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April 30, 2007

Tune in...

WNYCShiffman-BMatters.gifWNYC, Brian Lehrer Show
93.9FM, 820 AM
TODAY, 10:00AM

Ron Shiffman will be a guest on Brian Lehrer's show to talk about the film that has Brooklyn talking, Isabel Hill's "Brooklyn Matters."

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Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Reference or fantasy? The (projected) ten-year Atlantic Yards timeline

Atlantic Yards Report commissioned this graphical timeline from Abby Weissman of southoxford.com, which combines a map of the master plan of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project with the construction timeline from the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

AYTimeline.gif

Should Ratner's schedule be taken seriously?

Project landscape architect Laurie Olin said it could take 20 years. Chuck Ratner of parent company Forest City Enterprises said it could take 15 years. Such schedules would delay the provision of promised benefits like affordable housing and open space and cause "interim surface parking" to persist.

When Atlantic Yards was announced 12/10/03, backers said that arena would begin development in 2004. It's more than two years late.

Beyond that, the project is likely well behind the stated timetable. Demolition of buildings in the Phase 1 arena footprint was to be completed by 7/2/07; several of those buildings almost certainly will remain enmeshed in litigation beyond that date.

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NoLandGrab: For Bruce Ratner's purposes, what is the value of an inaccurate timeline?

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Here's what they're saying in and around Ratnerville, on or about this weekend:

Bologsphere46.gifthree times sixty, house hunting

A local blogger and Atlantic Yards refugee begins house hunting:

We've been renting since we quickly sold our fantastic but poorly located apartment (the Atlantic Yards project was literally in our backyard), so today we went on our first open house mission. One word: demoralizing. Everything was on the high end of our price range which means we couldn't afford the renovations every single place desperately needed.

Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards on a Map in Under Ten Years
Forest City Ratner says Atlantic Yards will take ten years, but other experts judge 15-20 years to be a more realistic timeline:

If the 20-year estimate is accurate, children born on the day of the parapet collapse last week will be in college before a building is ever built on the site. Put another way, blocks of what used to be Prospect Heights will sit as "interim surface parking" for almost two decades.

Brooklynian.com, "Brooklyn Matters" doc on WNYC's Brian Lehrer this
"Pitu" just checked out "Brooklyn Matters" and posted this observation:

If you haven't been following it so closely, or even if you have, this is a film to see. I think it's very compelling by sticking to facts and staying away from preaching or polemic.

hot damn, entropy!, Homeless Double Jeopardy
Regarding the "nearly 100 families" evacuated from "a neighboring homeless shelter" after the Ward Bakery parapet collapse:

So, are they like, super-duper double homeless now?

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Atlantic Yards Revisioning

Seeing Green attended the UNITY 2007 charette and posted his observations on his blog.

cbnan.jpeg

"It's not the Land Use, it's the Land Experience," said one participant in the Unity 2007 charette sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Hunter College CCPD and the ever-indefatigable Council Member Letitia James.

A very telling point. Atlantic Yards as envisioned by Forest City Ratner (at right) does not allay the on-street experience of out-of-scale buildings, closed-off and privatized open space, destruction of the Brooklyn street fabric or the wall of separation created between two old and vibrant Brooklyn neighborhoods. Not to mention that it will be the densent built environment in the US.

About seventy-five were present Saturday at the charette....

The charette participants were offered the choice of several groups to join: Long term Planning, Transportation, Open space and Connections, Affordable Housing, etc. Each was run by a facilitator and was asked to consider three scenarios: if Ratner built Phase I of his project (essentially a third of the build-out); if the entire project was built out (in which case this exercises was doomed to irrelevancy, I thought,) and if nothing of his was built, which clean slate approach would provide the most interest in new design.
...
What one comes away with from this exercise is that the sum of ideas is more than the parts; that a group of diverse people with interest but not necessarily expertise (though there were many planners and architects and engineers present,) can brainstorm together to create a cohesive vision that far surpasses the pedestrian efforts of a developer like FCB.

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Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

A subtraction from the Ward Bakery

Ward-NoWall-AYR.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Though the Empire State Development Corporation has announced a suspension of demolition, some thing disappeared off of the Ward Bakery building between the parapet collapse on Thursday and the erection of a sidewalk shed on Friday.

What's missing from the Ward Bakery? A two-story, seemingly-improvised temporary cinderblock wall that rose above the western segment of the building, in the foreground of the photo above, forming a link of sorts with the adjacent building and creating some additional interior space.

That wall existed after 200 feet of the parapet tumbled on Thursday, as shown in the bottom of the two photos below. It likely was less stable than the rest of the building and demolished on Friday, the same day the scaffolding was installed.

Norman Oder is hoping to learn more about what kind of demolitions may proceed during the suspension from the Department of Buildings (DOB).

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UPDATE: ESDC spokesperson Errol Cockfield confirmed that the demolition of the wall was ordered by the Department of Buildings and that "any action they order the developer to take will have to do with safety."

NoLandGrab: It's reassuring to know that, at a minimum, the ESDC and DOB have the public's SAFETY in mind, because, until this point, we're not sure they have been mindful of anyone's needs other than Ratner's.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

Sunday Comix (On Monday? Don't Ask — Don't Tell)

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

April 29, 2007

Clinton Hill the "bloggiest" neighborhood? Nah, it's Prospect Heights

Atlantic Yards Report analyzes the recent report from Outside.in that names Clinton Hill as the bloggiest hood.

While Brownstoner is an interesting and popular blog, especially because of the robust comments section, it is hardly a blog focused exclusively on Clinton Hill. (Butler's based there.) Rather, it's a blog about Brooklyn real estate and neighborhoods faced with development.

And Atlantic Yards is hardly the "local obsession" that distinguishes Clinton Hill from other nearby neighborhoods. NoLandGrab is clearly the comprehensive source for Atlantic Yards-related information, with far more posts per day than Brownstoner's total on all topics.

I originally thought that Outside.in didn't consider NLG as bloggy because it doesn't accept comments. Actually, one of the two people behind NLG--the weekend person--lives in Clinton Hill and registered the blog on Outside.in as "Clinton Hill." (The weekday person lives in Park Slope.)

Outside.in relies most heavily on NoLandGrab in its Atlantic Yards section. Its press release didn't mention NLG.

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Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

When Demolished Buildings Attack

New York Magazine/Intelligencer

Prospect Heights: After the Atlantic Yards demolition caused debris to rain down on Pacific Street, local politicians want construction to halt. [The Brooklyn Paper]

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Posted by amy at 11:16 AM

Board 2 demands Wash. Sq. design presentation, or else

The Villager on how Atlantic Yards is similar to Washington Square Park?

Addressing the board before last Thursday’s vote, Schwartz — a top union attorney — said Parks’ saying it can’t comment because of the ongoing litigation is just a convenient “cover.”

“The fact that you’re being sued by somebody doesn’t mean you don’t participate in the public process,” he said. He noted that although Bruce Ratner’s development plans for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards are being challenged in the courts, it hasn’t stopped public hearings about the project from being held.

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Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

Bruce Ratner vs. the Homeless, Too

New York Magazine/Intelligencer

350 residents were ordered out of a homeless shelter after a parapet fell off a Ratner-condemned building next door. Even the dourest pessimists at Develop Don't Destroy didn't think mass displacement at Atlantic Yards would already be an issue. [NYT]

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Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

The News in Quotes: Hardball, Gadflies and Bus Bulbs

New York Times/Empire Zone

Atlantic Yards Mishap: “So if it turns out that a heavy rain almost two weeks ago can make a parapet fall, isn’t that all the more reason that they should have taken better precautions?” – Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy, about Forest City Ratner, after a partical collapse at its project site.

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Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

April 28, 2007

In Ratnerville, when it rains it snows...

Flatbush/Dean 1:30pm there was a sudden giant white cloud. Then firetrucks. Then when we could see, there was this. It seems like the snow-like substance sprayed down from the roof over the gas pumps. No word on a cause...

FYI the pavement at the gas station is normally gray.

You'll have to excuse the fine people of this neighborhood if it seems like we're getting a little jumpy.

carsnow1.jpg

mobilsnow.jpg

pumpssnow.jpg

More photos

A poster on Brooklynian had a suggested cause:

that's the fine residue from marty and bertha

they imploded from shame

Posted by amy at 2:29 PM

Overheard on Bergen and Flatbush

Two guys talking about the signage on a new store:

"'Arena Bagels and Bialys' - they should have made the words 'Bagels' and 'Bialys' bigger. No around here cares about an Arena."

Posted by amy at 2:15 PM

B'KLYN 'YARD' WORK HALTED

NY Post
Rich Calder

The move to halt the demolition and abatement work came at the request of Councilwoman Letitia James, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, and residents living within a zone that Ratner wants to replace with an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers.

"The ESDC [needs] to convene an oversight body to ensure that if work resumes, there is an accountable body for the public and elected officials to turn to," the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn said.

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Posted by amy at 12:09 PM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Work Suspended

WNYC

REPORTER: Friday's decision from developer Forest City Ratner came after a partial collapse of a five story building's roof parapet on Thursday. Workers were removing asbestos, and readying the building for demolition.

But Peter Krashes, President of the Dean Street Block Association, says there are larger problems, including a lack of information about how the project is being implemented, and inadequate oversight. Krashes says its time for the Governor to address these problems.

KRASHES: The person whos is responsible for what happens in this footprint is the governor of the state of New York. And we are desperate for the governor to respond to the questions we've asked.

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Posted by amy at 12:06 PM

Atlantic Yards work stops, for now, after parapet falls

AP via AMNY

Work will stop while city buildings officials investigate why a 200-foot hunk of the parapet atop a five-story building came loose and plunged onto a sidewalk, according to the developer, Forest City Ratner, and the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency that approved the giant Brooklyn project, called Atlantic Yards.

"We recognize the need for the Atlantic Yards project to continue to progress safely without causing disorder in the lives of residents of the surrounding neighborhoods," the development agency said Friday.

No one was hurt when the parapet section fell off the former Ward Bread Bakery building on Thursday. But about 350 people at a homeless shelter next door were temporarily evacuated, and several parked cars were damaged.

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Posted by amy at 12:01 PM

Officials, Community Groups Demand Atlantic Yards Oversight after Façade Collapse Halts Demolition

missbkcpn4.07.jpg

Commercial Property News
By Paul Rosta, Senior Associate Editor

“We are temporarily suspending all abatement and demolition activities until the city’s department of buildings concludes its preliminary investigation or the city directs us otherwise,” said Forest City Ratner executive vice president Bruce Bender in a prepared statement released this morning.

But the response is unlikely to satisfy a group of elected officials and local community groups who are criticizing what they view as insufficient public oversight of the massive project. This afternoon BrooklynSpeaks.net planned to demand that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer stop demolition until the establishment of a public entity that would oversee construction as well as the design and planning for the project. In addition, the coalition wants to see a council composed of community boards, civic organizations and other local stakeholders that would give the authority input on community concerns.

Gib Veconi, chairman of one of the local councils that make up BrooklynSpeaks.net, called the creation of such an authority “a critical missing piece” of the Atlantic Yards development. He argued that the state has established a comparable oversight structure for every other project sponsored by the Empire State Development Corp., New York’s lead economic development agency. Veconi linked the absence of oversight for several previous construction-related problems on the project, such as the loss of water service in one area.

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Posted by amy at 11:56 AM

Pols to Spitzer: Stop ‘Yards’ work

wardsbp4.07.jpg

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender told New York 1 that the company was not responsible for the partial building collapse.

“At the time of the purchase, in March, 2006, the building was already in a state of disrepair,” Bender said. “We will, of course, work very closely with the Buildings Department and other agencies to determine the cause of the collapse and to ensure public safety.”

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Was Ward's Bakery already in a state of disrepair at the time of purchase? Norman Oder deciphers the timeline of blight...

Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

Atlantic Yards work temporarily suspended

Crain's
Catherine Tymkiw

“We simply don’t believe that the building was unstable, that is until Ratner’s contractors went in,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, in a statement released Thursday. “There should be no ‘next time.’”

While Mr. Goldstein said the temporary suspension on demolition work was clearly the right course of action, “They need to go beyond this and have a way to monitor what’s going on here. There’s too much that can go wrong.”

ESDC and Forest City’s decision to suspend all abatement and demolition activities came just hours ahead of a planned press conference organized by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, which had intended on calling for an immediate work stoppage at the Prospect Heights site.

“It is tragic that 350 residents, consisting of 94 families, have been displaced because of [Thursday] morning’s occurrence,” said Councilwoman Letitia James.

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Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

Work Suspended On Atlantic Yards Project Following Wall Collapse

Wardny14.07.jpg

NY1

"There is no oversight. You approve the project and you don't even check if you did anything correctly,” said Daniel McCala of Borough Preservation Alliance.

"Whether it is people who favor the project or people who oppose the project there has got to be a common meeting table where everyone understands the schedule, everyone understands ramifications, everyone understands what it all means and why,” said Councilman Bill de Blasio.

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Posted by amy at 11:35 AM

The Ward Bakery and a tangled tale of blight

Ward4.07.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

After 200 feet of parapet fell Thursday from the Ward Bakery, there are understandable suspicions about the condition of the building. Had it deteriorated rapidly because of weather, as a fire chief speculated? Had any work on the building affected its integrity, as some in the neighborhood wondered?
(Photo by Tracy Collins.)

But another curious tale regards the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards Blight Study. While the bakery was deemed blighted in part because of an open building code violation, rendering the building hazardous, that violation actually had been resolved well before the Blight Study was concluded.

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Posted by amy at 11:29 AM

The Atlantic Yards pause isn’t enough, groups say, seeking more oversight

GLParapet.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report covers the politcal reaction to the recent collapses, as well as subtle differences of the various press conferences:

City Council Member Letitia James may be the elected official most clearly opposed to Atlantic Yards, but her reaction to the incident Thursday at the Ward Bakery—calling for a suspension of demolition work—turned out to be exactly what the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner agreed to late yesterday morning. That meant James was ahead of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who issued a more cautious statement Thursday, and other elected officials who were prepared to ask yesterday for such a suspension.
(Photo by Robert Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge.)

Still, the Atlantic Yards pause isn’t sufficient, said elected officials and representatives of community groups at two press conferences yesterday. They want a significant amount of oversight beyond what currently exists; an ESDC spokesman yesterday hinted that some increased oversight was coming, but wouldn't specify it.

It's an open question as to whether that oversight will come before the completion of Department of Buildings investigation into the causes of the collapse of a 200-foot parapet, which rained debris five stories down on cars and the sidewalk--and, fortunately, no people.

The New York Times today focused only on the temporary stoppage of work, as did a widely-distributed Associated Press article, while the Post cited the additional request for oversight.

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Posted by amy at 11:17 AM

Project Halted in Brooklyn for Inquiry Into Accident

New York Times once again refuses to name its baby's daddy:

One day after the partial collapse of a building being prepared for demolition to make way for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the state and the developer announced that work would be stopped pending the outcome of the city’s investigation into the accident.

Workers for the developer, Forest City Ratner, were removing asbestos from a former industrial bakery on Thursday morning when a 200-foot parapet on top of the building fell five stories onto Pacific Street. No one was hurt, but several cars were damaged, and a homeless shelter next door was evacuated for much of the day.

Opponents of the project had tried in vain to have the 97-year-old building at 800 Pacific Street, known as the Ward Bread Bakery complex, designated a city landmark. The bakery’s planned destruction had been cast as a symbol of the changes that the project — 8 million square feet of high-rise housing, office space and a basketball arena — would visit upon the neighborhood, which is near Downtown Brooklyn.

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Maybe the Times needs a disclose-o-matic machine to help them remember to give shout-outs to their Very Important business Partners...

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

For Immediate Release: Sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks.net Call on ESDC Not to Permit Work to Resume until Oversight is Established

BrooklynSpeaks

The sponsors of the Brooklynspeaks.net campaign today thanked the State for halting work on the Atlantic Yards site, but joined Brooklyn elected officials in calling on Governor Spitzer not to permit work to resume until meaningful public oversight of the project has been established and a framework for addressing community concerns has been created.

“We’re relieved that the State has halted work on the Atlantic Yards site in light of yesterday’s accident. But halting demolition alone does not go far enough. Work must not resume until an oversight mechanism for construction has been established.” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “The level of oversight and accountability needs to be proportionate to the scale and potential impact of this enormous project.”

Yesterday’s accident was the latest in a series of major incidents that have occurred without meaningful public oversight in place. In February, water was cut off on Dean Street after an incident involving pre-demolition work on pipes. At the beginning of April, neighborhood residents noticed potentially asbestos-laden debris falling on a nearby building. Despite informing both the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Buildings, no meaningful steps were taken by the City or State to address the issue, such as sampling or testing of the debris to check for asbestos content.

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Posted by amy at 11:02 AM

Shrill Of The Week: More Atlantic Yards Doggerel

humpty_dumpty.jpg

There couldn't be a better way to start off the weekend than by reading Dope on the Slope's coverage of the Ward Bakery collapse:

Brucey-Wucey: Ballad Of A Bad Egg
Brucey-wucey knocked down a wall,
Brucey-wucey caused it to fall.
All of his cronies, and
All of his flaks
Couldn't persuade Brooklynites to relax.

Limerick Memorializing The Great Ward's Bakery Calamity
There once was a fellow named Bruce,
Whose crew knocked a ton of bricks loose.
They fell to the ground
With a horrible sound.
There's a reason, but there's no excuse.

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Posted by amy at 10:51 AM

TODAY: UNITY 2007
VANDERBILT YARDS DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP

UNDERSTANDING AND TRANSFORMING THE YARDS

April 28th, 10 AM to 4 PM

HANSON PL. UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
144 St. Felix Street

UNITY2007.jpg

Registration begins 9:30AM.
(Bring a brown bag lunch*)

With lawsuits pending, and mounting opposition to the project, Forest City Ratner's plan is NOT A DONE DEAL. What if the project is not built? What it if it's only partly built? Now is the time to build the UNITY© 2007 Plan, an updated and comprehensive plan for the Vanderbilt Yards, developed for and by the residents of Brooklyn.

* Other types of bags welcome too!

Posted by lumi at 1:13 AM

April 27, 2007

"You'll find out who the police is soon enough"

"You'll find out who the police is soon enough," said the hard-hat on scene at the site of yesterday's Ward Bakery Building collapse, to one participant making his way to today's Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods' (CBN) press conference.

The word from the press conference is that Forest City Ratner contractors doing god-knows-what at the Ward Bakery building called the police to report that a demonstration without a permit was in progress.

Officers, as promised, responded to the scene midway through the press conference.

CBN Co-Chair Candace Carponter told the officers that the "demonstration" was in fact a press conference, and that approximately half the "protesters" were actually reporters.

Officers left the scene without making any arrests.

Posted by lumi at 12:56 PM

For the Curious, It’s Open House Season

The NY Times

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, FORT GREENE AND CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, JUNE 3

At least 15 gardens will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the 10th annual Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District’s Garden Walk. They include a children’s play garden and two “endangered” gardens within the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Tickets, $20, at the Forest Floor, 659 Vanderbilt Avenue (Prospect Place), Prospect Heights; at the Brooklyn Academy of Music garden, Lafayette Avenue at St. Felix Street in Fort Greene; and at Tillie’s, DeKalb and Vanderbilt Avenues in Clinton Hill. Advance tickets, $15, and information: (718) 707-1277. There is no Web site.

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NoLandGrab: By "endangered" they mean that the two gardens are on properties that are being condemned via eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 12:50 PM

ESDC/Forest City suspend all demolitions; more oversight coming

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted the ESDC statement and, since he's a real journalist, called the ESDC for further comment.

I asked ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield whether there was more oversight coming, as requested by numerous community groups. His response indicated a yes, though the ESDC is not ready to announce specifics.

"We have an interim environmental monitor in AKRF and we are on the verge of selecting an environmental monitor," he said. Beyond that, he added, "There have been exhaustive plans under way for some time to provide increased oversight for the Atlantic Yards project."

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NoLandGrab: It has been 81 days since the ESDC announced the request for proposal for an environmental compliance monitor.

Norman Oder reported on February 28:

Responses were due February 26, with selection expected in two weeks.

For the record, the ESDC gave the public 66 days to comment on the 4,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 12:19 PM

ESDC Calls Halt to All AY Demolitions

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

The ESDC is doing the right thing, which was called for yesterday by Councilwoman James, DDDB, CBN and others. But they need to go one step further and convene an oversight body to ensure that if work resumes, there is an accountable body for the public and elected officials to turn to.

Also, as we write this (11:30 am) Ratner contractors are still doing demolition and abatement work at 189, 191, 193 Flatbush. Sometimes ceasefire news take time to travel.

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Posted by lumi at 12:14 PM

ESDC STATEMENT ON THE PARTIAL COLLAPSE AT THE ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT

For Immediate Release Contact: ESD Press Office April 27, 2007 www.nylovesbiz.com

The partial collapse Thursday at the Ward Bakery building created serious disruptions. We’re thankful that no one was hurt and we recognize the need for the Atlantic Yards project to continue to progress safely, without causing disorder in the lives of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

To that end, the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner have agreed that the developer will temporarily suspend all abatement and demolition activities until the City’s Department of Buildings concludes its preliminary investigation or the City directs us otherwise.

This incident requires a reassurance to the community of the buildings’ soundness before work can proceed at the site. We are in frequent contact with the developer and various city agencies to make sure that we have fully addressed all safety concerns before activities resume. The State remains committed to the project and to its timeline for completion.

NoLandGrab: On day 117 of the new Spitzer administration, for those who are looking for signs of change, note the last sentence of the release, "The State remains committed to the project and to its timeline for completion."

Posted by lumi at 11:23 AM

Breaking News: ESDC/FCR calling halt to all demolitions

Reporters are on the horn seeking reaction to the word that Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are calling a halt to all demolitions.

Meanwhile, one of the protesters against demolition is telling us that at this moment "they are demolishing where we protested Monday."

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

Homeless flee building collapse

Mishap comes weeks before Ratner wrecking ball

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Portions of the historic Ward Baking Company building in Prospect Heights collapsed Thursday, raining debris on cars and forcing evacuation of a homeless shelter.
...
"Construction workers were working on the building, [but] I don't know in what capacity," said an FDNY spokesman who noted there were no injuries.
...
"There should be no further demolition on any of these buildings until an independent investigator can be called on to see what's going on here," said Patty Hagan, an opponent of the $4.2 billion project. "That building was extremely sturdy. I'd call what happened an awfully odd coincidence."

The Red Cross sought temporary homes for 90 families evacuated from the shelter.

"All of the residents of this homeless shelter are now, quite literally, out on the street with their babies in their arms," said a furious neighbor.

The Ward building, once called "the snow-white temple of bread-making cleanliness," had been a cause célèbre for preservationists. Its terra cotta-tiled facade was cited by the Municipal Art Society and considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. ...
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose name is scrawled on the building in graffiti form that reads "Hakeem [heart] Ratner," stopped short of calling for a demolition freeze or an independent monitor.

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Posted by lumi at 11:02 AM

Fun With Parapets: Ward Bakery, Before & After

The Gowanus Lounge

PARAPETOLOGY — What a difference 20 days makes.

Parapetology.jpg

Truth be told, we hadn't thought much about parapets before 10:15 yesterday morning, nor had much opportunity to use the word in our writing. Ever. In any case, here's a little Ward Bakery before and after comparison, to give an indication of just how much parapet would have landed on your head had you had the misfortune to have been on Pacific Street around 9:50AM yesterday morning.

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Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM

Who put the Rat in Ratnerville?

rat-n-ratnerville.jpgBy chance, Atlantic Yards had its own mascot yesterday (with sidekick Ratner VP Bruce Bender on the far left). The irony was noted by a couple of commenters in other blogs that posted photos from the site of yesterday's collapse, and earned its own special post in Curbed.

The Rat was in front of Henry Weinstein's building, currently leased by developer Shaya Boymelgreen, who is being stalked by the unions all over Brooklyn for his use of non-union labor.

What's particularly bizarre is that The Rat is parked in front of the same building that Boymelgreen tried to lease out to Bruce Ratner, who, despite Weinstein's protestations and a pending lawsuit, repeatedly claimed he controlled. Earlier this year, a judge sided with Weinstein and the deal between Boymelgreen and Ratner was voided, returning "control" of the property to Weinstein, who has since joined the federal eminent domain lawsuit.

If Boymelgreen (the anti-Christ of the local trade unions) had succeeded, then Ratner (the patron saint of the local unions) would have had Weinstein in a headlock.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Details, comments, questions emerge about the falling parapet at the Ward Bakery

Atlantic Yards Report analyzes the media coverage of the Ward Bakery collapse:

The city's Department of Buildings has issued a violation to Forest City Ratner for failing to maintain the exterior wall of the Ward Bakery, though no shed was required. Meanwhile, more than 300 people from the adjacent homeless shelter had to evacuate, and questions remain about how and why the 200-foot stretch of the parapet fell yesterday, and what oversight agencies will do.

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Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

Part of Roof Collapses At Atlantic Yards Site

The NY Sun ran a short item on page 2:

WardCollapse-NYS.jpg

A piece of a rooftop parapet in the footprint of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project collapsed yesterday onto the street, hitting parked cars and forcing the evacuation of about 350 people in a nearby building.

The collapse of the 200-foot stretch of the building at 800 Pacific Street came as the developer for the project, Forest City Ratner, had recently started its early demolition of vacant buildings.

Workers were performing abatement on the five-story building, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner said. Demolition has not yet begun.

No injuries were reported.

A spokeswoman for the department of buildings said the Red Cross was working to help relocate the displaced residents, who were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Workers were performing abatement on the five-story building, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner said. Demolition has not yet begun.

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Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

ATLANTIC YARDS BLDG. COLLAPSE

NY Post
By Rich Calder

The Post allots 90 words for yesterday's partial collapse of the Ward Bakery building:

Part of a building targeted for demolition to make way for the Atlantic Yards Brooklyn arena project collapsed yesterday, raining bricks down on parked cars and leaving 350 homeless people without a shelter.

No one was injured, and FDNY officials said there was no sign of foul play.

Councilwoman Letitia James and others called for an investigation and a halt to the demolition of at least 15 buildings.

Huge cement chunks of a parapet atop the five-story former Ward Bread Bakery came crashing down on Pacific Street at about 9:45 a.m.

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NoLandGrab: FYI, yesterday, the Post allowed 700 words for Craig Charney's defense of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

On the street

Collapse at Atlantic Yards site forces evacuation

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer
Additional reporting by Michael Rundle

Another ear-witness of yesterday's collapse at the Ward Bakery building:

“I was getting my kids ready this morning when the roof collapsed,” said Janelle Charles, 25, a shelter resident. “I heard a bump and thought workers had dropped something heavy. Either that or it was an earthquake.”

She and other residents waited on the sidewalk for hours while emergency services tried to establish if the building was secure. “I’m hungry, cold and I have toothache, too,” she said.

The Red Cross helped relocate more than 75 residents to the Atlantic Terminal Senior Center.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's spokesperson says what seems to be on everyone's mind:

Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for project foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “If Ratner had thought this building was unstable, you have to believe they would have taken at least the precautionary measure of placing protective sidewalk sheds along the building in order to safeguard the community. We simply don’t believe that the building was unstable, that is until Ratner’s contractors went in.”

On day 116 of the Spitzer administration, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), still "listening" and taking "a hard look," has this to say for themselves:

ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield said the agency is in the process of hiring a monitor and “is conferring with the developer, the city, and various government agencies to find out exactly what happened and to help coordinate a thorough response.”

Forest City Ratner's spokesperson said what you'd expect:

"...we are investigating the cause of the incident,” said Bruce Bender, an executive vice preident at Forest City Ratner.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

AYR roundup on density and planning issues

One Atlantic Yards Report item about a Nathan Glazer lecture got left in the rubble after news of yesterday's collapse at the Ward Bakery building. Today Norman Oder follows up Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's excuses for Atlantic Yards.

GlazerBook.pngAt Glazer talk on modernism, AY is poster child for too much density

Nathan Glazer, the eminent Harvard sociologist and social critic, came to New York on April 17 to speak about his new collection of essays, From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City--and Atlantic Yards came in for some criticism..

Protest, he said at one point, “is one form of discovering when density is too much,” and that certainly points to Brooklyn. (He spoke at the Yale Club, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute.)

Doctoroff (sort of) says city didn't "reach out" regarding Atlantic Yards

Deputy Mayor Dan Docotroff on lessons learned:

“The first thing we’ve learned is that it’s absolutely critical to get the communities involved right up front. I will be honest—to the extent that we’ve made mistakes in the past, it’s because we haven’t reached out early enough or aggressively enough to communities.

NoLandGrab: Is it even worth the trouble to say, "We told you so."

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Soft Focus

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) questions the sincerity of a Forest City Ratner spokesperson:

From the Times regarding the "collapse" of a a 200 foot parapet on the Ward Bakery Building owned by Forest City Ratner:

...“Our focus is on the safety of the community and we are doing everything in our power to maintain it,” [Ratner spokesman] Mr. [Loren] Riegelhaupt said. He said the removal of the [protective sidewalk] shed was necessary to allow access to sewer lines under the sidewalk that the city will require to be blocked before demolition of the building is begun... (emphasis and clarifications added)

Really? If community safety is their focus and they are doing everything in their power, why didn't they replace the sidewalk sheds after the sewer work, and before asbestos abatement started?

link

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Parapet Falls From Building to Be Demolished for Atlantic Yards

The NY Times
By Thomas J. Lueck and Daryl Khan

About 350 people were temporarily ordered out of a homeless shelter in Brooklyn yesterday after a 200-foot-long parapet on the roof of an adjacent building that was about to be demolished....
...
No demolition permit has been issued by the city for 800 Pacific Street, because all the asbestos in the building must be removed first.

NoLandGrab: So the "building was about to be demolished," but "no demolition permit has been issued?"

Tashie Sloley, a resident of the homeless shelter, the Pacific and Dean Residence Shelter, at 768 Pacific Street, said she heard “a big boom that shook the floor” and hurried outside with her two infant daughters when someone called out, “Please evacuate the building and don’t panic.”

“When I heard ‘don’t panic,’ I panicked,” said Ms. Sloley, who spent several hours on the sidewalk in a line of displaced residents.

Ms. Sloley poignantly expresses exactly how the community has felt about Atlantic Yards since it was first announced in 2003.

This article got one important fact right — there were workers on the roof at the time of the collapse:

No shelter residents, pedestrians or workers on the roof were hurt when the parapet on the vacant building, the former Ward Bread Bakery complex, at 800 Pacific Street, fell five stories about 9:30 a.m., although several cars were damaged. About 20 workers were on the roof at the time, removing asbestos that must be removed before the city will allow the building, between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues, to be demolished.

article

NoLandGrab: We thought that the Times was finally in the habit of disclosing their business relationship with development company Forest City Ratner. Whoopsie — they forgot (again).

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

The Brooklyn Paper Roundup

Good Bloomy, bad Bloomy (Editorial)

The two faces of Mayor Bloomberg are again on display. One day, the mayor is one of the nation’s leading advocates of environmentally sound, community-sensitive, sensible development. The next day, he’s a backroom crony greasing the wheels for a developer who ignored the community.
...
Good Bloomy’s speech on Sunday suggested that the process that created Atlantic Yards is exactly what he doesn’t want to happen again.

“As our search for land becomes more pressing in the coming decades, we must be prepared to work with communities to explore the potential of these sites,” the mayor’s PlaNYC proposal says.

Ratner’s wrecking ball hits, protested
The Brooklyn Paper roundup of the week's events garnered the usual response from Ratner:

A Ratner spokesman, Loren Riegelhaupt, responded to an e-mail request for comment from The Brooklyn Paper. His response? “We have no comment on the lawsuit or the demolition,” Riegelhaupt wrote.

Kiss their glass! Library still in trouble

Brooklyn Public Library officials reportedly said this week that their efforts to raise money for an iconic, $135-million glass-walled performing arts branch have failed — and that the project can’t go forward at this point.
...
Last year, The Brooklyn Paper reported that library trustees approached developer Bruce Ratner, a longtime BAM trustee, about funding the facility, which would be located just a few blocks from his $4-billion Atlantic Yards mega-project.

But those talks apparently went nowhere.

Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

Ward Bakery’s Rooftop Wall Comes Crashing Down

Parapet Crashes into Cars, Displaces 350 Residents of Homeless Shelter

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Evacuees-BDE.jpg Sarah Ryley reported on the collapse and the evacuees:

The Ward Bread Bakery complex, built in 1911, is owned by developer Forest City Ratner, and is in the footprint of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards arena and high rise project. The building has been the focus of protests by preservationists who had tried to get it protected by city landmark status, and who disagree with the developer’s plan to replace the block with a large, surface parking lot during the first phase of the project’s construction.

“It took us by surprise, we thought it was a bomb in the building, it shook everything,” said Gloria Diaz, a social worker at the homeless shelter, Pacific Dean Residence. She said she accidentally inhaled dust that came pouring through the basement door when she opened it to see what happened.

Diaz said the shelter wasn’t warned of any potentially dangerous demolition. Hours after the collapse, families were still sitting on the sidewalk, waiting to find out where they would be taken.
...
But to the families waiting on the sidewalk, with all of their worldly possessions still trapped inside the evacuated shelter, a hot meal and a safe place to sleep were the only things on their minds.

“I’m ready to cry,” said Shirley, who has been living in the shelter with her three kids for nine months. “This is my home right now, and I don’t know where I’m going to go.” Shirley said two of her kids go to school in the area, and she’s concerned they’ll end up someplace dangerous or far away.

Each of the families at the Pacific Dean Residence has their own studio and bathroom, with a door that locks. They could be temporarily transferred to a school, church or hotel reception hall, said Jean Sylla, a Red Cross senior official at the scene.

Sylla said Red Cross officials had briefly spoken to a Forest City Ratner representative, but had no details beyond that about how the developer would assist in relocating families.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Building at Atlantic Yards site collapses

NY Newsday/amNY
By Michael Clancy

A portion of the parapet wall on the five-story former Ward Bakery building in Prospect Heights came crashing onto the sidewalk outside 800 Pacific St. at 9:48 a.m. The collapse showered the sidewalk with bricks and caused the two adjoining buildings, including a shelter for homeless women and children, to be evacuated, the fire department said. Several cars parked on the street were damaged.
...
"This is one of number of incidents that's happened at Atlantic Yards site," said Councilwoman Leticia James (D-Brooklyn), who asked that the project, which is in her district, be halted immediately. "It's because there is no oversight, no coordinator, no government oversight. It's just a developer run amok in the community."

NoLandGrab: The day before the collapse, DOT workers closed off 5th Ave. north of Flatbush to repair a "roadway collapse." The DOT blames DEP subcontractors for the incident. What Councilmember James said bears repeating, "there is no oversight, no coordinator, no government oversight. It's just a developer run amok in the community."

The buildings department said 75 people were evacuated as a precaution. However, the fire department said 350 people were taken to shelters as engineers assess the structural integrity of the adjoining buildings.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Demolitions at Atlantic Yards Must be Suspended!

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Elected Officials, and Community Leaders Call on the Empire State Development Corporation and the Department of Buildings to Suspend the Demolitions as a result of the partial collapse of Wards Bakery

New York, NY -- The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, which is comprised of over forty community organizations from Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, and neighboring communities, will assemble on Friday, April 27, 2007 to demand that the demolitions in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project be suspended immediately.

On Thursday April 26, 2007, 200 feet of parapet fell five stories from the top of the Wards Bakery. No sidewalk shed was in place, although pre-demolition work had been commenced on the building by Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the Atlantic Yards Project. Fortunately, no one was injured, but approximately 100 families were immediately displaced because of the potential danger of additional collapse.

CBN's member organizations will be joined by elected officials and community leaders in calling for the ESDC and the DOB to immediately suspend all demolitions in the footprint until:

  1. a thorough investigation as to the cause of the collapse can be conducted.

  2. safeguards can be implemented to prevent similar events with the potential for significant harm to the community and its residents and visitors.

  3. appropriate oversight can be put in place to monitor the demolition and construction for the Atlantic Yards project to insure that it is done without risk to the community and with the least possible interruption to the lives of those who are facing construction of this project over the next ten to twenty years.

Representatives of the member organizations of CBN, as well as elected officials and community leaders, will be in attendance to express their concern about the lack of proper oversight of this project sponsored by the ESDC.

What:
Press Conference on the community's demand for a thorough investigation, appropriate safeguards, and the implementation of effective oversight before any further work can proceed on the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Who:
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, along with its member organizations, including Fort Greene Association, Society for Clinton Hill, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Friends of Greater Gowanus (FROGG), Boerum Hill Association, Park Slope Neighbors, Prospect Height Action Coalition, Council Member Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Reverend Dennis Dillon of Brooklyn Christian Center and others

When:
Friday, April 27, 2007, 12:00 noon.

Where:
Wards Bakery, 800 Pacific Street (near Vanderbilt) Brooklyn, NY

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere46.jpgGothamist, Extra, Extra

Portions of a building set for demolition for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project collapsed this morning. Perhaps it can be seen as a cost savings for Ratner?

OnNYTurf, Oh Man Is Ratner In Trouble Now: Building Crashes on Street

You can hear the snarking on Curbed already...

Apparently part of the Ward Bakery at the Atlantic Yards site, being demoed by Ratner crashed into the street...

Right on the damn Miata!

Yonkers Tribune, Ward Bakery Building Partially Collapses While Ratner Contractors Work on Building

The "home of the acid-tongued bloggers" from Yonkers keep tabs on what Bruce Ratner is up to in Brooklyn. Yesterday the blog posted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's press release.

Brownstoner, Ward's Bakery Collapse: The Photos

Tracy Collins, who's become one of our favorite documenters of Brownstone Brooklyn and especially Atlantic Yards and the Prospect Heights environs, has uploaded a hundred or so photos from the aftermath of today's building collapse at Ward's Bakery in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Definitely worth a look-see.

Four photos posted, plus links to hundreds of others.

Curbed, BREAKING CurbedWire: Atlantic Yards Building Partial Collapse
We linked this post yesterday, but in case you're interested, it was updated several times during the day. Also, one commentator noticed a NYC-wide trend:

Funny how any building with any whiff of "landmark" seems to meet with some sort of accident. Golly gee I'm beginning to think it's all deliberate...

NY Press, Building Collapse At Atlantic Yards Demolition Site
NY Press blogger Kari Milchman has an boneheaded original take on the Ward Bakery collapse demolition:

This afternoon, a Brooklyn building under demolition at the Atlantic Yards site partially collapsed onto the sidewalk. No one was hurt. Wait, isn’t that the point of demolition? Workers were in the process of removing asbestos when part of the Ward’s Bakery building fell. The homeless shelter next door was evacuated for precautionary reasons, sending 300 people back onto the streets. Neighbors and politicians are now calling for an investigation into Forest City Ratner's safety practices. Of course they are.

NoLandGrab: We predict a bright future for Milchman here.

The Daily Pube, We've Been Linked
Sam linked back to NoLandGrab after we carried his pointed reference to Ratner and included a nifty version of the "Wall 'O Grievance" class picture:

Apparently someone liked my comments about the destruction of NYC's older buildings; specifically in reference to the closing of the Brooklyn Inn, and how I mentioned Forest City Ratner.

It's a pretty cool site that details the day to day of the Atlantic Yards Project.

The Knickerblogger, Liars for Hire
"Knickerblogger" comments on Norman Oder's analysis of yesterday's NY Post opinion piece:

I'll spare you the lies and nonsense, and just mention that Charney's "poll" did what Forest City tried to do all along - hide the truth from the public. Nowhere did it cover the huge public outlays or abuse of eminent domain, which curiously, Charney didn't think was an issue. How he could not when 85% of Americans are opposed to it is beyond ludicrous - it is lie.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Part Of Building Crumbles In Brooklyn

WNBC.com is reporting that the workers were removing asbestos from "inside" the building:

At the time, workers were removing asbestos from inside the structure.

Officials were assessing the structural stability of neighboring buildings after the collapse. As a precaution, 350 people were kept out of a nearby homeless shelter.

link

NoLandGrab: NY1 noted that workers were on the roof, as opposed to merely "removing asbestos from inside the structure."

Posted by lumi at 12:30 AM

Building At Atlantic Yards Site Partially Collapses

NY1

James%3DNY1.jpg An FDNY official chalks the collapse up to rain...

"Parapet walls exposed on both side over many years, and we had heavy rains, so it very well could be a residual effect of the heavy rains that we had,” said FDNY Assistant Chief James Nichols.

...even though there were workers on the roof just before (whoopsie):

City officials say workers were removing asbestos on the roof of the building when approximately 200 feet of parapet wall fell onto the sidewalk. No one was hurt, but several parked cars were damaged.

An adjacent homeless shelter was evacuated as a precaution, leaving about 288 people, mostly women and children, homeless.

"No one is answering questions,” said one of the evacuated residents. “No one really knows anything, and we're sitting out here. My baby's cold and we want to go back inside."
...
Congresswoman (sic) Leticia (sic) James* is one of several local elected officials calling for a probe into the incident.

"I'm asking for an investigation with respect to this collapse, and I'm asking ESDC to halt – halt – all work until such time this investigation is completed."

Did Ratner really come up with this ridiculous PR strategy (uh, the building was broken when we bought it), or is it another Benderism?

In response to the incident, Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender said:

“At the time of the purchase, (in March 2006) the building was already in a state of disrepair. We will of course work very closely with the Buildings Department and other agencies to determine the cause of the collapse and to ensure public safety."

article (dialup/broadband)

* The video caption is correct — "L-E-T-I-T-I-A" James is a C-O-U-N-C-I-L woman.

Posted by lumi at 12:00 AM

April 26, 2007

Forest City Ratner: It's a Disaster!

Brit in Brookliyn

RedCross-BIB.jpg

Ward Bakery update: Tonight groups of evacuated mums were out behind their strollers, which were draped in Red Cross blankets. A relief worker told me (around 6.30 pm) that shelter, clothing and food had been provided for them and everyone could now return home. Who'd have believed Ratner's plans would already be drawing upon disaster-relief resources? What else is in store?

Posted by lumi at 11:05 PM

In Ward Bakery incident, was a sidewalk shed required?

Atlantic Yards Report

WardBakery-JB.jpgNorman Oder sheds some light on the missing sidewalk shed:

The sidewalk shed outside the Ward Bakery has been gone for weeks, though one existed for years. When local residents protesting Forest City Ratner's demolition plan walked on Pacific Street Monday, they passed right by the bakery, which lacked such a shed. Had today's incident--200 feet of the parapet wall falling, according to the Times--occurred three days earlier, those walking by could have been very unlucky. (Photo taken Monday by Jonathan Barkey)

When Forest City Ratner applied for a demolition permit in early March, it was approved on the basis that a sidewalk shed was required. The permit (below) also said that a shed had been erected.

That shed apparently was the one that had existed for years, and was apparently removed at some point after March 3. On March 21, the developer filed for a permit to build a new shed. Apparently a shed is not required while workers do pre-demolition work, such as asbestos removal. Among the lingering questions: did the asbestos removal at the building morph into more significant work that affected the building's structural integrity? If this could be blamed on weather and deterioration, should the developer have taken more precautions?

article

Posted by lumi at 5:43 PM

800 Pacific St. Pre-Demolition Report

According to this Pre-Demolition Report (click image to enlarge), a sidewalk shed was required. The report indicates that it was erected, though there was no shed at the site today when the cornice collapsed.

In addition, there is no indication of unsafe conditions at the property on this report.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 PM

More DEMO GRAPHICS Ratner-style

Photographers Adrian Kinloch ("www.britinbrooklyn.com") and Tracy Collins (aka "Threecee") were at the scene and posted photos to their sites.

From BritinBrooklyn:

"The building may have to be demolished quickly as it's now in dangerous state, which will help get Ratner's plan moving along."

"Sadly local residents in Dean Street had to be evacuated and spend the day next to some of Ratner's earlier work."

From ThreeCee's Flickr Ward Bread Bakery Building photos:

Posted by lumi at 5:10 PM

ESDC statement on Ward Bakery

Atlantic Yards Report has posted the Empire State Development Corporation's statement concerning the Ward Bakery collapse, along with an observation:

“When the Empire State Development Corporation learned about the incident, the agency sent representatives to the scene to assess the situation. Safety is our utmost concern and we’re very thankful no one was injured. Our team is conferring with the developer, the City, and various government agencies to find out exactly what happened and to help coordinate a thorough response. We’re also awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the city’s Department of Buildings so we can take any necessary action.”

Note that a "thorough response" does not, as of yet, go as far as the request by Council Member Letitia James that work on the site should be halted immediately.

link

NoLandGrab: Apparently the ESDC is still "listening" and "taking a hard look."

Posted by lumi at 5:01 PM

Jeffries calls for investigation; James calls for stopping all work

Atlantic Yards Report

The partial collapses of the Ward Bakery has led to evacuation of the neighboring homeless shelter and significant concern around the Pacific Street site. Investigations are ongoing, and elected officials are speaking up.

The lead is followed by NYC City Councilmember Letitia James's and NYS Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries' statements.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:58 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Ward Bakery Building Partially Collapses

While Ratner Contractors Work on Building

Department of Buildings and Empire State Development Corporation Should Halt All Demolition Activity on Atlantic Yards Site Until Full Investigation and Proper Monitoring Body is in Place

BROOKLYN, NY— Fortunately nobody was hurt today when the entire northern parapet of the Ward Bakery Building collapsed onto the street, sidewalk and parked cars below. Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) is allegedly undertaking asbestos abatement on the building preliminary to a scheduled June demolition of the building for its “Atlantic Yards” project. The building would be demolished to create “interim surface parking” for an indefinite period of time. The 97-year old building was denied landmark status by the City Landmarks Commission but has stood stable over nearly one century. In fact, in March, the developer removed protective sidewalk sheds from the perimeter of the building where the collapse occurred.

The city’s Building Enforcement Safety Team, or BEST Squad, which inspects buildings prior to allowing demolition, found no unsafe issues or hazardous conditions in the Ward Bakery during their pre-demolition inspection.

“The Ward Bakery Building has stood solidly in our community for nearly one century without any problem. It certainly raises many questions that now that the developer has entered the building all of a sudden an entire parapet collapses. We are calling on the city’s Department of Buildings and the Bloomberg Administration to halt all of Forest City Ratner’s scheduled demolitions until the Ward Bakery collapse is fully investigated," said Develop Don’t Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Also, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) — the public state corporation overseeing the Ratner project — must insist that Forest City Ratner stop all demolition on the project site until this collapse is fully investigated and the building stabilized, and until the public can be assured that there is a proper and responsive state-run site-monitoring body in place.”

Residents and community organizations around the project site have been calling for proper ESDC oversight of activity on the project site for many months, with no positive result from the state agency.

A long-term homeless shelter housing 94 families and 350 residents, adjacent to the Ward Bakery Building, was evacuated by the New York City Fire Department, and it is unclear when the residents will be allowed to return to the facility. The Red Cross was due out to the site to give assistance to the families waiting on Dean Street after they were evacuated.

“We simply don’t believe that the building was unstable, that is, until Ratner’s contractors went in; in fact, Ratner apparently studied the structural integrity of its holdings in the footprint just a year ago, and concededly found no basis for concern with regard to the Ward Bakery. Had they thought the building was unstable, you have to believe that Ratner would have taken at least the precautionary measure of placing protective sidewalk sheds along the building in order to safeguard the community,” Goldstein said. “We are very fortunate nobody was hurt by the heavy falling debris that cascaded down five stories to the sidewalk and street below. There should be no ‘next time,’ and the ESDC has got to ensure that.”

At least fifteen demolitions are scheduled to take place between now and the end of June. Although approximately 50 buildings would need to be demolished to make way for construction of the project, currently many of those buildings are owned or occupied by private individuals or entities. Thirteen of those owners and regulated renters are currently in federal court alleging that the use of eminent domain for “Atlantic Yards” violates the United States Constitution. If they win their suit, they will retain the right to their properties and leases, their properties will not be demolished, and “Atlantic Yards" cannot be built.

Posted by lumi at 4:54 PM

Statement from City Councilmember Letitia James on Ward Bakery Collapse

Work in "Atlantic Yards" Site Should Be Halted Immediately

JamesDemoDemo-JB.jpgI am relieved no one was hurt in the partial "collapse" of part of the historic Ward's Bakery building this morning. I have been asking for an oversight structure of construction work at the site for sometime now. There is still no formal structure, other than the developer's own "Community Liaison Office," from which the public can get information.

It is tragic that 350 residents, consisting of 94 families, have been displaced because of this morning's occurrence.

I find it ironic that for 80 years Wards Bakery stood without incident and that this collapse would happen at this time. It is further ironic that some of these displaced have filed lawsuits affecting the approval of the Atlantic Yards Project. It is also important to note that this is one of several incidents that have occurred in the footprint of the project.

In light of what happened at 800 Pacific Street this morning, and other incidents, I have asked Empire State Development Corporation, who is acting as the lead agency in this project, to halt all work at the "Atlantic Yards" site until this morning's occurrence can be fully investigated, and until there is a monitoring body to oversee all proposed demolition and construction at the site.

This is still a neighborhood filled with residents and businesses. The current situation is hazardous to the health and safety of my constituents, and these demolitions, accidental and intentional, are entirely premature in the process.

Posted by lumi at 1:23 PM

Statement from Assemblyman Jeffries on Collapse of Ward Bakery

Jeffries-57thAD.jpgComplete Investigation Demanded

“The partial collapse of the Ward Bakery has caused great concern in the community. I am thankful that no one was injured, as this accident could have had tragic consequences. The Fire Department must conduct a thorough investigation of the cause of this collapse and I expect the developer to fully participate. This incident further highlights the need to proceed with extreme caution as the developer moves forward the Atlantic Yards project.”

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Assemblyman Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) represents Prospect Heights (the area where the incident occurred), Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant

NoLandGrab: What are the chances that Jeffries is going to be called into the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office to get chewed out by the Community Benefits Agreement Executive Committee for not going to them first before issuing a statement?

Posted by lumi at 1:11 PM

Ward's Bakery Parapet Collapses As Demo Starts

Overheard in Brownstoner, Eyewitness Commentary from "NeoGrec":

I witnessed the aftermath -- thank goodness no one was walking past the building when this happened. They would surely be a goner. The chunks of masonry were huge. All the residents of the adjacent homeless shelter were evacuated. Women with babies in arms and many young children could be seen standing around on Dean St. I hope the city will find somewhere for those families to go. Especially since there have already been complaints by residents of Dean St that the asbetos abatement going on at the Ward Bakery is being done in a very sloppy way. Not a great enviroment for young kids. Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner will no doubt get over their embarrassment pretty quickly. This could help them in the eminent domain lawsuit since their defense is based on proving that the buildings are "blighted". Yeh, looks they did a great job of blighting this one! Also overheard someone say it was very unusual for such a long stretch of cornice to collapse like that. "Usually they fall off in smaller chunks" was his comment. Hmmm.

link

Posted by lumi at 12:37 PM

Daily Collapse

"Roadway Collapse" yesterday, "Building Collapse" today...

5thAveHole.jpg

...shame on you Bruce Ratner.

Also, we'd like to send shout outs to Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor Eliot Spitzer, the entire cast of "The Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office" (currently running on 6th Ave), Community Benefits Agreement Environmental Compliance Czar Delia Hunley-Adossa, and "Joey From Cobble Hill" DePlasco, whom we expect to hear from shortly.

Posted by lumi at 12:00 PM

BREAKING CurbedWire: Atlantic Yards Building Partial Collapse

Curbed.com

PROSPECT HEIGHTS--Just into our inbox a photo of some significant loss of parts of Ward's Bakery at 800 Pacific Street in the Atlantic Yards footprint. The tipster who sent the image writes about:

A partial collapse not 20 minutes ago...Seems the parapet which was at the top of the building (duh) fell off following the start of demolition work on the building and heavy rains. No less than 11 firetrucks, 50 firemen, 3 FDNY emergency response vehicles and they just set up a cute little whiteboard to figure out their plan of cleanup. Nobody was walking underneath and as the building is slated for demolition it was empty so no injuries. Several cars were damaged.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:53 AM

Breaking News from WABC Eyewitness News

WARDcollapse.jpgFrom Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net):

We ask: Where is the government oversight, ESDC?
Can the neighborhood look forward to this quality of work from Forest City Ratner for the next 20 - 40 years? Can the neighborhood survive this quality of work by Ratner and his contractors, and this complete lack of governement oversight? The community has been asking the ESDC for months for serious monitoring of Ratner actions/demolitions on the Atlantic Yards project site. The main response has been foot-dragging and future promises. Well the future is here.

link

Posted by lumi at 11:47 AM

Section of building under demolition crashes onto street

WABC, Eyewitness News

WardCollapse.gif

The parapet of a vacant building under demolition as part of the Atlantic Yards project collapsed onto the street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn Thursday morning.

Officials say the parapet on the former Ward Bread Bakery Complex came crashing onto the sidewalk and Pacific Street just after 9:45 a.m.

The parapet is the barrier at the edge of a structure employed to prevent persons or vehicles from falling over the edge.

No workers were reported injured, and there were no pedestrians struck, officials said.

Emergency services personnel are now in the process of evacuating nearly 100 apartments after a parapet fell.

Officials are worried about the stability of the building and the possibility of additional collapse, so they are evacuating the building next door at 800 Pacific Street. There are unconfirmed reports that perhaps 350 people could be displaced.

Pieces of the parapet littered the sidewalk and crashed onto some cars.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:24 AM

A BLUEPRINT GROWS IN B'KLYN

NY Post, Op-Ed
By Craig Charney

DEMOLITION began this week to clear ground for New York's biggest urban redevelopment project in decades, Atlantic Yards. That marked not just a crucial defeat for New York's militant anti-developers - the dreaded "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) lobby - but also the emergence of a possible blueprint for future victories.

The project will transform 22 Brooklyn acres that now hold only rail yards, low-rise apartments, condos, empty lots and abandoned buildings into the home of a professional sports arena (and the Nets), as well as high-rise residential housing and offices - 17 buildings in all, with 8.7 million square feet of space and a $4.2 billion price tag.

Charney mentions the "modest" scaledown of the project, but neglects to mention that Atlantic Yards would still be the densest residential community in the nation, by a long shot, or that it is the largest single-source private project in the nation.

article

NoLandGrab: Name calling and omissions of simple truths are generally what happens when smart people with big opinions fear facts.

LIPSKY ON CHARNEY
Speaking of which, here's Richard Lipsky's take:

As [Charney] goes on to point out, the FCRC was "willing to listen and make concessions-to a variety of interests that developers often ignore or outright oppose." And in addition, the developer brought in "some of New York's top political and marketing pros." The fact that FCRC brought us into this struggle, indicates the perceptiveness of people like Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone who understood that to develop grass roots support you need to have folks who understand the organizing that needs to be done at that level.

NoLandGrab: Lipsky is still kissing Bender's butt (more here, here, here, here) — maybe he's bucking for another big payday.

ODER ON CHARNEY
You didn't think that Atlantic Yards Report would let these guys have all the fun?

Norman Oder explains:

Charney's misleading analysis starts in the very first paragraph. First, demolition actually began in February; Charney's referring to demolitions challenged in court and last week permitted to proceed.

Second, the opponents are not NIMBYs--why would they be organizing the UNITY 2007 charette this weekend?--but critics of this specific plan, which would be more dense than the nation's densest census tract and is so radioactive that the city won't cite it as a blueprint in the just-released PlaNYC 2030 document.

Charney, in the second paragraph, makes another error, saying Atlantic Yards would have 8.7 million square feet of space (actually 8 million) and cost $4.2 billion (actually $4 billion.) He says that developer Forest City Ratner "did have to scale the project down modestly to get the go-ahead," but that, of course, is untrue: the size of the project, in square footage, would be just about the same as announced.

Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

The Atlantic Yards - Part Two

VanderbiltYardsTunnel.jpgNathan Kensinger posted more amazing photos from his below-ground tour of the footprint of the Atlantic Yards.

link

Click here for Part I, where Kensinger defends his use of the term "The Atlantic Yards."

As for the text, I think it is appropriate to continue using the name "Atlantic Yards" here, if only to help clarify that these photographs are from a potential construction site and not just a rail yard.

NoLandGrab: The only problem with the looser lexicon is that most New Yorkers don't know the difference, and the Ratner brand name, "The Atlantic Yards," takes on a life of its own as in yesterday's Gothamist post referencing Kensinger's latest crop of photos:

Nathan Kensinger found his way into the tunnels underneath Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards...

Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

Blight Me: Is "Developer Blight" a New Brooklyn Tactic?

Gowanus Lounge

The other day, protesters were out on Flatbush Avenue to speak out against the "premature demolition" of buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint by Forest City Ratner. On Sunday, we gazed at the big lot at Bedford Avenue and N. 3rd Street in Williamsburg that is half empty and has had a half-demolished building for almost a year. On Saturday, we were wandering around Coney Island, shooting photos of a huge fence erected by Thor Equities.
...
It's not hard to imagine that one of these orgies of premature demolition won't leave beind a wasteland....

GL mentions Edgemere as a point of reference.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

Judge Won't Stop Demolitions Before Hearing; Protest Argues Action Remains Premature

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder recaps the week's events: denial of a "temporary restraining order," the Demolition Demonstration, the construction schedule and deadlines and why neighbors are fighting against demolition of Ratner-owned properties.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

DEMO GRAPHICS: Pacific, Flatbush and Fifth Ave. "Road Collapse"

Photos by Phil R. Coffers

Sidewalk sheds on Flatbush Avenue were installed on Tuesday.

A sidewalk shed was being erected yesterday on Pacific Street.

This is being billed as a "road collapse" by the on-site workers. Who collapsed what and why?

Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

It came from the "Bloggiest Community in the Nation"

Ironically, we wouldn't be the nation's "bloggiest community" if the mainstream media (MSM) actually covered the Atlantic Yards project the way it should.

Meanwhile, the MSM is wringing their hands over how to compete with the blogosphere. Go figure...

blogosphere45.gif NY Press Blog, Is The Blogosphere Representin' Your Neighborhood?

It seems the proposed $4 billion Atlantic Yards project has bloggers all in a tizzy, according to outside.in's chief product officer, John Geraci.

Brownstoner Forum, How close is too close to AY?
Yesterday, a prospective buyer was asking about Third Ave. and Atlantic Yards. Today, it's North Slope.

Dope on the Slope, Bloggie Went A-Postin'
Brooklyn's own Hillbilly-in-Residence has new lyrics for the American classic:

Bloggie went a-postin’, and he did write, Uh-huh,
Bloggie went a-postin’, and he did write, Uh-huh,
Bloggie went a-postin’, and he did write.
With a mouse and a keyboard by his side, Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Uh-huh.

Well he wrote about the wrecking ball, Uh-huh,
Well he wrote about the wrecking ball, Uh-huh,
Well he wrote about the wrecking ball,
Eminent domain and suburban sprawl Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Uh-huh.

Yes, there's more, much more.

Curbed, A Look at the Atlantic Yards Unterwelt

So, photographer and photoblogger Nate Kensinger (AKA Gowanus), who has previously shown the inside of a number of Brooklyn industrial landmarks and projects, is posting pics from what might literally be called the underbelly of Atlantic Yards, the tunnels above which the megadevelopment may rise.

Sports and Games from Ambler, LOOK WHO'S BRANCHING OUT

I usually pull for the Nets too, and I'll continue to do so, as long as Bruce Ratner stays the fuck out of my hood.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Breaking ground at Atlantic Yards?

The Justus Files

Yes, someone "broke the ground" on Fifth Avenue, only they're keeping mum on who or what did it.

link

The story that workers are stuck with is that the hole was caused by a "roadway collapse."

The question is, did Ratner workers collapse the roadway, or is that just an excuse to get premature work done in advance of the official roadway closing and demapping, scheduled for May 27?

UPDATE:
A source says that the DOT is fingering DEP subcontractors for "underming the street."

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

THE WAKE WAS HELD AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

NY Press

This week's NY Press sports talk column by C.J. Sullivan and Dave Hollander has this lament about NY basketball:

HOLLANDER: And now he should be booted out. Too late. [NY Knick's owner] James M. Dolan’s absurdly premature awarding [Head Coach] Isiah [Thomas] a four-year contract extension guarantees that Madison Square Garden will remain a pro basketball wasteland for an entire generation. The only person happier than Isiah about Isiah staying in New York is Bruce Ratner. The Brooklyn Nets will soon be the only NBA team of consequence in our city. Too bad so many in Brooklyn don’t want them there. The whole thing makes me ill.

link

NoLandGrab: Hope Hollander doesn't mind the trip to Jersey while the Nets stay put for as long as it takes.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Scamming redevelopment

With little oversight, local redevelopment agencies seize private property and spend tax dollars to subsidize developers.

LA Times, Op-Ed
By Doug Kaplan

Everyone does it!

IN CALIFORNIA last year, redevelopment agencies spent more than $5 billion. They consumed almost $3 billion in property taxes. They forced people from their homes and businesses. And what vital service did they provide? They built shopping centers.

And here's the developers' dirty little secret:

Developers don't demand subsidies because they need them; they demand subsidies because they are there for the taking.

What if I'm wrong? Then redevelopment officials should still ask themselves — or better yet, they should ask the voters — how the public expects its tax dollars to be spent. Does it want more fabulous shopping centers and ever grander avenues? Or, for example, would it prefer better neighborhood schools?

Redevelopment is unwise, unjust and unnecessary and should be repealed before billions more dollars are wasted on public subsidies for private developers who — trust me — don't need the money.

He ought to know:

DOUG KAPLAN is a Northern California developer and former school board trustee. He lives in Aptos.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

April 25, 2007

'Either-Or' Apartment Projects

Reality Times
By Lew Sichelman

It doesn't rank as "doing a Ratner," but this article has another member of the Ratner family speaking frankly about market forces:

"We're not smart enough to figure out what the market will be next year, let alone four years from now," said Ronald Ratner, who heads Forest City's residential division, which builds mainly urban properties with as many as 6,000 units.

The article explains how developers are waiting before declaring whether or not the units they are building will be condos or apartments:

With the glut of unsold condominiums on the market, and the extended period it takes to win approvals and develop multi-family projects, more and more builders are waiting until the last possible moment to declare their properties a rental or a condo.

In most places, it's legal to go through the approval process without informing the zoning board which way the property will turn out.

article

NoLandGrab: In Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner has hedged his bets with Atlantic Yards by submitting two versions of the master plan. In the "Commercial Mixed-Use Variation" more than one-million square feet of residential space would be office space instead.

Posted by lumi at 11:30 PM

Brooklyn Tech Won’t Move, Dept. of Ed Assures Alumni

Forest City Ratner Backtracks On Proposal for New Building

Today, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle gets the scoop on Brooklyn Tech (link).

Before we get into it, here's some background:

THE "LAST-MINUTE" "COMPROMISE"
Devoted readers will remember that back in December, 2006 one item in the "last-minute compromise" between Forest City Ratner and the Public Authorities Control Board was this vague "concession" (see: Atlantic Yards Report, Last minute Ratner goodies: $3m for parks, help on a high school, more):

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

NO ONE TOLD THE ALUMNI
This came as a shock to some alumni who were quoted in the Daily News

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

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

TRIPLE BOONDOGGLE?
Then it looked like Bruce Ratner was angling for the Boondoggle of the Century, where he would get the magnificent Brooklyn Tech building to convert to condos and move Brooklyn Tech into "state of the art" facilities on his own MetroTech campus. That would mean a potential triple payday as (1) the developer of the condos, (2) the developer of the new school, (3) and the landlord.

This rumor was mentioned by the real estate columnist for the NY Sun, Michael Stoler in March (see, Downtown Brooklyn Is Booming:

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.

DEAL OR NO DEAL
Today, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports that there is NO DEAL.

From the Eagle report by Mary Frost:

A published report last year saying that Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), as part of the Atlantic Center deal, would create “a new, 21st century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet-to-be-determined location,” set off an uproar that continued all the way to this weekend’s Brooklyn Tech Annual Homecoming Event.
...
The thought of moving Tech is “unconscionable,” says alumnus Melvin Band, who confronted Schools Chancellor Joel Klein at the January 22 Educational Panel meeting about the Daily News article. “Tech will get a much smaller school made with spit in a less safe neighborhood. On the other hand, you’ll get the goose that lays the golden eggs — Tech’s cash cow,” Band said he told the chancellor.
...
According to Band, the chancellor told him in February that the DOE had made no commitment whatsoever to any relocation for Tech, but Band questions this statement. “Bruce Ratner is not going to make false public statements that would impugn his credibility ...”

On Thursday, Department of Education spokesperson Melody Meyers told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “No, we are not moving Brooklyn Tech. We are looking into the need for new schools as the Atlantic Yards project gets under way. Brooklyn Tech is the largest high school building in the country.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco says that FCRC is leaving it up to the Department of Education.

“In December, when the PACB approved the [Atlantic Yards] project, we issued a statement that said, among other things, that FCRC would work with the city, the state and the UFT if they all agreed on the creation of a new Brooklyn Tech. So yes, that is something we would do, but the question on what to do should really be directed to them.”

NoLandGrab: This is the first thing that we've heard that makes sense. Why would the Department of Education make a deal that's a win-win exclusively for Bruce Ranter?

HOT AIR
Today Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder analyzes the article and connects the dots to the original announcement and the Daily News story.

Ratner's Brooklyn Tech plan was hot air; school won't move

Oder compares the December, 2006 statement to what Ratner's mouthpiece claimed last week:

The Eagle quoted Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco: “In December, when the PACB approved the [Atlantic Yards] project, we issued a statement that said, among other things, that FCRC would work with the city, the state and the UFT if they all agreed on the creation of a new Brooklyn Tech. So yes, that is something we would do, but the question on what to do should really be directed to them.”

Actually, the FCR statement issued 12/20/06 was less conditional than as portrayed by DePlasco:

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

The project was announced by FCR; the developer was not taking a back seat, as DePlasco suggests. But DePlasco is paid to spin.

What was this announcement all about then?

A prime mover in the phantom plan was the United Federation of Teachers, which put its political muscle into backing Atlantic Yards and perhaps was looking for a bigger payoff than simply a shot at affordable apartments for some of its members.

And what about the credibility of the mythomaniacal Bruce Ratner?

Alumnus Band told the Eagle that Klein in February disavowed any plan to move Tech; however, Band questioned that, saying, “Bruce Ratner is not going to make false public statements that would impugn his credibility."

Band apparently has not been following Atlantic Yards issues such as the $5.6 billion lie or the elastic project timeline.

NoLandGrab: How about a round of applause for Randi Weingarten who negotiated this "concession" in exchange for her political support for Atlantic Yards? Weingarten did nothing to address near-capacity conditions at local public schools and the impact of 15-18K new residents in the district.

Posted by lumi at 9:33 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogosphere44.jpgBrownstoner, Gowanus / Atlantic

From time to time, a prospective home buyer solicits opinions about moving near the Atlantic Yards footprint. Today, it's on 3rd Ave.

We're considering making an offer on a sweet new-construction condo on 3rd Ave. near Pacific. What do y'all think of the property values there over the next few years? Wise decision? Will Gowanus boom? Or will the Atlantic Yards prove problematic?

The Daily Pube, Sickening

One blogger's lamentation casts Atlantic Yards as the posterchild for bulldozing the Lost City:

Today I found out my favorite neighborhood watering hole is also going the way of the Dodo. There is really nothing any of us can do. Just look at all the groups trying to stop Forest City Ratner from building the Atlantic Yards project.

Kristina sent me the link to a brilliant blog called The Lost City. This guy talks about all that is wrong with the direction in which New York City is going. Visit this site. Comment. Do your part to try to save NYC, or to at least make some noise about it.

Web Metrics Guru, America's Top 10 Neighborhoods for Bloggers

Blogger Marshall Sponder checks out Oustide.in's list of America's Top 10 Bloggiest Neighborhoods.

OK, I did not realize that someone was keeping track of the best neighborhood to live in if your blogging - I guess some one is .... Outside.in.
...
But what is really interesting is that 2 of the top 10 neighborhoods for blogging are actually in New York City, 1. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn and 8. Harlem, NY. You can also drill down further.

For example, the top tags for my zip code in Brooklyn are: atlantic yards atlantic yards fight brooklyn brooklyn paper development environment events music news postcard from the slope real estate

It would be nice if the tag changed for every neighborhood - it does not change much or at all for mine and Park Slope. Not a big deal for the tags to be that different but it might be important down the line.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Which Came First...

The graffito or the sparrow?

egg.jpg

Dope on the Slope caught a photo of a cheeky little sparrow at the Vanderbilt Yards.

This little guy was perched right above the Vanderbilt Yards. Too bad Passer domesticus isn't an endangered species, or we might be able to thwart bad development by raising the specter of habitat destruction. Of course, there are some home and business owners in Prospect Heights that would argue that destruction of habitat for Homo sapiens is occurring right now.

link

NoLandGrab: Irony isn't extinct in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Warning on Ratner Parking and Congestion Pricing

parknride.gifDevelop Don't Destroy Advisory Board Member and former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman explains that the Mayor's congestion-pricing plan will overwhelm Central Brooklyn with park-n-ride commuters if the City doesn't implement a residential-parking-permit plan for Central Brooklyn.

Shiffman's statement from dddb.net:

Unless parking restrictions are put in place along with the Mayor's proposal to improve transit, the reality could be that if the city establishes congestion pricing–which I strongly advocate–and Forest City Ratner develops 1200 parking spaces–and eventually 3,800 parking spaces–then people from the rest of Brooklyn, Long Island and Staten Island who normally drive to Manhattan will park in those spaces. In the future they will use the parking developed for Downtown Brooklyn and the Nets as a resource for parking and will then take the subway into Manhattan. We need to eliminate the parking in Downtown Brooklyn and make Downtown Brooklyn and Atlantic Avenue and all other environmental hotspots part of the congestion pricing area.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

And So the Demolition Begins

Daily Intelligencer

DemoDemo-NYM.jpgLast August New York Magazine reporter Chris Smith characterized Atlantic Yards protesters as "shrill" and "sometimes vitriolic, unsympathetic, irrational" (link).

This week, Smith's more snarky counterpart at Daily Intelligencer gets on protesters' cases for being none of the above.

It's hard to shake a guilty feeling that, crude as the tactic is, Ratner may be succeeding. There's something pre-deflated about a protest sign reading, as one did yesterday, "These Demolitions Are Premature." Premature?! How about "illegal"? "Criminal"? We know they're not, technically. But you're a protest sign; you can say these things!

NoLandGrab: What does a protest movement have to do to get some respect in this town?

How about this for the next sign? "WE'RE NOT DEAD YET!!!"

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

April 24, 2007

Congestion pricing opposition builds

Crain's NY Business

From Erik Engquist's report on the congestion pricing foes:

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries also came out against the initiative, even though the mayor says it would reduce traffic in Mr. Jeffries' district, where few constituents drive across the East River. The assemblyman objected because Brooklyn drivers would pay more than their Manhattan counterparts under the plan.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards supporters and critics alike agree that congestion pricing is necessary for the project to have a chance to succeed.

Hakeem Jeffries has been circulating a letter co-signed by NY City Councilmember David Yassky with their traffic and transportation solutions for Atlantic Yards.

Though the duo has been advancing wholly unfeasible non-starters like a traffic circle at 4th, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues and digging a really deep tunnel to run Flatbush Avenue underneath the entire traffic mess, is it possible that the simpler and more realisitc idea of "congestion pricing" isn't on the list?

Posted by lumi at 1:54 PM

MerriamWebster.com: Word of the Day

April 24, 2007

mythomania
\mith-uh-MAY-nee-uh\ noun
: an excessive or abnormal propensity for lying and exaggerating

Example Sentence:
The therapist speculated that Bruce's mythomania, which makes him want to embellish even the most minor benefits of Atlantic Yards, may have been triggered by an obsession with eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 1:03 PM

MISSING: Wall O'Grievances

A poster display of grievances of many of the plaintiffs from the environmental lawsuit went up at 10AM yesterday on the wall at the corner of Brooklyn Bear's Garden. By daybreak this morning, all of the posters had been torn down.

Each poster represented one of the plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review and their particular concern about Bruce Ratner's project. The display reads:

Meet the 26 Co-Petitioners who have filed a lawsuit against the Empire State Development Corporation, PACB, MTA and Forest City Ratner Co. to annul the fatally flawed Environmental Impact Statement and the approval of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

This seemingly innocuous display was deemed way too harmful by some person or persons who didn't want the public to learn more about why community groups might have a bone to pick with Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project.

If the posters had remained up the colors would have eventually run or faded, depending on the weather, making the display look like another desperate attempt by project opponents to get their point of view across to anyone who cares. The crackdown by project supporters on the colorful little "Democracy Wall" definitely elevates its importance.

NOTE: If anyone has information leading to the return of the "Wall O'Grievances" please contact Jon Crow at Brooklyn Bear's Garden. All calls will remain confidential.

Posted by lumi at 12:12 PM

"JS" Photoblogging the Atlantic Yards Footprint

Velvet Sea, Sunset Over Atlantic Yards

Trick question- sort of: find the two things wrong with the title of this post!!
NYC MetroBlogs, Cloud Over Atlantic Yards

A single cloud and a watertower over the sight of the Atlantic Yards project, currently an MTA railyard, nicely conforming to the photography composition rule of thirds.

Posted by lumi at 11:56 AM

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

The show broadcast from one historical Brooklyn landmark under threat of eminent domain visits another historical Brooklyn landmark under the threat of eminent domain:

Chatel-FBR.jpg

The first of several NEW Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse episodes and specials on the Duffield Street Brooklyn Underground Railroad safehouses will air on this Tuesday night at 8.00 pm on BCAT, Time Warner Channel 34 or CableVision channel 67, or for live internet streaming go to www.bcat.tv/bcat and select BCAT CH 1.

The series of shows focuses on the recently released Underground Railroad Report produced by the AKRF for the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The AKRF is a planning and engineering firm utilized often by the NYCEDC, they boast on their own website that they help companies “stay ahead of preservation constraints”, they also produced the large, yet woefully deficient, Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). This time the AKRF attempts to plausibly deny the historic significance of these Brooklyn Underground Railroad safehouses in order for the NYCEDC to seize seven homeowner’s properties thru the use of eminent domain to create a parking lot for a new Starwood hotel that is being built across the street. In this episode residents and local historians tell their story of discovery of the buried Brooklyn Underground Railroad and speak out against the AKRF study. This first episode is a little roughly cut in order for us to get it on the air in time, but definitely a good primer on the subject and definitely more to come. Presently, there is a May 1st City Council Hearing on this matter.

Posted by lumi at 11:39 AM

Doctoroff's discomfort: Atlantic Yards is an "extreme case"

Atlantic Yards Report

Doctoroff-WNYC.jpgNorman Oder analyzes Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's interview on The Brian Lehrer Show, as "Lisa in Brooklyn" references Atlantic Yards in a call about congestion pricing and Lehrer revisits the issue when talking about appropriate density:

Doctoroff was generally unruffled, layering a slightly folky, almost professorial air over his investment banker's confidence, as he discussed Mayor Mike Bloomberg's sustainability plan. However, when pressed on Atlantic Yards, he quickly moved on to less controversial issues.

And, just as Atlantic Yards serves as an example counter to those practices cited in PlaNYC2030, so yesterday did Doctoroff's examples contrast with the story of Atlantic Yards.

Either developer Forest City Ratner is thankful that Atlantic Yards moved forward before the city promoted more transparent development procedures, or the city's new push will help the plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case argue that the Brooklyn project was a sweetheart deal.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:12 AM

Protest against demolitions finds backhoe at opposite end of Atlantic Yards site

Atlantic Yards Report

DemoDemoDemo.jpgNorman Oder reports from yesterday's demonstration, including the walk around the footprint, during which demonstrators stumbled over some real live demolition at the opposite end of the Atlantic Yards site:

Just because Forest City Ratner had the go-ahead from a judge to demolish at least eight buildings in the Atlantic Yards site before a May 3 hearing on a preliminary injunction didn't mean that the developer would actually start the demolition work at 8 a.m. yesterday.

So when several dozen people--at least 80, at the peak--gathered at Flatbush Avenue near Pacific Street, in front of three row-house structures the developer owns and plans to demolish, they faced nothing more than a few television cameras with their signs, saying things like "These demolitions are premature" and "Gov. Spitzer: Albany Reform begins with Atlantic Yards."
...
Nearby, several security guards hired by FCR took it all in. Up Flatbush Avenue, other officials with the developer and contractors gathered. Several cops were there to keep order, with the major danger the traffic that stalled periodically at the intersection of Flatbush and Fifth avenues, a portent of potential gridlock after Fifth Avenue is closed by May 27 between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.
...
At the corner of Pacific and Vanderbilt, there was some demolition going on, behind a fence fortified with wood that almost--but not quite-blocked all views. Why was this gas station at 524 Vanderbilt (below, right) being demolished?

It wasn't in any of the developer's initial announcements, on February 20 or March 1.

That MTA-related work at the gas station was not specified in the press release and differs, obviously, from the below-grade MTA work that has been ongoing.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:02 AM

Jonathan Barkey: Photos from the Anti-Demo Demo

PhotosByBarkey.jpg

more photos

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Taking a stand against Yards

amNY didn't publish a story on yesterday's demonstration against demolitions, but the paper ran this photo from the Associated Press (click image to enlarge):

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

RATNER GETS SET TO RAZE THE HOUSE

NY Post
By Rich Calder

Gotta love those headlines. Here's an excerpt from a short item in the Post on the protest.

Demolition crews descended on developer Bruce Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn yesterday - the start of work that will see 15 buildings torn down to make way for an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers.

NoLandGrab: This tightly worded sentence might suggest that only 15 buildings are needed to make way for Atlantic Yards. There are several buildings being condemned using eminent domain, which is the subject of one of the lawsuits.

About 100 project opponents turned out, saying the work is premature until several lawsuits opposing the plan are settled.
...
A Ratner spokesman pointed out that the 15 buildings set to be razed are all owned by the developer, but declined to comment on yesterday's protest.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

No Street honor for him

NY Newsday

Yesterday, in a column about the defeat of a campaign to name a street after Sonny Carson, Sheryl McCarthy erroneously reported:

Before his death in 2002, Carson, who supported the development of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn because he thought it would bring jobs for black men, bullied people who opposed the project...

This correction was appended today:

[CORRECTION: Sheryl McCarthy's column yesterday reported incorrectly that the late activist Sonny Carson had bullied opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Supporters of Carson had allegedly intimidated the opponents, and according to a City Council member, also had intimidated a school principal. PG. A15 ALL 4/24/07].

link

NoLandGrab: To clear the record: Sonny Carson didn't bully Atlantic Yards opponents, his pals did.

Unfortunately, depending on your point of view, in the fight over Atlantic Yards, to paraphrase Darnell Canada [aka Darnell Kennedy], we're all "the victim."

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Protesters Greets Atlantic Yards-Related Demolitions

Gothamist

As planned since a judge okay'd Forest City Ratner's demolition of buildings in downtown Brooklyn, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn held a protest this morning. FCR says that they own all the buildings and therefore should be allowed to tear them down, but DDDB says one concern is that the land will remain vacant if the project doesn't happen.
...
Brownstoner noticed "it didn't look like any back-hoes were waiting in the wings, so perhaps the buildings will live another day." Perhaps, given that FCR needs to deal with many lawsuits about the project.

article

NoLandGrab: If Brownstoner had stayed around to walk the footprint, he would have noticed these workers and the backhoe nearly a half mile away. Yup, the Atlantic Yards footprint is so large that while protesters were on Flatbush, Ratner quietly started demolition work on the other side.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction Training Attracts 70 Participants

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

From a press release?

When the New York State Association of Minority Contractors (NYMSAMC) starts its third round of construction management workshops in Brooklyn on Tuesday, it will have a record 70 participants. The agency, a signatory in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Forest City Ratner Companies and charged with providing technical assistance and education for small contractors, is also providing it to minority- and women-owned Brooklyn businesses.
...
Commented Bruce Ratner, CEO, “We are so pleased that participants are beginning to see results and hopeful that more companies are able to compete and thrive because of these programs,” said Ratner. One of these is Sandra Schillingford-Burton, president of Jay San Contracting, who has been using knowledge from the estimating class last fall on her current jobs.
...
The twice-weekly classes are free and will run for seven weeks. They are being held at the Medgar Evers College School of Business. For more information, please call (718) 246-8380.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Interview: Jonathan Lethem Talks About New Book and Much Else

Lethem-YDLMY.jpgBrooklyn Daily Eagle
By Brad Lockwood

In the middle of a five-week book tour, novelist Jonathan Lethem pauses for an interview about his latest book, his work, Brooklyn as home and backdrop for writers and another smaller project to benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Only at Book Court in Brooklyn may fans buy Patchwork Planet — a short story/essay and collection of images co-produced with photographer Kate Milford...

Right.

And sales of that book underwrite one of your very local causes, could you talk about that?

Well, yeah, I mean it’s probably a drop in the bucket, to underwrite sounds like somehow carrying the day, and I can only wish that it was possible. But, yeah, it’s a little contribution to help defray the costs of the legal effort to at least slow down what I still believe is — what should I say? — An incompletely... (long pause)
Um, let me back up a bit...

To at least slow down the developer, Ratner, and the construction of the enormous, really questionable and I think ill-conceived set of skyscrapers that are headed into the neighborhood just to the east of me. I don’t think that it ought to be left to the courts, it really should have been something that was decided at another level. And I continue to feel immensely disappointed by figures like Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz for not finding a way to bring the needs and wishes of the immediate neighboring communities, the ones who will be so radically impacted, into the decision-making process. Rather than letting a kind of developer’s fait de complété become the way the borough’s fate was decided in this case.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Begins

MyFox.com ran the Associated Press story with this image of ACORN demonstrators outside last August's public hearing.

ACORNDemo-MYFox.jpg

The caption mistakenly identifies the "Vanderbilt Railyards as the "Atlantic Railyards." "Atlantic Yards" is Bruce Ratner's name for the entire development, a third of which includes the railyards. The rest of the land is comprised of private property and city streets.

Crews are expected to start tearing down nine buildings in Brooklyn today to make way for the massive Atlantic Yards project, and some opponents of the project are planning a protest.

There is nothing in the article or caption that would lead the reader to believe that the ACORN demonstration wasn't recent or has nothing to do with the opposition protest.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere43.jpgWe are number one! We're not sure how we feel about this distinction, but according to CNet News:

In reviewing what areas of the country generated the most blogging activity, Outside.in, discovered that communities undergoing cultural and economic change were highest on the list.

No. 1 is Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood. The proposed $4 billion Atlantic Yards project has burned up the blogosphere, said John Geraci, Outside.in's chief product officer. The plan calls for the building of a huge commercial complex, which includes a sports arena, hotel and retail shops.

NoLandGrab: If Geraci actually read any of these blogs, he'd know that Atlantic Yards is primarily a residential complex, with an arena and a smattering of commercial space. If built Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation, by a long shot. But we don't expect smart people to know that since The NY Times has never reported this fact.

Here's what the usual and unusual suspects are saying:

Hating it Magazine, Old Brooklynites Preparing To Hate It

A day after “Earth Day,” Brooklyn now braces for major demolition times.

Fans For Fair Play, What We Thrive On
After posting his views on the Virginia Tech shootings, Scott Turner gets back to the subject at hand with musings on Brooklyn Brewery, Barclays and Bruce.

Gowanus Lounge, PM Update: Protesting "Premature Demolition" at Atlantic Yards

The developer plans to demolish a total of 15 buildings. Develop Don't Destroy's Daniel Goldstein called the demolitions prior to the conclusion of litigation a "dangerous and undesirable scenario."

The Knickerblogger, Congestion Pricing and other Band-Aids

While I welcome a greener city and greener solutions - the mayor is missing the big picture - actively encouraging more traffic and population growth by endorsing megaprojects like Atlantic Yards and car based urban plans that require razing properties to build parking lots -there is a direct correlation - if the mayor has his way in Brooklyn several people will lose their homes - and Ward Barkery - a potential for condo renovation - will be torn down to build parking lots. It should be obvious by now that building more parking lots creates more of an incentive to drive.

novacancynyc, Damn Progress

I especially hate it when upon flipping on NY1, I learn that four buildings in Brooklyn are slated to be demolished today, despite the fact that the stupid stadium and redevelopment project doesn't have an offical "go" from whoever decides such things. The possibility that these buildings will be knocked down and the land will sit vacant while the development plans languish is a real one. Please don't even get me started on that wretched Atlantic Yards scheme in Brooklyn. Arrogance, greed, and a lack of foresight come to mind.

NoLandGrab: One can probably make the case that Atlantic Yards has "an official 'go'" since the Public Authorities Control Board approved the project and the Department of Buildings approved the demolitions. However, there are several lawsuits pending. The eminent domain suit stands in the way of Ratner clearing all of the property he needs to get started on the arena.

Objectiva 3, Frank Gehry, mais uma vez arrebatador!

Todos não odeia Jardas Atlantic.

Nets Fan in New York, Atlantic Yards Underway: Demolition Set to Begin

And so the race is on. As nature’s cycle takes its course so do the wheels of progress. Protestors continue to try and break a spoke here and there to divert Ratner’s AY plans, but the May 3rd hearing will be the date when both sides find out if their tireless and passionate labors have been exerted in vain.

Tom Petty’s lyrics couldn’t ring truer, “The waiting is the hardest part.” It’s hard enough waiting for the upcoming court hearing. The level of patience needed is tenfold for eager fans awaiting the new arena in 2009-10.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

April 23, 2007

Ratner demolitions protested

DemoRally-BP.jpgThe Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen and Gersh Kuntzman

More than 50 opponents of Atlantic Yards rallied on Monday morning in front of three buildings that Bruce Ratner plans to demolish this week, arguing that the developer should wait until pending litigation on the project is resolved before tearing them down.
...
“We say to Gov. Spitzer, we need you now!” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights). “This community was forced to file lawsuits because [of the lack of] government oversight.”
...
The developer did not return a request for comment from The Brooklyn Paper on Friday and again on Monday.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein said Ratner’s decision to move ahead with the demolitions was “deeply troubling.”

“It has yet to be shown that [Ratner’s] Atlantic Yards project passes legal muster,” said Goldstein, whose group is one of 26 plaintiffs in the case.

article

Posted by lumi at 12:52 PM

Group Protests Atlantic Yards Demolition

DemoRally-NY1.jpgNY1

The group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rallied this morning outside 191 Flatbush Avenue – one of the buildings set to come down. The group says the project should not be allowed to start until the multiple lawsuits filed against the plan have been resolved.

Members are concerned about what could happen to the neighborhood if the project is scuttled, after the buildings are demolished.
...
"I find it very ironic that the day after Earth Day and the day after the mayor, I think, made a magnificent speech calling for us to be the greenest city, that we're destroying buildings that have already been built, buildings that have a lot of energy in them and destroying them, in this case before the lawsuits have been settled,” said Ron Shiffman of DDDB.

Developer Forest City Ratner points out that all the buildings set to come down are owned by the company, but had no comment on what will go up in place of the project should the company lose its legal battles.

article video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 11:57 AM

Brooklynites Call for Mayor and Governor to Halt Forest City Ratner's Premature “Atlantic Yards” Demolitions

Project Cannot Move Forward Due to Lawsuits

BROOKLYN, New York – Around one hundred Brooklyn residents protested, early this morning, against developer Forest City Ratner’s commencement of demolitions for its “Atlantic Yards” project. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) organized the protest against Ratner's premature demolitions.

In the next two months Forest City Ratner plans to demolish 15 buildings within the proposed project site. Demolition of four of those buildings began today.

In front of the buildings along Flatbush Avenue, the protestors displayed signs with slogans such as: “Gov. Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg: Stop Creating Blight,” “Gov. Spitzer: Albany Reform Begins With Atlantic Yards”, and “These Demolitions Are Premature.”

Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer are allowing these demolitions to proceed well before the 8 million square foot, $4 billion project has been shown to be legal and financially viable.

“Though some demolitions may start, 13 property owners and renters are in federal court alleging that the use of eminent domain for "Atlantic Yards" violates the United States Constitution,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokeswoman Candace Carponter. “If that lawsuit succeeds, it will make it impossible to build the arena, or the skyscraper-laden superblocks planned by the developer.” (see map)

There is also a lawsuit in State Supreme Court that could require the project to undergo a new environmental review by the Spitzer administration’s Empire State Development Corporation and a new vote by the Public Authorities Control Board, where Governor Spitzer has replaced Governor Pataki as one of the three votes on that board. A hearing on that suit, filed by 26 community and civic organizations, is scheduled for May 3rd at 3:30 in Manhattan State Supreme Court.

“Ratner’s demolitions are premature and an attempt to intimidate residents, and realize facts on the ground, creating blight–where none existed–by demolition. This is a classic tactic, used by developers abusing eminent domain, which reached a predictable outcome recently in Norwood, Ohio: a whole neighborhood was demolished, and when residents challenging eminent domain finally won their lawsuit, three houses remained in a field of devastation by demolition, with no ‘Plan B’ from the developer or government,” DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said. “Wednesday’s protest is a call to our political leaders to avoid that irresponsible, undesirable and dangerous scenario.”

“These demolitions are occurring on Mayor Bloomberg’s and Governor Spitzer’s watch. They need to act now to protect the community from repeating the ‘urban renewal’ mistakes of the past, and stop these demolitions–they have the power to do so,” Carponter said.

Posted by lumi at 10:51 AM

DDDB Rallies Against Premature Demolition

Brownstoner is reporting:

A crowd of 40 or 50 people (with another dozen or so members of the media looking on) gathered this morning near the intersection of Flatbush and Dean to protest the planned destruction of four building in the Atlantic Yards footprint.
...
From where we stood, it didn't look like any back-hoes were waiting in the wings, so perhaps the buildings will live another day. On the jump: It wasn't just senior citizens and the unemployed who made it to the rally this morning.

article

NoLandGrab: There were "contractors" working in the manhole adjacent to these sites this weekend.

Posted by lumi at 10:45 AM

Atlantic Yards Report on PlaNYC

plaNYC.jpg

The silence of PlaNYC regarding Atlantic Yards (and the right way to develop railyards)

atlanticyardssh.gifNorman Oder scours the Housing section of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC for signs of Atlantic Yards:

Yesterday, when discussing PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg called congestion pricing "the elephant in the room." When it comes to the housing section of the plan, however, the elephant in the room is Atlantic Yards.
...
While numerous examples of past, present, and future projects are provided in the Housing chapter, Atlantic Yards is conspicuously unmentioned.

Given that the project remains high on the mayoral agenda, the omission is curious. Is Atlantic Yards so controversial that it's wise to avoid it?

Or has the production of the new plan pointed out the flaws in the process that led to Atlantic Yards? Indeed, the report recomments a planning process before decking over a railyard--a distinct contrast to the city's embrace of one developer's plan for the Vanderbilt Yard at the heart of the Atlantic Yards plan.

Congestion pricing plan announced; backlash continues

Is congestion pricing the "elephant in the room?" Norman Oder looks at the plan and the implications on Atlantic Yards:

But the big one is a congestion pricing pilot scheduled to begin by Spring 2009, aimed to charge drivers who enter the Central Business District in Manhattan in certain hours. The money would be directed toward improving public transit and thus offer opportunities to those most burdened by the charge, though obviously the transition period could be dicey.
...
The concept gains support from left-ish transportation advocates (who are holding a rally at 10:30 a.m. today, noting that the mayor's plan results in "reducing car use and giving more space and priority to bus riders, pedestrians and bicycles"), wonky transportation analysts, and business groups.

It has been opposed by outer borough politicians and officials, mindful that it would hit some of their constituents--who lack good public transit access to Manhattan--the hardest. It's also been opposed by trucking companies and garage owners.

Congestion pricing is seen as necessary for the Atlantic Yards plan to have a ghost of a chance, though political backers of the plan like Borough President Marty Markowitz, as well as developer Forest City Ratner, have remained quiet about the issue.

Flatbush Avenue BRT: not until 2015?

NYCBRTStop.jpg

While the city plans to pilot five bus rapid transit routes, one in each borough, in the next few years, the first one in Brooklyn would be Nostrand Avenue. A second round of five routes, likely including Flatbush Avenue, would not be completed until 2015, according to p. 4 of Appendix B to the mayor's PlaNYC report, issued yesterday.

There may be room for certain routes in the second round, including Flatbush Avenue, to open before that date. Still, transportation advocates believe that BRT is part of a package, including congestion pricing (which the city hopes to begin by Spring 2009) crucial to make any Atlantic Yards transportation plan work. The arena is scheduled to open in 2009, though that schedule seems unlikely.

City plans new push for solar energy; could "solar zoning" emerge?

NYCSolar.gif

New York City's energy-related initiatives within PlanNYC2030 include a new push for solar energy.
...
Might the city entertain the notion of "solar zoning"? No such proposal is specified; however, the exploration of the tension between scale and solar likely will increase.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Protest: Monday, 8AM

Gowanus Lounge

The Atlantic Yards demolitions are on and so is the protest against them. Last week's protest against Forest City Ratner's demolition of buildings in the Altantic Yards footprint had been called off pending a judge's ruling on Friday. Well, Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden refused to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that would have blocked demolitions before the legal challenge to the state’s environmental review and approval of the project, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction, can be heard in court on May 3rd.

And so, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn will be protesting the demolition of four buildings that is scheduled to start tomorrow (Monday, 4/23) morning. The protest will be at 8am in front of 191 Flatbush Avenue between 5th Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

Training minority contractors - Group provides technical assistance and education

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

As part of the Atlantic Yards project, developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with eight local community groups.

One of those groups is the New York State Association of Minority Contractors (NYMSAMC), which provides technical assistance and education for small contractors.

The NYMSAMC last week began its third session of construction management workshops at Medgar Evers College last week with a record 70 participants.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

April 22, 2007

Monday, 8am: Protest Ratner's Premature Demolition

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has renewed its call to protest the demolition of four buildings, scheduled to commence Monday morning, April 23rd. The protest will be at 8am in front of 191 Flatbush Avenue between 5th Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn.

Come out to the protest Monday morning to tell Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg, that these demolitions must not go forward until the courts have thoroughly reviewed the project.

link

Posted by amy at 12:58 PM

Anatomy of a New York Times AY error

Atlantic Yards Report

1. In an April 5 round-up article on Atlantic Yards, an underinformed Times reporter, abetted by underinformed editors, describes Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) as an organization "which opposes the scale of the plan."

2. The Times does not publish a correction, which would be attached to the previous article in the archive, but instead, on April 12, publishes a letter from DDDB's Dan Goldstein explaining "Our organization does not merely oppose the scale of the plan, we oppose Forest City Ratner’s project itself on many principled grounds."

3. Another even more underinformed reporter, who has no experience covering AY but (likely) just happens to be available on a late Friday afternoon, is handed the assignment of describing, in a paragraph, the decision by Justice Joan A. Madden to reject a temporary restraining order regarding demolitions. In Saturday's paper, abetted by underinformed editors, he writes that the TRO "had been requested by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the scale of the 22-acre project."

Not only had the TRO not been requested solely by DDDB, because it's part of a coalition of groups in the suit, but the organization does not simply oppose the project's scale. And the headline, "Atlantic Yards Can Proceed," is not correct, either, because only the demolitions can proceed; the project itself depends on the dismissal or resolution of three lawsuits.

article

Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

Congestion pricing, AY, and Bloomberg's sustainability plan

Atlantic Yards Report covers Mayor Mike's PLANYC 2030 for congestion pricing:

Interestingly, transportation consultant "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz, who Forest City Ratner hired to design the Atlantic Yards traffic mitigation plan, is a strong proponent of congestion pricing. Apparently that systemic change could not be feasibly recommended for one project.

But it's likely that Forest City Ratner will be a strong supporter of such a change, because it's crucial--though insufficient alone--for any Atlantic Yards transportation plan to have a ghost of a chance.

In Saturday's Times, the congestion pricing plan was described as facing "daunting obstacles." The article stated:
Samuel I. Schwartz, a traffic consultant who favors congestion pricing, said that it would take at least four years before a plan could be approved and put in place. He said that completing an environmental impact study could take at least three years, and fighting the inevitable lawsuits would take another year.

So, four years from now would be the spring of 2011. Does that mean that, in the best-case scenario, the Atlantic Yards arena wouldn't open until 2011? Forest City Ratner must be calling Newark regarding an interim arena for the Nets right now.

article

Posted by amy at 11:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Can Start Monday

WNYC

Demolition work for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will go on. This after a judge denied a temporary restraining order request yesterday by a group of nearby residents facing eviction.

Members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which filed the suit, plan a weekend protest against the demolition of the buildings, expected to start Monday.

link
NoLandGrab: We're fairly certain that Monday does not fall on a weekend (checking wikipedia...), but the planned protest will take place Monday at 8am, in front of 191 Flatbush Avenue between 5th Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn.

Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

What We Thrive On

Fans For Fair Play

Back in Ratnerville, lawsuits are shinging bright light on the Atlantic Yards' myriad shortcomings. In federal court, it's about eminent domain, and in state court, the faulty environmental impact process and renters' rights are the issues.

Project supporters overuse the dictum that these cases are last-ditch, desperate delay tactics. That's something you'd expect to hear from people who've done so much wrong, harmed so many people, turned neighbors against one another while plundering the public coffers and breaking both the spirit and letter of the law.

In fact, these cases are a way to thoroughly investigate the Atlantic Yards debacle. Politicans, with few exceptions, have drunk Ratner's Kool-Aid. Mainstream media has done the same. Brooklynites have mostly snoozed through the thing that will most change the economics, culture and physicality of our borough.

It's up to the courts to think this through. Ratner, and city and state officials, are telling you that democracy and justice shouldn't be served. If they really believe they've done nothing wrong, let the courts decide once and for all.

link

Posted by amy at 11:24 AM

Many jeer Atlantic Yds. parking lot

Courier-Life
Many also jeer Stephen Witt, this article's author. NoLandGrab doesn't have to do our usual blow by blow of Witt's writing, as we received the following break-down of Witt's man-on-the-street interviews from a reader:

Meanwhile, also braving the nor'easter were members of the general public who often turn up at the restaurant in the Target Department Store overlooking the project site to eat, shop or just read the Sunday paper.

"I think it [the project] is a good idea," said John Lewis, 35, of East New York. "It will bring jobs and more affordable housing."

--Ratner boilerplate #1

Johannes Kroemer, 40, a photographer from Carroll Gardens, said he likens the arena to giving "a little bit of chocolate" to the general population so that he can build big buildings.

--ah, this foreign guy is apparently an opponent, but Steve's so incoherent that he writes "he can build big buildings" rather than "Ratner can.." And German guys should say away from chocoloate-related references when there is any racial angle.

A man from Crown Heights, who was with his wife and baby shopping and identified himself as Elchanan, said the project will bring much needed economic benefits.

--Ratner boilerplate #2

Bringing an NBA team here will also help give a more collective spirit to the borough and provide opportunities for vendors, he said.

--Ratner boilerplate #3. Or is that Markowitz boilerplate?

As for the traffic, Elchanan noted it has always been bad at the Flatbush/Atlantic Avenue intersection and the project would not make it any worse.

--Let's call him "Gridlock" Elchanan

Lenny Matthews, a 57-year-old city worker, said he has mixed feelings and worries about the "little guy" being pushed out. However, this has been happening even before the project was announced, he said.

--The "little guy" (aka truth) gets pushed out regularly in the pages of the Courier-Life.

Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

$8 'congestion fee' for Manhattan - congestion for Brooklyn

The KnickerBlogger

The ever duplicitous Mayor Bloomberg seems awfully concerned about traffic in Manhattan :
Drivers To Be Charged $8 To Enter Midtown Bloomberg Ready To Fight Albany For Congestion Fee

Yet, ready, willing and able to pour millions of city money into a plan that would create more congestion for Brooklyn - including building more parking lots - which of course encourages people to drive (and destroying historic properties like the duffield street homes - and using eminent domain to obtain them). Pointing out this double standard isn't just academic - hap-hazard application of such principles could actually mean sky rocketing traffic rates for parts of the city, like, well, Brooklyn - by creating a dis-incentive to drive into manhattan - and an incentive to drive to Brooklyn (readily available parking lots).

Perhaps the Mayor realizes that Ratner's ill conceived boondoggle can't survive without surburban style strip mall parking....which is the more reason to indicate that it's bad for Brooklyn.

link

Posted by amy at 11:04 AM

Ratner Free to Proceed With Demolition

burns4.07.jpg

Gothamist

The organizers at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are planning a protest for this upcoming Monday in reaction to a judge's ruling that allows Forest City Ratner to proceed with its demolition plans, refusing a group of 26 co-plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order. The protest will begin at 8 a.m. in front of 191 Flatbush Ave. between 5th Ave. and Dean St. The state lawsuit maintains that an environmental impact study of the project was flawed. An earlier lawsuit challenging the legality of the eminent domain procedure has thus far failed to stop the Atlantic Yards project.

link
NoLandGrab: Not quite. The eminent domain lawsuit has not yet been heard.

Posted by amy at 10:52 AM

April 21, 2007

Manhattan: Atlantic Yards Can Proceed

NY Times
ANAHAD O’CONNOR

A State Supreme Court justice declined yesterday to issue a restraining order temporarily halting the demolition of nine vacant buildings to make way for the Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn. The restraining order had been requested by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the scale of the 22-acre project that is to encompass housing, office and retail space and a basketball arena. The group had argued that the developer, Forest City Ratner, should not be allowed to begin demolishing buildings before May 3, the date of a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the state’s environmental review and approval of the project. Justice Joan Madden said that the plaintiffs had failed to substantiate their argument that the demolition would “irrevocably harm the neighborhood,” but that she was not judging the suit’s merits.

article
NoLandGrab: Note to Times... the TRO was not requested by DDDB, it was requested by 26 community and civic organizations who are the plaintiffs on the case.

Posted by amy at 12:11 PM

Judge Rules Demolition Work Can Begin For Atlantic Yards Project

NY1 republishes the error-filled AP article with corrections...

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project are planning to protest Monday, the same day demolition is set to begin on several residential buildings in downtown Brooklyn.

On Friday, a judge Friday overruled a restraining order by members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to stop developer Forest City Ratner from starting demolition on four residential buildings.

Their next court date to challenge the project will be May 3rd.

Opponents are planning to rally Monday morning, starting at 8 a.m. outside 191 Flatbush Avenue – one of the buildings set to come down. They're calling on the governor and the mayor to intervene and stop the demolitions.

article

Posted by amy at 12:04 PM

Ratner to Go Ahead With Initial Demolitions

Develop Don't Destroy, Brooklyn

Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden today declined to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that would have blocked developer Forest City Ratner from commencing demolitions within the footprint of the “Atlantic Yards” project before the legal challenge to the state’s environmental review and approval of the project, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction, can be heard in court on May 3rd.

The court expressly stated that in making today's TRO decision it was not pre-judging the merits of petitioners' claims filed on April 5th.

Forest City Ratner plans to commence demolition on nine buildings during the 13 days between today’s decision and the May 3rd hearing.

The 26 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA, and the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) applied for the TRO to halt the irreparable harm the demolitions would inflict on the community in the window open until their claims are heard in court.

“We are confident in the merits of our challenge to the state’s approval of the project and that once our claims are heard we will prevail–sending the project back to the drawing board,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) legal team chair Candace Carponter. “It is also clear that as long as owners and renters challenging the state’s right to seize private property by eminent domain succeed in federal court, the project cannot be built. Because of the irreparable harm these demolitions will bring, we call on Governor Spitzer, Mayor Bloomberg and other elected officials to use the ESDC’s funding leverage to halt the demolitions unless the project is proven to be feasible.”

article

Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

Where is the Community in "CBA"?

Develop Don't Destroy, Brooklyn comments on the Metro article about Community Benefits Agreements and Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Community Benefits Agreement Executive Committee's statement about the community's concerns:

"We told them, ‘Our concern is you never came to us. You jumped and went straight to the ESDC, to the new guy," she said after the meeting. "Had you come to us, you would have known we are addressing these issues."
"You never came to us." That sounds familiar. That is exactly what occurred with this "CBA." Ratner never came to community. He went to a few groups who supported his project from day one and created a series of private contracts–thus creating the myths of the "Legally Binding, Landmark Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement."

The idea that the community asked for decades of "interim surface parking" for 1,500 cars is to suggest something that is literally beyond belief. Furthermore the politicians expressing concerns about "Atlantic Yards" are accountable to all of their constituents, not just the 8 groups who signed the "CBA." Had those groups actually signed the "CBA" not just with Ratner, but also with city and state government, this all would be an entirely different story. But that didn't happen.

It is important to note a few things. The "CBA" group is represented by a PR firm hired by Forest City Ratner, and it looks like that firm is doing its job. Also, the "CBA" group has never held a public meeting to inform the broad community of their efforts, their agreement or the work they are doing, nor have they provided a forum for the broad community to communicate with those 8 "CBA" groups. In other words, the "CBA" group has dismissed the "collective body," and worse yet, attacked a big segment of it for standing up for its rights.

article

Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

Why the CBA Coalition is not like the ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, in Metro, Delia-Hunley Adossa of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, bizarrely tried to equate the coalition with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Metro reported how Hunley-Adossa complained to local politicians that they should have gone through the coalition to express concerns about demolitions of buildings for interim surface parking:
“We told them, ‘Our concern is you never came to us. You jumped and went straight to the ESDC, to the new guy,” she said after the meeting. “Had you come to us, you would have known we are addressing these issues.”

CBA vs. ESDC

Well, the CBA signers have never held an open public meeting to answer questions from the community they represent. They are significantly funded by developer Forest City Ratner, though the developer won't reveal how much has been paid. They are represented by a p.r. firm paid for by FCR.

Hunley-Adossa's group, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, is supposed to monitor environmental impacts during the construction process. The CBA states:
Therefore, the Developer shall be in compliance with this Agreement by following the state mandated process.

So maybe the elected officials should be talking to the ESDC, the overseers of the state-mandated process, after all.

article

Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

Judge denies TRO; demolitions, protest to begin Monday

Demo4.07.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

State Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden yesterday refused to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would have blocked Forest City Ratner (FCR) from continuing demolitions of properties it owns within the Atlantic Yards site before prefliminary injunction can be argued in court on May 3.

That means that demolitions of four properties, which had been scheduled to begin Wednesday but were postponed pending Madden's decision, can proceed on Monday, as will a protest organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which leads the coalition of neighborhood and civic groups challenging the environmental review. The protest will be in front of 191 Flatbush Avenue, between 5th Avenue and Dean Street, at 8 a.m. (At right, three of the four buildings at issue.)
...
The community groups argued that, by creating empty lots, it would intimidate the remaining residents of the footprint, including those who are challenging the project in three court cases. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the main defendant, and FCR argued that the petitioners couldn't demonstrate sufficient harm.
...
An Associated Press story on Madden's decision, published by the New York Daily News and Newsday, inaccurately described the petitioners as "a group of property owners and tenants facing eviction," stated that there would be at least 600 subsidized condo units (actually, only 200 would be onsite and that pledge is not memorialized in any state documents), and suggested that a magistrate judge's decision in the federal eminent domain suit is unlikely to be rejected (though U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis seemed willing to revisit the issues).

article

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

Demolition to continue on Atlantic Yards project after ruling

AP via Newsday
COLLEEN LONG

Demolition work for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is set to continue next week, after a judge on Friday denied a temporary restraining order request by a group of property owners and tenants facing eviction.

The order would have protected nine buildings until a May 3 state court hearing on a lawsuit by opponents seeking to block the project, which promises to redraw the Brooklyn landscape with 16 skyscrapers and an 18,000-seat arena.

Members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which filed the suit against the Bruce Ratner project, planned a weekend protest on the demolition of the structures, expected to begin Monday.

"We are confident in the merits of our challenge to the state's approval of the project and that once our claims are heard we will prevail," said Candace Carponter, a spokeswoman for the group.

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NoLandGrab: Perhaps there will be weekend protestations, but the protest is on Monday...

Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

Ratner Demolitions OKd

The Brooklyn Paper
Ariella Cohen

A federal judge ruled on Friday that Bruce Ratner can start knocking down buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, even as several court cases aimed at stopping the mega-development percolate through the court system.

At a hearing held Tuesday, Justice Joan Madden had asked Ratner to delay planned demolitions until she could rule on a request for a temporary restraining order that would’ve stopped the construction until a May 3 hearing in one of the cases.

Ratner agreed delay the demolitions, which would have begun on Wednesday.

But on Friday, Madden decided not to issue the restraining order, clearing the way for Ratner to begin clearing land in the footprint.

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Posted by amy at 11:10 AM

April 20, 2007

Bruce Ratner Fan Mail Bag

This week City Councilmember Vince Gentile told The Brooklyn Papers that he would "never pull a Ratner" and added:

“I just got a call saying, ‘Bless you for all you’ve done to try to save the Green Church.’ I wonder if Bruce Ratner gets those calls?”

fanmail.gifGentile might be interested to learn that Bruce Ratner does get fan mail.

Here are excerpts from a real-life fan letter written by a Bed-Stuy resident (full letter after the jump) who casts Bruce Ratner simultaneously in the role of The Great Leader and The Great Emancipator:

"It is truly pathetic that a few white people, I have never seen more than 25 protesters, can hinder a project with so much promise for the people of Brooklyn."

"If traffic patterns and imminent domain issues were applied to other projects as they are applied to Atlantic Yards, you couldn't build anything anywhere in this city."

"It just seems unfortunate that the management of Atlantic Yards appear to be laying down and not fighting back. They need to call it what it is. This no more than economic racism coming from the power elite, I have read Carl Marx' Communist Manifesto and understand that the authority of the bureaucracy is threatened by a strong middle class."

"There are people in this city who are guardians of White Supremacy, who continue to deny Black African American men and women opportunities in this city."

The letter was sent to the Forest City Ratner Community Liason Office and carbon copied to elected officials and media organizations.

Eddie Hampton
[Street address withheld]
Brooklyn, NY 11233

Mr. Bruce Ratner

April 6, 2007

Dear Mr. Ratner,

My name is Eddie Hampton, I am a retired New York City Police Detective, who has lived in Brooklynfor more than 35 years. I am also a long time community activist , I started my activism, around the time when the city was closing Sydenham Hospital in Harlem. I have marched in numerous demonstrations and have worked for, and with many local elected officials in New York City.

I remember marching with then Assemblyman Roger Green to try and save Cumberland Hospital, we couldn't get any air time from the major media, I have marched with then Council member Annette M. Robinson and Assemblyman Al Vann about crime and the lack of police protection in Bedford Stuyvesant, guess what, no major media would air our grievance.

It is truly pathetic that a few white people, I have never seen more than 25 protesters, can hinder a project with so much promise for the people of Brooklyn. Two weeks ago about 12 white protesters came out onPacific Street and I saw CBS, WABC, New York 1 and several other news media covering this event, I wonder why? Is it because it has been reported that Rapper Jay Z has some ownership in Atlantic Yards and the Nets? Is it because some Black African American construction workers might get jobs? Is it because some Black African Americans Executives might be given positions in management. Is it because as has been rumored that some Black African American businesses may get contracts to run concessions in the new arena?

I have heard the complaints by some of the protesters regarding Atlantic Yards. I have heard them talk about traffic congestion in the city, I have heard them talk about preserving the facade of some of the buildings, I have heard them talk about immanent domain issues and etc. These issues have not stopped any project in New York City other than the West side project in Manhattan which also promised jobs to the chronically unemployed in this city.

I have traveled all over this city into almost every neighborhood and there is a building boom almost everywhere. If traffic patterns and imminent domain issues were applied to other projects as they are applied to Atlantic Yards, you couldn't build anything anywhere in this city. What could be more congested than 42ndStreet, new construction is going up over there. Donald Trump is building numerous high rise buildings on the upper west side of Manhattan, what about traffic congestion there? Wall Street probably the most congested section of New York City, guess what, new construction going on down there.

It just seems unfortunate that the management of Atlantic Yards appear to be laying down and not fighting back. They need to call it what it is. This no more than economic racism coming from the power elite, I have read Carl Marx' Communist Manifesto and understand that the authority of the bureaucracy is threatened by a strong middle class.

There are people in this city who are guardians of White Supremacy, who continue to deny Black African American men and women opportunities in this city.

Sincerely,
Eddie Hampton
cc: Various Elected Officials
Various News Media

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

Will DOT come clean on the closure and "demapping" of Fifth Avenue?

Atlantic Yards Report

Is the Department of Transportation acknowledging that it is stonewalling Norman Oder?

In my article in this week's Brooklyn Downtown Star, Closing Fifth Avenue for Atlantic Yards, But Why So Soon?, I expand on my previous coverage of the plan to close Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues to accommodate Frank Gehry's flagship Miss Brooklyn skyscraper.

I contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) four times to ask about the timing of the closure--why so soon, by May 27?--given that the construction schedule will inevitably be delayed by litigation. I also asked whether the street could actually be demapped by then.

I got an acknowledgement of my query but no answers.
...
Though a New York City Transit (NYCT) official cited "the closure and demapping of Fifth Avenue," the street can't be demapped until it's been acquired by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

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Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Groups sit down with pols over Atlantic Yards

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories (some of whom represent groups formed for the express purpose of the CBA and supporting the project, and are financed by Forest City Ratner) have a hot-line to developer Bruce Ratner. That didn't stop them from throwing a fit when politicians showed up at last weekend's rally to express concerns about the demolition of buildings like the Ward Bakery to make way for giant parking lots:

When eight groups signed onto Forest City Ratner’s Community Benefits Agreement two years ago, they were designated the gatekeepers of the $4 billion project’s affordable housing and employment initiatives.

They were to serve as a bridge between the neighborhood and developer, but as local elected officials continue to raise concerns over the project – and are calling on the Spitzer administration to make changes -- the CBA organizations are feeling shoved aside.

Eight local politicians sent a letter requesting a sit-down with the Empire State Development Corporation the state agency overseeing the project, to discuss community concerns. Yesterday, CBA members held a closed-door meeting with some of those pols.

“We said, you’ve dismissed the collective body – which is the CBA,” said Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Community Benefits Agreement Executive Committee, “We let them know they didn’t reach out to use so we reached out to them.”

Hunley-Adossa understood the concerns that protesters raised at a rally earlier this week, opposing the demolition of two city blocks’ worth of buildings for a parking lot. “I worked on that during the environmental review,” she said.” A lot of people were worried they would lose their on-site parking [during the construction] and were concerned about traffic flow.” The lot was a way to accommodate the community.

“We told them, ‘Our concern is you never came to us. You jumped and went straight to the ESDC, to the new guy,” she said after the meeting. “Had you come to us, you would have known we are addressing these issues.”

State Rep. Hakeem Jeffries called the CBA meeting “productive,” saying it was designed “to promote a dialogue between the CBA [signers] and elected officials and hopefully allow us to help the CBA coalition to deliver the benefits that have conceptually been promised.”

But ultimately he said “This project still can’t go forward without government blessing. If we could involve the Spitzer administration, the government could be more of a partner. The Pataki administration was missing in action.”

ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield said the state plans to “increase oversight and monitoring so that community concerns are heard,” adding, “Out agency will be a vocal ambassador to ensure the developer and various government agencies work toward a positive result.”

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

Ratner Scrambles for Funding for Gehry-Designed Tower

The NY Observer
"Deeds and Deals"
By Matthew Schuerman

The outstanding issues of financing for another Ratner/Gehry project provides some insight into Atlantic Yards:

Forest City Ratner is looking to compete for some of New York’s scarce tax-exempt bonds to finance a Frank Gehry–designed tower in lower Manhattan.

Here's a breakdown and explanation of the state/city-subsidized financing of Bruce Ratner's Beekman St. tower:

One portion—presumably the top—would be entirely market-rate rentals and could be financed with Liberty Bonds, which continue to be reserved for the project. The middle portion would consist of mixed-income rentals, 20 percent of which would be priced for low-income households. The school would occupy the lowest five floors, along with retail and possibly a medical facility.

In a request filed last year with the H.D.C., Forest City said it was planning to apply for up to $450 million in tax-free bonds that would cover up to 750 of the units in the middle portion of the building. But the developer will have to wait in line for these bonds because the city largely depends on the state for tax-exempt bonding authority. The state has received billions of dollars in requests that it cannot accommodate this year.

“By the end of June this year, the H.D.C. is completely out of volume cap,” said Emily Youssouf, the president of the H.D.C. “[The developers] are trying to figure out their financing.”

Taken together, the $190 million in Liberty Bond financing, which was supposed to underwrite 720 apartments, and the $450 million in 80-20 financing, to cover 750 units, accounts for more than the 920 apartments that Forest City is planning. That means the developer has room to tip the balance toward more or fewer market-rate units depending on the various tax advantages.

Ratner and Gehry have yet to reveal models or renderings of the project. So far this is all that is publicly known:

Rough designs filed with the housing agency show that the tower would have a large five-story base, on top of which a narrow column would rise to 950 feet—the second-tallest building downtown—with small setbacks on the 37th and 49th stories. Public plazas would border the tower on two sides.

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Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

FCR's Beekman tower, AY face same problem: scarce tax-exempt financing

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's annual report acknowledged "the potential for increased costs and delays" to Atlantic Yards as a result of, among other things, "our inability to obtain tax exempt financing or the availability of financing generally."

That looks to be an increasing concern. Take the example of the developer's other Frank Gehry-designed tower, on Beekman Street in Lower Manhattan.

Norman Oder references this week's article by Matthew Schuerman from The NY Observer and adds:

The amount of bonding required for Atlantic Yards would be considerably more (than the Beekman St. tower). Perhaps pressure from developers seeking this scarce resource will prompt the relevant government agencies, with the assistance of the federal government, to expand the availability of bonding authority. (Here's Schuerman's exposition of this complicated issue.)

For now, however, there are too many subsidized housing projects competing for limited funds.

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Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Atlantic Yards: The Alternative Plan

Daily Gotham

"Mole333" explains that there were actually four plans, "Yes...FOUR plans," for the Vanderbilt Railyards.

One of those Community-Based Plans, the Unity Plan, really was designed with full community input, led by Councilwoman Letisha James. This is an idea that really should be seen more: the community working out its OWN vision for development with government USING that vision as a guide for actual development. If you like the idea of COMMUNITY-based development, you can be a part of making the Unity Plan a reality.

Here are some details:
Unity 2007
An all-day workshop to create a community-driven development plan for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards

April 28, 2007
10 am -- 4 pm
Hanson Place United Methodist Church
144 Saint Felix Street at Hanson Place. Brooklyn, NY

Click here for more details about the UNITY 2007 workshop.

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Demolition delayed: Facing lawsuits, Ratner will wait for ruling

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

At a Manhattan State Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday, Ratner agreed to delay demolition work on the Atlantic Yards site for at least four days, giving Justice Joan Madden time to rule on the latest courtroom attempt to delay the $4-billion, 16-tower residential, office and arena project.

Tuesday’s hearing centered on Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s request that the court halt demolitions for the 22-acre project until the court rules on the group’s larger lawsuit, which charges that the state’s environmental review of the project was incomplete, and must be redone.

Madden asked the developer to hold off on demolitions — which were to be begin on April 18 — until she could rule on the DDDB request for the temporary restraining order.

As a result, not only were Ratner’s demolitions called off, but so was a rally at the construction site planned by DDDB for the same day.

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Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Ever Thus

The NY Observer , Letters

To the Editor:

I am only unhappy that Matthew Schuerman’s article, “Forest City Ratner Gives to Coney Island Carousel, Other Bloombergian Public Projects” [April 2], didn’t run on page one!

The amount of New York City given away in land, tax abatements, credits and the like is the 21st-century incarnation of Tammany Hall.

I truly believe that if New Yorkers had any idea of the extent to which we have been—and are still being—robbed, there would be riots in the streets.

Lisamarie Dixon
Manhattan

NoLandGrab: Additionally, it's good that the daily papers don't cover this stuff — it could destablize the entire system of political patronage.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Credit where due

The Brooklyn Papers, Editorial

A look back at the legacy of former Borough President Howard Golden contains this observation of the rebuilding of Brooklyn:

“Homesteaders” like the Ortners also created a grassroots groundswell that began to change the very tone of urban living. By encouraging would-be suburbanites to stay in Brooklyn — and then invest in their communities — the Ortners played a huge role in saving this borough.

That’s when developers like Bruce Ratner decided that Brooklyn was a good bet for projects like Metrotech — and even then he demanded (and got) huge subsidies and handouts to build here.

It’s amazing to think that today — when Brooklyn’s real-estate values are soaring and developers are making countless millions — the pattern is still playing out.

To encourage Ratner to build Atlantic Yards — where he will walk away, even by his own estimates, with hundreds of millions of dollars in profits — the state and city are underwriting him with more than $1 billion in direct and indirect public subsidies.

He is building on the shoulders of true giants — and using your money to do it.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Gentile: "I would never try to PULL A RATNER."

The Brooklyn Papers: "Yellow Hooker"
By Matthew Lysiak

Councilman Vince Gentile took exception to our headline two weeks ago linking him to Bruce Ratner. “I am a big fan of the Yellow Hooker,” he said after reading the recent column about his efforts to save the Green Church. “But let me make one thing clear, I would never try to pull a Ratner.” Then he followed up with an e-mail: “I just got a call saying, ‘Bless you for all you’ve done to try to save the Green Church.’ I wonder if Bruce Ratner gets those calls?”

link

NoLandGrab: Here's some background on "pull a Ratner."

Entry Word: pull a Ratner
Function: verb
1 to double-cross the community presumably in the name of public benefit, frequently with large amounts of public subsidy <an honest politician would never pull a Ratner>
2 to use eminent domain for private profit frequently (and often) <the developer wasn't making enough money with two malls, so he pulled a Ratner to build another>

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Paradise Lost

The Brooklyn Papers
By Christopher Murray

In the Sackett Group’s thoughtful and moving revival of Lanford Wilson’s talky and rather obtuse 1975 drama, “The Mound Builders,” a small, committed group of over-educated white people are struggling to preserve a disempowered community’s hold on a tiny parcel of land against some soulless money-grubbers.

Is it any surprise that the play is being presented within a stone’s throw of the proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development?

But that’s where the similarities end. The play’s preservationists are a cadre of archeologists on a dig in Illinois, and the site is the burial ground of a long-extinct indigenous tribe. The play uses the lost civilization that “vanished without a trace” as a symbol for the frayed connections between the characters, few of whom seem to be able to sustain a relationship without betrayal, cruelty or self-destruction.

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NoLandGrab: First Bruce Ratner is recognized as the posterboy for eminent domain abuse, and now he's also associated with "soulless money-grubbers."

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

Straight From The Bleachers: Nets To Entice Future Fans with Barclays Center Showroom

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

The Nets announced this week that they will open the Barclays Center Showroom in the fall to showcase suites for the team’s world-class home at the Atlantic Rail Yards.

The Nets have agreed to lease 10,000 square feet on the 38th floor of the Renzo Piano-designed New York Times Building, located at 620 Eighth Avenue between West 40th and 41st Streets.

The 52-story building was developed by Forest City Ratner Companies.

The Barclays Center Showroom will be designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and Gordon Kipping Architects.

The showroom will include various models of the Barclays Center and a replicated suite designed by Gehry, who is also the architect for the Barclays Center and the entire Atlantic Yards development.

Additionally, the showroom will include offices for Nets and arena sales staff and space for presentations and special events. The Nets will also utilize the Atlantic Yards Information Center at Atlantic Center in Brooklyn.

The Barclays Center, which is planned to open for the 2009-10 Nets season, will offer 118 executive suites and 12 courtside suites, all of which are currently under design by Gehry.

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Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

THROUGH SATURDAY! Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood

Brooklyn Daily Eagle's event listing reminds readers that the Footprints art exhibit is on view through this Saturday.

BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY: Central Library, Grand Army Plaza. 718-230-2100 or www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org.

Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood.” Through Apr. 21. The 27 Brooklyn artists featured in this exhibition explore the neighborhoods and communities lying in the direct path of the proposed Atlantic Yards, one of the largest redevelopment projects ever undertaken in Brooklyn.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Coalition Group Rallies Against Demolitions Set for Ratner Site

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Did we say that articles in the Eagle were often published on line days later? This one on last weekend's rally is pretty much a remix of the BrooklynSpeaks press release:

The storm was raging outside, but more than 200 people rallied inside the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church this past Sunday. Joined by State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies and several other elected officials and clergymen, the sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign called for a moratorium on demolitions at the Atlantic Yards site.

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Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

April 19, 2007

"The Odert Report"

By sifting through papers filed by developer Forest City Ratner and the project sponsor, the Empire State Development Corporation, in opposition to temporary restraining orders against demolitions in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project, Norman Oder posted three items on Atlantic Yards Report that help deepen our understanding of several aspects of the fight over the Atlantic Yards project.

Forest City Ratner's $5.6 billion lie, in court papers, is attributed to ESDC
Norman Oder continues to reveal the origins of the $5.6-billion lie, especially after the figure showed up in an affadavit filed in court this week and was falsely attributed to the Empire State Development Corporation.

In the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review, both plaintiffs and defendants are doing their best to cite relevant precedent and spin the case to their favor. But Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey takes it one step further, in an affidavit claiming that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the Empire State Development Corporation estimated that the project would generate $5.6 billion in new tax revenue and $4.4 billion in net tax revenue.

There's nothing of the sort in the FEIS. There's no total at all, nor is there an attempt to calculate net revenue, which subtracts costs.
...
Where does the $5.6 billion figure come from? Not from the ESDC, but from Forest City Ratner. And the methodology used to reach that number differs in two significant ways than the methodology used by the ESDC.

NoLandGrab: Is it bad to tell a lie about a false claim in an affidavit?

Would stay on demolitions unduly delay arena? FCR is already behind pace for 2009 opening

In court papers filed earlier this week opposing a temporary restraining order to block demolitions on the Atlantic Yards site, Forest City Ratner VP Jim Stuckey says the developer would face significant losses even over a few months—and that a delay would jeopardize the planned 2009 opening of the arena.

However, as lawyers for the plaintiffs point out, the developer “appears to already have virtually abandoned the construction schedule” published in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement that would lead to a 2009 arena opening

Indeed, according to the schedule (from the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Chapter 17), demolition of buildings on blocks needed for the arena was to begin 11/1/06. This page was dated 7/10/06 yet included in the FEIS released 11/27/06. Click on the graphic below to enlarge, or go to the original PDF.

The demolition was to be completed by 7/2/07. However, several buildings in the arena footprint undoubtedly will remain enmeshed in litigation well beyond that date.

Affadavits filed by the developer explain that they are proceding based on a work-around, but Norman Oder notes, "However, the construction schedule is clear. Workaround or not, demolitions are to be completed by 7/2/07."

Delay demolitions? Not in public interest, say ESDC, FCR

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) have responded forcefully to the lawsuit trying to invalidate the environmental review for the Atlantic Yards project.

In doing so, they argue against the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by Atlantic Yards opponents and critics to block planned demolitions of some 15 properties owned by the developer, saying that it would not be in the public interest and that the chances of getting a preliminary injunction in court next month are low.

A decision on the TRO is expected by Friday. The preliminary papers filed this week will be followed up by more extensive legal arguments from both sides.

Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM

On Terrorism and Securitization

Picketing Henry Ford

Brooklynites are troubled by the lack of scrutiny of the Atlantic Yards project from a terrorism and security standpoint. Picketing Henry Ford author Stuart Schrader just posted a macro-analysis of the causes and implications of this serious situation:

The lawsuit filed recently by opponents of the Atlantic Yards (AY) project seeks to “to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the approval of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project”; defendants are the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Given their less-than-stellar record on transparency, accountability, and ethics, it may be surprising that these agencies did not jump at the chance to give the AY project a thorough “terrorism” review, assessing its vulnerabilities, because there is nothing more purely unanswerable to public, citizen oversight than claims of national security. But the ESDC, PACB, and MTA (no word yet on the NYPD) punted on the terrorism review.

In this post, I discuss the relationship of political Islamist terrorism to neoliberalism through the lens of this large development project, which is using highly leveraged finances and the high-tech architecture of Frank Gehry. I also discuss “securitization,” a term I am using differently from its traditional meaning, to describe the sublimation of urban security features into a totalizing ideology of security and how this process may negatively affect both the architectural character of the project and the actual people, particularly local minorities, who support the project.

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Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

Brooklyn Objects to 1910 Bakery Demolition for Development

Preservation Online
By Tovah Pentelovitch

WardBakery-BIB.jpg

"We are saying to Mr. Ratner, ‘Please, preserve this building and make whatever you plan to do fits in. Don't destroy our history and our neighborhood,'" says Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, a neighborhood group formed in 2002 to deal with what she calls "predatory developers."

Last month, Forest City Ratner released a statement saying, "The New York State Preservation Office has confirmed that there is no feasible alternative to demolishing the Ward Bread Bakery Building."

Catherine Jimenez, spokesperson for the state historic preservation office, confirms her office's conclusion. "We did a feasibility study and determined that converting the building would require substantial modifications that would be costly and would significantly alter the historic properties of the building," she says.

Hagan refuses to accept this reasoning. "Had this building been in the SoHo part of Manhattan, there would be fights over who got to adaptively reuse it," Hagan says.

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Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

What's a "reasonable worst-case scenario"? ESDC considered terrorism, just not in EIS

Atlantic Yards Report

Critics of the Atlantic Yards environmental review had previously been told by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that post-9/11 terrorism was beyond the scope of the law. ...
Now there's a response from Forest City Ratner in the ligitation challenging the environmental review and seeking a temporary restraining order to block demolitions. In it, FCR attorney Jeffrey Braun points out that no regulation requires terrorist attacks to be analyzed.

Further, he points to a series of actions that suggests that the ESDC and the developer have taken the terrorist issue quite seriously:

In this case, the submissions in opposition to the petition will show that ESDC made the eminently sensible determination that the risk of a terrorist attack was not appropriate for inclusion in the SEQRA process, which would have entailed the publication, including availability on the Internet, of information about risk assessment and security measures. The submissions also will show that FCRC retained preeminent security consultants and, working with those consultants, participated in extensive confidential reviews of the Project with the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Task Force, to assess the risk of a terrorist attack and to address that risk in an appropriate manner. Given the nature of the threat, however, it would not be appropriate—indeed, it would be foolish—to expose the risk assessment materials to public scrutiny.

That may be so, but in other projects there has been at least some acknowledgement of security issues.

And the question remains: what's the difference between "a reasonable worst-case scenario" under the scope of state law and "a reasonable worst-case scenario" under a common-sense understanding?

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Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

"No Demolition for Parking," but Will Persuasion or Court Action Do the Trick?

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder files this fashion report from last weekend's rally:

While presumably everyone attending supported the rally's stated purpose, some went further. Perhaps half the attendees wore either the orange BrooklynSpeaks t-shirts given out at the door or the purple shirts of marshals reserved for event organizers. Meanwhile, a few dozen people came in DDDB shirts, but the majority of attendees avoided logos.

Included are quotes from speeches by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council's Gib Veconi, City Councilmembers Letitia James, Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, Reverend Clinton Miller, and State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and a response from Forest City Executive VP Bruce Bender.

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Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

Atlantic Yards Dissidents Dissent!

The Real Estate Observer

After a rocky start, the two coalitions fighting the Atlantic Yards development, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, begrudgingly accepted the other one's existence, like a cat and a dog sharing the same house. That was, until the mild-mannered BrooklynSpeaks coalition announced plans to protest demolitions at the site, and a couple of litigious folks wrote in:

"Why aren't you people joining law suits and where have YOU all been the last 3 years? Your rally now, though cute, is too little too late!!!!!"

"When is Brooklyn Speaks going to go to court to legally stop the demolitions on all phases of the project? Or just rally to stop the demolitions on phase 2 and remain silent on the demolitions on phase 1, where the majority of the announced demolitions are set to take place?"

Note: The dissident commentary wasn't us. We reserve five(!) exclamation points for something big!!!

From Jasper Goldman of Brooklyn Speaks:

"Our goal was to change the project substantially and not necessarily just to stop it," Mr. Goldman said. "There is some grounds for optimism given the fact that there is a new Governor who has taken a different approach."

From Dan Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

"We feel that there has been no forum for legitimate political and community input in this process," he said, "and when that happens, and we feel laws have been broken, then the courts are an appropriate place to address it."

So who is winning?

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Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

Closing Fifth Avenue for Atlantic Yards, But Why So Soon?

Downtown Brooklyn Star
By Norman Oder

An interesting article trying to get to the bottom of the announcement that the 5th Avenue bus will be rerouted because the street north of Flatbush will be permanently closed on May 27, is a chilling vignette depicting how Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner gets government agencies to comply, even behind the back of the major player sponsoring the project, the Empire State Development Corporation:

Everybody following the Atlantic Yards plan knew that it would involve the closing and demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues to accommodate Frank Gehry's flagship Miss Brooklyn skyscraper, which would straddle the street and open, if all goes as predicted, by 2009 or 2010.

However, no one knew exactly when it would be closed until last week, when Brooklyn Community Board 6 got a letter from New York City Transit (NYCT) indicating that NYCT and the Department of Transportation (DOT) intended to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route on May 27, eliminating one stop.

The reason? "The closure and demapping of Fifth Avenue" between Flatbush and Atlantic "in the near future," according to NYCT's Lois Tendler.

But why so soon, given that several cases affecting and potentially blocking the project remain in court, and will not be resolved by the end of May? NYCT spokesman Charles Seaton said that the agency was simply reacting to DOT's plans: "If they demap the street, we can no longer run a bus."

But NYCT seems to be overstating the case. While DOT can close the street, it can't be demapped until it's been acquired by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards.
...
DOT, apparently, is the agency that could explain the timing of the change and the claim that the street would be demapped. However, despite four requests for comment over four days, the DOT did not respond by press time.

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Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Know A Good Fence?

Vanderbilt Yards from Dope on the Slope:

VanderbiltYards-DOS.jpg

More photos from Dopey Slopey's flickr photostream here.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

bananapicture.jpgNets Fan in New York, Another Lawsuit over Atlantic Yards
Here's one we missed from the "fruitcake" Nets Fan in NY:

With another lawsuit in federal court, it only seems fair to add yet another acronym to the list. For those behind the project in favor of Ratner and “constructive dialogue,” here’s my latest addition: APPLE (Always Promote Productive Language Exchange). Think of how hilarious it would be to see picketers outside the courthouse holding PRO BANANA and ANTI APPLE signs.

Brownstoner, FCR Calls Off The Bulldozers, For Now

If buildings had lungs, four properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint (189 Flatbush (pictured), 191 Flatbush, 193 Flatbush and 618 Pacific Street) would be breathing a huge sigh of relief this morning.

onehansonplace.com, Townhouse two blocks from Atlantic Yards renovated
That's two short blocks from Atlantic Yards:

If memory serves correctly, this townhouse was once boarded up and on the market by Brooklyn Properties for $1.4MM. It is one or two houses to the right of where Red Lipstick used to be and the ebay-related store once used to be also. It looks like whoever purchased it may have renovated it and is now listing it at $1.95MM.

Juniper Park Patriots, The Slippery Slope of Eminent Domain
When a feisty Queens-based political blog tackles the subject of eminent domain abuse guess what project gets fingered first:

Recently, here in New York we are hearing the word phrase “eminent domain” too often. Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and the Kosciusko Bridge are just a few areas where the city is applying eminent domain to advance their plans for development.

Throughout history there has been no greater battle than the protection and preservation individual property rights.

Yonkers Tribune, Forest City Ratner Agrees to Hold Off Imminent Demolitions in "Atlantic Yards" Site
Folks in Yonkers are watching developments in Brooklyn with great interest, but what some of them are really hoping for is stated plainly in the comments section.

Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

April 18, 2007

Lifting the Markowitz fig leaf from the Atlantic Yards creation myth

Atlantic Yards Report

Lift Marty's fig leaf? Ugh, Atlantic Yards Report has reached new lows with that image.

Seriously, was Marty the brains behind Atlantic Yards?

According to at least two accounts, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner didn't start thinking about an arena near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues until the summer or fall of 2002. And, according to Borough President Marty Markowitz, Ratner needed prompting from him to consider the opportunity.

That's highly unlikely--and it seems to contradict some recent statements by Forest City Ratner lawyers. They have claimed, in oral argument and legal papers in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, that the developer did not, as charged, initiate the project.

I had written that the claim seemed true only if it were narrowly interpreted as reflecting Markowitz's idea for an arena, since surely Markowitz didn't initiate the idea for a 22-acre development. Now it's questionable that Markowitz even initiated the idea for the arena near Downtown Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

TONIGHT: Brooklyn Matters

BrooklynMattersPost560.gif

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 7:30PM

OLD FIRST REFORMED CHURCH
126 7th Avenue (corner of Carroll Street)
Admission Free, Panel Discussion to Follow

For information about additional screening dates and locations, visit www.brooklynmatters.com

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

Forest City Ratner halts demo plans

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

From the print version only:

Forest City Ratner will not begin demolishing buildings within the 22-acre footprint for its $4 billion Atlantic Yards development today as scheduled. It agreed to hold off until a Manhattan State Supreme Court judge renders a decision on a temporary restraining order filed yesterday by 26 groups who are suing the developer and state agency overseeing the project over its environmental review, according to a press release from project opponent Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The judge is expected to render a decision on the temporary restraining order by week’s end, according to DDDB, and a hearing is scheduled for May 3 where the judge will decide whether to stave off demolitions until the case is decided. Forest City Ratner had no comment.

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Posted by lumi at 10:11 AM

Railyard photos by Daniel A. Norman

There are a couple more cool photos of trains in the Vanderbilt Railyards by Daniel Norman posted on two of his photo blogs.

Brooklyn Photographer, Above the Train Yard, Brooklyn NYC

Trains-DN01.jpg

brooklyn lens, Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn, NYC

Trains-DN02.jpg

Daniel A. Norman's flickr page

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Why Protest When You Can Sue?

Daily Intelligencer
By Alec Appelbaum

News posted yesterday about the hold on demolitions and protest:

In the battle over Atlantic Yards, events in a lower Manhattan courthouse this afternoon amounted to a shot blocked by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn chief Daniel Goldstein. As nobody can avoid knowing, Goldstein has led a coalition of civic groups petitioning to stop the megaproject by suing in federal and state court over its environmental and legal review. Goldstein and fellow protestors planned to block alleged demolition by developer Forest City Ratner tomorrow at 8 a.m. but instead went to court today to seek a temporary restraining order. By 5:30, FCR had "graciously" agreed to avoid demolition this week, Goldstein told us. A judge will rule on the restraining order by Friday, he says, so there will be no protest tomorrow morning. (Sleep in, enraged Brooklynites!) A FCR spokesperson confirmed that he had been in court all day and promised no demolition tomorrow. Goldstein warned that Monday could be a different story.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

A Brewer Looks Beyond Brooklyn

The NY Sun
By Joseph Goldstein

Hey, the Brooklyn Brewery boycott is still on, right?

While Mr. Hindy's attention has been on his new product, beer critics have rediscovered his classic. This month, the company's flagship beer, Brooklyn Lager, won a taste test against 31 other beers. The Washington Post sponsored the competition.
...
More recently, the company has also borne some local criticism from critics of the $4 billion plan to build a basketball arena and high-rise mostly residential towers at Atlantic Yards. Brooklyn Brewery became the target of a much-publicized boycott at a Prospect Heights bar, Freddy's Bar and Backroom, which stopped selling Brooklyn Lager last year and pledged to replace it with a beer from a country that did not have eminent domain. Mr. Hindy, who serves beer at New Jersey Nets games, has been perceived as a supporter of the plan after he threw a party at the brewery in honor of the team's anticipated move to Brooklyn under the Atlantic Yards proposal.

"The boycott never really caught on," Mr. Hindy recalls. "As a former journalist, it irked me that the Brooklyn Papers gave voice to that boycott. It was one guy and his blog calling for a boycott. Is that a news story?"

link

NoLandGrab: Hey, who is Hindy calling a "guy?"

So millions of Americans aren't pouring their Brooklyn Lager down the drain, but thousands of Brooklynites have lost their taste for the stuff and more than one bar has removed Brooklyn Lager from its taps.

Really, how much pride is there in beating out Coors, Sam Adams and Rolling Rock to get to the final four of a tasting tournament sponsored by the Washington Post?

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Something to Remember as you Pay Your Taxes

Daily Gotham

On pay-your-taxes day, "Mole333" thanks the little taxpayers on behalf of Bruce Ratner and reminds us:

And remember...the taxpayer funded gift of Atlantic Yards is only the beginning of what the state and city can do for the man with no business plan.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Nets Loan Figures in Annual Report

Nets Daily got a little sore at us yesterday for calling the web site the Nets "team blog," especially after we tried to squeeze in an itty-bitty linky for being the blog's source for a Crain's NY article. The guy who runs the site explained "we try not to link to political blogs." Wow, all along we thought we were blogging about urban planning. Or was it eminent domain-abuse posterboy Bruce Ratner? We've lost track.

Apparently, the Nets Daily blog only looks official, and it's run by some guy who is still waiting for an apology — sorry, our bad.

Yesterday, Nets Daily posted some excerpts from the Forest City Enterprises Annual Report, though he mistakenly pegs the price tag of the project at $6 billion (which may come to pass if construction and labor costs continue to skyrocket).

Specifically, Forest City states:

“The team is expected to operate at a loss in 2007 and will require additional capital to fund the loss. We have agreed to advance up to $13,000,000, in the form of a member loan, which is senior to both common and preferred equity of the partnership that owns an interest in the Nets, but subordinated to third party debt.”

Check out the rest here.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

In Los Angeles, a Gehry-Designed Awakening

The NY Times
By Terry Pristin

Frank Gehry is designing the master plan of another large-scale urban development, this one in LA.

Now Related Urban, the division of the Related Companies that developed the massive Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, is poised to try to fulfill Mr. Broad’s ambitions. By the end of the year, the company expects to begin demolition for the first phase of a $2.05 billion mixed-use project along Grand Avenue, opposite the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Designed by the concert hall’s architect, Frank Gehry, the Grand Avenue development will echo the Time Warner Center in some respects — the plans call for a five-star 275-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, luxury condominiums, restaurants run by celebrity chefs and an upscale food market. But it is also expected to feature terraces and rooftop gardens to take advantage of the mild climate, the developers say.
...
Unlike the planned Atlantic Yards development near downtown Brooklyn, which is Mr. Gehry’s other major urban project, Grand Avenue has engendered few fireworks. But some opponents maintain that subsidies are not justified for a project intended primarily for wealthy residents. They say the developer is already getting a break on the land.

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NoLandGrab: Unlike Atlantic Yards, Gehry isn't designing every building for the Grand Ave. project.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

April 17, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Ratner Agrees to Hold Off Imminent Demolitions in "Atlantic Yards" Site

Court Will Decide on TRO by End of Week

Protest Against Demolitions Cancelled

NEW YORK, New York – Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and co-petitioners on the DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al lawsuit applied for a temporary restraining order (TRO) today in Manhattan State Supreme Court to put a stay on imminent demolitions by developer Forest City Ratner for its "Atlantic Yards" project. After a two hour hearing Forest City Ratner graciously agreed not to go forward with demolitions in the "Atlantic Yards" project site–which it had scheduled for commencement tomorrow, April 18th–so that Justice Joan Madden could take time to render her decision on the TRO. Justice Madden announced she would have a decision on the TRO by the end of this week.

Co-petitioners applied for the TRO after the court scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit (which was filed on April 5th) for May 3rd. On May 3rd the court will hear petitioners Article 78 and declaratory judgment case, as well as motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining all demolition until the case can be decided. Because the injunction would not be heard until May 3rd–while numerous demolitions have been scheduled prior to May 3rd–in order to prevent the injunction from becoming substantially moot, co-petitioners applied for the TRO today.

In light of the developer's agreement not to commence demolitions as planned tomorrow, the protest against those demolitions–called for 8am on April 18th–has been cancelled.

A protest against the developer's demolitions will be called pending the court's decision of the TRO.

Posted by lumi at 11:14 PM

Demolitions postponed, at least briefly; protest may be Monday

BREAKING NEWS FROM Atlantic Yards Report

Hold everything, at least a few days.

At a hearing today before Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden, lawyers for the coalition challenging the legitimacy of the Atlantic Yards environmental review argued for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block demolitions on the Atlantic Yards site.

After consultation, developer Forest City Ratner, which had scheduled demolitions to begin tomorrow, agreed not to begin such demolitions this week, and the judge said she'd have a decision on the TRO by Friday.

(I wasn't at the hearing, but this was relayed to me by a courtroom observer associated with the plaintiffs.)

In light of that, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which had scheduled a protest rally for 8 a.m. tomorrow, has postponed the rally pending the judge's decision. If a TRO is not granted, the rally will be Monday.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:42 PM

The Taxman Cometh

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted this little reminder about how the government is spending your taxes.

taxday.gif

The group has linked it to a PDF that tallies up the known tax subsidies and provides a list of unknown tax subsidies or tax subsidies we know we don't... ugh... to paraphrase a known GOP philosopher:

When it comes to subsidies for Atlantic Yards, there are known subsidies. There are subsidies we know we know. We also know there are unknown subsidies. That is to say, we know there are some subsidies we do not know. But there are also ones we don't know we don't know.

Posted by lumi at 11:17 AM

From FCE, (boilerplate) doubt about AY timing; Nets losses prompt $13M loan

Atlantic Yards Report takes a peek at Forest City's Annual Report.

Unlike a press release, the annual report is a disclosure document that must describe some of the risks and downsides of business operations:

While Atlantic Yards supporters have criticized opponents for delaying the project by filing a lawsuit challenging the environmental review, it turns out that developer Forest City Ratner has much more than legal delays on its mind.

Also, while the rate of losses for the New Jersey Nets has slowed, the parent company must still offer a $13 million loan to fund the team this year.

According to the annual report issued at the end of March by parent Forest City Enterprises, other factors, including increased construction costs and the availability of tax-exempt financing, also play into potential delays. The language is required boilerplate, but it does stand in contrast to the sunny predictions, despite countervailing evidence, that the project will be completed in the promised ten years.

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Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere24.jpg¡THE JESTAPLERO!, Guest Blogger: Scott M.X. Turner from Fans for Fair Play
Acknowledging that it's time to retire Shea Stadium, Fans for Fair Play's Scott Turner explains why the new Mets ballpark is still a bad deal for you and you and you. Before the handy-dandy bulleted list of things wrong with the new stadium, Turner airs some naming-rights dirty laundry, where Bruce Ratner come out smelling the worse.

Nets Daily, The first glimpses of the inside of the New Jersey Nets Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be available this fall
The blog for the NJ Nets fingers NoLandGrab as their source for an article that's subscription only on the Crain's NY Business web site, claiming it was, "Retrieved from nolandgrab.org."

NoLandGrab: Wha? It's our fault that Bruce Ratner's team blog posted the Crain's article? There's a big difference between distribution for educational purposes vs. PR and marketing. And what's up with no link? Where is the love?

The KnickerBlogger, 20 questions, One Response
The one response to The Brooklyn Paper's 20 Questions which remain unanswered by Forest City Ratner:

The predicted response "no comment" - why is it a major corporation taking BILLIONS from taxpayers, stealing people's property, and aggressively proposing an ill conceived project can get away with ignoring any public scrutiny? This is one of the strangest mysteries of this whole debacle.

The Knickerblogger, Frank Gehry, Gimmick Artist
Nothing gets under "Knickerblogger's" skin like Frank Gehry:

Even if Gehry's designs were not silly gimmicks, they have reputation of impracticality - one building at a college in Ohio became a hazard during snow falls, another, in Los Angeles, created deadly 140 degree + temperatures...do we really want an aging architect who doesn't think about snow in Ohio or sun in California to design the largest building in Brooklyn, over a major transportation hub? There is a simple mathematical equation you can map out - the close one is to the project the more they oppose it - the people who are not effected or stand to profit from it, support it. As with the war in Iraq- those who don't have to pay the consequences support it.

NoLandGrab: In addition, the Ohio sliding-snow building at Case Western Reserve University was the same one where a gunman remained at large for seven hours partially because the cops were baffled by the building's labyrinthian interior, just another one of Frank Gehry's unintended-consequence-turned-adverse-environmental-impact.

Daily Intelligencer, Après le Deluge
The Monday morning headline wrap-up included the MetroNY coverage of the rally against demolition of the Ward bakery.

Terrible rain and wind didn't stop 200 anti-Ratner activists from making it to a rally protesting planned demolitions at the Atlantic Yards site. The developer is taking out several buildings to create a seven-acre, 1,600-car "temporary" parking lot. [MetroNY]

to the barricades, Wednesday Protest

Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer are allowing these demolitions to proceed before the project has been shown to be either legal and financially viable. Keep in mind, that though some demolitions may be start, there is an eminent domain lawsuit in federal court, challenging the abuse of eminent domain for "Atlantic Yards," alleging that its use violates the United States Constitution.

If that lawsuit succeeds, it will make it impossible to build the arena, or the skyscraper-laden superblocks planned by the developer.

Come out Wednesday morning to demonstrate your opposition to the premature demolition of these buildings and to laying waste to our community before it has been determined whether or not the project can be built as proposed.

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

Groups unite to demand arena benefits

Alliance will push for investment, jobs for Hill District

Pittsburgh-Gazette
By Rich Lord

Here's more evidence that Ratner's mighty PR tentacles still have a hold on the media.

In an article about community stakeholders in the Hill District of Pittburgh, a reporter is either insinuating that groups could be handpicked and receive financial support from the developer, or he has no clue that the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) has a reputation amongst good-government groups as what you SHOULD NOT DO in a CBA:

In the New York City Borough of Brooklyn, a similar pact related to the Atlantic Yards development stipulates the percentages of construction jobs and contracts that must go to minorities and women. It calls for affordable housing and neighborhood amenities as part of the mix, and guarantees tickets for neighborhood residents at arena events.

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NoLandGrab: Then again, we shouldn't paint the media in broad strokes just because one reporter has no clue. Post-Gazette reporter Rich Lord published an article a week ago, making the same claims.

You can practically hear them laughing their asses off around the water cooler at 1 MetroTech.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Yonkers mayor unveils $856.3 million proposed budget that includes 5 percent tax hike

The Journal News

The headlines in Yonkers are all about the 5% tax hike, but the cherry on top of Mayor Amicone's $856.3-million budget is a $19.1-million one-time cash infusion from Forest City Ratner.

Amicone plugged a projected $43 million budget gap with the added property tax revenue and $5 million in fund balance, and through a financial agreement with Forest City Ratner, the developer of the planned Ridge Hill Village residential and commercial complex.

Forest City Ratner has agreed to pay $11.1 million at one time as part of a tax agreement with the city, instead of paying the money over a three-year period as was originally proposed, the mayor said. The company also agreed to pay $8 million to buy out the lease on the 81-acre property where it plans to build, Amicone said.

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NoLandGrab: Remember folks, there's still a federal probe looking into the City Council's actions regarding Ridge Hill, which may turn up nothing, or may turn up another example in which Forest City Ratner plugged someone else's projected budget deficit.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

April 16, 2007

APRIL 18th. 8am. Protest Ratner's Demolitions.

191Flatbush.jpg From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

4 Demolitions to Begin on Wednesday, April 18th.

In the next 2 months Forest City Ratner plans to demolish 15 buildings for its “Atlantic Yards project.

They plan to start demolishing 4 buildings on Wednesday morning, April 18th.

Come out to protest this action on Wednesday at 8am.

The City (Bloomberg) and State (Spitzer) are allowing these demolitions to go ahead before the project has been shown to be legally and financially feasible.

Come out to demonstrate your opposition to premature demolition, to laying waste to our community before it has been determined if the project can be built as proposed. Let’s tell the Mayor and Governor, they need to act now.

Meet at 191 Flatbush (between 5th avenue and Dean Street)
Click for directions

Posted by lumi at 8:08 PM

BrooklynSpeaks.net Rally Against Demolition for Parking

Posted by lumi at 7:42 PM

Atlantic Yards Critics: Parking Lots Would Blight Area for Decades

Project Would Create 1,596 Temporary Spaces During First Construction Phase

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

During the first phase of construction — the 18,000-seat basketball arena and five high-rises — developer Forest City Ratner Companies would clear two blocks for 1,414 temporary surface parking spaces and 182 temporary underground parking spaces, according to the plan approved by the state days before Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office.

When that phase is completed, Ratner would construct 11 other high-rises and provide a total of 3,670 underground parking spaces; some would be reserved for residents of the 6,000 units of housing planned within the project.

“We’re scratching our heads. We can’t really figure out why they need this amount of parking near the third-largest transit hub in the city,” said Municipal Arts Society planner Jasper Goldman. “If you provide the parking spaces, people will use them. But if you don’t provide the parking, people would have more incentive to use mass transit.”

Of the temporary parking, Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said, “The state required that we provide temporary, paid parking to construction workers in order to limit their use of on-street parking and to help reduce disruptions to the community throughout the building process.”

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NoLandGrab: Once again, Ratner's PR flacks are hiding behind the Environmental Impact Statement. "The State" hasn't "required" Ratner to build parking. If that were true then Atlantic Yards would be the first project in recent NYC history that requires its own parking.

Any idiot who has studied the issue of eminent domain can explain what is happening. Ratner is doing what developers always do when facing a serious eminent domain lawsuit — they take down every building possible in order to isolate the remaining homeowners and to make the community restless to have something built in place of the developer-created desolation.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 PM

JEFFRIES, ADAMS, JAMES, YASSKY and DE BLASIO SPEAK AT RALLY AGAINST DEMOLITION FOR PARKING AT ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2007

Nor'easter Doesn't Stop Rally -- Parks, Not Parking Lots!

The wind blew and the rain fell, but over 200 rally-ers rallied, moving inside the warm and inviting Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. Joined by State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies, New York City Council Members Letitia James, David Yassky, and Bill DeBlasio, Rev. David Dyson of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church and Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, the sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign called for a moratorium on demolitions at the Atlantic Yards site.

Speakers and performers called on the State and the City to rethink their plan to permit Forest City Ratner to demolish two entire city blocks, including the historic Ward Bakery, to create “temporary” parking lots for over 1600 cars. The surface parking lots will occupy approximately 7 acres of the Atlantic Yards site – an area the size of two Union Square Parks, and ironically, the same amount of acreage as the project’s promised open space being designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin. The developer calls the lots “temporary” because they plan to build the second phase of the project on top of them. But members of Forest City Ratner’s own team, including Olin, estimate that the second phase might not be built for 15 or 20 years, if at all. Said rally organizer Jon Orcutt of co-sponsor Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “Parking lots are not a benefit to the communities. They will bring more traffic, more congestion, and add to the poor air quality of the area. That's not transit-oriented or sustainable development.”

Local residents have complained several times over the past few weeks that asbestos removal has proceeded without the necessary protections. One building inspector called to the sceneshrugged and remarked that he couldn't see any asbestos. Asbestos fibers are microscopic, however. “Residents are concerned about the health and safety of their families during construction and demolition, but the right hand does not seem to know what the left is doing from day to day,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of BrooklynSpeaks.net co-sponsor, Fifth Avenue Committee.

“We need government oversight, and a coordinator of infrastructure -- there are many public agencies involved but no one whose job it is is to mind the store.” said Democratic District Leader Jo Anne Simon, who has been working with the Brooklyn Speaks sponsors. “The developer's efforts to fast-track the demolitions before systems can be put in place to protect the public is frightening. This needs to change before any more buildings are demolished.”

Recently, developer Forest City Ratner indicated that demolitions could start as early as April 18, 2007. “Demolition is permanent, you can’t go back. We risk paving paradise to put up a parking lot. We've had that before. It wasn't good for our communities or our economy,” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “Brooklyn is getting the opposite of what was promised at Atlantic Yards.”

Performers at the rally included the Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble, and jazz musicians Pheeroan Ak Laff and Ned Rotherberg. Singer Dave Hall was also on hand. Hall led the audience in singing the apt refrain, “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot,” from Joni Mitchell's popular 1970's song, “Big Yellow Taxi.”

Story and Video of the rally is available at www.BrooklynSpeaks.net

The BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign was initiated in September, 2006 to provide a platform for New Yorkers to push for major changes to the Atlantic Yards project. The campaign was organized by Atlantic Avenue LDC, Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Fifth Avenue Committee, Municipal Art Society, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Park Slope Civic Council, Pratt Area Community Council, Project for Public Spaces, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Posted by lumi at 6:17 PM

Smoke (and Mirrors) on the Water

A NY Times editorial contains some lessons for Atlantic Yards, really:

A first look at the drawing of the latest development proposal for the Yonkers waterfront is likely to elicit the kind of reaction a puzzled parent gives a bright-eyed toddler with paint-smeared fingers. “This is interesting, sweetie. Am I holding it right-side up?”

But then it hits you that this is serious....

But the main problem with this project, which is thankfully in the early stages of approval, is not its debatable aesthetics. It’s the scale....

When you add this new project to the others bubbling along in Yonkers — the $3.1 billion partnership of Stuever Fidelco Cappelli to build massive amounts of housing and offices and a ballpark downtown, and Forest City Ratner’s Ridge Hill mini-city to the north — you get the impression that the city’s eagerness to throw itself open to splashy development has trumped caution and patient good sense.

It’s impressive that the developers and architect have gone so far out of their way to imagine a complex that is so environmentally friendly, with rooftop windmills providing all its power and solar panels heating its water. And it’s wonderful that they want to include a contemporary art museum in the mix, instead of the usual lame assortment of high-end retail shops and services.

But all the eco-friendly attributes and all the chic extras amount to nothing if they blind the city to an oversized hulk that will squat by the river for generations, blocking light and diminishing public enjoyment by its massiveness.

link

NoLandGrab: There but for the grace of God, goes Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 PM

A ‘lot’ of debate

Rain doesn’t dampen rally over Atlantic Yards parking

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

BSRally-MNY.jpg

The torrential rains didn’t keep more than 200 people away from a rally yesterday against Forest City Ratner’s plan to demolish empty buildings to create a seven-acre parking lot for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner officials say the lot is needed for construction uses, but protesters believe it’s for the Nets arena expected to open in 2009. They worry it would encourage more traffic despite the project’s proximity to the city’s third largest transit hub.

“In the age of sustainability and global warming and added people to New York, it’s an obscenity to knock down buildings to build surface parking,” said Jon Orcutt, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign advocacy group at the event at the Lafeyette Presbyterian Church organized by a community coalition behind BrooklynSpeaks.net.

Metro included a bunch of nonsense from "The Other Bruce":

Bruce Bender, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, issued a statement explaining that the state’s Environmental Impact Statement mandated “temporary, paid parking to construction workers to limit their use of on-street parking so they would not take already hard to find spots within the surrounding communities.”
...
He added, “While opponents will say they should be using mass-transit to commute to and from the location, as many of them do, it is a tad difficult when your job requires that you arrive with tools and other gear.”

article

NoLandGrab: Construction of the World Trade Center site doesn't require enormous surface parking lots, nor does Ratner's own project, The Times Tower.

In addition, Bruce Ratner's own Environmental Impact Statement conveniently chose not to study the availability of on-street parking during the morning rush period. The Final Environmental Impact Statement did incredibly claim (page 12-19) that a minimum of 1,930 on-street spaces would be available within a quarter mile of the project site during the evening or weekend peak periods.

For the morning rush, the EIS determined that there are 1,342 available off-street parking spots within a half mile of the arena.

BTW, the Environmental Impact Statement doesn't "mandate" anything, it's just a disclosure document.

When is the press going to learn, that just because the administration says there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it doesn't mean it's true? Assertions of the need to demolish historic buildings for parking are just as erroneous and, like a war, has implications beyond the claim itself.

Posted by lumi at 11:22 AM

More than 200 rally against demolition for parking; new protest coming Wednesday

Atlantic Yards Report covers the Brooklyn Speaks rally:

BSRally-AYR.jpg

Despite stormy weather, more than 200 people—a respectable number given the wind and rain—came to the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (LAPC) in Fort Greene for a “Rally Against Demolition for Parking,” organized by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which seeks significant changes to make Atlantic Yards “a plan that works for Brooklyn.”

The goal: to get elected officials, especially Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to take notice and intervene before Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) project proceeds further. Orange banners festooned the sanctuary, among them “Speak Up for Brooklyn,” “Don’t Blight the Site,” “Community Not Cars,” and “Parks Not Parking Lots.”

While presumably everyone attending supported the rally’s stated purpose, some go further, backing the lawsuits organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which thinks the plan should be scrapped, not fixed, and charges that eminent domain has been abused as part of a sweetheart deal. Perhaps half the attendees wore either the orange BrooklynSpeaks t-shirts given out at the door or the purple shirts of marshals. A few dozen people wore DDDB shirts. The rest avoided logos.

Of the several elected officials who spoke, Council Member Letitia James, whose opposition exceeds that stated by BrooklynSpeaks, drew the loudest applause.

Near the front of the sanctuary, large posters explained the plan for interim surface parking and showed a potential outcome: the empty lots that persisted in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area for decades. (Atlantic Yards is supposed to take ten years, but even project landscape architect Laurie Olin speculates that it could take 20 years.)

article

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Over 200 brave storm to Rally Against Demolition for Parking!

From BrooklynSpeaks.net:

RevMiller_BS.jpg

The Nor'easter hit Brooklyn, but the rally went ahead regardless. Over 200 Brooklynities braved torrential rain to Rally Against Demolition for Parking. Addressing the rally was Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, Council Members David Yassky, Letita James and Bill De Blasio and State Senator Eric Adams.

Below are a selection of some of the quotes featured on BrooklynSpeaks.net:

"But when's the last time you saw two city blocks go down to build a building?"
— PHNDC Member Gib Veconi

"And you know what I get scared about with the idea of parking lots? It's not just about what it does to encourage cars and traffic. I think about that vision from the '60's and '70s of urban renewal. And I think about what happened in cities across the country where there was supposed to be wonderful new development. Everything got knocked down, and guess what didn't come? The new development."
— Council Member Bill Di Blasio

"We had a governor and a mayor who did not hear the voices of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn that said: this project does not work for us, you must change it. That is going to change. We are going to make our voice heard."
— Council Member David Yassky

"Eliot Spitzer, if you can stop the clock to get an on-time budget, I'm certain that you can get involved in this project, hear what the community has to say and we can make sure that whatever is built on the site is a responsible development that adds to the quality of life in this community and doesn't detract from it."
— Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries

link

Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

Brooklyn Bar Serves Opera On Tap

Weekend All Things Considered
By Robert Smith

Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated to be seized by NY State and demolished by Forest City Ratner, has been a counter-cultural hotspot since its days as a speakeasy.

Freddy's is also the birthplace of Opera on Tap, which returns the artform to its more proletarian roots, with performances in the intimate surroundings of a dive bar:

OperaOnTap-WATCsm.jpg

Just off Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, a dive bar has become the local watering hole for murderers and tyrants, adulters and virgins, Don Juans and divas. In fact, all of the great characters of grand opera have found a second home in the backroom of Freddy's Bar, where the company Opera on Tap serves up a monthly recital for the kind of audiences that might get kicked out of the Met.

"The stigma of opera is that it's pretentious and inaccessible," Opera on Tap's founder, Anne Ricci, says. "We give people the ability to hear a variety of the classic repertoire in a place where they are comfortable."

And if that means the dim, beer-stained space next to the bathroom in Freddy's Bar, so be it. T-shirts? No problem. Drinking? Encouraged.
...
After two hours of opera and drinking though, the whole night take on an epic quality of its own. The story of young singers struggling to get noticed in a cruel artistic world. Even the bar itself is a tragic figure: Freddy's is slated for demolition under a plan to build a new basketball arena on the site.

Operas don't always have a happy ending. But as long as there is beer and a stage somewhere, the members of Opera on Tap say they'll find another place to sing.

article

NoLandGrab: Freddy's manager Donald O'Finn is a party to the federal eminent domain lawsuit.

The next performance of Opera on Tap at Freddy's is Thursday, May 10.

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

Ratner Arena Showroom in NY Times Building

Here's Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's commentary on the news from Crain's about Ratner's luxury suite showroom:

In today's subscription only Crain's New York Business we learn that Bruce Ratner is going to begin showing off his new plush interior even while the arena site is currently facing a federal eminent domain legal challenge.

Even cuter than this is this: Guess where developer Forest City Ratner's arena showroom will be? It will be in the new midtown headquarters of its development/business partner, the New York Times Company.

A showroom for Ratner in the Times? What else is new?
...
By the way, the luxury suite revenue won't just pay for the lawsuits, the revenue would go towards the arena construction bonds. As would the $300-400 million naming rights awarded to Barclays Bank.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

The first glimpses of the inside of the New Jersey Nets Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be available this fall

Crains NY Business
Edited by Valerie Block

The first glimpses of the inside of the New Jersey Nets Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be available this fall, when developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner opens a midtown showroom to sell luxury suites.

The Frank Gehry-designed suites will collectively generate tens of millions of dollars a year. The Nets say guests won't be able to pivot without hitting a flat-screen TV or an expansive spread of food and booze.

The showroom will be in The New York Times Co. building going up at 620 Eighth Ave., which made for an easy lease negotiation: Mr. Ratner is developing both projects. Potential buyers will see a model of one of the 118 suites with 16 seats. Twelve other suites between the locker rooms, where Jason Kidd et al. unwind, will have eight courtside seats.

"This sales center will show firsthand what the experience and amenities will be like at the Barclays Center," Mr. Ratner says.

If corporate New York plunks down the hefty fees to entertain clients across the East River, the cash would dwarf Mr. Ratner's legal expenses from lawsuits against the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

article (subscription only)

* FAIR USE NOTICE
Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Sale of Albee Square Mall Could Mean Big Changes

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

Last week we linked to news of a Forest City alumnus who is in some hot water for political contributions in San Francisco.

This week, a local Forest City Ratner alum is heading a team in the purchase of the Albee Square Mall (emphasis added):

Although no official statement has yet been made, it clearly appears that Thor Equities, owned by Joseph Sitt, has finally sold its very coveted property in Downtown Brooklyn to a new development team.

One of the principals is Paul Travis, who was an officer with Forest City Ratner when developer Bruce Ratner first came to Brooklyn to build One Pierrepont Plaza and then MetroTech.

The site is the former Albee Square Mall at the eastern end of the Fulton Mall, where the biggest store is Toys ‘R’ Us and which has had three different names (including the Gallery at MetroTech) in the past 15 years.

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a group which has also been fighting to save historic homes on Duffield Street from eminent domain condemnation, opposes the sale:

A group called Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) has said it will testify at hearings held by the city’s Industrial Development Agency in Manhattan and also will hold several anti-Wal-Mart street rallies.

The group is also protesting the potential shutdown of the current mall, which has many popular small-business tenants.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Brooklyn Kids Get Royal Treatment From Nets at Free Clinic

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

An article about Brooklyn kids participating in a Nets clinic and cleaning up in the swag department, morphs into an ad for Nets playoff tickets:

DawkinsNetsCamp.jpg

Ratner, whose playoff-bound Nets are in his hometown of Cleveland tonight, sponsored the latest in a series of free basketball clinics for Brooklyn kids on Tuesday afternoon at Bishop Ford High School in Park Slope.

Nets legend Darryl Dawkins was on hand to work with the sixth-to-eighth graders, drawn from local youth groups, including the 78th Precinct Youth Council and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Heads up Brooklyn, if you haven't been bought by Bruce Ratner, that doesn't mean you can't be rebranded:

Each child received a goodie bag including a T-shirt, medal, autographed picture and other gifts from the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies.

And, git yer playoff tickets here:

Nets individual playoff tickets to all potential first- and second-round games also went on sale Tuesday. Fans can purchase tickets via: www.njnets.com; 1-800-4NBA-TIX; Ticketmaster outlets; or at the Continental Airlines Arena box office.

Prices for first- and second-round tickets will remain the same as for the regular season, beginning at $10. The Nets opponent, as well as the dates and times of the games, will be announced during the week of April 16.

Fans interested in securing the same seats for all playoff rounds can purchase the Nets Playoff Package by calling 1-800-7NJ-NETS.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

SPECIAL REPORT: NAHB Announces Winners of Pillars Awards

Multi-Housing News
By Kelly Sheehan, Online News Editor

APRIL 13, 2007 -- Hollywood, Fla. -- Forest City Residential was the big winner last night at the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Pillars Awards Gala at the Westin Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Fla. The firm earned five awards, including “Development Firm of the Year,” an award sponsored by Freddie Mac.
...
After the event, Ron Ratner, president of Forest City Residential, tells MHN that this year’s finalists were all noteworthy. “You could have tossed a coin to decide which companies should win,” he said. “All of the projects were projects that the companies were proud of.”

Ratner added that all of Forest City’s winning projects were individually crafted and designed, and featured affordable-housing components because one of the firm’s goals is reaching out to the surrounding communities.

“This is only a small part of the thousands of people that make up our company,” he added. “All of them are dedicated and creative, and we’ve accomplished a lot. It’s been a fun ride, and to receive [these awards] only makes things a little bit sweeter and a little bit better.”

article

NoLandGrab: Hmm... it's not hard to imagine a Bruce Ratner acceptance speech:

I'd like to thank my old pal and sponsor, George — I couldn't have done it without you. And Mike... thanks for the subsidies!!!

My demolition crew, you da best, cause breakin' up is hard to do!

To my brother, Michael, thanks for overlooking the constitutional thing. Is this a great country or what?

Also, thanks to Frank and Laurie, you crazy old fools, I warned you that it would take more than 20 years to build the damn thing, but you didn't believe me.

And to all the Brooklynites who didn't think it could be done and to those who were displaced... na-na-na-na hey-hey-hey good-bye.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

It's official: Nets in, Knicks done

The Staten Island Advance

If a team owner claps in the players' lounge, does he make a sound? He does if a reporter is on hand.

Only the "buoyant" creator of MetroTech could get real excited about a losing season, as the NJ Nets manage to limp into the playoffs.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As it became official, Bruce Ratner was standing behind a black leather couch in the players' lounge, where Vince Carter was seated beside his cousin, Jeff Scott. The Nets owner watched the clock tick down at Miami, where the Pacers would lose by four measly points, and suddenly his five loud claps filled the small room.

"Congratulations, everyone," the perpetually buoyant owner said to the 15 people around him, most of them Nets employees. "That was one tough season, but we made it."

article

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Brooklyn Mumbles

From Atlantic Yards Report, an excerpt from Brooklyn Speaks's "statement about its posture toward the litigation:"

We believe that the deeply flawed nature of the proposal is the direct result of the absence of any meaningful public involvement or accountability in the decision-making for the project so far. In this respect, we share many of the concerns held by the plaintiffs that have recently filed lawsuits concerning the project. However, decisions concerning litigation are made by each of the sponsoring groups on an individual basis, and therefore cannot be described collectively.

Huh?

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

The glass menagerie

Frank Gehry's first New York structure is merely a gimmick molded into an office building

NY Newsday
By Justin Davidson

An underwhelming review of Frank Gehry's IAC building:

Frank Gehry's first New York City building is a minor mood piece, not the sort of rhapsodic extravaganza his adorers are used to. At one time, he had hoped to debut with a bent-metal Guggenheim Museum on the East River; he still plans to stage a full-scale invasion of Brooklyn with an all-Gehry district at Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, there is this milky hulk on the Hudson, the headquarters of Barry Diller's Internet empire, IAC.
...
When the white glass went on, some took it for a temporary protective film. Surely, they thought, it's not always going to look that way?

But it will, and its shape has finally resolved into a disappointment. Instead of being a marvelous mirage, it's only an office building wrapped in a gimmick.

article

NoLandGrab: When Gehry's IAC building is chracterized as a "gimmick" and "milky hulk," it doesn't give Brooklynites confidence that the incredible-hulking 16-tower Atlantic Yards will materialize into anything but a historically dense Gehry-palooza. If Gehry gets it wrong on a small-ish project in Manhattan, it's a "minor mood piece;" if he gets it wrong in Brooklyn, it could be more like a "major tantrum."

The myth is that it wasn't Gehry's idea that he should design the entire Atlantic Yards project, but the aging starchitect didn't have to accept.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

Rally Sunday, April 15, to Demand Major Changes to Atlantic Yards Plan

Brooklyn Daily Eagle online is usually a couple of days behind. There's not much new in this article from Friday. It's primarily a rewritten press release:

A rally to protest the demolition by Forest City Ratner of two entire city blocks in Prospect Heights for parking will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues.

Forest City Ratner says it needs the temporary parking lots while constructing the Atlantic Yards project.

But organizers of the rally, the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign, feel that the parking lots will create a blight on the neighborhood and say they are not really temporary, as the project will take years to complete.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

April 15, 2007

Sunday Comix

Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

The first glimpses of the inside of the New Jersey Nets Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be available this fall

Crain's New York
By Valerie Block

Bruce Ratner is chomping at the bit to sell luxury suites for an arena whose future is still in doubt. He's hoping to open a showroom in the New York Times Company building.

The first glimpses of the inside of the New Jersey Nets Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be available this fall, when developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner opens a midtown showroom to sell luxury suites.

The Frank Gehry-designed suites will collectively generate tens of millions of dollars a year. The Nets say guests won't be able to pivot without hitting a flat-screen TV or an expansive spread of food and booze.

The showroom will be in The New York Times Co. building going up at 620 Eighth Ave., which made for an easy lease negotiation: Mr. Ratner is developing both projects. Potential buyers will see a model of one of the 118 suites with 16 seats. Twelve other suites between the locker rooms, where Jason Kidd (above) et al. unwind, will have eight courtside seats.

"This sales center will show firsthand what the experience and amenities will be like at the Barclays Center," Mr. Ratner says.

If corporate New York plunks down the hefty fees to entertain clients across the East River, the cash would dwarf Mr. Ratner's legal expenses from lawsuits against the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

NLG: Actually, the revenue from sales of the suites would pay for the entire cost of the arena.

NOTICE ON FAIR USE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.

Posted by steve at 8:48 AM

One Last Reminder

Click the image for latest details.

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

When ‘Public Good’ Is a Relative Term - A Letter to the Editor of The New York Times

A helpful correction to The New York Times's confusion over the difference between a library and Bruce Ratner:

To the Editor:

Re “Flexing Big Muscles for a Little Library” (April 8):

Equating the use of eminent domain for a public library with a private development and calling them both for “the public good” is equivalent to comparing a public school teacher to a Donald Trump.

The Brooklyn Public Library is a not-for-profit organization established to provide a public service while Forest City Ratner is a private corporation established to maximize profits for its investors. The fact that Forest City is adept at wrangling public subsidies for its private enterprises out of the city and state treasuries does not mean that its activities fulfill a public purpose.

Ronald Shiffman
Park Slope, Brooklyn

link

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

"No demolition for parking" rally--a platform for issues and ironies

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews today's "Rally Against Demolition for Parking". First, he looks at how different groups have approached concerns about Atlantic Yards. Develop Don't Destroy has engaged in lawsuits that, if successful, would halt the project, while Brooklyn Speaks, the rally's sponsor, believes it's better to try and change the project through ongoing dialogue with politicians.

And BrooklynSpeaks, mindful of the difficulty in talking with government entities while suing them, has avoided joining the lawsuit DDDB, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (which includes some BrooklynSpeaks members) and allies have filed to invalidate the project's environmental review.

The rally will include a range of AY opponents:

Still, the rally suggests something of a big tent. The venue, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, is provided thanks to the Rev. David Dyson, a member of the DDDB Advisory Board who has forcefully criticized Atlantic Yards, as in this April 2005 Brooklyn Rail interview.

Among the elected officials scheduled to speak are State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and City Council Member Letitia James, who have expressed much broader opposition to the project. (Others scheduled are Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies, State Senator Eric Adams, and Council Member David Yassky.) One of the musicians playing will be Pheeroan akLaff, another DDDB Advisory Board member.

Next, Oder goes into detail (a.k.a. "Mad Overkiller mode") to tell the tale of how Prospect Heights could lose the Ward Bakery to demolition only to acquire seven acres of parking lots. Jasper Goldman's (of the Municipal Art Society) quote states the issue simply and broadly:

"The developer calls the lots 'temporary,' because they ultimately plan to build the second phase of the project on top of them. But 'temporary' could become permanent. Even members of the developer’s own team believe that the second phase of the project won’t be built for 15 to 20 years — if it’s built at all."

AYR covers the different justifications for plopping all that parking on Prospect Heights, and sums up what this rally means:

So today's rally, expressing opposition to demolition of the bakery for parking and construction staging is, in essence, an argument for a major redesign and reduction of the project, if not an argument against the arena itself.

NLG: Whatever the justifications given for destroying historic buildings for parking lots that might never go away, community concerns have been routinely ignored by Bruce Ratner & company. All concerned New Yorkers should attend today's rally, whether your opposition to AY is mild or wild.

Article

Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

April 14, 2007

Brooklyn Speaks Rally Updates

Rally location changed because of expected bad weather:

Rally Location Changed to Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church April 15, 2007

Due to the likelihood of inclement weather this Sunday, the location of the rally has been moved to the the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church at 85 South Oxford Street. Click here for a map. The nearest subway station is the Lafayette Avenue station on the C line.

Rally speakers announced:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JEFFRIES, MONTGOMERY, ADAMS, JAMES, YASSKY TO SPEAK AT RALLY

This Sunday, Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Senator Eric Adams, Council Member Letitia James and Council Member David Yassky will address the Rally Against Demolition for Parking organized by the sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign.

The Rally is being held to call on the State and the City to rethink their plan to permit Forest City Ratner to demolish two entire city blocks, including the historic Ward Bakery, to create “temporary” parking lots for over 1600 cars. The surface parking lots will occupy approximately 7 acres of the Atlantic Yards site – an area twice the size of Union Square Park. The developer calls the lots “temporary” because they plan to build the second phase of the project on top of them. But members of Forest City Ratner’s own team, including landscape architect Laurie Olin, believe that the second phase might not be built for 15 or 20 years, if it is built at all.

“Once you demolish buildings, you can’t go back. We risk having surface parking and empty lots for over 20 years, just as we had around Atlantic Terminal in the 1980’s.” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Council.

“Brooklyn is getting the opposite of what was promised at Atlantic Yards. Seven acres of open space will in fact be seven acres of parking lots. And instead of a transit oriented development, we’re getting a traffic-oriented development.” said Gib Veconi, member of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

Joining the elected officials to perform will be the Lafayette Inspirational Gospel Choir, singers Dave Hall and Masauko Chipembere, and jazz musicians Pheeroan Ak Laff and Ned Rotherberg.

Articles

Posted by steve at 7:37 AM

The Parking Lot Known as Atlantic Yards

The New York Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

On Sunday, BrooklynSpeaks, the milder of two coalitions fighting Atlantic Yards, will rally to stop what it says will be a repeat of history: premature clearing of the area around Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. Above is the picture they are sending out on postcards showing the area just north of the site, which was flattened in the 1980's and stayed that way for several years.

Article

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Robert Moses, transportation, and the question of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder covers a forum about the Robert Moses legacy held last Wednesday at the Museum of the City of New York. A pamphlet provided to forum attendees by Theodore Kheel, President and CEO of Nurture New York’s Nature, describes a key element missing in Moses' planning: support for public transportation.

The moderator, Robert Yaro of the Regional Plan Association, and panelists "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign and Lee Sander, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, all have some connection to Atlantic Yards, and Oder wonders:

But what would Robert Moses think of the Atlantic Yards plan? Nobody got to ask that question., but it would've been interesting to hear the answer.

After all, Schwartz was hired by developer Forest City Ratner to develop the Atlantic Yards transportation plan, though his web site curiously does not mention Atlantic Yards in the list of projects.

Russianoff’s group has joined the lawsuit against the environmental impact statement, an implicit attack on Schwartz's transportation plan, and he has warned that the project’s density “would bring more havoc to drivers and transit riders.”

Yaro's RPA, for example, has offered conditional support for Atlantic Yards while warning that comprehensive changes, including congestion pricing, were necessary to make the transportation plan work.

Article

Posted by steve at 7:03 AM

April 13, 2007

Fifth Ave. Atlantic Yards "De-Mapping" is May 27, B63 Rerouted

The Gowanus Lounge

5thPacFlat-GL.jpg

Say goodbye to Fifth Avenue as it runs through the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint. The street is being "de-mapped" on May 27. This news was delivered at the Community Board 6 meeting in Park Slope on Wednesday night as part of an announcement that the B63 bus route is being changed. There was jeering at the meeting about the announcement, as New York City Transit had not consulted with anyone at the community level, other than to deliver a notice of the service revision.
...
Even with litigation to determine the outcome of Atlantic Yards still in the courts, changes associated with the project, from demolitions to "de-mapping" of streets are starting.

link

Posted by lumi at 11:28 AM

Battle over Fifth Ave housing

The Brooklyn Paper

Supporters of a plan to build low-income studio apartments in the South Slope fought back against Borough President Markowitz’s surprise rejection of the proposal, storming a hearing this week to urge the city to move forward with the plan.

Markowitz had rejected the Fifth Avenue Committee proposal for a 49-unit building to house mentally ill and formerly homeless adults, plus low-income seniors, on the grounds that families should also be part of the plan.

Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz agreed that there is a need for affordable housing for families in Park Slope, but told the City Planning Commission on Wednesday that “unfortunately, this is not the right site for that.”
...
De la Uz said her existing facility at 551 Warren St. in Boerum Hill is an example of what the South Slope can expect. That facility is now home to 94-year-old Dominick Diomede — the Carroll Gardens resident whose eviction became international news last year before he landed his Fifth Avenue Commitee apartment.

But there are countless of Dominick Diomedes losing their apartments every day thanks to gentrifrication and soaring real-estate prices, experts said.

article

NoLandGrab: South Slope residents could allay their concerns by checking out the Warren St. facility.

OK, but what does this have to do with Atlantic Yards?

In light of the Fifth Avenue Committee's (FAC) stellar track record of effectively serving the community, could Markowitz's inexplicable rejection of FAC's proposal have more to do with realiation against Michelle de la Uz's stance against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards and her public role in the Brooklyn Speaks coalition?

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Questions Ratner still hasn’t answered

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

20 QUESTIONS (this is the short list) posed by Brookliyn Papers that Bruce Ratner finds questionable:

20Questions.jpg 1. Explain how the Nets arena will be financed so there is no confusion.

  1. Explain why the 30-year public revenue projections for Atlantic Yards dropped from $1.5 billion to $943 million over the summer.

  2. Explain how a company plan to close part of Fourth Avenue and divert Flatbush Avenue–bound traffic onto Pacific Street will help solve gridlock.

  3. Disclose how many people are currently employed at Metrotech and the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls? [The figures were vital to a story about why Ratner’s jobs projections have historically fallen short.]

  4. Please give us the same company statement that FCR sent to Metro, a free daily, regarding stories about a possible delay in the Atlantic Yards construction timeline.

  5. Explain why FCR ranked third on the list of biggest state lobbyists last year.

  6. Explain how much money FCR has spent on local philanthropy in Brooklyn.

  7. Disclose how much money Ratner’s partners in the “Community Benefits Agreement” have received so far.

  8. Please comment on reports that FCR’s arena partner, Barclays Bank, profited from slavery, the Holocaust and apartheid.

  9. Explain how Bruce Ratner felt after being hugged by Courier-Life Publications reporter Steve Witt.

  10. Explain why virtually none of the investors in the Nets are based in Brooklyn.

  11. Comment on the negotiations that took place between the city and FCR regarding a possible downsizing of the project.

  12. Comment on a report that Atlantic Yards would be the densest Census tract in the country.

  13. Tell us how many gallons of sewage the project will send to the frequently over-capacity Red Hook treatment plant.

  14. Comment on the latest lawsuit filed against FCR [repeatedly asked].

  15. Explain the public subsidies that are underwriting the 2,250 units of below-markeet-rate rentals that are part of Atlantic Yards.

  16. Explain whether those units will be side-by-side with the market-rate units or in other buildings.

  17. Comment on a judge’s decision that a deal between FCR and developer Shaya Boymelgreen was “improper.”

  18. Comment on a court victory by a resident of the Atlantic Yards footprint who claims he was arrested at FCR’s behest.

  19. Explain why a full business plan was never provided to state authorities.

Posted by lumi at 10:11 AM

Demolitions in the shadow of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

An analysis of demolition permits filed and socio-economic conditions in Prospect Heights challeges Ratner's contention in "the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement that the Atlantic Yards site would likely remain unchanged without the new project."

MASdemorezoning.jpg

The pressure on development in Prospect Heights, cited yesterday in discussing the proposed Prospect Heights Historic District, is made clear in some new maps produced by the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which track demolition permits issued in 2006.

One map (excerpt at right) charts the permits against recent rezonings. The darker the shading, the more intense the number of demolition permits. Clearly, there are strong trends toward demolition and new construction in eastern Prospect Heights and western Crown Heights, notably around the Washington Avenue corridor just east of the Atlantic Yards site.

(The cluster of demolitions in the western segment of the Atlantic Yards site likely had much to do with demolitions conducted by Forest City Ratner. The Atlantic Yards site, in blue, is not a rezoning but a state development plan.)

article

Posted by lumi at 9:58 AM

Unbuilt arena already in the way

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

B63-color.gif

The city hasn’t yet demapped the northern-most block of Fifth Avenue to make room for Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena, but the Department of Transportation is already acting as if the street no longer exists, announcing on Wednesday that it will reroute a Park Slope bus line next month.

“The developer has received permission from the Department of Transportation [to demap a block of Fifth Avenue] by June 1, so we have to make the detour of the B63 bus before then,” said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York City Transit.

The detour of the line, which runs from the foot of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights along Fifth Avenue to Bay Ridge, will go into effect on May 27.

The bus will travel “to Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue via Flatbush Avenue, rather than Fifth Avenue,” according NYC Transit.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

B63 bus to be rerouted as Fifth Avenue segement closes in May

Atlantic Yards Report on the notice from NYC Transit that the B63 will be rerouted next month:

Given that several cases affecting and potentially blocking the project remain in court, and will not be resolved by the end of the May, I asked NYCT and DOT why the changes are being made in May rather than later. Also, I asked whether any consideration was made to the possibility that the project could be further delayed and/or blocked. (I didn't hear back yesterday.)

After all, Forest City Ratner can always sell the property it owns or build on sites where it has demolished buildings. But if Fifth Avenue is not closed because the developer does not build the project, well, maybe NYCT and DOT would want to restore the original route.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Ratner moves to protect wall of art

The Brooklyn Paper

Bruce Ratner will protect the legacy of Sol LeWitt, the world-famous conceptual artist who died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer at 78. LeWitt had a workshop in one of the Prospect Heights buildings that Ratner plans to raze for his Atlantic Yards mega-development.

Ratner plans to photograph — the only way to visually preserve LeWitt’s site-specific art — a painting done by the artist on an interior wall of 644 Pacific St., which is slated for demolition this spring.

“We are, of course, aware of the wall paintings,” said Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco. “And we have long planned to bring in an expert to … photograph them and donate the photographs to Mr. LeWitt’s collection.

While that may seem like insufficient for preserving an original LeWitt work, it is exactly what art experts recommend in cases involving his site-specific conceptual pieces.

article

NoLandGrab: If FCRC planned to photograph the wall painting all along, how come they waited until after Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn issued a statement before commenting?

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

One week later, pols bury Yards tunnel plan

The Brooklyn Papers

Though a couple of the proposals were non-starters, City Council Member David Yassky and State Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries grabbed some headlines with their Atlantic Yards traffic and transportation fantasy plan:

Two Brooklyn lawmakers have already abandoned their week-old proposal to dig a tunnel under the proposed Atlantic Yards project as a way of fixing the mega-development’s anticipated traffic — a portent of how difficult it will be to find a solution to the coming snarl at the intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth avenues.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Prospect Heights) had suggested digging a tunnel below Fifth or Sixth avenues that would run from Flatbush Avenue to north of Atlantic Avenue.

But a spokesman for Yassky (below) said this week that the councilman had already realized that the tunnel was “unrealistic.”

“It would be very costly,” admitted the spokesman Sam Rockwell.
...
But maybe the lawmakers were thinking too big.

“The point is that there are options that aren’t being discussed,” said Rockwell. “We are advocating for a real discussion that results in significant action.”

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NoLandGrab: It's nice that this dynamic duo is trying to think out of the box, but it's just a waste of time when they propose off-the-wall ideas that distract from "a real disussion." They can keep angling for some middle-of-the-road position, but their constitutents really need some leadership to help solve Brooklyn's traffic woes, with or without Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Clarke: Save Duffield Houses

The Brooklyn Papers

Here's the latest news on Brooklyn's other outrageous land grab:

Rep. Yvette Clarke has thrown her support behind the owners of several Downtown Brooklyn houses who claim their buildings were once part of the Underground Railroad.

Clarke (D–Park Slope) sent a letter to her former colleagues on the City Council to demand the preservation of the “historic” houses on Duffield Street.

“Preserving the homes … is simply the right thing to do,” Clarke added.
...
This is the second time since her promotion to Congress that Clarke has made news tackling the legacy of slavery. In February, Clarke — a supporter of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — threatened to call Congressional hearings to investigate Ratner’s naming-rights deal with the British Barclays Bank, which has repeatedly been linked to the slave trade.

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Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

City’s Parking Expansion Sustains Nothing but Motoring

StreetsBlog

As Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is poised to knock down historic buildings to clear way for enormous surface-parking lots, StreetsBlog posts "three examples of how City Hall contradicts its stated Long-Term Planning and Sustainability goals with policies that foster more automobile dependence," from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign's newsletter: * Yankees Stadium parking garages (they're building those on park land), * triple-tax-exempt bonds for parking garage construction, and, * bringing up the rear, Bruce Ratner's Parking-Plaza-pa-looza.

Developer Forest City Ratner is about to knock down historic buildings near downtown Brooklyn to construct the borough's biggest surface parking lot. On Sunday, April 15, Brooklyn Speaks, a coalition favoring a better Atlantic Yards plan, will hold a rally against the demolition and parking lot. "Providing 1,400 surface parking spaces next to the third largest transit hub in the city is not only unnecessary, it is contradictory to the whole rationale for the project's location," the Tri-State Campaign said in the event's announcement.

Click here for details and to check out the comments, which includes a shout-out to the Duffield St. fight, in which the City is trying to knock down historic buildings with ties to the Underground Railroad for a parking garage.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

Another lawsuit for Atlantic Yards project

The Amsterdam News
by Leslie Ann Murray

A determined collation of Brooklyn-based community groups filed a lawsuit to annul the environmental review and approval of Atlantic Yards.
...
Besides the environmental concerns with regarding the Atlantic Yards project, the groups’ main chagrin was that the Brooklyn community was marginalized from participating in critical dialogues concerning the project.

“Another delay in the Atlantic Yards project means delaying economic opportunity for many in the Brooklyn community,” Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Community Benefits Agreement Executive Committee, stated. She added, “Those opposing the project can afford delays, but what of the over 2,000 who are clamoring for jobs?”

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesperson for the community group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn explained, “This lawsuit is trying to ensure that an accurate environmental review has been done, and it’s not a delay to anything.”

Forest City Ratner Companies stated that it has “participated in an exhaustive public review process” and complied “with rigorous state and city requirements, resulting in what we believe is a better project.”

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NoLandGrab: It's curious that Hunley-Adossa has chosen to pick a bone with this lawsuit, since she's supposed to oversee environmental compliance under the Community Benefits Agreement. In other words, Hunley-Addosa is supposed to have the neighborhood's back when it comes to bad things that may happen in the neighborhood as a result of construction — like the time Ratner workers turned off the neighborhood's water.

Also, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has pointed out on his blog and in an article in the Brooklyn Downtown Star that critics of construction delays remained mute when landscape designer Laurie Olin and Forest City exec Charles Ratner both intimated that Atlantic Yards would take decades to build.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

Colossal Plans for Hudson Yards

City Soon To Request Proposals

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The city is about to unveil its preliminary proposal for the 26-acre Hudson Yards site over the MTA's rail yards, a colossal development that is said to include about 13 million square feet of an undetermined mix of residential and office space.

The project, which could be handed over to a single developer, would be substantially larger than either the World Trade Center redevelopment or the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Nearly two years after the city lost its bid to build a stadium on the West Side site, the Bloomberg administration and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the rail yards site, will come forward with design guidelines at the end of the month, a city official said. It plans to issue a request for proposals in May.

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NoLandGrab: Request for proposals? Shouldn't the State or City have done the same for the Vanderbilt Yards? Well they didn't, which created more fodder for a couple of the lawsuits challenging Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Norman Oder from Atlantic Yards Report commented:

Note the contrasts between the 26-acre Hudson Yards site and the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site: * the design guidelines come first, rather than after the environmental review begins (note how Jerry Armer of Community Board 6 last year called the process "backwards") * an RFP is issued before the city and state announce support of a specific developer.

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

April 12, 2007

B63 rerouted for demapping of 5th Avenue

The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) has yet to come up with a comprehensive traffic management plan for Central Brooklyn, but no worries, they're on the ball when it comes to getting stuff done in advance of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

This, from a letter from the MTA regarding the impending demapping of 5th Avenue and changes in the B63 bus route:

This is to inform you of NYC Transit's service revision to the northbound B63 bus route in Downtown Brooklyn.... This reroute will take effect upon the closure and de-mapping of 5th Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue in the near future.

As you are aware, a short segment of 5th Avenue, from Flatbush Avenue to Atlantic Avenue, will be de-mapped as a result of the construction of Atlantic Yards Arena.
...
The date of implementation of this reroute is expected to be May 27, 2007.

Craig Hammerman, District Manager for CB6, added in an email distributing the MTA notice:

Had there been an opportunity to discuss this with either agency, I'm confident that someone would have pointed out that by eliminating the only B63 bus stop on the eastside of Flatbush Avenue they would now require all northbound B63 riders to have to cross Flatbush Avenue to get to the Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal, future Atlantic Yards, and any other destinations on the eastside of Flatbush Avenue.)

Download the full MTA letter and map (PDF) from the CB6 website.

Q: Why the hurry to de-map streets?

Also, are we supposed to believe that DOT is poised to de-map streets, but have not commenced with other planning for Atlantic Yards, such as converting 6th & 7th Avenues to one-way thoroughfares?

Posted by lumi at 4:56 PM

Community Board Six Rejects Sixth & Seventh Ave. One-Way Proposal, Punts on 9th Street Bike Lanes

Gowanus Lounge

During a nearly 3 1/2 hour meeting last night in Park Slope, Community Board Six disposed of the one-way proposal for Sixth and Seventh Avenues that had sparked an outpouring of neighborhood opposition.

Small groups of protesters were in the audience, and an unusually large number of police were also in attendance.

The Board handled the one-way issue--which had resulted in a crowd of more than 500 people showing up for a March 15 Transportation Committee meeting--first. It unanimously passed a motion requesting the Department of Transportation "continue working in a meaningful way" with the Community Board on transportation issues such as reducing the speed of cars on Eighth Avenue and on Prospect Park West (which are one-way streets). Then, it unanimously passed a motion requesting that DOT not go forward with the Sixth and Seventh Avenue plans "period." (There had been questions about earlier language being too vague.) The Board passed a third motion asking DOT to table plans to add turning bays to Fourth Avenue until further discussions with the community take place.

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NoLandGrab: For those of you who are following the Ninth St. bike lane issue, you'll be interested to know that there were more cops than cyclists at the CB6 meeting, kind of like the Critical Mass Ride (Brooklyn Edition).

Also, the fabled tablecloth cum sign-in sheet from the March 15 meeting at which the DOT presented plans to convert 6th & 7th Avenues to one-way streets, was unfolded so all the Board Members could have a look at the spontaneous expression of public participation. About 160 names with addresses were retrieved from the tablecloth — these people will receive an update from CB6 on the DOT one-way plan.

Posted by lumi at 4:31 PM

TONIGHT: SCREENING "BROOKLYN MATTERS"

Sponsored by Brooklyn Free School

BrooklynMattersPost.jpg

SPECIAL SCREENING OF BROOKLYN MATTERS: On April 12th at 7:30 P.M. there will be a special screening of the film 'Brooklyn Matters' at the Brooklyn Free School. “A powerful documentary by a well-respected filmmaker, Brooklyn Matters is a must see for all New Yorkers who care about the future of their neighborhoods and the role that public policy and process plays in determining that future.” -Marilyn Gelber, Former Commissioner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Producer/Director- Isabel Hill will be on hand for a question and answer period following the screening. BFS is located at 120 16th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues in the Free Methodist Church. The Prospect Avenue stop on the 'R' subway is around the corner. Please let us know if you're planning to attend.

First Free Methodist Church
120 16th Street, Bklyn
7:30PM
RSVP: contact@brooklynfreeschool.org

Directions to Screening Venue

Posted by lumi at 3:36 PM

April 15: Rally Against Ratner, Where Is The Litigation Support?

OnNYTurf provides a link to the rally from its highly excellent ONYT subway map and then explains that, even though DDDB is supporting the rally, Brooklyn Speaks, "the quasi anti-Atlantic Yards project led by Municipal Art Society," isn't scratching Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) back.

Brooklyn Speaks has remained mute on supporting the lawsuits lead by DDDB. The question becomes are letter writing campaigns and rallies against parking effective when your organization seems unprepared to play hardball - both politically and financially.

Brooklyn Speaks remains silent on the use of eminent domain in this case because several of its members and most notably Municipal Art Society feels it can't comment on eminent domain use in the Atlantic Yards case because sometimes ED use is justified. This was the rationale told to me several months ago by Jasper Goldman a MAS representative. The logic of this makes no sense, that MAS can not comment on a particular use of Eminent Domain just because some other cases are good. This would be the whole point in commenting.

Instead Brooklyn Speaks flounders around continuing their letter writing campaigns to Spitzer and Bloomberg and hold silly rallies like this to protest surface parking.
...
If you want real public pressure you need a united public front, and if you want real financial pressure on the developer you need a full court press in the courts. Rallies are nice but do not present the same teeth that lawsuits do.

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Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

The Prospect Heights Historic District and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The "blighted" Atlantic Yards site not only contains some historic buildings, parts are immediately adjacent to the proposed Prospect Heights Historic District. And the expected development, and its spinoffs, are causing preservationists to pressure the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate Prospects Heights as a historic district.

A Prospect Heights Historic District (blue outline in map below) is already listed on the State and National Registers, but S/NR listing, as its known, does not protect the integrity of buildings the way an LPC designation would. Hence the new effort, led by the Municipal Art Society (MAS), the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, and others.

The map prepared by MAS suggests a much larger outline, in red. Note that the northern finger of the existing and proposed historic district, on the west side of Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets, would be directly opposite the Atlantic Yards project at its north and east edges.

On the south side of Dean Street, six buildings east of Sixth Avenue, would be the (S/NR-eligible) Swedish Baptist Church/Dean Street Historic District, consisting of townhouses and churches; its western border would be immediately adjacent to Atlantic Yards.

Given the value of historic buildings, and the growth in Brooklyn, it raises a question about whether the proposed site would remain substantially unchanged without the Atlantic Yards plan. The ESDC said it would, despite much skepticism from community groups.

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Posted by lumi at 10:15 AM

A Walk Around the Atlantic Yards "Footprint"

Gowanus Lounge "took a photo walk around the part of Prospect Heights that would be mostly demolished to make room for the Atlantic Yards development."

The slideshow can also be viewed at the Lounge's flickr photoset.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

My View: Pave paradise, put up a parking lot

MetroNY

Jasper Goldman from the Municipal Art Society explains the problem with Bruce Ratner's plan to level blocks-o-buildings to put up a parking lot and wonders how in the hell this fits in with Mayor Bloomberg's plans for a sustainable city and environmental innitiatives:

For those who haven’t been following this, Forest City Ratner wants to demolish two city blocks (including historic buildings) to create more than 7 acres of surface parking lots for construction workers and, ultimately, arena patrons. (That’s about twice the size of Union Square Park.) The developer calls the lots “temporary,” because they ultimately plan to build the second phase of the project on top of them. But “temporary” could become permanent. Even members of the developer’s own team believe that the second phase of the project won’t be built for 15 to 20 years — if it’s built at all. Historically, they’re right. In Long Island City, Queens West is still being built nearly 30 years after construction started. In Downtown Brooklyn, MetroTech took three times longer to build than planned. You get the idea.

The reality is that the city and state are letting Forest City Ratner demolish blocks for parking lots that will be with us for a generation or longer.

Parking lots aren’t just a huge blight on the surrounding neighborhoods. They are also an invitation to drive — leading to worse traffic, air quality and quality of life for Brooklynites, to say nothing of carbon emissions and the impact on climate change. Building parking lots in dense urban areas flies in the face of sustainability.

And the justifications for the parking lots don’t make any sense either. Do we really need to drive to a project site next to the third largest transit hub in the city? Why has no similar large-scale project in the city — including the former World Trade Center site — ever required the demolition of two city blocks for parking?

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Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Opposing Atlantic Yards (1 Letter)

The NY Times

"Uh, not exactly," says Daniel Goldstein, as he explains to the Times that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn objects to a bit more than just the size of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards. [Alas, if it were only the size, you wouldn't be reading this freakin' blog!]

Our organization does not merely oppose the scale of the plan, we oppose Forest City Ratner’s project itself on many principled grounds. The project bypassed democratic and accountable oversight procedures and eschews urban planning principles. It would receive a still unknown but huge amount of taxpayer subsidies and terribly strain infrastructure because of its over-the-top density.

Furthermore, Atlantic Yards exemplifies an abuse of eminent domain currently being reviewed in federal court.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

Samedi: Les Sans Coulottes à Southpaw

Est-ce que c'est un ground breaking pour Atlantique Yards?

Au contraire mon frére, c'est une fête de "CD & magazine launch" à Southpaw! N'oubliez pas — part of the proceeds to benefit "Développez Ne Détruisez Pas Brooklyn."

LesSansCoulottes.jpg

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Fighting Atlantic Yards on a Second Front

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

This article covers the substance and implications of the environmental lawsuit filed last week in State court: Barkey-BDS.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), with allies, is now fighting the Atlantic Yards project on a second front, in state court. As DDDB waits to see whether a federal judge will agree to let a suit challenging eminent domain to proceed, last week, 26 co-petitioners-some broad-based organizations, some block associations-filed suit in State Supreme Court to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the approval of the 22-acre project, which would include a basketball arena and 16 towers in Prospect Heights.

Candace Carponter, co-chair of petitioner Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and legal chair of fellow petitioner DDDB, suggested that this case was different from other challenges to environmental impact statements, which generally fail.

"This isn't a sole-issue challenge," she said at a press conference held at the Brooklyn Bear's Garden at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. "We're saying they forgot to take a hard look at 13 issues." Among them: a failure to examine terrorist impacts and a finding of blight "in one of the hottest real estate markets in New York City."

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Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Rally Against Demolition for Parking

Listing from the Village Voice:

We know that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has been widely criticized, but did you know that part of his “urban renewal” plan include demolishing two city blocks—with historic buildings on them—just to make room for parking? If this pisses you off, join the Rally Against Demolition for Parking today [April 15] and let Mike Bloomberg and Eliot Spitzer know that this is unacceptable. Lending their support and voices will be the Lafayette Inspirational choir, singer Dave Hall, and a number of guest speakers. (Switzer)

At 2, Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, Brooklyn, Multiple Venues call for schedule & venue information, $free

link

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Rally Planned to Oppose Atlantic Yards Demolition

Brooklyn Downtown Star

The controversial Atlantic Yards Project will be the subject of a protest rally on Sunday, as community members work to prevent the demolition of two city blocks to make room for temporary parking lots.

"Rally Against Demolition for Parking" was spearheaded by BrooklynSpeaks.net, a website that organizes and encourages community members to petition their elected officials regarding more public involvement in the development of the Atlantic Yards. Gib Veconi, a member of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, claims that the demolition is typical of Forest City Ratner's reneging of promises, refusal to open the plans to public discussion, and lack of consideration for the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Holding Your Hood Hostage At Blight Point

OnNYTurf

Developer blight* isn't only for large-scale redevelopment plans. In a new twist, developers are proudly blighting their own properties:

Prospect Heights ain't the only place where developers create blight to try to get their way with citizens and government.

Thor Equities, like Ranter, is brandishing the blight weapon in Coney Island in hopes of getting the city to change brand new zoning where his property is so he can put in luxury towers. Neil deMause has penned a must read at the Village Voice about how Thor is taking Coney Island hostage.
...
And hey Williamsburg, how is that lot owned by Quadriad looking at Bedford and North 4th, thats been empty for about a year now eh?

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* From a 2006 Government Accounting Office Report:

Property rights groups also expressed concerns that blight may be exacerbated by the redevelopment activity and has been termed "developer blight"--that is, the physical decline of a parcel or area, such as a city block, once a redevelopment project has been announced.

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

GIMME SHELTER

The city continues to kick its citizens to the curb, but Mary Mattingly has created her own wearable solution.

NY Press
By Jackie Delmatre

A local artist blames Bruce Ratner for secondary displacement, though she entertains a perverse interest in seeing the project get built:

Ever since the Forest City Ratner deal went through to build the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, Mary Mattingly’s apartment hallway on Eastern Parkway has been the width of a backyard creek. At least 40 boxes are piled up and crammed together with artwork salvaged from the art studio that she had to abandon to the ripple effects of the 8 million square feet, $4 billion real estate development.
...

The building that housed her studio was actually purchased by the Department of Education on November 1, 2006, “at the very last minute,” she claims, because the DOE sought a space with proximity to the Ratner development.
...
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” she says, referring to Ratner, when I visit her in her cramped living space to discuss her latest work, “Going to town meetings won’t do anything.”
...
However, in a subsequent conversation, Mattingly corrects her own pessimism. It’s not that nothing can be done, she admits; it’s just so frustrating and “it doesn’t feel like there is much time to be frustrated when there are so many worse things going on in the world.” And besides, she’s become perversely interested in seeing the result. The development’s “going to be gross, but there’s something appealing about that grossness.”

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Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

April 11, 2007

Brooklyn Heights and the beginning of historic preservation

Atlantic Yards Report

BHHD.jpgNorman Oder visits an exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society and reflects on the history and role of the preservation movement in NYC and how it hangs in the balance with the forces of "progress."

A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Landmark and Legacy: Brooklyn Heights and the Preservation Movement in America, traces the important story of the first historic district: Brooklyn Heights. (Charleston, SC, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Santa Fe, Boston, and others had previously established such districts, requiring landowners to maintain the external appearance of their buildings. Later, federal and state tax credits were established to ease the potential burden on owners.)

As co-curator Francis Morrone writes in the exhibit text:

...
The Brooklyn Heights Historic District changed New York forever. To say that is not an exaggeration. During decades in which the press said there was an "urban crisis," when ideas like "planned shrinkage" were discussed in high places, when pundits said the American city was an anachronism, when crime and housing abandonment dominated people's perceptions of New York, the preservation movement gave New Yorkers a new sense of their city's virtues -- something in which to take pride, and with which to make us fall in love with the city all over again.

That's meaningful, because, as I've noted, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards downplays the role of historic preservation in the Brooklyn neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site, even though a 1974 city study acknowledged “reviving brownstone residential neighborhoods” nearby a possible arena site at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. (Morrone has joined the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board.)

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Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

Atlantic Yards Deathtrap!

When the joke is on Brooklyn, what's left to do but celebrate the ATLANTIC YARDS DEATHTRAP:

"With a building this UGLY and DEADLY, NO TERRORIST will be able to MISS BROOKLYN when PLANNING the ULTIMATE TERROR ATTACK!!"

The ATLANTIC YARDS DEATHTRAP comes complete with MILLIONS OF GLASS SHARDS!!!

Just ADD PUBLIC MONEY & WATCH IT GROW!!!!! [Assembly required.]

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Ian Schrager: Viewing Studio 54 From Age 60

The man who forever placed ‘boutique’ before ‘hotel’ talks about his High Line plans, Brooklyn dreams, and why he wouldn’t mind selling One Madison’s clock tower

The NY Observer
By Max Abelson

It's hard to imagine two developers whose personal styles are more unalike than Ian Schrager and Bruce Ratner, which is why we nearly fell off the chair when Schrager mentioned "you know who."

What Brooklyn neighborhood excites you most as a potential place to work?

Williamsburg, I suppose, or even downtown Brooklyn, where Bruce Ratner is doing a lot of work; around B.A.M. [the Brooklyn Academy of Music]—I have been asked to do a couple projects over there. I am thinking about it, but there is only so much you can do …. I haven’t been entertaining offers about doing anything in New Jersey yet, but I might if the right project came along.

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NoLandGrab: Phew, we felt better after Schrager clarified "Downtown Brooklyn" to mean "around B.A.M.," because only Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey seems to think that Brooklyn's hipness translates to Downtown Brooklyn, which is dominated by Bruce Ratner's hulking souless MetroTech office campus.

Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

College trustees call for inquiry

San Francisco Chronicle

A former project manager for Forest City is in some hot water for diverting rent payments to political activities:

As The Chronicle reported, James Blomquist, an associate vice chancellor, told the proprietor of the motorcycle school to pay the money not to the college but to the political committee, which was promoting a bond measure on the November 2005 city ballot. The payment was made three days before the election. Voters approved the measure.

Blomquist, who supervises construction projects, told The Chronicle that he believed he was acting properly when he told the motorcycle school to write the check to the political committee.

The story reported that in a second case, a $20,000 lease payment from a company that had just won a contract to operate a coffee shop at the college's downtown campus also was diverted to the political committee. Four months later, in August 2005, the donation was refunded, and the college was paid the $20,000, Day said.

Legal experts said the state penal code and education code bar using public funds for electioneering, while the state Political Reform Act requires political committees to truthfully report the source of funds. Federal law also forbids misuse of public funds.

One college Trustee chalked it up to political inexperience:

Trustee Rodel Rodis blamed Blomquist's political inexperience for the donation snafu, saying the official didn't realize he was doing something improper.

Blomquist is a former project manager for Forest City Enterprises, the Cleveland-based firm that built the new Bloomingdale's retail complex on Market Street. Forest City's board co-chairman, Albert Ratner, is the brother-in-law of City College trustee Natalie Berg, former chair of the Democratic Central Committee.

"Jim is not experienced in these matters, but he has been a tremendous asset to us at a time when we have all this construction going on," Rodis said. "He didn't know. It's not an excuse, it's an explanation."

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NoLandGrab: But when you're a former employee of Forest City, is there such thing as "political inexperience?" Forest City is like a madrassa for political influence executive training.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Photograph, Then Destroy

Daily Intelligencer

We're not sure if NY Mag's Daily Intelligencer has a point, or they're just being snarky. When DDDB released a statement calling upon Forest City Ratner to hold off demolition of one building until wall paintings by the recently deceased Sol LeWitt could be photographed before they disappear into rubble, Intelligencer replied:

Photographed?! That's it? Either they're crappy Lewitts, or Daniel Goldstein is going soft.

link

NoLandGrab: If Dan Goldstein had "gone tough" then Intelligencer, or someone else, would probably have something to say about exploiting someone's death in hopes of stopping a project. Sometimes Dan Goldstein can't win, but that doesn't seem to stop him from trying.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

April 10, 2007

On Sol LeWitt

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

lewitt.jpg

   WALL DRAWING #652 photo by Richard Cheek (note, this is not the work discussed below).

Artist Sol LeWitt, a giant in the conceptual and minimal art movements and one of the great innovators in the past 40 years, died on Sunday at the age of 78. Lewitt was famous, amongst other works, for his wall paintings. We offer our condolences to his family, loved ones, and colleagues.

644 Pacific Street is in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's proposed "Atlantic Yards" project, specifically in the footprint of the arena itself. In that building, once occupied by one of Mr. LeWitt's studio assistants, are at least two wall paintings by the artist. The building is in the list of the first round of demolitions the developer intends to begin in the coming weeks.

These wall paintings should be photographed for historical documentation and the Sol Lewitt catalogue.

We call on Forest City Ratner to ensure that this happens and provide the photographs to the LeWitt collection.

link

Additional coverage:
Sol LeWitt, Master of Conceptualism, Dies at 78
NY Times Obit, by Michael Kimmelman

Posted by lumi at 11:01 AM

NLG Extra: Duffield St., "Buildings Communicating"

DUFFIELD ST. HEARING RESCHEDULED, AGAIN
The City Council hearing on the fate of the Duffield St. houses, threatened by eminent domain to make way for a parking garage, has been rescheduled, yet again, for Tuesday, May 1, though we hear that the hearing may be moved up to Tuesday, April 17.

From "Yero" at Daily Gotham:

In their messy attempt to help squelch any further exploration of this history, the City Council has in the space of about three weeks rescheduled the public hearing on this three times. The EDC, with AKRF (a private entity dedicated to destroying communities in the way of big development plans), spent two years studying the historical record. The 500+ page report was released 3/13/07 and the first public hearing was scheduled 3/20, giving the public no time to review the report. After some pressure from [City Council Member Letitia] James and others, they rescheduled the meeting to 4/11. On April 5 at about 5:00 pm, Council Member Katz's office let word out that the meeting will be delayed until May 1. Or maybe not.

DUFFIELD ST. BACK STORY
If you've been following the coverage of the Duffield St. land grab, you'll remember that the property owners believe that their buildings were once safe houses, which were part of the Underground Railroad network that delivered slaves to free states or Canada. You'll also recall that the company that performed the study of the veracity of these claims was forced to redo its work after it was revealed that the study contained serious errors.

That same company, AKRF (yup, the folks who issued the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement), is on the ropes again for the second study, which continues to downplay compelling evidence of connections to the abolitionist movement.

"BUILDINGS COMMUNICATING"
For example, though the AKRF study published this map, it failed to provide the "key," which indicates that the dashed line represented "buildings communicating." The significance is explained in Appendix II of Volume X, No.1 of the journal Village Views, published by the Society for the Architecture of the City:

The plate showing Duffield Street connects the rowhouses in the terrace running from 129 to 143 Duffield with dashes across the front areaway vaults. 141 Duffield St. was the original numbering of the Truesdell House, now known as 227. This is exactly as described by residents in oral histories: they said years ago the basements were connected through vaults at the front under the sidewalk, connections now vestigial, due to demolitions and alterations.

We've annotated details from the map and key: the yellow area highlights the dashed lines and 141 Duffield St. (now 227 Duffield) is circled in red.

Above: detail from Plate 28 of Brooklyn Perris Map.

Right: detail from key to Brooklyn Perris Index Map Volume 1.

Look out for discussion on these items and more during the City Council hearing, as the homeowners fight to save their homes and preserve vital African-American historial artifacts.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Another look at the eminent domain hearing: signs point both ways

Another must-read from Atlantic Yards Report.

Leaving readers wondering if Norman Oder has ever clerked for a judge, the intrepid reporter scours the transcript and notes of courtroom observers to take readers through the substance of the oral arguments from the March 30, 2007 hearing on the federal eminent domain case. As is his habit, "The Mad Overkiller" Oder also irons out some of the facts that were fast and loose in the courtroom. Here's the lead:

Could the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case survive in federal court rather than be shunted to state court, where it would stand little chance? Well, a reading of the transcript of the three-hour hearing held 3/30/07 before U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn suggests it might--and might not.

Just cruise on over to Atlantic Yard Report (link) and start reading.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Twice the Kidd: Joumana Kidd's worst nightmare?

No, Bruce Ratner hasn't stooped to cloning Jason Kidd... yet.

The practically irresistible season-ticket two-fer is a desperate attempt to fill seats for next season, especially in the sections that have been looking a little thin during televised broadcasts of home games.

Despite the Nets' efforts to boost sales — hosting "tupperware parties" to get up close and personal with prospective season ticket holders, hiring Petra Pope as Chief Eye-Candy Officer and holding a contest for a new Nets theme song (does anyone remember the old theme song?) — ticket sales have stagnated as thousands of seats remain empty.

This is the reason that Bruce Ratner is seeking to move the team to Brooklyn by any means necessary (preferably not his own means).

Posted by lumi at 7:58 AM

April 9, 2007

Atlantic Yards Hit with Seventh Lawsuit

Opponents Ask Court To Make Project Start Review, Approval Process Over

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

A follow-up article goes into more detail on the environmental lawsuit filed last week:

Daniel Goldstein, a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits challenging the project’s use of eminent domain, said preparations “to challenge what we knew would be a flawed FEIS” have been three years in the making, “because we knew it would be predetermined who the developer of the project would be.” Goldstein is also the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the group leading opposition to the project that is named in this lawsuit and two others.

Central to arguments against the project is the fact that no other developers were seriously considered for redevelopment of the Vanderbilt Yards, situated at the intersection of Atlantic and Fourth avenues, and essential to the 22-acre project.

“For nearly four years, we participated in an exhaustive public review process, involving hundreds of meetings with local leaders and officials, including numerous public hearings, as well as countless meetings with community representatives,” said Bender. “We have also complied with rigorous state and city requirements, resulting in what we believe is a better project.”
...
The lawsuit also seeks a declaration that a privately-leased and operated sports arena does not meet the definition of a “civic project” under the Urban Development Corporation Act, which was established in the 1960s to fast-track urban renewal.

Opponents of the project said the Barclays Center — named after Barclays Bank purchased the naming rights for the Nets arena and immediately surrounding high-rises — is not a civic project because community groups would only have use of the arena for 10 events a year, at a prohibitively high price.

Community groups would be charged $100,000 to hold events like high school graduations at the Barclays Center, according to a state-mandated financial analysis of the project. Other nights would be used for Nets basketball games and concerts.

The lawsuit contends that “the home of a professional sports team and commercial venue [is] by no stretch of the imagination a ‘facility for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other municipal purposes.’”

“Another delay in the Atlantic Yards project means delaying economic opportunity for many in the Brooklyn community,” said Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the committee overseeing the project’s Community Benefits Agreement.

The article also runs down the six other lawsuits spawned by the Atlantic Yards project.

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NOTICE ON FAIR USE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.

Posted by lumi at 1:01 PM

Lexicon: "Pulling" vs. "Doing" a Ratner

"Pulling a Ratner" appeared in the headline of a column in this weekend's Brooklyn Paper by Matt Lysiak about a local battle over the fate of the building owned by Bay Ridge United Methodist Church.

ARatner.gifLysiak's obsession with Ratner is nothing compared to the hard-core addiction of the bevy of Atlantic Yards bloggers (ahem), but he goes for it again in an article about smuggling raw milk across state lines:

Turns out the process of smuggling contraband milk into Brooklyn is more complicated than the spider-web of tax-dollar subsidies channeled to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

This weekend we stumbled across another reference to "Mr. Ratner" in a story about eminent domain in The NY Times:

And like Mr. Ratner, the library’s representatives have raised the possibility of using eminent domain...

We've noticed that while the Atlantic Yards controversy keeps simmering, the name Ratner is becoming synonymous with: * eminent domain abuse, * greedy overdevelopers, * public-private partnerships gone wild, * co-opting of "community" "benefits" agreements, * heavy-handed abuse of state power, and * sixties-style super-duper-block city "planning."

Before the emerging lexicon of "Ratner" gets out of hand, we must emphasize that "pulling a Ratner" should not be confused with "doing a Ratner."

According to Wikipedia:

Doing a Ratner is a British business phrase referring to a chief executive or a senior person of a company who criticises the company's products or disparages the customers, frequently with disastrous results for both the person and the company.

An example of "doing a Ratner" is Chuck Ratner's startling admission last month:

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.

Chuck Ratner's "Ratner" resulted in a press release strenuously disavowing everything Chuck said that might explain why everyone is saying that Atlantic Yards will take decades to build, that is, everyone except for Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Old wine, new bottle? Yassky resurrects traffic plan ESDC already considered, mostly

Atlantic Yards Report takes a hard look at the latest proposal being shopped around by NYC Councilmember David Yassky and NYS Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries:

City Council Member David Yassky (right) and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries got some ink in the Daily News Wednesday by proposing “a plan to reduce and counter the massive impact on traffic congestion that will be caused by the Atlantic Yards project.” Their letter went to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Downstate Chairman Patrick Foye.

While the duo's proposal includes some worthy ideas, based on conversations with experts and advocates, it lacks a crucial disclaimer. Yassky already made most of these suggestions to the ESDC last August in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Nearly half of the suggestions were rejected in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Nearly half regard policies that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) has proposed and the ESDC had endorsed.

(Indeed, in a Courier-Life article this week, FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt commented, "While we are confused as to why they are seeking to package already existing approaches to what is agreeably a very complicated issue, we are pleased that the agree with so much of what we have proposed and look forward to working with them." The Courier-Life article didn't point out that other proposals had already been rejected.)

In other words, there’s not much new. The Daily News, in an article Wednesday headlined Pols press Nets traffic fix, inaccurately called it “the first comprehensive plan to tackle an expected traffic glut near the proposed Nets arena.”

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Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

The Atlantic Yards - Part One

Nathan Kensinger Photography:
The Industrial Edges of New York City

These photographs are from inside the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. This train yard, its tunnels and large parts of the surrounding neighborhood may soon be covered by a massive new development.

Anonymous commentator, who is clearly addicted to Atlantic Yards Report, posted a correction to Kensinger's blog:

These are the Vanderbilt rail yards you've photographed. "Atlantic Yards" is the name brand of a Forest City Ratner's development plan.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

The one-way streets debate resumes Wednesday

Atlantic Yards Report

The full Community Board 6 on Wednesday will get a chance to affirm--or go beyond--the Transportation Committee's request that the Department of Transportation (DOT) not proceed "at this time" to convert Sixth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope to one-way traffic.

Meanwhile, Aaron Naparstek, a member of the committee and the editor of Streetsblog, has found significant evidence to counter the contention by the DOT's Michael Primeggia that one-way streets are, in fact, safer.

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Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

Brooklynhampton

Montauk begins to shake off its outer-borough status

NY Magazine
By Julia Chaplin

Being located on the outskirts, keeping it real and a real estate boom aren 't the only things Brooklyn and Montauk have in common:

Like Brooklyn, Montauk has long been defined by an anti-scene. On the surface, it’s a blue-collar holdout, with an abundance of inexpensive roadside motels, dive bars with sharks’ jaws on the walls, and an annual hot-dog-eating contest. Nightlife revolves around the boozy Friday-night karaoke competition at Liar’s Saloon, where the local fishermen always win.

Recently, perhaps inevitably, the town’s low-key charm has been attracting well-heeled folks who could afford to live pretty much anywhere and previously tended toward the Hamptons. In January, J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler paid a record $27 million for Andy Warhol’s old Moorlands estate, which had sat on the market for years. Now for sale nearby is an oceanfront five-bedroom—asking price, $24.95 million—not far from the cliffside spreads occupied by the likes of Nets owner Bruce Ratner and Montauk pioneer Paul Simon.

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NoLandGrab: The only difference is that Ratner doesn't live in Brooklyn, he just prefers to own large portions of it.

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

NY state housing chief rejects new Starrett City bid

AP, via amNY

Bertha Lewis makes the case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" plan in this quote about the proposal to sell Starrett City:

The rejection of the latest "irresponsible proposal" sends "a clear message that developers intent on exploiting government subsidies for windfall profits need not apply," said Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

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Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

City: Take mass transit to Shea

amNY
By Chuck Bennet

Mass transit is the safest play to get to the Mets home opener today at Shea Stadium.

The MTA will run extra trains along the No. 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road to help fans cope with the loss of more than 2,000 parking spots this year due to construction of the new Citi Field ball park.
...
The MTA and the Mets teamed together for a series of other promos to get folks off out of their cars and onto the rails.

Throughout the season the "Train to the Game" promotion will also let fans get $10 off select Mets tickets by using the codes "MetroCard," "LIRR" or "Metro-North." Last year, according to New York City Transit statistics, about 6,700 riders took the No. 7 train to Mets games up from 5,400 a game in 2005.

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NoLandGrab: The idea of adding extra trains to alleviate congestion was proposed for a new Nets arena and dismissed by the MTA as unfeasible.

Atlantic & Flatbush is a hub connecting several lines. In contrast Willets Point is on one line near the terminus, where extra trains are easily queued up in the nearby railyard to alleviate game-day congestion.

MTA incentives promoted by Nets owner Bruce Ratner have already been implemented by the Mets and ought to be par for the course for the remainder of the area's teams.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

April 8, 2007

More before-n-after renderings...

...brought to you by Jonathan Barkey, the magic of Google Earth and the letters F, C & R:

Click here to check out Barkey's photoblog and viewers' commentary.

Also, check out the latest "map-making" tools at Google "My Maps". Now Google-Map hacks are "so easy a caveman could do it."

Posted by lumi at 10:50 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere42.jpgThe Written Nerd, Comment: Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Here's the (quite literate) Easter sermon from my church, Old First in Brooklyn. (Check out what our Rev has to say on the Atlantic Yards; it's as close as he gets to fire and brimstone.)

Gowanus Lounge, Rally Against Atlantic Yards Demolition of Prospect Heights for Parking

There will be a rally next Sunday, April 15, at 2PM to protest planned demolitions of two blocks of buildings in Prospect Heights that will be used as parking lots. The rally is sponsored by Brooklyn Speaks and will take place on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues — the location of one of the proposed parking lots. The rally will ask the state to stop the demolition of the two blocks in Prospect Heights--including the historic Ward Bakery--to create three enormous parking lots for 1,400 cars.
...
Brooklyn Speaks quotes Andy Wiley-Schwarz, vice president of Project for Public Spaces, as saying, “No other large-scale project in the city has required the demolition of two city blocks for parking. This is 1950s-era Detroit-style urban planning.”

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards & Property Value
Someone thinking of moving to the neighborhood, despite Atlantic Yards:

We are thinking of purchasing a 2bd/2ba, 1100 sq ft condo around 3rd Ave and Atlantic. We only intend to live in it for 5 or so years. Wondering what people think about this location as an investment over 5 years and whether the property value will be affected positively or negatively by either the Atlantic Yards project or the Gowanas development. Does the introduction of multiple bldgs with new condos to the market increase or decrease the property value. Would we be better off buying in Sunset Park investment-wise? Thanks for your help! Nervous first time buyers.

Wandering Medusa, Oh, the places you'd live
Running across a couple moving away from Atlantic Yards:

But for someone with the right kind of inspiration, I can envision something great. The building is on a quaint brownstone block, close to everything. Okay, I fell a little bit in love with the block. One of the couples I met while waiting for the landlord said they currently lived right at the other edge of Atlantic Yards, hence their desire to move. They seemed confident this was far enough away to be unaffected (although what I've read of the years of street closings for construction, late night truck convoys, etc., would likely be a problem.)

Brooklyn Bears Community Gardens, Environmental Impacts

The Bear’s are now officially part of a huge lawsuit announced today aiming to bring the “Atlantic Yards” project (which would loom over the garden) to a halt, and send it back to the drawing boards.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 PM

Thousands of more cars to deal with - Pols push for solutions to Atlantic Yds. glut

Courier-Life Publications

David Yassky dusted off his list of transportation fixes for Atlantic Yards and is shopping it around to anyone who will listen.

The Atlantic Yards project is giving traffic study engineers a buffet of food for thought.

The latest suggestions include a tunnel below Fifth or Sixth Avenues running from Flatbush Avenue to north of Atlantic Avenue.

If that isn’t in the offing, perhaps a traffic circle at the Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth Avenue intersection similar to Grand Army Plaza.

Both were among the suggestions from Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilmember David Yassky in a letter recently sent to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Empire State Development Corporation Downstate Chair Patrick Foye.
...
FCRC spokesperson Loren Reigelhaupt responded that much of what Yassky and Jeffries are now proposing as ‘new ideas’ have already been analyzed or included in the FCRC traffic plan which the state approved in the fall of 2006.
...
Finally, they suggested the creation of a community advisory task force to oversee and have input on every stage of the Atlantic Yards project.

If implemented, this task force would join several others task forces created – both for and against – since the project was announced in 2003.

Jeffries and Yassky contended in their letter that FCRC “should fund a significant portion of, if not the entire expense of the traffic mitigation caused by the Atlantic Yards project…”

The letter also suggested that a substantial amount of the public funds — $100 million from the state budget and $205 from the city budget – be reserved for traffic and transportation improvements minus the cost of what FCRC is assuming.

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NoLandGrab: It looks like Yassky and Jeffries are looking to slip in some realisitic measures, which have already been proposed by Ratner, behind some fantastic and financially prohibitive proposals that are non-starters, in order to claim a win-win for the neighborhood.

There might be some sense behind their proposal to require Ratner to pay for traffic and transportation improvements, but it is being downplayed in the press by some of the irrational items on the laundry list.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 PM

Gehry Uncertain About Future Allston Involvement

The Crimson
By Laura A. Moore

The dynamic duo design team for Atlantic Yards, artchitect Frank Gehry and landscape designer Laurie Olin, have been brought in to pinch-hit on the master plan for the Harvard University expansion.

Cue up the laugh track, the following article is milk-coming-out-of-your-nose funny:

Cooper, Robertson Managing Director David McGregor said that his firm added Gehry and Olin to the team because of their attention to city planning issues and not a desire for fame.

“There are architects who think first and foremost, ‘how can I make my building and my site the most prominent site there so that I can get noticed,’” he said. “That is not the way that any of us in the collaboration feel.”

Gehry also emphasized the importance of teamwork in the project.

“It was all communal and we all participated,” he said. “They wanted somebody like me to help them create a DNA for future buildings in the planning study, so that was my main role.”

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NoLandGrab: "DNA for future buildings?" You can't make this stuff up. No one speaks new-paradigm English like Gehry who explained last May that his Atlantic Yards design is striving to "emulate" the "body language of Brooklyn." [Does that, like, make Miss Brooklyn the middle finger of Atlantic Yards?]

Posted by lumi at 7:47 PM

Flexing Big Muscles for a Little Library

The NY Times
By Jake Mooney

More evidence that Bruce Ratner is the poster-child for eminent domain abuse:

The Ulmer Park Branch Library, a squat, one-story brick building on Bath Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, would seem to have little in common with the skyscrapers and the wavy metal arena proposed for the 22-acre site to the north where the developer Bruce Ratner seeks to build the Atlantic Yards.

But like Mr. Ratner, officials of the Brooklyn Public Library are wrangling with local landowners over property they want — in this case, the library building. And like Mr. Ratner, the library’s representatives have raised the possibility of using eminent domain, which is the government’s power to acquire private property without the owner’s consent for the public good.

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NoLandGrab: But unlike Mr. Ratner, the library has yet to follow through on that threat. And unlike Mr. Ratner, Brooklyn Public Library is a "public" library is a "public use" — perennial-eminent-domain-abuser Mr. Ratner's projects are "private," which like "public" starts with "p," but means the exact opposite.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 PM

Sunday Comix

SundayComix-MA070407.gif

Posted by steve at 9:57 AM

One-way debate continues

The Brooklyn Paper

The traffic changes proposed by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) for Park Slope are discussed further in this week's letters section. The consensus: the DOT plan is a mistake.

The last letter on the page "Blame Bruce, Part II" sums up so well what is wrong with how public money is being used to advance the Atlantic Yards proposal:

To the editor,

There are so many legitimate objections that can be raised against the Atlantic Yards project, and you raised a key one in your editorial, “The Ratner Rip-off” (March 17). In it, you argued that the public needs to know much more about the financing of this project.

It is bad enough that billions of state dollars are being given to one developer, but is beyond scandalous that the details of such a large public project are kept hidden from the taxpayer. All we really know for sure is what the newspapers have gleaned, what politicians have let slip, and what assumptions haven’t been publicly denied.

The greatest factor facing any developer is that of risk; will a project make money or lose money? In the case of Atlantic Yards, the state and city have offered so much financial support that Ratner is all but guaranteed a profit, no matter how badly planned or executed it may be.

Once we compare the money being spent by all of the relevant government entities, and the subsidies being given to Ratner, it’s reasonable to wonder why the state is partnering with him rather than doing it alone, or with a more-talented and accomplished development company.

Forest City Ratner or the Empire State Development Corporation are more than welcome to open their documents publicly and prove us all wrong, and yet they haven’t. To this day, the cornerstone of this development is an arena for the Nets, and still no one will say for sure that the contract even commits the team to moving there and staying there. If Ratner gets a better offer to keep the team in New Jersey, can he leave the team there, and still retain all of the property?

The lack of answers can’t be remedied by another politician assuring us “these things have all been taken into consideration” without letting the public know what the contracts really say or what the answers really are. If the future of Brooklyn is being decided by people who would prefer that we not know what they’re doing, by what right do they expect us to assume they’re doing the right thing?

Secrecy breeds distrust, and usually for good reasons.

Brian Kenny, Park Slope

Please check out the other letters, too.

Posted by steve at 9:30 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Double-Dose

The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards: BANANA, or collusion?

It seems that Atlantic Yards came up as a subject of a panel discussion last Wednesday at a New York Civic meeting.

There were complaints from some on the panel that nothing can get built in New York. Henry Stern tries to invent a new sign to hang on those who want responsible development: BANANA.

Former Parks Commissioner Stern, whose mumbling, self-indulgent anecdotes were a drag on the evening discussion, went for a laugh, suggesting that "NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) has been superseded by BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone)."

Then another panelist member, Timothy Mennel, notes that the City is going is doing plenty to "accommodate private capital" and uses Atlantic Yards as his example. Norman Oder gets to jump into the exchange:

"It's the state," shouted someone from the audience, looking narrowly at the fact that Atlantic Yards is officially a state project, shepherded and approved by the Empire State Development Corporation.

"In collusion," shouted back another audience member (OK, me) in correction, mindful that both the state and city had signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the project, that the city agreed not to press for ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) over parts of the project, and the city has more than doubled its direct subsidy for the project.

"In collusion," seconded Mennel.

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Why Bruce Ratner is not like a public library

The New York Times tries to equate a dispute between Ulmer Park Branch Library and its landlord with Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards.

It seems to be a waste of a good intellect, but someone needs to explain to the Times the difference between a billionaire developer and a library.

No Land Grab - One way in which they're both the same: Neither one ever seems to have the Business Plan for Atlantic Yards available for check out.

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Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

City Council Continues to Waffle on Underground Railroad Safehouses

The Daily Gotham

Yero on the Daily Gotham would like to bring your attention to a City Council Hearing for the Duffield Street Underground Railroad safe houses. If only someone knew when the hearing would take place.

The Why:

Downtown Brooklyn was a well known Abolitionist neighborhood and was the home of several churches that resisted legalized slavery in this country. Residents claim that the historical record shows that their homes were safehouses of the Underground Railroad. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is slobbering at the bit to transform this rich history into an access road for a hotel and underground parking lot.

The City Council is planning a hearing to discuss this and you'd think they'd want the public to be able to participate. You might be mistaken. The hearing was first scheduled for April 11 but then rescheduled for May 1st -- unless it's April 17th.

Article

Posted by steve at 8:22 AM

April 7, 2007

AY supporter Herbert announces for Senate against Montgomery

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines Tony Herbert's announcement that he is running against State Senator Velmanette Montgomery for her position in 2008.

Herbert uncorks a 2004 time capsule to come up with this defense of Atlantic Yards that tries to both characterize opponents as a small group of elitists and implies that over-development must be accepted if there's to be economic benefit:

Look, with regards to the Atlantic Yards Arena, which my opponent was against and tried to shut down and was unsuccessful. She was against the development because some of the better off constituents felt the sun would be blocking the neighborhood due to the height of the buildings. I don’t give a heck about how high they build a building, because the way I look at it, the sun was gone a long time ago when all these people started losing their jobs. There are a lot of minority contracts coming through that Atlantic Yards project. Forest City Ratner can build up to the 50th floor. That’s fine. All that means to me is there are 50 floors that a minority contractor from my community can get business from and put people to work.

Oder counters, in part, with a quote from August Wilson's play Radio Golf:

I don't care if somebody else makes some money 'cause of a tax break. I get mine and they get theirs. I pull this off and next time I'm on the other side of the deal, sitting at the head of the table.

NoLandGrab: Synchronicity alert! The Hill District, referenced in today's Pittsburgh Penguins story, is where August Wilson's plays are set.

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Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

New Lawsuit Against Atlantic Yards Project

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Elizabeth Stull

The Brooklyn Eagle adds its coverage to the lawsuit concerning New York State's environmental review of the Atlantic Yards Project.

Three environmental groups and two dozen neighborhood organizations led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) plan to file another lawsuit today to block the Atlantic Yards development project proposed by Forest City Ratner. This suit, the fourth to challenge the planned $4 billion project, seeks to annul the state’s environmental review and approval of Forest City’s proposal, according to a spokesman for DDDB.

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Posted by steve at 8:36 AM

Penguins to weigh Hill arena agenda

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Rich Lord

The Post-Gazette just might need to do a little more research on Community Benefits Agreements (CBA). In a story about the desire in the Hills District of Pittsburgh to create a CBA tied to a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Atlantic Yards CBA is held up as an example of a good negotiation between developer and community.

In the New York borough of Brooklyn, a coalition of eight groups pounded out a deal with subsidiaries of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises in return for their support for an arena and high-rise development called Atlantic Yards. That will be the new home of the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets.

Not mentioned is that most of the so-called community groups, most notably the astroturf group Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), didn't even exist before the the CBA negotiations began.

The story moves a tad closer to reality in describing how the Atlantic Yards CBA would be enforced.

Enforcement of the agreement has proved contentious, and this year the developer is to pay a "watchdog" assigned to ensure that the benefits are provided.

Enforceablity of the Atlantic Yards CBA is unclear. It appears that, in the event of any disputes with CBA signatory Brooklyn United For Innovative Development (BUILD) , FCR might have to pay a $500,000 fine. All other CBA signatories would have to take Forest City to court to require the performance of the CBA commitments.

The terms proposed so far in Pittsburgh would result in an agreement with much greater benefits than the Atlantic Yards CBA:

The terms include a $10 million up-front payment from "various sources," possibly including public sources or arena and development revenue. They also call for a percentage of arena revenue, plus annual payments for 30 years, to go to an unspecified "development interest."

Let's hope that Pittsburgh gets a real CBA, not the phony one staged for the Atlantic Yards development.

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Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

Barclays linked to slavery — again

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

Further charges surface about Barclays Bank's participation in the slave trade. The bank holds the naming rights for the proposed Nets arena.

The release was tied to the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade. The Restitution Study Group, headed by Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a former Brooklynite, alleges that Heywoods Bank — which is believed to have merged with Martins Bank in the 1800s, which, in turn merged with Barclays Bank in 1969 — took part in 125 slave-trading voyages, enslaving more than 38,000 Africans, more than 6,000 of whom died en route to the Americas. The group cites Emory University Professor David Eltis’s “Transatlantic Slave Trade Database” as the source of the information.

Politicians have objected previously to the naming deal with Barclays, and this latest information serves to back up their position.

Local black leaders, including Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush), have called on Ratner to reject the deal. Clarke, who has spoken in support of Ratner’s project, has threatened to seek Congressional hearings if Barclays does not increase its financial commitment to the Brooklyn community. So far, the bank has said it will donate $2.5 million toward rebuilding basketball courts in the borough.

Jeffries told The Brooklyn Paper that this newly surfaced research only bolsters his and other community leaders’ case.

“This further strengthens the position that Barclays Bank was involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in a significant way,” he said. “We expect to meet with Barclays Bank [in late April or early May] to discuss the need for significant investment in the future and well-being of the Brooklyn communities.”

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Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

Another Yards lawsuit filed

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

A coalition of 26 Brooklyn civic groups that oppose Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development have filed a lawsuit to annul the state’s environmental review of the Prospect Heights Xanadu, charging that officials broke review laws in their rush to approve the project before Gov. Pataki left office.

The lawsuit — primarily funded by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — is the Ratner foes’ third attempt to use the courts to stop the residential, retail, office and arena complex.

It is the first suit to focus exclusively on the alleged shortcomings in the Empire State Development Corporation’s environmental review of the development, the biggest real estate project ever proposed for Brooklyn.

“The ESDC’s rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its ‘Atlantic Yards’ review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally-flawed environmental review,” said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker.

Baker said the suit seeks to invalidate the review done under the Pataki administration, “necessitating a fresh look from Governor Spitzer, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB.”

DDDB has long said that it would do all that it could to put the project under the control of Gov. Spitzer, who they believe would take local concerns about the project’s scale and impacts more seriously than his predecessor — a longtime ally of Ratner who has known him since they attended Columbia Law School together decades ago.

Pat Foye, the ESDC chairman appointed by Spitzer, has said since coming to office that the new administration intended to improve the economic development agency’s transparency.

An ESDC spokesman said last week that the agency’s new officials would not comment on the Pataki administration’s financial review of the project.

“The [documents] met the test for the previous administration,” he said.

The agency declined further comment until it reviewed the suit.

The lawsuit also charges state officials with failing to take into account terrorism risks associated with building Ratner’s 16 towers and an 18,000-seat arena next to Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub, a complex that includes a LIRR terminal and the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations.

Opponents, including Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), hope that the courts will force Ratner to stop work on the project’s site until the case is resolved.

“Once the buildings are torn down they cannot be put back,” said James. “The injury to the community is irreparable.”

Forest City Ratner declined to comment on the lawsuit.

article

Posted by steve at 7:41 AM

April 6, 2007

Yards get new suits

Brooklyn arena opponents ask Spitzer to toss OKs given by Pataki boards

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Vogel-NYDN.jpg

A lawsuit filed yesterday in State Supreme Court by 26 groups charges that an environmental analysis conducted on Gov. Pataki's watch got the facts wrong, and they want Spitzer to reassess the $4.2 billion project.

"This lawsuit, when it succeeds, will restart the entire environmental review process," said Jim Vogel, a member of the East Pacific Block Association, a group involved in the suit against Forest City Ratner and city and state agencies, including the Empire State Development Corp.

The plaintiffs charge the study failed to include significant public feedback while also incorrectly labeling the Prospect Heights site as blighted. They also outlined nine other flaws, including:

  • That the privately leased arena should not have been deemed a "civic project" by the ESDC.
  • That the Public Authority Control Board, the three-member panel charged with evaluating the plan's finances, did not fully consider its impact.
  • That the analysis failed to consider the threat of a terrorist attack at the 22-acre project.
  • That the analysis failed to consider alternate sites, such as Coney Island, or the impact of wind at the site. These were studied only after the analysis was issued.
  • That the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the railyards, failed to notify the ESDC of alternative proposals or fully consider the impact of things such as traffic and its the burden on surrounding neighborhoods.

The lawsuit also seeks to annul the environmental impact statement and halt construction until the case has been decided.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:13 AM

Bender's Bender

Forest City Ratner's Executive Vice President felt compelled to go on a public-relations bender, though wethinks he doth protest too much:

BenderBender.gif

"The suit filed today by project opponents should come as no surprise to anyone, as the opponents have claimed publicly that their strategy is to sue early and often.

"Despite numerous losses in court already, opponents are unfortunately continuing a strategy of legal maneuvering rather than constructive dialogue.

"For nearly four years, we participated in an exhaustive public review process, involving hundreds of meetings with local leaders and officials, including numerous public hearings, as well as countless meetings with community representatives. We have also complied with rigorous state and city requirements, resulting in what we believe is a better project.

"Today’s action is simply the latest in long line of attempts to derail Atlantic Yards and the over 2,500 units of affordable housing, thousands of jobs for the community, job training programs, a new precedent for minority and women workers and contractors, and a new exciting home for the Nets.

"We believe that the opponents’ claims are without merit and we will prevail in court. And as we have all along, we remain committed to ensuring that the Atlantic Yards development represents the best of Brooklyn."

The Knickerblogger took note of Bender's nod to "vote early and often," a "reference to political corruption in city politics."

That Forest City, the poster child for state and local corruption would use it strikes me just a tad ironic.

NoLandGrab: Even more ironic since Bender was weaned on the Brooklyn political machine and is Forest City's chief political operator.

Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

Petitioners Attempt to Block Atlantic Yards

GlobeSt.com
By Kate Hinderer

This article was compiled from two press releases and one statement released by developer Forest City Ratner:

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

"The ESDC's rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its Atlantic Yards review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally flawed environmental review, and violations of its statutory procedures and responsibilities," says attorney Jeffrey Baker, in a statement. "Our suit seeks to annul the environmental review and approval of Atlantic Yards by Charles Gargano's Empire State Development Corp., the Public Authorities Control Board, and the MTA, necessitating a fresh look from Gov. Spitzer, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB."

From City Councilwoman Letitia James:

The lawsuit will likely force demolition crews to postpone the beginning construction phase. "The preliminary injunction sought by this lawsuit would postpone demolition while protecting my community and constituents for intimidating and premature destruction,” says councilwoman Letitia James, who represents the Atlantic Yards area district. “Once the buildings are torn down they cannot be put back, and the injury to the community--a landscape of empty lots and 'interim surface parking' lots, plus the loss of the familiar buildings that comprise their neighborhood--is irreparable."

From Forest City Ratner, EVP Bruce Bender:

"Today’s action is simply the latest in long line of attempts to derail Atlantic Yards and the over 2,500 units of affordable housing, thousands of jobs for the community, job training programs, a new precedent for minority and women workers and contractors, and a new exciting home for the Nets," Bender says. "We believe that the opponents’ claims are without merit and we will prevail in court. And as we have all along, we remain committed to ensuring that the Atlantic Yards development represents the best of Brooklyn."

article

Posted by lumi at 10:59 AM

New Lawsuit Filed To Stop Atlantic Yards Project

NY1
By Rita Nissan

EISLawSuitPRConf-NY1.jpg

A coalition of 26 civic groups filed a lawsuit claiming the environmental review for the project was not thorough enough. They say the review didn't adequately consider traffic problems and security concerns that may arise.

“We do not take this action lightly, but we feel we are left with no alternative,” said Terry Urban of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.
...
The lawsuit also says the threat of terrorism was disregarded. The plaintiffs say the arena has not been given the same security considerations as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site.
...
The suit asks the court to put the project on hold and have the Spitzer Administration – particularly the Empire State Development Corporation under Spitzer – review it.

article (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 10:46 AM

"Time is Fleeting" Says Busy Judge

Realizes delay in eminent domain decision means money for behind-schecule Yards project

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

While the environmental lawsuit has grabbed all the headlines, Brooklyn Downtown Star takes a look back to last week's oral arguments in the federal eminent domain case:

The plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards case are loath to be forced into state court for those obvious reasons, and because the New York State judicial system is not exactly known as being the most politically independent of judicial bodies. In other words, if this case gets dismissed by the feds, it's just about over even before it starts.

That sense of desperation was palpable in Downtown Brooklyn's federal courthouse last Friday afternoon, as the plaintiffs' lawyers tried to convince the presiding judge - Nicholas Garaufis - not to follow the recommendation of his magistrate. The fact that Garaufis decided to hear oral arguments on the case at all - rather than just read the written briefs - was an unusual acknowledgment of the significance of this case, a fact he freely admitted.

"Time is fleeting," he said. "I take it there's a great deal of money at stake in delay." Indeed, the $4 billion proposal to tear down several city blocks, platform over an LIRR railyard, and then build 16 skyscrapers and an NBA arena is already several years behind schedule.

When an ESDC lawyer went on a bit too long in her opening remarks, Garaufis snapped. "I'm not conducting a survey here," he screamed toward the ESDC's Preeta Bansal. "This isn't law school. Don't bother me with a primer. It's insulting. You don't do that to Justice Breyer. Don't do it to me. I have a number of important cases. I'm a busy guy."

Plaintiffs are seeking "discovery" of documents in order to help prove that developer Forest City Ratner indicated to NY City and State which properties would need to be condemned for the Atlantic Yards project:

"The mayor's a successful businessman," argued plaintiff's lawyer Mathew Brinckerhoff, "and so is Bruce Ratner, who had this plan and the mayor said, 'great idea,' but in doing so he abdicated his responsibility as a public official."

Brinckerhoff and his clients want access to all the early e-mails between the developer and the government, in order to prove that the ESDC is condemning merely the properties that FCRC wanted, and not the properties that would have been the best "public use" for the land.

"If you're successful with me [on the dismissal issue]," asked Garaufis of Brinckerhoff, "what kind of discovery do you think you'll need?"

Brinckerhoff responded that it was an "unusual" case in which "the question is: what was the intent of the individuals who made the decision? In order to explore that, we're going to need a lot of documents, mostly e-mails."

article

NoLandGrab: In a headline after the jump, in the print version of the article, the Brooklyn Downtown Star claims that "Plaintiffs Want Personal E-mails Released," which is not entirely true. Those who work for the government are still considered to be "persons," but email correspondence between City/State officials and the developer are not "personal" — they are property of the government.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Ratner gets new suit

Fourth action against Atlantic Yards names state, MTA

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

MetroNY-070406.jpg

As Forest City Ratner prepares to demolish buildings and make way for its 8-million-square-foot, $4 billion Atlantic Yards development, the number of lawsuits trying to stop it are mounting.

A fourth was filed yesterday in New York State Supreme Court by a group of 26 community and environmental groups. It challenges the project’s environmental review process.

The lawsuit — against the Empire State Development Corporation, the Public Authorities Control Board, the developer and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — asks the state to conduct “a new and credible” environmental impact analysis and a preliminary injunction to halt the project.

“The 26 community groups involved feel very strongly that this is our environment and the ESDC completely failed us,” said Candace Carponter, legal chair of plaintiff Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “They were supposed to make sure the project would have the least impact possible.”

Instead, Carponter called the ESDC’s review “unrealistic” and said it grossly under-reported impacts and ignored “substantial” public input.

“My daughter is 12 years old and even she knows there’s going to be tremendous traffic impacts because we drive down Atlantic Avenue every day,” Carponter said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Forest City Ratner and the groups that signed the project’s Community Benefits Agreement claim the suit is an attempt to derail the thousands of jobs and affordable housing the 16 skyscrapers and Nets basketball arena are expected to yield.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

Lawsuit over environmental review would require ESDC, PACB, and MTA to take another look

Atlantic Yards Report

EISLawSuitPRConf-JB01.jpgDoes the lawsuit filed yesterday have a shot at forcing the Empire State Development Corporation to redo the Environmental Impact Statement?

Lawsuits that allege flaws in environmental reviews are generally tough going. Still, said Candace Carponter (right), co-chair of petitioner Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and legal chair of fellow petitioner Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), “This isn’t a sole-issue challenge. We’re saying they forgot to take a hard look at 13 issues.” Among them: a failure to examine terrorist impacts and a finding of blight "in one of the hottest real estate markets in New York City."
...
“Do we think it will change the project once it goes back to the ESDC?” Carponter said. “That’s what we’re hopeful for.” She observed, "It is striking to note that the ESDC did not demand or effectuate even one significant change or modification of the project Forest City Ratner proposed at the start of the environmental review process."

“This is a different PACB than it was last December,” added attorney Adam Perlmutter.

Norman Oder outlines some of the premises of the lawsuit: the timeline, the plaintiffs (and those who haven't joined the suit), the claims and the plaintiffs' attempt to convince the judge to issue a preliminary injunction against further demolitions.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

Yet Another Legal Hurdle for Atlantic Yards

CPN Online

“The ESDC predetermined to approve Ratner’s project, and because of that, they rushed the (environmental impact study) process, and they’ve violated procedures and were negligent in doing a proper review of the environmental impact,” Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the community group that announced today’s lawsuit, told CPN this morning. “If we win any part of the lawsuit, meaning any one of 11 causes of action, the project would be sent back for review.”

The 75-page lawsuit names the Empire State Development Corp., Public Authorities Control Board, Metropolitan Transit Authority and Forest City Ratner as defendants and seeks to annul determinations by the defendants approving the 22-acre, 16-building mixed-use development.
...
Since its 1985 founding, Forest City Ratner Cos. has been an active developer in New York City, and is currently the most active retail developer in the city. The group has a portfolio of properties in over 20 states, with nearly 15 million square feet of retail space, 7.3 million square feet of office property, nearly 3,000 hotel rooms and almost 35,000 residential apartments.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

Opposition to Ward Bakery demolition - Protest is the latest salvo in the battle against Atlantic Yards development

Courier-Life
By Stephen Witt

Ward-070405.jpg

It was billed as a protest against Forest City Ratner Companies’ planned demolition of the Ward Bread Bakery Building, but about an equal number of supporters of the Atlantic Yards project showed up.

And the event reportedly drew more media than both sides combined.

“It was amazing,” said Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition (PHAC), which organized the event. “There were two news helicopters overhead and several news vans with large satellite poles.”
...
Patti Hagan said the protest was called because she has done extensive research on the building, and although it is not a historic landmarked building, it deserves the recognition, she says.

“The building features Greco-Roman arches beautifully scaled and the entire building is covered in white terracotta tiles,” said Hagan.

“It’s beautiful and bright when the sun hits it,” she added and suggested the building would be ideal for adaptive reuse for residential or workspaces.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Fight Continues Against Atlantic Yards Project

WNYC

A coalition of civic groups filed a lawsuit in state supreme court today to annul the final environmental impact statement. The suit alleges that approval by the Empire State Development Corporation was flawed partly because it didn't take into account projected congestion and security concerns Attorney Candice Carpenter says she hopes the lawsuit will give new ESDC members appointed by Governor Spitzer a more thoughtful analysis of the project:

CARPENTER: Were not saying they forgot to count a few cars - we're saying they forgot to take a hard look at 13 separate issues - do we think in the end this will change the issue once it goes back to the ESDC? That's what we're hopeful for.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Ratnerville in Yonkers

For those of you who can't get enough of the political controversy brewing in Yonkers around Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project, here are yesterday's headlines from The Journal-News.

BACKGROUND: Nick Spano's brother Mike Spano was working for the lobbying group of Patricia Lynch and Associates, who were lobbying for Bruce Ratner.

Nick Spano landed a well paying job for Zehy Jereis, who is the cousin of Councilmember Sandy Annabi, who reversed her vote on Ridge Hill, giving the Ratner project the votes it needs for approval. Forest City Ratner has asserted that everything was done "properly and legally."

Editorial, A Yonkers hiring plan that only the politically connected could love

Must all recipients of the taxpayer largess employ a family member, or will close friends do?
...
Plenty more still needs to be done in Albany before "historic agreement" on member-item reform also means ensuring the best, fairest and most sensible deal for taxpayers. The more taxpayers learn of ongoing practices, the clearer that becomes.

Grant arranged by Spano names Yonkers GOP chief

A state grant arranged by then-state Sen. Nicholas Spano specified in writing that the Yonkers Republican chairman receive a $100,000 consulting contract with the city's Chamber of Commerce.

Though Spano was ousted by voters last year, he has a bright future as a blogger, who, unlike mainstream reporters, is unencumbered by basic grammar, style or spelling:

Spano did not respond to repeated requests for an interview yesterday, but wrote in an e-mail to The Journal News: "I have continuosly (sic) secured grants for the yonkers chamber of commerce for years. Once an appropiation (sic) is made the contract is written and approved by the chamber and the agency it is assigned too (sic)."

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Renewed Call for Prospect Heights Historic District

577Carlton.jpgGothamist
By Jill Priluck

Bruce Ratner’s mega-project isn’t only a catalyst for lawsuits. It’s also behind a push to create a historic district in Prospect Heights. “I think with the Atlantic Yards happening, there’s a real urgency to get it designated,” Municipal Art Society fellow Lisa Kersavage told Gothamist. “The development pressures are increasing dramatically.”

article

FUN FACTS:

Did you know Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is in Prospect Heights, not Downtown Brooklyn?

577 Carlton is one short block away from the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM

New chief at helm of libraries - Dionne Mack-Harvin wants to make system ‘first choice in information’

Courier-Life

An article about the official appointment of Dionne Mack-Harvin to the position of executive director Brooklyn Public Libraries last week has a tidbit, intended to dispell rumors relating to Atlantic Yards developer "Bruce" and a new Visual and Performing Arts Library.

Mack-Harvin.jpg

Mack-Harvin also dispelled rumors that Forest City Ratner Companies President Bruce Ratner has come forward to fund the new Visual and Performing Arts Library slated for the BAM Cultural District area near Ratner’s planned Atlantic Yards project.

“Bruce has not made a contribution toward the visual and performing arts library, but we do appreciate donations, and private giving has helped us launch many of the programs I mentioned earlier,” she said.

article

"Bruce?" Funny, on NLG, people on a first-name basis with Bruce Ratner are usually being slightly irreverent.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Lunch with Bruce?

Yonkers Business Week, Presented by the Yonkers Office of Economic Development

This year's invitee for the luncheon on day two of "Business Week" is an interesting choice, considering that a recent federal probe has handed out subpoenas for Yonkers City Council documents relevant to the approval Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project and documents relating to a contract where the Chamber paid $100,000 to the cousin of the City Council Member who switched her vote, allowing the project to pass final approval.

Forest City Ratner is a sponsor of the event.

Luncheon:

Ridge Hill Village
Time: 12:30 – 2:00 PM

Location:

TBD

Introduction:

William T. Regan, Deputy Mayor, City of Yonkers

Welcome:

Honorable Phil Amicone, Mayor, City of Yonkers

Speaker Invited:

Bruce C. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Forest City Ratner Companies

Cost:

$20.00

link

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

April 5, 2007

A Summary of the 11 Causes of Action Filed by Petitioners

Every controversial mega-project in NY State and City is confronted by an environmental lawsuit. But what are the specific complaints in the suit over the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study?

Here's the summary taken from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site (www.dddb.net):

  • Intentionally understating the expected Project build-out time by at least five years in order to artificially minimize the adverse impacts associated with the construction of the mammoth Project;
  • Misrepresenting the impact of the proposed Project on the character of the surrounding neighborhood by using inappropriate comparisons and failing to disclose relevant information;
  • Falsely stating the amount of open space created by the Project and qualifying inaccessible areas as open space;
  • Relying on flawed analyses of traffic and mass transit that omit material facts, rely on false assumptions, and rigidly apply CEQR methodology to result in an outcome favoring the Project;
  • Failing to adequately consider the public costs associated with the Project in connection with the increased demands on community services resulting from the addition of thousands of new residents to the area;
  • Failing to consider the impact of increased traffic on emergency vehicles;
  • Understating the impact of shadows created by the Project on open spaces and community gardens;
  • Understating the impact of wind and construction-related air pollution on the quality of life in the immediate surrounding area;
  • Accepting excessive noise levels without exploring alternatives that would minimize their impact.

And ESDC Abused Its Discretion, by: * Scheduling hearings at times to discourage public participation; * Failing to provide a meaningful public hearing by allowing the stacking of the hearing facility; * Giving the public only the absolute minimum time periods required by regulation to review and comment upon documents of enormous length, complexity, and significance for the largest single-source development proposed in the history of New York; * Rushing the completion of the FEIS to ensure Project approval prior to December 31, 2006. * Failing to adequately consider the public comments At a minimum, the proceeding should be remanded for an extension of the public comment period and the filing of a SEIS.

Posted by lumi at 12:48 PM

PRESS RELEASE:
26 Co-Petitioners File Lawsuit Against the Empire State Development Corporation, PACB, MTA and Forest City Ratner Companies

Community Lawsuit Seeks to Annul Fatally Flawed Environmental Impact Statement and Approval of Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" Project

BROOKLYN, NY— Today twenty-six co-petitioners filed an Article 78 and Declaratory Judgment lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court (New York County) to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and approval of Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project. The suit alleges that former Governor Pataki's Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) FEIS was fatally flawed on substantive and procedural grounds.

(Click to read a summary of the complaint or see below after plaintiff list.)

Annulment of the FEIS would require the undertaking of a new and credible environmental impact analysis by Governor Spitzer's ESDC, and a new vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) for the 22-acre, 16-skyscraper, and arena development plan in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn. Defendants on the suit include the ESDC, the PACB, the MTA and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC). The suit also seeks to enjoin demolition and construction with a preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit has broad community support with co-petitioners representing all of the communities surrounding the project site, and beyond, including: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the 41-member coalition Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Sierra Club, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), Fort Greene Association, Society for Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill Association, Crown Heights North Association, Park Slope Neighbors, Fort Greene Park Conservancy, and Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, as well as fourteen other community organizations and block associations.

Jeffrey S. Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore is the lead attorney.

"The ESDC's rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its ‘Atlantic Yards' review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally-flawed environmental review, and violations of its statutory procedures and responsibilities," said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker. "Our suit seeks to annul the environmental review and approval of ‘Atlantic Yards' by Charles Gargano's Empire State Development Corporation, the Public Authorities Control Board, and the MTA, necessitating a fresh look from Governor Spitzer, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB."

"It has been clear for a long time that the ESDC set out to approve Mr. Ratner's project by any means necessary, rather than work on behalf of the public and protect it from the extreme negative impacts of a project of this scale and extreme density. The ESDC served the public poorly by producing an unrealistic environmental review while grossly under-reporting the impacts, refusing to demand mitigation of those impacts, and basically ignoring all substantial public input. That is why we were compelled to file this lawsuit on behalf of and along with the other 25 co-petitioners who stand with us today," said DDDB legal chair Candace Carponter. "It is striking to note that the ESDC did not demand or effectuate even one significant change or modification of the project Forest City Ratner proposed at the start of the environmental review process."

"The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods provided every possible assistance to the ESDC to help them arrive at a fair and impartial assessment of the impacts of this project. CBN conducted an extensive survey of community members in response to the Draft Scope of Analysis; engaged highly qualified consultants to decipher and analyze the Draft EIS; successfully engaged citizens in providing extensive comments to the ESDC; and reported all of the information gathered to the ESDC freely, and within the very short period of time they dictated," said CBN co-chair Terry Urban. "Unfortunately, the bulk of the community's input was ignored, and CBN, with membership from 41 community organizations, is compelled to demand that such egregious disservice to the public be corrected."

Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents the district in which the project would be located, said, "The preliminary injunction sought by this lawsuit would postpone demolition while protecting my community and constituents for intimidating and premature destruction. Once the buildings are torn down they cannot be put back, and the injury to the community - a landscape of empty lots and 'interim surface parking' lots, plus the loss of the familiar buildings that comprise their neighborhood - is irreparable."

"The huge density of the proposed development would bring more havoc to drivers and transit riders in downtown Brooklyn, adversely impacting dozens of intersections," said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney the New York Public Interest Research Group and its Straphangers Campaign. "The environmental impact statement offers ridiculous suggestions, such as asking transit officials to put more buses on gridlocked streets, where they will just add to traffic; no suggestions for giving buses priority are made. To paraphrase my daughters, the EIS is lame."

All legal papers filed can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/FEIS

The co-petitioners are:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Inc.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc
New York Public Interest Research Group, Inc. (NYPIRG)
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID)
Sierra Club
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Inc.
The Brooklyn Bear's Gardens, Inc.
Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association, Inc.
Boerum Hill Association, Inc.
Brooklyn Vision Foundation, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association, Inc. Carroll Street Block Association (5th and 6th Ave), Inc.
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association, Inc. (4th to 5th Ave)
East Pacific Block Association, Inc.
Fort Greene Association , Inc.
Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Inc.
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Park Slope Neighbors, Inc.
Park Place-Underhill Avenue Block Association
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place of Brooklyn Block Association, Inc.
Society for Clinton Hill, Inc.
South Oxford Street Block Association
South Portland Avenue Block Association. Inc.
Zen Environmental Studies Institute, Ltd.

Relief sought by Petitioners:

A Summary of the 11 Causes of Action Filed by Petitioners:

  • Intentionally understating the expected Project build-out time by at least five years in order to artificially minimize the adverse impacts associated with the construction of the mammoth Project;
  • Misrepresenting the impact of the proposed Project on the character of the surrounding neighborhood by using inappropriate comparisons and failing to disclose relevant information;
  • Falsely stating the amount of open space created by the Project and qualifying inaccessible areas as open space;
  • Relying on flawed analyses of traffic and mass transit that omit material facts, rely on false assumptions, and rigidly apply CEQR methodology to result in an outcome favoring the Project;
  • Failing to adequately consider the public costs associated with the Project in connection with the increased demands on community services resulting from the addition of thousands of new residents to the area;
  • Failing to consider the impact of increased traffic on emergency vehicles;
  • Understating the impact of shadows created by the Project on open spaces and community gardens;
  • Understating the impact of wind and construction-related air pollution on the quality of life in the immediate surrounding area;
  • Accepting excessive noise levels without exploring alternatives that would minimize their impact.

And ESDC Abused Its Discretion, by: * Scheduling hearings at times to discourage public participation; * Failing to provide a meaningful public hearing by allowing the stacking of the hearing facility; * Giving the public only the absolute minimum time periods required by regulation to review and comment upon documents of enormous length, complexity, and significance for the largest single-source development proposed in the history of New York; * Rushing the completion of the FEIS to ensure Project approval prior to December 31, 2006. * Failing to adequately consider the public comments At a minimum, the proceeding should be remanded for an extension of the public comment period and the filing of a SEIS.

Posted by lumi at 11:34 AM

Rally Against Demolition for Enormous ‘Temporary’ Parking Lots

StreetsBlog reminds us why Ratner is demolishing the historic Ward Bakery building:

Forest City Ratner plans to demolish two entire city blocks – including historic buildings that should be reused like the Ward Bakery - to create enormous “temporary” surface parking lots for over 1400 cars that would blight Brooklyn for decades.

These parking lots will also encourage more people to drive, leading to worse traffic, worse air quality, and worse quality of life for those living in the surrounding neighborhoods. And they simply aren’t needed. No other large-scale development in the city has required the demolition of two city blocks for parking.

link

NoLandGrab: The construction at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan will take decades and amazingly does not require an enormous surface parking lot.

Workers seems to be able to get to the site just fine without a gianormous parking lot and entire city blocks are not required for staging.

"Why is the Atlantic Yards project different from all other real-estate development projects?"

Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere41.jpgBrooklyn Record, A Park Slope Passover Gone Political

Granted, if you're going to a Seder at a place that probably served bacon that morning (rather than spending it with your family in a scrubbed-clean Kosher home), you're probably not all that observant. Still, was it right for the rabbi holding the service to turn a religious event into a political discourse? If any of you were there, how did you react?

Brooklynian, Transportation Alternatives: cruising for parking
"Brooke Lynn Knight" has this to say about "Parking Slope:"

Thank god Ratner has proposed all those innovative ways to alleviate the huge burst of Manhattan-Brooklyn street and subway traffic his project will create, or else the whole area around Atlantic Yards would be likely to become un-navigable and downright unlivable!

Brownstoner, Another Day, Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

The Times article focuses more on the lack of financial transparency in the project, namely the fact that no one who signed off on the project ever saw a financial plan for the project. The buck-passing and semantic side-stepping approaches the comical. “We did not receive a document labeled ‘financial plan,’ but the information we received, taken together, constitutes a financial plan,” said ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield, before adding, "The important distinction is to point out that the project was approved by the previous administration, not this administration." In a statement that says exactly nothing, FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt, said that the company was “not able to make our business plan public” for “proprietary reasons.” Translation: They just didn't want to.

Common Sense, The Barclays Boycott

Last year New York State issued a study to justify its use of eminent domain, claiming Atlantic Yards is blighted. According to a New York Sun report, causes of the blight include “rail yards and a ‘diversity of ownership’ that ‘hindered site assemblage that is necessary for redevelopment.’ ”

Get it?! “Blighted” means your land isn’t being used for what it will be used for after you’ve been ejected! (Duh!)
...
And now the New York Libertarian Party has thrown down the gauntlet, urging folks to boycott Barclays for its collusion in this rotten deal. ...
I almost wish I had money in Barclays, so I could ostentatiously withdraw it.

HoopChina, [流言板]卡特再获总经理支持

继篮网老板布鲁斯-拉特纳 (Bruce Ratner)、主席罗德-索恩 (Rod Thorn) 公开表示会在夏天留下文斯-卡特 (Vince Carter) 后,球队总经理埃德-斯特范斯奇 (Ed Stefanski) 周六晚在和季票持有者聊天时聊天时说他也愿意和卡特续约——如果后者选择在夏天选择成为自由球员的话。

NoLandGrab: WWCS? [What would Confucious say?]

Hartichoked, what's your damage?
A visitor to Brooklyn will make a stop in the footprint:

I will definitely be dropping by Freddy's for a final pint of Brooklyn Lager in a few weeks before Bruce Ratner destroys the Atlantic Yards.

REMINDER: Atlantic Yards doesn't exist yet. Ratner wants to BUILD Atlantic Yards, not DESTROY it. Also, Freddy's is staying put for now since it is a plaintiff in the Federal eminent domain suit. Drop in for a pint in support of their efforts to save one of the best bars in NYC. Just don't ask for Brooklyn Lager — Freddy's dumped its last keg of that bitter brew a year ago.

The Daily Gotham, New Atlantic Yards Lawsuit to be Announced Today
It's never too early to start teaching kids about civic responsibility:

I am home with my son today (no day care) so I may be able to make this!

Press Conference in Brooklyn
Today. April 5. 11:45 AM.

WANDERING MEDUSA, An ad, a hand on a shoulder, and a mid-spring freeze
This morning's news about the latest Atlantic Yards lawsuit reminds one house hunter to stay clear:

Ha! The local morning news is featuring yet another lawsuit on Atlantic Yards, the massive construction project that is just starting (residential, commercial, retail, and a new basketball arena.) I need to find a good map of where it's supposed to go (in the chance that none of the lawsuits manage to hamper its development.) I think the apartment I'm seeing tonight is within a handful of blocks, which wouldn't be ideal, especially during the years of construction and upheavel.

Black Bottom Movement, There Goes the Neighborhood
A harsh look at one of the realities of eminent domain:

Recent examples are Columbia University’s continuous expansion into the historic Harlem community, the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, and housing developments in the often blotted out Far-Rockaway. Supporters of eminent domain in true capitalist spirit believe that this principle would in theory attract bigger businesses, hypothetically reduce crime-rates and in general build prettier neighborhoods. The realities of this dense program are often noticeable demographic changes. Low-cost housing slowly fades away. Rental increases and the arrival of wealthier inhabitants force older inhabitants out. Historically black neighborhoods undergo a facelift subsequently undermining a sense of community established by generations before us. Affordable housing and renovation of older buildings is all good but at what cost?

Cats Love Puking, Boo Hoo!

So to make room for the Atlantic Yards, the city wants to tear down the Ward Bread Bakery on Pacific street. No biggie, right? No. Huge biggie. Guess what happened? That’s right, stupid protesters came and said “you can’t tear down that bakery, it’s historic!” Listen, hippies, New York City is a confined space, and we don’t have the resources to keep every abandoned old building that no one cares about until it is torn down. No one’s heard of this bakery, and no one cares about it, and no one cares about you.

NoLandGrab: Call it a hunch, but we're guessing that no one mistakes Evan Jacobs for someone who cares.

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards #2: Another Lawsuit to be Filed Today

The suit challenges the "fatally flawed environmental review...and approval" of the 8 million square foot, $4 billion Atlantic Yards plan. The suit also seeks a preliminary injunction to enjoin the project from proceeding, including: demolitions, construction, disposition of public property or commitment and expenditure of public funds.

Posted by lumi at 11:05 AM

Council Member James Applauds Community Lawsuit to Protect Our Environment

Twenty Six Plaintiffs Sue to Halt Atlantic Yards Project;
Major Flaws in Environmental Study are Cited

(Brooklyn, NY) — Council Member James stood today with dozens of community groups to announce the filing of an historic lawsuit aimed at stopping the monstrous Atlantic Yards project proposed at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. Council Member James represents almost the entire footprint of the proposed mega-project.

She stated, "For over three years, I have been raising questions about the true environmental impacts of the Atlantic Yards proposal. My concerns, and those of my constituents, have fallen on deaf ears. Fundamental questions remain regarding traffic, ground contaminants, air pollution, noise pollution, infrastructure strain, and safety and security risks. Yet Forest City Ratner is currently attempting to demolish up to 18 buildings in my district."

"The preliminary injunction to postpone demolition that this lawsuit seeks will cause little harm to the developer. Once the buildings are torn down, however, they cannot be put back, and the injury to the community - a landscape of empty lots and "interim surface" parking lots, plus the loss of the familiar buildings that comprise their neighborhood - is irreparable."

"I want to see the rail yards developed. But I want to see responsible and safe development. I would like to see a mechanism in place that holds the government accountable to the citizens of these neighborhoods before any further demolition occurs. I thank the Develop Don't Destroy Legal Team for their excellent work in putting together this strong and important case. I am proud to be part of the fight to protect our community. This is why I have signed an affidavit in support of the preliminary injunction sought in today's lawsuit."

                                                        ###

Posted by lumi at 11:01 AM

Nets entertainment guru is all about buzz

Crain's NY Business
By Catherine Tymkiw

PetraPope.jpg

The New Jersey Nets are counting on Petra Pope, their new entertainment guru, to generate buzz around the National Basketball Association team as it prepares to leap to Brooklyn in two years.

Ms. Pope, who was promoted to the newly created post of vice president of entertainment and event marketing last month, joined the Nets more than two years ago after 14 years with the New York Knicks, where she founded the famed Knicks City Dancers. "It was a great challenge to come over and create an atmosphere that's exciting and interesting," she said.

"We are bringing in jazz performers, we are bringing in more Broadway, we're bringing in symphonies and different groups that bring a cultural touch to what we're doing. And that does lay the groundwork for Brooklyn," said Ms. Pope.

article

NoLandGrab: What? No opera?

Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

Times plays catchup on AY, bobbles several balls (and forgets disclosure)

Atlantic Yards Report goes back to it roots and critiques today's coverage in the Times.

In a roundup article today headline Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser, the New York Times catches up on some of the Atlantic Yards news it has missed, but the article also offers some mischaracterizations and fails to ask some hard questions.

First, Oder points out that reporter Andy Newman mischaracterized the lawsuits as aiming to "substantially scale back" Atlantic Yards.

Well, neither the pending eminent domain lawsuit nor the challenge to the environmental review scheduled to be filed today by a coalition organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn aim to scale back the project; they aim to kill it or alter it drastically.

Doh! The NY Times forgot to mention that they are partners with developer Forest City Ratner in the Times Tower.

NolandGrab: Maybe the paper only publishes a disclosure when reprinting FCRC press releases.

Click here for more.

Posted by lumi at 10:45 AM

ESDC's new strain neglects campaign refrain

In the run-up to the beginning of Governor Spitzer's administration, New Yorkers heard this familiar refrain:

"Everything changes, on Day One."

Today's NY Times ran Spitzer's new tune, sung by tenor Errol Cockfield, ESDC spokesperson:

"The project was approved by the previous administration, not this administration. The horse has left the barn."

Atlantic Yards critics are being told by all kinds of officials that the Spitzer administration is taking a "hard look" at Atlantic Yards.

It's hard to believe that any rancher or farmer would take a "hard look" and stand by as a horse walked out the barn door.

Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser

The NY Times
By Andy Newman

Amazing... on the eve of the announcement of a lawsuit based on the environmental review of Atlantic Yards, the Times published a follow-up article on a bunch of lawsuits it has missed so far.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan's lawsuit forced NY State to admit that they never saw the financial plan for the project and to adopt a strained defense:

The most recent was filed last month by Assemblyman James F. Brennan, who is trying to force a state agency that approved the project, the Empire State Development Corporation, to release any Forest City business plan for Atlantic Yards that it has.

Mr. Brennan characterized the information vacuum as bizarre, as well as in violation of an agreement that directed Forest City to submit its business plan to the authorities.

A spokesman for the Empire State Development Commission, Errol Cockfield, took mild issue with Mr. Brennan’s complaints yesterday. “We did not receive a document labeled ‘financial plan,’ but the information we received, taken together, constitutes a financial plan,” he said.

The federal eminent domain suit is still under consideration:

...the federal judge who has control of the case heard several hours of arguments on whether to keep the case in federal court.

The environmental impact study is headed to court today:

Mr. Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said that the development corporation had failed to adequately consider traffic problems and security concerns that the project would raise, among other things.

The environmental monitoring of work at the site appears to be ad hoc:

George Locker, a lawyer for several residents, said he would take the state development corporation to court next week claiming it was flouting a requirement to have an independent environmental monitor on hand.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

Opponents To File Suit On Atlantic Yards

NY Sun

A pre-announcement item also made it onto page 2 of today's Sun, which has provided its readers with regular coverage on Atlantic Yards, including last week's stunning announcement that NY State officials never reviewed a comprehensive financial plan for Bruce Ratner's project:

Opponents of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project planned for Brooklyn are filing a new lawsuit against the state and developer Forest City Ratner.

If successful, the opponents could push the Spitzer administration to do a new review of the project, which was approved late last year before Governor Pataki left office.

The suit challenges the state's environmental impact statement, according to a project opponent, Daniel Goldstein.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

Atlantic Yards Project To Be Hit With Another Lawsuit

NY1 explains what could happen if the plaintiffs prevail (emphasis added):

The Atlantic Yards project is expected to be hit with another lawsuit Thursday.
...
Twenty-seven co-petitioners are expected to file a suit that claims the $4 billion project did not undergo an adequate environmental review.

Other lawsuits have argued that the state cannot use eminent domain to benefit a private developer -- which, in this case, is Forest City Ratner.
...
The organization "Develop, Don't Destroy" says that if the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, it could possibly require the state to re-review the project.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Another Atlantic Yards Suit Expected

EISLawsuitMetro-070405.gifMetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Another lawsuit against Forest City Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is expected to be filed in New York State Supreme Court today by 27 co-petitioners seeking to "annul the fatally flawed environmental review." The plaintiffs — who include Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, City Councilwoman Letitia James, the NY Public Interest Group and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods — also want a preliminary injunction preventing the demolition, construction and public funding for the 8-million-square-foot development. The suit is against the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which sold its rail yards to the developer; the Public Authorities Control Board in Albany that gave final approval; and Forest City Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

Atlantic Yards Project Targeted By New Lawsuit

Local Residents' Group Continue Fight Development

WCBSTV.com
Magee Hickey Reporting

Hagan-WCBS070405.jpg

Even with work underway on the Atlantic Yards project, the bitter battle in Brooklyn enters a new round Thursday. Developers will be hit with another lawsuit over environmental and security issues.
...
"There's no place for 40-50 story skyscrapers. Put them in Manhattan," said Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition.
...
Some work on the Atlantic Yards has already begun, with workers preparing a dozen buildings for demolition.

But the protestors are working feverishly to stop the bulldozers:

"Dead zones will be created. They will knock the life out of the community," said Hagan.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

Another lawsuit planned over NBA arena in Brooklyn

AP, via NY Newsday

EISLawsuit-AP.gif

Activists trying to block construction of a new arena in Brooklyn for the NBA's New Jersey Nets plan to file a lawsuit claiming that the project underwent an inadequate environmental review.

The suit, expected to be filed Thursday, will become the third legal challenge to the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment, which would include offices, a hotel, shops and thousands of apartments in 16 new buildings designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry.
...
Among other things, the new lawsuit will claim that the state agency overseeing the project, the Empire State Development Corporation, failed to assess potential security and terrorism risks associated with the arena.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Atlantic Yards #1: A Traffic Circle for Atlantic & Flatbush?!?

Gowanus Lounge brings us news from the Daily News because nydailynews.com v 2.0 "is awful beyond words:"

"Everybody who lives near the area knows that traffic is already a nightmare on Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., but when the arena is built, the traffic will be utterly disastrous," said Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights), who said that if developer Forest City Ratner refuses to fund the ideas, the money should come from the city and state.

The recommendations, ranging from tunnels and overpasses to increased parking meter fees and express buses, comes as a response to an environmental impact statement that anticipates gridlock at intersections near the project but offers no solutions.

Among the most ambitious ideas are three options to combat traffic at Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Aves., including a circle, a tunnel under Atlantic Ave. and an overpass on Flatbush Ave.

"The core point is that that intersection is already impassible for hours each day, and it will only get worse," Yassky said. "I don't think you can deal with traffic in the area without first dealing with that intersection."

More...

NoLandGrab: Underpass?? Has anyone looked underground in this area? It's already pretty well packed with all sorts of stuff.

Ratner already wants to move LIRR tracks for the arena. Why not move everything around? It's just money.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

How Is a Park Slope Seder Different From All Other Seders?

Daily Intelligencer

For the second year, Rose Water in Park Slope held a seder with Leather Tomato's remix of the "Four Questions."

As printed in the handout Haggadah:

• Why is the Atlantic Yards project different from all other real-estate development projects?
• Why is it that this entire section of Brooklyn consists of unleavened low-rise buildings, but at Atlantic Yards Bruce Ratner wants to build seventeen high-rise buildings?
• Why is it that in all other projects the community would be happy for a real-estate developer to bring them "jobs, housing and hoops," but in this project some members of the community are bitter?
• Why is it that in all other projects the buildings stand straight, but in Frank Gehry's designs for the Atlantic Yards project, the buildings recline to one side? — to be read by the youngest real-estate developer at the Seder with the shortest hair.

link

Gawker, When Ratner was in Brooklyn Land...
"Insanity," another environmental impact of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

We know this has been around a bit already, but we couldn't resist noting the anti-Bruce Ratner Passover Haggadah ("for an Atlantic Yardseder") that's been circulating for the last few days. Because, hey, if this doesn't say, "Oh no, we're totally not a bunch of barely sane kvetchers," we don't know what does.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

New efforts in Albany to promote disclosure are only half the battle

The Journal News, Editorial

Reform of "member items" is "only half the battle." The other half is what happens to the money afterwards, as is evident in Yonkers and the controversy brewing around Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project:

The missive from Cuomo's office stands in some contrast with new representations from the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce regarding an attention-getting $175,000 "member item" received by the chamber last year courtesy of then-Sen. Nicholas Spano, R-Yonkers. The taxpayer money was used in part to fund a $100,000 consulting contract with the chamber that went to city GOP chief Zehy Jereis, a former executive assistant to Spano, who was voted out of office in November.
...
The state's Freedom of Information Law doesn't apply to [the Chamber of Commerce], but certainly its Albany benefactors' pledge of "openness, transparency and accountability" - those words are from Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno - should apply to grant recipients. They should be more forthcoming given their receipt of taxpayer money.

There has been official and unofficial interest in Jereis' activities. As reported by staff writer Bruce Golding, the city Board of Ethics received a federal grand jury subpoena March 19 for financial disclosure forms filed by the GOP leader. A March 2 subpoena from the feds demanded certain City Council records as part of a federal inquiry into the City Council's handling of the $600 million Ridge Hill development. Inquiring taxpayers want to know what's going on; they are entitled to prompt answers.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

TODAY: Press Conference in Brooklyn

Thursday. April 5. 11:45.

27 Co-Petitioners to Announce Lawsuit Against the Empire State Development Corporation, PACB, MTA and Forest City Ratner Companies

Community Lawsuit Seeks to Annul Fatally Flawed Environmental Impact Statement and Approval of Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” Project

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Twenty-six co-petitioners will announce and discuss the filing of a lawsuit against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), and Forest City Ratner Companies. The suit seeks to annul the fatally flawed environmental review (Final Environmental Impact Statement, FEIS) and approval of Forest City Ratner’s 8 million square foot, $4 billion “Atlantic Yards” development proposal in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn. The suit also seeks a preliminary injunction to enjoin the project from proceeding, including: demolitions, construction, disposition of public property or commitment and expenditure of public funds.

When:
Tomorrow. April 5. 11:45 AM. Rain or Shine. (Umbrella recommended if raining)

Where:
Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden. Corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue (Across the street from 590 Pacific Street) [Map]
Subway: D, M, N, R to Pacific station. 2, 3, 4, 5, B, Q to Atlantic station.

Who:
- Lead Attorney, Jeffrey S. Baker
- Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Inc.
- Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.
- NY Public Interest Research Group, Inc. - Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) - Sierra Club, Inc. - Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Inc.
- The Brooklyn Bear’s Gardens, Inc.
- Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association, Inc.
- Boerum Hill Association, Inc.
- Brooklyn Vision Foundation, Inc.
- Carlton Avenue Association, Inc.
- Carroll Street Block Association (5th and 6th Ave), Inc.
- Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
- Dean Street Block Association, Inc. (4th to 5th Ave) - East Pacific Block Association, Inc. - Fort Greene Association, Inc. - Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Inc. - Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
- Park Slope Neighbors, Inc. - Park Place-Underhill Avenue Block Association - Prospect Heights Action Coalition - Prospect Place of Brooklyn Block Association, Inc. - Society for Clinton Hill, Inc. - South Oxford Street Block Association - South Portland Avenue Block Association, Inc.
- Zen Environmental Studies Institute, Ltd.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

April 4, 2007

The ESDC leaves the Atlantic Center mall, after Gargano’s slush fund expires

Atlantic Yards Report

Like nearly everything having to do with Bruce Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation's tenancy in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall is pretty slushy.

Norman Oder gets the scoop (with $prinkles) on the end of an era:

ESDC-ACMall.jpg

Cleaning up in the wreckage a political deal involving former Gov. George Pataki and former Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano, the ESDC has closed its underutilized Brooklyn office on the lightly-trafficked third floor of the Atlantic Center mall operated by Forest City Ratner.

Also, a look at the history of the Community Network Office (CNO) program offers evidence—in plain sight but not previously emphasized—that the choice of the mall for the ESDC Brooklyn office was meant as a favor to developer Forest City Ratner. The developer has had trouble filling space at the mall, which even the New York Times described in 2004 as having “dead corridors,” especially on the third floor.

The ESDC has now closed all six of its Community Network Offices around the city, as the $4 million used to fund them since 2002—money Pataki directed from the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey to the ESDC—has expired, and the offices did very little to fulfill their stated purpose.

A 3/25/07 Bergen Record article broke the news that the Port Authority had spent nearly $100 million since 2003 on projects ranging from cultural support to real estate development, straying far from its transportation mission. The money came from a fund controlled by Pataki and administered by Gargano, who had been Pataki’s chief fundraiser and was appointed vice chairman of the Port Authority as well as head of the ESDC.

article

NoLandGrab: If Bruce Ratner's projects start off as boondoggles and then get bailed out, what risk does the developer assume in that equation?

Posted by lumi at 9:43 AM

TONIGHT: Spunk Lads Reunite, DDDB Fundraising Concert

Spunk-Laddies2.jpgWe're assuming that the Spunk Lads, legends of the late-'70s London punk scene, have been rehearsing, but who knows? We're pretty sure that band members still have some moves and can take the stage without a walker.

So check 'em out tonight at Southpaw, in their reunion gig to benefit the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Legal Fund.

"Ratner’s bollocks," said Lads’ singer Nick Knickers, in explaining the impetus behind the reunion concert. The Lads will be joined by three talented acts. All for just $15.

Wed., April 4th: The Spunk Lads

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

Southpaw
125 Fifth Avenue. Brooklyn, NY. (718) 230-0236

$15 Admission -- proceeds go to DDDB's Legal Fund

Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts promptly at 8 p.m.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

Gag Me: Why Do Mr. Sitt and Mr. Ratner Like Silence?

The Gowanus Lounge

GagOder.jpg

As anyone who's been following the Thor Equities Coney Island saga or the earlier Forest City Ratner buyout of property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint, confidentiality clauses are the latest fashion accessory in development deals. The new issue of the Real Deal offers a nice picture of the trend:

Thor offered its tenants in Coney Island the opportunity to stay on for one year. In return, the business owners must remain silent about redevelopment efforts that "may generate opposition from other landowners, businesses and certain members of the public" for four years after signing...Violators would pay $10,000 to Thor for each infraction.

The developer says the gag rule is necessary not to keep tenants from speaking out, but to protect confidential information.

NoLandGrab: What's especially fun about Ratner's gag order is that sellers, when called upon, must also state publicly that they were "fairly treated" (or is it "treated fairly?") by the developer. These public displays of affection are kinda reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

HELPFUL HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS

Cleveland Leader
By Roldo Bartimole

A Cleveland boondoggle is brewing which will sound very familiar to Brooklynites:

SamMiller-FCE.jpg

The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer is all atwitter about Sam Miller giving some money for a study to tell us what Sam Miller and the boys want now from us.

Don’t we already know.

A way to pay for a new Convention Center located on his land, near his other declining property, for his obvious benefit, and paid for by you and me.

NoLandGrab: We told you it sounded familiar. Read on:

A new $350 to $500-million Convention Center is supposed to turn the Cleveland economic tide the same way Gateway did, or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did, or Playhouse Square did and or the Browns Stadium did. NOT. Duh.

However, it will help Forest City, of which Sam is family, bail out its failed Tower City project, already helped with tens of millions in subsidies over the past two decades.

article

NoLandGrab: The Tower City project only sucked up tens of millions in subsidies??

Cousin Bruce would have done much better if the project were in Brooklyn. No wonder Fred Siegel, a professor of history at the Cooper Union, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer "[Bruce Ratner is] the master of subsidy. No one does it better." ["Makes me feel sad for the rest."]

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

Last Call for Bar’s Lonely Anti-Atlantic Yards Boycott

"Deeds and Deals"
NY Observer
By Douglas Quenqua

Oh yeah, the Brooklyn Brewery beer boycott is still on:

Freddy’s is the last bar standing within the 22-acre footprint of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. The famous dive and art gallery, which is slated for destruction to make way for the $4 billion complex, stopped serving Brooklyn Lager a year ago this week, joining what then seemed to be a growing protest over Brooklyn Brewery president Stephen Hindy’s support for the project. Brooklyn Brewery has a concession contract at the New Jersey Nets’ Continental Arena, and Mr. Hindy hopes to get one in the N.B.A. franchise’s new Atlantic Yards arena, too.
...
One year later, it’s hard to find a local bar that isn’t aware of the attempted boycott—but even harder to find one that doesn’t serve Brooklyn Brewery beers.

Mr. Hindy is less forgiving. “It’s aggravating to think that people believe that damaging a local business could have any impact on the future of the Atlantic Yards project,” he said.

He was referring, of course, to his own business. Reminded that Freddy’s is a local business as well, he replied: “I didn’t do anything to hurt Freddy’s.”

article

From The Brooklyn Paper, March 11, 2006:

“After meeting with the opposition and touring the site, we are more than ever convinced that the Atlantic Yards project is good for Brooklyn,” Hindy told The Brooklyn Papers. “Not only will it bring a professional basketball team, it also will bring much-needed affordable housing, jobs and economic development to downtown Brooklyn.”

NoLandGrab: Steve Hindy can say what he wants, the fact remains that he supports Bruce Ratner plans to demolish Freddy's Bar and Backroom for the Atlantic Yards project.

Besides, Freddy's isn't the only Brooklyn watering hole that refuses to sell Brooklyn Lager.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Yanks’ garages in park

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

The new Yankee Stadium parking garages are turning out to be a raw deal for the taxpayers:

While the Yankees dashed into Macombs Dam Park last August to break ground on a new stadium ahead of a community group’s lawsuit, the team’s plan for four large parking garages has lagged far behind schedule.

An initial request for proposals was pulled in 2005, and when the RFP resurfaced last June its deadline had to be extended. Few believed a private developer could actually make money from a project that would require a $250 million investment and be fully used for just 80 games a year. Now the city has turned to a not-for-profit to complete the deal, minus one garage.

Community Initiatives Development Corp. is a not-for-profit formed in 1992 to help private firms and local governments secure tax-exempt financing. For the Yankees’ garages, CIDC set up a local entity in February to act as the tax-exempt borrower for the city, which could have been liable for the full tab.
...
Dan Steinberg of Good Jobs New York, is raising his initial estimate of public subsidies going to the project, which he had pegged above $400 million. He thinks the garage money would be better spent on the planned Metro-North station, considering the garages were vehemently opposed in the neighborhood, which suffers from a high asthma rate.

article

NoLandGrab: Could public-subsidy creep happen with Atlantic Yards? With Bruce Ratner at the helm, you can practically guarantee it.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

April 3, 2007

"...every last detail and development has been fought over bitterly."

In today's Times, Metropolitan Editor Joe Sexton asserts that "every last detail and development has been fought over bitterly" in regards to the Atlantic Yards project (link).

If that is true, then: * Why did NY approve the project without reviewing a real financial plan? * Why does no one know the real cost to the taxpayers? * Why has the Times never reported that Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation? * Why hasn't the Times shown a scale image of the project in relation to the existing neighborhood? * And why does the Times repeatedly make mistakes like reporting on the "city and state approved" "rezoning" and "reconstruction of Atlantic Yards," which includes a "rooftop park." [These errors are only from the last 4 1/2 months, including March, 2007 when there was only one significant Times story covering Atlantic Yards.]

Just because the Times lacks the wherewithal to cover the largest single-source private project in the history of NYC, doesn't mean that the public is done.

Anyway, who's feeling bitter? We're laughing our asses off, watching revenues drop at "The Paper of Record," while the graying institution is wringing its hands over the effect of the blogosphere and side-stepping a story that is shaping up to be the poster-child for reform in Albany. Besides, the paper might not be responsible for their terrible track record — for all we know, the editors and reporters might not have been dealt with fairly by developer Bruce Ratner.

BTW: We're just sounding off here, credit should go to Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report for staying on top of the issue.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

TOMORROW NIGHT: Spunk Lads Reunite, DDDB Fundraising Concert

From DDDB.net:

SpunkLaddies.jpg

Against their better judgment, the Spunk Lads, those legends of the late-'70s London punk scene, will take the stage at Southpaw on April 4th for a reunion gig to benefit the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Legal Fund.

The Lads, who called it quits, seemingly for good, in 2005, were compelled to get back together for the good of their adopted home -- Brooklyn, NY.

"Ratner’s bollocks," said Lads’ singer Nick Knickers, in explaining the impetus behind the reunion concert. The Lads will be joined by three talented acts. All for just $15.

Wednesday, April 4th: The Spunk Lads.

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

Southpaw
125 Fifth Avenue. Brooklyn, NY. (718) 230-0236

$15 Admission -- proceeds go to DDDB's Legal Fund
Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts promptly at 8 p.m.

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

Arena, 2009? Forest City's timeline contradictions continue

CharlesRatner.gifCharles Ratner gets "reblogged" in Atlantic Yards Report.

Forest City Enterprises (FCE) CEO Chuck Ratner (right), who in early March indicated that the Atlantic Yards project could take 15 years and that the arena would open for the 2010–11 season, is certainly back on message.

During a conference call last Thursday, Ratner and colleagues assured investment analysts that the project would meet the announced schedule, with the arena opening in time for the 2009–10 season.

The certainty professed, however, was at odds with Ratner’s words earlier in March and the doubts Forest City executives expressed during other segments of the conference call regarding other company projects.

Indeed, Ratner seemed to talking out of two sides of his mouth, telling the analysts, “As you know, in our business, these things take a very long time, most often, frankly, longer than we anticipate.”

Also, while Atlantic Yards was described at one point as being under construction, later it was placed in a category of projects that are decidedly not yet under construction.

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Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Demolition Protest

News12

Ward-News12.jpg

Activists want to save a historic building from demolition. The former Ward Bread Bakery building is in danger of being knocked down to make way for the Atlantic Yards project. News 12's Kate Pezzimente reports from Pacific St. on why some people feel the building should be saved.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

"I had not seen the reports"

The NY Times Metropolitan Editor Joe Sexton, a native Brooklynite, gets an earful from someone not named Norman Oder, who wants to know more about the Gray Lady's silence on recent breaking news about Atlantic Yards.

Sexton responds by claiming to take the little papers seriously, "irrespective of their size or circulation" and then admits to having no clue.

Sexton-NYT.jpg

Neighborhood Papers

Q. It is always puzzling to see breakthrough stories in neighborhood papers that never make it to the big leagues. But the one I refer to now is a daily -- The Sun -- along with the Brooklyn Paper, a weekly. They reported last week that the financials relied upon by the E.S.D.C. and Public Authorities Control Board in approving Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was incomplete and even deceptive. Especially given The Times's connection to F.C.R, it would seem incumbent on you to check it out and follow it up. Only a story in the mainstream press can engender the kind of review (of a deal that has generated so much opposition) that a Governor Spitzer might otherwise fail to make. Thanks in advance for taking a look.

— Joseph Mohbat (an A.Y. opponent)

A. Dear Mr. Mohbat: We on the paper's Metro desk take all of our competitors seriously, irrespective of their size or circulation. I had not seen the reports you refer to, and the Atlantic Yards issue is one in which every last detail and development has been fought over bitterly. Rest assured we'll take a look now.

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NoLandGrab: The NY Sun's circulation might be small, but does that make them a "neighborhood paper" as the subhead would suggest?

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

PRESS RELEASE, BrooklynSpeaks: two for the price of one"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THOUSANDS CALL ON GOVERNOR TO CHANGE ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT

Nearly 6,000 New Yorkers have written to Governor Eliot Spitzer calling for major changes to the Atlantic Yards project. The letters were sent from the BrooklynSpeaks.net website or as replies to a mailer sent out to households surrounding the project. Many of the letters included personal notes which will be excerpted on the BrooklynSpeaks.net website over the forthcoming weeks. They will be delivered to the offices of the Empire State Development Corporation tomorrow on Tuesday, April 3.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: RALLY AGAINST DEMOLITION PLANNED

The sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign are planning “Rally Against Demolition for Parking” on April 15 at 2:00 p.m. It will take place on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues — the location of one of the proposed parking lots. Supporters and opponents alike are welcome to join the rally and hear music from the Lafayette Inspirational Gospel Choir and from singer Dave Hall.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

April 2, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere18sm.jpgThe Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards is Dead: Sitt Announces Barclays Cone in Coney

Do you really expect us to believe that Atlantic Yards is dead; the Revere dome is being redesigned by Gehry and replacing the Parachute Jump, which is being moved to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic; and Coney Island will soon be festooned by a floating trailer park called Danny Town?

EVANKESSLER.COM, Life In The Fast Lane

As the afternoon drew to a close I was not quite sure what the evening held. I contacted my friend Morwin to see what he was up to and it turned out that he was headed to the slope for a film called Brooklyn Matters about the problematic Atlantic Yards project that's pretty much going to ruin Brooklyn in order to put up monstrous high rent apartment buildings and bring the New Jersey Nets so people can watch Basketball after they get kicked out of their homes. I decided I would meet him at the screening at a church on 6th avenue.

It was fascinating to see all of the corruption that Forest City Ratner was involved in order to get this project through as well as the spin they used to mislead and divide the public on the issue.

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, More about Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

"A historic preservation and urban revitalization advocate and consultant in Washington, DC" shares a few links regarding Atlantic Yards, including "Brooklyn Matters."

It turns out that a new film on the organizing around and against the project, Brooklyn Matters, shows some of the depth and nuance of the opposition.

Serf City, Libertarian Lions

Some Columbia alums and fellow Libertarians are p.o.’d that their alma mater is attempting a land grab...

Not bad for a bunch of Lions. Of course, all the really cool Libertarians went to NYU (Julian Sanchez, Chris Sciabarra and yours truly, to name a few.)

Upcoming.org, Atlantic Yards rally against building demolitions

When
Sunday, April 15, 2007
2:00 PM

Where
Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues
brooklyn, New York 11217

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, DANIEL MEETER: GOD TO RATNER: DON'T BUILD SO BIG

This week's Brooklyn Paper is chock full of articles about religion in the borough of kings. I especailly enjoyed Gersh Kuntzman's piece, GOD TO RATNER: DON'T BUILD SO BIG, highlighting Pastor Daniel Meeter's thoughts on the Atlantic Yards. Check it out

Nets Daily, Stefanski Remains Optimistic Despite Setbacks

[Nets General Manager Ed] Stefanski said that owner Bruce Ratner has given he and Rod Thorn permission to “go over the luxury tax” to sign Carter and other players next season.

So Ratner will pay whatever he must to keep Vince Carter in a Nets' jersey, but saving and adaptively reusing the Ward Bakery building is too costly?

Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

City Papers At Peace With Developer

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net), in response to the Crain's NY Business article headlined "Brooklyn paper at war with developer":

The Brooklyn Paper is one of only two papers that have covered the largest single-source development in the history of New York City on a week-in-and-week-out, comprehensive basis while never publishing Ratner's press releases in full (the other one is the Brooklyn Downtown Star, edited by Nik Kovac). Put simply, any paper or journalist covering "Atlantic Yards" day after day, and writing about it with weekly continuity, would find the project and its orbit of outrages so full of holes it would be good on a sandwich; and the coverage would be bound to peeve Bruce Ratner, Bruce Bender and crew, who are used to media kowtowing and having it their way.

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Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

Brooklyn paper at war with developer

Atlantic Yards plan pilloried by weekly

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

Just because The Brooklyn Paper covers the largest single-source private development in NY City history, while most other papers pretty much have given developer Bruce Ratner a bye, they are "at war with [the] developer???" On the other hand, as Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman explains, "The role of the headline is to get the story read."

Read on, and don't miss the quotes at the end, in which Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender manages to avoid any "Benderisms," and James Caldwell complains about the paper twisting their story around:

After a long struggle for state approval, Forest City Ratner Cos. is proceeding with its giant Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. But that won't stop Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper, from continuing his relentless front-page assaults on the project.

Mr. Kuntzman may be just warming up. Even the government's go-ahead for Atlantic Yards in December silenced him for only two weeks. Then the onslaught resumed.

Nine of the weekly paper's next 10 editions blasted the $4 billion project on Page 1. The exception was the March 3 issue, following a major court victory by the developer. The Brooklyn Paper dutifully published a story headlined "Yards opponents suffer huge setback" but buried it on Page 15.

"It came in late," explains Mr. Kuntzman.

He makes no apologies for his harsh coverage of Atlantic Yards and of Forest City's chief executive, Bruce Ratner. Not even for his headline "Ratner picks your pocket ˜ again" atop a story about the city budgeting $100 million more than previously disclosed for project-related work.

"The role of the headline is to get the story read," says Mr. Kuntzman, who was a New York Post Brooklyn bureau chief before taking the reins of the free broadsheet in October 2005. "Everybody knows that."

He adds that the headline was fair because "when the mayor tells us we haven't put a ceiling on [public expenditures], that tells us someone is picking our pocket."

Mighty Forest City is not amused. "They call you names, attack your friends, accuse you of being dishonest and mean, and then, when the teacher is looking, they claim to be an upright student," says Bruce Bender, a company vice president. "They can write whatever they want, attacking your motives at their leisure, and then say, 'Wait, we're legitimate journalists looking for the truth.'"

Mr. Kuntzman says Forest City ignores his pleas for Comments, which makes it difficult to represent the developer's side. He says Forest City even stopped sending him press releases for a while — a charge the developer denies. Nonetheless, Forest City has given up on the paper.

"Best to just keep your mouth closed," explains James Caldwell, a project supporter who now runs a Forest City-funded program to help residents get Atlantic Yards jobs. "The Brooklyn Paper has not been fair. Hell, no. When we talk with them, they twist our story around."

NOTICE ON FAIR USE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

470 Vanderbilt: the Atlantic Yards addition that wasn't (yet)

Atlantic Yards Report

AtlanticTech-sm.jpg

Did Forest City Ratner plan to add 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, a nine-story former tire plant turned telecom center just north of Atlantic Avenue, to the Atlantic Yards plan?

That's what a 1/23/04 e-mail from Forest City executive Jane Marshall suggests, even though neither Forest City nor the firm that owns the Atlantic Technology Center at 470 Vanderbilt would confirm that. It's a reminder that Forest City Ratner seeks to expand further in Brooklyn; the developer also plans towers over the Atlantic Center mall (with more than 1.2 million square feet of development rights) and the conversion of a factory-turned-office building at 80 DeKalb Avenue into housing.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Brooklyn Speaks: April 15th: Rally Against Demolition for Parking

From BrooklynSpeaks.net:

Whether you support or oppose Atlantic Yards, the immediate reality of the project won't be the promised jobs and housing, but three enormous parking lots. The State is planning to permit Forest City Ratner to demolish two city blocks, including historic buildings like the Ward Bakery, to create “temporary” parking for over 1400 cars that could blight the area for decades.
...
Please join us in sending a clear message to Eliot Spitzer and Mike Bloomberg that New Yorkers deserve better.

What: Rally against Demolition for Parking
When: April 15 at 2pm
Where: Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Ave.
Performers:
Lafayette Inspirational
Dave Hall
Others TBC

link

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

BREAKING NEWS: State money funded $100G job for Yonkers GOP chief

The Journal News

Here's the latest in the political controversy that's brewing in Yonkers, which, many believe, may lead back to Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project.

Ridge Hill amazingly received final approval from the Yonkers City Council after one councilmember switched her vote. This councilmember is a cousin of the Yonkers Republican Party Leader who appears to be the subject of a federal investigation.

Yonkers' embattled Republican chairman got a $100,000 consulting contract with the city's Chamber of Commerce as part of a state grant arranged by his political patron and former employer, then-state Sen. Nicholas Spano.

The deal marked the most lucrative job GOP chief Zehy Jereis has held during a career of taxpayer-funded work provided by powerful Westchester Republicans.
...
The money for Jereis' one-year contract came from a $175,000 "member item" - the legislative term for pork-barrel spending - secured by Spano, officials said.

Spano, who was ousted by voters last year, said he had nothing to do with Jereis' contract, which expires tomorrow and is not being renewed.
...
The probe involves the council's handling of the controversial Ridge Hill development plan for a $600 million "mini-city" along the New York State Thruway, a source told The Journal News when the first subpoena became public.
...
Jereis' contract made him one of the chamber's most highly paid workers, according to federal records.

NoLandGrab: Let's see if we can follow the connections here. Sources in Yonkers tell us that Nick Spano's brother Mike was working for the lobbying group of Patricia Lynch and Associates, who were lobbying for Bruce Ratner.

So Ratner hires Mike's firm, whose brother Nick gets a well-paid job for Zehy Jereis, who is the cousin of Councilmember Sandy Annabi, who reverses her vote on Ridge Hill, giving the Ratner project the votes it needs for approval.

It's too early to know if that has anything to do with the Federal investigation. Last month, a Ratner spokesperson felt compelled to point out, "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." (link).

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Taxpayers last to benefit from stadiums

AP, via BusinessWeek.com

WASHINGTON

Taxpayers don't benefit from multimillion-dollar publicly subsidized professional sports stadiums, residents from New York, Detroit and Seattle told lawmakers at hearing Thursday.
...
Just last year, the Internal Revenue Service revamped regulations that give stadium developers easier access to tax-exempt financing. But lawmakers continue to get complaints that stadiums built or upgraded with tax-free financing make economic conditions better not worse.

The hearing was one in a series focused on the state of urban America. A week earlier, the panel had focused on rising foreclosures on mortgages issued to borrowers with high-risk credit.

Joyce Hogi, a south Bronx widow, detailed conditions in four apartment buildings 100 feet away from four parking garages built for Yankee Stadium.

"The process ... had no standards and was arbitrary and capricious," Hogi said. She blamed stadium owner "greed" for the presence of professional sports team making life worse for people who live nearby.

Some lawmakers defended the IRS' move last year.

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Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

Courier-Life, Extended: "Extended basketball clinics"

This week, Courier-Life Publications is rerunning, on its website, under a different headline, a March 16 article, which in turn is a rewrite of a Forest City press release.

Who needs a phony tabloid when a "neighborhood" weekly takes care of it for you?

Extended basketball clinics, March 29, 2007

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) will be 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.

FCRC expands Nets b-ball clinic, March 16, 2007

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.

Forest City Ratner press release, March 8, 2007 (PDF)

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.

NoLandGrab: We've heard that Courier-Life is now owned by the NY Post, which supports Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, so don't expect any improvements soon.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

April 1, 2007

Farce City Ratner, Prospect Park Alliance and City of New York
Announce deal for Olmsted Homestead

40 Acres of Prospect Park to be Adapted for Urban Mixed-Use Lifestyle Center

FarceCityRatner.gif(Brooklyn, NY) – April 1, 2007 – Farce City Ratner Companies (FCRC) today unveiled designs for Olmsted Homestead.

The Olmsted Homestead urban lifestyle center will contain 27 highrise towers at and around the Grand Army Plaza entrance of Prospect Park, located in Downtown Brooklyn. The project will include 2.3-million square feet of commercial space, 10.2-million square feet of affordable residential housing (127 deluxury units with over 8,000 units for support staff), and 17 acres of publicly accessible parks, including a polo field.

As an encore to the company’s Atlantic Yards project, FCRC has teamed up once again with the world’s most famous architect, Frank Gehry, to design the company’s most ambitious project to date.

Olmsted Homestead is the city's largest affordable housing project ever. According to Farce City Ratner Executive Vice President James B. Snarky, “FCRC has an outstanding reputation for building affordable housing. This time we are striving for 100% affordable housing, by making all of the Olmsted Homestead housing affordable to those who can afford it.”

Seventy percent of the maintenance fees for the Olmsted Homestead will be earmarked for the upkeep of Prospect Park, including the Parade Grounds. Prospect Park Alliance Director Thomas Tipper said “This is a great day for Vaux and Olmsted’s Prospect Park. The project includes 17 acres of public open space, which will be a net positive for a park that was really too big to begin with. Increased resources for Prospect Park will be devoted to less land, which means more for everyone.”

Brooklyn’s architect of record, Frank Gehry, said “I am looking forward to creating a neighborhood from scratch… again. I hope that I can pull it off."

At a press conference held in Grand Army Plaza, FCRC CEO Bruce Ratner announced, “This project will create 75,000 jobs and generate billions of dollars in tax revenues before subsidies. A shining Frank Gehry homage to the park, Olmsted Homestead will be the jewel in the crown of Brooklyn.”

Grand Army Plaza will be adapted into a four-story parking garage with a green roof. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch will become the keystone of the facade. These are but a few of the project's features that will fulfill FCRC's commitment to achieve LEED certification for Olmsted Homestead.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The City is pleased to be partnering with Bruce Ratner again. While working on Atlantic Yards I was able to get a sense of his soul. Bruce Ratner is a man deeply committed to his city and has the best interests of his city in mind." The City of New York is planning to contribute $600 million for infrastructure improvements, including relocation of the Greenmarket to the Barclays Center (expected to be ready for the 2013-2014 basketball season), drainage for the polo grounds and the conversion of Union Street in Park Slope to one-way eastbound flow to provide access to parking facilities and stables.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz declared, "It is time for Brooklyn to get serious about development. As we did for Atlantic Yards, we’re going to make Olmsted Homestead work for the community in the area as well."

Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

Sunday Comix (This cartoon is not yet rated)

SundayComix-MK-070401a.gif

Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Sunday Comix

SundayComix-MA070401a.gif

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Overheard on Brooklyn Speaks

In the comments section of an item titled "Coming soon to Prospect Heights: a large suburban parking lot?" someone who claims to be in the know asesses Borough President Marty Markowitz's stance on Atlantic Yards.

"Marty Markowitz won't listen..."

Posted by steve at 9:57 AM

Two Quick Items From Atlantic Yards Report

At the Forest City Enterprises web site, sustainability is front and center
Norman Oder finds that, for Forest City, "Sustainability is an integral part of Forest City's core values" means just what it says -- except for Atlantic Yards.

AY a project or a place? The Times still whiffs
Also, the Times still doesn't get that Atlantic Yards is only a marketing brand, not a place.

Posted by steve at 9:49 AM

Eminent Domania

eminentdomainia13.gif

The Queens Courier, Wither Willets Point redevelopment

Those familiar with the Atlantic Yards fight might be forgiven when their eyes glaze over when seeing the terms "mix-use facility", "affordable housing" and "open space" used to describe the Willets Point project.

At a recent town hall meeting organized by City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, representatives from the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) presented their vision for the site as a mixed-use facility complete with affordable housing, office space, a first class hotel, convention center, school and open space for the community to enjoy.

And what discussion of the use of eminent domain would be complete without a finding of blight? This time, there's a concern about environmental problems that have long been present, in the area, but only now seem important because developers want the property.

However, some community members at the meeting criticized EDC officials for only recently taking an interest in the poor environmental conditions in the area now that they are looking to develop the region.

The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development, C'mon, Columbia, Take Eminent Domain Off the Table
More on Columbia University's moves on Manhattanville.

Even the strongest Harlem supporters of the Manhattanville plan, like realtor Willie Kathryn Suggs, balk at eminent domain. "I don't want them invoking eminent domain for private use. It's not right," says Suggs. "The neighborhood will get safer streets and better restaurants. I want that to happen. But under the rules. If they want more property they should buy it fairly, like anyone else."

Surprise, you're blighted!

Columbia argues that Manhattanville is "blighted," a condition that automatically allows the state to exercise eminent domain. It insists that its goal is to "transform what is now a largely isolated, underutilized streetscape of garage openings, empty ground floors, roll-down metal gates and chain-link fences on the blocks from West 125th to 133rd Streets into a cohesive, reanimated center for educational, commercial and community life."

A local business owner tells where he thinks the blight is coming from:

"This is blight forced on the neighborhood by city regulations," he notes. "But despite its zoning, the neighborhood is far better off now than it’s ever been. Yet Columbia, ironically, is claiming it’s so terrible and so blighted."

Posted by steve at 9:19 AM

Courier Life: Brooklyn Through Ratner-Colored Glasses

Courier Life Publications takes great care to let you know they support Atlantic Yards by confusing the entire project with just the 10% part of it that involves an arena.

Discover the entire length and breadth of your borough, just by taking a walk
In a listing of a tour presented by the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment (BCUE):

April 15 from 1-3 p.m., there is A Meet and Greet Tour of Fort Greene. Long before there was a Central Park or a Prospect Park, there was Fort Greene Park (the vision of Walt Whitman). The area around the park is a neighborhood in stark contrast: a house that goes back to 1812, a church that was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the proposed new Atlantic Yards Stadium.

(see, BCUE's own listing shows understanding that Atlantic Yards isn't merely a stadium:

Long before there was a Central Park or a Prospect Park, there was Fort Greene Park (the brainchild of Walt Whitman). We’ll see a house that dates back to 1812, a church that was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the site for the proposed Atlantic Yards Project. No other Brooklyn community can claim writers, musicians, designers, film makers and visual artists with such a rich and varied history. Visit an artist studio and the MOCADA museum, the historic district surrounding the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and end at Dekalb Avenue’s Restaurant.

Posted by steve at 7:05 AM