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December 31, 2006

New York, Where the Dreamers Are Asleep


New York Times

The city that once lived to dazzle seems no longer able to think big or much past tomorrow. That was for its optimistic youth, when dreamers built Central Park, the marvel of a subway system, the wonder that is the Brooklyn Bridge and an advanced network of reservoirs and water tunnels. A younger New York dared to stage a World’s Fair in the shadow of the Depression.

But the bills came due, bankruptcy loomed, President Gerald R. Ford threatened to leave the city in the lurch and the place turned practical. Today’s New Yorkers want to know what something costs and who will pay. Turning landfill into a park, or building a new basketball arena and apartment-retail complex in Brooklyn if private dollars foot a healthy part of the bill — fine. Risking citywide gridlock to impress the world by playing host to the Olympics? Not so fine.

It’s not as if the mayor’s goal of moving traffic and keeping the lights on are utopian concepts. But the public has learned that New York does not follow a script.


Atlantic Yards Report is on the scene to offer corrections in "Times suggests we know the costs of AY and 'who will pay'":

We don't have an accurate sense of the net new tax revenues. And we don't know how much Atlantic Yards would cost the public. That information has been elusive and hidden. But we do know we're risking costly gridlock in Brooklyn and beyond, as transportation engineer Brian Ketcham points out.

Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

From Bach to Borat

New Jersey Star-Ledger's best and worst of 2006:

LOATHED: Our region's continuing inability to build anything truly remarkable and architecturally interesting on a grand scale. Not just at Ground Zero -- anywhere at all. Even on the site of Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, designed by California architect Frank Gehry (who did just open his first building in Manhattan, a modest office structure for media tycoon Barry Diller). Gehry's dubious residential-high-rise-cum-NJ Nets-arena may get built, but the current design is less than impressive. Cities in Europe, China, Japan, the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, are able to mount world-class projects with success, often using cutting-edge computer-assisted design functions. Hint: Focus on fulfilling human needs, not economic return.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM


Views from the Bridge

Bruce Ratner rides the same breed of horse as the Neo-Conservatives though he would no doubt vehemently deny it. It is not so much that the ends justify the means with Forest City Ratner, as it is an article of faith that some people are imbued by providence with the ability to plan, decide, and seal the fate of those they regard as less able beings. It is not that Bruce Ratner believes he rules public finance by Divine Right. It is that for him, like George Bush, the law is a secular impediment to his role as the conduit for the divine will. The law just gets in his way.

To Mr. Ratner, the Atlantic Yards Project is more than the law, the state, the nation, and its people. We mortals here below are not able to grasp that fact, and so when the high trinity of New York State politics gathered in Albany this month, they “sanctified” Mr. Ratner’s mission in spite of the evidence. Apparently they agree that he is gifted with the angelic visionary ability to create for us what we cannot see we ought to do for ourselves. Like the Archangel Michael, Mr. Ratner wrestles with secular law to beat it into cooperating for the higher – though as yet unseen -- good. To him, those of us who see this as a mass mugging of the public treasure simply have feet of clay. We need indoctrination, not honest dispute.


Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

The NY Observer features 29 power families, but not the Ratners

Atlantic Yards Report looks at the Ratner family tree:

The December 18 issue of the New York Observer, the cheeky weekly that specializes in insider coverage of the city’s professions, featured 29 power families in a number of arenas, including sports, the arts, politics, journalism, and law.
But Brooklyn's biggest real estate empire, Forest City Ratner, didn’t make the list of 29. Sure, it’s a judgment call. There’s no younger Ratner joining CEO Bruce as his designated heir, as Jed Walentas will succeed his father David.
Michael Ratner has a little-used office at Forest City headquarters in Brooklyn’s MetroTech. He and his wife, both based in Greenwich Village, make political contributions from that office to Brooklyn machine pols. He’s an investor in the Nets. And he hasn’t said a word about eminent domain or gag orders associated with the Atlantic Yards plan.
However, it would have been pushing it to ask an Observer staffer to profile the family that includes a colleague, the capable Observer reporter Lizzy Ratner, a daughter of Bruce Ratner and also an investor in the Nets.


Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

Forest City Ratner and the Courier-Life chain: payback time?


Atlantic Yards Report explains why Brooklyn Papers got a stocking full of coal for Christmas from Forest City Ratner:

The two weekly chain newspapers in Brooklyn have distinct identities. The broadsheet Brooklyn Papers, family-owned, is based in DUMBO and focuses on the neighborhoods of Brownstone Brooklyn. The tabloid Courier-Life chain, based in Sheepshead Bay, is a major supporter of the Chamber of Commerce (its publisher chairs the group, and the chain publishes the Chamber's newspaper) and was recently purchased by the New York Post.
In this week's issues of the Courier-Life, we get an advertisement from the developer, labeled "Thank You New York." That's a bit odd, given that the project web site, which presumably reaches a broader constituency, banners "Thank You Brooklyn."

There's no ad in the Brooklyn Papers this week. But there is that revealing interview with Borough President Marty Markowitz.


Posted by amy at 10:52 AM

Cognitive dissonance from the tabs on Albany & AY

Atlantic Yards Report contrasts the editorial viewpoints of the Post, Daily News and the Times in their negative views of Albany vs. the sunshine and daydreams of Atlantic Yards:

In an editorial Friday headlined THE BIG GOV WHO WOULDN'T, the Post editorialized regarding the 12-year stint of Governor George Pataki:
To put it bluntly, Ol' George let New York down.
Ran off, in pursuit of his own interests.
Even as taxes across the state squeezed out residents and businesses.
And political corruption mushroomed.

Today's Daily News, in an editorial assessing Pataki's mixed record, headlined By George, it's bye, George, offers these somewhat contradictory sentences:
Pataki's Empire State Development Corp. fostered the city's building boom, notably rejuvenating Times Square.
...Pataki succumbed to back-room dealmaking with legislative leaders and broke a promise to limit himself to two terms.

the Times criticized Albany too, stating in a 12/16/06 editorial:
But we always need our legislators to take the time to do their work carefully — and, we hope, more openly.

Today, in an editorial, the Times offers a mixed verdict on Pataki's governorship, criticizing his record on governmental reform and budget issues. There's nothing, of course, about Atlantic Yards.


Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

December 30, 2006




Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn talks with Phil Maymin (http://www.Maymin.com), former Libertarian Party candidate for congress, 4th district (CT), about abuse of eminent domain and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 12:09 PM

Silver messed up

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The following letter from Brian T. Ketcham was published in the December 30th Brooklyn Papers.

To the editor, I wrote this letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver after he voted to approve the Atlantic Yards project last week (“Approved,” Dec. 23):

Dear Assemblyman Silver:

Reportedly, you voted to approve the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project on the basis of benefits to New York. [Yet] our analysis shows that the costs of this project overwhelm any benefits.

Our assessment of the project is that it will generate about 38,000 car and truck trips a day, creating nearly 100 million miles of travel annually adding significantly to New York’s current traffic burdens.

And Atlantic Yards will add this burden after more than 50 million square feet of other new development that has been approved for Brooklyn. Traffic from Downtown Brooklyn development will spill across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges creating gridlock in Lower Manhattan.


Atlantic Yards planners admitted that the project would create gridlock conditions in Downtown Brooklyn, but refused to evaluate its effects on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or Lower Manhattan lest you figure out the true consequences of this project.

Adding 100 million vehicle miles of travel will increase congestion and lost productivity for motorists and truckers, will increase the number of people injured and killed in accidents and will add to already onerous environmental impacts — all increasing the costs of living and doing business in this city. The dollar cost of these impacts totals $3 billion over 30 years, dwarfing any benefits that Atlantic Yards could possibly bring to New York City.

Sadly, your legacy will be that you brought gridlock to Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan at a cost of billions to me and my neighbors. You have not only sold out Brooklyn, you have sold out your constituents in Manhattan.

Brian T. Ketcham,
Cobble Hill
The writer is a partner in Community Consulting, a development analysis firm.

Posted by amy at 12:05 PM

The Marty outtakes: AY & terrorism, density, and traffic


Atlantic Yards Report looks into the unedited audio version of the Marty interview:

Probably the most memorable passage that didn’t make it to print was this bizarre Markowitz slam at Atlantic Yards critics:
I’ve been the recipient, more than anyone else on this project, I think maybe even more than Bruce Ratner, but certainly as far as any elected official going, a reciptient of more [inaudible] and hate, from those that feel that Atlantic Yards is more important than the issue of Osama Bin Laden and terrorism. There’s no question that there’s an element of people that truly believe that the greatest challenge facing America is the Atlantic Yards Project rather than terrorism and Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

Does he really believe that politically engaged people can’t keep local and national issues straight? Atlantic Yards is a local issue—probably the biggest local issue in Brooklyn—and Markowitz was elected to be Borough President. That’s why his office filed an extensive response to the AY Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Markowitz has no role in fighting terrorism and searching for Osama Bin Laden (unless he’s conducting reconnaissance missions in Junior’s). Still, it turns out, terrorism is an Atlantic Yards issue. Despite calls from community groups for the state review of Atlantic Yards to include post-9/11 security considerations, the state took a pass—and Markowitz said nothing.


Posted by amy at 11:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Fun

The Politicker on Marty's Brooklyn Papers interview:

Here's a remarkably pungent year-end interview with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, an Atlantic Yards Project supporter, by media outlet er he feels doesn't give the project a fair shake: Brooklyn Papers.

Here is how the interview started, according to a politely edited transcript.

Q: Did you see our banner headline on the front page this week? "APPROVED."

A: Look, The Paper, in my humble opinion -- and I have a right to criticize -- is overwhelmingly anti-[Atlantic Yards]. Not just the editorials, which you have every right to do, but the stories are tilted every freaking time. That's my humble opinion. I'm sorry, it is NOT a balanced newspaper. It's not. Editorially, you can blast away 'til Kingdom Come. But it is so overwhelmingly against Atlantic Yards. Everyone knows that if there is any way to attack the project, The Brooklyn Papers will be there to do so.

Later, according to an audio clip of the interview posted on Brooklyn Papers' website, Markowitz goes on to say:

"The truth of the matter is, it comes down to this: when you're against something, fuck it, you'll do anything you can to stop it."


Posted by amy at 11:50 AM

From green to grim


David Chiu

The Atlantic Yards development will cast shadows over a longtime community garden, a state report has found, confirming fears of local residents concerned their oasis will lose sunlight.

“It will change forever how we are able to garden here,” said Jon Crow, coordinator of the Brooklyn Bears Pacific Street Community Garden since 1985, and an opponent to the development.

Two of the planned buildings at the center of the $4.2 billion Nets arena complex — the so-called Miss Brooklyn tower and a 247-foot structure — will cast shadows across the garden in the morning, the final environmental report by the Empire State Development Corporation found.

Shadows will loom from 20 minutes in the winter to up to four hours in the summer, the report said, cutting off vital sunlight for the garden’s vegetables, trees and flowers, volunteers contend.


Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

December 29, 2006

Affordable housing, AY, & 421-a: the solution that came too late


Atlantic Yards Report

A telling pairing of lead articles appeared on the front page of the 12/21/06 New York Times. The passage of the Atlantic Yards project was deemed the day's second most important story. The lead was the City Council's reform of 421-a legislation, which is expected to lead to some 20,000 affordable apartments over the next decade.

Seen together, it's clear how much backers of the Atlantic Yards project benefited from the city's failure to reform 421-a any sooner, much less rezone the 22-acre site designated for the project.

Each action could have guaranteed a significant number of affordable low-income apartments, rather than leaving it to a private deal between developer Forest City Ratner and the advocacy group ACORN, which gave crucial cover to a development of unprecedented residential density.

In other words, in part because of the inclusion of affordable housing--which, it was infrequently mentioned, would be funded by taxpayers--the developer got the state to override zoning and build at a scale that otherwise would not be permitted.


Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

Marty’s humble opinion


Brooklyn Papers
Marty Markowitz takes crazy ranting to a new level in this interview - asking the interviewer to define "fact" while praising the Times' balanced coverage. Or should we just say bop bop bop bop bop bop....

Q: Do you think any paper in the city has analyzed this project credibly and with integrity?

A: I think the Times has. They have seriously written things that were definitely pro, middle and anti. Whatever issues that the antis have raised, they have definitely not ignored it. Your paper says, “We’re against it, so f— it.”

Q: Has there been a story in The Papers that had a factual inaccuracy?

A: What is fact? If you’re going to put in your paper that Ratner put up [surveillance] cameras on his building —

Q: We never wrote a word about that!

A: He has a right to put up cameras and protect the area. One of those nut jobs — you don’t know who can come by [and cause a] fire — and then put the blame on him!


Posted by amy at 9:13 AM

News Analysis: Arena Project in a Different Kind of Court

Brooklyn Downtown Star
Norman Oder

Silver's statement about creating open space and upgrading parks did not address criticisms that the planned open space would serve as backyards for the oversize towers. But it did reference Forest City's last-minute pledge to put $3 million into upgrading parks. Given that it would cost the developer some $1.25 million just to build a comfort station at the Dean Street Playground, it was unclear how broad an impact that $3 million could have.

The community affairs office referenced by Silver contrasts with the developer's now-you-see-it, now-you-don't marketing center that has occupied third-floor space in Forest City's Atlantic Center mall. Select groups were invited to see models by architect Frank Gehry but it was never open to the community.

As for conforming building heights, Silver meant the developer's agreement to bring Gehry's planned 620-foot Miss Brooklyn tower down a sliver below the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank. That decision was saluted by Borough President Marty Markowitz, who had called for the building's height to be reduced and had remained quiet when the City Planning Commission and the ESDC endorsed it at 620 feet.

Some Brooklynites, learning of the reduction, concluded that Miss Brooklyn would no longer block the bank's iconic clock tower. However, for those looking toward the bank along Flatbush Avenue from Grand Army Plaza, the clock indeed would be blocked. To maintain the view corridor - a pledge that the developer made in 2003 - Miss Brooklyn would have had to be shifted, and that was deemed to not be feasible from an engineering standpoint.


Posted by amy at 9:04 AM

2006: The Year in Review

Brooklyn Papers
Gersh Kuntzmen adds his own year in review:

From the first fireworks of New Year’s Day to the state’s end-of-year approval of Bruce Ratner’s plans to transform a rail yard into a mini-Times Square, this year had it all.


Lookout, Bruce!: Kids rocker (and Cobble Hill resident) Dan Zanes came out against Atlantic Yards, although his tiny fans napped through the news.


Rats!: Chuck E. Cheese, which has a cute mouse for a mascot, was closed by the Health Department for — cue the ironic music! — an infestation of mice.


Posted by amy at 8:59 AM

Year in Yards

Brooklyn Papers
Ariella Cohen takes on the best and worst of the year in Ratnerville, by month. Relive the excitement!


Poster girl: Model Sahara Meer, whose photo appeared unwittingly in Atlantic Yards promotional material, becomes a poster child for the development’s opposition.


Realty check: Ratner invites thousands of New Yorkers to learn about the mostly luxury development’s below-market-rate units. Many in the crowd are confused by the high prices of the project’s “affordable” housing.


Posted by amy at 8:51 AM

Covering Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Papers

In an interview in this week’s Papers, the project’s biggest booster, Borough President Markowitz, calls us “biased” because our coverage revealed the shocking density of the project, the traffic it would cause, and the subsidy-enriched sweetheart deal Gov. Pataki’s cronies cooked up in Albany to make this project work for Ratner. (See the Markowitz interview on page 4 or listen to it at www.BrooklynPapers.com).

Given how we’ve been attacked for such coverage — and the overwhelming support the project enjoys among city and state powerbrokers — many of our readers have wondered why we even bothered. Indeed, it would have been far easier for us to blow off Atlantic Yards, as did the daily papers, and our weekly competitor, the New York Post-owned, Sheepshead Bay-based, Courier-Life chain.
So why did we persist in our aggressive reporting? Markowitz contends in the interview that we did it because we simply hate Bruce Ratner. We actually do not hate Bruce Ratner. This isn’t personal.

Our obsession with the project’s taxpayer-supported financing, its outright lies about job creation, and its preposterous density is a reflection of exactly what journalists are supposed to do: question authority and ensure that elected officials are doing their jobs.


Posted by amy at 8:47 AM

December 28, 2006

NBA fines Kidd $20,000 for "three blind mice" comment

AP, via Yahoo Sports
By Tom Canavan

ThreeBlindMice-sm.gifEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Jason Kidd was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Wednesday for a postgame rant in which he referred to officials Jim Clark, Tom Washington and Eric Lewis as "three blind mice."

The New Jersey Nets' star was angry about the officiating during a 92-91 loss at Detroit on Tuesday night. NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson handed down the fine.
"We come to work, and we work extremely hard at this, only for the officials to screw us," Kidd said. "We fought, but that doesn't mean anything when you have the officials take over the game like that. You go with the three blind mice, and it's just sad that Tom screwed up that game for us."


NoLandGrab: Stupid us! We thought that Kidd was referring to Governor Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Bruno and Assembly Speaker Silver, all of whom instructed their representatives to vote to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 9:41 AM

Snail Mailbag

We've received two interesting pieces of snail mail during the past week that we thought we'd share with our readers.

Residents on the same block as the very "contextual" NoLandGrab Park Slope branch received this bi-fold four-color mailer from BrooklynSpeaks on December 23. Others in the area received the mailer 1-3 days prior.


The mail-in card urges Gov. Elect Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Silver to, "Please do not approve the project unless its flaws relating to scale and design, transportation policy, affordable housing and public process have been addressed." The Speaker voted to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project on December 20.

This letter from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, dated December 21, arrived at our "production department" on December 26. Speaker Silver is thanking the concerned Brooklynite for their input, stating, "Your thoughts will be useful in upcoming discussion related to this matter." The Speaker voted to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project on December 20.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

At Gargano’s valedictory, transparency on AY still hard to find

Atlantic Yards Report

Outgoing Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano meets the press:

Rather, Gargano made himself available to the media, as he has long done, declared his desire to continue to help “this great city and state,” and took the opportunity to urge his successors to move ahead with the expansion of the Javits Convention Center and a plan for Moynihan Station. (Most questions concerned the stalled Moynihan Station project.)

When asked some tough Atlantic Yards questions, Gargano, for the most part, deflected them. Perhaps a cross-examination might have drilled down farther, but his answers spoke for themselves, depicting an agency for which transparency has not been a high priority.

Here's a particularly interesting exchange with reporter Norman Oder, who is still trying to get to the bottom of who's paying for what and how much will Forest City Ratner make from the Atlantic Yards project.

Q: My understanding, from reading one press account, is that there is a more full account of the net new revenues. I know that there was a five or six page memo that was released in the week after the December 8 meeting, but I’m told that there’s a more full analysis of the net new revenues.

A: Well, we do provide full analysis of the financial part of the project—there’s no question about it. If there were was some additional information required, that’s what we forward—

Q: When would that be made public?

Eileen Mildenberger, the ESDC’s Chief Operating Officer, responded from the wings:

We gave that to them on the basis of a confidentiality agreement, so we’re not sure that it is going to be made public.

Gargano picked up the thread:

This is a confidentiality agreement that we have with the developer itself. Naturally, the members of the PACB need that information for them to make a decision, but we are under a confidentiality agreement with the developer.


NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or is anyone else getting the sneaking suspicion that developer Forest City Ratner is going to make a killing off this deal? Which leads us to wonder, isn't there a cheaper way to build affordable housing?

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Techies are of two minds

Elite HS' alums divided on plan for new building

By Tanyanika Samuels

This is rich — United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten trades her support for Atlantic Yards for a new building for Brooklyn Tech, built by Ratner. Only there are no details about the deal (like who's paying) and renovations at the school are already underway.

BklynTech-NYDN.JPGThe tentative plans for one of the city's top high schools stem from the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project, which was greenlighted last week by a key state panel.

As the controversial project faced a vote in Albany, developer Forest City Ratner hammered out a deal to "work with the city, state and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st century Brooklyn Tech High School."

A spokeswoman for Ratner said last week that the plans were in the "formative stages." Key details, such as costs, a construction timeline or even a location, remain hazy.

The news still rattled some alumni who questioned the move in light of the $10 million fund-raising goal the school reached last year.

"If the school was in decay, then fine, but it's not," said Melvin Band, Class of '59. "They took our money to build up that school, and now they're doing away with it. It's a disgrace."


NoLandGrab: Should Randi Weingarten have let Bruce Ratner off so easily? This plan does nothing to address near-capacity conditions at local public schools and the impact of 15-18K new residents in the district.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Nets Move to Brooklyn All But Approved

Hoops World

Basketball News Services has chronicled the process of the potential move of the Nets to Brooklyn as part of this “Atlantic Yards” project – which also includes 16 towers of housing, office, and retail space – from both sides over the course of the last couple years, but it apparently doesn’t matter what the people living in the area currently think.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM



Libertarian party activists discuss local eminent domain fights.

Richard Cooper, Chair of the Libertarian Party of New York (http://www.NY.LP.org) talks with Joseph Dobrian, Chair of the Manhattan Libertarian Party (http://www.ManhattanLP.org) about eminent domain. Originally aired November 6, 2006. Taped October 24, 2006. link

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

Atlantic Yards: An Extraordinary Team Effort

Neighborhood Retail Alliance

After giving props to Bruce Ratner's "political maestro" Bruce Bender, Richard Lipsky illustrates that he misunderstands the motives of most Atlantic Yards critics in his most recent post on Bruce Ratner's big boondoggle:

And for all of the critics of Richard Lipsky who chastised him for selling out, we have only one perpetual question: What have you ever done to prevent any development that might have posed a danger to a neighborhood or the small businesses in it? All these armchair quarterbacks who've never gotten their hands dirty should simply shut up; or better yet, join with the Alliance in its upcoming fight against the Wal-Mart that wants to come into downtown Brooklyn. Then, perhaps, they'll experience the thrill of victory rather than the agony of defeat.


NoLandGrab: Local activists aren't criticizing Bruce Ratner's project in order to win an empirical victory. Many are seasoned activists and volunteers who are involved in a laundry list of issues. They didn't pick this fight — it was dropped on their heads.

Lipsky, on the other hand, has chosen to align himself with Bruce Ratner, even though the developer's box stores, like Lowe's and Target, are anathema to the local mom-n-pop businesses that Lipsky represents.

In October, Ratner scuttled a deal with Costco in favor of bringing Target to Manhattan. This switch is considered to be a net-negative for the local economy, since Costco offers higher wages than many box stores, plus health benefits to full-time employees. Meanwhile, Target is busy defending itself against accusations of the type of predatory and exploitative corporate and employment practices usually associated with Wal-Mart. Only the cheap-chic sophistication of "Tar-zhay" has insulated the corporation from big-box activists like Lipsky.

Even though many Brooklynites have lost the campaign to convince politicians to do the right thing for once, the eventual loser will be Lipsky and his local small-business constituents. The energetic Richard Lipsky has chosen not to shoot straight by only going after fat targets such as Wal-Mart, conveniently sidestepping the larger big-box phenomenon to the benefit of his Forest City Ratner pals. Sadly, Lipsky's in-your-face-Dan-Goldstein end-zone dance is a slap in the face to his own constituents.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

December 27, 2006

How Is Atlantic Yards Like Ishtar?

The Real Estate Observer
By Tom Acitelli

In a strongly worded editorial, analyst Peter Slatin unloads on two major New York real estate projects that recently took big steps forward.

Mr. Slatin calls the Freedom Tower, for which steel columns were placed last week, "the egregiously clunky and skyline-sucking icon that Larry Silverstein and outgoing New York Governor George Pataki are determined to force on the city."

He, however, reserves his most searing ire for the Atlantic Yards project, which was approved by the state Public Authorities Control Board last week. Declaring some parts of it admirable (the new Nets arena, the fact that it will eradicate an old train yard), Mr. Slatin nevertheless dubs Atlantic Yards no better than one of the worst Hollywood movies yet made...


NoLandGrab: How is Atlantic Yards like Ishtar? It's not a stretch of the imagination: Overblown budget, big stars, panned by industry critics.

Posted by lumi at 7:36 PM

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Asks: “Hey, NYS Assembly: SHOW US THE MONEY!”

Some folks just don’t pay their bills or honor their commitments.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods in early 2006 was told by the New York State Assembly that they would provide CBN with $100,000 to be used for the community expert review of the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement. Based on these assurances CBN contracted a large team of environmental consultants and produced a highly praised independent analysis that is being used by officials in evaluating the Atlantic Yards proposal. One problem…the Assembly money has “disappeared.”

What happened?

Outgoing Assemblyman and early Atlantic Yards supporter Roger Green twice blocked the money, and twice after meeting with CBN members who addressed his concerns he agreed to remove his freeze. CBN would really like an accounting of where that money has gone and why.

“Public money was promised three times for a community review of this EIS. The community deserves to know what happened to that money. We hope the media and all government officials will insure these questions are answered. We aren’t going to let this drop without an accounting,” said James Vogel, spokesman for CBN.

It’s just so easy to skip paying bills during the holidays, especially if you’re the government!

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

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
201 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
718-408-3219 Office

cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com

Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM


BigBrother-Ratner.jpgNY Post

Big Brother is watching in Downtown Brooklyn . . . and his name is Bruce.

[Correction: It's three years since Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan was first unveiled, and the ignorant press is still confused. It's "Prospect Heights Brooklyn," NOT "Downtown Brooklyn." Please don't make Norman Oder have to start PostRatnerReport.com.]

Specifically, Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer who in recent months has quietly installed nearly 30 surveillance cameras outside properties he owns within the 22-acre footprint of his planned $4 billion project.

While some of the cameras are positioned outside vacant buildings, others are installed at buildings still occupied by tenants or facing properties the developer wants to obtain through eminent domain.
Yvonne Clark, who lives in a building Ratner owns on Dean Street, said she feels her "privacy is being violated" by two surveillance cameras installed outside her front door.

"I definitely don't like it because I don't want people knowing who is coming and going from my apartment," she said.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Ratner's profit likely would exceed IRR, but the public's still in the dark

Atlantic Yards Report

So how much profit would Forest City Ratner make? Remember, a real estate expert consulted by New York Magazine estimated 25 percent, though he didn't have enough figures to be certain.

Two things are clear, however. First, the "internal rate of return" (or IRR) figures in the KPMG audit commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation don't tell us anything about Ratner's profit.

Second, the public still doesn't know whether this is a good deal or not.

Norman Oder takes the KPMG audit to a professional, who leaves us with two outstanding questions:

One, have public resources been adequately protected in the sense of public officials or administration officials getting good value for money going in? Two, even assuming they have relative to this transaction, is this a good use of money relative to other things those public resources could be used for?"

Learn what a "development fee" is, which could factor into the developer's profit margin, a number that is a closely guarded secret.


Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM


You don't have to go far down the New Jersey Nets Atlantic Yard Development FAQs to find eyebrow-raising facts (hey, we're talking about Ratner PR!).

We don't know quite how to take this question "frequently asked" by fans who are worried about traveling through "Crooklyn."

7. Where is the new Arena located? What type of neighborhood is that?
The new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be located at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, an area in close proximity to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum. It is within easy walking distance from several neighborhoods, such as Park Slope and Fort Greene. The new arena and development will add a dynamic, diverse, and urban cultural center to the area.

FAQ forgets to mention the cultural resources in Ratner's malls — like Buffalo Wild Wings and Chuck E. Cheese and the DMV — just across the street.

The Public Library, Botanic Garden and Museum — or even Grand Army Plaza — were not deemed close enough to be included in the traffic study.

And since everyone is thinking it, we'll say it: questions regarding the "type of neighborhood" means that people want to know what "type" of people live, work and play there (read: their complexion).

Here are two other FAQs that caught our eye:

8. How far will the arena be from the Meadowlands?
Fifteen miles.

For you NJ drivers, 15 miles typically adds another 15 minutes to your trip, unless it is through traffic-clogged city streets and arteries (no main arterial routes were included in the Atlantic Yards traffic study) — then it's anyone's guess.

11. How will I get to the new arena? Will there be adequate parking?
The arena will be located directly over New York City's third largest subway hub, with 10 subway lines and the LIRR stopping at the arena, making it a 10 minute ride from downtown Manhattan and 20 minutes from Midtown. There will also be parking lots in close proximity to the arena for those who choose to drive.

We're getting kind of worried here, because we're afraid this might be the executive summary of the "comprehensive" traffic plan that Ratner has been promising.

Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

December 26, 2006


EminentDomainia04.jpgThe Canton Repository, NOTES & QUOTES

“Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you, I send this spell.”

Greeting card sent by Susette Kelo, to New London, Conn., city officials and members of the city’s development agency. Kelo lost a controversial eminent-domain case in the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Castle Watch, Queens, NY: House of Spices May Be Replaced By Bland Development

The “Iron Triangle” area of Willetts Point in Queens is a lot more than a collection of auto parts suppliers and other businesses. It’s also a haven for immigrants who are attracted to the neighborhood to find steady employment and learn English.

But if the City of New York gets its way, it could be responsible for destroying the jobs of hundreds of those immigrants. That’s because the City has its eye on the area to demolish the more than 200 small businesses, most of which were started by immigrants themselves. The proposed redevelopment area, just east of Shea Stadium, would include a bland slab of upscale retail and luxury housing, typical of the developments that city councils want nationwide to generate higher tax revenues.

One of the many businesses that have thrived in Willetts Point for generations is “House of Spices,” an Indian food supply company owned by third-generation American Neil Soni. Soni boasts that roughly two-thirds of his employees are new immigrants, originally hailing from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Eminent domain legal bill: $850K

The Institute for Justice, a civil-liberties law firm that successfully represented at no charge the property owners who fought Norwood's use of eminent domain, is seeking more than $850,000 in compensation from Rookwood Partners.

Rookwood Partners wanted to build a $125 million commercial development at Edwards and Edmondson roads.

But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in July that Norwood illegally used eminent domain to acquire properties on the proposed Rookwood Exchange site from people who didn't want to sell.

That ruling stopped the project from being built.

Scott Bullock, attorney for the Institute for Justice, said Ohio law allows non-profit organizations that win cases involving constitutional law to be compensated for fees and expenses even when no fees have been charged to their clients.

Posted by lumi at 11:46 AM

The Times defends the front-page scaleback story, but then practices "rowback"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has been trying to get the NY Times to acknowledge that the paper made a mistake, falling hook, line and sinker for Bruce Ratner's story about the 6%-8% scaleback.

This has led to a copious amount of correspondence with numerous editors, including the Public Editor Byron Calame.

Though the Gray Lady won't cry uncle, many of Oder's points have been added to subsequent coverage, without the paper admitting error.


NoLandGrab: Though the Times has made a fool of itself with its Atlantic Yards coverage, the real losers are Times readers in Central Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

511 Ft.

MartyPuppet-sm.jpgMuch is being made of Miss Brooklyn being "shaved down" to a height one foot shorter than the neighboring Williamsburgh Savings Bank building. This was a condition set by Borough President Marty Markowitz during his testmony at the only Public Hearing for the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement in August, 2006.

Lo and behold, an alternative plan with a shorter Miss Brooklyn emerged from the shadows at the last minute before the Public Authorities Control Board voted to approve the project. [Note: Norman Oder discovered documents that considered this option as early as October 10.]

Does anyone remember this item that NoLandGrab ran on August 25?

Community Activist Philip DePaolo offers this observation and analysis in response to Marty's position tweak calling for the project, especially Miss Brooklyn, to be downscaled:

Just a small side note. At the ESDC hearing I was sitting right behind FCR'S Jim Stuckey. He seemed to get quite a chuckle over Marty Markowitz's comments. And his surrounding posse of yes men and women also got a good laugh. Marty was doing damage control with the community. Nothing more.

So it seems that Bruce Ratner took an urban planning concern, turned it into a technicality and then sent Marty Markowitz to testify like a trained monkey, much to the delight of his henchmen.

There's nothing illegal about this elaborate political theater, but we thought you'd be interested in what happens when one connects the dots in Ratnerville.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Bad news for Bollywood fans in New Jersey

Indo-Asian News Service, via HindustanTimes.com

Bad news for Bollywood fans residing in New Jersey and New York as seven-screen movie house CinePlaza is on the verge of closing down.

"This theatre is like the lifeblood of Indian entertainment; it is a home to us," said Vijay Shah, the owner of CinePlaza. Shah saved the theatre once but this time chances are dim.

Shah's multiplex, located in an underground parking garage has been cast in doubt after the building's owner got approvals to demolish the theatre and replace it with a 29-storey residential and commercial tower, reported northjersey.com.
The theatre represents a unique cultural niche where Shah screens about 60 Indian films a year, including eight or 10 blockbusters that sell as many as 15,000 tickets per show.

CinePlaza is the largest Indian theatre on the East coast, with a capacity of about 1,300 seats. The closing of the theatre will hugely disappoint the locals.

The owners of the property, Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Companies, planned its redevelopment Wednesday when the North Bergen council approved rezoning the property. ...
However, the other tenants in the shopping centre, including a ShopRite and Bally's gym, will be not be affected by the redevelopment plan.


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

December 25, 2006

Merry Gridlock to All!


Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Eminent domain attorney: look to federal court

Atlantic Yards Report

Eminent domain attorney Michael Rikon, speaking on the Brian Lehrer Show last Thursday, offered both cautionary and encouraging words to those hoping to challenge the Atlantic Yards project in court.
"The challenges I've made, which had really good merit as far as I'm concerned, have never been successful," Rikon said. "It's extremely difficult to stop a condmenation proceeding in New York State. In federal court, there's a much better chance. I think the judges who hear those cases are more open to the arguments being made by opponents of the project."


Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

We Three Men of Albany Are

We three men of Albany are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Buildings rise, subsidies and lies
Following yonder star

Born a King on Cleveland’s shore
Goldstein’s home and many more
Bruce forever, ceasing never
Your money we adore

Oh Bruce Ratner, prince of night
Scar on Brooklyn’s beauty bright
Downward leading, ever-greeding
Traffic will be a fright

Frank Gehry will blot out the sky
Bear’s Garden, reflections will fry
Pray'r and praising, temp’ratures raising
Our fealty your money will buy

Myrrh-iad of subsidies bloom
Public process Ratner will doom
Oder tried, request was denied
Thanks to three men in a room

Glorious now behold the highrise
Brownstone Brooklyn sure will despise
Alleluia, Alleluia
Built upon deceit and lies

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Screening of Isabel Hill's documentary "Brooklyn Matters"


Thursday, January 4, 2007
6:00 PM

Center for Architecture - NYC Chapter
536 LaGuardia Place (between West 3rd Street and Bleecker Street in the West Village)
New York, New York

No single event will have a more drastic and more long-lasting impact on Brooklyn than the proposed development of Atlantic Yards by Forest City Ratner. This uncommon proposal, however, is mostly misunderstood. Brooklyn Matters is an insightful documentary which reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and skirting legal protections to try to get the deal done.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...


Gumby Fresh, When The Ship Goes Down...
Ponderings from across the pond:

I remember reading, but can't be arsed to search for, an article in the times about the growing power of Park Slope liberals in city politics. That's bollocks right there. This nasty little deal was cooked up between Albany, the Manhattan real estate elite, and the morally bankrupt liberal/Democratic establishment in Brooklyn.

NY Sports Blog, Nets To Brooklyn - What Does it Mean to YOU?
A sports fan offers his take:

Now this is what has been my concern from the very beginning. Ratner and his group could have garnered support without lying to his supporters. Those same supporters will not benefit from the arena in any way, shape or form. The Brooklyn Basketball Community that supported Ratner have already felt the disrespect when Ratner went across the bridge to Chelsea Piers in Manhattan to tap the owners of Basketbll City to run the Nets camps and clinics in Brooklyn. After showing Ratner all sorts of support, the Brooklyn Basketball community (many who already operate camps & clinics) was completely overlooked when it came time to operate a Ratner funded camp/clinic program, complete with a budget.

Karrie Jacobs, A White Xmas in Brooklyn
The design/urban planning writer is troubled by one of the big flaws with the Atlantic Yards project:

I don’t have a problem with the idea of developing the air rights above the Atlantic Avenue rail yards. I think it’s basically a good idea. And while a basketball arena isn’t exactly the thing I believe the neighborhood needs, I figure that if you’re going to build one, you might as well put it above a transit hub. Yes, I believe the project is clearly too big and its plan — from what I’ve seen so far — is hostile to the surrounding neighborhoods. But that’s not what makes me angry. The thing that I find outrageous is the process…or the lack of process.

What Goes Around Comes Around, [PSN] State approves Atlantic Yards; fate of project now lies with the Courts
A blogger posts a year-end message from Park Slope Neighbors:

This past Wednesday, New York State's Public Authorities Control Board voted to approve Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. While the approval was widely anticipated, given the support for the project of the Governor, Mayor and Borough President - and the developer's relentless lobbying and public relations efforts - the vote still comes as a bit of a surprise, if only because Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver ignored the wishes of the four Assemblymembers whose districts will be most affected by the project: Hakeem Jeffries, Annette Robinson, and Park Slope's own Joan Millman and Jim Brennan. All four had called for postponement of the PACB vote, citing a number of issues, including a lack of information about the project's financing, the development's overwhelming scale, and the insufficiency of proposed mitigations for the project's potentially adverse effects.

The Assemblymembers were joined in their opposition by Park Slope's two State Senators: Velmanette Montgomery, who's been an outspoken critic of the project, and newly elected Eric Adams, who has voiced numerous concerns and called for a review of security issues.
What happens next? While the project has passed its final political hurdle, it still faces multiple obstacles in the courts.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM



NY Post
By Charles Sahm

ASSEMBLY Speaker Sheldon Silver last week opted not to use his vote on the Public Authorities Control Board to shelve the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. But the fact remains that he could have - after all, he shelved two major Manhattan development projects in the last 18 months. It's time to rethink the PACB - an obscure, but incredibly powerful, state board.

The PACB has three voting members - one each appointed by the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader. It's supposed to vet projects funded by state authorities to make sure they're financially sound. (Authorities are quasi-governmental agencies that have the power to levy user fees; most have the ability to borrow funds by issuing debt.) Instead, it's just another forum for political horse-trading.

The law chartering the PACB clearly states: "The board may approve applications only upon its determination that, with relation to any proposed project, there are commitments of funds sufficient to finance the acquisition and construction of such project."

In other words, the PACB is, by law, only supposed to consider the financing of projects. Instead, though, politicians - with Silver only the most notorious - use it to hold big projects hostage to their own parochial concerns.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

December 24, 2006

Sunday Comix

monkees.jpg A lighting-fast public comment period, ignoring the concerns of existing residents, using eminent domain for Bruce Ratner, repeated refusal to disclose financial information, for a project of historical proportions, how did the "Three Men in a Room" in Albany let this happen?

Hey, hey we're the Monkeys...

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Forest City press release emphasizes Nets, downplays subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks for clues and interprets some of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) messaging in the Forest City Enterprises press release about the Public Authorities Control Board vote to approve Atlantic Yards.

The press release from parent company Forest City Enterprises, dated December 21, a day after the approval vote, and headlined Forest City’s Atlantic Yards Project Approved By State Board:

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) and (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that New York’s Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) unanimously approved the Company’s Atlantic Yards project, a mixed-use development in downtown Brooklyn whose main attraction is expected to be a new sports and entertainment arena for the Nets NBA basketball team.

Note the use of "downtown Brooklyn."


Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

The Times Magazine correction comes too late

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Times Magazine:

An item in the Year in Ideas issue on Dec. 10 about the increasing size and scale of urban planning referred imprecisely to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The New York City Planning Commission endorsed it but did not approve it; approval can be given only by state officials.

Now they tell us.

As I wrote the day the item was published, a correction was required in the daily paper, since it might be too late to correct it in the Magazine before the scheduled vote December 20 by the Public Authorities Control Board.


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Ratner Gets Thumbs Up For Atlantic Yards - As Expected, Albany Gives Stamp of Approval

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

Here's a good on: in the online edition of this week's article about the Public Authorities Control Board's vote to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new arena for the NJ Nets, the Courier-Life is running an ad for the NBA Online Store (click image to enlarge).

How's that for synergy?


Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

2006 Year In Review: High Profile Court Cases Dominate Headlines

By Jeanine Ramirez

High profile court cases dominated headlines in Brooklyn this year, whether it was about criminal proceedings or a development that will cause major changes in the borough. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez takes a look back.
Developers of the Atlantic Yards project fought in court as opponents continue their battle to stop plans for a downtown mega sports and housing complex. In one court action, developer Bruce Ratner won the right to tear down some buildings which sit in the footprints of the proposed project citing safety concerns.

Now opponents are suing, claiming abuse of eminent domain because Ratner would have to demolish their properties in order to build. But Ratner cleared a major hurdle when he won state approval for his project. To appease community concerns about its enormity he scaled back the project by five percent. But community groups say it is still larger than the original design by architect Frank Gehry.

article, video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Silver Votes 'Yes' On Atlantic Yards

Statement from NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

I have been supportive of the Atlantic Yards project and put the first funding for the plan in this year's state budget. I have voted for it today because I am satisfied it meets all the necessary criteria under the PACB statute.

Furthermore, I am pleased the developer is committed to addressing numerous community concerns through several specific actions that will result in significant neighborhood improvements.
I have not supported numerous projects that were brought forward for consideration that simply were not ready for discussion. And while an MTA appraisal was made with respect to Atlantic Yards, that requirement was not honored with respect to evaluating assets in the Moynihan Station project.


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM


"I want to thank ESDC Chairman Charlie Gargano for his leadership on this effort as well as on the Javits expansion, the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the 125th Street and Harlem revitalization, the Yankees and Mets stadiums, and the Times Square renewal."

"I look forward to seeing Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry’s grand vision turned into reality and to eating a hot dog as I watch the Brooklyn Nets play in Brooklyn’s new arena in the 2009-2010 season.”


Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

December 23, 2006

Pataki, Ratner, Silver and Bruno: Crony Capitalism at its Worst

The Daily Gotham

Albany is broken and it is affecting Brooklyn. Albany is broken, and the approval of Ratner's get richer with government help scheme is a giant indication of how bad Albany has become.

Shelly Silver, the only Democrat (until Eliot Spitzer takes over) in Albany’s infamous “room” where three men purportedly meet, has sided with Republican Joe Bruno (under investigation by the FBI) and Republican George Pataki to basically violate the basic principles of private property by evicting private property owners from their private property to benefit Pataki’s law school buddy, Bruce Ratner.

Let me rephrase and reiterate that: the NY State government is seizing private property to benefit a crony of the Governor’s. This is not good old-fashioned American free-market capitalism. This is not good government. This is not even good economics. This the odd hybrid economy of state-sponsored crony capitalism that Bush has championed since he moved from Texas to DC. Pataki, Bruno and Silver are helping to undermine one of the basic principles of the American economy: private property. They are wallowing in a culture of corruption that we have seen permeate the Republican party and, with Shelly Silver, seems to affect NY State Democrats as well.

The main beneficiary of this use of the government’s power of eviction is not the community, but an individual, Bruce Ratner. In exchange for the muscle of government and taxpayer (our) money behind him, Ratner has promised jobs, affordable housing, and tax revenues for the city. Problem is none of this is legally binding and we are asked to take on faith that Ratner will be good for Brooklyn the same way we have been asked to take on faith that what was good for Enron or Halliburton is good for America. But since when did office space and an arena generate good, long-term, union jobs and why is Ratner, whose record of job creation is non-existent, being trusted with this project? Most of the promised affordable housing doesn’t even match what is considered affordable in Manhattan and there is no guarantee that that housing will remain affordable. And, once again, why is Ratner, who has no record at all of creating affordable housing, being trusted with this project? And the tax revenue promises have already been scaled back considerably (by $500 million) before the first spade of earth is turned.


Posted by amy at 12:05 PM

Is the Daily News in the tank when it comes to AY?


Atlantic Yards Report

But the Daily News has a problem, and it goes way beyond the practice of a tabloid editorializing on its front page.

Inside the news pages, the newspaper has truly embarrassed itself, in both overhyping and underplaying stories. Take yesterday's slight and speculative story, following up on news announced Wednesday, headlined Nets go High Tech: Ratner throws in new home for elite Brooklyn HS in arena deal.

First, Ratner has made no such promises stated in the headline. As the article stated:
Ratner agreed in a statement to "work with the city, state and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new, 21st century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough." Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten said yesterday plans were "still in the formative stages."

What does "work with" mean? Contribute space in a new Ratner development? Sell space at a certain rate? I couldn't get any answers this week. There's no story beyond the vague statement. If the developer had pledged to build a new school, we would've been told. Similarly, the developer has allocated space in one planned Atlantic Yards building for a school, but the city is paying.


Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

The Gehry contradiction

Atlantic Yards Report (inadvertently?) starts the Frank Gehry deathwatch...sure to become a popular new event at Freddy's.

From an interview (reg. required) with architect Frank Gehry in today's Wall Street Journal:
Frank Gehry is 77, white haired, paunchy, and when we talked one afternoon in late autumn the topics of age and death never seemed far off. Mr. Gehry is, of course, one of the world's great architects, creator of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and enough of an icon to have been among the personalities featured in Apple's "Think Different" campaign. Describing what it takes for him to accept a commission, Mr. Gehry says, "The determining factor is: Can I get it done while I am still alive?" Explaining why he doesn't build houses any more, Mr. Gehry says, "They involve a lot of personal hand holding. I guess at my age I don't have the patience."

(Emphasis added)

The Atlantic Yards project, unmentioned in the interview, would take ten years to build, at best, and even supporters and cordial critics believe it more likely would take 15-20 years.


Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

The Architect

Wall Street Journal

In this relatively dark conversation, one story that Mr. Gehry told me and which made him chuckle was that of a friend who is a chiropractor and who asked him to help her lay out her office. "I love doing that kind of stuff," Mr. Gehry said. The friend came over and brought her floor plans and Mr. Gehry spent several hours noodling over them. "I've always had the fantasy of having a little kiosk in the mall where I could do that. Where people would line up and you would charge them 25 bucks and you would look at their plans. I love doing that kind of stuff. They think you are a genius when you move one little wall and get an efficiency and nobody had thought of that before. Small pleasures."


NoLandGrab: There are more than a few people in Brooklyn hoping that Frank gets his mall kiosk...and leaves Brooklyn alone.

Posted by amy at 11:25 AM


“Brooklyn’s bright future is indeed here today. I am thrilled with the PACB approval of the Atlantic Yards plan. This means our borough will soon be benefiting from thousands of union jobs, affordable housing, an enhanced and vibrant downtown, and our much-anticipated return to sports' major leagues. I am very encouraged as well that the PACB acted on our suggestion that the project’s “Miss Brooklyn” building not be taller than Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Savings Bank building. Add to all of this the project’s world-class architecture, on-site school, street-level shopping, and accessible public open space, and you can see why Atlantic Yards is the right project, in the right place, at the right time for Brooklyn.”

—— Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz


“Today’s approval of Atlantic Yards is the final step towards starting work on this enormously important project, which is vital to the resurgence of downtown Brooklyn. I thank Speaker Silver for providing the leadership in moving this forward and I applaud the Governor and Senate Majority Leader Bruno for their steadfast commitment to this project. Unique in scope and ambition, the Atlantic Yards project is the biggest private sector investment in Brooklyn’s history and the ultimate example of mixed-use development. It will create jobs, provide affordable housing and offer new retail and entertainment options, including a return of major league sports to Brooklyn. Atlantic Yards also demonstrates that when City and State government work together with the private sector, we can still achieve projects on a grand scale and ensure that New York remains a city where big things happen.”

Posted by amy at 11:17 AM

Atlantic Yards......a bad idea


The News Blog

What Ratner did was buy support. What they did not do, is project what will happen in the years ahead.

You see the scale of those red buildings? Notice everything around them. How long you think that lasts? The people who approve this project today will be driven out by rising prices and gentrification. The surrounding blocks will see their value climb, but for small business owners, the character of the neighborhood will shift. They're being told that they will benefit. Please. Compare Hoboken 1985 to 2006. If you didn't own a home, you live somewhere else. The character of the businesses will change. As will the color of the owners.

As for jobs: construction? How binding are any training and apprentice agreements? If they aren't enacted. what happens? My guess, nothing.

Lets understand something. Most of the people Ratner bougtht off want jobs and have ZERO power to enforce any deal. The people who are opposing this have a very good idea of what comes next. They aren't seeing the follow on of having those large, ungainly buildings in their midst. Which is a very different, very white neighborhood, the new Hoboken.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

2006 Year In Review: High Profile Court Cases Dominate Headlines


Developers of the Atlantic Yards project fought in court as opponents continue their battle to stop plans for a downtown mega sports and housing complex. In one court action, developer Bruce Ratner won the right to tear down some buildings which sit in the footprints of the proposed project citing safety concerns.

Now opponents are suing, claiming abuse of eminent domain because Ratner would have to demolish their properties in order to build. But Ratner cleared a major hurdle when he won state approval for his project. To appease community concerns about its enormity he scaled back the project by five percent. But community groups say it is still larger than the original design by architect Frank Gehry.


Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

Ratner Gets Thumbs Up For Atlantic Yards - As Expected, Albany Gives Stamp of Approval


Stephen Witt

On the flip side, City Council member Letitia James, who like Jeffries represents the development area, called the PACB vote a sad day for democracy and the community she represents.

“I am disappointed to learn that PACB has approved the Atlantic Yards project today,” James said.

“For almost three years, I, and many others have raised questions regarding this gigantic project, and these questions remain unanswered,” she added.

Specifically James said the community deserves to know more about the project’s financials, and a better CBA that is government monitored and “not a private contract between a corporation and hand-picked groups.”


Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

December 22, 2006

Why can't the Times say AY might take 15-20 years?

Atlantic Yards Report

With The Times already reeling from a fierce hit by New York Magazine's Chris Smith, Norman Oder risks being flagged for piling on, citing the Paper of Record's failure to acknowledge that construction of Atlantic Yards may take as long as two decades.

Unmentioned, however, is that even supporters and cordial critics doubt the announced project timetable. Earlier this month, Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for NYC predicted that it would take 15 to 20 years. Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society spoke similarly on Monday.


Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

A groundbreaking coalition

When it comes to adding jobs & housing, majority rules with a winning plan

NY Daily News
by Errol Louis

The Atlantic Yards' #1 columnist-cheerleader returns to his favorite subject:

Standing in the path of progress are middle-class civic groups whose mostly white leaders profess concern for low-income New Yorkers - and even claim to speak for them - but shed the illusion of liberal compassion the minute the poor folk get uppity and start negotiating their own deals for the future of their families and communities.


NoLandGrab: Is it us, or do Louis's columns just seem to write themselves?

Atlantic Yards Report offers its take on the accuracy of Mr. Louis's "facts."

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

Miss Brooklyn, though shorter, would still block the clock

Atlantic Yards Report is too polite to say that making Miss Brooklyn one foot shorter than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building is creating a technicality out of a real urban design concern, thus turning the debate into a joke.

It was a concession, right? Among several relatively minor changes announced Wednesday, Forest City Ratner agreed to lower the announced 620-foot Miss Brooklyn tower a sliver below that of the iconic 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank nearby.

Or was it?

Yes, it met the request of Borough President Marty Markowitz, who in his August 23 oral testimony on the Atlantic Yards plan had called for the bank to remain the borough's tallest building.

But many residents also asked that architect Frank Gehry's self-described "ego trip" not block the bank's signature clock tower. To achieve that, the developer would have had to make a much greater sacrifice: make the tower even smaller and/or move its footprint.

Indeed, Jasper Goldman, who studied the plan for the Municipal Art Society (MAS), confirmed to me: "The Williamsburgh Savings Bank is blocked by Miss Brooklyn from Grand Army Plaza because of its location, not its height. To retain this view corridor, the developer would need to move Miss Brooklyn to the east."


Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM


NY Post, editorial

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver came through for New York City big-time Wednesday in approving a huge new development project for Brooklyn.

For that, he deserves the city's thanks.

Within three years, if all goes well, the borough will have its own major-league sports team - the Nets - for the first time in half a century.

Work on 16 buildings and an arena for the team might start as soon as next year.
Think jobs. Customers for businesses. Housing. Office space. Tax revenue.


NoLandGrab: We're trying to think positive here, but we're still stuck on "eminent domain, boondoggle and traffic."

Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM


By Rich Calder

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report is a catalyst for coverage again, this time for a story about cheesesteaks:

CheeseSteak-NYP.jpgA new Brooklyn business is making a buzzer-beating bid to score big off the Nets arena that will be the centerpiece of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Sporting a storefront sign reading, "Shoot Hoops, Not Guns," the mother-son-run High Stakes Cheese Steak in Prospect Heights is set to open today on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street - just outside the footprint of the controversial 22-acre project.

An additional item at the end of the article quotes a homeowner who talks to the media for the first time:

[Bruce Ratner] has been furiously buying up property within the footprint for the past year and a half, but there are some staunch holdouts and he will likely have to make a case for eminent domain to get the state to foreclose the remaining private property.

Jerry Campbell, 35, of Dean Street, is one of those holdouts.

His beautiful, two-family, four-story, red-brick and aluminum-siding home is in excellent shape and doesn't appear "blighted," as the area was deigned by the Empire State Development Corp.

"If this area was really blighted, why would [Ratner's company] Forest City Ratner want it?" asked Campbell. "They want it on the cheap, and condemnation is the best way."


Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Big Brother Bruce

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:


There has been a lot of attention paid to the Atlantic Yards project lately, what with that PACB thingee yesterday–something about 3 guys up in Albany lording it over Brooklyn.

We decided to take a look at the Atlantic Yards project too, and found that somebody is paying a lot of attention to the footprnt itself these days.

We walked the Dean Street and Pacific street blocks bounded by 5th Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, to tally up the number of Surveillance City Ratner Eyes in the Sky. We counted 29. Check it out.


NoLandGrab: If only New York's politicians paid half as much attention to the holes in Ratner's proposal....

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM


The Slatin Report

Despite the noise that this operation will generate, the 8 million-square-foot, $4 billion Atlantic Yards is a true mixed bag.
But in its attempt at achieving the same effect on a grand – or grandiose – scale, Ratner and Gehry's Atlantic Yards, however, is more like "Ishtar" than, say, "Vertigo": big and stupid. Gehry's design deftly succeeds at simply overpowering itself and its surroundings, and offers its residents no homey concessions to the place they call home. It has all the urban charm of Cabrini-Green.
We were mildly supportive of this project when it was announced in 2003. We liked its boldness and the dynamism of its vision for returning professional sport to Brooklyn. It was expected to cost $2.5 billion; that cost has ballooned, while estimates of tax revenues to the city that it will generate have been sliced by at least a third. Anti-Ratner forces have insisted that Ratner has overstated the true economic impact of the project while understating its environmental impact, particularly on traffic. Today, we'd like to see Ratner and Gehry head back to the drawing board – all the way back – and figure out how to build something that honors Brooklyn and Brooklynites at least as much as it pays homage to Ratner's investors.


NoLandGrab: This kind of post-game analysis is insignificant after the final approval was granted, but thanks for paying attention.

Does this remind anyone of Bush-supporters-turned-critics of the Iraq war?

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Atlantic Yards Enters New Phase, and Faces Next Hurdle: Lawsuits

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

On paper, the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, expects to begin construction sometime next month, though much of the early work will take place below street level, amid the Vanderbilt railyards along Atlantic Avenue. The plan calls for the eight-acre area to be rebuilt, then covered by a platform from which portions of the project would rise.

Forest City has privately purchased much of the property it needs to build the project. But it faces a federal lawsuit by some residents and business owners on the site, who refused to move or sell their properties to Forest City and now face condemnation from state officials.
City and state officials last year rebuffed alternative proposals that would not have required eminent domain, and now Mr. Goldstein and others say they are left with no choice but to fight in court.

“We’re confident we will win this lawsuit,” [Goldstein] said yesterday. “Our victory will force a reshaping of the project, while protecting owners and renters nationwide from abuses of eminent domain.”


Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

NY board approves big Brooklyn redevelopment plan

AP, via NY Newsday
By Michael Gormley

To supporters, it stands for jobs, housing and major league sports in Brooklyn for the first time in half a century.

To opponents, it amounts to destroying neighborhoods, creating a traffic nightmare and forcing people unwillingly out of their homes.

From any perspective, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment stands to reshape Brooklyn with an NBA basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments. The project got state approval Wednesday, though it still faces a federal lawsuit filed by Brooklyn property owners and tenants. They have charged that it's unconstitutional to seize their property for the development under the legal doctrine known as eminent domain.


NoLandGrab: The coverage since the state's approval of Atlantic Yards has been pretty good, like in this article. However, to the credit of Ratner PR, the press attention comes a little too late to affect the political battle.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Jay-Z's NETS' Redevelopment Plan Approved By NY Board

By Mariel Concepción

First it's Jay-Z's team, now it's Jay-Z's "Nets' redevelopment plan." What's not clear from the headline is whether they mean Atlantic Yards or a plan to rebuild the team that keeps coming up short in the post-season.

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's $4 billion redevelopment project, which could reshape Brooklyn with the basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments, was approved Wednesday (Dec. 20).

The article is pretty much boilerplate — it mentions low- and moderate-income housing, but not eminent domain.


Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

NY State Oversight Board Approves Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn

Commercial Property News
By Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Editor

Forest City Ratner Cos.' $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn received final approval late Wednesday from a New York state oversight board to move ahead with construction of a new Nets basketball arena, 6,430 market-rate and subsidized housing units, a 180-room hotel, office and retail space on 22 acres.

Despite the approval, opposition to the plan still exists and lawsuits against the project (pictured), including one on eminent domain issues, are expected to continue.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner said company officials were not conducting interviews today. However, in a statement released after the board voted, Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner president & CEO and chairman of the Nets basketball team, thanked the board for approving the project and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for supporting the plan over the last three years.
The developer plans to begin construction at the site in January and start building the 850,000-square-foot sports and entertainment arena in the fall.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Art Society hopes to make the project better while watching the development unfold?

While not opposed to development of the rail yards in Brooklyn, the Municipal Art Society has been working with other organizations “to make the plan better for Brooklyn,” MAS spokesman Brian Connolly told CPN today. Connolly said the plan approved Wednesday is still “too out of scale” for a neighborhood of brownstones.

“We are a watchdog organization on these types of things and will continue to watch this as the next 15 to 20 years unfold,” Connolly said.


NoLandGrab: You can count on developer Bruce Ratner to start demolishing properties he owns as soon as possible. We've seen in nearly every instance in which eminent domain is used that developers will level a neighborhood around properties in dispute.

As to what Ratner can build before the lawsuits are settled, that remains to be seen.

Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

BROOOOKLYN! Jay-Z Moves Nets In Time For '09 Season

By Jolene "foxxylady" Petipas

jay_z_100x100_01.jpgJay-Z's New Jersey Nets will be soon be calling the rapper's hometown of Brooklyn, NY their new home, all thanks in part to the approval of a $4 billion development project which will include the building of an arena for the NBA franchise.


Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Jay-Z gets Brooklyn Nets arena approved


Yup, that's right, Jay-Z was the mastermind behind the entire approval:

jayz.jpgThey might not have been the main event (that honor goes to LeBron James), but Jay-Z and Beyonce were a featured attraction at the New Jersey Nets-Cleveland Cavaliers game Wednesday in East Rutherford, N.J., aired nationally on ESPN.... Sideline reporter Jim Gray was sitting between the couple when they came back from commercial.... There was some significance to the courtside interview besides the usual ESPN celebrity stalking. Earlier in the day, the state of New York granted approval for Nets owner Bruce Ratner's arena in Brooklyn, which could be ready for the start of the 2009-10 season. In the interview, Jay-Z called out his home in his trademark style before expressing his excitement at the prospects of Brooklyn basketball.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

The steal of the century

The Brooklyn Papers, editorial

Bruce Ratner won ugly.

Whether you support Atlantic Yards or oppose it, all New Yorkers should be disgusted by the endgame of the public approval process for Ratner’s $4-billion mega-development.

Given the “three-men-in-a-room” culture of Albany, it was inevitable that so vital a project would come down to the OK of just one man, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Earlier in the week, Silver grumbled that he had not been given evidence that the project’s financing — which already includes a $200-million payout by the state and city, plus more than a billion dollars in future subsidies underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. New York Taxpayer — represented a good investment.

Lo and behold, at the 11th hour, state officials rushed to Silver’s office and supposedly gave him heretofore unseen documents that show that Atlantic Yards is indeed a great deal for taxpayers.

Wouldn’t you know!

But we have our doubts. First of all, those documents have never been seen by the public, so there is no way of knowing whether they reflect reality or just part of the elaborate fantasy that Bruce Ratner and his cronies in state government have been spinning for years.

If the report shows that taxpayers aren’t being bilked, why not share the document with the public that paid for it?

The editorial goes on to criticize the incredible shrinking estimated tax revenue (now down to about $15 million/year, before additional subsidies have been tallied), how Ratner greased his way by "cynically" exploiting "class and race politics," the sham MTA bidding process, the "sham state process," the "shifting nature" of the "affordable housing" figures, and "the extremely successful hiding of the true cost in public dollars and environmental impact of the entire enterprise." Lastly, the editorial metes out a tongue-lashing to "the elected officials who are supposed to protect the taxpayers from this kind of fleecing," and "New York’s supposedly ravenous press corps."


NoLandGrab: Like the man said, if this deal is so great for Brooklyn, then why keep documents hidden, or lie about facts and figures, for that matter?

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Atlantic Yards scorecard

The Brooklyn Papers drafted a "scorecard" of winners and losers in the fight over Atlantic Yards. We're not sure how Norman Oder is feeling about sharing in the "winners" column with Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Missing from the "losers" column are tens of thousands of residents who will have to live through decades of construction and deal with the environmental impacts of the densest residential community in the western world (yo, these buildings are a lot taller and closer together than most people think!), all shoehorned into the Heart of Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM


State OKs Ratner’s Atlantic Yards
Green light opens floodgates for billions in subsidies

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

The political battle over the biggest real-estate development in Brooklyn’s history is over — and Bruce Ratner has won.

The state’s Public Authorities Control Board voted Wednesday to approve Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, giving a final governmental nod to the $4-billion, Frank Gehry-designed mini-city of 16 towers, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space, 6,430 apartments, and a 19,000-seat basketball arena.

The historic vote capped three years of rancorous debate, but the battle now becomes a judicial one, with suits challenging eminent domain condemnations pending in state and federal courts.

Brooklyn Papers gave a lot of space to this article, which includes quotes from NYC Councilmember Letitia James and ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano, and which covers the question of the developer's profit, the incredible shrinking estimated tax revenues, the "last-minute" concessions political theater, and State Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries's hope that incoming governor Eliot Spitzer will lift a finger to make the plan better for the actual existing residents.


Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

NYMag’s Chris Smith Skewers NYTimes’ Coverage of Real Estate Mega-Deal

By D.J. Waletzky

The author, a life-long Prospect Heights resident and former Times employee, uses Chris Smith's harsh criticism of the Times as a starting point for his own assessment of the Greying Lady:

Chris Smith rails against the New York Times’ reporting on the proposed 22 acre development in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood as “three years of irresponsible, lazy coverage by the Times” and faults them for ignoring the corruption and scandal involved in the project’s shepherding through the political process.
The New York Times’ most recently profitable year was the result of a real estate deal with Forest City Ratner Companies, the publicly-traded real estate developers behind the Atlantic Yards project. Through Bruce Ratner’s political connections, the Times and FCRC had a swath of prime midtown real estate condemned by New York State and cleared to make way for a new 52-story headquarters for the Times, while selling their old Times Square HQ at a massive profit.

The NY Times has often been criticized for its coverage of and involvement with Ratner, and as FCRC’s latest and largest deal has received final approval from the state (just before Bruce Ratner’s law-school roommate, George Pataki leaves the Governor’s office), the Times declared yesterday that the three-year struggle between community activists and the company had been “capped.”
The Times article doesn’t even mention Prospect Heights, the residential brownstone neighborhood many residents feel will be destroyed in the process.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder, of course, also noticed Smith's appraisal of The Times's coverage.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Regifting coverage?

The Courier-Life Publications re-gifts two of last week's articles under new headlines.
Gift-Wrapped Yards Plan Heads to Albany ran last week as Atlantic Yards Heads For Final Lap In Albany and Opponents Push to Delay Atlantic Yds. Vote got repackaged as Atlantic Yards Foes Resolute In Fight to Defeat Plan.

It's not often we come across re-gift wrapping.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Eyesore or eye-opener? The new Brooklyn

• New York's biggest ever private project approved
• Opponents go to court to halt 'out of kilter' scheme

The Guardian, UK
By Ed Pilkington

An overview of the Atlantic Yards fight for the folks across The Pond features criticism of architect Frank Gehry, the environmental impacts and weakness of the "affordable housing" plan.

Welcoming the planning approval, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York city, which is contributing part of a $500m (£254m) public subsidy for the project, said it would create jobs and affordable housing. "We can still achieve projects on a grand scale and ensure that New York remains a city where big things happen," he said.

But Brooklynites have expressed reservations, much of it directed at what they say is the misguided use of Gehry's architectural creativity.


Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

Chris Smith on Atlantic Yards: The ‘Times’ Screwed Up

New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer


A must-read for a glimpse into how corrupt many feel the political process to approve Atlantic Yards and the local media's coverage has been — political reporter Chris Smith lays it into The NY Times:

So there it is on today's front page: "State Approves Major Complex For Brooklyn; Vote on Atlantic Yards Caps 3-Year Conflict." And it is correct that the Public Authority Control Board — really George Pataki, Joe Bruno, and Sheldon Silver — yesterday signed off on Bruce Ratner's $4 billion stadium-and-skyscraper project. But what was truly "capped" was a farcical, corrupt political process and three years of irresponsible, lazy coverage by the Times.

Individual Times reporters have written significant stories along the way. But the Times, collectively, has never demonstrated the will or interest to examine Atlantic Yards in anything close to the proportion demanded by one of the biggest real-estate schemes in the history of the city. Maybe it's because Ratner is the Times' partner in building the paper's new Eighth Avenue headquarters. Maybe it's because Times editors think Atlantic Yards is an objectively good idea. Maybe it's because the Times, along with the rest of the city's mainstream media, does a lousy job of covering anything outside our midtown backyard. Whatever the reasons, the effect has been an abdication of the Times' civic and journalistic responsibility.


NoLandGrab: Reporter and blogger Norman Oder has carefully documented the Times's shoddy — and often lacking — coverage of Atlantic Yards during the past year and a half, first on his blog Times Ratner Report and then on Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

N.Y.C. arena for New Jersey Nets approved

From UPI, via Washington Times:

Ratner threw in some sweeteners, including a high-tech high school and an increase in the amount of affordable housing in the mix. But many residents and politicians plan to continue fighting the project. They say it will put too much high-density pressure on a neighborhood that is now mostly blocks of brownstones.


Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Forest City wins big in Brooklyn

Pittsburgh Business Times
By Dan Reynolds

NY State's formal approval of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn hasn't escaped notice in Pittsburgh, where Forest City Enterprises just lost a real open-bidding process to build a giant slot machine parlor:

The owners of Pittsburgh's Station Square entertainment complex rebounded Thursday after a tough loss.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. on Wednesday found that it had lost its bid to build a casino at Station Square. But Thursday, Forest City announced that its plan for a 22-acre residential and entertainment development in Brooklyn, N.Y. was approved by New York's Public Authorities Control Board.
The project is led by Bruce Ratner, a cousin of Albert Ratner, the co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises who took an active role in trying to win a $50 million casino license in Pittsburgh.


Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Nice bounce for Brooklyn

NY Daily News, editorial

With approval at last from an obscure state board, after three turbulent years of legal and political arguments, Brooklyn now takes a giant leap forward with developer Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project - a grand vision that will bring jobs, housing, sports and civic pride to the city's most populous borough.

article (scroll down the page to the second editorial)

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Nets go High Tech

Ratner throws in new home for elite Brooklyn HS in arena deal

NY Daily News
By Tanyanika Samuels

Brooklyn Tech High School may be getting new digs from an unlikely source - Nets arena developer Bruce Ratner.

The tentative plans for a new Brooklyn Tech - one of the city's elite high schools - emerged after Ratner's $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project won crucial approval from a state panel Wednesday.

As part of the deal, which includes 16 soaring towers and the pro basketball arena, Ratner agreed in a statement to "work with the city, state and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new, 21st century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough."

Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten said yesterday plans were "still in the formative stages."


NoLandGrab: Before the public wets its pants over this deal, note that this does NOT address the school overcrowding that will likely be caused by the addition of 15-18K new residents to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Also, Bruce Ratner has NOT SAID he will PAY for the new school.

Sheldon Silver struck a deal to get a public school built as part of Ratner's Beekman St. project, also designed by Frank Gehry. The taxpayers are now shelling out for the most expensive public school (per square foot) in New York's history in that deal.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Atlantic Yards Proposal Still Fundamentally Flawed

“I could not be more disappointed with the vote in favor of the Atlantic Yards proposal in return for some concessions that the developer has neither the authority nor the means to effectuate,” said 52 A.D. District Leader Jo Anne Simon. “While I am pleased that the Williamsburg Bank tower will remain visible to Brooklynites, the proposal’s serious failures do as well. This proposal should have gone back to the drawing board.

Simon, a former president of the Boerum Hill Association, a neighborhood directly impacted by the proposed project, chaired the Association’s Task Force on the proposal. “While the height of “Miss Brooklyn” is a serious problem, the project’s problems go far beyond height. The flawed, 1950's urban design with its superblocks and taking of the city’s streets creates new and intractable problems. The financial picture is woefully incomplete. As a matter of policy, the PACB’s decision is extremely disturbing. As a matter of fact, the promised public benefits are illusory. The proposal needs to be fixed and Brooklynites must play a meaningful role in that process.”

A long time advocate for progressive transportation and land use policies, Simon said yesterday’s vote doesn’t end the dialogue. “I look forward to continuing advocacy for development that makes sense. We need housing that is affordable to real Brooklynites, provides real open space and real answers to the Borough’s traffic and transportation needs. As currently configured, this proposal does not contribute to New York’s real need to grow in an environmentally sustainable and fiscally responsible way. Brooklynites deserve better.”

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

December 21, 2006

Gersh Kuntzman on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Kuntzman-Rikon.jpgThe Brooklyn Papers editor Gersh Kuntzman and eminent domain attorney Michael Rikon are first up on the Brian Lehrer show at 10AM this morning.

That's 820AM and 93.9FM.


Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Net gain for Atlantic Yards

Ratner’s Brooklyn development project approved

By Amy Zimmmer

Forest City Ratner issued a statement saying the project will create thousands of construction, office and retail jobs and projected hundreds of millions in revenue. But that came with a caveat: “Statements made in this news release that state the Company or management’s intentions, hopes, beliefs, expectations or predictions of the future are forward-looking statements. It is important to note that the Company’s actual results could differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements.”


Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

Thursday Comix


Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

Eminent domain plaintiff sends angry holiday message

AP, via "The Boston Herald*

Bah, humbug. The woman at the center of the national battle over property rights has some less-than-joyous tidings for the people involved in using eminent domain to take her house to make way for private development.

However, at least one recipient of Susette Kelo’s unmerry greeting has put it on his mantel with his other cards.

Kelo’s cards feature a snowy image of her pink house and a message that reads, in part: “Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you I send this spell.”
New London Development Corp. member Reid Burdick said he put the card on his mantel with his other Christmas greetings.

“I still feel bad for Susette,” Burdick said. “The sorry part of this is that the things she’s angry about were not done to be mean-spirited toward her personally.”


NoLandGrab: The taking of Kelo's home was "not done to be mean-spirited toward her personally?" Burdick illustrates Susette Kelo's point exactly — this would never have happened to someone with a seven-acre estate in Greenwich.

If Ft. Trumbull hadn't been populated by working-class nobodies, would the City of New London have even dared?

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

"Shoot Hoops, Not Guns": the transformation of Flatbush begins

CheeseSteaks.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Call it a sign of the times. On the south side of Flatbush Avenue just north of Bergen Street, where a dignified but none-too-special coffee shop called The Silver Spoon operated since 1980, the successor in that space is more brash, bringing orange neon--quite bright at night--and pointing to change in a neighborhood-y retail stretch.

With its nod to basketball, High Stakes Cheese Steaks, which opens on Friday (according to a sign I saw last night) may seem early, but the owners can't be the first to consider the advantages of being situated both on the border of a dense row-house neighborhood (Park Slope), and half a block from the planned Atlantic Yards site.


Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

Court is Next For Atlantic Yards Plan

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

This is the only article from today's dailies that looks ahead to the lawsuits that have already been filed, and a possible lawsuit based on the environmental review process:

The battle over Brooklyn's biggest development project is heading for a showdown in court after the $4 billion project received final political approval yesterday from an Albany board.

A handful of lawsuits are now the last line of defense for opponents of developer Forest City Ratner's plan to build a basketball arena and 16 mostly residential towers on 22 acres in Prospect Heights.
... Lawyers say it is still unclear how two existing lawsuits, and several more that are expected to follow, will affect the developer’s timetable.

A statement by the developer said the New Jersey Nets, which is owned by the developer, would play their 2009-2010 season in the planned Brooklyn arena. A spokesman for Forest City Ratner,Jeffrey Lerner,said work would begin next month on preparing site infrastructure, and construction would begin on the arena sometime in 2007. Mr. Lerner would not comment on the pending legal challenges.


Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

The Morning After: Dr. Ratlove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Atlantic Yards

Commentary from Gowanus Lounge on Dr. Ratlove:

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The fact that Atlantic Yards was designed and approved with only minimal genuine public input and was the result of a process that only sought to create the appearance of responsiveness and inclusion will saddle Brooklyn with a project that we're pretty certain will prove to be a boil on the landscape in decades to come. Genuine community planning and inclusion would have produced a less disruptive development and one that would be more conducive to everything from a better streetscape to less neighborhood disruption. Instead, Atlantic Yards will serve as a monument to the Jobs and Housing Uber Alles School of Urban Economic Development from which it came.
Us, we're reminded of a hooting and howling Slim Pickens, as Major T. J. "King" Kong, at the end of Dr. Strangelove riding the H-Bomb down from a B-52 (the embed above). Yes, it's a bit of an excessive comparison, but if you get Atlantic Yards, then you get the analogy.


Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Will Day One be D-Day?

A server glitch on the Brooklyn Downtown Star web site provided readers with the ultimate in Op-Art commentary on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Is it a visual representation of the densest residental community in the nation? Or perhaps the work depicts all of the loose ends and questions remaining about the project.


Or, maybe it's just "D-Day." Whatever it means to you, the text torrent is actually an article describing the week's events (full text has been cut and pasted after the jump):

Will Day One be D-Day?
By Norman Oder

Despite reports that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was wavering and might stall the Atlantic Yards plan, he voted in favor for it at a meeting December 20 of the Public Authorities Control Board. Developer Forest City Ratner didn't make major changes requested by some critics, but did offer some last-minute concessions: the height of the flagship Miss Brooklyn tower would be brought down by a little more than 100 feet, just below the iconic Williamburgh Savings Bank. And, in a nod to a request made by state assemblymember elect Hakeem Jeffries, the 22-acre site would include 200 affordable homeowner units, along with 2,250 affordable rentals - and some 4,000 market-rate residential units.

The vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) to approve state financing occurred this Wednesday, December 20. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of the three votes and has stalled or killed other state projects, was said to be unwilling to vote yes before the end of the year. So reported NY1, quoting a source briefed on the matter. However, Skip Carrier, a Silver spokesperson, was cautious. "We are still in discussions," he said Tuesday. "At this point there is no way to know. People at the Division of Budget are still giving us paperwork, and we are still reviewing it. The decisions will absolutely be based on the financials. It's been a complicated project from the get-go and there have been some recent changes."

As for a call for a delay expressed by four Assembly members representing districts including or close to the proposed project site, Carrier said, "On every project we take into account the opinions of the local delegations." The PACB, controlled by three members (Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Silver) ended up voting to approve Atlantic Yards, even though Silver has rejected or stalled other projects, such as the West Side Stadium and Moynihan Station. A delay would set up some challenges for Silver and Spitzer, both of whom have expressed general support for the project but have been pressured recently to look more closely at project's financials - and the environmental impact of a basketball arena and 16 towers squeezed into the northern boundary of low- and mid-rise Prospect Heights.

A host of civic groups held a press conference Monday calling for a delay in the project. Organizer Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society posited that a new administration could better address issues like the project's potential transportation impact and a role for citizen input. Meanwhile, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state authority overseeing the project and overriding city regulations on zoning, found itself under new scrutiny regarding its financial analysis of Atlantic Yards.

The scrutiny first emerged last week on the Atlantic Yards Report blog (written by this author). The ESDC had lowered its estimate of the project's net fiscal impact - the amount of taxes to the city and state - by about a third, or nearly a half-billion dollars, without discussing it publicly or highlighting it in documents. The ESDC scrambled to explain that an eight percent decrease in the project's size, mainly in office space (which generates more spinoff employment), was responsible for the decline. But the memo released last Friday didn't explain, for example, how an eight percent decrease led to an 18 percent cut in construction jobs.

Richard Brodsky, a Democratic Assemblyman from Westchester who chairs the Assembly committee that oversees authorities, held an ESDC oversight hearing on Monday. Though Brodsky covered a range of issues beyond Atlantic Yards, he did look closely at the ESDC's fiscal impact memo. Chairman Charles Gargano and more than a half-dozen top agency officials testified, but none could answer certain questions about the memo.

Brodsky asked why the discount rate - the interest rate used to calculate the expected rate of return for the project - had been changed from 6 percent to 3 percent from the predecessor memo prepared in October. (The December memo offers no explanation as to why.) "I thought it was 6 percent too," acknowledged Ann Hulka, the senior VP for real estate development named as the recipient of the memo. "But I haven't had a chance to talk to Kathy." She referred to Kathy Kazanas, who wrote the memo but was unable to attend the hearing.

Brodsky, questioned afterward by reporters, said it wasn't his role to advise Silver. But he offered his own opinion: "As of right now, I need to know more of the facts that we sought and didn't get today, and we'll get those by the end of the year." Part of those facts may be more stringent review of the project's financials.

While the agency has twice released a brief memo summarizing the project's fiscal impact, Hulka revealed that an outside consultant, the firm KPMG, conducted an independent financial analysis. That document had not been provided, because of confidentiality issues, and Brodsky said he would listen to such claims. Still, he opined that there was "not enough to tell you: is this a good deal or a bad deal?"

Also Monday, the influential Regional Plan Association (RPA) joined the Municipal Art Society and several other civic groups in calling for a delay in consideration of the plan. The RPA in August had offered cautious endorsement of the project, championing the arena block (Phase 1) but calling for changes in transportation plans, open space, and project design in Phase 2. "The Atlantic Yards project will bring substantial benefits to the region and the city, but it is also a major piece of city-making in the midst of successful residential neighborhoods," said RPA VP Chris Jones Monday. "A delay in PACB approval should be used to develop a more comprehensive transportation plan and improve the project's design."

MAS helped launched BrooklynSpeaks and has called for substantial changes before Atlantic Yards can be approved. Still, MAS and other groups emphasized they weren't opponents of development. "We're not here to kill the project," declared MAS President Kent Barwick. "We're here to resuscitate the role of the public."

Adding its voice was the Citizens Union, a longstanding good government group, which had previously not weighed in on the issue. Citizens Union president Dick Dadey called for a "limited delay" in the process and noted that it "does not align itself with those who oppose the project and wish to use the process of delay to kill the project, because we believe that economic development is needed so that the city can continue to be a dynamic place of business and meet the needs of a growing population."

"The fact that the Empire State Development Corporation, when it adopted the plan, failed to make any public mention of lowering significantly its estimate of how much tax revenue the project would generate is emblematic of our concerns," Dadey wrote in a letter to the PACB. Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan reiterated that he has been unable to get the project financial plan, which would help ascertain whether sufficient returns to support development could be derived from a significantly smaller project.

Jon Orcutt of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said the mass transit system was not up to snuff and suggested a "real planning process" to tackle the problems.

"We're looking forward to an administration with a completely different kind of management for the Empire State Development Corporation," Barwick said. "This is a project which, as the next 15 to 20 years go by, ought to have a guiding hand. There ought to be a continuing subsidiary of the state, with citizens from Brooklyn guiding this project." (Barwick, like some others, assumes that the ten-year buildout projected by the ESDC and Forest City Ratner, is overly optimistic.)

As for challenging the project in court, as project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have done, Barwick kept a distance, saying that there have been no successful challenges to the law establishing the ESDC. "If the courts decide that the process has been defective," Barwick said, "while we're waiting for the courts to decide that, we have an opportunity to let a new administration take hold of it and assess it, and if it can be repaired to the point where it makes sense for Brooklyn, then perhaps it should be approved."

Also Monday, three local elected officials reiterated a call for delay in the project approval, Eric Adams, the State Senator-elect for the 20th District and a retired New York Police Department captain, said he was "very concerned about the terrorism aspect. I'd hate for us to rush right through it." The adjacent transit hub was targeted for a terrorist attack in 1997, but state environmental review laws, written well before the 9/11 attacks, don't require a stringent review of security aspects.

Speaking at a meeting organized by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Adams cautioned, "I don't want to get your hopes up," pointing out that Spitzer supports the project. Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries told the group he'd expressed to Silver concerns about affordable housing and the project's impact on infrastructure.

Councilwoman Letitia James said of Spitzer, whose transition team she'd contacted, "He supports the project, but he shares our concern. He'd like an opportunity to review it." How much of that concern Spitzer shares remained unclear.

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Atlantic Yards gets go-ahead

NY Newsday
By Bart Jones and Melissa Mansfield, with supplemental coverage from AP

Mayor Bloomberg finds one point on which we all can agree:

Calling it "unique in scope and ambition," Bloomberg also praised its approval and called the project "the biggest private sector investment in Brooklyn's history and the ultimate example of mixed-use development.


NoLandGrab: The Atlantic Yards project would be the densest residental community in the nation. A social/environmental experiment of this "scope and ambition" is truly "unique."

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

N. Bergen: Tower is OK at Columbia Park mall

The Jersey Journal
By Charles Hack

Here's an odd story about a zoning change requested by Forest City Enterprises in North Bergen that has residents concerned about scale, services, etc.:

But despite asking for the zoning changes, the site's New York-based owner, Forest City Ratner, said it hasn't decided what it wants to build.


NLG: "Hasn't decided" or won't tell? Based on the development company's Orwellian penchant for secrecy, one has to wonder.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Political pull didn't carry the day for Forest City

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Dan Fitzpatrick

Forest City didn't get everything they wanted, when yesterday the Pennsylvania Gaming Board awarded the license to operate a gigantic slot machine parlor to a rival bidder:

Maybe the "fix" wasn't in, after all.

Fourteen months ago, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy worried openly that Station Square owner Forest City Enterprises had a political advantage over the other slot-casino bidders and that a decision in its favor had already been made behind the scenes. "It's no secret,'' he said on Oct. 27, 2005, "that supposedly, the fix is in."
Forest City Executive Vice President Brian Ratner is still "taken aback and appalled" at the suggestion that Forest City tried to rig the casino selection in its favor. "We do things above board to get things done," he said. And "we were pretty comfortable with what we put forward. I guess it wasn't meant to be."

There were several theories yesterday why Forest City did not get the nod.

Maybe the gaming board had issues with the amount of traffic a Station Square casino would generate on the South Side. Maybe there were doubts about Forest City's aggressive revenue projections ($617 million a year). Maybe the gaming board did not like the fact that Forest City promised the fewest number of slots, 4,000 to the others' 5,000.


NoLandGrab: If the Pittsburgh press and the city's residents thought that the fix was in, then what are Brooklynites to think about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan?

Yesterday, we linked an item about Charles Ratner exercising options, which he would have only done as a hedge against a possible drop in Forest City's stock price. With Atlantic Yards being tossed around like a political football and the casino plan going head-to-head with real opposition, no wonder Chuck was nervous.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM



NY Post
By Rich Calder

Swish! Nothing but Nets.
Ratner plans to break ground next month, have the team now known as the New Jersey Nets playing in the arena by 2009, and complete the entire development by 2017.
[Miss Brooklyn] will be redesigned so that it is a foot shorter than the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower , the borough's tallest building


Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Here come the Nets

Massive Atlantic Yards plan OKd as 16 towers, hoops arena to be built

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

stadiumNYDN-061221.jpg"I look forward to seeing [developer] Bruce Ratner and [architect] Frank Gehry's grand vision turned into reality and to eating a hot dog as I watch the Brooklyn Nets play in Brooklyn's new arena in the 2009-2010 season," Gov. Pataki said.

But opponents said the deal isn't done - and vowed to keep fighting in court.

"Today's vote is no surprise," scoffed Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. He said the legality of the "illegitimate project has yet to be proved."
"There has been a near consensus among the local elected officials that the project is too large for any kind of rational balance with the remainder of the community," said Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn).

"You can expect almost as many people as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to come to Atlantic Yards - but in about one-quarter of the space," Brennan said.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

December 20, 2006

Atlantic Yards Report Super-duper-post

AYR-Superman.jpgWe tried to keep up with Norman Oder today, but by this afternoon, he'd already lapped us.

So here are the links to the stuff we already posted, with blurbs for the stuff we missed (or you could just cruise on over to http://www.atlanticyardsreport.com:

Would Forest City earn just a pittance? Confusing numbers in the AY audit

For the mixed-use development, KPMG's reconstructed model reflected an IRR of 9.86 percent. (Forest City's IRR was 9.6%). After KPMG looked at the assumptions and adjusted them, it came up with an IRR of 7.28%.

Does that mean that the developer would earn a little more than 7%? Again, investments with relatively small risk could earn a similar return.

So what really would be the developer's profit? How do the tax breaks and grants factor in? Apparently, no public agency is responsible for fully analyzing those issues, just as the net tax revenue to the public remains murky.

Last minute Ratner goodies: $3m for parks, help on a high school, more

Norman Oder considers Ratner's "last-minute" concessions and poses some questions:

In addition to the commitment to eight acres of open space within the Atlantic Yards footprint, FCRC will invest $3 million to improve existing parks in and around the project.

(Does that include the $1.25 million+ for the Dean Street Playground comfort station?)

As part of the affordable housing program, FCRC has already agreed to build 600 to 1,000 affordable home ownership units on or off site.

(When exactly is unclear, depending on subsidies, as the developer's Jim Stuckey said in July.)

Today, FCRC announced that it will seek to build at least 200 of these affordable home-owner units on site (they will be part of the proposed 6,430 units of housing already approved as part of the Atlantic Yards FEIS/GPP).

(This was a response to a request from Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries. Was this in the cards all along?)

FCRC will also seek to build the remaining affordable home-owner units as close to Atlantic Yards as possible.

(The developer has been said to be eyeing a site in Crown Heights. That may be "as close... as possible.")

Forest City Ratner will also open a community affairs office on the project site that will be operated and staffed during all phases of the construction project.

(As opposed to the very sporadically open Atlantic Yards Information Center, in the Atlantic Center mall.)

In addition to these project specific elements, FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough.

(What does "work with" mean? How much might the developer actually contribute?)

AY approved by PACB in five minutes; DDDB, James, Jeffries respond

Condo cuts were in the cards since October

The $100,000 arena graduation ceremony?

The Atlantic Yards web site promotes the arena:

The arena will be a community centerpiece for the borough. FCRC has worked with local organizations to ensure the arena is an integral part of the community, where local college and high school athletes will have a new stage to showcase their skills. The arena will also host thousands of proud families and friends for college and high school graduations.

However, the KPMG report for the Empire State Development Corporation issued Tuesday offers a caution:

The average ticket prices assumed by FCRC for concerts, family shows, and other sporting events and the percentage split to the facility appear reasonable. However, the base rental rate for other events (e.g., graduations) of $62,000 plus the estimated $41,000 in event-related expenses appears to be high.

Some 225 arena events? KPMG ignores developer's own analyst

KPMG report to ESDC... says nothing about net revenue to city and state

More from the Brodsky hearing: $1B in housing bonds, housing MOUs coming

MIA: the New York Times editorial page on PACB vote

Posted by lumi at 10:50 PM

State Board Approves Atlantic Yards Project

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore


Approval of the [Atlantic Yards] project, which is to be built by the Forest City Ratner Companies, also ended an ever-lengthening dry spell for ambitious developers in New York City, where in recent years other major projects — including the West Side Stadium and the Moynihan Station — have been killed or delayed by community opposition and political rivalry. The Brooklyn project still faces two lawsuits, with more on the way, but Forest City executives are confident that they will prevail in court.
Earlier this month, Mr. Silver delayed the Moynihan Station project, citing concerns over its financing, and in recent days he had made clear that he had similar concerns about Atlantic Yards, saying that Mr. Gargano’s aides had not yet provided him enough information to make up his mind. But on Tuesday, the development corporation allowed Mr. Silver to examine a closely held audit of the Atlantic Yards by the consulting firm KPMG, and today Mr. Silver indicated that he was satisfied that the project would be viable.

According to the audit, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times, Forest City estimates that the overall rate of return on $4 billion project, excluding the arena, at about 10 percent over 30 years.

The Forest City has never publicly said precisely how much it expected to earn from the project, and questions remained today regarding a recent decrease of about half a billion dollar in projections for the amount of tax revenue that Atlantic Yards is expected to generate for the city and state.
As today’s vote approached, the developer offered still more concessions to sweeten the deal. The project will include 200 subsidized condominium apartments for first-time homeowners, and Forest City will also build hundreds more such units near the project site. To make up for the project’s relatively small allotment of park space, the company will spend money to improve existing parks nearby. And the complex’s tallest tower — the high-concept, 58-story building dubbed “Miss Brooklyn” by Mr. Gehry — may be reduced in height.

“They changes are positive, but they’re small,” said James F. Brennan, a Brooklyn assemblyman who with several colleagues had pushed for a much greater reduction in the project’s size.


Posted by lumi at 10:40 PM

Silver backs revised Atlantic Yards plan

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

Forest City Ratner Cos. has revised its Atlantic Yards project -- including trimming the project's signature tower -- to win the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Forest City agreed early Wednesday to reduce the height of Miss Brooklyn, a proposed 620-foot office tower, so that it will not rise higher than Brooklyn's tallest building, the nearby 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building. The developer will also change 200 of the market-rate condominium apartments into "affordable" units, and will also build 400 to 800 more elsewhere in the borough.

The concessions fall far short of what critics of Atlantic Yards have sought. Four local Assembly members had sent letters to Mr. Silver asking him to delay today's PACB vote so that more substantial changes could be negotiated. But other Brooklyn members of Mr. Silver's caucus are ardent supporters of the project and wish to see it proceed without further delay.


NoLandGrab: Bloomberg is reporting that the new Miss Brooklyn will be, get this, 511 ft. tall, making it one foot shorter than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.

Posted by lumi at 9:59 PM

BrooklynSpeaks statement on PACB vote


This afternoon, the PACB voted to approve the Atlantic Yards plan. The sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks campaign have released the following statement:

The sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign believe that the Public Authorities Control Board voted on a project today that is deeply flawed and whose financial facts are still unclear. From the beginning, the project has been a public-private partnership in which the public has not been represented. The vote today reflected a process that simply did not allow New Yorkers to shape the project, and the result is a plan that will not work for Brooklyn.

We believe the incoming Spitzer administration must seize the opportunity in the new year to fix the project. The plan, particularly its second phase, must be changed to address its overwhelming scale, superblock design, lack of a transportation plan, and public process that has alienated rather than involved New Yorkers.

Since the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign began, thousands of Brooklynites and New Yorkers have spoken up and joined the call for a plan for the site that works for Brooklyn. Brooklynites deserve no less than to be listened to, and to have a project that enhances, rather than diminishes, their quality of life. The BrookynSpeaks.net campaign will continue to strive to achieve these goals.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 PM

PACB Gives Atlantic Yards Green Light

From NY1 (emphasis added):

After hours of delays, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project was finally given the go-ahead by a key state board Wednesday.

The third member of the board, Democrat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, had refused to approve the development, citing lingering concerns over funding. However, Silver changed his mind and cast his ballot in favor of the project at the board meeting Wednesday.

"I have voted for it today because I am satisfied it meets all the necessary criteria under the PACB statute,” said Silver in a statement. “Furthermore, I am pleased the developer is committed to addressing numerous community concerns through several specific actions that will result in significant neighborhood improvements."
Ratner has already purchased most of the necessary land, but plans to take the rest through eminent domain, a law that allows privately-owned land to be seized by the state for public use.

The battle over the Atlantic Yards plan hasn’t ended, however. It could sill end up in the courts. Several community groups are suing to stop it from moving forward.

"We think that they have a good chance of success,” said Jeffrey Baker, the attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy. “Any time that you're challenging a government action, it's an uphill battle for the citizens because the courts defer to the agencies that are doing it. Except, the violations here are so egregious and such a blatant violation of some of the statutory precepts that we expect to be successful."


Posted by lumi at 9:11 PM


Developer Announces Additional Community Initiatives and Enhanced Housing Program

(Brooklyn, NY) – December 20, 2006 – Bruce Ratner, the President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the chairman of the NBA Nets basketball team, today thanked the members of the Public Authorities Control Board for approving the proposed development.

“We are very thankful to Governor Pataki, Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno for their support and today’s approval, and we are especially grateful for Mayor Bloomberg’s continued effort over the past three years to make this day possible,” Bruce Ratner said. “We're excited about the prospect of bringing professional sports back to Brooklyn. And even more importantly, we’re excited about building a development that will include thousands of affordable and low-income units and that will create desperately needed jobs for the people of Brooklyn and New York.”

Mr. Ratner today also announced some additional programs to support the Atlantic Yards project, as well as a reduction to the height of the proposed “Ms. Brooklyn” building, ensuring that no building at the site will be taller than the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank.

The additions include:

In addition to these project specific elements, FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough.

Mr. Ratner also expressed thanks today to the Borough President, the Brooklyn delegations of the Assembly, Senate and City Council, the staffs of the New York Empire State Development Corporation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and, of course, the thousands of supporters and proponents of Atlantic Yards, especially the Community Benefits Agreement partners and other local leaders and organizations that supported Atlantic Yards through its 3-year approval process.

“Three years ago we joined the Mayor and Borough President, and officials from throughout Brooklyn, to unveil a work in progress. Today, we’re excited to have completed the public review process and thrilled at the prospect of breaking ground and making Atlantic Yards a reality.

“From the beginning, we reached out to as many people and organizations as possible,” Mr. Ratner continued. “We are tremendously proud of how this development has evolved and appreciative of all the input and ideas we have been given along the way. As we go forward we will continue to work with our partners and to seek out others to ensure that Atlantic Yards continues to benefit from the input of diverse community leaders and organizations.”

Finally, Mr. Ratner commented on the Nets pending move to Brooklyn and their current home at the Continental Arena in New Jersey. The Nets are expected to move to Brooklyn in time for the start of the 2009-10 NBA season.

“We are ecstatic about what this signifies for the future of the Nets organization and for our fans,” said Mr. Ratner. “We want all of our fans to remain part of the Nets family and we are determined to make this transition as seamless and enjoyable as possible for all of our fans across the Metro area. This is a tremendous day for the Nets and a tremendous day for Brooklyn.”

Posted by lumi at 9:02 PM

New York Board Approves Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Plan


Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt said the developer revised plans for the project's tallest building. It will be 511 feet, one foot shorter than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, the borough's biggest. A company press release said it has agreed to build another 1,000 units for low- and middle-income first-time homeowners in the vicinity.


Posted by lumi at 8:59 PM

Silver bells for Nets arena

Field of Schemes

There will be no repeat of the Miracle on 33rd Street: This afternoon, in a meeting that took all of five minutes, New York state's Public Authorities Control Board voted to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, including a new Brooklyn basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Since the project is being overseen by a state agency that is exempt from city oversight, today's vote was the final governmental approval necessary for the project to move forward.
The battle now turns to the courts, where opponents have filed one lawsuit against the taking of land by eminent domain, and promised to file another against the project's environmental impact statement for being "fatally flawed." The nuances of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision just got much, much more important.


Posted by lumi at 8:56 PM

Cha-Ching for Brooklyn

1010 WINS

A $4 billion redevelopment project that could reshape Brooklyn with an NBA basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments was approved Wednesday after months of maneuvering among New York state's top political leaders.


Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

Cloudy Atlantic Yards Passes, Thanks to Silver Lining

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

Mayor Bloomberg called the decision "the final step towards starting work on this enormously important project, which is vital to the resurgence of downtown Brooklyn." "Score one for the people of Brooklyn," Bertha Lewis, whose organization anchored Forest City Ratner's campaign for community support. But Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn said today's vote was a fait accompli, and that the real test will be in the courts, where the state's plans for eminent domain are being challenged.


Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

Potential Brooklyn home for Nets approved


“We are ecstatic about what this signifies for the future of the Nets’ organization and for our fans,” Ratner said. “We want all of our fans to remain part of the Nets’ family and we are determined to make this transition as seamless and enjoyable as possible for all of our fans across the metro area. This is a tremendous day for the Nets and a tremendous day for Brooklyn.”


NoLandGrab: Ratner forgot to mention that it was a "tremendous day" for him because he is one step closer to being the developer of the densest residential community in the nation and leader of a boondoggle that would make Tammany blush.

Posted by lumi at 8:27 PM

It came from the Ratnersphere...

Ratnersphere.jpgHere's a wrap-up of some of the day's online coverage that we missed between morning posts and the Public Authorities Control Board vote to approve Ratnerville:

Gotham Gazette, A Big Day in Albany for Sheldon Silver …

Sheldon Silver will have a chance to block the Atlantic Yards project — or to delay it until Governor George Pataki is out of office — at a meeting of the Public Utilities Control Board, a previously obscure state panel controlled by the state’s three most powerful men that has become a graveyard for large-scale development projects in recent years.

Brownstoner, Silver Might Give AY Approval After All

On the heels of yesterday's rumors that Sheldon Silver would not give his approval for Atlantic Yards in 2006, and thereby deny his political enemy George Pataki credit for the project, The Post is reporting this morning that the Assembly Speaker might indeed sign off on the project--as long as Pataki does not link it to "pork barrel" projects.

NoLandGrab: Ironically, Ratnerville corporate welfare will cost you a lot of bacon.

Gowanus Lounge, And So, It All Comes Down to the Third Man (Again)

[Silver] told the Post that as long as the project is on the agenda on its own, he'll probably support it.... All of which would indicate that yesterday was a grand exercise in political theater.

In an odd way, this opera is a fitting conclusion to an approval process that has--depending on one's point of view--violated basic principles of community participation, open government and public information. Even if you support Atlantic Yards, you might hope that a delay in the decision would produce full public disclosure of the true costs and benefits of the project, including information about how much the developer will make in profits.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Nets Endgame at Hand

Ratner consultant and champion of mom-n-pop retail Richard Lipsky is passing out the cigars and high-fiving Bruce Bender:

As much as the grass roots was essential here, it would be remiss not to mention how skillfully Bender and his team curried political support at all levels. If, as we hope, the green light is given today, than the Bender team's game plan will be studied and emulated for years to come.

Empire Zone, Yards Set For Approval
NY Times beat reporter Nicholas Confessore acknowledges that the Post got the story on Silver's approval of Atlantic Yards. Interesting comments after Confessore's post.

NY Newsday, Silver, Pataki to support Atlantic Yards plan
Editor Michael Clancy wrote a midday update which was published on Newsday.com.

Silver said he will cast his vote for the Atlantic Yards project Wednesday afternoon if Pataki doesn't tie it to other projects, a Silver spokesman said.
State lawmakers have also asked the development corporation to turn over an cost-benefit analysis done by the accounting firm KPMG detailing the profits Ratner stands to make on the project.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 PM

Silver Bails

silverball.jpgDope on the Slope has the jump on the latest Ratner carol:

Silver bails, Silver bails
It's rip-off time in the city
ching-ka-ching, feel it sting
Oversight is so passé

Click here for the rest.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Done Deal? The Judiciary Will Decide

Fate of Atlantic Yards To Be Determined by the Courts
PACB Approves Atlantic Yards Despite Utter Lack of Public Financial Disclosure

BROOKLYN, NY—Despite an overwhelming number of calls from the four Assemblymembers representing the Atlantic Yards project site and surrounding districts, City Councilmembers, community organizations and good-government groups from all corners for the PACB to postpone its vote and take the necessary time to do its due diligence concerning the utter lack of financial disclosure about Atlantic Yards, Albany’s three men in a room approved the project today.

However, with a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project already in court, and a legal challenge to the project’s flawed environmental impact study looming, the viability of the largest sole-sourced project in New York’s history will ultimately be determined by federal and state courts.

“The federal eminent domain lawsuit brought by citizens protecting their constitutional rights is rock-solid, and without those plaintiffs’ properties, Atlantic Yards as we know it an arena studded with 16 outmoded superblock towers cannot be built,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Except for a few courageous and principled elected officials, the fix has been in for a long time on Atlantic Yards. Today’s vote is no surprise. The surprise for the PACB, the ESDC, Mr. Ratner and his supporters is that the constitutionality and legality of their illegitimate project has yet to be proved. Fortunately, we still have three branches of government.”

It was not until late Tuesday that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) representatives received “some” of the financial documents that had been denied through Freedom of Information requests and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s recent subpoena of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the project’s state sponsor. Those documents have yet to be made public. The PACB still has not received a full accounting of the true public cost of the project or a realistic projection of the project’s new net revenue for the city and state. Additionally, financial terms, guarantees and penalties for non-compliance for the subsidized housing a key component of the project have yet to be negotiated.

"The approvals by ESDC represent egregious violations of multiple state laws and the public trust. While Mr. Gargano may claim there has been extensive public review the facts show otherwise,” said DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker of Albany based Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Wooley, Baker & Moore. “The New Yorkers whose trust was betrayed by the Governor, Mayor and Mr. Gargano will now place their trust in the courts to assure that the laws are followed and this project is sent back for the review that was required.”

Just last month, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of three PACB votes, called ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano “the most corrupt member of the Pataki Administration.” Notwithstanding that vitriol, Speaker Silver fast-tracked Atlantic Yards, despite the fact that the PACB had only about twelve hours to review deficient and complicated financial information.

“Democracy in New York State took another step into the grave today with this misguided decision. Who indeed is Mr. Silver representing when he completely ignores his members?” asked Goldstein. “’Day one’ is just around the corner, and we look to incoming Governor Spitzer to make sure that everything truly will be different.”

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


Posted by lumi at 6:40 PM

AY approved by PACB in five minutes

Atlantic Yards Report

We're not quite sure whether or not it's legitimate to carp about the brevity of the PACB's deliberations today prior to its vote approving the Atlantic Yards project, given the healthy amount of behind-the-scenes pre-cooking that went into the decision.

Oh, heck, sure it is. Norman Oder surveys the PACB's speed-voting over at AYR, including a first-hand account from DDDB attorney Jeff Baker:

"It was not a pretty sight," Baker told me of the PACB meeting in general, "because when you look at the amount of indebtedness and the scope of projects approved, and how little care and discussion occurs, it raises a question as to whether there is any meaningful oversight."


NoLandGrab: We bet we can answer Baker's question, and it rhymes with "dough."

Posted by lumi at 6:05 PM

Condo cuts were in the cards since October

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder keeps reading, and the hits just keep on comin', this one under the heading of "deja vu all over again." Seems that today's last-minute "negotiations" were just one more example of good ol' fashioned FCRC pre-cooking:

Last month I wrote how most of the cuts in the size of the Atlantic Yards project announced in March and September were actually in a plan presented to the Department of City Planning back in January.

Now, it seems that the latest cut, apparently reducing the size of the Miss Brooklyn tower and cutting 322 market-rate condominiums, was likely in the cards since October. The KPMG memo dated December 19 is based on a “model date” of October 1. As of that “model date,” the developer was planning only 1608 condominiums, not 1930 units as announced to the public later in October.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 PM

Some 225 arena events? KPMG ignores developer's own analyst

Atlantic Yards Report

Nothing generates web copy like a secret, unreleased document in the hands of AYR's Norman Oder.

KPMG's analysis for the Empire State Development Corporation terms Forest City Ratner's estimation of roughly 225 annual arena events "reasonable," notwithstanding the fact that the New York metropolitan area's arena population could soon be growing by 50%:

Reasonable? There's no mention that the developer's own analyst stated:
The Nets project that the arena will not host an NHL team and that it will host 226 events during the year (assuming the eventual closing of CAA, no new arena in Newark, no NHL and no minor league hockey events at the Atlantic Yards arena.)

And there is already a new arena under construction in Newark.


NoLandGrab: Could FCRC be counting on an uptick in Unification Church Blessing Ceremonies?

Posted by lumi at 3:55 PM

KPMG report to ESDC... says nothing about net revenue to city and state

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder has already managed to get a peek at the elusive "independent economic analysis" for Atlantic Yards, and it's more noteworthy for what it doesn't address than for what it reveals.

Oh, except for the fact that Forest City Ratner is apparently feeling less bullish about Brooklyn's luxury-condo market... and Miss B. has lost her head.

Though the ESDC could not provide it to Assemblymember Richard Brodsky on Monday, yesterday, a new version of the analysis was prepared and released to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the key vote on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).

The document concerns cash flow assumptions regarding Forest City Ratner's revenue for the arena and mixed-use development. It says nothing about new revenue to the city and state. And while it discusses the developer's internal rate of return, it doesn't specify the developer's expected profit.

It does suggest that Forest City has further trimmed the project, cutting the number of condominiums from 1930 to 1608, or more than 300,000 square feet. (Indeed, Crain's reports that the height of Miss Brooklyn, planned at 620 feet, will now be shorter than the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank, and that 200 of 2250 affordable apartments will be for sale rather than for rent.)


Posted by lumi at 1:10 PM

Heigh, Ho, Ho, Ho Silver!

The word is out, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is going to vote to APPROVE Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal because Governor Pataki has allowed a stand-alone vote, not tied to other appropriations. Also Silver feels that the financial information provided yesterday (you know, the info that the Empire State Development Corporation still refuses to release despite several Freedom of Information Law requests and a subpoena) is good enough.

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Price of Yards too high?

State opens books before key vote

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Today's Daily News article is following the money:

A state agency turned over key financial documents pertaining to the Atlantic Yards yesterday, just one day before a crucial vote that could decide the fate of the controversial $4.2 billion project.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office pored over more than 100 pages of previously undisclosed documents as opponents continued to push for postponing a vote by the Public Authorities Control Board.

"We received a significant amount of additional information today and we're continuing conversations," said Silver's spokesman, Skip Carrier, who declined to say how, or if, Silver will vote when the three- member panel meets.

"It's a lot of money, it's a complex proposal and it's changed significantly over time," Carrier said.
"If the financials made sense, they wouldn't be handing them over the night before a scheduled vote and therefore the PACB needs to postpone this vote," said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

"Because of the discipline the PACB has placed on their responsibilities, [ESDC officials] are finally realizing they can't jam this through in the dark," said [State Assemblymember Richard] Brodsky, chairman of the committee that oversees public authorities.

"This should rise and fall on its merits and not on politics," he said.


NoLandGrab: It is totally insane that on the eve of a crucial final-approval vote, the ESDC is releasing these documents only to the Speaker, despite a Freedom of Information Law filing by Assemblymember Jim Brennan and a subpeona from Assemblymember Richard Brodsky.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

More from the Brodsky hearing: $1B in housing bonds, housing MOUs coming

Atlantic Yards Report

More questions about the Atlantic Yards project were raised at and after the hearing Monday held by Democratic Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, whose committee oversees public authorities.

For the first time, however, officials acknowledged that $1 billion in tax-exempt bonds would be issued to support the housing component. They also said that Memoranda of Understanding with developer Forest City Ratner regarding the housing were still being negotiated, but that the fiscal aspects of the project were ready to go before the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) today.

Also, Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano said that developer Forest City Ratner would earn a “reasonable” rate of return, even as the potential return to the public had just plummeted by about a third.

As reported, Brodsky found the ESDC unwilling to provide full disclosure about the project, notably a project financial analysis commissioned by the firm KPMG.

Though no one is saying exactly how much tax-exempt financing is being made available, one estimate put the number at well over $1 billion:

On Monday, Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a housing group in Brooklyn that has called for a delay in the PACB vote, suggested that the city’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) is contemplating the issue of $1.9 billion in bonds, basing her estimate on preliminary documents released by HDC.

To put it in perspective, she said, this year HDC issued $1.8 billion in bonds. Much more information is needed on the affordable housing finances, she said.

Read the rest of Norman Oder's article, which bears witness to Gargano squirming under questioning over affordable housing guarantees, financing, and diminishing taxpayer returns.

NoLandGrab: Here's the freakin' joke on the taxpayer...

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM


NY Post
By Fredric U. Dicker & Rich Calder

The Post is running a story "quoting" State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

Silver-NYPost06-12-20.jpg[Silver] told the Post he'll likely have his appointee vote in favor of the controversial project at today's Public Authorities Control Board meeting, with one caveat: that Gov. Pataki not link it to "pork barrel" projects Silver opposes.
But Silver cautioned that his mind could change if the Pataki administration mixes $100 million in state funding for Atlantic Yards into a bigger pot with funds for other projects.

"If [Pataki] puts it on the PACB agenda as an individual item, not one item that is contained in a big package of pork and everything, it's a good bet that I would support it," he said.

Jessica Copen, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corp., said Atlantic Yards would be presented to the PACB "on its own."

Besides the public project funding, the board will be asked to back the development company's decision to condemn private property by eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

Financials-NYPost06-12-20.jpgThe article was also accompanied by a graphic explaining the financing of the project, which leaves out key information about the affordable housing subsidies.


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM


NY Post, Editorial

The Post editorial board doesn't know jack about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, but that doesn't keep them from flapping their jaws:

Why would Silver kill the Brooklyn project?

Who knows?

Maybe just to spite Pataki - and deny him a chance to claim the project for his legacy. Or maybe proponents of the project haven't paid him his full ransom yet.

Atlantic Yards is a golden opportunity not just for Brooklyn, but all New York City. If the project doesn't get a final green light today, it will be clear who deserves the blame.



Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Atlantic Yards future unclear on eve of vote

By Amy Zimmer

A vote on developer Bruce Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards plan is down to the wire.

All eyes are on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He has killed the West Side Stadium, delayed Moynihan Station, and may derail the plan to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn at today’s meeting of the Public Authorities Control Board. ...
Yesterday, news reports cited sources claiming the speaker was planning to vote “no” or to delay the final vote until Gov. Eliot Spitzer takes office.

Silver’s spokesman Skip Carrier denied those reports, but he did not say the speaker would vote “yes” either.

“We have a significant amount of information that was provided today and discussions continue,” Carrier said. “We wanted a better understanding of the financial aspects because the project has changed recently, even significantly.”

For example, the state revised projected tax revenues from $1.4 billion to $944 million.
In response to rumors circulating that Silver may delay the vote, Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, said, “You never know with Silver. He has been doing that of late. We’ll answer any questions he might have. Whether the project is delayed this month, it will certainly go forward next year.”


Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Atlantic Yards project set to go to panel

NY Newsday
By Michael Clancy

Despite reports to the contrary Tuesday, Silver's chief spokesman said the speaker hadn't made up his mind to postpone the vote Tuesday.

"There hasn't been a shift in the position," spokesman Charles "Skip" Carrier said Tuesday. "We received a significant amount of information today and we will continue to be briefed today and we are digesting it."

Outside of pending litigation, the five-person panel, which was created to oversee how public authorities spend money, represents a final hurdle for Bruce Ratner's 8-million-square-foot arena, housing and office complex. The panel's approval must be unanimous.


Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

MIA: the New York Times editorial page on PACB vote

Atlantic Yards Report

The blog that started off life as Times Ratner Report speculates why the NY Times has been silent on Atlantic Yards while all the other dailies have recently posted editorials:

You’d think that, in the run-up to an expected Atlantic Yards vote today by the state Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), the city’s newspapers would have weighed in. Indeed, most have done so.
The city’s leading daily, the New York Times, has been silent.

I can only speculate about the reasons, but the Times may have been in a deadlock of sorts. The editorial page has generally supported the Atlantic Yards project, though it called, ineffectively and inconsistently, for the city and state not to provide direct subsidies for the project.

Most recently, in August, the page gently advised a possible 15 percent reduction in the project size and called for a longer period in review.

But it hasn’t questioned eminent domain—indeed, the Times is a beneficiary of eminent domain for the new headquarters the parent Times Company is building in partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

The publisher offers both explicit and indirect influence on the editorial page (though not to the newsroom) . So, given that the Times Company agreed to guarantee a loan to the developer, it's not unreasonable to think that the publisher Arthur Sulzberger is rooting for Forest City Ratner’s general success, and that has filtered through to the editorial writers.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

The Albany Sewer

The Daily Gotham

If you can't get enough of money, power and Albany, Bouldin is sharing his perspecitve:

With Joe Bruno under investigation by the FBI, Shelly Silver flexing his muscles over Atlantic Yards, and a new governor coming in, Albany is getting some much-needed attention. And let's face it, that's a good thing, because Albany is broken.

Today's Bruno and Silver headlines illustrate two different aspects of what is wrong with our dysfunctional, crippled and embarrassing state government.


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Forest City CEO exercises options

Business Week is running this little item about Forest City Enterprises President and CEO Charles Ratner exercizing options:

chuckratner.jpgThe chairman and chief executive of Forest City Enterprises Inc., which develops commercial and residential real estate, exercised options for 88,800 shares of common stock, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings Friday.

In a Form 4 filed with the SEC, Charles A. Ratner reported he exercised the options last Wednesday for $14.27 and $15.50 apiece and then sold 12,950 of them the same day for $57.08 to $57.45 apiece.

Ratner also sold 36,200 shares of common stock Wednesday for $56.92 to $57.13, according to a separate Form 4 filing Friday.


This was brought to our attention by some guy who is NOT Norman Oder, who added:

As they say, the market can be a great indicator of future knowledge. So... what with the news being so bad today and yesterday for FCRC, I decided to take a look at what insiders might be thinking about the Yards. Here's what I found:


Potentially very suspect, potentially also means nothing. But as I recall, didn't FCE JUST THE OTHER DAY buy out all of Bruce's shares in FCRC? That is to say, they are now officially invested in this project??? If the PACB sinks the project this wk, shares will surely go down.

NoLandGrab: Yeah, like "not-Norman Oder" says, "potentially also means nothing." But it could also mean that Cousin Chuck is being a hedge-hog.

A likely reason for Chuck Ratner to exercize his options is if he thinks that the stock is going down (or maybe he needs the cash for some big Hanukkah presents?).

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

December 19, 2006

Condemned for Christmas Trailer

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse, via YouTube

Check out the trailer for this past week's episode of Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse, or just cruise on over to the Roundhouse to watch the entire 30-min episode.

Posted by lumi at 11:34 PM

Against Gehry, Against Leviathan (part 2)

Picketing Henry Ford

This is the second part of a 2-part post in response to a piece written by Jonathan Liu for N+1, which, in my estimation, gave a sophisticated defense for the Atlantic Yards (AY) project that is representative of the position held by many proponents of the plan, even those supposedly on the Left.
As one watches (the key word) the pseudo-debate on the AY unfold, it is difficult to imagine how a dialogue could even take place. From stage-managed meetings, to press releases, to dissembling interlocutors, as well as images circulated that have nothing to do with the realities they claim to represent, and, of course, the bullying, anonymous, high-speed culture of online sniping, authentic dialogue is nowhere to be found. When this communication becomes impossible, communities cease to exist because the interests of communities themselves become replaced by spectacle. I am not arguing that this process is occurring before our eyes, because it has certainly been in place for decades, but I do believe that, due to the grand scale and stakes of the AY and the sophistication of its planners, anyone who tries to step back for just a moment will see that the arguments about, for example, the number of jobs to be generated, though worthwhile to a degree, are ultimately enacting a fallacious dialogue. In an era defined by lies, the economic interests of a community become completely separated from the communities themselves, even as the communities fall apart due to the separations enforced by the spectacle. It means that our society has a technics instantiated to mediate reality. This is not a loosey-goosey, po-mo “Dude, we live in the Matrix, man” assertion. Instead, it means that our needs and desires have been supplanted by a largely visual repertoire of alienations, to the point that speaking about reality becomes increasingly difficult. Communal economic interests are so far removed from our everyday lives that the veritable opposite of a progressive, community-based economic benefit plan, in the form of a development plan meant to enrich a developer and hot-shot investors, can be sold as a progressive, community-based plan.


Posted by lumi at 10:44 PM

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Gridlock

Dope on the Slope runs into "Merry Gridlock" this weekend:


Unlike the first installment, there were no Atlantic Terminal security guards harassing the picketers. However, I'm sure this was small consolation given that the traffic itself was harassing enough. Despite the fact that I had the "walk" signal, I couldn't get a clearly focused picture of one of the sign carriers because of straggling cars in the intersection fighting to get through after the light had changed. I observed pedestrians routinely having to squeeze between cars as their drivers mostly ignored the walkers - it was definitely walk at your own risk. A couple of the drivers seemed very sympathetic to the activists' message, but the pedestrians were very receptive - not surprising given that most of them probably felt they were taking their lives (and their children's) into their own hands just to cross the street.

Regardless of one's position on whether the Atlantic Yards project as currently designed will be a net gain for the residents of Brooklyn, the inevitable traffic problems loom like an iceberg in the fog.
Honk if you're concerned.


Posted by lumi at 10:17 PM

State pleads Yards’ case

Last-minute blitz to save Ratner plan from Shelly’s ‘Silver’ bullet

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Brooklyn Papers is reporting tonight that the vote is on for tomorrow:

Bruce Ratner’s boosters in Albany spent most of Tuesday trying to convince Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan) of the benefits of his Atlantic Yards project.

Just hours after New York 1 reported that Silver — who has already killed two big development projects with his vote on the Public Authorities Control Board — would block Ratner’s Prospect Heights Xanadu before its expected approval Wednesday, Empire State Development Corporation project planners arrived in his office.

“We are in the process of being briefed on the project,” Silver spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said.

As a result, it now appears that the PACB vote will indeed happen Wednesday.


Posted by lumi at 10:01 PM

Silver Gets Atlantic Yards Analysis

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman is reporting that Sheldon Silver has been given the KMPG financial study that is supposed to explain the nearly half-a-billion dollars decrease in the tax revenue projections for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal:

Jessica Copen, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, said the report, which has not been distributed publicly (nor even to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky), was one of the documents the ESDC gave Silver's office as a result of Tuesday morning's meeting.

"The ESDC is providing all of the information that the PACB is asking for," she said.

The Public Authorities Control Board will either vote on the Brooklyn project on Wednesday--or it won't.


NoLandGrab: What are the chances that the public will get a chance to scrutinize those numbers before a vote?

Posted by lumi at 9:50 PM

Has Silver Already Decided on the Yards?

The Empire Zone

Your humble reporter has been hearing similar chatter yesterday and this morning — but he has also been hearing the opposite, and many things in between. A delay seems not at all out of the question. But Skip Carrier, a spokesman for Mr. Silver, repeats what he told New York 1, and everyone else: The speaker has not yet decided.

“We had some fairly specific questions that were not getting answered. We made that known,” said Mr. Carrier. “They are providing us with additional material right now. We are making a good faith effort on what as you know is a very complicated project.”

The New York Observer’s Real Estate blog thinks Mr. Silver is laying the groundwork for a delay even if he hasn’t decided. We also hear, from sources who wish no ill to the controversial project, that Mr. Silver might merely be going through the motions.

But Mr. Carrier said that is not so. In fact, he said, just in the last hour or so, the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, dumped a large load of financial documents on Mr. Silver’s proverbial desk, and the speaker’s staff is sorting through it to discern whether it will provide the answers he has been seeking.

“We have received a significant amount of information and we are being briefed on it right now,” said Mr. Carrier. “He is still seriously trying to get his arms around a project that is big and complicated.”


Posted by lumi at 9:50 PM

AY to Zero?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is wondering how low can you go when tallying up the projected tax revenues for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

December 2006 $944 million net present value of new tax revenues (inflated due to unexplained reduction of discount rate from 6% to 3%)

Public costs, breaks, and subsidies not included and unknown:

  • "Extraordinary infrastructure costs" [aka, blank check]
  • Affordable housing tax-free financing (Billion[s?])
  • Triple-tax free arena consrtruction bonds
  • Relocation of utilities
  • Cost associated with schools, health and safety services (police, fire)
  • Costs from traffic
  • Lest we forget:

    Ratner Rail Yards Payment - $100 million (MTA Rail Yards Appraisal - $214.5 million)

Are we at a loss yet, or just zero?


Posted by lumi at 9:36 PM

Kill Off Atlantic Yards

The Forest City/Ratner project is everything that’s wrong with the Empire State.

City Journal published the unabridged version of Nicole Gelinas's op-ed, which ran in today's NY Sun.

Gelinas adds:

If [Pataki] succeeds, it will be a fitting monument to his administration, because Atlantic Yards stands for much that is wrong with New York State, which Pataki did little to change over twelve years in office.
One business owner who owns property within the footprint, Drew Tressler of Global Exhibition Services, uses his 45,000-square-foot loft to design commercial exhibits and museum displays. As Tressler wrote in a letter to state officials: “Our building is a classic loft building in very good condition. What sense does it make to knock down a commercial building located on a six-lane highway to make way for luxury condominiums, while at the same time putting in jeopardy the jobs of 28 Brooklyn employees? Global has run a successful industrial design company at this location for 29 years, during which . . . we [have paid] taxes to the city and state of New York. . . . It seems unimaginable to have to consider moving, after watching the community I work in progress so dramatically through the years.”
The supporters, by contrast, are community groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn. They support the project because FC/Ratner has pledged to make 2,250 of its apartments “affordable” for low- and middle-income families. One letter-writer from Acorn, Greg Blankinship, blithely wrote that the Atlantic Yards project “is a very good idea for those who are lucky enough to receive an apartment.” Another supporter, Gabriel McQueen, said the project was a good idea because it would put “everyone on an equal playing field, . . . [providing] affordable apartments and not luxury apartments. . . . Affordable housing is a good thing and no other developer [besides Ratner] has been willing to step up to the plate.”


Posted by lumi at 9:06 PM

Shelly Going All 'West Side Stadium' On Ratnerville?

The Albany Project

Shelly.gifA blog that stalks the "three men in a room" and all of the pork they consume responds to news that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver might hold off on the vote to approve Ratnerville:

I've been pretty hard on Shelly lately, but this seems to be a wise move, IMHO. Personally, I'd like to see the whole idea scrapped as I don't think that the project benefits the public much, though it will cost them a fortune. Not to mention all those individuals and businesses that would be evicted through eminent domain to make way for this thing.

One commenter agrees, but there's a call out to Nets fans to chime in.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

Memo to Sheldon Silver

To: Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker
From: Fans For Fair Play
Date: Monday, December 18, 2006

It's that time, again...

A controversial PACB vote.
Sheldon...our future depends on you standing up -- not for or against heroes and enemies, but simply high enough to grab hold of the facts.

Twice now you've been excoriated for voting against big projects, cast in a Beelzebubian realm of superheated evil. You knew that wasn't the case. You knew that you were simply doing the job you were elected to do -- fight for the citizens of this state, the people who asked you fight and keep fighting.

Why is the Atlantic Yards vote any different?


Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

Atlantic Yards Vote Up in the Air

The Real Estate Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman is being more cautious about declaring a winner in Florida:

NY1 is reporting that state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will not give final approval to the Atlantic Yards project before the next Governor comes into office on Jan. 1.
But these sorts of things are often negotiated up to the last minute, and the agenda is not finalized until the beginning of the meeting. A spokesman for Pataki, John Sweeney, told The Real Estate, "We are expecting that Atlantic Yards will be on the agenda."

A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, Jessica Copen, said that representatives from that agency are meeting with the PACB on Tuesday morning to field more information requests.

All of which means that it is still up in the air, but that Silver is paving the way for postponement.


Posted by lumi at 12:37 PM

Did a Blogger’s Big Scoop Stall “Atlantic Yards?”

StreetsBlog.org is giving props to Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder for paying attention:

Financial questions about the project have escalated since the discovery by Norman Oder, author of the Atlantic Yards Report, that nearly half a billion dollars in projected public revenues had simply vanished from the Empire State Development Corporation's project plan.
Oder was the only working journalist in New York City to notice the half billion dollar revision. His scoop was significant enough that even the New York Times stooped to give the blogger credit. ...
Granted, DDDB, community organizations and good government groups have been putting lots of pressure on Silver to delay the approval. And they cite a littany of reasons why the project needs a closer look. But you've got to hand it to Oder. If Silver does choose to delay approval of the project, Oder's $456 million scoop is likely to be a big reason why.


Posted by lumi at 12:37 PM

Breaking News: Atlantic Yards Vote Delayed Until 2007

The Gowanus Lounge on the reports of possible delay of the vote for final approval of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal:

2006_12_AYwithSignage.jpgGiven the possibility of significant revisions to the project under the Spitzer Administration, the development is sure to cheer some of its opponents. Spitzer supports the project--as does Silver--but both have indicated a desire to have a closer look, which means that even though final approval is likely, the End End Game could alter the proposal, including putting it on something of a diet. Time to dust off those backroom shrinkage plans?


Posted by lumi at 11:47 AM

Atlantic Yards vote delayed

The Brooklyn Papers is following the breaking news/rumor on NY1 that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is going to hold off on voting for final approval of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project at tomorrow's Public Authorities Control Board meeting.


Posted by lumi at 11:40 AM

Protesting the Yards

Room 8 By EnWhySeaWonk

MerryGridlock.jpgOne of the Merry Gridlockers was caught on film passing out literature about the Atlantic Yards traffic mess:

Outside the Target in downtown Brooklyn this afternoon I saw an interesting technique for protesting the Atlantic Yards project. The protester was walking through the street amongst the cars stopped in the holiday traffic gridlock, trying to give drivers literature stating that traffic will be like this all the time if the project goes through as is and with phone numbers for George, Joe, Shelly, Alan and Eliot.


Posted by lumi at 11:21 AM

Whither the Yards?


2006_12_netsign2.jpgWhile the Assembly speaker generally has supported the project, he has questioned the project’s financing. As the Times points out, Albany can be tricky for pols like Silver, with their obscure motivations. First, he has sparred publicly with Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano, who has boosted the project from the get-go (Gargano hinted that Silver was crooked and Silver called Gargano’s tenure “a dismal failure.”). Second, Silver may want to deny Pataki a legacy project. Third, Silver has to deal with special interests.

We think most of the above theories are a stretch. Silver would lose face if he killed a project for petty reasons – he needs numbers to back up a no vote. So we wonder whether last week’s Atlantic Yards Report revelation that the project’s projected sales and income tax revenues have dropped by almost one-third (from $1.4 billion to $944 million) will influence his vote.

Also featured in the Gothamist article is coverage on the gigantic animated signage and the eminent domain fight.


Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

Not So Calm Before the Storm

The Empire Zone

The story about Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's dilemma and the call by more regional and national organizations for the Speaker to delay a vote to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal didn't make the paper today, but was covered on the NY Times's political blog.


Posted by lumi at 10:45 AM

NY Sun Makes Some Conservative Sense

Brownstoner makes a point that we've noticed, too: no matter what your politics, you can respect the NY Sun for sticking to its "ideological guns" on its Op-Ed page.

If you're going to be a conservative publication, at least get your principles right. Unlike the NY Post, The Sun has the good sense to stick to its ideological guns in the Atlantic Yards debate. And while we don't share the paper's lack of concern about the density of the project, it's refreshing to see an editorial position shaped more by ideals than political pettiness.


Brownstoner was referring to yesterday's Sun editorial. Today the paper posted another piece on its Op-Ed page, still representing the conservative ideological position.

Eminent Danger
A Bit of Everything Wrong

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

Brodsky: Atlantic Yards not ready for evaluation

Atlantic Yards Report

An influential Democratic Assemblymember said yesterday said there was too little information extant about Atlantic Yards financials to make any evaluation of the project.

Richard Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester, had just finished putting Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) officials through the wringer on a number of issues, including a brief but intense foray into Atlantic Yards.

What would he tell Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) and could stall the project until the incoming administration of Governor Eliot Spitzer, a fellow Democrat?

Brodsky, who chairs the committee that oversees public authorities, said Silver addressed the issue on his own, since he doesn't sit on the PACB--which oversees financing for certain state projects--as a legislator.

But Brodsky offered his own opinion: “As of right now, I need to know more of the facts that we sought and didn't get today, and we’ll get those by the end of the year.” (Later yesterday, NY1 reported that Silver had stalled the project.)


Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

Shift in Atlantic Yards Financials Puts Pressure on Silver To Delay

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

After reviewing financial information about developer Forest City Ratner’s plan to build a basketball arena and 16 mostly residential towers on 22 acres in Prospect Heights, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat of Westchester who heads the Assembly committee that oversees public authorities, said yesterday the figures on the project’s costs and benefits had “substantially changed.”

“As of right now, I need to know more of the facts than I saw today,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Mr. Brodsky joined a growing chorus of civic groups and local elected officials who are asking for a more detailed financial picture on the largest development project in Brooklyn’s history. The project could appear before the Public Authorities Control Board for final approval tomorrow.
Yesterday, Mr. Brodsky focused his questions of Mr. Gargano at the project’s shifting goal posts.Recently,state projections on the amount of tax revenues from Atlantic Yards dropped by about a third, to $944 million from $1.4 billion. Projections about the number of jobs and the amount of personal income derived from the development also dropped sharply, and the discount rate applied to the calculations appeared to drop to 3% from 6%, boosting financial projections.


Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Regional Plan Association, Citizens Union, more groups call for AY delay

Atlantic Yards Report

The message got more backing yesterday: Atlantic Yards is not ready for prime time.

The forces seeking to slow consideration of the Atlantic Yards project grew in strength yesterday as the influential Regional Plan Association (RPA) and the Citizens Union, groups that, respectively, had offered cautious support for the project and had not weighed in, called for the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) to delay its vote.

(Later, NY1 reported that the PACB would stall the project.)

The press conference on City Hall steps was organized by the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which has called for major changes before project approval, and the groups assembled took pains not to be portrayed as opponents of development. “We’re not here to kill the project,” declared MAS President Kent Barwick. “We’re here to resuscitate the role of the public.”

Exactly how that might occur remains a question, but the groups expressed hope that a new state administration under incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer—a project supporter—would take a fresh look at Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Ratner To Wait Until 2007 For PACB Decision On Atlantic Rail Yards Project

NY1 has been running this report that Silver is set to hold off the PACB vote for final approval until next year:

Sources tell NY1, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won’t make a decision until after January first, as he has questions about the financing of the massive project. Silver controls a third of the powerful state Public Authorities Control Board.


NoLandGrab: Certainly the Empire State Development Corporation's refusal to release financial documents pertaining to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal is giving everyone an excuse to criticize the project.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

A Bit of Everything Wrong

NY Sun
By Nicole Gelinas

AYNoir-NYS-06-12-19.jpgGelinas hits the nail on the head in this editorial about why Sheldon Silver shouldn't approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. "A bit of everything" is "wrong," which is why we've had our hands full at NoLandGrab for almost three years.

But this private-sector veil doesn’t mean Atlantic Yards is anything other than a centrally planned, public-sector project. Forest City Ratner couldn’t pursue Atlantic Yards without a half-billion dollars in public subsidies, the government’s power to condemn private property, and exemptions from local zoning. Rail yards owned by the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority occupy 40% of the area, but the rest of the project site is already a developed neighborhood.

Further, the rationale behind Atlantic Yards is vintage New York central planning. To justify the use of eminent domain, state officials have determined that the area, some of which falls under a 44-year-old “urban renewal site” designation, “has been physically blighted and underutilized for decades.”

But the reality is different. A visit to the project site last year revealed historic warehouses converted into condos alongside modern factories serving New York’s arts community. Working-class and middle-class apartment buildings as well as a popular establishment called Freddy’s Bar, which dates back to Prohibition days, face the wrecking ball in the name of state-sponsored urban renewal.
The Public Authorities Control Board should vote Atlantic Yards down. If it doesn’t, the project could be a target for Governor Spitzer on day one because killing Atlantic Yards is like killing a little bit of everything wrong with the Empire State.


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Opponents Push to Delay Atlantic Yds. Vote

Goldstein-CL06-12-18.jpgCourier-Life Publications
By Steven Witt

The headline and lead feature the opponents and critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, but the article kicks off with quotes from project proponents:

“Over the last three years, there have been countless meetings, hearings and other forums dealing with Atlantic Yards,” said ACORN NY Executive Director Bertha Lewis.
“During the past three years, we have worked to create a more acceptable scale, maintain the affordable housing component, and minimize the use of eminent domain,” said Markowitz.

“A delay now is unacceptable given the support and hard work that have gone into this project. As Borough President, I am confident that Atlantic Yards represents Brooklyn’s best days and bright future,” he added.

Project critics say:

“I want real affordable housing and real careers for my district. This project does not guarantee either of these things at this point,” said City Councilmember Letitia James, who represents the area in question.
“We don’t even know the amount of debt service, PILOT payments, the full cost of housing subsidies, the full extent of ‘extraordinary infrastructure costs,’ or if the public is paying for the platform over the railyards,” said Goldstein.

“The process has been flawed from the very beginning by a strange rush to completion. This has led to many, many flaws in the FEIS,” he said.


NoLandGrab: In reality the article is about project proponents fending off the critics during the last-minute rush to the get the project approved, but the twist sort of gives the article a little balance, sort of.

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Atlantic Yards Heads For Final Lap In Albany

Courier-Life Publications
By Steven Witt

An article on the big push to the Atlantic Yards final approval features copious quotes from Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey and Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano:

“Today, we are a step closer to creating thousands of new jobs and much- needed affordable housing. We also are one step closer to bringing professional sports back to Brooklyn,” said ESDC Chair Charles Gargano.

“The new arena will not only be home to the Nets, but will host local community events, as well as concerts and school athletics for neighboring high schools and colleges. The Atlantic Yards project will be an architectural gem and eliminate blight in the area. It also paves the way for a dynamic and thriving future for the community and Brooklyn,” he added.

Jim Stuckey, President of the Atlantic Yards Development Group and Executive Vice President for Forest City Ratner Companies, said the company was extremely pleased with the ESDC vote.

“We have worked very hard over the last three-plus years to ensure that a large and diverse group of community groups and leaders were included from the start in this exciting project,” said Stuckey.

“We strongly believe that the very real benefits for Brooklyn -- including an unprecedented affordable housing program and thousands of new jobs, including valuable union construction jobs -- are directly related to the input of these individuals and organizations,” he added.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, yeah, it's, "Jobs, Housing and Hoops," not "Eminent Domain, Boondoggle and Bruce," though the article does mention that eminent domain will be used even though the developer promised to "substantially reduce" the need for condemnations.

Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM


NY Post
By David Seifman & Rich Calder

Empire State Development Corp. officials, testifying before an Assembly committee yesterday, refused to divulge Bruce Ratner's expected profit on his nearly $4 billion Atlantic Yards project planned for Brooklyn.

Citing "confidential" issues related to litigation, ESDC officials declined to reveal details of a cost-benefit analysis performed by the accounting firm KPMG for the controversial project, which includes an arena for the NBA's Nets.

They later said Ratner's profit would be "reasonable," without elaborating.

The KPMG document was not among the dozen boxes of documents ESDC turned over to the committee, although it had been subpoenaed.


NoLandGrab: Documents pertaining to the cost-benefit analysis of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan have been repeatedly requested by different parties through Freedom of Information Law filings, and now even subpoenaed, but the ESDC won't give them up.

Just HOW DAMAGING could these documents be, especially if this project is so great for Brooklyn?

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Barbès Screening: Brooklyn Matters

Friday, December 22, 5:30 pm

376 9th Street

By Olga Grinberg

No single event will have a more drastic and more long-lasting impact on Brooklyn than the proposed development of Atlantic Yards by Forest City Ratner. This uncommon proposal, however, is mostly misunderstood. Brooklyn Matters is an insightful documentary which reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and skirting legal protections to try to get the deal done.

Note: No Brooklyn Lager on tap. Could it have anything to do with the Great Brooklyn Brewery Boycott?

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Condemned for Christmas

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

condemned4.gifA Christmas Carol as told by the original Prospect Heights Action Carolers.

It's been three years since Bruce Ratner unveiled his super-tall, very wide and extremely dense landgrabbing Atlantic Yards project.

Back in the day, when local residents were still trying to figure out what this project meant for Brooklyn, they did the one thing that made sense at the time... caroling!

Airing now on freddysbrooklynroundhouse.org:

What did Marty Markowitz give Bruce Ratner for Christmas? Brooklyn! Celebrate the Christmas season with the Prospect Heights Action Carolers, as they try to cheer up their neighbors who are having their homes condemned for Christmas by politicians in collusion with a powerful developer. 60 families and 13 businesses face government evictions this season for the benefit of one well connected billionaire.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Senator-elect Adams calls for look at AY terrorism threat

Atlantic Yards Report

ericAdams.jpgLess than two days before an expected vote on the Atlantic Yards plan by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), Eric Adams, the State Senator-elect for the 20th District and a retired New York Police Department captain, said the project isn’t ready for public approval.

“I’m very concerned about the terrorism aspect,” Adams, co-Founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, said last night. “I’d hate for us to rush right through it.” (Indeed, NY1 reported later that the project has been stalled.)

While the adjacent transit hub was targeted for a terrorist attack in 1997, the Empire State Development Corporation says a terrorism/security review isn't required under the state environmental review, though the city police department has examined the project.

Adams has previously expressed several concerns about Atlantic Yards, but also has said he wanted to evaluate the environmental impact.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

The Enigma of Prospect Heights

421-aExclusion.jpgFUNKYPUNDIT uncovers another one of the great ironies of the "blight" argument for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, when the blogger takes a look at City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's map to create an exclusion zone for 421(a) tax breaks for new residential development.

Perhaps the city's Economic Development Corp. will reconcile everything with a new motto: "Prospect Heights: a neighborhood of contrasts -- at once both too affluent and too blighted for frivolities like tax benefits and private-property rights." Though how that would attract anyone I'm not sure.


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Fitch Affirms Gramercy CRE CDO 2005-1


Here's a little info on Bruce Ratner's first loan for Atlantic Yards from a press release on Fitch Ratings assessment of Gramercy Capital:

The largest loan in the pool (8.5% of the current pool) is a first mortgage on Atlantic Yards, a land assemblage in Brooklyn. The strategy for this asset is to acquire the necessary parcels (currently improved with residential, commercial and industrial properties) for development of an 800M sf (19,000 seat) arena for the New Jersey Nets and a mixed-use development that includes office, residential and retail space. During Q4 2004, the loan commitment was increased and in Q2 2006, Gramercy syndicated a portion of the increased loan amount to two institutional investors. To date 89% of the total committed loan has been funded. As of Q3 2006, the asset is meeting original underwritten expectations as the continued acquisition of identified parcels and approval hurdles progress. The borrower, Forest City Ratner, has reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the City, State, and MTA to acquire certain key development rights and receive public funding for the infrastructure improvements. The project was recently approved by the Empire State Development Corp, which authorized the option of eminent domain if needed to acquire any of the final properties identified for the master planned footprint. The remaining funding will be used to acquire outlier sites, which are not critical to the footprint.


NoLandGrab: Since Bruce Ratner rarely tells the public what he's up to (unless it's Bring Vince Carter to School Day), we have no idea what "outlier sites" the developer intends on acquiring — maybe your home, or maybe just next door.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

Dispute grows over proposed development in Brooklyn

USA Today
By Charisse Jones

636Roof-USATOday.jpgNEW YORK — What people see from Daniel Goldstein's roof near downtown Brooklyn depends on their point of view about a huge proposed development.

Some residents see a blighted vista being transformed for the community's good by a sports arena and apartment towers that they say would infuse the neighborhood with affordable housing, jobs and economic activity.

Goldstein, however, sees only loss — of his home and a corner of brownstone Brooklyn.

The development will be "the densest residential community in the country by far," says Goldstein, whose condominium will be claimed by eminent domain if the project is approved. "The different environmental impacts, particularly traffic, are severe. The impact on public transportation is substantial. … You lose what makes Brooklyn special to everyone."


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents to Rally at City Hall

The Real Estate Observer's teaser for yesterday's City Hall press conference also included this item from Crain's NY Business:

UPDATE: Crain's reports in its print edition this week that, "Spitzer's top development officials will decide early this week whether to seek a delay in a crucial vote on the Atlantic Yards project. The development is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday before the Public Authorities Control Board, but could be put off at the request of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an ally of Mr. Spitzer."

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Groups call for full disclosure, increased mitigation efforts before PACB vote


At a press conference today on City Hall steps, citywide and national civic groups gathered on the steps of New York’s City Hall to ask the Public Authorities Control Board not to vote on the Atlantic Yards project until it has had the opportunity to vigorously scrutinize the financial details of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

The speakers were: Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Eric Goldstein, Co-Director, Urban Program, Natural Resources Defense Council; Chris Jones, Vice-President, Regional Plan Association; Jon Orcutt, Executive Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Michelle De La Uz, Executive Director, Fifth Avenue Committee; Micaela Birmingham, Director of Planning, New Yorkers for Parks; Andy Wiley-Schwartz, Vice President, Project for Public Spaces and Dick Dadey, Executive Director, Citizen’s Union.

Link to quotes from the press conference.

NoLandGrab: The Regional Plan Association is the biggie here. Previously the group had taken a position that Atlantic Yards represents an opportunity to build more urban density around transit hubs (never mind that this experiment in extreme density is unprecedented and would make the project the densest residential community in the nation), though the group called for some changes in the second phase of the project.

It's also good to see the Natural Resources Defense Council finally take a stand on the project. It would be interesting to see if the group publicizes any strong objections to Atlantic Yards based on environmental grounds and analysis of the Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Brooklyn Teaser

couplettesaerialsm.jpgVeritas et Venustas

Architecture critic John Massengale toured Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards footprint with his University of Miami design studio and used it as this term's case study.

He put up some teaser images on his blog, with more plans and images to follow.


Comment from I'm Seeing Green, "Atlantic Yards—A Scale Visioning":

You will note that this rendering displays a project that is considerably more in scale with the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods as compared to the Ratner mega-lith.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

December 18, 2006

Reasons to love NY now

Because Daniel Goldstein Can’t Be Bought, Not Even With Bruce Ratner’s Millions

ratner061218_198.jpgNow the battle may be entering its final stages. Along with ten other plaintiffs, including Freddy’s Bar, the community icon where the White Stripes’ “There’s No Home for You Here” is a popular choice on the jukebox, Goldstein and Merchant have filed suit against Forest City Ratner (which, as fate would have it, redeveloped the Queens Macy site, walling the space once occupied by Mary Sendek’s house). “Our last, best shot,” says Goldstein, who’s banking on recent Supreme Court rulings pertaining to eminent domain, the basis by which Ratner claims the right to replace 636 Pacific Street with an arena for the Nets to play in.

“We’re not cranks, unless letting powerful people do whatever they want, without any public review or regard to law, makes you a crank. That sounds more like a citizen to me—a New Yorker,” Goldstein says. “If it was another kind of project, we’d have been out of here a long time ago. All this makes me tired, saying the same thing over and over again. But how can you give in when you know you’re right?”


Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

Fate of Project in Brooklyn Hinges on Nod of One Man

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore


Sheldon Silver could always just say no.

That is the nightmare facing Forest City Ratner, the real estate developer whose $4 billion Atlantic Yards project must now be approved by an obscure state oversight board on which Mr. Silver, the state Assembly speaker, controls one of three votes.

Over three years, Forest City has assembled an astonishingly wide and deep political coalition behind the Brooklyn project, ranging from outgoing Gov. George E. Pataki to Acorn, the liberal advocacy group for low-income people. The developer has endured thousands of pages of studies and reviews, staged hundreds of meetings and hearings, beat back lawsuits and persisted in the face of a growing and energetic coalition of opponents and critics.

But now — once again — the fate of a multibillion-dollar project comes down to Mr. Silver, a politician who has not hesitated to delay or halt grand development plans when he deems it appropriate.
Both Forest City Ratner and the development corporation have so far kept the project’s financial projections secret. No one else knows how much the developer expects to make from the Atlantic Yards, how big it needs to be to turn a profit, or how much profit will be needed to sustain its more popular elements, including about 2,250 units of moderately priced housing.

In recent days, the development corporation has turned over some financial information to Mr. Silver’s control board staff. But Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for Mr. Silver, described it as “very cursory information, basically what’s available on the Web.”

She added, “We have asked for some detailed financial and economic information that has not yet been provided.” article

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Eminent Danger

The NY Sun, Editorial

We are under no illusions that a vote by Mr. Silver this week against Atlantic Yards would represent principled opposition to the idea of private property being seized by the government to be handed over to another private owner for economic development purposes. It would likely just be an example of Mr. Silver’s legendary negotiating acumen — he takes a deal to the wire and extracts every possible concession, even if he favors the project in question. But the unusual situation only underscores the perils of the way this project has evolved.

The Sun oulines the evolution of the Atlantic Yards project:

We start out from a position of favoring private-sector building and investment in New York City.We have no objection to the density of the $4.2 billion plan by developer Forest City Ratner to build a Nets basketball arena and housing designed by Frank Gehry near the Atlantic Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn. Initial indications were that the project would be primarily privately funded and that, because most of the land for the project was either owned by the Long Island Rail Road or had been privately acquired, the use of the government’s power to condemn property through eminent domain would not be needed.It is good news that Forest City Ratner is interested in investing this much money in Brooklyn.

The project, however, has evolved considerably since it was first announced. First, as Mayor Bloomberg kissed Bertha Lewis, the New York executive director of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, developer Bruce Ratner agreed to devote half of the rental units on the site — 2,250 of 4,500 apartments — to “affordable” housing. That opened the door for Forest City Ratner to seek subsidies for those units in the form of tax-exempt financing. The project started to look less like free-market investment and more like a classic market-distorting income-redistribution scheme in which the hardworking taxpayers of New York pay the price for those few lucky enough to score an “affordable” apartment.

Now comes the news that Mr. Pataki’s Empire State Development Corporation is moving to evict what the New York Post reports are 60 households and 13 businesses using eminent domain power. With the notable exception of the Brooklyn Papers, a chain of weeklies in Kings County, the press has been cheering on this trampling of property rights.

The conservative editorial board completes the argument against Atlantic Yards and the use of eminent domain by explaining that "property rights is bedrock. It’s Locke. It is one of the ideas upon which this nation was founded."


Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Missing in ESDC presentation to PACB: housing subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

For the past week, questions have been raised about the adequacy of the Atlantic Yards fiscal impact analysis conducted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). First, the ESDC, without comment or explanation, revealed a drop of nearly a half-billion dollars in net fiscal impact.

Then the authority released a memo purporting to explain its new fiscal calculations, but the document raised more questions than it answered. (In fact, the inhouse memo is hardly the same thing as the "independent economic analysis" that the ESDC "has performed" but not released.)


Now questions have emerged about exactly how the ESDC accounts for affordable housing subsidies, which are necessary to the project but unspecified in available project documents.
A project summary in the Atlantic Yards Affirmation Document--an overview presented by the ESDC to the PACB--describes "anticipated funding sources" and "funding uses," which both add up neatly to nearly $4 billion.

But there's nothing in there about affordable housing

AYR reporter Norman Oder has been trying to pry those numbers loose from the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development, but his Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request was foiled again. The reason?

ESDC has already determined that release of data not otherwise available on their website would impair the process of their negotiations with the potential developer...


NoLandGrab: Yes, you read it right, a city agency, HPD, has justified the witholding of documents because the ESDC, a state agency, has said that it would impair their negotiations with Ratner. This hardly passes the smell test, much less the democracy test.

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Atlantic Yards So Close, Yet So Far


Forest City Ratner’s controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards mixed-use project in the heart of downtown Brooklyn cleared another hurdle last week. On Dec. 8, the Empire State Development Corporation, New York’s economic development agency, approved the general project plan and the use of eminent domain for the complex. If Forest City Ratner clears the remaining development hurdles, up to 60 local properties and 12 small businesses will be seized under the power of eminent domain.

Yet it probably won’t play out that smoothly.

“These things can drag on for years and, unfortunately, around the country these sorts of lawsuits have caused well-intentioned urban renewal projects to die by the thousands,” says Ted Zangari, a lawyer with the New Jersey-based Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross P.C.


NoLandGrab: The article tries to get both sides of the story and as a result cites Ratner's contention that the city and state would earn $6 billion in revenues over 30 years. This number has never been substantiated — the State's own documents claims less than a billion and that's before a litany of other subsidies (i.e. affordable housing costs) are subtracted from the total.

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Still waiting for Ratner's profit projections

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding that Forest City Ratner signed with the city and state, the developer was required to provide a 30-year pro forma income and cash flow statement regarding the Atlantic Yards project.

Was it made public? No.


Has it been presented to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which may vote on the project Wednesday? No.


Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Atlantic Yards may get nod this week

Foes, friends of Nets project brace for PACB’s final vote

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

Though the [Public Authority Control Board December 20th] meeting agenda has yet to be set, many believe Atlantic Yards will be included, which is why project supporters and opponents are stepping up their efforts.

A woman was standing outside of the Ratner-owned Atlantic Center yesterday gathering signatures backing the project, telling shoppers it would create 18,000 jobs and 3,000 units of affordable housing.

It was her second day, the woman said, refusing to give her name. She initially claimed she was petitioning for Jay-Z, who has a minor stake in the team. But when pressed, she said, “We’re just working for the organization. You know, BUILD.”
Silver’s spokesman Skip Carrier said the speaker was “still seeking additional information and still in discussions.”

He was uncertain whether Atlantic Yards will be considered Wednesday.

“I think it is on the agenda,” he said, “but I’ve also heard [it] may be on the 28th.”


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

Too Bright for Brooklyn

NY Sun, Op-Ed
By Michael Gruen, lawyer and member of the Municipal Art Society’s Streetscape Committee

NYSun-06-12-18.jpgThis Wednesday the Public Authorities Control Board is likely to determine the fate of the large Atlantic Yards project. Lost in the great debate about the existence of this development is a second important issue: the developer’s plan for immense signs to mark the presence of the Nets arena.The signs would rise as high as 150 feet, equivalent to 15 stories, and extend for 75 feet along each of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.They would be illuminated and could display moving images. This would greatly affect both the arena’s neighbors and the general public.

One may infer from the murky design guidelines — which prohibit advertising but define advertising as promotion only of goods and services located outside of Atlantic Yards — that the signs may advertise anything from beer to undies, so long as the goods are sold anywhere within the project area.

All this in an area surrounded by brownstone residences and small-scale retailers.


Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Predicting The Big Stories in 2007

FortuneCookie.jpgMarty Markowitz sells "Jobs, Housing and Hoops" as he predictably prognosticates that one of the big stories of 2007 will be "Atlantic Yards:"

The Atlantic Yards project will bring thousands of new union jobs to Brooklyn as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets and thousands of units of affordable housing in our enhanced and vibrant downtown.

Earth to Marty: The Atlantic Yards project won't bring a stick of housing in 2007, even if Bruce Ratner knocks the place down and gets a shovel in the ground.

Here's a prediction from a columnist who has been paying a lot of attention (to Errol Louis?):


1) The Atlantic Yards plan will be either defeated by racial politics or terminally bogged down in court challenges.

Earth to Freedman: Thanks for noticing, but seriously, does anyone really think that "racial politics" are going to defeat the project before it sinks under the weight of serious environmental concerns like traffic, traffic, and traffic?


The big stories of 2007 will be:
2. What happens with Atlantic Yards. If Sheldon Silver nixes the project, it will be the third development project he has nixed -- first here was the West Side Stadium, then the Moynihan Station.


Earth to anyone listening: We predict the reasons to support Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project will continue to ebb and the reasons to be really damn worried will increase, that is, if some big-time pol doesn't put the kibbosh on this boondoggle.

Another prediction: Bruce Ratner will continue to lose sleep over Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

December 17, 2006

We've Got Some Questions

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has a lot of questions and is unable to receive answers, even with Norman Oder's detective work and FOIA requests. Here's a taste:

The proposed rezoning of the Lower East Side and East Village of Manhattan defines affordable housing with a income band cap at 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), or $56,000 for a household of four. Atlantic Yards has a cap of 160% of AMI, or $113,000 for a household of four. 51% of the “affordable” units in Atlantic Yards would be for households earning above 80% of AMI.
-Why is the income cap so high in Brooklyn and so relatively low in Manhattan?
What is the total public cost of the project including both as-of-right and extraordinary costs?

The ESDC memo summarizing the economic impact analysis of the project is incomplete and lacks a full accounting of the public costs. Without accounting for numerous, significant public costs, the net revenue projection is significantly overstated.

What is the net revenue return for the city and state of New York (just this week it was disclosed that revenues have been cut by nearly 33% and still doesn't include substantial public costs)?

The public has yet to see the developer’s 20-year pro forma financial projections, as required by the MTA’s RFP for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard (the competing bidder, Extell, submitted detailed projections. FCR’s submission to the MTA is here:


UPDATE! DDDB has found one answer:

Did you know that the public is paying entirely for the construction of the arena?

Yes. Instead of paying property taxes, Forest City Ratner (FCR) will pay for the arena construction bond with Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS). How will FCR cover the costs of those PILOTS? Simple: with things like luxury box suites, concessions, arena advertising and arena naming rights. The developer puts up NO money for the arena construction. This is called a shell game.

Posted by amy at 7:42 PM

Ground shifting on Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

There are hints that the ground may be shifting on attitudes toward the Atlantic Yards project, at least enough that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) might hesitate and fail to approve the project during the waning days of the administration of Governor George Pataki.
The PACB, which is controlled by the governor, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is supposed to vote on Atlantic Yards on Wednesday, and unanimity is required. Silver, who's generally supported the project, is under pressure to stall consideration of it until the administration of fellow Democrat Spitzer, and new revelations of drastically reduced net tax revenue may provide new ammunition.


Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

Opaque State Development Corporation

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

A new, and unimproved, Empire State Development Corporation revised memo on an unreleased "independent economic impact analysis," was received by Atlantic Yards Report journalist Norman Oder yesterday. Oder found that the memo raises even more questions about the ESDC's transparency, methodology and, though he doesn't say so, their competence.
In this new memo, out of fear, the ESDC hides the revenue projects for the project option that includes much more commercial office space. In their first memo from October, that option's projections were included. What is clear is that the commercial heavy option provides a much greater return for the public but not nearly as good a return for the developer. To show those commercial tax revenue projections towering over the residential project option in a side-by-side comparison would glaringly illustrate that the ESDC is going with a project option that provides much less tax revenue for the public.

There are so many inconsistencies between the first economic impact memo from October, this new revised memo and the modified General Project Plan approved December 8th. The contradictions are eye-popping and head-spinning. Numbers can often seem dry and complicated. But even so, these numbers are of critical importance when it comes to the PACB vote and the ESDC's credibility. If these memos are all the PACB has to go on, it makes no sense for them to vote on this project.


Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

The end of an error

NY Daily News - Editorial

Spitzer takes office in 16 days, and he has famously promised that everything changes on Day One. His reforms must include gubernatorial resolve never to engage in backroom deal-making with the Legislature. And never to mush issue upon issue upon issue into a giant megadeal in which nothing stands on its own merits. The era of this kind of haggling - you give me charter schools and I'll give you an economic development project but you have to let me crack down on drunk driving - must be over.


Well this is confusing. This description seems to point to the Atlantic Yards proposal as the prime example of a backroom deal that should be stopped. This is the polar opposite of the Daily News editorial from 12/10/06. Have they had a change of heart? Is the title of this piece a subtle clue?

Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

Shooting from the lip

NY Daily News
Mike Lupica

It came out the other day, as Charles (Rubber Stamp) Gargano and his Empire State Development Corporation rubber-stamped Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, that the project isn't going to be quite the windfall for taxpayers it was advertised as being.

Not even close.

Imagine that.

Norman Oder, a tough journalist who has done the best reporting on Ratner in his blog, is the one who noticed that a third of the revenues that Ratner has been pitching simply disappeared in the last six months.

Oh, sure.

In July taxpayers were told that Ratner World was going to generate $1.4 billion in new revenue.

By the time the thing crossed Rubber Stamp Gargano's desk, the figure was $944 million.

Gargano, of course, didn't say a word, and neither did any of the major politicians who have shilled for this thing from the start.


Because they want to shove this project across the goal line while George Pataki is still governor, that's why.

You know what else was in the new plan approved by the ESDC?

Language that wasn't in there before about what happens to the project if Ratner sells the Nets.

According to Ratner and Markowitz of Brooklyn, head cheerleader for the project from the start, this was supposed to be all about sports.

Sports was just a way to get Ratner's foot in the door.

This was always about the real estate.

About the deal.

Which was always going to benefit Bruce Ratner more than it was ever going to benefit the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y.


Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

'You' named Time's person of 2006

Congratulations to "you and you and you!"



"You" have been named as Time magazine's Person of the Year for the growth and influence of user-generated content on the internet.

The US magazine praised the public for "seizing the reins of the global media" and filling the web's virtual world.


Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

December 16, 2006

New ESDC fiscal impact memo raises more questions than it answers

Atlantic Yards Report:

In a memorandum dated December 14 but released yesterday, the Empire State Development Corporation purports to offer “a more complete description” of the economic analysis that led to a drastic drop of $456 million in net projected Atlantic Yards revenue, but the agency leaves numerous questions unanswered.

Notably, the memo does not explain why the agency changed its methodology in projecting a more than fivefold leap in city tax revenues from construction (even as the total tax revenue plummeted) nor a significant discrepancy between the revenues in the memo and in the General Project Plan (GPP).

Also, it doesn't explain why the ESDC changed the discount rate--the interest rate used in calculating the present value of expected benefits and costs—from 6% to 3%. (Given that a higher discount rate means a smaller present value of future cash flows, lowering the discount rate would increase the present value, perhaps overinflating even the lowered revenue figures the ESDC released this week.)

Nor does the memo explain why the ESDC corrected some apparent errors in the previous memo, issued October 18, including an agency assertion that “25% of visiting team players salaries is earned in New York City.” (There are 30 teams in the National Basketball Association.)


Posted by amy at 12:06 PM


Press Release from Municipal Art Society:

At 1:00 p.m. on Monday, December 18, citywide and national civic groups — joined by new voices and elected officials — will gather on the steps of New York’s City Hall to call on the state’s Public Authorities Control Board to vigorously scrutinize the financial details of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project before voting on it.

Among those scheduled to attend Monday’s news conference are groups that have previously expressed support for the project or have not yet taken a public position.

Citing the absence of a full financial disclosure for the project and a failure to meaningfully address issues identified by the environmental impact statement, the groups will unite to urge the three PACB members to refrain from voting on the project at their next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 20.

Posted by amy at 12:02 PM


NY Post

Call 'em the Brooklyn Blueshirts.

The Rangers want to put a minor-league hockey team in the 2,300-seat arena at the new Aviator Sports Complex at Floyd Bennett Field, Madison Square Garden confirmed yesterday.

"It'd be an exciting place to see hockey," said Garden President Steve Mills.

The Garden is a partner in the Mill Basin facility. The new team would play in the East Coast Hockey League, a level below the American Hockey League, home to the Rangers' Hartford Wolfpack affiliate.

Borough President Marty Markowitz said he'd be "happy to pilot the Zamboni" for the first game. He added that Brooklyn was "skating toward national sports prominence," what with the NBA's Nets planning to move to the Atlantic Yards area and the Cyclones, a Met farm team, already in Coney Island.

As for the Nets' planned arena, it "is not an option" for any MSG-owned hockey team, a Garden source said.


Posted by amy at 11:59 AM



Cinematic Happenings Under Development

Q: As a Brooklyn boy myself it’s been interesting to see the borough change over the last few years – what’s your take?

Buscemi: I read something heartbreaking today – developers in Coney Island are going to take away Astro Land, and we’re going to lose the Cyclone. My first thought was, ‘That’s it, I’m moving.’ I can’t take it anymore. There’s been so much development. This whole thing with Atlantic Yards, the stadium coming in with sixteen high rise towers… it’s changing too much. I just think I hate to lose the character of what makes Brooklyn different from Manhattan. Manhattan’s a great city, but Brooklyn should be different from Manhattan.

Q: Is there any turning back, or is it too late?

Buscemi: We’re trying to stop it. I do work with this group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and there is a lawsuit right now concerning the eminent domain. Hopefully if it can’t be stopped it can be scaled down considerably. But so many politicians are for it. Hopefully Spitzer, who I think is great, hopefully when he gets in it can be revisited and maybe some of the things can be reversed and it can at least be scaled down a lot.

Q: Yeah, I live in Prospect Heights. It’s depressing to imagine those big high rises looming overhead.

Buscemi: So you know. I think it’s a bad idea. It gets hard because we want employment and we want jobs, but I think Ratner has been exploiting that. I think there are ways to have jobs and affordable housing without this huge, mammoth development.


We're not sure what the Daily Graboid is on this site, but the graphic somehow seems appropriate...

Posted by amy at 10:21 AM

Progressive Democrat Issue 100: BROOKLYN FOCUS: Atlantic Yards Development

Mole's Progressive Democrat comments on the statement from DDDB's Jeff Baker regarding problems with the FEIS:

As usual, I would add sewage issues to the list, something else that has been largely ignored but will affect a huge area of Brooklyn as well as the already over-polluted Gowanus canal.

I want to emphasize something that often gets forgotten: NO ONE is against development of this area. What people are against is the corrupt and sloppy process by which Ratner, a law school buddy of Pataki's, got handed almost anything he wanted without a proper bidding or review process. I also should point out that DDDB has been joined by a broad coalition of community groups and politicians, including Assembly members Millman, Brennan and Robinson. And now with Pataki on his way out, soon we may see a considerable reworking of Ratner's plan if not a complete fresh beginning to the process.


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

December 15, 2006

Ratner Faces Fewer Tax Breaks

Quinn421Exclude.jpgThe Real Estate Observer

Bruce Ratner's so-called friends are about to cost him tens of millions of dollars in lost tax breaks because of a bill pending in the City Council.

The stormy debate over the 421-a multifamily housing tax incentive still has a few days to play out (and another year in the state Legislature), but the version backed by Speaker Christine Quinn and a majority of City Council members would revoke a 15- to 25-year tax abatement that Ratner's condos would have received had they been built under current rules.


Posted by lumi at 5:41 PM

Developers abandoning condo deals

Flagging market has owners converting to hotel projects as demand soars

Crain's NY Business

Here's more evidence that there isn't a market for hi-end starchitect-designed high-rise condos, so why are we giving Bruce Ratner free rein to build with impunity?

For the past two years, the Chetrit Group has been moving full-steam ahead with plans to convert the Empire Hotel into 125 luxury condominiums. But now that fast-paced condo sales have braked, the developer is switching gears and repositioning the dowdy building across from Lincoln Center as a 440-room upscale hotel.

More developers are finding that the speediest exit strategy from the faltering condo market is to sell their projects to hotel operators anxious to expand in New York. In some cases, developers have tried to market their projects to condo buyers first but end up choosing to cash out quickly because of sluggish sales. Others, like the Chetrit Group, are making the move even before they begin marketing. The company did not return calls for comment.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 PM

Stepford editorialists repeat the $5.6 billion lie

BoroughofStepford.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Call them the Stepford editorialists, quoting the same new, unverifiable, and outlandish Atlantic Yards statistic, undoubtedly supplied by developer Forest City Ratner: $5.6 billion in new tax revenue.

The Daily News, in a 12/10/06 editorial:
The benefits of the Atlantic Yards are manifest, among them 2,500 apartments geared for the middle and working classes, $5.6 billion in tax revenues over the next 30 years, 15,000 construction jobs, a couple of thousand permanent jobs and a great entertainment venue for Brooklyn. It's a win-win-win.

The Post, in a 12/14/06 editorial:
Imagine: a $4 billion shot in the arm for Brooklyn - bringing 22,000 new jobs over the next decade, another 5,000 permanent jobs and $5.6 billion in tax revenues over 30 years.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, in a 12/14/06 op-ed in the Courier-Life chain:
Atlantic Yards will be a huge tax revenue generator providing New York City and New York State with over $5.6 billion in much needed new tax income over the next 30 years, and creating a net positive fiscal impact of more then $1.3 billion.
It's too bad none of those editorialists noticed the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) figure of $944 million, which is drastically lower than the numbers used in the Daily News and Post, and even a good deal lower than the figure Cymbrowitz chose.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Domain bill loses ground

From last week's Crain NY Business, "The Insider"
By Erik Engquist and Anne Michaud

December 4-10, 2006

Fears of a federal bill to restrict eminent domain have receded among Bloomberg administration officials and private developers, sources say.

The Democratic takeover of Congress makes the bill "less viable," accordinng to a high-level executive at a major development firm.

The House had overwhelmingly passed the bill, which calls for cutting off federal community development block grants to states that condemn land to benefit private projects, as the city does to build affordable housing and the state may do for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: It's not as if the bill was "viable" under a Republican Congress either, with Senator Frist holding up the bill and the White House quietly hoping for its demise.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Could lost AY revenues have tripled affordable housing?

Atlantic Yards Report

Oy! Norman Oder is playing with numbers again, this time to try to answer a question posed by attorney George Locker: how much affordable housing could the incredible disappearing tax revenues pay for?

The lost city revenue is pegged at $193.2 million, in net present value.

How much does affordable housing cost? Well, the city is spending $83,200 per unit of affordable housing in its Queens West project.

Divide $193.2 million by $83,200 and you get 2322 units.
Of course things are more complicated; the amount spent on housing depends on the costs and constraints of the site, and the range of incomes of the population the housing would include.

And there's no assurance that new revenues would go into housing. (Heck, there's no assurance about the accuracy of the projected new revenues, because the ESDC's calculations ignore all sorts of subsidies and public costs.)

But those calculations are at least as plausible as the $5.6 billion lie--and certainly food for thought.


NoLandGrab: Food for thought? Let's chew on this for a moment.

Bruce Ratner contends that the historical density and enormous size of the project is necessary to offset the cost of building the so-called affordable housing.

Yet, a mere 8% shavedown of the project, between the version promoted in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Final EIS, could subsidize another 2000+ units?

Heck, why not keep the commercial space to restore the tax revenue and shavedown the luxury condos (which don't generate as much in taxes)? Theoretically, we could build more affordable housing, right?

That works for taxpayers. How about for Bruce Ratner?

Damn, we don't know the answer because the financial projections for the project have NEVER BEEN RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC, despite the liberal use of taxpayer money and eminent domain.

What's for dessert?

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

The Dolans play ball

bball.gifThe Dolans, owners of Madison Square Garden, the NY Knicks and NY Rangers, are playing ball.

Reporter Rich Calder picked this up from a local sports radio call-in show:

Madison Square Garden and Knick co-owner Jim Dolan says he isn't scared of the competition Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn arena would bring - and has no intention of trying to block it, as he did the Jets' West Side stadium.

"I'm fine with the Nets going to Brooklyn," Dolan said on WFAN radio's "Mike and the Mad Dog" show.

Dolan - whose Garden empire also includes the NHL's Rangers - said he actually backed the Nets' move to Brooklyn as a member of the NBA's advisory finance committee.

Could this be the reason why?


[Madison Square Garden COO] Steve Mills said the Rangers are looking to buy a minor league East Coast Hockey League franchise and move it to Brooklyn, presumably to play at the proposed Atlantic Yards development.


Mills revealed the Rangers are investigating the possibility of acquiring an East Coast Hockey League affiliate, which would then likely play out of the new Brooklyn Atlantic Yards rink.

NoLandGrab: Brooklyn Blue Shirts? Well, if that doesn't explain things.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Atlantic Yards a losing bet

The Brooklyn Papers

This week's BP editorial is troubled by the missing $435 million from the Atlantic Yards project proposal revenue projections:

If there was any doubt that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development would be a bad investment of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, it was wiped away this week by new revelations that the project will generate far less tax revenue than promised just five months ago.

As The Brooklyn Papers reports this week, buried — not announced, but buried! — in a 2,000-page state document is the news that Ratner’s much-touted “economic engine for Downtown Brooklyn” is now projected to create $944 million in city and state tax revenues over the next 30 years.

Do the math: That means that the city and state — whose annual budgets are tens of billions of dollars — will see just $15 million a year in new revenues from Atlantic Yards.

And, they aren't buying Bruce Ratner's excuse:

Ratner has trimmed the commercial component of his project — which means fewer new jobs and, therefore, less tax revenue — but that was his plan all along. From Metrotech to Atlantic Center to Atlantic Terminal, Ratner has a track record of promising lots of new office jobs and then not delivering. His three office complexes are filled with public, taxpayer-funded offices — the ESDC itself is housed in Atlantic Center! — guaranteeing Ratner’s profit.

Bruce Ratner’s goal all along has been to float fantasy revenue projections so that politicians and the public would be wowed. But his shock and awe campaign has failed.


Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

State to holdouts: What’s yours is ours

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

More than 30 property owners within the footprint of the developer’s Atlantic Yards project were told this week that state officials had commenced eminent domain proceedings — beginning the condemnation of private property for the $4-billion residential, office and arena project before it even wins final approval.
One could-be-evictee said the notice hadn’t yet reached him, but the news had.

“I saw my property [on the list],” said Henry Weinstein, who owns a building on Pacific Street and on one Carlton Avenue.

Weinstein, who is planning his own lawsuit, copped a line from actor and gun owner Charlton Heston: “If Mr. Ratner wants my deeds, he will have to pry them from my cold dead fingers,” he said.


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Ratner’s $500M slip is showing

Mega-project’s public benefit drops again

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

The Atlantic Yards project approved last week by state officials would generate almost $500 million less in tax revenues than its developer and its Albany boosters promised just five months ago.

Now the Empire State Development Corporation says that the 16-skyscraper residential and arena mega-development would generate $944 million in tax money over 30 years — $456 million, or one-third, less than the ESDC said this summer when a slightly larger version of Atlantic Yards was going through the public approval process.

At that time, the city and state each coughed up an initial $100 million for infrastructure improvements around the site, largely on the promise that this small investment would later fill public coffers with Atlantic Yards tax revenues. The $200 million is just a small part of a multi-billion-dollar public subsidy of the project in the form of tax abatements, low-interest loans and reduced price for Ratner to acquire publicly and privately owned land in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint.

Originally, Ratner claimed the project would generate $6 billion in tax revenues.

The Papers quotes Marty Markowitz, who is still bullish on the project.

“As the hub of an enhanced and vibrant Downtown Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards will be both a tax generator and magnet for investment,” the Beep said in a statement. “Even with the height reductions that I and others called for, which preserve every unit of affordable housing pledged, we’re looking at a billion dollars in new tax revenues for Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Sure we're being nitpickey, but we weren't aware that Brooklyn collects tax revenue, but Marty probably knows better.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Atlantic Yards moves forward

Date with George, Joe and Shelly awaits

The Brooklyn Papers

Gersh Kuntzman's wrap-up of the week's events includes the Empire State Development Corporation vote to approve the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, the pending final approval of the Public Authorities Control Board and the eminent domain lawsuits:

Yards opponents have called on the PACB to delay its vote until after Eliot Spitzer takes over as governor so that he can put his stamp on a project that would begin construction during his administration — and would cause significant impacts on traffic, transit and other infrastructure that the new governor would have to deal with in years to come.

Others are calling for the PACB to delay the vote until a federal judge rules on an existing lawsuit over the state’s use of its power to condemn privately owned buildings in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint and hand them over to Ratner.

The developer owns almost 90 percent of the land on which he hopes to build his complex, but needs the state to condemn additional buildings.

Nearly a dozen landowners in the footprint filed suit in October, arguing that the state’s use of eminent domain would violate the law because Ratner was selected as the developer of the state-owned Vanderbilt rail yards in a sham public-approval process rather than on the merits of his proposal.

Many legal experts said the suit is a longshot.


NoLandGrab: We need to address the federal eminent domain lawsuit because The Brooklyn Papers doesn't quite get it right. The crux of the legal argument is that "Ratner was selected as the developer" of the entire project (including the railyards) "in a sham public-approval process rather than" part of a city-planning process.

It is better explained in a recent article in New York Law Journal:

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

"The determination that a rational-basis standard of review is appropriate does not, however, alter the fact that transfers intended to confer benefits on particular, favored private entities, and with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, are forbidden by the Public Use Clause," Justice Kennedy wrote.
"[The recent Supreme Court eminent domain ruling, Kelo v. New London,] left open the possibility that a pure one-to-one transfer, or a condemnation that was made not according to the proper planning procedures, would not pass constitutional muster," Ms. Berliner said. "What the plaintiffs in this case have done is take the Kelo decision and challenge this condemnation under the possible constitutional violations left under Kelo. They are not asking the court to reverse Kelo."

It has nothing to do with "the merits" of Ratner's proposal; instead, the suit argues that Ratner's proposal and the use of eminent domain were developer-driven and assured by his political influence, as opposed to being one plan selected as part of a city planning process.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

December 14, 2006

Against Gehry, Against Leviathan (part 1)

Picketing Henry Ford

Many critics who have been supporters of Frank Gehry's work are singing another tune about Atlantic Yards. Blogger Stuart Schrader examines one critic who is standing by his man:

The votes are in, and the loser is…Frank Gehry. Everywhere I look lately, Gehry is on the receiving end of a critical hurtin’. Reliable and even-keeled critics, previous fans of his work, like Paul Goldberger and Martin Filler, have voiced skepticism about the Atlantic Yards (AY) project. Filler’s criticism impressed me because his past enthusiasm for Gehry struck me as unwarranted and unpersuasive. But his recent critique—nay, excoriation—of the AY project should have Gehry crying “Uncle!” Also, I am grateful to Filler for informing us of the quid pro quo between Gehry and Ratner after The New York Times Company and Ratner hired Renzo Piano to design the new Times tower. With the completion of the ICA building, Gehry’s first work in Manhattan, we may be seeing more negative reception, such as James Gardner’s in that progressive rag The New York Sun. At this point, other than Nicolai Ouroussoff of The New York Times (whose tune, I expect, will change), Jonathan Liu, writing for N+1, seems to be the only serious critic left in the ignominious position of defending Gehry. This two-part post will take a closer look at Liu’s argument with the intent of elucidating the larger theme of the way the Atlantic Yards project and Gehry’s architecture fits into our present neoliberal, hypercapitalist society of the spectacle. I single out Liu not because I have some beef with him—I’ve never actually read him before—but because his criticism articulates quite well the beliefs of other supporters of the AY project.


Posted by lumi at 10:20 PM

Atlantic Yards: The Time Has Come

The Courier-Life Publications debates the merits of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project "up, down and sideways" and concludes, "So the time has come to embrace the project, welcome it, even cheer it on."

The only thing is the paper's editorial board never gets around to debating the problems with the project.


NoLandGrab: Whaddya expect from a paper whose veteran reporter hugs Bruce Ratner in public?

Posted by lumi at 10:17 PM

Two for One: Another Lawsuit Tried On Ratner

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder explains the second eminent domain lawsuit, filed on behalf of rent-stabilized tenants in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, just after the Empire State Development Corporation voted to approve the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:52 PM

Still Some Yards Work To Do

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

If you are losing track or cheated on your Atlantic Yards-news diet, this article serves up a digest of the past week's news.

Read about: * Hakeem Jeffries taking a stand, * groups calling for delay in final approval, at least until Governor-elect Spitzer takes office, * problems with the Environmental Impact Statement, * approval of the Environmental Impact Statement, * what a delay might accomplish, * Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano's on-air evasions, * ESDC board members learning the difference between Pacific St. and Dean St. before voting (phew!), * the community's traffic experts getting jerked around by the ESDC, * how long the project will really take, * when a large-scale terrorist attack isn't a wost-case scenario, * if Bruce is really into the Nets for the long haul, and * really big and animated LED billboards.


Posted by lumi at 9:36 PM

Guest Op-Ed: Atlantic Yards Is a Net Gain For Everyone In Brooklyn

Courier-Life Publications

Cymbrowitz.jpgThe Atlantic Yards project is sounding better every day.

According to this Op-Ed piece by NY State Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (45th AD), Atlantic Yards will now provide:

There's more, but you have to read it to believe it because if it's in the Courier-Life publications, it must be true.


Posted by lumi at 7:24 PM

One Small Step For Stopping Over-Development

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Phil Guie

The New York Community Council has a lot of work ahead, and not much time to get it done.

As such, the group spent its inaugural session outlining activities for the next few months, during which time they intend to mobilize against perceived over-the-top development.

While most attendees at last Wednesday's meeting on East 4th Street in Cooper Square represented Manhattan's Lower East Side, a few Brooklynites turned up to show outer-borough solidarity. They included Lucy Koteen and Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which is currently fighting the Atlantic Yards Project in the downtown area, and of course, Williamsburg resident Philip DePaolo, who started the community council.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 PM

A billion here, a billion there

Field of Schemes picks on today's Post editorial:

Rupert Murdoch's monkeys are at it again.

Atlantic Yards Report theorizes that the $5.6 billion figure just adds up future tax receipts instead of figuring their present value - by my calculations, though, even the present value of $5.6 billion spread over 30 years would be at least $2.6 billion. More likely is that someone in the Post editorial offices has been sampling the funny meatballs.

FOS also reports that the Empire State Development Corporation "hopes to have a new [& improved] memo available soon that will spell out the revised costs and benefits" of the Atlantic Yards proposal.


Posted by lumi at 6:59 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Less Profitable Than Expected

WNYC News Radio

In a new report, the Empire State Development Corporation says the project will generate $944 million in sales and income taxes, after city and state subsidies are factored out. That's about a third less revenue than was initially estimated. The change came after an 8% cut in the size of the project.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 PM

Will Silver Kill Atlantic Yards?

The Wonkster

Though the Gotham Gazette's public policy blog probably knows that the glowing assesment in today's Post Editorial barely passes muster, they went ahead and linked to the piece without comment.

Naturally, the comment section was Oderized by 12:17PM.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 PM

Help Us Save Brownstone Brooklyn, NY

NationTrust.jpgThe National Trust for Historic Preservation sent out this email message to their New York membership today:

Take Action by Tuesday, December 19! Read below.

Dear New Yorker,

Some of America's most historic, beautiful neighborhoods are in Brooklyn, New York. Neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Park Slope are some of the largest contiguous historic districts in the world, with value that transcends the bounds of the borough, the city, or the state. These neighborhoods are emblems of America's rich 19th century culture, and they remain stunningly beautiful places to live and visit today.

THE THREAT: Unfortunately, a radically out-of-scale development known as Atlantic Yards could soon rise in the middle of brownstone Brooklyn. While we agree that the site itself could be ideal for development, the scale and design of this project shows almost no awareness or respect for the historic urban fabric that surrounds it. If it is built as proposed, sixteen major buildings and a sports arena would overwhelm the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods. The largest building would be fifteen times the size of the average brownstone house, and one hundred feet taller than the tallest building in Brooklyn.

The National Trust believes that the current vision for Atlantic Yards gravely threatens the historic and visual character of one of America's premiere historic urban areas. The project will be decided soon by state officials, and we are calling on New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer to delay approving the project until it has been scaled back and redesigned.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: We urge you to join us in this cause. The National Trust is a member of a coalition of groups called "Brooklyn Speaks," pressing for a plan that shows respect to Brooklyn's historic neighborhoods. At this critical time, every voice matters, so please consider taking a moment to sign onto the letter opposing the project, available at http://www.brooklynspeaks.net. You can also view a slideshow about the project on the site. The vote on this matter could happen as soon as Wednesday, December 20, so please take action by Tuesday, December 19th.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to protect America's historic treasures.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 PM

BrooklynSpeaks Clearly?

Brooklyn Downtown Star, Letter to the Editor

Boerum Hill Association Atlantic Yards Task Force Chairperson Jo Anne Simon sent a letter to the editor to protest Norman Oder's conclusion that "BrooklynSpeaks has not challenged the fundamental process behind the project."

Simon writes:

Please visit the website. The sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks.net clearly state that any development at the site must respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods and involve the public in a meaningful way both as to redesign and the establishment of local representation to manage future decision-making and an ongoing public process for the site.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner is the developer of the project because of a sham MTA bidding process and backroom deals. One must ask if BrooklynSpeaks can effectively question the "process" while simultaneously trying to work with Ratner, the beneficiary of the sham process, in order to create a better project?

Posted by lumi at 6:22 PM

Letter to Markowitz - 9/26/05

MarionSlope-Observer came to our notice when she posted to Norman Oder's blog.

She's posted one item on her own blog, a letter to Marty Markowtiz concerning the scale of Atlantic Yards, a project she doesn't reject outright:

In the early 1970's I was H.D.A.'s (H.P.D.'s predecessor agency) Director at the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Project. I am obviously well versed in the history of this area and in fact live nearby in Park Slope. I was happy to read in the "Brooklyn Papers" your desire to downsize the density at the Ratner project.

I want to remind you of the height of some nearby residential buildings which were constructed in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Project on the northern side of Atlantic Avenue. At Carlton Avenue in 1968 the New York City Housing Authority constructed a single building 30 stories in height. It towers over the neighborhood and is an eyesore to any independent observer. In the early 1970's two Mitchel-Lamas were constructed: one at South Portland Ave. (between Atlantic and Hanson Pl.) of 15 stories and one at Fulton St. near Carlton Ave. of 17 stories. These middle income buildings are more contextual to the lower height brownstone neighborhood to the north.

If you look at the difference in height of these two separate types of projects one can see which fits better to the surrounding neighborhood. Accordingly, I think you can come to the same conclusion that I've made that a height of 17 stories is about the maximum that would fit into the neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 PM

Atlantic Yards Bennies Drop by $456 Million

The Real Estate Observer

Reporter Matthew Schuerman links Norman Oder's article and comes up with a great headline:

Atlantic Yards chronicler Norman Oder notices that the state is now saying that the project will generate $456 million less in tax revenue--or almost one-third less--than it previously estimated. And the project has not been scaled down anywhere near that much.


Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

Times follows up on ESDC revenue revision; Post editorial page ignores it

Atlantic Yards Report

Dailies01-12-14.jpgIn an article headlined Agency Cuts Atlantic Yards Revenue Estimate the Times followed up on the Empire State Development Corporation's revenue cut, a story broken yesterday on this blog.
In the online coverage, but not the print edition (page B4), the Times added some skepticism from an outside observer.

Then Norman Oder compares editions and notes that the late edition coverage of the drop in tax revenue for the Atlantic Yards project was pared down, while the coverage of the scandal over the attempted extortion of Yoko Ono got more print. Oder finds it "brutally weird," but we're pretty sure that Oder isn't really in the Times's target demographic.

Norman Oder then continues to analyze the coverage by the Post and Post editorial board.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Agency Cuts Atlantic Yards Revenue Estimate

The NY Times
By Nick Confessore

The Times ran a detailed article on the projected drop in Atlantic Yards tax revenue in the early and online editions of the paper:

According to revised estimates prepared by the Empire State Development Corporation, which is sponsoring the $4 billion residential, commercial and arena project, it would generate $944 million in new revenue aside from what that the city and state have pledged in subsidies.

That represents a drop of one-third, or nearly half a billion dollars, from the estimate the development agency released in July, which put new tax revenues at $1.4 billion. Under current plans, taxpayers would provide $453.5 million for the project, including a direct contribution of $200 million from the city and state, sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions, and bond financing.
The new estimate was included in a statement and other documents issued by the development agency on Friday, but the difference went unremarked in both the brief board meeting that preceded the approval vote and the news conference that Charles A. Gargano, the agency’s chairman, held shortly afterward. ...
But it was unclear how a loss of less than 300,000 square feet of office space could account for about a half a billion dollars less in tax revenue, especially considering the project's overall size.

"The cutback on the commercial side is going to have an effect, because that is where the revenue is," said Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the city's Independent Budget Office. Mr. Turetsky said that the office had not examined the studies behind the estimates, but that "on its face, it seems like a large revenue falloff given the amount of commercial space being cut back." The development corporation said it planned to release a memo within a few days to explain its estimates.


Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

ESDC "carefully considered" post-FEIS comments, but won't release them (or responses)

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's the next installment in the cat-and-mouse game in which the Empire State Development Corporation claims that they will release documents, but only if you make them:

Though the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) invited public comment on the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), it won't immediately make public those nine letters nor the agency's responses, which essentially dismissed the concerns expressed.

Rather, in a contradiction of ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano's comments on Friday, the agency directed me to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, which would delay the process until after Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) vote scheduled for December 20. Gargano, when asked at a press conference whether the agency could supply the documents to me, had said "of course."

By contrast, the ESDC in the FEIS made public a huge volume of comments and responses. Commented attorney Jeff Baker, who represents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and is a veteran of state environmental reviews, "Of course they should be public. There is no legal requirement for formal publication of the comments and responses, like the comments on the Draft EIS published in the FEIS. However, they are public records and must be made public."


Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Shell Game or House of Cards, It's Atlantic Yards!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (www.dddb.net) makes an interesting point:

Massively reduced tax revenue projections, massively reduced job projections and massively reduced "affordable" housing units: the only thing about "Atlantic Yards" that has not shrunk is its extreme density and massive scale.


Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Atlantic Yards May Bring Less Money Than Expected


New figures show the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn might not generate as much tax money as was first expected.

The Empire State Development Corporation now said the project will generate $944 million in sales and income taxes, after city and state subsidies are factored out. That's about a third less revenue than was initially estimated.

The change came after an 8-percent cut in the size of the project.

The development agency is still sponsoring the $4 billion project and approved it last week. The plan calls for more than $450 million in tax money.


NoLandGrab: The "$450 million in tax money," represents what we know. But Donald Rumsfeld will tell you that there are known unknowns (like affordable housing subsidies) and unknown unknowns (as in hidden infrastructure costs), which could drive the taxpayer tab up until there is hardly any financial benefit for the public.

It is unknown if the unknowns will be disclosed before the project is approved.

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Repeat: "ON AND AROUND a railyard in PROSPECT HEIGHTS"

AP-WCBS.gifYou have to give it up to Bruce Ratner, whose spin machine will keep dishing it out as long as someone is listening.

Accompanying the Associated Press report posted on WCBS.com was this description of the project in the sidebar:

The project, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, would rise above a downtown Brooklyn railyard.

The sidebar should read:

The project... would rise "on and around" a "Prospect Heights" railyard.

There's no way to scrub the trail left by the Ratner spin cycle, but maybe new reporters could check the facts, instead of relying upon the press release from a developer/state agency that will do or say anything to get final approval for Atlantic Yards.

No sense in blaming Bruce Ratner, he seems to need all the help he can get to slip this boondoggle through the back door.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

City in Talks on Future of Big Site For Building in Downtown Brooklyn

NY Sun
By David Lombino

An article about a $500 million mixed-use project being planned for Downtown Brooklyn (the real Downtown Brooklyn, not "Prospect Heights") references changes in the real estate market and Atlantic Yards:

About two years ago, the Bloomberg administration passed an ambitious rezoning plan for downtown Brooklyn, currently the third largest commercial district in the city, that envisioned as much as 5.4 million square feet of new commercial space and about 1,000 new units of housing, mostly along Livingston Street. While the market for new commercial buildings is red hot in Midtown Manhattan, no private developer has ventured into downtown Brooklyn since the rezoning to build a large office building.

Nearby, at the planned $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, developer Forest City Ratner drastically cut back on plans to build office space, and increased the number of planned apartments.


Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM


The NY Post published a hyperbolic, error-filled, name-calling editorial this morning asking the questions:

Will Silver hold a gun to the baby's head to get whatever it is he wants?

Will Atlantic Yards go down in defeat - for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the plan?

The editorial touts that the project is, "bringing 22,000(?) new(?) jobs over the next decade, another 5,000 permanent jobs and $5.6 billion(?) in tax revenues over 30 years."

NoLandGrab: If that were true, it would be some sort of a miracle — the jobs figures are "job years," in otherwords, if you still have your job next year that will be, like, two jobs (no joke). And those permanent jobs figures? They're not only historically inflated, but are based solely upon the project's square footage.

The Post goes on to declare, "There's no legitimate reason the board should not give the plan its OK."


NLG: We AREN'T going to say that the NY Post editorial is PURPOSEFULLY printing overinflated figures and overlooking many obvious problems that even the developer admits will be a challenge. That wouldn't be polite.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM


NY Post
By Rich Calder

The NBA arena and housing development planned for Brooklyn won't bring in anywhere near the tax dollars the state and developers had projected, a review of project documents reveals.

The Empire State Development Corp. now anticipates the nearly $4 billion Atlantic Yards project will generate $944 million in net tax revenues over the project's first 30 years.

That's a nearly one-third decline from its $1.4 billion July estimate. ...
Officials with the development company yesterday said the project is still financially sound.

They attributed the revenue loss to Ratner scaling back the development size by 8 percent at the request of the City Planning Commission.


NoLandGrab: Just because someone makes an assertion doesn't mean that it is true and that a newspaper has to print it along with real facts, right?

The 8% cutback was one of a handful of options compiled by the developer and presented to the City Planning Department back in January, 2006. Any assertion that the City Planning Department requested the cutback is just spin on the part of the State and developer Forest City Ratner.

For more info on the carefully choreographed "scaleback," check out the exclusive article from Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Cut 270,000 square feet of office space, lose $456 million?

Atlantic Yards Report

I asked the Empire State Development Corporation today for an explanation of the drastically revised fiscal impact for the Atlantic Yards project.

(Why didn't I ask yesterday? Because I didn't discover the change until the evening, and I wanted to get the numbers out there for discussion.)

I asked if there were a memo that explained it, like the one issued in October, but got this response, in full:

The project has been scaled down by 8 percent for both residential and commercial space. The commercial reduction affects tax revenues more than residential reductions because commercial generates more direct jobs. We estimate that for every 300 sq ft. in commercial space there is 1 direct job.*

The math that ensues is kinda confusing. Bascially, Oder explains that the NYC job-figure loss makes some sense, but how they extrapolate all that to revenue doesn't.


Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Nets arena to net less in taxes?

Field of Schemes
By Neil deMause

The mystery behind the incredible shrinking tax-revenue estimate got airplay on Field of Schemes yesterday, as Neil deMause tried to track down some answers:

More today on the Brooklyn Nets economic impact mystery from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report: It seems that in the revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan issued last Friday by the state-run Empire State Development corporation, it revised downwards the projected tax revenues from $1.9 billion to $1.4 billion, while also reducing the projected public cost from $545 million to $453 million. (Neither the new or old figures include costs of schools, sanitation, or other services for the several thousand new residents of the apartment towers that would accompany the Nets arena.)


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

Brodsky Badgers Gargano--One Last Time

gargano-REO-sm.jpgThe Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

One of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's favorite targets for cross-examination (maybe the favorite), is Charles Gargano, whom he is hauling before an Assembly hearing on Monday afternoon, less than two weeks before the Empire State Development Corporation chairman is supposed to step down.

The topic: the sale of the New York State office condominium at 633 Third Avenue, which Brodsky calls in a press release "at best puzzling and at worst illegal insofar as our understanding of the fact that the required appraisal of the property was not conducted."
Nothing mentioned in the announcement about Monday's hearing regarding Atlantic Yards, folks, but Javits, Moynihan and the Empire Zone program are on the table.


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is shaping up to be one of the biggest boondoggles in recent history. With each incredible conclusion in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement and the wrap-up of the lightning-fast public comment period, the ESDC is crying out, "REFORM ME!"

Can a politician focused on reform of NY State's public authorities be serious if they overlook Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

December 13, 2006

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: The Missing Half-Billion Dollars

ESDC Cuts Atlantic Yards Revenue Projections by One-Third
Atlantic Yards Financial House of Cards Continues to Crumble, Emphasizing Need for PACB to Postpone Its Vote

NEW YORK, NY-- The Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) new net tax revenue projections for the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards development proposal have been reduced since July from $1.4 billion to $944 million--a nearly one-third decrease, according to ESDC documents examined by journalist Norman Oder in his Atlantic Yards Report blog.

This nearly one-third decline in new net tax revenue goes unexplained in the modified General Project Plan approved in fifteen minutes by four members of the ESDC board and its Chairman Gargano on December 8th. The new revenue number is still drastically inflated as the ESDC does not include numerous public costs and subsidies such as: public utility relocation, “extraordinary infrastructure costs,” housing subsidies, schools, sanitation, emergency services, hospital, police, fire, and costs from increased traffic.

When those public costs are accounted for, which the ESDC has refused to do, the $4 billion development plan might not provide any new net tax revenue.

“This new information shows that the Empire State Development Corporation is incapable of being a transparent, honest broker and shines a glaring spotlight on the fact that the Atlantic Yards plan is a financial house of cards. There has never been any reason to believe the ESDC’s Atlantic Yards financial projections,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Speaker Silver, Majority Leader Bruno, Governor Pataki, and Comptroller Hevesi cannot possibly allow a PACB vote on Atlantic Yards next week when the financials on the project are so precarious and lacking in reality. With this bombshell half-billion tax revenue cut one wonders: Why should the public and elected officials trust anything that comes out of ESDC headquarters regarding Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards?”

Oder also uncovers other drastic cuts in job projections, leading to more doubt about the ESDC’s and Forest City Ratner’s claimed public benefits.

In his article, “The missing half-billion: ESDC cuts projected AY tax revenue by nearly one-third,” Oder writes:

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) didn't shine a light on it, but nearly half a billion dollars in projected public revenues just vanished.

The revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued last Friday by the ESDC contains one very significant change from the document released in July. Projected net new tax revenues have plummeted by $456 million. That's almost a one-third decline from the $1.4 billion figure announced five months ago.

That's much more than a rounding error. And it vastly outpaces other changes regarding Atlantic Yards. After all, since July, the project's cost went down 5% (from $4.2 billion to $4 billion), and its size declined 8% (from 8.659 million square feet to 7.961 million sf).

So how could the revenues drop so much? The change calls into question the ESDC's methods, and its candor, since no supporting study has been released…

The full article can be found here: www.atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/12/missing-half-billion-esdc-cuts.html.


In other Atlantic Yards financial news:
Still unknown is how much the triple-tax-free arena bond debt service will be, how much the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) will be, and how much the entire housing subsidy package will be, yet the project still is on the agenda for the December 20th Public Authorities Control Board meeting.


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


Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

The missing half-billion: ESDC cuts projected AY tax revenue by nearly one-third

taxrevenue-GPP.jpgAtlantic Yards Report tries to figure out the mystery behind the incredible shrinking Atlantic Yards tax revenue figure:

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) didn't shine a light on it, but nearly half a billion dollars in projected public revenues just vanished.

The revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued last Friday by the ESDC contains one very significant change from the document released in July. Projected net new tax revenues have plummeted by $456 million. That's almost a one-third decline from the $1.4 billion figure announced five months ago.

That's much more than a rounding error. And it vastly outpaces other changes regarding Atlantic Yards. After all, since July, the project's cost went down 5% (from $4.2 billion to $4 billion), and its size declined 8% (from 8.659 million square feet to 7.961 million sf).

So how could the revenues drop so much? The change calls into question the ESDC's methods, and its candor, since no supporting study has been released.

It may be worse

Even as the agency has modified its revenue projections to $944.2 million over 30 years, it has yet to acknowledge the full impact of subsidies and public costs that could cut deeply into the overall net revenue.

In other words, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer costs--for affordable housing, public safety, schools, and sanitation--that further offset the net revenue. And those costs have not been fully disclosed, nor factored into the ESDC's analysis.


Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Salvo Fired in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Battle

The NY Sun

The state of New York has issued what lawyers call the legal maneuver required to begin condemnation of private property inside the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

In a letter dated December 8, the Empire State Development Corporation sent a letter to property owners inside the 22-acre project footprint stating that based on its findings, the state had determined it should exercise its power of condemnation to clear the way for developer Forest City Ratner’s $4.2 billion plan to construct an arena and 16 towers mainly for residential use.The letter stated the project footprint has been a “center of blight and decay,” and that “the Atlantic Yards Project will transform this blighted area into a vibrant, mixed use development.”

A well-known eminent domain lawyer isn't feeling great about property owner's chances:

A lawyer specializing in eminent domain, Michael Rikon, said last night the state’s letter represented the “opening salvo” and the “only salvo” in the state’s move to condemn. He said that under the existing laws, “It is virtually impossible in New York State to stop a condemnation.”


NoLandGrab: Rikon is right that a "judicial review of Determination of Findings" is not the way to stop an eminent domain condemnation in the State of NY, since NY State's definition of blight could potentially include most of NYC. That's why two separate law suits are probing other avenues for legal action, such as a constitutional challege and a technical challenge based on rent-stabilization laws.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM


NY Post
By Rich Calder

Brooklyn residents and business owners in danger of having their properties demolished to make way for Bruce Ratner's nearly $4 billion Atlantic Yards project were served with papers yesterday saying they have a Jan. 11 deadline to mount a legal challenge.

Empire State Development Corp. employees went door to door handing out the 26-page documents even through the controversial project - including a new arena for the Nets - has yet to receive final approval from the Public Authorities Control Board. That agency is to decide the project's fate next Wednesday.

About 60 households and 13 businesses are being targeted for eminent-domain seizure.

The ESDC takes credit for being nice, even though preliminary notice is the freakin' law:

The corporation said "we believe it's better to take these steps now - in advance of PACB approval - rather than wait until it's closer to Jan. 11 to tell tenants that they have until Jan. 11 to sue."

Opponents - some of whom are suing the state to block the use of eminent domain - have begun lobbying the PACB to reject the plan, or at least hold off on a vote until Eliot Spitzer replaces George Pataki as governor in January.

Spitzer has said he favors Atlantic Yards, but has questions about its financing.


NoLandGrab: Speaking about financing, Brooklynites are still wondering when a full accounting of public funding will be released. Before or after project approval?

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Massive Atlantic Yards development added to agenda


An apparent late addition to the negotiating table for the Legislature's special session is the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

The 4 (b) billion dollar project would reshape Brooklyn with a basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments.


Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

BREAKING: 70 Lefferts Place Landmarked!


70LeffertsPl.jpgLPC unanimously approved designating 70 Lefferts Place a NYC individual landmark today. The developer even said, at the public hearing, that he was willing to work within the existing structure to develop condominiums in an adaptive reuse manner.


NoLandGrab: Residents of Clinton Hill have been holding their breath over this one. Many neighborhood activists have been doing double time, working on saving 70 Lefferts Place while trying to save their neighborhood from the impact of Atlantic Yards overdevelopment.

Several of their questions and concerns overlap with the Atlantic Yards fight: * Will the developer listen to the community? * What about adaptive reuse of a historic building? * Can the local elected officials broker a deal satisfactory to all? * Can potential landmarks be saved from the latest wave of outer-borough development?

Congratulations to all involved for their sympathy for their neighborhood and their hard work on this issue.

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

A city plan with room to grow

The Daily News
By columnist Michael Goodwin

Bloomberg starts from the premise that growth is good, and there is no denying the benefits. Growth is why the city has an unemployment rate of 4.1%, the lowest on record. The fact that a job is the best social policy helps explain why the crime rate has stayed low even as the population grows. New York has added more than a million people in 30 years, yet has lower crime than it did in the 1970s.

Yet unchecked growth ruins the quality of life for everyone, and Bloomberg's team rarely says no to any new project. His support for a West Side football stadium never made sense in terms of the streets and the neighborhood that would be swamped. And he has blithely ignored concerns about the size of the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, essentially arguing that bigger is always better. Better for whom?


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

NYS moves to seize arena land

Field of Schemes updates readers on the latest Atlantic Yards news:

New York's state Empire State Development Corporation has issued condemnation letters to property owners on the site of Bruce Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Nets arena, the first step in seizing the buildings by eminent domain. (Lame duck ESDC chair Charles Gargano said last week that no eminent domain proceedings were imminent - whoopsie!) The dispute will now head to court - well, actually, it already is in court.

The big question on everyone's minds, meanwhile, is: Will state assembly leader Sheldon Silver ride to the rescue and delay next week's vote of the Public Authorities Control Board on Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, thus stalling things until new governor Eliot Spitzer, who has generally backed the plan but expressed qualms about the undemocratic process, takes office next month?


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Pataki Agrees to Let Spitzer Fill Some Vacant Posts

The NY Times By Danny Hakim and Michael Cooper

Gov. George E. Pataki has agreed not to fill some key vacancies at the state’s public authorities, to address Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer’s concerns that his hands would be tied for years by the outgoing governor’s appointments, officials said yesterday.

The deal came as lawmakers returned to Albany for a special legislative session today and a last round of Pataki-era deal making. The governor spoke to the Senate and Assembly leaders in separate telephone conversations yesterday, but the sides continue to negotiate over several issues, including a legislative pay raise, Mr. Pataki’s proposal to establish procedures for civil confinement of sex offenders after their prison terms end, and the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Atlantic Yards Google Map


GoogleMap-Gridskipper.jpgOnNYTurf's Google Map of the Atlantic Yards footprint is still getting play in the blogosphere, this time from an urban travelguide:

Development mogul Bruce Ratner's plan to grab a chunk of Brooklyn for conversion into a sports complex and residential/commercial mixed-use zone has drawn quite a bit of flack. This Atlantic Yards Google Map, created by onNYTurf, has a definite anti-Ratner agenda. But regardless of your opinion on the project, the map provides by far the best and most comprehensive way I've yet seen to visualize exactly what the Atlantic Yards is supposed to look like, both on a map level and from street level.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Fair Market Rent, 2006

This is from an email that is making the rounds on the anti-Atlantic Yards party line (we have several copies so please stop sending it to us). Since it makes a good point about the affordability of "low-cost" housing here in Brooklyn, we thought that we'd put it up to give others a chance at reading it. The author is Brooklyn activist Philip DePaolo.

williamsburg-2edge.jpgA 1,300-unit apartment complex "The Edge," In Williamsburg Brooklyn which will span over one million square feet and feature huge out of scale towers. Rents for the low-budget units have been set at $1,100 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. This is not affordable housing, but basically fair market rent apartments. Brooklyn FMR is $1,189mo. "Brooklyn Community Board1 has an average AMI of $30,000 in what was a traditionally working class neighborhood. Who are these apartments aimed at? A family with a $30,000 a year budget can't touch these apartments, or a huge chunk of their income would go towards paying the rent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the average yearly salary in Brooklyn hovered just above $35,000 per year. And according to this report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition , the average rent in Brooklyn was $1,189 for a two-bedroom apartment. The 2006 Average Renter Income in Brooklyn was $31,135Yr . The Annual Income Needed to Afford Fair Market Rent is 47,560 for a two Bedroom Apt or $22.87hr Housing wage. The average renter wage per hour in Brooklyn is $13.56.

Look at the numbers and then look at what the city is pitching as “Affordable Housing”

The link [to the National Low Income Housing Coalition] will allow you to look up any county in NYC.

NoLandGrab: Critics of Atlantic Yards make a similar point. Project proponents have since retreated from calling the housing plan "affordable" and have repackaged it as "low- and middle-income housing," though it is still weighted towards the upper-income tiers.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

December 12, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere15.jpgMixed Use Development, Mixed use grows in Brooklyn

Multi-Housing News is reporting a fascinating controversy over a huge proposed mixed-use development in Brooklyn. This facility would serve as the new home of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, bringing the NBA team back to New York City. Here is the "breaking news" report from Multi-Housing News.

Note that the residents of existing rent-stabilized apartments have filed a lawsuit against construction of the projects. Mixed use has its opponents, and its supporters must be aware that community opposition can be a serious obstacle to this type of development.

Cultural blah blah.com, Controversy...New York...nah...that NEVER happens...

Yet another architectural project is surrounded by controversy. This time its the Atlantic Yards Project and Frank Gehry. Articles yesterday and today in AMNY and the Village Voice discuss how the community is now looking to Assemblyman Sheldon Silver to help delay the project until New York's new Governor, Eliot Spitzer, takes office. Silver is the one who was able to put an ax to the West Side Stadium last year and delay the building of the Moynihan Station. Gehry and co have a hard road ahead of them...

The Real Estate Observer, Pratt Center Wants Its CBA

A report this month by the Pratt Center for Community Development says "workforce linkages"--which seems to be another name for community benefits agreements--work, and "have not, as some have warned, driven land developers away or discouraged property investment."

No mention made of the Atlantic Yards or Bronx Terminal Market community benefits agreements, however.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Christmas List For Atlantic Yards

Most of all, hoping New York's #1 corporate welfare queen will click his ruby shoes and flit back to Kansas- err Cleveland....

alien & sedition, Profiles in Courage: Pataki Bravely Says Sex Offenders Bad, NY State Leg. Bravely Raises Own Pay

But how do you get such a craptacular piece of legislation through the Legislature? You trade it (oh, and that little Atlantic Yards boondoggle) for a pay raise. Never mind that the New York State Legislature is already the third-highest paid, but the most dysfunctional one in the nation. It's Christmas time, and Christmas means giving, and the gifts you give yourself are always the best of all.

OnNYTurf, Pataki and Albany Lawmakers Play Secret Santa

Albany lawmakers want a raise for Christmas. Pataki wants a pet projects for his buddies approved. So Pataki has proposed pocket stuffers for all.

Rational Review, NY: Nets get key approval for land theft
The headline of the Libertarian blog says it all. The post quotes a NY Daily News article from 12/09/06.

MySpace: DDDB, House & Garden Architecture Critic bulldozes Gehry’s “Atlantic Yards” design

In an article in the January 2007 issue of House & Garden, Martin Filler, the magazine..s long-standing architectural critic, takes Frank Gehry to task over the proposed ..Atlantic Yards.. development. ...
For those who would dismiss Mr. Filler as just another Gehry-basher, or Henry Ford-protester, it should be noted that he has written glowingly of Gehry..s designs for more than 20 years, and was at one time asked by Gehry to author the Starchitect's authorized biography (Mr. Filler thinks that..s no longer such a great idea).

Daily Gotham, Ratner's Vigilantes

Bruce Ratner's security detail for his ugly Brooklyn mall apparently think they can step beyond Ratner's private property and dictate to Brooklynites on public property.
For the record, I encountered a similar overzealousness when I was petitioning ON A PUBLIC SIDEWALK near Ratner's mall.

Mole333 tells the tale of his rather more polite run in with the Ratner security service.

Brooklyn Record, Prospect Heights: Boom, Boom, Boom

New York Magazine calls it a "battleground for Brooklyn" because it is by far the nabe most affected by Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development. The threat of highrises and basketball arenas hasn't stopped small business owners from continuing to open more and more bars, restaurants and boutiques on the main drag of Vanderbilt Avenue and, increasingly, on the eastern boundary of Washington Avenue.

Left Behinds, How do you like Houston St. these days?
Reports on 15-story animated signage and how the project breaks makes wind provokes this conclusion on Atlantic Yards:

Okay, make that a cross between Times Square and the UN complex. Best. Urban Renewal project. EVAR!

The Real Deal, Ratner's last hurdle

Developer Bruce Ratner's $4.2-billion Atlantic Yards plan has just one more hurdle to clear before construction can begin. The massive project must net unanimous approval from the Public Authorities Control Board...

PSFK.com, The Aerotropolis & Monumentism

Two of the fascinating architectural trends we have featured on PSFK this year have been Aerotropolis - a city designed around an airport - and Monumentism - the rise of bold, striking buildings in our city landscape. The New York Times Magazine has picked up these ideas and published them in their Ideas for 2006 special edition.

NoLandGrab: In the case of Atlantic Yards, we prefer the term "Gigantism."

Posted by lumi at 11:28 PM

Dear Interested Party:

It's hard to imagine what it feels to receive a condemnation notice. In case you have never received one of these things, here's a copy of the cover letter of the notice (download full letter, PDF) hand delivered to property owners in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

NoLandGrab: Somehow we kind of thought that the cover letter would be a little more personal, like "Dear John Doe: So sorry, but we're gonna have to take your property," or at least "Dear Homeowner."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is serving notice to public officials who have made sly comments in the past about the use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards:

For all those elected officials (for example our Public Advocate whose spokesman said "If eminent domain is part of the project she's not supporting it.") and un-elected ones, who said eminent domain would not be used for "Atlantic Yards," your notice is below.


Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM


condemnationnoticeguy.jpgWho's there?


ESDC who?



Photo: Property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint received their condemnation notices from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) by messenger today.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 PM


We've been wondering how erroneous info was making it into articles (i.e. "22,000 new construction jobs" — Commercial Property News). The mystery has been solved.

Click here to read the Empire State Development Corporation's press release of the board's vote to approve the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement and authorization for the use of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 PM

Atlantic Yards...One Step Closer

NY1, The Call Blog

The 4.2 billion dollar Atlantic Yards project for downtown Brooklyn passed another major hurdle today when the Empire State Development Corporation approved the plan for an arena with sixteen surrounding towers.

To complete the process, a final review is still required by the state Public Authorities Control Board. Governor Pataki supports the plan, but opponents say the approval process is moving too quickly, and should wait until Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer takes office. What do you say?

Should the decision wait until the new year, or do you support this project and feel the process has been fair?

Click here to submit your comment.

Here's one anonymous-but-interesting comment from the blog posted by someone who sounds like an insider:

Something I learned during my time working with FCRC that I'd like to share. While working on the project, I was surprised that no one at FCRC, from James Stucky to Jane Marshall, could speak with any confidence, let alone, certainty, to a range of anticipated problems, which ran the actual extent of the disruption during the construction phase to the actual implication of the density.

The operative word here is "actual." What's more, while Mr. Ratner has, of late, become a developer of some consequence, he is here entirely out of his league.

Which is to say, the man is no Sam Lefrak.

Posted by lumi at 9:04 PM

Christmas Carol Adaptations Unpopular at Atlantic Terminal Mall

Vid of the Ratner Security Services got airplay on Curbed.com, where many of the commenters registered support for the guards:

"Hurray for Ratner!"

"I hope Ratner bulldozes their apartments, and they go back to Ohio and stop causing trouble."

"What's wrong with taking pictures? These protesters just seemed like they were looking for a fight..."

Another commentator noted racial overtones:

"Does anything exemplify this fight better than a bunch of white protesters trying to make fools out of working class black people who are just trying to make a living?"

[Security guards were videotaped approaching women and African-Americans in an attempt to get them to hand over anti-Atlantic Yards literature.]


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Bruce Ratner has already had one property owner thrown in jail for removing a security camera from his own property. At this point, Ratner has the entire neighborhood wired with cameras, ostensibly to keep looters out of the neighborhood, which is being systematically depopulated.

Ratner security services called the cops on another group of protesters two weeks ago, and were told that the sidewalk was public property.

Way back in July, a Ratner employee attempted to get rid of ballot-petition carriers by explaining "that Ratner owned the whole area (this was on the sidewalk along Atlantic Ave.) and that he was the 'biggest guy around.'" This conflict was ended peacefully when the employee's supervisor confirmed that it was legal for the petitioners to stand on the sidewalk.

Ratner isn't messing around. Lucky for Brooklynites he doesn't own the town... or does he?

Posted by lumi at 8:41 PM



NY Post
By Tom Topousis

SilverAtMSG-NYP.jpgSome think that State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is quite cozy with the Dolan family, who own Madison Square Garden, the NY Knicks and NY Rangers. Will Silver's being a fan of the Blueshirts, and his receiving the VIP treatment, give the Dolans special consideration with the Public Authorities Control Board?

An avid Rangers fan, Silver is a regular at home games, often sitting just seven rows behind the visiting team's bench, where he has been spotted frequently over the last several weeks by Post reporters and photographers.

Garden officials insist that Silver pays for his tickets. Even so, sources familiar with the inner workings of the Garden have said that in the last four years, Silver has been granted a VIP status that goes beyond what's afforded to most other special visitors.

The red carpet was rolled out for the powerful Manhattan Democrat as he used his vote on an obscure Albany panel last year to block construction of a competing West Side stadium opposed by the Garden's parent company, Cablevision, owned by Charles and James Dolan.

More recently, Silver cast his ballot on the Public Authority Control Board to derail a plan to build the Moynihan train station on a site being eyed by the Garden's owners for a new arena.

On Dec. 20, a Silver delegate is expected to vote on a new Brooklyn arena that would host the NBA Nets and be a potential competitor of the Garden.


Posted by lumi at 8:13 PM

Did we forget to mention that the 15-story signage is ANIMATED?

BrooklynSpeaks came up with this little animation to remind Brooklynites that Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner are proposing 15-story-high animated-and-illuminated billboards built into the facade of Miss Brooklyn (anyone begining to seriously miss Brooklyn yet?).

Posted by lumi at 8:03 PM

Dream Houses

The NY Times, Sunday Book Review By Jim Holt

By Alain de Botton
Illustrated. 280 pp. Pantheon Books. $25

A review of the perfect gift for the Brooklynite who has been spending way too much time talking about architecture during the past three years:

It is because architecture is an essentially public art that we need some shared sense of architectural value. Do we want to live amid the rationally ordered boulevards of Paris, or the complexity and contradiction of the Vegas Strip? Is less more, or a bore? Will a new museum in the form of a gigantic titanium-clad blob transform our backwater hometown into an exciting cultural capital? Can the right sort of architecture even improve our character?

These are the sort of reflections prompted by Alain de Botton’s latest book, “The Architecture of Happiness.” De Botton, a young author of briskly selling meditations on such themes as status anxiety, travel and the life-changing power of Proust, here turns his attention to architecture, pondering the question of just what are the elusive qualities that make one building beautiful and another hideous.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 PM

GL Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide, Part IV: Atlantic Yards Edition

The Gowanus Lounge

For the Atlantic Yards fanatic (pro or con) on your gift list, Gowanus Lounge has the ultimate gift guide.

What episodic collection of Brooklyn gift suggestions would be complete without a small journey down the road known as Atlantic Yards? Certainly, not ours. The thought was planted when we saw what the Lower East Side spot, Fuck Yoga, had done. So, we added a couple of thoughts, including some to try to balance out the Fuck Frank t-shirt you will find below, and that was that. (We strive for fairness in our Brooklyn Gift Guide.)

Hence, the "F*ck Frank Gehry" T-shirt is followed by the "Sketches of Frank Gehry" DVD (though we're not so sure that the starchitect comes across as anything but an "artiste" in the film).


Posted by lumi at 12:23 PM


From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site:

The Times' Sunday real estate section highlights a condo for sale (link) at $800 per square foot in the Newswalk building right smack in the middle of the BLIGHT known as the "Atlantic Yards" footprint. Looks like even the Times considers the potential project the actual blight:


...PROS: With floor-to-ceiling windows and views of treetops, church steeples and the Statue of Liberty, this apartment has a fully updated kitchen and bathroom.

CONS: Although the apartment faces away from the new Atlantic Yards development area, the building is near the construction site.


PRO: The Atlantic Yards plan hasn't been officially approved, so the "construction site" does not yet exist.

CON: If AY is built, the view of the Statue of Liberty will be replaced by views of the arena and several highrise towers (oh, well).

Posted by lumi at 11:55 AM

Jinglebell Rock/Ratnerville Sucks - Prospect Hts Carolers

Ratnerville time is a swell time to sell your soul a away!

Catch the Prospect Heights Action Carolers at a publicly owned sidewalk near you.

Posted by lumi at 11:36 AM

Ratner Security Guards Breaking the Law (Again)

From "Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse," via YouTube.com

YouTube-06-12-FBR.jpg4pm December 10, 2006

Once again Bruce Ratner's employees step outside his mall to bully people who disagree with his plans to take over Brooklyn.

Our favorite lines from the particularly enthusiatic security guard:

"You gotta move off this property. The police gonna come in a minute."

"You gotta go across the street."

"Brooklyn Nets! Brooklyn Nets!"

We also offer these eyewitness accounts from the chatter on the party line.`

From someone with the "Prospect Heights Action Carolers":

There were 3 security guards (one female, two male) harassing the carolers, who were no where near any doors to the mall. The guards were informed they were illegally harassing people by the carolers, and they then hid their badges (see video). One guard took pictures of the carolers on his cell phone, then started removing flyers, being distributed by the other group (Merry Gridlock) from the hands of people passing by, he continued to taunt the carolers; even singing along making up his own lyrics about the Nets and gesticulating a basketball hoop throwing move while he followed the carolers.

From a "Merry Gridlock" participant:

Today was great. With the CBN [Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods], we were in front of the Atlantic Mall and the Flatbush/Atlantic Ave. intersection with Picket signs and literature on the effects of Atlantic Yards in regards to the traffic. Accept for a few who shouted to me that we were against "progress," the people were on our side and more than willing to stop and talk. We talked about all the issues surrounding Atlantic Yards and it all hits home — the environmental issues, the economic issues and of course, the lack of a democratic process. Support came from all sections of our community including youth, people of color, and seniors. When people were asked if they could imagine 23,000 more cars at the intersection, they were astonished at the thought. We reminded people to call Silver's office and ask him to postpone the PACB vote. Many said they would do this. It was a great two hours and when the carolers came to join us, the atmosphere was very festive. I had a great time and I think we accomplished a lot.

You should also know that Ratner had two people there with petitions. But the reaction of the Ratner Security guards was the real problem. They came out and tried to tell us we couldn't be there — which is totally against the law. I know others have dealt with them before, but the worst part was that they intimidated people into not taking the leaflets. Two women were harassed by one of the guards, he followed behind them yelling, "Give me the leaflet back. You don't want that garbage," both of the women refused. He scared one young lady and when she gave him the leaflet, he threw it on the sidewalk. This is unacceptable, especially the harassment. It violates our freedom of speech and the harassment is certainly not legal.

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

The Big Apple, Getting Bigger, Sets New Goals

The Big Apple, Getting Bigger, Sets New Goals

The Wall St. Journal
By Alex Frangos

Bloomberg-WSJ.gifMayor Bloomberg is about to unveil a new initiative to handle a projected population growth in NYC of about 1.3 million additional residents during the next 25 years. This means increased density and smart growth.

How the mayor goes about it could mean the difference between reaching the City's goals or not:

Some infrastructure dream projects are closer to breaking ground than ever, including new rail tunnels connecting Long Island and New Jersey to Manhattan and a new subway line for Manhattan's East Side. A rebuilt Pennsylvania Station project could include the construction of two rail terminals, a new Madison Square Garden arena and five million square feet of office and retail space. The so-called Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, though mired in controversy, would include a basketball arena and over a dozen skyscrapers filled with apartments and offices.

Mayor Bloomberg's goals will emphasize building infrastructure such as tunnels, power plants, schools and affordable housing, while sustaining drinking water supplies, reducing congestion and commute times, increasing sewage-treatment capacity and tackling air quality and greenhouse-gas emissions in a time of rising electrical demand.
To be sure, New York City's plans could run into problems. Mr. Bloomberg's quest for a massive stadium in Manhattan failed, after opponents argued they would alter the city's character and encroach on existing businesses. Redevelopment at the World Trade Center site has only recently begun amid considerable uncertainty, more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Efforts to attract businesses to secondary centers such as Long Island City, Jamaica, and Brooklyn, have met mixed results.

The Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, run by Forest City Ratner Cos., a division of Forest City Enterprises Inc., could be a preview for those fights. It is slated to use eminent domain, a hot button topic with residents. A vocal opponent of the plan, Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, hopes the mayor's long-term vision changes the way the city approaches megaprojects. He says the city needs to plan projects from the ground up, rather than to follow those that are "developer driven."

article (subscription only)

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

Atlantic Yards foes pin hopes on pol


Reporter Michael Clancy covered the City Hall press conference and put in a couple of calls to Gov.-elect Spitzer's transition team and Assembly Speaker Silver's office:

Opponents of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are hoping that the "Silver bullet" can strike for a third time and at least delay the 22-acre, $4.2 billion megadevelopment.

Through his vote on the Public Authorities Control Board, a little-known state agency, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) killed the Jets arena that the city wanted to build on Manhattan's West Side and delayed the proposed Moynihan Station in the James A. Farley Post Office Building.

For many Brooklynites, Silver represents one of the last hopes for delaying the project until Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer takes office in January.
The five-member authorities board -- which is controlled by Silver, Gov. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) -- meets on Dec. 20 and must unanimously approve the project for it to go forward.

A spokesman for Silver said he was not sure whether the project was even on the agenda and was unable to comment on the matter.
Spitzer has praised the project, but also raised questions about the its financing. Last week, the Empire State Development Corp. voted to approve the overall project, its environmental impact statement and its use of eminent domain.
A spokeswoman for Spitzer said the incoming administration was waiting to see the final proposal, which should be ready some time this week.

"Clearly, if we have concerns, we will make them known, but it's all a little premature right now," said Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Spitzer transition team.


Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

“Stop the Clock:” advocates urge PACB delay on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The signs said:
Atlantic Yards: Show Us the Money
Atlantic Yards: Not Ready for Approval
Atlantic Yards: Environment Matters

And that pretty much said it all, three years and a day after the project was announced. At a press conference yesterday at City Hall, a host of groups and individuals, some of them with different visions of the Atlantic Yards endgame, gathered to urge the Public Authorities Control Board to postpone its scheduled December 20 vote on the Atlantic Yards project. In front of them were posters with the project’s massive scale juxtaposed against its low-rise neighbors.
Reasons for delay

“A huge amount of information is still missing, and after PACB approval, there will be no legislative oversight of this project, the biggest sole-source land deal in NYC history," said Council Member Letitia James, who represents the area including the site, and who served as the MC for the press conference.

"The Atlantic Yards project would attract more than 20,000 cars per day and many thousands of transit riders to an area often choked with gridlock," said Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign. Criticizing the ESDC’s environmental review, he warned that the agency’s plan would be “condemning downtown Brooklyn to traffic hell."

Good Jobs New York Project Director Bettina Damiani said, "The reasonable goals of economic development require a process that is transparent and accountable,” calling it “unconscionable” for the PACB to consider approving this project without further disclosure of subsidies.

“To rush into this decision is just foolhardy,” said City Council Member Tony Avella, who represents a district in Queens and chairs the zoning committee. “If allowed to go ahead as currently constituted, it’ll actually be a blight on Downtown Brooklyn.” (Locals would locate most of the Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights, actually.)


Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

Lehrer on Gargano: "classic political evasiveness"

Atlantic Yards Report does play-by-play of Brian Lehrer's re-examination of statements regarding eminent domain made by Empire State Development Corporation head Charles Gargano.

Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano's halting and evasive locutions on the Brian Lehrer Show last Thursday prompted Lehrer yesterday to revisit the episode--and the Atlantic Yards development in general.

Lehrer called Gargano's performance "classic political evasiveness." Still, neither he nor guest Matthew Schuerman, who covers real estate and development for the New York Observer, had much encouraging to say to Atlantic Yards opponents who hope that the project is stalled until the administration of incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer, who supports the project.


NoLandGrab: The entire affair leads us to wonder why, if the project is so great for Brooklyn, do the main players have to resort to "classic political evasiveness?"

Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

Chris Owens Returns

The Politicker

CityHall06-12-Politkr.jpgMixed into crowd of protesters asking lawmakers to delay a vote on the the Atlantic Yards project was former Congressional candidate (and possible borough presidential candidate) Chris Owens.

While a number of speakers at the demonstration focused on the narrow issue of whether approval from the Public Authorities Control Board could take place before the new gubernatorial administration takes office, others, like Owens, also questioned the project's finances.

"Show us the money," Owens he chanted.


Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM

Sailing With Frank Gehry

The NY Sun
By James Gardner

The NY Sun architecture critic pans the first NYC building designed by the architect of Atlantic Yards:

TheSails.jpgThere are those who will assure you that the arrival of Frank Gehry’s office building, at 18th Street and Eleventh Avenue, signals that New York City has finally come into its own as a center of architecture, if not of culture in general. For such critics, the absence, until now, of a large-scale project by Mr. Gehry (or by Rem Koolhaas, for that matter) has been a standing reproach to Gotham, proof that we lacked the cultural sophistication of Chicago,Paris,and Los Angeles.

But when New Yorkers finally see this work up close the result is likely to be a kind of aesthetic dissonance. After all, your mind keeps telling you that the Sails (as the building is called because of the swelling undulations of its pale façade) is a great and important building, but your eye refuses to co-operate. Once you admit into the realms of possibility, however, that the building might just be a mess, you may find that those mists of perplexity dissipate ever so slightly.


NoLandGrab: Unfortunately for the building dubbed "The Sails," it looks more like a cruiseship in the photo from the Sun.

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Foes Hope for a Silver Christmas

Power Plays, political blog of The Village Voice

It isn't every day that a bunch of good-government groups hold a press conference to demand that an undemocratic, unelected state panel intervene to delay a public project. That was the scene today at City Hall, though, as several elected officials and budget-watch groups called on state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver to use his power as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board to stall Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject until the new sheriff arrives in Albany next month.

CityHall06-12.jpgThe petitioners included all three of the project site's city council and state legislative representatives (assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries, who was elected to replace arena proponent Roger Green in November, sent a written statement), along with representatives of the Sierra Club, the Straphangers Campaign, and Good Jobs New York as well as anti-arena stalwarts Develop Don't Destroy. (The Natural Resources Defense Council signed on, but didn't show up to speak.) "This is a permanent and very, very drastic change in the environment in downtown Brooklyn," said state senator Velmanette Montgomery. "We are requesting a postponement until we have time for a new administration to look at this project."

What that new administration might do is unclear. During his year-long gubernatorial victory lap, Eliot Spitzer said little about Atlantic Yards, except that he broadly supported it but wanted to see more "transparency" in the planning process. As those gathered today made clear, there's plenty of room for improvement in that area.


Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM


Pataki.jpgNY Post
By Fredric U. Dicker

ALBANY - Gov. Pataki will back a pay hike for state lawmakers if they approve a six-item wish list that includes civil confinement for sexual predators, more charter schools, the massive Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards projects, budget reforms, and the closing of 10 failing hospitals, The Post has learned.

A source close to Pataki said yesterday that approving the six items is "the only way the Legislature could get" the much-wanted pay hike.


NoLandGrab: This indicates fear that Atlantic Yards cannot be approved on its "merits" and therefore must be used as quid pro quo for a payraise. Would there be any other reason to tie the legislators' pay increase to a massive payoff for Bruce Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Opponents Make Last-Ditch Effort To Stall Atlantic Yards Plan

NY Sun

Three years to the day since developer Forest City Ratner unveiled plans for the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, opponents are asking members of the Public Authorities Control Board to postpone the project’s final approval, which could come at a meeting next Wednesday. Opponents – including civic groups and some local elected officials – said at City Hall yesterday that the environmental review of the 8 million square-foot project was flawed and incomplete, and that the public costs had not been properly measured. A postponement would give the incoming Spitzer administration the opportunity to review the plan.


Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Empire State Development Corp. Approves Atlantic Yards' General Project Plan

Commercial Property News
By Katie Gerfen, Contributing Editor

You know an article is about to play fast and loose with the facts when the description of Atlantic Yards begins:

The project will transform the riverfront area into a mixed-use smorgasbord.


For the record the project: * is expected to generate 1,500 construction jobs over 10 years, not 22,000 new construction jobs, * is in Prospect Heights (not Downtown Brooklyn), * is nowhere near the riverfront, * has virtually no office space left, and * the "new" jobs are more like a few hundred, not 5,000.

Commercial Property New's conclusion: "But none can deny the financial benefits of such a scheme."

When you first start taking Ambien or any other sleep medicine, until you know whether the medicine will still have some carryover effect the next day, use extreme care while doing anything that requires complete alertness, such as driving a car, operating machinery, or piloting an aircraft.

NEVER drink alcohol while you are being treated with Ambien or any sleep medicine. Alcohol can increase the side effects of Ambien or any other sleep medicine.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Rally Urges Postponement of Atlantic Yards' Vote

WNYC News Radio

Community groups along with several elected leaders rallied on the steps of City Hall yesterday to urge state officials to postpone voting on the Atlantic Yards mega-development project in Brooklyn.

REPORTER: Deb Howard, of the Pratt Area Community Council, was one of more than three dozen representatives who asked that the environmental impact study be re-examined.

HOWARD: We call on the Public Authorities Control Board to delay voting on the Atlantic Yard project until the new administration in Albany has had an opportunity to review the project and address its serious flaws.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Ready, set, go for Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News Editorial

Yesterday, we missed the latest installment of the News's glowing endorsement of the Atlantic Yards project. But no worries, Forest City Ratner emailed a copy to their list:

Now, the fate of Atlantic Yards rests with Pataki, Silver and Bruno as the overseers of the Public Authorities Control Board, an entity established in the fiscal crisis three decades ago to make sure quasi-independent agencies didn't issue bonds that couldn't be repaid. The board has jurisdiction because the Legislature and governor agreed to invest $100 million in infrastructure improvements.

By all rights, the panel should consider only one issue: whether the project is financially sound. Not whether its buildings are too tall and its scale is too large, as opponents argue. The review process has settled those questions, but there's concern that one member of the board - Silver - could use his veto power to demand revisions, if not kill the project, as some of his Assembly colleagues want.

The speaker exercised such muscle in blocking the Jets stadium proposed for Manhattan's West Side and the transformation of the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station. He says he was on solid ground in both cases, and he hints he's likely to give a thumbs up to Atlantic Yards - while also saying the deal would rise or fall based "on how the developer responds to some of the criticism, either because of the mass of the project or some of the traffic."


NoLandGrab: Two things to note: the actual financial analysis of the project has never been released to the public, so a vote by the board would seem to be premature; and the Silver quote would indicate some softness in the Assembly Speaker's position, which has been characterized in the press and on local blogs as supportive of the project.

Today, Norman Oder factchecks the News editorial for free. Here's a sample:

The benefits of the Atlantic Yards are manifest, among them 2,500 apartments geared for the middle and working classes, $5.6 billion in tax revenues over the next 30 years, 15,000 construction jobs, a couple of thousand permanent jobs and a great entertainment venue for Brooklyn. It's a win-win-win.

Actually, 2250 apartments, not 2500. That's a basic fact. Why add another ten percent or so—is factchecking that difficult?

$5.6 billion in tax revenues? Only if you play with the numbers.

15,000 construction jobs? That’s job-years. [1,500 jobs over 10 years.]

A couple of thousand permanent jobs? Perhaps, but a lot fewer than promised.

Click here for the rest of Oder's fact-checking rout of the Daily Snooze.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

Last shot for Atlantic Yards?

Arena needs approval from Public Authorities Control Review Board

By Amy Zimmer

Though governor-elect Eliot Spitzer has expressed support for the plan, critics of the project’s scale hope he might propose reductions. The Public Authorities Control Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20.

That’s why opponents of the plan — Brooklyn’s largest ever single-developer project — are expected to rally on City Hall’s steps today calling for the board to delay its vote.

Environmental and political watchdog groups will be joined by local politicians to raise questions about impacts on traffic, shadows, sanitation and other city services, as well as its financing


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Snap Poll


Poll active DECEMBER 08TH, 2006 - DECEMBER 13TH, 2006

When should the Public Authorities Control Board vote on the Atlantic Rail Yards project?

  • This month
  • Next month
  • Undecided

vote today

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Senate Fails to Pass Eminent Domain Reform

Thousands Remain Subject To Federally Funded Eminent Domain Abuse

Institute for Justice

Arlington, Va.-Despite overwhelming nationwide public support and historic bipartisan backing in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2006 (H.R. 4128/S. 3873). As a result, thousands of Americans will remain subject to eminent domain abuse supported by federal dollars.

After failing to bring to a vote the reform that would have de-funded eminent domain abuse at the federal level, S. 3873 was “hotlined” last Tuesday [Dec. 5, 2006] in an attempt to pass the legislation before the 109th Congress adjourned last week. (Hotlining is an expedited process that allows congressional leadership to present a bill to the entire chamber for unanimous approval.) However, at least one unknown senator placed an anonymous “hold” on S. 3873, effectively killing the legislation. Eminent domain reform legislation was stalled both in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represented Susette Kelo in her fight against eminent domain abuse and is leading the nationwide effort for eminent domain reform, said, “Historically, the federal government has provided the money to throw hard-working people out of their homes and businesses to make way for private development projects. The Senate had the opportunity to end this abuse, and they blew it.” Under the federal Housing Act of 1949, cities were authorized to use eminent domain to clear “blighted neighborhoods,” and in the process displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African-American.

More than one year ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005” (H.R. 4128) by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 376-38. This bill would counter the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s universally reviled decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allows state and local governments to use eminent domain to seize property for private development on the mere possibility of increased tax revenue or jobs. H.R. 4128 would discourage this by withdrawing federal economic development funding for two years from any local government that uses eminent domain for economic development. This popular legislation was sponsored in the House by Representatives Sensenbrenner, Conyers, Waters, Bonilla and many others. Reform was championed in the Senate by Senator John Cornyn but became mired in the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than a year. To help push through the reform, Senator James Inhofe introduced an identical bill (S. 3873) to H.R. 4128 on the floor of the Senate in September. That bill languished and failed to pass.

Berliner said, “Throughout the past year, we called on the Senate leaders to make eminent domain reform a priority. We showed them the polling data that demonstrated how much the public hates eminent domain for private use and wants to see it stopped. We set up meetings with homeowners who faced the loss of their homes because of this abuse of government power. But in the end, the Senate never committed to end the abuse of eminent domain using federal money. It’ll now be up to the 110th Congress to provide homeowners with protection.”

# # #

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

December 11, 2006

Hakeem the Dream

From the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn E-Newsletter:

Former NBA great Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2008, but 57th District Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries is not extending the same automatic welcome to Bruce Ratner's dream of an NBA arena in Brooklyn.

Jeffries, who is on record as opposing the use of eminent domain to build the proposed arena, sent a letter to the Public Authorities Control Board on Friday, urging the PACB to postpone taking any action on the proposed "Atlantic Yards" project until several outstanding issues were addressed. His concerns include an insufficient number of affordable rental units in Phase I of the project, the absence of affordable home ownership, the need to scale back the project significantly, and most noteworthy, the importance of allowing the courts to rule on the Federal eminent domain lawsuit before voting on the proposal.

We applaud Mr. Jeffries for standing with the community and demanding accountability from the developer and the ESDC. If his actions as Assemblymember-elect are any indication, he‚s going to be a strong advocate for his constituents when he takes office in January.

NoLandGrab: DDDB notices something we missed last week, that Jeffries went one step further in his letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, than his soon-to-be colleagues.

State Assemblymembers Jim Brennan, Joan Millman and Annette Robinson call on the Speaker to withhold his vote until certain issues are addressed, Jeffries asks the Speaker to allow the courts to decide the issue of eminent domain before voting on the project.

Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM

Mayor misunderstands congestion pricing; maps show Brooklyn gridlock

TrafficCongestion-AY.gifAtlantic Yards Report

During his weekly radio show with WABC's John Gambling on Friday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg addressed the issue of congestion pricing--an issue crucial to managing growth in the city, including projects like Atlantic Yards--and showed he wasn't quite up to speed.

[A.M. Peak (6–10 A.M.) congestion graphic from Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think about Road Pricing, published by the Manhattan Institute last week. Note significant congestion in Brooklyn around and leading to the proposed Atlantic Yards site.]


[Note: We added the location of Atlantic Yards (green, blue and yellow thing) to the graphic.]

Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

ESDC Rubberstamps AY & Gets Sued by Tenants



Three of the seven-member Empire State Development Corporation board didn't even bother to show up at Friday's vote on the Atlantic Yards project. Maybe they decided they didn't need to, as the press release had already been written before the vote was taken to approve the both the plan, the Final Environmental Impact Statement and the building condemnations that are part and parcel of the project.


Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

The Brian Lehrer Show: Yard Work

MatthewSchuerman.jpgToday at 10AM, FM 93.9, AM 820 or www.wnyc.org.

Matthew Schuerman, commercial real estate and economic development reporter for the New York Observer tells us about developments in the Atlantic Yards project

Matthew Schuerman is one of the few mainstream media reporters who has produced original investigative reporting on Atlantic Yards. Here's a sample:
Ratner Meets With Burden
In Big Slow Brooklyn Build, Is It Affordable Housing Last?
Prisoner of Atlantic Avenue
After “Race” Battle, Dan Goldstein Charges On
BUILDing Blocks

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse: ATLANTIC YARDS "FOOTPRINTS" ART SHOW

What do local artists think about Atlantic Yards?


View online or watch Monday nights on BCAT:

11:00pm Freddys Brooklyn Roundhouse
Time Warner 35/CableVision 68, BCAT CH 2

11:30pm Brooklyn vs. Bush
Time Warner 56/ CableVision 69, BCAT CH 3

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Blazing Start Isn’t Enough as Nets Fold in the Stretch

The NY Times
By John Eligon

The Times's coverage of Saturday's NJ Nets game, in which they were edged out by the Boston Celtics, captured a moment when a fan had something to say to Bruce Ratner:

Late in the third quarter, a heckler began directing his comments to Bruce C. Ratner, the Nets’ principal owner. He directed Ratner to “trade them all.” Ratner chuckled.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Rememory: The NY Times, "Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden"

Who remembers the glowing NY Times review (posted after the jump) of the unveiling of Atlantic Yards by then-NY Times architectural critic Herbert Muschamp?

Bruce Ratner's favorite pull quote: "A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn."

Unmentioned in the article were the historical density (wa-a-a-ay more than Battery Park City), still-unresolved traffic issues, and the threat of using eminent domain to acquire the 14 acres of non-railyard property.

The myth of the "the generosity of outdoor space" has been busted since the early days, as the idea of the rooftop track and ice rink was deemed impossible.

For those of you who've been following the Atlantic Yards issue for a while, you'll get a kick out of this look back to 2003.

Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden
By Herbert Muschamp

A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn. This one will have its own basketball team. Also, an arena surrounded by office towers; apartment buildings and shops; excellent public transportation; and, above all, a terrific skyline, with six acres of new parkland at its feet. Almost everything the well-equipped urban paradise must have, in fact.

Designed for the Brooklyn developers Forest City Ratner Companies by Frank Gehry with the landscape architect Laurie Olin, Brooklyn Atlantic Yards is the most important piece of urban design New York has seen since the Battery Park City master plan was produced in 1979. The plan is contingent on financing, and on Forest City's acquisition of the Nets, the National Basketball Association team, to occupy the new arena.

So what isn't contingent in Eden? Or in New York? I would say that the city's future needs urbanism of this caliber at least as much as this example of it requires the support of New York. Those who have been wondering whether it will ever be possible to create another Rockefeller Center can stop waiting for the answer. Here it is.

The six-block site is adjacent to Atlantic Terminal, where the Long Island Rail Road and nine subway lines converge. It is now an open railyard. When decked over, the site will form an east-west corridor three city blocks long. The western end, terminating in a V at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, points toward Lower Manhattan.

And, I might add, toward the future. Individual buildings can be useful barometers for measuring a changing cultural climate. But a large-scale urban development offers a different opportunity. Critical mass enables planners to rethink how communities want to live.

Mr. Gehry has always said that his intention is to recapture traditional comforts and values, adjusting familiar forms and materials into unfamiliar relationships.

It has been almost a quarter-century since Battery Park City was planned. In 1979, New York was still reeling from the fiscal crisis. The city's architects sought to recapture a sense of stability that they associated with the past.

That outlook has by no means vanished. It is kept alive by local community boards for whom retro design signifies a means of preventing development from disrupting their lives. Yet this stagnant approach disturbs the continuity that results when succeeding generations accept responsibility for interpreting their relationship to changing time.

Brooklyn Atlantic Yards reflects a city that has regained its faith in the future and no longer regrets its place in the present. Part of Mr. Gehry's genius is to synthesize and reimagine familiar elements of the existing cityscape. He has a sculptor's eye for the shapes of the skyline. He draws freely on the traditions of perimeter block building and of the garden city model.

Because of triumphal landmarks like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Mr. Gehry's name has become virtually synonymous with the Wow Factor. The Brooklyn project will not disappoint wow-seekers. Most of the exclamation marks are packed at the western edge of the site. The design's most exceptional feature is the configuration of office towers surrounding the arena. This is dramatic urban theater, and a reminder that Wows were at the heart of Baroque urbanism.

Instead of sitting isolated in a parking lot, the stadium will be tucked into the urban fabric, just as buildings surround a Baroque square. The arena becomes a stage, with the towers around extending the bleachers to the sky. Here, the stage will be activated by a running track around the perimeter of the arena's roof. In winter, the track becomes a skating rink. Other areas of the roof will be set aside for passive recreation. Restaurants for the surrounding towers are planned at the arena's roof level.

There is also an ''urban room,'' a soaring Piranesian space, which provides access to the stadium and a grand lobby for the tallest of the office towers.

Mr. Gehry looked at many prototypes, in cities around the world, before sitting down to design. The goal here is warmth and intimacy: an ambition not easily reached in a room with a seating capacity of up to 20,000 souls.

The massing models of the residential buildings will remind some observers of pre-Bilbao Gehry, when his vocabulary owed more to cubes than to curves.

I hope we haven't seen the last of those big cube buildings. As I think the models show, they have a toughness that looks right for New York at this uncertain moment in time. And they work wonderfully well with the garden setting Mr. Olin has devised for them.

The richness and generosity of the outdoor spaces he envisions are the urban equivalent of the fanciest flower arrangement a city could give to itself.

We're worth it.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

December 10, 2006

Stadiums/Arenas Are Profitable...but to Whom?

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition gets in on the Gehry bashing weekend as well. Gehry must be feeling the heat like he's walking on the sidewalk in front of the Disney Concert Hall.

There are two trends in the sports industry that make building an arena in Brooklyn a bad idea:
a. franchises have little or no loyalty to existing fans - with the exception of places like Green Bay, owners use the threat to leave as a bargaining chip, and they frequently do leave.
b. because of this arenas and stadiums have much shorter life cycles -because those who use them don't have to pay for them. So it's not unlikely, in fact, it might even be expected that an arena over Vanderbilt yards would be an abandoned, ugly, impractical (the definition of a Gehry work) eyesore within ten years...and that will really be blight.


Posted by amy at 8:06 PM

Striking a Pose


The Atlantic

Yoga is at a confused, precarious place, teetering on the edge of overexposure. On my way to the Jivamukti party I stumbled on a tiny store in the ultrahip Lower East Side called Fuck Yoga, which features store-branded T-shirts, matchbooks, skateboards, and neon signs. I figured this was my proof that yoga had indeed crossed over to the dark side, becoming a close cousin to the SUV and the fur coat and dental insurance—all the eternal targets of youthful mockery and protest.

So was this all meant in hostility to yoga? I asked Fuck Yoga’s owner, Barnaby Harris, thinking I was asking the obvious.

“No, not at all,” he said, “I practice yoga every day. And we sell yoga mats.”

You do? So what the—?

“Enough already,” said Harris. “I mean, OK, [yoga’s] great for you, makes you glowing and healthy, etc., etc. But enough already.” (The store also sells T-shirts that say fuck frank gehry. Same basic idea.)

article (subscription only)

NoLandGrab: We're not sure how we feel about people ironically loving and ridiculing things at the same time, but somehow we think these shirts might be popular this year...

Posted by amy at 7:59 PM

A frustrated sigh from Gehry on the signage issue


Atlantic Yards Report

There's another reason to echo the concerns raised Tuesday that 150-high signs on the proposed Atlantic Yards Urban Room might turn Brooklyn's busiest intersection into Times Square.

Frank Gehry is frustrated, according to an interview he gave Advertising Age published in September.

The original tune

In April, in an interview with New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff on the Charlie Rose show, Gehry sounded confident that he and branding expert Peter Arnell could craft creative signage that could be used for advertising, community issues, and art.

"This would not be Times Square," he told the Daily News in May.

(Above right, a graphic by BrooklynSpeaks adapted from two separate renderings in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement. Note that the perspective is not from ground level.)


Posted by amy at 7:35 PM

Hot Seat: Steve Buscemi


New York Post reminds us why Steve Buscemi is so cool - as if we needed a reminder...

Q: You've lived in Park Slope for ages. As it gets more gentrified, do you get more autograph seekers?

A: Nope, it's rare that somebody will stop me and ask for an autograph. Usually if somebody recognizes me, they don't say anything, or they just say "Hey." I'm able to live as close to a normal life as I can.

I am nervous about the Atlantic Yards going through, though - how much that'll change the whole area. I think it's just an unfortunate situation, and it's divided a lot of communities. We need jobs and housing, but I'm not convinced [this is] the solution. I hope there's a way that everybody can get what they need, but environmentally it's gonna be awful.

Q: You've been pretty active in the fight against the project.

A: Yeah, I've been involved with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Every politician is for this project except for a few very brave ones, like Letitia James and some others in Brooklyn who aren't afraid to speak against it. Even Elliot Spitzer said that it's too big, and I'm hoping that [he] can be a positive force in either scaling this down or, you know, just changing the direction. Marty Markowitz [also] says that it's too big, and having people like that say that it's too big, and that maybe this isn't such a great idea, helps.

It's just way oversized and overwhelming, and I just don't see how it's going to be good for Brooklyn.


Buscemi will ironically be playing a rat in his newest film, "Charlotte's Web."

Posted by amy at 7:29 PM

The Little Boondoggle is Growing Up Fast!


Happy Bruce Day to You!
It looks like a boondoggle,
and it smells like one too!

How old are you now?


Posted by amy at 1:36 PM

Times Magazine suggests AY a city project & done deal

Atlantic Yards Report found just a few things wrong with the Times' 'Big Urbanism' article:

The City Planning Commission (CPC) couldn't approve anything, because Atlantic Yards is a state project. The commission of course endorsed the project, because they work for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Bloomberg loves AY. Many of the CPC's "recommendations" had been agreed to months earlier by developer Forest City Ratner. And the project Design Guidelines were primarily the work of architect Frank Gehry.
I called in a correction at about 10:15 p.m. last night, but it didn't make it into the paper. It's curious, and disturbing, that no one on the Times's staff who on Saturday could have read both the Magazine and the daily paper's most recent coverage of the state project concluded that a correction would be in order.


Posted by amy at 1:26 PM

Big Urbanism


New York Times Magazine

Ever since 1964, when Robert Moses, New York’s master builder, was prevented from blasting a freeway through SoHo, the most successful urban-design strategies undertaken by large American cities have been essentially conservative. Jane Jacobs’s crusade against architectural master plans, combined with a growing historic-preservation movement and the fall of heroic high modernism, led to a generation of planners, architects and activists intent on restoring, rather than drastically reshaping, the urban fabric.

But now cities are once again planning with grandiosity. This year witnessed the return of what you might call big urbanism, with large-scale redevelopment projects sprouting nationwide. In the summer, the New York City Planning Commission approved the controversial $4.2 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project, which only a few years prior was widely dismissed as impossibly overscaled.


Posted by amy at 1:22 PM

House and Garden Gets Gehry on Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

From House and Garden magazine's January 2007 issue, an excerpt from Martin Filler's article, "Iceberg on the Horizon: As Frank Gehry's Breakthrough Building Rises Along The Hudson, Is His Titanic Fame About to Collide With His Towering Ambition?"



Posted by amy at 1:15 PM

Atlantic Yards Development OK'd


Fox 5 News

A developer is moving ahead with plans that could radically change Brooklyn's skyline. The $4.2 billion-dollar project will include a new stadium, high-rises and stores but some local people oppose the development. For the full story, watch Andre Hepkins' video report.


Posted by amy at 1:09 PM


NY Post

Many opponents feel their best hope lies with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

He has referred to ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano as "corrupt," and blocked two other Pataki-supported projects - the Jets' West Side stadium plan and the Moynihan train station - through his vote on the board.

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

Project opponents believe Spitzer will take a serious look at federal lawsuits opposing the plan before reaching any conclusions.


Posted by amy at 1:06 PM

Nets get closer to debated Brooklyn move


Wondering what the rest of the world is hearing about our wonderful land grab? Wonder no more. This AP story was disseminated far and wide. How many mistakes can you find in these two paragraphs?

The $4 billion project — which would reshape Brooklyn with a basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments — was approved by EDC in a decision that was hailed by Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The next step is a final review by the state Public Authorities Control Board.

The project, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, would rise above a downtown Brooklyn railyard. It would include a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets, and 16 surrounding towers with housing, a hotel and office and retail space.


Posted by amy at 12:57 PM

Press Release - State Lawsuit

Following the vote of the board of directors of the Empire State Development Corporation on December 8, 2006, which approved of the use of eminent domain in furtherance of the Atlantic Yards Project, 13 Rent Stabilized tenants, who live in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards Project at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street, and who are tenants of the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, commenced a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the state agency.

In the lawsuit against ESDC, the tenants allege that by voting to exercise eminent domain and so-called “friendly condemnation” against tenanted buildings that were purchased by FCRC after the Project was announced, ESDC has exceeded its lawful authority:

First, under Article I section 7 of the New York State Constitution, which is implemented by the Highways Law, Article 11, sections 300-315, a jury is required to determine the necessity of using eminent domain to seize property in order to build a private road, and the amount of compensation to be paid.

ESDC is precluded from and has no authority to exercise eminent domain against plaintiffs, under the Eminent Domain Procedures Law, so that FCRC, a private entity, can construct some 16 miles of private roads within the Atlantic Yards Project. In New York, only a jury has the power to make such a determination, which has not occurred.

View the complaint (PDF)

This limitation on the use of eminent domain to build private roads has been law in New York since 1846. New York is the only state where a jury is required to determine the necessity of using eminent domain, in any context.

Second, any landlord that wants to refuse to renew the lease of its Rent Stabilized tenant, extinguish the tenancy, and evict that tenant, in order to demolish the building, must apply to and obtain permission from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. FCRC has not done so.

The New York state legislature has given DHCR exclusive and original jurisdiction over a landlord’s proposed demolition of its building housing its Rent Stabilized tenants, and ESDC may not scheme with FCRC to ignore the legal requirements enforced by DHCR.

ESDC, an agency that is wholly accountable to the Governor, cannot lawfully override DHCR’s legislative mandate, ignore the State laws and regulations on demolitions, which govern, and suspend Forest City Ratner Company’s legal obligations, as a landlord, to its Rent Stabilized tenants under those laws and regulations.

The lawsuit against ESDC seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that will prevent ESDC from exercising eminent domain against the plaintiffs in furtherance of the Atlantic Yards Project.

Posted by amy at 12:49 PM

December 9, 2006

In 15 minutes, four ESDC board members approve AY project

Atlantic Yards Report does the play by play of the fabled 15 minutes...

So the special board meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes and attracted a cluster of television cameras, was a mere formality. Only four of the agency’s seven board members, including Gargano, were present, but that meant a quorum.

Their brief questions and comments showed neither much understanding of the project location nor sympathies toward public concerns. And Gargano, gamely taking some tough questions from reporters afterward, gave no quarter.

The agency received nine letters since the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was issued November 27 but none caused the agency to change course. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) argued that the FEIS was "fatally flawed" because of, in part, miscalculation of open space; failure to address emergency response times; and a failure to respond to criticisms of the ESDC's blight study. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) also deemed the FEIS inadequate, citing, among other things, "self-referential circular logic" in the responses and a failure to consider terrorism among worst-case scenarios.


Posted by amy at 11:59 AM

A Nod for Atlantic Yards, and Then a Lawsuit

New York Times
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE covers the project approval by ESDC as well as Gargano's tap-dancing around condemned buildings.

The board of the state agency sponsoring the proposed Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn voted unanimously yesterday to approve it, while also voting to authorize any building condemnations that may be required.

Within hours of the vote, 13 tenants living in two buildings on the proposed project site filed suit against the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, charging that the board had authorized the buildings’ condemnation without permission from state housing officials to erase the tenants’ rent-stabilized leases.
The 22-acre residential and commercial project in Brooklyn, which would include a basketball arena for the Nets, still faces a final decision by the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, and any condemnations would not happen immediately if approval is given.

But George S. Locker, a lawyer for the tenants, said that Forest City and the development agency’s chairman, Charles A. Gargano, who presided over yesterday’s vote, had deliberately misled the tenants about the potential for condemnation.

“His public statements about eminent domain, and Forest City Ratner’s, have in common that they were both dishonest and deceptive,” Mr. Locker said, “and they were both designed to give reassurances about the noncondemnation of tenants when in fact that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”


Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

Atlantic Yards, 2026? Business leader doubts ten-year buildout prediction

Atlantic Yards Report

As the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) prepares today to approve the Atlantic Yards project, we should consider the very real possibility—echoed yesterday by a prominent project supporter—that it could take twice as long as promised.

If so, that raises significant questions about the delayed provision of open space and affordable housing, the persistence of a large interim surface parking lot, and the adequacy of the ESDC’s review of the project.

According to developer Forest City Ratner, “assuming the project receives the needed public approvals, FCRC anticipates breaking ground in late 2006 on the arena and at least two residential buildings. The construction will be phased over 10 years.”


Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

Nets for sale? Revised ESDC document gives Ratner an out

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a tantalizing hint in the revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued today by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that the money-losing New Jersey Nets might be for sale before the planned Brooklyn Arena opens in 2009.

The revised GPP, issued as part of the ESDC's approval of Atlantic Yards, includes a section on Transferability that did not appear in the GPP released in July.

It states, in part:
In addition, in the event the Nets professional basketball franchise is sold to another entity prior to the completion of the Arena, Project Sponsors may transfer their interest in the Arena to the purchasing entity or its affiliate, provided ESDC and the City are reasonably satisfied that such entity can satisfactorily complete the development of the Arena or if such entity retains the Project Sponsors to develop the Arena.


Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

Lawsuit filed by 13 rent-stabilized tenants; success would break new legal ground


Atlantic Yards Report

Following the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) approval today of the Atlantic Yards project, tenants in two buildings owned by Forest City Ratner filed suit today in state court challenging the ESDC's use of eminent domain to demolish their buildings and override their rights as rent-stabilized tenants. The lawsuit had long been anticipated.

The lawsuit contends that a landlord that refuses to renew rent-stabilized leases and extinguish the tenants’ rights via demolition must obtain permission from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).

Tenants of one of the buildings, 624 Pacific Street (at left in picture), were rudely awakened in June by some startling demolitions next door. The other building is 473 Dean Street. Both would be the subject of "friendly condemnations"--actions welcomed by Forest City Ratner as owner, but not by their tenants.

AYR digs through attorney George Locker's unique arguments and finds a very interesting case. Read the article!

Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Atlantic Yards moves forward

Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

The fate of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is now in the hands of the three men in the room.
A “no” vote from any one of the state’s most-powerful men would kill Atlantic Yards — though all three have said they support the project.

Yards opponents have called on the PACB to delay its vote until after Eliot Spitzer takes over as governor so that he can put his stamp on a project that would begin construction during his administration — and would cause significant impacts on traffic, transit and other infrastructure that the new governor would have to deal with in years to come.

Others are calling for the PACB to delay the vote until a federal judge rules on an existing lawsuit over the state’s use of its power to condemn privately owned buildings in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint and hand them over to Ratner.


Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

‘Atlantic Yards Bad For the Country’ - Foes Predict Nationwide Ramifications


Forget Stephen Witt's lack of interest in this topic:

Two national preservation and conservation organizations have deemed the impact of the proposed Atlantic Yards project on Brooklyn’s brownstone neighborhoods to be a “national concern.”

“The collection of historic brownstone neighborhoods and landmarks that surround the Atlantic Yards site are so rare in their extent, cohesiveness, and historic and architectural qualities that their fate is of national importance,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“If it is built as proposed, its massive scale and incompatible design would gravely impact the essential historic character and setting of these treasures,” he added.
“The Atlantic Yards proposal would permit signage of up to 150 feet, override local regulations and set an alarming precedent for other historic neighborhoods throughout the city and the nation,” said Kevin Fry, president of Scenic America.


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

Eminent domain OK for Nets

NY Daily News

The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn got a key approval yesterday from the Empire State Development Corp., authorizing the use of eminent domain to build an arena for the Nets, a hotel and 16 residential and office towers.

Now the ball bounces to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's court.

The three-member Public Authorities Control Board gets the project next. In recent years, Silver (D-Manhattan) has used his influence on the panel to kill the proposed West Side Stadium and delay the Moynihan Penn Station proposal.

A Silver spokesman said yesterday it is too soon to know the speaker's position, though a growing chorus of critics is calling for him to delay a vote until after Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer takes office Jan. 1.


Posted by amy at 11:13 AM

Trojan Nets for Sale?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The "Atlantic Yards" project:
First it was about jobs, but most of them disappeared

Second it was about affordable housing, but most of it won't be

Third it was about a pro team returning, but they're already halfway out the door

Fourth it was about $1 billion in private profits...and *that* continues You ask: the Nets are already out the door? What? Well, take a look at the latest post from Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder:

Nets for sale? Revised ESDC document gives Ratner an out

There's a tantalizing hint in the revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued today by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that the money-losing New Jersey Nets might be for sale before the planned Brooklyn Arena opens in 2009.

Could Bruce Ratner have bought the Nets simply to get clearance for his real estate land grab, as well as eminent domain and then sell them? Wouldn't surprise us.


Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

December 8, 2006

Develop Don’t Destroy Attorney Tells ESDC: Atlantic Yards Environmental Review Is Fatally Flawed

Entire Project Stands on Very Shaky Legal Ground

NEW YORK, NY— The following letter from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Attorney Jeffrey Baker was delivered this morning to the Board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its Chairman Charles Gargano. That Board is set to meet today at 3:30 regarding the Forest City Ratner “Atlantic Yards” proposal.

[Entire letter after the jump.]


December 8, 2006

Hon Charles Gargano, Chairman
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Members of the Board of Directors
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Re: Atlantic Yards

Dear Sirs and Madam:

We are writing on behalf of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) to provide very brief comments on the FEIS for the Atlantic Yards project. On December 8, 2006 you are going to be asked by ESDC staff to adopt findings under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDCA) to approve and begin the implementation the project. As set forth below, it is clear that the FEIS for the project is fatally flawed and does not provide the ESDC Board with sufficient basis upon which to make the legal findings that are required to approve the project. You should decline to move forward with the project and direct staff to undertake a Supplemental EIS to cure the myriad deficiencies in the current document.

As you are most probably aware, under SEQRA you are charged with considering the environmental impacts of ESDC actions and assuring that your final decision chooses from the available alternatives the one that avoids, minimizes or mitigates the adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with social, economic and other essential considerations. In the process of meeting that requirement, you must take a “hard look” at the relevant areas of concern and produce reasoned elaboration of the determination.

The FEIS fails to meet that standard. ESDC staff rushed to complete the FEIS which was accepted by the Board on November 15th. Thereafter, staff realized that in their rush to completion they omitted numerous comments and then rushed again to reissue the FEIS. However, that speed did not alleviate the overall sloppiness inherent in the FEIS. The FEIS is rife with errors and omissions. Most strikingly, although there were numerous substantive comments on the DEIS, in many cases the response to those comments is nothing more that a reiteration of the language in the DEIS. The failure to consider and respond to those comments is not only illegal, but insulting and demonstrates that the result of ESDC’s consideration of the project is a foregone conclusion.

Set forth below are selected examples of the errors in the FEIS. This is not an exhaustive list, nor are they the primary deficiencies. Given the extremely short time frame in which to review the FEIS, a thorough review is impossible. These examples are indicative of the problems inherent in the FEIS.

Open Space

Many comments noted the dearth of open space, particularly publicly accessible open space and the fact that the space provided is less than the City goal of 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents and is less than is being provided in Battery Park City. The FEIS responds that the project provides 1.7 acres per 1,000 residents. (FEIS p. 24-169) However the math is wrong. Per the FEIS, there will be approximately 13,503 residents based on the assumption of 2.1 persons per unit. That results in a ratio of 0.59 acres per 1000 residents – far less than the 1.7 acres represented in the FEIS. This fundamental mathematical error is indicative of the carelessness of the FEIS and should put the Board on notice that there has not been sufficient analysis to warrant approval of the project.

Traffic and Police and Fire Response Times

The project’s impact on traffic has been a major concern, where a road network already at capacity will have to bear the burden of at least 20,000 additional vehicles. Besides ignoring the comments about how the DEIS understated traffic impacts and took too narrow a look, the FEIS also ignores the concerns expressed about response times for emergency vehicles. Faced with gridlock conditions, the FEIS simply states that emergency vehicles will not be hampered because police, fire and ambulance vehicles “are not bound by standard traffic controls” when responding to emergencies. (FEIS 24-143). Apparently when faced with gridlock, the traffic magically parts to make way for the vehicles without delay – a miracle of modern physics that has not been witnessed in other gridlock events.

Terrorism Threats and Security Issues

The FEIS takes the bizarre position that the threat of terrorism need not be considered in the planning of the project or in the FEIS.

To quote from the FEIS (p. 24-538), the only response to numerous serious public concerns regarding terrorism and security is as follows:

"Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside the scope of the EIS."

There is no support for such a head in the sand approach to an obvious threat. Placing a 20,000-seat arena over a major transit hub, adjacent to a major traffic intersection, surrounded by glass-walled towers presents an obvious invitation to terrorists. Nevertheless, the FEIS claims no responsibility to consider that potential and to design accordingly to minimize the impacts such a threat poses or the costs incurred by related planning, insurance, and emergency issues. While ESDC staff may disregard the responsibility to consider the threat, we hope that the ESDC Board is not so narrow-minded.


A substantial number of detailed comments were submitted detailing the errors in the DEIS and the Blight Study, including a 191 page response from my client DDDB. In particular it was noted that there are no blighting conditions on blocks 1127, 1128 and 1129. Comments noted that any conditions in the area are a result of either neglect by MTA or vacancies created by FCR. Comments also noted that in the entire history of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA), despite numerous opportunities, the City of New York never claimed the project site–and in particular the blocks to be condemned–as blighted. All of those comments were completely ignored and the FEIS simply reiterates the statements made in the DEIS. While the FEIS makes the claim that the blocks south of Pacific Street are blighted, saying so does not make it true and the Board should not ratify a decision that is contradicted by hard facts.

The Blight Study characterizes the project site as crime-ridden, claiming that instances of crime in the project site are greater than surrounding precincts. As shown in my clients response the crime statistics are misrepresented and skewed to such an extent that the reality is crime is lower in the project site than surrounding areas. The FEIS completely ignored this critical point. Another hard fact the Board should be wary of ratifying.

Coney Island Alternative

DDDB’s comments noted that the DEIS misrepresented the feasibility of Coney Island as a location for the arena. The DEIS claimed there was no room for an arena. DDDB demonstrated that at least two locations were suitable. The FEIS tried to correct the error by acknowledging that there were suitable sites but then in only a few paragraphs argued why it was not preferable to the chosen site. There continues to be no sound argument as to why the arena needs be part of a mixed-use development. ESDC cannot ignore an obvious alternative in a DEIS and then pretend to consider it in the FEIS without subjecting it to a full alternative analysis subject to public review. ESDC has ignored the long-standing goal of the Brooklyn political leaders to bring a major league franchise to Coney Island, a desire that has continued to be expressed.

Violations of the UDC Act

DDDB and others noted that ESDC has violated Sec. 16 of the UDC Act by failing to hold the comment period open until October 18th, 30 days after the last public hearing on September 18th. The FEIS while acknowledging the legal obligation of Sec. 16, continues the absurd contention that the public hearing was on August 23rd and the September 18th event was a “community forum”. The fact remains that the “community forums” were completely indistinguishable from the public hearing. ESDC cannot try and hide behind a change in name to avoid its legal obligation. The minimum time frames in the applicable laws providing for public review are often insufficient to consider enormous projects. At the least ESDC must comply with the minimum legal requirements. Instead ESDC shortened the mandatory minimum comment period by nearly 3 weeks.

DDDB also noted that the project does not meet the legal definitions of a civic project or a land use improvement project. Those comments are not recognized or responded to in the FEIS. These are fundamental questions that go to the public need, purpose and authority of ESDC to undertake the action and override local land use controls. The lack of response is a striking admission that ESDC is operating beyond its authority.

The foregoing is just a small sampling of the omissions and tone of the FEIS which demonstrate that ESDC’s SEQRA compliance falls below the legal standard. There are numerous other issues. It is our hope that the ESDC Board, rather than acting as a lame duck administrative body determined to rush through an approval in its waning days, exercises the independent judgment with which it is entrusted and requires reconsideration of this ill-conceived document

Very truly yours,

Jeffrey S. Baker


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


Posted by lumi at 7:06 PM


Jeffries2PACB.gifBrooklyn, NY — December 8, 2006

Assemblymember-Elect Hakeem Jeffries, who will represent the 57th District, which includes most of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, today sent a letter to the Public Authorities Control Board calling for a delay in consideration of the project. The letter is attached (PDF).


Posted by lumi at 6:00 PM

Ratner set to seize land

State could OK eminent domain at Yards site today

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

As state honchos work to push through the controversial project before Gov. Pataki leaves office, officials are expected as early as today to give developer Bruce Ratner the green light to take over private property at the site.

"I feel I have a right to stay in my house - especially in America," said homeowner Ioana Sarbu, who is originally from Romania and lives with her husband on Dean St. in the midst of the proposed site.
"Everything was taken away from me and my family by the Nazis and their cohorts," wrote Louis Piller, who owns a building on Pacific St., in a recent letter to state officials opposing the project. "It is unbelievable that I am once again the victim of forced confiscation, this time in a democratic country."

If the use of eminent domain is approved and condemnation letters are sent out, opponents have 30 days to appeal. If they lose, they will be forced to sell their properties at "fair market value."


Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Do We Hear Triple OT?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has come up with some fact-similies comparing the mediocre play of the fortunate first-place NJ Nets with the full court press to approve the Atlantic Yards project, i.e.:

The Nets don't play the greatest team ball ever since the arrival of Vince Carter. Team strategy seems to be to get Kidd to get the ball to Vince so Vince can dunk it.
The "Atlantic Yards" project is a high-rise enclave that does not play well with its surrounding national treasure of predominately low-rise brownstones.


Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Atlantic Yards, 2026? Business leader doubts ten-year buildout prediction

Atlantic Yards Report

As the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) prepares today to approve the Atlantic Yards project, we should consider the very real possibility—echoed yesterday by a prominent project supporter—that it could take twice as long as promised.

If so, that raises significant questions about the delayed provision of open space and affordable housing, the persistence of a large interim surface parking lot, and the adequacy of the ESDC’s review of the project.

Norman Oder chats with Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City and project supporter, who says that there's "not a chance" for Atlantic Yards to be built in 10 years.


Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Inside the orbit of Shelly Silver

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

Sheldon Silver

Now that the Empire State Development Corporation is expected to vote to approve the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, all eyes turn to State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

All three [men in a room] have said they support the project — but Silver has used his board vote to block several key Pataki initiatives, including the West Side stadium and the Moynihan station project.

That, plus the fact that he recently slammed ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano as corrupt, makes many believe that he will stick it to Pataki again. No wonder so many people are in the Speaker’s orbit right now.

Click here to read the breakdown of the players.

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Silent Night/Blighted Heights

Kudos to the only group in the universe that makes "Silent Night" sound like a drinking song!

And speaking about drinking, drop by Freddy's, the footprint watering hole, for a pint of good cheer (ABBL, anything but Brooklyn Lager)!

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Another Reminder of What We've Been Talking About for 3 Years

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has posted on its web site more evidence that the message about Atlantic Yards is finally getting through.


Andrew S. Dolkart, James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University speaking at a BrooklynSpeaks press conference on December 5th:

“The proposed Atlantic Yards project is so misguided and reflects such a crisis of imagination in our government leaders on all levels and in our development community. The project is ignoring what makes Brooklyn great – its scale, its low density, its intimacy. Not out of scale towers that bear no relationship to Brooklyn but could be built anywhere in the world.”


Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Ratner stoop really blows

State: Gusts will sweep through Gehry’s sitting area

Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

Ratner's wind-swept canyon will not be suitable for "stopping?"

State officials revealed this week that the large outdoor flight of stairs — central feature of Bruce Ratner’s mega-development — will be too windy for sitting or dining 61 percent of the time.

The state wind impact report shows that gusts would frequently exceed seven miles per hour —the threshold for comfortable “leisure sitting” or “dining,” as the report defines it — thanks to new wind patterns resulting from Ratner’s $4.2-billion, 16-tower arena, hotel, residential and office complex.

The front stoop, the report said, is only suitable for standing and walking — despite Gehry’s renderings that show people sitting and dining at outdoor cafe tables at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

“[The stoop area has] the highest predicted wind speeds as a result of the canyon effect caused by the buildings on either side,” the report said.


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

REMINDER: ESDC Board Meeting TODAY, 3:30PM

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) moved today's meeting from 10AM to 3:30PM.

Barring an unscheduled flicker of conscience, the ESDC is expected to approve the Final Environmental Impact Statement and authorize the use of eminent domain.

ESDC Headquarters
633 Third Avenue

Photo: Lobby of ESDC Headquarters.

No photography is allowed in the meeting room, but if you want more information on who sits on the Board, check out Atlantic Yards Report's exclusive.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Gargano stumbles on Lehrer's show: no eminent domain quite yet?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is wa-a-a-a-ay too polite to say it, so we will.

Yesterday, Empire State Development Corporation Chairman (ESDC) Charles Gargano mumbled a nearly incomprehensible answer when asked about Atlantic Yards and eminent domain on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show. This was after spending nearly 20 minutes confidently answering questions about economic development and allegations of corruption.

Oder, being a fairly nice guy, called it a "stumble." Here's his transcript with some clarification by the spokesperson for the ESDC:

BL: Part of that vote is any condemnations that you decide are needed. Does that mean seizing property under eminent domain?

Gargano became a little tongue-tied.

CG: At this point, we have, we do—we have not used, or--have not used to date any eminent domain condemn-condemn-condemnation.

BL: And you don’t anticipate a vote on anything like that tomorrow?

CG: No, there is nothing about that tomorrow.

What exactly does this mean? The ESDC plans to condemn all the property, including that owned by Forest City Ratner, in part to remove tenants with rent-regulated leases.

I asked ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen for clarification. She responded, "The Chairman misspoke. Approval for authorization of eminent domain will go before the Board tomorrow. And, no, we have not used eminent domain."

Read the rest of the transcript or go to Brian Lehrer Live to listen in.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Ratner Claus

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Bruce Ratner played Santa at the 15th Annual Metrotech tree lighting ceremony this past Monday, December 4. Ratner was there to flip the switch on the lights and hand out a $1,000 check to P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens.

Metrotech BID's Executive Director Michael Weiss introduced Ratner Claus by proclaiming that "Brooklyn is the leader in development in terms of retail, residential and recreational building. As for recreational: Go Nets!" The many assembled Metrotech employees, P.S. 58 parents, and other passersby in the audience gave out a grand hurrah at the name of Brooklyn's possible future basketball team.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM


The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

29_48yardsbillboards.jpgThe Atlantic Yards project is a threat to one of America’s national treasures — Brooklyn’s brownstone blocks — two preservation groups charged this week, citing new state renderings that show 15-story illuminated advertising billboards on either side of the development’s main building.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the group Scenic America both said that the 16-tower arena, residential and office space project would overwhelm the brownstone blocks in neighboring Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Boerum Hill.

And Scenic America raised a new issue: Two 150-foot-tall illuminated billboards on either side of the “Urban Room” atrium at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues would constantly bathe “Brooklyn’s famed brownstones ... in the light from 15-story beer ads,” said Kevin Fry, the group’s president.

The billboards only came to light last week, as part of the state’s hurriedly prepared final environmental impact statement for the $4.2-billion project (see rendering left).

Such billboards are illegal under New York City zoning — but that law is one of many local codes being superceded by the state in its approval of Atlantic Yards.


Click here for a closer look at the image composite published in the Brooklyn Papers.

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Take the Signage Poll!

SignVertical.jpgBrooklyn Speaks asks:

What do you think of the signage proposed for Atlantic Yards?

We'd like to hear from you.

Take the poll by... clicking here.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Spitzer Said to Pick Next ESDC Chair

Patrick FoyeYou gotta love the blogosphere.

We are posting that Matthew Schuerman from The Real Estate Observer posted that:

Newsday's Errol Cockfield and the Daily News' Ben Smith are reporting that Patrick Foye, the president and chief executive of the United Way of Long Island, will be Eliot Spitzer's pick to chair the Empire State Development Corporation--the first time in 20 years that the post would not be held by a fundraiser for whomever is Governor.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Ratner to pony-up rent

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Answering criticism from fair-housing advocates, the Atlantic Yards developer says his company is guaranteeing to pay the difference between the current rent of soon-to-be-evicted tenants within the footprint of his development and the rent for “a comparable unit,” until the tenants are relocated into a Yards building.

Initially, Ratner only promised to pay the rent for three years — but many worried that tenants would get burned if construction of Atlantic Yards dragged on beyond that time frame.

Of course, if Ratner never builds Atlantic Yards, all bets are off, according to the new deal, which is contained in the state’s final environmental impact statement certified last week.
“It sounds like an improvement if tenants can have confidence that they can have their rent paid until they are moved into a new unit,” said Brad Lander, executive director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “But there is still insecurity for the tenants if the project falls apart.”

It’s more than insecurity, said George Locker, an attorney for 13 rent-stabilized tenants in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint.

“If this project isn’t built, these people will lose their homes and get nothing in return,” he said. The agreement still violates state [relocation] law. This is not state law, this is Ratner law.”


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM


NY Newsday
By Laura Mann and Abigail W. Leonard

Bruce Ratner's East End (not East Side) neighbor just reduced the asking price of his compound:

Wildlife and fashion photographer Peter Beard recently lowered the asking price on his cliff-side property in Montauk from $32 million to $20 million. John Hollyer, listing agent for Prudential Douglas Elliman, says Beard has "mixed feelings" about selling the storied estate, where neighbors include singer Paul Simon and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

December 7, 2006

DDDB Press Release
On Eve of Special ESDC Board Meeting Chairman Charles Gargano Says

Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Condemnation Won’t Be Approved Tomorrow

NEW YORK, NY— The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will hold a special board meeting tomorrow to approve the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan, State Environmental Quality Review findings, and eminent domain condemnation of properties in the proposed project site in accordance with New York State’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL).

ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano–a defendant in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project–appeared live on WNYC radio’s Brian Lehrer show this morning. When asked if the ESDC will approve the use of eminent domain at their board meeting tomorrow, the agency’s Chairman said, “No, there is nothing about that tomorrow.”

If the Chairman’s’ answer is correct, it would be news to everyone including the ESDC staff that worked over the Thanksgiving weekend to ensure the Board’s approval could occur on December 8th.

“We would be delighted if Chairman Gargano was accurate in saying that eminent domain won’t be approved tomorrow, but we, and everyone else, fully expect that approval to occur,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Without the use of eminent domain Forest City Ratner's “Atlantic Yards” cannot be built as proposed.

Norman Oder who runs the Atlantic Yards Report has just clarified the confusion. According to the ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen, the Chairman "misspoke." More from Mr. Oder is here: http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/12/gargano-stumbles-on-lehrers-show-no.html

Posted by lumi at 11:04 PM

The ESDC board: team players and big donors

Atlantic Yards Report EXCLUSIVE

Norman Oder lifts the curtain in front of the Board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to reveal political fundraisers, big-money donors and Bloomberg's ladyfriend (no joke).

Here are the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board members, who are expected to approve the Atlantic Yards project at a meeting tomorrow.

NameAppointed By Term Expires
Charles A. Gargano (Chair)Gargano-Head.gif GovernorPleasure of Governor
Kevin S. Corbett Corbett-Head.gif GovernorPleasure of Governor
Charles E. (Trip) DorkeyDorkey-HEad.gif GovernorPleasure of Governor
David H. Feinberg no picGovernor1/1/2007
Mark E. Hamister Hamster-Head.gif Governor1/1/2009
Joseph H. HollandHolland-Hea.gif Governor1/1/2001 (holdover)
Diana TaylorTaylor-Head.gif GovernorEx Officio


Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

Last-Ditch Maneuvering on Atlantic Yards Project

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

An article about the political maneuvering before and after tomorrow's vote by the Empire State Development Corporation goes into details about the different stakeholders.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella organization of groups that want to stop the project, filed suit last month in federal court to challenge the likely condemnation of several properties on the site. On Tuesday, the group delivered thousands of letters from city residents to Mr. Pataki, Mr. Bruno and Mr. Silver urging them not to approve the project until the lawsuit is resolved.

The group also recently hired a lobbyist to contend with the considerable Albany firepower of Forest City Ratner and the array of New York politicians, unions and business groups allied with the company.

A second coalition, known as Brooklyn Speaks, hopes to force changes to the project, like significantly reducing its size. The coalition includes several national and local civic groups with influence, including the Municipal Arts Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, which is also the development partner in a new Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company, declined to comment on any efforts it has made to influence the upcoming votes.


NoLandGrab: For those of you who are counting, this article includes the disclosure about the Times-Ratner business relationship.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Twelve Days of Christmas - Bruce Ratner Christmas Carol

On the third day of Christmas, Bruce Ratner took from me:
THREE neighborhoods,
TWO thoroughfares, and
An apartment for my family.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

City subsidies make little difference with AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in the New York Observer this week, headlined No, No, No. Yes. The Mayor’s Curious Evolution on Public Money for Private Real Estate, sketches how Mayor Mike Bloomberg has come around on the issue of city support for private projects. The paragraphs relevant to Atlantic Yards:

A city economic-development official said that capital subsidies—or, rather, investments—serve another purpose. “It provides the type of upfront capital funding that is needed in the early stages of the project, when it might be hard to get that money from other sources,” the official said.

Thus, the city is pitching in $100 million for Atlantic Yards, even though that project is so gargantuan—$4.2 billion—that it’s hard to believe it will make a difference. Opponents of the project argue that the public could end up paying much more, through indirect subsidies and also because the memorandum of understanding calls on the city and state to “consider making additional contributions for extraordinary infrastructure costs.”

Au contraire mon frère, says Norman Oder, it's not just opponents who are making the point:

Actually, the Independent Budget Office toted up a long list of public costs, and the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledges both city and state costs.

The affordable housing subsidies, among other things, remain unknown. Indeed, three Assemblymembers recently warned “there has been, to date, no public disclosure of the project’s finances, including detailed cost analysis, anticipated public subsidies, and expected financial return."


Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Atlantic Yards: Creating the next terrorist target?

Daily Gotham

Mole333 posts an open letter from Al Rosner to Governor-elect Spitzer. Rosner highlights the fact that a post-9/11 and Katrina security analysis has been overlooked.

Unconscionably the ESDC has chosen to ignore all too many of the documented concerns of the communities surrounding this project. One area of profound consequence they have refused to address regards issues of public safety and security. Since the attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina this has become a major focus of attention at all levels of government, yet any such consideration here was disregarded.


NoLandGrab: You may be thinking, "Katrina??? Now Rosner has really lost it." But Rosner has a point. Post-9/11 and Hurricane Katrina MARKET conditions have not only added to the cost of additional security measures, but have caused insurance premiums to skyrocket. Something tells us if these costs become unmanageable, taxpayers, not Bruce Ratner, will be holding the bag (again).

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

A Parking Lot Grows in Brooklyn

Streets Blog catches up on Norman "the Human Tape Rec'oder" Oder's coverage of Traffic and Transportation issues.

On parking:

In July when the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was issued it included a plan to limit parking at the arena to vehicles carrying three or more people, except for an unspecified number of suites. The final EIS issued in November clarified that policy: Only about half of the parking space will be for HOV vehicles.

Norman Oder on parking lots for construction workers...

The Atlantic Yards project is being billed as "transit-oriented development," but the project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is notably defensive about a big parking lot for construction workers.

and temporary open space vs. temporary surface parking:

maybe the concept remains, to be proffered as a compromise at crunch time, when the developer and the Empire State Development Corporation need to get Atlantic Yards past Sheldon Silver and the Public Authorities Control Board.


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

The Park Slope 100

MartyPuppet-because.jpgOnly the Blog Knows Brooklyn published its "highly opinionated, inherently flawed, subjective list of talented, energetic, ambitious, creative individuals with vision in the Greater Park Slope area who reach outward toward the larger community and the world to lead, to help, to create, to teach, to improve, to inform, to network, to create change."

The list features several people and groups (including NLG) who are contributing to shedding light on Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal.

Missing from the list is Sloper and Bruce Ratner's political operative, Bruce Bender, but Marty Markowitz made the cut (reason: "Because").


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

Transportation consultants blast FEIS, say it should be rejected

Atlantic Yards Report

In a blistering letter sent yesterday to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and numerous elected officials, Carolyn Konheim and Brian Ketcham of Community Consulting Services warned that the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is deeply flawed regarding transportation impacts and should be rejected.

In fact, wrote the pair, who are transportation consultants to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, “numerous egregious errors and omissions” in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement remain unchanged and certain deficiencies “became more pronounced in the FEIS.”

The transportation consultants go into detail about weaknesses and omissions in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Yesterday, as a final eff-you, the ESDC dumped 600 pages of documents that were requested by Brian Ketcham during the DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement process this past summer. The "release" of the documents comes two days before the ESDC will approve the Environmental Impact Statement, leaving no time for analysis.


Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Station Square casino developers pitch new traffic plan to state panel

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Tracie Mauriello

Forest City DOES have a traffic plan... only it's for their bid to build a gigantic slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh:

Station Square casino developers yesterday used a video simulation to argue to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board members that concerns about traffic jams are overblown.

There are no illegal u-turns and double parking in simulation land:

Images of cars, buses and trolleys flowed smoothly on Carson Street and the Smithfield Street Bridge in their presentation.

The trick will be to keep traffic moving that way for real if a casino with thousands of slot machines opens there.

Representatives of Station Square owner Forest City Enterprises appeared before the board yesterday to defend their traffic plan.

It was their last chance to provide testimony to the board before Dec. 20, when five casino licenses are to be awarded, including one for a Pittsburgh site.

As you know, being at a transit hub really helps:

Automobile congestion also would be mitigated by the site's close proximity to public transportation, Mr. Wentzel said. Gamblers will arrive by incline, bus, trolley and boat, he said.


Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

It's Time To Say Goodbye to the Meadowlands Arena

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

MeadowlandsArena.jpgNow that the Meadowlands' Continental Arena has lost the NJ Devils hockey team, who will soon move into their own arena in Newark, what should become of the facility?

An article about the arena's fate includes this tidbit about the NJ Nets options:

When an arena loses an anchor tenant it signals the beginning of the end of its usefulness as a sports venue. Jeffrey Vanderbeek's Devils franchise is gone and Bruce Ratner's Nets are contractually committed to the building only until his planned Brooklyn Arena sees the light of day. Of course, Ratner's arena may never be built, which means that — under the right circumstances — the Nets could end up in Newark or possibly somewhere in Queens. But Ratner is not likely to stay beyond 2010 or 2011 at an old arena that underperforms in terms of revenue because of a lack of luxury boxes, club seats, and other fan-friendly amenities.


Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

December 6, 2006

Winter Wonderland Ratner Christmas Carol

Today's carol features a cameo by the Mayor and a kick-ass recorder solo by the multi-talented Chris Owens, though you may still need your earplugs!

Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

New warnings: AY would overwhelm neighborhoods, signage would bring Times Square to Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report


Yesterday two national organizations, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Scenic America, ratcheted up such concerns. They warned that the scale of the project would overwhelm Brooklyn’s row house neighborhoods and that the massive illuminated signage—an issue given short shrift in the public discussion and even the state environmental review—could turn the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues into something resembling Times Square. Some signs would be 150-feet high and 75-feet wide.
“Our motto is ‘Change is inevitable. Ugliness is not,’” declared Kevin Fry, president of Scenic America. “The notion of 150-foot animated billboards on this development is a direct assault on the character of this community,” he added. “The developers want to create a garish, out-of-scale commercial intrusion that would not be permitted by the community otherwise. Times Square should not be exported to Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: According to Gehry's design consultant, Atlantic Yards signage design principles are "Respectful, Dynamic and Immersive."

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Blame it on the UDC Act

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes a dim view of the Empire State Development Corporation's response to concerns about eminent domain.

edmine-UDC.jpgThe ESDC collated hundreds of comments addressing the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan in the Final Environmental Impact Statment.

The arm's-length of commentary run the gamut, from "the argument that this project is eliminating blight and therefore justifies the use of eminent domain is specious," to "the abuse of eminent domain is an act of terrorism."

The ESDC's response: "Pursuant to Section 13 of the UDC Act, the ESDC is authorized to use eminent domain to acquire property."


NoLandGrab: Like wow, we get it now. Why didn't the ESDC just say so in the first place?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Three years later, a look at the changing Atlantic Yards narrative, from hoops to housing

Dec10arenamodel.jpgAtlantic Yards Report looks back to the official unveiling of the project and documents how much has changed, especially the myths that have been busted during the past three(!) years.

Nearly three years ago, when the Atlantic Yards plan was announced at a 12/10/03 press conference, the project was, more than anything else, about basketball. The web site for the project was Bball.net. The slogan became “Jobs, Housing and Hoops.”

Now, if you listen to Forest City Ratner, the project is mostly about affordable housing—an issue cited but not prioritized at the outset. And, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, it’s about the elimination of blight, an affliction unmentioned at the start.

Along the way, the jobs issue receded, likely because the number of office jobs plummeted. The developer backed off pledges to make the roof of the arena public park space, to make sure the tallest building didn’t block the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, and to respect the scale of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Perhaps most importantly, the amount of known public subsidy—downplayed from the start—has ballooned, even as major components, such as the support for affordable housing, remain unknown.


Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Bank of NY buys Mellon Financial for $16.5B

Crain's NY Business

An article on Bank of NY's purchase of Mellon Financial has some details of the Liberty Bond financing secured by Bruce Ratner for the Atlantic Terminal highrise.

Bank of New York was hard hit by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The state and city helped keep bank jobs in the city by issuing $113.9 million in Liberty Bonds to Forest City Ratner Cos., which developed a tower over Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal.

Bank of New York became the anchor tenant, moving about 1,500 jobs there. The bank currently occupies 320,000 square feet in the building, Forest City says. Bank of New York received the grant as part of the same economic development package.


Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere19.jpgDon't Worry It's Just Reality (Brooklyn Ed.), Why do "nice guys" like Michael Ratner Associate With 'bad guys' like Bruce Ratner?

It's a trick question... he's not a nice guy.

In a subsequent post, Dreadnaught notes that Michael Ratner is an international human rights lawyer, which gets him off the hook for local human rights.

The Gowanus Lounge, Christmas + Atlantic Yards = Atlantic Yards Youtube Christmas Carols
GL gives the Prospect Heights Action Carolers some airplay and has this warning for Marty Markowtiz:

Do you begin to sense what will happen if the BP runs for Mayor and people hold a grudge? The only mayoral candidate with a pre-mixed opposition group.

Gawker, Memo to Bruce Ratner: Where's Your YouTube Video, Hmmmm?

If you really wanna see Bruce Ratner's YouTube video, click here.

[Note: Give it up for targeted advertising. When we viewed Bruce Ratner's YouTube vid, the banner ad for Cingular featured Nets minority owner, Jay-Z.]

I'm Seeing Green, Atlantic Yards Light

Worried about being blown over by the Atlantic Yards project?

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards: A Terrorist Attack is Not a "Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario"?

If a major terrorist attack is not "a reasonable worst-case scenario" for an arena atop a train and subway station with a highrise atop it and apartments nearby, what is?

You can overlook all of the impacts of Atlantic Yards that have been ignored: scale, density, pollution, congestion, shadows, etc., etc., etc., but even the most enthusiastic backer of the project should ask that officialdom hit the pause button until proper anti-terrorism and safety planning is done.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Letter from NIMBY-land

A new waterfront development has our laissez-faire columnist gasping in horror.

By Philip Nobel

There's nothing like falling in love with your backyard to rock your world view:

Even in slightly more fragile Brooklyn, I’ve never complained about the things that tend to get built when big money changes hands and politicians find themselves rallying under the flag of economic development. Have you noticed the total absence of screeds here against the Frank Gehry–Bruce Ratner plans for Atlantic Yards? That’s because I think it’s fine. And until recently I lived only a few blocks away.

Then I moved. And now I have a backyard. And it backs up to a perfectly scenic truck lot. And across the street from that there’s ­nothing but a few hundred yards of empty blacktop and a low warehouse between me and the Buttermilk Channel, with leafy still-in-limbo Governors Island beyond, and then the open harbor. From my roof I can see the Statue of Liberty, close. And when the Queen Mary 2 pulls in it blots out the sky. When they make their calls at the new cruise-ship terminal, you can see the top levels of even the lesser Princess-line boats over the high garden fence—the one I’m sure in the spring will be thick again with morning glory, our local kudzu.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

City using passion for sports to lure Special Olympics

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Sarah Hollander

Al RatnerAl Ratner, co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises, is quoted in an article about Cleveland's bid to host the Special Olympics:

Albert Ratner, co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises, said the event would be a perfect fit for Cleveland.

The city is an ethnically diverse, sports-crazy town known for its philanthropy.

"The athletic part is in our blood," he said. "The special part is in our hearts."

"You won't be able to go anywhere where you'll get the love and care for them that we have in Cleveland," Ratner said.


NoLandGrab: Uh, Al, we usually refer to "them" as "athletes."

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

DDDB asks PACB to say "whoa;" Lupica puts Silver on notice

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) yesterday delivered 3600 letters to the controlling members of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), asking them to wait to vote on the Atlantic Yards project until the eminent domain case is resolved.

The PACB, whose controlling members are Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, could get to vote on the project as early as December 15, assuming the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) approves the project at its meeting on Friday. (Note: the meeting time has been changed to 3:30 pm from 10 am.)

On Sunday, Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica urged Silver, the only Democrat among the trio, to put the project on hold:


Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

Bad math on open space in the FEIS

Atlantic Yards Report

MathCurse.jpgThere's no time to check your math, when you have to grind out a massive Final Environmental Impact Statement in record time.

The Empire State Development Corporation calculated an unbelievably generous open-space ratio for the project that either supposes that there will be fewer people than apartments or more open space than the entire footprint of the project.


NoLandGrab: Could there be a re-amendment and recertification of the Final Environmental Impact Statement in the near future? Or, is it legal in NY State to release an EIS with blatantly false info?

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

December 5, 2006


NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

November 30, 2006

BROOKLYN LEADERS who oppose the controversial Atlantic Yards project want to nix a key vote until Gov.-elect Spitzer takes office. City Councilwoman Letitia James fired off a letter yesterday with state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Councilman David Yassky urging Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other members of the Public Authorities Control Board to postpone approval of the project until after Jan. 1.

"Approving the project now, at the very end of the Pataki administration, would be a grave abuse of the PACB's authority," the officials wrote, charging the project is too big and will create a traffic nightmare near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. Three other state officials - Assembly members James Brennan, Joan Millman and Annette Robinson - recently wrote their own letter urging Silver to wait.

A delay will "allow the Spitzer administration to address the gross defects in the Environmental Impact Statement or conduct other reviews," they wrote in a Nov. 22 letter.

The memos express a growing concern among critics that Gov. Pataki may ram the $4.2 billion Nets arena project through during his final days in office.

The Pataki-controlled Empire State Development Corp. held another key vote on the project Monday, and approval by the agency is expected as early as late next week.

By the end of December, the project could then go before the three-member PACB for final approval. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20, though an agenda has yet to be released.

Silver is the only Democrat on the PACB. He derailed the controversial West Side stadium plan last year and the Moynihan train station project last month.

The other members are appointees of Pataki and fellow-Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

A Silver spokesman said yesterday it is too soon to comment on the project.

"We have not been briefed yet on this project and there's no board meeting that has been scheduled," spokesman Skip Carrier said.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 PM

NASCAR Dumped, Even WITH a Traffic Plan

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn makes a good point about how the recently abandoned plan to build a NASCAR track in Staten Island at least tried to address traffic and transportation issues, unlike an arena and 16 (or 19) highrise proposal at one of the most congested intersections in Brooklyn:

Despite the problems with the racetrack project, even a 100,000-spectator venue managed to have a comprehensive traffic plan attached to it.
If NASCAR could create a compelling, comprehensive traffic plan for 3 weekend events per year at that massive venue in Staten Island, why can't Forest City Ratner and the ESDC do the same?


Posted by lumi at 6:26 PM

Thousands of Letters Delivered to: Silver, Bruno, Pataki, Spitzer, Quinn

Letters Call for Postponing Atlantic Yards Vote Until Federal Eminent Domain Suit is Resolved

NEW YORK, NY— Over 3,600 letters, signed by Brooklynites and other New Yorkers, were hand delivered today to Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, the three men who control the votes on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). The letters were also delivered to Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The letters, collected over a four week period, urge the postponement of any PACB vote on the “Atlantic Yards” project until after the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the project’s use of eminent domain is resolved in court. That lawsuit was filed on October 26th in the Eastern District.

The letters state:

If the PACB were to approve the project prior to judicial resolution, substantial numbers of buildings at the site could be demolished. If at a later date, however, the courts were to disallow the use of eminent domain, many aspects of the project, including the arena, could not be built, and the community would be left with a demolition site amid acres of vacant land. This uncertainty regarding the project’s viability, prior to a court decision, requires a postponement of any decision by the PACB.

A copy of the letter can be found here http://www.dddb.net/pacb/letter.pdf>www.dddb.net/pacb/letter.pdf.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, “The thousands of people who signed this letter expect the members of the PACB to do the responsible and wise thing by postponing their vote until there is legal resolution of the eminent domain lawsuit. A project whose entire legality is in question should not be approved unless that matter is resolved and the project is shown to be constitutional.”

Just last week the Assemblymembers representing districts surrounding the proposed project site–Jim Brennan, Joan Millman, and Annette Robinson–also requested postponement of the PACB vote. Their letter can be found here: www.nolandgrab.org/docs/pols/MillBrennanRobinson.pdf.

Approval of the $4.2 billion, 8 million square foot “Atlantic Yards” proposal requires a unanimous vote by the PACB.

Posted by lumi at 11:49 AM

URGENT: Final Week for Federal Eminent Domain Reform!

From the Institute for Justice:

This is the last week Congress is expected to be in session, and eminent domain reform has yet to be brought to a vote. It's time for a final, full-court press to get federal eminent domain reform passed before the 109th Congress adjourns.

As you know, H.R. 4128 passed the House over a year ago by an extraordinarily bipartisan vote of 376-38. There is no reason this bill should be stonewalled in the Senate, but there has been no vote until now. The Senate needs to understand that federal protections against eminent domain abuse are important to the American people. Every poll done in the wake of Kelo shows overwhelming disapproval of seizing private property for economic development. 34 states have passed legislation in just over one year limiting their powers of eminent domain. And both state courts that have heard this issue since Kelo - Oklahoma and Ohio - disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision and ruled in favor of the property owners. It is clear that this abuse of power will no longer be tolerated, nor will Congress’s support of it.

There is going to be an effort to get eminent domain reform passed this week, but it requires that EVERY senator agree to it. Consequently, your senators’ - Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton - support for this legislation is essential to its passage. We urge you to contact Senators Schumer and Clinton TODAY and TELL THEM TO SUPPORT H.R. 4128/S. 3873. Then call Senator Frist’s office and let him know that you talked to your senators. Lastly, tell all of your friends and family to do the same. Every additional person that makes their voice heard increases the chances that this bill will pass, so please - take a few minutes today to spread the word.

Here are their phone numbers:
Senator Chuck Schumer: (202) 224-6542
Senator Hillary Clinton: (202) 224-4451
Senator Bill Frist: (202) 224-3344

Or you can e-mail them through this link: https://action.popuvox.com/default.aspx?actionID=286.

This is the last chance for the 109th Congress to pass eminent domain reform. If they don't, we will have to start all over again next year - so let's make this week count.

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

FIVE Bogus Points!

We've been saving the five bogus-point rating for the ultimate in Bo-da-cious.

In response to the community's request that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) address security and the threat of terrorism, the Final EIS states in Chapter 24, page 235:

"Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside the scope of the EIS."

5Bruce-BogusPoints.gifIf these are not "reasonable worst-case scenarios," then what is? How much worse can you get?

Nuff said, we're slapping this one with the max — that's five bogus points.

Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

Brooklyn's "front stoop"? Study for FEIS says area too windy for much sitting

Atlantic Yards Report

UrbanRoomSketch.jpgYou know the saying, "If they can't take a [bleep!], joke 'em." Here's the latest joke from Ratnerville and the Empire State Development Corporation's "analysis" of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) doesn't require a wind analysis for the Environmental Impact Statement, so none was included in the EIS. But it turns out that the ESDC did perform a wind analysis, which is mentioned in passing in the FEIS. Norman Oder, of course, asked to see it.

Here's the punchline: according to Mr. Oder, the wind analysis found that architect Frank Gehry's front stoop, the entry to the Urban Room, "wouldn’t be suitable for leisure sitting/dining and even some short-term sitting." Perfect for kite-fliers, not so good for toupee-wearers.

So Laurie Olin's illustration of people enjoying a leisurely afternoon at the biggest stoop in Brooklyn is fanciful, even farcical.

Atlantic Yards Report is running a full article on: * the findings, * the failure to account for ythe three towers planned for the Atlantic Center Mall overbuild, and * the impacts the study claims "would not cause a significant hardship."


Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Prospect Heights Action Carolers

What they lack in intonation and rhythm, they make up for in volume and snazzy lyrics.

Deck the hood with Ratner greenbacks, Ba-ba-ba-ba-baa Back-room Deal!

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM


A different kind of local body, created to help shape Columbia University’s development plan, could become a “community benefits” trendsetter.

City Limits.org
By Jimmy Vielkind

The West Harlem Local Development Corporation, is unique. It is not directly involved in building affordable housing or creating jobs, but rather with negotiating and enforcing a community benefits agreement with Columbia University as the school pushes to build a new campus on a 17-acre site just north of 125th Street. In the past few years, community benefits agreements have emerged as vital to large development projects in New York, and this LDC was formed in an attempt to answer the question of precisely who in a given community should sit across the negotiating table.


Atlantic Yards Report follows up on the City Limits article in a post which compares the West Harlem effort to Ratner's CBA.

The city seems to be learning that community groups in such negotiations need some juice. City Limits reports:

City officials have encouraged the dialogue. The New York City Economic Development Corporation provided $350,000 and a professional mediator, John Bickerman, to facilitate negotiations. There is no formal place in current review processes for a community benefits agreement, and Mayor Bloomberg has not consistently supported such agreements.

There was no such formal and financial backing for the Atlantic Yards CBA. Indeed, the city is continuing to rethink the CBA concept. So much for the model that supporters proclaim.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Billion-dollar Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards

Affordable Housing Institute Weblogs
By David Smith, Founder, Affordable Housing Institute

tug_o_war_small1.jpgReplete with illustrations, David Smith presents a three-part weblog series which parses through the fight over Atlantic Yards, using Chris Smith's (no relation to David) New York Magazine article, Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report blog and the Jonathan Lethem letter.

Part 1: The Property

What is the property? Mammoth, complex, mixed-use, mixed-tenure, and mixed-income — all the things I endorse! — on a dense and complex parcel, redeveloping an arguably (very arguably!) blighted area of Brooklyn.

holdout_small1.jpgPart 2: The Benefits

What does the public get for Atlantic Yards? * Affordable housing * Increased real estate taxes * Forget the permanent new jobs; those projections are notoriously unreliable, subjective, and generally falling. * "900 units for a family of four with an annual income of $35,000 or less." That's the very low income standard for New York City, truly deep affordability — but it's roughly median for blue-collar Brooklyn.

Part 3: The Public

Why should the public have a voice?

cba_groupandscroll_small.jpgIn political terms, scale. That many affected neighbors means that many voters, and for political survival, voters must be heard.

What's the antidote to anti-development voters? Pro-development voters. Developer Ratner has found them in an unexpected place.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

At the Dean St. Playground: how FCR's $20K offer became a $1.25M comfort station

Atlantic Yards Report


Negotiators generally offer less than they’re willing to give up, so it’s safe to assume that the developer has another change or three at the ready, to be announced when the time is right, to move the project forward.

Consider the developer’s agreement to provide a comfort station at the Dean Street Playground, in partial mitigation for the excess noise the playground would experience due to the project construction and traffic nearby.

It turns out that Forest City Ratner agreed to pay much more--62.5 times more--than the company initially offered. The New York City Economic Development Corporation set up a meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Initially, FCR offered just $20,000, Martin Maher, chief of staff in DPR's Brooklyn office, told the Friends of the Dean Street Playground at a meeting on Saturday.

"We said the community really needs a comfort station," Maher said. The comfort station, which would cost at least $1.25 million, had been on the Friends group's wish list for a while.

Forest City Ratner officials agreed, Maher said. Apparently, the developer wanted the problem to go away, and $1.25M+, as part of a $4.2 billion project, was within their comfort zone.

Norman Oder points originally pointed out that the Friends of the Dean St. Playground were pleased with the mitigation, but were concerned with staffing a facility since the Department of Parks and Recreation has "removed or closed bathrooms when they got too dangerous."


I initially wrote that the group was "generally pleased," but co-coordinator Peter Krashes pointed out today that, despite the deal that DPR achieved, the group still remains quite frustrated with the overall challenge.

"They don't have community consent," he said. "There’s been no real meaningful process to discuss how the playground can be adjusted to the impact of this enormous project."

The larger question remains:

What other changes in the Atlantic Yards project is the developer willing to make in response to pressure?


NoLandGrab: Developer Forest City Ratner must be kind of flumoxed by the reaction by the Friends of Dean St. Playground. The company has pledged over $1.25M for improvements to the playground but, unlike the groups that signed Community Benefits Agreement, the Friends of Dean St. Playground aren't exactly playing ball.

As civic responsibility would require, the group is still looking for "impacts [to be] addressed meaningfully with mitigation."

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Arena economic benefits? ESDC ignores countervailing evidence

Atlantic Yards Report

NJ Nets Arena BrooklynThe Environmental Impact Statement addresses the vagaries of the economic benefit of Bruce Ratner's Frank Gehry-designed arena in this brilliant statement:

If there were fewer events and lower attendance at the arena, fiscal benefits associated with the arena (sales tax on tickets, parking, and concessions) would be lower than those reported in the EIS. If the number of events and attendees were higher, the fiscal benefits would be higher.

But where did the Empire State Development Corporation get the number estimating the number of events at the new Nets arena, a whopping 224 per year? As usual, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has the answer.


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

December 4, 2006


Tomorrow morning, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Scenic America will join the nine original civic groups that founded BrooklynSpeaks.net to advocate for a development plan at the Atlantic Yards site that will work for Brooklyn.

A news conference will begin tomorrow at 11:45 a.m., Tuesday, December 5, at Fort Greene Place, between Hanson and Fulton Streets, in Fort Greene. Transit: B, D, M, N, Q, R W, 2, 3, 4, 5 and LIRR to Atlantic Ave./Pacific St.; G to Fulton St.; C to Lafayette Ave.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America’s story. Staff at the Washington, DC, headquarters, six regional offices and 28 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states.

Scenic America is the nation’s leading non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to scenic conservation and preventing visual blight. One of their top priorities is battling the blizzard of monstrous billboards that are appearing in every large city and in local hometowns. Their headquarters are located in Washington DC.

BrooklynSpeaks.net was organized by Atlantic Avenue LDC, Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association,Fifth Avenue Committee, Municipal Art Society, Park Slope Civic Council, Pratt Area Community Council, Project for Public Spaces, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. #

Brian F Connolly, Vice President for Communications

The Municipal Art Society of New York

Posted by lumi at 9:05 PM

God Rest Ye Marty Markowitz! Ratner Christmas Carol

Fuhgeddaboudit! Today, the Ratner Christmas Carolers tackle Marty Markowitz.

Word is that the Ratner Christmas Carolers are available for parties and holiday functions and will be making appearances locally when you least expect it.

Posted by lumi at 10:35 AM

Interim surface parking & open space: the road not taken (or a coming compromise?)

Atlantic Yards Report


Here's a graphic you haven't seen yet. It shows that, less than six months ago, Forest City Ratner considered a hybrid of both interim surface parking and temporary open space for the southeast block of the development--at least by 2010, after the lot had been used as parking for construction workers.

The idea was rejected as impractical, since parking was deemed more necessary, according to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). So maybe it's the road not taken.

Or maybe the concept remains, to be proffered as a compromise at crunch time, when the developer and the Empire State Development Corporation need to get Atlantic Yards past Sheldon Silver and the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).


Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

Progress in Brooklyn

The debate over Bruce Ratner's Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project has spawned an intellecutal slugfest in the online letters section of n+1. Author Jonathan Lethem explains the false choice faced by Brooklynites, while Jonathan Liu continues to criticize the strategy of discussing "context" (link).

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Views dismantles Jonathan Liu's conclusion in n+1 that, "to reject Gehry on the basis of 'context,' seems a disavowal of the progress of urban life itself.”

Well, here’s some breaking news: the so-called “progress” of urban life has not been a history of unequivocal success. Left to their own devices, the forces of business expedience in urban areas have often overwhelmed quality of life issues, the possibilities for meaning inherent in existing structures, and the potential that existing structures have for adaptive reuse.
We do want progress in Brooklyn, and we should know how to get it right: there is such a thing as a design process that could bring us the development we deserve. It typically begins with planning. Perhaps Mr. Liu could speak with the development team about that?


NoLandGrab: Funny, but the more Liu disavows criticism of "context," the more he talks about it.

In reality, "context" is but one of the issues in the mix. Liu has overlooked taxpayer-financing of arenas, eminent domain, immitigable traffic, lack of public process, no release of an actual financial analysis, 19 towers plus an area all designed by Gehry (that's "progress"?), lack of a terrorism and security analysis, infrastructure overload, super-duperblocks... we'd go on but we had to come up for breath somewhere. All this effort on the part of Ratner and the ESDC is to create one of the largest, most-concentrated real estate empires that we've come across.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

"Extreme density," missed opportunities, and one partial solution

Atlantic Yards Report

As Norman Oder makes his way through the public comments section of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, he continues to tackle responses to the project, pro and con.

This one addresses "extreme density," but also could be lumped with many comments that sell Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal as a panacea for most of New York City's urban-planning transgressions during the past few decades.

There's an emerging consciousness that the off-the-charts density proposed for the Atlantic Yards project is, in part, a response to developments in recent years built at too little density. Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the business group Partnership for New York City, hinted at that in her testimony at the 8/23/06 public hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

Atlantic Yards provides desperately needed new housing at a scale that will have a meaningful impact on redressing the imbalance between housing supply and demand that has sent Brooklyn rents and home prices through the roof. Over the past 25 years, the Partnership sponsored development of several thousand of affordable homes and apartments in Fort Greene [above], Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace and Bedford Stuyvesant. These were low-rise developments that stabilized fragile neighborhoods and allowed working people to contribute to and enjoy the benefits of Brooklyn’s renewal. The density of these developments, however, was never great enough to impact a tight housing market in a meaningful way. Atlantic Yards will do that.

Believe it or not, Wylde's comment gets Norman Oder thinking about building over libraries.


Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

An American's home is still her castle

Last year's Supreme Court ruling weakening property rights may end up strengthening them

The Economist

ED-Economist.jpgThe international news weekly describes the plight of our neighbors in Long Branch, NJ, who are fighting the town's attempt to take their homes to build more expensive homes, as an example of how the debate over eminent domain has sharpened since last year's Kelo decision.

The backlash may end up strengthening property rights. Before Kelo, few Americans had heard of eminent domain or knew that it was being abused. Local seizures generated no national headlines. Local victims rarely made common cause with similarly afflicted folk in neighbouring states. Since Kelo, however, every serious paper and news channel has tackled the issue. Few, if any, sympathise with the home-grabbers. And the property-rights movement has gone national.


Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

No redevelopment without AY? ESDC keeps a straight face

Atlantic Yards Report

It was one of the least credible statements in the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued in July by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):

The project site is not anticipated to experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project by 2016 due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations.

The Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Neighbors challenged that, commenting:

There is no reason to assume that New York City would not or could not rezone these parcels to encourage such redevelopment. Such rezoning would involve professional planners whose job is to advance the public interest, rather than a reliance on private interests to establish de facto zoning. Such rezoning should be inclusionary.

Check out AYR to read the ESDC's response, in which the agency basically blames the city for not rezoning the neighborhood and perpetuates the myth that City Planning ("professional planners?") was involved with the design guidelines.

NoLandGrab: New York City has been pathetically remiss in tackling rezoning issues. Now the City's transgression has turned into another excuse for NY State to cut through red tape for Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

After 20 Years, Rooms With a View

Downtown's Longtime Laughingstock High-Rise, 1100 Wilshire, Is Reborn As a Condo Complex

Los Angeles Downtown News
By Evan George

1100Wilshire.jpgIt's good enough for a 20-year-old canard in Downtown LA, but not an architectural treasure from Brooklyn's industrial era?

Read about how Forest City has renovated an abandoned office building into chic new condos.

Like an ugly duckling in its awkward teenage years, the triangular glass skyscraper at 1100 Wilshire has stuck out since it was built in 1986 as an office building. It's been called names, and though it had multiple suitors, it was never occupied. Architect Daniel Gehman in the penthouse of 1100 Wilshire, the condominium complex that opened last month. The building had been empty for 20 years. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Now, after a two-year conversion to high-end condominiums, the 20-year-old building hopes to transform into a swan.
Late last month, city officials granted an occupancy permit for 1100 Wilshire to the development team of Forest City Residential West, TMG Partners and MacFarlane Partners. They worked with three different architecture firms on various sections of the building. Thomas P. Cox Architects Inc. was enlisted to convert the interior units, Johnson Fain handled the common areas and AC Martin Partners, which originally designed the structure, was brought back as executive consultant.


If you haven't seen it already, Brooklyn Speaks makes the case to save the Ward Bakery building from Ratner's bulldozers.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

Transit-oriented development, except for construction workers

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards project is being billed as "transit-oriented development," but the project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is notably defensive about a big parking lot for construction workers.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement makes the case for building parking at a transit hub:

Research concluded that a substantial number of construction workers would likely travel via auto, irrespective of the abundance of transit options in the area and the costs associated with driving.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are swerving all over the road on this issue. We can barely keep this straight:

Basically, the argument is framed depending upon what conclusions Ratner needs to make to justify the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

The Score: Not-so Stern on Nets

NY Daily News
By Michael O'Keeffe

DavidStern.jpgThe battle over Bruce Ratner's $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project has left bitter divisions in Brooklyn, but NBA commissioner David Stern says he has not advised the Nets owner to scale back the project or take other steps to ease community concerns.

"That will be resolved by the appropriate parties, the various government agencies," Stern said after his own "CenterStage" taping this week.

Ratner may be eager to get out of New Jersey, but Stern says the low-attendance Nets have proved the state can't support an NBA team. "I don't think that there's an NBA team in its future," Stern says.


Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

The Times, journalism ethics, and the AY Final EIS

Atlantic Yards Report illuminates several layers of irony in this little item posted today:

Number of articles the New York Times has run concerning the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was certified November 15, reissued (after comments were found missing) November 27, and is headed for a December 8 vote by the Empire State Development Corporation: 0

Number of articles the New York Times has run since Friday, December 1 about allegations of cheating in a journalism ethics course at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism: 2


If a tree falls on your business partner and no one is there to cover it, did it make a sound?

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

December 3, 2006

Let Ratner Rule!


Prospect Heights Action Carolers song of the day featuring Chris Owens! Here are some excerpted lyrics:

ESDC your messiness is troubling,
Atlantic Yards deserves careful review.
FEIS has everybody crying
We can't believe that you won't tell the truth!

No adequate assessment of the problems,
Police and fire and schools and sewage drains.
Let Ratner Rule! Is all we hear in your voices.
But we will not yield, we resist, we stand our ground.

Posted by amy at 5:28 PM

Hi, ho Silver!


NY Daily News
Mike Lupica, unlike some other journalists we know but are too polite to mention (see entry below), does his homework, figuring out the poltical intrigue of Atlantic Yards:

Shelly Silver can be the one to stop this between now and the end of the year, tell Ratner to bring the project back to him in miniature, not as something that eats up neighborhoods and homes in the name of Ratner. After that they can all let the new governor decide. All Silver has to do is use the same principles he did in standing in there against the West Side Stadium, another place where big politicians and big developers used sports as a shield.

If this was only about basketball, Ratner would have torn down his shopping mall in that neighborhood, the Atlantic Center Mall, something with the charm of Alcatraz, and built his basketball arena there. Instead, he builds more towers on top of that, three more, making it 19 for the neighborhood, not 16. The guy walks in and buys Brooklyn and nobody stops him.

Shelly Silver can stop him and should stop him.


Posted by amy at 12:09 PM

State of Denial at Atlantic Yards


Our Time Press

Errol Louis lets loose with another error-filled diatribe, this time with a shout-out to NoLandGrab!

Somehow, the anti-development groups fighting against Atlantic Yards have convinced themselves that helping to further the Institute for Justice’s agenda is in the best interests of Brooklyn. Thus, the anti-Yards blog called No Land Grab includes links to tee shirts sold to raise money for the Institute for Justice and uses the group’s logos.

Errol is right on this one. The Institute for Justice is just evil! Their most recent newsletter tells of a case they are working on to stop the condemnation of a predominantly working-class African-American community of 33,000 in Florida. If they could just clear out this blight, a private developer would be able to build "a yacht marina, high-end condominiums and luxury hotels." Damn the IJ for standing in the way of progress! Where will we park our yachts???


Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

HOV parking nearly halved; premium ticketholders exempted

Atlantic Yards Report explains how fancy people will be able to drive in to Nets games all by their lonesome selves. Those rich guys have everything. Except two friends to bring in the car?

DEIS detail

In Chapter 19, Mitigation, of the DEIS, the ESDC stated:
To encourage higher occupancy in auto travel to and from the arena and to discourage single and two-person auto trips, arena parking on the project site would have a three or more person requirement after 5 PM on game days. Again, this would be advertised for fans purchasing tickets on-line. The objective is to encourage increased vehicle occupancy by using a location incentive. This restriction would not apply to arena suites.
(Emphasis added)

FEIS revisions

In Chapter 19, Mitigation, of the FEIS, the ESDC stated:
To encourage higher occupancy in auto travel to and from the arena and to discourage single and two-person auto trips, approximately 600 of the 1,100 parking spaces available on-site for use by fans at a Nets basketball game would have a three or more person requirement after 5 PM on game days. This would be advertised for fans purchasing tickets on-line. The objective is to encourage increased vehicle occupancy by using a location incentive. The remaining 500 spaces would be dedicated to suites and premium seating and would not be subject to the HOV parking requirements.
(Emphasis added)


Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

Neighborhood "practically from scratch" or spaceship?


Atlantic Yards Report

Starchitect Frank Gehry surely has put his foot in his mouth during discussions of the Atlantic Yards project, notably in May when he cracked that critics should've been "picketing Henry Ford" or last January when he misdescribed the footprint as "an empty site."

But Gehry didn't quite say, as he's been quoted, that he had the opportunity "to build a neighborhood from scratch." The press reported that, but Gehry actually said "practically from scratch." (Emphasis added)
Then again, maybe we should concentrate on the notion of neighborhood. As the Park Slope Civic Council testified:
The development plan will not create a neighborhood, but rather a high-density enclave between several neighborhoods which will in fact be a new urban form, however, more likely analogous to a spaceship landing in a field than a unifying element in the community (see scaled depiction below). It may work in concert with itself but not with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Park Slope Civic Council must be envisioning a really, really, really big spaceship, because even the one that we had professionally rendered over this photo fits better contextually than the Gehry towers.

Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

December 2, 2006

A Russian Skyscraper Plan Divides a Horizontal City


New York Times

Brooklyn isn't the only city making big plans without asking big questions. St. Petersburg residents took their protests about a new skyscraper to the water. Something about that boat feels oddly familiar...

Russia’s largest company, Gazprom, announced on Friday that it had chosen the architecture firm RMJM London to design this city’s tallest building, brushing aside arguments from preservationists and residents that the project — whoever the architect — would destroy the city’s architectural harmony.
The competition stirred weeks of ferocious debate. Even as Gazprom’s executives met with city officials and experts on the selection commission at the company’s headquarters on the English Embankment, a small group of protesters passed back and forth aboard a small trawler in the Neva, dressed as clowns and mental patients and holding a sign deriding the project. “Lunatics City,” the sign said. (The project is referred to as Gazprom City.)


Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

“It’s all about being here”: the energy and emptiness of a Nets game


Atlantic Yards Report goes to the game, and suggests that even though the stands were less than half full (the low turnout was proudly announced over the intercom), an arena might expand Brooklyn's dining options:

In the back of the free program--props to the Nets for handing them out--was a Restaurant Guide listing four restaurants in New Jersey that offer discounts to ticketholders. The first of the four: Hooter’s.

Should the Atlantic Yards project get built, could we expect a new Hooter’s to emerge near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, perhaps in one of Forest City Ratner's malls? Or would Junior’s and Applebee’s pick up the slack?
At the Nets-Sonics game, I wore, as I often do, a hat that said “Brooklyn,” but it wasn’t easy to stimulate casual conversation about the Atlantic Yards project. A couple of Jerseyites said it was too far a trip. Another didn’t even know about the plans. An arena worker said he worked for the building and wouldn’t move. A concessionaire said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Still, that's not scientific sample, so we really don't know how many would make a move.


Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

Music: The Coolest Mogul


MSNBC Newsweek

Multimillionaire business exec Shawn Carter—Jay-Z to you—is 36 and still hasn't lost his street cred. How'd he manage that?
"The funny thing," Carter says, "is that I never wanted to be famous. When I was making money dealing drugs, I had the sense of being famous before I was famous." Now that he's making megamoney—enough to own at least one Manhattan skyscraper and a stake in the New Jersey Nets basketball team—his next dream is to bring the Nets to his old 'hood. He's part of a $2.5 billion Brooklyn renovation project that includes moving the team to the borough and housing it in a Frank Gehry-designed stadium complex. Many area residents aren't happy about the prospect of more traffic and higher real-estate prices. "It's a switch for me to be on this development side of things," Carter says. "You just have to know in your heart that you're doing the right thing. What if there were a team in Brooklyn? It would bring so much pride—forget about it! I might cry the first day if it ever happens. You know how people from Brooklyn get about Brooklyn."


NoLandGrab: Note to Jay-Z: The way people "get" about Brooklyn is the same way people "get" about their homes: they don't want them taken away and demolished (sorry, "RENOVATED") without their consent. Maybe you should stop by Freddy's and check on your "street cred." Your song 'Politics as Usual' is not on the jukebox, despite such telling lyrics as "No waitin I'll make your block infrared hot I'm like Satan."

Posted by amy at 10:27 AM

BID Is Blah to Some


Stephen Witt

“In the last five or six years, my real estate taxes have gone up 50, 60 percent,” said Thomas Clara, who owns five buildings along Livingston Street between Nevins and Bond Streets.

Clara, along with another landlord, Hira Amrik, said that even if they were to pass the minimum $2,400 annual BID fee per building to tenants, it would be a hardship.

Some of these tenants are small business owners such as hair braiders and tailors, and they worry that the BID means a Starbucks will soon replace them, Amrik said.
Among the corporate names that have properties within this proposed BID include Forest City Ratner, Two Trees Management and Con Edison.


Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

Atlantic Yards Headed For Albany

Stephen Witt

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for the second time unanimously certified a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Yards last week.

The certification opens up a 10-day time frame for additional comments before the ESDC is expected to approve the FEIS.

Developer Bruce Ratner’s $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards plan then heads to Albany to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) for final approval.

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


Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

December 1, 2006

Security in a Box

GehryModel-Glass.jpgDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) explains why the coalition has been deeply concerned about the issue of terrorism and security for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

Because the proposal calls for a glass-walled arena (with 250 regularly scheduled events drawing crowds of up to 20,000), surrounded by glass-walled high-rise towers, over the 3rd largest transportation hub in the city, right at one of the busiest and most gridlocked intersections in Brooklyn, at a location targeted for a terrorist attack in 1997.

This week, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report attended a forum about the terrorism and security challenges inherent in projects involving large amounts of public space. Oder explains in an article how no one could take his question about Atlantic Yards, since one panelist was under contract to Ratner and another was a City (not State) official.

DDDB's response:

So, we only have a Ratner consultant looking at security, in a box, from the developer's point of view; we have the city passing the buck to the state; and we have the state mum on the issue.


Posted by lumi at 4:51 PM

Ratner’s bro on the warpath

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

This week's Brooklyn Papers has a little tidbit about Michael Ratner's fight for accountability. We're talking about the War on Terror, not the Battle Against Brooklyn:

Ratner’s group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA Director George Tenet on behalf of 12 Iraqis and Saudis who had been allegedly abused at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay by their American captors.

“There has to be some accountability for Donald Rumsfeld,” Ratner told Bloomberg News.

Funny, that’s what many Brooklynites are saying about his brother.


NoLandGrab: Actually, many Brooklynites are saying the same thing about Michael Ratner.

Just this week Atlantic Yards Report revealed that City Planning officials met with Forest City Ratner and Frank Gehry's people in Michael Ratner's office. It's also beginning to look like Michael Ratner is the bag man for Forest City Ratner's local political funding operations. Did we forget to mention that he is an investor in the Nets?

Posted by lumi at 4:34 PM

CBN's Project Report Card faces a deadline for FEIS review

Atlantic Yards Report

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) is checking up on the accuracy and thoroughness of responses to comments in the massive Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)--and the deadline is Monday.

CBN says:

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.

So what happens after community members send their comments to CBN? The organization will forward them to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to take it into consideration before the ESDC board meeting December 8. The ESDC is widely expected to approve the FEIS, but if enough flaws are found, the agency may be prompted to do what it did once before: pull back the document and revise it for recertification.


To fill out a Report Card, download a copy from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood's web site.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

ACORN past president on AY: (white) AMBIENCE vs. (black) SURVIVAL

Gloria WaldronAtlantic Yards

Norman Oder contrasts the oral and written comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of former NY ACORN president Gloria Waldron.

The main point of Waldron's written statement is that "white people with a few token blacks" are against the project due to concerns about "Ambience," while for "the all black with a token white contingency," Atlantic Yards is a matter of "Survival." Waldron was more politic in her oral testimony in support of the tradeoff of extreme density for increased affordable housing for Atlantic Yards, a project where the putative bottom line for the developer is a cool billion bucks.


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

No ‘thanks’ to Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Rushing to gain approval for Bruce Ratner’s mega-development before Gov. Pataki leaves office, a roomful of Empire State Development Corporation staffers spent their holiday weekend working overtime to put in public comments that had been left out of the project’s final environmental impact statement.

One hundred and forty eight public comments had been excluded — in violation of state bylaws — from the state’s documentation of the traffic, pollution, gentrification and “unmitigatable impacts” that will be caused by Ratner’s 16-tower, residential, hotel, office space and arena project.

But visions of sugarplums on their Thanksgiving tables had the ESDC minions quickly digesting gentrification pie charts and traffic-congestion diagrams. In just seven days, the secretive agency managed to retract, reissue and recertify the 4,500-page, single-spaced document.

As far as we can tell, The Brooklyn Papers is the only media organization that has reported that all three parties represented on the Public Authorities Control Board support the Atlantic Yards project. The article closes:

All three board members — Gov. Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) — have said they favor the project.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Ratner agrees to do more for footprint renters, but lawyers remain wary

Atlantic Yards Report

Rent-regulated tenants remaining in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint have recently learned of a somewhat better offer from Forest City Ratner (FCR), but lawyers for some tenants say the deal still isn't good enough.
In some contracts, FCR agreed to pay the differential in rent for only three years, which would leave the tenants vulnerable, since the contract expire before the first Atlantic Yards residential building was finished. In August, FCR's Jim Stuckey said, "We will take care of them" but was unwilling to provide any proof.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) indicates that FCR has improved its offer. It states (p. 8):

The sponsors have also agreed to pay the difference, if any, in rent between the tenant's current rent and the rent for the comparable interim unit until such time as the tenant is relocated into a new unit in the proposed development. This agreement would terminate only if the project were abandoned or the tenant breached its obligations.

Does a breach include a gag order regarding opposition to the project? No longer, but the contents of such a breach remain under negotiation, according to Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services, who represents several tenants in the project footprint.
Attorney George Locker, who also represents several rent-regulated tenants living in Ratner-owned properties in the project footprint, and has stated he will file a lawsuit in state court, said that he had not been told beforehand of the change: "The first inkling was when I read the FEIS." (Maybe that's because he's announced plans to sue.)

He's not deterred from his plans. "The new relocation language does not comply with the relocation requirements of the Urban Development Corporation Act," he charged. "Moreover, without seeing the new relocation agreement (if indeed there is one), I note that under the new language, the project could be abandoned, for any number of reasons, leaving my clients with nothing."

He added, "Further, relocation back into the project should not be contingent on whether there has been a breach of obligation... Each of these two conditions places all of the risk on my clients, when they should be asked to assume no risks."


Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

The Darman Group (AY minority contracting coordinator) and the Malcom Smith connection

Atlantic Yards Report

MalcomSmith.jpgDaily News columnist Ben Smith, in a 11/19/06 column headlined Revealed: How top state Dem built his power base, connects some dots between State Senator Malcom Smith, the new Senate minority leader, and the Darman Group, the company that's been coordinating minority contracting for the Atlantic Yards project.

The Senate is currently dominated by the Republicans, but, as Ben Smith points out, Malcolm Smith, a Democrat from Southeast Queens, could become one of "three men in a room"--who have overwhelming weight in state politics--if the Democrats take the Senate after redistricting or a new political wind. The Senator is a real estate developer by profession.

Read about the Darman Group's shady past and how it relates to Atlantic Yards in more ways than one.


If you're a minority contractor, you can prequalify on the Darman Group's web site.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Yards Review Goes to Overtime

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

If you're trying to catch up on the news for this week, check out the Atlantic Yards Report-er's weekly news digest in the Star.

This week, Oder covers Gargano's goof, the race towards the project's final approval, speculation that State Comptroller Hevesi could get involved, weekend warriors at the ESDC, developer Bruce Ratner's plans to build more towers (like more cowbell, but worse) over the Atlantic Center Mall, and the latest exchange of fire in the eminent domain lawsuit.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

TONIGHT! Holiday Event at Atlantic Center

From the Courier-Life Publications:

The Atlantic Center will kick off the holiday season with the Guitar Center on December 1st. There will be pictures with Santa from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with music from four live bands and a DJ scheduled to start around 6 p.m., continuing till about midnight, according to Forest City Ratner Vice President Loren Riegelhaupt. There will also be a Kwanzaa event, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on December 26th. The Atlantic Center is located at 625 Atlantic Avenue.


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM


State says anti-Yards suit is threadbare

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

State lawyers this week slammed a suit seeking to block the Atlantic Yards mega-development as nothing but a “fishing expedition” designed to delay the imminent approval of the $4.2-billion project.

Empire State Development Corporation lawyer Douglas Krause called the lawsuit, which was filed last month by 10 residents and business owners who would be evicted to make room for Atlantic Yards, “without merit.”
With time running short, Matthew Brinckerhoff, the lawyer representing lead plaintiff and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, called on the judges to expedite his request for access to the documents.

“It’s profoundly disturbing that public officials are resisting [public access] to information about a public project,” he said.

Calling his case a “fishing expedition” is the state’s way of claiming there is no evidence of wrongdoing, he added.

“But [we know] there is a mountain of evidence that this process has been and continues to be unconstitutional.”
“If they discover something wrong or truly embarrassing, the political climate could be changed at a key moment,” said David Reiss, a Brooklyn Law School, who did not think the term “fishing expedition” was apt.

“They are looking for potentially important disclosures or some kind of smoking gun. The defendants are trying to prevent that from happening.”


Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM


JackieRobinson.jpgArthur Piccolo of Hardbeatnews.com suggests that Yvette Clarke, the new US Congressional Representative from Brooklyn, get the Ratner deal done as a proper homage to Jackie Robinson:

To this point Jackie Robinsons Brooklyn’s most famous and important Son has NEVER been adequately HONORED in BROOKLYN where he played his entire career and lived until his much too early death. Yvette Clarke now has the POWER to lead the campaign to name the soon to be built 21st century sports arena to arise at the intersections of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues in the HEART of BROOKLYN the JACKIE ROBINSON ARENA and finally ending the insult that Brooklyn has NO adequate monument to him. Until now only a few hundred yards of a secondary roadway that lies mostly in Queens. An insult not an honor for Brooklyn’s Greatest Son.


NoLandGrab: Money talks and... well, you know the rest. Citigroup just agreed to pay $20 million/year for 20 years for the naming rights to Shea Stadium — that's $400 million. Does any sane person think that Bruce Ratner is going to give it away for free? The only way Bruce Ratner is going to name the Nets arena "Jackie Robinson" arena is if Robinson comes back from the grave with deep pockets.

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM