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November 30, 2006

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Comptroller Hevesi’s Statement Means Projects Like “Atlantic Yards” Need Proper Amount of Time for PACB Analysis

Argument Made for Spitzer to Review Projects

NEW YORK, NY— Last week, New York State Comptroller Hevesi issued a press statement warning that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) is moving much too fast on development project approvals. The PACB is the body that will have to consider the $4.2 billion “Atlantic Yards” proposal. On Monday the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) took another step towards rushing PACB consideration before the Pataki Administration ends, and before the PACB has a reasonable amount of time to fully scrutinize the largest development proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City.

"Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) agrees with Comptroller Hevesi one hundred percent. Bruce Ratner’s 'Atlantic Yards' proposal in Brooklyn could misuse and waste at least $2 billion in public money, and is a prime example of the Comptroller's concerns," said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. "For this reason, and many other concerns about the project, we believe that the PACB should take ample time to review the Ratner plan as it is nowhere near ready for prime time with its numerous financial unknowns, deficient environmental review, and because it is based on a use of eminent domain whose constitutionality is currently under review by the courts."

Comptroller Hevesi’s warning, about numerous projects around the State, speaks directly to the lack of financial information on the Ratner development plan and the clear attempt by the ESDC to fast track the proposal through PACB approval. From the Comptroller’s release:

"The State should take the proper amount of time to make certain that it is entering into sound fiscal commitments that have been thoroughly vetted and analyzed with the PACB as the last step in the process of reviewing a final and complete plan. Also, the Spitzer administration should be given the opportunity to include these projects in a comprehensive plan."

"I’m not suggesting that any of these projects are not worthy or should be blocked. But when they are rushed through in a long list, it is impossible to know if they are as good as they can be." (Emphasis added)

“We can clearly see that, like Mr. Hevesi is saying, the ESDC is trying to force a fast-tracked PACB review of ‘Atlantic Yards.’ They are doing this in an attempt to assure approval in the waning days of the Pataki administration to avoid serious scrutiny,” said Goldstein. “Incoming Governor Spitzer, under whose watch the ‘Atlantic Yards’ controversy will play itself out, deserves ample time to review the project in his role as one of three PACB vote holders. Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Silver shouldn’t be eager to rush ahead with a project whose approval would be under the watch of ESDC Chairman Gargano, who http://dddb.net/php/latestnews_Linked.php?id=332Speaker Silver called ‘the most corrupt member of the Pataki Administration’ just two weeks ago.”

Amongst other financial arrangements, the PACB would have to approve triple tax-free bonding for the Ratner plan, including the bond on the arena portion of the project, of at least $647 million plus the debt service.

Mr. Hevesi also said, “New York State is already suffering under huge amounts of debt, and now in the last days of the current administration, there is a rush to push through billions of dollars of projects that will load the State with billions more in debt, in many cases without getting a proper review. It is wrong to limit the freedom of the new administration through rushed last minute decisions.” (Emphasis added)

Posted by lumi at 12:59 PM

3,600 People Vs. Three Men in a Room

Matthew Schuerman is reporting on The Real Estate Observer that:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has collected 3,600 form letters, online and on the street, urging the Public Authorities Control Board to postpone its vote on Atlantic Yards until after "the courts" rule on its eminent domain lawsuit -- which, frankly, could take a few years, especially if the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Most of them, spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, were collected in Brooklyn, but there are 400 signers from state Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver's Lower Manhattan district among them.


NoLandGrab: Schuerman implies that the letterwriting campaign is a stall tactic. But there is a valid community concern here.

Developers will often raze properties that have been successfully seized, demolishing the neighborhoods around a few remaining homes or buildings where the property owners are appealing the eminent domain action. If the property owners prevail, the damage to the community has already been done. The most recent example is the case in Norwood, OH.

Bruce Ratner has already demolished all of the buildings for which he was able to get an engineer to declare the property to be a public health threat. There is no reason to believe that he won't quickly do the same to properties he controls if the project is approved by the Public Authorities Control Board.

Posted by lumi at 12:28 PM

TONIGHT: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Public Information Forum

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods will hold a Public Information Forum this week to summarize the findings and concerns discussed in their response to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement:

Thursday, November 30th, 7:30 p.m.
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 South Oxford Street
Fort Greene

NoLandGrab: That's the Corrected and Amended Final Environmental Impact Statement to you!

Posted by lumi at 11:48 AM

On Gargano, Pataki, Silver, Spitzer, and Hevesi

Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader can't seem to find a fancy French intellectual catchall phrase for "follow the money" and "politics makes strange bedfellows." What he does turn up is a political soap opera in which everyone ultimately has a price.


So what is really going on with the approval of this project? Why so rushed? Simple: Governor Pataki, perhaps the most deluded politician alive (Rumsfeldian might be an apt description), has ambitions to be president... The bonus for Pataki is that Ratner has incredibly deep pockets, which all national candidates require.
Hevesi’s fate ultimately sits in Spitzer’s hands. The lame-duck governor screwed Hevesi by not allowing his clearly stupid but ultimately forgivable financial impropriety to be swept under the rug. So Hevesi wants to screw Pataki back. A perfect way to do so is to delay the decision about the Atlantic Yards until after Pataki is out of office... If delayed, the vote gives Spitzer an opportunity to assert himself and set the character of his new administration. Hevesi surely hopes that by giving Spitzer this opportunity.... The problem in Brooklyn, however, is that Spitzer might not vote the way we want him to.


Posted by lumi at 11:47 AM

High crime in footprint? FEIS ignores the criticism

Atlantic Yards

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in the Response to Comments section of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), aims to offer "a summary of these relevant comments and a response to each." (Emphasis added)

Many responses might be seen as incomplete, but at least they're responses. When it comes to dubious charges of high crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint, charges raised in the ESDC's Blight Study but severely criticized (by me, at first), the ESDC has ignored the issue.

Essentially, the ESDC responded to criticism of their conclusion that there is higher crime in the footprint than the surrounding area, by stating that: * there are other reasons to declare the footprint blighted and * they didn't say that the surrounding area was blighted.


Posted by lumi at 11:06 AM

A Ratner-related contribution to Roger Green

Atlantic Yards Report

money-eye.jpgWhile Norman Oder was stalking political contributors who are likely representing the interests of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project (Bruce Ratner claims to have stopped contributing to campaigns after the 1997 election), he came across a new name:

[Roger] Green was deeply involved in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement and has spoken enthusiastically for the project. So maybe it's not surprising that campaign disclosure forms show additional ties to developer Forest City Ratner. Green got $2000 on 7/27/06 from FCR executive Gary Lieberman, who also owns a piece of the Nets.


Posted by lumi at 10:40 AM

Newark City Hall Receives Subpoenas Over Land Sales

If Bruce Ratner wanted a free ride, he should have sowed some seeds in Newark.

From yesterday's NY Times:

Federal agents investigating the finances of the administration of Newark’s former mayor, Sharpe James, have subpoenaed City Hall for records on the discounted sale of city properties to some of his closest supporters, people who have seen documents related to the inquiry said on Tuesday.


NoLandGrab: Though he was the lowest bidder, Bruce Ratner has struck a deal for the railyards for well under market value. He also secured the rights for the Atlantic Terminal building from the MTA for free. But unlike in Newark, these deals are legal(?).

Posted by lumi at 10:22 AM

Michael Ratner offers contributions (Lopez, etc.), office for meeting

MichaelRatner01.jpgSomebody explain to us how Michael Ratner avoids criticism over his Atlantic Yards connections?

Sure, he's a favorite son of the Left, champion of constitutional rights.

But, he's also: * part owner of the NJ Nets, a team that's slated to move into an arena to be built on property seized via eminent domain (a Fifth Amendment abuse), * the main political donor for the Brooklyn operation of the family real estate empire, and * even lets his office be used for Atlantic Yards project-planning meetings between City Planning officials, Frank Gehry's studio and Forest City Ratner employees.

Norman Oder uncovers yet more donations made by Michael Ratner and his wife Karen Ranucci (remember, Bruce Ratner doesn't contribute to candidates to avoid the appearance of favoritism) and an email that confirms an Atlantic Yards team meeting in Michael Ratner's Brooklyn office.


NoLandGrab: Property rights is a civil right. Anyone familiar with nation building or working with groups who are striving towards rebuilding a civil society understands that along with rule of law, the first thing a society must establish is the right to property. Without property rights, there is no incentive to invest one's labor, thus underminding the stability of society.

Our Founding Fathers understood this concept and, in the Fifth Amendment, included protection of private property, along with protection of life itself, against the coercive powers of the state.

Michael Ratner is very familiar with the first part of the Fifth Amendment, and has argued the concept of Due Process in his campaign to protect the human rights of detainees held at Guantanamo. We recommend that he reacquaint himself with the entire amendment — the Eminent Domain part is at the end.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

What Went Wrong With “Atlantic Yards?”

Civic News (newsletter of the Park Slope Civic Council), via Streets Blog By Ezra Goldstein

Barwick.jpgThe Municipal Art Society head Kent Barwick has figured out what's wrong with "Atlantic Yards." It's not extreme density, superblocks, eminent domain, the arena or traffic.

To Barwick... process is paramount, and Atlantic Yards is the poster child for what goes wrong when process is ignored.

NoLandGrab: To be fair, in theory, Barwick is right, in that the multitude of issues and concerns clustered around this project could've been openly discussed if there had been a process in place to begin with.

But, has the lack of process gone too far?

The project can be saved, he says, but only if people are given the chance not just to speak but to be heard. That would happen if the state recognizes that, properly, its client at Atlantic Yards is the citizens and government of New York City, not a private developer.


Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

"Atlantic Yards" as synonym...

at-lan-tic-yards.gifDaily Intelligencer, the New York Magazine city blog, was being sarcastic in yesterday's headline in reference to The Gowanus Lounge's comparison of the Coney Island developer Joe Sitt to Bruce Ratner, "Let's Just Call Every Land Deal ‘Atlantic Yards’ From Now On."

But that got us thinking. "Atlantic Yards" is has become the poster child for overdevelopment, boondoogles, sorely needed reform of public authorities, Frank Gehry kitsch, extreme density, and eminent domain abuse.

Is it enough to use "Atlantic Yards" as a synonym? Ex., "Coney Island will be so like Atlantic Yards." Or is there enough room to create adjectival or verb forms of the project name?

In reference to threatening to use eminent domain one could say, "Don't make us do an Atlantic Yards." Or when considering a project that is 20 times bigger than anything across the street, one could say, "Whoa! It's so Atlantic Yards."

Naturally, we're reserving "Ratnerian" for any situation involving a politically connected powerbroker who feeds at the public-subsidy trough or is awarded public land for dirt cheap.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

King Alfred: so dense it's daft

The Argus Newsletter
Bt Peter McKenna, Fourth Avenue, Hove

GehryBrighton-Maidens.jpgBlimey! Frank Gehry is designing a high-density project that is out of context with the existing enviroment and everyone's knickers are in a twist. But no worries, there's affordable housing, a community center and an insipid narrative (some birds sporting glass and steel).

Is it Brooklyn, or is it Hove? Whichever, it's "daft!"


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Security study for Atlantic Yards? Sure, but it's Ratner's

Atlantic Yards Report

The Municipal Art Society held a forum on the issues related to creating great public spaces during the age of terrorism concerns. Norman Oder was in attendance and popped the question about Atlantic Yards in the Q&A.

FreedomTower.gifOne question on the minds of Brooklynites is why the base of the Freedom Tower was redesigned to address vunerability to truck bombs, while Ratner is proposing to build a glass-and-steel skyscraper and arena attached to the densest residential community in America, over a transit hub that was the target of a foiled terrorist attack? Where's the security study? The public wants to know how terrorism and security concerns are being addressed.

You're probably used to not receiving answers to your questions and concerns about Atlantic Yards, so the non-answer to Oder's question won't be a surprise.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

November 29, 2006

Is Coney Island the New Atlantic Yards and Joe Sitt the New Bruce Ratner?

The Gowanus Lounge is bristling at the notion of building Brooklyn from scratch (we're envisioning Disney redeveloping the Gowanus Canal):

Sitt%3DRatner.jpgThe moment we saw the item late yesterday afternoon about the sale of Astroland to Thor Equities we realized why we started doing a "Coney Island Deathwatch" months ago: because Thor's plan is to erase virtually every element of Coney Island's past and to rebuild it from scratch.

With the sale of Astroland to Thor Equities, the massive Coney project is starting to look like the new Atlantic Yards and, inevitably, developer Joe Sitt is looking like Nouveau Ratner. The only thing missing is the Empire State Development Corp., but the Coney Island Development Corp. may yet prove itself to be a spiritual equal.


NoLandGrab: Thor Equities big move to gobble up as much of Coney Island as possible for redevelopment explains why, despite the fact the location would make a great site for a new Nets arena and that local politicians and even Bruce Ratner initially thought so too, the subject has been taboo.

Of course, if they had to, the government could use eminent domain to take land from Thor, but why bother when you can just take property from the little guy.

Posted by lumi at 10:53 AM

Reduce the project? ESDC says density works for Times Square

Atlantic Yards Report

As Norman Oder is scouring the Empire State Development Corporation's responses to the public's comments on the Environmental Impact Statement, he's picking up clues to what Bruce Ratner's ultimate vision is for the neighborhood.

Barkey04.jpgHow big should Atlantic Yards be? Numerous individuals, organizations, and elected officials told the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), that the project should be reduced drastically.
In the Final EIS, however, the ESDC gave very little quarter--and suggested that, because areas like Times Square and Penn Station support high density development, so should the area around Atlantic Terminal.

The difference, however, is that most of the high-density development touted is commercial, not residential, and neither of those areas are as close to rowhouse residential districts like the Atlantic Yards site.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC and Ratner are proposing to bring a level of density previously limited to commercial districts to a mostly residential neighborhood. Remember, not only is the area surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards site largely residential, but so is the Atlantic Yards plan itself.

The Atlantic Yards project is proposing density of historic proportions for a residential community. If built, urban planners from all over the world will eye our community, which will be the petri dish for a historic experiment in extreme density.

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

Jeffries Watch

JeffriesWatch.jpgThree current State Assemblymembers just went on record withholding their support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, pending more review and reductions in size.

But what about Hakeem Jeffries, the incoming State Assemblymember, whose district would balloon in size if the project were to be built as proposed?

The Real Estate Observer, Jeffries To Silver: Atlantic Yards' Density Worries Me
Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman caught up with 57th District Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries during a telephone interview yesterday:

Jeffries told The Real Estate on Tuesday that he had a conversation about a week to 10 days ago to express many of the same concerns as Assembly members Jim Brennan, Joan Millman and Annette Robinson did. In the order Jeffries mentioned them, his concerns are: building more affordable housing early on as part of the project, the lack of transparency regarding the project's financing, the lack of public involvement, and, upon prompting, its density. Jeffries said that he would speak with Silver again soon.

Jeffries is known to be hard to read (some would say slippery) on Atlantic Yards, and he refused to compare his position with that of Brennan's camp.

"I have always felt that eminent domain is one of government's most exceptional powers. I don't believe that a private developer should be able to use it to build a basketball arena." But he also said that the courts should be allowed to decide the issue.

Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries on AY
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn emphasized Jeffries comments on eminent domain and added:

We agree with that entirely. The PACB should not vote on the proposed project until after the courts are allowed to rule on the federal eminent domain lawsuit filed on October 26th. An approval before that case is resolved can lead to a BIG MESS where Forest City Ratner levels some of the neighborhood but then cannot build any of "Atlantic Yards" because the plaintiffs win their lawsuit.

Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

MSG employee warns of rowdy fans, noise; ESDC says crowd noise "not... major"

MSG-UrbanRoom.jpgWe cried so hard that we had to laugh at this comment and response highlighted on Atlantic Yards Report today.

The writer [a Madison Square Garden employee], who said he could not give his name, because, "like contracts that are signed with Bruce Ratner, there are speech restrictions included in the contracts with MSG." (The latter is unconfirmed, but there is a record of Ratner gag orders.)

He warned that, after events with younger crowds, drunk patrons crowd the street and carelessly strew garbage. They also treat the streats like they own them, he said, and are quite loud:

In the end, on any number of occasions, it's just one big party in the streets... The proposed Nets Arena is surrounded by dense residential neighborhoods. What can the residents expect before and after events? There needs to be a study that addresses and answers that question.

The Empire State Development Corporation's response?

In general, any crowd noise surrounding the arena would be expected to be masked by noise from vehicles on adjacent streets and would not be a major noise source.

In a nutshell, the increased traffic will drown out the noise from the arena-goers — comforting.

There's more to the comment and official response, so if you're in need of a good cry check it out.

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

To the NY Times Public Editor: examine the 8% AY cutback

Atlantic Yards Report

NYTimes01-Scaleback.gifAt this point, we're not sure why the Public Editor of The New York Times doesn't set his spam filter to block Norman Oder's email. If the Times isn't going to do anything about their anemic coverage of the Atlantic Yards issue, then why bother taking his calls.

On November 15, 2006 Norman Oder released a document he uncovered via Freedom of Information Request from the NYC Department of City Planning. The document reveals that the alleged scaleback (the project was "scaled back" to nearly its original size), which was heralded on the front page of the Times in early September, 2006, was actually "precooked" by the developer.

Norman Oder posted his entire Letter to the Public Editor with links and supporting documents.

Oder is more polite than we are when he essentially makes this point:

The New York Times shouldn't be seen as being led around by the nose by their business partner Bruce Ratner, certainly not on the front page of the paper and definitely not while the paper's reputation as a bastion of journalistic values is sagging. Also, when the Times does get it wrong, as it did with the story about the developer's "Response to Criticism," the paper should do a follow-up story, or at least go back and correct the record, instead of "enshrining the myth."

Apparently the paper is content to let a freelance journalist/blogger lead the coverage, which makes readers wonder, what other stories are they blowing?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere21.jpgGothamist, Extra, Extra
A blurb and link to the NY Post coverage of sudden-death overtime at the Empire State Development Corporation:

The outgoing Pataki administration is rushing the Atlantic Yards plan through the environmental impact review process-- they even made state employees work through the Thanksgiving weekend finishing the paperwork. Incoming Governor Spitzer has expressed some reservations about the project.

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

While some New Yorkers volunteered in soup kitchens during Thanksgiving, others worked overtime to get Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement out the door:

We could go on about the screaming that ensued, the threats that were uttered, the catered holiday meals that were offered, but we won't.
We will say two things: The first is that we're not lawyers, but if a suit is filed challenging the entire Environmental Impact Statement review and approval process, the mistake and rush job to rectify it will end up being part of the litigation. The second is that the public process surrounding the most important development project in Brooklyn history has taken on the manic feel of getting a PlayStation3 on eBay on Christmas Eve and trying to get it delivered by Christmas morning. In the end, if you'll pardon us stretching the analogy a bit, it will all come down to how many stop signs and traffic lights the UPS driver is willing to run in order to get it there on time.

Sports Media Review, Still in Holiday Mode
The cat is out of the bag — people are starting to realize that Bruce's boondoggle is even bigger than George's:

The Yankees and Steinbrenner are also getting an unconsiconably generous deal from the City to build their new stadium, and Bruce Ratner, the Nets owner, is in the process of pulling off a bigger political boondoggle than either Wilpon or Steinbrenner, as he puts together a multi-billion dollar development deal to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

HPD foils FOIL (after four months), won't reveal affordable housing subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

FOIL-HPD-sm.gifNorman Oder is "FOIL'd" again. This time the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) isn't going to give up info about the housing subsidies that will be applied to Atlantic Yards because the law says that you don't have to if the release of that information would cause "interference with contracts." Contracts with whom, do you suppose?

So it looks like HPD stymied Norman Oder long enough (the original Freedom of Information Law request was sent back in July, 2006) to put off any decision on Oder's appeal of the denial until possibly AFTER the sponsoring agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, and developer Bruce Ratner have secured the final approval.

Yes, you are reading this correctly, it looks like the ESDC and Forest City Ratner are seeking final approval BEFORE all public costs have been revealed.


NoLandGrab: Though it took several months for HPD to take action on Norman Oder's FOIL request, ESDC employees worked through the Thanksgiving holiday to revise the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM



NY Post
Phil Mushnick

Monday's column featured a crisply worded rant about how TV executives are dumbing down sportscasts, followed by this criticism of an appearance by Jay-Z, Inc.:

As long as the Nets' part-owner and new Budweiser spokesman, Jay-Z, stopped by ESPN's MNF booth, last week (Ronde Barber needed a break), we were hoping Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser would ask him about his fame and fortune being in large part predicated on lyrics that refer to women as "bitches" and "hos," gays as "faggots" and black men as "niggaz."

Or would that have been rude?


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM


NY Post
"Inside City Hall", by David Seifman

Here's a column we missed about Mayor Mike's disaffection with the Public Authorities Control Board (you know, the group that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner hopes will rubberstamp his Brooklyn mega-project).

MAYOR Bloomberg was so livid after a little-known stateboard blocked two major city projects that he ordered the city's top lawyer to review its legality.

Sources said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo came back with a surprising finding: The irksome Public Authorities Control Board may be unconstitutional, but there's not much the city can do about it.

"He reported back that there is a case to be made, but the city can't be the one making it," said one source.

The problem seems to be that the city is a creation of the state, which is why the state's highest court has ruled it can't sue the state.

But someone else could.


NoLandGrab: From a legal perspective, the point about how the City can't sue the State is moot in the case of Atlantic Yards because the Mayor has supported the project from day one. But it does inform the public as to why the State can simply override City zoning with the vote of a board of non-elected officials.

From a political and PR point of view, it's amusing that the Mayor has now come to the same conclusion about the Public Authorities Control Board as Atlantic Yards critics.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Opposed, Gently

The Politicker noticed that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted the letter from State Assemblymembers Jim Brennan, Joan Millman and Annette Robinson to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver asking for a delay in approval of the project unless significant modifications to the project are made:

The letter was emailed out today by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and posted on the group's website, although the moderate tone seems to be at odds with DDDB's more absolutist opposition.

Is this a sign that the Atlantic Yards opposition is beginning to coalesce around an eventual compromise position? Or am I just reading too much into this?


NoLandGrab: Our reading of DDDB's posting was that the coalition of local groups would like people to know that a few politicians have finally gone on record to argue many of the same points that the coalition has tried to get across for a couple of years now.

Points highlighted by DDDB: * The project's "extreme density." * The override of land use laws, which permits the "extreme density" * The lack of full disclosure of the project's public cost * The lack of an effective and comprehensive transportation plan * The absence of housing for individuals earning less than $21,000 * The low percentage of "affordable" housing in Phase One

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

November 28, 2006

Brennan, Millman, Robinson ask Silver to delay, modify AY project

BrennanMillmanRobinson.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

While Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano has been busy getting roasted for bobbling the Environmental Impact Statement, important news has been brewing in the State Assembly.

Three Assemblymembers representing districts near the proposed Atlantic Yards project have asked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for “substantial modifications to the Project and a delay in approval until those modifications are achieved." Silver is one of three controlling votes on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which should get the project later this month, after approval by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Assemblyman Jim Brennan and Assemblymembers Joan Millman and Annette Robinson sent the three-page letter on November 22 to [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver, a fellow Democrat. The speaker, who has expressed support for Atlantic Yards, has said he would consider the opinions of representatives in Brooklyn.
The Assemblymembers' concerns include the project’s “extreme density,” the override of land use laws, the opacity of project finances, and the lack of an effective transportation plan. Also, echoing criticism raised by some housing groups and the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, they call for broadening the affordable housing to those earning less than $21,000 a year. They suggested a revival of an Assembly bill that would trade additional subsidy for a project downsizing.

Also covered in Norman Oder's new analysis of the letter to Sheldon Silver is Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries' conspicuous absence, and a brief run down of the concerns expressed by the trio of legislators.


NoLandGrab: It's not clear what leverage the group will have at this time, but it is a consolation to know that there are a handful of elected representatives who actually listen to their constituents.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

ESDC Sets Atlantic Yards Approval Date

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

DeskCalendar-Friday8.gifMark it on your calendars: 10 a.m., Dec. 8. The Empire State Development Corporation just scheduled its next meeting for then, at which time the board is expected to approve the Atlantic Yards project.

It then goes to the state Public Authorities Control Board.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM


NY Post
By Rich Calder

The Pataki administration is so keen on getting the plan for a Brooklyn NBA arena approved before Eliot Spitzer becomes governor that officials had state employees work through the Thanksgiving weekend, The Post has learned.

The governor-elect has said that he favors the Atlantic Yards project but that he has questions about its financing.


Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

November 27, 2006

FEIS reissued for December showdown; Gargano says speed not atypical

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from the special meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Board to recertify the Atlantic Yard Final Environmental Impact Statment. ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano tries to convince the public that it's not extraordinary for employees to work through holiday weekends:

Twelve days after they determined the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) complete—and just one week after numerous comments were found missing—the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) met and certified a revised FEIS, setting up a December 8 approval.

What went wrong? ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano said the omission of 148 comments—with about 1600 already accounted for—was inadvertent. His explanation was hardly exhaustive, blaming some “very large” comments and others “sent to the wrong person,” but he emphasized the agency’s responsiveness to the news.

Indeed, staffers worked weekends to finish the job, something Gargano asserted is not an extraordinary measure. “We have done that many times, worked weekends, over the 12 years that I’ve been here, on many projects,” he said.

Did the FEIS change? “Not substantially,” said Gargano, deeming them “mostly questions that had been asked previously.”

Click here to read more of Gargano's comments, and to find out what the ringtone is on the Chairman of the Board's cellphone.

Posted by lumi at 10:48 PM

Buying Tax Breaks

Room 8

For a little mental vacation, here's a bashing of the Empire State Development Corporation that doesn't even mention Atlantic Yards. The editorial by State Senator Liz Krueger illustrates that the quasi-governmental public-private corporation is even worse than we thought, and ought to be the poster child for public authorities reform.

Krueger outlines some of the ESDC's most egregious misdeeds and advocates for reform:

The Syracuse Post-Standard recently reported how "New York state officials allowed a Rochester mall owner to BUY Empire Zone tax breaks while thousands of other state businesses were excluded from the program." The mall owner paid the local community $1.5 million to expand the boundaries of an Empire Zone to include his business. In return, the mall owner is expected to receive more than $14 million in tax breaks over the next ten years, all at the expense of us, the taxpayers. Of course the mall owner argues this was just to stay competitive with another mall owner (Destiny USA) who is expecting even BIGGER tax exemptions—another story, and ANOTHER problem.
Yet another recent example of blatant mismanagement of Empire Zones was the September 2006 discovery that the ESDC had awarded $22 million in tax breaks to a New Jersey-based company, NRG Energy. In return for $22 million in tax breaks, NRG created one part-time position. The size of this tax break, coupled with the paltry economic benefits that local communities reap, simply fail to justify the use of taxpayer dollars by the ESDC.

Some people will look at these decisions and say they reflect new lows in this agency's self-governance. I believe these actions confirm that Governor Pataki's appointees either lack the most basic understanding of the very laws they are charged with implementing, or worse, they simply don't care. The good news is that I fully expect Governor-Elect Spitzer to address this problem post haste.


Posted by lumi at 10:25 PM

Supersizing the Supersized

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site is linking to Norman Oder's article about the revelation that Frank Gehry is designing three towers over Atlantic Center Mall in conjunction with the Atlantic Yards project.

One of the coalition's main objections is that developer Bruce Ratner has refused to consider locating the arena on the Atlantic Center Mall site, and would rather use eminent domain to seize private property in order to locate the arena elsewhere:

This is the real reason that the developer has refused to build the proposed arena over his failed mall, rather than abuse eminent domain: why waste one's air rights when one can utilize them and take other people's properties?


Posted by lumi at 10:19 PM

Fast Work: Atlantic Yards Impact Statement Fixed

Curbed.com rehashed The Real Estate Observer coverage and summed up the timeline for the Empire State Development Corporation's mad dash to the finish line. The ESDC's and developer Forest City Ratner's goal is to get the project approved before Governor Pataki leaves office at the end of the year.

So, with two weeks lost to the boo boo, there is still technically time to put all the approvals in place before the Pataki administration leaves Albany. Final vote in ten days. State Comptroller gets a week after that. Then, the Public Authorities Control Board can vote. Or drag their feet until the new tenant moves into the Governor's office.


Posted by lumi at 9:56 PM

ESDC Certifies Atlantic Yards — Again

ESDCElves.jpgLook kids! The Empire State Development Corporation elves worked through the Thanksgiving holiday to crank out a new-and-improved Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by Monday. Living proof that sometimes, government works!

Since omitting public comments would leave the EIS wide open to litigation, the ESDC had to backtrack and include the missing comments. Since "listening to the community" is purely pro forma, the inclusion of the missing comments had no effect on the conclusions of the report.

From The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Some 148 comments from the public, 60 of them "substantive," had been left out of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Atlantic Yards when it was certified Nov. 15, Charles Gargano, the chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, told the press on Monday.

That prompted ESDC staff to work overtime -- including over Thanksgiving weekend -- to put out a revised FEIS, including the new comments and responses to them, all of which were certified unanimously by the ESDC board on Monday morning. The new comments did not change the conclusions of the FEIS, Gargano said.


Posted by lumi at 9:22 PM

To the editor: Attorney George Locker

Attorney George Locker's letter to the editor of The New York Times didn't make the cut, but makes a good point that "key social concerns" are being ignored while the Times (and by default, most of the mainstream media) focuses on the racial divisions over Atlantic Yards.

To the editor:

Your article, Perspectives on the Atlantic Yards Development Through the Prism of Race (NYT November 12, 2006), diverts attention from the key social concerns: (1) the assault on democracy, the rule of law, and the right of citizen participation (the massive Project cannot be built without a state override, utilizing eminent domain, of well-established City planning guidelines, zoning laws, and review procedures); (2) the abdication of political leadership at the highest levels (who elected Bruce Ratner the mayor of Brooklyn?); and (3) the abject failure of City and State government to alleviate our massive shortage of affordable housing (every year, NYC loses more units of existing housing than are newly built).

Where there is no democratic process, no honest voice to be heard from almost every elected official, and no genuine program of housing construction, it is no wonder that an outside chance for a piddling few jobs and housing units, dangled by a cynical developer who knows how to spread the cash and hide the facts, would promote resentment among the most disenfranchised against those in the community – black and white -- who readily condemn Atlantic Yards as the anti-democratic, private land-grab and civic disaster, which it is.

George Locker

Mr. Locker is an attorney who represents 15 rent-stabilized tenants who face eviction from the proposed Project site.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 PM

Traffic Tidbit: "sign of economic health"

Here's a "deja screw," buried at the end of a story on development in New Rochelle from this Sunday's NY Times "Living In" column ("Buildings Grow Taller; Reactions Get Louder"):

Traffic often snarls on main roads, although [Craig] King, the commissioner, cited a study by AKRF Inc., a White Plains consulting firm, suggesting that some congestion was natural in a downtown and even a sign of economic health.

Atlantic Yards news junkies will know that AKRF is the firm that worked on the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement. AKRF has consistently garnered criticism for its developer-friendly conclusions. Even Atlantic Yards supporter and consultant Richard Lipsky charged recently that "the AKRF folks are simply rationalizing their job, which is to make a great deal of money by minimizing impacts and conducting dishonest research." But, we digress....

StreetsBlog readers and transportation advocates will recall NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's declaration of the benefits of traffic, during a speech this past August ("Mayor Bloomberg Says NYC Traffic Congestion is Good"):

"We like traffic, it means economic activity, it means people coming here."

You gotta love how "traffic is a good sign" has become the mantra of policy consultants who have the ear of local mayors.

That explains the City's lack of concern over current traffic and transportation problems, never mind the mindboggling deafness to the impacts on traffic from an arena and 16 highrise towers (actually, more like 19 highrises, if you include the Atlantic Center towers), located around one of the most congested intersections in Brooklyn.

Last week, The NY Times reported that the Partnership for New York City is about to release a study which concludes that traffic congestion costs the city an estimated "$12 billion to $15 billion a year." That would seem to contradict AKRF's traffic dogma, which is just an excuse for cities to develop at will and ignore the related traffic and transportation challenges.

Posted by lumi at 11:44 AM

Gehry's working on “Atlantic Center overbuild” (for 2000+ residents); ESDC punts

Atlantic Yards Report brings you another Norman Oder exclusive:

Though city officials haven't said so publicly, newly released documents show they’ve examined plans by Forest City Ratner for three new towers over the developer’s much-derided Atlantic Center mall--and Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has it as part of his assignment.


Here's the outline of the story of how all the players involved are trying to make Atlantic Yards and the Atlantic Center overbuild appear to be separate projects, while a glimpse behind the scenes, brought to you by another one of Norman Oder's Freedom of Information Law request, tells a different story. [For the complete story accompanied by the numbers, don't waste your time here, just surf on over to Atlantic Yards Report.]

What do we know? * Developer Forest City Ratner has additional air rights over the Atlantic Center Mall. [Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey likes to point out that has been on the table all along.] * The Atlantic Center overbuild was studied in the Downtown Brooklyn Plan Environmental Impact Statement. The hitch is that the composition of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan has totally changed since the plan was studied — much of the commercial space is being built and planned as residential space.

Though Ratner and his City Planners aren't being specific, a couple of hints have been dropped. * In January, 2006 starchitect Frank Gehry mentioned designing 20 buildings? * In May, 2006 one model of the project showed three towers over Atlantic Center Mall. The only reporter who has publicly mentioned the connection is Norman Oder.

What does the Emprire State Development Corporation have to say about the accompanying Atlantic Center overbuild? * "The proposed project would further the City’s policy of promoting transit-oriented development." * That's it... there's nothing addressing how thousands of additional residents (as opposed to office workers as originally studied in the Downtown Brooklyn Plan) will impact the area.

What do Ratner and Gehry have to say? * Nothing much.
* But wait, a recently released Atlantic Yards meeting agenda, from September, 2005, was headlined by a "Review of Atlantic Center overbuild."

What have we learned? * Bureaucratically speaking, the two projects are separate, but they are being conceived, and even designed by the same architect, as one.

NoLandGrab; The only way anyone is supposed be able to fathom the final size of Bruce Ratner's plans for his "Atlantic Empire" is pick through every public statement and city document, as Norman Oder has.

One thing that is slightly off-topic, but may be worth mentioning, is that the checklist including the "Atlantic Center overbuild" shows that the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) has been involved with the project all along, as Forest City Ratner has claimed. However, if this checklist is any indication, the DCP appears to be tinkering around the edges with the details of the project and has had no ability to influence the fact that the project proposes residential density of historic proportions.

Links on Atlantic Yards's historical density:
Atlantic Yards: Staving Off a Scar for Decades by Ron Shiffman
The Real Estate Observer, Prisoner of Atlantic Avenue
Atlantic Yards Report, Extreme density: Atlantic Yards plan would dwarf Battery Park City, other projects

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

Learning from Verizon Center

Brooklyn Views

The following mantra from the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement is repeated in response to several comments submitted by the public:

VerizonCenter-Aerial.jpg“Experience has shown that arenas and other sports facilities thrive in combination with a strong mix of commercial and residential land uses, both as proposed elements of a larger master plan or as a catalyst for urban development.”

Brooklyn Views contemplates what "experience HAS shown," by taking a serious look at another mixed-use arena complex.

The genesis of the Verizon Center in D.C. sounds very familiar to those who have been following the Atlantic Yards debate closely.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Gridlock Protest Photos

Ratner Rent-a-Cops vs NYPDPhotographer Jonathan Barkey caught the action when a handful of "Atlantic Yards" protesters took to the streets and sidewalks at the intersection of 4th, Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Things got interesting when the Ratner rent-a-cops called the real cops.

More photos are posted at Barkey's P-base site.

Norman Oder delivered the only press account the day after on his blog Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

November 26, 2006

Gargano's Bad Week Finally Ends


The Real Estate

Charles Gargano must be thankful that this week is finally ending: The Atlantic Yards blunder, Shelly Silver's barbs, and, now, from the other end of the state, The Syracuse Post-Standard uncovering a scheme whereby poor upstate towns sold tax breaks to developers for a fee.

State Senator Liz Krueger says Gargano and other appointees to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is in charge of the Empire Zone tax break program, "either lack the most basic understanding of the very laws they are charged with implementing, or worse, they simply do not care."

Over the past several weeks, The Post-Standard has painted a bleak picture of the Empire Zone program: "None of the 10 businesses that claimed the biggest property tax refunds for 2003 created more than 20 jobs," the paper reports. The whole investigative series can be found here.


Posted by amy at 7:25 PM

The Afternoon Wrap: Friday

The Real Estate

Brownstoner asked: "What if you were a wealthy philanthropost [sic] who could write a $100 million check to fund any infrastructure or public project in Brooklyn?" In chronological order, his readers dreamed up: trolley cars, bike lanes, a high school, a complete transportation system for northeastern Brooklyn, a complete transportation system for southeastern Brooklyn, a large parking lot, Ratner's exile, pre-schools, etc. We say: More high-end pre-schools! And trolleys! [Brownstoner]


Posted by amy at 7:22 PM

Marty (in Brooklyn!!) continues AY dance of avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

In April, I pointed out how Atlantic Yards was conspicuously absent from issues of Borough President Marty Markowitz's Brooklyn!! (subtitled "Where New York City Begins"), the tabloid promotional vehicle for Brooklyn and all things Marty.

The Fall/Winter issue arrived yesterday, and there was hardly a word about Atlantic Yards, even after perhaps the year's most tumultuous public event regarding Brooklyn, the August 23 public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Yes, we know that Brooklyn!! is mostly about feel-good stuff like Brooklyn's holiday lights, the inaugural Brooklyn Book Festival, and readers' Favorite Waitpersons.

But if Brooklyn!! is going to tell us about the new Aviator Sports and Recreation Center at Floyd Bennett Field, or new hotels around Downtown Brooklyn, or new designs for the New York Aquarium at Coney Island, well, why not a word about the borough's biggest development project?


Posted by amy at 12:22 PM

The Times practices "rowback": Atlantic Yards (finally) is not a rezoning

Atlantic Yards Report

As I wrote in March, there's a big difference between the waterfront rezoning, a process that involves the City Council and extensive hearings, and the state process governing the Atlantic Yards project, under which the unelected Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) would override city zoning.

In correspondence, I tried fruitlessly to get this erroneous shorthand corrected. A Times editor evasively said that the details of the "bureaucratic processes" were not needed, and Times Public Editor Byron Calame, apparently unwilling to recognize a distinction between city and state oversight, endorsed the error as published.

The new correction-without-a-correction is a variant of "rowback," which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed."

This isn't the first example of Atlantic Yards rowback by the Times, given "downtown Brooklyn" and "on the railyards"; it probably won't be the last.


Posted by amy at 12:18 PM

Bloomberg Administration Is Developing Land Use Plan to Accommodate Future Populations

New York Times quotes Bloomberg as crowning Dan Doctoroff the new Robert Moses. Ratner is going to be so jealous...

City officials declined to publicly elaborate on their proposals in advance of the advisory board’s announcement. But some of its goals were foreshadowed by two of the largest rezoning revisions in city history — of the Brooklyn waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg and the Far West Side of Manhattan — both driven by Mr. Doctoroff.

The two major zoning changes, coupled with other development proposals, including the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, were aimed at revitalizing underutilized land for economic development and expanding the city’s property tax base. The zoning changes were accomplished, in part, by tying them to the city’s timetable to apply for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The city lost its Olympic bid, which included the ill-fated proposal for combining a stadium for the Olympics and the Jets with an expanded convention center on the West Side. But Mr. Doctoroff maintains that he also viewed the Olympics as a vehicle to drive the sort of longer-range planning in which local governments rarely have the resources, or the vision, to indulge.


Posted by amy at 12:08 PM

New York Times Blight on Blight Smackdown!


The New York Times ran two stories about blight - Pacific Street in Brooklyn vs. Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City. Let the blight fight begin!

Round 1: Pacific Street, Brooklyn

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

For many of the several hundred people who still live there, “blighted” is a term of abuse, one that ignores the sleek, recently renovated buildings on Pacific and Dean Streets, the bustling neighborhood bar, and other signs of revival. Even some supporters of the project, like Assemblyman Roger L. Green, disagree with the description.

“That neighborhood is not blighted,” Mr. Green, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards site, said at a hearing last year. “I repeat, for the record, that neighborhood is not blighted.”

Round 2: Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City

Broken Lives and Victims in Shadow of Taj Mahal

“You’re in the middle of crack city,” Mr. Boccino said yesterday at his restaurant, surveying this blighted corner of Atlantic City, where the authorities think at least some of the four women found dead in a drainage ditch on Monday were known and spent much of their time.

Not far from the Boardwalk, it is the kind of neighborhood where trouble puts its feet up. Drugs and prostitution are the main pursuits of those who visit here, and of those who stay.

Up the street, on Pacific Avenue, prostitutes lean against pawn shop windows lined with engagement rings, scouting for customers.

Posted by amy at 11:55 AM

Coalition Asks State Board To Consider Terrorism Protections for Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The coalition, consisting of 40 neighborhood organizations including four community boards, raised several concerns in its letter to the board, sent Tuesday, that were not addressed when the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the project earlier this month.

Those concerns included whether an insurance company would cover buildings in a development made largely of glass with an arena above an underground parking garage and one of the city’s main transportation hubs, and how affordable that insurance would be to low-income tenants.

The CBN also contends that the project violates several post- Sept. 11 codes that the Freedom Tower was required to follow, such as increasing its distance from the street and constructing the first few levels of impermeable concrete and steel.

“The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-Sept. 11 issues,” said Jim Vogel, secretary of the Council. “But you’re talking about thousands of people’s lives. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut it.”


Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

Brooklyn Broadside:Yards Plan Includes ‘Urban Room,’ New Transit, LIRR Connections


Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Another development that promises to be unique to Brooklyn and maybe the city is the “urban room,” a large proposed public space that will be the “lobby” for both the centerpiece building and the arena. The entrance to the building, a triangle made from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, will lead to a broad staircase which the architect, Frank Gehry, calls Brooklyn’s biggest “stoop.”

The size of this space, to be glass enclosed, is expected to be about 10,000 square feet. It will occupy two levels. A café is expected to be on the street level for ease of access by pedestrians going to and from the subway and the street during both event-and non-event periods.

Oooh - a giant glass room! Pairs perfectly with the FEIS's lack of preparation for terrorist activities!

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Greatest hits . . . and misses

NY Daily News

We’ll give Bruce Ratner this much credit: The Nets’ owner can’t be completely clueless when it comes to music. When Jets president Jay Cross stopped by the Daily News a few years ago to drum up support for the West Side Stadium, he told The Score that the facility wouldn’t just host eight Gang Green home games a year: The stadium would also be used for "Snoopy Dog" concerts, Cross told us.

We’re still laughing in our gin and juice over that one.

We presume the Nets owner knows the difference between rapper Snoop Dogg and Charlie Brown’s pet beagle since Ratner’s partners include one of the biggest names in hip-hop, Jay-Z, who has vowed to use his street cred to recruit free agents and turn the New Jersey Nets into New York’s team. "People grew up on the Knicks," the Brooklyn-born Shawn Carter told the Daily News last year. "The Nets have always been the cousins. I hope to change that."

So why isn’t he wearing a Nets’ cap on the cover of his new album, "Kingdom Come"? (If you don’t know, he’s wearing a Yankees’ cap).


Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

November 25, 2006

Civic Groups Cite Potential Terror Threat At Atlantic Yards; Call For Study

Thomas Tracy

The FEIS, released on November 15, doesn’t take into account the Atlantic Yards potential to be a terrorist target, Council members said, adding that the ESDC told Council members that they didn’t look into such matters because “environmental legislation doesn’t require it.”

“Over 100,000 people live in the vicinity of this project,” said Jim Vogel, a spokesperson for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. “It is unacceptable that their safety and security should be compromised by hair splitting about the letter of the law.”

In their letter, Council members said that fears of terrorism at the Atlantic Yards “were made known to the ESDC in responses to its Draft Scope of Analysis for the Atlantic Yards from the CBN, Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 and many elected representatives and community groups.”

“Unfortunately, the ESDC failed to acknowledge these concerns,” they stated.


Posted by amy at 1:18 PM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Make Full-Court Press

The Real Estate
Matthew Schuerman

Blogger Norman Oder has a rundown of the first court appearance on Tuesday for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's eminent domain lawsuit against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards. Another piece of the project opponents' legal strategy emerged: that government's power to take private property rests with the legislature, not the executive branch. The Atlantic Yards condemnations are being undertaken by the Empire State Development Corporation, which is appointed by the governor.

Oder even catches a moment when the E.S.D.C. lawyer cites a federal appeals court decision to support the idea that judges should not be making eminent domain decisions. But since that case said it was the "legislative" and not "administrative" arm that should be in charge instead, the lawyer had to do some on-the-spot editing.

If the legislature-only principle wins the day, the case will have a huge impact on the way New York state does business.

Meanwhile, City Council Member Letitia James, an Atlantic Yards opponent, met with a Dolan family lobbyist this week, The Brooklyn Papers reports.


Posted by amy at 1:14 PM



NY Post

An Empire State Development Corp. foul-up could delay final approval of Ratner's $4.2 billion, six-block Atlantic Yards project until after Eliot Spitzer takes over as governor in January - something that gives project opponents a glimmer of hope that the huge development could still be defeated.

Charles Gargano, the ESDC chairman and Gov. Pataki's economic-development czar, announced this week that the agency inadvertently left some public comments out of the project's 4,500-page Final Environmental Impact Statement it released Nov. 15. The statement must now be revised, and the ESDC is set to meet Monday.

There is still enough time for Atlantic Yards to get its mandatory approvals from the ESDC and Public Authorities Control Board before Pataki leaves office Dec. 31.

But Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, believes the PACB - which includes Gargano's nemesis, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver - could see the ESDC's failure to produce a complete impact statement as proof it "tried to rush the project through" before Spitzer takes over.


Is it us or does the Post article make "GOOF" look like a noun describing the accompanying photo?

Posted by amy at 1:08 PM

Mr. Brownstone: Heath Ledger


This week's New York Magazine profile covers Heath Ledger's views on both heroin and Ratner. He says no to both.

Have you ever done heroin?
No. And I didn’t consider doing it for the movie.

You’ve been active in protesting Ratner’s plans.
Michelle’s kind of the front-runner for that cause, but I think we’ll participate in some fund-raising.

So remember, kids, remain heroin and Ratner free for the holidays like the stars!

Posted by amy at 1:02 PM

Congestion pricing re-emerges on the public agenda

Atlantic Yards Report

BrooklynSpeaks says that the Atlantic Yards proposal “offers no real plan to avoid gridlock or improve subway and bus service” and recommends, among other things, that the developer and the city “implement roadway pricing to relieve traffic congestion in and around downtown Brooklyn.” The Empire State Development Corporation says that’s not on the agenda as of now--but it might emerge.

Indeed, both business groups and transportation progressives have begun to push for congestion pricing. In an article yesterday headlined Bigger Push for Charging Drivers Who Use the Busiest Streets, the New York Times reported how the Partnership for New York City, which includes major businesses, is bouncing back from an effort a year ago, in which a congestion pricing proposal was floated, then blasted by City Hall. According to the Times:
“We were premature in terms of talking about the problem and potential solutions without thinking about how those might be implemented here in the metropolitan region and what that would take,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the group. “It takes a lot of public buy-in, building consensus.”


Posted by amy at 12:57 PM

As protesters warn of gridlock, Ratner’s security guards call the cops


Atlantic Yards Report

In the protest called “Merry Gridlock,” some 15 volunteers from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) helped escort seniors and those with carriages--and handed sheets with diagrams of gridlocked intersections to those they encountered on foot or stopped at traffic lights.

The message: "Tell the city and the state to FIX THE TRAFFIC FIRST!" (One solution could be congestion pricing.)

They also attracted the attention of three security guards from the Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal mall complex, owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner. First, the guards told two sign-carriers outside the Target store in the Atlantic Terminal mall that they should instead walk in the street, according to Schellie Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition.

Then, in front of four reporters, the security guards told organizer Jim Vogel of CBN and several others to stop, because they were trespassing on private property, including the sidewalks outside the mall, and the sidewalks outside the Modell’s/P.C. Richard complex, formally known as the Shops at Atlantic Center.


Posted by amy at 12:51 PM

ARENA STUDY UNDER FIRE - State Agency Will Get Revised Version For Vote

Stephen Witt

“They [ESDC] seemed to have rushed the FEIS and in that rush, have left things out that have legally set back the timetable that they prefer,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.

“This means there is a strong possibility it won’t come before the PACB before the next administration,” he added, referring to when the Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer takes office on Januray1.

We'll just assume "Januray1" refers to New Year's Day, rather than the name of a spaceship.

Posted by amy at 10:29 AM

November 24, 2006

Looking at Spitzer's transition team and AY

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR's Norman Oder reviews the roster of influential New Yorkers advising Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer's transition team, and IDs those who might have a strong opinion — pro or con — about the Atlantic Yards Project.

There are quite a few of them (NLG wonders, frankly, how we failed to make the cut), and a quick scan of the list reveals a roughly equal tally of supporters and critics, who could conceivably cancel each other out, leaving the future Gov and his staff to have to weigh the pros and cons of the project and decide for themselves.


NoLandGrab: Might we be so bold to suggest that the Governor-elect may want to add NLG to his list of favorite bookmarks?

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

Forest City Ratner Had Plans for Yards Area, Even as Early as 1993

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

This is a biggie — the Eagle connects the dots between Forest City Ratner and the site later to be called "Atlantic Yards."

Back in September Atlantic Yards Report led a story with writer Dennis Holt's recollection on CUNY Reporters Roundtable of attending a presentation by Forest City Ratner that cited the MTA railyard as a potential development site back in the early 90s.

The Eagle checked out the archives and ran this story two days ago:

The following sentences were written by this correspondent in late September 1993 and appeared in the Phoenix newspaper at that time.

“For the first time in a public setting, officials from Forest City Ratner Companies and their consultants revealed their plans for the Atlantic Center site.

“Forest City also revealed its desire to expand the project site to include space across Atlantic Avenue from Sixth Avenue west to Flatbush, where they hope to build an office tower over the open Long Island Railroad Tracks. These officials even talked about their vision of a new subway and rail complex.”

This correspondent did not realize, nor did hardly anyone else at the time, that this “public setting,” which was held at the YWCA on Third Avenue on Sept. 21, 1993, was, in part, the first chapter in the book now known as the Atlantic Yards.

Those comments made about the Atlantic Yards were not just passing remarks. This paragraph also appeared in the story:

“When talking about an office tower across from the project [Atlantic Center], Paul Travis pointedly brought up the subject of a federal courthouse complex. The site, above the open rail yards, is one of the five candidate sites for such a structure, and it was clear that this is where Forest City would like for it to go.”

(Obviously, the Yards site was not chosen for the federal courthouse, nor was it later chosen for the state courthouse. The court community wanted these courts close to the legal center in Downtown Brooklyn.)

There were other comments at this meeting 16 years ago that suggested the future course. “Calling Flatbush Avenue the ‘spine of Brooklyn,’ Stan Eckstut, a consultant to Forest City, also said that the Atlantic Center area is the ‘center of Brooklyn’.”


NoLandGrab: Presented with such evidence, it will be hard to make the case that Bruce Ratner WASN'T a favored developer and that the seizing of private property for this private project was the result of a carefully drawn up city planning process. Now it will be up to the remaining property owners to prove the case in court.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Boo Boo Could Delay Atlantic Yards Approval Until '07


Before word of the the special meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Board, scheduled for this Monday, local blogs were trying to sort out if Atlantic Yards could be approved by the end of the year or not:

Earlier, a source had reported that the ESDC wouldn't vote on the document again until Dec 10-15. (ESDC Chair Charles Gargano ordered "a thorough quality control" review after the mistakes were found, so we're guessing it all depends on how "thorough" he meant.) Once the ESDC votes again, ten days have to pass before it can give final approval to the project. Confused yet? You will be in a moment. After the ESDC votes, the State Comptroller gets seven days to review the project. Then, it goes to the all-powerful Public Authorities Control Board, which also has to approve it.

In any case, the Nov. 27 re-issuing scenario would technically leave room for a PACB vote over the holidays. The Dec. 10 scenario all but makes it impossible. Either way, it's starting to look like the Gov.-elect may yet get to handle Brooklyn's hottest potato. You can almost hear those Thanksgiving gratitude lists being tentatively revised.


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites have to wait 30-90 days to get their potholes filled, but when you're Caring Bruce, government works.

The notice of the Monday meeting indicates that they are burning the midnight oil over at the ESDC and pulling out all the stops to deliver the project approval before Governor Pataki leaves office at the end of the year.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

November 23, 2006


TurkeyTarget.gifWe wanted to say thanks to all of the NoLandGrab readers whose voracious appetite for news on Atlantic Yards keeps us feeding the beast.

And, while we're at it, here's the requisite list of what we are thankful for:

We're thankful that sportswriters like Michael O'Keeffe, Mike Lupica, and George Vecsey "get it," even though their newspapers' editorial boards don't.

We're thankful that even on a slow news day, there's one guy who's even more obsessed about Atlantic Yards than Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder.

We're thankful that as much as Norman Oder dislikes having a FOIL request rejected, he really hates being lied to.

We're thankful that a handful of Americans are willing to risk nearly everything to make the U.S. Constitution worth the paper on which it's written.

We're thankful that the ESDC was in such a hurry to rubberstamp the Atlantic Yards project that they proved that the helter-skelter process is totally bogus (we're also thankful that they are willing to work on weekends).

We're thankful that Bruce Bender gets to talk from time to time.

We're thankful that in spite of his liberal do-gooder credentials, Frank Gehry occasionally tells us what he really thinks.

We're thankful that even white-glove civic organizations can't find anything in the project to love.

We're thankful that, the last time we checked, Bruce is #1.

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Final EIS delayed only until Monday

Atlantic Yards Report

If we didn't know better, we'd swear that Atlantic Yards encyclopedia Norman Oder sounds a little testy because the Empire State Development Corporation scuttled his plans for a quiet weekend catching up on a little light reading.

So much for a quiet Thanksgiving weekend. Consultants working on the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which had to be revised to incorporate comments that were missed in the first version released November 15, will have it ready for a 9 a.m. meeting Monday of the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the agency confirmed.

The board again will be asked "to determine that the FEIS is complete," and again will say so. Clearly, that's just a formality. We can't expect the board to actually compare the lengthy document at hand with, for example, the comments submitted.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Tish courts MSG on Yards

Hopes Dolans can stop Ratner’s plan

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Can the owners of Madison Square Garden and the NY Knicks tip the scales on the approval of Atlantic Yards? The Dolan family is politically well connected, they've scuttled other large development plans before, and another basketball team in NYC would be direct competition for their ailing NY Knicks.

Atlantic Yards opponents have long hoped for the Dolans to save the day, and project supporters are anticipating the possibility of pressure from the family that also owns Cablevision and the NY Rangers.

Read what staunch project opponent City Councilmember Letita James is trying to do about it.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Yards End Game Gets FEIS-ty

The Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

AYRDigest.gifNorman Oder's articles for the BD Star are summaries of many of the events and items reported on his blog — call it Atlantic Yards Report Digest.

In this week's digest, Oder covers: * the rubberstamping of the Environmental Impact Statement, * the political mudslinging between Sheldon Silver, Charles Gargano and a Pataki lackey, * changes between the Draft and Final EIS, * the smoking-gun memo proving that NYC Dept of Planning ordered the project's "scaledown" from a menu of options provided by the developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), * another document revealing that FCR tried to downplay architect Frank Gehry's role in developing the goals of the project (they are usually developed by a government agency and then assigned to a developer, not the other way around), * truly bizarre mitigations proposed in the FEIS, * what about Coney Island, and * Ratner's secret model illustrating a significant scaledown for the project.


NoLandGrab: If you think the digest is long, you are probably not an Atlantic Yards Report junkie.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Agency error delays Atlantic Yards approval

State approval of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will likely be pushed back to 2007 due to an error by the Empire State Development Corp.

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

New York state approval of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will likely be pushed back to 2007 because of a technical error by the Empire State Development Corp.

The ESDC failed to incorporate some public comments into the final environmental impact statement that its board certified last week. The document will have to be reprinted and certified again at Monday's meeting of the board.

The board must then wait another 10 days to recertify the document and certify the general project plan, environmental findings and property seizures for the $4.2 billion project. It would then go to the state comptroller's office for a review that could take seven days.

The article lays out the issues pointing the way towards possible approval during the last days of Governor George Pataki's administration, but mentions another stumbling block on the horizon:

State approval is not the project's largest hurdle. A greater threat is an October lawsuit by local residents, who could lose their homes and small businesses.


NoLandGrab: The latest word is that the ESDC board scheduled a special meeting for next Monday, November 27, to approve the release of the New & Improved FEIS. This will start the clock ticking again on the approval process.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

He stopped Ratner … for a bit

Testimony had been forgotten

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

RaulRothblatt.jpgHe didn’t do it with a lawsuit. He didn’t do it with a rally. He didn’t do it by lobbying. In fact, he didn’t do anything at all — but Prospect Heights resident Raul Rothblatt managed to grind Bruce Ratner’s $4.2-billion Atlantic Yards mega-project to a halt this week because the state forgot to include his testimony in its final review of the development.

The project’s final environmental impact statement, which had been accepted by the Empire State Development Corporation last week, was recalled on Monday because Rothblatt’s — and others’ — public comments failed to be included in appendix of the 4,500-page document, as required by law.

Two binders of Rothblatt’s testimony — Binder 1 and Binder 3 — made it into the appendix, but not Binder 2, he said.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Shelly gets one right

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

We’ve certainly had our disagreements with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but the Manhattan Democrat earned our Hero of the Week award for his righteous broadside against state development czar Charles Gargano on Sunday.

Appearing on WNBC’s “News Forum,” Silver said what virtually no one has had the guts to say, namely that Gargano, who came to power after serving as George Pataki and Al D’Amato’s bagman, is the “most corrupt” of Pataki’s rubberstampers.


Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

November 22, 2006

Comptroller Hevesi warns PACB to be cautious about debt

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi yesterday warned that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) is moving much too fast, thus offering another potential brake on the Atlantic Yards project and many others.

Though the PACB approved an average of less than half a billion dollars in projects per meeting over the last year, it has rushed through projects totaling $11.4 billion in this month and October, Hevesi said.

In December, projects worth several billions more are expected to reach the PACB, which requires unanimity from its three voting members: Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
Note that the Comptroller, who faces investigation and possible removal because of his use of state employees to drive his wife, seems to be reasserting his statutory role. To Albany Times-Union political reporter Elizabeth Benjamin, Hevesi is getting revenge on Pataki, who just authorized a special prosecutor to gain subpoena powers in investigating Hevesi. A Pataki spokesman blamed Hevesi and Silver for delaying projects.


Additional links:
Albany: Hevesi Says Board Is Rushing Projects (NYT)

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Eminent domain case gets day in court; public use, legislative process at issue

Atlantic Yards Report attends "the first skirmish in a legal war" over the issue of eminent domain:

Two lines of argument emerged yesterday as lawyers in the case known as Goldstein v. Pataki, which challenges the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project, met in federal court in Downtown Brooklyn.

On the one hand, the plaintiffs (property owner Daniel Goldstein and nine others, owners and tenants, threatened with eminent domain) will be pressed to argue that the Atlantic Yards project would provide too little public use to meet the legal standard.

On the other, the defendants (Empire State Development Corporation, developer Forest City Ratner, and city and state officials including Governor George Pataki) must stretch to contend that the project was in fact considered by a legislative body, as evolving eminent domain law seems to require.

The parties were there to address two issues: a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case, and a request by the plaintiffs for discovery, the legal process under which a party to a case is compelled to provide relevant documents. But in essence they were discussing the whole case, which may break some new legal ground. (Here's the complaint.)


Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Brooklyn speaks, part 3: Hundreds of Brooklynites sign letters at Grand Army Plaza

Tabling-BS.jpgBrooklyn Speaks has taken its letterwriting campaign to the streets during the past few weeks.

The coalition's web site posted "some of the comments Brooklynites appended to their letters," which pretty much run the gamut:

I have lived in this area (Prospect Heights) for 21 years. Things are growing and improving well on their own. Greed killed the golden goose. - M.S.

More public participation needed in the decision-making process. - A.D.

This project will make my neighborhood unpleasant and horribly crowded with traffic. I won't be able to walk through this development. - M.J.

If I wanted to live surrounded by skyscrapers, I would live in Manhattan. Brooklyn is a borough friendly to families, small businesses, and it should stay that way. - C.F.E.

There needs to be more real affordable housing. - J.Y.

The speed with which this immense project is being pushed through is frightening and undue. It needs to slow down and these concerns need to be addressed. - I.M.

This is an abuse of eminent domain. - I.C.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Fans For Fair Play: Quickies

Jay-Z-NYY.jpgFans For Fair Play posted thoughts on several recent developments in the Atlantic Yards fight, including how a true Brooklyn sports fan feels about Jay-Z's Yankees cap (Ratner guys always seem to be wearing the wrong cap):

FFFP attended a Fort Greene Association event last night. Hakeen Jeffries', the area's new State Assemblymember-elect was on the bill. Also, Joe Chan, who heads up the newly-coagulated Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Jeffries was encouraging, but still hard to read. He announced he would advise Sheldon Silver to postpone the upcoming and crucial vote of the Public Authorities Control Board...the one that would authorize hundreds of millions in state funds for Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. That's good news. Other Brooklyn assemblymembers who have Silver's ear -- Jim Brennan and Joan Millman -- are also urging a delay.

Jeffries has other concerns about the project -- size, lack of democratic process, and eminent domain abuse -- but at the same time, still supports the basic concept of a Ratner's mega-block. In the end, we hope Hakeem prevails on the concerns he has.

Joe Chan was far less encouraging. Formerly with the Bloomberg administration, Chan's just another political operative parlaying his government connections into private-sector enrichment.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Calls on PACB for Terror Study

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2006

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods today sent a letter to the members of the Public Authorities Control Board, the State body responsible for critical consideration of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, calling on it to urge the Empire State Development Corporation to perform a thorough public analysis of any potential terrorism issues in regard to Atlantic Yards. Terrorism and Security were two areas of study requested by CBN and other community groups in response to last year’s Draft Scope of Analysis, a document describing the areas the ESDC intended to analyze in the DEIS. The ESDC replied that the neither study would be performed because they weren’t required according to the environmental legislation. (It should be noted that those requirements have not been updated in over 12 years and that the legislation allows for the addition of study areas at any time.)

“Over 100,000 people live in the vicinity of this project,” said CBN spokesperson Jim Vogel. “It is unacceptable that their safety and security should be compromised by hair-splitting about the letter of the law.”

From the letter:
“We are particularly concerned about the profound range of consequences resulting from concentrating, in what would be the nation’s most densely populated urban tract, adjacent to one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections, three Department of Homeland Security-designated terror targets: a glass-walled sports arena and a glass-clad office tower built above the borough’s largest transportation hub, which was, in 1997, the target of a thwarted terror plot.

…The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-9/11 issues. It is equally true, however, that the ESDC should have a public responsibility to fully acknowledge and analyze safety concerns brought to its attention by the community in accordance with the SEQRA process.

… Issues of public safety and security related to terrorism should be as much a part of New York’s planning process as earthquake protections are to San Francisco’s.”

The letter was copied to all relevant state officials. A copy of the letter is attached below this message.

November 21, 2006

The Honorable George Pataki
The Honorable Joseph Bruno
The Honorable Sheldon Silver

Re: Security Concerns regarding the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, Brooklyn, New York


The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has been charged by its more than forty member organizations with ensuring that our community is effectively engaged throughout the environmental review process for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project, and that the process is transparent and comprehensive. The membership of CBN includes civic and community-based organizations representing the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project site.

We write today out of a deep concern that the EmpireState Development Corporation will not provide to the Public Authorities Control Board the information they will need to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of the Atlantic Yards project.

We are particularly concerned about the profound range of consequences resulting from concentrating, in what would be the nation’s most densely populated urban tract, adjacent to one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections, three Department of Homeland Security-designated terror targets: a glass-walled sports arena and a glass-clad office tower built above the borough’s largest transportation hub, which was, in 1997, the target of a thwarted terror plot.

These concerns were made known to the ESDC in responses to its Draft Scope of Analysis for the Atlantic Yards from CBN, Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, and many elected representatives and community groups. Unfortunately, the ESDC failed to acknowledge these concerns in its Final Scope of Analysis, or in its subsequent Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Discouragingly, the issue was not addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was recently released.

The most serious of these concerns include:

  • The potential effects on the Atlantic Yards’ financials when the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act expires at the end of next year, and the potential need for additional subsidies to cover currently “unanticipated” project insurance costs.

  • The indirect socioeconomic impact of insurance availability and affordability for surrounding property and business owners. At risk is the pool of locally available affordable housing as well as the sustainability of existing local small businesses. We base our concerns on the reduction by Allstate of their share of Brooklyn’s homeowners’ insurance market, based on risks brought to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Recent supporting AP and NYT articles can be found at http://www.texaswatch.org/media/ap062206.htm and http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/realestate/26coastal.html)

  • How varying requirements for security might affect police, or even the project developer’s, decisions to create additional limitations on the public’s right of entry to the project’s “publicly accessible open space.”

  • How traffic flow, air quality, public health and business activity will be affected, given that no requirements have been specified for traffic and security barriers, backpack and vehicle inspections at arena events, elevated terror threat levels, or other easily anticipated scenarios.

  • Under what conditions commercial vehicles might have to be rerouted in order to safeguard the project’s essentially all-glass “Urban Room,” which would be both a component of the project’s “publicly accessible open space” and the main entryway to the MTA’s Atlantic Avenue Station.

  • The potential impact on emergency response times resulting from the already-degraded traffic flow extensively documented in the DEIS, as well as the potential effect on existing emergency evacuation plans.

  • What post-9/11 safety codes and standards will be used for the design and construction of the project. (We note that while NYC’s Building Codes are to be upgraded at the end of this year, the ESDC has reserved its right to override city requirements as it sees fit [General Project Plan, page 4]. These standards may affect the lives of first responders, and everyone else living at, working in, and visiting Atlantic Yards and its neighboring communities.)

  • What portion of Department of Homeland Security grants to New York City, and other such state, agency, and local expenditures, will have to be devoted to the ongoing protection of this privately developed project? All such capital and operational expenditures should be included in the financial analysis of this project and its public subsidies.

The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-9/11 issues. It is equally true, however, that the ESDC should have a public responsibility to fully acknowledge and analyze safety concerns brought to its attention by the community in accordance with the SEQRA process. Indeed, in a recent case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled that consideration of terrorism concerns in a process similar to that required under SEQRA is justified on the grounds that it provides information pertinent to governmental decision-making even though such analysis is not specifically required.

Issues of public safety and security related to terrorism should be as much a part of New York’s planning process as earthquake protections are to San Francisco’s. Therefore, we respectfully ask the PACB to urge the ESDC to study and disclose all issues related to terrorism and security prior to the adoption of the General Project Plan and the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards as a critical matter of public safety.

Sincerely yours,

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.

By: Candace Carponter, Co-Chairperson By: Therese Urban, Co-Chairperson

cc: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Borough President Marty Markowitz
United States Senator Charles Schumer
United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
NYS Governor-elect Elliott Spitzer
NYS Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo
NYS Senator Carl Andrews
NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
NYS Senator Kevin Parker
NYS Senator Martin Connor
NYS Senator Martin Dilan
NYS Senator Martin Golden
NYS Senator Carl Kruger
NYS Senator John Sampson
NYS Senator Malcolm Smith
NYS Senator Diane J. Savino
Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries
Assemblymember Roger Green
Assemblymember James F. Brennan
Assemblymember Joseph R. Lentol
Assemblymember Joan L. Millman
Assemblymember Peter J. Abbate Jr.
Assemblymember William F. Boyland Jr.
Assemblymember Adele Cohen
Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz
Assemblymember Diane Gordon
Assemblymember Dov Hikind
Assemblymember N. Nick Perry
Assemblymember Frank R. Seddio Assemblymember Annette Robinson Assemblymember Helene E. Weinstein City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Councilmember Tracy Boyland Councilmember Yvette Clarke Councilmember Letitia James Councilmember Bill de Blasio Councilmember Al Vann Councilmember David Yassky Councilmember Erik Dilan Councilmember Simcha Felder Councilmember Lewis Fidler Councilmember Vincent Gentile Councilmember Sara Gonzalez Councilmember Michael Nelson Councilmember Dominic Recchia Councilmember Diana Reyna Councilmember Kendall Stewart


Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Atlantic Yards Approval Could Be Delayed By Impact Statement Snafu

The Real Estate Observer
By Tom Acitelli

The Empire State Development Corporation announced on Monday it had to delay the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Yards project. It seems, according to a release from corporation Chairman Charles Gargano, that some public comments were not included in the FEIS. It was presented to the ESDC board on Nov. 15.
What does this mean, exactly? While the Atlantic Yards project looked likely to float toward approval by both the ESDC and the state Public Authorities Control Board before New Year's (and the start of Eliot Spitzer's reign in Albany), the delay on the environmental impact statement could drag the approval process at least into 2007.


NoLandGrab: It's difficult to know for sure what effect this delay will have. Will Atlantic Yards gets approved by a Governor George Pataki administration, or will it get put off until Eliot Spitzer takes office?

One thing is for certain - the rush-rush mentality has obviously put a strain on all sides.

Community groups were totally stressed out when they were forced to prepare comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in a mere 73 days. Though the timeframe met legal guidelines, it was much shorter than recent comment periods for much smaller projects.

Now it seems that the short timeframe even has the experts and professionals stumbling over themselves to get this project approval in the can. Regardless of one's position on the project, the review process for a project of this magnitude should not be proceding in this fashion.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Press Release: CBN Events

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods announces two upcoming events!


Friday, November 24th marks the start of the official Holiday Shopping Frenzy and it is very likely that the area around the proposed Atlantic Yards will be gifted with tremendous traffic (read: gridlock). CBN’s traffic analysis predicts these conditions could be almost daily events in the current Atlantic Yards plan. To highlight the need for further regional analysis and better area-wide traffic solutions, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods will be holding an information event!

Event: Merry Gridlock
When: Friday, November 24th 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.
Where: Intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic and 4th Avenues (exact meeting place to be established.)
What: Merry Gridlock - An opportunity to point out how Atlantic Yards will exacerbate the already traffic-packed intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and 4th Avenues.

Volunteers will be holding signs, distributing literature, and helping pedestrians navigate these dangerous intersections


On Thursday, November 30th, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods will be holding a Public Information Forum to summarize the findings and concerns discussed in their response to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Event: Public Information Forum: Atlantic Yards EIS Findings and Concerns
When: Thursday, November 30th, 7:30 PM
Where: 85 South Oxford Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (meeting room of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church)

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Backlashing, Manhattanville and our pals in NJ

EminentDomain03.jpgThe Daily Politics, Eminent Domain Foes Should Stop Skewing Facts

Celebrity guest "flogger" Errol Louis got a can of whup-ass on Ben Smith's turf, The Daily Politics, for his "smoking-gun" commentary about the merry band of Libertarian litigators, the Institute for Justice.

Two other blogs took note of Louis's column published in yesterday's Daily News:
Gotham Gazette, Eminent Domain: Is it “Out of Control?”

The Empire Zone (NYT), An Intriguing Yards Alliance
NY Times reporter Nicholas Confessore calls the Institute for Justice and Atlantic Yards opponents "strange bedfellows."

NoLandGrab: We've pointed out on numerous occasions that eminent domain is an issue that brings together small-goverment free-market conservatives and Robin-Hood liberals who are offended by the social effects of urban renewal and the notion of taking land from citizens to give to the politically connected.

In the pro-eminent domain camp you'll find the big-business conservatives and eco-liberals (those who see eminent domain as a powerful tool to enact environmental conservation on private property).

Polis, Manhattanvilified

An urban planning, design and architecture blog posts its own take on Columbia University's bid for expansion and the use of eminent domain — falling somewhere in the middle.

Home News Tribune, Court halts eminent domain action against elderly Long Branch couple

The Appellate Division of state Superior Court has granted a stay of the eminent domain action threatened against Long Branch homeowners Louis and Lillian Anzalone.

The Anzalones, both 89, have lived in their Ocean Terrace home for 46 years. The city has targeted their waterfront Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue neighborhood, commonly referred to as MTOTSA, for redevelopment and has filed a motion to seize their homes through eminent domain and replace them with upscale condos.

NJEminentDomain.com, Stay granted in eminent domain case in Long Branch, N.J.

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court granted the request of property owners Louis and Lillian Anzalone for a stay of the eminent domain action threatened against their home located at 32 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey. The Order for Stay, signed by presiding judge Jack L. Lintner, will prevent Long Branch from seizing the Anzalone property while the appeal is pending. The City of Long Branch also filed a motion to accelerate the appeal. That motion was denied.

Superior Court Assignment Judge Lawrence Lawson previously denied a stay to the property owners in the MTOTSA neighborhood in his 60-page opinion issued on June 22, 2005.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Yankees Build Giant Dustbowl in Bronx

YankeesStadiumSite.jpgPower Plays (Political blog of The Village Voice)
By Neil deMause

It's four months past the groundbreaking for a new Yankees Stadium in the Bronx — what does the neighborhood have to show for it?

Dust from what used to be a park, traffic and noise from trucks starting at 6AM, pile driving and rats are all environmental impacts that were predicted for this residential community.

And what about those temporary ballfields that the City promised? The City has yet to solicit bids for their construction.


NoLandGrab: Years of adverse environmental impacts and delayed community benefits are some of the things Central Brooklynites, too, can expect if Atlantic Yards is approved.

Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Thanksgiving.gifDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is serving up Frank Gehry's "Miss Brooklyn" in the group's Thanksgiving greeting to the community, which commemorates three years of the fight against Bruce Ratner's bid to gobble up the neighborhood.

Click here for the full greeting.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Forest City Casino

The latest news from the Gaming Board in Pennsylvania, where Forest City Enterprises is one of three bidders vying to build a gigantic slot-machine parlor in Pittsburgh:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Harrah's bankrolls local casino investors

The gambling and entertainment giant, Harrah's, is bankrolling several local investors, including Steelers' legend Franco Harris, in the Forest City Ratner-Harrah's bid to build a gigantic slot-machine parlor in Pittsburgh, according to the disclosures in hearings before the Pennsylvania State Gaming Control Board.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Slots candidates pitch plans for 'Burgh parlor

The state Gaming Control Board's study, which has not been released, predicted a casino in the city would make $200 million in its first year and $482 million in its fifth year, said Steve Rittvo, chairman of The Innovation Group.
Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises said it could make more money - as much as $617 million in just its third year - by hiring Harrah's Entertainment as operator of a Station Square casino.

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

November 21, 2006

Eminent domain fans should stop skewering the facts

Errol Louis might be a "Madder Overkiller" than Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder. Armed with two regular columns and his own set of facts, he is leading a one-columnist crusade for Atlantic Yards.

Since Louis is calling on eminent domain foes (who might they be? ;) to "stop skewing facts," he won't mind us putting his latest NY Daily News column, "Eminent domain foes should stop skewing facts," through the insta-fact checker.

Louis: "A small group of 10 homeowners and one business has filed a federal lawsuit."

Uh, it's really three homeowners, six tenants and one business.

Louis then cites statistics from the Institute for Justice and claims they are not accurate:

A conservative Washington-based legal group, the Institute for Justice - which brought, and lost, the Kelo case - says it has documented 10,282 wrongful uses of eminent domain between 1998 and 2002. This year, the institute claimed that after the Kelo decision, local governments "threatened eminent domain or condemned at least 5,783 homes, businesses, churches and other properties."

Those would be troubling statistics - if they were accurate.

Actually, a group of working-class homeowners in New London, including Suzette Kelo, "brought" the case. The Institute for Justice, which Louis strives to paint as some big K Street lobbying group, provided free legal counsel to the homeowners, who certainly wouldn't have been able to afford a Supreme Court challenge.

Next, Louis provides additional statistics to make another point, but does not dispute the veracity of the Institute's statistics:

In reality, according to Profs. Robert Dreher and Johan Echeverria of Georgetown Law School, the Institute for Justice's alarming numbers are little more than a quick-and-dirty count of media reports in which officials said eminent domain might be used. About 90% of those 5,783 cases were such speculative musings, and the group made no attempt to count when a study or public statement led to no further action.

The institute's statistics also are wildly inflated, counting individual properties in one project as separate uses of eminent domain. The alleged 10,000 cases of eminent domain actually involved only 222 projects, according to the Georgetown profs.

Look, the Institute for Justice isn't saying that there were 10,000 projects that used eminent domain, just around 10,000 property owners who were affected by the practice of using eminent domain to acquire private property. This practice includes coercing property owners to sell before the condemnations are handed down. Also, the Institute's number might be incomplete, since there isn't a central directory for every instance in which the government mentions the possibility of using eminent domain.

Louis's attack on the Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition campaign as an organization that "masquerades as a grass-roots group battling eminent domain but actually is one more arm of the group" is beyond ironic, considering that Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development was formed in Forest City Ratner's boardroom.

Clearly, when an organization is getting as much traction as the Institute for Justice, it is important to consider the group's philosophy. Louis claims that the "overall mission" of the group is to protect "the conservative big-business interests who fund the institute." It would be more accurate to say that the Institute for Justice is a Libertarian organization that champions causes which have positive and negative effects on businesses, big and small. Big developers like Forest City Ratner and mega-retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, have been the primary beneficiaries of eminent domain condemnations for private purposes. That's why Forest City Residential West pumped at least $250,000 into the recent California election to defeat Proposition 90, a measure that would have restricted the use of eminent domain.

The issue of eminent domain is complicated; though the Institute lost the Kelo case, they won popular support in the backlash to the widely unpopular Kelo decision. The Institute has recently won two important state court decisions in Ohio and Michigan.

Many individuals and groups are affected by its use, but it's safe to say that eminent domain is never used to clear blight in wealthy neighborhoods, nor to take property from the well-to-do for the greater benefit of the poor. That's why the issue of eminent domain abuse has touched such a nerve with the public, and bears closer examination for the benefit of our common values and beliefs.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM

Incoming Assemblyman Jeffries supports AY delay, compromise

Atlantic Yards Report

Hakeem Jeffries, the newly-elected Assemblyman in the 57th Assembly District, which includes the site for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, has long spoken carefully about the project, offering support for affordable housing, concern about eminent domain (at least for a basketball arena), and a belief that the project would be too big.

Last night, speaking before a meeting of the Fort Greene Association, Jeffries maintained such a cautiously supportive stance. He called for the project to be delayed until the administration of incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer, and said he supported several changes in the project. Such changes, including the idea of a government subsidiary dedicated to overseeing the project, sound much like those proposed by BrooklynSpeaks, the coalition of critics that have staked out a relatively moderate stance that separates them from the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) coalition.


Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

ESDC will revise Final EIS; may delay project vote until Spitzer's term

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains what the delay of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, announced yesterday, could mean for the approval of the project:

The ESDC board would have to certify the FEIS, wait ten calendar days to approve it, then send an application for approval to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). At that point State Comptroller Alan Hevesi could delay the vote for at least a week by examining the project, or he could waive comments and let the PACB vote.


Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Lawmakers Are Banking on a Change of Heart by Pataki on Pay Raises

The NY Sun
By Jacob Gershman

An article about the possibility of lawmakers finally getting a pay raise from the outgoing governor cites the politicial football du jour, Atlantic Yards, as possible leverage against Pataki.

Legislators have some leverage over the lame-duck governor. The Senate can jam up Mr. Pataki's last remaining judicial appointments and Mr. Silver and Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno can use their power as members of the Public Authorities Control Board to derail the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards development project, which could be up for final approval next month.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Forest City Gaming

Yesterday, Forest City was the first of three bidders for a license to operate a slot-machine parlor in Pittsburgh to go before the Pennslyvania State gaming board.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 bidders for lucrative city casino license face state gaming panel

Forest City Enterprises unveiled big changes yesterday in its casino plan for Station Square, proposing a new hotel and a temporary slots parlor, but couldn't escape concerns about revenue forecasts and potential traffic problems.

Pittsburgh Business Times, Forest City outlines temporary casino plan

But the group also outlined plans for a temporary gaming casino, which it said could be operational by October 2007.

The Station Square team was the only Pittsburgh gaming applicant which hadn't previously mentioned plans for a temporary casino.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pens to stay unless 'kicked out'

[Pittsburgh Penguins owner Jim] Balsillie was speaking on behalf of St. Louis-based Isle of Capri Casino, which has said it would pay $290 million for a new arena if awarded the license.

The other two bidders -- Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises and Detroit-based Majestic Star Casino -- have said they would help pay for an arena if awarded the license.

For those of you who are following Forest City's other attempts to get into casino gambling, Ohioans voted down State Issue 3, which would have brought slot-machine parlors to Ohio.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Track record and condo glut?

One of the most serious marks on real estate developer Forest City Ratner's track record in Brooklyn is that when Forest City projects don't pan out, NY State or City steps in to bail out their pal Bruce Ratner.

Metrotech was supposed to stem the tide of corporate flight to New Jersey, yet the largest tenant is the City of New York (glad we managed to keep those jobs in NYC). When the Atlantic Center Mall had trouble keeping an anchor tenant, enter the State of New York, which is now the mall's largest tenant.

That's why large reversals in market conditions make Bruce Ratner's critics nervous. Atlantic Yards was initially supposed to be a boon to Brooklyn, bringing more jobs to the borough. The Downtown Brooklyn plan's prediction of significant demand for commercial office space in Brooklyn has been disproved — the increased height allowances have only brought high-rise luxury condos. Bruce Ratner has changed tack in his Atlantic Yards proposal, and has converted most of the office space originally proposed to luxury condos and hotel rooms.

News that the luxury condo boom may have run its course isn't good news for Brooklynites who might live in the shadow of Ratner's mammoth Atlantic Yards. Ratner has two proposals on the table, one featuring around 6.8-million gross square feet (gsf) of residential space and an optional plan, which converts about 1 million gsf of the residential space to commercial. Add to that evidence that the super-rich are not willing to pay a premium for starchitect-designed condos, preferring instead to pay extra bucks to live in a more exclusive neighborhood (usually not next to an arena).

If the need for office space in Brooklyn hasn't materialized, and the luxury condo market may have run its course, then why commit billions of public dollars to a project that is at best speculative and, at worst, headed for a bailout even before it gets off the drawing board?

The NY Times, Changing Course to Avert a Glut
Brownstoner, Supply and Demand Getting Out of Whack? (Questions and comments on what the condo glut means to Brooklyn)
One Hanson Place, Price drop at new townhouse by Atlantic Yards
Wall St. Journal, Condos With a Name: 'Available'

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

November 20, 2006

Empire State Development News: STATEMENT BY CHARLES GARGANO


Shortly after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Board of Directors accepted the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Yards Project on November 15, I was informed that some comments submitted in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) were not included. I immediately directed ESDC staff to conduct a thorough quality control review, which is now underway. All comments inadvertently excluded from the FEIS are being carefully considered. The FEIS will be amended to include the substantive comments that had been omitted and responses to those comments, and re-presented to the ESDC Board for consideration.

It is essential that the public comment process be faithfully followed in letter and spirit.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 PM

TONIGHT: Fort Greene Association Meeting and United Coalition of Block Associations Forum

DeskCalendar-Mon20.gifFGA: Development Going Up on the Streets of Fort Greene
85 South Oxford Street, 7:30PM

What's going on and what can Fort Greene expect from all the development planned for its streets? Hear from New York City official Joe Chan, dubbed by the press as the "Development Czar" of downtown Brooklyn.

NY State Assembly - 57th District addressing the audience and taking your questions.

Community Forum with Letitia James
Presented by United Coalition of Block Associations
The Crown Gardens Community Room
1185 Carroll Street, 7PM

Special Guest:
City Councilmember Letitia James will speak about eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

In West Harlem Land Dispute, It’s Columbia vs. Residents

The NY Times
By Timothy Williams

Eminent domain news from the other big NYC land grab was featured on page 1 of the Metro section of today's Times:

Columbia-NYT.jpgWhen Columbia University announced plans three years ago to expand by building on 17 acres in West Harlem, the university stressed that it would work with its neighbors rather than risk stirring up long-held animosities.

But before the release of an environmental report for the $7 billion project, opponents say Columbia has antagonized Harlem residents by insisting that it has the right to seek eminent domain to force property owners out.


Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

Rev. Al, repair your wobbly bully pulpit

NY Daily News
By Andrea Batista Schlesinger

An opinion piece considering what could be better about Reverend Al Sharpton mentions his support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

Instead of going a mile wide, speaking nationally on everything from conservatives and the black church to the NFL's plans to introduce a cable football channel, Sharpton needs to go deep.
On the economic front lines, Sharpton could fight for policy to ensure that higher-quality jobs are created by the development projects he favors, like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: In November, 2005, Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe revealed a key fact about Rev. Al's ties to Ratner, "Forest City Ratner has contributed thousands of dollars to Sharpton’s National Action Network. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco acknowledged Ratner’s development company provided financial support last year and this year but declined to say how much money FCR has contributed to the National Action Network’s coffers."

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

An American Home Should Be Your Castle


NY Sun
By Harold Furchtgott-Roth

As Americans are about to open up their homes to friends and family members for the Thanksgiving celebration, former FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth contemplates the legal, political, economic and emotional significance of the American home:

This Thanksgiving, most Americans will enjoy homes that are secure from the threat of condemnation or forfeiture. But homeowners in Riviera Beach and other communities across America face a tyranny of a local majority: Local government that covets their private property and uses the guise of governmental power to seek to transfer that property to another. Against this local tyranny, property owners have no federal protection. States have the prerogative to pass laws and state constitutional amendments to prohibit private takings, but states also have the prerogative to decline to do so.

This year, we have much for which to be thankful. Perhaps next year, all Americans can also aspire to a home secure from private governmental takings.


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Death in Atlantic Yards

Drum Major Institute Blog
By Mark Winston Griffith

I thank Nicholas Confessore's November 12 piece in the New York Times - Perspectives on the Atlantic Yards Development Through the Prism of Race - for reminding us that the real wedge dividing up the Atlantic Yards political circus is not black or white, but green.

There are good and compelling reasons for people to support the Atlantic Yards project or to fight against it. But as a resident of Central Brooklyn and a black activist who has fought for neighborhood-driven economic justice for twenty years, I'm even more struck by the cost that those of us who consider ourselves part of the "black community" in Brooklyn have already begun to pay for this debate.


Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

ESDC notes more evidence for a Coney arena, then dismisses it

Atlantic Yards Report

ConeyArena-BP.jpgOne of the most detailed responses to the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) charged that the state had downplayed the option of Coney Island as the location for a Brooklyn arena. A report submitted by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn pointed out that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had ignored two studies regarding Coney.

In the Final EIS, released Wednesday, the ESDC did acknowledge those studies, and the argument for a Coney arena, but mainly to dismiss them. Some of the arguments are worth considering, but others misread the situation. (At right, planned arena location, from 1/31/04 Brooklyn Papers.)


Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

Silver watch

SheldonSilverCard.jpgThis weekend several blogs, including NoLandGrab, stared at the bottom of the tea cup Sheldon Silver left behind, trying to divine the meaning of recent public comments and the very nasty dissing contest between the Assembly Speaker and a staffer of outgoing Governor Pataki.

Atlantic Yards Report tried to put it all in context and reminded readers of an earlier article on AYR, which found $6,000 of campaign contributions from Bruce Ratner's family members for Sheldon Silver's re-election campaign, though the Lower Manhattan Assemblyman ran un-opposed.

Brooklyn Speaks, a coalition of groups who are seeking to improve the project from an urban-planning perspective, highlighted one of the most nebulous comments in their headline, "Silver on Atlantic Yards: The merits of the project still to be examined." The comment comes from a WNBC interview with Jay DeDapper, which aired this weekend. Is Silver really saying that the project has its merits, but these merits need to be examined? If that doesn't quite make sense to you, then what does he mean?

In the same interview, Silver's harshest words were saved for the Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, Charles Gargano: the legislator called the Governor's appointed chairman "the most corrupt, most corrupt member of this administration." This unleashed a public "war or words," which Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn tried to keep up with in yesterday's post, Touché says Gargano.

Even The Gowanus Lounge got serious in a Sunday post, "Sheldon Speaks on Atlantic Yards," by running quotes from the interview along with this summary of the public's speculation over what is causing this food fight:

On Atlantic Yards, there is rampant talk that Silver is being lobbied to put off a vote on the project until after Eliot Spitzer takes office (Spitzer is very pro, but might tinker with the model) or even until the eminent domain suit is resolved. There is also some thought he will broker some sort of compromise to genuinely reduce the scale of the project (those smaller models that Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry are said to have ready) and further mitigate traffic and other impacts.

The ironic thing is that despite the millions of dollars spent by Ratner to sell Atlantic Yards, and thousands of hours invested by project critics in opposition to the project, the issue still becomes a political football in a clash of Albany All-Stars.

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

November 19, 2006

Silver on AY: "We'll look at it in a very favorable light"


Atlantic Yards Report covers all the Silver action this weekend, from the corruption smackdown to his comments regarding PACB and Atlantic Yards on this morning's WNBC's News Forum.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, got into a war of words this weekend with the lame-duck administration of Republican Governor George Pataki, but the news for Brooklynites were his words of steady if not complete support for the Atlantic Yards project--a suggestion that he might want to broker a compromise of sorts.

Still, Silver, whose vote on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) is necessary to approve Atlantic Yards, may be so peeved at Pataki and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Charles Gargano that he will refuse to greenlight the project during the last weeks of the Pataki administration but would rather wait until fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer takes over in January.

"In Brooklyn, it's a mixed bag. There are people for it, people against it, and the proposal itself keeps changing somewhat," Silver said during an interview broadcast this morning on WNBC's News Forum. "So we'll look at it in a very favorable light because development is necessary down there, see how the developer responds to some of the criticism, either because of the mass of the project or some of the traffic."


Posted by amy at 1:24 PM



New York Post
And in other news you thought would end after the elections - public name-calling competitions!

A top aide to Gov. Pataki unleashed an unprecedented personal attack on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday, after the Democrat called Pataki's top economic development adviser "corrupt" and more interested in his own purported "gambling interests" than in New York's well-being.

"For Shelly 'Vegas' Silver to lecture anyone about ethics is like a bad standup routine, especially since he's Alan Hevesi's biggest apologist, has employed a known sex offender, has covered up internal investigations and has presided over a body that had no less than seven of its members indicted, convicted, or resign under a cloud of disgrace," said David Catalfamo, Pataki's communications director.


Silver (D-Manhattan), who was taping WNBC's "News Forum" for a show that airs tomorrow, ripped Gargano as "corrupt" and said he was more interested in raising campaign cash than he was in New York's economy.

"Let's talk about Charlie Gargano, the most corrupt, most corrupt member of this administration," said Silver.


DDDB asks, what are they fighting over???

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) which is the lead agency attempting to ram "Atlantic Yards"–a project not ready for prime time–down our throats.

"Atlantic Yards" requires a unanimous vote from the PACB. Gargano's agency will soon pass "Atlantic Yards" on for the PACB's consideration. The fight is over Silver's scathing attack on Gargano and Pataki's aide's attack on Silver for his attack on Gargano. Looks like the three men in a room may need to take it outside.

Posted by amy at 1:15 PM

Can Eliot Spitzer Stay Progressive?


Mother Jones

Spitzer has said that he considers a plan to build a new high-voltage line through the state’s historic Adirondacks “dead,” but he hasn’t spoken against other major construction projects that give environmentalists pause, such as controversial proposals to build a 6,860-unit housing and commercial development in western Brooklyn and a NASCAR track on Staten Island. “Those are issues that we’re going to have to be out there fighting. We can’t expect that Spitzer as governor is going to be fighting on these issues, or even making the right decisions,” says Stouffer.
Spitzer’s overall philosophy isn’t always clear, according to Bertha Lewis, who works mostly on poverty and social justice issues as director of ACORN, the community-organizing group, and as a cochair of the state’s Working Families Party.

“He’s conservative on some issues and liberal on others…sometimes I can’t pin him down,” says Lewis. “People say he’s going to govern to the right, because, you know, he’s not a flaming liberal. Because we’ve seen those situations before.”

Hmmm...can't think of anyone else who might be hard to pin down...


Posted by amy at 12:56 PM

The Race to Replace...Yvette

The Daily Gotham
What - you didn't think you'd have a break from elections, did you? mole333 comes with an analysis of the upcoming contest for Yvette Clarke's city council seat, which will be vacant January 1. Here's how mole333 sees the candidates stacked up on Atlantic Yards:

Jesse Hamilton:

When asked about "Atlantic Yards" he gave a somewhat vague answer, but I should note that questions about "Atlantic Yards" encompass development of the area in general and really the questions should be regarding Ratner's corrupt and overblown plan. Hamilton's answers regarding Atlantic Yards emphasized the need for affordable housing and jobs, but indicated that the scale of the project was ludicrous and that the way it has been forced down the throats of the community was despicable. He particularly emphasized that circumventing the existing community boards in favor of other neighborhood groups who were receiving money from Ratner was distasteful.

Zenobia McNally:

Zenobia did seem too wary of directly criticizing Ratner's plan. She did say that as it was first proposed it was too big. She then indicated that it has already been scaled down, then added, somewhat mumbling, that it could be scaled back more. She did not emphasize the distasteful (corrupt?) way the Ratner plan has been pushed foward the way Jesse Hamilton did. All of that added to the red flag about her regarding Atlantic Yards.


Posted by amy at 12:45 PM

November 18, 2006

Gargano, Schumer, and Robert Moses on the march of progress, now and then

Atlantic Yards Report offers up selctions from "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" and comes to the following conclusions:

Community Planner Ron Shiffman believes we must "grow or die," but it has to be done right. However, there are always pressures to accept the project that's been proposed rather than a different one produced by a more democratic process. That's true with Atlantic Yards, and it was trebly true in the era of Robert Moses.
The situation, of course, has become more democratic today, given that most land use policies emerge from the elected City Council. However, the unelected ESDC is set up to cut through "red tape" and prioritize Moses-style "progress" over the post-Moses "process" reforms.


Posted by amy at 1:04 PM

Final Yards Statement Comes As No Surprise to Opponents


Stephen Witt

“I thought there would be at least one question from the [ESDC] board, but there was not even a show of making a query about this big [FEIS] document, which makes me wonder if the board has seen any of this,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein said there was not even a mention that the ESDC is being sued over the eminent domain issue.

“They can’t build it unless they win the eminent domain lawsuit so they are risking approving a project that can’t be built,” Goldstein said.

Witt also gives an update of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood (CBN)'s [or as Witt calls it, the Brooklyn Council of Neighborhoods (BCN)'s] latest project:

The Project Report Card invites the community and everyone who sent in comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to grade the ESDC on how well they listened and responded.

“The ESDC said they received over 1,800 comments on the DEIS, which is really remarkable. It’s also remarkable that they were able to incorporate all those comments in such a short time,” said CBN spokesperson Jim Vogel.

“Since the law says that the community is responsible for the thoroughness and accuracy of the Environmental Review process, now it’s time for the community to evaluate the FEIS. And we’ve given the community a tool to make it easy,” he added.

The report card is available on the CBN website www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com.


Posted by amy at 12:54 PM

Area Merchants Make BID to Improve Business

Emily Keller

According to proponents Michael Burke, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, and Holly Kaye, a BID Consultant, the BID is needed, in part, to give the shopping area between Court Street and Third Avenue a competitive edge against neighboring retail districts, including one that is in the planning stages as part of the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.
Member’s of the BID Steering Committee include representatives of the Brooklyn Heights Association, Forest City Ratner Companies, Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman David Yassky.

Community Board 2 will hold a public hearing on the Court Street/ Livingston Street/ Schermerhorn Street BID at 5 p.m. November 27 at Long Island University, Room HS 119, Health Science Building, at Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue.


Posted by amy at 12:50 PM

Some Fear Knicks Boxing Out Nets


Stephen Witt reports on Gargano's random speculation of a "November surprise" from the Dolans (owners of MSG), and that Silver's position is not yet set in stone:

The ESDC is expected to approve the plan after a mandatory 10-day waiting period and then it heads to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) for final approval.

The PACB is made up of Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Governor Pataki. If any of these parties reject a project, it must go back to the drawing board.

Silver spokesperson Skip Carrier said Silver is in consultation with the Brooklyn assembly delegation and is still reviewing the project.

“He has not made a decision yet,” said Carrier, but noted that Silver supported the giving of $100 million in state funds for infrastructure improvements toward the project.

MSG spokesperson Barry Watkins refused to comment Gargano’s speculation except to say that they are disappointed in the remarks.


Posted by amy at 12:38 PM

November 17, 2006

State OKs Ratner’s ‘impact’

Critics cry foul

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Racing to give their approval to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development before Gov. George Pataki leaves office Dec. 31, state officials have approved the project’s final environmental impact statement.

The document approved on Wednesday by the Empire State Development Corporation outlined an eight-million-square-foot development — a project that is the same size as the first plan unveiled by Forest City Ratner in 2004, but 8-percent smaller than the plan put forth in a draft impact study this summer.

The changes made nearly mirror those recommended by the City Planning Commission at the close of the public comment period in September.

“The state heard the voice of [city officials],” said Jasper Goldman, a spokesman for the Municipal Arts Society. “But no one else seems to have been listened to — especially not the communities that called for better-designed open space, a workable traffic plan, a bigger reduction in scale and more affordable housing.”

Lending credence to Goldman’s complaints is another document released this week by Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder. The document, a chart presented by the developer to City Planning in January, laid out reductions in scale and building size nearly identical to those in the final impact study, indicating that the developer himself suggested the changes that the city and the state later recommended and approved.

“We’ve been played,” said Oder, who obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request.


Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

DDDB: after Final EIS, second lawsuit in the works

Atlantic Yards Report

lawsuit.jpgWith the release Wednesday of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) regarding Atlantic Yards, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) is preparing to file a legal challenge to deficiencies in the FEIS, a second lawsuit—after a recent eminent domain case—regarding the project.

State law requires that the agency conducting the review, in this case the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts. DDDB legal chair Candace Carponter said yesterday that the FEIS fails to adequately explore alternatives to the project or crucial issues like emergency response times for police and fire service.

“The part about the traffic is almost a joke,” she added, speaking at a community forum held at the Hanson Place United Methodist Church in Fort Greene. “We believe there are major flaws, because they worked so fast.” The FEIS took only about six weeks to produce.

The project is expected to be approved by the ESDC board later this month, then must proceed to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), where a unanimous vote is required by the three controlling members, departing Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Within 30 days, Carponter said, the lawsuit would be filed. She said that 30 attorneys and paralegals had volunteered to help DDDB’s retained counsel.

The rest of the article covers this issue and others that were discussed at last night's Community Forum on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

The board meeting brought to you by Atlantic Yards Report and the letters E, S, D, and C

At the ESDC meeting: a quick bureaucratic action
For those of you who didn't make it to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board meeting, Norman Oder explains the proceedings.

ESDC Director of Planning and Environmental Review Rachel Shatz explained...

"Before the FEIS can be filed and distributed, it must be determined to be complete by the corporation, since the corporation is the lead agency for the project. That is the only step being requested today," she continued. "The directors will be asked to affirm the General Project Plan and take all other actions necessary to complete the project at a later date."

Then came the sales pitch:

Chairman Charles Gargano asked if there were any questions or comments. There were none.

He offered one. “I know this was a very detailed and long process, as it should be. I know, having personally lived near this area… it’s been a blighted area, undeveloped for more than 50 years. So finally we’re seeing a development here…. and bringing back a team that left New York for New Jersey…”

Gargano on PACB reform, not-so-friendly condemnations, and RFPs

And speaking about Gargano, what does the Chairman of the ESDC really think about the Public Authorities Control Board, "friendly :) condemnations," the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Bruce Ratner?

Norman Oder published lengthy excerpts from Gargano's post-meeting press conference.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Ratner Had Planned 8 Percent Scaleback

The Real Estate Observer

Reporter Matthew Schuerman takes a moment to consider the story Norman Oder broke on Atlantic Yards Report two days ago about how the well publicized Atlantic Yards scaleback was already in the hopper:

Norman Oder uncovered a little document on his blog that says volumes about the way things get built in New York: On Jan. 13 of this year, Forest City Ratner presented the Department of City Planning with four different versions of the Atlantic Yards complex, ranging from a massive 8.76 million zoning square feet, which was the publicized version at the time, to a slightly smaller 7.96-million-square-foot version.

When City Planning urged an 8 percent reduction in scale, it was merely asking the developer to adopt something like Option 20B, which was the least dense of the four Frank Gehry versions that developer Bruce Ratner had shown commissioners. What's surprising isn't so much the back-room negotiations as the fact that City Planning did not push for anything substantially smaller than what Ratner was apparently comfortable with.


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere12.jpgCurbed, Final Atlantic Yards Document Released, Partly Digested
If the mere mention of Atlantic Yards makes peoples' heads spin, imagine the ruckus in the comments section when NYC's snarkiest real estate blog posts a news roundup.

Bay Ridge Blog, Lets Build Atlantic Yards
A Brooklyn blogger forgets about the parts of the project that will be built on peoples' homes when he declares his love for Atlantic Yards. [Curiously no one ever suggests moving the project to their own neighborhood.]

Except for some in the immediate neighborhood, most Brooklynites I know are very strongly in favor of the Atlantic Yards project.

This project would be built over the Long Island Rail Road tracks. It would replace a barren spot with residential, office and retail development. It would also bring a new indoor arena to the area, and an NBA team, the Nets, to play in it.

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Final Impact Statement Release Roundup
GL is chewing the cud before ruminating on the latest Atlantic Yards news -- in the meantime blogger Robert Guskind threw up a bunch of links and pull quotes for readers to get an overview of the coverage.

Left Behinds, After a while, you run out of ways to say "the fix is in"
The headline says it all along with this additional warning:

Once it's in it's hardly ever taken back out again.

Gothamist, Design Roundup, Final Exit Edition
Atlantic Yards headlines yesterday's local architecture-news roundup, including the image of Jonathan Barkey's rendering of the project looming over the Dean St. playground.

Guy2K, wasn’t yesterday’s post enough for you greedy bastards?
The news of The Don's plans to build a high-rise hotel in the W. Villiage gets him lumped into the same group as our own beloved uberdeveloper, Bruce Ratner. And it looks like things aren't getting any better:

OK, I don’t know about the sandwich, but I do know that, be it this Trump scam, or an “undulating glass tower” smack in the middle of the West Village, or the destruction of a gothic revival stable on the Upper West Side, or the demolition of a late arts-and-crafts garage in SoHo, or a wholly unacceptable boondoggle over at the Atlantic Yards site, developers have been allowed to pretty much make up the rules as they go, destroy the old and build the new without any respect for the people that currently live and work in the city, transform neighborhoods to meet their own megalomaniacal needs, and so, make money hand over fist.

And the more money that developers get to make, the more they have to shower on the politicians and bureaucrats that help them. It’s a vicious, ego-driven, greed-filled cycle that seems to be accelerating with each passing year.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Reverend Billy and the Coming Shopocalypse

Brooklyn Downtown Star

A profile of "Irreverend" Billy recalls the bizarre public smackdown at this summer's Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rally:

RevBilly-BDS.jpgIn taking on the hyper-development that is sweeping through Brooklyn and replacing mom-and-pop stores with franchise shops and luxury condo, Reverend Billy encapsulates the proposed skyscraper village of Atlantic Yards as "20,000 28-year-old stockbrokers driving SUVs."
At the rally against Atlantic Yards this past July in Grand Army Plaza, Reverend Billy's fiery, holy-rolling speech was called out by City Councilman Charles Barron and community activist Bob Law as dangerously mocking African American evangelical preachers.

"There were many types of people of all ages, all dress types, and all backgrounds there that day who were laughing along and clapping" to Reverend Billy, said Michael O'Neil when asked about the incident. He argued that humor, satire, and the element of surprise that Reverend Billy brings to the public is merely "a different way of connecting with people, even with those who are not part of the choir, as it were."


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Frank who? C.B. 1 favors Corner’s plaza over Gehry’s tower

Downtown Express
By Skye H. McFarlane

BeekmanPlaza-DE.jpgThe Frank Gehry-designed Bruce Ratner-built Beekman St. Tower in Lower Manhattan is stressing out neighbors because of the construction noise, the height, the contrast with the character of the existing neighborhood and the mystery behind the final designs (final renderings still have not been released).

But when acclaimed landscape architect and author James Corner appeared before Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee to present plans for the site’s public plazas, he got an entirely different set of responses — too nice, too open, too public.


NoLandGrab: In an ironic twist, local reaction to the plaza plans were critical towards many items for which open space advocates are clamoring in Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

Marty Doesn't Want to Be Green With Envy, Just Green

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Medi Blum

At the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment's Second Annual Green Brooklyn Conference, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz cited Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards as progress towards sustainable development:

"Brooklyn is experiencing unprecedented expansion," continued Markowitz, noting that an anticipated 100,000 new residents will be joining the borough within the next three years. To handle that responsibly, Markowitz argued, would mean "devising and implementing a citywide energy policy that emphasizes conservation"; building the "maximum amount of affordable housing and new schools"; improving recycling; ensuring that all local government vehicles are hybrids; encouraging the creation of local biodiesel plants; devising solar-powered air conditioning systems; and coming up with a "21st century transportation strategy."

Citing what he considers to be existing Brooklyn environmental advances to be proud of, Markowitz mentioned the solar-powered MTA terminal at Stillwell Avenue, the fully wind-powered Brooklyn Brewery, the Red Hook Farmers Market - where the food is grown on top of a former basketball court - and the anticipated LEED certifications for the proposed Atlantic Yards project and the already underway Navy Yards expansion.


NoLandGrab: Before everyone gets all excited about Atlantic Yards LEED certification, remember, Forest City Ratner's commitments are not legally enforceable and the development company reneged on environmental certification goals for the Times Tower.

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

November 16, 2006


HansonPlaceUnitedMethodist.jpgTHURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 7 PM
(Hanson Place and Saint Felix Street)

Join your neighbors for a community meeting on the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise development proposal.

FEATURING: * A presentation by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods on the environmental impacts the project would have. * An update on the Federal eminent domain lawsuit and other legal challenges. * City Hall and Albany update from elected leaders * Q&A session

INVITED SPEAKERS: * Incoming 57th District Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries * 44th District Assemblyman Jim Brennan * 52nd District Assemblywoman Joan Millman * 18th District Senator Velmanette Montgomery * City Councilwoman Letitia James

Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association • Bergen Street Block Association • Brooklyn Bears Community Garden • The Brooklyn Christian Times • Brooklyn Vision • Carroll Street Block Association (5th-6th Ave.) • Dean Street Block Association (4th-5th) • Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn • East Pacific Block Association • Fifth Avenue Committee • Fort Greene Association • Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus • Park Slope Neighbors • Pratt Area Community Council • Prospect Place Block Association Atlantic Yards Task Force • Sierra Club • South Oxford Street Block Association • South Portland Block Association • The Society for Clinton Hill • Times Up! • Warren St. Marks Community Garden • Reverend David Dyson, Pastor of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

Posted by lumi at 11:21 AM

Mad Overkiller Overkills Self

We know that Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder writes faster than most people read, but yesterday he outperformed even himself by plunging into Chapter 24, "Response to Comments on the DEIS," and digesting a large chunk of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Oder posted his observations and analysis along the way.

[For those of you who haven't even figured out where to get your own copy of the FEIS, it can be downloaded from the Empire State Development Corporation's web site.]

Here's the breakdown of the Mad O's work from yesterday evening, which is also, coincidentally, a short list of what the mainstream media hasn't covered:

ESDCBlight.jpgAre the MTA or NYC responsible for upkeep of the railyards? ESDC punts
Several people commented to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that the MTA railyards can't be considered blighted because its upkeep is the state's responsibility.

AYR calls the ESDC's response a punt, but it sounds more like a shrug:

Chapter 1, “Project Description,” and Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” describe in detail the present condition of the project site, including the Vanderbilt Yard.

NoLandGrab: In other words, it is what it is (which also depends on what "IS is").

ESDC: AY site blighted, because we say so

Despite common-sense comments offering evidence to the contrary, the ESDC insists the project footprint is blighted:

Although neighborhoods such as Prospect Heights continue to experience residential and commercial growth, conditions on the project site have remained largely unchanged over the past several decades.

DeanStPlayground.jpgHow to fix a noisy playground? Build toilets

From the Mitigation chapter of the Final Environmental Impact Statment:

There would be significant adverse noise impacts at the Dean Playground from construction activities. The project sponsors have committed to working with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to work with DPR’s planned improvements to the Dean Playground. This commitment would partially mitigate a temporary noise impact on the playground due to construction activities.

The "mitigation" for the additional noise — which according to the DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement would be permanent because of increased traffic on Dean St. — is... ("envelope please") a Little League baseball field and toilets!

Shadows in your backyard? You're SOL

Several comments were received by the ESDC concerning how the shadows would negatively impact the environment. The ESDC's comment:

Streets, sidewalks and private backyards are not considered sun-sensitive resources or important natural features according to the CEQR Technical Manual.

DOE, Ratner agree on new school, “but it’s really not enough”

Norman Oder reports on Mary-Powel Thomas's assessment of the plans to add a public school to the Atlantic Yards project. The president of District 15's Community Education Council acknowledged the need for more classroom space, but challenged the analysis of the current capacity in nearby schools and points out that, even by the ESDC's analysis, there would still be a shortfall of around 1,100 desks for elementary school students at Atlantic Yards.

SouthElev-sm.jpgSorry, Marty: "Miss Brooklyn" would dwarf the Willy B

Borough President Marty Markowitz has called for the tallest building in the Atlantic Yards project, the 620-foot "Miss Brooklyn," be reduced so as not to trump the venerable Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, which is 512 feet.

He hasn't gotten his wish. Unless there's a tactical concession in the wings--and maybe there is--the response in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) gives as thorough an explanation as possible. The explanation: another sort of tall building could block views, it would be too expensive to move the "Miss Brooklyn" (which has been modified somewhat), and the acknowledged significant adverse impact would be mitigated by new views of Frank Gehry's skyline. (Click to enlarge)

Building a better superblock: FEIS defends AY
Norman Oder posts the ESDC's lengthy response to critics who warn that closing streets to create superblocks is a proven failure of urban-planning orthodoxy past.

AY office jobs: from 10,000 to... 375
We covered this yesterday, but it bears repeating. Plus, Norman Oder has added this lead.

It sounded like a nice round number. When the Atlantic Yards project was announced, it was promoted as providing space for 10,000 office jobs. Now, after further cuts in the size of the project, it would provide space for only about 1340 jobs--and likely only 375 new jobs.

PostageStamp.gifMain Lawn grows to... 1/3 of an acre
The Atlantic Yards "Main Lawn" started off life on the drawing board at a whopping 1/4 acre. In response to the need for more open space, it has been expanded to 1/3 acre, which makes it fit nicely on a postage stamp.

NoLandGrab: To the open-space whiners, Ratner never promised you a rose garden — it's called the "MAIN Lawn," not "GREAT Lawn!" Which begs the question, how small are the other lawns?

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Final EIS moves toward approval; critics say changes insufficient

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been released, the question is: will the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), nearly all appointees of lame-duck Gov. George Pataki, move the project toward approval before Republican Pataki leaves office for incoming Democrat Eliot Spitzer?
"I don't see why they'd reject it," Gargano said of the PACB and, indeed, neither of the two legislators nor Pataki or Spitzer have criticized the project--though there will be pressure on them to reject or modify it. And Silver, a Democrat, may want to delay the project so it can be examined under the administration of a fellow Democrat.

If you haven't had time to read the the Final Environmental Impact Statment, Norman Oder summarizes the tweaks to the project, mitigations, additions to the Environmental Impact Statement, and the community concerns that were totally ignored.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Atlantic Yards Advances

From The Crain's Insider (emphasis added):

Opponents of Atlantic Yards expect the final environmental impact statement for the $4.2 billion Brooklyn project to be certified today by the Empire State Development Corp. That will enable the state to go to the Public Authorities Control Board for a vote in December. But insiders say Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer may ask Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to delay action until next year, when Spitzer will control one of the three PACB votes. Spitzer has voiced support for the project, though not as enthusiastically as Gov. George Pataki. The project needs unanimous PACB approval.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Atlantic Yards plan moves along

NY Metro
By Amy Zimmer

This article mentions that the project is pretty much the same size as when it started:

Bruce Ratner’s $4.2 billion plan to build a basketball arena and 16 highrises got another step closer to approval yesterday when the state agency overseeing the development released its final environmental impact statement.

This document incorporates the 8 percent reduction the city called for, but the current scale isn’t much different from Ratner’s original 8 million-square-foot estimate from 2003. The project ballooned to 9.132 million square feet in 2005 and has been scaled back since.

After scuttling the West Side Stadium and bringing the Moynihan Station project to a halt, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has become the go-to guy for final approval of the project:

But the vote could come down to Silver, who killed the West Side Stadium and delayed Moynihan station. His spokesman Skip Carrier recently told Metro it was too early to say what Silver would do. “Each of these projects rise and fall on its own merits,” Carrier said. “The speaker will continue to review it.”


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Ratner Project Could Soon Face Its Final Showdown

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

Before the end of the year, the fate of Atlantic Yards could fall into the hands of the Public Authorities Control Board, a once a little-known Albany bureaucratic backwater that has become something of a graveyard for large projects.
The board of the development corporation is expected to sign off on the environmental statement and the general project plan as early as a November 28 meeting, according to a state official. This could set up another showdown at the Public Authorities Control Board next month, where the spotlight once again will fall on the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, as one of three voting members of the board. Mr. Silver used his vote on the control board to kill Mayor Bloomberg’s West Side stadium project and Governor Pataki’s Moynihan Station plan, enraging both leaders.

Mr. Silver, whose direction is famously hard to read, has said he backs the Brooklyn project. When Mr. Silver halted Mr. Pataki’s efforts to break ground on the Moynihan project before leaving office, some political observers suggested he was running interference for incoming governor, Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Silver said he merely favors a much larger plan to move Madison Square Garden.

With the Atlantic Yards project, Mr. Silver’s political calculus is still emerging, experts say. Unlike Moynihan Station, Atlantic Yards has vigorous support from Mr. Bloomberg and a host of elected officials, who cite jobs and increased housing.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr. Silver said he had not yet received the final environmental impact statement.

This article is one of the first in the mainstream media to note that the project size has hardly changed since the project was initially announced:

The project, however, appeared to change little. Three buildings were reduced in size,the number of residential units contained in the project decreased by about 8%, as expected, and the amount of commercial space was more drastically reduced, along with assumptions about related office jobs. Despite complaints from opponents on the scale of the development, the total square footage of the project remains close to the amount that was initially planned. The state agreed to add a school to the project’s footprint.


Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM



NY Post
By Rich Calder

As Bruce Ratner's plan to build a Brooklyn basketball arena for the Nets took a leap toward final approval yesterday, a top state official warned of a major roadblock to the plan.

Charles Gargano, Gov. Pataki's economic-development czar, said it shouldn't shock anyone if Madison Square Garden's owners try blocking the Atlantic Yards plan for downtown Brooklyn.

"Based on recent experience, I wouldn't put it past them," a perturbed Gargano said, referring to how Jim and Charles Dolan used their political clout to kill two other recent proposals in conflict with the Garden: the Jets' West Side Stadium and the Moynihan Train Station.


NoLandGrab: The Dolans have been conspicuously silent in this fight. If the Nets moved to Brooklyn, owners of the NY Knicks would face direct competition. So, WHY NOT fight the Ratner arena proposal?

It is likely that NBA team owners are contractually restricted from infighting by their ownership/franchise agreement. Besides, the Dolans are currently angling for their own arena deal.

If so, that would classify Gargano's comments as "sour grapes" over past deals scuttled by the Dolans, or even a smokescreen.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Ratner adds PS to Yards

Tries to sweeten deal but critics unsatisfied

NY Daily News
By Denise Romano and Elizabeth Hays

In a bid to quiet critics, developer Bruce Ratner plans to add a school to his controversial Atlantic Yards Nets arena complex and free subway rides for all ticket-holders.

But opponents said the changes don't go far enough to solve anticipated crowding and traffic at the 22-acre site - and accused state officials of trying to ram the project through before Eliot Spitzer becomes governor Jan. 1.
Under the new plan, Ratner will provide space for a 650-seat school, including spots for 270 elementary students, 320 middle-schoolers and 60 special-education students.

But critics say the state's own numbers show the project would create a shortfall of 1,372 elementary seats in the area when finished in 2016.

"It doesn't go nearly far enough," said District 15 Community Education Council President Mary-Powel Thomas.

It is not clear whether Ratner or the city would pay to build the school, or whether the space would be given for free or leased.


NoLandGrab: Will Forest City Ratner pay to build the public school?

Consider this: one of the most powerful people in New York, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, held out for a public school at the Ratner/Gehry Beekman St. project in Lower Manhattan. The $65 million school is being paid for with public funds (including $20 million from the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation) and will be the most expensive public school ever built by the Department of Education.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

November 15, 2006

WNYC - Newsbreaks

This evening, there are two items running on WNYC's local newsbreaks on the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), one featuring a soundbite from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Dan Goldstein and the other, a soundbite from the Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano.

Final Environmental Impact Study Released on Atlantic Yards

A state agency has released the final environmental impact study of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn. They say its been modified to scale back on building units and add a school.

REPORTER: But Daniel Goldstein, of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn - one of the leading community groups against it, says little has changed.

GOLDSTEIN: As expected, the ESDC rubber-stamped the approval of the final environmental impact statement.

Charles Gargano Calls Atlantic Yards Good for Brooklyn

But Charles Gargano, who heads the Empire State Development Corporation, says the board has addressed the concerns raised by opposing residents. He says all the boroughs should benefit from the types of development that Manhattan has experienced.

GARGANO: Similarly, we want Brooklyn to benefit. We had Metro Tech which was a very good beginning and that should continue - Brooklyn is a very significant borough and any new kind of economic stimulant that we can help there certainly is a good thing.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 PM

Sketches of Gehry (Prospect Heights)

Cover art from Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards Design Guidelines:


Source, Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 PM

AY myth 1: the Design Guidelines came from the government

Atlantic Yards Report

Chapter 1 of the Project Description explains:

In order to establish an overall framework for the design and development of the project site, the proposed project would follow urban design goals and principals set forth in a set of Design Guidelines developed in close consultation with ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] and DCP [Department of City Planning} staff. The Design Guidelines are attached as an exhibit to the GPP. The Design Guidelines were supported by the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) in its recommendations on the project and have been modified since issuance of the DEIS to reflect CPC’s recommendations.

Norman Oder explains:

The agencies did contribute to the Design Guidelines. Memos acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request to DCP show that DCP staff commented to representatives of developer Forest City Ratner, architect Frank Gehry, and landscape architect Laurie Olin.

However, the job to "identify the important elements of the project master plan developed by Gehry Partners and Olin Partnership" seems to have been mainly the responsibility of... Gehry Partners. As the memo reproduced here shows, Gehry took the lead, and the agencies agreed with Forest City Ratner's plan to take Gehry's name off the guidelines.


NoLandGrab: A cynical Brooklynite would assume that this rejiggering of who had what role in the Design Guidelines has a lot to do with trying to create an appearance of a city-planning process.

This smacks of a defensive move in anticipation of an eminent domain law suit based on last year's US Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has recently filed just such a law suit, claiming that the seizure of private property for a private development, in this case, is unconstitutional.

Posted by lumi at 7:31 PM

AY myth 2: the cutbacks weren't in the cards

Atlantic Yards Report

What the hell kind of reporter has to constantly rely upon the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to get to the bottom of the story? Why not just get a quote from both sides and call it a day? That's how it's done these days, right?

Today, Norman Oder reveals a document acquired by...   you guessed it, a FOIL request, which irons out the timeline about when the mythical "scaleback" was decided.

Indeed, a document acquired in a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from the Department of City Planning (DCP) shows that the current proposed scale--about 8 million square feet--nearly matches a chart presented to DCP on 1/12/06, as do the heights of most of the buildings.

In other words, we got played. The project, announced at about 8 million square feet in December 2003, was increased to 9.132 million square feet in July 2005, and was cut by the developer on 3/31/06 to 8.659 million square feet.

Oder consoles the public by further explaining that the NY Times "got played" too.

In fact, the New York Times got played as well, offering its prestige to front-page article 9/5/06 that leaked news of an emerging scaleback of six to eight percent. The Times didn't point out that the rumored cut--the biggest news on the planet that day, apparently--would only bring the project back to square one.

It suggested the cuts were a "response to criticism" rather than a tactic. Nor had it or any news outlet found the document that explained how it was all in the cards.


Posted by lumi at 7:18 PM

AY office jobs: from 10,000 to... 375

Atlantic Yards Report

jhhbutton-375.jpgNorman Oder does the math on the new jobs figures for Atlantic Yards "Office Lite" (emphasis added):

Divide 336,000 square feet by 250 square feet per job, and that means space for 1344 jobs, or, as rounded off in the FEIS, 1340 jobs.

But that's likely overstated as well. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in an analysis of an earlier configuration, calculated a 7 percent vacancy rate, which would mean 1250 jobs.

NYCEDC also suggested that only 30 percent of the jobs would be new to New York, rather than moved from Manhattan. That would mean only 375 new office jobs at Atlantic Yards. So much for the 10,000 jobs some columnists eagerly embraced.


Posted by lumi at 6:55 PM

Ratner To Beat Spitzer To The Finish Line

Spitzer-REO.jpgFrom Matthew Schuerman on The Real Estate Observer:

The Atlantic Yards project passed another milestone on Wednesday when the state's economic development agency released the final environmental impact statement, this time reflecting the 8 percent reduction (or whatever you want to call it) that the city Planning Department foisted upon the developer, Forest City Ratner.

The next step is for the Empire State Development Corporation to meet again to approve the general project plan, and then for the now-fabled Public Authorities Control Board to assent -- both of which could happen before Eliot Spitzer is sworn in as governor on Jan. 1.


Posted by lumi at 6:52 PM

CBN Press Release: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods asks, “So How Well Did They Listen?”

In response to the release Wednesday of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Atlantic Yards project by the Empire State Development Corporation, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods today announced the launch of the Project Report Card. Project Report Card invites the community and everyone who sent in comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to grade the ESDC on how well they listened and responded.

“The ESDC said they received over 1800 comments on the DEIS, which is really remarkable. It’s also remarkable that they were able to incorporate all those comments in such a short time!” said Jim Vogel, spokesman for CBN. “Since the law says that the community is responsible for the thoroughness and accuracy of the Environmental Review process, now it’s time for the community to evaluate the FEIS. And we’ve given the community a tool to make it easy!”

Project Report Card asks anyone who spoke at the Public Forums or sent a comment into the ESDC to grade the FEIS for responsiveness to their comments generally and by any particular concern that person spoke or wrote about. There are also instructions on how to quickly find the areas in the FEIS they are interested in. They are then directed to send their completed Report Cards back to CBN so the grades can be tallied up.

Anyone going to the CBN website (www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com) will be able to download and complete the Report Card and instructions. The FEIS is available for download from the ESDC website. CDs may be requested by calling (212) 803-3233 or by emailing atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 PM

Press Release: Final EIS certified by ESDC; BrooklynSpeaks responds

BklynSpks.jpgThe Final Environmental Impact Statement was (FEIS) certified by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) this morning. The FEIS contains the project sponsor's responses to comments submitted by the public on the Draft EIS and the General Project Plan.

Unfortunately, a preliminary review of the FEIS suggests that it has only been changed in response to comments submitted by the Department of City Planning, and not those by the general public. The main changes are: reductions in sizes of three buildings; provision of a school in phase 2 of the plan; a commitment to achieving LEEDS certification and an increase in the amount of open space from seven acres to eight.

The sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks have released the following statement on the certification of the FEIS by the ESDC:

*“While we welcome the improvements in the Atlantic Yards plan announced today by the ESDC, we do not believe the project sponsors have come close to addressing the serious flaws that remain in the project. As currently proposed, the project will still overwhelm the surrounding neighborhoods and create a deadening enclave in the heart of Brooklyn. It will still add several thousand new vehicle trips and transit riders to the area without a real plan to prevent Brooklyn from grinding to a halt. Only 13 percent of its housing units will be affordable to the average Brooklynite. And, while the City Planning Commission’s recommendations were accepted by the developer, it is still a project that has not been shaped in any significant way by the public.

“Until these flaws can be addressed, the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks.net believe the project should not be approved by the ESDC or the Public Authorities Control Board. The Atlantic Yards site has enormous potential, but a plan for the site should not be approved until it works for Brooklyn.”*

The certification of the FEIS means that the ESDC can approve the project after 10 days (ie. after November 25th). This would leave a vote by the Public Authority Control Board as the last approval the project sponsors require.

You can download the FEIS by clicking here. A key chapter is the responses to the comments submitted by the public, which can be downloaded by clicking here.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 PM

DDDB Pree Release: Atlantic Yards Proposal


ESDC Certifies Final Environmental Impact Statement
Trying to Ram Ratner Plan Forward, State Agency and Ratner Fail to Make Meaningful Changes or Mitigations

NEW YORK, NY— Trying to rush forward with Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” development proposal during the last days of the Pataki administration the Empire State Development Corporation today certified the public release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)–now the official accounting of negative environmental impacts of the 8 million square foot development proposal.

Jeffrey Baker, attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB, the coalition leading the opposition to "Atlantic Yards") said, "Upon our initial review this appears to be a fatally flawed Environmental Impact Statement that has failed to consider reasonable alternatives and has not responded to the detailed substantive comments from the public and experts. As we dig into the FEIS we expect to find that it fails to accurately consider the very real adverse impacts caused by the project and that the proposed mitigations are insufficient. If this is to be the final description of the project, ESDC has failed in its responsibility to assure that adverse impacts have been properly avoided while also meeting legitimate community goals of housing and economic development, not Mr. Ratner's goals."

“We know that the ESDC will rubberstamp this project. So we call on the Public Authorities Control Board to scrutinize ‘Atlantic Yards’–its public cost, its infrastructure and environmental impacts, its security issues, its abuse of eminent domain–as thoroughly as possible, and to postpone any vote until after the federal eminent domain lawsuit filed on October 26th is resolved in the courts,” said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “A major development of this size—the largest proposed by a single developer in the history of New York—must not be rammed through in the dying days of a lame duck Pataki administration. The PACB should ensure that that does not happen.”

Weighty Facts:
The project has not been scaled back. When announced in December 2003 it was 8 million square feet. The project described in the FEIS is approximately the same size.

The FEIS revealed that the project sponsors now claim there will be space for only 1,300 office jobs. This is an 87% job reduction from the 10,000 claimed at the proposal’s unveiling in December 2003, and nearly a 50% reduction from July 2006 when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released

Of great concern to everyone is the impact that 17,000 new residents and 20,000 arena visitors for 235 arena events per year would have on traffic in an area of Brooklyn that already has a major traffic crisis. There appears to be no serious traffic mitigations in the document.

The FEIS has ignored serious concerns about security and terrorism as they relate to the unique design, use and location of the proposed project. The ESDC, NYPD and NYFD have yet to give a responsible answer to serious questions about the safety of the project and the cost of ensuring safety.

The document does announce that a new school would be built in Phase 2 of the project. It took public comments to convince the developer and the state that a new school would be needed to deal with the influx of approximately 17,000 new residents. Unfortunately there is a shortfall of about 1,100 seats. Additionally the developer should pay for the new school; instead the city would pay, which is an additional public subsidy to a project that already would cost the public at least $2 billion.


Posted by lumi at 6:10 PM

No photos please!

For those of you who couldn't make the Empire State Development Corporation hearing today, we sent a photographer to capture the live action.

Unfortunately, the ESDC's commitment to transparency stops at the hearing door, so our photographer came back with only this single image from the lobby, entitled "Three Objects in a Room."

What about this photo reminds us of a wake?

Posted by lumi at 5:12 PM


From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Rubberstamp.jpgAs expected, this morning the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the lead agency for the Ratner "Atlantic Yards" proposal, certified rubberstamped the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project. This is NOT an approval of the project but rather it is the ESDC Board giving its okay to accept and make public the FEIS. The Board now must take a minimum of ten days until it meets again to approve the findings of the FEIS, the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) findings, the eminent domain findings and provisions of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Act. The ESDC said today that that meeting will take place "at a later date."
The FEIS is online now at http://www.empire.state.ny.us/AtlanticYards/FEIS.asp. A key chapter is chapter 24 volume 2 which contains the more than 1,600 comments the ESDC received in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the ESDC's response to those comments. Other news that came out of the meeting was that the commerical office space has been reduced even further by about 40% thus further reducing the number of possible jobs even more than the 75% reduction in office jobs from the day the project was announced in December 2003. Some good news from the FEIS is that IF the project is built (and that is a BIG IF) a school would be constructed in Phase II of the project. No word yet on who would pay for that school or the Department of Education's commitment to constructing a school.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 PM

FOIL follies IV: how much would the affordable housing cost?

FOILFollies01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Will Norman Oder be FOILed again? He promised readers a four-part series on his Freedom of Information request adventures.

The first concerned the Department of City Planning and the second concerned Assemblyman Jim Brennan's request to the Empire State Development Corporation, both regarding Atlantic Yards. The third concerned the mysterious tower planned at City Tech.

After weeks of waiting for the final installment, Atlantic Yards Report-er Norman Oder kinda shoots a blank:

On July 26, I filed a FOIL request with the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation & Development, seeking documents regarding the Atlantic Yards project, particularly those regarding the funding and provision of affordable housing.
Last week I spoke to HPD Records Access Officer Donald Appel. His letter following up our conversation indicated that HPD "expects to issue a final response" to my request on or before November 22.

A response does not actually mean they'll deliver any documents, so we'll see.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is going through a lot of trouble to try to figure out the true costs of this project, including how much the City and State will be spending on the affordable housing portion. Relax, says Empire State Development Corporation chief Charles Gargano, the public will get the answers to their questions "when the deal is done."

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Queens West less dense than AY--and overall more affordable

We already knew that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan was denser than... well, just about any development project in the western world. How does it stack up to the most recently unveiled affordable housing project proposal in New York City?

Atlantic Yards Report compares Atlantic Yards and Queens West.

QueesWestActual.jpgQueens West, to be built on Port Authority land in in Long Island City once designated for an Olympics Village, would encompass 5000 apartments over 24 acres. That's 208 apartments per acre--significantly more dense than other projects in the city like Battery Park City (152/acre at full buildout) or Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village (141/acre).

Atlantic Yards would include 6430 apartments over 22 acres. That's 292 apartments per acre. AY would also include a significant chunk of office/hotel space. Both AY and Queens West would include retail space.)

If two acres were subtracted for the arena, AY would be 6430 apartments over 20 acres, or 321 apartments per acre. To reduce AY to the density of the quite dense Queens West, or 208 apartments/acre, Atlantic Yards would have to be cut by a third, to 4160 residential units over 20 acres.

(And maybe there's a major scaleback in Forest City Ratner's blueprint.)*


* Atlantic Yards Report uses the density comaprison to remind readers of Forest City Ratner's "Back Pocket Plan", reported by Norman Oder in early September, 2006.

NoLandGrab: We're totally amused by how the above rendering of Queens West is stretched horizontally by about 50% on the ESDC's web site , making the project look quite a bit shorter than currently proposed. Does this sales tactic ever really work?

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Final EIS coming today; will final approval come on Pataki's watch?

Atlantic Yards Report explains the course of events after today's meeting of the Board of Directors of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) (emphasis added):

After certification, the board must wait at least ten days before approving the Final EIS, the associated General Project Plan, and the Eminent Domain Procedure Law findings. The final step would be a unanimous vote from the state Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which is controlled by the governor, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

But would it be Republican Governor George Pataki, who leaves office at the end of the year? Developer Forest City has suggested so, with an already-outdated timetable that predicted certification of the Final EIS in the first week of this month and PACB approval before the end of November.


Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Instant Gentrification

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

[Developer Bruce] Ratner sells "Atlantic Yards" as an "affordable" housing project. It is not. It is instant gentrification. See below:


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, November 6, 2006
FOR MORE INFORMATION: (212) 803-3740

NEW YORK -- The Directors of the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation have scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, November 15, 2006 immediately following the 42 nd Street Development Project, Inc. meeting which begins at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will take place in the main conference room of the Empire State Development Corporation, 633 Third Avenue, 37 th Floor, NY, NY 10017.

Empire State Development Corporation is a public body. Meetings are open to the public for observation, but not for direct participation.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC Board of Directors is scheduled to certify the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) at this meeting.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Voters Back Limits on Eminent Domain

The NY Times
By Terry Pristin

Even though the Gray Lady's editorial board totally missed eminent domain in last week's wrap-up of statewide ballot initiatives, today's Real Estate page in the Business section took note:

Voters showed last week that the furor over a 2005 Supreme Court decision in a Connecticut eminent domain case has not abated, even in states that have already enacted legislation to restrict the use of condemnation for economic development.

Ballot measures to limit eminent domain powers to public uses were approved by large margins in eight states. Louisiana passed an eminent domain measure in September.

In all, 34 states have adopted laws or passed ballot measures in response to the Connecticut case, Kelo v. New London, which upheld the right of local officials to require the forced sale of homes and businesses for private development intended to increase the tax base of one of the state’s poorest cities.

“A message has been sent that state and local governments have to do a better job of justifying a need for eminent domain,” said Larry Morandi, a land-use specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There needs to be more negotiation and more transparency.”


Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere06.jpgBrewed Fresh Daily, Don’t you just love that hard-hitting journalism?
On a Cleveland-based message board, criticism of the city's daily paper garnered a response indicating that informed Clevelanders are aware of what the Ratners are up to in Brooklyn:

Yesterday’s offering reminds me of some of the devotional pieces served up in the PD a few months ago on Forest City and the Ratners, just while Bruce Ratner was laying waste to Brooklyn, NY, and the local family was preparing to crank up the issue 3 machine.

Save Our Parks, "We're not going to take it... anymore!" NY Daily News

The grassroots organization "opposed to the taking of Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks by the Yankees for a new stadium" posted this weekend's Michael O'Keeffe column. Though the column covers Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards specifically, it can be read as what New York politicians should be learning from voters in other states before they hand over public resources to billionaire sports team owners.

Gridskipper, Stay Gould Baby! Never Change.

An article on the classical-music bar scene identified Freddy's Bar and Backroom as "an Atlantic Yards neighborhood bar."

In case you've been stuck in a practice room somewhere, here's the scoop: there will be no beer with your opera buffa if Bruce Ratner has his way. Freddy's Bar and Backroom is in the FOOTPRINT of the ATLANTIC YARDS PROPOSAL and will be razed if the project goes forward — hardly un bel di for Freddy's.

I'm Seeing Green, Atlantic Yards Sturm und Drang

A Brooklyn Green shares some thoughts about recent Atlantic Yards news and opinions:

It's obvious that the 'race card' is being played well by Ratner. The mantra about 'jobs' is well calculated to relate to unions, and others like James E. Caldwell, the president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a job-training group known as Build, and Bertha Lewis, the New York executive director of Acorn, a national advocacy group for low-income people, both of whom act as if they have been co-opted by FCR.

As if the only issue of building a mega-construction like this is about jobs.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM


USSenate.jpgFrom the Castle Coalition this Monday:

THIS IS IT: Congress convened its lame duck session today and has only 10 days to pass federal eminent domain reform. As you know, H.R. 4128 - passed by the House in October 2005 by an overwhelming vote of 376-38 - never made it out of Senate Judiciary Committee. To avoid this logjam, Senator Inhofe introduced an identical version of the bill in September (S. 3873), which went straight to the floor of the Senate. Unfortunately, it faced another obstacle: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused to allow a vote on this vital legislation.

This legislation would give Congress the power to discourage eminent domain abuse by withholding federal funds from those cities that seize private property for private developers - like the city that tried to take Susette Kelo’s home, New London, Conn., which received $2 million in federal funds and took eight years of her life.

Senator Frist and the entire Senate now have a second and final chance to provide such federal protections to America’s home and small business owners. Contact Senator Frist and your own senators TODAY and tell them to support H.R. 4128 and S. 3873.

  1. Contact Senator Bill Frist at 202-224-3344
  2. Contact both of your own senators (you can find their phone numbers here: http://www.castlecoalition.org/legislation/senators.html, or you can e-mail them here: https://action.popuvox.com/default.aspx?actionID=286

IT'S NOW OR NEVER. If H.R. 4128/S. 3873 don’t pass this month, the fight for federal eminent domain protections will have to start all over again in the new term. It is in the Senate’s hands to decide whether the 109th Congress will be remembered as a friend or foe to the thousands of home and small business owners, tenants, churches and farms threatened by eminent domain nationwide.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

November 14, 2006

Delivered vacant? Bricked-up building on Dean Street isn't quite there

499Dean.jpgAtlantic Yards Report follows up on a Daily News article about a landlord who has offered a rent-controlled tenant $30K to move. She didn't take the deal; that's when the water was turned off and windows were bricked up. Now the property, which is two doors down from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, is on the market for a million dollars over what the owner paid in 2004.

This isn't a Ratner-thang, but it exemplifies: * the overheated real-estate market just spitting-distance from Ratner's "blighted" neighborhood, * tactics used by property owners to evict rent-controlled tenants, and * the stress of living in Mr. Ratner's neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Nets Arena May Not Grow in Brooklyn

Sports Central
By Joe Pietaro

An article about the history of the Nets and the possibility of owner Bruce Ratner not being able have his way in Brooklyn has a slightly different version of why the Dodgers split town:

When Bruce Ratner purchased the team, he had full intentions to eventually move to Brooklyn. He was looking to build a basketball arena ironically enough at the same location where Walter O'Malley had visions for a new Ebbett's Field in the 1950s. The hold-up at that time was a wholesale meat distributor that served New York City was in place there and the politicians did not want to uproot them. They called O'Malley's bluff and lost. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, and the meat distributor? They ended up moving from their Downtown Brooklyn location a year later.


NoLandGrab: This tale contradicts architect Buckminster Fuller's plans, which site the ballpark across the street from Bruce Ratner's planned arena — where Ratner's Atlantic Center mall now stands. The meat market was eventually cleared as a part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA).

In addition, the story doesn't quite square with the account in Roger Kahn's book, "The Boys of Summer," in which Robert Moses turned down the project over concerns that a ballpark located near the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues would create a "China Wall of traffic" (a typical 1950's yuppie complaint?).

CHINA WALL OF TRAFFIC: the wisdom of Robert Moses?
Brooklyn Views, The Great Man Theory of Architecture
ATURA Animated Timeline

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere10.jpgTwo blogs covered the n+1 case for Atlantic Yards [NLG got in our shots last week.]

Daily Intelligencer, The Highbrow Case for Atlantic Yards

Was it possible, then, to be a pro-Yards guilty intellectual? Yes! Acceptance is just another twist of pretzel logic away, as demonstrated by the contrarian post-ironists at n+1. The stadium, writes Jonathan Liu, is a great idea precisely because it's all wrong for the borough.

Gawker, Literary Magazine Waxes Poetic About Atlantic Yards

"The authenticity of a place as volatile and heterodox as Brooklyn, and New York in general, lies in incongruity, the disorienting juxtaposition of century-old brownstones and Gehry's warped, twisting towers." Purty-soundin', yes, but all the grad-school adjectives in the world won't sell us on the desirability of a massive new development that can't be supported by the neighborhood's infrastructure.

The Real Estate Observer, Voters Pan Arena Subsidies
REO points to Michael O'Keeffe's column in this weekend's Daily News for a good anti-multi-million-dollar-subsidies-for-rich-team-owners-slash-overdevelopers rant.

Brownstoner, Making Atlantic Yards a Black-and-White Issue

The map that ran with the Atlantic Yards article in yesterday's Times was pretty neat. Not that the results were particularly surprising (they were about what you'd expect) but it was particularly interesting for us to see that Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, which get so much press for being so racially mixed are still predominantly black on a pure numbers basis. As for the article, it wasn't much fun being reminded of the appalling amount of race-baiting that's gone on in battle for the hearts and minds of Brooklyn residents over the Atlantic Yards issue.

Gumby Fresh, Welcome To Brooklyn, Ya Limey Fruits
An anti-Markowitz rant gets in some pot shots on Atlantic Yards and offers her Majesty's subjects a real tour of Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

November 13, 2006

Spitzer: MTA Fare Hikes Should Be "Last Resort"


[Governor-elect Eliot] Spitzer says he plans to review the agency's budget and financial plan during his transition, and he says while he wants to improve relations with bus and subway workers, it's also important that they help lower costs.


NoLandGrab: The MTA has been walking around with a "Reform Me" sign taped to its back for years now. The state agency has been making the public dizzy, vacillating between pleading poverty to justify fare hikes and union givebacks and announcing surprise surpluses, which allow for habitual real estate giveaways.

Is it any wonder that the MTA got caught with two sets of books?

Here's an idea for Spitzer, force the MTA to sell real estate to the highest bidder, (not the lowest, duh!).

Posted by lumi at 10:42 AM

The postage-stamp "absurdity" of AY's "Main Lawn"

Here's a good joke from Atlantic Yards Report:

The set up...

Central Park's Great Lawn is 15 acres. Prospect Park's Longmeadow is 90 acres.

the punchline...

The "Main Lawn" of Atlantic Yards would be .25 acres. That's a quarter of an acre. See the circular squiggle, between three towers, in the eastern third of the 22-acre project.

and the other punchline:

By way of comparison, other quarter-acre sites include the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library, the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, and the habitat deemed insufficient for the elephants at the Philadelphia Zoo. It's so typical a plot size for suburban homes that Quarter Acre has entered Australian and New Zealand English as a slang term.

Oder credits Community Board 2's submission to the Empire State Development Corporation for figuring this out:

That a quarter-acre of open space is called the “main lawn” borders on absurdity.


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

"Community" and the Times's race story

Atlantic Yards Report

CommBenefitsSeal.jpgAlert the media — Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report "skated over the issue of the Community Benefits Agreement," in yesterday's post on the NY Times story on race. Faster than the NY Times prints a correction, Oder makes good in today's installment.

The Community Benefits Agreement, part of what the Times more than one year ago called part of Ratner's "modern blueprint for how to nourish - and then harvest - public and community backing," only represents some segments of the community.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere13-sm.jpgSome reaction in the blogosphere to this weekend's story about Atlantic Yards and race in the NY Times:

Taskas Dump, Shut Up Already! Brooklyn Needs Atlantic Yards.

It seems clear that this bullshit controversy has nothing to do with race, since there is an obvious multi-ethnic mix on both sides. The Frank Gehry vision would bring world-class architecture, business, entertainment and badly needed housing to this now embarrassingly hideous section of Brooklyn. Those who complain about the added traffic and noise should just give up and move to the suburbs. City life is about change, progress, innovation and the associated hubbub.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality Brooklyn Edition, Times Talks about the Yards and Race...

Please explain to me Joe [DePlasco], how in our diversity-obsessed soceity your firm sent out a flier that only had Blacks in the photos? Would you have ever have thought of sending out one with only whites? Doubtful.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder points out in Atlantic Yards Report that, "Actually, racial identification can be ambiguous, so let's say that they're all minorities."

North America, Perspectives on the Atlantic Yards Development Through the Prism of Race

Is the Brooklynite $ 4.2 billion Atlantic Yards Development, with its possibility of both opportunity and exploitation, an issue of race? For blacks, opinions are mixed.

One Hanson Place, Atlantic Yards Heat Map

Today's NY Times Metro section has a sizable article on race and salary in the Atlantic Yards environs. In the heat map on income, there's a small pocket off Atlantic by 3rd Avenue that has an average income of over $100K. What part is this?

Prometheus 6, It's a racial issue if you hold it just so...
The headline speaks volumes.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

November 12, 2006

DDDB Spokesman Goldstein on Eminent Domain Lawsuit on Fox News


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On November 2nd, following the filing of a federal eminent domain lawsuit (Goldstein v. Pataki) by ten plaintiffs against Governor Pataki, Bruce Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Charles Gargano and others, DDDB spokesman and lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein appeared on the Fox News program Your World with Neil Cavuto. It's a four minute interview.


Posted by amy at 11:07 PM

A Little Help Here? Community Boards Call For Professional Help Dissecting Major Land Use Projects


Earlier this week at a panel discussion on the impact of development on local communities held at Long Island College Hospital, Community Board Six Chair Jerry Armer insisted that community boards like his needed professional city planners at their disposal to effectively advocate for residents.
Without the help of a professional city planner, Armer said that it was very difficult for community boards to pick through the intricacies of massive building plans like Atlantic Yards and to have their recommendations taken seriously.

Community Boards across Brooklyn would have their own city planner on staff if the borough would adopt a reform package similar to the one Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is advocating.

Bob Furman, president of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, would like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to do just that, but so far the answer has been, “no thanks.”


Posted by amy at 10:55 PM

The Times's race story: Caldwell, Lewis careful, Law says DDDB could do more


Atlantic Yards Report on today's NYTimes story on race and Atlantic Yards:

Here's some of what's missing: a fuller acknowledgement of the race-baiting that went on during the August 23 public hearing on the project and an acknowledgement that a recent poll--which the Times found more credible than I did--found blacks actually opposed the project slightly more than whites did. Also worth mentioning would have been the debate as expressed in the black-oriented Our Time Press, in which columnist Errol Louis has regularly endorsed Atlantic Yards (and denounced opponents), but cofounder Bernice Elizabeth Greene has criticized the project.

Read the whole article for a thorough dissection of the delicate issues presented in the story.

Posted by amy at 11:21 AM

BAM Honors Ortner


Posted by amy at 11:15 AM

Perspectives on the Atlantic Yards Development Through the Prism of Race


New York Times

Last year, James E. Caldwell, the president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a job-training group known as Build, said it would be a “conspiracy against blacks” if Forest City did not win its bid for rights to build over the railyards on the site. Bertha Lewis, the New York executive director of Acorn, a national advocacy group for low-income people, attributed concern over the project to “white liberals.”

Interviewed recently, both Mr. Caldwell and Ms. Lewis backed away from those remarks. “Everybody said crazy things on both sides,” Ms. Lewis said. “I’ve apologized to folks, and folks have apologized to me.”

Both Build and Acorn — as well as a group Mr. Daughtry heads — receive funds from Forest City under the community benefits agreement. And both have been instrumental in turning out black participants who boost the project at community meetings, rallies and hearings. That, opponents say, has helped fuel perceptions that black support for the project is high.


Posted by amy at 11:15 AM

We're not going to take it... anymore!


Daily News
Michael O'Keeffe covers this week's public financing of sports teams and eminent domain ballot initiatives smackdown with flair, calling billionaire sports team owners "corporate welfare queens."

Because New York state politics is more banana republic than Jeffersonian republic, New York voters haven't been given the opportunity to approve or deny Ratner public money and infrastructure for his project. Instead, we have Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz telling us we're selfish yuppies because we're concerned about the environmental impact of the Atlantic Yards. Instead we have architect Frank Gehry - who elected him? -tell us we're Luddites if we don't embrace his designs. And we've only been given scant opportunity to engage in honest dialogue and ask real questions: How much will Ratner make on this deal? Is there a better site for the Atlantic Yards? Is there a better plan for the Brooklyn rail yards?

But Tuesday's election made one thing crystal clear: It's no longer easy to convince Americans to write blank checks - whether for Halliburton or the NBA.


Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

On Election Day, billionaire team owners looking for taxpayer handouts had it just as rough as the GOP.

King Kaufman's Sports Daily covers initiatives across the country that opened a "cannawhoopass" on "billionaire sports team owners looking for welfare to build stadiums and arenas" this week.

Seattle voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 91, called the anti-Sonics initiative in some circles. It requires that any city tax dollars invested in a stadium or arena yield a profit at least equal to the return on a 30-year U.S. Treasury bond, which at the moment is a little under 5 percent.
There's nothing preventing the Sonics and Storm from staying in Seattle other than the desire to soak the taxpayers. Bennett and his partners can finance a new arena themselves, and the new law says nothing about county or state taxes, though Chris Van Dyk, who leads the group Citizens for More Important Things, which spearheaded the I-91 campaign, all but dared the teams to try that route.
Meanwhile, Sacramento voters soundly rejected a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax that would have paid for a new arena for the Maloof brothers and their team, the Kings.


Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

A partial correction from the Times

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a correction in the Times's Real Estate section today about AY, but I think it's incomplete.


Posted by amy at 8:05 AM

November 11, 2006

This Old House - Safe For Now


Courier-Life covers a local preservation issue, with a couple of nods to Ratner:

City Councilmember Letitia James has been working with the residents to preserve the house. She said she had stayed in touch with both LPC and DOB, every step of the way.

“I’m very hopeful that we can preserve this house,” James remarked, adding that area activists are taking it, “One victory at a time,” in their efforts to get some control of, “Over-development in downtown Brooklyn that’s now spreading into central Brooklyn.”

The kicker is the novel "Ratner excuse" employed by developer Christopher Morris:

“I don’t know why the focus is on me, so much, as if I’m doing something wrong,” Morris went on. “They should focus on Ratner. I don’t know why everyone is focusing on the condos. Condos are going up everywhere. Why focus on this particular property, this particular guy?”


NoLandGrab: Does Mr. Morris sound familiar? He was recently profiled in the Times. Apparently Ratner inspired his purchase. Great developers think alike?

Posted by amy at 11:21 PM

Bloomberg on Spitzer: Day One, big development projects on track

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, during his weekly appearance on John Gambling's ABC radio show, Mayor Mike Bloomberg was asked how he'd get along with governor-elect Eliot Spitzer. After mentioning various compatibilities, Bloomberg added, "He understands our need for the big development projects."

Which projects? The Post, reporting on an earlier statement, cited Moynihan Station, Ground Zero, and the Second Avenue subway.

On the Empire Page, consultant Joseph Mercurio opined:
What major projects will begin? Look for quick starts on projects like the Second Avenue Subway, Ground Zero, Governors Island, Moynihan Station, and the new Tapanzee Bridge, not to mention Congressman Jerry Nadler’s rail freight tunnel getting started in earnest.

Was Atlantic Yards contemplated? It wasn't clear, but Spitzer and Bloomberg could both do a little more research.

Posted by amy at 8:12 AM

Harlem Suit: State Keeps Secrets


Village Voice

A group of West Harlem business owners and activists sued the Empire State Development Corporation on Thursday, alleging that the agency violated the state's Freedom of Information Law by refusing to divulge documents related to Columbia University's plan to take over 17 acres north of 125th Street.

The lawsuit is part of a larger effort by the organization, the West Harlem Business Group, to fend off an expected bid by the university to use eminent domain to clear the area.
Siegel says the documents the ESDC is hoarding might reveal which politicians, if any, are sitting in on meetings about the plan. The papers might also indicate when Columbia intends to seek approval through the city's ULURP process, and whether and when it plans to move to seize properties under eminent domain. Getting the state to employ eminent domain requires a finding that the area is "blighted." So if Columbia does seek condemnation, the community group needs time to develop a response—which would essentially say, "Hey, we're not blighted!"


Posted by amy at 8:05 AM

November 10, 2006

Expert Panel Tries to Forecast Building Boom’s Effect On the Slope

Courier-Life covers the Cobble Hill Association’s special development forum, featuring some very harsh criticism of the Atlantic Yards proposal:

[New York Magazine contributing editor Christopher] Smith called it “a failing of capitalist democracy that developers have a big advantage over communities.”

Community Board 6 member Jeff Strabone, however, said that the state process which has cleared the way for the Atlantic Yards project was neither capitalism nor democratic.

“It’s more like Soviet state planning,” he said. “As long as the state avenue is open, we’re going to keep having this discussion.”


Posted by amy at 11:29 PM

If Yards suit fails, so does America

The Brooklyn Papers, Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

I was dismayed to read that the latest Atlantic Yards lawsuit is not being given much chance of success by legal experts (“‘Eminent’ suit on Yards called a longshot,” Nov. 4).

I won’t question the legal minds quoted in Ariella Cohen’s piece, but if those experts are right, this country is in trouble.

The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision perverted hundreds of years of American tradition, namely that government should only condemn privately owned property to make room for something — a hospital, highway, bridge — that has a clear public benefit.

In Kelo, the Court ruled that such land can be taken and transferred to private developers like Bruce Ratner. Locally, Atlantic Yards is the first bitter fruit of that ruling.

I, for one, am happy that people are suing. Atlantic Yards may indeed have some public benefit, but it is mostly a land-grab by the state on behalf of the very well-connected Bruce Ratner. If the lawsuit fails, alas, our country has failed.

Reginald Saunders, Fort Greene

NoLandGrab: The Kelo decision did indeed allow for land to "be taken and transferred to private developers like Bruce Ratner."

However, Justice Kennedy wrote in a concurring opinion (download PDF), "A court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits." Does that sound familiar?

Even though the Kelo case allowed for private property to be given to developers, it also said that there were limits to this power. Based upon Justice Kennedy's opinion, Atlantic Yards may be a very good test case for these limits.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Ratner jobs fall short

Bruce’s malls haven’t met projections

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

The number of retail jobs that state officials say will be created by Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development ignores the reality of his two existing shopping malls directly across the street, where job performance has fallen short, according to Ratner’s own data.

Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls created a combined 1,680 jobs — a whopping 42 percent, or 1,220 jobs, less than what should have been created according to the state’s standard job-projection formula.

That state formula — one job for every 300 square feet of shopping area — is now being used to create the impression that Ratner’s Atlantic Yards’ proposed 247,000 square feet of retail space would generate 824 jobs.

But if the job-generation history of Atlantic Terminal, which opened in 2004, and Atlantic Center, which opened in 1996, repeats itself, Atlantic Yards will only create 477 jobs — 347 fewer that Ratner that promised in his “Jobs, Housing and Hoops” scheme.
The shortfall at Ratner’s malls was mostly blamed on the developer’s failure to attract enough retail tenants.

In Atlantic Center mall, one prime location became back-office space for the ESDC. Another became a Department of Motor Vehicles office after the Sports Authority left.


In response to this BP article, Atlantic Yards Report adds:

Not all the space at the malls is filled, and two government agencies--the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Empire State Development Corporation--occupy space at Atlantic Center initially designated for retail, but isn't open on evenings and weekends.

Should it get built, Atlantic Yards retail might benefit from better design and thus come closer to fulfilling predictions. Still, the track record is an argument for a closer look and continued caveats.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Atlantic Yards Poll

polling.gifThe Brooklyn Daily Eagle wants to know how you feel about the Atlantic Yards project and is hosting a poll on their homepage (link).

Vote and we’ll publish the results of the poll online. If you want to send a letter to detail more specifically your feelings on the Atlantic Yards project, send it to Atlantic_Yards@brooklyneagle.net

Choose from:
* Counting the minutes until I can go to a Nets game right here in Brooklyn and visit an avant-garde piece of architecture, at the same time! * It’s a good idea, but I wish they would change the scale or design of it somehow. * I’m indifferent, Atlantic Yards project doesn’t really effect me. * This might be the absolute worst thing to happen to Brooklyn – way to strangle the soul of a city, Ratner.

Roughly translated the choices are: * Yeah! * Hmm... * Huh? * What the...?!

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Change at the Top in Albany Won’t Change Brooklyn Projects

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial
By Dennis Holt

The Eagle's Dennis Holt doesn't think that a change of pace in Albany will have any effect on the two most controversial development projects in Brooklyn.

Spitzer has publicly and privately confirmed his strong support for Brooklyn Bridge Park and, if anything, may well encourage the planners, designers and builders to speed things up.

The same kind of support for the Atlantic Yards plan can also be expected from Spitzer and through him to the new people at ESDC. He has already expressed his concern about attempts to limit the state’s ability to employ eminent domain when necessary. ...
So yesterday’s election may signal a sea change politically in New York, but it looks very much like business as usual here in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Nets Serve Up Early Thanksgiving Dinner At BK Church


212556.jpgThe Nets served up an early Thanksgiving dinner in Brooklyn Thursday to a couple hundred of their future neighbors.

Saint Bartholomew church in Bedford-Stuyvesant hosted the event, which was sponsored by Forest City Ratner who is behind the proposed Atlantic Yards project, which includes a 20,000 seat arena for the Nets. Both current and former Nets agreed that the event was a great chance to give back.

"You know this is our first year of doing it in Brooklyn, which is going to be our home so it is fun to come out here and see the people that we are going to be representing in the next few years,” said Nets forward Richard Jefferson.


NoLandGrab: We don't know who elected Richard Jefferson to represent us, but he can't be much worse than many of our other local elected officials.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

City: Ward’s Bakery is not a landmark

The Brooklyn Papers
By Samuel Goldsmith

The city derailed a longshot attempt to block the Atlantic Yards development last month, rejecting a proposal to landmark a 95-year-old building that’s slated for demolition to make way for the project.

Landmarks Preservation Commission staff ruled that the Ward’s Bakery building, at 800 Pacific St., does not meet the criteria for landmarking, said spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon on Oct. 12.
But Yards opponents weren’t the only concerned citizens demanding landmarking for the former bread bakery with a terra cotta façade and Greco-inspired ornamental arches. Preservationist groups, including the New York Preservation Alliance and the Prospect Heights Preservation Association, were also on board.

Built in 1911, the building’s most impressive physical feature is the tile work, which, if polished, would make the factory shine.


NoLandGrab: Aside from the effort to landmark the Ward Bakery building, many groups are calling for the adaptive re-use of this building and the L.I.R.R. Stables in an effort to preserve historical architectural resources in the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Records show $410K spent on legal fees

The Independent Press [Bloomfield, NJ]
By Seth Augenstein

The financial documents track checks issued from a Bloomfield Township escrow account from 2004 to March 10, 2006. A request to see additional checks issued after March 10 was denied.

The escrow account run by the township of Bloomfield keeps a balance of $50,000 that is used to pay the balance of the township’s representation for redevelopment matters to the law firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole and Wisler. The money in that escrow account is replenished through periodic payments from redeveloper Forest City Daly and its subsidiary, Forest City Bloomfield, according to township officials.

However, DeCotiis Attorney Catherine Tamasik and several township employees said that the exact amount that had been spent in the eminent domain proceedings was not public record, since the funds are essentially Forest City’s money.

In short, Forest City is paying for the legal and planning fees for Bloomfield's redevelopment plan, which has been trying to use eminent domain to take private property from local small businesses.


More on the history of Bruce Ratner in Bloomfield:
New Jersey Eminent Domain Redevelopment: Forest City Ratner coming to Bloomfield
Judge Tosses Condemnation Case
Forest City Ratner Bloomfield Project in Jeopardy as New Jersey Loses Eminent Domain Case

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

More carelessness from the Times: three mistakes, one sentence

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline is true. In what could be some kind of Atlantic Yards media coverage record, The NY Times managed to make three boo-boos in one sentence.

Here's the sentence from last Saturday's Real Estate section:

The project in Yonkers is almost as large as the development proposed for the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn, which has been described as the biggest project in that borough’s history and is one of the biggest ever in New York City.

Can you spot the errors? [Hint: The much larger Atlantic Yards project is located in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.]


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

November 9, 2006

NY State Left Behind in "Kelo's Revenge"

From DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN'S response to yesterday's massive voter backlash to the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision:

It is clear that American citizens understand eminent domain abuse better than most of the officials they elect, and want to see it returned to its proper, constititutional use. When pure eminent domain reform is proposed we consistently find ordinary citizens pitted against municipalities and real estate developers with vested interests in keeping eminent domain laws as broad as possible.

New York State and Forest City Ratner, we believe, are abusing eminent domain in an unconstitutional manner, and owners and tenants in the proposed "Atlantic Yards" footprint have filed a federal lawsuit saying so. New York State, perhaps one of the worst abusers after only New Jersey, was unable to bring numerous eminent domain reform bills out of the Assembly judiciary committee. The Senate judiciary committee did move bills forward to the Senate but they have not moved forward. Albany has not even been able to pass a bill that would simply set up a commission to further study the need for eminent domain reform. Thus New Yorkers are left with only one option to protect their rights–the courts. (By the way, oddly enough, Governor Pataki did indeed prohibit eminent domain for the NY Interconnect power line project–a traditional public use–while supporting it fully for Ratner's luxury housing and arena project–a non-traditional use. Pataki is named as a defendant in the lawsuit referred to above.)


Posted by lumi at 11:37 AM

2006 Election Wrap Up: Voters Overwhelmingly Passed Eminent Domain Reform


CastleCoalition.gifArlington, Va. - Amid many close races in yesterday’s mid-term elections, there was one issue an overwhelming majority of voters agreed on: the need to limit government’s power of eminent domain following last year’s despised U.S. Supreme Court Kelo ruling.

Eminent domain ballot measures, restricting governments from taking private property and giving it private entities, passed by wide margins nationwide. In the eight states with ballot measures limiting eminent domain by addressing “public use,” all eight passed overwhelmingly. Yesterday’s election, combined with earlier reforms passed by the states, raises to 35 the number of states that have limited eminent domain abuse.

Voters Pass All Six Constitutional Amendments Referred by Legislatures

The strongest protection a state can offer property owners is to put it in the constitution, and legislators referred a number of amendments to their constituents.

  • With more than 85% approval, South Carolina’s constitution now specifically prohibits municipalities from condemning private property for “the purpose or benefit of economic development, unless the condemnation is for public use.” Also, an individual property must now be a danger to public health and safety for it to be designated as “blighted,” closing a loophole that enabled local governments to use eminent domain for private use under the State’s previously broad blight definition.

  • In Florida, which had been one of the worst abusers of eminent domain, government can no longer take property for so-called “blight” removal and the newly passed statutes prohibit localities from transferring land from one owner to another through the use of eminent domain for 10 years-effectively eliminating condemnations for private commercial development. After yesterday, with nearly 70% approval of the constitutional amendment, each house of the Legislature must now pass exemptions by a 3/5 vote.

  • In Georgia, nearly 85% of the electorate voted in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring a vote by elected officials any time eminent domain will be used. Coupled with statutory reform, Georgia property owners are now protected from eminent domain abuse.

  • More than 80% of Michigan voters approved a proposed constitutional amendment that prohibits “the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues” and requires government to prove its authority to take a piece of property for blight removal by clear and convincing evidence.

  • New Hampshire’s legislature passed both statutory reform as well as a constitutional amendment, which was supported by more than 85% of New Hampshire voters.

  • Louisiana was the first post-Kelo constitutional amendment to restrict eminent domain abuse, passing in September’s primary election. The amendment prohibits local governments from condemning private property merely to generate taxes or jobs and ensures that the State’s blight laws can only be used for the removal of a genuine threat to public health and safety on a specific piece of property.

Voters Passed Citizen Initiatives That Solely Limit Eminent Domain

  • Nevada’s constitutional amendment, which was presented to voters through a citizen initiative and sharply limited eminent domain for private development, was affirmed by over 60% of voters and will reappear on the 2008 ballot for final approval.

  • Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed, with over 65% approval, a citizen initiative that provides stronger property rights protections in Oregon’s statutes.

“Citizens around the nation agree that property rights must be protected in the wake of the Kelo decision,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners in Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court. “The public is right to be outraged and fearful, with such a fundamental right left to the whim of government and the influence of wealthy developers. The state response has been historic, but Congress needs to act and offer federal protection as well.”

Mixed Results for Efforts Combining Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings

  • More than 65% of Arizona voters passed an initiative that restricted the definitions of “public use” and “blight” in spite of the controversial regulatory takings language included in the measure.

  • Without a legislative session this year, North Dakota passed a constitutional amendment through a citizen initiative that prohibits private use of property taken though eminent domain and requires compensation for regulatory takings. The measure passed with over 65% approval.

  • Measures that sought to limit regulatory takings and eminent domain in California and Idaho failed. Those initiatives did little to stop the type of eminent domain abuse exemplified in Kelo. (In Washington, a measure dealing exclusively with regulatory takings failed.)

“Where the public could vote on pure eminent domain reform, they marched to the polls and demanded to be heard,” said Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case for the Institute. “An overwhelming majority of the public recognize how a narrow majority of the Supreme Court got it wrong.”

“Yesterday’s election results highlight the nation’s complete rejection of eminent domain for private development,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner. “That is why it is so surprising that the U.S. Senate leadership has completely failed to address the issue. I hope the Senators, especially Senator Frist, will use the few remaining days of this Congress to finish the work the House started last year and pass reform that will protect the entire nation.”

Mellor said, “The popular backlash against Kelo remained strong. The momentum for eminent domain reform continues - fueled by the outrage of property owners and a nation’s concern over this onslaught on fundamental rights. Yesterday’s eminent domain ballot measure successes are property rights victories. Other states need to continue the push and do exactly what the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do: protect homeowners from this abuse of government power.”


Posted by lumi at 11:13 AM

A Sporting Chance

[The second of two articles about Forest City Ratner's proposed development in Brooklyn. Also read Nikil Saval's "Building Miss Brooklyn."]

By Jonathan Liu

A Nets fan warms up to a Gehry arena:

Gehry’s proposal can’t casually be dismissed as an affront to urban history; in fact, it has a potential to be a part of that history in way that no architecture of nostalgia can claim. The authenticity of a place as volatile and heterodox as Brooklyn, and New York in general, lies in incongruity, the disorienting juxtaposition of century-old brownstones and Gehry’s warped, twisting towers. This is what built Penn Station, and this is what destroyed it—an impulse often catalyzed by objectionable individuals, and not one we should always follow. But to reject it outright, to reject any such impulse as a disruption of some putatively authentic civic reality, to reject Gehry on the basis of “context,” seems a disavowal of the progress of urban life itself.


NoLandGrab: Liu's point is well taken when considered out of context of the historically unprecedented scale, unparalleled density, more traffic at one of the most congested intersections in Brooklyn, lack of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, more eminent domain for another Bruce Ratner project, terrorism and security concerns, super-duperblocks, lack of local land-use review, Orwellian lack of transparency, etc., etc.

To compare Atlantic Yards to Penn Station is an affront to Atlantic Yards, which dwarfs the Penn Station/Penn Plaza/MSG complex and would be a singular beacon of overdevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 10:48 AM

It came from the Blogosphere... ancillary issues

Blogosphere08.jpgAmyKing.org, Sunday — Take Off
"The Atlantic Yards landgrab" was introduced to the lexicon as an actual geographical designation in directions to a new local bookstore, ADAM'S BOOKS.

Works in Progress, Art in the Contested City

A blogger's perspective of last week's forum, which Atlantic Yards Report covered from the perspective of affordable housing:

The conference was very interesting, and only occassionally spiraled into a gentrification, anti development (Atlantic Yards, Williamsburg) rant. I would have liked to have seen more discussion on the role of individual artists in the community, but there were some really great organizations there and independent speakers. Sadly, I think they tried to cram waaaaay too much into one day, which meant that there really wasn't that much discussion and some very interesting ideas were only presented in a superficial manner.

Curbed, Gary Barnett, Maverick, is Making Diamond Dudes Mad

The CEO of Extell — the company that trumped Bruce Ratner's bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards, only to be trumped by the MTA — making news again.

Sidearm Delivery, Failed Disaster Stalker
Brooklyn Blueshirts? On Tuesday, an ESPN radio report touched off a rumor that Madison Square Garden is looking to move the Hartford Wolfpack (the NY Ranger's minor league affiliate) to Brooklyn. The rumor has since been squashed, the Blue Notes Blog clarifies:

There's no 10,000-seat AHL-sized arena at the [Aviator Sports] complex and the lease in Hartford runs until 2013----although it can be broken with sufficient notice.
It's certainly a facility where MSG could stage some Knicks, Liberty and Rangers workouts or clinics and practices---especially to take a poke at the Nets, who are pronouncing that they will own Brooklyn when and if the Bruce Ratner downtown project is built.

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

"Learning from Newark" in Brooklyn?

The Gowanus Lounge continues the conversation on learning from Newark:

DevilsArena.jpgThe thoughtful--and far too infrequent blog--Brooklyn Views posts this week about "Learning From Newark." Resisting the temptation to be glib about a city that has been robbed blind over the last several decades by one of the most venal municipal governments in all of America, what can Brooklyn learn from the sad case of the Devils arena?

Only that publicly-subsidized, one-sport arenas are a very, very, very bad idea. (Did we say, "very"?)


Posted by lumi at 9:41 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Big ballot wins and Wal-Mart strikes back

EminentDomainFight.gifCNNMoney.com, Kelo's revenge: Voters restrict eminent domain

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina all passed initiatives to restrict the use of eminent domain, in most cases overwhelmingly.

Though results have not yet been announced, the New Hampshire measure is expected to pass. In Florida, the measure passed with 69% of the vote, while in Georgia, the amendment to the state constitution received a whopping 83%.

Voters in California and Idaho rejected more broadly based ballot measures:

Critics of the ballot measures in those states charged that the language in both was much too broad, was poorly written and confusing and would make it difficult and expensive for local planning boards to operate efficiently.

Atlantic Yards Report, After Michigan vote, AY project wouldn't fly there

What if the Atlantic Yards project were proposed for Michigan? It would be much, much tougher to approve a project that, like AY, is predicated on the elimination of blight. On Tuesday, Michigan voters by a 4-1 margin endorsed a constitutional amendment tightening the use of eminent domain.
In Michigan, there's a higher burden of proof to show that the property proposed for condemnation is blighted, and a requirement that blight be considered on a parcel-by-parcel basis, rather than in a neighborhood. That would eliminate the acquisition of nonblighted parcels necessary for a project. Note that there are several buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint that the state acknowledges aren't blighted.

NoLandGrab: Michigan has been at the forefront of the eminent domain debate.

In 1981, the Michigan State Supreme Court allowed private property to be taken for a private project, a GM plant. The Poletown decision created the nationwide precedent allowing the use of eminent domain for private projects.

In 2004, the Michigan State Supreme Court corrected itself and reversed the Poletown decision, in the case of County of Wayne v. Hathcock.

The Sacramento Bee, Mixed verdict nationwide on eminent-domain proposals

The Sac Bee calls Tuesday's nationwide results a "mixed verdict," since Arizona passed a law that was similar to the proposition rejected by Californians.

Contra Costa Times, Wal-Mart sues city over land grab

The mega-retailer Wal-Mart is usually the beneficiary of eminent domain takings. In the town of Hercules, CA, the retailer has been cast as a scourge on small-town life and mom-n-pop stores. After the town decided to use eminent domain, and some finagling of local law, to take land FROM Wal-Mart, the giant retailer fought back.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Walk Against A Billionaire

Rent Wars Forum

A late entry to the coverage of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Walkathon:

"Blight Me!" Yellow background, blue text.
Resident and urban studies major Michael Kodransky said, "I am concerned with eminent domain, some density is necessary but not what was proposed, the traffic, the congestion, pollution, also subsidies, why does it have to be subsidized?" He also frowned upon Ratner's use of "switch and bait tactics", while resident Marlene Botter said the development would further separate Brooklyn and block passages from one neighborhood to another.

"I think it would compound the divide instead of break it down," said Botter, while noting that developments like Atlantic Commons are a better idea because they "unite Brooklyn." Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors mentioned affordable housing as a necessary development. "I think everybody should be able to afford housing which is a major issue in all of New York City," said McClure.

Among the many signs, badges, and stickers (most containing cross outs over'eminent domain') stood out resident Gilly Youner-- donning a brides dress, brown stomp boots and a cryptic sign "Stop the pillage of our neighborhoods... Bruce give it up, we have enough Brooklyn Brides." Such getup was a visual commentary on Gehry's proposed "Miss Brooklyn" tower. Talk about taking on multiple issues..."I am against developments that are overcalled and that use taxpayer's money," said Youner, who has been an active member of D.D.D.B. for two years.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Forest City Completes Restructuring of New York City Portfolio


From Forest City Enterprises's press release on the finanlization of the deal to acquire Bruce Ratner's shares of subsidiary Forest City Ratner:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has completed the restructuring of the Forest City Ratner Companies portfolio. The portfolio is composed of Forest City Enterprises’ and Bruce C. Ratner’s combined interest in a total of 30 retail, office and residential operating properties, certain service companies and seven identified development opportunities, as well as the pursuit of new real estate opportunities, all in the greater New York City metropolitan area.

As previously announced, Bruce Ratner has contributed his ownership interests in the 30 operating properties, the service companies and participation rights in all future developments (except those named below) to a newly formed limited liability company. Forest City paid $46.3 million in cash and issued 3,894,000 units in the new limited liability company to Bruce Ratner.
Forest City and Bruce Ratner have agreed to terms and conditions under which they will value the seven existing development opportunities identified below when those developments stabilize. Forest City and Bruce Ratner will agree on a market value, and Ratner’s interest will be exchanged for additional units in the newly formed limited liability company at the then current FCEA market price or cash at Forest City’s option. These seven development opportunities are:

  • Twelve MetroTech Center, 177,000-square-foot office building in Brooklyn
  • New York Times Building, 1.5-million-square-foot office project in Manhattan
  • Ridge Hill, 1.2-million-square-foot retail project in Yonkers
  • East River Plaza, 547,000-square-foot retail center in Harlem
  • Mill Basin, 125,000-square-foot retail center in Brooklyn
  • Beekman, 683-unit residential building in lower Manhattan
  • 80 DeKalb, 430,000-square-foot residential building in Brooklyn

But that doesn't mean that you won't have Bruce Ratner to kick around anymore:

Forest City will conduct its New York operations in the same manner as it has for the past 20 years. Bruce Ratner will continue to be president and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Companies. He will continue to lead the Atlantic Yards project, with responsibility for the successful execution of the planned redevelopment.


Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

November 8, 2006

Castle Coalition: Ballot Measures

CastleCoalitionBallotMeas.jpgThe Castle Coalition has a page listing the 12 state property-rights ballot measures, with links to the results. Some ballot measures focused on eminent domain abuse, while others were blanket protections for private property ownership. Nine of the 11 measures on Tuesday's ballots won voter approval (Louisiana's amendment was passed on September 30th).


NLG Update: The only two measures that failed yesterday were anti-regulatory, anti-environment ballot propositions disguised as eminent domain reform. Of the nine measures that did pass, not one failed to garner at least 63% of the vote.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

After Spitzer's election: Day One, everything changes?

Atlantic Yards Report wonders what can be accomplished on day one (or day two, for that matter) of a Spitzer administration.

Eliot Spitzer, whose campaign slogan is "Day One: Everything Changes." He's pledged a program of reforms, and some of them are promising.

Will he get there? Former state Senator Seymour Lachman, speaking last week on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, was both encouraging and cautious: “I know this man. He is a reformer. And I also feel it’s going to be very difficult. Eliot Spitzer cannot accomplish this in six months, or a year... or eight years.”

Then again, Lachman, in his book Three Men in a Room, suggests that only a constitutional convention can truly reform our dysfunctional state government.
Spitzer's campaign told The Real Deal that the Spitzer seeks more transparency for the Atlantic Yards project, which is proceeding under the auspices of the ESDC. What that would mean exactly is unclear.

Note that Spitzer recently declared that the most recent eight percent cut in the Atlantic Yards project was "appropriate" and sufficient. It seemed clear he had little idea that the project would be as large as initially proposed.


Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

The head-to-head matchup to watch

NY Daily News
Columnist, Errol Louis

Will governor-elect Eliot Spitzer be a white-knight reformer? Not so fast, says Errol Louis, who points out that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hasn't spent the past 30 years in Albany amassing political clout for nothing.

Silver - as Spitzer's staff is about to learn - holds nearly as much political power as the governor, and often uses it to grind Albany's gears to a halt.

It's not just that the Assembly speaker is one of the "three men in a room" who control all legislation and the $105 billion state budget in what has justly been dubbed the most dysfunctional state Legislature in America. Silver also bears a heavy share of responsibility for the shameful fact that the Assembly rarely holds meaningful hearings or debates on even the most important bills.

On top of that, Silver directs all committee assignments in the Assembly, which come with up to $41,000 in bonuses on top of a legislator's base salary, meaning Silver controls his members' paychecks to the penny - along with the amount of staff they get and the discretionary money they have to spend on projects in their districts.

And while Silver has been curiously mute on the subject of Atlantic Yards, Louis assures his readers that the man who holds one of the votes on the board that will vote to approve the Atlantic Yards project knows his stuff:

Talk to Silver about different development projects around the city, and it gradually dawns on you that he has a deep, detailed knowledge about all the numbers, projections and issues related to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, the Queens waterfront, the proposed new train station and subway extension on the West Side of Manhattan, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center and nearly every other major issue being kicked around.

And more than knowledge, Silver has a point of view about how all the pieces should fit together, along with the clout to kill projects he doesn't like.


Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Despite Accusations, Hevesi Is Re-elected New York’s Comptroller

The NY Times
By Diane Cardwell

The Times's coverage of yesterday's win by the disgraced State Comptroller Alan Hevesi included this odd bit:

Mr. Hevesi has been displaying growing defiance of his party’s wishes in recent days that he amplified in his victory speech. In a commercial that began running late last week, he made a direct appeal to voters to forgive him for his “stupid mistake” of using the state employee, and he accused “some politicians” of wanting “to stampede me out of office.”

Mr. Hevesi concluded by telling voters that if they kept him in office, he would, “owe you everything, and those politicians nothing.”


NoLandGrab: Though the guy is toast, it is notable that it takes an ethics scandal for a politician to owe the voters "everthing, and those politicians nothing."

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Atlantic Yards and Buses

Brooklyn Speaks

Anyone who rides buses that travel close to the Atlantic Yards site knows how painfully slow they can be. And in fact three of the buses that serve the area – the B63, B52 and B41 – are some of the slowest in Brooklyn, according to the recently released results of the Straphangers Campaign's Pokey Awards (click here for the table of results). The B63, which runs along Flatbush Avenue and Fifth Avenue, was found to be Brooklyn's second slowest bus; the B52, which serves Greene Avenue and Fulton Street, is the third slowest; and the B41 on Flatbush is only marginally faster than these routes. And if the Atlantic Yards plan gets built as currently proposed, these buses will get even more unbearably slow.


Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

November 7, 2006

VOTE TODAY: Elections November 7!


The following candidates have shown strong opposition to the use of eminent domain for private development and/or opposed the Atlantic Yards proposal:

18th Senate District

Velmanette Montgomery (D) Incumbent
From NoLandGrab's Pol Precinct:

"Voice of the people and co-sponsor of the Atlantic Yards Development Workshop with Letitia James. Montgomery is unwavering in her support for and promotion of real community-based development for the Railyards."

11th Congressional District (Major Owens's district)

Ollie McClean, Independent Candidate, a founding member of the United African Movement, walked in support of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in the Walkathon

Dr. Steve Finger, Libertarian Candidate, strongly against eminent domain abuse

10th Congressional District, (Ed Towns's district)

Charles Barron is running a write-in campaign (write-in box-slot 18.) From NoLandGrab's Pol Precinct:

"Charles Barron has fought tirelessly against the racial divisiveness of the pro-arena campaign and to give everyone a voice in the community. He has also called for building the arena in his district, which satisfies many of the transportation requirements, is in need of more jobs and is primed for urban renewal."

25th State Senate

Ken Diamondstone, WFP line. Ken has been a long-time supporter of DDDB.

Green Party: The Green Party must receive 50,000 votes in the Governor's race to regain automatic ballot status. The Green Party walked in support of Develop Don't Destroy in the walkathon.

Howie Hawkins for US Senate
Malachy McCourt for Governor
Rachel Treichler for Attorney General
Julia Willebrand for Comptroller
Alison Duncan for Lt Governor

We also received this note from the Libertarian Party:

Your election roundup fails to mention that all of the Libertarian Party's candidates are opposed to eminent domain abuse. We were opposed to eminent domain abuse before it was cool. We were opposed to eminent domain abuse long before Atlantic Yards and will be forever.

Our statewide candidates are:

US Senate: Jeffrey Russell
Governor: John Clifton
Lieutenant Governor: Donald Silberger
Comptroller: John Cain
Attorney-General: Christopher Garvey

Posted by amy at 7:57 AM

Grow or die? Yes, but do it right, says Shiffman

Atlantic Yards Report

Ron Shiffman lectured on local development and urban planning last night. The former City Planning Commissioner, founder of the influential Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED, now the Pratt Center for Community Development) and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board member, had sharp criticism for Atlantic Yards and the abuse of eminent domain.

Shiffman warned that the Atlantic Yards proposal and Columbia University’s proposed expansion “undermine our future ability to undertake the proper planning and development of these kinds of needed mega-projects,” calling them “the culture and codification of cronyism.” Both lack “the necessary participatory processes to develop a program, land-use plan, set of urban design guidelines and a transparent selection process.”

Shiffman’s not against eminent domain—which he said should be used only after a public planning process and when the public purposes is clear--or even the ESDC. “As planners, we know that eminent domain and the power of public authorities, properly crafted and used, can be important tools to address public purposes,” he said. “But the abuse of eminent domain feeds a public sentiment that could lead to a complete backlash.” Given a right-leaning Supreme Court, he said, “we may lose an important tool because we’ve misused it in these cases.”


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Why historic buildings in the AY footprint should be reused, not demolished

Brooklyn Speaks calls on developer Bruce Ratner to save two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint:

WardBakery.jpgOne of the great urban success stories of recent decades has been the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Where once we simply demolished historic buildings to create "blank slates" for new development, planners and developers increasingly have recognized the tremendous economic, cultural and social value in reusing existing structures while still allowing for new development. Jane Jacobs famously said that “Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration” and today we can see the results of adaptive reuse in Soho, Tribeca and other vibrant, economically successful neighborhoods across the city.

Unfortunately, Forest City Ratner does not propose to heed this lesson: they plan to demolish all of the historic buildings in the project footprint. Two of the most historically significant buildings - the Ward Bakery (pictured above) and the Long Island Railroad Stables Building - will be razed to create unnecessary surface parking lots and construction staging areas that will last until 2016 at the earliest – and could even be permanent.


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

November 6, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere05.jpgManhattan Real Estate Report, Artists weigh in on Brooklyn's changing real estate
On the two art exhibits covering Atlantic Yards:

They should call it Art-lantic Yards.

Left Behinds, Going to the well once too often
The local-news-and-politics blog posted running commentary on The Brooklyn Papers article on the IRS crackdown on Payments in Lieu of Taxes and what it could mean for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards. (PG-13)

Streets Blog, Transit-Oriented Development Forum
The transpo- and liveable-city blog dubs the Atlantic Yards Report blogger, "Norman 'The Human Tape Reco’der' Oder," and sends readers to Oder's account of the TOD forum. Almost as interesting as the forum is a point made in the comments section:

They key thing is street-oriented development, designed to blend into the city and be friendly and accessible to pedestrians. But that’s much harder than just putting something next to a train station.

New Market Machines, NMM The Running-Dog Rentier
NMM sends readers to Atlantic Yards Report, which the writer calls, "simply one of the best one-note samba public policy blogs I know of."

After a bit of contemplation about rising rents in his neighborhood, NMM envisions what he would do when locked out of his apartment in a post-Atlantic Yards world:

Sit on my stoop and play Tetris until the batteries run out, I guess. And blog about how miserable I am, and how short-sighted I was to hitch my wagon to Bruce Ratner, billionaire basketball humanist.

Property Grunt, The politics are dancing
One real estate blogger jumps the gun on the effect that Atlantic Yards critics are having on "Visionary" Bruce Ratner, though he makes a good point about local politics:

Bloomberg has displayed how politics can be used to encourage development and Bruce Ratner is an example of how even a man of his stature can be reigned in by those who have only their voices to fight with. Whether you are a developer or a just a homeowner, it is imperative to be aware of the politics of your neighborhood since it will either benefit or destroy your project.

Posted by lumi at 11:54 AM

Forest City to pay $50M plus 43% annually to PA

Brewed Fresh Daily, a Cleveland news and opinion blog, carried this excerpt from The Beacon Journal, which points out that, if Issue 3 passes, Forest City Enterprises would be making out like a one-armed bandit in Ohio compared with a prospective Pittsburgh casino deal.

But Forest City won’t have to sweeten the pot to land the Cleveland deal. All the developer needs is a yes vote on Issue 3.

The competition among three companies for the privilege to operate a casino in Pittsburgh is so heated that all three have pledged to build or help build a new arena for the Penguins hockey team.

The winner, expected to be chosen before year’s end, also will pay $50 million to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a one-time licensing fee and 43 percent of annual gross slot machine revenue for property tax relief, economic development and tourism promotion.

One of those bidders is a partnership led by Forest City Enterprises, the same developer that also would like to build a casino at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland.

But Forest City won’t have to sweeten the pot to land the Cleveland deal. All the developer needs is a yes vote on Issue 3.

BFD's conclusion?

I'd say we are getting the shaft.

Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

Ohio casinos would pose threat to Pa.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
By Andrew Conte

One company seeking a slots license for Pittsburgh could win the right to open a casino in Cleveland, if Ohio voters approve a gambling referendum Tuesday.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises would be allowed to open a slots parlor with up to 3,500 machines at its Tower City property, on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River, under the proposed amendment to Ohio's state constitution.

The measure, called Issue 3, would allow nine casinos in Ohio -- seven at tracks and two stand-alone parlors in Cleveland. It has been pitched as helping Ohio keep some of the nearly $1 billion that its residents gamble out of state each year.
One of three companies seeking Pittsburgh's slots license, Forest City wants to open Harrah's Station Square. Spokesman Abe Naparstek declined to comment on the company's support for Issue 3.

Legalized casino gambling in Ohio would eat into the profits for a Pittsburgh casino, no matter who receives the license, said Ron Porter, co-chairman of the volunteer Pittsburgh Gaming Task Force.


Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses And City Planning Today

Gotham Gazette
By Amanda Burden

Amanda Burden, the chair of the New York City Planning Commission and director of the Department of City Planning, talks a good game out of one side of her mouth about the legacy of Jane Jacobs, while she keeps mum about Atlantic Yards superblocks, top-down planning, publicly accessible-except-during-NBA-games privately owned open space, hand-selected community stakeholders, etc., etc...

JaneJacobs03.jpgThe opposing visions of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses towards city building resonate with many New Yorkers today. It is certainly clear to me that Jane Jacobs is now the prevailing force. While no one person changed the physical landscape of New York as much as Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs’ legacy and her influence is much more deeply rooted and felt widely by urbanists, planners and elected officials.

That legacy embraces:

  • the importance of the relationship of people and the public realm
  • the appreciation of networks created by diverse uses
  • understanding that blocks are the basic unit of the city
  • the primacy of the street as the glue of neighborhood life

Big cities need big projects. Big projects are a necessary part of the diversity, competition and growth that both Jacobs and Moses fought for. But today’s big projects must have a human scale; must be designed, from idea to construction, to fit into the city. Projects may fail to live up to Jane Jacob’s standards, but they are still judged by her rules.


Posted by lumi at 10:23 AM

City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control

The NY Times
By Damien Cave

Stories from the Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning high-rise-housing rush will not give comfort to Atlantic Yards critics.

The City says that plans are pretty much on target and that they are managing the rezoning as well as possible, but existing residents, who theoretically count for something, tell a different story:

“Buildings are popping up like mushrooms,” said Christopher Olechowski, 59, a member of the community board for Greenpoint and Williamsburg and a longtime resident of the area. “Down Manhattan Avenue, all you hear are jackhammers. If you go down Kent, the road is being repaved.
In September, the city’s Department of Buildings received 337 complaints about construction in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, more than twice the filings from the community board of another fast-growing area nearby. In the heart of the rezoned area, near McCarren Park, luxury towers climb skyward, yet only nine new apartments of low- and middle-income housing are being built, far below the city’s original estimates.
Mr. Bikowski said that before the rezoning, he dealt with dozens of tenants being forced out by landlords or by construction next door that made their buildings uninhabitable. Over the past 18 months, he said, the problem has increased.

His current clients include a 90-year-old woman on North Ninth Street being threatened with eviction, three tenants in a building on Eagle Street being told by a new landlord that their rent is about to more than double, and a 61-year-old disabled woman who is being evicted on a claim that the landlord needs the apartment for a relative.

Other residents have become victims of backhoes. Elizabeth Jankowski said she fled her Diamond Street home in Greenpoint last November, with her 8-year-old daughter and 83-year-old grandmother, because the Fire Department ruled that the construction of condominiums next door had cracked walls in her home and made it unsafe.

William Harvey, 50, an architect who lives on North Eighth Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, said the city simply seemed outmanned. Standing outside his front door, he pointed to five projects in the works on the block. Two doors down, the message “FDNY DO NOT ENTER” was painted on a red town house to the right of a poured foundation that made the building unsafe. Mr. Harvey said the tenants were forced out last summer.

“We’re in such a huge boom,” he said. “D.O.B. doesn’t have the people power to watch over it.”


Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

Learning From Newark

Brooklyn Views explains the case for and against the Newark arena and the lessons for Atlantic Yards:

NewarkArena-BV.jpgThe case for locating large event venues like arenas in urban areas can be briefly stated. The transportation infrastructure for moving large numbers of people is designed for the peak loads. In business areas, peak loads are only in the morning and evening rush hours, and it does make sense to leverage an investment in transportation systems by using it more fully in off-peak hours. An event venue requires the movement of huge numbers of people, and if the infrastructure with adequate capacity is not in place, it would need to be built. In non-urban areas, this required new construction consists of new systems of roadways and vehicle storage areas. Less new construction is required by a project located near existing infrastructure, because the project can - in essence - piggy-back on the existing transportation systems.

However, event venues have unique characteristics and demands on transportation systems and existing infrastructure. The surge of fans arriving and (especially) leaving an event will cause any system to exceed its maximum capacity, causing what transportation planners call a “crush load”. These are inherently uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations if not properly managed, and are not at all compatible with a normal street life. This is why we don’t see normal streets around event venues. It is not an accident that city planners require event venues to be built at some distance from residential areas, it is a necessity.


Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Stuyvesant Town, Queens West And The Debate Over Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses

Jacobs-Moses.jpgGotham Gazette
By Brad Lander

The Jacobs-Moses debate continues.

Many community stakeholders around the Atlantic Yards plan have already chosen sides:

Neighborhood residents look at such projects as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and see the kind of imperial efforts used by Robert Moses to roll over communities (as detailed in the biography of him by Robert Caro, The Power Broker). They cite Jacobs for her love of the “ballet of neighborhood life” and her opposition to planning from the top down, memorialized in her classic book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

However, Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development looks forward to a hybrid between the two development models, as he seeks to include more affordable housing in city-sponsored plans.


Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

Art, the "contested city," and the challenge of affordability

Atlantic Yards Report

What roles do artists and the arts play in revitalizing neighborhoods: are they the creative spark, or vanguard for the developers? Maybe both, and more, as indicated by ART IN THE CONTESTED CITY: A Conference Exploring the Role of the Arts in Contemporary Struggles over Urban Space, held Friday at the Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall in Clinton Hill. A diverse selection of artists, arts professionals, and civic activists from New York and beyond spoke on four separate panels.

It was an interesting mix, even for Pratt, since the Institute's advocacy planners historically have little relationship with colleagues in art and design, as noted by Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

While the discussions were wide-ranging, one fundamental theme emerged: artists, like many in New York, struggle to find affordable places to live and work.


Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Architects change their view of the lowly roof

LA Times
By Christopher Hawthorne

Architects are paying more attention to rooftops as higher-density urban development comes our way, and tools like Google Earth give people a birds-eye view of their neighborhoods.

And in many of the world's biggest cities, increasing density means occupants of one building are more likely than ever to look down on another. The pair of towers Frank Gehry is designing on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles will overlook not only new retail pavilions but also the architect's Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street.

"It's an issue in Brooklyn too," Gehry said, referring to his design for the $4.2-billion Atlantic Yards development, which will include more than a dozen tightly packed towers.


NoLandGrab: This is a welcome phenomenon for architect Frank Gehry, who has been frequently criticized for creating designs that look better "from a passing airplane," than the street.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

"A Magical Evening" — with Lane, Fierstein, Streep and Jersey Boys — Benefits Reeve Foundation Nov. 6

By Ernio Hernandez

Playbill ran the piece again about tonight's black-tie fundraiser for the Christopher Reeve Foundation, along with the bit about, honoring "Visionary" Bruce Ratner.

Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, Donny Osmond, Meryl Streep and stars of The Times They Are A-Changin', The Jersey Boys, Tarzan and more will take part in "A Magical Evening" benefit for the Christopher Reeve Foundation Nov. 6.

The event, which will celebrate the strength and courage of the late Christopher and Dana Reeve, will be held at the Marriott Marquis.
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.


NoLandGrab: It's hard to argue with the event organizers: Bruce Ratner is a visionary. It's just too bad he's so shortsighted.

*It is amazing how one man's "visionary" is another man's villain:.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Under Cover: Gehry Perfection

Downtown Express

Construction may have just started on Bruce Ratner’s Frank Gehry-designed tower on Beekman St., but the famed architect is still tinkering with his T-square and does not yet have the final design.

“Maybe by the time we’re at the eighth floor, we’ll have a rendering,” Ratner’s spokesperson joked.

In addition to residential units, the 75-story tower will house an occupational health center run by the New York Downtown Hospital and a K-8 public school. But while the building is going up, renderings of what it will look like are still not going out to the public. According to the spokesperson, that’s because the building design continues to change and the meticulous Gehry doesn’t want to publish plans until all the interior and exterior designs are finalized.


NoLandGrab: The spokesperson may be joking, but Ratner and Gehry aren't kidding — developers are allowed to file plans and permits in stages.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

November 5, 2006

Sunday Comix: Marathon Edition


Posted by amy at 3:34 PM

Major tenants steer clear of Downtown Brooklyn office space; what of AY?


Atlantic Yards Report responds to last week's piece in The Real Estate:

There may indeed be a market for smaller parcels for "creative industries." But that raises questions about the Atlantic Yards plan. Remember, developer Forest City Ratner initially promised office space for 10,000 jobs. Last year, the amount of space was cut by two-thirds, and the number of jobs projected to about 2500. The explanation from FCR's Jim Stuckey: "Projects change, markets change."

So what kind of jobs and tenants does the developer expect? Phase 1 wouldn't be completed for four years, under the optimum conditions. Can anyone predict? And if the market for office space changes, so might the market for residential space, which means that Phase 2--which would contain most of the affordable housing--can't be guaranteed.

And would "creative industries" prefer to be in a couple of giant office towers or less standardized spaces either adapted from existing buildings or in smaller buildings than those planned for Atlantic Yards?


Posted by amy at 3:20 PM

What it might look like (again)


Atlantic Yards Report

Two weeks ago, in response to a photo in the New York Times that depicted part of an empty railyard as the only image of the project, I suggested that a rendering of Atlantic Yards would have been a far better substitution.

Others apparently noticed the deficit too. On Friday I was at a symposium at the Pratt Institute, and spotted a poster created by Pratt professor Brent Porter, who with his students has studied the significant impact of shadows that the project could cause.

Porter already had a graphic of the rendering created for New York magazine, with shadows based on his studies (left in photo). He had tacked onto the poster the aforementioned photo from the Times (right in photo).

The juxtaposition is timely, and stark. The best way to inform people about the project is to show them what it might look like.


Posted by amy at 3:17 PM

November 4, 2006

Norman Oder on Getting Atlantic Yards Facts Straight

Big Cities Big Boxes

Norman Oder, who blogs at Atlantic Yards Report, and who knows more about Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards project than anyone else, published an op-ed in Metro New York yesterday exposing the strange lack of factual information available on Atlantic Yards, a multi-billion dollar, taxpayer-subsidized project. How can politicians or the citizens of the city support a project whose costs are unknown? His op-ed is called "The Unreality of Atlantic Yards."


Posted by amy at 2:40 PM

A humbling encounter with a (civilian) reader

Atlantic Yards Report

I assume that most readers of this blog have a keen interest in the Atlantic Yards project, whether they be concerned local residents, government or organizational officials, people who work with the developer, or the press.

But earlier this week, at a bank in Park Slope, I encountered someone far less invested. She told me she'd noticed my op-ed in the print edition of Monday's Metro, which was accompanied by my photo.

Me What did you think?

She: Well, I didn't finish it.

Me: It was only 500 words.

She: I'm not much of a reader.

The lesson, as a reader reminds me: very few people, even Brooklynites, have an informed opinion of the Atlantic Yards project.

AYR should have pointed her to NoLandGrab - Atlantic Yards news for the ADD set...

Posted by amy at 12:04 PM

Yankees Say: Not So Fast

The Real Estate's Matthew Schuerman says the 'community' hasn't seen it's 'benefits' yet from the Yankee Stadium CBA...

In April, Bronx City Council Members, the Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and the Yankees agreed to a "community benefits program" in return for City Council approval of the new stadium. The agreement stipulated that the signatories would form a construction advisory committee to oversee building and would meet "not less than once a month ... for the duration of the project." Bid packages for minority and locally owned contractors would be prepared "as soon as practicable." Plus, a "fund advisory panel" was supposed to be established "upon the commencement of the project" which would govern a nonprofit in charge of doling out $800,000 donated by the baseball team annually.

"From our point of view, this stuff should be further along than it is," said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, explaining that the Yankees had no trouble getting construction underway quickly. (Macombs Dam Park and part of Mullaly Park, where the new stadium will go, are now closed off, and it will take years to build their replacements.)


Posted by amy at 11:56 AM

Friday: Chelsea Artworld 'Streetwalkers'! Plus, Redesigning Design

The Real Estate
Max Abelson

The math is a bit complex, but Brooklyn Paper reports that the IRS will be foiling Bruce Ratner's "sweetheart deal" for the Atlantic Yards. Developers have long enjoyed a tax scheme called PILOT--payments in lieu of taxes--in which those "payments" are quite petite. PILOTs were bestowed upon the Mets and the Yanks for their new digs, but will it now be taken from Bruce and the Nets?


Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

November 3, 2006

Atlantic Frantic With Traffic

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

"Anyone who drives and walks on Atlantic Avenue," said Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association (AABA), "knows it is dangerous for pedestrians, children, seniors and motorists, and it is getting worse."

AABA-BDS.jpgIndeed, in the last month - in the span of less than a week - two pedestrians were killed, and in the last two years more than 100 vehicular accidents have occurred on Atlantic between Flatbush Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). As it stands now, complained the dozens of protesters present, many Atlantic Avenue motorists do not realize they are no longer on the BQE.

But wait, there's more: the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) offers additional traffic-fomenting measures to accommodate cars headed to the proposed arena.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

London Calling. Are New York’s Leaders Really Listening?

StreetsBlog connects the dots between London's run at NYC to be the financial capital of the world and London Mayor Ken Livingstone's efforts to make the UK capital a first-class city. Then the traffic-n-transportation blog lobs this well earned criticism at the Brooklyn Borough President:

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a possible 2009 Democratic mayoral candidate, is off to visit the World Travel Market expo in England to sell UK travel groups on package tours that include a trip to Brooklyn. Marty told the Daily News, "Tourism is one of Brooklyn’s biggest and most vital growth sectors, and I’ll do whatever it takes to show the world the beauty of our borough."

marty_suv.jpgThere are a couple of things, of course, that Marty won’t do to enhance the beauty of his borough. He won’t support London-style traffic reduction measures. He won’t stop parking his SUV and about a dozen other vehicles on the pedestrian plaza, technically park land, outside of historic Borough Hall. And he won’t push the city, state and developer Forest City Enterprises to do smart, thoughtful, long-term planning around the massive "Atlantic Yards" project.

Welcome to Brooklyn, Brits. Perhaps the traffic congestion will remind you of what it used to be like in London. Don’t forget to look to your left when you step out into the street.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Transit-oriented development, the lagging MTA, and the AY example

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the two-ton elephant at Wednesday's forum on transit-oriented development.

Even projects near transportation hubs, [Jon Orcutt from Tri-State Transportation Campaign] added, citing Atlantic Yards, show “it’s possible to do design that isn’t the best transit-oriented development.”
Robert Lane of the Regional Plan Association advised that, besides town hall meetings, charettes, and other public meetings, planners must offer photo simulations of projects so the public can evaluate what’s on the table. It was a reminder to me that most press outlets have ignored simulations of the scale of Atlantic Yards, such as this from the Environmental Simulation Center for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

He encouraged planners to find the intersection of transit-agency priorities, community-based goals and objectives, and technical constraints. (For AY, add to that political influences, such as the desire for a sports team, or a developer's history in the borough.) “If you’re honest with people, they will help you get there.”


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

Newark Mayor Wants the Nets

Gowanus Lounge makes an interesting point about the financial viability of the new Devils arena in Newark:

Newark's arena is likely to be the financial turkey to beat all turkeys with only a hockey team as its tenant. So, the only thing to keep Newark from drowning in a sea of red ink and having to bail out its $365 million arena is a basketball team.


NoLandGrab: Could the same be said for an arena that only houses a basketball team?

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Marked Maverick

Bruce Ratner Yahoo Sports
By Adrian Wojnarowski

An article about Mark Cuban, the passionate owner of the NBA's Mavericks, uses Bruce Ratner to make a point about "caring:"

Listen, Cuban isn't perfect, but his flaws are forever in the spirit of trying, of caring, which is more than you can say for a lot of the mummies owning teams in the league. Bruce Ratner bought the Nets to cut a real estate deal in Brooklyn. He wouldn't know a basketball if Cuban threw it upside his head.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

November 2, 2006

‘Eminent’ suit on Yards called a longshot

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Three views on Develop Don't Destoy Brooklyn's case filed last week in Federal Court...

“Knowing the history of these cases, I don’t see how [it] will get to first base,” said Robert Goldstein, a lawyer who specializes in eminent domain cases who has counseled the Empire State Development Corporation as well as tenants who lost property to Metrotech.

“The plaintiffs need [to show] a set of unwholesome facts that have not currently been revealed,” said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School.

“Kelo reinforced the requirement that any eminent domain must come after a clear development process,” said Dana Berliner, a co-counsel on the Kelo case.

“If they can show that the process was ignored, then they have a real shot at defeating the project.”

...followed by three plaintiffs, Freddy's Bar, Daniel Goldstein and Ioana Farbu.


Posted by lumi at 11:28 PM

Bond bombshell

IRS would hike Ratner’s Yards cost
Experts: New rules could scare off investors

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner’s sweetheart deal may be about to turn sour — thanks to the IRS.

Just in time for the final approval of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, the Internal Revenue Service has proposed the reform of a development-friendly tax program — a bond-financing scheme that happens to provide a funding foundation for Atlantic Yards.

The program under scrutiny is called “payments in lieu of taxes,” or PILOTs. Using PILOTs, a city can take land off the tax rolls in exchange for fixed rent-like payments — but the payments are typically less than property taxes and, in Ratner’s case, would not even end up in the city’s coffers.


NoLandGrab: PILOTs were created when the IRS outlawed Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), which was created to get around public approval for bond issues. How much you wanna bet that someone has already figured out a new way to publicly finance private projects, along with a new acronym to boot?

Posted by lumi at 11:17 PM

The Yards Lawsuit Cometh

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

YardsLawsuit-BDS.jpgIt wasn't the first lawsuit filed in the Atlantic Yards fight, but it is likely to be the most decisive. With the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) apparently poised to approve the Atlantic Yards project within weeks, opponents last week filed a preemptive strike, challenging the use of eminent domain - a move that could delay the project, if not derail it. In any event, may be the strongest legal arrow in the opponents' quiver.


Posted by lumi at 11:11 PM

Is this property blighted? You be the judge.

Castle Coalition

Freddys-BogusBlight.jpgFreddy's Bar and Backroom was the Castle Coalition's Blighted Property of the week in October and we missed it. It's still posted, currently under a photo of a house in the MTOTSA section of Long Branch, NJ, that the town wants to clear to build seaside condos.

Check out the Castle Coalition site for a full page of bogus blight.

Posted by lumi at 10:57 PM

Is Nothing Sacred? Another Church Forced From Its Home

Castle Watch, Newsletter from the Castle Coalition

Pastor Holden's congregation was forced out of their church in 2001 and five years later, the City of Bridgeport, CT has built... nothing. Hey, it can happen to you.

The City used eminent domain to acquire the Church in 2001, forcing Holden and his congregants out of their small white, steepled church, which enjoyed a picturesque view of the waterfront. All the while, the City never publicly admitted that it was using eminent domain for the redevelopment project. Instead, they seemed to disguise actions by playing up what would replace the church and surrounding properties: “The City may use state funding to help purchase required properties for the development,” adding, “this City has not received the attention it deserves in terms of economic development from the state, but that is all changing.” This high sounding language is a common tactic used by local governments to mask what’s actually happening—homes, churches and small businesses are being taken for someone else’s private profit.

That greediness is what forces out little churches like Pastor Holden’s and sends them on a search for a new home, all while enduring years of displacement.
And there was no surprise among those who follow eminent domain abuse that, as the congregation moved around, the luxury Steel Point Redevelopment Project still had not even broken ground. It’s often the case that cities make promises about bringing wonderful things to the community, use eminent domain, displace countless people, and then fail to deliver on their promises.


Posted by lumi at 10:34 PM

Forty Years Later, Nets Are Now a Model of Stability

The NY Times' Sports of the Times
By George Vecsey

A day after The Times' sports section billed the Nets' proposed move to Brooklyn as a fait accompli, sports columnist George Vecsey included this very un-Times-like parenthetical disclaimer in a piece about the team's improving fortunes:

This is not by any means to be construed as an endorsement of the gigantic real-estate deal, still very much a work in progress. Nostalgia for major league sports in Brooklyn is hardly an excuse for a land grab that could be contrary to many other needs in that borough.

article (Times Select subscribers only)

NoLandGrab: Could it be that columnists at The Times are free to ignore the company line on the paper's development partner, or is it just that Norman Oder's criticism is finally starting to sink in? For the record, Vecsey was quick, and forthright, in apologizing to readers who complained that he had called the Brooklyn Nets a done deal back in February.

Posted by lumi at 11:46 AM

Letters to the Editor: Our Time Press

In the Letters to the Editor at Our Time Press, Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder tries to set the record straight on Errol Louis's misrepresentation of "opposition" to a homeless shelter; Publisher Bernice Elizabeth Green considers Errol Louis and his lack of facts part of a "platform for diverse viewpoints;" and a reader goes on record to say she is, "tired of Mr. Louis and anti-yuppie/pro-Atlantic Yards rhetoric."


And speaking of pro-Atlantic Yards rhetoric, here's Louis's latest take on the eminent domain lawsuit:

In the weeks to come, the anti-development obstructionists will use the lawsuit as an excuse to demand reams of corporate and economic data from Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of Atlantic Yards. Not because the information is necessary, or even relevant, but because that’s the best way to delay, delay, delay.


NoLandGrab: Yup, Errol Louis has us all figured out.

What Louis isn't taking into account is that a recent landmark eminent domain case decided by the US Supreme Court attempted to make a legal distinction between rational and illegal actions. Forest City Ratner began the planning for this project before the 2005 Kelo ruling and it appears that the Atlantic Yards project is tailor-made for the courts to draw the line between the right to own property and the right of governments to provide public benefits to society.

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

THE MAIL: The Brooklyn Context

From The New Yorker (November 6, 2006):

Paul Goldberger writes, in his criticism of Frank Gehry's designs for Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner's massive, twenty-two-acre proposed development in Brooklyn, "The problem with trying to do Bilbao on this scale is that it ceases to be an eccentric counterpoint to the context. It is the context" (The Sky Line, October 16th). We in Brooklyn knew that Gehry was embarking upon a project whose context he did not, and could not, understand back in 2003, when his designs were unveiled. Gehry exclaimed that he was excited "to build a neighborhood from scratch." The neighborhood—the context—already existed. With the renderings we've seen so far from Gehry, it's clear that he has not taken the context into account.
Daniel Goldstein
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Brooklyn, N.Y.

View letter

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Mr. Inside Track Helps You Understand the MTA

If you've been wondering why the MTA seems more like a public trough than a public agency, highlighted by the recent attempts to give away land to well connected developers (Bruce Ratner got the Atlantic Terminal development rights for next to nothing before people started noticing), you'll want to check out this scene from the Transit Museum benefit dinner, described by "Mr. Inside Track" at StreetsBlog:

Nagaraja, said the speaker who introduced him, "will be responsible for $20 billion dollars worth of construction contracts in the coming years."

For a brief moment, the clinking of silverware stopped. A hush fell over the crowd. Then the room burst into applause. It was like Derek Jeter hit a walk-off homerun in the seventh game of the World Series. The clapping intensified and continued. The New York City Transit World rose to a standing ovation and surged into full-throated cheering, pumping fists and ear-piercing whistles. It went on. Nagaraja smiled and waved.


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

Times Sports section: Nets move assumed

Atlantic Yards Report catches The NY Times in another slip-of-the-tongue in yesterday's Sports section:

Still, another early playoff exit would be disappointing for this team and its New Jersey fan base, which could be growing antsy given the Nets’ coming move to Brooklyn.

Since the project hasn't even been officially "approved," AYR suggests the Times use "planned," "expected," even "hoped-for."


The Times published this correction in today's edition:

A sports article yesterday about the Nets’ three main attractions — Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd — referred incorrectly to the team’s plans to move to Brooklyn. The team has announced that it will move to an arena to be built as part of the Atlantic Yards development, but because that project has not yet been approved, the move to that particular venue is not a certainty.

Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

Whither BRT? Flatbush Avenue won't be first test for fast buses

Atlantic Yards Report

Regional transportation engineers and advocates have noted that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan proposal does not make allowances for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line down Flatbush Avenue.

Journalist Norman Oder looks into the possibilities and learns that the Metropolitan Transit Authority is planning to test BRT, but on Nostrand Avenue, not Flatbush, thus dimming the hopes of local transportation advocates that a sensible, modern transportation plan will ever be attached to the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

OnNYTurf Atlantic Yards Map on sabbatical

OnNYTurf has just announced that the Atlantic Yards Map will be on a little vacation while webmaster Will plays catch up with the new version of Google Maps.

ONYT's interactive NYC Subway map (PATH trains included) has first priority, since it has become an indispensable part of daily life for many New Yorkers. The map is hands-down the most useful online subway map. [Of course, the MTA would rather give the development rights of Vanderbilt Yards to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for a song than offer a truly useful online map for the entire system.]

When the Atlantic Yards Google map was rolled out in March, 2006, it had a shock-and-awe effect on many who lived near the project proposal's footprint, because it was the first time that Brooklynites had a chance to view a model of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal from the vantage point of the street. The map has become one of the tools that residents have used to come to grips with the historic scale of this hugemungous gianormous plan.

ONYT followed up this effort with a map of the Yankee Stadium plan. While the Atlantic Yards map illustrated the size and scale of the project, the Yankee Stadium plan map was one of the few media resources that clearly demonstrated the convoluted shuffle of ballparks, public parks, parking garages and their proximity to the existing neighborhood.

You have to give it up for the innovative Will from OnNYTurf, who uses the latest tools to distribute independent community news — we're hopin' that the maps won't be gone for too long.

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

November 1, 2006

In Shift, Newark Mayor Backs Hockey Arena After Team Agrees to Offer Local Aid

The NY Times
By Andrew Jacobs

After months of negotiations with the owner of the Devils, [Newark Mayor Corey Booker] held a news conference to trumpet a series of modest concessions he had wrung from the team, which will move next year from the Meadowlands to the $365 million stadium that is rapidly taking shape a few hundred yards from City Hall.

Basically, Mayor Booker negotiated community benefits even after ground had been broken. He also rolled out the welcome mat for Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets:

The Booker administration would also love to lure the Nets basketball team if plans for a new home in Brooklyn come to naught.


Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

T.O.D. in Brooklyn: Turning Parking Lots into Housing

As an introduction to tonight's Transit-Oriented Development forum, Streets Blog has posted a short article cataloging the resurgence of a Brooklyn neighborhood where developers are "paving over" parking lots with housing.


I always thought it was odd that all these parking lots should be sitting on land atop a bigger subway station. The fact that so many parking lots offered cheap parking so close to shopping and offices no doubt encouraged many people who could travel by train to drive instead. That dynamic is changing.


Those of you who are concerned about traffic and transportation in the area may want to attend the forum, though it might be closed to RSVPs.

NoLandGrab: Is it coincidence that this faded section of downtown Brooklyn, replete with massive parking lots, had languished for oh, say, 60 years? NLG thinks not. For that reason alone, the Atlantic Yards project, with its multi-acre "interim surface parking lot" (a neighborhood-killer if ever there was one), should be condemned to living out its days in model form, confined securely in the Atlantic Center mall's "exhibition" room.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Forest City Brooklynian

Pave Prospect Heights and Put Up a Parking Lot

Hey, sorry to put up yet another gentriconfrontational post, but this is interesting/scary:

Macy's in Atlantic Center? What did I miss?

check out forest city's website:

they list Macy's as a tenant of the Atlantic Center (this is what I get for trying to figure out if it was an Office Max or Office Depot in the AC)

There used to be one, but it closed in 2002 or so, I think...

lol. what a ringing endorsement of forest city.

There was a Macy's in the Center until about 2002 or 2003. It was always empty and didn't have much in the way of stock. The Empire State Development Corporation moved into that space.

Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Housing displacement? The map points to Prospect Heights/Crown Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

HousingTractMap.jpg Local maps of housing tracts show that some of the low-income neighborhoods most vulnerable to gentrification can be found adjacent to the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project proposal.

Maybe Christopher Morris, the real estate investor quoted in the 10/21/06 New York Times as anticipating a rise in property values because of the Atlantic Yards project, was right. Or maybe he was riding on trends that already existed, trends that suggest that blight and stagnation are trumped by development.

Indeed, as Brooklyn College sociologist Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida recently reported at a panel in June, "Housing Displacement in Brooklyn: A Discussion," there’s some stark evidence about gentrification trends, and they point directly to areas in the orbit of the Atlantic Yards proposal. It's not common for areas of poverty to nudge up against areas of wealth, but when they do, the poorer areas are vulnerable to displacement.


Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Students and Residents call on Spitzer to Review Abuse of Eminent Domain

400 Letters from Students and West Harlem Residents Delivered to Spitzer in Yonkers

Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification

NEW YORK, NY – In the run-up to the election, students and community members concerned about Columbia’s planned expansion into West Harlem are calling on Attorney-General Eliot Spitzer to declare a moratorium on eminent domain to prevent its further abuses, pending investigation. A group of Columbia students, costumed for Halloween, presented 400 letters to the gubernatorial candidate at a public appearance in Yonkers this morning. . Eminent domain has been used repeatedly over the years at the impetus of private interests and the expense of numerous New York City communities. In Manhattanville, the proposed use of eminent domain threatens to displace hundreds of families and vital community businesses, excluding the community from the decision process.

The students asked Eliot Spitzer to support New York communities against the abuse of eminent domain power and to hold a review of the process. The Columbia Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification is working with the Coalition to Preserve Community to spearhead this effort.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

Marty's on a mission to sell Brits on Brooklyn

Fuhgeddaboud Buckingham Palace - try the Boardwalk, mate.

NY Daily News
By Ellen Tumposky in London and Jotham Sederstrom in New York

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is bringing the land of Spike Lee movies, Jay-Z videos and Coney Island to foggy London town in an effort to draw the U.K. to BK.


NoLandGrab: While he sells out Brooklyn on the homefront, Marty enjoys a paid vacation.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM