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June 30, 2007

Odds And Ends


The Daily Politics

A coalition of city residents who oppose the use of eminent domain in development (ie: Atlantic Yards, Columbis University expansion etc.) braved the heat yesterday to demonstrate on the City Hall steps and mark the second anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London decision, but were largely overlooked in the post-blackout pandemonium. (Photo credit: Jonathan Barkey).

NoLandGrab: That's ABUSE not USE of eminent domain, but who's counting. And there ain't no blackout like a media blackout.

Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

WBAI Radio on 421-A


State Senator Liz Kreuger talks about the 421-A bill and its problems, including the Atlantic Yards exception. It comes about 15 minutes into the 6:00 news right after they have Michael Ratner talking about the new Gitmo decision. Which some might find ironical.


Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

AY: Government Backed Financing & the Cost to the Taxpayer

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Since government has been unwilling to tally the full cost to the taxpayers of the Atlantic Yards project, and with the latest 421-a Ratner Clause added, we've updated our ongoing tally and best estimate.

Click here to download the pdf: Atlantic Yards: Government Backed Financing and the Cost to the Taxpayer (as of June 30, 2007).

The known government backed financing and public cost for the taxpayer that we've calculated is $2.119 billion. The unknown public cost and government backed financing could amount to more than that.

Remember, the project, according to Forest City Ratner, costs $4 billion.


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

GL Analysis: Fun with the 421-a Developer Tax Break

421a%2Bbrooklyn.jpg Gowanus Lounge

Not all the changes made in Albany by the special interests and others that attacked the 421-a developer tax break legislation are bad ones. We have always believed that the huge tax abatements that developers receive are a holdover from a 1970s/80s mentality of desperation that fail to reflect in any way, shape or form the reality of New York City--and, especially, Brooklyn, in the 2000s. The tax break both provides an unnecessary giveaway of taxpayer money to developers and affluent buyers, it can serve as a taxpayer-financed tool to promote displacement. Residents in some neighborhoods are, in effect, contributing their taxes to the buildings that will force them out and the affluent buyers who won't have to pay property taxes for years to come.

One way to turn some of these lemons into lemonade, however, is to extend the exclusion zones that require developers to produce affordable housing in return for getting the tax breaks as widely as possible. For the Bloomberg Administration to object to the expansion of the exclusion zones pushes the limits of credulity. There are things in the bill to object to (keep reading), but the bigger exclusion zones are to be applauded. If you're not going to kill the developer welfare turkey known as 421-a, affordable housing should be a minimum requirement in every building anywhere in the city that gets one of these generous tax breaks. Failing that, the exclusion zones should be as big as possible. If anything, the bill in Albany still doesn't go far enough in adding gentrifying neighborhoods to the exclusion list. If the Bloomberg Administration succeeds in killing the added exclusion zones, it will be just as scandalous as the special tax breaks that Atlantic Yards supporters got written into the law.


Posted by amy at 11:37 AM

Bloomy slams “Ratner carve-out”

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner “doesn’t need” the massive public subsidy handed to him by the state Assembly last week, Mayor Bloomberg said on Friday — and called for Gov. Spitzer to block the legislation.

In slamming the Assembly handout — which the mayor estimated would cost taxpayers $300 million, not the $175 million originally estimated by government watchdogs — Bloomberg has joined the chorus of advocates, legislators and Atlantic Yards opponents condemning the amendment that would give special treatment to the mega-developer.

“[The bill is] going to hurt the very people that everybody talks about helping and gives some tax breaks to a developer that doesn’t need them and which we didn’t have to do,” Bloomberg said on his weekly WABC radio show on Friday morning.
Bloomberg has been an outspoken supporter of the $4-billion residential, arena, office and retail complex. His criticism of the subsidy handout is the first time he has publicly opposed a proposed tax break for the powerful developer, a former city bureaucrat and a college buddy of former Gov. George Pataki.


More coverage from Atlantic Yards Report: Bloomberg calls for 421-a veto, says Ratner "doesn't need" tax break

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

358 Grove, Bushwick gentrification battles, and the 421-a map


Atlantic Yards Report

If you want an example of a development that probably pushed Assemblyman Vito Lopez to add all of Bushwick to the "exclusion zone" where affordable housing would be required in exchange for the 421-a tax break, look no farther than 358 Grove, a much-hyped 14-story condo tower. The building also serves as the jumping off point for a Village Voice investigation this week into landlords unscrupulously pushing gentrification in Bushwick.

In promoting 358 Grove, the developer generally plays down its location. The image at right, for example, comes from the Halstead web listing, which states "358 Grove is located in one of Brooklyn's fastest growing neighborhoods; just one block from the L train and 15 minutes into Union Square Station."
The Prospect Heights/Crown Heights area, as Brooklyn College sociologist Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida pointed out, is ripe for displacement. Maybe that's why Lopez's bill, however flawed, extended the 421-a exclusion zone to Crown Heights. His argument was the public should not, as with 358 Grove, subsidize luxury development without getting something in return.

The new 421-a map certainly does not, as the Observer suggests, represent the best balance to nudge the housing market along. Then again, the City Council reform, with a more modest "exclusion zone," isn't necessarily the solution.


Posted by amy at 11:21 AM

June 29, 2007

Former Congressman Calls For Resignation of Brooklyn Democratic Party Leader

"The unholy alliance of money and political power can no longer be supported."

VetoVitoDemo.jpgBrooklyn, NY – Former Congressman Major R. Owens today called for New York State Assemblymember Vito Lopez to resign as Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Committee, Brooklyn's Democratic Party organization, or resign from the Assembly – where Lopez has seniority and a significant chairmanship.

Owens, in conjunction with his, son, Chris Owens, President of New Brooklyn Leadership, issued a statement, entitled "Veto Vito," attacking recent actions by Lopez regarding state housing legislation and a judicial campaign in Brooklyn. The younger Owens joined with approximately 30 people in a demonstration outside of the Kings County Democratic Party's annual dinner on Thursday, June 28 to call attention to Assemblymember Lopez's actions and their implications.

In addition to demanding Lopez' resignation, the Owens statement specifically calls upon Governor Spitzer to veto the housing legislation, for Civil Court Judge Shawndya Simpson to voluntarily terminate her candidacy for the Surrogate Court position, and for legislation that bars public elected officials from holding significant party positions.

Last week, Lopez, who chairs the State Assembly's Housing Committee, orchestrated last-minute passage of a modified version of an affordable housing bill that included a windfall provision for developer Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Lopez is also suddenly supporting a candidate for Surrogate Court judge who has little experience on the bench and has little support from local leaders, but has a large campaign warchest. Judge Simpson is now challenging Judge Diana Johnson, who has eight times as much experience as Simpson – but less money -- for the Surrogate Court seat left vacant by the resignation of the ethically-challenged Frank Seddio earlier this year.

Judge Johnson, who narrowly lost a Surrogate Court primary election in 2005, has the support of Major Owens, Chris Owens, approximately 90 percent of Brooklyn's Black elected officials, and the "reform" Democratic organizations -- Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID), amongst others. In addition, endorsements of Johnson have been received from many other Brooklyn political organizations.

The Owens statement links Lopez's actions as "cynical," "oppressive" and examples of the "unholy alliance of money and political power" that can no longer be supported. "If we change the institutional dynamics, we can change the politics of our county and City – and it needs to happen."

The full Owens statement is available at http://campaignwindow.com/stopvitohttp://campaignwindow.com/stopvito.

Posted by lumi at 2:17 PM

"Blonde" Jovi speaks

In Brooklyn!!, Borough President Mary Markowitz's newspaper about himself mostly, former has-been-'80s-rocker-turned-actor-turned-comeback artist Jon Bon Jovi looks forward to the arena getting built.


NoLandGrab: Shucks, now we gotta get rid of our "Slippery When Wet" cassette tapes?

Posted by lumi at 1:26 PM

Yassky and James protest "egregious" Atlantic Yards carve-out

From City Councilman David Yassky latest e-newsletter:

Last December I was delighted when the City Council passed a version of my bill to limit unjustified subsidies for developers (the 421a program). This week, unfortunately, Albany passed their own version of this legislation which included an earmark provision with special tax breaks for the Atlantic Yards project. This is estimated to cost taxpayers $100-$170 million. In response to this egregious exception, Council Member James and I sent a letter to the Mayor and Governor asking them to withhold $200 million in land-acquisition aid that was promised by the City and State. Click here to view that letter.

Posted by lumi at 1:11 PM

Who dunnit?

chalkoutline.gifThere are three theories about who is responsible for the Ratner clause, which created a special loophole for the sole benefit of Forest City and its Atlantic Yards development plan in the State's 421-a reform bill.

The prevailing wisdom during the past week was that it was State Assemblyman Vito Lopez's fault. Lopez is the Chairman of the Assembly's Housing Committee, which drafted the bill, is a project supporter, and has received campaign contributions from Bruce Ratner's brother and sister-in-law.

The NY Observer reports:

What the apparent contradictions in the bill represent are a series of horse trades that Mr. Lopez, a loping giant of a man who carries power like a running back headed to the end zone, brokered with fellow legislators.

Todays' NY Times advances a separate theory, which fingers the State Senate and the head of the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY):

But many advocates, city officials and even some Senate Republicans are saying that Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, betrayed the city’s effort. By all accounts, Mr. Spinola, the leading industry lobbyist, played a major role in negotiating the compromises and the tax deals for Atlantic Yards and other developments that led to Senate approval.

There's a third theory that starts with Lopez and leads to Sheldon Silver's office. This week's Brooklyn Paper explains:

Lopez’s motivations for slipping in the Ratner-favoring clause are unclear. One source said that the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss might have done it as a favor to Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. “Silver and [Forest City Ratner lobbyist] Bruce Bender are old friends,” said the source.

The exception is so outrageous that no one seems to have the guts to stand up and take credit.

Taxpayers are sadly used to Albany backroom dealing, only the difference here is that no one seems to know in which backroom the deal was struck.

Posted by lumi at 12:43 PM

Bruce boost: Assemblyman gives Ratner a clause for celebration

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner’s sweetheart deal got a cherry on top last week after a state lawmaker slipped in a last-minute amendment to a housing reform bill that will shave $175 million off the developer’s costs.

The so-called “Ratner carve-out” was slipped into a tax-break bill passed by the Assembly last Friday, in the rush to close the legislative session. The amendment didn’t mention Ratner’s development by name, but referred to it as a “multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and is being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan” — a description that fits only one development in the state: Atlantic Yards.

The full article has quotes from politicians who are stunned, and affordable housing advocates who are speaking out. As for Marty, Vito, and Bruce, they had no comment.

City Councilman David Yassky wants NY City to rescind its direct cash contribution. State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is asking the Governor to veto the bill.

You can guess what Ratner thinks about the bill:

Ratner has been lobbying the legislature for several years, state records show, and has, in fact, been banking on the exemption.

A consultant report commissioned by the developer last year showed that Ratner’s cash flow projections assumed the state would grant him the 25-year tax break on all 16 Yards towers.

The “carve out” will also allow Ratner’s project to charge more for his “affordable” units than other developers who receive the tax credit.

Posted by lumi at 12:24 PM

The Ratner Clause

The Brooklyn Paper, publishes the first editorial that dares to mention the Atlantic Yards exception to the 421-a reform bill:

So how bad is the latest handout to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner?

The punch line to this joke is as long as your arm:

It is a handout to only one developer.

It allows Ratner to charge more for units that he designates as affordable.... So now Ratner is not only picking taxpayers’ pockets, he’s making the lower middle class pay more — while the most needy are locked out altogether.

It reveals the worst excesses of our insider-run, morally corrupt legislature in Albany.

It comes on the heels of hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts that line Ratner’s pocket.

Brooklyn Papers asks:

Will the government’s bailout of Ratner ever end?

That might be a joke too, only it's not funny.


Posted by lumi at 12:18 PM

Grinding Sausage Late at Night: Albany Reforms 421a Program

The NY Observer

Real estate reporter Matthew Schuerman tries to sort through the mess that resulted in a 421-a reform bill that managed to piss off nearly everyone, except Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner:

Finally, four days before the Assembly adjourned on June 22, [Vito Lopez, the head of the State Assembly’s Housing Committee] submitted a compromise bill. It had grown from two pages to 19, and outlined a dizzying array of mind-twisters.

Real-estate developers of the future will find it cheaper to build market-rate housing in Riverdale, for example, than in East New York. A middle-class village that the Mayor envisioned for Queens West will get no help from the taxman, while full-amenity condominiums in Tribeca will, as long as they get into the ground in the next 12 months.


One provision permits Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre development in central Brooklyn, to receive tax abatements on all of its residential buildings so long as the overall percentage of low-income apartments in the proposed 6,400-unit complex reaches 20 percent. Steve Spinola, the president of REBNY, said that he advocated in favor of the clause because it was similar to a recent rezoning in Greenpoint-Williamsburg which allowed developers to put the low-income units in a separate but adjacent building and still receive the tax break.

Vito Lopez, who has been ducking the press for days, finally speaks:

Mr. Lopez defended the carve-out because the Atlantic Yards complex devotes an unusually large proportion of its units—about 35 percent—to low- and middle-income apartments. But the City Council legislation would have forced the developer, Forest City Ratner, to pay full taxes on the condominium buildings that were entirely market-rate.

Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, calculates, based on conservative estimates, that Forest City will save more than $100 million as a result of the State Legislature’s actions.


Posted by lumi at 11:34 AM

City’s Plans for Housing Flop in Albany

The NY Times
By Charles Bagli

The real estate reporter for The Times explains how the Ratner clause contributed to sidetracking a carefully negotiated reform bill:

The bill looked like a shoo-in to pass.

After nearly a year of painstaking analysis and tough negotiations, the Bloomberg administration, the City Council, housing advocates, lenders and real estate developers had hashed out a measure intended to revamp a popular tax-break program so it would generate more relatively affordable housing while restricting subsidies to luxury high-rises like Trump World Tower. It was all done with a minimum of grousing.

Then the bill governing what is known as the 421-a program went to Albany. And suddenly, on the Legislature’s last day in session last week, an amended version passed both houses, extending special tax breaks to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and scuttling the city’s efforts to build middle-class housing at Queens West on the East River and other areas. Critics say it could also undermine efforts to build apartments for residents of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Most are blaming things on State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, but now some fingers are pointing at the Senate version:

But many advocates, city officials and even some Senate Republicans are saying that Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, betrayed the city’s effort. By all accounts, Mr. Spinola, the leading industry lobbyist, played a major role in negotiating the compromises and the tax deals for Atlantic Yards and other developments that led to Senate approval.


But the bill would also provide what the city estimates are an additional $300 million in tax breaks for the vast Atlantic Yards complex being developed by Forest City Ratner Companies, the development partner with The New York Times Company in the Times’ new Midtown headquarters, without getting any additional affordable units in return. Mr. Lopez said it was a concession sought during negotiations with Mr. Spinola and the Senate over his bill.


Atlantic Yards Report, City says "Atlantic Yards carve-out" worth $300 million; will Spitzer veto?
Norman Oder highlights Bagli's reporting that the city claims that the special Atlantic Yards exception will cost the city around $300 million, a figure that's higher than the estimated $100-to-$170 million-dollar figure provided by Brad Lander of the Pratt Center and quoted in last week's Daily News column by Juan Gonzalez.

Posted by lumi at 11:19 AM

Photos from Anti-Eminent Domain Rally

Brit in Brooklyn

Covered the event and posted these photos on his blog...



...and other photos here.

Posted by lumi at 11:01 AM


City Limits breaks down the 421-a reform legislation just passed by the State Assembly, and offers this brief explanation of the Ratner clause:

One attention-getting feature of the legislation gives the already controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn additional tax breaks. It also allows potential tenants who earn up to 70 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) of $70,900 to apply for "affordable" units there (up from a proposed 60 percent); setting that rate also raises the rent amount that qualifies as “affordable." But Lopez said Monday that the Senate has yet to vote on this aspect.


Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM

Anti-Ratner Forces Join With Queens, Harlem Groups

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

What brought the various groups together was opposition to what they term abuse of eminent domain, or the seizure of private land for the benefit of private developers rather than strictly public projects. In the case of Forest City Ratner’s planned Atlantic Yards arena-office-housing project in Downtown Brooklyn, the possible use of eminent domain against the relatively small number of “holdouts” on the site has been justified on the grounds that Atlantic Yards will serve the greater good of economic development.

Readers are undoubtedly familiar with Atlantic Yards, but not necessarily with the other cases. However, there are similarities. In Willets Point, Queens, near Flushing, developers are coveting a somewhat rundown area of small businesses, garages and private homes to build a mall and hotel. In West Harlem, Columbia University seeks to obtain 17 acres in the 120s and 130s west of Broadway, an area characterized by warehouses, garages and some residential buildings, to build a biotech lab complex that would be augmented with shopping and restaurants.


NoLandGrab: What Geberer fails to understand is that every eminent domain-abuse fight has only a handful of "holdouts" — that is, property owners who have the guts to tough it out for a long fight with local or state government.

Anyway, since when did the US Constitution only go into effect when more than a "relatively small number" of people are affected?

Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

New Yorkers Unite Against NY's Eminent Domain Abuse


On Wednesday this week a new coalition of neighborhood groups gathered on city hall steps to highlight the abuse of eminent domain in property development plans throughout NYC. Unfortunately this event, which was pretty remarkable as it pulled groups from across the city, was mostly overshadowed by a minor power outage. The report below was circulated by DDDB who was one of the organizers of the event. Some emphasis has been added in places and some minor text changes were made for clarity.

Bringing folks together from around the city on one issue is a rare event in the city (overshadowed perhaps by the heat meltdown), and the mainstream media missed it. In the context of the development wars, the national backlash against the Supreme Court's Kelo decision of 2 years ago and the Mayor's footsie with the Presidential race, it's an important story.

Read on for quotes from politicians, to find out more about Mayor Bloomberg's official policy (yes, he has one), who's next to be abused.

Posted by lumi at 10:38 AM

Willets Pt & Atlantic Yds team up for rally

NYAEDA-JB01.jpgQueens Crap ran the press release from New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse alongside some of Jonathan Barkey's photos.

Here're some excerpts from the comments:

"BLIGHTED" is a long used term.....even before eminent domain abuse became the major issue that it is today !

Now this is the stuff!! Why can't the community preservation movement start in this direction?

NoLandGrab: Several participating organizations were from the preservation movement.

I can't believe that in this day and age, in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, government can come in and take a person's land.


Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

Well Over a Hundred on City Hall Steps (protest Eminent Domain Abuse)

Bankhoff-JB.jpgHistoric Districts Council Newsstand

A broad-based coalition of property owners, tenants, advocates, elected officials and citizens gathered yesterday on the oven-like steps of New York's City Hall to voice opposition to epidemic abuse of eminent domain in New York City and New York State.


NoLandGrab: What HDC's account fails to report is that their own Simeon Bankoff (picture right) scored the best soundbite of the day, explaining that "eminent domain is the thermo-nuclear warhead of city planning."

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Supreme Court Rules on Eminent Domain

WNYC News Radio
By Elaine Rivera

It's been 2 years since the Supreme Court made it easier for governments to take private property, using what's called eminent domain. Yesterday, on the anniversary of the ruling, a broad coalition of opponents said the law is being abused. WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports.

REPORTER: The protestors came from communities across the city that are facing massive development projects from large retail centers to new stadiums. They say the state and city are unfairly giving the green light to seize property for private developments. Queens Councilman Tony Avella, whose district includes Willets Point, says so-called eminent domain is being used for profit, not for the public good.

AVELLA: Now we're taking people's private properties, their homes and turning it over to rich developers so they can make hundreds of millions of dollars - that is so un-American


Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

To get Coney job done, Sitt looks to Ratner’s playbook

The Brooklyn Paper

More pages from the "Ratner Playbook:"

Coney Island developer Joe Sitt is now hawking a “binding agreement” with local leaders to make his $1.5-billion amusement and hotel fantasyland become reality — hinting this week at an Atlantic-Yards-style solution to his ongoing problem of gaining support for the glitzy proposal.


NoLandGrab: First developer Sitt tried the deceptive-brochure page from the playbook. When that didn't work, he geared up to try the CBA strategy.

What developers like Sitt fail to realize is that Bruce Ratner's playbook is a CONCERTED strategy that works as a SCREEN for the support he had already lined up.

In reality, participants in negotiations for a Coney Island CBA may have the opportunity to follow the example of the Staples Center CBA in LA, which was the template for such community negotiated agreements before Ratner co-opted the strategy. In the Staples agreement, the pact was negotiated as a whole by community groups who agreed to stand together to represent the interests of individual groups.

Another agreement that may interest community leaders in Coney Island is the Milwaukee agreement, which used the Staples-agreement coalition as a working model and became truly legally enforceable when the City included many of the agreed-upon items in their rezoning of the project area. By not implementing the Ratner affordable-housing agreement in a rezoning of the Atlantic Yards project footprint (the zoning is being superceded by a State takeover), local and state governments have ensured that the only way to enforce the Ratner agreement is for the signatory, ACORN, to sue.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Two Trees tries tower — again — on Water St.

The Brooklyn Paper
By Harry Cheadle

WaterSt-BP.jpgDave Walentas is learning from Bruce.

For his second at-bat on Water St., he's added affordable housing, room for a school and a four-color glossy brochure with a pre-paid postcard for supporters!

Anticipating controversy, Two Trees has already begun a mass-mailing campaign in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, sending out a glossy, full-color pamphlet asking for support — much in the style of developer Bruce Ratner, who courted support for Atlantic Yards by sending out hundreds of thousands of such pamphlets.

The Two Trees mailer includes a pre-paid postcard petition in support of the project.

The petition is addressed to Councilman David Yassky. The Brooklyn Heights Democrat, who was criticized by some groups for not opposing the 2004 project fast enough, said this week that DUMBO does need a middle school, but not another gigantic development.

He called the mailings “a page from the Forest City Ratner playbook.”


NoLandGrab: It's amazing how developers think they are using the "Ratner playbook," when they are in fact only cribbing from a couple of pages. Unlike Walentas, Bruce Ratner would never overtly target a politician in a four-color brochure. Thor Equities chief Joseph Sitt similarly went after the NYC Planning Commish in the press, only to have to come up with another plan.

WWBD? Bruce would gets his political ducks in a row FIRST, send out brochures showing he has support (never "asking for support"), create a few astroturf groups to support the plan, sign up a powerful housing group, lop off one floor and "say he's been merciful."

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

The Kitchen Sink

The Brooklyn Paper
By Nica Lalli

There are two short "Atlantic Yardsiana" items in Lalli's local column this week:

The memorial fund created in the name of Evelyn Ortner, an early leader in the Brownstone Brooklyn preservation effort who died last year, will benefit Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The fund has already had many big-name donors helping out, including novelists Jhumpa Lahiri (“The Namesake”) and Jennifer Egan (“The Keep”). It’s raised $22,000 already. …

Kudos to Norman Oder, who just won a community service award from the Park Slope Civic Council. Oder’s Web site, the Atlantic Yards Report, has scooped us a few times and we’re big enough to offer the guy best wishes. He’s also a great tour guide, by the way. Kim Maier of the Old Stone House got the other award.


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

June 28, 2007

A rally against eminent domain abuse, four City Council members and the "Willets Point effect"

Atlantic Yards Report


As the fight against eminent domain abuse heats up, maybe it's time to start talking about "the Willets Point effect." The coalition fighting the Atlantic Yards project has gathered savvy from a high-profile battle lasting more than three years. Those challenging Columbia University's West Harlem expansion have a clear David vs. Goliath fight. And the two homeowners on Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn have strong suggestions of a link to the Underground Railroad in the face of denial by the city agency that wants their land.

But the 225 businesses operating in the “Iron Triangle” of Willets Point, Queens, employing some 1800 workers, have the manpower and muscle to mount a very public fight against the city’s plans for an upscale development that would include some 5500 housing units, a hotel and convention center, a million square feet of retail and 500,000 square feet of office space.

So, as the four disparate groups gathered yesterday on the steps of City Hall to join in a rally as New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse, the Willets Point contingent was the largest and the loudest, wearing hats and t-shirts indicating their protest, arriving by bus with signs in tow.

And given that a good number were white guys who do physical labor, the group in some ways echoed the contingent of construction workers who flooded Atlantic Yards public hearings last summer to argue for, rather than against, condemnation.


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Bloomberg on subways ("not that crowded"), Doctoroff, and 421-a

Atlantic Yards Report

The Mayor casts aside criticism about crowded subways and congestion pricing during an interview at a breakfast presented by Crain's New York Business. According to Mayor Bloomberg, the subways are crowded if you mind standing or are too lazy to get up earlier.

Norman Oder asked the Mayor what he thought about the 421-a reform bill passed last week by the State Assembly:

After his speech and the public interview conducted by David and Lehrer, Bloomberg took some questions from the press. I asked his views on the reform of the 421-a tax break passed by the State Legislature, specifically the expansion of the "exclusion zone" and the special break for the Atlantic Yards project.

In his answer, he ignored the Atlantic Yards question but simply said that the reform passed last December by the City Council struck the right balance.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

Historically Speaking: June 28, Marty, Ambassador extraordinaire

Brooklyn Eagle
By John Manbeck

Marty, our fearless borough president, took a risk but one that I think he should have taken long ago.

'Nuff said — in a glowing article about Marty's adventure on the high seas as a celebrity guest lecturer, our peerless borough president declares that Brooklyn's extraordinary diversity will be surpassed by Atlantic Yards (really).

I asked what he told his audience was Brooklyn’s glory. He said, “its diversity.”

And what will it be when you leave office? “Atlantic Yards."


NoLandGrab: As long as we're "historically speaking," Atlantic Yards won't be ready in 2009 when Marty leaves office.

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

New York City Noise Regulations Going Into Effect

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran the AP story we originally posted via amNewYork.

What's so special about this article? It promotes Atlantic Yards as the poster project for a quieter New York (really).

Loren Riegelhaupt, spokesman for Forest City Ratner Companies, the company behind the massive Atlantic Yards project that includes a new Brooklyn arena for the NBA’s Nets, said keeping the sound down is good business.

“As part of construction you have to mitigate noise measures, and we’ll do everything we’re asked to do,” he said. As part of the plan to stifle construction noise around the Atlantic Yards project, the company is buying double-paned windows and quiet air conditioners for about 700 nearby neighbors to help offset sound.


NoLandGrab: As was mentioned before, Forest City is giving themselves credit for a mitigation that was recommended by the state, akin to those who dispose of their garbage properly, giving themselves a pat on the back.

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

June 27, 2007

New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse

Property Owners, Tenants, Advocates, Elected Officials Unite To Oppose Eminent Domain Abuse In New York

NYAEDAlogo.gifNew York, NY — A broad-based coalition of property owners, tenants, advocates, elected officials and citizens gathered today on the steps of New York’s City Hall to voice opposition to epidemic abuse of eminent domain in New York City and New York State.

The group, united under the banner New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse, gathered to mark the two-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s much reviled decision, Kelo v. City of New London. Since that decision was rendered, 38 states have enacted eminent domain reform legislation, but New York, widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading abusers of eminent domain, has yet to lift a finger to defend the rights of homeowners, business owners, and tenants.

“We haven’t seen this level of eminent domain abuse in New York City since the days of Robert Moses,” explained Lumi Michelle Rolley, contributor to NoLandGrab.org. “Mayor Bloomberg’s policy has been to threaten the use of eminent domain to force property owners to sell and to thwart every effort towards legislative reform both in Washington and Albany.”

“The abuse of eminent domain is an abuse of our fundamental constitutional rights and must be opposed like all other attempts to violate constitutional rights. Our government has no business forcing us to sell our properties to benefit their developer friends,” said Daniel Goldstein, a Brooklyn homeowner fighting to protect his home from abusive government seizure. “Everywhere developers want to build, government officials are paving the way with phony blight studies to accommodate them. We are sick and tired of the Bloomberg Administration’s policy of eminent domain abuse, and it has got to stop.

Many of the participating groups intend to coalesce formally to raise awareness of New York’s politicians’ addiction to eminent domain abuse. Participating groups cite these ten reasons the current situation must be reformed:

Participating organizations include:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn leads a broad-based community coalition advocating for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB opposes Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards' abuse of eminent domain. DDDB has organized owner and tenant plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit charging that eminent domain for Atlantic Yards violates the US. Constitution. Like the other neighborhoods, phony "blight" findings were used to justify the eminent domain abuse.

Joy Chatel and Lew Greenstein are fighting to save their historic homes on Duffield St. in Brooklyn. Their homes were part of the Underground Railroad network and are under threat of demolition to make way for a hotel parking garage. A lawsuit has been filed contesting the accuracy of the City's study, which determined that the historical significance of the homes could not be proven.

Property owners and tenants in West Harlem are battling to keep their homes and businesses from Columbia University's expansion of its uptown campus. Since the project was unveiled the university has refused to take eminent domain off the table. The application for review under the city's land-use procedure was just approved by the City Planning Commission.

Once again, Willets Point Queens businesses and a longtime resident are under threat of eminent domain. For decades the City has failed to provide basic services to this neighborhood. Despite the municipal neglect, the area is the location of hundreds of successful businesses that the City is seeking to displace.

NoLandGrab is an information portal run by several private citizens to increase awareness of the Atlantic Yards fight and eminent domain battles citywide.

Posted by lumi at 12:17 PM

TODAY: New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse to Assemble at City Hall


Home and business owners, and tenants from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Duffield St., Brooklyn; West Harlem, Manhattan; Willets Point, Queens;
Councilmembers Tony Avella and Letitia James;
and activists from:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn • NoLandGrab.org • Historic Districts Council • Fifth Avenue Committee • New York Community Council • Society for the Architecture of the City • NY Solidarity Coalition with Katrina and Rita Survivors • Willets Point Business Association • Harlem Tenants Council • Coalition to Preserve Community • West Harlem Coalition • 550 Riverside, 55/69 Tiemann Pl. Tenants Alliance • Coalition To Save The East Village • Coalition for a Livable West Side • Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development • Duffield Street Block Association • Green Party of Brooklyn • Park Slope Greens • United Neighbors for Brooklyn • Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association • Brownstone Revival Coalition • Fans for Fair Play and more...

Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

421-a reform map

421aPRATT.jpgThough we generally focus on Atlantic Yards-related stuff, readers who have been closely following the 421-a reform bill, which contains the "Atlantic Yards exception" (aka Ratner clause), may want to follow up on today's news of Pratt Center's map, which illustrates the areas affected by the legislation passed by the State Assembly.

The Real Estate Observer, Introducing the Full-Color, Five-Borough Tax Break

The areas in maroon, rust and mustard (what a palette, lads!) will force residential developers to incorporate low-income housing into new buildings if they want to qualify for the popular tax-abatement program. (It can cut up to $200,000 off your tax bill.) The gray areas are places where developers can get 15 years or more of property-tax discounts even if they put up market-rate condos.

Atlantic Yards Report, The 421-a map emerges--shocker?

Several members of City Council wanted the so-called "exclusion zone" expanded citywide, and Assembly Housing Chairman Vito Lopez, who also chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party, also wanted the zone expanded.

It's notable that Lopez did not expand the zone to middle-class neighborhoods in central Queens, southern Brooklyn, and Riverdale, where 421-a probably distorts the market. Clearly he was particularly concerned about the areas around his Bushwick/Williamsburg base.

As I wrote, I think it's a victory to have continued to expand the zone. Still, critics who point to the absence of transparency--on both the boundaries and the "Atlantic Yards carve-out"--deserve attention from Gov. Eliot Spitzer before he signs the bill. It's not too late to order a revamp.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

The Atlantic Yards Fight—A Party Or a Wake With Pound Cake?

NY Observer
By Mark Wellborn

A dispatch from the front parlor of this weekend's house party fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Approximately 80 people, largely aging baby boomers decked out in khakis and short-sleeved polo shirts, had paid $60 each to enter Mr. Labine’s house to raise money for the lawsuits that activist group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has filed against developer Forest City Ratner and others.

As the gin flowed and attendees admired Mr. Labine’s many works of art, a growing feeling of fear was beginning to replace the years of hope.


Halfway through the party, Mr. Labine and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein stood on a few living-room chairs and did their best to pump up the somber mood.

“Atlantic Yards is not a done deal!” Mr. Labine said to rousing applause. “What is unfortunate is that not enough people are aware of the problems that will come with this project.”

Mr. Labine’s statement resonated a few minutes later when Matthew Brinckerhoff, the group’s attorney in its environmental lawsuit, began to field questions.

“Do we have any allies left in elected officials?” a member of the audience inquired.

“We have a few,” Mr. Brinckerhoff responded. “[City Councilman] David Yassky, depending on what day you talk to him.”


NoLandGrab: Brinckerhoff is Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's lead attorney for the EMINENT DOMAIN lawsuit, not ENVIRONMENTAL suit.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

They’re the brightest brains in the business - Region 8 holds 2007 Math Festival

Courier-Life Publications

MathChamps-CLP.jpgMore Forest City Ratner local PR:

The “battle of the Brooklyn brains” – held on June 11 – put fourth- and fifth-graders from 40 schools in Park Slope, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Greenpoint and other neighborhoods in a competition involving a series of math games under the supervision of teachers.
“We know that kids get excited about a lot different things — specifically math. We want to help promote their enthusiasm when it comes to mathematics and other academic subjects,” said Thomas Tuffery, a representative for Forest City Ratner Companies, which sponsored the event.


NoLandGrab: Puffery + Tom Tuffey = Tom "Tuffery"?

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

BrooklynSkyline-VS.jpgVelvet Sea, Another Perspective on Atlantic Yards
Photographic evidence that Prospect Heights is NOT in Downtown Brooklyn.

Photos of the Brooklyn skyline taken from Williamsburgh provides additional perspective on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

As you can see below, the [Williamsburgh Savings Bank] tower is a bit of a distance away from the downtown Brooklyn business core of highrises, seen just beyond the Williamsburg Bridge on the right hand side in this shot.

The Knickerblogger, ESDC Math= Adding 16000 residents and an arena won't affect subway capacity

...of course, as with everything else in Bruce Ratner's corrupt fantasy world, the reality is another story (four of the over crowded lines mentioned stop at Atlantic Avenue:

News of this afternoon's anti-eminent domain abuse demonstration and press conference at City Hall is spreading over the internet:

HandsOff-BIB.jpgLOHO 10002, Important Events This Week

Wednesday, June 27, 1 pm
Steps of City Hall
Anti-displacement groups throughout the city join to protest eminent domain abuse, marking the second-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision which allowed cities to use eminent domain to evict residents and destroy their homes to benefit a private development. Demonstration organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the neighborhood group opposing Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development plan.

Brit in Brooklyn, Big Eminent Domain Rally at City Hall, Wednesday.

Historic Districts Council Newsstand, A Rally, a Letter and a Lecture - all to help save Brooklyn

News of the anti-eminent domain rally, a letter-writing campaign to Governor Spitzer and a lecture on PlaNYC in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

Double Dutch champs jumping for joy!

2 Bed-Stuy teams did well at world championship

NY Daily News
By Denise Romano

Though Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is poised to receive special legislative treatment that will allow him to charge higher rents to low-income tenants as a part of the controversial 421-a reform bill, he's still getting props for supporting local sports.

Two Double Dutch teams from Bedford-Stuyvesant - the Jammin' Jumpers and the Hot Steppers - had a successful run at the recent world championships in Sumter, S.C., once again asserting Brooklyn's credentials as a mecca of the fleet-footed.
Payne thanked her generous fellow New Yorkers who made donations big and small to help the girls travel to Sumter after the Daily News published an article about their financial straits.

Developer Forest City Ratner chipped in $16,000 toward the $21,000 tab to send three New York City teams to the world championships.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

June 26, 2007

Media/Public Advisory: New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse

New York City Property Owners, Tenants and Advocates Unite to Fight Eminent Domain Abuse After Second Anniversary of Infamous U.S. Supreme Court Kelo Decision

TIME/DATE: 1PM, Wednesday, June 27

PLACE: City Hall Steps

Home and business owners, and tenants from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Duffield St., Brooklyn; West Harlem, Manhattan; Willets Point, Queens;
Councilmembers Tony Avella and Letitia James;
and activists from:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn • NoLandGrab.org • Historic Districts Council • Fifth Avenue Committee • New York Community Council • Society for the Architecture of the City • NY Solidarity Coalition with Katrina and Rita Survivors • Willets Point Business Association • Harlem Tenants Council • Coalition to Preserve Community • West Harlem Coalition • 550 Riverside, 55/69 Tiemann Pl. Tenants Alliance • Coalition To Save The East Village • Coalition for a Livable West Side • Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development • Duffield Street Block Association • Green Party of Brooklyn • Park Slope Greens • United Neighbors for Brooklyn • Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association • Brownstone Revival Coalition • Fans for Fair Play and more...

New York, NY -- Marking the second-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous decision in Kelo v. New London, which gave the nod to the City of New London to use eminent domain to take homes for a private development, home and business owners, and tenants in New York City are banding together to raise public awareness that New York City has become one of the worst abusers of eminent domain and that no one's home or business is safe when the City or a developer is interested in "assembling land" for private development.

"Eminent domain abuse is an abuse of our fundamental constitutional rights. In New York City it's reaching epidemic proportions," said Lumi Michelle Rolley of NolandGrab.org. "Given its policy of eminent domain abuse, it is no surprise that New York hasn't even attempted to reform its eminent domain laws since the infamous Kelo Supreme Court decision."

"Mayor Bloomberg and the State of New York consistently favor the interest of big developers over that of regular citizens," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein. "The Bloomberg Administration's policy has been to misuse and abuse eminent domain, with the support New York state and this policy has gone too far. We're taking a stand, not just for ourselves, but for all New Yorkers who believe in the American dream and the importance of homes and businesses.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn leads a broad-based community coalition advocating for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB opposes Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards' abuse of eminent domain. DDDB has organized owner and tenant plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit charging that eminent domain for Atlantic Yards violates the US. Constitution. Like the other neighborhoods, phony "blight" findings were used to justify the eminent domain abuse.

Joy Chatel and Lew Greenstein are fighting to save their historic homes on Duffield St. in Brooklyn. Their homes were part of the Underground Railroad network and are under threat of demolition to make way for a hotel parking garage. A lawsuit has been filed contesting the accuracy of the City's study, which determined that the historical significance of the homes could not be proven.

Property owners and tenants in West Harlem are battling to keep their homes and businesses from Columbia University's expansion of their uptown campus. Since the project was unveiled the university has refused to take eminent domain off the table. The application for review under the city's land-use procedure was just approved by the City Planning Commission.

Once again, Willets Point Queens businesses and a longtime resident are under threat of eminent domain. For decades the City has failed to provide basic services to this neighborhood. Despite the municipal neglect, the area is the location of hundreds of successful businesses that the City is seeking to displace.

NoLandGrab is an information portal run by several private citizens to increase awareness of the Atlantic Yards fight and eminent domain battles citywide.

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Dear Governor Spitzer

Spitzer-Signing.jpgJo Anne Simon, 52nd Assembly District leader, penned a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, explaining why a reform-minded leader would hesitate to support Atlantic Yards, especially in light of the amendment to the 421-a reform bill.

From her letter (full text after the jump):

The last minute amendment to this bill (A. 9293) providing yet more sweetener for Atlantic Yards is totally beyond reason. You may recall meeting with me and my co-leader Alan Fleishman following a campaign appearance with former Governor Carey last summer. You were very gracious and listened closely to our concerns about the Atlantic Yards, many of which were rooted in what we viewed as bad public policy and the desperate need for public authority reform. Even ACORN, one of the biggest supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, has called this recent amendment bad public policy.

What’s wrong with the above amendment? It:

  • reduces the affordable housing by raising the percentage of the poverty line amount to be used in considering low income beyond that provided for in any other development in New York City;

  • all but ensures, as the developer has indicated, that as much as 10% of the affordable housing would be built off-site, further reducing the promised affordable housing benefits;

  • provides hundreds of millions of tax dollars for luxury housing beyond the $205 million that New York City Council recently approved ($100 million of which the developer testified would go to unspecified land acquisition costs, in addition to its anticipated costs if it successfully utilizes eminent domain to acquire other properties), and the hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers;

  • will use $1.4 billion of low interest tax free bonds–sapping the market and foreclosing other, arguably more worthy, projects to create a density twice that of Battery Park City; and

  • it is the only project to which ESDC did not require changes when your administration took office.

Enough is enough. The legacy of Atlantic Yards will be one of fiscal and social irresponsibility.

Governor Spitzer can be reached by:
PHONE: 518-474-8390
SNAIL MAIL: Governor Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224

June 25, 2007

Governor Eliot Spitzer
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer:

I support the expansion of the 421- a exclusionary zone beyond that agreed to by the New York City Council earlier this legislative year. Indeed, I testified to that effect at a hearing held by Assemblyman Vito Lopez in March of this year. I enclose a copy of my written statement for your review.

Nevertheless, the last minute amendment to this bill (A. 9293) providing yet more sweetener for Atlantic Yards is totally beyond reason. You may recall meeting with me and my co-leader Alan Fleishman following a campaign appearance with former Governor Carey last summer. You were very gracious and listened closely to our concerns about the Atlantic Yards, many of which were rooted in what we viewed as bad public policy and the desperate need for public authority reform. Even ACORN, one of the biggest supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, has called this recent amendment bad public policy.

What’s wrong with the above amendment? It:

Enough is enough. The legacy of Atlantic Yards will be one of fiscal and social irresponsibility. The current public financing picture is so extreme that the State and City could pay for an arena, give it to the developer, and still save untold millions of dollars.

I strongly urge you to veto this bill. When the legislature returns, it can and should pass it the expansion of the 421-a program’s exclusionary zone without this boondoggle. The time for change in Albany is now. We need transparency and accountability, not back door deals at the public’s expense.

Very truly yours,

Jo Anne Simon

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Duffield St. Underground Linkage

Abolitionist Museum Augments the Stated Bloomberg Vision

A peek at the NYC Department of City Planning's stated goals for the Downtown Brooklyn plan reveals that the idea of a museum decidated to the history of the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn would be more in keeping with the plan than the current scheme to sieze homes using eminent domain in order to raze them to build a parking garage.

But who's listening?
Links and excerpts from the May 22nd Duffield St. eminent domain hearing from Our Time Press.

Daily News Calls Grassy Knoll Key to Brooklyn Economy
A Daily News editorial strongly attacked the Duffield St. homeowners by impuning their motives and accusing them of standing "in the way by cynically playing on the charged issue of the city's slave past."

Duffield St. Underground comes up for air to dispute the scathing claims.

The Daily News says that promoters of Abolitionist history are "cynically playing on the charged issue of the city's slave past." If the Daily News has to resort to this sort name-calling, then it looks like the argument in favor of the parking lot is weak. If the EDC is going to confiscate possibly historic private property, the burden of proof of the benefit must be high.

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Two years later, flashback to Times Magazine interview with Bruce Ratner

Bruce RatnerAtlantic Yards Report

With the benefit of hindsight, Norman Oder posts a two-year-old NY Times interview with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner with running commentary.

Bruce Ratner doesn't talk much to the press--and when he does, he's protected--so it's worth another look at excerpts from his 6/26/05 New York Times Magazine interview conducted by Deborah Solomon, headlined Stadium, Anyone?.

Note that then-Public Editor Byron Calame criticized the Times for failing to disclose the parent company's business relationship with Ratner, but the Times never printed a note or a letter about the issue. Also note that the headline refers to a stadium, not an arena. They're not interchangeable.

Q: How do you explain the sudden vogue for stadiums and arenas? So many teams want a new home -- the Mets in Queens, the Yankees in the Bronx, the Jets with their doomed project in Manhattan. And you're building a new arena for the Nets in Brooklyn.

A: It has to do with the economics of sports. The high salaries of athletes drive the whole thing, because it creates a need for revenue. In the case of the Nets, we need an arena that has suites and luxury seating, and where you can put up advertisements all over the place.

Ratner was being reasonably candid here, warning that the issue was maximizing revenue. He also could have said that the price of the team--the tail wagging the much larger Atlantic Yards dog--was a component. And he also could have explained that naming rights to the arena might pay much of its costs.

Click here for more of the wisdom according to Ratner, including this warning, "Like so many things in life, it was just a matter of money."

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

City Limits explains the 421-a changes

Atlantic Yards Report considers City Limit's examination of the 421-a reform bill that contained the exception for Atlantic Yards, dubbed "the Atlantic Yards carve-out."

There's no map (yet) of the exclusionary zones added to the 421-a reform legislation passed by the State Legislature last Thursday (but not yet signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer), but City Limits has a good article, headlined REDRAWING THE 421-A FORMULA FOR TAX BREAKS AND HOUSING, summarizing the law's multiple factors.

Along with the expansion of the zones where developers would be required to build affordable housing in exchange for a tax break, the bill features the notorious "Atlantic Yards carve-out" and, crucially for the real estate industry, an extension of the current law for six months--which should spark a frenzy of building, especially in Manhattan north of 96th Street and south of 14th Street, boundaries of the current exclusionary zone.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

NYC Transit Authority releases sobering data, contradicting figures used to justify Atlantic Yards

The big news today is that subways are overcrowded — as if New Yorkers couldn't tell — and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

The articles in the daily papers didn't mention the possible implications of the massive new developments all around Brooklyn, including the Atlantic Yards, but Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report had something to say.

The NY Times, Some Subways Found Packed Past Capacity

In an unusually candid effort at self-examination for a habitually insular agency, New York City Transit yesterday presented what could be called an index of straphanger frustration. It made an analysis of each subway line that shows at a glance how often trains run late, how crowded they are and whether more trains could be added to ease the problems.

What is revealed is both predictable and eye-opening. Many subway lines are simply maxed out, meaning there is no room on the tracks they use to add trains that could carry the swelling numbers of riders. And that has implications that range from day-to-day decisions about how trains travel through the system to long-term planning on how to best move people around a growing city.

MetroNY, Subway crush

Adding more cars to trains and extending station platforms could alleviate pressure. But that takes money the MTA doesn’t have, said Roberts, and one potential funding solution — congestion pricing — could exacerbate the problem in the short run, especially if diverted drivers choose to take trains on already overcrowded lines.

“There’s no room in the inn,” Roberts explained, before pointing out that other busy lines, such as the C and the 7, can still accommodate new riders. But that does mean the MTA would have to rely on buses to meet the increased demands caused by congestion pricing. “If all those cars don’t come in, there will be more room for the buses,” Roberts said.

amNewYork, Transit head: No quick fix for overcrowding

The [transit] authority has gathered engineers to brainstorm ways to ease overcrowding on the No. 2 and 3 lines, as well as the notorious Lexington Line, which is served by the No. 4, 5 and 6 trains.

TA officials realized that the lines are too overwhelmed after a study completed in April.

The overcrowded lines cannot fit any more trains on the tracks to help with packed cars during the busiest hour of the day, according to April statistics the TA released Monday. And the No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines had the most delays systemwide in April.

Atlantic Yards Report, NYCT contradicts ESDC, saying subways are too crowded
Norman Oder ties in the latest news to the little we do know about Atlantic Yards, which, after yesterday's revelations, isn't much:

Contrast [the NY City Transit Authority's conclusions] with the sunny predictions of the Empire State Development Corporation in its Atlantic Yards environmental review, predictions that were criticized again and again by transportation analysts Brian Ketcham and Carolyn Konheim.

From the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (Response 13-2):

The DEIS includes a detailed subway line haul analysis based on 2005 NYCT passenger counts that show that all subway routes serving the project site would continue to operate below capacity in the peak direction in the AM and PM peak hours at their maximum load points in both the 2010 and the 2016 future with the proposed project.

Apparently the statistics were a little bit out of date.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Downtown Brooklyn Building Boom

There's a lot of buzz these days about the building boom in Downtown Brooklyn, which as these two articles make clear, is in addition to Bruce Ratner's mammoth Atlantic Yards project.


The north end of Flatbush Avenue is slated to see more real-estate development over the next five years than nearly any other slice of the Big Apple - even without Atlantic Yards.

More than $3.1 billion worth of construction projects is in the works for the nearly one-mile stretch running south from the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO to the Williamsburg Bank tower in Fort Greene, according to data provided by the city's Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

WNYC Newsroom, $3 Billion Building Boom on Brooklyn's Flatbush Ave.

From the Manhattan Bridge to the just south of 3rd Avenue - Flatbush Avenue is expected to get 4400 new residential units, 645,000 square feet of new shopping and 190,000 square feet of office space. The biggest project is a $750 million plan to renovate the Albee Square Mall into 900 apartments and 600,000 square feet of stores and offices.

The list of construction does not include the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development - that includes a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets.

NoLandGrab: That's $7.1 billion being poured into our little neck of the woods, folks.

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

New BID gets stamp of approval

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has property interest that is about to be added to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's program:

The quasi-public Downtown Brooklyn Partnership... is expected to swallow yet another entity under its umbrella.

That entity is the newly established Court Livingston Schermerhorn Business Improvement District (CLS BID)....

Among the corporate names that have properties within this proposed BID are Forest City Ratner, Two Tress Management and Con Edison.


Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Downtown Change Continues, From 16 Court St. to Albee Square

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In an editorial about real estate activity in Downtown Brooklyn, Dennis Holt contends:

The Atlantic Yards development is really several different projects, will be built like several projects, and should be known as several projects.


NoLandGrab: Holt's assertion is creative, but runs counter to the justification for the extraordinary exception for Atlantic Yards in the 421-a reform bill, passed by the State Assembly late last week.

This controversial exception, added to the bill by State Assemblyman and Chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party Vito Lopez in the last few days of the legislative session, allows for affordable housing to be calculated for the ENTIRE Atlantic Yards project in order to satisfy the 20% eligibility requirements for tax exemptions.

For any other development project in the State of NY, the percentage of affordable housing must be met for EACH building in order to qualify. Buildings such as those to be built in the first phase of Atlantic Yards, which will have little in the way of "affordable" units, would not qualify were it not for the special exception.

If, as Holt argues, the separate phases of Atlantic Yards should be considered as different projects, then shouldn't, at least, each phase be required to qualify individually for subsidies, instead of in aggregate, as the developer Forest City Ratner would prefer?

Holt is an ardent champion of Atlantic Yards, but on this point, developer Bruce Ratner probably would prefer that the chatty editorialist keep quiet.

Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

Gentile Accused of ‘Politics’ In Board 10 Removals

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Phoebe Neidl

Has Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's removal of Atlantic Yards critics from Community Board 6 set a precedent for other politicians to purge their boards of dissenters?

In the wake of recent wrangling over Borough President Marty Markowitz’s removal of Community Board 6 members for their voiced opposition to Atlantic Yards, the question on everybody’s mind in Bay Ridge is if five members of Community Board 10 were removed as part of a political vendetta by city Councilmember Vincent Gentile.


Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

June 25, 2007

Memorial Fund Established in Memory of Preservation Giant Evelyn Ortner

Over $22,000 Raised for Fund at Sunday House Party

houseparty.jpgBROOKLYN, NY— An Evelyn Ortner Memorial Fund has been established for the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) legal efforts and has been seeded with over $22,000 from initial donors. The establishment of the fund was announced on June 24th at a fundraising house party in the Park Slope Victorian home of Clem Labine. The party was also hosted by Evelyn Ortner’s surviving husband and fellow preservationist Everett Ortner, as well as Park Slope activist Burnley Duke Dame of the Brownstone Revival Coalition.

Evelyn Ortner is best known for being a leader in the effort to first save Park Slope from destruction through an anti-redlining campaign and then achieving landmark status for the Park Slope Historic District.

Additionally, a Fort Greene fundraising house party for the DDDB Legal Fund held last Saturday, June 16th, raised over $24,000. That party included readings by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri (The Namesake) and best selling author Jennifer Egan (The Keep).

“We are moved and honored to have the community’s financial support for our legal efforts in memory of Evelyn Ortner, an unequaled giant in the preservation movement who showed her faith in our work by joining the DDDB Advisory Board before her passing," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "If donors would like to contribute to the Evelyn Ortner Memorial Fund they can contact us through our website. Our fundraising efforts continue to achieve strong results, and our efforts will continue as we see our lawsuits through to ultimate victory. We deeply appreciate the community's continued support.”

The DDDB Legal Fund is utilized entirely for the legal fees for the federal eminent domain lawsuit alleging that the Atlantic Yards project violates the US Constitution, and the state Supreme Court lawsuit challenging the state’s environmental review and approval of the project.

Photo from the party available here: http://dddb.net/houseparty.jpg

Posted by lumi at 12:08 PM

Development Tax Break Bill Faces Calls for Veto

NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

Atlantic Yards critics are not the only ones who are calling for Governor Spitzer to veto the 421-a reform bill, which included the Ratner clause, a unique exception to many of the reform proposals intended to benefit Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development plan by carving out the project area from the exclusion zone, providing tax exemptions for buildings that do not include affordable housing, and hitting low-income tenants with higher rents.

Much of the flurry of criticism has been directed at the bill’s primary architect, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a Williamsburg Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s housing committee.
But in ceding ground to the real estate industry, Mr. Lopez said he created an exception for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a move that has infuriated a base of affordable housing advocates who would likely have come out supporting the bill.

Instead, they have attacked the exception, which extends the tax break to the entire 6,000-unit complex — only part of it would have qualified under the council’s bill — though the overall income requirements for the complex were reduced.

Others who are criticizing the bill include supporters of New York City's version of 421-a reform.


NoLandGrab: Caveat.

Overall, income requirements were "reduced" in the bill at large, but the reduction does not apply to Atlantic Yards.

According to the Ratner clause, the income requirements are capped above those in the overall bill, and match the requirements the developer and ACORN already proposed. Ratner gets to average 70% AMI while all other developers are capped at 60% AMI.

It wouldn't be a surprise if, behind the scenes, other developers were quietly working to encourage Spitzer to eliminate the special exception for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 11:23 AM

The 'Blight' Excuse for eminent domain

Atlantic Yards Report

From the weekend edition (June 23/24) of the Wall Street Journal, in an op-ed headlined The 'Blight' Excuse (subscribers only), Carla Main observes that, two years after the controversial Kelo v. New London decision, which affirmed the use of eminent domain for economic development, states and courts have responded by curbing that option--but another remains:

Armed with a blight exception, private property in nearly all of the loophole states may still be condemned and ultimately used for economic development...

But what is blight? A half-century of experience has demonstrated only that it is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps more to the point, in the eye of the power holder.

Now New York's blight law may not be as bad as, for example, that in New Jersey, where courts have begun to reform it. But it's still arbitrary.


Posted by lumi at 11:14 AM

Albany Post Mortems

The Wonkster

As the state legislature goes home, at least for a few weeks, Newsday looks at the last six months in the state capital and deems it “disappointing.” And the paper blames Governor Eliot Spitzer, saying his administration “proven to be more self-righteous than effective and too arrogant by half.”

And the News aims its ire at a bill passed in the closing hours of the session that puts limits on the tax abatement for developers who build housing in the city. While most coverage of this has focused on the gift the bill bestows on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards developments (see our earlier posting), it’s the rest of the measure that the News doesn’t like.


NoLandGrab: Spitzer is trying to pin the blame on the legislature and vice-versa.

Spitzer will have the chance to reëstablish his reformer credentials by vetoing this bill. The question remains, will he?

Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM



NY Post

In the battle of the autocratic vs. the despotic, it's so hard to choose who should lead our country. However, Bloomie has the spectre of Atlantic Yards following him around:

Bloomberg's close ties to the private sector raised the hackles of a few municipal agency heads, however.

"He takes care of his business-world friends, that's certainly clear," one sneered, referring to Bloomberg's relationship with Bruce Ratner, who received millions of dollars in city tax breaks for his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Favoritism for Ratner is unlikely to be an issue on Middle-America's radar.

However, since nearly 90% of Americans feel that EMINENT DOMAIN should not be used for private development, any candidate willing to make protection from eminent domain abuse an issue will have an instant populist advantage over the corporate candidate, Bloomberg, who is currently supporting the use of eminent domain in at least five neighborhoods in NYC.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Esteemed scholars discuss need to re-think development in Brooklyn

Courier Life Publications
By Joe Maniscalco

At a panel discussion on development in Brooklyn last week, "Atlantic Yards" was mentioned as an appropriate site for real affordable housing, and one panelist warned that more Brooklynites could be affected by eminent domain.

[Mark Naison, professor of American Studies & History and director of the Urban Studies Department at Fordham University] said he’d like to see nothing but affordable housing at Atlantic Yards and the new buildings going up on 4th Avenue.

Even those who own their own homes aren’t safe from the current course of development.

“Economic development is now viewed as a public good,” said [Lance Freeman, associate professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation]. “So what’s to stop the government from taking your property and giving it to someone else for what’s viewed as a higher or better use?”


Posted by lumi at 10:41 AM

Ratner to sign Carter

Reportedly, Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is set to re-sign star shooting guard Vince Carter to a contract extension.

These developments are in the wake of news that Ratner might receive a windfall tax exemption by way of a special clause in the 421-a reform bill, which would also raise rates on low-income tenants. [Read: Ratner has to make his money somewhere because subsidizing a money-losing basketball franchise can make a businessman grumpy.]

Here are some of the Carter headlines:
NY Daily News, Signs point to Carter staying
The Bergen Record, Carter, Nets near new deal
Hartford Courant, Nets, Carter Close To New Contract

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

The Olympic Hustle

Chicagoans are already beginning to fear what hosting the 2016 Summer Games might do to their city

In These Times
By Mischa Gaus

In the public discourse about the impacts and benefits of (potentially) hosting the 2016 Olympics, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement gets a dishonorable mention:

A test case of how CBAs can go wrong is New York City’s Atlantic Yards development. The developer of the massive basketball arena-cum-highrise project in Brooklyn went behind closed doors with the anti-poverty group ACORN to sign a “historic” deal. Two years later, its terms keep getting worse. (Since signatories to CBAs are obligated to support them, ACORN still approves of the agreement even though the percentage and definition of affordable housing continues to shrink.)

Forest City Ratner, the Atlantic Yards’ development firm, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to other signatories, many of which were created just in time to approve the deal. Ratner’s pet groups had black leaders, while existing community groups—many with white leadership—were shut out. Consequently, many neighborhood groups now view CBAs as a slick divide-and-conquer tool of real-estate interests.

“What’s truly astonishing is that people don’t even realize this particular script has been played again and again,” says Patti Hagan of Prospect Heights Action Coalition, which agitates against the Atlantic Yards project. “They’re being led around by the promise of a little bit of money.”


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is now the poster project of government-gone-wild, eminent domain abuse, incredible shrinking benefits, extreme density, public authorities reform, reversal of urban planning orthodoxy, etc, etc...

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Dem Boss swallows tongue

Lopez-NY1.jpg According to NY1, Brooklyn Democratic party boss Vito Lopez agreed to speak on camera about his addition of a special tax exemption for the already subsidy-laden Atlantic Yards plan in the State Assembly's 421-a reform bill. By the end of the day, Lopez had taken a vow of omerta when it comes to Bruce Ratner and his controversial development plan.

NoLandGrab: If the bill is so "great," then why so shy?

If you are outraged by the extraordinary giveaway to Ratner and Lopez's refusal to face the music, take a moment to call or email Governor Spitzer's office to let him know that a reform-minded leader would veto this bill:

PHONE: 518-474-8390

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Forest City Announces Proposed Secondary Offering

Press Release, via Business Wire

Prinicipals of Forest City are selling off a small chunk of the company but will still retain control, especially of the Class B shares:

June 22, 2007
CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has filed an immediately effective automatic shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission to facilitate resales of up to 1.25 million shares of Class A common stock by certain shareholders.

The selling shareholders will be members of RMS, Limited Partnership (controlled by the Ratner, Miller and Shafran families), which owns a controlling interest in Forest City. The maximum number of shares that may be offered for sale represents approximately 3.9 percent of RMS, LP’s aggregate holdings of Forest City stock and approximately 1 percent of the issued and outstanding common stock of the Company. All proceeds from the sale of these shares will go to the holders, not to the Company. The proposed transactions are being considered for charitable, tax, estate planning and personal liquidity reasons.

Following the sale, the families will retain a controlling interest in Forest City by having beneficial ownership of 11,735,737 shares of Class A stock (15.1 percent of the total outstanding) and 19,170,787 shares of Class B stock (76.5 percent of the total outstanding), the latter of which have 10 votes for each share. The combined Class A and Class B holdings will represent 30.1 percent of the shares outstanding.

Sales under a shelf registration statement may be made from time to time. There is no assurance that any shares will be sold.

This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state or other jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or other jurisdiction.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

West Harlem (Atlantic Yards redux)

An account of last week's press conference held by the Coalition to Preserve Community gave us a serious case of déjà vu.

Apparently, Columbia University and its lobbyist Bill Lynch have learned from Atlantic Yards that packing hearings with supporters to keep community members out and saddling the community with a massive Environmental Impact Statement in the middle of the summer, when Communtiy Boards are not in session, is definitely the best way to go:


The Coalition to Preserve Community held a spirited press conference and protest outside of the City Planning Commission offices this past Monday calling for a rescheduling of the certification ULURP process until the end of summer.

Once inside, it was a different story. Columbia stacked the hearing room with its employees so few community members could attend the hearing. There were probably as many people from Bill Lynch's lobby organization than community residents. Some protest attendees were discouraged and left, but many waited outside, filling up a holding room and listening to the hearing on loudspeaker.

They were of course unable to view the presentation. This was typical of the "railroad approach" being used by Columbia and city planning as articulated by a contingent of clergy including Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, of St. Mary's Church, and Rev. Dean Parks Morton, formally of St. John the Divine, who spoke at the press conference.

Despite the Coalition's outreach attempt to reach out by letter to the Mayor and all elected officials inviting them to join, not one attended the press conference to call for a rescheduling. State Senator Bill Perkins was the only one to write a letter requesting a Fall ULURP process. Community Board 9 and the West Harlem Local Development Corporation also sent letters to City Planning and Columbia asking for there not to be a disenfranchising summer review process.

The Columbia strategists have determined that the trade off between the terrible publicity they will get by this railroad job (they have been asked NOT to have a summer ULURP process for 3 years), was something they could live with since the momentum in the community against them is growing by leaps and bounds as the eviction policy which is at the groundwork of their plan becomes more and more evident.

If the the elected officials had joined the community and made a strong demand, we would not have had to deal with answering a 2700 page Environmental Impact Statement in July and August. Bill Lynch is doing his job, but we shall not be moved.

Coverage: The Indypendent, West Harlem Takes on Corporate U.
NY1, Columbia University's Proposed Expansion Comes Under Fire From Activists

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

June 24, 2007

TODAY: Victorian House Party

labinehomelogo.gifClem Labine, Everett Ortner, Burnley Duke Dame, Kathy Evers, and Deirdre Lawrence invite you to a fund-raiser for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and the legal expenses to send the Atlantic Yards mega-project back to the drawing board.

Sunday, June 24, 2007. 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
199 Berkeley Place. (Between 7th & 8th Avenues)
Park Slope

Tickets $75

More info.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

Sunday Comix


Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

Will the Times advise Spitzer to veto 421-a?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder sees that Governor Spitzer should, for now, veto the 421-a revision just passed by the New York Legislature.

A veto shouldn't kill the measure for good. If there's to be a summer session to deal with outstanding legislation, there's no reason the legislature couldn't revisit 421-a.

Will The New York Times encourage Governor Spitzer to take a stand against the 421-a Ratner clause?

The New York Times has taken some strong stands against pork-barrel legislation--but not regarding legislation that would help its parent company's business partner, Forest City Ratner, even though the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" that is so egregious that Ratner and Assemblyman Vito Lopez are unwilling to defend it.


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

Critics Say Affordable Housing Bill Amounts To Sweetheart Deal For Ratner


The 421-a Ratner clause passed by the New York Legislature turns potentially good reform into something bad.


On paper, it seems like it has good intentions: a measure to greatly expand a law giving tax breaks to developers who build housing for low income and working class New Yorker City residents, but critics say beware the fine print.

"In addition to broadly creating more affordable housing around the city, the bill contains sub paragraph 13, which says for the Atlantic Yards project that Forest City Ratner is developing, even the market rate buildings can get a tax break, and our estimates are that could be a tax giveaway of as much as $100 million,” says Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

That’s $100 million dollars on top of $300 million in direct city and state subsidies, plus another $1.4 billion in tax exempt bonds Ratner is expected to seek to finance his mega project, which calls for 16 high-rise residential and office towers, plus a new arena for the Nets Basketball team in Prospect Heights.

link/audio (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: You don't really need to be a critic of Atlantic Yards to see what's wrong here. The Sweetheart Deal (can't you just smell the pork?) is simply a matter of fact.

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Jeffries Turns on Atlantic Yards

The New York Observer

Matthew Schuerman gives his take on Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' position on the 421-a Ratner clause.

Hakeem Jeffries, the freshman Assembly Member, was once accused of being a toady for the developer of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner. But he had gradually become more critical, and the last minute carve-out in the 421a housing incentive bill that The Observer reported on Wednesday made him fairly seethe at the project's cost to taxpayers.


Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

Hakeem Jeffries explains his 421-a vote

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's some clarification on Hakeem Jeffries' position on the 421-a Ratner clause. He was in favor of the 421-a reform, but voted against a chapter amendment in order to reject the exemptions for Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Jeffries did not get the opportunity to vote on 4408-A since he was in the district that morning attending graduations for P.S. 11 and P.S. 20, and serving as the keynote graduation speaker for P.S. 9 and M.S. 353. He returned to Albany that afternoon, but the vote had already taken place. Assemblyman Jeffries supports the bill since it dramatically expands the 421-A affordability requirements to low and middle-income neighborhoods throughout New York City.

On Friday, June 22, a chapter amendment, A.9293, that clarifies the Atlantic Yards 421-A carve-out provisions, came to the floor. Assemblyman Jeffries voted against this bill, and was joined by at least two colleagues from Brooklyn, Joan Millman and Rhoda Jacobs. He could not support a bill that related solely to treating the Atlantic Yards project in a more favorable way than any other development in New York City, without justification.


Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

Spitzer and Legislature Sprint to Finish Line

The New York Times

The Times includes Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez's 421-a Ratner clause in its coverage of the end of the legislative session.

Under current plans, the 16 Atlantic Yards buildings are to include 2,250 subsidized rental apartments among more than 6,000 condominium and rental units. Several of the buildings contain no subsidized housing at all, but Mr. Lopez’s bill would allow those buildings to qualify for the tax break so long as the overall complex contains 20 percent subsidized housing. It also would allow Forest City to offer some subsidized apartments to families with higher incomes than would otherwise qualify under the new law. Together, the changes have drawn concern from some housing advocates and city officials. But the Senate approved the measure on Thursday night.

“The city contemplated whether it needed to do this and concluded that it did not, that Atlantic Yards should get a tax break for a building that has 20 percent affordable, but that the condo buildings should pay property taxes,” said Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “It achieves no additional affordability at Atlantic Yards but costs the taxpayers $100 million.”


Posted by steve at 6:48 AM

June 23, 2007

Tell the Governor - Veto 421a

Tell Governor Spitzer that the 421-a property tax exemption reform bill is unacceptable in its present form:

A special provision would grant Forest City Ratner a property tax exemption for all of the market rate condominiums in Atlantic Yards—a break that could total up to $170 million in lost tax revenue for the city. No other developer or project is allowed to receive this lucrative tax break unless they include 20% affordable housing in each building constructed. Furthermore, the special provision allows Forest City Ratner to charge higher rents for its “affordable” units. This exclusive benefit is in addition to the developer’s request for an extraordinary $1.4 billion in tax-free housing subsidies.

Contact Governor Spitzer.

Call: 518-474-8390



Posted by steve at 10:23 AM

"Horrendous" Pork in Albany!


The Gothamist includes reaction to the 421-a Ratner clause as part of a post-legistlative session round-up:

One bill that did pass was a revision of the 421-a tax break. The bill expanded the areas where builders must offer 20% of its apartments as affordable housing in order to get a tax break, but it turns out that the Atlantic Yards project is getting a deal and we think it goes something like this: The entire complex's housing stock will be taken into consideration, versus looking at it on a building by building basis, so some buildings won't have affordable housing in them, and the average affordable income number will be raised, offering the units to "higher-income" families who need affordable housing. The Daily News' Juan Gonzalez has a withering column about it.


Posted by steve at 10:05 AM

A p.r. man's fate: fighting the West Side Stadium, flacking for the Brooklyn Arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides some history for us about Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. While he did p.r. work for Madison Square Garden, he seemed to know a waste of taxpayer money when he saw it:

"Whether it is the most expensive football stadium ever or the most expensive protest area ever, the West Side Stadium is a colossal waste of $600 million in taxpayer resources and that's what the vast majority of New Yorkers are really protesting against."

With a different employer, perhaps he's now in favor of colossal wastes of taxpayer resources.


Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

Who is Loren Riegelhaupt, and why Is he quoted in this article?

AP via AM New York

An article appearing on AM New York "Keep it down: New York City noise regulations going into effect" manages to mix up New York City noise rules with rules for the proposed STATE project Atlantic Yards.


Loren Riegelhaupt, spokesman for Forest City Ratner Companies, the company behind the massive Atlantic Yards project that includes a new Brooklyn arena for the NBA's Nets, said keeping the sound down is good business.

"As part of construction you have to mitigate noise measures, and we'll do everything we're asked to do," he said. As part of the plan to stifle construction noise around the Atlantic Yards project, the company is buying double-pained windows and quiet air conditioners for about 700 nearby neighbors to help offset sound.

NLG: The air conditioners and new windows have nothing to do with any New York City rules. These are supposed to be part of the mitigations mentioned in the State Environrnental Impact Statement. These mitigations are somehow supposed to make up for making the Prospect Heights neighborhood unlivable during construction of the Atlantic Yards development.


Posted by steve at 9:28 AM

Assemblyman Jeffries Votes “No” Against Atlantic Yards

Press Statement from Assemblyman Jeffries

Assemblyman Jeffries Votes “No” Against Atlantic Yards 421-a Carve-out Provisions

Assemblyman Jeffries today voted “No” on A.9293, legislation introduced by Vito Lopez that would treat the controversial Atlantic Yards project more favorably than other developments as it relates to the 421-a tax abatement program.

“The Atlantic Yards project has feasted on government funds for far too long. Enough is enough. There is absolutely no justification for treating Atlantic Yards better than any other development project in New York, when Forest City Ratner has already received $300 million in government subsidies.”

Joining Assemblyman Jeffries in voting against the bill is Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who represents the neighboring assembly district. The legislation passed 105-6 on the floor of the Assembly. It will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Assemblyman Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) represents Prospect Heights (the site of the Atlantic Yards project), Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Contact: Daisy James
(917) 640-0280

Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

June 22, 2007

Ratner sticks low-income renters with bill for Atlantic Yards

One detail about the Atlantic Yards exception that most bloggers and reporters are overlooking will likely eventually generate considerable outrage.

Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing isn't just going to cost taxpayers more money than other developments that qualify under the 421-a program. It will hit lower-income tenants in the pocketbook as well!

The very people who are supposed to benefit from 421-a reform will get to kick in a higher percentage of their income toward rent, just for the privilege of living at Atlantic Yards. In the most simple terms, Ratner will get to make more off the poor than all other developers receiving the same tax breaks.

The only voices in the media that have even tried to tackle this issue are Norman Oder, in his first post on Atlantic Yards Report, and Brad Lander, in Juan Gonzalez's Daily News column.

Oder does a great job of overexplaining it (we've already complained):

But how could Atlantic Yards have 20 percent of its units affordable to families earning 70 percent of AMI [Area Media Income]? As currently configured, Atlantic Yards would have 4500 rentals, with 20 percent of them low-income, up to 50 percent of AMI, and perhaps another 5 percent up to 70 percent of AMI. But the 1730 market-rate condos, and 200 affordable for-sale units, would skew the balance upward.

So the project, and the bill, may undergo some adjustment, but one way of meeting the new goal would be to rent apartments to tenants whose incomes are 70 percent of AMI but to charge them more. The bill states that “the rent for such units does not exceed thirty percent of eighty percent of the area median incomes adjusted for family size.”

Translation. If you earn 70 percent of AMI, you might get an apartment, but you'd have to pay rent as if you earned 80 percent of AMI.

Lander, a veteran affordable housing advocate, explains it more clearly in Gonzalez's column:

The special provision, says Brad Lander, director for the Pratt Center for Community Development, will let Ratner charge an average of more than $350 per month in additional rent for the "affordable units" in Atlantic Yards.

A cynical public has grown used to shrinking or non-existing benefits years after a project's completion, but to watch public benefits unravel even before a project has broken ground is surreal, and is an indictment of the total absence of effective political leadership where Atlantic Yards is concerned.

Without knowing the complete financial picture — financial projections have never been released, despite nearly $2 billion of public subsidy — one can only come to two conclusions:

1) Bruce Ratner is a greedy devil who would shake down his own mother for her bottom dollar, or

2) the financial viability of Atlantic Yards is so precarious that Ratner has to extract income in every conceivable manner, including jacking up the rent for the low-income housing even before a single unit is built.

Posted by lumi at 10:51 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere73.jpgHere's the PM roundup of today's blog coverage of the Ratner exception in the State's 421-a reform bill. We're still looking for someone who has something nice to say about it — you'll be the first to know.

The Real Deal, Economic segregation at Atlantic Yards?
The local real-estate industry blog calls it "economic segregation:"

Forest City will be able to put its 20 percent affordable housing anywhere in the 16-building complex and still receive tax abatements for market-rate condominiums. The exemption, therefore, opens the door for economic segregation at Atlantic Yards, since it will allow Forest City to build most of its buildings with market-rate units while designating some of them specifically for affordable housing.

Brownstoner, Outrage Mounting over Ratner's 421-a Carve-Out

The provision of the bill (which was approved yesterday) is so shocking that both Bertha Lewis of ACORN, which is contractually obligated to say nice things about the project, called it "bad public policy" and The Daily News, whose usual coverage of the project is limited to the shilling of Errol Lewis, ran an editorial this morning calling it "sick." The person to thank for the Ratner provision is Vito Lopez, who is the top dog on the State Assembly's Housing Committee. He slipped the wording in over the weekend, according to The Daily News. Hakeem Jeffries, who voted for the bill anyway, says he found out about the Ratner provision only the night before the vote. The Daily News editorial cites one estimate of the hand-out being worth as much as $270 million.

NoLandGrab: The Daily News piece was written by a columnist and wasn't, technically, an editorial.

Gotham Gazette, Doing Ratner’s Bidding
Gail Robinson sums up the Atlantic Yards exception in the State's 421-a reform bill:

People in government cannot seem to help themselves when it comes to doing favors for Bruce Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards — whether it’s ousting members of community boards who don’t endorse the megaproject or upping the government subsidy for it.

Gumby Fresh, Tax And Rend

Have we now reached the tipping point where we see the entire ugly Atlantic Yards mess not as an intricately poised balance of various economic, social and political interests and more as a lumpy grab-bag of foul-smelling pork?

Posted by lumi at 9:41 PM

Atlantic Yards Gets Special Provision

by Cindy Rodriguez

The Atlantic Yards exception from the 421-a reform bill got airplay on WYNC News Radio today.

REPORTER: The move is a small part of a proposed law that will require more developers to build affordable housing in exchange for tax breaks. The bill carves out an exception allowing Forest City Ratner - the Atlantic Yards developer to get a tax abatement not just on rental buildings with affordable apartments but also on 1,900 market rate condos.

REPORTER: The project also would be allowed to charge more for affordable units than other developments. Housing advocate Brad Lander calls this a side deal that will cost taxpayers $100 million.

Overall, about 30% of the Atlantic yards project will be affordable.


NoLandGrab: It's interesting that WNYC doesn't use Forest City's bogus 50% figure for the Atlantic Yards affordable housing plan.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 PM

Day 1 and 2

back in school!!!

ConstructionFence.gif On the second day of school, Brittan gets to work:

The work has begun in earnest. Even if that work is drawing plan views, section views, and elevations of a donut (no, I'm not kidding) and experimenting with materials for a theoretical bridge or fence in an area you know well. For all of you Brooklynites out there I'm creating a construction fence for the Atlantic Yards project. Feel free to send suggestions for the profanity that will be spray painted in tiny letters on the surface.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 PM

What if...

BruceGoldstein.jpg ...some other guy lived in Dan Goldstein's flat?

Escape Brooklyn

If it was me, I would have admitted defeat early on and gotten as much money from the buyout as I could. Yes, it completely sucks and is clearly an abuse of "eminent domain," and the affordable housing stuff is a sham, but who wants to spend years of their life in court as their neighborhood crumbles down around them? Brooklyn ain't worth that.


Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Atlantic Yards gets a deal so sweet it's sick

NY Daily News

Columnist Juan Gonzales spells out Ratner's latest "special" "secret" "sweetheart deal":

How special is it?

Over the weekend, Vito Lopez, the powerful Brooklyn Democrat who heads the state Assembly's Housing Committee, quietly inserted wording tailored for the Ratner project into a new state property tax exemption bill.

How sweet is the deal?

It's worth at least $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and possibly as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos Ratner plans to build on the site, one housing expert estimates. It also allows Atlantic Yards to charge hundreds of dollars more in rent per month for "affordable" units than any other other developer of similar housing.

How secret was the deal?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) says he did not learn of the provision until the eve of the vote, even though Atlantic Yards is located in his district. Bertha Lewis, the head of NY ACORN, says the same thing. ACORN has been a huge backer and partner of Ratner because of his promise to build 2,200 affordable units out of the proposed total of 6,400. But yesterday even Lewis branded this "special carve-out" for Atlantic Yards "bad public policy."

And that's on top of the enormous amount of subsidy already going Ratner's way:

The new tax exemptions are on top of the $300 million in direct subsidies that city and state officials have already showered on Atlantic Yards.

There's more coming. Ratner has applied for $1.4 billion in stateauthorized tax-exempt bonds to finance his 16 high-rise towers.

Yesterday, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report explained that the special Atlantic Yards legislation would end up costing low-income tenants even more. Brad Lander elaborates in Gonzalez's column:

The special provision, says Brad Lander, director for the Pratt Center for Community Development, will let Ratner charge an average of more than $350 per month in additional rent for the "affordable units" in Atlantic Yards.

Lander also explains that taxpayers also lose, thus shrinking the public benefit:

Depending on the number of units, it could mean from $100 million to $170 million in lost real estate taxes to the city, Lander says.

Gonzalez concludes by pointing out that only Governor Spitzer can intervene.


Atlantic Yards Report, On 421-a: FCR won't comment, ACORN calls it "bad public policy," & Lopez gets cover
Norman Oder posts that Brad Lander's estimates beg some real official number crunching and notes that ACORN director Bertha Lewis's quote in Gonzalez's column marks "ACORN's first public criticism of the developer's machinations."

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

$100 million (?) for Ratner as Assembly passes 421-a bill

StackofBills01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report reports that the Times blog reports that the legislation passed:


To the Times, Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development estimates that the tax break, which could exempt four buildings with condos from including onsite affordable housing. would cost taxpayers $100 million. (The other 12 Atlantic Yards towers would have mixed-income housing.)

That's just an estimate, however, and a closer accounting would be worthwhile. Developer Forest City Ratner saves by not having to provide another 380-plus units of very affordable housing. (The 1930 condos would have to be matched by 20 percent affordable housing.)


There's another benefit for the developer. Condo owners won't have to share their buildings with their poorer brethren. The condo buildings at Atlantic Yards, like other ones under construction (or recently opened) in the Brooklyn "renaissance," are for one-class only. (That should help with pricing, right?)


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

How the 421-a reform is being tailored for Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report explains how:

The special clause for developer Forest City Ratner benefits the Atlantic Yards project in two ways (updated): 1) the obligation to provide 20 percent affordable units in the same building will be lifted and instead can be met in the aggregate 2) the obligation to provide 20 percent of the units at 60 percent of AMI will be changed so that the developer must provide 20 percent of the units at an average AMI of 70 percent, so as not to disturb the current plans for Atlantic Yards.

Norman Oder also proofreads the legislation (no idea if the mistakes made it into the final bill).


Atlantic Yards Special Legislation for Dummies:

1. Bruce Ratner will receive tax-exemption for the entire project, not just the buildings with "affordable" units.

2. Units to be rented to households whose income is 70%, instead of 60%, of the Area Median Income would be included in order to qualify the project for the tax exemption, so that Bruce's current plans to reap larger profits than other developers at the taxpayers' expense would not change.

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogosphere72.jpgWere's still looking for a blogger who thinks that it's a good idea to give a special bonus to Bruce Ratner, in a reform bill, that will not only reduce the benefit to the public, but also cost more to the low-income tenants.

We'll keep looking. Meanwhile, here's what they're saying:

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards to Get Custom-Made Developer Tax Break?

We believe the 421-a program is a tax giveaway to the wealthy that should have been killed off and that the reforms, while worthwhile, are the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That being said, it's fascinating to see an Atlantic Yards Exception actually being written into law.

City Room, A Special Break for Atlantic Yards
Extraordinary special reward bonus-exceptions for Ratner in a major housing subsidy-reform bill isn't newsy enough to make the Times, but reporter Nicholas Confessore posted an item on the paper's latest blog:

That allows the developer to get the tax abatement even on the four buildings that include no subsidized housing. The provision would also allow set the Atlantic Yards’ area median income level at 70 percent instead of 60, again averaged out over all the buildings. That allows the developer to maintain the existing distribution of subsidized housing in Atlantic Yards, which is skewed to a somewhat higher income range than buildings that traditionally qualify for the city’s program.

Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, who runs the Housing Committee, said the developer, Forest City Ratner, had asked the Assembly to set the income requirement at 100 percent of area median income, and that the compromise they arrived at was 70.

NoLandGrab: Are we supposed to believe that Lopez, though spineless, isn't gutless?

The Politicker, Elsewhere: Bloomberg, Edwards, Spano
Yesterday, the Atlantic Yards Project special exemption made it into Politicker's daily political news roundup.

NoLandGrab: The joke in Ratnerville is "WWSD?" (What will Spitzer do?).

The Albany Project, Ratnerville Gets Sweet Tax Break in Bill To Eliminate Sweet Tax Breaks

here is a perfect illustration of... how we give sweet deals to those with enough money to buy a couple legislators to slip this stuff in. In an ironic twist, we are giving tax breaks to a billionaire real estate developer, and him alone, in a bill to eliminate tax breaks to billionaire real estate developers.

Nice work if you can get it...
As I and many others have been saying for quite some time now, everything wrong with New York City and New York State politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Influence peddling, crony capitalism, back room deals, shady legislation, lack of any meaningful public participation, overt favoritism to monied interests - it's all there.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Give Us a Break!

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

What will reform-minded Governor Spitzer do with this bill? We say he should veto it until the inexcusable exclusive gift clause to Bruce Ratner is excised, or he should negotiate it out of the bill.

The 1,700 to 1,900 market rate condos Bruce Ratner intends to build in his Atlantic Yards project will pay no property taxes. This could lead to a loss of somewhere between $100 million to $190 million in tax revenue for New York City, while enabling the developer to sell his units at higher prices because buyers won't have to pay taxes. Bruce Ratner is the only developer in the newly described 421-a zones in the City to receive this huge benefit. Why? There is no answer--not from us, not from the developer and not from the Assemblymembers who wrote a special clause for Bruce Ratner into their reform bill.
We ask, why? All we know is that Forest City Ratner spent more on lobbying this past year than any other developer in the state.


NoLandGrab: Even more simply, the Ratner market-rate condo exception means less public benefit and more money for Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Would You Like Fries With That, Mr. Ratner?

When Dope on the Slope gets pissed, he turns to verse. Here's his homage to the latest Atlantic Yards revelation that Bruce Ratner is the exception to the rule when it comes to 421-a housing-subsidy reform:

All you 70s kids will remember this jingle well:

Two Albany patsies.
Special clause
lets us
want no taxes. Accede. Bunk!

Mmmmmm, mmmmm. That's 100% Grade-A privilege.

Over 1 Billion given away.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Art for Yards sake? Man sleeps in window and makes a larger point

The Brooklyn Paper

TravisClarke-BP.jpgReporter Ariella Cohen picked up on our commentary about Travis Clarke's "Sleeping Man":

Little did Clarke know just how the statement, the dead tree limb in the window and his somnolent, halogen-lit body next to it would resonate with neighborhood residents, many of whom have learned a whole lot about trying do something that indeed has proven to be (so far) impossible.

“Could the tree also be representing the possibility of a future dead neighborhood?” asked one area resident, Lumi Rolley, on her anti–Atlantic Yards blog, No Land Grab.


NoLandGrab: Only "Lumi" didn't say it. The rhetorical question was posed by "Amy," who is commonly known as the "funny one," and, behind the scenes, as the one who can speel (sic!).

Incidentally, NLG isn't Lumi's blog either; she's just allowed to work here for free.

As for The Brooklyn Paper, if you're gonna act like amateurs, can you at least get a blog?

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Straight From The Bleachers: Brooklyn’s Best

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Hmmm, if it sounds like a press release, then it must be a... or, Torenli could be the only sportswriter whose prose is better suited for K street:

Local boys’ hoops teams from St. Cecilia’s of Williamsburg, Saint Vincent Ferrer of Flatbush and the Dean Street Knights took home hardwood gold during the semi-annual Forest City Ratner Companies’ Best-in-Brooklyn B-Ball Championships at St. Francis College last weekend.
“We are proud of all of the teams and players who participated and helped make this tournament something to remember,” said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies and owner of the New Jersey Nets.

full article

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

New York's mayor buys his way to popularity.

The Michael Bloomberg Method

The New Republic
By Fred Siegel

Apparently, everyone knows that Atlantic Yards is the worst initiative of NYC Mayor Bloomberg's administration and that it undermines his sincerity on traffic and transportation issues:

Bloomberg is so skilled at using his wealth to market himself that his plan to reduce traffic and pollution by charging congestion fees to come into central Manhattan has been hailed by Time, which put him on its cover, as if words were deeds. But congestion pricing is unlikely to be implemented, and, even if implemented, it's not clear that it would reduce congestion. Time was so impressed with Bloomberg's verbal accomplishments that it failed to note that one of the major causes of downtown congestion are the thousands of parking permits generously given out by Bloomberg's own City Hall. Bloomberg, after considerable effort, has succeeded in getting developer Bruce Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards project approved. At a time when Brooklyn is booming with new, unsubsidized housing construction, the wealthy Ratner, a friend of Bloomberg's, will receive half a billion dollars in subsidies guaranteed to sharply increase both congestion and pollution along already overburdened Flatbush Avenue, the borough's main artery. Recently, when Bloomberg went to a press conference on green initiatives, he ostentatiously arrived by subway, only to be met for the trip back to City Hall by a large gas-guzzling SUV.

article (subscription only)

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Marty would be great as a Bush appointee

The Brooklyn Paper
Letter to the Editor

One Brooklyn Paper reader makes the comparison between the US Attorney General and Brooklyn's Borough President, Marty ("the Hatchet") Markowitz:

Has Alberto Gonzales become a role model for our borough president (“Pols to Yards foes: Yer out!” May 26)? Consider Borough President Markowitz’s decision to not reappoint members of Community Board 6 who voted to reject Atlantic Yards.

He says that he wants to consider the need for fresh perspectives when making appointments to the board. Is a willingness to serve as his rubber stamp a “fresh perspective”? Those of us who live in the area served by CB6 don’t want its members to blindly approve the proposals of real-estate developers. What we desire is a board that will represent the interests of our community.

If Marty Markowitz cares about the future of Brooklyn, he should be doing all that can to reduce the size of Atlantic Yards and to ensure that CB6 has a membership that will do the same. If he is unwilling to do this, he should abandon the idea of running for mayor and, after switching political parties, seek a position in the Bush Administration.

His decision to not reappoint members of CB6 because they disagree with him indicates that he would fit right in.

John Casson, Park Slope


Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

The Kitchen Sink

The Brooklyn Papers
By Nica Lalli

We ran into our old pal, Jezra Kaye on Seventh Avenue the other day (Kaye, a longtime member of Develop Don’t Destroy, was munching on grape leaves). Though officially out of the movement — and disappointed with a recent court decision that favored developer Bruce Ratner — Jezra told us she still thinks Ratner will be stopped.


NoLandGrab: Two old friends run into each other on the street and they talk about Atlantic Yards. We've been wondering how people manage to stay informed without obsessively reading the blogs or The Brooklyn Paper.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

June 21, 2007

Albany 421-a Reform Bill Hands One-of-a-Kind, Special Favors to Forest City Ratner

Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project Would Be The Only Project to Receive Tax Breaks for Luxury Condos Under Bill
Where Does the Favoritism and Backroom Dealing End?

BROOKLYN, NY— Bruce Ratner is about to join his own exclusive developer’s club, once again at taxpayer expense.

Forest City Ratner has often claimed that it’s not getting anything that any other developer can’t get. That was never the case, but now the development firm has positioned itself to get something that no other developer is getting.

Albany is creating a special loophole exclusively for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project as part of its bill “reforming” the 421-a tax breaks for development originally enacted in 1971. With this special legislation Forest City Ratner’s market-rate luxury condominiums will be the only such units in the entire reform zone receiving the 421-a tax break, saving the developer untold millions.

“This is the cherry on top of all of the special treatment and sweetheart deals Forest City Ratner has been gifted for its Atlantic Yards project. This exclusive clause in the 421-a reform bill, benefiting Bruce Ratner alone, is an astounding example of absolute governmental favoritism, at odds with the very principles for which the reform bill is supposed to stand,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman, Daniel Goldstein. “There is no valid justification for this favoritism, and clearly there has been an utter lack of transparency in the decision to award one developer a special corporate-welfare package. Is there any end to the favoritism and backroom dealing that consistently benefits Bruce Ratner? Will Governor Spitzer choose to allow passage of such backroom special dealing?

The special clause within the reform bill does not specifically name the Atlantic Yards project but rather describes “a multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and (i) being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation and approved by Public Authorities Control Board.” There is only one such project in the state fitting that description, and that’s Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner is also seeking an extraordinary $1.4 billion in government backed, tax-exempt housing bonds.

"There should be an immediate Independent Budget Office (IBO) evaluation of all of the financial and tax benefits flowing to Forest City Ratner for affordable housing to determine the cost per unit, how many units are being deferred from other areas of the city, and how many units this level of funding could provide if it were dispersed without favoritism," said former City Planning Commissioner and DDDB Advisory Board member Ron Shiffman.

On his Atlantic Yards Report, watchdog journalist Norman Oder wrote, The final version of the bill apparently came down to two men in a room, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez (and surrogates) and Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) executive Steve Spinola (ditto). And in those backroom negotiations emerged a nice plum for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. (The lack of an obligation to build affordable housing in [Atlantic Yards] condo buildings adds to the developer's bottom line in multiple ways.)”

To make matters worse, this special legislation granting exclusive and extraordinary tax breaks to Forest City Ratner would force lower-income residents of the proposed Atlantic Yards subsidized “affordable” housing to shell out at least 35% of their incomes for rent. This runs completely counter to accepted standards for “affordable housing,” which typically involves a resident paying 30% of income towards rent – the very principle behind the “Atlantic Yards” housing deal negotiated privately between Forest City Ratner and ACORN.

“With all due respect to ACORN, it’s confounding that they are supporting this special benefit to Ratner, making a mockery of the very reform bill they fought so hard to push forward,” Goldstein said. “It makes no sense for ACORN to support tax breaks for luxury condos when that is precisely what the reform bill was supposed to eliminate. Also, ACORN and Forest City Ratner had promised that each Atlantic Yards building would be mixed affordable and market-rate, but that is another broken promise by Ratner that ACORN appears willing to overlook.”

On the Atlantic Yards Report Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development and an appointee on the mayoral task force that recommended reforms last year, said, “There shouldn't be special side deals for particular developers. Buildings that include 20 percent affordable housing should get a tax break and all market-rate buildings should pay their taxes.”

On December 20, 2006, the City Council’s 421-a reform bill increased the Geographic Exclusion Area (GEA), in which developers would be required to build 20% affordable housing in exchange for the subsidy, extending it to Brownstone Brooklyn and including the proposed “Atlantic Yards” project site, among other locations. This bill, along with the forthcoming Albany bill, requires that each building include a percentage of affordable units in order to qualify for the lucrative tax breaks called “corporate welfare” by State Senator Liz Krueger in May. Only Bruce Ratner would receive the tax breaks for his mixed income buildings and his market rate buildings.

“It takes a special developer, with special lobbyists, to get special legislation. This exclusive ‘Ratner clause” benefits only Forest City Ratner’s bottom line, while keeping intact the exact breaks the bill was meant to eliminate,” DDDB’s Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 10:39 AM

Atlantic Yards is the exception in NY State's 421-a reform


This is the big news — late yesterday Atlantic Yards Report and The Real Estate Observer broke the story that NY State's 421-a reform bill had a gigantic exception for Bruce Ratner's controversial 22-acre, arena-and-16-high-rise Atlantic Yards plan.

MoneyTree.jpgWHAT'S IN A NAME?
Only the bill didn't call it "Bruce Ratner's controversial... Atlantic Yards plan." The official designation is:

"a multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and (i) being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation and approved by Public Authorities Control Board.”

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report concludes, "There’s only one such project that would qualify," and Matthew Schuerman of The Real Estate Observer notes, "to people who have been following the project in central Brooklyn, [that] can mean only one thing: Atlantic Yards."

For a while now, behind the scenes, affordable housing advocates have voiced concerns that Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" would cost more to build than affordable housing created by other groups and developers. In addition, the housing subsidy pool has a volume cap set by the Federal Government. This cap has already been reached for 2007 by projects already in the pipeline. The concern is that Atlantic Yards will suck up the available financing in the future, precluding projects elsewhere in the city.

As if affordable-housing advocates didn't have enough to worry about, Norman Oder uncovers a dirty little secret buried in the 421-a reform bill: "affordable housing" at Atlantic Yards would cost more to the poor.

The bill states that “the rent for such units does not exceed thirty percent of eighty percent of the area median incomes adjusted for family size.”

Translation. If you earn 70 percent of AMI, you might get an apartment, but you'd have to pay rent as if you earned 80 percent of AMI.

One caveat:

Some of those numbers may change before the bill passes Thursday.

The State's reform bill has a loophole that would benefit Ratner. According to Matthew Schuerman's post:

In such “multi-phase projects,” according to the state bill, the whole development can qualify for the tax abatement so long as one-fifth of the apartments in the entire complex are affordable to people who make 80 percent of the area median income. (The AMI is roughly $70,000 for a family of four.) Under the City Council version, only those buildings that had affordable units in them would qualify, while developer Forest City Ratner would have had to pay full taxes on their condominium towers.

Therefore, Forest City may be able to qualify some of its market-rate buildings for the tax break and save itself millions of dollars.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Atlantic Yards gift slipped into the 421-a reform
The Real Estate Observer, 421a Bill Gives Special Treatment to Atlantic Yards

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE (OR NOT RESPONSIBLE, DEPENDING)? And if you're wondering how this happens and how you can get your own special exception to legislation, check out this morning's article on the political process, which include choice quotes from ACORN Director Bertha Lewis and Former Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey: Atlantic Yards Report, Two men in a room, no transparency, and a bonus for Forest City

The final version of the bill apparently came down to two men in a room, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez (and surrogates) and Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) executive Steven Spinola (ditto), each deputized by the two men who control their respective legislative bodies, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

And in those backroom negotiations emerged a nice plum for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. (The lack of an obligation to build affordable housing in AY condo buildings adds to the developer's bottom line in multiple ways.)

You had to know something was brewing when Jim Stuckey protested to much:

And, in a May 2005 City Council hearing, FCR executive Jim Stuckey stated: ...it qualifies for 421A tax abatements for residential projects. So, if anyone else, anybody, not us, any developer, developed on this site as of right, they would be entitled to 25 year tax abatements...

Puhleeze, since when does Forest City get treated as "any developer?"

It remains to be seen if any of the daily newspapers pick up this story as the benefits of Atlantic Yards continue to unravel.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Six-month check: FCR's "initiatives" still murky, but parks funding's a fudge

Atlantic Yards Report

On the six-month anniversary of the Public Authorities Control Board's approval of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder tries to check up on the status of the "additional community initiatives and enhanced housing program" which were wrested from developer Bruce Ratner during "last-minute negotiations."


When FCR pledged to "invest $3 million to improve existing parks in and around the project," the developer was overstating the case by calling it an "additional" initiative.

After I queried the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the agency confrimed that the sum includes the $1.25 million-plus announced in November to add a comfort station to the Dean Street playground, a partial mitigation for increased noise.

However, a mitigation neither constitutes an enhancement nor an initiative, especially since it surfaced more than a month earlier.


FCR announced a reduction to the height of the proposed Miss Brooklyn building, ensuring that no building at the site will be taller than the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank.

What will be that building's revised height and square footage? That has yet to be finalized, according to the ESDC.


FCR announced it will seek to build at least 200 affordable home-owner units on site rather than offsite, making them part of the proposed 6430 units of housing already approved.

When would they be built, and for what income brackets? How is that memorialized? Such details, the ESDC said, will be part of a funding agreement due within the next few weeks and later formalized in project documents before site acquisition.


And what about the "new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School"? Would Forest City have any option to acquire the existing Brooklyn Tech building? (Remember, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, any plan to convert the current Brooklyn Tech is off the table.) The ESDC said only that the issue is under discussion.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

State revision of 421-a "corporate welfare" subsidy repudiates Doctoroff’s “nothing gets built” warning

More catching up with Atlantic Yards Report: yesterday, Norman Oder posted a thorough (read: lengthy) article about State reform of the 421-a housing-subsidy program:

The New York State Legislature had to approve its own reform and legislators, as Crain’s New York Business reported yesterday, have apparently agreed on a bill demanding more from developers. The state revision, to be finalized on Thursday when the legislative session ends, apparently adds a dozen more outer-borough neighborhoods to the GEA.
Note that the affordable housing provided by the 421-a revision would go to families with household incomes up to 60% of Area Median Income, or $42,540. Most of the Atlantic Yards affordable units—1350, or 60%—would go to families above this level, as the affordability scenario has already been tweaked upward.

Read the full article to follow the progress of reform of the 421-a program.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Seamless transition? FCR's new AY head seen exploring the footprint

Atlantic Yards Report

This week the "Mad Overkiller," Norman Oder, has been posting like a... well, like a Mad Overkiller, so we're not surprised that we missed this late-edition post from Monday.

A tipster... [spotted the new Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President] Gilmartin at about 8:30 a.m. today, standing at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, across from Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the epicenter of the Atlantic Yards opposition. It looked, the tipster said, like she was being briefed for the battlefield.

Had the departure [of former Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey] been long planned, wouldn't Gilmartin have gotten her walkaround before Brooklynites had their antennae up?

Note: the above obviously contains some speculation. I don't know if Gilmartin has visited the footprint before, nor the precise reason she was there this morning.


NoLandGrab: The Mad O is too polite to point out that no one is saying why Stuckey left. By merely serving up the extremely lame canned excuse, "to pursue new challenges," the implication is that the entire episode was unspeakably bad, which would lead one to conclude that it was more precipitous than all parties will admit. Not exactly a seamless transition.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Jill Cunniff, Musician


A Q&A with former lead singer and bass player of Lucious Jackson turned Brooklyn mommy references Atlantic Yards, which through no fault of our own, has turned out to the the poster project for bad development:

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York?
Slow down the development, create preservation of small business districts so they are not killed off (ie the suburbification of the West Village, Chelsea and the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn which threatens to overshadow a huge area of Browstone Brooklyn).

Cunniff will be playing this weekend at the Mermaid Parade Ball on Saturday and The Annex on Sunday.


Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Anti-Starchitecture Chic

What’s a budding celebrity architect to do when the winds of change begin shifting away from fame?

Metropolis Magazine
By Philip Nobel


Consider for a moment the plight of the stars. You do some work, you work the press, you aspire and achieve, the world embraces you—you’ve arrived!—and then...

What's the ultimate celebrity architect to do when he's designing Brooklyn's most reviled project in recent memory?

Backlash is in the air, and using the same refined organs that so ably guided their rise, the smart stars can feel it. Consider Frank Gehry: after achieving relatively late and relatively hard-earned fame during his long post-Bilbao ride, he may now be trying to get ahead of a turn in his fortunes. He managed, almost alone, to remain untarnished (so far) by his involvement at Ground Zero, but then he stepped in it at Atlantic Yards, accruing in the last few years more bad press than in all previous decades—including the fallout one might have expected from the amazing 2003 episode of the gunman in his building at Case West­ern Reserve University, whose capture was delayed by the circuity of his plan. And then there’s the simple, natural swing of the pendulum—both at the scale of his career and the macro level suggested by the unsustainable ubiquity of the star­chitecture idea.

Read the full article to find out what critic Philip Nobel did with his f*ck-frank-gehry t-shirt.

NoLandGrab: The turning-point in the media indicating that Gehry is totally overexposed was last week's boo-boo in Architectural Record, where the industry mag confused the developers for Gehry's two largest urban projects.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Linton Named Vice President, Corporate Communication, for Forest City

Press Release, via Business Wire

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jeff Linton has been named vice president, corporate communication, for Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

In this newly created position, Linton will report to Bob O’Brien, executive vice president, strategy and investment, and will be responsible for corporate communications strategy and messaging, corporate identity, national business/financial media relations, and issues and reputation management, among other priorities. In addition, he will provide strategic guidance to key associate communication initiatives.

Forest City President and Chief Executive Officer Charles A, Ratner said, “As a company, we recognize that our most precious asset is our reputation.


NoLandGrab: Since their most precious asset is their reputation, Linton was hired not a moment too soon.

Currently, in New York, Forest City's reputation as the ultimate eminent-domain-abusing, tax-subsidy-grubbing, traffic- and pollution-creating, community-abusing, lying overdeveloper-on-steroids hasn't been getting any better.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere68.jpgBrownstoner, Atlantic Yards Demo Update
The Brooklyn real estate blog noticed that demos were continuing in the footprint, but, unlike Atlantic Yards junkies and flunkies, had no idea why.

This post was picked up by Real Deal.

Daily Intelligencer, Would Hillary Put Jack Bauer in Charge of Iraq?
If you have any doubt that Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is the gold standard for "totally twisted," Intelligencer came up with a great analogy:

There's a fascinating nugget in Bill and Hillary's recently dissolved blind trust, which the couple just divested to avoid conflicts of interest. We'll say! One of the trust's holdings was stock in News Corp. This makes Hillary a (admittedly unaware) shareholder in the Post and Fox News — a fact akin to, say, Daniel Goldstein discovering he's invested in Forest City Ratner.

Weeksville Homes, Go See The Doc - BROOKLYN MATTERS, Tonight!
We're posting this link even though the post was for yesterday's screening. Folks might be interested in the affordable-housing and home-ownership blog and the fact that they're paying attention to what's going on with Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing.

[BTW: TONIGHT'S SCREENING of Brooklyn Matters is at the Park Slope Jewish Center.]

Single Tails, The Future Is Bright
If you're looking for a bright future in an emerging industry, think construction management, sez one blogger:

Did you know that over the next ten years, there are $ 58 Billion in construction projects planned? From the Atlantic Yards to the Far West Side to various stadia going up. Construction Managers will have exactly no problem whatsoever finding work. And real estate development in New York City is already rife with NYU grads, apparently eager to give a helping hand to fellow alum.

Queens Crap, Thorn in Ratner's side
We think of Goldstein as a burr in Ratner's saddle.

Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

June 20, 2007

Going to the Mattresses on Atlantic Yards

A recent federal court ruling in favor of Forest City Ratner seemed to doom Atlantic Yards’ opponents—but not so fast, says Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. He and others plan a long march to the Supreme Court

The NY Observer
By Tom Acitelli

This week's "Sit Down" Q&A features lead plaintiff in the federal eminent domain lawsuit Daniel Goldstein:


Photo: Joe Fornabaio

Do you feel a successful appeal of the recent federal ruling would stop the project?

Well, first off, a successful appeal on this would simply get us to a trial. And then we would be able to make a strong case. Yes, [Bruce] Ratner is creating facts on the ground through demolitions. At this point, the issue isn’t what’s going to come down, or what’s coming down, but what goes up. If we ultimately win our lawsuit, the project as we know it can’t go up. There’s a significant amount of property that Ratner does not own. Until the day comes where the developer has the deeds, including this unit in this building, which is situated where the arena would be, the project can’t go forward. We would hope to win this appeal on the motion to dismiss in the Second Circuit Court; if we don’t, we will be writing to the Supreme Court to hear our case. This will go on and on. This is not over by a long shot.

full article

Posted by lumi at 10:25 AM

Bloomberg Severs G.O.P. Ties, Fueling Talk of ’08 Bid

The NY Times

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he was dropping his Republican affiliation, a step that could clear the way for him to make an independent bid for the presidency. ...
“I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead my city,” Mr. Bloomberg’s statement read.


NoLandGrab: Given that government's increasingly expansive right to seize private property has been high on the Mayor's list of priorities, maybe affiliation with the "What's Yours is Mine" party might have made more sense.

Since polling data shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that eminent domain abuse should be reined in, Mayor Bloomberg is clearly out of step with public opinion on this issue.

Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM


Community First Development Coalition in Yonkers alerted us that a the previously missing video tape of the July 11, 2006 Yonkers City Council meeting have been posted on the Internet on a weblog called YonkersTV.

Annabi-YTV.jpgRegular NoLandGrab readers will recall that these tapes had gone missing when Federal investigators issued a subpoena to the Yonkers City Council. Though no one knows the target of the investigation, judging from the scope, it appears to focus on circumstances surrounding Bruce Ratner's highly controversial Ridge Hill development plan.

The Journal News explains (see, Missing Yonkers meeting video sought by feds is now on Internet):

The Ridge Hill development is one of the largest planned in Westchester County and would cover 81 acres between the New York State Thruway and the Sprain Brook Parkway, near the southern end of Grassy Sprain Reservoir. It would include 1,000 housing units, 1.3 million square feet of retail space, restaurants, a hotel and movie theaters. The developer is Forest City Ratner, whose Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn includes a basketball arena for the Nets, 6,400 housing units, retail and office space in 17 buildings.

Ridge Hill was opposed by some residents and surrounding municipalities, who said the development would spawn massive traffic congestion. The municipalities dropped their court opposition last year after an agreement to form a task force to ease traffic.

The City Council's approval of the zone change by a 5-2 vote last July required a "supermajority vote" - a majority plus one - because the proposal was opposed by the Westchester County Planning Board. The council had previously voted 4-3 in December 2005 for the zoning change after adopting a local law that eliminated the "supermajority" requirement. But that local law was overturned by the state Supreme Court, nullifying the change.

In the July vote, Lesnick, who came into office in January 2005, and Council member Sandy Annabi voted for the measure, although both had been plaintiffs in the lawsuit that blocked the earlier zone change.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

A New Jersey decision on blight, and the echo for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report examines the NJ State Supreme Court ruling that private property cannot be designated "blighted" just because it is underultilized, and compares the ruling, and the evolution of New Jersey's definition of "blight," to New York State's, and, primarily, the Atlantic Yards plan.

If you don't have the time to digest the entire NJ State court decision and the full briefs and transcripts of the Atlantic Yards legal cases, Norman Oder does a great job distilling the issue in this must-read article:

A unanimous decision June 13 by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which overruled a loose application of blight in an eminent domain case, doesn’t apply in New York, but it’s still instructive, since state courts often look to trends in other states.

Bottom line: were the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review transposed to New Jersey, the government would have a much tougher—though perhaps not impossible—task asserting blight.

However, the New York State Legislature and state courts, unlike those in many other states, have been slow to revise eminent domain laws in response to public concern. Blight remains a loosely defined and highly contested issue, as in the hearing May 3 regarding the challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement.

A decision is pending in that case. Notably, one of the blight characteristics asserted in Brooklyn--that buildings are unproductive because they don’t fulfill 60% of allowable development rights--likely wouldn't pass muster in New Jersey.


Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM


NYC Indy Media Center, A Community Burdened With Columbia's Need to Expand

Protesters of Columbia University's expansion into West Harlem hit another roadblock Monday when the City Planning Commission certified the school's application to re-zone Manhattanville. Now Community Board 9 is squeezed to come up with opposing recommendations over the next 60 days.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger even refused to take eminent domain off the table, a power normally reserved for public institutions, which Columbia—in spite of Bollinger’s arguments to the contrary—is not. With eminent domain, Columbia could conceivably force Manhattanville landowners onto the streets.

UndergroundRailroadSafeHouses.org, Photos from yesterday's press conference

City Councilmembers Letitia James and John Liu expressed their support to Duffield St. homeowners Joy Chatel and Lew Greenstein at yesterday's press conference. Chatel and Greenstein are trying to stop the city from taking their historic homes, which are slated to be demolished to make way for a parking garage.

Duffield St. Headlines:
AP, via Houston Chronicle, Battle Over Possible NY Slave Quarters
City Room (NY Times), A Juneteenth Riddle: Was Duffield Street a Stop on the Underground Railroad?
NY Sun, Opinion, History on Duffield Street
The Gowanus Lounge, Another Effort to Save Duffield St. Underground Railroad Houses

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogosphere70-sm.jpg Gumby Fresh, What The Hell Did They Expect For Their Lousy 35 Cents?

When it comes to the sale of MTA property, the appointment of real estate developers to head the MTA works for guys like Ratner.

Top real estate developer's son Governor Elliot Spitzer has nominated a real estate developer to run the MTA, succeeding another real estate developer. I can only assume that the PR thinking behind this is that we'll be pathetically grateful it's not Donald Trump Jr.

Probably the most baleful thing about the government of New York City, or perhaps a close second to the democratic party's grip on the city's lower levels of government, is the extent of the influence of real estate developers on the political process. Moreover it's basically the only constituency in the city that neither Spitzer nor Mayor Bloomberg have been willing to take on.

...the appointment is a fairly effective way of making sure the MTA does not get in the way of any lucrative projects, either by questioning their sustainability (Atlantic Yards), or making sure that sales are done at attractive prices (Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards), and avoiding disturbing any pricey investments (if the Second Avenue Subway was running anywhere apart from the Upper East Side it would have been open in 1985).

Queens Crap, Johnny Liu: born-again preservationist
"Crappy" rounds up online commentary about Liu's support for Duffield St. preservationists, in the wake of his silence on preservation issues in his own district and footprint of Atlantic Yards.

Mitchell Langbert's Blog, The Jacksonian Party versus Michael Bloomberg
A relatively new political blogger's view of Mayor Bloomberg's latest political powerplay makes references to Ratner and eminent domain:

The Mayor has spent the past six years kowtowing to the city's power brokers. He has busied himself with restaurant menus, west side football stadiums and a long range vision statement that mimics the failed ideas of Robert Moses. While he has harassed small business, he has catered to billionaire developers like Bruce Ratner. During his tenure, city government has been bloated, New York City's taxes inflated, and the divsions between rich and poor sharp as ever.

If Mayor Bloomberg were elected president, real estate prices in Peoria would follow New York's. Private use eminent domain would mushroom. Bruce Ratner and the Ochs Sulzbergers could blight Peoria with tasteless super-projects.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

June 19, 2007

Federal Judge in eminent domain case in headlines again

Judge Nicholas Garaufis made headlines last week for dismissing the federal eminent domain case brought by 13 plaintiffs who are contesting the constitutionality of the taking of private property for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan. Garaufis dismissed the case on the merits and the plaintiffs have vowed to appeal.

garaufis.gifYesterday, Garaufis landed on the cover of the Daily News as the trial of mob boss Vincent ("Vinny Gorgeous") Basciano was set to get underway. According to yesterday's article:

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis will preside this week over the retrial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano - even after the jailed gangster allegedly put him on a hit list.

"I certainly don't feel threatened or intimidated," the judge told Basciano's attorney Allan Brenner during jury selection last week.

Follow-up coverage:
NY Daily News, Gorgeous gets ugly with attorneys
NY Newsday, 'Vinny Gorgeous' retrial starts

Back in March, Garaufis also got some ink for sentencing Ronell Wilson to death. Wilson had been found guilty at trial for murdering two undercover detectives in a gun-purchase sting, and was the first person sentenced to death in a federal case in New York since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988.

Will the property owners under threat of Atlantic Yards be back in front of the increasingly renowned Judge Garaufis? Apparently, they will if they win their appeal in the Second Circuit, seeking to overturn the Judge's ruling that their case lacked merit. Stay tuned...

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

Remember the Brooklyn Standard? The permanent campaign adjusts

Atlantic Yards Report remembers "The Brooklyn Standard," which was, like, so-o-o yesterday.

The press release offered a prediction of publication “every few months”: “We want The Brooklyn Standard to be informative and to the point on issues related to the Atlantic Yards project,” Bruce Bender, the FCRC executive vice president for government and public affairs. “Every few months we will put out a new issue with updates, summaries of meetings, up-coming events and even other activities throughout the borough that people may find interesting.

Now "Brooklyn Tomorrow" is here today:

Now we have the annual Brooklyn Tomorrow, produced not by Manhattan Media for Forest City Ratner but by the New York Post's Community Newspaper Group (aka Courier-Life) for... well, the advertisers, who most prominently include Forest City Ratner and Barclays Capital.

The tabloid appears in each edition of this week's Courier-Life issues, as well. Consider it another adjustment in the "Atlantic Yards permanent campaign."


Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

EDC criticizes Coney developer's demand for "huge" $100M+ subsidy

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, the Times quoted a government official who criticized Thor Equities's Coney Island redevelopment proposal (article), claiming that the developer is "looking for a huge subsidy from the city. North of $100 million."

The "Mad Overkiller" Norman Oder opines:

Would make the $205 million city subsidy for Atlantic Yards "more than huge"?


NoLandGrab: Technically, it's "2.05-times-as-huge." But who's counting, when no one's looking?

Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM

Mixed-Rate Building Next to Atlantic Yards



The New York City Housing Development Corporation, which provides debt financing for affordable housing, announced a slew of new projects around the five boroughs last week, including one that will be in the shadows of the Atlantic Yards project.



Solar Dreams Denied
Though some folks are just waking up to the fact that "a new 10-story co-op with 80 low-, middle- and market-rate apartments will be built on the vacant lot at 669 Atlantic Avenue between South Portland Avenue and South Oxford Street in Fort Greene," readers of The Brooklyn Paper will recall that the Fifth Avenue Committee announced in February that it would have to abandon its plans for a solar-paneled roof because Atlantic Yards high-rises would leave the site in near-constant shadow (see, Ratner’s shadows end solar power dream).

Big Picture: HDC Financing
A Brooklyn Daily Eagle story on the HDC financing makes an important point about the HDC's financing approval for projects including Atlantic Terrace (see, "HDC Provides $320 Million For Affordable Housing, $76 Million for Brooklyn"):

But with the approvals announced this week, the HDC also said it would not be able to finance any further low-income, mixed-income or 80/20 housing until January unless state or federal officials took action to replenish the agency’s supply of private activity bond volume cap.

The Atlantic Yards Effect
Norman Oder has been covering the issue and informed readers that "this year the agency was assigned $195 million in volume cap, and expects it to be depleted by the end of June, according to HDC spokesman Aaron Donovan."

Oder points out that this has a dual effect on Atlantic Yards and the market (see, "Huge deficit in tax-exempt bonds suggests Atlantic Yards delay"):

  1. [Atlantic Yards] faces a significant hurdle over which the agencies had no control... units [already in the pipeline] precede the 2250 units promised for Atlantic Yards, involving $1.4 billion in bonds, a figure developer Forest City Ratner and government officials didn't reveal until after the project was approved.

  2. In the city’s pipeline alone, there’s $1.8 billion in projects, which precede the yet-unrequested $1.4 billion for Atlantic Yards. Given the scarcity of city funding for such developments, some affordable housing supporters have begun to express dismay that Atlantic Yards would suck up a significant portion of the pool.

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

Coney Island Condo Plan Killed, Hotels Proposed Instead

Commercial Property News
By Eugene Gilligan, Senior Editor

An article about Thor Equities's change of plans for its Coney Island redevelopment proposal includes this bit about hotels in Brooklyn, with an interesting characterization of Atlantic Yards:

In fact, hotel development in Coney Island is in keeping with the increased level of hotel construction in Brooklyn, as the borough has seen an increased level of hotel development in recent years, McConnell said. He predicted that Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, near the gigantic Atlantic Yards mixed-use development, should see more hotel development in the future.


NoLandGrab: A year ago, it would have been unthinkable that any reporter would characterize "Atlantic Yards" as "gigantic," even though it is the largest single-source private development in NYC history, and would be the densest residential community in the nation by a long shot.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...


On Juneteenth – a national celebration that commemorates the end of slavery – elected officials, historic preservationists, and local residents will rally at Duffield Houses to challenge the conclusions of the City's Economic Development Corporation report, which denies the existence of a historic Underground Railroad site at this location. Many of the nationally-renowned expert witnesses who worked on this report will directly repudiate the City's conclusions – which will now allow a private developer to demolish the Duffield Houses and build a parking lot at the site.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

227 Duffield Street (between Fulton & Willoughby)

McBrooklyn, Lawsuit to Save 'Duffield Seven' from Downtown Brooklyn Plan

A lawsuit has been filed against the city which aims to save the seven houses on and near Duffield Street that may have been part of the Underground Railroad, amNewYork reports.

These houses are in the footprint of parts of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, and slated for demolition.

"There is no debate at this point that prominent abolitionists lived at 227 Duffield St.," said Jennifer Levy, a lawyer with South Brooklyn Legal Services, which filed the suit Friday.

I'm Seeing Green, Ted Kennedy Blows off Wind (Farm)
There's NIMBY and then there's NIMBY:

Not in my backyard is a well-known phenomenon where an activist group gets together to stop projects that they consider will have negative consequences for their immediate environs. This can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint:

  • If it's the Atlantic Yards monstrosity, those of us against the destruction of the neighborhood feel we are on the side of the angels. That's another story, well discussed on the blogosphere.

  • If it's wind turbines a few miles off the coast, it's harder to understand the opposition.

We're thinking of wind turbines to make use of some of that hot air coming out of Borough Hall these days.

Leaning Cantonese, Local Action
A local blogger turns into a "long hair" to start a signature campaign and notes that a group in Hong Kong is making noise on the web, like some folks we know:

Like the Brooklyn-based blogs and groups that have been fighting the Atlantic Yards mega-development, Local Action has been using the Internet to move popular opinion and to organize the public to attend all the little and obscure town planning meetings where these projects get rubber stamped. Publicity, and noisy informed people may not be able to completely stop the deals and the giveaways, but it will force the big guys to work harder. And that will slow things down, maybe until the bubble finally bursts.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

June 18, 2007

Cordially Invited: Victorian House and Book Party

labinehomelogo.gifClem Labine, Everett Ortner, Burnley Duke Dame, Kathy Evers, and Deirdre Lawrence invite you to a fund-raiser for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and the legal expenses to send the Atlantic Yards mega-project back to the drawing board.

Sunday, June 24, 2007. 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
199 Berkeley Place. (Between 7th & 8th Avenues)
Park Slope

Tickets $60 in advance and $75 at the event.

More info or purchase tickets.

Posted by lumi at 10:36 AM


June 19 7:00 pm
Fifth Avenue Committee
621 DeGraw Street, Bklyn
RSVP: 718-237-2017 x 171

June 20 7:00 pm
St. Gregory's RC Church
991 St. John's Place, Bklyn
Sponsored by Crown Heights North Association, Inc.

June 21 7:00 pm
1320 Eighth Avenue, Bklyn
Panel to follow: Council Member Letitia James, Daniel Goldstein, Ron Shiffman, Michelle de la Uz and Isabel Hill
Sponsored by the Park Slope Jewish Center, Kolot Chayeinu, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

June 22 7:00 pm
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub), RSVP: 718-408-3234

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

At the street fair, FCR and the Nets play pretend

Atlantic Yards Report

FCRC7thHeaven-AYR.JPGNorman Oder dropped by to check out Forest City Ratner's Nets booth at yesterday's Seventh Heaven street fair in Park Slope. Albert King and keychains provided food for thought:

Notably, a free keychain with a rubber basketball offered only "Brooklyn" as a logo, with no mention of the team name. (For the purposes of the photo, I placed the keychain on the card.)

I haven't been tracking keychain offerings steadily, but the last time I picked up a keychain, in January 2006, it boasted both "Brooklyn" and "Nets."

Since April 2006, there's been public discussion of a name change for the Nets. Given the keychain trend, I think it's safe to assume that a name change is more likely than not.

The message at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's booth on the other side of the Slope was a little more direct, with "a page of somewhat hyperbolic warnings pasted on the Ratner poster."


Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

Two from BrooklynSpeaks member groups join Bloomberg's administration

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's administration, as part of its long-term sustainability initiative, has hired some well-respected analysts and advocates who've spent a long time on the outside looking in.

As Streetsblog has reported, Project for Public Spaces (PPS) vice president and transportation program director Andy Wiley-Schwartz will join the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, reporting to new Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller. And Jon Orcutt, former director of the Tri-State Transportation Council (TSTC) has joined DOT to serve as senior policy advisor to the new commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
Both PPS and TSTC have offered savvy criticism of Atlantic Yards both independently and as part of the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. Should the project continue to move forward, at least some city government officials will have taken a close look at the challenges.


Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gumby Fresh, This Is Young Calgarians

While I'm talking about cultural institutions for a moment, could I just issue this plea to the Municipal Arts Society to stop bringing the spam to concerned Prospect Heights/Park Slope residents. For some reason, signing up to the Brooklyn Speaks campaign, this whole misguided "maybe if we adopt more nuanced tones in criticizing the Atlantic Yards project they'll scale it back or make it less ass-ugly" campaign has been read by the MAS as consent to be added to its mailing list for all of its non-Atlantic Yards verbiage.

Joshing Politics, NYC Lets Developers Get Away With Anything

Atlantic Yards is the posterproject for local government run amok:

The horror story of the Atlantic Yards project consistently makes the local news and blog scene. Yet AY is one huge example of a city-wide problem where developers are consistently favored over residents.

A Marty sighting leads to some reflection about how the Brooklyn Borough President's relationship with the Borough has changed:

He used to be Brooklyn's best cheerleader. He never missed an event, a chance to add his wacky enthusiasm to a PTA meeting, a middle school graduation, Little League Day in the Prospect Park or the Brooklyn Pride parade.

The Atlantic Yards changed all that.

Stuck in His Head, Take that, Gehry!

Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards has become the project against which all other un-neighborly projects are measured:

In which Julian Schnabel proves that there are ideas "worse" than the Atlantic Yards project and his neighbors freak the fuck out.

BushwickBK.com, The Brooklyn Paper Embraces Organic

Atlantic Yards gets an honorable mention for what it's not:

Organic development, that is. I’m not so sure many of the people opposed to the Atlantic Yards project would be the staunch foes of eminent domain that they are without the kick in the pants a cluster of giant taxpayer-funded shadowcasting skyscrapers provides.

Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM


Senior Project Architect/Designer (10+ years experience)

Gehry Partners, LLP

Gehry Partners, LLP is currently seeking Senior Project Architects/Designers to work in the Los Angeles office who have strong experience in and sound working knowledge of the detailing and design of custom architectural exterior enclosure systems, roofing systems, and waterproofing; in the preparation of construction documents; in in-house quality assurance; and in construction administration on large and complex projects.
Potential projects, depending on interest and experience, could include and are not limited to Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; LV Foundation, Paris; Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn; Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, Las Vegas; New World Symphony Campus Extension, Miami Beach; Grand Avenue, Los Angeles; Beekman Street Housing, Lower Manhattan.

Please do not respond if you are not fully qualified. Fluency in English, both written and spoken, is required.


Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Grandlantic Yards?

Overexposé of super-starchitect Frank Gehry

GrandlanticYards.jpgArchitectural Record conflates Gehry's two mega projects in its online "News Highlights" (audio):

Well, here’s an item about Frank Gehry—whose patience is apparently wearing thin with Forest City Ratner, developer of the massive Grand Avenue project* across the street from his Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Although the project is shaping up to be “a dramatic architectural presence in its own right,” the L.A. Times reported on June 12 that Gehry has “clashed repeatedly and sometimes bitterly” with Forest City and might not return for Grand Avenue’s later phases.

The LA Times reported:

Since Frank Gehry was hired nearly two years ago to design a massive mixed-use project along Grand Avenue, he has clashed repeatedly and sometimes bitterly with the developer, New York's Related Cos. Barring some sudden rapprochement, it now seems unlikely that Gehry will return for the planned second and third phases of the project.

NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner is the overdeveloper for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, for which Frank Gehry is slated to design the arena and ALL 16 high-rise towers, in addition to towers to be built over the Atlantic Center mall. The additional towers are not included in the Atlantic Yards plan, since they are "as of right" under current zoning.

NYC-based Related is the big-time developer of the Grand Avenue project in Los Angeles, for which Frank Gehry was hired to design the master plan and one building.

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Page Travelstead, Joshua Keay

NY Times Weddings

The bride, 28, is keeping her name. She is a residential project manager, in Brooklyn, at Forest City Ratner Companies, the real estate developer. She graduated from Stanford and received a master’s degree in real estate development from Columbia.


NoLandGrab: It used to be that you only had to work for the City to get a "degree in real estate development." Now you can get a one-year crash course from an Ivy League University.

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

June 17, 2007

Sunday Comix


Posted by amy at 10:02 AM

"If the blight comes through": Radio Golf on Broadway, for two weeks more


Atlantic Yards Report

Despite its imperfections, Radio Golf is good theater, with a good dose of humor, some riveting theatrical moments and even an entertainingly prescient case for congestion pricing. It didn't win any Tonys, so, according to the official web site, it's closing July 1. (Discounts are available; $42.50 tickets are at BroadwayOffers.com; code RGNFP62.)

The discussion of blight--as well as that of stadiums and their economic value--is hardly exhaustive, since it's a play, not a tract (or blog).

Atlantic Yards supporters might take comfort in the strong hints of inevitability, despite moral outrage, with which the play ends. After all, Hicks asks his (now-former) partner if he thought a judge would let a "raggedy-ass house" get in the way of a multi-million dollar project. For those opposing the project, probably the most resonant line goes to Barlow, seen at right refusing money from Wilks: "Big boats turn slow, but they turn nonetheless."


Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

Downtown Development: Atlantic Yards Is Still the Largest Project on the Table

Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Dennis Holt writes a fun-filled diatribe "on the summary documentation by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership on the development projects planned for Downtown Brooklyn."

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance eats up his previous editorial about what the opposition did wrong.

Knowing Bruce Ratner as well as I do (since I work for him on this development), I know that he was ready to listen to anyone who was willing to be reasonable.

rea·son·a·ble: (adjective) the ability to be blindly agreeable to anything that Bruce Ratner says without asking for supporting evidence

Posted by amy at 9:08 AM

June 16, 2007

Oy Vey!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

City Hall newspaper has a Q&A with Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz. In the specific Q&A below, Mr. Markowitz first doesn't answer what he thinks of the process around "Atlantic Yards" but rather what he thinks of those who oppose the project or are critical of it. Nobody in officialdom is willing to say that they liked the "Atlantic Yards" process, thus the evasion.

Now Mr. Markowitz, in his answer below, claims that he "tried his best" to bring people together on the project. That, we respectfully say, is a fallacy. Mr. Markowitz never meaningfully responded to opponents and critics. Sure he met with them, and then ignored them. And then last month Mr. Markowitz fired Community Board 6 members who deigned to take a position different than his own on the project. That's bringing people together?

We have bountiful anecdotal evidence that it has been very difficult for Mr. Markowitz to appear publicly anywhere in the Borough without getting an earful about his stance on "Atlantic Yards." Just last night at the opening of the 29th season of Celebrate Brooklyn in the Prospect Park Bandshell, Mr. Markowitz was roundly booed when he welcomed the audience prior to a fantastic Neville Brothers concert.

That should be no surprise for such a highly controversial project, especially when its chief political cheerleader, Mr. Markowitz, is a former tenant activist now supporting the abuse of eminent domain, secondary displacement that could reach nearly 3,000 units of at risk populations according to the state's own study, and 4,180 luxury units of instant gentrification. This is Mr. Brooklyn, trading on Brooklyn nostalgia, to promote a project that is the antithesis of everything Brooklyn stands for.


Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Hypocrisy in Brooklyn: Bill and Marty

The Daily Gotham

Bill [de Blasio] is one of Ratner's biggest cheerleaders. He fully supports Ratner's project that will abuse eminent domain to uproot an entire chunk of Brooklyn that was once called "up and coming" to replace it with a giant monstrosity which will suck a huge amount of taxpayer's money from the state and local levels and won't really deliver affordable housing...or at least not housing that is considered affordable even by the definition used in Manhattan.

Fine. Bill supports something I don't. We agree to disagree on much of it.

Now Bill turns around and suddenly plays community activist against an evil developer. As reported in the Park Slope Courier, Ratner's biggest cheerleader on the City Council is playing his own NIMBY game with a different developer.
Ummm...I got news for you Bill. Ratner is worse. Ratner's plan is far larger, goes BEYOND being inappropriate for the community and simply uproots a community, and has proven that the only interest Ratner has in the community is to squeeze it for $100 million to buy the land for a project he is far too lazy, or devious, to provide a business plan for.


Posted by amy at 10:29 AM

HDC Provides $320 Million For Affordable Housing, $76 Million for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Collins

$320 million in financing would be used to build or preserve 2,285 affordable apartments in 36 buildings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

Fun with math! $320 million for 2,285 apartments = approx. $140,043 per apartment. Ratner is asking $1.4 billion for 2,250 units. This is approx. $622,222 per apartment. They must all have subzero refrigerators or something...


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

Travis Clarke at Soapbox Gallery


Soapbox Gallery is pleased to present "Wishing dead trees back to life" a performance piece by Travis Clarke. Travis will spend seven consecutive nights in the gallery window space on Dean Street from sunset to sunrise wishing a dead tree back to life.

Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street, Brooklyn, NY 11238, www.soapboxgallery.org

Friday, June 15 through Friday, June 22, Sunset to sunrise.

"Wishing dead trees back to life" is about attempting to do something that seems impossible. It is a very sad piece and is simply about the abstraction of trying. Dead trees seem like an appropriate metaphor for a lot of what is in the world today; it loosely connotes the environment, although this is not an environment piece exactly. The tree also represents a love or a person or even our collective social consciousness.

NoLandGrab: Could the tree also be representing the possibility of a future dead neighborhood?

Posted by amy at 10:05 AM

'Contemporary Architecture With Gary Gehry'


No comment.

Posted by amy at 10:02 AM

June 15, 2007

I jumped ship, sez Yards big

Departed Forest City honcho denies he got axed from building project

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Stuckey speaks, but has nothing to say?

Former Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey says that he wan't canned, only he's not saying why he's no longer working for Bruce Ratner:

Bruce Ratner's top lieutenant on the controversial Atlantic Yards project, James Stuckey, resigned this week from Forest City Ratner.

His sudden departure, and the fact that the company referred questions about his resignation to public relations guru Howard Rubenstein, fueled speculation by insiders that Stuckey's exit was a rocky one.

But Stuckey said yesterday his decision to leave his post as executive vice president of commercial development after 13 years with the company was not the result of a falling out between him and boss Bruce Ratner.

In keeping with the talking points from the press release, Stuckey adds:

"There are other interests I want to pursue and, quite honestly, when you're working 18-hour days on a project as complicated as this, with a company as great as Forest City, it's very difficult to pursue those other interests," Stuckey told the Daily News in his first public comments since his departure.

That's his story and he's stuck with it:

He declined to divulge his future job prospects. And when asked if he had signed a confidentiality agreement prohibiting him from discussing the Atlantic Yards project or his own resignation critically, Stuckey declined to comment.


Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Brooklyn Tomorrow: synergy and puffery

Atlantic Yards Report check's out yesterday's four-color glossy 48-page insert in the NY Post.

Atlantic Yards and the Barclay's Center inhabit all four inside and outside cover pages, while a "cheery" "article" by Courier-Life reporter Steve Witt looks more like "journalizement" (or is it "advertorialism?").


It's a document for our times, a promotional magazine inserted in yesterday’s New York Post, not labeled advertorial though it certainly reads as such. Brooklyn Tomorrow is subtitled “The changing face of the bustling borough’s dynamic communities,” and features advertising and cheery articles mainly about major development projects.

Produced by the Post’s Community Newspaper Group, and written by staffers from the Courier-Life chain the Post purchased, Brooklyn Tomorrow reads like the return of Forest City Ratner's promotional Brooklyn Standard, but under the imprimatur of an actual newspaper rather than as a “publication.”

And, of course, FCR's Atlantic Yards project gets royal treatment. The cover boasts a full-frontal close-up of Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn, which could be described as "massive" or perhaps "striking," rather than “elegant," as stated. On the back cover, another view of Miss Brooklyn, in the Barclays Center advertisement that first appeared in January.

On the inside back cover, another advertisement for the Barclays Center. On the inside front cover, a Forest City Ratner advertisement, stating, “What will Atlantic Yards bring to Brooklyn?” The lead article declares Atlantic Yards “the crown jewel of Brooklyn’s renaissance.”


NoLandGrab: Who needs a fake tabloid when the Post will do it for you?

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

Brooklyn loves its Hook tacos

Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Has Bruce Ratner become the yardstick against which all other neighborhood fights are measured?

Saving the soccer tacos has just picked up where fighting Bruce Ratner left off to become the hottest cause celebre for some Brooklyn activists.


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM


NY Post
By Steve Cuozzo

A Post columnist takes the Gray Lady to task for its Lower Manhattan real estate coverage, and wonders if stifling the competition had anything to do with the culture of gloom. It might, when your business partner, Bruce Ratner, has 28 floors to fill:

Today, of course, companies and residents are moving into lower Manhattan as fast as new buildings can open their doors. Stores and restaurants are clamoring to join the rush.

No thanks to the Times. But what prompted its effort to finish off downtown for good?

Just maybe an institutional wish to stifle competition for the top half of the Times Co.'s new Eighth Avenue headquarters, where its development partner, Bruce Ratner, had 27 floors to fill.

Only when Ratner began landing tenants did the Times finally start covering Ground Zero more responsibly.


NoLandGrab: At the very least, as in the case of the Times's Atlantic Yards coverage, it requires that the paper cover the issue more "responsibly."

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

On/Off the Record with Marty Markowitz

City Hall


City Hall: When it comes to Atlantic Yards, have you been surprised by the process?
Marty Markowitz: Well I have to tell you, this is my first experience at it. You understand, when I was a state senator for 23 years, out of 62 state senators, you’re pretty much hit by the group. Then you become borough president or mayor and you’re one out of one. And it really came as a significant surprise that for the first time in my professional life, I was not able to bring people together. I have to tell you, I tried my best. I really did. I have to tell you I tried my best, my support of Atlantic Yards and my enthusiasm for Atlantic Yards is based on my true, sincere, full belief that it’s for the best of this and future generations of Brooklynites, there’s no question about it. And yet in the first time of my life, I’ve run into a number of people, significant number of people, feel that anyone who’s for Atlantic Yards is a sellout, is being schtupped, is being bribed, is being corrupt, and those are nice words. And never in my life have I met a group of people that if you’re not with them, you’re the enemy. I’ve never had that. I’ve had many disagreements when I first started Albany. Gay rights, abortion rights, those were contentious issues, believe me. But never with the hostility and hate that I’ve experienced during this process.

CH: The design has changed a lot. Do you like where it is now?
MM: Listen, from day one I always and continued to maintain that, the promised numbers of affordable housing units, which is approximately 2,250 units of affordable housing, must be guaranteed. And indeed, Forest City Ratner has not wavered one bit from that commitment. Now, in terms of the other part of the project, the market rate housing, obviously a lot of that is going to support the subsidized housing. And some of it is rightfully going for a fair return for the men and women that are investing in this, which they have every right to do.


NoLandGrab: On the record and for the record, the "design" hasn't changed that much since the beginning. What has changed is the square footages of commercial vs. housing. Even now, there are two options that were studied in the Environmental Impact Statement, giving the developer, Forest City Ratner, quite a bit of wiggle room down the line.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

Community Board reform! - Appointment process is too political and must be changed, some say

Courier-Life Publications
By Joe Maniscalco

Though the following excerpts contain references to Atlantic Yards and Borough President Marty Markowitz's purge of Communtiy Board 6, the article is worth reading for additional examples of community voices stymied by Borough Hall and an interesting reform proposal from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that should be taken more seriously, due to recent events:

The purging of nine members from Community Board 6 opposed to the Atlantic Yards project has only solidified that view and sparked new calls for changes in the way people make it onto their local community board.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer complained that the community board process had become “overly politicized and unsystematic” when he introduced his community board reform package last year.
“These folks have been serving their community by opposing the disastrous Atlantic Yards project,” said Colby Hamilton, Green Party of Brooklyn chair. “Now we see how community-supported opposition is handled – it’s a political massacre.”
Park Slope resident and Green Party member James Lane lives within Community Board 6 and he says he was proud of the “thoughtful and transparent” way in which the members of his community board reviewed the complexities of the Atlantic Yards project.

“The decision to expel these public servants is just another sign that the proponents of the Atlantic Yards debacle are willing to stoop to anything to shove this project down the community’s throat,” he said.


Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

June 14, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere65.jpg Brownstoner, Stuckey, We Hardly Knew Ye

While no one's using the word fired (nope, he's "pursuing other challenges"), it seems pretty clear that FCR thought it was time for an image make-over. Or perhaps the combative Mr. Stuckey had just pissed off one too many people by this point. Who knows.

I'm Seeing Green, Atlantic Yards

Following up on my Atlantic Yards walk of last week, where I'd met photographer Tracy Collins: his wonderful pictorial essa on AY has been noted by noLandGrab here.

OneHansonPlace.com, Boerum Hill condo sale

No discernible Atlantic Yards effect here. This 874 square foot condo is selling for a spritely $800 psf, at a price of $699K.

Just two blocks away from Atlantic on Dean Street, this new construction condo is changing hands for what is surely a nice profit for the buyer.

OneHansonPlace.com also has changed the banner to a panorama overlooking the railyards.

The Gowanus Lounge, Community Board 6 Holds First Post-Massacre Meeting

Community Board 6 held its first meeting since the Atlantic Yards/Gowanus Massacre by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Member David Yassky that ended the service of nine longstanding members. The Board voted down a resolution criticizing the dismissals and suggesting that the "independence and, indeed, the fundamental value of Community Boards are undermined" by removal of members based on their position on controversial issues. The Board voted against the measure by a voted of 14-6 with a large number of abstentions.

Posted by lumi at 11:45 PM

"Stop Payment": Groups say city's $100M shouldn't buy Ratner land

Atlantic Yards Report


Maybe it was a little quixotic, since the City Council and Mayor Mike Bloomberg had come to a budget agreement on Monday, but a somewhat unusual coalition of Brooklyn community groups gathered yesterday to protest the apparent allocation of $100 million of city funds to buy land for the Atlantic Yards project.

"'Stop Payment' for private property acquisition," read the oversized checks displayed at the press conference outside City Hall, organized by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has called for significant changes in Atlantic Yards but has avoided litigation opposing the project. Likely because of the budget agreement, City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, who have criticized the city's allocation decision, were not present at the press conference.

The $100 million is part of $205 million in city support for Atlantic Yards, which is $105 million more than contemplated in a February 2005 nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). While $105 million will go to infrastructure, the $100 million apparently has no strings attached, though officials of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have said that it will be used to acquire land.


Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM


Along with New York, New Jersey is considered one of the worst abusers of eminent domain in the nation.

NJEminentDomain.com, Bloomfield consents to cease eminent domain
We've been keeping a close eye on the Bloomfield case, since it's another instance in which a state's coercive power was being used for one of the nation's serial abusers of eminent domain, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Back in January, Forest City walked away from the deal. Could this recent announcement be why?

The long, contentious three-year litigation over Bloomfield’s redevelopment and its attempts to secure properties by eminent domain is over. The New Jersey Superior Court entered an order approved by Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello dismissing Lardieri et al v. Township of Bloomfield (ESX-L-8929-06) on the express condition that Bloomfield would not use its power of eminent domain to acquire the five plaintiffs’ properties.

The order was approved in a resolution by the Bloomfield Township Planning Board, the Mayor and Council. Both the resolution and the order establish that Bloomfield, when it selects a new developer, cannot use eminent domain to acquire private properties for the project, and the developer can acquire properties only through arms length negotiations. Most importantly, eminent domain has been removed from the developer’s arsenal.

More and more courts are reasserting private property rights in states where the legislature has preferred to bend over backwards for developers. New Jersey looks like they're the latest:

AP, via BusinessWeek.com, Court: eminent domain requires blight

The New Jersey State Supreme Court issued a blow Wednesday to the way municipalities use their power of eminent domain to acquire private land.

In an unanimous ruling, the court said that for land to be taken against the owner's wishes it must be "blighted" and not merely "not fully productive."

Bergen Record, Ruling limits use of eminent domain

The 42-page unanimous decision said that town officials cannot seize homes and businesses simply because they believe those properties can be put to better use.

"The court is giving notice that municipalities no longer have unfettered access to private property," said Harvey Pearlman, a lawyer who represents a Passaic homeowner whose house was condemned by the city without his knowledge.

The court wrestled with what constitutes blight in deciding a case from Gloucester County, where the town of Paulsboro sought to condemn a 63-acre tract made up mostly of wetlands.

Chief Justice James Zazzali wrote that Paulsboro considered blight to be property that is "stagnant or not fully productive" but could be rehabilitated.

"Under that approach, any property that is operated in a less than optimal manner is arguably 'blighted,' " he wrote. "If such an all-encompassing definition of 'blight' were adopted, most property in the State would be eligible for redevelopment."

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Case Dismissed: Yards Lawsuit Tossed by Judge

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder recaps his coverage of last week's dismissal of the Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain lawsuit by Judge Garaufis:

The opposition to the Atlantic Yards project suffered a significant setback on June 6, when U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, in an emphatic yet potentially questionable decision, dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the federal lawsuit filed by 13 property owners and renters challenging eminent domain at the Prospect Heights site.

Notably, Garaufis ruled that even if public benefits-including new tax revenues, housing, jobs, and the elimination of blight-are less than promised, they're sufficient to overcome allegations that the 22-acre, 16-tower, one-arena project is a sweetheart deal benefiting developer Forest City Ratner.

"Because Plaintiffs concede that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted, Plaintiffs' allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the 'sole purpose' of the Project is to confer a private benefit," Garaufis wrote. "Neither would those allegations permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the purposes offered in support of the Project are 'mere pretexts' for an actual purpose to confer a private benefit on FCRC."


Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Willets Point rehab tab put at $3B-plus

NY Daily News
By Frank Lombardi

When Robert Lieber, the President of NYC's Economic Develop Corp. (EDC), tossed out some estimates of what it would take to re-develop the 60-acre Willets Point site, milk came out of City Councilmembers' noses.

Aside from citing figures that strained credulity, Lieber also said that the city is striving not to use eminent domain — but that the Mayor is "not going to let one person be the holdout for the good that's associated with so many other people."


NoLandGrab: Eminent domain is either on or off the table — to say it will only be used if the city can't make a deal with the property owners is coercive.

Lowball costs and double-dealing on eminent domain sounds familiar to those who've been keeping an eye on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

More Ridge Hill nuttiness

RidgeHillRendering.jpg Some folks in Yonkers were stunned to wake up this morning to news that their City Council would be voting on the budget this evening. [In Yonkers, budget approval votes, no matter how overdue, are subject to public-notice rules.]

Budget negotiations have been contentious and bogged down due to the fact that the Mayor, Phil Amicone, worked out a backroom deal with developer Forest City Ratner permitting the company to purchase the lease for the Ridge Hill property for $26 million, far less than the City's previous valuation of $150 million, and former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi's appraisal of $630 million.

From Community First Development Coalition Blog, Budget Meeting Tonight Despite No Official Notice. 8:00pm City Hall:

According to today's Journal News The City of Yonkers Budget will be voted on tonight. No official notice has been sent out as of 7:50am, despite the Council's own 24 hour notice rule. Interestingly the Ridge Hill Lease will now not be used to fill the budget gap.

From the Journal News, "City Council leader hopes to pass Yonkers budget tonight;"

The budget does not include $8.5 million in revenue that would come from the sale of the lease at Ridge Hill development site, a deal that several City Council members are challenging in the hope of getting more money for the city.

NoLandGrab: We're hearing from the Yonkers grapevine that State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is taking a close look at the Ridge Hill deal, which is another stellar example of how developer Forest City Ratner always manages to get land for cheap and lots of taxpayer money to help pay for it.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Meet the new boss...

Executive Vice President, Director of Commercial & Residential Development

From Forest City Ratner's (FCR) website:

Prior to joining Forest City in 1994, Ms. Gilmartin was Managing Director for Consulting Services at Grubb & Ellis Companies advising corporations and developers on real estate and relocation needs. Previously she served as Assistant Vice President for Commercial Development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) during the Koch and Dinkins administrations, managing the City’s multi-million-dollar corporate retention program which kept Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Chase Manhattan Bank and other vital businesses in New York City.

Ms. Gilmartin is a member of the Association of Real Estate Women, which honored her in 2004 as a “rising star” in New York real estate. She is also a member of CoreNet Global, the world's premier association for corporate real estate and related professionals; WX (previously CREW), and serves enthusiastically on the New York City Ballet Advisory Committee.

From yesterday's FCR press release:

MaryAnne Gilmartin currently manages Forest City Ratner Companies’ Commercial & Residential Development division, including the development of two of the company’s most prestigious new projects: the 1.6 million square foot New York Times Building in midtown Manhattan designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, and the Frank Gehry designed Beekman Residential project in lower Manhattan. Ms. Gilmartin has been responsible for the development of several major entertainment and commercial office projects. She led the development of the 42nd Street mixed-use project and the development of the Battery Park City retail complex.

From Crain's "40 Under 40," 2003: gilmartin-sm.jpg

When MaryAnne Gilmartin studied in college abroad, Spaniards mistook her for a native because she learned to speak their language so well.
During a city-funded Urban Fellowship, Ms. Gilmartin’s first job after college, the president of the Public Development Corp. asked her to work for him. She turned a summer internship into a seven-year stint with the agency. The corporate retention grants she negotiated kept thousands of jobs in New York.

In her spare time, she discovered she couldn’t find sufficiently rigorous aerobics classes. So she became a certified instructor and did the teaching herself.

The Real Estate Observer noted that Gilmartin was promoted behind her mentor, Jim Stuckey (May 9, 2006):

Pipeline work will go to MaryAnne Gilmartin, newly anointed Executive Vice President for Commercial and Residential Development....

And just yesterday, the NY Post ran a piece about the "Retail Deal of the Year Awards" ("The Riddies???"):

The two entries were chosen out of 14 submitted to the Real Estate Board of New York. This year's judges included Aaron Battista, Seven for all Mankind; Laurie Marco, Reiss; Tom Bowen, Callison Architecture; Mark Finkelstein, Retail Strategies; and Maryann Gilmartin, Forest City Ratner Companies.

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

Sayonara Stuckey

News that Jim Stuckey got canned took many Brooklynites by surprise, during what otherwise started as a quiet week in Ratnerville.

Just a year ago Stuckey was promoted from Executive Vice President to "President of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group." Many in the community speculated that Stuckey's star was being hitched to Atlantic Yards — his career and fortunes would rise or fall with this project.

Without an inside source, we have no way of knowing why "Plucky Stuckey" was given the axe, and an opportunity to "pursue new challenges." Isn't that sort of like resigning to "spend time with your family," unless of course you don't have a family?

The timing is curious, since, from Forest City's perspective, things are going pretty well.

The new Empire State Development Corporation was supposed to take a "hard look" at the project at the behest of the community. All the community has gotten for its trouble is the appointment of an "ombuddy" and a temporary suspension of demolition while things get sorted out in the wake of the Ward Bakery parapet collapse.

Forest City must've also felt pretty confident when a Federal Judge dismissed the main eminent domain suit on the merits — in other words, not based on some minor technical legal mumbo jumbo, but based on the fact that the judge was confident that the property owners would not be able to prove their case [Note: Part of the appeal will be based on the fact that the judge mischaracterized some of the plaintiffs' main arguments, but that's for another day.]

So why was Stuckey shown the door? He was Bruce's right-hand man, after all.

It certainly wasn't the wild exaggeration in his online bio that he was an accomplished musician who plays ten instruments. That bio, by the way, quickly disappeared as news of Stuckey's firing spread (archived copy). Though it wasn't an offense that would demand that the "Prez" get fired, the claim neatly characterized Forest City's penchant for exaggeration and casually "bendering" the truth, even when it didn't have to.

Stuckey's sayonara may have had nothing to do with the project, though on these pages, everything is about Atlantic Yards. So, we can only wonder why the Capo was canned, even though Forest City is on track with Atlantic Yards, though two years behind schedule.

These days, it seems that only sexual shenanigans or serious financial impropriety garner such a quick invitation to the exit door, which would be ironic since Stuckey was fond of reminding anyone who would listen that at one time he was studying to be a priest.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear: homeowner and lead plaintiff Dan Goldstein has, perhaps miraculously, outlasted James P. Stuckey, former Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President.

Posted by lumi at 1:02 AM

Stuckey Leaves Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Stuckey-REO.jpgMore on Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Group President Jim Stuckey's firing:

Much more than the company’s chief executive, Bruce Ratner, it was Mr. Stuckey, a tall silver-haired fellow with a goatee, who defended the 22-acre project at public hearings, press conferences and the like.

A Crain’s New York Business profile of him last May, published right after he was promoted to become head of an Atlantic Yards subsidiary, said that Mr. Stuckey did not fit the “mold of ruthless real estate developer” and was studying for a master’s in theology on the side and played cello as a youngster. He ran the Public Development Corporation under Mayor Ed Koch, the precursor to the Economic Development Corporation, right when Forest City was building the MetroTech center in downtown Brooklyn. After a stint at a real estate consulting company, Mr. Stuckey went to work for Forest City doing exactly the type of public-private partnerships that he once oversaw.

His picture and bio are already off the company’s Web site.


Posted by lumi at 12:56 AM

Atlantic Yards project gets new leadership

Kira Bindim from Crain's NY Business regurgitates the press release:

Forest City Ratner has spent the past few weeks preparing for Mr. Stuckey’s resignation, which is effective immediately.

NoLandGrab: Every indication, other than the actual press release, is that this firing was precipitous.

This wasn't from the press release:

Mr. Stuckey’s resignation is the latest in a string of hurdles for the Atlantic Yards project. Demolition work for the Brooklyn arena project was temporarily suspended in late April after a partial building collapse at the nearby Ward Bakery Building displaced 350 residents. Opponents to the project, spearheaded by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, came out swinging, saying the 97-year-old building, which Forest City Ratner acquired last year, wasn’t unstable until contractors went in.


Posted by lumi at 12:49 AM

Goodbye, Mr. Stuckey; Atlantic Yards head departs for "new challenges"

Atlantic Yards [Group President] Report

Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group for Forest City Ratner and the developer's point man for more than three years on the project, has resigned from the company, "effective immediately, citing personal reasons and a desire to pursue new challenges."

Atlantic Yards, the company stated in a press release (below) issued today via spokesperson Howard Rubenstein, "remains on target."

That's of course a relative term, given that parent company Forest City Enterprises has acknowledged a myriad of factors, including ongoing negotiations with governmental authorities, environmental remediation, various lawsuits, increasing construction costs, scarcity of labor and supplies, the difficulty in obtaining tax exempt financing, and increasing rates for financing.

Stuckey will be succeeded by MaryAnne Gilmartin, the developer's executive VP and director of commercial & residential development. An observer I spoke to described her as a more charming salesperson than the rougher-edged Stuckey, who has other strengths, given his long history in public-private developments.
The press release came not from Forest City's internal public relations department nor Dan Klores Communications, the developer's prime outside public relations consultant on Atlantic Yards. Rather, it came from Rubenstein Associates, the city's premier strategic p.r. firm, whose head, Howard J. Rubenstein, was described by The New Yorker as "a kind of gentle fixer for those who run New York."

Full press release after the complete article.

Posted by lumi at 12:34 AM

June 13, 2007

[De]Construction of The Neighborhood

By Tracy Collins
Hardcover, $40; Softcover, $25
Purchase: AtlanticYardsPhotoBook.com

Photographer Tracy Collins has been posting his dramatic images of his neighborhood-in-flux on flickr, as Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is not only transforming the footprint of the project, but looms over the surrounding blocks.

Now, Collins has organized these images into a book that provides a snapshot of a neighborhood on the precipice of dramatic change.

With a simple neighborhood map outlining the footprint and showing the location of all of the images, the photos speak for historic buildings set to be demolished and their neighbors, which will remain to endure and bear witness.

In the Epilogue, Collins shares his feelings about the project, which seem to reflect the sentiment of the entire neighborhood:

As my home would be less than a block from the nearest hi-rise building on the corner of Dean St. and Carlton Avenue, I'm anxious, to say the least.
My neighbors and I will have to live with decades of construction and the consequences of whatever gets built. I'd love to have a reasonable, rational and attractive development built over the rail yards. Who doesn't? But if Atlantic Yards in its current form is what is actually built, I fear that the neighborhood in which I chose to make my home will not be merely transformed, but will be replaced.

Is Collins's book a rallying cry or a requiem? It would depend on your own thoughts and feelings about the project.

Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM

BROOKLYN MATTERS: A Week of Screenings

June 13 6:00 pm - 6:00 pm reception, 6:30 pm screening
87 Lafayette Street
NYC, Sponsored by Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project

June 15 7:00 pm
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub), RSVP: 718-408-3234

June 19 7:00 pm
Fifth Avenue Committee
621 DeGraw Street, Bklyn
RSVP: 718-237-2017 x 171

June 20 7:00 pm
St. Gregory's RC Church
991 St. John's Place, Bklyn
Sponsored by Crown Heights North Association, Inc.

Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

Boombox: race, class and real estate

Atlantic Yards Report

Boombox.jpg Even when it comes to light reading, Norman Oder's summer reading list focuses on stories about gentrification, land use, rapacious developers, etc. (see, "Dark Lady: when it comes to a stadium, follow the money")

Today, the Mad Overkiller reviews "Boombox," a story about race and class, set in pre-House-of-Detention-closing Brownstone Brooklyn:

Thinking about Boombox's central conflict, Grace raises the question, in an unspoken message to her white neighbors, that lingers for anyone--including those exercised about Atlantic Yards--who must pick and choose their issues: “Is this what you choose to get upset about, when just around the corner there is a giant housing project sinking under the weight of poverty and crime and your neglect?… Who is organizing about that?”


Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

Boot comes as a shock to this member - CB6’s Al Cabbad says he was never told about getting the axe

Courier-Life Publications
By Gary Buiso


Octogenarian Al Cabbad was the last to know.

Cabbad, a longtime member of Community Board 6, and successful 5th Avenue merchant, had no idea he was booted from Community Board 6—until this newspaper came calling.
“I wish CB 6 the best of luck,” he said. “I know where I stand. I know how good I am.”

“I stand very tall,” he said.

In September, Cabbad, like the majority of the board, voted in favor of several resolutions that expressed reservations with developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.
Member Celia Cacace praised Cabbad’s long service to Brooklyn. She called his removal “shameful.”

“What they did is terribly wrong,” Cacace said. “Is this becoming a dictatorship?”

A spokesperson for City Councilmember David Yassky is attempting to make sure the blame for the unpopular purge remains on the steps of Borough Hall:

City Councilmembers recommend members to the board but don’t actually appoint them, noted Sam Rockwell, a spokesperson for Yassky. “David and the borough president have a wonderful working relationship, but in the end, the decision to reappoint or not reappoint is the decision of the borough president,” he said.

One Community Boardmember, Joe Porcelli, announced that he will resign in protest:

“The board, in my mind, has become a farce,” he continued. “There is a compact here, based on the illusion that community boards are based on participatory democracy. I always thought this illusion was reality.”


Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

Federal Case Against Atlantic Yards Project Dismissed

Project’s Public Purpose Justifies Eminent Domain, Judge Says

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Courthouse News & Cases
By Elizabeth Stull

Garaufis.jpgThe courthouse reporter for the Eagle reports on Garaufis's decision in the federal eminent domain suit:

The relative merits of the project and whether it will achieve any of its objectives are political issues the court may not consider after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn., Garaufis observed in a footnote.

The plaintiffs in both cases are property owners and rent-subsidized tenants located in the footprint of the planned 22-acre development project. They challenged the state’s right to forcibly take their property by eminent domain, saying it violates the Constitution. Both cases, Daniel Goldstein et. al v. George E. Pataki and Aaron Piller et. al v. George Pataki, et. al, named several state and city defendants along with the project developer.

NoLandGrab: The Piller suit is the exact same suit as Goldstein v. Pataki, and was consolidated with the latter after it was filed.

After reviewing the cases last winter at Garaufis’ request, Magistrate Judge Robert Levy recommended he abstain from reviewing them based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burford v. Sun Oil. Under the Burford ruling, a case belongs in state court when the state’s strong interest in the matter outweighs the federal interest and the plaintiffs can have timely and adequate recourse in state court.

But Garaufis rejected this recommendation....

The federal district judge adopted Magistrate Levy’s recommendation to reject ripeness and a Younger abstention as grounds for dismissal. However, he dismissed the case on its merits, finding that the plaintiffs failed to state a valid claim.


Also from the Eagle, Ratner Gets the Nod in Eminent Domain Case.

Posted by lumi at 8:57 AM

Silver Challenges Health Benefits Promised in Manhattan Toll Plan

The NY Times

Though State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver skipped last week's hearings on congestion pricing to attend a fundraiser, he still has concerns and questions:

But Mr. Silver’s remarks underscored that he may once again serve as the mayor’s foil in Albany. His opposition doomed the mayor’s plan to build a West Side football stadium for the New York Jets. Asked about parallels to that battle, Mr. Silver harked back to the mayor’s contention then that a Manhattan stadium would not cause undue congestion.

The stadium, Mr. Silver pointed out, would have been “right in the middle of this congested zone.”

“At that time, a year ago, there obviously was no congestion,” he added, facetiously. “We can even put this stadium to attract 100,000 people to come in right in the middle of the zone and there was no problem.”


NoLandGrab: Thanks to Silver's approval of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, Brooklynites will be getting the parking lots AND a stadium.

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere64.gif Nets Daily, Random Notes

Bruce Ratner is becoming one of New York’s biggest developers, with the New York Times headquarters scheduled to open this summer and Atlantic Yards–the Nets new home–moving towards a groundbreaking not long after that. And with his newfound prominence–and riches, Ratner has begun making his influence felt in a number of ways. When the World Trade Center Memorial Fund recently released its list of givers, Ratner was at the top, giving $5 million, the same as the man who leased the Twin Towers, Larry Silverstein. The gift had not been publicized at the time and its existence was only revealed with the disclosure of the list.

Brownstoner, Congestion Pricing and Resident Permit Parking

Regardless of your position on the Bloomberg administration's proposal for congestion pricing in Manhattan, it's not hard to imagine how the implementation of such a plan could have a very negative trickle-down effect for those parts of the outer boroughs that are both close to Manhattan and serviced by major subway lines. As Sheldon Silver said, "Some of those areas will become parking lots for the people driving around looking for parking spots in order to avoid congestion pricing fees." To counter such criticism, Bloomberg has has floated the idea of making resident-only permit parking available (for a modest annual fee) in neighborhoods like Park Slope... Of course, there's also another reason that residents of certain neighborhoods may want parking permits soon: Atlantic Yards.

Gumby Fresh, With A Whimper

As reported in the New York Times, the judge rejected the idea that the project was largely private in nature. This will strike you as weird since the project mostly consists of a private sports arena and a bunch of private condo complexes.

But the involvement, albeit at a slightly late stage, of public bodies seems to have given it a sufficiently public veneer. Left unmentioned, but possibly also influential, were the role of misguided public officials in pushing the project and the use of tax-exempt financing for the project. The judge decided, as far as I can tell, that having some public benefit, however nebulous, was enough.

The Written Nerd, Link-Mad Monday: BEA 2007 and On!

One blogger's report from Book Expo America, passes on the Brooklyn Brewery boycott and finds Marty "incredibly loveable," despite feeling that Atlantic Yards is "disasterous."

Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

June 12, 2007

Weird things at Atlantic Yards

After reading Gotham Gazette's latest on Atlantic Yards, I figured I'd see what Google's new Street Views offers in the way of imagery for the area. What I found is a bit odd:


Is this perhaps a sly commentary on the Frank Gehry-designed development? Or just a glitch in the software centered on Atlantic Yards? Or a veil over construction/demolition? Or even a Christo installation that somehow escaped the news?


Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

The battle over Queens West: the developer, the process, and the income mix

Atlantic Yards Report

Are you struggling to follow the affordable housing debate over Atlantic Yards and how it relates to or infoms development of affordable housing across the city?

Norman Oder has been giving readers an ongoing crash course on the issue. Here's his latest installment:

The process behind a huge affordable housing development planned for Queens West, a 24-acre site the city plans to buy from the Port Authority, presents some interesting contrasts to Atlantic Yards, as well as some potential portents.

First, the city announced plans for the project without anointing a developer, though it has had "secret talks" (in the Times's phrase) about a sole-source process regarding a nonprofit arm of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).

Secondly, the city's initial plan for an all-subsidized project geared to moderate- and middle-income families was criticized for bypassing low-income families. Now the city is considering making 40 percent of the project market-rate.

It's another sign that the numbers behind an affordable housing project are constantly shifting; if costs (or pressures for profit) go up, something has to give, and it can be the amenities in the project or, most easily, the income mix, as has already occurred with Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

Forest City posts Q1 2007 decline

New Mexico Business Weekly

Folks in Yonkers and Brooklyn aren't the only ones watching Forest City's (FCE) financial disclosures. FCE's Mesa Del Sol project is one of the largest mixed-use development projects in the nation:

Forest City Enterprises Inc. reported a net loss of $17.2 million, or 17 cents per share, for the first quarter ended April 30, 2007. That compares to net earnings of $53.3 million, or 52 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Company officials said the primary reason for the difference in net earnings for the quarters was the gain on the disposition of a hotel property in 2006 with no similar transaction in 2007. First quarter consolidated revenues were $280.6 million compared with $272.2 million last year.


Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

Joe Porcelli: My Local Hero

Pardon me for asking


To my local Brooklyn readers, you know about the punitive dismissal of some Community Board 6 members because they opposed the Atlantic Yards Mega Project. The three politicians who appoint members to the board, Marty Markowitz, Bill DeBlasio and David Yassky replaced nine members with people probably more inclined to embrace Bruce Ratner's monstro" city."

Of course the lesson to learn for our board members is that they better not cross the politicos who appoint them. And that they have just become useless to the community. They have just become yes-men. Under those conditions, can they even represent their community?

Now one brave board member, Joe Porcelli, is resigning in protest. And he would like other board members to follow suit. That is probably not going to happen, but in the meantime, Porcelli is the sole member who has any guts and conviction. Good for him.


NoLandGrab: Most of the purged Community Board members have been appointed to serve on CB6 committees as non-boardmembers. Some feel that sent a stronger message back to the Borough President and the community than resigning en masse.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Atlantic Yards: Too Late For Real Opposition Now

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial
By Dennis Holt

We can't be sure that anyone pays attention to the Eagle's Dennis Holt except for media-starved Atlantic Yards flunkies and junkies, but as long as he's flapping his gums and making facts out of whole cloth, he might be worth correcting.

You can use this post as a study-guide for his latest column.

DH: The fact that the private sector came up with the idea first, not the public sector, is incidental, and it made no sense to argue that entrance and exit ramps to parking garages are “private roads.”

NLG: These are two separate lawsuits — the "roads" argument is an element of a state suit filed independently by attorney George Locker.

DH: There was a lame attempt to think of other sites, but the Navy Yard is not accessible; for Coney Island, one might as well have stayed in the Meadowlands; and the Parade Ground made no sense.

NLG: Even Borough President Marty Markowitz favored Coney Island until Ratner picked Atlantic and Flatbush.

DH: I know that originally, there was no plan by Forest City for such a large project. This evolved over time, partly as a result of the opposition’s intensity.

NLG: Holt is being spun by a totally ludicrous argument that undercuts Ratner's entire justification for the size of the project:

The argument outlined above is a myth as well, since the financing of the entire operation has still not been revealed and justified. But blaming the size of the project on the community opposition is, well, blaming the vicitm.

DH: I was in Freddy’s and saw the hand-written, vituperative comments against Ratner and Marty Markowitz. Some of them were vile by even my standards.

NLG: Freddy's is a small business that has long served the community — hell heck yeah, its patrons are pissed. Their favorite watering hole is being taken in a gianormous land grab so the guy who owns MetroTech and the two malls across the way can further enrich himself and his family. However, we're sure that Freddy's appreciates the business of eminent domain tourists like Mr. Holt.

DH: This project has the chance to make a major contribution to Brooklyn. There will be kinks, probably some bad ones. Let’s fix them, not snarl, “I told you so.”

NLG: Community groups across the board are working like heck to head some of the more serious impacts off at the pass. So far most of their requests (except for bike parking) have been ignored by Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (except for the time that Ratner broke the Ward Bakery building).

It's too bad that Holt is playing the blame game, because it probably isn't the next step in the dialogue that's needed at this juncture.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM


From all around the city, people unite in their discontent about development.

City Limits
By Angela Dews

Although the First Annual Harlem Anti-Gentrification Conference took place on West 130th Street, in the heart of Harlem, attendees came from Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, Sunset Park, Hunts Point, South Bronx, Washington Heights, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and beyond New York. The diverse group came together to commiserate over the economic and political forces that are reshaping their neighborhoods and discuss what, if anything, can be done.

Conference organizer Nellie Hester Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, cited the provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in telling the approximately 100 tenants, researchers and organizers gathered: “Housing is not an entitlement; housing is a basic human right.”


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

June 11, 2007

Eminent Domain Ruling On Atlantic Yards

wakeupcall.gif Wake Up Call, WBAI (99.5FM)

Depa Fernandez interviews Candace Carponter, head of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal committee:

CARPONTER: We will pursue whatever remedies we may have first here in the appellate court and, if necessary, in state court to challenge what we believe is an abuse of eminent domain.

FERNANDEZ: What are the implications of this more broadly, the loss of property rights in general?

CAPONTER: It's terribly alarming for the following reason... the Supreme Court in Kelo v. the City of New London about two years ago ruled that land could be taken by private owners for economic development, but only under certain specific situations, including the fact that it was government driven, that there was a comprehensive plan, that there was no individual developer in mind at the beginning of the process, and even though Judge Garaufis articulated these exact requirements that came out of Kelo, he then went on to only consider the fact that the area, he believes, was more than 50% blighted.

Listen online/mp3 (41 min, 22 sec — 46 min, 46 sec)

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

The income mix for AY affordable units already changed; could it change again?

Atlantic Yards Report

The inaugural issue of City Limits Investigates, which focuses on affordable housing, points out that, with some construction costs rising 1% a month, a lack of cheap land, and limits on governmental contributions, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan may "never get to 165,000 units--or if it does, that the housing produced will not meet the most pressing needs."

Indeed, to get there, city housing officials acknowledge, the cost pressure "could change the complexion of the affordable housing they are delivering." (Or, perhaps, more funds must be sought from other sources, including borough presidents.)

Does that mean that the complexion of Atlantic Yards--the profile of the affordable units--might change? Maybe, but the important thing to realize is that it has changed already.

Norman Oder analyzes the Atlantic Yards affordable housing proposal, how it has already changed, and where there might still be wiggle-room:

The most stringent requirement is that 20% of the rentals go to low-income households earning under 50% of the AMI. Perhaps the upper income bound will be adjusted to 175% of AMI, which is permitted under city subsidy programs. Even though that would seem to violate the Housing MOU, it's hard to imagine that ACORN, which hasn't criticized delays in the project and other impediments to affordable housing, would raise a stink.

Still, if we don't have an inkling for Forest City Ratner's development fees, costs, and profits, it's hard to tell whether a tweaking of the income mix is needed to get the project built or just to drive the return FCR's parent company wants for its shareholders.


Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

The Borough of Writers: Mid-Year Book Report

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Brad Lockwood

When Marty starts touting local authors, "literary Brooklyn" becomes a brand, not an incubator of talent, especially when the borough's most prominent writers are highly critical of his stance on Atlantic Yards:

The annual BookExpo America (BEA) was held in New York City last week, with the Brooklyn brand front and center. Borough President Marty Markowitz hosted an event on Wednesday, May 30th for booksellers and local authors; tours of the former homes of famous scribes were staggered throughout; Junior’s served its sumptuous cheesecake; Borough Hall buzzed with literary banter. Welcoming visitors from afar — and writers prompted by publishers to attend and mingle —Markowitz said, "Obviously you've got class, and you're hip to what we've known all along: That the epicenter of the literary life of this nation is right here in Brooklyn, it really is."

Or is it? Not at that exact moment, in Borough Hall on Wednesday night, at least. What Marty Markowitz didn't mention is that some of Brooklyn's most popular writers won't be seen at his side.

Jonathan Lethem and Darcey Steinke (just to name a few) are actually donating the proceeds of select works to fund the opposition to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. This major development has received Markowitz's undivided support, underscored by his recent move to not reappoint several members of Community Board 6 who formally objected to the project. So, as Marty lauded books from the borough he represents, many of the writers that give Brooklyn its literary credibility were nowhere near.


Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Judge tosses Yards challenge -Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn loses lawsuit

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

Here's the lead to an article quoting extensively from Judge Garaufis's ruling:

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project are seemingly down to their last time out, paving the way for the borough’s first major sports franchise since the Dodgers left Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Time out to Witt — on our scorecard, we've got it that the property owners just popped out to end the seventh, but have a couple innings to go. The only rub is that Ratner is juicing and his political partner is showing signs of 'roid rage.

BTW, baseball references are very old-Brooklyn, while basketball references are tacky hi-fives to the Brucester.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

N.Y. Times turns page on old headquarters

Paper publishes last edition before move to new site

AP, via The Boston Globe

Amid champagne and moving boxes, New York Times staffers selected all the news that was fit to print for a final time at their century-old headquarters yesterday.

The newspaper's Manhattan employees were busy packing up in their storied stone building on West 43 d Street and moving the newsroom into a new tower just a walk to the south.
The latest building was a joint venture between The New York Times Co. and Forest City Ratner Cos. It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano in collaboration with the Manhattan-based architectural firm of Fox & Fowle.


NoLandGrab: And don't forget that Bruce Ratner and the Times used eminent domain to acquire the property for the new Times Tower. Like, when does Ratner NOT use eminent domain?

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

No Way to Treat Volunteers

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Opinion
"Hills and Gardens"
By Trudy Witman

Commentary on the sacking of Community Board Six members who voted to criticize Atlantic Yards makes the point that Borough President Marty Markowitz made much ado about nothing:

What the released board members had in common was signing their names to a strongly worded condemnation of the Atlantic Yards development plan, the borough president’s pet project. After the CB6 document was released, Markowitz made no secret of his displeasure.

The irony here is that community boards are mandated as advisory entities only, and although their recommendations may be taken seriously by city agencies, the Atlantic Yards project is managed exclusively by the state through the Empire State Development Corporation. As far as having teeth, the CB 6 resolution denouncing the Atlantic Yards plan was all gums — lots of bark but no bite.


Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

The “Greening” of New York City

Kim Moody From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (New Press, 2007)

Brooklyn Rail
By Richard Wells

A review of Moody's reexamination of the decline and resurgence of New York City makes the case for the importance of the environmental and economic justice movements:

Let’s not forget that there’s at least some resistance to Bloomberg’s current mega-projects, from Atlantic Yards to Gowanus to Willets Point in Queens. Plus there’s lively and informed criticism from a policy perspective, much of it pointing to more equitable kinds of development in the 21st century. So there is the potential for change. What’s needed in order to realize it, says Moody, “is the sort of mass movement that we haven’t seen for some time.”


Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

Corrupt Bastards Club to Impose Eminent Domain On Intellectual Property Rights

Now the Corrupt Bastards Club has gone too far:

CCN (Crazy Cal News) - The Corrupt Bastards Club voted overwhelmingly to impose Eminent Domain on intellectual property rights. It's not enough for them to take your property, they want your mind as well.


Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM


amNY, Cluster of NYC junkyards threatened by redevelopment plans
It REALLY BITES when the city doesn't provide your neighborhood with basic services for decades and then declares it "blighted:"

"After a century of blight and neglect, the future of this area is very bright indeed," Bloomberg said when he released the Willets Point master plan at the nearby Queens Museum of Art.

But shop owners say they don't want to leave. They say that if Willets Point is an eyesore, it's the city's fault.

"They created the blight, now they're going to use it to wipe out all these people," said Michael Rikon, a lawyer who is advising Sambucci and other area business owners.

Reuters, Clinton, Schumer say DOE ignoring power line foes
It SO BITES that our strongest voices in DC make a fuss about property rights in the face of a powerline project, but support using eminent domain for private developers.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer on Friday accused the Department of Energy of turning a deaf ear to critics of a proposed 200-mile stretch of 150-foot-tall electrical towers that would cut through scenic regions of upstate New York.

The two New York Democrats expressed concern over the location of a planned DOE meeting next week for public comment on implications of a new law that allows private property to be taken by federal eminent domain for construction of electrical power lines.

The June 12 meeting will be held in Rochester, an upstate New York city that is about 130 miles from the area of the proposed power line. The line would be erected between Utica and the town of New Windsor in Orange County by a private company called New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI).

NoLandGrab: The upstate property owners want you to know that alternatives to taking their land have never been discussed or studied (link).

American.com, Life After Kelo
It TOTALLY BITES when your state legislature has done nothing to curb eminent domain abuse, two years after the extremely controversial US Supreme Court Kelo decision:

Now for the states that have done nothing or virtually nothing since Kelo. They include several in the Northeast, such as Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

June 10, 2007

Judge Finds Atlantic Yards Meets Public Use Standard

New York Law Journal
Mark Hamblett

A federal judge has dismissed challenges to the taking by eminent domain of property needed for the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

Eastern District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, after deciding he would not abstain from deciding the case, found that the combined housing, office space and sports arena project easily met the standard for "public use" takings under the U.S. Constitution.

Thirteen residents and businesses have refused to sell their apartments, buildings or long-term leases to Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of the project. Judge Garaufis dismissed two consolidated complaints brought by property owners on the site who claimed their constitutional rights were violated by the planned condemnation of property to be developed by Forest City Ratner Companies.

The cases are Goldstein v. Pataki, 06-CV-5827, and Piller v. Pataki, 07-CV-152.

The decision will be published Tuesday.

Judge Garaufius dismissed three constitutional claims with prejudice. A fourth claim for judicial review under the state's eminent domain law was also dismissed, although plaintiffs are free to bring that claim in state court.

We're very happy about this result," said Jeffrey Braun of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, who represented Forest City.

"We're going right to the circuit," said plaintiffs attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. "Ratner can't take any of the property until this is resolved."

Magistrate Judge Robert Levy had recommended that the judge dismiss the case, in part because of U.S. Supreme Court abstention doctrine as outlined in the case of Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315 (1943). But after deciding not to abstain, Judge Garaufis made several findings, including that New York's Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL), §207, provides "timely and adequate state review" of condemnations and that his keeping of the case would not disrupt state efforts to establish a coherent policy on eminent domain.

"In considering whether the project constitutes a 'public use' under the United States Constitution, this court will not disrupt the coherence of the EDPL, a generic statutory scheme designed to deal with takings of all kinds and for a virtually infinite variety of public purposes," Judge Garaufis said. New York City had argued that allowing the case to go forward would hurt the state's policy of promoting efficiency and reducing litigation.

New York's Empire State Development Corp., also a defendant, argued that the failure to abstain would promote "piecemeal litigation." Judge Garaufis disagreed, saying the defendants apparently were conflating the political process for selecting projects and sites for condemnation and the legal process for deciding whether a project serves a public use under the Constitution.

"This case simply does not require the court to consider whether the project is a good idea or whether it can be achieved only by taking plaintiffs' properties as opposed to other properties or no properties at all," he said. "Instead, the issue before the court is whether the taking of plaintiffs' properties is rationally related to a conceivable public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution."

Nor would his deciding the case run afoul of concerns expressed by the U.S. Supreme Court that a federal judge not get involved in "discretionary interpretation of state law," the judge said, because the questions of law "are straightforward and largely duplicative of the questions of federal law that this court must address."

Mr. Brinckerhoff said he was pleased with the judge's ruling on abstention under Burford "because we don't have to spend any more time litigating justiciability issues."

Public Use

In addressing the question of public use, Judge Garaufis reviewed the major case law on eminent domain, including the controversial ruling Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), where the U.S. Supreme Court found that a taking could be considered a public use even if it did not lead to the "use by the public" of the taken property.

The takings in New London, Conn., the court said, satisfied the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment because the "public purpose" of the takings was "a program of economic rejuvenation."

Here, the plaintiffs' claimed that the sole purpose was to transfer property to a private party; the project would generate no or minimal economic benefits; it would not create jobs; their properties are not blighted; and the project will not increase affordable housing in any material way.

Judge Garaufis said the plaintiffs' conclusion that the public would not benefit in any way from the project was "baseless."

Each of the objections, he said, "concerns only the measure of the public benefit - as opposed to its existence - or otherwise fails to state a claim."

On the issue of blight, the judge said property may be taken, even if it is not blighted itself, where the "redevelopment is intended to cure and prevent reversion to blight in some larger area that includes the property."

Concerning the plaintiffs' claim that the sole purpose was to transfer property to a private entity, the judge said plaintiffs' "attempt to satisfy the 'mere pretext' test solely by alleging that the purported purposes of the project are dubious, but Kelo requires them to allege that the 'actual purpose' of the project is "to bestow a private benefit' on Forest City Ratner Co."

Later, Judge Garaufis added that, because the plaintiffs "concede the project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted," their allegations, "if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the 'sole purpose' of the project is confer a private benefit."

Mr. Brinckerhoff said he was optimistic of prevailing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and added that, even in the event of a loss, he thinks the chances "are very, very high" that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear an appeal.

"This case has all the circumstances that the majority was saying in Kelo would raise problems," he said.

Posted by amy at 12:45 PM

Sunday Comix


Posted by amy at 11:24 AM


Empire State Development Corporation via CB 6

Week of June 15, 2007
(NOTE: future updates will cover a two week period)

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner are providing the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities. Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions.

Use the following link to get to the downloadable pdf update: Download file

Posted by amy at 11:14 AM

The moving target of affordable housing, and a borough president's boost

Atlantic Yards Report

Note that, despite Markowitz's fervor for the Atlantic Yards project, his budget is way too small to boost the project, more than one-third of which would be financed by scarce--at this point, too scarce--tax-exempt bonds.

It might seem that nonprofit developers have the edge over for-profit developers because they don't have to deliver a return to shareholders. Indeed, for-profit developers are hardly clamoring to build projects that contain only affordable units.

Then again, for-profit developers often build mixed-income housing--as planned for Atlantic Yards--rather than 100% affordable housing. And for-profit developers might argue that nonprofit organizations would have trouble building at a site as complicated as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard; indeed, the only competing bidder after Forest City Ratner had been anointed was another for-profit developer, Extell.

On the other hand, were Atlantic Yards footprint, or simply the Vanderbilt Yard, divided into several parcels, and different goals were set, for-profit and nonprofit developers might compete for different projects.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

Welcome to the ‘bloggiest’ part of town - Development spurs on Bklyn bloggers


Courier-Life coverage of the May 10 Brooklyn Blogfest is a month late and two bloggers short. (NoLandGrab and Atlantic Yards Report to be precise.) This is a feat since the focus of the article is development.

Like a virtual Copernicus mapping a universe of words and thoughts, Outside.in, which is based – where else? – in the borough of Kings, recently determined that Clinton Hill was the bloggiest neighborhood in the country over the past six months, based on the number of posts on websites in 3,250 communities in 59 cities nationwide.

Part of the reason for the high level of blogging activity in Clinton Hill, according to Outside.in, is the intense level of real estate development in the neighborhood, which is adjacent to the controversial Atlantic Yards development.

As Atlantic Yards Report has pointed out, "of 30 posts on Outside.in's Clinton Hill page earlier in the day Thursday, only five were about that neighborhood, while 13 were about Prospect Heights and Atlantic Yards." (And nearly all were from NoLandGrab)

Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

Mixed Agendas at Anti-Scarano Rally on Smith Street



We'd guesstimate that about 60 people spent their lunch hour yesterday listening to Councilman Bill de Blasio rail against the proposed design by Robert Scarano for the plaza and adjoining lot at Smith and 2nd Place in Carroll Gardens and call for the revocation of Mr. Scarano's license to practice architecture. In his prepared remarks, de Blasio likened having Scarano do a project in the neighborhood to letting "the fox in the chicken coop." "Scarano's not welcome in our community," he said more than once. Of course, the irony of de Blasio shaking his fist over an eight-story building being built in Carroll Gardens when he has not had any problem with a number of much taller buildings being built in nearby Fort Greene and Prospect Heights was not lost on some of the anti-Atlantic Yards protesters who showed up. In a piece of comedic theatre, two sign-holders from the de Blasio camp were kept on their toes trying to make sure that their anti-Scarano posters blocked the those of the Atlantic Yards protesters from the view of cameras.


Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

No masala bagels here


Sepia Mutiny was excited by the coverage of the Arena bagel controversy, but less for what was said than for what was not said:

My favorite aspect of this story — as reported by the Grey Lady — is that Agarwal’s ethnicity is never alluded to at all. It’s simply about how he, as a businessman from outside the neighborhood, goofed up in naming his bagel shop “Arena Bagels and Bialys”
In this case Aggarwal screwed up because he’s an ousider, but by outsider the journalist means a businessman from Queens rather than an immigrant, a brown-man, or even a non-Jew. It’s just good local reporting.

Now if the Grey Lady would only accurately cover some other outsider that screwed up...

Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

June 9, 2007

Ratner’s myth

Letter to the Editor, The Brooklyn Paper

To the editor,

You recently printed a letter from Alvin Pankin, who was commenting about a photograph previously published in The Paper (“Thank Ratner,” May 26).

Mr. Pankin spent the first paragraph saying good riddance to the three buildings in that photograph that Forest City Ratner has demolished in the Atlantic Yards project site.

In the second paragraph, Mr. Pankin, in a non-sequitur, trotted out the most-insidious mythological talking point that Mr. Ratner’s supporters use against critics of the project — that they are “new arrivals.”

This is an insidious myth, first because it couldn’t be more false. Having spent the past three plus years working with project opponents and critics who favor sensible development, I can say with assurance that most have deep generational roots in the borough, or have lived here a significant amount of time.

Also, some of the most fervent project opponents trace their Brooklyn roots back for centuries.

The myth is also insidious because there is no eligibility barometer to civic discourse.

But, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, this sort of mythmaking is always the last refuge of those without a substantive argument.

On another point, Mr. Pankin may not have liked what the now-demolished buildings looked like, but they once housed residential tenants and successful businesses. Now they are rubble-strewn empty lots.

Daniel Goldstein, Prospect Heights

The writer is spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn


Posted by amy at 8:37 AM

Forest City Ratner defends the process, but that's government's job

Atlantic Yards Report

There has been a longstanding Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area that covers a majority of the Atlantic Yards site. On the other hand, as Winston Von Engel of the New York City Department of City Planning said in March, 2006: "We didn't decide to take a look at the yards. They belong to the Long Island Rail Road. They use them heavily. They're critical to their operations. You do things in a step-by-step process."

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, in his opinion Wednesday dismissing the case, erroneously called the yards "dormant" and neglected to assess the issue of a "comprehensive development plan."

And Andrew Alper, then president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, told City Council in May 2004, ""So, they came to us, we did not come to them. And it is not really up to us then to go out and find to try to a better deal."

That, according to one analyst, could run afoul of Kelo. But that will be an issue for the appellate court, and the defense will be offered by the Empire State Development Corporation more than by Forest City Ratner.


Posted by amy at 8:28 AM

Two years later, rechecking a Times article

Atlantic Yards Report

Two years ago, on 6/9/05, the New York Times published a Metro front article headlined Unlike Stadium on West Side, an Arena in Brooklyn Is Still a Go. It's worth a second look.

A geographic conundrum:
In announcing the plan, Mr. Ratner described a $2.5 billion project designed by Frank Gehry atop the Atlantic Terminal railway hub.

A stunning understatement:
Others noted important differences between the West Side stadium and the Brooklyn arena. For example, the Brooklyn arena would require a $200 million public investment as opposed to the $600 million investment the West Side plan was calling for.

A Markowitzian generalization:
Brooklyn, still smarting from the loss of the Dodgers nearly 50 years ago, is generally more welcoming to projects that could help put it on the national map.


Posted by amy at 8:26 AM

Forest City Ratner Fiscal 2007 First-Quarter Results


Yonkers Tribune

First-quarter EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) was $34.5 million, or $0.32 per share, compared with last year's EBDT of $63.3 million, or $0.61 per share. Fiscal 2007 first-quarter net loss was $17.2 million, or $0.17 per share, compared with net earnings of $53.3 million, or $0.52 per share, in the 2006 first quarter. The primary difference in net earnings for the quarters was the gain on disposition of a hotel property in 2006 with no similar transaction in 2007. First-quarter consolidated revenues were $280.6 million compared with $272.2 million last year.
At the end of the first quarter, Forest City had more than 20 projects under development, representing in excess of $2.6 billion of cost on a full consolidation basis and at the Company's pro-rata share. Not yet included in the development pipeline are two other large mixed-use projects: Brooklyn Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, New York, where site demolition began during the first quarter...


Posted by amy at 8:16 AM

Brooklyn Lawyers Dodge "Manhattanization"


New York Law Journal
By Thomas Adcock

Meanwhile, Ms. Carponter and others on the committee hold out hope for victory before Justice Joan Madden in the Manhattan Supreme Court matter of DDDB v. ESDC, 104597, an Article 78 proceeding seeking to annul the Empire State Development Corporation's approval of the Atlantic Yard's environmental impact statement.

Funds for constitutional and environmental litigators hired at reduced rates by Develop-Don't Destroy were generated from bake sales and stoop sales, as well as walk-a-thon pledges and audience donations at screenings of an anti-Forest City Ratner documentary, "Brooklyn Matters." Matthew D. Brinckerhoff and Andrew G. Celli Jr. of Emery Celli Brinckherhoff represents the group in the federal matter; Jeffrey S. Baker of the Albany-based Young Sommer Ward Ritzenberg Baker & Moore in the state matter.

Ms. Carponter said the legal committee "operates as our own law firm, basically, and what we're basically fighting is powerful government and rich folks run amok."

The article then unfortunately goes on to quote FCR and project supporters without challenging their assertions, such as:

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, said the developer held "hundreds of meetings" with the community.

As Atlantic Yards Report points out, "Nearly all of the meetings have been with allies, not potential opponents, and the Community Benefits Agreement coalition has defined "community" by invitation. Also, of course, the developer has famously shielded architect Frank Gehry from meeting with the community."


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had this to say about their fearless legal team:

DDDB is fortunate to have a dedicated, crackerjack, resident volunteer legal team acting as a backup law firm to our two retained stellar attorneys, Matthew Brinckerhoff on the federal eminent domain lawsuit and Jeffrey Baker on the legal challenge to the state's review and approval of "Atlantic Yards." Our committee of legal volunteers certainly helps reduce our legal fees, but the community's vast contributions to our legal fund is what will keep us going towards ultimate legal victory.

We salute these selfless legal volunteers and all that they have given DDDB and the entire community concerned with and opposed to "Atlantic Yards." They have stood up for our democratic rights and constitutional rights, and continue to do so. If you see one of them, say thank you! With their dedicated volunteer work, our excellent retained attorneys, and your continued financial support of our legal fund, we will ultimately prevail.


Posted by amy at 8:05 AM

June 8, 2007

Case dismissed

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn Paper usually gets the story straight, but this legal stuff seems to be making all the reporters cross-eyed (that is, except Norman Oder and, believe it or not, the Times):

The Paper reported:

State officials cheered the decision, which affirmed a February recommendation by a special judicial master that the federal case should be dismissed and refiled in state court.


NoLandGrab: Actually, Judge Garaufis's decision CONTRADICTED the opinion of the Judicial Magistrate Levy.

Levy concluded that the case should be refiled in State Court.

Garaufis concluded that Levy was wrong, but that the case shouldn't proceed because he thought that the plaintiffs would not ultimately be able to prove their case.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Get your kicks...

Has the dismissal of the federal eminent domain case left you all hot and bothered? Nothing to do, nowhere to turn?

Before heading over to Freddy's Bar to commiserate with your neighbors, you can get a kick out of Bruce Ratner (link).

Put this game on your blog   Create your own   More games

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

It came from the Blogosphere... (your wallet edition)

Blogosphere62.jpgHere are some blogs who sat up and took note of Atlantic Yards Report's revelation that Bruce Ratner is counting on financing more than half of his $4-billion project in Brooklyn with government-backed bonds:

The Knickerblogger, Oblige to the Noblesse
Pardon me for asking, Contributing To Ratner's Personal Wealth With Tax Payers' Money
The Real Deal, Public will pay for Atlantic Yards
Queens Crap, Atlantic Yards will cost us BIG time

NoLandGrab: It's not like we were going to do anything important with that money.

Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

It came from the Blogosphere... (ED edition)


Blogosphere coverage of the decision on the federal eminent domain case:

Metadish, Judge Rejects Efforts to Stop Atlantic Yards Project Without Discovery or a Trial

It may seem Garaufis’ decision could also be said to be baseless since his decision to dismiss the case came without allowing the plaintiffs to even get as far as discovery.

Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, which has become sort of the unofficial social epicenter of people rallied against the Forestation of Brooklyn, and is also part of the lawsuit told Metadish exclusively, “there’s a lot of disappointment.”

“We’re not giving up,” said Donald O’Finn, manager at Freddy’s. “It’s not the end. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to appeal. We have a 5 year lease and we’re not giving up. A lot of the legal avenues that go into building a project like this have been bypassed.”

The Gowanus Lounge, Brooklinks: Special Eminent Domain Ruling Edition
GL ran a list of the first day's articles and blog commentary.

The Gowanus Lounge, Morning After: Dismissal of Atlantic Yards Doesn't Bode Well for Opponents

The Lounge's take on Judge Garaufis's ruling:

Supporters will cheer the judge's decision in the eminent domain case, as Bruce Ratner did. Opponents will say it isn't over yet, that there will be an appeal and express confidence that an appellate court will rule in their favor. A lot of average Brooklynites that haven't been following every twist and turn of this complex project and its wideranging impact, will simply wonder if this means that the Nets will actually be playing at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues a few years from now.
Any way you cut it, yesterday's court decision was one that did not put joy in the hearts of those that wish to block the Atlantic Yards project. It might be precipitous to say that the end is near, but it's fair to say that the end is a little closer than it was at this time yesterday.

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards' Eminent Domain Lawsuit Dismissed

A federal judge dismissed an eminent domain lawsuit that would have stopped the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The lawsuit, brought by Daniel Goldstein of the vocal anti-AY group Develop - Don't Destroy Brooklyn, claimed that the multi-billion dollar project abused eminent domain, by not having much public benefit, only benefit for developer Bruce Ratner. Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed the case, writing, "Plaintiffs have not set forth facts supporting a plausible claim of an unconstitutional taking. Nowhere in the amended complaint or their briefs do plaintiffs sufficiently allege any purpose to confer a private benefit."

Archinect, Meanwhile...Atlantic Yards Suit Dismissed

Quick news item about the judge's ruling, the latest financial revelations and the latest Gehry slam.

Meanwhile, fresh documents reveal even more public debt for private development. The city ends up acting as the bouncer and the borrower to sugarcoat Ratner's deal.

Curbed.com, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Ruling React-O-Matic
Reaction from various camps on the Garaufis decision. As usual, some high-minded debate in the comments section too!

Joshing Politics, Judge Garaufis Sides With Atlantic Yards Developers

It is a shame that Judge Garaufis decided that razing neighborhoods was a way to cure "blight." You know Judge, there are better ways of making a neighborhood better than just bulldozing it and giving it over to people like Bruce Ratner. NBA owners have enough money and this one doesn't need anymore, especially at the expensive of longtime Brooklyn residents. Thankfully this will go to the appellate court where some common sense can hopefully be found.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, the Judge didn't make the claim himself that the area is "blighted." Essentially, he concluded that the plaintiffs would not be able to prove their case that the blight designation was applied primarily to justify the boundaries that were pre-determined by Ratner. The shame is that he didn't give the plaintifs the opportunity.

FUNKYPUNDIT, Atlantic Yards Update
Tom notes:

With an appeal forthcoming and another suit challenging the environmental review currently in state courts, it will be a long time yet before this matter is resolved.

Lawsuits Report, NBA 1, Brooklyn residents 0

In one of the few times you’ll see ESPN.com covering issues of zoning and such, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed a challenge to the so-called Atlantic Yards project.


The Atlantic Yards lawsuit was dismissed yesterday. Check out Atlantic Yards Report and No Land Grab for the gory details.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

And the "Lovie" goes to...

Atlantic Yards Report

LovegrenAward.jpg Last night, Norman Oder was given the Lovgren Volunteer Award for outstanding community service by the Park Slope Civic Council for his essential work on Atlantic Yards Report. Without him, several significant revelations would probably still remain behind the curtain. In addition, his readers are getting their own primer on a wide range of topics as the veteran journalist pursues a self-education in urban planning, transportation issues, local politics and affordable housing.

The Gowanus Lounge (which definitely deserves its own award for neighborhood coverage) was there to cover the event:

The Park Slope Civic Council honored blogger and journalist Norman Oder last night with a Lovgren Volunteer Award. Mr. Oder is the founder and writer of Atlantic Yards Report, which he has developed as New York City's most authoritative source of Atlantic Yards reporting, information and analysis. Just this week, Mr. Oder combed through documents and found that the project is getting nearly $1.4 billion in tax-free bonds and that the level of bonding is so large that parts of the project will create intense competition for tax-free financing resources in the city and could be delayed.

The award was presented by Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab and by outgoing PSCC President Lydia Denworth. Ms. Denworth praised Mr. Oder for "the thoroughness and conscientiousness with which he took to the task" of doing the city's only in-depth Atlantic Yards reporting. "Very few individuals have had such an impact on the public debate," Ms. Rolley noted.

Mr. Oder said that he viewed his work as "challenging some complacency" and described his reporting as "watchdog journalism that the market is not providing." He said that Atlantic Yards Report offers "the skepticism and persistence that's needed to keep government accountable."

Norman Oder reflects on what he might have in common with the late George Lovgren (link):

I didn't know much about George Lovgren until I learned about this award and went to a panel at Borough Hall--about Brooklyn in the 1970s and 80s--and heard [activist and former Assemblyman] Joe Ferris talk about how he and Lovgren and some others challenged the conventional wisdom and helped save Park Slope.

My work may not be in the direct tradition of George Lovgren. I'm not trying to save a firehouse. And I'm not trying to 'save' a neighborhood.

But I am challenging some complacency and conventional wisdom. My service is in-depth watchdog journalism that the market is not providing.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Downzonings, density, and context

Atlantic Yards Report examines density's delicate balance.

In a city that's planning for increased density, many neighborhoods are being downzoned or are getting caps on their zoning. Could that increase pressure for extreme density in areas being rezoned, or in the case of Atlantic Yards, where zoning is being superceded?


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

Gentrification opposed

Amsterdam News
By Herb Boyd

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and eminent domain lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein shared his views and experiences last week in Harlem at an anti-gentrification conference:

Daniel Goldstein’s message from Brooklyn was no less disturbing as he explained the forces on each side of the Atlantic Yards struggle. What it boils down to, he said, “is the subversion of democracy and who will have a say in what happens to a neighborhood.”


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

A Futurama of Pollution and Congestion

BKTraffic.jpgThe Indypendent
By Samantha Gorelick

You can thank Robert Moses's "Futurama" for our network of traffic in NYC. Will Bloomberg's solution be enough when he's undermining his own bold fix?

Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing to address Moses’ road-building legacy by instituting traffic congestion pricing as part of his clean and green PlaNYC 2030. (At the same time, Bloomberg is evoking the days of Moses with plans to build massive luxury housing, retail and business complexes at the Atlantic Yards and the West Side Rail Yards.)


Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Big bucks to get action in the big city

NY Daily News
By Lisa L. Colangelo

If you're wondering how deals get done in NY State:

The cost of lobbying in the city continued to skyrocket last year as lobbyists earned more than $44 million in fees, according to a report released yesterday.

Forest City Ratner, the developer of the massive Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn, spent more than $1.1 million on lobbying. Yankees officials, who had been seeking approval for their new stadium, also spent about $321,000, according to the report by the city clerk's office.

Forest City Ratner spread its $1.1 million among several lobbyists as it pushed for approvals for its massive project, which includes a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets, as well as apartment and office buildings.

Overall fees spent on lobbying have more than doubled since 2001, when the total amount was $20 million, records show.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Judge Rejects Eminent Domain Claim

WYNC News Radio

REPORTER: Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for developer Forest City Ratner, says the ruling is a green light to move forward with the massive project to building high rises along Atlantic Avenue.

RIEGELHAUPT: This decision means that we're one step closer to creating over 2,200 units of affordable housing, thousands of construction and office jobs and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: "Wrigglehaupt" forgot the part about being one step closer to:

* seizing peoples' homes and property, * creating massive congestion at the traffic-choked Atlantic-&-Flatbush intersection, * hoarding of massive public subsidies, * public financing of an arena, * massive garden-city high rises on protected superblocks, * building a glass and steel skyscraper over a transit hub, * increasing asthma rates in neighborhoods that have some of the highest rates in the nation, * etc.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Ratner foes' suit dismissed

Judge dismissed eminent domain lawsuit against Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Yesterday's Daily News article got missed because it never showed up in a Google News Search, but it was brought to our attention by a reader who noted that Sederstrom is getting his Atlantic Yards lawsuits mixed up.

A state judge dismissed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the use of eminent domain in the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Um... Goldstein v. Pataki was filed in FEDERAL court, which would make the judge a FEDERAL judge.

Sederstrom provided one detail, that has little significance, but makes one realize that a case like this could go either way depending on the forum:

Garaufis also ruled the proper venue for the case was in federal court, despite a February recommendation by a federal magistrate judge that it be heard in state court.

The next forum will be the second circuit court of appeals.


Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Opponents Of Atlantic Yards Vow To Appeal Ruling

By Roger Clark


Activists in Brooklyn say they're not giving up the fight to derail the massive Atlantic Yards project, despite yet another defeat in the courts.
The judge said the suit lacked merit, but opponents vow to appeal, arguing the project doesn't serve a public purpose, a requirement for the use of eminent domain.

“What the judge said was that even if everything that we said is true, that the project had primarily private benefit and only a small public benefit, that we would not be successful on a constitutional claim because it was sufficient for them to have a small amount of public benefit,” said Candace Carponter of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
Some local residents NY1 talked with said opponents of the project should keep up the battle.

"Absolutely they should keep fighting,” said one area resident. “I mean this is an unjust situation."

"I think [Ratner’s] going to get his way,” said another. “We might get a five percent compromise on the plan, but I think it's worth fighting because it's the right position."

Project opponents are fighting with another lawsuit in state court, challenging the validity of the state's environmental impact study of the project. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

The Yellow State

This Castle Coalition map and comments come to us via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (link).

Note, the map needs to be revised since CT has passed eminent domain reform legislation that awaits the governor's signature. To date, NY has done nothing.


The Castle Coalition has compiled a map displaying which 38 states have enacted eminent domain reforms since the June 2005 Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision.

In their state by state report card, New York state received a big "F" for failure. Here is the Castle Coalition's explanation of the "F" grade:

As a state that is among the leaders in eminent domain abuse, it is not surprising that New York trailed far behind the other states in its response to Kelo. The only bill that seemed to have any traction did little more than create another study committee, yet the New York State Legislature failed to even pass that.

The state did pass legislation specifically targeting a large electric-line project, as well as a private golf club on Long Island. However, there is no momentum toward comprehensive reform, so the Legislature continues to allow the government to take homes and small businesses for private gain.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

'Public Benefit' = Private Profit

Reason: Hit & Run seems to concur with our assessment of Judge Garaufis's ruling in the federal eminent domain case:

This reading of Kelo suggests that, in the absence of videotape showing a developer handing a briefcase full of cash to a politician or an explicit declaration that the government is using eminent domain to benefit a private party, the courts will uphold any condemnation that's part of a project expected to create jobs, generate new tax revenue, or provide some other "public benefit."


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

June 7, 2007

Underdog battles Atlantic Yards

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

Crain's profiles constitutional-rights attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, who's representing the 13 plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki, the federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project.

Mr. Brinckerhoff, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, is convinced that the Supreme Court will want to use the case against Atlantic Yards to clarify its previous decision on eminent domain. Last year, the High Court ruled that local governments had a constitutional right to take private property from unwilling owners for the benefit of another private party if the project's purpose was to benefit the public.

Mr. Brinckerhoff says that Forest City's condemnations are illegal because the $4 billion project was private from the get-go, not crafted by the government for a public purpose. The attorney, who was born upstate and raised in North Dakota, believes the court's swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, will be eager to hold up Atlantic Yards as an example of what does not merit the use of eminent domain.


Mr. Brinckerhoff rejects any notion that he's a naive optimist on Atlantic Yards. "I have a long history of representing plaintiffs who are marginalized or disenfranchised," he says, citing a 1997 suit he filed against the city on behalf of people who had been strip-searched by the police. The case was settled four years later for $50 million.

In another case that dragged on for nearly a decade, Mr. Brinckerhoff argued that the nonprofit organization Housing Works was discriminated against by the Giuliani administration. The city settled for $5 million a year and a half ago. He predicts that Atlantic Yards, too, won't be as tidy as the government hopes. "We're going to stick this out to the very bitter end," says Mr. Brinckerhoff, who is being assisted by other lawyers at his firm. "Yes, we're up against [Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom], the state and the city, but we do this all the time. We stack up against anybody."


NoLandGrab: Matt Brinckerhoff has enough experience to know that it ain't over 'til it's over, and that, to mix metaphors, the Fat Lady has yet to even take the stage.

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

POV: Garaufis decision

ladyjustice-01.jpgIt is our view that if Judge Garaufis’s ruling is allowed to stand, then there are effectively no protections for private property in the State of NY.

Any laws on the books will serve merely as a roadmap for developers and local governments to advance backroom deals, and will no longer act as guidelines meant to preserve constitutional rights.

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Judge dismisses federal eminent domain lawsuit; appeal planned

Atlantic Yards Report

In an emphatic yet potentially questionable decision, U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis yesterday dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the federal lawsuit challenging eminent domain that Atlantic Yards opponents have considered their best hope for stopping the project.

In his decision, Garaufis ruled that even if public benefits—including new tax revenues, housing, jobs, and the elimination of blight—are less than promised, they’re sufficient to overcome allegations that the project is a sweetheart deal benefiting developer Forest City Ratner.

“Because Plaintiffs concede that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted, Plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the 'sole purpose' of the Project is to confer a private benefit,” Garaufis wrote. “Neither would those allegations permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the purposes offered in support of the Project are 'mere pretexts' for an actual purpose to confer a private benefit on FCRC.”

Despite the setback, the plaintiffs, 13 owners and renters whose properties lie in the southern segment of the 22-acre footprint, outside the longstanding Atlantic Terminal Renewal Area (ATURA) that encompasses the Vanderbilt Yard, vowed to appeal.

The plaintiffs' attorney explains the importance of this case and why, if Garaufis's ruling is allowed to stand, it has implications for all property owners:

“We have a nice issue for an appellate court to decide,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff. “Undisputed facts lead to an inference that this was driven for Ratner’s benefit. It’s undisputed that no other developer was considered to do this project, that the genesis was Forest City Ratner, that they identified my clients’ properties [for eminent domain], and that the government, broadly speaking, agreed to do exactly what [the developer] asked for. If those facts don’t give rise to a claim under the public use clause, it’s definitely a dead letter, for anybody.”

If you want to learn more about Garaufis's decision, we recommend reading the rest of Norman Oder's report, which has the issues broken down: appeals, defendants' statements, the Kelo effect, "blight" and the legal arguments.


Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Atlantic Yards suit dismissed

Eminent domain at issue

By Amy Zimmer

The U.S. District Court dismissed an eminent domain lawsuit filed by 13 property owners and rent-stabilized tenants within Forest City Ratner’s 22-acre footprint for the roughly $4 billion Atlantic Yards development. Ratner officials called yesterday’s ruling a victory, but the plaintiffs vowed to appeal.

The plaintiffs argued the project was for private benefit with public benefit as a pretext, and, therefore, the state’s seizure of private property for a private developer was unconstitutional.

“Because Plaintiffs concede that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted, plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the ‘sole purpose’ of the Project is to confer a private benefit,” Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in his decision.
Candace Carponter, legal chair for project foes Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said, “We clearly disagree with the judge,” explaining they would soon file in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

She was heartened that Garaufis disagreed with Magistrate Judge Robert Levy’s February report recommending the case be heard in state, not federal court “to stop what we believe is a private taking in violation of the U.S. Constitution.”


NoLandGrab: Though everyone concedes "that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena," the plaintiffs' point was that these benefits are incidental and pretextual for a project that was conceived to solely benefit developer Bruce Ratner.

If the Atlantic Yards land grab is allowed to stand, then any land grab in NY State will be legal as long as some public benefit is promised. As for "blight," NY State's definition is so wide-ranging that most of Brooklyn could be declared blighted if some developer wanted it to be so.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Brooklyn Neighborhood Resists Eminent Domain

The NY Sun

Julia Vitullo-Martin took last Sunday's garden tour and came away with some historical perspective on the gardens that are under threat of eminent domain from Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, along with the story of one family's quest to preserve its heritage:


Mr. Campbell's house and his neighbor's at 491 Dean were chosen for the walk in part because their backyard gardens grow at the edge of the neighborhood's first known garden, Parmentier's Horticultural and Botanic Gardens, established in 1825 on 25 acres by a Belgian nurseryman, André Parmentier. The remaining "petits Parmentiers" are imperiled, the tour organizer, Patti Hagan, said, because they occupy the western edge of Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development, which the association's brochure calls a "24-acre House & Garden Grab." Arguing that the area's heritage is important, Ms. Hagan said it was known as Rose Hill a century ago, when it was Irish. Indeed, roses still bloom in nearly every garden on the tour. Of the 16 listed gardens, only two are in the Atlantic Yards footprint, though nearly everyone — owners and visitors alike — expressed dismay at the looming threat of eminent domain.

An intellectual property rights lawyer who splits his time between London's Battersea and New York's Brooklyn, Mr. Campbell has no intention of selling his property, whether voluntarily or by force. "We're defending our homes flower by flower," he said, smiling. "My grandfather was the dean of Dean Street. He lovingly restored every inch of the house, and he planted the garden." The lichen-barked apple tree may be an heirloom from one of Parmentier's 242 varieties, the brochure notes. As Mr. Campbell stood beneath his grandfather's magnolia tree, his Uncle Lloyd appeared. A photographer, who was Malcolm X's official photographer, among many other assignments, he says the lush garden reflects his family's roots in Barbados.


NoLandGrab: Uh... actually it's more like a 22-acre House and Garden Grab, but who's counting.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Federal Court Ruling Clears Obstacle From the Path of Atlantic Yards

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The suit, filed by apartment owners, renters, and businesses, challenged the state's right to acquire the land and hand it over to a private development company, Forest City Ratner, arguing that it did not fulfill a public purpose, as is required for eminent domain.

U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis's ruling rejected those arguments, bringing the state closer to moving forward with the property takings that would allow Forest City Ratner to begin construction of the complex.

A lawyer representing the project opponents, Matthew Brinckerhoff, vowed to appeal the decision, a move that he said would prevent the state from taking land for months.

"As long as this case is pending, they cannot proceed to the next step of the eminent domain process," Mr. Brinckerhoff said.
A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, Errol Cockfield, said the state wants to avoid using eminent domain and hopes landowners will settle with Forest City Ratner.

Should the development continue to be held up in court, the project could fall behind schedule; critics have questioned whether the Nets could move in for the 2009–10 season, as Forest City Ratner has suggested they will.


NoLandGrab: The Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) statement is curious. Is it indicative of the kinder, gentler, more benevolent administration? It seems meaningless, since Ratner spokespersons have repeatedly indicated that they do not negotiate with parties that are suing them.

In addition, the ESDC could force many aspects of the project back to the drawing board in order to make it more workable for everyone, including Ratner, but so far, it hasn't.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM


The NY Post
By Rich Calder

Continuing the Post's storied tradition of not crediting other sources when they get scooped, today the paper took note of a breaking story on Atlantic Yards Report, but gets some key points mixed up:

More than half of Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will be funded by government subsidies, a blockbuster court disclosure reveals.

The developer expects $1.4 billion in tax-exempt bonds to finance the project's 2,250 units of affordable housing, according to a state document obtained by project opponents through the courts and posted online yesterday.


NoLandGrab: The article gets it wrong and then, in the next breath, gets it right.

The TAX-EXEMPT BONDS are not considered a direct GOVERNMENT-FUNDED SUBSIDY. Norman Oder explained yesterday that the eventual cost to the taxpayer is approximately 15% the value of the bonds.

The significance is that Ratner is getting low-cost financing for more than half of the project cost, $1.4 billion of which is the tax-exempt housing bonds, a substantial benefit for building some "affordable" housing.

Also, the document wasn't "OBTAINED" by project opponents. It was submitted in an affidavit in the "environmental" lawsuit on behalf of one of the parties to the suit, the Public Authorities Control Board. The document was there for anyone to read — Norman Oder just reads faster than most.

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

Yonkers Agency Approves Controversial Development

Forest City Ratner projects scored a two-fer in The NY Times. Here's the latest development in Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, where (if you can believe it) he is about to score a big chunk of land for less than the market value, and get more tax breaks than originally thought (hmmm...):

After three years of divisive debate marred by suspicions of back-room deals and political favoritism, a proposal to build houses, offices and shops on an 81-acre site off the Sprain Brook Parkway cleared its last hurdle here on Wednesday, when the Industrial Development Agency, a quasi-governmental body, approved $22 million in mortgage and sales tax exemptions for the developer.

But the occasion was far from celebratory, and the vote, swift and subdued, did not come without protest. City Council members are incensed by the mayor’s decision to pursue the sale of the leasehold on the site to the developer for what they say is a fraction of its value.


An article in the Journal News explains the financial bait-and-switch better:
Ridge Hill developer gets $23.1 million in tax breaks from IDA
By Len Maniace

The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency approved an estimated $23.1 million in tax breaks yesterday for the developers of the $600 million residential-commercial Ridge Hill project.

The IDA granted the tax exemptions to Forest City Ratner, despite an attempt by City Councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate Dennis Robertson to postpone the vote. Robertson and a majority of the City Council are challenging Mayor Phil Amicone's plan to sell the lease to the developer for $26 million, insisting that price is a fraction of the lease's worth.
The tax breaks are incentives permitted under state law to encourage development. They break down to $12.2 million in sales-tax exemptions and an exemption from mortgage taxes worth $10.9 million.

The measure approved by the IDA is different from the plan to sell the lease for the 81-acre site to Forest City Ratner, an issue that's moved front and center in the dispute over the city's late budget and, for now, in the race for mayor.

Robertson and four other Council members maintain that the property is worth $150 million, a figure that Amicone disputes.

The latest to raise questions about the deal is state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, who questioned the city's $26 million estimate for the property in a letter to Amicone.

Brodsky cited the age of the property's five-year-old appraisal and said that value appears low in comparison to the annual payments that Forest City Ratner would be expected to make to the Ridge Hill Development Corp., the private development corporation set up by the city to market the property. Ridge Hill Development Corp. now holds the property's lease.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

NBA arena foes dealt setback

Asbury Park Press, "New York Briefs," from wire reports:

A federal judge on Wednesday delivered a setback to Brooklyn residents trying to stop the state from leveling their homes to make way for a new arena for the NBA's Nets.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed one of two major legal challenges to the project, which also is to include office space and as many as 6,400 apartments.

Thirteen holdout tenants, homeowners and business owners in the mega-development's vast footprint sued last year to save their properties. They said the planned seizures were a sham, orchestrated for the sole purpose of enriching the Nets' principal owner, Bruce Ratner.

Garaufis called that allegation baseless.

The development, dubbed Atlantic Yards, must overcome other legal hurdles, including a lawsuit in state court challenging the validity of the state's review of the project's environmental impact.


Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

June 6, 2007

Another Setback for Brooklyn Arena Foes

AP, via "Houston Chronicle"

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed one of two major legal challenges to the project, which is also to include office space and as many as 6,400 new apartments in towers designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Thirteen holdout tenants, homeowners and business owners in the mega-development's vast footprint sued last year to save their properties. They said the planned seizures were a sham, orchestrated for the sole purpose of enriching the Nets principal owner, Bruce Ratner.

Garaufis called that allegation baseless.

"Because plaintiffs concede that the project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted," he wrote, no reasonable juror could conclude "that the 'sole purpose' of the project is to confer a private benefit."

Ratner released a statement calling the ruling "an important victory" for Brooklyn.

An attorney for the residents, Matthew Brinckerhoff, said he will appeal.

"We are confident that the appellate court will allow this case to proceed to trial, at which the citizens of New York will finally learn the real reason plaintiffs' properties were selected to be forcibly taken, and why Ratner was chosen to reap an unprecedented financial windfall," he said in a written statement.


The AP wire story also ran in NY Newsday, "Judge delivers setback to Brooklyn arena foes."

Posted by lumi at 11:05 PM

Judge Rejects Main Argument of Effort to Stop Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn

The NY Times
By Nicholas Confessore

The decision by the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of United States District Court in Brooklyn, centered on the looming condemnation of about a dozen businesses and homes to make way for the 22-acre complex, which state officials approved late last year. It was among the most significant eminent domain cases to unfold since the United States Supreme Court’s much-disputed Kelo v. City of New London decision in 2005, which held that public officials may transfer condemned property to another private interest if doing so would create a superior benefit to the public.

The plaintiffs argued that any public benefit of the project was incidental, and the true purpose was to enrich the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, and its investors.
But Judge Garaufis rejected their reasoning. “Plaintiffs have not set forth facts supporting a plausible claim of an unconstitutional taking,” he wrote. “Nowhere in the amended complaint or their briefs do plaintiffs sufficiently allege any purpose to confer a private benefit.” He also said any claim that the condemnations would not benefit the public were “baseless.”
The plaintiffs said they would appeal the decision. “We will continue to pursue every single legal option available to the plaintiffs, wherever they lead us, to stop what we believe is a private taking in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” said Candace Carponter, a lawyer and a member of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the project.

A federal magistrate judge had earlier recommended that the eminent domain lawsuit be dismissed from federal court on procedural grounds and moved to state court. But Judge Garaufis said the case was appropriate for federal court.
Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Judge Garaufis had erred both in his assessment of the lawsuit’s merits and in the test he chose to apply in dismissing the case. At this stage of the lawsuit, before discovery and a trial, he said, the judge should have considered whether the case could succeed if all the plaintiffs’ claims were true, rather than decide whether he thought the claims were plausible.

“Not only is what we believe plausible, but all of the evidence that is undisputed points to our conclusion being correct,” Mr. Brinckerhoff said. “And that is why we are appealing, and that is why we will win.”


Posted by lumi at 10:58 PM

You’re Helping Bruce Ratner Pay His Mortgage

Norman Oder's scoop gets play on NY Magazine's Daily Intelligencer:

Combining the numbers strewn about in various court documents, Oder comes up with a simple and startling detail: More than half of the projected $4 billion funding for Atlantic Yards comes from public sources. The city is in for $205 million, twice the original figure, and the state for $100 million, and just over $2 billion in tax-free bonds will pay for the arena and the affordable housing. Tax-free bonds, as you might point out, are not direct grants. That's true. But they'll allow Ratner to borrow money at very, very low rates. So they're basically a government-issued discount mortgage. Boy, do we feel like chumps, paying all that interest to CitiMortgage.


Posted by lumi at 10:45 PM

Bill DeBlasio's Smith Street Protest Against Scarano

deBlasio.jpg Pardon Me For Asking

Someone turned Councilmember Bill de Blasio's protest against one evil overdeveloper into a protest against another:

But the entire protest in my opinion was a well orchestrated way for Bill, the Council Superman to get some brownie points as a protector of Brownstone Brooklyn. I am sure some people bought it. However, it was very funny to see a group against the Atlantic Yards Project holding up big signs stating that " Bill De Blasio Loves Ratner" and "Bill DeBlasio Loves The Atlantic Yards Project."


Posted by lumi at 10:33 PM

FCRC Wins Major Battle for Atlantic Yards

By Katie Hinderer

The lawsuit, titled Goldstein v. Pataki, was organized primarily by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a local community group composed of many current residents in the area where FCRC is planning to develop. The plaintiffs were 13 residential and business owners who object to the use of eminent domain to seize their property for the planned mixed-use development. These residents filed against FCRC as well as the former Governor George Pataki, the Empire State Development Corp., Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

While Garaufis granted the defendants request to dismiss the case, DDDB plans to fight back. “We will appeal the ruling,” says the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Matthew Brinckerhoff. “We are confident that the appellate court will allow this case to proceed to trial, at which the citizens of New York will finally learn the real reason plaintiffs’ properties were selected to be forcibly taken, and why Ratner was chosen to reap an unprecedented financial windfall.”


Posted by lumi at 10:23 PM

Federal Judge Dismisses Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

NY1Anchor.jpgThe NY1 story got it so wrong that milk is coming out of our noses:

It was another defeat Wednesday for tenants challenging the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, as a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit.

Wrong plaintiffs, this case involves PROPERTY OWNERS, not just TENANTS.

The tenants claim they are not being offered fair-market value for their homes and are challenging the state's use of eminent domain to get land for the project.

Uh, that should've been the tip off — property owners, not tenants get "fair-market value" for their homes. Anyway, this case isn't about "VALUATION," it's about the constitutionality of the eminent domain seizures.

article (video dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: It seems that NY1 managed to conflate the federal eminent domain case with the case brought by tenants in state court, both of which should not be confused with the suit challenging the environmental impact statement brought in state court.

Posted by lumi at 10:07 PM

Bruce Ratner Wins a Round in Atlantic Yards Legal Battle

NY Magazine, Daily Intelligencer
By Alec Appelbaum

A federal judge this afternoon dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the key eminent-domain case seeking to block Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. It's a major setback for the Develop Don't Destroy crowd, right? Wrong, says Matthew Brinckerhoff, DDDB's lead lawyer. Indeed, he calls it good news. "There was an initial ruling by the federal magistrate saying we didn't belong in federal court, and now a district court has said we belong in federal court but dismissed the claim," Brinckerhoff told us. Now, he says, his clients can focus their appeal on the merits of the case — that public officials delivered the massive project to Forest City Ratner when it should have gone to multiple bidders in a public process — rather than on jurisdictional technicalities. "Given where we were, we are not worse off," Brinckerhoff said.

Posted by lumi at 10:04 PM

Atlantic Yards suit dismissed by federal judge

Crain's NY Business
By Erik Engquist

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit against the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The ruling, eagerly awaited for two months, is a major blow to opponents of the project, who plan to appeal.
Today's decision is an important victory not only for Atlantic Yards but for Brooklyn as well. This decision means we are one step closer to creating over 2,200 units of affordable housing, thousands of construction and office jobs and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn," said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

Their suit’s chances, say project opponents, are best if the case remains in federal court. That is why they say they will appeal the ruling issued today by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

“Part of the reason we have a better chance to win [there] is because the federal courts are much more familiar with constitutional issues and are less susceptible to political pressures,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff days before the ruling.


Posted by lumi at 9:46 PM

ESDC Statement on Goldstein vs. Pataki Ruling

Empire State Development Corp. issued the following statement in response to Judge Nicholas Garaufis' decision dismissing litigation involving the Atlantic Yards project:

"We are pleased by the decision, which reaffirms the Atlantic Yards project's many public benefits: affordable housing, a world-class sports venue, improved transportation and increased economic activity. This is yet another instance in which the project has stood up to legal scrutiny, and we remain confident that the project will continue to prevail in the courts."

Posted by lumi at 5:59 PM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Press Release:

Plaintiffs Optimistic That They Will Prevail on Appeal

BROOKLYN, NY— The Federal District Court in Brooklyn today ruled in favor of plaintiffs and rejected a prior court recommendation that the eminent domain lawsuit, Goldstein v. Pataki, belonged in state rather than federal court

In that lawsuit, property owners and tenants in the footprint of the proposed “Atlantic Yards” project challenge the use of eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses to make way for the project, alleging that the takings violate the U.S. Constitution. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis disagreed with Magistrate Judge Robert Levy’s February report and recommendation by ruling that federal court is the proper legal forum for the case. Judge Garaufis also ruled, however, that the plaintiffs’ complaint is insufficient.

“We will appeal the ruling,” said the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Matthew Brinckerhoff. “We are confident that the appellate court will allow this case to proceed to trial, at which the citizens of New York will finally learn the real reason plaintiffs’ properties were selected to be forcibly taken, and why Ratner was chosen to reap an unprecedented financial windfall.”

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn organized the Goldstein v. Pataki plaintiffs and lawsuit, and continues to raise the necessary funds for what is expected to be a long and drawn out legal fight.

“We will continue to pursue every single legal option available to the plaintiffs, wherever they lead us, to stop what we believe is a private taking in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” said DDDB legal team coordinator Candace Carponter.

Plaintiffs in the case are 13 residential and business owners and rent-stabilized tenants located in the footprint of Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” plan. Defendants in the case are former Governor Pataki, the Empire State Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and Forest City Ratner. All legal briefs and decisions can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 PM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Press Release:

Project Seeks At Least $1.4 Billion in Tax-Exempt Housing Bonds Gobbling Up Available Housing Funds From All Over New York City

BROOKLYN, NY— Atlantic Yards has always been sold as basically a privately funded project by its developer Forest City Ratner and government officials from Mayor Bloomberg to former Governor Pataki. The reality is that more than half of the project will be government backed.

Documents from lawsuits and elsewhere, uncovered and analyzed today by journalist Norman Oder on his Atlantic Yards Report, reveal that including a Ratner request for at least $1.4 billion in tax-exempt housing bonds, at least $637 million in tax-exempt arena bonds, at least $205 million direct cash subsidy from New York City and $100 million direct cash subsidy from New York State, at least $2.34 billion of the $4 billion project has government backing.

"Despite the developer's and government's claims to the contrary, we've always known that the taxpayer would shoulder the lion's share of the cost of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project; now it has been confirmed in government documents," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

The trouble with Forest City Ratner’s extraordinary $1.4 billion housing bond request to New York City’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC), is that New York City is facing an enormous deficit in the tax-exempt bonding the developer is seeking. The impact this deficit will have on “affordable” housing development in New York City and in the Atlantic Yards project could be devastating. The delay in constructing affordable housing in Atlantic Yards that the deficit is likely to cause was also broken in a story on the Atlantic Yards Report today. On his blog, Mr. Oder wrote that on May 24, city Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan drew a stark picture in his testimony in front of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee. Mr. Donovan said: “New York City is facing an immediate crisis in private activity bond volume cap, which we expect to deplete before the end of June. Without additional volume cap, 6,700 units of housing in our pipeline will not be built.”

Those 6,700 units precede the 2,250 “affordable” units promised for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, involving $1.4 billion in scarce tax-exempt bonds. As Oder points out, neither the developer nor government officials revealed this total until after the project that was approved.

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman said, “Forest City Ratner’s project, with already inflated construction costs, would suck up and take away so much funding from other affordable housing projects in New York City. It’s time for Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer to rethink the Atlantic Yards project, or the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 and the City’s housing goals will be seriously jeopardized for years to come even if the bonding volume cap is raised."

“Forest City Ratner would be getting at least $2.34 billion in taxpayer backed government assistance, which is more than half the price tag for Atlantic Yards. At the same time it is now starkly clear that Ratner’s project, with its overly expensive per unit construction costs, would hoard scarce housing subsidy resources from all over New York City,” Goldstein said. “If the project is not rethought, something will have to give, and it seems likely that something will either be massive delays in construction of affordable housing for Atlantic Yards or withdrawn funding for more streamlined affordable housing projects throughout the City.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

Privately financed? Court documents finally specify the housing bonds behind Atlantic Yards funding

Another Atlantic Yards Report scoop!

This is a MUST-READ for reporters, government officials, affordable-housing advocates, "liberaltarians," legal eagles and Atlantic Yards junkies and flunkies.

What the heck did Assistant Attorney General Peter Sistrom mean when he told Justice Madden, "There is no piece of confidential information not in Mr. Scheuerman’s affidavit?”

Norman Oder digs deeper and stumbles across one of the documents that everyone has been looking for, and figures out that more than half of the project's financing is government-backed!

When the project hit crunch time, however, before the Public Authorities Control Board's (PACB) 12/20/06 vote, the ESDC gave the PACB some confidential information The ESDC finally offered a more granular explanation of the financing for the $4 billion project: more than half would come either directly from the government or from government-assisted resources:

  • $637.2 million in tax-free bonds to finance the arena
  • $100 million from New York City (city expenditures are now $205 million)
  • $100 million from New York State
  • $1.4 billion in tax-free bonds to finance the affordable housing

That represents more than half the project financing. While the $2 billion-plus in government-authorized bonds (housing bonds via HDC and arena bonds via ESDC) wouldn’t represent a direct grant to Forest City Ratner, the bonds would back low-cost mortgages, at a far more attractive interest rate than the developer could find on the open market. That thus would lower the developer’s costs and add to profit.

(How much lower? Perhaps 15%--see below. As the New York Observer reported last week, the privately issued bonds "can save developers 1 to 1.65 percentage points a year in interest.")

Such bonds are so scarce, in fact, that HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan on May 24 told Congress the city faced a “crisis” threatening to stall some 6700 affordable housing units in the city’s pipeline. And that pipeline precedes the 2250 units promised for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:33 AM

Huge deficit in tax-exempt bonds suggests Atlantic Yards delay

Atlantic Yards Report

What are the implications of Bruce Ratner's attempt to finance over half of the Atlantic Yards project through tax-exempt bonds (see AYR, "Privately financed? Court documents finally specify the housing bonds behind Atlantic Yards funding") and why are government officials and affordable housing advocates concerned?

Atlantic Yards may have been approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) last December, but the project faces a significant hurdle over which the agencies had no control. Nor did they apparently consider it in their deliberations.
The city and state agencies that fund affordable housing are drastically oversubscribed with developers seeking to draw on a limited pool of tax-exempt bonds. Testifying on May 24, city Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan drew a stark picture before the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee:

New York City is facing an immediate crisis in private activity bond volume cap, which we expect to deplete before the end of June. Without additional volume cap, 6,700 units of housing in our pipeline will not be built.

And those units precede the 2250 units promised for Atlantic Yards, involving $1.4 billion in bonds, a figure developer Forest City Ratner and government officials didn't reveal until after the project was approved.

Congress is considering proposals that would increase the “volume cap,” which limits the amount of bonds that can be authorized by state and city agencies around the country.

For now, a warning from Forest City Enterprises, parent of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, grows in importance. In its latest annual report, the developer acknowledged several factors contributing to potential “increased costs and delays to the project,” including “our inability to obtain tax exempt financing or the availability of financing generally.”
In the city’s pipeline alone, there’s $1.8 billion in projects, which precede the yet-unrequested $1.4 billion for Atlantic Yards. Given the scarcity of city funding for such developments, some affordable housing supporters have begun to express dismay that Atlantic Yards would suck up a significant portion of the pool.


Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

"Atlantic Yards" flickr photo pool

"ThreeCee" set up the "Atlantic Yards" flickr photo pool for photogs who have been documenting what's been happening in and around the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial plan (view slideshow).


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Amicone takes heat over Ridge Hill buyout price

The Journal News
By Hannan Adely

Another land giveaway for Bruce Ratner (some guys have all the luck):

Members of the City Council criticized Mayor Phil Amicone yesterday for his proposal to sell the lease for the 81-acre Ridge Hill property to a developer for $26 million, which they said is a small fraction of the lease's actual value.

The City Council released a spreadsheet pegging the present-day value of the long-term lease on the Ridge Hill property at $150 million - $124 million more than the mayor's price tag.

"They're trying to give (developer) Forest City Ratner everything under the sun to give away the property," said Councilman Liam McLaughlin, chairman of the council's Budget Committee.

Council members said the proposed deal was negotiated without their knowledge and would shortchange the taxpayers.

McLaughlin said the council is considering taking legal action to stop the sale of the lease, including putting a restraining order on the developer, which plans to start construction this month, or rescinding the council's vote to rezone the land.


FYI: In 2005, former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi estimated the Ridge Hill lease to be worth $630 million over 76 years [report, (PDF) see page 20].

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Last Week in the News: From President Bush to Markowitz

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial
By Dennis Holt

Even though Borough President Marty Markowitz is telling anyone who will listen that last month's purge of Community Board 6 wasn't about "Atlantic Yards," the Eagle's Dennis Holt confirms it was and blames the victims:

Here in Brooklyn, there was much angst, screaming headlines and mutters of freedom of speech about Marty Markowitz exercising one of the few powers a borough president has.

If it has to be known, not one of the people Markowitz didn’t reappoint ever bothered to call him to tell why they were taking the position on Atlantic Yards — not one. No one else bothered to use abstaining as a way to say no.

No one is demanding homage or lock-stepping. A little common courtesy to the guy who opened the door for you is not too much to ask.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

TONIGHT: Remember New Orleans!


Speaking of land grabs, New Orleans is sporting some of the finest. Although eminent domain abuse is never a good thing, having your home destroyed by a hurricane prior to having your land grabbed is devastating. NoLandGrab is posting this event in solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Remember New Orleans Event featuring:

Howard Fishman and the Biting Fish Brass Band
Short Films by Helen Hill
Slideshow on New Orleans Today
Silent Auction for the New Orleans Kid Camera Project
Po' Boys and other New Orleanian food

WHERE: Soda Bar
629 Vanderbilt Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

WHEN: June 6, Doors open at 6 pm. Program Begins at 7:30 pm.

Posted by amy at 6:25 AM

June 5, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brit in Brooklyn, Only the Tallest Will Survive


I'm Seeing Green, Walking the Walk at Atlantic Yards

I think if only more people were to familiarize themselves with some on-ground knowledge, there surely would be more opposition to this project.

Some of the things that struck home to me were:

Firstly I wonder how many know that one of the reasons for demolishing serviceable buildings early in the project is to create parking lots for the construction workers and space for staging materiel?
Secondly, the definition of "blight." Blight is in the eye of the beholder. Several explanations of blight are used to justify the use of eminent domain to force the owners in the AY footprint to sell; among the more peculiar is "lots that are built to less than 60% of their allowable FAR (Floor Area Ratio, describing the extent of what can be built)".
Thirdly, walking around on the ground and having the sheer size of the sixteen towers pointed out to you makes for a striking reality.
In the meanwhile, go see the documentary Brooklyn Matters, which is about the Atlantic Yards project.

And speaking about Brooklyn Matters: Brooklyn Based, A Raw Deal

By now, most Brooklynites know that the mammoth Atlantic Yards Project, including the new Nets arena, threatens to wreak havoc on the borough’s distinctive community fabric. But many of us are fuzzy on the ways downtown Brooklyn will be permanently altered. So-called “blighted” historic buildings will be razed (demolition has already begun on one). Residents will be unjustly vacated from their homes. And once the proposed 16 towering skyscrapers are up, parts of low-rise Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene will be swathed in shadows.

What else is wrong with this nightmare scenario? A 50-minute film called Brooklyn Matters (http://www.brooklynmatters.com) will bring you up to speed.

Posted by lumi at 4:27 PM

On "Illegal Construction"

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Councilmember Bill de Blasio has been promoting the protest below for the past week. While we congratulate Mr. de Blasio for standing with his constituents in Carroll Gardens and standing up against "illegal construction," we call on the Councilmember to stand up to all illegal construction (not just in his district) and revisit his unconditional support of the "Atlantic Yards" project bordering his district. (Illegal-demolition, allegedly illegal-environmental review, allegedly illegal-eminent domain, unsafe-parapet collapse and the whole thing is a state override of the City Charter and local zoning codes and regulations.)

What follows is the Councilmember's protest announcement that landed in our in box:

Join Councilmember Bill de Blasio and Stand up Against Illegal Construction!
Wednesday June 6, 2007 at 12:30PM
In front of Robert Scarano's latest project
360 Smith Street, Brooklyn
(Smith Street at 2nd Place)


Posted by lumi at 1:33 PM

Gotbaum backs new downzoning

Flatbush Life
By Helen Klein

Though Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said that she doesn't support the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, she's not worried because her pal Bruce Ratner assured her that it wouldn't be used (link). Now that the eminent domain fight is in the courts, what does Betsy have to say?

What you want, she wants too.

That was the position taken by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum on a wide variety of issues, during a visit to Community Board 14’s May meeting.

Speaking to the group gathered at Edward R. Murrow High School, 1600 Avenue L, Gotbaum assured her listeners that she would support their efforts to down-zone the northern part of the board area. She also said she would look into efforts by the city to acquire a vacant lot on Ocean Avenue, near Avenue H, for the 70th Precinct.

“I promise you,” Gotbaum told the board with respect to down-zoning, “that I will speak to my person on the planning board, and I believe she will vote the way you want because you are preserving something important.”
In addition, Gotbaum mentioned a civic activism survey that her office will be conducting. The project, she said, is, “An attempt to find out what communities think are important.”


NoLandGrab: Oh well... On the other hand, NJ's Public Adovcate is making a big deal about eminent domain abuse and has recommended legislative reform.

Posted by lumi at 1:11 PM

SCREENINGS: Home-Land Security

Proof that "real estate developer" has joined "lawyer" and "politician" in the ranks of most despised professions, three films are making waves this summer:

Unforseen.jpgTHE UNFORSEEN

Sat June 23: 4
Sun June 24: 6
Mon June 25: 1:30

Walter Reade Theater/Lincoln Center

Tickets for the 2007 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival are available at both the Walter Reade Theater box office (212-875-5600) and online at www.filmlinc.com.

Laura Dunn's beautifully crafted documentary, "The Unforeseen," follows the career of Gary Bradley, an ambitious west Texas farm boy who went to Austin and became one of the state's most powerful real estate developers, capitalizing on Austin's boomtown growth beginning in the 1970s. At the peak of his powers, Bradley transformed 4000 acres of pristine Hill Country into one of the state's largest and fastest-selling subdivisions. When the development threatened a local treasure, "Barton Springs"—a natural spring-fed swimming hole—the community fought back and the subdivision became a lightning rod for environmental activism of the kind that flourished under Governor Ann Richards. However, when George W. Bush became governor, development laws change, and the water quality at Barton Springs, as well as the surrounding landscape of Austin, was irreversibly altered. "The Unforeseen" is a powerful meditation on the destruction of the natural world and the American Dream as it falls victim to the cannibalizing forces of unchecked development. It is an intricate tale of personal hopes, victories, and failures, and debates over land, economics, property rights, and the public good.


Friday, June 22, 7pm
Jersey Shore Arts Center

Screening, Panel and Reception
Limited seating is available, and reservations are required.

[Please call 732-380-1592 to reserve your seat. There is a suggested tax-deductible donation of $20.]

Angie, 91, lived through three decades of rust, riot and ruin in Asbury Park, the one-time postcard paradise. Now the tiny bungalow that she has called home, for half her life, will be seized by eminent domain. Hundreds of homes, apartment buildings and local businesses are boarded up, ready for the wrecking ball. Angie’s may be next.

The screening will mark the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which the court ruled that private property may be seized on the mere promise of increased tax revenue and jobs. New Jersey has felt the wrath of this decision, and remains one of the worst abusers of eminent domain in the country.

The evening will also include a panel discussion featuring Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice who represented the homeowners in Kelo, as well as community members and homeowners affected by eminent domain abuse and filmmaker Christina Eliopoulous. A reception and meet-and-greet with panelists and special guests will follow the discussion.


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

Screening at a neighborhood location near you:

Friday, June 8, 7:00 pm — Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival (sponsored by Spoke the Hub),
RSVP: 718-408-3234

Saturday, June 9, 6:30 pm — St. Cyril Belarusian Church
401 Atlantic Avenue

Wednesday, June 13 6:00 pm (6:00 pm reception, 6:30 pm screening)
87 Lafayette Street, NYC,
Sponsored by Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project

Friday, June 15, 7:00 pm — Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival (sponsored by Spoke the Hub),
RSVP: 718-408-3234

Tuesday, June 19, 7:00 pm — Fifth Avenue Committee
621 DeGraw Street, Bklyn,
RSVP: 718-237-2017 x 171

Wednesday, June 20, 7:00 pm — St. Gregory's RC Church
224 Brooklyn Avenue
Sponsored by the Crown Heights North Association, Inc.

Thursday, June 21, 7:00 pm
1320 Eighth Avenue, BKLYN
Panel to follow with Council Member Letitia James, Daniel Goldstein, Ron Shiffman and Michelle de la Uz, and Isabel Hill.
Sponsored by the Park Slope Jewish Center and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice

Friday, June 22 7:00 pm — Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn, Local Produce Festival (sponsored by Spoke the Hub),
RSVP: 718-408-3234

Posted by lumi at 10:46 AM

Atlantic Yards and the Sustainability Test?

Gotham Gazette
By Tom Angotti

Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a bold plan for the future of NYC with some progressive ideas, only Atlantic Yards isn't part of it:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long-term sustainability plan, (PlaNYC2030), is aimed at stemming global warming and promoting energy efficiency by concentrating new construction near transit hubs and using green building technology. At the same time, the mayor proposes to reduce traffic in densely developed areas with congestion pricing, to encourage bicycling, and to build new public open spaces in every neighborhood.

Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn claims to do all of these things – along with providing thousands of new apartments and jobs and bringing a major league sports team, the NBA Nets, to Brooklyn. Yet curiously the mayor’s voluminous 2030 plan includes no mention of the megaproject, Brooklyn’s largest-ever. And in many respects, Atlantic Yards, which was driven by the developer and backed by the state with minimal city involvement, would actually undermine green development and be unsustainable in the long run.

Professor Angotti balances the pros and cons of Atlantic Yards based upon the goals of the Mayor's plan and serves up a reality check for New Yorkers.


Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

The (non-inclusionary) Fourth Avenue rezoning, affordable housing, & CB 6

Arglye.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the shifting political and public awareness for the need for affordable housing in NYC. Disappointment felt by politicians and affordable housing advocates in the wake of Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue rezoning may have affected the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, Forest City Ratner's deal with ACORN for Atlantic Yards and cleaning house at Community Board 6.


Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: States' rights

EminentDomainia17.jpg The Cleveland Plain Dealer, This week at the statehouse
The legislature of the home state of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City wrestles with Eminent Domain reform:

Eminent domain (Am SJR 1):

The Senate approved a resolution that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would override "home rule" provisions of the Ohio Constitution and require cities to follow uniform state law when it comes to taking private property through eminent domain. The vote was split 21-11 along party lines, with Democrats siding with cities that see a threat to their home-rule authority, which allows cities with charters to overrule some state statutes.

Eminent domain (Sub SB 7):

The Senate approved a companion bill that contains rules and definitions governments must follow when taking private property through eminent domain. Among its provisions is a requirement that 90 percent of parcels in an area be blighted for a government to use its eminent domain authority. The debate was shorter than the hourlong discussion of the resolution on eminent domain and home rule, and the bill passed 29-3.

The House is expected to consider its own eminent domain bill -- one that would follow a task force recommendation and require that just 50 percent of parcels in an area be blighted in to use eminent domain authority. Cleveland-area leaders have opposed efforts to restrict their use of eminent domain. The debate over eminent domain rules has been fueled by two court rulings last year. The U.S. Supreme Court said governments could take private property and give it to developers to support economic development, while the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that economic development cannot be the sole reason for a government's use of its eminent domain authority.

Jackson Hole Star Tribune, From elections to eminent domain
Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out against eminent domain abuse:

"The place where I have a problem and where I think the controversy has been recently is when a governmental unit exercises the right of eminent domain for essentially private purposes, that's not a public purpose -- to build a shopping center, for example, it's a commercial enterprise. That gets into an area where I think you do have to make that distinction between what's a public purpose and what's a private purpose.

AP, via The NY Sun, Connecticut Moves To Limit Use of Eminent Domain

The state at the center of a national property-rights battle moved to limit the use of eminent domain, two years after the Supreme Court ruled that governments may seize property for private development projects.

Unlike other states, however, the Connecticut measure does not expressly ban using eminent domain for economic development. Instead, it prohibits property from being taken solely to boost property taxes.
“I think at the end of the day it will ensure that property, especially homeowners’, will not be unnecessarily threatened by this extraordinary power,” Rep. Michael Lawlor, a Democrat, said.

Some lawmakers complained the bill would not have stopped the seizure of Susette Kelo’s pink cottage in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London.

Courier Post [Camden, NJ], Eminent domain has Trenton at an impasse

Public Advocate Ronald Chen described how local government uses tactics like labeling buildings as blighted for small things such as chipped masonry or peeling paint. A guy in Passaic found out his land had been given to a company owned by a former city councilman when he asked why he didn't get a tax bill. This is still America, isn't it?

Where are those Statehouse "public servants" when you really need them? Arguing. The state Senate and the Assembly, which has the slightly better bill for limiting eminent domain powers, can't agree on how to handle it.

Chen says the burden of proof should be on local government, which ought to have to prove it has a right to take the property. It's the other way around now.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

June 4, 2007

Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office

Photo, Gowanus Lounge

OK, so this isn't the front of the actual "Community" "Liaison(?)" Office (that's around the block), but this photo is ironic on so many levels. Needless to say, Ratner didn't get his little garden in shape in time for Sunday's Garden Tour.



Posted by lumi at 10:31 AM

The greening of blighted Dean Street

GardenTourDeanSt.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder checks out the backyard gardens on Dean St., featured in this year's Brooklyn Brownstone Garden District Walk.

From the brochure:

"Why should such sweet gardens have to appear in court for the right to stay in this peaceable place...?"

Oder explains why the buildings on Dean St. and their gardens are being condemned by NY State for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.


[Photo, Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards Report]

Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Would rising costs delay affordable housing? Ratner won't say

Atlantic Yards Report

From City Limits Investigates:

The development by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) is supposed to make 50 percent of its rental units affordable, but the first phase of project--scheduled for completion in 2010--is only required to designate 30 percent of the units that way. Members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and City Councilmember Letitia James claim rising costs could postpone or derail the second phase of the project, which is due to end in 2016, thus endangering the unusually high affordable housing benefits that the construction promised to provide. Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for FCRC, wrote in an email that he would not comment on "ridiculous speculation by opponents whose only goal is to stop the project."

CLI could have gone beyond the "opponents" and pointed out that much milder critics have questioned the promise, and representatives of the developer have given fuel to doubts.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere61.gif Dope on the Slope, Atlantic Yards: Department of Da' Fence

Which brings me to the fences. I can't think of a better metaphor for our city's approach to public involvement in public projects, particularly in recent history. The world-view of the so-called "political leaders" in this city simply has not matured enough to comprehend, let alone competently execute a long range planning process that includes substantial public involvement from concept to reality. It's not that it's been tried and found deficient, it's that it's never really been tried.

not another f*cking blog!, new link to my Atlantic Yards book

Photographer Tracy Collins (aka "ThreeCee") published a photo book on Atlantic Yards and the environs. We're checking it out right now; you can get it at www.atlanticYardsPhotoBook.com.

Between Productions, My kind of town, still

Robert Cashill visits Chicago Millennium Park and notes that it ain't no Atlantic Yards:

If Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards was going to be like this I'd have no complaints at all and would in fact bring my own shovel to pitch in and help make it happen. Chicago's Frank Gehry component, the Millennium Park bandshell, is a lot more inspired, and inspired, than the "Miss Liberty" (ugh!) planned right across Fourth Avenue from us.

FunkyPundit, Bloomberg's Land Grabs

What should be one of the most controversial aspects of Mayor Bloomberg's tenure is his cavalier use of eminent domain. But for whatever reason, there just isn't much resistance -- outside the Atlantic Yards project, that is -- for top-down development projects, whereas City Hall plays the role of private developer.

The threat of eminent domain now hangs over property-owners' heads in Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Willets Point, and upper Manhattan.

The post then quotes Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky in opposition to Columbia University's Manhattanville project.

mcbrooklyn, Atlantic Yards 'Neighborhood Buzz' Map

Outside.In has produced an animated map of neighborhood buzz, projected over both time and space. The map tracks the the neighborhood hotspots in the Flatbush/Atlantic Avenue area of Brooklyn that people have been talking about online for the past six months.

It's fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of coverage by both bloggers and mainstream media.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

June 3, 2007

TODAY: Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Garden Walk

Clematis.jpg 11:00am — 5:00pm

Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights

Tickets: $20

Sponsored by: Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District

Location: Starts at Brooklyn Academy of Music Triangle Garden (intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York 11217)

Subways: 1,2,4,5,D,Q to Atlantic Ave.

Seventeen private gardens may be visited on this self-guided tour through the three historic Brooklyn neighborhoods of Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights. Free shuttle van service will be provided, circling between the three neighborhoods.

This may be your last chance to see a pair of adjacent gardens in Prospect Heights. These two gardens occupy the western edge of Brooklyn's first botanic garden, Parmentier's Horticultural & Botanic Gardens. They currently fall within the footprint of Bruce Ratner's proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards project and are threatened with condemnation through use of eminent domain.

More info.

Photo: "Little Odd Me," flickr.

Posted by lumi at 2:33 PM

My Borough Is Not a Parking Lot

New York Times Letter to the Editor:

In “Parking, Pollution and the Pricing Zone” (May 27), three letter writers comment on the congestion-pricing plan for city traffic. One writer assumes that most drivers will not troll for scarce curbside space in neighborhoods outside the pricing zone. The reality is that people already use outer-borough neighborhoods like mine as park-’n’-ride locations.

There are legitimate “outsiders” (students, service workers and so on) who already come to park in borough neighborhoods with few or no parking garages. Are they all supposed to receive “resident alien” parking stickers or placards, too? How soon before fraudulent copies are being sold by unscrupulous entrepreneurs?

Another writer complains that the parking spaces predicted for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will be used to avoid congestion pricing for Manhattan. The reality will more likely be that those few spaces will be vastly over-subscribed by market-rate residents of the 6,000 new housing units that will be constructed there.

The third writer refers to “scientific studies” offering “strong evidence” that congestion pricing will “reduce traffic and health problems.” But what other major city in the world consists primarily of a barely connected series of islands? I highly doubt the applicability of studies of cities topographically very different than ours.

Congestion pricing is an idea whose time should never come to New York.

Peter J. Farley III
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn


Posted by amy at 12:58 PM

At Atlantic Yards site and environs, a shifting and ghostly landscape


Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, I helped lead a tour of bloggers and photographers around the Atlantic Yards footprint and beyond. (It was the brainchild of Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab.) You can see some photos at the Flickr Atlantic Yards photostream. In trying to explain the evolution of the site and its environs, it's important to consider what came before.
One contentious issue involves the outline of the Atlantic Yards footprint, notably the 100 feet of the block between Pacific and Dean streets, just east of Sixth Avenue. Is that because the buildings are, in fact, blighted, and the rest of the block is in much better shape, as a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation argued last month in court? Or is it because the developer needs that plot of land for parking and construction staging?

I took the photo at right last August. Today, visitors on the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Garden Walk will get a chance to see gardens in the backyards of two properties slated for demolition.


Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

Dark Lady: when it comes to a stadium, follow the money


Atlantic Yards Report starts a summer reading list:

It’s subway reading, at best. Richard North Patterson’s 1999 mystery Dark Lady got mixed reviews and, frankly, doesn’t completely hang together. Though the title refers to prosecutor Stella Marz, and there’s a woman’s silhouette on the cover, the book is about a development deal, the construction of a baseball stadium (and more) in Steelton, a lightly fictionalized version of Cleveland.

And the lesson, as for Atlantic Yards watchers, is an old one: follow the money.

Steelton, like its model, is a deindustrialized city clawing its way back, with a split in political power between white ethnics and African-Americans. The Steelton 2000 bond deal was sold to voters as a plan based on a baseball stadium, “another Camden Yards or Jacobs Field,” for the Steelton Blues.


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Atlantic Yards......a bad idea


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Steve Gilliard, one of the most widely respected and beloved bloggers in all of blogdom, passed away yesterday at the age of 41. Steve always wrote with passion and with a deeply historical point of view on whatever topic he tackled. On December 22nd, 2006 Steve blogged about "Atlantic Yards," in a piece he titled "Atlantic Yards......a bad idea." His starting point was a NY Daily News editorial crowing about the project, titled "A groundbreaking coalition." After excerpting a piece of the editorial, Steve went into his analysis, concluding:
...Why do you need this monstrosity in downtown Brooklyn? Who does it serve? The five Nets fans in Brooklyn? Or rich developers, gullible "community activists" and even more gullible newspaper columnists.

His voice will be missed. May he rest in peace.


More commentary from The Daily Gotham: Remembering Steve Gilliard: Steve on Atlantic Yards

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

Term Limits Force an Early Start to ’09 Campaign

New York Times

The Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, said he, too, was raising money and was leaning toward running for mayor.

“I’m weighing it,” he said, adding that he would prefer to remain borough president if he were not bound by term limits. “By raising money now, it affords me the opportunity to be a contender.”

Mr. Markowitz had raised $332,000 as of January and had spent nearly $200,000 toward a 2009 campaign.

NoLandGrab: Judging by the lukewarm reception Marty received at last night's fireworks in Prospect Park, he'd better hope that the developers vote early and vote often.

Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

Bagels, Bialys and Raspberries

New York Times covers the ever pressing issue of the "Arena Bagels" controversy. Although NoLandGrab was possibly guilty of being the first to publicly comment on the ironic name, it was rather unexpected to find an entire article dedicated to this topic in the Times. The opposition to the ARENA is the story. Opposition to ARENA BAGELS is just a silly side effect. To make it even sillier, the owner of the formerly Arena Bagels offers up his next Onion-esque naming idea for the store:

What will the new name be? Mr. Aggarwal is not 100 percent sure, but he is considering removing the “n” and calling the place Area Bagels and Bialys. The cost of this lesson learned about Brooklyn: $1,000.


Note to Mr. Aggarwal: If you really want to be popular with the locals, why not try "No Arena Bagels"?

Posted by amy at 11:04 AM

Sunday Comix


Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

June 2, 2007

The Ratnerville Singout: targeting Bruce, sampling Stuckey, rhyming Markowitz


Atlantic Yards Report reports from the Ratnerville Singout:

Chris Owens (political candidate and talented singer) sang a Mellencamp-esque "Do Not Go Gently," Scott Turner (of Fans for Fair Play) rockingly mourned "Brooklyn Is Dying." Atomic Grind Show played a ditty titled "Freddy's is an Escalator Now," a reference to manager Donald O'Finn's prediction of what would replace the bar should the arena be built.

But most of the songs managed to take off on the developer's name, which, of course, is no fault of his own.

The titles included:
"It's a Ratner Day"
"Mr. Ratner"
"Rat King"
"Doctor Bruce Comes to Town"
"Get the Rat Out."

Steve deSeve offered a deft capsule description of his song, "It's a Ratner Day" (sample lyric: "The sun is blocked/by all the buildings"). Citing the infamous "no towers" brochure the developer mailed to hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites, he observed, "If you play the brochure backwards, this is the song."


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Event Announcement from Bill de Blasio

Join Councilmember Bill de Blasio and Stand up Against Illegal Construction! Wednesday June 4, 2007 In front of Robert Scarano's latest project 360 Smith Street, Brooklyn. What we want: We want Robert Scarano and any other architect, developer or contractor working in this city to know they must be held accountable for their actions. Anyone who violates zoning codes, building codes and practices unsafe construction is not wanted in our neighborhood! The New York City Department of Buildings has already relieved Scarano of his self-certification. Now we are calling on the New York State Department of Education to strip Robert Scarano of his architecture license. Power in Numbers! We must show that we will no longer tolerate this abuse! Councilmember Bill de Blasio 2907 Ft. Hamilton Parkway (718) 854-9791 deblasio@council.nyc

It's definitely interesting for Councilmember de Blasio to want developers accountable for their actions while supporting Atlantic Yards. Instead of responsible oversight for the Atlantic Yards development, de Blasio suggests that everything can be solved if there was just a "common meeting table." Perhaps de Blasio has a different definition of "unsafe construction."

Posted by amy at 10:37 AM

Banks, politicians and developers give millions to WTC memorial

AP via Newsday

The mayor had to release the list of the project's largest donors because the city's Conflict of Interest board requires public officials who solicit donations to disclose any gift over $5,000.
Many major developers building huge projects in the city gave millions: Forest City Ratner Cos., in charge of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and trade center developer Larry Silverstein each gave $5 million, as well as Related Cos.
The conflict of interest board also bans officials from overseeing government business with major donors.

The report to the city listed 17 anonymous donors, one who gave at least $2 million. In a letter to the conflict-of-interest board, special counsel to the mayor Anthony Crowell said that two of the donors "have business dealings with the executive branch of city government." But Bloomberg and first deputy mayor Patricia Harris, also a foundation board member, "have not exercised any decision making role with regard to these business matters," Crowell said.

NoLandGrab: Certainly no conflict of interest here. You might recall some of Bloomberg's other surprisingly popular funds, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and NYC2012.

More coverage:
New York Times Memorial Unit at Ground Zero Lists Donors (this article does not mention the conflict of interests)

Posted by amy at 10:03 AM

Frank Gehry Tells Himself To Go F&%k Himself


Wired - The Underwire

Admit it. Every once in a while, when you're bombarded with Frank Gehry news (Dubai, Brooklyn, Brad Pitt!) you just think, "Fuck Frank Gehry." Well now you don't need to think it. You can just wear the t-shirt. In this week's New Yorker "Talk of the Town", Lauren Collins writes about t-shirt entrepreneur Barnaby Harris and his "Fuck Frank Gehry" Ts. Turns out the man himself has become obsessed with the fashion statement, buying them for friends and clients.


Posted by amy at 9:57 AM

June 1, 2007

"DEMOGRAPHICS," Atlantic Yards: Short Photo Story

Brit in Brooklyn


Posted by lumi at 9:51 PM

Yards renters to appeal ruling

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

A group of renters living in the footprint of Atlantic Yards vowed to take their case to another court after a State Su­preme Court judge dismissed their case last month.
Justice Walter B. Tolub ruled that the suit should be taken to state’s Appellate Division, a court with a reputation for favoring the state in eminent-domain-related cases.

Attorney George Locker, who is representing the renters at 473 Dean St. and 634 Pacific St., said he’ll appeal.

“The state has taken a rent-stabilized lease and a home for many years without providing appropriate compensation,” he said. “This case must be heard on its merits.”

Unfortunately, this article conflates the two different lawsuits filed by the tenants:

From the article:

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 rent-stabilized tenants who charge that the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing Atlantic Yards, failed to adequately compensate protected tenants whose leases were canceled when ESDC condemned their buildings to pave the way for Bruce Ratner’s mega-development.

Norman Oder from Atlantic Yards Report explains in an email:

This case regarded the ESDC's right to condemn rent-stabilized leases without going through the state agency (New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, or DHCR), which would've taken longer. (more info)

These are two different issues, two different lawsuits, filed in two different courts:



Adequate compensation

Appellate Division

Awaiting a ruling


ESDC's right to condemn rent-stablized leases

State Supreme Court

Justice Tolub ruled that it should be heard in the Appellate Division (see case #1), attorney Locker vowed to appeal.

Posted by lumi at 2:21 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: States' rights

EminentDomainia14.jpgWith two men controlling the entire legislative agenda in Albany, betting on eminent domain reform in NY is like waiting for Godot.

However, nearly two years after the Kelo ruling, a few states are still taking reform seriously, though some property-rights activists are concerned that reforms won't go far enough:

NewsTime, State Senate passes bill limiting eminent domain

Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court sparked national outrage by siding with the city of New London in an emotional eminent domain case, Connecticut's Senate passed a bill Thursday limiting the taking of private property.

But opponents of eminent domain said the bill, which passed 33-3, is not strong enough.
The bill forbids municipalities from using eminent domain to ultimately boost its tax base and requires a local governing body to approve the use of eminent domain by a two-thirds vote, among numerous other changes such as a more thorough hearing process.

AP, via Forbes, NJ: Reforms Urged for Land-Taking Laws

Public Advocate Ronald L. Chen urged the Legislature in his report to stem the abuses that violate private property owners' rights by amending the state's overly broad redevelopment laws.

The News Observer, House votes to restrict eminent domain

Voters across the state could get to rewrite the state constitution so that government agencies in North Carolina cannot seize someone's private property for an economic development project, even when a fair price is paid.

The state House on Thursday agreed to let voters decide in the next statewide election on restricting the ability of government to take land using its power of eminent domain. The bill passed 104-15 with broad, bipartisan support.

It now goes to the state Senate, where its prospects are not clear. If the Senate goes along, the issue could be on ballots in the next statewide elections, which would be in either November (if there is a statewide bond referendum) or May 2008.

The Sacramento Bee, Eminent domain plan aired

California state and local governments would no longer be able to seize a home to make way for private development under an assemblyman's proposal Monday to change the state's eminent domain law.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, would also prevent a government from taking a small business, unless it was part of a plan to get rid of blight and the business was given a chance to participate.
Critics immediately denounced the proposal as little more than window dressing, an attempt to trick voters into believing that abuses of the state's eminent domain laws are being fixed.

Posted by lumi at 1:45 PM

Yards mess continues

The Brooklyn Paper

It seems like every week there’s a new example of how we’re all paying the price for Atlantic Yards while developer Bruce Ratner laughs his way to the bank.

State officials in Albany — Ratner’s partners in this taxpayer-underwritten boondoggle — have consistently told residents that the $4-billion mega-project won’t have much of a negative impact on Brooklyn.
Weeks after Atlantic Yards was approved, for example, the city Department of Transportation, realizing that the state’s rosy traffic scenarios were a mirage, proposed a bold plan to convert two avenues in Park Slope into one-way throughfares.

We can still hear the screaming.

Now Con Edison, the energy giant, comes forward to say it needs a 17-percent rate hike — in part because of the massive energy demands of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 1:41 PM

The Beep Flexes Muscle

The Brooklyn Eagle, Editorial
By Henrik Krogius

Finally, an editorial supporting Borough President Marty Markowitz's purge of Community Board 6 of members who voiced criticism of Atlantic Yards.

Using words like, "vituperative," "negative mindset," "holdouts" and "provacateurs" to describe Atlantic Yards critics and their position, Kroguis swallows the myth of Marty and Ratnerville and slams the competition for facing facts:

Markowitz saw as his gift to Brooklyn the idea of buying the Nets and bringing back a major sports franchise after the decades of mourning the departed Dodgers; it was he who persuaded Bruce Ratner to buy the team and create the arena around which Ratner then developed the Atlantic Yard project, in a dismal area on a major intersection that was crying for a major undertaking that no one before had had either the resources or imagination to develop. To Markowitz, as to many others, the virtue of the concept was self-evident. However, he didn’t reckon with the depth of opposition to change that can be found among quite a few in Brooklyn. The vituperative nature of the opponents’ campaign was apparently more than he expected, for all his years in politics, and he is said to have felt unfairly stung.

It is not as if the opponents, including so much of Board 6, ever dispassionately considered this arena-cum-offices-and-housing concept in terms of benefits vs. drawbacks, or looked at how it might be improved. A purely negative mindset invoked a host of reasons, some absurd, for why the whole idea should be thrown out. Instead of an arena at a hub of public transportation, there were suggestions that it should be put — if indeed anywhere at all — in some non-transit-served place like the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The absence of a school in the original plan was given as a reason to reject it. Traffic was looked at not in terms of mitigating its effects but as a reason for denying the project; even the fact that the site has unrivaled access to public transit — in itself a traffic-mitigating factor — has been used to argue that the project should be rejected because it will overburden the subway system. While most of those living in the project’s footprint accepted generous buyouts, 13 holdouts are fighting an eminent domain court battle in hopes of blocking the whole thing. Politically, there is a fear that the arrival of a more affluent population may shift voting patterns to the disadvantage of current office holders. Following its “crusading” practice of converting every negative scrap into a screaming headline, the Brooklyn Paper has tried to make a case out of a sponsoring British bank once having had ties to slavery, and it recently even bannered that a bagel shop changed its name rather than endure more hostility from the anti-Yards provocateurs.


NoLandGrab: Suffice it to say, thanks for trying to stay awake, but Henrik, you missed the part about:

Posted by lumi at 12:45 PM

Power Lies! It turns out state was wrong — A’Yards will tax electric service, raising rates

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

When your electric bill goes up, put some of the blame on Atlantic Yards, Con Edison officials said last week.

The utility’s assessment, given at an Assembly hearing in Albany on May 23, apparently contradicts assurances by Atlantic Yards supporters in the state government who last year insisted that Bruce Ratner’s mega-development would have only an “insignificant” impact on the energy grid.


Posted by lumi at 12:38 PM

Judge agrees FCR contractor pursued unsafe demolition, levies fines

Atlantic Yards Report

As if you're not already having trouble keeping all of the lawsuits straight, here's the news on the case regarding Ratner's unsafe demolitions, which shook residents from their beds as workers used a backhoe to knock down the adjacent building.

Readers will remember that the hearing for this bizarre episode featured Ratner's high-powered (read, "high-cost") attorney attempting to get Norman Oder barred from the hearing before trying to spilt hairs to get everyone off. [link]


For the demolition of 620 Pacific Street and 622 Pacific Street, the contractor had not applied for a mechanical demolition permit, which would not have been issued for 622 Pacific.

At a hard-fought hearing on 3/12/07, a lawyer representing Forest City Ratner acknowledged that the backhoe was used on 620 Pacific, which was adjacent to unoccupied buildings, but said there was no proof the backhoe was used to demolish 622 Pacific, adjacent to the occupied apartment building at 624 Pacific.

That lawyer, Jeffrey Braun, elicited testimony from a representative of Solomon Oliver Mechanical Contracting, who claimed that 622 Pacific was demolished only by hand. However, David Gochfeld, whose fiancee lives in 624 Pacific, took pictures that clearly showed the backhoe being used to demolish 620 Pacific and strongly indicated similar activity at 622 Pacific (photo right and above). A Department of Buildings inspector testified that the evidence backed up that claim, and Gochfeld offered eyewitness testimony.

Administrative Law Judge Helaine Balsam of the Environmental Control Board (ECB), the administrative tribunal that oversees violations issued by city agencies, apparently agreed with the latter arguments. According to notices posted on the ECB web site, she assessed $2000 fines for 620 Pacific, as expected, and also for 622 Pacific, the subject of the hearing.

So, who cares? Apparently Ratner does.

The judge's decision has a symbolic value beyond the total of the fines. In sending a leading land use lawyer to defend the contractor, Forest City Ratner undoubtedly spent more money on legal fees than the fines at issue. In most cases, defendants choose to cut their losses.

However, given the contested nature of Atlantic Yards--and, this was before the fall of the Ward Bakery's parapet in April--the developer apparently wanted to avoid the taint of a violation.


Posted by lumi at 11:41 AM

The unexpected housing boom in Downtown Brooklyn, some curious statistics, and an Errol Louis misreading

Atlantic Yards Report takes a look at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's latest effort to promote the Downtown Brooklyn plan (which mysteriously now includes "Atlantic Yards" in the "under construction" category); reviews this week's article in the Village Voice, which illustrated some of the problems with the implementation of the plan; and examines Errol Louis's column touting the plan's benefits.


Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

Yes, in my backyard

Atlantic Yards is one plan that will boost jobs & housing downtown

NY Daily News
By Errol Louis

Louis gets his pot shot in at Atlantic Yards opponents and then waxes poetic about the Downtown Brooklyn plan:

Almost lost in all the hoopla over Atlantic Yards - the junk lawsuits, futile protests and other antics of the project's publicity-hungry opponents - is the fact that an even larger, more dramatic cluster of homes, office towers and hotels is already rising a mile away, in downtown Brooklyn.
The explosion of new development, set off by a sweeping rezoning approved by the City Council years ago, will alarm those who'd like to freeze the area's rent, income, building heights, shopping choices and quality of life where they are right now.

But those seeking more for themselves, their families and their neighbors should view the coming boom as a shot at jobs, housing and business opportunity.

Louis continues by listing projects he deems beneficial, but misses an important point: the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership was created to get the Downtown Brooklyn Plan back on track, since "the commercial expansion that was envisioned has not happened." (See, NY Sun, October, 2004, Partnership Working To Revitalize Downtown Brooklyn")


Posted by lumi at 10:38 AM

5th Ave facility moves forward

The Brooklyn Paper
By Michael McLaughlin

A controversial supportive housing facility proposed for Fifth Avenue moved forward last week when the City Planning Commission gave its approval for the five-story, 49-unit building at what is currently a municipal parking lot on 16th Street.

“It’s very reassuring they saw the merits of the project,” Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz said after the May 23 vote.


NoLandGrab: Word on the street and the political grapevine is that this facility ran into turbulent political waters when Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Councilmember Bill deBlasio were poised to block the project as payback to Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) for expressing criticisms against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

The community rallied around FAC, and Markowitz and deBlasio had to backtrack.

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

CB6 member to resign in protest: Says Marty’s purge makes boards “meaningless”

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

A veteran member of Community Board 6 will resign this week to protest the politically motivated axing of nine board colleagues who voted against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development — and he’s urging his fellow panelists to do the same.

Cobble Hill lawyer Joseph Porcelli told The Brooklyn Paper that he would step down on June 4 after six years on the board as a response to Borough President Markowitz and Councilmember Bill DeBlasio’s dismissal last week of board members who disagreed with them on the controversial development.

“We are supposed to be appointed to represent independent opinion. As soon as we did, people were whacked,” Porcelli said, referring to the strong position CB6 took against Atlantic Yards, which Markowitz strongly supports.

Another board member decided the best thing to do was to stay put:

“I thought about it,” said longtime member Peter Fleming. “But then I thought that the best way to honor those who were not reappointed would be to stick around and do the work that they can no longer do.”

In a subtle rebuke to Markowitz and DeBlasio, CB6 Chairman Richard Bashner agreed to allow several ousted members to retain their seats on board committees, albeit in a non-voting manner.


Posted by lumi at 10:06 AM

Packing them in

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Last month’s purge of nine anti-Atlantic Yards members of Community Board 6 is raising new questions that Borough President Markowitz has turned the panel into a crony clubhouse.

Two of the new members of the board — Mark Shames and Maria Reca — are also members of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, a powerful Brownstone Brooklyn political club. IND’s former president, Greg Atkins, is now Marko­witz’s chief of staff, and a club executive committee member, John Heyer, is Markowitz’s staff liaison to the community board.

With the new appointments, there are now five members of the IND club on the 50-member CB6 — fueling renewed complaints that Markowitz is packing the board with his allies.

“I always thought the community board was a place for independent thinking, not political games. Now I have seen differently,” said board member Celia Cacace, whose seat is not up for reappointment until next year.
IND Executive Board Chairman Kenn Lowy agreed that “political connections help” people get on local boards.

“It’s pretty traditional that if you are a member of the IND, you will make it onto the board,” he said, though he claimed that community board issues are not discussed back at the clubhouse.

Perhaps, but the club was involved in its own Atlantic Yards controversy last year when anti-Yards residents packed the board’s membership rolls before a scheduled vote on candidates that the club should endorse. To prevent the new members from having too much control over IND’s endorsement vote, the club leaders altered the rules to prevent the new members from voting.

The article goes on to identify the new members and get some of their views about Atlantic Yards:

“I watch the news. I know people are losing their apartments [to make room for Atlantic Yards],” said new board member, Boerum Hill resident Rajia Thomas.

“That’s not good. But it’s for a good cause. I think an arena and more stuff to do is a good thing. We need more places to go and more jobs.”


NoLandGrab: "More stuff to do" isn't always a good thing, but whatever.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

Tape of Yonkers council meeting sought

The Journal News
By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

videotape.jpg You can't make this stuff up. The Feds handed down subpoenas for information about the Yonkers City Council's activities concerning the approval of Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill plan, but the video tapes of the meeting are missing. Though the feds have the audio tapes, these curious little hiccups in the "conspiracy probe" leads critics of Bruce Ratner to wonder where this is all leading:

Federal investigators went back to City Hall seeking video of a controversial council meeting, going so far as to subpoena a local TV station for its footage of the session.

Yonkers officials said they have yet to find the videotape sought by the FBI of the July 11, 2006, meeting at Saunders Trades and Technical High School during which the $600 million Ridge Hill Village development was approved.

But they also downplayed the significance of the request, noting that investigators already have audio and written records, which were delivered to the FBI in March to comply with a subpoena.

"They have the annotated agendas. They have the audiotapes. All they don't have is the people sitting in their chairs," said Harvey Kaminsky, counsel for the City Council's Democratic majority. "It's just very hard to believe that that's the key to the case."

Both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office have refused to comment on the conspiracy probe.
The city complied with the first subpoena, delivering two boxes of records to FBI offices in White Plains on March 15.

But Yonkers Corporation Counsel Frank Rubino said federal investigators last week notified the city that video of the July 11, 2006, meeting was missing from the records. The meetings are routinely videotaped.


Thanks to Community First Development Coalition for keeping us informed. Stay tuned, folks!

Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Same Struggle, Other Borough

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn outlines the issues about the other land grab in the "other borough" and declares solidarity:

New York City is about to certify Columbia University's 17-acre expansion plan into West Harlem which abuses eminent domain, and like Atlantic Yards, relies on a yet to be released "blight study" from the Empire State Development Corporation. What this means is that on Monday the City Planning Commission, in its project certification, will start the clock on the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) (again a government agency is proceeding with a dense review process in the middle of summer, especially impactful as this review includes the community's 197-A plan but in the summer Community Board 9 is out of session). Along with the city process, the ESDC has been called in to be the eminent domain abusing condemnor, planning to seize private property to hand over to Columbia University.

Like Brooklynites, the West Harlem community has been fighting Columbia's plans for years and we fully support their efforts (over the years they have been very supportive of our struggle as well). Their fight is our fight. Our fight is their fight. The West Harlem Community Board, Board 9, has called a 12 noon press conference today at City Hall.


Note: This is a City project; the Empire State Development Corporation was brought in solely to do the land seizures through eminent domain, apparently because the City doesn't have the balls to try it themselves.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

In Coney Island, sidewalk blight and an evasive administration

Atlantic Yards Report stumbles over a clue about one of the nagging questions about "blight" conditions in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

So, who's responsible for the blight on city sidewalks? Last year, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) punted flagrantly on the question, when queried by Brooklynites regarding the condition of sidewalks bordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard.

Regarding Coney Island, a similar city evasiveness is evident, according to an op-ed yesterday in the New York Sun, headlined Sidewalks of Brooklyn. Coney Island resident Gabriel Schoenfeld recounts his frustration in requesting that the city do something about "the frightful conditions of the sidewalks here."

Though Schoenfeld sent copies to several people in the administration, he didn't get a response for 13 months. Joseph Palmieri, the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, didn't explain the delay but recounted bureaucratically:

Please be advised that by law, the owner of the property adjacent to the sidewalk is responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing the sidewalk discussed in your letter. Additionally, the property owner may be liable for personal injury and property damage caused by failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe manner. The Sidewalk Management Unit will inspect the location and issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner, if warranted.


blightwalk.jpg NoLandGrab reality check:
* According to the law, the property owner is responsible for the condition of the sidewalk.
* A state agency, the MTA, owns the Vanderbilt Railyards.
* Therefore the state is responsible for the condition of the sidewalks.
* The state sponsor of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, the ESDC, identified the sidewalks as "blighted" while building a case to support the use of eminent domain.



Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Historian gives credence to underground Railroad claims

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

For those of you who are keeping track of Brooklyn's other land grab, here's the latest news:

A key city historian offered his views last week on the Duffield Street abolitionist houses and appears to have landed on the side of preservationists.

Christopher Moore, a curator at Harlem’s Schomburg Center, and regarded as one of the city’s foremost African-American historians, is also a member of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

His name reportedly came up at the May 1 City Council hearing regarding the city’s plans to condemn and demolish the Duffield Houses and replace it with 1.5-acres of open space and underground parking for 750 cars.

Preservationists have argued that the houses, located at 225, 231, 235, 223, 227 and 233 Duffield and 436 Gold streets, are linked to the Underground Railroad and Abolitionist Movement, and should be preserved.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) hired the consulting firm, AKRF, to research the accuracy of these arguments.
AKRF reportedly said Moore was one of the people they interviewed in preparing the report, which included a 12-person peer review committee, oral histories, architectural surveys, outreach to more than 230 individuals, and research into hundreds of documents at institutions, agencies, and organizations.

However, at the City Council hearing, AKRF reportedly backtracked and said they never actually spoke with Moore.

Here's what Moore says:

“Finding six houses on Duffield Street [one owned by anti-slavery activist Harriet Truesdale], all connected by an exterior front-yard trench that could have provided passage from house to house [a use asserted by the oral traditions of those who lived in the homes], in a neighborhood where Walt Whitman once published an abolitionist newspaper; an African American church (Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Church), served as a known Underground Railroad station; a college (Polytechnic University) was founded by abolitionist John Howard Raymond; in a city (Brooklyn) which was one of the nation’s most important hubs of the Abolitionist and Underground Railroad movements—and not conclude the likelihood of historic value of these houses—is a manner of historic reasoning that I do not share,” said Moore.


Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

‘A war for space’

Panels mull Harlem development

By Amy Zimmer

The First Annual Harlem Anti-Gentrification Conference, sponsored by the Harlem Tenants Council, has been in the works for more than six months.

It will feature such panels as “An analysis of race, class, gentrification and the necessity for mobilized resistance.” Speakers will include activists from Williamsburg and from Atlantic Yards foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, as well as organizers from Chinatown and scholars such as Neil Smith, director of CUNY’s Center for Place, Culture and Politics. It will also tackle Columbia and the university’s “adversarial and managerial relationship” to the Harlem community.


According to the Harlem Anti-Gentrification Conferece Agenda, Isabel Hill's documentary "Brooklyn Matters" will be screened this afternoon:

4 to 6 PM: Documentary Film and Discussion: "Brooklyn Matters” an insightful documentary that reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and planning principles to try to push their own interests forward. Produced and Directed by Isabel Hill. Discussion after screening. Invited: Isabel Hill

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Rage building in Harlem

The Daily News
By Juan Gonzalez

Columbia University is giving Bruce Ratner a run for the money in more ways than one.

Columbia and Ratner: eminent domain abusers

The man from Columbia University's real estate division refused to take no for an answer, says Ann Whitman, owner of Hudson Moving and Storage Co. in West Harlem.

"Each time he called me on the phone, I told him the same thing: My building is not for sale," Whitman recalled yesterday.
Whitman has some crazy notion that in America a property owner can refuse to sell to a private buyer.

Not any longer.

Not since real estate titans started using their money and influence to get local governments to condemn properties they want for their private projects.
"Columbia told me to sell now or face the government and eminent domain later," Whitman said.

Both are "ruthless developers."

Whitman never expected that the great Columbia University, a private Ivy League institution that proudly trumpets its liberal values, would resort to the tactics of ruthless developers.

Will Columbia win the money race?

The trustees of Columbia, after all, are some of the biggest movers and shakers in New York. Bollinger is spending more money on lobbyists than Forest City Ratner spent to win approval of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Just like Columbia, Ratner has "history" in the community.

Many in Harlem haven't forgotten Columbia's dark history of evicting thousands of low-income black and Hispanic tenants from Morningside Heights from the 1960s to the 1980s to make way for more student dormitories and new classroom and research buildings.

Those were the bad old days, say university officials. The new Columbia is enlightened and sensitive to the community.

If you've got a controversial plan, review it over the summer; Ratner did.

By starting the 60-day clock for local review, the Bloomberg administration is ignoring the pleas of the local community board not to do so during the summer.

Most community boards have trouble making quorum during the vacation months of July and August. Even though city officials know that, they are moving forward with a review of both the Columbia plan and a competing plan from the community board.

It's a naked attempt to "slip a fast one by the community," said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9.


NoLandGrab: Manhattanville property owners and Manhattan Community Board 9 have been watching the Atlantic Yards controversy very closely. Now that we've stepped into the looking glass, things are getting curiouser.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Die Another Day

The cycle of codependence between critics and stars does a disservice to both public and profession alike.

Metropolis Magazine
By Philip Nobel

As Boston's new signature starchitect-designed building fails to impress, a reviewer considers the complicity of critics. There's no mention of Atlantic Yards and superstarchitect Frank Gehry, but the song remains the same:

Bad buildings by big names get a regular pass. Favorable coverage ensues for the client. Though no connection between high-glamour architects and high-quality buildings is ever demonstrated, the client class learns anew that it pays to gamble on the stars. Other architects retool their practices to get in the game (first stop: drinks with the local critic). Students take note (fledgling critics too…). Mediocrity goes unchecked. The public gets shafted. The cycle repeats. The planet spins. Architecture lives to die another day.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Columbia expansion plowing ahead

Crain's NY Business
By Anne Michaud

Remember last summer, when the Atlantic Yards environmental review hearings were scheduled during the summer?

Deja Screw?

Could Columbia University and the City be taking a page out of the Ratner playbook by starting the clock on the public review process for the university's expansion plans during the months that many New Yorkers aren't paying attention, and the Community Board, which is supposed to officially weigh in with its opinion, is not in session?

Columbia University's 17-acre expansion into West Harlem will enter into the city review process on Monday, following three years of delay and controversy.

The review, which takes seven months, would rezone several city blocks near the Hudson River to create a satellite campus for the university. Science labs, an arts building and a business school are planned.

Charges that the university is mishandling community relations have dogged the project -- sometimes triggering student protests -- and local leaders are objecting to the timing, which means that public hearings will be scheduled during the summer vacation months.


NoLandGrab: Columbia plans on using the State's power of eminent domain to complete the land acquisition for the controversial project.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

The Brooklyn Paper: Letters to the Editor


A Brooklyn Paper readers give thanks for term limits and another calls for fresh blood after Borough President Marty Markowitz's purged Community Board 6 while on a cruise in the Atlantic (Ocean):

Aren’t we lucky that we have term limits for elected officials? That way, their overstuffed egos have only eight years to bully their constituents and screw them royally (“Yer Out,” May 26). — Bob Ohlerking, Park Slope

New blood is indeed needed to keep our democracy fresh and responsive to new ideas. Unfortunately, the fresh blood we really need is on the City Council and in the Borough President’s office. — Natalie Burrows, Cobble Hill

Scott Turner from Fans for Fair Play responds to editor Gersh Kuntzman's contention that arena opponents are bullies when it comes to bagels and brew:

We applaud Ravi Aggarwal for taking the time to listen to his customers and neighbors. It’s more than Bruce Ratner has ever done.

Kuntzman also drew an unfortunately connection between residents’ discussions with Aggarwal and our ongoing “Think Before You Drink” campaign against Steve Hindy’s Brooklyn Brewery. Our intent is to inform beer drinkers that buying Brooklyn Lager aids and abets Ratner’s skyscrapers and the destruction of Freddy’s Bar – a neighborhood institution whose early support of Brooklyn Lager has been repaid with Brooklyn Brewery’s support for a project that will lead to the bar’s destruction.

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM