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September 30, 2007

Near-gridlock at tour's end, and the effect on AY & UNITY

Atlantic Yards Report

The walking tour I led yesterday (with the help of Ron Shiffman) of the Atlantic Yards footprint and environs wound up, after two-and-a-half hours, on Pacific Street just west of Flatbush Avenue, outside the Brooklyn Bear's Garden. (About 50 people showed up, very few of whom I recognized as involved in Atlantic Yards-related activism.)

The traffic on Flatbush was relentless. It was hard to imagine how a Saturday afternoon arena event could be accommodated unless there were significant changes to the area transportation system, beyond the mitigations--among them a free MetroCard (for basketball games, not concerts) and shuttle buses (ditto)--planned as of now.

Also, though the alternative UNITY plan Shiffman helped develop calls for a park on the triangular plot opposite the garden, between Flatbush, Fifth, and Atlantic avenues, it sure didn't seem like that salubrious a place to gather, given the traffic on Atlantic as well. Many of the major transportation changes that are proposed in the UNITY plan would have to be implemented, at the least.


Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

One more day to see Future Perfect, an interactive view of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

After walking around the Atlantic Yards footprint yesterday, trying to describe, with some visual aids, what Forest City Ratner aims to build, it was a trippy experience to see the Future Perfect installation at the d.u.m.b.o. art under the bridge festival.

(It's showing through today--from 1 to 6 pm, maybe later--at 20 Jay Street, M24, on the Mezzanine floor.)

The video shows the streets of Prospect Heights, but as you walk closer to the installation, architectural renderings of the project appear on the screen, while taped phone calls of residents expressing their opinions about the project are heard. (A majority, I think, are negative, but the voices are tough to decipher in places.)

Walk even closer and we see instead images produced by local schoolchildren--their vision for the streets. As the designers state, "The installation is interactive in that both these 'futures' are only revealed by someone's physical presence."


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

September 29, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...


Gothamist: Extra Extra

An interview with the creators of a multimedia presentation that represents a post-Atlantic Yards development Brooklyn.

PRNewser: Dan Klores to continue ‘The War’
Ever wonder what happened to Joe DePlasco? He' s now working on publicity for the less controversial Ken Burns "War" documentary for PBS:

This is a huge PR buy for PBS, with Klores Managing Director Joe DePlasco leading the account with a staff of four (an SVP, VP, AS, and one other). It seems like relatively easy sledding for DePlasco, whose name is strewn all over articles about the plan for a Nets stadium in Brooklyn (DKC represents Forrest City Ratner developers). The only controversy over the Burns film was the drumbeat to include Latino and Native American subjects in the final cut, which added to the quality.

Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

TODAY — WALKING TOUR: The Atlantic Yards Footprint and Environs

Here are multiple reminders that Norman "the Mad Overkiller" (and licensed NYC tour guide) Oder and former City Planning Commish Ron Shiffman are leading a walking tour of "Ratnerville" and "Environs" this Saturday.

The tour is free and open to the public and we're pretty sure that Norman Oder will NOT be quizzing "tourists" on the material afterwards.

The Brooklyn Paper, Civic Calendar

Saturday, Sept. 29

Walking tour of Atlantic Yards footprint led by former Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman and journalist Norman Oder. Meet in front of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower (Hanson Place at Ashland Place, in Fort Greene), 2 pm.

The Villager, Jane Jacobs on foot

If the name Jane Jacobs conjures just a vague notion of the urban activist, that’s all the more reason to get acquainted with her legacy during the city’s first “Jane’s Walk” series of tours this weekend. Begun last year in Toronto, where the Canadian-born Jacobs relocated after spending many years in the West Village, they make their debut here in time for the Municipal Arts Society exhibit, “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” which opened Tuesday.

Six of the eight tours will be led by people who do not normally work as guides. But just as Jacobs herself was a self-taught city-planning scholar, that doesn’t make them any less qualified. “They’re not professional tour givers,” explains Jane’s Walk director Jane Farrow. “These are people who are locals who know their neighborhoods really well.”

NoLandGrab: The Ratnerville Footprint tourists are fortunate to have their own real-live licensed tour guide and an actual urban planning expert. For your own safety, we ask that you do not hand feed them.

Brownstoner, Weekend Events

Atlantic Yards Walking Tour
Join Ron Shiffman (Pratt Center) and Norman Oder (Atlantic Yards Report) tomorrow for a guided tour of the Atlantic Yards footprint and surrounding areas. The tour kicks off on Saturday at 2 p.m. in front of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank at One Hanson Place and will take at least two hours.

NoLandGrab: B-stoner posted a HUGE list of weekend events in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

All drawn out, The Brooklyn Paper


The Real Deal: Two more tenants give way at Atlantic Yards site

Two tenants in the footprint of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project have decided to settle with the developer out of court, dropping lawsuits asking compensation for their removal by eminent domain. Four other tenants represented by the same lawyer, Jennifer Levy, are in settlement talks with Ratner. The legal battles have significantly delayed the project, with the first phase's completion slated for 2010.

The Real Estate : Atlantic Yards Case Loses Two Plaintiffs

Posted by amy at 9:52 AM

Exorcising the Dodgers, redux


Atlantic Yards Report

A good backdrop to that recent New York magazine article on "Exorcising the Dodgers" would be The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957, a bang-up exhibit about the rivalry and cultural presence of the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants, running through December 31 at the Museum of the City of New York.

Both the Dodgers and Giants have left and, of course, it was a different era a half-century ago. One exhibit panel states:
Why do the Glory Days continue to exert such a hold on the fans who experienced them? In part, is is because baseball was the big game in town, not yet truly challenged by the other league sports such as football or basketball. But while it was the big time, it was not yet the big business it is today--players lived among the fans and there was a sense of shared identity...


Posted by amy at 9:43 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: September 28, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Are Dolly Williams’ days as a member of the City Planning Commission numbered? The Daily News reported that she’s been serving on the board for three months without an official reinstatement from Borough President Marty Markowitz. Some speculate that she hasn’t been officially appointed to a second term because, during her first term, she had to rescue herself from voting on major projects, such as Atlantic Yards and the Gowanus rezoning, because she stood to gain financially from the outcome.

NoLandGrab: The correct word is "recuse" not "rescue."

Posted by amy at 9:33 AM

September 28, 2007


THE BROOKLYN PAPER: Lawsuit against Atlantic Yards is losing its plaintiffs one by one

DeadFlies.jpgAriella Cohen reports in The Brooklyn Paper that tenants are leaving the eminent domain lawsuit and that "opposition to Brooklyn’s largest real-estate project may be entering its endgame."

One tenant commented that Forest City Ratner wants "to be able to say that the plaintiffs are dropping like flies."

Um, pretty much the Brooklyn Paper already did.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report explains why tenants have few options compared to property owners.

NoLandGrab: This is the first that we've heard of any tenants leaving the eminent domain suit. It wouldn't surprise us if any did or more followed suit.

What surprises us is that there have been tenants brave enough to sign on in the first place, especially in the face of Forest City Ratner's threat to not negotiate with renters who filed suit and the fact that renters have fewer options than owners.

Posted by lumi at 12:29 PM

No love for ‘UNITY’ from city, state

UNITY2007-BP.jpgThe Brooklyn Paper

City and state officials say they don’t intend to consider a community-based alternative development plan for the Prospect Heights site of Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project that was unveiled this week.

The so-called UNITY proposal includes mostly affordable apartments, no arena and doesn’t require condemning land via eminent domain. But to be anything more than a few planners’ dream of ideal, community-driven development, support from city and state officials is necessary.

That support is not there.


NoLandGrab: This is news?

From day one, every move made by the City and State has furthered the goal of delivering the Atlantic Yards project into Bruce Ratner hands, via zoning overrides, subsidies, eminent domain and political favoritism.

Real news would have been if the ESDC and City had pulled up stakes on Atlantic Yards and started looking at the UNITY community-based plan.

Another piece in The Brooklyn Paper, "UNITY Plan: Why now?," explores two what-if scenarios that might make City and State officials (heck, maybe even Ratner?) take another look at some of the ideas in the UNITY 2007 plan.

But isn’t the Atlantic Yards deal done?

Yes, if you ask city and state officials. But even they admit that the real-estate market is a volatile beast.

But isn’t the real estate market hot hot hot?

Not exactly. Financial markets are tightening, making it harder for Ratner to line up investors. At the same time, tighter money means higher mortgage rates for his potential luxury buyers. Plus, there is a glut of luxury units coming on line, a factor that has already started to squeeze profit margins for high-end builders. any delays in construction cost Ratner $4.15 million a month in carrying costs.

Is there any other way the plan can be stopped?

Two lawsuits are percolating through the legal system: One is an eminent domain lawsuit charging that state planners abused the state’s condemnation power to line Ratner’s pockets. It was dismissed earlier this summer, but the federal appeal will be heard on Oct. 9. The other pending lawsuit challenges the project’s environmental review. It’s awaiting judgment in state court.

Posted by lumi at 12:07 PM

Jane Jacobs was wrong about a stadium, but Toronto ain't Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Skydome.jpgJane Jacobs admitted she was wrong about the Toronto stadium, but would she have approved of Atlantic Yards?

Norman Oder poses the question to himself:

A 5/31/93 New York Times profile of Jacobs... reported:

Because the Sky Dome is amid downtown office buildings with ample parking and easily accessible by public transit, it did not require the sort of vast parking lots that turn the areas surrounding most stadiums into wastelands. The Sky Dome also incorporates stores and hotels that make it active even during the off season.

"Before it was built, I had thought that would be a terrible site for a stadium, blighting the area like other stadiums," Mrs. Jacobs admits. "But I was wrong. I am wrong plenty of times, you know.

But the site in downtown Toronto did not border a residential neighborhood, as in Brooklyn and could rely on empty office parking rather than nearly 1600 spaces of interim surface parking.


Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

De Blasio Talks Real Estate With Brooklyn Bloggers

DeBlaio-BStoner.jpgBrownstoner reports on City Councilman Bill de Blasio's pow-wow with bloggers. Here's the excerpt about Atlantic Yards:

Thus, he thinks City Planning's initial framework for the rezoning of Gowanus is "legitimate," particularly in terms of the height and density that are being proposed for the Public Place site (where towers may be allowed to rise as high as 14 stories), since he believes that sort of height is necessary to support the creation of affordable housing. Similarly, he said he approved of Atlantic Yards in large part because of its "tiered approach" to affordable housing (whereby units are set aside for low- to middle-income residents), and that the project deserved the special subsidies it received through the revamp of 421-a tax abatement legislation because of the number of affordable housing units that Forest City Ratner has pledged to build. The councilman was critical of Forest City Ratner's lack of "transparency," especially in terms of keeping community members abreast of demolitions.


Readers should be aware of a few things:

The general impression we get from de Blasio is that he is plugged into the Brooklyn Party Machine and will not do anything to upset the apple cart; he knows way more about the backroom dealings concerning Atlantic Yards than we do; but he is remarkably under-informed about significant details and impacts of the project, especially those about which his own constituents are most concerned.

Posted by lumi at 11:19 AM

On the Road with "the Lid"

On the Road

A description of Atlantic Yards and Frank Gehry's totally insipid story of how he named "Miss Brooklyn" turns into a laugh riot when the original Chinese gets mangled by machine translation (via babelfish.altavista.com).

BTW: "The lid" they keep mentioning is "Gehry."


All these motley colors, all these sincere Victoria type construction, took his starry night recollected a monochromatic background will be very wonderful. [Gehry] rides in a carriage along the urban district seeks the inspiration, and not only pays attention to a block or a resident organizes, moreover pays attention to a bride, in a movie slow motion. In the lid, this building domain movie direct, had found the lead which he imagines. He calls her to be called "Miss Brew Kelin" (Miss Brooklyn), and uses in an architectural complex central construction □□wave shape this name to do by the white glass the wall surface the tall building. In the Brew Kelin, the picture in Los Angeles, in the lid is designing a medium city. In the lid and the developer all cannot undertake a simple mistake. With "the Atlantic field" the central area will relate in together, after will peacefully have peacefully 住宅街, the busy key communication line, "the Long Island railroad company" the station, a subway central station, will leave uncultivated "the industrial district", the magnificent and expensive long street, a shopping market, a fast-food factory, the new office building, "the Brew Kelin conservatory" the periphery cultural area, has the historical significance the street. Nearly all these facilities all are revolving the space which Ratner vainly hoped for. 抗议者 in art is correct: "The Atlantic field", "Miss Brew Kelin" and the competition location, all violates the spirit which the Brew Kelin constructs. But if the neighbouring area successfully causes this plan to suffer setbacks, they possibly finally feel the regret. They possibly use massive "sensitive" and "and the environment coordination" the plane brown decoration □□slightly big spot development, but far is also mean spirited than the lid in design. This kind of choice looks like a little likes a Ratner recent project □□"the Atlantic center market" (Atlantic Center Mall).


NoLandGrab: It's hard to tell exactly what the author thinks about "the Atlantic Field" critics, but here are some hints: "mean spirited" and "they possibly finally feel the regret" (i.e. "they'll be sorry") if they stop the project.

We're looking forward to the "fast-food factory" because the one Ratner calls Atlantic Terminal Mall isn't "cheesy" enough.

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

The road not taken: City Council limits high-rise buildings... on the Upper West Side

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times article Wednesday headlined Council Approves Plan to Limit High-Rises on Upper West Side:

The City Council unanimously passed a rezoning plan yesterday that limits the spread of high-rise buildings along 51 blocks on the Upper West Side, an area that officials say has undergone a significant increase in development.

The plan is intended to preserve the physical character of the community. It generally limits buildings to 14 stories along Broadway; 10 to 11 stories along the other avenues; and 6 to 7 stories on the side streets. Additionally, it imposes design restrictions so that new developments more closely match the neighborhoods around them. ...
By contrast, for the Atlantic Yards project, the state will override zoning, to which City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden concurs, explaining last February, "Tall buildings are aspirational... We’re a city that welcomes growth, we welcome innovation.”


Posted by lumi at 10:39 AM

Mixed-use project near transit hub moves ahead

LA Daily News
BY Rick Orlov

Another developer was chosen over Forest City, the developer of Atlantic Yards, this time for a megaproject in LA.


A $1 billion development that would shape the North Hollywood skyline took a big step forward Thursday as the Metro board approved negotiating with Lowe Enterprises for the massive mixed-use project.
Metro staffers recommended Lowe's plan over proposals by CIM Group and Forest City, based on an outline of the development - which includes extensive environmental considerations - the mix of residential and commercial space and the firm's financial abilities.

Robert Lowe, head of the company that has been doing business in Los Angeles for 35 years, said he is looking forward to the project and negotiations.
The deal to negotiate with the Los Angeles-based real estate company came after the Metro board resolved an unusual conflict-of-interest snag.

The key vote become tangled after 11 of the 13 Metro board members were barred from casting ballots because they all had received campaign contributions connected to projects considered for the site.

NoLandGrab: Though Forest City Enterprises lost this bid, the article seems to insinuate that Lowe, the winning developer, has as tight of a grip on the political process in LA as Bruce Ratner does here in NYC. Which leads to the question, is turnabout fairplay?

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

Trinidadian Contractor's Re-Appointment To NY Commisison Up In The Air

DollyWIlliams-HBN.jpg HardbeatNews.com
By Philomena Robertson

Will Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-based entrepreneur, Dolly Williams, be reappointed to the New York City Planning Commission amidst allegations of non-payment to several sub-contractors?

That question burns uppermost in the minds of many three months after the expiration of her appointment to the powerful zoning body and amidst allegations in a CRAIN news report that she owes millions to contractors her company hired.


NoLandGrab: Though the article notes the scandal that resulted in Dolly Williams's recusal from decisions regarding Atlantic Yards due to conflict of interest, unmentioned was Dolly's Gowanus rezoning conflict of interest and her illegal-parking conduct.

Also unmentioned was the "NoLandGrab" photo credit (crazy!). Note to for-profit media organizations: stealing from unpaid bloggers is not halal.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Cleaning up

BlightCleanUp-BP.jpgBrooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

After complaining about neglect along the Ratner-controlled railyards, volunteers filled 30 contractor bags with debris at the Sept. 23 event, dubbed “People Still Live Here” day.

City law holds property owners responsible for litter in front of their buildings, but the Department of Sanitation and the Empire State Development Corporation declined to comment on the mess. No wonder activists want ESDC to finally appoint the long-promised construction ombudsman


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

September 27, 2007

Future Perfect: Interview with creators Ed Purver and Chris Croft

Experience the first interactive display featuring Prospect Heights and what it might look like if Bruce Ratner has his way.

Future Perfect will be showing beginning tomorrow at the d.u.m.b.o. art under the bridge festival, 20 Jay Street, Unit M24, Mezzanine Floor.

Visit www.futureperfectbrooklyn.org for more information.

Last night we sat down with creators Ed Purver and Chris Croft, who met at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Purver used Future Perfect as his thesis for the program.

Purver and Croft come clean about how they did it, how long they've lived in Brooklyn, when they first learned about Bruce Ranter's megaproject and what they like about Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: How do you describe Future Perfect?

FuturePerfectCreators-sm.jpgEd Purver: It’s an interactive video installation, a visualization on the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

There’s a video projection on the wall, and if there’s no one in the room you just see street views of the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. As soon as someone enters the space, a strip of this proposed architectural future is immediately revealed in front of them and follows them around the room in direct proportion to their size. The closer they get to the screen Bruce Ratner’s vision of the future crossfades into the architectural future as imagined by local children.

NLG: How did you come up with the title?

Chris Croft: We just did a quick brainstorm over email, it just seemed to fit.

FuturePerfectComp.jpg NLG: What do YOU call the person who is taking in your piece? I’ve been at a loss to come up with the right word, because the individual isn’t a part of an audience and isn’t merely a viewer.

E.P.: User, participant, I’d probably say visitor or viewer. I know viewer sounds a bit sedentary because we’re asking them to walk around, but they are just watching. I like visitor.

NLG: What do you call the type of artwork you do?

C.C.: This is interactive art, but it’s also community-centered. I would say new-media art. A lot of new-media art, at least the stuff I like, tends to be activist.

NLG: Do you do this work full time?

E.P.: I’m freelancing with some really fun stuff that is quite similar to this piece.

NLG: Stuff you can talk about?

E.P.: I can talk about it to a certain extent. I’m freelancing for a company called Light Projects and we’re making a permanent video installation for the lobby of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. But we can’t tell you what the display is or content is because I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

NLG: Chris, are you still in the program at ITP?

C.C.: I decided to stay on an extra semester. I’m doing my thesis right now.

NLG: What is your thesis?

C.C.: My thesis is a machine that fills out standardized test forms.

[Nervous laughter by interviewer.]

E.P.: You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

NLG: It seems like the most important question in Brooklyn these days #151; especially if you are fighting over this piece of land, the 22 acres Bruce Ratner calls “Atlantic Yards” #151; is “how long have you lived in Brooklyn?”

E.P.: I’ve only lived here for two years.

C.C.: Two years.

NLG: Where did you guys grow up?

E.P.: In England, outside North London.

C.C.: Athens, GA.

E.P.: That’s actually the reason why our own voices are not in the piece at all.

We are very aware that we’ve only lived in Brooklyn for two years and we wanted to visualize the facts so that people can access the information and then we wanted to invite the voices of people who live here and provide a forum for other people to speak.

[It was] the same when I introduced the kids' drawings -- people who are born here, people who are growing up here -- having their visual vocabulary in there to counter the architect’s view.

NLG: Who’s the third collaborator on your piece?

E.P.: Ariel Efron, who helped link the video in.

NLG: In your thesis, you describe your frustration with interactive art employed in dance or dramatic works, because the interactive components aren’t always recognized or apparent to the audience. Generally technology strives to seamlessly enhance or enable human experience, to become transparent, almost human. It seems to me that Future Perfect works in the opposite direction, trying to create a work where the moment in which a human interacts with technology is very apparent and substantial. Why?

E.P.: Actually, I think that when you experience the installation you realize that the technology itself it not really taking center stage.

People tend to walk towards light, they tend to walk towards video and as they do, they discover, things are changing. If they work it out, then they have a bit of control and then there’s something for them to play with. But I don’t think it’s technology for its own sake. It’s a really effective way of contrasting different moments in time.

NLG: So would you say that the interactivity is more apparent in this case than in a lot of other theater or dramatic works?

E.P.: I think that the interactivity is more apparent because the participants are getting to use it instead of being asked to watch a demonstration of somebody else saying, “look at this thing, it changes when I do this.” People discover it by walking in it themselves. There’s no voice telling them to “now move left, now move right,” or there’s no trained performer who knows exactly what’s going to happen.

It has to be well designed, it has to be simple and well integrated into the piece for people to just discover it for themselves.

NLG: Frank Gehry is famous for using cutting-edge technology to push the envelope to come up with design innovations. As part of Future Perfect, you're using cutting-edge technology to render and present his design. Did that occur to you when you were working on it?

E.P.: Not really.

C.C.: You’re taking the architect's version and looking at it and making your own. It’s using THEIR tools to visualize something they wouldn’t have, to give an unbiased perspective, because of how architects’ renderings are usually placed, at a very flattering point of view.

NLG: That’s something we’ve noticed too. That a lot of time the renderings are not from a perspective that’s even real.

E.P.: Yeah, you’d have to be hovering in the air.

C.C.: And the people in the images are always immobile. They're these clip-art images of people — not actual people on the street. I think that the movement is really key, to key-in that this is the way of life as it is now and these people will continue to be there.

E.P.: By using 3-D modeling, we’re using tools that architects use. I was thinking [how] so many of the renderings from the development company were shown. I understand why they do that, they have a job to do, it’s their job to sell. I felt like it was our job to represent a bit of a broader view.

As far using newer technology, the sort of surveillance technology we use to provide the interactivity is also becoming more and more fashionable in new buildings, in lobbies of fancy hotels and interactive displays. It’s satisfying to use fancy IM [interactive media] stuff, to use it for sharing information in more of a community way.

NLG: What kind of equipment is involved? Is there a CRAY supercomputer missing from some lab in the world?

E.P.: Yeah, it’s true. Every time [we] put it up, we actually connect via our own secret web to an enormous computer the size of my house. It’s the only way it works.

C.C.: It’s powered by pigeons.

So, it’s green?

E.P.: It’s a bit of a sweatshop though.

NLG: Seriously, what kind of equipment are you using?

C.C.: Macintosh laptop computer, iSight web camera and video projector and speakers for audio.

NLG: A fellow blogger over at a web site called OnNYTurf put up the YouTube video. He was hoping that you guys would release the specs and a tutorial on how to do this. Can you do it at home?

E.P.: You can do it at home if you have a spare computer and a video projector – those things aren’t cheap. We would have to release the code and we’d have to supply the media assets, but it’s feasible.

C.C.: Was he asking specifically about using our models?

NLG: No.

C.C.: Then the barrier to entry would be knowing how to do 3-D modeling.

E.P.: The video work is quite tricky. It’s a lot of modeling, a lot of texturing and then there’s compositing as well.

NLG: What technical limitations did you encounter and how did it affect or shape the piece?

E.P.: A technical limitation was not having access to all the information we wanted. We grabbed all of the maps, all of the heights and statistics that were already in the public domain by the architects and so on. But we had to estimate the textures of what those buildings are going to look like just from looking at photographs of the architect’s models. That could have been done better.

To clearly represent the proper scale, the proper look of those buildings, it was quite tough to estimate at some points.

And speed of computing — I would like the video to be higher resolution and to look better, but only having access to a laptop, there’s only so much you can do. We had to compromise the look of the video with the speed of the interactivity.

FuturePerfectFlyers.jpg C.C.: One limitation we had was when we were putting up flyers around the neighborhood they wouldn’t last very long. They would get taken down by the City.

NLG: A lot of those flyers are taken down by people who live in the community, just the kind of people you were trying to reach.

E.P.: Just so you know, the flyers were not publicity, they said please give us a phone call and give us your opinion.

NLG: Did you take extra footage that you had to leave out?

C.C.: We took a lot of footage that we didn’t use.

E.P.: Yeah, we did.

We wanted to keep the file sizes fairly small so the computer could run nicely. We didn’t want a huge loop of video.

A tricky thing is we wanted to shoot when there weren’t many clouds moving around, just to match up the 3-D models with the way the light is changing on the street. So that really caused a problem.

NLG: How much did Future Perfect cost to create?

C.C.: Timewise?

E.P.: I’d have to think about that. We had most of that stuff. I had the webcams and all the cabling we needed, we would use [Chris’s] laptop or my laptop, Ariel already had the projector. We already had the software that we use. It’s really time, right?

C.C.: Promotional materials, like cards and stuff, maybe a thousand dollars.

NLG: How long does it take to set up this piece?

E.P.: When we went to California, we had union help; they did everything for us really quick. It was part of a big tech convention.

Tomorrow we’ll be setting it up ourselves. I hope it takes three hours.

C.C.: Eight.

E.P.: Did you say eight? Please don’t say that.

C.C.: Hopefully not.

NLG: Do you guys remember what your first reaction was when you heard about the project, Atlantic Yards?

E.P.: I was shocked and I was really curious. My neighbors didn’t really know much about it. They would only sort of vaguely reference it, “Oh yeah, apparently there’s going to be some big thing, it’s really close.” I was like, “really?”

So when I actually sat down and read about it, I was blown away. It seemed so vast.

C.C.: The first time I was exposed to it was a Village Voice article the second or third month after I moved here. I live in Greenpoint, there’s a lot of similar real estate stuff going on there. The Village Voice painted it in a negative light. I’ve done a lot of a research on it and was really shocked by how closely related the developer is to the MTA and to the NY government.

And then, I [went] to a concert in Prospect Park one weekend and there was some guy handing out pro-Atlantic Yards flyers. I got into an argument with him, like, “why do you think this project is good?” We had a good discussion. He thought that it would bring a lot of jobs to the neighborhood.

I think that the red flag for me was the basketball stadium. I never like neighborhoods with stadiums. I’m from Atlanta, so that’s partially why.

E.P.: Living on Dean Street, we have a roof, so it’s pretty easy to visualize: “Christ! It’s going to be a radical change.”

Also, I’ve been really aware that the neighborhood is doing fine by itself. In two years I’ve seen it changing. It’s not like it’s going down in a horrible spiral. It’s improving and it’s safer than it was ten years ago, people tell me.

NLG: Like NoLandGrab, I would say that Future Perfect has an editorial point of view, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is basically, the more information that one has about the project, the more one is inclined to form an opinion AGAINST the project. Did you set out to create a work with a point of view on the project, or did it evolve? Tell the truth.

C.C.: I’ve always wanted to make an editorial statement.

Ed was the one who was always holding back on that, like “let’s make something that tries to shows as much unbiased reality as possible.” I think that was a good choice to make.

In our audio, my opinions come through because 90% of the calls we got are anti-project. We didn’t have to edit any of the audio to put forth our own agenda; it was just the community’s voice.

E.P.: I did start out definitely wanting it to be documentary: let’s just share the information. But the further I went along, the more disingenuous I realized that was, because I DO have a point of view. My view is that the development is too much and I am against it.

That WAS coming out. It was coming out in subtle ways, when I was doing color correction on compositing the models for the videos I tweaked.

You are making artistic decisions all the time, even if you think it is just to make it look better. But better for ME would be to make it look more dramatic, the new buildings more imposing and vast. I was doing that at the same time I was saying, “Oh no, I’m neutral.”

FuturePerfectKids.jpg I had to let go of that and be honest and say, “No, I do have a point of view,” and that was when I said “OK, I’ll go ahead and bring in the kids’ drawings as well,” which is when I let go of just sharing information and making it a bit more poetic.

NLG: So [the kids’ drawings] came in afterwards?

E.P.: That came in later, yeah.

NLG: In recent years, Bruce Ratner has become a patron of the arts. Has he called either of you guys seeking to buy Future Perfect for his “permanent collection,” if you know what I mean?

C.C.: No

E.P.: No. You know, he calls me for drinks sometimes. He puts his hand on my leg, I don’t like it that much.

NLG: I hate it when he does that.

[Legal disclaimer: we were being sarcastic, ya dig?]

E.P.: Yeah, he does it in a way that you feel like it would be rude to ask him not to.

NLG: Complete this sentence: the one thing I really like about the Ratner project is…

E.P.: The unintentional humor value of some of his rendering: of this beautiful dream paradise, where people are happy, where children play free. There’s no mention that this little grass playground will be covered in shadow.

C.C.: If I lived in the area, I would say my airconditioning bill, but it won’t reach Greenpoint.

E.P.: The thing I like about the Ratner project is it hasn’t happened yet.

NLG: Fair enough.

C.C.: And we were able to make this project.

NLG: So, thank you Bruce Ratner. [Hey Bruce, that was sarcastic too.]

Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

In appellate court, AY renters' case finds little sympathy

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder went to court yesterday to cover the case against the "friendly condemnations:"

Can the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), pursuing "friendly condemnations," override the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), which typically must grant permission to a landlord who wishes to demolish a building housing residential tenants with rent-stabilized leases?

The answer, not previously decided by the courts, appears more likely to be yes, allowing such "friendly condemnations," in which Forest City Ratner-owned buildings are transferred to ESDC ownership, thus ending the leases far more speedily than the process would occur under DHCR.

In May, State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub dismissed a challenge from 13 tenants (all but one rent-stabilized) in the Atlantic Yards footprint, saying that the case belonged instead in the appellate court designated to hear eminent domain determinations, but without the advantages to the plaintiffs of a trial.

Appealing Tolub's ruling to a different appellate court, the tenants, represented by attorney George Locker, found it tough going yesterday. A five-judge panel of Appellate Division, First Department was steadily skeptical of his argument that the tenants are not actually condemnees, with an ownership interest in their leases.


Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Marty Markowitz may pull plug on Dolly Williams

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

DollyMarty-BP.jpg The News has the next scoop on Dolly:

Goodbye, Dolly?

Borough President Marty Markowitz's controversial appointee to the city Planning Commission has been serving the board for three months without an official reinstatement, fueling speculation her days are numbered.

What's the problem with Dolly?

Dolly Williams, who as an Atlantic Yards investor was forced to recuse herself from voting on the $4.2 billion project, wants Markowitz to reappoint her to a second term.

Besides recusing herself from voting on Atlantic Yards matters, Williams will not be able to vote on a Gowanus rezoning effort because she owns land in the area.

Williams' development company also was involved in a billing dispute at a Harlem mega-mall being built by Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Yards project.

Adding to her embarrassment, bloggers posted pictures in August of Williams' yellow Porsche, which was parked illegally in Park Slope and boasted city Planning placards.

DollyMarty-LaborDay.jpgA NYPIRG spokesperson sums it up:

"If a person is actively engaged in ongoing construction projects and has to recuse themselves on projects of importance, it raises questions of whether they can represent the borough properly," said New York Public Interest Research Group government reform coordinator Neal Rosenstein.


NoLandGrab: In addition, Dolly typically does not volunteer her conflicts of interest, and it's usually up to vigilant reporters, residents and public officals to call her on them.

Marty is still mulling over his decision, but the fact that he has to think so hard about it indicates to voters where his loyalties lie.

Many will surely miss Dolly if she isn't reappointed and loses her Goverment Official parking placard — she has been one of the low-hanging fruits for critics of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 AM

City Living: Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

By Patrick Verel

PH-amNY.jpgThere's a big story today in amNY about Prospect Heights, the neighborhood that's being forced to host Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards developement plan.

If Prospect Heights was ever in the shadow of Park Slope, its ritzy neighbor across Flatbush Avenue, those days are long past.
"It's the gold coast of Brooklyn, in a sense, with these institutions grouped together," [Ellen F. Salpeter, director of Heart of Brooklyn] said. "It has a diverse housing stock and an extraordinarily diverse group of residents, too. It weaves together a wonderful community."


The looming Atlantic Yards project in the neighborhood's northeast [actually it's "northwest"] corner has the potential to upend sections of the neighborhood for years to come.
While taking a wait-and-see attitude on Atlantic Yards, Salpeter said she was confident that retail will follow the residential boom that has brought condos to once empty lots.

The Buzz
There is no bigger issue facing Prospect Heights than Atlantic Yards, the Frank Gehry-designed development that is being spearheaded by Forest City Ratner.

One local cites Atlantic Yards for spurring development, though feelings are mixed:

Many new developments have sprouted up alongside car-repair shops on Washington Avenue, but he said the jury is out on the sale numbers there.

"A lot of that land was very cheap, and the people saw the dollar signs," he said. "They saw the Atlantic Yard project was coming, and they figured 'This is my time.' We're watching to see how it does; it's not quite the garden spot that everyone wants it to be."


NoLandGrab: From our vantage point, what's interesting about the article is that all the great stuff about Prospect Heights has NOTHING to do with Atlantic Yards — it could even be argued that the neighborhood is the antithesis of Bruce Ratner's megaproject. Also, many of the owners of the unique neighborhood amenities listed in the article are publicly opposed to the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

Unifying Brooklyn Across Atlantic Yards

Group Offers Alternative to Forest City Ratner Plan

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Jeffrey Harmatz


Responding to the large and vocal resistance to Forest City Ratner’s planned development at the Atlantic Yards site, the Unity Project unveiled their design for a more sustainable, probable, and community-oriented alternative plan.

On display at the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street near the Yards site, the design incorporates green architecture, public open spaces, and affordable housing in a design that has gained the support of many local politicians and members of the community.
"This development alternative makes Frank Gehry look like an amateur," said Dr. Tom Angotti, professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and one of the lead designers of the Unity Plan. "We had 80 individual experts working on this, which is a tremendous amount of collective intelligence."

"Our basic site strategy was to bring the surrounding neighborhoods together," said designer Marshall Brown. "We’re adding new streets and trying to provide a much more diverse program of schools, community theaters, senior centers, retail, and on top of that, housing."


Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

Forest City News

ForestCityBaseball.jpg The NY Times, Planned City Rises Within a City in the Southwest
Forest City builds a city from scratch:

A 25-square-mile stretch of flat acreage here with sweeping views of the Sandia Mountains — said to be the largest tract of undeveloped land in the United States within one city’s limits — is being transformed into a master-planned community that may take 30 years to build.

Albuquerque Studios, an anchor at the Mesa del Sol development, has invested $74 million in building six sound stages ranging up to 48,000 square feet, with two more planned.

The development, called Mesa del Sol, will be a high-tech economic development center, and it is expected to become the site of 60,000 jobs, 38,000 homes and a town center.

It is being developed by a partnership of Forest City Enterprises, based in Cleveland, and Covington Capital Partners, based in Santa Monica, Calif. (Forest City Ratner, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, is a partner in developing the new headquarters of The New York Times Company.)

dBusinessNews, Forest City Declared Quarterly Dividend

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) announced today that the Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.08 per share (annual rate of $0.32 per share) on the outstanding shares of both Class A and Class B Common Stock, payable on December 17, 2007, to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 3, 2007.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

Jay-Z and Rocawear Vying for Name-Rights to New Jersey Nets’ Arena

XXL News

Jay-Z-XXL.jpgThe headline is not a joke, but it is referring to the Meadowlands.

As if being a part owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets wasn’t enough, Jay-Z and his Rocawear clothing line are vying to win the naming-rights to the Nets’ arena. Currently called Continental Airlines Arena, the stadium, which is located in the Meadowlands area of East Rutherford, NJ, has opened up bidding to secure a new name.


As an investor in Bruce Ratner's Nets, maybe Jay-Z sees the value in the naming rights for the Meadowlands arena because he understands that the team won't be moving to Brooklyn anytime soon. Any hedge fund would do well to hire Jay-Z.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

A Bit Of Editing On Bill De Blasio's Wiki Page

blasio-sm.jpg As a prelude to Bill de Blasio's meeting with local bloggers last night, Pardon me for asking takes a close look at changes to de Blasio's Wikipedia entry, which has been edited and scrubbed regarding his position on Atlantic Yards, by someone with a City of NY IP address.

First, "De Blasio is also a supporter of the generally popular Atlantic Yards development proposed by Bruce Ratner."

Then, "De Blasio is also a supporter of the generally popular Atlantic Yards development, a major affordable housing initiative currently under development."

Next, "De Blasio is also a supporter of the generally unpopular Atlantic Yards development, which critics contend will be excessive in size,provide major tax subsidies to the developer and will have a detrimental impact upon the neighborhood."

Followed by, "On the other hand, De Blasio has supported some popular development projects. De Blasio is a supporter of the generally popular Atlantic Yards development, which is a major mixed-income housing, retail, office and sports complex."

Finally, the paragraph was removed all together. Maybe one of the bloggers from yesterday's meeting (we couldn't attend) will set the record straight.


From our notes from the last pow-wow with bloggers:

BDB told us:

"What led me to support it from the beginning was the development of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)."

"The number of the affordable units is an extraordinarily postive impact for this part of Brooklyn, an area that's unrelentingly gentrifying. It's government's role to create the maximum amount of affordable housing. This was a way to create some guarantees of affordability. I think you've never seen these kind of precentages in this kind of project before."

"I still think it's too tall. Aesthetically problematic, to say the least. A lot of the look should blend in more with the surrounding neighborhoods. Minimize negative impacts on the community and mass transit."

In a nutshell, BDB supports Atlantic Yards because some handpicked groups signed an agreement with Bruce Ratner (including groups formed for the sole purpose of promoting the project and the CBA) and because it will bring more affordable housing than any other project, but it's too big?

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

September 26, 2007

The great Jane debate: Opening salvo

BruceJacobs.jpg Time Out NY Blog

After reading portions of Jane Jacobs' “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Dustin Goot from the Time Out NY blog has heard enough to declare that “Jane Jacobs would approve of Atlantic Yards,” though he admits he’s not “intimately familiar with the plans.:

If you’ve looked on newsstands at all this week, you know that we’ve posed the question, “Has Manhattan lost its soul?” (and attempted to answer it). What you may not know is that our criteria for assessing the “soul” of each neighborhood derived largely from the ideas of Jane Jacobs, the famous urbanist–Robert Moses opponent–West Village savior. We did some research on her and everything. To wit, many of us read (portions of) The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her seminal 1961 tome on what makes cities work. The book puts forward some interesting assertions about what’s good for cities (e.g., parks tend to be useless), and sparked a lot of discussion among the edit staff. So we thought it would be fun to draw out that exchange and share it with you, our beloved readers. (There will be multiple updates later today and tomorrow.)

Since the goal is to make this interesting, I’m starting it controversially: I think J.J. would approve of Atlantic Yards. Actually, she was a cranky broad who no doubt would have found many faults with it. Let me rephrase. I think Atlantic Yards largely follows Jacobs’s principles and would enliven that neighborhood in a way she would admire.

Let’s look at it through the J.J. lens. That neighborhood right now is an ugly traffic confluence and not much else. It’s full of chain stores and terrible for pedestrian traffic. Atlantic Yards would add an amenity where there is none. Though I’m not intimately familiar with the plans, I know it includes extensive mixed-use and varied street-level commercial space, along with many residential units (and a hotel, I believe). It would increase the density of that area, as Jacobs prefers.


NoLandGrab: That’s so-o-o-o-o keuwt! Thanks for being honest Dustin, we would have NEVER figured out that you weren't "intimately familiar with the plans" by reading your curious Jacobsian defense of Bruce Ratner's megaproject.

For the record, Jacobs submitted a friend of the court brief in favor of the homeowners in the landmark eminent domain case of Kelo vs. New London; she was highly skeptical of removing streets to create gigantic superblocks; and she would have figured out by now that it’s an “arena,” not a “stadium,” which would represent only a fraction of the entire largest-single-source private “megaproject” in the history of NYC. Call it a hunch, but we highly doubt that she would have favored increasing the density of the neighborhood to the extent that it would be more than two times the density of the densest residential community in the nation.

Also, the chain stores Dustin cites are owned by Bruce Ratner. Though they may seem blighted, they are not part of the Atlantic Yards plan and there isn't much hope that Atlantic Yards would be very different.

We could go on, but that's really Norman Oder's job. [Click here for his response to Dustin's post and subsequent commentary.]

Posted by lumi at 10:15 PM

We are all Jacobsian now--but what about process?

Atlantic Yards Report

jjmedal.jpgNorman Oder reports on Monday's reception and awards ceremony, which was keyed to the opening of the Jane Jacobs exhibit at the Municipal Art Society. Oder examines many of the movers, players and shakers in attendance:

At the ceremony Monday, Jacobs medal winner Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperative in the Bronx, in his acceptance speech, talked about how reading Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities “resonated with a lot of of what I’m feeling.” Jacobs bequeathed “a love of humanity and a love of democracy,” an inspiration to his own work for environmental justice and economic development, aiming to establish a facility to transform construction waste “green collar” jobs.

Freilla, however, challenged the general air of civic self-satisfaction. “Do we have a say in our lives and decisions?” he asked. The answer: infrequently. It was a bracing reminder of the importance of process and one that Jacobs, I’d imagine, would have applauded.


Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Ratner's Atlantic Center, Site V gain attention as "worst buildings"

Atlantic Yards Report

Since its opening nearly a decade ago, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall has been at the top of local residents' lists of the best-of-the-worst buildings in NYC. Now, the Mall gets a couple minutes of fame on WNYC.

Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall didn’t improve much when it received its face lift after the opening of the same developer’s Atlantic Terminal Mall. Photos: left, Forest City Ratner Companies; middle and right “Brooklyn Token” via flickr.

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall made WNYC listeners' 11-building list of the city's worst buildings. Guest expert and New York Times columnist Christopher Gray's list, by contrast, was limited to Manhattan--and he said he didn't agree with listener choices of buildings by name architects.

Note that Atlantic Center, and its sibling, the Shops at Site V across Flatbush Avenue, are great work. Indeed, during the episode yesterday, host Leonard Lopate led off by disparaging the bunker-like P.C. Richard store, which shares Site V with Modell's.

Lopate noted that some people criticize ambitious-but-failed works by major architects, while "there are other people like me that think that the P.C. Richard's store on Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush has to be the worst thing.... Whoever did the P.C. Richard should have been designing army barracks."

The buildings at Site V, clearly built by Forest City Ratner as short-term structures on urban renewal land, are scheduled to be demolished for the Atlantic Yards project. A 400-foot building was initially planned; now, a 250-foot building would occupy the site, nonetheless looming over the adjacent Brooklyn Bear's Garden and the row houses of adjacent Pacific Street.


Talk about "stiching" — this photo-quilt by "Brooklyn Token" shows both malls together.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Atlantic Yards: Future Perfect

OnNYTurf on FuturePerfect:

This is another exciting development in independent journalism/reporting/whatever. Here is a video of the installation:

These kinds of technological projects are really exciting! Professional and innovative tools, that citizens and grassroots groups can use to seriously evaluate things happening in their environment, are developing at an impressive rate. Big papers, tv, and project planners simply can not dominate public discourse any more. It would be great to see detailed instruction on how to implement the Future Perfect system so anyone can put the technology into practice with minimal learning curve.


You can interact with Future Perfect at the d.u.m.b.o. art under the bridge festival this Friday through Sunday (September 28th to 30th).

Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

Tish James on the UNITY plan

James-JB.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

The UNITY plan launched yesterday may not have the backing of numerous public officials, but it does have Council Member Letitia James, the elected official most prominent in opposition to Atlantic Yards. Since I missed her appearance at yesterday's press conference, I asked her for a comment.

She said that UNITY "truly respects the character of this historic community. Open space and low-rise residential growth reflect the wishes of community residents regarding what should be built over the rail yards. The community and I do not oppose development, just eminent domain abuse and out-of-scale buildings."


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

SATURDAY — WALKING TOUR: The Atlantic Yards Footprint and Environs

Center For the Living City

Meeting Location: In front of Williamsburgh Savings Bank, tallest building in Brooklyn, Hanson Place at Ashland Place

Time: Saturday, Sept 29 2 PM
Tour Guides: Ron Shiffman and Norman Oder

Walk this area of Brooklyn with Ron Shiffman, planner and founder, Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) and former New York City Planning Commissioner and Norman Oder, the journalist behind the Atlantic Yards Report and veteran New York City tour guide.The walk reveals the historic and political context behind the controversial Atlantic Yards plan—beginning at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, where the borough’s tallest building is being converted to luxury condos, a dip into the embryonic Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) arts district, a peek at revitalized Fort Greene. The walk will then take in the fruits of urban redevelopment—1970s tower apartments, 1990s low-rise housing, and two malls—before traversing the footprint itself in Prospect Heights.

The walk, which will last at least two hours, provides an opportunity to discuss highly-charged elements of the Atlantic Yards design, including significant density, the creation of superblocks, the challenge of creating (and paying for) affordable housing, and the possibility of persistent interim surface parking. An update on legal challenges to the project will also be provided.

Ron Shiffman founded PICCED and still teaches urban planning at the Pratt Institute. He is on the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the coalition leading opposition to the Atlantic Yards project.

Norman Oder has written a comprehensive and often critical blog about the project for the past two years; his Atlantic Yards Report has broken numerous stories. A licensed New York City tour guide, he has operated New York Like A Native, which specializes in walking tours of Brooklyn, since 2000.

"Atlantic Yards Photo Map" by Tracy Collins, from his photo book "Atlantic Yards, [De]Constuction of the Neighborhood"

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Seeing the city through Jane Jacobs’ eyes

Reporter Amy Zimmer checks out the Municipal Art Society's Jane Jacobs exhibit:

The exhibit’s project manager, Tim Mennel, said the show isn’t really about Jacobs — the journalist, activist and West Village resident whose 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” celebrated community participation over professional planners’ superblocks. “We want people to walk out and say, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’”

The Municipal Art Society is an advocacy organization, not a museum. “[The exhibit is] a jumping off point to get people involved in asking questions about the city now,” considering large-scale developments such as Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project.
Pointing to that supermarket, Mennel said, “Practically every neighborhood wants a little gentrification. But something Jane Jacobs talked about is ‘oversuccess,’” — when dynamic neighborhoods start attracting more money and change. This idea is discussed by developers like Douglas Durst in of one of the seven public programs and eight walking tours accompanying the exhibit.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder and Ron Shiffman's walking tour of "The Atlantic Yards Footprint and Environs" is this Saturday. Details here.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Forest City in the News

The Express-Times, Bank's plans changing

BETHLEHEM TWP. | The American Bank targeted for Hope Road and Freemansburg Avenue has once again changed construction plans because of problems stemming from [Forest City Enterprises] Summit Lehigh Valley's delayed construction.

The planning commission on Monday reviewed a proposal for American Bank to handle its own storm-sewer management with an on-site sewer detention system. Developers had planned to utilize the Summit Lehigh Valley's detention pond.

If the bank decides to go it alone, then it will add further complications to Forest City's Summit Lehigh Valley project, which is currently "mired in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation review process."

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

September 25, 2007

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member receives "genius grant"

%20nottage.jpgDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member Lynn Nottage was one of 24 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation $500,000 fellowship grant, frequently referred to as the "genius grant."

From the AP, via MetroNY:

Lynn Nottage, 42, playwright, Brooklyn, N.Y. Nottage's works include "Crumbs from the Table of Joy," "Mud River Stone," and the prize-winning "Intimate Apparel," a story of a young black seamstress in the early 20th century.

NoLandGrab: Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that there are some very serious problems with Bruce Ratner's controversial historically dense megaproject, otherwise, WE wouldn't be here.

Congratulations Lynn!

Posted by lumi at 4:15 PM

UNITY 2007 Photos

UNITY2007Window.jpg UNITY 2007
Community Forum
September 24th, 2007

[Click hyperlinks below, to view more images from yesterday's forum.]

By consulting and working with stakeholders first, participants in UNITY2007 turned the Atlantic Yards process upside down.

Passersby can view the UNITY2007 window exhibit at the Soapbox Gallery.

University of Cincinnati architecture professor Marshall Brown talked about the collaborative design process and the architecture and planning sections of UNITY2007.

Pages from the UNITY2007 report and photos of the April 2007 UNITY workshop by Jonathan Barkey are part of the Soapbox Gallery exhibit.

In a photo of more Barkey than we bargained for, the photographer was captured wrapped in a projection of one of his own photos.

Posted by lumi at 2:39 PM

Jane Jacobs, Foe of Plans and Friend of City Life

JacobsMAs-NYT.jpgThe NY Times
By Edward Rothstein

Since NYC is on the precipice of radical change in some neighborhoods, now is as good a time as any to revisit Jane Jacobs. "Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York" opens today at the Municipal Art Society:

Under Jacobs’s influence, there arose new ways of thinking about cities; community groups became active participants in city planning, and new developments started to take street life into account. Jacobs died in 2006, receiving encomiums from both the political right and left.

But as New York seems to be revving up for another generation of urban development — including the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s environmental projects — as new neighborhoods have taken shape, like Battery Park City, and old ones change in function and status, like Dumbo in Brooklyn, the issues that Jacobs and her opponents raised remain as vital as ever.


Two heads up:

  1. "Last year’s series of major exhibitions about Moses at the Museum of the City of New York, the Queens Museum of Art and Columbia University," was actually early THIS year.

  2. The Times critic mischaracterizes Jane Jacobs's mistrust of 20-Century city planning orthodoxy. Rothstein states, "Jane Jacobs did not believe that planners could ever restore life to American cities. Instead she put her faith in the chaos of urban life, in diversity, in people."

This is the enduring characterization Jacobs, but a closer reading of the Introduction of , "Death and Life of Great American Cities," will reminds us that first and foremost Jacobs was promoting an observational approach to planning, where the qualities of a successful community could be measured, studied and allowed to persist.

On page 13 she writes:

"The pseudoscience of city planning and its companion, the art of city design, have not yet broken with the specious comfort of wishes, familiar superstitions, oversimplifications, and symbols, and have not yet embarked upon the adventure of probing the real world."

Simply, she was promoting the idea of introducing the scientific method to the art and science of urban planning, and, from real study, deriving an understanding of what really works.

Jacobs even understood and hoped that her own observations and ideas would be "corrected" in the future when she wrote ("Death and Life," page 16), " I hope any reader of this book will constantly and skeptically test what I say against his own knowledge of cities and their behavior. If I have been inaccurate in observations or mistaken in inferences and conclusions, I hope these faults will be quickly corrected," which is probably more than we can expect from the NY Times.

Posted by lumi at 1:20 PM

Who are the buildings in your neighborhood?

TC-474DeanSt.jpgA charming yellow clapboard townhouse is a building in your neighborhood,
in your neighborhood,
in your neigh-bor-hoo-ood.

Meet 474 Dean Street, a three-story clapboard townhouse across the street from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's arena superblock. If Ratner has his way, this three-story 1,800 sq-ft house will be facing the south side of the Nets arena and Building 3, which, at a planned height of approximately 21 stories-high, would be the shortest high-rise on the arena superblock.

According to the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, "the New York City Zoning Resolution prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use." Because the State of NY is using its power to supercede the NYC Zoning Resolution, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan circumvents this regulation.

In other words, the Atlantic Yards plan goes beyond the Manhattanization of Brooklyn, because even in Manhattan, you will not find an arena across the street from a home, such as 474 Dean St.

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 12:10 PM

The Ratnerville Demolition Hot Spot Map, September 24 through October 7


Posted by lumi at 11:51 AM


Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

Weeks beginning September 24, 2007 and October 1, 2007

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Ratnerville 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

  • Mid-block piles: drilling is complete; excavating down a few feet then installing lagging.
  • Drilling piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue test piles for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles.
  • Test pits on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues are complete.
  • Mobilization to East Portal; preparation for drilling of piles.
  • Mobilization to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge).
  • 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.

  • Completion of the roof abatement at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) is underway with an anticipated duration of two-four weeks. Once all of the abatement is completed, demolition of the building will commence.
  • Demolition at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) will be underway for the next two–three months.
  • Demolition is anticipated to be underway at 814 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 45), 818 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 46) and 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 50) within this two-week period. Abatement will be completed at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 46) after a parapet is removed, per the instructions of the BEST Squad.
  • Demolition is anticipated to be underway at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54) within this two-week period.

Posted by lumi at 11:32 AM

NAY! (Not in Atlantic Yards)

Here's just the type of column that the Post never wrote about the astroturf coalition that Bruce Ratner assembled in support of Atlantic Yards. Can you blame Columbia University for taking a page out of Ratner's tried-and-true landgrabber playbook?


COLUMBIA University is making great efforts to pre vent community objections from derailing its plan for a massive expansion in West Harlem. But its methods seem to rely more on big-money power politics than on listening to the folks who live and work where the school wants to build.

At a meeting held last month by West Harlem's Community Board 9, for example, a good chunk of the school's "local supporters" looked to be patients from an East Harlem drug-rehab clinic.

Several people were outside handing out pamphlets castigating area business owner Nick Sprayregen, the expansion's most vocal critic. Visnja Vujica - a recent Barnard grad and member of the anti-expansion Student Coalition on Expansion & Gentrification - says she discovered that the pamphleteers were patients from East Harlem's Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC).


Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

UNITY 2007: a new, Jacobsian plan for the Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report


At the same time last night that the legacy of noted urban thinker Jane Jacobs was being celebrated at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan, a prelude to an exhibit opening today, the much more modest Soapbox Gallery in Prospect Heights hosted a community forum introducing the UNITY (Understanding, Imagining and Transforming the Yards) plan, a much more Jacobsian way to develop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard.

The idea is that if Atlantic Yards does not get built as planned, or is scotched altogether, an alternative plan, with significant bulk but not “extreme density,” limited to the railyards and an adjacent plot, could emerge.

According to a draft report issued by its organizers, planners and architects engaged under the banner of AY critics and opponents, UNITY would offer “a larger proportion of truly affordable housing, sustainable jobs and start-up businesses for local residents, improved transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, solutions to neighborhood and downtown traffic problems, accessible public open space that connects the Yards with our neighborhoods, and a planning and development process that is transparent and accountable.”

Notably, the tallest and bulkiest buildings would be moved east, to Vanderbilt Avenue, while the triangle of land between Flatbush, Fifth, and Atlantic Avenue, currently slated for the Urban Room and part of the Miss Brooklyn tower, would be used for a park.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder couldn't make the 6pm UNITY forum and missed the question from a Prospect Heights resident concerning why the tallest building would be located at the corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt.

Marshall Brown explained that the model illustrated the concept that the corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt could handle higher density. The tall building is only a representation of how that could be achieved. It doesn't necessarily mean that the building would have to be taller in order to achieve that goal.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM


Deb Goldstein, organizer of last weekend's blight clean up on Pacific Street, posted photos taken throughout the afternoon on flickr (slideshow).


If you're in the neighborhood you may want to check it out yourself. The clean-up made such a difference that you won't need a map or friendly Brooklyn tour guide to figure out where the group left off.

Posted by lumi at 10:05 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Re-introduce `Unity Plan’

They Predict Ratner Will Lose Lawsuits Challenging Project

UNITYPC-Geberer.jpgBrooklyn Daily Eagle's Raanan Geberer treks through the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan to attend the unveiling of the latest incarnation of UNITY:

Right across the street from the shrouded former Ward Bakery building, slated for demolition, where workers were doing preliminary work, a group of opponents of Atlantic Yards gathered to unveil an update of an alternative proposal, the Unity Plan developed by architect Marshall Brown back in 2004.

The updated proposal is the result of several community workshops earlier this year. Like the original Unity Plan, it would contain both residential and commercial development, it would contain a large amount of affordable housing (now, 60 percent). It would be lower-rise than Atlantic Yards (the tallest building would rise 400 feet), and it would confine itself to the area directly over the Long Island Railroad’s Vanderbilt Railyards.


Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM

San Francisco Soars

Business Week
By John King

We've already made fun of Forest City for losing a competition in San Francisco with a losing bid — Bruce in Wonderland usually wins with a losing bid — so we'll try not to mention it again. Biz Week has a brief description of the losing losing bid (doh!):

Rogers Harbour Stirk + Partners worked with SMWM and Forest City Enterprises on a plan that set an airy terminal alongside an Erector-Set-like glass tower topped by an enormous wind turbine.


Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

BlogosphereMap-sm.jpgCurbed.com, Prospect Heights Residents Get Trashy at Atlantic Yards Site

Most little neighborhood cleanups aren't noted, unless the neighborhood is Prospect Heights and the property being cleaned up has to do with the Atlantic Yards mega-development.

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards activists fear blight
This blurb and a link to yesterday's MetroNY article:

Some activists living in the Atlantic Yards area say developer Forest City Ratner is creating blight in the neighborhood by letting streets deteriorate.

Brownstoner Forum, Converting from 3 family to 2 family

A prospective brownstoner is looking for info in the forums on the pros and cons of Atlantic Yards in Ft. Greene and Prospect Heights. If anyone participates in these online Atlantic Yards cage matches, you may want to surf on over and point "U510545" in the right direction.

Tim in Budapest, Buda
A student in Budapest learns more about Brooklyn's pest:

I also attended a lecture on the future of New York City, delivered by a professor of Political Science and Sociology at CUNY. Nothing like discussing Atlantic Yards with a guy who lives in Park Slope five thousand miles from home...

Not another freakin blog, UNITY plan press conference

the latest iteration of The UNITY Plan, a community driven plan for development on the Vanderbilt Yards site, was unveiled at a press conference this morning at The Soapbox Gallery in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

September 24, 2007

The departing "middle-class" and AY affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines a new demographic report and compares it to the income bands of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing program.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson on Sept. 12 issued a report on New York's 2005 outmigration patterns involving various income groups, and it was quickly used by columnist Errol Louis to argue for projects like Atlantic Yards that would include subsidized housing for the middle-class.

Not so fast. It turns out that moderate-income residents departing the city would not be helped much by Atlantic Yards, given that those in their (approximate) income bracket would be eligible for only 450 of the 2250 affordable units. In fact, when the affordable housing deal was first announced, 900 units were aimed at this demographic; developer Forest City Ratner instead shifted more of the affordable units to higher income brackets.

Thompson's press release, headlined THOMPSON: MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS MOST LIKELY TO LEAVE NYC, made some somewhat subtle points: Moderate-income ($40,000 to $59,999 annual income) and higher-income households ($140,000 to $249,999 annual income) were most likely to leave the city, while middle-income ($60,000 to $139,999) and wealthy households ($250,000 and above) were least likely to leave.


Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Brooklyn ‘blight’ renewal

By Michael Rundle


DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN. Weeds and plants four feet high have turned the cracked sidewalk on Pacific Street between 5th and Vanderbilt avenues into a jungle, and any paving slabs still visible are thick with soda cans, old newspapers and broken glass.

A group of community residents and activists set out to change that yesterday, but their civic enthusiasm was also a form of protest. This street lies in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project, and the group of trash collectors said they wanted to show developer Forest City Ratner they aren’t going to abandon their neighborhood.

Some even speculated the streets had been left to deteriorate on purpose.

“They’re trying to take away people’s homes, claiming blight. And yet they’re creating the blight,” said Jon Crow, a member of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and several community gardens. “It isn’t fair to create blight so the state can take away people’s homes and give it to a private developer.”


Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Blight Site Clean-Up


Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

Bye, bye Pacific Street blight, thanks to citizen action

Atlantic Yards Report

BlightCleanUp-AYR.jpgNorman Oder filed a report from yesterday's clean-up:

What a difference a handful of people and some garden tools can make. After yesterday's clean-up effort on Pacific Street bordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, a 50-yard stretch was bushwacked, clearing overgrown weeds (four feet high, and blocking the sidewalk), significant amounts of waste and debris, and recyclable bottles, all the result of governmental neglect of a site the Empire State Development Corporation deems blighted.

(Above: Deb Goldstein and Jon Crow get to work shortly after noon. Below, some of the result nearly five hours later.)

The tally, according to organizer Deb Goldstein, included 17 42-gallon bags of garbage, a large assemblage of weeds and greenery for composting (below), and 13 bags of recyclables. The area next to the railyard seems to be a magnet for Poland Spring water bottles, other drink containers, foot tins, random glass, some clothes, compact discs, fast food wrappers, and even diapers.

A representative of the Department of Sanitation came by, I was told, and said the agency might stop back. At the least, the department has garbage bags and recyclables to collect.


Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

We Are NOT Blighted! Don't Dump On Us!

not another freakin blog

Tracy Collins showed up late to the blight clean-up day, but managed to take a bunch of photos and post his observations and thoughts:


today was the first (and hopefully the last) day of a volunteer clean up of a notoriously neglected and garbage-strewn stretch of Pacific Street.

by law, a New York City property owner is responsible for cleaning up the sidewalk in front of their property, even if the owner is not responsible for causing the mess as this stretch of Pacific Street runs along the MTA's railyard, the MTA, a New York state entity, and therefore the State of New York, is responsible for keeping this sidewalk clean. unfortunately, sidewalk cleaning rarely, if ever, happens. just on the short walk on Pacific Street from 6th to 5th Avenue today i saw a tire, carpeting, many bottles and cans, broken glass, broken furniture, a mattress, construction scraps, clothes, shoes, fast food wrappers and dog shit. that's when i could actually see what was under the 4-foot tall weeds. i didn't want to look too closely, fearing there's probably much worse.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

TODAY: The Unity Plan for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

Please join us for the presentation of

A realistic, community-sensitive proposal for the development of Brooklyn's Vanderbilt rail yards.
Press Conference
11 AM, Monday, September 24th

Presentation by project designers Marshall Brown, Ronald Shiffman, and Dr. Tom Angotti
Community Forum
6 PM, Monday, September 24th

Presentation and Q&A with Marshall Brown and Dr. Tom Angotti
The Soapbox Gallery
636 Dean Street (between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues)
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Take the 4, 5, B, or M trains to Atlantic Avenue
Take the D, M, N or R trains to Pacific Street
Take the 2 or 3 trains to Bergen Street

Posted by amy at 8:36 AM

Unity vs. Godzilla/Unidad vs. Godzilla

El Diario

Editorial in English:

The UNITY plan proposed for Atlantic Yards significantly raises the bar for the development of affordable housing. If New York City and state leaders are truly committed to this priority, they will champion the UNITY alternative to Forest City Ratner’s Godzilla-sized, ill-conceived, monster of a project.

UNITY—Understanding, Imagining and Transforming the Atlantic Yards—emerges from a collaborative planning effort facilitated by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. The plan calls for a legally-enforceable community benefits agreement with broad community participation.

Editorial en Español:

El plan UNITY propuesto para Atlantic Yards eleva significativamente la barra para el desarrollo de vivienda asequible. Si la ciudad de Nueva York y líderes estatales están verdaderamente comprometidos con esta prioridad, capitanearán la alternativa UNITY para Forest City Ratner, tamaño Godzilla.

UNITY— siglas en inglés por Understanding, Imagining and Transforming the Atlantic Yards— (Entendiendo, Imaginando y Transformando Atlantic Yards) reemerge de un esfuerzo de planeamiento en cooperación facilitado por Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. El plan pide beneficios comunitarios que se hagan cumplir legalmente con amplia participación de la comunidad.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

Brooklyn marks 50 years of singing the Dodger blues

By David B. Caruso

Wow, Atlantic Yards opponents aren't the only Brooklynites who "boo the hell out" of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz:

But when Markowitz speaks to crowds of youngsters and tells them the story of 1955, "the year the Dodgers finally beat the hated Yankees," he is met with confusion, then ire.

"The kids and the little leagues boo the hell out of me," he said.

These young New Yorkers, he explained, don't want to hear about anyone beating their Yankees.

As Brooklyn commemorates (or not) the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' departure, the borough is on the upswing and soon order will be restored to the universe:

Prosperity has returned. The streets are safe again. Its gorgeous old brownstones are filling up with investment bankers, artists, authors, even a few movie stars. Struggling neighborhoods have been revived by new waves of immigrants. People aren't talking about leaving Brooklyn anymore, they're praying they can afford to stay.

And soon enough, it will be back in the major leagues. The NBA's Nets are scheduled to move to a new arena in Brooklyn, to be built near the spot where Walter O'Malley once sought to build a new home for the Dodgers.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Bids due Monday for Meadowlands arena naming rights

AP, via amNY
By Janet Frankston Lorin

Though lucrative naming-rights deals have been signed recently in the NY metro area, the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority is having some trouble generating interest in the Meadowlands arena since its biggest tenants are planning to leave:

George Zoffinger, CEO of the authority, said a tour of the arena by potential bidders earlier this month didn't go as well as expected.

"With the uncertainty of the building, it's a very difficult sell," he said.
Naming rights for new arenas in the New York metro area have proved lucrative.

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.

Prudential Financial Inc. will pay $105.3 million over 20 years, for the right to call the Devils' new arena the Prudential Center.

The New York Giants and New York Jets are working on naming rights for the stadium they are building next to the arena, expected to open in 2010.

Now that the Devils are moving to the Prudential Center, a new arena opening next month in downtown Newark, the Meadowlands arena in East Rutherford, N.J., is left without a long-term marquee tenant.

The New Jersey Nets basketball team, which plans to move to a proposed megacomplex in Brooklyn, N.Y., has signed a lease to play at the Meadowlands until 2012 but can opt out earlier, Zoffinger said. Another tenant, the men's basketball team from Seton Hall, is also moving to Newark.


NoLandGrab: The NJ Nets' lease extension seems beneficial to both parties: it gives the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority some minimal value to offer potential bidders, and provides Bruce Ratner a place to park the Nets while things drag out in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Forest City Marketplace

SeekingAlpha.com, Mispriced REITs: The St. Joe Company, Forest City Enterprises

Newsletter Value Investor Insight carried an interview August 31st with Third Avenue Management's Michael Winer. Since inception, his now $3 billion fund has earned 18.6% annually, vs. 5.8% for the S&P 500. Here's an excerpt from the interview, in which Winer describes why he thinks The St. Joe Company (JOE) and Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) are mispriced.

MW: We're generally not interested in companies that pay full market prices to acquire properties, hoping to finance them in a way that creates a spread between financing costs and the yield on the assets. What have they really done to create value? We prefer companies that are experts in complex projects and that creatively develop or redevelop projects to build long-term value. Forest, for example, goes into blighted urban areas and works with government officials and agencies to develop projects that will improve the areas in which they build. They're creating new cash flow streams that generate both an attractive return on their invested dollar and increased asset values. That's how you make real money in real estate.

NoLandGrab: What Michael Winer means is that they "prefer companies that are experts" in securing massive government subsidies for their projects "to build long-term value.... That's how you make real money in real estate."

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Forest City Fresno

ForestCityFresno.gif Fresno Bee, Urban rescuer
The Bee takes a look at the track record of Forest City as the Fresno City Council rolls out the red carpet for the Cleveland developer:

Can Forest City Enterprises deliver for downtown Fresno?

With billions of dollars in assets and a record of urban revitalization projects around the country, the Cleveland-based development company has earned a reputation for success.

But the company also has come under fire for using public subsidies to pay for its projects, as well as for pushing cities to force out existing property owners to make way for its mixed-use urban developments.

The Fresno City Council, which last month approved a preliminary Forest City proposal to build more than 700 homes south of Chukchansi Park, will wrestle with these challenges as it moves forward with the project.

Fresno Bee, Business owners don't want to budge

[Bruce Baskin's] voice and temper rise when he talks about eminent domain and the city's plans to replace Baskin's Auto Supply and other businesses just south of Chukchansi Park with town homes and apartments.

"We don't want to go anywhere," says Baskin, 48.

Baskin's is in the middle of a six-block area that the Fresno Redevelopment Agency has targeted for homes, stores and fountains promised by Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere88.jpgCurbed.com, Frank Gehry to Have Prospect Heights Historic Dist. Neighbor?

How Prospect Heights will look against the background of a future Atlantic Yards is anyone's guess, but there may be some comfort in knowing that the neighborhood will probably be a Historic District.

Un an à Brooklyn, This is the last time
While working as an au pair in NYC, a French student found an interesting subject that deserves further study:

Je vais donc finalement en Master de Géopolitique, spécialité Enjeux territoriaux et gestions des conflits de pouvoirs... à Paris 8. Et cours, euh uniquement 1 jour par semaine, le reste du temps, je dois bosser sur mon mémoire, que je fais sur devinez quoi ??? Un projet d'urbanisme très controversé à Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards. Du coup, je suis obligée (trop dur), d'y retourner pour mener mon enquête de terrain quelques semaines en Février.

Lost in translation:

I thus go finally in Master de Géopolitique, territorial Enjeux speciality and managements of the conflicts of capacities... in Paris 8. And, euh only 1 day per week, the remainder of time, I run must work on my report, which I make on guess what??? A project of town planning very discussed in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards. Blow, I am obliged (too much hard), to go back there to carry out my survey of ground a few weeks in February.

Foodantics, Recess
A Brooklynite finally finds time to meet up with friends, but is apparently not impressed with Bruce Ratner's controversial megaproject:

After dinner Hope went back to the city and Stephen and Stefan and I went to Freddy's, a bar which may well be destroyed due to the (evil) Atlantic Yards project.

The Knickerblogger, Some Idiot....

on the yet to be seen design for Beekman Tower - another Ratner-Ghery 'masterpiece:'

Nor am I willing to take the word- site unseen, - that the building is 'drop dead gorgeous' because I have yet to see anything by Gehry that would remotely be called beautiful, and I am highly skeptical of the taste of anyone who would describe a building as 'drop dead gorgeous'

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

September 23, 2007

TODAY: Kids Disco Don't Destroy!


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Kids Disco Don't Destroy, 2-6 PM
The Grand Space (previously home of the "Footprint" art show)

778 Bergen Street at the corner of Grand Avenue in Prospect Heights (not Downtown), Brooklyn

Fabulous event for kids of all ages and parents. Feel free to dress in your favorite disco outfit. Funds raised go to support the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal fund against the Ratner mega-project which threatens to harm our children's health. Great DJ, art corner, dance lesson, wine, beer, snacks, teenage helpers, big child-friendly space, meet other families, cool raffle items...

DJ professional: DJ Nicole Leone

Balloons by "A Child Grows In Brooklyn" http://www.achildgrowsinbrooklyn.com
Suggested family contributions $25, $50, $100
Drinks and snacks available
Dance lessons at 4 pm with Bija Brooklyn (http://bijabrooklyn.com/)


One hour massage from Stana Weisburd, LMT- value $80

One year membership to Brooklyn "Play" Spot from Kate Myers- value $975

$50 gift certificate from Olea Restaurant, plus 2 hour gift certificate of free babysitting so you can enjoy your meal sans baby

Maitri Health and Wellness class: Nutrition for your child- value $25

Baby Boinkie swaddle blanket from Corduroy Kid- value $50

$50 gift certificate from Community Bookstore

Award winning baby food making kit from Fresh Baby- value $35

$50 gift certificate from Night of the Cookers (excluding drinks and tips)

Haircut from LuLu's Cuts and Toys- $20

From Memories Out of the Box: 2 picture portrait frame for 2 4x6 photos plus 25% off certificate for either album making or personal memory consulting services. They will make the album you have been meaning to make-baby, wedding, or birthday

RSVP and for more information:

Posted by amy at 12:58 PM



Is this what care looks like. Are 4-foot weeds part of Bloomberg's Greener NY Plan? Join neighbors as we take on the State's responsibilities in a long overdue clean-up of Pacific Street.

Come for an hour! Come for five hours! Just come!

Supplies provided. Please feel free to bring extra Gloves, Gardening Tools, Garbage/Recycling Bags.

Posted by lumi at 12:01 PM

Frank Gehry to Have Prospect Heights Historic Dist. Neighbor?



How Prospect Heights will look against the background of a future Atlantic Yards is anyone's guess, but there may be some comfort in knowing that the neighborhood will probably be a Historic District. Plans to create a Prospect Heights Historic District are apparently advancing and are said to be "at the top of the list" of ones being considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The concern of residents behind the designation is that Atlantic Yards will create more development pressure in the brownstone neighborhood. Most of the land in the Atlantic Yards footprint isn't in the tentative boundaries of the district and there's no actual time line for creating it.


Posted by amy at 9:30 AM

"The Landlord," til Tuesday, takes us to 1969 Park Slope


Atlantic Yards Report

Um, remember Park Slope in the late 1960s, the time of redlining, trash-strewn empty lots, and battered buildings? I don't, though I've heard tell, so the next best thing is to get to the Film Forum (through Tuesday only), to see Hal Ashby's 1970 movie "The Landlord," an entertaining and jolting portrait of a neighborhood and an era.

The New York Times, in feature headlined Before Gentrification Was Cool, It Was a Movie, describes it as "an experimental, satirical film, from a script by an unknown black screenwriter, about a wealthy young white man who decides to buy a Brooklyn tenement and ease out the black tenants so he can gut it and move in."


Posted by amy at 9:19 AM

September 22, 2007

Sunday is (belated) clean-up day on Pacific Street


Atlantic Yards Report

It's an idea whose time has come and Atlantic Yards opponents wishing to make a very good point could have jumped on it even sooner: if the government won't clean up the overgrown brush and other mess on Pacific Street next to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "blighted" Vanderbilt Yard, then it's time for citizens to do so.
The state punted

Remember, in comments last year on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, several commenters criticized city agencies and the MTA for failing "to maintain the appearance of the rail yards and [ignoring] local residents when we requested such attention."

The response from the Empire State Development Corporation, in toto, ignored the issue of responsibility:
Chapter 1, “Project Description,” and Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” describe in detail the present condition of the project site, including the Vanderbilt Yard.


Posted by amy at 8:24 PM

IBO calculates more (modest) costs to the city from AY arena

Atlantic Yards Report

One more piece of the Atlantic Yards fiscal puzzle has been filled in. The use of tax exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena would cost the city $5.2 million foregone tax revenue over 30 years, expressed in present value, according to a letter from the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), which in a 2005 report on the project had eschewed specific estimates.
Cost adds up

While IBO in 2005 said that the cost of the bonds would pose “relatively little impact on New York City or State,” the additional $5.2 million calculated would appear to put the city further in the hole regarding the arena.

IBO had calculated a modest fiscal gain for the city, $28.5 based on a city contribution of $100 million. Now that the city contribution has grown to $205 million—some portion of which may not go directly to the arena—the city likely was facing a loss, I concluded. Sweeting confirmed to the Brooklyn Paper that such a loss was possible.


Posted by amy at 8:19 PM

Paper wins — again!

The Brooklyn Paper wins an editorial award from The Independent Free Papers of America. They were not competing against rock and scissors, but against the many media outlets that failed to adequately cover Atlantic Yards issues.

The editorial criticized Borough President Markowitz for complaining about the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s $300-million deficit after he cheered the same agency when it sold the lucrative air rights to the Atlantic Yards for tens, if not hundreds of millions, below their market value.


Posted by amy at 10:01 AM

Social Unrest on G Platform

Daily Intelligencer

Harlem: Columbia has bought a site to build new homes for people its expansion will displace, but the folks in question weren't consulted beforehand. [Columbia Spectator]
Prospect Heights: The hood may get landmark status, which some locals hope will protect against the ripple effects of the massive ongoing Atlantic Yards development. [Atlantic Yards Report]


Posted by amy at 9:58 AM



Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

Group has alternative to Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development


The Brooklyn Paper
Gersh Kuntzman

‘Unity’ vs. Ratner

The latest incarnation of a community-based “Unity” Plan for the Atlantic Yards site will be publicly unveiled next week — but The Brooklyn Paper got a sneak peak at a draft. Here’s how it compares to Bruce Ratner’s proposal.

Unity plan
Footprint: Eight acres
Total housing units (percent “affordable”): 1,500 (60 percent)
Tallest building: Less than 400 feet
Amount of open space: 4.5 acres
Basketball arena? No arena.
Requires condemnation of private property? No.

Ratner plan
Footprint: 22 acres
Total housing units (percent “affordable”): 6,430 (35 percent)
Tallest building: 511 feet (“Miss Brooklyn”)
Amount of open space: Eight acres
Basketball arena? 18,000-seat arena.
Requires condemnation of private property? Yes.

The “Unity” Plan will be presented publicly on Monday, Sept. 24 at the Soapbox Gallery (636 Dean St., between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues), 6 pm.


Posted by amy at 8:00 AM

Sad irony on Duffield

The Brooklyn Paper

Forgive us if we didn’t celebrate alongside city officials at the ceremonial co-naming of Duffield Street as “Abolitionist Place” on Thursday. We couldn’t get past the irony.

After all, Duffield Street is the same stretch of Downtown where the city plans to demolish a row of historic houses that may in fact be the area’s only link to the fabled Underground Railroad.

It is also the place where the city hired an outside consultant to whitewash the area’s history, and then accepted the report even though eight of the 12 peer-reviewers disagreed with parts of it!
But with empty symbolic gestures, real history gets forgotten. And when that happens, not only don’t we learn from past mistakes, but we start to believe that history doesn’t matter. Next thing you know, people don’t even blink when a developer, for example, insults his African-American neighbors by signing a multi-million deal to name a basketball arena after a bank that made fortunes on the slave trade, as Bruce Ratner did last year with Barclays.


Posted by amy at 7:53 AM

September 21, 2007

Atlantic Yards: Clean Up Day

From Brit in Brooklyn:


Residents and neighbors of Atlantic Yards are getting together for a tidy up around the footprint. "We still live here! Clean up day!" is on Sunday from midday to 5pm. Everyone is welcome to come and join in.


Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

The “other” Atlantic Yards legal cases return to court

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains the background and status of the other eminent domain cases:

While many Atlantic Yards watchers are anticipating the October 9 oral argument in the appeal of the dismissal of the federal eminent domain lawsuit and expecting a decision soon in the state case challenging the project environmental review, two other cases, both involving 13 renters in two buildings, are moving toward arguments in court.

One of the cases, which challenges the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) relocation offer, in fact is the only case formally blocking the agency from moving to condemn properties. “At minimum, they can’t do anything to my clients until the case is over,” said George Locker, attorney for the plaintiffs, at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street.

The state has promised to provide the services of a real estate broker, moving assistance, and a $5000 payment—but that, Locker argues, will hardly guarantee similarly affordable housing. (Of the 13 plaintiffs, 12 have rent-stabilized leases, and many pay rents that are $500-$600.)

That case, which was not heard in a trial court but will be argued directly in an appellate court, will be heard by the Appellate Division, Second Department, 45 Monroe Place, Brooklyn, on October 4 at 10 a.m.

(Must the ESDC also wait until the eminent domain case is resolved to move forward with condemnation of properties involved in that case? Technically, no, I believe, but it’s likely the state will be cautious and wait until resolution.)

The other case involves an appeal of a lower court decision declaring residential rental tenants to be condemnees, with an ownership interest in their lease. Justice Walter Tolub in May dismissed the case, saying that the case belonged instead in the appellate court, where challenges to eminent domain determinations are supposed to be heard, but without the advantages of a trial. That appeal will be heard in the First Department, 27 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, after 2 pm on September 26.


Posted by lumi at 10:48 AM

Pretty Expensive

BeekmanStage-sm.jpgIs Bruce Ratner having trouble financing his first Gehry-designed project?

From "Under Cover," the Downtown Express's real estate column:

Frank Gehry’s current design for the Beekman St. tower and K-8 school is spectacular but may never see the light of day because of developer Bruce Ratner’s financing problems, a source tells UnderCover.

Ratner has never released any pictures of the building model because he may want the celebrity architect to shave some costs and fancy features off the tower, our source says, adding that the developer does not yet have the loan to build. The tipster doesn’t think the project is in danger of falling apart, but the school opening may get delayed.

“It’s drop-dead gorgeous,” says our source, who has seen the model and is sympathetic to community concerns about the building’s height. The wavy tower “looks like the ocean’s above you.”


NoLandGrab: Clearly, Gehry and Ratner's caginess is beginning to raise suspicion, since real estate spectators have been eagerly awaiting the final renderings for some time (see, here, here, and here).

We've been keeping tabs on this project, the first Gehry-designed Forest City Ratner collaboration. Though the Beekman St. tower might appear to have little in common with the controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject, two things are worth tracking:

[Back in April, Matthew Schuerman reported in The NY Observer some details of the financing structure of the Beekman Street project, including a few stumbling blocks.]

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

The Times helps market the Nets/JKidd

Atlantic Yards Report

Bring-a-Net-to-school has been covered in The Courier-Life Publications (October 7, 2006) and The NY Times (September 20, 2007, page D3, NOT ONLINE.)

Trick Question: Which paper is a suck-up to politically connected megadeveloper Bruce Ratner?

Star New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd's appearance in Wayne, NJ, with the winner of the Take-a-Net to School Sweepstakes on Wednesday was tagged, appropriately, as "marketing" by the NetsDaily blog.

It garnered a short article in the Bergen Record, coverage in the electronic media, and, surprisingly, two photos on p. D3 in yesterday's New York Times. The Times, doing its best imitation of the Courier-Life chain, wrapped four serious hoops articles (the sexual harassment suit against Isiah Thomas; NBA referees under the spotlight; the University of Memphis's China venture; and the Harvard appearance of sports marketer Sonny Vaccaro) around two Kidd photos occupying more than one-quarter of the page.

Never covered by Bruce Ratner's business partner, The NY Times:


Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

Is Jane Jacobs Passé?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Henrik Krogius

JaneJacobsLens-sep.jpgAs usual, Atlantic Yards supporters, including the project's own designer, serve up Jane Jacobs à la carte, to justify the superblock plan of unprecedented (that means "historic") density. And when supporters can't pound Jane Jacobs' square peg into Atlantic Yards's round hole, they dismiss her observations as "passé:"

The many elements of the Jacobs recipe came out of a minutely observed urban microcosm that she found both stimulating and congenial. So infectious was her enthusiasm for her true city that even Frank Gehry, in a presentation on Atlantic Yards, invoked the spirit of Jane Jacobs as figuring in its planning.

Now, Atlantic Yards is of course seen by many of its critics as just the kind of project Jacobs opposed. They see its size, the height of its buildings as inimical to the neighborhood quality she championed. The pedestrian-penetrable aspect of the Atlantic Yards layout and the street-level shops touted by Gehry are in the critics’ eyes no compensation for the overall size. They see a violation of Brooklyn’s traditional character. What they prefer not to think of is that Brooklyn, after all, is part of New York City — a still relatively young city famous more for its dynamically changing character than for its lasting monuments. We are somewhere between Europe, where the aged cores of cities are to a considerable degree unalterable, and Asia, where cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Bombay (now Mumbai) have kicked over most recognizable traces of their past.

In today’s world of exploding, skyward-reaching cities, strict Jane Jacobsism is hardly tenable. Which is not to say that all of her ideas are obsolete. Walkability, an active street life, a diversity of uses can be incorporated into large-scale projects so that they avoid the sterility of the “skyscraper in a park” model. This was clearly on Gehry’s mind when he invoked Jacobs.


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

2007 Brooklyn Book Festival showcases borough's continued literary tradition


You never know when an anti-Atlantic Yards protester will pop up, but odds significantly improve around Borough President Marty Markowitz. This scene from last weekend's Brooklyn Book Fest:

Markowitz spoke with NY1's Inside City Hall host Dominic Carter, who shared stories of his childhood abuse. A lone protester from Develop Don't Destroy, the group against the development of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, held up a sign decrying Markowitz's support for the project.


Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Duffield Street Co-named "Abolitionist Place"

From Duffield St. Underground, the blog that tracks Brooklyn's "other land grab:"


City Council Representatives David Yassky and Letitia James co-named Duffield Street as "Abolitionist Place" in a ceremony on Duffield and Fulton today. They were joined by Lewis Greenstein and Joy Chatel, who each own properties on the block built in the 1840s. Also in attendance were various representatives of churches involved in the local Abolitionist movement and several elected officials and their representatives. The movement to promote Brooklyn through the celebration of its history has gained new congressional allies, including both Yvette Clarke and Ed Towns.

This being Brooklyn, the event was joyful, chaotic, solemn, noisy and profound.

Links to photos and videos of the occasion.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Forest City in the News

ForestCityExit182.jpg IT'S A MIRACLE: Forest City submits losing bid in SF tower/terminal project and does NOT win contract.

AP, via San Jose Mercury News, Board picks design for what could be West's tallest building

A regional transportation commission picked a Connecticut architecture firm Thursday to design a new bus and train terminal that has been described as the "Grand Central Station of the West" and an adjacent skyscraper that would be the tallest building this side of Chicago.

New Haven-based Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects beat two other finalists for the right to move forward with multi-billion-dollar project that promises to remake San Francisco's downtown and skyline, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority announced.

NBCSanDiego.com, Design Chosen For Tallest Skyscraper On West Coast

Three teams in the final phase of the competition presented their design concepts to the TJPA Board of Directors on August 6, 2007.

The Richard Rodgers Partnership and Forest City Enterprises with MacFarlane Partners submitted a glass and steel tower plus transit terminal.

Skidmore Owings and Merrill and the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation proposed a tower that narrows as it climbs.

NoLandGrab: For the two or three of you who might actually check out the plans for the winning bid, what's the deal with these urban roof-top parks? Unlike the Ratner arena, the Transbay park is slated to be publicly accessible, over a bus terminal nonetheless.

Al's Tennis Courts' Weedy Past

The [W. Virginia] State Journal, Charleston Marriott Celebrates 25 Years

A weedy superblock site might not have been the obvious place for a new Marriott, but 25 years later, the hotel, co-owned by Forest City and Marriott, has a storied past, including how Al Ratner got his tennis court:

Huff then worked with the hotel's owners Forest City Enterprises and Marriott International, which still manages the hotel, to make sure construction went according to plan, including making sure the hotel had an indoor swimming pool, fitness center and tennis courts. Those went in especially for Forest City co-chairman Albert Ratner, who loved to play tennis.

"He said he liked to play tennis and wanted tennis courts there, but the development man from Marriott said no way," Huff recalled. "So Mr. Ratner looked him in the eye and said, 'How much are you putting up for this hotel? I'm putting up $20 million.' He got his tennis courts."

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

September 20, 2007

A Tower Fight, but Just What Borough Is This?

The NY Times
By Elisabeth Malkin

You can start rolling your eyes now, because in a surreal parallel universe, the NY Times reports on an influential developer who hires a global starchitect and, with the help of the Mayor, gets around local zoning restrictions to advance his plan to raze a historic building, at one of the city's worst traffic bottlenecks, to build a skyscraper that will putatively put Mexico City on the map. [And you thought we were special.]


An influential developer plans an enormous skyscraper at the edge of the city’s giant central park. A celebrity architect is commissioned, and the ambitious mayor unveils the proposal at city hall.

Instantly, the prospective tower’s largely genteel neighbors rise up in arms. They vow to tie the plan up in lawsuits and procedural reviews. There is also a reclusive investor, a much-questioned relationship between the mayor and the developer and a building on the site that, though it has long been ignored, preservationists now want saved.
The developers and their allies in city hall say the tower will catapult Mexico City into the ranks of the world’s great cities, alongside emergent Asian capitals where skyscrapers grow ever taller. For Mexico City to compete globally, “we will need dozens of projects like this,” said Jorge Gamboa de Buen, the chief executive of the project’s developer, Grupo Danhos. “The city will have to learn to deal with the issue of these projects.”

Opponents say the tower is simply illegal. “They are twisting the law around like a pretzel to get their objectives through,” said Denise Dresser, an academic and commentator who is helping organize opponents. She said the city’s support for the tower recalled the days when authoritarian governments built big public works projects whether anybody wanted them or not.


NoLandGrab: Desarrolle, No Destruya Ciudad de México???

Posted by lumi at 9:55 PM

For Jay-Z, Inspiration Arrives in a Movie

The NY Times
By David M. Halbfinger and Jeff Leeds

Jay-Z-NYT.gifBruce Ratner's NJ Nets ownership partner Jay-Z is in the studio, recording an album that will be released at the same time as feature film, "American Gangster," from which the rapper drew inspiration, except for all that "snitchin'" stuff.

Jay-Z's investment in the team was seen as a move by the NJ Nets ownership group to gain some local street cred, which, like the sales of his last album, is sagging:

His decision to record “American Gangster” is a surprise, given that his last album was released less than a year ago. “Kingdom Come” sold about 1.5 million copies, his lowest figure for a full studio album since 1997. And its elaborate marketing campaign, including alliances with Budweiser and ESPN, prompted some suggestions that Jay-Z’s branching-out into other business endeavors, and taste for the jet-setting life, had begun to undermine his street credibility.

He made no apologies for his transformation into a global brand. “Jay doesn’t live in Brooklyn any more,” he said.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 PM

Jane’s addiction

JaneJacobs-TONY.gifTime Out NY
By Dustin Goot

In a preview of the Jane Jacobs exhibit, Municipal Art Society (MAS) organizers are hoping that the two-billion-pound (as in $4-billion) gorilla doesn't take center stage:

Though Jacobs is often characterized by her willingness to take on the city and shut down large projects—she famously fought Robert Moses—Klemek stresses that she “was not antidevelopment,” and MAS organizers say they’re looking to foster optimistic dialogue about what’s possible in New York rather than just an anti-Ratner bitch session.


NoLandGrab: Officially, Ratner now equals "the worst developer we could think of off the top of our heads."

Posted by lumi at 8:28 PM

Promising prospects for Prospect Heights historic designation

Atlantic Yards Report

PHHistoric.gifWhile Atlantic Yards devloper Bruce Ratner keeps his plan alive, the rest of Prospect Heights seems headed towards designation as a historic district:

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), with the assistance of the Municipal Art Society, has been pushing for historic designation for the neighborhood, and the process looks promising, if hardly assured.

Mary Beth Betts, director of research for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) said last night at a PHNDC meeting at P.S. 9 that, while, no timeline can yet be provided, "it's at the top of the list of [potential historic] districts that we're looking at."
As shown last night, LPC's Prospect Height survey map--not necessarily the boundaries of any historic district--was even larger than that considered by the MAS (below); it included most of the blocks bounded by Flatbush Avenue to the west, Dean Street to the north, and Washington Avenue to the east.

Conspicuously absent was most of the Atlantic Yards footprint, including the Spalding building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street, a handsome condo conversion of a manufacturing building. Betts said that, because the footprint had been under environmental review, "we determined we were not going to include the Atlantic Yards area." (Actually, from the map shown to the group last night, it looked like part of Dean Street in the AY footprint was included.)


Posted by lumi at 3:21 PM

A piece of the Ward Bakery yet escapes the wrecking ball

Atlantic Yards Report


A piece of the Ward Bakery is not, in fact, shrouded for asbestos abatement and demolition but continues to operate as a moving and storage company.

How can part of the building be intact? Why isn't the company gone? A representative of Pack It Away Storage pointed me to attorney Michael Rikon, a well-known representative of condemnees, who answered my questions.
Pack It Away, Rikon said, has been at that location for more than ten years and the building--while connected to the rest of the bakery--is stable and structurally sound. "The demolition may not interfere with the continuing activities of the business in any way," he said.

(The last bakery operation at the building closed in 1995. The aromas, hardly unpleasant, wafted into Park Slope.)

Meanwhile, he explained, "We are awaiting an offer in writing pursuant to the Eminent Domain Procedure Law. I do not expect any offers to be made by the developer." Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation (aka New York State Urban Development Corporation, or UDC), via its outside counsel, Berger & Webb, will handle the case. "This firm is well respected and will carefully comply with all legal requirements to condemn the properties involved with the project."


Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Still Waiting: Ombuddy Nowhere at Site or in Sight

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder


The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) under Governor Eliot Spitzer has announced, if not fully implemented, several steps to provide more transparency regarding the controversial Atlantic Yards project, and the failure to follow through so far on perhaps the major step-an ombudsperson-prompted a protest Monday from community groups critical of the project.


NoLandGrab: What this yes-we-have-no-bananas lead is trying to say (we think) is that the ESDC hasn't kept one of it's major promises to the community, to appoint an ombudsman for the Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards Report, A follow-up on the AY ombudsperson: "intersecting concerns"

The one addition to the article is follow-up comments from Dean St. resident Peter Krashes, who notes:

If they [the ESDC] don't do their job well, there is a real risk someone will be affected adversely who doesn't have to be.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

TODAY: Abolitionist Place

AbolitionistPlace.gif Thursday, September 20, 2007*

Corner of Duffield and Fulton Street
(Northeast Corner)

Reception to Follow

Historic abolitionist homes on Duffield Street are under the threat of eminent domain abuse. They City proposes to demolish these homes as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, in exchange for wiping away these homes and the vestiges of the tunnels that run between them.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere87.gif OnNYTurf, Yankee Stadium Deal Gets Worse

The City is looking to unilaterally change its Yankee Stadium Plan "Community Benefits Agreement" to allow parking in the Stadium Garages year round. According to the original deal, the garages were to only be open on game days - 81 days a year. Community activists generally opposed the garages because children in that area of the Bronx already has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country; and government watch dogs opposed the plan because the city and state are financing the garages.
This news reinforces that, as we have seen with the terms of the Atlantic Yards plan, Community Benefit deals are not as iron clad as Bertha Lewis would have us believe.

MissRepresentation, Easy on the lies.
A review of the latest rendering of the World Trade Center site has some wishful thinking on Atlantic Yards.

Expect to hear muddy praise from what is left of the architectural commentariat, invoking Rockefeller Center and forgetting that the last vestiges of it was the Avenue of the Americas side. Sure, hire four top notch corporate lackeys and they produce top notch corporate lackeydom. After the abortions of Hudson and Atlantic Yards (I'm still crossing my fingers for a collapse in the CMBS market that will submarine this), you would think someone in the shitty New York real estate press would up and say 'Hey, guys, is there a reason we are trying so hard to emulate Canary Wharf and La Défense?

OneHansonPlace, Rental at the Merchant House Condos on Dean/Carlton

Here's a two bedroom, two bath rental at the Merchant House Condos on Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton. Last month there was a listing for sale. Perhaps owners are getting antsy about the potential Atlantic Yards project.

The Real Estate Observer, Love Among the Ruins

Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and Shabnam Merchant, the organization’s fundraiser, met while working to defeat the Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, in the footprint of which they now live. They tied the knot last week. Not only that, but they got their wish to have it written up in The New York Times.

not another freakin blog, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn walking tour
Photog Tracy Collins takes a tour of his own neighborhood.

this past saturday, i took part in The Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York's Prospect Heights walking tour.

my house is not within the area that MAS submitted for the Prospect Heights historic district designation, but would be about 1/2 block from its border if the designation goes through.

you can see more photos of the tour here.

Funkypundit, What Ebbets Field Wasn't

I'm occasionally asked how a pro-growth, pro-development, free-market conservative such as myself opposes a project like the Atlantic Yards. This piece [in NY Magazine] gets to the nut it: If preserving a neighborhood's character is a priority (and for me, it is), growth cannot be imposed from the outside; it needs to come from within, to be organic, and its sponsor can't cheat, using the heavy-hand of government to steal private property to make way.

NoLandGrab: Additionally, free-market conservatives are naturally suspicious of subsidy-laden projects like Atlantic Yards, which distort the marketplace making it more difficult for developers who are not as politically connected to compete.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM


September 20, 5 pm

Brooklyn Matters will be shown at the pick up site,
P.S. 56 Lewis H. Latimer School
170 Gates Avenue [map]

A spokesperson from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will be attending to answer questions. Find out the latest developments in the lawsuits and the project that could have a lasting and profound impact on this community.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

September 19, 2007

Future Perfect


Check out this mind-blowing video installation featuring Atlantic Yards.

Presented on three screens, Future Perfect compares and contrasts the architectural present with three different futures.

In December 2003, the controversial “Atlantic Yards” plan to develop this low-rise residential neighborhood was put forward by developer Bruce Ratner, proposing to build 17 skyscrapers and a sports arena. This proposal has met with much local community resistance, but has been pushed through nonetheless. Future Perfect seeks to visualize what this chosen future will look like, and to compare it with alternatives.

Each of the three screens shows the same Brooklyn streets, but each screen reveals a different future. The center screen shows a visualization of the officially approved Ratner plan, the right screen shows a visualization of the rejected alternative Extell plan, and the left screen shows my own animations of a future imagined and drawn by local schoolchildren.

Edward Purver, along with co-creators Ariel Efron & Christian Croft, conceived of Future Perfect as his thesis project for the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. The project is posted on the ITP web site, along with a fascinating description of how the project was developed.

For those of you who are interested in checking it out in person, Future Perfect will be running at the d.u.m.b.o. art under the bridge festival, September 28-30.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM


NY Post
By Tom Elliot

AKRFLogoBlur.jpgOur pals at AKRF are back in the news. AKRF is the company that brought you the "Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement," the corresponding "Blight Study," and study of the historical significance of abolitionist homes on Duffield St., all of which, coincidentally, come to stunning conclusions that support the development goals of each project's government sponsor.

Now the same thing is going on in West Harlem, except this time a judge agreed that AKRF might be playing both sides of the field:

TO realize its planned expansion in Manhattanville, Columbia University will need the power of eminent domain - that is, the ability to force property owners to sell at a "fair" price, below what they'd otherwise hold out for. The prospect of such takings has probably caused more resentment than any other part of the school's plan.

Technically, the power would be exercised by the state-run Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) - which must first reach a formal finding that the area is "blighted."

But the ESDC has subcontracted the study that will make that determination to the consulting firm of AKRF - which Columbia itself has already hired to help sell its overall plan to city officials.
Complicating matters is the fact that AKRF, which specializes in environmental-impact statements, has been the government's go-to consultant for just about every major development over the last six years.
Asked if there was a single major project where AKRF didn't find in favor of the governing body that hired it, the company declined to comment.


NolandGrab: We're going to go out on a limb here and predict that AKRF will conclude that the footprint of Columbia University's expansion plan is... (envelope please) "BLIGHTED!"

Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

Jane's Walks coming in two weeks, including one on AY

Atlantic Yards Report


The Center for the Living City, founded in the spirit of Jane Jacobs, on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30, will offer "Jane's Walks," a "series of free neighborhood strolls that emphasize the walkable and diverse nature of New York City."

The only Brooklyn one will concern Atlantic Yards, and I'll be leading it, with Center affiliate Ron Shiffman. (The walks will resume next spring; undoubtedly there are many Jacobsian walks to be found in the borough.)

The press release states:

As Jane Jacobs noted, people who live or work in the community know it best and can offer insights and observations that no professional can. Moreover, “Jane’s Walk” honors her belief that healthy cities feature walkable, compact, dense and diverse neighborhoods. These characteristics in turn help knit people together into a strong, connected and resourceful community.

The walks are part of a larger celebration of Jacobs’ work, including an exhibition, “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” opening September 25 at the Municipal Art Society.

(Photo of Dean Street in the Atlantic Yards footprint by Adrian Kinloch.)
One apt term I've learned from Jacobs is the notion of the "oversuccessful city." A free walking tour on a nice day might bring large crowds and pose a very interesting challenge.


Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

New York mag on the Ebbets Field fantasy (and a glimmer of hope?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes this week's NY Magazine must-read about the myth of the Dodgers:

Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Play first savaged the relevance of Dodgers nostalgia in the context of the Atlantic Yards saga, but now Sam Anderson, in New York magazine, offers a broader look, in a long article headlined Exorcising the Dodgers, with the subtitle, "50 years ago, the Dodgers left Ebbets Field for Los Angeles. Isn’t it time their ghosts left, too?"

The article suggests some good reason to be skeptical of the myth of Dodgers redux, though it offers some reason for hope, albeit based on a rather small sample.


Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Making Coney Island Green

Gotham Gazette
By Tom Angotti

Hunter College Urban Planning professor Tom Angotti outlines some issues and options for smart redevelopment of Coney Island, including how a Nets arena option might work.


And why not put the arena for the Nets basketball team in Coney Island, as planner Simon Bertrang proposes? Two previous studies recommended Coney Island as a location for a professional arena, and until recently that view was held by Brooklyn’s political establishment. Wouldn’t the 18,000 seat arena that the basketball team’s owner, Forest City Ratner, now proposes to cram in between the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene neighborhoods make more sense nested in Coney Island’s amusement area?

If this were to happen — the Nets could lose $35 million every year the Atlantic Yards project is delayed — a Coney Island arena should not go the way of the New York Aquarium, which is isolated from the amusement park. Nor should it be dropped in next to Keyspan Park, thereby creating a big enclave of professional facilities. But if properly designed, the home court for the Nets could be physically integrated with Coney Island’s recreational facilities.


Atlantic Yards Report, The Coney Island arena option (and Newark, too)

Norman Oder acknowledges Professor Angotti's point on the theoretical location of a Coney Island arena, and then uses up two of his allotted twenty questions:

About the location, Angotti has a good point, and one I and other critics should have acknowledged earlier. But would the Gateway site in Coney Island be better? That's not in the amusement area. So where might the arena go?

If the Atlantic Yards plan fails or is scuttled, the Nets, I'll bet, will move to the new arena opening next month in Newark.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

MONDAY: The Unity Plan for Brooklyn’s Vanderbilt Yards

UNITYBanner.gif www.unityplan.org • 212-650-3328 • info@unityplan.org

What if Atlantic Yards is not built?
What if it's only partly built?
Then what?

Please join us for the presentation of UNITY
A realistic, community-sensitive proposal for the development of Brooklyn’s Vanderbilt rail yards.

Press Conference
11 AM, Monday, September 24th
Presentation by project designers Marshall Brown, Ronald Shiffman, and Dr. Tom Angotti

Community Forum
6 PM, Monday, September 24th
Presentation and Q&A with Marshall Brown and Dr. Tom Angotti

The Soapbox Gallery
636 Dean Street (between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues) Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Take the 4, 5, B, or M trains to Atlantic Avenue
Take the D, M, N or R trains to Pacific Street
Take the 2 or 3 trains to Bergen Street

View Larger Map

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

September 18, 2007

WEDNESDAY: Community forum on historic designation for Prospect Heights

From Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council phndc.org

On Wednesday, September 19 at 7:00PM, please join PHNDC and invited guest speakers for a community forum on historic designation for Prospect Heights, to be held in the auditorium of P.S. 9, 80 Underhill Avenue at St. Marks Avenue.

Prospect Heights has remained remarkably free from large-scale physical change, making it a perfect candidate for historic district designation by New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission. But without such designation soon, that may well change. A strong real estate market and the development of Atlantic Yards just adjacent to the proposed historic district will exert immense development pressures on the neighborhood, posing a threat to its sense of place and historic character.


Posted by lumi at 1:07 PM

Real Estate Round-Up: September 18, 2007

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran quotes from dueling press statements regarding the Council of Brooklyn Neighorhoods's call for the Empire State Development Corporation to make good on its promise to hire an ombudsman to serve as the project's liaison to the community:

Said CBN Steering Committee member Eric McClure in a press release, “132 days ago, the [Empire State Development Corp.] pledged to hire an ombudsperson to represent community concerns and problems during Atlantic Yards preparation and construction. That’s twice as long as the ESDC allowed the public to respond to last year’s Environmental Impact Statement. That was a complex and huge task, but somehow the community got it done. What’s the holdup on keeping their word to the community?”

An ESDC spokesperson responded that the agency has been “taking the time necessary to interview candidates before selecting an ombudsperson who will be a liaison to the neighborhoods in and around the project’s footprint. Given the prominent role the ombudsperson will play it’s important that we make the right choice, not the expedient choice.”


Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

Eminent Domain Becomes Common in Developments

WNYC News Room By Elaine Rivera

WNYC ran this feature on the increasing use of eminent domain in NYC for large-scale PRIVATE development projects citing Atlantic Yards, Columbia University's expansion and Willets Point:

NEW YORK, NY September 18, 2007 —Eminent domain - the government's right to take land from private owners for the public good - has always been used to build public projects like highways, hospitals and parks. But, another interpretation has integrated eminent domain into some of the city's biggest development projects. Many communities continue to reject it, while officials say it's necessary for progress.

link, download mp3

Posted by lumi at 12:29 PM

Exorcising the Dodgers

50 years ago, the Dodgers left Ebbets Field for Los Angeles. Isn’t it time their ghosts left, too?

NY Magazine
By Sam Anderson

Ebbets-NYM.jpg These days, every thorough examination of Brooklyn Dodgers mythology leads to the creation theory of Atlantic Yards (article):

This is the origin myth of modern Brooklyn, a story hammered as deep into the borough’s collective psyche as the Odyssey to the ancient Greeks’: The Dodgers united a multicultural Eden, but O’Money ate Southern California’s forbidden fruit, and the borough fell into darkness.
The Dodgers have been so persistently overinvested with meaning—so puffed up on lofty flights of jock metaphysics—that they’re not even a baseball team anymore. They’re every big idea you’ve ever heard of: Equality, Democracy, Community, America.
The most obvious (and calculated) candidate to replace Ebbets is the massive Atlantic Yards project, the $4.2 billion, sixteen-tower, 6,400-unit Gehry-designed commercial-residential-office complex that will redefine Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, ramp up gentrification, and (pretty much incidentally) be home to basketball’s Nets. Depending on whom you talk to, this is either Brooklyn’s long-awaited salvation—a Second Temple to atone for the destruction of Ebbets—or the most cynical use of a sports team ever, the worst thing to happen to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left. It’s impossible to say, of course, whether the development will draw the surrounding neighborhoods together, giving modern Brooklyn the civic center it so clearly lacks, or whether it will just act as a gigantic crinkly metal wall. But as a metaphor, it’s the exact opposite of Ebbets. Ebbets was a tiny, neighborhood-uniting orthodox baseball temple that was built, in less than a year, on an old dump crisscrossed by goat paths. Atlantic Yards is a huge, neighborhood-raping megadevelopment, pinned between two of its developer’s own malls, that violates every design principle of the borough’s small-scale, organic history. Construction is scheduled to take ten years. It is pure real estate, with sports as a footnote. The Nets haven’t grown, like the Dodgers did, directly out of the Brooklyn soil—they’ll be transplants, a squad of mercenaries paid to sell the neighborhood’s new regime. It’s hard to envision the natives finally bonding with the gentrifying hordes over $50 seats at a Nets game. (Bruce Ratner has skillfully scrambled the racial politics of the project, enlisting—some say buying—widespread black support and casting opponents as selfish gentrifiers.) Atlantic Yards is Dodgers nostalgia run amok: New Brooklyn getting rich on the dying myth of Old Brooklyn—a supposed tribute to the borough that may well end up defacing the Brooklyn it’s pretending to honor. The Nets are less a karmic reversal of the Dodgers tragedy than its logical conclusion. O’Malley ruined the borough by leaving; Ratner will ruin it by moving in.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn comments:

There's really nothing we can add to that passage; in fact, we can't recall having ever seen a better summary of what "Atlantic Yards" is all about.

We can tell you, though, that the entire article is a must-read, if you have any interest in understanding how the collective memory of the Dodgers has been twisted and exploited for the purpose of selling a giant real estate boondoggle.

The NY Mag article continues:

Ironically, in terms of community building, Atlantic Yards has already been a rousing, unintentional success, even in its infancy—it’s become Brooklyn’s best excuse for daily conversation in decades. It’s the anti-Dodgers, bringing people together in anger. And it looks like it will provide the borough with a basis for outraged chitchat for at least as long as the Dodgers dominated the National League.

NoLandGrab: Honestly, we don't know whether to laugh or cry.

It looks like Ratner might score one old-timer in his new fan base:

I asked [Rabbi] Kushner, after his lament about the soullessness of corporate sports, what he thought about the idea of the Brooklyn Nets—surely one of the more brazenly corporate exploitations of a fan base in the history of corporate exploitation, a second dose of O’Malleyism on his home soil. But very suddenly, I found that I was the only cynic at the table: Kushner’s nationalism trumped his reason.

“It all depends on one thing,” he answered, “and one thing only. If they call themselves the New York Nets, I couldn’t care less. If they call themselves the Brooklyn Nets, I’ll go to their games. Then they’re my team. For the first time in my life, I’ll become a basketball fan.”

Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

Dolly Williams: I-Heart-Atlantic Yards

Dolly Williams's recent woes reminded us that we had an interesting photo of Marty Markowitz's appointee to the City Planning Commission in our photo archives.

Dolly Williams Apparently recusing oneself from any decisions made by the City Planning Commission regarding Atlantic Yards does not exclude pumping one's fist and cheering in approval of testimony in favor of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan at the August 23rd 2006 public hearing.

Back in 2005, Dolly Williams was forced to recuse herself from any City Planning decisions concerning the Atlantic Yards project, due to conflict of interest, after it was revealed that she was an investor in the NJ Nets ownership group, led by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner. Thus Brooklyn has no voice (independent or partisan) on the City Planning Commission on any matters concerning Ratner's controversial plan to build a new arena for the team as the centerpiece of his megaproject.

At the 2006 "public hearing," Dolly (middle) was hanging out with Lance Woodward (right), supporter of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). NoLandGrab readers will recall that BUILD was the group that swore up and down that they were not supported by Bruce Ratner, that is, until the group's tax filing showed that they actually were (whoopsie!).

Needless to say, Dolly, being a public official, didn't have to wait in line to get into the hearing, like the little people.

Most recently, Dolly Williams has been feeling the heat for stiffing sub-contractors who worked on Bruce Ratner's East River Plaza mall and getting outted on the Internet for parking her yellow Porsche at a fire hydrandt a block from her own home, which happens to have on-site parking.

You can add Dolly to the shameless cast of characters buzzing around Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, like Marty, who frequently becomes unhinged in public when confronted by critics of Atlantic Yards; Jim Stuckey, who was precipitously canned from his job as the Atlantic Yards Development Group President; and Barclays Bank, the corporation that purchased the naming rights for a new Nets Arena and is reported to have historical ties to the slave trade.

Posted by lumi at 10:14 AM

CBN asks: where's ESDC's promised ombudsperson?

Atlantic Yards Report


In July, nearly two months after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) announced it would hire an ombudsperson—a new position—serve as a liaison between ESDC, elected officials, “community representatives” and the general public regarding the Atlantic Yards project, an ESDC spokesman said, “We are in the final stages of the process and expect to have the ombudsperson hired soon.”

But it’s been more than two more months, work on the Ward Bakery—where the fall of a 200-foot section of parapet alarmed neighbors and led to violations—has resumed, and still no ombud. Community critics have lost patience.

(Above, Robert Puca of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and the unknown ombuddy.)

So the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), taking advantage of some symmetry—the wait has been 132 days, twice the amount of time the public was given to respond to the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)—yesterday held a press conference and protest pointing out the long wait.

Norman Oder's article is not only the most comprehensive, he also tries to get some answers to the community's growing list of complaints of early construction activity (sort of what an ombudsman would do — if we had one).

Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

PRIMARY DAY, TODAY: Campaign for Surrogate Judge

Did anyone know that there is a primary today in Brooklyn for Surrogate Judge? Although this might not be a position directly related to Atlantic Yards, it is notable that the big names opposing Atlantic Yards are supporting Judge Diana Johnson. Vito Lopez (of the Ratner carve-out) supports Shawndya Simpson.

From voteowens.com:

Dear Friends and Neighbors: Next Tuesday, September 18, is the Democratic Primary election in New York. In Brooklyn, the contests are limited to three judicial races, one of which is critical: Surrogate Court.

The turnout in the September 18th Democratic Primary election will be incredibly low, but the Primary winner will become the next Surrogate Judge. Every vote will matter. And voters should support Judge Diana Johnson for Surrogate Court.
As of today, Judge Johnson has received the following endorsements (partial list; [more on website]):

* NY Daily News
* Our Time Press
* Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (reform Democrats)
* Independent Neighborhood Democrats (reform Democrats)
* Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
* State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
* City Councilmember Letitia James
* Retired Congressman Major R. Owens
* District Council 1707
* TWU, Local 100
* Ken Diamondstone


Posted by amy at 9:18 AM

Waiting on a promise

‘Where’s Atlantic Yards ombudsman?’ groups ask

By Amy Zimmer

In the face of criticism that after four months the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has failed to hire an ombudsman, a spokesperson defended the quasi-governmental corporation's inaction:

Interviewing candidates has taken time, according to a statement by ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield: “Given the prominent role the ombudsperson will play it’s important that we make the right choice, not the expedient choice.”

He added addressing neighborhood concerns has been a “chief priority.”

Ha! And it seems like we're not the only organization being dissed by the ESDC, which has declined our repeated requests to be included on the "Atlantic Yards Construction Update" email distribution list.

James Vogel, spokesman for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, wasn’t convinced. The organization is one of 26 local groups that sued the state to annul Atlantic Yard’s Environmental Impact Statement, alleging the necessary “hard look” at the project’s impacts and alternatives was never taken.

“The ESDC won’t talk to us because we’re one of the litigants,” Vogel said. “How can a state agency say it won’t talk to citizens exercising their civil rights?” ESDC wouldn’t even add the group to a construction update e-mail list, Vogel said.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods points to a growing list of problems with the early construction phase of the project as evidence that an ombudsman would have had plenty to do during the past few months:

Many residents were outraged when the ESDC announced in July it had resumed work at the Ward Bakery even though the Dept. of Buildings hadn’t yet finished its investigation. They also criticized the lack of follow-through on mitigating construction impact, claiming the ESDC hasn’t provided enough information about getting the double-paned windows and air conditioners promised by the developer.


NoLandGrab: A reader sent a note to us yesterday explaining that the State has already hired an "Environmental Monitor" — that's the person responsible for enforcing the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments between the developer, Forest City Ratner, and the Empire State Developer (sic) Corporation — but still has yet to hire an ombuddy, who would serve as a liaison to the community (i.e. people who are already living in Brooklyn).

If actions (or inaction) speak louder than words, where do the ESDC's "chief priorities" lie?

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

Comptroller wants to sink water park

By Patrick Arden

NYC Comptroller William Thompson, an Atlantic Yards supporter, has emerged as a critic of the Randall's Island Water Park. At issue: failure to secure financing before the deadline, awarding "a sole-source contract for a large private development on public land," increasing costs, and a closed-door process. Go figure.

“The developer is in default,” wrote Comptroller William Thompson in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday, eight months after the deadline had passed. “The process should be redone in a fair, open and competitive manner.”

Thompson had already called for the project to be reopened to bids. A “seriously flawed process,” he said, had led to a sole-source contract for a large private development on public land. The water park had also doubled in size and quadrupled in cost since the 35-year concession was announced by the Giuliani administration in 2000.
“The comptroller maintains that Parks’ actions are unconscionable and fly in the face of fair and open government,” [Thompson spokesman Jeff Simmons] said.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Pratt Goes Green in a Big Way

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

Pratt-Myrtle.jpgAn article about Pratt's plans to build on Myrtle Avenue in accordance with green building guidelines cites Atlantic Yards amongst "buildings planned or under construction in Brooklyn" which "will have various levels of LEED certification, according to the U.S. Green Building Council."

Pratt Institute has received a $75,000 Green Building Planning grant from the Kresge Foundation, one of the country's largest foundations, to support the planning costs associated with developing a "green," energy-efficient building near its Brooklyn campus.

The building, to be located one block from the main campus on the currently vacant site at 524 Myrtle Ave. (known as the "KFC site" for obvious reasons) will be a 120,000-square-foot, mixed-use structure. Pratt aims to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification — a certification still rare in the New York area.


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites should be aware that Forest City announced its intention to seek LEED certification for the new NY Times headquarters, but didn't complete the program.

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

September 17, 2007

Big Man Off Campus

The NY Times
Op-Ed Contibutor, NY State Senator Bill Perkins

State Senator Perkins proves that taking land from little guys to give to the big guys is only absurd if you think about it:

We have an affordable housing crisis in New York City. And yet imagine what would happen if a publicly operated affordable housing agency got the go-ahead to seize a parcel of land on Columbia University’s campus to build apartments for low-income residents of Harlem.

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But why? After all, eminent domain laws let government entities condemn private property for things that are a benefit to the public, like the construction of a highway or a water-treatment plant.

But what conventional opinion doesn’t find absurd is that Columbia University, a private entity, has contemplated invoking eminent domain to seize private property and expand its campus in West Harlem.
Perhaps the absurdity resides in the law itself, and how it is applied. Clearly we need to shift our thinking about the appropriate use of eminent domain. Unfortunately, we’ve become comfortable slanting the law in favor of the “big guy’s” interests over those of the “little guy.”


Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

Residents Concerned Over Construction At Atlantic Yards

By Kristen Shaughnessy

Some residents who live near the Atlantic Yards project claim their well-being is at stake because there is no government oversight of the work, which is now in the early demolition stages. They point to the collapse of a 200-foot-long section of the parapet wall on the Ward Bakery building earlier this year as crews were removing asbestos.
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods says it has been more than 130 days since the ESDC promised to name an ombudsman so the community would have someone it trusted to go to with its concerns. At this point they say they doubt they'll get anyone like that.


"We have no confidence at this point that an ombudsman will be anything more than a figurehead to oversee a project to allow Ratner to run roughshod over the community,” said Candace Carpenter of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

In response, the ESDC said it's met with various groups and elected leaders to get their input and added that filling the job cannot and should not be done quickly.

"ESDC has also been taking the time necessary to interview candidates before selecting an ombudsperson who will be a liaison to the neighborhoods in and around the project's footprint. Given the prominent role the ombudsperson will play it's important that we make the right choice, not the expedient choice,” the ESDC said in a statement.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM

CBN to ESDC: Where the Hell's The AY Ombudsman?

Brownstoner was on the scene of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood's press conference calling on the Empire State Development Corporation to deliver on its promise to appoint an ombuddy:


With one near-disaster in the meantime and no signs of a good faith effort on the ESDC's part to work to address the community's safety concerns, CBN is trying to draw some attention to the matter.... As CBN spokesperson Jim Vogel pointed out at this morning's press conference (note to organizers: it's a good idea to show up on time at your own protests), without the ombudsman in place, all the public is left with is a Ratner-sponsored community liaison office which, according to Vogel, is nothing more than an intern with a cell phone. The most telling moment of the morning, however, had to be when one the foreman inquired what the gathering was about. When told it was to get ESDC to cough up the oversight it had promised more than four months ago, the foreman just smirked, as if to say, "Good Luck."

Link to Brownstoner's full posting, followed by requisite snarkentary.

Posted by lumi at 2:19 PM

Oversight in ESDC’s “Atlantic Yards” Oversight?

Agency Gave Public 66 Days to Respond to Project’s Environmental Impact Statement, Has Yet to Appoint Ombudsman After 132 Days

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) today challenged the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to finally name an “Atlantic Yards” ombudsman – something the state agency promised to do more than four months ago.

In a press release issued on May 7th, 2007, the ESDC announced that it was implementing several measures “to increase oversight” of, and “improve the flow of information” pertaining to, Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) “Atlantic Yards” project. Foremost among these steps was ESDC’s plan to hire an ombudsman, intended to serve as a liaison between ESDC, elected officials, “community representatives” and the general public. That position has yet to be filled.

The May 7th announcement came on the heels of the collapse of a 200-foot-long section of the parapet wall of the Ward Bakery building, on which FCRC’s contractors were performing pre-demolition asbestos abatement. New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) recently levied fines against FCRC and its demolition contractor for multiple violations in connection with that incident. Although ESDC originally said it would halt all work at the Ward Bakery site pending the results of DOB’s investigation, it instead allowed pre-demolition work to resume in early July – despite its failure to have appointed an ombudsman.

“We find it extremely troubling that the ESDC allowed our community just 66 days to review and comment upon the 4,000-page Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan, yet with twice that amount of time they haven't been able to find an ombudsman. We are waiting for the ESDC to fulfill its promise,” said Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods co-chair Therese Urban. “We know they can do it. This is the same agency that worked around the clock through the Thanksgiving weekend in order to certify the EIS.

CBN is among 26 community and civic organizations that have sued the State of New York, seeking to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for “Atlantic Yards.” The plaintiffs allege that the State failed to take a required “hard look” at the project’s impacts, failed to adequately consider alternatives, and did not have sufficient basis to make a blight finding, among several other causes of action.

“ESDC appears to have its priorities backwards,” said CBN co-chair Candace Carponter. “As a public agency, ESDC should be looking out for the public’s interest. Instead, it drags its feet when it comes to important community safeguards, such as the appointment of an ombudsman. We have been told that this administration’s ESDC is vastly different from the Pataki-era ESDC, but we haven't seen that yet.. It’s well past time for the ESDC to name the ‘Atlantic Yards’ ombudsman. It's a matter of public safety. ESDC’s failure to provide proper oversight of this project is a recipe for disaster – as we have seen with tragic consequences at the Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan.”

In addition to its failure to provide an avenue for community inquiries and communication, the ESDC’s failure to provide adequate project oversight has caused additional problems. The sole remedy proposed in the FEIS for mitigating the effects of construction noise – construction is officially expected to last for 10 years, though many experts believe it could last twice that long – is the provision of double-paned windows and window air conditioners by the developer to residents of properties adjacent to the project site. Thus far, the administration of this mitigation program has been haphazard at best, yet ESDC has provided no opportunity for affected residents to seek redress.

Furthermore, the Construction Updates issued by ESDC have included numerous errors in the identification of properties undergoing pre-demolition work, and ESDC has not provided any opportunity for affected residents to appeal the scheduling of double-shift work that, while causing significant inconvenience to residents, appears calculated to aid the developer’s timetable.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups formed to provide a community voice in the scoping and review of the Environmental Impact process as it pertains to the Brooklyn Atlantic/Vanderbilt Yards development. All block associations, church, community and business groups regardless of their position toward any proposed development are invited to join CBN and are encouraged to attend and participate in CBN's bi-monthly meetings.

Mr. Patrick Foye
Downstate Chairman
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue - 31st Floor
New York, NY 10017

Dear Chairman Foye;
Our community continues to find problems with the efficacy of Empire State Development Corporation’s construction oversight for the Atlantic Yards project. With the restarting of construction in the Atlantic Yards footprint since the collapse of the Ward Bread Bakery parapet, two important issues have emerged that have reinforced community concern about the ESDC’s ability to provide oversight in respect to Forest City Ratner’s implementation of its obligations in relation to the FEIS. They are both also the product of the absence of meaningful community input into the construction plan of the project.

1. The Noise Attenuation Mitigation
Noise is a significant community concern and the FEIS for the Atlantic Yards project outlines construction and traffic noise impacts that will cause current low noise levels in some areas in our communities to be elevated to “marginally unacceptable” levels. Without apparent community input, the FEIS identifies alternative ventilation systems, (such as air conditioners), and double-paned windows as mitigations for noise impacts. The FEIS acknowledges that where air conditioners and double-paned windows now exist, no mitigation will be provided. In part because double-paned windows have been an industry standard for residential buildings for decades, and because the operational costs of the air conditioning are not provided, the sufficiency of the mitigation has been questioned by many in the community.

The Memorandum of Environmental Commitments clearly states that noise mitigations will be implemented in a timely manner. On May 15th, three months after construction started in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards Project, Forest City Ratner began distributing letters notifying residents of their eligibility for the alternative ventilation and double-paned windows stipulated in the FEIS as a mitigation for construction noise. This is the single mitigation provided for residents near the project impacted by construction noise, (and later by the operational noise of the project). In the multiple variations of the letter distributed, the developer notified the recipients construction would restart thirty days from the date of notification, presumably to give time for the mitigations to be put in place. Construction apparently restarted exactly thirty days from the date the first letter was received, leaving those in the community who received the letter later and wanted to take advantage of the mitigation a more limited time to respond than the letter suggested. Although according to the developer seven hundred letters were mailed, a large percentage of the letters simply ask the property owner to acknowledge their lack of eligibility for the mitigation. Almost all of the remaining letters seem to have been directed toward the air conditioner mitigation only.

In some areas such as Dean Street, where noise levels are projected to increase significantly due to construction, an unacceptable number of residential units were passed over in the letter distribution. As an example, in Merchant House, a two building condo development with twenty-five units directly located across the street from the Ward Bread Building, one condo owner in each building received a letter. This was a pattern all along Dean Street with many multiple ownership buildings, (with the exception of Newswalk), receiving no more than one letter addressed to a single owner. Many single ownership buildings received no letter at all. The historic Temple of Restoration Church, singled out in the FEIS for double paned windows, also received no letter. After the Dean Street Block Association delivered English and Spanish flyers notifying those on the street they were eligible, no tenant, of the many who reported back to the block association, had been notified by their landlord of their eligibility for the mitigations. The property owners of the largest buildings containing non-conforming residential uses did not receive a letter. Finally, no Spanish speaker was aware of the mitigations, since the letter was only distributed in English. Following community complaints, FCRC recently sent a second mailing. While some new residents received the letter, the letter has still not been distributed adequately. And the new, and surprisingly undated, letter has been provided five months after construction was first initiated and a month after construction was restarted. The Memorandum of Environmental Commitments appears to have been breached in this respect.

2. Double Shifts
Since there currently is no place in the new construction oversight structure for meaningful community input, there are few avenues for the community to appeal the work detailed in the Construction Alerts.

As an example, recent Construction Alerts have described six-weeks of double-shift work to complete the asbestos abatement and parapet demolition of the Ward Bread Bakery. Neither the asbestos abatement nor the parapet removal seems to be urgently required for safety reasons. Work after hours significantly disrupts the many residents in the community, including the same three hundred and fifty residents of the family shelter directly next to the Ward Bread Building on Dean Street who have already been significantly disrupted by problems with construction. Here is a real example that if representatives from the community continue not to have a meaningful role in oversight and planning, consequential impacts on the community will be overlooked. Conclusion

As the above examples clearly illustrate, the lack of meaningful community participation in the Atlantic Yards development process is significantly impacting both the course of the development and the quality of life for Brooklyn residents. We call upon you and the ESDC to implement the promised position of Ombudsman, which at the time of the sending of this letter is unfilled after 130 days, more than twice the time allowed for the public to respond to last year’s DEIS.

We would like to close by repeating the message we delivered 4 months ago at the ESDC Board meeting of May 17, 2007:

“We would like to repeat CBN's message to the ESDC, the same message we have been communicating throughout this process, to the previous ESDC Board as well as to this Board: community participation in this process is not meant to be an afterthought. The regulations require a central role for the Community. The Community is supposed to be the point of this state project, and the Community is an invaluable resource in the shaping and execution of this state project. We have provided you with the benefit of our thousands of pages of studies; we again offer the invaluable benefit of our precise and integral understanding of the particular challenges of the project area, and our communication network in harnessing this knowledge and optimizing communication between the ESDC, the developer, and the stakeholders, the Community.”

CBN looks forward to working with the ESDC in the development of the office of the ombudsperson and to providing a channel for further community participation. We again extend our invitation to meet and discuss a format for meaningful community participation in the oversight and development of the Atlantic Yards project.


Candace Carponter, Co-Chair       Therese Urban, Co-chair

Posted by lumi at 1:00 PM

A blighted gas station? Or an increasingly valuable piece of property?

Atlantic Yards Report

MobilStation-AYR.jpgIn a city where gas stations are disappearing, it might seem disingenuous to determine that a gas station is "blighted" because the land is "underutilized." But that's what is happening on the corner of Dean St. and Flatbush Ave.

Forest City Ratner has been systematically taking down the surrounding buildings, so it seems logical that the gas station would be next, especially since Ratner paid $5-million-plus for the property. However, the status of John Tsao's lease is unclear and he's not talking.

In case you're wondering, Atlantic Yards Building 2 is supposed to be around four-times the height of the eight-story building in the background of this photo.


Posted by lumi at 12:25 PM

Counter Horticulture

Jon Crow, longtime gardener at Bear's Garden, tells us that the garish light-up signs on what is now known as Site V of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan were initially considered "an insult" to the garden's environment. Forest City Ratner aimed the "ugly butt-end of the building," with its signature oversized retail signs, toward the garden.

According to Crow, gardener Edie Stone came up with a solution. The garden planted "the Boston ivy, considered good-neighbor ivy, to create a green wall," which is ironic, since Forest City has probably never been accused of being a good neighbor.

This counter-horticultural action was deployed in the wake of a bizarre legal scuffle, as Forest City Ratner attempted to impose limitations on the height of plantings, including trees, in front of the signage. These restrictions were eliminated once they were proven to be unenforceable due to the simple law of nature that requires trees to grow upward.

Forest City used to complain about the ivy, but the complaints stopped a few years ago, which we can only imagine had something to do with the fact that Ratner intended to raze the low-rise "place holder" buildings to make way for a high-rise to be part of its Atlantic Yards plan.

Photo by Tracy Collins from the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

For info on how these Ratner-owned buildings have been determined to be "blighted," click here.

UPDATE: Jon Crow tells us that, somehow, during the past few days, Modells got into the garden and cleared the ivy from their sign. Touché Modells!

Posted by lumi at 11:58 AM

University cleared to use eminent domain for arena

The Oregon Daily Emerald

Wow, it's like if you combined the Columbia University land grab with the Bruce Ratner arena land grab! It even has a former bakery on the site... go figure:

The University [of Oregon] is one step closer to beginning construction on the new basketball arena.

At the State Board of Higher Education meeting Friday, Sept. 7, the Board granted the University a resolution of necessity: permission to utilize eminent domain laws in order to obtain three properties on which, along with the Williams' Bakery site, the University hopes to build an arena to replace 80-year-old McArthur Court. Thus far, the University has been unable to come to voluntary sale agreements with the property owners, and should it fail to do so it may use condemnation to purchase the properties on behalf of public interest.

The Board also granted a resolution of necessity to the University in 2004 to purchase the Williams' Bakery site, although the University ultimately did not use condemnation. The site sold for approximately $22.2 million.

As usual, eminent domain, like torture, will only be used "as a last resort:"

General Council Melinda Grier said the University does not wish to resort to condemnation, and will do so only as a last resort.


Posted by lumi at 11:02 AM

Real estate wonderland, Part 2

Atlantic Yards Report

AtlantaYards.jpgCrazy, the best affordable housing opportunities currently being advertised in the footprint of Atlantic Yards are in... Georgia, as in the state, not the country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia:

At the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, at the tip of the Atlantic Yards footprint, a real estate entrepreneur has begun to tout affordable housing... in Atlanta.

The phone number leads to this real estate agency.

The photo at right was taken from the Flatbush Avenue side of the fence, with the Newswalk condos, not part of the AY footprint, in the distance. (Newswalk, of course, would be dwarfed by the project.)


And speaking about crazy, yesterday, Norman Oder stumbled down the Williamsburg real estate rabbit hole at the Conflux festival. The Riviera Real Estate Agency (slogan, "Live here today before tomorrow is yesterday") might not be as ironic as we may think.

Posted by lumi at 10:40 AM

Forest City Enterprises downgraded to "sector perform"


Analyst Rich Moore of RBC Capital Markets downgrades Forest City Enterprises (ticker: FCE.A) from "outperform" to "sector perform," while reducing his estimates for the company. The target price has been reduced from $80 to $54.

[FCE-A closed Friday at 54.07.]

In a research note published this morning, the analyst mentions that the company’s Commercial Group business has reported its 2Q07 NOI short of the expectations. The 2007 and 2008 estimates for Forest City Enterprises’ land sales to home builders have been reduced from $34.6 million to $15.2 million and from $41.5 million to $26.0 million, respectively. The company has an aggressive balance sheet in a challenging financing environment, the analyst says.


Also, the news was carried by the AP (via CNNMoney.com, "RBC Capital Markets Analyst Downgrades Forest City Because of Real Estate Squeeze"):

With more than $10 billion in assets, Forest City develops and manages real estate properties, mainly in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

Moore cut his estimate for the company's profit this year for a few reasons. With the housing market in a protracted slowdown, he now assumes the company will sell less land to homebuilders.

And, Forest City relies on borrowing money, which has become more difficult as investors sour on riskier investments.

NoLandGrab: The concern is that the market is souring while Forest City has been taking down any building they possibly can in the footprint of the controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject.

The cost of project financing is going up, driving up the cost for the entire project. Add to that the skyrocketing costs for materials and labor (some of it due to a post-Katrina building boom) and all project financial projections are worth the paper they're printed on.

If the project stalls while Forest City waits for more favorable market conditions, large sections of the footprint will remain unused and truly blighted, or worse, abandoned, though the later is unlikely, since, as Charles Ratner once said, "It's a great piece of real estate."

Or, maybe the planned "temporary surface parking lots" will serve as a gigantic park-n-ride when NYC implements congestion pricing. [You can thank the Mayor's office for the absurd lack of comprehensive planning.]

Posted by lumi at 9:44 AM

WEDDINGS: Shabnam Merchant, Daniel Goldstein

The NY Times


Shabnam Merchant and Daniel E. Goldstein were married Monday in an outdoor ceremony at the Full Moon Resort in Oliverea, N.Y. The Rev. Glenn of Trees, an interfaith minister, officiated.

The bride and bridegroom are community organizers for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an organization that promotes affordable housing and is against the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The bride also serves as the organization's director of fund-raising, and the bridegroom as a spokesman.

The bride, 40, is keeping her name. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College and received a master's degree in engineering from Dartmouth. She is a daughter of Nergis Irani of Dahanu, India, and Buckoo Merchant of Southend-on-Sea, England.

The bridegroom, 37, graduated from Colgate University. He is a son of Lawrence J. Goldstein of Purchase, N.Y., and the late Dorothy L. Goldstein, who lived in New York. He is a stepson of Barbara Goldstein.

The bride's first marriage ended in divorce.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Times errs in the other direction
Nothing, not even a wedding annoucement, escapes the eagle-eyed Norman Oder:

Well, DDDB certainly opposes Atlantic Yards, and it doesn't oppose affordable housing, but the latter--as opposed to "responsible development"--is hardly its raison d'etre. DDDB would not be confused with ACORN or the Fifth Avenue Committee or the Pratt Area Community Council, affordable housing organizations on different sides of the Atlantic Yards fight.

As for "proposed Atlantic Yards," the Times has used the term six times since the project was approved last December. It's used the term "planned Atlantic Yards" four times, or so a search says.

I've been using "planned Atlantic Yards" more since project approval, because the term "proposed" suggests it hasn't gone through any official process.

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

September 16, 2007

TOMORROW: Hey, ESDC! How good IS your word, anyway???

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods: MEDIA ADVISORY

Press Conference

DATE: September 17, 2007

TIME: 8:30 AM

LOCATION: NW corner of Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights

SUBJECT: Hey, ESDC! How good IS your word, anyway???

The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS will hold a press conference 8:30 AM, Monday September 17, 2007 at the corner of Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue to demand that the ESDC honor the promises it has made and answer crucial questions about the safety of the residents of Prospect Heights during the Atlantic Yards project construction preparation.

"132 days ago the ESDC pledged to hire an Ombudsman to represent Community concerns and problems during the Atlantic Yards preparation and construction," said CBN Steering Committee member Eric McClure. "That's twice as long as the ESDC allowed the public to respond to last year's Environmental Impact Statement. That was a complex and huge task, but somehow the Community got it done. What's the holdup on keeping their word to the Community?"

The ESDC has repeatedly rebuffed offers from the Community to participate proactively. They haven't responded to numerous complaints about problems that have already occurred. What, exactly, is the problem?

Given the recent track record of ESDC projects, including the disastrous fire at the Deutsche Bank building in lower Manhattan, these questions are literally life and death.

Elected officials and community leaders have been invited to attend.

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

September 2007 General Meeting

Society for Clinton Hill

THURSDAY, September 20, 7-9 pm St. Luke’s Parish House, 259 Washington Ave. (DeKalb/Willoughby)


7:00 pm Refreshments – Come celebrate our R6B zoning victory, meet our new board members, and talk to our speakers. Everyone will receive a copy of the new zoning map.

7:30 pm Welcome – Jim Barnes, President

7:45 pm Atlantic Yards Legal Update – Lawyers Candance Carponter and Mathew Brinckerhoff will discuss the recently filed appeal to the eminent domain challenge in the 2nd Circuit federal court, which will be heard on October 9th; and, the fact that NY State Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden is expected to rule shortly on the lawsuit filed by 26 community groups, including SCH, disputing the validity of the state’s environmental review, the finding of blight and AY qualification as a “civic project.”


Posted by amy at 10:53 AM

News Highlights of the Week: September 8 – September 14, 2007

Architectural Record reports that, in an odd twist, Forest City entered the low bid on a project - and lost! Clearly San Franciscans can't do math like the MTA can do math...

Although board members of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority are not scheduled to vote until next week on three proposals for a 40-acre transit hub and skyscraper in downtown San Francisco’s South of Market district, a jury advising the board came out in favor of the scheme by architect Pelli Clarke Pelli and developer Hines. The jury deemed this proposal superior “on all counts—aesthetics and functionality as well as economics,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on September 10, adding that Hines is offering a whopping $200 million more for the development rights than its rivals. Placing second was the scheme by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Forest City, which offered $145 million, and third was Skidmore Owings & Merrill / Rockefeller Development Group, offering $118 million. While the Transbay board pledged to value public input—which, as RECORD reported last month, has been substantial—the Chronicle noted that “the jury’s emphatic endorsement of the Hines-Pelli team suggests that it will be a hard choice to overturn.”


Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

Call an ambulance - our middle class is bleeding

NY Daily News
Errol Louis

That means we have to end the zero-sum politics that pits the needs of the poor against those of the middle class. Look at any of the big development projects around the city that include affordable housing - Atlantic Yards, Queens West, conversion of the Domino sugar factory on the Brooklyn waterfront - and there's a fight about whether subsidizing middle-class families amounts to a wasteful "giveaway" of resources best reserved for the very poor.

That is outmoded thinking. Communities, and the city as a whole, thrive when we have many different income groups living side-by-side - civil servants near retirees, welfare moms next door to teachers and carpenters.


NoLandGrab: So...if the best communities are a mix of everyone, including welfare moms, why support a project where there will be no welfare moms? Atlantic Yards would produce exactly zero homes for people making less than $21,270/year. Currently 24% of residents within a 3/4 mile radius of the proposed project make less than $21,270/year. So call an ambulance, Errol, affordable housing is bleeding.

Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

September 15, 2007

TODAY: Fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Maura McGloin, Ann Armbruster, Bill Harris, Lynn Nottage, Irene Van Slyke & Sandy Balboza invite you to


There will be a live auction featuring:

There will be an update on the eminent-domain and environmental lawsuits.

Please RSVP to Maura McGloin, 917-544-5294 or maura@mthreetv.com.

This is a fundraiser so please bring your checkbooks.

Light Refreshments will be served.

Posted by lumi at 11:08 AM

Nets CEO: FCR hopes to break ground in October-November


Atlantic Yards Report

In an interview with WFAN on Wednesday, Nets CEO Brett Yormark spoke confidently that the Nets would move on schedule--though, as he didn't mention, lawsuits likely will push things back. He later hedged a bit.

Optimism about move

At about 6:00 into the segment, Yormark declared, unequivocally, "We'll be in Brooklyn for the 09-10 season."
If FCR breaks ground this fall, the developer would almost certainly have to work around some buildings it does not yet own and have not been condemned.
Finally, at about 24:20, Yormark hedged slightly, saying, "We do have at least two years in Jersey."

And, of course, team owners are hedging their bets, as they've extended their lease at the Continental Airlines Arena through the 2012-13 season, just in case.


Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

September 14, 2007

A Tree Dies in Brooklyn


A tale of what happens when a "rat with ambition" descends on Brooklyn. [Hey kids, please don't try this at home.]

Posted by lumi at 10:31 PM

A wild one on the beach

From this past week's Park Slope Courier, p. 35, photos and headlines covering the AVP Brooklyn Open 2007 inexplicably ran with text about volunteer appreciation day at Park Slope Geriatric Center.

The first photo on the page names two volleyball players and Nets star Vince Carter. The unidentified "Kilroy" in a hat and shades behind the big fat check is the Brucester.


VolleyballBruce-PSCb.jpgThe photo of Marty and Bruce ran on the bottom right of the same page with a caption explaining that they "had front row seats."

The tournament was sponsored by the Forest City Ratner subsidiary Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment and new Nets arena sponsor Barclays Bank, so you'd, like, figure that Bruce would have a front row seat, unless you were writing captions for a crummy advertorial.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 PM

"Listening to the City" and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ponders Thomas Bender's article in Democracy, a Journal of Ideas, "Power Broken: To build great cities, we need more citizen input - not another Robert Moses," and wonders, "Would the Atlantic Yards project have been improved--or would a different development have emerged--had there been more citizen input?"

What if the Vanderbilt Railyards or Atlantic Yards footprint had undergone a public planning exercize as was conducted in Lower Manhattan?

In Brooklyn, could there have been such an exercise? What would the "site" have been, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard or Forest City Ratner's 21-acre (later 22-acre) "footprint"? If an arena was at issue, should alternate sites have be considered, like Coney Island?

How trade off density and cost, market-rate and subsidized units? Even the post-Atlantic Yards UNITY plan workshops came up with a design for the railyard that proved not completely feasible, at least if you consider the subsequent Extell bid, which implied more density.

The most recent UNITY exercise suggested some very affordable housing--but how to pay for it? (Stay tuned for a revamped UNITY plan to be released on Sep. 24.)

Those in the public who support Forest City Ratner's vision believe that the benefits are worth the costs; opponents say the opposite. But how to evaluate those costs and benefits without consideration of larger issues like the overall opportunities for density and affordable housing in the city and borough?

At the very least, though, some competing plans or even frameworks could have dispelled the "Atlantic Yards or nothing" meme that still persists. (Imagine if the process had begun with an RFP from the MTA, rather than have the agency issue one belatedly, 18 months after the project was announced.)


Posted by lumi at 8:43 PM

Minor cognitive dissonance: Considering democracy, development and the legacy of Moses

Thomas Bender's article, "Power Broken: To build great cities, we need more citizen input - not another Robert Moses," in Democracy, a Journal of Ideas, contains some interesting minor cognitive dissonance in the author's understanding of two massive state-sponsored development projects. We can surmise that the difference is due to the fact that Bender participated in one process, while he remained an objective observer in the other:

Bender on Atlantic Yards and public input:

Even a casual survey of development projects since the 1980s, whatever their merits, rebuts the supposition of urban paralysis... Today, the recently approved Atlantic Yards project, a huge mixed-use development in central Brooklyn including an arena for professional basketball, proceeds, after a great deal of public discussion and review (albeit a controversial one) by government bureaucracies.

Toward the end of the article, Bender describes the results of public participation in a design and planning charette for Lower Manhattan; predictably, the results were amazingly similar to those of Atlantic Yards, even down to the archetypes:

The results were fairly general, but they pointed toward a plausible urban aspiration for an area of the city that had evolved into something both more and less than a financial center. A memorial was the highest priority, with some disagreement as to whether it should be figurative or abstract. Mixed use for the area was strongly favored–offices, street retail, residence, and cultural. Anything suggesting a new "freedom tower" was rejected.

This was in many ways a model for public participation. The problem was that nobody with power was listening; a non-accountable, appointed authority made all of the decisions. The result–an abstract memorial, a "freedom tower," maximization of office space–was Moses all over again. A state-level public authority, accepting no public participation (not even by the elected officials of New York City), with power but no civic legitimacy and freed of city building and development regulations, produced neither an appropriate plan nor a well-managed rebuilding project. Rather than Moses, here the maestros were Larry Silverstein, a dogged developer whose grasp of city life is limited to square footage and rent; George Pataki, a governor with power but without vision, save for a fantasy of national office on the horizon; and David Childs, an architect apparently without principle and surely without professional skills adequate to the challenge. Operating in the manner of Moses, these lesser men have put together an embarrassing urban intervention all too reminiscent of the failures of Moses in his later, more authoritarian phase.

Ignoring the public’s wishes not only risks unappealing projects, it also undermines the sense of commonweal that makes democracy function and gives legitimacy to government. The built environment is more important for securing a just city than we realize.

article (registration required)

NoLandGrab: Did someone say, "A state-level public authority, accepting no public participation (not even by the elected officials of New York City), with power but no civic legitimacy and freed of city building and development regulations, produced neither an appropriate plan nor a well-managed... project. Rather than Moses, here the maestros were Bruce Ratner, a dogged developer whose grasp of city life is limited to square footage and rent; George Pataki, a governor with power but without vision, save for a fantasy of national office on the horizon; and Frank Gehry, an architect apparently without principle.... Operating in the manner of Moses, these lesser men have put together an embarrassing urban intervention all too reminiscent of the failures of Moses in his later, more authoritarian phase?"

Posted by lumi at 7:38 PM

Nacirema na eb ot duorp!

Just between us anthropologists, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards has now, officially, delivered us into America's alternate reality.


Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM

Blight the powers that be — "Read More Books"

Check out the work of graffiti artist "Booker" (aka "Read More Books") in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Booker's signature skulls can be found over the Vanderbilt (not "Atlantic") Railyards from Carlton Avenue looking north to Atlantic Avenue.


The artist, who got his start in San Francisco and now works in NYC, also writes "hoodrich," which appears on a building on Pacific Street that Bruce Ratner and the State of New York are planning to sieze via eminent domain. The remaining residents, plaintiffs in the federal eminent domain lawsuit, hope to save their homes.

BookerHood-JD.jpg BookerHood-TC.jpg

More examples of Booker's work:

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Does New York Need a ‘New Moses’?

Streets Blog

RobertMosesAY.jpgA critic of Robert Moses revisionism cites Atlantic Yards as an example of how large projects can get done even with "a great deal of public discussion and review" — no kidding:

[NYU's Thomas] Bender disputes the neo-Mosesist claim that dependence on public process has lead to "urban paralysis," bogging down public works and stifling growth. Instead of Moses clones, Bender argues that cities need better ways to accept and utilize public input.

While it's hard to disagree with that, Bender missteps by citing the progression of Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards as rebuttals to the Mosesist ethic. Of the former, Bender writes:

Today, the recently approved Atlantic Yards project, a huge mixed-use development in central Brooklyn including an arena for professional basketball, proceeds, after a great deal of public discussion and review (albeit a controversial one) by government bureaucracies.

It would be difficult to find many people, if any at all, from the public advocacy arena who would say Atlantic Yards has been anything other than a developer-driven monster from day one, with enough backroom machinations and public bullying to rank among Moses's most notorious projects. And though the reviled plan for a far West Side Jets football stadium was defeated, as Bender points out, neighborhood residents are suing the Bloomberg administration over its Moses-like quest to include over 20,000 parking spaces as part of new Hudson Yards development.

In fact, with unpopular projects like Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and the new Yankee Stadium surging forward, one could make the case that a new Moses era has long been underway.


Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

SATURDAY: Conflux Festival Downtown Brooklyn Walking Tour


An audio walking tour by Samara Smith through downtown Brooklyn, filled with candid interviews, from locals who are losing their homes to eminent domain to folks who remember what life was like pre-[Bruce Ratner's]Metro Tech. It will replace that vague notion of yours about what Brooklyn is becoming with something concrete.

Saturday, September 15
2pm - 4pm

A group will meet at the conference headquarters and travel together to downtown Brooklyn for the walking tour.

Space is limited. To sign up send an email to anyplacebrooklyn@gmail.com.


Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

DOT hires Jan Gehl to evaluate streets; urbanist critiqued Ratner's Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Reports reports on StreetsBlog's report that:

the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has hired the firm of Danish urbanist Jan Gehl to evaluate city streets and other public spaces in "Major pedestrian and commercial corridors in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan."

Gehl himself famously walked around Downtown Brooklyn on a cold morning in November 2005, expressing dismay at the sterility of Forest City Ratner's MetroTech and skepticism about the developer's plans for Atlantic Yards.

Ezra Goldstein of the Park Slope Civic Council's Civic News did a good job of capturing Gehl's take, in an article headlined Plan for Life. The Gehl formula quoted differs from the sequence behind Atlantic Yards:

Instead of planning large buildings and then working down, he said, “you look first at the space you want to develop and ask what kind of life can be envisaged there. Then you ask what kind of public space will create that life. And only then do you design the buildings that create the public space you want.


NoLandGrab: Gehl describes a process where the proverbial cart is hitched behind the horse.

Meanwhile back in Gotham, NYC is tilting toward one direction, while Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards seeks to manifest mistakes of the past. However, since the 22-acre Atlantic Yards is the largest single-source private development project in NYC history, and proposes to be the most dense residential community in the nation, surely, if the project is allowed to procede, it will tip the balance.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Rembrandt: The Met's Embarrassment of Riches

Figure Painting, art blog of Condé Nast Portfolio.com
By Callen Blair

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum says as much about the art of philanthropy as the art of Rembrandt — oh, and guess who is on the board:

If potential donors don't get the hint that philanthropy may win them immortality (the Met's board of trustess includes collectors Henry Kravis, Annette de la Renta, Shelby White, and Bruce Ratner), the pitch is unmistakable when the viewer gets to Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer. On the museum's audioguide, the listener is told that Aristotle "is thinking about his career, his fame, his fortune and perhaps saying to himself 'Will I be remembered in 500 years like Homer?'"


Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

September 13, 2007

Ratnerville Demolition Update Illustrated

What's new and dif in Bruce Ratnerville brought to you by the Atlantic Yards Construction Update, September 10, 2007 – September 17, 2007 (corrections to the official update in bold).

["Demographic" images by Tracy Collins and Adrian Kinloch]

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.

Clean-up and backfill has been completed at 175 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 6), and 177 Flatbush Avenue (block 1118, lot 5).

[Photos by TC and AK respectively.]


The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets has been completed at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25); Completion of the roof abatement is underway with an anticipated duration of three-five weeks. Once all of the abatement is completed, demolition of the building will commence.

[Photo AK.]

Demolition has commenced at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54), and is anticipated to be underway for the next two–three months.

[Photo AK.]

Abatement has been completed at 814 Pacific Street (block 1127 1129, lot 45), and 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1127 1129, lot 50). Demolition will begin within this two one-week period; Abatement has been completed at 818 Pacific Street and will be underway at 538 Vanderbilt (same block and lot, 1127 1129/46).

[Photo AK.]

Abatement has been completed at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54). Demolition will begin within this two one-week period.

[Photo TC.]

Posted by lumi at 1:51 PM

Minority contractor fails to pay subs

Crain's NY Business
By Theresa Agovino

The news that contractors were stiffed by Dolly Williams and Bruce Ratner in East Harlem made Crain's today:

A prominent minority business owner and member of the City Planning Commission has failed to pay her construction subcontractors, a reality they say is causing havoc in their own companies.

At least five subcontractors employed by Dolly Williams’ construction company say she owes them amounts ranging from $150,000 to $2.3 million for work done on an East Harlem mall being developed by Blumenfeld Development Group and Forest City Ratner Cos.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hang on,” says Michael DiTore, a vice president at Daurio & Russo & Sons, who says his company is owed $2.3 million.

It's not clear how culpable Ratner is in this mess, though his ties to Williams go well beyond this East Harlem project:

Vincent Capazzi, president of KJC Waterproofing, says Ms. Williams owes him $650,000. He has called Forest City as well as Tishman Construction Corp. of New York, the project’s construction manager, seeking payment. Mr. Capazzi says each company has told him they cannot pay him because of the money they had to spend fixing Ms. Williams’ mistakes. He doesn’t believe them, and is considering suing them along with Ms. Williams.

Spokesmen for Forest City and Blumenfeld declined to comment on the subcontractor’s plight. A Tishman spokesman says the company isn’t contractually obligated to pay the subcontractors.
As an investor in the Nets, Ms. Williams recused herself from the approval of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, which will house the team.


Atlantic Yards Report, Defining deviancy down & Dolly Williams
Norman Oder notes that what is considered shameful has been redefined in recent decades, and that someone who thinks she is above the law might be unscrupulous in other matters:

Scholar and U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" in an essay in the Winter 1993 issue of The American Scholar:

I proffer the thesis that, over the past generation, since the time Erikson wrote, the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can "afford to recognize" and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the "normal" level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.

Now let's acknowledge that Williams might come up with some explanation for the allegations. Still, a City Planning Commissioner who thinks she (or someone driving her car) can park with impunity at a fire hydrant might think she can get away with more questionable behavior.

Posted by lumi at 1:48 PM

ESDC, FCR fire back in fierce eminent domain defense

Atlantic Yards Report

The defendants' briefs for the appeal of the federal eminent domain lawsuit, Goldstein v. Pataki, was on Norman Oder's summer reading list. His analysis of the defenses' arguments is on our aprés-summer reading list:

Plaintiffs in the eminent domain lawsuit challenging Atlantic Yards have already received a major setback in the case, after a federal court judge dismissed it for failure to state a claim, and as the appeal proceeds, a fierce set of response briefs from the defense ups the ante considerably.

The plaintiffs (a mix of 15 homeowners, commercial property owners, and residential and business tenants) and the defense (government agencies and officials) see controlling issues quite differently. The defense, drawing on U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s emphatic opinion, declare that the inquiry should end because the government—the ESDC—found that the project would achieve a public purpose, including affordable housing, an arena, and open space.

While that reflects longstanding Supreme Court doctrine, the plaintiffs look at it from another angle, arguing in their appeals brief that the court’s 2005 Kelo v. New London decision and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence require a more transparent sequence, which must be followed for condemnation to be legitimate. And in response, the defense says that Kelo doesn’t apply to this case and, even if it did, the sequence was legitimate.

The plaintiffs’ framework to some degree pushes the envelope—the ESDC points to the paradox that most commentators believed that Kelo “confirmed—and possibly even loosened—the already extremely deferential judicial review of the public purposes of proposed takings.” But the plaintiffs think it gives them more leverage.

(The case will be heard October 9, and the plaintiffs get one more chance to respond in court papers.)


Posted by lumi at 11:26 AM

ESDC, Ratner Keeping Neighbors Informed

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Despite the ESDC's failure to accede to our repeated formal requests to be added to the distribution list for the "Atlantic Yards Construction Update," frequent and repeated mistakes and errors within the updates, and our favorite pr contrivance ("the Atlantic Yards Community"), the ESDC and Ratner wants Brooklynites to know that they are keeping the community informed about the work in progress in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject:

Emergency demolition work on the parapets at the former Ward’s Bakery building, at 800 Pacific St. in Prospect Heights, has been completed, according to a construction update issued by the Empire State Development Corp. (EDSC) on Monday.

The update is one the EDSC and Forest City Ratner Companies are now providing weekly to residents and businesses in the area of the Atlantic Yards development about anticipated construction work.

“It is part of an ongoing effort to keep the community informed about the status of construction activities,” said Harlan Pruden, project associate for the EDSC in Manhattan.


NoLandGrab: The "Atlantic Yards Construction Updates" have been issued bi-weekly, not weekly as the article states. The latest update only covers the week of September 10-17, a sign that the updates might be issued more frequently.

There was nothing in the update about last week's stop-work order or resumption of work on the eastern portion of the footprint.

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

NLG EXCLUSIVE: MartySqueaks to BrooklynSpeaks

Below is Borough President Marty Markowitz's response to the BrooklynSpeaks initiative seeking to impose more community participation and oversight over the largest single-source private development project in NYC history.

MartySpeaks-Getty.jpgIn a nutshell, Marty says that he has always favored community dialogue, but it hasn't been possible with all the naysayers polarizing the community; however, he's looking forward to working with the groups involved as long as no one tries to "stop the project or to significantly alter its scale or components:"

"Dear Mr. Veconi:

"I want to thank you and your colleagues for meeting with me to discuss your ideas about governance and oversight of the Atlantic Yards project.

"From the very outset, I believed that an open dialog with community representatives, elected officials and forest (sic) City Ratner would be the best way to proceed. However, that dialog was unfortunately not possible with the polarization that occurred. I share your belief that there must be community participation in the Atlantic Yards project. Through such participation we can insure that the project will work for the community.

"As you and your colleagues noted, there are many successful models for such a dialog including Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hoyt Schermerhorn, Piers 7-12 and the ATURA task force. These projects had something in common. All of the parties either wanted to see some form of implementation or at least accepted implementation with some consideration given to improvements.

"As proposed, a project planning and oversight entity would be established. While I agree with this concept, I do not agree that the entity should, as noted, '...be responsible for...approving all changes to the project and policy surrounding it.' For all projects, whether it is Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hoyt Schermerhorn, Metrotech, etc., once a project is approved, the developer and the responsible agencies must be allowed to move ahead. However, as long as the stakeholders understand that they are not there to stop the project or to significantly alter its scale or components, I believe a productive dialog can ensue.

"I look forward to joining with you and other community representatives and my colleagues in an open dialog leading to the process you have proposed. I will also reach out to Forest City at the appropriate point in time to encourage it in this process as well. Please let Greg Atkins, my chief-of-staff know the schedule for any upcoming meetings."

Note: Regarding projects cited by Markowitz, community participation and oversight was established BEFORE the projects were approved. By putting the cart before the horse, as Markowitz suggests, the community has no control over the steering.

The question remains whether the BrooklynSpeaks coalition will take the bait, or craft a response in criticism of Marty's recommendation, which eliminates the very purpose of their coalition's proposal.

Email info for:
Borough President Marty Markowitz, askmarty@brooklynbp.nyc.gov
Chief of Staff Greg Atkins, gatkins@brooklynbp.nyc.gov
BrooklynSpeaks, contact@brooklynspeaks.net

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

At One Hanson Place in Brooklyn, 360-Degree Top Floor Views Now Available

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

According to the developers of the landmark Clock Tower building, just a Ratner mall away from Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, the Ratner megaproject is having no effect on sales and will be a boon to the building, which now has units with a 360-view for sale:

Some have speculated that the impending construction of the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project across the street would hurt sales at One Hanson Place. Depending on the estimate, construction is expected to last 10 to 20 years. And once completed, the project’s flagship building, Miss Brooklyn, which is on the opposite corner from One Hanson Place, would be nearly as tall.

But Perry said only two of the units that would primarily face Atlantic Yards haven’t sold yet — she explained that most of the units are so high that their views would be relatively unaffected.

“I think [Atlantic Yards] will have a positive impact — more amenities, more life. There are a lot of things that are happening in the area that are positive,” she said, listing off new developments from Atlantic Yards to the BAM Cultural District, and the vibrancy of existing neighborhoods like Fort Greene. While the initial construction happening in the area may be a nuisance, Perry said buyers see that “there’s a greater positive on the other side.”


Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

Eminent Domain: Can Objective Morality be Relative?

John Birch Society News Feed
By Wilton D. Alston

Here's the Libertarian perspective on Brooklyn's latest, and one of the most bizarre, examples of eminent domain abuse:


According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "Three Brooklyn entrepreneurs were busy preparing to host the November grand opening of their arts and music venue in Fort Greene, until they received notice [in mid August] that the city plans to seize the building they're leasing via eminent domain."

Follow this link to the original source: "Ousted Brooklyn Arts Venue Wants Spot In Its Replacement Building"


It is said that truth is often stranger than fiction. When we're talking about the State, that phrase takes on power of mythical scope. The best part of this eminent domain story? The city plans to seize the building these entrepreneurs were turning into an arts and entertainment venue so they can construct, with public money ... wait for it ... an arts and entertainment venue!

The entrepreneurs in question had supposedly filed all the appropriate papers and had also invested some $1.2 million in renovating the property. It is possible that their idea is flawed. It is possible that they are poor businessmen. It is possible that the money they have invested was wasted.

It is not possible that the government can do a better job providing services than the market.


Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

September 12, 2007



NY Post
By Chuck Bennett

DollyWilliams-BW.jpgYou may know Dolly as the City Planning Commish who had to recuse herself from any decisions affecting Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards because she's also an investor in the NJ Nets, or you may know her as Marty's scantily clad sidekick from the West Indian Day Carnival 2006, or you may know her as the City Planning Commish who was barred from decisions affecting the Gowanus rezoning because her company owns property in the boundaries, or, most recently, you may have recognized her lemon-yellow Porsche illegally parked at a fire hydrant less than a block from her house, where she has her own private parking space (hey, it's hard to climb The Slope in heels).

In the end, she may be best known as Bruce Ratner's contractor and investment partner who stiffed a sub-contractor over $2 million.

Michael DiTore, a partner of Daurio & Russo & Sons in Brooklyn, says he's owed $2.3 million for concrete work done this year on the mall between East 116th and East 119th streets along the FDR Drive.

His company, along with at least three other subcontractors, were never paid by A. Williams Construction, the contractor hired to do excavation work.

"It just about put us out of business," DiTore said. " A. Williams Construction was co-founded by Dolly Williams, who was appointed a planning commissioner in 2002. She has since invested $1 million in the Ratner-owed New Jersey Nets.
Numerous excavation delays on the East River Plaza project caused Ratner and his partner, Blumenfeld Development Group, to fire Williams in May. The subcontractors, too, were cut.

Sources said A. Williams was overaggressive in its $30 million bid and couldn't meet deadlines.

"Private discussions between A. Williams and [Ratner-Blumenfeld] are ongoing. These discussions are amicable and nonlegal," A. Williams said in a statement.

The mall is slated to open next summer, but that's now in question. "We don't know what impact it will have to our schedule," said a Ratner spokesman.


Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Forest City executive: AY lawsuits cleared by mid-2008

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder listened in on yesterday's conference call with investors in Forest City Enterprises, the development company for Atlantic Yards, and noticed some interesting discrepancies and implausibilities in the timeline for the opening of the arena:

Could the planned Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center) open for the 2009-10 basketball season, as Forest City Ratner officially insists, even though the project is way behind schedule?

Well, officials from parent Forest City Enterprises (FCE) didn't assert an arena timeline yesterday during a conference call with investment analysts. However, when one executive predicted that legal cases challenging the project likely would persist through the midpoint of 2008, he again provided evidence that contradicts the company's stated timeline, which assumed that arena block would be flattened by now.

Without resolution of the Atlantic Yards legal cases--a pending challenge to the environmental review in state court, and a federal eminent domain appeal to be heard on October 9--certain buildings can't be demolished and/or construction can't go forward.

Could the cases be closed in less then ten months? That's not implausible, but it's not a lock, either. It implies success at the appeals court level for the defendants in both cases and (likely) no final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court or the New York State Court of Appeals. So further legal delays could push the timeline back even more.


Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

Real Estate Round-Up, September 11, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle carried two items in the "Round-Up:"

CBS News (uh, actually it was the Weekly Standard, via CBSNews.com) reports that the financial benefit to taxpayers and the local economy is negligible at best, and perhaps negative.

And you can start holding your breath, because Frank Gehry will be unveiling his redesign of the first phase of Atlantic Yards any day now, according to an architecture column in the New York Times.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

Forest City earnings jump

Crain's Cleveland Business

Forest City's chief executive comments on the company's fist-half performance and its future prospects:


Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and CEO, said fundamentals in the company’s rental properties business remain strong and newly opened properties are performing at or above expectations. However, he said the housing slump affecting its residential land development business, which primarily provides land for homebuilders, “has been broader and deeper than expected” and the company expects continued softening in the sector.

For example, revenues in its land development group fell 46%, to $14.6 million from $27.1 million in the year-ago quarter. Mr. Rather said the company believes its residential land holdings in growth markets such as Arizona, the Carolinas, Florida and Texas position it well for the long term.

Mr. Ratner said changes in the real estate environment, from stricter underwriting requirements by lenders to the housing market’s weakness, “make it difficult to clarify how EBDT will perform in the short term, but we remain confident that we will continue to build shareholder value this year and into the future.”


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Making Decision to Buy--AY issue (sorry)!

Brownstoner Forum

AYAerial-NYM.jpg One soon-to-be brownstoner is wringing his or her hands over the Atlantic Yards effect:

Ok--I've read and re-read most of the Atlantic Yards debates on this board. I am not a Brooklynite and hence do not know the borough that well. My family and I are in the decision stage and are considering making an offer on one of 2 places: the first in Ft. Greene, close to St. Felix & Lafayette. The other is in Prospect Heights, near St. Marks & Carlton Ave. The houses and prices are similar, so I'm now just worried about location. I can't stress enough how much of a financial strain this purchase will be for us. We've been saving for years for the down payment. We also plan on staying a very long time, so this is not a flip.

I was wondering if anyone could offer some genuine and uninterested advice on which of the 2 locations might be better, and if they'd be affected by the Atlantic Yards project in the long-run. I am terrified of this impending purchase and would sincerely welcome your thoughts.


Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

September 11, 2007

The Ratnerville Demolition Hot Spot Map, September 10-17

Posted by lumi at 7:27 PM


The Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

Weeks WEEK of September 10, 2007 – September 17, 2007

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Ratnerville 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


  • Mid-block piles: Drilling is complete; excavating down a few feet then installing lagging
  • 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 (see photo) 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.
  • Mobilization to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge).
  • 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.

Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Ward Bakery

Photo by Tracy Collins, from the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool on flickr

WardBakeryFence.jpg The Ward Bakery building as viewed from behind the fencing at the Vanderbilt Railyards.

According to the latest "Demolition Update" issued by the Empire State Development Corporation:

The double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work on the parapets has been completed at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25); Completion of the roof abatement is underway with an anticipated duration of three-five weeks. Once all of the abatement is completed, demolition of the building will commence.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

Atlantic Yards through a Jacobsian lens

Atlantic Yards Report


The exhibition Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York won't open at the Municipal Art Society until September 25, but the companion web site launched yesterday, immediately providing some food for thought: while Atlantic Yards might subscribe to at least one of Jacobs's principles, it would violate others.

The exhibit, accompanying programs, and attendant commentary undoubtedly will stimulate discussion of the relevance (and limits) of Jacobs' penetrating vision. I'm sure there will be several opportunities to view Atlantic Yards through a Jacobsian lens (and the lenses of her critics).

Norman Oder seeks some answers from the writings of Jane Jacobs on the question of how much "density" is sustainable and the oppressive impact of "superblocks."


Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

NJ Nets to stay on WFAN through Brooklyn move

amNY, via Newsday.com
By Eric Lebowitz

WFAN Sports Radio signed a contract extention for radio broadcast of NJ Nets games.

This amNY article about the deal smacks of carefully crafted pr, including the contention that the team will move in time for the 2009-2010 season and this incredibly strained description of the project:

Atlantic Yards development, which will include landscape projects, a boutique hotel and middle-income housing.

NoLandGrab: Developer Bruce Ratner usually touts the "affordable housing" — gawd forbid that fans might think that an arena would be located in a low-income housing project. However, on the flip side, the developer can't be caugh tdead admitting that the project consists primarily of luxury housing. And "landscape projects?" We assume they are talking abou the publicly accessible privately owned open space.

Apparently WFAN is counting on the increased value of the broadcast rights, should the Nets ever move to Brooklyn:

The Nets have long struggled to draw good crowds in East Rutherford, ranking 19th in NBA home attendance last year with 16,972 fans per game.

But closer proximity to the rival Knicks and a brand-new arena figure to augment Nets attendance considerably and attract new fans.

This in turn would make the team's broadcast rights more valuable, said Neil Davis, the Nets' chief financial officer in charge of Brooklyn-area sponsorship sales.
"I think WFAN saw the value in that."


Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Forest City 2nd-Quarter Profit Climbs

AP, via Forbes.com

Real estate company Forest City Enterprises Inc. said Monday fiscal second-quarter profit rose sharply, helped by property sales.

Net income for the quarter ended July 31 totaled $67.8 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with $7.5 million, or 7 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Results were helped by the gain on disposition of properties.

Revenue rose to $287.6 million from $250.8 million.

The company said results in its rental properties business remain strong but an industrywide slowdown has hurt its land business more than expected.

"The downturn in the for-sale housing business and the related impacts on the subprime mortgage business lead us to believe that we will see no signs of improvement in the near term and, in fact, we expect to see continued softening," said Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive.


From Reuters and CONFERENCE CALL TODAY at 2PM.

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

September 10, 2007

A second look at the Con Ed rate increase and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement claimed that the megaproject "would not be significant and can be accommodated largely through existing infrastructure systems," but Bruce Ratner's controversial plan was cited by Con Ed as one of the justifications for a rate hike. Norman Oder takes a second look:

Did Consolidated Edison, requesting an unprecedented 17 percent rate increase, really blame Atlantic Yards? A NY1 report--and subsequently other reporters, bloggers, and advocates--singled out the development as increasing demand on the electric grid.

I similarly cited the NY1 report, but it wasn't fair to single out Atlantic Yards. A belated look at a May 23 hearing transcript shows that it was just one of numerous projects increasing demand. Indeed, NY1 apparently updated its story sometime later.

However, Con Ed shouldn't be let off the hook so easily. A look back also shows that, as Atlantic Yards was being evaluated, the utility was closemouthed about the significant fiscal impact of its preparations to serve a growing city.

In other words, even though Con Ed claimed confidence it would be ready to supply power to Atlantic Yards, it failed to acknowledge that the project, along with others, would trigger a significant rate hike.


Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM


PrivateProperty-TC.gifPhoto by Tracy Collins, via flickr

If you can believe it, there's "private property" in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

This sign is posted on the vacant lot where the JRG Bar & Restaurant formerly stood — in other words, it was posted by Forest City Ratner.

Other "private property" in the footprint can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Posted by lumi at 9:02 AM

Forest City in the News

ForestCityJazzBand.jpg DBusinessNews.com, 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.

Denver Post, College lab's training fits well with state bioscience jobs
A story about a new biotech lab at Community College of Aurora anticipates opportunities in the field at a new biotech park to be built by Forest City Enterprises:

Already Colorado is home to 380 bioscience companies, eight federally funded research labs, and a total of 21,000 bioscience jobs. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next 30 years, as Forest City Enterprises has signed on to build a $2 billion science park, expected to have 6.5 million square feet of lab and office space with the potential to attract 10,000 jobs.

NoLandGrab: We can't judge if these jobs figures are for real, though it seems that 10K is the magic jobs-figure for any large development project. However, it seems that the potential economic benefit of a biotech park is greater than that of an arena.

Already Colorado is home to 380 bioscience companies, eight federally funded research labs, and a total of 21,000 bioscience jobs. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next 30 years, as Forest City Enterprises has signed on to build a $2 billion science park, expected to have 6.5 million square feet of lab and office space with the potential to attract 10,000 jobs.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

The Case Of The Duffield Street Homes

DuffieldSt-BR.gifThe Brooklyn Rail
By Emma Rebhorn

The Rail lays out the case for the historical significance of the homes on Duffield St., which are under threat of eminent domain abuse (aka, the "other" land grab):

What might be referred to as The Case of the Duffield Street Homes has come to involve a shadowy consulting firm, congressmen, a grandmother and former hairstylist and a former employee of New York City’s department of finance. In reality, though, the story begins more than two hundred and fifty years ago in the decades preceding the Civil War, radical abolitionists established the Underground Railroad, a large-scale project of civil disobedience.


The Duffield St. Underground blog explains that, "The article also describes the physical evidence that didn't fit into the city's narrative."

And, in case you're counting, US Congressional Representative Yvette Clarke has expressed her support for saving the Duffield St. homes, again.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM


EminentDomainia26.jpg Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Caring about Kelo

Columnist Dimitri Vassilaros sums up the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision and alerts readers about an eminent domain reform bill on the Hill:

In one of the court's most inane decisions, five of the nine justices held that the governmental taking of private property to give to another promising economic development constitutes a permissible "public use."

Now, government can take virtually any property and transfer title to another private owner -- probably with good political connections and very deep pockets -- who plans to make the property more valuable and therefore likely to generate more tax dollars for the government entity.
Two representatives in Congress who typically are at opposite ends of the political universe joined forces to further undermine Kelo.

Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced their Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2007 in July. For two fiscal years, the act would deny economic development funds to state and local governments that use eminent domain for private development.

Well, it's a start, but hardly a slam dunk.

AP, via Statesman Journal, UO to seek eminent domain for new arena

Eminent domain for an arena? They can't do that, right?? Right???

When Nike co-founder Phil Knight pledged $100 million to University of Oregon athletics last month, it seemed there was nothing left to stop plans for a new basketball arena.

But there is still the matter of the dental office, the 7-Eleven and a vacant building that used to house a Domino's Pizza. The three privately owned properties all sit on the site intended to house the new arena.

Today in Bend, the university will ask the state Board of Higher Education to allow the use of eminent domain for all three parcels, if necessary.

HartfordBusiness.com, A Value Proposition
This tale is a candidate for the Eminent Domainia Hall of Shame:

The theory of eminent domain is a laudable one: governments must have the ability to acquire private property for a greater public good. Unfortunately, government actors can’t seem to stop behaving like Snidely Whiplash, egotistically running around trying to snatch land with little more justification than an evil chortle.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge William T. Cremins just put the kibosh on a particularly insidious bit of socialism in Branford. Back in 2001, Thomas Barbara and Frank Perotti Jr. owned a 76-acre undeveloped parcel on Tabor Road. More than a decade before, the site had been approved for 298 residential condos, but they were never built. With approval in hand, however, the pair put the land up for sale, and a development company bit. New England Estates ponied up a $10,000 a month option, in order to eventually buy the property for $4.75 million.

In spring of 2003, New England Estates proposed building affordable housing at the site. But the town now claimed environmental contamination, issued a notice of condemnation in December of 2003, and took the property by eminent domain in January of 2004. Its plan was to keep the land vacant.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

September 9, 2007

Chris Owens: Do Not Go Gently

Brooklyn Vs Bush

. . .with John Pinamonti and the Atomic Grind Show. The Atlantic Yards "done deal" keeps on doing it to the people of Brooklyn. But Brooklyn keeps fighting back. Make the crooks who have force fed the disasterous deal pay plenty. Freddy's and the people of the neighborhood are faced with removal by Eminent Domain Abuse and would appreciate any money you might like to donate to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fund to fight to save Brooklyn in Court.


Posted by amy at 8:52 PM

AY phase one redesign coming, says Times critic


Atlantic Yards Report explores the errors in today's Times big reveal of phase one plans:

First, it's hardly certain that Atlantic Yards will actually get under way; that depends on the resolution of a federal lawsuit, now in the appeals stage, and a state lawsuit, awaiting a trial court decision, as well as other delays.

Like the Rock?

Second, it's doubtful that Gehry can redesign the first phase, which is four towers wrapped around an arena, plus one tower to the west across Flatbush Avenue, to make Atlantic Yards echo Rockefeller Center.

The latter notably added rather than subtracted streets. The first phase of Atlantic Yards would close Fifth Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, and Pacific Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues.
Third, Atlantic Yards would not be a retail-entertainment-sports complex. More than three-quarters of its square footage (nearly 6.4 million sf out of nearly 8 million sf) would be occupied by housing (see p. 18 of this PDF), and at 292 units/acre, the project would be far more dense than any other major project in the city.


Posted by amy at 10:51 AM

Architectural Shifts, Global and Local

New York Times

Another huge project is the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and Frank Gehry will soon unveil his redesign of its first phase, so it will soon become clear whether Brooklyn will receive a dazzling 21st-century version of Rockefeller Center or a conventional retail-entertainment-sports complex inside a pretty architectural wrapper.


Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

Stadium Scams


CBS News (Weekly Standard)
By Duncan Currie

Still, the resistance to "sports welfare" can be fierce. In Brooklyn, for example, local residents have howled about the planned exercise of eminent domain to build the Nets a new basketball arena. This has prompted a messy legal battle, with opponents of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project angrily denouncing Nets principal owner (and real estate tycoon) Bruce Ratner, whose firm Forest City Ratner is the developer. Several affected property owners have filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed use of eminent domain. A federal district judge ruled against them in June, but the plaintiffs are appealing.

Like any good sports mogul, Ratner insists his Atlantic Yards development will provide an economic boon to the city. In time, he may be proved correct. But the historical evidence suggests that new stadiums and arenas rarely deliver the type of revenue gains and job growth that is expected.


Posted by amy at 10:37 AM

September 8, 2007

Atlantic Yards Mention on "Damages"

NoLandGrabber Steve made an impressive find while watching the show "Damages" on Wednesday. The dramatic tv playing in the background? A Develop Don't Destroy rally.

From Wikipedia: Damages is an American legal drama television program. The story revolves around a ruthless lawyer, (Glenn Close), attempting to win a class-action lawsuit against the former CEO of a corporation, (Ted Danson), on behalf of his former workers, by any means necessary (see plot). The show debuted on FX in the U.S. on July 24, 2007, without commercial interruption,[1] and is scheduled to run for 13 episodes.

Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

On journalistic criticism, process, and governmental competence

Atlantic Yards Report

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has offered praise and criticism of Atlantic Yards, citing the importance of density near a transit hub. In testimony last August, the RPA offered measured support for the project:
In this instance, however, it would not be in the public interest to start from scratch. Even an improved process should still likely result in a project approximating the scale and ambition of the Forest City Ratner proposal. The city and the region need to aggressively develop offices, housing, retail and entertainment in appropriate locations, and there are few locations more suited for dense, mixed-use development than the Atlantic Yards.

I think that's speculative, since an improved process would involve many more voices. Also, the statement that "the Atlantic Yards" is suited for development fudges the difference between development over the railyards and development over adjacent blocks.

Atlantic Yards would be 292 apartments per acre--"extreme density" compared to Stuyvesant Town, Battery Park City, and even new projects like the New Domino and Queens West.

What's the limit? That hasn't been discussed.

Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

"The fat lady has not sung yet"


Duffield St. Underground

The Brooklyn Papers just published "Down on Duffield," which looks at the two most prominent owners who have been fighting eminent domain in Downtown Brooklyn. The article suggests that one owner still wants to fight and the other, Lewis Greenstein, is finally ready to give up.

Lew wrote the following Letter to the Editor in response to the article:

The above statement got the drift of what I said to the reporter. But after 3 1/2 years have been lied to, you get tired and depressed of all the abuse. Bloomberg who in the process of selling the NYC to the developers and the city has deep pockets and they have worn us down. I will not sell to the city, but if I have my way, someone will come forward to help save this property in some way, to date no one has stepped up help save the building. My passion is wavering but I'm still in the hunt of the truth and will continue until my dying day. My head is not in the clouds- eventually the city will take this building by eminent domain abuse as it has done so many times, and if I can get out with some respect I would like that. I have not given up yet as the fat lady has not sung yet.


Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

September 7, 2007

Weeds of Brooklyn #4: Flore des Yards Atlantiques

In the latest installment in his "Weeds of Brooklyn" series, Dope on the Slope identifies flora in the Atlantic Yards footprint, contemplates succession and its relationship to gentrification and concedes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though Ratner's garden would need a helluva lot of fertilizer.



Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Coming: the Jane Jacobs exhibit and discussions; AY gets some notice

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews the upcoming exhibit on Jane Jacobs, presented by the Municipal Art Society:


If earlier this year we encountered a reassessment of Robert Moses, soon we’ll have a chance to examine his one-time antagonist, author and activist Jane Jacobs, whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities took on an entire generation of urban planners.

The Municipal Art Society (MAS), with sponsorship from the Rockefeller Foundation—which funded Jacobs and now funds medals in her honor—will on Sept. 25 open the “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” exhibit. MAS then will host several panels regarding Jacobs’s relevance today, three of which will touch on Atlantic Yards.

(A web site for the exhibit will go live on September 10.)

AY effect?

While there’s no clue yet what the exhibit might say about Atlantic Yards, the press release hints at potential criticism. “The project presents the principles and activism of Jane Jacobs and challenges New York City residents to study the use of their city, its streets and the built environment,” said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “The project inspires citizens to support and fight for the health of their own neighborhoods, and it encourages city officials, developers, planners and architects to embrace and implement Jane Jacobs’ teachings.”

The MAS itself has not joined the main Atlantic Yards opposition, steering clear of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its lawsuits, but has spearheaded the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which began last year and called for major changes in the project, hoping for some political and community leverage. Some of BrooklynSpeaks' criticisms, including the need for the project to "respect and integrate with the surrounding neighborhoods," reflect Jacobs' influence.

Several programs being held in conjunction with the exhibit feature Atlantic Yards notables, including Norman Oder, architect Marshall Brown, former City Planning Commish Ron Shiffman, Brooklyn Speaks coalition member Michelle de la Uz, and project supporter and Daily News columnist Errol Louis. There are more details in Oder's post.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Kids Disco Don't Destroy

Boogie-Oggie-Oggie with family and friends to eminent domain classics like "Don't Stop Til Ya Get Enough," "Give it to Me Baby" and "More, more, more."

Brooklynites will be mopping up the dance floor with developer favorites like "The Hustle," "Jive Talkin'", "Shaft" and "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)."

So come out and sing along to picks from project opponents like the footprint residents' anthem, "I Will Survive," "We are Family" (the rallying cry for the Hagan Sisters), and everyone's favorite "Enough is Enough."

Click here for more details.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Green Building?

Photo by Tracy Collins from the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool


According to this week's NY Observer update on Atlantic Yards, the construction schedule released last year states that the P.C. Richard and Son and Modell's Sporting Goods stores were supposed to be vacated and demolished a month or two ago.

Both stores are still standing, including this ivy-covered wall.

These stores are located on "Site V" in the footprint of Atlantic Yards. Though Ratner owns the buildings, the leases must be vacated in order to demolish the buildings. The details of the negotiations are not available to the public.

This description of the "Site V" block comes from the "Atlantic Yards Blight Study:"

Block 927 is located within ATURA, an area that, as described above, was found by the City to be blighted over 40 years ago. The block is zoned C6-2, a zoning designation that allows for a wide range of high-bulk commercial uses requiring a central location (see Figure 7). C6 districts typically accommodate uses such as corporate headquarters, large hotels, entertainment facilities, and mixed use buildings containing residential, retail, or other commercial uses.

According to the "Blight Study," there's nothing wrong with the P.C. Richard & Sons and Modell's buildings, except that they are "critically underutilized," which in NY State is a characteristic of "blight" and justifies the use of eminent domain (a convenient tool to pressure P.C. Richard & Sons and Modell's to give up their leases):

Lot 1 is in a C6-2 zoning district with an FAR of 6.0. Situated at the corner of 4th and Atlantic Avenues, the lot occupies a highly visible location in the shopping and employment concentration that is anchored by Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center. Although the 30,780 sf lot can accommodate up to 184,680 zsf of built space under current zoning, it hosts a single-story 30,300 gsf building, utilizing only about 16 percent of the lot’s development potential. At the time the lot was developed, the market conditions would not support a large-scale development using all of the development rights. As illustrated by Photograph B, the one-story PC Richard & Son building stands in stark contrast to the 34-story Williamsburg Savings Bank building (left), and the four stories of retail (center) and ten stories of offi ce space (right) at Atlantic Terminal. Given its key location in the midst of one of the largest commercial districts in Brooklyn, lot 1 is critically underutilized.

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Down on Duffield

The Brooklyn Paper

Greenstein-BPsm.jpg Update on the fight to save historic homes on Duffield St: one resident under threat of condemnation feels that she could convince the Mayor to do the right thing if she had the opportunity to meet with him face to face, and another is willing to sell if the City does the right thing (and we're not just talking money).

“If I met with him, we could come to some terms. I know I should have a chance to try,” said [Joy Chatel], whose house once belonged to abolitionist Harriet Truesdale.

Chatel did meet the mayor in his first term — before the city hatched the multi-billion-dollar plan to replace her modest home with a plaza for office workers and hotel guests in a newly revived Downtown Brooklyn. The pair talked about improving Brooklyn’s schools, she said.
“It’s not about money in my pocket,” the landlord and amateur historian told The Brooklyn Paper. “It’s about economics. I know that eventually the city is going to steal [the building] from me. I want a fair price in the open market.”

The offer to leave comes after years of not-over-my-dead-body proclamations from Greenstein, who has been fighting to save his 233 Duffield St. building — which may have been a way station on the fabled Underground Railroad — from the city’s plan to raze it and six other houses to make way for a Bryant Park-like office and park development.

Greenstein’s change of heart came on the heels of the condemnation of property belonging to his neighbor and ally Joy Chatel. Expecting a similar fate for his own three-story home, he said this week that he would be willing to sell it to the city on the condition that a tunnel in the basement that could’ve been an escape route for former slaves is moved to a museum. He said he would donate proceeds from the sale of his building to commemoration project honoring Downtown Brooklyn abolitionists.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

Michelle ma belle

MichelleWilliams.jpg Fashionista.com, Michelle Goes Brooklyn
Though Michelle Williams has a new look, we're interested in the choice adjective Fashionista.com uses to describe Bruce Ratner's controversial development plan:

We know she advocates against Bruce Ratner's dreadful Atlantic Yards, wears weird/cool Chloe prairie dresses, and lives in a brownstone. But it must have been hard for her being the only blonde in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Papers, Heath-Michelle split has B’Hill gossiping

Hollywood is talking about the breakup of Heath and Michelle, and Boerum Hill real estate watchers are wondering about their $3.5-million pad — Brooklyn Paper notes that the recent Brooklyn transplants "even joined the fight against Atlantic Yards, lending their names to be used by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn."

NoLandGrab: Michelle has lent more than "her name" and has played a low-key role with the private fundraising efforts for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. We're not sure where recent developments will leave Boerum Hill's biggest celebs, or what that means for their participation in the fight against Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

September 6, 2007

Martin Whitman Adds to Forest City Enterprises Inc, MBIA Inc., Nuveen Investments Inc., USG Corp. etc. and Sears Holdings Corp., sells Lindsay Corp.


One investor is bullish on Forest City Enterprises.

The market is in fear with the credit crisis, legendary investor Martin Whitman is excited buying. He likes to buy companies that are undervalued relative to their balance sheets. These are the buys and sells during the 3 months ended 07/31.
Martin Whitman added to his holdings in Real Estate Holding & Development company Forest City Enterprises Inc. by 24.9%. His purchase prices were between $54.81 and $69.25, with an estimated average price of $64.2. The impact to his portfolio due to this purchase was 0.83%. His holdings were 6,757,424 shares as of 07/31/2007.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. engages in the ownership, development, management, and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate properties in the United States. Forest City Enterprises Inc. has a market cap of $5.72 billion, its shares were traded at around $55.55 with with P/E ratio of 53.78 and P/S ratio of 4.68.


NoLandGrab: Why wouldn't Forest City be a great value for investors? The company has a reputation for being able to secure more government subsidies than any other developer.

Posted by lumi at 10:32 PM

The paradox of unaffordable ($7313!) "rent-stabilized" Atlantic Yards housing

Atlantic Yards Report

By what stretch of the imagination should an apartment leasing for $7313/mo. be "rent stabilized?" You can thank Bruce Ratner and his affordable-housing partner Bertha Lewis of ACORN for that absurdity.

Initially, Norman Oder was skeptical about Ratner's and Lewis's claim that even units priced above the $2000 "vacancy decontrol" threshold would still be "rent stabilized," but (the reader may want to sit down for this) Oder stands corrected by none other than the "Mad Overkiller" himself:

Would Atlantic Yards rental housing--the 2250 affordable units and the 2250 market-rate units--all be rent-stabilized, as has been promoted?

The answer: sort of, but in a confounding way that somehow would classify a market-rate apartment renting for $7313 as rent-stabilized.

And it would classify middle-income affordable units, some costing well more than $2000 a month, as rent-stabilized, even though such sums generated skepticism about affordability from potential renters last year and, indeed, $2000 is the trigger for decontrol of current rent-stabilized units.

According to the developer's chart of estimated rents, 450 of the 2250 affordable units would rent from $1861 to $3084 a month and another 450 would rent from $1488 to $2467.

Bertha Lewis of ACORN, in a 7/31/06 article in City Limits, described all 4500 Atlantic Yards rentals as rent-stabilized:

Beyond building new affordable units, all 4,500 rental units at Atlantic Yards will be rent-stabilized -- no small victory in an era where thousands of rent-stabilized units return to the free market every year.

The rules would be different for Atlantic Yards rental housing, which would be funded via the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC). The term sheet for the agency's mixed-income program--50% market, 30% middle-income, 20% low-income units--states:

Upon project stabilization, New HOP and Market rate rent increases will be governed by allowable rent stabilization increases with no vacancy decontrol.

So, indeed, there would be rent stabilization, but with a twist. For the 2250 market-rate rental units, it would come after the fact, after the developer works out the rent.

I asked Aaron Donovan, spokesman for the NYC HDC, who confirmed, "The market sets the initial rents and subsequent to that, rent increases are governed by rent stabilization. If Forest City Ratner were to apply for financing under our Mixed-Income Program, these terms would apply."


NoLandGrab: As for the "no small victory" declared by Bertha Lewis, most of the aparments would be well out of the reach of those whom ACORN represents, which may be the first time in history that ACORN has advocated for upper-class housing reform.

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Ratner wants to tear down the hood

TC-Hood.jpg Photographer Tracy Collins reminds us that:

these buildings are slated to be taken by eminent domain and demolished for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

“Affordable” studio would cost more (per square foot) than market-rate studio

Atlantic Yards Report

This is another Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder must-read.

In a nutshell, in the top tier of Bruce Ratner's "affordable" housing plan, a studio apartment is more expensive per-square-foot than a market-rate studio:

The fine print--and it is fine--in the Atlantic Yards Financial Projections document unearthed in the lawsuit by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery suggests something quite curious: affordable middle-income studio apartments in the Atlantic Yards project would cost more per square foot ($55.83) than market-rate studios ($51.62) in the same building.

The document projects that phenomenon in every rental building. The market-rate units would still cost a bit more on a monthly basis, $2151 vs. $1861, but that’s because they’d be 500 square feet, as opposed to 400 square feet.
Not all this is new. The projected monthly rents were revealed last year in the developer's housing chart and the size of the affordable apartments, governed by a New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) program, was also publicized last year.

But the cost per square foot was not discussed until this document surfaced. Most crucially, the developer had not announced the projected costs and sizes of the market-rate apartments.

The laddering among the affordable units is apparently not triggered by the developer but by the NYC HDC , which would authorize bonds for the market and affordable rental housing.


NoLandGrab: Is the fact that NYC's Housing Development Corporation will be issuing bonds for financing "affordable" units that are predicted to cost more per square foot than market-rate units offensive to anyone other than Atlantic Yards freaks and geeks?

Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

Frank Gehry Plays Ball

H&G Blog: The Itinerant Urbanist
By Karrie Jacobs

An urban-planning critic notes the similarities between Frank Gehry's Lehi project and Atlantic Yards:

The scope of the project calls to mind the four-billion dollar, 22 acre Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project here in Brooklyn which is tied to an arena for the New Jersey Nets, now owned by the project's developer Bruce Ratner. Except that, at the moment, the good people of Lehi, Utah, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, seem more enthusiastic about this sort of big ticket scheme than we Brooklynites. I suspect that the Utah plan doesn't involve the always unpopular practice of taking people's homes and businesses through eminent domain. Or maybe the young Utah developer just did a better job at wooing the locals.
I do think it's telling that Gehry has moved well beyond the world of highbrow architecture, the meticulously sculpted museums and campus buildings that made him famous, and has plunged headlong into the mosh pit of major commercial development. In an ideal world, this would suggest that American developers are aspiring to greatness, but the view from here, a few blocks west of the Atlantic Yards site, is less overtly sunny; it appears that Gehry's firm (now called Gehry Partners) has simply grown to a size where it needs those big developer-driven projects to maintain cash flow.


Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere86.gif Soxs and Dawgs, New Homes Being Built For Many New York Area Teams
It's stadia-mania in the New York metro area, where nearly every team is getting a new home (and public money to help foot the bill). Here's what they're saying about Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets:

The NBA’s New Jersey Nets are also trying to get a new facility. The team is looking to move to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn for the start of the 2009 season but while the facility has been approved ground breaking is yet to have taken place due to lawsuits over the construction. The Nets have a lease at the Meadowlands until 2013 but can walk away if the new facility is ready. They also have an open invitation to join the Devils at the Prudential Center.

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards construction slows

Here's the Real Deal's blurb on this week's NY Observer Atlantic Yards update:

While Forest City Ratner says it will complete the basketball arena at Atlantic Yards in 2009, lawsuits and a construction accident have caused months of delays. Instead of complaining about the project's scale, many neighbors now say they would rather see its completion than abandoned construction lots and warehouses.

NoLandGrab: Seriously, is two neighbors "many?"

We'd like to take a moment to remind you who emptied most of the lots and warehouses.


It's always interesting to learn what other people think about Bruce Ratner's megaproject. This tidbit is from one blogger's tirade against politicians and developers:

One of the reasons why real estate predator Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project is so controversial is because a coalition involving Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Herbert Daughtry and ACORN, extracted a relatively large percentage of “affordable housing” and some other amenities involving free use of the Nets basketball arena a few times. (I think Atlantic Yards is ill-conceived from the get-go because, aside from the fact that is has the negative effect of Manhattanizing Brooklyn, its success rests on a basketball arena to be used by the athletically schizophrenic but grossly overpaid Nets, who cannot even fill seats in heavily populated North Jersey when they win. And as surely as the sun rises and sets - even in New York - the Nets will lose often and Ratner is going to complain about diminishing profits, and maybe play some rent games.)

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Neoliberalism and Labor's Stirrings

Labor Day in New York City

By Joseph Grosso

One could argue that Atlantic Yards is at the epicenter of the conflict between old and new New York (emphasis added):

As New York City has joined the nation-wide shift over the last quarter-century from an industrial center to a service economy, it has become a city of financial, legal, and real estate elites funding large-scale cultural and high rise projects while living on an underpaid pool of service labor terrorized by intrusive policing. During the Bloomburg years these trends have accelerated and plans are works to reshape some of the few historically working class neighborhoods. While most attention has focused on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards that would knock down many housing units and bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn (further signaling the "arrival" of the old borough), other projects will redesign the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Manhattan with luxury high-rises and transform whatever is left of the city's industrial centers. Local community resistance has been able to get some of the money earmarked for affordable housing, though the definition of "affordable" remains quite blurry.


Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


In a photo accompanying this week's NY Observer update on the status of Atlantic Yards, we noticed that Ratner kindly left a tree on the lot at Atlantic, Flatbush and 5th Avenues.

We figure that he isn't exactly the sentimental sort, so, as things tend to do in Bruce Ratnerville, the tree will eventually come down, but in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, we offer you this photo from Adrian Kinloch of Brit in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Jets-Giants Stadium Hoopla

The Giants and Jets unveiled plans for their new, shared stadium at the Meadowlands yesterday to the usual hoopla and fanfare.

Two interesting Nets arena items to note in the coverage:

NewsdayOnlinePoll.gif Newsday is hosting a non-scientific online poll asking readers which new stadium they're most excited about.

This item was sent in by an NLG reader who posited that, "The Mets' new place is the runaway favorite, maybe because Mets telecasts constantly show the progress and harp on it."

Barely escaping last place for fan interest (the Devils arena in Newark is exciting exactly 1% of Newsday readers) is Bruce Ratner's plan for a new Nets arena.

Since Newsday is a Long Island paper, it makes some sense that more fans are excited about a new Islanders facility, even though it's still on a wish list. Regardless, that means many folks find an imaginary Islander arena far more exciting than Frank Gehry's high-tech futurama. The Nets' front office and the Ratner hypemachine can't be too happy about that, since, ultimately, if the team moves to Brooklyn, they'll have to replace much of the NJ fan base with new fans from the Island.

Call it a hunch, but we get the sense that many Forest City Ratner employees will be spending their lunchbreaks in the virtual voting booth, so here's the link.

In a paragraph about stadiamania, NY Times reporter Richard Sandomir doesn't express full confidence that the NJ Nets will make it to Brooklyn:

It is the newest local sports project after decades without construction: the Devils’ Newark arena will open next month; the Mets and the Yankees are building ballparks that are expected to open in 2009; construction of the Red Bulls’ stadium is underway in Harrison, N.J.; and the Nets still anticipate building an arena near downtown Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Hey, we're just amazed when a reporter doesn't repeat Ratner's contention that the arena is really, really going to open in time for the 2009-2010 season.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

Stop-work order rescinded

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder delivers news that the "Overview for Complaint #:3237328" has been "RESOLVED:"

[Tuesday], according to a Department of Buildings filing, the stop-work order issued regarding part of the Atlantic Yards site was rescinded after approved plans were available.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

September 5, 2007

It's a Jungle Out There

Brit in Brooklyn


Nature is trying to reclaim Pacific before Ratner removes the street altogether.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Atlantic Yards: The Suspense Builds

The NY Observer

Real estate reporter Matthew Schuerman has a must-read article for all of your pals who keep asking what's going on with Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards. AYLot-NYO.jpg

Forest City Ratner had once imagined that, by now, the Atlantic Yards site in central Brooklyn would be humming with construction activity. Contractors would be tearing up streets to upgrade utilities, moving train tracks for the Long Island Rail Road and digging the foundations for the basketball arena and nearby buildings. Some 588 workers would show up each day and 410 trucks would carry debris and material back and forth, according to the final environmental impact statement published last November.

But lawsuits, a construction accident, and other factors have delayed the pace of construction by two to nine months. The delays are having a number of contradictory repercussions, potentially costing the developer millions of dollars a month and also bolstering the argument that the area is blighted and in need of the dire intervention that the Atlantic Yards project—with its 16 high rises, basketball arena, 6,430 apartments and retail and office space—represents.

While never the image of manicured suburbia, the rectangular site emanating east and south from the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues had been slowly gentrifying before Atlantic Yards was announced four years ago. Three industrial buildings had been converted into condominiums, giving the impression of a half-finished landscape.

Now, the area looks half-begun.


Atlantic Yards Report, The Observer on AY delays and possible increased public costs

Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman alluded to possible increases in public costs for Atlantic Yards. Norman Oder takes a closer look:

While the project would cost some $4 billion, the developer's own funds, and the funds assembled from equity investors, might be half that.

If you add the direct contributions of the city and state, and the government-assisted bonds for the arena and the affordable housing, that means more than half the $4 billion cost (which is higher, if you add financing) of the project would come from public and public-assisted sources.

That would leave less than $2 billion to be raised privately, with a smaller amount expended by the developer. So half of that unspecified sum--certainly more than the $305 million already pledged--could be reimbursed by the government, according to my reading of the General Project Plan.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

Despite Credit Crunch, Construction Spending Grew in July

The NY Sun

Spending on construction of nonresidential buildings grew in July despite the credit woes that have dragged down construction of homes for the 17th straight month, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released yesterday.
From June to July, nonresidential spending increased 0.6%, to $346 billion. But while nonresidential construction spending showed no drop, residential spending plummeted 1.5%, to $534 billion, over the same period. Compared with July 2006, residential building construction spending has decreased 16.1%.

New York City's nonresidential construction spending is likely stronger than the national average because of large infrastructure projects like the two baseball stadiums going up in Queens and the Bronx, as well as mixed-use developments like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Mr. Simonson said.


Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

In Seattle, Neighbor Power; in New York, too much neighbor rancor

Atlantic Yards Report

NeighborPower.jpgNorman Oder's latest book report leads him to wonder if neighborhood empowerment could work in NYC — according to planning organizations, the idea isn't that farfetched:

Given the contentiousness around development in New York, especially Brooklyn, it's refreshing to read Neighbor Power, by Jim Diers, who in 1988, was appointed by Seattle Mayor Charles Royer to head the city's new Office of Neighborhoods. That's right--an office concerned with neighborhoods. Diers was reappointed by the subsequent mayors and, after his 14-year tenure, the four-person office had grown into a Department of Neighborhoods with 100 staff.

Some constrasts
The question is: how might that translate in New York City? Not directly, given that the average neighborhood in Seattle has 5000 residents. (That would make Atlantic Yards, if built as planned, nearly three neighborhoods.)

The concepts have value. Seattle, which learned from St. Paul, MN, and Portland, OR, has seen its examples emulated: neighborhood matching fund programs in Houston, Detroit, Cleveland, and neighborhood service centers in Baltimore and San Diego.

There's a big caveat; this doesn't mean that neighborhoods are ensured a role in development plans, the hot issue in New York, but it implies that neighborhoods are worth listening to. "Government must learn to see neighborhoods not only as places with great needs, but as communities with tremendous resources," Diers writes.


Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

The End of Summer, And What To Expect In the Fall

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Dennis Holt spends eight paragraphs wistfully checking off the signs that summer is over and then looks forward to this fall's developments on Atlantic Yards and Brooklyn Bridge Luxury Condo Park:

The end of the summer in Brooklyn will bring an interesting next four months. It seems like everyone associated with the two largest projects under way in Brooklyn sort went on vacation this summer. “Nothing” has happened with Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Atlantic Yards.

Of course, that isn’t true either. But nothing dramatic or physical has taken place for some time now, and that is going to change.
The slumbering giant that Atlantic Yards seems to have become will awaken, legal issues will be resolved, and finally work on the centerpieces, the arena and signature office building, should begin.

This project will be an unattractive event to watch for the next couple of years — all the noise, dust and activity — but it will be finished.


NoLandGrab: Holt is anticipating the completion of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project in his lifetime, but since the lawsuits will drag on much longer than this fall, that's no reason to let his own enthusiasm trump common sense.

For a more sober and accurate assessment (like, it's researched!) of Atlantic Yards's progress, readers may want to skip ahead to today's NY Observer story by reporter Matthew Schuerman.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM


The city is different than it used to be, and you're probably not benefiting from the changes, says a well-known labor writer in his new book

City Limits
By Eileen Markey

RegimeChange-Moody.jpgFrom Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present, by Kim Moody, The New Press, $26.95.

It’s a rare occurrence these days that something called a “welfare state” is remembered fondly, but Kim Moody does just that in this analysis of a generation of fiscal and economic policy in New York City. In this thoroughly researched and enlightening book, Moody argues New York was the target of a "structural adjustment program" established when business elites grabbed the reins of governance during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

In "Welfare State," Moody, a labor economist and activist who taught labor studies at Cornell University and is now a research fellow at the Centre for Research in Employment Studies at University of Hertfordshire, finds a telling connection between the global financial capital and developing countries.
Ever since the Financial Control Board in 1975 imposed “fiscal discipline” on a city that had been operating like a western European social democracy, New York has been run for the benefit of big business, Moody contends. This movement is most dramatically exemplified by the scourge of “developmentalism,” in which city government functions are sublimated to the priorities of mammoth development projects, á la the once and future World Trade Center, Atlantic Yards and the far West Side. The city pays wealthy corporations to stay in the city, builds them new campuses, and in the process makes the city harder for the rest of us to live in. In Moody’s analysis, what he calls the "crisis regime" of the 1970s – followed by permanent quasi-public fixtures like the Partnership for New York City, Empire State Development Corporation and others – redistributed economic resources to Wall Street and away from social-democratic services like the higher-ed-for-all CUNY.


NoLandGrab: This is telling; keep in mind that Bruce Ratner and many of his top executives, including the recently deposed Jim Stuckey, got their starts, and were shaped by their experiences, in City government during this era.

Other reviews of "From Welfare State to Real Estate:"
Brooklyn Rail
In These Times
Socialist Worker Online

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

MISSING: Candidate Marty Markowitz

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn stumbled over an old interview with candidate Marty Markowitz when he was first running for Borough President. Amazingly, Markowitz makes the case against mega-projects like Atlantic Yards:

Marty Markowitz, current State Senator, talks to host Lora Chio about housing issues facing Brooklyn including his extensive career as a tenant organizer and advocate, his 27 years of experience as an elected State Senator (known as "Mr. Tenant" in Albany), and his personal history as a child who grew up in public and rent controlled housing. He also discusses the changing face of the housing crisis, the need for preservation and help to keep moderate and low-income families from being displaced, and his priority, if elected, to protect the housing for Brooklyn residents, rather than to focus on building housing to attract the wealthy from other boroughs, and much, much more.


NoLandGrab: This just proves that Markowitz knows what Atlantic Yards critics are talking about and explains why the Borough President's head nearly explodes when he starts ranting about the project that politicians hate to love.

Posted by lumi at 7:11 AM

September 4, 2007

How Eminent Should Domain Be?

The NY Times
By Joseph Berger

Hold the presses: The Times ran a story this Sunday which was largely sympathetic to critics of eminent domain, with a disclosure that "Some of the property for the new headquarters of The New York Times was acquired through eminent domain."

As Atlantic Yards Report recounts, on July 29 the Sunday Times ran an article about regional eminent domain controversies, but did not run it in the City section, "and this past Sunday, the Times did it again, running an article sympathetic to the "little guy" in the Westchester section but not elsewhere."

Interestingly, the Times describes one Yorktown Town Councilmember's work against eminent domain abuse thusly:

Last January, he went further and engineered passage of a law barring the town from condemning private property for commercial purposes, while allowing it for traditional public uses, like the building of roads, sewers and schools. A vague declaration that a neighborhood is blighted or dangling a promise of jobs and taxes could not be used to expropriate a home or shop for a developer’s benefit.

Norman Oder notes that these same issues bear examination by The Times in New York City proper:

But when is the Times going to look more broadly and ask how eminent domain reforms in other jurisdictions, if applied in New York City, would affect controversial projects like Atlantic Yards?

After all, vague and contested declarations of blight and shifting promises about jobs and new tax revenues are hallmarks of the Atlantic Yards plan. And were standards recently adopted by New Jersey courts applied in Brooklyn, the exercise of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards might be stalled.

The NY Times, How Eminent Should Domain Be?
Atlantic Yards Report, The Times's eminent domain blind spot, again

Posted by lumi at 2:01 PM

The Coney contrast: the city sticks to its guns, challenges developer

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a tale of two cities — the Bloomberg administration bends over (backwards) for one developer while keeping another in a headlock:

On Sunday, I caught the annual “State of Coney Island” address, delivered by Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor—“I’m not a real mayor; the truth is, I’m an arts guy”—of the amusement zone, the founder of Coney Island USA, the organization that sponsors the Mermaid Parade and the Sideshow and the Coney Island Museum, maintaining and advancing the district's raffish spirit.

Zigun’s speech at the museum, preceded by a rendition of Amos Wengler’s song “Save Coney Island,” came as the future of the amusement district is very much up in the air, as developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities has purchased about three-quarters of the central area, and has proposed putting lucrative residential units (originally condos, now apparently time-shares) near the beach as part of a ten-acre amusement and entertainment project.

The city has said no; next season could leave much of the amusement district razed and boarded up; meanwhile, a land swap, in which Sitt instead got city land west of KeySpan Park, is under discussion.

For Atlantic Yards watchers, it was stunning to notice:

  • city government hailed
  • a city plan adhered to (so far) rather than bent for a developer
  • a developer denounced as duplicitous by a person of authority.


Posted by lumi at 11:39 AM

Stop Work Order issued at Pacific and Vanderbilt site

Atlantic Yards Report


Another Stop Work Order has been imposed on part of Forest City Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards site, this time at the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street, formerly the site of a gas station. (A previous order was imposed on the Ward Bakery site, then lifted.) Workers have apparently been drilling in the soil but lacked approved plans, a Department of Transportation permit, and a listing of a general contractor, according to the violation.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) web site indicates that the site was inspected on Thursday and the order issued Friday. I learned about this Sunday evening and was unable to get a comment from the DOB yesterday. When I get one, I'll add an update.

The DOB web site states:

Last Inspection: 08/30/2007 - - BY BADGE # 1995 KRIKORIAN PHILIP QUEENS
Disposition: 08/31/2007 - - A3 - STOP WORK ORDER VIOLATION ISSUED
Disposition Entered By: FAN 08/31/2007 11:56:22
DOB Violation #: 083007KOST00100I

Under the DOB's complaint categories, Failure to Maintain, 73 is Category C, among a range from A to D, with A being most urgent. It's unclear whether the violation can be remedied by posting plans and permits, or whether a fine would be levied.
The only action regarding the Atlantic Yards footprint, when I walked around in the morning, were two reporters and two photographers wandering about, encountering each other, and the regular drive-by performed by CopStat Security, which keeps tabs on the site for Forest City Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Once again, it seems that state officials have lost the ability to oversee what is going on in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, but no worries, Ratner's rent-a-cops are keeping tabs on who's coming and going.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

Let Brooklyn be Brooklyn

amNY, Letter to the Editor

A local resident's reaction to the taking via eminent domain of the Duffield St. houses also sums up some of the sentiments about Brooklyn's biggest overdevelopment, Atlantic Yards:

Re 'Railroaded' (Aug. 27): So developers want to tear down an historic Brooklyn house with possible ties to the Underground Railroad. And in its place, they will create Willoughby Square, which is being alternately described as Brooklyn¹s own version of Bryant Park, the Time Warner Center, and/or Rockefeller Center ('Last Stop for Slave History?').

Here's a radical thought: Why don't we let Brooklyn be Brooklyn? Many of us live there for the simple fact that it is not Manhattan. We don't need to recreate midtown in a borough that already has its own rich history.

— Andy Buck, Flatbush


Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Fumble in the Bronx

By Patrick Arden

Here's a cautionary tale about how promises to the community can fade after the deal is sealed and construction commences:

Bronx politicians liked to tout the community partnership agreement they hatched with the New York Yankees 17 months ago, especially when they had to respond to criticism over the team’s taking of public parkland for a new stadium.

Central to that deal was the promise of an annual $800,000 for Bronx nonprofits over the next 40 years. Critics labeled this a “slush fund,” because the money would be doled out by a new not-for-profit staffed by representatives of Bronx elected officials, and it didn’t have to be spent in the affected community. The funds were to start flowing, the agreement said, “upon the commencement of the construction.”

So imagine the surprise of Geoffrey Croft last week, when he discovered — one full year after the stadium’s groundbreaking — no such not-for-profit has been registered with the state yet, and no funds have been disbursed.

“The parks were taken in eight days without one public hearing,” complained Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “The Yankees wasted no time in seizing the public’s land, but they’re in no hurry when it’s time to pay up.


NoLandGrab: As in the case of the Atlantic Yards "Community Benefits Agreement," the politicians who cite the Bronx "community partnership" like to remind folks that it is "legally blinding binding."

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams split, says People

NY Daily News

The celeb press is abuzz with news that actors and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board members Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams have split up:

The couple and their toddler have become understated fixtures in their Brooklyn neighborhood, where they often pop in for breakfast at local cafes.

Ledger also joined fellow lefty Brooklyn celeb-types in opposing the giant Atlantic Yards project nearby.


Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

September 3, 2007

FCR goes Caribbean, supporting parade, exhibit (& more)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder covers the "Atlantic Yards Permanent Campaign." Forest City has attached its name to the West Indian Day Parade and the Infinite Island exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, a Downtown Brooklyn basketball clinic and a televised concert: "Tribute: A Concert Honoring the Teachers of America."

This helps make Forest City look awfully generous, but, rest assured, New Yorkers are the ones ultimately footing the bill:

A mix of corporate citizenship and the Atlantic Yards permanent campaign, such support comes a lot easier for Forest City Ratner when Atlantic Yards gets an extra $105 million from the city and a special tax break worth up to $200 million.


Posted by steve at 9:10 AM

Press release: Bill Cosby, Rosie O’Donnell, Cynthia Nixon Lead Salute to Favorite Teachers in Thirteen/WNET Music Special

In the press release for "Tribute: A Concert Honoring the Teachers of America":

To be recorded September 6 at New York’s historic Town Hall, the telecast will be directed by Jim Brown (Peter, Paul and Mary: Carry It On), with David Horn, series producer of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Great Performances series, as executive producer. Tribute: A Concert Honoring the Teachers of America is a production of Thirteen/WNET, in association with the United Federation of Teachers and generously supported by HIP Health Insurance Plan of New York, Barnes & Noble, City University of New York – Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Forest City Ratner Companies, and Americans for the Arts.

This looks like a case of United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten getting payback from Forest City for throwing her support behind Atlantic Yards. This support was given because UFT members could be thought as being included in the pool of individuals eligible for affordable units in Atlantic Yards. There was also an apparent promise from Forest City to build a new facility to house Brooklyn Tech.

Ultimately, the Board of Education has said that there is no Brooklyn Tech project.

The results from this dealing are that Randi Weingarten does a favor for FCR and FCR returns the favor. The ultimate public benefit: nothing.


Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

Postcard From Denver - A New Urbanism

The Hindu

This article has much praise for the Stapleton mixed-use Denver development. This is the development promoted by Forest City as its own good example in designing a community from scratch using concepts from the New Urbanism movement:

In looks, reborn Stapleton would be a suburb, its homes resembling old Denver buildings. The differences would be deliberate: community living will grow out of a compulsory front porch for sitting out; smaller lots ensuring density; public parks; sidewalks with tree lawns for pedestrian activity; village shops and restaurants within walking distance; workplaces and cultural venues close to housing. In all, walkable neighborhoods where bumping into neighbours is inevitable. No garage doors as the dominant house facade, little private (or not so private) open space in the rear, no strip shopping centres with a sea of parking, no commute to workplaces that are miles (or hours) away.

Meanwhile, here in Brooklyn, FCR is trying to destroy a community that already exists in Prospect Heights. Instead of innovative design and public input, Atlantic Yards features an outmoded super-block design, street closures, miniscule "public spaces" and a planning process that blocks community involvement at every turn.


Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

September 2, 2007

Sunday Comix from The Brooklyn Paper


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

In Canada, the value of "heritage" in "historic" properties

Atlantic Yards Report

WardBakery.jpg Today's entry deals with the designation and meaning of "heritage" (our inheritance) versus "historic" (more narrowly of interest to those interested in the past), and the cost of retaining older buildings. Forest City's failure to include the Ward Bakery Building as part of Atlantic Yards is highlighted:

Forest City Enterprises has a track record of converting old industrial buildings like the Ward Bakery, now slated for demolition in the Atlantic Yards plan, into housing. Forest City's Ron Ratner said in 2002, "As a developer, I am sometimes asked if we would ever be willing to sacrifice profitability to achieve excellence in historic preservation. My answer is that's a false choice. Using technical and financial creativity, and working in public-private partnerships, we can have it all, including economic return."

Not so much in the Brooklyn project, where retention of buildings would interfere with the overall project design, including sustainable elements. According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the partial mitigation for the loss of the bakery and another building would include “archival documentation of the buildings and additional measures that would document the history of the buildings.”


Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

September 1, 2007

Facing change with vision and a transparent approach... in Canada

Atlantic Yards Report

While in Nova Scotia, Norman Oder finds a set of planning principles spelled out in "Seek", the Planning and Design Centre's official Newsletter. These are planning processes that Brooklynites can only dream about.

Quoted is the mission of the Planning and Design Centre:

The Planning and Design Centre is a store-front operation that makes planning and design visible, open to discussion and sources of innovation. It is seen as a collaborative enterprise, common ground and a think tank that brings together the public, the business community, the development industry, and different levels of government for a tangible purpose.

Vision HRM mission is the governmental part of the process. Part of its mission is quoted:

The Community Visioning Process is intended to allow a community to determine its own priorities; priorities which will guide the community into the future. The visioning process will not only focus on land use or planning issues, but will respond to a broader range of community concerns and opportunities crossing over many of HRM’s areas of program and service. The visioning process will therefore foster more meaningful problem solving and action planning.

Norman ends with this inspiring quote from "Seek":

The future does not just happen, it is not predicted or projected or incrementally negotiated, or a simple extension of the past. We can have a hand in shaping it. Planning is about establishing a vision, setting a direction and taking informed strategic action. It is not restrictive or mysterious. It cannot be imposed nor can it be seen as the exclusive realm of professionals. It needs to be a process and an approach that is open and inclusive and part of everyday life. Similarly, design quality as it is reflected in every proposal, development and policy cannot be seen as a luxury, expensive or optional. We have to expect and demand creativity, quality and excellence.


Posted by steve at 8:18 AM

The Scoop on Poop

Dope on the Slope

baby_on_toilet.jpg An upcoming reading of "Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product" is likely to include the impact of Atlantic Yards on sewer infrastructure.

The Scoop on Poop

Here's an event you won't want to miss. Dave Praeger, author of "Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product," will be reading from his book at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, September 5, 7:00 PM. Despite the cheeky title, the book is a meticulously researched treatise on how changes in human waste disposal technology have altered the broader culture. In the author's own words:

Poop Culture is a funny book, of course. Given the subject, how could it not be? But it's also a heavily researched analysis of something that rarely receives serious consideration. Poop Culture's main focus is the true origin of the flush toilet: invented not for sanitary reasons, as conventional wisdom holds, but rather as a tool to help rich Victorians separate themselves from the upwardly-mobile masses during the Industrial Revolution. From that basis, Poop Culture explores how the ideology of waste disposal affects us today in our psychology, sociology, art, economics, the environment, and more.

I'll be touching on many of those issues on during my reading. Chances are I'll even touch on the sewage issues in the Gowanus during storms and the reported potential for the Atlantic Yards to overwhelm the area's sewage capacity. It'll be a fun and fascinating (and rated PG) event.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the reading. However, the author has agreed to be interviewed by me for a podcast which should air sometime next week. Stay tuned.


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

News Flash: New Yorkers Don't Like Atlantic Yards

Architectural Record

The Architectural Record reports on plans for Frank Gehry-designed sports facility in Lehi, Utah. The top of the story reveals how displeased New Yorkers are with Atlantic Yards.


Frank Gehry must be hoping that when it comes to winning public support for a large, basketball-anchored mixed-use development, his second shot at such a project is a slam dunk. Although New Yorkers panned his Nets / Atlantic Yards scheme, which continues to be dogged by legal challenges, Bloomberg reported on August 30 that Gehry is designing a $2 billion development 30 miles south of Salt Lake City in the small town of Lehi, Utah, adjacent to a 10,000-seat arena he’s also designing for the Utah Flash. (This NBA expansion team begins its first season of play in November.) The 85-acre project, developed by team owner Brandt Andersen, will feature a 450-foot-tall hotel tower—Utah’s tallest building—retail shops, residences, and two manmade lakes.

Designs are still being finalized for the project, which does not yet appear to have a name, but Andersen told Bloomberg that the architecture will “‘look substantially different’ from anything else Gehry has done.” Groundbreaking is set for 2008 and the arena component could be ready by 2009.

NoLandGrab: Here's another enormous "mixed-use development" (85-acres) that features a professional basketball arena. Everybody -- hold onto your wallets!


Original source about this development from Bloomberg

Posted by steve at 7:07 AM