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March 31, 2007

Eminent domain case gets serious consideration in court (but the press mostly passes)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gives an account (consolidated from several sources) of yesterday's hearing in Federal Court for the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

One highlight: U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis entertaining arguments that the federal court is the appropriate venue for this case:

Garaufis seemed willing to at least consider the plaintiffs' contention that, if the case remains in federal court, it would not ride roughshod over the eminent domain process in New York State. The defense has argued that, should the Atlantic Yards plaintiffs succeed, future plaintiffs would all go to federal court, which is more friendly to eminent domain challenges, and thus delay projects that relied in part on eminent domain.

Garaufis also appears to be considering a compromise that would allow discovery even if the case is moved to the state level:

The judge also raised the possibility of permitting discovery--the request for background documents--key leverage for plaintiffs in federal court but not permitted when eminent domain is reviewed in New York state court. (The review in the latter is limited to the established record.) Garaufis mused about permitting some kind of limited discovery and having the case moved to state court.

No word as to when an opinion might be forthcoming. Fill the time by clicking here and reading the details.

Posted by steve at 9:00 AM

Marty: Still Looking for Balance

Courier-Life Publications

About 19 paragraphs deep into a Courier-Life article titled "Beep touts coming of Trader Joe’s - Anticipating chic supermarket’s arrival, Markowitz hails changes" by Helen Klein, the Borough Prez gets around to Atlantic Yards.

“We’re going to make it work for the community in the area as well. There has to be a balance. That balance we will find.”

NLG: We've being hearing this kind of talk from Marty for a long time. The only balance found so far seems to be in giving everything to Ratner while the rest of us pay for it in subsidies, congestion, and overcrowding.

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Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

What more can be said?

The KnickerBlogger

The KnickerBlogger can't see why the press is ignoring recent Atlantic Yards revelations and their impact on the financial future of New York City:

I am amazed by the lack of interest by most of the mainstream press about the latest Atlantic Yards revelation - the state and city is prepared to hand over billions of dollars in subsidies and loans without even seeing a business plan (hey where do i sign up!) .

NoLandGrab: Sorry, KnickerBlogger, no free $$$ for you.

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Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

Progressive Democrat Issue 115: NYC FOCUS: More Atlantic Yards Insanity

Mole333 is understandably upset over having New York City footing the bill to buy the land for Atlantic Yards.

Did you know that you are buying the land for Bruce Ratner to build his Atlantic Yards' project? Yep. That is what Michael Bloomberg wants, as I have previously reported. Ratner promised to pay $100 million for the land to build his project (the low bid, but being Pataki's friend apparantly compensated for his low bid). Guess how much NYC taxpayers are being asked to pay for land acquisition for Ratner? Yep...$100 million. We are buying the land for him. Feel free to tell your City Council member what you think of that.

Having the State move forward without ever having seen a business plan for the project only makes him madder.

It appears that Pataki and Bloomberg went full speed ahead with their support of Ratner, and the Empire State Development Corp. gave it glowing reviews...even though RATNER NEVER SUBMITTED A BUSINESS PLAN! That's right. The ESDC approved the project and Bloomberg is asking us to foot the bill but Ratner never submitted a business plan. Of course we only know this because Jim Brennan SUED to get access to the business plan.

Mole333 recommends taking action by attending the April 4 Spunk Lads reunion at Southpaw, which will raise funds for the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Legal Fund.

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Posted by steve at 8:36 AM

March 30, 2007

Heads in the Sand

The failure of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to submit financial projections for the project leads to several questions.

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Does anyone who approved this project, for which the government intends to use the awesome power of eminent domain, even know if it's financially viable? Does anyone in Albany or in City Hall have any idea how Ratner's potential profit compares to the public's meager return? Does anyone know if Ratner might pull the plug on Phase Two if he makes all his money on Phase One? Apparently not.

Would a bank give you a small business loan (let alone hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies) if you didn't show them a business plan?

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NoLandGrab: Since the answer to all of the above is an unequivocal "NOT," the next question is "Why?" [And don't say, "Because we like you."]

Posted by lumi at 11:12 AM

Eminent Domain Hearing Time Change

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Federal Eminent Domain Case Back in Court Friday
PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE

The eminent domain hearing was scheduled for Friday at 11 AM.

That time was just changed by the court to 2pm. Please make a note of it if you plan on attending.

Attorneys representing the 13 plaintiffs in the "Atlantic Yards" eminent domain case will be back in court this Friday, arguing that Goldstein et al vs. Pataki et al should be heard in Federal court rather than at the State level, as Magistrate Judge Robert Levy recommended in a report issued last month. We encourage you all to come out to demonstrate to the Court how much the community cares about this case and its outcome.

Oral arguments are scheduled as follows:

Friday, March 30th, at 2:00 pm* United States District Court. Eastern District of New York. 225 Cadman Plaza East. Courtroom 4D

* Court dates can change frequently. We will notify you if the hearing is postponed.

We recommend that you arrive 30 minutes early if you plan to attend the hearing. Please be advised that cell phones, cameras and recording devices are not permitted in the courtroom, and will have to be checked in the lobby. As always, decorum is of the greatest importance inside the courthouse.

We sincerely hope that you will attend Friday's hearing, and show Judge Garaufis through your presence that our community cares passionately about the abuse of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Yonkers GOP chief sent financial data to state

The Journal News
By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

Here's the latest installment of the saga in Yonkers, over possible impropriety concerning Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill plan.

Embattled GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis did file financial disclosure forms after all - but with the state, not the city, as federal investigators supposed in a subpoena filed as part of a conspiracy probe of City Hall.

Jereis filed disclosure forms with the state Legislative Ethics Committee between 2003 and 2005, while working as a legislative aide to then-state Sen. Nicholas Spano, a Yonkers Republican and longtime mentor to Jereis.
...
Federal investigators served a subpoena on City Hall on March 19 seeking financial disclosures filed by Jereis with the Yonkers Ethics Board in his capacity as city Republican chairman. Jereis contends he was not required to file, and the law changed since to exempt him.

The subpoena was the second served on the city this month. On March 2, the City Council was asked for records dating to 2004. Two boxes of documents were delivered to FBI offices in White Plains earlier this month.

The subpoenas have led to widespread speculation and prompted at least one council member to consult with an attorney. A source close to the federal investigation told The Journal News the first subpoena sought records relating to the council's actions on Ridge Hill Village, a $600 million residential and retail "mini-city" along the New York State Thruway in Yonkers.

Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney's Office would confirm or deny the existence of the probe.

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Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

State: We never saw Yards numbers

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohn

State officials admitted this week that when they approved Atlantic Yards last year they were relying on documents that were incomplete — and may have even been in violation of Bruce Ratner’s original pact with the state and city.

The documents contained Ratner’s cash-flow projections and other information required under the original Atlantic Yards Memorandum of Understanding, but lacked other key financial details of the project’s arena, 6,000 housing units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial development.
...
Ratner’s failure to provide a comprehensive plan appears to violate the 2005 MOU, which was signed by the developer, Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki. That document mandated a public review of a “financing and operating plan” in exchange for political support and $200 million from the city and the state (since raised to $305 million).

Local pols are hopping mad...

Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope) and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Park Slope) sued the ESDC to get the full review. Now it turns out that the state never had it to provide — and local politicians are furious.

“The state should have known everything there is to know about the project and disclosed it to the public,” said Sam Rockwell, a spokesman for Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights).

...as if Bruce Ratner cares:

Forest City Ratner did not respond to questions from The Brooklyn Paper.

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Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Once again, KPMG report on IRR doesn't mean profit

Atlantic Yards Report

If you're as confused as we are about the difference between "profit" and "internal rate of return," join the press corps:

Two published articles this week have inaccurately suggested that the KPMG audit the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) commissioned actually estimated Forest City Ratner's profit on the Atlantic Yards project.

First, the New York Sun reported, in an article noting that the state never saw a full business plan for the project:

Cash flow projections and interviews with executives were the basis for the report's conclusion that the developer would stand to make a total return on its investment of about 9.8% on the mixed-use portion of the project.

Then the Brooklyn Paper followed up:

The KPMG report projects that Ratner will walk away with a $400-million profit from his state-backed $4-billion Prospect Heights Xanadu.

So how do we square this with New York magazine's estimate of $1 billion profit? We don't.

As I reported in December, quoting affordable housing expert David A. Smith, internal rate of return (IRR) doesn't mean profit....

Norman Oder explains (link).

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Ratner’s buying him a new car!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

No one can say how much Bruce Ratner is coughing up in a settlment with Lars Williams, after the footprint homeowner was thrown in jail for removing one of Ratner's surveillance cameras from his own building.

However, since swearing false statements is bad, really bad when you're having someone arrested, Lars has the opportunity to pay off student loans, attend cooking school and help himself to a new set of wheels.

Upon his release, he and his father promptly filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Ratner; his vice president, James Stuckey; and Michael Machuch, who signed the police complaint against Williams. The lawsuit charged that Ratner had no right to install the camera on the Williamses’ property or have Lars Williams arrested.

Forest City Ratner has refused to comment on the case and would not even confirm that it had been settled.

But Peter Williams said the settlement has been a financial boon for his son.

“Now, Lars can study cooking in London for three months,” said Williams. “No one likes to be arrested. But if you can pay off your student loans and pay your lawyers’ [$28,000 legal] bill, worse things could happen.”

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Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Bloomberg says...

Queen's Crap posted a link to Mayor Bloomberg on the campaign trail, where he tells folks what they want to hear.

Bloomie sez:

"This city cannot build the schools, expand the libraries, fix the potholes and build big sports facilities at this time...Shea and Yankee Stadiums don't make any money for the city...If you counted the infrastructure for Shea and Yankee Stadiums, they are disasters for the city...We are only going to build stadiums if there's private money."

link

NoLandGrab: Even though Bloomberg eventually got NY City to pony up $205 million for the Ratner arena — for starters — and left us on the hook for "extraordinary infrastructure costs" (read: blank check), in 2004 he sold Atlantic Yards as a private project:

"The new stadium over in Brooklyn for the Nets is private money. Bruce Ratner is going to finance it himself."

Bruce Ratner doesn't build anything exclusively with private money. Anyone who thinks so doesn't have what it takes to be Mayor of anything.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

God to Ratner: Don’t build so big

The Brooklyn Paper is running a special edition this week called, "Faith in Brooklyn."

Atlantic Yards critics have always had faith that somehow common sense, fairness and propriety would prevail in Prospect Heights. What they might not have known is that God is on their side.

Is God reserving a special, Old Testament-style wrath for his disloyal servant, Bruce Ratner?

Simplification or not, an increasing number of men of the cloth believe He is.

The debate over the godlessness of Ratner’s 16-tower arena, office and residential development began earlier this year when a Long Island priest, the Rev. Fred Jenkins of St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church, announced that he opposed Atlantic Yards on religious grounds.

God, he said, does not support the use of eminent domain — which is necessary if Ratner is to realize his vision.

The moral crusade against the mega-development was later joined by the Rev. Daniel Meeter of the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope.

On his blog (yes, even pastors have blogs nowadays), Meeter called Atlantic Yards “a moral issue” because of its sheer size.

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Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Words fail me

The Daily Gotham

In reference to news that NY State approved Atlantic Yards without reviewing financial projections, "Bouldin" makes "two really simple and basic points:"

One, Since FCR wants your money to build its monstrosity, the least, the absolute least they can do is tell you how they intend to spend it.

And two, this is the kind of crap that happens when you don't have a real legislature. Neither the State Assembly nor the State Senate have ever held hearings on a $4 billion development subsidized with public money and, as we're now finding out, for which the developer

Has.

Not.

Submitted.

A business plan.

If anyone can imagine a better example of a complete failure of oversight, please, I'd like to hear it.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

Ratner’s new ‘Ward’

The Brooklyn Paper

WardBakery-BP.jpg

Bruce Ratner is about to tear down the most historic building in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, but he’s doing it green!

The building — whose destruction “would constitute a significant adverse [historic] impact” according to even Ratner’s boosters at the Empire State Development Corporation — will not be saved, but it will live on in a very different form: Three-quarters of the rubble will be recycled.

“We are seeking out every possible way to make Atlantic Yards as eco-friendly and environmentally responsible as possible,” Ratner said in the statement.

But Ratner’s green thumb is not just a matter of enviromental stewardship, but also his bottom line: In New York State, builders who meet certain criteria for energy and waste efficiency can claim up to $7.50 per square foot against their state tax bill, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Richard G. Leland to Join Fried Frank’s Real Estate Practice

BusinessWire.com

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP announced today that Richard G. Leland will be joining the firm as a partner in the Real Estate Department, resident in New York. He joins Fried Frank from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, where he was chair of the Environmental Department.

Mr. Leland is an environmental lawyer and litigator, specializing in the environmental aspects of real estate development and land use. His clients include real estate developers, non-profit organizations, and public authorities. He has represented New York State in the nation’s first privatization of a federal and state owned airport in upstate New York and has assisted major New York City developers, cultural, and educational institutions in environmental impact reviews for real estate developments. He presently represents Forest City Ratner in connection with litigation relating to the Atlantic Yards Development in Brooklyn, Columbia University in connection with a major expansion and the joint venture between The Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust that is the designated developer for the Moynihan Station project in connection with environmental reviews of that project. He has also represented developers, municipalities, and public authorities in a variety of zoning matters and litigation arising from zoning determinations in suburban counties in the New York metropolitan area.

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Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

March 29, 2007

Procedural arguments return as eminent domain case hearing approaches

Atlantic Yards Report sets the stage for tomorrow's hearing on the federal eminent domain suit:

The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case gets another day in federal court Friday, as both the plaintiffs and the defendants will argue to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis that the report and recommendations made last month by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy were incorrect.

Remember, Levy recommended that the case be dismissed and more properly filed in state court. However, he did so based on only one argument by the defense; he agreed with two other arguments by the plaintiffs, 13 property owners and tenants organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), that the case should remain in federal court.

Thus, while the DDDB plaintiffs are asking Garaufis to overturn Levy’s one argument for dismissal, the defendants—the city, the Empire State Development Corporation, and developer Forest City Ratner—are not only backing Levy’s dismissal argument, but contending that he was incorrect in not dismissing the case on other grounds.

It’s not automatic that a federal judge will hold a hearing on the responses to a magistrate’s recommendations; the judge could simply rely on legal briefs. But the decision to hold a hearing seems to indicate a recognition of the complexity of the legal arguments and even the importance of the case.

Click here to read details about the most contentious and delicate legal arguments, including an explanation of the Burford precedent.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

...a thousand words

ThousandWords01.jpg

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

Buying a Billionaire?

The Wonkster
Compiled by Gail Robinson

Yesterday NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman revealed that Bruce Ratner donated beaucoup bucks to a foundation that is near and dear to the Mayor's heart, as his Atlantic Yards project was being considered for large direct taxpayer contributions on top of a bevy of subsidies.

The Wonkster notes that this is just the latest notch in City Hall's shakedown of the private sector in what is starting to look like a pay-to-play scheme.

The conventional wisdom has long been that Mayor Michael Bloomberg remains immune to the blandishments of special interests, since he is too rich to be bought. And certainly the mayor has not needed a penny of campaign contributions to finance his $70 million plus election campaigns.

But does that mean money is not one way to this man’s heart?

Forest City Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards, gave between $450,000 and $1 million to a “nonprofit closely associated” with Bloomberg, just as the debate over the controversial megaproject was heating up, Matthew Schuerman reports in today’s Observer. The firm’s Bruce Ratner is a registered lobbyist, and according to Schuerman, “The donation came six months after a meeting with Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris that… Ratner reported was a lobbying contact—although the parties now dispute that it should have been characterized as such.”
...
This is not the first time the issue of contributions has arisen. When Bloomberg and his Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff were still fantasizing about New York as the site of the 2012 Olympics, businesses gave millions to NYC 2012. Although WNYC could not find a “quid pro quo,” its Andrea Bernstein reported at the time, “Some donors… told us they felt they HAD to give, but they didn’t want their names used for fear of souring city business deals. One businessman said Doctoroff told him – after a city hall meeting on a non-Olympics-related matter, that he’d hear from Jay Kriegal, executive director of NYC2012. He did, and he gave a six figure contribution.”

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Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

On Drug Crimes And Business Plans

Gumby Fresh has a pretty damn good explanation as to why the non-existent financial projections for Atlantic Yards are important, why Forest City Ratner doesn't want them to see the light of day, and why this only happens in the public sector (emphasis added):

I was pretty gobsmacked to learn that the developer had not submitted a business plan to the state when asking it for all kinds of juicy subsidies and the power of condemnation and so forth. This is pretty much project development 101, and gives you a pretty good idea of how much Bruce Ratner is winging it.
...
A business plan would give the interested reader an idea of what revenues Ratner is devoting to repaying what sources of financing, and which parts of the project are included within the scope of the naming rights cash, tax-exempt debt, taxable debt, state subsidies, state money towards infrastructure improvements and so forth. It is, wearingly enough, often withheld as commercially sensitive, and I'd assumed that the state could stonewall in this fashion for ever.

But no, Forest City has not actually bothered to put a business plan together for its public partners, partly because it wants to be able to slosh its capital expenditure towards whichever use is most lucrative, and partly, I suspect, that it wants to dedicate as little of the project revenues towards servicing the taxable debt as possible. This would indeed have a substantial effect on the project's internal rate of return (a number, expressed as a percentage, that is not the same as "profit", or many other accounting concepts, but both do correlate with a large number of the same inputs, per a discussion here).

But anyway, I need to put a business plan together before spending more than a couple of grand of my employer's money. It is abject lunacy that Ratner cannot assemble one of these for a sprawling mixed-use development that threatens to gut the prettiest county in the United States. [Actually I can't get sign-off on a few hundred in expenses from my employer right now as a result of some tedious interdepartmental feuding. Wonderful]

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NoLandGrab: Upon hearing the news, we were pretty "gobsmacked" too... or was it "gabberflasted?"

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Atlantic Yards: "It's been a done deal from the beginning without anybody really looking at it."

The Albany Project pricked their ears at yesterday's news that the State never received financial projections from Forest City Ratner.

This is too rich. For quite some time now, many opponents of the Atlantic Yards Ratnerville project in Brooklyn, including Assemblyman James Brennan, have been trying to get a hold of the business plan one would assume the developers had submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation before the the ESDC would agree to dole out hundreds of millions in public money and other goodies to the controversial development. Brennan eventually sued ESDC last month to get his hands on the plan. There was one problem, however. The developers never submitted one and the ESDC therefore has no plan to produce. Really.

More indications that Atlantic Yards is the posterchild for Public Authorities Reform (emphasis added):

This project has smelled pretty bad from the beginning and this is just the latest instance of big boy power politics in a litany of them. Ratnerville really is just the latest example of pretty much everything that is wrong with how government works in New York. Whatever your personal peeve with state government is, you can find it somewhere in the Ratnerville mess.

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Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Library looking to branch into site ownership

NY Daily News
By Rachel Monahan

An article about the threat of the use of eminent domain (note: eminent domain is only used as a "last resort"), concerning a library in Gravesend, references Atlantic Yards as the project that turned the term "eminent domain" into a dirty word.

[Community Board 13] District Manager Chuck Reichenthal attributed the land use committee's vote to objections to the city's potentially big-footing property owners.

"I think the issue was those two words: eminent domain," Reichenthal said.

The term has "taken on a difficult image since the whole downtown project," he said, referring to Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, which will likely require the use of eminent domain to make way for the 22-acre development.

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NoLandGrab: We don't really expect a Brooklyn Community Board District Manager to know the difference between Downtown Brooklyn and Prospect Heights. Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards plan is in Prospect Heights, for real.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Ward of the State (Development Corporation)

Ward-BDS.jpgBrooklyn Downtown Star

Nik Kovac and Norman Oder report on the beginning of demolition of the Ward Bakery building:

The presence of several sign-wielding protesters organized by the Prospect Heights Action Coalition (PHAC) seemed to cause a show of discretion from the contractors charged with removing the asbestos and other hazardous materials from the 96-year-old bakery turned warehouse before it is taken down piece-by-piece. Upon seeing the signs - which said things like, "Stop the Department of Buildings before they blight again!" - the foreman immediately pulled the chain on a metal gate, hiding from view several trash-filled black plastic bags. He later opened it just long enough to allow a truck from Topline Contracting, Inc. (based in East Williamsburg) to back in.

Most of the protesters are categorically opposed to the overall Atlantic Yards plan, but the issue of the Ward Bakery demolition has focused the debate on issues of timing and sustainability.

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Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Roman Holiday

New York's ambassador lives high, large, and loose

The Village Voice

An article by Tom Robbins compiles a litany of travel and dining expenses racked up by the former head of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Charles Gargano, the pal of former-Governor Pataki who led the quasi-governmental corporation while it sought approval of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

With just two months to go in his job as the state's economic development czar, Charles Gargano hopped on an Alitalia Airlines flight last October 20 and flew to Rome. His ticket included an open return, from Rome's Da Vinci airport to JFK. The cost, $3,579, was billed to Gargano's state-supplied corporate American Express card.
...
The only explanation offered was a one-line entry from his secretary to the accounting department: "This charge is for airfare to Italy for last minute request for Chairman to speak at an event."

What event? Whose request? Officials say they don't have a clue.
...
In September 2005, while Gargano was traveling with Pataki on a trade mission to China, he took a side jaunt to Helsinki to visit real estate tycoon Earle Mack, a major Pataki campaign contributor who had recently been named ambassador to Finland by President Bush. The $1,496 cost was justified, his secretary wrote, since Gargano was "addressing potential investors in New York State."

Back in New York, Gargano liberally used his corporate AmEx card to pay for meals at many of the city's poshest dining establishments—rarely explaining why.

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NoLandGrab: Those who are following "The Ambassador's" post-ESDC woes will recall his other ethical lapses: a visit to a port contractor in Red Hook and how the ESDC paid the rent on nephew Frank Gargano's headquarters.

Gargano is also the guy who promised that financial information concerning Atlantic Yards would eventually be forthcoming, in an interview with New York Voices (transcript, Atlantic Yards Report):

Q: Some individuals--lawyers, some journalists--want to know exactly how you came up with the figures, of the gains and losses, and they've even filed under the Freedom of Information act, but the [ESDC} has refused...

A: Well first of all, what they are looking for is internal documents, working documents... Completed documents, once the project is approved, once we have completed the negotiations with the developers, they will all be public record.

Yesterday, The NY Sun reported that Forest City Ratner never provided such documents to the State, which contradicts the assurances given by Gargano. Hence, our enduring interest in the fate of "The Ambassador" Charles Gargano.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Hub law firm signs lease at new N.Y. Times tower

Boston Herald
By Scott Van Voorhis

Forest City Ratner's Times Tower, co-owned by the building's namesake, The New York Times Corporation, just added another law firm to its list of tenants:

Boston-based legal firm Goodwin Procter has inked a deal to lease several floors in The New York Times [NYT]’ new Manhattan high-rise headquarters.

The law firm will lease seven floors, totaling 216,000 square feet, in the 52-story Renzo Piano designed building, which is now nearing completion.
...
The new Times headquarters building is a joint venture between The New York Times Co. and Forest City Ratner Cos. The 1.6 million-square-foot New York Times Building, which will open in the fall, is now almost fully leased.

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nyc_timestowerrendering.jpgAdditional coverage:

GlobeSt.com, Goodwin Procter Signs On for NYT Space (emphasis added)

The law firm’s 100,000-sf lease at 599 Lexington Ave. is set to expire at the end of 2008, and Randall tells GlobeSt.com that the search for a new space started almost a year ago. After looking at dozens of properties, mostly in Midtown and a few Downtown locations, Goodwin Procter opted for the NYT building. The prestige of the location and the buildings anchor tenant as well as the amenities and the development company, which is a Goodwin Procter client, that will be part of the facility sealed the deal for the firm....

BusinessWire, PRESS RELEASE: The New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner Companies Sign Goodwin Procter for Seven Floors in The New York Times Building

NoLandGrab: This lease was originally announced two weeks ago and constitutes the fourth law firm to sign a lease for the building housing the new Times headquarters.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Forest City Enterprises Reminder of Year-End Earnings Conference Call Thursday March 29, 2007, 11:00 A.M. ET

dBusinessNews Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB):
TO: Interested analysts, brokers and investors
FROM: Forest City Enterprises
RE: Forest City’s Year-End Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises announced its fiscal 2006 financial results yesterday, Tuesday, March 27, 2007, and will be conducting a conference call on Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 11:00 A.M. ET.

You are invited to dial into a conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Thursday March 29, 2007. To participate, dial 1-866-277-1182, using access code 95909835, approximately five minutes before the call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City Year-End Earnings Conference Call. The live broadcast will also be available online at www.forestcity.net.

The call will be replayed from March 29, 2007, 5:00 P.M. ET to April 29, 2007, 11:59 P.M. ET. The replay number is 1-888-286-8010, access code 30678984. The webcast replay will be available at www.forestcity.net.

If you have questions, please call AnnMarie Fenske at Forest City, 216-621-6060.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

March 28, 2007

Yankee station costs climbing?

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

There's a lot of handwringing going on in the Bronx over how to cover the "projected $15 million to $30 million shortfall" for the new Metro-North station at Yankee Stadium.

Last April, the MTA board had approved $40 million for the station to serve Yankee Stadium.

“Where are those Yankees?” wondered rider advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “We always thought the team should chip in when the station was at $40 million. But with the inevitable increased cost, the very profitable franchise should be helping.

“The MTA is broke, and the idea that they will unendingly fund a Metro-North station is just wrong. The Yankees are going to benefit from it, and they should step up to the plate and participate.”

Click here to read the rest of the article, including Russianoff's highly excellent idea for squeezing more money out of the tight-fisted Steinbrenner.

NoLandGrab: We bring you this article to point out that there isn't any such handwringing with the Atlantic Yards project.

Part of Bruce Ratner's winning low-ball bid for the railyards is the "added value" of station infrastructure improvements. However:

  • those improvements were never requested by the MTA,
  • moving the tracks to make way for the arena leaves no room for a future AirTrain between JFK and Lower Manhattan,
  • Bruce Ratner isn't paying for the improvements out of his own pocket, and
  • any shortfalls are covered under "extraordinary infrastructure costs" and will be paid for by the taxpayers of the City of NY, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Mayor and Ratner.

This MOU is a blank check to cover just such shortfalls that have "shockingly" materialized in the Yankee Stadium Metro-North station.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

State Never Saw Business Plan For Atlantic Yards Project

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

Atlantic Yards critics have always had the sinking feeling that Bruce Ratner never submitted financial projections for Atlantic Yards, not to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as part of the "Request for Proposal" for the railyards, or to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as part of the approval of public funding of by the Public Authorities Control Board.

Really, why would Ratner need to explain the finances of the project when it was a backroom deal all along?

Today, The NY Sun confirms Brooklynites' worst fears about the project:

In examining the $4 billion mixed-use Atlantic Yards project for approval, New York State's leading development agency never saw a business plan from developer Forest City Ratner, documents and officials now say. The project, which plans more than 6,000 units of housing and a home for the Nets basketball team, was approved by the state just before Governor Pataki left office.

Critics contend that state officials should have reviewed a full financial model before promising hundreds of millions of dollars in public incentives and subsidies. Forest City's full financial plan has long been sought by critics of the project and legislators, including Assemblyman James Brennan of Brooklyn, who sued the Empire State Development Corporation to obtain it last month, presuming that it was in their possession. The Empire State Development Corporation has denied Mr. Brennan's repeated records requests for the comprehensive model.

A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, Errol Cockfield, now says the state has never seen or possessed any comprehensive business plan from the developer.

Here's a surprise:

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner declined to comment.

article

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report pointed out to us in an email message this morning that the reporter, Eliot Brown, is "confusing profit with IRR [Internal Rate of Return]."

Ratner's "profit" will probably be much higher, since he's not putting up all of the money for the project but will likely reap more of the returns. How much higher? No one but Ratner knows, since he never provided that information to anyone, including the officials who approved every aspect of the project.

We don't mean to slam Eliot Brown. As a 20-something cub reporter, he just scooped the entire NY press corps (yes, even the "Odert Report") with this story.

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Public park, indy ESDC, "derelict stretch"? Looking back at the eminent domain argument

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder highlights strong indications that the lawyers for Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation drink the developer's Kool-Aid, in his review of the transcript from the previous hearing:

As the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case gets another day in court Friday, it’s worth taking another look at a few questionable statements made by defense lawyers during the 2/7/07 hearing.

Would the project really bring public parks and public housing? Is the ESDC really independent? And was Forest City Ratner the only developer that might be interested in a "derelict stretch" near Brooklyn's busiest transit hub?

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Forest City Ratner Gives to Coney Island Carousel, Other Bloombergian Public Projects

The donation was for ‘causes close to Mayor’s heart,’ says watchdog

The New York Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

This is a must-read article if you've been wondering how Bruce Ratner does it. How does The Brucester get every top politician on his side, though he's been telling everyone for years that he no longer contributes to political campaigns*?

Ratner-Bloomie-NYO.jpg

In December 2005, right as the debate over the Atlantic Yards complex was heating up and before the city made several crucial decisions about the project, Forest City Ratner gave between $450,000 and $1 million to a nonprofit closely associated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The donation came six months after a meeting with Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner reported was a lobbying contact—although the parties now dispute that it should have been characterized as such.

What makes the contribution stand out is how unusual it is: Mr. Ratner, Forest City’s chief executive, tends to shun any of the civic glitz that other developers put on in order to “give back” to the communities in which they build. Mr. Ratner, a former city consumer-affairs commissioner, eschews campaign contributions and doesn’t even serve on the Real Estate Board of New York, preferring to allow his senior employees and paid lobbyists to exert influence on his behalf instead.

The best one-liner in the article comes from Ratner PR flack "Joey from Cobble Hill" DePlasco:

“Bruce and Forest City Ratner have indeed supported the rehabilitation of that amusement, and they are guilty of thinking it will be much loved again by kids and their families,” Mr. DePlasco said.

So why isn't this a conflict of interest?

But part of Mr. Bloomberg’s obligation, in order to raise money for these good causes, has been to abide by one stipulation handed down by the city’s Conflict of Interest Board in a May 2003 ruling: officials soliciting on behalf of city-affiliated nonprofits must refrain from asking “a prospective donor who the official knows or should know has a specific matter either currently pending or about to be pending before the City official or his or her agency, where it is within the legal authority or the duties of the soliciting official to make, affect or direct the outcome of the matter.”

By the time that June 2005 meeting happened between Mr. Ratner and the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg had already pledged his support and $100 million of city funds for Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre complex that’s supposed to consist of 6,430 apartments and an arena to house the Nets basketball team.

article

NoLandGrab: So, AFTER the City pledged $100 million towards Atlantic Yards and AFTER the June, 2005 meeting, the City pledged an additional $105 million for "land acquisition." Why this wouldn't be a matter for the Conflict of Interest Board is unclear. Maybe the Public Advocate can look into it.

* Ratner's funding for political campaigns goes through family members, as reported by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report in 2006, on: * September 5 * September 8 * September 13 * November 29

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

PRESS RELEASE: COLUMBIA EMINENT DOMAIN IN HARLEM CONDEMNED BY ALUMNI

New York City 3/28/07 Columbia University president Lee Bollinger’s plan to use eminent domain to obtain land for a new campus in the Manhattanville section of West Harlem faces new opposition from the Libertarian Party of New York (LPNY) led by Columbia College alumni. State Chair Richard Cooper, Christopher Garvey and Mark Axinn condemn the University’s resort to the Empire State Development Corporation to condemn property-owners who will not sell voluntarily from West 125th to 133rd Streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue. The ESDC designated the area as “blighted.” Cooper responds, “Hands off Harlem!”

Cooper notes that he previously fought SUNY-Stony Brook’s eminent domain grab of Flowerfields in St. James. “Eminent domain is a legalized assault on tenants, taxpayers and property-owners. Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” The Libertarian Party says to our modern pharaohs, the politicians and bureaucrats, “Let the people stay.” Bollinger cites our beloved Columbia’s educational mission and the infamous Kelo decision. Is it Columbia’s mission to teach that legalized theft is just and constitutional? Is it to teach that the end justifies the means?”

Mark Axinn, a Manhattan real estate attorney and Manhattan LP treasurer, laments “I am particularly appalled that Columbia University, which already has significant real estate and financial resources far in excess of others is desirous of relying on the thuggery of government to force other real estate owners to relinquish their property rather than simply purchasing any land it desires on the open market. Surely an institution with the power and wealth of Columbia could simply buy property. By seeking to usurp others' legitimate property rights by eminent domain, a university of which I should be proud lowers itself to the level of the street bully simply taking what it wants from those weaker individuals who might also be on the schoolyard.”

Christopher Garvey, a Long Island patent attorney and former LPNY candidate for Governor,is outraged. “On The Brian Lehrer Show (3/8/07), President Bollinger stated his case for expansion into the Manhattanville section of West Harlem. He described the activities of his private university as "public purposes", which justified having the government invoke its powers of eminent domain to steal property from existing owners to give to the University. How arrogant! Declaring one's "purposes" to be "public" is so much easier and cheaper than buying property fairly, from willing sellers on the free market.”

Besides the Columbia University Manhattanville eminent domain, the Libertarians oppose the Brooklyn Nets Arena/Atlantic Yards project. They will hold their State Convention on Saturday, April 28th at the Radisson MacArthur Hotel in Holtsville, New York. –30-

For more information about eminent domain (listing does not imply endorsement of the Libertarian Party):

Castle Coalition www.castlecoalition.org

Institute for Justice www.ij.org

Manhattan Libertarian Party www.manhattanlp.org

No Land Grab www.nolandgrab.org

Property Rights Foundation of America www.prfamerica.org

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Relief at the ballot box? Housing expert says ESDC justification seems hollow

Atlantic Yards Report

The next hearing in the Federal eminent domain case is this Friday. In advance, Norman Oder considers the defense's position against claims of backroom dealing:

Is voting the rascals out sufficient redress for those who want courts to examine what they believe to be eminent domain abuse, as a lawyer representing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has suggested?

Not at all, says David A. Smith, an affordable housing expert in Boston who supports the targeted use of eminent domain and has been watching Atlantic Yards from afar.

That issue came up during the 2/7/07 oral argument in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain hearing, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy posed a hypothetical question to Douglas Kraus, representing the defendant Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Levy wondered that if a constitutional violation would occur in a case involving eminent domain that led to a clear public use--a result that historically justifies condemnations--but also benefited an insider, the governor's brother-in-law.

Kraus:

"That might be an issue for the prosecutor; it also might be an issue for the electorate, right. [Plaintiffs' attorney] Mr. [Matthew] Brinckerhoff told us they're all politicians and they're all elected. If his clients or if other members of the community think this was really a terrible project, they can express themselves in the next election when they vote for their City Council representatives, their State Senators, their State Assembly members, their Congresspersons, and their federal Senators."

Smith, who has supported use of eminent domain for economic development but thinks it must be done with safeguards, was perturbed by Kraus's formulation.

He told me, "In my view, Mr. Kraus's flip comment ["terrible project"] tacitly concedes he has no legal case for his client. For if the project is terrible, and the sole remedy is electoral relief, then there is no check in law to a development agency run amok, and no limit on the powers agencies claiming eminent domain (for removal of blight, economic development, or otherwise) can wield."

article

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

March 27, 2007

Homeowner Stares Down Wreckers, at Least for a While

News from Chongqing about taking of private property for a private project has been all over the papers and Internet during the past two weeks.

Since The NY Times is practically allergic to covering eminent domain, they're pretty much the last at the table. What's left to say that hasn't already been said? In today's article, the Times covers the coverage:

NailHouse-NYT.jpg

CHONGQING, China, March 23 — For weeks the confrontation drew attention from people all across China, as a simple homeowner stared down the forces of large-scale redevelopment that are sweeping this country, blocking the preparation of a gigantic construction site by an act of sheer will.

At a site in Chongqing, all of the households but one have left.

Chinese bloggers were the first to spread the news, of a house perched atop a tall, thimble-shaped piece of land like Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France, in the middle of a vast excavation.

Newspapers dived in next, followed by national television. Then, in a way that is common in China whenever an event begins to take on hints of political overtones, the story virtually disappeared from the news media after the government, bloggers here said, decreed that the subject was suddenly out of bounds.

Still, the “nail house,” as many here have called it because of the homeowner’s tenacity, like a nail that cannot be pulled out, remains the most popular current topic among bloggers in China.

article

NoLandGrab: As structures in the Atlantic Yards footprint are being demolished by Bruce Ratner around property owned by those who are still fighting in the courts, we hardly expect the Times to cover it, at least not before bloggers in China pick it up first.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Protest targets Atlantic Yards demolition

amNY
By Michael Clancy

The free commuter paper published by Newsday was the only local daily to cover the demolition of the Ward Bakery building:

A handful residents protested in front of Ward Bread Bakery on Pacific Street Monday morning as workers began to prepare for the demolition of the structure to make way for the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project.

"It's a beautiful building and it part of the historic fabric of this neighborhood," said Patti Hagan a member of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, a group that opposes the $4 billion megadevelopment. "To take it down is just wasteful."

article

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Planned demolition of 475 Dean means more "urban room" on crucial block

Atlantic Yards Report

Though it hasn't been announced yet in a press release, Forest City Ratner "in the near future" intends to demolish 475 Dean Street (Lot 48 on the map at right), according to a 3/15/07 notice sent to Community Board 6 by the developer.

This demolition was not part of the developer's recent press release, nor has Forest City yet applied for a demolition permit.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

PLANYC2030: what might sustainability mean?

Atlantic Yards Report

As we await the results of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC2030 dog-n-pony show community outreach, Norman Oder scrutinizes the goals as stated in the media campaign plan for NYC's future.

Planycheader.jpg

The battles over land use, including Atlantic Yards, have clearly pointed to the need for planning by the government and various stakeholders, beyond a process driven by real estate developers.

Now, it seems, the city government has recognized that, and more.
...
As we await an announcement of implementation details in April, numerous questions have been raised, among them what goals have been downplayed, whose interests are being served, and how much democratic process will be involved.

The ten goals are grouped under the following color-coded rubrics, with further details in the graphics: OPENYC (housing, transit capacity, parks); MAINTAINYC (infrastructure for water, transit, energy); and GREENYC (carbon emissions, clean air, brownfields cleanup, waterway restoration).

article

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Begins

WNYC Newsroom

NEW YORK, NY March 26, 2007 —Demolition begins today at the former Ward Bakery building at the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. But even as work crews begin dismantling the building on Pacific Street, protestors plan to rally against the action.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

The man behind Mesa del Sol is no stranger to getting things done

The Albuquerque Tribune

A story about the Forest City exec behind the Mesa del Sol project, Michael Daly, has this reminiscence from our own Bruce Ratner:

In 1987, Daly, then in his early 20s, caught the eye of Bruce Ratner, now CEO of Forest City Ratner, the New York arm of Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland. Ratner is also owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise.

"I hired him because he was the youngest guy on our account," Ratner said. "He was young. He was eager. You could tell he had integrity.

"He was honest, in terms of always telling the truth as well as in the way he dealt with companies."

Daly later went to work for Forest City on MetroTech, an urban renewal project in Brooklyn, with the tall task of luring Wall Street companies out of Manhattan.

As head of the project's commercial division, Daly enticed global investment firms like Goldman Sachs, power utility KeySpan Energy and the New York Stock Exchange as tenants to the project.

"People thought it was not possible to get companies to move to Brooklyn," Ratner said. "Michael led the effort."

article

NoLandGrab: With MetroTech losing tenants, it might be time to bring back Daly. Then again, a guy with "integrity" might feel more at home with Bruce's Cleveland cousins, who have a little more practice at telling the truth.

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere39.jpgstrong>East Village Idiot, March Radness: Round 2, Day 2
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn supporters apparently had no gas in the tank after scoring an upset victory over their division rivals in last week's March Radness, either that or they were too busy trying to score a real upset by saving the Ward Bakery building. This week, they fell to the mighty F Train, "who will move on to the Sweet 16 with their 81-19 win."

Brooklyn Record, Another Clan Evicted from Atlantic Yards

Looks like Bruce Ratner forgot to warn one group that his wrecking ball is coming — a colony of feral cats that inhabits the future home of Atlantic Yards. Laura Brahm, the assistant executive director of Slope Street Cats, is saving these felines, one by one.

Our feline friends didn't even get an honorable mention in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Poop City, Poop-O-Rama: Non-recall edition More on the feline refugees:

CRACK & CLAM JUICE: Slope Street Cats has relocated the last of the feral colony endangered by the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The effort gained attention via coverage in the Brooklyn Paper and even the Times, but in the end it was a Meow Mix-clam juice combo what done the trick. Says SSC's Laura Brahm: "When you're working on a trapping project, sometimes nabbing that last cat is better than crack!"

Lost City, A Walk to Ward's

One guy's take on the Ward Bakery building.

I wouldn't call it an architectural gem, exactly, but it has an integrity about it and I would support its being landmarked, since whatever is erected in its place by Ratner will most certainly not be anywhere near as attractive. But that, of course will not be.

The Gowanus Lounge, Is City Consultant Deliberately Ignoring Underground Railroad Records?

Could the consulting firm hired by the city to examine the history of downtown Brooklyn buildings have deliberately ignored key documents? There is significant evidence the buildings were part of the Underground Railroad, but the downtown Brooklyn plan counts on Underground Parking to trump Underground Railroad history. Now, there's a suggestion that consultants took a pass on documents that suggest the development will bulldoze African-American history.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

March 26, 2007

More controversy in the Atlantic Yards project

Residents rally against demolition of 'Ward Bakery', located near site of new Nets arena

WABC Eyewitness News
By Ken Rosato

For nearly a century, it stood at 800 Pacific Street in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood. The former Ward Bread Bakery building is in the heart of an industrial corridor that was once home to the Daily News printing plant and the Spalding sporting goods factory, a major dairy and an ice cream warehouse.

WardCoverage-WABC.jpg

Today, demolition began to make way for part of the Atlantic Yards project that would include a new basketball arena for the Nets, and at least 16 residential and commercial skyscrapers. Many are opposed to the move however, and held a protest this morning.

Supporters of Forest City Ratner came out to frame the argument as those without jobs vs. those with wa-a-ay too much time on their hands:

"This project means, a lot to us that live in this neighborhood. Ratner is offering training and [an apprenticeship] program that is actually going to be life changing to people from over here," Brooklyn resident Caprice Watson said.

People like Caprice Watson are saying they just want a job and it is important that people realize that those protesting already have jobs and they do not.

article

NoLandGrab: Those supporters know what they are doing, by deflecting the argument about sustainable development, to "jobs."

In case you haven't administered your daily dose of Atlantic Yards Report, Norman Oder highlighted an interesting point made by Donovan Rypkema about preservation and local employment:

While new construction is half-labor, half materials, historic rehabilitation is 60% to 70% labor and puts more money in the local community. However, he acknowledged, it’s more piecemeal work and generally not unionized and thus not backed by organized labor.

Posted by lumi at 2:31 PM

Ward's Bakery: The Calm Before the Storm

Brownstoner

WardCoverage-BStoner.jpg

There were more protesters and members of the media than construction workers on site this morning at Ward's Bakery. The Hagan sisters were there with their signs and Norman Oder with his camera. Meanwhile, the only instrument of destruction onsite was this Keyspan backhoe.

Posted by lumi at 1:22 PM

Ward Bakery: Sustainable Development

Brit in Brooklyn; photo, Adrian Kinloch

WardProtest-BIB-sm.jpg

Early this morning outside Ward Bakery, preparations were underway for the 'recycling' of the structure.

link

NoLandGrab: Pictured are protesters Barbara Skinner (no relation to Principal Skinner, we think) and Patti Hagan, who spent the weekend passing out flyers to inform the public that Ratner was poised to start demolitions.

Posted by lumi at 1:14 PM

GROUNDHOG DAY: Three press releases for work at Atlantic Yards

Groundhog.gifIs it ironic, or just a crying shame, that Forest City Ratner put out three press releases between February 20th and last week to announce the preliminary work/demolitions for their Atlantic Yards development project?

February 20, 2007
March 1, 2007
March 22, 2007

This is the same company that doesn't provide any information to the community through the know-nothing Community Liaison Office, though the office is mentioned in the first press release.

The slow drip of press releases is a pretty smart way to keep the demolitions in the news. Every few weeks it's Groundhog Day all over again.

BTW: There are indeed workers at the Ward Bakery building today. It looks like Forest City Ratner sometimes does keep its word.

Posted by lumi at 12:01 PM

Demolition Begins For Atlantic Yards Project

WCBS

DemoCoverage-WCBS.jpg

Developer Bruce Ratner is determined to push his $4 billion project forward, announcing the start of the demolition of 800 Pacific St. -- the site of the former bakery.

Along with the demolition comes the so-called abatement process -- the removing of hazardous substances, such as asbestos.

It's been reported that Ratner spent $2 million to lobby state and local lawmakers for the project last year -- the third-largest amount in the state -- behind a state healthcare insurance association and Verizon.

The centerpiece of Atlantic Yards will be the Frank Gehry-designed Barclay's Center Sports Arena, which will be the new home of the New Jersey Nets. The team will be renamed the Brooklyn Nets.

But the Atlantic Yards project remains controversial.

Lawsuits have been filed in opposition. And some critics contend that Ratner's plan to include affordable housing along with the commercial development is in reality a mask for a massive luxury project.

article/video

Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

Groundhog Day: "Demolition Begins For Atlantic Yards In Brooklyn"

AP, via MyFoxNY.com

In case you haven't heard, demolition is to begin on properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint:

Demolition begins today at the former Ward Bakery builidng at the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

But even as work crews begin dismantling the building on Pacific Street, protestors plan to rally against the action.

article

NoLandGrab: By "demolition," Bruce Ratner means removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials, which, by the way, he would have to do if he was doing the right thing, like, say, renovating this architectural beauty into housing.

Posted by lumi at 10:29 AM

Online Petition: STOP DEMOLITION OF WARD'S BAKERY

It's worth repeating that the following petition is on line at PetitionOnline.org.

Click here to sign if you haven't already. Also send the link to a friend.

To: Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The Ward's Bakery at 800 Pacific Street is a gem of historic industrial architecture. Completed in 1911, it's builder, George Ward, had taken his architects to Europe for inspiration in its design.

The building is graced with rows of Greco-Roman inspired arches, embellished with a delicate band of a classic wave motif, and clothed entirely in gleaming white terra cotta tile.

Ward's Bakery is a magnificent candidate for adaptive reuse and would yield amazing living and/or workspaces. The success of such conversions has been demonstrated again and again in former industrial enclaves, such as SOHO, Tribeca, and the meat-packing district.

Forest City Ratner is poised to demolish this building, even while their proposed project is still being litigated and may never materialize, leaving us with a wasteland of demolition sites.

We urge you intervene immediately and save this irreplaceable historic treasure for the delight of generations to come.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

Preservation, planning, and Brooklyn at issue at HDC conference

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner’s much-criticized plans to demolish the Ward Bread Bakery, the issue of whether demolition can be truly green development, and the Atlantic Yards project in general represent Brooklyn embodiments of several issues raised at the Historic Districts Council (HDC) annual conference on 3/10/07.

Author and urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz led off an overview panel by citing the enormous changes since the 1970s, when local activists responded to the city’s decline by establishing pocket parks in abandoned lots, community groups harnessed sweat equity and government funds to rehabilitate buildings, and intrepid brownstoners invested in yet-to-be historic districts.

“Anyone who doubts the enormous impact of historic preservation either wasn’t here or wasn’t paying attention,” Gratz declared.

Now, however, commented City Council Member Tony Avella, “The very people who brought the city back are being priced out of their developments.” While that may not be true for owners who’ve seen their property rise, Avella expressed a commonplace: “The system is geared to development.”

Avella and Gratz both bemoaned the seemingly inevitable rezoning of manufacturing districts to residential and the shift to a service economy. “The reason we don’t have planning from the bottom up is it’ll take away power from the people at the top,” Avella said. “We let the real estate industry do the planning.”

article

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

EDIBLE BROOKLYN: NICE ISSUE

ZanesFridge.jpgOnly the Blog Knows Brooklyn mentions that Dan Zanes is featured in the new issue of Edible Brooklyn (Download PDF of the Zanes article). Zanes is a Brooklyn-based Grammy-winning musician and member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board.

I loved the piece by Dan Zanes about the contents of his refrigerator...

Find out what Dan says about the Food Coop (he LOVES it but is no longer a member), where he shops now (Fairway), and his affection for Brooklyn (despite the Atlantic Yards problem).

So what does Zanes say about Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards?

The thing that I love about Brooklyn is also the thing that drives me crazy about it. We have so much progressive thinking, but not at the upper leadership level. Look at Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Top lobbyists all have strong ties to state Assembly majority

AP, via NY Newsday
By Marc Humbert

One of last week's big stories (in every paper but The NY Times*) was the record-breaking year for lobbyists in NY State. Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner topped the chart for the largest single contract and came in a respectable third overall, just behind telecommunications giant Verizon.

But what does $2.1 million buy you in Albany and City Hall and how does it work?

NY Newsday explains:

The three top lobbying firms working the halls of New York's state Capitol have something in common other than making tons of money _ their chief operatives each have strong ties to the state Assembly's Democratic majority.

article

* Nothing seems to start the week off right like a dig at The New York Times. It's almost too easy.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

Summit still not started

A year behind first proposed groundbreaking, retail project still wading through DEP process.

The [Pennsylvania] Express-Times
By Kristen Ziegler

Authorities are being prudent with the environmental review of one of Forest City's projects in Pennsylvania:

BETHLEHEM TWP. | Environmental review has delayed construction of The Summit Lehigh Valley, a 500-acre "town center" complex that developers wanted to open this year.

The developers, Forest City Commercial Group and Bayer Properties, planned 100 stores and restaurants at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue in the first phase of construction. A 20-screen Muvico Theatre was scheduled to break ground in spring 2006, but the entire site has remained virtually untouched.
...
DEP spokesman Mark Carmon said... the environmental review, which studies air and water pollution, could present a larger hurdle, particularly if the project disrupts a higher water quality waterway.

The Lehigh River borders the south end of the property.

While Carmon provided details of the environmental process, he could not predict whether The Summit Lehigh Valley developers would break ground this year.

And wouldn't you know it, the Cleveland cousins are just as tight-lipped as their more controversial Brooklyn kin:

Robert J. McGurck of Forest City Commercial Group did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment last week.

Summit Lehigh Valley spokeswoman Leslie Resnik referred calls to Brian J. Ratner, Forest City Commercial Group president of East Coast development, and Mark G. Bulmash, Forest City Commercial Group senior vice president of East Coast development.

Neither Ratner nor Bulmash returned calls seeking comment last week.

article

NoLandGrab: For the record, Atlantic Yards is practically three years behind the original date of Bruce Ratner's planned groundbreaking.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Cavalcade of homeowner holdouts

boingboing

A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of entries about people who refused to give up their homes to new development and ended up being surround by a parking lot, freeway, or airport. Many readers offered stories of other holdouts. Here they are.

Here's a long interview with 40-year-old Mrs Wuping, the owner of the "nail house" (called that because it sticks out of the pit around it like a nail).

Wuping.jpg

Wuping: until present I haven’t received a single bit of monetary compensation or a resettlement. According to the pertinent regulations, at the minimum they have to give us temporary housing, and you’ve seen in the picture there aren’t any, we can’t even get up to the building. This absolutely is the government and businessmen working together; there is nothing we can do. Jiulong Hills is completely managed by the district party committee and government. At the hearing yesterday I cited several laws and regulations, all are explicit, the city cannot force people to leave their homes for demolition.

More "holdouts," or "hanger-oners," here.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

EDC Document Undermined by Local Reporter's Poetry

Daily Gotham

Wouldn't you know it — in order to produce a study that concludes that two houses on Duffield St. in Downtown Brooklyn have no historical ties to the abolitionist movement, AKRF (yup, the same company that produced Bruce Ratner's Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards) had to leave stuff out.

Previously, AKRF produced a flawed study, in which they outright lied, and they got caught. But practice makes perfect, so they did it again, this time omitting and glossing over critical information. Now time is running out for the Duffield St. houses that are under threat of eminent domain in order to make way for a parking lot (cue Joni Mitchell).

Click here to read about what critical evidence AKRF left out this time, evidence buried in the study that contradicts its own conclusions, the differences and similarities to Atlantic Yards and what comes next.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

March 25, 2007

Sunday Comix

normal_subpoena.jpg

By Malcolm Armstrong

Posted by steve at 9:08 AM

Bonus Sunday Comix

From Brooklyn Papers

30_12cartoon_i.jpg

Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

Inconsistent silence: the Times editorial page forgets Atlantic Yards subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder points out how The New York Times has stated that public subsidies are unnecessary for Atlantic Yards, but doggedly keeps silent even as the City has doubled its subsidy to $205 million.

AYR also wonders how The Times manages to remain silent over the issue of the demolition the Ward Bakery.

Article

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

How Green Is Demolition?

Brooklyn Views

Jonathan Cohn points out the absurdity of Forest City Ratner's planning to demolish the Ward Bakery while trying for a Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) certification at the "Certified" level by recycling the remains — which, it turns out, is not so hard to qualify for. More importantly, what's so eco-friendly about leveling a beautiful old building to make way for parking lots?

Oh c’mon. Demolishing this building to make a giant parking lot is as “eco-friendly” as driving a Hummer to the supermarket to buy air-freighted “organic” food.

Article

Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

The Journal News: Controversy dogs Yonkers GOP chairman

A cloud continues to hover over Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development, as Yonkers Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis is asked to provide financial disclosure documents to Federal authorities. It doesn't look like they'll see anything right away.

A second subpoena, served last week on the city Board of Ethics, demanded copies of Jereis' financial disclosure forms filed with the city. No documents were turned over, however, because Jereis never filed any. He said he wasn't informed of the requirement.

In another Journal News item, a few Yonkers residents are asked to weigh in on the investigation:

Some Yonkers residents support federal probe into City Hall

There is further clarification as to why financial disclosure requested by the Feds may not be forthcoming:

No documents have been turned over to federal authorities because Jereis never submitted any forms to the city board. Political party chairmen were excused from filing under the new Code of Ethics that took effect in 2006. Jereis became party chairman in 2003.

One of the Yonkers residents hits the nail on the head:

"It's very strange that there's no documents of finances - there's definitely something wrong there..."

link

Posted by steve at 7:57 AM

Before Bulldozers, the Sound of Purring

New York Times
By Jake Mooney

25stre.600.jpg The folks at Slope Street Cats are in the process of saving 11 feral felines living around the proposed Atlantic Yards site. The Times follows along with the executive director of Slope Street Cats, Laura Brahm, to detail the efforts to round up the last two "holdouts," nicknamed Eleanor Roosevelt and Mamie Eisenhower.

The animals did not take long to appear, edging under a chain-link fence to nibble on a trail of rotisserie chicken and dry cat food leading to the trap. Eleanor Roosevelt stepped under the cage toward a plate of food, but Mamie Eisenhower hung back. Ms. Brahm paused for a moment, decided that one cat was better than none, and yanked the string.

The cats are being moved to a brick shed in a nearby backyard. The article ends with an evocation of childhood delight in having multiple pets.

The woman who owns the shed is a supporter of the project, Ms. Brahm said, and was happy to offer it. “Her son is very excited about the idea of having 10 cats in his backyard,” she added.

NoLandGrab: No mention of how people living on the site under the threat of eminent domain abuse feel about what's going on in their backyard.

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Posted by steve at 6:37 AM

March 24, 2007

FCR's Stuckey: the right man for the job, as shown in Times Square saga

Atlantic Yards Report

1103_brook_js1.jpg Forest City Ratner is in a rush to demolish a neighborhood even before court cases preventing Atlantic Yards from moving forward are settled. A key member of the team following this strategy is Jim Stuckey. Mad Overkiller Norman Oder profiles Stuckey.

The key phrase for Mr. Stuckey is: "The ends justify the means".

But Stuckey also has a sensitive side. Note his musical accomplishments:

Stuckey, who's described in his Forest City Ratner biography as "an accomplished musician, capable of playing ten instruments," has a notable set of community involvements. He's served as Vice Chairman of Community Board 2 in Staten Island, and as a Trustee of the Jacques Marquis Center of Tibetan Art, also in Staten Island. (Yes, the point man for the city's densest development lives in New York's least-dense borough.)

NoLandGrab: How many more musical instruments would that be if you had to count all the politicians who have been played so well?

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Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Eagle Discovers Gaps in Massive EDC Study

Excludes Key Documents Related To Alleged Underground Railroad Homes

BROOKLYN 3/23/07 – The Brooklyn Eagle published today important new information showing that the Economic Development Corportation (EDC) and AKRF failed to do its job in exploring the claims of the historical connection between Duffield Street and the Underground Railroad movement. The homes are slated for destruction by eminent domain as part of the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan.

The EDC released a 500+ page report purporting to the an exhaustive exploration of the history of the Underground Railroad in Downtown Brooklyn, including contacts with the descendents of known Abolitionists who live there such as Paul Truesdell. The EDC report states "To Mr. Truesdell knowledge, there are no family oral traditions related to the Truesdell family's potential involvement in the Underground Railroad." (page S-23)

To quote the Daily Eagle at length (article, subscription required):

Despite records showing that Harriet and Thomas Truesdell, who lived there from 1851 to 1863, had a long history of activism in the abolitionist movement and entertained prominent abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, the study found insufficient documentation proving that they actually helped African-Americans escape slavery.

But AKRF was made aware of documentation that could have been critical in proving that involvement, if it existed, according to Paul E. Truesdell, Jr., the great-grandson of Thomas Truesdell, who was contacted by AKRF for the study.

Paul, a retired chief hospital corpsman for the U.S. Navy living in Japan, told the Eagle, "I do have [Thomas Truesdell's] cash journal which covers the period June 1844 through January 1864.

"I have offered the journal to AKRF," he said, "but have had no response regarding this.

The 12 expert panelists AKRF hired to review its research were not made aware that such documents existed, according to the six who were reached by the Eagle.

"I just can't believe that this document exists. I mean, literally this is the first time that I'm hearing about it," said Cheryl LaRoche, a professor at the University of Maryland who was hired as a peer review panelist because of her extensive research on the Underground Railroad. "To look over that to see if there are any names on it, or what this ledger is, would be extremely important."

"It just seems to indicate that they're hired not to find the truth, despite all the efforts that [AKRF] did put into producing this study," said panelist Jim Driscoll, a researcher for the Queens Historical Society who co-authored "Angels of Deliverance: The Underground Railroad in Queens, Long Island, and Beyond."

The EDC and AKRF, the private firm hired to do the research, was caught lying to the City Council in the summer of 2004. The EDC claimed that there was no historical evidence for the historical connection to the Underground Railroad, citing Christopher Moore of the Schomberg Center, among others. Moore later testified that he had not been consulted, forcing the EDC and AKRF to write another report.

The City Council will examine the issue again at a public hearing on April 11.
Where: City Hall
When: Wednesday April 11, 11am
Who: Landmarks Subcommittee

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Park Slope one-way traffic plan dead? Well, "not moving forward"

Atlantic Yards Report

Is the Department of Transportation's (DOT) plan to convert 6th & 7th Avenues to one-way streets dead, or not dead yet? Norman Oder tries to pin down a DOT official to get a straight answer:

The Brooklyn Paper this week reported:

“We’re listening to the community and not moving ahead with the proposal,” said Department of Transportation (DoT) spokeswoman Kay Sarlin, who had earlier promised that the agency would kill the controversial proposal if “the community” rejected it.

I followed up and asked Sarlin: "Is that any different from following the CB6 transportation committee resolution, which requested that DOT not move forward 'at this time'? In other words, is the plan dead? Or just on hold for revision and discussion? Or?"

Her response: "We're not moving ahead with the plan."

Oder also rounds up the coverage and criticism of the DOT proposal.

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Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Furor over 1-way on 7th - Residents balk at traffic change

Courier Life Publications
By Gary Buiso

In response to the neighborhood furor over the Department of Transportation's traffic plan, Forest City Ratner summoned their transportation consultant Sam Schwartz to issue the usual denials:

“This has absolutely nothing to do with Forest City Ratner,” Schwartz told this paper.

He said the city’s proposal took him by surprise.

“I asked around at Forest City Ratner and it took everybody by surprise.”

“We never contemplated making any change to Sixth or Seventh avenues in Park Slope,” Schwartz said. Ratner’s traffic plan actually calls for Sixth Avenue to be made two-way between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, where it is currently one-way.

“There is nothing behind the scenes here,” he said.

The DOT has its reasons, but ain't telling you why:

[DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael] Primeggia said several studies have shown that one-way streets have proven to be safer, by eliminating roadway conflicts, “providing more periodic and predictable crossing opportunities and eliminating the possibility of head on collisions.”

He said one-way streets have been proven to improve safety for all users by 20 percent.

The DOT, asked to cite specific studies, did not return with the information at press time.

Article

Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

March 23, 2007

Atlantic Yards work on Dean Street?

Not Another F*cking Blog

Pre-demoWork.jpg

spray paint markings on the sidewalk and Dean St appeared over the past couple of days. it looks like they're mapping out the gas and water lines for some upcoming road work.

i'm guessing that this work is related to the preliminary work on the Atlantic Yards development, and some of this work was already started further up Dean St last month. let's hope that they've got their act together since then and that our water or other utilities won't be a casualty.

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NoLandGrab: The Empire State Development Corporation, AKRF and Forest City Ratner cited graffiti as a "blight" characteristic, and now they are going around painting MORE graffiti.

Helpful hint-ner: Residents who experience problems with Atlantic Yards-related work have been advised to call the Mayor's helpline — that's "3-1-1."

Posted by lumi at 3:21 PM

In defense of Glenmore Avenue

In his weekly column, Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman takes "a swing at" "fellow Park Slopers" for being dreadful hosts at last week's Community Board Six meeting, giving concerned residents hell by calling 'em "closed-minded, anti-intellectual whiners!"

In defense of fellow Brooklynite and DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia, Kuntzman cited the Cobble Hill resident's claim that "statistics [which] show that a 1998 (boo!) conversion of then-two-way Glenmore Avenue in East New York (boo!) resulted in 16 percent fewer total accidents and 22 percent fewer injuries."

GlenmoreAve.gifIf Kuntzman had sent a reporter to East New York, or ventured there himself, he might have figured out the one fact that Primeggia didn't share, that Glenmore Avenue: * starts off life as a one-way street running westbound for one block, * then reverts to eastbound for 12 blocks, * until it switches to one-way westbound for 27 blocks, * only to finish off its run going eastbound for the last 16 blocks.

If you don't have access to a car or bike, you can check it out at Mapquest.

What we have here is a classic traffic-calming measure. Either Primeggia didn't understand this or didn't think anyone would bother to check (credit for checking goes to Brooklyn Views blogger, "J. Co"). There are a whole host of additional traffic-calming measures (like turning one-way streets into two-way streets) that residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn have been clamouring for (Third Ave, for instance).

Kuntzman also mentions that "Primeggia also cited a Federal (boo!) Highway (boo!) Administration report that concluded that one-way streets (boo!) are safer (boo!) for pedestrians." We're not sure if Kuntzman set eyes on this mysterious Federal study, because there are a whole host of studies that indicate otherwise. Links for actual studies were posted by Aaron Naparstek over at StreetsBlog.

All "closed-minded, anti-intellectual whiners" (boo!?) want is for the DOT to stop patronizing them and make traffic better, not faster.

Posted by lumi at 2:21 PM

Ohio, China...Brooklyn?

So what do Ohio, China and Brooklyn have in common?

Develop Don't Destroy explains:

Norwood-CE.jpg

Norwood Ohio, where 3 homeowners eventually won their eminent domain lawsuit in Ohio's Supreme Court, after the developer had demolished every structure around them. When they won their suit, the developer had no Plan B and walked away.
...
That's the Ohio example that we should all be dead set on avoiding.

Chongqing.jpg

Will Ratner be allowed to follow this example from China (where apparently the state has been unwilling to seize this private property to benefit a private developer)?
...
An update on the Chongqing villa comes today: A Chinese court has allowed the demolition of the property, on what grounds, we do not know.

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Posted by lumi at 2:00 PM

Neighbors vow they will swat B’ball City

The Villager

Radler-Ratner.gifGo figure... this from news that the community is troubled by Basketball City's new plans:

Bruce Radler, Basketball City’s president, spoke very little during the meeting last week, leaving the presentation to a group including his lawyer, a representative of the city Economic Development Corporation, the building architect and the landscape architect.

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Here's the real coinkydink: Radler's Basketball City has partnered with Ratner's Nets to run free basketball clinics in Brooklyn (link).

Advice for Radler: Sign an "historic" "community" "benefits" agreement with anyone who doesn't flat-out oppose your plans!

Posted by lumi at 1:42 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere38.jpgOnly the Blog Knows Brooklyn, ANGER AT PARK SLOPER'S SHORT SIGHTEDNESS
OTBKB links the letter to The Brooklyn Paper from Sloper Rob Underwood along with this note:

Here's one Park Slopers response to the recent One Way No Way controversy. I was just waiting for charges of NIMBYism (NOT IN MY BACK YARD). Yes, it's true. Most Park Slopers stood on the sidelines for the Atlantic Yards debate.

The Gowanus Lounge, Ratner to Recycle Ward's Bakery!

Just when we thought the Atlantic Yards Well of Irony had run dry, along comes the attempt to spin the impending demolition of the old Ward's Bakery in Prospect Heights that preservationists have been trying to spare from the wrecking ball. The building sits in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Yesterday, Forest City announced that it was going to start demolition on Monday. Its Press Release boasted that "Over 75% of Building to be Recycled as Part of LEED Certification."

Historic Districts Council Newsstand, Historic Ward Bakery Building To Be Demolished For Parking
The HDC's news blog picked up Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's press release about the Ward Bakery building.

gridskipper, Atlantic Yards Art

After missing "Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood" at a Prospect Heights gallery, I recently learned that the exhibit traveled to nearby Brooklyn Public Library. Fantastic! Except that a portion of the exhibit got kicked out for drunkenness and public disturbance; it stumbled over to nearby Freddy's Bar and Backroom, a dive bar that hosts an art gallery, bands, game nights, readings, and arts and crafts nights.

brooklyn lens, atlantic yards 1
Cool black-and-white photo of Vanderbilt Yards posted on a new photo blog.

The Knickerblogger, Frank Gehry: Novelty Without Skill

We already have plenty of 'souless' architecture here in Brooklyn, courtesy of Bruce Ratner, who now propooses to replace it with 'senseless' architecture designed by Frank Gehry.
...
I can skip the Whitney and go to the Frick if I want, but Gehry's obnoxious, garish funhouse architecture can't be avoided, nor disposed of as easily as a painting. But this just reveals what some of us have known all along, the tastemakers have no taste.....or common sense.

Posted by lumi at 12:42 PM

Interim Atlantic Yards Environmental Monitor in place (and guess who?)

Atlantic Yards Report

This would be funny if Norman Oder were joking:

Residents around the Atlantic Yards footprint have noticed an engineer walking around and an air monitoring station set up. It turns out that, while the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has yet to hire an Environmental Monitor, as per a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued last month, an interim monitor is in place.

The monitor? AKRF, the consulting company known for producing lengthy environmental impact reports that justify development projects while resisting legal attack.

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Posted by lumi at 12:02 PM

Bruce Ratner Prepares to Destroy Ward Bakery

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn just posted a fascinating description of the Ward Bakery building along with their most recent update on the situation:

In 1911, the Ward Baking Company building at 800 Pacific Street was built as a gleaming white example of a modern industrial facility. The founder, George S. Ward, a captain of industry and soon-to-be baseball magnate, brought a team of architects to Europe for inspiration and they designed this building on the long boat ride home.

In a 1921 Ward Bakery Publication called The Story of our Research Products, company writers bragged about their founder, who had “the courage and the pioneer spirit to erect the first sanitary and scientific bakery in America.” The same publication describes the New York factory as “the snow-white temple of bread-making cleanliness.”

With four acres of area divided between its six floors and basement, this factory employed hundreds of New Yorkers. And with its capacity to turn out 250,000 loaves per day, it fed hundreds of thousands.

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Posted by lumi at 11:45 AM

Bulldozers for Ward's Bakery

Brownstoner

Ward-detail-TC.gif

In a press release yesterday, the visigoths at FCR announced that 800 Pacific Street, aka Ward's Bakery, had less than 100 hours to live. One of the most architecturally significant — and most easily adaptable — buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, Ward's Bakery didn't make the cut with LPC (politics, anyone?). Trying to save a little face with the preservationists and environmentalists, FCR announced that it would be recycling 75 percent of the demolished building materials.

link

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

FCR announces plans to demolish Ward Bakery

Brooklyn Speaks posted Forest City Ratner's press release concerning the demolition of the Ward Bakery building along with this statement:

Note that while FCR is claiming their demolition strategy is "sustainable", the greenest buildings are those that are already built, and a truly sustainable strategy would reuse the Ward Bakery and other historic buildings in the footprint. And there is nothing sustainable about demolishing buildings to create enormous parking lots that will generate traffic and blight the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Desktop Day: Ward Bakery, Atlantic Yards

Brit in Brooklyn

It's "Desktop Day" on BIB and Adrian Kinloch is giving away a detail of the Ward Bakery Building.

Ward-Desktop.jpg

If you want to understand why preservationists are going gray over the thought of losing this building, check out Kinloch's post showing details of the white-glazed terra cotta facade. Down to the crackling of the glaze, they don't make buildings like this anymore.

Posted by lumi at 10:21 AM

Forest City embraces historic preservation, but not in Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report article on possible adaptive reuse of the Ward Bakery building is a must-read. So check out the blurb if you only have a moment, but surf on over to Norman Oder's site (link) when you get a chance.

The first curious thing about yesterday’s announcement that Forest City Ratner would demolish the Ward Bread Bakery (right), a nearly century-old set of interconnected brick and terracotta-clad buildings beloved by preservationists, is: why now?

The towers planned for the block between Pacific and Dean streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues wouldn’t be built for seven or eight years at the earliest, and likely much longer. Phase 2 of the Atlantic Yards project, which would deliver all the promised open space, isn’t supposed to start until after 2010, and that block would come last. Moreover, the promised ten-year build-out could take 15 or 20 years.

Norman Oder speculates on the reasons why Forest City Ratner feels compelled to demolish the historic building and explains why this move goes against the grain of Forest City Enterprise's corporate mythology:

FCR-FCE-Reuse.jpg

The second curious thing is that the developer, and especially its parent company, truly embraces historic preservation as a strategy—just not here. Compare the photo of FCE's River Lofts project in Richmond, VA (right) with the view of Pacific Street east of Carlton Avenue (below), with Ward Bakery in background. The Atlantic Yards project would involve not only the demolition of the yet-unrenovated bakery, but the demolition of two other former industrial buildings already renovated into condos, and another partially renovated for office space--the yellow building in the photo. (Former owner Shaya Boymelgreen once saw the "blighted" Ward Bakery as a potential hotel.)
...
During the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Preservation Conference in 2002, FCE was the principal sponsor, and keynote speaker Ronald Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City's Residential Group, made a strong case for incorporating buildings like those on Pacific Street into the company's projects.

"We need to think more about the adaptive re-use opportunities,” Ratner declared. “That's how we can balance historic preservation and economic reality." He cited the importance of looking at the urban fabric: "We cannot focus on a single building. There is a much broader context of neighborhood, district, city and region. No matter how skillfully done, a building must be part of a vibrant urban fabric if it is to maintain its value and provide a return on financial and civic investment.”
...
Forest City has done adaptive re-use residential projects in Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Providence, and Richmond, for a total of 1673 units at eight properties, and converted “train stations, mills, warehouses and other historic buildings into upscale, mixed-use complexes.” In Times Square, the developer moved the landmark Empire Theatre 168 feet down the street to house the lobby of the new AMC Theatres.

But no worries, Forest City Ratner proposes "archival documentation of the buildings," so if you get to missing the majestic white elephant, there will be a DVD somewhere that will tell its story.

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Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Mayor urges Yonkers GOP chief to resign

Here's the latest from Yonkers where the mayor has called on the offical named in the second subpoena to resign.

Here is all they know for certain:

Speculation remains rampant over the ultimate focus of the federal investigation, with Jereis and the council's handling of Ridge Hill Village as the only clues thus far.

The project, now scheduled for groundbreaking this year, has resulted in citizen opposition and two lawsuits.

One stemmed from a move to rezone the 81-acre property to allow construction of the massive residential-retail development.

The rezoning was ultimately approved last year when Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Annabi changed her opposition and cast the deciding vote in favor.

Annabi would not discuss the probe yesterday and she would not comment on the controversy surrounding Jereis, who is a distant cousin.

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NoLandGrab: The outstanding question is did Annabi change her vote in exchange for favors? It wouldn't be the first time that the stench of impropriety has hovered over Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill development plan (link).

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Gotta Spend It To Make It

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Forest City Ratner did lead in one category: the largest single lobbying contract, $656,520, went to law firm of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson. Among other things, Fried Frank lobbied the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP).

While DCP held no public hearings, given that Atlantic Yards is a state project bypassing the city's typical land use review process, the associated City Planning Commission had one public meeting in September, where it issued recommendations for an eight percent cutback in the size of the project. Most of those cuts had already been put on the table by Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry in January 2006.

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Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Ratner’s lobby hobby: Bruce spent big in Albany last year

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Not content to grouse or stare wide-eyed at the $2.1 million Bruce Ratner spent on lobbying this year, The Brooklyn Paper ran an excellent article that goes in depth into what the money was spent on:

LobbyingGraph-BP.gifSalaries for the platoon of lobbyists

The single largest expense — $1.4 million — paid salaries at his seven outside lobbying firms and his own in-house team of 41 part-time influence-makers.

Ratner's Got Game!

“Here is how the game is played,” said one state-registered lobbyist, one of the few who was actually not on Ratner’s payroll last year.

“They have to hire all these different lobbyists to lobby different players. If you want to talk to Shelly [Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver], you hire Pat Lynch. If you want to lobby city government, you hire John Locicero [a former aide to Mayor Koch].”

Lobbying City Planning (even though the public didn't get a chance to)

One of the lobbyists hired by Ratner last year, Melanie Meyers, used to be general counsel at the Department of City Planning, which was first reported by the Atlantic Yards Report. Opponents of Atlantic Yards point to this hiring as evidence that Ratner was buying his way into meetings with Planning officials even as the public was barred from the limited city role in the Atlantic Yards public approval process last year.

After being lobbied by Ratner and his team, the Department of City Planning eventually negotiated a deal with Ratner that would trim the size of Atlantic Yards by eight percent — but that “cut” only brought the project down to its originally proposed size.

Lobbying Marty???

Another public official who shows up repeatedly as a target of Ratner’s lobbying effort is Borough President Markowitz, a strong supporter of the project.

Markowitz would not comment on what form Ratner’s lobbying took, but said through a spokesman that any meetings he had with Ratner officials involved “making Atlantic Yards work better for Brooklyn.”

What Ratner money isn't used for

“Forest City Ratner had $2.11 million to lobby Albany on ‘Atlantic Yards’ but will not spend a single penny to purchase the rail yards which comprise over one-third of the development site,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “Instead, New York City taxpayers will buy the yards for Ratner. It’s an exquisite shell game. … The taxpayers are being forced to pay Ratner’s bills without any say in the matter.”

And, as usual...

Forest City Ratner did not return several calls and emails seeking comment.

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Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Lost in translation: Top Chinese editors visit Paper office

ChinesePress-BP.jpgThe Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

We’re still scratching our heads about it, but this week, four of China’s top newspaper editors journeyed to our DUMBO offices to talk politics, media and, yes, Bruce Ratner.

The editors, from the 300,000-circulation Shanghai Youth Daily, peppered the hard-working scribes of Brooklyn’s real newspaper with questions about how free papers stay in the black (don’t ask us!), what we think of our competition (what competition?), and how we cover powerful people like Ratner (we ask a lot of questions, and Ratner ignores us).

The trip was part of a cultural exchange set up by the State Department, which naturally sees The Brooklyn Paper as a leading voice in the struggle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

The Chinese editors were concerned with all three, especially how American local governments can condemn private property and turn it over to another private developer via eminent domain.

link

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner could even become the International Posterboy for Eminent Domain Abuse.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

Property rights and eminent domain in China

It makes sense that the newpaper editors from China who visited The Brooklyn Paper this week would be so interested in property rights and Bruce Ratner, the most famous serial abuser of eminent domain.

Communist China just passed private property rights on March 16. This has garnered even more publicity for the most famous holdout in the country of 1.3 billion people (give or take a 100 million).

Investors Business Daily, Beijing's Property Rights Revolution

Somewhere James Madison is smiling. China's ancestral traders are vindicated, too. Their country's communist legislature has just passed a law to protect property rights. ...
Because few political acts could more completely undermine the Marxist ideology that justified Beijing's rule since Mao Zedong's 1947 revolution, [President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao] moved the law through the National People's Congress stealthily.
...
The country's robust entrepreneurial class demands it, as does its burgeoning middle class, which fears arbitrary moves by political functionaries to take away recent gains. World markets themselves, prospecting for 1.3 billion customers, also expect China's legal system to mesh more reliably with the West.

Opposition comes from old-line ideologues who witness mounting corruption as party bosses assure themselves pieces of the privatized action. The graft is woefully real, but the ideologues' failure is to be blind to its remedy: even more free-market competition. Beijing, for its part, set up a classic conflict. While guaranteeing one necessary condition of freedom, it stifled another.

Agence France Press, via France24, China's 'stubborn nail' stands firm

A stubborn Chinese homeowner has become a national cause celebre for holding up a major property development in southwest China in a three-year battle to protect her house.

Wu Ping's modest two-storey brick dwelling in Chongqing city is now one of the most recognisable homes in China thanks to widely circulated pictures of the structure sitting defiantly in the middle of an excavated construction pit.

Shanghai Daily, High-profile holdout homeowner wins, for now

THE confrontation between a holdout homeowner in Chongqing Municipality against a district court and a developer will continue to hold Chinese people's attention as the court has said it will not pull down the two-story building today.

The Jiuchengpo District Court said that it won't enact its forcible house demolition verdict against the isolated house owned by Yang Wu and Wu Ping, even though the deadline for moving out passed yesterday, the Oriental Morning Post reported today.

It may take days to get an approval through legal procedures to carry out the demolition, the newspaper quoted the court as saying.

China Daily, Square "nail household" seeks round solution

Right in the middle of an excavated construction pit near the light rail station Yangjiaping in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality stands lonely a two-storied brick building, whose pictures have been widely spread on the web forums, and has in turn caught national attention beyond the Internet.

In the afternoon of March 21, the house owner Yang Wu, a local Kungfu contest champion, used his nunchakus to build some instant staircases from the bottom of the construction site which is more than ten meters deep, and then climbed into his house, which is hailed as the "coolest 'nail household' in history" on the internet. Later, he also managed to move some food, water, bed, and even the gas pitchers to his house.

Right in the middle of an excavated construction pit near the light rail station Yangjiaping in Southwest China's Chongqing stands lonely a two-storied brick building.

Yang's wife Wu Ping said they have not been living here since October 2004, and his husband's decision to move back is to demonstrate their determination.

Ananova.com, Stranded villa to be demolished

A Chinese court has ordered that a villa left isolated in the middle of a man-made 30ft pit be bulldozed within three days.

Developers turned a house into an island after the owner refused to move out in Chongqing city, China /Lu Feng> The developers, Zhengsheng Real Estate Company and Nanlong Real Estate Co, sued Mrs. Wu and pleaded for the court to issue an order to bulldoze the house.
...
With the owner absent from court, the judge at Chongqing Jiulongpo district court decided that Mrs Wu must leave her villa within three days, at which point it will be torn down, reports Legal Daily.

And what are they going to build at that site? A mixed-use lifesyle center, what else.

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

New gripe against Barclays

The Brooklyn Paper

Barclays Bank’s partnership with Bruce Ratner is under fire again — but this time not because of the bank’s slavery- and apartheid-linked past.

The New York Libertarian Party is now calling for a nationwide boycott of the British banking behemoth on the grounds that its participation in the Atlantic Yards project is a tacit endorsement of the state’s use of eminent domain to condemn private property and turn it over to a private developer, Ratner.

“Barclays’ participation in eminent domain is an outrage as a private enterprise disrespecting property rights,” said Gary Popkin, the party’s Brooklyn–Queens chairman.
...
“To Libertarians, corporate sports welfare and eminent domain abuse are legalized theft, stealing from taxpayers and landowners,” Cooper said. “Barclays chose to become an accomplice of Bruce Ratner. They should both bear the outrage of indignant Americans who favor freedom and justice.”
...
Ratner and Barclays declined to comment.

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Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

Mayor holds firm on budget cuts

amNY
By Emi Endo

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday brushed off complaints about his recent call for city agencies to tighten their belts.

Two months after announcing that a whopping $3.9 billion in unexpected revenues would end this fiscal year on a high note June 30, his budget director has asked this week that each agency head to propose 1.5 percent cuts until then and 4 percent cuts for the next fiscal year. ...
The Department of Education was the only department not asked to recommend cuts.

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NoLandGrab: Don't forget Bloomberg's 105% budget increase for the Deparment of Bruce Ratner (link) — and that's just for starters.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Thies to leave Yassky for PR firm

From The Brooklyn Paper, "Kitchen Sink":

Evan Thies, right hand man to Councilman David Yassky, is leaving for a job at the good-guy PR firm that represents Bruce Ratner’s affordable-housing partner ACORN.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

More anger over city plans for one-way streets

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

More evidence that Park Slopers are as NIMBY as everyone says. First they shrugged off Atlantic Yards, since it wasn't in their backyard. When the impacts finally did land in their backyard, they had one of the best collective tantrums seen in recent years.

To the editor,

The proposal to convert Sixth and Seventh avenues to one way, has made me furious (“7th Avenue Express,” March 17).

My anger, though, is not directed at the Department of Transportation or Bruce Ratner, but instead at my fellow Park Slopers. Had the Slope mobilized in 2004, when Atlantic Yards was in its infancy, we might never have been at this point.

How clearly I remember the reaction to those passing out brochures against Atlantic Yards at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2004. The comments I heard, consistently, were “It’s so far away from here”; “It’ll be great for our neighborhood,” and “We don’t live in that part of the Slope.” Instead, the response in those critical first few months was anemic at best — “negligence” and “apathy” are more apt terms.

Now that traffic pattern changes are coming for the arena — as we all knew they would — people are getting off their arses and starting to notice that Atlantic Yards is going to destroy our quality of life. Did it need to take three years to figure that out?

Shame on Park Slope — a place full of smart, vocal and active citizens — for letting it get this far.

Rob Underwood, Park Slope

link

NoLandGrab: It is probably best that this criticism came from within the neighborhood. For years, Ft. Greene and Prospect Heights have noted Park Slope's indifference to the plight of any other brownstone neighborhood, only they haven't said anything thus far because they needed Park Slope to get mad about Atlantic Yards -- in fact, they still do.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Want to stop DOT? Make our streets safer

The Brooklyn Paper
By columnist Nica Lalli and member of Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee

At last week’s committee vote, people hissed, booed and shouted down the DOT’s proposal, which also called for making Sixth Avenue one-way. As a member of that committee, I can tell you that we did the right thing: we put our community’s interest in front of any individual needs (like the need to get to your coffee date on the other end of the Slope in three minutes flat) and the larger needs in our post-Atlantic Yards world (why should Park Slope have to deal with traffic Bruce Ratner is forcing on us?).

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NoLandGrab: Lalli's question might be rhetorical, why shouldn't Slopers bear the responsibility for dealing with the "traffic Bruce Ratner is forcing on us," since the neighborhood didn't rise up against the development plan in the first place.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Studies Refute DOT’s Claim That One-Way Avenues Are Safer

StreetsBlog

Last Thursday, DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia presented a plan to turn a pair of two-way avenues running through Park Slope, Brooklyn into one-way arterials. The aim of the plan, according to DOT, was to improve pedestrian safety.

Yet, in his presentation to the community the only evidence Primeggia gave to back up his safety claim was a single reference to an avenue in Brooklyn where crashes had declined 15% and total injuries 22% after DOT turned it into a one-way. Primeggia didn't even provide the name of the avenue. "I know that two-way streets are less safe," he said.

A traffic-engineer and planner showed up to refute that notion, armed with facts, studies, and old-fashioned common sense (not the common sense used by tired bureaucrats). He was not allowed to speak last Thursday at the Community Board 6 committee meeting, but StreetsBlog posted his prepared comments anonymously:

I'll focus on just one aspect of the plan -- the significant negative impact it can have on some of Park Slope's most precious but vulnerable citizens, that is, our small children. With PS 321, the magnet school that was PS 10, PS 39, PS 282 and various middle schools, private and parochial schools, more than 3,000 children use Sixth and Seventh Avenues daily to walk to and from school.

One-way street networks can result in more pedestrian accidents, particularly among children. This effect has been noted in a number of transportation studies published in respected academic journals. I'll cite and quote certain relevant reports and articles for your consideration.

It's fascinating stuff, so check out the rest here.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

That's One-Way To Do It, But...

Not Our Way, Sez Slope

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Last Thursday, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) got an earful of opposition in response to its plan to turn Park Slope's Sixth and Seventh avenues - a residential street and a shopping corridor, respectively - into one-way thoroughfares, ostensibly to enhance safety but seen by critics as leading to speeding.

More than 600 people showed up last Thursday to attend a Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting on the proposal, but barely 150 got to hear it in person, given the limits of the New York Methodist Hospital Auditorium. In a vote seen by some as too conciliatory, the committee voted to table the proposal until DOT deals with more pressing local traffic issues.

No issue has galvanized the neighborhood this much, observed Park Slope Civic Council President Lydia Denworth, except perhaps Atlantic Yards. However, unlike with Forest City Ratner's project, Denworth said, locals have reacted with near unanimous opposition to DOT's plan. Not only would it change the character of the neighborhood, critics said, it was a sneaky way to relieve congestion related to Atlantic Yards.

Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman explains why the words "Atlantic Yards" were not uttered by the DOT Deputy Commissioner, who presented the plan:

Craig Hammerman, district manager for CB6, said after the meeting that he had asked DOT if the changes were to mitigate the effect of the 17-building Atlantic Yards development planned across Flatbush Avenue north of Park Slope. The response, he said, was no, because the changes were not studied in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Had DOT claimed the changes as a mitigation, he said, the EIS would be vulnerable to a lawsuit over its inadequacies. Though Hammerman said he didn't think Atlantic Yards was the trigger for the change, "any responsible planner would have had to consider it."

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NoLandGrab: Hammerman's point undercuts the DOTs claim that these changes have been in the works for years and therefore are NOT a reaction to Atlantic Yards. If they have been in the pipeline for years, then they should have been included in the EIS.

This is another Alice-in-Wonderland situation where something isn't as it seems to be, nonsense stands in for facts, and things get curiouser and curiouser.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

The Ward Bakery demolition and environmental sustainability

Atlantic Yards Report

Even if you recycle waste from a building, that doesn't mean the process is environmentally sustainable. That was the message two weeks ago from consultant Donovan Rypkema at the Historic Districts Council conference in New York, and it's relevant in light of Forest City Ratner's press release today announcing the demolition of the Ward Bread Bakery, a building hailed by preservationists.

While Forest City Ratner hopes to score points by "recycling" demolition debris from a historic building, here's the real score:

Then he got to the issue of "embodied energy":

So much of the "green building" movement focuses on the annual energy use of a building. But the energy embodied in the construction of a building is 15 to 30 times the annual energy use. Razing historic buildings results in a triple hit on scarce resources. First, we throwing away thousands of dollars of embodied energy. Second, we are replacing it with materials vastly more consumptive of energy. What are most historic houses built from? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber. What are among the least energy consumptive of materials? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber. What are major components of new buildings? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum. What are among the most energy consumptive of materials? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum. Third, recurring embodied energy savings increase dramatically as a building life stretches over fifty years. You're a fool or a fraud if you say you are an environmentally conscious builder and yet are throwing away historic buildings, and their components.

Finally, he addressed recycling:

Environmentalists cheer when used tires are incorporated into asphalt shingles and recycled newspapers become part of fiberboard. But when we reuse an historic building, we’re recycling the whole thing.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Ward Bakery Is Toast

The Real Estate Observer

Forest City Ratner sent out a press release on Thursday saying that the former Ward Bread Bakery at Pacific and Vanderbilt streets in Prospect Heights was next in line for the Atlantic Yards treatment, with abatement and demolition scheduled to begin Monday.

Get this, Bruce Ratner is hoping to appease the masses and tastemakers by certifying that over 75% of the Ward Bakery building will be recycled!

But don't cry too hard, because the building, the target of an unsuccessful landmarking attempt, will come back in its next life as an insect or something: Some 75 percent of the demolition debris will be recycled.

Read the press release.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Cincinnati land seizure overturned

As Ratner is poised to begin some serious demolition in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, Brooklynites are learning about Norwood, OH, a town that demolished an entire neighborhood, except for three houses, to make way for a mall. After the Ohio State Supreme Court declared the action unconstitutional, the ravaged neighborhood remains a wasteland.

The hope is that our public officials will learn from Norwood. In Cincinnati, they are still learning from Norwood. This time, it concerns a specious "blight study," something else that will sound familiar to Brooklynites.

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Steve Kemme

Using the Norwood eminent-domain case as a model, a state appeals court Friday nullified Cincinnati's seizure of two parcels on Calhoun Street in Clifton Heights and declared the city's eminent-domain ordinance unconstitutional.

The ruling reverses a lower-court decision that upheld the city's right to take the properties.

The city and a developer used a blight study to take dozens of properties as part of a $270 million redevelopment plan along Calhoun Street.

All of the property owners in the redevelopment district except the owners of a former Hardee's and Arby's eventually agreed to sell to the developer, the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

The Ohio First District Court of Appeals said in its decision Friday that many factors that Cincinnati used for designating properties "blighted" or "deteriorating" were struck down in the Ohio Supreme Court's Norwood decision."

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Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

15 buildings to fall soon, Ratner says

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Developer Forest City Ratner is expected to knock down 15 buildings beginning as early as next week, including one that may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

In notices of intent sent to three community boards this week, the developer makes clear its plan to tear down the buildings "in the near future, but not less than five days after your receipt of this letter."

The demolition would level an entire block of Pacific St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves. as well as buildings on Dean St. and on Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt Aves., according to notices sent to Community Boards 2, 6 and 8.

"It's going to look like a wasteland," said Daniel Goldstein of the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

"If they do this, it will start looking like Norwood, Ohio, where a handful of buildings remained in a demolition zone - and then the project couldn't go forward," Goldstein said, referring to the town made famous by the use of eminent domain to make way for a private project.

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Note: The article explains that lawsuits are pending, though it made a mistake on the venue. At this time, the eminent domain suit is still in federal court. The next hearing is on Friday, March 30.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

March 22, 2007

Gehry’s New York Debut: Subdued Tower of Light

Architecture Review | IAC headquarters

The NY Times
By Nicholai Ouroussoff

A review of Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry's first building in NYC ran in the NY Times today. In July, 2005, Nicky O. was effusive in his response to Gehry's Atlantic Yards plans, but this time he penned a fairly lukewarm response to the aging starchitect's NYC debut.

Gehry-IAC-NYT.jpg

Are the curvaceous glass forms of the IAC headquarters building, evoking the crisp pleats of a skirt, a bold departure from Manhattan’s hard-edged corporate towers? Or are they proof that Mr. Gehry’s radical days are behind him?

Well, both. Mr. Gehry is adding a much-needed touch of lightness to the Manhattan skyline just as the city finally emerges from a period of mourning. The IAC building, serving as world headquarters for Barry Diller’s media and Internet empire, joins a growing list of new projects that reflect how mainstream developers in the city are significantly raising the creative stakes after decades of settling for bland, soul-sapping office buildings.

Yet the building, which is not quite complete, also feels oddly tame. For those who have followed Mr. Gehry’s creative career, these easy, fluid forms are a marked departure from the complex, fragmented structures of his youth. Rather than mining rich new creative territory, Mr. Gehry, now 78, seems to be holding back.

The results — almost pristine by Mr. Gehry’s standards — suggest the casual confidence of an aging virtuoso rather than the brash innovation of a rowdy outsider.

NoLandGrab: The following comment about the IAC building reflects a common complaint about many Gehry projects — the entrances are so discreet that merely entering the building is a challenge for the first-time visitor.

The lobby entries of the IAC headquarters are discreetly located on the two side streets, giving the building’s main facade a smooth, uniform appearance.

Perhaps that's why Bruce Ratner has proposed a gigantic foyer, called the "Urban Room," for the beacon of Atlantic Yards, Miss Brooklyn. This way, Frank Gehry will be sure not to leave thousands of arena-goers fumbling around, looking for the entrance.

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Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Coming demolitions mean "urban room" at crucial corner

Atlantic Yards Report notices that, as Bruce Ratner is poised to demolish buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, it would create lots of "urban room," as in "publicly detestable open space."

UrbanRoom2007future.jpg

No, it's not the grand 150-tall Urban Room, the gateway to the "Miss Brooklyn" skyscraper, planned at a short distance to the west. But as developer Forest City Ratner proceeds with demolitions over the next few months, the western segment of the project site is shaping up to become vacant, a distinct vision of "urban room."

Should Forest City Ratner follow through on the planned demolitions over the next weeks and months, that corner will be vacant. Notably, vacant lots--except for that gas station--will partly surround two buildings, on Lots 21 and 27, occupied by plaintiffs in two separate court cases. (Plaintiffs also occupy lots 50, 46, 43, and the square above 43. )

There may be more "urban room" coming soon. The tenants of Lot 29, the Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, recently vacated their space.
...
Perhaps the court cases will be resolved and Forest City Ratner will be able to proceed apace with construction of the planned Brooklyn arena (aka Barclays Center). But if those cases linger, or the plaintiffs win, the lots likely will linger as well.

It may, indeed, start to look a little like Norwood, OH, where three property owners won a case resisting the use of eminent domain. "Many people who live near the site are tired of looking at the desolate piece of land surrounded by a chain-link fence," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in a recent article.

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Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

Federal conspiracy probe upsets many in Yonkers

The Journal News
By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon and Michael Gannon

The uncertainty surrounding a federal conspiracy probe into Yonkers City Hall has rattled residents and officials alike.

Yonkers Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis, who is named on one of two subpoenas, said yesterday that his family has been shaken by media coverage, and Mayor Phil Amicone said he knew no more about the investigation than reporters did.

While the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI refuse to comment, three members of the Yonkers City Council - which was served with a subpoena March 2 - said residents were beginning to raise questions of their own.

"Last night I was at a civic meeting, and the public was in an uproar," Republican City Councilman Liam McLaughlin said yesterday. "They have a lot of unanswered questions."

Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Annabi said the federal investigation had left a "gloomy cloud hanging over the entire City Council."

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NoLandGrab: Everyone seems to be pretty upset, except Bruce Ratner. Last week, a Forest City Ratner spokesperson claimed, ""We know that everything we did to advance Ridge Hill Village was done properly and legally and are not worried about what any investigation might turn up." Reading between the lines, the company wouldn't put out a statement unless they were worried.

The cloud of impropriety has hung over Ratner's Ridge Hill project from its early days, when the local development corporation hired a 20-something-year-old family member of the former mayor, who later ended up on the payroll of Bruce Ratner's company. Last year, the courts reversed the first "final approval" of the project because the Yonkers City Council tried to do an end-run around their own by-laws.

It's funny that Yonkers City Councilmembers are just now noticing the "gloomy cloud hanging over the entire City Council."

Perhaps in an attempt to cheer up the public, Forest City Ratner announced the names of the first retail tenants for Ridge Hill earlier this week.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

March 21, 2007

How to Drive to the Nets Arena

Room 8
By Larry Littlefield

To judge by the reaction at a recent public meeting, people aren’t going to be driving to the Nets arena on one-way Park Slope avenues anytime soon. So how should they do it?

Littlefield proposes some mass-transit solutions that would not only help alleviate arena-bound traffic, but could solve some of the daytime congestion problems systemwide.

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Posted by lumi at 8:27 PM

My Abu Dhabi adventure

UK Guardian, "theblogart&architecture"

Gehry-n-AbuDhabi.jpg I've just turned 78 and am about to design the biggest Guggenheim yet. Can I pull it off?

I'm fine, by the way, but I'm not getting any younger, and I don't want to hang a kind of creative albatross around the neck of my team; I don't want them stuck with a legacy they feel they have to follow. I like experimenting; I want them to.

It's going to take four years to build, so I'll be 82 by the time we're through - it better be good! It's going to be nothing like the new Moma in New York, by the way; that's like a big, shiny department store.

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Suggestion for "My Brooklyn adventure":

I've just turned 78 and am about to design the densest residential community ever. Can I pull it off?

It's going to take twenty years to build, so I'll be, like, 98 by the time we're through - it better be good! It's going to be nothing like MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn, by the way; that's like a gigantic, souless, highrise mall.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 PM

Brownstoner: Wednesday Links, Blight Photo?

Brownstoner featured this photo by Tracy Collins for "Wednesday Links," a daily roundup of online stories.

493_495DeanStsm.jpg

THREE OF THE FOUR BUILDINGS IN THE PHOTO ARE IN BRUCE RATNER'S ATLANTIC YARDS FOOTPRINT.

TWO OF THE THREE HAVE BEEN DECLARED "BLIGHTED" by (surprise!) Ratner's own blight study.

Can you guess which ones? Answer.

[More on the subject of "arbitrary blight" at Atlantic Yards Report.]

Posted by lumi at 10:12 AM

Brooklyn office vacancies may lure newcomers

MetroNY

Bruce Ratner's latest desperate efforts to stem the tide of vacancies in his flagship development hinges on his ability to make MetroTech Brooklyn's next hot neighborhood.

Click image to enlarge: MNY-07-03-21.jpg

From the article:

Companies such as the architecture, engineering and graphic design firms that have set up shop in nearby Williamsburg and Dumbo are the obvious choices for the downtown area.

NoLandGrab: Williamsburg, DUMBO, MetroTech?

Since when is a downtown office park the obvious choice for the cutting-edge creative industries? Are clients really impressed by your cool office in a souless skyscraper located in a superblock campus?

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey explains:

"What is different now in Brooklyn is that it has become a forward-thinking, hip, cool place to be — the idea that it is for back office only is antiquated."

Does Ratner really believe that hiring Frank Gehry to design 19 towers and an arena makes him the arbiter of taste? Does partnering up with Jay-Z suddenly give him street cred?

Being stuck with a glut of office space in the In-Borough doesn't make you forward-thinking or cool.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Marty's "letter" on Atlantic Yards: it depends on the meaning of "soon" (and more)

MartyLetter.jpgAtlantic Yards Report reads between the lines of and explains some of the exagerations in Marty's latest statement on Atlantic Yards.

Marty sez:

We will soon be reaping these and other benefits, such as world-class architecture, an on-site school, street-level shopping, and accessible open space, which will enhance Downtown Brooklyn, knitting together neighborhoods to create a vibrant new center of city life.

Norman Oder explains that it depends on what you mean by "soon" and "benefits" and "world-class" and "knitting-together" and "accessible."

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Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Brownstoner: It’s Me!

He quit his Wall Street gig to blog on Brooklyn real estate; now, the Brownstoner reveals his secret identity: Jonathan Butler

The NY Observer
By Tom Acitelli

JonBrownstoner.jpgAnd how does the recently unmasked blogger feel about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan?

So, for Atlantic Yards, for instance, forget the density, which Mr. Butler believes largely takes a backseat to the sheer aesthetic blight the project might loose upon central Brooklyn.

“My concern is more aesthetic, in that I can’t think of a single example where you have one developer making such a large imprint in an area—especially when you have only one architect,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to engage the existing surrounding communities very well.”

Should Forest City Ratner—the Atlantic Yards’ developer—shudder? Is being on the bad side of a Brownstoner now unencumbered by a day job dangerous?

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Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

A DCP footnote in the Atlantic Yards "permanent campaign"

Atlantic Yards Report

I recently wrote how the public relations effort behind Atlantic Yards represents a "permanent campaign" and yesterday wrote about Forest City Ratner's lobbying of the Department of City Planning (DCP).

FOILMail.gif

So the email message reproduced here, from Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall to Rachaele Raynoff, press secretary at the city's Department of City Planning, shows another footnote in that campaign. (It was obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.)

Raynoff wanted to send a staffer to the 5/11/06 press conference at which architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin unveiled the new Atlantic Yards designs.

Marshall said OK, but asked that the staffer not identify herself to the press: "[A]s it is our event we would be grateful if she, like the other public party people attending (ESDC), not identify herself to the press. We do not want the press or anyone else for that matter, putting any public entity on the spot at this event."

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Atlantic Yards Report isn't part of the "permanent campaign." Therefore, it was probably a good move on Bruce Ratner's part to bar Norman Oder from the same press conference; he would have been the only reporter who might have taken notice.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere36.jpg The Gowanus Lounge, Ratner Beats Steinbrenner: He's Third in '06 Lobbying Spending
GL's observation on Ratner's outstanding ranking in the 2006 lobbyist report:

No. 3, however, turned out to be Bruce Ratner, who spent $2.11 million. Meanwhile, No. 8 was the New York Yankees Partnership, which was looking for state assistance to build a new baseball stadium. Mr. Steinbrenner spent $1.1 million on lobbying, one of the rare instances when he was outspent by another team.

KINETIC CARNIVAL, The 'Mix-Use' of Rides and Condos

[Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Sarah] Ryley also elaborates on the disclosure of Lola Staar's Dianna Carlin as the originator of the newly emerged group "Save Coney Island"

In a limited way, her newly formed group is Coney Island’s version of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the more established group that has recently offered Carlin its expertise from years of fighting the approved Atlantic Yards project.

eOculus, Balancing Great American Cities: Its Form AND Content

[Jane] Jacobs’s observations are increasingly lost as her ideas are appropriated “to sell large, top-down projects,” explained Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA, Professor of Urban Planning at Pratt Institute. He cited the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion as examples of this.

The Daily Gotham, We Give Ratner the Atlantic Yards Land for Free

If you wanted to buy some land to develop for your own profit, would you expect taxpayers to pay the entire bill for you? Well, if you are a law school buddy of Pataki, that is exactly the sweet deal you could get while Pataki was Governor...and the exact deal Bruce Ratner seems to have gotten with you and me footing the bill.
...
Ratner's $100 million bid was finally accepted, part of the controversy where the low bid of a friend of then Governor Pataki was accepted over a higher bid. Now we learn that the city is planning to pay for the entirety of this land purchase?

Corruption runs deep in New York.

The Knickerblogger, Architect of the Idiocracy

We know [Ratner] has a penchant for choosing bad designs, and in an added twist he's chosen fashionable but impractical Frank Gehry - one of the most environmentally unsound architects practicing today.

Free Republic, Barclays Bank Boycott To Protest Eminent Domain Abuse
From comments on the NY Libertarian Party's press release declaring a boycott of Barclays Bank (the bank must be used to it by now):

Huh? WHAT "eminent abuse scheme of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards."? Is this explained above? My aging eyes and inability to stay focused must be failing me again! My apologies, but is it there? If not, are we supposed to know what that was all about?

Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, "All the news that is unfit to print"

A blogger suggests that The NY Times cover itself and the Times Tower, built and co-owned by Bruce Ratner. Details from the lease on file with the SEC bars nearly all uses of a populist or middle-class nature, making one wonder how they managed to justify the taking of private property as a public use.

Knickerblogger, Banana Republic, It Ain't Just A Clothing Label

On Ratner's big tab spent on lobbyists:

I am sure glad Bruce Ratner assured us that he doesn't contribute to politicians to avoid the appearance of impropriety, otherwise we might think something was amiss.

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner's projects are probably so great that they would be approved on their own merit, but in a "banana republic," this is just the cost of doing business... and speaking of Banana Republic...

Other retailers signing leases for space at [Bruce Ratner's] Ridge Hill Village include apparel chains Banana Republic and New York & Company.

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Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

March 20, 2007

Forest City Ratner names first Ridge Hill tenants:

Westchester County Business Journal

Up in Westchester, subpoenas are being passed out like Nets keychains at a street fair, but no worries, Forest City Ratner is cheering up fans of national chain stores with this announcement:

Addressing a real estate group this morning, a Forest City Ratner Cos. executive named the first of what promise to be several retail tenants for the $800 million Ridge Hill Village mixed-use campus planned for Yonkers.

Lon Rubackin, senior vice president of acquisition and leasing with Forest City Ratner, said the project’s tenant roster will include anchors such as National Amusements Inc., set to open a Cinema de Lux multi-screen movie theater; as well as Whole Foods Market Inc. and a new 170,000-square-foot store for The Home Depot.

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Posted by lumi at 9:24 PM

March Radness: Is Round 1 Over Yet?

East Village Idiot

Fill in your brackets folks — footprint property owner Henry Weinstein isn't the only one to recently score an upset against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

Lots of close matches and upsets yesterday. I guess people get frustrated with the status quo on Mondays. The power went to the people, as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn out-protested Atlantic Yards. An influx of voters from a certain non-profit organization’s website seemed to help.

The score:

(3) Atlantic Yards 28 (14) Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn 72

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Posted by lumi at 9:19 PM

Lobby dollars reach record

Health care groups, teachers lead spending that hit $151M in 2006

The Albany Times Union

More coverage of the 2006 New York lobbying report:

Major spenders in 2006 were involved in real estate interests in New York City, particularly the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the site of a proposed pro-basketball stadium, and construction of a new Yankees stadium in the Bronx.
...
"Pay-to-play comes up in this report," she said.

Rachel Leon, director of Common Cause, added: "The ones that are getting heard in Albany are the ones that are spending the most."

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NoLandGrab: PR and lobbying dollars are well spent when reporters continue to refer to the project as the "redevelopment of Atlantic Yards."

"Atlantic Yards" is the brand name assigned by Ratner to the 22-acre project, of which eight acres are comprised of the Vanderbilt Railyards.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 PM

The AYE on two Carlton Ave townhouses

One Hanson Place

CarltonAveTownhouse.jpgResidents in Ft. Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope are looking for signs of AYE: that's the Atlantic Yards effect.

It appears there's a special challenge in selling real estate in the shadow of Atlantic Yards:

In other times, this two-family would most likely have garnered an added premium, but the spector of the AYE may have tempered the asking price just a bit.

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Posted by lumi at 8:48 PM

Feds seek financial documents for Yonkers GOP boss

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

Why do we care about a federal investigation in Yonkers? Because it centers around the approval of Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project.

News broke today about a second subpoena:

YONKERS — The FBI yesterday served a second subpoena on a city entity this month, this time seeking any financial-disclosure documents filed by city Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis, said the chairman of a board charged with collecting the documents.

Ethics Board Chairman Joseph Nocca, a Republican and former city judge, said the board could not fulfill the request, because political party officials are not required to file the financial disclosure documents under a 2005 city law. The Ethics Board, under the City Charter, must collect the documents annually from many city officials and employees.

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Posted by lumi at 8:15 PM

NEW HIGH IN PAY-TO-SWAY

$151M IN LOBBY COSTS

NY Post
By Kenneth Lovett

lobbying-2006.jpg

Special-interest groups spent a record $151 million on lobbying in the Capitol last year - with the health-care industry leading the way at $22.3 million, according to a report released yesterday.
...
The Yankees, Nets owner Bruce Ratner and the city teachers union also were among the top 10 big spenders on lobbying in New York last year, according to the commission's report.

Forest City Ratner Companies, a commercial real-estate development company that is pushing for a Brooklyn stadium for the Nets, ranked third in lobbying expenses last year, having spent $2.1 million, according to the report.

The company, run by developer Bruce Ratner, signed the priciest single lobbying contract - $656,520 with Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

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Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Forest City Ratner’s spending on lobbyists: large, but small—and with a big payoff

lobbyists.jpgAtlantic Yards Report has last season's stats for Forest City Ratner's lobbying efforts:

As announced yesterday in a state report, [Forest City Ratner] spent $2.1 million last year, ranking third in the state but far outpacing any other organization involved in real estate projects.
...
The largest single lobbying contract, $656,520, went to law firm of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, representing Forest City Ratner.

Coming in second, with a $527,875 contract from Columbia University, was the law firm of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, which also represents Forest City, though not as a lobbyist. Columbia also has a dicey land use project involving eminent domain.

Also, Forest City Ratner ranked second, tied with the American Lawyer Media Company, behind Verizon in retaining the largest number of lobbyists: 8; up from 7 in 2005. And it’s worth mentioning that the amount of money spent on lobbyists for real estate and construction rose more than 48% over 2005.

That's a lot of dough, unless you consider how much Ratner stands to make:

On the other hand, $2.1 million isn‚t much. It represents barely .05% for a $4 billion project, though a significantly higher fraction of the money Forest City would put up itself. Then again, should the project work out as expected, $2 million should be easy to recoup it's revenue from the sale of two condos or perhaps ten of 172 arena suites in just one year.
...
If the lobbyists actually persuaded the city to more than double its contribution from $100 million to $205 million—enough to cover the developer’s bid for the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard, as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn points out—well, they certainly earned their keep.

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Note: The image is our own flourish — Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder wouldn't stoop so low.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Report: Ratner among state lobby leaders

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Forest City Ratner spent roughly $2.11 million on lobbying efforts last year for its $4 billion Atlantic Yards development plan, making it the state’s third highest spender, trailing a health care lobbyist group and Verizon. The state’s recently released figures prompted outcry yesterday from project foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

The group criticized Forest City Ratner for its spending on lobbyists in light of recent news that rather than having the developer dip into its own pockets to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the rights to build over the rail yards, the city may cough up an additional $100 million in taxpayer money for the 8.5-acre parcel of the 22-acre site.

The largest single lobbying contract in 2006 was the $656,520 Forest City Ratner paid the Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson firm. The report also shows that Forest City Ratner employed eight different lobby firms last year.

Also, another development threatening the use of eminent domain coughed up beaucoup bucks to get their point across to state officials:

Columbia University, which is eyeing expansion in West Harlem, paid the second-largest contract — $527,875 — to Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

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Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

Groups Spent a Record $151 Million Lobbying in 2006

AP, via The NY Sun
By Mark Johnson

Businesses and special interest groups spent a record $151 million lobbying in Albany last year, the state Lobbying Commission said yesterday.
...
After HANYS, Verizon Communications Inc. spent the second most on lobbying — $2.2 million. Forest City Ratner Cos., the company behind the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, spent $2.1 million.

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Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Lobbying Ms. Burden: DCP gives up on WillyB blockage, mall "overbuild"

Atlantic Yards Report explains that Forest City Ratner lobbied the Department of City Planning and considers what the Atlantic Yards developer got in return.

So what did Forest City Ratner get from having Fried Frank lawyer Melanie Meyers, a former general counsel (1994-1998) to the Department of City Planning (DCP), lobby her old agency last year regarding Atlantic Yards? (Fried Frank had the largest single lobbying contract in the state.)

We can't be certain, but documents acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request show that DCP in 2006 backed down from two requests--including a request not to block the Williamsburgh Savings Bank--made by City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden in the previous year.

Moreover, DCP last year participated in a clear charade--a "recommendation" that Forest City Ratner reduce the height of several buildings, even though the developer had put most of the cuts on the table several months early.

For readers who are not aware of the three additional towers being designed by Gehry and built by Ratner over the Atlantic Center Mall, this is a must read.

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Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Speculation rampant in wake of Yonkers City Council subpoenas

The Journal News

Commentator Phil Reisman nearly does a stand-up routine on Ridge Hill and the latest subpoena:

It inevitably comes up in conversation every time there's an investigation into the dealings of Yonkers city government: "Yonkers is the City of Hills where nothing is on the level." That the current federal probe might be focusing on Ridge Hill - an actual hill - potentially gives literal meaning to the old bromide.

How big is Ridge Hill?

...so big it should carry its own ZIP code and be renamed Disneyland.

Seriously folks:

Suspicion has clouded this project almost from the start. Much of it has to do with the Ridge Hill Development Corp., a private group of appointed developers and city insiders set up by the Yonkers Industrial Agency to push the project along.
...
All that is publicly known is that on March 2 Yonkers City Council was slapped with a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office, which declined to comment as to what the investigation was about. And yesterday, Yonkers Republican Committee Chairman Zehy Jereis was named in a second subpoena served the Yonkers City Ethics Board.

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NoLandGrab: The Yonkers grapevine tells us that Republican Committee Chairman Zehy Jereis is a cousin of City Council Member Annabi, who switched her vote to grant final approval to Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project. If this is true, then things just got real interesting in Yonkers.

Additional coverage:
Yonkers Tribune, Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis Subject of Subpoena Served on Yonkers Board of Ethics By Hezi Aris

Judge Nocca advised that the subpoena requested financial disclosures of the Yonkers Republican City Committee Chairman Zehy Jereis.

The Honorable Nocca pointed out that the newly enacted Yonkers Code of Ethics permitted jurisdiction over two categories of personnel; either city employees, or city officials. Mr. Jereis is nether a city employee nor a city official. That being the case, Judge Nocca believes that there may be little information that the Yonkers Board of Ethics may have purview that will satisfy the request of the the subpoena.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

Bring Basketbrawl to Brooklyn, or a residential neighborhood near you

A reminder why NY City zoning regulations do not allow for arenas and stadiums in or near residential neighborhoods.

Only, the Atlantic Yards' Nets arena is special, because NY State is overriding all local zoning rules to ensure that residents in Prospect Heights just have to cross the street to get to the latest basketbrawl.

NY1, Twenty-One People Arrested After Garden Basketbrawl
On the bright side, NY1 is reporting that "Officials at Madison Square Garden also said they will consider whether or not to host the event in the future."

Wanna bet that Bruce Ratner and Marty Markowitz have already made the call to bring basketbrawl to Brooklyn?

The NY Times, Gunfire and Fights Erupt in Midtown After School Basketball Game

No worries, if basketbrawl came to Brooklyn, anxious and maurauding crowds would probably spill over into the BAM cultural district or MetroTech, not your back yard:

After the game, hundreds of the teenagers descended on Times Square, where there were a handful of fights, some among the teenagers themselves and others with employees of local establishments. In one fight, a teenage girl pulled a hairpiece off the head of a cashier at a pizza restaurant and ran off with it.

Lucky for Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards' publicly accessible open space (fondly called "a park" by the developer) would be closed to the public after 8PM, to insure that project residents wouldn't have to interact with fans.

CBS2 News, Police Arrest 21 In 'March Badness' MSG Brawl
Exclusive footage from the Garden, Times Square and the subway.

Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

Fried Frank Wins Brooklyn 'Shell Game'

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

And the award for "Largest Single Lobbying Contract in Albany in 2006" goes to...

...Bruce Ratner, for Atlantic Yards, the controversial development that's so great for New York that they can't help spending more money just for funsies.

The Real Estate thinks the big winner in all of this is lobbying firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which received $656,520 for its efforts. Among other targets listed in its lobbying report are "acquisition of Atlantic Avenue railyards from MTA" and "acquisition of city-owned property at Atlantic Yards."

Apparently, Mr. Fried and Mr. Frank persuaded Forest City that it needed their help persuading the state and the city to do things that they pledged when they signed a memorandum of understanding (PDF) back in 2005, and for a sweet price.

In its registration letter filed with the state lobbying commission, Forest City agreed to pay up to $995 an hour for Fried Frank's services.

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Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

Forest City Enterprises Notice of Year-End Earnings

Conference Call Thursday March 29, 2007, 11:00 A.M. ET

From Cleveland dBusinessNews:

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB):

TO: Interested analysts, brokers and investors

FROM: Forest City Enterprises

RE: Forest City’s Year-End Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises will release its fiscal 2006 financial results on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 and will hold a conference call on Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 11:00 A.M. ET to discuss these results. You are invited to dial into the conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Thursday March 29, 2007. To participate, dial 1-866-277-1182, using access code 95909835, approximately five minutes before the call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City Year-End Earnings Conference Call. The live broadcast will also be available online at www.forestcity.net.

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Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

March 19, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: In Buying Albany’s Approval and the City’s Acquiescence

Bruce Ratner Was Number 3 Lobbying Spender During 2006
“Atlantic Yards” Developer Spent $2.11 Million on Lobbying Without Spending a Cent on Acquiring Vanderbilt Rail Yards

BROOKLYN, NY—It was reported today that Bruce Ratner’s firm Forest City Ratner was the number three lobbying spender in NY State during 2006, spending $2.11 million to push forward his $4 billion “Atlantic Yards” proposal. The development firm trailed only the healthcare industry and Verizon. Forest City Ratner paid the largest single lobbying contract in 2006, $656,520, to Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

Meanwhile it was recently revealed that New York City taxpayers will contribute $100 million in cash for Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” related “land acquisition.” Since, in 2005, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) agreed to sell Ratner the rights to the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Railyards for $100 million it has become clear that the City’s taxpayers are paying for the railyards so Ratner can get the yards for free.

“Forest City Ratner had $2.11 million to lobby Albany on ‘Atlantic Yards’ but will not spend a single penny to purchase the rail yards which comprise over one-third of the development site Bruce Ratner desires. Instead NYC taxpayers will pay to buy the yards for Ratner. It's an exquisite shell game,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. “Ratner has also left NYC taxpayers holding the entire bag when it comes to the so-called ‘extraordinary infrastructure costs’–or blank check–necessitated by his development experiment in extreme density founded upon eminent domain abuse. The taxpayers are being forced to pay Ratner’s bills without any say in the matter.”

Forest City Ratner employed eight different lobbying firms in an Albany climate that is sure to change under Governor Spitzer’s reforms.

The NY State Lobbying report is available here: http://nylobby.state.ny.us/ann_rept06/index.html

Posted by lumi at 10:52 PM

PRESS RELEASE: SPUNK LADS REUNION SHOW

April 4th concert to benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Spunk Lads
with The Choke, Seanchai & The Unity Squad, and the Blackout Shoppers
at Southpaw, 125 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (718) 230-0236
$15 -- proceeds go to DDDB's Legal Fund
Doors at 7pm, show promptly at 8pm

Spunk-reunion.gifLondon's legendary punk icons, The Spunk Lads, will reunite to raise money for the fight against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Joining the lads on the bill is Irish hip-hop band Seanchai & The Unity Squad, The Choke, and the Blackout Shoppers.

Formed at the outset of punk's London heyday, the Lads -- singer Nick Knickers, guitarist Bloody Dick, bassist Prince Albert and drummer Jackson Bollocks -- influenced every great Western punk band, and a few Eastern ones as well, plus a handful of Northern acts and at least one really fab Southern band. The Lads' original tenure as punk luminaries ran from 1976 through 1979. Twenty years later, the Lads discovered they had all relocated to Brooklyn, New York. In 2000, the band reunited, and over the next five years released the seminal albums Paddington Station, G.M.T. and Girl At The March. The Lads called it a day in 2005.

"Ratner's bollocks, he is" says Knickers. "Cities grow one punter at a time. London's not great 'cause of the Millenium Wheel or Big Ben -- it's great 'cause of the chippie, the corner shop, the people who make it breathe one thread at a time. Same with Brooklyn -- it ain't for limo-chauffered developers, it's for the rest of us."

The event will raise funds for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fund. DDDB is currently fighting legal battles in state and federal courts to prevent Ratner's Atlantic Yards development from moving forward. DDDB, part of a coaltion of over 50 community, religious and grass roots groups and elected officials, is working toward honest development of the Vanderbilt rail yards that benefits all New Yorkers.

For more information, contact: Scott Turner, 718-499-8729, scottmx@pipeline.com

11:00 -- The Spunk Lads
10:00 -- The Choke
9:00 -- Seanchai & The Unity Squad
8:00 -- Blackout Shoppers

Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

2006 lobbying breaks record, tripled since '96

Gannett News Service, via Ithaca Journal
By YANCEY ROY

stack-o-bills.jpgBruce Ratner was the third biggest spender in lobbying officials in Albany last year, doling out $2.11 million to convince politicians that Atlantic Yards and his other projects are good for NY.

Ratner was only outspent by the Healthcare Association of New York State and Verizon.

Special-interest groups spent a record $151 million trying to influence politics at the State Capitol in 2006, fueled by fights over health care, telecommunications and sports stadiums.

The amount spent on lobbying in New York has tripled in just 10 years, according to a report issued Monday.

The money represents spending on advertising, salaries of lobbyists, meals bought for legislators and similar costs. It does not include campaign contributions.
...
Bruce Ratner, who wants to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn to house the now-New Jersey Nets NBA team, ranked No. 3 at $2.11 million.

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Read the NY State's 2006 Lobbying Report, where Ratner ranks #1 for the single largest lobbying contract for 2006 at a whopping $656,520.

Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM

Burden: A big city needs big projects

Amanda Burden makes her case for Atlantic Yards, in Crain's NY Business only she makes up the part about a land called "Atlantic Yards" being a "big gaping hole in the heart of Brooklyn" (it's called "Vanderbilt Yards" and is only a third of the project's acreage). She also forgot the part about 6,460 residences, which would make it the densest residential community in the nation.

Amanda Burden, head of the city Planning Department and chair of the City Planning Commission, tackles questions about some of New York's most important development and planning issues in this Q&A excerpted from a recent Crain's New York Business breakfast forum.

Q: Were you surprised by the extent and vociferous nature of the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn?

A: As I recall, the Atlantic Yards had deep and wide support throughout the community. There was vociferous opposition, as there always is with big projects. But we're a big city, and we need big projects. Atlantic Yards was a gaping hole in the heart of Brooklyn. Now it will provide a fantastic venue for a sports facility, retail and entertainment, and it is on top of a transit hub, which fits our strategy of sustainable growth.

Q: Amid a surge in development, a debate has been reopened on whose vision of how to develop the city — that of Robert Moses or Jane Jacobs — is the right one. How do you view the debate, and who is the guide for the Bloomberg administration?

A: Of course, both Jane Jacobs and Roberts Moses were right to a certain degree. Robert Moses got things done, and Jane Jacobs argued for diversity and texture.

But a lot of people misinterpret Jane Jacobs because she welcomed diversity. She knew there was going to be serendipitous change in the city, and she understood this was a big city that welcomed that change. But what she encouraged was not only diversity, but that the public and the affected communities participate in the planning process that would make that happen. And in fact, that is what we are doing now.

She also really embraced the idea that if you're planning for communities, you plan from the ground up. That's where Robert Moses began to fatally fail. He looked at the city — I think he even rented planes to fly over it — and saw it as patterns of roads and connectivity.

He failed to look at the importance of the strength of neighborhoods and of building on individual neighborhood strengths. If he had planned that way, his planning would have been much more sustainable, endurable and, in fact, welcomed. The best projects he did were his public open-space projects, like Jones Beach and Orchard Beach. That's where he focused on the fine detail, from the ground up.

Q: Columbia University has been attempting to begin development of a second campus in West Harlem for several years, but there's been very little progress. Is the university's project vital for the city, and is there any hope of a compromise between Columbia and its opponents in the community?

A: Columbia is a major and important institution in this city. It's a major employer; actually, all private universities are very much a critical part of the economy. The expansion of Columbia is very important to the school's future.

At the same time, the Community Board 9 in upper Manhattan has a very clear vision for how they would like to see their community developed. And it's a very different vision than the one Columbia has.

I'm confident there will be an agreement during the city's land-use review process. There's something about the process that focuses the mind and gets two sides together. They haven't gotten together yet, but I'm totally confident they will. And it'll be a total win-win for both Columbia and the community.

Q: Four years ago, the city announced plans to revitalize Coney Island, but little has happened since. What is the status of the plan to rezone the area, and do you favor including residential use in the entertainment zone, as the landlord who owns most the property wants?

A: Our rezoning plans for Coney Island will provide substantial opportunities for residential development, let me reassure you of that.

I don't know if you know that Coney Island used to be the No. 1 tourist destination in the entire world — and the amusements are part of its iconic character, its magic, its worldwide renown and its brand name. Amusements are incompatible with immediately adjacent residential use, so we do not think residential use immediately adjacent to the amusements is appropriate.

Q: As the number of apparel jobs in the city shrinks, the garment district continues to be governed by regulations restricting the amount of space that can be used for offices. Isn't it time to revisit these archaic rules?

A: Within the month, we will be announcing a plan to overhaul those restrictions.

We are the fashion capital of the world, and the fashion industry is a huge, huge component of our economy. But the garment center has perhaps the most anachronistic zoning restrictions in the entire city, and it's a bad place to invest in buildings. It's not a good place to even work, because of the lack of investment.

So what we will be doing is relaxing the zoning requirements and restrictions in the area, and liberalizing the kind of uses that can happen there.

We will not be allowing residential use there because the garment center provides a very important supply of Class B and C office space. We think preserving [that] office space is a very important niche in the city's economy for emerging businesses.

Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

Money for Ratner and the Railyards for Free

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wants you to know that taxpayers are purchasing the railyard for Bruce Ratner.

%24100.gif

The coalition group opposing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan connects THE DOT and crunches THE NUMBER to bring you this explanation:

In September 2005 Bruce Ratner agreed to pay the MTA $100 million for the rights to the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Railyards, which comprise over one-third of the "Atlantic Yards" project site. The MTA reached that lowball agreement despite the competing bid of $150 million by Extell Development Company and the $214.5 appraisal.

Last week it was revealed that New York City would give $100 million in taxpayer funds to Bruce Ratner for "land acquisition."

No need to connect the dots here, it's one dot.

The City is using taxpayer dollars to buy the railyard rights for Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

The Motion carries, but what does it say?

A closer examination of what went on after the presentation of the Department of Transportation's plan to convert 6th & 7th Avenues in Park Slope to one-way thoroughfares

By Kevin Burget
Filmmaker, WideIris.net
Park Slope, Brooklyn

BrooklynPapers.com posted a nice upbeat video of the Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting, but having more footage from that meeting might be useful. There were many good speeches with politicians going emphatically on the record. However, more importantly, none of the triumphalism of the Brooklyn Paper's piece made its way into the single most important consequence of the meeting — the written Motion that becomes the salient part of the record.

It turns out this Motion didn't, as The Brooklyn Paper reports, "vote the proposal down." It said the proposal requires "further study."

HOW THE PRESS GOT IT WRONG
This wasn't the impression given to those in attendance. The proposer of the Motion did actually say "we ask that the DOT [Department of Transportation] withdraw this proposal at this time; there are many questions, we want to get a lot of data." But when the meaning of the Motion was unclear to some who spoke up in the house, the Meeting Chair recapped by saying the Motion "is basically, to withdraw this proposal for 6th and 7th." This clarification met with huge applause in the end, as people did take it to be an unequivocal rejection, or statement of an intention to reject the DOT proposal at the next meeting.

The text of the motion that came out of the meeting, it turns out, makes no such intention clear, and may be reflecting the idiosyncratic bias of the motion's writer, which was neither in accord with unanimous opinion in the room, nor indeed with the definition given by the Meeting Chair. This is not a subtle distinction, as sending it back to the DOT for more study implies that people had lingering questions that were unanswered, and therefore could not decide, up or down, on the proposal.

The very purpose of this meeting was for the DOT to make a proposal and for people to ask questions. The proposal was made, all the local politicians asked questions and then gave their impressions, uniformly negative. No one asked questions about the proposal that the DOT said it could not answer at the time. There simply were no more questions, no lingering doubts.

While clearly people had much to say further against the plan and were forestalled by this precipitous calling of a Motion, all were eventually satisfied by the explanation that the Motion meant CB6's rejection of the plan to convert 6th and 7th to one-way avenues in Park Slope.

It is inaccurate and spurious of the author of that Motion to have written something less definitive. It misrepresents the community, the "ayes" of the Board Members present, and it now misleads the community at large.

I'd go so far as to say it's even a loophole for the DOT, which can go back and "study the issue" some more and come back with the very same recommendation, only now they can say they listened to the community. I do hope I'm over thinking this, but the wording of this Motion in no way says CB6 will reject this Plan, and I hope it can be corrected and a New Motion raised at the next meeting that reflects the truly universal opposition to this plan by the Park Slope community.

Footage of the meeting excerpt in question:
Wide Iris (QuickTime)
YouTube (Shockwave Flash)

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

CBA "watchdog" sought to ensure "history making" benefits "for local community"

Atlantic Yards Report

Two yet-to-be-hired Atlantic Yards monitors will be paid by developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), but it's important to keep the two straight.

The more important one will be an Environmental Monitor (EM)--the process is already behind schedule--hired by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to oversee construction activities, environmental mitigations, and much more. Residents concerned about communications difficulties have already urged the ESDC to put construction on hold until such a monitor is hired.

In case you haven't guessed which is the less-important one, that would be the "independent" monitor hired by the groups paid by Ratner to support the project (you know, the groups that were MIA when Ratner's contractors shut off the water to the neighborhood two weeks ago.)

Meanwhile, Forest City wants you to know about another monitor, an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) that is part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

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Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

PRESS RELEASE: BARCLAYS BANK BOYCOTT TO PROTEST EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE

BarclaysBoycott.gifBrooklyn, NY 3/19/07 New York Libertarian Party leaders Richard Cooper and Gary Popkin call for a nationwide boycott of Barclays Bank due to its participation in the eminent domain abuse scheme of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards. Barclays, a British bank with branches in America, agreed to pay the developer Forest City Ratner over $305 million for naming rights to the Nets basketball team’s arena over a thirty-year period. Libertarian State Chair Cooper notes that millions of Americans were outraged by last year’s Kelo decision by the Supreme Court upholding eminent domain transfers to private developers. The Libertarians offer an opportunity to demonstrate opposition in a material way.

Brooklyn-Queens Libertarian Party Chair Popkin dubs “…the Barclays participation in eminent domain is an outrage as a private enterprise disrespecting property rights.” Popkin notes that controversy was stirred in Brooklyn because of the sordid past of the British bank in the slave trade. He declares that “The actions of the bankers of centuries past do not taint the arena. It is participation in the eminent domain scheme that taints whoever participates in it.”

Cooper continues, “To Libertarians, corporate sports welfare and eminent domain abuse are legalized theft, stealing from taxpayers and landowners. Barclays chose to become an accomplice of Bruce Ratner. They should both bear the outrage of indignant Americans who favor freedom and justice.”

The Libertarian Party of New York has fought eminent domain that would have dispossessed St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church on Long Island and a neighborhood in New Rochelle to make way for an Ikea Swedish furniture store, besides the NY Times headquarters scheme that Cooper dubbed “Time$cam.” Cooper and Rev. Fred Jenkins of St. Luke’s will speak on the church’s victimization and how the Libertarian Party helped them at the state convention to be held Saturday, April 28th at the Radisson MacArthur in Holtsville, Long Island.

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Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

Green Grows Brooklyn

WorldChanging.com
By Emily Gertz

The long shadows of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan reached as far as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during last week's urban gardener meeting, Making Brooklyn Bloom.

Elba Cornier of Olympus Garden Club told me a lot about the frustrations of Fort Greene-area gardeners who fear they will lose lovingly cultivated green spaces to the Atlantic Yards development.

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NoLandGrab: This is the second go-around with Bruce Ratner for Bear's Garden (see, *Atlantic Yards Report, "Brooklyn Bear's Garden faces the (shadowy, noisy) future").*

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Why wait to celebrate?

celebrate.gifDowntown Express

It won’t be until 2009 when developer Bruce Ratner will be ready to pop the bubbly for the opening of his Beekman St. project, but a passerby apparently couldn’t wait until then, leaving an empty bottle at the site. Construction crews have begun building the foundation for the residential tower and K-8 school that is being designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry -- who is still fine tuning the plan. A Ratner spokesperson said there are still no final renderings to release.

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NoLandGrab: The foundation has been poured and still no final renderings?

Part of this Gehry-Ratner project is a public school that is the most expensive school ever built by the Department of Education. Keep this in mind when Ratner promises the community schools on and off the Atlantic Yards site.

Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

March 18, 2007

Two Veterans of Bad Old Days in Brooklyn

times3.07.jpg

NY Times
STEPHEN P. WILLIAMS

LITTLE BUDDY, a k a Jack Solomita, age 3, stood on a dining room chair and swung a blue and green key chain decorated with a logo for the still-a-dream Brooklyn Nets basketball team. His father, Pete Solomita, a chef who bakes cookies at home for his Little Buddy Biscuit Company, winced.

“He loves that key chain,” said Mr. Solomita, 49, looking around the ground floor of his family’s three-story brick town house on 16th Street in South Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Jack didn’t yet understand that his parents are not as enthusiastic about Forest City Ratner’s plans to build rental apartments and condominiums, office towers, a hotel and a sports arena for the Nets in Brooklyn.

Mr. Solomita and his wife, Jill Vinitsky, 47, are both from Long Island, but they have each lived in long-neglected South Brooklyn for decades. While they aren’t against development, per se, they contend that too much thoughtless building is going on in the borough.

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Posted by amy at 3:16 PM

Do the Public Benefits of the Atlantic Yards Project Outweigh the Costs?

You are invited:

Screening of "Brooklyn Matters" + Eminent Domain Panel
Wednesday, March 21st at 6pm
Vanderbilt Hall, Room 204
Refreshments will be served!

"Brooklyn Matters" is a new film about the Atlantic Yards project produced & directed by Isabel Hill. Screening to be followed by a panel discussion on eminent domain use in relation to the project.

Panelists:
Vicki Been
Professor of Law, NYU School of Law
Director, Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy

Daniel Goldstein
Co-founder, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Lead Plaintiff, Goldstein v. Pataki (Federal Eminent Domain Lawsuit)

Ron Shiffman
New York City Planning Commissioner, 1990-1996
Co-founder, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development

Moderator:
Mitchell Moss
Professor of Urban Planning and Policy, NYU Wagner

Sponsored by the Urban Planning Students Association (UPSA), Real Estate & Urban Policy Forum (REUPF), Students of African Descent Alliance (SADA), Wagner Transportation Association, (WTA) Wagner Environmental Policy & Action (WEPA), Wagner Finance Society (WFS), Alliance of Latino and Latin American Students (ALAS) & Wagner Policy Alliance (WPA)

Please RSVP at http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/brooklynmatters.php by 10am on Wednesday, March 21st

Posted by amy at 10:38 AM

Sunday Comix

dodgersnets.jpg

Posted by amy at 9:58 AM

For Neighbors, Happiness Is a Two-Way Street

NY Times
By JAKE MOONEY

By Thursday, eight days after a report on the plan to make Sixth and Seventh Avenues into one-way streets first surfaced on Streetsblog.com, a Web site run by Aaron Naparstek, a local writer and bicycling and pedestrian advocate, fliers lined local streets, petitions had circulated and almost 200 people were packed into an auditorium at New York Methodist Hospital to hear the first official details made public. An additional 250 could be heard cheering and booing from the lobby and the rain-soaked sidewalk.

By the end of the night, a stream of residents and elected officials had criticized the proposal, and the transportation committee of Community Board 6 had passed a resolution asking the city’s Transportation Department to kill the plan. According to the department’s presentation, the plan was intended to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists, “enhance mobility” and “better serve current and future land uses.”

Critics, including the Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Neighbors, which gathered more than 1,400 signatures on petitions opposing the proposal, say traffic would move much faster on one-way streets, making them less safe. Some contend that the plan’s real goal is to provide easier access to the proposed Atlantic Yards tower and arena complex at the northern edge of the neighborhood, although the presentation by the Transportation Department never mentioned that idea directly.

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NoLandGrab: Although KILL! is an exciting action word, it's little too exciting for this story. The motion was 'tabled' not 'killed.' Rich Calder made a similar error in the Post.

Posted by amy at 9:55 AM

Crime trumps traffic: the Post-tabloidization of the Courier-Life tabloid

NewsCovers3.07.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, I picked up my copy of the Park Slope Courier, part of the Courier-Life chain, and looked for any mention of the proposed traffic changes that have the neighborhood up in arms. There was no coverage of concerns or a preview of the Community Board Transportation Committee meeting Thursday (which occurred past the paper's deadline). So much for the "Your Neighborhood -- Your News" slogan.

The front page stories concerned a Park Slope man stabbed in Manhattan last weekend, a local teen who needs a transplant, and a local man convicted of molestation. Crime--and human interest--but not "our news." Oh, let's not forget--a banner advertising "The Boro's ultimate classifieds" and "16 pages of SmartSource coupons."
...
The Brooklyn Paper has its flaws, including its own tabloid tendencies, but it's been on top of the traffic story, offering front-page coverage two straight weeks on the traffic plan. The Brooklyn Paper even covered the Thursday hearing online.
...
On Thursday, I did see a photographer who contributes to the Courier-Life at the meeting, so maybe we'll see some coverage next week. Still, anyone who thinks that "GUNNING FOR KELLY" and "SHOCK OVER SLAYING" are the big news headlines in Park Slope has been spending too much time in tabloid-land.

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NoLandGrab: Maybe Norman would have been more excited about the coupon section if he had clipped out this one: "MTA Properties, Half Price with This Coupon!" Of course, the small print was disappointing: "Selected developers only, not to be combined with community oriented principles."

Posted by amy at 9:41 AM

'1-WAY' SHOT IS BLOCKED

NY Post
Rich Calder

A controversial city plan to turn Sixth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope into one-way streets leading to and from the future Brooklyn home of the NBA's Nets appears dead.

The transportation committee of Community Board 6 voted Thursday night to recommend that its full board say "no way" next month to the Department of Transportation's proposal to make Seventh Avenue run only south between Flatbush and Prospect avenues and Sixth Avenue run only north between 23rd Street and Atlantic Avenue.

The move, sources said, should kill the plan since the board usually backs its committees and DOT has said it will drop the idea if it's rejected.

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Posted by amy at 9:39 AM

STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY

pruittigoe.jpg

Boston Globe
Christopher Shea

"You wouldn't want a city made up of buildings by Gehry, [Rem] Koolhaas, or [Daniel] Libeskind," Glazer says in an interview, invoking three of today's leading-light architects. "That would be a World's Fair. It wouldn't be a city."
...
Brooklyn, meanwhile, will not too long from now see something very much like a small city of Gehry buildings: Gehry is the designer of the $4 billion, 20-plus acre Atlantic Yards project, brainchild of the developer Bruce Ratner, that will include a basketball arena for the NBA's Nets and residential towers, 17 structures in all -- including the tallest building in Brooklyn.

Is this not like the old modernist city-shaping? Glazer says no: Atlantic Yards was "not a Gehry-designed project. It was more or less designed by the developer." Gehry adds his signature touches, but most of the program -- the number of housing units, the density -- grew out of a purely commercial calculus. (He also thinks the project is too big, but that's a different issue.)

"I'm talking about people who were thinking about how to create a better city," Glazer says. And from that important conversation, Glazer says, architects have been missing.

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Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

March 17, 2007

Brooklyn Bridge Park Expects Tons of Snow & Rats

BrookBridgeParkSnow.jpg

Curbed

If an arena to justify luxury towers isn't amusing enough for you, check out the nearby excitement of condos-in-a-park:

The excellent renderings aside, Brooklyn Bridge Park has been under scrutiny lately for what some people say is a budget that's been enlarged to justify condo development. Today's Metro reviews some of the details including a workforce of 53 to 94 people to look after 62 acres. Snow removal (by hand) would take up to 9,198 hours, or enough work to employ 4.4 people full-time and year-round. People that maintain the lawn sprinklers would make $45.07 an hour. And expect the park to have way more rats than the West Village KFC-Taco Bell: rat control will take 8,286 hours & 4 full-time workers. Nice lawn sprinkler gig.

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NoLandGrab: And although that's a lovely rendering of skating under the bridge, NoLandGrab learned from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund that salt falling from the bridge would melt the ice, making this scene impossible. Or maybe they extend the lawn sprinkler job into a year round, lawn sprinkler/salt catcher gig.

Posted by amy at 12:33 PM

Arena, 2010 (but early 2010)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Atlantic Yards arena open for the beginning of the basketball season in 2009, or for the 2010 season--or maybe early 2010? The predictions deserve another look, especially given a new hint from the insider publication Sports Business Journal.

After Forest City Enterprises' Chuck Ratner earlier this month said the arena would open in time for the 2010-11 NBA season, Forest City Ratner released a statement that said the arena would open by the 2009-10 season.

That doesn't necessarily promise that the arena would open at the beginning of the season, just some time that season. The same language appears on the Atlantic Yards web site.

And Sports Business Journal, in its 2/26/07 issue, reported: The Nets, for example, could open their Barclays Center in early 2010 instead of late 2009, according to a source familiar with the project...

That would still contradict the estimates in the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan, approved by the Empire State Development Corporation on 12/8/06. That document states (p. 9):
Based on the current schedule, the Arena would open in time for the 2009 NBA season in October.

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Posted by amy at 12:27 PM

Clarifying the Community Board 6 committee vote, and the genesis of the DoT plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Some commentary and reportage on the vote by the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee Thursday night overstated the opposition to the city Department of Transportation's plans to make Sixth and Seventh avenues one-way.

The Brooklyn Paper offered the headline Board votes down one-way proposal. On Streetsblog, Aaron Naparstek wrote that the committee "fully and unequivocally rejected" the proposal.

Actually, as reported in this blog, as well as by Robert Guskind in the Gowanus Lounge and Neil deMause in the Village Voice online, the committee, expressing disapproval, voted to table discussion on the plans until further talks with DoT and implementation of community-requested changes. The DoT's plans for Fourth Avenue were similarly put on hold.

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Posted by amy at 12:18 PM

Nets Lose Their Way, and Few Take Notice

New York Times
By WILLIAM C. RHODEN

Why is Isiah Thomas, the embattled Knicks coach, dragged through the coals in New York while Lawrence Frank, the coach of the meandering Nets, receives a pass?

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NoLandGrab: This will no doubt be a disappointing read for anyone who hoped the headline was missing the words "to Brooklyn."

Posted by amy at 12:15 PM

FCRC expands Nets b-ball clinic

Courier-Life

You might not be surprised that the Courier-Life newspaper basically reprinted a press release from Forest City Ratner as news. But you might be surprised to see that Courier-Life went one step further and was nice enough to correct a headline typo for FCR!

FCR:
Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) today announced that it is extending its free Nets basketball clinic series in Brooklyn and added an all–Brooklyn tournament in June. Each month for the next five months, FCRC and the Nets will be offering two free “Bringing It to Brooklyn” basketball clinics per month to elementary and junior high school students throughout Brooklyn. The clinics will culminate with an all-borough 1,000 kid tournament in June, featuring some of the next basketball stars of Brooklyn .

Courier-Life:
Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) will be extending its free Nets basketball clinic series in Brooklyn and adding an all-Brooklyn tournament in June. Each month for the next five months, FCRC and the Nets will be offering two free “Bringing it to Brooklyn” basketball clinics per month to elementary and junior high school students throughout Brooklyn. The clinics will culminate with an all-borough 1,000 kid tournament in June, featuring some of the next basketball stars of Brooklyn.

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And when newspapers simply reprint corporate press releases, we all win.

Posted by amy at 12:03 PM

Atlantic Yards suffers setback

Courier-Life
Stephen Witt

In court filings, Weinstein said that FCRC never made him a firm offer for his properties, and that FCRC implied that if he did not sell, the Empire State Development Corporation would take the property through eminent domain.

Weinstein is also one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop the use of eminent domain to proceed with the $4 billion project.

“I’ve always believed in the rule of law,” Weinstein said following the decision.

“I’m pleased that the truth prevailed today, and I am confident that my co-plaintiffs and I will win our challenge to Ratner’s unconstitutional use of the power of eminent domain,” he added.

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Posted by amy at 12:00 PM

March 16, 2007

Mr. Ratner's Driveway? No Way!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out that even though DOT tried to disabuse residents of the notion that the proposed changes had anything to do with Atlantic Yards, community leaders weren't buying it:

Denworth-JB.jpg

Inside, after DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia tried to make the case for the proposed changes, several members of Community Board Six, representatives of civic organizations, and neighborhood residents voiced what so many critics of the DOT's plan believe: that the real reason for the proposed traffic changes is that Bruce Ratner needs a driveway.

“You say [DOT's proposal] won’t induce traffic,” said Lydia Denworth, President of the Park Slope Civic Council. “You left out the 800-pound gorilla” — the arena.

“There’s only one reason for the proposed changes, and that’s Atlantic Yards,” added Jeff Strabone, a CB6 board member.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:14 PM

Community Board 6 — Traffic & Transportation Comm. Meeting Report

CitySeal-c.gifAt the March 15th Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) Transportation Committee meeting the committee heard a presentation by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on two proposals regarding Park Slope traffic. After DOT went through their presentation during the period of questions that followed it was clear that the committee and community were interested in seeing more data from the department, engaging the department and the community in more of a comprehensive, collaborative planning process, and hearing from other parties that would be impacted by the proposal such as New York City Transit and Brooklyn Community Board 7. The following motions were adopted by the committee, and will be presented for a vote to the full Community Board at their next meeting of April 11th:

Motion 1: CB6 thanks DOT for their efforts to improve pedestrian safety and facilitate the flow of traffic in and around Park Slope as dialogue and discussions are always beneficial; however, we request that DOT not proceed with their proposal to convert 6th and 7th Avenues from two-way to one-way streets at this time because there are too many questions about the impact of this change and how it would effect the neighborhood's traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

We further request that DOT continue to work with the Community Board and the Park Slope community in resolving Park Slope's very real traffic and pedestrian safety problems. For example, the perceived/actual high rate of speed of vehicles traveling on 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West, and the congested Union Street approach to the Grand Army Plaza.

By working more closely with the Community Board and community we are committing to work with DOT to produce an improved set of remedies and actions designed to further enhance pedestrian safety and facilitate the safe movement of vehicles within our community.

Motion 2: CB6 would table making a recommendation on the 4th Avenue proposal until after such time as we have had a chance to engage DOT in a more comprehensive discussion of the traffic planning needs and challenges facing the Park Slope community.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 PM

Atlantic Yards: the financial salt mines

projectioncheese.jpgAffordable Housing Institute

David Smith helped Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report demystify the three-page Atlantic Yards financial projections released two weeks ago.

This week Smith helps us to demistfy Oder's article along with skads of very helpful visual aids for the verbally and mathematically impaired.

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Posted by lumi at 7:18 PM

Footprints

New York Brain Terrain

Now that some of the brouhaha has settled down, it's good to have an article about the "Footprints" exhibit, sans controversy.

No matter how you feel about the Atlantic Yards complex, the stadium and buildings going up in Prospect Heights are poised to change Brooklyn’s landscape irrevocably. An exhibit at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library pays tribute to what is there now, highlighting the everyday scenes that may soon be a memory.

The show, “Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood,” is curated by Belle Benfield and Daniel Sagarin and runs through April 21. Twenty-six artists contributed, and the diversity of their work mirrors that of the neighborhood.

Initially, Benfield and Sagarin were working on separate projects—Benfield painting portraits of Footprint residents, and Sagarin photographing them. They decided to work together and bring in other artists as well. “We realized that it was hard to do the neighborhood justice from just two points of view,” says Benfield.

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Posted by lumi at 6:55 PM

DOT presentation crowd exceeded 600

noway3.jpgEric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors just announced:

More than 600 people signed our DOT petition AT THE HOSPITAL. And many in attendance declined to sign there since they'd already signed online. Well more than 700 people may have shown up last night.

Scores of people who arrived with children signed, but couldn't stay once the auditorium filled up and there were no more seats available.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 PM

It came from the Park Slopesphere...

7thAveSpeedway.jpg More "airplay" from a variety of bloggers on last night's Department of Transportation presentation to the Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee.

Take The City And Run, Park Slope Speaks With One Voice

As for the presentation by the DOT spokesmen, itself, there were a few points that really stuck out:

First, among the statistics and figures that he threw out was the explanation that traffic performance is graded on a scale of A through F and that the city usually plans for any given traffic system to perform at a D level. The thing is that he, himself, claimed that 6th and 7th Avenues perform at a B or C. If this is the case, why is any change needed at all? The streets are performing above average as is, so why screw that up?

Second, no matter what arguments were made to the contrary, the DOT rep refused to allow that traffic would flow faster on the avenues or that the side-streets would receive more traffic either as a result of more through traffic traveling to the avenues or from people having to circle blocks to get onto the avenue traveling in their direction. Statistics were offered by some and dismissed out of hand. Or the rep would just avoid answering with a straight answer.

Third — the elephant in the room. The Atlantic Yards. The DOT rep avoided talking about the project and claimed it had no bearing on this proposal.

Brooklyn Record, Slopers Jeer One-Way Proposal

Last night's Park Slope Community Board meeting drew nearly 500 angry residents, who came to oppose a Department of Transportation proposal that would turn Sixth and Seventh Avenues into one-way streets (Streetsblog broke news of the plan Wednesday).

Jeff Strabone, Park Slope or the Indianapolis 500?

A member of Community Board 6 explains why he intends "to vote against DOT's proposed changes at next month's meeting, and" believes "the vast majority of the board will vote the same way."

Much of Brooklyn is up in arms this week at the news that the city's Department of Transportation has proposed turning Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Park Slope into one-way streets. There is only one reason for this proposed traffic change and that reason is Atlantic Yards.

Read about Atlantic Yards as a model of Soviet-style planning, what Bruce Ratner's Environmental Impact Statement reveals about the "expansion of the danger zone," and how neighborhoods might be able to protect themselves from "bad planning."

Brooklynian, ONE WAY NO WAY! PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION
A Park Slope motorist explains:

I drive to work every day.
To make all the lights on PPW you need to drive 32 mph.
To make all the lights on 8th ave you need to drive 37 mph.
The maximum number of blocks I can drive on 6th ave before I hit a red is 3-4. Which isn't enough time to get to those speeds unless you slam on your brakes at the end. (yes, there are exceptions)

I take PPW and 8th because it takes me half the time, because I'm driving twice as fast.

If they didn't time 8th ave and PPW correctly, are they going to time the lights on 4th,6th and 7th correctly? I don't have any faith in the DOT to properly rehab the streets for neighborhood traffic. This plan only benefits through traffic. Furthermore, the cross streets are way too narrow for this plan.

Daily Gotham, One Way! No Way! DOT faces Park Slope Ire
Mole333 is not very optimistic that the DOT will listen to the community...

As the first ripple of Ratner's overdevelopment of Central Brooklyn crossed Flatbush into Park Slope, those Ratner backers who have grown to expect getting their way no matter what got a major surprise. Park Slope stood up to the Departmentof Transportation (DOT) and, if the DOT keeps its word (something I am doubtful of) this first of many Ratner ripples to cross Flatbush has been stopped.

...and delivers Assemblymember Joan Millman's opinion on the plan.

Joan Millman did not go but she spoke out against the plan. A supposedly off the record comment she made calling the plan "dumb" has already been quoted in the media, and she is happy to stand behind it. In fact she used somewhat stronger language than that when she discussed it at IND.

Also, there were rumors about a talking tablecloth:

But apparently there was a tablecloth. Yes...a tablecloth. I have no idea why a tablecloth, but everyone was making reference to this fabled table cloth that all opponents of the plan who couldn't get in were signing. Why a table cloth? Who knows?

The Lexicographer’s Rules, One Way? No Way!

This video on Streets Blog shows perfectly why I am against turning Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn, into one-way streets.

It’s my neighborhood: I live between Sixth and Seventh Avenues on Park Place, more or less a block below Flatbush Avenue (the streets intersect at an angle, so we’re closer to Flatbush in one direction than we are in the other), which is a daily parade of stupid.

Posted by lumi at 4:48 PM

Slope Weighs One-Way Byways

Village Voice
By Neil deMause

While community board votes are only advisory, a DoT spokesperson had previously declared that "if the community doesn't support these proposed changes, we will not move forward with them." Would that make this the death knell for the plan, Nets fans and inexperienced street-crossers be damned?

It's a question that [DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael] Primeggia clearly wanted to duck as the meeting dispersed into the night. After looking baffled by a question about the noise impacts of the proposed changes ("I don't study noise"), he parried questions about the plan's future with the declaration that "our commissioner said she will be guided by the community board's letter."

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Posted by lumi at 3:56 PM

Big Crowd of Park Slopers Turns Out to Jeer One-Way Proposal

Gowanus Lounge attended Department of Transportation's presentation at last night's Community Board 6 Traffic & Transportation meeting and filed a report.

CB6FullHouse-JB.jpgHighlights from the article:

Summary of the DOT presentation:

The DOT plan was presented by Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia. He faced a sometimes hostile and mocking crowd and presented the rationale for making Sixth Avenue one-way northbound between 23rd Street and Atlantic Avenue and for making Seventh Avenue one-way Southbound between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Avenue. "First and foremost it improves safety," Mr. Primeggia said to jeers from the skeptical audience. Under the plan, he said, "half of all pedestrian crossings will be unopposed and conflict free." The B-67 bus would also have to be re-routed because of the change. The DOT Deputy Commissioner listed added benefits adding parking spaces where bus stops are eliminated, introducing muni-meters, giving more "green time" to lights on cross streets. (There is an overall perception in the community that the proposal is being made to eventually ease the flow of traffic through Park Slope to Atlantic Yards.) Another proposal, to eliminate a lane of traffic in each direction from Fourth Avenue and to use them as turning lanes we greeted more openly by the audience.

The bizarro Deal-or-No-Deal moment came in reply to a question posed by City Councilmember David Yassky:

Mr. Yassky asked if DOT was open to pursuing non-controversial parts of the proposal like installing muni-meters and, even, creating the turning lanes on Fourth Avenue. Mr. Primeggia flatly rejected the idea, saying "We believe this is a nice package. All of the elements complement each other."

A representative from Methodist Hospital, which hosted the meeting and just redesigned and rebuilt the emergency vehicle reception and 7th Ave. entrance based on the current traffic plan, expressed the hospital's concerns:

Opposition was also voiced by Methodist Hospital's Lyn Hill, who said the hospital was opposed to the proposal and that it is "nearly intolerable to the hospital" because of the negative impact it would have on emergency medical vehicles and the increased safety risk for patients coming to the emergency room.

Though the feelings of the community were clear, the meeting resolved with a vote on a very confusing motion. Gowanus Lounge left out the part about the motion thanking the DOT, though the rest sounds about right, sort of:

The meeting ended abruptly when the Community Board's Transportation Committee took a vote on a muddled motion to voice opposition on the one-way proposal for Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue and to ask the Department of Transportation to work with the Community Board on changes to Union Street and to lowering speeds on Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West.

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Posted by lumi at 2:03 PM

Fate of Duffield St. to be decided on Tues. 3/20

This message came from a local activist regarding the latest developments concerning the fate of the Duffield St. houses, which are under threat of eminent domain:

We have a chance to show that the big development schemes in Brooklyn destroy our cultural heritage. We have a chance to show that the Doctorof and company just want to get rid of those pesky minorities.

But "we" can only do it if "you" get involved. AKRF released its most recent scurrilous report, and nobody seems to care. They want to deny that Downtown Brooklyn was not home to important Abolitionists. They say that there are no reports in any published accounts of the period that there were escaped slaves in Downtown Brooklyn. They said that they studied the entire public record. I guess they didn't read Leaves of Grass, where Walt Whitman talks about a slave coming to his house- and he lived two blocks from Duffield Street.

There will be a hearing of the landmarks subcommittee on Tuesday 3/20 11 am at City Hall. It's a public hearing. We need to get people there.

UPDATE: Tuesday's meeting has been postponed until April 11.

Posted by lumi at 1:34 PM

Railroad homes derailed again

The Brooklyn Paper

AKRF, the environmental-consulting firm with a reputation for minimizing the environmental impacts of any development, is releasing a study that (surprise!) says exactly what their client, NYC, wants them to say:

A city-hired consulting firm revealed this week that there is no conclusive evidence that seven houses on Duffield and Gold streets were part of the fabled fugitive slave network.

“It [the Duffield houses] ... does not have a significant association with a national figure of the Underground Railroad and his/her Underground Railroad activity,” the report concluded.

The report by AKRF, a consulting firm that researches historic claims, also refuted residents’ contention that the buildings were connected to known abolitionists.

“Of course they’re going to say that,” said Joy Chatel, the owner of 227 Duffield St. “They’re trying to whitewash the truth — that my house was part of the Underground Railroad, and that it was owned by known abolitionists.”

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NoLandGrab readers are familiar with AKRF's work. The firm was hired by Bruce Ratner to do the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, where (surprise!) they found the Atlantic Yards footprint to be "blighted" and the project to have very few significant impacts on the environment.

The Duffield St. houses are facing the wrecking ball. Everyone who is interested in fighting abuse of eminent domain and preserving our history in Brooklyn should try to make next week's hearing.

City Hall
Tuesday, March 20, 11 am at City Hall

UPDATE: This meeting has been postponed until April 11.

Posted by lumi at 1:14 PM

International Speedway Corporation Launches Park Slope Bid

ISCBanner.gif Learning from Staten Island, NASCAR Plans Central Brooklyn Circuit;
Cars would race down 7th Avenue to Prospect Avenue, then back up 6th Avenue to Flatbush, and back to 7th

NoLandGrab disclaimer: This just showed up this morning in our In Box. Any resemblance to the real International Speedway Corporation is purely coincidental. Any resemblance to public officials... well, you decide.

BROOKLYN– Executives of the International Speedway Corporation announced a major new initiative today, aimed at bringing the thrill of NASCAR-style racing to one of the country’s most demographically desirable markets: Park Slope, Brooklyn.

After an attempt to bring family-friendly Motorsports Entertainment™ to Staten Island, where ungrateful residents, and their short-sighted representatives in the New York City Council, gave a flat tire to plans for an 80,000-seat racetrack and “lifestyle venue,” ISC decided to take its effort to the streets – literally.

“We learned from our missteps with Staten Island,” said ISC CEO Joe King. “Our mistake was in trying to build a huge new track – communities are often resistant to large-scale construction. In Park Slope, we’re proposing to use existing streets for racing. With the help of New York City’s Department of Transportation, we look forward to establishing optimal racing conditions.”

“We’re excited about helping to bring high-speed racing to this underserved part of the borough,” said Iris Weinshall, outgoing NYC DOT Commissioner. “With the proper signal timings, drivers should be able to hit speeds of 60 or 70 miles per hour on the straightaways.” Ms. Weinshall added that the large population of small children, dogs and moms with strollers would add an “exciting, reality-type aspect” to the racing. “I think of it as my parting gift to the neighborhood,” she said.

ISC initially explored establishing their racing operation on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue. “But Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff quickly set us straight,” said King. “He told us that new luxury-condo buyers, who are a growing constituency on Fourth Avenue, aren’t typically big NASCAR fans. We checked our market research, and sure enough, he was right.” As a result, ISC decided to target the quieter local streets, instead.

In conjunction with the proposed “Atlantic Yards,” an enormous mixed-use development expected to feature huge high-rise buildings, a basketball arena and at least three Chuck E. Cheeses and six Starbucks, the ISC plan for an on-street speedway will bring true excitement to the area. “‘The culture of inertia’ won’t know what hit them when a three-ton Chevy Tahoe moving at 57 MPH blows by,” said Senator Charles Schumer, husband of the outgoing DOT Commissioner.

ISC CEO King was certain that the ugly behavior of union members – one physically assaulted a Councilmember during a public hearing on Staten Island – would not be repeated in Park Slope. “De Blasio’s too big, anyway” said King.

Commissioner Weinshall’s enthusiasm for the plan was clear. “We’re going to nominate ISC’s proposal for one of our innovation awards,” the Commissioner said. “We call them the DOTties. This is unquestionably a DOTty idea.”

International Speedway Corporation is a leading promoter of motorsports activities, currently promoting more than 100 racing events annually as well as numerous other motorsports-related activities. The Company owns and/or operates 13 of the nation's major motorsports entertainment facilities, including Daytona International Speedway in Florida, home of the Daytona 500.

Posted by lumi at 1:09 PM

Board votes down one-way proposal

The Brooklyn Paper

Park Slope community leaders unanimously rejected a city proposal to turn Sixth and Seventh avenues into one-way streets at a packed meeting Thursday night.

After a presentation by the Department of Transportation, which says the one-way conversion would save lives, reduce accidents and improve traffic flow, local politicians and members of Community Board 6 spoke in one clear voice against the bombshell proposal.

“The community has come together like never before,” said Lydia Denworth, the president of the Park Slope Civic Council. “It is clear that everyone is completely united against this.”

Denworth was one of several speakers who complained that DOT proposal was an attempt to solve the massive traffic from the still-unbuilt Atlantic Yards mega-development by hurting Park Slope’s residential feel.

“We asked you to make it better and you’ve made it worse,” she said.

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Posted by lumi at 1:01 PM

Git yer bootleg copy of DOT presentation at StreetsBlog!

DOTBootleg.gifClick here to view a bootleg copy of the Department of Transportation's One-Way Park Slope presentation.

NoLandGrab: Bootleg copy of DOT presentation? "Transpo geeks" make great dates.

StreetsBlog's assessment:

In this plan you will find nothing about traffic calming, pedestrian counts the numerous activities that take place on the streetscape beyond the movement and storage of motor vehicles. You will find no attempt to measure street performance and neighborhood impact beyond the counting of cars and trucks. You will find no discussion of the transformative development curently underway in and around Downtown Brooklyn and the goals of the Bloomberg Administration's Long-Term Planning and Sustainability initiative. And if you are looking for any response to long-standing community concerns or acknowledgement of the forward-thinking, pro-active planning that our community has undertaken over the last couple of years, you won't find that either. All you will find here is a traffic engineer's monomaniacal focus on moving motor vehicles through a dense urban environment.

Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

Brooklyn to City Hall: Give us Planning Not Traffic Engineering

Cains-SB.jpg StreetsBlog.org started its coverage by sharing photos of last night's Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting.

The line to get in snaked around the block, hundreds of people crammed into the vestibule in contrast to the comfort and calm in the auditorium, where tensions were more cordial.

link

Posted by lumi at 12:20 PM

One way? NOOO way! 400+ Slopers deride DoT plans for Sixth and Seventh avenues

CB6Armer.jpgAtlantic Yards Report covers the Department of Transportation's presentation at last night's CB6 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting. This is a must-read, especially for the hundreds of people who were standing in the vestibule or were turned away.

For more than a week, the message had come loud and clear, from Park Slope residents, organizations, and their elected officials. The plan by the Department of Transportation (DoT) plan to turn Sixth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope into one-way streets, faced nearly unanimous opposition, in part because it was seen as way to relieve Atlantic Yards-related congestion and turn neighborhood streets into speedy thoroughfares. (Atlantic Yards site outlined at right.)

The message was even louder last night at a meeting of the Community Board 6 (CB 6) Transportation Committee, where at least 160 people squeezed into an auditorium at New York Methodist Hospital, some 250 listened outside via loudspeaker, and Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors presented a petition with nearly 1500 signatures.

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Posted by lumi at 12:09 PM

The Ratner ripoff

The Brooklyn Paper editorial

So why is the city — which has already pledged $105 million towards “infrastructure improvements” around Atlantic Yards — buying $100 million in land?

It’s a reasonable question, given that Ratner has already bought up most of the land — some of it at a reduced price, courtesy of his state lackeys. Those same supposed stewards of our tax dollars have promised to condemn whatever land Ratner was unable to buy and turn it over to him.
...
Now, this newspaper has no problem with the city doing the necessary infrastructure work — laying sewer lines, installing lights, etc. — to encourage private development.

But we don’t understand why it is the taxpayers’ job to cut costs for Ratner’s land acquisition.

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NoLandGrab: No other NYC editorial board has come close to contemplating this simple question.

Posted by lumi at 11:38 AM

City buys Ratner land: Councilmembers ask why

The Brooklyn Paper

Why is Mayor Bloomberg buying land for developer Bruce Ratner?

The City Council was left asking that question when officials from the city’s Economic Development Corporation disclosed that almost half of the city’s previously announced $205-million contribution to Atlantic Yards would pay for acquiring land within the mega-development’s 22-acre footprint.

And no one knows why.

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Q: Why?

A: Why not?

The city's explanation is pretty amazing:

A spokesperson for the EDC said the land would eventually be owned by the state, which would then give the developer a long-term lease so he could build the arena, public open space and residential buildings on it.

So the City is buying land for the State to give to the developer who would put "public open space" on it? Did they just add "public open space" to the plan, because it wasn't there yesterday?

Posted by lumi at 11:30 AM

Community Board 6 -- Hearing on DOT Park Slope Traffic Plan

From photographer Jonathan Barkey's photolog of last night's Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee hearing.

CB6Transpo-JB.jpg

Community Board 6 Traffic and Transit Committee listens to NYC Department of Transportion plan to make Sixth and Seventh Avenues one-way and eliminate two lanes on Fourth Avenue. New York Methodist Hospital Auditorium, March 15, 2007. Photos Copyright 2007 Jonathan Barkey. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by lumi at 10:25 AM

Case Returned To Sender

Wrong Address Causes Ratner to Lose Control (of 1 acre)

Another BD Star weekly wrap-up by Norman Oder features developer Shaya Boymelgreen's legal defeat in his attempt to make a deal with Bruce Ratner behind property owner Henry Weinstein's back:

Weinsteinpic_BDS.jpg

The court ruled that Weinstein's tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, improperly assigned leases to a Pacific Street building and adjacent parking lot to an affiliate of Forest City Ratner after sending notice to Weinstein at the wrong address.

"I'm pleased that the truth prevailed today," declared Weinstein, who had said the developer had "unclean hands" in the deal. While an additional acre of the 22-acre footprint is out of the control of the developer, pending an appeal by Boymelgreen, it's not exactly clear what that means to the project. Forest City Ratner announced that the decision would not deter demolition plans for other properties in the footprint. Nor should the case specifically stop the exercise of eminent domain, but project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn predicted that, should the eminent domain be sustained in court, the ruling in the Weinstein case would "substantially increase" the developer's costs. Boymelgreen had argued that Weinstein used the legal fight to shore up his negotiating position with Ratner, while Weinstein responded that Boymelgreen's deal with Ratner would diminish the value of his property.

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Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

News Analysis: Great Timing, Cuz!

Downtown Brooklyn Star

Norman Oder reviews the Forest City timeline gaffe, where someone got it wrong and the public is expected to believe that it wasn't the Brooklyn division of the national development company.

When the Atlantic Yards project was announced in December 2003, construction was to begin in 2004, the Brooklyn arena was expected to open in the fall of 2006, and the 17-building project completed after ten years. Last year, when the project was approved, developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) said the arena would open in the fall of 2009 and the project finished by 2016.

Not so fast.

Speaking to real estate investment analysts in Florida last week, Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises (FCE), said that the arena would open for the 2010-11 season and the project would take 15 years - and even that was questionable, given that the company is "terrible" at predictions.

After the news surfaced, first in this writer's Atlantic Yards Report blog, the developer backpedaled, issuing a statement to the daily Metro, insisting that the 15-year buildout "was referring to the total time, from the idea or conception of the development to completion of the final building" and that actual construction would take ten years.

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty slow here, but we just realized that Forest City's incredible explanation would place the conception of the Atlantic Yards project around 2001, thus making the case that Bruce Ratner's plan was a backroom deal intended to favor a predetermined "interested party."

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Kilroy was in Park Slope

PARK SLOPE — It's not clear who started it, but people's frustration at not being able to register their opposition directly to the Community Board and DOT manifested into a spontaneous expression of democracy. Hundreds of people who stood in line and crowded into the vestibule of the New York Methodist Hospital auditorium "signed in" on a large paper tablecloth, as if to let the city government know that "Park Slope was here." Kilroy.jpg

UPDATE: News of the fabled tablecloth even made it to the Brooklyn IND political club meeting, held at the same time as the CB6 meeting.

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

Boymelgreen: No new Brooklyn projects — for now

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

shayaboymelgreen_BP.jpgIn the Brooklyn Developers Hall of Shame, Boymelgreen is seated with other heavyweights like Bruce Ratner and Robert Scarano. Boymelgreen's m.o.: to increase his margins by hiring non-union labor (in this respect, the Brucester looks like a saint in comparison). Boymelgreen's latest controversy came to a head last week when he got burned in court for colluding with Bruce Ratner to double-cross Atlantic Yards' footprint property-owner Henry Weinstein. [Is there no honor amongst developers???]

The Brooklyn Paper has extensive coverage of Boymelgreen this week, who, "Unlike Bruce Ratner... had the guts to sit down with The Brooklyn Paper and share his vision." One important theme is the glut of luxury condos on the market in Brooklyn:

Brooklyn’s luxury condo boom is petering out — at least according to one of the borough’s biggest developers.

Real-estate tycoon Shaya Boymelgreen told The Brooklyn Paper last week that won’t start any new Brooklyn projects until the glut in luxury condos dissipates.

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NoLandGrab: If a luxury-condo glut materializes, what does that portend for Bruce Ratner's luxury-condo portion of the Atlantic Yards plan? Remember, Ratner claims that the historic residential density of the project is the result of having to build luxury condos to cover the "affordable" housing.

Unlike Boymelgreen, when Ratner's projects stagnate, some government entity usually picks up the slack. Boymelgreen's predictions, in the wake of the approval for Atlantic Yards, should concern taxpayers who are fed up with subsidizing Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Prices up, but not as much

The Brooklyn Paper

Apartment prices in many Brooklyn neighborhoods are up, but not as up as they were a year ago, according to a new report from the Real Estate Board of New York.

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Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Proof! City plan would create speedways

The Brooklyn Paper
By Christie Rizk

RadarGunVid.jpg

Armed with a radar gun, activists from Transportation Alternatives stood on Seventh and Eighth avenues and measured how fast cars were going on both streets.

On one-way Eighth, cars were clocked at speeds as high as 40 mph, while on two-way Seventh, cars maxed out at only 20 mph. The speed limit on both streets is 30 mph.

The gun-on-the-street survey refutes the Department of Transportation’s claim that pedestrian and driver safety will improve if Sixth and Seventh avenues are converted to one-way thoroughfares, activists say.
...
Speeding cars are only one concern for Park Slopers. The other issue pushing residents’ pedals is the belief that this plan is an attempt by the city to solve the coming congestion from the still-unbuilt Atlantic Yards mega-development by sacrificing Park Slope’s residential quality of life.

“People don’t want their streets turned into arena access roads,” said Naparstek, referring to the Nets arena that is part of the project.

“If Atlantic Yards is going to happen, we need a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation plan that includes bikes and trains and buses,” he continued. “Otherwise, the surrounding neighborhoods will shut down.”

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See the video for yourself at streetfilms.org (running time: 5 mins, 10 sec).

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

A great day for Lady

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

LadyDay-BP.jpg

Residents of Prospect Heights — whether they support the Atlantic Yards mega-project or not — were united in their joy at hearing that Patti Hagan had gotten her dog back.

That is, except Bruce Ratner. But more on that later.

Lady Day, the peripatetic Atlantic Yards protester’s 12-year-old black Lab, had been stolen last week, setting into motion a community-wide effort to find the purloined pup that ended thanks to a hunch by a receptionist at a Fort Greene animal hospital.
...
And Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which is Hagan’s ally on Atlantic Yards, but typically reserves its Web site for analysis and criticism of the 16-tower project, posted a picture of the dog and a plea for her return.

“It obviously was only peripherally an ‘Atlantic Yards’ issue, so I ran it by DDDB’s steering committee, and there was wide agreement that we should do it,” said Eric McClure, who is overseeing the site. “Patti has been a prominent figure in the opposition, so … it just seemed like an instance in which we could step away from ‘the mission’ to do something good in another way.”
...
The recovery of the dog put a happy ending on a pretty bad year for Lady Day, who was almost electrocuted in April and also had to watch her owner’s frustration grow as Ratner’s project was approved by the state in December.

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Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

If slots fail, state will pick up slack

Debate over casino license won't bust new arena deal

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Mark Belko and Gary Rotstein,

An article about how the State of Pennsylvania is guaranteeing the deal for a new Pittsburgh Penguins arena, which will be largely financed by casino revenues, has this tidbit about the losing bidders for the gaming license:

The decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to award the Pittsburgh casino to Mr. Barden is being challenged before the state Supreme Court by the two losing bidders, Forest City Enterprises and Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.

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Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

More Subpoenas on the Way!

COMMUNITY FIRST DEVELOPMENT COALITION

Folks in Yonkers are keeping a close eye on the FBI's interest in the Yonkers City Council and Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project. For the record, last week, a Ratner spokesperson claimed that everything leading up to the project approval was done "properly and legally," which is based on long-term memory loss (link).

Community First Dev. Coalition posted two links on their blog today:

The Journal News, Another Yonkers subpoena expected

A second federal subpoena is expected to be served on the city, this time seeking financial disclosure documents many city employees are required to file, a city councilman said yesterday.

Republican John Murtagh said a "credible source," whom he would not name, had told him the new subpoena would be served, but did not say when. Yesterday, city lawyers dropped off two boxes of council documents at the FBI's office in White Plains, complying with the first subpoena served March 2.
...
If federal authorities demand the financial disclosure forms, it would only increase intrigue over the focus of the probe.

Under a new ethics law overwhelmingly approved by city voters in a 2005 referendum, all city elected officials and other top officials and employees, including commissioners and members of appointed boards, must annually file a financial disclosure form listing their interests in outside businesses, property and other entities. The forms are intended to increase accountability for officials and address potential ethical problems, particularly conflicts of interest, before they arise.

Yonkers Tribune, Yonkers City Clerk Compliant with Demand of FBI Subpoena by eHezi

Yonkers Corporation Counsel’s legal team today delivered the demanded written, audio, and visual Yonkers City Council archival records to the FBI office in White Plains.

The demand made by the subpoena is so vast in scope, so as to be indecipherable in concluding what specific issue(s) is the focus of the U.S. Attorney’s inquiry. Yonkers Tribune’s acid-tongued bloggers, have learned that subpoenas demanding financial disclosure by individual(s) are allegedly forthcoming.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Coney Island Issue Reaching Critical Mass?

Gowanus Lounge

Though Coney Island developer Joseph Sitt has employed many of Bruce Ratner's PR tools, the junior developer didn't really do his homework. The community is on the verge of forming organized opposition to his plans for Coney Island and Sitt has tossed out the Ratner playbook, trying to muscle the political establishment through curious press rants.

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Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

March 15, 2007

RATNER NOW WANTS BROOKLYN TECH!

As if the Atlantic Yards illegal land-grab wasn't enough, billionaire developer Bruce Ratner now has his sights set on acquiring the Brooklyn Technical High School building.

From The South Oxford Street Block Association:

Ratnertech-building-sm.jpg

Located in a short paragraph on page two in Ratner's gloating Atlantic Yards press release from last December were two ominous sentences: "FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough." With this statement Bruce made his intentions clear; he wants the Brooklyn Tech site for residential development.

One could speculate that Ratner plans to build a new Brooklyn Tech from scratch at Atlantic Yards, or relocate the school to Metrotech. The NY Sun recently reported that “it is rumored that Forest City has plans to construct a residential condominium on the former site of Brooklyn Technical High School; the school would move to MetroTech.” In either scenario Ratner conveniently gets his hands on the current Brooklyn Tech building. He could then either tear it down and start a new residential development from scratch or convert the existing grand 1920's building into upscale lofts on the park. ...
With this Brooklyn Tech deal, like most of his efforts, there will be generous benefits alright – but mostly to him and his pals. Besides getting the school's prime property, Ratner would also get a much-needed long-term tenant for his monstrous office buildings nearby – our Brooklyn Tech.

Oh snap — last week NoLandGrab forgot to tie this topic into the fact that vacancies are up in Bruce Ratner's MetroTech campus. Thanks to South Oxford Street for connecting the dots:

With Downtown Brooklyn's office rentals falling, Ratner's 1980's office park Metrotech is not looking so good. It has steadily lost many of its coveted corporate clients. Unfortunately for us, keeping corporations in Brooklyn and creating jobs were the main reasons we paid for his soulless Metrotech in the first place. Bruce is now hoping to rent out his half-empty office buildings (and his planned new ones) to more city and state agencies, like his current tenants which include the DMV, the ESDC, Polytechnic University, 911 headquarters, and a still-in-the-works "new" New York Technical College, to name a few. By renting his publically-subsidized office space back to the city and state, like say for a high school, Ratner creates another sleazy win-win situation for him and his company. Its a great scam, just like the Yards': we pay for the buildings, Ratner owns them, and they collect the rent money.

And here's a good reason why this is a bad deal for the school:

In addition, Broooklyn Tech is currently in the midst of it's own alumni-funded multi-million-dollar upgrades. In late 2005 the school announced it had received a record $10 million in donations from their alumni. In their 11/05 press release they stated their commitment to the school: "Over the past 20 years, the Alumni Association has funded major projects in the school including a state of the art robotics laboratory, modernization of the school library, and the completion of a new athletic facility." Many alumni, as well as residents of Fort Greene share the belief that the school is a venerable gem and should be a protected as if it was a landmark.

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Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

To fight $2000 fine for unsafe demolition, FCR sends top-gun lawyer to Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

For a very serious blog, today's article is very amusing:

Braun.jpg

What was Jeffrey Braun, a hard-driving land use lawyer who represents major developers like Donald Trump and institutions like the Guggenheim Museum, doing Monday at a hearing of the city’s Environmental Control Board (ECB), the administrative tribunal that oversees violations issued by city agencies?

Well, Braun (right) also represents Forest City Ratner (FCR), and even though the penalty at issue was just $2000—surely less than the cost of getting Braun to Brooklyn—the developer’s challenge concerns perception as much as cash.

Here's the biggest point not scored by Braun (photo above):

Then Braun launched into an opening statement, admitting that the contractor had used a backhoe at 620 Pacific, which abutted an empty building, but said that was it. “To the best of our knowledge," he told the judge, "there was no use at 622 Pacific Street,” which abuts the occupied 624 Pacific Street.

But when confronted with photographic evidence to the contrary:

Braun pressed hard, questioning some photos that a city inspector found convincing, contending that a witness was biased.

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NoLandGrab: Ratner and Braun really skew the curves for their respective professions — it's hard to predict which group Brooklynites might declare more loathsome, lawyers or developers.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

One-Way, No Way!

As City Councilmember David Yassky told NY1 last week, "This is Atlantic Yards coming home to roost in the neighborhood."

Now that impacts from Atlantic Yards seem to be washing up on the shores of Park Slope, the neighborhood is up in arms.

Today's coverage:

NY Post, B'KLYN PROTESTERS SAY 'NO WAY' TO ONE-WAY

Brooklyn residents plan to come out in droves tonight to slam a city plan to turn Sixth and Seventh avenues into one-way streets leading to and from the future home of the NBA Nets.

"This is just piecemeal planning for Atlantic Yards by shunting traffic from one place to another," said Aaron Naparstek, a Park Slope Civic Council member.
...
While the DOT declined to comment on whether the changes are related to developer Bruce Ratner's planned basketball arena, Atlantic Yards, a Ratner spokesman said the developer didn't request the changes.

NoLandGrab: Yesterday, StreetsBlog considered how these changes in Park Slope are an accommodation for changes that Ratner requested (or not, depending on which chapter of the Environmental Impact Statement you read).

The NY Sun, Plan for One-Way Roads Draws Ire in Park Slope
Local pols are against it:

[City Councilmember David] Yassky said he plans to speak out against the proposal at this evening's community board meeting, where a vote against the proposal could kill it.

DOT is backtracking:

"If the community doesn't support these proposed changes, we will not move forward with them," a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, Kay Sarlin, said.

Community Board 6 (CB6) appears more conciliatory:

"We're hoping that tomorrow is the beginning of a process, not the end of a process," the district manager of Community Board 6 in Park Slope, Craig Hammerman, said. "If we have a chance to work together, our experiences at the local level are invaluable to the DOT's problem solving exercises."

RUMOR MONGERING:
The word on the street is that CB6 was forewarned that many more people were planning to attend the meeting than would fit in the auditorium, which has the capacity for 125. Some members of the community found another larger local venue willing to host, but CB6 refused to change their meeting plans.

Now people are wondering if CB6 is deliberately trying to keep people from hearing directly from the DOT.

It appears that CB6 is miffed that the community has had such a strong reaction, without hearing from the DOT first. Members of the community are pissed that DOT would suggest such a plan without hearing from the community first and doing a needs assessment.

Look out for many unhappy people inside (and outside) the meeting.

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Brooklyn Bridge Park padding

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

There's an article in today's Metro about one of our sister development controversies, the Brooklyn Bridge Park plan.

The big-picture question: Why does Brooklyn Bridge Park have to be self-sufficient when Bruce Ratner's private Atlantic Yards project gets billions of dollars in subsidies?

Brooklyn Bridge Park more costly than necessary?

It looks like the maintenance budget has been padded:

BROOKLYN. The $15.2 million maintenance and operations budget for the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park calls for a workforce running between 53 and 94 to look after 62 acres. Speed is apparently not a requirement for a job.

Snow removal that needs hand shoveling instead of a plow, for instance, will take up to 9,198 hours, or enough work to employ 4.4 people full-time and year-round. Checking sprinklers will require another 5,208 hours, or enough for 2.5 full-time employees working year-round and making $45.07 an hour. Rodent and pest control will need 8,286 hours and alone could account for 4 full-time dedicated workers.

The extended article, only available in the print edition, reveals information on what the two projects have in common (hint: Bruce Ratner is Pataki's Columbia Law School chum): BBPark1.jpg

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

More Moses Reaction: 'Evenhandedness Is Disturbing'

From The Real Estate Observer:

The Wall Street Journal's architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable tackles the three shows now running under the title "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York." She's old enough to remember battling Moses' plans, and, therefore, finds the show's "comprehensive objectivity" jarring:

"The carefully inclusive narrative tells it all in safely worded labels that neutralize outrage.... [I]ts very evenhandedness is disturbing. It is almost too cool; there was nothing evenhanded about Moses."

Here's the link to the Journal article.

NoLandGrab: Why is the attempt to recast Robert Moses's place in history important to those concerned with Atlantic Yards? Because the conflict over Bruce Ratner's controversial, eminent domain-abusing, superblock-creating, historically dense residential/mixed-use project runs along a parallel track with the Moses discussion.

Is Atlantic Yards and the "almost too cool" revisionist view of Robert Moses a reaction to New York's failure to dream big during the past three decades, as revisionists and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff would have you believe, or is it due to New York's failure to learn from past mistakes?

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

March Radness: 64 Teams, So Many Shining Moments

From East Village Idiot via Curbed.com

This might be Brooklyn's jump-the-shark moment, when nearly every neighborhood can be distilled into a simple real estate conflict complete with a hipster, subway or mommy mascot.

2007_03_radness-thumb.jpg

East Village Idiot gives props to Ratner by making him the third seed. At least 14-seed DDDB is still in the game.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Goodwin Proctor signing on for NYT building

Crain's NY Business

Yet "another law firm is taking space at" Forest City Ratner's Times Tower "at 620 Eighth Ave., the 52-story tower that is set to open this spring."

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NoLandGrab: We've lost count, but we think that makes four law firms leasing space in Ratner's new building (links to numbers three, two, and one).

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Residents Rejoice After High-Rise Sunset Park Development Is Blocked

NY1

Local group successfully beats back overdevelopment in their lowrise neighborhood and vows to keep fighting.

Residents rejoiced Sunday after blocking the construction of a high-rise apartment building in their low-rise neighborhood in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
...
"I think that when the community come united and unified against a project with the same objectives they know they can accomplish a lot,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

The group says it plans to keep fighting what it calls "out of context development" in Sunset Park.

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NoLandGrab: People in Prospect Heights and Ft. Greene scratch their heads when everyone rejoices when neighborhoods like Sunset Park and South Slope beat the developer creep, when at the end of the day Prospect Heights and Ft. Greene remain fighting alone against the densest residential project in the nation.s history.

More proof that ALL politics is local.

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

Another presidential hopeful in town

Openers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer Political Blog

Democratic presidential hopeful and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is holding a fund-raiser tonight in Cleveland. Al Ratner of Forest City is hosting the event.

link

NoLandGrab: The Cleveland Ratners are much more open about their political fundraising activities than cousin Bruce, who has managed to feed the Brooklyn political machine through contributions from his brother and hero to the political left Michael Ratner (link).

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

March 14, 2007

Challenging demolitions, renters’ lawyer faces a skeptical judge

Atlantic Yards Report

It was an uphill battle in state Supreme Court yesterday for George Locker, the attorney for 13 rent-stabilized tenants challenging the demolition of their buildings by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as state Supreme Court Justice Walter B. Tolub seemed skeptical that the case belonged in his Manhattan court.

Demo340717.jpg

The plaintiffs, who live in two buildings in the planned Atlantic Yards footprint--624 Pacific is four-story building at right--claim that their landlord, Forest City Ratner, should be subject to the tougher regulations of the via the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), rather than be able to convey the buildings to ESDC for “friendly condemnations.”

Locker also argues that the creation of private roads for the project requires a jury trial--a case never tested in court. The ESDC disagrees with those arguments, but also argues that the case belongs in the Appellate Division, designated to hear cases challenging eminent domain, not the lower trial court. In that lower court, the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs would have more of an opportunity, via discovery, to extract documents bolstering their case.

The federal eminent domain challenge to Atlantic Yards also has so far also turned on procedural grounds, and procedural issues occupied most of the hour-long argument yesterday.

Locker appeared solo, with three ESDC attorneys facing him at the lawyers' table. Watching in the audience were a cluster of lawyers associated with the defense case, as well as a few plaintiffs. Only this reporter and a reporter for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle represented the press.

"This reporter" provides a blow-by-blow account of the legal arguments.

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Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Buying REITs for the Long Term

Barron's Online, via Yahoo Finance

WHILE MANY INVESTORS focus on the net asset value of real-estate investment trusts, portfolio co-managers Andrew Davis and Chandler Spears of the Davis Real Estate Fund prefer to focus on revenue growth potential over the long term -- the very long term.

Which means that they (HEART) Forest City! [Snarky commentary interspersed.]

Q: What do you like about your top holding, Forest City Enterprises (ticker: FCEA) in particular?

Spears: Much of the value proposition in real estate is doing things that a lot of other people can't do. And it just so happens that actually finding land, getting land entitled for a specific use and then bringing together all the various components that are necessary to go vertical on construction is a very difficult proposition.

[Cough, cough! All of this is much easier when Forest City has a proven track record in making backroom deals to use eminent domain and doesn't have to bid on the land.]

[Forest City's Brooklyn-based] Atlantic Yards, for example, is going to be a massive project and that is just one of many that Forest City is working on. Atlantic Yards is going to have residential units, it is going to have retail space, and it is going to have a new arena. They've done just tremendous things all over the country doing these types of massive projects and not everybody can do that. Forest City can actually drive preferential pricing. It has not always been the low bidder for a lot of the projects that they have won. [Sometimes they're, like, the no-bidder!] They've actually offered to do it for a higher price [than competing bidders]. But because they have a franchise value and a history of being able to complete these projects, they end up winning.

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Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Which way would Pacific Street go? The FEIS confuses

Atlantic Yards Report

All this talk about traffic turned up a total discrepancy in both the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

Two separate chapters of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) offer contradictory accounts of the fate of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues.

That street, currently one way going west, would be made one way going east, as indicated in Chapter 19, Mitigation of the FEIS (p. 19-11).

However, Chapter 12, page 12 sez:

Under the proposed project, Pacific Street... would be converted to bi-directional operation between 4th and Flatbush Avenues.

PacificStTraffic-sm.jpg

While large documents inevitably are imperfect, this error further suggests that proofreading and harmonizing the document was less of a priority than the rush for approval before the end of Gov. George Pataki's administration.

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Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

DOT’s Park Slope Proposal: Is this Atlantic Yards Planning?

AtlanticTermTraffic.jpgStreetsBlog ponders the possibility that the Department of Transporation's 6th & 7th Avenue one-way proposal in Park Slope, in addition to Ratner's recommendation to "close off the northbound side of Fourth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush to motor vehicles," is a giant kludge "aimed at shunting Fourth Avenue's Manhattan Bridge-bound morning traffic jam over to Sixth and Eighth," in order to accommodate Atlantic Yards.

On his own blog, Atlantic Yards Report, Norman Oder adds Ron Shiffman to the conversation:

Meanwhile, consider the observations of Park Slope resident and former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman, speaking at the Historic Districts Council conference last Saturday.

"Seventh Avenue needs to be calmed, not made one way. Take a lane and make it pedestrian," commented Shiffman. He added that the community should not "allow a historic district to become an expressway to alleviate congestion created by Forest City Ratner."

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NoLandGrab: Folks who remember the AM-traffic tie-ups due to construction of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal building will get the picture. How this scheme might affect northbound traffic on Flatbush is another concern — maybe they have a plan for that too.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

People Who Can Help Get a Project Built — Or Help Stop One

City Hall

Powerbrokers.jpg

New York’s reputation as a place resistant to many new buildings has done nothing to discourage more people from trying every year, every day. Among the most important decisions which go into translating a project from concept to blueprint to concrete foundation are those made by people charged with mediating between government and private developers. Of the many who do, here are 10 (in no particular order) who City Hall thinks help bridge public demands and private interests when it comes to getting shovels in the ground in New York.

Familiar names to those who are living in the shadow of Atlantic Yards: Sheldon Silver , Eliot Spitzer, Dan Doctoroff, Amanda Burden, Joseph Bruno, and more recently Patrick Foye.

And here's proof that if you repeat a myth it stays as fresh as a Twinkie™ (emphasis added):

[Amanda] Burden has also played an important role... in reducing the scale of the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

[For myth-busting, check out Atlantic Yards Report, where Norman Oder revealed that a document "obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request from the Department of City Planning shows that most of the proposed cuts had been on the table since January, 2006, in an option (20B) presented by the developer and architect Frank Gehry."]

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Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Robert Moses Lives

An epic three-part exhibition on how the master builder shaped modern-day New York demonstrates the role he still plays in the life of the city.

Metropolis Magazine
By Karrie Jacobs

RobertMoses-MM.jpg

Unlike our current crop of Trumps and Ratners, Moses built for the public. That was his great virtue. The problem was that Moses built for a theoretical public; the actual public, especially the portion of it that had the misfortune of living in his right of way, was just a nuisance. Sadly, in recent years there’s been a return to Moses’s methods. Eminent domain, a tool he honed, is back in fashion. And lately redevelopment schemes, such as Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, have emerged from backrooms as faits accomplis, the city’s land-use review process be damned. So Robert Moses and the Modern City seems particularly significant at this moment—or it could be if it became a catalyst for an honest discussion of the man and his methods.

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Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

March 13, 2007

Nets to Newark? Suites offer more reasons to move

Atlantic Yards Report

prucenter-skybox.jpg

Last week, I cited a Crain's Insider report that quoted an insider--from Forest City Ratner?--who suggested that the soon-to-open Prudential Center in Newark, more accessible than the Nets' current home in the Meadowlands, would make a good interim arena as they wait for the Brooklyn arena to be built.

The arena, built for the New Jersey Devils but with room for more tenants, is near a transit hub, academic institutions, and entertainment destinations.

But another reason went unmentioned. The new arena will have much more premium seating--82 suites, according to an article in the Feb. 19-25 Sports Business Journal. By contrast, the relatively antiquated Continental Airlines Arena has only 29 suites.

The Brooklyn arena would have 172 suites, and Forest City Ratner projects that revenue would start at $38 million a year. A stint at the Prudential Center could get them halfway there--and better.

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NoLandGrab: How the worship of luxury boxes squares with the lackluster sales of corporate suites nationwide, we don't know. Maybe New York City is an anomaly in this respect, or maybe Ratner is late to the party, and an end of the era of corporate suites will mean another taxpayer bailout of the well connected developer.

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

"Abdicating its role": Atlantic Yards and the City

BrooklynSpeaks

Did the City really “abdicate its role” during the Atlantic Yards approval process, as Speaker Quinn stated last week?

Yes.

Because of legislation passed in the 1960’s, the state has the power to override the city’s zoning laws and land-use approval process (known as ULURP), which is far more rigorous than the state’s own process, requiring votes by the local community boards, the borough president and ultimately the City Council.

But in practice, the state can only do so when the city permits it.

BrooklynSpeaks politely explains the one action taken by NYC Planning, the "scaleback", calling it an "awkward episode" as opposed to a carefully choreographed tactic.

And for those of you who have been wondering what BrooklynSpeaks Plan C is (Plan A was to convince politicians to delay the vote, Plan B is to work on Eliot Spitzer to tweak the project), here it is in a nutshell:

So there’s still time for the City – and Speaker Quinn - to insist that the project is redesigned with input from local elected officials and other stakeholders, and still time for the City to spearhead the development of a comprehensive transportation plan, instead of the piece-meal, anti-pedestrian approach they have pursued so far.

Most importantly, there’s also still time for the City and the State to improve the governance for the project. For example, they could establish an ESDC subsidiary to oversee the project that includes board members appointed by the city and local elected officials - as numerous other state projects including Queens West and Hudson River Park have.

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Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

ROBERT MOSES RECONSIDERED:
POWER AND PROCESS RIGHT NOW

CityLimits.org
By Roberta Brandes Gratz

A noted urban thinker assesses the continuing debate by city leaders and the great builder's biographer over the meanings of Moses. The second in a series of essays on an ambitious three-part museum exhibit.

Gratz begins by summarizing Robert Moses's reputation as a top-down planner, which culminated with Robert Caro's 1,163-page biography, and quickly segues into the impact of Deputy Mayor Dan "I-am-not-Robert-Moses" Doctoroff and a defense of the Koch "nothing-big-got-built-because-of-Jane-Jacobs" era:

Doctoroff went to great lengths to distance himself from the famous Moses recipe for making omelettes by breaking eggs. “I believe we have found a new model for getting things done,” he said. “I don’t believe you have to break eggs.”
...
Doctoroff’s definitions of "underutilized" and "renaissance" are in conflict with the view of many of the affected stakeholders in those neighborhoods who watch viable areas either become classified erroneously as blighted or, at the opposite extreme, watch residents and businesses pushed or priced out as new projects emerge. (How the Atlantic Yards site can be classified as “blighted” when investors are paying $600,000 for a condominium across the street has not been explained.) These local people are not necessarily averse to change, but they are averse to alien change that transforms their communities rather than strengthening them.

When stakeholders are part of the process designing the change, instead of only reacting to it after “experts” decide on the content, then the final projects have a better chance of reinforcing neighborhoods – not replacing them. Public acceptance is more likely.

This description of what's happening in Prospect Heights is striking, because it crystallizes what community activists have been calling for all along:

Atlantic Yards is moving ahead, indeed, against great public opposition. Sadly, it's a perfect example of a project that could have been a win-win if stakeholders had helped shape it. Its countless flaws could have been minimized and positive potential maximized.

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Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Yonkers councilwoman: No subpoena in federal probe

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

sandyannabiheadshot.jpgThe lastest news from Yonkers, concerning the subpoenas and federal probe into the City Council's dealings with Forest City Ratner, is that the Council Member representing the swing vote to approve the controversial Ridge Hill plan has NOT received a subpoena and has NOT retained a lawyer. [Which usually means the Yonkers rumor mill is focusing on the Council Member, and she should think seriously about retaining a lawyer.]

The City Councilwoman who cast the deciding vote for a zoning change needed to build Ridge Hill Village has not received a subpoena in a federal probe into the council's handling of the $600 million development, she told The Journal News yesterday.

But Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Annabi would not comment on whether she had spoken to a lawyer in response to the investigation, focused at least in part on the council's actions on Ridge Hill. All six other members of the Yonkers City Council last week said they had not.

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NoLandGrab: And don't forget yesterday's news, in which Forest City Ratner had to waste their breath explaining that everything "was done properly and legally."

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

On tour with PlaNYC

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Yesterday at the Judson Memorial Church, the latest in a series of public meetings regarding PlaNYC — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to prepare for the city’s future — had members of community, civic and labor groups brainstorming how the city can create affordable housing and improve the environment. With the city population projected to hit 9 million in 2030, they wanted to harness the growth in a way that leads to good jobs and homes.
...
The group offered suggestions to Rohit Aggarwarla, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. His office has hosted a series of town hall meetings on the plan across the city, including another event last night, to solicit feedback from residents before the city develops a plan.

Michelle de la Uz makes a good point about one of the weaknesses of the Mayor's plan:

“Despite the fact that the administration has an unprecedented plan to build 165,000 units of affordable housing, if current trends continue, we will have less diverse and affordable housing by 2030,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue Committee. “For every unit we build for affordable housing, we’re actually losing a unit, so there’s no net gain.”

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NoLandGrab: Members of community groups who have attended these meetings note their suspicious resemblance to other dog-n-pony shows produced by corporations who are claiming to listen to the community. Most are reserving judgment.

In an article from this week's City Limits, Roberta Brandes Gratz observes:

Listening to peoples’ reactions to an already conceived draft plan is not the same as having some of those people at the table participating in drafting that plan. Using the Internet and public meetings to collect reactions to a plan is surely not the same as including the communities themselves in the development of plans for appropriate change in their neighborhoods.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Greetings from Asbury Park

FRIDAY, MARCH 23RD, 6:30PM

Eliopoulos-sm.jpg DCTV: Documentary Video and Community Media Center
87 Lafayette Street
Manhattan

Documentary filmmaker Christina Eliopoulos screens her new film about eminent domain abuse in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Click here for more event info.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

March 12, 2007

BCAT Reporters Roundtable: The Battle Over "Blood Money"

This week BrooklynPaper.com is featuring BCAT's Reporters Roundtable with host The Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, discussing the Barclay's naming-rights deal with reporters Rich Calder (NY Post), Jotham Sederstrom (NY Daily News) and Tom Tracy (Courier-Life Publications).

Click on the image to view the broadcast from the BCAT web site:

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Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

Clarification

The Brooklyn Paper ran this retraction of last week's hyperbolic and misleading headline:

A headline in last week’s edition, “Federal judge: Suit is hot air,” suggested that federal magistrate Robert Levy had recommended that a suit against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project be dismissed because it lacked merit.

In fact, as the article pointed out, Levy said, “The complaint raises serious and difficult questions regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Su­preme Court jurisprudence.”

Levy did recommend that the suit be dismissed — because he believes it should be heard in state, not federal, court.

Our headline should have better reflected what the story reported, namely that Levy was ruling on jurisdictional grounds, not on the merits of the case

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Posted by lumi at 11:41 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere33.jpgGothamist, Extra, Extra

This blurb links to last week's Daily News article:

Turns out that almost half of the $205m the city is giving to the Atlantic Yards project is being used to purchase land for the developers-- not for infrastructure improvement.

Bridge and Tunnel Club, Every Good Development Deserves A Holdout

In the same way as the great cities have pie-shaped buildings, every development worth its salt has at least one quirky holdout that serves to humble ego-driven architects and pointy-headed planners.

NLG: Or... every bad development deserves a good holdout.

Basket-ball.com, Les Remarques de Ratner rassurent Vince Carter

Mais hier, Carter a souri quand on lui a évoqué les commentaires du propriétaire Bruce Ratner quant à sa situation.

Ratner déclaré qu’il pensait qu’il était "très important" pour les Nets de re-signer Carter pendant l’été.

NePrenezPasLaTerre: Ouais, et il est très important pour Brooklyn que L'Atlantique Yards progresse sans empêchement. Travaux, logement et cercles??

Queens Crap, High-rise Chutzpah
Another link to the Daily News story on the first steps of the City's bailout of Atlantic Yards. Check out the comments where "george the atheist" says he spotted Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis at a groundbreaking for a new tower at LaGuardia.

Brownstoner, Peyser Finds Ratner's Ass, Inserts Nose

"Snuff" said!

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Sunday Fun....Finish Andrea Peyser's sentences for her.

More on Peyer:

Andrea Peyers...errr ....'article' on dreamy doughboy Bruce Ratner got underneath a lot people's skin. Perhaps that's her purpose. Maybe she just 'gets off' on lying...that's one theory. Maybe she' s just, well not very bright.....perhaps....but I think its just because some things got cut out of the article to save space.

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

The Atlantic Yards and Two Biblical Images

Old First

What are the biblical lessons regarding power, eminent domain, overdevelopment and cities ruled by kings? This meditation is from Reverend Daniel Meeter of Old First Church:

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Let me say in passing, that in the case of the Atlantic Yards, the government appears to be prejudiced. It has bypassed the normal processes of public judgment. If the government is supposed to be an umpire or a referee, in this case, it is playing for one of the teams.

That itself is a moral issue.
...
The concentration of power is a moral issue, because it affects human freedom and human choices, especially the freedom and choices of the weak and powerless. The Bible regards the secure possession of private property and its protection from eminent domain as a sign of human freedom and dignity. The defining story is 1 Kings 21, the story of Naboth's Vineyard.

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UPDATE, 3/13/07: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted Reverend Meeter's meditation with a link to the biblical passage.

Click here to read the Biblical passage, complete with a relocation offer and Jezebel in the role of the ESDC.

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Brooklyn's Eminent Domain: Henry & Daniel v. Goliath

NJEminentDomain.com blogger and lawyer Bill Ward has been keeping tabs on our li'l ole land grab because of the far-reaching implications of whether "impermissible favoritism" by state and local authorities is permitted by the U.S. Constitution.

Property owners fighting Forest City Ratner’s massive Atlantic Yards project achieved a small but significant victory when N.Y. Supreme Court Justice Ira Harkavy ruled that Forest City Ratner had illegally acquired the tenant’s interest in a 1-acre property owned by Henry Weinstein.
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This decision creates a hole in the 22-acre donut which Forest City has represented it controls. The tenant, Mr. Boymelgreen, and his lawyer vowed to appeal.
...
Mr. Boymelgreen thinks that Mr. Weinstein will use the court victory to leverage more money from Forest City. This may happen, or Mr. Weinstein may prove to be one of the true believers who will fight the right to take to the end.

Ward concludes by summarizing the status of the federal eminent domain suit and what remains at stake.

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Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

AY opponents and proponents go "off message," confessing doubt, admitting delays

Atlantic Yards Report covers "mexed-missaging."

In the past couple of weeks, both Atlantic Yards opponents and proponents have gone "off message," making public statements that alarmed some allies and, in the case of the proponents, required public contradiction.

The episodes aren't exactly equivalent. After all, the opponents who went off-message were mostly expressing personal opinions, while the proponents who went off message have access to more information than has been made public as of yet.

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Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Rent-stabilized tenants' case to be heard tomorrow

Atlantic Yards Report

The “other” set of Atlantic Yards plaintiffs—13 rent-stabilized tenants challenging the condemnations of two buildings—will get their day in State Supreme Court Tuesday following an exchange of contentious legal memos between their lawyer, George Locker, and lawyers for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The plaintiffs live in buildings on Dean and Pacific streets now owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner. Rather than apply for demolition via the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), as is generally required for buildings with rent-regulated tenants, in this case, the developer will convey the properties to the ESDC. Then the ESDC would exercise its powers of condemnation in a much faster process than had DHCR been involved.

The demolitions would be “friendly condemnations,” given that the owner doesn’t object, but the tenants don’t consider them friendly.

Norman Oder is the only reporter who has been able to take the time to explain that tomorrow's hearings only concern a motion to dismiss, and to summarize the two main arguments (one of which would break new legal ground) and the challenge over which court should hear the case.

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Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Yonkers officials say subpoena won't stop Ridge Hill project

The Journal News
By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, Michael Gannon and Bruce Golding

A federal probe into the City Council's handling of the $600 million Ridge Hill development won't slow the project down, city officials and Ridge Hill's builder maintained.
...
Officials at Forest City Ratner, the Brooklyn-based developer scheduled to break ground on the project in the spring, agreed and said they didn't even know about the subpoena until The Journal News told them Wednesday.

"We know that everything we did to advance Ridge Hill Village was done properly and legally and are not worried about what any investigation might turn up," said Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner.

But though no direct link to the project has been suggested, a source close to the investigation told The Journal News that the council's actions relating to it are at least part of the federal probe.

The description of the project will sound familiar to Brooklynites:

Ridge Hill Village would essentially create a mini-city between the New York State Thruway and the Sprain Brook Parkway.

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NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner's claim that everything was done "properly and legally" has already been disproven. The hiring of the former mayor's 20-something brother-in-law at a six-figure salary for the development corporation was quite improper — after this was revealed to a jaded public, the lucky youngster ended up on Forest City Ratner's payroll (link), which is neither illegal, nor technically improper — it just doesn't pass the smell test.

Then there was the matter of the City Council bending its own rules in order to approve the plan (link), which certainly sounds improper and was deemed illegal by the courts. The legislative body was forced to backtrack and do things the right way.

The Feds might be learning what many Brooklynites already know: that when you turn over a rock belonging to Forest City Ratner, interesting things crawl out.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Ka-ching! Barclays Bank(?) seeking to give NLG $6.2 million!

Could this be the reparations everyone is seeking from the bank with alleged ties to some of recent history's most shameful institutions? [Gotcha! We're talking about Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation.]

Maybe the British bank is hoping to silence NoLandGrab with an early retirement plan. Or, might this be the windfall that we deserve for a job well done?

This just landed in the ole NLG mailbox:

Barclays Bank PLC
International Banking Centre
38 Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge
London SW1X 0LZ-United Kingdom
http://www.barclays.co.uk

Sir/Madam,

RE:INSTRUCTION TO CREDIT YOUR ACCOUNT WITH THE SUM OF US$6,200,000.00

We at this bank wishes to congratulate and inform you that after thorough review and evaluation of your Inheritance/Contract funds in conjunction with the World Bank Auditor General and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment report, your payment file was forwarded to us for immediate transfer of the above quoted amount to your designated bank account from their offshore account with us.

The reports given to us shows that you have been going through hard times by paying a lot of money to see to the release of your funds, which has been delayed by some dubious officials.

We therefore advice that you stop further communication with any correspondence outside this office since you do not have to pay any money or fee to receive your Inheritance/Contract funds as you have met up with the whole funds transfer requirements.

The only thing required from you is to obtain the Non-Residential Clearance Form to enable us credit your account directly by telegraphic transfer or through any of our corresponding banks and send copies of the funds transfer release documents to you and your bankers for confirmation.

Should you follow our directives, your funds will be credited and reflect in your account within five (5) bank working days from the day you obtain this Non-Residential Clearance Form.

For further details and assistance on this Remittance Notification, kindly forward your FULL CONTACT ADDRESS, TELEPHONE and FAX NUMBERS directly to my Private E-mail: suzannenorman@aggies.com

Yours sincerely,

Mrs. Suzanne Norman Head, International Banking Division. Barclays Bank Plc, UK

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

March 11, 2007

This Week in NoLandGrab History

This week in 2004 saw a meeting in Park Slope that lit a fire under two soon-to-be Atlantic Yards bloggers.

Arena Controversy Comes to Slope As Crowd Jeers Atlantic Yards Plan

Forest City, Gehry Reps Appear At Public Forum for First Time

Brooklyn Daily Eagle By John Doyle

The forum, she said, proves there is a strong and growing opposition to Ratner’s development plan. “It showed people are going to fight against this bypass of the democratic process and win.”

If memory serves, this is also the forum where an audience member asked how all the trees in the renderings would live with all of the pollution the traffic would cause if Atlantic Yards was built. Ratner folk responded that they were working on a new kind of tree that is resistant to pollution, which brought on the quick audience response, "What about the people?"

Posted by amy at 12:44 PM

Sunday Comix

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Posted by amy at 12:38 PM

The open space dodge, revisited

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Atlantic Yards Report

Last April, I pointed out that the section on Open Space in the new Atlantic Yards.com web site deceptively claimed that the developer "will transform portions of the exposed rail yards into publicly accessible open space."

While portions of the rail yards would indeed become "publicly accessible open space," the phrasing suggests that the open space would be built only above the unsightly rail yards. Indeed, landscape architect Laurie Olin, in a candid interview with the New York Observer, explained how taking the street was crucial for Forest City Ratner to assemble the quota of open space necessary for the project to pass muster.

Taking the streets

A comparison of Olin's sketch (above) on the Atlantic Yards web site with the schematic of the project footprint created by BrooklynSpeaks (right), shows that open space would be built over the currently functioning Pacific Street, as well as the area between Pacific and Dean streets currently occupied by buildings.

link

Posted by amy at 12:27 PM

Speaker wants to track complaints

Courier-Life
Gary Buiso

Asked about the massive Atlantic Yards project, Quinn said it should have gone through a thorough review. “The city abdicated its role,” she said.

Demolition prep work on the $4 billion project, which includes a new arena for the Nets, has already started.

“I don’t know what options are left now,” she said. “I’m not sure anything is left to be done.”

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Norman Oder has a suggestion for what Speaker Quinn can do in today's Atlantic Yards Report post, Goldberger says balance on big projects elusive; Quinn admits AY abdication:

Note that, while Atlantic Yards is a state project, the city has, in other projects involving partly city land, requested that the city's land use review procedure be included. In this case, don't Quinn and fellow City Council members have any say in the $205 million--up from the $100 million promised in a 2005 Memorandum of Understanding--that Mayor Bloomberg wants to commit to the project?

Posted by amy at 12:20 PM

Park Slope’s costly future - Many worry about development

pslope3.07.jpg

Courier-Life
Joe Maniscalco

The loss of neighborhood diversity, the demise of neighborhood mom & pop shops and the impact of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project are all fears weighing heavily on the minds of Park Slope residents as they see new development going up all around them.

“There’s a price for thinking big and there’s a price for thinking small,” said architect and urban planning professor Stuart Pertz, part of a four-person panel that included architectural historian Francis Morrone, Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz and Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff.

Faced with the current frenzy to build big, Pertz complained that any suggestion of balanced development is now routinely derided as “mealy-mouthed and an automatic “non-starter.”

“The city and state is so anxious to get it done,” he said. “We create zoning which is not planning. We have EIS, [Environmental Impact Statement], but they don’t provide a vision. If the city chooses to be an advocate for development, someone needs to advocate for the public so it’s a fair fight.”

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Posted by amy at 12:13 PM

March 10, 2007

On Tuesday, rent-stabilized tenants will get day in court

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Atlantic Yards Report

On Tuesday, the "other" Atlantic Yards lawsuit will get its day in court.

Tenants in two buildings owned by Forest City Ratner filed suit in December challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) use of eminent domain to demolish their buildings and override their rights as rent-stabilized tenants.

The latter case is in the state Supreme Court. (They've also filed a separate suit in the Appellate Division challenging the relocation offer.)

Yesterday, at a brief hearing before Supreme Court Justice Walter B. Tolub, lawyers for both the 13 tenants and the ESDC briefly outlined their arguments regarding the ESDC's motion to dismiss the case.

Tolub, recognizing that the case couldn't be handled in a few minutes, said he needed to read the legal briefs, and scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Before then, I'll try to summarize the legal arguments.

link

Posted by amy at 12:13 PM

Daily News in the tank? (redux)

dailynews3.07.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News had a scoop yesterday--the explanation that the city would spend $100 million on land for the Atlantic Yards project as part of a $205 million contribution--far more than the originally contemplated $100 million in a 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding.

That story appeared only in the Brooklyn section. Don't they think it's news to any of their readers outside the borough?

Unfortunately, it's part of a pattern--as I detailed in December, the Daily News overhyped a story on a proposed new Brooklyn Tech High School, running it on page 2, while it relegated to the Brooklyn section important articles about the decline in projected tax revenues and the filing of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain lawsuit.

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Posted by amy at 12:10 PM

You Don’t Love Me Yet

loveme3.07.jpg

Time Out New York Book Review
Benjamin Strong

No, this is not a heartfelt question from Miss Brooklyn, saddened at the negative attention she is receiving even before her cotillion. "You Don't Love Me Yet" is Jonathan Lethem's (DDDB Advisory Board Member) latest novel.

After four years of morsels—stories, essays, a brilliant denouncement of the Atlantic Yards project on Slate—it can be only a matter of time before Lethem goes big again.

link

Posted by amy at 11:59 AM

Curbed's Atlantic Yards Made Easy Guide

UrbanRoom3.07.jpg

Curbed
by Robert Guskind

It's been a busy week for the little Brooklyn project known as Atlantic Yards, what with the impending start of demolition, a setback in court for the developer and new details about project finances. But, if you're like most people, you probably wonder what the hell is going on at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. So, here's an attempt to explain in case you've got all your what's, when's and where's mixed up. A lot of this basic information comes from Atlantic Yards Report, whose writer actually understands the project.

link

Of course, NoLandGrab readers are smarter than your average bear, but if you want to brush up on the basics (What is Atlantic Yards? Is it being built? How long is it going to take? What's it going to cost?) check out the bite-sized Curbed overview...

Posted by amy at 11:43 AM

Atlantic Yards and the subway: a disaster in the making?

The Columbia Journalist
By Samuel Goldsmith

Two transit watchdog groups, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Straphangers Campaign, say the additional Atlantic Yards ridership will cripple the station, perhaps to the point of incapacitation.
...
Ratner does include a new subway entrance in the Atlantic Yards design. But the MTA has no plans to change service at Atlantic Avenue--with or without Atlantic Yards, according to MTA spokesman Tim O’Brian. Parts of the station were remodeled in 2004, so no new improvements are expected in the near future, he said. More trains could be added after basketball games, like the baseball special at Yankee Stadium, because there is a surplus of cars after rush hour. But before games and during rush hour, “practically everything is out there on the tracks,” said O’Brian.

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Posted by amy at 11:35 AM

Ratner Improperly Acquired Two ‘Footprint’ Properties, State Court Says

harkavy3.07.jpg

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Elizabeth Stull

Based on court papers filed for both sides, Justice Ira Harkavy [pictured right] on Tuesday reversed the developer’s 45-year leases to 752-766 Pacific St. and 535 Carlton Ave., (now a six-story building and a parking lot), both in Prospect Heights.

Owner Henry Weinstein had leased the properties to real estate developer Shaya Boymelgreen, which improperly sold those leases to AY 535 Carlton LLC, a company affiliated with Forest City’s Atlantic Yards Project, without obtaining the owner’s consent — as required by the lease agreements.
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“My property is not for sale,” Weinstein said. “There is a much bigger issue at stake: The rule of law has to prevail. The whole reason the United States was formed was to get away from the divine right of kings.”

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Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

March 9, 2007

Atlantic Yards, Invisible Borders

adaptivelandscapes.com

AYBorder.jpgA cool (in all senses of the word) slideshow, documenting the border of the Atlantic Yards footprint. Link

Artist, Christian Marc Schmidt:

Using sequenced still images, I trace paths around political and/or historical boundaries within cities, borders which may have had, or will have, a profound influence on the urban morphology of a city.

Further explanation from the artist.

My interest lies in the boundaries of the area, within which this tension is inherent. The border itself is the interface between old and new, between reality and idea. It is an anticipatory space, in which one can experience the friction or harmony resulting from the collision of ideas—the idea of now, of what the place is, and the idea of possibility, of what it could become. Programmatically, boundaries shape any future development, yet also contain the memory of what a place used to be, or what it might have been.

Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere35.jpgDope on the Slope, Atlantic Yards: The Over and Under

Speaking of Atlantic Yards, here's my prediction of the "over and under" on this project if it goes through as planned. Call me shrill, but I think this project will have the dubious honor of becoming the textbook example of how NOT to envision, plan, construct, and maintain an urban mixed-use project of unprecedented scale for decades to come. Won't it be great to have the densest residential development project in entire U.S. serving as a living laboratory for more enlightened cities to learn from?

Slope Street Cats, Saving Ratner's Cats
The group saving cats from Ratner's wrecking ball has a web site.

The Albany Project, SPRING CLEANING!! "Clean Sweep" at ESDC is Some Dirty Job

An Albany-based political watchdog blog keeps tabs on Atlantic Yards because the project is indicative of everything that's wrong with "Three Men in a Room."

Now, the first thing to realize is that the Kingpin of ESDC, aka "the Ambassador" Charlie Gargano, behaved as big rats do, and jumped ship at the first whiff of sunshine antiseptic to come. His law-school-buddy Pataki appointed him to a cushy post at the Port Authority, where he could be handy to their other law-school-buddy, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and generally continue to extort the good people of NY (does the word "extort" seem overheated? Well, check out the facts at: http://www.villagevo...)

Yonkers Tribune, Forest City Ratner Misleads Public on Construction Timeline

It appears that there are folks in Yonkers that are as interested in what Bruce Ratner is up to in Brooklyn as we are in what he is trying to pull off in Yonkers. Today they posted Develop Don't Destroy's latest press release.

Crain's Cleveland, Never a dull moment in N.Y.
The Cleveland business press notes the excitement in N.Y. over the latest legal snafu in the Atlantic Yards fight.

Posted by lumi at 10:36 AM

Little guy beats Ratner in not-so-little case

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

A state judge has ruled that a back-room deal between Bruce Ratner and another big-time developer for control of a key piece of real estate in the Atlantic Yards footprint was “improper.”
...
Weinstein had rented office space in the building to developer Shaya Boymelgreen — but then Boymelgreen sold his 48-year lease to Ratner, a deal that paved the way for the building to be condemned by the state for Ratner’s benefit.

But Harkavy ruled that Boymelgreen had no right to transfer the lease without Weinstein’s permission.
...
The ruling means that control of the building returns to Weinstein, who is one of 13 tenants and property owners that are suing Ratner and state officials over the wrongful use of eminent domain to clear land and turn it over to Ratner.

Guess what?

Forest City Ratner would not comment on the judge’s decision.

Boymelgreen goes negative on Weinstein:

“We’ll appeal, of course, and that will take a long time,” added Boymelgreen. “[Weinstein] always wants a dollar more. … When the lawyers start costing him more than he’ll get, then he will stop.”

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Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

Twice is nice: Is Yassky getting tougher on Atlantic Yards?

It is conventional wisdom that David Yassky lost his bid for Congress because of his tepid stance on Atlantic Yards.

Which makes it all the more interesting that this week the NYC Councilmember was quoted twice in the press talking tough(er) on Atlantic Yards.

From NY1, on Department of Transportation plans to convert 6th & 7th Aves to one-way throughways:

"You know what this really is? This is Atlantic Yards coming home to roost in the neighborhood."

In today's Daily News, on taxpayer money being used to acquire land for Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

"There's no justification to spend public money like this," said Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights). "Government money should be spent on transportation infrastructure, schools and traffic calming - not subsidies for a private company."

It seem like Yassky is ratcheting up the rhetoric on Atlantic Yards. Could it just be rhetoric, or does he really mean it?

Whatever the answer, he has probably been getting an earful from his constituents on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

City: 100M for Yards land

Pols rip EDC plan to use public funds for private Ratner mega-project

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

amd_letitiajames-NYD.jpg

The city wants to spend $100 million to buy land tied to the Atlantic Yards project - money previously thought to be earmarked for improving infrastructure for the development.

Economic Development Corp. officials acknowledged at a City Council budget hearing Wednesday that about half of the city's contribution to the mega-project will go toward scooping up property on or near the 22-acre site for developer Forest City Ratner.

The agency's admission drew outrage from Brooklyn officials and from critics of the project, who worried that taxpayers would foot the bill on behalf of a private land grab.

"There's no justification to spend public money like this," said Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights). "Government money should be spent on transportation infrastructure, schools and traffic calming - not subsidies for a private company."

In addition:

Forest City Ratner officials declined to comment.

article

MOUExcerpt.gifNoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards critics have been telling anyone who would listen that the Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Ratner (1.8MB PDF) states plainly that "The City's capital contribution shall be used for the same purpose as the ESDC's capital contribution, except that the City's capital contribution may also be used to fund a portion of the costs of acquisition of the "Arena Site" (other than the MTA properties)."

No one should be surprised that it is coming to pass, but the outrage is warranted.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Public obligation creep: city will spend $100M for AY land acquisition

Atlantic Yards Report fills in some blanks in the Daily News story on $100 million of taxpayer money to be used to buy land for Ratner.

[The] MOU (p. 4) contemplated a city contribution of $100 million. In January, I reported the city's contribution has been more than doubled, to $205 million; the explanation was murky.
...
The Council Members protest a bit much about the uses of the city subsidy, given that it was announced more than two years ago. However, it was never contemplated that a sum that large--$100 million--would be used for land acquisition.

Apparently the really important part of the MOU was the declaration (p. 8) that it was non-binding.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Feds scrutinizing Ratner's Ridge Hill

The Journal News ran a follow-up article and editorial on the news that the FBI is taking a hard look at the Yonkers City Council's role in Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project.

Yonkers council still in the dark over FBI probe
By Michael Gannon and Timothy O'Connor

Basically, everyone in the Yonkers City Council is saying that they don't know what the FBI investigation and subpoenas are about.

A source familiar with the probe, however, told The Journal News on Tuesday it was related to the council's handling of the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill development on the city's east side.

Forest City Ratner's response:

On Tuesday, a Forest City spokesman said the first the developer heard of the subpoena was when a reporter called to ask about it.

Though details have not been revealed, the paper explains why the FBI might want to have a closer look into these mega-development deals.

While the nature of the probe remained a mystery to most yesterday, it comes as no surprise that federal investigators are taking a hard look at the northern suburbs.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia has made public corruption probes a centerpiece of his office since he became the top prosecutor in the Southern District of New York in 2005. Last year, he tapped a veteran public corruption prosecutor, Perry Carbone, to head up an anti-public corruption campaign in the northern suburbs.

"Here, billions of dollars are spent on private development through projects that require government involvement at all levels," Garcia said in an address in May to the Scarsdale League of Women Voters in Hartsdale. "In this environment, there is risk and there is opportunity for corruption. We must take a hard look."

Just another corruption probe comes into view in the City of Yonkers
Though The Journal News editorial board feigns ennui in the headline, they seem to be as concerned as the citizens of Yonkers that the City has yet to emerge from the dark ages, when corruption was merely the cost of doing business:

The project is part of the new Yonkers that we have heard so much about lately - a city of burgeoning opportunities and new economic vitality; whether it is also part of the old and familiar Yonkers - one of ingrained public corruption, going back decades - remains to be seen. The subpoena states that the evidence is being sought by the investigators in connection with a possible violation of the federal conspiracy statute; how exactly that might relate to the development project is anyone's guess - or nightmare.

Thanks to Community First Development Coalition for the links.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD
Folks, keep in mind that an allegation of corruption has already been attached to this project:

In 2004, the 20-something-year-old brother-in-law of former Mayor Spencer landed on Forest City Ratner's payroll, as the property manager for Ridge Hill, after a "storm of protest" over the revelation that in 2003 he was making six figures working at the Ridge Hill Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental private corporation overseeing the project (link).

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Cash flow docs mystery: missing revenues, missing subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report compares and combines numbers from the three pages of financial projections, dated 10/06 and released last week, with the 24-page KPMG report obtained, but not released, 12/06.

Using the KPMG report, AYR is able to fill in some of the gaps in the three-page financials, but many details remain wanting.

Neither set of documents provides a clear sense of the project bottom line; for that, we’d need a full accounting of “sources and uses” of the funds. However, the unreleased document—which I and some other reporters have acquired, though not via the ESDC—goes much farther than the document publicly released.

For example, the Nets team and arena might end up being a cash cow:

Regarding the Nets, the document released last week (right) has some gaps. The KPMG document includes $33.5 million in annual TV revenue and $27 million in “other Nets-related revenue,” figures that do not appear explicitly on the document at right.

That suggests more than $60 million annually should be added to the bottom line—a significant gain, given that the developer’s obligation to pay for the arena would be less than $44 million a year. That sum refers to debt service on tax-exempt bonds; it would be higher if the state required Forest City Ratner to pay for the arena directly rather than have it be “publicly-owned” by a state subsidiary.

Oder also looks into figures for condos, rentals, subsidies, rental of retail space and revenue from laundry facilities.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

FCR offers clarification on AY timetable; is it credible?

Atlantic Yards Report

Metro NY follows up on my report yesterday that Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner told investment analysts that Atlantic Yards would take 15 years to build, rather than 10, and that the arena wouldn't open until 2010, rather than a year earlier.

The question is whether Forest City Ratner's clarification is credible.

Chuck Ratner's clarifications make little sense; nevertheless, Norman Oder carefully scrutinizes Bruce's cuz's comments for clues to his veracity.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

When will Atlantic Yards be done? Depends on which Ratner you ask

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

3atlanticyardswork_BP.jpg

The Nets arena will open a year later than promised — and the rest of Atlantic Yards won’t be done until 2022 — six years behind schedule, two key officials said this week, contradicting a promises by Bruce Ratner that the mini-city would be completed on schedule by 2016.
...
The FCE executives’ comments directly contradict those made by Bruce Ratner and his executives, who continue to say that the arena will be completed in time for tipoff in the fall of 2009.

Ratner has also promised that the rest of the project — including its 2,250 units of affordable housing — will be done by 2016.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Return to Owner: Two Atlantic Yards Properties

Weinstein-Gothamist.jpgGothamist pieces together the mystery behind the Ratner-Boymelgreen backroom deal:

You ask, how can a mere tenant sign over properties he doesn't even own to a developer for demolition? So do we!

The properties in question are at 762-766 Pacific Street and 535 Carlton Avenue, an office building and a parking lot, owned by Henry Weinstein. Weinstein leased them for 48-years to Shaya Boymelgreen, a Brooklyn developer, and the contracts clearly stated that leases could not be sold and the properties could not be demolished. When FCR took over the properties, Weinstein joined the lawsuit against the Atlantic Projects.

Boymelgreen's lawyer tried to argue that Weinstein would eventually sell the properties to FCR was just holding out for more money from FCR.
...
The NY Times notes some hilarity with Boymelgreen's attempts to tell Weinstein he wanted to sell the leases to FCR: "...Mr. Boymelgreen’s companies sent a letter to Mr. Weinstein asking permission to sell the leases to Forest City, but sent it to a wrong address. Ten days later, without having heard back from Mr. Weinstein, Mr. Boymelgreen’s companies transferred the leases to Forest City." Wow, we guess when you're a big developer, following up is not a big deal.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Nets may stay in N.J. until 2010

Bergen Record sports writer John Brennan explains to NJ Nets fans why they get to keep their team for an additional lame-duck season:

The Nets won’t be moving to Brooklyn until 2010 -- a year later than the team has been vowing to leave Continental Arena -- two executives affiliated with Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner told a group of investment analysts this week.

But on Thursday, Forest City Enterprises Chief Executive Charles Ratner -- Bruce's brother -- said in a “clarification” that he didn’t mean it.

Forest City can say whatever they want — one look at the previous timeline says otherwise:

At this time a year ago, Nets officials were hoping to break ground on a temporary platform over a rail yard near downtown Brooklyn by October 2006 and break ground on the arena 10 months later, in August 2007. That might have allowed enough time for an opening in the fall of 2009-2010, but work on the Vanderbilt Yards site has been underway for only a few weeks, potentially pushing back any arena work until late this year or early in 2008.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Atlantic Yards to take 15 years?

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

After these startling revelations...

Forest City Ratner claims it will take 10 years to construct its Atlantic Yards development, with an arena opening for the 2009-10 basketball season.

But earlier this week Chuck Ratner, cousin of Bruce and CEO of FCR’s parent company Forest City Enterprises, stated that it would take longer.

“This is going to be a 15-year buildout,” Chuck Ratner said at the Citigroup 2007 Property CEO Conference in Naples, Fla. The arena would open by the 2010 season, he added.

...the PR department got creative:

“When I referred to the project taking 15 years to build I was referring to the total time, from the idea or conception of the development to completion of the final building,” he said in the statement. “The actual construction of Atlantic Yards will take 10 years and, as we have announced, preliminary work on the site has begun.”

article

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Marty goes on the record on Barclays

The Brooklyn Paper

Marty has Brooklynites over a Cracker Barrel, in this response to a constituent, regarding Bruce Ratner's controversial naming-rights deal with Barclays Bank. :

However, when we look from a historical perspective, it is a fact of life that many institutions with long histories, from banks to auto manufacturers to multi-national conglomerates, have had dealings at some point in their histories that run counter to the values of all who hold human rights dear.

Therefore, and I think you’ll concur, when the public and private sector partner for the benefit of city residents, we must be vigilant in determining a company’s record and most importantly [sic], its intentions. In this case, I must tell you, I am confident that a partnership with Barclays will be good for Brooklyn...

Click here for more.

Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

Bruce’s Yards built on lies

Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

Almost every week brings more evidence that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project is built on a foundation of deception.

This week’s example comes in the form of Judge Ira Harvavy’s ruling that Ratner acted improperly when he made a back-room deal with another developer to get control of a privately owned building that stands in the way of his $4-billion mini-city.

And don't forget what happens when developers get too much sun:

Atlantic Yards–watchers should also be interested in another piece of news this week. Down in Florida, two executives from Bruce Ratner’s parent company, Forest City Enterprises, admitted that Atlantic Yards won’t be completed until at least 2022 — six years after Ratner has promised.
...
If then, of course. Forest City Enterprises Vice President Bob O’Brien admitted, “We are terrible” at projecting dates for completion of projects.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Wrong way! Park Slope united against Seventh and Sixth avenue one-way conversions

Brooklyn Papers
By Christie Rizk

City officials backtracked a bit this week from a bombshell proposal to convert Seventh and Sixth avenues into one-way thoroughfares, saying the much-reviled proposal would be killed if residents reject it at a meeting next week.

“These plans need community board approval and if the community doesn’t support [it], we will not move forward,” the agency said in a statement this week.
...
Behind all the talk of transportation policy and urban planning is the looming shadow of Atlantic Yards, which, as proposed, would add 15,000 to 20,000 residents to neighboring Prospect Heights and bring 19,000 screaming basketball fans to the area every game night.

Atlantic Yards is a state-approved project, but the job of fixing its myriad traffic woes belongs to the city.
...
A typical basketball arena requires streets that are dedicated to getting lots of people to the game, and getting people away from there after the game. This is not usually a problem for arenas located away from city centers, but it’s a whole different ball game for an arena in the middle of a low-rise neighborhood with poor traffic flow already.

Though the one-way streets may be ideal traffic solutions in other settings, in Park Slope, the solution for the 40 game nights every year will create problems for everyone else on the other 320 days, explained [traffic expert Andy] Wiley-Schwartz.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

Saving Bruce Ratner’s cats

The Brooklyn Papers
By Dana Rubinstein

Another environmental impact of Atlantic Yards:

yardscats_BP.jpg

While opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project continue to work around the clock — figuratively — to block the developer’s wrecking ball, cat lovers are working around the clock — literally — to rescue a colony of feral felines who are about to lose their home to make room for the 16-tower mega-project.

A group from Slope Street Cats, which traps, neuters, and cares for feral kitties, has been spending its nights setting up traps outside a trash-filled lot on Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, whose 11 stray cats don’t know that the largest development in Brooklyn’s history is about to evict them.

“Cats are very tied to place,” said Laura Brahm, the group’s assistant executive director. “If [Ratner] starts doing demolition, the cats will either run away and starve, or get hit by cars.”

...(a Ratner spokesman refused to comment, by the way)

article

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

...Plus c'est la même chose

Could architect Frank Gehry be a repeat offender?

Overheard in "Eavesdrop," the industry gossip column in The Architect's Newspaper:

Up the Hudson, at down-in-the-dumps Newburgh, a week-long charrette to resurrect the city, led by DPZ’s Andres Duany and developer Steve Maun of Leyland, uncovered that the culprit behind the razing of a major part of the city’s historic waterfront was none other than our very own Frank O. Gehry! The architect signed the order in 1966 as part of what was then known as “urban renewal.” Can we chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, or is his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn just another case of, as the French say, plus ça change?

link

Déjà vu, encore?

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE:
Forest City Ratner Misleads Public On Construction Timeline; (Minimum) 15-Year Build Out Looms

Parent-Company CEO Says Arena Won't Open Until 2010;
"We Are Terrible" in Estimating Time Needed for Construction

BROOKLYN, NY- Forest City Ratner (FCRC) appears to be having trouble being honest with the public about its proposed "Atlantic Yards" project. And this time, they've been caught making misleading statements by the CEO of their parent company.

In comments Tuesday at the Citigroup 2007 Global Property CEO Conference in Naples, Florida, Forest City Enterprises (FCE) CEO Chuck Ratner said that the build out for the "Atlantic Yards" would last at least 15 years, and that the planned arena would open by the 2010 season at the earliest. Yet only two weeks ago, FCRC Executive VP Jim Stuckey told The New York Observer "we expect that it will take 10" years to complete construction, and just last week, FCRC CEO Bruce Ratner told The New York Times that "I think we can" open the arena in 2009.

"The memo from headquarters about the project's real timing appears to have suffered the same mail delivery problems as the lease assignment for Henry Weinstein's property," said Eric McClure, speaking on behalf of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "These guys might want to start using the telephone in order to keep their stories straight. We don't imagine that Chuck Ratner is talking worst-case scenario, either; 20 years of construction - and the truck traffic, noise, debris and disruption that accompanies it - is probably more realistic."

Chuck Ratner's comments at the Citigroup conference were first reported today by AtlanticYardsReport.com, which analyzed a webcast of the FCE CEO's remarks. "I'm not at all confident of how long it will take us to finish." Mr. Ratner said, while discussing the timetable for "Atlantic Yards." He added, "we are terrible - and we've been a developer for 50 years - on these big multi-use, public-private urban developments, to be able to predict when it will go from idea to reality."

The statements by Chuck Ratner further cloud the question of when the proposed project's below-market-rate housing will be available. The great majority of the below-market units are planned for later stages of construction. In addition, the March issue of the real estate publication The Real Deal is reporting slackening demand for Brooklyn office space, which could further limit the "Atlantic Yards" project's already vastly reduced promises of new jobs.

FCRC's misleading statements about construction timing are part of an emerging pattern of inconsistencies. The developer had told the Empire State Development Corporation that it "controlled" the property owned by Mr. Weinstein in the footprint of the proposed "Atlantic Yards" project during the state's review process, despite the fact that FCRC held only a lease, at best, and had obtained that without Mr. Weinstein's required consent. A state court ruled in Mr. Weinstein's favor on Tuesday in a lawsuit regarding the property.

[To listen to the webcast of Chuck Ratner's comments at the Citigroup 2007 Global Property CEO Conference, please visit:

http://ir.forestcity.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=88464&p=irol-eventdetails&EventId=1492668

Comments relating to the "Atlantic Yards" project begin just past the 27-minute mark of the webcast.]

Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

March 8, 2007

Demo Map Update

There were a couple of things that got missed on the previous demolition map, so here's the revised edition (click map for hi-rez version).

DemoBlockLotMapV2.gif

Notes:

Posted by lumi at 10:45 AM

A Cleveland Ratner offers timeline candor: Arena by 2010; project would take 15 years

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner dropped a bomb in his address at the Citigroup 2007 Global Property CEO Conference:

Forest City Ratner (FCR) executives have claimed that the planned Brooklyn arena (aka Barclays Center) would open in 2009 and the Atlantic Yards project would take ten years. However, executives from the parent company were far more candid while speaking on Tuesday to investment analysts.

The arena would open by 2010, at best.

The project would take at least 15 years--and that's from a CEO who acknowledges that the company is "terrible" at predicting when a project will go from idea to reality.

Norman Oder reminds us that this is what insiders and outsiders have already been saying.

FCE-Execs.jpgOder also transcribes the discussion between two Forest City execs, where they say the darnedest things:

"Everybody know the project? It’s Downtown Brooklyn..." [For the record, the project is in Prospect Heights.]

"We would expect and our goal is to have vertical construction up and operating within 30 to 36 months, and hopefully, the current timeline is to have the ball team open in 10-11?"

Return expectations have not changed since we started. That is--this is going to be a 15-year buildout...

We’re very good at estimating markets, we’re very good at estimating rents, at estimating lease-ups, and estimating costs. We are terrible, and we’ve been a developer for 50 years, on these big multi-use, public private urban developments, to be able to predict when it will go from idea to reality.

I have a daughter who lives in Park Slope. She’s just had a second baby, she’s looking for a place to move--it’s unbelievable to me what she has to pay. So I don’t expect our returns to moderate.

Maybe Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey's copy of the memo outlining these important delays in the project's timeline was sent to the wrong address, but he can read more on Atlantic Yards Report (article).

Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

Judge Rules Forest Ratner Acquired Building Illegally

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The developer of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project hit an obstacle yesterday when a judge stripped the company of an acre of land.

A New York Supreme Court judge ruled that the firm Forest City Ratner wrongly acquired the lease on a large concrete office building on the site of the planned $4 billion mixed-use project. The tenant of the commercial space, Brooklyn developer Jeshayahu Boymelgreen, was faulted for transferring the long-term lease to Forest City without approval from the building owner.

"They knew going in that they were committing an illegal act," building owner Henry Weinstein, who is also a plaintiff in a federal suit against Forest City Ratner, said.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

“Unclean hands”? Judge raps Boymelgreen, Ratner in AY lease dispute

WeinsteinBuilding02.jpgAtlantic Yards Report has been following property owner Henry Weinstein's claims that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner didn't "control" his property, despite the fact that Ratner convinced the Empire State Development Corporation that he did.

A state judge has backed charges that developer Forest City Ratner has “unclean hands” in a dispute over property in the planned Atlantic Yards footprint.

For months, Henry Weinstein—who owns some key properties in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint—has protested in state court that his tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, improperly assigned leases to a Pacific Street building and adjacent parking lot to an affiliate of Forest City Ratner. And that assignment, he argued, allowed the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to deceptively portray—since October 2005—that Forest City Ratner “controlled” the land, thus suggesting a lesser need for eminent domain.

Why does this lawsuit matter, and why did Ratner go through all this trouble if he was going to use eminent domain anyway?

The ruling can't stop the state from using eminent domain to take the properties. But it might make it more costly. Boymelgreen had argued that Weinstein is using the legal fight to shore up his negotiating position with Ratner, while Weinstein responded that Boymelgreen’s deal with Ratner would diminish the value of his property.

Weinstein claimed that Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey made a verbal offer to buy his property but wouldn’t put in in writing, and threatened that if no agreement was reached, the state would use eminent domain. FCR denied making any threats or raising the issue of condemnation, according to Harkavy’s decision.
DDDB, in a statement, observed that Forest City misled not only the ESDC but also the Public Authorities Control Board by claiming control of Weinstein's properties.

The state’s willingness to portray the properties as “controlled” by Forest City Ratner may be used in the federal eminent domain case to argue that the developer has benefited from favoritism.

Norman Oder's article is well worth reading because it offers details that won't appear in other press accounts, including * the dog-ate-my-homework excuse given by Boymelgreen to justify closing a the deal with Ratner without the property owner's consent, * how Forest City Ratner refused to disclose any financial information even though the company desperately wanted to be Weinstein's new tenant, and * Judge Harkavy's ruling, which sided with Weinstein on all points.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Ratner To Appeal Atlantic Yards Ruling

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman has it backwards in the headline, but gets it right in the blockquote:

"We cannot comment in detail on the decision today because the suit did not directly involve Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), said Jeffrey Braun, an attorney for Forest City Ratner.

article

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder informs us that Ratner wasn't the plaintiff in the suit and therefore cannot appeal the decision. An attorney for developer Shaya Boymelgreen told The Times that his client will appeal.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Atlantic Yards Loses Lease to Part of Site

The NY Times
By Andy Newman

As it moves forward on its plans for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Forest City Ratner has represented itself as controlling nearly all the property in the 22-acre footprint of the site.

[NoLandGrab: At the October 18, 2005 public hearing, Weinstein informed the Empire State Development Corporation that the leases were illegally reassigned.]

But in a decision released yesterday, a judge in Brooklyn terminated Forest City Ratner’s long-term lease on two properties covering nearly an acre of land within the site, after finding that a tenant had sold the lease to Forest City without the owner’s permission.

Control of the properties, a six-story office building and adjacent parking lot along Pacific Street near Downtown Brooklyn, reverts to the owner, Henry Weinstein, the judge ruled.
...
Officials at Forest City Ratner declined to comment on the ruling.

It appears that Shaya Boymelgreen will be appealing the ruling:

Mr. Weinstein’s tenant, a company controlled by another major developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, had argued in court papers that Mr. Weinstein had no valid reason to deny him permission to sell his leases to two companies controlled by Forest City.
...
A lawyer for Mr. Boymelgreen’s companies, James P. Sheridan, said he would appeal the decision.

Weinstein's opinion is that Boymelgreen and Ratner knew exactly what they were doing:

Mr. Weinstein said that Forest City must have known that it did not have the right to take over the leases without his blessing. “If you’re buying a lease from somebody and you have thousand-dollar-an-hour, 800-pound gorilla lawyers retained to protect your interest,” he said, “I tend to think that they read the lease and realized that they knew that what they were doing was illegal.”

article

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Landowner wins vs. Ratner

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

A property owner threatened by the Atlantic Yards project enjoyed a victory after a judge ruled that two of his leases were improperly acquired by the developer, Forest City Ratner.

Property owner Henry Weinstein can keep his six-story building and a parking lot on Carlton Ave., Supreme Court judge Ira Harkavy ruled Tuesday.
...
Weinstein leased his property to Brooklyn developer Shaya Boymelgreen in 1999, but he didn't expect Boymelgreen to sell the leases to Forest City Ratner, Weinstein said.

Weinstein, a critic of the Atlantic Yards project, never gave consent to the deal between Boymelgreen and Ratner, which would have allowed the latter to hold onto the leases until 2048.

"We believed from the beginning that Ratner and Boymelgreen had no right to do what they did, so this decision is no surprise," said Candace Carponter, a member of the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "As far as I'm concerned, this decision is unassailable upon appeal."

Ratner's lawyer Jeffery Braun informed the News, "The developer [Boymelgreen] has advised us that he will appeal the decision," and "We do not believe that this decision will have any impact on the project, and are continuing with the preparatory work begun last week."

article

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Park Slope Consults Its Inner Oracle

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Darius VanSluytman

Amid a rash of new developments, increasing rents, and Mayor Bloomberg's estimate that one million new residents will arrive in the city by 2030, Park Slope residents pondered the future of their beloved neighborhood last week. The Park Slope Civic Council held a forum on Thursday called "Where Goes the Neighborhood?"
...
Facing a new era of development, with Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project becoming the most dramatic harbinger of such changes, the next steps for concerned residents seem a daunting task.

"It is not too late if we can stay informed, and simply get the public to respond," [Stuart] Pertz suggested with a healthy dose of optimism.

article

NoLandGrab: The Star reporter didn't go into detail about the panelists' responses to a question on Atlantic Yards, when their fiery enthusiam to continue the fight soon melted down to a sense of resignation, leaving audience members scratching their heads.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Court Rules Forest City Ratner Does Not Have Rights To Some Properties

NY1

BusDepot-NY1.jpg

Just days after a dozen buildings at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards site were cleaned for demolition the State Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the developer does not have rights to some of the properties.

This decision terminates the leases Forest City Ratner bought from another developer -- who had a contract under Prospect Height’s property owner Henry Weinstein.

The judge said the leases of two buildings had been passed off to Ratner without Weinstein's approval.
...
An attorney for Ratner says Weinstein plans to appeal the decision.

There seems to be a mistake in this report, since the defendant, Weinstein, would have to be nuts to appeal a decision in which he's won.

article (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

Demos (& Complaints) Begin

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

YardsDemopic-BDS.jpgAn update on Ratner's demolition plans:

Steadily, the 22-acre footprint of the planned Atlantic Yards project has begun to change. Last week Forest City Ratner demolished one building - a garage at 179 Flatbush Avenue adjoining the JRG Restaurant and Fashion Cafe just west of Fifth Avenue - and began preliminary work on a new railyard for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Also, the developer announced plans to demolish a dozen more structures along Flatbush Avenue, Pacific Street, Dean Street, and Vanderbilt Avenue. The result should be a patchwork of vacant lots, especially at the western edge near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, which perhaps not coincidentally would have the effect of isolating two buildings housing plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the project. Unless those lawsuits are resolved, construction of an arena for the basketball Nets can't be completed.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Follow the Money, and Don't Lose Count!

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

This article recapping the lack of info provided by last week's financial disclosures has a really good explanation of what's missing from the three-page document:

For months, Brooklyn assemblyman Jim Brennan has been pushing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to release the Atlantic Yards business plan provided by developer Forest City Ratner, but so far kept under wraps. His goal: to help evaluate whether the $4 billion project, which at 6,430 apartments over 22 acres would be the densest in the city, could be downsized without harming its financial viability.

The result last week, however, frustrated Brennan. First, he and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery filed suit in state court challenging the ESDC's denial of a Freedom of Information Law request. In response, the ESDC did release some documents - but only three pages that offered only partial fiscal details, with no explanation for the assumptions behind the numbers.
...
Analyst [David] Smith commented: "The schedules omit nearly all of the financing and operating assumptions. They omit any sketch as to how the equity will be raised from five different legal and financial entities (team/arena, condo, rental, hotel, and office), without which one cannot tell what is the cost of external capital versus developer capital. They omit sources and uses of funds, without which it is impossible to tell what fees (however proper they might be!) the developer and its affiliates may be charging the venture ('off the top', as it were). They do not tell us where the $230 million (and counting) of equity that has already been contributed came from, nor at what current or future cost."

Smith said fees were important: "Knowing the net cash flows without knowing the fees is like learning that the Nets scored 89 points last night, without knowing who they were playing, what the other team's score was, and whether they won or lost."

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Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Feds subpoena Yonkers City Council

The Journal News
By Michael Gannon

Before you close the book on Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, subpoenas have been served on the Yonkers City Council in regard to the project.

The FBI has served a wide-ranging federal grand jury subpoena on the City Council seeking documents, including agendas, tapes of meetings and voting records, dating back to the beginning of 2004.

The subpoena does not specify the nature of the U.S. Attorney's investigation. A source familiar with the probe, however, said it was related to the council's handling of the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill development on the city's east side.

Herbert Hadad, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, declined to comment.

No one is claiming to have any idea what this is about; even the normally tight-lipped developer seemed stumped.

Ed Tagliaferri, a spokesman for the developer, said, "This is the first we've heard of (the subpoena)," and declined to comment further.

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Links to all the coverage can be found on the Community First Development Coalition weblog.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Andrea Peyser spies a rat

Atlantic Yards Report

Did Bruce Ratner trip over his own rat?

From Andrea Peyser's Post column today on her Bruce Ratner-guided tour:

As we walked further, to a spot where ground has yet to be broken, we passed an enormous, dead rat.

Ratner opponent Patti Hagan reminds us that the developer has placed rat poison in buildings that were open to the elements.

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NoLandGrab: Why would Ratner leave buildings open to the elements, you ask? He wouldn't be the first developer to use this trick to help buildings along the way towards being "blighted."

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere32.jpgArchinet, Atlantic Yards vs. Brooklyn

A new film, Brooklyn Matters, uncovers a deepening vein of displeasure with the project that spans a wide political spectrum, in Manhattan as well as Brooklyn, among community leaders and urban planners.

Brit in Brooklyn, Ward's Bakery: Save It

Check out cool photos of the Ward Bakery building, including details of the white glazed terracotta tiles — then sign the petition.

The Real Estate Observer, Foye to Visit Atlantic Yards Site

Pat Foye, the new downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, is expected to visit the Atlantic Yards site in central Brooklyn on March 22. The tour, made at the request of City Councilwoman Letitia James, comes after a dubious construction start by developer Forest City Ratner that cut off water to some residents who don't even live in the footprint. The ESDC authorized the arena-and-housing project, and is acquiring property for it via eminent domain.

Metroblogs New York, Atlantic Yards Wait for the Fat Lady

The Atlantic Yards project continues to stir up controversy.

There's a new film out, "Brooklyn Matters," detailing lawsuits, inquiries by Spitzer into Pataki's dealings with Ratner (the man who would have brought the Nets right into Brooklyn with this deal - side tangential rant: why the HELL does anyone think we need to build large stadiums in or that near Manhattan?) and growing public resistance to the Atlantic Yards development project.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, WHY ONE WAY NOW? DOT HAS AN ANSWER (?)

So you're wondering why the DOT wants to change Park Slope traffic patterns NOW? Some people say it has to do with the Atlantic Yards. Even David Yassky says it has something to do with the Atlantic Yards. But here's what the DOT press office had to say.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Today, now you can do more than read- Help Save Ward's Bakery

Dreadnaught explains another reason to sign the Ward Bakery online petition:

As a former resident of Fort Greene, having viewed the demolition of an historic neighborhood under the aegis of ATURA, watched the resultant vacant and blighted landscape for years, only to be further worsened by the "instant slum" shopping mall complex created by Forest City Ratner, the intelligent choice is obvious. Work toward preserving and enhancing the neighborhood and act in a civically responsible manner. Don't put development rights in the hands of demonstrated incompetents.

Brownstoner, Petitioning Bruce to Spare Ward's Bakery

As if we needed another reason to sign the Ward Bakery online petition:

Even if you're one of those people who can't help writing in D-O-N-E-D-E-A-L in the comments of any post about Atlantic Yards, it's hard to argue with the fact that saving this building for "adaptive reuse" (as they call it in the preservation biz) is a no-brainer. It would also be a great p.r. move for Bruce to pretend he has some grasp of what's wonderful about old Brooklyn.

Shakin' Dave, Safehouse Endangered
Read about historic Brooklyn brownstones in danger of being torn down to build a parking garage:

Joy Chatel grazed her fingers across an opening in the masonry of her Brooklyn basement, sealed off long ago. "They would come in here and go through these vaults," she told more than a dozen neighbors one recent Saturday night. She was referring to runaway slaves, who she believes hid in underground chambers connecting the rowhouses along Duffield Street.

The city intends to demolish these houses as part of its redevelopment plan for downtown Brooklyn. Sheraton and aloft Hotels, both units of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, want to build a pair of hotels and a parking garage on the site.

The Park Slope Slanter, NY POST: Ratner is a Good Guy
A Park Slope resident's reaction to Andrea Peyser's second date with Bruce Ratner:

Every Brooklynite but one took a double-take when they read this NY Post headline: “SCORE ONE FOR GOOD GUYS: B'KLYN ARENA FINALLY RISING AMID THE RUIN.” The one who didn’t was the one who wrote it; Cobble Hill resident Andrea Peyser, infamous for her cut-throat-cum-tacky column.

1 Stop Over in Brooklyn, Most Famous Brooklyn Sports Stars

Did you know that Michael Jordan was from Brooklyn? What about Mike Tyson? Brooklyn has a bit of everything and many people come from Brooklyn. It is going to be an exciting time to be a basketball fan in Brooklyn once the Nets officially move to Atlantic Yards.

Yonkers Tribune, State Court Rules Ratner Improperly Obtained Lease
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's press release on Ratner's setback in State court got some air play in Yonkers, where many folks who are are familiar with Ratner backroom deals are still pretty pissed about the Ridge Hill project.

"A Peregrination", A Little More on the Atlantic Yards,

A blogger finds a new way to say, "D-O-N-E D-E-A-L," and takes a couple of jabs at Atlantic Yards bloggers:

The Atlantic Yards, and the development of the Nets Arena, Housing and shopping at Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. in Brooklyn is now moving forward.

The bloggers and readers of No Land Grab, Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and Curbed continue to prattle on with their anti Atlantic Yards, views to no avail.

NoLandGrab: If Ratner would stop prevaricating, subverting the community, and hiding the real value of the Atlantic Yards project in terms of profit and subsidies, then we'd have nothing to write about and could go back to our regularly scheduled lives... (sigh).

Archinet, Gehry and Goldberger

A Yale student gets an invite to a lecture featuring Frank Gehry:

Gehry is so different from our usual guests. He's unassuming, maybe because it doesn't have to pretend to be anything he's not. He's also getting pretty old and he was so tired. He kept telling [Paul] Goldberger to stop the interview!

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

March 7, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: State Court Rules Ratner Improperly Obtained Lease For Properties in "Atlantic Yards" Footprint

Developer's Claims of "Control" of Properties Misled ESDC, PACB; Ruling Significantly Increases Costs of Project

BROOKLYN, NY- New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira B. Harkavy struck a blow to Forest City Ratner (FCRC) on Tuesday when he ruled for Prospect Heights property owner Henry Weinstein in a dispute over control of properties owned by two of Mr. Weinstein's corporations in the footprint of FCRC's proposed "Atlantic Yards" project. The ruling terminates the leases, which real estate developer Shaya Boymelgreen improperly assigned to FCRC, and permits Mr. Weinstein to regain full control of his properties.

Justice Harkavy ruled that AY Carlton, an affiliate of FCRC, had improperly acquired the leases on the property owned by Mr. Weinstein at 752-766 Pacific Street and 535 Carlton Avenue from Mr. Boymelgreen. The leases had been transferred to AY Carlton without Mr. Weinstein's approval, and for a purpose - the demolition of the properties - to which Mr. Weinstein did not consent, despite clauses in the leases that clearly forbid such actions.

Ignoring the fact that Mr. Weinstein had not consented to assignment of the leases and that he, in fact, still owned both properties, FCRC also misled the Empire State Development Corporation and the Public Authorities Control Board by claiming control of Mr. Weinstein's properties, despite Mr. Weinstein's rejection of the transfer and his repeated requests that FCRC refrain from making such a claim.

Mr. Weinstein, whose corporations are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit contesting the use of eminent domain for the "Atlantic Yards" project, contends that FCRC attempted to take assignment of the leases in order to substantially diminish the value of his properties, thereby minimizing the amount they would have to pay him, if he agreed to sell, or through State condemnation procedures.

Even if the Court permits the State to proceed with its taking of property using eminent domain, which Mr. Weinstein strongly believes it will not, Justice Harkavy's ruling will likely substantially increase FCRC's costs for the proposed project. By acquiring Mr. Weinstein's leases - which run until 2048 - FCRC likely hoped to claim that the properties had little value beyond the leases themselves. With full control restored to Mr. Weinstein, however, the cost of acquisition has likely increased ten-fold. In court filings, Mr. Weinstein said that FCRC never made him a firm offer for his properties, and that FCRC implied that if he did not sell, the ESDC would take the property through eminent domain.

"I've always believed in the rule of law," Mr. Weinstein said after Justice Harkavy issued his decision. "I'm pleased that the truth prevailed today, and I am confident that my co-plaintiffs and I will win our challenge to Ratner's unconstitutional use of the power of eminent domain. Justice Harkavy made it clear to Ratner that he is bound by the law like everyone else, and I trust that the federal court will hold him to the same standard."

Posted by lumi at 6:00 PM

Downtown Brooklyn office vacancy rises

Landlords seek to fill empty spaces with smaller, hipper companies

The Real Deal
By Michael Rudnick

12MetroTech.gifAs the largest owner of Class A office space in Brooklyn, here's Bruce Ratner's latest headache:

Brooklyn's biggest office complex, the MetroTech Center, has historically been largely populated by the back offices of investment banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. Many of these tenants have recently pulled up stakes, creating sizable vacancies in hundreds of thousands of square feet of Class A space.

And here's the spin:

The relatively new availability of large blocks of Class A office space in Downtown Brooklyn -- as well as low rents compared to Manhattan -- could help stimulate business migration to the borough.

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey (also President of the Atlantic Yards Development Group) offers super spin:

"What is different now in Brooklyn is that it has become a forward-thinking, hip, cool, place to be -- the idea that it is for back office only is antiquated," he added.

NoLandGrab: Oh yeah, the "creative industries" are really looking to move to "forward-thinking, hip, cool" Metrotech.

The article gets the facts seriously muddled when it considers the implications of adding more office space to the market with Atlantic Yards. Norman Oder already "overkilled" it on his blog Atlantic Yards Report (link), but here's the gist of it:

The project -- made possible by the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning for commercial, residential and academic development State's approval of Atlantic Yards in December, 2006 -- will have between 600,000 and 1.8 million square feet either 336,000 sf or 1,606,000 sf of office space, more than 6,400 units of affordable housing [2250 "affordable" rentals], a sports and entertainment arena and more than 400,000 square feet of hotel and retail space.

Hmm... sort of makes you wonder about the other "facts" in the article.

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The market for starchitect-designed luxury condos selling at a premium price tag hasn't materialized as developers had hoped; the market for Class A office space in Manhattan tanked and then rebounded in the wake of 9-11; and the development spawned by the Downtown Brooklyn plan — which was supposed to bring a mix of office and housing — consists primarily of luxury condos (proof that there isn't demand for MORE Class A office space in Brooklyn). All of these factors betray the uncertainty that Brooklyn needs, much less wants, Atlantic Yards.

Laurie Olin spoke to this point in his interview with The NY Observer. The landscape designer for Atlantic Yards asked, "How long does it take the market to absorb that much stuff?"

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

SCORE ONE FOR GOOD GUYS

B'KLYN ARENA FINALLY RISING AMID THE RUIN

NY Post

Some columnists use facts, some rely upon their tremendous intellect, and others bring you Bruce Ratner!

BruceRatner-NYP0703.jpgColumnist Andrea Peyser might be as shrill as a "freakin'" blogger, but today she has the inside scoop on what it's like to pal around with the Brucester:

Three long and frustrating years have passed since I walked with developer Bruce Ratner along Brooklyn's horrendously blighted Atlantic Yards...

NoLandGrab: Um Andrea, "Atlantic Yards" is currently a blueprint with state approval — you were walking along Vanderbilt Yards and probably didn't even get around to visiting with some of the nice folks who still live in the footprint, whose homes hardly constitute "ruin."

Bruce Ratner is kind of creepy when he loads up the charm:

"I don't get angry much," he said with a sly smile. "But I've done my share of screaming. You get angry, you say things," he said, turning red.

NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Ratner's mad at us, furious at Norman Oder and goes ballistic when someone mentions Dan Goldstein.

Don't miss this prevarication (fancy word for "liar, liar, pants on fire"):

"We're going to have parks here!" he enthused.

The "park" is in fact privately owned, publicly accessible open space, which will be closed after 8PM during the basketball season.

"To some people, I'm the devil," he said.

Does being the eminent-domain-abuse poster boy make you "the devil?"

As we walked further, to a spot where ground has yet to be broken, we passed an enormous, dead rat. We saw a bunch of discarded bags sticking out of the snow, frighteningly marked "Biohazard." And, yes, one hypodermic syringe.

Today, Norman Oder asked, "who's responsible?" (link) and linked his article about how the MTA and City of NY have allowed the railyard and the adjacent sidewalk to fill up with garbage only to have the State of NY call it "blight!"

Peyser also offers this incredible story as told by the granddaddy himself:

There were moments over the last three years that it seemed Ratner might throw in the towel.

Like when The New York Times reported that the project would be badly delayed because Ratner had failed to file enough financial data with the state. His executive vice president, Bruce Bender, got the brunt of the boss' fury.

"I called him up at 6 a.m., screaming," said Ratner. "I made him call everyone in Albany to find out if the article was wrong." It was.

This financial data has yet to be released to the public and local politicians. It's not even clear if a full financial disclosure was EVER submitted to the MTA or the Empire State Development Corporation, because both public authorities have only released one and three pages respectively of financial gibberish.

Peyser's closing betrays how little she knows about her new pal Bruce:

Welcome to Brooklyn, Mr. Ratner. And good luck.

Mr. Ratner is already the largest private-property owner in Brooklyn. He owns the two malls across the street from the footprint of the Atlantic Yards plan and is the developer of Metrotech.

What Peyser doesn't know can't hurt her, but it's killing us.

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Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

Office market (and tax revenues) tanking for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in the March issue of The Real Deal, headlined Downtown Brooklyn office vacancy rises, details the opportunity provided to companies by "the relatively new availability of large blocks of Class A office space in Downtown Brooklyn -- as well as low rents compared to Manhattan."

While we await the results of that positive spin, that certainly suggests that there may be even less demand for office space in the Atlantic Yards project than currently envisioned. That would mean even less tax revenue, which was already lowered significantly by a cut in office space.

Remember, the original promise was space for 10,000 office jobs. At last count, there'd be space for 1340 office jobs, though the number of new jobs might be 375. Now even that's jeopardized.

The reason for the current downturn: Forest City Ratner's MetroTech Center has been losing tenants, as investment banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions have relocated or shrunk their back office space.

Norman Oder cleans up the article's Atlantic Yards facts (why magazines don't run their facts by the Mad O, we don't know), ponders some of Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Group President Jim Stuckey's assertions about the market for Class A office space in Brooklyn and then does a takedown of NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser.

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Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

ESDC's Foye gets up to speed on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report posted a quickie on the education of Patrick Foye, the Downstate Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):

First, he heard last week from the Fifth Avenue Committee's Michelle de la Uz, representing BrooklynSpeaks, about "urgent concerns" regarding oversight of project construction.

On March 22, as the New York Observer reported, Foye will visit the Atlantic Yards site, at the request of City Council Member Letitia James.

And Foye has already seen a copy of Isabel Hill's documentary Brooklyn Matters, sent to him by three former City Planning Commissioners: Ron Shiffman (on the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board), Stuart Pertz (an advisor to BrooklynSpeaks), and Marilyn Gelber. The trio urged the ESDC to take a second look at the project, warning that the project "leaves us with a legacy of lawsuits which can damage future opportunities for growth."

In his response, Foye thanked the three, responding that the ESDC was analyzing the project approved by the Public Authorities Control Board, and that a thorough examination of the project's environmental, financial, and fiscal impacts was proceeding before funds are released.

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Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

Sitt Buckles Into Coney Rollercoaster

The NY Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Thor Equities developer Joseph Sitt's recent setbacks for his vision of Coney Island redevelopment illustrate that nobody does it better than Bruce:

In some ways, Mr. Sitt jumped into the game too late to replicate the way another Brooklyn developer, Bruce Ratner, convinced the city and state to support a sports arena right next to a massive apartment village. Mr. Ratner saw a desolate rail yard in central Brooklyn and used it as a wedge to create an eight-million-square foot development. Mr. Sitt began buying property only four years ago, after the city constructed a minor-league baseball stadium and had already made its mind up to forge a community-led master plan for the neighborhood.

On the other hand, Mr. Sitt—unlike Mr. Ratner—never needs to use eminent domain. He has spent $150 million buying out dozens of landowners, according to reports, prying heirlooms from the families which created Nathan’s Hot Dogs and brought the Ferris wheel to New York City with the promise that he would put them to worthy use. After flipping land west of Keyspan Park to a residential developer for $90 million, Mr. Sitt is left with the four-block area next to the Cyclone roller coaster, the so-called amusement core.

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Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

March 6, 2007

Atlantic Yards will correct a "market failure" to further enrich Bruce Ratner

From today's AP article about how Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer are calling for the renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA):

Critics of TRIA have complained the federal program unnecessarily subsidizes already successful developers and insurers, but Bloomberg said it simply corrects a "market failure" caused by the threat of terrorism.

Boondoggle.gifThat got us thinking how easy it is to justify billions of dollars in subsidies when selling big corporate boondoggles to the public:

Voilá, the growing list of why Atlantic Yards is more about communism than capitalism. On the other hand, didn't Marx say, "Boondoggles are the opium of the masses?"

Posted by lumi at 1:46 PM

Controversy Brews Over City's Push To Make Main Brooklyn Avenues One-Way

Yassky-NY10702.jpgNY1

Two main avenues in Brooklyn may soon get a makeover as the city pushes to convert them to one-way traffic. It's an idea that's already stirring up controversy. NY1 Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report from Park Slope.

NYC Councilmember David Yassky's reaction is the same as many Park Slopers, who don't object to the project in itself, just the traffic:

You know what this really is? This is Atlantic Yards coming home to roost in the neighborhood.

Also, reporter Jeanine Ramirez explains that "the project would sit at the border of Park Slope," which is another myth.

link

NoLandGrab: Site V is WEST of Flatbush Ave. making it part of Park Slope (see map). Site V is not the affluent section of Park Slope, so who cares.

If Atlantic Yards Site V were, say, on the block of Flatbush, 8th Ave., Plaza St. West, and Lincoln, then Park Slopers would be going ballistic, as they did when the 16-story Shinnecock Condo Tower went up on Union St. between 8th Ave. and Plaza St. W.

Posted by lumi at 12:07 PM

Audio and Images: Bloggers Deconstruct Atlantic Yards Media Messages

Brooklyn bloggers explore grassroots media responses to the massive Atlantic Yards development

GMC-JB01.jpgThe NYC Independent Media Center
By Jonathan Barkey

On Saturday, February 24, 2007, at New School University, a panel of four Brooklynites examined grassroots media responses to Atlantic Yards, the largest single-developer project in the history of New York City. Audio (44MB, MP3) and photo links...

more info

Posted by lumi at 11:33 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere29-sm.jpgI'm Seeing Green, NO to DOT's One-Way Street Proposal
What are the implications, when NYC Department of Transportation is more concerned with making Brooklyn work for Atlantic Yards, than making Atlantic Yards work for Brooklyn?

Now comes the NY DOT with a proposal that 7th and 6th Avenues be made one way. This is so counter to what our needs are that it beggars belief. If anything, the multi-lane one-way streets like 8th Ave and Prospect Park West should be converted to two way.

While cities around the world are exploring and implementing traffic calming and traffic mitigating methodology, we seem to be rushing the other way in New York. It's wrong.

Periodismo veraz, objetivo, y credibilidad..., Preparan terreno

Translation of yesterday's news on NY1/Traducción de las noticias de ayer en NY1:

Se prepara la demolición de una docena de edificios en Downtown Brooklyn, para darle espacio al proyecto urbanístico Atlantic Yards.

Un plan que ha venido acompañado de polémica, y que incluye un nuevo estadio de baloncesto para los Nets.

CORRECIÓN: ¡El proyecto "Atlantic Yards" no está en Downtown Brooklyn, está en Prospect Heights!

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Why Atlantic Yards is Good...

...for Bruce Ratner.

Those of us opposed to this project have been positively baffled - how could so poor a design that goes against every established urban planning principle and essentially revives the failures of the 1960s....be seriously considered by the ESDC/Gagano/Ratner/Scumb -oops- Markowitz...?

Pardon Me for Asking, Recent Great Reads

Before the March 9th opening of the movie "The Namesake" which is based on Jhumpa Lahiri's book of the same name, I urge everyone to read the original.

Yes, I may be partial to Lahiri . Not only is she a fellow Brooklyn resident, she is also an active opponent of the Atlantic Yards project (see below) and a Barnard Graduate. Most importantly, her writing is achingly beautiful.

Censur.net, Brooklyn library under fire for truncating exhibit—is it censorship?

The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance that includes, among some 50 organizational members, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, and People for the American Way, has criticized the Brooklyn Public Library for censoring an exhibition of art related to a highly controversial local development known as Atlantic Yards. (Source: Library Journal News)

The Media Mob, Times Tower Gets First Retail Tenant: MUJI Flagship!

The lease for the New York Times Building was pretty specific about keeping out downmarket chain stores. So it's no surprise that the first retail tenant to sign up is MUJI, an "environmentally conscious retailer based in Japan," whose products can be picked up in the MoMA Design Store.

Historic Districts Council Newsstand, ALERT: Stop Forest City Ratner from Demolishing the Ward Building
HDC posted Ron Shiffman's call to sign the Save Ward Bakery petition.

Despite what you mat have read the fight to stop and revise Forest City Ratner's proposals for the Vanderbilt Yards [aka Atlantic Yards] is far from over. A number of law suits have yet to be decided and the federal law suit will be heard by the Judge and a decision of whether it will stay in federal court or shift to the state court will be made next month. Other cases will be filed as well. Let's ask our elected officials to do the responsible thing for a change and keep FCR from further harming our community by demolishing these beautiful buildings.

OneHansonPlace.com, Boerum Heights sold out!!!

In what could be the Brooklyn real estate surprise of the year, this project, which abuts the Atlantic Yards project, has completely sold out its' 120 (estimated) units. Whodathunkit?

Posted by lumi at 10:23 AM

Jane Jacobs, Atlantic Yards, and "the age of marketing"

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, we tried our hand at a Robert A. M. Stern takedown, today Atlantic Yards Report takes a turn.

Norman Oder starts off by laying the groundwork for Atlantic Yards apologists (i.e. it sucks less than Ratner's past projects):

Still, Atlantic Yards, despite its extreme density and paucity of open space, would represent a significant step up from Forest City Ratner's anti-urban Atlantic Center mall and suburban-style office park development at MetroTech. There would be more retail on the ground floors and a bicycle path and a place to sit outside the Urban Room (at least if it's not too windy.)

Indeed, the Empire State Development Corporation defended Atlantic Yards in comparison to Stuyvesant Town--which I characterized as "building a better superblock."

However, he still concludes:

That doesn't make it Jacobsian, though.

Oder looks to New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger to explain how Jacobs is often used to justify megaprojects, how the public gets left out of discussions concerning land use and the paradox of listening to the public.

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Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

One Million Dollars (US) for New York Panorama Winner

PanOnTheNet.com is calling for a $1,000,000 purse for the ultimate steelband showdown. Where are they looking to land this big fish, as well as a possible new venue? In a gravy boat floating in the waters off the Atlantic Yards, of course.

SteelPan.jpg

Everybody (financiers, politicians, developers, etc.) have been moving into and are now positioned, to claim their stake in regards to the new stadium (a Bruce Ratner initiative) slated to go up in downtown Brooklyn, which will not only be a sporting arena, but is also being touted as a 'cultural arts mecca.' It must be noted that Brooklyn's Borough President Marty Markowitz is on record that the cultural celebrations, i.e. Panorama, will be moved there.

What is really needed, is a musical complex that has been specifically and solely designed to showcase the steel orchestra. That is an entirely different matter, and the only acceptable solution for New York's pan fraternity. Again, When Steel Talks has called for this before. It can be called the Clive Bradley Steelband Performing Arts Center and must be located in the heart of the steel orchestra enclave, Brooklyn's East Flatbush area.

If pan people do not arise, seize the opportunity, and THINK and negotiate for themselves as a bargaining body, in this time of New York City's economic and fiscal boom, they will find themselves either on the outside of Bruce Ratner's stadium looking in, or else on the inside - with someone pulling their strings, and with others already having negotiated very unfavorable, and binding terms for them.

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NoLandGrab: It helps the public to understand how these deals get struck, when the issue stated so plainly.

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey has already stated publicly that the company would not reopen the Community Benefits Agreement. Maybe this ask from the community can be negotiated by US Congressional Representative Yvette Clarke under "reparations" to the community from Barclays or as another NJ Nets sponsored affair.

Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

Demolition Prep Begins On Atlantic Yards Project

NY1

DemoList-NY1.jpgScore another point for Bruce Ratner's crack PR team with an assist from NY1 — according to the local news station, Atlantic Yards is still in "Downtown Brooklyn."

How can the press corps get anything right, when they can't even locate the project?

Here's the actual transcript of the report, which differs from the text NY1 posted online:

Another step in the rebuilding of Downtown Brooklyn(???), a dozen buildings are being cleaned for demolition to make way for the Atlantic Yards project.

Today crews are starting to remove hazardous materials, such as asbestos. That is expected to take two to three weeks to complete. The entire job is expected to take five months.

The buildings being torn down include five on Pacific St., three on Flatbush Ave., two on Vanderbilt Ave., and one each on Dean St. and Atlantic Ave.

Construction of the new Nets arena is set to begin this fall. It is the centerpiece of the $4 billion project, which still faces lawsuits and strong neighborhood opposition.

dialup/broadband

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

With Terror Insurance To Expire, New York City Leaders Urge Renewal

AP, via InsuranceNewsNet.com

NEW YORK — When property owners could not get terrorism insurance amid post-Sept. 11, 2001 worries of future attacks, Congress provided a backup — a program that many say must be renewed before it expires at the end of this year.

During a hearing Monday at City Hall, blocks from the World Trade Center site, Sen. Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and real estate developers urged federal lawmakers to make the program permanent — or, at the very least, extend it for several years.
...
Critics of TRIA have complained the federal program unnecessarily subsidizes already successful developers and insurers, but Bloomberg said it simply corrects a "market failure" caused by the threat of terrorism.
...
Bloomberg noted several major development projects happening simultaneously in New York City, including the rebuilding at ground zero and a major commercial and residential complex in Brooklyn known as Atlantic Yards.

"Without terrorism risk insurance, none of them would ever get off the ground," he said. "And if projects like this are put in jeopardy, so will the future of our city — the global financial leader of America."

article

NoLandGrab: A terrorism and security risk assessment has been requested by the commmunity, but was not included in the Environmental Impact Statement because it is not required by law.

Even though Atlantic Terminal was the target of a thwarted bombing plot, the City and State have not questioned the wisdom of or costs associated with constructing a glass and steel tower, in close proximity to a landing approach for LaGuardia airport, at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, over one of the largest transit hubs in the system.

Brooklynites are puzzled by why they are not getting the same consideration as Lower Manhattan, where the base of the Freedom Tower was redesigned to address vulnerability to truck bombs.

Remember, back in early December, 2006, Al Rosner warned that the insurance industry's risk assesments, revised after 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, could leave taxpayers holding the bag.

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

March 5, 2007

Useless space

BV03.jpgBrooklyn Views blogger Jonathan Cohn wastes perfectly good web space on a photo essay on "useless space" (perfectly good link)...

...that is according to Laurie Olin.

 

"I think space on streets is actually useless space.” — Laurie Olin, NY Observer Interview, 2/26/07

Posted by lumi at 12:32 PM

Learning from Lille

Lille-histoire_citadelle.JPGThe Brooklyn Paper, "The Kitchen Sink"

We ran into out old pal Ellen Wurtzel at the Tea Lounge on Union Street this week. After six years and two kids, she's almost done — really — with her dissertation, "Legal Space and Urban Identity: The Shaping of the City of Lille from 1384-1667." Given her understanding of the shaping of Lille, which has very little of its history left, she opposes Atlantic Yards. "Lille was developed and destroyed!" she said.

Posted by lumi at 11:54 AM

Online Petition: STOP DEMOLITION OF WARD'S BAKERY

WardBakery-benben.jpg Click here to sign the following petition, hosted by PetitionOnline.com:

To: Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The Ward's Bakery at 800 Pacific Street is a gem of historic industrial architecture. Completed in 1911, it's builder, George Ward, had taken his architects to Europe for inspiration in its design.

The building is graced with rows of Greco-Roman inspired arches, embellished with a delicate band of a classic wave motif, and clothed entirely in gleaming white terra cotta tile.

Ward's Bakery is a magnificent candidate for adaptive reuse and would yield amazing living and/or workspaces. The success of such conversions has been demonstrated again and again in former industrial enclaves, such as SOHO, Tribeca, and the meat-packing district.

Forest City Ratner is poised to demolish this building, even while their proposed project is still being litigated and may never materialize, leaving us with a wasteland of demolition sites.

We urge you intervene immediately and save this irreplaceable historic treasure for the delight of generations to come.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

For more info on the Ward Bakery, check out:
BrooklynSpeaks.net, Why historic buildings in the AY footprint should be reused, not demolished
Brooklyn Views, Photo
Atlantic Yards Report, FCR announces demolitions; Ward Bakery not yet on list
flickr, photos by "threecee", brick in light and shadow, stack on top, and triplicates
flickr, photo from "benben"

Posted by lumi at 11:20 AM

Breaking Ground

Gotham Gazette

New York City is in the midst of a construction boom, say city officials and representatives from the building industry. The city is issuing residential building permits at near record numbers and a recent wave of mega projects, such as Atlantic Yards (see related story), approved by city, state and federal agencies marks the city's most ambitious economic development agenda in decades.

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Related story, Atlantic Yards: A “Done Deal?”, by Tom Angotti

The article lists all of the reasons that New Yorkers think Atlantic Yards is regarded as "just a harmless piece of Manhattan-like development" and is probably "a done deal" and then embarks on a more fact-based review of where the project really stands:

But a new film, Brooklyn Matters, uncovers a deepening vein of displeasure with the project that spans a wide political spectrum, in Manhattan as well as Brooklyn, among community leaders and urban planners. In addition to the “resignation and bitter apathy” referred to by Brooklyn resident Jennifer Egan in her recent New York Times op-ed essay, there seems to be a warehouse of active resistance and also a minefield of new obstacles. Three new lawsuits against the project will tie the project up for a while. The Spitzer administration is looking closely at this and a host of other Pataki deals that left mushrooming public costs. Critics are attempting to expose the affordable housing package as something of a front for what they say is really a massive luxury project. And now community groups are working on expanding their own plan for the area that sets aside Ratner’s vision.

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Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

Nets to Newark? The option emerges, as Ratner hedges on Brooklyn timing

Atlantic Yards Report

Could the Nets be headed to Newark, as an interim option before the arena Brooklyn in Brooklyn is completed? And could that be the fallback if the Atlantic Yards plan dies?

That's what the tea leaves suggest. First, last week, the New York Times reported on a press conference held by Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner:

To some, rebuilding seems a logical step for the Nets because they are scheduled to move to Brooklyn by the 2009-10 season. The Nets’ new arena will be the centerpiece of Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project. Construction crews have already begun clearing the area for the arena to be built, and Ratner said that the time frame for having the arena ready was “aggressive, but I think we can do it.”

Translation: it may not be ready by 2009.

Today in Crain's there is some speculation that it would be a smart move for the NJ Nets to decamp when the new Newark Arena opens during their lame-duck seasons, but it's not likely to happen.

Norman Oder adds:

Yes, it would make sense for the Nets to move to Newark as soon as possible, for the reasons noted by Crain's. Also, unmentioned, is that if the Atlantic Yards project is further delayed, or even killed, the Nets could establish some longevity in their new (temporary?) home.

Remember, the state and Forest City Ratner have predicted 225 events annually at the Brooklyn arena--but that's predicated on the absence of an arena in Newark. The presence of the Newark arena would reduce revenues in Brooklyn.

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Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Corrections fatigue: The Times stonewalls on lawsuit story

Yawn... Atlantic Yards Report reports (again) on "corrections fatigue" at The New York Times.

The importance of the New York Times to the historical record was reinforced this past weekend during a symposium on Robert Moses, where several of the presenters, in their accompanying slides, included copies of Times articles.

Then again, one academic, the University of Pennsylvania's Lynne Sagalyn, observed that, to study coverage of Atlantic Yards, you have to look at the blogs, and that's true. Otherwise, historians might be confused, for example, by the Times's 2/24/07 coverage of the federal eminent domain case.

Norman Oder reviews his correspondence with The Times regarding an Associated Press story that was cut down, resulting in the omission of a central point of Judge Levy's ruling on the Federal eminent domain case.

Oder quotes The Times stylebook on corrections...

Seldom should a correction try to place blame or deflect it outside The Times; the effort might appear defensive or insincere. But when an error has occurred under the byline or credit of a blameless staff member or news agency, the correction may cite an editing error or a transmission error.

...and concludes:

The Times, in this case, does not appear to be following that policy, and the Public Editor doesn't seem to care.

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NoLandGrab: The Times SHOULD care. Last year, the "Paper of Record" launched several blogs on www.nytimes.com to augment its news coverage. This move acknowledges the importance of the blogosphere, but sadly represents the full extent of the mainstream media's (MSM) response.

What the MSM inexplicably fails to understand is that it is not the FORMAT, but rather the CONTENT, that makes many blogs competitive with the MSM.

As the MSM continues to loses readers to other Internet-based independent media, they are not going to make it up by offering more of the same in a new wrapper.

Oh, and did you know that you can easily add a correction to any item right away on a blog? (Yawn!)

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

The coming isolation on Pacific Street (though AY's not a "done deal")

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not exactly clear why Forest City Ratner last week announced plans to demolish 12 structures within the planned Atlantic Yards footprint over the next five months. There's been no claim of urgency or necessity regarding these specific structures; however, the developer need not seek permission beyond the Department of Buildings.

Forest City can do as it pleases, though the developer can't construct the first phase--or the project as a whole--until the pending court cases are resolved.
...
Well, some of the buildings are more sound than others, but their demolition certainly would isolate plaintiffs and could make daily life uncomfortable.

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Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Three Pages of Financials Released On Atlantic Yards ‘Not Enough’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

The state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project released a three-page financial projection of the profit developer Bruce Ratner would make off the heavily subsidized, $4 billion development.

“A handful of three faxed pages of a chart or two is insignificant. And we’re not interested in drips and drabs,” said Assemblyman James Brennan, D-Park Slope, who filed a lawsuit Monday with state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, D-Fort Greene, to force the release of the documents.

The long-awaited Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) financial analysis, provided by developer Forest City Ratner Companies, projects $571 million in “total investment cash flows” by the year 2015.

The estimate includes the real estate project cash flows, and the team and arena investment cash flows, but has some conspicuous omissions such as the profits from the planned 180-room hotel that would be housed in the project’s centerpiece building, “Miss Brooklyn.”

A representative for the ESDC declined to comment any further on the figures, and a representative for the developer did not return calls by press time.

article (login required)

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Stern and the City

Architect and historian, Robert A. M. Stern completes his epic, five volume survey of the Big Apple

RAMStern-MM.jpgMetropolis
By Paul Makovsky

Bigger than the Manhattan Yellow Pages and weighing in at just under 11 pounds, New York 2000 (Monacelli Press) is the fifth and final volume of Robert A. M. Stern’s award-winning series on the city’s architecture, urbanism, and interiors from the Civil War to the millennium... Recently Metropolis editorial director Paul Makovsky spoke with Stern about the book, how the city has changed over the past 30 years, and the legacies of Post-Modernism, Donald Trump, and eighties nightclubs.

In the interview, Stern either refers to some other Jane Jacobs or the silly rabbit gets his information from The New York Times.

An interesting example is the struggle to find the appropriate scale, and the appropriate adjustments between the local community and the larger needs of the city, at Atlantic Yards with Frank Gehry. It’s a highly controversial project, but in many ways the scheme is quite Jane Jacobs-like in its urban pattern. There are concerns about the scale and about public investment, but that represents a new, probably healthy development for the city.

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NoLandGrab "Overkills" Robert A. M. Stern

There are several misguided assumptions in Stern's proclamation.

1. Struggle to find an appropriate scale?

Any preceived "struggle to find an appropriate scale" with Atlantic Yards is a Ratner contrivance dutifully reported by The Times. In less than three years, the developer announced the project, later increased the size, and subsequently decreased the size (giving credit to NY City Planning) to nearly the original scale, in a carefully choreographed dance with the press and public perception of the project.

The NY Times ran the big news on page one without reference to the fact that the project had been previously increased, and was again close to its original size, and "The Paper of Record" never followed up to report that the shavedown was planned as early as January, 2006, when the developer presented the option to the City Planning Commission.

2. The scheme is quite Jane Jacobs-like in its urban pattern??

To say "the scheme is quite Jane Jacobs-like in its urban pattern" defies credulity (seriously, are we talking about THE Jane Jacobs?), and makes one wonder if Stern has looked at the project plans on his own. Then again, he probably has no idea that Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation, since The Times still hasn't reported that fact.

Also, Jacobs would certainly have criticized:
* the use of eminent domain for a private project of this nature (Jacobs submitted an amicus brief for the US Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London), * demapping of city streets in favor of superblocks, * the lack of meaningful community input and review, and * the garden-city mentality, which in the case of Atlantic Yards, proposes much less open space than any garden-city acolyte could have ever imagined (a scant 8 acres for 15,000 inhabitants).

We also think that Jacobs would have had serious concerns about casting aside city zoning to build an arena right next to existing residential housing, and would have probably expected local residents to speak out against such a scheme.

3. Scale and public investment, healthy development for the city???

Stern concluded, "There are concerns about the scale and about public investment, but that represents a new, probably healthy development for the city." If the scale/density and public investment of Atlantic Yards were to be attempted in Manhattan or by any developer other than the incredibly politically connected Bruce Ratner, we doubt that the project would be considered seriously. A private project of this scale has NEVER EVER been approved and constructed in New York City, much less Brooklyn.

Robert A. M. Stern can believe what he wants, but that doesn't make it so. Meanwhile, he fails to take into account the historic aspects of this project. The fact that most of the extreme characteristics of Atlantic Yards have not been reported in most of the mainstream press, and have not become part of the general public discourse about the project, isn't really an excuse when you are one of the most respected scholars of NYC architecture. If professionals fail to appreciate what is not being said, then Bruce Ratner has won another round.

Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

March 4, 2007

Sunday Comix

MISSING-Hunley-Adossa.gif

Clues on the role and whereabouts of Hunley-Adossa might be found in Atlantic Yards Report's August, 2006 article on Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE!).

Posted by amy at 4:41 PM

This Week in NoLandGrab History

Have a good laugh at Dennis Holt's predictions in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from February 27, 2004:

Ratner Arena Plan Separated From Office, Housing Proposal

There are many reasons for the two-tiered approach, not the least of which is that the arena is a given element, and everything else is speculative. The clock is ticking, and the Nets, if all goes well for Ratner, will want to tip off in Brooklyn in 2006.

link

Wondering about the basis for the eminent domain lawsuit? MTA spokesperson Tom Kelley explained it best in this blast from the past, from February 29, 2004:

Stadia Mania: The View from Prospect Heights

The Brooklyn Rail By Brian Carreira

An important and yet seemingly overlooked fact is that Forest City Ratner has not yet secured any rights to develop the area. For three of the six blocks included in the development scheme, Ratner would need to secure air rights from the MTA as they would be built over existing railroad track. A much bandied and seemingly unquestioned assertion is that these rights will be "donated" to Forest City upon purchase of the team. But a recent discussion with MTA spokesperson Tom Kelley told a slightly different story: "All this is media crap," he noted. Ratner, Kelley said, "would be given preference" for development since he has already built the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal in the immediate vicinity. As for the idea that the rights will ultimately be donated by a public authority that is projecting to run a budget deficit as soon as 2005, Kelley said, "hope runs eternal."

link

Posted by amy at 10:27 AM

Priced Out, Leaving Town

sneaker3.07.jpg

New York Times via Queens Crap

To the Editor:

Re “Escape From New York,” by Abigail A. Frankfurt (New York Observed, Feb. 25):

With the sale of Stuyvesant Town, the possible sale of Starrett City and the looming Atlantic Yards development, why should we be so concerned with a struggling writer who can no longer afford her hip studio apartment? What about middle-class families who can no longer afford their not-so-hip apartments? Hearing from those “native New Yorkers” would be more worthy of column space in The Times.

In the meantime, if Ms. Frankfurt ever decides to return, I suggest she find some roommates. That’s how many of us entry-level workers get along without a trust fund.

Sheena K. Fallon
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

link

Posted by amy at 10:19 AM

Would Robert Moses hate Atlantic Yards? Yes, but... maybe not

Atlantic Yards Report

Francis Morrone, an architectural historian and commentator for the New York Sun, has been thinking about the legacy of master builder/power broker Robert Moses, subject of the three exhibitions and book, and several of Morrone's columns.

And the immersion has led Morrone, who lives in Park Slope and is on the advisory board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, to another conclusion: Moses would hate Atlantic Yards, even though it has been touted by Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff as kinder, gentler version a Moses-style megadevelopment. (Indeed, many fewer people and business would be displaced.)

Morrone told me he'd flesh out his thoughts further, but summarized what he thought would be Moses's objections:
--he disliked flashy architecture (and starchitect Frank Gehry's work embodies flash)
--he disavowed corporate branding (as with the Barclays Center)
--he avoided gaudy signage (as planned at the Urban Room and arena)
--he would've looked askance at small amount of open space (the ratio for the population would actually go down)
--he would've been appalled at the lack of coordinated traffic planning (and even project booster Marty Markowitz has come up short).

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Posted by amy at 10:08 AM

March 3, 2007

Support Brooklyn’s Future

New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Developing Story,” by Jennifer Egan (Op-Ed, Feb. 24):

As someone who has helped make Brooklyn the creative capital of New York City, Ms. Egan eloquently conveyed her thoughts about her neighborhood.

But like many of the opponents of Atlantic Yards, I wish that some evolution of her position had been evident, from flatly rejecting the project at all costs to working to improve it moving forward.

As is the case with virtually every elected official in Brooklyn and New York City, my support is focused solely on making a project that benefits all Brooklynites and New Yorkers a reality, and on maximizing those benefits for our residents and businesses.

At this phase of the Atlantic Yards’ development, the more voices and energy dedicated to those goals, the better.

Marty Markowitz
Brooklyn Borough President

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NoLandGrab: But like many of the proponents of Atlantic Yards, we wish that some evolution of HIS position had been evident, from openly accepting the project at all costs to taking the community into consideration.

Posted by amy at 2:19 PM

First on Ratner's Hit List

demo3.07.jpg

The Park Slope Slanter

Ratner will begin the demolition of twelve buildings next week to make way for his Atlantic Yards project. He must be excited. I can see him now stirring a boiling cauldron of concrete and screaming with devilish eyes: "It’s ready! It’s ready!" And then perhaps he fumbles a witch’s line from Macbeth: “Be bold, bloody, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of…me; for none of woman…woman? That’s right woman born shall harm MacRatner!” The Post implies a wrecking ball will bring down the structures. But will dynamite be used? If so we’ll definitely being hearing the roar of Ratner next week. The Slanter’s heading out to take some pictures of these historic buildings before they’re flattened.

link

Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

Moses to O'Malley, 1953: urban renewal won't support "speculation in baseball enterprises"

Atlantic Yards Report

Master builder Robert Moses, vilified for ignoring neighborhoods and prioritizing the automobile, nevertheless was unwilling to be strongarmed by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley into supporting significant government subsidy for a privately-run sports facility.

Indeed, a 6/22/53 letter from Moses to O'Malley on exhibit at Columbia University's Wallach Art Gallery puts it plainly. In the letter, part of the "Slum Clearance and the Superblock Solution" exhibit that's one of three segments in Robert Moses & the Modern City, Moses resists O'Malley's entreaty to locate a new stadium in urban renewal land between DeKalb and Myrtle avenues, just east of Flatbush.

(Note: O'Malley primarily wanted a separate site over the Long Island Rail Road station and including land to the east, site of the Fort Greene Meat Market, both north of Atlantic Avenue. That's not the same as the site south of Atlantic Avenue--including the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard and more--planned for the Atlantic Yards project, though Mayor Mike Bloomberg and others have conflated the two. But Forest City Ratner has malls north of Atlantic Avenue and wants to build Atlantic Yards across the road.)

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Posted by amy at 9:09 AM

HUD PRESERVES AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NEW YORK BY DENYING SALE OF STARRETT CITY

HUD.gov

Citing a lack of sufficient information that demonstrates their commitment to affordable housing, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today denied Clipper Equity, L.P.'s request to purchase the Starrett City housing development in Brooklyn, New York.

"Today, I'm announcing that I will deny HUD approval of the sale of Starrett City. This department will not stand idly by while a community and its people are unnecessarily placed at risk of losing their homes and way of life. By exercising my authority, I act to protect the people served by this department," Jackson said at a press conference with officials from New York.

"We must remember the purpose of affordable housing. It is where people live together, grow up together, and grow old together. Starrett City is a community of people...a way of life...a good life that has been the product of thousands of people working and living together in harmony every single day," added Jackson.

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Propect Heights needs a HUD...

Posted by amy at 9:04 AM

What Would Jane Do?

New York Observer

To the editor:

Matthew Schuerman and his subject, urban planner Laurie Olin, are apparently unconcerned with the major problem of the Atlantic Yards project, or of any development like it: control [“This Guy Wants You to Love Atlantic Yards,” Feb. 26]. The Atlantic Yards plan gives control over a vital swath of downtown Brooklyn to a single corporate “decider”: Forest City Ratner. Every decision—about the shape of an entire neighborhood, about which business can lease space, what tenants can do in their apartment buildings, or whether or not planned green space actually gets greened—will lie with this private group. It is a transfer and consolidation of civic control—over many, many city blocks—into the hands of a single private, profit-making organization.

What’s the most distinctive—or the most desirable, or hottest, or coolest—neighborhood in New York? Not any neighborhood managed by a corporation: not Battery Park City, not Rockefeller Center, not anything by Trump. Our favorite blocks, our favorite shops and our favorite restaurants will never be located in these places.

I suggest that Mr. Olin and Mr. Schuerman go get those Jane Jacobs books out of the trashcan. The neighborhoods she saved are the most expensive ones in the city. Right now, in 2007.

And for a reason: They have character. Meals, coffees and leases are transacted between relatively independent players, not between individuals and powerful corporations. Interesting things happen, and not by committee.

I can’t believe I have to read a reactionary corporate apologia in The Observer. Laurie Olin is the one who’s stuck in 60’s mode, and that mode is that of the megalomaniac, authoritarian planner.

Andrew Nimmo
Brooklyn

link

Posted by amy at 8:49 AM

Demolition Work To Begin Next Week On Atlantic Yards Project

ny13.07.jpg

NY1

Demolition work is scheduled to begin next week on 12 buildings in order to make way for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project and the Nets' new basketball arena.

The job will begin with the removal of hazardous substances like asbestos, which is expected to take two to three weeks.

Developer Forest City Ratner says the entire job is expected to take five months.
...
Opponents say this work is premature, since eminent domain lawsuits are still pending.

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Posted by amy at 8:44 AM

March 2, 2007

DDDB Press Release: Forest City Ratner Jumps Gun on Demolitions;

Seeks Demolition Permits Though Eminent Domain, Environmental Suits Could Stop Project From Being Built as Proposed; Norwood Redux?

BROOKLYN, NY- On the heels of a Federal Magistrate's opinion that the proposed "Atlantic Yards" project "raises serious and difficult questions regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence," Forest City Ratner (FCRC) has responded with a tried-and-true tactic from the eminent domain abusers' handbook: the developer plans to start knocking down buildings prematurely in order to scare plaintiffs and disillusion the community.

Forest City Ratner has moved quickly to seek demolition permits following Judge Robert M. Levy's report on the lawsuit brought by property owners and tenants in the footprint of the proposed project (most of the applications have been filed since Friday, the day on which the report was released). The action appears to be an attempt to intimidate the suit's plaintiffs by threatening to knock down, or actually demolish, perfectly sound buildings adjacent to or near the plaintiffs' homes and businesses.

"Forest City Ratner wants to give the perception that they can proceed with their project, but the reality is that without the plaintiffs' properties, their plan is dead in the water," said Eric McClure, speaking on behalf of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has organized the plaintiffs' legal team. "They appear to be pursuing the same course as the developer in Norwood, Ohio who razed an entire neighborhood except for the homes of three owners who refused to sell; those homeowners stood fast and won their case in the Ohio Supreme Court. The developer had no Plan B; they've abandoned the project and left the community with a wasteland."

[See "What's Next for Norwood?," Cincinnati Enquirer, February 18, 2007 ]

"If Mr. Ratner thinks that seeking demolition permits - or even knocking down buildings - will weaken our resolve, he's sadly mistaken," said Donald O'Finn, the manager of Freddy's Bar & Backroom, a Prohibition-era tavern and community gathering spot that is a tenant in the footprint and a co-plaintiff in the eminent domain lawsuit. "The simple fact of the matter is that he can't build the arena and a good portion of the project he has proposed without Freddy's Bar and the homes and businesses of my fellow plaintiffs. Any demolitions would be nothing but public relations and window dressing."

Forest City Ratner's pre-demolition preparatory work has gotten off to a bad start. Its "Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office" failed its first test when it was unable, or unwilling, to provide answers or support to Dean Street residents who lost water service for several hours on Tuesday after an error by one of FCRC's subcontractors, and then tried to shift blame for the problem to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Compounding the problem, the "Committee on Environmental Assurances" created by the "Atlantic Yards" Community Benefits Agreement to "provide a vehicle to address specific concerns" "on potential environmental issues caused by development" of the project does not appear to be operational. And the Empire State Development Corporation has provided no date for the hiring of an environmental monitor to oversee the project, despite having issued an RFP nearly a month ago.

Forest City Ratner has applied for demolition permits for several properties along Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, including 618, 626, 644, 646, 800, 814 and 818 Pacific Street, and 536-538, 542 and 546 Vanderbilt Avenue. Based on New York City regulations, even if these permits are granted, it would be several weeks before actual demolitions could commence.

"I hope Mr. Ratner has a back-up plan, especially if he intends to knock down perfectly good buildings," Mr. O'Finn added. "Whether we have our case heard in Federal court or by the state, we plan to be toasting our victory here at Freddy's."

Posted by lumi at 9:48 PM

What's next for Norwood?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Here's one very BIG reason that Ratner's demolition of properties inside the footprint is premature and could have disasterous consequences for the neighborhood:

The barren acreage near the bustling commercial area beside Interstate 71 at Edwards and Edmondson roads looks like the land that time forgot.

It's been almost two years since the Rookwood Partners spent more than $20 million to buy and demolish all but three houses in the 75-parcel chunk of land in Norwood.

This time last year, the development group believed it would be building the Rookwood Exchange, a $125 million complex of offices, retail stores and condos on prime commercial real estate with easy access to two interstate highways.

Then last July, the Ohio Supreme Court shattered those plans with a precedent-setting eminent-domain decision that, for better or worse, will make urban redevelopment more difficult to accomplish in Ohio.

The court ruled in favor of three property owners fighting to prevent Norwood from taking their land by eminent domain and turning it over to the developers. The Rookwood Exchange can't be built with the holdouts' three houses there. And the Rookwood Partners say they have no plans now for the property.

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Posted by lumi at 11:46 AM

Times, News still ignore the AY financials

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder points out that Wednesday's release of insufficient financial info and the lack of media coverage has implications that reach beyond Atlantic Yards:

Journalistic neglect of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) sketchy release of Atlantic Yards financials matters, and here's why: the ESDC needs reform.

Here's Oder's take on the media coverage from the past two days:

That would seem to be news, at least as important as, say, developer Bruce Ratner's pronouncements of affection for Nets stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. (Yeah, I know, the Sports desk isn't the Metro desk.)

Indeed, yesterday, the New York Sun covered the bases on the ESDC's release of Forest City's cash flow projections. The New York Post covered it irresponsibly, failing to get a comment from any outside analyst or advocate, much less Brennan, and misleadingly proclaiming an "exclusive." The New York Times and the New York Daily News passed on the story, and do so again today.

Journalists like to be first. Sometimes they think that, if another news outlet already has the story, they're embarrassing themselves by reporting it late. And in the well-linked information universe in which reporters are immersed, it may seem like this topic has gone through much discussion.

However, the public consumes information differently. Many people only read the Times, or the Daily News. So if the story doesn't appear, it doesn't exist.

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Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

Embattled Gargano speaks

Former development chief denies allegations that may tarnish legacy

TheRealDeal
By Jen Benepe

Now that Charles Gargano (we can't bring ourselves to call him "Ambassador," despite his preference) is no longer the head of the Empire State Development Corporation, shady dealings under his term are finally seeing the light of day. However, Gargano (by "Gargano" we mean the "Ambassador") denies everything.

Depending on the findings of the audit by the new New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, which were slated for release around the end of February, the unelected former economic czar could become part of a criminal investigation.
...
If the audit goes against the agency or Gargano, it could trigger an aggressive look by new Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into past ESDC workings.

Here's the latest revelation:

Allegations that the Economic State Development Corp. paid the rent of the headquarters of agency chief Gargano's nephew, Frank Gargano -- who unsuccessfully ran for local office in Suffolk County on Long Island -- further cloud the legacy of the Albany insider's 12 years in power. The agency was ordered to repay the state more than $100,000, the cost of 18 months' rent at the offices of the Suffolk County Chamber of Commerce, where Frank Gargano had his campaign headquarters.

Here's last month's revelation:

Gargano faces further press scrutiny after a report last month in the Village Voice alleged the economic heavyweight sought a $300,000 payment and a job for his nephew Frank Gargano as a lobbyist for Sal Catucci, head of American Stevedoring, which was looking to extend its Port Authority subsidies at the Red Hook piers in 2003.

Gargano defends his record:

In his interview with The Real Deal, Gargano said the agency was responsible for developing more projects than under any other governor in state history, although both the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office on 34th Street to Moynihan Station, which would be used for commuter and long-distance train service, remain very much unfinished. Both have generated considerable controversy and sparked fierce community or interagency disputes.

The article continues by looking forward to conditions under the new administration:

One item on new Governor Eliot Spitzer's reform agenda is the overhaul of the beleaguered Economic State Development Corporation, part of an attempt to put an end to the alleged cronyism that has been stymieing economic development projects statewide.
...
Among the projects stopped in their tracks since Spitzer's victory are the creation of Moynihan Station from the James A. Farley Post Office building on 34th Street, the Hudson Yards development on the West Side, portions of the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, and possibly the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn. That project's status remains unclear while federal lawsuits challenging the development are pending.

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NoLandGrab: The crystal ball on Spitzer's role in Atlantic Yards is totally murky. He had his chance to put a hold on the project in December, by asking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a fellow Democrat, to withhold his vote to approve the project. If reporters and Albany insiders know that Spitzer is sincerely concerned about the project, they know something we don't.

Regarding Gargano, now that he's out, people have started talking without fear of retaliation. It makes you wonder how many other allegations will wash up on the shore in coming months.

Posted by lumi at 10:51 AM

On objectivity, neutrality, and integrity in covering the Atlantic Yards

NYC Independent Media Center

BarkeyGMCcrowd.jpgNorman Oder participated in a panel at last week's Grassroots Media Conference where he spoke about where he fits in to the media coverage of Atlantic Yards as an experienced journalist and regular blogger.

I’m the most mainstream person sitting on this panel, and I don’t think there’s a contradiction between using mainstream training and experience in the service of grassroots media.

In fact, I think that grassroots media, held to professional standards, can be more intellectually honest and more responsible than the mainstream media.

I try to read everything. I read all the press. I read the documents regarding Atlantic Yards. There's lots of information in documents. That was the lesson from I.F. Stone in the 1950s and that's still true today.

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Posted by lumi at 10:31 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere31.jpg Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Financials: "Mysterious" and "Insufficient"
A summation of the online coverage and the Sun article on the release of financial info for Atlantic Yards also includes an interesting comment from the Gothamist's previous post.

The Daily Gotham, The Cost of Ratner's Plan: We STILL Don't Really Know
"Mole333" says:

Does sloppy bookkeeping and oversight encourage confidence? Not in my mind. Yet the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) continues its shoddy oversight of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yard's project. Keep in mind that the ESDC has up to now been nothing but a rubber stamp for everything the Axis of crony capitalism (Ratner and his political pawns) has wanted. Now they file an inadequate and incomplete financial projection for Ratner's overdevelopment plan that basically tells the taxpayers very little about what it will actually cost them in the long run.

Don't Worry It's Just Reality: Brooklyn Edition, Flurry of News On Ratner Brooklyn Bridge to Nowhere......
"Dreadnaught" wonders:

Could simple exposure of financial documents be enough to embarass the ESDC, reform minded Spitzer to put a stop on what is essentially the biggest boondoggle in NY history, with no real public benefit?

Brownstoner, AY Financial Docs: The Morning After

The lack of coverage and analysis of the Atlantic Yards financial documents released yesterday is pretty astounding. Radio silence from the Times and the Daily News, Metro mentioned it at the end of an article about a different aspect of Yards, and The Post wrote a reasonably in-depth article about what the docs revealed but held off from weighing in on their usefulness or credibility. The Sun was the only paper that delved a bit into the response of critics of the project, even editorializing that "there does not seem to be enough information to make an accurate estimate of Forest City Ratner's return."

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, WHAT THE READERS OF BROWNSTONER MAY NOT KNOW
This is a blantant instance circular linking, but OTBKB posted a link to our entry about what NY Times reader's don't know about Atlantic Yards.

Reading some comments on Brownstoner, Lumi Rolley, of No Land Grab, noticed that some folks at Brownstoner who read Jennifer Egan's historic Op-Ed didn't believe her assertion that, if built, Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation. But then it dawned on Rolley, The New York Times has never published that fact in it's reporting on the project.

Posted by lumi at 10:12 AM

Chocolate Thunder Meets Vito Lightning

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

ChocolateVito_small.jpgAnother feel-good moment brought to you by the letters F, C, and R:

Forest City Ratner Companies – the Brooklyn-based owners of the New Jersey Nets - continued its youth basketball clinic tour of the borough last week, as former Nets player and current Nets employee Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins shot hoops and signed autographs at the Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center on Gates Avenue in between Knickerbocker and Irving.

"We did this before when the Knicks came," recalled Devon Richards, the star of the All City Leadership Academy team, a small, cadet-style high school located inside the youth center. "This is better, though. They’re doing more with the little kids." Indeed, the clinic went on all day at the full-size, brand-new indoor court, and there were pick-up games and drills for kids of any age. The youth center and the gym were funded largely through the efforts of Bushwick state assemblyman – and now the Kings County Democratic boss – Vito Lopez.

"This ain’t work, man," said Dawkins to Lopez. "This is fun. I love hanging out with these kids."
...
"The Nets and Ratner," commented the 7-foot tall Dawkins, "are doing a lot of good in this community, and I’m happy to be a part of it."

There are details about how Vito Lopez is now concerned about the "affordable" housing component of Atlantic Yards:

"Some of the ‘affordable’ rents in that project will be as high as $1,500. That’s not affordable, especially if you’re getting tax breaks to build it."

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NoLandGrab: Lopez's concerns are touching, since everyone knows that time to address these concerns was BEFORE he tacitly threw his support behind Atlantic Yards and the the project was approved. Lopez's act is ridiculous, remember he's the Democratic Party boss and "The Machine" supported Ratner's plan.

At this point it's just lip service. Affordable housing is on everyone's minds, and he's just saying what his constituents want to hear.

Also, Lopez is seriously lowballing the upper strata of "Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing." As Norman Oder pointed out two weeks ago, "For the two higher-income bands, involving 900 units, two-person households would pay $1701 or $2127 per month for an apartment." The numbers are even higher for households with more than two members. Download the "Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing" chart to see for yourself.

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

FCR announces demolitions; Ward Bakery not yet on list

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner yesterday announced its plans to demolish a dozen buildings within the Atlantic Yards project footprint. Asbestos abatement will commence next week and take at least two to three weeks before the structures are razed.

Notably, despite having filed a permit for demolition of the Ward Bakery on Pacific Street, which preservationists seek to protect rather than see an interim surface parking lot in its stead, the developer did not announce that demolition. Rather, demolitions of four other properties, at the corners of Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, are scheduled first on the block bounced by Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues, and Pacific and Dean streets.

Those properties, as the map shows, partially surround a building with renters who are part of an eminent domain lawsuit against the project.

However, that doesn't mean that Forest City Ratner intends to spare the Ward Bakery, the largest property marked in red on the map; this is just the first phase and that would be a complicated building to take down.

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Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Minority- and women-owned businesses get Atlantic Yards contracts

NY Amsterdam News
By Noreen Malcolm

Amsterdam News basically rewrites Forest City Ratner's February 20th press release touting the women- and minority-owned firms who will begin demolition and (oops!) possibly shut of your water without notice.

Some minority- and women-owned construction companies have stepped to the frontlines as contractors in the development of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

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Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

FCRC PRESS RELEASE:
12 STRUCTURES TO BE RAZED AS PART OF ATLANTIC YARDS PREP WORK

100% of Contracts Worth Over $2 Million Awarded to Minority-Owned Demolition Firms

(Brooklyn, NY) – March 1, 2007 – Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) today announced that phase one of Atlantic Yards construction will proceed next week with the demolition of 12 buildings owned by FCRC. Demolition will continue at 179 Flatbush Avenue, and abatement of an additional 12 buildings will begin as part of the preparatory work to demolish those buildings. Demolition of the 12 structures will be handled by minority-owned firms.

“In the coming months and years we will be transforming the open rail yards and underutilized buildings into a vibrant community anchored by the state-of-the-art Barclays Center,” said Bruce Ratner President and CEO of FCRC. “This is a major step forward for the development and our commitment to minority- and women-owned firms.”

Jobie Demolition & Contracting, a Brooklyn-based minority-owned firm; Sukram & Sons Trucking Ltd, a minority-owned firm; and Cole Partners, a Brooklyn-based minority-owned firm, have been contracted to remove the structures. Cole is also in the process of demolishing 179 Flatbush Avenue, as was announced last week. “When we created the Atlantic Yards CBA, we made a commitment to do everything we could to further minority- and women-owned businesses and open new doors of opportunity. Today’s announcement is another example of our dedication and commitment to the CBA,” said Mr. Ratner.

The value of the demolition contracts awarded to minority-owned firms in this phase is approximately $2 million. Each of the contracted firms was chosen based on a competitive bid process. The work is expected to take five months to complete. FCRC’s commitment outlined in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) calls for at least 20% of the construction contract dollars to go to minority-owned and 10% to women-owned businesses, and 35% of construction workers to be minorities and 10% women. All construction and demolition work in conjunction with the Atlantic Yards development will be done with 100% union labor.

Beginning next week abatement work - the removal of hazardous substances such as asbestos - will begin on these buildings. The abatement will take 2-3 weeks to complete for most buildings, longer for some of the larger buildings. Water and sewer connections to the buildings have been cut off. Other utilities will be cut before demolition.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Case Dismissed! (Maybe.)

Even if Feds Defer, Yards Will Still Have Day in State Court

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

For months, Atlantic Yards opponents have placed their hopes on a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for the project, a case that might break new legal ground. But that challenge just got tougher last Friday, as U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, without ruling on the merits of the case, recommended that it be dismissed because it belongs in state court. That means the 13 plaintiffs - homeowners, renters, and business owners - would have to re-file the case in state court, where legal rules constrain their capacity to argue that the arena-plus-16 skyscrapers project derives from a sweetheart deal.

Before they do so, they have one more shot. Levy’s report is a recommendation to federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, but not binding. Though judges generally follow such recommendations, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the coalition organizing 13 plaintiffs, promised to exercise its option to file legal papers with Garaufis challenging the report.

Forest City Ratner had no comment, but a spokesman for Mayor Mike Bloomberg praised the decision as furthering the benefits of the $4 billion project, including new jobs and affordable housing. Besides the developer and the city, other defendants include the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and city and state officials.

Oder goes into quite a bit of detail, explaining the Burford abstention and why even U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy agrees that the plaintiffs would have a more difficult time proving their case in State court.

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Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Atlantic Yards construction

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Metro covers Forest City Ratner's press release in the first paragraph and the confusion and lack of information in the neighborhood in the next:

“Phase 1” of Atlantic Yards construction will begin next week with the demolition of 12 buildings owned by Forest City Ratner within the 22-acre footprint of the project, the developer announced yesterday. The initial work will include the removal of hazardous substances such as asbestos. According to Forest City Ratner’s press release, water and sewer connections for the buildings — located on Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Pacific Street, Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue — have been cut off and other utilities will be cut before demolition.

Residents felt they’ve been left in the dark about construction and hadn’t been notified about the utility work before it started, as Metro reported yesterday. Many are also upset that the work has begun before the state agency overseeing development has hired an independent environmental monitor. The applications for that position were due this week. The project also faces pending lawsuits.

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Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Federal judge: Suit is hot air

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohn

The headline undermines what is otherwise a pretty good article explaining the difference between trying the eminent domain case in Federal or State court.

Mike Rikon, a seasoned eminent-domain attorney practicing in New York, has a dim view of the eminent domain plantiffs' chances of prevailing in State Court:

“[Staying in the federal court] was the plaintiffs’ biggest hurdle and obviously they are not getting over it,” said Michael Rikon, an attorney who specializes in condemnation law.

An Institute for Justice attorney explains why:

“The laws make it tough no matter what track you are on, as long as you are in New York,” said Steven Anderson, director of the anti-eminent domain Institute for Justice Castle Coalition.

“In state courts,” he added, “it’s tougher.”

Unlike federal courts, New York’s courts don’t permit plaintiffs to seek the legal search warrant, called “discovery,” that allows them to dig through e-mails and other correspondence between defendants in the case.

Both sides have until next Wednesday to submit additional papers to Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who will make the final decision.

One of the attorneys for some of the footprint tenants explains why "discovery" in Federal court is better:

“If we end in state court, our appeal will be limited to [evidence of wrong-doing found in] the public record,” said Jennifer Levy, a South Brooklyn Legal Services attorney who is representing some of the residents of the project footprint named in the suit.

“But we are talking about the intent,” said Levy said, who is no relation to the magistrate. “And intent is a hard thing to uncover without evidence of [internal] communications.”

What next for the plaintiffs?

If Garaufis agrees with the magistrate’s recommendation, Brinckerhoff and Levy can appeal in a lower federal court or refile in the New York State Supreme Court.

Brinckerhoff said he remained confident that his constitutional challenge will prevail, even if does move to state court.

“We have a simple claim: You are entitled to an impartial arbiter [when your property is condemned],” he said, “Our allegation is that the outcome was predetermined a long time ago.”

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Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

The Big Fix? With Atlantic Yards coming, city plans to create one-way avenues in Slope

The Brooklyn Papers

The Department of Transportation is proposing "a 'radical' proposal to convert traffic-choked Seventh and Sixth avenues in Park Slope into one-way thoroughfares and removing a lane of traffic from each direction of highway-like Fourth Avenue."

City Councilmember David Yassky says, "The state approved the project, but the city is left holding the bag to remedy the tremendous traffic it will cause.”

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NoLandGrab: Too bad for Park Slopers that the City's remedy for traffic will address Ratner's concerns about getting cars to and from Atlantic Yards, but once again will stress the fabric of the surrounding communities.

This is definitely NOT what "transpogressive" politician David Yassky had in mind for finding solutions to the Atlantic Yards traffic problem.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

RATNER READIES WRECKING BALL

NY Post

Despite the fact that demolition permits haven't been approved yet, Rich Calder is reporting that Bruce Ratner plans to "demolish 12 buildings... next week."

The developer - who last week began prep work for the Frank Gehry-designed development featuring an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers - announced yesterday that he will also begin asbestos removal and abatement work on 12 other vacant buildings he controls in the project zone.

Those buildings will be demolished at a later date, he said.

No wonder the Post has a hot line to Ratner, because the paper can be relied upon to get the developer's message across. Today, the Post totally mangles the significance of the financial documents that were released and the implications of what figures weren't.

A Post analysis of the documents found that Ratner and smaller investors stand to make close to $700 million in profits by 2015 should the developer ever decide to sell the arena and residential and office space slated to be built.

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner isn't going to "decide to sell the arena and residential and office space." If you look at the financials, Ratner is practically printing money during the last three years projected. That's even before construction is completed. Bruce Ratner didn't release figures that go beyond 2015 because he's embarassed to say how much dough he's raking in at that point.

But sources familiar with Ratner's financing told The Post yesterday that he is taking a big risk - putting up $1.2 billion in equity - although he obviously believes that Atlantic Yards is a sound long-term investment.

Well, we sort of agree. Ratner is in this for the long term. He knows that his investments are sound, because when his Brooklyn projects don't meet performance expectations, the State and City find ways to accommodate the developer.

Rumors reported yesterday in the Sun explain that Ratner plans to move Brooklyn Tech to Metrotech. The largest tenant in Metrotech is the City of NY. Yes, it is possible that yet another city entity will be paying mo' money to Ratner. This boondoggle is supposed to be a concession to the community, according to the powers that be which approved Atlantic Yards. It's also more proof that Ratner projects never lose money, because he has low friends in high places.

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Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

March 1, 2007

Downtown Brooklyn Is Booming

The NY Sun, Real Estate
By Michael Stoler

There were two items from today's column that refer to Forest City Ratner.

More Forest City Ratner luxury housing (actually, 20% of the units would be affordable):

As I reported last September, the City University of New York and Forest City Ratner Cos. plan to begin construction of a 1 million-square-foot mixed-use tower in the heart of downtown Brooklyn later this year. The development on the campus of the New York City College of Technology, to be located at 300 Jay St. in the MetroTech Center, will occupy an entire city block bounded by Jay, Johnson, and Tillary streets. The first eight floors will house classrooms and a majority of the urban college campus; the upper floors will be for luxury residential condominiums.

Here's the first report on rumors about the Brooklyn Tech deal that was touted as part of the grand compromise when the Atlantic Yards project received final approval in December.

Could Ratner be planning to move Brooklyn Tech to Metrotech (another city entity leasing at Metrotech and even mo' money for the Brucester, ka-ching!) and to turn the current Brooklyn Tech building into condos (Ka-ching, ka-ching!)?

Meanwhile, Polytechnic University is exploring a joint venture with Forest City Ratner Cos. on its campus in MetroTech, real estate sources said. The transaction would include the sale of about 800,000 square feet of available air rights for development. In addition, it is rumored that Forest City has plans to construct a residential condominium on the former site of Brooklyn Technical High School; the school would move to MetroTech.

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Norman Oder speculated last January that Ratner has a track record of turning schools into condos.

NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or does it seem like every concession lands right back into Bruce Ratner's wallet? They don't call him "Boondoggle Bruce" fer nuthin'.

Posted by lumi at 12:25 PM

Three pages of mystery: FCR's cash flow documents leave questions unanswered

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Jim Brennan’s effort to get the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to release the Atlantic Yards business plan provided by developer Forest City Ratner reaped some results yesterday, but not nearly enough to evaluate the project.

The ESDC released three pages dated 10/10/06 and 10/11/06, but with no explanation for the assumptions behind the numbers. I showed them to David A. Smith, an affordable housing expert in Boston, who’s paid close attention to the Atlantic Yards plan. "These cash flow schedules are like a Japanese landscape watercolor; fascinating and evocative in their own right but only lightly drawn,” he wrote in response. “They make one hungry for more detail, without which it is impossible to have a properly informed opinion about either the expected profit the developer may make relative to the risk, or whether the public is receiving fair public benefit for the public resources contributed."

Thus, the documents would not help Brennan evaluate whether Atlantic Yards could be downsized without harming the financial viability of the project. ...

The documents fill in some details about the arena:

The documents do offer some tantalizing details, for example pegging revenue from suites in the suite-intensive arena at $38 million a year (beginning in 2009-10), with an annual increase of $1 million, slated within five years to surpass the annual arena debt service of $43.8 million. In other words, the suites alone could, as I’d predicted, pay for the arena, the most expensive ever in the country, at $637.2 million.

They also show that the new arena would easily pay for its operations; as sponsorship revenue, starting at $31.2 million annually, would nearly cover operating expenses. (That revenue would include $20 million a year from the Barclays Center naming rights deal.)

Norman Oder also explains the difference between “investment internal rate of return” and profit and why the later is impossible to calculate without knowning how much of the money the developer would put up."

David Smith explains it this way:

“Knowing the net cash flows without knowing the fees is like learning that the Nets scored 89 points last night, without knowing who they were playing, what the other team's score was, and whether they won or lost."

There are also some discrepancies in the numbers related to the "Affordable Housing" and several unexplained gaps, like lack of numbers for the hotel, retail space or parking.

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Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

RATNER NETS B'KLYN BONU$

BruceRatner-NYP0307.jpgNY Post
By Rich Calder

The Post calls it an "EXCLUSIVE" though Brownstoner and any number of blogs had it first and MetroNY and The NY Sun also had it. [The Post reporter is causing concern in the blogger community for having recently reported stories which originaly appeared on blogs, without attribution or citation.]

Maybe the Post is calling it an "EXCLUSIVE" because the document is marked "confidential?"

The article provides a summation of the three-page financials, but doesn't note any of the things that are missing from the projections. However, they did run this fabulous photo that will probably show up on NoLandGrab from time to time.

And don't forget this:

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp, which released the records to The Post, declined comment yesterday.

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Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM

Glasnost at ESDC: criticism of AY oversight aired at board meeting

Atlantic Yards Report

Members of BrooklynSpeaks boldly launched an interesting offensive yesterday, in order to get their concerns of un-monitored construction-related work at Atlantic Yards in front of boardmembers of the Empire State Development Corporation, who have, curiously, been mandated by the new governor to listen to the public.

Comment from the public is now welcomed at board meetings of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a policy change instituted by the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer that marks a significant step toward glasnost.

Yesterday, critics of the Atlantic Yards development took advantage of the opportunity to warn the ESDC board that, given the recent water leak and difficulty in contacting responsible officials, oversight of the site preparation and construction work was urgently needed.

The opportunity came at the end of a brief board meeting held to discuss the ESDC’s Moynihan Station project. The board members, several of them on the phone from Albany, quickly discussed an amendment to the project, asked for comment, and prepared to vote.

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Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

Brooklyn Library Under Fire for Truncating Exhibit—Is it Censorship?

Library Journal

Normally, our superhero lives his life as Norman Oder, a mild-mannered editor and reporter for Library Journal.

Check out the Mad Overkiller in action in his day job, as the bizarro world of Atlantic Yards Report crosses with the Library Journal in today's article covering the controversy surrounding the Footprints exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library.

sags.jpgAll kidding aside, the article leads with this fairly serious new development that has few implications, except to lend credibility to the claims of the library's critics:

The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance that includes, among some 50 organizational members, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association (ALA), and People for the American Way, has criticized the Brooklyn Public Library for censoring an exhibition of art related to a highly controversial local development known as Atlantic Yards. In response, the library acknowledged error in not renaming the exhibit, but staunchly resisted the censorship accusation.

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Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

The jackhammers begin

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

A little more than a week has passed since Forest City Ratner began prep work for the Atlantic Yards development, and some residents are reporting problems.
...
Ratner had announced construction of a temporary rail yard and demolition of a building on Flatbush Avenue within the 22-acre footprint, but Peter Krashes, president of the Dean Street Block Association, noticed work being done on his street. He visited the liaison to ask what was going on. “He said there was no jackhammering for the community to be worried about,” Krashes recounted. “I told him there had been jackhammering since [last week] on Dean Street.”

No worries, the liaison office will be more helpful as "work progresses" and the Empire State Development Corporation is on it:

According to Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, “While formal construction on the site has not yet started, we opened the community office so it will be up and running as work progresses.”

ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen did not have a date for the environmental monitor, and said, “We are following up on the incident and investigating the situation.”

And this one paragraph on the document release:

Financial projections for Forest City Ratner’s $4 billion project were released yesterday. They show Ratner’s internal rate of return on investments in the Nets, the arena and the real estate to be 8.4 percent combined. Project foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn issued a statement claiming the documents “appear to raise more questions than they answer” and “severely understate the developer’s profit.” Forest City Ratner declined comment.

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Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Critics Deem Atlantic Yards Documents Insufficient

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The Sun boldly goes where no paper of record has gone before and, come to think of it, so does NY Assemblymember Jim Brennan.

This article is a must-read for anyone who is trying to understand what Forest City Ratner was and wasn't revealing in the whopping three pages of documents released yesterday.

A state agency has failed to appease its critics by releasing financial details of the Atlantic Yards project.

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday released three pages of documents from the project developer concerning financial aspects of the project, a move that was dubbed highly inadequate by lawmakers and community groups.

"We will deal with our attorneys, and not silly superfluous dribs and drabs that come through fax machines after press inquiries," Assemblyman James Brennan, who filed a lawsuit Monday seeking the full disclosure of development company Forest City Ratner's financial plan, said.

Mr. Brennan vowed to push ahead with a lawsuit to force the disclosure, and said that given the large level of subsidy involved, he believes the ESDC should have a complete business plan in its possession to allow the public to properly evaluate the Brooklyn development.

The three pages that were released with no explanation appear to offer details on the amount the developer stands to gain on the $4.2 billion project, though there does not seem to be enough information to make an accurate estimate of Forest City Ratner's return.

Oh, and this from the end of the article:

Forest City Ratner did not offer specific comment on the numbers in the documents.

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Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

RatnerSpeaks.net

Ratner-1.gifThe normally tight-lipped Bruce Ratner uttered these words to the press yesterday, "I wouldn't be a happy camper."

The owner of the NJ Nets is apparently trying reassure restless fans that he won't strip the team of the burdensome contracts of marquis players like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, during the lame-duck seasons in Jersey.

Here's the coverage:

The NY Times, Ratner Wants the Nets to Keep Carter and Kidd

“I’ve come to appreciate both of those players,” Ratner said during a lunch with several reporters in Manhattan. “I think that it’s very important to sign Vince. Without Vince, I’m not optimistic on how our record would be.”

NY Post, NO CHEAP TRICKS

Ratner, meeting with the press in Midtown, stressed the desire to retain Carter - even if it means going over the luxury-tax threshold.

NY Daily News, Ratner places Carter & Kidd under 'keepers'

Bruce Ratner was "really glad, really relieved" that the Nets held onto Vince Carter and Jason Kidd through last week's trade deadline.

The Newark Star-Ledger, Ratner in Nets' Carter's corner

The first commandment for any NBA owner -- and it has been true since time immemorial -- is this one: Thou shalt not fall in love with a player. When a business matter is fogged up by personal feelings, you're probably going to run a bad business.

Just the same, it is hard for Bruce Ratner to mask his affection for Vince Carter, even knowing that Carter will try to take as many of his dollars as he can this summer.

The Star-Ledger's account was less kind to the often tongue-tied team owner by carrying the most uncensored quotes:

"I don't distinguish between New Jersey -- I really don't -- and Brooklyn, in terms of quality of team," he said. "Honestly, I'm not saying that because of fan issues. It's important to have a good team. We're not rebuilding, thank goodness."

NoLandGrab: When is Bruce Ratner gonna learn that when you say "Honestly", everyone knows it means you're lying?

Ratner's in a tough spot. He can't rebuild the team because of "fan issues" (remember, he's lying), but he can't have a "good team" as his stars continue to age.

Bergen Record, Ratner is determined to keep Carter a Net

The Nets' principal owner admitted he learned from the Kenyon Martin fiasco three summers ago and that he's prepared to dig deep into his pockets to lock up Carter, who can opt out and become a free agent this summer.

"The first thing is intent – the intent is we want to sign Vince," Ratner said over lunch with beat reporters Wednesday. "When I came on I don't think I understood it well enough to have the intent."

Bruce Ratner proves that he knows little about basketball and less about pr. K-Mart's lackluster performance after being traded, due to nagging injuries, could make Ratner look like a genius if he knew how to spin it. But now that the team is losing $40 million a year and Ratner is scared to death that the current fans will give up on the team, he'll say anything.

Here's another funny one:

Ratner said he speaks to Carter "in a friendly kind of way – 'I hope you stay' and so on," but plans to be hands off.

Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

Forest City to Present at Citigroup 2007 Global Property CEO Conference

BusinessWire

Charles Ratner will be making a cameo appearance as the celebrity guest-developer at a global property CEO conference in Naples. That's FLORIDA, not Italy, either of which is still a lot warmer than Cleveland, OH.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) and (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that Charles Ratner, president and chief executive officer, will present at the Citigroup 2007 Global Property CEO Conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida on Tuesday, March 6, 2007.

The Company’s presentation is scheduled for 1:55 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 6, and may be accessed live via conference call by dialing (913) 312-1273, passcode: “Forest.” The live broadcast will also be available online on the investor relations page of Forest City’s website, www.forestcity.net. A webcast replay will also be available on the website.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Computer-wolf.jpgOnly the Blog Knows Brooklyn, ATLANTIC YARDS OP-ED, FINALLY

Read the New York Times' Op-Ed about Atlantic Yards in the Staurday Times by novelist Jennifer Egan, who lives in Ft. Greene.

It's the first one ever. Can you believe?

The Gowanus Lounge, Speak No Evil: Thor Coney Tenants Required to Sign Confidentiality Clause
Mandatory gag orders for those who sign up with the developer's program? That sounds familiar. Joseph Sitt continues to learn from the master.

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Financials Released
Brownstoner gets props for posting the AY financial projection three-page summary. Also, the blog puts a call out for Developer IRR for Dummies.

"Jo" comments:

A 10 year projection for a $4B capital project? Sure would be nice to see the 20, 30 and 40 year projections - the IRR probably goes through the roof beyond year 10.

Curbed, Spreadsheet Time: Atlantic Yards Financials Released

A cursory glance at the Atlantic Yards financials:

They show an average return of 9.6 percent a year to Forest City Ratner, but about $1 billion in cash flow to the developer over the last three years covered (2013-2015).

Eyes have glazed over in usually heated comments section; probably has something to do with all those numbers. One commenter picks up Bruce Ratner's take-home message, that the development company isn't really making all that much and that it's hard to predict the future:

but a 10% return is not that big for the risks and headaches he is going through...and any projection beyond 5 years is anybody's guess (although a billion does sound pretty impressive)

[For rebuttal, read the *Gothamist comment above.*]

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Financial Documents: "Actual Results May Vary"

Could it be the same old same old? GL links Norman Oder's analysis and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's response and posits:

All of which seems to indicate that the same lack of clear financial information that has surrounded the Atlantic Yards project from the very beginning still exists despite this "release of information" by the Empire State Development Corporation.

The Real Estate Obsever, ESDC Releases Atlantic Yards Projections

Stop what you're doing: The Empire State Development Corporation has released its financial projections for the Atlantic Yards project! Brownstoner has them, and, apparently, they conform to the speculation of project opponents.

NoLandGrab: REO's assesment came about before the project opponents had a chance to digest the docs. Also note, as Shahn Andersen pointed out in Brownstoner comments, the percentage return means nothing without knowing how much money Forest City Ratner is putting in.

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM