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May 31, 2007

If NJ's proposed eminent domain reform passed in NY, it might stymie AY

Atlantic Yards Report

If a project like Atlantic Yards had been proposed in New Jersey, there's a good bet a top statewide official would be criticizing it.

New York State has no Public Advocate (though the city has one, and we know what she thinks about eminent domain and AY), but New Jersey has a statewide position. Public Advocate Ron Chen has been fighting hard against eminent domain abuse, issuing reports, press releases, and filing amicus briefs in court cases.

The latest report, which got a lot of press yesterday, argues for the State Legislature to change the state’s redevelopment law to achieve a balance between protecting people’s rights and ensuring that sound redevelopment projects move ahead. ...

The Public Advocate outlines a troubling scenario, arguing, “When the government misuses the power of eminent domain, people can lose their homes without real evidence that their neighborhood is blighted, without adequate notice or hearings and without fair compensation.”

Norman Oder analyzes how NJ's Public Advocate proposes to tackle the issue of "blight."

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Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Markowitz Makes It a May to Remember for C.B. 6

The NY Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

MartyMarkowitz-NYO.jpg

While on its face the move seemed fairly routine, Mr. Markowitz and his allies, including City Councilman Bill de Blasio, purged the board members apparently because of their steadfast opposition to the Atlantic Yards project in central Brooklyn.

The Purge was not as deep as expected, however.

One elected official told The Observer prior to the announcement that as many as half of the 50 board members were in jeopardy of not being reappointed. That means he left many Atlantic Yards opponents on the board, albeit with the eerie feeling that they might be next.
...
The Observer tried to reach Mr. Markowitz before the list of unseated community-board members was made public. His press secretary, however, wouldn’t reveal his whereabouts—perhaps for good reason. On Friday, the New York Post reported that Mr. Markowitz was returning from a six-day cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2.

He received the expenses-paid voyage on the luxury cruise liner—which, not incidentally, docks in Red Hook—in exchange for delivering a trio of speeches about Brooklyn to the ship’s passengers. (Lucky them.)

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Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction Worker, Brooklyn, NYC

Brooklyn Lens Photography by Daniel Norman

512355478_e5b6ee580e.jpg

A construction worker surveys the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. This is the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and the site of the new Brooklyn Nets Arena. Brooklynites are trying to stop the project.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Markowitz’s ‘Purge’ of Atlantic Yards Opponents – Not His Finest Hour

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

What is the role of the city’s community boards? They are surely part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), and public projects are voted on by the community boards before they go to the Borough President’s Office, the City Planning Commission, the City Council and ultimately the Mayor’s Office. However, the community boards are merely advisory bodies: they can’t stop a project from proceeding.

That’s why Borough President Marty Markowitz’ decision not to reappoint nine members of Community Board 6, some of whom have been on the board for 20 years, is puzzling. As a matter of fact, it’s not just puzzling – it’s very disturbing.

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Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Marty Blogowitz: Binge Buffet, Purge Brooklyn

The Gowanus Lounge, Markowitz to CB6 Purge Victims: You Never Call, You Never Write
GL posts yesterday's Daily News story on Marty's explanation:

"I was not given the courtesy by the members of this board to contact me -- as the person who appoints them -- and say, 'Marty, we want to vote against Atlantic Yards,'" Markowitz said.

... and adds, "Well, that clears things up."

NoLandGrab: Seriously folks, all of the politicians who appoint members of the Community Board send representatives to every general board meeting. If Marty was blindsided, it means he wasn't listening.

Media Nation, Correction of the Day
Marty's "the-ship-ate-my-homework" excuse gets top honors as the "Correction of the Day."

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Out There: The borough standings

Time Out New York

This week, Brooklyn slipped one spot to third place in the borough standings. The reason, "Marty's purge."

3. BROOKLYN

Last week: 2

The reason: Obviously, disagreeing with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is not a wise move if you want to hang on to your job. He booted nine members of Community Board 6 who had voted against the Atlantic Yards plan he favored.

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Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere55-sm.jpgThe Real Deal, Downtown Brooklyn 'land rush'
Blurb and link to this week's Village Voice story on the Downtown Brooklyn plan and how small business owners and long-time residents are getting the boot:

"While Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject and the insta-towers popping up across Williamsburg have gotten more attention, an equally big land rush is stalking downtown Brooklyn in the wake of a rezoning approved by the city in 2004." Some of the current plans for the area include the construction of an underground parking garage connected to a rising Sheraton; the development of a 594,000-square-foot, mixed-use building called Willoughby West; and the razing and redevelopment of what is now the Albee Square Mall. As the various plans begin to take shape, many longtime businesses are being served with eviction papers.

The DCeiver, Nobody Knows Who You Are!

Okay. I saw the latest Spiderman sequel, and liked it. Yeah, the second one was better, yadda blah de blah. I still found it enjoyable, in spite of or perhaps because of the way my expectations were calibrated by the lukewarmy reviews.

Nevertheless, there were five things that struck me as just sort of lame or implausible:

  1. Can a construction crane really freak the fuck out like that? Because DC is home to, like, ten kabillion cranes, and I've never heard of one going all whirly like the one in the movie. I'm just going to have to accept that scene as Sam Raimi making an allegorical statement against the Atlantic Yards project.

I'm seeing green, Sideways Costs

A planner discusses the "externalities" of Atlantic Yards (aka the costs that are obvious to anyone but developer Bruce Ratner and local politicians).

The externalities of the Atlantic Yards project should have been well addressed by the Environmental Impact Report...

Alas, the DOT's one-way plan (which was killed before it hit the streets), impending utility rate hikes and school overcrowding were not "well addressed."

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Eggs with Marty Markowitz

The Brooklyn BP on balancing cheesecakes with diets, affordable housing and why he doesn’t want to be public advocate

City Hall News
By Charlotte Eichna

martymoskowitz-CHN.jpgA sit-down at Junior's with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz provides a glimspe of the cuddly BP we all know and love.

Q: Switching gears—you’ve been a vocal proponent of affordable housing. What are some of the ways you’d like to tackle this problem in Brooklyn?
A: People I speak to that have left Brooklyn tell me, “Marty, we’d love to stay in Brooklyn. We can’t afford it here.” In Brooklyn, the problem is you want to build and we have no land, so you can only build vertically. And of course there is this romanticized version by some that all of Brooklyn lives in a brownstone. And that’s not true. We do have some wonderful, beautiful brownstone communities and I live in Park Slope and believe me, I love the area. But Brooklyn is home to all sorts of housing—high rise buildings, low rise buildings, tudors, colonials, limestones and brownstones and two families and four families—so we have a mix of all sorts of housing in the borough. But the truth of the matter is, as land becomes more scarce, you have to look for locations in the borough that lend themselves to building high rise buildings in order to meet the demand of those seeking a place to live, of all incomes. We don’t have land so we have to have smart development where we build housing and also respect the surrounding communities—we have to find that balance.

Q: So this is one of the reasons you’ve been a force behind the Atlantic Yards development, right?
A: Absolutely, without a question. And also because Brooklyn is deserving of being a city that has national sports. Religion, music, family and sports are what bring people together. And the arena will be a big center of family life in this borough. We’ll have a national team to cheer for again, after over 50 years of our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers leaving. The kids in Brooklyn today deserve to have a national team just like I was lucky to have it in my era. And the jobs it will create, the housing, the beautiful architecture—it’s the right location, it’s the right space, it’s the right time. And it’s going to happen. And the people that are the naysayers, they won’t even be a footnote in history—and neither will I. Because once it opens, people will say, “Wow, it’s always been here. How did we live without this?”

NoLandGrab: How did we live without Marty Markowitz?

Q: When do you hope to see construction start?
A: I hope it will be yesterday. But hopefully maybe by the end of the year, at least, the process with the shovel, whatever, can happen, I hope.

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Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Five years ago today, NJ Nets win conference to advance to NBA Finals

May 31, 2002 is a day that stands out in the memory of NJ Nets' fans, reminding them of better days.

Five years ago today, the Nets defeated the Boston Celtics, 96-88, to win the Eastern Conference Championship and advance to the NBA Finals, where the team was eventually swept in four games by the LA Lakers.

The 2002 season proved to be the apex of the Nets' success.

What a difference five years and one owner makes. After Bruce Ratner acquired the team in 2004, several trades raised the eyebrows of fans, who questioned the real estate mogul's commitment to the team's success. The Nets' lame-duck status in NJ hasn't helped fan morale, or filled seats, either.

[Thanks to a NJ Nets fan who called WFAN yesterday for the reference.]

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

REITs Pouring Investment Into Dense Urban Corners

NY Sun
By Michael Stoler

If you've been wondering what's fueling NYC's current real estate boom, you might want to read about REITs.

We stumbled across Stoler's column because of a quick reference to the Target in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall, located across the street from the footprint of his Atlantic Yards proposal. Stoler conflates the two projects and calls the existing mall "Atlantic Yards":

The majority of real estate leaders agree that New York City has a dire need for additional retail, especially in urban sections of the boroughs. Some of the highest retail sales per foot have been recognized in urban areas such as Harlem and in the Bronx for national and local retailers. For example, one of Target’s highest revenue stores in the nation is located in Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn. The highest grossing Pathmark in the chain is located on 125th Street and Lexington Avenue and the second is at 146th Street and Bradhurst Avenue.

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Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

No budget vote planned in Yonkers, despite deadline

The Journal News
By Hannan Adely

Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill megaproject is one of the issues holding up budget approval in Yonkers.

The City Council has no plans to vote on the budget this week, despite the fact that it is required by law to approve a budget by tomorrow.

Some council members said they needed more time to review parts of the budget, including a controversial deal allowing developer Forest City Ratner to pay millions of dollars of taxes and lease payments at one time instead of over many years.

Councilman Liam McLaughlin, who chairs the budget committee, said the council may wait to see if the state comptroller will approve the Forest City Ratner deal. The comptroller must sign off on the entire budget, but will not comment until its review is complete.

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NoLandGrab: That's funny, Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was a bone of contention for budget approval here in NYC, only the money was going the other way (link).

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

May 30, 2007

The NY Times correction on Marty Purge story

MartyBreakfast.jpg

An article last Wednesday about a decision by the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, to remove at least five members of Community Board 6 who oppose the Atlantic Yards development project — which Mr. Markowitz supports — misstated the reason for the absence of a response by Mr. Markowitz. At the time the article was being reported, Mr. Markowitz could not be reached by his aides because he was on a ship at sea, had no telephone access and was not regularly checking his e-mail messages. He did not “refuse” to comment. (Go to Article)

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NoLandGrab: The Times calls for a comment, but they couldn't get hold of the Borough President because he was on a cruise? Is that supposed to be code for "Marty is unable to tear himself away from the buffet table?"

Posted by lumi at 11:25 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

NEWS FROM THE NJ PUBLIC ADVOCATE:
The NY Times, New Jersey Public Advocate Seeks Stronger Eminent Domain Protections for Property Owners

The New Jersey public advocate urged the Legislature on Tuesday to adopt a law that would make the use of eminent domain more equitable, while preserving it as a valuable redevelopment tool for many hard-pressed cities.

Ronald Chen, the state’s public advocate, renewed his nearly year-old call for changes in the state’s redevelopment law in a report detailing some abuses of the taking of private property by municipalities. The report also highlighted several court cases in which his office filed legal briefs supporting challenges to the eminent domain process as it now functions.

The Bergen Record, Report details eminent domain abuse

A "jaw-dropping" case in Passaic and a controversial proposal to seize two trailer parks in Lodi were cited by the state's public advocate Tuesday as classic examples of governmental abuse of eminent domain.

"People can lose their homes without real evidence that their neighborhood is blighted, without adequate notice or hearings and without fair compensation," Ronald K. Chen -- who first issued a statewide eminent domain analysis last May -- declared in his 31-page follow-up report.

The Newark Star-Ledger, Report lists abuses in land seizures

In releasing a second report on New Jersey's eminent domain statute, Public Advocate Ronald Chen said towns officials have exploited the law to include desirable properties in so-called blighted areas, seize land without notice, low-ball landowners being pushed out and rubber-stamp projects where they have a personal interest.

"The findings in this report crystallize the urgent need for our Legislature to change the state redevelopment law," Chen said. A proposal has been stuck in committee in the Senate for a year.

The public advocate's report focused on eight civil lawsuits that it said highlight abuses of eminent domain. In those cases, either judges or attorneys with the Department of the Public Advocate established a factual basis for the property owner's claim.

NoLandGrab: In case you're wondering what NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has done about eminent domain abuse in NYC, "Ms. Gotbaum stated that she is against the use of eminent domain but supports the Ratner project as it's her understanding eminent domain won't be used. She did say that if she learns otherwise, she would not support the Ratner project." (link)

OTHER LOCAL EMINENT DOMAIN NEWS:
NY Daily News, City says it may use eminent domain to acquire 911 backup site

Fed-up city officials are preparing to launch eminent-domain proceedings to acquire a privately owned site for a long-awaited 911 backup system.

According to officials involved in the dispute, interests representing the Simone Development Cos., based in New Rochelle, have stonewalled the city's various offers for a large parcel of land in the vicinity of the state-run Bronx Psychiatric Center near the Hutchinson River Parkway.

A backup 911 system - officially known as Public Safety Answering Center 2 - had been sought even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center. City efforts intensified after 9/11, but ran into obstacles.

The existing 911 system, based at the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, fields more than 12 million calls a year. On several occasions in recent years, it has experienced temporary disruptions, including a three-hour system failure in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island in March 2004.

NoLandGrab: The irony is that eminent domain was used for Bruce Ratner's MetroTech, which was billed at the time as a job-creation-and-retention program. MetroTech was unable to live up to the original billing, so the City of New York moved its own agencies into the complex, becoming the development's largest tenant.

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY:
Rocky Mountain Telegram, Property rights

North Carolina voters will be asked to decide whether the government can invoke eminent domain to condemn private property to make way for economic development projects under a measure approved last week in the N.C. House.

If the N.C. Senate signs off on the proposed constitutional amendment, the referendum could go before voters as early as this fall.

The Cincinnati Post, Widow opposes taking of home

The bright yellow solarium is Florence Matthews' favorite room in her house, which stands at the corner of Lafayette and Eden in Bellevue, where she's lived virtually all her life.

The little room on the north side is where she sews, finishing the patchwork quilts begun by her late mother and making dresses for her granddaughter. It's where she spends time with her pug Peggy and gazes out to see boats move past on the Ohio River, and view a slice of city skyline.

It's where the 79-year-old widow remembers most everything in her life and where she wants to spend the rest of it - even if that means fighting the city of Bellevue all the way to the Supreme Court.

KATC3, Redevelopment board seeks direction in post-Katrina New Orleans

Complicating NORA's [New Orleans Redevelopment Authority] work are constitutional amendments passed by voters last September that limit seizure of property.

One amendment bans the seizure of property except for certain "public purposes," such as roads, levees or parks. Eminent domain conjures images of retirees having their homes seized for shopping malls, but that's not the case in hurricane-damaged New Orleans, said NORA executive director Joe Williams.

"We're looking at properties that are blighted and abandoned and an imminent health and public safety issue," he said.

Frank S. Alexander, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta who has worked with NORA, said that while most urban redevelopment is done without expropriation, the scope of the two amendments will need to be resolved or "it will be an impediment to New Orleans' redevelopment activities."

The language, NORA says, needs clarification to determine how far the agency can go in turning over property for private redevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 11:00 AM

Speaking of Community Boards...

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

In light of the recent purging of Brooklyn Community Board 6 by Borough President Markowitz the following should be of even more interest than it otherwise would have been. This morning (Wednesday) on WNYC radio's Brian Lehrer Show:

What are Community Boards for?
Tom Angotti, director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and development, explains what purpose community boards serve and how independent they are from borough politicians.

The show airs on 820 AM or 93.9 FM starting at 10 am. This segment appears to be the second of three segments. Listeners can make a live, on air call to the show at: 212-433-9692

link

Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

Exclusive: Bloomy is uninformed about Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper

Rant.gifBack in February we cited NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg for "ignoranting" about Atlantic Yards at a press conference. Bloomie explained to reporters that Bruce Ratner's arena would be built on land, "which was going to be a new Ebbets Field" and called the eminent domain plaintiffs, "one little person, one person that owns one little piece of property" (for the record, there are over a dozen plaintiffs on the Federal eminent domain lawsuit).

This week, Bloomie was at it again. This time, he was busted by Brooklyn Papers (complete with audio soundbite):

During a press conference on Tuesday, The Brooklyn Paper asked Mayor Bloomberg why the city’s plan for redeveloping the state-owned Hudson Rail Yards on the far west side of Manhattan is going through a distinctly different process than Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development at and near the state-owned Vanderbilt Rail Yards in Prospect Heights.

The mayor’s answer was filled with inaccuracies.

The sound bite begins with Editor Gersh Kuntzman asking Hizzoner about the “different process” that the Hudson Yards redevelopment will undergo.

The mayor first says that “the Atlantic Yards was done by a private group and this [Hudson Yards] is a public entity, a public piece of land.” That’s not true. In both cases, the Metropolitan Transportation Administration — a public agency — owns the rail yards. That makes it “public land.”

In the case of Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner was awarded the development rights, but the state, not the city, oversaw the public review process. The Hudson Yards project is slated to go through the more-rigorous city land-use review process. Bloomberg described them “different pieces of land” as having “different owners — one is state, one is city.” That is not true.

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Posted by lumi at 9:57 AM

Gehry's Superblockage

Gehry-MK.gif We know starchitect Frank Gehry has an ego, recently we learned he has a sense of humor, but does he have a CONSCIENCE?

A famous political cartoon gets a face-lift (more like a tummy tuck?), as we wonder why Gehry would get involved with the national poster-project for poor urban design, totally tasteless excess and massive environmental impacts.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Marty defends CB 6 sackings

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

A week later, the spin is in:

You can cross Marty Markowitz if you want, but give him a courtesy call first.

Following a week of public scrutiny for his decision not to reappoint nine Community Board 6 members, the borough president vehemently denied his actions were in retaliation for their opposition to aspects of the Atlantic Yards project.

"I was not given the courtesy by the members of this board to contact me - as the person who appoints them - and say, 'Marty, we want to vote against Atlantic Yards,' " Markowitz said.

In his first public comments since fallout from the community board debacle and revelations that he accepted a free cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Markowitz insisted that in both cases he was just doing his job.

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Movie cliché: Markowitz is cast as the paternalistic Don, "But you don't vote with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me Godfather."

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

An agent, criticizing the NBA, says we're not in Dodger-land any more

Yesterday Atlantic Yards Report broke down the myth that the site for Bruce Ratner's new Nets arena was the same place coveted by Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley, before the Dodgers pulled up stakes and moved to LA. [For those who are interested in the truth, Bruce Ratner already built a mall on the site O'Malley wanted.]

TakingShots.jpgToday Atlantic Yards Report offers the latest comparison between the NBA and the Brooklyn Dodgers. From Keith Glass's book, "Taking Shots: Tall Tales, Bizarre Battles, and the Incredible Truth About the NBA:"

Both of my parents were born and raised in Brooklyn. My mother was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She would tell us that as she walked around her neighborhood, she would see Duke Snider in the candy store, or Jackie Robinson at the supermarket, or Pee Wee Reese at the cleaners. They were quite literally part of the community.

Today, obviously, this is not the case. Professonal athletes are cloistered away, surrounding by their families, agents, publicists, business manager, personal assistants, drivers, and, in many cases, people from their past who are just hoping for some kind of title to justify their presence. Which of these people being "fed" by the player do you think is going to tell him about reality?

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Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

BROOKLYN MATTERS: SCREENING AT A LOCATION NEAR YOU

BrooklynMattersPost-topg.jpg

June 1, 6 p.m.
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub, RSVP: 718-408-3234

June 3, 7:00 p.m.
322 Union Avenue, Bklyn
Sponsored by UnionDocs as part of The Documentary Bodega Series

June 8, 7 p.m.
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub, RSVP: 718-408-3234

June 13, 6:00 p.m. Community Economic Justice Film Series
6:00 pm reception, 6:30 pm screening
87 Lafayette Street
Sponsored by Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project

June 8, 7 p.m.
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub, RSVP: 718-408-3234

June 22, 7 p.m.
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub, RSVP: 718-408-3234

Host your own screening: buildinghistory@verizon.net

More info at www.brooklynmaters.com.

 

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Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Gehry Wears "Fuck Frank Gehry" T-shirt

Gothamist blogs this week's "Talk of the Town" piece in The New Yorker about "F*ck Frank Gehry" T-shirts and who's wearing 'em:

In this week's New Yorker, Lauren Collins has a funny bit on the popularity of "Fuck Frank Gehry" T-shirts. Popular, that is, with Frank Gehry himself!

The T-shirts first were a hit with Europeans who opposed the Bilbao project. Then they were sought after by critics of the Atlantic Yards. Then Gehry's driver saw the T-shirt at a super bowl party and soon a sample batch landed at Gehry's office. The architect explained, "Somebody sent it to me, and I thought it must have been the people in Brooklyn who are sort of angry. But then I thought, well, it must be loving, too. So I decided it was funny, and I put it on. And I wore it to the office, and everybody got a kick out of that, and then I wore it to the gym...”

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Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

On the Outs in Brooklyn

The city's complicity behind the borough's soaring eviction rate

The Village Voice

DuffieldSt-VV.jpg

While Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject and the insta-towers popping up across Williamsburg have gotten more attention, an equally big land rush is stalking downtown Brooklyn in the wake of a rezoning approved by the city in 2004.

If you've got the time, check out this important article by Neil deMause about evictions of small businesses in Downtown Brooklyn and the Duffield St. land grab, both brought to you by the Downtown Brooklyn Plan rezoning.

Turning Brooklyn's low-rise downtown into high-priced towers wasn't the original idea. "There was no constituency that had a vision of downtown Brooklyn as a high-rise bedroom community," notes Robert Perris, the district manager of Brooklyn's Community Board 2, which covers Brooklyn Heights, downtown, and Fort Greene. "Even people that were pro–economic development are disappointed that what we've gotten instead are 40-story residential buildings."

Even more disappointed, needless to say, are those who'd staked their futures on being a part of a newly energized downtown, only to find themselves staring down the barrel of a new Chelsea.

"We moved to this neighborhood when there were crack vials on the floor," Aviva Jakubowitz of Track Data Corporation testified last Tuesday at a city hearing on the fate of the block that contains her company's offices, as well as the Duffield Street Underground Railroad houses. "Now, finally, the neighborhood has changed, and the city wants to take our property by eminent domain."
...
The Department of City Planning's webpage on the downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan declares that its goal is to "serve the residents, businesses, academic institutions, and cultural institutions of Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding communities." The city's actual environmental-impact statement for the rezoning plan, though, was more blunt, saying that while current businesses would be displaced, they would not be "significant" losses because "they do not have substantial economic value to the City, they do not define neighborhood character, nor do they belong to a special category of business that is protected by special regulations or publicly adopted plans."
...
It's a scenario that, planning experts say, points out one of the main flaws with the city's rezoning process: With public discussion limited to the advisory vote of the local community board, it takes an extraordinarily committed organization of local residents to get the city to veer from its declared path. And even then, the appointed community boards are no guarantee to represent the community—as residents of Brooklyn's Board 6 found out last week when nine members were purged by their political patrons for voting against Atlantic Yards, and the Bronx's CB4 saw last year in a similar purge over the new Yankee Stadium plan.

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Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

Developmentalism in the Big Apple

Cost of living has skyrocketed in New York, but under fatcats Giuliani and Bloomberg, the working man’s wage has not

In These Times
By Steven Wishnia

NYC Mayor touts his program to build affordable housing, meanwhile more affordable units are leaving the system than are being built and real wages lag far behind.

Thirty years ago, you could easily find a one-bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in New York City for $150 a month. Today, it would cost more than $1,500—more than what Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, then baseball’s highest-paid player, paid in 1977. His Fifth Avenue apartment with a balcony overlooking Central Park cost $1,466 a month. And the minimum wage hasn’t gone up to $27.82 an hour.

How we got to this point is the subject of Kim Moody’s From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (The New Press). Moody analyzes how New York’s business elite exploited the ’70s fiscal crisis to destroy the city’s “social-democratic polity” and impose the neoliberal agenda that has dictated “restraint on social spending, privatization, deregulation, and most importantly, the reassertion of class power by the nation’s capitalist class.”

The result is a city where inequality has grown to extremes far beyond those in the rest of the country, where a small but growing cabal of the spectacularly rich uses government as a vending machine and lords it over a hollowed-out middle class and millions of low-paid, increasingly immigrant service workers.

Unlike many politicians, Moody hasn't fallen for the myth of "affordable" housing at Atlantic Yards:

Bloomberg has made some grand-sounding promises about building affordable housing, but Moody dissects the formulas used to determine what’s deemed “affordable.” Based on the median income for the metropolitan area, apartments that go for as much as $1,800 a month are classified as “middle income,” such as those in the planned Atlantic Yards sports arena/housing complex in Brooklyn.

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Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

The bosses' takeover of New York

Socialist Worker Online
Review by Aaron Hess

Kim Moody, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present. New Press, 2007, 352 pages, $26.95.

Socialist scholar and activist Kim Moody’s new book, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present is an angry, accessible and scrupulously researched account of how the city’s rich and politically connected have consolidated their power over ordinary New Yorkers in the last three decades.

Among the strengths of Moody’s book is that it shows how the inequality and racism in the Big Apple today are not accidental features of “development” or the inevitable consequence of uncontrollable market forces. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the city’s business and political elite consciously planned out its war on workers and the poor.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner joins the titans of corporate welfare:

While gutting funding for affordable housing, the city and state have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exemptions and abatements to the upscale housing market and corporate welfare to “public-private” partnerships run by real-estate titans like Bruce Ratner and Larry Silverstein.

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Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

Companies' money goes where their interests lie

Columbus Dispatch
By Jonathan Riskind and Jack Torry

An article about how corporations bundle campaign contributions uses Atlantic Yards developer Forest City as a case study:

Take Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, one of the nation's largest developers. Led by Albert Ratner and Sam Miller, Forest City executives have long donated to politicians of both parties, including Ohio lawmakers such as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Reps. Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township and Deborah Pryce of Upper Arlington.

This year, Forest City executives have been contributing to the Democratic presidential campaign of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Why Richardson? One possibility is that Forest City is developing a 13,000-acre commercial and residential project near Albuquerque. Backers of the ambitious project say it will include 10 million square feet of commercial and office space and as many as 100,000 residents.
...
Figures compiled by the Washington-based center show that Ratner and his relatives have contributed $27,000 to Richardson's presidential campaign, while Miller and his family have contributed $4,600 to Richardson.

The same survey shows that the Ratner family has contributed to only one other presidential campaign, $4,600 to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. The survey shows that Miller contributed $4,600 to the presidential campaign of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del.

In addition, the Associated Press reported last month that Forest City and its top officials contributed nearly $150,000 to Richardson's 2006 gubernatorial campaign. That included $25,000 by the company to help pay for Richardson's inauguration in January and three trips for him aboard a jet leased by the company.

article

NoLandGrab: For those of you who missed Norman Oder's series tracking down local contributions for Forest City, check out AtlanticYardsReport.com:
The Ratner campaign money trail leads to... Michael (& his wife)
More Ratner-related contributions: $10,800 to State Sen. Connor
The Ratner contributions just keep coming
Michael Ratner offers contributions (Lopez, etc.), office for meeting

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

May 29, 2007

Rhetoric check: AY "same site" as proposed Dodgers stadium? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

Journalists, politicians, and other commentators have readily--though incorrectly--repeated a central fudge in the Atlantic Yards saga, that the site would be the same as that proposed by Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley before he moved the beloved Dodgers to Los Angeles.

That's a great tale, only Bruce Ratner already built a mall on the site coveted by O'Malley.

(Graphic from Henry Fetter's book Taking on the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball, which was issued before the Atlantic Yards plan was officially announced. Click to enlarge. More from Fetter below.)
...
Yes, O'Malley's idea was to move the Dodgers near Brooklyn's busiest transit hub. But no one at the time was proposing to build over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, as with the Atlantic Yards plan above. That would’ve been too costly.
...
Fetter's book, issued in September 2003, should have been a useful resource for anyone writing about the Dodgers stadium location, as previous books could have been. Instead, some writers and observers have perpetuated a myth.

Norman Oder cites at least ten examples of the developer, politicians and writers perpetuating one of the most enduring myths of the Atlantic Yards saga. Nearly half of them are from the NY Times (maybe they'll publish another astounding correction).

Oder also summarizes Fetter's history of O'Malley's bid to move the team to Atlantic Avenue.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Frank Gehry’s buildings seem to be from another planet

The [UK] Times

An interview with the architect of Atlantic Yards:

Frank_Gehry-UKTimes.jpg

Gehry is no mere architect; he is a “starchitect”, and the object of adulation by culture junkies across the world – including, it turns out, the veteran Out of Africa film-maker Sydney Pollack, who has just released an 84-minute documentary entitled Sketches of Frank Gehry (see panel, right). The film is the closest that anyone is ever likely to get to the genre of architecture-porn. There they are, Gehry’s curvy super-models, spread-eagled and pouting in various exotic locations across the globe.

I meet Gehry at his surprisingly sane-looking office in Marina del Ray, Los Angeles, where 180 of his understudies design everything from entire New York zip codes to vodka bottles, via home lighting and Tiffany jewellery. Gehry, the Willy Wonka of this particular chocolate factory, greets me shiftily in a black T-shirt and blue jeans.
...
As for the future, Gehry has won critical praise for Inter-Active Corp’s ghostly HQ in Manhattan and is working on two massive urban renewal projects: Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Grand Avenue in LA. He is building a £290 million seafront development in Hove, East Sussex.

And what architecture-porn would be complete without a designgasm:

“I’ll show you my lights!” he exclaims, now throwing the gently throbbing object from one hand to the other.

Finally he plops it on the floor and shrugs, still grinning, as if to say – can you f*ing believe I designed that, eh?

article

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Atlantic Yards Critic Lands Spot on Community Board

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

One of the odder bits of fallout to come out of the, um, change of membership at Community Board 6 is that a critic of Atlantic Yards is replacing one of the opponents who got axed this week.

Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, was nominated for a spot on the 50-member advisory board by City Council Member Bill de Blasio and appointed by Borough President Marty Markowitz, according to the board's new list (PDF).

Pratt published an independent analysis of the project in March 2005 that complained that “the process through which this development has been advanced has not been sufficiently fair or accountable” (PDF). Mr. Lander says, however, that he does not consider himself “a die-hard opponent” of Atlantic Yards.

“In its current form, I consider myself in a very highly ambivalent position,” he told The Observer Friday. “I believe that the project could’ve been, and maybe still could be, modified to a place where I could support it, yet still be recognizable.”

article

NoLandGrab: Lander's position is aligned with the middle-of-the-road coalition, Brooklyn Speaks. He has been careful to distance himself from staunch "critics" of the project.

As an affordable housing advocate, Lander has been careful not to ruffle too many feathers in City Hall over this project, even though many housing advocates are concerned that the massive Atlantic Yards project could suck up a considerable portion of finite affordable housing resources. The question of how much housing subsidy Atlantic Yards would require has never been answered, so there's no way to understand if Bruce Ratner's plan is the best way to spend the government's money to build affordable housing.

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere34.jpg Yonkers Tribune, Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards to Blame, in Part For Looming Con Edison Record Rate Hike
A cat fight breaks out in the comments section of a posting of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's press release about Atlantic Yards and rising electricity rates.

The subjects on some peoples' minds in Yonkers: their OWN political vortex around Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill plan, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (only don't call it a "PILOT"), and the City's deal to help cover a looming budget shortfall by selling Ratner the leases for Ridge Hill way below their estimated value.

West Bronx Blog, Sound Familiar?
Brooklyn is not alone:

Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, is being accused of pushing out several long-serving community board members because of their oppostion to the borough's Atlantic Yards development - a project Markowitz, says the New York Times, "has spent three years and much of his political capital extolling."

Last summer, you may recall, Adolfo Carrión, Markowitz's Bronx counterpart, was accused of the very same thing, namely removing Bronx Community Board 4 members who opposed the new Yankee Stadium.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

MemorialDay.jpg Much blood has been lost for the fight to build and preserve our democratic system, which, alas, is not inevitable.

Much democracy has been lost for corrupt deals between the government and the politically powerful, which, are not inevitable, either.

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Monday Comix

ForestShippyRatner.gif

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Your Name Here

The New Yorker

Frank Gehry shows he has a sense of humor, though he still doesn't have a clue:

Harris had the “Fuck Frank Gehry” shirts made in brown with orange lettering and in navy blue with silver lettering. He sold a few hundred, many to Europeans. Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development, in Brooklyn, kept asking for donations.

Then, in March, a friend of Harris’s named Howell Caldwell was working as an assistant director on a weight-loss commercial starring Valerie Bertinelli. Get this: Caldwell’s limo driver, Geoffrey Cushing-Murray, also drives Gehry; on set, he mentioned to a friend that he had run into her husband wearing a “Fuck Frank Gehry” shirt at a Super Bowl party. Cushing-Murray had told Gehry about the encounter, and Gehry, he said, had been intrigued. Caldwell volunteered that he knew the guy who made the shirts. Within days, a sample batch was on its way to Gehry’s office.

“Somebody sent it to me,” Gehry said the other day, over the telephone, “and I thought it must have been the people in Brooklyn who are sort of angry. But then I thought, well, it must be loving, too. So I decided it was funny, and I put it on. And I wore it to the office, and everybody got a kick out of that, and then I wore it to the gym”—Gehry lifts weights at a Gold’s in Venice Beach—“and everybody got a kick out of that. The tough gals at the gym said, ‘If it’s an offer, you better be able to deliver, Mr. Gehry.’ ” Gehry’s wife, Berta, found this all funny. (“She’s Panamanian, so she doesn’t get rattled by much,” Gehry said.) In a Queer Nationesque move of appropriation, Gehry decided to begin sending the shirts out as gifts.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

St. Mary's Hospital is off the AY affordable housing block

Atlantic Yards Report

It was never a given, and the news is late, but it's worth noting that St. Mary's Hospital in Crown Heights no longer seems the likely home of affordable for-sale apartments connected to the Atlantic Yards project.

The 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units are promised in the Memorandum of Understanding regarding housing signed in May 2005 by Forest City Ratner and the housing advocacy group ACORN. Unlike with the 2250 affordable rentals planned at the Atlantic Yards site, the plan has not been memorialized in any Empire State Development Corporation documents.
...
Forest City has not made any public statements recently about plans for the for-sale affordable units, which would be dependent on currently scarce public subsidies. Perhaps the developer has other sites in mind, or in hand. Perhaps it's prudent to wait.

However, given FCR's deep pockets, and the relatively small cost for the acquisition (though not the renovation) of the hospital building, it would be interesting to learn why the developer passed on the opportunity.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Yonkers council, mayor spar over Ridge Hill tax deal

The Journal-News
By Hannan Adely

Bruce Ratner's deal for Ridge Hill with the City of Yonkers is making waves again:

A deal allowing a developer to buy out its lease on the Ridge Hill property and to pay three years of taxes up front has roiled City Council members, who say Mayor Phil Amicone has violated the conditions they set on the project.

When they approved new zoning for Ridge Hill last summer, City Council members say they attached conditions to their resolution, including a time schedule for tax payments. The deal between Amicone and developer Forest City Ratner violates the resolution, said Liam McLaughlin, chairman of the council's budget committee.

"It was well thought out by the council and agreed upon, so for the mayor now to just completely ignore this and try to get the comptroller to sign off on (the budget) is just unconscionable," said McLaughlin, R-4th District.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

May 27, 2007

Sunday Comix

martythedozer.gif

Posted by amy at 10:08 AM

Summer Reading. Summer Blockbuster.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Our suggested reading list is heavy on the legal side and it's all non-fiction. First, of course, there are the legal briefs from both sides on the federal eminent domain lawsuit Goldstein v. Pataki charging that the "Atlantic Yards'" abuse of eminent domain violates the US Constitution. That suit was filed way back in the Fall of 2006. In these papers there is plenty to delve into for your summer reading while you lounge around Prospect Park or perhaps the beach at Coney Island. And if you are more of a picture person you can look over the property ownership map which shows how the "Atlantic Yards" project cannot be built if the 13 plaintiffs on the eminent domain lawsuit are successful in keeping their properties.

A decision on the defendants' motion to dismiss the case could come any day.

The other set of legal briefs we suggest for summer reading, perhaps under the molten heat of your stoop or the refreshing shade of a tree in Fort Greene Park, is from the state lawsuit DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al.. That suit challenges the very foundation of the project, and the fatally-flawed Environmental Impact Statement's review and approval. There are a lot of exhibits along with the complaint and responses for you to check out on those humid days that are sure to come. If you prefer a condensed version of this suit, there is a summary you can read, or coverage from Atlantic Yards Report of the May 3rd oral argument.

A decision on this suit could possibly be rendered in early to mid-June.

article

Posted by amy at 8:33 AM

Forest City, Marty try to tweak the record, but it doesn't work

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz, for nearly five years--the entirety of his first term, beginning in 2002, and through the beginning of his second term--suggested on the BP web site that he had no intention of pursuing higher office.

His web site (courtesy of the Internet Archive) stated:
While some people want to grow up to be mayor, governor, or President of the United States, my dream in life has always been to lead Brooklyn as borough president. To me, this is the ultimate job.

Then came news last July that the term-limited BP was raising money for a yet-unspecified 2009 campaign. In response to speculation about Markowitz's ambition to be mayor--a position he seemed to have excluded--No Land Grab last July posted Markowitz's statement that "borough president... is the ultimate job."

At some moment, those sentiments were excised from Markowitz's web site. But they live on.

link
NoLandGrab: Borough President is certainly looking like the "Ultimate Job" this week...

Posted by amy at 8:27 AM

To Sell Brooklyn, Borough Leader Took Free Trip on Cruise Ship

markowitz190.jpg

New York Times
By ANDY NEWMAN

On Thursday, Mr. Markowitz’s own ship came in. He arrived in Brooklyn on the Queen Mary 2 after a free six-day cruise from Southampton, England. Mr. Markowitz was quick to point out that he sailed not just as a passenger, but also as the borough’s official ambassador. Between breakfasts of petit filet mignon and dinners of lobster flambé with cognac and truffles, harp recitals and black-tie soirees, the mostly European passengers were treated to an hourlong talk from Mr. Markowitz on the wonders of Brooklyn. More than 450 people attended it, he said.
...
Mr. Markowitz might have picked a more opportune time to leave town for a week. While he was away, one of the bigger controversies of his administration arose, concerning his decision to remove nine members from a community board that criticized the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development project, which Mr. Markowitz has championed. A reporter seeking comment on the move on Tuesday was told only that Mr. Markowitz was “on a ship.”

article

Posted by amy at 8:23 AM

On the Town

Daily Intelligencer

Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz booted nine community-board members who’d voted against the Atlantic Yards megaproject he championed. A waitress at Jay- Z’s 40/40 Club said the rap mogul’s crew grabbed from the tip jar.

link
NoLandGrab: Did the Intelligencer realize that these two folks have a related interest - or was this placement mere coincidence?

Posted by amy at 8:18 AM

May 26, 2007

Shake-Up of Board Is Defended

New York Times
By ANDY NEWMAN

When the board appointments were made public on Tuesday, Mr. Markowitz was accused of punishing members of Community Board 6, which includes parts of Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens, for opposing him on Atlantic Yards. He removed a greater percentage of members who sought reappointment in Community Board 6 than in any of the other 17 boards in the borough. The borough president reappoints or replaces 25 of a community board’s 50 volunteer members each year.

Mr. Markowitz said that he was “not happy” with the nonbinding resolutions that Community Board 6 passed denouncing Atlantic Yards last year, while the project awaited eventual state approval. (The project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, is the development partner in a new Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.)

As the appointing authority, Mr. Markowitz added, he should have been kept abreast of community board members’ concerns. “We had no clue here that they were going to have this resolution for vote at the board,” he said.

article

Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

The value of local voices

The Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards provides the perfect case-in-point for why these hardworking volunteers should be allowed to do their job without having to worry about hewing to some party line. In the rush to get the project approved before Gov. Pataki left office, many not-so-minor details were blown off:

Like traffic. Like transit. Like the project’s massive environmental impact. Like the use of state condemnation power to seize privately owned homes and turn them over to Ratner for private profit. Like the massive taxpayer-backed subsidies that virtually eliminate any risk and guarantee a handsome profit to Ratner.

On all these issues (and others) independent-minded community board members bucked the elected officials who lined up like ducks behind Ratner and pointed out genuine flaws in the project.

The fact that SOME of these flaws were later remedied speaks volumes about the importance of independent thinking.

article

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Pols to Yards foes: Yer Out!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Last year, CB6 took a strong position against Atlantic Yards — and Markowitz made it clear to several board members that they would pay for their vote against the project.

“He got it off his chest pretty loudly, and more than once,” said one Markowitz appointee who was reappointed, but only after several peace-making meetings.

Another appointee said Markowiz told her last year that he would get rid of all the board members who had voted against Ratner’s project.

“He pointed at my ‘Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’ button and shouted at me that all the people who voted down the project would be gone,” said Celia Cacace, whose seat on CB6 is not up for reappointment until next year.

article

Posted by amy at 11:37 AM

At CB 6, new appointee claims AY ignorance; another has been an AY critic

Atlantic Yards Report

From this week's Courier-Life chain, an article (not yet online), headlined AXE FALLS ON YARDS FOES, advances the story about the Community Board 6 purge by including some tough quotes from departing members and showing one new appointee to be profoundly ignorant about Atlantic Yards.
...
Maybe Markowitz was looking for fresh perspectives, but with one new appointee, he's getting something of a blank slate. Let's quote the passage in full:
New Markowitz appointee Vanessa Twyford said she is thrilled to begin serving on the board. "I don't know anything about Atlantic Yards, but I am pro-development," she said. Twyford, a third generation Brooklynite, is the granddaughter of Connie Gibbons, the first president of the First Place Tri Block Association, a Carroll Gardens civic group. "I'm definitely intersted in the community being more built up," said Twyford, who owns a real estate company on Court Street. "Development is good for everyone," she said.

The Twyford Real Estate web site includes this biographical information:
Vanessa keeps up with critical issues by regularly attending meetings for neighborhood organizations like Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Gowanas Canal Community Development Corporation, Brooklyn Task Force and Community Board 6.

If Twyford has regularly attended meetings of CB 6, how could she have missed the Atlantic Yards discussion?

article

Posted by amy at 11:33 AM

Fact-checking Brooklyn Brewery's Hindy on Ratner's jobs

Atlantic Yards Report

In a New York Observer article this week headlined Unlikely Power Broker Bullish on Brooklyn, Brooklyn Brewery CEO Steve Hindy opines on the future of Brooklyn, disses development on Fourth Avenue, and offers much praise for Forest City Ratner, expected to be serving his beer at the planned Brooklyn Arena.

Except his numbers are off.
...
As for Atlantic Yards, the Observer quotes Hindy:
“Brooklyn has a serious need for jobs,” he said. “Pfizer just closed their plant over in Bed-Stuy. Domino Sugar closed last year down on the waterfront here. Those big industrial plants just aren’t feasible here anymore. So something’s gotta replace it. Things like the development at Coney Island and things like Atlantic Yards—that’s what we have to work with, and we have to make the best of it.”

Remember, Forest City Ratner once promoted space for 10,000 office jobs at Atlantic Yards. Now there would be space for 1340 jobs, with perhaps 375 new jobs.

article

Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

May 25, 2007

Marty "kicks back" while failing to spin CB6 purge

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been unusually quiet about the purge of nine Community Board 6 (CB6) members, all of whom voted in support of CB6's criticism of many aspects of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

The lack of damage control from the Beep's office betrayed incompetence and/or arrogance and helped suck City Councilmembers Bill de Blasio and David Yassky into the political vortex with him.

On Wednesday, Norman Oder pointed out that, "The typically voluble Markowitz wouldn't comment to the Times about his action; that speaks volumes."

We've been wondering if his crew, by letting recent news float without a life raft, had the intelligence to navigate these murky political waters. Really, what could be more important than putting a positive spin on a disgraceful maneuver?

Here's what:

NY Post, BROOKLYN'S BEEP FULL OF $HIP: CRITICS

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has raised eyebrows for accepting a free trans-Atlantic cruise on the mammoth Queen Mary 2 - after lobbying hard to get the ship to dock in Red Hook.
...
The comped cruise raised some eyebrows, despite the fact that Markowitz - who is considering a run for mayor in 2009 - went to the city's Conflict of Interest Board before the trip and got a green light from the panel.

Queen's Crap, Sailor Boy Marty
"Crappy" wonders aloud, "Quid pro quo for Markowitz?"

Daily Gotham, Cruisin' Clown: Marty's Aquatic Kickback

Last night at the CBID meeting the topic of Borough Clown Marty Markowitz came up quite naturally. No one had a good word for him and a connection with Marty was debated as a big negative for an otherwise good judicial candidate.

During one conversation I was told that Marty Markowitz has been away on a cruise during the whole CB6 circus that has been making news recently. We laughed at this, realizing Marty may have missed a great deal of the anger and may, perhaps, even be taking it easy, waiting for it all to blow over. Well, even clowns need vacations.

Turns out Marty's little ocean cruise is more than just a vacation: it looks an awful lot like a kickback...or at least an eyebrow raising freebie.
...
Some time back, Marty Markowitz lobbied hard to get Red Hook to be the home port of the Queen Mary 2, which will dock in Buttermilk Channel between Governors Island and Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: What are the chances that this will "sink" his Mayoral bid?

The fact that he got a green light from the Conflict of Interest Board makes one wonder if he was entirely forthcoming as to the nature of his work on behalf of the company — "Ahab-scam" anyone?

(Photo, The Brooklyn Paper)

Posted by lumi at 9:50 PM

WTF? AY aka WTC MIA

Earlier this week, the blogosphere laughed its ass off when Atlantic Yards Report noticed that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City presented a rendering for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, identified as "Atlantic Yards Tomorrow," to "governmental and business leaders during a 4/18/07 forum in Atlanta on redeveloping an underutilized corridor"

AYTomorrow.JPG

This presentation has mysteriously disappeared from the AtlantaDowntown.com website, but no worries, it's now available here (Warning: 5MB PDF).

Posted by lumi at 9:29 PM

Prospect Heights has the ride stuff

NY Daily News
By Laura Albanese

AtlanticAveStation-NYDN.jpg

Straphangers' paradise looks a lot like Prospect Heights.

The bustling locale was tops in the Brooklyn News' list for best commuter neighborhood - edging out downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights as the most rider-friendly place in the borough. The list is based on location, variety of available trains, rush-hour commute and regularity of service.

The designation is due largely to the Atlantic Ave. subway hub in Prospect Heights.

article

NoLandGrab: If the Daily News thinks the station is "paradise" now, how about if Atlantic Yards adds another 29,000 subway rides per day (see, NY Daily News, "Arena concerns hit home," March 2, 2004)?

Posted by lumi at 8:28 PM

Critic Goldberger: post-Moses era represents failure to plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from last night's panel discussion on the legacy of Robert Moses.

These days, it seems to be par for the course that Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan is mentioned during panel discussions as the poor-planning posterproject:

The failure of government to plan, to imagine, instead choosing to subcontract planning to the private sector, is the hallmark of our post-Robert Moses era--even more so than the difficulty in reconciling public participation and major projects, according to Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic of The New Yorker.

He spoke at another panel discussion on Moses's legacy, held Wednesday night at the Museum of the City of New York. In an article for the New York Times's Empire Zone blog titled What Would Moses Do?, Sewell Chan offers a good summary (which saved me some transcription of quotes); I'll focus more on Goldberger's comments, which also included a salute to Atlantic Yards bloggers.

[Goldberger] cited Columbus Circle, Moynihan Station, Governor’s Island, the West Side railyards plan, Atlantic Yards, and Ground Zero as examples of "the public sector turning planning over to the private sector and letting it propose. The public sector has become, for all intents and purposes, an organizer, an impresario, a referee, an enabler and a negotiator of the projects that are conceived and packaged by the private sector. Planning, in effect, has been subcontracted out."

Oder offers an additional observation:

Even with those minimal standards, I'd observe, Atlantic Yards may fall short. Even the process packaging the project represents a sweetheart deal, according to Atlantic Yards opponents, because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority didn't issue an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard until 18 months after the city and state backed developer Forest City Ratner's plan.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

What Would Moses Do?

The Empire Zone
By Sewell Chan

Moses-NYT.jpg

What would Moses do? Good question — for starters, he would not have located a basketball arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush.

When Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark a few short steps from the intersection, Moses turned him down, claiming that the stadium would create "a China Wall of traffic."

(Roger Kahn, "The Boys of Summer," page 429)

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall sits on the site coveted by O'Malley.

But we digress...

From The NY Times's political blog:

Development — and its impact on New York’s neighborhoods — was the theme of a wide-ranging discussion last night at the Museum of the City of New York. (And, as with all such events lately, the subject of Atlantic Yards, the massive Brooklyn project, came up; see below.) Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, moderated the discussion, which included Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic of The New Yorker; Michael Kwartler, an architect, planner, urban designer and educator; and Robert B. Tierney, a lawyer and chairman of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
...
Mr. Goldberger said that much of the actual or planned development in recent years — Columbus Circle; the proposed train station in the Farley Post Office Building; Governor’s Island; the West Side railyards; Atlantic Yards; and even ground zero — has been driven by the private sector.

Goldberger gave Brooklyn bloggers some props, which is an indication that he probably gets more of his information on Atlantic Yards from the blogsphere than from the developer's web site, www.atlanticyards.com:

“The nature of citizen participation is a little different today,” he said. “It doesn’t happen through public hearings. Look at the extent to which blogs about Atlantic Yards have become a part of public discourse and become a part of public opinion and slowed down the project and may redirect it to a certain extent.”

article

NoLandGrab: To describe Atlantic Yards as "driven by the private sector" is sort of simplistic — we weren't there and can't vouch for the context of the quote.

Goldberger is correct that Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project was conceived in the private sector. However, the unprecedented scale and density of the project is only made possible by its public sponsorship. The Atlantic Yards behemoth is a prime example of how the power of public authorities, which Moses defined and exercized so well, can be relinquished to serve politically connected private-sector corporations.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

A ‘LeWitt' in Atlantic Yards's Path

Was Work by Artist — Or by His Assistant?

The NY Sun
By Katie Taylor

LeWittPhotoIllustration.jpgThere's a new wrinkle in the tale of the LeWitt painting in a building set to be demolished in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

The brightly colored painting, attributed to Sol LeWitt, on the wall of 644 Pacific St. in Brooklyn won't be around too much longer. The building is slated to be leveled to make way for the Atlantic Yards development. But the questions the painting raises about the artistic practice of LeWitt, the conceptual artist who died last month at 78, may be discussed long after the building comes down.
...
Wall drawing no. 848 got some attention last month when the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the Atlantic Yards development, sent out a mass email about the painting's distinguished legacy and imminent destruction. Even they seemed to recognize, however, that the situation didn't constitute an artistic tragedy.
...
So the painting at 644 Pacific St. seems unremarkable — a typical example of a practice in which, as anyone who has taken a class on abstract art can tell you, the artist’s concept comes first and is supreme, and the execution by assistants is secondary. Interviews with Mr. Watanabe and Ms. Cho, however, have added a wrinkle to the story behind wall drawing no. 848.

Asked by a reporter whether she had the instructions for the wall drawing, Ms. Cho said there weren’t any, but that there was a diagram. LeWitt did a diagram for the painting? the reporter asked. Ms. Cho paused. Well, he did a diagram afterward, she explained. In fact, she continued, her husband came up with the idea for the painting himself and executed it. When LeWitt saw it, he liked it so much he decided to bless it as one of his own.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

$10 Billion in 10 Years for A New Downtown Brooklyn

Over 14,000 New Apartments, 1,250 Hotel Rooms Are Coming

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

About $10 billion will be spent in the next 10 years to build a new Downtown Brooklyn, an unprecedented amount of money. The new Downtown will be developed at a pace never experienced before in this borough.
...
This information and detailed project summaries have been compiled and made public by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, formed last year by the city to coordinate and oversee all current or planned building activity in the area.

The partnership, headed by DUMBO resident Joe Chan, has also produced an informative, expertly created map of Downtown Brooklyn. The map is color coded, and will become a much-sought-after item.

The Atlantic Yards project is, of course, included in the totals. While Atlantic Yards will cost about half of the total dollar amount for Downtown, its housing component will provide only 30 percent of all the units to be built there, and its total square footage is only about 38 percent of the Downtown total. There are four reasons for the magnitude of all of the development activity. One is that previous projects, like MetroTech, have demonstrated that Brooklyn is a viable business center. Another draw is the plan for a cultural center, which has drawn the strong support of the city. A third is the recent rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, which made it practical for developers to plan for development with confidence.

The fourth reason is the proliferation of high-rises with spectacular views, not so frequent in Manhattan anymore. This has come as a surprise to many people who are used to brownstones as the area’s main draw, and is a joy to residential developers.

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NoLandGrab: Holt seemingly mocks Atlantic Yards critics by stating "of course" Atlantic Yards would be included in the totals outlined by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. The effort to locate the project in "Downtown Brooklyn," when it would commonly be called Prospect Heights, has been a PR construction, led by Ratner, designed to rebrand the site as part of the Downtown area.

How Atlantic Yards, which is a State project, ended up under the auspices of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is a City program, is a mystery.

In addition, to call Forest City Ratner's MetroTech a "viable business center" is a stretch. Because vacancies are up, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is currently working with Ratner to rebrand the MetroTech highrise office park as a potential site for the creative industries. Since the largest tenant in MetroTech is the City of New York, the complex is a "viable center" to which city offices can be moved when the project fails to attract "viable businesses."

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Fulton Mall’s lease-to-buy plan

MetroNY

Forest City sold its lease rights to the "Gallery" on Fulton St. to developer Joseph Sitt back in 2001. Now the company is probably kicking itself for losing the opportunity to get in on another boondoggle:

Back in 2001, developer Joseph Sitt bought the long-term lease on what was then called the Gallery at MetroTech from Forest City Ratner for $25 million. Sitt, whose Thor Equities is looking to transform Coney Island into an upscale destination, renamed the building the Gallery at Fulton Mall and promised to turn it into an Italian palazzo, complete with tuxedoed greeters and national chain stores.

That dream was never realized, but the city did rezone the area in 2004 to encourage larger commercial development. In February, Sitt sold his lease to Albee Development LLC for $120 million.

Albee Development plans to tear down the building to put up a high-rise housing, hotel, retail and office complex. Twenty percent of rental units will be affordable to tenants of moderate income, an arrangement that would have been mandated anyway under the proposed rule changes to the 421-a tax abatement program, which the project is tapping into.

The city has approved $3.2 million in tax breaks, and after 25 years Albee Development will have the option to buy the property outright for $20 million.

The city is touting "job creation," but small businesses are losing out on the deal.

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NoLandGrab: Which makes us wonder, is it some sort of law of nature that real jobs figures always fall way short of projections?

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Fighting the ravages of luxury towers

People's World Weekly
By Daniel Rubin

An article cautioning New Yorkers about the current luxury housing boom includes Atlantic Yards with a curious wrinkle in the narrative (emphasis added):

Billionaire developer Bruce Ratner plans to build the Atlantic Yards Project at the busiest intersection in Brooklyn. It would bring 17 towers, some up to 60 stories high, for housing, offices, a hotel and a basketball arena for 19,000. It would be the most densely populated complex in the United States.

A large community movement against it, supported by several African American progressive public officials, has fought for the last three years. As a result, 30 percent “affordable housing” (but possibly offsite) was promised. There would be 225 units available for those with incomes below the area median income of $28,800 for a family of four. But 3,000 families are expected to be displaced from the community as a result of the project, driving up rents and real estate taxes. The rest of the “affordable housing” goes up to $113, 400.

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NoLandGrab: It would be more correct to say, "ACORN sided with the developer and announced a 50/50 affordable housing plan. Ratner soon added more luxury condos to the project, diluting the overall percentages to 30-percent 'affordable,' a majority of which would not be available to those making less than the Brooklyn median household income."

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Spitzer unveils Authority plan

NY Newsday
By James T. Madore

Gov. Eliot Spitzer unveiled a proposal Thursday for greater oversight of public authorities, but sponsors of a similar bill already moving through the legislature said their plan would better combat abuses.

Spitzer wants to recast the Authority Budget Office as the Independent Office of Public Authority Accountability, with power to scrutinize hundreds of authorities statewide, including the Long Island Power and Metropolitan Transportation authorities.

Spitzer also called for more accountability from authority boards, and a restructuring of the Public Authorities Control Board by adding a representative of the state comptroller and eliminating the requirement that votes be unanimous before action can be taken. The five-member board has sparked controversy by approving the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn but nixing a West Side stadium in Manhattan.

The Governor's plan lacks teeth compared to legislation just adopted by the State Senate:

That bill would give subpoena power to the Authority Budget Office, require authorities to submit some contracts for review by the comptroller, limit borrowing and seek legislative approval before creating subsidiaries. None of those provisions are in Spitzer's legislation.

"There is less accountability than what we are offering," Flanagan said. "They [the governor] just aren't interested in real reform."

article

NoLandGrab: Amongst good-government advocates, Atlantic Yards is considered one of the best reasons for public authorities reform. The run up to the approval of the project included the MTA's granting of development rights for the railyards to the low bidder, Forest City Ratner, and the project's financing being approved by three men in a room. None of the above (except Forest City Ratner, presumably) ever saw a real business plan for the project.

It's hard to know if the Governor's suggested reforms would have changed anything in the past three years. The State Comptroller could have taken a hard look if he wanted; the MTA justified the bid by considering "track improvements" (the tracks wouldn't have to be "improved" if they didn't have to be moved to accomodate an arena); and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver declared he was satisfied with the numbers from KPMG's report, even though the report fell well short of being a real financial plan.

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

May 24, 2007

Alleged Underground Railroad Home in Brooklyn On Market for $4.5 Million

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The plot thickens in Brooklyn's other land grab, as someone puts Joy Chatel's home on the market:

Chatel doesn’t own the home she’s been living in for over a decade, which would make it difficult for her to fight an eminent domain ruling. She signed the deed over to her mother in 2004, and her mother, Arnelda Monroe, gave outside investor Errol Bartholomew 50 percent ownership of the property the following year to stave off foreclosure proceedings, according to city records and a source close to the issue.
...
Chatel said last week that her attorney, Angelyn Johnson, listed the property without asking, and suggested that Bartholomew was involved.

The attorney said Chatel and her mother both wanted to sell the Duffield Street property, adding that Chatel suggested the asking price be set at $3.9 million.

“The mother wants it sold,” said Johnson. “At this point they’ll do anything because they’re kind of in a pickle.” Johnson said the home could be in foreclosure again.

Chatel responded, “I never told [Johnson] anything about my house.”

Johnson, who maintains a law practice on Court Street, was charged in February by the Queens District Attorney’s Office as part of a six-person deed fraud ring, and is still under investigation for other frauds she may have committed, according to the office.

And Everett Samuel, who handles Bartholomew’s business affairs regarding this property, said she had nothing to do with it being put on the market.

Beverly Branche, the real estate agent, confirmed that Johnson gave her permission to put the property on the market. Branche said there’s been a lot of interest in the property, but wouldn’t say if an offer had been made.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:50 PM

OK, B63 Reroute Plan Won't Happen as Announced

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Yup, you heard it right, public agencies are taking their orders from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, that is, until people started asking questions. Norman Oder first broke this story on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report.

Last month, the Star reported plans by New York City Transit (NYCT) to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route in response to the demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues for the Atlantic Yards project. The change would happen "in the near future," according to NYCT's Lois Tendler. Because the street would be closed, Tendler said in a letter to Brooklyn Community Board 6, the bus would not continue to Atlantic and make a left to go downtown, but instead make a left on Flatbush. It was supposed to be implemented this Sunday, May 27.

Well, it's not happening this week, and from what officials have said so far, it seems that the transit agency was paying more attention to Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner than to other involved agencies.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:33 PM

One Yards Suit Gets Boot, But the Big Ones Remain

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

The less far-reaching of the two eminent domain lawsuits challenging the Atlantic Yards development faced a setback in court last week, as a state trial court judge-as he had strongly hinted in oral arguments on March 13-ruled that the case belonged instead in the Appellate Division, where challenges to eminent domain determinations are heard, but without the legal muscle that could be mustered in trial court.

This case involves 13 tenants in two rent-stabilized buildings in the planned arena block of the Atlantic Yards footprint, at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street. Represented by attorney George Locker, they argued that their landlord, Forest City Ratner, should be subject to the tougher regulations of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), rather than remain free to convey the buildings to ESDC for "friendly condemnations.

It is separate from two pending cases organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and allies: a federal court challenge to eminent domain and a state court challenge to the state's environmental review of Atlantic Yards.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:32 PM

Eminent Domainia

eminentdomainia13.gif

Sacramento Bee, Eminent domain measure unveiled

California wrestles with eminent domain reform:

California governments would no longer be able to take homes for use in a private development, according to changes in eminent domain law proposed by an assemblyman this morning.

But critics say the constitutional amendment and bill by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, don't go nearly far enough to protect property owners from eminent domain abuses.
...
De La Torre's Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 would also prohibit governments from seizing a small business for a private development, unless it was part of a plan to get rid of blight and the business was given the chance to take part.

De La Torre conceded that his plan would not rule out all use of eminent domain for use in private developments.

NoLandGrab: De La Torre has a point — just listen to the following reports from Missouri.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Centene case hits high court today

Get this, Forest City Ratner isn't the only corporation in the US that wants to expand next door and is having the government declare the property blighted so that it can be taken by eminent domain.

Centene Corp., which wants to expand its corporate headquarters in Clayton, is proposing to build an office and retail complex in the southwest corner of Hanley Road between Forsyth Boulevard and Carondelet Avenue. The development in Clayton's downtown business district would feature two connected all-glass office towers, with high-end shops and restaurants, parking and outdoor public spaces including a plaza and garden with a waterfall. Centene has assembled a group of internationally known architects and developers to plan the project.

Controversy has followed the development almost from the beginning. The Clayton Board of Aldermen in December 2005 declared the existing properties in the redevelopment area "blighted" and gave Centene the power to use eminent domain to acquire the land if necessary. Clayton officials and some local business leaders have strongly supported the development, saying it would bring jobs, economic development and vitality to Clayton and the region.

Property owners Daniel Sheehan, David Danforth and Debbie Pyzyk say they believe it's wrong to force out one private property owner for another for a commercial enterprise.

Rolla Daily News, Mo. Supreme Court considers whether there’s 'blight’ in Clayton

A redevelopment company Tuesday urged the state Supreme Court to approve the condemnation of buildings in a generally wealthy St. Louis suburb on the grounds that they are blighted.

The city of Clayton in 2005 declared the downtown buildings blighted so they could be seized through eminent domain as part of a project by Centene Plaza Redevelopment Corp.

Last month, a state appellate court said it would have ruled against the developer but instead transferred the case to the Supreme Court.

Most Supreme Court judges on Tuesday questioned whether the condemned properties truly qualified as blighted.

St. Louis Post Dispatch, Property owner wins eminent domain case in Arnold

Here's an interesting ruling in Illinois:

Dr. Homer Tourkakis will be able to keep his dental office here, even though the city has condemned the property to help make room for the large Arnold Commons shopping center, a Jefferson County circuit judge ruled Monday.

"It is the court's opinion that government has the inherent power to take private property by eminent domain for true public purposes," Judge M. Edward Williams wrote in his three-page ruling.

"These uses would include the construction of roads, sewer systems, water lines and many others but most emphatically would not include the construction of a shopping center by a private developer as is the case here," the judge said.

AP, via WRAL.com, Eminent Domain Amendment Approved by NC House

NC voters will get a chance to rein in eminent domain abuse:

The House agreed Thursday to let North Carolina voters decide whether to change the state constitution to ensure the government could only condemn private property for a public use.

Queens Times Ledger, No eminent domain in Brooklyn
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and Atlantic Yards homeowner Dan Goldstein corrects the record:

In your article on eminent domain in Willets Point that appeared May 10, attorney Robert Goldstein said that Willets Point business owners who are reviewing their legal options "need not look further than the city's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where eminent domain was recently used to take property despite several lawsuits filed by area residents."

Mr. Goldstein is mistaken in three ways. The Atlantic Yards project is a state project, not the city's project.

The state has not moved yet to seize the property. Why? Because owners and tenants are currently in the Eastern District Federal Court of New York challenging the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's project, alleging that its use is an abuse and violates the U.S. Constitution. That suit is very much alive.

I should know, I'm a homeowner-plaintiff in that lawsuit.

American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The Regional and Urban Design Committee of the AIA sent an email to their members this week with a link to a report on eminent domain:

Last year the Urban Land Institute (ULI) assembled a diverse group of architects, developers, lawyers, public officials, and others from around the country to meet with members of the ULI’s senior staff and fellows group to discuss the future of eminent domain. Participants thought responsible and equitable use of eminent domain was critical to pursuing several goals that are critical to the AIA, most notably

Revitalization of neighborhoods, Main streets, and downtowns * Smart growth and regional sustainability * Historic preservation * Economic vitality * Disaster recovery

Participants asked the ULI to prepare a thoughtful analysis to assess the issues that many raised related to eminent domain and indicate the appropriate uses for eminent domain and the right kinds of planning processes to support the decision to use eminent domain. The ULI commissioned a report by Doug Porter and the result is a guide that should be of value to any AIA member who is interested in the future of eminent domain. In particular, the report offers useful talking points that can assist AIA members in leading discussions on the role of eminent domain in their own communities.

Eminent Domain: An Important Tool for Community Revitalization (PDF)

Posted by lumi at 8:52 PM

Brooklyn Green Party Calls To Establish Community Control Of Local Boards

HotIndieNews.com

In the wake of City Councilmembers de Blasio and Yassky and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s purge of nine CB 6 members who voiced their opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, the Green Party of Brooklyn denounced the politically motivated purge and has called for more democracy in community board appointments.

"These folks have been serving their community by opposing the disastrous Atlantic Yards project," said Green Party of Brooklyn Chair Colby Hamilton. "Now we see how community-supported opposition is handled - it’s a political massacre."

link

Posted by lumi at 8:46 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards to Blame, in Part, For Looming Con Edison Record Rate Hike

During Project Approval State Said Atlantic Yards Would Not Significantly Impact Electrical Infrastructure

NEW YORK, NY— When your Con Edison electric bill goes up 17% to 36% you can thank Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project.

According to a NY1 news report about yesterday’s State Assembly hearing over a proposed Con Edison rate hike, it would be the largest rate hike Con Ed has ever proposed. And according to Con Ed officials the Atlantic Yards mega-project, is partly to blame. >From NY1’s report:

...Con Ed came before a State Assembly committee to explain the rate hike. Officials argued Wednesday the system is strapped and that massive projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn will burden the system even more...
(emphasis added)


“New Yorkers can thank Bruce Ratner and his ‘Atlantic Yards’ project, in part, for what appears to be a looming record Con Ed rate hike,” said Develop Don’t Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “While New York taxpayers are forced to subsidize Forest City Ratner’s project so the developer can make enormous profits, the taxpayers are forced to pay again with a huge electric bill increase. You can be sure that nobody will subsidize those new bills.”

“When the State studied this very issue last year, when it came to Atlantic Yards and the electrical grid, they said, basically, ‘don’t worry. No problem.’ Clearly they were wrong and misleading the public” Goldstein said.

While the rate hike made news today, the states’ Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement (which is currently under litigation) approved last year by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), determined that there would be no significant impact from the project on electricity infrastructure. The “Infrastructure” chapter of the State’s environmental review concluded that:

The proposed project would increase demands on electricity and gas. However, relative to the capacity of these systems and the current levels of service within New York City, these increases in demand would be insignificant. Improvements are also proposed by Consolidated Edison and Keyspan with respect to the local electric and gas distribution grids that would improve service to the project site. In addition, new electrical and gas lines are proposed within the beds of streets that would be reconstructed as part of the proposed project. It is therefore concluded that the demands of the proposed project would not result in a significant impact on the supplies of electricity and gas in the region or the City as a whole, and with the proposed improvement to the distribution network, no impact would occur locally with respect to electrical or gas utilities. For these reasons, the proposed project is not expected to significantly adversely impact energy systems.
(emphasis added)

#

Posted by lumi at 8:28 PM

Kinetics Paradigm Seeks Value Plays

Investors Business Daily
By Trang Ho

Here are some fund managers who are bullish on Forest City — never mind that the Nets are leaking like a sieve and Bruce Ratner is a serial abuser of eminent domain:

Kinetics Paradigm Fund invests in solid businesses whose success in the portfolio doesn't depend on short-term market swings.

The managers of the fund, led by Peter Doyle and Murray Stahl, most recently have been exploiting three areas showing remarkable success — global stock markets, industrial commodity producers and such successful investors as Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn.
...
Finally, Kinetics Paradigm invests with the most venerated investors by buying shares of their companies: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, (BRKA) Carl Icahn's American Real Estate Partners, (ACP) Ian Cumming's Leucadia National, (LUK) Robert Harding's Brookfield Asset Management, (BAM) Edward Lampert's Sears Holdings (SHLD) and Albert Ratner's Forest City Enterprises. (FCEA)

article

Posted by lumi at 7:39 PM

TONIGHT: RATNERVILLE SINGOUT

RatnervilleSing.giffeaturing the Atomic Grind Show

Thursday, May 24, 9:30pm
Freddy's Bar & Backroom
485 Dean Street (at 6th Avenue)
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
free admission

In the three-and-a-half years since Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was announced, the surrounding communities have stood fast against plans for a superblock skyscraper development.

Musicians, as with any struggle, have done their share. On May 24th, singers who have written original works about the struggle against Ratner's project will stage the first Ratnerville Singout.

Hosted by the eclectic and powerful Atomic Grind Show, the Ratnerville Singout will feature rock, hip-hop, jazz, folk, reggae, worldbeat, blues and r&b songs -- the mix of Brooklyn music today.

Performers include:
Atomic Grind Show
Steve deSeve
Papa Dish
Jezra Kaye
Chris Owens
Roger Paz
John Pinamonti
RebelMart

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

Con Ed cites AY as boosting electricity cost, but Final EIS passed

Atlantic Yards Report

NY1 reported yesterday that Con Edison, in requesting the largest rate hike in its history, blamed, among other things, Atlantic Yards:
Con Ed came before a State Assembly committee to explain the rate hike. Officials argued Wednesday the system is strapped and that massive projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn will burden the system even more. They say the rate hike would cover improvements to handle energy needs, some of which have already been made, but have not been fully paid for by customers.

AM NY added more context:
Con Ed officials say increased development will push energy usage in most of New York City beyond capacity by 2011, unless certain infrastructure projects such as five new substations are completed.

Now that doesn't mean that the utility wouldn't have the capacity to handle Atlantic Yards; it just means that the project is cited as a justification for increased expenditures and costs.

Norman Oder takes a quick peek at the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement to see what the official document says.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM

AY Will Increase Your Electric Bill. Shocking.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn responds to news that large development projects such as Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan will increase rates, with customers holding the bag for the strain on the power grid:

Hey New York, Atlantic Yards is going to increase your Con Edison bill. NY1 is reporting that at a state assembly hearing on a record Con Ed rate hike, ConEd officials said that big projects such as "Atlantic Yards" are necessitating a rate hike that will be at least 17%.

But that's news to the Empires State Development Corporation. In the state's Enivronmental Impact Study for Atlantic Yards, completed last December and now under litigation, the Infrastructure Chapter (11) stated:

The proposed project would increase demands on electricity and gas. However, relative to the capacity of these systems and the current levels of service within New York City, these increases in demand would be insignificant.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Tension's High At Assembly Hearing Over Con Ed Rate Hike

NY1
By Michael Scotto

More proof that all roads lead to Ratnerville:

Con Edison says a proposed rate hike would jack up New Yorkers utility bill by 17 percent, but one angry Queens politician argues the increase is more like 36 percent.

No matter what the figure, both sides acknowledge the rate hike is the largest Con Ed has ever put forward.
...
Con Ed came before a State Assembly committee to explain the rate hike. Officials argued Wednesday the system is strapped and that massive projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn will burden the system even more.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Breaking News: City lied about UR houses

State Historic Preservation Office Not Contacted Regarding Eligibility to National Register of Historic Places
Council Member James Calls for Halt to any Seizure of Property

Queen's Crap has the goods on the latest missteps surrounding "Brooklyn's other land grab," Duffield St.

Council Member James has learned today that the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had never made a determination on the eligibility of the Duffield Street Houses to the National Register of Historic Places, the country's official list of historic properties. Not only has the agency not issued an official determination (according to their records), but agency staff was never consulted about the possibility of the buildings being eligible nor did it seem that the agency was ever consulted about the larger Downtown Brooklyn Plan.

The only contact that SHPO had with AKRF, the consulting firm who wrote the report on Duffield Street, regarding this project was an information request about whether the state agency had anything existing in their files about the Duffield Street houses. SHPO also reported that the agency was in recent receipt of a form letter from AKRF thanking them for their help in researching the properties & enclosing a copy of the Executive Summary of the Research Report.

Click here for more.

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

An amputation at 80 DeKalb makes way for a Forest City Ratner tower

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's general plan for housing at 80 DeKalb Avenue between Hudson Avenue and Rockwell Place opposite Long Island University (LIU), also known as 625 Fulton Street or Ten MetroTech, has been no secret.

After all, the Final Scope for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, issued 3/31/06, mentioned plans for 430,000 square feet of residential at the site, due in 2009. The developer's own press releases have alluded to the project.

Unclear, however, was how the project would be accomplished. Would Forest City Ratner convert the entire building--a former chocolate factory itself converted in 1985 into office space--into loftlike housing?

Atlantic Yards Report unravels some clues to get to the bottom of the 80 DeKalb story.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Columbia’s Harlem Lobbying Effort Gets Expensive

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

An article about Columbia University topping the list for lobbying public officials this year includes a comparison with Forest City Ratner. Both are using eminent domain to assemble seize property for their ambitious development plans:

Columbia’s spending on lobbying this year tops that of any major developer in the city, though the developer of Brooklyn’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards Project, Forest City Ratner, is listed as spending more than $300,000. In 2006, the Brooklyn-based development company ranked third in the state for lobbying expenses, spending more than $2.1 million leading up to the approval in December of the giant mixed-use project that seeks to build a basketball arena and residential towers near downtown Brooklyn.

Columbia is awaiting the completion of a state-administered blight study for the area, a required step for the use of eminent domain. A spokesman for the state’s development agency said the state is hoping to complete the study in June.

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NoLandGrab: We wonder, has a "blight study" ever returned a no-blight finding?

Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

Eminent Domain Threatens Brooklyn Financial Service Firm

Track Data Employs 100 Onsite, Overshadowed by Duffield Homes

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

During the hearing for Brooklyn's other land grab, the City Council heard testimony about another land grab:

The Duffield Street homes, allegedly linked to the Underground Railroad, dominated yesterday’s eminent domain hearing to consider the seizure of 21 properties on three blocks in Downtown Brooklyn.

Another lesser-known condemnee is Track Data Corporation, a financial service company six blocks from Duffield that employs 150 people and provides real-time financial and market data. The building, surrounded by parking lots, is within the BAM Cultural District, an area the city wants to turn into mixed-use developments and cultural centers orbiting the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“Given the fairly small footprint of the building, what could you possibly want here more than a high-tech firm that pays salaries, employs 100 people [onsite] and has been here for several decades?” said Track Data spokesman Rafi Reguer. “What is it that you could replace it with that would be more valuable to the borough?”

The answer was nothing, at least for now.
...
Aviva Jakabowitz, Track Data’s corporate controller, testified that the company established its roots in the neighborhood more than 20 years ago, when there were crack vials laying around and employees had to arrange to exit the building in groups.

“Someone, up in an office somewhere, thinks they have a better idea from their perspective. But somewhere else, I guarantee, there is a team of people in city government or city planning racking their brains trying to figure out how to get firms like us to locate here,” said Reguer.

article

NoLandGrab: The rub is that Track Data must fight the condemnation now, even though "officially" there are no plans for the site, or the corporation might suffer the same fate as a Port Chester property owner, whose case was thrown out by the courts because he missed the deadline to challenge the condemnation.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Marty Blogowitz: Binge and Purge

The Wonkster, Community Board 6 Overhaul
Gotham Gazette's political blog posted a short round-up of news of Marty's purge with links to the Times, Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Report and Brownstoner.

Gumby Fresh, What?
"Grumpy Fresh" refreshes his list of Atlantic Yards observations, including this one about Brooklyn's Cheerleader in Chief:

So Marty Markowitz is not really a very nice man after all. Well, I knew that, you knew that, and presumably now only the truly high watching NY1 in the morning will now not know that.

Gothamist, Beware the Wrath of Marty Markowitz

So this is how borough presidents wield power: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has flexed his BEEP muscles by dismissing five members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 - and their common quality was that they were vocal opponents of the Atlantic Yards project. And City Council members David Yassky and Bill DeBlasio also didn't reappoint four other members who opposed the massive $4 billion project that has been the source of community tension. Gowanus Lounge calls it "The Atlantic Yards Saturday Night Massacre."

She's leaving home, The purge

I've avoided commenting on the controversy over this massive development project because it hits so literally close to home, and because I wouldn't want to assert that I understood all of the minute details. In addition, I lean towards the side critical of the project, but am hesitant to claim that my guesses as to its future effects on the neighborhood are any more accurate than another's.

This political maneuver makes me uncomfortable, though, and enough so to mention it.

Joshing Politics, Markowitz Gets Tough On Atlantic Yards Opponents

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is usually known as a comedic and affable guy that parades around Kings County. However the stunt he pulled yesterday against the leaders of Community Board 6 was far from funny. The Board was one of Atlantic Yards' most vocal critics, citing the massive building project would over tax streets, sewers and schools. Their condemnation of the development didn't have any teeth because it was a state operation, but Markowitz did not care for their opinions. So he let them go from their positions on the board.

Daily Intelligencer, Marty's Purge: It's About Gowanus, Not Yards, Says a Survivor

We called CB6 member Jeff Strabone, another Yards critic whose own term isn't up until next year — and here the plot thickened. Per Strabone, Atlantic Yards was not the real cause of Marty's house-cleaning. Nope, Markowitz is looking a step ahead.

"The next big land-use item on the agenda is the Gowanus rezoning," Strabone explained, "and the Borough Hall's eyes are there."

NoLandGrab: Yeah right, Marty's purge had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards; his inexplicable attack on Fifth Avenue Committee's latest project in South Slope (link), despite wide community support, probably doesn't either; and everytime the cuddly Beep is seen going berserk in public probably means he's just off his meds or something.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

May 23, 2007

Sharp Knives: Markowitz, Yassky and de Blasio Purge Community Board 6

CB6.jpgThe Gowanus Lounge follows up on yesterday evening's post with some thoughtful commentary:

What is interesting about the CB6 purge isn't that it happened--that's hardball politics in the big city--but that it again shines a spotlight on the awful Atlantic Yards process.

We have long felt that the process was both deeply flawed and largely undemocratic--so much so that few public officials even cared about creating an appearance of bona fide public participation. The CB6 dismissals strengthen the belief that Mr. Markowitz and other supporters were unwilling to tolerate basic legitimate questions about the project's impact on the community or an honest assessment of its public costs. CB6 did its job by raising questions and representing the community.

We understand that politics is politics. When Richard Nixon didn't like the way the Watergate investigation was going, he exercised his Presidential power and fired the investigators. The current Attorney General is in hot water for putting the screws to U.S. Attorneys. At the end of the day, one of the perks of position and power is the ability to fire those whose performance displeases you.

Yet, the CB6 Purge gets to the reasons that Atlantic Yards has had such a sadly divisive and deeply corrosive impact on Brooklyn politics and on civic discourse. One clear culprit has been the absence of real participatory democracy in a project that will impact the quality of life in surrounding communities for generations to come. Had the planning process not been handled as a top-down exercise, the outcome might still have been the same, but some of the bitterness and civic poison might have been diluted. (We remember the huge discussion session held at the Javits Center to get public input about rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. It didn't make a difference in the convoluted planning and development process, but it gave thousands of people a sense that their opinions were being heard.) A real public process would have allowed for an airing of strong feelings and led to real modifications of the proposal that reflected legitimate community concerns. It would have tempered some resentment. It might even--gasp--have led to broader support.

CB6 was one of the institutions that tried to represent community concerns. To have members that raised them symbolically taken out and shot for speaking their minds, is fair political game, we suppose. But it's indicative of the political sickness that surrounds Atlantic Yards. And it will have implications for other important work, like the Gowanus rezoning, in which CB6 is involved.

We remain convinced that a generation from now, someone will be teaching an urban planning course that uses Atlantic Yards as the case study of how not to plan a major public project. In that context, the CB6 Atlantic Yards Massacre will be an interesting footnote.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

Marty Axes CB6 Members Who Opposed AY Project

Brownstoner

ayrails44.jpg

In a move likely to cloud his legacy as the Brooklyn's biggest professional cheerleader, Borough President Marty Markowitz purged Community Board 6 yesterday of nine members, apparently as retribution for having voted against the proposed plan for the Atlantic Yards project back in September 2006... What an embarrassment.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

THE PURGE: Revenge of the Clown

Daily Gotham

"Mole333" got the story out in public when Brooklyn's Clown Prince Marty Markowitz was making behind-the-scenes threats and public displays of aberration.

Well, you heard it here first... now even the NY Times is reporting on it. Brooklyn Borough Clown Marty Markowitz has flexed his muscles and ousted members of Community Board 6 who voted against him on Atlantic Yards.
...

One thing that others are not really reporting on, which I did in my first article, is the fact that this muscle flexing, in itself not so unusual, has been accompanied by several loud and spittle spouting tirades by Marty in public where he threatened to do this. It is based on such public rampages that I was able to say so far in advance that Marty was purging. Community Board purges aren't really news. But when Marty, someone who has sounded out running for mayor or Public Advocate, is seen publicly berating people for standing up, in their minds, for the community interests on a Community Board, you gotta wonder about whether Marty has lost it. And people HAVE been wondering just that. I also feel increasingly uncomfortable with politicians who only want to be surrounded by yes-men. With Bush and his yes-men American has not been doing so well.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

The ironies of the CB 6 purge: Jerry Armer, flamethrower?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides some analysis of Borough President Marty Markowitz's purge of Brooklyn Community Board 6 of those who asked questions and delivered their informed opinions about Atlantic Yards:

One of those Markowitz removed was Jerry Armer, the board's chairman when it developed its Atlantic Yards response and a veteran of more than 20 years. Armer told the New York Observer that he was disappointed: “What we were doing was giving the community a voice and reflecting the community.” (CB 6 covers Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook.)

And Armer, who works for the MetroTech BID influenced by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, is hardly a flamethrower. He participated in numerous meetings of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, cordially raising some worthy questions. He presided over relevant CB 6 meetings. He spoke courteously, even ponderously, in testimony to the Empire State Development Corporation.

As with most of the CB members, he kept his distance from the organized opposition to the project, hence the irony of the New York Post headline today, ARENA FOES SLAM DUNKED, and the Post's decision to quote only one person by name: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein.
...
The typically voluble Markowitz wouldn't comment to the Times about his action; that speaks volumes.

And what will Markowitz do about CB 6 member Louise Finney, a friend and former campaign treasurer? (Her term expires next year; here's the list of members.) Co-chair of the CB 6 Transportation Committee, Finney said last year: "The area they chose to analyze is way too small... You don't have to be a genius to know you should look at the BQE."

"This is difficult for me. It's a big step," said Finney, when voting last October for a Park Slope Civic Council resolution opposing Atlantic Yards as currently planned.. "Marty is a friend. But we represent Park Slope."

The payback in the Borough President's decision may be more symbolic than effective. Markowitz likely would prefer to see Goldstein gone from his residence in the AY footprint. But he had to settle for Armer.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Marty's Brooklyn CB6 Purge & Real Community Board Reform

Room 8

Barry Popik wonders:

Why can't the entire community board consist of "public members"? And by the way, did you ever try to go to a community board website and search on how you can join as a public member? Hard to find that stuff, huh?

We revisit these questions in the wake of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's purge of at least five longtime members of Community Board 6. These are people who had the temerity to vote against the Atlantic Yards project.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion did a similar purge of Bronx Community Board 4, involving members who had rejected the new Yankee Stadium proposal.

Again, these are unpaid positions. We're talking about getting people involved in the community, giving them a voice, and requiring them to sit through hours of some deathly dull stuff. This is how the grassroots democracy is supposed to work?

It's time for a change.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

Brooklyn's Community Board 6 Gets Punished

CB6Map.gifWe thought that you'd might like to hear Pardon me for asking blogger Katia Kelly's thoughts on the Markowtiz CB6 purge:

Community Board 6 is my community board and the members listened to the people they represent and voted against supporting Ratner's mega development. Now they have been punished for doing so by Marty Markowitz, David Yassky and Bill DeBlasio by simply not beeing reappointed. I can only imagine what yes-men have been put in their place.

Shame on those three politicains. I knew from the beginning that Bill DeBlasio was an unsavory character. He was supposedly watching out for our children's education while on District 15th school board. Meanwhile it became clear that he was way too busy running Hillary Clinton's first senate campaign and refused to see the signs that our School Superintendant was squandering education dollars. (Does the name Frank deStefano ring a bell?)

As for Markowitz, he has developed such an ego that it stands in the way of him making good decisions for our borough.

And Yassky, all I can say is, shame on you. I thought you were better than those two egomaniacs.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Breaking: Community Board 6 Atlantic Yards Purge Claims Nine

We're not sure, but we think that The Gowanus Lounge got the news up first [When does he sleep?]:

GL has received a list of members that have non been reappointed as part of what could be called The Atlantic Yards Saturday Night Massacre. Mr. Markowitz removed five CB 6 members. Council Member Yassky removed three CB6 members and Council Member de Blasio removed one.These are the members that have been purged (BP means they were appointed and removed by Mr. Markowitz, 39 means CM de Blasio and 33 means CM Yassky): Jerry Armer (BP), Angela Beni (BP), Pauline Blake (33), Bill Blum (BP), Al Cabbad (33), Barbara Longobardi (BP), Madelaine Murphy (39), Marilyn Oliva (BP), Theresa Ricks (33).

link

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

The Brownstone 9: Markowitz Purges Community Board 6

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

REO carried a quote from former Community Board 6 Chairperson Jerry Armer, who has proved himself to be a real class act during the past three years:

“I’m rather disappointed. I think that it could have been handled better and I think that I will continue to work for my community and the greater good of the community through the Community Board,” said one of the deposed members, Jerry Armer, who had served on the board for more than 20 years and was chairman at the time the votes were taken. “What we were doing was giving the community a voice and reflecting the community.”

Behind the scenes Markowitz has been threatening to do this for a while, so you'd think that his office would have its story straight in time for a timely press release:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Markowitz would not explain the appointments, or lack thereof, so it was a little hard to ascertain just what was the motivation, or even if all the displaced members had voted against Atlantic Yards. She said that a statement would be coming out shortly.

De Blasio has said all along that he wouldn't jeopardize the affordable-housing component of the project, despite what his constituents thought:

But last week, Councilman Bill de Blasio defended his right not to recommend members who voted against Atlantic Yards, saying that it was a vote against affordable housing, which is one of his core beliefs.

link

NoLandGrab: A little history, back in November 2004, Atlantic Yards critics were concerned about professional connections between developer Forest City Ratner and CB6 Chairperson Jerry Armer:

"A group of anti-Atlantic Yards community activists have filed a complaint with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board charging that Community Board 6 chairman Jerry Armer’s job with the Metrotech Business Improvement District conflicts with his role as leader of the board in discussing [Ratner's proposal]."

The fact that Armer emerged as a dedicated advocate for the community probably came as no surprise to those who have known him for many years. But back in the day, when people were struggling to understand Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project and its impacts on the community, most people hardly knew what to think.

The Borough President and FCR also seemed fairly confident that they could bypass the Community Boards' role, but use them for publicity purposes.

Clearly, both sides misunderestimated Mr. Armer.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Markowitz Boots Board Members

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sums up the history of the Community Board's participation in the Atlantic Yards debate and the thanks they get for caring:

First the Community Boards (2,6 and 8) were marginalized and bypassed by the state's override of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). With ULURP those three boards would have had recommendation votes on "Atlantic Yards." But the Boards were left on the sidelines like pretty much every political entity outside of the Public Authorities Control Board.

So last August the Community Boards, unlike the Borough President, held hearings outside of any formal review process, to allow their districts to express their views on the project. Then they set out to formulate a position based on the the community's sentiment. Community Board 6 passed a very well reasoned resolution against the project. (All the Boards also submitted abundant comments on the state's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.) What did some of the Community Board 6 members get for their volunteer efforts to represent their community? As expected after weeks of rumor, some of them got the boot.

link

NoLandGrab: Missing from this account is the invitation by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) to the Chairpersons of Boards 2, 6 & 8 to participate in talks for the Community Benefits Agreement. This role was very limited and ended before working sessions began. Later FCR touted the Boards' participation in brochures mailed to area residents. The Communtiy Boards sent FCR a cease-and-desist letter, but the damage had been done.

Marty and FCR went around the Community Boards' official function and then un-officially used them. When the Community Boards tried to stand up for the community, Marty began the purge.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

ARENA FOES SLAM DUNKED

NY Post
By Rich Calder

The Post ran a short item with one off-the-record source and a quote from Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein:

They're calling it Marty's revenge.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday kicked nine members off Community Board 6 - all of whom voted last September to condemn the Atlantic Yards plan. Many of the people losing their seats were longtime board members, and one source called it "sad" that about 150 combined years of community service was lost strictly over politics.

"If community boards are going to mean anything, they can't be puppets of the borough president," said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the Atlantic Yards opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Project’s Foes Shown Door in Brooklyn

The NY Times
By Andy Newman

Mr. Markowitz on Monday replaced at least five longtime members who had sought reappointment to Community Board 6, which covers the brownstone neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

The five members had one thing in common: they voted yes last year on a resolution denouncing Atlantic Yards, the $4 billion development project that Mr. Markowitz has spent three years and much of his political capital extolling.

Mr. Markowitz refused to comment on the reasons for his move, but there certainly seemed to be something about Community Board 6 that displeased him.

While he did renew the appointments of some Board 6 members who voted against Atlantic Yards, he replaced a greater percentage of Board 6 than of any other community board in the borough.

“It’s a shame to punish people for having independent judgment,” said Jeff Strabone, a board member whose term is not up until next year. “On the one hand, in order to have fresh blood on the board there has to be change, but losing this much leadership at once is a bloodletting.”

How does this board differ from the other Community Boards which compose the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint?

The other two community boards in the Atlantic Yards project area have also made critical comments about the project, but did not pass formal resolutions condemning it. Officials of those community boards said yesterday that all the members who had been appointed directly by Mr. Markowitz had been reappointed.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

Unlikely Power Broker Bullish on Brooklyn

StephenHindy-NYO.jpgThe NY Observer
By Chris Shott

Don't cry for Steve Hindy; despite the fact that his rent has gone up, he's outgrown his current location and will be getting relocation assistance from the City for a new one. On top of that, he "hearts" Bruce:

His vocal support for developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project, in particular, drew the ire of some of his most devoted customers and even prompted a small-scale boycott of his hallowed local brews.

But don’t fret over the fate of this small businessman: He stands to sell plenty of beer at Mr. Ratner’s new sports arena, not to mention the soon-to-be-redeveloped Coney Island. Oh, and that 40,000-square-foot beer garden that Mr. Hindy plans to build alongside an even bigger brewery, once the city finds him a suitable location.

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Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere53.jpg Date Hole, Smart Move: Local Documentaries
"Brooklyn Matters" as part of your classic NYC date, dinner and a movie (NLG corrections added):

So normally, a movie would be out of the question. Movies are uninspiring and more generally not a particularly original idea for a date. But when it’s a movie about something that’s happening right now in the city that you live in and you could actually affect change, it can be played as a pretty creative date idea.

This particular documentary is titled “Brooklyn Matters” and is about the pending redevelopment of the Atlantic train yards in downtown Brooklyn Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. If you haven’t been paying attention to this at all, Bruce Ratner (a prominent developer) bought up a lot of space in downtown Brooklyn Prospect Heights (and by a lot of space, we’re talking hundreds of 22 acres) and requested that the city State use eminent domain to appropriate the property (read: residences) that he couldn’t buy.

What: Brooklyn Matters
When: June 3rd, 7pm
How Much: FREE! Donate, you greedy prick.
Where: Union Docs: Take the G or the L to Lorimer/Metropolitan and walk south on Union Street.

So, after you go and get your indignation on, there’s really nothing better than to wash your misery down with the some delicious pulled pork and a delicious glass of beer. And I know that this place is the perinial favorite, but Fette Sau is, in fact, good.

Mitchell Langbert's Blog, Bloomberg--Left Wing Independent
The conservative argument against Bloomberg for President includes a large dose of welfare for sports team owners, eminent domain abuse and boondoggles for rapacious "liberal do-gooders" (Atlantic Yards issues in bold):

Bloomberg has avoided reducing government, avoided reducing taxes, presented plans for a wide range of big government boondoggles like a football stadium that no one wanted and a Robert Moses-style master plan, favored gun control, and has supported his fellow billionaires the Ochs-Sulzbergers in their goal of looting small private landlords through private-use eminent domain. At the same time that he has been supporting the ultra-rich, like Bruce Ratner and the Ochs-Sulzbergers, Bloomberg has viciously and repeatedly harassed small businesses in a dozen different ways, insisting on one regulation after another in synch with his left-wing public health compulsions.

Brownstoner, Ratner: 'Fort Greene, I've Got You Surrounded'

Man, it's getting hard to keep up with all the towers that are sprouting up in Downtown Brooklyn. Yesterday, Curbed ran some renderings of Bruce Ratner's latest project at 80 Dekalb Avenue aka 625 Fulton Street.

I Am A Child Of Television, Be Sure To Watch

Be sure to watch... On The Lot on FOX tonight.

Not because it looks like an interesting variation of the American Idol concept, with aspiring film makers being judged by a group of industry people (Carrie Fisher, Bruce Ratner, Gary Marshall, Jon Avnet) with the prize of a million dollar development deal with Dreamworks.

NoLandGrab: Um, that's supposed to be "Brett" Ratner, but it's nice to know that our community's campaign to make "Bruce" some sort of household name seems to be getting some traction.

So let's get it straight:
BRETT = filmmaker
BRUCE = national figurehead for developers-gone-wild

The Knickerblogger, Lies Have Consequences

What is curious is that is seems to be easier to get a lie known [than] the truth. We, opposition to Atlantic Yards have always felt that 'if the people knew' they would be outraged at the massive public outlays, the eminent domain abuse that Ratner is palming off as a 'civic' project. Likewise, leading up to Iraq war, i was bewildered that people actually believed there were "WMD" and Saddam was another 'Hitler'. Why is it so many people are willing to accept a lie instead of the truth?

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

Now, the Fenway Principle

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

Readers who are interested in public financing of sports venues will want to read this article, though we bring it to you for another reason. This article about the "Fenway Principle" and progress on a new Mets ballpark mentions eminent domain and the Nets arena:

(The city might also rely on eminent domain to secure land needed for developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards-arena project in Brooklyn.)

NoLandGrab: The City WON'T because the State got there first. Atlantic Yards is sponsored by NY State — that's how the project got around all of the local zoning regulations and the local land-use review process. The State is already in the process of condemning property.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

No Slowdown for Retail Deals

Mall Industry Just Shrugs Off Consumer Spending Softness;
Convention Goes Green

The Wall St. Journal
By Ryan Chittum

Forest City is bullish on malls, with more in the pipeline:

BUILDING VS. BUYING: For retail companies, the flood of capital that has boosted asset prices to records means development is more attractive than acquisitions. Australia's Westfield Group has more than $6 billion under construction -- half of which is in two mammoth malls in London. In the next two years, the company will break ground on an additional $8 billion of reinvestment. "The internal rates of return on buying assets just aren't good enough versus return on redevelopment," says Westfield Chief Executive Peter S. Lowy.

Forest City Chief Executive Charles A. Ratner agrees. "It's hard for us to see the value today in what these entities and assets are commanding in the marketplace," especially given the premium returns from development, he says. Forest City, as with Westfield and others including Macerich Co., has a robust pipeline, with some four million square feet of retail space opening this year -- a record for the company.

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NoLandGrab: The article doesn't mention that Forest City and Westfield are partners in the newly opened San Francisco Center.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

May 22, 2007

"This just in"

NY Post

Here's a "scoop" we missed towards the end of Peter Vecsey's column:

This just in: Column contributor Mike Lione reports the Nets plan to lure New York residents next season by offering them a special season ticket package . . . Buy None, Get Two Free Until We Get To Brooklyn.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:47 PM

Atlantic Yards Part Three: The Electric Car Shop

Nathan Kensinger made it down to the bowels of the Vanderbilt Yards again, and this time he brought along photographer Nate Dorr for backup.

Click here to check out the complete set of eerie post-apocalyptic photos from Part III of Kensinger's series on Atlantic Yards.

Underneath Atlantic Avenue is an abandoned "Electric Car Shop." Used to repair Long Island Railroad trains, it sits in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards development site, inside the Vanderbilt Railyards. Empty lunch rooms (below), abandoned offices, ransacked archives, all with the lights still on. The train yard and nearby tunnels are still in use by the Long Island Railroad, but this shop seems to have been empty for years.

From Dorr's flickr photostream:

What lies beneath the soon-to-be Atlantic Yards? Besides the LIRR tunnels, there's an extensive electric train workshop complete with long workspace, offices, and an eerie break room. As construction picks up, this space (besides the tracks themselves) will likely disappear completely, replaced by foundations and parking garages, so we decided bring the borrough a closer look before that happens.

VY-electric-Dorr.jpg

Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

"Whole and complete"? A jaw-dropping AY fib from 2003

Atlantic Yards Report

From a 12/10/03 Forest City Ratner press release announcing the Atlantic Yards project:

The complex has been planned to look whole and complete during each phase of construction. (Emphasis added)

If so, then what was all that stuff in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement about?

As noted, buildings would slowly replace parking as the project proceeds. The construction schedule indicates much incompleteness, as does the map of buildings that would be finished year after year.

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NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards watchdogs have observed Forest City Ratner making stuff up even when it didn't have to. It's like a lifestyle choice. Why should a 2003 press release be any different?

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

WTF? AY presentation borrows WTC rendering

Atlantic Yards Report

This one IS "brutally weird:"

Forest City Ratner has not released the "Atlantic Yards" image below to the public in New York, or via the AtlanticYards.com image gallery, because, well, it's not part of Frank Gehry's design.

However, a representative of parent company Forest City Enterprises apparently did label the image "Atlantic Yards" in a presentation (p. 48) to governmental and business leaders during a 4/18/07 forum in Atlanta on redeveloping an underutilized corridor.

AYTomorrow.JPG

Except it's the World Trade Center site. Compared to AY, the WTC has had more--if contested --public process, with architects competing for the design rather than anointed from the start, and a greater public discussion of security concerns.

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UPDATE: The presentation has been removed from AtlantaDowntown.com, but is now available on NoLandGrab (WARNING: 5MB PDF).

Posted by lumi at 10:21 AM

Mayor's Fund Attracting Big Money From Business

The NY Sun
By Jill Gardiner

Wanna know how to get on Bloomberg's good side? And it's legal to boot!

Companies with business before the city are among those contributing to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which has been raising millions of dollars to support some of Mayor Bloomberg’s highest priority initiatives, including anti-poverty programs, public art restoration, housing, and parks.

The list of nearly 100 organizations that donated to the city’s charitable arm between October 2006 and March 2007 shows support for Mr. Bloomberg’s projects from a cross section of industries, including television and film, banking, and telecommunications.
...
New York-based corporations and philanthropists are paying more attention to the fund than ever. And while Mr. Bloomberg often says he is not beholden to special interests because he does need campaign contributions, the fund is one way for those with business before government to attempt to get on the mayor’s good side. JPMorgan Chase, for example, is seeking tax breaks for a new headquarters. The Starr Foundation is controlled by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, who, along with the foundation, was the target of a probe by Eliot Spitzer when Mr. Spitzer was attorney general.

Donors who have interests in the city are not hard to find. Filings going back to October 2004 show that... Forest City Ratner, the developer on the Atlantic Yards project, gave between $250,000 and $499,999.
...
An associate director at Common Cause, Megan Quattlebaum, said that while the fund cannot be equated to a political campaign, its roster of donors should still be watched to see if anyone is getting special treatment.

“There are all sorts of ways that money creeps into politics,” she said. “I’m skeptical of the idea that anyone is completely above influence. The old saying goes, money is like water. It always finds an outlet.” “It’s vital to know who is giving to the fund,” Ms. Quattlebaum added. “Even though Bloomberg doesn’t take campaign contributions, there are issues near to his heart.” The president of Citizens Union, Dick Dadey, also noted the distinction between giving to a candidate and to the fund, saying the projects the mayor is raising money for are advancing the public good — not one person’s political goals.

“I’m sure that these firms’ support for the fund does not go unnoticed, but it is done with the benefit to the public,” he said.

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NoLandGrab: Back in March, we billed Matthew Schuerman's article in The NY Observer, covering Forest City Ratner contributions to the fund, as a must-read, (see, "Forest City Ratner Gives to Coney Island Carousel, Other Bloombergian Public Projects").

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

Corrections

Here's the NY Times correction from the article that ran on the day when the press couldn't shoot straight:

A report in the Metro Briefing column on Friday about the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn misidentified the suit in question. It accused the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that shepherded the project to approval, of condemning two apartment buildings on the project site without permission from state housing officials to cancel the tenants’ rent-stabilized leases. A separate lawsuit accusing the agency of offering an unfair relocation plan to those tenants is still pending.

Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

CITY LIMITS INVESTIGATES HOUSING: HIGH COSTS INTERFERE WITH PLAN

In its inaugural issue, CLI examines how fiscal realities are shaping the city's affordable-housing buildout. This synopsis points to some of the ways new units' size, quality and genuine affordability could be affected.

By Jarret Murphy

This article was summarized in yesterday's edition of amNY (link and our comments here).

In December of 2002, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his first affordable housing plan, the new Yankees and Mets stadiums existed only in the dreams of owners George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon. A walk along the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront would show plenty of development potential – but no new high rise apartment buildings. The phrase "Atlantic Yards" had yet to enter the city's popular lexicon. And it wasn't until eight days after the mayor unveiled his five-year, $3 billion, 65,000-unit housing plan that the first designs for the Freedom Tower were released.

...affordable housing developers, designers, and analysts say that, coupled with swelling land prices, the rising cost of construction threatens the Bloomberg plan. "Construction costs are killing us," says Paul Freitag, an architect with Jonathan Rose Companies, a builder developing several affordable housing projects in Harlem and the Bronx. "I think it's particularly tough in the case of affordable housing where you're looking for public subsidies to fill the gap."

article

NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards" is not only entering the popular lexicon, it has become the prime example for nearly everything bad and bloated in the current wave of development in NYC.

Forest City is known in the industry as one of the few development companies that can wait out unfavorable market conditions. A large majority of Atlantic Yards's affordable housing component remains in Phase II of the development, making it vulnerable to substantial delays.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Hearing Today Over Seizure of Alleged Underground Railroad Homes

Fugitive Slaves, City Study, Deed Fraud Part of Duffield Street Lore

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

A really good article about what's at stake at today's hearing about Brooklyn's other land grab:

Chatel-BDE.jpg

A sign depicting a white man with pointy teeth, looming menacingly over low-rise Brooklyn about to take a bite, was the backdrop to a rally held on the steps of City Hall Monday against today’s eminent domain hearing involving homes allegedly once involved in the Underground Railroad.

These homes on Duffield Street are sandwiched between Fulton Mall, an outdoor shopping area that caters mainly to a black clientele, and MetroTech, developer Bruce Ratner’s first major Brooklyn complex, a fortress of office towers.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) wants to demolish the Duffield homes to make way for a 1-acre park and underground parking garage that would, in part, service the boutique hotel going up across the street. The hearing — involving the northern half of the block bounded by Duffield, Gold, Willoughby and Fulton streets — is the culmination of a three-year battle that doesn’t look good for the protesters in front of that sign.
...
Councilwoman Letitia James allows that as an elected official, she has no power to stop the seizure of the homes through eminent domain. “The only recourse we have is in the courts and moral suasion,” she says.

Here's a good example of the sincerity of the City's Economic Development Corporation. According to a spokesperson:

“Although the report did not confirm a history of Underground Railroad activity at the sites in question, we look forward to working with members of the City Council to determine how to commemorate the substantial activity that occurred elsewhere within the greater Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood.”

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Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Important Duffield Street Hearing

DuffieldSt-Hearing.jpg

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

Breaks for Big Business

Gotham Gazette
By Steven Josselson

Bankroll-GG.jpg JP Morgan Chase is negotiating some goodies with NY City for the privilege of building their new headquarters at the site of the old Deutsche Bank building.

The current standoff between the city and JP Morgan Chase is just the latest example in a long running policy debate. Are tax breaks for big corporations a wise investment to keep jobs, businesses and tax revenue in the city? Or do they amount to corporate welfare?

Despite its hard-line stance, the Bloomberg administration has an impressive corporate-welfare track record, which includes Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project:

"We have basically ended the era of corporate welfare, basically paying people to stay," Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said in 2003. Doctoroff’s boss – Bloomberg – said, "Any company that makes a decision as to where they are going to be based on the tax rate is a company that won't be around very long."

Despite this rhetoric, Bloomberg has agreed to large subsidies for new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, and the Atlantic Yards project. He has also given tax credits to large corporations like Time Warner, Hearst, the New York Times, Bank of America, Pfizer, Aon and the Bank of New York.

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NoLandGrab: One corporate payoff that didn't make the roster in this article was the Chase-MetroTech deal highlighted in a recent MetroNY piece (Report: City gave breaks to firms that cut jobs):

In one example, the city IDA granted $212 million in assistance to JP Morgan Chase in 1989, in part to build 3 and 4 Metrotech in Brooklyn. Security guards there make as little as $17,680 a year. Due to a series of mergers and acquisitions between 1995 and 2004, the company laid off 13,000 workers, but it will continue to claim tax exemptions through 2014.

FYI: MetroTech was built by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Kondylis + Ratner on DeKalb Avenue

Curbed.com

Kondylis-n-Ratner.jpg

With a tipster noting that the building at 80 DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene is coming down, we thought this a good opportunity to take a look at what is destined to rise there. The rendering above is Costas Kondylis' proposed 36-story building for the site, with 369 apartments. The developer, in case you haven't focused on this parcel, is none other than Bruce Ratner.

One commenter asks about affordable housing, another concludes:

it would be another 80/20 assuming they get the bonds. i think all of that is still up the air though.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Ratner gives residents a pane in the glass

Three sites blog yesterday's NY Post story on free air conditioners and windows for residents in and around Atlantic Yards:

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards gets wired for sound

Developer Bruce Ratner sent a letter to around 700 residents in or around the proposed Atlantic Yards construction site in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, offering to give them air conditioners or install double-pane windows in their homes. The amenities are meant to minimize construction noise from the $4 billion project and are part of a noise-reduction requirement the state said the developer had to follow when the project was approved. Ratner says the giveaways will cost him $2 million.

Pardon me for asking, Freebees by Bruce Ratner

Why not buy their affection?

Bruce Ratner seems to be in the news every day. The man who has been given free reign over a 22 acre site in Brooklyn is now giving away freebees to the residents surrounding his huge construction site. I doubt very much that it will make his "neighbors" feel better that he is going to make their lives miserable during years of construction.

Daily Intelligencer, The Morning Line, Five Shots

Bruce Ratner must be sweatin' about something: He's sent out letters to 700 addresses near Atlantic Yards promising residents free ACs and double-paned windows (to minimize construction nuisances). The kicker: Daniel Goldstein got one.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Marty, Don't Destroy

The Albany Project, Marty Markowitz Jumps Shark, Will Purge Brooklyn CB6

[Markowitz's] full court press for Ratnerville has certainly strained my inclination to give him the benefit of the doubt, but a recent story in the New York Observer may prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back in that regard. It appears that Marty is going to purge Community Board 6 of all who have opposed the Ratnerville development later this week. Marty is apparently fed up with those members who have the temerity to think that a huge, eminent domain driven displacement of scores of local residents and businesses in CB6 might not be in the best interest of those the members are supposed to represent. It's a heavy handed, undemocratic move and one that is beneath the dignity of the Marty I used to know.

OnNYTurf, Markowitz to Purge Community Board 6 over Atlantic Yards Votes

This is another example of how some Community Boards have no legitimacy beyond the officials that appoints them. I feel for the about to be removed Board Members of Brooklyn CB6 who spoke their mind and spoke on behalf of the community and are now facing removal by a vindictive Marty Markowitz. Shame!

Author Phil DePaolo uses the Bronx as an example of how a Borough President broke a Community Board:

We have already seen this ugly scenario unfold in The Bronx where Adolfo Carrion refused to reappoint Community Board members whose terms were expiring last June when Bronx CB4 rejected the Yankee Stadium Proposal. Out of the 19 members whose terms were up, only five were allowed to stay. Since then, Bronx Community Board 4 has had a hard time conducting any business. The board hasn't been able to get enough members together to even hold a vote. There are people who haven't returned since they voted to change the board in June. The people who attended regularly.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

What Would Bruce Do?

Carter-NetsLogo.jpgAs NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner is set to pull the trigger and seize people's homes to build a new arena for the team in Prospect Heights, the big decision he's facing is whether or not to sign Vince Carter.

NY Daily News, Out of Nets' league

Owner Bruce Ratner said during the season he would be willing to pay a luxury tax penalty, but Thorn suggested the Nets may only be willing to go so far to bring back Carter.

NY Post, WINCING AT THOUGHT OF VINCE RETURN

Note to Bruce Ratner: Unless you feel Wince's knee(s) will return to near 100-percent effectiveness, he appears to be a high-risk free agent (assuming he opts out) on a downward spiral.

The Bergen Record, Carter set to test free agency market

Although owner Bruce Ratner said he will pay luxury tax to keep Carter, Thorn doesn't want to overpay because he has other moves to make. The Nets can extend Nenad Krstic's contract by Oct. 31, want to re-sign Mikki Moore and will look outside to "to get stronger" inside. Richard Jefferson, who was not here Monday for personal reasons, could be packaged for a big man if Carter is re-signed.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Illustrate — Don't Destroy

StrongArmRatner-DI.jpgDaily Intelligencer caught wind of MissBrooklyn.net, which features variations on the theme of "Miss Brooklyn," the insipid name given to Atlantic Yards's signature tower, by the designer, Frank Gehry.

Intelligencer alerts their readers that the site features, "Disturbing, disturbing cartoons." It also noted that the "strong-arm Ratner" cartoon, "depicts Bruce Ratner as a sort of Evil Jew."

Since all of the images originally ran on NoLandGrab (each from a different artist), we feel compelled to ask, what the hell is an "Evil Jew?" We've never heard that term — maybe Intelligencer can explain.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

May 21, 2007

Duffield Street, TODAY & TOMORROW

Help STOP Brooklyn's OTHER LAND GRAB:

DuffieldSt-Rally-Hearing.jpg

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Never mind, says NYCT: B63 reroute, Fifth Avenue closing won't happen as announced

Another Atlantic Yards Report scoop.

Never mind the B63 reroute, we were just taking orders from Ratner, sez NYCT.

Remember that April 9 letter from New York City Transit (NYCT) to Brooklyn Community Board 6 regarding plans to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route? [link]

It was supposed to be implemented on May 27, in response to the demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues "in the near future" for the Atlantic Yards project, according to NYCT's Lois Tendler.

Never mind. It's not happening this week. NYCT apparently was taking cues from developer Forest City Ratner more than from fellow involved agencies.

Click here to read how a governmental agency take orders from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and fesses up when its cover is blown.

Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

BROOKLYN MATTERS: SCREENING AT A LOCATION NEAR YOU

BrooklynMattersPost-topg.jpg

May 21st, 8:30 p.m.
Cattyshack
249 4th Avenue (@ Carroll Street). Park Slope
Sponsored by Lambda Independent Democrats

May 22nd, 7 p.m.
Phoenix House
174 Prospect Place (between Carlton and Vanderbilt). Prospect Heights
Sponsored by Prospect Place Block Association (Flatbush to Underhill)

June 1, 6 p.m.
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub, RSVP: 718-408-3234

June 3, 7:00 p.m.
322 Union Avenue, Bklyn
Sponsored by UnionDocs as part of The Documentary Bodega Series

More info at www.brooklynmaters.com.

BrooklynMattersPost-bottom.gif

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Can NYC afford affordable housing?

amNY
By Jarret Murphy

Paragraph 2:

Steep prices for materials, like steel, and fierce demand for building contractors, are pushing up construction costs by as much as 1 percent a month. Global forces like the growth of China and labor unrest in Chile have caused costs to climb, but New York's own development craze — from Ground Zero to Atlantic Yards to the new Mets and Yankees ballparks — is pushing up prices.

NoLandGrab: What are the implications for the projected cost of Atlantic Yards and its affordable housing component?

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

New stadiums hit property rights

NY Newsday
By Raymond Keating

Just take a look at the plans for new stadiums being built for the Mets in Queens and the Yankees in the Bronx, both due to open in 2009.

The Mets facility resembles Ebbets Field, while the next Yankee Stadium will look much like the original Yankee Stadium before a major overhaul in 1974.
...
But a little history shows that this is a manufactured character, as opposed to the organic kind that sprang from the original ballparks of yesteryear. Interestingly, the character of the early 20th-century stadiums largely emerged from private-sector necessity and creativity, as well as the restraint of government power.

In contrast to the huge taxpayer stadium subsidies being doled out to the Mets and Yankees, along with handouts for a new Brooklyn basketball arena due to open for the Nets also in 2009, sports facilities were once private ventures. Team owners bought the land and privately funded their stadiums. What a novel idea!
...
I appreciate new sports facilities as much as the next fan. But taxpayer subsidies for sports teams - as all independent economic studies have shown - amount to bad economics. Perhaps even worse, government taking property from one private owner and handing it over to another private entity not only mocks our Constitution but is simply immoral. Government is supposed to protect property, not steal it.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

Hudson Yards vs. Atlantic Yards, again

Atlantic Yards Report

Back when the Jets were coveting the Hudson Yards for a new stadium, there were multiple parallels to Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project (MTA land giveaway, public financing of sports venues, traffic, etc.).

Years later, the MTA is bidding out the development rights again and the city has a new redevelopment plan for the neighborhood.

How does it compare to Atlantic Yards?

link

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

RATNER TO BROOKLYN: BE COOL

The NY Post
By Rich Calder

AirConditioner.jpg

Developer Bruce Ratner is not only bringing NBA basketball and skyscrapers to Brooklyn, he's bringing free air conditioners and insulated windows.

Ratner last week sent out letters to about 700 residences around - and even within - the 22-acre footprint of his planned $4 billion Atlantic Yards project for Prospect Heights, telling residents that they are eligible to receive air conditioners and double-paned windows to help minimize construction noise.
...
Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the Atlantic Yards-opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said he was stunned to receive the letter, considering he lives in a building targeted for demolition.

"I guess like me, [Ratner's firm] expects me to be living here a long time," said Goldstein, whose group has filed one of the several suits trying to halt construction.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Pretty Pictures and the Myths they Tell

Fans For Fair Play

We know well how Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's PR materials exaggerate and deliberately mislead (see, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) — could Yankee's owner George Steinbrenner be learning from the master?

Like the parent club and Ratner's machine, Jane Rogers and the Staten Island Yankees are fabricating the truth. They're seducing you into paying for the privilege of being lied to.

Compare the view from behind homeplate from a Staten Island Yankees ad and the actual view.

article.

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere60.jpgThe Gowanus Lounge, PM Update: Markowitz Planning Community Board 6 Purge

It has long been rumored that a purge of Community Board 6 was in the works because many of the board members opposed the Atlantic Yards project. Just last night, in fact, at a CB6 Transportation Committee hearing we heard people joking that the board didn't have long to live because Borough President Marty Markowitz would not reapppoint members that spoke out against the controversial project. Several people, ironically, wondered aloud when the trigger might be pulled.

iloveBrooklyn.com, Bagel Shop Becomes Newest Victim of Atlantic Yards Dissent

Arena Bagels and Bialys has officially changed its name to… well, something else.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, NO DECISION ON EMINENT DOMAIN AND MUCH MISINFORMATION
OTBKB explains that "the report of DDDB's death was an exaggeration."

The Slope via The Lake, 5th Ave Street Fair
Not everyone loves the Nets, but free stuff is cool:

I did stop by the Nets booth and entered a drawing for an autographed Jason Kidd basketball even though I am against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development and can't imagine living blocks away from an arena.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

May 20, 2007

Save the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn

URRMay2007.jpg

From our friends on Duffield Street:

The City wants to demolish homes on Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn to build an underground parking lot. They want to help rich developers profit by destroying our history. We can’t let this happen!

These homes are believed by many historians and experts to be safehouses on the Underground Railroad, and part of a huge anti-slavery network that existed here in Downtown Brooklyn. If we don’t fight now, the City will destroy the history of slavery and New Yorkers’ involvement in fighting for freedom. If we don’t fight now, our children will not be able to see this history.

GET INVOLVED! Call Joy Chatel at (347) 731-5481
Or Ilana at FUREE for more information
718.852.2960 x300 or 308

Click here to view/download flyer

Posted by amy at 10:34 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

shibuya.jpg

The Knickerblogger Non Democratic Government- First Atlantic Yards..now..

It is utterly impossible for the United States Senate to exercise the due diligence commensurate with the importance of major immigration legislation without extensive hearings.[like rushing through 5000+ page documents and giving laymen only 66 days to review them a la Atlantic Yards]

The Daily Gotham When Clowns Go Bad Part II: THE PURGE OF COMMUNITY BOARD 6

When I first heard about the purge, as I wrote before, more than a month ago, it was in the context of several public scenes made by Marty in which he yelled at people, in public, for their "disloyalty" on Atlantic Yards and threatened to drop them from the board. One person relating such stories questioned Marty's actual sanity, so embarassing were these scenes.

Palaver The Silent Ruins

In Brooklyn the Atlantic Yards project will soon by making temporary ruins in preparation for some kind of sports complex. People will think the ruins of old brownstones are sad, an eyesore perhaps, but only because other buildings will still exist intact around the ruins. The ruins will not be total. Ruins are only sad when people continue to live normally around them. The sacked cities of Palestine, Lebanon, Baghdad, the Axis holocaust of Berlin--ruins in these places sadden us because we look towards them with an eye to rebuild everything as it was, to get back to normal life.

Posted by amy at 7:51 AM

Consulting Firm Paid $5 Million So Far for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Work

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Consulting firm AKRF will receive $630,000 more for work it has done related to the Atlantic Yards arena and high- rise project after a state development corporation vote Thursday, bringing the firm’s total contract for project-related work in the last 20 months to $4.8 million.

The same firm was paid $500,000 by the city’s Economic Development Corporation for its three-year study on the relationship between several 19th century houses on Duffield Street and the Underground Railroad, according to testimony by EDC Senior Vice President Kate Collignon.
...
Critics of the agencies have criticized the consulting firm for primarily aiming to produce the desired results of the agencies that pay them big money to conduct the studies, rather than reducing any potential harm a project could cause. But development corporation officials have routinely responded that no other firm is as qualified as AKRF.

article

Posted by amy at 7:46 AM

Brooklyn Atlantic Yards: `Wrong Church, Wrong Pew,’ Says Manhattan Judge in Tenants’ Case

Brooklyn Daily Eagle provides accurate coverage of last week's State Supreme Court eminent domain case. This is notable, as they were the only media outlet to pull off this great feat.

By Sarah Ryley

Last week’s ruling on an Atlantic Yards-related case would be a victory for tenants everywhere “if it were correct,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, George Locker. But he said the judge failed to grapple with the central issue of the case, the Empire State Development Corporation’s [ESDC] broad use of authority, often in circumvention of local laws and procedures.

The action sought a declaration that the ESDC could not use eminent domain to construct private roads (in this case, a private parking garage for the Atlantic Yards arena/high-rise project) under the state Constitution and the state Highways Law. The plaintiffs also argued that the ESDC has no jurisdiction over the non-renewal of the 13 plaintiffs’ leases, and no authority to cancel rent-stabilized leases; Locker said only the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal has that jurisdiction and authority.

article

Posted by amy at 7:37 AM

Media Meltdown's Misinformation Miffs Many

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Yesterday every news outlet that reported on a State Supreme Court eminent domain case unrelated to the federal eminent domain lawsuit, Goldstein v. Pataki, got the story wrong to varying degrees (except for The Brooklyn Eagle which got it right, which shows that only local news outlets are truly covering the "Atlantic Yards" story enabling them to avoid easily avoidable mistakes.)

link

Posted by amy at 7:34 AM

Sunday Comix

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Posted by amy at 7:32 AM

May 19, 2007

CORRECTED. NY Press Corps Gets It Wrong.

deweywins.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy, Brooklyn

Lawsuits Are Alive and Well. There was much confusion (read: underinformed mistakes made) this morning regarding some legal news related to "Atlantic Yards." Each news outlet covering the story got a little piece of it wrong, but the Daily Intelligencer blog of New York Magazine got the story lavishly wrong (they have since corrected their errors and NoLandGrab has covered their fiction fixed for reality).

Before we go any further we'll state it simply: There was no decision today on the federal legal challenge to New York State's and Forest City Ratner's abuse of eminent domain. Any news reports saying so or implying otherwise are misleading.

link

Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

Double Pane Double Bind

earmuffs.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein received a special letter yesterday from Forest City Ratner:

We've gotten word that somewhere near 700 residents along Dean Street, Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues have gotten or will get this certified mail letter offering the recipient resident 30 days to decide if they want to accept Forest City Ratner's State mandated "noise attenuation" measures to mitigate the noise from the arena, construction and traffic.

What are those measures? Installing air conditioners and double-pane windows for those who don't already have these "noise attenuators."

First, this seems premature as the "Atlantic Yards" project's fate is in federal and state court.

Second, if this is a State mandated mitigation measure, why do residents have to make their decisions on this intrusive "noise attenuation," within an artificial 30-day time period set by Forest City Ratner?

Third, since lots of people like to go outside is Forest City Ratner also offering ear-plug installation?

Fourth, wouldn't not building an 18,000 seat arena in a residential neighborhood be the most effective way to mitigate noise?

link and view the letter
Click on the picture if you want to get a headstart making your own earmuffs...

Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

We're Focused on the Big Picture, Not the Bagel Hole

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn saved some of their red ink for The Brooklyn Paper's article about the new bagel shop, Arena Bagels:

In the article Mr. Aggarwal admits that he knew basically nothing about the "Atlantic Yards" project and did not know the sentiment of the neighboring communities. He meant no harm, and once he did hear enough complaints he decided to change the name.

That's the story.

But the article states that the "Atlantic Yards" opposition "planned to protest outside Aggarwal's store if it remained 'Arena Bagels.'"

To be clear, DDDB did not organize (or threaten to organize) any "protest" aginst Mr. Aggarwal's shop. Any concern or anger expressed towards the shop's namesake was spontaneously brought by individuals.

While having absolutely no position on Arena Bagels, we understand that people were turned off by the name, and might have complained about the arena and associated megadevelopment tie-in—a development that is a bad deal for Brooklyn.

link

Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

Markowitz to Purge Community Board 6

marty5.07.jpg

The Real Estate
by Matthew Schuerman

A number of community board members in Brooklyn’s Brownstone Belt who voted against Atlantic Yards will not be reappointed next week, according to officials involved with the process.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, an early and ardent supporter of the housing-and-arena complex at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, is expected to replace several Community Board 6 members when he makes appointments next week. Community Board 6 includes Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Red Hook and last year issued a strongly worded rejection of the project proposed by private developer Forest City Ratner.

“We would like to remain optimistic that we can contribute to changes in the current plan which would accomplish the laudable goals of the project concepts. But in its current form we cannot support this project,” wrote then-board Chairman Jerry Armer in a Sept. 29, 2006, letter (PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation, the government sponsor of the project. “We cannot possibly support the current project with the knowledge that we would be causing irreparable harm to our own communities.”

article

Posted by amy at 9:12 AM

KIDD GETS LITTLE HELP DURING CRUNCH TIME

kidd5.07.jpg

Asbury Park Press reports on the Nets elimination in game 6:

It's time to start over.

Owner Bruce Ratner, who three years ago slashed $60 million off the payroll by dealing Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles, decisions that proved penny wise and pound foolish, has already said he's willing to throw money at Carter, who can opt out after this season.

He might want to rethink that.

article

Posted by amy at 9:09 AM

May 18, 2007

Reporter Report

The triple bogey scored by Daily Intelligencer — yesterday, the online column/blog reported the wrong plaintiffs, wrong court and wondered if that meant the demise of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn — made us wonder, how did the rest of the press corps do?

We assembled a star-studded panel of media noodges watchdogs, Daniel Goldstein from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, and asked them if anyone in the media got it right (boo-boos in bold, expert watchdogs in bold-italic).

logo-NY1.gif

NY1, Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed By Atlantic Yards Development Opponents

A State Supreme Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday that challenged the state's use of eminent domain in obtaining land for the project.

The judge ruled the suit should have been filed in the State Court of Appeals instead.

The suit was filed by tenants in danger of being kicked out of their homes.

Tenants say they now plan to file in the Appeals Court as suggested.

Daniel Goldstein: Wrong, it's the "Appellate Division."

[The online version has been corrected to read "Appellate Division" instead of "Appeals Court."]

NY Times (Metro Briefs), Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Suit Filed in Wrong Court

A judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit filed by tenants challenging the Atlantic Yards construction project, saying they had filed their suit in the wrong court. The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, accused the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that shepherded the project to approval, of offering an unfair package of provisions to relocate tenants at two buildings in Brooklyn, 473 Dean Street and 634 Pacific Street. Justice Walter B. Tolub said the suit should have been filed directly in the Appellate Division of Supreme Court. A. J. Carter, a spokesman for the development corporation, said the agency was pleased with the decision. George Locker, a lawyer for the tenants, said he would file his suit in the appellate court even though he believed the Supreme Court had jurisdiction.

Norman Oder: Unfair relocation/comparable housing is subject of pending suit already in Appellate Division, as I wrote.

[Word from the attorney for the plaintiffs is that the Times will run a correction.]

NY Post, ATLANTIC YDS. SUIT REJECTED

A lawsuit challenging the state's use of eminent domain to make way for Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project was dismissed by a state Supreme Court Judge yesterday.

A Manhattan judge ruled on a technicality against rent-stabilized tenants in danger of being booted out of their homes in Brooklyn to help make way for an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers, saying the Appellate Division has jurisdiction over condemnation matters.

The plaintiffs, who live in buildings on Dean and Pacific streets in Prospect Heights, felt they weren't offered comparable housing by the state. An Empire State Development Corp. spokesman said the agency was "pleased" by the decision. Ratner's firm declined comment.

[See Norman Oder's comments above.]

So that's 0-for-4 (Intelligencer included). Project critics have been on the media's case to at least send reporters to cover the legal procedings in this historic and controversial project. The daily press has resisted on the grounds that nothing actually gets decided during oral arguments.

Today's articles are evidence that by not paying attention to legal proceedings, they have no clue what's going on.

Word to the media: there have been several lawsuits filed, more than your readers realize. You should feel free to use Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report as a crib sheet to catch up; we all do.

We do thank you for playing, though, and have some wonderful consolation prizes in the back.

Posted by lumi at 6:12 PM

We're worried about Daily Intelligencer

Today, one of New York's Snarkiest betrayed their sensitive side when they became concerned about the "spooky" silence in their In Box after they didn't receive a press release about the eminent domain ruling from the "normally quick-on-the-draw DDDB."

The emotional tenor of their headline "We're Worried About Develop Don't Destroy" is understandable since the magzine's blog reported, "Yesterday, a state judge threw out Goldstein et al. v. Pataki et al., the linchpin of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's anti–Atlantic Yards effort." Uh, NOT!

Daily Intelligencer also headlined its earlier news roundup, "A Bad Day for Daniel Goldstein." We're willing to bet that the only thing making today "A Bad Day" for Goldstein is that the embattled homeowner is spending the morning chasing down erroneous press reports.

UPDATE:
Daily Intelligencer just posted the following, "Our worries were unfounded, and DDDB should be worried about us. We got this totally wrong. There are two eminent-domain cases against Ratner — the federal one, brought on by DDDB, and one on the state level, started by a group of eleven rent-stabilized tenants. This news is about the state case; DDDB's federal action lives on. Apologies to everyone."

We're hearing rumors that "Atlantic Yards Report-er" Norman Oder is preparing a pop-quiz on Atlantic Yards for all metro-area reporters. Be afraid...

Posted by lumi at 11:20 AM

A start on trading cumbersome (city) environmental review for the civic work of planning

Atlantic Yards Report

Nobody’s happy with the way projects get approved in New York. Rather than planning, there’s an environmental review process--city, state, or federal depending on the overseeing authority—that aims to disclose adverse impacts rather than actually mitigate them. Reams of paper produced by high-priced consultants allow developers to insulate against lawsuits, but otherwise don’t serve the public well.

The indictment, as applied in the city’s implementation of the 1975 State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), is detailed thoroughly in a new publication, Rethinking Environmental Review: A Handbook on What Can Be Done, written by Hope Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Rethinking Development at the Manhattan Institute, with a foreword by Richard Ravitch, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

While the institute has a free-market bent, it gathered a panel of good government types for a panel discussion yesterday, who endorsed the critique even if they differed at points over the prescription. They included Ravitch; Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association (RPA); Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS); and Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of NY and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

As usual, at these events, the poor planning posterproject made an uninvited appearance:

Though Atlantic Yards, as a project overseen by the state, was not addressed in the handbook, it was brought up yet again by the panel as an emblematic example of poor planning.

article`

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Setback for renters’ case, as state judge boots suit

Atlantic Yards Report

Ruling that the renters' lawsuit "was brought both in the wrong church and the wrong pew,” State Supreme Court Justice Walter B. Tolub dismissed their case on the grounds that the plaintiffs have "standing" in appellate court as condemnees:

One of the “smaller” Atlantic Yards lawsuits was dismissed yesterday in state trial court, as the judge—as he strongly hinted in oral arguments March 13—ruled that the case belonged instead in the appellate division, where challenges to eminent domain determinations are heard, but without the legal muscle that could be mustered in trial court.

This case involves 13 tenants in two rent-stabilized buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint. It is separate from two pending cases organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and allies: a federal court challenge to eminent domain and a state court challenge to the state’s environmental review of Atlantic Yards.

The tenants, represented by attorney George Locker, claim that their landlord, Forest City Ratner, should be subject to the tougher regulations of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), rather than remain free to convey the buildings to ESDC for “friendly condemnations.” Locker also argues that the creation of private roads for the project requires a jury trial—an issue never tested in court.

In the trial court, the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs would have more of an opportunity, via discovery, to extract documents bolstering their case.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

ATLANTIC YDS. SUIT REJECTED

NY Post
By Rich Calder

A lawsuit challenging the state's use of eminent domain to make way for Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project was dismissed by a state Supreme Court Judge yesterday.

A Manhattan judge ruled on a technicality against rent-stabilized tenants in danger of being booted out of their homes in Brooklyn to help make way for an NBA arena and 16 skyscrapers, saying the Appellate Division has jurisdiction over condemnation matters.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

Suit: Ratner is one bad liar

The Brooklyn Paper

Bruce Ratner is a money-grubbing liar who tricked a well-connected businessman into investing $6 million of his own money to help Ratner acquire the New Jersey Nets with promises that he “never had any intention of fulfilling,” a bombshell lawsuit charged last week.

Eugene Greene contributed the hefty sum — and rounded up another $25 million from other investors — to help Ratner buy the Nets in 2004, but now claims that the Atlantic Yards developer reneged on his promises to make Greene “the glue that helps run this team.” ...
When Greene confronted Ratner with the alleged breach of contract at the end of 2004, Ratner told him, “I don’t remember what I said. As you know, I have a memory problem,” the court papers said.

Forest City Ratner officials did not respond to several requests from The Brooklyn Paper to address Greene’s serious charges. But the company’s outside press spokesman, Joe DePlasco of Dan Klores Communications, told The Brooklyn Paper that Forest City “disagrees with Mr. Greene’s allegations and will fight them.”

article

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

ESDC signs environmental monitor; AKRF’s tab nears $5 million

Atlantic Yards Report

On the 101st day* after the Empire State Development Corporation announced the hiring of an environmental compliance monitor:

While the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has not yet hired the promised ombudsperson to represent the public or the “owner’s representative” to represent its overall interests at the Atlantic Yards site, yesterday it approved the hiring of a long-planned environmental monitor, a job that also be described as an “owner’s reprepresentative” for mitigation oversight.

The firm, Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR), is expected to be on board in early June. AKRF, the consulting firm that wrote most of the Atlantic Yard environmental impact statement (EIS), has been serving as the interim environmental monitor since February, and been doing much more (see below).

All the three positions cited above will be paid for by the project developer, Forest City Ratner, which is business as usual in ESDC projects.

Also, AKRF is to be paid an additional $630,000, "bringing the amended contract total to $4.786 million," for work on the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

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* 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 8:44 AM

Building-Making versus City-Making

Spotlight on the Region
By Rob Lane, Director, Regional Design Programs, RPA Newsletter from the Regional Planning Association

Now Atlantic Yards is the posterchild of bad planning and poor process:

...there’s been too little critical thinking about whether the public approach to development that has evolved over the last three decades is up to the task. Perhaps the best case for examining where we might be headed is to look at the most massive single project that has recently received public approval.

The Atlantic Yards project, which will remake a large piece of Downtown Brooklyn with millions of square feet of development, has moved into the hand-wringing and lawsuit stage. Merits aside, it is worth at least reflecting on what this experience can teach us, because the Atlantic Yards experience is a microcosm not only of big-time development and politics in New York City, but of the often erroneous ways we are building our cities throughout the U.S.

At the heart of the controversy and debate over Atlantic Center is an important and fundamental question: when should a development “project” be considered simply a house or office writ large, and when is it an example of “city-building,” signifying an essentially different thing in kind as well as degree? And what is the difference?

Also, Atlantic Yards may alter the "space-time continuum:"

The difference between project building and city building comes down to two criteria and how much of each are used: space and time.

A project that makes the leap into city building involves changing space in a fundamental way. In city building, this means altering the existing public realm of streets and other public spaces in a substantive way. Streets are being closed, or new ones proposed. Parks and squares will be built, or existing ones altered. Altering this bottom layer of streets and essential public spaces must be considered with exceptional care because the streets and open spaces we create today will shape the neighborhoods of tomorrow for the generations that follow. When we change the streets, we’re not just writing a new picture on a piece of canvas; we’re changing the canvas itself.

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NoLandGrab: There are some interesting thoughts about urban planning in this article, though the author isn't big on details. The proposed Atlantic Yards project ISN'T in Downtown Brooklyn and "Atlantic Center" is an existing mall situated on the site once coveted by Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley for a new ballpark.

Atlantic Yards Report, The RPA on AY: we must do better at "city-making"
Norman Oder fleshes out some of the points Rob Lane makes as they relate to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

Battle over arena … bagels!

The Brooklyn Papers
By Gersh Kuntzman

arenabagels-BP.jpgWhat's in a name? A lot, if it manages to piss off all of your potential customers.

Just a few hours after bagel man Ravi Aggarwal put up an “Arena Bagels and Bialys” sign on his soon-to-open Fifth Avenue shop, opponents of the basketball stadium that inspired the name made their feelings clear: they planned to protest outside Aggarwal’s store if it remained “Arena Bagels.”

Aggarwal initially told this bagel-loving scribe that he would never relent to such bullying — but as more and more potential customers dropped by to express their concerns about buying their morning coffee and bialy at a place named “Arena,” he ultimately caved.

“In the end, I had to change my mind,” said Aggarwal. “I can’t do anything that goes against the neighborhood because I’m a neighborhood guy. These are my customers and I can’t go against them.”
...
By caving in so quickly, Aggarwal chose a different approach to dealing with the arena foes. Last year, when some opponents organized a boycott of Brooklyn Brewery products after company owner Steve Hindy expressed support for Atlantic Yards, Hindy stuck to his taps.

That misguided boycott fizzled like week-old beer.

But it remains appalling that hard-working men like Aggarwal and Hindy have had to face such outrage.

Indeed, as support for Ratner’s project goes, Aggarwal’s decision to name his store “Arena Bagels” pales by comparison to the wheel-greasing done by the state, the city and the Borough President. If Atlantic Yards is ever built, blame George Pataki, Mike Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz, not Ravi Aggarwal.

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NoLandGrab: We didn't know that the Brooklyn Brewery Boycott WASN'T still on. Thanks to Brooklyn Paper for the opportunity to mention it again. We're still drinking, Six Point and Blue Point, anything but stuff made by Brooklyn Brewery.

The issue at hand isn't bullying — a businessman expanded into a new neighborhood using a name that made potential customers cringe. Is that good for business, or bad for business?

Other business names to avoid are "Bruce Katner's Kitty Klinic," "Forest City Florist," and "Barclay's Underground Bookstore."

Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy makes his beer upstate and distributes his product across the region, so he can afford to piss off a few customers in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Fighting to Save Underground Railroad Site

duffield-OTP.jpgOur Time Press
By Carla Murphy

An article about Duffield Street, the "other land grab," includes the history of the controversy and the flawed study that the city is using to justify the use of eminent domain to seize historical homes that played a role in the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn — in order to build a parking garage.

Joy Chatel's home at 227 Duffield Street, possibly one of Brooklyn's best historical links to the Underground Railroad, could be seized by the City of New York in a matter of weeks and turned into an underground parking lot. Above will sit Willoughby Square Park, a one-acre public plaza approved in 2004 as part of the 59-block Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan.
...
"They're saying we don't have a story but we built this country," a pleading and at times, teary-eyed Chatel said at a press conference before ascending City Hall steps to sit through a six-hour City Council hearing. On May 1st,a standing-room-only crowd, at least in the beginning, squeezed in a side chamber to confront AKRF, the research firm that found "no significant association" connecting seven Duffield and Gold Street residences with the Underground Railroad. Based on oral histories and one early owner's "consistent, long-term commitment to abolitionism," AKRF assigned the highest ranking, 3 out of 5, to Chatel's home. She needed a 4 in order to halt eminent domain proceedings.

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Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

NY1 Snap Poll

NY1

Which of the corporate arena names do you find the least offensive? * Barclays Arena * Citi Field * The WaMu Theater

link

NoLandGrab: Though the poll is kinda silly, it gives us the chance to remind you why Barclays Arena is probably the most offensive (see Barclays Bullies Brooklyn Paper?.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Historically Speaking: May 17
Brooklyn’s LIRR

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Manbeck

A must-read for Brooklynites who are train buffs contains an interesting turn of the phrase:

But the LIRR has been an important cog in our rail system. It is the longest and the oldest railroad operating under its original name as well as the nation’s busiest commuter railroad. Now the Atlantic Avenue Terminal is undergoing a $93 million renovation and reconstruction due for completion in 2008, making it an important hub in the inevitable Atlantic Yards project.

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NoLandGrab: Interesting how democracy wasn't "inevitable" — many lost their lives for the cause, many still do — but Atlantic Yards IS.

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

May 17, 2007

At eminent domain discussion, principled planning (vs. Atlantic Yards) and elusive blight

Atlantic Yards Report

When and how should the power of eminent domain be used? How can equitable use of eminent domain be assured? Those were the topics at a panel discussion last Thursday at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central library, and Atlantic Yards did not come off well in comparison to more "thoughtful" exercises of eminent domain. (Scroll to the end for the money quote.)

Judd Schechtman, an urban planner and environmental attorney:

“It’s not something we want to exclude from the toolbox of methods that we have in order to enhance economic development and grow the city. But the current use is not, we would say, as judicious [as it should be]. Only when absolutely necessary and with adequate public input.” He didn't mention Atlantic Yards in that summation, but, arguably, the implication was there.

Tom Angotti, Professor in the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning:

Angotti... called New York City “possibly one of the national centers of eminent domain abuse,” citing Atlantic Yards as “the premier example” but also the city’s efforts to redevelop Willets Point in Queens.
...
“I have people come to me all the time. They say, ‘You’re an urban planner. What’s the definition of blight? What do you have to do to say an area’s blighted? There is no science, there is no standards. It’s whatever the agency decides is blighted,” Angotti said.

Lisa Bova-Hiatt, deputy chief in charge of condemnation in the Tax and Bankruptcy Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department:

“I’d like to believe that the city of New York uses eminent domain thoughtfully.”

She pointed out that “in a dense city, the assembly of parcels suitable for redevelopment, for whatever purpose, is frequently impossible without the use of eminent domain.”

When the Q&A began, the obvious question for Bova-Hiatt was this: “Do you think that the thoughtful planning that the city has practiced in Melrose Commons, etc., has been applied to the Atlantic Yards case?”

Her response: “Well, the city of New York is not the condemning authority with Atlantic Yards. And because it’s pending litigation, I don’t want to offer my opinion, because that might not necessarily be the opinion of the city of New York. But, from what I’ve heard, there was a difference between what happened in Melrose Commons and what happened in Atlantic Yards.”

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NoLandGrab: We know we're always saying that Atlantic Yards is the "posterchild" for this and that... but Atlantic Yards is really one of the prime examples in our nation of how eminent domain can make a big difference in the lives of those who have political connections.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn

Development and the Atlantic Yards

Cooperator
By Raanan Geberer

Atlantic Yards: a brief overview of the history, the pros and cons:

East of the busy intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Downtown Brooklyn, where the Long Island Rail Road and almost 10 subway lines intersect, one finds, in the shadow of the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, the Vanderbilt Rail Yard. At this rather unattractive open-air facility, trains that terminate at the LIRR's Brooklyn terminal rest between rush hours are cleaned and serviced.

A visitor would find that several nearby blocks look somewhat like a ghost town. One sees vacant lots, some vacant low-rise commercial and industrial buildings, several still-operating businesses (most notably the famous Freddy's Bar), and low-rise residential buildings with only a handful of occupants left. Once, more than 400 people lived in these blocks, according to activist Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn—now, fewer than 100 remain.

The rail yard and the aforementioned blocks are in the "footprint" of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development being planned by developer Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

The Atlantic Yards Ombudsperson Cometh

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

As pre-construction demolition for the Atlantic Yards project has proceeded over the past few months, community groups around the Prospect Heights footprint have complained about the difficulty in getting answers about who’s responsible for what.

The fall of a parapet from the Ward Bakery April 26 compounded the concern. Now, in an implicit acknowledgment that the oversight for the controversial project has been insufficient, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has announced some significant reforms. The plan involves an ombudsperson to deal with elected officials, community representatives and the public; a new ESDC representative to monitor construction activities; and various working groups involving city and state agencies.

Also, a long-promised environmental monitor—initially supposed to be on board in March—will be hired. (An interim environmental monitor has been in place.) The plan was in the works before the Ward Bakery incident.

While one committee has already met, full implementation is not expected until the end of the month, at the earliest.

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Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

A Barron Ruling Brooklyn?

B.P. to B.P.: Former Black Panther Eyes Borough President Job

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Shane Miller

City Councilmember and Atlantic Yards opponent Charles Barron is gearing up to run for Borough President, instead of making another attempt to unseat Representative Edolphus Towns:

"We looked at Congress," said Barron outside City Hall last Wednesday. "But I would have to spend a lot of time in D.C., and that would take me out of New York City."

The former Black Panther said that his political style - brash and outspoken - likely wouldn't endear him to Washington insiders.

"The way I talk, they would stick me in a basement office near the toilet, and I would get an important committee appointments," said Barron. "I didn't just want to be a media spectacle."

Rather, Barron said that he could have more of an impact as borough president, addressing such issues as eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards proposal and police brutality.

"I'm all for economic development, but let's develop where it's needed," he said, adding he would also take on law enforcement. "And the police are out of control on our streets."

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Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

‘BKLYN DESIGN’ Show: The Reasons for Its Success

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

Wondering why attendees at the Brooklyn Design Show are now familiar with "Brooklyn?" The Daily Eagle has got it figured out:

After all, DUMBO has become a household word, everyone knows about the Williamsburg scene and its waterfront, and lots of people have seen the design of the Frank Gehry building for Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere59.jpgFrank Lynch's Flickr, The Frog God
There's a story behind a seriously buff frog, though alas, he can't protect all of Brooklyn from Ratner.

Gentrification in Brooklyn : A Home for Everyone, "Bushwick has become the place with a question of ownership"
A new blog has a serious article about gentrification issues in Bushwick. Ft. Greene resident and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Boardmember Sean Elder attempts to offer a balanced view on gentrification in his own neighborhood.

Urbanseashell — a collection, 2nd Annual Brooklyn Blogfest 2007—A Success!
From Lisa di Liberto's take on last week's Brooklyn Blogfest:

As Louise [Crawford] said it is great to actually meet other bloggers face to face which is what sparked this event. Eric McClure, the Atlantic Yards Campaign Coordinator introduced himself to me during the sponsored festivities afterwards. I post information he emails out to his list in order to further spread the awareness of the Atlantic Yards issue. Eminent domain can affect anyone anywhere. Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab was one of the featured speakers. We met each other as well and Lumi links to my blog when I post Eric's information. It was a pleasure to meet them both. In addition to which I met a lot of great people that evening.

NoLandGrab: For those of you who know Lumi and Eric, you'd think that they'd find a more efficient way to share information on Atlantic Yards activities than through di Liberto's blog.

iloveBrooklyn.com, Blogging and Community
I-heart-Brooklyn-dot-com thanks Bruce for making us bloggy in their Blogfest wrap-up:

According to Outside.in, a neighborhood blog aggregator, Brooklyn is the bloggiest neighborhood in the country. Whoot whoot!! We can all thank Bruce Ratner and his grandiose Atlantic Yards scheme to make as much money as possible at one time for that, but I digress.

Knickerblogger, The "New" ESDC- Business As Usual
One blogger's reaction to the Empire State Development Corporation Downstate Chairman's claim that taxpayers, "don’t want us to give money to companies that don’t create jobs, or to corporations that don’t really need our help."

As for his 'trickle down' economics, newsflash: business are leaving new york because of the high tax burden. When you give tax breaks and subsidies to certain companies to others at the expense of others, the others will leave if they can.

People With Ideas, at mefedia.com, Brooklyn Blogfest 2007
What makes Brooklyn bloggers different?

Many of the blogs also express the creative energy and unique beauty of Brooklyn, an aesthetic that is influenced by the heavy industry of the past, the classic beauty of the stone architecture, the many natural spaces, and the constant ebb and flow of development and gentrification. The primary issue of the day is the massive increase in real estate development that is occurring, specifically Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, which will massively change Brooklyn in one fell swoop.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

May 16, 2007

Citing Waste, Albany Seeks to Rein in Public Authorities

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

If you want to know how Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan even sees the light of day, consider this quote from NY Assemblyman Richard Brodsky in an article about possible reform of NY State's bloated quasi-governmental public authorities.

“Many authorities have become Soviet-style bureaucracies, cash cows and patronage mills for the political class and completely removed from control of democratic institutions,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who has been a voluble critic of public authorities.

Why bother with public authorities and why do the politically connected class love them?

Armed with the power to issue tax-free debt, the authorities were designed to perform some of the duties of public agencies with the nimbleness of private corporations. But that strength, critics say, has also been a weakness: Public authorities face neither the accountability of elected officials nor the market pressures of truly private enterprises.

Here's an observation that relates to a recent article on Atlantic Yards Report that charted the history of the Urban Development Corporation, rechristened under the Pataki administration in 1995 as the Empire State Development Corporation and now the state sponsor of the Atlantic Yards Project:

The authorities also have a tendency to evolve well beyond their original mission, albeit usually at the behest of governors and lawmakers.

“You have not so much mission creep as mission gallop,” said Edmund J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative group.

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NoLandGrab: The lingering question is whether any of Spitzer's "reforms" can really make a difference, or do they just change public perception of these quasi-governmental public-private institutions?

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Nets executive says Brooklyn arrival could be 2010

Atlantic Yards Report

Eagle-eyed Norman Oder stumbled over this quote from NJ Nets President Rod Thorn (photo right, from NBA.com) in which the team's top exec wasn't quite clear on when the Nets might be coming to Brooklyn:

RodThorn.jpg

New Jersey Nets President Rod Thorn apparently didn't get the memo instructing everyone in the Forest City Enterprises orbit to maintain that the Nets would move to Brooklyn for the 2009 season, since he told the New York Times it could be 2010.

The quote, from Harvey Araton's column today (TimesSelect) about whether to keep or trade Jason Kidd: "But as far as saying that we've got to be good in 2009 or 2010, whenever we do go to Brooklyn, I try to look at it as if we're going to be in the same place."

Oder explains that Thorn's media misstep on this matter wasn't the first for team Ratner, which has taken pains to deny that the Nets' move will be delayed.

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NoLandGrab: Those interested in reserving courtside seats for the new arena should note that your two-year interest-free loan to Bruce Ratner might be more like three years... or whatever.

Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

MissBrooklyn.net

MissBrooklyn-net.gifWill you miss Brooklyn if Miss Brooklyn does Brooklyn?

There's a new web site that hopes to post "your depictions of that new gal in town."

Meet MissBrooklyn.net.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Livable neighborhoods, community planning, and community media 2.0

Today's installment on Atlantic Yards Report covers the Municipal Art Society's workshop for the "Livable Neighborhoods Program: Resources and Training for Community-Based Planners."

The next workshop is this Saturday. Community leaders and activists will want to read Norman Oder's account of the previous workshop to see if this is something that they might be interested in attending.

As Eve Baron, director of the MAS Planning Center, points out, the average New York City community district is the size of Connecticut cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, or Waterbury, all of which have “hundreds of employees and multi-million dollar budgets to provide services.” By contrast, the city’s community boards, with budgets of $200,000, can’t fulfill the demands placed on them.

Participants at the seminar get a planning “toolkit” with chapters on planning topics like community organizing and visioning, data collection, zoning, 197-a planning, “brownfield” planning, historic and cultural resources preservation, electronic mapping and the budget process.

The training component, using the toolkit as a textbook, is hosted by the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development (CCPD). I found the sessions I attended May 5 useful in some ways, basic in others, but, then again, I’ve been immersed in certain land use issues for a while.

Oder also offers additional advice on community media:

Interestingly, the community outreach advice during the Livable Neighborhoods program was rather traditional, advising community groups to make sure they sent press releases to media outlets, including web sites.

Unmentioned was how people and organizations can now create their own media via the web. Consider the ecosystem around Atlantic Yards. Community groups like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, and BrooklynSpeaks all have their own web sites.

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Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

High court to decide battle over city casino

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Tom Barnes

For a change, Forest City is on the other side, claiming in court that a state board's decision was ill-advised:

Majestic Star owner Don Barden went to the state Supreme Court yesterday to defend himself against charges by competitors that his casinos have lost money in several recent years and that he isn't "financially suitable" to operate the lone slot machine casino to be built in Pittsburgh.

A clearly irritated Mr. Barden listened as lawyers for Forest City Enterprises/Station Square Gaming and for Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. urged the high court to overturn the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's Dec. 20 decision that gave Mr. Barden the lucrative slots license that state law earmarks for Pittsburgh.

The lawyers for the two losing applicants asked the justices to send the case back to the gaming board for a complete reconsideration, which could delay the opening of a Pittsburgh casino for months.

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Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

The Future of New York’s Past

The NY Times
By Sewell Chan

Coverage of a recent panel discussion on the future of NYC contained this celebrity sighting, which spills into the comments section:

...and Norman Oder, the Atlantic Yards critic, were among the faces in the crowd.

If you've been following Norman Oder's accounts of recent panel discussions on the past and future of New York City and its neighborhoods, you may be interested in reading excerpts of the panelists' remarks from “Does New York’s Past Have a Future? A Report on the Preservation Movement’s History; Some Prescriptions for Its Next Century,” posted on the NY Times Empire Zone blog.

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

May 15, 2007

THE RATNERVILLE SINGOUT

RatnervilleSing.giffeaturing the Atomic Grind Show

Thursday, May 24, 9:30pm
Freddy's Bar & Backroom
485 Dean Street (at 6th Avenue)
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
free admission

In the three-and-a-half years since Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was announced, the surrounding communities have stood fast against plans for a superblock skyscraper development.

Musicians, as with any struggle, have done their share. On May 24th, singers who have written original works about the struggle against Ratner's project will stage the first Ratnerville Singout.

Hosted by the eclectic and powerful Atomic Grind Show, the Ratnerville Singout will feature rock, hip-hop, jazz, folk, reggae, worldbeat, blues and r&b songs -- the mix of Brooklyn music today.

Performers include:
Atomic Grind Show
Steve deSeve
Papa Dish
Jezra Kaye
Chris Owens
Roger Paz
John Pinamonti
RebelMart

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

The Insider -- "DOWNSTATE CZAR Word on Javits"

Crain's NY Business

From a column covering last week's speech by the Empire State Development Corporation's Downstate Chairperson Patrick Foye:

Mr. Foye said lawsuits to stop Forest City Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn won't "pose a significant obstacle." He acknowledged that eminent domain would be needed but added that, in general, such condemnations should be used more cautiously than the law allows. "Taking someone's property without their consent is a serious matter and should be a last resort," he said, especially when it's done for private rather than government use.

article (subscription required)

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

On people power, activist journalism, and the roots of modern Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

I reported yesterday on the Atlantic Yards angle of the panels Saturday around the Roots of Modern Brooklyn exhibition, but there was much more of interest.

The exhibit at Borough Hall, organized by Brooklyn College Professor Emeritus Jerome Krase, uses words and graphics to convey a time of enormous ferment and change. The bottom line: “Ultimately, it was the power of ordinary people that revived Brooklyn’s proud but struggling neighborhoods.”

Contrast that with the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, as I wrote last August, which emphasized the role of government, including eminent domain, in reviving the area around the proposed site, while downplaying the equally important role of historic preservation.

The exhibit, and the panels, fill out much more of the story, identifying more non-governmental actors, including neighborhood, borough, and business groups. And there was a palpable unease about whether Brooklyn, for all its progress in recent years, could remain a place of opportunity.

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Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

One Hanson Place: The Atlantic Yards Effect

The "Atlantic Yards Effect" has been better for some...

536 Carlton aka 565 Dean Street open house

More details emerge from the large-footprint condo going on sale at the NW corner of Dean and Carlton in Prospect Heights. A commenter on our previous post mentioned that the building may have been built by two Columbia professors who were bought out by Ratner at a "very good price."
...
A bit more digging reveals that the duo may have been paid $2.975MM by Ratner for their two coops at 475 Dean Street. With their windfall, they promptly purchased a penthouse unit at Park Slope's famed and prestigious Ansonia Muse Condominiums.

...than others:

526 Carlton sells, in spite of the AYE

This townhouse on Carlton between Dean and Pacific has sold for $1.23MM, quite a bit lower than the original ask of $1.499MM. Back in December 2005 nolandgrab had a post on this property, as did brownstoner.

Note: 526 Carlton is located on the block nestled within the Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

SEEKING TO WRITE A NEW SCRIPT FOR EMINENT DOMAIN BATTLES

As city development projects requiring land other people are using gain momentum, some reformers advocate other routes toward fairness.

City Limits
By David Giles

Eminent domain takings in NYC are running on high octane. The City and State have no interest in changing the system until they get what they want first, so it's up to planners, community leaders, legal experts and YOU to get the conversation going.

Read about NY's use of eminent domain for large projects, including the Duffield St. land grab, and what experts are saying.

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Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

Nets Deal Brooklyn Another Blow

Brooklyn Record

ContinentalArena.jpgGet 'em while they're not!

Courtside seats for the Nets in Brooklyn:

They're only guaranteeing "premium" seats to Brooklynites who pay for them starting now. Last week the team sent out 30,000 mailers urging borough residents to throw down for season tickets (at an annual cost of around four grand) while the home court is still in East Rutherford, N.J. Would you even dream of taking the bait?

"Brownstoner" comments:

If you would like to provide interest-free financing to Bruce Ratner, purchasing tickets two years in advance is an excellent idea.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

May 14, 2007

At three discussions, the Atlantic Yards burr in Bloomberg's boomtown

Atlantic Yards Report

These days, it seems like if you're having a conversation about what's wrong with anything in NYC, Atlantic Yards is bound to come up...

If you’re having a discussion about Brooklyn and development issues, Atlantic Yards, it seems, inevitably comes to the fore.

At a panel discussion last Thursday at the Brooklyn Public Library on equitable use of eminent domain, Atlantic Yards was presented as an example of what not to do. At a 5/5/07 seminar on the Municipal Art Society’s Livable Neighborhoods Program, Atlantic Yards was suggested as exemplifying how developers “leapfrog” communities. (I’ll write about both events shortly.)

And Atlantic Yards came up several times on Saturday, Neighborhood Day, a day of panel discussions keyed to the Roots of Modern Brooklyn exhibit at Borough Hall, which focuses on the borough’s struggle to revive in the 1970s and 1980s.

Near the end of a discussion Saturday that was presented live on BCAT, Park Slope activist and former Assemblyman Joe Ferris offered a contrast between the 1970s and today: “The thing that troubles me now is the recentralization of power. We showed people that, at the block level, you could make a difference.” Hamill-BHB.jpg Ferris observed how neighborhood activists once could influence their community boards, their borough president, City Council, and even—when it existed—the Board of Estimate. “Now I see, with Atlantic Yards, that has been circumvented," he said. "ULURP [the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] is being obliterated by an unelected group of people.”

The moderator, author Pete Hamill, noted that time for the 90-minute program had nearly expired, observing wryly, “I heard the fatal words ‘Atlantic Yards’ and knew we could have another two hours” to continue.

article

Also, Brooklyn Heights Blog posted an account of the conclusion of the event:

After the speeches, there was a lively discussion that touched on education, the need to preserve the mixed income character of the Borough, and, of course, Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Progressive Democrat Issue 121: NYC FOCUS

Mole's Progressive Democrat

I want to keep pushing this because it is heating up. There was an article recently that suggested the $205 million taxpayer money the city wants to give Ratner is a done deal. I talked to someone in Councilman Yassky's office and they say it is NOT a done deal and the final vote will not come down until sometime in June. So we really need to push on this.

Mole333 gives two big reasons why $205 million for Bruce Ratner is "very, very unpalatable;" gives props to City Councilman Yassky for speaking out and State Assemblymember Jim Brennan for trying to get the real financial information for the project; and explains what you can do — click here.

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

May 13, 2007

Lost in Jersey

NY Daily News

It's crunch time in the NBA playoffs, but that hasn't stopped Brooklyn blogger Scott Turner from asking the tough question: Why do New Jersey-based Nets fans still support the Brooklyn-bound Nets?

"We don't wanna be unduly harsh," the Atlantic Yards critic writes on FansForFairPlay.com. "But can you imagine Brooklyn baseball fans in 1958 helping out Walter O'Malley? If O'Malley had said, 'I'm moving my team to Los Angeles because it's prettier to my wallet than Brooklyn, but I need you to spend money on the Dodgers for three more years,' Brooklynites would have told him to shove it. Ebbets Field would have been so empty that the Derrick Coleman 'whoop de damn do' era Meadowlands would've looked like a packed house in comparison."

link

Posted by amy at 1:38 PM

Sunday Comix

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Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

Freddy’s Bar, Donald O’Finn, and Underground Video Art

freddys5.07.jpg

bavatuesdays

One of the many, many things I miss about Brooklyn is Freddy’s Bar. This storied speak easy represents the best combination of dive bar and underground cultural mecca. Unfortunately, Freddy’s very existence is currently being threatened by Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project which, among other things, plans on bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and making tons of money while ruining the spirit of this fine city in the process (read more about this at Fans for Fair Play).

There are many great things about Freddy’s and a million reasons to save it, but one that I want to focus on in particular is the underground video art of its manager Donald O’Finn. Having a drink at Freddy’s is not only more pleasant and significantly cheaper than any where else in NYC, but you also get a lot more than a few drinks for your visit. The television on the wall behind the bar often offers an ongoing collage of clips from various films, the pacing of which is simply mesmerizing. I was originally attracted by the videos because of their use of innumerable clips from obscure b-movies. I found myself trying to name the movie, or find some kind of reference so that I could somehow get my hands on it. After watching these videos a number of times, I began to notice a some thematic patterns for these collages. They were not meaningless montages (is there such a thing?) but rather narrative sequences that tell a series of compelling stories. In short, brilliantly imaginative stuff!

link

Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

The silence of the (Brooklyn hoops) fans, and a not-so-sustainable escalator

BUffaloWildWingsLogo.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report ventures into "the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar in the Atlantic Terminal mall operated by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner" to see how Nets fans in Brooklyn were feeling during the playoff game.

The Nets played well, especially stars Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson, winning 96-85, but I didn't find much passion among the Brooklynites I observed.
...
When the game came to an end, some home team fans in the Continental Airlines Arena were on their feet, but, despite a decent crowd inside Buffalo Wild Wings, there wasn't any applause. People were watching--the game appeared on the majority of the room's 50+ screens--but they just weren't that invested. One Nets fan had clapped occasionally through the game, but that was about it.

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Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

Straight From The Bleachers:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
John Torenli

Bruce Ratner was definitely hoping for a better homecoming than this. The Cleveland native and Downtown Brooklyn real estate magnate watched his New Jersey Nets drop back-to-back games in his hometown, including Tuesday night’s 102-92 setback.

The soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets trail the best-of-7 series, 2-0, entering Game 3 on Saturday evening at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The Nets, who are expected to be in Downtown Brooklyn by 2009, have never won an NBA title and haven’t reached the Finals since making back-to-back appearances in 2001-02.

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NoLandGrab: Or in 2010, as predicted by Forest City Ratner, or never, if the eminent domain case is won by the residents. Note to Daily Eagle: Prospect Heights is still not in Downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

Jefferson and Carter audition to stay with Nets

NorthJersey.com

No hard evidence suggests that Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson have the kind of tense non-relationship shared by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. No him-or-me, me-or-him body language defines their awkward spacing on the court.

But in the end, New Jersey simply isn't big enough for both. Nor is Brooklyn, for that matter. The Nets could conceivably win Game 3 tonight at Continental Arena and come back from this 0-2 second-round deficit to beat Cleveland, and they still won't win the NBA title.
...
The Nets have the right talent and the wrong balance. Though Carter and Jefferson are hardly mirror images of each other, they simply overlap a bit too much.

Rod Thorn needs to trade one for a bigger body, and I'd bet all the millions Bruce Ratner's going to make on his real estate score in Brooklyn that Thorn will do that deal this summer. He'll either move Jefferson like he almost did in last year's bid to land Luol Deng, or he'll complete a sign-and-trade deal with the free agent-to-be, Carter, to fortify his front line.

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Posted by amy at 11:03 AM

May 12, 2007

As Seen On TV - New York Now

thirteen/WNET and WLIW

This week's New York Now features a story about the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Airing 1 p.m. on Saturday (today) on thirteen/WNET and Sunday (tomorrow), at 7:00am on WLIW Channel 21.

This Week on New York Now

On this week’s NY NOW, Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio and Jay Gallagher of Gannett News Service join Susan to talk about end-of-session priorities, and the continued rancor between the Governor & Majority Leader.

Then we travel to Brooklyn where some residents of the Prospect Heights and Fort Green neighborhoods are angry over a planned mega-development spearheaded by Bruce Ratner. Ratner and the state could use eminent domain to displace these residents.

But this isn’t your typical David & Goliath story: Bertha Lewis of the social justice organization ACORN supports Ratner’s plan because he’s committing a percentage of his Atlantic Yards development to below-market-rate housing.

NoLandGrab: A high of 71 degrees is predicted in Brooklyn today. Maybe it's a good idea to keep informed by recording this one and watching it tonight. And yes, the link below is to WMHT in Troy, New York. They were nice enough to post a description of the program.

Link

Posted by steve at 11:08 AM

Sunday Comix - Saturday Edition

According to Forest City Ratner, Jim Stuckey "is an accomplished musician, capable of playing ten instruments."

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Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

Again, Forest City promises no assurances on Atlantic Yards timing

Atlantic Yards Report

For the third time, I'll point to the developer's doubt that Atlantic Yards would be built in the promised ten years.

As I've reported, Forest City Enterprises (FCE) VP Chuck Ratner, during a 3/6/07 conversation with investment analysts, predicted a 15-year project buildout . He also said, "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."

Then Ratner recovered by claiming that he was referring to the project from conception to completion. In his official statement, he asserted, "The actual construction of Atlantic Yards will take 10 years, and, as we have announced, preliminary work on the site has begun."

More caution

However, the Forest City Enterprises annual report filed on Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission acknowledged "potential for increased costs and delays," citing several factors, including construction costs, the availability of financing, and litigation.

link

Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

May 11, 2007

It came from the Bloggiestsphere?

The Empire Zone, Out of Brooklyn, Endlessly Blogging
The Times sent a couple reporters to last night's Brooklyn Blogfest and posted an account on its own political blog — along with a defense of the paper's coverage of Atlantic Yards.

Ms. Rolley credited several other bloggers for diligently poring over the plans for Atlantic Yards and said that the news media had failed to report the “unprecedented sale [sic] and historic scale of this project.”

(She was particularly critical of The New York Times. Forest City Ratner is the development partner building the new Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company. Business executives involved with that effort have played no role in the news coverage of Atlantic Yards, which a recent article about new legal challenges noted was “one of the biggest construction projects in the city’s history.”)

NoLandGrab: If by reporting the "unprecedented scale, the historic scale" of Atlantic Yards, you mean calling it "one of the biggest construction projects in the city's history," then readers can just give up on the Times.

By all accounts, Atlantic Yards is THE LARGEST PRIVATE SINGLE-SOURCE PROJECT IN THE CITY'S HISTORY and, if built, will become THE DENSEST RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY IN THE NATION.

Perhaps the Times doesn't think that distinction is fit to print.

Some other bloggers are hoping for more diversity next year. Hear, hear — if only Bruce Ratner would give in, then all the Atlantic Yards static could go away, and we all could talk about stuff we like!

Clinton Hill Blog, Blogfest Recap
Last night, Clinton Hill Blog stepped up to the open mic and pointed out that she has managed to help local merchants increase their business.

The speakers were largely tipped towards development, politics and Atlantic Yards. These are all very crucial issues, of course, but I hope the Third Annual BlogFest will feature one of each type of blog: a neighborhood blog, a real estate blog, a personal blog, an environmental blog, a design blog, etc.

runs brooklyn/brooklyn runs, Notes on the Brooklyn Blogfest

First, at several points during the first half, the proceedings threatened to devolve into a rally against local developer/bogeyman Bruce Ratner. (To be sure, Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is one of the biggest and most controversial stories unfolding in Brooklyn right now, and I'm certainly no fan of zillionaire developers getting even wealthier through tax subsidies and incentives and the propagandistic manipulation of public opinion, but still.) Moreover, and on a somewhat related note, the invited speakers seemed to represent a relatively narrow cross-section of the local blogging community.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, BLOGFEST: A GREAT EVENT
Here's the account from the tireless blogger who put it all together.

Dope on the Slope, Brooklyn Blog Fest 2007: Top 10 Observations
Check out the "'morning after' impressions of last night's event in no particular order."

Dopey Slopey posted yearbook photos here.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 PM

Bruce Ratner: Another day, another lawsuit

BRatnerDunk.gifSteamrolling a neighborhood to steamrolling investors... with so much at stake, "Caring" Bruce Ratner is stacking up the lawsuits.

The latest, from a disgruntled investor, got some play in most of the paid-circulation dailies (the NY Times passed — like that's really news):

NY Daily News, Bizman rips Ratner over Nets worth in lawsuit

A former investor in the New Jersey Nets is suing Bruce Ratner for allegedly stiffing him out of a spot in the ownership of the Brooklyn-bound NBA team.

Eugene Greene alleges that at Ratner's request, he sank $6 million into the Nets in 2003 and also raised more than $30 million from other investors. In exchange, Greene charges, he was promised a "key role in the team's organization."

The Manhattan businessman has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Ratner, charging that senior executives with Ratner's organization told him he had been "f----d" out of the deal.
...
The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, is the latest legal battle for Ratner. The developer, who bought the Nets in 2004, has been sued repeatedly over his bid to build the Atlantic Yards megaproject, which would include an arena for the team in Prospect Heights.
...
"We need money, money, money," Ratner said, according to court papers. "And you need to get it for us."

"You will be the glue that helps run this team," Ratner allegedly told Greene.

But Greene wasn't picked for the team's Board of Governors once Ratner's bid to buy the Nets was approved in 2004.

NY Post, $20M FOUL IS CALLED ON RATNER

Greene said that when he confronted Ratner about the broken promises, he was told, "I don't remember exactly what I said. As you know, I have a memory problem."

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, said, "We strongly disagree with [Greene's] assertion and we will defend ourselves vigorously in court."

The NY Sun, Former Nets Investor Sues Bruce Ratner for $30M

Mr. Greene's $6 million personal investment was returned by Mr. Ratner's company, his attorney, Jonathan Sack, said.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner Companies, Loren Riegelhaupt, said the company is reviewing the suit.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

State will watch Bruce — times 3

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

State officials have gone three-faced on Atlantic Yards.

The Empire State Development Corporation — which approved developer Bruce Ratner’s the $4-billion mega-project last year — says it will create two new positions to oversee the project, in addition to an already created (though yet to be filled) job of “environmental monitor.”

Though this announcement comes on the heels of the partial collapse of the Ward Bakery building, the ESDC wants you to know that they've been working on this for a while:

“This [new oversight] has been in the works since at least early March,” said agency spokesman Errol Cockfield.

NoLandGrab: That's nice, but does it explain why Ratner was given the go-ahead to start the deconstruction phase before these measures were in place?

Local pols said the move was overdue. “This sort of oversight should have been put in place from the get-go, but it is good to see that ESDC has taken steps,” said Sam Rockwell, a spokesman for Councilman David Yassky (D–Park Slope).

Yassky’s colleague, Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), was not as satisfied: “The community is still left out. My office gets e-mails and calls every day. People worry about asbestos and air quality, street closings, water service interruption, and many other issues. My office is clearly not set up to deal with these issues. … I hope the ombudsman will fill the void.”

The ESDC spokesperson sorta explains how this is supposed to work:

Cockfield suggested that the ombudsperson would do just that, serving as a point of contact for the community and elected officials. The environmental monitor will alert ESDC to damage to existing infrastructure, and monitor such things as noise, air pollution, traffic, and rodent infestation. The “owner’s rep” would bring concerns to Ratner.

“It’s going to be an intense level of oversight,” he said, adding that ESDC had been planning the move all along.

“This was not in reaction to the Ward Bakery,” he said.

NoLandGrab: Uh right, we got it, it had NOTHING to do with the Ward Bakery collapse.

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Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Empire State Corp.’s New Oversight for Atlantic Yards Seen as Unprecedented

ESDC ‘Committed To Completing Project, Minimizing Disruptions’

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt, additional reporting by Rannan Geberer

The size, scope and expected duration of the Atlantic Yards project has led the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as the main government agency supervising Atlantic Yards, to establish a series of monitoring, oversight and communications functions for the construction phase of this large development.

As the Eagle mentioned yesterday, the oversight initiative is the first such effort by a city or state agency for a construction project in New York.

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Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Atlantic Yards: The Great Mistake

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

Why has nobody addressed one of the most obvious disasters that Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan would cause: severe overload of the transportation infrastructure?

He picked the worst intersection in the city to build a stadium and mini-city. Flatbush, Fourth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue are already gridlocked all the time. How could it possibly support the extra traffic of a stadium and thousands of office workers and residents? And the trains that pass there are already sardine cans at rush hour. The subway as it is can’t withstand further burden on such a scale.

Yet I have heard no plan from Ratner — or the politicians in his pocket — for handling this surge in traffic.

This is all beside my main objection to Ratner’s scheme: Go hang around Madison Square Garden at night. Would you want to live there? Heck, no. It’s scary. Well, that is exactly the type of neighborhood a stadium creates. This is a residential neighborhood first and foremost. To portray this as “Downtown Brooklyn” (as Ratner — and many newspapers like the New York Times — does) is simply another lie from the Ratner machine.

I hope the Supreme Court can reverse the Kelo decision before this awful plan destroys the hub of Brooklyn.

Jim O’Neill, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Clarke marks her first 100 days in United States Congress

Courier-Life Publications

First-term congresswoman Yvette Clarke held a community press briefing at SUNY Downstate Medical Center recently to address her first 100 days representing the 11th Congressional District of New York.
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On a local note, Rep. Clarke commented on the need for enhanced math and science initiatives for children in Brooklyn schools and for preventive health care. She also discussed the ongoing Atlantic Yards Project.

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Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

AY court hearing, added coverage (& Blogfest notes)

Atlantic Yards Report assesses the only coverage, other than his own, of the environmental lawsuit hearing, and quickly segues into reiterating his main point from last night's Brooklyn Blogfest:

This week's Brooklyn Paper, in an article headlined Judge: What is Yards benefit?, offers the only other coverage, with some skepticism from Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss about the petitioners' claim that the planned Brooklyn arena is not a "civic project" under state law.

The article, however, doesn't go into the extensive debate about whether the state's definition of blight, as applied to the Atlantic Yards site, is arbitrary and capricious, and the judge's skepticism toward the Empire State Development Corporation's stance.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Pssst, Nets Fans...We Wanna Ask You A Question

Fans For Fair Play wants to know if New Jersey Nets fans are really gonna continue to support their team through several lame-duck seasons in the Meadowlands, just to keep Caring Bruce happy.

NewJerseys.jpg

Kudos to you for sticking with a fiercely mediocre team throughout the '80s and '90s.
...
In the two years before Bruce Ratner bought the team -- not 'cause he liked basketball, but simply to make his 17-skyscraper luxury-housing/office complex more lip-smacking good to New York's easily-seduced politicians -- the Nets reached the NBA Finals. Since then, it's been all early-round washouts after barely stumbling into the postseason courtesty of a pathetically weak Atlantic Division.
...

The Big Question

So we ask:

Why are you still supporting the New Jersey Nets?

To Bruce Ratner, you're a cheap date and an easy lay. He's trying to woo and romance you, in fact bed you, as a stepping stone to your more-attractive roommate.

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Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

City threat hangs over Willets Pt.

Queens Times Ledger
By Stephen Stirling

An article about the use of eminent domain in Willets Point references Brooklyn's big land grab. The irony is that Willets Point "blight" was largely the result of City neglect:

Business owners argue that they have been the victims of far-reaching neglect on the part of the city, and with infrastructure improvements the area would flourish.

"It's been purposefully neglected by the city," said Anthony Fodera, president of Fodera Foods. "They've caused the blight and neglect."

It's hard to belive that a prominent and informed eminent domain attorney, Robert Goldstein, of Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon and Gottlieb, has already called the Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain case for the developer and State, when the case is still being decided:

Business owners in the area are reviewing their legal options, but Goldstein said they need not look further than the city's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where eminent domain was recently used to take property despite several lawsuits filed by area residents.

"If you depend on the courts, you're not going to win," he said. "If they're going to win, they're going to win in the court of public opinion."

link

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Yassky to city: Hold Ratner accountable

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

A City Councilman slammed city economic development officials for allocating $205 million to the Atlantic Yards mega-development without getting a guarantee that developer Bruce Ratner will make good on all of his promises to Brooklyn.

The $205-million budget item was formally approved this week by the Council, despite a call by David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) for the city to make sure that Ratner actually provides the job training and education programs he promised in a “Community Benefit Agreement” that helped the developer gain critical black support for the controversial project.

“Taxpayers are putting millions of dollars into this project, [so] there must be a way to guarantee all of the benefits that [Ratner] promised hundreds of times,” Yassky said after the Tuesday hearing.

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NoLandGrab: For the record, City Councilmembers Letitia James and Charles Barron have been making this point for the past three years.

It's interesting that just last June, Yassky submitted a $3 million budget request "asking city taxpayers to underwrite a promise that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner made to a handful of community organizations... after BUILD President James Caldwell and other CBA signatories endorsed his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights) in the mostly black 11th congressional district in central Brooklyn," (see, The Brooklyn Papers, Yassky bill would push $3M to Ratner crony).

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

In Court, the Atlantic Yards Blight Fight

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

The pending eminent domain lawsuit in federal court was supposed to be the best chance for opponents of the Atlantic Yards project to block it, but after the May 3 hearing in state court on a separate lawsuit challenging the project's environmental review, opponents had another reason for some optimism.

Challenges to such an environmental impact statement (EIS) rarely succeed, because the agency issuing the EIS-in this case, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)-is required merely to have taken a "hard look" at the project and disclosed potential environmental impacts. Thus judges generally defer to the governmental agencies. And the Atlantic Yards EIS was thousands of pages.

In court, however, lawyers representing the 26 civic and community groups, including Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), pressed hard on whether the proposed project site is blighted, and whether a basketball arena operated for profit could be considered, under state law, a "civic project."

Courtroom arguments also covered the designation of the property as blighted:

Though Atlantic Yards was announced in December 2003, only in September 2005 did the state announce a goal was to eliminate blight. Baker pointed out that the ESDC did not undertake a blight study before the project was announced. Rather, he argued, Forest City Ratner chose the footprint, and "the extent of the blight matches the footprint."

...why there's a curious chunk in the middle of the project footprint:

Madden wanted to know why the rest of that block, Block 1128, was excluded from the 22-acre footprint. "The blight study concerned the footprint of the project," Karmel responded. He noted that, to determine an area blighted, each lot need not be seen as blighted.

...and the threat of terrorism:

The ESDC had stated that it would not examine the potential impact of terrorism regarding project design, deeming it not a "reasonable worst-case scenario." "They completely changed their tune," Baker said, noting that the ESDC now acknowledges that Forest City Ratner conducted a security study, but "it's too sensitive" to reveal.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

Judge: What is Yards benefit?

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Coverage of last week's environmental hearing:

“Can you tell me how a professional sports [facility] is a public use?” Justice Joan Madden asked Philip Karmel, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, at the three-hour-long hearing.
...
The lawsuit, filed last month by a coalition of 26 civic groups, argues that the ESDC overstepped its authority when it defined Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development as a “civic project” worthy of superceding local land-use laws that would have restricted its scale.

“[Defining Atlantic Yards as a civic project] mocks the clear intent of the statute that ‘civic projects’ be operated by and for the benefit of the public,” attorney Jeff Baker argued in the 77-page complaint.

Madden’s line of inquiry appeared to come as a surprise to Karmel and the half-dozen other state lawyers in attendance.

“We believe that going to a ballgame is a recreational activity, and having a ball team is a civic event,” Karmel said.

Legal experts said that Baker’s arguments were counter to the laws that govern state-sponsored economic development in New York.

“[Private] office buildings are built under [the ESDC’s laws for ‘civic projects’],” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School. If that is the case, Reiss continued, “a good argument can be made that an arena is also a civic project.”

Project critics question the veracity of the environmental impact study:

Baker argued that the ESDC had failed to fully document the project’s massive environmental impacts, or properly study alternatives to the project — which is required as part of the state’s environmental review process.

“They lied,” he said, referring to ESDC insistences that planners had studied alternative sites, including a proposed area in Coney Island, before settling on the Prospect Heights site.

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Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

A peek down below

MTA wins ethics award. Really.

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

Here's a good one:

The MTA won the Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Award yesterday, presented by the state ethics commission. The agency wasn’t picked “just for meeting the usual criteria,” explained chair John D. Feerick. “This year the award also recognizes the turnaround that has occurred at the agency.” In his brief time as governor from 1899 to 1900, Roosevelt earned a reputation for exposing corruption.

link

NoLandGrab: If you don't know the history, click here.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

May 10, 2007

CBN: Letter to ESDC Downstate Chair Patrick Foye

Here's the letter Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) sent to Empire State Development Corporation Downstate Chairman Patrick Foye, repeating the request for COMMUNITY oversight of the construction phase of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards Project.

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
www.CBrooklynNeighborhoods.homestead.com

Chairman Foye:
We have just received a copy of the May 7, 2007 ESDC press release forwarded to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) by a member of the press. Please add CBN to the ESDC's data base for notification of Atlantic Yards related information.

We trust that you recall that CBN wrote to the ESDC on March 8, 2007, offering to work with you in the development of an "Atlantic Yards Construction Community information system" (text of letter attached.) Unfortunately, CBN never received a response to our offer. We renewed our offer to the ESDC at CBN’s April 27th press conference at the site of the Ward Bakery parapet collapse, and want to confirm that our offer of assistance remains open.

We are encouraged that the ESDC has taken steps to create some form of construction oversight, as was promised in the Environmental Impact Statement. However, we are quite concerned that the measures which the ESDC announced today do not contain any direct input from or involvement with the affected communities. We have a number of questions regarding your press release, which require answers.

  1. What has happened to the environmental monitor the ESDC was in the process of hiring? You properly announced a public RFP for the position and appointed an interim monitor (AKRF) but the selection of the permanent monitor is certainly overdue by several months and construction has again been permitted to proceed. Where does this person fit into your proposed structure?

  2. What exactly will the ombudsman do? Do you have a formal job description? Will the ESDC be issuing another RFP for this position? Will the ombudsman be acting as the public's representative? If the ombudsman is acting as guardian of the public's interest, we urge you to involve the community in the selection process.

  3. The structure you propose does not seem to contain any representatives from the community. CBN was founded on the belief, based in SEQRA, that the community must be a part of the process of environmental review and identification of appropriate mitigation for the negative impacts of this particular project. Accordingly, CBN strongly believes that any oversight committees must include community representatives. Our member groups include long-standing community associations, business associations, block associations and similar community organizations with well-developed networks of direct communication with their very engaged constituents.

Chairman Foye, we are certain you have noted CBN's key role in leading the communities surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project throughout the entire environmental review process. In the expectation that you will address our concerns and questions seriously and expeditiously, we look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,
Steering Committee
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
Candace Carponter, Co-chair
Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
Therese Urban, Co-chair
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
Enid Braun
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Genevieve Christy
Boerum Hill Association
Patti Hagan
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Deb Howard
Pratt Area Community Council
Eric McClure
Park Slope Neighbors
Steve Soblick
Ft. Greene Association
James Vogel
East Pacific Block Association

cc: Governor Eliot Spitzer Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Hillary Clinton
Congressman Edolphus Towns
Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez
Congresswoman Yvette Clark
NYS Senate Speaker Joseph Bruno
NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
NYS Senator Martin M. Dilan
NYS Senator Martin Connor
NYS Senator Eric Adams
NYS Assemblyman Vito Lopez
NYS Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol
NYS Assemblyman Daryl C. Towns
NYS Assemblywoman Joan J. Millman
NYS Assemblyman Jim Brennan
NYS Assemblywoman Annette Robinson
NYS Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn
NYC Councilwoman Letitia James
NYC Councilman Bill deBlasio
NYC Councilman David Yassky
NYC Councilman Erik Martin Dilan
NYC Councilman Tony Avella
NYC Councilman John C. Liu
NYC Councilman Charles Barron
Brooklyn CB2 Chair Shirley MacRae
Brooklyn CB6 Chair Richard S. Bashner
Brooklyn CB8 Chair Robert Matthews
Brooklyn CB2 District Manager Robert Perris
Brooklyn CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman
Brooklyn CB8 District Manager Doris Alexander
ESDC Communication Director Errol Cockfield
Members of the Press


ATTACHMENT:
TEXT OF MARCH 8, 2007 LETTER TO ESDC

Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10017

Attn: Atlantic Yards Project

Dear Sirs:

We are writing to offer our services to consult with you and the Environmental Monitor to address serious concerns the community has with the construction impacts of the Atlantic Yards development project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Last week there was an interruption of water service to the area caused by a contractor performing site preparation. There was no warning to the community that any interruption was possible, nor an adequate explanation offered at the time for the work that was being performed. There were inadequate, confusing and conflicting responses to inquiries regarding the cause of the accident and what procedures were in place, or will be implemented to insure against repeat incidents. There is considerable tension in the community due to this far from auspicious start.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods retained experts to perform a professional detailed analyses of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards development and submitted their extensive findings to the ESDC. Excerpts from our detailed comments and questions are appended for your convenience. Our complete document library is available for examination and download from our website, www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com. We continue to have access to environmental engineers, urban planners, and community leaders, all of whom are anxious to work with us in assisting you to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the negative impacts of this large scale, long term construction project on the surrounding communities.

CBN looks forward to arranging an initial meeting with you.

Sincerely,

Therese Urban
Co-chair, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.

carbon copy: atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us
Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Officer

ADDENDUM:

Excerpts from CBN DEIS Response, Chapter 17 - Construction Impacts

Dr. Arline Bronzaft, Daniel Gutman

Overview
The Atlantic Yards project is proposed to be built over a ten-year period, 2006-2016. This statement by the project sponsor cannot be accepted as a realistic time horizon for construction. The DEIS must justify this choice of time period and present likely contingencies. The DEIS should take into account the following:

A three-year development period for the first phase is extremely tight and it is reasonable to question whether it can be completed in such a short period of time. Property must be condemned, and any legal challenges cleared. The Vanderbilt Rail Yards renovation must be completed and a platform section built. All discretionary approvals must be completed, streets closed, and utilities relocated. Coordination with local agencies and services to minimize construction impacts will take time. Major street reconstruction/utility replacement projects in central areas of Brooklyn often take 2-3 years, and that does not include new construction.

Should the first phase take longer than three years, construction impacts in the second phase could intensify, and this would require additional environmental impact analysis.

Should the entire project take longer than ten years, this will extend the period of significant and adverse impacts, and the subsequent public health implications.

Local real estate market conditions are difficult if not impossible to predict ten years in advance. The long-term strength of both residential and commercial markets may be difficult to assess and investors may chose to delay the project, or add new phases, so that what is now planned for the second phase by 2016 may actually be built over a much longer period of time. The decades-long history of development of Metrotech in Brooklyn is instructive.

Since the project sponsors underestimate existing transportation problems as well as the impacts of the project on transportation, both during the construction phase and after, they also fail to take into account the potential that transportation problems will hinder completion of the project on schedule. The DEIS also fails to examine whether traffic congestion during construction and the closing of streets will affect emergency response times.

Overall, the DEIS appears to downplay the extent of construction impacts by failing to fully grasp the difficulty of building Brooklyn’s largest project at its busiest crossroads. Buried in individual chapters are acknowledgements that construction will negatively affect local residents, businesses, schools, libraries, parks and playgrounds. Adding the impacts up, however, the full picture is daunting.

Specific construction impacts discussed in this section include Air Quality and Noise. Both of these sections point to the public health implications of construction impacts that are downplayed as significant adverse impacts and not mitigated.

As discussed in the Air Quality section below, a mitigation that should be committed to is the establishment of a liaison committee involving local residents, businesses, and officials to help minimize construction impacts.

(Above are excerpted sections from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods DEIS comments. The entire chapter has been appended to the actual messages sent to the ESDC and the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office. The entire report and all Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods publications are availible from our website, www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com.)

Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

Reading between the lines when ESDC’s Foye discusses Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report says Empire State Development Corporation Downstate Chairperson Patrick Foye is no Charles Gargano.

So, who is he and what's new and different (if anything) at the Empire State Development Corporation?

Still, an Atlantic Yards-ologist looking hard between the lines of Foye’s remarks yesterday, at a breakfast sponsored by Crain’s New York Business, might detect some implicit wariness about Atlantic Yards.

Yes, ESDC wants to continue on major projects bequeathed by the Pataki administration, including Atlantic Yards, he said. At the same time, however, ESDC wants to diversify its portfolio and be a force for reform.

Though Foye stressed that the ESDC aims to be judicious and accountable, he wouldn’t take the opportunity to criticize Gargano’s ESDC, even as new oversight the ESDC proposes for Atlantic Yards suggest that the state had planned for inadequate transparency.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction Updates

ConUpdate.gifA neighbor of the Atlantic Yards footprint has been watching the "Atlantic Yards Construction Updates" page on www.atlanticyards.com for signs of life, in hopes of receiving more information about the partial collapse of the Ward Bakery and the suspension of demolition.

Just when he was about to give up hope, the page sprang to life when a two-week-old press release suddenly appeared yesterday.

At this point, there is nothing about the resumption of demolition of buildings at the request of the Department of Buildings, as reported a week ago by Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

ESDC chair gives updates on city projects

MetroNY

Empire State Development Corporation downstate chairperson Patrick Foye "On Atlantic Yards:"

Foye mentioned that ESDC “was on the verge of appointing an ombudsman to act as a liaison between the community, elected officials and various government agencies.”

When asked about the use of eminent domain for the project, “Obviously taking someone’s property without someone’s consent is a serious matter. It should only be used as a last resort [read: "only if you make us do it"], especially with something viewed as a private, not public use.”

There are two eminent domain-related lawsuits against the project, and ESDC intends “to vigorously defend these lawsuits,” Foye said. He doesn’t believe they present an “important obstacle.”

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NoLandGrab: If eminent domain is ALWAYS used "as a last resort," doesn't that mean it really isn't?

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, BLOGFEST TONIGHT

The Brooklyn Blogfest is TONIGHT: Thursday, May 10th at 8 p.m.

Location: The Old Stone House in Park Slope on Fifth Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets

IMPORTANT NOTE: Only 110 people can fit in the Old Stone House. A seat will be held for everyone who has RSVPed until 8:05. Your name will be on the list at the door. After that, we will let everyone in until we hit the magic number. The best bet is to arrive early.

CRog, Pop-Up Cities
If you see it on the Internet, it must be true:

Frank Gehry is following this trend in downtown Brooklyn with his “Atlantic Yards Project.” He is intergrating new buildings with the old, not completely creating a pop-up city but that is the idea… To build a bunch of buildings that fill-in the current holes (or is it space?) with buildings that look like they’ve been there for 50 years.

NoLandGrab: Actually it really IS A POP-UP CITY — Bruce Ratner does NOT plan to spare any of the historic buildings in the project footprint.

The Knickerblogger, Christmas Truce
One "right-wingnut" calls a christmas truce when everyone agrees that Mayor Bloomberg is pretty mediocre and "has supported a half-billion dollars in direct and indirect subsidies for the Atlantic Yards apartment, office, and arena complex in Brooklyn being built by fellow fat cat and subsidy king Bruce Ratner."

From this week's cover story in The Weekly Standard:

Had Rudy proposed a similar level of subsidy for a project like Atlantic Yards, the liberals would have howled with rage...

Knickerblogger rants on:

Anway, now the mystrey of why Mike has been shelling out favors to Ratner and others despite them being no benefit for the city is clear - short term it looks good on paper (though long term it is not) and he also is lining up political favors for what promises to be a comical run for president.

The Gowanus Lounge, Community Input 101: Did ESDC Forget Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods?

It's a little thing, but we couldn't help but note the irony dripping from this email from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, which is a broad based coalition of Brooklyn organizations, to the Empire State Development Corporation. You might recall the ESDC announced on Monday it was finally appointing an ombudsman to monitor the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

TONIGHT! Public Issues Forum: Equitable Use of Eminent Domain

BPL.gifBROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY

Central Library
2nd Floor Meeting Room

7PM link

The use of eminent domain, the right of a government to appropriate private property for public use, in the New York Region has sparked debate and legal action. A tool that has long been used to obtain land for utilities, roads, and railroads, eminent domain is also used to acquire blighted land for urban "revitalization" and to spur economic development. When and how should the power of eminent domain be used? How can equitable use of eminent domain be assured?

PANELISTS:

Tom Angotti, Professor in the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning

Lisa Bova-Hiatt, deputy chief in charge of condemnation in the Tax and Bankruptcy Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department

Judd Schechtman, Urban Planner and Environmental Attorney, currently consulting for Sustainable Long Island and private clients

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Empire State Development Chair Says Javits Center Will Stay On West Side

NY1

Foye-NY1.jpg

Pat Foye, one of two of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s chairmen of the Empire State Development Corporation, spoke at a forum sponsored by Crains New York Business, where NY1 political reporter Josh Robin was one of the questioners.

Foye also pledged to limit eminent domain, although the state is working on seizing private property in downtown Brooklyn to make way for the Atlantic Yards project.

"Eminent domain is an important right, I think it’s to be assessed on a case by case and a project by project basis,” said Foye.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: In the case of Atlantic Yards, one must assume Foye and Spitzer agree with the use of eminent domain, since the ESDC has done nothing to reshape the project.

In a public statement released to the press, Foye said that recent measures taken to increase construction oversight for Atlantic Yards, "will ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible.”

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

State Bar Honors Brooklyn Advocate for Juvenile Justice

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Elizabeth Stull

Faruqee.jpgAn article about NY State Bar Association award recipient, and Brooklyn resident, Mishi Faruqee, director of the Juvenile Justice Project, ran kind words and a familiar lament for her neighborhood:

She said she loves the borough and revels in her two-stop subway commute to the Juvenile Justice Project’s offices at Union Square.

“It’s changing now, but when we moved here it was a truly diverse neighborhood,” she said of Fort Greene. “I mean it’s sad, what’s happening with the whole Atlantic Yards and everything, but when we first moved here, it was a very human scale.”

article

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

Atlantic Yards Project To Get Ombudsperson

GlobeSt.com
By Katie Hinderer

GlobeSt covers news on the ESDC's plans for Atlantic Yards oversight:

The ombudsperson will inform residents of the projects status and act as a liaison between the developer, community groups and government officials. Additionally, the ESDC plans to create two multi-agency groups that will oversee the coordination of FCRC and the government agencies. Some of the agencies that will be involved include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Also the ESDC will create a transportation group that will study traffic problems as construction gets under way and potential problems after the full project is created. Congestion is one of the main concerns area residents and community groups have with the project.

“As the project moves into the construction phase, we will continue to work with developer Forest City Ratner, elected officials, and our partners in city government to make sure quality of life is maintained,” according to an ESDC official.

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NoLandGrab: Very cute — new ESDC, same old patronizing.

To make sure that "quality of life is maintained," the ESDC is pledging to work with:

What's missing from this list?

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Forest City Enterprises to Convert Historic Hospital into Apartments

Multi-Housing News
By Kelly Sheehan

Forest City Enterprises Inc. has announced that the company has signed an agreement with Presidio Trust to redevelop a former public hospital, closed since 1981, in San Francisco’s Presidio into an apartment community.

“The Presidio is a national treasure, an ideal project for Forest City to use our adaptive re-use/historic preservation experience,” says Charles A. Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Enterprises. “By restoring historic landmarks and converting them into vibrant housing and neighborhoods, we are helping to preserve America’s heritage.”

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NoLandGrab: That sounds like a great idea. Maybe Charles Ratner can explain how these things work to Bruce Ratner, who is planning to demolish historical resources to build his controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Seriously, while Chuck Ratner's group is trying to build for the 21st Century, Cousin Bruce holds fast to discredited superblock-style plans that crashed and burned by the 1970s.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

Exec helps hospital get well soon

Crain's NY Business
By Gale Scott

An article about the new Chief Executive of NY Downtown Hospital mentions the Frank Gehry/Bruce Ratner Beekman St. project and explains how Bruce got the gig:

Mr. Menkes is optimistic about the hospital’s future, citing support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Wall Street donations. Signs of progress include the construction of a residential, office and medical building designed by Frank Gehry. Work is now under way on what has proved to be a major financial asset, the land under the hospital's former parking lot on William Street. The deal was engineered by the mayor, who got Bruce Ratner to develop the project.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

May 9, 2007

Different Light on Atlantic Yards

Brit in Brooklyn caught the early morning light in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

AYSun01-BIB.jpg

More at www.britinbrooklyn.com.

Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM

The Mystery of Michael Bloomberg

Why does a popular but mediocre mayor think he should run for president?

The Weekly Standard
by Fred Siegel & Michael Goodwin

BloombergCover-WS.jpg

There is a stunning disconnect between Michael Bloomberg's modest accomplishments as mayor of New York and his elevation to a figure worthy of presidential consideration--albeit as an independent candidate.

In an accounting of the Mayor's actual accomplishments, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan is getting recognition for just about everything wrong in public policy and urban development:

It's safe to say Bloomberg will never be confused with Fiorello LaGuardia. When it comes to holding people accountable, Bloomberg seems to have taken lessons from George W. Bush.

At a time when Brooklyn is experiencing a private sector housing boom, the same businessman mayor who tried to give away valuable Manhattan property for a song has supported a half-billion dollars in direct and indirect subsidies for the Atlantic Yards apartment, office, and arena complex in Brooklyn being built by fellow fat cat and subsidy king Bruce Ratner.

article

Here's reaction from someone that has been paying attention:
The Albany Project, Sharpton on Bloomberg: "Ross Perot with a resume'."

I don't mean to say that the man has never done anything worthy of praise - I'm actually a big fan of his PlaNYC - but, I think that the claim that Bloomberg is a "progressive" is laughable. I've got too many friends who found that the Bill of Rights had been suspended for a week in the summer of '04 to believe such nonsense. I also fail to see the "progressive" dimension of steamrolling my Community Board's plan for our neighborhood to allow his developer friends to drive my neighbors from their homes. I've lost the progressive virtues of shutting two firehouses in my neighborhood while throwing public money at a new Yankee stadium. I fail to see the "progressive" nature of the west side stadium or the the eminent domain driven madness of Ratnerville. But, then again, what do I know?

Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

Report: City gave breaks to firms that cut jobs

Metro NY By Patrick Arden

MetroTech3-n-4sm.jpgBruce Ratner's MetroTech received public assistance based on the promise of creating jobs. Wanna know what really happened?

At least 22 percent of companies that got tax breaks from the city in 2005 have cut their work forces, said a study released yesterday by New York Jobs With Justice.
...
In one example, the city IDA granted $212 million in assistance to JP Morgan Chase in 1989, in part to build 3 and 4 Metrotech in Brooklyn. Security guards there make as little as $17,680 a year. Due to a series of mergers and acquisitions between 1995 and 2004, the company laid off 13,000 workers, but it will continue to claim tax exemptions through 2014.

An IDA spokesperson said the Bloomberg administration has been restructuring deals that haven’t lived up to their promises.

link

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, the Mayor is giving Bruce Ratner $205 million for Atlantic Yards and that's just for starters.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

Public Advocate Urges Eminent Domain Changes...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noticed that the Public Advocate is seeking changes in the eminent domain law to prevent abuses.

The rub is that we're talking about the New Jersey State Public Advocate.

The NYC Public Advocate supports Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, based on Ratner's word that eminent domain would not be used (link).

NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum supports eminent domain for "Atlantic Yards," Columbia University's expansion and Willets Point "re-development." In New Jersey, the state Public Advocate seems to be...advocating for the public. And his is a novel but sensible idea: Government wants to seize private property? Well then the burden of proof should be on government.

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NoLandGrab: The Do-Nothing Gotbaum has turned the office of Public Advocate into a total joke and, sadly, a waste of taxpayers' money. After a year of being totally off the radar, her office is trying to look busy by generating a few press releases as possible mayoral candidates have started to rev up their campaigns.

Meanwhile, the public has to fend for itself.

If you feel like mouthing off to the NYC "Public" Advocate's "Ombudsman Unit," the email address is ombudsman@pubadvocate.nyc.gov.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Judge: What is ‘Yards’ benefit?

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Here's one we missed (thanks "Mad O!").

Though the article is a pretty good, though short, account of what went on in court last week, it goes way off-point in citing the Supreme Court's Kelo ruling:

“Can you tell me how a professional sports [facility] is a public use?” Justice Joan Madden asked Philip Karmel, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, at the three-hour-long hearing.

Madden said a professional sports arena “is primarily a profit-making [venture] for the owner of the team.”

The question of “public benefit” arose during discussion of whether the state was justified in declaring the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint as “blight” that should be seized through eminent domain for a “civic project.”

Demonstrating a public benefit is necessary before the state can condemn land. In the past, public benefit was construed mostly to mean hospitals, public schools, highways, police stationhouses or other infrastructure. But the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision broadened the definition of public benefit (read the decision at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZO.html).

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NoLandGrab: The Brooklyn Paper's citation of Kelo v. New London is way off point, because the recent US Supreme Court decision determined that increasing the tax base through economic revitalization could be considered a "public use." It does not tackle the "blight" issue.

The Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner are not claiming this justification for the use of eminent domain, so read the decision if you are interested in learning more about eminent domain law, but don't expect to find anything that will add to your understanding of the environmental lawsuit being heard by Judge Madden.

The courtroom questioning concerned the definition of "civic project."

"Civic project" is a statutory term defined in the enacting legislation that created the UDC, thusly:

A civic project is “designed and intended for the purpose of providing facilities for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purposes.”

UDCA § 3, McK. Unconsol. L. § 6253(6)(d).

Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

Ombudsperson Schmombudsperson

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) asks, uh... wait, weren't we already supposed to have someone overseeing environmental compliance, what about all the community stakeholders, where's the group from the Community Benefits Agreement?

DDDB analyzes the most recent statement from the Empire State Developers Development Corporation and notes that part of it seems to be written by the developer and the rest raises more questions than it answers.

"We are committed to seeing the project completed"?...On day one, when it comes to "Atlantic Yards", nothing changes. When it comes to "Atlantic Yards" the Spitzer Administration thinks that Pataki/Gargano were a-okay!

"Minimizing disruptions"?...Even the ESDC's own EIS highlighted numerous "disruptions" that simply will not be minimized. So...minimize disruptions for who, Forest City Ratner's demolition crew?

"Completed on schedule"?...Whose schedule? Charles Ratner's or Laurie Olin's. (Need we remind the ESDC that right now "Atlantic Yards" very viability is under review in state and federal court?

link

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere49a.jpg Queen's Crap, Revenge of the Clown
One comment before quoting "mole 333's" article on Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's threats to clean house at Community Board 6:

Don't like Atlantic Yards? Well then, you're off the community board!

Kinetic Carnival, Ratner & Gehry Eyeing Coney Again?

Recently, the NY Post’s Page Six reported that Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry were spotted eating hot dogs at Nathan’s in Coney Island. Speculation began to resurface as to the possibility of them scoping out Coney for the Nets stadium. ...
Some time ago, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (who made the case for the Nets arena in Coney) submitted a locational analysis of the arena in Coney Island as comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Despite it probably being an obstruction for the nearby property proposed for residential buildings by Taconic Investments - amusement preservationists would also find it an obstruction that does not fit in with what they wish for in the area. It seems nobody wants the arena. Let’s hope if the Nets are being considered for Coney again – that this does not become a battle between North and South Brooklynytes.

Objectiva 3, A very important post!

No commentary, just a link directly to Norman Oder's "very important" article, "What the Village Voice was to the Washington Square battle, the blogs are to Atlantic Yards."

Brownstoner, House of the Day: 129 South Oxford Street

Two negatives for a house listed for $2.2 million:

First, the backyard basically looks out on Fulton Street and therefore ain't the most private retreat; second, while we think the refrain of "Atlantic Yards Effect" is overused and won't have any real impact on the part of Fort Greene that's north of Fulton, this place is pretty darn close to ground zero.

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Reconsiderations of Jane Jacobs lead inevitably to Atlantic Yards musings

Atlantic Yards Report

In the midst of the Robert Moses revisionism, let's not forget the master builder's philosophical antagonist, Jane Jacobs. In February, City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden famously assured listeners that we now "plan from the ground up" and follow the principles of Jane Jacobs.

However, Burden had to explain her support for the not-so-ground-up Atlantic Yards, asserting , as if channeling Moses, "We’re a big city and we need big projects."

A few weeks later, Burden got an implicit comeuppance. Jacobs’ name is invoked “in some of the most erroneous situations,” Roberta Brandes Gratz, founder of the Center for the Living City at Purchase College, told the audience at a 3/7/07 symposium, Interpreting and Misinterpreting Jane Jacobs, at the Museum of the City of New York.

And, as the panel discussion continued, it inevitably focused on Atlantic Yards, the city's poster child for controversy over planning.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

MTA Chairman, in Charge During 2005 Strike, Is Stepping Down

AP, via 1010 WINS News Radio

An article on the resignation of MTA Chairperson Peter Kalikow turns to a local group for some perspective on his legacy:

The Straphangers Campaign, a riders' advocacy group, gave Kalikow mixed ratings for his stewardship of the MTA.

The group said Kalikow's achievements included a $21.3 billion five-year capital rebuilding program and more transparent budget-making process. On the debit side, the straphangers said, he initially agreed to sell development rights to the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the far West Side in Manhattan for less than the MTA's own appraiser said they were worth.

MEDIA ALERT: "Atlantic Yards" is Bruce Ratner's name for the entire 22-acre project, which includes the eight-acre Vanderbilt Yards.

In case you're wondering, Ratner's lowball bid was $50 million lower than the competing bid by development company Extell.

The MTA eventually accepted Ratner's bid, citing the added value of track improvements. The dirty little secret that most reporters don't understand is that "track improvements" is a euphemism for "we have to move the tracks to make room for the arena 'bowl.'"

Such lack of transparency and wholesale capitulation to developers, without regard for the MTA's bottom line, will remain the legacy of outgoing Chairman Peter Kalikow.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Ombudsmania Comes to Brooklyn

Daily Intelligencer posted a snarky job description [read: Desperately Seeking Sucker] for the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman*:

Expanded job description: A volunteer willing to stand up in the multiparty crossfire over the project as it lumbers from the demolition to the construction phase — while a sizable opposition lobby calls the whole thing illegal. One of the tasks is "minimizing disruptions" to the process, which may put you in the awkward position of papering over ESDC's own previous findings. Another is providing the media with fresh information on the project, which means your every word will be viciously parsed by dozens of entities with their own agendas.

* om-buds-man: a guy who meditates while drinking cheap beer?

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

May 8, 2007

ESDC plans ombudsperson, new working groups for AY oversight

Atlantic Yards Report

In an implicit acknowledgment that the oversight for the Atlantic Yards project is inadequate--with only an interim environmental monitor in place, an ineffective Community Liaison Office from developer Forest City Ratner, and the recent fall of a parapet from the Ward Bakery--the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has begun to put some reforms in place.

The plan, for which full implementation is expected shortly, was in the works before the April 26 Ward Bakery incident. It will involve an ombudsperson to deal with elected officials, community representatives and the public, and various interagency working groups. One of the latter committees met last week.

Norman Oder covers the recent announcement by covering the coverage and providing the ESDC's definition of an "owner’s representative for construction activities," how the "owner's rep" is different from an "ombudsman," and all the other bureaucratic infrastructure that is being developed to "ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible.”

Posted by lumi at 10:41 AM

State Tries To Minimize Problems From Atlantic Yards Construction

CommunityLiaison-NY1.jpgNY1:

In case you were under the impression that Atlantic Yards already had a "Community Liaison":

Less than two weeks after a partial building collapse, officials announce plans to hire community liaisons to address neighborhood concerns about work on the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

No joke, here's how it played on NY1 — in order to "ensure that residents remain in the loop," "Ratner will bring in a representative to oversee demolition and construction."

The Empire State Development Corporation says it wants to "ensure that residents remain in the loop, and that community concerns receive proper attention" as developer Bruce Ratner moves forward with plans to build a series of office and apartment towers, and a basketball arena for the Nets.

The state also says Ratner will bring in a representative to oversee demolition and construction on the $4.2 billion high-rise project in Prospect Heights.

aritcle/video (dialup/broadband)

FYI: The cost of the project is currently pegged at $4 billion, not $4.2 billion. However, if the price tag follows the trend of skyrocketing construction and labor costs, this number could soon escalate.

Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

Ombudsman slated for Brooklyn project

In wake of Atlantic Yards incident, a new community liaison

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

In the wake of the recent partial collapse of a building within Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards’ 22-acre footprint, state officials announced yesterday new measures to improve oversight of the $4 billion project as it moves into the construction phase.

The Empire State Development Corporation plans to hire an ombudsman to work as a liaison between the state agency, elected officials and the public.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, the announcement that an "ombudsman" or "environmental compliance monitor" was to be hired was first made in February (see, Atlantic Yards Report).

The ESDC will also establish two multiagency working groups to coordinate the developer’s work with that of various government agencies, and will regularly review how construction is affecting the area.

“These measures will ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible,” Patrick Foye, ESDC’s downstate chairman, said in a statement.

For those of you still hoping for a political solution to the Atlantic Yards problem, note that Foye said, "moves forward with as little disruption as possible." Those "disruptions" ESDC hopes to avoid would seem to include any common-sense initiatives or changes which might make Atlantic Yards anything but the most dense residential community in the nation or the biggest boondoggle in NYC history.

Meanwhile, decisions are being made behind closed doors («plus ça change…»):

The ESDC kicked off regular meetings on March 16 with local elected officials and will designate a Ratner representative to monitor construction and demolition.

“We are very glad to see the ESDC is taking responsibility to oversee the project,” said Candace Carponter, co-chair of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods — one of the plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the ESDC and Ratner over the project’s environmental review.

“Our concern is that the community is still not involved,” she added. “The two committees are made up of representatives from [city and state] agencies. There are no community members.” And she was concerned that the first working group meeting — held last week — was done behind closed doors. “If they’re not announcing the meetings and not giving the public an opportunity to participate, we’re not comfortable they will take public concerns seriously.”
...
Will the community be invited to future meetings? “We’ll certainly explore that recommendation,” ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield said. “The community will be very involved.”

"That recommendation" has already been made in public by City Councilmember David Yassky.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

Novel Idea: Safety Measures For Atlantic Yards

Gothamist

AsbestosHazard-DG.jpg

When we first saw the Daily News headline, "Brooklyn arena project gets safety net," we thought that the Empire State Development Corporation had literally bought a huge, super-reinforced netting to put around buildings being demolished for the Atlantic Yards project, in hopes of preventing other huge chunks of buildings falling onto sidewalks.

But it turns out the ESDC is just appointing an ombudsman ("to speak to government agencies and the public about the $4.2 billion project") and various others officials to "monitor construction and demolitions" and "review transportation and other issues on a monthly basis." Uh, aren't these people who should have been appointed from the outset?
...
Photograph of Atlantic Yards demolition by akinloch on Flickr.

link

NoLandGrab: Depite the news of an ombudsman, we're still waiting for the official announcement of someone to be named.

Fun Fact: Today is 128 days after the first day of the Spitzer administration (you know, the day "everything changes") and 92 days since the Empire State Development Corporation announced that they were going to hire an environmental compliance monitor.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Court Reviews Agency’s Approval Of Atlantic Yards Project

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

A Manhattan judge heard oral arguments [last Thursday] afternoon in the latest lawsuit to challenge the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project for Central Brooklyn.

The plaintiffs in the case DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al include 26 groups ranging from neighborhood block associations to the Sierra Club. They are basing their case on what they say are deficiencies in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued for the project by the Empire State Development Project (ESDC). They cite the failure to look into the threat of terrorism as one such deficiency. In addition to the ESDC, a state agency, the developer Forest City Ratner Companies, the Public Authorities Control Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are all named as defendants. FCRC Executive Vice President Bruce Bender has said that the lawsuit is without merit, and is simply another tactic to derail the multi-use project. It would include an arena for the Nets basketball team, housing and office space.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

Ratner's Rats, Lonely Yassky and Sober Marty... Observations from CBID's Annual Dinner

Daily Gotham

We ran into Mole333 at the CBID dinner, but he kept the Ratner-rats scoop to himself:

One of our electeds (I assume he wants this passed on but I also assume without his name attached) tells me that he personally witnessed rats at the Target store at Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall and rumor has it that Ratner's recent demolitions have stirred up the rat population, leading to an infestation of his mall. Are residents of the area getting the same spillover of Ratner's rats? I suppose this kind of thing is typical of NYC and not a Ratner-specific problem...but there certainly is something quite appropriate in Ratner's new development stirring up a nest of rats.

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NoLandGrab: Rat "relocation" has been raised as a serious Atlantic Yards construction impact. One prominent Ratner supporter testified that white critics are primarily concerned about "ambience," as if ethnic minorities weren't. Ambience is a serious issue when there are more than Ratners in Atlantic Center Mall.

Maybe you can get more info at the "Atlantic Center Mall Information Center" or the "Atlantic Yard Community Liaison Office."

Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

ING finances two construction loans for U.S. projects

Reuters

ING Real Estate Finance on Monday said it closed on a $285.7 million first mortgage construction loan and letter of credit to Tiago Holdings, a joint venture between Forest City Ratner Co. and Blumenfeld Development.

The joint venture plans to use the funds to develop East River Plaza, a 527,080 square-foot shopping center in Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood, said ING Real Estate Finance, part of ING Group

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Also, Commercial Property News, Upper Manhattan Power Center Launches with $285M Construction Funding

The development will be anchored by Target, Home Depot and Best Buy stores, and will also feature a 1,248-space parking garage. ING served as administrative agent, sole lead arranger and sole bookrunner on the financing, underwriting the entirety of the facilities.
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A portion of the financing package for the East River Plaza was syndicated to American and European financial institutions after the loan closed. Additional financing for the development was provided by the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Empire State Development Corp.

NoLandGrab: ING and FCRC were investment partners in the NY Times Tower until last June when Ratner bought out ING's interest (link).

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Business Development Series To Take Place at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Mall

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

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The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), New York Chapter, and the group Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD) are hosting a series of workshops for contractors and construction companies next week in Brooklyn.

Known as the COMTO-New York Business Development Institute Construction Services Series, the free workshops will take place Monday through Friday, May 7 to 11, at the Atlantic Mall Information Center on the third floor above Circuit City, in Fort Greene/Downtown Brooklyn.

The series will focus on the certification processes for doing business with various state, MTA and private entities.
...
To register, please call the COMTO hotline at (212) 330-9129.

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NoLandGrab: The "Atlantic Mall Information Center" is the information center formerly known as "The Atlantic Yards Information Center."

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

A Tale of Two Cities

The NY Times
By Michael Powell

This year's intellectual debate amongst city planners and leaders is over Robert Moses's legacy. The significance of this debate is that the attitude towards NYC's 20th-century master planner has repercussions on the shape of NYC's future — Atlantic Yards for instance:

Looking forward, the revisionists assert a broader claim: A Moses-like vision is needed to guard against another slide toward obsolescence. The transformations of Williamsburg, the Atlantic Yards tract in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens are harbingers of this assertive mood.

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NoLandGrab: Some may characterize the current wave of development as "assertive," while others call running headfirst into historic density, eminent domain abuse and lack of sensible infrastructure planning AGGRESSIVE.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

May 7, 2007

Brooklyn arena project gets safety net

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

State officials are rolling out measures they hope will minimize future disruptions in the Nets arena project in Brooklyn, a week after a partial building collapse in the area.

The Empire State Development Corp. will appoint an ombudsperson to speak to government agencies and the public about the $4.2 billion project, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.

In addition, an owner's representative will be chosen to monitor construction and demolitions within the project's 22-acre footprint, and two other groups will be designated to review transportation and other issues on a monthly basis.

"We must do all we can to address residents' concerns that construction could become unwieldy," agency spokesman Erroll Cockfield said. "These measures will supplement steps we've already taken to make sure that doesn't happen."

Opponents of the plan to build 16 towers and a basketball arena said it remains to be seen if the measures go far enough to prevent mishaps such as the partial collapse of the Ward Baking Company building, which was undergoing prep work for demolition by developer Forest City Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: It is 91 days since the ESDC first announced they were going to hire an environmental compliance monitor.

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 11:33 AM

Atlantic Yards: "Barclays Center" - pix

Brooklynian

Posted by "8thandPrez":

I was reading the premiere issue of Condé Nast Portfolio at lunch today and came upon this veeeery interesting ad:

Apologies for my crappy camera phone. The text at the bottom drones on about the exciting new development and amazing new open space and incredible new concert hall and peformance center and Nets arena.

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NoLandGrab: Add the approximately $34,000 one-page four-color ad in the premier issue of Portfolio to the estimated $500,000 Barclays has already spent on promoting the company's deal with Bruce Ratner for the naming rights of the Atlantic Yards arena.

Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

What the Village Voice was to the Washington Square battle, the blogs are to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report surveys Atlantic Yards coverage and concludes that the action is in the blogosphere if you want to know what's really going on.

But there are lessons from “the battle of Washington Square,” notably the availability of sympathetic and analytical media, as argued by architectural historian Robert Fishman, in a presentation 3/10/06 and a chapter in the new book, Robert Moses and the Modern City.

The Village Voice was key to the battle. Today, blogs serve an similar function in the Atlantic Yards debate, which has gotten spotty coverage in the mainstream press . (I contend that Prospect Heights, not Clinton Hill, is the "bloggiest" neighborhood, mostly because of AY.)

The “battle of Washington Square" was not merely a key point of Moses's career, it was a watershed in New York City history and American urbanism. It was then that what now seem to be Jacobsian commonplaces--the primacy of diverse neighborhoods, an orientation to pedestrians, a reliance on mass transit, and the importance of public space--were articulated.
...
Without the blogs, the story wouldn't be advanced, the archive wouldn't exist, and reporters and researchers would have trouble exploring the history of Atlantic Yards. We've provided an alternative to reliance on flawed mainstream coverage. (Who covered the epic hearing Thursday in the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review? Nobody from a daily.)

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Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM

Progressive Democrat Issue 120: NYC FOCUS: Your Tax Money is Going to Support a Rich Developer

Mole's Progressive Democrat

Because the Mayor's budget is coming up for a vote soon (and maybe because we missed it the first time around), "Mole 333" repeated the deep concern over "worst expenditures:"

In particular let's consider $205 million budgeted to support Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. This is money that each and every New York City Taxpayer, including those in Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx and Queens, is being asked to spend so that a private developer can make gobs and gobs of money. Now SOME of that money will go to infrastructure inprovement, which I will address in a moment. That particular expenditure has problems but is not so bad in principle. But $100 million of it is nothing but a gift to a wealthy developer to get him off the hook of actually PAYING for the land he wants to develop. There are two reasons why the $205 million is problematic and should be rejected.

Here's the summary [click here for the details from the original article]:

Reason 1: Ratner was forced to bid $100 million for the Vanderbilt Railyards, which is coincidentally the amount that the City has added for land acquisition.

Reason 2: Ratner never submitted a business plan, though the MTA bid required him to do so and despite the fact that the Public Authorities Control Board was supposed to scrutinize the financial plan for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Kalikow To Resign as M.T.A. Chairman; Sander Will Stay Put

The New York Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

SomeGuy.jpg

Today is the day Governor Spitzer has been waiting for: Peter Kalikow plans to announce that he is resigning as chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to a state official.

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NoLandGrab: Brooklynites who keep a close eye on Atlantic Yards will always remember Kalikow for his baffling defense of Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the MTA's Vanderbilt Railyards.

When asked why the MTA accepted an offer that was less than half the appraised value, Kalikow said the $214.5 million appraised value of the Vanderbilt Yards "is just some guy's idea of what it's worth."

Searching for something nice to say about Kalikow, we defitnitely believe that Kalikow is "some guy." The question is will there be pork production as usual in Albany once he's gone?

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere50-sm.jpgouterB, Willets Point to be Ratnerized?

There's more evidence that "Ratner" is becoming synonymous with eminent domain abuse and overdevelopment in commentary about Willets Point:

Joe Ardizzone, a local resident, has a different perspective, one that is influenced by the situation created by Bruce Ratner/Forest City Ratner at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards. He doesn’t want to see the locals “relocated” or “displaced”, especially if that comes through eminent domain (ED), which I understand the city will use if they feel it necessary. ED is certainly, in my opinion, an unsavory path.

The Gowanus Lounge, Ratner & Gehry Go to Coney Island (for a Hot Dog)

Was the Dynamic Duo of Atlantic Yards seized by an urge to consume a Nathan's dog by the sea? Were they engaging in some Brooklyn sightseeing and Coney Island nostalgia? Or were they looking around for more business-related reasons? Miss Brooklyn by the Sea? Should Thor Equities and Joe Sitt be concerned? Interesting questions all.

Sport Swag, Nets-Cavs: Dynasty vs. Dynasty

Back in 2004 Bruce Ratner bought the NJ Nets for $300 with the help of an investment team that included Jay-Z .

Make no mistake, this new management team has been making power moves. As well as I thought Jason Kidd meshed with Kenyon Martin, there is no doubt that Vince Carter is leagues better. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson are an East coast version of the Phoenix Sun's run and gun style of play.

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Blogfest (second annual) this Thursday

Norman Oder will, "be among those speaking at the second annual Brooklyn Blogfest, organized by Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. The theme: the impact of Brooklyn Blogging."

Details: Thursday, 8 pm at the Old Stone House in Park Slope. Last year it was fairly crowded and this year there are more bloggers, so things could get interesting.

The Real Estate Observer, Atlantic Yards Court Hearing Centers on Blight

Someone in the mainstream-ish press actually noticed that there was a key Atlantic Yards hearing last week, though the article only made the weekly paper's real estate blog and primarily quoted from and sent readers to Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

How education -- and schools -- always come last

NYC Public School Parents

Ever since the Dolan family, owners of Madison Square Garden, wrapped up the television- and radio-marketing campaign to kill the West Side Stadium project, the debate about public spending on stadiums and arenas versus schools has virtually disappeared from the headlines. However, the issue hasn't gone away.

And what's the consequence of the double-whammy, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards publicly funded arena and historically dense housing plan?

schoolsvsstadiums.jpg

Nothing reveals the flawed priorities of this administration more than the fact that almost twice as many new seats in sports stadiums will be created over the next five years as new seats in schools. See this chart – with 117,000 new seats projected for the new Yankees, Mets and Nets stadiums, with only 63,000 new seats in our schools.

Take the $360 million the city will give the Yankees in tax subsidies and exemptions for their new stadium – that amount alone could fund 8-10 new elementary schools or 8 new high schools with 5,000 new seats.

The plaintiffs in the [Campaign for Fiscal Equity] case determined that we needed at least 120,000 new seats to eliminate overcrowding and reduce class size in all grades – not even taking into account any population growth. This new capacity, along with libraries, science labs, and other needed improvements was the basis of the $9.2 billion that the state provided the city in capital funding.

Yet the administration plans to create only 63,000 seats. In fact, since they received all this new funding from the state, they cut back the capital plan by 3,000 seats.

Meanwhile, new development is springing up all over the city, and will likely cause even more overcrowding in our schools.

...
And this is why we must ask our elected officials to require that schools be incorporated in all large scale residential and commercial developments – and not just small schools with 500 seats, when the need is more than 1,000 new seats, as generated by the Atlantic yards project. And why we need a better capital plan -- one that provides at least twice as many seats as the one currently proposed by DOE.

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Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Columbia's Exceptionalism

Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Richard Lipsky borrows one of the many arguments against the controversial Atlantic Yards plan, for his attack on Columbia University's expansion plans.

What is clear, however, is that Columbia's aim to upscale the West Harlem neighborhood that it is looking to build in, will create an unstoppable gentrification wave that will sweep through the surrounding working class neighborhoods. That is, unless the mayor and his planning minions intervene to alter the university's monolithic, Columbia-centric vision.

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NoLandGrab: Richard Lipsky is a consultant for Forest City Ratner and the development company's bid to build Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Tenants Fight McMansions, Challenging Landlords to Keep Their Homes

Brooklyn Rail
By Eleanor Bader

AffordHouseProtest-BR.jpgAn article about tenants' fight to save their rent-stabilized aparment a block from Ratnerville notes that Atlantic Yards isn't making things easier for those living in rent-stabilized aparments:

Dave Powell, a tenant organizer at the Fifth Avenue Committee, already sees this happening and blames the increase in owner use cases on the city’s seemingly-endless real estate boom. “We’ve seen the rapid gentrification of Ft. Greene and Park Slope in the last 10 to 15 years and certainly Atlantic Yards is serving to exacerbate that. Rent Stabilization laws are supposed to act as a regulatory force against displacement and eviction,” he says. “The owner use provision was not meant for landlords to create mansions in tenements. I have no empathy for people who are trying to circumvent these laws and remove desperately needed apartments from the affordable housing stock.”

William Whalen of Municipal Employee Legal Services, a group that provides free legal representation to city workers unionized by District Counsel 37... says. “I’ve recently noticed a tremendous change in the nature of our practice. A few years back, landlords wanted their money. It was, ‘how much can you pay and when are you going to pay it?’ Now landlords no longer want the rent money. They want the tenant to move because at this point an empty apartment is worth more than an occupied one.”

Attorney Scott Miller agrees. “Atlantic Yards has been in the forefront of the news for three or four years. Since the development plan was announced, the number of owner use cases has skyrocketed. The area is hot and trendy and will only get more so. I have nothing against the owners of 533 Bergen but they don’t have to displace five families for the pleasure of one. It’s greed. It may be legal, but what’s legal and what’s fair are sometimes different.”

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NoLandGrab: In addition to Atlantic Yards's indirect effect on affordable housing in the area, don't forget that developer Bruce Ratner's is trying to use eminent domain to remove tenants from the rent-stabilized apartments that he owns, a tidy way to circumvent all laws and regulations meant to protect these tenants.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

Cavaliers crush Nets on boards

Akron Beacon Journal
By Brian Windhorst

It sucks watching your team get crushed on your own home court:

Speaking of out-of-town owners and seating, Nets primary owner Bruce Ratner doesn't have to rely on the Cavs for comp tickets during this series. He's got his own. Ratner's company, Forest City Enterprises, owns a courtside box behind the scorer's table.

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Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

May 6, 2007

Sunday Comix: Duffield Street Edition

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Posted by amy at 12:53 PM

Comment Zone: On the Mayor’s Mind

The Empire Zone blog's question, "So now we know what is on the mayor’s mind today. What’s on yours?" garnered the following response from "Joe":

Before people gush about Mayor Mike’s “creativity,” let’s not forget that he has shamelessly invoked the now tyrannical use of Eminent Domain to take over land for the Downtown Brooklyn project, and is now threatening Eminent Domain *again* if the people of Willets Point don’t play ball and start packing. This is disgraceful. What exactly is the significance of owning an apartment, house, or land, if the government can simply take it away at a whim? We’re not talking about using the land in an emergency time of war, with foreign troops marching through our land. No, we’re just talking mammoth corporate development here. Seriously, it seems like no government entity gives a damn about anyone who doesn’t contribute 100k or more to their campaign coffers.

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Posted by amy at 12:43 PM

The Times pushes peer review of hoops bias claim, but not of AY economics

Atlantic Yards Report compares the Times' different uses of peer review. One article about racial bias in basketball was said to be verified by three independent experts. Meanwhile in "Atlantic Yards"...

By contrast, when the Times in 2004 covered the release of a study critiquing the projections of Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's paid consultant on Atlantic Yards, the news was left as "he-said, he-said" and tacked onto another story about Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment.
...
Given Zimbalist's national reputation as a strong critic of public subsidies for sports facilities, and the vastly different conclusions reached by Peebles/Kim, the dispute was of more than temporary local interest.
...
Since then, Forest City Ratner has invoked Zimbalist's work numerous times, and several elected officials last year endorsed the developer's $6 billion lie, based on Zimbalist's flawed analysis.

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Posted by amy at 12:16 PM

Clinton touts Dems' ideas in Ohio

Newsday BY MARTIN C. EVANS

But although Ohio's prize of 20 electoral votes will be the ultimate lure for campaigners -- in the 15 elections since 1948, only one winner of Ohio has failed to claim the White House -- money is an early inducement.

One of Ohio's biggest donors is the Ratner family, builders of the $4.2-billion Nets arena and residential/commercial complex in Downtown Brooklyn, who have given more than $24,000 to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

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NoLandGrab: Yikes, hopefully the rest of this article is more accurate than the part about "Downtown Brooklyn."

Posted by amy at 12:00 PM

Probe into Pacific St. collapse continues - Mystery surrounds crumbling of Ward Bread Bakery building

Courier-Life
By Gary Buiso

“We simply don’t believe that the building was unstable—that is until Ratner’s contractors went in,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy, a group that was seeking a court order to stop demolition of nine vacant buildings on the site.

“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.”

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Posted by amy at 11:57 AM

Ratner’s plan isn’t the only way to go with Atlantic Yards

UnityPlan5.07.jpg

Courier-Life
By Joe Maniscalco

Forest City Ratner’s costly Atlantic Yards plan is a lousy deal for Brooklyn, say participants of a day-long community planning workshop held last weekend at the United Methodist Church on St. Felix Street.

“It’s very expensive, too dense and too out of scale and context to the rest of the neighborhood,” event coordinator Tom Angotti said. “I think people should be looking at alternatives because there are better alternatives.”

Nearby Boerum Hill resident Heloise Gruneberg sat at the Transportation table – one of six planning groups examining areas of concern to the community and talked about the “boondoggle” she feels officials and Forest City Ratner has perpetrated on the neighborhood.

“This is an effort to get the community’s voice in the big picture,” she said. “We’ve been danced around by the politicians. This developer has been able to get away with crimes and misdemeanors as far as I’m concerned.”

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Posted by amy at 11:54 AM

May 5, 2007

Tabloid Times

tabloidtimes.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Norman Oder ponders the lack of attention paid to the 4 hour May 3rd court hearing on "Atlantic Yards" from the Times and the dailies. Issues at the very foundation of the project were argued in a court room for the very first time and it was riveting; ample ground was covered to choose from for story making. Each one of the dailies could have scooped each other, instead, too focused on sensationalism, they pooped out.

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Posted by amy at 10:56 AM

Shrill of the Week: Ratner on the Record

musictolandgrab.jpg

Dope on the Slope

Includes:
- Your Money (That's What I Want)
- Spinning Wheel
- I'm A Steamroller, Baby
- When The Walls Come Tumblin' Down
- On The Shady Side of the Street
- Cheesecake Merengue (for Marty)
- Ballad of Frankie & Frankie
- Good Golly Miss Brooklyn
- Down in the Boondoggles
- Goldsteinfinger
- (I Hate) Everyday People
- The Wreck of the Cleveland Steamer

And many, many more.
Only $2 Billion in subsidies!
Act now! Supplies are limited.

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Posted by amy at 9:49 AM

Doctoroff: Gehry design scared us

doctoroff5.07.gif

Downtown Express
By Josh Rogers

Architect Frank Gehry’s irregularly shaped designs have earned him international accolades, but his plan for theaters at the World Trade Center site frightened the city into asking him to go back to the drawing board.

“I saw the old version and that in part is what scared us and forced us to revisit the whole issue,” Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff told the Downtown Express Monday. “It was so, so intricate and complicated.”

Doctoroff, who oversees Mayor Bloomberg’s Lower Manhattan plans, was a guest on the Express’s Internet radio show Monday. He said the decision to move the Signature Theater out of Gehry’s Performing Arts Center to a new Fiterman Hall across the street, and leave the Joyce dance theater in the PAC, was made to cut the $685 million cost almost in half.

He said fitting buildings, underground cooling and other equipment, security and truck entrances at the W.T.C. site was equivalent to solving “a ten-sided Rubik’s cube.”

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NoLandGrab: Luckily for Atlantic Yards, there is no accounting for cost or security!

Posted by amy at 9:42 AM

Times covers window into suspect's mind, but not ESDC's mind

Atlantic Yards Report

Judged by the allotment of column-inches, a reader of the New York Times would have to conclude that the trial of Peter Braunstein, a former writer for Women’s Wear Daily charged with the sex-abuse and kidnapping of a former colleague, is much bigger news than the legal battle over the Atlantic Yards project.

The Braunstein case, which has been huge in the tabloids, got extensive coverage in the Times this week, including a preview Monday, followed by trial coverage Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The Friday headline was "Suspect’s Purchases Are Cast as Window Into Dark Mind." However, the window into the mind of the Empire State Development Corporation, whose Atlantic Yards blight designations were questioned sharply in court Thursday, went unexplored.

Neither the Times nor any other daily sent a reporter to Thursday's epic hearing in the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review. Brutally weird.

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Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

The borough standings

Time Out New York

4. BROOKLYN

This week: (No Change)

Last week 4

The reason Bruce Ratner’s ginormous Atlantic Yards got a black eye when a wall of a building slated for demolition collapsed on its own. Luckily no one was hurt.

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Posted by amy at 9:34 AM

Fairest of the Fair, She Is

NY Magazine/ Daily Intelligencer

• Speaking of the Mets, Citi Field now has its own Daniel Goldstein: One (and perhaps the only) inhabitant of Willets Point's "Iron Triangle," 74-year-old Joe Ardizzone, is refusing to relocate and make way for the stadium. [amNY]

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NoLandGrab: Joe also doesn't have the pleasure of being joined by 25 of his closest friends. The Atlantic Yards eminent domain lawsuit includes 13 plaintiffs, including 26 residents.

Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

Sightings

NY Post

NETS owner Bruce Ratner and his architect Frank Gehry noshing on hot dogs and fries at Nathan's Famous on Coney Island

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NoLandGrab: Is Ratner scouting out alternatives suggested to him in this week's environmental hearing?

Posted by amy at 9:11 AM

Teaneck home for D-League?

NorthJersey.com

NBA commissioner David Stern, a former Teaneck resident, raised the possibility Friday that professional basketball could return to his old neighborhood.

Speaking before Game 6 of Nets-Raptors at Continental Arena, Stern said that Teaneck Armory -- former home to the New Jersey Americans -- would make for a good home for one of the NBA's Developmental League teams.
...
Stern also had a message for all Nets fans who will feel betrayed and/or abandoned when Bruce Ratner moves the team to Brooklyn: New York is a hell of a town.

"You know, it's not that far into the Garden," Stern said Friday night. "Penn Station, 12 minutes. Then they get on the subway and they're almost in Brooklyn."

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Over the river and through the woods, to Ratner's house we go...

Posted by amy at 9:07 AM

May 4, 2007

Demolitions resumed at corner of Flatbush and Pacific

It's the news that everyone missed.

Yesterday, after the closing bell Atlantic Yards Report reported:

For those walking by the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, yes, demolition work has resumed at 189 Flatbush Avenue, 191 Flatbush Avenue, 193 Flatbush Avenue, and 618 Pacific Street, buildings owned by developer Forest City Ratner.

That news was called in to me by an area resident, so I checked with the Buildings Department, which issued a statement:

For safety and stability reasons, the Buildings Department is allowing permitted demolition work already underway at the time of last week’s incident to continue at four sites.

This decision was made on Tuesday after the developer provided the Buildings Department with safety plans and structural stability reports, and designated a licensed Site Safety Manager to monitor demolition work at the four sites.

The decision was not announced in a press release, nor on the Atlantic Yards Construction Updates page.

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NoLandGrab: According to the ESDC spokeperson Errol Cockfield, "The reason DOB gave this order is because work was already underway and the department thought it prudent that those buildings continue to come down. This is the case at four sites only."

Asked if there would be an official announcement, Cockfield explained, "As far as announcements go that decision is made on a case by case basis. This is not a full scale resumption of activities. Once DOB's investigation is complete we'll see where we are."

Posted by lumi at 1:43 PM

"Terrific!" Best Environmental Impact Study ever!

Karmel.jpgAnd the winner for best quote from yesterday's hearing on the environmental review lawsuit goes to the attorney for the Empire Strikes Back Development Corporation, Philip Karmel:

“This EIS is terrific and I don’t think there’s a better one in my professional experience.”

NoLandGrab: Creepy — he probably says that to all the girls.

Thanks to Norman Oder for the citation — we weren't expecting a good laugh in today's installment of Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 10:58 AM

ESDC grilled over blight, “civic project” in EIS lawsuit hearing, but judge’s latitude may be limited

Atlantic Yards Report distilled 3 hrs. and 45 mins of legal arguments into nearly 5,000 words, which will take you about two mins to read if you're "The Mad Overkiller" Norman Oder, but will probably take the rest of us the entire subway trip to work.

Seriously, it seems daunting and lengthy, but Norman Oder covers a lot of ground and if you want to know what happenned, it's pretty much all there:

The hearing, which began at 3:30 p.m., lasted some three hours and 45 minutes, as State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden soon recognized that the parties would not be able to leave at 5 p.m, the normal courthouse closing time. Some 70 people, many of them Atlantic Yards opponents, packed the courtroom, which included a substantial contingent of Forest City Ratner executives, periodically grim-faced during rockier moments in the argument. (Unlike at some public hearings last year, there were no contingents of project supporters wearing shirts identifying themselves as members of Community Benefits Agreement signatories BUILD or ACORN.)

On both points noted above, Madden seemed sympathetic to the arguments made by the petitioners, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 other neighborhood and civic groups, peppering an ESDC lawyer with sharp questions about the planned arena.

On the other hand, such challenges to Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have a record of failure. And Madden did not seem as sympathetic to several other arguments more forcefully rebutted by the respondents, which include the ESDC, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

And the oral arguments could hardly get to all the points raised in the lengthy legal briefs and the almost absurdly voluminous record, more than 25,000 pages in thick volumes positioned in a long row on the table for defense counsel. There were eleven of the latter at and behind the table, backed by several colleagues in the audience. The petitioners, as usual overmatched in terms of sheer lawyer-power, had five lawyers at their table, though they also had legal volunteers in the audience and DDDB point man Daniel Goldstein, sitting in the first row, periodically passed notes to his counsel.

Madden, who had clearly gotten up to speed on parts of the case, said she would try to rule in four to six weeks. While the petitioners had asked for a preliminary injunction to block the further demolition of buildings, Madden, who previously denied a temporary restraining order to do that same, apparently will rule on the case as a whole before a significant number of demolitions continue.

BlightBuildings.jpg

Oder covered the main points made by the plaintiffs and defendants ranging from blight findings, how the blight study coincidentally only covered the property that Ratner wanted to take, the Coney Island myth, the difference (or no difference) between the public "hearing" and public "forums," whether or not the arena for a professional basketball team is a "civic project," the lack of a terrorism review, the EIS's ten-year timeline (even though professionals involved with the project say it will take longer) and the MTA's scandalous awarding of the railyards to the low bidder.

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Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

4 Hours. And Then 4 to 6 Weeks

Newsflash from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn about the hearing for the Atlantic Yards environmental lawsuit:

There were nearly 4 hours of oral argument Thursday on the DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al case, in front of Justice Joan Madden in Manhattan State Supreme Court. The arguments ranged from the state's blight study, to the definition of a "civic project", to the Coney Island arena alternative.

Justice Madden said she would have a decision on the case within 4 to 6 weeks.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM

Meet the new Yards

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Armed with a digital projector and a lot of lung power, a group of planning wonks came together last Saturday to create a new development at the Atlantic Yards site in the (unlikely) event that the various lawsuits aimed at blocking Ratner’s $4-billion residential, retail, office and arena project succeed.

“If this project is stopped, we must be prepared with a plan that the community wants to move forward,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), who attended the event, which was modeled after the “UNITY” planning forums she organized in 2005.

Those planning forums created a rival bid for the Yards site, the Extell Development plan, which was rejected by the state (in a sham process, Yards opponents say).

This time around, seven-hour think-fest was sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a coalition of 26 civic groups, and the Center for Community Planning and Development at Hunter College.

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Posted by lumi at 10:11 AM

Collapse at Yards stalls Ratner’s wrecking balls

The Brooklyn Paper

Demolition activity in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan was suspended in the wake of the partial collapse of the Ward Bakery building, where workers were performing asbestos abatement:

City environmental and buildings officials rushed to the scene after the rubble crashed to the street. Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said some material in the debris “is known to contain asbestos.”

“The company doing the asbestos abatement work was told to clean it up, and they did,” Michaels added.

Local politicians called for more oversight, to which the Empire State Development Corporation responded:

...that the agency is “still in the middle of a search for a monitor that will oversee construction.”

The spokesman, Errol Cockfield, added that the controversial consulting firm AKRF is serving as an “interim environmental monitor.”

AKRF is the city-hired firm that recently issued a much-maligned report that argued that seven houses on Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn could be torn down because they do not have a link to the Underground Railroad.

“Oh, not that firm again,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights) when told that AKRF was working at the Yards site.

NoLandGrab: AKRF is also the firm hired by Ratner to produced the 4,000-page Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

Community groups had 66 days to review the 4,000-page document and submit commentary. On the 125th day of the Spitzer administration, it is now 88 days since the ESDC announced they were going to hire an environmental compliance monitor.

With demolition halted on the Ward Bakery, Ratner’s wrecking crew made short work of three buildings this week.

The three buildings — which stand between Dean Street and Fifth Avenue — were the still intact after an Atlantic Yards protest on April 23. But a few days later, one of the buildings was gone and another was partially demolished.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noted that demolition continued on these three buildings, on the same day the demolition suspension was announced.

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Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

DOT One-Way Park Slope proposal is dead

If seeing is believing, then have a look at the letter from the DOT to Community Board 6 (click image to enlarge), which states:

NYC DOT does not intend to pursue the implementation of the proposed 6th and 7th Avenue conversion to one-way operation. We respect the Community Board's desire to maintain the current configuration of these streets.

As you know, our proposed modifications on 4th Avenue were developed in context of complementary changes to 6th and 7th Avenue. We are currently evaluating whether our proposal on 4th Avenue is feasible without the one-way conversions of 6th and 7th Avenues. If the evaluation indicates that implementation is feasible, we will present our proposal for 4th Avenue in greater detail to the Community Board Transportation Committee.

A PDF copy of this letter is available on the Brooklyn Community Board 6 web site.

NoLandGrab: The one-way conversion proposal was widely seen as a measure to help increase traffic throughput around the public-transportation-rich Atlantic Yards site, in advance of the construction of the arena — a charge the DOT denies.

The DOT claimed that, on the contrary, this proposal had been studied and was in the pipeline for many years, well before Atlantic Yards was hatched. The catch-22 is that, if that were true, then these proposed modifications would have to have been revealed and studied in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement; they weren't.

Residents around Ratnerville are pretty used to public officials who can't or won't be honest with the public. That doesn't mean we have to accept it.

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere58.jpg hartichocked, noLandGrab - thanks for the correction...
Honorary Brooklynite "hartichocked" still knows more about Atlantic Yards than most New Yorkers.

Don't I get any credit for following your local politics/plight even though I moved away from Brooklyn almost two years ago? Guess not. Perhaps I should get my facts straight before I share what's on my mind. The truth of the matter is, I still don't know what the neighborhood is called where the FUTURE ATLANTIC YARDS will take up space. I know it's somewhere between downtown Brooklyn and Fort Green and perhaps it has its own name, probably depends on who you talk to. I'm sure noLandGrab knows.

NoLandGrab: Most of "Atlantic Yards" is in PROSPECT HEIGHTS, however the section Ratner calls "Site V" is in PARK SLOPE. Looks like you had a great time during your last visit. Come back soon — the next round of Blue Point is on us.

The Knickerblogger, Is Atlantic Yards A Result of Childhood Trauma?
Who said that Atlantic Yards opponents weren't meanspirited and hyperbolic?

Is it just me or does Ratner look like the 'fat kid' who always got picked last, finally getting to be on the 'team'? Imagine, if the Ratners have spent a few hundred (okay thousand) dollars on therapy we wouldn't have pay billions. (hey bruce, I got cut from the freshman baseball team, but went on to play varsity football --you don't have to steal).

NoLandGrab: If it's really important to anyone but Knickerblogger, Bruce Ratner cut a pretty lean figure as a young man.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, MARKOWITZ ON A RAMPAGE: SAYS THE DAILY GOTHAM
OTBKB posted Daily Gotham's outing of the oddly vindictive Brooklyn Borough President and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief Marty Markowitz. If Marty keeps trying to take down Atlantic Yards critics, we might be left with the Park Slope 99 (gasp!).

I am posting this because I too used to find Markowitz to be very likale --if a little zany and self-promoting but it all seemed to be in the name of what was good for Brooklyn. I even included him on the Park Slope 100 because, well, he was Marty. But it seems that something has changed and the volatility of the Atlantic Yards issue has exposed a different side of his personality.

The Knickerblogger, Markowitz Gone Beserk?

One thing touched on in the Unity session last Saturday was need the for community board reform. This struck me as odd since, by and large they stood up to the ESDC, Pataki and Bloomberg ...

Liberals like Mole33 might be shocked by Marty now...but some of us on the right noticed Markowitz stank from day one.

Daily Gotham, Bruce's Boodle

A blogger who covers a lot of politics for Daily Gotham caught wind of Bruce Ratner's Boondoggle buried in Bloomberg's big budget:

Mike Bloomberg is at it again.

His proposed budget contains a $205 million gift to mega-developer Bruce Ratner. Some details can be found in a March 9th Daily News article.

Basically, $105 million will go toward "infrastructure needs" -- at least, in theory. The other $100 million will officially be spent on "land acquisition costs," meaning we're paying to buy the land and then just giving it away to Ratner to build his stadium.

Word is starting to get out, and City Council members are reacting with scorn -- but nobody is saying they'll block this crooked waste of money. It comes down to about $25 for every person in NYC -- that's your money!

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Duffield St. Hearing Links

News from Brooklyn's other shameful land grab:

DuffieldSt-BDE.jpgBrooklyn Daily Eagle, Council Slams $500,000 ‘Underground Railroad’ Report

City Council members at a hearing yesterday criticized a $500,000 report commissioned by the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that found no conclusive evidence to support claims that seven houses along Duffield and Gold streets in Downtown Brooklyn were involved in Underground Railroad activities.
...
Their houses are in the footprint of a planned 1-acre park and underground parking garage that would be used by the upscale Aloft and Sheraton hotels across the street, as well as surrounding office tenants. EDC Vice President Thomas McKnight called the parcel a “signature piece of the Downtown Brooklyn plan” but stopped short of saying it was critical.

He said an eminent domain hearing on the homes is scheduled for May 22. The City Council has no power to prevent the seizure of the homes.

The Eagle story goes into the details of how AKRF, the same firm that produced the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study, got the contract for the Duffield St. report, how experts cited in the study found the study to be flawed and why archeologists weren't hired to investigate evidence of tunnels connecting the homes.

The Brooklyn Paper, Council takes up ‘Railroad’ fight

The battle over whether the Underground Railroad passed through seven houses on Duffield and Gold streets made it this week to the City Council, which could block a city plan to destroy the houses for a hotel parking lot.
...
So the EDC paid a Park Avenue consulting firm, AKRF, a half-million dollars to research the historic value of the properties — and specifically their ties to the Underground Railroad.

On Tuesday, an AKRF vice president, Linh Do, said the Underground Railroad did, indeed, make more stops in Brooklyn than the Q train — but the company’s researchers found no link between the seven houses and the Abolitionist movement.

“Bulls—t!” one Duffield Houses supporter said in a far-from-quiet stage whisper.

The Brooklyn Paper (Editorial), Save the Duffield Seven!

In our never-ending rush to make a buck, New York has knocked down, paved over and torn apart virtually all of its pre-colonial and Revolutionary history. When tourists come to the city, they see our soaring monuments to modern money-making, but precious little of the historic relics that could explain why this city was so vital to its earliest European settlers in the first place.

It would be a tragedy if this is allowed to happen on Duffield Street, whose houses remain a powerful reminder of how slavery touched — and built — New York City.
...
A museum on Duffield Street would celebrate history. Destroying the houses desecrates it.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

$100M Apartment Project Planned at Former San Fran Army Base

CPN News Online
By Barbra Murray

Once home to operations of the U.S. Army, the now decommissioned Presidio military base in San Francisco (pictured) is being redeveloped and a new apartment community will be part of the effort. Forest City Enterprises Inc. has inked a deal with the Presidio Trust, manager of the former base, to develop an approximately 161-unit rental property at a cost of about $100 million.

Forest City is known for its redevelopment of historic facilities, and will apply its skills at the Presidio project.

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NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, back in New York City, Forest City is known for destroying historic facilities.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Clinton stop underscores Ohio's importance

Dayton Daily News
By Jessica Wehrman

An article about candidates' fundraising activities in Ohio coughed up this nugget:

That tool benefited Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is eighth among candidates in fundraising but sixth in Ohio, raising more in the state than McCain. The reason? The Ratner family of Cleveland, which is affiliated with the $9 billion real estate firm Forest City Enterprises, which owns large developments in New Mexico. Members of the Ratners gave Richardson $26,100 in the first quarter of this year.

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NoLandGrab: Currently, one of Forest City's most ambitious projects is the Mesa del Sol development in Albuquerque, NM.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

May 3, 2007

TODAY: Oral Arguments in the Environmental Lawsuit

3:30PM
60 Centre Street, Room 130

DDDB et. al. v.  ESDC et. al.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Inc
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc
NY Public Interest Research Group/Straphangers
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID)
Sierra Club
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
The Brooklyn Bear’s Gardens Inc
Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association, Inc.
Boerum Hill Association
Brooklyn Vision, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association
Carroll Street Block Association (5th to 6th Ave), Inc.
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association, Inc. (4th to 5th Ave)
East Pacific Block Association
Fort Greene Association
Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Park Slope Neighbors
Park Place-Underhill Avenue Block Association
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place-Brooklyn Block Association
Society for Clinton Hill
South Portland Avenue Block Association
South Oxford Street Block Association
Zen Environmental Studies Institute

 

Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)
Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC)

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

UNITY 2007 plan for railyards gets started

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the UNITY 2007 community planning workshop.

UNITYRonTomMarshall.jpg

Some 70 people gathered on Saturday for UNITY 2007, the start of an effort to craft a community plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard, should Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project fail, stall, or be partly built.

“It’s not about ‘no’ or NIMBY,” said architect Marshall Brown, lead designer of the original UNITY (UNderstanding Imagining and Transforming the Yards) plan in 2004, which included mid-rise rather than high-rise buildings, was limited to the 8.5-acre railyards, and, rather than demapping streets, extended the street grid from Fort Greene to Prospect Heights. “It’s about saying yes to responsible development.”

Planners aim to draw on Saturday’s work over the next six week to draft a plan to take to community-based organizations and local elected officials, explained Tom Angotti of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development, which convened the session with the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN). “It’s not a done deal,” he insisted. (At right, Angotti is at center, flanked by Ron Shiffman (left) and Brown. Photos by Jonathan Barkey.)

Rather than directly build on the 2004 version of UNITY, the participants, working at Hanson Place United Methodist Church in Fort Greene, started from more of a tabula rasa. That offered the advantage of fresh thinking, based on updated context, and the disadvantage of revisiting some topics already treated in details. Such charrettes often take days, and this one lasted only five hours, with about half of that time for intensive topic analysis.

By the end of the day, the group had made some progress, but also had left some key questions open. Notably, planners were not yet ready to estimate the size and scale of a potential development—a crucial factor given the cost of decking over the railyard.

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Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

When Clowns Go Bad: Marty Markowitz Goes on a Rampage

Marty-Good-Bad02.jpgDaily Gotham

"Mole333" reports on Good Marty...

I liked his seeming combination of liberal politics and jovial, well, clownishness.

...and Bad Marty:

Only slowly did I begin to realize that behind that jovial exterior lurked a vindictive little shit that began emerging over the past couple of years. Markowitz is now showing that nasty, vindictive side as he fires members of Community Board 6 who failed to blindly support Markowitz's master, Bruce Ratner.

I have now heard this from three sources, so I can report on it. Not one source has yet agreed to be public. But collectively they tell me that Marty Markowitz has become a raging nut case, yelling at people in public and threatening people right and left. One person has, in all seriousness, called Marty's sanity into question. Markowitz seems to have snapped.

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NoLandGrab: Ditto on the conclusion.

Marty Markowitz's emotional, spit-spewing (really felt sorry for those in the first row), red-in-the-face defense of Bruce Ratner and his belly-aching about project critics is really something that every Brooklynite should witness.

Markowitz has come a long way from "people of good will can disagree" and "my mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all" (link).

It's now payback time for the Fifth Avenue Committee, as Marty has been threatening to block a project in South Slope which has wide community support.

Don't forget the infamous Brooklyn Papers interview, in which Marty used the F-word (more than once) and complained that project opponents care more about Atlantic Yards than Osama bin Laden, overlooking repeated requests by neighborhood groups for a comprehensive terrorism and security review.

If Brooklyn's Clown Prince IS descending into madness, the outstanding question for local historians will be, does the political psychodrama betray a guilty conscience?

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

A Parapet Falls; Atlantic Yards Stalls

Ward-BIB-BDS.jpgBrooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

If some episodes in the Atlantic Yards saga seem predictable—demonstrations, court hearings, and strategic statements by developer Forest City Ratner and opponents—the events of April 26 assuredly were not. For reasons still unknown, the 200-foot-long parapet of the Ward Bakery—the terra cotta tile-covered former industrial building on Pacific Street that preservationists seek to save—collapsed at about 9:45 a.m., raining debris to the ground, damaging several parked cars.

Nobody was hurt, thanks to some luck. There was no scaffolding around the bakery, constructed in 1911, as a longstanding protective shed had been removed recently for sewer work. (It was not required while the only activity at the building was pre-demolition asbestos removal.) Had people been walking on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues as demonstrators had done just three days earlier, the outcome could have been horrific.

As firefighters responded and cordoned off the street, elected officials, government officials, representatives of the developer, and community members gathered. There were statements to make and help to organize. The most vulnerable were some 95 families in the adjacent homeless shelter, about 350 people, further displaced from Prospect Heights for one night.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Forest City Announces Redevelopment Agreement for Historic Presidio Building in San Francisco

Press release, via Business Wire

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has signed an agreement with the Presidio Trust to redevelop a former public health service hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco into an apartment community. The Presidio Trust was established in 1996 to manage the Presidio of San Francisco, an historic, former army base located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and now a national park.

The Forest City development will create up to 161 residential units. The historic buildings on the site will be rehabilitated and the non-historic wings of the main hospital building will be removed to make way for new construction. Forest City intends to use sustainable practices and materials for the project and will seek the Green Building Council’s Silver Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The main hospital was closed in 1981 and has been empty awaiting rehabilitation.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “The Presidio is a national treasure, an ideal project for Forest City to use our adaptive re-use/historic preservation experience. By restoring historic landmarks, and converting them into vibrant housing and neighborhoods, we are helping to preserve America’s heritage. Sustainability is also very important to our organization. Guided by this core value at the Presidio, we are committed to development that fosters sensitivity to the site, reduces resource consumption and minimizes the project’s environmental footprint.”

link

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

May 2, 2007

AKRF’s Attempt to Demolish Abolitionist Homes Reveals Vast Brooklyn Network

Lapdog of developers inadvertently bites master’s hand

UndergroundRailroadSafeHouses.org
By Raul Rothblatt

This is the only comprehensive "gavel-to-gavel" report we've come across from yesterday's Underground Railroad Duffield Street hearing of the City's Landmarks Committee.

Homes on Duffield St. are under threat of eminent domain condemnation despite mounting evidence that they were part of Brooklyn's Underground Railroad network.

There is a firm called AKRF which has 25 years experience in squelching opposition to big development projects. They recently undertook their longest venture in historical analysis: Two and a half years devoted to trying to deny the claims that Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn was part of the Underground Railroad of the Civil War era. They failed spectacularly. Abolitionists who walked the streets of Downtown Brooklyn would be proud.

The New York City Council Landmarks Subcommittee held an evidentiary hearing on May 1, 2007, chaired by Leroy Comrie. The day started at 10 am. City Council Member Charles Barron held a press conference before the hearing, and he was the first to denounce the findings, but almost every City Council representative present had harsh questions for the NYC Economic Development Corporation and their hired gun, AKRF.

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In addition, Rothblatt had a conversation with NYC Comptroller William Thompson, which he reported to us thusly:

I ran into Bill Thompson. He said that he spoke to two reporters who said that there is no convincing proof of Underground Railroad activity. He added that one was African-American.

I said, "If it was Errol Louis, he was falling asleep during the hearing."

Thompson said "I'm not naming names!"

Posted by lumi at 11:36 AM

How real estate spins the press (and that's not our headline)

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in this month's Real Deal offers some hints about how those in the real estate world "are becoming more adept at working with, and sometimes spinning, the press. The headline: How real estate spins the press: Leaking information for a better deal or to attract other suitors.

I'll take that as a clue to how the New York Times got its misguided 9/5/06 front-page story about Forest City Ratner's rumored (and highly strategic) 8% scaleback in the size of the Atlantic Yards project.

Norman Oder outlines how it's all there in the developers' playbook:

Et voilà insta-scaleback!

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Posted by lumi at 11:13 AM

ESSENTIAL REFERENCE BOOK ON HEAVY WEATHER, GALES, AND STORMS

From Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn:

Have you ever visited DDDB.com thinking it was the URL of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Develop Don't Destroy is DDDB.net.

dddb-dot-com.gif

NoLandGrab: Have you ever visited AtlanticYards.com thinking you'd find information about Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogfest_poster.gif Wandering Medusa, Clutter's Last Stand
For one wary apartment hunter, "too close to Atlantic Yards" is still a deal killer:

There is no surprise in the results: everything I love is too costly, everything I can afford has at least one major flaw (sixth floor walkup, or too small, or a couple of blocks too close to Atlantic Yards, or with reasonable selling prices and exorbitant monthly maintenance charges.)

The Knickerblogger, Buruecrats (sic) and Estimates
On "Mission Accommplished Day," Knickerblogger's thoughts drift from Iraq to Atlantic Yards:

And while the cost in human lives is dwarfed by Iraq, no doubt the ESDC has been oblivious to the serious increase in Traffic and pollution related deaths that might result.

Gothamist, Extra, Extra
A snarkastic take on Norman Oder and Abby Weissman's timeline/map:

Love it or hate, you can schedule your prospective condo buying or protesting for the next nine years with this timeline map of the Atlantic Yards development.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Brooklyn Blogfest

Look! The Brooklyn Blogfest has a nifty poster designed by Lisa Di Liberto, whose blog, Urban Seashell: a collection, features small businesses, artists, independents and upcoming events from cityline to shoreline.

NoLandGrab: Come to the Blogfest to meet some of the bloggers who keep Atlantic Yards on heavy rotation, including the NoLandGrab crew, the Mad O from Atlantic Yards Report, "Dopey Slopey" and Gowanus Lounge (aka "The Thorn in Thor," and "Roebling-bling We've Struck Oil").

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Dean Street, Brooklyn

From Brit in Brooklyn:

A push-bike ride down Dean Street last night, near the Atlantic Yards development footprint.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

From UDC, rebuilding slums, to the ESDC, which "loves business"

Atlantic Yards Report

Boldly going where no journalist has gone before, Norman Oder looks into the history of the Empire State Development Corporation.

UDCintro.jpg

Amid all the arguments about the Atlantic Yards project, perhaps the most fundamental issue has never been raised. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its original conception, was never intended to manage projects like Forest City Ratner's 22-acre megadevelopment of mostly luxury housing in the center of a rising real estate market.

That may not affect the legal cases, but the historical context is vital: the ESDC, founded as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in 1968, was granted "truly amazing powers" (in planner Alex Garvin's description) to override zoning and exercise eminent domain as a response to urban riots and what were commonly referred to as "slum conditions." (Graphic from Rutgers project on riots.)

Today, more than a quarter-century later, those goals have broadened, as the UDC grew to emphasize economic development as part of its mission and in 1995 formally began doing business as the ESDC, which incorporated other agencies.

The history gets a neat switch in legal papers filed in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case. The original legislative effort to encourage "maximum" private participation in ESDC projects, cited as justification for embracing Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan without a look to rivals, was hardly focused on developments like Atlantic Yards.

Rather, it was intended to get the private sector to finally invest in the low- and middle-income subsidized housing. (Atlantic Yards would contain some of both, but they're hardly the raison d'etre.)

Moreover, the ESDC practices a neat maneuver in its legal papers. It credits a state appellate court decision as stating that the ESDC's “primary mission . . . is to encourage economic investment." A closer look shows that the language comes directly from the ESDC's own web site and in some ways distorts it.

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Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Liars In Arms

Fans For Fair Play

On- and off-court drama during the Eastern Conference quarter-finals confirms that the NJ team is more than just a "netaphor" for Atlantic Yards:

This Nets team is a lot like their owner.

They're not that good. They're kinda clunky and have allocated too much of their budget to the wrong things. They hemorrhage money. They thrive on other peoples' funding. They sucker the locals into supporting them. They play in an easy division. Their competition is too scared, intimidated or incompetent to challenge their mediocrity. They have a press corps that laps up everything they say and stand for.

And most of all, they lie.

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Update: Last night, the Nets lost to the Raptors 98-96, forcing the series into a sixth game (from the AP, Raptors Survive, but Who'll Play Game 6?).

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Willets Point

WilletsPoint-aerial.jpgMayor Bloomberg is casting Willets Point as woefully blighted, though the press has failed to mention that the City has neglected this section of Queens for decades. Like it or not, many businesses have invested in the "Iron Triangle" and now, as part of the Mayor's "environmental initiatives" in the 2030 plan, the city wants them to go.

The NY Sun, Mayor Takes Step To Redevelop Area Adjacent to Shea Stadium

Mr. Bloomberg said the city intends to use eminent domain to acquire property if owners refuse to sell their land, though he pledged to offer relocation assistance and education opportunities for the 250 or so businesses that employ an estimated 1,000 people.

NY Newsday, Whole new ballgame for Willets Point

Currently, though, Willets Point is a neighborhood with no sidewalks or sewers, one resident and a cluster of auto parts and repair shops and junkyards whose employees and owners are fiercely opposed to the city's plan.

"I went down there broke, with no shoes and now they want to take the shoes right off my feet," said Danny Sambucci Sr., 71, who has owned Sambucci Salvage in Willets Point for 58 years. He was among a small knot of Willets Point business owners and employees who attended Tuesday's news conference clad in T-shirts that read "It's Our Land" and the words "Eminent Domain" in a circle with a slash through it.

Later, outside a town hall-style meeting held Tuesday afternoon at the Queens Public Library in Flushing, about 200 people protested, screaming "Hell no, we won't go."

Bloomberg said the city will only use the legal power of eminent domain to seize property as a last resort.

NoLandGrab: "As a last resort," they always say that.

Also, Prof. Tom Angotti, who has been active in Brooklyn, trying to inject some sanity in the public discussion regarding Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards urban planning nightmare, has some observations about Willets Point:

Tom Angotti, a professor of urban studies and planning at Hunter College who has previously criticized the city's plans for the site, said cleaning up the soil won't solve all the pollution problems.

"There are serious questions about whether this site is appropriate for housing," Angotti said.

"It's in the direct flight path of LaGuardia and it's surrounded by highways -- there are potentially major health consequences that go along with that."

The NY Times, From Spare Parts, a Plan to Make Area in Queens a Gem

Cheeky headline, but in reality the plan is to DISPLACE the spare parts under threat of eminent domain. The tone is predictable, though; eminent domain activists do not expect much from the Times.

It's no mistake that NYC is deliberately trying to show the press and public that they might use ("as a last resort") eminent domain, but this isn't a backroom deal, like Atlantic Yards:

The developers, who will not be chosen until the city’s rezoning process is completed next year, will be responsible for paying for most of the remediation, Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff said.

Those who have been following the Atlantic Yards controversy will recognize PCCD:

But Mercedes Narciso, a senior planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn, said the proposed redevelopment “has the potential to generate growth in an equitable manner.” She said the city needed to make sure that at least half of the housing units were for people of moderate and low incomes and that the community benefited from hiring guarantees.

AP, via MetroNY, Mayor: Development plan for 60-acre site near new Mets stadium

The lone legal resident of the 60-acre site, Joseph Ardizzone, has said he does not want to move. Ardizzone did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. Bloomberg bristled when asked about Ardizzone.

"Did you ever try to think of what's going right in this city?" he said. "And of all the hundreds of thousands of people who will benefit, rather than one person? Look, unfortunately there will always be one person who objects to everything, but I don't think anybody suggests that this society should stay back in the Stone Age and never move ahead."

NoLandGrab: The Mayor's comments on Ardizzone are reminiscient of his rant against "little" property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

Suspension of FCRC Demolition: What Next for Atlantic Yards?

Meanwhile, Buildings Dept. Probes Cause of Bakery Parapet Collapse

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

No sooner had the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods announced on Friday that it was calling a public gathering to demand a temporary end to demolitions in the Atlantic Yards “footprint” when word came that the state had decided to do just that.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, CBN announced the gathering on Thursday and the suspension was announced on Friday morning — demolition work continued in the footprint of Atlantic Yards as late as 3PM that afternoon.

“That’s really great news,” said Jim Vogel, spokesman for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a coalition of civic organizations in and around Downtown Brooklyn. He added, though, that it was important to establish a conduit between Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the community where information could be communicated about construction activity.

At the present time, the only such conduit is the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office — and whenever this reporter has called that number, only an answering machine is heard.

NLG: The phone number for the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office is 866-923-5315.

Vogel, who lives near the old bakery building, said that before the collapse, he had noticed workmen on the roof without gloves, masks or protective attire, despite city rules for requiring them for asbestos abatement procedures.

“They also had removed the overhead protective shed,” said Vogel. When the parapet fell down, he added, the noise was so loud that “some people thought a bomb had gone off.”

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Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Placing Bets on a Strong Manhattan Market

The NY Times
By Alison Gregor

Forest City Ratner's ownership portion of the new NY Times headquarters appears in a Times article as an example of how speculative development in Manhattan is on the upswing.

For a developer who can gather the money to start construction, a major advantage of speculative development is an ability to charge market rates when the building is finally leased and to lease it in smaller units, which typically fetch higher prices per square foot, said MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president for commercial and residential development at the Forest City Ratner Companies, which built the Times Building.

The Times Building consists of a 700,000-square-foot speculative commercial condominium owned by Forest City stacked above a condominium owned by The New York Times Company, forming a tower of 1.54 million square feet in total. The whole building is being constructed by Forest City. The developer’s condominium, which consists of Floors 29 through 50, is 85 percent leased, Ms. Gilmartin said.

Given the robustness of the Manhattan office market, Forest City was not surprised to see the Times Building lease quickly, Ms. Gilmartin said. The market has an overall vacancy rate of 5.4 percent for prime space, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

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NoLandGrab: Unlike the two articles about Atlantic Yards published last week, this one by nature discloses the business relationship between Forest City Ratner and the NY Times.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

May 1, 2007

A clear voice on Atlantic Yards

BPCover-CNB.gifBROOKLYN PAPER TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

Crain's NY Business, LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Crain's slamming of editor Gersh Kuntzman's coverage of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn ("Neighborhood Journal," April 2) ignores one simple fact: The Brooklyn Paper tells it like it is because most other newpapers won't. Developer Forest City Ratner has consistently sidestepped rules, shut the public out of crucial meetings and leveraged its influence with politicians to ram this boondoggle down the throats of Brooklynites (and taxpayers).

CAROL WIERZBICKI

Posted by lumi at 10:53 PM

TODAY: Duffield St. Hearing

City Hall

10AM, Press Conference on the City Hall steps with Councilmembers and supporters of the Duffield Street owners.

11AM, Hearing

Come out for the hearing to help save the Duffield St. homes from seizure by eminent domain. The City is planning to condemn 227 and 233 Duffield Street to build more parking in Downtown Brooklyn, despite evidence that these historial homes were part of the Underground Railroad network and that the firm hired to evaluate these claims, AKRF, lied and withheld evidence.

AKRF is the same firm that wrote the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, which dozens of neighborhood advocacy and public-interest groups have found to be flawed and incomplete.

Today's hearing is being held by the NY City Council's Landmarks Subcomittee, chaired by Councilman Leroy Comrie, and will cover AKRF's report on the Underground Railroad findings.

More information can be found here: http://nyprotest.flactivist.org/?p=7262.

Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM

The Fort Greene/Clinton Hill rezoning, 80-foot height limits, and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the difference between NY City's and NY State's conception of contextual development:

What's wrong with this picture, from the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which shows projected views from the south side of Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues? Nothing, according to the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Atlantic Yards review.

However, a proposed city rezoning of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, adjacent to Prospect Heights and to the northeast corner of the Atlantic Yards site, proposes 80-foot height limits.

This comes in reaction to out-of-scale buildings of 11 to 13 stories that themselves represent far less dramatic change than that proposed in Atlantic Yards, with a 272-foot building (Building 15, at far left above) next to low-rise residential buildings at the northeast corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue and far taller buildings adjacent and nearby.

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NoLandGrab: You gotta love how Gehry Partners ripped off Jonathan Barkey's photos and took the credit.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites

NoEDAbuse-BigApple.jpgDUFFIELD ST., BROOKLYN

The NY Sun, Lawmakers To Consider Fate of Seven Brooklyn Houses

A bitter fight over the fate of seven Brooklyn houses is coming to City Hall today, with community activists vowing to poke holes in a city report denying the houses should be saved as historic landmarks despite claims they were used in the Underground Railroad. The houses are to be razed to make way for a parking garage.

The historic preservation battle has won support from a City Council member of Brooklyn, Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, and a Brooklyn organization, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, which is upset by development plans for the borough. The homes under threat of demolition are in Council Member David Yassky's district.

Back in July 2006, Yassky pledged to homeowner Joy Chatel, "I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and we are going to keep fighting." Today his stance appears more lukewarm:

Mr. Yassky said yesterday that the study and effort to save the homes are highlighting Brooklyn's role in the Underground Railroad and in the history of slavery, a point he said should not be forgotten.

"There are a huge number of historical resources that we still have to help people understand the history of slavery, of underground railroads," he said. "It absolutely is a top priority to preserve this history and help make it accessible."

He added, however, that it's not clear whether these particular houses were involved in the effort to free slaves.

The Gowanus Lounge, Duffield Street Underground Railroad Houses Get Hearing

GL posted the Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse video about the effort to save the Duffield St. homes from eminent domain abuse.

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS

NY Newsday, Willets Point's has last and lone defender

The Mets owner Fred Wilpon sells out his neighbors, leaving the small-business owners fighting to save their businesses out in the cold. Oh, and don't forget the reference to the eminent domain poster-child, Bruce Ratner:

The higher the concrete towers and steel framework of Citi Field rise, the lower the hopes of Ardizzone sink. But while Bruce Ratner has been successful in displacing -- or, to use the preferred term of the real estate vulture, "relocating" -- thousands of city residents to make way for the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, Ardizzone says there is no way the city, or the Mets, or any combination of the two, will evict the one and only resident of Willets Point, N.Y.

"They'll have to kill me and drag me out of here first," he said. "This is my home. This is not democracy. This is not American. Why should I have to leave the place where I've lived my whole life so some billionaires can get richer?"
...
Now, they realize their enemy is not only the city, but also the Mets.

"Since 1994, Fred Wilpon told us, 'We've co-existed with you for 40 years and we can continue to co-exist with you,' " said Richard Musick, the spokesman for the Willets Point Business Association. "But about two years ago, he stopped returning our phone calls."

Crain's NY Business, Willets Point plan to be protested

The NYC review process for Willets Point is starting, Crain's explains:

The first public hearing Tuesday on the city's plan to redevelop Willets Point in Queens is likely to become a forum for local property and business owners to protest the use of eminent domain.

The purpose of the meeting is a scoping session on the environmental impact of the Economic Development Corp.'s plan for the area, now a collection of auto body shops and metal scrap yards next door to Shea Stadium.

In the city's development process, Tuesday's double-session meeting is the first in a series of meetings that will define the parameters of the city's environmental impact statement, which is required before any development can begin. Once the parameters are set, the city will then perform the study, whose release is followed by a further comment period.

Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

DEMO GRAPHICS from Ramin Talaie

From photojournalist Ramin Talaie's photoblog:

An old gas station on the corner of Pacific and Vanderbilt was boarded up with tall blue plywood is now gone.

NoLandGrab: What a difference a week makes in Ratnerville.

More on Ramin Talaie at his web site www.ramintalaie.com.

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Atlantic Yards Environmental Lawsuit Plaintiffs

NoLandGrab, flickr

AYEnviroSuit2007.jpg

On Sunday, representatives from groups who are challenging the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement in court had a cookout in Brooklyn Bear's Garden and posed for this class photo.

Photo, Amy

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere48.gifThe Knickerblogger, Fundamentally Flawed

I attended the Unity Workshop thingy on Saturday and one graphic that really stood out was one illustrating flow of water from Vanderbilt yards to the gowanus canal- which is accomplished by gravity - that sewage water must then be pumped uphill, - back to Brooklyn Navy Yard - where it is treated.

One commentator, forgot her name, pointed out that the site was never built on because it was at the bottom of several hills - and thus a natural collector for rain water. This is already a problem without Atlantic Yards - raw sewage often goes directly into the Gowanus canal, adding 16,000 residents will exacerbate it beyond capacity.

No provision has been made for this...

NLG: To say that "no provision has been made for this" isn't exactly correct. Atlantic Yards (AY) developer Forest City Ratner announced that AY sewer overflows would be collected in catch basins to be released at a later time. Some critics find Ratner's claim that this would result in a net negative for sewage overflow to be a little fantastic.

Almost Hypergraphic, Destroying the Underground Railroad

Word is getting out about eminent domain abuse on Duffield St. and Atlantic Yards:

I don’t think any of you live in NYC, but this is what’s going on in (my) Brooklyn. It’s not cool. Also, the Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn team is going to court against the Ratner folks on Thursday, to fight Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” project. If the DDDB folks lose the Thursday trial, the push for eminient domain will be strengthened. A lot. And that is not good for anyone who owns property in this country. This is not making me sound like a good capitalist, I know. To balance out this post, let me just say, “Yay Starbucks! Hooray for Wal-Mart!”

NoLandGrab: Hey, don't worry about losing capitalist cred — real capitalists argue that Bruce Ratner should acquire property on the free market like the rest of us. In fact, Ratner's MetroTech project would make a good case study of how public-private partnerships are terrible at timing the market and frequently result in additional corporate welfare when the public has to bail out a faltering project. The "success" of MetroTech is highly questionable, given that the City of New York is the biggest tenant.

The Knickerblogger, What's a Few Historic Buildings When You Consider How Much Brooklyn Can Use More Parking Lots?
Like Almost Hypergraphic, Knickerblogger notes the relationship between Duffield St. and the Atlantic Yards footprint:

If this continues, Brooklyn will look more like a more crowded version of the blandest, poorly designed suburb. Building parking lots, ignoring infrastructure, increasing auto traffic, tearing down historic buildings, wasteful, flamboyant architecture....are Bloomberg and Ratner trying to relive their youth of the 1960s, when super blocks, auto-based infrastructure and wiping out the past were considered progressive?

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Yassky to Spitzer: Stopsky Yards Work

After yesterday's "oops" at Ward Bakery, Brooklyn Paper reports that Brooklyn Heights' City Councilman (and the next Mayor?) David Yassky is asking Governor Spitzer to stop Bruce Ratner's preliminary demolition work for Atlantic Yards before someone loses an eye errr sumthin'.

NY Immersion, Day Eight, Published in Wallpaper

A review of Frank Gehry's IAC building contains this reference to the celebrity architect's most ambitious project to date:

Time will tell how successful Frank Gehry will be with that other New York project, the Atlantic Yards debacle in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

DEMO GRAPHICS from Brownstoner
After Rollercoaster Week, Damage Is Done at AY

Friday, in response to the accident, Forest City agreed to the ESDC's call to suspend demolition pending further investigation. In the end, though, there was no turning back the clock for l'il ole 191 Flatbush Avenue, which will now get to really blight the corner of Flatbush and Pacific for a while.

link

NoLandGrab: On Friday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reported that demolition on these buildings continued for several hours after the demolition suspension was announced.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

Nets Return for Games 3 and 4 Against Raptors

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

In case you didn't get the press release:

Carter-BDE.jpg

“The Playoffs are a special time and from the first round on we want to reenergize our great fan base,” said Nets CEO Brett Yormark.
...
For those who can’t wait for the Nets to get to Brooklyn in 2009, a limited supply of great seats are still available for Games 3 and 4, both starting at 7:30 p.m.

The Playoff experience will tipoff when the Nets host a Fanfest on the plaza outside of the box office before each game. Giant banners will align the main entrances of the arena.

Once inside, the Nets will continue to provide their fans with a nationally acclaimed in-game entertainment experience including the Nets Dancers, the NETSational Seniors, the Nets Kids, the Nets DrumLine, Team Hype, and other special on-court features, such as enhanced lighting, flame projectors, an upgraded pyro experience and a new dramatic player introduction music video. Also, the Nets will provide all fans with cheerstix for each game.

Fans can purchase Playoff tickets via several options: www.njnets.com; 1-800-4NBATIX; Ticketmaster outlets; or at the Continental Airlines Arena box office. Prices for first-round tickets remain the same as for the regular season.

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NoLandGrab: No, we don't really think that the Eagle's sports section has gone over to the dark side by printing the gospel according to Bruce, why do you ask?

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

Forest City Announces Grand Opening of The Promenade Bolingbrook Town Center

Press release, via BusinessWire

Not content to call it an outdoor mall, or the more au courrant "open-air lifestlye center," Forest City Enterprises is opening an "open-air town center" in Chicagoland!

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced the grand opening of The Promenade Bolingbrook, a 736,000-square-foot open-air town center in suburban Chicago.

The Promenade Bolingbrook will serve as a main street-style town center for Bolingbrook residents and is expected to attract visitors from across the Chicagoland region. The $135 million center is anchored by Macy’s and Bass Pro Shops. The retail center will also include numerous specialty retailers and restaurants, including Aéropostale, Barnes & Noble, Champs Sports, Coldwater Creek, Forever 21, Gymboree, Hollister Co., New York & Company, Victoria’s Secret, Johnny Rockets, Salad Creations and Ted’s Montana Grill.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “The Promenade Bolingbrook is a pedestrian-friendly new downtown for the residents of Bolingbrook. We are very pleased to have moved this important project, in our Chicago core market, through our pipeline and to a very successful opening. The development of open-air regional lifestyle centers and town centers is a primary focus of our commercial business.”

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NoLandGrab: If it sounds like a mall and shops like a mall, how come it isn't an outdoor mall?

Answer: Open-air lifestyle centers are "pedestrian friendly?"

While the mother company is busy trying to mimic the retail experience of urban neighborhood commercial districts, Bruce Ratner is offering to pay big bucks for a good euphemism for "superblock."

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM