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April 25, 2007

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 April 25, 2007 9:33 AM