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August 31, 2007

Desktop Day

For the past two weeks Brit in Brooklyn featured Atlantic Yards in its end-of-week feature, Desktop Day.

Click on the image to surf on over to Brit in Brooklyn's downloading instructions.

Flatbush and Fifth

The bright red JRG Cafe has been Ratnered and the Williamsburg Bank clock is still shrouded.

DesktopDay02-BIB.jpg

Gehry, Thy Name is Eminent Domain

This piece of graphic art from the Atlantic Yards footprint will brighten up any pc desktop.

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Posted by lumi at 8:19 PM

Wrecking balls

The Brooklyn Paper

Gozales-BP.jpg

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner will move forward with a long-planned demolition this week, leaving a family that is suing to stop the project to live, literally, in the shadow of its progress.

Over the next week, the developer will complete the emergency demolition of the Wards Bakery parapet, which collapsed in a near-fatal accident in April, and also move forward with preliminary demolition of buildings at 814 and 818 Pacific St., between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, according to a construction update issued by the Empire State Development Corporation.

For the village of holdouts that remain in the project’s largely abandoned footprint, the construction notice was dismissed with a sigh.

“All the buildings are coming down. Sometimes if feels like it makes no sense for ours to be standing up,” said Maria Gonzalez, who has lived at 812 Pacific St. with her husband, Jose, for 35 years.

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NoLandGrab: Taking down every building in sight is a tried-and-true tactic straight from the land-grabbing developers' playbook. And Maria Gonzalez's response to it is exactly the emotion Bruce Ratner is aiming for.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

The Times knows how to do better, just not when it comes to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times is capable of fact-checking dubious or incomplete claims and it's capable of sustained reportorial attention--just not enough when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

Consider the tough analysis of the post-Katrina recovery, as noted in an article published Thursday headlined Commemorations for a City 2 Years After Storm. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

Imagine if, say, the Times had similarly fact-checked the projection (according to a document by developer Forest City Ratner) that Atlantic Yards would be finished by 2015, given that the official date is 2016 and the the timetable is already behind schedule?

Or if the Times had reminded readers that the claim of 15,000 construction jobs really means 1500 jobs a year over ten years?

Or if the Times corrected the multiple claims, which it reproduced uncritically, that Atlantic Yards would be built on the "same site" as the proposed new Brooklyn Dodgers stadium?

Or if the Times, belatedly but responsibly, corrected the flagrantly inaccurate 12/11/03 claim, by then-architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, that the project site "is now an open railyard."

Maybe it's tougher to correct your own mistakes, but the Times has had a significant impact on framing the Atlantic Yards story.

Norman Oder wonders who's responsible.

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Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

Art attack: City to evict art space for … art space!

The Brooklyn Paper

AmberArt-BP.jpgThis is the third land grab we've heard about under the Downtown Brooklyn plan, the other two being Duffield St. and Track Data.

This one is particularly ironic because an arts organization is supposed to be displaced for ANOTHER arts organization.

The city wants to use its power of eminent domain to push out an almost-finished arts venue in Fort Greene to make way for a Manhattan-based dance troupe and 150 new housing units that comprise the centerpiece of the so-called BAM Cultural District.

“Our goal was to create a live music-and-arts venue,” said Todd Triplett, one of the three friends behind the Amber Art and Music Space, which is being built in a former liquor store at Fulton Street and Ashland Place.

Lured by the promise of the burgeoning “Lincoln Center of Brooklyn” that the city envisions for the area around BAM, Triplett and his partners invested more than $1 million, and spent a year and a half turning the run-down, three-story space into a performance venue, recording studio and an arts non-profit.

That grand idea was shattered on Aug. 21, when Jack Hammer, the director of Brooklyn Planning for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed the three partners that the agency wants to seize the site by eminent domain to make way for the Dancespace Project, a Manhattan-based dance group.

“We were four weeks away from completion, and we get this letter. The city is f—king us,” said Triplett, who has already gotten a liquor license and booked musical acts into 2008. “I’ve never seen anything this egregious. This is in the tradition of Robert Moses.”

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NoLandGrab: Ya think the City could find someone else to hand out eminent domain letters, someone not named "Jack Hammer."

A lesson for ALL New Yorkers living and doing business in a neighborhood undergoing rezoning: if your plans for your property do not conform to the EXACT goals of the rezoning plan, then you could be the next to get screwed.

Triplett could just as well have said that this is in the tradition of Mike Bloomberg.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Changing the Face of NYC: The Mega Development Roundup

The Indypendent
By Chris Anderson

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New York City is in the mood to expand. While the recent death of Jane Jacobs and the rehabilitation of Robert Moses may signal the passing of the “livable city” zeitgeist, the real impact of the city’s newly assertive development policies will be felt by ordinary New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. Here’s a look at three mega-development projects and the issues involved.

Atlantic Yards
Possibly no development battle has been more bitter than the fight over the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The centerpiece of the project, according to supporters, will be the Barclays Center, which will serve as the new home of the NBA ’s New Jersey Nets. Along with the basketball arena, the Atlantic Yards development includes retail and commercial space and 6,430 units of mixed income residential housing.

Controversies: By far the most controversial aspect of the Atlantic Yards project is the expected use of eminent domain to clear remaining residential holdouts out of Prospect Heights. An additional major criticism is the size of the project. At 6,430 units holding a New York City average of two people per unit, the resulting population increase would make the area around Atlantic Yards the most densely populated census tract residential community in North America. Project supporters, which include the nominally left-leaning community group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), contend that project opponents are little more than a middle-class clique of NIMB Ys (Not In My Backyard).

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NoLandGrab: Officially, Bruce Ratner's controversial megalopolis is so big, it spans more than one census tract, thus diluting the definition, if not the effect, of the extreme density of the project. The Atlantic Yards proposes an historic experiment in residential density — the proper expression is, if built, the project would be the densest residential community in the nation by more than a factor of two.

One more thing. Is it just us, or is the NIMBY-card played when project supporters run out of nice things to say about the project?

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

NBA Photo Wire

ESPN.com
Photo, Mark Lennihan for AP

AerialAY.jpg

The Atlantic Yards Vanderbilt Yards, center, are shown in an aerial photo on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Developer Forest City Ratner plans to construct 16 skyscrapers and an 18,000-seat arena for the NBA's Nets above and around the Long Island Railroad yards. The project is to include office suites, a hotel, 6,400 apartments and a 500-foot glass tower. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards" is the name of Ratner's project; the proper name of the railyard is "Vanderbilt Yard."

This photo nicely illustrates the location of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project in relation to "Downtown Brooklyn," which is the first bank of buildings well behind the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower. Most of Ratner's pr materials, including www.atlanticyards.com, locate the project in "Downtown Brooklyn." The correct location of the project is Prospect Heights.

AerialAY-Outline.jpg

We've taken the same photo and outlined the footprint of the Atlantic Yards plan. Two long city blocks slated for demolition and clearance at the east end of the project (bottom right) are not included in this aerial view.

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

Forest City in the News

dBusinessNews Cleveland, Forest City's First-Half Earnings Conference Call

TO: Interested analysts, brokers and investors
FROM: Forest City Enterprises
RE: Forest City's First-Half Earnings Conference Call
Forest City Enterprises will release its first-half 2007 financial results on Monday September 10, 2007 and will hold a conference call on Tuesday September 11, 2007 at 2:00 P.M. ET to discuss these results. You are invited to dial into the conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 2:00 P.M. ET, Tuesday September 11, 2007. To participate, dial 800.591.6942 using access code 18356008, approximately five minutes before the call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City First-Half Earnings Conference Call. The live broadcast will also be available online at .

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Master developer sought for Hazelwood site

Efforts to bring a $400 million development with housing, commercial space, community amenities and greenspace to a 178-acre former LTV Corp. coke works property in Hazelwood will move forward under new direction, officials said.

A master developer is being sought to spearhead development of the prime riverfront site since Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. is no longer actively involved.

"By mutual agreement with Forest City, we've decided to move in another direction," Robert Stephenson, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corp., said this week.

TampaBay.com, Hillsborough seeks Wiregrass halt

Slightly more than a month after Wiregrass Ranch won approval from Pasco officials, Hillsborough County has filed an appeal to stop the 5,000-acre development.

Hillsborough commissioners told the Florida Department of Community Affairs on Thursday that they want the developer to give $28-million to widen the segment of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard between County Line Road and Pebble Creek Boulevard.

Hillsborough is remaking the road from four to eight lanes, but its officials say Wiregrass will eat up 80 percent of that new capacity.
...
Hillsborough officials say they've tried repeatedly to ask for help from Pasco and Wiregrass developers, which include Pulte Homes, Forest City Enterprises and the Goodman Co.

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

August 30, 2007

YARD SALE

The Village Voice

The first letter to the editor this week addresses the other N-word:

Chris Thompson's 'NIMBY Love' [August 22–28] trivializes a serious community effort to develop better alternatives to the Forest City Ratner project for Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn's largest (ever) mega-project. This article belongs in a society-page gossip column, because it focuses mostly on the personal lives of two individuals and misses the powerful role of hundreds of community leaders and activists who took part in the planning sessions that led up to the creation and refinement of the community's UNITY Plan. This plan looks at better ways to build over the rail yards. It is definitely not "NIMBY" (Not In My Backyard), and it addresses the transportation, open-space, and affordable-housing needs of the neighborhood. The plan proposes a truly transparent and public planning process for a site that is largely publicly owned, but is being offered to a single private developer to meet that developer's own business plan. We invite the Voice to take a serious look at the UNITY Plan when it is unveiled in September and to talk to the protagonists of the plan, community leaders, and the full technical team that we head up.

Tom Angotti
Marshall Brown
Ron Shiffman
Brooklyn

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's response:

The article, half of which was about a plan to develop our "backyard " in a sane manner through a democratic process, witlessly resorted to knee-jerk name-callling.

Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM

Kids Disco Don't Destroy

Dust off your Goody pocket combs (you know, the ones with the handles!) and get out your curling irons because disco might be dead, but it don't destroy.

For more info, check out http://dddb.net/kddd.php.

[Hey, my copy of "Disco Duck" has gotta be around here somewhere.]

Posted by lumi at 9:57 AM

Analysis of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Campaign

A study of how aesthetic choices in the campaign perpetuated class divisions in the movement.

NYC Indy Media
By Jessica Cannon

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In the new issue (#5) of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest (www.joaap.org/5/index2.htm), NYC based writer/artist Jes Cannon looks at how particular choices by the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Campaign perpetuated class distinctions among the Brooklyn residents, possibly contributing to the movements' loss.

NoLandGrab: "Loss?" Did someone forget to tell us that we were supposed to pack it in?

NYC Indy Media must have missed the pending lawsuits while they were busy dissecting the movement.

A recent conversation with Joel Towers, a founder of DDDB and practicing architect and educator, shed some light on the challenges of the process: “The DDDB project unearthed a great deal of potential to develop strategies and tactics that are about community organization and agency. It also revealed in rather brutal terms the mobility associated with wealth, the fact that community is a gross term, especially in neighborhoods that are in the midst of transformation. This plan affects one of the most diverse communities. Because of this diversity you have different degrees of mobility, agency, attachment to place, and those forces, ultimately the forces of capital ended up being stronger than our ability to produce community with other kinds of kinship patterns.”

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NoLandGrab: Interesting, but the premise is a little simplistic. Missing from this analysis of the difficulty of maintaining a diverse grassroots, yet well branded, coalition is that the developer Bruce Ratner always has the advantage, not just of money and political and media clout, but the advantage of always playing offense.

Because many of the details of the plan were and still remain hidden from the public, the coalition has had the dual challenge of trying to steer a diverse group toward consensus while uncovering and publicizing many of the more astonishing and murky details of the plan, all the while under fire from Ratner supporters and newspaper columnists who have sought to brand the coalition as NIMBY.

This additional layer is probably still too simplistic, and the whole topic deserves further analysis and thought.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

PHOTO IRONY: THE STREET IS OUR BRUCE'S STADIUM

Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr

One of the streets bounding this triangle in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, if Bruce Ratner has is way, IS going to be part of a stadium, or more precisely, an arena.

AD COPY:
THE STREET IS OUR STADIUM

STREET GAMES
THURSDAYS 10PM
SNY THE SPORTS OF THE BOROUGHS, FROM STICKBALL, TO HANDBALL, TO THE BIKE MESSENGER RACE WWW.SNY.TV/STREETSGAMES

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

New Yorkers have seemed immune to the national outrage over the abuse of eminent domain for private developers, but we're sensing a change. Perhaps it has to do with an increase in the City's and State's appetite for using eminent domain to take land for politically connected private developers, or maybe because the local media are finally devoting more coverage to the issue. One thing is certain — the issue isn't going away as the protracted battles continue to heat up.

Yesterday's amNY published a letter in response to their extensive coverage of the fight to save the Duffield St. Abolitionist homes, and an article about the possible use of eminent domain in Coney Island:

Destroying NYC history

Re "Last Stop for Slave History" (Aug. 27): Unfortunately, I am not surprised to hear that once again, the city is using eminent domain to destroy more of our rapidly vanishing history. Not surprised, but very disgusted. All for what? Another faceless, homogenized strip of Starbucks, Duane Reades and unaffordable condos? Even if the Underground Railroad connection can't be proven, these are beautiful, historic homes in their own right, more than 150 years old. Give Bloomberg and Co. another few years, and this great city will be indistinguishable from virtually every other suburb in this country, and to me, that is completely unacceptable. People are losing their homes, neighborhoods are being destroyed and we are being robbed of our history. Fellow New Yorkers — some outrage?

— Deirdre MacNamara, Brooklyn

Eminent domain in Coney Island?

Though it's unlikely, NYC could use the threat of the use of eminent domain to force developer Joseph Sitt to come up with a plan for Coney Island that conforms more closely with the City's vision for redevelopment.

As city officials play hardball with a developer over the future of Coney Island's amusement zone, rumblings of a land takeover by the Bloomberg administration through eminent domain have surfaced in published reports.

But that scenario remains a long shot, say eminent domain experts.

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"It is a possibility, but I would say it's a remote possibility," said William Ward, a New Jersey attorney who has worked for the government and in the private sector, serving clients on both sides of eminent domain cases.

What we found most interesting about the Coney Island article is that it ranked #1 among yesterday's most popular stories online, outpacing the good fortune of the late "Queen of Mean's" pooch.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

In Case of 421-a Reform, Good Governance Is In Eye of Beholder

State Bill Overhauls Affordable Housing Requirements for Tax Breaks

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

This article does a pretty good job of explaining the bill, and is worth a read. NoLandGrab is only going to focus on the Ratner Clause today:

Adding to the confusion over the controversial bill — which determines how much affordable housing, if any, developers have to include to receive property tax breaks — few people close to the issue were clear on exactly what the bill says, particularly in regards to the controversial Atlantic Yards “carve out.”

Here's Ryley's explanation of the Atlantic Yards "carve out" (footnotes, ours)

Atlantic Yards would be the only project within the exclusion zone that receives tax breaks for buildings that have only market-rate condominiums, but the tax exemption was changed from 25 years to 15 years, according to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s office.

[This concession, touted by the Governor's office, appears to have made the carve-out more politically palatable.]

The original bill allowed only Atlantic Yards to average the income level of tenants in the “affordable units” so it would equal 70 percent of the area median income (versus requiring that tenants earn no more than 60 percent of the area median income). After recent revisions, the developer can make 20 percent of its units affordable to those earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, as long as they all average out to 90 percent. The new requirement is the same that other heavily government subsidized projects must adhere to, mainly because those projects were originally conceived to create more middle income housing in the city.

[This is where the benefits to Ratner get really fuzzy. This suggests that Ratner's affordable housing is more of a middle-income than a low-income housing plan. Also, It's not clear what "other heavily government-subsidized projects" refers to, though it's likely that the reference pertains primarily to Queens West, the CIty's favorite project du jour.]

It should be noted that Atlantic Yards was planned under the old legislation, when developer Bruce Ratner promised to include low- and middle-income housing in the project even though he could have built no affordable housing in any of the buildings and still received a 25-year tax abatement.

[This is a reminder that Ratner was planning on reaping even more benefits.]

Although no one will come out publicly in support of the special provisions within the legislation, including developer Forest City Ratner’s own people, privately some are calling it a grandfather clause. Also, Ratner is expecting other subsidies and financing that dictate what percentage of the housing in the project must be made affordable — but none would have given the company tax abatements for the market rate buildings.

[We repeat: the actual benefit is murky because, as we mentioned above, it looks like it's more of a middle-income housing plan, but "Ratner is expecting other subsidies and financing" which will ultimately help "dictate" how many units must be provided to applicants in different income bands (determined by percentage of the area's median income).]

“It’s unfortunate that again, public benefits are again being utilized to subsidize middle-income housing in Atlantic Yards,” says [NYC Councilmember Letitia] James. “So many community-based organizations came out in support of Atlantic Yards primarily because of the alleged affordable housing.”

[James makes the same observation — that it appears that Ratner's "affordable" housing will be directed more towards the middle-income applicants, thus making his "affordable" housing plan more expensive for those who need it most.]

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NoLandGrab: There are not a lot of developers who can get personal legislative consideration, especially in a "reform" bill, but there's only one "Bruce."

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

New downtown? The Atlantic Yards office space, in DC context

Atlantic Yards Report

DCOfficeSpace-AYR.jpg

In honor of yesterday's shortsighted Wall Street Journal article on Atlantic Yards office space, it's worth a look at how big that office space might be. Remember, when it was proposed on 12/10/03, Atlantic Yards was to contain 2.1 million square feet of office space, as "New York City requires... additional office space to create and retain new jobs."

But those four office towers, which led columnist Andrea Peyser to rhapsodize about 10,000 office jobs, have mostly been traded for condos. After two rounds of cuts, the proposed Atlantic Yards office space now would cover 336,000 square feet, with space for 1340 jobs and likely 375 new jobs.

That's hardly the new downtown some have claimed for Atlantic Yards, especially since there's no need, as yet, for all the office space proposed in the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning. Atlantic Yards would consist of an arena, a mixed-use office/condo/hotel tower, plus a residential complex--a latter-day Stuyvesant Town, much more dense but at least with retail in the base of the buildings.

Norman Oder sizes up Atlantic Yards office space using DC as an example.

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Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Attacking Overdevelopment on Several Fronts

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Shane Miller

City Councilman Bill de Blasio and Congressional Representative Yvette Clarke speak out against overdevelopment (really).

Downzoning? Landmarking? Moratorium on all new construction? Yes, yes, and yes, say residents of Carroll Gardens.

Such was the general consensus at a town hall meeting hosted by Councilman Bill de Blasio, which saw upwards of 100 people pack into Scotto Funeral Home on 1st Place last Thursday evening.

Though the two supporters of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, the historically dense ode to overdevelopment, don't see a connection between overdevelopment in Carrol Gardens and the Gowanus Canal area and overdevelopment just a few blocks over in Prospect Heights, the people who live here do:

Marlene Donnelly of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG), for instance, would rather see the area along the canal restored to a natural wetland state. Donnelly worries that more development, along with the proposed Atlantic Yards project, will only tax the canal further, and that the areas around the Gowanus Canal are being rezoned to facilitate a downzoning of the greater Carroll Gardens area.

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Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

August 29, 2007

atlantic yards, brooklyn

Cacioppo.jpg Photographer Melissa Cacioppo just posted the photos that appeared in last year's Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood art exhibit.

[The Footprints exhibit was reprised in an abridged non-"hagiographic" version at the Brooklyn Public Library in February 2007, with banned work exhibited in Freddy's Salon des Refusés.]

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Our lagging infrastructure, the mismatch with municipalities, and the AY (bad) example

Atlantic Yards Report

There's been a lot of concern about crumbling infrastructure in America's cities. What's being done, or not done? Why? How did Atlantic Yards become the posterproject for misplaced priorities?

Norman Oder connnects the dots:

A bridge collapse in Minneapolis and a steam-pipe explosion in Manhattan serve as a jumping-off point for a lengthy New Republic essay by architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen, headlined American Collapse (subscribers only).

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And, yes, Atlantic Yards eventually surfaces as a bad example of a public-private partnership that skirts real public needs. Both she and Joel Kotkin, an analyst writing in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, point to an unhealthy municipal focus on sports facilities and other sideshows.

Links:
Atlantic Yards Report
Wall St. Journal, via joelkotkin.com, Road Work
The New Republic, American Collapse (subscribers only)

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

NYC Live Music Calendar 8/29-9/9/07

From Lucid Culture:

Hanks-MZ.jpg

Fri Aug 31 the Freddy’s Bar crew takes over Hank’s, Atlantic Ave. and 3rd Ave. (they intersect), any train to Atlantic Ave. and walk back on Atlantic toward Brooklyn Heights.

This night is pretty appropriate since both venues’ days are numbered by encroaching luxury housing, [Freddy's] by the Ratso Ratner Atlantic Yards goons while Hank’s owner has put the place up for sale as a “development site” – you know what that means. John Sharples and his jangly crew play around 10 followed by Plastic Beef who will have the nonpareil Erica Smith singing this time, and jam the hell out of everything they touch with some pretty way-out results.

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Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

The Wall Street Journal, on real estate and AY, needs some footnotes

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides footnotes to a Wall Street Journal article about commercial space in Brooklyn, which features Atlantic Yards. [It's currently only available to subscribers, but we'll post it when we get the full text.]

Oder consults documents obtained from Forest City to check the numbers cited in the article, and notes constantly shifting justification for more office space in Brooklyn:

The article continues:

Miss Brooklyn is expected to command rents in the $50-to-$60-a-square-foot range, according to MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president for Forest City Ratner. That is above the $30 average asking rent in Brooklyn, which has historically appealed to financial-services companies as an affordable back-office location that offers good value in comparison to Manhattan. But Glenn Markman, an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield, believes the borough will attract new types of companies, such as those in creative industries that will be willing to pay higher rates for a signature building.

Maybe. Actually, according to projections in a Forest City Ratner document released in response to the lawsuit by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Class A office space is expected to rent at $39 for the first five years, $42.90 for the next five years, $47.19 for the next five years. It would top $50, at $51.91, only beginning in year 16.

Unmentioned: the severe cutback in planned Atlantic Yards office space, from about 2 million square feet to 336,000 square feet, and thus a cut in projected jobs. While Brooklyn may attract creative industries, the justification for the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, and the initial Atlantic Yards office space, was to meet the need for back office space--large floor plates in large building sites for non-creative industries like financial services.

NoLandGrab's two cents: It's noteworthy that, due to vacancies, MetroTech is NOW being rebranded as space for the creative-services industries (see, MetroNY, March 21, 2007).

The real story, totally missed by the Journal reporter, is that, having failed to attract enough back-office corporate operations, and with government agencies having failed to fill the vacancy gap (the City of NY is MetroTech's largest tenant), Brooklyn Class-A office space (most of it already held by Ratner) is now being marketed to the creative industries. This concept seems like a stretch, and has yet to be proven. To be featured in reference to a project that still faces signficant hurdles is creative reporting.

Oder also catches a Forest City Executive in one of their regular prevarications:

The article concludes by giving the developer the benefit of the doubt:

Ms. Gilmartin says Forest City has cut about one million square feet from the project and has worked with state, city and local leaders to address issues of scale and density. In addition, she says the project's location over one of the city's biggest transit hubs makes sense because it will give people access to public transportation, which can help limit traffic.

Gilmartin seems to be channeling her mysteriously-departed predecessor, Jim Stuckey: the project, in terms of square footage, is about the same size as announced, an issue that flummoxed the press nearly a year ago.

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Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Forest City Gets The Green Light to Move Forward

ABC30, KFSN
By Maureen Naylor

There Forest City goes again, using eminent domain and massive taxpayer subsidies to build a "mixed-use urban village."

NoLandGrab: Seriously, where's the risk when they keep using other people's land and other people's money? And, WTF is an "urban village?" Either it's urban or a village, right?

Enough ranting, from the report: FCEFresno.jpg

Today's decision did 4 things:

  • Approved concept of the project.
  • Gave the go-ahead for the environmental impact report.
  • Extended Forest City's exclusive rights to develop the South Stadium project until January 2009.
  • City Agreed to find public funding.

Public Funding has become a point of contention. The mayor has expressed concern about the city putting forward possibly $163 million over the projects 3 phases. He says the city may be making a mistake by putting up so much money for a company that hasn't produced anything in years.

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NoLandGrab: Final approval will allow for the use of eminent domain to seize land from property owners who decline to sell.

The reporter mentioned that the presentation featured a "public park" — as Brooklynites know, Forest City's parks are generally "private," though "publicly accessible," despite what executives tell the media. It will be interesting to see if Fresno residents get a real public park in the deal.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

OKLYN AIDS K FORCE

OKLYNAIDSKFORCE-TC.jpg Photo by Tracy Collins, taken 03/28/07

From the ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION DEMOLITION UPDATE:

Abatement will continue at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54).

465 Dean Street is the former home of the Brooklyn AIDS Task Force, which, according to their web site, is now located a block and a half away on Bergen St.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Illuminati Under the Microscope, Zionist family links 666 Terrorist law firm and Fox News to Flight 93
If it's on the Internet, it must be true, right? Finally, a working hypothesis for the String Theory of Ratnerville:

Three siblings of a powerful and wealthy zionist family weave an interesting web of intrigue and coincidences that connect a law firm that represents accused terror suspects, Fox News the NBA New Jersey Nets and their new home in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center to the truth behind the Flight 93 and 9/11 story.

It is up to the reader to determine if the following information is simply a chance event or if it is yet additional evidence that a powerful cabal orchestrated the attacks as a means to create a national security police state in America. The evidence will speak for itself.

Duffield St. Underground, Failure to inspect basements
Monday's firings of fire officials for failure to inspect the basement of the Deutsche Bank building "is in stark contrast to AKRF, which wrote an environmental review of the Duffield Street homes [Brooklyn's other land grab]. After working for more than two years and receiving a reported $500,000, AKRF failed to send an archeologist inspect the basements of the Duffield and Gold Street properties."

Brownstoner, Condos of the Day: 543 Dean Street
Yesterday's "Condos of the Day" have some pluses and minuses and one wild animal:

The elephant in the room, of course, is everybody's favorite decade-long construction project known as Atlantic Yards. Only time will tell how big a hurdle that will be in trying to move these babies.

NoLandGrab: 543 Dean St. is in the middle of the block surrounded on three sides by Bruce Ratner's historically dense Atlantic Yards plan, which, if you ask Ratner, will take ten years to build, or much longer if you ask anyone else.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

August 28, 2007

UWAGA! AZBESTY

POWODUJA RAK PLUC MASKI TWARZOWE I UBRANIE OCHRONNNE WYMAGANE.

Photo by Tracy Collins, uploaded August 12, 2007

UWAGA.jpg

Though the "Azbesty-filled" dumpster was shot on the lot on the southwest corner of Pacific St. and Vanderbilt Ave., Collins informed us that he thought it could be for the abatement at 814 Pacific St or for the demolition at 546 Vanderbilt Ave., where, according to the past three Atlantic Yards RATNERVILLE Construction DEMOLITION Updates, "Demolition has commenced... and is anticipated to be underway for the next two–three months."

[For the record, the Uwaga was also posted en Español and in English.]

Posted by lumi at 1:09 PM

It's official, Atlantic Yards to get special subsidies under "reform" bill (or something like that)

Either Atlantic Yards is getting special subsidies or is being treated the same as other developers, depending on what you're reading, and Ratner is getting hundreds of millions of dollars or saving the City hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on who's spinning:

City Limits, DEVELOPERS' INCENTIVES: NOW WITH MORE CAVEATS

The state legislature's language also means special provisions for Atlantic Yards, the enormous residential and commercial development under way in Brooklyn.
...
Under the legislature’s bills, Atlantic Yards will be allowed to have tenants with higher incomes in its affordable housing units than generally is allowed under 421-a. The language in the bills also says Atlantic Yards would be allowed to meet the requirements for affordable housing across all of its units, a number that developer Forest City Ratner projects at 6,400. The legislation means – and will mean until the fourth bill passes with amended wording – that the Brooklyn development could receive tax abatements for affordable housing before any such housing is built. Under the proposed fourth bill, A. 9373/ S. 6446, the development will be required to meet the 421-a affordability requirement every 1,500 units, however.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tax Bill Reduces Low-Income Requirement for Atlantic Yards
Sarah Ryley is reporting:

Under the revised bill, Atlantic Yards would have to follow the same requirements as other projects that are heavily subsidized by the city, state or federal government.

Those developers, including Ratner, would now be required to provide 20 percent of their rental units to those earning, on average, 90 percent of AMI, and no more than 120 percent AMI. For-sale units would be capped at 125 percent AMI.

According to a spokesperson for Gov. Spitzer's office, Matt Anderson:

Anderson said Spitzer “shared the city’s concerns over the level of subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project. We believe, however, we’ve reached a fair compromise here.

“At every phase of the [Atlantic Yards] project, 20 percent of housing units for Atlantic Yards must be affordable to receive these abatements. Moreover, the length of the tax breaks was reduced from 25 years to 15 years for the market-rate buildings, which will save the city roughly $100-150 million.”

Anderson was referring to the portion of the revised bill that measures the “affordable” units in the Atlantic Yards project in increments of 1,500 units, versus over the course of the entire 6,400-unit project, as the earlier version had done.

NoLandGrab: If you're confused, then join the rest of us. Hopefully, soon, we'll get this explained to us in plain English so that we can translate it to you in more plain English.

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

Ratners reign with eminent domain

We told you that the Ratners were eminent domain-addicted sultans of subsidy. Now do you believe us?

We first caught wind of this project back in 2005, so apparently Forest City has been eyeing this development for years. Today the mammoth developers present their plan to the Fresno Redevelopment Agency, in hope that the City will use its powers to:

Yes, we KNOW this sounds familiar — it's the Ratner-family business model.

ForestCityFresno-FB.jpgFresno Bee, Autry, Fresno council at odds; Rift arises over direction for $425m downtown project
In case you thought that the Ratners only renege on promises in Brooklyn:

On Monday -- a day before a crucial council vote -- Autry said the city's Redevelopment Agency would be making a mistake to invest more than $160 million in Forest City Development's plans, because the developer failed to deliver on earlier promises.

One Fresno City Councilmember, Jerry Duncan, is certain that the council will override any veto, if necessary:

"This plan isn't about gimmicks," Council Member Jerry Duncan said. "It's about what will work with a proven company."

Duncan predicted a unanimous vote today that would signify the council has more than the five votes required to override a veto.

A unanimous vote would render the mayor's veto powers useless.

ABC30, KFSN, Fresno, Downtown Fresno Businesses Not Yet Worried About Forest City Project

FresnoBusinessOwner-KFSN.jpg The local ABC affiliate covered the story from the eminent domain angle:

Four generations of Baskins have worked at the family auto upholstery shop in downtown Fresno which is right in the middle of the proposed development.

Bruce Baskin, business owner, says "We don't want to go anywhere, but with eminent domain, they don't give you much of a choice. I think it's a bad idea, it's kind of a pipe dream, I don't think it will fly down here."

Fresno leaders hope Forest City will draw more people to downtown with its three phase $300 million project covering 19 blocks southeast of Chukchansi Park.

Naturally, Councilman Jerry Duncan doesn't think that eminent domain will be a problem:

Jerry Duncan, Fresno City Council Member, says "I don't see that as a big issue, this project and the area down here we've been talking about for a long time. And frankly a lot of these property owners that we've talked to are like, when can I get my check."

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

"Owner Use," gentrification and Atlantic Yards

533Bergen-AYR.jpgOne block from Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, the "owner use" clause has pitted rent-stabilized tenants against their new landlords. The Fifth Avenue Committee, South Brooklyn Legal Services and local politicians pitched in to help the tenants stay put at a rally this past Sunday.

One question on people's minds is whether or not the Atlantic Yards plan warps the neighborhood's real estate market — or was it already a fait accompli?

Village Voice Blog, Block Party Against Brooklyn Owner-Evictions

The answer for four families who live in rent-stabilized apartment at 533 Bergen Street would appear to be no as they are fighting eviction proceedings brought by the new owners of their building. The new owners of the four-story building—who purchased it for $866,000 in March of 2006—are seeking to evict the tenants under the owner-use clause of the state rent stabilization law, which says building owners can remove rent-stabilized tenants when they want a unit for themselves or a family member.

Atlantic Yards Report, The “owner-use” eviction controversy comes to Prospect Heights

As property values skyrocket in New York, the cheapest—though perhaps not the least risky—route to a substantial living space may be the use (or exploitation) of the “owner-use” clause in state rent regulations, which allows landlords of rent-stabilized buildings to take “one or more apartments” for personal use.

And that’s the issue on Bergen Street in Prospect Heights, where dozens of neighbors, along with some elected officials, on Sunday protested plans by the new owners of 533 Bergen to use five of eight apartments for their family, thus evicting rent-stabilized tenants from four railroad apartments, each averaging not much more than 800 square feet.

Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

Forest City Set to Break Ground on 1.2M-SF Mixed Use Later This Year

Project to Achieve LEED Certification

CoStar Group
By Sasha M Pardy

RidgeHill-CSG.jpg

Later this year, Cleveland, OH-based Forest City Enterprises' Ratner division will officially break ground on a massive mixed-use development located near the NY State Thruway and Spain Brook Pkwy in Yonkers, NY. The 1.2-million-square-foot Ridge Hill Village Center will be complemented by 1,000 residences (including affordable and senior housing), 156,000-square-feet of office space, a hotel, and conference center. Completion for the 81-acre project is anticipated for 2009; tenants have yet to be announced, as a $630-million construction loan was just secured. The New York City office of Ripco Real Estate serves as leasing agent for Forest City on the project.

As part of the company's ongoing commitment to sustainability, Forest City has identified Ridge Hill as a development it plans to achieve LEED Certification on. The company currently has been awarded LEED certification on the 1.2-million-square-foot Northfield Stapleton in Denver and is in process with LEED Certification at its recently delivered Promenade Bolingbrook in the Chicago area.

article

NoLandGrab: The article doesn't share the fact that Forest City fell short of its pledge to achieve LEED certification in the Times Tower building.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

August 27, 2007

Forty Years of Growth, Except Where It Was Expected

The NY Times
By David Gonzalez

Reality challenged all of the assumptions of what was supposed to happen when NY City used eminent domain to clear away whole blocks for urban renewal. Even now, none of the rules seem to apply — one city planner calls for "urban planning therapy."

Sometime in the 1950s, Amelia Delgado planted a sapling outside her Lower East Side tenement at 145 Clinton Street, where she and her husband, Ramon, were raising five children. The children are grown, have done well and now have children of their own. Her husband died 14 years ago.

Amelia Delgado and her family had to move from an urban renewal site. She said that “everything was knocked down.”

Her tree still stands, tall as a building, even if the building has long been gone.

It was torn down, along with dozens of other rickety tenements, in 1967, after the city gave the Delgados and nearly 2,000 of their neighbors in a 14-block area 90 days to pack up and be relocated in the name of urban renewal.
...
Attempts over the years to do anything with those lots have failed. On one side are housing advocates who want to preserve housing for residents of modest means as the area goes upscale with nightspots, high-rises and renovated tenements. Their efforts have been rebuffed by residents of the nearby co-op complexes — built by labor unions for their members decades ago, but in more recent years home to young professionals paying higher prices — who want to protect their investment with development that is mostly, though not exclusively, market rate.

While politicians are falling over themselves to support Bruce Ratner's extreme-density luxury high-rise plan, one of NY's top dogs is staying conspicuously silent, while his own staffer spilts hairs:

Recent attempts by the housing coalition to gain support have been met with silence from Speaker Silver’s office. Well, not total silence. Ms. Cohen said she was told by a senior aide in the speaker’s office that he would not meet with them.

Dan Weiller, a spokesman for the speaker, said Mr. Silver has met with many local groups over the years. But he added that the city — not Mr. Silver — was responsible for anything that happened on the urban renewal site.

article

NoLandGrab: After reading this article and having spent years examining "the man behind the curtain," Bruce Ratner, one has to appreciate the snow job he's done on Brooklyn and how well he negotiates community and political minefields.

Last month, City Councilman Bill de Blasio held court with local bloggers and justified his support for Atlantic Yards by explaining, "there are not a lot of places where we can envision this number of units." Well, here's a site where guys like de Blasio should be falling over themselves to build more affordable housing — except that one of the State's top Democrats won't have it.

Also, it is totally disingenuous for Silver's staffer to pass the blame to the City, when Silver is one of the most brilliant backroom negotiators in all of NY. NoLandGrab readers will recall how the Speaker forced the City's hand to build a public school in the other Ratner/Gehry project, on Beekman St. in his district.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 PM

Cracks are starting to appear in office rents

Crain's NY Business
By Theresa Agovino

The credit crunch that is roiling the stock market, paralyzing merger and acquisition deals, and stalling building sales is also slowly chilling Manhattan's hot commercial rental market. The financial services sector--the key driver of lower vacancy rates and higher rents in recent years--accounts for about one third of the space leased in Manhattan. There's now concern that firms will slash staff and relinquish space.
...
Most vulnerable to a downturn: those buyers who have paid staggering sums for office towers and need continuing substantial rent increases to be able to refinance or meet their debt obligations.

article

NoLandGrab: Since we first began tracking Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, we've kept an eye on the market for Class A office space in NYC, which was depressed when the project was first announced, but then rebounded during the past couple of years — except in Brooklyn, where Ratner has been trying to remarket his MetroTech complex to the trend-setting creative-services industries.

Any shake-up in the market in Manhattan could keep prices depressed in Brooklyn, but, more importantly, a sustained credit crunch would affect Ratner's ability to secure financing and affect his bottom line for the reasons stated above in the Crain's article.

Posted by lumi at 7:26 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed.com, Markowitz to Two Trees: Love Ya, But...

The Brooklyn Paper reports that Markowitz has come out against Two Trees' plan to build a six story annex on a neighboring parking lot, because the proposal is 10 feet too high for the existing zoning within the Cobble Hill Historic District. Said Markowitz (who has granted other exceptions on the site): "Should this intrusion be granted, it would set a precedent for other sites throughout the entire district to seek such an exception.” Of course, Markowitz's flip-flopping on such issues gives the Brooklyn Paper the perfect excuse to trot out a highly entertaining Marty Markowitz/Atlantic Yards op-ed that's sort of a greatest hits of complaints about the project. From off in the distance, a single "Oy vey!" is heard.

Stay Free Daily, History Is Coming Soon!
OK, this post has nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, but in real estate, truth is stranger than fiction.

Brownstoner, Tenants Fight Eviction on Bergen Street
B'stoner reports:

A Prospect Heights block party yesterday had homemade food, loud music and a louder message: “Good neighbors do not evict neighbors.” The Fifth Avenue Committee-organized event was aimed at drawing attention to the plight of four rent-stabilized tenants facing eviction from 533 Bergen Street, and it highlighted bubbling tensions over affordable housing, gentrification and Atlantic Yards.

onboardBlast, New York City Construction Boom

Given that there is currently a construction boom of large scale public and privately funded projects in the NYC metro area – stadium plans for the Yankees and Mets, the Atlantic Yards and Ground Zero – what will become of the Real Estate market in New York City with the recent national mortgage and lending scare?

From the national perspective, New York is in a bubble compared to the rest of the country’s Real Estate decline. However, if the current construction boom with funding focused from several public and private lenders is unable to complete even large scale projects in an effective and efficient time schedule – what additional effect will this have on the homeowners market?

All of the major public projects mentioned underway are finding that their original construction budget estimates have dramatically fallen short of the actual costs to build in New York today.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 PM

Summer in Ratnerville

Nature turned the tables in August on what's "blight" and what's "progress" in the footprint of Atlantic Yards. Naturally, both are in the eye of the beholder.

Photo, by Tracy Collins, posted August 12, 2007.

WeedyBlight-TC.jpg

Posted by lumi at 6:33 PM

MAS: Walking Tour of Prospect Heights

Take a walking tour of the historic neighborhood that's gonna get smaller if Ratnerville gets built.

ProspectHeights-AS.jpg Sponsored by the Municipal Art Society:

Saturday, September 15, 2:00 p.m.

Every once in a while, you walk the streets of a neighborhood and can’t believe it wasn’t designated as a historic district years ago. Prospect Heights in Brooklyn features some of the best late 19th-century brownstone blocks in the city, filled with outstanding Italianate and neo-Grecian row houses, as well as fine churches, institutional buildings, commercial buildings, and apartment houses, all in a vibrant multi-racial enclave that in recent years has filled with good restaurants, cafes, and shops. The Municipal Art Society worked with the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council to survey and catalogue more than 1,100 buildings in the neighborhood. That work formed the basis for a submission to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for historic district designation. Join us for a tour full of surprises in the area between Grand Army Plaza and the Vanderbilt railroad yards, where the “Atlantic Yards” mega-development has been proposed. Leader: Francis Morrone, architectural historian. Meet at the N.E. corner of Vanderbilt Ave. and Sterling Pl., a short walk from the Grand Army Plaza. (Transit: # 2, 3, 4 trains to Grand Army Plaza; Q train to Seventh Ave.)

DETAILS
Event Date:
Start Time:
Fee:
Members Only:
RSVP:

 
9-15-2007
2:00 pm
$15, $12 MAS members
No
No

Posted by lumi at 5:41 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Here's the latest Ratnerville Demolition Update straight from the Empire Strikes Back Development Corporation's web site, with a few minor corrections.

Weeks of August 27, 2007 – September 3, 2007

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Ratnerville Community aware of upcoming construction demolition 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.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Mid-block piles are complete; excavation and lagging to begin from mid-block piles south.
  • Excavation of material and preparation to drill piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47)
  • Continue test piles for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles.
  • Continue test pits on Pacific Street within the area which has already been closed pursuant to the Pacific Street Maintenance and Protection of Traffic Plan (MPT) on block 1121 to confirm location of existing street utilities proximate to layout of piles.
  • Mobilization to East Portal; preparation for drilling of piles.
  • Continue soil excavation and removal in block 1121 west to east.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.

Abatement and Demolition Work

All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30th.

  • Demolition has been completed at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5). Cleanup and backfill will be underway.
  • The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) will be completed, and then the completion of the roof abatement will commence with an anticipated duration of four-six weeks. Once all of the abatement is completed, demolition of the building will commence.
  • Demolition has commenced at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54), and is anticipated to be underway for the next two–three months.
  • Abatement will continue at 814 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 45), 818 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 46), and 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1127, lot 50).
  • Abatement will continue at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54).

Posted by lumi at 11:55 AM

"NIMBY love" indictment continues, including factual errors

Brooklyn Daily Eagle recycles a Village Voice article that stuck the "NIMBY" label on the Develop Don't Destroy community activists who are about to get married (never mind the fact that the group has pitched in on a non-land-grabbing, neighborhood-respecting alternative plan).

Inexplicably, Eagle reporter Sarah Ryley also recyled another myth, first created by the Voice:

...the epic battle coming to a close — the outcome of two major lawsuits expected to be resolved in the fall."

article

NoLandGrab: Since Ryley has been covering Atlantic Yards during the past year, she should know better than most:

So, yes, the cases could be resolved this fall if Ratner decides to give up, but to assume that they will is hubris on the part of the impartial media.

Posted by lumi at 11:26 AM

Bloomberg's Bossist Approach to Willets Point

NY Observer
By Harry Siegel

More on Willets Point and the City's policy of "municipal blight:"

Despite the roughly $1.1 million a year the area generates in direct tax revenues for the city, most of Willets Point has never been connected to the sewer grid (the only storm drain is used by Shea Stadium), so Porta-Potties and cesspools abound, and its roads are hardly paved nearly always flooded.

Other than a largely successful push by the city to reduce mob influence, The Iron Triangle, as the strip it's known, has been left to fend for itself, and a hardy culture of industrial businesses has evolved to profit from an environment most of us would see as uninhabitable. Squint, and you're liable to think it's a set from Mad Max.

So far as the Bloomberg administration is concerned, it's all blight. And the city, which has long aspired to redevelop the area, likes it that way.

The blight is what gives City Hall a strong legal case for using eminent domain to claim private property assessed at some $181 million (a figure that urban affairs and planning professor Tom Angotti notes is comparable to other areas zoned for heavy industry) and to bring in private developers to remake the area wholesale.

article

NoLandGrab: Though the municipal blight of Willets Point is on a much larger scale than the MTA's Vanderbilt Railyards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the concept is the same: government negligence used to create characterisitcs of "blight" in order to justify the use of eminent domain.

The article continues by explaining the Bloomberg administration policy in a nutshell:

...the Bloomberg administration is reverting to an M.O. of forcefully displacing politically unconnected private owners on behalf of wealthy and plugged-in new private owners, while purchasing the backing of much of the usual resistance from the left by compelling the new ownership to include affordable housing. This also allows the administration to tout the number of new subsidized units that have gone up on its watch, few of which are actually very affordable. Some 60 years into the city's endlessly subsidized eternal housing "crisis," the shell game continues apace.

Posted by lumi at 10:40 AM

The future of Coney Island will not look quite like this

Atlantic Yards Report

Just as Bruce Ratner led his PR campaign for Atlantic Yards with BBall.net, Joseph Sitt has been exploiting the iconography of Coney Island to help sell his controversial plan. BBALL-vs-ConeyIsland.jpg

...it's unlikely that the future will be defined by the enduring Coney Island icons--the Cylcone, the Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump--Thor has chosen for its oft-repeated graphics, which line the walls of prime but empty property along Stillwell Avenue, the straight shot from the subway to the beach.

For Atlantic Yards watchers, it may hearken back to 2003, when the 16-tower Atlantic Yards megaproject was launched with a web site called BBall.net.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS
DrinkingWithBob.com, Eminent domain...

DuffieldSt-AMNY.jpgDOWNTOWN BROOKLYN
amNY, Will Duffield Houses be railroaded?

Lewis Greenstein owns a house that stands at the center of a wrenching controversy over the preservation of black history versus the revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn.

His home, 233 Duffield St., built in 1847, contains what he says is clear evidence that it was used to shelter and feed black slaves escaping along the legendary Underground Railroad to Canada.

But a half-million-dollar report commissioned by the city found otherwise, and now a city agency has recommended the use of eminent domain to bring down Greenstein's and other similar homes on the street to build a park and parking lot seen as the centerpiece of a major redevelopment project.

Slideshow tour of Greenstein's Duffield St. home.

WEST HARLEM
El Diario, West Harlem no se vende
OPINIÓN - par Jordi Reyes-Montblanc

La Columbia ya es dueña o controla las dos terceras partes de las 17 acres que ha designado como blanco de su expansión en Manhattanville. La universidad ha decido que esas 17 acres son esenciales para ellos y si pueden comprar todas las propiedades le han pedido al estado que las condene las expropie y se las de a la Universidad.

La quinta enmienda de la Constitución permite que el gobierno expropie propiedades privadas para uso público, como construcción de un hospital, una carretera, o una escuela publica. La Universidad es una entidad privada, no lucrativa pero no de beneficio publico ya que cuesta aproximadamente $60,000 al año para poder estudiar en ella. Por tanto, la CB9M se opone firmemente a la condenación y expropiación de las propiedades que rehúsan venderle a Columbia.

SOUTHEAST QUEENS
The NY TImes, Southeast Queens Is Split Over Makeover Proposal
During the past several years, the Bloomberg administration has repeatedly demonstrated that neighborhood redevelopment plans have little consideration for current residents and business owners. In Southeast Queens, one of the currents residents' concerns is the use of eminent domain.

Planners got a friendlier response from Community Board 12, which represents Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis and St. Albans. Ms. Black, the board’s chairwoman, said her constituents were willing to support the plan after being reassured that they would not be required to sell their property under eminent domain and that sections of one- and two-family homes would be preserved. The difference in responses, she said, has to do with “socioeconomic status.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Forest City Volleyball

AVP-AYR.jpg Nets Daily, Ratner Thinking about Brooklyn Beyond Basketball

When the winners of the AVP Brooklyn Open were given their $28,000 check Saturday in Coney Island, the presenter was none other than Vince Carter…and the winning volleyballers were both wearing those red Nets’ jerseys with the number 15 emblazoned across the front. (In keeping with a recent trend in volleyball, the winners were both Carter-sized…and a lot bigger than Nets owner Bruce Ratner, whose head can barely be seen peering over the over sized check.)

It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that the Nets are pushing their connection to Brooklyn, but the AVP Open is not just about marketing the team. It’s about other opportunities the Nets’ owners see in sports, both professional and amateur, as well as entertainment. And not just now and not just in Coney Island, but in the future and at the Nets’ Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center.

Atlantic Yards Report, A Nets fan's candor: 2009 deadline "increasingly unlikely"
Norman Oder notes that Nets Fan Daily expresses doubt about Ratner's timeline for moving the team:

As part of a blog post yesterday on the efforts by Forest City Ratner to become more of a sporting presence in the borough, via Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment's (BSE) sponsorship of events like the pro volleyball tour, the anonymous fan behind the NetsDaily Blog lists potential arena events and muses, "None of this can happen until the arena is built and that 2009-10 deadline looks increasingly unlikely."

Oder concurs:

Indeed, the project is way behind schedule.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Volleyball King

Brooklyn native Leonard Armato has seen it all during his career as an agent for NBA greats like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. He has also handled lucrative endorsement deals for the likes of Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul and Heather Locklear. Now, Armato is hoping to spread volleyball fever to Coney Island, where he is staging this weekend’s Second Annual AVP Brooklyn Open with promotional help from Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. While BSE handles the local sponsorships, tickets, hospitality and concessions for the tournament, Armato, the AVP’s commissioner, continues to push what he believes will be one of the bigger sporting events in our borough in years to come.

From the Eagle's exclusive interview:

Q. Do you see this event becoming a regular summer happening on Coney Island?
A. We anticipate coming to Coney Island for many years to come with the support of our wonderful partners (Nets owner) Bruce Ratner, (Nets president) Brett Yormark, (Nets vice president of property sales) Chris Brahe and the rest of the Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment team.

Atlantic Yards Report, At the beach volleyball tourney, Nets synergy but no ticket promotion
Norman Oder notes the differences between this year's and last year's beach volleyball tourneys:

Last year, according to an interview quoted by NetsDaily, a BSE executive referred to the new company as "Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment in partnership with Atlantic Yards." And that, of course, is what the signage said last year.
...
One noticeable difference: unlike at last year's event, there was no booth promoting Nets tickets next to the main ticket table.

What to make of it? Was it more important last year to promote the Nets? Were ticket sales too low to make it worthwhile? Is the focus now on selling high-rollers access to more expensive suites in the planned Barclays Center?

This year's model, however, eschewed the Atlantic Yards mention, though a press release mentioned it. Of course, Barclays, which bought naming rights to the planned arena, signed on as a sponsor.

Does Atlantic Yards no longer need a plug, now that it's been approved?

The Daily Plant, This Weekend In Parks
The NYC Parks Department online calendar billed the event thus:

Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, in partnership with Atlantic Yards, and the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Crocs Tour have brought pro volleyball back to Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

August 26, 2007

This is Reform?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer had that reform slip his mind this week when he signed the 421-a property tax "reform" bill with a special provision giving a $200 million tax break exclusively for politically-connected, billionaire developer Bruce Ratner. That's right, under the new bill Bruce Ratner is the only developer who can get a 15-year tax break for constructing buildings comprised entirely of unaffordable units; that's right, a tax break not to build affordable housing. This means that if "Atlantic Yards" is ever built there would likely be 4 entire buildings of luxury condos paying no taxes for 15 years. That is a loss of $200 million as estimated by New York City.

Who gains? Bruce Ratner can sell those units at a higher price by passing on those tax savings to the new luxury condo owners. The Ratner Clause also allows Bruce Ratner to segregate residents of the "affordable" units from residents of his unaffordable units. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of the 57th District has called this "economic segregation."

article

Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

Nets Dancers Kick Up and Dig in Their Heels

netsdancersworkout.jpg New York Times dedicates no less than 627 words to the vital subject of the Nets dancers' workouts. Yet they could only muster up a measly 227 words for yesterday's 421-a article, missing the Ratner carve-out component completely.

“I worked out body parts I didn’t know I had,” Adar Wellington, the squad’s captain, said after a full day’s workout, the first of four days that she and her teammates spent flipping tires, rolling beer kegs, swinging sledgehammers, and running and squatting with sandbags.

“It was kind of a scary workout,” said Brenna Klingler, a rookie who leapt to the N.B.A. from Rutgers, where she was the captain of the dance team last season.

link

Posted by amy at 10:24 AM

Civic project? The (unmoored) Nets net Wrigley as "off-season presenting sponsor"

wrigleyad.gif

Atlantic Yards Report

Still pending, with a decision expected in September, is a lawsuit, filed in state court, by Atlantic Yards opponents and critics challenging the legitimacy of the environmental review. “The legislature did not intend a privately owned sports facility” to be a civic project, plaintiffs' attorney Jeff Baker contended in court on May 3.

But what is a civic project? It's defined as “A project or that portion of a multi-purpose project designed and intended for the purpose of providing facilities for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purposes.” Attorneys for the Empire State Development Corporation argue that sports facilities of course constitute civic projects.

That may be so, but how much are sports franchises about community spirit--remember the attorney for the MTA cited "civic pride"--and how much are they about marketing opportunities?

Wrigley's and the Nets

That brings us to... gum. Wrigley has become the National Basketball Association's official chewing gum. And a Forest City Ratner press release avoids the location New Jersey--no civic pride for the Garden State?--in announcing some special news regarding the Nets:
The Nets have named Wrigley as the first-ever off-season presenting sponsor for a sports team in the metropolitan area.

link

Posted by amy at 10:16 AM

August 25, 2007

Rally and Block Party In Brooklyn Against Evictions

NYC Indymedia

Owner-use evictions, which are on the rise in Brooklyn, especially in the shadow of proposed development at Atlantic Yards less than a half-mile from 533 Bergen, are based on a provision of New York State rent laws which allows landlords to evict rent-regulated tenants to reclaim units for themselves or their family members—without any limit as to how many units are cleared. So-called “owner-use abuse” is also often exploited in order to de-stabilize rents and convert units to market rates. “Over the past year or so, our office has seen a sharp increase in ‘owner use’ eviction cases” says Brent Meltzer, an attorney with South Brooklyn Legal Services who is representing one of the threatened households. “These landlords are not content with taking just one apartment and often seek to displace an entire building full of rent stabilized tenants”.

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Posted by amy at 12:24 PM

421-a compromise sent to gov’s desk - Democratic boss says deal will help minimize the impact of gentrification

Courier-Life
Stephen Witt gets points this week for mentioning the Atlantic Yards carve-out in his coverage of 421-A. Then, he quickly loses those points by saying that the carve-out has been completely reformed. In fact, the value of the carve-out to Forest City Ratner was only reduced from $300 million to $200 million.

Also under the compromise, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which was originally excluded from the new 421-a bill, which critics of the project called a “carve-out,” was renegotiated.

After talks between the city and the Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner (FCRC), the original Atlantic Yards component was reformed to ensure that all promised affordable units are completed and integrated throughout the project.

Under the new legislation, FCRC buildings in the project must meet the new affordability requirements in order to qualify for a 25-year tax abatement.

Also FCRC agreed to ensure that their affordable units will be built simultaneously throughout the development of the project.

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Posted by amy at 12:18 PM

Who's paying for the affordable housing? New Domino-watchers want to know

Atlantic Yards Report

If one of the lessons of the Atlantic Yards project for developers--like those of the New Domino project proposed in Williamsburg--is that they should hook up with affordable housing advocates to override zoning (or achieve a rezoning), a lesson for critics is that they should follow the money.

After all, Atlantic Yards has been touted as "providing" affordable housing without any reference to the public funds behind the units or any analysis of whether they represent a good bang for the buck.
...
There's no guarantee those questions will be answered. Last year, the MAS, in comments filed after the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued, asked:
In order to accurately assess whether the Atlantic Yards proposal will result in a net gain of affordable housing units, there needs to be an accounting of the public expenditures on this project versus the total amount of public subsidies available in the same fiscal year so that decision makers can accurately assess the public costs versus the public benefits. What percentage of the city’s total funds for housing will be required to build the project’s 2250 units?

In response, the Empire State Development Corporation offered only generalities. (Only after the project was approved did details emerge.) Will DCP be more forthcoming? The EIS will be written by the same environmental consulting firm, the ubiquitous AKRF.

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Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

The Times corrects some ten-year-old errors; what about the "same site" error?

Atlantic Yards Report

A correction in the New York Times on Thursday:
An article on Aug. 13, 1997, about an investigation into the police beating and torture of Abner Louima while he was in custody at a Brooklyn station house misstated his age at the time. (The same error appeared in at least nine other articles in 1997 and 2002, the year his case came to trial.) He was 30 then, not 33, and is now 40. A reader of The Times’s Web site noticed the error on a Times Topics page that was updated around the 10th anniversary of the attack.

The attack was 8/9/97, which means that, for the anniversary, the Times managed to do the research and issue a correction in about two weeks.

So why has it taken so long for the Times to correct the multiple errors, from 8/8/03 to 11/13/05, in which Atlantic Yards was described as potentially occupying the same site Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted for a new stadium? The newspaper was put on notice more than two-and-a-half months ago.

link
Using the 10 year correction waiting time as a barometer, a correction from 2003 should hit the paper in about 6 years. Let the countdown begin!

Posted by amy at 11:13 AM

Governor signs 421-a revision; Times, others ignore "Atlantic Yards carve-out"

Atlantic Yards Report

So Governor Eliot Spitzer has signed the reform of the 421-a tax break, which includes an "Atlantic Yards carve-out" worth up to $200 million for developer Forest City Ratner. When the "carve-out" was worth $300 million, it was criticized by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, ACORN's Bertha Lewis, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, affordable housing advocate Brad Lander, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Brooklyn Paper, and others.

When it was reduced but not eliminated, the only official to offer measured criticism was Jeffries. (He issued it after I queried him, but he may have been prepared to issue a statement anyway.) DDDB seemingly stood alone in its forceful criticism.

Affordable housing advocates, city officials, state officials, and the public at large all had something to gain in the revised legislation, beyond the "carve-out." So perhaps some critics felt they could only go so far.

But what about those seemingly independent? Good government advocates were silent, as were editorial pages beyond that initial Brooklyn Paper comment. The New York Times, in its reporting, managed to mangle the historical record. No one beyond a few Brooklynites questioned whether signing the bill comports with Spitzer's claim of being a reformer.

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Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

New Laws for Housing Tax Break

The New York Times

The Times is very excited that Spitzer signed the 421-a revision. So excited, in fact, that they forgot to add the part about the Ratner Clause, a special little carve-out that makes the "more stringent affordability standards" LESS STRINGENT FOR RATNER.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed into law yesterday three bills to revamp a popular tax break for developers and encourage the construction of thousands of apartments for low-income New York City residents.

The laws are expected to expand the number of neighborhoods where developers are required to include apartments for residents of limited means in order to receive tax breaks. Advocates for lower-cost housing have long said the laws would mean more housing for low-income residents and fewer incentives for developers to build luxury high-rises.

“This legislation will allow New York City to target its limited tax abatement resources to more effectively promote the construction of affordable housing in the neighborhoods that need it most,” the governor said. The tax program that is being revamped, known as 421-a, was started in the 1970s to spur housing development of any kind. Under it, developers received a 10-to-25-year exemption from increases in property taxes resulting from their work. But government officials and advocates for affordable housing say that given the change in New York’s real estate market since the program’s inception, the tax breaks are no longer needed in Midtown and other thriving parts of the city.

Under the new laws, developers will be required to meet more stringent affordability standards, give priority to neighborhood residents for lower-cost units, and ensure that units remain affordable for at least 35 years.

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Meanwhile, the existing affordable housing stock in the neighborhood is quickly disappearing. This in from our neighbors on Bergen:

Block party to support the tenants in 533 Bergen Street (Carleton & 6th Avenue) this Sunday, Aug 26 12pm-6pm. There will also be a press conference at 12:30pm.

The residents of this building are rent stabilized tenants who have lived in the community for decades. Their new landlords, Dan Bailey and Felicity Loughrey, are trying to evict four families from the building so that they can create one huge apartment and live in luxury. Join us in supporting the Bergen Street tenants' fight for survival and in telling Bailey and Loughrey that good neighbors don't evict neighbors.

DJs! Art! Food! Games! Balloons! Sprinklers! Support Your Neighbors!! Save Your Hood!!

Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

August 24, 2007

ESDC says it's not not-hands-on, but could it do more?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is indeed a little touchy about whether it's perceived as not-hands-on-enough regarding Atlantic Yards.
...
The ESDC's effort regarding AY may be no less vigorous than regarding other projects, but the agency is vulnerable to criticism that it is less vigorous than it could be. For one thing, Foye was supposed to take a walking tour of the AY footprint in March; as far as I know, that hasn't occurred.

And, however much the ESDC wants to be careful in choosing an ombudsperson, the clock has already hit 108 days. While the current administration isn't responsible for the timetables of its predecessor, Brooklynites weren't given the same kind of slack in responding to the voluminous Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It was issued 7/18/06; comments were due little more than two months later, on 9/29/06.

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Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

Financial Firm Swept Up In Eminent Domain Decision in Brooklyn

City Has No Project to Replace 150-Employee Firm

TrackData-BDE.jpgBrooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

The future of a financial services firm and its 150 employees is fraught with uncertainty now that the city has approved the use of eminent domain to seize the company’s building within the BAM Cultural District.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) issued its eminent domain ruling on Monday, which concerned Track Data Corporation’s property along with 20 others on three blocks in Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn. There is no project planned to replace Track Data, which set up shop at 95 Rockwell Pl. two decades ago, “when there were crack vials on the ground and nobody wanted to come here,” said one employee.

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Duffield St. Undergound posted this article yesterday and commented, "Seth Donlin, an HPD spokesman says that eminent domain is used to obtain consolidated pieces of property so comprehensive redevelopment plans can be realized. In practice, this means that Brooklyn-based companies are no longer welcome."

NoLandGrab: The fact that there are currently no plans for development on that site, yet the City is proceeding with the eminent domain condemnation, sounds outrageous, right?

If that doesn't already suck, would you believe that homeowners in New London tried to plead that very point in the case that went to the US Supreme Court, and in the landmark decision, Kelo v. New London, the court upheld the constitutionality of taking of property for a redevelopment plan, even when the plan does not specify what the property will be used for.

This part of the Kelo case didn't get as much airtime as the general unfairness of private property being seized for private developers, but eminent domain watchdogs were deeply troubled by this further expansion of what is allowed by the Supreme Court.

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Marty’s varying views

The Brooklyn Paper

MartyBobblehead02.jpgWe were gonna say that Marty's stand against overdevelopment, in light of his support of the Atlantic Yards mega-project, is LAUGHABLE, but Brooklyn Paper beat us to it:

The developer who is bringing Trader Joe’s to Court Street wants to build a six-story annex to that store on a parking lot on Atlantic Avenue that is only zoned for a five-story building.

That single extra story — 10 feet! — drew the ire of Borough President Markowitz last week when the Beep recommended that the city deny the developer, Two Trees Management, a variance to build a little higher.

Yes, this is the same Marty Markowitz who continues to cheer the Atlantic Yards project, a massive, 16-tower, highly subsidized mega-development that would overshadow thriving neighborhoods all around it, create life-draining “superblocks,” suck up taxpaper resources, congest local streets and use the state’s power of eminent domain to evict residents so their land can be turned over to a private developer — in this case, his friend, Bruce Ratner.
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It is no secret that this page has frequently clashed with Markowitz over his support for the [Atlantic Yards] project, which remains his greatest error in judgment since he took office.

But his attempt to now present himself as a foe of overdevelopment because he opposes a 60-foot building in a 50-foot zone is laughable.

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Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

We have issues

THE DIRT ON COMBINED SEWERS
The Gowanus Lounge, Gowanus Flooding Redux

The August 8th storm was a perfect illustration of why residents around the Gowanus Canal basin are pissed that the City and State are supporting Atlantic Yards and a massive population influx without first fixing (and we mean REALLY FIXING) our severely overburdened sewers.

DEMOLITION OVERSIGHT: IT TAKES A TRAGEDY
NY Daily News, Where have you gone, Scoppetta & Bloomy?

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards watchdogs already know what happens when the City and State take a hands-off approach to demolition. Serious demolition accidents are commonplace, especially in Brooklyn, where developers are in overdrive. All of the recent incidents, especially the parapet collapse at the Ward Bakery building in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, should have been the canary in the coal mine.

However, no one was listening, and Saturday's tragic deaths at the Deutsche Bank demolition site were compounded by yesterday's events, in which heavy equipment fell from the upper floors and crashed through the sidewalk safety shed, on to the heads of two firefighters working below.

And, as Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez points out, no one is talking, and even worse, Mayor Bloomberg is lobbying Governor Spitzer to veto State Assemblyman Jim Brennan's bill calling for increased oversight of construction sites at which safety violations have already been issued.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

eminentdomainia25.jpgThe Kansas City Star, Missouri governor appoints eminent domain ombudsman

Here's an idea for states that are serious about safeguarding property rights:

There’s a new czar in Jefferson City, and his job is to help protect people’s property rights.

Gov. Matt Blunt on Thursday announced he had appointed an eminent domain ombudsman, a position in the Office of Public Counsel that lawmakers created to help citizens in disputes with governments over land-takings.

NoLandGrab: Forget New York State — since meaningful legislative reform is not expected in the foreseeable future, an eminent domain ombudsman would only enforce the state's own laws, which are written to grease the skids for easy pickins.

The Deleware News Journal, Eminent domain efforts may backfire
Though the landmark Kelo case allowed for private property to be condemned for economic development, this case in Wilmington is more akin to the case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, because under the respective state laws, the area must be considered "blighted."

The Salt Lake Tribune, The little guy fights back against abuse of eminent domain
A community group threatened with condemnation fought back with the help of the Institute for Justice — National City gave in after the developer agreed to redesign the condo project.

The Cincinnati Enquierer, Norwood quarreling continues
More than a year ago, the Ohio State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Norwood property owners. Why are the City, developer and property owners still in court?

Hint: the developer wants his money back and the property owners want to be compensated for the home that was looted and trashed after they were forced by the city to evacuate.

Institute for Justice, Manual de Supervivencia contra el Uso Abusivo del Dominio Eminente
The Institute for Justice's "Eminent Domain Survival Guide" is translated into Español.

From the press release:

The Manual de Supervivencia is especially useful in explaining the concept of eminent domain abuse, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled was constitutional two years ago in Kelo v. City of New London. This translation helps navigate threatened property owners through the eminent domain process, giving readers the tools they need to fight back. In addition, it provides Spanish speakers with the English vocabulary they will encounter as they defend their property. The Manual de Supervivencia is available at http://www.castlecoalition.org/Espanol.

“In the past, the Spanish-speaking population has had limited access to the vital information necessary to save their homes and small businesses from eminent domain abuse,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition. “With the Manual de Supervivencia, those days are now over.”

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

Errol Louis denounces jock spousal abuse, but where's JKidd?

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News columnist Errol Louis on Thursday took up the case of Michael Vick, the quarterback with an unsavory appetite for dogfighting. In a column headlined It's a dog and pony show: While Vick gets ripped for animal cruelty, the jocks who beat their wives get a pass, Louis made a quite reasonable point:

The same sports execs falling over themselves to sever Vick from the sport have been downright lenient when it comes to other offenders.

His examples:

  • Michael Pittman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a fourth domestic-violence arrest.
  • Lionel Gates of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, charged with beating a pregnant woman.
  • Lamar Thomas, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, put his pregnant fiancée's head through a window.
  • Brett Myers of the Philadelphia Phillies allegedly dragged his wife around by the hair publicly.
  • Bobby Chouinard of the Colorado Rockies, doing a year in jail after putting a loaded pistol to his wife's head.

What about JKidd?

I wondered if Louis would cite an example closer to home: New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd, whose wife Joumana, in a recent divorce filing, accused him of serial adultery and regular physical abuse--front-page news in Louis's own newspaper.

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Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere83.jpg mcbrooklyn, First We Had the Blue Thingies -- Now We Have the Press Conference (At Brooklyn Borough Hall)
Evidence that "Atlantic Yards" is on many people's list of things you'd rather forget, only like the war and the presidential election, it hasn't obliged.

Forget about Iraq, Atlantic Yards or the presidential election. You know those blue thingies on the steps at Brooklyn Borough Hall?

mrnyc, Airport Village
OK, this is the second day in a row we've stumbled over the use of "boondoggle" to describe Atlantic Yards. This time Bruce Ratner's controversial development is offered as an example of what, hopefully, isn't going to happen in Queens:

In some parts of this city (in Manhattan mostly, but also that looming boondoggle called Atlantic Yards), you see development on top of development - buildings that are way too big, commercial space people can't afford or use - and much of it changes the character of the neighborhoods.

Citizen Arcane, Leather Lanyard or Marble Madness?
And if you want to learn more about the word, "boondoggle," Citizen Arcane expores the origins.

Bridge and Tunnel Club, The Bride, Until Last Month, Resided In A Building On Pacific Street . . .

B&T cites this week's Village Voice article and notes, "This may be one of the few examples of the Sunday Styles vows section as clever political protest."

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

Forest City Ratner Sponsor of 15th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

ejazznews.com

If you're a jazz lover and in town this weekend, you may wanna check this out, and don't forget to thank NY's favorite eminent domain-addicted overdeveloper, Bruce Ratner:

City Parks Foundation is proud to announce the 15th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. For one music-filled weekend in August, Marcus Garvey and Tompkins Square Parks draw jazz lovers from across the region to celebrate the famous saxophonist.

Special thanks to our sponsors and media partners who include: Bloomberg, ConEdison, Health Plan of New York, JPMorgan Chase, The New York State Music Fund, The City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, NYSCA, National Endowment for the Arts, Forest City Ratner Companies, Time Out New York, Time Warner Cable, Jazz 88.3 WBGO, and NY Moves Magazine.

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Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

August 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: "New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg"

Harper's Magazine
By John Leonard

More proof that "Atlantic Yards" is to "boondoggle" as Cindy Crawford is to "supermodel:"

NYCalling.jpg

On the eve of yet another 9/11 anniversary, NEW YORK CALLING: FROM BLACKOUT TO BLOOMBERG (Reaktion, $25) is an exacting look at the state of the city after thirty-five excruciating years of civil war. Marshall Berman, an urbanologist and literary critic, and Brian Berger, a poet and photographer, have assembled novelists, journalists, college professors, art historians, film editors, food critics, computer programmers, and jazz musicians to remember and revile all five boroughs from, roughly, the Pleistocene epoch of Ed Koch, Woody Allen, and "Son of Sam" to the Atlantic Yards real estate boondoggle.

subscribers only

NoLandGrab: Being in the thick of things, we hardly noticed that the fight against the "Atlantic Yards real estate boondoggle" may have quietly passed a threshold; like the legendary Westway project, win, lose or draw, Bruce Ratner's controversial project has earned its own spot in NYC history.

link to the book

Posted by lumi at 1:49 PM

SAVE THE DATE: Sunday, October 14

WDD3big.gifWanna volunteer or be a sponsor? Email walkathon@dddb.net.

Details for participants, coming soon.

Posted by lumi at 1:36 PM

Airline pulling name off Meadowlands arena

AP, via amNY
By Janet Frankston Lorin

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said Tuesday it is hunting for a new firm to put its name on the Meadowlands arena after being informed by Continental Airlines that it has decided to opt out of its naming rights deal.

NoLandGrab: No surprise here, an arena with one team headed out the door and another seeking a move to Brooklyn doesn't carry a lot of cachét. The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority may want to start cold-calling out of the yellow pages.

Still, they remain hopeful and it's nice to know that the Nets aren't exactly homeless:

Zoffinger said the New Jersey Nets will help in the effort. While the basketball team plans to move to Brooklyn, N.Y., it has signed a lease to play at the Meadowlands until 2012 but can opt out earlier, Zoffinger said.

He said he expects the Meadowlands facility to command a premium price, based on other recent naming rights deals.

Barclays Bank PLC announced in January it would spend as much as $400 million over the next 20 years to put its name on the new pro basketball arena planned as the Nets' future home in Brooklyn. The 18,000-seat facility designed by the architect Frank Gehry will be called The Barclays Center.

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Posted by lumi at 1:05 PM

Harrah's, AEG to build Las Vegas arena to attract NHL, NBA teams

AP, via Yahoo Sports
By Ryan Nakashima

We don't know if the Brucester saw this, but if his dream of moving his NJ Nets to a new arena in Brooklyn is dashed by one of the lawsuits or falters under it's own weight, then here's an idea for a place to move the Nets — AND pursue Forest City Enterprises' facination with casino gambling. And, if the story is to be believed, without use of eminent domain or taxpayer financing.

Casino giant Harrah's Entertainment Inc. announced Wednesday that it will partner with AEG, the company that brought David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy, to build a 20,000-seat arena in Las Vegas capable of housing an NBA or NHL team.

The $500 million arena, behind the Bally's and Paris hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, is projected to open in 2010. It's a step toward attracting a pro sports franchise to a city that has tried to persuade reluctant league officials to look past its legalized sports betting.

The deal puts a dent in Mayor Oscar Goodman's plans to have an arena built downtown with the help of tax breaks, but he said such plans would go forward. The site for the Harrah's-AEG arena, a block east of the Strip, is in unincorporated Clark County, outside city limits.

Gary Loveman, the chief executive of Harrah's, which is being bought by two private equity firms in a $17.1 billion deal, said the development was "very much a part of our master plan for Las Vegas."
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The arena to be built on 10 acres of land that Harrah's owns is to be privately financed. Construction is set to begin on the project in the summer of 2008.

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LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Casino giant Harrah's Entertainment announced Wednesday it is partnering with AEG, the company that brought David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy, to build a 20,000-seat arena capable of housing an NBA or NHL team.

The arena, behind the Bally's and Paris hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, is projected to open in 2010. It's a step toward attracting a pro sports franchise to a city that has tried to convince reluctant league officials to look past its legalized sports betting.

The deal puts a major dent in Mayor Oscar Goodman's plans to have an arena built downtown. The site for the arena, a block east of the Strip, is in unincorporated Clark County, outside city limits.

Gary Loveman, the chief executive of Harrah's, which is being bought by two private equity firms in a $17.1 billion deal, said the development was "very much a part of our master plan for Las Vegas," a long-awaited vision that is expected to link or redevelop its nine hotel-casino properties in Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's and the Rio.

"This arena is being developed with the capability of hosting an NHL or NBA franchise from day one," said Timothy Leiweke, the president and chief executive of AEG, which owns the Galaxy and the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"We continue to have productive conversations with potential owners and are optimistic that either basketball or hockey, or both, will be played in Las Vegas when the venue opens," he said in a statement.

The arena to be built on 10 acres of land that Harrah's owns is to be privately financed. Construction is set to begin on the project in the summer of 2008.

Updated on Wednesday, Aug 22, 2007 3:40 pm, EDT

Posted by lumi at 12:47 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere82.gif Gothamist, Kent Barwick, Municipal Art Society
In an interview with Gothamist, Kent Barwick, the outgoing President of the Municipal Art Society, pays a backhanded compliment to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

...the Atlantic Yards project is a good example of how not to involve the public.

Gotham Gazette, Just A Bump in the Road for Columbia?
In its review of the latest news of Columbia University's West Harlem land grab, Gotham Gazette cites Norman Oder's analysis of Richard Lipsky's positions for and against eminent domain:

But Lipsky rubs the Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder the wrong way. Lipsky was also a lobbyist in the Atlantic Yards scuffle, but was on the developer’s side in that case. Now that he is on the side of community opposition, he is arguing points that he disputed in the earlier rezoning debate, Oder says.

Queens Crap, Keep your Queens Crap rat-free
Will Queens remain a Rat-free zone?

From the Queens Courier, via "Crappy":

“Trash stays in and rodents stay out,” according to Queens businessperson Joseph (Dee) Dussich, inventor of the Repel-X Bag.

“These bags are made to repel rats and keep them from going through your garbage,” said Dussich, President of JAD Corporation of America, his Jackson Heights firm that wholesales maintenance supplies.

Posted by lumi at 11:19 AM

Flashback, 1999: Developers, said FCR, must be "more creative" in finding sites

Rataki.jpgAtlantic Yards Report uncovers more of the Atlantic Yards back story.

Once Brooklyn ran out of large parcels of land for mega-developers like Bruce Ratner, real estate values went up and it became economically feasible to build a platform for development over the railyards — guess who got there first.

An article in the January 1999 issue of the late Brooklyn Bridge magazine, headlined "King of the Deal," suggested that Forest City Ratner was not only not yet imagining Atlantic Yards, it had run out of land in Brooklyn.

Given other evidence that the developer already had its eye on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, it's safe to consider that a feint for public consumption.

The article begins:

Sandeep Mathrani used to fly over Brooklyn in a helicopter, videotaping traffic patterns and housing concentrations. As director of retail development for Forest City Ratner, he was searching for large spaces within residential neighborhoods on which to build new shopping complexes. "It's hard to drive and get a bird's-eye per­spective," says Mathrani.

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Posted by lumi at 11:00 AM

Vito Lopez: Bought By Bruce Ratner?

Daily Gotham
By "Mole333"

ALBANYWORKS.jpgThis is the story of the special tax break for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Nets-arena-and-highrise complex; Vito Lopez — the politician who delivered the special tax break for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Nets-arena-and-highrise complex; Michael Ratner — the brother of Bruce Ratner and NJ Nets' investor who gave money to the politician who delivered the special tax break for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Nets-arena-and-highrise complex; and Karen Ranucci — the wife of the brother of Bruce Ratner and NJ Nets' investor who gave money to the politician who delivered the special tax break for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Nets-arena-and-highrise complex.

One of the main problems has been the corruption that surrounds Albany like a vortex of slime, with the old triumvirate of Pataki, Bruno and Silver at the center of it. Another part of the Albany vortex of corruption is Vito Lopez, Assemblyman from Brooklyn and considered one of the most corrupt politicians outside of prison.

Vito Lopez gets most of his campaign contributions from developers and, interestingly enough, chiropractors. Not sure why he's so popular among chiropractors, but it is easy to see why he is so beloved by developers. Now it becomes clear that Lopez has been bought by Bruce Ratner's family.

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Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

FOUND: Blight on Pacific Street

Yesterday, we featured this photo from Brit in Brooklyn, noting the symbolism of the shrouded Ward Bakery building and shrinking public space. We asked readers if there was anything we missed.

Another neighborhood photog sent in a reminder that the MTA property, seen behind the fence, was declared "blighted" in a study conducted by Bruce Ratner's own experts.

This leads us to the question, does it make sense for the State to "blight" its own property, for purposes of determining that the footprint of Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is largely "blighted," as justification for using eminent domain on private non-state-owned property?

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

TAKE FROM POOR, GIVE TO THE RICH

Cleveland Leader
By Roldo Bartimole

Like "porn," you know panhandling when you see it.

Hypocrisy remains the only growth sector in Cleveland.

Can you imagine the downtown gang now is pressing for a ban on panhandling!

When panhandling for handouts for themselves, they seem very adept and eager. They certainly won’t legislate against panhandling for government handouts for their businesses.

So, the poor and near poor can’t beg downtown. It’s untidy. The rich – developers and real estate interests – please line-up over there. We’ll feed you with millions of dollars of goodies in a moment.
...
The building owners are applying for historic tax credits from the state. Among them are familiar locations. Terminal Tower of Forest City Enterprises, back in line and the Higbee building, also owned by Forest City.

You can click here to read the entire column or just hold your nose as you read this list of Forest City panhandling classics from the Cleveland's Rob-n-Dole Hall of Fame.

Tower City has been a welfare case from the beginning. One story goes that Ruth Miller, Sam’s first wife and a Ratner, wanted Tower City to be a gem offered to the city. So she stocked it will upscale shopping that wasn’t going to endure. Tower City, as the terminus of RTA’s rapid, delivers tens of thousands of people to the retail outlet. Upscale people don’t typically take public transportation. Gucci’s has left the building. The food court does okay at lunch.

However, Sam and the Ratners buy politicians with political contributions and trinkets. Here’s an off the head list of gifts to them by public agencies:

  • RTA [Regional Transit Authority] spent tens of millions to spruce up its station at Tower City. (Oddly, Forest City was its construction manager, then sued RTA for $25 million more and got a $10 million settlement, and significant rent guarantees. That’s gratitude for you.)

  • RTA built the money-losing Waterfront Line for some $69 million using Tower City as its connection, delivering tens of thousands to and from ballgames and the Rock and Roll Museum.

  • RTA also built at about $13-million or so a walkway to Gateway through Tower City, again routing hundreds of thousands of people via the Ratner retail properties.

  • The Federal government built its new $175-million courthouse on Ratner land behind Tower City (also conveniently connected by an inside walkway) with the help of then Congressman Lou Stokes. When Stokes retired, he took a seat as a paid Forest City board member.

[Note: The tallest courthouse in America opened in 2005 on Forest City's MetroTech campus in Brooklyn — the City of NY is MetroTech's biggest tenant.]

  • Tower City and the Terminal Tower which rises above the shopping area has received property tax value reduction in the hundreds of millions of dollar on the properties thus depriving Cleveland school children in particular of revenue. Further, taxes from a number of its parcels go, not the normal governmental bodies (mostly Cleveland schools) but to finance bonds for the $93-million Rock and Roll Museum and Hall of Fame.

  • These property tax reductions came after Mayor George Voinovich and Council President George Forbes gave Forest City some $80 million in UDAG money for various developments at Tower City.

  • The Ratner-owned Ritz Carlton, also attached to Tower City, received a 20-year, 100 percent tax abatement in addition to a UDAG no-interest (as in zero) loan, which isn’t payable until 2016.

  • The politicians tried to give the Ratners a no-bid right to a casino but that was rejected by voters.

  • The downtown gang has pushed a revamping of Public Square, at Tower City’s doorstep at a cost of some $40 million. The downtown promoters want a “hipper” Public Square, which really means get rid of panhandlers and the homeless.

  • RTA is spending some $200 million in a beautification project along Euclid Ave. from Tower City to University Circle, using desperately scarce transit money to subsidize retail (after Tower City helped destroy retail along Euclid with it’s the Avenue, within Tower City.)

All that is not enough for the avaricious Tower City needs.

Now they want a medical mart at the old Higbee’s (do not believe the PD propaganda about numerous sites being considered for the medical mart) to further bolster the Forest City failure.

Even that’s not enough. They want a half-billion dollar convention center on Forest City land, attached to Tower City.

Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Yonkers Lands More Than $600 Million for Mixed-Use Project

Multi Housing News ran this blurb of an article from Commercial Property News:

Funding of $630 million has been secured for Ridge Hill, an 81-acre regional lifestyle center being developing in Yonkers, N.Y, Commercial Property News reports.

Ridge Hill, being developed by Forest City Ratner Cos., involves 1.3 million square feet of retail and entertainment space and 1,000 residential units. More than 100 of the units will be marked as affordable housing; 200 will be built for homeowners 55 and over.

The project is part of a $3 billion waterfront overhaul in Yonkers, which will encompass four mixed-use projects.

NoLandGrab: We aren't that familiar with Yonkers, but we're sure that Bruce Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project is a lot farther from the Hudson River than his controversial Atlantic Yards project is from Downtown Brooklyn, unless they're counting the Grassy Sprain Reservoir. Which begs the question: why the heck is Ratner building an 81-acre, 1.3 million square foot "regional life-style center" so close to a reservoir that provides drinking water to Yonkers and sections of the Bronx?

If anyone can explain how Ridge Hill is being lumped in with "waterfront redevelopment," and how increased development and traffic supposedly won't affect the reservoir's waterfront, please email us.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Три грации / IAC Headquarters

Live Journal

"dispatcher" wrote:

К Фрэнку Гери, одному из самых культовых архитекторов современности, Нью-Йорк был не шибко ласков - показывал ему козью морду в течение 20 лет. Все проекты Гери либо сразу отвергались заказчиками, либо принимались и утверждались, чтобы уже затем пойти прахом и прорасти травой забвения. А там, где слабину давали заказчики, стеной вставала патриотическая общественноать, как в относительно свежем случае с мегапроектом реконструкции Atlantic Yards в Бруклине - идеи Гери, поддержанные мэрией, вызывают бурные протесты многочисленных тамошних жителей. Против этого проекта выступают аж 53 организации. На их сайтах потрясенный посетитель может увидеть компьютерные симуляции того, как гигантские постройки Гери гробят необъятную бруклинскую ширь, посягая на неотъемлемое право бруклинцев вечно наслаждаться уходящими за горизонт сараями, пакгаузами и свалками своего детсва.

...which means, something like (via Babelfish):

To Frank Geri, one of the quite cult architects of the present, New York was not quickly affectionate - it showed to it goat snout for 20 years. All projects of Geri either immediately rejected by customers or they started and they were asserted in order already then to go by dust germinate by grass of oblivion. But, where customers gave the slack, by wall arose patriotic to obshchestvennoat', as in the relatively fresh case with the mega-project of reconstruction Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn - the ideas of Geri, supported by city hall, cause the stormy protests of numerous local inhabitants. Against this project speak azh 53 organizations. On their sites the shaken visitor can see the computer simulations of that how the gigantic buildings of Geri tyuey grobyat immense Brooklyn expanse, encroaching on the inherent right of bruklintsev eternally to delight in by the sheds outgoing beyond the horizon, with warehouses and by the dumps of its detsva.

NoLandGrab: We'd like to remind каждое that "Atlantic Yards" is the brand name of mega-project of Geri, and though it is "encroaching on the inherent right of bruklintsev," it doesn't yet exist, and therefore, is not a "reconstruction."

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

August 22, 2007

NIMBY Love

Fighting Atlantic Yards takes hard work and . . . wedding vows?

The Village Voice
By Chris Thompson

We were just about to make fun of Dan Goldstein, who managed to cast himself in the role of a hand-wringing debutante stressing over whether or not his wedding would make the Vows column of the NY Times Sunday Styles section, when we started stumbling over a number of factual errors that warrant being corrected for the record (our corrections in bold):

It's getting damn close to the end times for opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, the massive basketball, housing, and retail complex slated to rise up on the 8.4-acre rail yards between Fort Greene and Prospect Heights and 14 acres of city streets and private property in Prospect Heights (but who's counting).

With two lawsuits drawing to a close, one in which a decision is expected and the other to be argued in the appeals court in the next few months, lead anti–Atlantic Yards organizer Daniel Goldstein has been dreaming up every way possible to rally support for his cause. When the development company Forest City Ratner started offering lucrative buyouts to the owners of the condo building where he lives, Goldstein was the lone holdout in his building. He's since spent two years living alone in his 31-unit building, right where the New Jersey Nets will theoretically hit their jumpers. Now, loner Goldstein has found romance with fellow anti–Atlantic Yards activist Shabmam Shabnam Merchant, and the two plan to get married next month. And they've even cooked up a scheme to use their wedding to advance the anti-Ratner campaign. They've submitted their nuptials to the New York Times Sunday wedding-vows section, in the hope that editors will find the concept of NIMBY love too irresistible to pass up—and give the Atlantic Yards campaign a little free publicity to boot.

[Note: If a couple who have promoted a community-based plan for the railyards is "NIMBY," then by that definition, The Village Voice could probably be described as "NIMBY" as well. Aside from the fact that in this case, the "backyard" is Goldstein's living room.]

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"I kinda doubt they would run it," Goldstein says, even as he squirms at the prospect of his personal life bleeding into La Causa. "They get tons of submissions. But I don't think there's a more interesting wedding occurring this month." If they give him a pass, he adds, he wouldn't be surprised. After all, his arch-nemesis Ratner built the Times's new headquarters.

The anti–Atlantic Yards coalition has pinned its hopes of forcing Ratner back to the bargaining table on two major lawsuits, both of which are due to be resolved in the fall. [Note: Once again, depending on how the two lawsuits are decided, they might continue for years to come.] The first suit challenges the Empire State Development Corporation's designation of the site as a "civic project," in which the public would derive so much use from the development that local land-use laws can be overridden, and whether or not environmental impacts of the project were adequately identified and studied.

The second is an appeal of the June 7 decision allowing the state to use eminent domain to clear out Goldstein and the rest of the property owners in the project's footprint. Handicapping court decisions is never wise, and Goldstein and his colleagues may yet live to fight another day. But if they lose these cases, they'll have lost their last chance to stop Atlantic Yards in its tracks, unless plaintiffs choose to continue the fight against the use of eminent domain in NY State court.

Which is why the Yards opponents' dogged insistence on planning the future of Brooklyn without the project seems so quaint at first glance. But that's just what Goldstein and his allies have spent months doing. In February, former city planning commissioner Ron Schiffman Shiffman and University of Cincinatti Cincinnati architecture professor Marshall Brown led a new effort to reimagine the Vanderbilt Yards area as if Ratner had never bought all those private parcels of land and jumped into bed with the state of New York. In a series of community meetings and bull sessions, they began sketching maps where Fort Greene and Prospect Heights were reconnected, where theaters and shopping malls replace the Nets arena. After all, says Brown, you never know. "Our strategy is about preparing for the possibility that the Forest City Ratner project may not continue," says Brown. "The history of that site is very long. Many projects have been proposed for that site, and they've come and gone. . . . Whether it's the success of various lawsuits, changes in financing—the economy's been a little rocky, in case you haven't heard."

But Brown has a broader strategy in mind. This may look like a Hail Mary pass at first, but even if Forest City Ratner wins every lawsuit this fall and clears the deck, the project is scheduled to take 20 10 years to complete, though many industry experts and observers concede it will take longer, perhaps even as long as 20 years.

A lot of things can happen in 20 years, and sooner or later, Ratner will need community support once again. When that happens, Brown says, he and his colleagues will have a draft of options to present Ratner, who might incorporate at least a few of their ideas as part of a future compromise.

"We're not only doing this in the hopes that the Forest City project will not go through," Brown says. "Even if it does, there will be a lot of negotiating over details of the project. We hope that some of these principles we've developed will aid in how it gets resolved in the end. Even if Forest City builds their project, we're still looking at a 20-year process, and during that time, the project will change almost inevitably. And so we hope that these principles will have some effect."

That would come too late for Goldstein, who has dedicated his life to stopping the project. But at least he's found some solace in a partner. Over the course of fighting the Forest City project, Goldstein's engagement fell apart, and he found himself living a surreal life alone in an empty building. Meanwhile, his future bride abandoned her own job and threw her-self into the same campaign. Now they've found each other—and something beyond the specter of Jason Kidd sinking field goals on the spot of Goldstein's old bedroom. [Note: We imagine that Jason Kidd's specter keeps the little love-NIMBYs up at night.]

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

CBAs head to head: Columbia vs. Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Another AYR must-read: Norman Oder compares the Community Benefit Agreement negotiating process for Atlantic Yards with Columbia University's expansion plan:

And it’s flawed in comparison to the CBA planned for Columbia. The new West Harlem Local Development Corporation includes members of Community Board 9 and project opponents, who were conspicuously absent from the Atlantic Yards CBA. The LDC has been criticized for not allowing public comment at meetings and that seems to be a significant flaw. Even so, it is far more transparent than the behind-closed-doors Atlantic Yards CBA. Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of CB9, famously said last year that “We are avoiding the Brooklyn model,” seeking a wider coalition.

The West Harlem LDC is funded not by the developer but by a quasi-public entity. As City Limits reported:

The New York City Economic Development Corporation provided $350,000 and a professional mediator, John Bickerman, to facilitate negotiations.

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Posted by lumi at 9:16 AM

The Columbia expansion, Atlantic Yards, and the cognitive dissonance of Richard Lipsky

Atlantic Yards Report

Local lobbyist Richard Lipsky argues with himself over the use and abuse of eminent domain:

When you hire Richard Lipsky, the man behind the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, you get not only an experienced lobbyist on behalf of small business, you get a blogger, a regular commenter on the news.

When clients on different sides of somewhat parallel development disputes hire Lipsky, however, readers get something else: some cognitive dissonance.

Lipsky, as Atlantic Yards watchers know, was hired by Forest City Ratner to organize an amateur sports league at the planned Brooklyn arena and to do other lobbying for the developer's projects. He’s said he typically would oppose a project with eminent domain but it wasn’t bringing in big-box stores or displacing other retailers. (Well, not directly, unless you count Freddy's Bar & Backroom.)

And Lipsky has been hired by Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-it-Away storage, the largest landowner who has yet to sell to Columbia University and thus the most visible opponent of the university’s West Harlem expansion plan.

So that has led Lipsky to use some similar arguments and rhetoric for Atlantic Yards and against Columbia--and it just doesn't compute.

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NoLandGrab: From an academic point of view, reading the different arguments Lipsky lobs at his various opponents, as he switch-hits, will give you a pretty good view of the many facets of the arguments for and against eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Break Out of the Box

How community input is driving new affordable housing designs

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE
BY BENDIX ANDERSON

AHF-0907-COVER.jpg

More serious consultation among developers, architects, and the community is becoming the norm. Affordable housing developers across the country are increasingly following [Seattle Housing Authority's] model of inviting the surrounding communities to get involved in their projects’ designs. They’re finding that such involvement can be a recipe for improving their developments as well as for winning local political support.

They're even doing it in NYC:

In New York, the five teams of architects and developers that competed for a 1.4-acre wedge of abandoned rail yard in the South Bronx got an earful from the community at a public meeting before they submitted even the most basic sketches.

“When we were preparing our design, we really used this [feedback from the neighborhood] as a checklist,” said William Stein, principal for Dattner Architects, an architecture firm in Manhattan that collaborated with Grimshaw Architects to create the winning design.

“Getting community feedback is extraordinarily valuable,” said Adam Weinstein, president of nonprofit Phipps Houses. Phipps is developing that rail yard site in the Bronx, which will be known as Via Verde, in partnership with Jonathan Rose Cos.

And guess the name of the posterproject for lack of community input. [Hint: it's the project that's currently being dragged through the courts while other projects have broken ground]:

Developers that attempt to shorten the lengthy process of building consensus have been punished. Forest City Ratner Cos. reached out to local officials and community groups to win support for its plans to build more than 5,000 mixed-income apartments at Atlantic Yards. But it missed an important set of local stakeholders who have filed several highly publicized lawsuits against the developers. The result: The project is more than a year behind schedule and reportedly tens of millions of dollars over budget.

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Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

FOUND: Puff on Pacific Street

Brit in Brooklyn

Puff-on-Pacific.jpg

"A dragon lives forever but not so little boys neighborhoods under threat of eminent domain..."

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Brit In Brooklyn's second shot of the day, looking west down Pacific St., illustrates many recent changes to the streetscape, and, just as importantly, is a sober and eloquent commentary on the project itself: the shrouded Ward Bakery embodies the lack of transparency; the caution tape, running deleriously every which way, presages another Norman Oder-wellian revelation at every turn, for those who dare ask questions; and the fence keeps the public at bay, as the concrete barrier shrinks the street, akin to Atlantic Yards's affect on the whole of Prosepct Heights.

Have we missed anything? Email us.

UPDATE: One neighborhood photog sent a reminder that the MTA property, seen behind the fence, was declared "blighted" in a study conducted by Bruce Ratner's own experts. This leads us to the question, does it make sense for the State to "blight" its own property for purposes of determining that the footprint of Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is blighted?

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

The Original Sin of Atlantic Yards

Why ULURP Matters

OriginalSin.jpg By observing events up in West Harlem concerning Columbia University's expansion plans, Brooklynites are getting a taste of how the ULURP process, which involves the local Community Boards, makes a difference, and why Bruce Ratner scored a big coup in getting NY State to pull a jurisdictional override.

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (www.dddb.net):

As reported only in MetroNY, yesterday Community Board 9 in Harlem voted to reject Columbia's expansion plans and rezoning unless the school abides by 10 conditions...

The fallout from this non-binding, advisory vote is that Columbia and its supporters have clearly been told (and understand) that they must negotiate these conditions if they want community support; and they've been told this as part of a political process.

With Atlantic Yards, the ULURP bypass meant that Community Boards 2,6, and 8 could issue well-reasoned positions, criticisms, concerns, and mitigation ideas and those statements would mean nothing beyond any press splash they'd make. And beyond the Brooklyn Downtown Star and The Brooklyn Paper the positions of the Community Boards were not reported. But what was absolutely clear was that as long as the CBs were operating outside of a political process, nobody in Albany, City Hall or at the ESDC was listening, and therefore there was never any room for good-faith negotiations. Instead Forest City Ratner used the sidelined Community Boards for its own devious "Community" "Benefits" PR campaign.

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NoLandGrab: Much has been made recently of the "Atlantic Yards Carveout" in the 421-a reform bill. The State override and removal of Atlantic Yards from the ULURP process is another example of how this project is unique amongst large-scale development projects in NYC, and of how Bruce Ratner receives special treatment straight down the line.

Folks watching both controversies, especially those following the abuse of eminent domain, should understand that the Empire State Development Corporation IS playing a role in the Columbia University expansion plan — even though the project is going through the City's land-use review, the State is standing by to handle the eminent domain condemnations. The reasoning behind this arrangement remains murky.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

Deutsche Bank fire: Your public authorities at work

DeutcheBank.jpg Duffield St. Underground examines the role and failings of those quasi-governmental corporations called "public authorities:"

Public authorities, which include the ESDC and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), were created to cut through the red tape that prevents development. That's all well and good, but the case of the Deutsche Bank Fire, that manifested into a disconnected water standpipe.

Public authorities have been failing to address environmental concerns in various ways in various projects. At the proposed Atlantic Yards development, where the ESDC is nominally the lead developer, the collapse of the parapet of the Wards Bakery led to promises of an Ombudsman... which never materialized. In Harlem, a judge recently ruled that there appeared to be collusion between the ESDC, AKRF and Columbia University.

The controversy over environmental oversight in the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan includes another aspect of what the state defines as "environment," namely historic resources. The experts hired by the EDC through its contractor AKRF came to the conclusion that the Duffield Street homes should be preserved, but the EDC ignored their advice.

These are just part of the problems of public authorities like the ESDC.

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Village Voice columnist Michael Clancy published a list of questions on the Voice's blog that must be answered by the investigation into the Deutsche Bank fire, including these two in regard to oversight and community input:

NoLandGrab: Clancy's questions illustrate how lack of coordinated oversight is a systemic problem with public authorities (maybe that's why Bruce Ratner took the lead to authorize the permanent closing of 5th Ave north of Flatbush in April) and how public input takes a back seat to the goals of the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

August 21, 2007

Blimey, Gehry goes batty in Blighty!

From Brit in Brooklyn:

After years of often rancorous debate, Frank Gehry's scheme for the Brighton and Hove seafront in Blighty is a go. Back in 2003, the Independent's Jay Merrick predicted that "[t]he Californian's vision will launch a thousand metaphors: crumpled trousers patched with Shreddies, ice lollies jammed into shattered Cornettos...an expletive-cum-exclamation mark marking the end of the promenade."

linky

NoLandGrab: You gotta be impressed by the starchitect's ability to create massive projects that primarily exist in relation to themselves (sure, blame it on "the program"). Though the fortress-like enclave will block their seaviews, Hovites will surely be comforted by the bulwarks' undulating rooflines.

Like "the Bride that Ate Brooklyn" (Atlantic Yards' signature tower inanely dubbed "Miss Brooklyn"), the Hove project was presumably inspired by a romantic female ideal: this time it's Victorian Maidens.

Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM

Coney nets volleyball event

NY Daily News
By Denise Romano

AVPFCR-DN.jpg

The AVP Brooklyn Open is coming to Coney Island this week for the second year in a row. The volleyball tournament will take place in a temporary, 4,000 seat stadium set up on the beach.

"We are very proud to come to Brooklyn and are excited to be here," said Chris Brahe, vice president of property sales of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. He noted that his company, owned by Bruce Ratner is pairing up with AVP (American Volleyball Player) for the event.

"This will allow us to start doing business in Brooklyn before the Atlantic Yards Arena opens in 2009," he said. "This way we don't have to wait two years."

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Norman Oder explains that just because a guy works for Bruce Ratner, a reporter is not obligated to run his quote, especially when it strains credulity.

Journalists and the AY timetable

From today's Daily News, in an article on the AVP Volleyball Tour co-produced by a Forest City Ratner subsidiary:

"This will allow us to start doing business in Brooklyn before the Atlantic Yards Arena opens in 2009," [executive Chris Brahe] said. "This way we don't have to wait two years."

But no one who's checked the construction schedule believes that the arena would open as scheduled in 2009.

Yesterday, in an interview with Metro for its Blogarithms column, I said, "After all, Atlantic Yards could take 20 years--it's supposed to take ten, but no one believes it."

That view is not limited to opponents and critics. Project landscape architect Laurie Olin has said it could take 20 years, as has project supporter Kathryn Wylde of the New York City Partnership.

NoLandGrab: If "vice president of property sales(?) of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment" Chris Brahe was really on top of his game, he would have said, "This will allow us to start doing business in Brooklyn before the privately funded Atlantic Yards Arena opens in Downtown Brooklyn, on the spot where Walter O'Malley planned a new Dodgers Stadium, in 2009, helping to generate $5.6 billion in new tax revenues and create 10,000 permanent jobs and 15,000 construction jobs, as guaranteed in our historic legally binding Community Benefits Agreement."

Then again, that might have tipped off the reporter that he was full of it.

Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM

NYC moves to condemn property in Brooklyn's other land grab

Breaking news concerning Brooklyn's other land grab: the City is going ahead with plans to condemn the historic Duffield St. houses, as well as property owned by Track Data. To add insult to injury, officially, there are no plans to develop the property owned by Track Data — the City just wants it.

This article ran in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

City Gets Go-Ahead To Seize Duffield Homes, Financial Services Firm

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development ruled today that the city should use its powers of eminent domain to seize 21 properties on three blocks in Downtown Brooklyn — including several homes allegedly involved in the Underground Railroad and Track Data Corporation, a financial services firm that employs 150 people.

As earlier reported in the Eagle, the city plans to raze the Duffield Street homes to build an underground parking garage and one-acre park. Track Data is in the BAM Cultural District, and at the time of the hearing last May, a Downtown Brooklyn Partnership spokesman confirmed that there is no development in any planning or approval stage to replace the firm.

Duffield St. Underground comments:

Keystone Condemners

It would be a little easier to take [the City] seriously if they could figure out from whom they are seizing the properties.

They sent a letter to Ed Atwood at 227 Duffield Street. They will have a hard time making him turn over this property, since he's dead. He was the ex-husband of Joy Chatel, and anyone who has been following this issue will know that she is the most prominent of the residents fighting the HPD's plan.
...
The HPD wants to destroy Track Data Corporation, a financial services company that employs 150 people. As reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, as of last May, the would-be condemners testified that there is no development in any planning or approval stage to replace the firm. So let's just confiscate and demolish a functioning business without any plan to replace it. That's the HPD's idea of good government!

And let's thank Bloomberg while we're at it. He announced a lovely panel to commemorate Brooklyn's Abolitionist history. The readership of this blog is limited, so it really helped us out that he spread the word far and wide about the importance of this history.

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

CB ULURP vote turns down Columbia University's expansion plan

ColumbiaURendering.jpg As far as we can tell, MetroNY was the only paper that covered the Manhattan Community Board 9 Full Board meeting, at which the Harlem board voted "for Columbia plan amendments" or Columbia lost the "non-binding zoning vote," depending on how one looks at it.

At issue is the abuse of eminent domain, displacement of low-income residents, and cultural insensitivity.

The online version of the paper carried an article by staff reporter Amy Zimmer and the AP newswire story:

Harlem board votes for Columbia plan amendments

Members of Community Board 9 last night voted to support a proposal by Columbia University to redevelop the area only if the school abided by 10 conditions.

For example, they want Columbia to build on property it owns and obtained without coercion or eminent domain, to develop an anti-displacement program for residents in their district, to preserve historic buildings and to design eco-friendly facilities.

The vote “represents the true sentiment of the community that Columbia can’t have its cake and eat it, too,” said Nellie Hester Bailey, of the Harlem Tenants Council. “Columbia must compromise.”

Though the vote is only advisory, she believed it will pressure elected officials to listen to their constituents.

Columbia loses non-binding zoning vote; says talks will continue

Columbia University, pushing to get local support for a $7 billion expansion plan that calls for razing much of a working-class neighborhood, failed to win a non-binding community board vote on Monday.

The vote, 31-2 against zoning changes for the Ivy League school's project, will be considered by planning officials but is only a recommendation.

School president Lee Bollinger said the board's decision was no surprise, and he anticipates the school will continue negotiating with local representatives.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Flashback, 2000: the borough president criticizes the mayor over a sports facility

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fills in more of the backstory of Brooklyn's sports complex.

Just seven years ago, the Brooklyn Borough President disagreed with the Mayor over the siting of a baseball stadium in the Coney Island and the no-bid process behind it.

And backers of the original sports facility planned for the site wanted to ensure that public land and public subsidies supported amateur, not professional sports.
...
Developers were interested in the Sportsplex. As I wrote, the Daily News on 11/12/98 (BOROUGH BIGS NEARLY WHIFF ON RUDY'S BALLPARK CURVES) reported that developer Bruce Ratner had "talked with Brooklyn Sports Foundation officials about building the Sportsplex at cost, provided he can build an entertainment complex next door."

On 3/22/02, Golden's successor Marty Markowitz issued a press release about the Borough's State Legislative Agenda, citing a goal to "retain funding for the Coney Island Sportsplex and increase the allocation in order to attract an NBA franchise." Even in 2003, on the day of his next State of the Borough address, the New York Daily News reported (Marty’s Minding Our Manners, 1/23/03):

The borough president also goes to sleep dreaming of bringing a National Basketball Association team to Coney Island.

That plan, of course, fell by the wayside later in the year as Forest City Ratner's plan for Atlantic Yards emerged.

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Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Does Atlantic Yards survive....

Brooklynian

AY-Downturn.jpgFrom an online conversation (link) about the mortgage-backed security fiasco/liquidity crunch and how it might affect Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan:

"Dr F" gets the conversation going with a warning of a downturn in the luxury condo market:

Bottom line for NYC...I think...is that a huge amount of the money that has been supporting the NY real estate market, and all the building and condo development that has been going on...is about to dry up.

Au contraire mon frere says "DoctorJ":

Demand for condos in Manhattan and in and around Brownstone Brooklyn continues, due to rising population, with prices rising slowly. FCR isn't a subprime borrower, and the project will proceed more or less on course

"That Yarn Guy" has a friend who sez:

The Feds stepping in is a bad sign that was only done to prevent people from over-reacting and the market should be able to correct itself (over a long adjustment period).

"Dr F" gets back in the action:

As far as FCR. They are certainly no Kara, Beazer or Standard Pacific but it is also difficult to tell how strong they are. They're 10Q's are murky at best and you can't get any read on how thier other projects may be working out. Do you know how Stapleton is going? The commercial part looks done but I can't get a good read on the residental.

It is interesting to hear what others think.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Forest City Closes on Largest Construction Financing in Company History – $630 Million Loan for Ridge Hill Mixed-Use Project in Yonkers

Looks like this deal closed just in time. The liquidity crunch may start affecting large-scale transactions as investors no longer have easy access to capital.

Ratner-Muscle.jpg

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that its Forest City Ratner Companies subsidiary has closed on $630 million in construction financing for Ridge Hill regional lifestyle center in Yonkers, New York. The financing marks the largest single construction loan in Forest City’s history and will be provided by Bank of America, ING Real Estate Finance and Key Bank Real Estate Capital.

“Ridge Hill will be a new town square in Westchester County, providing easy access and an alluring environment for the finest living and shopping in the area,” said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. “Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to making Ridge Hill – and its estimated 9,500 jobs and $60 million annually in tax revenue – a reality for everyone.”

Ridge Hill will be a mixed-use 81.4-acre regional lifestyle center featuring a lively streetscape along its main street with extensive show windows, lush landscaping and abundant trees, and a distinctive Town Square at its center.

Ridge Hill is expected to be comprised of 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurants, cinema and entertainment space; 1,000 residential units, including 135 affordable units and 200 residences for people over 55 years of age; 156,000 square feet of office and research facilities; and a hotel and conference center.

Preliminary construction, including land clearing and site preparation, began this spring. A formal groundbreaking is expected to take place later this year. Ridge Hill is expected to open in 2009.

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner is displaying his financial prowess in this press release. It's meant to be a clear indication to government officials and local activists that the current shakeout in the financial markets and increased cost of financing isn't going to put a wrinkle in his plans, in Westchester or Brooklyn.

Ratner will still be concerned with the cost of bond financing, which is likely to increase and could affect the bottom line for Atlantic Yards. Also, the Ridge Hill deal was obviously in the works before the mortgage-backed security fiasco hit — Atlantic Yards financing might not be as easy to secure as Ridge Hill.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

TONIGHT: HARDFIRE

Tuesday August 21, 2007

8:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Time-Warner channel 56; RNC channel 83

Scott Turner, of Fans For Fair Play, talks with John Clifton about eminent domain, the West Side Stadium, and Atlantic Yards.

9:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Time-Warner channel 35; Cablevision channel 68

Daniel Goldstein, of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, talks with Phil Maymin, 2006 Libertarian Party candidate for congress, 4th district (CT), about eminent domain and Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

August 20, 2007

GoLo has issues

Two posts at Gowanus Lounge, in the last week, cover issues that we've been tracking.

Brooklyn Homeowners Can't Get Insurance
HurricaneMap-BKLYN.jpgOne South Sloper's annecdote of trying to get homeowners insurance after being dropped by Allstate is a cautionary tale. Looking at the Brooklyn Hurricane Flooding Map posted on Gowanus, you'll notice that many of the affected zones correspond to areas where City planners are making way for more residential housing.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards watchdogs will be keeping an eye on this issue as the cost and availibility of insurance borough-wide will be affected by insurer's concern over severe weather events caused by warming and terrorism/security risks.

Availability and cost of insurance will add to the cost of Bruce Ratner's controversial plan. Who will pay is a lingering question. Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer have already lobbied the Federal government to "correct the market failure" to provide insurance due to the increased risk of terrorism.

Where Will the Gowanus Rezone Stop?
GowanusDev-GL.jpgAnother cautionary message, this time from Marlene Donnelly of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG), mentions one issue that NLG has mentioned several times, that residents in areas under consideration for rezoning have to pay extremely close attention because they are particularly vulnerable under NY State eminent domain law for removal for private developers.

We have also herd chatter about how the residential area between Hoyt and Bond is so under built--consisting of one and two family homes. It seems Planning doesn't feel that one and two family homes are appropriate for the community any longer. Those of us who live in this area between Bond and Hoyt NEED to be concerned. When a building doesn't make full use of it's allowed building size under zoning, it can be classified as "blighted" regardless of the condition of the building. Given the Mayor's Office plan to build housing for millions more people by 2030, we all should be aware that our neighborhood looks ripe for the picking...

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Focus on Atlantic Yards

Blogarithms, A look at the best and brightest blogs in NYC

MetroNY
By Paul Berger

An interview with Brooklyn's own Mad Overkiller, Norman Oder:

Trade journal editor Norman Oder, 46, has been scrutinizing the Atlantic Yards project (atlanticyardsreport.com) since September 2005. Here, he explains what project foes are hoping for in the coming months and how the battle has highlighted development issues in the city.

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Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Atlantic Yards Demolition Update: JRG Cafe Gone

Brit in Brooklyn

177Flatbush02-BIB.jpg

From the current Atlantic Yards Construction Update:

"Demolition is underway at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5); 177 Flatbush Avenue will likely be completed within this period."

Brit in Brooklyn is also compiling a custom Google Map, tracking changes through photographs, in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

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Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

The Times's deceptive 421-a coverage--and the need for more disclosure

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt examined the paper's coverage of the war and concluded:

But there are special lengths that The Times — or any other news organization — must go to when dealing with an issue so protracted, so complicated, and so politicized.

But what if The NY Times applied that standard to its business partner, who's currently embroiled in a protracted, complicated and politicized issue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn?

Norman Oder takes a look at the recent coverage of the special Atlantic Yards carveout in the affordable-housing reform bill, and makes the case that the Times could and should do better.

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Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

With sewer backup fixed, developers free to plunge ahead

The Morning Call [Allentown, PA]
By Veronica Torrejón

Brooklyn isn't the only location where sewer backups are a cause for concern as large developments "in the pipeline" are expected to strain capacity. What's amazing is that the PA DEP held off the sewer connection permit of our favorite overdeveloper, Forest City, until the problem could be investigated and remediated:

In April, the state Department of Environmental Protection stalled construction of The Summit Lehigh Valley, citing concerns that the sewer line serving the proposed 900,000-square-foot mall couldn't handle the extra burden.

At that point, DEP considered blocking any new connections to the sewer line until it had a chance to evaluate the problem, said spokesman Mark Carmon. The action held up work on The Summit, St. Luke's Hospital's new 180-acre campus, the 800-home Wagner Farms Field of Dreams town center project and other housing developments.

The DEP will continue monitoring the system, but officials are now satisfied that the problem has been fixed, Carmon said. The decision to allow added sewer connections isn't official until DEP sends formal written notice, a move expected to come soon, he said.

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NoLandGrab: Imagine NY City or State holding off large-scale projects built by politically connected developers until improvements to supporting infrastructure could be made. You-hoo-oo-oo-oo, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

August 19, 2007

Day 421-a, everything changes? Spitzer slammed for closed-door negotiation

Atlantic Yards Report

Gov. Eliot Spitzer gets slammed in the August 20 issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, in an article headlined Troopergate, New York-Style: Eliot Spitzer's character problem, by New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin and historian Fred Siegel.

Beyond the current scandal regarding the administration's attempt to discredit Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the authors detail a disturbing pattern of Spitzer using family money to fund his campaigns and his lifestyle, without disclosing it.

And, they point out, Spitzer's ethical record as governor is hardly sterling:
The result was gridlock, familiar ground in Albany, but one of the things Spitzer had promised to fix. His campaign motto was "Day One, Everything Changes," and he had cited secret negotiations, higher taxes, and unchecked spending as targets for his new administration. Yet it was already clear that Spitzer no longer saw those practices as problems. His first budget, despite repeated promises not to raise taxes, did just that. He increased spending by close to 8 percent--nearly triple the rate of inflation.

Perhaps most troubling, he continued the discredited practice of meeting with legislative leaders in private to make secret deals on laws and spending. When Michael Goodwin confronted Spitzer by noting that not a single public hearing had been held on any major issue before the deals were cut, Spitzer responded icily. "I'm the governor of the state," he said. "I'll be Lyndon Johnson. I'll craft the deals and I'll get the job done. You will write and I will do. That's why you're there and I'm here."

Spitzer has made some progress, but the "compromise" on the revision of the 421-a tax break, which left a significant "Atlantic Yards carve-out" for Forest City Ratner, certainly didn't happen in public.

link

Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

Superblocks, a massacre in Newark, and Jane Jacobs

TimesNewarkMap.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

I haven't read of anyone blaming the superblock design of some housing towers in Newark for the August 4 massacre of three young people and the severe injuries to another, but a New York Times article on Wednesday hinted that an outmoded modernist design contributed, at least, to an atmosphere of lawlessness.

The Times article was headlined In Newark Murder, a Mixed Band of Men and Boys. While it focused on the perpetrators and their drift into crime, it explained the setting: the Ivy Hill Park Apartments were built in 1952, the superblock supremacy era, and include ten 15-story buildings over a wide plain with no intervening streets. (Graphic from New York Times)

While the area has improved, some crime persists, and in places it apparently flourishes:
And they lurked in a place known as “the bushes,” a garbage-strewn thicket of high weeds behind two of the buildings where they could set upon anyone who used a dirt path as a shortcut to a nearby shopping center, according to residents and several of those who said they had been victimized.

There are no streets between the buildings, obviously, and a photo in the Times shows no retail or community facilities at the bases of the buildings. So there's little reason for there to be "eyes on the street," in the phrase of the late urbanist Jane Jacobs.

link

Posted by amy at 9:43 AM

Listed-The NBA’s Ugliest Moves: New Jersey-Brooklyn Nets, Vancouver-Memphis Grizzlies, Seattle-Oklahoma City ’Sonics’, & Charlotte-New Orleans Hornets

NBA Blog lists what they believe are the five worst NBA ownership situations:

Moving an NBA team from a community can be tough. It rips at the heart and soul of local fans; then they have to watch their beloved team play in another city. Imagine seeing your ex-girlfriend with her new man on ESPN Sports highlight reels every night.
...
#5: Bruce Ratner, New Jersey Nets

The Move: The New Jersey Nets will soon become the Brooklyn Nets.

The Fallout: Some Brooklyn residents were opposed to Ratner’s plans for a new stadium because the construction would force them from their New York homes. They feel the team is only a smokescreen for a larger ‘urban renewal’ development.

link

Posted by amy at 9:36 AM

Concert Review: Blow This Nightclub Reunion (Sort of…) at Freddy’s, Brooklyn NY 8/12/07

Zombies_Album.jpg

Lucid Culture visited Freddy's for a recent reunion of the Zombies

Since Freddy’s is in the “footprint” for the Atlantic Yards luxury housing/basketball arena complex, its days are numbered. Tonight’s show, more than just a great moment in obscure rock history, is yet another reminder of what New York stands to lose from the explosion of luxury housing. For not only are all those cheaply prefabricated, plastic-and-sheetrock Legoland highrises displacing music venues, they’re displacing the people who play there. And raising rents to the point where musicians and other artists can’t afford to live here anymore. Cities have always served as a cauldron for great artistic alchemy, and we’re witnessing their extinction on a scale greater than any other time in history. If Ratner and his cronies get their way, what was once arguably this nation’s greatest musical metropolis will become a vapid highrise suburb devoid of anything edgier than American Idol. New York is already in the midst of an artistic brain drain, and it will only get worse. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you discovered a good New York band (or artist, or filmmaker, etc.) under thirty years old? This city was once a magnet for great talent, but now nobody can afford to come here. In the absence of some cataclysmic event (or voter initiative) that puts an end to the luxury housing boom, what’s left of a vast and fertile scene won’t last much longer. Get out to Freddy’s – or Lakeside or Magnetic Field or wherever else something good is still happening – while you can.

link

Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

August 18, 2007

Ratner knew! City: Bruce endangered workers at Yards site

The Brooklyn Paper
Ariella Cohen

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner could have prevented the potentially deadly partial collapse of the Wards Bakery in April that sent bricks raining onto Pacific Street, according to a long-awaited Department of Buildings report.

The seven-page report details years of water damage and neglect that led up to the April 26 collapse of the historic building’s 200-foot parapet, concluding that the owner who inherited the damage — Ratner — should have warned demolition workers about the 100-year-old building’s dangerous condition.

“Forest City Ratner had been apprised of the deterioration … but the extent of the deterioration and the risk of the collapse had apparently not been communicated to the crew,” the report states.

article

Posted by amy at 9:42 AM

In Coney, development, planning, and the cost of delay

ThorConey.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Three very different editorial messages regarding Coney Island development appeared in the past week, and from some surprising venues, if not authors.

It was the New York Times, often pro-development and steadily supportive of Atlantic Yards, which published an op-ed highly critical of Thor Equities’ plan for a massive beachside project heavily dependent on towers—once condos, now perhaps hotels and time-shares.

The New York Daily News, also pro-AY, published another critical op-ed. (The willingness to publish an op-ed doesn't necessarily signal the newspaper's outlook, but consider that the Times refused op-eds critical of Atlantic Yards before publishing a lukewarm one in November 2005, nearly two years after the project was announced.)

And it was the weekly Brooklyn Paper, which has editorialized against Atlantic yards and provided critical print coverage, that seems far more welcoming to Thor.

link

Posted by amy at 9:36 AM

The Courier-Life, in print, gets the "carve-out" wrong

Atlantic Yards Report

From this week's Courier-Life chain, an online article headlined Spitzer sent compromise 421-a plan describes the modified Atlantic Yards carve-out" not inaccurately:

According to published reports, the deal includes Ratner getting a subsidy for 15 years instead of 25 years as per the 421-a subsidy on 1,930 market-rate condos slated for the Atlantic Yards project.

Oddly enough, the print version of the article, like the New York Times's coverage, omits the special tax break for Forest City Ratner that would remain, worth $150-$200 million. An article in the Park Slope Courier states:
Under the new legislation, FCRC buildings in the project must meet the new affordability requirements in order to qualify for a 25-year tax abatement.

Unmentioned is the 15-year subsidy available to no other developer.

link

Posted by amy at 9:33 AM

Again, Errol Louis misses the point regarding the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

Atlantic Yards Report looks at Errol Louis' column in the Aug. 16 Our Time Press (not yet online) where he discusses the proposed "cultural project to commemorate Brooklyn's role in the Underground Railroad."

Louis writes:
Call me cynical, but I seriously doubt that the city's money or the top-notch advisory panel named to administer it will quiet the critics of development in downtown Brooklyn. The real goal of the loudest critics is to prevent the new condos, apartments, hotels and retail stores in the area, following the misguided logic that keeping investment, amenities and new residents out of this part of Brooklyn is the best way to keep local housing prices from rising.

That battle was fought and lost long ago. The city council voted years ago to rezone downtown Brooklyn so that tall buildings could be built near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge and the mayor signed the bill. The resulting plans to invest billions in the area represent all kinds of business and job opportunities.

Didn't Louis make the same mistake a little more than two months ago? The City Council voted to rezone Downtown Brooklyn to foster office space and increase jobs. Instead, the market changed and housing became more lucrative.

Critics have called for inclusionary zoning--sharing of the wealth offered developers by the increase in their development rights. The organization FUREE argues that public dollars disproportionately favor the wealthy.

link

Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

No ‘Prospect’ for more car-free hours in park

The Brooklyn Paper
Yvonne Juris

Some, including Borough President Markowitz, believe that further expanding car-free hours in Prospect Park would only push more traffic onto surrounding roads. The Daily News reported this week that an expansion in car-free hours in Prospect Park was about to be approved, but Markowitz put the kibosh on it.

That made sense to one of the park’s users this week, given Markowitz’s support of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, which is expected to increase traffic along the Flatbush Avenue corridor.

“If Marty is so concerned with traffic, he should reconsider [his support for] the Ratner project,” said Park Sloper Tricia Goodman. “This is a park, not an overflow valve” for cars zipping to and from Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by amy at 9:23 AM

August 17, 2007

On the radio, a question about terrorism & AY

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR reports on Brian Lehrer Show guest host Errol Louis's refusal to take the bait when Atlantic Yards terrorism hawk "Alan from Brooklyn" called in during a segment on the NYPD's recently issued report on homegrown terror threats.

Sure, the show wasn't focused on Atlantic Yards, but there are concerns about terrorism at the planned project. AY critics have questioned how much preparation there has been to protect against terrorism; indeed, the Empire State Development Corporation, in its response to the AY environmental lawsuit, has acknowledged that a review has been conducted, but has been unwilling to make details available.

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Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

Stadtmauer Bailkin, Bruce Ratner, and the web of subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder finds yet another revolving door, this one connecting Bruce Ratner, MetroTech, the law firm at which Bruce learned the fine art of the questionable subsidy, and that firm's work in securing a hefty chunk of public money for the new Yankee Stadium's parking garages.

The package of subsidies that have been pledged for Atlantic Yards are part of a pattern in large projects. A law firm specializing in wrangling such subsidies was where Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner got some key experience. And now that firm's behavior in a Yankee Stadium deal has been questioned.

Consider Metro's report July 30 on the questionable deal for parking garages at Yankee Stadium, and the web of insider connections:
At a Community Board 4 meeting last month, attorney Steven Polivy took credit for putting together the “private-public partnership.” Polivy works for Stadtmauer Bailkin LLP, which specializes in securing government subsidies for corporate clients. CIDC’s president, William Lowenstein, has had a long relationship with the firm.

That’s one of many backroom connections listed in a new report by watchdog group Good Jobs New York.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

SAVE THE DATE (AND BROOKLYN)
WALK DON'T DESTROY: The Sequel

walk.jpg Though it hasn't been officially announced, a date has been set for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's next Walkathon:

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14
[Details and location TBA]

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent out a call for volunteers for some of the planning work. Contact walkathon@developdontdestroy.org if you are interested.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

City announces RFP to destroy Duffield Abolitionist homes

Duffield St. Underground

DuffieldStHouse-GL.jpgThe latest news from Brooklyn's other land grab is that the City has put out an RFP for the parking garage with which it wants to replace the historic Duffield Street houses it plans to demolish:

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle today published "City Seeks Developer for Downtown Park, Garage", which starts:

The city officially began seeking a developer for the “Willoughby Square” park and underground garage on Monday, the same day Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $2 million project to commemorate abolitionist activity in Downtown Brooklyn.

The Abolitionist homes and the potential Underground Railroad sites would be destroyed in order to create a parking lot and grassy knoll. The project would also require the use of eminent domain to confiscate the properties, since the owners do not want to sell. The owners want to create an Abolitionist museum on the site. The article notes that HPD's decision on the Duffield homes is due next week....

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NoLandGrab: It did seem odd that the Mayor announced plans to provide $2 million for the commemoration of abolitionist history, in the middle of the summer, out of the blue. In light of the RFP, it's a reasonable conclusion that the City is trying to throw money at the problem, like it's a PR nuisance.

Demolishing historic homes, wiping away abolitionist history and destroying one of the last vestiges of the Brooklyn Underground Railroad are exactly that — doing it via eminent domain is not only unseemly, but immoral. No amount of money is going to make the real issues go away, though it might buy some loyalty along the way.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

"Brooklyn Matters" at Monkey Town

BrooklynMattersPost-sm.jpg Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Make your reservations for a special screening of "Brooklyn Matters" at Williamsburg's well-reviewed Monkey Town restaurant, bar, video, art, performance space.

"Brooklyn Matters" is Isabel Hill's well-reviewed documentary on the political struggle around the Atlantic Yards project.

August 19th. 8:30pm
"Brooklyn Matters" Screening at Monkey Town Bar and Restaurant
Admission: Free, $10 food/drink minimum
Reservations are recommended.

58 N 3rd St (btw. Kent & Wythe)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

link

Posted by amy at 5:40 AM

August 16, 2007

Atlantic Yards Demolitions, After a Fashion

Demo-graphics from Brownstoner:

The building that used to house the JRG Fashion Café at the corner of Flatbush and Pacific avenues has mostly succumbed to the Atlantic Yards wrecking ball... Before closing at 177 Flatbush earlier this year, the Caribbean-themed JRG struck a deal with Forest City Ratner to serve food and drinks at the future Nets Arena.

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Posted by lumi at 2:40 PM

The ESDC is not "hands-off" nor not "not hands-on"

A clarification from the ESDC press secretary Errol Cockfield in response to yesterday's NY Observer article, which stated ESDC Downstate Chairperson Patrick Foye "has not taken as hands-on an approach with the Brooklyn complex as he has with Javits and Moynihan", and NoLandGrab's lead-in, which quipped that Foye "explains why he's been pretty hands-off:"

ESDC Chairman Pat Foye never told the New York Observer that he was taking a hands-off approach to the Atlantic Yards project. The paper is running a clarification in its next edition.

ESDC has been thoroughly engaged with the community on this project. Our representatives have met with elected officials, community leaders, and even project opponents.

What Foye sought to convey to the Observer is that unlike the government-led projects our agency is shaping right now, Atlantic Yards was approved before this administration and is led by a private developer in partnership with government actors. Despite that distinction, ESDC - under its new leadership - has and is taking steps to closely monitor the project and address community concerns as it gets built.

SNARK ALERT!
In a nutshell: It's not our fault, we're just "government actors." Blame it on Pataki and that "private developer." Nevertheless, our job is to make sure that the project is monitored while it's built.

Posted by lumi at 1:17 PM

DÉJÂ VU-LURP: an August hearing, astroturf, the race card and eminent domain for private gain

ColumbiaULURP-NLG.jpg Last night's Manhattan Community Board 9 ULURP Committee hearing on Columbia University’s proposed West Harlem expansion was a virtual replay of last year's ESDC hearing on Atlantic Yards: a different day, and a different developer, perhaps, but the same tensions running high (and frequently boiling over). Some of the fault lines, however, were drawn a little differently.

Like last year's Atlantic Yards hearing, the Columbia expansion hearing was held smack in the middle of August. Columbia University borrowed several pages from the developers' playbook, busing in an astroturf group to support the project, handing out slick four-color brochures, and the appearance of supporting construction trade unions. Over a hundred community members had to stand in line, of course, waiting for the astroturfers and local elected officials to leave and make room for many who wanted to speak or view the presentation.

I was one of those people who arrived on time, but too late to get in. [Norman Oder did get in; here’s his report on the first hour.] After three-plus years of Atlantic Yards, I feel like a veteran of these things, so I hunkered down for a long night. Though I went to West Harlem to deliver testimony on eminent domain abuse in NYC, I switched hats and started interviewing others waiting to get in. The following is a sampling from my conversations, and my observations.

Hearing organizers repeatedly told a crowd of nearly 200 people waiting to get in that they didn't anticipate the turnout, which rang hollow, since political theatrics between deep-pocketed developers and the community have been staged at nearly every recent controversial land-use hearing.

Among those in line were about 40 people from the tenants' rights organization Mirabal Sisters. The group is primarily concerned with displacement, both primary and secondary. Mirabal member Fausto Echauarria explained that secondary displacement is already happening, because "developers are coming to the neighborhood because of Columbia."

A "Junior Organizer" for the construction workers' union, Local 79, manned the sign-in sheet for members who showed up. The union's position is "for the project because we need work," though the organizer expressed sympathy for the community and stressed the jobs that would be going to residents. "When big projects come in we talk to community leaders; we have apprentice programs and train them for free."

The newbie astroturf organization is the Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville; the name is an apparent tweak to one of the groups spearheading the fight against the plan, the "Coalition to Preserve Community." Several community members waiting to get in recognized some of the men sporting stickers with the group's name as participants of a local drug-rehab program, Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC). A member of the group, who identified himself as Andrew from Newark, NJ, explained that the group founded by Reverend Reggie Williams supported a yes vote on the Columbia plan "with conditions."

A Community Board 9 resident from Hamilton Heights who came out to the hearing told me he recognized someone he knew to be homeless handing out flyers for the Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville. His concerns include the dangers of a Level 3 biotech facility - especially in a dense neighborhood, on a known fault line - and the importance of keeping the neighborhood working-class. Asked if he knew anyone who supported the plan, he thought for a moment, and said no.

By the time I got in an hour and a half after the hearing began, the room was packed, mainly with community groups who are against Columbia's expansion plan. The broad coalition that turned out to oppose the project is evidence that enduring animosity toward Columbia University runs much deeper than Brooklynites' persistent criticism of developer Bruce Ratner. Speakers supporting Columbia's expansion could hardly be heard over the chorus of boos. This was a reversal of roles from the Atlantic Yards hearing, at which project supporters were often as loud as, if not louder than, project opponents.

Several students spoke out very eloquently against the plan, including Laura Gabby, whom I had met outside while we waited in line. Gabby just completed her first year as a grad student in Columbia's School of Public Health. In her testimony, she cited the work of Dr. Mindy Fullilove, who has documented the effects of eminent domain in urban communities. Gabby has been active with the Columbia Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, an organization who are advocating for a plan that won't displace community residents.

Testimony continued past 10:30 p.m. Columbia President Lee Bollinger was in attendance most of the evening, listening to testimony from project opponents with a mostly stoic expression. Most of those who spoke in favor of the plan passed by the seated Bollinger to receive warm embraces or appreciative handshakes.

When the meeting wrapped up, the Community Board ULURP Committee voted 17-1 against the Columbia expansion plan. The actual resolution has been posted on the CB9 Chairperson's blog.

One thing was abundantly clear. No matter what Columbia University learned from the developers' PR playbook, their divide-and-conquer strategy has been deployed late in the game compared with Forest City Ratner's campaign in Brooklyn. Ratner played the race card more effectively at last summer's Atlantic Yards hearing. Then again, the lingering animosity between the community and Columbia and perennial charges against the school of racial insensitivity, are quite likely insurmountable at this stage, so the University's efforts might be better spent wooing politicians through the back door via consultants like Bill Lynch.

Posted by lumi at 12:33 PM

A Chat with Tracy Collins

Brit in Brooklyn interviews photographer Tracy Collins, who started photographing in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint and ended up publishing a book, which is for sale online with all profits going to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

TracyCollins-BIB.jpg

Q. How much did you know about Atlantic Yards when you came here?

A. Almost nothing. I heard rumours. After I bought my place, I thought it might be nice to walk to a pro basketball game, and to see something other than the rail yards: shops, restaurants, open space. So initially I was pro-Atlantic Yards. Once I learned more about what was actually planned, I felt it was way out of scale for the area. And I wasn't happy about the process in which it’s been pushed forward. I’m against the use of eminent domain.

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Posted by lumi at 10:39 AM

Testimony on Eminent Domain in NYC

NoLandGrab contributor Lumi Michelle Rolley attended last night's Manhattan Community Board 9 Land Use Committee hearing on the Columbia University 179c expansion plan to offer a citywide view of the increasing abuse of eminent domain.

The following is a draft of the testimony given:

NYC Urban planning in the 60’s and 70’s was characterized by large-scale public projects, where government swept away entire neighborhoods under the guise of slum clearance, only to build largely soulless public projects that rarely delivered on their utopian promises.

With the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, Columbia University’s expansion plan, and Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for Willets Point in Queens, today, our city stands at the threshold of another era in City Planning, again defined by the use of eminent domain for large scale projects – only this time we’re taking people’s property for private development.

Both of these eras have been defined by powerful interests promising incredible benefits. The fact of the matter is that these benefits never ever pan out.

And, don’t even try to tell us that Columbia University’s expansion is a public benefit – University officials have told that lie to anyone who will listen. Columbia University is a private institution, not a public use. Alongside those mandatory inflated jobs figures, this is one of the most enduring fallacies in their massive PR campaign

So one can say what they will about any of the arguments for the expansion, one thing is for certain, the taking of private property for a private institution is UN-CONSTITUTIONAL, UNFAIR and UN-AMERICAN. Our founding fathers created one of the most enduring public documents, the US Constitution, which derives its strength from safeguarding the rights of individuals from the whims and desires of the politically powerful.

A vote in support of Columbia’s expansion plan, a vote against the Constitution, is a vote against our individual rights, a vote against America, a vote against all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect this country and our way of life.

I see that Columbia has been very successful with rallying groups to their cause, but every individual in these groups, every individual, deep down in their heart, in this room knows that I am speaking the truth and that Columbia could propose a plan that wasn’t an assault on the community.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Today’s chapter in our city has yet to be written. We are on the verge of becoming a city where the politically powerful get to decide who gets to keeps their homes and businesses. If we go that route, then every home or property owner in any area that is about to be rezoned in NYC needs to watch out, they could be the next victim of eminent domain abuse.

On the other hand, we can define our era as the time when those who have invested their lives in this city to make it a better place to live and do business have a say in where this city is headed. You [community board members] represent those people and you must consider this project not only in the context of what works for West Harlem, but in consideration of where this city is headed and how we will be remembered.

Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

For Columbia expansion in W. Harlem, a tougher road harvesting community support

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder, who made it to last night's Manhattan Community Board 9 land-use committee hearing on the Columbia University expansion plan, draws some comparisons with Atlantic Yards. Though he admits that he can't cover the topic in his usual mad-overkilling style, he has a pretty damn good synopsis of the plan and the most controversial issues:

ColumbiaULURP-JB.jpg

There are some curious contrasts and commonalities between Columbia University’s proposed expansion and Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, and they became clearer last night at a raucous public hearing held by Manhattan Community Board 9 regarding a rezoning for Columbia’s project, which would mainly occupy an area bounded by Broadway and Riverside Drive between 129th Street and 133rd Street. (Photos by Jonathan Barkey)

I only spent an hour at the hearing, so, just as I’ve criticized the press for missing aspects of the Atlantic Yards story, I’ll admit I can’t yet do the Columbia controversy justice. I’m still reading about it all.

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NoLandGrab: Seeing how we were locked out of the hearing for an hour and a half, Norman witnessed nearly everything we missed, including David Dinkins getting booed by his base when he introduced Columbia President Lee Bollinger.

Posted by lumi at 10:04 AM

FCR Can't 'Ward' Off Fines

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Norman Oder's report of the Department of Buildings investigation into the Ward Barkery parapet collapse, the consequences and the future of the rest of the building:

The Department of Buildings (DOB) says Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and its contractor should have taken more care to avoid an alarming incident on April 26, when a 200-foot section of the parapet of the Ward Bakery in Prospect Heights collapsed, raining debris on Pacific Street, prompting the evacuation of a neighboring homeless shelter but not causing any injuries.

The contractor was using scrapers and electric chipping hammers to remove asbestos-containing materials as a prelude to demolition of the building for the Atlantic Yards Project. DOB's conclusions, in a report dated "July 2007," were first reported August 10 by the New York Daily News.
...
The DOB assigned violations to both Forest City Ratner and a subsidiary for "failure to maintain the exterior building wall" and to demolition contractor Gateway Demolition Corporation for "failure to safeguard persons and property during building work." Forest City Ratner spokesman Bruce Bender told the Daily News, "We believed at the time that all safety measures were being taken." A report commissioned earlier by the developer, conducted by Thornton Tomasetti, had indicated deterioration in the building. The maximum penalty per violation is typically a $2,500 fine, to be determined by the Environmental Control Board.
...
There are no plans to preserve the bakery as of now. According to a statement issued Monday by the Empire State Development Corporation, "The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets at 800 Pacific Street will continue for the next three to four weeks. Once this work is completed, demolition of the rest of the building will commence."

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Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

Pacific Street Symbols

Brit in Brooklyn SidewalkArt.jpg

Anyone care to translate?

Post your comments here.

NoLandGrab: During our current redevelopment frenzy, similar surveyor/utility markings can be found all over Brooklyn. It would be cool if someone who understands these cryptic numbers and symbols could read them for the uninitiated.

In case anyone thinks Atlantic Yards critics have lost their sense of humor, one reader anony-mouse-ly posted:

It's an anagram of 421 as in 421a, as in the bill with the tax giveaway to Ratner. It's a subtle protest of the bill by surveyors.

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Oversight? BrooklynSpeaks Doesn't See Any

Brooklyn Downtown Star

If the State and developer Bruce Ratner overlook oversight, what's a "mend it don't end it" coalition to do?

An odd thing about Atlantic Yards, according to a growing number of critics, is that there's no governance structure for the Prospect Heights project, which could take at least ten and possibly 20 years to build. After all, developments like Battery Park City and Riverside South, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Queens West, have been managed by governmental subsidiaries that incorporate local input.

"Is this something radical?" asked Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council at a press conference last week. "The answer to that question is no. In, fact, what's unusual is that Atlantic Yards does not have this structure. Is it too late? This project will likely be redesigned several times."

The press conference was sponsored by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has taken a "mend it don't end it" posture toward Atlantic Yards, and gained the support of several elected officials representing areas around the project footprint. They believe that the project, slated to include a basketball arena and 16 towers over 22 acres, should have a new Planning and Oversight entity, incorporating government agency representatives and local elected officials to oversee implementation of the project, including future changes. They also recommend a Stakeholder Council involving local groups, both supporters and opponents, to play an advisory role.

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Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

MartyHead01.jpgClinton Hill Blog, Me and the Markowitz
"Lesterhead" stumbled on a street fair with lots of people and food, so it was really random that she ran into Borough President Marty Markowtiz.

NoLandGrab: Lucky for Lesterhead that Marty didn't know her true feelings about Atlantic Yards, since he's been a little thin-skinned as of late on the topic.

Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, Congestion Pricing CA$H

Atlantic Yards is the posterchild for ramming programs and projects down the community's throat:

You heard it hear weeks ago. Missing the "deadline" for federal congestion pricing money did not cost us a cent.

It cost Bloomberg a little bit of ego. That is all.

I am hopeful that we will get a good plan out of this, and fairly certain it will be a better plan than the one Bloomie tried to ram down our collective throat, a la Atlantic Yards.

not another fcking blog!, hello, brit in brooklyn reader
Tracy Collins welcomes *Brit in Brooklyn
readers and recounts the day they first met:

my first encounter with Adrian (BIB blogger) was a random meeting on the corner of carlton avenue and dean street, while we were both out taking photos of the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development. we'd known of each other via "the internets", but had never met face-to-face. he's a nice chap. someone should interview him someday. i'm betting he has more than a few interesting tales to tell.

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Daddy’s girl

ArabianBusiness.com

TheTrumps.jpgA profile of The Apprentice star who was once an apprentice herself:

Ivanka joined her dad's Trump Organisation in 2005 after working for a year as a project manager in the US$1.1bn retail development division of Forest City Ratner Companies in Westchester, New York. That year was crucial to her career as she gained valuable work experience before jumping into Trump territory. She coordinated tenants and learned about the day-to-day travails of the real estate business through developer Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

Which City Is the Bloggiest of Them All?

readexpress.com

Who's the second most bloggiest and who cares?

SHAW IS NOT the nation's second bloggiest neighborhood, despite prior reports to the contrary. But Washington is the nation's fourth bloggiest metropolitan area, with Boston coming in at No. 1, followed by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Maybe.

How exactly do you determine the "blogginess" of an area? Well, "[i]t's all empirical science, really," blogging entrepreneur Steven Berlin Johnson said to a room full of giddy Brooklyn bloggers at the blog-heavy borough's second-ever blogfest. (How many times can you use "blog" in a sentence? That many.)

Johnson, whose OutsideIn.com has been trying to make sense of location-centric blogging, recently came out with rankings of the nation's bloggiest cities, following up a similar study of the nation's most blog-heavy neighborhoods.
...
But at the May 10 Brooklyn blogger gathering, Johnson, a Bethesda native and author of "Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate" and "Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software," admitted that his results weren't always entirely scientific. For example, D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, ranked as the nation's second-bloggiest neighborhood, really came in behind Brooklyn's blog-heavy neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Gowanus, Park Slope and Clinton Hill, which ranked No. 1.

So why alter the results?

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Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

August 15, 2007

In eminent domain case appeal, plaintiffs say AY sequence violates Kelo case

Atlantic Yards Report

In case you haven't had a chance to read the brief filed in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal eminent domain case, Norman Oder posted his "Cliff Notes" today:

CliffNotes-DDDB.gif

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis was emphatic in his June 6 dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case. But the case is hardly dead, and the plaintiffs have fought back with a blistering appellate brief that, while it doesn’t fully refute Garaufis’s analysis, argues that he ignored a host of other factors, notably the sequence endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London decision.

Garaufis said, essentially, that, the plaintiffs—originally 13 tenants and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint—erred in alleging that the benefits were a pretext. (A 14th plaintiff was added as Garaufis combined a second case.)

"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.”

I thought Garaufis’s analysis was flawed regarding three of four counts, since he missed nuances and details in the plaintiffs’ argument. But the appellate brief, a prelude to an exchange of at least two more legal briefs before an October 9 oral argument, has bigger fish to fry.

The brief focuses on what the plaintiffs argue is the appropriate sequencing for the exercise of eminent domain, as affirmed in Kelo. In other words, even though the case has led to a backlash in some state legislatures and has emerged as a presidential campaign issue, the plaintiffs are arguing not that Kelo should be overruled, but merely should be adhered to.

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Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Atlantic Yards: Demolition Update

Brit in Brooklyn

177Flatbush-BIB.jpg From the Atlantic Yards Construction Demolition Update:

Demolition is underway at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5); 177 Flatbush Avenue will likely be completed within this period.

link

Click here for a pre-demolition photo.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Easy Does It for Pat Foye

Spitzer’s downstate chair of the Empire State Development Corporation is taking his time on the likes of Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards. And, please, call him ‘Pat’

The NY Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Foye-NYO.jpgGovernor Spitzer's appointee for Downstate Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation explains why he's been pretty hands-off with Atlantic Yards and what's in store for the "Atlantic Yards Community":

THE ONE PROJECT THAT HAS NOT received the Foye treatment is the one that a sizable percentage of New Yorkers would like to see seriously gut-renovated: Atlantic Yards. Mr. Foye has previously explained to reporters that he has not taken as hands-on an approach with the Brooklyn complex as he has with Javits and Moynihan because it is further along, and because it is more of a development by Forest City Ratner Companies than by the state.

The project’s critics counter, however, that state and city taxpayers are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in direct grants and tax benefits. In addition, Empire State Development is trying to invoke eminent domain to take people’s property and will actually own the entire 22-acre footprint, leasing the parcels to Forest City for a few dollars, according to the General Project Plan approved in December.

Mr. Foye has proposed some oversight, especially after a parapet atop one building collapsed while asbestos workers were doing preparatory demolition work in April. However, of several oversight measures proposed in May, Mr. Foye acknowledges that only two have been undertaken so far. Empire State Development has met with public officials once in a group and seven other times with individual officials or community groups, according to the agency. Also, it has met twice with an “interagency working group.”

“They have been responsive to a certain degree, more responsive than the previous administration. That’s for sure,” said City Council Member Letitia James, an Atlantic Yards opponent. “They give the appearance that they want to address [our] concerns but there has been no follow-up.”

Mr. Foye said it is a “short-term priority” to determine whether to request formal bids for an “owner’s rep,” a firm that would represent the state on construction matters. As for an ombudsman to hear community complaints about the construction, he expects to hire one by the end of September.

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NoLandGrab: From the outside looking in, it's really hard to tell if any of these changes have made a difference. Sure, it's nice to get a heads-up when your neighborhood is about to be steamrolled.

UPDATE:
The following clarification was issued by The NY Observer.
CLARIFICATION:
An article in the Aug. 20 Observer stated that Patrick Foye, downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, said he “has not taken as hands-on an approach” with Atlantic Yards as with the Javits Convention Center and Moynihan Station projects. Mr. Foye has said that he has taken a different approach, as explained elsewhere in the article, but has not characterized it as any less vigorous.

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

TV LAND: real estate developers don't get no respect

Television.jpg This season, actor Matthew Modine joins the cast of the Showtime series, "Weeds," playing Sullivan Groff, a slimy real estate developer — more evidence that "real estate developers" have joined "lawyers" and "used-car salesmen" on the low end of the ethical scale.

Last season, in two separate episodes of CBS's crime drama "CSI Miami," the sexiest crime lab on TV solved the murders of a greedy real estate developer and a city councilman who was backing a plan to use eminent domain.

While the war in Iraq and the latest Bush administration woes continue to dominate the headlines, one story that is bubbling under is that most Americans think that eminent domain for private gain is unfair and that there is an unseemly relationship between real estate developers and our elected officals.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Urban Planning Fan Kent Barwick Channels Jane Jacobs

Kent Barwick will step down next year as president of the Municipal Art Society. But he’s got ideas now about Atlantic Yards, Moynihan Station, the Chelsea Hotel and what could’ve been had Mae West visited the Pussycat Lounge

Barwick-NYO.jpgThe NY Observer
By Chris Shott

Outgoing head of the Municipal Art Society, Kent Barwick, shares his thoughts on Frank Gehry and Atlantic Yards:

Last week, you joined several Brooklyn officials in calling for a new government entity to oversee the planned mega-development at Atlantic Yards. MAS obviously advocates for “excellence in urban design.” What do you have against Frank Gehry?

The sketches I’ve seen for the arena and the interior of the arena, I think that they’ll look striking. I think Ms. Brooklyn is out of scale, unnecessarily, and the way that that collection of buildings is massed, that it needlessly cuts off a significant vista. You know, most of that section of Brooklyn is used to seeing the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

Atlantic Yards was conceived only from the point of view of the needs of the developer. Frank Gehry is a fine architect. Given the right set of directions and constraints, I think he probably could’ve delivered a great project. That may still happen.

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Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

The AY template and its spawn, in Williamsburg, W. Harlem, and Coney

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards may seem sui generis, but themes and tactics from Forest City Ratner's megaproject have surfaced in other controversial developments. Just this week, three examples have come under discussion.

OK, the first two are no brainers (slick promotional flier and enlisting local grassroots organizations), but who knew that every developer needs a drum line?

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NoLandGrab: Before you know it, Robert Scarano will be "thrilled" to send kids to camp and Shaya Boymelgreen will be learning all that he "can about perinatal health."

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

SHOWDOWN on AUGUST 15TH WITH HARLEM'S BLACK POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT

HARLEM Emergency Community Call
(West Harlem, Central Harlem, East Harlem & Northern Manhattan)
Your testimony is needed to Stop Columbia University's 35 acres land grab in West Harlem)

Community Board #9 Public Hearing on
"Columbia University's application to rezone 35 acres of West Harlem"
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
6:30 PM
Manhattanville Community Center
530 West 133rd Street (Between Broadway & Amsterdam)

Community Board 9 Manhattan is holding a public hearing prior to their vote on Columbia University's application to rezone 35 acres of West Harlem as a preliminary step to a $7 billion thirty-year expansion which seeks to forcibly remove longtime residents and businesses (some through the use of eminent domain), build a 7-story underground "bathtub" basement in a seismic and flood zone, demolish historic buildings, and build a biohazard Level 3 laboratory in an area with sorely taxed infrastructure and environment. Most important, this plan will obliterate one of the most economically and racially diverse neighborhoods in New York City.

Harlem's political highroller Bill Lynch who also doubles as one of the Vice Chairs of the National Democratic Committee was hired by Columbia University, the City's third largest landlord, at the tune of $40,000 a month to build Black community support for this land grab expansion. Lynch is expected to parade his "coalition" of community supporters for Columbia University at the Wednesday, August 15th public Hearing. Already, former Mayor David Dinkins (now teaching at Columbia along with Lt. Governor David Paterson) and New York State NAACP's head Hazel Dukes have publicly supported the expansion plan. However, these same voices are conveniently silent about the displacement and forcing out of local Black businesses and low income tenants throughout Harlem, and in particularly Central Harlem.

These same voices were also shockingly muted on the revelation that Columbia University Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Unit since the late nineteen eighties conducted over two hundred clinical trials involving thousands of foster children and infants, virtually all Black and Latino at Washington Heights' Incarnation Children Center even though federal guidelines require researchers and their oversight boards to appoint independent advocates for any foster child enrolled in a narrow class of studies that involved greater than minimal risk. Displaying the same culture of arrogance as the University's land grab, a rep for Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center said, "Our position is that advocates weren't needed". In test studies at least 10 children were reported to have died.

The drug experiments were sponsored in conjunction with pharmaceuticals companies such as GlaxoSmithKline whose annual worldwide market for AIDS medications was estimated at. $5 billion in 2002. For sure, Columbia University's expansion is about business and making money on patents from its bio-research, including the AIDS experiment on Black and Latino children. In 2006 alone Columbia pulled in $230 million on patents and royalties, the top earner of licensing revenue among American universities.

Democratic party operative Bill Lynch is pumping the hype that Columbia university's expansion will bring jobs and prosperity to West Harlem, even though for decades the university has consistently failed to implement a comprehensive community employment program for its lucrative real estate empire. And clearly within this current expansion scheme community residents will receive only low wage jobs, mostly as day laborers. Columbia's contempt for the Harlem community is best illustrated in their recent proposal to a group of Manhattanville public housing residents who were offered "temporary" janitorial jobs (a week or two) while the university's permanent janitorial staff was on summer vacation. One of the university's numerous recently hired Black staffers quipped, "There is no shame in being a janitor" for Columbia.

Columbia University's expansion cannot be viewed in isolation from the overall gentrification of Harlem, nor the influence it exerts within the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone through its former employee, Ken Knuckles, now the President and CEO of the UMEZ. Columbia has eyed Harlem's real estate for decades, the most memorable being their attempt to grab Morningside Park in 1968 and their success in capturing the Audubon Ballroom. Clearly their ultimate goal is to physically link their 116th Street campus along the West Harlem corridor up to 168th Street, made possible by the willing complicity of Harlem's political and civic establishment. The masses of Blacks, especially the poor and working classes, are exacerbated, angry, demoralized and put off with the political leadership in Harlem and frankly, throughout the city with few exceptions. The people understand fundamentally that there is no political will from elected officials to provide a viable alternative to the powers-that-be including Columbia University’s land grab that will permanently alter the ethnic, socio-economic and political demographics of West Harlem, and by extension the greater community of Harlem. We desperately need the support of residents, not-for-profit groups, civic and ecumenical leaders to speak out against this overt travesty that seeks to put a " It's For Your Own Good Black spin" on Columbia's expansion that will ultimately drive out poor and working class Blacks and Latinos.

Please come early and sign up to speak (3 minutes maximum) about how this kind of university expansion destroys neighborhoods across the city.

Wednesday, August 15 at the Manhattanville Community Center, 530 West 133rd Street, Manhattan, between Broadway and Amsterdam.

The hearing starts at 6:30 pm but we expect Columbia to pack the place early, so come by 5:30 or 6:00.

For more information contact Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council at 212-234-5005 or harlemtenants@aol.com or nelliehester@yahoo.com. Pick up literature and get more information by attending the Townhall meeting of the Harlem Tenants Council on Tuesday, August 14th at St. Ambrose Church, 9 West 130th Street (between Fifth and Lenox Avenues) from 6 PM to 8 PM. Visit the website of stopcolumbia.org for additional information you might want to review for your three minute remarks.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

August 14, 2007

"Atlantic Yards Community"

AtlanticYardsCommunity.gifApparently we're not the only members of the "Atlantic Yards Community" who have no sense of humor about the "'Atlantic Yards' 'Community'" (grrrr!).

Calling it "as contrived and fantastical as much of the ESDC's Environmental Impact Statement was," Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net) sets the record straight:

There is no such thing as the "Atlantic Yards Community." One day there may be and one day there may not be. But for now we have the Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill communities (which surround the Vanderbilt Rail Yards) deeply concerned and overall opposed to the project, two lawsuits and some drawings by Frank Gehry. What we certainly don't have is an "Atlantic Yards Community." That fantastical construct is only represented by yet to be drawn up condo prospectuses and a housing lottery system.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM

CULTIVATE THE GRASSROOTS: A NEW DEVELOPMENT MODEL

Promises of affordable housing are leading to unexpected alliances in Brooklyn.

City Limits
By Curtis Stephen

Oy, who knew that three years into the Atlantic Yards controversy, we'd still be fact-checking lead sentences?:

As controversial and lawsuit-ridden as it may be, the proposed Atlantic Yards redevelopment program in downtown Brooklyn has one reliable reply to anyone who criticizes the project on the basis that it creates more rather than less inequality in the world – or at least in Brooklyn.

For the record: Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan isn't in "Downtown Brooklyn" despite what Ratner's web site says. Whatever Ratner spends on AtlanticYards.com is totally worth it just for perpetuating this myth alone.

The lead paragraph continues:

And that is: the solid backing of poor-people’s advocate ACORN. Now, at least two new development proposals in the borough are mirroring that developer-advocacy group relationship, some say, prompting debate over whether other private developers are taking a page from Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards playbook to win helpful grassroots support for their upscale residential ventures – or whether actively seeking that support may lead to genuine discussions that create greater community benefits than would have been generated otherwise.

Read about how developers are seeking to divide and conquer the community in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

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Atlantic Yards Report follows up ("City Limits sees AY housing echoes in New Domino plan; Yassky, DePaolo differ") on the City Limits article, reporting on City Councilmember David Yassky's defense of the New Domino plan.

Citing the provision of affordable housing, Yassky Friday submitted comments to the Department of City Planning (DCP) fully supporting the New Domino, which would bring some 2200 apartments, including two 30-story and 40-story towers each, to an 11.2-acre site on and near the Williamsburg waterfront.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

WEST HARLEM

Public Hearing for 197C; ULURP Committee vote on 197C Plan

Wednesday, August 15, 6:30PM
Manhattanville Community Center, 530 W. 133rd Street

This is a Manhattan Community Board 9 hearing on Columbia University's 197C expansion plan, where the State of NY is poised to use eminent domain to coerce property owners and tenants into selling or to force the sale of private property for the benefit of a private institution. If other universities in NYC co-exist with the surrounding communities, why must Columbia University maintain a contiguous enclave?

Show up at the hearing and speak out against eminent domain for private gain!

Meanwhile, The Real Estate Observer is reporting ("Columbia Goes Direct to the People") that Columbia University is taking a page from the Bruce Ratner Atlantic Yards playbook, with its own fancy four-color flyer.

Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman compares it to the legendary Atlantic Yards "Liar Flyer." He finds that Columbia makes a distinction between "college math and developer math," so Ratner keeps his Heavyweight Liar title.

More importantly, Columbia evinces an unusual honesty when it comes to the number of construction jobs that the Manhattanville expansion will create. Forest City advertised that its project would create 15,000 construction jobs, since it is industry practice to multiply the average number of construction workers expected to be on the job at any one time by the number of years the construction will last. Hence, (1,500 construction jobs) x (10 years) = 15,000 “construction jobs.” Columbia claims that during its expansion, there will be “1,200 construction jobs created each year for at least 22 years”—which, using industry math, the university could easily have inflated to 26,400 “construction jobs." But they didn't.

DUFFIELD ST. BROOKLYN
The big news on Duffield St. in Downtown Brooklyn is that the City is getting so much heat for trying to demolish historic homes that played a role in the Underground Railroad movement, that Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend $2 million to create a panel seeking to "commemorate abolitionist activity that occurred in Brooklyn in the 1800s."

Duffield Street Underground is covering all the action, including the press release and posts on the NY Observer and NY Times blogs:
A victory for Brooklyn or a new justification to demolish the Duffield Abolitionist homes?
Honoring Brooklyn's Role in Ending Slavery
Underground Railroad or Underground Rhetoric?

Suffice it to say, it would be a crying shame if the City managed to divide and conquer the local African American community on this issue, take the Duffield St. homes for Sam Chang's hotel parking garage and leave Brooklyn with a plaque and some kind words.

Press links:
Official Press Release (PDF)
The Real Estate Observer, Mayor Appeases on Underground Railroad Rancor
City Room, Honoring Brooklyn’s Role in Ending Slavery
NY Post, UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

Reforming the Governance of Atlantic Yards: Watch the press conference and read the report

From BrooklynSpeaks:

You can watch last Wednesday's press conference below and you can click here to read the report issued on that day by the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks.net. Click here to read the press release released on that day.


Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Somehow our repeated formal requests to be put on the list to receive "Construction Updates" must be getting lost in the mail. Since we are the information portal for the "Atlantic Yards Community," we thought it was the easiest way to reach most of the interested folks. Instead we gotta go fetch it from the ESDC's own wildly popular web site. [Can we possibly be more whiny?]

Here's the latest:

NYSLogo.gif

Weeks of August 13, 2007 – August 20, 2007

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.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Continue drilling Support of Excavation (SOE) mid-block piles in block 1121.
  • Mobilize to Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47); Install construction fence on Vanderbilt Avenue, partial closing of sidewalk will occur in connection with appropriate DOT permits. Partial removal of soil.
  • Test pile for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles.
  • Test pits on Pacific Street within the area which has already been closed pursuant to the Pacific Street Maintenance and Protection of Traffic Plan (MPT) on block 1121 to confirm location of existing street utilities proximate to layout of piles.
  • Grade South Lead Track for LIRR access to East Portal.
  • Continue soil excavation in block 1121 west to east.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.

Abatement and Demolition Work

All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30th.

  • The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) will continue for the next three-four weeks. Once this work is completed, demolition of the rest of the building will commence.
  • As an extra safety precaution, the sidewalk bridge at 800 Pacific Street has been extended by 10 feet in front of 603 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 76).
  • Demolition has commenced at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54), and is anticipated to be underway for the next two months.
  • Demolition is underway at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5); 177 Flatbush Avenue will likely be completed within this period.
  • Abatement is underway at 814 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 45), 818 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 46), and 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1127, lot 50).
  • Abatement will be underway at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54).
  • Clean-up of 622 Atlantic Avenue (block 1119, lot 1) will be completed.

Utility Work

The sidewalk shed constructed over a transit manhole in the sidewalk on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will remain in place to prepare the manhole for cable insulation, abatement and reconstruction as part of the private utility/transit relocation work required to accommodate new sewer infrastructure. This work will continue through August.

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

August 13, 2007

Dailies fall down on Ward Bakery incident follow-up

Atlantic Yards Report

MediaScale.jpgNorman Oder reviews who covered the Department of Buildings' Ward Bakery Parapet Collapse report and, just as importantly, who didn't:

The news that the Department of Buildings (DoB) had investigated the collapse of the Ward Bakery parapet on April 26 and issued violations was a scoop last Friday for the Daily News; I quickly followed up.

But where's the rest of the press? Why was it news for one publication and not another? After all, the initial incident was covered by the Times, the Daily News, the Post, NY Newsday/AM NY, Metro, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and a gamut of weeklies and blogs. Oddly enough, the New York Sun missed the story.

How does one explain the media's silence when they get scooped (which primarily benefits the developer)?

“News organizations are habitually slow at responding to stories broken elsewhere,” Mr. Keller said.“The easy explanation, and one that contains a good measure of truth, is pride,” he acknowledged. "Reporters (and editors) don’t enjoy being beaten.”

...“But it’s not just pride,” Mr. Keller stressed in his e-mail. There is, I agree, the nagging and legitimate question of how much a competitor’s sensitive scoop can be trusted...

In this case, the competitor's scoop was easily verifiable; while the DOB did not issue its report as a press release--which might have led to a round of simultaneous reportage--it was readily available on request after the publication of the Daily News article.

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Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

Contractor waits to regain permit to use dynamite on Yonkers project

The Journal News
By Will David

A demolition accident at Forest City's other local controversial mega project temporarily halts blasting:

A construction company was expected to regain its permit and resume blasting as early as today after it was pulled by the Yonkers Fire Department in the wake of a blasting accident.

"They are going to do things a little differently," said Yonkers Assistant Fire Chief John Flynn.

A worker was injured and several cars were damaged in the accident at the site of the Ridge Hill development.

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Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

Engineering Report Wards Bakery Parapet Collapse 800 Pacific Street, Brooklyn

NYC Department of Buildings report includes construction history, photos an informative drawing (click to enlarge).

As part of the extensive Atlantic Yards Redevelopment, 800 Pacific St., a vacant and deteriorated warehouse, is planned to be demolished to grade. At the time of the April 26, 2007 collapse, a specialty contractor was removing asbestos-laden material that had been applied many years previously to the interior face of the parapets and roofing surfaces. Work was 90% complete on the Pacific Street side of the complex and involved removal of cementitious and tar coatings from the interior side of the 7’ high brick parapets using scrapers and light duty electric chipping hammers when 200’ of the Pacific Street parapet fell +/- 55’ to grade.

While no one was killed or even injured, the risk to the public from such a collapse prompted the Department of Buildings to undertake an inquiry into the cause of the collapse. The task was led by the Department of Building’s Forensic Engineering Unit.

The Forensic Engineering Unit has concluded that the parapet collapse was caused by structural deterioration from years of water infiltration into the steel support system on which the parapet was constructed. Forest City Ratner had been apprised of the deterioration of the façade and the parapet, but the extent of the deterioration and the risk of collapse had apparently not been communicated to the crew that had been assigned the task of removing tar and asbestos coatings from the rear of the parapet. As a result of the deteriorated conditions, even the relatively passive construction activities involved in removing the coatings precipitated the collapse of the terracotta tiles and the bricks on which they were mounted.

Click here to download report (1MB PDF).

Posted by amy at 8:35 AM

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs): Look who just caught on

The big story last week was the flooding of the NYC subway system, which highlighted NYC's problem with Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).

"Downstream" critics of Atlantic Yards, primarily in the Gowanus Canal area, have been trying to get the story out to the press and politicians that the already-taxed system will hardly be able to accommodate new residential contruction underway, much less 18,000 new residents at Atlantic Yards. Bruce Ratner's plan is to hold Atlantic Yards storm-water runoff in on-site tanks to be drained when the system can handle the excess water, but that only addresses Atlantic Yards' water runoff, not the higher sewage concentration that will inevitably back up into downstream homes and be released into the Gowanus Canal.

Local media highlight the problem with CSOs:
The NY Times, When It Rains, Sewage Often Pours Into Harbor

Gothamist, The Depressing Truth About NYC's Sewers

WNYC, Flooded Subways Reveal Sewer "Crisis"
Jarrett Murphy, the Investigations Editor for City Limits Magazine, who co-authored a report on what he calls the city's silent sewage crisis, speaks with WNYC’s All Things Considered host Amy Eddings.

Last week, an NYU online publication reported on how Atlantic Yards may push the local sewer system over the edge: Scienceline, Too Big for Its Britches.

Sewage runoff into the Gowanus is only part of the problem. During a heavy soaking downpour, many area residents face sewage backup into their OWN HOMES. Last year, a local Atlantic Yards critic and political blogger explained how 18K new residents at Atlantic Yards and their sewage will impact those in the surrounding community. Unfortunately, every local resident expericencing problems has to implement an expensive fix that only makes things worse for the next guy: Daily Gotham, What Will Happen with Ratner's Raw Sewage?

Wednesday's flooding speaks to the larger problem of rampant large-scale development without attendant infrastructure improvements. Duffield St. Underground reminds readers that AKRF continues to profit from downplaying the impacts of large-scale development: Duffield St. Underground, Infrastructure breakdown- who profits?.

The Gowanus Canal area is not only downstream from several adjacent neighborhoods, but is also slated for a massive rezoning. Will the rezoning spur more residential development before the city finds a solution to this health and environmental problem?

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

August 12, 2007

Volleyball tournament returns; Barclays is on board

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Atlantic Yards Report

Last year, the inaugural AVP Brooklyn Open, the pro beach volleyball tour stop in Coney Island, was a "Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Event, in Partnership with Atlantic Yards." I noted that the AY promo was a little odd, since it hadn't been mentioned in the initial press release. And they're both part of Forest City Ratner.

This year it's just a "Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Event," according to a promo I received in the mail. Now that Atlantic Yards has been officially approved, does it no longer need the plug? Maybe not: a Forest City Ratner press release repeats the "partnership with Atlantic Yards" language.

Now the Barclays Center, announced in January, is a sponsor, as noted on the AVP event web site. Ever heard of Brooklyn Burger? Apparently there's no end to capitalizing on the Brooklyn connection. The tournament will be Aug. 23-26.

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Posted by amy at 9:02 AM

The Atlantic Yards Footprint

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Jeremiah's Vanishing New York takes a visit to the footprint - with photos.

Went out to Brooklyn today to visit the Atlantic Yards footprint, the area blighted by Bloomberg and handed to Ratner on a silver platter.

Had a beer at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the one-time speakeasy and Dodger-fan hangout, now a beloved dive bar fighting to survive demolition.

Enjoyed watching Donald O'Finn's video montage of Busby Berkeley girls and burlesque dancers over a cold pint, then headed out to tour the footprint.

The area is quiet, desolate. In one tenement window, a doomed woman dozed in front of her television. The lovely terracotta Atlantic Art Building looks empty; most, if not all, of the condo owners have already sold out to Ratner.

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Posted by amy at 8:47 AM

Why the rush to Manhattanize L.A.?

LA Times
Joel Kotkin

Why is this happening? One reason for the city's apparent lock-step march to Manhattanization is that big developers are increasingly dominating and politicizing land-use decisions, much as they do in New York City. The $4-billion "Atlantic Yards" project in New York is an example. The proposal would add about 6,500 mixed-income residential units to the generally low- and mid-rise environment of downtown Brooklyn, making population density in the area among the nation's highest. Despite intense grass-roots opposition, developer Bruce Ratner and his ally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have won at least $500 million in subsidies for the project.

"You can't stop [big developer] interests unless you have equally powerful interests on your side," said urban historian Fred Siegel.

Atlantic Yards Report agrees with Siegel, but not with some of the article's descriptions:

Siegel's observation is appropriate; note that the West Side Stadium was opposed by both grassroots activists and the very self-interested Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden.

As for "the generally low- and mid-rise environment of downtown Brooklyn," that would be a better description of Prospect Heights, where most of Atlantic Yards would be located, and nearby Fort Greene. Downtown Brooklyn, especially given the recent rezoning, is a more mixed environment, with an increasing number of high rises.

As for the subsidies, the direct subsidies, as of now, would be $305 million from the city and state, plus a significant number of indirect subsidies and public costs. To reach $500 million, perhaps Kotkin was counting the estimated $200 million in subsidies from the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the 421-a revision.

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Posted by amy at 8:02 AM

Coalition Seeks More Community Input Into Atlantic Yards Process

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Raanan Geberer

Now, a coalition group known as BrooklynSpeaks has called for a major restructuring of the oversight process for the project. BrooklynSpeaks is sponsored by a host of community-related organizations including the Municipal Art Society, the Pratt Area Community Council, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Boerum Hill Association and others.

At Borough Hall yesterday, representatives of the group represented the proposed change with a drawing. The current process shows Forest City at the center, with input from the Community Benefit Association (CBA) groups, the state’s Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) and (in an unofficial capacity) the city.

What BrooklynSpeaks would like to see is a “Stakeholder Council” with input from local elected officials, community boards, community groups, CBA groups and local elected officials. The council would provide input to a “Project Oversight Entity,” with additional input from the ESDC and the city, which in turn would give input to Forest City.

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Posted by amy at 7:58 AM

August 11, 2007

Cut Out the Ratner Carve-Out

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Tell Governor Spitzer that the 421-a "Carve-out" for "Atlantic Yards" is Wrong!

Controversy has surrounded the New York State Legislature's 421-a "reform" bill since Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez inserted a special "carve out" bestowing exclusive tax benefits on Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project.

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez lambasted the backroom deal in a column entitled "A deal so sweet it's sick." State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries called the special clause "economic segregation." Staunch "Atlantic Yards" supporter Bertha Lewis called the carve-out "bad public policy." And Mayor Bloomberg threatened to withhold more than $100 million in city subsidies for the project if the tax giveaway was not removed from the bill.

All that criticism, however, seems to have had little effect. The special treatment for "Atlantic Yards" persists in what several news organizations are calling the final version of the bill. If Governor Spitzer signs the bill into law, Forest City Ratner would receive an exclusive tax break worth some $200 million. Ratner would receive 421-a affordable-housing tax breaks for condo buildings that would contain no affordable units -- the only developer in New York to receive such a break under the tax law.

We call upon Governor Spitzer, who was elected overwhelmingly to office on the promise of reforming Albany, to veto the 421-a "reform" bill as long as it contains special, exclusive and indefensible anti-reform tax breaks for "Atlantic Yards."

Please contact Governor Spitzer today to urge him to reject the Legislature's 421-a bill until the Ratner carve-out is eliminated.

Write:
Honorable Governor Eliot Spitzer
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Call: 518-474-8390

Email: http://161.11.121.121/govemail

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Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

A closer look at the 421-a revision; can you figure it out?

421a1.JPG Atlantic Yards Report gets out the highlighter and attacks the 421-a tax exemption.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported, the city's party line:
As for Atlantic Yards, city officials said the new agreement represents a fair compromise. To receive the maximum tax break, 20 percent of the units in any building will have to meet the new affordability guidelines, which are more stringent than those that originally applied. And the lower-priced units will have to be built at the same time as the market-rate units, to insure that they are not put off until the end of construction or never completed.

This fails to explain that Forest City Ratner would still be eligible for a special tax break. It sets up a false comparison. Yes, the new law is more stringent than that "originally applied," but it would be more stringent for everyone, so that's not the point. The point is that the affordability guidelines would be different for Atlantic Yards. That's why it's still a "carve-out."

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Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Development of the 'New Brooklyn' Continues

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt writes about the 'New Brooklyn' of high rise buildings and that newcomers don't care about how dull the street their new building is on (he uses Lawrence Street as an example.) This is definitely true, but what Holt is missing is that the old-timers would not be mourning the loss of the old streets, but the loss of communities. Someone moving to a dull street who was lured in by a subzero fridge is not likely to participate in street level community activities, (as there probably are none) except for stopping by the closest Starbucks. This does not a 'neighborhood' make.

Some people have been moaning about the “Manhattanization” of Brooklyn, but that is an overblown concern, with one exception. The streets of Downtown Brooklyn to a newcomer don’t mean as much as they might to an old-timer.

To the newcomer, it’s not the street so much as what’s on it — what kind of apartment building with what kind of views.

This week, Linda Collins reported from a web site report that the Clarett group would build a 51-story apartment building on Lawrence Street in the MetroTech complex. This prompted some blogger to snort, “Who wants to live on Lawrence Street” Lawrence Street may not be factor at all — it’s what the new building looks like, how the living accommodations are created, what it’s close to, and what kind of views are there.

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Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: August 9, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mary Frost

New York City officials and state legislators have reached an agreement to overhaul a popular tax break for apartment building developers, the New York Times reports. The aim is to encourage the construction of tens of thousands of apartments for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. If Governor Spitzer agrees to the revised 421-a program, it will significantly expand the number of neighborhoods where developers will include apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants in exchange for tax breaks.

According to the Times, the version of the plan passed by the Legislature in late June expanded the number of neighborhoods where developers would be required to build lower-priced units to get the tax break. In addition, the Legislature’s bill gave an additional $300 million break to the Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project.

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Posted by amy at 10:11 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: August 10, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sarah Ryley

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner would only clear a 16 percent profit on its $4.2 billion arena and 16 high-rise development, which is less than the generally expected profit margin of 20 percent for residential developments, The Real Deal reports.

The Real Deal attributes the smaller returns Ratner and other developers are now seeing to the high cost of land, materials and labor, particularly as projects drag on due to “structural problems, bad weather or community opposition.”

Demand for housing has also slowed, said Abraham Hidary of Hidrock Realty, which recently completed a condo project in Kensington.

“Some developers estimate an 18-month turnaround, but it ends up taking two or three years,” he said. Then, as costs increase, “their profit margin erodes.”

The Real Deal does not note that Forest City Ratner would not be putting up the full $4.2 billion for the construction of Atlantic Yards.

The city and state have agreed to give the developer $305 million, in addition to roughly $2 billion in tax-exemptions and financing, so the developer's return would likely be higher than 16 percent.

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Posted by amy at 10:06 AM

August 10, 2007

Report: Ratner Negligent

In response to today's Daily News article about the results of the Deparment of Buildings' investigation into the Ward Bakery parapet collapse, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn offers a warning and a repeat of the plea for more oversight:

As we asked at the time of the collapse, when speculation by officials was that the heavy rain could have led to the collapse: why wasn't there any public protection if the building was in such a fragile state? Now watch as Forest City Ratner takes this report as an excuse to accelerate demolition of the building. The light fines they will receive, according to the article, are no obstacle at all for their harassment-by-demolition of adjoining property owners who don't wish to sell to Ratner under the threat of eminent domain.

Also, could there be a more clarion call than this report to say its high time that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) install the "Atlantic Yards ombudsman" they promised to install over 94 days ago? Because we don't think the community's safety should be solely in the hands of a company whose Public Relations Professional, Bruce Bender, tells us that Forest City Ratner "company officials would review the [DOB] report."

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Posted by lumi at 11:30 AM

DOB says Ratner should've anticipated Ward Bakery danger & also used shed; violations assigned

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews and reprints portions of the Deparment of Buildings report from the investigation into the collapse of the Ward Bakery building parapet in April:

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Forest City Ratner and its contractors should’ve been much more careful. That’s the conclusion of a report by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on the April 26 collapse of a 200-foot section of the parapet of the 100-year-old Ward Bakery on Pacific Street. The fallout was alarming, as the 55-foot drop spread terra cotta and rubble around a sidewalk not protected by a shed, but fortunately was not fatal.

DOB’s report, dated “July 2007,” first surfaced in a Daily News exclusive this morning, headlined Building's collapse no surprise: Ratner knew of damage to Ward building, but didn't halt demolition - report. (The headline is overstated, because it was the parapet, not the building that collapsed, and it was asbestos abatement rather than full-scale demolition.) The Daily News says the report was issued July 25.

The department’s Forensic Engineering Unit concluded that the parapet had suffered extensive structural deterioration:

Forest City Ratner had been apprised of the deterioration of the façade and the parapet, but the extent of the deterioration and the risk of collapse had apparently not been communicated to the crew that had been assigned the task of removing tar and asbestos coatings from the rear of the parapet. As a result of the deteriorated conditions, even the relatively passive construction activities involved in removing the coatings precipitated the collapse of the terracotta tiles and the bricks on which they were mounted.

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Posted by lumi at 11:18 AM

Forest City Ratner Helps Send 20 Brooklyn Children to Summer Environmental Camp

Brooklyn Daily Eagle reprints a Forest City Ratner press release (PDF), in which Bruce is "thrilled" and Delia Hunley-Adossa is "excited" and "enthusiatic:"

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Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) this week helped send 20 Brooklyn children to the YMCA’s Camp Bernie in Port Murray, N.J.

Forest City, along with its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partner, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience Inc. (BEE), have partnered with Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge Inc. (SCOPE), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children, to create the two-week camp experience. The company is helping to underwrite the program with a $10,000 donation to SCOPE.

“Summertime for kids can be an opportunity to not only get out and play, but also to learn and experience new things,” said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO. “We are thrilled to be working with SCOPE and BEE to help show these children a different environment where they will experience the important balance of educational and recreational activities.” ...
BEE is the Atlantic Yards CBA group over environmental assurances.

“We are excited that the young people we have recruited to participate will get an opportunity to learn about nature and the environment,” said Delia Hunley-Adossa, who heads up BEE, and also serves as chair of the CBA Executive Committee.

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NoLandGrab: While serious questions remain about Atlantic Yards environmental compliance, BEE is sending kids to summer camp, which is great and definitely fulfills item #10 in the group's vision statement, "Sponsorship for community youth." However, the group seems to be slacking on its remaining principles, which makes the busy BEEs vulnerable to the appearance that they might be a press relations tool for the developer.

Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

Building's collapse no surprise

Ratner knew of damage to Ward building, but didn't halt demolition - report

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Three months after the partial collapse of the Ward Baking Company building in Prospect Heights, engineers have determined the crash was due to nearly a century of water damage.

In a seven-page report issued July 25, the Buildings Department also laid blame on developer Forest City Ratner for not alerting a demolition crew to the extent of the damage.

"Forest City Ratner had been apprised of the deterioration of the facade and the parapet, but the extent of the deterioration and the risk of the collapse had apparently not been communicated to the crew that had been assigned the task of removing tar and asbestos," the report states.

Forest City and its subsidiary, Pacific Vanderbilt Development Co., were slapped with violations for failing to maintain an exterior building wall, and Gateway Demolition was hit for failing to protect its workers, a Buildings Department spokeswoman said.

Forest City also was cited for removing a sidewalk shed while locating a sewer line near the building and failing to replace it, the report states.
...
Forest City executive Bruce Bender did not say yesterday why the demolition crew had begun work despite its knowledge that the building was in poor condition, but he said company officials would review the report.

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NoLandGrab: The News reports that the report was issued more than two weeks ago, but Forest City Executive VP Bruce Bender assures the press and public that "company officials would review the report" — comforting. Bender doesn't even take it seriously enough to come up with his own version of "mistakes were made."

Posted by lumi at 10:35 AM

The Anti-Gehry?

Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader picks up where Norman Oder left off with Nicolai Ouroussoff's profile of Àlvaro Siza, which contrasted the Portuguese architect's work with that of Post-modern international starchitects like Frank Gehry. bilbao_town.jpg

Discussing a current museum project in Brazil, where Siza’s father was born, Ouroussoff writes “Ultimately the passageways are yet again a way of drawing out the time spent in thought, allowing us to absorb more fully what we have just experienced. In a way the are Mr. Siza’s rejoinder to the ruthless pace of globabl consumerism.” Generalizing, he continues, “In that respect the building echoes projects by a sprinkling of architects who are seemingly in revolt against he psychic damage wrought by a relentless barrage of marketing images.”

NoLandGrab: This highlighted passage brings to mind Gehry's plan to turn the façade, ceiling and floor of the arena into spectacular animated billboards.

Gehry’s Bilbao, and Atlantic Yards to an even greater degree, represent a return to the faith in technology in an encounter not with a benefactor’s faith in liberal democracy but in the financial derivative, speculative capital, the offshore tax shelter, the destabilized currency. It is not a faith in openness, nor does it value formal transparency as Modernist architecture did. Rather, it is a paranoid faith in cloistering, secrecy, and hidden economistic decision making. It is a belief that the opposition can be bought and that their social concerns have a price that can be calculated, and met, if not capitalized on as risk.

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Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

Mayor delivers for Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Mayor Bloomberg agreed this week to give Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a $200 million bonus.

The tax break is part of a package that purportedly seeks to cut back tax incentives to real estate developers in upscale areas and to encourage the construction of moderate income housing.

This week’s deal, involving Bloomberg and leaders of the state Assembly and Senate — promises to modify legislation passed in June that includes a $300 million bonus to Ratner, now reduced by one-third. The bonus is in the form of a Ratner-only “carve-out” in 421-a tax abatements.
...
The father of the bill, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick), declined to comment on the Atlantic Yards provision, hailing the larger bill as a long-awaited victory for low and moderate- income city residents.

“This is a compromise and a very good bill that will create affordable housing all across the city,” Lopez said.

Affordable housing advocates praised the bill. “It will create more affordable housing around the city,” said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council. As for Ratner, she said, “he got lucky.”

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NoLandGrab: Uh, we're not experts, but we're pretty sure it took more than luck for Ratner to get special treatment under the 421-a reform bill — we can't imagine Bloomie and Bruce settling the Atlantic Yards carveout with Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

Ratner robbed at Atlantic Yards

Headlining The Brooklyn Paper police blotter this week is the robbery at Atlantic Yards, which occurred sometime between "1:30 pm on Aug. 1 and 9 am on Aug. 3:"

One of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards construction sites was robbed of hundreds of dollars in equipment, cops said.

According to the police report, Forest City Ratner Companies said that unknown perps entered the construction site — on Pacific Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues — between 1:30 pm on Aug. 1 and 9 am on Aug. 3 and stole two $300 saws, two $300 drill sets, a $500 generator, and a $400 hammer.

It is unclear why no one apparently noticed the alleged crime for most of the day Wednesday and all of Thursday before it was reported to the 78th Precinct on Friday morning.

The company official who reported the alleged burglary told The Brooklyn Paper that he could not speak to the press about the reported incident.

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NoLandGrab: With the dozens of cameras located in the Atlantic Yards footprint, you'd think that the perps were caught on film or something. Or are the cameras meant to intimidate footprint property owners and pesky photogs?

We don't know what a "$400 hammer" is, but it sure hearkens back to the '70s and the $436 hammer from the Pentagon procurement scandal.

Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

Gehry, the Guardian and Atlantic Yards

Alongside this photo of current work in the Vanderbilt Railyard, Brit in Brooklyn featured yesterday's UK Guardian review of architect Frank Gehry's IAC building and hints of the reviewer's skepticism about Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: We have no clue exactly what they're building there, but it is amazingly Gehryesque.

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"Gehry has finally arrived in New York. But when Atlantic Yards is completed in 2017, will he wish he had never done so?"

NOTE: According to the construction timeline, Atlantic Yards, if built, will probably not be completed in 2017, since the project is already behind schedule.

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Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Lawrence St tower may top Williamsburgh Bank

The Brooklyn Paper

ClockTowerMeasure.gif Bruce Ratner was pressured to reduce the height of the Atlantic Yards' signature tower, inanely dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" by architect Frank Gehry, to maintain the height supremacy of the nearby Williamsburgh Clock Tower building. Is it only a matter of time before the Clock Tower is dwarfed by some other new highrise?

The Williamsburgh Bank Building’s iconic clocktower would no longer be the borough’s tallest structure, if a big-time development company has its way.

The Clarett Group, the firm behind the Forte condos in Fort Greene, submitted a proposal in June for a 51-story residential building at 111 Lawrence St., near the Metrotech campus Downtown.

The Buildings Department rejected the proposal and sent it back to the developer for revision.

But if the basic elements of the proposal remain intact, the 491-unit residential tower would rise 514 feet, two feet taller than the legendary Williamsburgh Bank Building.
...
In 2006, Brooklynites were similarly aghast to discover that Miss Brooklyn, the trophy skyscraper of the Frank Gehry-designed 16-tower-and-arena Atlantic Yards project, would rise to 620 feet and obscure views of the clocktower. Later that year, developer Forest City Ratner, agreed to lower its height to below 512 feet.

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NoLandGrab: There are two schools of thought regarding the preservation of the Clock Tower.

The "Don't Block the Clock" camp is primarily interested in preserving the "view corridor" — they were largely concerned about having the tallest building in Brooklyn a block away from the previously tallest building in Brooklyn.

The other school of thought goes one step further, in hopes of resisting the "Manhattanization" of Brooklyn and preserving its special character; the Clock Tower has become a symbol and measuring stick for high-rise proposals.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

GAVEL TO GAVEL: Never say condemn

Courier-Life Publications

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Although their lawsuit was thrown out of court months ago, members of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and other parties living in the footprint of Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) billion dollar Atlantic Yards Project are taking their fight “up the ladder.”

Opponents to the plan filed an appeal at the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals last week, claiming that Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis’ decision to throw out their lawsuit violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo vs. the City of New London, a watershed verdict claiming that eminent domain cannot be used to take an individual’s land for a private benefit.
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FCRC would not comment on the appeal.

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Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere81.gifGothamist, 421-a Bill Revised, Affordable Housing Hopes Revived

This explanation of the 421-a reform bill compromise relies on the Times coverage, which, unlike some of the other dailies, didn't grasp the full picture of the Atlantic Yards carveout. Gothamist reports:

As for affordable housing at the Atlantic Yards, the affordable units will have to be built at the same time as market rate ones, and 20% of any building must be affordable to get the full benefit from 421-a.

If Ratner chooses to construct some buildings without affordable housing, he wouldn't "get the full benefit from 421-a," but he would still receive a partial tax break, and the household income tweak for Atlantic Yards is still in the bill, which would make Ratner affordable housing more costly for those who might live there.

Brownstoner, Call for Formal Public Involvement in AY Planning
Coverage of the BrooklynSpeaks press conference:

“Impotence,” “minimum accountability” and “lack of oversight”: That’s how elected officials and local leaders who gathered for a press conference yesterday characterized public involvement—or the absence thereof—in the Atlantic Yards planning process. The meeting was organized by Brooklyn Speaks to call for the creation of governance bodies that would ensure community involvement in Atlantic Yards planning. Speakers including Councilwoman Letitia James, Democratic District Leader Jo Ann Simon, Assembly member Jim Brennan and Municipal Arts Society President Kent Barwick emphasized that Atlantic Yards has sailed through the state’s approval process without the formal public review normally granted to major developments. “Some of the most talented people on the planet live in Brooklyn,” said Barwick (at left), “and yet there’s no public involvement in its largest development.”

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR AWARD FOR THE BROOKLYN PAPER
Brooklyn blogger and columnist gives props to her home away from home:

Props to Ed and Celia Weintrob and everyone at the Brooklyn Paper for this distinction. The Suburban Newspapers of America cited general excellence but gave special praise to the paper for its coverage of the Atlantic Yards. I am looking forward to my drink with my esteemed editor, Gersh Kuntzman

Bridge and Tunnel Club, Bruce Ratner's So Loaded, He Leaves $400 Hammers Lying Around!
The Brooklyn Paper's police blotter has an item about a robbery at the Atlantic Yards construction site. Included in the booty was a $400 hammer. BTC notes, "When you start construction pre-emptively, there's always the danger that people will swipe stuff left unattended," and wonders, "What exactly does a $400 hammer do anyway?"

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

August 9, 2007

BrooklynSpeaks, pols propose new AY governance structure; ESDC wary

Atlantic Yards Report

AYGovernance.gifNorman Oder covers yesterday's announcement by Brooklyn Speaks, in which the coalition and local politicians called for increased community oversight of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan:

The BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has taken a “mend it don’t end it” posture toward Atlantic Yards and thus gained the support of several local elected officials, yesterday proposed a new governance structure for the project, which, under the best scenario, could take a decade to be built, but might last 20 years, according to the project landscape architect.

The coalition, spearheaded by the Municipal Art Society along with several Brooklyn neighborhood groups, citywide groups, and even a couple of national ones, recommends that a Planning and Oversight entity, involving government agency representatives and local elected officials, be set up to oversee implementation of the project, including future changes. Also, a Stakeholder Council involving local groups would play an advisory role. (See diagrams from BrooklynSpeaks.)

However, there's no assurance that such a structure could actually impose changes (like a significant reduction in the project's size)--that would depend more on political forces--and the initial response from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), was lukewarm.
...
I couldn’t make the press conference—there were infrastructure issues with the subway after yesterday's storm—but did gather reactions from a variety of stakeholders.

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Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

POLS SEEKING SAY ON ARENA

NY Post
By Rich Calder

Saying the Atlantic Yards project lacks accountability, many Brooklyn politicians and civic groups want Gov. Spitzer to give the community significantly more input on the $4 billion project.

Councilwoman Letitia James and Assemblyman Jim Brennan were among local elected officials yesterday calling on the Empire State Development Corp. to create a new subsidiary corporation to directly oversee the state-approved NBA arena/residential complex.

The contingent said the new subsidiary's board should include community officials and leaders and that the ESDC should also devise "a stakeholder council" that would get project input from residents and report back to the new subsidiary.

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Posted by lumi at 10:01 AM

Jeffries offers measured criticism of "carve-out" compromise

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who two weeks ago called the original iteration of the “Atlantic Yards carve-out” “offensive,” yesterday offered measured criticism of the compromise that would give Forest City Ratner $150 million, or $200 million, of the $300 million bonus it had sought.
...
The original “carve-out” would’ve given four or five Atlantic Yards condo buildings the 25-year tax break with nothing in return—in effect, grandfathering in Atlantic Yards while treating other developments in Jeffries' Prospect Heights district (and beyond) differently. The “compromise” shortens the tax break to 15 years.

"While the modification of the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision is a step in the right direction, I remain concerned that this project is treated differently than any other in the city,” Jeffries said in a statement. “Given the need for increased affordable home ownership opportunities in our community, I will continue to push the developer to build at least twenty percent of the apartments in each on-site condominium building in a manner that is affordable to working families and moderate income households.” Two weeks ago, he had called it “economic segregation.”

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Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Meet Shaun Donovan, Affordable Housing’s Man of the Hour

The city’s commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development talks about the Bloomberg administration’s plans for 165,000 new affordable homes, its support of raising the threshold for rent-stabilized apartments—and its pull in Albany on housing issues

The NY Observer

Criticism of the "Atlantic Yards carveout," in Matthew Schuerman's Q&A interview with NYC Housing Preservation and Development head Shaun Donovan, which presumably was conducted before Tuesday's announcement of a deal:

ShaunDonovan-NYO.jpg

I understand you were unhappy with the state’s 421a tax abatement bill, which changed the popular development incentive. What are your concerns?

We are in continuing discussions over that. The concern, one of the concerns that we have about the bill that was passed, is that it removes all of our flexibility to do moderate-income projects. It would require that every single project that gets 421a benefits, within the exclusion zones, to have a low-income component; and while our focus has been on low-income, we also have a significantly expanded middle-class housing initiative. Queens West is one example.

We’re also concerned about the exclusion zones. The South Bronx, for example, is clearly not an area where we think it’s appropriate to expand the exclusion zone. And then, third, we’re concerned about the level of benefits that the bill would provide to a hand-picked group of developers—the Atlantic Yards provision, which, by our count, gives $300 million in tax benefits to Atlantic Yards.

Now, if we could solve the broader issue around middle-income housing, we could get to a solution that would reduce their benefits but also allow the project to proceed.

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Norman Oder comments on his Atlantic Yards Report blog:

That’s a bit of a non sequitur. Yes, some 900 of the 2250 subsidized Atlantic Yards units would be middle-income housing, for families of four earning from $70,900 (100% of Area Median Income, or AMI) to $113,440 (160% of AMI).

But Donovan sounds like he’s saying Atlantic Yards would’ve been stalled without the tax break. If that’s the argument, then: show us the numbers. He still hasn’t justified why Atlantic Yards would get special treatment.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

Brooklyn Paper is ‘Newspaper of the Year’

TheBrooklynPaper.jpgSuburban Newspapers of America bestowed its top honors to The Brooklyn Paper, citing the weekly paper's "aggressive, readable coverage of" Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

The Brooklyn Paper is a Suburban News­papers of America “Newspaper of the Year,” the group announced on Monday.

Finding that “The Brooklyn Paper was strongly and brightly written throughout,” SNA’s judges heaped special praise on the newspaper for its reporting on the Atlantic Yards mega-development.

“The Brooklyn Paper’s aggressive, read­able coverage of local developer Bruce Ratner stood out,” they wrote.
...
Publisher Ed Weintrob said he was particularly pleased that the judges singled out The Paper’s Atlantic Yards coverage for praise.

“This story — the biggest Brooklyn story in our lifetimes — is one we’ve stayed with over four years, despite strong commercial pressures to do otherwise, and despite appearing out on a limb, given the determination of other New York newspapers to either ignore it or misreport it.”

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NoLandGrab: If not for Publisher Ed Weintraub, Editor Gersh Kuntzman, the paper's staff reporters and their fearless coverage of Atlantic Yards, all of the developing news on Atlantic Yards would pretty much be limited to the Internet. Congrats to Brooklyn Paper — and thanks.

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

Press Release, Brooklyn Speaks: Brennan, Jeffries, Montgomery, Adams, James, Yassky and civic groups call for reform of Atlantic Yards governance

Responding to the continued lack of public accountability and involvement with the Atlantic Yards project, elected officials and civic groups today called on the State and the City to overhaul how the Atlantic Yards project is governed.

“One of the most alarming aspects of the Atlantic Yards process over the last few years has been Forest City's lack of accountability to the public,” said Brooklyn City Councilman David Yassky. “This must change. An appropriate governance structure should be put in place to actively monitor any developments in the Atlantic Yards Project.”

“We still have no real governance structure in place, no ombudsman, and no place for the community to voice their concerns,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “The 421-a tax abatement carve-out for the Ratner project is beyond unacceptable. It shows yet again that this project is not, and has never been, about the community benefits.”

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Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Forest City, GGP Form First-Time JV for MXD

Globe Street
By Connie Gore

Forest City is partnering with a local competitor in Texas to design and construct another mixed-use lifestyle center.

FRISCO, TX-Agreeing to partner for the first time, General Growth Properties Inc. and Forest City Enterprises Inc. have ended more than one year of competing against each other for retail tenants to anchor large-scale neighboring developments on the city's southern boundary. Roughly 400 acres will be combined to create a super-regional destination.

Neither powerhouse was available for an interview prior to deadline. A spokeswoman for Chicago-based General Growth says the mixed-use development's name has yet to be picked. And, she adds "it's too soon to say when ground will break."

John Gandy, president of the Frisco Economic Development Corp., tells GlobeSt.com that the city just recently learned that the competitors were planning to wed their sites at the intersection of US Hwy. 380 and the Dallas North Tollway. Both developers bought all or most of their dirt from the Mahard family of Frisco.

"Now that they've teamed up, it takes that competition out of the picture," Gandy points out. "I have to believe they think this is the best thing for them to do. It does make for what appears to be an incredible opportunity for two companies of this significance to team up and create a tremendous project."

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Press Release, via BusinessWire:

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Park Slope Porsche's Very Special Parking Placard

HelloDollyKitty.jpgGothamist has a cool suggestion in their follow-up of StreetsBlog's story on City Planning Commissioner and NJ Nets shareholder Dolly Williams' shameful use of her city-issued parking placard to illegally park at a hydrant two blocks from her home, where she has her own curbcut and parking space in the back lot:

Question: Will the city consider taking a cue from Thailand and make public officials who do shameful things wear Hello Kitty armbands?

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NoLandGrab: Somehow we don't see the flamboyant and shameless Dolly being put off by a Hello Kitty armband (photo rendering, NoLandGrab).

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Battle for the Big Apple

With this stunning, yacht-like bulding, Frank Gehry finally has a foothold in Manhattan. And now every other big name architect is hot on his heels. Ed Pilkington reports

The Guardian

A review of starchitect Frank Gehry's first effort in the Big Apple ends with nagging doubts about the controversial Atlantic Yards megalopolis.

Gehry-IAC-UKG.jpg

There is another, bigger gamble for Gehry on the New York horizon. Having just arrived here after so many years of struggle, the commissions are now pouring in. The next job is something of a folly: a state-of-the-art children's playground in Battery Park, the designs for which Gehry is donating as a way of thanking the city. But then comes Atlantic Yards. This gargantuan $4bn development in downtown Brooklyn has already invited a storm of protest from local residents, who dislike its high-rise nature. The project spans 22 acres and will include housing, offices, shops and a home for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

As the project's lead architect, Gehry is at the centre of the dispute. On the one hand, he is being tugged by a highly organised protest movement that has managed to whittle down some of the more ambitious elements of his design, if not kill it off altogether. On the other, he is having to please a famously hard-nosed developer, Bruce Ratner, who will only stomach so much risk-taking from an architect. It doesn't bode particularly well for the outcome that Gehry has christened the tallest building in the scheme, a 511ft tower of glass and metal, "Miss Brooklyn". He says it is his "ego trip".

It is a gamble indeed. Gehry has finally arrived in New York. But when Atlantic Yards is completed in 2017, will he wish he had never done so?

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NoLandGrab: Wonder if Gehry's "pro bono" work on the childrens' playground in Battery Park City helps dampen fears at the Department of City Planning of Atlantic Yards's urban planning nightmares.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

August 8, 2007

Ratner Clause is coming to town...

Yesterday afternoon's big news was delivered by Crain's NY Business reporter Erik Engquist:

The new agreement also does away with a controversial carve-out that would have allowed developer Forest City Ratner’s planned $4 billion Atlantic Yards project to qualify for 421-a abatements without integrating affordable and market-rate units. The abatements were estimated to be worth about $200 million.

RatGifts.jpgAU CONTRAIRE, MON FRÈRE! Before boasting of the death of the Ratner Clause, other media outlets are reporting differently:

Atlantic Yards Report, AY carve-out shrinks, value halved (?), in city-brokered 421-a reform

Forest City Ratner still gets a deal. Ten days ago, an FCR spokesman had declared a modified carve-out a done deal.
...
First, Forest City Ratner would still get its tax savings in most buildings without having to change the income mix, thanks to an upward tweak in the bill's definition of affordable housing.

And the developer would still get a tax break for the condo buildings without having to provide affordable housing. That's the premise of the current law, as applied to Prospect Heights, and certainly part of the developer's economic projections when Atlantic Yards was hatched. But no other similarly-situated developer, who planned a project but then saw the law come up for renewal and revision, would get the same deal.

Four or five AY buildings would contain only condos; the "carve-out," as with the current law, would have allowed them to qualify for a 25-year tax break even without including affordable housing. The compromise allows a 15-year tax break but would allow the 25-year tax break if those buildings included 20% affordable for-sale units--a provision that likely would be applied to at least one of those condo buildings.

NY Post, CITY OKS NEW RATNER DEAL

[The compromise] cuts from $300 million to $200 million the exclusive property-tax breaks for developer Bruce Ratner. And the 1,930 condo units would get tax exemptions for 15 years rather than 25.

NY Sun, Housing Options Added to Development Tax Bill

The exception for Atlantic Yards was reduced in its scope, but not removed, with the added benefit to the development estimated at $150 million, according to a city official. The entire complex, regardless of whether the buildings have affordable units, would qualify for the tax break, though the market-rate buildings would receive the incentive for 10 years less, the city official said. The developer, Forest City Ratner, would be required to build its low- and middle-income units simultaneously with other units in order to receive the tax break.

Opponents of the project said Forest City Ratner should have to abide by the same rules as every other developer in the city.

The NY Times, Bill Aims to Spur Housing for New York’s Poor
The Times highlights the party line, without mentioning that the Atlantic Yards carveout still provides subsidies for Bruce Ratner's controversial project that are not available to other developers:

As for Atlantic Yards, city officials said the new agreement represents a fair compromise. To receive the maximum tax break, 20 percent of the units in any building will have to meet the new affordability guidelines, which are more stringent than those that originally applied. And the lower-priced units will have to be built at the same time as the market-rate units, to insure that they are not put off until the end of construction or never completed.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Ratner Clause Lives

How bad is the Ratner Clause? It is bad enough that those working on pushing it through did not report it accurately to the press . Rather than reporting that this was a new version of the clause still exempting Ratner from providing affordable housing, the press was told that the Ratner provsion had been eleiminated as called for by many elected officials. (see below Crain's article below).

Special catering to Ratner's project has now held the City's housing agenda hostage by resulting in a bill with less positive reform than the the City orginally intended. (see Atlantic Yards Report below).

Either the Ratner provision needs to be eliminated entirely, or the bill must be vetoed by Governor Spitzer

Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

AKRF in the spotlight

The NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman profiles AKRF, the ubiquitous environmental-consulting firm that has become the go-to corporation for large-scale developments in NYC.

AKRF-Principals.jpgThe NY Observer, The Enviro-Consultants Everyone Calls
Atlantic Yards, Yankee Stadium, Ground Zero—AKRF gets paid handsomely to gauge the impact of big developments. Is the firm too powerful or just too good?

AKRF has become so ubiquitous that this low-key firm, headquartered on Park Avenue South, is no longer as invisible as it would like to be. In May, a handful of City Council members attacked the firm at a public session when it failed to find evidence that a downtown Brooklyn street was once on the Underground Railroad. In June, a state judge suggested that AKRF had a conflict of interest because it was working simultaneously for both Columbia University and the state agency overseeing the school’s expansion into West Harlem.
...
And these reviews became bigger and bigger, as the public and policymakers demanded that E.I.S.’s cover new topics such as hazardous materials. The Atlantic Yards E.I.S., for example, takes up 995 megabytes on three discs; AKRF has earned $4.8 million from the developer on the project so far, an Empire State Development Corporation official said at a May meeting.

Atlantic Yards Report, A first in-depth (but still brief) look at AKRF, in the Observer

Norman Oder considers Schuerman's article a good start, but fills in some blanks:

While the piece is a fair-enough introduction to AKRF, it doesn't quite answer that question and, while criticisms of the company's role in the analysis of Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn and the Columbia University expansion get aired, some other issues fall by the wayside.

So there's no mention of the company's successive work for Forest City Ratner and then the Empire State Development Corporation on the Atlantic Yards project. Nor is there mention of the Manhattan Institute report that describes the revolving door between government agencies and the consultant and also criticizes the way environmental impact statements can be gamed. Nor do we hear from the lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who has termed AKRF "accommodating consultants" and "trained in the abject aping of its master’s whims."

Duffield St. Underground, Is AKRF coming out of the shadows?

AKRF was chosen by the NYC Economic Development Corporation without competitive bid to analyze the historical claims of Abolitionist and Underground Railroad activity in Downtown Brooklyn. Our public authorities may give AKRF a free pass, but hopefully the citizens will not.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Hello, Dolly!

Streets Blog

Marty Markowitz's appointee to the City Planning Commission — and NJ Nets shareholder — Dolly Williams is busted on UncivilServants for using her City-issued placard to justify parking her mustard-yellow Porsche at a fire hydrant.

A knowledgeable tipster submitted this gem to UncivilServants, the web site that watchdog's government parking abuse in New York City. The yellow Porsche Carrera, above, was spotted parked in front of a fire hydrant on the east side of Seventh Avenue, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, between Sterling Place and St. John's Place at about 7:30 pm on Sunday, July 29. On the dashboard, a Dept. of City Planning placard ensures that the windshield of this little beauty is unlikely ever to have a parking ticket placed upon it. A Patrolmen's Benevolent Association card sits atop the parking placard for good measure.

The Porsche, the tipster says, belongs to City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams.

Parking in front of fire hydrants, it turns out, is a rather minor item on this uncivil servant's rap sheet.

Though she is Brooklyn's one and only representative on the New York City Planning Commission, Williams has been barred from participating in Kings County's most important recent land use processes. After the Brooklyn Paper outed Williams' $1 million investment in Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's Nets basketball team in August 2004, Williams was forced to recuse herself from any official role in the project. Then in February of this year, Williams was removed from the Gowanus Canal rezoning process after the Brooklyn Paper pointed out that she owns land within the area that was to be rezoned. With Dolly Williams on the Planning Commission, Brooklyn has no voice in these important projects.

The placard doesn't fool every parking-enforcement agent, one StreetsBlog commenter notes:

The owner of this vehicle has $206.11 in overdue parking tickets, according to the Dept of Finance. They were for parking in a commercial meter zone and parking in a bus stop.

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NoLandGrab: Dolly's folly is not only a public-safety threat, but totally pathetic, considering the hydrant is located two blocks from her home, where she has her own curb cut and parks in her back lot.

Dolly embodies Brooklyn's self-serving power base, fueled by money and influence, where rules are just for the rest of us. Atlantic Yards is their pièce de la résistance.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

MEDIA ADVISORY, BROOKLYN SPEAKS:
ELECTED OFFICIALS, CITY-WIDE AND BROOKLYN CIVIC AND COMMUNITY GROUPS TO CALL ON GOVERNOR SPITZER TO REFORM GOVERNANCE OF ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT

BROOKLYN, NY - With the lack of transparency, accountability and public involvement in the governance of the Atlantic Yards project continuing to be demonstrated by the recently-released financial assumptions of the project and the proposed amendment carving out the project area from the State’s 421-a reform bill, local elected officials, city-wide and Brooklyn civic and community groups will call on Governor Spitzer to reform the governance of the Atlantic Yards project and release a white paper with a roadmap suggesting how this can be done at 10.30 on Wednesday August 8 at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

WHO: Councilmember Letitia James, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and City-wide and Brooklyn organizations active around the Atlantic Yards discussion including the sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks.net campaign
WHEN: Wednesday, August 8, 2007, 10:30 AM
WHERE: The Rotunda, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Brooklyn, NY
Contact: Gib Veconi (917) 881-0401

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Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Caption Diss: Jay-Z & Beyonce Knowles

From SOHH.com:

caption-diss-2007-08-07.jpg

As the old saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words. In our latest column "Caption Diss," SOHH is asking our readers to compete to see who can coin the wittiest caption.

This week's image is of the Def Jam Prez Jay-Z and superstar girlfriend Beyonce Knowles on the sidelines of a New Jersey Nets game. As previously reported by SOHH, Jay-Z bought a stake in the NBA team back in 2004 with Bruce Ratner.

submit your diss

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Closing the MTA Budget Gap

Daily Voice [The Village Voice blog]
By Michael Clancy

ThompsonWilliam.jpg

When the MTA announced looming fare hikes last month, it was noted here that the MTA's decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million was looking like a poor choice. The MTA's own appraisal valued the land at $214 million. And why give away land at a huge discount during a real estate boom with deficits looming?

Well, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. says he's crunched the MTA's numbers and identified enough potential streams of new revenue—$728 million—to close the gap for one year and narrow it in the next, and hopefully stave off a fare hike, at least, for a little while.

“There is no need for a fare increase in 2008,” Thompson said in the report,“Putting the Brakes on the Bus and Subway Fare: Options for Eliminating Fare Increases in 2008 and 2009.” “Before the MTA even begins to consider higher fares and tolls, the State and the City must provide additional funding to MTA New York City Transit that it is rightly owed."

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NoLandGrab: Based upon his statements, you would think that NYC Comptroller Thompson would suggest that the MTA get top dollar for sale of public property. Interestingly, the Atlantic Yards supporter didn't add this suggestion to his list of things to do to stave off a fare hike.

More at Crain's NY Business, "Comptroller lambastes fare hikes."

In a report titled "Putting the Brakes on the Bus and Subway Fare," Mr. Thompson identified six sources of local revenue that could collectively generate $728 million annually for the MTA.

"We simply must look at any and all sources of revenue that can be applied to eliminate - or at least to minimize - any fare or toll increase in the immediate future," Mr. Thompson said.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

The Brooklyn blogs, AY, and the class issue

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder addresses the simplistic question of race and class of Brooklyn bloggers posed by Brain Lehrer on his WNYC morning talk show:

whitebread.jpg

First, there's a lot more to criticize and analyze about AY than to praise. My critical take on Atlantic Yards emerged not from knee-jerk opposition to the project but from an immersion in the details. A pro-Atlantic Yards blog might simply copy the infrequently updated AtlanticYards.com.

Second, if Forest City Ratner wanted more pro-Atlantic Yards blogs, it could pay to create them, as it paid for the Brooklyn Standard and helped support Brooklyn Tomorrow, both "publications" more than newspapers. Given the large sums spent on by the developer on p.r., much of which gets some media coverage, is the playing field really level?

Third, whether or not those of us using the blog format--both seat-of-the-pants bloggers and veteran journalists--come from a specific class background, we're still democratizing the flow of information compared to the constrained media attention to Brooklyn and its controversies.

And I don't see Lehrer and others who repeat the class criticism doing a head count of the reporters in, say, the New York Times's Brooklyn bureau to make sure they accurately represent the borough's diversity.

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NoLandGrab: It's rather simplistic to break down the Brooklyn blogging issue along lines of race and class without first comparing these observations to computer ownership and Internet usage data broken down along these same lines. Since blogs are self-published, the barrier to entry might be more of a usage issue.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Free: Marketplace

Who knew that the New York Law Journal had a "Real Estate Update"? Hot off the presses, news that:

JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services Inc.) has announced plans to increase its presence in New York City with the opening of its new dispute resolution center in The New York Times Building at 620 Eighth Avenue, between 40th and 41st Streets, in January 2008.
...
Mr. Price said the 10-year lease on the 34th floor of the Times building will enable the company to consolidate its current New York offices into one location and accommodate the arrival of more neutrals. Many circular rooms will be featured in the floor plan.

"There are things we can accomplish on this floor that we couldn't in the other locations, aside from the size," Mr. Price said. "We don't need office space in the traditional sense. A round space is good for us."
...
"All our hearing rooms are going to be sound-proofed because there are confidential cases going on all the time," he said. "The sound travels and we can't have that."

Neither Mr. Price nor representatives from Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, would comment on the cost of the lease.

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Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

August 7, 2007

McCain Bids For an Issue On Property

DECLARES EMINENT DOMAIN DESERVES THE SPOTLIGHT

The NY Sun
By Russell Berman

It was only a matter of time before a Presidential candidate took a strong stand on the one issue on which a whopping majority of Americans agree — the unfairness of eminent domain for private gain.

Last week, Republican non-candidate Fred Thompson posted an essay on his blog condemning the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision. Today John McCain goes a step further and proposes additional constitutional protections for property rights.

Thrusting the issue of eminent domain into the presidential campaign spotlight, Senator McCain is vowing to counteract a 2005 Supreme Court decision that enhanced the government’s ability to seize private property, and he says he may seek a constitutional amendment to overturn it.

In a speech yesterday in Iowa, the Arizona senator called the Kelo v. City of New London decision “one of the most alarming reductions of freedom in our lifetimes.”
...
Characterizing the ruling as a threat both to property rights and the free market, Mr. McCain pledged to appoint “strict constructionist” judges “who respect the Constitution and understand the security of private property it provides.”

But he did not stop there, adding that if necessary, he would “seek to amend the Constitution to protect private property rights in America.”

Here's an update on the other GOP candidates:

ROMNEY VETOED REFORM BILLS BUT DISAGREES WITH KELO?

A spokesman for the former Massachusetts governor pointed to vetoes that Mr. Romney issued to legislation in 2005 and 2006 that recommended changes specifically to prohibit “eminent domain taking for private development purposes.” And in an appearance on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” in 2005, Mr. Romney said the Supreme Court had made “an error in judgment” in the Kelo decision.

GIULIANI AND "STRICT CONSTRUCTIONISTS"

Mr. Giuliani’s position is less clear. Asked for the former mayor’s stance on the Kelo ruling and eminent domain, a campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella, reiterated his repeated pledges to appoint strict constructionist judges “in the vein of Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.” Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented from the Kelo decision, while Chief Justice Roberts had not yet joined the court.

BLOOMBERG, THE OTHER NON-CANDIDATE, SUPPORTS EMINENT DOMAIN FOR PRIVATE GAIN

Mr. McCain’s position puts him at odds with Mayor Bloomberg, who has championed the use of eminent domain to revitalize blighted areas of the city, frequently citing the transformation of Times Square as an example. The mayor last year lobbied lawmakers both in Albany and Washington against legislation that would restrict its use.

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NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, even though those who are affected by eminent domain abuse are primarily Americans of lower and middle incomes, the Democratic Party has remained silent on the issue — despite the fact that in nearly every national poll, more than 80% of Americans agree that the Kelo decision was unfair — a populist issue if ever there was one.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Beyond gentrification: the contributing factors to the housing crisis

Atlantic Yards Report

The next installment of what seems to be a series on gentrification:

Gentrification is one of several forces limiting the availability of affordable housing, as Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development explained at a discussion held in June 2006 on housing displacement, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn. (The issue persists today, so his slides--some of which I've reproduced--and explanations remain pertinent.)

Lander cited several factors contributing to a "broad housing crisis": a "broad shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy," along with "substantial immigration leading to rising population," all pressuring a constrained housing supply.

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Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

PragmaticIdealists, How Timely
A review of Norman Oder's review of Lance Freeman's book, "There Goes the 'Hood," locates Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn:

It is a great review to read because Oder knows the Clinton Hill area that Freeman studies and so it is an interesting take on what Freeman says. I am a little disappointed that Oder didn't bring up Freeman's "political" solution (in addition to the more policy-wonk solutions) of active Alinsky-style organizing, but it still does not detract much from the review.

NoLandGrab: Ratner has been very successful in getting relatively intelligent people to think that Atlantic Yards is in Downtown Brooklyn, rather than Prospect Heights.

mcbrooklyn, Atlantic Yards' Developers Next Frontier: Human Biology

Atlantic Yards developers plan to mitigate [combined sewer overflow] in many ways, such as by installing water storage tanks, waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and showers, etc. But one big problem remains, according to Scienceline (via No Land Grab) and it's a stumper: "They can’t reduce the amount of solid waste produced by residents."

Can dietary restrictions be far behind?

Chowhound, Best Brooklyn neighborhood for a foodie?
In another win for Bruce Ratner's PR machine, one foodie in Clinton Hill has already conflated the Atlantic Center Mall with Atlantic Yards:

Our biggest problem is that we lack a consistent supermarket right here in CH/FG...the Associated on Myrtle close to Pratt can yield some decent choices as far as ingredients, but at times the lack of consistency in their inventory can be maddening. Surprisingly, the smaller Bravo market close to the Whitman Houses can yield some finds, especially in terms of meats, but it is small and limited in terms of selection and hours. And the largest market, Pathmark at Atlantic Yards, is a far walk for what it is, which is a Pathmark.

NoLandGrab: Two years ago, Forest City Ratner had already begun changing the branding of the Atlantic Center Mall by glomming it into the then newly opened Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

Hoop mentors

NY Daily News

Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner is bringing the Hoops and Leaders Basketball Camp to the borough for the first time. The program, to be based in Williamsburg, pairs 25 young men with 25 college-educated professional male mentors to be a positive influence in their lives.

During six nights of mentorship, the pairs will play basketball, have dinner, listen to inspirational guest speakers and - at the end of the program - take a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

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NoLandGrab: Wonder if Dan Goldstein is on the list of "inspirational guest speakers."

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

August 6, 2007

Architecture and the "historical continuum"

Atlantic Yards Report

While Ouroussoff generally likes Gehry's work, he's expressed qualms about the Atlantic Yards project. And his essay on [Portuguese architect Álvaro] Siza might be seen as an implicit rebuke to city-making projects like AY.

He writes:

Whatever his doubts, his vision of an architecture rooted in a historical continuum seems vitally important in a world fractured by political conflict and ethnic hatreds. If an earlier generation of Modernists believed that architecture could play a vital role in spurring us along the road to utopia, we now know that progress is no longer a guarantee. Almost any society, it turns out, can quickly and unexpectedly descend into darkness and savagery.

At the same time the march of global capitalism has made faith in technology, a Modernist dogma, seem less and less attractive. And if the bold and delirious forms churned out by celebrated architects today mirror social upheavals, they can also serve to camouflage the damage.
(Emphasis added)

The Atlantic Yards design may not mirror social upheaval, but it wouldn't be rooted in a historical continuum, despite plans to use brick and other locally-evocative materials for some portion of Gehry's skyscrapers.

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NoLandGrab: Blogger Stuart Schrader from "Picketing Henry Ford" has been arguing that, like social upheaval, the Atlantic Yards plan and Barclays Center is a result of global capitalism.

KEYWORD: "DELIRIOUS"
In his July 2005 review of Gehry's Atlantic Yards, Ouroussoff characterized the signature tower, dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" by the architect, as "a delirious pileup of forms."

Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

Colleen Kane, Writer and Former Senior Editor of Playgirl Magazine

Gothamist

RatnerPlaygirl.jpgColleen Kane sits down with Gothamist before splitting for Baton Rouge. When the former editor of Playgirl thinks about Bruce Ratner, it's not what you'd expect:

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York?
I resent that New York has become a playground for the super-rich. Not only to the typical extent of the rich having the biggest apartments and all that usual claptrap, but the rich are changing the skyline of the neighborhoods where they previously did not want to be, with these luxury condos that stand out like sore, rich jerkface thumbs. It seems like the regular slobs now have a harder time making it than usual, because the real-estate market is getting more and more out of hand, and the local arts community is suffering as a result. Just look at the recent closures of Tonic, Sin-e, Collective: Unconscious, etc. So what I would change is, POP! I’d burst that pesky real estate bubble. The meek shall inherit a loft in a desirable area for reasonable rent! I would also like to reroute all the traffic that will come to the planned Nets arena in Brooklyn to park on Bruce Ratner’s personal grounds.

linky

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Downtown’s Planned Hotels: Too Many Rooms?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In an article about the spawning of hotel rooms in the Borough of Kings, columnist Dennis Holt addresses the concern that there isn't a local market for hotel rooms by noting that plenty of office space is in the pipeline, which should also spur more retail development:

We do know that the Albee Square site will have 150,000 square feet of new office space, again, at a good location, and there will be some office space at the Atlantic Yards. Office buildings also bring retail and Downtown Brooklyn is “under retailed,” much more is needed. When the brownstone neighborhoods were turning around, more buying power at hand, it didn’t have any impact on the retail history downtown.

People tend to shop where they work, and if there are more workers, there will be more retail. No mystery.

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MetroTechRetail.jpg

NoLandGrab: Aside from the reference to Atlantic Yards, Holt's point is noteworthy because one of the main reasons that Downtown Brooklyn is "under retailed" is that Bruce Ratner screwed the pooch on MetroTech by largely failing to add retail space to his office-tower complex. Also, the campus-like environment has failed to generate the economic benefits promised to the rest of the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Sponsored by Forest City Ratner

SponsoredByFCRC.jpgBROOKLYN MUSEUM
Infinite Island
August 31, 2007–January 27, 2008

Infinite Island presents some eighty works made in the last six years that reflect the region's dynamic mix of cultures, its diasporas, and its socio-political realities, all of which are constantly transforming themselves. The forty-five emerging and established artists, who work both in the Caribbean and abroad, represent multiple perspectives as they explore the complexities of Caribbean history and identity. Including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, video, and installation, the exhibition is grouped around themes that encompass history, memory, politics, myth, religion, and popular culture.

The exhibition is curated by Tumelo Mosaka, Assistant Curator for Contemporary Art and Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum.

Sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies.

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

There Goes the ‘Hood: a nuanced take on gentrification

Atlantic Yards Report

FreemanThereGoes.gifNorman Oder considers the impacts of gentrification as discussed in Lance Freeman's "There Goes the 'Hood."

The final stop on the [house] tour was in the southeast portion of Clinton Hill, not far from the official (though shifting, in the eyes of some real estate promoters) border with blacker, poorer Bedford-Stuyvesant. Nearby, outside a laundromat on Fulton Street, a black woman and a black man, middle-aged and apparently working class, were having a conversation loud enough to overhear.

W: I’m not coming back. They assholes.

M: People that work here?

W: No. The others. They new to the neighborhood and they acting like we visiting.

The racial identity of their antagonists was unclear, but the class identity was not, and the episode encapsulated some tensions explored by Lance Freeman, a Columbia University academic, in his 2006 book, There Goes the ’Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up, based on interviews in two mostly-black neighborhoods, Harlem and Clinton Hill, where in recent years higher-income residents, black and white, have moved in.

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Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Eminent Domain: a Question of Morality

The NY Times, Letter to the Editor

Like bank robbers who maintain crowbars and guns as tools for stealing money, governments maintain eminent domain as a tool for stealing people’s homes and businesses.

The first act of theft will get you thrown in jail. The second (taking property by eminent domain) will get you property for nothing, tax abatements, exemptions and deferments plus development funds.

Government was instituted to secure the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and property (without which no other right can be secured). Taking homes and businesses from their rightful owners, then conveying them to those who are not, is a notorious example of how government has become the most blatant violator of these rights.

Using eminent domain, government aids and abets theft and should be morally condemned. So should those who benefit from eminent domain.

Joe Wright
Staten Island

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

August 5, 2007

Atlantic Yards Footprint: Moment of Zen

hell8.07.jpg

Wondering what's actually going on in the footprint? Steve Soblick takes a walk around the area and his photographs show that other than the clearing of the Vanderbilt Yards, little has changed...

Posted by amy at 10:24 AM

Council Member Avella: community plans, rezonings needed

EDrallyAvella2.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report looks at an interview with City Council Member Tony Avella that appeared in the Brooklyn Rail. Avella is a declared mayoral candidate for 2009.

Rail: If you were elected mayor, how would you counteract the overdevelopment seen in many neighborhoods during the Bloomberg years?

Avella: Well, first of all, we’ve got to do a comprehensive re-do rezoning in the city of New York. We need to make sure that we accurately reflect the residential character of the neighborhoods. At the same time, we need to work with neighborhoods and communities to see where development can go. We need to eliminate all of the illegal construction and put some real teeth into the problem of the Department of Buildings. That agency is in total chaos. I mean, if you are a homeowner and you do the simplest little thing wrong, they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks—but developers get away with anything. We also need to take control of the little-known, quasi-judicial agency called the Board of Standards and Appeals, which is made up of five commissioners appointed by the mayor who really have almost total power, but there’s no oversight of that agency whatsoever.

Community plans needed

Rail: And no one really knows what they do.

Avella: Exactly. No one knows what they do, but they give the variances that allow the developers to obviate any part of the zoning codes. It is amazing to me that they’re supposed to have five criteria by which they approve of a variance, but they really can do whatever they want. For example, a developer buys a piece of property and goes to the Board of Standards and Appeals. He’ll tell them, “I can’t build a 12-story building on it because the zoning’s different” or “I paid too much money for it and the only way I can make it back is to build a 12-story building.” And they’ll give him the variance. It’s insane. In addition to changing this process, my other main plan regarding development is to go out in every neighborhood and do comprehensive planning. In every neighborhood, community leaders will get together and determine what’s wrong or what’s right with their neighborhood now, what needs to be done, and where they’d like to see their community five, ten years down the line. Those plans would get put together into borough-wide documents, which would be compiled into a city-wide document that becomes the planning blueprint for the city.

link

Posted by amy at 8:44 AM

August 4, 2007

"The Last Three Miles" and the Atlantic Yards experiment

LastThreeMiles.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

There are some indirect lessons for Atlantic Yards watchers, I think, in New Jersey journalist Steven Hart's recent book about the construction of the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey.

The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway, covers the story behind the 1932 opening of the final link that would connect New York City and the Holland Tunnel (1927) with the mainland highway system, thus diverting traffic that had clogged local roads and Jersey City streets for five years.
...
Failures in design

But for those of us in Brooklyn, it's useful to consider Hart's suggestion that this project be included in courses concerning failures in design.

Hart writes:
The Pulaski Skyway should also be a part of those classes, if only as an example of a quieter kind of failure--a failure rooted not in recklessness, but lack of background knowledge. The designers of Route 25 and the Skyway that is its most visible section were visionaries doing something that hadn't been done before. They weren't the only ones thinking in terms of superhighways--the first German autobahn was completed the same year the Skyway opened--but they were under the gun, and they had little experience in the field of traffic engineering to draw upon. The result was one of the most visually spectacular and functionally impaired mistakes ever made.
(Emphasis added)

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Posted by amy at 8:27 AM

Collaboration Theme of Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable

greenberger.jpg

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Collins

Collaboration seemed to be the word for the day at the quarterly Real Estate Roundtable held at the Brooklyn Historical Society Wednesday, Aug. 1.

Speakers Sharon Greenberger, president and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), and the NYPD’s Joseph Fox, commander of Brooklyn South and its 13 police precincts, both emphasized the importance of working together with developers and realtors.
She was speaking about current conversations underway with Jed and David Walentas at Two Trees Management Co., who are proposing a middle school for their new development at 38 Water St. in DUMBO, and with Forest City Ratner Companies and its massive Atlantic Yards Development.

“We realized we needed to be at the table [with Ratner] early on and so we were and there will be a school component there,” she said.

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NoLandGrab: For a comparison of new seats in sports stadiums to be created over the next five years vs. new seats in schools, click here. Take a wild guess which one is higher!

Posted by amy at 8:14 AM

Appeal Filed in Federal Case Against Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The plaintiffs in a federal case challenging the use of eminent domain to build Forest City Ratner Companies’ planned Atlantic Yards Project have filed an appeal in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs 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.
...
In this case, the plaintiffs argued that the public use requirement was not met because the project’s primary purpose is to benefit FCRC — not to provide any public benefit.
...
Arguments in the appellate court are scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9.

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Posted by amy at 8:10 AM

August 3, 2007

Eminent Domain Appeal Brief Filed

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site dddb.net:

On July 31st plaintiffs--property owners and tenants--filed their appeal in the United States 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. They are appealing the Eastern District Court's decision on defendants' motion to dismiss the Constitutional challenge to the use of eminent domain for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, aka: Goldstein v. Pataki.

2dCir_Brief01.jpg

Click here to download the brief [pdf].

All papers from the suit are here.

Oral argument on the appeal will be on October 9th at 10am.
(The courthouse is at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan. Map.)

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

Too Big For Its Britches

The Atlantic Yards development will push South Brooklyn’s over-taxed plumbing infrastructure to the max.

Scienceline
By Meredith Knight

gowanusFlush.jpg The dirty not-so-little secret about Atlantic Yards is that it will tax our sewers, which combine stormwater runoff and sewage in the same system (Combined Sewer Overflow, CSO); when it rains, this mixture gets dumped into the Gowanus Canal, and frequently floods nearby streets and homes. Though Ratner is touting his water-retention basin — designed to release storm runoff slowly, after flood conditions subside — that doesn't solve the problem of the concentration of waste.

But with the Atlantic Yards development expected to produce around 1.1 million gallons of extra sewage and rain runoff, the city is now predicting that waste line repairs will only reduce CSOs by about four percent.

While new pipes laid at the Atlantic Yards site will meet modern standards, the wastewater they contain will inevitably flow south, toward Gowanus, flowing into the same antiquated, narrow pipes that cannot handle the current volume.

“We were anticipating a significant improvement, and now we’re looking at a slight improvement, said Donnelly whose home regularly floods with sewage.

Hoping to address such concerns, Atlantic Yards developers plan to install water storage tanks that hold and release storm water slowly, along with recycled water irrigation and cooling systems, waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and showers, and wide plumbing pipes designed to meet modern standards. Loren Riegelhaupt, a Vice President at Forest City Ratner, says such low-flow technology will decrease waste volume in the pipes.

Still, although water retention practices should reduce the wastewater volume flooding the canal during storms, they can’t reduce the amount of solid waste produced by residents, raising concerns that sewage overflows will become more concentrated. “The low flow plumbing and capture storm water tanks lead you to the conclusion that you’re going to have thicker sewage [that] could be more damaging,” said Mike Plumb, an intern at Columbia Law Clinic who helped prepare comments for Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group focused on water quality in New York.

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Posted by lumi at 10:53 AM

John Pinamonti w/ the Atomic Grind Show: The Burrow

The big hit from The Ratnerville Singout, "The Burrow," written and performed by John Pinamonti, has been posted on YouTube.

As we've been saying:

"They say change is good and the time is right, but they're the ones who created urban blight in the Burrow."

Atlantic Yards Report listed upcoming dates for Pinamonti:

Pinamonti and his band will be playing the Rodeo Bar (3rd Avenue/27th Street) in Manhattan on Tuesday, August 7, at 9 pm and will be back at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated for demolition under the Atlantic Yards plan and where "The Burrow" was filmed, on Saturday, August 18 at 10 pm. (Schedule/web site)

Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

It's a Great Time To Be a Union Worker

Gothamist

Via Curbed, the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center put together an interesting presentation outlining logistics of downtown projects as well as projects in the region (here's a PDF). The logistics issues are concrete, steel, and labor demand, as well as worker transportation and security.

There are some great graphs that show how many projects, including the World Trade Center, East Side Access, MTA projects, the Atlantic Yards, etc., will all compete for materials and labor. With a limited supply of good union labor, we predict that it will be even harder to find competent workers and finish projects on time.

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NoLandGrab: The large hot-pink/fuchsia band is Atlantic Yards — click to enlarge.

As we posted earlier, Errol Louis says that now is the time to train for a union job.

Posted by lumi at 10:31 AM

Real Estate Round-Up, August 2, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Property owners in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project who refused to sell to developer Forest City Ratner began receiving letters last week from the state asking for “financial information relating to property appraisals,” an initial step in the eminent domain process, according to the New York Sun.

A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency sponsoring the project, said the state will not proceed with eminent domain while the lawsuit is still pending. “This is an early step in a process that won’t be ultimately resolved for some time,” he told the Sun.

Despite the delays, a Ratner spokesman still maintains that the Nets will play in the new arena for the 2009 season.

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Posted by lumi at 10:26 AM

Ratner, City or State Responsible for Mess on Pacific?

Brownstoner

Here's an email we got from a reader yesterday. We didn't know the answer but maybe one of you will.

I was biking down Pacific Street today and noticed how unkempt the sidewalk was. The street isn't gone yet, so the question is whose responsibility is it to keep it up. Is it the MTA's, The ESDC, or Ratners? I called the liason office but they didn't know. They said they'd get back to me in a day or two. I expressed my frustration and was told that it's a big organization and it takes time to find out answers to these things. I pointed out that one needs only to walk outside the office to see that it's a problem. I called back two and a half hours later and there's no movement on the issue. Maybe the ombudsman knows.

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NoLandGrab: Since the ESDC has yet to hire an ombudsman and the wheels seem to turn slowly at the "Atlantic Yards" "Community" "Liaison" "Office," maybe someone from the community can post an answer on the Brownstoner help-line.

Posted by lumi at 10:20 AM

The "park" at Stuy Town--a harbinger of Atlantic Yards?

StuyTownPark.jpgThough Bruce Ratner fancies using the word "park," like in his interview with NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser, Atlantic Yards Report explains that there's a difference between a "park" and "privately-managed, publicly-accessible open space," and uses Stuy Town promotional material to explain.

"Lots of New Yorkers visit parks, but not many live in one." So goes the promotion (click to enlarge) for Stuyvesant Town, the newly-privatized complex for which, along with neighboring Peter Cooper Village, developer Tishman Speyer agreed to pay $5.4 billion last October. ...
the developer claims that the open space in the 80-acre, 110-building development is a "park." (A print ad further states: "Work out in an 80-acre park right outside your door.")

It's not. It's privately-managed, publicly-accessible open space and, as this City Council document (about access) shows, private interests do not necessarily match public ones.

Stuyvesant Town's open space serves more as a private park than a public one, and thus has been targeted by Atlantic Yards critics as the poster child for what to avoid. "Would there be an invisible "keep out" sign, as in Stuyvesant Town or other apartment complexes with interior parks?" wrote Anne Schwartz last August in the Gotham Gazette.

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Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

Boom Time

Our Time Press

Errol Louis notes that NYC has entered a phase of historic growth and that now is the time to get in on the ground floor for those looking for work:

According to a recent story in The New York Sun, the New York Building Congress is reporting that spending for construction in New York City could reach $25.6 billion this year, beating the 2006 record of $24.6 billion.

That translates into an estimated 121,800 construction jobs in New York City as of April this year — 6,100 more than existed a year earlier and way up from the 109,200 construction jobs in the city in 2004.

And we’re just getting started on mega-projects like Atlantic Yards, a wave of skyscrapers and hotels in downtown Brooklyn, the new Yankee Stadium, the expansion of Columbia University into West Harlem and conversion of the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg into a residential complex. It will take decades to build these projects, meaning it’s not too late for people with no construction experience or training to get in, literally, on the ground floor.

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Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

The Coming Death of Smith Street

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

ToServeMan.gifIn an article about the shifting sands of the NYC commercial real estate market and its effects on neighborhood specialty stores and restaurants, Henry Krogius calls on "Bruce Ratner to serve the people of Brooklyn," and we don't think he means serve in the Twilight Zone-way:

That is why, as has been argued in this space before, if Bruce Ratner really wants to serve the people of Brooklyn through Atlantic Yards, he should set up a way for individually owned specialty shops and restaurants to occupy ground-floor spaces throughout the project.

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NoLandGrab: Would that satisfy Ratner's goal of maximizing profit for shareholders, and would hipsters and insiders who seek regional flavors be caught dead inside of a shopping gallery or mall?

Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

The dismantling of the Yankee empire

Fortune CNN Money

The Dolan family's Cablevision is a possible bidder for the YES Network, the television broadcast home of the NJ Nets. The Dolans also own Madison Square Garden, the NY Knicks and Rangers and financed a multi-million-dollar publicity campaign which helped to successfully block the West Side Stadium.

The New York Yankees' cable network, the YES Network, is for sale, Fortune has learned. And some baseball insiders and Yankees limited partners are wondering whether the team itself might be next.

The highest-rated regional sports network in the country and the cable home of the Yankees and the NBA New Jersey Nets, YES is jointly owned by the Yankees, investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. (Charts, Fortune 500) , and former Nets owner Ray Chambers. Goldman and Chambers would like to cash out, YES and Yankees insiders say, and one source says to expect a deal by summer's end. Some possible bidders: Cablevision, Comcast (Charts), News Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) and Verizon (Charts, Fortune 500).

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Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: USA

The Jersey Journal, Owner's suit to city: Buy my land
In an unusual twist, one Jersey City property owner pulls a Rodney Dangerfield ("Take my land, please!"):

Flipping the usual eminent domain script, a property owner in Jersey City is suing the city to buy his property.

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Edwin Siegel and his corporate entity, Edlin Limited - owners of 32.2 acres on the old PJP landfill site - the city has so devalued his property through zoning changes the municipality should be forced to buy it - but at pre-rezoned rates.

13WHAM.com, Eminent Domain Worries Follow City Offer at Port
Property owners in Rochester are staring down the barrel of a city redevelopment plan, leading to worries about the use of eminent domain.

The city envisions a mixed-use development on the site. The city hopes to start soliciting developers next year.

“They can't all of a sudden start throwing people out of their businesses, homes, saying, ‘We're going to put this in. We're going to put that in,’” said Suss.

If Suss won’t sell, the city could invoke eminent domain, a law that lets governments force property owners to sell if it’s in the public good.

Deputy Mayor Patricia Malgieri said eminent domain will be a last resort.

The Norman Transcript, Sutton Creek eminent domain action going to jury trial
A dispute over property valuation goes to a jury trial in Norman, OK.

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

August 2, 2007

The Last Residents of 636 Pacific

One Man’s Fight Against the Atlantic Yards

The L Magazine (not to be confused with the fashion mag, which will probably be doing a fashion spread on activist-chic sometime soon)

Goldstein-LMag.jpg An article about "what can only be described as a losing battle" profiles homeowner Dan Goldstein and his fight against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

“This is the first home I bought,” he says. “I’d been looking for a long time, and I bought it because of the neighborhood and the location — just like Mr. Ratner. It started out that I wanted to keep this home. And by luck of the draw, I bought into a building that’s key to this project happening. The project can’t go forward while I’m here. Putting aside my own feelings, that’s a responsibility that I have. I wouldn’t be doing this if I felt that the surrounding neighborhoods wanted this thing.”

There are a couple of factual errors in the piece:

The "Atlantic Yards Timeline" is pretty good, though it includes Ratner's very optimistic assumptions as to when the arena will be completed and opened, and the progress of construction.

The article also mentions that Shabnam Merchant started the NoLandGrab web site, which is true in that she and a handful of community members launched NoLandGrab. Early in 2004, Merchant left NoLandGrab to focus on working in the trenches with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and has played no role since.

Check out the article here.

Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM

Last word on "two-class" ownership structure

James Fallows's last word on the two-class corporate stock structure features our favorite eminent domain-abusing political-connection-wielding dynasty, The Ratners.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asks, "So, it seems to you that Forest City Enterprises and Forest City Ratner have undue influence on our political movers and shakers and you just can't figure out why?"

Fallows has the answer on his blog hosted by Atlantic Online (no connection with Atlantic Center Mall, Atlantic Terminal Mall or Atlantic Yards):

A reader writes:

"Forest City, the Cleveland real estate behemoth, also uses the two-class stock structure you discuss. In case you haven't heard of them, Forest City is the nation's largest real estate firm, responsible for the New York Times' new building and the relocation of the New Jersey Nets.
...
"And wouldn't you know it, it turns out Albert Ratner, Samuel Miller, Charles Ratner, etc., are all the biggest holders of Class B stock!

"The family nature of Forest City is one of the reasons its directors have built a political empire--with nearly 20 family members in the business, they can easily bundle their contributions and donate tens of thousands to a single candidate.

"It is also, presumably, a big reason why their firm is so successful. Direct control can reap direct benefits."

NoLandGrab: And we thought the Ratners ruled because they were liberal do-gooders who listened to the community — go figure.

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Vito Lopez invokes Jane Jacobs, says New Domino should be scaled down

VitoLopezRatJac.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Here's a good joke: the local political big-wig who inserted a special give-away for Bruce Ratner in the 421-a reform bill is criticizing the scale of the New Domino plan and is channeling Jane Jacobs. And why not — who knew that Norman Oder would have time to pay attention?

Today's follow-up on the New Domino hearing testimony is the third in a series of articles on the new plan.

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Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

eminentdomainia23.jpgAP via amNY, Harlem against Columbia's expansion

Columbia already owns two-thirds of the properties in the former manufacturing area of west Harlem, known as Manhattanville, and is seeking to acquire the rest.

Columbia already has defused one of the more rancorous aspects of the plan by saying that it would not invoke eminent domain law to evict residents of 132 apartments in seven walkup buildings. The university has also said it will help tenants find equal or better housing and will assist with moving costs.

That move was welcomed by the area's city councilman, Robert Jackson, who said, "No potential problem has been more threatening for the residents of west Harlem than the use of eminent domain."

NoLandGrab: That move is non-sensical and pure pr drivel. If all residents do not accept Columbia's offer, then the State will come in to do the condemnation (as planned), though without Columbia University actually asking.

The university has not, however, ruled out using eminent domain to acquire several commercial sites within the 17-acre parcel. It has been negotiating with individual property owners to acquire the land, with mixed results.

Warehouse operator Nick Sprayregen, whose neat brick warehouse is draped with a large banner reading "Eminent Domain Abuse," vowed to fight the expansion in court if necessary.

"This is a really nothing more than a land grab of the most extreme type. They want every last square foot of space to build a beautiful campus. There's no reason they need all of it," Sprayregen said.

The NY Times, Hempstead Village Divided on $2 Billion Comeback Plan The Times ran an article about the debate and controversy over Hempstead's downtown renewal plan. No mention that 58 properties are under threat of eminent domain.

But in case you're interested, the town's mayor claims "the project would create 5,200 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs and yield $35 million a year in badly needed taxes."

Duffield St. Underground, Alien Ship Officially Set for Liftoff on Flatbush Avenue The Duffield St. blog has been keeping watch as even more development enters the pipleine as part of the Downtown Brooklyn plan, but city officials still insist that using eminent domain to destroy historic Duffield St. homes is necessary to encourage development.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Forest City Buys 11 Office Buildings in Suburban Richmond, Virginia

dBusiness News, Cleveland

Here's the press release for the latest deal struck by the real estate behemoth that ate Brooklyn, Forest City:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has acquired 11 office buildings, totaling approximately 600,000 square feet, in Henrico County near Richmond, Virginia. The properties are 95 percent leased to a mix of high-quality local and regional tenants.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “Under our City Strategy, Forest City is able to enter core urban markets with strong demographics by introducing one property type and then penetrating the market with additional real estate projects.

“Richmond is a growth market for us. We now have an office portfolio in Richmond, in addition to our residential development of 472 apartment units at River Lofts at Tobacco Row, the 1.2-million-square-foot Short Pump Town Center retail center that opened in 2003, and the 900,000-square-foot Shops at White Oak Village retail center that is under construction.”

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NoLandGrab: The "City Strategy" has worked very well for the real estate giant in Brooklyn.

After MetroTech came the Atlantic Center Mall. When vacancies threatened the financial viability of both projects, NY City and State, respectively, came to the rescue by relocating local agencies into the projects. Then just across the street from the Atlantic Center Mall, Forest City built the Atlantic Terminal Mall on MTA property with the help of Liberty Bonds. Now across the street from the two malls, the real estate giant plans to use eminent domain to complete its local real estate empire with an arena and 16 high-rise towers to be built on 22 acres, comprising the MTA railyards and 14 acres of city-owned and private property.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Made in Brooklyn

BenKuntzman.jpgThis birth announcement for Brooklyn's latest baby bruiser, who showed up at the weigh-in sporting a whopping 9 lbs. 10 oz., was posted on The Brooklyn Paper web site:

Editor Gersh Kuntzman and photographer Julie Rosenberg welcomed “Big Ben” into the world (with a little help from the docs at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope) on Tuesday at 11:57 am. The tot weighed in at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

“He’s the biggest, densest thing to hit Brooklyn since Atlantic Yards,” quipped Kuntzman. “But he’s far less controversial.”

NoLandGrab: Thankfully extreme density is a good thing when it comes to babies! Welcome Benjamin Henry Kuntzman and congratulations to the family.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Weeks of July 30, 2007 - August 6, 2007

Though we've made two requests to be added to the "Atlantic Yards Community" list to receive Construction Updates, the Empire State Development Corporation has dragged its feet — maybe we're on the same to-do list as "hire an ombudsman."

This update was sent to us by a resident who lives adjacent to the footprint, though we wouldn't say that he is a member of the "Atlantic Yards Community," whatever THAT is.

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.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Continue drilling Support of Excavation (SOE) mid-block piles in block 1121. Mobilize to Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47); Start drilling SOE piles, install construction fence on Vanderbilt Avenue, partial closing of sidewalk will occur in connection with appropriate DOT permits.
  • Test pile for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles.
  • Test pits on Pacific Street within the area which has already been closed pursuant to the Pacific Street Maintenance and Protection of Traffic Plan (MPT) on block 1121 to confirm location of existing street utilities proximate to layout of piles.
  • Grade South Lead Track for LIRR access to East Portal.
  • Excavation in block 1121 west to east.
  • Test pits under ramp in block 1121.
  • Abatement and Demolition Work

All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30th.

  • The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets at 800 Pacific Street will continue for the next four-five weeks. Once this work is completed, demolition of the rest of the building will commence.
  • Demolition of 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) will commence, and is anticipated to be underway for the next two months.
  • Demolition of 622 Atlantic Avenue (block 1119, lot 1) will be completed within this two week period.
  • Abatement has been completed at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5). Demolition will commence within this two week period.
  • Abatement will commence at 814 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 45), 818 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 46), and 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1127, lot 50).

Utility Work

  • The sidewalk shed constructed over a transit manhole in the sidewalk on Flatbush Avenu between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will remain in place to prepare the manhole for cable insulation, abatement and reconstruction as part of the private utility/transit relocation work required to accommodate new sewer infrastructure. This work will continue through August.

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

August 1, 2007

DDDB Granted 501(c)3 Status

In other Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn developments, this week's e-newsletter carried news that your donation is now OFFICIALLY tax deductible, which is much better than having your tax dollars going to subsidize Bruce Ratner's highly profitable Atlantic Yards mega project:

Better late than never? Some things are worth waiting for

As we expected, the IRS has granted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn 501(c)3 status, retroactive to August 20th, 2004. If you have given us a contribution since that date -- or would like to make a donation now or in the future -- it is and will be fully tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

If you have made a contribution to DDDB since August 20th, 2004, that you had not deducted because of our "pending" status, you have three years from the date the applicable return was due to amend the return and take advantage of the deduction.

To do this, you need form 1040X, which can download at www.irs.gov. Be prepared to substantiate any and all of your charitable contributions for the year(s) in question if you decide to go this route.

Posted by lumi at 9:27 AM

Use of Eminent Domain Begins in Atlantic Yards Plan

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

"Dear Property Owner" letters have started to arrive in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards mega project — though based on the headline, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes that the reader might think that the State was already bringing in the bulldozer brigade:

The state is pushing forward with its plans to use eminent domain in preparing for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, the future home to a Nets basketball arena and more than 6,000 apartments in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Since late last week, property owners in the footprint of the project have been receiving letters from the state asking for financial information relating to property appraisals, an initial step in the land-taking process.

A spokesman for New York's Empire State Development Corporation, Errol Cockfield, said the use of eminent domain was a ways off. The state will not proceed while a lawsuit challenging eminent domain procedure law is pending, and other suits could potentially delay the process as well, Mr. Cockfield said.

"This is an early step in a process that won't be ultimately resolved for some time," Mr. Cockfield said.

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Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

PRESS RELEASE, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:
Brooklyn-based Author Phillip Lopate and Brooklyn Businessman Harry Tarzian Join DDDB Advisory Board

DDDBAdvisrLopTar.jpgBROOKLYN, NY -- Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is pleased to announce two outstanding additions to the 49-member DDDB Advisory Board -- author Phillip Lopate and mom 'n' pop business success Harry Tarzian.

"I've decided to join the DDDB Advisory Board because DDDB is asking the right questions and demanding a more appropriate plan for Brooklyn than the over-scaled Atlantic Yards. I would like to support any effort that would send the project back to the drawing board to bring about a development over the Vanderbilt Yards that would most benefit the people and neighborhoods of Brooklyn," said author Phillip Lopate.

Phillip Lopate, is a renowned essayist, novelist, poet, teacher and professor, editor, film and architecture critic. He is a Brooklyn native.

Mr. Lopate currently holds the John Cranford Adams Chair at Hofstra University, and he also teaches in the MFA graduate programs at Columbia, the New School and Bennington. His most recent book is an urban meditation titled, Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan. In addition to his writing, he's an occasional guest on WNYC radio's Leonard Lopate Show, whose host happens to be his brother.

Harry Tarzian may be best known to Brooklynites as the scion of the Tarzian family, Park Slope's nearly century-old purveyor of hardware and housewares. But he's also an acclaimed photographer, whose work is archived in both the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the collection of the New York Historical Society.

Tarzian Hardware epitomizes the mom 'n' pop neighborhood stores that drive Brooklyn's commerce -- the types of stores glaringly absent from Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. In business since Harry's father and uncle founded the original Tarzian's in 1921, the hardware store is a Brooklyn icon.

One of Harry's favorite pastimes is wandering Brooklyn's neighborhoods, photographically chronicling the unrivaled spirit and energy of his hometown. For a look at some of his visit: http://www.harrytarzian.com

"We're very proud to have Phillip Lopate and Harry Tarzian join our Advisory Board. Their support means a lot to us, and is further evidence that the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project is deep and wide," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Their support is further proof that native Brooklynites and newer-comers alike believe that the Atlantic Yards project is not in the best interest of the community and the borough."

DDDB's Advisory Board supports the efforts of the organization's mission, which opposes Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards while advocating for responsible, equitable and democratic development over the Vanderbilt rail yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Board members offer support in many areas, including fundraising, advocacy, research, writing and expert advise.

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Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Calling All 'Burg Artists: Want to Sell Out for Atlantic Yards?

BillyBurgCool.jpgCurbed.com

So how will Bruce Ratner, Frank Gehry & Co. round up some financial support? By latching onto some Williamsburg cool, of course. An email making the rounds goes a little somethink like this:

Hi, I'm working on an in house promotional video for Frank Gehry and the Atlantic Yards Project. We will be taping in Williamsburg this Thursday or Friday and are interested in videoing an artist in his or her work space. The work should be large and colorful and the space should be interesting, windows or some nice architecture. It should also be at least 700 to 1000 square feet or bigger.

This video will be shown to investors and could be an opportunity to highlight the artists work. We will have a small crew of about 8 people and shouldn't be there longer than an hour or two. We can give the artist a nominal fee of 250.00 as we have no location budget.

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NoLandGrab: And why shouldn't an artiste sell out for Atlantic Yards? Gehry did (though for a lot more than $250).

There's still no word as to whether this is a hoax or something. If the email is serious, it will be interesting to see that promotional reel when it's done — we're curious to know if it's nearly as "honest" as Ratner's promotional flyers, which he mailed to hundreds of thousands of households in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Affordable housing the focus at the New Domino hearing

Atlantic Yards Report compares the concern about affordable housing between the recently announced New Domino plan and Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

In the post-Atlantic Yards world, will every megaproject be justified because it provides affordable housing? That’s one conclusion after yesterday’s hearing at the Department of City Planning (DCP) regarding the New Domino development proposed for the former Domino sugar factory site in Williamsburg, five blocks along the waterfront north of the Williamsburg Bridge, plus one square block across Kent Avenue.

For starters, the affordable housing for New Domino "is aimed at a lower-income cohort than the AY plan."

article

NoLandGrab: In the film "Brooklyn Matters," Julia Vitullo-Martin from the Manhattan Institute observed:

"The truth is today, if you’re a developer with a bad project, a large bad project that shouldn’t be built... the smart thing to do is say, ‘Y’know what, I’m going to provide you with some really good affordable housing.’ So affordable housing is the Trojan Horse these days on big bad projects that shouldn’t get done. And neighborhood activists and many of our elected officials become very reluctant to oppose a project, any project, that has a large affordable housing component."

Without casting judgment on the New Domino project, and based on Vitullo-Martin's observation, the answer to the question, "In the post-Atlantic Yards world, will every megaproject be justified because it provides affordable housing?" is yes, at least in the foreseeable future.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: New York! New York!

News Busters, Abuses of Eminent Domain? The NYT's Glass House (or Headquarters)
There's nothing conservative watchdogs like more than going after the hypocritical New York Times, which, by partnering with Bruce Ratner, has become one of the darlings of the eminent domain abuse club.

The front of the New Jersey section of Sunday's New York Times was dominated by "Now You Own It, Soon You Don't? -- Homeowners fight, and legislatures grapple with, eminent domain that benefits private businesses."

In a sympathetic story, reporter Russ Buettner relayed the plight of local property owners fighting abuse of eminent domain -- the taking of private property for public use -- by local governments.
...
Yet Buettner's story had a strange omission -- one involving the New York Times Co. and its own apparent "abuse of eminent domain" in building its new headquarters.

As Matt Welch wrote last year in Reason magazine, the New York Times Co. used

"...eminent domain to forcibly evict 55 businesses--including a trade school, a student housing unit, a Donna Karan outlet, and several mom-and-pop stores--against their will, under the legal cover of erasing 'blight,' in order to clear ground for a 52-story skyscraper. The Times and [developer Bruce] Ratner, who never bothered making an offer to the property owners, bought the Port Authority-adjacent property at a steep discount ($85 million) from a state agency that seized the 11 buildings on it; should legal settlements with the original tenants exceed that amount, taxpayers will have to make up the difference. On top of that gift, the city and state offered the Times $26 million in tax breaks for the project, and Ratner even lobbied to receive $400 million worth of U.S. Treasury-backed Liberty Bonds -- instruments created by Congress to help rebuild Lower Manhattan. Which is four miles away."

Is it any coincidence that the Times editorial page stood alone among major newspapers in supporting the Supreme Court's decision?

Rational Review, NY: Owners receive theft notices in corporate welfare scam

A Libertarian blog was quick to post today's story on eminent domain abuse for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

NY Newsday, A vision for Patchogue
The NY Times isn't the only hometown paper that supports taking land from private owners to hand over for a private project.

The revitalization momentum in the Village of Patchogue took a nasty hit when the owner of some key downtown land decided not to sell to a major company that wanted to build a boutique hotel there. So the village has begun the process of condemnation. That's the right decision.

NoLandGrab: It is very common for the editorial boards of newspapers to side with government on the issue of eminent domain. Perhaps both think they know what's better for America than the founding fathers did.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Forest City Expands Military Housing Program

Press Release, via Business Wire

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that its Forest City Military Communities, LLC subsidiary is expanding its military housing program to 11,956 units under management as a result of additional 50-year public/private venture agreements with the U.S. military.

In the northwest, Forest City has entered into an agreement to acquire American Eagle Communities’ interest in 2,985 Navy housing units and ancillary facilities. The Navy’s Northwest Region encompasses multiple housing neighborhoods associated with three Naval Installations in the Puget Sound area of the state of Washington. Subject to Navy approval and customary closing conditions, Forest City will be responsible for demolition, renovation and new construction of homes, representing approximately $169 million in development costs, as well as property management.

In addition, Forest City, together with a partner, has closed on a transaction with the United States Air Force to design, develop and construct military family housing units at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Air Force Academy project represents a development cost of approximately $80 million, and includes demolition of 814 family housing units, renovation of 299 units, rehabilitation of two historically significant homes and construction of 34 new family homes – for an end-state count of 427 family homes under management at the Academy.

Ronald A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Residential Group, Inc., said, “In just three years, the military housing business has grown to more than 11,900 permanent units, becoming a very significant part of our residential portfolio. Our ability to manage large, complex projects and create a sense of place in multifamily developments is being put to good use in our work with the Navy, Marines and Air Force. We are honored to have the opportunity to create and manage modern housing and communities that enhance the quality of life for our nation’s service personnel and their families.”

more

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Hot Dog With Relish

Cyclones put Markowitz on a bobblehead doll. Now he'll pop up even more.

Village Voice
By Keith Greenberg

MartyBobblehead.jpgThe Chairman of the Atlantic Yards Chamber of Commerce and Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz is officially a bobblehead:

Abe Beame never had a bobblehead. Nor did Donald Manes, Charles Barron, or Ruth Messinger. So what is it about Marty Markowitz?

"I wish I knew," says the 62-year-old Brooklyn borough president. Oh, he knows—anybody who describes himself as a "character," as Markowitz does, knows it's no accident.
...
But what does Markowitz do for Brooklyn? With a puzzled look, Eliyahu turns to Shlomo, who replies, "We're not sure, but he seems to care."

In reality, the borough president appoints some 900 members to the borough's community boards, panels that influence decisions on matters like the transfer of public property to private use. As a result, in places like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, Markowitz catches a lot of heat for exerting that authority to support developer Bruce Ratner's plan to use eminent domain to build his Atlantic Yards project.

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Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Ratner Starts Two-Week Mentoring Program in Williamsburg

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

New Jersey Nets owner and Downtown Brooklyn real estate magnate Bruce Ratner still hasn’t been able to get the first meaningful shovel full of dirt out of the ground at the Atlantic Yards, where he intends to build a $550 million arena for his soon-to-be-relocated NBA franchise.

That hasn’t prevented the Cleveland native from digging some deep roots in our fair borough.

Ratner continued the Nets’ move into Brooklyn yesterday, when his Forest City Ratner Companies announced the beginning of the Hoops and Leaders Basketball Camp (HLBC), an innovative program that pairs 25 young men with 25 college-educated, professional male mentors.

article

NoLandGrab: This noble gesture serves to remind us that Ratner has had decades to establish "deep roots" in Brooklyn, yet has only been meaningfully shoveling cash into the community in the past couple years, in hope of sowing more support for his Atlantic Yards deal by ingratiating himself with segments of the community. Meanwhile, he's been digging up deep roots, trying to take the homes of Brooklynites like Joseph Pastore via eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM