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January 31, 2007

Atlantic Yards: Now Twice As Expensive (for the City)

New York Magazine political reporter Chris Smith explains how Bloomberg just doubled the City's direct cash subsidy public assistance for his pal Bruce:

Ratner%26Bloomberg.jpgTurns out Mayor Mike — in between doling out tax breaks like the Republican he purports to be and money for the arts like the Democrat we know he secretly is — hasn't forgotten his pal Bruce Ratner. He is doubling the city's direct subsidy to the Atlantic Yards megaproject. Yup, City Hall is now set to kick $205 million across the Manhattan Bridge; for context, that's more than 5 percent of New York's overall budget surplus.
Here's how: The funding is for "infrastructure improvements" that are supposedly independent of the construction. They just happen to be, um, concurrent with it.


Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

At B'klyn protest, bank shots will fly

NY Daily News
By Michael O'Keefe

A prominent Fort Greene minister is inviting Brooklyn religious leaders to a Sunday afternoon news conference to protest the Nets' naming-rights deal with Barclays, the British bank that activists have claimed profited from apartheid and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Baptist Memorial Church, a critic of Nets owner Bruce Ratner's controversial $4billion Atlantic Yards project, said Brooklyn clergy members have told him they are troubled by the team's naming-rights agreement with Barclays. Ratner's development company, Forest City Ratner, unveiled the deal - worth up to $400 million over 20 years for the naming rights to the Nets' proposed Brooklyn arena - earlier this month.

"I'm troubled and concerned with this project's ties to this bank," Miller said.

Miller said he'll call on Ratner to terminate the agreement with Barclays or negotiate a better deal for the community. As part of its agreement with the Nets, the bank has agreed to spend $2.5 million to renovate Brooklyn basketball courts and other youth sports venues, but Miller said that's not enough.


Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Hidden Costs For Atlantic Yards

Gotham Gazette

Advocates reading the fine print in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget have unearthed at least one item the mayor probably would have preferred remain unnoticed: a doubling of the city subsidy for the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn. The added funding – allegedly for infrastructure improvements (i.e. not the luxury high rises themselves) — “brings the city’s direct contribution to $205 million,” the Sun reports.

Details have been hard to come by, but Doug Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office told the Voice that the money will probably go for items “some of which might have been on the books prior to Atlantic Yards, but some substantial amount of which is likely related to the scale of the project—such as the need for expanding sewer and water capacity.” And, of course, no one knows how much the city will eventually have to ante up because of increased automobile traffic, demands for classroom space, strain on city facilities and so on that could arise from the project.


Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Buildup to arena hits big screen

NY Daily News, Brooklyn edition only By Joyce Shelby

"Brooklyn Matters," a 50-minute video produced by filmmaker Isabel Hill, follows the proposed 22-acre project as it moves from the drawing board through various stages of government approval.

Architects, lawyers, politicians, journalists, community leaders and residents all weigh in on the project, which calls for an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets as well as soaring towers for office suites, retail space and thousands of units of housing.

Hill, an urban planner and preservationist who lives in Brooklyn, said she began her research on the development in August 2005. Shooting started a year later.

"I had many questions about the Atlantic Yards project when I started to look at it more fully," Hill said. "My goal was to help other people understand what was being proposed and the long-term impact."

However, there is one voice that is conspicuously absent from the documentary - that of developer Bruce Ratner.

"I made multiple requests for interviews with Bruce Ratner," said Hill, "but got no response."


NoLandGrab: Check out our Events page for upcoming screenings or go to www.brooklynmatters.com.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Jay-Z to boycott Barclays?

Jay-Z-Barclays.jpgThe online Hip-Hop news media has gotten hold of the Barclays story in reference to NJ Nets minority shareholder Jay-Z (nee Shawn Carter), who recently spearheaded a boycott against the pricey champagne Cristal.

At issue are the international banking giant's roots in the slave trade and the boycott of the bank in the '80s that forced the corporation to divest in apartheid South Africa.

Reactions in the comments section range from, "Hypocrite!" to, "Get over it, already."

Here's a sampling:

TMZ.com, Jay-Z's Team Nets $400M from Ex-Slave-Trade Co.

Will Jay-Z boycott his own team -- the New Jersey Nets -- for taking $400 million from a bank that some say was built on profits from the slave trade?
... Since then, Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter), who owns less than one percent of the team, has declined to comment. His his rep told TMZ that there would be no statement given or action taken by Carter. The rapper has a history of boycotting: Last year, he stopped drinking and serving Cristal champagne after an executive with Cristal's producer made disparaging remarks about rappers and their affinity for the bubbly.

MemphisRap.com, Slave trade profits may fund Jay-Z's New Jersey Nets' Brooklyn arena

Two black supporters involved with the project questioned and scolded the owner and real estate developer about the project which is estimated at $4 billion dollars and which would include the selling of the sports venue naming rights to the Barclays.

"This agreement is insensitive and offensive," Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries told the Daily News. "All options should be on the table, including terminating this deal."

Hip Hop DX, Jay-Z Works With Slave Owners?

Jay-Z, part owner of the New Jersey Nets, announced recently that the new arena for the team will be built in Brooklyn, his hometown. The arena's naming rights were purchased by Barclays, a UK-based bank, paying $400 million for 20 years. Just after the January 18th announcement though, local politicians and journalists criticized the team and its majority owner, Bruce Ratner, for taking money from a bank whose founding family profited from their ownership of slaves in the 18th century and their involvement with the South African government in the 1980s.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Help Us, Governor Spitzer!

This crusading reformer has his work cut out for him.

City Journal

On "Day 31," Nicole Gelinas's litany of issues crying out for gubernatorial reform cites Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards as the poster project for public authorities run amok:

A recently approved ESDC-backed project, the Atlantic Yards basketball and housing project in Brooklyn, sponsored by politically connected development firm Forest City Ratner, is a perfect example of this wasteful superfluity. To build its stadium and 6,000 or so apartments in central Brooklyn, FC Ratner needs about $500 million in state and local subsidies, and it depends, too, on the state’s eminent-domain power to condemn properties in the project’s footprint. But much of the state’s involvement here is unnecessary. The central Brooklyn area where FC Ratner plans to build was an up-and-coming neighborhood, winning new private residential and commercial investment, long before the state-supported development firm announced its plans three years ago.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

Blight, 1938: it's about profitability

Atlantic Yards Report


A visit yesterday to the new exhibition at Columbia University, Robert Moses & the Modern City: Slum Clearance and the Superblock Solution, turned up this quote from Mabel Walker's 1938 book Urban Blight and Slums:

"Blight is a condition where it is not profitable to make or maintain improvements."


NoLandGrab2007: Blight is a condition where it is more profitable for some than others.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

January 30, 2007

Atlantic Yards andRatner/Barclays Arena Are Not Viable

Property Ownership Map Explains Why

NEW YORK, NY-- More than 5 acres of the proposed project site for Bruce Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” are privately owned or controlled. These properties–homes and businesses–are spread throughout the proposed site and some of the properties are located precisely where Ratner intends to build his arena. Unless the developer can gain the deeds and leases to these properties, the arena cannot be built. In addition, much of the rest of the project, including the de-mapping (removal) of City streets required to construct superblocks, cannot be built as proposed.

A map of the project site, overlaid by a property ownership and control map, illustrates how the project’s viability is impacted by the Federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of eminent domain–State seizure of private property which would then be handed over to Forest City Ratner for demolition–for “Atlantic Yards.” In addition to the twelve plaintiffs (representing 2 businesses and 26 residents) on that Federal suit, there are numerous other individuals who own or control their own property.

The map can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/php/ownership

“Private citizens own and rent a significant portion of the land where Ratner intends to build his arena, and much of the rest of his ‘Atlantic Yards’ project. This land amounts to more than 5 acres spread throughout the proposed site. Unless the State of New York and Forest City Ratner can seize these private properties, ‘Atlantic Yards,’ as we know it, cannot be built. This decision will be left up to a Federal court, ” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “Even if early construction begins, a victory in Federal court will keep the homes and businesses in the hands of their rightful owners and Bruce Ratner will have to go back to the drawing board.”

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Brooklyn Mystery: Why Won't Albany Pay the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods???

The Gowanus Lounge

Way back when, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods was promised $100,000 to report on the Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards. The group did a good job of coordinating the "community expert review" of a terribly complex document and was vigilant in monitoring what some would say was a deeply flawed process. It turns out they were never paid.
Now, the group has started a campaign among each of its members to contact elected officials in Albany to find and turn over the money that has "disappeared" or that was made to vanish by political opponents such as former Assem. and Atlantic Yards supporter Roger Green.
Hopefully, a public airing of what would seem to be a hardball political payback will help resolve the situation so that everyone that did good faith and top-notch work analyzing the Atlantic Yards document will be paid.


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

Mo' Money on the QT?

cash_stacks_100.jpgThe NY Post explained that the amount "has quietly risen from $100 million to $205 million."

Atlantic Yards Report used the word "obfuscatorily" to describe how City Hall went about giving Bruce Ratner mo' money and took their time to come up with a boilerplate explanation.

It's really too bad for City Hall that it has to actually itemize these things because, as Neil DeMause reported in Power Plays, everyone who's building a new sports venue is getting an unexpected(?) windfall. DeMause explains that for the Yankees, Mets and Nets:

Total city capital funding for the projects appears to now be as high as $586 million—a nearly two-thirds hike from the $360 million (not counting tax and lease breaks) that Bloomberg had promised taxpayers would be on the hook for when the projects were first announced.

That part in the parenthesis means that the cash contributions doesn't include the total cost to taxpayers, which is really hard to tally because there's all sorts of math involved.

If not for independent journalists and a community group who has nothing better to do but complain about even more public assistance for rich sports team owners, we'd still have no clue about the bait and switch.

We're not saying that anyone was trying to pull a fast one, but it almost appears that Mayor Bloomberg sold the public on one set of figures, while assuring sports team owners that there would be more money available, and then tried to slip it through "quietly" and deal with it "obfuscatorily."

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

City Hall, obfuscatorily, admits doubling AY funding

Atlantic Yards Report

CapitalBudget.gifHere's the latest installment from Norman Oder on the increase in public money for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan and the explanation from the Mayor's office:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's capital budget, released last Thursday, includes $205 million designated for Atlantic Yards, though the city had earlier agreed only to $100 million.

The news didn't generate much scrutiny until I raised the issue on Saturday and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sent out a press release yesterday declaring the increase part of the "blank check" known as “extraordinary infrastructure costs.”

In a nutshell, NYC promised $100 million in the Memorandum of Understanding, but another clause in the same document left the door open to provide more money. How much more? It doesn't say and no one knows.

One thing is clear: with each increase of public money going to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, the net benefit to the city decreases.

[NYC Deputy Press Secretary John] Gallagher ended his brief message with some boilerplate: "This project will create jobs, provide affordable housing and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and represents a solid investment of taxpayer resources."


Whatever the tax revenue, the net new revenues, previously estimated at $944 million, apparently just went down more than ten percent.

What about the fact that this story was broken by an independent journalist and, only after Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn made a big stink in a press release, was picked up by a mere two of four paid-circulation daily papers?

Could you imagine if cities like Houston (fourth-largest) or Philadelphia (fifth-largest) quietly planned to double their contribution to the most ambitious development project in their city's history?

Surely, a reporter at the Houston Chronicle or Philadelphia Inquirer would've noticed the numbers in the mayoral budget. In New York, however, the mayor's office is covered by reporters for the dailies who don't know much about a project in Brooklyn, and the reporters in those dailies' Brooklyn bureaus are often stretched too thin to dig.


Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

Section 8 boost means 22,000 families housed affordably

Atlantic Yards Report explains how the infusion of federal dollars for Section 8 housing relates to Atlantic Yards:

Those eligible for Section 8 can earn up to half the median income--$35,450 for a four-person household. Among the 2250 affordable rental units planned for the Atlantic Yards project, 900 would be within the Section 8 income limits.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

Bloomberg's Budget Doubles Subsidy For Atlantic Yards

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The city has doubled its direct subsidy for the Atlantic Yards project, adding an extra $105 million to the proposed development.
Forest City Ratner did not return several calls seeking comment.

Council Member Letitia James, whose district includes Atlantic Yards, was upset by the budgeting for additional funds, her chief of staff, Kate Suisman, said. Ms. James has been an outspoken opponent of the project, but Ms. Suisman said she did not think the added $105 million would derail the passage of the mayor’s proposed budget.

A former president of the Boerum Hill Association, Jo Anne Simon, said she opposes many aspects of the project, though infrastructure could be a good thing. “This is part of the problem,” she said. “Of course there are needs for infrastructure, but I don’t know why this amount of money and what it’s going to go for.”


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM


BruceRatner-NYP070130.jpgNY Post
BY Rich Calder

The Bloomberg administration is now kicking in $205 million toward Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn - more than double the amount anticipated.

The mayor's preliminary 2008 budget revealed that the city's subsidy for the $4 billion project - which includes an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers filled with residential and commercial space - has quietly risen from $100 million to $205 million.


Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

The City That Never Walks

The NY Times Op-Ed, with additional hyperlinks via StreetsBlog

Sullivan-NYT.jpgIn an Op-Ed piece about the suburbanization of New York City and the current administration's surrender of city streets to the automobile, Op-Ed contributor and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member Robert Sullivan takes a swipe at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

The great shame of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards mega-development in Brooklyn is that it seems like something out of Atlanta in the 1990s.

Not today’s Atlanta. Today’s Atlanta is building a circular hiking, recreation and even transit trail, a little like the still unfinished Manhattan greenway.

Click here to read more about how "New York is acting more like the rest of America, and the rest of America is acting more like the once-inspiring New York."

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

January 29, 2007

Nets' city subsidy doubled?

Field of Schemes

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his capital budget on Thursday, and Atlantic Yards Report proprietor Norman Oder noticed something odd about it: The sum allocated for developer Bruce Ratner's Nets-arena-and-condo-towers-and-office-tower plan has more than doubled, from $100 million to $205 million. Oder noted that it's possible this somehow includes the $100 million in state funds that were also promised to the project - or that the extra $105 million is part of the mysterious "additional contributions for extraordinary infrastructure costs" that were noted in the city's original memorandum of understanding with Ratner.
As of this morning, the mayor's office still hadn't responded to questions about the inflated city capital costs. Watch this space for further updates.

UPDATE: As I just reported over at the Village Voice's Power Plays blog, the extra $105 million really is an extra $105 million...


Posted by lumi at 9:41 PM

Bloomberg Adding $226 Million for Nets, Mets, Yanks?

Power Plays, political blog of The Village Voice
By Neil DeMause

Buried in the nether reaches of the preliminary capital budget that the mayor released last Thursday are some curious details on the three new sports facilities—that's Yanks, Mets, and Nets, for those scoring at home—that the city has in the works. Namely, total city capital funding for the projects appears to now be as high as $586 million—a nearly two-thirds hike from the $360 million (not counting tax and lease breaks) that Bloomberg had promised taxpayers would be on the hook for when the projects were first announced.
It's all enough to make one wonder if New Yorkers are really meant to know what our elected officials are spending our money on. "The city budgets, while they have become increasingly transparent, still are not organized in a way to allow the kind of public scrutiny necessary to evaluate these sorts of items," admits Citizens Union director Dick Dadey, though he says the problem may be less "intentional effort to obfuscate" than the fact that " our city budget is far more complex than most states'." Council speaker Christine Quinn, he points out, has pressed for more transparency in the budget process; it will be interesting to see if an unexpected $105 million invoice will be enough to get the speaker to start asking tough questions of her pal the mayor over the project that would eat Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 PM

Barclays's Truell Betrays His Name

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn fact checks a Barclays spokesperson here.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 PM

MASHUP: More Money Than Brains?

Today's Brownstoner post about a curious flyer that has recently been showing up on front stoops inspired a parody, sent to us by someone with too much time on their hands and who may or may not be feeling some heat from some guy named "Bruce."

Posted by lumi at 8:07 PM

Coda: The "Atlantic Yards"

n + 1

n+1 ran two articles on the project in November, and received a number of letters in response. A reply to the letters from one of our authors provoked yet more letters, which are posted below.

From Jonathan Lethem:

Dear Mr. Liu,

Okay, let's make it even simpler. You and I seem to agree: a creative dialogue between community activists and Mr. Ratner or Mr. Gehry would be ideal. Guess which side has utterly cold-shouldered such a dialogue? Were you under the impression that they'd made themselves available? When you write as if 'negotiation' was presently an option, you're either mistaken or disingenuous.

From Daniel Goldstein:

I invite Jonathan Liu to come say this:

"…What seems quite untenable, however, is the current strategy employed by folks like the ‘Atlantic Yards’ opposition in the name of progressive ends: namely, the appeal to historically regressive positions regarding, for instance, the mistrust of eminent domain and the conservative-populist denigration of avant-garde architecture..."

to our faces. If he is willing to do so he might learn a thing (or a thing + 1) about which he writes, from our mouths, instead of the caricature with which he comforts and satisfies his threadbare, predetermined views.

From Malcolm Armstrong, Ft. Greene:

Given the horrendous track record of centrally planned mega projects, I am surprised to here anyone not in the payroll of Forest City supporting Atlantic Yards, but Jon Liu seems to do just that in his response to Jonathan Lethem.

"Why not engage in the process and ask Frank Gehry, a fellow artist, for better?"

We have Jon, his response, we’re horse and buggy people picketing Henry Ford.

Click here for the complete letters.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 PM

DDDB Press Release:
Public Cost of 'Atlantic Yards' Continues to Balloon

City Doubles Direct Taxpayer Subsidy for Ratner Plan From $100 Million to $205 Million

Moneyscales-green.gifNEW YORK, NY—Ratner gets richer as the public’s burden for 'Atlantic Yards' increases yet again

New York City’s taxpayers have now been forced to double their direct cash subsidy for Bruce Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards.” The subsidy has climbed from $100 million to $205 million as revealed in the new City budget. The ballooning number comes after the project received its only political approval by the State’s Public Authorities Control Board in December, amounting to a bait and switch at taxpayer expense.

The new $205 million taxpayer subsidy is only part of the City’s subsidy package to Ratner, a package which includes tax abatements and credits, housing subsidies, undervalued City-owned land, and a blank check called “extraordinary infrastructure costs.” The total subsidy and public investment from the City and State comes much closer to $2 billion).

“We’ve always known that Bruce Ratner’s ‘Atlantic Yards’ would cost the public much more than we’re being told. This doubling of the City’s taxpayer cash subsidy to $205 million for Ratner’s project is just the first blast of helium into a very large balloon of public money,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “There will be many more installments made to Ratner under a blank public check euphemistically called ‘extraordinary infrastructure costs.’ Who will put a stop to this?”

When the City, Forest City Ratner and the State signed an “Atlantic Yards” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in February 2005, there was a blank check agreed to called “extraordinary infrastructure costs.” It appears that that blank check has started growing.

“The Mayor has told us over and over that New York City taxpayers would be forking over $100 million to Ratner, but before seeing if the project can even survive serious federal and state lawsuits, let alone begin construction, the Mayor has increased the Ratner handout to $205 million,” Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 PM

Roger Green, CBN, & $100K--an alternative sequence

Atlantic Yards Report attempts to establish a timeline of events that may or may not have led to former NY Assemblymember Roger Green's withholding of $100K to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

Does Green's explanation to the Brooklyn Papers, "that he withdrew his support for CBN’s request because of hurtful, racially charged remarks by members and supporters of CBN and project opponents," make sense? Especially since the reasons he cites primarily occurred before he agreed to the funding?


NoLandGrab: Apparently, we have some explaining to do.

Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder examines one of Roger Green's references, where, in September, 2005, we called the Ratner Community Benefits Agreement a "Cadillac Buying Allowance."

The joke was that one signatory to the Atlantic Yards C.B.A., James Caldwell, was seen around the neighborhood sporting a new Cadillac, just months after signing on the dotted line and around the same time as documents were uncovered indicating that Caldwell's group, Brooklyn United for Innovated Local Development, was receiving financial support from Ratner (despite protestations to the contrary).

So, on behalf of James Caldwell, we'd like to apologize that he played so close to stereotype that we couldn't resist a pot shot.

We actually have no idea whether or not Caldwell got the new set of wheels because he collects a salary from the organization funded by Ratner. However, people of all stripe were astonished that he would drive his new luxury car around the neighborhood while championing jobs at Atlantic Yards that he hopes will go to unemployed residents living in the surrounding community.

Caldwell's actions just seemed thoughtless and insensitive at the time, especially after his own joke about local anti-traffic-congestion activists vs. residents who can't even afford a car. But if a community leader like Roger Green thinks otherwise, we'll mull it over.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Barclays' millions help to prop up Mugabe regime

Three British firms provide key finance, allowing the Zimbabwe leader to defy world condemnation

The Guardian
By Antony Barnett and Christopher Thompson

Barclays bank is helping to bankroll President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, providing millions of pounds of support for his vilified land reforms, The Observer can reveal. Mugabe's opponents describe the bank's activities as a 'disgrace' and an 'insult' to the millions who have suffered human rights abuses.

Barclays is the most high-profile of three British-based financial institutions, which, in total, have provided more than $1bn in direct and indirect funding to Mugabe's administration. The other two companies are Standard Chartered Bank and the insurance firm Old Mutual. According to influential newsletter Africa Confidential, that first disclosed the Barclays' loans, the British organisations provide an economic lifeline keeping Mugabe's regime afloat.

A spokesman for Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, likened the bank's actions to its support of South Africa's apartheid regime and urged a boycott.


NoLandGrab: More food for thought about Ratner's Barclays' naming-rights deal will no doubt provide fodder for critics of City Councilmember Charles Barron, who opposes the sponsorship. Barron has repeatedly, and publicly, expressed support for Mugabe and his policies.

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Rehabilitating Robert Moses


A review of the review of the exhibits reviewing Robert Moses's legacy cites the passage that contains the sentence that The NY Times refuses to correct; you know, the sentence referring to "the reconstruction of Atlantic Yards" (like such a place already exists).

The writer also expresses disbelief of the Times's revisionist history:

I never thought I would see the day, but here it is: a glowing New York Times story on three new museum exhibits set to polish up the image of Robert Moses.
So now we have this rewriting of history in its most banal form-- a "great man" with his "great projects" did it. Come on.

But it's just what the doctor ordered, really, in booming New York City: Someone to make the case anew for a new generation of soulless, top-down, ahuman mega-projects where only the visions of "great" architects, designers and developers count - where living neighborhoods can be run roughshod over and human beings don't matter.


REMINDER: Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report cited Robert Caro, who noted on page 460 of his bio of Robert Moses that there's a history of flattering coverage of the master builder in the NY Times. Ironically, many Brooklynites think the decription could also be applied to Brooklyn's master builder, Bruce Ratner.

"Moses' press releases were treated with respect, being given prominent treatment and often being printed in full. There was no investigating of the "facts" presented in those press releases, no attempt at detailed analysis of his theories of recreation and transportation, no probing of the assumptions on which the city was building and maintining recreational facilities and roads."

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

January 28, 2007

Brooklyn Matters: The Website


Brooklyn Matters has debuted a website that includes updated information about where the documentary will be playing as well as an online trailer:

No single event will have a more drastic and long-lasting impact on Brooklyn than the proposed Atlantic Yards development. This uncommon proposal, however, is mostly misunderstood. Brooklyn Matters is an insightful documentary that reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and planning principles to try to push their own interests forward.


Posted by amy at 5:34 PM

Ouroussoff: Gehry faces a developer's constraints in L.A., too


Atlantic Yards Report

Let's try to decode New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff's new take on Frank Gehry's latest Los Angeles project, in a handwringing essay today headlined Corner of Art and Commerce in Los Angeles. Ouroussoff sets out the question:
Designed by Mr. Gehry for the New York-based Related Companies, the master plan for the site, a choice parcel directly across from Disney Hall, provides a case study for one of the most pressing issues in architecture today. Can the bottom-line world of mainstream development produce something of architectural value at enormous scale? Or is Mr. Gehry simply there to provide a veneer of cultural pretension?
(Gehry rendering via New York Times)
If Gehry has a public responsibility, why has he been so combative in public? Why hasn’t he met with the community? Why did he not, as he would have preferred, get other architects to design parts of the project? He remains constrained by his client.

So the question Ouroussoff might have posed to Gehry is this: how much are you willing to compromise your professional ideals to complete an ambitious project, especially one with a building you call your "ego trip"?


Posted by amy at 5:12 PM

Ratner feels heat on Barclays deal

NY Daily News

Nets owner Bruce Ratner spent years courting Brooklyn's African-American community to support his controversial Atlantic Yards proposal. It's taken less than two weeks for that support to start fraying.

Two key black supporters of Ratner's $4 billion project blasted the real estate developer for selling the sports venue's naming rights to Barclays, the British bank activists say profited from the slave trade, South African apartheid and other chapters in human misery.

Former state assemblyman Roger Green, who played a key role in lining up black community support for Atlantic Yards, lashed out against Ratner's deal with Barclays on Friday. So did his successor, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Prospect Heights).

"This agreement is insensitive and offensive," Jeffries told the Daily News. "All options should be on the table, including terminating this deal."


Posted by amy at 5:07 PM

Times fails to correct Moses story, despite ample warning

Atlantic Yards Report

On Wednesday, after I posted my critique of the New York Times's story to be published today (and already online) on Robert Moses, I sent a request for corrections to the Times. I pointed out that the article, Rehabilitating Robert Moses, misleadingly cited "the reconstruction of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn," an impossibility, given that Atlantic Yards is the name of a 22-acre project rather than an 8.5-acre railyard.

And I pointed out that, while the article--which today is the lead article in the Arts & Leisure section--suggests that post-Moses projects must go through a gauntlet of approval, it avoids mentioning the Empire State Development Corporation fast track process to which Mayor Mike Bloomberg agreed regarding Atlantic Yards.


Develop Don't Destroy points out that the Times did make some corrections this week:

The NY Times, the paper of record, is supposed to strive for accuracy. When it's inaccurate it is supposed to correct those inaccuracies. It did so on January 24th with a bean counting error correction:
Correction: An Italian Spot, Larded With Drive A review last Wednesday of the restaurant Porchetta in Brooklyn misstated an ingredient in a chicken dish. They are cannellini beans, not cannelloni beans. (Go to Article)

Surely this correction will save many home cooks from embarrassment and Porchetta from misled customers.

Posted by amy at 4:17 PM

More on the Death of Private Enterprise


The fix was never quite in for Forest City Enterprises and its plan for a casino in Station Square. But shed no tears for the company or honcho Bruce Ratner. He not only owns piddling little assets like the NBA's Nets franchise, he is also the driving force behind Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion development in Brooklyn that makes the Pittsburgh casino look like a couple of video poker machines at the local Elks Club. (The plans call for a new arena for the Nets, natch.)

NYC's Nurse Bloomberg, unbowed by controversy over what the project will mean for the existing neighborhood, calls it "the most exciting private development Brooklyn has ever seen."

Private development, eh? Here's what City Journal has to say about that:

Sure, a private-sector developer, Forest City/Ratner, conceived the plan to erect the stadium and an instant high-rise neighborhood of 6,430 apartments atop a 22-acre, seven-block “footprint” of central Brooklyn (railyards owned by the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority occupy about 40 percent of the area, but the rest of the “project site” is already a developed neighborhood).

But this private-sector veil doesn’t mean Atlantic Yards is anything other than a centrally planned, public-sector project. FC/Ratner could never pursue Atlantic Yards without a half billion dollars in public subsidies, the government’s power to condemn private property, and exemptions from city zoning rules.


Posted by amy at 3:41 PM

January 27, 2007

Brooklyn's basketball city evokes fear, hope amid gentrification



The project's size has dismayed thousands of Brooklyn residents who love the village-like feel of the adjoining neighborhoods, and worry about the deadening effect skyscrapers have on residential street life.

But Atlantic Yards has its champions too — especially those left behind by the borough's gentrification.
Another hopeful, Jacqueline Carthen, a retired corrections officer getting by on a disability pension, said she's also hoping to be among the lucky few — despite having her own concerns about the development.

"A lot of people are saying that this is gentrification. I don't really know how to break that down," she said. The project, she noted, is just one of dozens under way nearby — mostly for the wealthy.

For those still confused regarding Atlantic Yards vs. the other on-going gentrification in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards gentrification would be instant and complete. And it's not just us who understand - take a look at the poll on the Newsday site...

Posted by amy at 7:02 PM

$205 million for AY seems to double city's pledge

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's capital budget, released Thursday, includes $205 million designated for Atlantic Yards--a sum far greater than the $100 million formally pledged.

I asked the mayor's press office early yesterday morning for details, but did not get a response by the end of the day.

One explanation may be that the city is relying on a vague clause in a 2005 Memorandum of Understanding to steer more city funds to the project. If so, that opens the door for even more city contributions in the future--a potential Atlantic Yards slush fund.

If not, could the city's capital budget somehow have included the $100 million in state funds also pledged to the project?


Posted by amy at 6:59 PM

January 26, 2007

Bloomberg Cautious Even as City Records $3.9B Surplus


NY Sun

Get out your wallets! The Mayor presents his new budget plan...

On the capital side, it earmarks money for dozens of projects, including $350 million for the Jacob K. Javits Center, $320 million for redevelopment in Coney Island, and $205 million for the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn. It also includes $28.4 billion in school construction spending through 2017, and increases subsidies for the city's public hospital system. It assumes that Governor Spitzer will increase state education spending for the city by $1.9 billion annually.


Posted by amy at 11:00 PM

Vox UnPop

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn unloads the questions of Brooklyn Paper's man on the street interview:

We think a fairer question might have included the point that the $300 million naming-rights' payday for the publicly-funded arena goes directly to the developer, Forest City Ratner, who doesn't even own the arena and would rent it with a $1.00 99-year lease, if it is ever built. We readily admit that there is not much good for the public coming out of this private naming-rights deal. We also think that were the questions less leading, and solely about those financial issues, the men on the street would have given similar answers.


Posted by amy at 10:54 PM

Gehry: New Ms. Brooklyn on the way


Stephen Witt

“Miss Brooklyn,” the cornerstone of Frank Gehry’s vision for the Atlantic Yards project, is undergoing major plastic surgery.
“Miss Brooklyn – she’s gone. She’s a new one now. I have a new Miss Brooklyn. I haven’t showed it yet and she’s better,” said Gehry, one of the world’s pre-eminent architects.


NoLandGrab: As we have learned from watching "The Swan," it's what's on the inside that counts.

Posted by amy at 10:37 PM

Nets Ticket Blitz Begins - Nets promise plenty of screecher seats

Stephen Witt

Brooklyn’s hardworking basketball fans will not be forgotten once the NBA’s Nets land in Brooklyn, according to team spokesperson Barry Baum.

Baum’s comments fly in the face of a recent published report touting that tickets for Nets games, once the team comes to Brooklyn, are estimated to go for between $51 and $970 each.

“We want to make Nets games in Brooklyn as accessible for everyone and so we’re providing 2,000 $15 tickets for all regular season games in the upper bowl seats,” said Baum.

Baum also noted that the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), signed with eight local community based organizations, calls for the team to designate one luxury suite, four seats in the lower bowl and 50 seats in the upper bowl for community seats.

If only the CBA were legally binding. Sigh.

Jay-Z added his two cents (or $1 million dollars as it were):

"You don’t understand the passion and love that Brooklynites have for each other and something they can claim ownership in."

Ummm...like their own homes and businesses???


Posted by amy at 10:21 PM

Barclays pays big bucks for arena name


Stephen Witt speculates that not only will Barclays' be naming an arena, they are going to move their operations to Brooklyn and make it the financial hub of the Universe! But wait, there's more!

In addition, the agreement calls for the creation of a $2.5 million Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote athletics, education and mentor young people in Brooklyn.

The alliance will, as its first objective, repair and renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout the borough, as well as sponsor amateur athletic tournaments and clinics for Brooklyn’s youth.

The Barclays spokesperson said the alliance will mirror the Barclays Spaces for Sports program in the UK.

The UK program helps local communities transform neglected land into the sporting facilities they want – from skateboard parks to soccer fields or multi-use game areas.


NoLandGrab: Let's just hope that "neglected land" is not British for "your house is next"!

Posted by amy at 10:11 PM

Building Some Momentum

Investor's Business Daily
MARILYN ALVA looks at the risks of being a developer, using many examples from Forest City Ratner.

It's not easy being a developer, even if you have deep pockets. (Forest City reported $1.2 billion in sales last year.)

Upfront costs are huge. They can involve traffic surveys, environmental impact studies and other items to appease planning and zoning boards, government agencies and local watchdogs.

If your eyes aren't too wet yet from weeping over the plight of the developer, read on to more perils!

Overdevelopment is always a risk, as lessons from the housing market teach.

Or as lessons from Metrotech should have taught.


Posted by amy at 10:02 PM

The Barclays Question

The Politicker
Azi Paybarah

Monetary questions aside, is the name of the stadium a relevant point?

Daily News man Errol Louis, who is responsible for prompting the most recent mini-debate, says that it isn't. Yesterday, he wrote:

"If the critics are serious about removing the names of slave-linked institutions from public view, they have a lot of work to do. Peter Stuyvesant (as in Stuy-Town, Bed-Stuy and Stuyvesant High) owned 50 slaves. George Washington (Washington Ave., Washington Street, Washington Heights, etc.) owned upward of 200. Chase sponsors dozens of community events in every corner of the city. Where does it end?"

It seems like a reasonable question. Does anyone have an answer?


NoLandGrab: We're unsure if Azi is re-asking what Errol is asking, or having a joke on him. Does anyone have an answer? As usual, the peanut gallery does, and most of the answers are pretty well stated.

Posted by amy at 9:49 PM

Atlantic Yards documentary: A review

A lukewarm review from The Brooklyn Papers of "Brooklyn Matters" by Baker Hollingsworth:

To call Isabel Hill’s “Brooklyn Matters” a documentary would be akin to calling Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9-11” fair and balanced.

Like Moore’s film, “Brooklyn Matters” is a clever invective that will preach to the converted — the Atlantic Yards opponents who are its likely audience — a sermon they already believe: Atlantic Yards is bad.

But once any expectation of objectivity is set aside, the film delivers an engaging head-butt to developer Bruce Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. Pataki.


Posted by lumi at 2:23 PM

Predictable outrage over Atlantic Yards

Daily Gotham

The newest spat over Atlantic Yards features some of the usual suspects; on the one hand, there's Errol Louis, on the other, the Brooklyn Papers. This is Kabuki. If you, for example, should ever find yourself needing to know just what Louis' position is on a given issue, do this: imagine the most stereotypical black liberal you can, drawing heavily on all relevant clichés. Imagine what position this liberal phantom would take on the issue you're trying to divine; Louis will take exactly the inverse position to that. Try it; it's a parlor game of sorts in some circles, with an astonishing degree of accuracy.

The Brooklyn Papers, meanwhile, can be counted on to give column inches to every Yards controversy; the paper, perhaps, is seeing the need to expiate its endorsement of David Yassky some time ago.
Barclay's is an especially unfortunate choice, needless to say. It's worth pointing out that a parking lot to be created nearby, peripheral to Atlantic Yards, would require the destruction of the historic Duffield Houses, an Underground Railroad site. There's a deep irony that people parking their cars en route to a game in Barclay's Stadium would be parking on the ruins of yet another legacy of slavery.

Hence, the outrage. It is somewhat difficult to see insincerity in that. Some people, of course, are invested in finding it. Which could of course, if one were thusly inclined, be termed, well, insincere.


NoLandGrab: No one has invested more than "Caring Bruce," who has sincerely played the race card at every turn.

Posted by lumi at 2:12 PM

Learning from Seattle: a sculpture park and a market

Atlantic Yards Report

Could Norman Oder be trying to live up to his rapper name "Mad O" (short for "Mad Overkiller")? The guy heads out of town for a few days but all roads lead back to Atlantic Yards.

Fresh from his trip to Seattle, he shares his insights from the opening of the Olympic Sculpture park.

SculptureParkSAMdesign.jpgSeattle is quite different from Brooklyn, but citizens there have confronted similar challenges—whether to invest public money in a sports arena, and how best to guide growth—and come up with some interesting and instructive answers, like the new sculpture park depicted at right, an oasis in the midst of development. (Photo from Seattle Art Museum)

The Seattle experience may not be directly applicable to the Atlantic Yards controversy, but it does suggest that civic debate—which was short-circuited in Brooklyn when the city/state political establishment backed AY from the gate—can produce alternatives.


Posted by lumi at 2:01 PM

Barclay chief's gaffe recalls Ratner howler

They call it 'doing a Ratner' - in memory of the famous gaffe committed by Gerald Ratner back in 1991, when he admitted selling "crap" in his High Street shops.

BBC News Online
By Bill Wilson

Now the boss of the UK's largest credit card company has done it in such a spectacular fashion that it left business observers open-mouthed.

Barclays chief executive Matt Barrett candidly criticised his own product, suggesting that the astute consumer would do well to steer well clear of it.


Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

Yards suit tries on a new tack; Lawyers claim state missed a deadline

The Brooklyn Papers

In new court papers submitted earlier this month, attorneys Jeff Baker and Matthew Brinckerhoff argued that the Empire State Development Corporation broke its own rules when it ruled on Dec. 8 that the area around Ratner’s Prospect Heights development site was “blighted” and could be condemned.

That date is more than 90 days after the state’s Aug. 23 public hearing on the project — an apparent violation of the rule that a blight determination must be made “within 90 days of … the public hearing.”

“They blew it,” Baker said. “The state violated the 90 days and anyone looking at a calendar can see that.”
Baker and Brinkerhoff, who represent 12 people and one Prohibition-era bar that will be displaced if the project moves forward, were on the right track with the new argument, experts said.

“Now they are saying there is a procedural defect, in addition to the substantive ones,” said Dana Berliner, a co-counsel on the Supreme Court’s watershed case, Kelo v. New London, which upheld the right of governments to seize property for new private development as long as the project served a public purpose.

The focus on a tightly defined procedural glitch could help the complex, highly politicized case, added Michael Rikon, an attorney who specializes in eminent domain cases.

“Often, the clear-cut complaint that takes issue with [specific regulations] are the most fruitful before a judge,” said Rikon.


For more info, a couple of weeks ago, Atlantic Yards Report covered the issue and explained how this scheduling snafu came about in the first place.

Posted by lumi at 10:57 AM

Inside Ratner’s big deal$

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Community groups and schools will be paying a lot to rent Bruce Ratner’s Nets arena — an apparent pullback from the developer’s promise to make the arena available to local non-profit groups “at a reasonable rate.”
Ratner told the auditors that he’ll charge more than $100,000 to rent the designer dome — $62,000 in base rental, plus an estimated $41,000 in “event-related expenses,” according to the confidential audit.
Local groups that signed a “Community Benefits Agreement” with Ratner are guaranteed the right to rent the arena for 10 events a year at a “reasonable rate.”

But it’s unclear how Ratner will define “reasonable rate,” based on the KPMG audit.

The article also covers other possible revenue streams outlined in the KPMG audit, which peg Ratner's profits around $400 million.


Posted by lumi at 10:47 AM

Black leaders to Bruce: Pay us back!

The Brooklyn Papers

Bruce Ratner's deal with Barclays Bank has somewhat cracked the foundation of his supporters which are largely African-American:

Two black supporters of Atlantic Yards have joined a growing chorus saying that developer Bruce Ratner betrayed his black allies when he sold the naming rights to his proposed Nets arena to Barclays, a global banking firm that was founded by slave traders and did business with South Africa’s apartheid government.

Both Roger Green — a former state Assemblyman — and his successor Hakeem Jeffries came out this week against the Barclays deal.

Jeffries.jpgJeffries is looking for a way for all parties to save face and is suggesting two options, a termination of the deal and/or reparations by way of financial contribution:

Jeffries demanded a meeting with the developer to discuss the issue. He hasn’t gotten a call back yet.

“All options should be on the table, including payment for past wrongs and termination of the agreement,” Jeffries said.

While Jeffries predecessor, Green, is calling for Barclays to increase their financial support to the community support, again, to serve as reparations:

Green.jpgGreen, a strong supporter of Atlantic Yards, moved last week to distance himself from the naming-rights deal. He called on Barclays to pay reparations to American blacks for its role in slavery.

“Barclays must step up and respond to our community the way they responded to Nelson Mandela” over the issue of apartheid in South Africa, he said.

As part of the $400-million naming-rights deal, Barclays has said it will pay $2.5 million to repair public basketball courts through the borough, but Green called that amount, “not enough.”


Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Vox Pop: Ratner’s bank job

The Brooklyn Papers does a man-on-the-street (what no women??) overview of Bruce Ratner's deal with Barclays Bank for the naming rights of the new, yet-to-be-built, not-quite-ready-for-ground-breaking-off-unless-the-courts-decide-that-Ratner's-land-grab-is-legal Nets arena.

The question: Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has sold the naming rights to his new arena for the Brooklyn Nets to a British bank with historic ties to slavery, the Holocaust and apartheid. How do you feel about that?

“I don’t like it. It seems like they’re just stealing from the community. I don’t think they should do it because, they are already taking peoples’ money from taxes. The funding is not right.” Kevin Foster


“I’m for the stadium just as long as it creates jobs and they’re paying the right wages. But I don’t condone the idea of making a dollar off somebody’s hardships. I wouldn’t vote for Barclays. Why couldn’t Ratner pick one of our banks? The arena is in our country.” Billy Joe Walker, Far Rockaway



Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

A BRITISHER’S VIEW: The aggrieved take a low shot at Barclays Bank

Courier-Life Publications offers a spirited defense of Barclays Bank by Shavana Abruzzo, but offers none of Bruce Ratner:

Blood money?

Calm down.
To its credit, Barclays dissolved its relationship with South Africa’s apartheid government a full eight years before the 1994 elections, which finally quenched that country’s racist regime.

To its credit, in 1999, Barclays remunerated – to the tune of millions – Jewish Holocaust victims for their suffering.

As for its dabbling in the slave trade, Barclays Bank was part and parcel of an era, which was trafficked in – plus promoted and profited from – by a vast, international rainbow of mid-18th century commercial enterprises, many of which maintain their operations on the North American Continent, today; among them, JP Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank, Lehman Brothers, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and Loews Corporation, to name a few.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Ratner’s ‘Blood Money’ fills the mailbag

mailbag.gifThe Brooklyn Papers publishes several letters addressing their article about "Blood Money" and the Barclays Bank naming-rights deal.

Two say the Papers has gone too far, one blames Ratner, another appreciates local weekly for sticking their neck out when other papers won't and two letters attempt to extrapolate the argument against Barclays:

"I have noticed that your paper has taken a very non-journalistic stance towards the Atlantic Yards development, but this was too much." — Terrence J. Allen, Prospect Heights

"I bet that in Brooklyn, there are more Jewish folks than any other ethnic group who own Adolf Hitler’s beloved Benz. Just look in the driveways of the mansions on and off Ocean Parkway around the Avenue R neighborhood. Almost every driveway has a Benz or BMW in it! And, these folks are observant Jewish people." — Vigor Eriksson, Bay Ridge

"People who thought that Bruce Ratner had their best interests in mind were fooled by him and by their own ignorance. "— Brian Schnabel, Bay Ridge

"The Brooklyn Paper’s disclosure to the public of relevant facts puts The Paper in a minority media position. In fact, so few media outlets are even covering the opposition to the project.

"The New York Times, the supposed media steward for the city, has only given lip service to the issues, and the New York Post’s harsh op-ed tone is outrageously mean-spirited. The opponents to this project are essentially fighting this battle alone, dismissed by the general news media, borough president, mayor, former governor, and many fellow New Yorkers." — Charles W. McMellon Jr., Park Slope

Here's an interesting point about Citibank, though the Wilpon family, owners of the Mets, haven't courted or even financially supported a largely African-American constituency to stump for their project:

"Citibank was founded on money from the slave trade, too, you know. In November 2002, a lawsuit was filed against Citigroup and 19 other companies for reparations because of alleged support to the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa. Citibank also trafficked in Nazi gold.

"Where was your indignation when the naming rights to the new Shea Stadium was sold to Citibank?" — Mark Phillips, Carroll Gardens

"Following your logic, we should banish Thomas Jefferson from all history books because he actively supported slavery. Following your logic, we should condemn him and ignore the fact that he was the author of the Constitution, who wrote those memorable words, 'We the people.'" — Suzy Hsia, Park Slope

The Papers added, "Thomas Jefferson did not write the Constitution," and rebuts several points from this Sloper's letter.


Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

DDDB Dialing for Dollars

The Brooklyn Papers

In a bid to pay off an ever-growing mountain of legal bills, the most-vocal opponent of the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment has begun a round of fundraising calls — even calling The Brooklyn Paper for cash (we declined, thank you very much).
DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said that the organization has relied on such telephone fund-raising campaigns quite a bit over the course of its three-year battle against the state-supported 16-tower, arena, hotel, office space and residential mega-project.

“It’s a direct connection with a person that is able to discuss issues,” he said, “It’s a two-way conversation.”

A two-way conversation that opens on a particular slant, that is. Like developer Bruce Ratner’s much-criticized — and anonymous — “push poll” surveys, the DDDB phone pitch doesn’t lack for spin.

But Goldstein said there’s a difference: “We say who we are and why we are calling.”


Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Ratner foes to have their day in Supreme Court

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

An update on the legal suits covers the preparations for the environmental lawsuit, and the eminent domain suit, in which the largest non-Ratner landowner in the Atlantic Yards footprint has just joined the court fight.


Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

The British Are Coming!

Proposed Nets arena to be named after London-based bank

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Star editor Nik Kovac published a colorful piece on what went on last week, inside and outside the Brooklyn Museum, when "movers and shakers from every corner of Brooklyn and beyond" gathered to announce Bruce Ratner's Barclays Bank naming-rights deal.

Inside, where folks were chowing down on filet mignon:

Straight outta Crown Heights was Borough President Marty Markowitz, who gives a speech like Bishop Loughlin High School's own Mark Jackson used to hand out assists - often and well.

Jackson, the Fort Greene prep star and 1987 NBA rookie of the year, who now broadcasts games for the New Jersey Nets, emceed the event, which featured the NBA's current assist king and 1995 rookie of the year, Jason Kidd, and the most famous emcee ever to be raised in the Marcy Projects - Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, the rapper from Bed-Stuy who now owns a piece of just about everything, including those Nets, a team hoping to move into the "Barclays Center" arena in less than three years.

Massachusetts's own New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was there, too, no doubt, and was quick to proclaim everything about the big proposed real estate and subsequent branding agreement to be a good thing.
Later, in response to some pointed media questions about several lawsuits challenging the 22-acre, 16-skycraper development which would include the Barclays Center, Hizzoner scolded: "Oh no, this is something that's going to get done. We don't have a future if this doesn't get done. Everybody's rallying around it. Go out on the street and just look at the faces on the kids."

Outside, "the faces on the kids" were less than cheerful:

In fact, out on the closest street to the gourmet meal - Eastern Parkway - was a phalanx of police officers holding back several sign-wielding protesters, one of whom was the most famous plaintiff in those asked-about lawsuits, Prospect Heights condo owner Daniel Goldstein.

"This is a financial deal between two wealthy corporations," observed the Brooklyn resident. "Why is it being celebrated in the Brooklyn Museum like it's some kind of civic announcement?"

Check out the rest of the article for the pointed questions from a BBC reporter, who tried to understand the marketing significance of the deal, and for Mark Jackson's parting observation.

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

News Analysis: Ratner Bumps a Numbers Grinder

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder explains the things your mayor never told you about the financing of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

Hailing the Barclays Center naming rights agreement last Thursday at the Brooklyn Museum's Beaux-Arts Court, Mayor Mike Bloomberg declared, "Over the next 20 years, they will be putting more than $300 million into Brooklyn."

But Barclays wouldn't be giving the money - up to $400 million, according to some press accounts - to the city or the state, the latter of which would create a local development corporation to be the nominal owner of the arena. Rather, as went distinctly unmentioned at the press extravaganza, the money would go to Forest City Ratner and, presumably, defray the costs of the project, notably the $637.2 million arena price tag - the most expensive arena in the country.

Oder recounts how he was boxed out by team Ratner and took an elbow (what, no foul?!) as he was trying to ask Ratner if the Barclays bucks would pay for nearly half of the arena's constuction costs.

And speaking about paying for the arena's construction, what about the PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes)?

Rather, it would offer payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOTs, sufficient to cover debt service on the [arena] bonds, including "excess PILOT payments" to defray the cost of operating and maintaining the arena.

The rationale for such financing deals is that, absent the project, tax revenues for the land would be much lower. However, no public officials has explained how much the taxes might be, and whether the PILOTs would be more or less than the taxes.
The financing for the arena and project remains murky. "I want to know how much these tax breaks are," said Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, which monitors government subsidies. "That's our bailiwick. How have public officials been able to support a project when they don't know what the costs to taxpayers are going to be, and they don't know what the expenditures for services are going to be? That should be a bipartisan question."

And the "community events?"

How many such community events would there be? It's too soon to be sure, but a traffic planning document that the developer shared with the Department of City Planning in December 2005 listed only eight college sports events and two high school events. There might be 19 graduations, though the KPMG audit cautioned that a projected arena cost of $100,000 would be untenable. In addition, as promised in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), there would be ten community events at a "reasonable" rental.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Barclays’ apartheid past further taints Atlantic Yards project

Amsterdam News
by Tanangachi Mfuni

Mfuni places a call to Barclays Bank to get their side of the story and collects opinions from African-American community leaders on Bruce Ratner's Barclays naming-rights deal:

“This is blood money…this is a slap in our faces,” said [NYC Councilman Charles] Barron, vowing to protest the arena’s naming.

“I knew nothing about that,” said Rev. Herbert Daughtry, minister of Brooklyn’s House of the Lord Church. A vigorous supporter of Ratner, Daughtry for decades demanded reparations from companies that profited from slavery.

“I’m profoundly concerned about it because I know a little bit about the history of the Barclays brothers who started the bank and who were involved in the slave trade,” said Rev. Daughtry speaking with the AmNews by phone. “The bank is definitely linked to the slave trade,” Daughtry concluded.

“This is nothing more than a cynical attempt to block a project of critical importance to Black families,” said New York ACORN head Bertha Lewis in a statement. The activist, who negotiated thousands of affordable housing units be included in the Atlantic Yards project, suggested that Barclays’ history is water under the bridge.

“I reject the notion that the past is the past.” [NYC Councilwoman Letitia James] wants Ratner to “rescind the contract [with Barclays] and go with a local bank like Carver,” she said, speaking of the Black-owned American bank. Other opponents would like to see Barclays pay reparations to descendants of enslaved Africans living in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Call it Harriet Tubman Park

tubmanpark.jpgThe Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

In light of the fact that Ratner failed to celebrate Brooklyn's heritage by naming a new Nets arena after Jackie Robinson, the Papers calls on officials to do the right thing and name the Brooklyn Bridge Park for Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman was a modern-day Moses. An escaped slave, she returned repeatedly to pre-Emancipation Maryland to rescue, by her estimate, 7,000 slaves. She later became a spy for the North during the Civil War and even helped plan a raid that freed 750 more human beings.

The naming of “Harriet Tubman Park” would not only raise the profile of this great American hero, but also undo some of the damage Ratner has done with his insensitive partnership with a bank founded on profits made from the blood of the human beings Tubman devoted her life to saving.


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

January 25, 2007

Unshackle B'klyn minds

Atlantic Yard foes are picking a hollow fight in decrying arena sponsor's 'blood money'

NY Daily News
Errol Louis

Shackels.jpgErrol Louis is shocked, shocked:

I didn't think it was possible, but the already bitter public fight over Brooklyn's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project has turned even nastier.

After outlining the questions and concerns about the Barclay's naming rights deal, Louis remarks:

Gimme a break.

I readily concede, and have no doubt, that Barclays - like many companies with household names - profited from an untold number of monstrous crimes over the centuries.

But Barclays is hardly alone - and the people and newspapers trying to claim moral ground by throwing around terms like "integrity" and playing politics with horrors like the slave trade and the Holocaust know this. Or they should.


NoLandGrab: We've been giving Errol Louis a break for some time now, which is why we're still listening even though he regularly omits and conflates the facts.

For instance, in today's column he mentions "apartheid" once, but his rebuttal of opponents concerns is limited to the bank's history of involvement with the Holocaust and slavery. He conveniently overlooks the fact that Barclays profited handsomely from its relationship with South Africa's apartheid regime until 1986 — hardly ancient history by any estimation. And he completely ignores the fact that Barclays was cited by the United Nations for involvement in “shady networks of business and military figures” in the war-ravaged Congo just four years ago.

In addition, his argument for the Barclays Bank deal amounts to an everyone's-doing-it defense, an argument that most people give up trying on their parents by the time they are teenagers.

Just because the Barclays Bank deal didn't raise the hairs on Louis's neck doesn't mean that other Ratner supporters weren't offended and didn't consider the deal tone-deaf at best, a slap in the face at worst.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

AY's Stuckey spins on WFAN; opponent Turner attempts brief rebuttal

Atlantic Yards Report "Oderizes" "Mike and the Dog" and the smooth sounds of Ratner exec Jim Stuckey:

I finally got a chance to listen to the 1/18/07 “Mike and the Mad Dog” show on WFAN radio, in which hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, rather uninformed about Atlantic Yards, interviewed the smooth-talking Jim Stuckey, president of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development Group.

Notably, Stuckey downplayed the number of people filing suit to block/stall the project (ten rather than 26), hinted that the unfunded day care and health care facilities in the project would serve all new residents, and claimed that property owners who signed deals to sell to Forest City had "come forth" to praise the developer.

While the same day the Barclays Center deal had been announced, the hosts, who began their discussion before Stuckey got on the line, focused more on the legal issues.


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Eminent Domain: Forest City and Bloomfield sever ties in redevelopment project


BruceWrecking.gifProperty owners in Bloomfield, NJ have managed to hold off the town's attempt to use eminent domain to take their property long enough for Bruce Ratner to pull out.

The buzz about Forest City and Bloomfield is confirmed. Forest City is out. The important question is: Who's in? According to Baristanet, McCarthy says the council has not selected another developer.

The removal of Forest City is a positive sign for the small business property owners fighting eminent domain. It doesn't mean the legal battle is over. It doesn't mean that Bloomfield has abandoned the blight designation or the threat to acquire the properties by eminent domain.


NoLandGrab: It's hard to tell from the outside what made Bruce Ratner, one of the most prolific beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse, walk. We're not counting on a change of heart.

However, the Bloomfield eminent domain condemnations had some technical problems which helped the property owners score some wins in court. The legal technicalities no doubt plunged the construction schedule into a black hole.

Also, just last week, two of the Bloomfield property owners learned that their buildings were removed from the redevelopment plan. Could it be that Caring Bruce got all upset, took his wrecking ball and went home?

Whatever the reason, we congratulate the lucky-duckies in Bloomfield for beating back the town and Bruce Ratner and hope that the remaining property owners still under threat of eminent domain are given some relief soon!

Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

Massive Brooklyn Development Designed by Frank Gehry Gets Green Light

Architectural Record
By Fred A. Bernstein

Gehry-model-09.jpgThe architecture trade magazine runs the news of the approval of Atlantic Yards and takes note of the opposition, though it doesn't get into the nitty gritty of the design and urban-planning problems.

With the recently completed IAC/InterActiveCorp.’s headquarters, Frank Gehry, FAIA, has finally made a mark on New York City. Now he is about to make a bigger one. In December, the state’s Public Authorities Control Board gave unanimous approval to plans for the Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion–plus Brooklyn development that is expected to contain more than 6,400 apartments, a new arena for the Nets basketball team, and several hundred thousand square feet of commercial space. Gehry will design every building on the 22-acre site.
Indeed, that scale—which involves inserting the approximate square footage of the old World Trade Center into a site just one-third larger—was at the heart of opposition to the development, with some critics calling more neighborhood-friendly elements, like a giant “front stoop” and glass-enclosed public atrium, Trojan horses. Now the project faces at least two lawsuits.


Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

January 24, 2007

Robert Moses revisionism, Atlantic Yards "reconstruction," and the Times

Picketing Henry Ford's Stuart Schrader remarked this week, "At times this blog nearly writes itself."

One could say the same about Atlantic Yards Report where journalist/blogger Norman Oder had to put another hurtin' on The New York Times for their reference to "the reconstruction of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn," in this weekend's article about Robert Moses.

NoLandGrab: It remains to be seen if the Times will run a correction. "Atlantic Yards," the name of Bruce Ratner's redevelopment plan, currently does not exist and certainly cannot be "reconstructed" as you can see in the image below. Click here to see the footprint of the "Atlantic Yards" project with the railyard portion highlighted.


Author Robert Caro also gets in on the action in his 1,269-page biography of Moses entitled, "The Power Broker," which goes to show that history really does repeat itself:

From The Power Broker (p. 460):

Mrs. Sulzberger [wife of the publisher] believed that Moses came "close to our ideal of what a Park Commissioner should be"; the Times evidently believed so, too. Its reporters and editors may never have been directly ordered to give Moses special treatment but, during the Thirties as during the Twenties, they were not so insensitive as not to know what was expected of them. Moses' press releases were treated with respect, being given prominent treatment and often being printed in full. There was no investigating of the "facts" presented in those press releases, no attempt at detailed analysis of his theories of recreation and transportation, no probing of the assumptions on which the city was building and maintining recreational facilities and roads. The Times ran more than one hundred editorials on Moses and his programs during the twelve-year La Guardia administration--overwhelmingly favorable editorials.

Oder goes on to explain to anyone who will listen at the New York Times why "Atlantic Yards" is a poor example for current large-scale redevelopment projects in NYC, due to the special use of the State (instead of City) review process.


Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

Laugh Don't Destroy

Atlantic Yards is so funny we forgot to laugh, but Laugh Don't Destroy will have you in stiches. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's next fundraiser could be a roofraiser, which, in this case, is better than a groundbreaker.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM


WFAN's "Mike and the Mad Dog" give Scott Turner from Fans For Fair Play a chance to air some of those pesky details that reveal that Atlantic Yards isn't such great deal for Brooklyn after all.

Though the ten-minute interview with Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey was posted on the Internet last week, the three-minute Turner interview has just been made available at http://podcast.wfan.com/wfan/99568.mp3.

Turner explains Ratner's affordable housing scheme, eminent domain abuse, Metrotech's myth and public financing of the Nets arena.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

ESDC claims city/state, before AY, searched for a railyards project "without success"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) response memorandum of law, filed last Friday in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, challenges several arguments made by the plaintiffs, which should make for a contentious oral argument in court on February 7.

One ESDC statement about the Metropolitan Transportation's Authority's working Vanderbilt Yard really pushes the envelope:

In fact—as the ESDC Defendants explained in their opening brief and as the complaint itself makes plain (but as plaintiffs conveniently omit to mention in their response)—it is uncontested that at least half of the Atlantic Yards Project site is in fact blighted. The City made its blight determination nearly forty years ago, and renewed it in 2004. The State and City governments have been searching for a project to remedy that blight ever since—until now, without success.

Norman Oder explains in the rest of the article that the City and State didn't search that hard.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Brooklyn's O'Malley, Others Paved Way for Ratner

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

OMalley.jpgIn a way, the announcement that Barclays Bank will be awarded naming rights for Bruce Ratner’s proposed Brooklyn arena, ends a 50-year sports business saga in the borough that began with Walter O’ Malley’s stadium bid. The arena will be built not far from the hole in the ground that O’ Malley, the president and owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, wanted for his proposed stadium. In early 1957, when it became clear he wouldn’t secure the kind of deal he wanted from Mayor Wagner and his envoy, Robert Moses, the astute businessman began eyeing the West Coast. This year, Ratner moved a step closer to bringing a major professional sports club, the Nets, to Brooklyn — with a great assist from Mayor Bloomberg.
O'Malley's wanderlust started with the move in 1953 of the Boston Braves to Milwaukee, where three years earlier Milwaukee city officials had resolved to build a stadium with the hope of landing a major league baseball team.

That decision by Milwaukee elected officials is far more significant than the Dodgers and Giants moves. The local government changed the rules for stadium and arena funding and signaled the start of competition between cities for sports franchises. Cities were now willing to put up money for venues — something unheard of until that time.
Ratner’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn will be neither historic nor ground-breaking. It’s just another franchise move in a deal that’s really about the real estate business, not sports. But professional sports have always been about business — the business is just bigger than it was when Walter O’Malley waved good-bye to Brooklyn 50 years ago.


Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

January 23, 2007

Happy Bruce Day to You!

BirthdayBruce.jpgHow old are you now?

From Wikipedia:

Bruce Ratner (born January 23, 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio) is president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, the New York division of Forest City Enterprises, which is based in Cleveland. Ratner was New York City's most active real estate developer during the 1990s. Ratner graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1967 and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1970.

"The Brucester" started out with a promising career in public service:

After obtaining his J.D. Ratner became the director of a Model Cities program for the Lindsay administration in New York City. Subsequently he served in the capacity of chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs under Mayor Ed Koch in 1978.

"Birthday Bruce" is known in some circles as the poster child for eminent domain abuse*, but in Brooklyn he's affectionately known as the "biggest guy around" and "Big Brother Bruce."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn regrets that Bruce didn't get Prospect Heights for his birthday, but expect that tug of war to continue.

* Projects where Bruce Ratner has benefited or intends to benefit from the use of eminent domain include, Metrotech, The NY Times Tower, Atlantic Yards and a mixed-use redevelopment in Bloomfield, NJ.

Posted by lumi at 11:02 AM

Naming Rights and Wrongs Transcend Time Zones

21vecsey.1.190.jpgThe NY Times
By George Vecsey

Foreign domination is a red herring. The resisters in Brooklyn have better issues: whether the new $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is good for the people and the land and the lifestyle of that dynamic borough. Although the project has government approval, lawsuits are pending that could endanger the 2009-10 opening.
In an age of naming rights, we still have Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, with Yankees management claiming it will retain that hallowed name when the new ballpark on former Bronx parkland is completed in a few years. Walter O'Malley is now associated with an era of taste and restraint. Who would have believed it?

article ("Times Select" only, full text after the jump)

NoLandGrab: The NY Times sports columnist sort of misses the point about concern over the Barclays naming-rights deal.

There are some who wryly noted that Barclays had nothing to do with Brooklyn, but others, who have been deeply concerned with reclaiming property taken from Jews during the Holocaust, or corporations investing in the government of apartheid South Africa, are already familiar with Barclays. The issue, for those who care about these sorts of things, is whether or not this deal branding a new arena in Brooklyn with the name of a corporation that has a lot of baggage when it comes to issues like institutional racism, is a slap in the face to many Brooklynites.

Naming Rights and Wrongs Transcend Time Zones

What would Walter O'Malley have thought about the $400 million naming rights for a sports arena atop the railroad station in downtown Brooklyn, where he once feinted at building a ballpark?

Maybe that kind of money, even at lower 1957 levels, would have kept O'Malley from stuffing the Dodgers into his satchel and lamming it westward.

O'Malley was Irish enough to spend money on green uniforms in spring training every St. Patrick's Day, but I'm guessing he would not have turned down $400 million for 20 years of naming rights because Barclays Bank happened to have originated in England.

O'Malley, the former owner of the Dodgers, did not become rich by worrying about technicalities like foreign domination. Likewise, the people in Brooklyn trying to block the construction of an arena for the current Nets should stick to land-use issues.

I heard protesters on talk radio saying it was time to kick out the English all over again, but it is way too late for that. Globalization is here to stay.


Don't get me wrong. I hate naming rights as much as the next crank. I don't bother to learn the geeky names of companies that underwrite some modern stadiums, on the quite rational theory that these sponsors are likely to be defunct by the time I sort it all out.

The reality is, fans can call these new joints anything they want. It's a free country. A certain financial institution that keeps fiddling with its name and its logo recently paid $400 million for 20 years to plop its name on the next ballpark in Queens, and I passively went along with it, at the time.

But lately, as I risk my life on the frighteningly makeshift Whitestone Expressway, dangerously glancing at the early construction of the new stadium, I find myself calling it the New Shea. I didn't plan to do this. My twitchy little brain did it. New Shea. It's even punchier than the name they gave it, which is, aw, but I forget.

This same selective creativity could take place in Brooklyn, down the street from where the Brooklyn Academy of Music turned into BAM. As Richard Sandomir pointed out Friday in The New York Times (great bald minds think alike; I had already come to the same conclusion), that the new arena's name could be shortened to the Bark.

Foreign domination is a red herring. The resisters in Brooklyn have better issues: whether the new $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is good for the people and the land and the lifestyle of that dynamic borough. Although the project has government approval, lawsuits are pending that could endanger the 2009-10 opening.

Any way you look at it, we are all in a world market. Barclays is in 60 countries. Arenas in the United States are already named for multinationals like American Airlines or HSBC, whose headquarters are in Fort Worth and London. Besides, Barclays has a whole lot better karma than, say, Halliburton.

It's a little late for Americans to fret about foreign influence, after we took to the Beatles, Hondas, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dos Equis, Hideki Matsui, Pedro Almodóvar and Dirk Nowitzki. Recently, Major League Soccer paid a fortune for the aging English free-kick specialist David Beckham. We import when we want.

Also, America is marketing its sports like crazy for an international audience, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out Friday, depicting the N.F.L. training place-kickers in China.

At least American sports ownership tends to be homegrown (although Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is from the former planet of Pluto.) England, the home of Barclays, has had 6 of its 20 Premier League soccer clubs bought by raffish adventurers from exotic places like Russia, Israel, Iceland and the United States, with three more clubs likely to be sold.

Talk about naming rights: One of the grand old soccer teams, Arsenal, named for the munitions factory in north London, has moved into its new home - Emirates Stadium. (Arsenal plays Manchester United, owned by the Glazers from America, in the new place today.) Presumably, most fans of the Gunners know the stadium is named after an airline, not the country, but, still, it's not the same as the quaint old place, which was known as Highbury.


For my generation, O'Malley remains the devil incarnate for ignoring his Brooklyn roots and whisking the Dodgers across the continent. The weird thing was, after conning the locals out of a valuable ravine north of downtown, O'Malley and his son, Peter, maintained one of the most successful and tasteful sports franchises in the nation.

They avoided most advertisements in immaculate, pastel Dodger Stadium until the family sold the club in 1998, and much of the sedate ambiance survived the brief stewardship of the Murdochites and remains relatively intact under the McCourts.

In an age of naming rights, we still have Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, with Yankees management claiming it will retain that hallowed name when the new ballpark on former Bronx parkland is completed in a few years. Walter O'Malley is now associated with an era of taste and restraint. Who would have believed it?

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Flashback to 2004: Bloomberg asserts project would be on vacant land, rely on private money

Atlantic Yards Report

It was three years ago, and how things have changed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his weekly radio appearance with WABC’s John Gambling on 1/23/04, addressed the announced sale of the Nets to Bruce Ratner (and other investors) and the prospects for the Atlantic Yards project.

Some key statements were either inaccurate or proven wrong as the project evolved. Notably, Bloomberg called the railyard in the proposed project site "vacant land," promised "an enormous number" of permanent jobs, and suggested that the developer would be responsible for nearly all the project funding.


Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

Barclays and slavery: the Times muddies the issue

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times reacts to criticism that "a clarification or correction is in order."

Here's what the Times ran:

Several demonstrators protested outside the museum, accusing Barclays of participating in the state's attempt to use eminent domain to condemn property for the project. They also said Barclays profited from the slave trade yet is aligned with Ratner, who is marketing his team to African-American fans. A company spokesman said Barclays had not been involved in slavery.

Here's an editor's explanation:

Because we accurately conveyed what each group said and because we made no further claims ourselves, we see no reason for a clarification or correction. Thanks again.


NoLandGrab: The Times is clearly no longer interested in "journalism of verification."

Is it enough to run a quote from both sides (i.e. "we've looked, and can find no evidence of weapons of mass distruction" or "we must stop the madman from using weapons of mass distruction")? Remember, it was just this kind of journalism that led The NY Times to drive news coverage and public opinion down the road toward Iraq.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM


Jay-ZNets.jpgChronic Magazine, "a blazin' source of hip-hop news," carried the AP article covering the Barclays-Ratner Nets-arena naming-rights deal.


Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

Financial companies target brand-building

Investment News
By Charles Paikert

Branding took center stage last week as financial services companies jockeyed to project and amplify their images to ever-larger audiences. London-based Barclays PLC, one of the world’s largest banks, made the biggest splash, as it sought to pump up its anemic U.S. brand by agreeing to pay nearly $400 million over 20 years for the right to have its name on an arena in Brooklyn that hasn’t even been built. Nonetheless, the bank proudly took out full-page color ads in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal trumpeting the Frank Gehry-designed Barclays Center, which developer Bruce Ratner hopes will be built by 2009 as the new home of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Prudential Financial, Inc. and Citigroup, Inc. recently signed naming-rights deals in Newark and Queens, respectively.


Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

Paying so they can play

NY Newsday, Letter to the Editor

Nothing gets the goat of the region's most prolific letterwriter, Larry Penner, like taxpayers getting stuck with the tab by wealthy sports-team owners:

UK Bank 'Nets' Deal to Name Arena' (Jan. 19) concerning Barclays Bank paying $400 million to Bruce Ratner for naming the Nets Brooklyn basketball arena proves my point why taxpayers should just say no to using public funds for any new major sports stadiums.
How sad that New York City taxpayers are continually asked to pay for new stadiums. Public dollars on the city, state and federal level are being used as corporate welfare to subsidize a private-sector business.

The only real beneficiaries of these expenditures are team owners and their multimillion-dollar players.


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

January 22, 2007

Barclays Center: Where Symbolic Violence Meets Street Violence?

Picketing Henry Ford uses the media campaign for the Forest City Ratner-Barclays Bank naming-rights deal to explain the paradox of "globalization" and "financialization."

At times this blog nearly writes itself. The announcement that Barclays, a British investment bank with nary a US commercial branch, will pay for naming rights of the Gehry-designed basketball arena to be built at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues is one such time. I have argued that undergirding the Atlantic Yards (AY) development is the immense movement of global capital associated with speculative real estate, even as this evolution in capitalism is responsible for the precarious economic position of so many minority communities in Brooklyn, whom Forest City Ratner (FCR) has enlisted for support of the project even though they are the least likely to reap any benefit from it. Additionally, I have argued that this project is especially characterized by a disconnect between superficial images and reality, a disconnect endemic to our hypervisual society, but increased by the use of a sham democratic review process, paid-off supporters, and an architect who, perhaps more than any of his peers, privileges the surface of his structures in order that they might enter into the image-based branding lexicon of their hometowns.


NoLandGrab: If you're too busy multi-tasking to parse through Stuart Schrader's intellectual mumbo-jumbo, think of it this way: it's beginning to dawn on folks that Wal-Mart seduces middle- and working-class America with low prices while undermining the economic (and thus political) stability of the same classes. Stuart Schrader is making the case that Atlantic Yards represents and exploits the same global-economic trends.

Posted by lumi at 10:55 AM

DDDB round-up

Here's a round-up of recent items from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

A Net Loss?
We hadn't had a chance earlier to put up this item about figures DDDB uncovered in developer Bruce Ratner's own socio-economic study.

Let's do the math: "Atlantic Yards" proposes 900 low income units. The FEIS says that there could be 2,920 households at risk of indirect residential displacement. Even if we include all of the "affordable" units, 2,920 outpaces 2,250.

Even in the best case scenario the ESDC says that the "at-risk* population will be much smaller than 2,000." What's "much smaller": 1,000? 1,500? 800? Regardless, we are looking at a wash at best, with a net loss more likely.

DDDBarclays.gifBarclays Bank: Not Concerned
DDDB wonders what Barclays could possibly be "concerned" about:

Whether or not the arena construction can go forward? or
About the community's concerns? or
About abusing the Constitution? or
About their image of corporate responsibility and ethical decision-making?

Giving It to Brooklyn

All of this nostalgic drama was to announce that Barclays, not the World, was indeed giving something–$300 to 400 million. But Barclays is giving it to Bruce Ratner's Forest City Enterprises, not Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere25.jpgMore blogosphere reaction on the Barclays naming-rights deal from the usual and unusual suspects:

FunkyPundit, Atlantic Yards' Latest Blemish

Incidentally, if, as the Empire State Development Corp. says, the Atlantic Yards is a "public arena" -- and it's certainly true it's to be publicly financed with triple-tax-free bonds -- then why, pray tell, don't we the people get naming rights?

Sports Business News, Location, Location, Location – the sports naming rights bar is raised again thanks to the Big Apple

In a naming rights agreement that defies economic logic, Barclay’s Bank and the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets last week announced a $400 million, 20-year agreement for the Nets new arena.

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, AY Opponents Bank Shot

The attempt to delegitimize the Atlantic Yards project continues apace with today's story by the Daily News' Michael O'Keeke on the manufactured furor over the checkered history of Barclays Bank. And just as we said already, it's amusing how some folks take everything that is printed by certain media outlets as gospel.

NoLandGrab: We're a little slow, so we don't quite understand why, if the furor was "manufactured," did Ratner supporter Rev. Daughtry express concerns in the article linked by Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky?

The Jaunt, Future Brooklyn Nets; Slaves to Corporate America

Just a week after celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King -- and a few weeks short of Black History Month -- corporate America reminds us once again that cut-throat tactics are what this country was built on, and continues to thrive on.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, so when we reallly boil it down....

All this state money, seized property via eminent domain abuse, time, effort....to build a giant logo board for an international bank. Looking back civic projects of the past - central and prospect park, (largely privately funded) the metropolitan museum of art....and what has the current power-elite chosen to do with their power to not give, but take - to erect giant advertisements and marketing vehicles for large companies - literally at the expense of smaller ones and middle class tax payers

Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

Forest City Reaches Agreement with Barclays PLC for Naming Rights to Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Arena

Here's last week's press release from Forest City Enterprises, via Cleveland dBusinessNews.com (pay no attention to the mention of a "park," which is typically publicly — not privately — owned, and the project's contributing to the "revitalization of downtown Brooklyn," even though it's located in Prospect Heights):

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) and (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that Barclays PLC, a major global financial services provider, has signed a partnership agreement for naming rights to a planned new sports and entertainment arena at Forest City’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The arena is expected to become home to the National Basketball Association’s Nets, in which Forest City has an ownership interest. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The agreement gives U.K.-based Barclays 20-year naming rights to the arena, which will be called Barclays Center and is scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 NBA season. The 850,000-square-foot arena, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, will seat up to 20,000 people. It will be the centerpiece of Atlantic Yards, Forest City’s long-term mixed-use development project in downtown Brooklyn. In addition to Barclays Center, Atlantic Yards is anticipated to include new urban retail, office buildings, apartments, and parks and open space.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “This agreement is a critical milestone in the development of our Atlantic Yards project. The new Barclays Center will be a world-class professional sports complex and international entertainment destination. With the arena as a centerpiece, Atlantic Yards will continue the revitalization of downtown Brooklyn, and create thousands of jobs and mixed-income housing for the local community.”

In addition to the naming rights, Barclays has agreed to work with Forest City to promote athletics, education and personal development among young people in Brooklyn. The Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance will, as its first objective, repair and renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout Brooklyn and sponsor amateur athletic tournaments and clinics for Brooklyn’s youth.

Corporate Description
Forest City Enterprises, Inc. is an $8.5 billion NYSE-listed national real estate company. The Company is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States.

Safe Harbor Language
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. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, real estate development and investment risks, economic conditions in the Company’s core markets, reliance on major tenants, the impact of terrorist acts, the Company’s substantial leverage and the ability to service debt, guarantees under the Company’s credit facility, changes in interest rates, continued availability of tax-exempt government financing, the sustainability of substantial operations at the subsidiary level, significant geographic concentration, illiquidity of real estate investments, dependence on rental income from real property, conflicts of interest, competition, potential liability from syndicated properties, effects of uninsured loss, environmental liabilities, partnership risks, litigation risks, risks associated with an investment in a professional sports franchise, and other risk factors as disclosed from time to time in the Company’s SEC filings, including, but not limited to, the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2006.

Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM


Ratner-Bloomfield.jpgNJEminentDomain.com, Eminent Domain: Bloomfield and Forest City cease efforts to acquire two properties

Two properties have been saved from Bruce Ratner's attempts to use eminent domain to build a shopping center in Bloomfield, NJ.

Other plaintiffs in the Lardieri et al v. Bloomfield Township lawsuit remain at risk, and they will pursue a prerogative writ case to overturn the blight designation of their properties. The township has requested an additional 30 days to file their answer, and the case has been assigned for trial to Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello. Judge Costello issued an opinion in 110 Washington Street v. Township of Bloomfield. This decision has been upheld unanimously by the Appellate Division and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on November 17, 2006.

The Newark Star-Ledger, Line drawn in the sand on eminent domain

Like NY State, NJ is regarded as one of the worst states for eminent domain abuse, though state officials seem to be trying to clean up their act:

The backlash against towns seizing small businesses and houses to further large-scale, private development has been gaining strength nationwide, but in New Jersey the use of eminent domain appears to be coming to a head in the oceanfront resort of Long Branch.

A group of homeowners has been fighting the city's effort to take their land in court for about three years, but in recent weeks powerful forces joined the battle and have turned it into a legal showdown.

State Public Advocate Ron Chen -- with the firm support of Gov. Jon Corzine -- took the side of the property owners. The state League of Municipalities, which frequently points to Long Branch as a shining example of the good eminent domain can do -- is weighing in on the city's side.

NoLandGrab: In stark constrast, NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who has pretty much been missing in action since being re-elected in 2005, stated during a televised debate, "It’s not my understanding that the developer at Atlantic Yards is going to use eminent domain.” Since being relected, she has no further comment on the use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards.

NY Sun, via europaconcorsi.com, New York - Great Cities Need Great Builders

Harvard professor Edward Glaeser makes a suggestion about how NY State should go about eminent domain in his second look at the Robert Moses legacy:

But I hope that eminent domain in the post-Bloomberg era will become much fairer than it was during the era of Robert Moses. The state should develop better legal infrastructure to oversee takings. Perhaps there should be a state-level commission, independent of local government, with both elected and appointed members, that can subject each use of eminent domain to cost-benefit analysis and determine just compensation for the evicted. The right response to Moses's excesses is not to renounce eminent domain, but to strengthen the process so that it can play its needed role.

NoLandGrab: Glaeser is quick to point to Moses's excesses, but in recent editorials has supported Atlantic Yards and extreme density and has kept mum about the use of eminent domain.

Capital Press Agricultural Weekly, Courts pave over paradise on farm land
A Washington state court upheld a notification of an eminent domain seizure that appeared on a state agency's web site, without mentioning the names of the property owners or even the address of the desired parcel.

The opening anecdote sets up the article, which explains why farmland is at risk in the wake of last year's Supreme Court Kelo ruling.

Welcome to the world of eminent domain and why it has angered and caught the attention of the agricultural community across America.

Farmers are learning the hard way such terms as eminent domain and condemnation. Originally, those terms were usually reserved for when governments needed low-valued or blighted property to meet its needs for public use.

But then the Kelo court case at the U.S. Supreme Court level determined that a government could condemn "underutilized" private land for other private parties and developments. More jobs and higher tax revenue could be used as reasons to condemn land.

At the time, there were warnings this could mean farmland would be threatened.

The Journal-News, Listen now: Eminent domain plaintiff, TV blogger on Phil Reisman's radio show

Bart Didden, whose Port Chester eminent domain case was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court this week, discusses his reaction on Journal News/LoHud.com columnist Phil Reisman’s weekly radio show, “High Noon,” on the air now.
"High Noon" airs from noon to 1 p.m. on WVOX 1460 AM.

Listen live now at www.wvox.com.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Nets Fans Cry Foul Over $4,500 Charge

MyFoxNY.com recycled the NY Post article from this weekend:

Nets season-ticket holders might have to cough up an extra $4,500 if they want to follow the team when it moves to Brooklyn. And that's doesn't even include a ticket, according to Sunday's New York Post.

Team officials are calling the one-time fee a "personal seat license" that gives people the right to buy tickets. The extra charge is expected to raise more than $20 million. The fee applies to premium season-ticket holders.


NoLandGrab: To be fair, the Post article was scoured from a KPMG report. The MyFoxNY headline makes it sound like NJ Nets have already announced the fee and fans are already up in arms, which isn't the case. The KPMG report serves as an indication of what Bruce Ratner and the Nets might have in store for fans.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Robert Moses's Vision of New York

RobertMoses.jpgNY Sun
By Francis Morrone

In 2007, the world regards New York as a major urban success story. Five years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with construction booming all around the city, and with large-scale development projects such as the Atlantic Yards in the works, a re-evaluation of Moses's legacy seems in order. And that's just what we're getting at the month's end when the Museum of the City of New York, Columbia University, and the Queens Museum team up for a major exhibition, " Robert Moses and the Modern City."

One of Brooklyn's preeminent architectural historians has a second look at the legacy of Robert Moses and tips his hat to the masterbuilder's waterfront plan:

Nowadays a New Yorker can take the R train to Bay Ridge, enjoy a lovely dinner in one of that neighborhood's many good restaurants, then sit dreamily on a Shore Road bench watching the lights of the [Verrazano] bridge twinkle in the dusk. That perfect New York evening is ours in part by way of Robert Moses.


NoLandGrab: Despite Moses's intention to turn the south side of Long Island into a destination for public recreation, the BQE and Belt Parkway separate many neighborhoods from direct access.

During Moses's time, planning was centered around automobile infrastructure — today new construction and large projects are focused on building more housing, where, surprisingly, many of Moses mistakes are being recreated, as exemplified by the Atlantic Yards superblocks. The planned condos at the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge Park in many ways are a throwback to the highways and parkways built by Moses that separate waterfront recreation from adjacent neighborhoods.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Ratner Sued Again, This Time Over Relocation

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Tenant attorney George Locker is charging that Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey is using strong-arm tactics and wielding the power of the Empire State Development Corporation to circumvent rent stabilization protections:

Locker noted that Stuckey had confirmed that Forest City's offer does not apply to tenants suing over Atlantic Yards - a category that includes not only Locker's clients, but several tenants involved in a federal lawsuit challenging eminent domain.

Locker says such a strong-arm tactic violates the law. "The relocation requirements under the UDC [Urban Development Corporation] Act does not provide for relocation based on whether the displaced tenant passively accepts his/her fate, or chooses to seek relief from the courts," he said. "While Ratner may not like being sued, relocation is a right, not a gift."

The controversy, according to Locker, raises questions about whether the private developer or the public state agency is in charge.

The cases brought by Locker break new legal ground, but they bring up serious questions about rent stabilization in a very unstable real-estate market and the ability for a developer to cut deals using the coercive powers of state eminent domain law while circumventing other state laws and regulations.


Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

Barclays to Pay $300 Million For Arena Naming Rights

WSJRatnervilleImage.jpgFrom last week's Wall Street Journal by David Enrich (link, subscribers only):

But Robert E. Diamond, Barclays's president, said the deal with the Nets will improve the brand recognition of Barclays's retail and investment-banking offerings. "We knew it was time to invest more in our brand," he said in an interview Thursday. "I don't buy the fact that branding is only for retail products."
The Atlantic Yards development project -- which in addition to the indoor stadium also includes high-rise apartment and office buildings -- has been mired in controversy. Many local residents worry that it will overwhelm Brooklyn's already-strained infrastructure.

Mr. Diamond said he is aware of the controversy but isn't concerned. "We would not have gone forward with this if we weren't comfortable," he said.

Barclays to Pay $300 Million For Arena Naming Rights
January 18, 2007 4:30 p.m.
The Wall Street Journal

NEW YORK -- U.K. banking giant Barclays PLC bought the naming rights to the new Nets basketball arena that is planned for Brooklyn, N.Y.

Under the 20-year agreement, Barclays said it will pay about $300 million for the proposed 20,000-seat arena to be called Barclays Center (www.barclayscenter.com1). The project, at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2009-2010 National Basketball Association season.

The deal marks Barclays's latest effort to raise its U.S. profile. The bank has a limited retail presence in the U.S., largely revolving around its highly successful exchange-traded funds business.

But Robert E. Diamond, Barclays's president, said the deal with the Nets will improve the brand recognition of Barclays's retail and investment-banking offerings. "We knew it was time to invest more in our brand," he said in an interview Thursday. "I don't buy the fact that branding is only for retail products."

Mr. Diamond said the agreement shows Barclays's commitment to growing in the U.S., but said it isn't an indication that the company plans any acquisitions here. "I don't think it signals anything," he said.

The Barclays-Nets deal is the second recent New York stadium-naming pact involving a big bank. Last month, Citigroup Inc. purchased rights for the new Mets baseball stadium in Queens to be called Citi Field.

The Atlantic Yards development project -- which in addition to the indoor stadium also includes high-rise apartment and office buildings -- has been mired in controversy. Many local residents worry that it will overwhelm Brooklyn's already-strained infrastructure.

Mr. Diamond said he is aware of the controversy but isn't concerned. "We would not have gone forward with this if we weren't comfortable," he said.

As part of the deal, Barclays is also providing support to a non-profit organization that will renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout Brooklyn.

--Andrew Edwards contributed to this article.

Write to David Enrich at david.enrich@dowjones.com

URL for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116915282317080617.html

Photo caption: The planned arena lies at the middle of the massive Atlantic Yard development project.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

January 21, 2007

Nets fans are loyal to the end

NJ Star-Ledger

As Nets television analyst and former NBA point guard Mark Jackson closed the ceremony, the team's remaining 2 1/2 seasons in the Garden State seemed as far from anyone's mind as Mike Gminski or Yinka Dare.

"Thanks for coming this afternoon," Jackson said. "We'll see you all in Brooklyn."

They will see the Lees of Parsippany -- they won't see them as often, but not because anyone is angry. It's just that Brooklyn is a hike from Morris County. Gene Lee, 72, and his wife Maxine, 70, have been season ticket-holders for 18 seasons, and they were at the game last night. Gene even wore a crisp, crew-neck Nets sweat shirt, and while he admitted to minor depression about the team's departure, his love for the team and the game is far more powerful.

"It's business" he said. "But we're seeing good basketball here. You've got Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. It's a pleasure to watch."


NoLandGrab: So...let's see. Brooklyn is being sold the Nets as the second coming of the Dodgers, which was a loss of historic proportions heaped in nostalgia. In return Brooklyn gets the NJ Nets, which even an 18 year season ticket holder doesn't get worked up over?

Posted by amy at 7:34 PM


NY Post
Rich Calder

Premium Nets season-ticket holders might have to shell out $4,500 - just for the right to buy tickets to games at the team's planned Brooklyn arena, the Post has learned.

A confidential December audit by KPMG projects the Nets will charge a $4,500 "personal seat license" fee for each of the best 4,500 seats at Barclays Center once the 18,000-seat arena is built and the team starts playing there in 2009-2010.
The document estimates Nets game tickets in Brooklyn ranging from $51 to $970 each. The team's current ticket prices at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., run from $10 to $1,750. The costly $1,750 seats are among 32 new "Hollywood seats" the team began offering courtside last season to A-listers like rap-star-turned-Nets investor Jay-Z and his gal pal, Beyoncé Knowles.


Posted by amy at 7:13 PM


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

WARNING: All of this talk of exorbitant naming-rights and ticket prices is speculation. We'll keep saying this until it becomes clearly understood. Currently private citizens own and rent the land where the arena (and much of the rest of the "Atlantic Yards" project) is proposed. This land amounts to at least 5 acres spred throughout the site. Unless the State of New York and Forest City Ratner can seize title to the properties, all of the hype and hubbub is just that–hype and hubbub. And a Federal court will make this decision.

Rich Calder's story in todays NY Post is a small step forward for the mainstream press in trying to ascertain the profit Ratner intends to make off of the public purse, public land and private abuse of eminent domain. According to the article premium ticket holders would have to pay $4,500 just to get the right to buy tickets. And game tickets will range from $51-$970.

Thats some community facility.
And if Ratner/Barclays/Yormack/Zimbalist are counting on fans coming from New Jersey, they should take a look at the Bergen Record. The Record asked its NJ readers: Would you go to Nets' games in Brooklyn? Commenters commented here (please disregard the sporadict hateful sentiments on the board.)


Posted by amy at 7:08 PM

Bank on a Barclays controversy

NY Daily News
Michael O'Keeffe

The Nets' deal with Barclays may be one of the most profitable naming-rights deals ever, but it also illustrates the pitfalls these deals can bring for sports franchises. Enron, for example, agreed in 1999 to pay the Houston Astros more than $100 million to name their new ballpark Enron Field; three years later, after Enron became the largest corporation in history to file for bankruptcy, the Astros bought back the rights.
Has Atlantic Yards risked losing some of its strongest supporters by signing a deal with a bank that has long been accused of profiting from centuries of African suffering?

Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, one of the black community's most prominent supporters of the project, says he is troubled by the team's association with Barclays.

"I'm very profoundly concerned about it," Daughtry said last week. "They kept it secret and I didn't learn about it until I read about it in the paper yesterday. I am planning on having a conversation about this with Mr. (Bruce) Ratner (the Nets' owner)."


Posted by amy at 7:04 PM

I AM PARK SLOPE: Will diversity be part of our future?


TODAY! Sunday, January 21, 2007 6pm
admission: $5.00 suggested donation

— The BAX Platform is a hybrid conversation series combining the best of your front stoop and kitchen table with the unique perspective of the newsmakers - making sure all things are considered.

Featured Panelists: Chris Owens - Founder and Chairman of the Paul Robeson Independent Democrats (PRIDE), and an ardent advocate against the Atlantic Yards development; CB6 Chair Craig Hammerman; Brooklyn Pride�s Doreen De Jesus; longtime Park Slope residents, mother and son Marianna Gaston & Javier Gaston Greenberg (Marianna helped found Brooklyn New School); Pauline Toole & Gene Russianoff - Park Slope Parents and (Gene) staff attorney for New York Public Interest Research Group; Dr. Susan Fox of Park Slope Parents; Emily Millay Haddad (recently featured in a New York Times story on Park Slope); and Nancy McDermott, a founding member of NY Salon in conversation with BAX Executive Director Marya Warshaw

Amid a "fast-changing, perpetually gentrifying (NY Times)" neighborhood, what Park Slope lacks is a conversation between the people who dug their heels in decades ago and its more recent settlers. In the 70s, it was "hippie slope." Then in the late 70s and early 80s it became known as "dyke slope." By the 80s, Wall Street companies were giving prospective employees bus tours of the neighborhood. Who�s here now and what values do we/can we/should we hold as neighbors? Join us to explore and discuss this hot-button topic.

Posted by amy at 3:52 PM

Sunday Comix


An intrepid reader sends this cartoon along...suggesting Barclay's might have missed out on a cheaper deal?

Posted by amy at 12:50 PM

The Times shows us the AY scale... in an ad

Atlantic Yards Report


Two months ago, I pointed out that the most crucial piece of information missing from the local press was a sense of the Atlantic Yards project scale. (Remember how the New York Times showed a picture of the empty railyard?)

A reader reminds me that we finally got a sense of the scale--in the Barclays Center ad that ran on Friday in the Times, Daily News, Post, and Wall Street Journal.


Posted by amy at 12:43 PM

Shooting From the Lip

Daily News
Mike Lupica

What, the Nets went with Barclays because all the good banks were taken?

By the way, let's set an over-number on how long my man Caring Bruce Ratner owns the team.

Make it three years.

I'll bet the under.


Posted by amy at 12:39 PM

Columbia, play nice

Daily News
Errol Louis

With Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project finally moving forward, it seems like the men and women working on the city's next mega-project - Columbia University's plan to build a major research campus in the Manhattanville section of West Harlem - have learned nothing from what happened in Brooklyn. Instead of working full time to arrive at a shared vision in a spirit of mutual compromise, Columbia and many local leaders in West Harlem appear poised to square off in a tangle of lawsuits, protests and accusations.
In fact, it's not necessary for Columbia to strong-arm anybody. As developer Bruce Ratner proved with Atlantic Yards, an early round of talks with legitimate, longstanding community leaders can calm fears and serve as an important gesture of good faith toward local residents.


Errol would have done better to refer to Norman Oder's analysis of the Columbia CBA:

For one thing, the president of the new West Harlem Local Development Corporation is Patricia Jones, who is a vice-chair of Community Board 9, as well as the chair of CB 9’s 197-a Plan Committee and co-chair of the Manhattanville Rezoning Task Force. And the new LDC has 19 members representing area tenants, businesses, elected officials and CB9, as well as environmental, cultural and faith-based organizations.

Contrast with AY

That contrasts with the eight organizations, most of them fledgling, that signed the Atlantic Yards CBA. City Limits quotes Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development:
Lander faulted the agreements signed by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for the Bronx Terminal Market and new Yankee stadium for lacking a grassroots component. And not enough community stakeholders participated in negotiating the benefits agreement with developer Bruce Ratner over his proposed Atlantic Yards development, he said.

Posted by amy at 12:25 PM

Learning from New Haven


Brooklyn Views

The New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum was demolished this morning. According to Jennifer Medina, writing in yesterday’s Times, “The decision to destroy the Coliseum reflects a shift in philosophy on urban planning, with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. choosing to focus on arts, education and small retail buildings rather than on large-scale public spaces. “I think we are taking an approach that is smarter about what works in building a city,” Mr. DeStefano said. Some people still like the idea of big projects, he said, “but successful urban life gets woven from lots of small things, not one grand gesture.” Talking about the Coliseum, he added, “This was a particularly grand gesture for its time.”

And in a review of the track record for other arenas, Medina notes: “Bridgeport built its 10,000-seat stadium in 2001. While performers like James Taylor and Andrea Bocelli have drawn large crowds, there is little evidence that the stadium has boosted other downtown business.”

Perhaps it just wasn’t grand enough.


Posted by amy at 12:17 PM

The Barclays extravaganza and the Atlantic Yards "permanent campaign"


Atlantic Yards Report

Closer to home, consider the extravaganza held Thursday at the Brooklyn Museum. There was news, to be sure, though much of it had apparently been strategically leaked. Forest City Ratner's deal with Barclays for naming rights for the planned Atlantic Yards arena, plus Barclays' commitment to improve some Brooklyn athletic fields, was worth coverage.

But what exactly did Coney Island and Ebbets Field have to do with it? Why was Frank Gehry there? And Jay-Z? Nets stars Vince Carter and Jason Kidd? Why did the promotional video--not to mention the many speeches--last longer than the amount of time Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner deigned to answer questions?

It's the permanent campaign.

And it works, more or less. Compare the "straight" news story by the Associated Press, a version of which was published in dozens of papers, with the sardonic and analytical columns of the Daily News's Bob Raissman and the Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor, published in a total of two papers.


Posted by amy at 12:02 PM

January 20, 2007

Big Buts For Brooklyn-Bound Barclays



We wonder how interested American corporations would have been - and how much Ratner was holding out for. Given that there are many lawsuits pending and prickly feelings from the community, anyone considering to be a part of the arena would have to think a few times before committing.

While the deal makes Ratner very rich, Barclays history is being questioned. The Brooklyn Paper notes that London-based Barclays' history "is inextricably linked to some of mankind’s lowest moments," such as the 18th century slave trade, the Holocaust (freezing Jewish customers' bank accounts), South African apartheid (doing business with the government), and the civil war in Congo.


Posted by amy at 3:07 PM

Barclays' present to Brooklyn's future?


Atlantic Yards Report looks at the imagery of the Barclay's ads:

We see a full frontal of the Urban Room and Frank Gehry's Miss Brooklyn, with the tower at Site 5 (now home to P.C. Richard/Modell's) looming at right. The Urban Room is, notably, ad-free, though we can expect some striking, perhaps overwhelming, advertising.

On the left, a piece of the facade of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall (without the Target and Chucke E. Cheese signage--see below), and a wedge of the Bank of New York Tower above it. In the center, the historic and restored (through already overwhelmed) Atlantic Avenue subway kiosk. And a whole bunch of traffic--perhaps a hint that critics' warnings might be worth a listen.

What's missing? The arena. Is that because it's such an innovative design, wrapped in four towers, and thus too tough to portray? Doubtful. Is it because the arena is less dramatic than Miss Brooklyn, from the outside? Who knows.

Is it because some of the buildings around the arena (including Miss Brooklyn) might be branded as part of the Barclays Center? Possibly.


Posted by amy at 2:56 PM

New York Times Makes Correction

New York Times

Correction: January 20, 2007

A sports article on Thursday about the sale of naming rights for the Nets’ planned home in Brooklyn referred imprecisely to the arena’s anticipated cost. Although the price will indeed exceed $550 million, the latest cost projection has raised it to about $637 million. The article also referred incompletely to a park planned atop the arena. It will be a private open space for the complex; it will not be a public park.

article with correction appended

Posted by amy at 2:39 PM

Wacky ‘Angel’ builder will work with wackier developer


Brooklyn Paper

New Broken Angel developer gets a dig in at Gehry while supporting actual Brooklyn architecture:

The artist who created the Department of Building’s most-hated — and Clinton Hill’s most-beloved — building could soon be bringing his artistic vision (and code violations, critics say) to a wider audience.

Broken Angel creator Arthur Wood, and his new business partner, Shahn Christian Andersen, want to do more than just rebuild Wood’s Downing Street ziggurat — the building out of which Wood was hauled by the NYPD last year because it had so many structural flaws.

“I plan on using him to design my future developments,” said Andersen, who has rebuilt or developed about a dozen buildings in his six-year career.
“I expect it to look more creative than anything Frank Gehry has done in 30 years,” he said.


Posted by amy at 1:24 PM

January 19, 2007

Barclays Center Ad

To tout its "investment" in the "Renaissance of Brooklyn," Barclays Bank "invested" in the Times (p. C5), Post (p. 11), Daily News (p. 21) and The Wall Street Journal (p. A7) with this get-to-know-you full-page ad (click to enlarge).

The headline is all hype: Barclays has purchased naming rights and will not "present" anything but an undisclosed sum, somewhere south of $400 million, to Bruce Ratner.

An advertising-industry expert estimates the total cost of Barclays' single-day ad "investment" at about $500,000, not a penny of which, so far as we can tell, went to "assist Brooklyn's youth."

Posted by lumi at 3:29 PM

Interview with Forest City Ratner President of the Atlantic Yards Development Group

WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog say, "There's always someone in the way of progress...."

On that note, they bypass the holdouts to ask "tough questions" of Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey.


Posted by lumi at 3:13 PM

Barclays Center — Planned Home of the Nets

Brought to you by BarclaysCenter.com:

[Insert image of Brooklyn Bridge.]
[Insert image of Jackie Robinson, despite history of racist corporate investments.]
[Insert Coney Island nostalgia.]
[Insert photorendering of Nets arena to be built on private homes and businesses to be condemned using eminent domain.]



Posted by lumi at 2:44 PM

Nets Arena Is First U.S. Branch for Barclays Bank

npr-logo.gif National Public Radio
By Robert Smith

News of the Barclays naming-rights deal got airplay on NPR's All Things Considered:

In the NBA's largest naming-rights deal ever, a British bank is paying more than $300 million to put its name on the Brooklyn, N.Y., arena that will be the new home for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Barclays, one of the largest banks in the world, has no branches in the United States. The bank is seeking name recognition, but it's taking a chance: The arena has been approved, but its construction is being challenged in court.


Posted by lumi at 2:39 PM

It came from the Barclaysphere...

BarclaysCenter-logo.gifHere Be Dragons, Barclays and basketball
A Brit explains:

Barclays is probably one of the best known banks in the UK. My other half still won´t touch them, because he remembers as a student in the eighties "Don´t bank on apartheid" - a campaign to get Barclays to pull out of South Africa. At the time I was working for the bank in London.
The arena will be part of a $4 billion development known as Atlantic Yards, which has unsurprisingly created vigorous debate as it involves compulsory purchase of existing properties. Barclays makes a lot about its approach to corporate responsibility and especially how it strives to "strengthen local communities in which we live and work" From this side of the Atlantic it is difficult to know whether Barclays´ desire for a global brand has trumped its corporate responsibility principles. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The arena, if built, won´t be ready until 2009.

The Sports Economist, Record Naming Rights Deal Announced

The Barclays deal exceeds the Phillips deal by a wide margin. In today's New York Times, columnist Richard Sandomir wonders if Barclays overpaid. To which I respond: "Duh!" According to Forbes, the estimated value of the Nets is $244 million. Instead of spending $400 million on the naming rights, why not pull a Red Bull - buy the franchise and rename it?

BlackAthelete.net, Jackie Robinson Loses Out in Brooklyn

We knew it was coming that doesn't make it any Better at all.

The one and only chance Brooklyn will ever have to honor Jackie Robinson as he should be has been lost to Greed. Worse nobody is going to complain about it except us right here in the Black Box. We don't suffer from Silence.

The Brooklyn Record, The Brooklyn Paper Bashes Barclays Center
News of Barclays Bank's history is news to The Brooklyn Record, whose readers are coming to terms with the fact that the bank has roots in the slave trade and ties to the Third Reich and apartheid South Africa.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Brooklyn Kids Triumph in Barclays Deal
Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky is unfettered by the PR problems associated with the Barclays deal now that the money is going to start flowing to programs he is promoting:

The creation of The Brooklyn Sports Alliance, our own concept the was adopted by Forest City, was designed to promote amateur sports in the borough and has been doing so over the past year and a half.

The Alliance now has a chance to really make an impact thanks to the just concluded deal with Barclays Bank. As the NY Post reports this morning, "Barclays will invest another $2.5 million over the next few years in partnership with the Nets on a nonprofit organization aimed at assisting Brooklyn's youth."

Gowanus Lounge, The Barclays Center: What's In a Name?

Of course, one could criticize many financial institutions, especially ones whose history reaches back a century or more, on dealings 50 or 100 years ago. The same could be said of any number of multinational corporations. So, there will be many opinions around Brooklyn about this information and whether it is fair to bring it up. All that said, as information goes, the background on Barclays is fascinating.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality, Brooklyn Edition, Barclays Really is Bad for Your Lungs.

Considering its also the name of a cigarette (not affiliated with the bank), and Barclays is helping bring forward a project guaranteed to increase asthma in Brooklyn children, its rather fitting, don't you think?

Posted by lumi at 2:39 PM

Barclays Buys the Naming Rights for Nets' NBA Arena

By Mason Levinson and Jon Menon

Bloomberg Media covers the Barclays-Forest City Ratner naming-rights deal from a business perspective, including market analysis and quotes:

Barclays Plc, Britain's third- largest bank by market value, bought the right to name the New Jersey Nets' future Brooklyn, New York, arena for 20 years to boost its brand in the U.S.
Barclays is expanding operations in the U.S., which contributed about 17 percent of the bank's pretax profit in the first half of 2006, said analyst Michael Helsby at Fox-Pitt, Kelton Ltd. in London. A third of the earnings at Barclays Capital, the investment banking unit, arise from the U.S., according to an estimate from Helsby.

"The deal is clearly aimed at the financial community in New York,'' said Simon Maughan, a London-based analyst at Blue Oak Capital Ltd. "They have been pushing Barclays Capital in the U.S. and this is clearly taking it to the next stage.''

Barclays agreed to pay a record of almost $400 million over 20 years in the agreement, the New York Times said today, without saying where it got the information. The Nets' naming- rights agreement with Barclays is the third in the New York area in less than three months.
In the first half, Barclays posted a 66 percent increase in pretax profit to 1.25 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) at Barclays Capital and a 51 percent jump in profit at Barclays Global Investors, the global leader in assets and products in exchange traded funds.

"They are an international operation and they want to develop a brand that is recognized globally,'' said Guy de Blonay, an analyst at New Star Asset Management, who holds the stock and helps manages about $34 billion. "Maybe they could merge with a strong U.S. domestic player.''

Barclays, which also owns a credit card unit in the U.S., sold its main U.S. consumer banking operations in the late 1980s.

Posted by lumi at 1:46 PM

Barclays' Past, Bruce's Present

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out that Barclays Bank is aiming to overcome its sordid past (from South Africa's Mail and Guardian) by supporting eminent domain (link):

Ohio-based FCR and London-based Barclays Bank have just announced a $300 million naming-rights deal to slap the international-banking giant's logo all over an arena whose construction is contingent on the use of eminent domain to seize and demolish homes. Developer Bruce Ratner's use of eminent domain to construct the arena and 16 skyscraper "Atlantic Yards" project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is currently under review by a federal court to determine the constitutionality.

Image from DDDB at City for Sale.

Posted by lumi at 1:19 PM

Barclays Buys Naming Rights to Nets Stadium

Bruce RatnerNY Sun
By Christopher Feherty

The owner of the Nets and the mind behind the team's move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, said yesterday that the partnership marks an important moment in Brooklyn's history and its place on the international stage.


Posted by lumi at 1:03 PM

‘Barclays’ has a bad ring

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

The Atlantic Yards developer’s arena naming-rights deal with Barclays, the British bank whose history includes funding the slave trade and doing business with South Africa’s apartheid government, is a stunning insult by a man who has so aggressively courted the support of black leaders over the past three years.

Whenever Ratner needed to show that his oversized, gentrification-causing Atlantic Yards project would be a good deal for Brooklyn, he trotted out those usual suspects, many of whom he paid, to sing his praises.

Yet now — a few weeks after his project gained state approval, and a few days after a national holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. — Ratner has trashed whatever legitimate good will he might have had in the black community by announcing that his arena would bear the Barclays name.
Naming an arena after a slave-trading family is a slap in the face, akin to a developer building an arena in Borough Park — with its high population of Holocaust survivors — and naming it “Volkswagen Field.”

It is time for elected officials, most of whom enabled Ratner’s use of racial politics throughout the Atlantic Yards approval process, to stand up for blacks, for history, for integrity and, indeed, for all of Brooklyn and urge Bruce Ratner to find another corporate partner.


Posted by lumi at 12:29 PM

Blood money: Nets arena to be named after bank founded on slave money

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman, with additional reporting by Ariella Cohen

NetsArenaBarclays_BP.jpgThe future home for the Brooklyn Nets will be emblazoned with the corporate logo of a British bank that was founded on the slave trade, collaborated with the Nazis and did business with South Africa’s apartheid government.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner announced his mega-deal with Barclays Bank on Thursday — but critics slammed the developer for plastering the controversial bank’s name atop the arena after having courted African-American support for his mega-development.

“[Black] supporters of Atlantic Yards were just tools used by Ratner to get this project passed,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights), an Atlantic Yards opponent who is black.

“Now that the project has been approved, they don’t serve his purpose anymore. Now, he can insult them by signing an agreement with a bank that financed the slave trade and supported the apartheid system. He’ll take money from anyone.”

Barclays is a London-based bank — one of the world’s biggest — with holdings around the globe, but whose history is inextricably linked to some of mankind’s lowest moments...


Posted by lumi at 12:13 PM

Head Scratcher

The head-scratcher of the day was the rebranded "Caring Bruce" Ratner flanked by accused wife-beater Jason Kidd, reformed drug dealer Shawn Carter and the President of a bank with roots in the slave trade and the apartheid regime in South Africa.


More celeb photos from the press extravaganza at CelebrityMound.com, "NJ Nets and Forest City Ratner Press Conference in Brooklyn."

Posted by lumi at 11:43 AM

Nets cash in on bank shot

Raissman-NYDN.jpgNY Daily News columnist Bob Raissman covered the Barclays-Forest City Ratner announcement on the sports pages:

Don't be confused by all this. Basically some bank is dropping cash on Nets boss Bruce Ratner for the naming rights to the Brooklyn arena his team will play in. So, the joint will be called the Barclays Center.

If only the Nets had a center.


Posted by lumi at 11:43 AM

More on the renters' lawsuit : lawyer says FCR can't deny offer to those suing

Atlantic Yards Report

Attorney George Locker, who represents renters in the footprint, points out that Bruce Ratner is required by law to relocate the tenants, and that any statements made by Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey about not making deals with parties of any lawsuits is unlawful.


Posted by lumi at 11:33 AM

Gehry jousts with protestor, says FCR kept him on a leash

Atlantic Yards Report reports on Lucy Koteen's close encounter with Frank Gehry.

Lucy Koteen, a protestor who'd gone inside the doors to warm up approached Gehry.

At a meeting held in November 2005 by the American Institute of Architects, [Koteen] said, she reminded Gehry that she’d sent him several letters.

"What happened?" Gehry had asked her at the time, according to Koteen's report. (I wasn't at that event or yesterday's encounter.)

"Nothing," Koteen replied. "You never answered me."

"Do you hate me?" Gehry responded.

(Gehry is sensitive to criticism. Last January, he told an audience, even before any criticism was sent his way, “We’re trying, I am trying, and you’ll still hate what I do, anyway.")

Yesterday, reminding Gehry of this, Koteen said he responded, "You're the one who didn't like me."
“He told me that we were all going to love it when it is built," Koteen said. "I told him that the shadows would kill all our gardens and that the traffic there is already horrible and there is no solution for it. He said, ‘They protested me with candlelight vigils in Spain over Bilbao and now they want to kiss me when I go there.’"


Posted by lumi at 11:11 AM

Barclays Center is home of Nets

AP, via Asbury Park Press

The AP's article was pretty straightforward, by covering the announcement as a marketing deal, mentioning the opposition in the decription of the project and this interesting point:

The sponsorship agreement might exceed Ratner's cost of buying the team; he paid $300 million for the franchise in 2004.

The naming-rights deal was expected to help defray building costs on the 22-acre site, which will include a $4 billion mini-city atop what is now a rail yard and a mix of residential and industrial blocks. The development, dubbed Atlantic Yards, faces fierce opposition from some Brooklynites who say the collection of high-rises will overwhelm what is now a neighborhood of brownstones, brick townhouses and small shops and restaurants.

About a dozen picketers protested outside the museum on Thursday.


Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

Barclays, Nets Team Up on Atlantic Yards Naming Rights, Community-Outreach Sports Alliance

CPN-logo.gifCommercial Property News
By Tom Dworetzky, News Editor

CPN's article pretty much comes from the press release:

"This opportunity brings together economic prosperity for Brooklyn and the chance to participate, in a unique way, in the cultural and sporting life of New York," Barclays president Robert Diamond, Jr., said in a company statement.


NoLandGrab: This opportunity brings together economic prosperity for Bruce Ratner...

Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM

Mayor, Marty praise Barclays, but where's the money going?

Atlantic Yards Report covers yesterday's press conference, where he was picked off by team Ratner in a play that might help the sub-500 Nets:

BeauxArtCourt-AYR.jpgAs reporters and a wide array of guests ate catered filet mignon and sea bass, public officials, business executives, and sports figures were there to applaud, surrounded by some nostalgic (to use Amanda Burden's term for project opponents) Brooklyn iconography (right).

Bloomberg and other officials sat through some rapturous speeches and a snazzy promotional video featuring famous buildings from Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim to the Eiffel Tower, but they didn’t answer too many questions.

The mayor didn’t have to explain what he meant about the $300 million "into Brooklyn," when the money would go to defray the developer's cost of paying for the $637.2 million arena, not go into the public coffers. (Bloomberg also erroneously claimed that the site “would have been home for the Dodgers.")

In the brief Q&A afterward, Bloomberg was asked if the project—which faces three lawsuits and likely a fourth—was a done deal. “We don’t have a future if this isn’t done,” Bloomberg said, more dismissive than ominous.


Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

Nets' owner Ratner choosing money over loyalty

The Bergen Record
By Ian O'Connor, columnist

OConnor-BergenR.jpgThe Record's veteran sports columnist visits Brooklyn and goes to town on Ratner:

"I'm at the games," Ratner said. "I see them, I meet the people, I love them."

Yes, he loves them. And yes, he's got the funniest way of showing it.

Away from a news conference podium, before he was rushed off by aides who thought they were guarding a head of state, Ratner said through a straight face, "We just think that we have great fans in New Jersey."

So great, in fact, that the owner will offer his own show of fan appreciation during the 2009-10 season when he asks those beloved New Jerseyans to take the kind of four-hour round-trip commute I took to listen to him gloat about the future of the Brooklyn Nets, not to mention all those wonderfully lucrative buildings he'll erect around them.

Ratner is a smart, rich, well-connected businessman. He's also a phony.
Ratner just needs to stop acting like some noble lord of a charitable trust. Like every other gasbag suit in the house Thursday, Ratner went on and on about the "vision" he had for Brooklyn's youth. He sounded as if he wanted to build a new high school at his own expense, rather than a sixth borough to call his own.

O'Connor catches the slap in the face to the African-American fan base:

If Ratner cared to reveal himself as a true philanthropist with Brooklyn's best interests at heart, he would have named this arena after Jackie Robinson and told Barclays to keep its cash. That way, Ratner would've avoided potentially awkward chats with his ballplayers and a diverse Brooklyn fan base -- the people who might wonder why Ratner is in business with a bank once forced out of South Africa by anti-apartheid protests.

However, even a seasoned columnist left the Mayor's myth-making unchallenged:

"It's only fitting that Brooklyn's future include a major sports team coming to play at the site that would've been the home of the Dodgers had they not been stolen away by Los Angeles," Bloomberg said.


Mayor Mike's Mythology: Alas, Bruce Ratner already built the Atlantic Center Mall over the site that Walter O'Malley coveted for a new Dodgers ballpark.

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Letitia James' Statement on Forest City Ratner's Partnership with Barclays Bank for Naming Rights to would-be Brooklyn Arena

Ratner partnering with corporation founded on the slave trade

LetitiaJames-BR.jpg(Brooklyn, NY) — While I am not surprised, I am dismayed that Forest City Ratner has chosen to enter into a naming rights contract with Barclays Bank, a corporation with such a checkered past.

Barclays was in fact founded by Quaker slave traders operating in the West Indies.

Barclays was a primary funder and principal ally of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Barclays seized millions of dollars of savings of holocaust survivors during World War II, and paid $3.6 million to settle with these survivors decades later.

Barclays PLC is the largest bank in the world by total assets, with $1.59 trillion in assets.

It puzzles me why a largely publicly-funded arena would have a private company's name on it. But, this deal highlights yet again that the Atlantic Yards project is not about what's best for Brooklyn, but what's best for Forest City Ratner.

NoLandGrab: So far, no press commentary from Bruce Ratner's African-American supporters has been published.

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

What's in a Name? $400 Million

The NY Times
By Richard Sandomir

The Times covered the announcement of the purchase of the naming rights for a new Nets arena by Barclays from a sports-business perspective, as opposed to the grand civic announcement that played in much of the press:


Given the Nets’ history, it is also difficult to comprehend that Barclays is paying exactly what Citicorp committed in November for the right for 20 years to name the Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, which is expected to open in 2009, a few months before the planned opening of Barclays Center. The arena, designed by Frank Gehry, is part of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development near downtown Brooklyn. It still faces a series of lawsuits before it can be built.

Several demonstrators protested outside the museum, accusing Barclays of participating in the state’s attempt to use eminent domain to condemn property for the project. They also said Barclays profited from the slave trade yet is aligned with Ratner, who is marketing his team to African-American fans. A company spokesman said Barclays had not been involved in slavery.

The mayor turned away any criticism of Barclays and said with a Darryl Dawkins-sized dollop of civic hyperbole, “People will be talking about the Barclays Center all the time, all year, for decades to come.”

Yormark has earned his keep:

Brett Yormark, the president of Nets Sports & Entertainment, focused on Barclays as a possible naming rights buyer, with a New York-based fashion company, a bank and two telecommunciations corporations.

“We said: ‘Who needs a game changer here? Who’s got a footprint here, but isn’t big enough?’ and Barclays was on the list,” he said. “As we scoured financial institutions we saw Barclays needed a game changer, that they don’t have as big a presence or brand recognition here as in the U.K. And we saw that it got involved with the Barclays Classic in Westchester.” Barclays took over for Buick in 2005 as the sponsor of the PGA Tour event.


Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM



NY Post
By Rich Calder

Jay-Z-Barclay-NYP.jpgThe big word of the day was "investment:"

It is the most lucrative deal for an indoor arena in the United States, more than doubling the $185 million over 20 years that Royal Philips Electronics is paying to name Atlanta's Philips Arena.
"I think from Barclays point of view, this is going to be one of the best investments they ever make, giving them visibility they couldn't get anyplace else," Mayor Bloomberg said at the announcement.
Barclays will invest another $2.5 million over the next few years in partnership with the Nets on a nonprofit organization aimed at assisting Brooklyn's youth. The Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance will repair and renovate run-down basketball courts and other sports facilities and sponsor tournaments and clinics.

State officials approved the project last month, but it faces three lawsuits from residents whose homes are being seized through eminent domain to make way for the 22-acre project.


NoLandGrab: Score one for Ratner's PR team for getting the press corps to repeat the message that Barclays is investing in Brooklyn.

Barclays is giving Ratner money in hopes that you will like them as much as you like Bruce.

This deal is about ADVERTISEMENT, not "investment." They don't own anything except for the right to attach the "Barclays" name to the arena project.

It's like saying that Barclays is "investing" in page C5 of today's New York Times, where readers will find a one-page ad, touting the deal.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Barclays, Nets in arena deal

Chicago Tribune

The Trib's blurb on the Barclays deal highlights what has become a trend in Bruce Ratner's dealing with public disclosure about the nature of the Atlantic Yards deal (emphasis added):

A British bank will spend about $400 million over the next 20 years to put its name on the Nets' planned Brooklyn arena.
He declined to say how much London-based Barclays paid to attach its name to the complex. Bank executives and city officials described the investment as "more than $300 million."


NoLandGrab: This extravagant announcement is still shrouded in secrecy, like many aspects of the project.

The point is that NO ONE, except for Forest City Ratner, knows how much profit he stands to make, though the public investment is well over a billion dollars.

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

British bank stamps name on new Nets arena

logo-AMNY.gifAM NY
BY EMI ENDO, Newsday Staff Writer, supplemented by AP reporting

Curious choice of words from the Newsday reporter (emphasis added)

Barclays, a London-based financial services center, has won the naming rights at a cost of more than $300 million, bank and city officials said.

Barclays dropped an obscene amount of cash on Bruce Ratner's project. Ratner and Barclays won't even disclose the full amount of the deal, much less explain how the bank "won" any contest. According to Newsday:

A person with knowledge of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the price, said its total value was nearly $400 million.

More buffoonery from our borough's Clown in Chief:

With mock alarm, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said he had noticed a number of ties between the U.S. and the British lately, such as the Queen Mary 2 docking in Red Hook. "When I mentioned the queen was reclaiming her colonies ... I was kidding!" he said.


NoLandGrab: No word from the Beep as to whether he was actually doing Ratner's bidding with Barclays while on his recent purported tourism-development trip across the pond.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Nets' Future Brooklyn Home To Be Called Barclays Arena

By Jeanine Ramirez

BarclaysPresident.jpg"It is our intention that the Barclays Center becomes the cultural and sporting heart of this community," said Barclays Bank president Bob Diamond. "And gives New York an additional state-of-the-art, absolutely world class arena for a wide range of performances and events."

Here's one point on which critics of Frank Gehry's overblown superblock mini-Manhattan project can agree with Mayor Bloomberg:

"This is the kind of iconic design that people are going to recognize from any part of the city and every part of the world."

article (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

Nets Arena May Be Called "Barclays Center"

WNYC, New York Public Radio
By Eliane Rivera

Barclays' president Robert Diamond says the company wants to be part of what he called the Renaissance of Brooklyn. However, neighborhood coalitions that have strongly opposed the development project say the developer shouldn't move so fast because there are pending lawsuits that need to run their course.


Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

Barclays and Nets Announce Partnership to Further Brooklyn Renaissance

Barclays Center Agreement Provides Significant Investment in Brooklyn and Advances Local Community Initiatives

Barclays-logo.gifFrom the Barclays & Forest City Ratner joint press release, via PR Newswire (complete release after the jump):

"We are very proud to be a partner with Barclays, a prestigious company that exemplifies and shares our commitment to excellence, leadership and success," said Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of FCRC and Chairman of the Nets.

NoLandGrab: Not to mention that the deal with Barclays constitutes a big slap in the face to the African-American community.

NEW YORK, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Barclays, a leading global financial services company, and the Nets, of the National Basketball Association, today announced a multi-faceted strategic marketing partnership that includes the 20-year naming rights to the Barclays Center, the planned centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. This will be the planned new world-class home of the Nets. The Barclays Center will feature a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena, designed by Frank Gehry, which will seat up to 20,000 people.

"Barclays is thrilled to partner with the Nets in this exciting endeavor. We are delighted to put our name to a development that will be a visual and economic landmark in the renaissance of Brooklyn," said Robert E. Diamond, Jr., President, Barclays PLC. "This opportunity brings together economic prosperity for Brooklyn and the chance to participate, in a unique way, in the cultural and sporting life of New York."

In addition to the agreement, Barclays has also agreed to partner with the Nets in the Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote athletics, education and personal development among young people in Brooklyn. The alliance will, as its first objective, repair and renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout the borough, as well as sponsor amateur athletic tournaments and clinics for Brooklyn's youth.

This initiative mirrors the Barclays Spaces for Sports program in the UK, which helps local communities transform neglected land into the sporting facilities they want -- from skateboard parks to soccer fields or multi-use game areas. So far Barclays has opened more than 100 community sports sites across the UK.

"We are very proud to be a partner with Barclays, a prestigious company that exemplifies and shares our commitment to excellence, leadership and success," said Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of FCRC and Chairman of the Nets. "We believe this partnership marks an important moment in Brooklyn's history and its place on the international stage. With this essential investment in Atlantic Yards and the borough, we are now one step closer to our goal of bringing thousands of jobs, mixed-income housing, and, of course, a world-class arena and franchise to Brooklyn."

"We are excited that one of the most respected global financial services companies has chosen to partner with an NBA team to demonstrate its commitment to the United States market as well as its desire to make a difference in the communities where it operates," said NBA Commissioner David Stern.

"This partnership is a defining moment for the Nets business and brand," said Brett Yormark, President & CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment. "It truly strengthens our position as a leading sports and entertainment franchise. We could not be more pleased than to have a partner as distinguished and well-respected as Barclays."

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of NYC and the Barclays Center will provide retail establishments and commercial offices in the area. It will also serve as a venue for arts and other athletic events. The Barclays Center is expected to include an 850,000 square foot world-class arena, which is scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 NBA Season. The arena expects to host more than 200 events annually, many of them family-oriented. The new partnership covers 20 years from the Nets' first season in their new arena, slated for 2009.

Barclays has been in the US for more than a century. Barclays Capital is one of the world's fastest-growing investment banks, focused on risk management and financing and has US headquarters in New York City. Barclays Global Investors, the world's largest asset management business, has its global headquarters in San Francisco, and Barclaycard, the credit card business, has its US headquarters in Wilmington, DE.

Sports are a significant part of the Barclays worldwide sponsorship portfolio, which includes The Barclays, the PGA TOUR event at the Westchester Country Club scheduled for August 20-26 this year. In addition, Barclays sponsors The Barclays Scottish Open golf tournament at Loch Lomond, the Barclays Singapore Open golf tournament and the Barclays Premiership, the world's leading soccer league.

About Barclays PLC

Barclays PLC is a major global financial services provider engaged in retail and commercial banking, credit cards, investment banking, wealth management and investment management services. We are one of the largest financial services companies in the world by market capitalisation. With over 300 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 60 countries and employs around 120,000 people. We move, lend, invest and protect money for over 25 million customers and clients worldwide.

About Barclays Capital

Barclays Capital is the investment banking division of Barclays Bank PLC which has an AA long-term credit rating and a balance sheet of over US$1.8 trillion. With a distinctive business model, Barclays Capital provides large corporate, government and institutional clients with solutions to their financing and risk management needs. Barclays Capital has the global reach and distribution power to meet the needs of issuers and investors worldwide. Barclays Capital Inc. is a member of the NASD and SIPC.

About Barclays Global Investors

Barclays Global Investors is one of the world's largest asset managers and a leading global provider of investment management products and services. It has over 2,800 institutional clients and over $1.6 trillion of assets under management. It transformed the investment industry by creating the first index strategy in 1971 and the first quantitative active strategy in 1978. BGI is the global product leader in Exchange Traded Funds (iShares) with over 180 funds for institutions and individuals trading in 13 markets. Globally, it has $222 billion of iShares assets under management.

About Barclaycard

Barclaycard has more than 15 million retail customers world wide including more than 3.2 million in the U.S. through affinity programs. Barclaycard US is one of the fastest growing credit card issuers in the U.S. with more than 40 existing card partnerships with some of the most successful companies in the U.S.

For further information please visit: http://www.barclayscenter.com/ http://www.barclays.com/ http://www.barcap.com/ http://www.barclaysglobal.com/ http://www.barclaycardus.com/

Barclays, Barclays Center, Barclays Capital, Barclays Global Investors, iShares and Barclaycard are trademarks of Barclays Bank PLC.

About Forest City Ratner Companies

FCRC is a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., an $8.5 billion NYSE-listed (ticker: FCEA & FCEB) national real estate company. Forest City Enterprises is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States.

About the Nets

The Nets are a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The team reached the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 and has advanced to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. The Nets currently play at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ.

Forward-looking statements (Barclays)

This document contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the US Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and Section 27A of the US Securities Act of 1933, as amended, with respect to certain of Barclays plans and its current goals and expectations relating to its future financial condition and performance. These forward-looking statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate only to historical or current facts. Forward-looking statements sometimes use words such as 'aim', 'anticipate', 'target', 'expect', 'estimate', 'intend', 'plan', 'goal', 'believe', or other words of similar meaning. Examples of forward- looking statements include, among others, statements regarding Barclays future financial position, income growth, impairment charges, business strategy, projected levels of growth in the banking and financial markets, projected costs, estimates of capital expenditures, and plans and objectives for future operations.

By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainty because they relate to future events and circumstances, including, but not limited to, global as well as US economic and business conditions, market related risks such as changes in interest rates and exchange rates, the policies and actions of governmental and regulatory authorities, changes in legislation, and the impact of competition -- a number of which factors are beyond Barclays control. As a result, Barclays actual future results may differ materially from the plans, goals, and expectations set forth in Barclays forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statements made by or on behalf of Barclays speak only as of the date they are made. Barclays does not undertake to update forward-looking statements to reflect any changes in Barclays expectations with regard thereto or any changes in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. The reader should, however, consult any additional disclosures that Barclays has made or may make in documents it has filed or may file with the SEC.

Safe Harbor Language (FCRC)

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. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward- looking statements include, but are not limited to, real estate development and investment risks, economic conditions in the Company's core markets, reliance on major tenants, the impact of terrorist acts, the Company's substantial leverage and the ability to service debt, guarantees under the Company's credit facility, changes in interest rates, continued availability of tax-exempt government financing, the sustainability of substantial operations at the subsidiary level, significant geographic concentration, illiquidity of real estate investments, dependence on rental income from real property, conflicts of interest, competition, potential liability from syndicated properties, effects of uninsured loss, environmental liabilities, partnership risks, litigation risks, risks associated with an investment in a professional sports franchise, and other risk factors as disclosed from time to time in the Company's SEC filings, including, but not limited to, the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2006. Website: http://www.barcap.com/ Website: http://www.barclayscenter.com/ Website: http://www.barclays.com/ Website: http://www.barclaysglobal.com/ Website: http://www.barclaycardus.com/

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Summary Box: Brooklyn arena to bear name of British bank

Metro NY

Nothing about Barclays' history in the slave trade, or, more recently, apartheid in South Africa, in Metro's sidebar on the deal:

BANKING ON BROOKLYN: Barclays PLC, one of the world's largest banks, will spend nearly $400 million over the next 20 years to stamp its name on the new Brooklyn home of the NBA's Nets.

BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL: The Barclays Center, scheduled to open in late 2009, will be part of a larger development containing 16 skyscrapers, a hotel, offices and 6,400 apartments.

WHAT BROOKLYN THINKS: Some Brooklynites are upset about the project's massive size. Others are celebrating the return of professional sports to a town that still misses the baseball Dodgers.


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Banking on Barclays

London financial house eyes brand boost in Brooklyn

By Amy Zimmer

Yesterday's press conference featured a star-studly line-up:

“For us, this is very much about our U.S. business,” Diamond said at a swank luncheon held at the Brooklyn Museum, with some celeb power added by Nets stars Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and rapper Jay-Z, who has a minor stake in the team. “It’s a sign showing how serious we are in investing not just in our brand, but in the U.S.”

Diamond expects the arena, designed by Frank Gehry — also on stage — will become the “cultural and sporting heart of Brooklyn,” saying, “We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the cultural renaissance of Brooklyn.”

Borough President Marty Markowitz and NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke, as did Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the developer of the larger $4 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project, which includes 16 towers. The arena is expected to cost roughly $637 million.


Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

January 18, 2007

Naming rights could pay half the cost of the subsidized "Barclays Center"

AYR-arenafinancing.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains the implications of Bruce Ratner's deal to sell the naming rights of a new Nets arena to Barclays bank.

But the big story behind the planned Barclays Center--forget the "Brooklyn Arena" placeholder, which was long gone from the official site--isn't how much a British firm might spend to get a foothold in the New York media market. And it isn't even the obvious irony that "Brooklyn pride," as New York Magazine's Chris Smith pointed out yesterday, inevitably gets pushed aside when it comes to business.

It's that Forest City would get Barclays to pay for perhaps half of the construction cost of the arena (and others to pay significant chunks.) That would make the most expensive arena in the country, at $637.2 million (p. 7), a lot easier to build.

Click here for a detailed explanation of the arena financing and what questions remain.

Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

Barclays Netted for Arena Name

MetroNY-070118.gif MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

This short piece only ran in the print edition.

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

"That Money Has to Come From Somewhere"

ArenaCost.jpgDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn congratulates Forest City Ratner for their masterstroke and cites quotations from Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff in the Times explaining why Brooklynites are feeling used these days.

“The idea of using Brooklyn and New York to build a global brand is one that we think is a very wise investment.” — Dan Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor, NYC

And, um, somehow the Times missed the last price hike and pegged the arena cost at "$550 million, whereas since July, 2006 the developer and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have stated that the price tag is $637 million."


Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

Barclays Pays Record Price to Put Name on Nets’ Arena

The NY Times
By Andy Newman

The city’s deputy mayor for economic development, Daniel L. Doctoroff, called the sponsorship deal particularly impressive given that Barclays does not even have retail banks in this country.

“To have an international investment bank without a major local presence to invest the way they are in the image of Brooklyn and the image of New York just is a remarkable vote of confidence,” Doctoroff said yesterday. “The idea of using Brooklyn and New York to build a global brand is one that we think is a very wise investment.”

Barclays is among the largest banks in the world by total assets, with more than $1.5 trillion.
One of the people with knowledge of the deal said the money would go a long way toward defraying the cost of the arena, which is expected to cost more than $550 million.

“That money has to come from somewhere,” he said.


Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Nets banking on Brits

20-year deal would name arena for financial powerhouse Barclays

NY Daily News By Jotham Sederstrom

In what could become one of the priciest naming-rights deals ever for a sports venue, a London-based banking giant has agreed to fork over millions to stamp its name on a yet-to-be-built basketball arena for the Brooklyn Nets.

Barclays Bank has agreed to a 20-year, nine-digit deal with the Forest City Ratner-owned Nets to call the arena the Barclays Center, sources said.

Officials from both sides - including Nets investor Jay-Z, NBA Commissioner David Stern and project architect Frank Gehry - are set to meet today at the Brooklyn Museum.
Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist predicted profits, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, would help pay for the construction of the Gehry-designed arena.

"Typically what happens is that the money would be used to pay off the debt," said Zimbalist, formerly a paid consultant for Forest City Ratner. "I suspect [Ratner] would do the same."


Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

TONIGHT: Brooklyn Matters

From the MAS web site:

This event is now booked to capacity and reservations are closed.

The Municipal Art Society will host a screening of Isabel Hill’s new documentary film Brooklyn Matters. The 50-minute film reviews how Forest City Ratner’s massive Atlantic Yards project gained approval and highlights the challenges that it creates for Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

In Mayor's State of the City, AY praise and two FCR associations

Atlantic Yards Report listens in on Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City address:

From Mayor Mike Bloomberg's State of the City Address, given today at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn:

Marty Markowitz, and a marching band, as they say in Brooklyn, Fuhgeddaboutit! How about those Brooklyn Steppers!*

(Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is also developing a tower at the New York City College of Technology, and some of the Brooklyn Steppers also step for the Nets. Needless to say, Borough President Markowitz is the leading booster of AY.)

We'll work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership that's doing so much to promote business and the arts in this great borough. And we'll help launch construction of the most exciting private development Brooklyn has ever seen: the Atlantic Yards project!


Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

Barclays Arena Online


Curbed, Destroyer Gets a Name

As if New York City needs another bank...

By the by, we think it's a safe bet that we know which bank Daniel Goldstein won't be opening a checking account at. The Post also reports that the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking could happen "as early as in a few weeks," you know, if it's actually allowed to get built.

NY Mag: Daily Intelligencer, The British Are Coming to Brooklyn, Thanks to Bruce Ratner

But at least the Mets' new ballpark — Citi Field, they'll be calling it — will be shilling for a New York company. Bruce Ratner, on the other hand, has sold naming rights to his proposed Brooklyn basketball arena to the London bank Barclays, as the Post reports today. And in some ways that's not surprising. It underlines the methods Ratner has used throughout his campaign to build Atlantic Yards: Beat your chest about how the project is all about Brooklyn pride, but don't let that stand in the way of maximizing profits.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Barclays Bank Supports Eminent Domain Abuse

According to The Post article on Barclays Bank paying Bruce Ratner a lot of money to stick their logo on his arena, "the Nets deal allows Barclays to put a major flag in the ground in its U.S. operations and could be viewed as part of grand expansion plan."

"Grand expansion plan": Sounds like Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" land grab.

DDDB's message to Barclays:

Eminent Domain or Compulsory Purchase. When Abused, It's All the Same: UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Barclays.com, Spaces for Sports

Find out more about our £30 million 3-year investment in grassroots sport.

Fans For Fair Play, Bruce Ratner -- Collaborationist

And what of Barclays Bank? For the most unsavory of starters, it was founded in 1756 on profits made in the slave trade. In more recent times, Barclays has been:

  • a major funder of South Africa's apartheid regime;
  • a rotten place for women to work through the 1970s;
  • sued by French Jewish holocaust survivors for working with French Nazi collaborators during World War II;
  • funding exploitive mining operations in Congo;
  • criticized by the World Bank for not supporting more environmentally-positive energy consortiums and initiatives;
  • sued by defrauded Enron shareholders and employees for collaborating with Enron execs during the company's meltdown.

This is the company whose name Bruce Ratner wants to put on his arena for all of Brooklyn to see.

We're curious to see how ACORN's Bertha Lewis, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, former State Assemblymember Roger Green and newspaper columnist Errol Louis -- all outspoken Ratner supporters and, except for Louis, known recipients of Ratner money in return for supporting the project -- feel about Ratner's arena being named for a company founded with profits earned on the backs of African slaves.

Village Voice, Power Plays, Nothing Says "Brooklyn Basketball" Like... A British Banking Conglomerate

While I don’t still don’t like corporate stadium names, it’s hard to begrudge the Nets a cash influx; the team has been gushing money, despite their recent playoff runs. Of course, I still don't like the Atlantic Yards project itself, either... but that's another story.

The [London] Times, The secret of comedy: timing

Barclays Bank will today announce it is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to append its name for 20 years to the above, admittedly rather splendid, basketball stadium. The arena, the future home of Brooklyn-based Nets and part of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development, will be called the Barclays Center, and it is hoped that the whole area will be identified with the bank. “We were hoping to get Brooklyn renamed Barclays,” jokes an insider. Could always ask David Beckham, then.

Gothamist, Barclays Bets on Brooklyn Nets

Why is Barclays buying naming rights when they don't even have any locations in New York? According to The Post, "the Nets deal allows Barclays to put a major flag in the ground in its U.S. operations and could be viewed as part of grand expansion plan." It's a good thing that they don't have any operations in New York, because with the amount of opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, they would certainly be subject to boycott.

Gumby Fresh, Goslings-On-Gowanus

I could say I'm absolutely disgusted with this move, and threaten to withdraw my money from said institution, much as I also attempted to bring the hurt to the Brooklyn Brewery over its support for the project (they're bearing up, I hear, as am I, with the help of copious amounts of Six Points and Anchor Steam). But alas, while I was a customer of Barclays between the years of 12 and 18, I discarded it in disgust at some transgression or another over ten years ago. I cannot even urge my relatives to do likewise, since I believe my sainted grandmother gave them the boot as well fairly recently.

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Justices Decline to Take Up New Eminent Domain Case

The NY Times
By Linda Greenhouse

The Supreme Court on Tuesday bypassed an opportunity to revisit or limit its much-disputed 2005 ruling that upheld governmental power to use eminent domain to foster economic development.
The lawsuit accused Gregg Wasser, G & S Port Chester’s owner, of having improperly demanded a financial stake in the plan for the CVS store as the price for permission to proceed with it.
Even if there was interest on the court in revisiting the issue, the justices might have seen the Port Chester case as a poor vehicle for doing so, because the lower courts based their dismissal on the property owner’s failure to file his lawsuit within the three-year statute of limitations. The suit should have been filed within three years of the village’s July 1999 adoption of the redevelopment plan, the courts ruled, rejecting Mr. Didden’s argument that the clock did not start running until late 2003, when the village announced that it would take his property.

“I’m so disillusioned with the whole court system at this point,” Mr. Didden said on Tuesday.

The same article mentions that the Supreme Court declined to "hear a California utility company’s appeal of a ruling that required administrative review of the potential environmental impact of a terrorist attack on the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo."

In contrast, there has been no "review of the potentional environmental impact of a terrorist attack" on Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Constitutional Rights v. Naming Rights

Ratner Announces Arena Naming Rights Deal With Barclays Bank
Arena Faces Uncertainty of Federal Eminent Domain Lawsuit

BROOKLYN, NY -- The NY Post announced today that developer Bruce Ratner has reached a lucrative arena naming rights agreement with London-based Barclay Bank.

Lost in this highly speculative agreement to brand the publicly funded* arena proposed in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, is that the construction of Barclays Arena depends on the outcome of the federal eminent domain lawsuit filed in October. The suit claims that the use of eminent domain to clear out homes to pave the way for the arena is unconstitutional. Currently 12 individuals (homeowners, tenants and business owners representing 26 residents) are plaintiffs on a federal lawsuit which says that the seizure of homes by New York State for Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" and its arena is unconstitutional.

The arena cannot be built without the taking of those homes.

“Barclays Bank and Bruce Ratner are grossly jumping the gun since this publicly funded arena cannot be built without my home. And currently a federal court has begun reviewing the constitutionality of the taking of my home and the homes of my neighbors. Of course this lawsuit throws into question the value of these highly speculative naming rights,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “This lucrative, yet speculative, naming deal is yet another sweetheart deal for Ratner. The public funds the arena construction and Ratner makes the profit on the bank's logo."

The public would entirely fund the construction of Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Arena. The arena construction is to be paid for by triple-tax-free bonds (government and the public don't yet know how much that bond debt service is but the last arena construction cost estimate was $637 million). The debt service is to be paid in the form of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). So while Ratner does not pay property tax, which would normally go into the city treasury, instead he pays an equivalent payment towards the arena bond. It's as if government allowed you to forego your taxes and use that money to renovate your bathroom AND help pay off your mortgage. But we don't publicly fund bathroom renovations or mortgages.

“Barclays Arena. That almost sounds like Brooklyn Arena…but not. It goes to show that, once again, ‘Atlantic Yards’ has nothing to do with Brooklyn and everything to do with lucrative deals for Bruce Ratner,” concluded Goldstein.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

January 17, 2007

Hotels grow in Brooklyn

By Amy Zimmer

“With the pullback in the residential market, many people are looking to hotels,” McConnell said. “We’ve seen at least half a dozen national hotel players coming to New York to look at Brooklyn.”


NoLandGrab: Not to be left out, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards has been morphing on the drawing board during the past three years to conform to real estate trends in Brooklyn.

First there were millions of square feet of office space, which, as in the Downtown Brooklyn plan, changed to luxury condos. The trend has moved away from luxury condos to hotel rooms, and Ratner has already adjusted Atlantic Yards in lock step.

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM



NY Post, Exclusive
By Rich Calder

barclayarena-NYP.jpgThe future Brooklyn home of the NBA's Nets will be named Barclays Center, in the most lucrative deal ever for an arena in the United States, The Post has learned.

London-based Barclays Bank has agreed to pay the Nets "hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years" for the naming rights to the planned 18,000-seat arena in Prospect Heights that will house the franchise once it moves from New Jersey to Brooklyn for the 2009-2010 season, sources said.

The slam-dunk agreement is the "most expensive arena deal" in the country, exceeding the $9.3 million-a-year over 20 years that Royal Philips Electronics is paying to name Atlanta's Philips Arena, one source said. The exact dollar amount could not be learned last night.

The Nets and Barclays Bank plan to announce the agreement tomorrow during a noon conference at the Brooklyn Museum. The Nets declined comment and Barclays did not return a phone message.


NoLandGrab: There's no mention that there are still owners vowing to fight for their homes standing in the way of the "Barclays Arena."

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

ESDC to PACB: more evasion on the crime issue

BlightPrecinctBoundaries.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) blew off criticisms of alleged high crime in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint, as I wrote yesterday, describing comments to the authority submitted after the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

However, the ESDC did address the crime issue in a document sent to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) after its 12/8/06 approval vote and before the PACB's approval vote 12/20/06.

Or, more accurately, the ESDC mentioned the issue and defended its position without actually responding to the criticism.


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM



NY Post
By Rich Calder

Lookie! Bruce Ratner isn't the only Pataki pal to cash in on a big development project sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation:

A development team with close ties to ex-Gov. George Pataki stands to rack up nearly $700 million in gross revenue by selling more than 400 luxury condos to be built within the state-planned Brooklyn Bridge Park, The Post has learned.

The potential gold mine has opponents fighting to keep high-rise housing out of the proposed 85-acre waterfront park in Brooklyn Heights, charging that developer Robert Levine and partners just might have pulled off the deal of the century.

Terms of the Levine deal with the Empire State Development Corp. in 2004 - when Pataki controlled it - are outlined publicly for the first time in a legal notice for a hearing on the project, to be held Jan. 29.

The document has the ESDC envisioning Levine's development reaching at least $674 million in sales before expenses.

Here's another similarity to Atlantic Yards — both projects skip local land-use review by going through the less-stringent (and at times tragi-comic) State review process:

By going through the ESDC, Levine can circumvent the time-consuming and costly process of obtaining a zoning change through the city to build condos.


NoLandGrab: We're still waiting to hear a decent explantion as to why the Brooklyn Bridge Park must be self-sustaining (isn't that what our tax dollars are for?), while Bruce Ratner gets more than a billion dollars in subsidies for his private Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

The News Not Fit to Print (About Atlantic Yards)

The Real Estate Observer linked to Norman Oder's piece about the Times profile of Amanda Burden and noted the omission in the print version:

The paragraph, which did make it onto the newspaper's Web site, recounted a panel discussion at which Ms. Burden dismissed Atlantic Yards' opponents as "nostalgic and infantile."


NoLandGrab: Wa-a-a-a-ah!

Seriously, thanks to "gaston" who noted in the comments section that Marty takes the cake for nostalgia and Roger Green gets the award for infantile.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

The faces, attitudes and ages of NBA owners are changing: old school, new school

Contra Costa Times
By Marcus Thompson II

An article about the newest crop of NBA owners has this tidbit about Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards that's news to us (emphasis added):

Bruce Ratner, a 61-year-old real estate developer who had hip-hop icon Jay-Z's help paying $300 million for the Nets, is planning to privately fund a $4 billion, 22-acre complex that includes an 18,000-seat arena, a housing complex, a hotel, a shopping center and skyscrapers for office buildings.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner doesn't privately fund any of his projects, but his PR department is doing a great snow job on the media.

Public spending for Atlantic Yards could reach $2 billion, only we don't know the exact amount because NY State and Ratner consider that top-secret information crucial to their "negotiations."

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

January 16, 2007

Did ESDC address post-FEIS comments? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

How did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) respond to nine letters in response to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) received in the final weeks and days before project approval?

The agency downplayed or ignored some crucial comments, as the agency responded to one ten-page letter in just two paragraphs and refused to fully address a crucial question about housing subsidies, according to newly-released documents, obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.

Moreover, the ESDC delivered 600 pages of data requested by two transportation consultants just two days before the project was approved, and large questions remain about the impact on traffic and transit.

However, when the ESDC approved the Atlantic Yards project on 12/8/06, the four board members present were told by the agency’s Rachel Shatz, “Staff with our consultants carefully considered all the comments and determined that no new issues had been raised, and there is no need for any additional analysis in light of the information and conclusions in the FEIS.” (That mirrored the status memo accompanying the letters.)

That day I asked for copies of the letters and the agency's responses. Then-ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano said “of course.” Instead, the agency directed me to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. I did so, and on 1/4/07—well after the project was approved by the state Public Authorities Control Board on 12/20/06—I was sent copies of the documents.


Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

Diane doesn't do documents

cardwell-bw.jpgOnline commentary about NY Times reporter Diane Cardwell's profile of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden jumped on the fact that Cardwell continues to support the myth that NYC Planning convinced developer Bruce Ratner to scale back Atlantic Yards, even though documents reveal that the "scaleback" to the plan's original size was developer-driven, perhaps even a carefully planned PR maneuver.

Links: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Knowing the Community
OnNYTurf, The Subtle Process of Rewriting the History of Atlantic Yards

An update to OnNYTurf's post reveals one possible reason for Cardwell's tone deafness, despite actual documentary evidence. In a 2006 interview with NYU's webzine, Bullpen, Cardwell makes an astonishing admission:

While her reporting has won the respect of editors and readers alike, Cardwell’s journalistic methods are unorthodox. “I don’t look at documents,” she said. Instead, she prefers talking to sources, listening to the tone of their voices and content of their explanations.


NoLandGrab: Fact-based journalism of verification, like fact-based foreign policy, seems old-fashioned these days.

Does Cardwell's brand of journalism remind anyone of Bush's assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin?

I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul...

Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

U.S. architect's British deal not sweet enough

Despite the prospect of a free sports complex, some complain the project is too tall

The Houston Chronicle
By Gregory Katz

Substitute "Brooklyn" for "Hove," "most expensive arena, ever" for "free sports complex," "40-50 stories high" for "25 and 28 stories tall" and you'll be laughing until you cry.

Here are some creepy similarities:

The Trojan Horse

Taxpayers would get a free $92 million sports center plus an apartment complex designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry. And some affordable housing units would be thrown in to sweeten the deal.


Opponents say these towers, and several smaller buildings, will dwarf the surrounding two- and three-story buildings dating from the the early 19th century.

Density and Infrastructure

"The 750 apartments are going to bring in 1,200 to 1,400 people," [City Council member Brian Oxley] said. "Where will these people work? Where will these people drive? Where will they park?"

"Complainers" and Rigorous Media Coverage

The Argus, the city's newspaper, is being deluged with missives from readers who want the project halted, said columnist Adam Trimingham.

"Every day we're publishing letters from complainers," he said. "It goes on and on and on."

NoLandGrab: OK, we were joking about the "rigorous media coverage" in Brooklyn; if that were true, we'd have nothing to do.

False Dichotomy

"I like the overall concept, and the present site is awful," Trimingham said. "The alternative is to let it rot."

NLG: Yeah, without the Gehry plan, there would never ever be another opportunity to build something preposterous on those sites.

Gehry Doesn't Do Small

"[Gehry is] not interested in the neighborhood context. It doesn't relate to anything else. This would be completely incongruous in Hove, which is a sedate place. It's far too big and tall."

Politicians Fall in Line, Merciful Scaleback

Heather James, a spokeswoman with Karis Holdings, said the project does enjoy wide support despite its vocal opponents. She said several important British review agencies had endorsed the plan, which has been scaled back to accommodate local concerns.



NoLandGrab: Let's not forget Gehry's insipid analogies to Brooklyn's Bride and Victorian Maidens.

Jan. 6, 2007

U.S. architect's British deal not sweet enough
Despite the prospect of a free sports complex, some complain the project is too tall

Europe Bureau

HOVE, ENGLAND — The plan for revitalizing the slightly past-its-prime English seaside city of Hove, which had its heyday late in the 19th century, sounds almost too good to be true.

Taxpayers would get a free $92 million sports center plus an apartment complex designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry. And some affordable housing units would be thrown in to sweeten the deal.

Instead of the rundown, nearly derelict sports facility that today sits on a prime oceanfront site, the city would have an architectural showcase, updated sports facilities and a jazzy new image that might draw tourists and entrepreneurs.

There's just one catch. Many residents don't like Gehry's design. He may have gained worldwide fame for his iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the new Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, but he is making few friends in Hove.

"It's pretty gross, isn't it," said Roger Harold, a 62-year-old retired restaurant owner who likes to stroll along the seafront where the Gehry project would be built if planning permits are obtained. "I think it's a shame to put something like that up. I don't think it's in keeping with the buildings in the neighborhood. There's no need to go completely mad."

Opponents are trying to persuade the City Council to withhold final permission for the $575 million project when it comes up for consideration early this year after more than three years of negotiations.

Most of the controversy stems from the height of the two main apartment towers, which will be 25 and 28 stories tall. Opponents say these towers, and several smaller buildings, will dwarf the surrounding two- and three-story buildings dating from the the early 19th century.

Distinctive style
The towers would be built in Gehry's trademark curvaceous style, which has often drawn praise from architecture critics who call him a master of deconstructivism, the post-modern movement he personifies. But it is mocked by groups trying to block the plan in this city of 91,000 people. They complain that Gehry's buildings look as if they are falling down.

City Council member Brian Oxley, whose district is close to the proposed development, said the public is hostile because the plan is simply too big.

"The 750 apartments are going to bring in 1,200 to 1,400 people," he said. "Where will these people work? Where will these people drive? Where will they park?"

Neighborhood groups have mobilized in opposition. The Argus, the city's newspaper, is being deluged with missives from readers who want the project halted, said columnist Adam Trimingham.

"Every day we're publishing letters from complainers," he said. "It goes on and on and on."

The readers usually complain about the size of the structures, the impact that 751 new apartments would have on parking and the fact that the huge buildings would cast large shadows that would deprive some residents of natural sunlight.

But Trimingham believes the project will help revive Hove, traditionally less glamorous and desirable than its more famous neighbor Brighton.

"I like the overall concept, and the present site is awful," Trimingham said. "The alternative is to let it rot."

Many other influential members of the community agree that the plan has the potential to transform Hove. Other newspaper writers have warned locals they may lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upgrade the area.

"We have a world-class architect keen to put a landmark building on the site and throw in a sports center at no extra cost to the taxpayer," said Jon Robins, a columnist with The Observer newspaper. "We should be begging him to do the job."

Center dates to '30s
The Gehry-designed complex would replace the dilapidated King Alfred Leisure Center, a drab 1930s structure, with a new sports center that would be subsidized by the sale of the apartments.

"You look at that building in the plans and you don't see joy, you see something heavy, clunky and a bit ponderous," said Valerie Paynter, founder of Save Hove, an opposition group. "It's definitely not the mood of the seafront. To put something so massively oversized on the seafront is just an affront."

Supporters point to the positive impact Gehry's stunning Guggenheim Museum has had on the economic and cultural life of the Spanish city of Bilbao.

But Selma Montford, leader of a conservation group trying to prevent construction, said it is foolhardy to think that tourists will come to Hove to see a local sports center and two apartment towers.

'A gimmick architect'
"I think of Gehry as a gimmick architect," she said. "He's showing off. He likes to have something that is attention seeking. He's not interested in the neighborhood context. It doesn't relate to anything else. This would be completely incongruous in Hove, which is a sedate place. It's far too big and tall."

She said the City Council was "greedy" for seeking a free sports center that would be subsidized by an out-of-scale construction project on the seafront. The site is simply not big enough to support so many apartments, she said.

Gehry, who is based in Los Angeles, was traveling and could not be reached, his representative said. Gehry was hired for the project by the co-developers, Karis Holdings, a local group, and the Dutch-based ING Real Estate.

Heather James, a spokeswoman with Karis Holdings, said the project does enjoy wide support despite its vocal opponents. She said several important British review agencies had endorsed the plan, which has been scaled back to accommodate local concerns.

"I think it's going to be one of the most significant buildings in Britain," she said.

"Frank Gehry's architecture is fun, it's glorious, it makes you feel happy. It fits the spirit of Hove."

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM


EminentDomainia08.gifThe [New London] Day, What Was He Thinking?
For years, Susette Kelo has been telling anyone who would listen that it didn't seem right that she should be forced out of her house when the City of New London didn't even have a concrete plan for her property.

To add insult to injury, during a recent New London City Council meeting, a city councilor suggested that the parcel including Kelo's property be sold to a developer for luxury housing. The Day points out that it "might be illegal under a law that prohibits using eminent domain to displace houses in order to build more luxurious houses" and even "morally wrong."

PressofAtlanticCity.com, Save B'walk Hall from casino greed
A reader expresses dismay toward a plan in Atlantic City to tear down or gut Boardwalk Hall — listed on the United State Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark — to sell to casino developers in order to use the building as "a catalyst for economic revival."

How could anyone think the best possible use for that site would be to take it from the public and give it to two private individuals for their own personal gain?

A: Welcome to the post-Kelo world.

The Sentinel [Central Pennsylvania], County to review blighted property
We stumbled over an article about Silver Spring Township, which has tried every avenue available to the municipality to clear up real blight, and as a last resort is thinking of turning over the matter to the county redevelopment board, which can use its authority for "blight clearance."

Check out the great photos of actual blight if you've forgotten what it looks like.

NoLandGrab: This seems to be a novel approach to blight clearance — try to work with the property owners and as a last resort use eminent domain to effect a change.

Nowadays, a developer eyes several parcels of land that are ripe for redevelopment (even better if the neighborhood is already in the process of redevelopment) and the government declares the neighborhood blighted (just the parcels the developer wants) in order to make it easier to assemble a large block of property.

LA Times, Don't sack the neighborhood

Brooklyn isn't the only place where the government is trying to take private property to build a sports arena. The City of Lynwood's plan is about as nutty as Ratner's. This fight even has its own City Councilmember named Tish, and local politicians who swear that eminent domain won't be used:

IT'S EASY TO LAUGH OFF the City of Lynwood's delusional notion that it, among all of Southern California's municipalities, will be able to lure the National Football League back to the area with a fancy new stadium. But what's no joke at all is Lynwood City Hall's belief that razing at least 100 private homes — and perhaps as many as 1,000 — is an acceptable way to gin up economic redevelopment.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, The Politics of Eminent Domain
Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky sticks up for the Port Chester homeowner and West Harlem and Willets Point business owners, but sells out Brooklynites on the grounds that Atlantic Yards constitutes "fairness and transparency."

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

January 15, 2007

Atlantic Yards: Nothing Was Wrong with Development Process

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial

Dennis Holt tries to make a case that there was nothing wrong with the public review process for Atlantic Yards.

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project are trying to establish a falsehood about the long process of the development of this major mixed-use effort. That falsehood is that there was something wrong about the public process that led to its governmental approval.

The attack comes in various forms. These include such phrases as “inadequate,” “insufficient,” “incorrect,” “not enough” or a host of other thoughts leaving a rather murky feeling of something not quite right.

There is no reason whatsoever for any such murky feeling. The public process was quite correct, every base touched, and many more than legally called for. There was, in truth, more “public participation” in the Atlantic Yards development process than in any other development in the last 20 years in Downtown Brooklyn.

article (login required)

NoLandGrab: Sure there's nothing wrong with NY State's review process, which is why the City land review process, which was bypassed in this case, is much more stringent.

Posted by lumi at 11:24 AM



NY Post
By Rich Calder and Patrick Gallahue

A brief overview of Brooklyn's booming real estate market includes this description of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, which should make The NY Times blush*:

Bruce Ratner last month received final state approval to break ground on the largest development project in Brooklyn's history: a $4 billion plan to build an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers along the Prospect Heights/Fort Greene border.


* Yesterday, The Times located Atlantic Yards in "downtown Brooklyn" in a story about the NJ Nets.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Once at Cotillions, Now Reshaping the Cityscape

The NY Times
By Diane Cardwell

AmandaBurden-NYT.jpgIn a profile of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, City Hall bureau chief Diane Cardwell holds to the Times's myth that City Planning had a hand in "limiting the size" of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Since her appointment in 2002 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Ms. Burden has played a powerful behind-the-scenes role in shaping plans at ground zero, in limiting the size of the Atlantic Yards development near Downtown Brooklyn, and in helping push through the High Line project, which will transform a disused rail bed into a linear park linking the West Village to the Far West Side.


NoLandGrab: The truth is that Ratner increased the size of Atlantic Yards on the drawing board and offered the City a couple of scaleback options in January, 2006. This was discovered by Atlantic Yards Report, via Freedom of Information request (click here and scroll down for more info). In September, 2006 the City announced a scaledown that brought the project back to nearly the original size.

The Times has not only been loathe to admit its role in creating the myth in a front-page exclusive last September, but now a reporter who not only ought to know better but also shared a byline in that article is continuing to create the false impression that the city saved Brooklyn from Ratner's excesses.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report provides his analysis in today's post, "Times profile of planning chair Burden maintains AY myth, suffers curious cut."

Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM

January 14, 2007

Eagle's Holt: nothing wrong with AY process

Atlantic Yards Report

In Friday's Brooklyn Daily Eagle (though the column is not yet online), Dennis Holt offered a column headlined "Atlantic Yards: Nothing Was Wrong with Development Process." Some excerpts:
Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project are trying to establish a falsehood about the long process of the development of this major mixed-use effort. That falsehood is that there was something wrong about the public process that led to its governmental approval.
...The public process was quite correct, every base touched, and many more than legally called for. There was, in truth, more "public participation" in the Atlantic Yards development process than in any other development in the last 20 years in Downtown Brooklyn.

Holt may be right about the amount of process in comparison to some other projects, but the rest of his claim is dubious. Firstly, those criticizing the process have included not just the die-hard opponents of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but mainstream voices like the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association. (Here's the RPA money quote.)

Note that they have criticized the public process that led to the decision to choose Forest City Ratner as the developer, while Holt seems to be referring mainly to the examination of the project once it was announced.

Secondly, it may be that the Empire State Development Corporation so cut corners in its speedy approval process that it violated a state law requiring eminent domain findings to be made within 90 days of a public hearing.


Posted by amy at 1:48 PM

With Brooklyn on Horizon, Nets’ Brain Trust Considers All Options


New York Times

The Nets’ languid march out of the swamp — Continental Arena still struggles to draw fans — and into the recently state-approved but not-yet-built arena in downtown Brooklyn is a transition game that mirrors the Nets themselves.


Nolandgrab: What have we been worried about all this time? The arena isn't even in Propect Heights - it's in Downtown Brooklyn! Daniel - your house is saved!!! Oh wait, no, it's just another unforgivable mistake by the New York Times.

It's also interesting that the two players the Nets are thinking of trading are the two they used to try to sell this project to Brooklynites. At least this is a less egregious bait and switch than the affordable housing.

Posted by amy at 1:17 PM


NY Post

THE U.S. Supreme Court may have ruled that private property could be taken for public benefits like jobs or taxes, but what about for outright extortion? Can my private property be taken because I refused to pay off a private developer who wanted land I owned and planned to develop? As remarkable as it sounds, two federal courts in New York already allowed what amounts to outright eminent-domain extortion.

In 2003, a developer approached my business partner and me, saying we could either pay him $800,000 or give him a 50 percent interest in a business we were about to develop, or he would cause the Village of Port Chester to take our property through eminent domain.

Outraged, we refused.

The very next day, Port Chester condemned our property.


NoLandGrab: Although it's great that the Post is taking the Port Chester eminent domain case seriously, we have to wonder why they LOVE eminent domain in Brooklyn...

Posted by amy at 1:11 PM

January 13, 2007

FCR's Stuckey : "almost no chance" AY would be abandoned

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Times's article today on the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Atlantic Yards footprint tenants challenging the relocation plan:
James P. Stuckey, the Forest City official in charge of Atlantic Yards, said yesterday that the company sent all its tenants a letter in 2005 describing a relocation agreement and instructing them to get in touch if they were interested in it. He said the company chose not to send the agreement itself, unsolicited, lest it be seen as an attempt to intimidate the tenants by treating the project as a settled deal.
The latest version of the agreement, which Mr. Stuckey provided, does include all the offers cited by the development corporation, though it also says that if the landlord of the interim apartment ends the lease, the offer of subsidized rent is void.

That's a lot less protection than rent stabilization, which currently protects those renters who are suing, and news to me.

Loophole remains

The relocation offer would be void, as I've written, if the developer abandons the project. The Times reported:
Mr. Stuckey said that if the project was eventually not built, “we would no longer have an obligation” because there would no longer be a project plan for Forest City to adhere to. But citing the hundreds of millions of dollars Forest City has put into the project already, he said there was almost no chance that it would simply abandon the project.

Well, if the eminent domain lawsuit is successful, that decision would not be solely up to the developer.


Posted by amy at 2:19 PM

Tenants Sue Agency Over Brooklyn Project

New York Times

The suit claims that rather than ensure that there is a “feasible method for relocation” in place to move tenants into suitable apartments nearby, as the law requires, the state agency refers only to an offer by Forest City to provide tenants with apartments in the project once it is completed and to provide the services of a real estate broker to help tenants find interim apartments.

Under the terms cited by the corporation, Forest City would cover the tenants’ moving expenses, pay the difference between their current rent and their new rent at the interim apartment, and provide apartments in the proposed development “at rent levels comparable to their current rents.”

Mr. Locker cited several problems with this offer. One is that it is void if the project is not built. Another is that providing the services of a broker is not the same thing as providing an apartment. Still another, he said, is that the offer of rent stabilization on the apartment in the development is good only for the life of the project’s bonds, 30 years, while a rent-stabilized tenancy typically cannot be terminated except for cause. Finally, Mr. Locker said, the offer cited by the development corporation was never formally made by Forest City.


Posted by amy at 2:14 PM

Eminent Domain Abuse


Queens Crap:

Up in Port Chester, there seems to be some eminent domain abuse going on. Check out this petition.

Pretty outrageous, eh? Kind of like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, or the Iron Triangle by Shea. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Why not use eminent domain to seize the properties of developers caught violating stop work orders and turn them into parks? Kind of like when drug dealers are caught and the government takes their vehicles. Nah...why use it to actually benefit the public? That's not what it was created for!


Posted by amy at 2:10 PM

Land use watchdogs bark, but don’t bite - Frustration on Community Board 2 as developers carry the day over objections


Courier-Life covers Community Board 2's unsuccessful year - having their recommendations overturned left and right by various 'commissions' and 'corporations':

First, the Purchase Building, a landmark structure on the waterfront of Fulton Ferry, was torn down.

Despite the committee’s unanimous recommendation for the preservation of the 1936 structure, a relic of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the demolition.

The committee’s appeal to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation to integrate the structure into the existing plans for a new park was ignored.

Then, in August, the board was snubbed by Forest City Ratner, who gave only two months to review a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Yards development. The land use committee, which in the past advocated withdrawal from any negotiations with Forest City, was also visited by its vice president, Jim Stuckey, for an unsuccessful public hearing to discuss the community’s concerns.


Posted by amy at 2:03 PM

Foes of Brooklyn NBA arena sue, again


In the latest suit, filed Wednesday, 13 tenants in rent-stabilized apartments said the state agency overseeing the project hasn't done enough to help them relocate.

The suit names the Empire State Development Corporation as a defendant. The state agency is using its eminent domain powers to condemn and seize buildings on the site.

When such seizures take place, the developers are obligated to ensure that displaced tenants find a similar place to live _ a tough thing to do in a gentrifying section of Brooklyn where rents have risen in recent years.


Posted by amy at 1:55 PM

The New Yorker's Gopnik on Bloomberg and planning

Atlantic Yards Report

Adam Gopnik's Gothamitis, in the 1/8/07 New Yorker, suggests that Mayor Mike Bloomberg's technocratic hand can help steer a growing city:
New York, as generations have been taught by the late Jane Jacobs, is a self-organizing place that fixes itself. But let the additional truth be told that though the life of the block is self-organizing, the block itself that lets life happen was made by the hand of a city planner. As the Mayor said, and knows, what we want the city to look like in 2030 will depend on the rules we make now. Aggressive policies for housing, especially low-income housing; a reasonable process of review to help neighborhoods remain neighborhoods; a less passive welcome to every form of monster store; more support for tenants and small merchants—all of these things are worth arguing for, and legislating for, too. This mayor, who came to power as the ultimate entrepreneurial capitalist, has been willing to impose rules—from banning smoking in bars to cutting out the trans fats in pastries—that make the city the kind of place he thinks it ought to be.
(Emphases added)

And how exactly does the Atlantic Yards project fit into that framework? Gopnik doesn't address that, but we can test the reality against the ideal.

After all, as the hardly radical Regional Plan Association testified in August:
Unfortunately, the public review process for the Atlantic Yards project is part of a pattern in which the State and the City enter into an agreement with a single developer prior to a full debate of alternatives. Ideally, this strategically vital piece of public real estate would have been the subject of a planning exercise…


Posted by amy at 1:46 PM

Brooklyn's Ratner: More Socialism For The Rich


This kind of "redevelopment" is standard issue socialism for the rich. A developer who could not possibly afford to hold billions of dollars in financing for decades while he pursued deals with local business and residential tenants has gone to the state, not to make life better for an existing neighborhood, but to destroy one so that he and his friends among bankers, contractors, and real estate developers can make a fast buck at the expense of existing owners and the taxpayers. Redefining working class neighborhoods as "blighted" is the standard trick, given the imprimatur of the Supreme Court in one of its most bizarre decisions in recent memory. What's meant by "blighted" of course is that real estate developers feel that it would be too expensive to make deals with existing building, store and apartment owners. By getting legislatures and the courts, allegedly representatives of the people, to redefine a livable area as blighted, real estate developers can ride the state's exercise of eminent domain to profitability. Both parties play this game; there are no innocent office holders, elected or appointed, Republican or Democrat, in this issue. Using extortionate methods, including threats and deliberate undercutting of property values, representatives of the people in legislatures and on the bench arm thieves with a decree backed up by the state's police power. Why?

Well, let's not mince words. The people don't pay the bill for the government's elected and appointed officials to get into office. Bankers, real estate developers, and construction contractors are among those who do. Who pays is represented. Everyone else can file suit and pray.


Posted by amy at 1:39 PM

January 12, 2007

An arena for "community events" and college hoops? Not really

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is still FOILing (Freedom of Information Lawing), and has turned over another rock in Forest City Ratner's Nets arena plans: this time, it has to do with the community-events sales pitch:

ArenaPlan.jpgDeveloper Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have emphasized that the planned Brooklyn Arena (naming rights pending) would host "community events," "community-related functions," and college athletics.

However, a newly-obtained document from the developer projects that such arena usages would be low priorities. There might be only eight college sports events and two high school events annually, and fewer than 20 graduations. (Also, no Hasidic weddings--see below.)

Rather, the emphasis would be on more lucrative professional sports and entertainment events. That's understandable for an arena, just contrary to some of the promotional language.


Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

EARTH’S BEST PLACE - Bklyn tops tourist list

Courier-Life Publications

LonleyPlanetBlueList.jpgLonely Planet has a pretty good description of Brooklyn, which just joined the guidebook's list of top tourist destinations:

Brice Gosnell, Lonely Planet’s regional publisher, said Brooklyn “is the new downtown—with urban hipsters, diverse communities still intact, its own parades and festivals, and its own unique blend of small businesses and restaurants that make it must-see for any visit to New York.”

What overview of the borough would be complete without mentioning Atlantic Yards?

The book, $19.99 and widely available, refers to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project as the “Hot Topic of the Day.” On the plus side, the book says, “is pro sports’ return to the borough…on the minus, it’s a land grab scam that’ll boot out tenants and further Wal-Martify NYC,” the book warns.


NoLandGrab: With so much going on in Brooklyn, it kind of sucks that Atlantic Yards ranks as the "hot topic." We can't help wondering if being on the top-tourist-destination list is Brooklyn's jump-the-shark moment.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

County: Ridge Hill settlement disingenuous

The Journal News
By Hannan Adely

A top Westchester County official yesterday strongly criticized a settlement that ended a lawsuit between Yonkers and three of its neighbors over the proposed Ridge Hill project, saying the county would never allow an access road to be built through a park.

In a letter, Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz accused Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick of raising false hopes for an access road that would connect the Sprain BrookParkway to nearby Ridge Hill. The road - sought by project opponents, but frequently rejected by county officials - is a component of the settlement.

The settlement for Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill plan primarily offers the neighboring villages money for traffic mitigations and to lobby for the additional access road. If the County of Westchester doesn't agree to the road, then the settlment provides very little mitigation and no significant changes in the scale of the development plan.


Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

January 11, 2007

Tenants' second lawsuit calls AY relocation plan inadequate

Atlantic Yards Report

Thirteen rent-stabilized tenants, who live in two buildings in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint and have already sued to block the demolition of their buildings, have filed another suit, claiming that the relocation agreements announced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) are inadequate and violate state law.


Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM


Eminent domain editorials appear in today's editorial pages of two conservative dailies:

The NY Sun, Fixing Kelo
The US Supreme Court will be deciding whether or not to hear the Port Chester case, where the city condemned private property after the property owner declined an offer to pay off the city's developer of choice.

On Friday the court will confer on whether to take the case of one Bart Didden and his business partner, Domenick Bologna. Messrs. Didden and Bologna owned a piece of property in downtown Port Chester, N.Y. They bought it, they paid off the mortgage, they paid their taxes, and in 2003, they decided to lease that property for the construction of a CVS retail pharmacy. Unfortunately for them, their property fell within the village’s redevelopment district, and so the village’s chosen developer — G&S Port Chester — dropped by for a chat.

Since G&S had been guaranteed full use of the village’s powers of eminent domain in developing downtown Port Chester, it made Messrs. Didden and Bologna an offer that amounts to government-backed extortion: give G&S $800,000 or a 50% stake in the CVS pharmacy or G&S will have the village condemn the property. Messrs. Didden and Bologna said no thanks, and the next day their property was condemned. Adding insult to injury, G&S announced plans to build on the .76 acre plot a pharmacy named Walgreen’s.

Wall Street Journal, Let There Be 'Blight'

The city of Burien, Wash., recently decided that a piece of property owned by the seven Strobel sisters that had long housed a popular diner-style restaurant was not upscale enough for the city's ambitious "Town Square" development, which will feature condos, shops, restaurants and offices. Rather than condemn the property for a private developer and risk a lawsuit, Burien came up with a plan--it would put a road through the property, and the city manager told his staff to "make damn sure" it did. When a subsequent survey revealed that the road would not affect the building itself, but only sideswipe a small corner of the property, the staff developed yet another site plan that put the road directly through the building. A trial court concluded that the city's actions might be "oppressive" and "an abuse of power"--but allowed the condemnation anyway. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Welcome to the post-Kelo world.
Washington courts now defer to even the most extreme examples of governmental exploitation, exemplified by Burien's treatment of the Strobel sisters. So long as the government can manufacture a fig leaf of public use or possible public use for constitutional cover, local governments can take private property to transfer to other private entities or deliberately target properties not upscale enough for the bureaucrats' "vision."

The tools available for trampling constitutional rights are already there. Since the Kelo decision, municipalities have rediscovered Washington's Community Renewal Act, the local incarnation of statutes used to destroy working-class (and often minority) neighborhoods across the country in the 1950s and '60s. The government, under the act, can condemn an entire neighborhood and transfer the property to a private developer so long as the government finds that at least some property in the neighborhood is "blighted." Unfortunately, this statute is so broadly worded that practically every neighborhood in Washington meets the definition of "blight"--things like "obsolete platting" and "diversity of ownership" constitute "blight." The statute provides all the devices a mildly clever planner needs to pull off a Kelo-style taking.

NoLandGrab: New York is regarded as the "worst state in the country for eminent domain abuse" (see "Public Power, Private Gain: New York"), and it is well known that the State's definition of "blight" is so wide you could build a 19,000-seat arena and 16 high-rises in it.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere23.jpgDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn makes the connection betweeen articles in the Daily News, about an eleven-year-old Brooklynite who died of an asthma attack, and The New York Observer, about fear of dust and noise from Atlantic Yards' construction and the effect it's having on adjacent real estate.

Here's some feedback to the articles from the blogosphere: Brooklyn Record, Central Brooklyn's Staggering Asthma Rates

According to the Department of Health, 30 per cent of kids on Central Brooklyn suffer from asthma, which more than double the national average of 12 per cent.

Wandering Medusa, I hate dust and I hate noise.

I tried explaining to a friend why I'm purposely ignoring apartment listings in neighborhoods near where the new Atlantic Yards is being built, even when they seem less expensive than the neighborhood I'm in.
Although the articles goes on to say that if you plan on living beyond the 5 or 6 years of construction, it would be worth it, I still am not jumping aboard. Personally, after it's all completely finished, I wouldn't be that thrilled to live close to something that draws hoards of basketball fans anyway.

The Goss, How to Enjoy Your Soon-to-Be Dust-Filled $1.3 Million Condo

Ever dream of living in the midst of a construction project that's slated to last more than 10 years? Yeah, not so appealing. Fortunately for people trying to dump their condos and brownstones near the site, there are still suckers out there willing to put up with the noise, dust, traffic, and garbage that'll come when construction starts, and who are still willing to pay upwards of $1 million for the privilege.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Int'l badge battle to honor heroes

NY Daily News

Daily News columnist Dennis Hamill is reporting that the World Police & Fire Games will be staged in NYC in August, 2011.

If the new stadium for the Brooklyn Nets is erected by then, this is exactly the kind of goodwill event for the people of Atlantic Yards to get behind as a gesture to the community.


NoLandGrab: Even an August, 2011 deadline will be tough with all of the lawsuits standing in the way.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Lessons to be learned from a long conflict with a project's neighbors

The Journal-News, Editorial

Why should Forest City Ratner substantially alter the Atlantic Yards plan if they don't have to? As the Journal-News points out, despite the "lawsuits and protests, complaints from neighboring communities, hurdles thrown up by county leaders, and charges of secrecy and backroom dealing hurled by Yonkers' own residents," a negotiated settlement to Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill was approved "with very little change to the proposed plan."

The irony is that since the Ridge Hill "planning" process was so secretive and left the neighboring residents out in the cold, where they could only complain after the fact, subsequent redevelopment in Yonkers is taking a higher road:

The moment the city announced $3.1 billion the downtown redevelopment plan last year, developers Struever Fidelco Cappelli began scheduling a series of public hearings in order to listen to what the residents had to say. That's a good start.


NoLandGrab: After protracted fights with existsing residents, Ratner gets his way, but at what cost? In the wake of political upheaval, costly lawsuits and acrimony with the existing residents, local governments end up deciding that the top-down developer-driven process isn't worth the trouble.

This slow learning curve is taking place here. The MTA's execution of the sale of development rights for the Hudson Yards was such a blatant boondoggle that the state agency staged pro forma auctions for the Hudson and Vanderbilt Yards that were rigged toward the favored developers (still a boondoggle, but "legal"). Now the MTA has a call out for Requests for Proposals on the Sunnyside Yards.

The City is taking pains to avoid Atlantic Yards-style top-down planning for the Willets Point redevelopment just in case the courts deem the use of eminent domain without a city planning process to be unconstitutional.

Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

January 10, 2007

Earplugs, Anyone? Selling In Atlantic Yards’ Shadow

The New York Observer

Newswalk-NYO.jpgLosing the sunsets and a decade-plus of construction was reason enough for Jacob Septimus and Jan Lattey to sell their homes and leave Prospect Heights. Here are some others:

Then, as the arena, the train yard and five other commercial and residential buildings get underway late next year, as many as 470 trucks will make deliveries each day during the peak period, in winter 2009, according to the final environmental-impact statement issued in November. An average of once or twice a week, workers would be on the job until 11 p.m. For 10 months, one of the lanes of Atlantic Avenue would shut down. Side streets would close for longer periods, some of them forever. The levels of fine particulate matter—soot and dust—would exceed the threshold level that the Environmental Protection Agency considers dangerous to human health along two different stretches around the construction site (including down the street from Newswalk) for year-long periods.

Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman takes a look at how Atlantic Yards is affecting residential sales in the neighborhood.


Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

The Big Payback

Daily Politics
By Errol Louis

RogerGreen-DP.jpgEx-Assemblyman Roger Green has taken a hit in the free-circulation Brooklyn Papers for yanking, in his final days in office, a $100,000 member item he'd promised to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a coalition of groups, created in 2005, that includes principled skeptics and manic opponents of the Atlantic Yards development project. CBN says the cash shortfall means it won’t be able to pay all sorts of urban planning experts it hired to analyze (and criticize) Atlantic Yards.

CBN will probably never get that money. Green is out of office and his successor, Hakeem Jeffries, is a freshman with scant discretionary funds who never promised to give the group money. CBN should consider the lost funds tuition, however costly, in the school of political reality.


NoLandGrab: It's sad that Roger Green's political career has flamed out with this one parting eff-you to the community.

CBN is comprised of many neighborhood groups, including several who merely hope to mitigate the project, not stop it. Since they all benefitted from the work commissioned by CBN, these groups should continue to insist for payment of services rendered to the community. This may not be how the political game is played in Brooklyn (oh, for a return to the good ole days!), but it's what's right.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Still waiting for details about the final AY changes

Atlantic Yards Report

The top-secret Ratnerville "compromise" leads Norman Oder to ask some hard questions:

So, what did it all mean, that December 20 statement by Forest City Ratner about last-minute changes in the Atlantic Yards project, deemed "additional community initiatives and enhanced housing program"?

We don't yet know the details about the dimensions of Miss Brooklyn (it's shorter but is it as bulky?), the affordable homeowner units, the contribution to parks, and the plan for a new Brooklyn Tech high school. And it's not clear when we'll know.

Oder asked the Empire State Development Corporation for details more than once before he got the traditional brush off.


Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

If you build it... they will come

South Oxford Street asks, "In a post-9/11 New York City, why does our government want to build a 60-story glass tower with a 20,000-seat arena, on one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, over parking garages & subway stations, in a densely populated area?"

flightpathAY.jpgRemember all the criticism that ensued when it was discovered that the NYPD were not consulted on the Freedom Tower's design? The Freedom Tower had to be redesigned to incorporate the NYPDs and Homeland Security's anti-terrorism concerns, which has caused years of construction delays. By contrast, the largest development in the history of New York City, the Atlantic Yards, with its 17+ skyscrapers, received no terrorism review. I guess Brooklyn residents are expendable in the eyes of our government officials


NoLandGrab: Technically, the flight path is supposed to be over Prospect Park, in order to avoid some of the more densely populated neighborhoods in Brooklyn. However, the planes on approach to LaGuardia often drift away from the prescribed flight path.

Also, Norman Oder reported that Ratner has conducted a security study, but it is top secret and, like many troubling aspects of the development plan, is not part of the public review process.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Does Ratner want the Brooklyn Tech building?

Atlantic Yards Report

BrooklynTech.jpg Like most things in Ratnerville, the "last-minute" "compromise," agreed to by Forest City Ratner and New York State, is still shrouded in secrecy. Which leads Norman Oder to speculate as to why Brooklyn Tech needs Ratner to build them a new school.

Does the developer have designs on the current building — perhaps to turn it into housing?


Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

No Hoax: MTA named "2007 Owner of the Year"

McGraw-Hill's local construction trade publication New York Construction will be naming the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the "2007 Owner of the Year" in their March issue.

In an e-mail sent to potential advertisers, the magazine describes the MTA "as a leading builder of New York’s infrastructure and for its massive undertakings in 2007 and beyond" and cites:

NoLandGrab: It's a construction trade magazine, not a good government group. Even if it were, the MTA would probably rank a close second to the Empire State Development Corporation for the "I'm a Public Authority: Reform Me" award.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Yonkers council delays bonds to finance $66M of spending

The Journal News
By Hannan Adley

The latest news about Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill development plan in Yonkers:

The [Yonkers] City Council last night approved a settlement that could end a lawsuit over the proposed Ridge Hill development.
Under the settlement, developer Forest City Ratner agreed to set aside $500,000 to establish a task force to lobby government and utilities for permission to build an access road to the Sprain Brook Parkway. Forest City has offered $10 million to build such a road.

The developer will also give $5 million to Greenburgh, Ardsley and Hastings-on-Hudson for traffic improvements.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

January 9, 2007

Politicos laud arena 'adventure'

An article in the Bergen Record about the newly dubbed Prudential Center arena explains that for the New Jersey Devil's new home in Newark to succeed financially, the State of NJ must close the Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands.

[Newark Mayor Corey] Booker also reiterated his stance that Governor Corzine should order the closing of the Continental Arena, which would be a competitor to the Prudential Center.

"One of the things necessary to making this project work here is a solution coming with regard to Continental Arena," Booker said.


TwoTooManyArenas.jpgNoLandGrab: This is a stark reminder that Ratner's own financial analysis of Atlantic Yards, released in 2004, assumed that there would be 224 events a year provided the Meadowland's Arena would be closed and that there were no new arena in Newark (see, Kate Galassi's public comments, quoted in Atlantic Yards Report).

Even if the Meadowlands were closed, there would still be one too many arenas — lucky taxpayers.

Therefore, by Ratner's own expert analysis, the financial success of a Brooklyn arena is dubious.

Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

Additional claim nudges AY eminent domain case back two weeks

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains the additional claim added to the eminent domain lawsuit, which just might get Bruce Ratner's knickers all in a twist.


In a nutshell, the plaintiffs are claiming that NY State's blight determination is unconstitutional because the state didn't follow its own rules.

The Empire State Development Corporation is supposed to issue a "determination of blight" within 90 days of the public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The public hearing was on 8/23/06, the determination was issued on 12/08/06.

The ESDC is also required to hold the "public comment period" open for 30 days following the last "hearing."

Remember, the subsequent two public meetings were called "forums," not "hearings."

The general opinion was that there was no difference between the "forums" and the "hearing" — testimony at both were entered into the public record — except that by labeling them as "forums," the state would not have to hold the public comment period open for a full 30 days after the last meeting, just after the "hearing." The public comment period was held open until September 29, eleven days after the September 18 "forum."

So, either the "forums" were really "hearings" and the State illegally shortchanged the public comment period, or the "forums" were NOT "hearings" and the State waited too long to issue the determination of blight.

Either way, the State of New York was so hell-bent on getting final approval of Atlantic Yards in the can before the end of the year that it became impossible for the Empire State Development Corporation to follow its own rules.

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

A Picture

FreddysFans for Fair Play

Freddy's circa 1952 after another Dodgers World Series loss.

This photo appears in "Summer In The City," a nice coffee-table photo book put out by the New York Daily News and written by Daily News columnist Vic Ziegel. The Daily News fails on many levels, but it has the city's best and most forward thinking sports columnists -- Mike Lupica, Filip Bondy, Michael O'Keefe, Lisa Olson, T.J. Quinn, Christian Red.

The irony is that the Daily News editorial board is calling for Freddy's, amongst other buildings, to be torn down to make way for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, a project that is supposed to reclaim the old-time glory of Brooklyn, when the mighty borough could pin its hopes and dreams on a professional sports team and a mountain range of high-density highrises.

Read Fans for Fair Play's article about those who pimp nostalgia to a borough who ain't buying it.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Spitzer aides plan to review big projects

Spitzer aides plan to review big projects
ESDC's new chiefs promise to overhaul agency; star-studded panel to court execs

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

Gov. Eliot Spitzer's new economic development team is embarking on an overhaul of the Empire State Development Corp., beginning this week with a hard look at every pending and recently approved project.

The agency's new leaders will review the subsidies involved and hold the developers accountable for any promises to create jobs. Their study will last for three to six months and will cover Moynihan Station, Atlantic Yards and the World Trade Center, as well as smaller projects. Older deals will be examined to determine what has worked and what hasn't. The agency is under pressure to maximize its financial impact, since it is running a deficit and faces tight fiscal constraints imposed by Mr. Spitzer.

In addition, ESDC is exploring whether it can undo a controversial deal that would move the agency downtown. Patrick Foye, the agency's new downstate chairman, is looking to see if the state can get out of a contract under which it sold its office at 633 Third Ave. and bought an office condo at 125 Maiden Lane.

Mr. Foye and Avi Schick, ESDC's new president and chief operating officer, say their success will ultimately be judged on how much private investment in New York they can generate. To that end, they are assembling a star-studded task force to pitch New York to prospective investors. It will consist of Mr. Spitzer, Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"Our goal is to be quick and nimble and smart, just as corporate America is," says Mr. Foye. "What we expect in return is that businesses and investors live up to the spirit and letter of the deals they make."

Mr. Schick suggests that the combination of celebrity and political muscle will make a compelling case to businesses, though he admits that scheduling all five task force members for meetings could be tricky.

The governor, at least, is on board. In an interview last week, Mr. Foye whipped out his PDA and found an e-mail he sent the governor at 6:33 that morning asking him to meet with a manufacturing business contemplating a venture upstate. Mr. Spitzer agreed in a return e-mail at 6:47 a.m.

"The governor has an incredible energy level, as we all know," says Mr. Schick.

The officials intend to use the governor's cachet and his plan to reform state government to attract stars from the private sector to fill 10 or 20 senior positions. "If you're smart, you're aggressive and you're hungry, and you want to make deals for the state of New York, we're looking for you," says Mr. Schick. With a smile, he acknowledges one downside: "You'll make less money for a few years."

Indeed, with the governor vowing to rein in spending and not raise taxes, it's going to be a tight budget year for the agency, which will run a $20 million deficit for the fiscal year ending March 31 and projects $30 million in red ink for next year. "It's imperative," says Mr. Schick, "to be smart and brutal on costs."

Another aim is to improve the agency's promotion of minority- and women-owned businesses, which has been criticized. The five-person staff devoted to that cause will be expanded, Mr. Foye says. He would not say by how many people but revealed that it would be a large percentage increase.

Another change will be in the way ESDC deals with the media and the public. Its reputation for secrecy — keeping meeting agendas under wraps until the last moment — does not fit in with Mr. Spitzer's pledges of transparency. "We're aware of the unhappiness with the openness here," says Mr. Foye. "The current approach has been less than optimal."

Despite his push for change, Mr. Foye declines to criticize Charles Gargano, his predecessor. The new chairman says that Mr. Gargano was helpful during the transition last month, and praised ESDC's work on Times Square, new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, Moynihan Station and Harlem projects.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a longtime ESDC watchdog who met with Messrs. Foye and Schick last week, says they will give the agency a much-needed transformation. "I can't convey what a relief it is to talk to people whose intelligence and integrity just shine forth," the Democrat says.

Mr. Brodsky has held hearings and uncovered documents that he says show the agency did not follow the law when it sold 181,000 square feet at 633 Third Ave. to Time Equities for $100 million and nearly simultaneously paid $62.5 million to the same company for 165,000 square feet on Maiden Lane. ESDC signed a short-term lease to remain at 633 Third Ave. while it makes $25 million in improvements to the Maiden Lane space.

Time Equities CEO Francis Greenburger says he is willing to continue leasing space on Third Avenue to ESDC, but that 125 Maiden Lane now belongs to the state.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

Yonkers, Greenburgh set to ratify settlement this week

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

The villages of Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson and Ardsley and the City of Yonkers are close to reaching an agreement over Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project. The developer will not downsize the project (they should have increased the size of the project, then cut it back and said "they've been merciful"), but money will be provided to lobby the state for a new road to provide direct access to the project in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion. If a new road is ever approved, Ratner will be contributing $10 million to the construction.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

January 8, 2007

In court papers, eminent domain fight gets feisty about blight

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digests the legal filings in the case of Goldstein v. Pataki and provides a synopsis for those who are still trying to download the documents:

A fierce set of arguments has been launched in federal court, with the Empire State Development Corporation, Forest City Ratner, and city and state officials named as defendants in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed because, among other things, the courts grant broad discretion to governmental bodies determining blight.

In response, the 13 plaintiffs (property owners and renters) organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn argue that the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision, suggests such deference is legitimate only if the properties to be taken for development were identified before a developer is chosen—which didn’t happen with the Atlantic Yards projects.

This is a clash over a motion to dismiss, not the resolution of the case itself, and the plaintiffs argue that defendants’ motive or intent “is the issue” and must be determined in court.

The defendants will get a chance to respond in legal papers by Friday, with oral argument in the case scheduled for January 19 in federal court in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Development Spreads To Brooklyn’s Fourth Ave.

The NY Sun
By Paul Lukas

4thAve-NYS.jpgAn article about changes on Fourth Avenue cites the new bars and cafes:

Several pubs and cafes have opened on Fourth Avenue recently. More are expected soon, as Park Slope’s inexorable wave of development, having exhausted the possibilities on Fifth Avenue, now is moving to Fourth. Other factors are contributing to the avenue’s potential makeover: Up and down the strip, new high-rise condominium buildings — the result of a recent zoning change — are under construction. Meanwhile, the looming prospect of the Atlantic Yards sports arena project suggests the trend of new food and drink venues is just getting started.


Ratner cheerleader consultant Richard Lipsky from the Neighborhood Retail Alliance adds:

Once the AY project really begins to take hold it will inevitably boost, as we have predicted, the area's small neighborhood businesses and enhance property values all over the Slope's southern boundaries.

But don't worry, according to Bruce Ratner's Environmental Impact Statement, the project won't cause a net change in the socio-economic make up of the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Three plaintiffs added to AY eminent domain case

WeinsteinBuilding01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Three plaintiffs have been added to the eminent domain lawsuit:


NoLandGrab: Pastore's addition throws a monkey wrench in Ratner's supporters' claims that the project is being stalled by a bunch of NIMBYs who aren't really from the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Why? That's the scary question....

Don't Worry It's Just Reality Brooklyn Edition

"Dreadnaught" plunges headfirst into the race debate as he wonders why Forest City Ratner sent out a direct-mail flyer that depicted only minorities.

And why when this was mailed out to neighborhoods the developer knew were majority white - like, for example park slope...the question is why? Was it to pander to blacks, or more importantly to intimidate whites with charges of racism?

The blogger also wonders why Roger Green has backtracked to the issue of race. Is it a knee-jerk response or part of a more calculated master plan:

Why is he kicking up this dead horse, much ado about nothing issue now? The race angle has been played out and Forest City has backed away from it - or have they?


NoLandGrab: Maybe the question is "why not" — Ratner proves that you can be white and still play the race card.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

January 7, 2007

"Brooklyn Matters" on eminent domain

BklynMatters-poster.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews the controversial issue of eminent domain as discussed in Isabel Hill's documentary "Brooklyn Matters." Highlights include the fearless Hagan sisters painting an anti-eminent domain mural, and commentary by Municipal Art Society director Kent Barwick and former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman.


Posted by lumi at 6:15 PM

A Herd of Trojan Horses


Brooklyn Views reappears with a review of the documentary Brooklyn Matters.

What is not addressed in the film is how there has been no outreach on design issues; the architecture of the project is also a Trojan Horse. The promise of a major project in New York City by Frank Gehry has been enormously successful in muting potential opposition by the cultural elite. But the project only looks like a gift because it’s wrapped by Frank Gehry; the architecture masks a slew of problems. As the panel discussion after the film made clear, architects and planners know this project is not being pursued correctly. Comments that Mr. Gehry himself has made (here and here: he was uncomfortable with this scale…thought others should be involved…it felt better to leave some of the existing buildings) indicate that he knows what all the other architects and planners who have followed this process know: the design of any project of this scale on this site should follow a publicly transparent, iterative process, a process in which planning comes before urban design, and urban design comes before architecture.


Posted by amy at 12:23 PM

Required Reading: The Case Files

Develop Don't Destroy posts the documents related to the Eminent Domain federal lawsuit.

Inluded are the Memorandum of Law in Oppposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Filed January 5, 2007) and the Amended Complaint (Filed January 5, 2007)


Posted by amy at 12:16 PM

City Takes Aim at Illegal Ads on Sidewalk Sheds

New York Times

Among the offenders cited last year by the agency was a blocklong shed at the base of the new New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue, between 40th and 41st Streets, which carried advertising for AT&T. The parapets are now painted solid blue and gray.

“Our ad came down as soon as it was clear there was a violation,” said Michele de Milly, a spokeswoman for Forest City Ratner Companies, which is developing the building with The New York Times Company.

But what about...

Posted by amy at 12:09 PM

On the Ratner payroll?

Letter to the Editor, Courier-Life

We think the Atlantic Yards is great – for Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, or for Sheepshead Bay Road. The project is too big for its site and too detrimental to our neighborhoods.

Your editorial and that of Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz looks remarkably similar and looks as if they were written by the same Ratner PR firm.

Since Ratner has managed to “buy” so many of our elected officials, we wonder just how much you and Assemblymember Cymbrowitz have “benefited” from your endorsements.

Robert W. Ohlerking

Park Slope


Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

Atlantic Yards update

People's Weekly World newsletter

After Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gave signals they would take control of deciding the fate of AY before the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) in the New Year because they had serious questions about its finances, they reached a deal with Pataki. At this writing it is not yet clear what the details of the deal are, but it is clear the PACB has approved it with no major changes. That required the vote of its three members representing Pataki, Silver and Senate leader Bruno who is under investigation for financial misdealing. Such approval had long been expected but last minute public criticisms had left some hope of a change of heart by Silver, which despite much pressure did not occur. As we shall discuss, that means the struggle will continue through law suits that are expected to be decided by the Supreme Court, and continued mass pressure and persuasion to change the minds of Spitzer and Silver, who carry enough power and influence to reverse in practice, even a decision of the PACB.

It was always expected that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) would approve AY more or less as is. That was accomplished Dec.8 after working its employees overtime through Thanksgiving to correct errors in the documents, in the mad attempt to rush things through that body and the PACB while Pataki was still in office. Unlike the previous approval of the Jets Stadium project, this approval was projected as a model of democratic procedure. Four of the seven Board members appeared and asked a few questions before voting unanimous approval in twenty minutes. Then they handed out the pre=prepared press release reporting the unanimous approval of the ESDC Board. In the case of the Jets, the Board took 15 minutes to act and the press release was distributed just before the Board meeting began, telling what its action had been.

Speaker Silver called ESDC Chairman Gargano “the most corrupt official in the Pataki Administration” and Gargano returned the insult.

In the meantime, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) Spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, owner of a condominium in the AY footprint and nine other tenants, small business and home owners filed suit in Federal Court asking the court to stop the whole project as violating the constitutional provisions (1) requiring private property be taken only for a public purpose; (2) equal protection of the laws; (3) and due process. They ask ESDC be prevented from condemning property and Ratner be prevented from tearing down any property he acquires. It is likely this case will end up in the Supreme Court no matter who wins at lower levels. The problem is whether courts will grant stays to prevent destruction of existing properties and new construction.

The complaint is quite persuasive in demonstrating the public purposes involved all run against the project and that if a public purpose is found here to justify eminent domain condemnation, then there is no such thing as a private purpose, and the “Public purpose” requirement is written out of the constitution. After all, this is strictly a matter of taking property from small property owners and giving it to a billionaire so he can use it to make more private profit.

The suit also argues that the whole process and procedure reeked of insider discussion and deals among Ratner and his pals in state and city government that short-circuited the formal legal procedures. In seeking court orders to obtain documents and information further establishing this claim, complainants cite a memo in hand from fellow billionaire Daniel Doctoroff, City economic czar, to MTA head and billionaire developer, Peter Kalikow, saying the city wants Kalikow to give the construction rights over the MTA yards to low bidder, Ratner, rather than to higher bidder, Extell, and over a hundred million less than the appraised value.

While by strict legal interpretation of previous decisions, including the recent Kelo vs. New London, this case has a very good chance to win, the history of the Supreme Court shows that when big capitalist economic interests would be hurt as in this case, it is very difficult for such legal doctrine to win out. This is especially true now when the majority on the court is ultra-right, and most of the moderates and mild liberals are pro-development and big business, as they showed in Kelo v. New London. The libertarian opposition in that case who are ultra-right might well shift to assure big business wins out over “private property” rights. Therefore, it is most important that the fight not be left to a strictly formal legal approach.

Thus Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) briefs need to be organized showing all the states and cities who changed their laws since the Kelo decision, the overwhelming vote in the House to change the law and prevent use of eminent domain in such situations, the public polls overwhelmingly against eminent domain for private profit, the organizations and prominent individuals against, and if possible signatures of the vast majority of residents living around AY in opposition to the project and use of eminent domain.

Silver, Spitzer and many others now point out that figures essential to an informed decision have been withheld. What profit is expected? If the project is reduced in size can a normal profit still be obtained? Some of the documents have suggested a profit of $1 billion on a total cost of $4.2 billion, with nearly $2 billion of the costs paid by the public. That indicates a huge, abnormal profit. But Ratner is used to the public paying half of his costs at Met-Tech, Atlantic Mall and Atlantic Terminal. So why not at Atlantic Yards also?

There are those who have concluded AY can not be defeated and be replaced by a project like the Unity Plan or the Extell Plan, half the size, using no eminent domain and including no arena. For them, the issue is to get as many concessions short of this, as possible by pressure and negotiation and accept the rest. These are mainly well-intentioned individuals and organizations that do good work in the community. They are not simply another front for Ratner to get an agreement that suits him as was done when he created most of the organizations who signed the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Those grouped in Brooklyn Speaks include groups that also have had a working relationship with DDDB on various issues, while DDDB works to defeat the project as a whole and substitute the Unity Plan or similar alternative.

Some in Brooklyn Speaks are not aware that its official position accepts the arena and what goes with it, eminent domain condemnation and closing of streets. The problem is what remains to negotiate and what evidence is there Ratner is willing to negotiate anything of consequence? Brooklyn Speaks talks of “correcting the flaws” in the project. The main “flaws” flow from its huge size and luxury character, which are essential to Ratner’s profit designs. The square footage, the record density, the height of its buildings, the luxury character of most that is to be built determine the fact that it will drive away more low income people out of the neighborhood than will ever receive “affordable” housing there. The figures submitted by Ratner to the ESDC reveal that the size and character of the project will drive up real estate values and resulting rents and real estate taxes on small houses and businesses so that 3000 families below the median community income of $28,000 will suffer “secondary displacement.” They will be priced out of the area. These people will be predominantly African Americans, Latinos, Arabs and also poor whites. At the same time, the CBA provides 225 families who earn less than the median income but more than $21,000 (the lowest income permitted in the project), will receive apartments either on or off site. Their rent at 30 percent of income will be $8400 a year, leaving little for all the other necessities.

A total of 6400 housing units are projected, with 2250 of these being “affordable” up to an annual income of $113,800, with just 225 of these for families below the community median income. So there will be a NET LOSS of “affordable” housing in the community below the median income of 2775 units. Therefore, the foremost argument by the project’s supporters of its desirability due to creating affordable housing is a contemptible hoax and lie, far from the truth. And it may be even worse than these Ratner figures reveal as Marty Markowitz greets the project on grounds it will stimulate further development in the area. Almost any development in the area will displace more poor people than will receive places to live at 20 to 30 percent “affordable” housing included except where federal, state or city governments build the housing and provide it at the same cost to residents as where they now live. And there is little likelihood of this. It is also evident that the “displacement” taken together with wealthy people moving in means a big change in demographics. Wealthy whites will replace poor African Americans, Latinos, Arabs and whites and this has the potential of reducing the number of progressive African American elected officials and replacing them with more conservative whites.

Only a downsizing by 50 to 66 percent of AY would significantly reduce the result of large-scale displacement and reduction of affordable housing. It would also take down-sizing on this scale to reduce seriously traffic, air quality, water and sewer, fire, police, and education problems. Therefore, anything less than such a drastic downsizing is a matter of somewhat reducing overall harmful, anti-social effects, not converting it into a desirable project.

The Job Fraud Another major argument to justify the social value of the project is job creation. Ratner started by claiming 15,000 construction jobs, 10,000 full time commercial jobs and thousands of jobs in retail and in the arena. Then he admitted it was 1,500 jobs a year for 15 years and reduced the number of commercial jobs to 6800 and now to 3800. But in recent Ratner advertising, the construction jobs are back up to 15,000. It is doubtful that any commercial jobs will be created by new businesses opening up rather than existing businesses moving with their present employees from Manhattan or elsewhere to Brooklyn. And it is likely that if the $2 billion in public money were used for something other than Ratner’s profits, such as building schools or other socially necessary projects, for public workers’ contracts, the effect on the economy, on jobs would be at least as good. Thus this is also a phony argument.

Tax Benefits The claimed financial benefit over 30 years to the city from added tax revenue is also a fraud. First of all, the amount keeps going down. In the ESDC process it went down by $500 million to $940 million without explanation. And keep in mind it will cost the public 50 percent of the costs of construction to produce this tax benefit. Such public expenditure in any of many other directions (alternative uses) would likely produce a greater tax benefit to the city.

A Compromise? All the evidence is Ratner is not willing to accept or negotiate a 50-66 percent reduction in the overall size of the project. He would rather take his capital and move it somewhere else where the public will pay half the costs and he will realize the expected profit from AY without a big fight. When Assembly People Jim Brennan and Joan Millman proposed by legislation a 30 percent cut with additional public subsidy to make up for the cut in size, behind the scenes Ratner fought it, got the co-sponsors to drop support and killed it. The only cut pressure and negotiation got was the 8 percent cut in agreement with the City Development Agency, which took AY’s size back down to what was originally proposed. But still in addition to 16 high rises, Ratner will be able to build two more on top of Atlantic Mall and one over Model’s, all outside the project plan but across the street from it.

If you grant Ratner the arena and therefore also eminent domain to realize it, and street closings, then what is it really possible that pressure and negotiation can do to “correct flaws” so that it becomes a socially desirable project, without “flaws?” Even if such pressure and negotiation were to achieve a 30 percent downsizing, which was not achievable before, its basic character as an anti-social, harmful project will remain, only reduced somewhat. If such a cut can be achieved, it can also be achieved in the course of opposition to the project as a whole as a by-product, should the whole thing not be defeated. Why should a negotiated settlement end with declaring AY a socially desirable project when only the drastic cuts proposed can really make it that?

In any case, all those critical of AY in any way can and need to work together to obtain maximum results. This is so despite they may disagree on ultimate aims and on some tactical matters. They need to seek to cooperate on as much as they can and avoid unnecessary disputes.

Pressure and persuasion aimed at Silver and Spitzer will be needed so long as the court fight continues. That is so irregardless of the formalities, these two have the influence in the state to undue prior decisions and kill AY whenever they are persuaded to do so. It is clear the 3750 letters and signatures collected in the Brooklyn community and in Silver’s home district were of importance in persuading him to ask some questions and not simply rubber stamp. 25,000 signatures in West Side Manhattan helped persuade Silver to kill the Jets stadium. Would a similar number from the area around AY lead to a similar result? It is an effort worthwhile so long as major construction on the project has not been completed.

Posted by amy at 11:42 AM

January 6, 2007

Brooklyn Matters: New Film Skewers Ratner, Albany, Gehry



The hard-hitting polemical film, Brooklyn Matters, lucidly articulates and amplifies the movement to stop Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. Directed and produced by Isabel Hill, the film portrays the AY project as an outrageous scam to be perpetrated upon hoodwinked Brooklynites. Numerous interviews with critical residents, planners, critics, and elected officials portray a scenario in which a cynical developer and corrupt State agencies have hired gullible community allies and a star architect to conceal their true motives. The politics of the Brooklyn-based coalition, Develop Don't Destroy (DDD), are clearly imprinted on the film, although the work is presented as an independent documentary.

Over two hundred people packed the Center for Architecture on LaGuardia Place for the public debut of the film last night. Released barely two weeks after the AY project received final approval from the State, the film may not be too late to catalyze a new wave of opposition. Several speakers in a post-screening discussion vowed that the AY project is "not a done deal," with two lawsuits currently pending and a host of practical uncertainties facing Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation. Stuart Pertz, former member of the NYC Planning Commission, discussed the possibility that the project could stall before reaching fruition, in the manner of other aborted NYC projects over the past 30 years such as Westway (underground highway) and the West Side Stadium. The audience's largest laugh followed the film's recorded quote from Frank Gehry: "We're trying to understand what is Brooklyn, what is the body language of Brooklyn, and trying to emulate it without copying it." The 500-ft. Miss Brooklyn batted her steel eyelashes for a moment on screen.


Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

Brooklyn Matters: race, class, and the Atlantic Yards debate, on film


Atlantic Yards Report

Those who've heard many of the arguments against the project (and recognize the arguments made by project supporters), might have heard some new perspective from planner Ron Shiffman, who’s now on the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn advisory board. “I don’t think people have actually been able to visualize what this development will look like, because you can’t do it from the drawings that the developer has put out,” Shiffman says. “If you want to really feel it, I suggest you go up and look at what Trump is doing north and west of Lincoln Center.”

Shiffman adds, “In order to really experience what Ratner is proposing, you have to add 15 to 20 stories to those buildings.” That’s no longer true. Those in the photos, shot by Jonathan Barkey, are 40-50 stories and, after some cuts, the tallest AY building would be about 511 feet tall. Still, the point is that the community hasn't been shown AY visuals; indeed, the no-towers brochure the developer sent to 300,000 Brooklyn households last May comes in for some scorn.


Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Bruce Ratner Will Ensure You Have Overpriced Coffee


Daily Intelligencer

Speaking of the inexorable march of franchised coffee, we noticed something interesting while idly gazing at some Atlantic Yards plans today. While much about Bruce Ratner's project is still up in the air — Miss Brooklyn's size, the project's time line, the exact numbers of jobs it will create and people it will push out of their homes, who will win Daniel Goldstein's lawsuits — one thing, however, is set in stone, at least according to sketches provided by Frank Gehry's office. Atlantic Yards will definitely have a Starbucks.

This story might look familiar to some...

Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

Inevitable Year End Round Up.

Miss Representation

Brooklyn: not so lucky. Perhaps planning gridlock has its perverse benefits. While we were all staring at the Switch Condo, trying to figure out what could be taking so long, the city rezoned all of Brooklyn. Scarano gets the northern half, though apparently the cornice line tops off at just below his Star Trek office, and Ghery gets the southern half. Since he doesn’t have an office here, there are no limits to how garish he can be, a challenge he seems to unfortunately relish (Oy Vey! indeed, Marty). In response, Park Slope parents everywhere force their children to form middle-school punk bands that write 3-chord paeans to Jane Jacobs.


Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

2006 IN REVIEW - The people and events that shaped Park Slope

Michèle De Meglio

This year-end summary definitely gets points for being unique. While most year-end reviews were busy looking at the EIS, approval processes and lawsuits, this article focuses on controversy surrounding siting of the school, which may or may not be built, in a project that may or may not be built.

“Building 5…is a highly inappropriate site for a school,” CEC President Mary-Powel Thomas said at the time. “It’s right in the middle of all the traffic, noise, and air pollution of Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and Fourth Avenue.


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

January 5, 2007

City cleaning up State-sanctioned blight

NYCDoSLogo.gifEyewitnesses have noticed Department of Sanitation workers sprucing up the street along the Vanderbilt Yards. The trash and weeds have been there for years as entire blocks have stood neglected by the property owner, the MTA. Now the city is finally doing something about the State-sanctioned blight.

Similarly odd behavior was reported in the Bronx in the days before the Yankee Stadium groundbreaking in August:

Truckloads of mulch were brought in to be spread at the base of the oaks that surround the fancy ground-wrecking ceremony. These same oaks have been neglected for years, even though there has been millions allocated for the care of these trees and parks. Maybe that is why a tree service worked all Monday pruning these same trees.

There's still a lot of trash left, but is the Yards cleanup a sign that the official groundbreaking ceremony for Atlantic Yards is imminent?

Posted by lumi at 7:35 PM

After Blocking Tower, Neighbors Recoil at Void in Hell’s Kitchen

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

Here's an interesting article about what happens when a project is blocked in Hell's Kitchen after demolition of existing structures has been completed. No wonder neighborhood folks are nervous about Ratner's vow to begin site preparation before the legal cases have been settled.

Community groups in Hell’s Kitchen fought one of the city’s most powerful developers to a standstill a year ago, blocking his attempt to build a 60-story tower over a new home for Cirque du Soleil.

Since then, neighbors have complained that the rubble-strewn, 1.5-acre site on 42nd Street, between Dyer and 10th Avenues, has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the summer and cockroaches, rats and other vermin year-round.

In the latest skirmish, Fred Papert, who built Theater Row nearby, filed a lawsuit yesterday against the developer, Stephen M. Ross, chief executive of Related Companies, saying the site had become an eyesore.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 PM

A Downstate Deal Maker as Driven as His Boss

The NY Times
By Robin Finn

For those of you who are trying to read the tea leaves of the new administration in Albany, hoping that reform, wisdom and honesty might bring some relief to Brooklynites concerned with Atlantic Yards, chew on this quote from a profile of Governor Eliot Spitzer's new Downstate Economic Development czar Patrick J. Foye:

“We’re going to do projects that generate the highest fiscal and social return to the state and its taxpayers; we’re committed to moving forward on the redevelopment of Penn Station and West 34th Street, Atlantic Yards and the revitalization of ground zero, and to other deals throughout the state,” he says, marching into the dining room after exchanging a monosyllabic greeting with his wife, Suzanne.


Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Atlantic Yards project foes take fight to court

By Michael Clancy

Lawyers for the residents who are fighting the use of eminent domain to take the property will file papers in federal court today. Lawyers for developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. filed motions in December to dismiss the lawsuit -- filed in October -- or have it moved to state court.

"We'll be explaining that the time to hear the case is now and the place to hear the case is federal court," said Matthew Brinckerhoff, an attorney representing the 10 Brooklyn residents who are fighting plans to build the arena and 16 commercial and residential towers.


Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Roger cuts ‘Green’ for Yards review

Citing racism, lawmaker/breaker blocks grant bucks

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

In a final strike against Atlantic Yards opponents, outgoing Assemblyman Roger Green blocked a promised grant of $100,000 for an independent review of the project by a coalition of 40 civic groups, citing a racially charged comment made by a lone individual.

Green, who is black, told The Brooklyn Paper that he instructed state officials to remove the allocation from this year’s $112-billion budget after Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the anti-Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, referred to developer Bruce Ratner as a “white master” in June.

Goldstein is white.

“I was not going to approve any money to any group that included members that had used language that was hurtful to the African-American community,” said Green (D-Prospect Heights), who blocked the grant to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods before his term ended this month.

“Would you give money to a group that included a member who called a developer in a Jewish neighborhood the ‘manager of a concentration camp?’ ” Green said.

Green’s decision to block the grant is not without irony. Despite being a strong Atlantic Yards supporter, he was the lawmaker in control of the grant to the CBN, which opposed Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Amazing, Bruce Ratner and friends won final state approval of Atlantic Yards and they are not only still playing the race card, but vindictively trying to stick it to local community groups, who will have to hold a lot of stoop sales to cover the tab.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Race card...

RaceCard.jpg "I don't want to make this out to be a black versus white situation, but it seems like that's what it's turning out to be." — James Caldwell, BUILD

"It is because of race and class that whenever you have a small group of white liberals running and screaming about something, people think it’s important." — Bertha Lewis, ACORN

"If you never been in the Marcy Projects, you ain't from Brooklyn. If you haven't to Brownsville or East New York, Flatbush, you not from Brooklyn — you just visiting." — Umar Jordan, My Brooklyn Keepers, Public Hearing on the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, 08/23/06

“I was born in Brooklyn... Some of you have not been in the Fort Greene housing project … Some people have not even dared to go into Farragut Houses … And some of us will not be lectured to … I’m from Brooklyn. I’m from Brooklyn!” — Former State Assemblymember Roger Green

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Roger Green’s race card

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

Roger Green, at long last, have you no sense of decency?

The disgraced former Assemblyman — who once had to resign after being convicted of stealing state funds — hit a new low just before leaving office last month with a vendetta-filled move to block funding for an independent review of the massive Atlantic Yards project.
Green, a consistent ally of Ratner’s mega-development, used Ratner’s race-card-filled playbook to claim that opposition to the project came mostly from white Brooklynites who wanted to deny blacks the “jobs, hoops and housing” that Ratner says he’ll lavish on Brooklyn’s underprivileged.

But it was Green, not the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, who played the race card repeatedly during the public approval process for Atlantic Yards.
Sadly, it is the poor and less-fortunate who actually will suffer from Green’s pettiness.

Because he blocked the CBN grant, the group won’t be able to pay the outside experts who did such a good job pointing out genuine flaws in the Atlantic Yards project. If such experts don’t get paid for their work, they’ll be far less likely to review future developments — and that will only play into the hands of the very developers whom Roger Green complains typically leave the black community behind.


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

On The Yards And Volubility

Gumby Fresh hopes Marty Markowitz's "curse-laden interview" has dampened the BP's prospects for higher office:

It highlights how much the Atlantic Yards project has dented the cheerful persona with which Marty has wafted up through the ranks of the city's elected offices... But in the interview we get a snarling, defensive Marty, a man so consumed with worry over what the project does to his image that he barely remembers to unleash his trademark mindless boosterism to the interviewer.


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

Affordable housing, Trojan Horse?

Atlantic Yards Report

The truth is today, if you’re a developer with a bad project, a large bad project that shouldn’t be built... the smart thing to do is say, ‘Y’know what, I’m going to provide you with some really good affordable housing.’ So affordable housing is the Trojan Horse these days on big bad projects that shouldn’t get done. And neighborhood activists and many of our elected officials become very reluctant to oppose a project, any project, that has a large affordable housing component.

So says Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute, in Isabel Hill's documentary Brooklyn Matters...


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

January 4, 2007

AIA Screening: Brooklyn Matters

Thursday, 01/04/2007, 6:00–8:30pm (RSVP)

Brooklyn is distinctly different and yet such an important part of New York City. The names itself brings to mind tree-lined streets, finely carved rowhouses and beautiful churches and diverse communities, rich in cultural life and ethnic heritage. On the upswing, vibrant and rebuilding itself, Brooklyn faces a new challenge—an uncommon development, designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry, that threatens to redirect Brooklyn’s future and reshape its identity.

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 planning principles to try to push their own interests forward.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion between: * Isabel Hill, Director and Producer; * Julia Vitullo-Martin; * Ted Liebman, FAIA; * Stuart Pertz, former member of the NYC Planning Commission, and * Ron Shiffman.

Sponsored by: Center for Architecture
Location: Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place (Directions)
Price: Free

Posted by lumi at 11:18 AM

Shortchanged By the State Assembly

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Phil Guie

Former State Assemblymember Roger Green promised to fund experts to study the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement for community groups and then stiffed them when the bill came due, to the tune of $100,000.

Urban planning experts don't exactly grow on trees, and one community activist group paid good money for theirs.

But the catch was that these hired thinkers - including a highly regarded university professor - were supposed to be funded through hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked by the New York City Council and the State Assembly last year.

So far, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), which includes 40 activist groups from the Prospect Heights area, has yet to receive any of the $100,000 allegedly promised by the State Assembly.

Now, with 2006 having ticked away, there is concern that the unreleased money will never see the light of day.


NoLandGrab: The NY State Legislature guaranteed $100 MILLION for Bruce Ratner and stiffed the community for $100,000. That's probably the lowest blow of this entire fight and the local media, except for the Star, hasn't even flinched.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

Spitzer disses public authorites, but too late for AY review

Atlantic Yards Report

It was just two weeks too late for Atlantic Yards critics, but in his State of the State speech yesterday, on Day 3, Governor Eliot Spitzer called for public authorities reform...

Presumably, Spitzer included the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in his assessment, though there are many more obscure authorities that operate with even less scrutiny and transparency.

But that raises a question: if the ESDC's operations weren't up to snuff, why didn't Spitzer say anything publicly about delaying approval of the Atlantic Yards project until his administration, as many advocates recommended? Or does Spitzer have some sort of secret plan to change the project and/or ameliorate its effects?


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

January 3, 2007

Next big test of power to seize property?

The US Supreme Court will examine whether a private company can demand payment in exchange for not seizing private property.

The Christian Science Monitor
By Warren Richey

If you had any doubts that NY State is the posterchild for eminent domain abuse, check this out:

Bart Didden wanted to put a CVS pharmacy on his property in Port Chester, N.Y. He even obtained approvals from the local planning board.

But because a portion of the CVS site was in a blighted redevelopment zone, Mr. Didden was told that planning board approval wasn't enough. He'd have to reach an understanding with a private company that had been selected by Port Chester officials to control all construction inside the renewal zone.

The developer, Gregg Wasser of G&S Port Chester, told Didden he'd have to pay $800,000 or give G&S a 50 percent stake in the CVS business. If Didden refused, Mr. Wasser said, he would have Port Chester condemn and seize his property and instead of a CVS he'd put a Walgreens drugstore on the site.

Didden refused. The next day, the Village of Port Chester began legal proceedings to seize Didden's land by eminent domain.

Lawyers for Didden took the matter to federal court. They even went to the FBI - all to no avail. Now they are asking the US Supreme Court to examine whether a private company can demand payment in exchange for refraining to seize private property in an urban renewal zone.


Posted by lumi at 9:34 PM

Brooklyn Beep Bleeps!

MartySpeaks.jpgBorough President Marty Markowitz appears to suffer from Tourette's syndrome anytime he faces opposition to Atlantic Yards. Now his year-end interview with Gersh Kuntzman is getting airplay in the blogosphere.

The Politicker declares Marty's interview with the Brooklyn Papers, "remarkably pungent" (link).

One of Politicker's highlights is about as classy as Nixon's secret White House tapes. Here's Marty's assesment of the motivation of Atlantic Yards critics:

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

The Brooklyn Record digs up another instance in which Marty was feeling blue (link):

When asked if he thought that any newspaper in the city has analyzed the Atlantic Yards project "credibly and with integrity," Marty mentioned the Times.

"They have seriously written things that were definitely pro, middle and anti," Marty continues. "Whatever issues that the antis have raised, they have definitely not ignored it. Your paper says, 'We're against it, so f— it.'"

Egads! He should have listened to his mother.

Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM

For Some Moviegoers, It’s ‘Hooray for Bollywood’

The NY Times
By Kareem Fahim

BollywoodTheater-NYT.jpgNorth Bergen Bollywood Multiplex will probably get the boot from Forest City Ratner, which has secured a major rezoning of the site to build what is known, in developerspeak, as a "mixed-use lifestyle center":

The Indian movie theaters are like community centers,” said Suketu Mehta of Brooklyn, who wrote “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,” and has attended the CinePlaza with his parents. “It’s a very cheap round trip home.”

But these days Mr. Shah’s business, one of the most successful Bollywood movie houses in the country, is being threatened.

Two weeks ago, the owner of the mall, Forest City Ratner Companies, won approval to redevelop the section where the CinePlaza is situated, perhaps into a residential tower, according to township officials.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” said Mr. Shah, an engineer who entered the cinema business several years ago, and has already changed location once.

He said he had already started looking for another space to rent. “I knew that sooner or later this was going to happen,” he said.


The Hindustan Times reported a week ago that:

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 9:35 AM


Here's a sample of eminent domain headlines in the new year. The cases run the gamut from the thought-provoking to the absurd:

EminentDomainia07.gifChicago Sun-Times, Arlington Heights condemnation decision expected soon
Arlington Heights has condemned the International Plaza, populated largely by independent Asian merchants, to make way for a Super Target. The town is seeking increased tax revenue and has designated the property "blighted." Cook County Circuit Judge James Epstein is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit brought by plaza tenant XSport Fitness, challenging the designation of "blight."

Hartford Courant, Editorial: Building Plan Has Merit
The Courant editorial board supports a proposal for the city to condemn a hotel that has stood vacant for 12 years. The property owners have been trying "to sell the building for a ridiculously high price of $10 million, roughly $50 a square foot." The adjacent property will become available for redevelopment soon.

Philadelphia Daily News, LETTERS, The casinos: A total sham
This scenario will sound familiar to many New Yorkers:

It was great that we had all those nice hearings, yet another great big happy civic debate that was completely irrelevant, because our politicians just don't care. They were going to do it no matter what we said.

What the Gaming Board said in awarding the licenses is that they are going to built slots parlors on the river whether we like it or not. They are going to take our homes from us under eminent domain whether we like it or not. They are going to build a new ramp to I-95 right at the corner of Reed and Delaware whether we like it or not.

LA Times, Even a Supreme Court loss can propel a cause

For activists who seek to change the law, nothing works better sometimes than losing a big case in the Supreme Court.

This year saw two small, public-interest law firms convert losses in the high court into wins in the court of public opinion.

ABC30.com, Jury Decides Old Visalia Theater is Worth $600,000 after 2 Year Legal Battle
What's happening in Visalia, CA, is not as rare as it ought to be:

In 2004, Restoration Church bought the property from owners Jerry Harrah and Lillian Martin. However the city did not wish to see the theater turned into a church and used a controversial power called Eminent Domain to take over the property.

The rules of eminent domain required the City of Visalia to pay fair market value. Back in 2004, they offered Harrah and Martin over $300,000 for the property, but restoration church had offered $600,000.

No surprises here, a jury awarded Harrah and Martin $600,000, but wait, there's more:

Owner Jerry Harrah is frustrated that Tuesday's outcome was the same offer given in 2004. He says, "Here we are 2.5 years later and we've got the same money and it's cost me at least $150,000 in attorney fees to get the same at what we should have gotten 2.5 years ago and it's really disheartening."

The Herkimer Evening Telegram, NYRI power line opponents prepare for next round
The Evening Telegram has got it wrong on former governor Pataki's state legislation blocking the NYRI power line:

The law prohibits use of eminent domain by electric and gas companies under certain circumstances in an effort to ensure eminent domain is only available for public purposes and not for the economic gain or any private developer.

If that were the case, it would apply to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. Instead, last year's law applied only to the power line project.

Utica Observer Dispatch, Power-line fight to heat up

New York Regional Interconnect is also seeking to have its planned route designated as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. In such corridors, federal law would trump state laws when it comes to the placement of transmission lines.

The counties, along with several groups from other states, are challenging aspects of that law, which is an outgrowth of the 2005 Energy Act.

Eyewitness News Fox Providence, Town intends to demolish old home
The ground floor has caved in, the house is leaning forward, the owners are dead, the closest relatives are absent, and the town is owed about $16,000 in back taxes while the house has been assessed at $3,600.

Town Manager Burke LaClair says he is nearly finished cutting through the red tape that impedes the town's attempts to take control of the so-called "House of Horrors" at 52 High Street by eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Two realities in Fort Greene

Atlantic Yards Report has a short item about the gap between two communities in Fort Greene. Could a rising homicide rate illustrate the growing divide caused by new development pressures?


Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

January 2, 2007

Mothering Brooklyn

Preservationist Evelyn Ortner was remembered as the leading visionary of Brooklyn's renaissance in this weekend's NY Times Magazine:

Ortner’s interest in people may have been genuine, but her agenda was always Brooklyn. And with that devotion came a tireless diligence, the energy to traipse the streets of Park Slope and rummage through papers at the Department of Buildings until she had catalogued the history and architecture of some 1,800 buildings in the neighborhood. That effort helped her to procure landmark status for Park Slope. It was a shrewd tactical move — the neighborhood was one of New York’s first to take advantage of the then-little-known landmark laws — and with it she secured what every mother wants for her child: protection in perpetuity.


NoLandGrab: Ortner continued to fight for Brooklyn until her passing, as a member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Advisory Board.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 PM

“What if?” Looking back (and forward) at Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder isn't the type to get bogged down with resolutions and best-of lists as we begin the new year, just on the heels of a major threshold for Atlantic Yards, the approval by the Public Authorities Control Board.

But before Oder moves forward, he pauses for a moment to ask...

“What if”?

After compiling numerous of my own “what if” observations, I canvassed several people for their nominations, and got several good ones. I then grouped and winnowed them into general categories. The list obviously remains incomplete.


Posted by lumi at 10:22 AM

The "What if" challenge...

NoAYR.jpgWhat if columnist Errol Louis hadn't called Norman Oder "The Mad Overkiller?" That really set the bar quite high, and Oder has been trying to live up to his new moniker ever since.

Let's take the challenge and imagine, "What if Norman Oder hadn't assigned himself to the Atlantic Yards beat?"

Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere22.gifRandom, Insane Rants, What's Under the Tree?

Many gifts were exchanged throughout the country as millions of people celebrated this holiday season... Politicians and other important figures are no exception. Sorry, some of the gifts are non-returnable!
Residents Surrounding the Atlantic Yards: Not quite what a lot of you wanted.

The plan to build office towers, the arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, et cetera, cleared Shelly Silver's possible objection and can proceed.

Mole's Progressive Democrat, Progressive Democrat Issue 102: NYC FOCUS

The state has approved Ratner's plan to develop the Atlantic Yards and surrounding areas of Brooklyn despite the fact that not one single concern of the community has been addressed. Sewage, traffic, schools, fire houses, jobs and affordable housing are all unanswered questions. But we are told to shut up, get out of the way, and let Ratner use tax money to make a giant profit.

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.

Curbed, The Curbed Awards 2006
DDDB earns the "Takes A Licking But Keeps on Ticking Award"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards juggernaut ran over this Fighting the Man Award winner at every turn, closing out the year with a final approval from the Gang of Three in Albany, but DDDB is still fighting with lawyers. Someone get these guys courtside Nets tickets already.


On the subway a few months back, I met Isabel Hill, the filmmaker who created this documentary. We talked a bit and she told me about this film that she was working on about the Atlantic Yards. I am amazed that it is already completed. It sounds very interesting and I will definitely try to catch this screening.

On Thursday, January 4th, at 6:00 p.m., the Center for Architecture – home to the New York City chapter of the American Institute of Architects – will screen “Brooklyn Matters,” a documentary by Brooklyn filmmaker, urban planner and historian Isabel Hill. The timely and urgent film exposes how powerful interests are circumventing community participation and skirting legal protections to push the “Atlantic Yards” project forward at any cost.

The Unemployment Cafe, THE FRIDAY RANT: The 2007 Wish List
One Brooklynite wishes for:

The New York Times to stop shilling for Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards development. I have a feeling that Atlantic Yards affordable housing will be on par on the vast affordable housing that was promised when Battery Park City was developed.

Gawker, We're Taking Your Apartment, So Smile

We've always wanted a Big Brother named Bruce, or, better yet, a Big Brother named Ratner, but not so much when we're lurching toward Flatbush Avenue looking for a train after watching Amos Lee perform at Freddy's Backroom.
If you live in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner wants to watch you worry.

Posted by lumi at 7:03 AM

January 1, 2007

Happy Bruce Year, 2007

HappyBruceYear.jpgIn 2007, look out for the serious court battles to move forward. This season's line-up features: * Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's federal eminent domain suit, which proposes to use details and guidance from the Kelo decision to rein in eminent domain abuse, * a tenants' lawsuit attempting to enforce subsidized-housing regulations to stop Ratner from using eminent domain to condemn their leases, and * coming soon to a court near you, a case built on several procedural problems with the lightning-fast environmental review process and gaping holes in the Environmental Impact Statement.

The federal suit also calls for a moratorium on demolitions of Ratner-owned properties (which are technically being condemned by NY State) until the eminent domain case is decided. Look for Bruce Ratner to demolish any buildings he possibly can, even while the courts mull over the legality of taking private property for the benefit of a well-connected private developer with only incidental public benefit. The fear is that even if Ratner loses the eminent domain battle, he'll advance the project as far as possible, making sure all that's left are a few properties sticking up like polyps on an urban wasteland.

In 2007, also keep an eye out for Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder to continue his quest to find out just how much the Atlantic Yards project is actually going to cost taxpayers, and how much Bruce Ratner stands to make for his effort. His FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests have been foiled, and foiled again. But he knows the truth is out there and hasn't given up yet.

One open question for the new year is whether the third-stream organizations that signed on to BrooklynSpeaks.net will have any luck trying to convince Governor Eliot Spitzer to inject some urban-planning sanity into the project. They're still hopeful, and are encouraging residents to send in those mailers that mostly arrived after final PACB approval was granted.

On the other hand, Spitzer could have made the Atlantic Yards project (which he supports) a posterchild for public authorities reform, had he wanted to. By not asking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to postpone final approval, the new Governor exhibited a reluctance to answer any of the hard questions still surrounding the project. It's hard to see what leverage the community has over Spitzer, except his own conscience.

Posted by lumi at 12:07 PM

CB 6's Hammerman on AY: unwilling to "vest blind trust"

Atlantic Yards Report

An article by Ezra Goldstein in the December Civic News, published by the Park Slope Civic Council, is headlined "Community Empowerment—Sort of," with the subtitle "Making the most of a City Charter whose visions are mostly only on paper." In it, Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6 laments the failure to do community planning.


Posted by lumi at 11:49 AM

Community Empowerment—Sort of

Hammerman01-CN.jpgMaking the most of a City Charter whose visions are mostly only on paper

Civic News, Newsletter of the Park Slope Civic Council
By Ezra Goldstein

Brooklyn Community Board Six District Manager and Park Slope Civic Council Trustee Craig Hammerman gives his assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the City Charter, which empowers communities (or not) to have a voice in land-use issues in their neighborhoods.

Hammerman discusses the lack of a role for the Community Boards with Atlantic Yards, shortcomings in the realities of community planning, and the need for urban planners on Community Board staffs. [Article in full after the jump.]

Community Empowerment—Sort of

Making the most of a City Charter whose visions are mostly only on paper

Civic News, Newsletter of the Park Slope Civic Council
By Ezra Goldstein

Craig Hammerman has learned two crucial lessons since becoming district manager of Community Board 6 (CB6) in February, 1993. The first is that there are no police enforcing the promises of grassroots empowerment contained in a series of revisions to the city charter. The second is that, despite the vast gap between the charter’s lofty promises and the reality on the ground, neighborhoods are not completely powerless.

Initial changes to the charter, beginning in the 1960s, carved the city into 59 districts by geography and population. Each district was to be represented by a 50-member board drawn from the local population and was given a small budget to rent an office and to hire a manager and one or two support staffers. Initially, the boards’ main responsibility was to provide citizens with a more intimate link to agencies and services than the city’s vast bureaucracy could offer. Subsequent revisions, however, expanded the role of the boards to include, it would seem, a strong say in the character and look of their neighborhoods going into the future.

A plain (or perhaps naive) reading of the city charter gives the impression that New York City is in the lead of a growing movement among reform-minded urban advocates called community based planning. Proponents of the movement argue that when governments or developers make extensive changes to a neighborhood without local consultation, the results are often both inferior and destructive of the social fabric; therefore, everyone benefits when local residents are intimately involved in the planning process.

The charter gives community boards two apparently powerful ways to make themselves and their neighborhoods heard. The first is reactive, through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which mandates public input into major projects. According to the charter, the boards should “exercise the initial review of applications and proposals of public agencies and private entities for the use, development or improvement of land located in the community district, including the conduct of a public hearing.”

And then, in Section 197a, the charter goes even further in what would seem to be a progressive direction by also encouraging community boards to be pro-active: “Plans for the development, growth, and improvement of the city and of its boroughs and community districts may be proposed by ... a community board with respect to land located within its community district.”

A charter progressive on paper, however, has proved far less so on the ground.

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is an obvious example of how easily ULURP can be ignored when it suits the powers that be. In February, 2005, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff signed a memorandum of understanding giving the Empire State Development Corporation control over the project, and the ESDC trumps all provisions for citizen involvement contained in the city charter.

CB6, joined by Community Boards 2 and 8, which also contain parts of the proposed mega-development, issued strong objections to the ULURP bypass. More recently, CB6 voted against both the General Project Plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the ESDC in August, citing flaws, which it attributed in large part to the lack of community input and involvement.

A decade before the Atlantic Yards project ran roughshod over ULURP, Hammerman and the CB6 board had already learned about serious problems with the charter’s other great promise for community involvement: Section 197a.

In 1994, CB6 finished work on a comprehensive plan for Red Hook, one of several major neighborhoods contained within the district; CB6 covers most of what used to be called South Brooklyn, including Park Slope. The Red Hook plan had taken more than two years to develop and was a model of community-based planning: it tapped the volunteer expertise that exists in abundance within CB6 boundaries, and the plan’s writers listened closely to what the residents of Red Hook had to say.

“We brought divergent views to the table, and forced some hard discussions about the destiny of the neighborhood,” recalled Hammerman, who was in his third year as assistant district manager when work began on the Red Hook plan. “It was a difficult process, and often people walked away unsatisfied, since there were so many conflicting views. But in the end, we had this bold vision that had been articulated by the community.”

Over the next two years the plan worked its way through the Borough President’s office and the City Planning Commission. When it was finally adopted by the City Council in 1996, it was the first 197a plan in Brooklyn and one of the first in New York.

The plan was then shelved and largely ignored by the city, which said that 197a plans are advisory but not binding.

“What became evident almost immediately is that we had a terrific product but no way to implement it,” said Hammerman. “We had no funding, no policy commitments from the city, nothing. We had this bold vision but nothing to back it up, except for people’s hopes and dreams, and you can’t take that to the bank.

“Sure, we can lobby, cajole, beg the powers that be and city agencies to work toward our objectives, but it wouldn’t have been any different than if we hadn’t gone through that long 197a process,” Hammerman continued. “I can’t imagine any of our neighborhoods approaching us now and asking us to go through all that again.”

Still, the 197a document gave CB6 a wealth of information that they have used to leverage changes in the city’s and developer’s plans for Red Hook, so not everything Hammerman and the board learned from the experience was negative.

“If a neighborhood has significant objectives, you don’t need a 197a plan to achieve that. You can work on a much smaller scale,” said Hammerman, who lives in Park Slope and is a Civic Council trustee. “We have become very good at lobbying and advising because we go in with a strong case, we have the facts behind us, we’re not shy about asking for things, and we know who to talk to.”

Hammerman noted as well that by the time the Red Hook plan was approved parts were already out of date. “It was a static instrument, while planning needs to be dynamic, dealing with real-time impacts. The only thing worse than a bad plan is an outdated plan.”

Perhaps, in time, Hammerman and the CB6 board will also be able to take something positive from their experience with the Atlantic Yards project. For now, however, the district manager mostly expresses frustration mixed with bewilderment that the state and the developer, Forest City Ratner, would willfully ignore local input that could have saved the project from its worst problems and excesses.

CB6 is among the organizations and civic leaders who have not condemned the project outright but who have rejected it in its details. “There are so many great ideas that have been cobbled together in this project,” said Hammerman, explaining the CB6 position. “Who doesn’t support affordable housing, jobs? Most people even support some sort of arena.

“But when the official document says that this project is going to cause harm to the community, and that much of that impact cannot be mitigated—a clear and honest admission that there will be a negative impact and they have no plan to fix it—that makes the entire project unsupportable.

“I think a lot of people were looking for things to support that weren’t in the plan at the end of the day,” he continued. “It became a tough decision, that came down to whether people were willing to vest blind trust in government agencies and a private developer that everything would be okay. Some people felt comfortable doing that but we didn’t, because the plan they put out failed so many different tests.”

Also, unlike some critics, Hammerman does not see the project’s genesis—as a plan introduced by Forest City Ratner—as the crux of the problem. “You have to start from some vision,” he said, “and whether it’s the developer’s or the community’s doesn’t matter—as long as all sides recognize that they may not have exclusivity on a particular vision. Whatever vision they have must be inclusive of the public consensus.

“Developers often put out a vision and then work with the community,” Hammerman observed. “That’s what Ikea did in Red Hook. They changed some aspects of the plan, added to it. We came up with a list of conditions that they agreed to abide by.”

The same process could have worked at the Atlantic Yards site, he argued, “if they would have allowed us an active role. There would have been no shortage of interest or talent in the community. It kills me for a developer to have this mindset, that there’s no room for anyone else’s ideas. Worse, they see the community as the enemy and then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“It didn’t have to be that way. Our communities have a reputation for being thoughtful, for being fair, and for working hard. All that energy could have been infused into this project.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is pushing a plan to give community boards more actual authority in the planning process and also to make them more professional. He says that some boards are far more effective than others, depending in large part on the skills and energy of the citizens who get named to their boards and join their committees. (The borough presidents appoint board members, half of whom are recommended by the district’s city council members.)

CB6 is counted among the districts that work well. “We have an excellent board that holds the staff to extremely high standards and we pass those expectations along to the agencies and officials we work with,” said Hammerman. “We are known as a very demanding, very professional body, and I am proud to be affiliated with it.” Still, Hammerman endorses many of Stringer’s suggested reforms, especially his suggestion that all boards have access to the services of a urban planner. Hammerman has long dreamed of adding a planner to CB6’s three-and-a-half-person staff, and thinks he may finally be close to finding the money to do so.

“The first thing we’d do,” said Hammerman, “is dump all these projects on the planner’s desk and ask what happens when all these things happen at the same time: Atlantic Yards, Ikea, Fairway, Whole Foods. None of the plans for these projects paints a picture of their cumulative impact on the district. What’s the holistic picture? What impact will all this development have on infrastructure needs like sewers and the delivery of electricity?

“With a planner, we could project out our needs before we reach a crisis. Obviously, it’s much better to do proactive planning and preventive investment then to all of a sudden watch systems collapse around us.”

Despite his experiences with ULURP, and with 197a and the Red Hook plan, Hammerman still believes, at least in part, in the grand visions of community empowerment described in the city charter.

“Unfortunately, the city doesn’t do much pro-active planning,” he observed. “We only get a project to review because a developer proposed it, not because a planner conceived it. The charter is clear that community boards should be pro-active planners. I’d love for us to be able to realize that vision.

“The Department of City Planning is not the Department of Community Planning,” he concluded. “Their agenda may or may not be the community’s agenda. That’s what we’re here for. We’re supposed to be finding out what that agenda is.”

To learn more about community based planning, see the interview with Municipal Art Society President Kent Barwick in the November issue, available at parkslopeciviccouncil.org and on BroolynSpeaks.net.

Posted by lumi at 11:30 AM

Wave of Development, Cleared for Takeoff

The NY Times
By Sam Roberts

An article about the return to the days of Robert Moses, in which large projects are getting approved once again over the objections of real live city dwellers, has this odd opinion about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, said that the city, bolstered by a robust economy, was trying to meet pent-up demand.

“Say what you want about the scope and size of development,” he added, “the projects that are being approved are more sensitive to the current communities and neighborhoods or to creating new ones — like the new Downtown Brooklyn — than Moses ever was.”

Moreover, Mr. Dadey said, “the community boards no longer have the sway they once did over stopping local projects,” and some local groups are even supporting development — “trying to encourage it responsibly in ways that benefit a greater number of people.”


NoLandGrab: We're not sure, but we think that Dadey means that Bruce Ratner might have proposed a super-expressway from New Jersey to Prospect Heights, running through Red Hook, Sunset Park and Park Slope. Instead, Brooklyn's master builder stopped short at the densest residential community in the nation.

Yeah, in light of more hairbrained schemes, Dadey has a point — Bruce Ratner could have proposed an even worse plan, complete with a heliport in Prospect Park for NJ Nets fans (thus making Prospect Park "self-sustaining"). However, would it have killed the master builder to propose a better plan?

Also, shouldn't the executive director of Citizen's Union be out fighting for "open, effective government that is accountable to the citizens of New York," or something?

Posted by lumi at 10:53 AM

Citizens Union head declares AY "sensitive" development

DickDadey.jpgAtlantic Yards Report seriously scrutinizes Dick Dadey's comments in today's NY Times:

Dick Dadey, president of the Citizens Union, on 12/18/06 called for a "limited delay" in the approval of the Atlantic Yards plan, raising questions about the environmental mitigations announced and the project finances:

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."

However, now that the project--which Dadey took pains not to oppose--has passed, he pronounces it just fine.


The projects that are being approved are more sensitive to the current communities and neighborhoods...

Atlantic Yards Report:

Well, the "sensitivity" includes an override of zoning, and regulations regarding the size of signage and the placement of an arena near residential areas, among other things.


...some local groups are even supporting development...

Atlantic Yards Report:

And "some local groups" are often paid local groups.


Posted by lumi at 10:47 AM

A Family Company, Forest City, Sets Out to Transform the District

The Washington Post
By Dana Hedgpeth

Here's a surprise, the City uses eminent domain to build a new venue for a relocated professional sports team, and first in to develop the surrounding area is...

...Forest City!

"We got into Washington because we believe in cities," said Deborah Ratner Salzberg, granddaughter of one of the firm's founders and head of the company's Washington operations. "We believe in redeveloping cores of existing cities. We look for underutilized areas where we can make a difference. We felt these are areas that fit that."

The similarities and ironies don't end there:

Over the next decade, Forest City plans to build an almost $2 billion development of 6 million square feet -- a space almost as large as the Pentagon. Its plans call for preserving the historic buildings and turning a boilermaker shop into a retail area, creating apartments from a former carpentry building and converting an old gun mount factory into condominiums. It will also put in streets, offices, lofts and waterfront parks. In tribute to its Navy history, the project will be called the Yards.


NoLandGrab: The plans in Washington to "add streets" and for the adaptive reuse of old buildings will make local activists and organizations cry over the lack of vision for Atlantic Yards.

Fort Greene and Prospect Heights residents and groups like the Municipal Art Society and National Trust for Historic Preservation have been calling to add streets to the "Atlantic Yards" project and to save historical structures in the footprint, such as the Ward Bakery Building and the former stables for the L.I. Railroad.

This proves that Forest City actually knows better, but unfortunately doesn't care enough to do the right thing when it could affect the corporation's bottom line.

Posted by lumi at 10:26 AM

Mall Menorah Smackdown

Dueling rabbis struggle over who gets to spread the faith to newcomers in the gentrifying area around Atlantic Yards.

New York Magazine
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

MenorahWars.jpgJust in time for the Atlantic Yards project to break ground, a turf war has erupted between two Lubavitch rabbis claiming dibs on the rapidly gentrifying brownstone neighborhoods that surround it. In one corner is Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum, who showed up in Prospect Heights three years ago to revive a decrepit Orthodox synagogue in the neighborhood, and recently opened what he has dubbed the Brooklyn Jewish Community Center in a donated space over a former laundromat. His rival is Rabbi Tali Frankel, who is backed by his wife’s powerful uncle, Rabbi Shimon Hecht of Park Slope.
Tensions flared over Hanukkah, when Hecht commandeered Kirschenbaum’s nine-foot-tall menorah in the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Kirschenbaum dealt with the mall and set up the menorah, holding a party (paid for by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner) on the Sunday of Hanukkah that attracted a few hundred people. But Hecht’s group sponsored festivities at Kirschenbaum’s menorah on Saturday. (Hecht declined to comment on Prospect Heights.)


Posted by lumi at 10:22 AM

Daily News's Top Ten NYC stories: Page Six shakedown but not AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News's list of Top Ten New York City stories of 2006, published yesterday, is heavy on crime and scandal...

Missing were several big stories about development, from the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to the state approval of Atlantic Yards. Are those just business stories, or do they have an important impact on people's lives?


Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

Real estate notes

The Denver Post
By Margaret Jackson

Builder Magazine has ranked Charles "Chuck" Ratner as #29 of the 50 most influential people in homebuilding:

Forest City is well-known nationally for its redevelopment of the former Stapleton Airport and its current work at the Fitzsimons site.


CharlesRatner-illustration.jpgFrom Builder Magazine:

29. Charles A. Ratner President and CEO Forest City Enterprises

Ratner is the third generation of his family to lead Forest City Enterprises, a publicly traded, $7.8 billion, Cleveland-based real estate developer. His family legacy is the classic American dream come true: After emigrating to the U.S. from Poland in 1920, the Ratners built a thriving lumberyard business. Today, the Forest City name appears on some of the most well-known commercial and residential projects in the country, including the Stapleton airport redevelopment in Denver.


Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

Reluctant Apprentices

The NY Times
By Dave Itzkoff

One of the Don's apprentices got her start with the other master builder, Bruce.

Ivanka and Don Trump followed in their father’s footsteps by attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (though Ms. Trump was almost dissuaded from enrolling after visiting her brother during what she calls his “meathead phase”). Each spent a year experimenting with independence before joining the family business: Don Trump lived in Aspen, Col., where he went fly-fishing and worked at a bar; Ms. Trump worked as a tenant coordinator for the real estate developer Bruce Ratner, on a shopping mall project that did not compete directly with any of her father’s properties.

“Just because I grew up on construction sites, there’s a big difference in translating that into real life,” Ms. Trump said. “I needed the confidence to know I could do this on my own.”


Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM