also suggests they feel Kelo will work for them, while New York state's notoriously developer-friendly laws will not.


NLG: The decision to file in Federal and not State court is an interesting one.

Theoretically, State courts would also have to acknowledge some of the guidance provided by the Kelo decision when applying the smell test to a case like this one.

The decision to file in Federal court could also be influenced by the general impression that Federal courts are not as politically influenced as courts on the State level.

Posted by lumi at 12:18 AM

Lawsuit targets Ratner’s ‘domain’

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

“This lawsuit presents a textbook example of what the Fifth Amendment expressly prohibits: the taking of one citizen’s property in order to benefit a powerful and influential private citizen,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff.

Ratner faced a similar lawsuit in the 1980s when the state condemned several blocks of Downtown Brooklyn for the Metrotech office complex.


NoLandGrab: Without knowing the specifics of the Metrotech suit, it is hard to know if the comparison goes beyond the fact that Bruce Ratner is the developer in both projects and has been the beneficiary of eminent domain takings in nearly all of his marquee projects.

Keep in mind one thing: this suit was filed in Federal court, not State court, and is being brought on the grounds that using eminent domain for this project is not legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Posted by lumi at 12:07 AM

October 26, 2006

Bloomy attacks state board set to approve Yards

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

When Mayor Bloomberg spoke out against the undemocratic nature of the Public Authorities Control Board, he didn't know that he was auditioning to be the new spokesperson for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Without mentioning Atlantic Yards by name, Mayor Bloomberg signaled last week that he’ll side with opponents of Bruce Ratner’s mega-development in a coming legal battle against the “undemocratic” process that is pushing the project to its likely approval later this year.

In his weekly radio show last Friday, Bloomberg questioned why the three members of the state’s Public Authorities Control Board — Gov. Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) — “have a veto over everything.”

“Why is there [such] a structure at the state level?” the mayor asked. “I’m not sure why that’s constitutional. Maybe somebody wants to take a look at that. I don’t happen to think it’s good democracy to give the governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate [such power].”

The mayor’s comments came days after Silver held up a vote on the conversion of the Main Post Office in Manhattan into a grand new train station named after Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan — and the mayor was incensed last year when Silver used his vote to block the West Side stadium project.

PACB votes must be unanimous.


Posted by lumi at 11:51 PM

Atlantic Yards foes walk against Bruce

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

Coverage of Walk Don't Destroy 2:

MissBrooklyn-BP.jpgSeveral hundred walkers participating in the second-annual Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn “walkathon” raised enough to cover plenty of billable hours in the group’s legal battle against the Atlantic Yards mega-development.

Group spokesman Daniel Goldstein said DDDB raised “over $100,000” at the Saturday event, allowing the fight against Bruce Ratner’s proposed 16-tower, arena, residential, hotel and office space complex to move into the courts.

DDDB lawyer Jeffrey Baker promised to sue to stop the project on the grounds that it violates state environmental laws and abuses the state’s right to condemn land via eminent domain.

But mostly, the walkathon was festive and satirical. One woman dressed as a bride — a clear reference to Frank Gehry’s wedding-dress design for the 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn” tower proposed for the crowded intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. Others who live in the area of the project wore T-shirts reading, “Blight me.”


Posted by lumi at 11:42 PM

Are You Ready For 50K New Neighbors?

Brooklyn Downtown Star

According to study commissioned by the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and made public last week, "Sunnyside Yards is the city's single greatest opportunity to increase the housing supply and simultaneously improve the quality of the public realm."

The 90-page report, written by the consulting firm Alex Garvin & Associates, described several opportunities throughout Brooklyn and Queens to platform over railyards and highways to create more precious New York City real estate.

Councilmember Eric Gioia is looking forward to development of the Sunnyside Yards:

In fact, he has even tried to lure Bruce Ratner's Nets arena to that site instead of the Prospect Heights railyards, but Ratner's people have so far told Gioia no way. The Prospect Heights location was conspicuously absent from the Garvin study of platform opportunities, even though four other sites in Brooklyn were included.


NoLandGrab: The article is referring to the Vanderbilt Yards, the largest chunk of land in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 11:13 PM

News Analysis: ESDC Gives It Up

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is passing off a seven-page memo as the complete independent economic analysis of the Atlantic Yards. What did the document leave out and why does it matter?

Does the Empire have any clothes? That's the question after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) last week belatedly released data aiming to back its claim that the Atlantic Yards project would bring $1.4 billion in new tax revenues to the city and state.

But the ESDC findings, expressed in a seven-page memo, confirmed what critics and opponents suspected: the state agency omitted significant costs and subsidies for the project, such as those for schools, sanitation, public safety, and affordable housing.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who had asked for a range of financial data from the ESDC and other agencies, called it "a skeleton projection of state and local tax revenue." Indeed, Brennan's request for the project's "business plan" - the estimate of overall costs and revenues - was rebuffed by the ESDC.


Posted by lumi at 11:00 PM

Walk Gets Greener In More Ways Than One

MediWalk1_BDS.jpgBrooklyn Downtown Star
By Medi Blum

Coverage of last weekend's Walkathon:

The second "Walk Don't Destroy" walkathon raised over $100,000 for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fund this weekend, nearly doubling last year's $60,000.
Many participants formed teams with their neighbors and walked under banners and signs such as "Boerum Hill Walks to Win," "No Arena, Go Greener," "Clinton Hill Cares: No Eminent Domain for AY Development," "ESDC Out of Brooklyn," or T-shirts such as the Castle Coalition's "Blight Me."
From the jubilant schoolchildren galloping and skipping out in front of the march, to the quirky hip-hop-meets-band-geek musical accompaniment, to the pre-Halloween dress-up of some of the walkers (along with the bride, a fuzzy wolf dressed in street clothes, many real dogs wearing Develop Don't Destroy T-shirts, and, briefly, a Renaissance harlequin or two), to the downright mirth-inducing weather and the post-march concert led by John Wesley Harding, there was a cheerful tone to the walkathon.


Posted by lumi at 10:48 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Property Owners and Tenants File Federal Eminent Domain Lawsuit Against Ratner, Pataki, Gargano, Bloomberg and Doctoroff

Plaintiffs’ Suit Seeks to Halt the Abusive and Unconstitutional Use of Eminent Domain for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development Proposal

NEW YORK, NY— Today eleven plaintiffs–property owners and tenants from the site targeted for Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) proposed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn–filed a Federal lawsuit, in the Eastern District, to stop the State of New York from taking their properties for the developer’s private benefit through an abuse of its eminent domain powers. The suit says that the defendants’ use of eminent domain for the “Atlantic Yards” project is unconstitutional.

Governor George Pataki, FCR’s President Bruce Ratner, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, Forest City Ratner Companies and its parent Forest City Enterprises, amongst others, are named as defendants in the suit.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has organized a stellar legal team to represent the plaintiffs: lead counsel is Matthew D. Brinckerhoff of the constitutional law firm Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady; counsel for tenant-plaintiffs is Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services; co-counsel is DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore; and a team of dedicated volunteer attorneys.

“This lawsuit presents a textbook example of what the Fifth Amendment expressly prohibits: the taking of one citizen’s property in order to benefit a powerful and influential private citizen. Our case is strong–the sham process employed by defendants to justify the taking of plaintiffs’ property for Bruce Ratner’s ‘Atlantic Yards’ is precisely what was forbidden by the majority in last year’s controversial Supreme Court Case -- Kelo v. New London,” lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said. “The ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal is premised upon the abuse of eminent domain. Plaintiffs will not stand idly by while their properties are seized by the State and given to Bruce Ratner to maximize his enrichment. We seek a court order prohibiting the State from abusing its eminent domain power in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Property owners and tenants in the proposed development have the right to keep their homes and properties. New York State has no legal right to take those properties for a private, favored developer when there is no comprehensive development planning process, no bidding process for the condemned land, a phony “blight” finding and when that project is wholly conceived and driven by that private developer for that private developer’s benefit. This is the case with Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” proposal.

Tenant attorney Jennifer Levy said, “I represent low-income renters and most of my clients in this case are rent-stabilized tenants who will be removed from their long-term homes, distanced from their families, and removed from their communities, if this Project is permitted to proceed. This case represents an unjustifiable use of the State’s eminent domain powers, which only permit the use of eminent domain where there is a resulting public use. It is not permissible to use eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer displacing vulnerable populations.

“We want to stay in our homes, keep our businesses, and keep our properties. Our case, at its core, is very simple: Bruce Ratner does not have the right to ask Governor Pataki to take my home and give it to Bruce Ratner, and the Governor does not have the right to oblige Mr. Ratner. We are sure that most people agree with us on that,” said plaintiff and DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “With our suit here in Brooklyn we are standing up for millions of people across the United States who understand that the abuse of eminent domain can impact anyone and has gone too far. We are excited that our case may rein in eminent domain abuse here in New York City and across the country.”

Lead DDDB legal volunteer Candace Carponter said, “We fully support, congratulate, and deeply respect the courage of these owners and tenants in defending their fundamental constitutional rights. As the Ohio Supreme court said in its ruling for owners in the City of Norwood eminent domain case, 'although the judiciary and the legislature define the limits of state powers, such as eminent domain, the ultimate guardian of the people's rights...are the people themselves.’”

“We are calling on the Public Authorities Control Board–Silver, Bruno and the Governor–to postpone any vote on the proposed 'Atlantic Yards' project until the courts have ruled on eminent domain,” said DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker. "There is much that is illegal with the Ratner ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal and its process. Its abuse of eminent domain, which we will show with this case, is at the very foundation of the project’s numerous violations of the law."

The 8.8 million square foot, $4.2 billion “Atlantic Yards” project was first conceived by Forest City Ratner and unveiled in December, 2003, at which time it was made clear that private property (homes and businesses) would be condemned, seized and transferred to the developer to construct his project and bring enormous profits to the development corporation. The City of New York and the State of New York never had any plan for the proposed project site, and thus, “Atlantic Yards” and its dependence on eminent domain abuse is entirely driven by the developer, and the private goals of the Forest City Ratner corporation. The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision in the summer of 2005 forbade this kind of favoritism in takings.

ECBA and the lawyers who work there have developed a national reputation in the field of constitutional litigation, winning important victories in landmark matters such as Morris v. Board of Estimate, the US Supreme Court case that struck down the previous form of New York City government as a violation of one-person/one-vote principles, and Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, the US Supreme Court case that upheld a litigant's right to a jury award. The Firm currently has an active constitutional docket, including two other Fifth Amendment Takings Clause cases, and numerous Equal Protection Clause, Free Speech Clause and other constitutional cases.

The complaint can be found here: http://dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them

Posted by lumi at 12:00 PM

New location & condo numbers, old photos & claims from FCR

Existing Conditions? Without much mainstream media coverage to analyze, Atlantic Yards Report takes a crack at the "Atlantic Yards Project Briefing handed out by Forest City Ratner representatives to some Prospect Heights residents at a meeting Monday night."

The document remains intriguing, especially since the developer persists in claiming $6.1 billion in tax revenues for the project--a highly dubious figure--and showing pictures of demolished buildings under "Existing Conditions." (We get the backlot building at 463 Dean Street and the Underberg Building (twice), though they were torn down in May. At least the developer has found a current photo of 636 Pacific Street, which had previously be portrayed pre-renovation....)

And, curiously enough, the project location is described as "close proximity to Downtown Brooklyn," which differs from the longstanding description of "A Vision for Downtown Brooklyn."


Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

Eminent domain lawsuit coming today; another suit also in the works

Atlantic Yards Report

Separate from the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn law suit being filed in federal court today, another parallel suit is coming down the pipe (emphasis added to the crux of the case):

Not part of this lawsuit, but expected to be part of another, are 15 rent-stabilized tenants in two buildings in the proposed project footprint, represented by attorney George Locker. He told me, "I will be raising exclusively state claims, in a separate plenary lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court after issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement." That could be in November.

Locker added, "I fully support the DDDB litigation and believe that they will prevail on their Federal claims, which will be applicable to my clients, as my claims will be applicable to theirs." Locker believes that the state and developer are using eminent domain to circumvent state law, which otherwise would require a series of hearings before demolishing buildings containing rent-regulated tenants.


Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Ballot initiative fine print, Kelo backlash and Korean American small-biz owners to demonstrate

Monopoly.jpg NLG: Community Commentary, The Long, Long Arm of the “Kelo Plus” Initiatives
A legal analysis of "Kelo plus" ballot initiatives, which seek to rein in governmental regulation under the guise of property rights, by eminent domain legal scholar and activist John Ryskamp.

Gannett News Service, via HometownOnline, When should government take land? Michigan voters will get to decide the fate of Proposal 4 on Nov. 7:

If approved, the amendment will require the government to decide when to use eminent domain on a case-to-case basis using strict justification. Their authority to declare an entire area as blighted will be limited and determined individually. And only then, if the power of eminent domain is justified the government will be required to pay 125 percent of the fair market value to the owner, Nowling said.

San Jose Mercury-News, Voters should read fine print before making Prop. 90 decision

Polls show that few voters know what Proposition 90 is about, much less understand its significance. No wonder, given that relatively little money has been spent so far communicating messages for and against the initiative.
The proposal's promoters are selling it as a reform of eminent domain, the process governments everywhere use to force the sale of private property for public purposes. But it is much more than that. It is a sweeping change in the state constitution that could potentially affect just about every new state or local government regulation adopted in the future.

Prop 90 seems benign enough; it restricts eminent domain to traditional "public use" and prohibits private-to-private transactions, as in New London, CT and Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. But here's the rub:

Proposition 90 would require government to pay owners the amount the property would yield in its "highest and best use'' if the government left the property alone.

NoLandGrab: Here's a hypothetical — if your property is oil-rich but lies in an ecologially sensitive area, the government must pay you for your oil in order to protect the environment.

Sacramento Bee, Editorial: Speak up on 90, Governor
The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee is calling on Gov. Schwarzenegger to condemn Proposition 90:

The governor needs to come out strongly against Proposition 90. If voters were to approve this deceptive law, it would gut Schwarzenegger's efforts to improve flood control, preserve open space in the Sierra, upgrade transportation and ensure that cities and counties have adequate funds for public safety and other priorities.

El Paso Times,
Korean Chamber of Commerce to protest Downtown revitalization

About 160 Downtown business owners plan to close their stores for two hours today and march to City Hall to protest the city's proposed Downtown redevelopment plan, the leader of a Korean business group said Wednesday.

"We want to send a message to City Council and the mayor that we are together; we are here. We are creating Downtown activity," said Walter Kim, owner of KSM Corp., a store on South El Paso Street, and president of the Korean Chamber of Commerce of El Paso. Kim has also been involved in Land Grab Opponents of El Paso, which has threatened to sue the city over the Downtown plan.

NoLandGrab: In NYC, small-business owners are particularly vulnerable to eminent domain takings, many of whom are first- and second-generation immigrants. Ethnically based business networks in NYC have not spoken up against eminent domain abuse as they have in El Paso.

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Forest City in the News

ForestCity-Sign.jpgThe Detriot News, Developers aim to get Detroit on its feet
Al Ratner will be participating in the the 20th annual University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum at Cobo Center in Detroit.

NoLandGrab: It's ironic that the forum will discuss creating pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in Detriot, while meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, Forest City's plans to create surface parking has transportation advocates scratching their heads.

Editor & Publisher, Times Co. Looking for Tenants to Rent Five Floors in New HQ
The NY Times Co. is looking to rent out five of the 29 floors they own in the Times Tower, the new headquarters developed in partnership with Forest City Ratner.

Business Wire, Forest City Offers Westfield San Francisco Centre Tour to NAREIT Attendees
Forest City will be holding a tour of the Westfield San Francisco Centre for attendees of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) convention.

Rocky Mountain News, New gem for Forest City
An article about Forest City's recent developments in Colorado with some historical background.

The final phase of Northfield Stapleton, a 1.2 million-square-foot outdoor shopping center, debuts at 10 a.m. today.

It's the latest from Forest City Enterprises, the Cleveland-based developer that has begun several other area projects since becoming master developer of the 4,700-acre redevelopment project in 1999.
Most recently, Forest City was named developer for the 160-acre Fitzsimons Bioscience Park in Aurora, whose aim is to attract bioscience companies and about 10,000 jobs in the next couple of decades.

Forest City was one of about a dozen developers that vied for the job, said Jill Sikora Farnham, executive director of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority.
Forest City Enterprises has its roots in a lumberyard business founded in 1921 by Polish immigrant siblings Charles, Max, -Leonard and Fannye Ratner.

The company went public in 1960 and today owns, develops and manages diverse real estate projects in 25 states. It reported revenue of $1.2 billion last year.
Northfield Stapleton was built with enough sustainable characteristics to win it LEED-CS Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

Brooklyn Property Owners and Tenants to Announce Federal Eminent Domain Lawsuit Against Ratner, Pataki, Gargano, Bloomberg and Doctoroff

MEDIA ALERT: October 26. 1pm Press Conference. City Hall

Plaintiffs’ Suit Seeks to Halt the Abusive and Unconstitutional Use of Eminent Domain for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development Project

NEW YORK, NY— At 1pm on Thursday October 26th on the steps of City Hall, Brooklyn property owners and tenants, along with their legal representatives, and supporters will announce the filing of a Federal lawsuit (Eastern District) against the abuse of eminent domain and the taking of their properties by New York State for Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" development project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Governor George Pataki, FCR’s President Bruce Ratner, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, Forest City Ratner Companies and its parent Forest City Enterprises, amongst others, are named as defendants in the suit.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has organized a stellar legal team to represent the plaintiffs: lead counsel is Matthew D. Brinckerhoff of the constitutional law firm Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady (ECBA); counsel for tenant-plaintiffs is Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services; co-counsel is DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore; and a team of dedicated volunteer attorneys.

ECBA and the lawyers who work there have developed a national reputation in the field of constitutional litigation, winning important victories in landmark matters such as Morris v. Board of Estimate, the US Supreme Court case which struck down the previous form of New York City government as a violation of one person/one vote principles, and Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, the US Supreme Court case that upheld a litigant's right to a jury award. The Firm currently has an active constitutional docket, including two other Fifth Amendment Takings Clause cases, and numerous Equal Protection Clause, Free Speech Clause and other constitutional cases.

More information will be available at the press conference and later today

Press conference to announce lawsuit against eminent domain abuse stemming from Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” development proposal

Thursday, October 26th. 1pm.

The Steps of City Hall in Manhattan
(R/W train to City Hall, 4/5/6 train to Brooklyn Bridge, 2/3 train to Park Place)

Attorneys, Brooklyn property owners and tenants threatened by eminent domain abuse, and supporters

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

October 25, 2006

Building Miss Brooklyn

n%2B1-issue4cover.jpgn + 1
By Nikil Saval

An analysis and synopsis of the fight over Atlantic Yards, this article tells the story of how Bruce Ratner is co-opting NYC-style progressive liberalism to expand his substantial real estate empire:

But paradoxically, we are now asked to accept the notion that modestly wealthy residents of Park Slope have less interest in the poor and the unemployed than billionaires like Bloomberg and Ratner; that outsized urban complexes containing mostly condos and high-priced rentals are the best available solution to the problems of gentrification. Real estate magnates will bring the working class back to Brooklyn; the “black and brown” have their best friend in Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 9:45 PM

ESDC says FCR's timetable isn't accurate; still, Nov. 2 may be Final EIS deadline

Breaking news from Atlantic Yards Report is no news.

Spokeswoman Jessica Copen contacted me to say, "We haven't scheduled any special meetings for November. We're working towards finalizing the Final Environmental Impact Statement as soon as possible, within the statutory timeframe."

Read Norman Oder's post for an explanation of "statutory timeframe."


NoLandGrab: Was Forest City Ratner blowing smoke when they handed out their timeline at Monday evening's neighborhood meeting (see "The Speedy FEIS?")? Or is the ESDC's Copen the one with the spin moves? State law would appear to indicate that the FEIS would need to be complete by early November, though on the other hand, it could allow for more time.

Posted by lumi at 11:23 AM

Tish James, DDDB welcome Bloomberg's PACB comments

Here's one we missed from Atlantic Yards Report, covering Mayor Bloomberg's disgust with the Public Authorities Control Board (the three unknown representatives of the proverbial and perennial "three men in a room"). Just last week, Sheldon Silver's representative to the PACB killed the Moynihan Station project, and did the same last year with the West Side Stadium proposal.

Yesterday City Council Member Letitia James, who represents Prospect Heights and environs, including the area slated for the Atlantic Yards project, issued a statement: I agree fully that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) is not a good example of representative democracy. "Three men in a room" should not have control over development in our city- not at Moynihan Station and not at Atlantic Yards.

The mayor suggested someone might want to "look at" the constitutionality of the PACB. There are many in this community, including myself, who have been doing just that. Of the numerous lawsuits that will be filed in relation to Atlantic Yards, one may very well deal with this undemocratic process, and the near total lack of citizen input.

DDDB issues a press release as well (full text after the jump) arguing:

“Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely correct: three-men-in-a-room control over Ratner’s ‘Atlantic Yards,’ and other enormous development projects in New York City, is clearly undemocratic and, as he suggests, may be unconstitutional. We’ve been saying that for the past three years,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “We sure hope that the Mayor is not suggesting that he accepts and abets this undemocratic process when it suits his goals, and rejects it when it doesn’t. That would be Machiavellian. Indeed we will be ‘looking at that,’ as the Mayor urges, over the coming months.”


Mayor Bloomberg Says Three Men in a Room Develop Don’t Destroy Says That's Right

BROOKLYN, NY—Once Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” proposal receives inevitable approval from the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the project would have to then receive an unanimous vote from the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). The PACB is currently controlled by Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Last Friday, on his weekly WABC radio show, Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly criticized the very same PACB that killed the Jets Stadium, and just last week put up a major roadblock to the Moynihan Station project in Manhattan. Commenting on Assembly Speaker Silver’s squashing of Moynihan Station, the Mayor said of the PACB:

"Why is there a structure at the state level where three individuals basically have a veto over everything? This PC, PSA, whatever the board is that approves it. And I'm not sure why that's constitutional. Maybe somebody wants to look at that. I don’t happen to think that it’s good democracy to give the governor, the speaker of the assembly, and the majority leader in the senate—no matter who they are, whether they agree with me or not—that’s not representative democracy, that’s not letting everybody have a say, because in fact, it isn’t everybody…

You can argue the governor is elected by the whole state, but then the majority leader and the speaker are representing really only their own districts, and that’s not what I think we should have."

“Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely correct: three-men-in-a-room control over Ratner’s ‘Atlantic Yards,’ and other enormous development projects in New York City, is clearly undemocratic and, as he suggests, may be unconstitutional. We’ve been saying that for the past three years,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “We sure hope that the Mayor is not suggesting that he accepts and abets this undemocratic process when it suits his goals, and rejects it when it doesn’t. That would be Machiavellian. Indeed we will be ‘looking at that,’ as the Mayor urges, over the coming months.”

In 2005 Mayor Bloomberg signed over the city’s chartered right to oversight and review of Forest City Ratner’s 8.8 million square foot “Atlantic Yards” development proposal. This decision by the Mayor gave complete control of the largest mixed-use development proposal in the history of New York City to the unaccountable and unelected ESDC and the “undemocratic” (his words) PACB. The agreed to state override took control of the project out of the hands of three community boards, the Brooklyn Borough President, City Planning Commission and the entire City Council. None of those bodies have any official role in the project, and the override of the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) bypasses the City Council’s vote on such projects. Instead, the ESDC and the PACB are the only entities that have any official role in determining the fate of the “Atlantic Yards” proposal.

“We’re with the Mayor on this one. ULURP is democratic, the state override with PACB control is an undemocratic abuse of power,” Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

The speedy FEIS? Ratner anticipates AY approval in a matter of weeks

Atlantic Yards Report

Ratner has publicly announced the timetable for the remainder of the approval process at a neighborhood meeting on Monday night, which leaves Brooklynites like Norman Oder to wonder, just who is really in charge.

Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) anticipates that the Final EIS will be certified by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) during the first week in November.

Then, according to the timeline handed out to Prospect Heights residents by FCR officials at a community meeting Monday (click on graphic to enlarge), ten days later the ESDC will hold a special meeting to approve the EIS and eminent domain findings, and to approve the General Project Plan (GPP).


Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

FOIL follies II: Brennan's request for business plan rejected

TheESDCStrikesBack.jpgAtlantic Yards Report serves up the second installment of its four-part series on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, a law whose use has proved to be very important and necessary to shedding light on many of the obscured details of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

FOIL Wars, "The Empire State Development Corporation Strikes Again"

Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation finally released a memo attempting to back up its prediction that the Atlantic Yards Project would generate $1.4 billion in new city and state taxes.

But that wasn’t what Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan really asked for. Indeed, his FOIL request for the project’s “business plan”—the crucial estimate of overall costs and revenues—was rebuffed by the ESDC. Now he’s appealing that rejection.
Not all agency documents are subject to disclosure. Brennan said that the agency stated that, according to the law, it may deny access to records or portions thereof that "are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not... statistical or factual tabulations or data."

In other words, if they are statistical or factual dabulations or data, they should be disclosed. The ESDC's rationale, Brennan said, must be that the business plan is not a statistical or factual tabulation. He believes that it is.


Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Re-Imagining Downtown Brooklyn

...and other opportunities for the outer boroughs.

Project for Public Spaces

While Brooklyn may have great neighborhoods and destinations, Project for Public Spaces explains that "the inner core of Brooklyn is not performing anywhere near its potential."

The PPS newsletter directs sharp criticism at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, a project that promises "yet more concessions to traffic and carte blanche for the architect's ego:"

The Forest City Ratner proposal for the Atlantic Yards site has many weaknesses (which we'll address shortly), but the truth is that no development--even one much stronger than what's on the table now--can truly succeed there without also addressing the area around the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth Avenue. This intersection should be an iconic space--a source of pride for Brooklyn as a whole. Not only is it a gateway to major assets such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Downtown Brooklyn, and even the cultural institutions near Grand Army Plaza, but it is also the threshold to many of Brooklyn's great neighborhoods. Done the right way, development here could transform the intersection into the "Crossroads of Brooklyn."

If this major intersection is ever to become important to Brooklyn, the first priority must be to define it as a great destination. Right now it is dominated by vehicles -- it's just a place to drive through. The pedestrian experience is a nightmare, and there is no plan to deal with this major obstacle. Any development on any portion of this intersection will be a failure if surface transportation issues are not dealt with.


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Brooklyn Bound

Travel & Leisure
By Peter Jon Lindberg

travandleis.jpgNew Yorkers looking for the small-town quality of life in the big city, and visitors who shun the spoon-fed tourist spots, are now flocking to Brooklyn. Travel writer and Brooklynite Peter Jon Lindberg often travels the world without leaving Brooklyn.

It seems that a postcard from Brooklyn isn't complete without a couple of paragraphs about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal:

The fiercest battle, however, centers on Atlantic Yards, a $4.2 billion development that would bring 16 residential and commercial towers and a Frank Gehry–designed basketball arena to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, already one of the most congested intersections in the city. The 22-acre complex would replace a derelict rail yard—as well as seven residential blocks of not-at-all-derelict Prospect Heights. Most tenants and homeowners in the project’s footprint have already vacated their apartments, but a handful still remain, refusing buyout offers and possibly forcing an eminent domain action.

The pros and cons are both outsized. According to an environmental-impact study, Atlantic Yards would cast a literal shadow over surrounding low-rise neighborhoods, place a significant strain on mass transit, and knot up some 60 intersections in gridlock. It would also supply 2,250 subsidized apartments for low- and middle-income residents (an increasingly threatened population in New York), create thousands of jobs, add up to $1.5 billion in tax revenue, and relocate the New Jersey Nets to a legendarily jilted sports town that’s gone five decades without a big-league team.

Brooklyn desperately needs affordable housing. And an NBA franchise would be a potent symbol and point of pride for still bereft trolley dodgers. Yet Atlantic Yards seems grotesquely proportioned, the proverbial bazooka-on-a-quail-hunt. If approved, it will be the biggest and costliest development in Brooklyn’s history: a Manhattan-scale megaplex in a borough defined by its small neighborhood charms.


NoLandGrab: Lindberg might want to check that $1.5-billion number with "The Mad Factchecker" Norman Oder, who finds that the Empire State Development Corporation calculates the benefits at around $1.4 billion, but without considering substantial public costs.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

our development subsidy panel - watch and listen online

Drum Major Institute Blog

In case you missed DMI's Marketplace of Ideas panel last month - or if you're doing research for your own brilliant blog post - check out the audio and video we have of the panel now on the DMI website.

Norman Oder already posted on this forum (link). However, if you are interested in learning more about holding companies, like Forest City Ratner, accountable for public subsidies, and the wisdom of using public money for sports venues, you may want to check it out.

Everyone on the panel from good government advocate Assemblyman Brodsky to crusading New York Daily News collumist [sic] and Atlantic Yards supporter Errol Lewis was extremely passionate and pointed in their discussion.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Bobb well ahead in fundraising for school board chief

The Washington Times

The Ratner clan is making large contributions to a big-money fight in the nation's capital for... School Board Presidency(?).

Former D.C. Administrator Robert C. Bobb has raised $160K, more than four times the amount raised by all of the other candidates combined, and an unusually large sum for a local school-board election.

Mr. Bobb picked up several thousand dollars in contributions from members of the Ratner family, which runs Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises. The company is redeveloping property along the Anacostia River.


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Clarke's opponents hang tough

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

City Council[member] Yvette Clarke has taken it easy since winning a bruising Democratic congressional primary last month - but that doesn't mean the race is over.

Clarke (D-Flatbush) still faces three opponents in the 11th Congressional District in next month's general election, even if it's assumed that in heavily Democratic Brooklyn, the Democratic primary winner is a shoo-in.

Steve Finger, a doctor from Sheepshead Bay, is running as a Republican and Libertarian, while activist Ollie McClean is running as an Independent.
McClean, the daughter of immigrants from Barbados and a founding member of the United African Movement, said she had planned to stay in the race if City Councilman David Yassky, who is white, won the nomination for the traditionally black seat.

But after Clarke beat Yassky in the primary with 31% of the vote to his 26%, McClean said she was asked by supporters to stay in.

"Now, it's not just to have a black face in a high place, we have to have accountability too," said McClean, who opposes the Atlantic Yards arena/commercial/residential project, which Clarke supports.

Finger, who regularly appears on a Libertarian cable access talk show, also opposes Atlantic Yards, "on eminent domain grounds."


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

TODAY: Protest Rally in Response to Atlantic Avenue Carnage

AABA Press Release via StreetsBlog, which points out that "AABA has been fighting for years for more neighborhood-friendly traffic policies along the Avenue." The press release targets traffic mitigations for the Atlantic Yards proposal and a move in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, October 25 at 10:00 am on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bond St.


Excess speed kills two on Atlantic Avenue this October. One of them, Al Fernandez, a long time neighbor, was crushed to death while sitting on the sidewalk.

Stand with merchants and residents to show your outrage at Department of Transportation’s policies to move traffic without regard for community safety. Demand a safer Atlantic Avenue. Demand that the 4-7 PM parking ban be lifted which hurts small businesses.

Act now before Atlantic Avenue becomes even more dangerous by plans to widen the road by eliminating more parking and moving traffic even faster by increasing green time. These are proposed as "mitigation" measures for the Atlantic Yards Development Project.

We can have a safer Atlantic Avenue. We can have more parking to benefit the restaurants, and other small businesses on the Avenue.


At the press conference, AABA will present solutions for a safer and more business friendly Atlantic Avenue.

Merchants and residents will be joined by Elected Officials and Transportation Alternatives.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

October 24, 2006

NYT backs off space at its new headquarters

Crain's NY Business
By Julie Satow

Here's the latest drama at the Times Tower:

The New York Times Co. is giving up five floors at its new corporate headquarters before it has even moved in.

The publishing company, which reported a 39% drop in third-quarter profit, is on the hunt for a tenant to occupy 155,000 square feet on the 23rd through 27th floors at 620 Eighth Ave. -- the brand spanking new skyscraper that is under construction between West 40th and West 41st streets.

The Times partnered with Forest City Ratner to develop the 52-story building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. The publisher of The New York Times had planned to occupy the first 29 floors, with Ratner leasing the remainder of the building. So far, Ratner has signed leases for more than 75% of its 700,000 square feet.


Posted by lumi at 10:26 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

GuyDebord.jpgPicketing Henry Ford, On Debord, on Urbanism, on Deception

An esoteric (read, "hyper-intellectual") post from Stuart Schrader for those who are curious about radical/avant-garde architecture theory and how it relates to Atlantic Yards (read, "not Bruce Ratner").

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: What The Archetypes Are Thinking

B-stoner's take on the "archetypes" in the Times's City section article from this weekend:

The Times asked nine area residents to discuss their views on the Atlantic Yards project. What struck us in reading the responses was what a war of hyperbole and propaganda this whole thing has been, from the promises of hand-outs and subsidies to the scare renderings showing Fort Greene being cast in a perpetual shadow. What continues to amaze us is how many of the poorer people in favor of the project seem to think they actually have a decent statistical chance of getting anything out of this.

atlanticstatecondos2.jpgOne Hanson Place, Atlantic State Condos on market

As the Atlantic Yards projects barges ahead, more and more buildings are being erected along the Atlantic Avenue corridor. Start with the Boerum Heights complex, which recently changed marketing hands to Brooklyn Properties. Then there's a newer project a few blocks down at 489 Atlantic Avenue.

Posted by lumi at 9:05 PM

City Modifies Harlem Project To Include More ‘Affordable' Units

NY Sun
By David Lombino

Could missteps at Atlantic Yards already be making a difference elsewhere in the City?

Atlantic Yards was cited as one of the bugaboos by a city official, in an article about the Uptown New York project, which has been limping along after the opposition killed the deal and, just yesterday, the City's Economic Development Corporation reissued a request for proposal for the project.

A lingering critique of the Bloomberg administration's development strategy is its preference for large development projects and its lack of regard for "community-based development."

In Brooklyn, neighbors of the proposed Atlantic Yards project — vastly bigger at about 8.7 million square feet — have complained the city has not addressed community concerns. That project is being guided through the review process by a state agency.

The director of land use in the office of Manhattan borough president, Anthony Borelli, said in the case of Uptown New York, the administration backed away from a fight.

"I think the city actually saw that it would probably be more productive and less adversarial if they started from scratch, rather than push it through with a lot of community opposition," Mr. Borelli said.


Posted by lumi at 8:51 PM

BrooklynSpeaks on the Arena and Eminent Domain

BrooklynSpeaks and the Municipal Art Society have received some flak for not taking a strong position on the Arena and Eminent Domain. [NoLandGrab has noted that the group posted a statement about the issue of eminent domain, which was buried somewhere on its web site.]

In order to clarify things a bit, BrooklynSpeaks recently posted this statement:

The Arena
BrooklynSpeaks believes that, before the project can move forward, measures must be in place to mitigate the enormous potential impacts associated with the Arena. These impacts could include: the overwhelming of our transit system; thousands of new vehicular trips in an already congested area; and the creation of a secondary parking industry that would blight the surrounding neighborhoods. To read more on our principle that the project must include a transportation plan that works, click here.

Eminent Domain
BrooklynSpeaks believes that the public process for making land-use determinations, including decisions concerning the use of eminent domain, should be as fair, transparent and open as possible, and involve the public in a meaningful way. This is especially critical when the use of eminent domain is contemplated, because the power of the state is subject to abuse if the public process fails to sufficiently involve all affected parties. The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors believe that the public process for Atlantic Yards so far has been flawed.


NoLandGrab: The one thing that BrooklynSpeaks doesn't say is that, in reality (and as far as developer Bruce Ratner is concerned), the arena construction can't go forward without using eminent domain.

So, if eminent domain is a practical barrier to the arena and BrooklynSpeaks has taken a concrete stand against using eminent domain when "the public process for Atlantic Yards so far has been flawed," then it is curious that the coalition has not added it to the list of issues that need to be resolved "before the project can move forward."

Posted by lumi at 10:23 AM

Endless Apartments

NY Sun, Op-Ed
By Edward Glaeser

This has got to be a first: in today's NY Sun a Harvard prof cites opposition to Atlantic Yards as one of the stumbling blocks to affordable housing being built by the free-market.

There are a host of regulatory barriers to construction. The brawl in Brooklyn over shortening the Atlantic Yards tower shows how effective community groups can be in limiting height and the supply of homes. As these community groups have grown since the 1970s, the heights of new residential buildings in Manhattan have plummeted.


NoLandGrab: The joke is that Glaeser is being simplistic by looking at one aspect of the Atlantic Yards fight.

Atlantic Yards will require massive public subsidies (many of which have not been publicly identified and released), which, according to Glaeser's own opinion, are "an emblem of the perversities of residential planning in New York."

Atlantic Yards Report also takes Glaeser to task for ignoring a couple key facts (link):

First, the main tower--Frank Gehry's 620-foot "Miss Brooklyn"--has not been shortened, though even Borough President Marty Markowitz, a project supporter, wants it reduced. Second, it's 16 towers, not just one. Third, and most importantly, the main reason community groups are arguing about height and density is because this project is not subject to city zoning, as it's proceeding under the auspices of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

FOIL follies I: City Planning's response a month overdue

From Atlantic Yards Report:

This is the first of four articles on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.

On July 26, I filed FOIL requests for Atlantic Yards-related documents with three city agencies and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). The New York City Housing Development Corporation was the first to provide documents. The ESDC, after first ignoring my request, finally acknowledged it, then denied it, had it questioned, then reversed itself.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) has been dragging its feet. Though my request arrived the next day, and state law says that my request should've been acknowledged within five business days, the agency's response was issued on August 15, some 13 business days later.

Wanna bet what happened next?


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Coming soon to Prospect Heights: a large suburban parking lot?

TempParkingLot.gif BrooklynSpeaks

One of the most troubling aspects of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan is their proposal to demolish existing buildings on the project site to construct a 944 space surface parking lot and a staging area for construction. According to the plan, the lot would be the entire block encompassed by Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues, and Pacific Street and Dean Street. FCR says the lot will be “temporary.” In the best case scenario, temporary means from the start of construction until 2016, when residential buildings will be constructed on the lot. In the worst case scenario, if economic conditions change and the second phase of the project doesn’t materialize, temporary means permanent.


There's additional coverage at StreetsBlog ("They Paved Prospect Heights and Put up a Parking Lot"), which promotes the BrooklynSpeaks principles for those who "are in favor of the "Atlantic Yards" project and want to see the project have a good chance of succeeding without destroying the neighborhoods all around it" (read Marty Markowtiz and City Councilmember Bill de Blasio).

Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

Atlantic Yards/NY Times "Voices"

Another DailyHeights food fight has broken out over this weekend's NY Times article, which featured opinions from surrounding neighborhoods on Atlantic Yards.

BrookFetish pointed out:

Not one person from Prospect Heights was interviewed.

Jack Krohn countered:

Lumi Rolley, a major force behind NoLandGrab, doesn't live in Prospect Heights, either, but her views are often taken seriously.

Unlike Ms. Rolley, I DO live in Prospect Heights and I support the Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab; Unlike Mr. Krohn, Ms. Rolley wasn't aware that one had to live in Prospect Heights to be concerned about the taking of people's property for a mammoth private development project. Our apologies.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

THE INVESTOR: Christopher Morris

ChristopherMorris-NYT.jpgFrom The NY Times:

Christopher Morris has already figured out the one fact that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards supporters don't want you to know, that "Atlantic Yards = Instant Gentrification."

I want to be ahead of the game, so I want to be where all the action is. I have five properties in Brooklyn close to the stadium, which I bought for a total of $15 million. I bought two properties that are three blocks from the Atlantic Yards for about $4 million. One I’m turning into condominiums, 24 condos. I wouldn’t have bought that property if it weren’t for the Atlantic Yards. Mr. Ratner has brought a whole change to this neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

The Long, Long Arm of the “Kelo Plus” Initiatives

by John Ryskamp

A legal analysis of "Kelo plus" ballot initiatives which seek to rein in governmental regulation under the guise of property rights by eminent domain legal scholar and activist John Ryskamp.

The assault on the scrutiny regime established by West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), continues apace. To the amazed incomprehension, blustering, handwringing—and loss—of advocates of the scrutiny regime, state propositions have moved further to destroy the underlying doctrine of the Constitution that law rationally relates to a legitimate government purpose. The effect of these initiatives—extending the assault on government power beyond eminent domain in response to the Kelo case—is to substitute a new Constitutional doctrine: every law maintains an important fact. The initiatives—here we will discuss the representative California initiative, Proposition 90 —are not restricted to real property, and they are not restricted to fair market value. Thus, they open up the factual inquiry to evaluating and ranking facts in terms of each other, and reconciling them with each other on the basis of the concept of maintenance: this is the new Constitutional doctrine in action. We are being drawn irresistibly into a new Constitutional era, without its true significance ever being recognized, either by those who are bringing it into existence, or by those who oppose it coming into existence.


A good measure of the incomprehension of the scrutiny regime, can be taken by reading the California Legislative Analyst’s discussion of Proposition 90. Section 3, Paragraph 8 of the initiative states: “Except when taken to protect public health and safety, ‘damage’ to private property includes government actions that result in substantial economic loss to private property. Examples of substantial economic loss include, but are not limited to, the downzoning of private property, the elimination of any access to private property, and limitations on the use of private air space. ‘Government action’ shall mean any statute, charter provision, ordinance, resolution, law, rule or regulation.” Proposition 90 contains many definitions, but it does not define “property.” The Legislative Analyst does not note the absence of a definition, nor of course is there any analysis of the extension of the proposition to non-real property situations. Nor is the section of itself restricted to real property. Of course, modernly, property under the Fourteenth Amendment is regarded as “property interest” and is vast indeed. It is not even clear whether proponents of Proposition 90 knows this. But everyone will know it soon enough, once Proposition 90 passes, as it is expected to do.

Opponents of Proposition 90 consider the Proposition a “stealth” initiative because it contains the Paragraph 8 clause in addition to restrictions of eminent domain to public use. But that is not the real grounds of concern. Such anti-Kelo initiatives run into problems—not solutions—because they attempt to restrict eminent domain with respect to generalities, rather than with respect to facts. Proposition 90 is illustrative in this regard. We never get a definition of what “public use” is, only of what it is not. Section 3, including the proposed new Constitutional language, states: “(1) ‘Public use’ shall have a distinct and more narrow meaning than the term ‘public purpose’; its limiting effect prohibits takings expected to result in transfers to nongovernmental owners on economic development or tax revenue enhancement grounds, or for any other actual uses that are not public in fact, even though these uses may serve otherwise legitimate public purposes. (2) Public use shall not include the direct or indirect transfer of any possessory interest in property taken in an eminent domain proceeding from one private party to another private party unless that transfer proceeds pursuant to a government assignment, contract or arrangement with a private entity whereby the private entity performs a public use project. In all eminent domain actions, the government shall have the burden to prove public use.” The confusion here is compounded by the Supreme Court’s finding, in Kelo itself, that the term “economic development” has no logical content whatsoever, it doesn’t distinguish between one kind of eminent domain use and another. So it is unclear that Proposition 90 “hides” something in its restriction of eminent domain, because that restriction is in itself problematic.

No, the cause for concern for opponents of Proposition 90 is that Section 8 applies in situations which have nothing to do with eminent domain. Section 8 is not “hidden” by the eminent domain reform—the point is that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with eminent domain reform. It is a freestanding assault on the scrutiny regime. Consider this very brief discussion of a few interest currently considered “property interests” under the Fourteenth Amendment:

Beyond employment the Court found “legitimate entitlements” in a variety of situations. Thus, because Ohio included within its statutes a provision for free education to all residents between five and 21 years of age and a compulsory–attendance at school requirement, the State was deemed to have obligated itself to accord students some due process hearing rights prior to suspending them, even for such a short period as ten days. “Having chosen to extend the right to an education to people of appellees’ class generally, Ohio may not withdraw that right on grounds of misconduct, absent fundamentally fair procedures to determine whether the misconduct has occurred.” The Court is highly deferential, however, to dismissal decisions based on academic grounds. The most striking application of such due process analysis, to date, is Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., in which a state antidiscrimination law required the enforcing agency to convene a factfinding conference within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. Inadvertently, the Commission scheduled the hearing after the expiration of the 120 days and the state courts held the requirement to be jurisdictional, necessitating dismissal of the complaint. The Court held that Logan had been denied due process. His cause of action was a property interest; older cases had clearly established causes of action as property and, in any event, Logan’s claim was an entitlement grounded in state law and it could be removed only ‘for cause.’ That property interest existed independently of the 120– day time period and could not simply be taken away by agency action or inaction. Beyond statutory entitlements, the Court has looked to state decisional law to find that private utilities may not terminate service at will but only for cause, for nonpayment of charges, so that when there was a dispute about payment or the accuracy of charges, due process required the utility to follow procedures to resolve the dispute prior to terminating service.

Currently, there is no awareness at any level that the “Kelo plus” initiatives have implications for these types of cases.


Most anti-Kelo proposals try to capture, for the party subject to a taking, some of the enhanced value expected from the government purpose for the property. Proposition 90 is no different in this regard. The new Constitutional language in Section 3 attempts to give force to this concept: “(5) If a public use is determined, the taken or damaged property shall be valued at its highest and best use without considering any future dedication requirements imposed by the government. If private property is taken for any proprietary governmental purpose, then the property shall be valued at the use to which the government intends to put the property, if such use results in a higher value for the land taken. (6) In all eminent domain actions, ‘just compensation’ shall be defined as that sum of money necessary to place the property owner in the same position monetarily, without any governmental offsets, as if the property had never been taken. ‘Just compensation’ shall include, but is not limited to, compounded interest and all reasonable costs and expenses actually incurred. (7) In all eminent domain actions, ‘fair market’ value shall be defined as the highest price the property would bring on the open market.” This definition necessarily brings us back to the issue of “public use,” because the initial determination of “public use” also included the way government “valued” the property. From the point of view of the scrutiny regime, this means that compensation and government purpose are mutually exclusive.

But that is not the meaning if we are not viewing things from the perspective of the scrutiny regime. In the new Constitutional epoch, the valuation section, coupled with Section 8, gives rise to the question, does the law maintain property? It’s simple enough, but does that eliminate all ambiguities? By no means. One of the first things to notice about the new Constitutional doctrine is that disputes are now being fought out along new lines. Instead of arguing about government purpose, or whether—at the level of intermediate scrutiny, for example—a law furthers an important government purpose, we are now arguing about what, in fact, is property. This inquiry was basically forbidden by the scrutiny regime, which left that determination to the political process and ratified what the political came up with in terms of a factual finding.

The interaction of the two dimensions of the “Kelo plus” initiatives, makes that impossible. It appears to make government chase its tail, but that’s fine with public opinion, as long as government does not operate on facts public opinion considers important. When government does feel it can break out of a circular argument and make a case of having an impact on an important fact, then determination becomes an inquiry into facts. This is the new Constitutional doctrine in application. All unawares, we are getting our first marching orders from the new Constitutional regime.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM


By Paul Robeson, Jr.

Just when you thought that Brooklynites were done dissecting the primary election...

The September 12, 2006 Democratic Primary was a masquerade carried out by the Democratic Party machine in collusion with the mass media. The nominating and electoral processes were rigged so that no independent candidates who represented the people's interests could have a fair chance of getting elected. The issues of paramount interest to minority communities were deliberately submerged (the Atlantic Yards development proposal, the war in Iraq, minimum wage, single-payer universal health care, repeal of the Bush tax cuts, the export of jobs, immigration, the impeachment of President Bush),and the machine candidates were careful not to call attention to them.

There was only one truly independent and progressive Black candidate running in the primaries who a had a chance to win -- Chris Owens in Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District. He had three opponents, two Black and one white, who were backed by different factions of the corrupt Democratic Party machine.


Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon Raises Over $100,000 for Legal Fight Against Ratner's Atlantic Yards

Over 1,200 Donors Prep Fight Against Eminent Domain Abuse, Environmental Degradation and Undemocratic Development Process

WWD2-DDDB.jpgBROOKLYN, NY— On Saturday, October 21st, at the Second Annual Walk Don’t Destroy Walkathon, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) raised over $100,000 for its legal war chest in preparation for looming legal battles against the abuse of eminent domain, a faulty environmental impact statement, and the subversion of democratic process engendered by Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” development proposal.

On a beautiful fall day nearly 400 walkers and their 1,200 sponsors raised substantial funds in the one-day Walkathon held in and around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. After the two mile walk, walkers enjoyed a concert and heard speakers including City Councilman Tony Avella, DDDB Attorney Jeffrey Baker and DDDB Advisory Board member actor/director Steve Buscemi.

At the post walk concert at the Prospect Park bandshell, DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker said, “The ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal violates the UDC Act, the State’s environmental laws, and the U.S. Constitution. We are going to win this fight.”

Confirming the momentum and growing size of the opposition to Ratner’s mega-project, the money raised at the event nearly doubled the amount raised at last year’s First Annual Walkathon.

“As everyone knows legal representation is costly. And though we augment our attorneys with a superb team of local volunteer attorneys our looming legal fees could reach up to one million dollars,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “This Walkathon is just a part of our ongoing fundraising efforts. We call on all concerned citizens, city, state and nationwide–all citizens who care about democracy, fighting eminent domain abuse, corporate welfare, and the right of communities to have a meaningful voice in their futures–to contribute to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s legal fund over the coming months.”

Photos from the Walkathon can be found here: www.dddb.net/php/latestnews_Linked.php?id=291

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

October 23, 2006

Spoof alert!

Last week we ran an item from the Riverfront Times about Frank Gehry's foray into re-envisioning St. Louis. The arrogant quotes from the genius starchitect hewed so closely to recent statements intended to blow off Atlantic Yards critics that we left our sense of humor behind and fell for the entire article, which was meant to be a satire.

How were we supposed to know that the artiste who is excited to "build a neighborhood from scratch" in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and who dismissed concerns of neighborhood residents by glibly saying, "they should have been picketing Henry Ford," didn't actually say:

"Watch how the little red people exit the stadium and wend their way around the site."

The new Busch Stadium, "is not architecture. It is mimicry. It is safe, and cloying, and an insult to St. Louis."

We should have gotten a clue that the article was a work of fiction at the part where the Kiel Opera House would be relocated — physically moved on rollers — to a site across the street from Busch Stadium.

Well, our only consolation is that Frank Gehry and his lawyers have even less of a sense of humor than we do. This from the Riverfront Times disclaimer (added to the article after the "satire" even pissed off some locals):

An attorney who represents one of the famous people whose name the story features prominently called today to inform us that as far as it concerns their client, the piece is "entirely false" and has "no basis in truth whatsoever."

Whaddaya know? The principals of a company known and admired the world over (and their general counsel!) are reading li'l ol' Riverfront Times!

Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

Blight Me T-shirts on sale at Institute for Justice

WDD2-CastleCoalition.jpgEminent domain activists from the Institute for Justice were a big hit with their "blight me" tees at the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon.

The latest in eminent domain streetware is for sale online at the Institute for Justice for $13.99.

Click here to purchase.

Posted by lumi at 11:10 AM

Crossing Atlantic Avenue

We've been explaining that the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues is one of the most congested intersections in Brooklyn, and questioning the wisdom of building an arena and 16 high-rise towers there and closing existing streets to do it.

Englishman In NY crossed the Atlantic only to get stuck at Atlantic Avenue.

If you don’t believe me take a look for yourself at the snarl up yesterday morning at about 11.30am. I couldn’t see why traffic was backing up along Atlantic Avenue. But I wouldn’t say that the resulting mess is not an uncommon site in the area.

Posted by lumi at 10:48 AM

Walkathon coverage

Kids Corner at the Walkathon featured this mural designed by Eduardo Alexander Rabel. Photographed by Jonathan Barkey (click images to enlarge).

Daily Gotham, DDDB Walkathon: community, fun, "other" parties and money
Mole333 deflates some myths, stumbles over Greens and Republicans in search of Democrats, and has fun!

In the end, the DDDB event is like so many DDDB events...fun. That is what most people who only hear their policy statemets don't realize. DDDB is a community rooted group that has a real sense of fun and pride in the community. And that comes out in their Walkathons.

Gowanus Lounge, Walk Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon Video


NetsMascot01.jpgrsguskind photoset

Holy cow, the Nets mascot has defected to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn??? Meet Miss Brooklyn, City Councilmember Tony Avella, and Steve Buscemi.

flickr-DG.jpgdeborahgoldstein's photos, DDDB Walkathon2
Walkathon2 T's, Kids Corner, student protesters and more...

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Mayor blasts “three men in a room” as undemocratic; does that apply to AY?

Atlantic Yards Report stumbled upon one item where Atlantic Yards critics and Mayor Mike Bloomberg can agree.

In response to State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver killing the Moynihan Station project:

[Bloomberg] said Friday on his weekly WABC-AM radio appearance:
Why is there a structure at the state level where three individuals basically have a veto over everything? This PC, PSA, whatever the board is that approves it. And I'm not sure why that's constitutional. Maybe somebody wants to look at that. I don’t happen to think that it’s good democracy to give the governor, the speaker of the assembly, and the majority leader in the senate—no matter who they are, whether they agree with me or not—that’s not representative democracy, that’s not letting everybody have a say, because in fact, it isn’t everybody.

Host John Gambling suggested that a two out of three vote might be an improvement. Bloomberg responded:
I suppose that would be better… You can argue the governor is elected by the whole state, but then the majority leader and the speaker are representing really only their own districts, and that’s not what I think we should have.

But if the PACB passes the Atlantic Yards plan, would Bloomberg appreciate it if project critics question the process? And if he's so concerned about process, how can he countenance any project that is supervised by a state authority and bypasses the City Council, which means local elected officials don’t get a voice?

Maybe someone will ask Bloomberg when he reappears on Gambling’s show next Friday.


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Instead of the Times's railyard photo, consider some alternatives

PhotoComp.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

I wrote yesterday how the photograph (right) the Times used to illustrate its Atlantic Yards City section cover story failed to depict the proposed site. What could the Times have done differently?
The Times photo was apparently taken looking west from the Newswalk, the tallest building in the wedge cut out of the footprint, between 6th and Carlton avenues and Pacific and Dean Streets.

The building is minuscule compared to the proposed project. Check the Newswalk building at left-center near the top in the graphic (right). The rendering was produced by the Environmental Simulation Center for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (and subsequently adapted to emphasize Newswalk).


Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

When is a net not a Net?

Field of Schemes

Neil deMause emails back and forth with the Empire State Development Corporation's Jessica Copen to get some answers about the recently released economic impact analysis memo.

The catch is that the analysis still doesn't show the net effect of the project.

The problems, as I've noted on the Village Voice website, include that there's no indication whether the numbers were adjusted for the substitution effect (money spent at Atlantic Yards might otherwise be spent elsewhere in the city) and leakage (money going to the Nets is less likely to recirculate in the local economy). The memo also states that all Nets players would be expected to live in New York state (and 30% of those in New York City), which is odd, considering that plenty of players on the city's existing teams choose to live in the New Jersey suburbs.

Finally, there's no way to tell how much of the "new" economic activity associated with the larger development would be cannibalized from elsewhere: Would the companies moving into the "Miss Brooklyn" office tower just be relocating from other parts of the city? Would the families moving into the new housing bring their own new jobs with them? The memo is silent on such matters, so it's impossible to say. It's just another indication of how economic impact documents are more art than science - or perhaps a careful blending of the two.


Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

October 22, 2006

Walkathon Pics - Here they are!!!


Click for more Flickr goodness!

Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

DDDB walkathon raises more than $100,000


Atlantic Yards Report

The Walk Don't Destroy 2 walkathon fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) yesterday raised more than $100,000 toward legal battles over the Atlantic Yards plan. The event at Prospect Park generated nearly double the amount raised at the first walkathon last November. Organizers said that some 1100 people contributed, with more than 300 participants.

That money should (presumably) help build a legal fund sufficient to get fights against eminent domain and perhaps other issues off the ground.


Posted by amy at 8:34 AM

Bruce Almighty?

Daily News

We've all had Jehovah's Witnesses (and members of other religions) arrive on our doorstep spreading the word of God. This week, The Score found a few Ratner's Witnesses trying to spread the Gospel of Caring Bruce Ratner.

Two well-dressed young men were going door-to-door Thursday in central Jersey trying to sell what they called a "Hometown Hero" plan, pinned to New Jersey star and current Net Jay Williams.

The plan, which would've cost The Score $39.99, included two free tickets and four buy-one, get-one-free deals for games early in the season. They even told us we could use the buy-one deal for the expensive floor seats, where a glance at Beyonce is worth the 40 beans right there.

When we asked if we could sleep on it and order the plan over the phone the next day, they told us "no," basically putting us in a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Here were the Nets, a team that can't wait to get out of New Jersey, going door-to-door in the Garden State pushing a promotion linked to a guy who might not even make the team.

article NoLandGrab: We're suckers for new terms being coined. Ratner's Witnesses. Heh.

Posted by amy at 8:28 AM

On the Block


New York Times

The Times interviews nine "people who live and work near Atlantic Yards." Is it nitpicking to say that no one lives near Atlantic Yards, since it doesn't exist? Is it also nitpicking to say that of the four supporters of the project interviewed, three are listed as living in Crown Heights, which is not one of the immediately surrounding neighborhoods? The opponents all hail from the vicinity of the Vanderbilt railyards. It does reinforce the idea that it's pretty hard to find anyone in Prospect Heights/Ft Greene/Clinton Hill/Park Slope/Boerum Hill that supports the project.


Atlantic Yards Report details more problems with the article in "NIMBY or YIMBY: behind the Times's curious framework (and photo)":

The intro to the piece attempts scrupulous balance:
The plan is colossal — 16 high-rise buildings and an 18,000-seat basketball arena on 22 acres near the borough’s busy downtown — and fans and opponents have matched its magnitude with their own statistics. The developer, Forest City Ratner, which is also the development partner of The New York Times Company for its new headquarters in Midtown, says that the $4.2 billion project will bring 4,000 permanent jobs, billions of dollars in tax revenue and more than 6,000 units of housing. Opponents counter that the plan will corral $2 billion in public money and tax breaks, crowd 15,000 new residents into the area and clog local streets with thousands more cars.

Why can't the Times try to sort out the fiscal claims? Would there really be "billions" in tax revenue, or $2 billion in public costs? At some point this can't simply be a "he said, she said" debate.

As for crowding, why can't the Times simply acknowledge that this likely would be the densest residential community in the country--or compare it to other large projects in the city? Why is it the "opponents" who have to establish basic facts?

As for the clogging of local streets, isn't that what the state acknowledged in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement? And isn't that what local community boards--concerned analysts more than opponents--have predicted?


Posted by amy at 7:49 AM

October 21, 2006

TODAY: Walk Don't Destroy!

Today, at 12 Noon, hundreds of Brooklynites will gather at the Prospect Park Bandshell for Walk Don’t Destroy 2!

- Sign in at noon at the Prospect Park Bandshell

- Walk is from 1 - 2:30pm (From the Bandshell to Grand Army Plaza and back to the Bandshell-less than 2 miles)

Concert at the Bandshell to follow walk, around 2:45:

Featuring: John Wesley Harding and
The States | Sixth Sense | NuComme


Posted by amy at 8:49 AM

Philadelphia Museum Job Sends Gehry Underground


New York Times

"There is a kind of modesty thing," he continued. "Most of us, we don't set out to do the Bilbao effect, as it's being called. It'd be a real challenge to do something that's virtually hidden, that could become spectacular."
Mr. Gehry said he came to the project with respect for the existing building. "It's an old war horse; it has character and I like the setting of it," he said. "So I like the idea of having to treat it delicately."


NoLandGrab: Yes, respecting existing buildings, definitely what it's all about. While we appreciate the sentiment, we'd sure like to know why it doesn't apply to Brooklyn.

Posted by amy at 8:32 AM

"Gentrification subsidy": proposed 421-a reform seems tentative


Atlantic Yards Report

A city task force has issued recommendations to modify the 421-a tax break in order to generate at least $200 million for affordable housing.
Currently, developers who get tax breaks in the 421-a exclusion zone--Manhattan from 14th Street to 96th Street and the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront--must include at least 20 percent affordable housing. The program would expand to parts of Harlem, Lower Manhattan, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, and parts of the Brooklyn/Queens waterfront.

In other words, there would be no requirement to build affordable housing on the non-railyard blocks of the proposed Atlantic Yards site.


Posted by amy at 8:22 AM

New IRS bond regs could affect Nets arena

Field of Schemes

The Yanks and Mets bonds are long since sold, but the new IRS regs could come into play for the proposed Brooklyn Nets arena, which would use a similar tax-exempt bond plan. Matthew Schuerman of the New York Observer goes so far as to speculate that they may "imperil" the entire Atlantic Yards finance plan, but really, this is just a matter of forcing Ratner (or the public) to pay more to borrow the funds for it. Though it's worth recalling that this same problem - that bond buyers want to know where their money is coming from - is the same one that forced the New York Jets' Manhattan stadium plan to switch from tax-increment financing to fixed PILOT payments back in 2003. At what point might Atlantic Yards be too rich for Ratner's blood? That's between the man and his fleet of accountants.


Posted by amy at 8:13 AM

An Ecumenical Roof-Raising

Brooklyn Downtown Star
Medi Blum

Atlantic Yards got some play at last week's interfaith prayer rally against the Iraq war at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene:

Reverend Miller included in the wrongs being done to Brooklyn the growing tide of gentrification and the resultant diminishing of ethnic and racial diversity and the displacement of state and local funding to profit big business.

Delivering as an aside perhaps the most controversial comment of the night, Reverend Miller, who is the president of the Concerned Citizens Committee and a member of the Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition-two organizations which oppose Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plans-linked the no-bid, Halliburton contracts in Iraq with the seemingly no-bid "land invasion" occurring "right here in downtown Brooklyn."


Posted by amy at 8:09 AM

Are You Ready For 50K New Neighbors?

Brooklyn Downtown Star
Nik Kovac

"A platform over Sunnyside Yards," it read, "between Thompson Avenue and 43rd Street would create a development site of approximately 166 acres. Depending on the zoning, the new mixed use neighborhood could add between 18,000 and 35,000 new units. By themselves, the 20,000 to 50,000 residents of this 'new-town-in-town' could provide enough customers for an entirely new neighborhood with stores, schools, playing fields, and parks."

Such a platform has always been high on the list for local councilman Eric Gioia, who is has lived near them for nearly his entire life. "I welcome this new study," he told the Ledger/Star by phone, "and I welcome development on that site."

In fact, he has even tried to lure Bruce Ratner's Nets arena to that site instead of the Prospect Heights railyards, but Ratner's people have so far told Gioia no way. The Prospect Heights location was conspicuously absent from the Garvin study of platform opportunities, even though four other sites in Brooklyn were included.


Posted by amy at 8:06 AM

PSCC: We're Not DDDB

Brooklyn Downtown Star Norman Oder

After a briefly contentious debate that led a former Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC) president to charge that the group was beginning to sound like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the PSCC Board of Trustees voted, nearly unanimously, that it "cannot support" the Atlantic Yards project as currently proposed. Besides the concerns about environmental impact, the board cited an undemocratic public process and inappropriate use of eminent domain.


Posted by amy at 7:59 AM

October 20, 2006

IRS Haunts Stadium Deals

To get around having the public vote on bond debt for sports venues, local governments came up with Tax Incremental Financing (TIFs). The IRS struck down TIFS, so to get around that, local governments came up with Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS). Now it looks like the IRS isn't buying that one either.

From The Real Estate Observer:

The IRS is planning to revisit the financing scheme behind the new Yankees and Mets stadiums because, according to sources cited by The Bond Buyer, the arrangements looked "too much like a private loan."

What's the big deal? The new regulations will drive to the heart of the question about whether cities should be allowed to use their power to issue tax-exempt bonds for the benefit of privately owned sports franchises (which don't even make it into the World Series, to boot). And the new rules may imperil Forest City Ratner's deal to finance the Nets arena.


Posted by lumi at 7:08 PM

A Whole New Ballgame

UPDATE: It turns out that this article is a spoof, and that NLG occassionally loses its sense of humor (and the bull sh*t meter as well). See "Spoof Alert" for more.

StLouisBallpark-RT.jpgRiverfront Times uncovers secret plan for Ballpark Village cultural landmark.

The Riverfront Times
By Randall Roberts

Brooklynites haven't even tried to keep a straight face every time Frank Gehry opens his mouth.

This article about the secret plans for St. Louis's Ballpark Village — to be designed by Frank Gehry — gives folks a sense of what the world-famous starchitect really thinks. These excerpts are from emails leaked to the Riverfront Times:

None of the principals in the proposed deal returned phone calls, but negotiations and other details regarding the plan are elaborated upon in a series of e-mails obtained by Riverfront Times in which Pulitzer, Cardinals president Mark Lamping and vice president of business development Bill DeWitt III, architect Gehry and longtime Redbirds broadcaster Mike Shannon discuss the project.

FrankGehryPortrait.jpgGehry on America's pastime:

And in point of fact, Gehry couldn't care less about the sport. In one spirited e-mail joust with DeWitt, the architect freely admits he's not enamored of the American Pastime. "Not even close," he writes. "It's such a silly sport, don't you think? I appreciate its linear nature and lack of time constraints. But I much prefer watching ice hockey."

Gehry on the "little red" fans:

"Watch how the little red people exit the stadium and wend their way around the site," Gehry urges DeWitt — "the site" being the fenced-in crater he has been retained to fill. "That's more interesting to me than any game. I see The Village as an extension of these patterns, a more refined version, where baseball fans can find sustenance in a more sophisticated atmosphere.

Gehry on sports and St. Louis:

"Baseball is fine for the so-called boys of summer," Gehry's e-mail concludes, "but what St. Louis needs is something for the men — and women — of fall, winter and spring."

NoLandGrab: "Fall, winter and spring?" Uh, that sounds like the season for the St. Louis Blues.

Gehry on stadiums:

The new Busch Stadium, Gehry adds, "is not architecture. It is mimicry. It is safe, and cloying, and an insult to St. Louis."

Gehry on ESPN Zone and other mainstream cultural amenities that are no longer included in the Ballpark Village plan, now that the project has been re-envisioned as a cultural center:

"This project is literally in the shadow of the Arch — one of the great public sculptures IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Why would anyone want such VULGARITY in such proximity to PERFECTION?"


Posted by lumi at 11:52 AM

Atlantic Yards housing subsidies: how much?

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times connects the dots between a new Queens waterfront affordable-housing proposal and the controversy surrounding the sale of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.

Under the proposal, the city would bring as many 5,000 new rental units to a largely industrial area of Long Island City, where chic restaurants are just beginning to appear amid low-slung factories and three-family homes.
Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff had said it was a matter of efficient use of public dollars: preserving the historic units [at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village] would have cost about $107,000 per unit. In contrast, he said yesterday, the units in the new Queens development would be built for about $54,000 each in city funds.

Norman Oder connects the dots back to Atlantic Yards:

[The Queens waterfront] would be a lot more than the 2250 affordable rental units promised for the Atlantic Yards project, which would have more than 6000 total units.
So, would the affordable units at the Atlantic Yards project cost $54,000 per unit? $107,000? Somewhere in between? Of course the numbers would have to be adjusted because of the range of incomes promised for Atlantic Yards. Still, it's time to look more closely.


Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

"Atlantic Yards" Economic "Impact" Analysis Memo

The one thing that all of these reporters below are too polite to point out is that this document, dated October 18, is written after the fact and appears to be what is commonly known as a CYA memo.

The memo contains charts but doesn't include any documents from the original study cited in the General Project Plan. Does this study actually exist? If so, then why were the results released in a memo? We're not experts here, but we're impressed by the opacity of, and foot-dragging by, the Empire State Development Corporation.

VillageVoice.com, Power Plays, Secrets of the Ratner Plan Revealed! (Not)
Neil deMause explains what is and isn't in the "Atlantic Yards Economic Impact Analysis" released earlier this week.

What the ESDC actually made public yesterday was a seven-page memo from staffer Kathy Kazanas, listing about $1.2 billion in new city tax revenues, and $2.3 billion in state tax revenues, that are projected to flow from the project.
There's no indication whether the state's number-crunchers accounted for leakage (money spent at sporting events is more likely to leave the local economy) or the substitution effect (Brooklynites buying Nets tickets might cut back on their monthly cheesecake tab at Junior's), and the analysis appears to assume that all the Nets players would relocate their homes from New Jersey to New York, for starters.
A bigger problem, though, as Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder notes, is that the ESDC memo entirely omits any mention of public costs, whether the $200 million (or is it $1.9 billion>) for in direct subsidies for the project, or the increased cost of providing city services to Ratner's projected 6,800 new households.

The Real Estate Observer, Yards to Offer Good Jobs (If You Can Get One)
Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman focused on the jobs figures revealed in the analysis:

The Empire State Development Corporation released figures this week that showed just how many maintenance and security jobs the residential parts of the complex would provide: 343.

NoLandGrab: One of the reasons an accounting of the public costs of Atlantic Yards is important is so the public can learn if the money could be better spent to create more jobs.

The NY Times, Study Shows Data for Claim of Atlantic Yards’ Benefits
Times reporter Nicholas Confessore outlines the benefits touted by the study and later follows up with the catch:

Perhaps more significantly, the study also excludes public subsidies for the project’s planned 2,250 units of housing priced below market rates. Those subsidies are still under negotiation, but could substantially increase the public cost of the project.
“That is a skeleton projection of state and local tax revenue,” said Assemblyman James F. Brennan of Brooklyn. Mr. Brennan has requested a detailed accounting of the project’s financial return to Forest City — figures not covered in the new study — and for the costs of each element of the mixed-use project, like the arena.

Such requests have so far been rebuffed. Mr. Brennan said he believed that a fuller financial picture might undercut supporters’ contention that the project’s enormous size and density could not be reduced without endangering its economic viability.

To test your gag reflexes, we highlight the requisite quotes from the Ratner camp:

Jessica Copen, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gargano, maintained yesterday that the documents were privileged, but said the agency had decided to make them public this week as a gesture of “good government.”

“We are in the midst of a public review process and have provided to relevant agencies required information involving the Atlantic Yards project" — Joe DePlasco, Ratner spokesman

Atlantic Yards Report, The ESDC acknowledges some costs, Times offers some skepticism, story downplayed

Norman Oder explains the ESDC's follow-up to the memo summarizing the study (emphasis added):

More than a day after the Empire State Development Corporation released a sketchy fiscal impact analysis for the Atlantic Yards project, the agency offered some backup calculations--which do allow for nearly $500 million in costs, but still fail to fully account for all costs, including housing subsidies.
How did the agency reach a $1.4 billion net revenue calculation? Copen responded by citing both the document released as well as other ESDC documents. Some $845.5 million includes the fiscal benefits of operations and construction activity for New York City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The $1.1 billion is net revenue to the city and state from the General Project plan. Total: $1.9 billion.

Fiscal cost for the project for NYC + NYS:

NYS sales tax exemption $20.0 million
NYC sales tax exemption $20.0 million
MTA sales tax exemption $ 1.9 million

NYS mortgage recording tax exemption $ 17.8 million
NYC mortgage recording tax exemption $181.4 million

Bond Financing
NYS $138.3 million
NYC $113.5 million

Total NYS $176.1 million
Total NYC $316.7 million

Total: nearly $493 million (a figure cited in July by the Bond Buyer)

Subtract that from $1.9 billion and you get $1.4 billion. However, as noted, that leaves out all sorts of costs for schools, sanitation, and public safety--not to mention other subsidies.

NoLandGrab: Public benefits, $1.9 billion; incomplete accounting of public costs $500 million; developer profit $1 billion(?); "brutally weird" public process... priceless.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Density illustrated

The South Oxford Street Block Association just posted this graphic to illustrate the comparison between the population density proposed for Atlantic Yards and the population density of one of the largest superblock developments in NYC.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind a point made a while ago by Brooklyn Views — the arena itself has a large footprint, which means the "FAR (floor area ratio) on the remaining site is significantly greater."

This same point applies to population density, since no one will LIVE in the arena. In other words, if you discount the arena, the density of the remainder of the site is even higher.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

OfficersRow.jpgLandmark This!, Officer's Row, Oh No!!!
An update on the fight to save the Navy Yard's Officer's Row from the wrecking ball explains many of the PR techniques being used by forces who support tearing down the historic buildings:

Another issue with this is the argument that it will benefit the Farragut Housing residents. As I said, they do need a supermarket. But is this just developer using the poor to their advantage? Make the preservationists out to be anti-poor is the method they're using (reminiscent of Atlantic Yards proponents no?).

fluxed.net, big ups brooklyn
An artist comments on the Footprints exhibit and the contributions of his friends Mike and Eliza:

but more importantly, this show was about the proposed atlantic yards project in brooklyn. it is a massive project that includes a sports stadium and PLENTY of luxury apartments. i dont live in brooklyn and i dont know the history of the place, but having been there its really fantastic and it would be a shame to increase its density so quickly.

Fans For Fair Play, A called third strike
A Mets fan finds life lessons in a called third strike (something that Nets owner "Caring" Bruce Ratner probably wouldn't understand):

A called third strike.

Every baseball player knows you guard the strike zone.

Magic doesn't happen unless you make it happen.

City Hall isn't fought unless we do the fighting.

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

October 19, 2006


WWD-2-Restaurant.gifTonight these local restaurants are donating a portion of their proceeds to Develop Don't Destroy's legal fund:

Night of the Cookers
767 Fulton St. (between So.Oxford and So. Portland)

Chez Oskar
211 DeKalb Ave. (corner of Adelphi)
(Thursday is 30% off on wines)

Olea, Mediterranean Tavern
171 Lafayette Ave. (corner of Adelphi)

Maggie Brown
455 Myrtle Avenue (between Washington and Waverly)

86 South Portland (between Lafayette and Fulton)

Grand Dakar
285 Grand Avenue (between Lafayette and Clifton)


Bogota Latin Bistro
141 Fifth Ave. (between St. John's Place and Lincoln Place)


409 Atlantic Ave. (near Bond St.)


152 Smith St. (corner of Bergen)

Pane y Vino
174 Smith St. (Wyckoff and Warren)

Remember to thank the owner/manager for their support and to tip your server generously.

Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

The ESDC "released" the "independent" fiscal "impact analysis"

In case you early birds missed the breaking news yesterday afternoon, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) finally gave up the "independent economic impact analysis." This highly sought-after report was cited in Section G of the General Project Plan, and had been requested by Atlantic Yards Report business desk reporter Norman Oder, Assemblymember Jim Brennan and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn attorney Jeff Baker. You can now download your own copy here.

Thus far, the only media source to publish an analysis of the report is Atlantic Yards Report, which basically concludes, "HUH???" Norman Oder notes that "there's no reference to public contributions or public costs. In other words, it's a fiscal benefit analysis, not an impact analysis."

This morning, Gowanus Lounge commented:

We have seen our share of economic impact statements attached to big projects in our day. We are keenly aware that very few are worth the paper they are printed on.
This Atlantic Yards document--which one presumes was released because the complete stonewall of Freedom of Information Law requests could have presented another issue for lawyers litigating against the project to pursue--sets a new standard for obfuscation.

Yesterday was Bring-NoLandGrab-to-School Day (which surprisingly was held to much less fanfare than Bring-Vince Carter-to-School Day). But we were deeply impressed by the students' questions, including, "How much public money is being spent on Atlantic Yards?" Yesterday morning, the answer was, we don't know because the government won't tell us. Today's answer is... we don't know because the government won't tell us.

We're sorry that the ESDC let down Ms. Jaffe's class at John Jay HS, but we hope that these bright students will continue to ask the right questions in whichever career path they may choose.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere

CB9 Manhattan, Atlantic Yards Report: The Shiffman solution
Community Board 9 in Manhattan republished Atlantic Yards Report's coverage of CUNY's discussion forum on Megadevelopments in NYC. Community Board 9 is facing a complex problem with Columbia University's planned expansion, which will entail the use of eminent domain "as a last resort."

Urban St. Louis, Ballpark Village Area and Tower
Brooklynites aren't the only ones ranting about architecture. As soon as Frank Gehry's name is attached to a project in St. Louis, Atlantic Yards is becoming a case study for "bad Gehry":

It would be a shame if they brought on Gehry as the architect for this project. Gehry's designs are best suited for small comissions and, if you've seen his proposals for a skyscraper in Manhattan and the huge Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, the impracticality of his designs are very readily apparent.

blog.myspace.com/dtmallon, Nets to Queens?
One guy says, "Hells yeah," to the prospect of the Nets landing in Queens... only it seems like he lives in Chicago.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Spitzer backs Atlantic Yards, calls 8% cutback "appropriate"

Atlantic Yards Report

Spitzer-AP.jpgGubernatorial frontrunner Eliot Spitzer yesterday said that he considers the promised 8% reduction in the Atlantic Yards project a "reasonable compromise," thus suggesting he has no idea that the cutback would bring the project back to the square footage originally proposed.

Then again, if he relies on the New York Times, he doesn't know better. The newspaper last month published a front-page scoop--the lead story of the day--about the planned cutback without pointing out that the move would essentially return Atlantic Yards to square one. (That square footage would be over one additional acre.) Follow-up clarifications were buried.

Spitzer made his comments during an interview on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Stories of Neighborhoods Take On an Epic Proportion

The NY Times
By Jason Zinoman

From the Times's review of Heather Woodbury's latest five-hour epic play on the wake of the Dodgers' emigration from Brooklyn:

“Tale of 2Cities,” composed mostly of monologues, examines the titanic (and traumatic) effects of the Dodgers’ leaving Brooklyn. “That was like the beginning of the end for me,” says an older police detective (played movingly by Ed Vassallo). “The neighborhood feeling died at that point.”

The plotline brings to mind the current controversy over the Atlantic Yards, the new complex that proposes to bring major-league sports to Brooklyn, along with increased traffic and a new skyline of towers. But it’s characteristic of Ms. Woodbury’s evenhanded approach that people on both sides of the Atlantic Yards debate can find ammunition here.


More coverage:
The NY Times, Where Fans Were Called Out Looking
The Brian Lehrer Show, The Old Ball Game

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Silver Rejects Moynihan

The Real Estate Observer

Holding out for his compromise proposal extended this morning, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (or, rather, his appointee) voted against the Moynihan Station project at today's Public Authorities Control Board meeting. "We thought our alternative provided the critical advantages that we needed and we thought it would be better for a full, safe modern transporation facility," Silver's spokesman Skip Carrier said. ...
Sort of a West Side Stadium, Part II, except this time Pataki, not Bloomberg, is the loser.


NoLandGrab: Silver has demonstrated that he can ask the hard questions and stand firm when it comes to billion-dollar megaprojects. It remains to be seen if he has the guts to do the same with Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Or does Bruce Ratner's political influence reign supreme?

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

Louis Vuitton unveils plans for new Paris contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry

AP, via The International Herald Tribune

Gehry-Paris.jpgWe realize that we spend a lot of time making fun of Frank Gehry in between shifts of "picketing Henry Ford," being do-gooding liberals and driving around Brooklyn searching for inspiration, but we had to seriously wonder why Paris gets all the luck after Gehry unveiled plans for a transparent (nearly invisible-like) museum.

France's richest man unveiled plans on Monday to build an ethereal, fully transparent museum designed by architect Frank Gehry that will house a contemporary art collection in Paris.


Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Charlie Sahadi

The Village Voice, The Best of NYC 2006

sahadi.jpgOwner, Sahadi's

By Nina Lalli

What do Charlie Sahadi and Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy have in common? When it comes to Atlantic Yards, NOTHING.

The famous food purveyor and Brooklyn entrepeneur explains in his interview with The Voice:

What do you think about the stadium plans?

Personally, I'm not for big, big development. An arena alone might be OK. I mean, I'm for development. You have to develop—things can't be frozen in time. But I'm against overdevelopment. I study the traffic flow in this area, and I see a traffic nightmare that's going to occur for a long time. People keep talking about the jobs, and I say, yes, we need more jobs, but at what cost? A phrase like eminent domain is one thing when you're building a necessary service for everyone in the community, like a road. But when you're doing it for a profit, it's a different thing. I'm an entrepreneur—I understand that part of it, but this is on such a scale.


NoLandGrab: Charlie Sahadi gets extra points for knowing that it's an "arena," not a "stadium," and for being too polite to correct the reporter. So, let's go shopping...

Sahadi's is located at 187 Atlantic Ave. (map), open Monday—Saturday 9am—7pm.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

October 18, 2006

ESDC releases fiscal "impact analysis," but it only acknowledges benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Late last month, Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder received this reply from the Empire State Development Corporation in response to his Freedom of Information Law request for the "independent economic impact analysis" the ESDC had allegedly performed relative to the proposed Atlantic Yards project:

"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."

Today, Oder finally received that analysis, and from the looks of it, the ESDC a) is either still holding something back in its "more complete description" of the analysis, or b) never really did any serious analysis in the first place.

NoLandGrab: We're no economist, but a quick read of the document (click here to download a PDF) seems to reveal little that wasn't already included in the GPP or DEIS, let alone anything that would earn a passing grade on an economics thesis, which leaves us still wondering, where's the beef?


Posted by lumi at 1:32 PM

Il devienent du Blogosphère

AtlantiqueYards.jpgHérodote.com, Zonage et mixité urbaine : la question de la requalification des zones industrielles à travers l’exemple à New York du Far West Side à Manhattan et des Atlantic Yards à Brooklyn

Une modification du plan de zonage permettrait à la municipalité de reconquérir un certain nombre de terrains, pour une part des entrepôts ferroviaires, qui attisent la convoitise des promoteurs. À travers deux études de cas, l’une à Manhattan, l’autre à Brooklyn, nous verrons comment les pouvoirs publics, à travers le parrainage de très grands projets urbains, contribuent à renforcer les processus de ségrégation à l’échelle métropolitaine, moins cette fois sur une base raciale et ethnique que socio-économique.

NoLandGrab: Mais, dans la case d'Atlantic Yards, il n'y aura pas "une modification du plan de zonage," parce que l'état de New-York s'est emparé le process. Donc, ils pourront dépasser tout le zonage local.

Pardon our French... in the case of Atlantic Yards, there won't be a zoning change because the State of NY has taken over the process. Therefore, they will be able to override all local zoning.

OnNYTurf, Graffiti Tour of LES, Nolita, SOHO Saturday, Plus DDDB Walkathon
Torn between the Graffiti & Street Art Bike Tour and the Walkathon, Will from OnNYTurf can't figure out how to spend his Saturday afternoon.

LiveJournal, Atlantic Yards
David Cooper is passing along the Municipal Art Society letter about BrooklynSpeaks.net because, "even if you're not a New Yorker the issue of over/inappropriate development is a universal concern."

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, DDDB To Host Black Tie Fundraiser In Metropolitian Museum of Art....
Dreadnaught responds to The Real Estate Observer snark that the DDDB advisory board "is going to do a little work for once."

Why does the NYOBserver single out DDDB....

One thing is for certain those on DDDB's board aren't there for glamorous charity balls or photo ops that will get posted in Town Country. Like the everyday volunteers the only thing they are getting out of this is a chance to save Brooklyn from careless over-development.

Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

Mall Rats

Shakin' Dave


The New York Times reported recently that members of the Ohio Supreme Court routinely sit on cases involving their campaign contributors.

Shakin' Dave reported recently that The NY Times missed an interesting case study:

The case concerned the Mellett Mall in Canton, which Forest City trustee James Ratner bought in 1981 for $12.5 million. Stark County argued the mall's value should reflect the sale price, but a pair of real-estate appraisers testifying on behalf of Forest City estimated the mall was worth less than $10.5 million based on market conditions. The Supreme Court directed the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals to consider their testimony, and the board subsequently lowered the mall's value to $10.5 million. The high court affirmed the board's ruling in 1988, saving Forest City more than $25,000 in annual property taxes.

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer has received $24,700 in campaign contributions from the Ratner family since being elected to the high court in 1987, the most of any justice.


NoLandGrab: Judges receive money for nothing and decisions are for free?

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Fury on the Streets

LOCAL_DEAN_BR.jpgBrooklyn Rail
By Allison Lirish Dean

Just across from Ingersoll Houses on the other side of Flatbush Avenue looms Metrotech, an office park built in the 1980s that was supposed to revitalize a blighted downtown Brooklyn. Compared to its surroundings, such as nearby Fulton Mall and bustling Willoughby Street, Metrotech is peaceful but lifeless. For Ingersoll residents like Rachel Ford, who is 27, Metrotech has come to symbolize the broken promises of urban renewal and the growing doubt that coming development spurred by the city’s Downtown Brooklyn Plan will bring anything better for the low-income, largely African-American residents who live in public housing downtown.


Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Wednesday Night, Books and Cinema!

7:30 pm
Donation suggested.

248 DeKalb Ave (corner of Vanderbilt, MAP)

Authors: * Jhumpa Lahiri * Jennifer Egan * Susan Choi * Sheri Holman * Diana Son


7:30 pm
Donation suggested.

Soda Bar
629 Vanderbilt Ave.
(between Prospect Pl. and St Marks Ave., MAP)

This Land is Your Land
A feature length, 82-minute, documentary film THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND is a startling and often hilarious exploration of the overwhelming corporate takeover of American life. Over the course of three years, the filmmakers traveled across the U.S., interviewing award-winning authors, historians, media commentators and ordinary citizens about the wide range of ways individuals and society at large experience this impact. More...

Post Film DJ Motormouth Performs


Thursday night is Restaurant Night. Click here for the full list of participating restaurants.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Relocation Blues

New York City’s shortage of office space hampers its economic future.

City Journal
By Steve Malanga

Lack of affordable office space in Manhattan is driving corporations to the burbs, as development in Lower Manhattan to replace the loss of the World Trade Center has plodded slowly along.

What are the causes and who's responsible?

The city and state bear some responsibility for the space shortage. A nearly ten-year effort to rezone Manhattan’s Far West Side for commercial development wound up getting bogged down in Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to build a stadium there and lure the Olympics to New York. Potential construction of office towers in the area is thus still years away. The city has now missed two real-estate expansions, going back to the late 1990s, in trying to rezone the Far West Side.

Meanwhile, state and city officials haggled for years over the plan to redevelop Ground Zero, with some observers, including Mayor Bloomberg, pessimistically calling for a reduction in the office space planned for the site, assuming that it would be unneeded. As a result of the delays, only one building, 7 World Trade, is nearing completion—developer Larry Silverstein could rebuild it quickly because it wasn’t part of the site that the government controlled. Other Ground Zero towers won’t be ready for years.

A point made about outer-borough development deflates the myth of the success of Bruce Ratner's Metrotech:

When commercial buildings do rise in the outer boroughs, they are still too costly to be competitive. Consider Metrotech, a massive, heavily subsidized suburban-style office campus in downtown Brooklyn, intended to be the place where financial-services jobs would move when they left Manhattan. But after a few successful leases in its early years, the 20-year-old initiative has mostly drawn tenants already located in Brooklyn. Undeterred by that floppy performance, the city is now promoting another Brooklyn top-down mega-project by Metrotech’s developer, Forest City Ratner—the controversial Atlantic Yards, which, even if approved, will take years to realize and will have little impact on the city’s current commercial-space crunch.


Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

The Shiffman solution: a timeout for megadevelopment projects

Shiffman-CNYTV.jpgAtlantic Yards Report real estate reporter Norman Oder covers a panel discussion on city planning issues such as land-use review, affordable housing, eminent domain and the return of Robert Moses through the use of public authorities:

A recently broadcast CUNY Forum TV program, Megadevelopment in New York City, featured some lively discussion about major projects like Atlantic Yards and Columbia University's expansion in Manhattanville.

Notably, pointing to the advent of a new governor, longtime community planner Ron Shiffman called for a timeout on megaprojects like Atlantic Yards so they don't get snagged in an eminent domain battle but rather emerge from a truly public process.
Shiffman pointed out that the plan in place for Battery Park City (BPC) was the third plan, as two previous versions were rejected after public discourse.

He cited an enormous development--more than 300 acres--in Hamburg, Germany that has tried to draw on the example of BPC and other projects. "The first thing they did was engage the public in a discussion about the principles of what they want developed," he said. After that, the plan would go to the city council, go through a competition, then back to the council before the site would be subdivided and put up for bid.

Shiffman constrasted Hamburg's effort with two projects at home. “What we’re seeing at Atlantic Yards, and at Columbia today, is the public facilitating a private development without any prediscussion as to what would benefit the public as a whole, what social infrastructure, environmental infrastructure, and economic infrastructure we should be turning over to the city," said Shiffman, who has joined the advisory board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "It’s basically how to facilitate the goals of the private developer.”


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

October 17, 2006

Better Late Than Never? Pol Seeks Answers About Atlantic Yards

Courier-Life Publications just published the weekly update on Atlantic Yards by reporter Stephen Witt. Below are some excerpts with running commentary, or you can click here to go straight to the article.

Opponents and skeptics of Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project are leaving no stone unturned as the process moves toward a final thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

The latest rub comes as Assemblymember James Brennan last week officially submitted freedom of information law (FOIL) requests to city and state development agencies for all financial information related to the project.
Not to be outdone, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) submitted their own FOIL of the sign-in sheets, actual speaker order and complete transcripts of the three recent ESDC public meetings on the project.

NoLandGrab: To insinuate that there is competition between groups submitting Freedom of Information requests is just silly, especially when the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods submitted their request before Brennan.

Meanwhile, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), whose spokesperson Daniel Goldstein remains one of the few holdouts living in the footprint of the project, continues to hammer home outrage against the blight study portion of the DEIS and GPP.
Meanwhile, a visual walk around the rail yard portion of the footprint reveals homeless people still in the area as well as overgrown weeds, broken glass and litter.

NLG: Meanwhile, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report pointed out that the broken glass and litter is largely on MTA property, and is the responsibility of the state agency. But we thank Courier-Life for pointing it out — maybe the MTA can do something about that.

Finally, City Councilmember David Yassky showed up at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting to elaborate on his written testimony given to the ESDC about the project.
Specifically, Yassky said every ticket sold to a Nets game must come with a MetroCard. ...
The Flatbush/Atlantic Avenues intersection should also be eliminated through either a overpass or underpass, he said.

NLG: Yassky makes a good point about getting serious about traffic, but his idea of rerouting Flatbush and Atlantic over or underground gets an award for bodacity. Can you say, "Big Dig?" Rerouting nearly a dozen subway lines so that you can bury traffic underground would rival the entire project in terms of cost.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

"Brutally weird": Errol Louis on CBGB, AY, and the homeless

Atlantic Yards Report

Errol Louis devotes his latest Our Time Press column to Atlantic Yards and criticism of neighborhood groups and activists who have expressed concerns over the project.

Norman Oder devotes today's entry to Louis's "mangling of history and his casual dismissal of the question of subsidies," as well as the columnist's confusion between hipsters and brownstoners.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Photoblogarithm: Booker’s Skulls Watch Over Atlantic Yards

From Razor Apple:

A new spot off Atlantic Avenue from Booker, Read Books, Hood Rich, or just the one with amazing rollers.


Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

IDEO's Urban Pre-Planning

Can the design company's "Smart Space" practice shake up the lumbering world of infrastructure, zoning and public process?

Metropolis Magazine
By Andrew Blum

Forest City Residential West (a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises) contracted with the design firm that developed the mouse and Palm Pilot to help them create a vision for a 665-unit housing development in Oakland, CA.

At the end of a long day talking in IDEO’s San Francisco office, I rode the BART train to Oakland with Givechi and Andy Williams, an IDEO designer. We peered at the size 11 platform shoes in the window of a store that serves the local transvestite community and had coffee at Mama Buzz, a café where the team conducted interviews. At the building site bulldozers were busily scraping the land flat for the foundations. A billboard advertised the project. Its watercolor rendering showed an utterly conventional-looking apartment complex — the kind of unornamented, decently proportioned colored-stucco housing block rising all over Northern California. It was hard not to be disappointed. For all the nuance of IDEO’s sense of Oakland and all its success at communicating that to Forest City, the project looked like any other project. Its reality was still just an idea.


Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM


WDD2-Big.gifLiterary Night I
7:30 pm

Shakespeare's Sister
270 Court St. (between Butler & Douglas)

Donation suggested.

Authors: * Nava Renek * Ayun Halliday * Martha Southgate * Odd Todd (animator) * John B. Schwartz (author, screenwriter)


Wednesday night, Literary Night II, Movie Night II.
Thursday night is Restaurant Night.
Friday night is Update Night!

Saturday... WALKATHON. Click here for the full schedule.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Forget It, Jake

From the Monday morning news roundup on Daily Intelligencer:

Local news predicts an unrelieved Manhattan Bridge traffic nightmare for the next year while the lower level is closed for a spruce-up. Daily Intel's AccuChopper 20,000 predicts the same nightmare for the twenty years following the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. [WNBC]


NoLandGrab: No wonder Forest City Ratner was keen on NOT studying the East River crossings in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

October 16, 2006

Footprints Paparazzi!

Photos from last week's opening of Footprints art exhibit by:

Dan Kelly, www.artisthouse.comMinwin, www.lifemagical.com
FootprintsOpen01.jpg FootprintsOpen02.jpg

Posted by lumi at 11:59 AM


Freddy's Bar and Backroom
(Corner of Sixth Ave. and Dean St., MAP)
Suggested donation

Where better for laughter to win the day than at Freddy's Backroom, standing in the way of Ratner’s skyscrapers. Hosted by comedic genius Pat O'Shea.

125 Fifth Ave.
(between Sterling and St. Johns Pl., MAP)
Donation, sliding scale, $5-15

3 Bands:
Valley Lodge
The XYZ Affair
Jack Byson

Soda Bar
629 Vanderbilt Ave.
(between Prospect Pl. and St Marks Ave., MAP)
Suggested donation

Feature Film: Everyday People

Nelson George and Jim McKay’s provocative film about a small Brooklyn business fighting for its life against the owner of a long established diner in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood bows to economic pressures and decides to close his restaurant, selling the location to an aggressive developer. It is a typical story in so many increasingly gentrified American cities.

Film Short: A Walk Through the Footprint

This 18-minute short film profiles several Prospect Heights residents who face eviction due to developer Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Arena project. Ratner’s plan to erect not just an arena, but a 16-skyscraper mega-development complex would displace some 800 people who live in the vibrant community of Prospect Heights. The film follows the model of the PBS “Walk Through” series that profiles neighborhoods around New York, but in this film the tour guides are community activists, members of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, who visit several of the residents facing eviction. The characters are funny and poignant, passionate and compelling, as they describe the life of a vital community.

Tuesday night is Literary Night I.
Wednesday night, Literary Night II, Movie Night II.
Thursday night is Restaurant Night.
Friday night is Update Night!

Saturday... WALKATHON. Click here for the full schedule.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Belated Boyland filings show she outraised Montgomery, used same firm as Ratner

BoylandCampaignLit.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

So much for the "$100 mystery campaign." Overdue campaign finance filings from 18th Senatorial District candidate Tracy Boyland, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent (and Atlantic Yards opponent) Velmanette Montgomery, show that the former City Council member, despite a candidacy launched two months before the September primary, indeed raised more than the $100 she reported at election time.
Was Boyland, in fact, the "Ratner candidate," as some charged? Not exactly, but there were some signficant intersections. As predicted by a source in the Crain's Insider, Boyland indeed used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR uses for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers. (As noted, Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide.)


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Stated Meeting – Helping Low-Income Homeowners – 10/11/2006

Gotham Gazette
by Gail Robinson

From an article covering the City Council's "Stated Meeting," members of the Brooklyn delegation to the City Council withheld their vote on a Hudson Yards package last week:

In other action, the council approved a package relating to the Hudson Yards project on Manhattan’s West Side. The measures extended the project’s boundary westward, and would allow the area – including the proposed site of the rejected Jets football stadium – to be part of the planning process. “This moves us ever closer to having the rail yards come before us in the land use process,” Quinn said. Council must approve land use changes and, during the fight over the stadium, Bloomberg had sought to keep the project out of the land use process.

The measure, resolution 547, which Quinn defined as consisting of “technical actions,” elicited little debate or controversy, indicating how things had changed since the furor over the stadium ended with its being rejected by a state panel. “What a difference 18 months makes,” said Councilmember David Weprin, chair of the Finance Committee.

The resolution passed by a vote of 43 to zero, with Councilmembers Charles Barron, Lew Fidler, Letitia James and Darlene Mealy, all of Brooklyn, abstaining. James, an outspoken opponent of the huge Atlantic Yards project in her district, said she was withholding her vote. Alluding to the fact that that basketball arena and housing development will not come before council, James said, “any yards in Manhattan and Brooklyn should be treated the same….In the borough of Brooklyn, we are treated differently.”

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

October 15, 2006

Blight and the Courier-Life's "visual walk"

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not online yet, but in this week's Courier-Life chain, Stephen Witt offers a rather, uh, incomplete account of the blight fight regarding Atlantic Yards. He summarizes it as such:
DDDB and opponent bloggers and journalists contend the area is not blighted, citing published reports of how parts of Prospect Heights are being revitalized. Meanwhile, a visual walk around the rail yard portion of the footprint reveals homeless people still in the area as well as overgrown weeds, broken glass and litter.

But what if the Courier-Life allowed its readers to actually read more about those issues, linking to some of the writings briefly referenced? (Try here, and here and here. Or a more detailed summary.)

Would readers be less impressed by the conclusions of the "visual walk" if they were reminded that litter and weeds could be cleaned up by the MTA? Or if they learned that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which spent a lot more time examining the proposed site footprint than did Witt, comes to different conclusions? Or forced to ponder whether the presence of homeless people should be a trigger for a blight designation? (Don't some homeless people sleep on the steps of churches?)


Posted by amy at 1:21 PM

Best Blocks


Time Out New York names Park Place between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn as the 21st best block in the city:

Another top-notch brownstone and tree-lined Brooklyn strip; it’s also close to burgeoning, hip Vanderbilt Avenue, so you’re never at a loss for a freshly baked muffin or a cool bar. If you need a dose of Flatbush volume, that’s just a quick stroll away.


Not sure how they missed the best feature of all - future walking distance from the Nets! But by then you'd have to walk, as the high ranks for Noise and traffic give way to construction and gridlock.

Posted by amy at 1:09 PM

Nets to Queens?

Daily News:

It's no secret that Nets owner Bruce Ratner has a jones for Brooklyn, but the recent lease extension that could keep the team at the Meadowlands through the 2012-13 season also allows the Nets to move to Queens without paying a penalty.

Ratner spokesman Barry Baum declined to tell The Score why Queens is mentioned in the lease extension.

"We are currently in the public approval process for Atlantic Yards and as we have repeatedly said our plan is to move the Nets to Brooklyn in time for the '09-10 season," Nets CEO Brett Yormark said in a statement released by the team.

Of course, NYC2012 said the same thing about the West Side Stadium right before it unveiled plans for a Queens Olympic stadium, and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein speculates that Ratner is making contingency plans in case his controversial $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project eventually meets the same fate as the Jets' proposed field.


Posted by amy at 1:04 PM

October 14, 2006

TODAY: Bake, Don't Destroy!


What’s a walk without carbo-loading?

Our talented cooking community will support the “Ft. Greene Kids” WALKATHON team with a bake sale on SATURDAY.

To sample the delectable edibles (or bring your own to contribute to the sale), come to: Washington Ave near Lafayette Ave next to Underwood Park in Brooklyn
11am - 4pm

Posted by amy at 7:44 PM


Not to be confused with the "Footprints" exhibit, it's ANOTHER art exhibit. This one focuses on Eminent Domain Abuse.


Gallery on Dean inaugurates its third year with "Real Property," an installation on eminent domain opening with live music and a public reception from 4-7 on Saturday, October 14th at 755 Dean Street, Brooklyn. The installation will run through November 30th.

Gallery On Dean
755 Dean Street
(Corner of Underhill Ave.)

4-10, M-F
11-11, Weekends

Gallery on Dean borders what is soon to be the massive Atlantic Yards project, where eminent domain is being enforced to clear the path for a development that will drastically change the landscape and community of downtown Brooklyn.

"Real Property" is an exhibition of drawings, photographs, and installation that addresses the issue of eminent domain in both a modern and historical context. Eminent domain is the right of the government to seize private property either for its own use or delegated to a third party for "public uses" Originally, this law was used only for roads, bridges, schools, and similar utilities. Today, the idea of "public uses" has broadened to allow for strip malls, condominiums, and sports arenas.

Drawing upon historic references of sovereignty and the settlement of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the artists have created an installation that references traditional and modern architecture and design in both a physical and sociological context. A series of documentary photographs and abstract drawings examine the development of the urban landscape from various perspectives. In addition, the artists have designed a handmade basketball jersey that addresses the history of corporate authority that presides over property "development."

The collaborative exhibition was created by Mike Homer and Eliza Stamps, MFA's from Pratt and area residents. The artists live and work in Brooklyn.Homer graduated from the Pratt Institute MFA program while Stamps will receive her MFA from Pratt in December.

This exhibition has been has been generously funded by Tavern On Dean, an Artful Place to Gather.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

October 13, 2006

Park Slope Civic Council opposes AY as currently proposed

Atlantic Yards Report

The Board of Trustees of the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC) has agreed, nearly unanimously, that it "cannot support" Atlantic Yards project as currently proposed. In doing so, it cited an undemocratic public process, a poorly conducted environmental review, the inappropriate use of eminent domain, and the affect on the area's quality of life.

Still, the compromise statement adopted Oct. 5 allowed that PSCC could support the project if changes were made, as per the BrooklynSpeaks campaign that PSCC has already endorsed, including a "substantial reduction of the project and the creation of truly public open space," improvements in transportation and transit, a better affordable housing plan, and a "truly public process."


Posted by lumi at 11:02 PM

Live, Work, Play, Texas-Style

More Cities Construct Stadiums With Neighborhoods to Match; Edgy Styles, Pricey Penthouses

Wall St. Journal
By Thaddeus Herrick
October 11, 2006; Page B1

Brooklyn isn't the only lucky-ducky — there are several arena/mixed-use developments on the drawing board or under construction across the nation. The article doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, but aren't you sick of hearing about Atlantic Yards yet?

VictoryPark-WSJ.gifA decade ago, Ross Perot Jr. bought the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks and persuaded city leaders to help finance a new arena on some 60 acres of blighted land he amassed on the edge of downtown.

Cities have long built arenas in hopes they will spur revitalization around them. But Mr. Perot, son of the former presidential candidate, sold Dallas on a more sweeping idea: an urban district built from scratch with the 20,000-seat American Airlines Center as its hub.

Mr. Perot, who now holds a minority interest in the Mavericks, opened the hip W Dallas Victory Hotel and Residences in June and has some 850 apartments and condominiums under construction. In all, he plans to build 12 million square feet of office, hotel, residential and retail space for $3 billion -- one of the most ambitious mixed-use projects in the country.

Victory Park is one of a growing number of mega developments to be paired with large professional sports venues. In suburban Phoenix, owner Steve Ellman of the National Hockey League's Coyotes is preparing to open the first phase of his $1 billion Westgate City Center this fall with the Glendale Arena as its centerpiece and the home of the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals, complete with retractable roof, across the street. And baseball's St. Louis Cardinals and the Cordish Co. of Baltimore are planning Ballpark Village, a $650-million urban neighborhood spanning six blocks next to the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Until recent years, noise and traffic discouraged many people from living near arenas and stadiums. But as the entertainment value of professional sports has grown, sports venues have become selling points. Now they figure prominently in the pitch by many urban centers to "live, work and play" in the same place.

Economists debate whether stadiums do spur economic development. Supporters of such ventures point to successes such as Denver's Coors Field and Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center, both which sparked downtown revitalization. But many stadiums and arenas have yielded little in the way of economic development, in part because patchwork landholdings and planning restriction make development difficult. The upshot: More cities are experimenting with stadium-anchored urban districts built from the ground up.

Steve Graham, vice president of destination development at RED Development LLC, which built a one-million square-foot retail and entertainment center on 110 acres of farmland in Kansas City, Kan., says "We used to depend on movie theaters. But sports are a better generator of traffic." Opening earlier this year, the Legends at Village West, which doesn't feature residential space, sits alongside two new venues: the Kansas Speedway and a minor-league baseball park.

But such developments are tricky to pull off because their scale and mix of uses make them more challenging than a retail, residential or office project. Mr. Ellman of the Coyotes is two years behind his target date for opening the project's first phase. Though city officials in Glendale, Ariz., predict Westgate will provide a big economic boost, they have struggled to recruit other money-generating projects around the arena and fined the Ellman Cos. $2 million for missed deadlines. An Ellman Cos. spokesman says Mr. Ellman was slowed in part by financing hurdles following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but that he will open 500,000 square feet of office, entertainment and retail space in November, complete with Bellagio-style fountains and a video plaza evocative of Times Square.

In Dallas, Mr. Perot had only limited interest in basketball -- colleagues say he once asked one of his employees how many players were on the court -- and he sold his majority stake in the Mavericks in 2000 for a profit. He opened the arena in 2001, retaining what is now 75 acres around it. And he is developing the project, in which Hicks Holding LLC has an ownership interest.

At first, Mr. Perot's Hillwood firm envisioned American Airlines Center as a catalyst for a retro-style, middle-income, mixed-use development with rental units and retailers and restaurants such as Abercrombie & Fitch and the Cheesecake Factory. But that plan fell apart when the U.S. economy sank after the Sept. 11 attacks, and his acreage sat idle for more than a year. In January 2003, swayed in part by the condominium boom, Hillwood revised the project. The result: a mix of edgy architectural styles, exclusive boutiques and penthouses priced as much as $1 million.

But the move toward high-end consumers forced Hillwood to rethink the role of American Airlines Center, a red, brick building that looks almost like a giant hangar. Many of the events held there would draw the kind of crowds planners didn't want wandering into the rest of the development. Hillwood's solution: Seal off the residential portion with two sleek office and retail structures and a plaza complete with giant video screens that move back and forth on tracks across the facades. "A U2 concert is fabulous," says Mr. Perot of the interplay between his urban neighborhood and the arena. "Kiss, not so good."

Some residents seem to like the arena because it provides their faux urban setting with what it most needs: people. "The hustle and bustle give it a city feel," says Kit Sheffield, who purchased a unit at the W residences and has a down payment on a condo in another Victory property, the House by Starck, designer Phillipe Starck's ultra-modern, 28-story luxury high rise scheduled to open in late 2008.

With about $1 billion under development at Victory Park, Hillwood will open almost 300,000 square feet of retail, 150,000 square feet of office space and 700 residential units between next month and next summer. Thirty-five retailers are already committed and Hillwood says retail space is 75% leased. By 2009, the company expects to have as many as 75 retailers and a Mandarin Oriental Hotel occupying the first 11 floors of the project's signature office and residential high-rise, 43-story Victory Tower.

Though Mr. Perot is bullish on the remainder of the project, he says rising construction costs and a proliferation of luxury condominiums in Dallas could force Hillwood to scale back future development of Victory. The vast north end of the project is currently an asphalt parking lot. "It's a balancing act," he says. "Every year gets tougher and tougher."

Posted by lumi at 10:34 PM

Faso Hits BK Campaign Trail

Courier Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

Fasso.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate John Faso made an appearance in Bay Ridge this week, talking tough on taxes, education spending and funding the MTA. Then he jettisoned his conservative credentials by supporting the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Nets arena and 16 highrise complex.

“I’m glad to see they scaled it back to some degree. I am concerned about some of the aggressive utilization of eminent domain in different parts of the country, but I do think the Atlantic Yards proposal as I saw it is a reasonable one,” said Faso.

“I just hope the developers can assure that all the interests, to the greatest extent possible, are satisfied with it. It would be a dynamic development in Downtown Brooklyn. No doubt about it,” he added.


NoLandGrab: Wanna bet that Faso knows as much about Atlantic Yards as Bruce Ratner knows about basketball?

Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Rocks In A Blender, change is all the rage (part 2)
Joseph, the 25-year-old Pisces, manages to sum up the main concerns about Atlantic Yards, in two paragraphs, which has to be some sort of record.

Greiner's Grumblings, Media don’t like the Yards. Do voters?
Andrew Greiner compares the $4.2-billion 16-highrise and arena Atlantic Yards project to Frank Gehry's Millennium Park amphitheater in Chicago and posits, "Is the Atlantic Yards project really the scourge that it’s made out to be."

The Real Deal, Is Gehry wasting his time in Brooklyn?
The real estate trade links Paul Goldberger's pointed criticism of Frank Gehry's design for Atlantic Yards:

The Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn is the largest project that architect Frank Gehry has ever undertaken. But it's one that some critics see as almost a waste of his talents and time.

OTBKB says:

Everybody's talking about Paul Goldberger's piece in the New Yorker about Frank Gehry.

Bird to the North, BrooklynSpeaks
BrooklynSpeaks has Bird to the North thinking about the consortium's position, and adds some ideas of her own about open space, building setbacks and this point about the project's timeline:

Finally, it does seem that more thought has to be given to the stages of the project so that all the attendant community benefits do not come at the tail end of 10 years. Honestly, the whole project is riding on the acceptance that there are benefits, ultimately. Can't the stages be done more smartly, say in 2-year chunks, instead of in 4-year and 6-year chunks?

The Real Estate Observer, Silver Misses Moynihan Vote
The lastest news on the group that holds the cards in the approval of Atlantic Yards - the Public Authorities Control Board:

The representative for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on the Public Authorities Control Board never showed at today's emergency meeting. Without him (or her--we're searching for a name here, and Senate spokesman Mark Hansen told us, "We're not sure who he was planning on not sending to the meeting" ), there was no quorum and no vote could be taken.

Posted by lumi at 10:22 PM

News Analysis: Blight Fight: DDDB vs. ESDC

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

At the center of the Atlantic Yards fight is whether or not the project footprint is "blighted," a designation necessary for New York State to use eminent domain to seize private property.

Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano has no doubts about the 22-acre site slated for the Atlantic Yards development. "We have declared this a blighted area, and there's no question in anybody's mind that drives around there or walks around there, that a lot of the site is," he asserted, in an interview on the Channel 13 show "New York Voices," broadcast last Friday.

Host Rafael Pi Roman didn't buy it. "How can you declare a site blighted that has apartments of over $750,000?"

It was a microcosm of the blight fight going on, in which the state, in order to justify the use of eminent domain, claims to find the Prospect Heights site blighted, while critics and opponents offer counter-examples.

The article continues by citing some key points from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's detailed rebuttal to the ESDC's Blight Study.

DDDB argues that the conditions Gargano cited are significantly an artifact of the Atlantic Yards project itself. Development within the site footprint has been frozen since the project was announced in December 2003.
There's the tension between gentrification and blight. DDDB quotes Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) executive director Bertha Lewis, who told New York magazine in August, "If we can stop one iota of gentrification, we're gonna do it!" DDDB argues that either the project is necessary to stop gentrification, or the area is so blighted as to be unlivable: "Blight and gentrification simply do not happen simultaneously in the same location."


Posted by lumi at 10:36 AM

Trust But Verify: ESDC Foils FOIL Request

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder recounts his tale of trying to get the Empire State Development Corporation to release a study cited in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

First his Freedom of Information request was conveniently misplaced, then the request turned up somewhere after Norman Oder used his 3-mins of fame at the ESDC's "Community Forum" to publicly complain. Finally his request was "DE-NIED!"

What next?

Is there a remedy? State law provides for an appeal to the head of the agency, who must within ten business days "fully explain in writing to the person requesting the record the reasons for further denial, or provide access to the record sought." Also, the Committee on Open Government can be asked for an advisory opinion, which usually takes six to eight weeks to render. However, that opinion is not binding, and the only way to get such records is to go to court.

Will a politician fare better?

"I'm hoping that because I'm a state official, they'll cooperate," [Jim Brennan] said, noting that he would ask colleagues in the Assembly from Brooklyn to support his request.

Why is the "independent economic impact analysis" so important?

[The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods'] experts noted that several subsidies were ignored, including: a property tax exemption, a sales tax exemption, tax-exempt financing, a non-competitive bid for the railyard rights, unspecified "extraordinary infrastructure costs," public utility relocation, affordable housing subsidies, and a mortgage recording tax exemption.


Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Camera shy

Suit: Ratner had me arrested when I took his spy cam off my building

LarWilliams-BP.jpgBrooklyn Papers
By Dana Rubinstein

One of the remaining property owners in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project is suing developer Bruce Ratner for mounting a surveillance camera in his building, and then having him arrested for taking it down.

“They took me out in handcuffs, put me in the back of a police car and took me to the station,” said Lars Williams, who lives with his sister in a building on Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets that he co-owns with his dad.

“I spent a night in jail for taking a camera off [our] building,” said Williams in disbelief.
Despite repeated attempts by The Brooklyn Papers, a Forest City Ratner spokesperson refused to comment.


Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Stop hiding, Gargano

The Brooklyn Papers Editorial

Just who does Charles Gargano think he’s working for — the public that pays his salary or developer Bruce Ratner?

Gargano, the chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, made it clear on WNET’s “New York Voices” last week that he’d rather negotiate in secret with Ratner than defend the public’s interests.
The whole purpose of Gargano’s top-down, smoke-filled approach is to hide such vital information as the developer’s actual costs, his expected profit, and the full cost of the massive public subsidies on which the entire project floats.


Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Secret collaborative negotiations?

Ratner-Gargano.jpgWhat is the essence of the relationship between private developers and the Empire State Development Corporation?

It's a collaboration, say the lawyers.

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

It's a negotiation, sez the Chairman.

“First of all, what they are looking for is internal documents, working documents. ... We are now still negotiating and when you are negotiating, you don’t open your cards up to who you are negotiating with. ... That’s simple business. It is not a question of not wanting to make documents available. When they are completed, when the deal is done, then the documents will be public record.” — Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano on New York Voices

It's a secret!

Actually, it's more like a State secret considering the Freedom of Information requests by Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

Bizarro moment from DEIS Public Hearing

Atlantic Yards Report wasn't kidding when he said that there was some interesting stuff in the transcript of the Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Headlining Forest City Ratner supporter Reverend Herbert R. Daughtry's sermon on the benefits of Atlantic Yards was the clergyman's defense against criticism that he doesn't even live in Brooklyn (page 130).

Said Daughtry:

It's a wonderful place that I live. It's not far from the project. I also happen to live in New Jersey and I happen to live in Augusta, Georgia, in case anyone is interested.

Frankly, who cares about Rev. Daughtry's three homes, but to make the point in front of hundreds of attendees clamoring for more affordable housing is surrealistic.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Footprints or fragments, gallery show evokes a piece of Prospect Heights

Atlantic Yards Report cultural beat reporter Norman Oder filed a story on the opening of the "Footprints" art exhibit:

So a couple of hundred people--Brooklynites, artists, friends of artists, all of the above--wandered down to the Grand Space gallery last night for the opening of Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood. (The gallery is at 778 Bergen at Grand, just east of Washington Ave.)

Brooklyn artists were asked to explore the neighborhood that would be the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and the results were varied: portrait and documentary photography, abstract and representational painting, creative and crude symbols. Yes, there was a portrait of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, but equally striking were photographs of residents of rent-stabilized buildings, like the Santiago family (right), in a portrait by Nura Qureshi.

ureshi comments, "These images document residents of 810/812 Pacific Street who are directly threatened by the “Atlantic Yards” redevelopment project. By narrowing my focus to this corner of the Footprint I hoped to obtain an intimate view of these families, some of whom have been here for generations, and to create their lasting portraits."


Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

DDDB walks for buck$

The Brooklyn Papers
By Christine Rizk

Raising money to fight Bruce Ratner has never been as healthy, delicious or entertaining as it will be next week.

On Monday, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — which opposes Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development — is kicking off a week of movies, music, comedy and food culminating in an Oct. 21 walkathon to raise funds for its impending legal battle against the 16-tower arena, hotel, residential and office space complex.

Film screenings and literary fiestas – including an appearance by author, Pulitzer Prize–winner and DDDB board member Jhumpa Lahiri –- will take place at restaurants and bars from Fort Greene to Cobble Hill.


NoLandGrab: For a complete listing of events, check out www.dddb.net/walkathon/schedule.

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Lawmaker: Give us Atlantic Yards info!

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman and Ariella Cohen

Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope) said that his office had been forced to file a formal “Freedom of Information Law” request this week to force the Empire State Development Corporation to release “all financial information related to the Atlantic Yards project.”

Brennan said he had to take on the state agency because elected officials — who earlier this year rubber-stamped $100 million for the project with little debate — have not been given “complete information.”

Such information is vital, Brennan said, so the public and elected officials can determine whether the project needs to comprise eight million square feet to allow developer Bruce Ratner to build 2,250 units of affordable housing, and refurbish the LIRR rail yards over which the project will sit, while still making a reasonable profit.


NoLandGrab: It remains to be seen if Brennan gets further than Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report or Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's lawyer Jeff Baker.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Revisionists K.O. Jacobs & Moses Both

Jacobs-vs-Moses.jpgThe Real Estate Observer reviewed this week's main event, live from Gotham Center, Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses.

The decision?

Soon enough, like most groups of people who get together these days, they all started bickering about Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

New Yorker critic slams Gehry

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

Rather than only rehashing Paul Goldberger's criticisms of Frank Gehry's design for Atlantic Yards, the article also compares Goldberger's pointed criticisms to the effusive statements of support by the City Planning Commission.

A card-carrying member of the Manhattan establishment has turned on Bruce Ratner’s starchitect, Frank Gehry, calling his design for the Atlantic Yards project “a large part of the problem.”

In his regular “Sky Line” column this week, New Yorker architecture critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Goldberger slammed the $4.2-billion, eight-million-square-foot, 16-tower, arena, residential and office space development as “enormous.”

In attacking Atlantic Yards, Goldberger has joined a chorus of critics. But by singling out Gehry, Goldberger has gone where few have gone: attacking the very element that Ratner has called a selling point of the project: Gehry’s lush, curvaceous, radical designs.


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Writers Unite to Lose Their Chainstores

The NY Observer

It looks like the celebrity advisory board, appointed last spring just to sit around and get picked apart by the project's proponents, is going to do a little work for once: next Wednesday, Jhumpa Lahiri and Jennifer Egan are going to crash Tillie's in Fort Greene with a reading, the highlight of a weeklong warm-up for the opposition group's walkathon Oct. 21. The cafe's website says, "Come one, come all, and bring your laptops." That goes for you too, Jason Kidd!


NoLandGrab: While the press sits around to take pot shots at the DDDB Advisory Board, the literatti serving on the board have contributed more than Jonathan Lethem's open letter to Gehry. A big-time celebrity novelist was working the T-shirt table at the rally this summer (probably to get a free shirt, right?), another serves as a Block Captain (fancy term for lowly volunteer who fliers their own block each month). If any reporters really want to know what these guys have been up to, they could just ask.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

October 12, 2006

TONIGHT: Footprints Reception, 6—9 PM

From deep within the People's Republic of Brooklyn (homemade passports by artist Youme Landowne):


Footprints Reception
Grand Space
778 Bergen Street (corner of Grand Avenue)

Exhibition runs: Oct 7th - Nov 3rd, 2006

Wed-Fri, 5pm-7pm
Sat & Sun, 11am-4pm

(Exhibition closed, Saturday October 21st)

Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Talk about BrooklynSpeaks

Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Brooklyn Coalition Calls for Big Transportation Changes to Atlantic Yards

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign promoted BrooklynSpeaks in its latest newsletter, "Mobilizing the Region." The group focused on transportation concerns, but steered away from the more controversial issue of whether or not an arena should be sited at a transportation hub, despite the fact that it would be located at what is currently one of the most congested and problematic intersections in Brooklyn.

The coalition’s transportation position calls for project plans that:
* Minimize creation of new parking
* Eliminate the giant surface parking lot that is now part of “Phase I”
* Residential parking permits to protect nearby areas from arena-going motorists
* Zoning to eliminate the development of a secondary parking industry around the arena
* Stronger incentives for mass transit use
* Traffic calming to protect residential streets
* Bus lanes to keep transit riders from getting bogged down in worsening traffic
* Advances a plan for additional subway capacity into the next MTA capital program
* Uses roadway pricing to reduce through-traffic in downtown Brooklyn and adjacent areas

Whatever I Want It To Be, The Useful and the Beautiful - Meet Here

Blogger Kimberly Kinchen promotes BrooklynSpeaks as "Once more, Art, meet Wonk...Wonk, meet Art."

BrooklynSpeaks, Community Boards, APA weigh in on Atlantic Yards

All three of the Community Boards that represent the Atlantic Yards site – Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 - recently submitted comments on the project. Strikingly, their comments – as well as those recently released by the New York chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) – demonstrate a striking degree of consensus about what’s wrong with the current Atlantic Yards proposal.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Planning Chair Burden claims Jacobsian mantle, discards it for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday StreetsBlog was wondering if Amanda Burden has been MIA on Atlantic Yards. Norman Oder found Burden at last night's CUNY Graduate School lecture:

JaneJacobs02.jpgAmanda Burden, chair of the City Planning Commission, knows the lessons of Jane Jacobs (right): the primacy of the street, the value of blocks and complexity, the importance of public participation. She said so last night, at a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate School assessing the legacies of Jacobs and her oft-antagonist Robert Moses.

Then, just a few minutes after proudly claiming the Jacobsian mantle, Burden discarded it for reflexive defense of the Atlantic Yards plan her boss, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, has enthusiastically endorsed.

It was a moment of mental whiplash in a wide-ranging discussion that included issues of infrastructure, mixed-income housing, and even the massive challenges facing New Orleans, but turned back to Atlantic Yards as much as anything else.


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

The Best Blocks: South Portland Avenue

Time Out New York

And the winner for the best block in New York is... South Portland Avenue between DeKalb and Lafayette (link).


NoLandGrab: Only, too bad that Bruce Ratner has plans to cast the block in the shadow shroud of his mammoth 22-acre 16-high-rise-and-arena wall o' buildings.

This map showing So. Portland Ave. is adapted from Chapter 9 of the DEIS, on Shadows, as modified by the So. Oxford Block Association (some readers may recall that the DEIS used "limoncello" yellow to represent the shadows; the So. Oxford St. Block Association thought that gray would be more appropriate).

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

Ratner Says "Blight," Times Archives By Way of Oder Say: Yeah, Sure, Right.

Representing what's good and bad about the blogosphere, we thought it worthy to link Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's post on Atlantic Yards Report's article on the NY Times coverage over the decades of Prospect Heights, if only for this meaty tidbit:

Oder left out this monier quote, from the same 1999 NY Times article:

...In the last two decades, most of the neglected structures in central Prospect Heights have been renovated and in a border area along Pacific and Dean Streets developers are starting to gobble up empty industrial buildings...

Those are the same buildings that Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are claiming are blighted and would not be revitalized without government intervention.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

BAE Systems to leave Yonkers

The Journal News
By Jerry Gleeson

Here's the latest news about Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill development.

Defense electronics contractor BAE Systems said yesterday that it will close its Ridge Hill operation in Yonkers next year and move its staff of about 150 to a larger facility in Wayne, N.J.
The BAE lease expires sometime next year.

The office building is part of an 81-acre property that Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner plans to convert for residential and retail use. The plan won zoning approval by the Yonkers City Council this past summer.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

October 11, 2006

Planetizen Interview With Amanda Burden

Burden-NYT.jpgStreetsBlog posted excerpts from and a link to Planetizen's interview with NYC Planning Director Amanda Burden and then laments:

After reading this interview, the question I come away with is, simply: Where in the world has Amanda Burden been during the discussion of the "Atlantic Yards" development in Brooklyn? How could it be that such an important voice has been so utterly silent during such a significant development process?


NoLandGrab: Amanda Burden hasn't done anyone but Ratner any favors in this affair.

We've lost count how many times City officials, politicians, hired consultants and community leaders have abandoned everything they've ever claimed to believe, to line up in support of (or at least keep their mouths shut about) Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 1:02 PM

Ouroussoff on Gehry?

Recently, criticism of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards design has inexplicably found its way into The New York Times's reviews of Richard Meier's Ara Pacis Museum in Rome and Norman Foster's design for a new residential tower on the Upper East Side. Both reviews are by the Times's architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff.

AraPacis-MYT.jpgOuroussoff on Meier:

Mr. Meier’s building is a contemporary expression of what can happen when an architect fetishizes his own style out of a sense of self-aggrandizement. Absurdly overscale, it seems indifferent to the naked beauty of the dense and richly textured city around it.

That kind of insensitivity tends to reinforce the cliché that all contemporary architecture is an expression of an architect’s self-importance.

Foster-NYT.jpgOuroussoff on Foster:

The tower’s height, roughly 30 stories, hardly helps its cause; as with other luxury high rises reshaping the Manhattan skyline, its scale is clearly driven by economic considerations. Defenders will point out that the Carlyle Hotel across the street is slightly taller, but the reality is that the Carlyle’s setbacks make it virtually invisible when viewed from the street. Lord Foster’s tower would have a far stronger visual presence, soaring above the apartment buildings flanking it to the north and south.

But the tower’s outsize height is a problem. Manhattan was shaped by the hubris of developers struggling against the constraints of the street grid, and its beauty is a result of wild juxtapositions of scales, styles and architectural periods. But I’m not sure a luxury high rise should be allowed the same freedom as a major civic building.

This is proof that Ouroussoff is thinking about context and architectural hubris as much as the rest of us. The question remains: why does Ouroussoff give architectural genius Frank Gehry a free pass?

Posted by lumi at 12:15 PM

DEIS hearing transcript, speaker list available, nuggets to be mined

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted an amuse bouche on the DEIS hearing speaker list:

For those who weren't at the Aug. 23 Draft Environmental Impact Statement hearing, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has posted the sign-up sheets, the speaker list, and the transcript from the Empire State Development Corporation.
There are lots of interesting nuggets; for example, M'balia Rubie, the teacher who said (p. 141 of PDF) she couldn't prioritize traffic and shadows over jobs and housing, signed in (p. 7 of PDF) as a member of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, a signatory to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, but she wasn't announced as such nor did she make it known.


Posted by lumi at 12:12 PM

Dunking The Nets Into Coney

NetsArea-Gateway.jpgKinetic Carnival

A Coney Island enthusiast studies the Coney Island alternative for the Nets arena published by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and concludes:

All in all many agree that the Nets arena should be housed in Coney Island. But with proposed high end retail, luxury hotels, and more residential - let’s be careful not to eradicate completely what Coney has meant since the days of Sodom by the Sea and that is the fervor of its amusement district.


Posted by lumi at 12:06 PM

Financialized Corporate Era (FCE) part 2

Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader just posted Part Two of his thoughts on "financialization" and its effects on real estate markets, specifically on Forest City Ratner's prospective Atlantic Yards project:

Financialization is fundamentally based on the anticipation of future gains or losses, and all corporations are subject to this sort of divining. In FCE’s case, the marketing material makes clear that the corporation is deploying its resources to assure investors of its longevity, especially the flagship NYC market, which folk wisdom holds as currently impervious, more or less, to the burst of the housing bubble. Blackburn argues, “In drawing up their investment plans, [corporations] will have to show that these will achieve the benchmark or ‘hurdle’ rates of return established by the financial sector. . . Making a good profit is no longer enough; a triple A rating is also needed. Theoretically, the value of a share has nothing to do with present or past profits, but exclusively relates to the prospects of future profits” (43). In this way, it becomes clear why FCR is so intent on developing the AY in such an outsize, winner-take-all manner. The focus is on future profits, and residential real estate is now the highly profitable development field, even as, on the one hand, speculation has contributed to the current bubble effect, and on the other, a luxury development designed by a world-famous architect is aimed directly at speculators.


Posted by lumi at 11:54 AM

Municipal Art Society email blast on BrooklynSpeaks

This letter was sent to the Municipal Art Society email list promoting the Brooklyn Speaks campaign:

Dear fellow New Yorker,

Over the years, with your help, we were able to save Grand Central Terminal and prevent Times Square from becoming a corporate office park. Now we need your help again.

In the next few weeks, the Atlantic Yards project -- a proposal to build 16 enormous towers and a sports arena in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn -- is going to be decided by state officials. If built as currently proposed, the project would overwhelm the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods and create a deadening enclave in the heart of Brooklyn.

The Municipal Art Society believes that the current plan does not work. We believe the site should be developed, but that the plan should not be approved unless substantial changes are made.

Please consider joining our call for a plan that works by visiting a new website that the MAS and eight other civic and community organizations have launched called BrooklynSpeaks.net. Through the website you can send a letter to the elected officials who will decide the project. You can visit the website by clicking here, and view a slide show about the proposed project by clicking here.

Please visit the website even if you don't live in Brooklyn. It's vital that we remind the state that New Yorkers must have an opportunity to shape huge projects like this - otherwise, the next flawed proposal might well be for your neighborhood. Please forward this email to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to visit the website too.

Some people think this project is a done deal. We don't. We believe every New Yorker who spends a minute to send a letter through the website will make a difference. If you've already expressed your support for this campaign, many thanks. If you haven't yet, please step up to the plate for New York once again and visit BrooklynSpeaks.net.

Thank you for your time.

Kent Barwick, President
Municipal Art Society

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

It came from the GoldBergosphere...

Gehry-IAC-flickr.jpg"Gehry-rigged" in the blogosphere — a few blogs linked to New Yorker architectural critic Paul Goldberger's assessment of Gehry's NY debuts.

Big Cities Big Boxes, New Yorker Critiques Atlantic Yards

While he lauds Gehry's first freestanding New York building, the headquarters for Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp. in Chelsea, Goldberger takes off the gloves for Atlantic Yards. Among his observations is that whatever Gehry's desire to pay homage to the Manhattan skyline, the romance of the old Manhattan skyline "is a happy accident of diverse buildings in a tight web of streets." Atlantic Yards, by contrast, "involves eliminating streets, and has the look more of a single structure spanning multiple blocks than of a townscape that has grown organically." Well put.

Blog Chelsea, Goldberger Gives Gehry’s IAC a Thumbs Up

A little gloating is in order...

Goldberger in the New Yorker cuts down Gehry’s work at Atlantic Yards but likes our little IAC building.

...though Blog Chelsea wondered:

Who was dorky enough to call about the columns?

TrueHoop, The New Yorker on the Nets' Proposed New Home
Sportswriter Henry Abbott takes note of the Goldberger article on his own blog:

Paul Goldberger, writing in the New Yorker, discusses architect Frank Gehry, whose work is at the center of the storm about the Nets' proposed new arena in Brooklyn. The whole article is a good read, but I was especially interested in the ending.

DDDB.net, New Yorker Says No to Gehry's Idea of Brooklyn

One point about the excerpted criticism below. Because of his fame and embrace in many quarters, many architects, critics and laypeople are fearful of criticizing Frank Gehry. It will take more hard, cold looks at his work, like Goldberger's text below, to allow a more balanced expert and popular viewpoint on the controversial pop architect. Not everything that spits out of his staffers' computers are nuggets of genius. Gehry is confronting a project of a magnitude he's never tried before. And it shows.

Curbed.com, Goldberger on Gehry's IAC Building: He Likes It!

N.B. In the same article, as the folks at No Land Grab are gleefully noting, Goldberger hauls Gehry's Atlantic Yards project in for an ass-whooping: "Rather than giving a sense of foreground and background, the juxtaposition of plain and fancy just looks like a few Gehrys bought for full price next to several bought at discount." Ooo-eee.

NoLandGrab: For the record, there's nothing "gleeful" about fighting Gehry's Atlantic Yards design. When a respected architecture critic sheds light on the fact that the Atlantic Yards project is unbecoming Brooklyn and the starchitect himself, we experience a sigh of relief (more like passing a stone).

Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

Design by Deception

The Politics of Megaproject Approval

HDM.gifHarvard Design Magazine
By Bent Flyvbjerg

This article is a must-read for those who are trying to make sense of the politicians, government agencies and developers who talk out of both sides of their mouths (usually at the same time).

Which large projects get built? My research associates and I found it isn't necessarily the best ones, but instead those for which proponents best succeed in designing—deliberately or not—a fantasy world of underestimated costs, overestimated revenues, overvalued local development effects, and underestimated environmental impacts. Project approval in most cases depended on these factors.
Many project proponents don't hesitate to use this approach, even if it means misleading lawmakers, the public, and the media about the true costs and benefits of projects. This results is an inverted Darwinism—an unhealthy "survival of the unfittest"—for large public works and other construction projects.

article (PDF)

NoLandGrab: Sounds like a blueprint for the approval process for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

21 years of Prospect Heights (blight?), via NYT Real Estate section

Atlantic Yards Report

PH-NYT.jpgThe Empire State Development Corporation says that the area south of Atlantic Ave is "blighted" and "it is highly unlikely that the blighted conditions currently present will be removed without public action."

Norman Oder collected two decades of observations from The New York Times Real Estate column, "If You're Thinking of Living In." The story that unfolds tells another tale.



By the reckoning of a resident jogger, Prospect Heights is just a mile into Brooklyn from the Manhattan Bridge. Yet only recently has it become a popular refuge from the high cost of living in Manhattan.

Prospect Heights has grown even more attractive as prices continue to rise in neighboring Park Slope, which began its brownstone boom late in the 1960's.


It is graced with richly crafted turn-of-the-century brownstones and elegant 1920's apartment buildings. Its population is a rich mixture of all races and income groups. And it is now recovering from the turbulent 70's, when many buildings were either abandoned by landlords or burned out. This is leading to tension between developers and community groups.


Two decades after an economic downturn left Prospect Heights spotted with shuttered and abandoned buildings, the neighborhood is undergoing a revival. Newcomers are renovating long-neglected brownstones and Vanderbilt Avenue, a main commercial streets, new tenants trickle in as existing merchants spruce up their facades.


But in the last few years, Prospect Heights has begun to hold its own, enticing newcomers with attractive lofts, newly constructed luxury condominiums and brownstones that are often larger and more elegant than those in the rest of Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

REO on Goldberger on Gehry

The Real Estate Observer describes New Yorker architectural critic Paul Goldberger's review of Gehry's New York debut:

Paul Goldberger calls Frank Gehry's new West Side Highway building "serene," "swooping" and "daring." The critic forgot the adjectives "frosty" and "hideous" because he was saving his ire for Mr. Gehry's Atlantic Yards plan. But even at his bitchiest--he says the development isn't "palatable"-- Goldberger remembers his manners. (New Yorker)


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Good Times

Frank Gehry v. Renzo Piano By resisting easy temptations Renzo Piano has ­accomplished something rare: unstrained symbolism.

By Philip Nobel

For some reason, Frank Gehry missed the opportunity to design New York's latest signature tower, the Times Tower developed by Forest City Ratner. Philip Nobel reviews a project that might have been built in comparison to a project that is still yet to be finished. Despite all of the hand-wringing about Gehry, Renzo Piano "pulled off a neat rare trick," and "has delivered a classic with grace, in a graceless corner of the city."

Gehry’s much bemoaned design would have taken the easier course. His building was itself a sign, a tower seemingly enfolded in newsprint, with that cheeky Times logo on high to ram the point home. The architect might have proposed it for any site—so all-consuming and evolution averse is his personal vision—but here, a short hot-dog toss from the faux bawdy of 42nd Street, it would have looked a lot like the path of least resistance. While retaining all the familiar tics of his style, Gehry tried to say “New York Times” in the new language of the New Times Square: in signs and symbols, loudly but only on the surface. In contrast, the Piano design employs the very stuff of architecture—the same steel that makes the building stand, the glass that shields it—to create a whole that says, with appropriate rigor, the New York Times resides here, if you please.


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Fitzsimons Signs Agreement to Develop 160-Acre Life Sciences Park Near Denver


Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that Forest City Fitzsimons, Inc. has signed an agreement with the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority (FRA) to develop a 160-acre life sciences office park near Denver.

The new park, to be built on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, will include offices and research and development facilities for the life sciences industry. Build-out will occur over the next 20 years or more, with the first buildings expected to be completed by the end of 2008. The Fitzsimons site is located next to the University of Colorado’s new Health Sciences Center campus and is adjacent to Forest City’s Stapleton mixed-used project.

Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer, said, “Fitzsimons is our fifth science and technology development, building on our success at University Park at MIT near Boston, which has been followed by life sciences projects in Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia. Our experience with large mixed-use projects for the life sciences industry will enable us to develop a state-of-the-art office and research campus at Fitzsimons. This project will feature a critical mass of technology companies and is destined to become one of the premier life sciences communities in the nation.”

Forest City’s track record in developing real estate for the life sciences industry includes the award-winning University Park at MIT, which involved the transformation over two decades of a 27-acre industrial site into a mixed-used community with more than 2.3 million square feet of office and lab space – combined with residential, retail and hotel components.


NoLandGrab: When a blogger broke this news last week, we noted, "Forest City has become the premier developer of biotech parks. Too bad the company's progressive accomplishments are sullied by an old-fashioned land grab like Atlantic Yards."

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Nets confident Ilic is on track to harness skills

An article about the NJ Nets' new 22-year-old center from Serbia has this bit of bad news for Brooklynites who were looking forward to seeing the team practice in Brooklyn:

Monday's open practice at LIU in Brooklyn has been canceled because of "logistical conflicts," according to Barry Baum, a spokesman for owner Bruce Ratner. Baum said the public session will be rescheduled for a site in New Jersey later in the month....


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

What Happened in the 11th?

The Daily Politics

CUNY's John Mollenkopf, the political scientist, Park Slope resident, and computer whiz, has put together a hugely useful set of electoral-district by electoral-district maps of the outcome of the race to replace Major Owens in Brooklyn's 11th congressional district.

His concise conclusion: "Basically, Owens cut into Yassky in the northern part of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, my guess is over Atlantic Yards, while the Hassidic vote split, a major portion going to Andrews, and meanwhile Clarke kept her base together."


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

October 10, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gumby Fresh, Street Theatre
An omen? Forest City Ratner sponsors a gigantic traffic jam, as Flatbush Ave. is closed for a fair. This weekend's spectacle got GumbyFresh thinking about Atlantic Yards again.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Two New York projects show how to use Frank Gehry and how not to

Dreadnaught quotes from Paul Goldberger's New Yorker piece and then decides to tell us what he really thinks about Frank Gehry.

Sunset Parker, A child slays his father

What starts as a post about the end to the Dodger's post season...

In the oedipal series of the season, The Mets swept their antecedents like so many cro-mags using their larger brains to extinct the last tribe of neanderthals.

...ends up perpetuating a couple myths about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal:

One reason for the move to L.A.: The deal to move them to The Atlantic Yards doesn't get off the table, because the right wheels don't get greased. Yes, The Atlantic Yards location has been intended for a sports team for fifty years and has been intended on having sky scrapers since the 1920's. If you were from here, you might know that- the dirty open secret surrounding the Atlantic Yards protesters is that virtually no one associated with them was actually born or even raised in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: The myth that the Dodgers wanted to build on Vanderbilt Yards was slayed a long time ago, at least, that's what we thought. Any old-timer could tell you that Walter O'Malley wanted to build his ballpark on what is now Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall and that Robert Moses nixed the idea because it "would create a China wall of traffic."

As for "virtually no one being born or raised in Brooklyn" amongst the Ratner critics, that's a perception that no one has managed to actually document. Anyway, if Ratner had wanted more white-faced recent-arrivals on his side, he would have put his money where their mouths are. The fact is that Ratner has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his "supporters" and even helped form one of the groups in his own boardroom.

David’s Blog, Journalism blogs

Jounalism student David Chiu gives props to Atlantic Yards Report:

Atlantic Yards Report. This is by a journalist, Norman Oder, who has been keeping up with the media coverage of the Atlantic Yards issue, including the New York Times.’ For the beat that I am covering, this is such a wealth of information. He really analyzes between fact and fiction when it comes to reports and media coverage.

David chose the Atlantic Yards "beat" over "Katie Couric" and "Lebanon Post-War."

AtlanticAveProject.jpgdcdomain.release.eight, Commute part 1: The Atlantic Avenue Project

Observations along a daily commute on a project that isn't very Ratner-esque.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Land use tops state ballot issues

The Washington Times

"The biggest issue this year is definitely property rights and land use," and voters in at least 11 states will consider measures that would bar governments from taking private property for another private use, said Jennie Drage Bowser, a policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which tracks ballot questions across the country.

The 11 states where voters will decide on property-rights measures are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina, said Larry Morandi, NCSL's group director for environment, energy and transportation.


Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

Atlantic Yards Report on "blight"

AtlanticAve.jpgTwo posts from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report on "blight":

DDDB report pummels ESDC blight study

So, is the proposed Atlantic Yards site blighted? The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) says so, in a Blight Study that serves as a prelude to the exercise of eminent domain. However, many people have disputed both the colloquial and official designation, including project supporter Assemblyman Roger Green last year and Community Board 2 in its recent response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Now Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) ups the ante with a 191-page submission to the ESDC, a prelude, most likely, to some of the contentions in the community group's inevitable challenge to the state's plan to use eminent domain. (It was written mainly by two members of the steering committee, Daniel Goldstein and Patti Hagan.)

NoLandGrab: We had a sneak peek at the study. Aside from being a detailed rebuttal of the ESDC's claim that the area is so blighted that it is in need of government intervention, the DDDB Blight Response (PDF) is a fascinating account of each property in the footprint. Complete with photos, it is certainly the best "tour" you can take of the footprint from the comfort of your own home.

Gargano says there's "no question" about blight
Last week's "New York Voices" aired an interview with the Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano, who rattled off his best arguments for designating the footprint of Bruce Ratner's 22-acre Atlantic Yards project as "blighted." Norman Oder takes out his red pen and makes quick work of the Chairman's claims.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

Israeli company to build housing at Ridge Hill

Bloomberg News, via The Journal News
By Jonathan Ferziger

A familiar face makes his debut in news of Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project:

Azorim Investment Development & Construction Co., an Israeli real estate company, won a contract to build housing as part of the $600 million Ridge Hill Village project in Yonkers.

The Tel Aviv-based company's U.S. subsidiary, Azorim at Ridge Hill Inc., agreed to pay for 33 percent of the $210 million portion of the project, which includes 500 residential units, Azorim said in a statement to the Tel Aviv exchange.
Ridge Hill, approved by the Yonkers City Council earlier this year, is proposed by Brooklyn-based developer Forest City Ratner. It includes 1,000 residential units, 1.3 million square-feet of retail space, a hotel and conference center and entertainment venues.
Shaya Boymelgreen, a New York property developer, bought control of Azorim last month from IDB Development Corp. for 1.4 billion shekels ($327 million) and said he wanted to expand its business outside Israel. The Yonkers project is Azorim's first in the U.S., the company said.


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

Luggage king locks up win over eminent domain

Hollywood shopkeeper manages to keep ownership of building in face of redevelopment project

Contra Costa Times
By Bob Pool

Hollywood's luggage king refused to pack his bags and go when Los Angeles officials tried to seize his 60-year-old family business to make room for a high-end hotel development.

Shopkeeper Robert Blue fought back by blasting the city's use of eminent domain with a mocking billboard atop his Bernard Luggage store near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Then he filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of his due-process rights, and in the process became a symbol of what some residents considered Hollywood redevelopment run amok.

And on Wednesday, the luggage man bagged a victory.

The city and Community Redevelopment Agency leaders announced that Blue's business will stay -- and the largest commercial development in Hollywood history will be built instead around the historic 1928 building containing his valises, suitcases, trunks and travel accessories.


NoLandGrab: Robert Blue stuck it out in his neighborhood through the bad ole times and fought for the right to continue to make a living during the good.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Press Release: Creating Lasting Communities: Peter Calthorpe is the 2006 Laureate of the Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development

From the Urban Land Institute

Peter Calthorpe, one of the nation's most influential urban designers, has been named the recipient of the 2006 Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

When Forest City Enterprises needed a serious urban planner, they sought Calthorpe.

When Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises was selected by the city of Denver to redevelop the former Stapleton Airport site, the company turned to Calthorpe for help with the community's design. According to Ronald Ratner, president of Forest City Residential Group, Calthorpe's expertise as a problem solver stems from his ability to think as a developer, an architect, an engineer, and a planner in order to fit all the pieces of a project together. "He has an amazing ability to deconstruct a problem, to get to the bottom of what people are saying. . .Whether he is talking to traffic engineers or retailers, he extracts information and utilizes his principles to come up with a design solution. Peter is a craftsman at the top of his trade," Ratner says.

"Urban design," contends Calthorpe, "involves a nuanced set of tradeoffs. It involves a balance of design, economics, politics, and the marketplace; they are all integrated."

When Bruce Ratner needed some serious urban planning, he turned to the Empire State Development Corporation. Frank Gehry has already exposed himself to be a master of building urban "jewels," but not a master planner.

The fact that Forest City hired Calthorpe in Denver proves the company understands the importance of getting it right over having it all. Why not in Brooklyn, too?

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

The Dirty 30

More evidence that Bruce Ratner is becoming the man New Yorkers love to hate, from Slam Online (emphasis added):


Best of times: The rotation gets deeper with Marcus Williams, and the Nets are able to rest Kidd just enough for him to be a force in the playoffs, and Vince attacks the basket when he needs to. Jay-Z’s return from retirement saves New York Hip Hop and the east coast b(i)ased media declares another golden era on its way. Rappers from the other 49 states get day jobs.

Worst of times: Jason Kidd finally runs out of gas, Vince is given the keys to the franchise and he drives it off a cliff. Richard Jefferson has his first pessimistic thought. Jay-Z is too old and boring and his legacy is tainted. Once the Nets move to Brooklyn, Jay’s portion of ownership is forcefully bought out, and he suffers the same indignity that his idol Michael Jordan did with the Wizards. Bruce Ratner reaches Robert Moses and Walter O’Malley levels of hatred from New York City residents.


Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Announces Walkathon Week and Walkathon Day Schedule

Walkathon Will Raise Funds for Looming Legal Battles

WalkDD.gifBROOKLYN, NY—Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) announces Walkathon Week, six days of events culminating with the second annunal Walk Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon.

From October 16 to 21, venues throughout Central Brooklyn will host events to raise money for DDDB's legal fund and impending legal battles, as well as to further highlight community opposition to Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards," a 16-skyscraper and arena development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. It is the largest project proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City.

The Walkathon will set off on Saturday, October 21 from the Prospect Park Bandshell for Grand Army Plaza, where it will circle the plaza before returning to the Bandshell through Prospect Park. Following the Walkathon, DDDB will present a two-hour concert at the Bandshell featuring national recording artist John Wesley Harding and guests. The day's events will include marching bands, childrens activities, games, community information sessions and vendors.

Walkathon Week begins on Monday October 16. Nightly events will be held in Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Cobble Hill. Events run the range from Film Nights, music performances, literary readings featuring Brooklyn authors, comedy nights, restaurant promotions, community meetings, and film screenings. The complete schedule will be available on Tuesday, October 10th at www.dddb.net/walkathon/schedule.

"Last year, hundreds of walkers from across Brooklyn participated in our first Walkathon," said DDDB spokesperson Dan Goldstein. "Our supporters and volunteers work hard to raise funds and awareness, and many more are registering now for this year's Walkathon. It'll be the place to be on October 21st."

"Brooklynites who want better than Ratner's impending disaster aren't seduced by his free gifts and tee-shirts. Rather, they're getting out there and putting their money where their hearts want to be -- developing a future Brooklyn that works for all of us."

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition advocating for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

We oppose Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

October 9, 2006

GEHRY-RIGGED: Two New York projects show how to use Frank Gehry and how not to.


The New Yorker
PAUL GOLDBERGER presents a must-read look at Gehry's intentions.

In Brooklyn, the task is to create a coherent cityscape that relates comfortably to its surroundings. Gehry tried to do this by grouping some understated towers around a few very elaborate ones. (The six-hundred-and-twenty-foot-high main tower, foolishly named Miss Brooklyn, is full of self-conscious Gehryisms.) Rather than giving a sense of foreground and background, the juxtaposition of plain and fancy just looks like a few Gehrys bought for full price next to several bought at discount.
Gehry has told me that he sees the project as a kind of homage to the old Manhattan sky line, but the romance of that vista is a happy accident of diverse buildings in a tight web of streets. Atlantic Yards, by contrast, involves eliminating streets, and has the look more of a single structure spanning multiple blocks than of a townscape that has grown organically.


Atlantic Yards Report
New Yorker critic: Gehry's "talents hardly seem suited" to AY challenge

Goldberger likes Gehry's InterActive Corp. building in Chelsea, but he finds the mass and superblocks of Atlantic Yards inappropriate for the site, and he points out what critics charge and even some supporters acknowledge: the arena is the hook for the larger development.

Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

Welcome to Daily Intelligencer

New York Magazine

Since January 1973, the Intelligencer section has been New York's weekly home for news, gossip, short takes, and pithy commentary. Starting now, the Daily Intelligencer is nymag.com's home for that same cocktail of the serious and the frivolous — but blended much more quickly. Daily Intel will filter the stories of the day through New York's unique sensibility, all day long, every day of the week. Serious looks at city news will jostle for space with comic riffs on what's going on around town. Party reports will bump up against Atlantic Yards updates. Think of it as a stream of collective unconsciousness from inside the New York brain.


Posted by amy at 8:43 AM

Spinning around blindly

Sheloquent presents an eloquent description of her experience at yesterday's street fair on Flatbush:

And then there were NBA basketball’s New Jersey Nets…well, now trying to be the Brooklyn Nets. So much so that last year, the current NJ Nets players volunteered at a Brooklyn soup kitchen over the holidays, rather than in their current hometown. For several years now, the developer Ratner is trying to bring the NJ Nets to the section of Brooklyn where I live. Basketball is my drug. Since the age of 12, I have lost myself in it, both playing and watching. To be able to walk to a Nets basketball game? How cool would that be? But, the housing crisis here affects me as much as anyone. And how many are being bought out, booted out, so that a developer can get richer? And what about our peaceful, beautiful, quiet Brooklyn neighborhood, lined by historic brownstones. “Develop – Don’t Destroy” is the cry of Ratner’s opponents and yellow posters adorned with the slogan can be found in most local shop and restaurant windows. And I am torn in this battle Yes, the truth is, should the Nets be in Brooklyn in a few years, I’ll probably be long gone – the cost of housing will have driven me out. Still, I couldn’t help but be excited yesterday when I saw NBA legend [Albert] King and when I had the chance to take 5 free throws that truly were for free.


Posted by amy at 8:37 AM

October 8, 2006

An arena in Coney? DEIS ignores the most recent studies


Atlantic Yards Report

There was something fishy about Borough President Marty Markowitz's rapid disavowal, in 2003, of his longstanding support for an arena in Coney Island. After all, as Brian Hatch and I have pointed out, there are strong arguments--transportation capacity, neighborhood revitalization--for an arena in Coney.

And, as I noted, there's something fishy about the quick dismissal of Coney in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

However, as a study (Report on Three Decades of Locational Analysis for a Brooklyn Arena) from urban planner Simon Bertrang on behalf of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn shows, the ESDC's failure is much worse. The agency, while relying on a 1974 study that seems to point to Prospect Heights as the only remaining arena site, omits any mention of later studies, in 1984 and 1994, both of which preferred sites in Coney Island.


Posted by amy at 10:52 PM

Whither The Towers In The Park

Regional Plan Association
Alex Marshall on Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town's "towers in a park":

But success as an idea is not the same as success in fact. Now probably no urban planning concept is more reviled. If ideas have peaks and valleys, towers in the park is in a valley.

And yet, what are the proposed towers by Frank Gehry for Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn other than “towers in the park.” The planned towers for the World Trade Center site are at least somewhat “towers in the park,” or at least, towers in plazas.

Personally, I find the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper towers some of the ugliest in the city. Grim and monolithic, lacking ornamentation, they seem like an Orwellian projection of some Big Brother alternate future we managed to mostly avoid. True, you do see kids frolicking in the green spaces, and even the equivalent of stoop sales, but overall the grassy area between buildings seems like leftover land, that could have been put to better use within a traditional street grid.


Posted by amy at 10:21 PM

PBS Takes on Gargano

The Real Estate
Matthew Schuerman

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, was asked some tough questions for tonight's Channel 13 special on Atlantic Yards, according to a transcript posted on Norman Oder's blog. In response to one of them--why the public cannot see the financial projections that E.S.D.C. used to calculate the economic impact of the project, Gargano answers that the public will see them--though by that point it will be too late to do anything about them:

Completed documents, once the project is approved, once we have completed the negotiations with the developers, they will all be public record.


Posted by amy at 10:16 PM

Anger Drives Property Rights Measures


New York Times

More than a year after Suzette Kelo and several of her neighbors in New London, Conn., lost their battle against eminent domain in the United States Supreme Court, the backlash against the ruling has made property rights one of the most closely watched ballot issues nationwide.

Already, 30 state legislatures have enacted restrictions on eminent domain in response to the court ruling. Now voters here [not including New York] and in 11 other states will consider property rights measures in November, making it the election’s most prevalent ballot issue.

Most of the measures would limit eminent domain to some degree, while others, in Western states, would go further, imposing new restrictions on government’s ability to enforce zoning laws, even if those laws are intended to reduce sprawl and improve safety.

Wondering why New York is not on the list? Click here for one possible answer...

Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Most derided part of the DEIS? The shut-in solution to noise


Atlantic Yards Report

Let's say you live on Dean Street or Carlton Avenue near the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The construction of a ridge of towers nearby would be quite noisy, and so would the future traffic, as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) acknowledges.

The solution: batten down the hatches. And if you don't have double-glazed windows and air conditioning, Forest City Ratner will buy them for you.

The only problem: you have to stay inside.

The failure in that proposed mitigation is obvious not just to opponents and critics of Atlantic Yards, but even to Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project's biggest booster. Perhaps the Final Environmental Impact Statement will propose a better solution.


Posted by amy at 11:20 AM

Sunday Comix


We stumbled across this oldie, earlier this week, while searching for an image of the Chairman.

Check out more of illustrator and political cartoonist Mark Wilson's work at www.empirewire.com.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Welcome to the Atlantic Yards Blog

David's Atlantic Yards Blog

In the month and a half since I covered this beat I have experienced divisive opinions between different groups of people who feel so strongly passionate about this project, pro and con. There are people who feel very strongly about Atlantic Yards changing the character of their neighborhoods, and there are those who see this as an opportunity for more jobs and affordable housing. AY is a David vs. Goliath story between the little guy, the big real estate developer and government. How it all turns out remains to be certain.

As someone who is not from those neighborhoods but has been a longtime Brooklynite, I am totally neutral over this issue. I think that's a good attitude as a reporter because it won't cloud about how I feel. I think both sides make valid arguments but I can definitely step back and look at things with a slightly more objective viewpoint (although absolute objectivity is impossible).


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards blogs are like stores on Smith Street lately - a new one every day. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Posted by amy at 1:45 AM

October 7, 2006

Gargano Says Of Course it's Blighted and More Nonsense!


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Click to watch this extended PBS interview with Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano. The Chairman has many interesting things to say about the Atlantic Yards proposal, blight, eminent domain, financial transparency, environmental impacts, and process.


Posted by amy at 2:58 PM

Planning group says AY "raises serious questions"

Atlantic Yards Report

Calling the Atlantic Yards project "overwhelming," the New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association (NY Metro), which includes more than 1200 planners, offered a highly critical take on the project, if not fully opposing it. The testimony echoed some of the criticisms made by organizations like the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association, through the latter, a group with strong backing from business, was overall far more encouraging about the project.

Testimony submitted by NY Metro president Ethel Sheffer stated:
As planners, we welcome grand visions and ambitious designs to bring higher purpose to underutilized portions of the city and help shape the future of New York. However, this proposal raises serious questions of good planning and design, public process, appropriate scale and density, respect for surrounding neighborhood character, and adequate transportation and infrastructure -- all of which deserve careful study and modification.
(Emphais added)

In the testimony, NY Metro pointed out that the state review process hardly matches that required by the city:
The DEIS comment process is not as rigorous, or as inclusive, or as extensive as a full mandated public review process and the absence of the full process, together with the very short DEIS comment period, is a serious planning and procedural omission.


Download APA New York Metro testimony

Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Nets Superstar Escorts Neighborhood Fan to School

Stephen Witt

“I’ve done a lot of school appearances, but I’ve never seen energy and excitement in kids like this before,” said Carter, who seemed visibly moved by the taste of Brooklyn-style emotion.
The Nets’ mascot, “Fox” whipped everybody into a frenzy, seemingly a preview of the Nets expected move to Brooklyn for the 2009-10 season.

“The Nets are committed to providing unprecedented access for our fans throughout the metropolitan are, and you can’t have much more access than going to school with Vince Carter,” said Nets CEO Brett Yormark in a statement.


Carter should also try tasting the "Brooklyn-style emotion" of the displaced and proposed-to-be displaced residents of the footprint. And it has to be asked, are the children being given "access" to the Nets or are the Nets being given "access" to the children? But we are glad the article explains that the mascot is a "fox" as opposed to what our original guess was.

Posted by amy at 9:51 AM

Will ESDC accept part of CBN's DEIS response that missed deadline?

Atlantic Yards Report

The submission CBN produced on deadline date was hefty, but at 219 pages, actually a little smaller than anticipated.

That's because 45 pages were missing, six chapters: cultural and historic resources, urban design and visual resources, shadows, noise, neighborhood character, and construction impacts.

After the missing chapters were pointed out--I told CBN I had noticed that some chapters shown in draft form were absent from the final submission--the group quickly assembled a supplementary submission on Oct. 2 and delivered it to the ESDC, citing a "production error." (The supplement is now incorporated into the main CBN filing.)
So, will the ESDC accept this? Spokeswoman Jessica Copen told me, "It's under review by our legal counsel."


Posted by amy at 9:47 AM

CB2 Composes 13-Page Wish List For Ratner

Stephen Witt

After describing the project in written testimony, CB 2 lashed the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that FCR signed with eight community-based organizations.

“”For the record, Community Board 2 believes that the parties negotiating and signing the CBA are not representative of the entire community and the negotiations lacked transparency, making the term ‘community’ benefits agreement a misnomer,” wrote CB 2 Chair Shirley McRae in the testimony.
The CB 2 letter did acknowledge that the rail yards part of the project may not be attractive, “but it is incorrect to characterize a functioning, integral part of the regional rail system as blighted.”


Posted by amy at 9:12 AM

October 6, 2006

TONIGHT: New York Voices, "The Battle for Brooklyn"

NewYorkVoices.gifWNET, Thirteen.org

Rafael Pi Roman looks at the bitter fight over the Atlantic Yards plan, including interviews with City Council Member Letitia James, and Empire State Development Chairman Charles Gargano.

Airing Friday night at 10:30 (reairing at 7am on Saturday)

full video and text available next week


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

ESDC's Gargano: "We cannot stop progress" (or share fiscal projections)

Atlantic Yards Report

CharlesGargano01.jpgNorman Oder obtained a copy of the transcript of tonight's episode of New York Voices: a documentary on Atlantic Yards.

A sneak peek at the interview with Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano reveals that:

Ten months later, he remains disturbingly misleading regarding basic questions about the project, confidently declaring that eminent domain will not be used and waving off questions about process and transparency. And if the p.r. process demands it, he can easily reverse himself, telling his interviewer, "We have been working with the developers to lower the size of the project."


Our favorite response from the Chairman concerns eminent domain:

Q: Are you willing to declare eminent domain and push them off the territory?

A: We are not using eminent domain at this point in time. I believe there was one instance where we might have, it wasn't necessary. It was in done in a [friendly] condemnation. We will look at that at the appropriate time. Right now it is not our intention to use eminent domain. It is our intention to work this out with those families and let them know that this new project will be very good for them in terms of what will be available to them on an affordable level rent rate.

Yeah, right... As Norman Oder points out, the Chairman hasn't read his agency's own documents (PDF).

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Brennan asks ESDC for AY financial plans

Atlantic Yards Report

So it's not just journalists who've begun asking the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to reveal more financial details about the Atlantic Yards project.

Yesterday, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who represents Park Slope and adjacent neighborhoods and has previously called for significant reductions in the scale of the project, said his office submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for "the complete financial and business plans" for the project.

"The decision-time is here," Brennan said at a meeting of the Park Slope Civic Council. "Within the next month to six weeks the ESDC will be approving it, with our without modifications." Getting information about finances on the table is important, he said, "so issues related to density, affordability, and subsidy can be discussed."


Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Many problems with Atlantic Yards

GreenAcres.jpg The Brooklyn Papers

The 73-day public comment period for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project ended after we went to press last week — and the Sept. 29 deadline brought about a flurry of reports, analyses and submissions from project opponents and supporters.

Below are summaries of some key points of disagreement between opponents of Atlantic Yards and the Empire State Development Corporation.

For those of you in a big hurry, we've provided excerpts below. However, there's a lot we left behind. We suggest reading the article instead.

The project’s hidden costs

The state analysis of the Atlantic Yards project ignored hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs to taxpayers, including property-tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, tax-exempt financing, publicly financed infrastructure improvements, taxpayer-furnished affordable-housing subsidies and mortgage recording tax exemptions for developer Bruce Ratner, according to an analysis commissioned by a coalition of Brooklyn neighborhood groups.

Even the Beep sees flaws

Last week, Borough President Markowitz, a strong supporter of the project, said he was concerned that the project could displace existing residents of Prospect Heights.

“The draft environmental impact statement analysis of neighborhood income levels uses medians and averages and thus fails to accurately show the distributions on either side of middle,” the project’s biggest booster said.

Bruce’s green acre
But lost in the shuffle was another demand by the City Planning Commission: that Ratner add one acre of open public space to the project, which currently includes seven acres of publicly accessible greenery.

Here’s one possible reason why few New Yorkers noticed the demand for an additional acre: Few New Yorkers know what an acre even is.

Group: City said Coney was best
Just before the close of the public-comment period last week, Jeff Baker — an attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — said the state’s draft environmental impact statement also “audaciously ignored” prior discussion of Coney Island as the city’s “preferred location” for an arena.

“Empire State Development Corporation … consciously mischaracterized the ability to locate the arena there,” Baker said.

Little open space
Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project will result in less, not more, open space per person in a community already underserved by park and recreational land, several community groups said last week.

Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

Follow the Yards money

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

All of Brooklyn owes a debt of gratitude to an umbrella coalition called the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods — not only because the group has put out the most detailed study of the state’s analysis of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, but, in doing so, has shown once again the value of independent experts operating outside of Albany’s closed-door meetings and smoke-filled rooms.
There are, of course, reasons why a reasonable person could support Atlantic Yards, but the CBN report shows that there has yet to be a detailed, accurate analysis of the project’s supposed benefits. A DEIS is supposed to be that analysis, but this one’s flaws make it useless as a jumping-off point for public debate on the project.

We urge everyone to read the CBN report at cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com/CBNDEISResponse9-29-06A.pdf .


Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM


eminentdomainillustration.gifReuters, NY limits eminent domain use for new power lines

Governor George Pataki signed legislation banning the use of eminent domain to seize private property for the proposed New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI) power line project. His reason:

"The use of eminent domain can have a significant impact on communities, and we must ensure that the legal power to take lands for public benefit is used appropriately," Governor Pataki said in a release.

"Through this law, we will establish additional protections for communities across New York State by prohibiting transmission companies from utilizing eminent domain if a proposed project does not meet designated criteria."

The Albany Times Union, Stores resist eminent domain use

SYRACUSE -- A group of stores is asking the state's highest court to hear their challenge to a development agency's use of eminent domain in the proposed expansion of the Carousel Center into a multibillion dollar megamall.

Macy's, Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney and seven other stores on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals in Albany to hear their arguments against the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency's use of eminent domain on behalf of developer Robert Congel to seize some of their lease rights at the mall.

Little Falls Times, Legislature applauds Pataki for signing bill

HERKIMER — The Herkimer County Legislature Wednesday applauded Gov. George Pataki for signing a measure that restricts the use of eminent domain by gas and electric companies to acquire land to build power lines if the line begins and ends within state lines, would increase electric rates anywhere in the state or if a company’s attempt to be designated a national interest electric transmission corridor is rejected.
The governor added that it would be “virtually impossible” for New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. to build its proposed power line without use of the power of eminent domain. “You will no longer have to worry about this power line tearing this community apart,” he said.

NY Daily News, Electric bills have you seeing red? Blame Gov. Pataki

Here's why the controversy over the NYRI transmission line never caught on in the NY metro area:

The next time Con Ed rates go through the roof, you should curse Gov. Pataki's name under your breath. And when another heat wave brings another blackout, mutter his name then, too.

That's because Pataki has just sold out the 8 million electric customers of New York City to boost the campaigns of his upstate GOP pals. When the history of his administration is written, this will go down as one of its low points.

Backtracking on his own energy policy and ignoring the pleas of Mayor Bloomberg, Pataki signed legislation Tuesday aimed at blocking construction of a 1,200 megawatt power line from Utica to the northern suburbs of New York City.

The project was designed to pipe electricity from upstate, where it's relatively cheap and plentiful, to the chronically juice-starved Con Ed service area, where residents and businesses pay the highest rates in the continental U.S. - about twice the national average. On top of cutting costs, the new electric lines would also relieve a major bottleneck in the power grid, reducing the chance of blackouts in the future.

For those benefits, taxpayers wouldn't pay a dime. The sponsor, a company called New York Regional Interconnect, is ready to put up $1.6 billion of its own money.

This is exactly the kind of private-sector investment experts had hoped for when Pataki deregulated the electric industry in the mid-1990s.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Man, Yards backers in bldg. cam kerfuffle

NY Daily News
By Jose Martinez

A Prospect Heights homeowner who is holding out against the Atlantic Yards development has filed a lawsuit accusing the bosses of the $4.2 billion mega-project of spying on him.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Lars Williams contends that Forest City Ratner employed "thug-like tactics" to force him to sell his father's home on Sixth Ave.

The lawsuit claims that when the Williams family refused to sell, the developer of the proposed Nets basketball arena allegedly set up a video camera near their home to monitor the "comings and goings and private activities" of Williams and his sister.


NoLandGrab: Call us sticklers, but isn't having someone arrested a little more than a "kerfuffle?" The article doesn't mention that the lawsuit states that the camera was installed on Williams's property.

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

Clarifying last week’s Atlantic Yards coverage

Brooklyn Papers

When we posted a link to last week's Brooklyn Papers article about the testimony submitted by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, we stated that the paper "missed the mark."

This week, the weekly neighborhood paper explains:

We went to press Thursday afternoon with a story that conveyed the experts’ concerns about the DEIS, but mostly reflected our mistaken impression that the CBN would let its experts’ analysis suffice and that the group would not comment on the larger question of whether Atlantic Yards should be approved or rejected.

But on Friday morning, well after we could amend our printed story, the CBN did issue a strong denunciation of the DEIS, one that called for Atlantic Yards to be halted unless the document was abandoned and re-written.

Brooklyn Papers also corrected the record regarding Doug Hamilton's Pacific Plan, indicating it would require at least one eminent domain condemnation.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Hot Brooklyn primaries yield mixed results

People's Weekly World
By Daniel Rubin

A major battle over economic and political direction was fought in last month’s Democratic primaries in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nearly 2 million people live in central and downtown Brooklyn. Seventy percent are African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Latinos, Asians and Arabs, overwhelmingly working-class and many poverty-stricken. Looming large in the primaries were these questions: Will Wall Street, the big developers, Gov. Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and city planners push the poorest, including both nationally oppressed and whites, out of this area to the city’s outskirts and beyond, through huge multi-use developments, like the Atlantic Yards project, that drive up rents and property taxes? Will they replace small manufacturing, retail and commercial uses with luxury-oriented development and big box retailers? Will such “urban removal” cause a political shift rightward, replacing progressive African Americans and their allies with representatives of the growing upper middle income and wealthy, predominantly white, population? Or will an economic development policy be put in place that fosters demographics and politics that strengthen democratic and progressive trends?


Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

October 5, 2006

Williams v. Ratner

Let's start by saying that Bruce Ratner is one bad-assed... [well you know what we mean].

Earlier this year, when some joker sent a bogus email to Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy "from Bruce Ratner", Ratner tried to haul the prankster's ass in court, claiming identity theft.

This week, when footprint homeowner Lars Williams removed one of Ratner's surveillance cameras from Williams's own property, Ratner had him thrown in jail.

You're thinking, "What do you expect from Communist China?"

We're thinking, "Thank God Ratner hasn't been put in charge of the Secret Police." We're also wondering if he pissed off the wrong guy.

Three days after being unceremoniously arrested, Lars Williams has filed suit against Bruce Ratner, James P. Stuckey and Ratner employee Michael Machuch.

From Williams v. Ratner:

The defendants invaded the plaintiff's privacy by causing a camera to be placed at 38 Sixth Avenue, to monitor plaintiff's comings and goings, and otherwise intrude upon his personal life and activities.

When Lars Williams sought to remove the camera, the defendants caused a false sworn statement to be filed and to have plaintiff falsely arrested.

The word on the street is that Ratner has surveillance cameras all over the footprint, allegedly to keep the neighborhood he has systematically emptied from becoming a blue-light special for looters.

Ratner's employee Michael Machuch swore out a statement that the camera Lars Williams removed was located on Ratner's building. Williams claims it was on his own building. Word on the street says that Ratner has an easement on Williams's property. Does an easement give someone the right to install surveillance equipment?

Williams is seeking compensation for legal fees and punitive damages.

Wherever this case ends, one thing is for sure, constitutional-rights crusader Michael Ratner's big brother (Bruce!) is watching...

Posted by lumi at 10:54 PM

Ratner Will Bring Us Closer Together

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Our claim from July that Atlantic Yards would be the densest census tract in the country seems to be sowing some confusion, which is just as well, because we never really said that.

What we said was that Atlantic Yards would be twice as dense as the densest census tract in the country, but nothing about it being its own census tract.
Because all of this confusion made us curious, we went ahead and calculated what effect the new population would have on the densities of those four census tracts. No, none of those tracts will become the densest in the nation, but one of them, 129.02, which will host the basketball arena and three skyscrapers, would apparently leap into the ranks of the 100 densest tracts.

Schuerman crunches some numbers and figures out that three of the four census tracts would double or triple in population.


Posted by lumi at 10:45 PM

CB 2, 6, 8, The DEIS They Don't Appreciate

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Nobody asked them, but the three community boards covering the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint don't have much nice to say about what would be the largest project in Brooklyn's history. Community Board 6 voted in mid-September that it could not support the project in its current form. While CBs 2 and 8 did not take an official stand, the testimony they filed September 29 to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) expressed strong objections to or concern about the plan.

Community Board 2, which would include some two-thirds of the proposed Atlantic Yards site, recommended that the density of the project should be halved, to be "no greater than Battery Park City at full build-out, which is 152 apartments per acre." (Last week, the City Planning Commission proposed an eight percent cut and developer Forest City Ratner quickly agreed, but that would take the project back to its starting point, in terms of square footage.)

CB 8, which has some members who strongly support Atlantic Yards, did not express any official consensus. CB 8 did submit a summary of the testimony at an August 3 public hearing that attracted several project supporters, but otherwise the submissions for committee chairs and others focused on criticisms of the project. CB 8 didn't address eminent domain, but CB 2 did, recommending against any use of that state power. Given that several property owners won't sell to developer Forest City Ratner, eminent domain seems inevitable - which means CB 2's stand is tantamount to opposition.


Posted by lumi at 10:37 PM

At Deadline, a Pile-Up of Atlantic Yards Criticism

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

After three public meetings concerning Atlantic Yards that featured many supporters touting jobs and housing, a tsunami of criticism finally arrived on September 29, the deadline day for responses to the project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Critics and opponents turned the offices of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in midtown Manhattan into a version of the post office at tax time, rushing to submit documents and discs. Probably the largest submission, more than 200 pages, came from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), which includes some 35 community groups active in the area around the proposed project. Declared co-chair Therese Urban in a statement, "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."


Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM

Lawyer to ESDC: don't condemn buildings with rent-stabilized tenants

Atlantic Yards Report

Attorney George Locker, who represents four rent-stabilized residential tenants at 624 Pacific Street and ten rent-stabilized residential tenants at 473 Dean Street--both buildings now owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner--has protested plans by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to use eminent domain to take over those buildings.

Locker's argument: the rent-stabilization laws should not be trumped by the ESDC, and thus the process should be significantly delayed.
Locker repeated some of the concerns he'd expressed about "friendly condemnations," the ESDC's plans to use eminent domain for all of the property in the project. The state agency says it's to clear title; Locker says it's to clear tenants.


Click here to read Locker's testimony (PDF).

Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

Financialized Corporate Era (FCE) part 1

Picketing Henry Ford

Atlantic Yards critics frequently warn that the project's ten-year horizon will inevitably slip or stall. For Forest City Enterprises, that's part of the business plan:

The corporation markets itself to investors by focusing on long-term value. FCE’s website describes its strategy: “Our goal is to build long-term asset value by maximizing the spread between the return on our total capital employed (including debt and equity) and the cost of such capital.” As a corporate strategy, this one seems fairly innocuous. By examining the history of its New York City affiliate, Forest City Ratner (FCR), however, the local implications of the strategy become clearer.

Blogger Stuart Schrader considers questions about, and implications of, this strategy in the first of a two-part article about "financialization":

FCR has been able to sell the Atlantic Yards project to many nearby residents by promulgating the appearance of responsible local stewardship. On the contrary, however, this enormous long-term construction project will toss the edge of my neighborhood, Prospect Heights, into the swirling matrix of global capital flows.


Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Taking Private Land

The Wonkster, political blog of the Gotham Gazette, receives extra credit for "getting it":

What does an upstate power line project have to do with Atlantic Yards? They both involve eminent domain and raise the question of when it is justifiable to take private land for a purportedly greater purpose.

Yesterday, Governor George Pataki signed a bill that limits the use of eminent domain by electric and gas companies. The measure is aimed at something called the New York Regional Interconnect, a proposed 200-mile power line going from Utica to the lower Hudson Valley.

Reporting from the Rome area, News 10 hailed the signing as “a big win for the Mohawk Valley community who rallied against plans” for the power line project. Calling eminent domain a “medieval practice,” The Binghamton blog Bingoblab said now developers of the line "will have to actually negotiate (as opposed to ‘take’) with the land owners for the right of way they need to acquire."

The Wonkster quotes The NY Sun and NoLandGrab for making the point that Pataki supports a bill blocking eminent domain for an infrastructure project, while he continues to support private property seizures for Atlantic Yards.

We detected presidential campaign-politics at work, but Wonkster cites Capitol Confidential who suggests a reason more close to home.


Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

Magic Lady revealed?

Roberta Flack's appearance at Forest City Ratner's August 23rd press conference in support of the Atlantic Yards project proposal stands out as one of the great non-sequitur moments of the developer's push to promote Atlantic Yards.

Flack, who in the past has requested that she be addressed as "The Magic Lady," made a statement looking forward to performing in the 19,000-seat arena and then quoted Martha Stewart for a gallery of reporters and crowds of affordable housing and employment advocates.

Project critics were left wondering who invited the C-list entertainer, when was the last time she played a venue that big, and why was she quoting Martha Stewart?

How did she get the gig to shill for Bruce Ratner's project? Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report offers a clue:

Well, here's a suggestion: Flack is represented by L. Londell McMillan, a Brooklyn-born entertainment attorney who owns a piece of the Nets. (He travels in some of the same circles as hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, another Nets owner).

In the same post, Oder also mentions:

Also, successful 11th Congressional District candidate Yvette Clarke got a boost from McMillan, who helped organize some high-profile women to back Clarke and raise funds for her. And we know that Michael Ratner supported Clarke too.


Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

A Shocking ‘Reform’

The NY Sun Editorial

NoLandGrabbers weren't the only ones who thought that Governor Pataki's support for the anti-eminent-domain-for-a major-infrastructure-project bill was pretty fishy, especially since the governor/presidential candidate still supports taking homes for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena.

The need for eminent domain reform grows more urgent with each day the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London stands, but Governor Pataki’s latest gambit on the issue is the wrong reform at the wrong time. Mr.Pataki has signed a bill that limits use of eminent domain for one of the few purposes that property rights advocates recognize as an acceptable exercise of the power.

The bill sets stringent conditions on the use of eminent domain for the construction of electric transmission lines. The founders crafted the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause by candlelight, but they had public works projects like roads and other rights of way in mind. Even in a more restrictive era, sewers, water mains, sidewalks, and electric lines counted as legitimate “public uses.” Thus,while preserving the state’s right to seize land for, say, a new office tower for the New York Times or housing for a Ratner project, the governor’s bill tries to forestall one of the few exercises of eminent domain that’s in keeping with the founders’ intent.
Eminent domain abuse is ripe for reform, in New York more than in many places. Such reform needs to define abuses of eminent domain as uses of the power that were not intended by the men who founded America. It is hard to imagine that a power transmission line, whether or not it ultimately gains regulatory approval, is not the kind of public work the founders had in mind.Mr.Pataki’s “cure” for eminent domain abuse is turning out to be just as bad as the disease.


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

Footprint Artist/Blogger

FootprintArt-Greer.jpg The www.brooklynfootprints.com bio for Amy Greer, one of the 32 artists on exhibit at the Footprints exhibit, has casually left off a biggie.

Amy Greer (aka "Amy") is none other than "our Amy," the NoLandGrab weekend contributor who is frequently referred to as "the funny one."

Here's a little more info about Amy.

Amy likes:
White wine
Recovering Republicans

Amy dislikes (grrrrr):
Mad Overdevelopers
Esoteric Op-Art
Politicians who use the word, "thingie."

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

A Full Response to Errol Louis's full article

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition

Dreadnaught is still mixing it up with Errol Louis over the columnist's latest Our Time Press piece. Dreadnaught seems repentant but still has things he needs to get off of his chest.


NoLandGrab: Our suggestion to Dreadnaught, "don't bother, it's just reality.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Footprint Art

FootprintArt-Massman.jpgThe Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards: The Art Show (AKA "Footprints")

The controversy swirling around the Atlantic Yards proposal, and the dramatic impact that it would have on the surrounding community and its residents has spawned an art show called "Footprints: Portraits: of a Brooklyn Neighborhood." The new group show includes paintings, photos, drawings, videos, and collages and features some of those living in buildings and on streets that would cease to exist if the development goes foward. It opens on Saturday, October 7 at Grand Space, which is at 778 Bergen Street in Prospect Heights. The show runs through Nov. 3, with an opening reception on Thursday, October 12.

Among the standouts in the show are bold portrait of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein, a portrait of a Pacific Street resident, some pretty cool photography and more.

FootprintArt-Sagarin.jpgCourier-Life, Living In the Footprint: Under the Heel Or Stepping Forward? - 32 Artists Look At the Atlantic Yards Project

Belle Benfield and Daniel Sagarin, co-curators of the exhibit, put out a call to independent local artists last February to fan out across Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and the surrounding communities in an effort to discover and document how the advent of more than 16 skyscrapers and an 18,000-seat basketball arena could impact real people living in real communities.

Courier-Life Publications, Musing On Atlantic Yds

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 ‘neighborhood’ 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.

Exhibition hours are Wednesday through Friday, 5-8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 347-255-5435 or 917-301-7972 or go to their website www.brooklynfootprints.com.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Topping 2006 ballots: eminent domain

In November, 12 states have initiatives on the ballot that seek to protect private property against seizure and regulation.

The Christian Science Monitor
By Ben Arnoldy

A backlash among voters this November against an unpopular Supreme Court decision on eminent domain could dramatically curtail the ability of officials to manage growth and development in parts of the western United States.

Libertarian activists, tapping into voter anger as well as outside money, have helped propel property rights referendums onto 12 state ballots - making it the single biggest ballot issue this November.

Most of the measures aim to overrule a 2005 US Supreme Court decision that homes can be seized and handed over to private developers. But in some Western states, the eminent domain issue is coupled with other far reaching provisions that would force governments to pay landowners when regulations harm property values.


NoLandGrab: Much has been made about how the issue of eminent domain abuse brings together groups across the political spectrum. This is true to an extent, as many liberals are realizing that eminent domain disproportionately affects lower-income and politically disenfranchised neighborhoods.

This article describes a scenario in which liberals have continued to seek an expanded definition of "public use," while conservatives are seeking greater compensation for the property owners who are shouldering the burden of the "public good."

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

Press Release: Over 100 New Jobs Created in Brooklyn as Forest City Ratner Companies Signs California-Based Hyrian at Metrotech


Brooklyn, NY (PRWEB) October 5, 2006 -- Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) has announced that Los Angeles-based Hyrian, the premier recruitment process outsourcing provider in the country, signed a lease for 15,400 square feet to occupy half of the 20th floor at One MetroTech Center. Hyrian’s move will create over 100 new permanent jobs in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Brooklyn Is Burning

New York Magazine, Letter to the Editor

Mark Jacobson’s “Brooklyn Is Burning” [September 25] is off the mark when it implies that the recent rash of arson in Brooklyn may be somehow caused by speculation surrounding Forest City Ratner Companies’ Atlantic Yards project. Jacobson belittles Forest City’s generosity toward Kassoum Fofana, whose family was left homeless by one such fire. My organization, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (build), assisted Fofana in putting his life back together after that tragic fire and asked Forest City if it might help out. It delivered Fofana’s family a refurbished apartment on the Atlantic Yards site—rent-free—and offered them the opportunity to relocate to a new unit at Atlantic Yards when it is built.

—James E. Caldwell, President of BUILD, Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: Efforts to assist the Fofana family mark one time that DDDB and BUILD found themselves on the same side. NLG'ers attended a fundraiser for the family organized by local activists Bill Batson and Raul Rothblatt. The tables were filled with Develop Don't Destroy volunteers and BUILD supporters.

Forest City Ratner's generous assistance of the Fofana family poses a question about the company's sincerity concerning blight findings in the neighborhood. Why would they move a family into a "blighted" neighborhood with high crime rates?

Possible answer: The neighborhood isn't really blighted and the high crime rates are a result of the factoring in of crime from another part of the precinct.

We were wondering the same when Rev. Daughtry sought to house Hurricane Katrina refugees in some of the buildings bought and emptied by Forest City Ratner. That effort was announced, but never happened.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

October 4, 2006

Jane Jacobs Today

A Panel Discussion co-sponsored by:
The American Planning Association's New York Metro Chapter
The Canadian Consulate General in New York
NYU Wagner

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street at East Houston Street Second Floor

For more info and directions click here.
RSVP http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/janejacobs.php.

NoLandGrab: WWJD? After the passing of Jane Jacobs, many have pondered what she would make of Mayor Bloomberg's development bonanza, the lack of public process for Atlantic Yards and the wisdom of creating a mini high-rise city between two historic brownstone neighborhoods.

Posted by lumi at 9:01 PM

Pataki Signs Bill Limiting the Use of Eminent Domain to Build High-Voltage Power Lines

Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law yesterday a bill that would substantially impede a project to build a $1.6 billion transmission line that promised to bring cheap electricity into New York City but raise prices upstate.

The new law restricts the use of eminent domain to build certain high-voltage electricity transmission lines, particularly the 190-mile-long proposed line that would run from Utica in upstate New York to the Hudson Valley, and from there into New York City and Long Island.
The new law represents an ideological departure for Mr. Pataki, who has supported energy deregulation and advocated business development throughout his tenure.

“Through this law, we will establish additional protections for communities across New York State,” Mr. Pataki said in a statement released by his office. “These new restrictions help to clarify the rights of a community and its residents and will uphold their interests with regard to certain projects involving eminent domain.”


NoLandGrab: It remains to be seen if editorial boards appreciate the irony that Governor Pataki signed legislation banning the use of eminent domain to build power lines, but still supports its use for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena.

The article frames the issue as a clash between upstate and downstate interests. Property rights advocates note that since the bill can be overturned any number of ways, it is mainly political posturing.

The "ideological departure," as the Times calls it, could have as much to do with Pataki's presidential ambitions as upstate-downstate politics. The first Governor of NY to promote an ethanol policy has given himself a leg-up on the issue of eminent domain, an important conservative position.

Also, is it just us, or is anyone else noticing that Pataki has recently started picking up a Mid-Western twang?

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

Atlantic Yards "Affordable Housing" Report

Atlantic Yards Report examines the Forest City Ratner "Affordable Housing" brochure mailed out last week, and the latest news on NY City's 421-a tax break for new housing constrution.

LiarFlyer05a.jpgAY flier touts 137.5 affordable units a year (and 15-story buildings)

First, let's note that Forest City Ratner finally did show the public some towers, unlike in the brochure distributed in May. However, the towers here only go about 15 stories tall. However, only one of the 16 buildings planned would be under 200 feet, at 184 feet.

Second, the flier requires footnotes. The statement that "50% of the rental units will be set aside for middle- and low-income families" papers over the actual affordability of the units.

Actually, only 900 (40%) of 2250 affordable rentals would go to families with an annual household income of $35,450 or lower. And 900 of the affordable rentals would rent for more than $2000 a month.

Looming: 421-a reform and thousands of affordable units

reform of the 421-a program is looming. Yesterday elected officials and advocates held a press conference arguing that 421-a subsidizes gentrification.

The New York Observer quoted East Harlem council member Melissa Mark Viverito: "We are taking tax dollars from working families in East Harlem and using that money to subsidize the construction of luxury condominiums across the street from them selling for over $1 million. Essentially, we are asking people from El Barrio to pay to price themselves out of their own community."

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM


Press Release

VinceCarter-at-School.jpgForest City Ratner wants you to know that:

Brooklyn 5th-grade student Alexander Garcia took Nets star Vince Carter to school today.

Ten-year old Alexander, who lives in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, was picked up at his apartment by Carter at 8 a.m. and driven in a limousine to P.S. 282 in Park Slope.

Alexander received this memorable experience thanks to his mother, Evelyn Rivera, who entered Alexander in the second annual "Take-a-Net to School" contest, sponsored by Zebra Pen.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Alexander said. “I’m a Nets fan.”

Alexander added that taking Vince to school would make him very popular with his schoolmates.


NoLandGrab: At the risk of sounding catty, we noticed that the Nets mascot is looking a little ratty (see, tall gray rug next to Carter).

Also, Brooklyn Daily Eagle (subscription required), Visit by NBA All-Star Vince Carter Sparks Nets Fever at Slope School

PARK SLOPE — P.S. 282 fifth-grader Alexander Garcia brought a special friend to school Friday morning, and the result was over-the-top Nets fever.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Partnership Working To Revitalize Downtown Brooklyn

By David Lombino

To set the stage, Mr. Chan promises a host of new initiatives to make transform the area into a more vibrant 24/7 environment, one of the signature goals of the Bloomberg administration’s economic development strategy. That includes a creating a pedestrian friendly Flatbush Avenue, hiring a landscape architecture firm to create open space around the BAM cultural district, attracting a mixed-income housing project east of Flatbush Avenue, and connecting downtown to the low-rise brownstone neighborhoods to the south.

Deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff said that downtown Brooklyn will compete for tenants with Jersey City. To spur the area’s development, he said the city will direct nearly $500 million in public funds towards parks, open space, infrastructure improvements and to pave the way for the nearby Atlantic Yards project and an accompanying basketball arena.

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff helps keep a Downtown Brooklyn myth alive:

“We lost 50,000 to 60,000 jobs to New Jersey in the nineties because we didn’t have the space,” Mr. Doctoroff told the Sun.“Downtown Brooklyn is changing dramatically over the next five to ten years. What we have to sell will be very different than what we have had to sell before. We will have the ability to attract a totally different kind of corporate tenant.”


NoLandGrab: If there was such a lack of office space in NYC that corporations left for New Jersey, then why did the City of New York have to bail out Bruce Ratner's Metrotech by becoming the project's biggest tenant?

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

"Blighted" California

Castle Watch

The reason given by the City of Santa Rosa for seizing property from thriving businesses will sound familiar to those who are following the Atlantic Yards controversy (emphasis added):

Just 50 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Rosa, Calif., a big city with a small-town feel, has sat quietly for generations, as family businesses have grown and people have found homes to call their own. The mostly industrial area of Santa Rosa Avenue has been a haven for business owners, who own everything from car repair shops to painting businesses.

“There is no good reason to make tax-paying people move off their properties,” said Casey Cambra, an activist who wants to stop the City Council and the Gateways Project in its tracks. He added, “They can’t just kick people out.”

But that haven may soon be lost—despite the opposition of the property owners—to the all-encompassing “Gateways Redevelopment Project.” With that project the City of Santa Rosa plans to displace thriving local businesses in order to turn the land over to private developers, who want to build a shopping mall and a parking garage.[1] Worse, the City justifies this scheme using an increasingly common excuse: using the façade of creating “low income housing,” when the real goal is luxury development and higher tax revenue.


Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

LeBron.jpgGreiner's Grumblings, Your weekly Atlantic Yards update

Could the Atlantic Yards become the house that LeBron built? ...
LeBron’s new contract with the Cavaliers ends in 2010, roughly the same time that the stadium will be complete.

These dots might never connect, but what are the chances that LeBron will become the first marquee name on the “Brooklyn Nets’” roster? Food for thought at least, especially in an age when sports executives whine that they need new venues with outrageous luxury boxes in order to draw top-notch talent.

The Built Environment, brownstone brooklyn

Looking ahead, it's tough to imagine that Brownstone Brooklyn will remain unchanged as it heads deeper into the 21st Century. While the skyrocketing prices of brownstones in neighborhoods like Prospect Heights and South Park Slope should discourage the demolition of existing buildings (landmarking or contextual zoning laws protect buildings in some areas as well,) there are very few new rowhouses (of any material) being built. It is particularly unlikely that areas with lots of development potential -- Gowanus and the areas around Atlantic Yards, for example -- will be developed as low-rise housing given the market conditions.

Brownstones.jpgDespite my love of brownstones, I don't think the introduction of new forms to Brooklyn is necessarily a bad thing. The brownstone emerged as a dominant style because of economic forces in the 1880s and 1890s, not because everyone thought it would be cool to build matching row houses. Working within the existing context, developers can produce structures that fit into Brooklyn's contemporary economy with a modern design vernacular. This means the area may change somewhat in appearance, but the underlying middle-class character can survive. The dangers lie at the extremes: preventing new development will cause prices to rise, turning Brownstone Brooklyn into an enclave for the wealthy; developments that ignore the existing context can interfere with the streetscape and diminish what made the area so wonderful in the first place.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Target Coming To E. Harlem But Wages Lag

Resident Publications
By Mike McPhate

Forest City Ratner cast aside plans to include Costco in its East River Plaza project in favor of Target, an anchor store in the developer's Atlantic Terminal and Queens Place malls. What are the implications for local wages?

Many of those jobs became less enticing though, when it was announced last month that a Target store would take the place of Costco, long slated to co-anchor the complex with a Home Depot. While labor experts call Costco one of the country’s most generous employers, starting employees at $10 per hour, Target pays as little as $6.25 per hour in some parts of the country, according to workers.

TargetWatch.gif“[Target] screws workers over,” said Bernie Hesse, a union leader who has tried to organize the store’s employees in St. Paul, MN. “We hear all the time about the low pay, the abuse, and poor management people.”

Target, which keeps details of its wages and benefits tightly guarded, did not return several calls seeking comment.

The plaza’s developer, Forest City Ratner, which is co-developing the site with Blumenfeld Development Group, said Target’s record of local hiring played a role in the decision to favor the store. “Target and Forest City have worked together at [Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and at Queens Place in Queens] to make local hiring a priority,” said executive Bruce Bender in a statement.

A spokesperson declined to discuss whether the developer addressed Target’s labor practices when evaluating its bid.

“Big box” store opponents—who decry poor wages, the evisceration of small business, and so-called “sweat shop” labor—have trained their energies in recent years mostly on Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer. But Target’s employment practices are very similar, said Patty Edwards, a retail analyst with the Seattle-based consulting firm Wentworth, Hauser & Violich.


For more info on Target's corporate practices check out http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13508.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM


The NY Post
By Tom Topousis

Fueled largely by a housing boom, construction across the city is hitting a record level this year, with $20.8 billion worth of new apartment buildings, office towers and public projects under way, a new study has found.
"Given that World Trade Center construction activity won't begin to peak until 2009 and that major development projects such as Atlantic Yards are slated to commence in that time frame as well, it is quite possible that the building boom could continue well into the next decade," said Building Congress President Richard Anderson.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

October 3, 2006


PrincessWells.jpgInstitute for Justice, Press Release: Institute for Justice Will Represent Riviera Beach Homeowners In Fight Against Eminent Domain Abuse

Just as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned in her dissent in the Kelo eminent domain case last year, lower-income and minority property owners are being forced off of their land by the government to make way for the rich and politically powerful. In Riviera Beach, Fla., the City is working to take the homes and small businesses of working-class families, who live near the waterfront, to make way for a yacht marina, luxury condominiums, upscale retail stores and hotels for the wealthy.

PatakiED.jpgNews 10 Now, Pataki signs new law limiting eminent domain

A big win for the Mohawk Valley community who rallied against plans for a power line project stretching from the Utica area to the lower Hudson Valley.

Governor Pataki joined state legislators and local leaders at the SUNY-IT Campus in Marcy to sign legislation that limits the use of eminent domain by electric and gas corporations.

The law adds new restrictions for companies looking to take over people's land to use for electric and gas line projects, like the one proposed by New York Regional Interconnect.

BruceTseTung.jpgCapitalism Magazine, Socialism for the Rich

Although socialism has long claimed to be for the poor, it has probably done more damage, on net balance, to the poor than to the rich. After all, the rich have enough money to leave the country if they think the socialists are going to do them any serious harm.
The rich have learned to adapt socialist policies to their own benefit. For example, the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, is planning to demolish a working class neighborhood under its power of eminent domain, in order to prepare the way for a marina for yachts, luxury condominiums and an upscale shopping district.
Meanwhile the rich get rid of lower-income folks without having to pay them the value of their homes and businesses that will be demolished. As in so many other cases, eminent domain is socialism for the rich.

TwinsBallpark.jpgCity Pages, Stealing Home
The Twins ballpark deal hits a snag on one minor detail: Property acquisition

The Minnesota Twins have not yet appointed an architect to complete the design work on the new stadium that is scheduled to open in time for the team's 2010 season.
But there is at least one element of this tangled stadium situation that is moving smartly apace. On September 19, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve a resolution authorizing the county to seize all relevant property rights and interests around the ballpark site through eminent domain if necessary.

Posted by lumi at 8:39 PM

Artists Respond to Atlantic Yards Battle With Exhibit

DanGoldstein-Portrait-sm.jpgThe NY Sun
By Annie Karni

Developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards redevelopment proposal is no longer just a hot political issue: It has become a matter of art.

With paintings, photos, drawings, videos, and collages, a new group show, “Footprints: Portraits of a Brooklyn Neighborhood,” spotlights individuals who live in condemned buildings on Dean Street, as well as the streets of Prospect Heights that are threatened by the redevelopment plan. The exhibit, subsidized by a small grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council, opens October 12 at Grand Space in Prospect Heights.

“Footprints” gives the 32 participating artists free license to illustrate the transformation of a neighborhood. Artist Donald O’Finn, the proprietor of Freddy’s Backroom & Bar — the central gathering place for anti-Ratner activism — uses mixed media to portray the proposed Brooklyn Nets stadium as a behemoth toilet planted in the middle of a neighborhood for sale.

Artist Sarah Sagarin used paint to portray the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Daniel Goldstein, as stone-faced against a bloodred background.“I think she was trying to show that I’m just another human being — a guy who lives in the way of the arena,” Mr. Goldstein said.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

A Final Wal-Mart Solution: Nix Public Input

The Real Estate Observer
By Chris Shott

As community opposition continues to keep Wal-Mart out of the Big Apple, local retail broker extraordinaire Robert K. Futterman has come up with a brilliant solution to the big-box debacle: Kick the naysayers out of the approval process.

"If they keep going in front of [the City Planning Commission] and community boards, they're gonna have a problem," Futterman said in an interview with The Real Deal, available via podcast. "The ideal situation would be a location, whether it be New York or any of the other boroughs, where they can go in and operate without having to go get, you know, any approvals outside of the zoning."


NoLandGrab: Hmm... someplace where Wal-Mart "can go in and operate without having to go get any approvals outside of the zoning."

We suggest that Wal-Mart ask Bruce Ratner how he got NY State to take over the Atlantic Yards project, thus eliminating the naysayers, zoning hurdles, local review or regulations.

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

CB 2 calls for halving of AY density, no eminent domain or street closings, host of changes

Atlantic Yards Report

CB22ESDC.gifCommunity Board 2, which would include some two-thirds of the proposed Atlantic Yards site, has not officially opposed the project, but issued a harsh series of recommendations that would change it drastically—and perhaps block it. (Of the other two boards covering the footprint, CB 6 disapproved of the project and CB 8 did not take an official stand but submitted a sheaf of criticisms and concerns.)

In a letter submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation on Sept. 29, the deadline date for comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and General Project Plan (GPP), CB 2 issued several recommendations, among them that the residential density “should be no greater than Battery Park City at full build-out, which is 152 apartments per acre.” The project as proposed in the DEIS would be about twice as dense, though an eight percent reduction—proposed by the City Planning Commission last week and agreed to by developer Forest City Ratner—would shave it slightly.

While the planning commission agreed that flagship tower Miss Brooklyn could stand at 620 feet, CB 2 recommended that no building in the site should be higher than 400 feet.


Download letter (PDF)

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Pataki to sign bill stripping NYRI of eminent domain

The Times Herald-Record

Gov. George Pataki is expected tomorrow to sign legislation that would throw up a major obstacle to a huge power transmission line proposed from central New York to Orange County, according to sources.

The bill, authored by Sen. John Bonacic and passed by both houses of the Legislature, blocks New York Regional Interconnect from using state laws to take land by eminent domain to build its 190-mile line.


NoLandGrab: The use of eminent domain for the transmission line project is unpopular upstate and is largely seen as a land grab by powerful corporate interests. Downstate residents have generally viewed the project as a necessary public use, as the power-hungry Metro area faces a future with more brownouts during high-consumption days.

Whatever your position on the transmission lines, it is curious that the Governor supports land grabs for a privately owned arena, but is perfectly willing to nix the use of eminent domain for an infrastructure project.

Is the governor suddenly trying to assume the populist position against eminent domain as he gears up for his presidential bid?

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

The "Ratner Effect" Starts to Take Hold of the Market.

Domino-Brownstoner.jpgDon't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition

Dreadnaught notes the similarity between the Domino Sugar factory redevelopment controversy and Atlantic Yards.


Both developers are counted amongst Brooklyn's bad boy businessmen and now Isaac Katan is taking a page from the Bruce Ratner PR playbook (from The NY Times, via Brownstoner:

“We certainly support preservation,” said a Katan spokesman. But he added, “Our priority is affordable housing, and we want to achieve a balanced plan.”

NoLandGrab: This is nutty — big-time Brooklyn developers are about as concerned with affordable housing as George Bush is with democracy. Affordable housing is the political cover du jour in response to any criticisms.

Most people agree affordable housing is sorely needed, but is it a panacea for bad planning and negative environmental effects? In Williamsburg, "affordable housing" was included in the rezoning as a tradeoff for developers seeking to build to maximum FAR.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

October 2, 2006

Fitzsimons & Forest City Make it Official!

Colorado Life Science Deal Flow My Rants

Forest City Enterprises and the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority have signed an agreement for the development of a 3.5-million-sf bioscience park on 160 acres immediately adjacent to the University of Colorado’s new Health Sciences Center, which covers some 230 acres.


NoLandGrab: Forest City has become the premier developer of biotech parks. Too bad the company's progressive accomplishments are sullied by an old fashioned land grab like Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:46 PM

Forest City and Westfield Announce Grand Opening of San Francisco Centre


Forest City at work on the Left Coast:

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “With the transformation of the Emporium and connecting it to the existing San Francisco Centre, we are making retailing history in downtown San Francisco. At a time when most new retail centers are open-air lifestyle centers in the suburbs, this is a one-of-a-kind project in the heart of one of America’s great cities. Over time, San Francisco Centre will become known as one of the world’s premier shopping and entertainment destinations.”

Posted by lumi at 8:41 PM

EDC hosting Spanish contingent of developers

Crain's NY Business

Recruited by the city Economic Development Corp., 25 construction and finance companies from Spain will travel to New York City next week to explore the possibility of doing major projects here. All but two have never done business in the city, EDC officials say.
Oct. 10 and 11, the Spanish contingent will tour development sites including the Silvercup Studios project in Long Island City and Atlantic Yards and the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural center in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: With any luck, the Spaniards might run into the Hagan sisters of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, who have been reminding folks that "Su casa es Bruce casa."

Posted by lumi at 8:27 PM

Densest "census tract" in the nation?

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey has publicly addressed the extreme density of the project by complaining that critics are incorrectly stating that Atlantic Yards would become the densest census tract in the nation.

censustracts.gifStuckey is technically correct, since the project falls in the boundaries of four census tracts, therefore critics would be more correct to say that if built to its current proposed scale, Atlantic Yards would be denser than any census tract in the nation.

We've been browsing comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and have come across this mistake more than once. This has prompted us to go back to the sources which initially made the claim about extreme density of the Atlantic Yards project.

In July, 2006 NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman wrote:

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

The article uses analysis of census tract data in comparison to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

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

Sounds positively suburban next to the density envisioned by Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn : between 436,363 and 523,636 inhabitants per square mile (based on estimated population of between 15,000 and 18,000 residents over 22 acres). That is the density for the whole footprint, including the open space, the arena, and the office towers.

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman phrases the comparison similarly:

If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States...

The Atlantic Yards footprint is so big that it falls into four different census tracts, much in the same way that it crosses the boundaries of three different Community Boards. However, the footprint is not in fact its own census tract.

So we have to admit, Stuckey has a point. It's a point that he will likely hold dear because any calculation of density based on existing census tracts will disperse the effect across the four different census tracts containing the project.

This leads us to the original point, Bruce Ratner's proposal is denser than any census tract in the nation.

For more information on census tracts, check out www.census.gov.

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

Gowanus Crapgate Update: Riverkeeper Weighs In

crapgate-GL.jpgGowanus Lounge

Riverkeeper, the environmental group that keeps an eye on water-quality issues in New York State (and that is a prime mover in lawsuits to force action on the Greenpoint Oil Spill), filed a stinging critique as well that says Atlantic Yards will, in fact, have a serious impact on the Gowanus and on the East River, and by extension on New York Harbor and various ecosystems.

"If built as proposed and evalutated in the DEIS, Atlantic Yards will increase both the volume and frequency" of untreated sewage discharges into both the Gowanus and East River, Riverkeeper's comment on the DEIS says. The group compliments Forest City Ratner for proposing the use of holding tanks and water-free urinals, but says the project will still have a very significant impact on local water quality when rainfall overwhelms treatment capacity.

The group also accuses the Empire State Development Corporation of withholding the consultant's report on water quality issues for so long that it failed to make "full and proper public disclosure" and "thwarted public participation." Atlantic Yards Report summarizes this objection and has been covering ESDC's stonewalling of Freedom of Information Law requests.

This is only the latest installment of "Crapgate." Last week, GL featured testimony from Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) which revealed that the Atlantic Yards DEIS uses old data that suppresses the seriousness of the problem of sewage flowing into the Gowanus Canal every time it rains.


Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM

CB8 sends ESDC committee and individual criticisms of DEIS

CB82ESDC.gifAtlantic Yards Report

Community Board 8, which takes in part of the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint at its western tip, didn't take a harsh official stance toward the project as did Community Board 6, but it did submit numerous letters of concern from Executive Committee members and area residents to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

In fact, while CB8 did submit a summary of the testimony at the public hearing it held Aug. 3, which attracted a significant fraction of project supporters, all of the dozens of other pages submitted to the ESDC raised questions about the project or criticized it.


Download CB8 letter (PDF).

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

New Heavyweight BID In the Making

The Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

In a city of Business Improvement Districts (BID), the one proposed for the Court, Livingston and Schermerhorn streets corridor includes a who’s who of Brooklyn’s heavyweights.

Among the corporate names that have properties within this proposed BID include Forest City Ratner, Two Trees Management and Con Ed.


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Green Construction

Gotham Gazette
By Joshua Brustein

Construction-GG.jpgForest City Ratner (FCR) touts its commitment to Green Construction and LEED certification for Atlantic Yards. [Note: FCR did the same for the Times Tower, yet later opted not to apply for certification.]

Why is Green Construction important to New York?

From the proposed Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn to the water filtration plant in the northern Bronx, critics almost always complain not just about the project itself, but about the inconvenience, pollution, noise and dangerous accidents they will face during its construction.

The construction downtown is unique in that the contaminants from Ground Zero are still an issue. In late September, the Environmental Protection Agency finally approved a plan to demolish the Deutsche Bank Building adjacent to the site, after a long debate over how best to ensure that the asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in the building are not released into the air; the building will come down over the next year. Similar issues must be resolved for other buildings that are either known or suspected to be contaminated. The huge scale of the development downtown also ensures that there will be more pollution than in a project of conventional size.

And what is Green Construction and LEED?

The enthusiasm for green buildings among developers, public officials, and environmental activists is palpable. While the word generically refers to buildings that are environmentally friendly, it has also become shorthand for a set of standards put out by the United States Green Building Council called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, system. LEED puts priority on using energy efficiency, employing innovative construction materials, and recycling.


Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

Consequences of a Construction Boom

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Wanna know why the projected construction costs for Atlantic Yards have soared, from $2.5 billion to $4.2 billion, and will continue to go up?

Construction costs are skyrocketing nationwide, and the local crunch is threatening to put the current construction boom on the skids.

Soaring construction costs are putting the squeeze on the city’s private developers, real estate experts say, threatening New York’s housing boom, and lessening the impact of billions of government dollars invested in public infrastructure projects around the region.
At a conference on economic development last month, the president of Newmark Knight Frank Capital Group, James Kuhn, called construction costs “the single biggest problem in New York right now.”

“It makes me nervous and I don’t see a solution,”Mr.Kuhn, a powerful figure in the New York real estate industry, said.

He said developers faced with increased costs have to earn about a third more on a per square foot basis than just a few years ago. He added that the costs will put pressure on the bigger, more ambitious, and long-term projects, including Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards.

“When it was started, we were in a very,very bullish condo market,” Mr. Kuhn said.“When it gets approved, will we be in a market that justifies construction at a number where you will be able to sell units?”


Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Different Group, Same Elitist Song

Errol Louis missed the section of the BrooklynSpeaks message that calls for stronger housing guarantees and to make more housing units available to low-income residents, and failed to notice that the groups didn't call to cut the arena or to shrink the footprint, thus maintaining many of the jobs the columnist holds so dear.

After reading this most recent Our Time Press column, it's difficult to know if Errol Louis read past the the name, "BrooklynSpeaks." Louis's opinion of the group and penchant for name-calling are clear in his summary:

Don’t be fooled by the name: Brooklyn Speaks actually speaks for a small group of middle-class loudmouths who have no problem with denying housing and jobs to people who desperately need it and a majority that supports the project.

Louis contends that "most Brooklynites are in favor of some version of Atlantic Yards." Most people who actually read BrooklynSpeaks's principles will figure out that "some version of Atlantic Yards" is pretty much what the BrooklynSpeaks groups are fighting for.


Local blogger Dreadnaught has an even more critical opinion of Louis's commentary.

It appears that Dreadnaught has gotten under Louis's skin, which means that Louis either spends the morning Googling himself or reading NoLandGrab, both activities we consider beneath the esteemed columnist.

Louis's reply to Dreadnaught's post:

I learned many years ago that the helpless squeals of anonymous name-callers usually signal that an arrow has hit its mark. Let's see if Mr. Anonymous will let his dozen or so readers actually read the article that got his panties in such a twist.

[Dreadnaught thanked Louis for including himself amongst his "dozen or so readers."]

UPDATE to the UPDATE (10/03/06):
It seems that Dreadnaught had a conscience crunch and toned down his rhetoric. That leads us to wonder if Louis will ever do the same.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

October 1, 2006

Atlantic Yards Report Super Post

Atlantic Yards Report

Lawyers for the poor charge AY violates state constitution

Does the Atlantic Yards project violate the New York State Constitution? There are some potentially damning charges in the comments filed Friday on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan (GPP) by South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), which represents low-income residents in the proposed project footprint.

State subsidies, according to the constitution, must go to low-income housing, not the mixed-income Atlantic Yards project, notes SBLS on p. 10 of its filing. Nearly 70% of the Atlantic Yards project would be market-rate housing--though the recent 8% scaleback would shave off some condos and adjust that percentage a little--and, of the proposed affordable housing, less than half would be low-income housing.

Transparency? Another tussle with the ESDC

In Riverkeeper's response to the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), regarding CSOs (combined sewer overflows), the organization charges that the ESDC thwarted public participation by failing to include a key report in the DEIS.

Two views of Brooklyn Speaks: middle ground or "same stale agenda"? has Errol Louis and Stephen Witt go head to head and debunks Louis's off-base comments.

Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

Aboard The Money Train



Bruce Ratner, developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, and his relatives have made more than $2.5 million in political donations during the past decade, records show. This database lists their contributions to New York City, New York state, and federal election campaigns.
In the New York State Assembly, lawmakers introduced more than a dozen bills to restrict the use of eminent domain in the wake of the high court's ruling; most were referred to committee. On June 8, less than three weeks before the close of the legislative session, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver received $3,000 each from Bruce Ratner's brother Michael, a prominent human rights attorney, and his wife, Karen Ranucci.

Their return address? One MetroTech Center North in Brooklyn—headquarters of Forest City Ratner Companies.


Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

Fake voter registrations prompt identity theft alert

Philly.com reports some ACORN election hanky panky in Philadelphia:

Nearly 100 fraudulent voter registration applications have been filed in Delaware County over the last few weeks, prompting the District Attorney's Office to issue an identity theft alert.

All of the questionable applications were filled out by four people acting on behalf of the advocacy group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), according to the District Attorney's Office.


Posted by amy at 11:34 AM

City Planning Favors Ratner Project - Passing Grumble At Tubby ‘Ms. Brooklyn’


Stephen Witt

Among the Planning Commission’s more controversial decisions was their support for the size of the planned 620-foot “Ms. Brooklyn” building at the Atlantic/Flatbush Avenue intersection.

Some have criticized the building, which if built would tower over the borough’s current largest building at 1 Hanson Place, which stands at 512 feet.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

New Wrinkle In Atlantic Yards Wrangle


Stephen Witt on BrooklynSpeaks.net

According to the website, these principles include respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods, a transportation plan that works, affordable housing that meets the community’s needs and involving the public in a meaningful way.

The website indicates the acceptance of an arena on the site and does not list abuse of eminent domain as one of the clear principals the project must address.

This is a clear conflict to DDDB’s principals, whose spokesperson Daniel Goldstein lives in the footprint of the project and who has vowed a lengthy court fight on the eminent domain issue.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM