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October 31, 2007


NOVEMBER 5, 7 pm
5th Avenue
btw 3rd and 4th Streets

Listen to an interview with Ron Shiffman on the Brian Lehrer Show.

Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

Scholarship vs. a study for Ratner: the contradictions of Professor Zimbalist

Atlantic Yards Report

ZimbalistEyes.jpg Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist explains what a "promotional study" is, and then issues one himself for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Zimbalist and Noll wrote that "promotional studies" often introduce faulty assumptions, such as that "a stadium does not impose additional, security, infrastructural, or environmental costs on the city."
But consider Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries, the updated June 2005 report Zimbalist did (with no peer review) as a paid consultant for Forest City Ratner.
Consider this passage:

FCRC has made an initial estimate of the city’s operating expenses at Atlantic Yards. Based on conversations with former budget officials, FCRC concludes that the increment in fire and police budgets would be negligible.

That's just one case of what Zimbalist might deem an "unrealistic assumption," that is, if he weren't poking himself in the eye.

Check out the full article for a couple more.

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

Audit AY? Probably not this comptroller

Atlantic Yards Report


While the Independent Budget Office has done its own reasonably detailed (though still incomplete) cost-benefit study of Atlantic Yards, the question remains: would Thompson ever audit Atlantic Yards expenditures to advise the public "of the City's financial condition"?

It's too early for an audit, most likely, but Thompson isn't exactly in a position to scrutinize Atlantic Yards carefully. He has already signed on as a project supporter.

His cheerleading letter, citing jobs and revenues without acknowledging costs, appears as part of a document filed in the challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review. Did campaign contributions to Thompson from friends and relatives of Bruce Ratner play a part?

Read the complete article to learn more about how Thompson dedicates the resources of his office to uncover a couple of million here and there of wasted city money, but will probably never go near one of the City's biggest boondoggles ever.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

AY, bringing you a better BoCoCa

BoCoCa.gifThe Brooklyn Daily Eagle brings us news that London's Daily Telegraph has declared that Manhattan is so passé and Brooklyn is, like, the new Manhattan. Key to generating that Manhattan-y feeling is Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega high-rise and arena project, which is fine if you want to live in "BoCoCa Rat-on."

“Manhattan is overhyped, overpriced and just plain over. BoCoCa is the new place to be — and to buy,” declares U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph in an article about Brooklyn’s increasing appeal to foreign buyers.
Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens (also known as BoCoCa) are the neighborhoods most popular with European buyers, charmed by “the low-altitude architecture — you have a lot of sky here and by the sense of community,” said a Prudential Douglas Elliman vice president, Terry Naini. “You have the butcher’s shop down the street, for example, and it feels more familiar than going to a huge mall, which mostly these days is what Manhattan has turned into.”
Many people here would say Brooklyn’s now-coveted lifestyle is also being threatened by overdevelopment, unaffordable rents and mortgages, and the “chainification” that has already gobbled up so many Manhattan storefronts, culminating in a seemingly unfavorable transformation known as “Manhattanization.” Opponents of the Atlantic Yards basketball arena and 16 high-rise development point to that project as the ultimate symbol of this transformation.

But the Telegraph said the project, and the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park, are bolstering BoCoCa’s housing market.


Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Arena makeover is looking sharp dressed in Izod

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Matthew Futterman

Bruce Ratner's Nets marketing guru, Brett Yormark, tries to convince fans that their favorite lame-duck NBA franchise loves having the Meadowlands Arena, rechristened "Izod Center," all to themselves (snarky parenthetical commentary, ours).

Sure, the Devils have moved into a gleaming, $375 million home in downtown Newark, but the Nets are making themselves as comfortable as they have ever been in what is now a home of their own at the Meadowlands.

Though the state owns the newly renamed Izod Center, the Nets are now the primary tenant and the premiere team in the building until their planned move to Brooklyn in two or three years [or maybe four years or never]. Take notice of the red-painted pillars with the 85-foot banners of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson tonight on the way into the season opener against the Chicago Bulls.

"The Devils leaving gives us a tremendous opportunity to leverage different areas of the building in ways we never were able to do before," Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said as he stood in a hallway outside the Devils' former offices at the Izod Center Monday.
"You didn't used to feel good about coming in here," Yormark said. "Now I think you will."


Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM


Ri'm rorry Raggy! Just when you thought you had your hands full fighting a massive land grab, now Brooklyn has to contend with alien overdeveloper zombies.

Hopefully, this will only take a day or so and we can all get back to trying to find something nice to say about Atlantic Yards.


From Brit in Brooklyn:

The Society for Clinton Hill's Annual Halloween Walk begins at 5pm at the community garden at the corner of DeKalb and Hall. Alien visitations are expected at 313 Clinton Avenue, above, where the famous Halloween show will be playing every half-hour. The event is free.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 AM

Fenway's Example

The NY Sun Editorial

One point that we haven't yet seen made is that the Red Sox made their way to their second World Series victory in four years while playing in a ballpark that is 95 years old. The owners of the team considered building a new field, but even the sports-crazed taxpayers of the People's Republic of Massachusetts balked at the subsidies. So the owners decided to invest their actual own money in improving the old ballpark in the fen. They managed to make more space in the park for revenue-producing activities by moving some back-office employees to commercial office space nearby.
The owner of the Knicks, Madison Square Garden, enjoy a property tax exemption for its arena, while Atlantic Yards and its developer, who will bring the Nets to play basketball in Brooklyn, will receive at least $300 million in city and state subsidies.


NoLandGrab: The $300-million figure (rounded down from $305 million) represents the direct cash contribution — additional subsidies for affordable housing, extraordinary infrastructure, triple-tax-free bonds, etc. could end up in the billions. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has the number for known direct and indirect subsidies pegged around $1.9 billion (PDF), but there are still the known unknowns that have not yet been accounted for.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM


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


Jacob Burns Moot Court Room: Professor Stewart Sterk (Cardozo), Professor Richard Epstein (Chicago/NYU), and Matthew Brinckerhoff, a partner at the New York law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, and counsel for plaintiffs in federal court litigation challenging aspects of the Atlantic Yards...

Open to the public.

Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue, Suite 542
New York, NY 10003

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Round-up of Duffield St. hearing coverage

Duffield St. Underground rounded up all of the press coverage they could find on Monday's eminent domain hearing (redux) for the taking of the Duffield Street homes.

In case you missed the action during the past couple of months, NYC had to rescind the condemnations because of a procedural error. Monday's hearing was the City's latest attempt to forcibly take these historic homes the right way.

Check out the online coverage here. In addition, there was also some TV coverage (UPN9 and BCAT).

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

B63 is Brooklyn's Pokiest!

B63Pokey.jpgFrom "City Room," via NYTimes.com (emphasis added):

In addition to ranking the M23 the slowest bus route in the city, the annual survey identified these routes as the slowest by borough: the B63 in Brooklyn (4.9 m.p.h.), the Bx19 in the Bronx (5.0 m.p.h.), the Q56 in Queens (6.1 m.p.h.) and the S61 on Staten Island (11.7 m.p.h.)

The B63 was promoted to the borough's #1 slowest bus, up one spot in the standings from 2006, when the route was ranked second slowest bus in Brooklyn.

Folks will recall that the B63 was the bus that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner had directed the NYC MTA to reroute, until Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report figured out that Ratner was the one calling all the shots (see, "Never mind, says NYCT: B63 reroute, Fifth Avenue closing won't happen as announced").

Ratner's transportation geniuses have suggested in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement that the solution to slower buses passing by Atlantic Yards would be to add MORE buses.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

Atlantic Yards Poster Child Alert

Bruce Ratner has spent millions of dollars on his publicity campaign for Atlantic Yards. It proved enough to secure political support for the controversial megaproject, but, despite the money spent and the buy-in of most of the city's editorial boards, somehow "Atlantic Yards" is still poised to join Boston's "Big Dig" in the white elephant hall of fame.

From dailyorange.com, the indy student press of Syracuse:

Like the doomed monorail, Syracuse's long-touted Destiny USA project and inevitably the Connective Corridor are white elephants - excessive mega-projects designed to save the city but are doing more harm than good. Think of Boston's Big Dig or Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

October 30, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere92.jpgPardon me for asking, A Must Read: Atlantic Yards And Bill De Blasio

The question we've been encountering on the street is, what do you think about de Blasio? Since the City Councilmember and candidate for Borough President has kept a pretty low profile during his two terms, people seem to want more info.

Norman Oder, author of the Atlantic Yards Report posted a very well written analysis of Bill De Blasio and his stand on Ratner's mega-project, affordable housing and over-development. A must read, especially since De Blasio just declared his candidacy for Borough President.

Daily Politics, Odds and Ends

The Lambda Independent Democrats voted unanimous in favor of a resolution opposing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project despite the fact that he is in talks to create a LGBT comunity center in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: "Despite?" We think Daily Politics meant "because" Ratner is trying to toss them a bone, unless they mean to imply that Brooklyn's LGBT community is ungrateful.

Daily Gotham, Lambda Independent Democrats: Just say "No" to Ratner and Noach Dear

At its meeting held October 22, 2007, Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn's LGBT Political voice adopted a resolution opposing the Atlantic Yards Project of the Forest City Ratner Development Company.

The club also contined to express it's disappointment in the Brooklyn Democratic party's support for Noach Dear.
And for those who want to know about what Lambda has to say about Noach Dear, they were so incensed at the acceptance by Brooklyn's "Democratic" machine of this homophobic, unqualified hack as a judge that they issued a clear, public warning to all Democrats who endorsed him that Lambda will hold them accountable for their endorsement.

NoLandGrab: The one politician who holds the short end of the stick on both issues is Borough President Marty Markowitz, which does not bode well for his plan to run for Mayor.

Ohio Daily Blog, Congressman LaTourette Gets Blogger Fired From "Wide Open"
The Cleveland Plain Dealer bows to pressure from a Congressional Representative and fires one of the paper's team of political bloggers. This blogger had, "written extensively about LaTourette's 2006 re-election contest and... explicitly supported his challenger, law professor Lew Katz (D-Pepper Pike)." He "also wrote about... the suspicious connection between large amounts of campaign cash LaTourette received from the Ratner family of Cleveland, of the Forest City real estate empire, and their receiving an enormous contract to develop 44 acres of the Southeast Federal Center in Washington DC."

Save The Earth - All About Environment, Green Construction
Those who live and work near construction sites get the double whammy — noise and air pollution — and only their windows can save them:

Stein, who works on safety issues for his union, says his office at 90 Church Street is "surrounded by" pollution from construction. It is a problem that goes far beyond lower Manhattan.

From the proposed Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn to the water filtration plant in the northern Bronx, critics almost always complain not just about the project itself, but about the inconvenience, pollution, noise and dangerous accidents they will face during its construction.

Posted by lumi at 10:18 PM

Zombie developer outbreak continues to plague Brooklyn


For info about how to survive a zombie outbreak, click here or here.

Click here for additional photos.

Posted by lumi at 12:04 PM

The due diligence of BP candidate Bill de Blasio, or the (AY) end justifies the means

DeBlasioAY.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

In advance of yesterday's announcement that City Councilman Bill de Blasio was officially running for Brooklyn Borough President, he held two rap sessions with local bloggers.

Norman Oder attended the second session to learn more about de Blasio's opinions about the "essential truth" (the Councilmember's words) of Atlantic Yards. What Oder discovered was that de Blasio not only nearly contradicted his own position on Atlantic Yards, but, when it came to other neighborhoods and projects, the Councilmember articulated many of the same arguments that critics have leveled against Atlantic Yards. Further, de Blasio was fairly ignorant of the facts regarding the "essential value" (the Councilmember's words) of many of the project's attributes.

Needless to say, the article is "essential reading" (our words).

Indeed, when it comes to Atlantic Yards, de Blasio remains ill-informed, relying on the progressive allies he trusts to vouch for the project as a whole, but failing to keep up with crucial changes in the project or to take a close look at some controversial aspects.

He’s willing to offer peripheral criticism but not to challenge the project’s fundamentals, given his belief in the “essential truth” of the project.

Probably a closer look at many public officials would turn up similar contradictions. And the press—well, most of the mainstream press—has done too little to point out the flaws in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, the decline in promised jobs and tax revenue, and the real contours of the affordable housing deal.

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

‘Dismissive’ journalism

For years, Alan Rosner, the co-author of the "2005 White Paper: Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise and Arena Development Project," has been trying to get public officials to assess the security and terrorism risk of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

We've recently seen the consequences of ignoring these issues in Newark, but when the matter was raised again in Brooklyn, one of our weekly papers characterized the issue as "Grasping at Straws."

This past week, the Courier-Life published Rosner's letter to the editor, which takes the paper to task and spells out the questions that reporters should be asking:

It is disheartening that your recent front page article on community concerns, regarding the proximity of the Atlantic Yards (AY) basketball arena to Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, begins with these three words, “Grasping At Straws.”

In fact, this sort of dismissal of the community’s concerns has been the response of AY’s proponents for close to three years.

Even when the Ground Zero site plan was revised to shift the Freedom Tower away from West Street out of concern that a truck bomb could bring down the entire building, AY supporters quickly labeled raising similar security concerns in Brooklyn as desperate.

Nevertheless, Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, several local elected officials and dozens of community organizations all submitted such concerns regarding the implications of living in a post 9/11 world to the lead agency for Atlantic Yards, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Unfortunately, even after the Madrid and London terrorist bombings, the ESDC ignored community requests to take a hard look at the public safety issues surrounding the development of a glass arena, a glass skyscraper and a glass entrance into the Atlantic Avenue Station that was the target of a thwarted suicide bombing attempt in 1997.

In fact the ESDC went so far as to declare such concerns as – their word –“unreasonable!”

Now, with the revelation that Newark did not address terrorism and so is being forced to close off streets every single time there is a hockey game, the same disregard for the substance of Brooklynites’ concerns is being exhibited. Thus the developer’s spokesperson is quoted as saying that concerns about terrorism are political, irresponsible and offensive.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the ESDC, Errol Cockfield, adds that the project has been “thoroughly reviewed by the anti-terrorism experts at the New York Police Department.”

Any confidence we might have in that statement disappears as soon as we learn that, as a former spokesperson for Newark’s project has been quoted as saying, Newark’s “homeland security director and police were involved in security planning regarding the arena.”

Your newspaper would do us all a real service if its reporters simply asked if the secret plans of the developer, the NYPD and the NYFD to keep us safe will entail any street closings – as it has in Newark – lane closings, barricades, vehicle inspections, or any other sort of disruption of traffic flow at the already near grid-locked intersections of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

They might also ask if the MTA was involved in coordinating their security and evacuation planning with the NYPD or NYFD since I have never heard the MTA mentioned regarding security planning.

It is insulting to your readership to unquestioningly accept the self-serving and condescending claim that all these security experts can’t tell us anything out of fear of letting the bad guys know what we are doing.

As City Councilmember Letitia James has already noted, any disruption of traffic based on anti-terrorism measures will be immediately apparent the day AY’s Barclay’s Center Arena opens. The only thing that’s being kept secret is the disruptive impact that protecting all that glass will have on our local communities.

Not surprisingly, Councilperson James’s reasonable position is supported by the Supreme Court’s refusal to accept the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s claim that they did not have to consider terrorism when issuing a license for a nuclear waste facility out of concern that doing so would reveal too much.

And finally, in a related security matter, regarding your article about Rep. Anthony Weiner getting money grants from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help safeguard Brooklyn hospitals and yeshivas, perhaps, in light of the Newark fiasco, a reporter could ask Rep. Weiner if he could estimate how much of DHS funding might have to go towards protecting AY and the Barclay’s Center Arena.

And, further, if he thinks that such funding needs to be added to the calculation of project subsidies in any cost benefit analysis of this already heavily subsidized project.

These are just some of the many questions and issues that deserve answers. Newark is a wake up call. Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker’s belated, ad hoc response to an obvious failure by his predecessor to anticipate the possibility of terrorism reminds us how little has changed since day one of Governor Spitzer’s taking office.

Alan Rosner,

Co-author of the 2005 White Paper: Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise and Arena Development Project

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

Forest City in the News

LEEDLogo.jpg Forest City's office building in the Stapleton project received LEED Gold certification.

Denver Post, Colorado business
From the CO business news roundup:

Forest City Stapleton Inc. announced that the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded LEED Gold Certification for the core and shell design of 3055 Roslyn St., Stapleton's new office building in the East 29th Avenue Town Center.

Rocky Mountain News,

Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the council said: "The certification of this office building in Stapleton's East 29th Avenue Town Center sends a message that Forest City cares about the health of the building's users and employees.

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Forest City is making waves because the specter of Atlantic Yards' high-rises forced the scuttling of plans for solar panels on an affordable housing project under construction just across the street. It's not easy being green when Forest City Ratner has a monopoly on the rest of the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

October 29, 2007

DEMO-GRAPHICS: Ratnerville Demolition Update Illustrated

Here are some of the latest pics from Bruce Ratner demolition sites in the footprint of the controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project, accompanied by relevant descriptions from the official Atlantic Yards Construction Update (demolition block and lot map here):

"Demolition will be underway at 814 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 45), 818 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 46)."

Nuñez Restaurant, at 816 Pacific Street, is being demolished. This site has been captured by other photogs during the past year or so:
Dope on the Slope
Brit in Brooklyn

The decline of the civilization of Nacirema is ironically highlighted by the dumpster.


"Demolition is underway at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54) and will continue throughout this 2-week period."

Debris from the former site of the Brooklyn AIDS Task Force (captured earlier this year by Tracy Collins), which is still standing.

Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Twofer

2009: A Delusional PR Mantra
Yeah, yeah... the arena will be ready in time for the 2009-2010 NBA season if you believe in the tooth fairy.

It's a physical impossibility, beginning with the fact that the real estate company does not even own the land they need to build the arena (or the rest of the project, for that matter.)

One wonders why Forest City Enterprises is honest with its analysts and tells them the arena won't open until 2010, while continuing to tell the public it will be 2009.

What's inexplicable is that most reporters have been a little slow on the uptake:

When will the press stop buying this impossibility and just start pointing to facts like the ones Norman Oder has pointed to numerous times on his Atlantic Yards Report—that Forest City Enterprises own schedule called for the entire arena block to be demolished and "cleared" by July...July 2007. (No need to go by Oder, just check out the developer's own construction schedule as presented to the Empire State Development Corporation.)

Pretending on 2009, While Money Questions Remain Unanswered

And speaking about this arena opening soon on private property near you, even though the project is still tied up on the courts and behind schedule, has anyone with the last name of Ratner explained how much this is all going to cost, especially to the taxpayer?

...does anybody know the current estimated cost to construct the facility and pay back the bond debt? Or how much the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) for the triple-tax-free arena bonds and for the rest of the project will be, and who those PILOTs will be paid to? And does anybody know the total amount of "affordable" housing subsidies, bonds, and tax credits for the project?

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Are city housing projects really for sale? Nah, but it's time to "unlock value"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of a Daily News article that spawned rumors that the City was thinking of selling off public housing assests, Norman Oder reports on the panel discussion about the future of public housing at a New School forum, moderated by Oder's most ardent reader, Errol Louis.

The discussion at the forum, A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS: How Will New York Save Its Public Housing?, which involved a variety of experts and opinions, was a lot more nuanced.

It began with moderator Errol Louis of the Daily News suggesting that, “if things worked perfectly, this would be a public hearing organized by government.” (Louis is out front among the city's press in covering public housing--here's a 7/29/07 column headlined A crisis hits home--in contrast with his frothing Atlantic Yards coverage.)

The structural gap in funding the city’s public housing is about $200 million, a little under ten percent of the operating budget, and has accumulated since the late 1990s, according to Douglas Apple, General Manager, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The budget has suffered because of lowered federal funding levels and the strains to provide for units that are not part of the federal system. He acknowledged that “conditions are not as good as they were a decade ago.” (The agency just cut 73 management jobs, the Daily News reported.)


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

TODAY: City Holds Second Hearing on Eminent Domain Demolition of Historic Homes in Downtown Brooklyn

Housing Agency re-does botched hearing after legal challenges force agency to withdraw initial eminent domain findings

What: Press Conference and Public Hearing

When: Monday, October 29, 2007
9:30 am: Press conference with elected officials and community members
10:00 am: Public hearing

Where: City Tech Auditorium – Jay Street at Tillary in Downtown Brooklyn

Congresswoman Yvette Clark, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and City Council Members Charles Barron & Letitia James will join over 50 community members, preservationists and Black historians at a press conference and City hearing regarding the City’s use of eminent domain to take seven residences on Duffield Street, widely believed to be the sites of Underground Railroad tunnels. The City is also seeking to take other homes and businesses, including three rent stabilized apartment buildings on Albee Square that house over 40 low-income families.

As a result of legal challenges by Downtown Brooklyn advocates, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development withdrew its eminent domain findings for Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month. The City’s withdrawal was an acknowledgment that it had no basis in the record for its use of eminent domain. This abuse of the powers of eminent domain would have proceeded if the City hadn’t been sued. They are now trying to move ahead by adding a blight study that has never before been made public, though it was apparently produced more than three years ago. That means that the City Council approved the use of eminent domain in Downtown Brooklyn without ever seeing the document that justified it. This is just more evidence that in New York City the justifications for using eminent domain don’t matter; it is all a pretext.

HPD announced the new hearing in a small ad in the NY Post on October 17, 2007, yet they scheduled this new hearing without notifying the owners of the condemned properties. Isn’t it their responsibility to make sure that this is an appropriate use of ED, and not to use this process to rubber-stamp a decision that HPD has already made?

“The rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn was intended to bring economic growth to a blighted neighborhood. Instead it has brought a massive wave of luxury residential properties. It threatens to destroy successful high-tech companies, brand new cultural institutions, low income housing, and the Abolitionist homes on Duffield. Given the failure of the rezoning to achieve the stated goals, it is time to take a fresh look at how to promote the area for the good of everyone, not only the friends of politicians.” said Raul Rothblatt, a community activist.

Posted by amy at 7:45 AM


EminentDomainia29.jpg DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN

From MetroNY, print version only:

Public hearing on eminent domain The city is expected o hold a second public hearing today on the possible use of eminent domain to seize historic homes in Downtown Brooklyn. The homes on Duffield Street are believed to be on th sites of Underground Railroad tunnels.

AP, via Newsday.com:

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by New York Regional Interconnect challenging a state law intended to protect home owners from the use of eminent domain by private transmission companies, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office said.

From the Daily Star:

The narrowly drawn bill, signed into law last year by then-Gov. George Pataki, was seen by many as directed against New York Regional Interconnect Inc., a firm that is trying to build a massive $1.6 billion electric transmission line from Marcy to New Windsor.

Newsday.com, Judge dismisses NYRI lawsuit challenging eminent domain law
The Oneonta Daily Star, Judge tosses NYRI suit
The Syracuse Post-Standard, Federal judge tosses NYRI suit
Times Herald-Record, NYRI's claim against law is dismissed
CatskillsNews.com, NYRI loses court case in effort to build power line

NoLandGrab: Even though former Governor Pataki supported the use of eminent domain for his pal Bruce Ratner, he acquiesced to Upstate conservatives on the NYRI land grab. Power transmission lines might seem like a more traditional use of eminent domain (i.e. for critical infrastructure projects) than a private development project, but this was a case where the devil was in the details and the land grab proved hard to defend in the court of public opinion.

From the Cato Institute, "Bulldozing the American Dream":

'Urban renewal' schemes that rely on eminent domain disproportionately harm the poor.

When it comes to urban renewal plans, who benefits and who doesn't is quite predictable. The question is, why is this practice allowed to persist?

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Forest City in the News

In a backroom vote, Forest City and rival bidder Isle of Capri lost out to Majestic Star Casino, despite a report concluding that Majestic Star owner Don Barden had a "history of operating with a very high-risk financial profile."

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Casino hopefuls were all financial risks, documents show

All of the Pittsburgh casino applicants were "high risk" financially, state Gaming Control Board internal documents show.
Combined, Forest City and its proposed casino operator, Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc., are worth more than $22 billion and have a history of urban developments, Forest City said in a statement.

Forest City owns Station Square, where it wanted to put the casino, and it planned the largest investment among the three applicants, the statement said.

"We remain perplexed as to how the Gaming Control Board staff did their analysis and drew their conclusions," the statement said.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh casino license process cloaked in secrecy

Meeting secretly in December before awarding casino licenses, state gambling regulators took up Pittsburgh first and agreed on Don Barden with almost no discussion.
At the start, a majority of the board members leaned toward either Forest City or Isle of Capri, giving Barden's company little chance.

But as they started looking at the applicants' traffic reports, board members realized PITG Gaming had a legitimate chance, Rivers said. The casino would sit on 17 acres west of the Carnegie Science Center.

"People are looking at each other like, 'Do you believe this?'" Rivers said. "It was amazing, and all of a sudden, people are going, 'I never thought Barden had this much going on for him.' That was the comment."

Members worried about traffic access to Station Square, where Forest City wanted to locate.

Forest City continues the malling of America:
St. Petersburg Times, New store just in time for shopping season

Steel has gone up at the Shops at Wiregrass, a $105-million project backed by Forest City Enterprises and the Goodman Co.

Jim Richardson, Forest City's vice president, said Wednesday that he expects groundbreaking to take place soon, as the mall works to close tenancy contracts with its slate of tenants. But Forest City won't confirm a date before the deals are signed.

After Pfizer closed the former G.D. Searle & Co. facility in Skokie, IL, several former employees started their own businesses. Some of them are back at the old site in Skokie, being renovated by Forest City Enterprises as a state-of-the-art biotech facility.

Chicago Tribune, Searle closing spawns biotech start-up firms

The work isn't much different from what Schlosser and his colleagues once did for Searle and its successors. Indeed, Midwest BioResearch operates in Searle's former property, now the Illinois Science + Technology Park in Skokie.

That property, purchased two years ago by Forest City Enterprises, now houses eight companies with a total of 700 employees, said Michael Rosen, a Forest City vice president.

The newest of the former Searle buildings is operating and three others are being renovated, Rosen said. The site has about 670,000 square feet of space suitable for biotech firms and will eventually have 2 million square feet, he said. One constraint on Chicago's growth as a biotech center was a shortage of wet lab facilities that start-up companies could lease. The operating building contains space for wet labs as do the three being renovated, Rosen said.Another company started by former Searle employees is Networked Robotics Corp., an Evanston firm with 10 employees that automates monitoring for refrigerators and freezers used by hospitals, biotech start-ups, food processors and others in need of constant monitoring to assure their cooling systems don't fail.

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

October 28, 2007

City neighborhoods losing character to condos, chain stores


NY Daily News

Real estate is king in the new New York. Too many immigrants can't afford to come in. Too many longtime residents are driven out. We are losing our sky to a hideous skyline and our streets to a generic wash of prefab apartments, banks and storefronts.

As Manhattan is squeezed, so suffer the outer boroughs. The Italians and Poles of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are dislocated by hipsters whose creative lives are emphatically commercial. Every possible place is built on, or up. The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn promises the same on a massive scale.

NoLandGrab: Another case of future nostalgia - missing what we have before it's even gone. In the case of Atlantic Yards, which has not yet materialized, the process of loss can be stopped before it starts.

Posted by amy at 11:33 AM

Lawsuits delaying Brooklyn arena


The Nets remain confident that they will open the 2009-10 season in a new Brooklyn arena, placing them squarely in the city limits and in more direct competition with the Knicks.

But not a single brick has been laid for the Barclays Center, the arena at the heart of the proposed $4-billion Atlantic Yards project, as the team awaits the outcome of litigation opposing it.

NoLandGrab: Again, 2009? As Borat would say, NOT.

Posted by amy at 11:27 AM

The Times's Public Editor publishes (sort of) an AY letter


Atlantic Yards Report

Two weeks ago, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote a tough column about Deborah Solomon's heavily massaged "Questions For" Q&A column in the New York Times Magazine, headlining his critique "Questions and Answers, in No Particular Order.”

My letter was among 20 letters published online yesterday:
You paint a dismaying portrait of the care with which the Times Magazine’s “Questions For” column is produced.

Add to the criticisms the failure of the questioner Deborah Solomon or the Magazine’s editors to disclose, in a June 26, 2005, interview with Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer and New Jersey Nets principal owner, that Mr. Ratner’s company was a development partner of The New York Times Company in building its new headquarters.
Byron Calame, the public editor at the time, chastised The Times in his Web journal for the failure to disclose such ties, but no letter or disclosure was ever printed.


Posted by amy at 10:50 AM

Richard Ford: I love NBA hoops, hate going to NBA games

Atlantic Yards Report

In today's New York Times Sports Magazine, Play, novelist Richard Ford has an essay titled The Noise Is Killing Me, subtitled "Sports-as-game has become sports-as-babble, and I refuse to play."

He writes:
I don’t want to be sappy about all this and wish for a time that’ll never come back and that maybe never existed, anyway. But the truth is I love N.B.A. basketball, but I hate going to an N.B.A. game — because of all the dancing girls and the acrobats and the P.A. guy’s tumescent, Michael Buffer-ish voice wounding my ears while some citizen in a pink mascot suit does flying dunks off a trampoline every time the timeout whistle blows. (Don’t we all hate mascots?)

Last year, I described some of the nonstop babble and tumult at a Nets game--which is probably pretty typical for the league.


Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

After 9-game road trip, Devils open new arena

AP via USA Today
David Porter

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James first proposed a downtown arena in 1997. The Devils had threatened to move to Nashville two years before that, then set their sights on a new arena in Hoboken, about five miles from Newark.

Subsequent plans had the New Jersey Nets playing in Newark, either alone or with the Devils, but those plans dissolved when the team was bought in 2004 by New York developer Bruce Ratner, who plans to move the team to Brooklyn within the next three years.

NoLandGrab: This arena story is about delays, delays, delays. 2009 for Atlantic Yards? Not even if they won the lawsuits tomorrow.

Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

October 27, 2007

Errol Louis suggests AY poll results represent democracy

Atlantic Yards Report

In his 10/16/07 Our Time Press "Commerce & Community" column, Errol Louis asks, "Who Speaks for Brooklyn?" and takes us on a peculiar ride, in which he seemingly concludes that poll results represent democracy. (This column's not online, and may never be.)

He begins:
It would be a disaster if a person who had just moved into a neighborhood could exercise a kind of veto power of development in that area for all time, even if a majority of his neighbors want something different. That is one of the little-discussed aspects of the lawsuits brought to stop the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Actually, we don't know what the neighbors really want, since they haven't been asked about alternatives. What if the city had followed the guidelines it later issued in PlaNYC 2030:
Building communities requires a carefully tailored approach to local conditions and needs that can only be developed with local input. We will begin the process of working with communities, the agencies that operate these facilities, and other stakeholders to sort through these complicated issues.


Posted by amy at 10:04 AM

Green roofs blocked by the historic and the new

The Wonkster

Several blocks away, elected officials just broke ground on an 80-unit residential development, but shadows from the planned buildings at the Atlantic Yards site would render the planned solar paneled roof unusable.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz praised Governor Eliot Spitzer for proposing new for global warming regulations and “for recognizing that with a little courage, being ‘green’ is much easier than people think.” But it can be harder with the conventions of the past and shadows from the new.


Posted by amy at 9:56 AM

Stern's Arena Updates a Mixed Bag

Jason Fleming

NBA Commissioner David Stern presents a mixed bag, but not about the Nets arena. That arena he is 100% positive is a go, as he offhandedly dismisses pending lawsuits:

In New York, where owner Bruce Ratner is getting a development built that will involve moving the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn, everything seems just about resolved in favor of getting the stadium finished.

"We got a report on Brooklyn where foundation work necessary to clear the site is in full swing and we're waiting to the end of certain lawsuits that have been decided in their favor but are subject to appeal, and as the appeal time runs out, that's likely to accelerate."

NoLandGrab: Of course, this article also refers to the arena as a "stadium" and says they are almost resolved in getting it "finished." Since getting the ARENA "started" is still in question, "finished" feels an awful lot like "Mission Accomplished."

Posted by amy at 9:47 AM

October 26, 2007

LID nay to AY

We've been wondering why Lambda Independent Democrats (LID) chose this late date to take a position against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, nearly ten months after the project received approval from the NY State Public Authorities Control Board.

Initially, we speculated that the move had something to do with project cheerleader Borough President Marty Markowitz's support of notorious anti-gay former city councilmember Noach Dear.

This week, another clue surfaces in two articles in the weekly papers The Brooklyn Paper and Gay City News.

From our perch here in Ratnerville, it appears that Marty and Bruce might have been trying to co-opt the gay community by offering them space in a Ratner-owned building. Uncomfortable with such cozy quarters, the executive board members of LID, many of whom are ardent critics of the Ratner megaproject, sought to make their position clear on the project in general.

The Brooklyn Paper, Gays won’t shack up with Bruce

Many political groups and activists have opposed Atlantic Yards, but there is a deeper context to Lambda’s seemingly day-late/dollar short resolution. Earlier this year, Borough President Markowitz promised gay and lesbian activists that he would work towards developing a community center, much like the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village, in a Ratner-owned building in Downtown.

At Monday’s meeting, many members of the Lambda club honed in on the irony.

“I feel like our favorite borough president [Markowitz] is holding a carrot in front of our faces saying, ‘Ooh, gay people, you can have a community center if you support Atlantic Yards,’” said Lisa Badner, a member of the Lambda executive committee.

Gay City News, Gays Tackle Atlantic Yards

A leading gay political group voted to oppose the Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion development project that would build a basketball arena and 16 towers in downtown Brooklyn.

"The process here has been so abhorrent," said Ken Diamondstone, a member of the executive committee of the Lambda Independent Democrats (LID), Brooklyn's gay political club. "We need to go on record here and I support it."

Not everyone thought that taking a position was a good idea, though no one spoke in favor of the project:

"I want to know why Lambda should touch this issue at all," said Alan Fleishman, an LID member and longtime gay politico who serves as a Democratic district leader and opposes the project. "Outside of the death penalty and abortion, Lambda hasn't dealt with issues outside of gay rights."

Others said the project was inevitable and a vote opposing it now would only alienate public officials who support it.

LID invited Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's borough president and a project booster, to speak in favor of the development, but he declined. No one spoke in favor of Atlantic Yards.

Though the article doesn't quote a the Ratner spokesperson directly, it seems that the developer is eager to promote the idea that the project isn't going require very much public money at all:

A Ratner spokesperson said the development would get $300 million in subsidies. Other estimates have put that figure at nearly $2 billion.

It appears that Ratner and Marty miscalculated the effect that their overture would have on the group:

James Whitty, an LID member and Atlantic Yards opponent, said the club is responding, in part, to a proposal by Markowitz to include a gay community center in the development.

"They feel that the enticement to the gay community to offer us a lesbian and gay community center in Brooklyn was made to divide people," Whitty said. "It hit home where we were like we don't want to be involved in this."

Ratner's clean-up crew issued this statement:

In a statement, Forest City Ratner wrote that it has "a tremendous amount of respect for New York's gay and lesbian communities and it is unfortunate that this organization did not get their facts correct prior to their vote. Atlantic Yards was approved by the state last year after three years of lengthy and rigorous discussions with the local community, local leaders, and city and state officials... The Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards will revitalize the current site, creating over 2,250 units of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers... Atlantic Yards is not only supported by a majority of Brooklyn's State Assembly, State Senate, and City Council delegations, but also, according to the last major poll, the development is supported by over 60 percent of all Brooklynites and New Yorkers."

Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

CB2: BrooklynSpeaks proposal should beef up role of community boards

Atlantic Yards Report

The recommendations by BrooklynSpeaks for reforming the governance of Atlantic Yards deserve some modification to beef up the role of community boards, according to Shirley McRae, Chairperson of Community Board 2.

Last week, McRae wrote to BrooklynSpeaks' Gib Veconi:

The Executive Committee believes that the community boards should have the same relationships to the proposed “Project Oversight Entity” and “Stakeholder Council” as the local elected officials, as diagrammed in Figure 2 of the draft.

For further explanation and Veconi's response, check out the full article. [Click image to enlarge.]

NoLandGrab: If NY State continues to ignore the requests and recommendations of stakeholders in the community, aren't we just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

Posted by lumi at 10:11 AM

"Atlantic Yards Community" Doublespeak

This week, a reader directed us to a curious marketing contrivance from the Empire State Development Corporation's bi-weekly Atlantic Yards Construction Update that goes even further than the language used on the developer's own web site.


We've pointed out in the past that since Atlantic Yards does not exist yet, the people and buildings that would be a part of "the Atlantic Yards Community" are merely theoretical.

What does it mean when government doublespeak goes further than conventional marketing hype?

ESDC's AY Constuction Update
AtlanticYards.com Construction Updates

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Big step forward for Downtown

The Brooklyn Paper

Downtown Brooklyn is taking a step forward to counterbalance the totally predictable urban-planning faux pas foisted on the neighborhood by Bruce Ratner's 16-acre Metrotech high-rise office campus.

The long — and as yet unfulfilled — hope for a lively Downtown Brooklyn took a huge step forward this week when the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership called on the city to put stores in the ground floor of the dour Municipal Building at the busy corner of Court and Joralemon streets.

By calling the corner “dead space” in our Page 1 article this week, Partnership President Joe Chan has done more than show support for an underutilized corner of an under-retailed part of Brooklyn. He also sent a message — a long-overdue one — to real-estate developers who have ignored what is the most-basic rule of development in a highly populated, well-trafficked area: make sure there is ground-floor retail.

It was the violation of this common-sense rule that led to the “dead space” at Bruce Ratner’s Metrotech complex between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension.

It’s not that Ratner didn’t build storefronts into his office towers there. He did. But he’s refused to rent much of the space for retail use — and has even replaced retail tenants to make room for more office space.

As a result, the Metrotech campus — which to this day is cited as a model by our Ratner-loving elected officials — is a walled-in fortress that mocks what a Downtown should be. After business hours, when Ratner’s office workers go home, Metrotech becomes barren. And even during the day, when those workers get a break and could go shopping or grab lunch, the sterile campus actually encourages them to stay put in their buildings or leave the campus entirely.


NoLandGrab: Like Metrotech, Atlantic Yards is rife with planning problems that are entirely foreseeable. To acquiesce to Bruce Ratner again and leave these problems to the next generation of planners to fix, as is being done in Downtown Brooklyn, is either wholly negligent or plain crazy.

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Zimbalist: "not clear" that Newark arena will make it

Atlantic Yards Report

PruCenter-NYTsm.jpgWith one new arena open, another approved, two others on the drawing board, and the old fuddy-duddy Meadowlands still hanging around, can the region potentially support all of these entertainment options?

Sports economic expert Andrew Zimbalist sez, probably not, but then again, he has said a lot of things, especially when hired by NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner.

Opinions differ, according to those quoted in a 10/1/07 NJBIZ article headlined The Battle of the Arenas. One skeptic is Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who pointed out that each facility must compete for corporate sponsorships and sales of premium seats.

The article states:

“All of those things will be difficult,” says Zimbalist. “It’s not 100 percent clear that the Meadowlands will stay in business, and it’s not clear to me that the Newark Arena will make it.”

Certainly Newark's new Prudential Center, with only one major sports team rather than two as a main tenant, and in a city carrying a rep for crime, will face challenges, especially if the Meadowlands remains as competition for concerts. If the latter arena closes, well, New Jersey needs a major venue. Still, the Pru is spiffy, near transit, and went through an apparently successful opening yesterday.

NJBIZ should've pointed out that Zimbalist is hardly a neutral observer when it comes to Newark's arena.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Prudential Center timeline

A timeline of events leading up to last night's opening of the Prudential Center arena in Newark includes the near-spoiler, NJ Nets team owner Bruce Ratner, who prefers to use his NBA franchise to spearhead his highly controversial Atlantic Yards project, which, as the largest single-source private development project in the history of NYC, is clearly so much more than just an arena.

Here are some highlights:

Oct. 1997: Newark Mayor Sharpe James makes a pitch to NJSEA officials to get the New Jersey Nets to move to Newark, proposing two downtown sites.
April 2000: The Nets and Devils agree with developer Jerome Gottesman of Edison Properties to build a downtown arena on a site a few blocks from Newark Penn Station.

June 2001: State and team officials announce that within three years, both teams will play in the new arena and Continental Airlines Arena will be torn down.
Jan. 2004: Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner buys the Nets for a reported $300 million and says he plans to move the team to Brooklyn.

Feb. 2004: In a letter to Mayor Sharpe James, Devils president Lou Lamoriello says the team will relocate to Newark for the 2007-2008 season.

NoLandGrab Note: Despite the agreement between the City of Newark and the NJ Devils, Ratner's own economic analysis of a new Nets arena in Brooklyn was based on the assumption that a new Newark arena, a potential competitor for nationally touring shows and regional events, would never happen. Oh well... guess who typically pays for shortfalls in Ratner-owned projects. [Hint]

Oct. 2005: An official groundbreaking ceremony is held.
May 2006: In an interview with The Associated Press, Newark Mayor-elect Cory Booker says, "If the project will hemorrhage money for decades, we're gonna stop it." Later, he throws his support behind the arena after the Devils agree to contribute more than $500,000 annually to aid minority business development and recreation and public parks programs.

Jan. 2007: Prudential announces it will pay $105.3 million over 20 years to call the new arena the Prudential Center.
Oct. 25: The arena opens with a concert by rock band Bon Jovi.


Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Green building goes dark; Yards shadows KO plan for solar power

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

A cadre of local elected officials broke ground on what will be Brooklyn’s largest eco-friendly residential development to date — but the solar panels that were to be the building’s crowning feature had to be scrapped because they would never get light once the Atlantic Yards project is completed across the street.

“We were going to have solar panels, but the shadows from Atlantic Yards would make solar power basically irrelevant,” said Michelle de la Uz, the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the non-profit group that broke ground on the Fort Greene affordable housing on Monday.

“[Atlantic Yards] pretty much eclipses significant portions of the building in all four seasons,” added de la Uz.


NoLandGrab: Looking beyond the Fifth Avenue Committee project, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject threatens the viability of solar energy development for a significant part of the already existing neighborhood of Ft. Greene.

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

At the Brooklyn Bear's Garden, a Jacobs reminder

Atlantic Yards Report


At the not-so-quiet (and likely much more unquiet, whether or not the Atlantic Yards project moves ahead) Pacific Street and Flabush Avenue intersection, a poster for the Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit.

While the Brooklyn Bear's Garden would remain, the rest of Site 5 would change dramatically under the AY plan; the big box Modell's and P.C. Richard stores would be replaced by a 250-foot building, originally announced at 400 feet.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Hipsters’ parents get rooms of their own

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

An article about the first hotel in N. Brooklyn in decades and the borough's hotel biz in general mentions Atlantic Yards:

“There was a wait-and-see attitude with Williamsburg, but now there’s a great need for a hotel, because of how hot it is,” said Robert Gaeta, general manager of Le Jolie and its more upscale sister hotel, the still-hasn’t-opened-yet Hotel Le Bleu on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope. ...
“I think if you look at the numbers, there is room for more,” said Gene Kaufman, the architect behind the Sheraton and A-loft hotels that are proposed for Duffield Street.

Those numbers are based on the concerted effort to lure more business travelers and tourists away from Manhattan and into Brooklyn’s new meeting and event spaces.

“Atlantic Yards will lend itself to a need for more hotels,” said Gaeta.


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

Hearst puts S.F. Properties, including Chronicle HQ, on block

San Francisco Business Times
By J.K. Dineen

Forest City in the news on the Left Coast:

The Hearst Corp. is quietly seeking a developer for 3.9 acres of prime property in the fast-changing Mid-Market neighborhood, 20 separate parcels that include the current home of Hearst's San Francisco Chronicle at Fifth and Mission streets.

In recent weeks, Hearst issued a request for proposals to several prominent local developers. Hearst has asked the developers to assess the value of the land and to suggest what to build there given zoning, historic designations and market conditions.
Hearst declined to identify the developers asked to submit proposals. Real estate sources said potential developers include Wilson Meany Sullivan, TMG Partners, and Forest City, which developed the nearby Westfield center with the Westfield Group. Officials from none of the three companies returned calls seeking comment.


NoLandGrab: If Forest City parlayed this into a development deal, it wouldn't be the first time the development company partnered with a media conglomerate — the developer constructed and owns the new NY Times headquarters in partnership with the NY Times Corporation.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

October 25, 2007

Message to Mayor Moo Moo

Brit in Brooklyn brings you this message to "MAYOR MOO MOO" from a very, very "DISGRUNTLED COW:"


For more on just how blue this local disgruntled cow has been feeling lately, check out the rest of BIB's post for the magnum opus.

Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

Newark arena police costs--a benchmark for AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, we explained that Ratner has no incentive to redesign the Atlantic Yards project to conform to an era of increased security measures, when a plan could be implemented after the fact at the taxpayers' expense.

This week, Norman Oder explores the issue, finding clues in the Newark arena overtime costs and the Independent Budget Office projections:

In a 10/21/07 article headlined Determined to show Newark at its safest, the Star-Ledger reported that, in policing the area around the new Prudential Center opening today, the city will deploy "more than 80 cops -- roughly five times the normal number" and expects to spend about $3 million this year on police overtime.

Now Downtown Newark has a much bigger crime problem than Downtown Brooklyn and Prospect Heights, and Newark might well dial back on police presence after a while. Still, the number suggests a rough benchmark regarding costs to police the planned Atlantic Yards arena.

The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), in its September 2005 Fiscal Brief estimated annual overtime costs of $1.7 million for 45 Nets games.

Additional events at the arena would raise the cost, but the IBO didn't estimate that, given that "security needs and therefore the policing costs would vary widely depending on the types of events."

Naturally, Bruce Ratner's initial economic analysis, compiled by Andrew Zimbalist, "concludes that the increment in fire and police budgets would be negligible."


NoLandGrab: If there is no reason to increase fire department services in the area, then who will be around to put out Forest City Ratner's pants, which appear to be on fire?

Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

Analyst lowers rating on Forest City, cites "difficult financing market"

Atlantic Yards Report

Everytime someone representing the Atlantic Yards development company, Forest City Ratner, squawks about the project, it gets Norman Oder thinking; this time, it's about market conditions that are beyond the development company's control:

Let's put that Wall Street Journal interview yesterday with Joanne Minieri, new president of Forest City Ratner, the New York division of Forest City Enterprises (FCE), in a little more context--one in which an investment analyst, long bullish on the company, has put up a yellow "caution" sign. That also hints at potential delays in the Atlantic Yards project.

Minieri told the Journal: The availability of capital to do these terrific developments and stimulate the economy concerns me... Liquidity and the availability of funds is always something I try not to lose too much sleep over, but it can keep me up at night. Value creation is impacted tremendously when you have to pay more for financing proceeds.

(Two-year stock chart from Yahoo Finance.)

On 9/14/07, RBC Capital Markets analyst Rich Moore, who follows Forest City Enterprises, issued a ratings revision, nudging FCE down from "outperform"--meaning better than its peers in the real estate sector--to the middle ranking of "sector perform." In doing so, RBC rather dramatically cut its Forest City price estimate fom $80 to $54. (The current price is about $56.)


Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

Frequently Asked Questions about the BrooklynSpeaks Governance Proposal

Brooklyn Speaks explains the who, what, when, where, why, to whom, on which and whatever about the coalition's governance proposal.

Fifteen frequently asked questions (actually, #6 is technically two questions, but the first is rhetorical) :

  1. Is this proposal an attempt to stop or slow down the Atlantic Yards project?
  2. Would implementing this proposal transfer control of the project to the community?
  3. If the entities that are controlling the project aren’t changing, why does this proposal matter?
  4. Is there any precedent for this?
  5. Haven’t Brooklyn Bridge Development Corporation and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation been criticized for the way they have conducted their responsibilities?
  6. Isn’t Atlantic Yards a privately-led development? Why should it be necessary for it to have a government-run oversight entity?
  7. Would the project oversight entity be an ESDC subsidiary?
  8. Why does the community need a structure to provide input to the decision-makers? Can’t the community visit with ESDC at any time to give their input?
  9. The ESDC plans to hire an Atlantic Yards “ombudsman”. Will this address some of the perceived deficiences in the governance of the project?
  10. Haven’t all the decisions about the project been made?
  11. Would the Stakeholder Council be made up of those who previously supported or opposed the project?
  12. Why does it matter whether the City participates in Atlantic Yards through a governance structure or “behind the scenes”?
  13. What if the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the Atlantic Yards project are successful?
  14. Who supports the governance proposal put forward by the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors?
  15. How could the governance proposal be implemented?

The frequent answers can be found on the FAQ page of BrooklynSpeaks.net

Norman Oder offers some excerpts and additional comments on Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 9:34 AM


The Village Voice
Letters to the Editor

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Dan Goldstein declares "Dewey Defeats Truman:"

Thank you for honoring Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn with your kudos in the "Best of New York" [October 17-23] category "Best Noble Failure." Our organization, and all the other organizations and individuals who have struggled against the biggest real-estate boondoggle in Brooklyn's history, certainly have a good sense of humor, and we enjoyed your "award."

At the same time, we always like to keep the public informed rather than misled. So here goes: There are two pending court cases we have organized and are funding. We are optimistic about [their outcomes]. Both of these cases will not be over for a long time.

If either the 26 community-group plaintiffs on the state case win, or if the plaintiffs fighting to keep their properties from being seized by the government for Bruce Ratner win, the Atlantic Yards project cannot go forward. Failure? "Dewey Defeats Truman!"

Daniel Goldstein
Spokesman, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Frank Gehry


The world's preeminent starchitecht and his designs for Atlantic Yards have officially been deemed cow pies:


Frank Gehry is bullshit. His buildings (with the exception of one) do not have any connection between their form and function, which I see as the highest calling in architecture. One should be invited in, made curious to know what is inside, given a clue as to what activity goes on inside. The most beautiful buildings in NY provoke thoughts of big business and commerce, and their height a statement of the importance of the city that they reside.
Lastly, he is designing the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which no matter what the architecture is destroying the unique, small scale, villagy feel of the borough I love. And Gehry's disastrous designs only heighten the effect. Bullshit!


Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Another AY stop-work order issued, resolved, but questions remain

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attempts to follow up on a stop-work order at the Ward Bakery site (click to enlarge graphic) and notes the lack of an ombudsman.

A stop-work order was issued Tuesday at the Ward Bakery site on Pacific Street, according to the Department of Buildings (DOB) web site.

The order was resolved, but the incident deserves notice: apparently a truck backed into a sidewalk shed, knocking down three support posts for a 60-foot-high pipe scaffold sitting on top of the shed.

I sent an email yesterday to the DOB, but haven't gotten any more details yet on the incident and the resolution. An Atlantic Yards ombudsperson, which the Empire State Development has been trying to hire for five months, might help with things like this.


NoLandGrab: Are you thinking what we're thinking? At this point, Norman Oder is the closest thing to an ombudsman we've encountered around the Atlantic Yards issue. As the "Mad Overkiller" might say, "brutally weird."

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: October 24, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle rounds up coverage on the affordable-housing project in the shadow of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, and follows up on the 421-a reform bill:

Atlantic Terrace, Brooklyn’s largest green affordable housing development (as reported by Linda Collins on the Eagle’s Brooklyn Space page Sept. 27) will have to go without solar panels on the roof because they would be worthless once cast in the shadows of the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise development across the street. Yesterday, Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the non-profit Fifth Avenue Committee, which is developing Atlantic Terrace, told the New York Post that solar panels would have led to significant savings for residents, but now they’ll have to pay for a combination of traditional and renewable energy.

In the Eagle’s Sept. 27 article, architect Magnus Magnusson of Magnusson Architecture & Planning, said the solar roof would have been possible if Ratner’s towers had been reduced in height to 20 or 25 stories. “It’s just not an option for a building that will be in substantial shade all year round.”

On 421-a:

The state passed the 421-a legislation yesterday, which expands the areas where developers are required to include affordable housing in their projects to receive property tax abatements. But the legislation includes a controversial provision for Atlantic Yards that allows developer Forest City Ratner Companies to provide fewer units for low-income families.

While the modified version of the bill still gives Ratner tax abatements for the towers without affordable units, the abatement is for a shorter period of time, and are contingent upon the project meeting affordability requirements during each phase of construction. The affordability requirement for Atlantic Yards is the same as other heavily subsidized projects — 20 percent of the units would have to be affordable to those earning, on average, 90 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), versus the earlier version of the bill that required Atlantic Yards to make 20 percent of the units affordable to those earning, on average, 70 percent.

Read the rest to learn about the comparison with other developers.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Best of NY: DIVE

FreddysFrontDoor.jpg FREDDY'S BAR & BACKROOM


Freddy's Bar & Backroom 485 Dean St., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; 718-622-7035

This popular dive has a fun, kitschy-creepy decor (imagine Ed Wood opened up a bar) and cheap drinks. Plus, the bartenders are good at buybacks. The main draw of this friendly, neighborhood bar, however, is the back room, which on any given night might feature live music, an alcoholic stitch-and-bitch, a game night, a spelling bee or a blue grass/country showdown. Basically, you never know -- unless, of course, you check out their monthly events calendar online (www.freddysbackroom.com).


NoLandGrab: There's no mention that Freddy's Bar and Backroom is fighting for its existence because, if Bruce Ratner had his way, and according to the official construction schedule, one of the best bars in NYC would already have been demolished to make way for the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise complex.

Photos on flickr give viewers a glimpse of what's going on at Freddy's these days.

Freddy's has already been recognized by Esquire Magazine* as one of the Best Bars in America.*

For nearly four years, Freddy's has been the unofficial clubhouse for the fight against Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject. The bar no longer carries Brooklyn Lager, after the brewery-owner-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken came out in favor of Ratner's plan to replace Freddy's, a loyal customer, with an arena.

The Backroom at Freddy's is a hub of local arts and culture, playing host to live music, art shows, spelling bees and the world-famous cringe reading night.

In a move that's very creepy, even for an overdeveloper, Ratner keeps tabs on the Freddy's block through the surveillance cameras installed over the bar's awning.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

10 years in the making, Newark banking on arena to restore image

AP, via Newsday
By David Porter

An article about the opening of the Newark arena covers some history, including this tidbit about Ratner:

The New Jersey Nets, the Devils' co-tenant at Continental Airlines Arena, planned to move to Newark, first by themselves and later as a package with the Devils. That scenario fell apart when the Nets were bought in 2004 by developer Bruce Ratner, who plans to move the NBA team to Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: If you read this article, keep in mind that Andrew Zimbalist's economic analysis of a Brooklyn arena, commissioned and released by Bruce Ratner, relied upon Newark NOT building a competing facility. That point, and many of the conclusions of the study released in May 2004, are now moot.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

Business in the Burbs: Forest City Ratner names new president, chairman

The Journal News

Forest City Ratner Cos., the Brooklyn-based the developer of the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, has named Joanne M. Minieri president and chief operating officer. She was previously the executive vice president and chief operating officer. Bruce C. Ratner, who previously served as president and chief executive officer, will become chairman as well as CEO.

"Since she joined us in 1995, Joanne has become indispensable, taking responsibility for successfully developing our long- and short-term business plans across a growing portfolio of projects," Bruce Ratner said in a statement. "In addition, she oversees many key areas, such as policy development, financial reporting and investment management."

Minieri has directed some of the company's largest retail, hotel and residential developments, including the recently completed New York Times Building near Times Square and the AtlanticYards development in Brooklyn.

Forest City Ratner, a subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, owns and operates 32 properties in the New York metropolitan area.


Posted by lumi at 7:00 AM

October 24, 2007


The "Atlantic Yards Construction Update" hasn't been posted on the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) web site this week, and the ESDC continues to refuse our repeated requests to be added to the distribution list, due, apparently, to some aversion to aiding and abetting the "enemy," even though NoLandGrab is part of the "community" and likely the most-visited distribution point for info on the project. This installment of the "Construction Update" comes to us via a member of the Dean St. Block Association; however, the end of the message was truncated.

UPDATE: The "Atlantic Yards Construction Update" was posted by midday on the ESDC web site.

If anyone has the full text, please send it to us. We think that the missing part is a notice that demolition will commence at the historic Ward Bakery building when all permits are in place.

Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

Weeks beginning October 22, 2007 and October 29, 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 Support of Excavation piles: excavating, lagging; perform anchor test for mid-block lagging.
  • Continue drilling Support of Excavation piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Test pile for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles is complete; no further testing is required.
  • Continue preparing site for mobilization to East Portal to drill foundation piles by creating earth ramps for drilling.
  • Continue preparing site to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge).
  • Excavating to elevation +34’ and banking soil in preparation to drill Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Continue soil excavation and removal in block 1121 west to east.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.

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

  • Demolition is underway at 465 Dean Street (block 1127/lot 54) and will continue throughout this 2-week period.
  • Demolition will 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 under the review of the DOB BEST Squad.
  • Demolition will be underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) for the next twoˇthree months.

Roof abatement and clean-up at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) has been completed. Demolition will commence when all plans and permits are in place.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Forest City's Minieri Gets Tested in New York

Brooklynite Executive Steers Big Atlantic-Yards Project Amid Tough Credit Market

Wall St. Journal

[Minieri] will report to Bruce Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner Cos., Forest City's New York branch. Ms. Minieri, 47 years old, a Brooklyn native, talks about her career, credit markets, and the ambitious -- and controversial -- set of projects she's now in position to lead into fruition.

WSJ: What effect do the current credit markets and housing softness have on projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn [a development that will include 16 skyscrapers with 6,400 housing units, offices and shopping as well as a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team]?

Ms. Minieri: We will probably encounter a couple of different market cycles as we move through that development. We think it's a tremendous opportunity to help the economy to revitalize the neighborhood -- all the things we like to do in our development projects. We are on the site now, doing some work. We are waiting for the conclusion on some of the litigation. We are proceeding according to plan.

WSJ: How does it feel to work on a major Brooklyn project such as Atlantic Yards?

Ms. Minieri: I can't tell you how it really feels to be a Brooklynite and to be part of a company that's done incredibly historic things ... It gives me the goose bumps.


NoLandGrab: We're not even going to comment on Minieri's skin affliction and we'll leave the reading of the tea leaves to others who have already posted.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, It's a Fragile Situation...

DDDB noted Minieri's "barely concealed panic about the credit markets" and "her inability to speak honestly about the company being behind its own planned schedule."

Atlantic Yards Report, FCR executive claims: "We are proceeding according to plan"

Norman Oder reads the tea leaves:

WSJ: Given your financial background, does the stress in the credit markets keep you up at night?

Ms. Minieri: The availability of capital to do these terrific developments and stimulate the economy concerns me.... Value creation is impacted tremendously when you have to pay more for financing proceeds. [Re Atlantic Yards] We will probably encounter a couple of different market cycles as we move through that development.

Translation: the project could be delayed well beyond the stated ten-year time line and, as with the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower project that went from condos to rentals, things can change.
People have asked me if I thought Minieri's promotion signaled anything untoward. Given that the job change was not announced by p.r. guru Howard Rubenstein, as with Jim Stuckey's mysterious departure, and that Minieri was made available for a Wall Street Journal interview, we can assume that parent company Forest City Enterprises and subsidiary Forest City Ratner are quite happy with it.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: October 23, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Sarah Ryley reviews the Nets' name game and the announcement of Forest City Ratner's Minieri's promotion.


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Critic on Newark arena: "mostly what it is is marketing"

Atlantic Yards Report

During the past couple of weeks, comparisons have been made between the PruCenter arena in Newark, set to open this week, and the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, opening in 2009 if you believe in the tooth fairy.

PruCenterFacade.jpg Today Norman Oder examines a review of the new Newark arena, and explores the comparison between the two projects in an age in which architecture and marketing are about to merge.

In his review of the spiffy new Prudential Center in the 10/22/07 Newark Star-Ledger, headlined An arena for TV fans, Dan Bischoff suggests that it might be a very enjoyable place to see an event, but he doesn't lose sight of the bottom line:

He cites the 4,800-square-foot LED monitor in front of the arena's main window, and "733 plasma flat-screen TVs scattered about the place," helping patrons keep track of action and also order food and drink from touch screens. (Rendering from official site.)

Could the planned Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center) be any less about marketing, given the Nets' branding juggernaut and the plans for Times Square-like signage? We're not in (Brooklyn) Dodgerland any more.

"This is more of a residential district. This would not be Times Square," architect Frank Gehry told the Daily News in May. "The question was how do you create activity at game time and have it disappear."

Remember, he said last April:

It's obvious that buildings are becoming billboards, all around the world....[re AY] And it can be used for community issues, as well as advertising. It has a social function, if it's played right, it can be used for art...


Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Dirt Moves on Atlantic Affordable Green Project

By Natalie Dolce

This article mentions that "Atlantic Terrace" is across the street from Bruce Ratner's controversial "Atlantic Yards" project, but does not mention that shadows from Ratner's highrise project scuttled plans to use solar roof panels.

Locally based Fifth Avenue Committee, the City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, council member Letitia James and housing advocates were all in attendance Monday for the groundbreaking of Atlantic Terrace. Atlantic Terrace will house 80 cooperative units, 50% of which will be sold to low- and moderate-income families and 25% of which will be sold to middle-income families.
According to Fifth Avenue Committee, Atlantic Terrace, which sits across the street from Atlantic Yards, will be Brooklyn’s largest affordable, green residential building.


Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

An FCR fig leaf at 80 DeKalb

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's brief post has the same links we posted yesterday on 80 DeKalb, Ratner's new 36-story tower, where informational signs at the site do not contain the R word.

So why bother creating another meaningless circular reference to clog up the blogosphere? Clearly, the headline got us hallucinating.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

New downtown park will open up views of historic buildings

Main Street Garden puts downtown buildings in a new light

Dallas Morning News
By Eric Aasen

A Forest City project adaptively reuses an historic building bordering a real park in Dallas:

Among the renovated, reused and vacant buildings downtown is a freshly turned dirt field at Main and St. Paul streets. The city cleared the lot to make way for a grassy, tree-lined city park to be called Main Street Garden.
Mercantile Bank. Built in the 1940s, this skyscraper was once the tallest building in Texas. It has been vacant since the early 1990s, but Forest City Enterprises is converting it into apartments and retail space. A smaller Forest City building under construction between the Merc and the park will have apartments and ground-level stores.


NoLandGrab: In Brooklyn, calls for Forest City to adaptively reuse buildings in the footprint of Atlantic Yards has fallen on deaf ears. The privately owned publicly assessible open space that winds between the towers in the superblock plan is not really a park, despite what Bruce Ratner wants people to believe.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

October 23, 2007


NY Post
By Rich Calder

A real affordable-housing project breaks ground, but without rooftop solar panels, thanks to potential impacts from Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards high-rise megaproject:

Construction has begun on the biggest eco-friendly affordable-housing development in Brooklyn history - but it will have to be built without rooftop solar panels.

Atlantic Terrace, an 80-unit co-op aimed at middle- and low-income families, was supposed to have the energy-absorbing panels on its roof, but that plan had to be scrapped because of shadows expected to be cast over it by the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

"There is no question that the project across the street [Atlantic Yards] affected our project," said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the nonprofit Fifth Avenue Committee, which is develop- ing the complex at South Oxford Street and Atlantic Avenue in Fort Greene.

"We would have loved to have had the solar roof, but it just didn't make any sense because of the shadows."

NoLandGrab: The Post locates the project "blocks" from the Atlantic Yards footprint, when in fact it is across the street.

She was joined yesterday by city and project officials during a groundbreaking for the green housing, called Atlantic Terrace, blocks from the 22-acre development site for Bruce Ratner's state-approved Atlantic Yards project, which calls for an arena and 16 towers designed by Frank Gehry.
A Ratner spokesman declined to comment.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn makes the point that this is only the latest environmental impact of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project (and we're still in the pre-construction phase), and compares the mixture of affordable housing between the two projects.

MetroNY ran a short blurb about the groundbreaking, though there's no mention of Atlantic Yards impacts.

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

What's going on here?

From Brit in Brooklyn:


What's going on here??? [Hint: it's 36 stories, 405 ft., and is brought to you by the letters F, C, R, A, T, N, E... did we already say R?]

Since the sign isn't that helpful, here's a list of those who have a clue:

Atlantic Yards Report knows (but don't ask Joe Chan),
Easy Being Green reports that pedestrians are taking to the streets,
Brownstoner notices that there's no mention of the R-word,
and Brooklyn Daily Eagle explains that it "would conform to the height guidelines of 415 feet as set in the 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn."

Posted by lumi at 8:19 AM

Newark arena transportation plan suggests flaws in ESDC's AY "peak hour" analysis

Atlantic Yards Report

Two days before the Prudential Center, home ice for the NJ Devils hockey team, is set to open, Norman Oder examines the transportation plan for the Newark arena, compares it to the transportation analysis for Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center arena, and concludes that the Newark analysis "casts further doubt on the Atlantic Yards environmental review." [Click image to enlarge.]

You'd expect the operators of a new sports arena and local officials to encourage those attending events to get to the area a bit early, not just to avoid traffic and transit snags but also to spend some money at the arena and neighborhood facilities.

That's certainly the case in Newark, where the draft transportation plan (4.4 MB) for the Prudential Center, prepared by Sam Schwartz PLLC, the transportation engineering and planning firm founded by "Gridlock Sam," recommends that drivers "aim to arrive in Newark 90 minutes early, allowing for traffic, parking, and time to enjoy downtown." The arena opens October 25. (Emphasis on "90 minutes early" added in graphic.)

The advice in Newark casts further doubt on the Atlantic Yards environmental review conducted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which chose the peak hour of 7-8 pm to analyze traffic conditions, even though games would most likely begin at 7:30 pm.

Visitors to the planned Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn might well get the same "arrive early" advice Schwartz's firm is offering in Newark. It's reasonable to expect Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner to try to draw patrons to retail, restaurants, and bars in project buildings, and also to its nearby Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.


Posted by lumi at 7:42 AM

October 22, 2007

Forest City Ratner names new president

Joannne Minieri, who joined Forest City Ratner in 1995, was promoted to president, and will maintain her role as chief operating officer.

Crain's NY Business
By Kira Bindrim


Forest City Enterprises on Monday promoted its chief operating officer to president of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Cos., which is in the midst of developing the contentious Atlantic Yards project.

Joanne Minieri, who joined Forest City Ratner in 1995, oversaw projects that include the MetroTech center office campus and the New York Times building near Times Square.

She’s already been heavily involved in the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development, which includes an arena, a 511-foot tower and 15 other buildings over an active rail yard in Prospect Heights.

NoLandGrab: Crazy, you'd think that reporters would have figured out by now that the railyards account for just 40% of the project. But that's the amuse bouche to the pr gruel that comes next.

“As a Brooklyn native, I am especially proud to work for an organization that is committed to bringing real, substantial economic revitalization to the city and borough,” said Ms. Minieri.

Bruce Ratner had been serving as president in addition to his role as chief executive. He will remain CEO and assume the title of chairman.

In June Mr. Ratner tapped Maryanne Gilmartin, head of commercial and residential development for Forest City, to lead the project.

NoLandGrab: Gilmartin replaced Jim Stuckey, who left all of the sudden to spend more time with his family.

Forest City’s portfolio includes 11 office buildings and 19 retail centers, along with 626 residential units.


Commercial Property News, Minieri Named President of Forest City Ratner

Commercial Property News
Minieri also worked with Ratner in the negotiations to acquire the NBA Nets franchise in 2004. She remains active in managing the company’s investment in the team, including the plan to bring the Nets to their new home, the Frank Gehry-designed Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards.

Crain's chose to run a quote intended to create the appearance that FCR's goals are aligned with the City's. CPN's quote euphemistically explains that it's about maximizing returns for investors:

“Currently, Bruce and I are working hand-in-hand to bring value creation to our investors and make our terrific pipeline of projects … a reality for all New Yorkers,” said Minieri. “It is a very exciting and busy time at Forest City.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Forest City Ratner Names New President and COO

More on Minieri:

She also will help manage the Nets’ planned move to Brooklyn. She grew up in Canarsie, the daughter of an architect, and went to local schools, then Hofstra University."

“Joanne has been integral to our success,” said Bruce Ratner, who this year was appointed to the board of Forest City Enterprises, Forest City Ratner’s nationally-active parent company. “Since she joined us in 1995, Joanne has become indispensable, taking responsibility for successfully developing our long- and short-term business plans across a growing portfolio of projects.”

Posted by lumi at 10:45 AM


NY Post


Forest City Ratner Cos., the company behind the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn, has named Joanne Minieri as president and chief operating officer.

At the same time, Bruce Ratner, who previously was president and CEO, will become chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner.

As part of her new role, Minieri will continue to work with Ratner on directing development projects, managing the company's daily operations and moving forward with the company's strategic plans.


Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

Security concerns "a new low" or a question of parallelism?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the Brooklyn weekly media coverage of security questions for Atlantic Yards.

One Brooklyn weekly gets a "no comment" from the development company, and the other carries the boilerplate response. Can you guess which one?

But FCRC Executive Vice President Bruce Bender countered that "opponents are reaching a new low in their misguided attempts to delay a publicly approved and supported development."

One thing's for sure: the company has a plan, but they can't tell you what it is because it would no longer be a secret. The Empire State Development Corporation has stated, "that state officials would be happy to meet with community representatives. So maybe it all will be ventilated."


Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

"Brooklyn Nets"? Team name questions remain

Atlantic Yards Report


Nets Daily reports on a Fox Business News interview with CEO Brett Yormark, who acknowledged that, while "Brooklyn Nets” is the team's "working title," and “most people assume it’s going to be the Brooklyn Nets," owners still must "validate that” with some "research in the field."
I noted last year, Forest City Ratner once more enthusiastically promoted the "Brooklyn Nets," as in the original December 2003 press release or a 2004 flier (above), which proclaimed "And we get the Brooklyn Nets." Now they're a bit more tentative.


Nets Daily, “Brooklyn Nets”? Not So Fast
Fox Business News, Nothin' But Nets (Video)

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

October 21, 2007

Lambda Independent Democrats Holds a Forum on Atlantic Yards

Mole's Progressive Democrat

LID and the Atlantic Yards - Oct. 22nd

LID will be taking a hard look at the Atlantic Yards proposal. Until now, the club has remained neutral, but the time has come to take a position. We have invited Councilmember Latitia [sic] James (confirmed) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (unconfirmed) to talk about the pros and cons of this project. Please join us on October 22nd, 7:30pm at Camp Friendship located at 339 8 Street, just below 6th Avenue.


Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

Kidd Accused Of No Look Pass


Can't Stop The Bleeding

Bad enough that Bruce Ratner’s new Atlantic Yards arena might post a terrorism risk to local residents —- can the good people of Brooklyn be assured the Nets won’t be employing any sex criminals? Other than Marv, I mean. From the New York Daily News’ Mike Jarricano, Alison Gendar and Tina Moore :

A 23-year-old aspiring model who came to the city to find fame has instead found herself embroiled in a scandal with a big-time sports star. The woman told cops New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd groped her crotch at a Manhattan club on Oct. 10 and then grabbed her a second time when she complained, a police source said.


Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

Devils Win the Race to Be First

New York Times

Instead, it was Vanderbeek, the former Lehman Brothers investment banker, who opened his building before the Yankees and Mets, whose new ballparks are to open in the spring of 2009; the Giants and Jets, whose joint, $1.3-billion stadium beside Giants Stadium is scheduled to open in 2010; the Nets, who haven’t broken ground near downtown Brooklyn on a Frank Gehry-designed arena that is still expected to open in 2009; and the Red Bulls’ $140-million soccer stadium in Harrison, N.J.


Atlantic Yards Report asks:

Can't the Times show a little more skepticism and report that, while the official schedule says 2009, much evidence contradicts such a prediction?

As I wrote on Tuesday, according to the construction schedule included in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation, the Carlton Avenue bridge was supposed to have closed nearly a year ago for reconstruction, and construction of the arena and Miss Brooklyn (aka Building 1) was supposed to have begun in August of this year, but neither have occurred.

As noted in May, even New Jersey Nets President Rod Thorn told the Times, "But as far as saying that we've got to be good in 2009 or 2010, whenever we do go to Brooklyn, I try to look at it as if we're going to be in the same place."

Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

David Simon of "The Wire" on the press & reality

Atlantic Yards Report

A New Yorker profile this week of journalist and TV scriptwriter David Simon, headlined Stealing Life: The crusader behind “The Wire", offers this observation about the press:
This final season of the show, Simon told me, will be about “perception versus reality”—in particular, what kind of reality newspapers can capture and what they can’t. Newspapers across the country are shrinking, laying off beat reporters who understood their turf. More important, Simon believes, newspapers are fundamentally not equipped to convey certain kinds of complex truths. Instead, they focus on scandals—stories that have a clean moral. “It’s like, Find the eight-hundred-dollar toilet seat, find the contractor who’s double-billing,” Simon said at one point. “That’s their bread and butter. Systemic societal failure that has multiple problems—newspapers are not designed to understand it.”
(Emphasis added)

Is that why the New York Times could suggest, in October 2005, that Mr. Ratner is creating a new and finely detailed modern blueprint for how to nourish - and then harvest - public and community backing?

Note that New York magazine's Chris Smith, instead, concluded in August 2006: What at first seemed to me impressive on a clinical level—a developer’s savvy use of state-of-the-art political tactics—ends up being, on closer inspection, positively chilling.


Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

not so superblock


Built Environment Blog

With the rise of New Urbanism and the canonization of Jane Jacobs, superblocks became a sort of urban design taboo – the quintessential example of high-minded architectural theory failing in real world application. Thus of the myriad flaws in the plan for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, perhaps the most surprising, from a design perspective, is its return to the superblock form. In the words of the Manhattan Institute’s Julia Vitullo-Martin, “Do we not all agree with Jane Jacobs that the urbane mixtures of buildings of varying age, condition—inevitably swept away by the superblock—are a necessary condition of thriving urban life?”
Unfortunately, Olin’s talents do not always translate well into projects meant to integrate into the fabric of the city, rather than stand out from it. At Canary Wharf in London – like Atlantic Yards, a mixed-use high-rise development on a post-industrial site – the public spaces planned by Olin are impersonal and lack activity. Despite crowds of people working in the area, the wharf’s public spaces are often nearly deserted. (It’s said that the Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees is about Canary Wharf, even though the trees are real. For more criticism, see the Project for Public Space’s Hall of Shame.)
In his defense of the Atlantic Yards superblock, Olin ignores the lessons of Jacobs while also revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of Brooklyn’s streets. In vibrant neighborhoods like those surrounding Atlantic Yards, streets are more than a means of reaching a destination: they are the destinations themselves. Besides providing a place for cars to drive, Brooklyn’s streets host a diversity of restaurants, stores, and cultural institutions – all of which serve customers arriving via public transportation or on foot. Moreover, the borough often closes its avenues completely to traffic to host festivals and fairs, events that have helped to give Brooklyn the value that Ratner, the Atlantic Yards' developer, is so eager to capitalize on. By asserting that ‘space on streets is actually useless space,’ Olin demonstrates a profound ignorance regarding Brooklyn’s urban form.

Perhaps what is most surprising about the Atlantic Yards’ superblock plans isn’t the designers’ defense of the concept, but the support it has from its developer. Small blocks, Jacobs makes it clear, are better for business. If he knew better, Ratner would be pushing for more streets – not fewer. Indeed, the superblock is neither a pedestrian-friendly design statement nor a wise investment – it’s just a mistake.


Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Desktop Day Double: Atlantic Yards, No



Brit in Brooklyn


Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

October 20, 2007

Village Voice Best of NYC Super-Post!


Best Neighborhood Bar Slated for Destruction by Frank Gehry Freddy's

Gehry's pact with developer Bruce Ratner to design the megalithic Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn torpedoed whatever remained of his alterna-rep. [...] It's the kind of true Brooklyn community that Gehry and Ratner, sitting in L.A. and Cleveland, will likely never understand.

Best Noble Failure It's Still Not a Done Deal

Recently, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn hosted a literary soiree and fundraiser. The title of the afternoon: It's Still Not a Done Deal. [...] DDDB's motto is hard to argue with: "Fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them." They've distinguished themselves by their intelligent analysis, delightful events, reasonable goals, and maybe the coolest advisory board ever (Jo Andres, Nelson George, John Wesley Harding, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Lethem, and Rosie Perez are just a few members).

Best Manhattan Neighborhood in Brooklyn Dumbo

Atlantic Yards may yet turn downtown Brooklyn into a soulless new Herald Square, but as of now, the borough's most Manhattanized neighborhood is the 15-square-block area that for several decades has boasted the acronym DUMBO (as in "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass").

Best Brooklyn Assemblyman Who Never Quits Jim Brennan

When the state refused to provide details of its agreements with Forest City Ratner for the huge Atlantic Yards project, Brennan took it to court. There, he won the release of hundreds of pages of previously secret records that showed what the government and the developer hadn't told the public: that their pledge to provide affordable housing was based on a shaky financial premise.

Michael Bloomberg's Last Meal Birdbath

He didn't stop the Atlantic Yards, and he never made the city a better place to bicycle, but he certainly is ferreting out trans fats! Accordingly, the playboy mayor's last meal will be a very dry vegan scone from City Bakery's Birdbath, an eco-conscious bakery in the West Village that buys wind power from Con Ed and uses green materials for construction.

Posted by amy at 12:30 PM

A sponsor-stuffed Nets web site debuts


Atlantic Yards Report

The New Jersey Nets' web site has been relaunched--and nearly every segment of the site seems to have a sponsor attached. By contrast, check out the presentations of the Knicks, the Lakers of Tinseltown, and especially the champion San Antonio Spurs. They're no less flashy, but they are less branded.

That's profitable marketing by the Nets and a reminder, yet again, of a significant dimension of professional sports today. "[Nets CEO Brett] Yormark and his team have seen to it that a veritable department store of marketers are given space and face time with fans," Brandweek reported last year about some other efforts.

Yormark, clearly, has kept up the pace.

link includes screenshots of all the sites in question for side by sideshow comparison. "Civic pride" for a "civic project?"

Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

Winners and losers remain unclear in Newark's arena gamble

Joan Whitlow examines the chaos caused by bad planning, including last minute questions about street closures as an anti-terrorism measure, residents being tormented with the threat of eminent domain, and the flattening of houses to make an interim parking lot, which could become permanent if the arena is too much of a flop to support other commercial development.

I stopped to check on Virginia Duprey, who has lived in the area around the arena for 52 years and owns a home at the corner of Columbia and Lafayette. A few days ago, she showed me how the crews widening Lafayette into an arena-feeding thoroughfare had gouged up heaps of dirt around her house exposing her foundation. When she asked who was going to fix her house, she was told no one because her house was going to be demolished. That was news to her.
The city slapped the neighborhood with a designation that allows the use of eminent domain to swap parcels of lands with developers. The official process, however, takes proper notice and time, adequate compensation and relocation expenses. A wrecking crew can't just slap an X on someone's house.

Eng and Duprey say they have been getting certified letters, some of them threatening, from real estate concerns that have no power to exercise eminent domain but imply that they do. One letter warned Eng to "avoid a hostile triggering of eminent domain which we will have to apply if you do not cooperate."


Posted by amy at 11:35 AM

In The Shadow of Atlantic Yards

AtlanticTerrace.JPG The Real Estate
Matthew Schuerman

Affordable, environmentally friendly apartments are about to go up on a former brownfield site near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

You think you know what we are talking about?

No, not Atlantic Yards, but rather the more modest Atlantic Terrace (above), developed by the nonprofit Fifth Avenue Committee in conjunction with MAP Development and Line Development. Back in November 2003, when the team first won the right to develop the site at Atlantic and South Portland Avenue, the 10-story, 80-unit cooperative was supposed to include solar panels to provide some of the energy for the residents. One month later, Forest City Ratner unveiled its plans for 30- to 50-story towers across the street to the south.

“The shadows that will be created by the buildings associated with Atlantic Yards made the use of photovoltaic panels (solar panels) inefficient,” Fifth Avenue Executive Director Michelle de la Uz said in an e-mail. But the architects were able to compensate in other ways, and the project will earn a gold rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. It will be, Ms. De la Uz said, “the largest affordable, LEED-certified green building in Brooklyn.”

Three-quarters of the apartments will be priced to be affordable for low- and middle-income families (compared to about 35 percent for Atlantic Yards). The project breaks ground Monday.

NoLandGrab: Can anyone say Solar Zoning? Apparently not since 1987...

Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

Unlike residential building, commercial construction boom expected to continue

Financial Week
Frank Byrt

A notable example of the booming commercial construction sector is New York City. The New York Building Congress, an industry group, said in its annual report on the city’s new construction outlook this week that developers will spend $83 billion on new projects over the next three years. Spending on new construction, which was a record $24.6 billion in 2006, will total $26.2 billion this year, $27.5 billion next year and $29 billion in 2009, according to the group.
Among the long-term construction projects seen contributing to the city’s growth are the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and new stadiums for the New York Yankees and the New York Mets baseball teams.


Posted by amy at 11:16 AM

Underground Railroad Eminent Domain Press Conference


The City of New York is trying to destroy two of the last remaining Underground Railroad houses. Learn what is new with the fight to save the Duffield St. Houses.

Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

Could Congestion Pricing Turn Brooklyn Into `Park and Ride’?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Charles Maldonado

Brooklyn could be turned into a “park and ride community” by Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to institute congestion pricing for commuters entering Manhattan, said Tom Agnotti, Hunter College professor of urban planning and a lifelong Brooklyn resident.
In his talk, he also sounded the alarm about new development that, he said, would drive real estate prices and rents up, out of range of middle-class and working-class residents.
Angotti, a well-known critic of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development and one of the chief designers of the alternative Unity Plan for the site, offered it as an example of how New York is not dealing with congestion the way it should.

“The Atlantic Yards has been touted as a transit-friendly development. Then why are they building 3,600 parking spaces?”


Posted by amy at 10:51 AM

October 19, 2007

Tale of 2 cities: Newark arena closes key streets; Yards next?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Michael McLaughlin

Three days after Newark residents learned that two streets around that city’s new glass-walled sports arena would be sealed off on game nights, residents near the Atlantic Yards footprint called on state officials to admit that the same frustrating scenario will likely happen in the heart of Brooklyn.

The Frank Gehry–designed arena that is a part of Bruce Ratner’s $4-billion mega-project bears striking similarities to Newark’s Prudential Center — similarities that opponents seized on at Sunday’s walkathon against the project.

“The Prudential arena is a wake-up call,” said Jim Vogel of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. “We cannot allow the security questions about the arena to continue unanswered.”

Like the Prudential Center, Gehry’s “Barclays Center” sits at a major public transportation hub. And like the future home of the New Jersey Devils, the future Brooklyn Nets arena is lined on all sides with glass — which Newark officials have concluded makes it so tempting a terror target that they’ll need to close two streets around the arena when games are being played.

If the same security protocol was put in place at Atlantic Yards, Dean Street — and parts of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, which also face the arena’s glass walls — would be closed, causing major traffic disruptions.
“There is a reasonable expectation on the part of the public that they be informed,” said Robert McCrie, a security management professor at John Jay College

“If the public is going to be inconvenienced, they should know, in advance, what is anticipated — and that they have an opportunity to voice their feelings.”


NoLandGrab: There is likely a perfectly simple explanation for why City officials and developer Bruce Ratner can't talk about security measures — any public disclosure will cost Ratner millions of dollars, and perhaps make the project financially unfeasible.

On the one hand, conventional wisdom among security experts would dictate a total redesign of the arena, which at Frank Gehry's rates could run tens (maybe hundreds) of millions of dollars in design and delay costs...

...or, if the arena complex were not redesigned, standard security measures like street closures would significantly increase traffic, which could jeopardize the validity of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), perhaps requiring a new one. Like a redesign, a new or amended EIS could bog down the project for another year or so, costing Ratner tens of millions of dollars.

Therefore, it's in Ratner's self-interest to build the arena first and ram additional security measures down our throats later (probably at the taxpayers' expense), at which point no one could complain, because it's unpatriotic to speak out against "security."

Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Newark Arena Fuels Yards Security Concerns

Brooklyn Downtown Star

YardsSEcuritypic-BDS.jpgShane Miller reports from last weekend's press conference on concerns about security measures for a new Nets arena and the shroud of secrecy:

"We want to know what security measures have been planned," said Jim Vogel of CBN. "And how will this security be funded? Who is footing the bill for the security of a private development? If it is the city's problem, then it is the city's right to review." Up until now, ESDC and FCR have revealed little about security measures for the arena, citing confidentiality. That includes refusing requests by James, who represents the area in the City Council, to review such a plan.

"They have even refused to disclose security plans that impact on your safety to an elected official chosen to represent you," she told the crowd Sunday.


Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

‘History’ rewrites itself

The Brooklyn Paper
By Michael McLaughlin

City Councilman Bill DeBlasio's Wikipedia entry keeps getting scrubbed of controversial references to Atlantic Yards and a new Trader Joe's supermarket, and the snail trail leads to a computer on the NYC government network.

In fact, DeBlasio’s Wikipedia page has been in a near constant state of flux, with several people taking aim at his stance on hot-button issues. But unlike the memory holes of Orwell’s dystopia, Wikipedia edits leave a “paper” trail, making it possible to view a record of all changes made to any listing.

The most-recent changes, first reported on the blog, Pardon Me For Asking, have involved the insertion and deletion of a paragraph about whether DeBlasio is in tune with his constituents.
A spokesman for the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication said the agency could not easily determine which city computer system — whose IP address is recorded whenever edits are made — is being used to alter DeBlasio’s Wikipedia page because so many individual computers have the same IP address.

But this much is clear: Seven times between June 28 and July 2, that same city computer system changed DeBlasio’s page — sometimes to burnish his image, other times to diminish it.

The most-recent edit from the city computer was a pro-DeBlasio change: The original paragraph — “DeBlasio 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” — was politically purged to become, “DeBlasio is a supporter of the generally popular Atlantic Yards development, which is a major mixed-income housing, retail, office and sports complex.”

Another time, the person at the city computer added this anti-DeBlasio sentence: “He is a highly controversial figure, known for his alliances with anti-development and NIMBY homeowners and has been accused of grandstanding on development issues.” The back-and-forth from the same city computer indicates that more than one person may be logging on to flog and praise DeBlasio.


NoLandGrab: If the City really can't determine who is making the edits, it's impossible to know for a fact that it is actually a single person waging a Wikiwar with him or herself.

For the record, we've had two conversations with Bill de Blasio on Atlantic Yards. The Councilman's position is that he thinks the project is too big, but will do nothing to jeopardize the large amount of affordable housing promised by developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Is your editor an idiot?

The Brooklyn Paper
Letters to the Editor

An eminent domain activist takes no prisoners in his criticism of last week's editorial about the Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain case:

To the editor,

Your editorial about the Atlantic Yards case was wrong (“A’Yards case is strong,” Oct. 13).

Of course, plaintiff’s lawyer Matthew Brinckheroff did not “reargue” Kelo, as you put it. As we now know, the scenario in the Kelo case was exactly the same as Atlantic Yards: the developer approached government, and suggested the “redevelopment.”

I discuss this revelation in my book, “The Eminent Domain Revolt: Changing Perceptions in a New Constitutional Epoch” (Algora, 2006).

Actually, it’s clear that everyone on the Supreme Court knew [New London’s argument] was a lie and a scam. So why didn’t the Institute for Justice press it at the trial level? Because they’re a right-wing, crypto-fascist organization and didn’t do their homework when Kelo was at the trial stage.

So your conclusion — namely, that “New London did not take the private property to benefit the private developer who would build the Pfizer plant; indeed, the identity of the developer was determined only after a proper bidding process” — is simply not true at all.

Whoever wrote that editorial is a complete uninformed idiot.

John Ryskamp

Editor’s note: We differ with Ryskamp’s reading of the case.

NoLandGrab note: Can we all agree who the real idiot is in this case?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Our pal, Tom Rooney

Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman pays his respects to Prospect Heights resident and neighborhood activist Tom Rooney in his weekly neighborhood column:

Our pal, Tom Rooney, a lifelong Carlton Avenue resident, chief usher at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church, and stalwart Atlantic Yards opponent, was found dead in his home on Oct. 14. The Bishop Laughlin HS graduate, who spoke Gaelic and played a mean Irish fiddle, was beloved in Prospect Heights for his generosity, warmth, and involvement in the community. Our condolences to his family and his countless friends.


Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

The Great Green Way in DUMBO

Kermit.jpg The Brooklyn Paper
By Adam F. Hutton

Another building in Brooklyn is "going green," adding to the list of new project applications for LEED certification (emphasis added):

Galapagos Art Space — that hipster haven that has been Williamsburg’s home for outsider performance art since 2003 — is moving to DUMBO next year, and when it does, it’s going green.
More than 50 Brooklyn projects — including 15 buildings in the Atlantic Yards project — have registered for the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, including a planned 358-unit, market-rate apartment building at 184 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg and the NYPD impound lot at the Navy Yard.


NoLandGrab: Not to be a wet blanket here, but just because Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has applied for certification, it doesn't mean the buildings will complete the certification process.

According to NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman, in 2005, "The New York Times and its co-developer, Forest City Ratner Companies... decided that it is not worth the cost or the fuss to get certified—and that they can do just as well without them, according to the co-architect on the project, Bruce Fowle."

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM


Three Bands will play to raise funds for DDDB’s legal fight against the “Atlantic Yards” project

BROOKLYN, NY, October 18: Grammy-winning band klezmer band the Klezmatics will play a special concert on November 8 at the Brooklyn Lyceum to benefit Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Two other area musical groups, Kakande and the Demolition String Band, will also perform.

The benefit concert will raise funds towards DDDB’s state lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards project's environmental review and approval and the federal lawsuit challenging the state's abuse of eminent domain. Both of these lawsuits were organized by DDDB, and are funded entirely by individual donations from the community and fundraising events throughout the year. Both lawsuits are pending; a victory in either suit would mean that developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project would not move forward.

DDDB supporters are pleased to receive such significant backing from the area’s musical community. "It is a great honor to have such accomplished musicians as The Klezmatics performing to help raise funds and awareness for the legal fight against Atlantic Yards. We are very proud to have their support," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Concert Details are as follows:

The Klezmatics, Kakande, and Demolition String Band
Thursday, November 8
Doors at 7pm
Brooklyn Lyceum
227 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 857-4816
$20 in advance, $25 at the door
For online tickets, go to http://www.dddb.net/klezmatics.

Several local merchants, such as Erica’s Rugelach and Maria’s Mexican Bistro, will be donating food, baked goods, and drinks to the show.

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN (DDDB) leads a broad-based community coalition advocating for development that will unite Brooklyn’s communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB opposes Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. For more information, visit: http://www.dddb.net/php/aboutdddb.php

The Klezmatics are world-renowned superstars of the klezmer world. They erupted out of New York City’s East Village in 1986 and revitalized klezmer for the new century. Their klezmer is one steeped in Jewish spiritualism and Eastern European tradition while incorporating more provocative themes such as social rights and anti-fundamentalism with eclectic musical influences such as gospel, punk, and Arab, African, and Balkan rhythms. Over the course of nearly twenty years, they have released six albums of wild, spiritual, provocative, reflective, and ecstatically danceable music, forever redefining and transcending traditional labels.

Driven by Famoro Dioubate's rockin' African xylophone, Kakande is full of surprises. Athletic African flute and warm cello grooves join a guitarist from Bembeya Jazz and the heartfelt vocals of Missia. "The African Tina Turner" Diabaté. The group carries an 800 year old musical tradition to America– and will make you shake your booty!


Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

From Hardship to Victory: Winning the Battle Against Eminent Domain Abuse

handsoff.gif Saturday, November 3, 2007
10am - 4pm
St. Francis College
180 Remsen Street

Join property owners and activists from across New York City for a day of training, education, and inspiration.

Institute for Justice staff will cover the history of eminent domain abuse, preparing for legal action, grassroots strategies, and how to work with the media.

The workshop is FREE and includes lunch and materials.

TO REGISTER, please call Christina Walsh at (703) 682-9320 or e-mail at cwalsh@ij.org.

Deadline to register is Monday, October 22.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

Court: Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Belongs in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Court reporter Elizabeth Stull explains the decision against the tenants fighting eviction under eminent domain, in which the judge ruled that the suit should have been filed in the Brooklyn appellate court:

Without reaching the underlying issues in the case, the appellate First Department said the case should have been filed in the Second Department, because the buildings are located in Kings County. The court also found that the tenants are “condemnees” under the state’s Eminent Domain Property Law (EDPL), which gives them standing to challenge the condemnations there.

Tuesday’s decision affirmed a ruling by Manhattan Justice Walter B. Tolub.

“Plaintiffs have a lawful interest as tenants in the property being condemned under their leases,” Tolub wrote last spring. He cited cases in which lessees have challenged determinations through EDPL §207 proceedings. Appellate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over such proceedings.

Tolub wrote that the action had been “brought both in the wrong church and the wrong pew,” citing an 1844 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that dubbed Brooklyn the “City of Churches.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney George S. Locker was pleased that his clients would have standing to sue under the EDPL, but said he hopes to win another suit that is already before the Second Department. In that case, the same rent-stabilized tenants claim that the state failed to provide them with the relocation assistance they are entitled to receive under the state Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Act.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

Rent-stabilized tenants fail in anti–Atlantic Yards bid

The Brooklyn Paper

A group of rent-stabilized residents in the Atlantic Yards footprint has lost a battle in the war to save their homes.

In a two-paragraph decision, a state appellate court dismissed the tenants’ appeal of a case that argues that developer Forest City Ratner and the state improperly canceled their leases.

But the 13 tenants, who live in two Ratner-owned, rent-stabilized buildings at 473 Dean St. and 634 Pacific St., are holding out hope that the fight could go on; the ruling said the tenants should re-file their case in a different jurisdiction.

Their lawyer, George Locker, said he might do just that, arguing that “Ratner is doing an end-run around the state rent-stabilization laws.”

Friends, this is what they call a "friendly condemnation" (really):

Under those laws, according to Locker, a landlord who wants to cancel rent-stabilized leases must go through a process overseen by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

But Ratner did not need to go through the time-consuming process, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the development of Atlantic Yards, because his plan is to transfer the buildings to the state, which will then condemn the property and turn it back over to Ratner.


NoLandGrab: This is a very elegant technical use of the Eminent Domain law, but basically its purpose is to evict footprint tenants who live in rent-stablized housing.

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Gothamist, Eminent Domain Lives...In Williamsburg

The Real Deal (via Brownstoner) is reporting that, according to a recent court ruling, the city is taking two Williamsburg properties via eminent domain for Bushwick Inlet Park. The properties are located along the East River between North 9th and 10th streets. According to one real estate expert, the city will only pay about $100 per square foot, compared to the $200 per square foot it could garner on the open market, even though the owners are entitled to the fair market value.
Other area properties on the eminent domain chopping block, including the Greenpoint Monitor Museum (its president called the taking a "disgrace.")
It's no secret that there's been an increase in use of the eminent domain power. High-profile projects that have resorted to it include Atlantic Yards, Willets Point in Queens, the Second Ave. subway project, the New York Times Building and Columbia's Manhattanville campus (although the university later renounced its use). All these takings have spawned a new term: eminent domain abuse.

This month, the city actually abandoned a plan to use eminent domain to secure properties for a parking garage and public plaza on a Duffield St. block in downtown Brooklyn - due to a technical oversight.

Not so fast, according to Duffield St. Underground...

Duffield St. Underground, City "announces" Duffield eminent domain hearing for 10/29

The City is moving forward with the next Eminent Domain public hearing for Duffield Street and Albee Square, and has scheduled it at the for time of Monday, October 29 at 10 am at City Tech (Jay Street and Tillary).

The short notice of this hearing and the failure to notify tenants and owners flies in the face of the spirit of transparent government. Please contact your NYC Council Representative to request time for the public to prepare for the hearing.

The City made some sort of huge mistake leading it to rescind its eminent domain decision, and it appears that it doesn't want anyone to examine this mistake carefully or to see if it was part of a larger problem. Please stay posted for updates.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Civic activism post-Jane Jacobs: stamina, (AY) "insurgencies," and "retaking our souls"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from "A Civic Activist Bootcamp:"

As with the first two panels in the programs tied to the Municipal Art Society's Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibition, on the loss of "soul" and the "activist press," the panel October 16, A Civic Activist Boot Camp: Working Within and Without the System, ventilated a good deal of unease, with only some partial solutions. The session was held at the MAS, with about 100 chairs moved into the two rooms housing the exhibition.

MBrown.JPG Reverend Billy gave his take on his in-your-face satirical street theater activism and Marshall Brown tried to explain why he's not an activist.

Why not? “A lot of people practice activism who are trained,” said Brown (right), even as tributes to the not formally trained (but hardly unsophisticated) Jacobs surrounded the group. Moreover, said the thirtysomething architect, “I think the word activism is tied up with Old Left stereotypes” that are easy to dismiss, like sit-ins, hippies, Birkenstocks.

He noted that the pro bono project, to many, didn’t seem to make sense, because Atlantic Yards seems like a done deal. So, why do it? He cited a set of motivations. Given that he used to live in Fort Greene, it was a matter of personal survival, he said. “Professionally, I was offended and felt threatened by the way the architect [Frank Gehry] was used by the developer [Forest City Ratner] as a marketing tool.”


NoLandGrab: Marshall is way too modest. OK, he's probably too well-dressed to be an old-school activist, but he definitely makes activism hot.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Forest City Closes On NYT Bldg $640M Refi

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Closes On NYT Bldg $640M Refi

In a marketplace where financing is allegedly scarce:

In the largest deal in the company’s history, Forest City Ratner Cos. has refinanced the New York Times Building, located at 620 Eighth Ave., for $640 million. The closing of the financing with HSH Nordbank comes one month before the 1.5-million-sf building is slated to hold its grand opening.

FCRC co-owns the Midtown property with the New York Times Co. The Times owns the second through 27th floor; FCRC owns the 29th through 50th floors, the 52nd floor and 21,000 sf of ground-floor retail. The two jointly own the 28th and 51st floor.

PR-Inside.com, Forest City Closes on $640 Million Refinancing for The New York Times Building - Largest Permanent Loan in Company's History
Commercial Property News, Forest City Closes on $640M Times Building Refi

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

October 18, 2007

Carlton Avenue Bridge Set to Close

Brit in Brooklyn


On October 16, 2007, The NY Sun reported:

Forest City Ratner intends to announce the closure of a bridge on Carlton Avenue within the next few weeks, the developer told community leaders yesterday, as the bridge is being replaced in preparation for the complex.

This begs the question, why exactly does this bridge need to be replaced?

Brit in Brooklyn photographed the bridge the day before yesterday and posted some shots online.

Posted by lumi at 11:22 AM

DDDB Fundraiser: Klezmatics & Kakande

KlezmaticsPoster.gif Thursday, November 8, 7pm
Brooklyn Lyceum
4th Avenue and Union Street

Advance tickets $20, $25 at the door
Purchase tickets now at http://www.dddb.net/klezmatics.

Great eats provided by Maria's Mexican Bistro and Erica's Rugelach!

Note: The time has been changed from 8pm to 7pm.

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

Jeffries: ESDC's traffic/transit plans still need work

Atlantic Yards Report

Residents of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights attending a Mass Transportation Community Speak Out last night sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries had a lot of things on their minds, including infrequent subway service, bus clustering, and mysteriously protracted street renovations.

But the pressure of new development was a backdrop to the concerns and Atlantic Yards, the biggest planned such development, came in for some special criticism.


Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Hakeem Jeffries on eminent domain

As originally reported by Duffield St. Underground and again, with additional context, by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Hakeem Jeffries has stated unequivocally his opposition to using eminent domain for a basketball arena:

We now have a renewed opportunity given the hearing that is going to take place and the fact that the City has been forced as a result of the excellent advocacy by the councilwoman [Letitia James} as well as the lawsuits that were filed by the able lawyers [South Brooklyn Legal Services' Jennifer Levy] in this matter to go back to square one to renew our call at the highest level possible, to Spitzer and to ESDC, reiterating our position against the use of eminent domain, both to create a basketball arena as well as to tear down these homes connected to the Underground Railroad.

NoLandGrab: The question remains, what does Jeffries intend to do about the condemnations for the basketball arena?

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

In Eminent Domain Appeal, Yards Plaintiffs Face Skeptical Court

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

The biggest challenge to the $4 billion Atlantic Yards arena-plus-towers project has always been the federal eminent domain lawsuit organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. While the plaintiffs-14 residential and commercial tenants and property owners-may have gained some traction in an appeals court on October 9, but they still have a tough road ahead.


Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: October 17, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Streets in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project will be closed within the next five months, according to the New York Sun.

Developer Forest City Ratner Companies intends to announce the closure of the bridge on Carlton Avenue within the next few weeks so it can be replaced, and the company intends to permanently close some streets running through the project’s footprint within the first three months of 2008, the Sun reports.
Speaking of the annoying aspects of the project that are to come, the Daily News reports that nearly two dozen applicants applied to be the project’s independent ombudsman during construction.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

A new island: Hadid unveils radical plan for Bilbao

How do you say Develop Don't Destroy Bilbao en Español? Zaha Hadid's masterplan for the city's Zorrozaurre peninsula is making waves by doing exactly what Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn doesn't.


Hadid, who was awarded the project in 2003, initially met with resistance from residents when she suggested converting the peninsula into an island. "They feared they would be isolated from the rest of the city," said Ms Madrazo.


Over the next two years, as Hadid and her team worked with residents, local businesses and the regional government, the island's potential became clear. Added to locals' concerns were those of the Basque environment ministry that, if the peninsula was built on, it could easily be flooded, making the idea of a carefully designed island, with flood protection, even more attractive. As a result, the houses will be 4.7 metres above sea level and a canal will be joined on to the river Nervión, widening the riverbed to 75 metres, rather than the 50 metres originally planned.


But it was not just environmental concerns that dictated Zorrozaurre's redesign. The city was concerned not to destroy all of the old housing and businesses, many of which are being retained.


A quarter of the land has been given over to parks and recreation, and - crucial to the success of the project in the eyes of residents and the council - much of the housing will be low-cost. "This will not be an exclusive neighbourhood," said Ms Madrazo. There will be no uniformity in design, with buildings of various heights across the island.


NoLandGrab: Go figure... you would think that the prospect that Atlantic Yards might actually be built keeps starchitect Frank Gehry up at night.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Forest City in the News

Daily Herald, Sugar Grove may lose Forest City

For the second time in 19 months, a major development in Sugar Grove is on the brink of being shelved because of infrastructure costs.

An official with Forest City Commercial Group said the company did not renew its option to buy land for a proposed 211-acre development with 1 million square feet in retail and might nix the project.

"We're still trying to figure out how much we'll need to make modifications of Route 47 and Galena Boulevard," Jerry Ferstman, vice president of the development group, said last week.

"At this point, it doesn't seem like IDOT (the Illinois Department of Transportation) has much funding. We don't have a clue as to what road improvements will cost. How to pay for it is the real conundrum."
The possible scrapping of the project is especially surprising considering the Cleveland-based real estate company paid a public relations firm to push a referendum on a proposed tax hike it had requested.

Voters approved a 1 percentage point sales-tax increase in November that was enacted by the village board in March. The state began collecting the tax for Sugar Grove on July 1.

NoLandGrab: We posted another article about Sugar Grove yesterday, which explained that FCE was threatening to pull out because of land acquisition costs. If you add the need to cover infrastructure costs from today's article, one might assume that the development company is bucking for a Brooklyn-stlye sweetheart deal, in which the City is kicking in $205 million, to start, to pay for extraordinary infrastructure costs and contribute to land acquisition, and the State is piling on another $100 million.

The success of the FCE model is based upon getting the public to assume most of the up-front risk. Subsequently, if the project doesn't deliver the promised benefits, the municipal or state government is compelled to continue to find ways to support the project — this pattern has been observed in Cleveland and Brooklyn.

The Herald News, Higher sales tax for mall?

Village officials hinted this week they're considering an extra 1 percent sales tax to help fund bonds that are being contemplated to fund road improvements around Cedar Crossings, the 1-million-square-foot retail center proposed by Zaremba Group LLC of Cleveland.
The bonds are necessary, village officials said, because in order to allow Cedar Crossings to align its entrance with the I-355 ramp on U.S. 6, the Illinois Department of Transportation is requiring that both U.S. 6 and Cedar Road be built out to handle the estimated traffic in 2030.

While the Cedar Crossings project will directly abut the roadways, the roads will also be traveled by cars that need access to a 1.5-million-square-foot lifestyle center being proposed by Forest City Enterprises and any number of other future retail projects along the U.S. 6 corridor, including a proposed hospital by Silver Cross.

NoLandGrab: Reporter Patrick Ferrell tells us that, unlike the Sugar Grove project mentioned above, the Forest City Enterprises New Lennox project is not in a proposed tax-increase zone and, unlike the nearby Cedar Crossing project, does not front the interstate.

Arizona Daily Star, Giffords at bat for Marana on flood issue
Ten square miles of Marana, AZ might be designated by FEMA as a Zone A flood plain, requiring current property owners to purchase costly flood insurance.

Already feeling the effects of a slowdown in the housing market, Marana could become a development wasteland, officials said, if flood insurance were to become necessary to live or build there.

"There is nobody that wants to buy property in a flood zone," said Dean Wingert, senior vice president of Forest City Land Group, which is developing the Gladden Farms master-planned community in Marana.

Wingert said that within a week of FEMA releasing its draft maps, a $6 million development deal fell through with Richmond American for that home builder to construct its fourth neighborhood in Gladden Farms.

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

October 17, 2007

As expected, one of AY rental tenants' legal cases dismissed

Atlantic Yards Report

As expected, one of the two lawsuits filed by 13 renters in the Atlantic Yards footprint has been dismissed by a state appellate court. During oral arguments on September 26, a panel of five judges in the First Department was steadily skeptical of attorney George Locker's argument that the tenants are not actually condemnees, with an ownership interest in their leases.

Courts had previously not decided that issue; however, state law defines a condemnee as “the holder of any right, title, interest, lien, charge or encumbrance in real property subject to an acquisition or proposed acquisition.”

Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub had dismissed Locker's challenge in May, saying his clients did not have standing in trial court and instead should have gone to a separate appeals court, the Second Department, which has exclusive jurisdiction over the Eminent Domain Procedure Law, or EDPL, and would not hold a trial to hear a broader array of evidence.

The court's brief ruling yesterday would seem to open the door to planned "friendly condemnations," in which Forest City Ratner-owned buildings are transferred to ownership by the Empire State Development Corporation. That would end the leases far more speedily than the process would occur under New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), which oversees rent-regulated buildings.
(Two other cases, organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, are pending; one, in federal court, challenges the use of eminent domain, while the other, in state court, challenges the environmental review of the project.)


Posted by lumi at 9:50 AM

Arena appeal rejected

By Amy Zimmer

The Appellate Division rejected an appeal yesterday by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, affirming the decisions of New York's Supreme Court that the lawsuit by a group of rent-stabilized tenants was brought to the wrong court. The lawsuit claimed the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, failed to adequately compensate the protected tenants.

[This short article appeared only in the print edition.]

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

Services for Tom Rooney, Propsect Heights Resident and Activist

Services for Tom Rooney, lifetime resident of Prospect Heights and community activist, will be held:

Thursday and Friday
2-5pm and 7-9pm
Duffy Funeral Home
255 9th St.

A funeral mass will be held on Saturday morning at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, where Tom served as head usher:

Saturday, October 20
St. Augustine's Catholic Church
116 6th Ave.
(718) 783-3132

Tom joined the fight against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards in the early days, when the project was first announced. He was a ubiquitous presence at public forums and events and kept his friends and neighbors informed about the latest news and developments concerning the project, which threatens to drastically alter the neighborhood in which he spent his entire life.

Tom was a quintessential old-school Brooklynite, the kind of person who cared deeply about his neighborhood, its people and its institutions.

Thank you, Tom, for helping to make Prospect Heights, Brooklyn a great place to live, and for your passionate defense of our neighborhoods and quality of life.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

A Tour of Park Slope

The Cooperator
The Co-op & Condo Monthy
By Anthony Stoeckert

Looking toward the future, Atlantic Yards takes center stage in a historical overview of Park Slope from a residential real estate perspective.

A big project that will certainly make news in Brooklyn for the next few years is developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed complex that will bring the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, and along with the team, even more restaurants, shops, and residential and professional buildings to the borough.

The Park Slope Civic Council (which has been around for more than 100 years and was known as the South Brooklyn Board of Trade until it changed its name in 1960) is following the development’s progress. Miskel says the group doesn’t have any legislative power, but that “we can be an annoying thorn in their side.”

The Ratner project, according to Miskel, would be “on the border” of Park Slope, so the council is committed to being aware of how the complex could affect The Slope.

“It’s not that it’s on us, but certainly with traffic, overloading facilities, storage and all that, it’s going to affect us,” he says. “And at some point, he may go over further into Third or Fifth Avenue. That’s looking into the future.”


Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Brooklyn More Or Less

Joe Nets Fan
By Joe

Here's one we missed from last month.

A NJ Nets fan is tracking developments (or lack thereof) here in Brooklyn and paying attention to how the "feel-good story" has a few holes in it and how "aside from Ratner losing millions each year while waiting for this plan to get out of the courts and into development, it was a perfect plan."

Meanwhile, there was a perfectly good, brand new arena being built in Newark for the Devils. Why the Nets couldn't just move there, and STAY in New Jersey, is beyond me. Probably because some billionaire couldn't line his pockets under the guise of civic pride.

Joe pledges to keep an eye on things, though he isn't optimistic about his chances of keeping his team in NJ or his future in blogging.

We'll look at the Brooklyn trials and tribulations as we move through this season, and milestones are either met or missed. After all, if the move does go through, it'll put this site out of business.


NoLandGrab: Since WE want nothing more than to be put out of business, keeping the Nets in NJ would definitely be a win-win for NLG and Joe.

Can some judge, please, make us happy?

[Yes, we know that was pathetic.]

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Village officials seek buyer to help project

Kane County Chronicle (Illinois)
By Brenda Schory

SUGAR GROVE – Village officials hope to find a buyer for 211 acres on which a major development project is planned so that the project can proceed.

Village President Sean Michels said Forest City Enterprises, which proposed a 211-acre commercial and residential development, did not renew its option to buy the land in April.

“We are looking for an investment firm to buy it and hold it, then sell it to Forest City at a later date or take a partnership interest in it when it does go forward,” Michels said. “There is a good possibility of that happening.”

Michels said the property had two owners trying to sell it.

“With the type of company Forest City is, if they buy and hold vacant property, it is not considered a ‘performing asset,’ and that is not looked upon favorably,” Michels said.


NoLandGrab: The last paragraph from the excerpt pretty much explains why Bruce Ratner convinced NY City and NY State to give him such a sweetheart deal:

It's "not looked upon favorably" to "buy and hold vacant property," unless you are getting a little help from your friends.

And what about them NJ Nets? Certainly, Ratner's NBA franchise is a "performing asset." However, since the team is operating at a loss of tens of millions of dollars each season, it must be burning a hole in the balance sheet and wearing the patience of Ratner family members in Cleveland.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM



NY Post

Bruce Ratner served on the panel of judges for the Post's sixth annual Liberty Medals. Other local luminaries who served on the "distinguished panel of New Yorkers" that selected the winners were:

Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co.; Lloyd Williams, chairman of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce; Martha Nelson, group editor, Time Inc.; CUNY Chancellor Dr. Matthew Goldstein; City Comptroller William Thompson; Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

The winners will be presented their awards tonight and are profiled in today's Post.

NoLandGrab: Liberty Medals should not to be confused with Liberty Bonds, which Ratner secured for his Atlantic Terminal highrise building. According to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, tax-exempt Liberty Bonds were supposed to be used to "support rebuilding effort of lower Manhattan in New York City." Atlantic Terminal is in Brooklyn, next to Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall and across the street from where the developer proposes to build Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 AM

October 16, 2007

Remembering Tom Rooney, Prospect Heights Resident and Community Activist

july06rallytom.jpg UPDATE: Information about funeral services for Tom should be available later today. We'll let you know as soon as we learn something.

The news that Tom Rooney (60) passed away came to us by way of local activist, Duffield St. Underground blogger and musician, Raul Rothblatt.

Our neighbor and one of the original DDDb activists Tom Rooney died unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. The details of how are not yet known, but he was active around the neighborhood until hours before he passed away. He died at home, and it was probably very quickly.

His body is at Duffy's funeral home, but the main source of information should be his church: St Augustines Catholic Church
116 6th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 783-3132

I am really saddened to hear this news. Tom was a strident supporter of our community, and I will miss him.

We called Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan when we heard the news, because we recalled that for years, Tom would hand deliver NoLandGrab to his technologically handicapped neighbor and friend.

Patti explained that for more than three years, Tom would download and print out NoLandGrab and AtlanticYardsReport, along with a daily index that occasionally included some personal thoughts on the latest Ratner news, and deliver it in a black plastic bag hung on her front doorknob. He continued this friendly neighborhood service until last Friday, October 12, even though Patti now has access to a computer workstation.

We'll keep you posted on where and when services will be held. For more information, you can also contact St. Augustine's Catholic Church, where Tom served as head usher for weekend services.

UPDATE: Patti Hagan informs us that Tom Rooney "was one of the original Prospect Heights Action Coalition members, joining in 2002 when PHAC was founded, and continuing on when PHAC sounded the alarm on Atlantic Yards in July 2003. Whenever Tom testified it was as a member of PHAC."

Posted by lumi at 12:02 PM

Developers To Close Streets Near Atlantic Yards

A short, but exclusive, report from The NY Sun:

In a step forward for Brooklyn's $4 billion Atlantic Yards complex, the state and private developer Forest City Ratner will soon close streets within the footprint of the project. The planned complex will contain more than 6,000 units of housing and a Frank Gehry-designed basketball arena.

Forest City Ratner intends to announce the closure of a bridge on Carlton Avenue within the next few weeks, the developer told community leaders yesterday, as the bridge is being replaced in preparation for the complex.

The company intends to permanently close the streets running through the project's footprint in the first three months of 2008, creating two large superblocks at the edge of the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

AY timetables: street closures (Arena, 2010) and ombudsperson

Atlantic Yards Report

In response to an article in the NY Sun anticipating street closings, Norman Oder checks in on the previously released construction schedule to see how things are going in Ratnerville:

According to the construction schedule included in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation, the Carlton Avenue bridge was supposed to be closed between Nov. 1, 2006 and July 31, 2007. Construction of the arena and Miss Brooklyn (aka Building 1) was supposed to have begun in August of this year.

The newly-announced timetable is further evidence that, in the best-case scenario, the arena would open in for the 2010-11 basketball season rather than the officially announced 2009 date.

Oder also explains that depite what the Sun article says, "the company [Forest City Ratner] can't close the streets--that's the city's job." This would be a good question for the Atlantic Yards ombudsperson, only the community is still waiting for the State to hire one.


Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Months later, Atlantic Yards still in search of a watchdog

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

In the five months since state officials pledged to hire an independent watchdog for the Atlantic Yards project, more than two dozen applicants have sought the job, Brooklyn News has learned.

Among the applicants, nearly all of whom come from government backgrounds, three candidates for Ombudsman have declined job offers made by Empire State Development Corp. officials, once each in May, July and September.

"You zero in on the person you think you like, they say no and so you go back to the drawing board," said Avi Schick, president of the development corporation, which first announced it was seeking an ombudsman for the big project at the end of April.


NoLandGrab: If the ESDC keeps having trouble finding the right match, maybe eharmony.com can help.

Seriously, couldn't the ESDC hire a temporary ombudsman while the search is still on, so that concerns, such as some of the problems described in today's article, could be addressed?

Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

Gehry's (two) seductive NYC projects

CondeNastCafe.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a NYC Gehry tour to learn more about the starchitect's work:

Future New York-based clients of starchitect Frank Gehry need not travel to see his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or his Disney Hall performing arts center in Los Angeles. A sense of his seductively sinuous architecture is available via visits to his two completed projects, the InterActive (IAC) building (2007) in West Chelsea, and the corporate dining room and cafeteria (2000) at the Condé Nast building at 4 Times Square.

I paid $50 for the privilege of visiting the two on Oct. 12, joining a tour sponsored by Architectural Digest (a Condé Nast publication), as part of their Architecture Days celebration. And the work is quite impressive, though it doesn’t give much of a clue as to what Gehry would produce on a much larger scale for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

This Week's Atlantic Yards Issue: Terror Risk


Jen Chung sums up the Atlantic Yards security issue, which may seem like the issue of the week, but as Chung notes, "DDDB has actually been worried about terror risks since last year."


NoLandGrab: Based upon the Gothamist
comments section, it appears the public thinks that Atlantic Yards critics are really grasping at straws and are attempting to exploit the public's fear of terrorism.

Whatever — this issue has been on the radar for the past TWO years, primarily due to the work and efforts of Prospect Heights resident Al Rosner.

July, 2005
A white paper, "Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise and Arena Development Project," was released. It has been available for download on
NoLandGrab for the past two years.

December, 2005
A letter addressed to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, signed by local elected officials, requested that the NYPD undertake a security study of the Atlantic Yards project as it did for the Freedom Tower. This letter has remained unanswered.

July, 2006
White paper author Al Rosner issued an open letter exhorting public officials and the press to ask tough questions about "Glass-clad skyscrapers, next to a glass sports arena, above the third largest transportation hub in the city."

November, 2006
The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Calls on Public Authorities Control Board for Terror Study (press release).

The Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporaton states in Chapter 24, page 235, "Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside the scope of the EIS."

October, 2007
The announcement that Newark officals have authorized street closings for the city's arena illustrates the point that Atlantic Yards critics have been making for more than two years.

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Terrorism Concerns at Atlantic Yards

WNYC Newsroom

NEW YORK, NY October 15, 2007 —Opponents of Brooklyn's planned NBA arena are urging the state to confront the risk of terrorism near the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards complex.

This, in the wake of a decision to block off streets near Newark's new arena, after the stadium was found to be too close to the street to shield it from a terror attack. Bruce Bender, executive vice president for the developer, Forest City Ratner, said they have "worked very closely with security experts on Atlantic Yards."


NoLandGrab: Bruce Bender's boilerplate explanation leads one to wonder what developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation aren't telling the public.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

Real Estate Round-Up, October 15, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

The Eagle doesn't outright say it, but notes that some community activists are never happy:

Steps away from the proposed Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is unloading a three-story brick building at 572 Pacific St. along with a few ghosts, according to The Brooklyn Paper. The former single-room occupancy hotel was the site of three murders, said James Vogel, secretary of the Pacific Street Block Association and an Atlantic Yards opponent.

Apparently, that block association shot down a proposal to turn the home into a halfway house, winning a promise by the city to sell it to a developer so it could be converted into three condos. Which is strange, because the group’s “concern” that Atlantic Yards would not provide enough affordable housing or promised services for the less fortunate who live in the area would seem to indicate that they would also support such a reuse for 572 Pacific St.

(Another group, the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, formed in 2002 to oppose the conversion of two buildings into a homeless shelter. But several years later, the group attempted to vilify Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for evicting these people to build his project, then later forcing their evacuation when a portion of his Ward Bakery collapsed.)

Duffield Street homeowners, fighting the City's use of eminent domain to take their homes, seem to be getting some traction:

In an article about abolitionist activity in Brooklyn, The New York Times seems to lend sympathy to the plight of two Duffield Street property owners who claim their homes were once stops for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad. Noting that Weeksville, an African-American community in Crown Heights that thrived from the 1840s until the 1930s, was nearly completely demolished until preservationists managed to save a handful of houses, one Duffield Street homeowner said, “There’s no black museum in Brooklyn to celebrate the Underground Railroad … This is the house to do it in. It’s important that the children and all of the people can see what people had to go through to be free.”


Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere91.gif The Knickerblogger, Simple Questions the Big Daily Papers Never Asked:
Some reaction to the oral arguments in the appeal of the federal eminent domain case:

Why is the ESDC defending a proposal that knowingly would bring in less money than a competing project, and NOT require disenfranchising other citizens?

Why Is the state taking such a cavalier attitude towards impropriety and corruption? Isn't this a de facto endorsement of government corruption?

New Media Newsroom 2007C, Vibe and Ratner

Did anybody else notice Bruce Ratner in a photo montage in the September issue of Vibe? It was about who parties with Jay-Z. Sure, they work together, but it's hard to imagine the actual party. See the mag for the full effect.

NoLandGrab: Does anyone have a copy?

Extremes of Perception, Astounding
Atlantic Yards joins the eminent domain hall of fame.

The Knickerblogger, You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world....

...Unless you live in the fantasy world of Bruce Ratner/Forest City/ESDC, where demapping city streets is good urban planning and luxury condos are affordable housing.

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

October 15, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...


WDD3-3Chords.jpg Three Chords & the Youth, Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown

Kat and I participated the 3rd Walk Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Fundraiser this afternoon. I’ve included some pictures for your enjoyment. You can still visit my fundraising page and make a donation…there’s a free copy of the soon-to-be released Class Dismissed in it for you!

Brownstoner, AY: A Hearing on Terrorism Threat Followed by a March

Speakers yesterday said that like Newark’s arena, Forest City Ratner’s Nets arena could pose very real security threats to the development’s thousands of residential units as well as people living in surrounding communities. “We’re here to call for safety,” said DDDB’s Daniel Goldstein, noting that the Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards claimed a terror attack “is not a reasonable worst-case scenario.”

The Gowanus Lounge, DDDB Holds Walkathon, Calls for State Hearings on Arena Security Concerns

This year's edition took place in Prospect Heights and included a pre-walk press conference in which organizers and neighborhood leaders called on the state to hold hearings on security and terrorism threats to the the planned arena in light of information about the vulnerability of Newark's planned new area.

Some blogs posted Walkathon info this weekend:

Brownstoner, Weekend Events

Snarky Roberto counted "tens of people" in the comments section, reminding us that the world is full of people who don't care about much of anything.

Mole's Progressive Democrat, NYC FOCUS: A Few Events

Posted by lumi at 12:58 PM

Will Atlantic Yards security get a state hearing (and would streets close)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on issues raised at yesterday's press conference, and Borough President Marty Markowitz's response to calls for more information about security measures for Bruce Ratner's planned arena:


Atlantic Yards opponents and critics yesterday called for a state-level hearing to address security at the planned Atlantic Yards arena, citing the announcement last week that the city of Newark would partially close streets during events at the Prudential Center arena, scheduled to open October 25.


"Study security issues through a public process before construction," declared Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein (right), at a press conference held before DDDB's third annual Walk Don't Destroy walkathon. "Common sense dictates" that the unique location, use, and density of the project "makes for an attractive terror target." (DDDB points to multiple scenarios.)

"We don't know what the setbacks are" along Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, where the glass-walled arena will connect with the glass-walled Miss Brooklyn tower, Goldstein said outside Freddy's Bar & Backroom, at the corner Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, scheduled to be demolished for the project, at the southeast corner of the planned arena block.


At the press conference, Jim Vogel of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) said a hearing should reveal the impacts a security plan would have on: public access to streets and other public areas during arena events; the people in the residential towers planned around the arena; the people across the street from the arena; and the cost and funding of security plans.


Later that afternoon, I ran into Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz at a stop on the Prospect Heights House Tour. I pointed out that the ESDC didn't consider a terrorist attack a "reasonable worst-case scenario" but the Newark police director did so.

"I happen to agree with the Newark police director," Markowitz said, offering a commonsense interpretation of the phrase, rather than the ESDC's more legalistic one. "That's why I'm confident Forest City Ratner has taken into the construction of the new arena the issues of security."

Should these issues be discussed publicly? "As the plan moves forward," he said, "we'll be informed."


"Way before two weeks."

Would or should streets be closed?

"I don't know," he responded.

When will we know?

"At the appropriate time."

full article

Posted by lumi at 11:42 AM

Walkathon Pics

NoLandGrab's pics from yesterday's Walkathon are up on flickr (slideshow), including one of a very annoying rat, who was getting a kick out of harassing opponents of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 11:14 AM

Opponents Of Brooklyn Arena Raise Security Issues

Want Governor Spitzer To Address Terror Risk

AP, via WCBSTV.com

Opponents of Brooklyn's planned NBA arena said Sunday that Gov. Eliot Spitzer should address security concerns connected to the project, citing the decision by officials in Newark, N.J. to close streets abutting a new arena there.

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said the terror risk for the planned Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn "is potentially far greater than that faced by the Newark arena."

"The time for a review of the impacts of a terrorist threat against Atlantic Yards and a state hearing on the issue is now," Goldstein said.

He said Spitzer's homeland security czar, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni, should testify at such a hearing on Atlantic Yards terrorism security issues. On Sunday, state officials said Balboni would be happy to meet with the community to go over security concerns. ...
Bruce Bender, executive vice president with the developer, Forest City Ratner, said the project had always paid attention to security issues.

"From the start, Forest City Ratner has worked very closely with security experts on Atlantic Yards, and the top police, fire and security experts in the City have reviewed and approved our comprehensive plan. Anyone who has any experience in security knows that you do not discuss sensitive security matters in public for very obvious reasons," he said.


The AP article also ran in various forms in:
NY Daily News, Atlantic Yards complex foes urge state to consider terror risk
The NY Sun, Brooklyn NBA Arena's Foes Point To Security Problems
MetroNY, Foes of Brooklyn arena raise security issue (front page story) Newsday, Brooklyn arena foes want review of terrorism risk
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted a response on its web site, "FCR: Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Pardon us if we don't trust Forest City Ratner's "don't worry be happy" game plan, which completely fails to disclose any security measures for the glass-walled arena, surrounded by glass-walled towers, over the 3rd largest transportation hub in the city, abutting the busiest traffic intersection in Brooklyn at Atlantic and Flatbush, at a location that was the site of a thwarted terrorist attack in 1997.

We're not asking for state secrets, we're asking for the issue to be reviewed within the Environmental Impact Statement, only keeping confidential that which must be confidential -- and clearly measures like street closings are simply not confidential. So don't buy Bender's disingenous, "Anyone who has any experience in security knows that you do not discuss sensitive security matters in public for very obvious reasons." Oh really?

Despite Newark's police decision, two weeks before opening that city's new Prudential Center arena, to shut down two streets during arena events there and despite that city's police chief saying, "You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," they (Ratner and the ESDC) expect the public to just take their word for it, that we'll be safe, and the security measures won't radically disrupt the surrounding major streets for 230 arena events per year?

Posted by lumi at 11:12 AM

Hundreds of Brooklynites Walk to Raise Funds for Ongoing Legal Battle Against Atlantic Yards Project

Project Opponents and Advocates for Responsible Development Will Continue to Fight for the Long Haul

BROOKLYN, NY — Opponents of the “Atlantic Yards” plan walked in Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s (DDDB) third annual Walk Don’t Destroy walkathon to raise funds for the ongoing, long haul legal battle against developer Forest City Ratner’s unpopular, anti-democratic, and outsized “Atlantic Yards” project and proposed experiment in extreme density, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The walkathon is part of the continuing effort to build the community’s legal war chest against the project.

“We are close to marking the 4th anniversary of the struggle against the Atlantic Yards project, a purported ‘done deal’ whose time will never come,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Today, once again, we are terribly proud of the community’s support in real dollars and in spirit. Along with so many other contributors, today’s walkers and donors ensure that DDDB will see the legal cases through to victory, so we can start over and develop the Vanderbilt rail yards in an appropriate, sustainable, and democratic manner.”

DDDB relies on the broad community for its support; its legal efforts are funded entirely by the community with over 3,500 individual donors, as well as various fundraisers throughout the year. DDDB’s efforts over the past four years, along with so many other organizations, have been a sustained, truly grassroots community movement, thanks to the community’s ongoing and continually growing support.

Leading the four year old opposition to the “Atlantic Yards” project, DDDB has organized and continues to fund two major, pending lawsuits—one in federal court with 14 property owners and tenants alleging that the use of eminent domain for the project violates the US Constitution, and one in state court, with 25 community group co-plaintiffs, seeking to overturn New York state’s environmental review and approval of the project, as well as the state’s “blight” determination and designation of the privately-owned arena as a civic project. While opposing “Atlantic Yards,” DDDB advocates for sensible, sustainable and democratic development of the Vanderbilt rail yard.

For more information about those lawsuits visit: http://www.dddb.net/php/status.php.

Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

DDDB's Walk Don't Destroy 3 raises more than $50,000

Atlantic Yards Report


"Supersize Brooklyn?" asked City Council Member Letitia James in a sing-song, leading Walk Don't Destroy 3, the third annual walkathon to fund Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) legal campaign against Atlantic Yards.

(Photo by Jonathan Barkey. More photos here.)

"No way," responded the group with her, some 200 who walked a route from Freddy's Bar & Backroom at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue to Flatbush Avenue, up Flatbush to Grand Army Plaza, then up Vanderbilt Avenue to the after-party at Soda Bar.

The event raised more than $50,000--more than what was raised two years ago, but seemingly half that raised last year. But the $100,000 figure announced last year, I was told yesterday, actually combined $65,000 from pledges with three major gifts keyed to the event. (Last year there were 300 marchers and 1100 donors; this year, the numbers were 200 and 600, though more pledges are coming in.)

Despite the relative drop-off, DDDB organizers were pleased. "We're well-funded for the coming months," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. DDDB has funded an appeal in the federal eminent domain litigation and a pending case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.


Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

Trinidad Contractor Officially Booted Off NY City Planning Commission

HardBeatNews.com covers Borough President Marty Markowitz's announcement that Dolly Williams would not be reappointed as Brooklyn's representative to the City Planning Commission. The article recounts the litany of controversies that may have led to the decision (despite what Marty's statement says) and includes some analysis of campaign finance records.

Markowitz, in a statement, insisted that the decision was mutual. “Dolly and I come to the joint decision that in this time of great growth and change in Brooklyn, when there are many voices seeking to be heard on land use matters, it would be best for a new appointee to assume the Planning Commission position,” stated Markowitz, who has pocketed a reported $12,000 in campaign donations from Williams and her company according to Campaign Finance records surveyed by HBN. No replacement has been named.


Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

Miss Brooklyn Bridezillas!!!

Yesterday, the very silly Gilly Youner led the Brooklyn Brides in Walk Don't Destroy 3, proving that starchitect Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn Bride narrative is still a joke.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM


Duffield St. Underground, Ripple effect of NY Times Underground Railroad article

Published two days ago, the story by the New York Times became one of the most emailed articles for a moment.

Duffield St. Underground also has a blogroll of coverage of the article and YouTube footage of the Times reporter climbing into one of the vestiges of the tunnel that ran between homes on Duffield St., homes that are under threat of eminent domain.


Once again, The Times suffers from ED (editorial dysfunction) when it comes to ED (eminent domain). The latest oversight was pointed out by civil-rights attorney Norman Seigel and Nick Sprayregen, a West Harlem property owner:

To the Editor:

The most contentious issue facing the Columbia University expansion plan is eminent domain. Yet your Sept. 23 editorial ''Helping Columbia, and West Harlem'' does not even mention it.

Reality Times, Principal Of Eminent Domain Trumps Individual Rights

Columnist George W. Mantor suggests that the expansion of the government's Fifth Amendment right to take your property for "public use" necessitates a rewriting of the Fourth Amendment:

The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution should also be rewritten to read, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, except for the house itself, which can be seized at any time in the name of public good."

Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

October 14, 2007

Will Brooklyn Arena Be Safe From Terror?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Newark Prudential Center Street Closings Raise Troubling Questions;
Elected Officials and Community Groups Call for State Hearing on Atlantic Yards and Terrorism Security

“The terror risk for Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) planned Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is potentially far greater than that faced by the Newark arena, and there is no reason that Brooklyn should play catch-up sometime down the road. The time for a review of the impacts of a terrorist threat against Atlantic Yards and a state hearing on the issue is now,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “We call on Governor Spitzer’s ‘homeland security czar,’ Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni, to address the need for and testify at such a hearing on Atlantic Yards terrorism security issues, and for Governor Spitzer’s ESDC to learn from Newark’s lack of planning and initiate a proper review of Atlantic Yards and terrorism security.”

Atlantic Yards would be a glass-walled arena surrounded by glass-walled skyscrapers, abutting the busiest (and frequently gridlocked) intersection in Brooklyn, sitting atop the third-largest transportation hub in the city, which was the site of a thwarted terror attack in 1997. It would be the densest residential community in the entire United States. FCR projects about 230 events per year at the arena. Yet the city and state of New York have failed to perform a proper and comprehensive review of terrorism security issues for the project. In the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) refused to consider the threat of a terrorist attack, claiming that a terrorist attack was “not a reasonable worst-case scenario” warranting examination in the EIS.


Posted by amy at 7:15 PM

Dean at 6th



Dean Street and 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

all buildings on the right (north side of Dean Street) would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by amy at 7:12 PM

Atlantic Yards Goes to Court (Reprise)

The Real Estate
Matthew Schuerman

Opponents of Atlantic Yards knew from the beginning that getting their eminent domain case to the Supreme Court was going to take a lot of motions and counter-motions, appearances and appeals. This morning, they struggled to get even the first toehold for their case by arguing in federal appeals court that they should get the chance to subpoena documents and take testimony from government decision-makers.

The inside information could be a treasure trove in helping the opponents establish their case, which is basically that the project is being undertaken to benefit a private developer, Forest City Ratner, rather than the public good. Asked after the hearing whether he thought that the discovery process would reveal any “nefarious” information, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Matthew Brinckerhoff, told reporters, “It well may be. That’s what I was alluding to.”


Posted by amy at 7:08 PM

TODAY: This legal fight was brought to you by the letters D, D, D, and B

WDDLight.jpg Don't forget that the legal challenge to Bruce Ratner's eminent-domain-abusing public-money-sucking megaproject is brought to you by the good folks who help raise money for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

You can help by participating in this Sunday's Walkathon by registering now or sponsoring your favorite team or blogger.

Walk Don't Destroy III
Sunday, October 14

NOON – 1 pm: SIGN IN. Visit our tables at Freddy's Bar (on the intersection of 6th Avenue and Dean Street) to pick up your registration (or to register if you haven't already done so).

1 pm – 3:00 pm: Join the Grand Marshall to walk to Grand Army Plaza, around and back to the Soda Bar.

3:00-5:00 pm: Celebration event at the Soda Bar!

More info

Posted by lumi at 12:48 PM

TODAY: Press Conference: Sunday, 12:30pm. Dean St. and 6th Ave.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Sunday, October 14, 12:30
Pre-Walkathon Press Conference on Atlantic Yards Terrorism Security

Newark Arena Street Closures Point to Unsafe and Negligent Planning for Atlantic Yards

Call for State Hearing on Atlantic Yards and Terrorism Security

WHAT: Press Conference on Atlantic Yards Security and Terrorism Concerns in Light of Actions Taken by Newark Police Officials to Shut Down Streets on Eve of Prudential Arena Grand Opening

Call for a State Hearing on Security/Terrorism Planning on the Atlantic Yards Arena Complex

WHEN: Sunday. October 14th, 12:30pm

WHO: Councilwoman Letitia James, Other elected officials Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Other community groups

WHERE: 485 Dean Street @ 6th Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (location of narrow residential street that would abut the proposed Atlantic Yards arena, and location of kickoff of Sunday's walkathon fundraiser at 1pm)

BROOKLYN, NY -- Prior to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's 3rd Annual walkathon fundraiser, elected officials and community groups will call for a state hearing on the absence of security/terrorism planning for Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Atlantic Yards arena complex, in light of recent, relevant events in Newark, New Jersey and years of silence on such planning from the city, state and developer.


Posted by amy at 12:17 PM

What's a Brooklyn real estate bargain? If you ask the Times..


Atlantic Yards Report

The cover story in today's New York Times Real Estate section is headlined Brooklyn: A Bargain Hunter’s Guide and the Times explains that, in between the strong market in brownstone neighborhoods and the foreclosures in struggling neighborhoods, there are bargains--but keyed to the Times's more affluent demographic.
And what exactly are the contours of such bargains? Here are the prices of all the apartments mentioned in the article:
--Green Hill Condos, 324 22nd Street, Greenwood Heights; $999,000 (from $1.09 million) and $559,000 (from $599,000).
--Thornton Park, 721 Flushing Avenue, East Williamsburg. Developer pays closing costs, a 5 percent discount on units from $270,000 to $509,000. The article identifies the location as East Williamsburg
--55 Berry Street, Williamsburg. Developer offered $10,000 discount on unit of unspecified price; agreed to build a $3000 walk-in closet on an $815,000 one-bedroom with a home office. --Le Conselyea in Williamsburg, $425,000 (from contemplated $599,000) and $799,000 (from contemplated $995,000).
--Owners of larger free-standing homes in the $2.8-million-to-$3.5-million range may offer a 5 percent discount.
--855 Jefferson Avenue, Bed-Stuy, $950,000, down from $1.1 million.

"Affordable to who?"--as City Council Member Charles Barron asked scornfully, in another context, at the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rally in July 2006. Or, as State Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez once said regarding affordable housing, "It's a relative thing."


Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

FCR support: Bed-Stuy Alive & Prospect Park, but what about Prospect Heights?


Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner, as we know, supports all manner of worthy causes as part of (take your pick) either good civic citizenship or calculated public outreach. As NoLandGrab noticed, the developer is supporting Bed-Stuy Alive, which begins this weekend.

We can assume that Forest City Ratner is not supporting the Prospect Heights House Tour nor the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn walkathon today.

Prospect Park, too

The invite to the Prospect Park Alliance's 20th Anniversary Gala shows Forest City Ratner as one of the three Corporate Vice Chairs. FCR executive Bruce Bender and his wife Amy Bender (who's on the Alliance board) are among the seven couples or individuals serving as Vice Chairs.

As noted, such corporate contributions are always a bit easier when the government offers extra benefits that ease the bottom line.


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Five Firms Vie for Chance to Build on Far West Side


New York Times

The transportation authority, which had hoped to reap $1 billion from the sale of the development rights to the yards, confirmed that it had received five offers, but declined to provide any details. The authority said it expected to select the winning bidder, or combination of bidders, by February or March, after conducting a design review that would include an opportunity for public comment.

NoLandGrab: In other words it's like the sale of the Vanderbilt Yards, only exactly opposite.

Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

October 13, 2007

Events for October 13-15, 2007


The Politicker


1 p.m. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn will host a Walkathon protesting the Atlantic Yards project. Registration begins at Freddy’s Bar, 6th Avenue and Dean Street. At 3 p.m., the Grand Marshall will lead a march to Grand Army Plaza. An afterparty will be held at Soda Bar, Vanderbilt Avenue and St. Marks Avenue.

NoLandGrab: Registration begins at NOON tomorrow at Freddy's and the walk begins at 1pm...

Posted by amy at 8:08 AM

Council Member Letitia James and FUREE Hold Rally to Protest Eminent Domain Abuse


Contact: Amyre Loomis – (718) 260-9191


This Tuesday, October 16th at 2:00 PM, all will gather on the Steps of City Hall for a rally in light of the City of New York’s recent withdrawal of its eminent domain plan for Downtown Brooklyn

(Brooklyn, NY) - In response to the Eminent Domain Procedure Law Petition filed on behalf of residents and businesses of Downtown Brooklyn, the City has rescinded its eminent domain findings and will hold a new hearing. This reprieve gives advocates of historic home preservation more time to use political pressure to alter the footprint that includes historic properties, threatened by government condemnation.

WHAT: Press event to discuss the recent battle won against New York City’s use of eminent domain in Downtown Brooklyn

WHEN: Tuesday, October 16th, at 2:00 PM

WHERE: The Steps of City Hall

“I stand firm with my Duffield Street constituents in protecting their historic homes, as well as the hallowed site of the Underground Railroad. The City’s objective to take these properties by eminent domain would lead to an unconscionable action with irreparable consequences. We can develop Downtown Brooklyn without sacrificing our history. Historic homes in Brooklyn should be preserved at all costs,” said Council Member James.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), has withdrawn its eminent domain determination because it failed to enter a blight determination into the public record. Now the public process must start all over from the beginning, including another public hearing on October 29th, and a 60-day determination period to follow. The community views the recent withdrawal by New York City of eminent domain use in Downtown Brooklyn as an interim victory for many hard working families, as well as business owners, who have resided on their properties for decades.

“My criticism of the Bloomberg Administration’s condemnation of historic properties is well known; I am especially critical of the seizing of homes that may have been involved with the Underground Railroad for the development of an underground parking lot,” said Council Member James adding, “I have filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court of the State of New York in support of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality and Joy Chatel. Both my constituents and I object to development that deprives future generations knowledge of this country’s history, and its involvement with the institution of slavery.”

Posted by amy at 8:06 AM

From "Brian Lehrer Live": criticism and context

Atlantic Yards Report

Lehrer asked about the lawsuits against the project and suggested that they were a last-ditch effort, given that opponents had lost at every level: "They've lost at the legislative level..."

"What legislative level, Brian?" I responded, clarifying that the City Council did not have a vote.

And Guskind offered the money quote, suggesting that the lawsuits were the only hope, given that the political and approval process was "rigged to produce this outcome. In a few decades of covering urban affairs and covering public policy all over the country, I've rarely seen a process this anti-democratic."

And it's not exactly radical to think the process behind AY was deeply flawed; that's pretty much what PlaNYC 2030 implies.


Posted by amy at 8:00 AM

The "blighted" Meadowlands arena--and the Nets to Newark?


Atlantic Yards Report

Of course, Jersey is about to get its own arena in about two weeks, when the Prudential Center opens in Newark, assuming all the security concerns are resolved.

And some in Newark do embrace the Nets. (Photo taken in Downtown Newark by Jonathan Barkey)

Crain's New York Business reported in March that the Nets might move to Newark for the interim, while the arena is being constructed (or on hold) in Brooklyn. And I pointed out that the plethora of luxury suites made Newark attractive.


Posted by amy at 7:56 AM

Security and the AY arena, an update


Atlantic Yards Report

So, would the glass walls of the Atlantic Yards arena be as close to Flatbush and Atlantic avenues in Brooklyn as the Prudential Center seems to be to streets in Newark, necessitating the partial closure of streets there during arena events?

The situation seems similar if not directly parallel, and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods will have a press conference Sunday, calling for a state hearing on Atlantic Yards and terrorism security.

We don't have the clearest information, but the rendering (above) from AtlanticYards.com suggests that the glass-walled arena, as well as the glass expanse of Miss Brooklyn and the attached Urban Room, would be pretty close to the Flatbush Avenue. (The Atlantic Avenue arena facade also would have significant amounts of glass.)


Posted by amy at 7:52 AM

Residential Zoning Would Quadruple Prices, Creating Uncertainly Among Tenants


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sarah Ryley continues on the theme of artistic brain drain due to real estate prices in Brooklyn...

Bordered by the gentrified neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Park Slope, Gowanus has already proven to be a gold mine for a few lucky landowners, who recently sold to big-time developers like the Hudson Companies, Forest City Ratner, Toll Brothers, and the Lev Levine/Shaya Boymelgreen partnership.

The rest are waiting until the Department of City Planning officially releases its rezoning proposal, expected to allow housing on many of the industrial blocks for the first time and more than quadruple the property values. Meanwhile, the uncertainty has created uneasy times for the manufacturing tenants and estimated 500 artists who rent space there, unable to sign long-term leases and unsure of where they would go next if forced out.


Posted by amy at 7:46 AM

October 12, 2007

Walk Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Brit in Brooklyn posted this photo with a reminder that Walk Don't Destroy Brooklyn is this Sunday.


WDD 3 Kicks off at noon on Sunday, and there's still time to register.

"Walk Don't Destroy 3 will be an opportunity to help fund the DDDB legal campaign at a fun, interactive and exciting event. Join your friends and neighbors to help stop eminent domain abuse, massive over-development and the destruction of the Brooklyn we know and love."

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Walk Don't Destroy 3 listing also appeared under fundraisers in the events calendar of Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

2 Bdr Apts in Newly Renovated Townhouse

LexTownhouse.jpg CityCribs.com

2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, $1,300 / mth

Lovely 2 bedroom in newly renovated townhouse in historic Brooklyn neighborhood. Two units avaiable. Both feature high ceilings, open kitchens, new appliances, ceiling fans and sizeable bedrooms. Pre-war construction features seated windows, hardwood floors and decorative lighting. Top floor unit has a skylight. Each unit controls its own heat with individual thermostats. Available Now!

Be a part of the Brooklyn Renaissance! Live near Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn Nets and More! Minutes away from downtown Manhattan.

Serious applicants please call 718-501-9204 to schedule a viewing today.


NoLandGrab: By "More!" do they mean traffic, pollution, noise, construction debris and high-rises? Seriously, if Atlantic Yards is what really floats your boat, there are probably listings closer to the footprint.

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

Sponsorships: "Nets Bring it to Brooklyn" & "Forest City Ratner Companies"


Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

Uh-oh: Newark to close street bordering arena to guard against terrorism (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

AY-PruCent-AYR.jpgIn light of revelations that the new downtown Newark arena requires game-day street closings to address security concerns, Norman Oder assesses the issue of security and terrorism for Atlantic Yards.

Here's an excerpt, but it's really worth reading the entire article:

For Brooklynites, Newark's decision raises questions about the arena planned for the Atlantic Yards development, which similarly would have a considerable expanse of glass, a design feature vulnerable to a truck bomb, McCarthy's concern.

So, does the city of New York plan to close parts of adjacent streets, notably narrow Dean Street or even wider Flatbush or Atlantic avenues, during arena events in Brooklyn? If so, why was it not disclosed during the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) environmental review of Atlantic Yards, since it inevitably would affect traffic?

And if the city does not plan to do so, then what would make the configuration of streets near the Brooklyn arena that much safer than its counterpart in Newark? In the Star-Ledger, McCarthy described the "standoff"--the distance between the building and a potential terrorist threat--as insufficient on adjacent Edison Place and Mulberry Street, neither of which have residences across the street from the arena, as planned in Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, actually, the towers wrapping the arena would be mostly residential. Dean Street appears to be somewhat wider than Edison Place, but is by no means a major thoroughfare.

Dean Street would be the southern border of the arena block, as shown in the illustration at right from New York magazine. While the main arena entrances would be on busy Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the preferred (VIP) seating entry and entry to the loading area would be located on Dean Street.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM


Newark will shut streets near arena

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Jeffery C. Mays and Jonathan Schuppe

This one goes into the are-u-effin-kidding-me file.

For a couple of years Atlantic Yards critics have questioned the wisdom of locating a glass and steel skyscraper, atrium and arena at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, over a transit hub that was already the target of a foiled terrorist attack.

Apparently no one was thinking that hard in New Jersey:


With two towering glass entranceways, a high-definition scoreboard and a massive video screen visible from Manhattan, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark boasts all the features of a state-of-the-art arena.

Except for one thing: it was built too close to the street.

City officials said yesterday that the arena, due to open Oct. 25, isn't far enough from traffic to protect it from a potential terrorist attack.

To make up for the shortcoming, Newark will outfit surrounding streets with concrete barriers to keep cars and trucks from the entrance at the corner of Edison Place and Mulberry Street.

"You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy said. "So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

He added, "It will be safe on opening day."

McCarthy and Mayor Cory Booker, who took office last year long after construction began, declined to comment on who was to blame for the apparent oversight.

As far as he could tell, McCarthy said, a homeland security survey was never done for the site.


The story was also carried by the AP (via, WCBS880.com).

NoLandGrab: Seriously, Bruce Ratner claims to have commissioned a security and terrorism threat assessment, only it's top secret (maybe even double-secret). Maybe the evil geniuses at Forest City Ratner and the NYC Dept. of Transportation are sitting on a plan to close the intersection at Atlantic and Flatbush on game days and sell it to the public as a "traffic-calming measure."


Newark will shut streets near arena
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

With two towering glass entranceways, a high-definition scoreboard and a massive video screen visible from Manhattan, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark boasts all the features of a state-of-the-art arena.

Except for one thing: it was built too close to the street.

City officials said yesterday that the arena, due to open Oct. 25, isn't far enough from traffic to protect it from a potential terrorist attack.

To make up for the shortcom ing, Newark will outfit surrounding streets with concrete barriers to keep cars and trucks from the entrance at the corner of Edison Place and Mulberry Street.

"You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," Newark Police Di rector Garry McCarthy said. "So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

He added, "It will be safe on opening day."

McCarthy and Mayor Cory Booker, who took office last year long after construction began, declined to comment on who was to blame for the apparent oversight.

As far as he could tell, McCar thy said, a homeland security sur vey was never done for the site.

A terrorist threat to downtown Newark is no abstract concept. In 2004, homeland security officials revealed they had intelligence that potential terrorists had cased Prudential Financial's downtown headquarters. Permanent barriers were installed around the building.

The Prudential Center is the largest development project in Newark history, costing $375 million -- with most of the money coming from taxpayers.

Devils owner Jeffrey Vander beek said the building will be the "safest arena in the country."

"There have been constant assessments," Vanderbeek said. "This is a state of the art security system with all the bells and whistles. Anything security-wise is state of the art."

Prudential Center Security Di rector Leslie G.Wiser Jr., the former special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark Division, said he has conducted constant threat assessments since he was hired in February.

"I do a threat assessment on this building every day," Wiser said. "From the moment I arrived I began that process. I have looked at threats, the means by which they can be delivered, I looked at the potential target and I have worked hand-in-hand with police director McCarthy to mitigate the risks."

One result of the assessment is the decision to close portions of Edison Place. Discussions about closing that street -- and, possibly, a portion of Mulberry Street -- on event nights have been going on since at least the early summer.

"This isn't a last-minute thing on our part. We have gone over this with a number of stakeholders," Wiser said.

The security issue came to light yesterday morning, during a special meeting called by the city council to address fears that closing Edison Place would hurt nearby businesses. McCarthy said the city needed to close the street during events to protect the arena from the threat of a truck bomb, but drivers will be allowed to use Edison Place to enter a privately owned parking lot.

Several council members said afterward that they were troubled by the news.

"They are working on it but they started late," said Councilman Oscar S. James II. "The arena is opening in two weeks and I want to make sure we have a plan and people know what it is,"

Said Councilman Carlos Gon zales: "It was a surprise to hear, especially given the environment that we are in. With an investment of that magnitude and having 18,000 people in one place at one time, you have to take precautions."

Richard Monteilh, the business administrator under former Mayor Sharpe James who was the lead negotiator on the arena, said there has always been talk of closing the streets around the arena during events.

"The heightened time to protect the building is when its filled with people. Its an urban facility. You are not going to have a moat around it," he said. Monteilh said that the city's homeland security director and police were involved in security planning regarding the arena.

"We didn't want a siege mentality," he said. "The FBI building (in Newark) sits in a bomb shelter with closed-off streets that drove off life at the waterfront."

McCarthy said in an interview he first noticed the problem several months ago, when he toured the arena while it was still under construction. The so-called "standoff" -- the distance between the building and a poten tial terrorist threat -- was not sufficient on Edison and Mul berry. So he, Vanderbeek and Wiser started devising a plan to keep traffic away, he said.

They agreed to install concrete "Jersey barriers," like ones used as highway dividers, in both streets during arena events.

McCarthy said he is no longer concerned with the arena's safety, and neither should the public.

"Whatever steps were not taken in the past are being taken now," he said.

Staff writer Ian Shearn contributed to this report.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Moment of Truth: Court to determine if Ratner gets land

The Brooklyn Paper

Gersh Kuntzman reports from Appellate Court, where justices heard arguments regarding the reinstatement of the Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain case, Goldstein v. Pataki.


Judge Robert Katzmann asked [plaintiffs' attorney Matthew] Brinckerhoff why it mattered that the project benefits Ratner when it will also have a public benefit — affordable housing, a basketball arena and seven acres of new open space.

“But in this case, the motive was to benefit a private individual,” he responded. “Why [was] this decision was made without considering any other developer or any other plan or any other properties?”

Judge Edward Korman jumped in and suggested that the government had merely decided that Ratner was “best suited to carry out” the project. “Does that taint [the process]?” he asked.

Brinckerhoff said it did: “The decision to take the property was made after the developer was chosen. … Normally, you would assume the governmental would want to maximize the public benefit by finding a developer who could do the project for the lowest cost. … In this case, the process was predetermined.”

Though it appeared that the justices were aggressive in their questioning, they saved plenty of buckshot for ESDC lawyer Preeta Bansal.

In her opening remarks, Bansal said that “this matter begins and ends … with the multiple public benefits of Atlantic Yards. … This project will alleviate blight in 63 percent of the site. In and of itself, that is enough to end the case. This is a valid public project.”

When challenged by both Katzmann and Korman, Bansal said that even if the process had been fixed for Ratner, the condemnations would still be legal.

“Even if there [was] some ‘smoking gun’ memo [where] a public official said, ‘We want to do this for Bruce Ratner, that would make not an iota of difference,” she said. “It would not negate that this would remediate blight and make a stadium and affordable housing.”

She added that privately generated projects are not bad.

“The fact that this developer came to the city and proposed this project is of no constitutional bearing,” she said.


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Atlantic Yards case is strong

The Brooklyn Paper explains the difference between the Kelo v. New London landmark Supreme Court eminent domain ruling and Atlantic Yards:

There’s an important difference between that scenario and Atlantic Yards: New London did not take the private property to benefit the private developer who would build the Pfizer plant; indeed, the identity of the developer was determined only after a proper bidding process.

As the high court noted, that bidding process is essential: “It [would], of course, be difficult to accuse the government of having taken A’s property to benefit the private interests of B when the identity of B was unknown.”

But Atlantic Yards turns Kelo on its head. In this case, state officials did know the identity of B — Bruce Ratner — when it took property from A — the 13 plantiffs.

To get around Kelo, the state has argued that the public benefit of Atlantic Yards — the construction of a basketball arena, the creation of affordable housing, the covering over of a scar-like rail yard — makes it a prime candidate for eminent domain.

But at Tuesday’s hearing, two judges questioned that assertion, seemingly understanding that under the Kelo ruling, government is not “allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit.”

One indication of NY State's and Bruce Ratner's eagerness to advance the notion that Atlantic Yards is a public benefit is the sudden reliance on "blight" to justify the use of eminent domain:

State officials say that Atlantic Yards will also eliminate urban blight. But we find it very telling that the state commissioned its sham “blight study” only after the Kelo verdict — an indication that they and Ratner were anxious to fabricate yet another supposed public “benefit” of Atlantic Yards.

That lie was unmasked in the appeals court this week.


NoLandGrab: The court of public opinion understands the distinction between real "public benefit" and a pretextual one used to justify eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's PRIVATE megaproject — it remains to be seen if the appellate court agrees.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

Hit the road, Dolly!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

Dolly Williams speaks out against her critics after Borough President Marty Markowitz announced that he would not be reappointing her to the City Planning Commission. At issue are two major recusals due to conflict of interest and some uncivil-servant-like behavior:

“There are hundreds and hundreds of projects before us,” said Williams. “In my five years, I’ve recused myself maybe five times. I think most of the commissioners have at least done that. And I think we underestimate the ability of other commissioners to consider Brooklyn items.”

A Planning spokeswoman said that the Commission considers 500 cases a year, and confirmed that it is fairly commonplace for commissioners to occasionally recuse themselves.


Beyond Williams’s professional shortcomings, opponents also focussed on her train wreck of a personal life. In July, for example, a blogger uploaded photos of Williams’s yellow Porsche — with its city placard prominently displayed in the front window — parked at a fire hydrant.

She had refused to talk about the issue, but this week told The Brooklyn Paper that the photos were “a “cheap shot.” She said she was parked in front of the hydrant for just five minutes, while she dropped off a gallon of milk at her grandson’s house.

She also denied a blogger’s report she had sideswiped a car in front of the Tea Lounge in Park Slope while appearing intoxicated.

“I never get into my car when I have a drink or two,” she told The Brooklyn Paper. “I have never gotten drunk in my life, come to think of it.” (She did admit she had ripped off her side-view mirror in the incident.)
No litany of complaints about Williams would be compete without reference to a widely blogged photo of her cheering on Atlantic Yards at a public hearing on the project in 2006. Though she rooted for Ratner then, she’s currently entangled in an ugly billing dispute with Ratner over a mall project in Harlem.

Williams told The Paper that she has served “proudly,” but expressed discontent that her term has been so rife with controversy.

“I have done my job legally, ethically and morally correct,” she said. “Some of the other commissioners are in the real-estate business, too.”


NoLandGrab: Folks, it's all lies, cheap shots and misunderstandings: she has never been drunk, only parked in front of a hydrant once in the case of an emergency, and she would have told everyone that she was an investor in the Nets, only it leaked out before she had a chance, but now that everyone knows, "Let's go Nets!"

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Brian Lehrer Live: Online Battles: Atlantic Yards, Apartment Hunting, and Net Neutrality

BrianLehrerLive.jpg Brian Lehrer Live

In case you missed it, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report and Gowanus Lounge blogger and Curbed Editor Robert Guskind were guests on Brian Lehrer Live this week to talk about the the latest with Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject. [Start at 21 mins, 20 sec.]


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Marty skips gay Atlantic Yards talk

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

Borough President Markowitz has declined a gay Democratic club’s invitation to herald the positives of the Atlantic Yards project at a forum later this month, and, while he’s there, explain why he supported a notoriously homophobic Borough Park politician in his race for a Civil Court seat, telling the president of the group in an e-mail, “I have little interest in becoming someone’s punching bag.”

Markowitz had been invited to speak at the Lambda Independent Democrats forum on Oct. 22 after asking club leaders for a private meeting at which he could explain his endorsement of homophobic former City Councilman Noach Dear for the judgeship.

“I called you about the [Noach] Dear endorsement because I have, for all my years in public service, been a strong supporter of the LGBT community,” read Markowitz’s Sept. 18 e-mail to LID Co-President Christopher Murray. “My call to you had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, which is a totally different subject, and I have little interest in becoming someone’s punching bag.”
“Marty had requested that we have a private meeting,” said Fleishman. “We decided as a club that we didn’t want to discuss it in private, and that we were planning on inviting him to a forum to discuss Atlantic Yards.”


Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

On the Trail of Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

The NY Times
By John Strausbaugh

To bring you up to date on the land grab in Downtown Brooklyn on Duffield Street, last month, the City dubbed the street, "Abolitionist Place." Then last week, the City withdrew its eminent domain determination for two historic homes because, according to an HPD official, "the city had failed to enter a blight determination into the public record." We can expect the City to make another pass at trying to condemn and demolish these homes.

Today, the Times ran an article on the history of the Brooklyn Underground Railroad, including a visit to the Duffield Street homes. There's no mention that the "plans to demolish the small houses" included their seizure by eminent domain.

LAST month the City of New York gave Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn an alternate name: Abolitionist Place. It’s an acknowledgment that long before Brooklyn was veined with subway lines, it was a hub of the Underground Railroad: the network of sympathizers and safe houses throughout the North that helped as many as 100,000 slaves flee the South before the Civil War.
Even as the city unveiled the new sign, however, it was considering plans to demolish the small houses on Duffield Street as part of an economic development plan for downtown Brooklyn. New hotels, underground parking and a public square would replace much of what now stands on the block.

Joy Chatel, a cosmetologist who lives at 227 Duffield Street, and Lewis Greenstein, a retired city employee who owns 233, have fought that plan since it was announced in 2004. They believe their houses, both probably dating to the 1840s, were stops on the Underground Railroad and should be preserved.

In his sub-basement, Mr. Greenstein showed me what appeared to be a capped well and an exit shaft to the surface. Former tenants told him of finding old stoves and iron cauldrons there, since removed. It all led him to believe his house was “a feeding station” for escaped slaves passing through Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Panel Discussion: New Media, Old Media and Advocacy

CityRoom [NY Times Blog] By Sewell Chan


The discussion, “New Media, New Politics? Jane Jacobs and an Activist Press,” at the Housing Works Used Book Cafe in SoHo, was wide-ranging. Topics that came up included the quality of coverage provided by traditional newspapers, including The Times, affordable housing, immigration and the Atlantic Yards development in Downtown Brooklyn.
Norman Oder, who runs the blog Atlantic Yards Report, has often criticized newspapers, specifically The Times, for inadequacies and inaccuracies he sees in their coverage of the huge $4 billion, 22-acre commercial and residential project in Brooklyn. (He wrote his own account of the discussion.)

“The Atlantic Yards narrative was created by the developer, backed by the political establishment and too often aided by unskeptical or cheer-leading media coverage,” Mr. Oder said, adding: “My job is to challenge that narrative and to help build a more credible one. That does not necessarily involve activist journalism. Much of that is just responsible journalism, filling in the gaps, covering the meetings and court hearings, delving into documents, and filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act.”


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

Giuliani offers discount to young people

Openers, The Cleveland Plain Dealer Political Blog

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani will pick up some heavy checks for his campaign at a Cleveland fund-raiser Oct. 25 sponsored by Forest City Enterprises executive Sam Miller and a gaggle of other corporate guys. To get up close and personal with the former New York City mayor, supporters will have spend $2,300. Those who skip the photo will pay $500. An invitation to the event offers supporters under 35 a hefty discount: they pay $250.


Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

October 11, 2007

Walk Don't Destroy III, Details

WDD3Map.jpg From the Walkathon web site:

Walk Don't Destroy 3 is an opportunity to help fund the DDDB legal campaign at a fun, interactive and exciting event. Join your friends and neighbors to help stop eminent domain abuse, massive over-development and the destruction of the Brooklyn we know and love.

The court battles against the 'Atlantic Yards' hinges on our ability to fund our legal team. While we have two very strong legal cases and a stellar legal team, the community can't win without your help in raising money and awareness.

The walk is about 2 miles, and starts at noon at the Freddys Bar. The event will include hundreds of walkers and a closing community party at Soda Bar.

NOON -- 1 pm: SIGN IN:
Visit our tables at Freddy's Bar (on the intersection of 6th Avenue and Dean Street) to pick up your registration (or to register if you haven't already done so).

1 pm -- 3:00 pm:
Join the Grand Marshall to walk to Grand Army Plaza, around and back to the Soda Bar.

3:00 -- 5:00 pm:
Celebration event at the Soda Bar.

Google Map of the Walk

Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

Designing Public Consensus--it takes a lot more meetings

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the public really should be heard, right? That's the message of an article in the September issue of Metropolis, headlined Secretary to the Mob, and summarized as "Public-outreach specialist Barbara Faga really can’t complain about the growing democratization of design."

And the takeaway is that a good process would involve a lot more meetings than those leading to the approval of the Atlantic Yards plan. (That also suggests that the new UNITY plan is a start, not a conclusion.)


Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

Atlantic Yards got GIRL POWER!

Two familiar faces landed on the "100 Crain's Most Influential Women in NYC Business" list, Forest City Exec MaryAnne Gilmartin and ACORN Director Bertha Lewis.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, Forest City Ratner

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner Cos., is about to change Brooklyn forever. She is spearheading the colossal Atlantic Yards project, a $4 billion development that includes an arena designed by Frank Gehry, a 511-foot tower and 6,400 residential units. It ranks among the city's most important projects so far in the new millennium.

That Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner gave Ms. Gilmartin the job reveals her stature in real estate. With the Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building, she showed the field that it was possible to do a speculative project with a top-tier architect. Other developers are now following her lead.

Ms. Gilmartin, 43, says the paucity of female developers made it easier to carve out a space in her own style, which includes an artistic sensibility. She sits on the advisory board of the New York City Ballet and is a member of the Architectural League of New York.

"I've helped create a new image for developers," she says. "Women have a place in this world, and they can be authentic here."

— Elizabeth MacBride

NoLandGrab: Overdevelopment with style, that should ease the authentic concerns of women in Brooklyn.

Bertha Lewis, New York ACORN

Bertha Lewis has a passion for left-wing politics, and feet that are not at all pretty. Ms. Lewis, the executive director of the New York Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has logged thousands of miles collecting signatures, walking picket lines and getting out the vote.

Along the way, she has become the leader of a grassroots force that can make or break many a well-crafted business deal.

Ms. Lewis, 56, started down the road almost 20 years ago, fighting successfully for everything from squatters' rights to a higher minimum wage. In 1998, she helped found the union-allied Working Families Party.

The WFP is as much a lobbying group as it is the choice on a ballot line; politicians of all stripes routinely seek Ms. Lewis' endorsement.

"Once a year, I'm a popular girl," she says. "These are people that otherwise wouldn't bother to spit on me."

Ms. Lewis has recently used her clout to help derail one controversial development plan, Starrett City, and assist another, Atlantic Yards. This past summer, she helped 60,000 child care providers win the right to unionize.

Her vision extends beyond New York: Ms. Lewis is helping groups in half a dozen states establish liberal third parties of their own.

— Elizabeth MacBride

Is Bertha Lewis's grassroots street cred undermined by being on a most-influential-in-business list, or did that go out the window when she struck an affordable-housing deal with Forest City's Bruce Ratner, where most of the "affordable" units would be out of reach for her own group's core constituents?

Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

Dolan’s Problems May Affect Prospects of New MSG

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

The chairman of Madison Square Garden, Jim Dolan, may be the most polarizing owner in sports today, and that could mean big trouble for him in the near future. Dolan wants a new MSG, but he may have tripped himself up by being found guilty of sexual harassment in the Anucha Browne Sanders case; by possibly going to trial in another sexual harassment suit that has been filed by a former captain of the New York Rangers cheerleading squad, and by launching an antitrust lawsuit against the NHL. All of these legal actions could result in Dolan failing to get a new Garden built with funding from taxpayers.

NoLandGrab: Maybe Dolan should hire Bruce Ratner as the developer, because we can't find anything Bruce-built that doesn't have a hefty pricetag for the taxpayer.

The reality is that Dolan doesn’t need a new building, and the city doesn’t need to finance his dream. The city is already paying big bills for minor league baseball parks in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, as well as the infrastructure for the Yankees’ and Mets’ new stadiums. It will also put up a chunk of money for Bruce Ratner’s planned Brooklyn project, which includes a basketball arena for Ratner’s Nets.


The reality is that none of the NY teams need public financing for a new venue:

We're still waiting to hear the compelling argument for public funding of a new arena for the Dolans.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

The "activist press" and the "Atlantic Yards Narrative"

Atlantic Yards Report


Last night's panel on "New Media, New Politics? Jane Jacobs and an Activist Press" began with an introduction by the Municipal Art Society's Kent Barwick, who described how Jacobs once wore white gloves to a protest and later took them off for another--and how it was now time to "take off the white gloves." About 130 people attended the event at the Housing Works Used Bookstore on Crosby Street.

It was an interesting discussion, if not always focused on urbanism, given the diversity of the panel--along with me, panelists included Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush of El Diario, author Gay Talese, Jane Hamsher of firedoglake, a nationally influential political blog, along with moderator Sewell Chan of the New York Times's CityRoom blog.

I'll describe some of the back and forth below, but first the text of my main presentation. The images below were part of an annotated handout I distributed.


Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Atlantic Yards Again

Gotham Gazette's Wonkster rounded up the coverage of Tuesday's oral arguments before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals seeking the reinstatement of the federal eminent domain case with quotes from Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Report and dueling opinions from Errol Louis and Joshing Politics.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Attorney Says Atlantic Yards Project Was Designed To Benefit a Private Developer

Federal Appeals Court Hears Eminent Domain Challenge

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Elizabeth Stull

Thirteen residents and property owners in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards Project asked a federal appeals court yesterday to reinstate their case against the seizure of their properties by eminent domain.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Matthew Brinkerhoff, argued yesterday that any property taking would be unconstitutional because the project was designed by, and for the benefit of, Ratner’s private development company. Brinkerhoff told the three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the documents required to prove the case could only be obtained during the discovery phase of a federal trial.

Although there is a similar action pending in the state courts, no discovery will be permitted in that case. That case names the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as a defendant, but does not include other defendants named in the federal case, such as the governor and mayor.

“What would you hope to discover?” Judge Edward Korman, former chief judge of the federal Eastern District of New York, asked the plaintiffs’ lawyer yesterday.

Brinkerhoff said state and city governments used an illegitimate process to give Ratner the project.
The project would still be constitutional even if the families discovered that an e-mail from a public official said: “I want to do this for my friend Mr. Ratner,” [ESDC attorney Preeta] Bansal said. And it would be still be legal to take the land and clear out the families even if “there might be an illicit motive lurking underneath.”

The defense attorney argued that, “The plaintiffs confuse motive with purpose,” and called their discovery goals pretextual.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere90.jpg StreetsBlog, Walk Don’t Destroy Brooklyn 3

Park Slope Neighbors will be taking part in this Sunday's Walk Don't Destroy 3, a walkathon fundraiser to benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fund. If you have yet to enroll -- or even if you already have -- Park Slope Neighbors hopes you'll consider joining their team team for this critical fundraising event.

Sign up or learn more. If you're unable to take part on Sunday, consider making a donation to their walkers.

Who Walk In Brooklyn, Peter Falk’s Bensonhurst

Thankfully, with a cry of Solidarity!!– I’m with the Newspaper Guild– the good men of Carpenter’s Local 926 paused in their inexorable march towards fair wages & worker safety. That we take opposite positions on the Atlantic Yards issue was of small consequence; we’ve talked about it at their office on Commerce Street in Red Hook & agreed that, however this mess plays out, union laborblack is back deserves in.

BrklynStories: Real Narratives, Brooklyn Matters - A Documentary

This local documentary continues to make its rounds around the city featuring a thorough analysis of the powerful few behind the Atlantic Yards Project and reveals how much Brooklyn would change if and when this plan is put into place. The film will continue to appear at the following locations:

October 11 5:00 pm - Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 1500, NYC, RSVP: David Downs, 212-492-1420 (Sponsored by GENSLER)

October 22 7:00 pm - Hunter College, West Bldg., 8th Fl Corner of 68th St & Lexington Ave, NYC (Sponsored by the Center for Community Planning and Development)

November 5 7:00 pm - The Old Stone House 5th Ave btw 3rd and 4th Streets, Bklyn

Shawdenfreude, Defend Brooklyn!

Hey everyone check this out!!!
This is important.

WHAT: Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon Fundraiser-- A Better Brooklyn, One Step at a Time

WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 2007, 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (rain or shine)

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Forest City in the News

ForestCityJoe.jpg Affordable Housing Finance, Forest City Secures Big Loan for Ridge Hill

YONKERS, N.Y. Forest City Ratner Cos., a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, has secured $630 million in funding for Ridge Hill, an 81-acre mixed-use project that includes 135 units of affordable housing.

The construction loan for the project was the largest that Forest City has ever secured. The financing came from Bank of America, ING Real Estate Finance, and KeyBank Real Estate Capital.

The project has been dubbed a “regional lifestyle center.” A spokesman for the city of Yonkers said the mammoth complex, which also will feature 1.3 million square feet of retail and entertainment space and a total of 1,000 residential units, is a “mini-village.”

Ridge Hill also will feature 156,000 square feet of office and research space, a hotel, and a conference center. Two hundred of the residential units will be reserved for seniors.

Forest City acquired the land from Ridge Hill Development Corp. The complex is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

Home News Tribune, Sayreville to hear firms' ideas
When four developers were supposed to present their redevelopment proposals to the town of Sayreville, NJ for a 400-acre Brownfield site, guess which development company had to cancel because they had the only plan that "required a very substantial municipal contribution for infrastructure that the others did not request."

Yucaipa News Mirror , Oak Valley Partners previews planned shopping center
Forest City is consulting for a new mall in Calimesa, CA in the early stages of planning.

Oak Valley Partners has been consulting with Forest City Enterprises, a firm that designed the Victoria Gardens shopping center in Rancho Cucamonga. Ohanian said he hoped that Oak Valley Town Center would be similar to that shopping center, which includes a cultural arts center. He said that, with the addition of the Oak Valley Town Center, Calimesa could become “the place to be.”

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

October 10, 2007


...these articles and blog entries were published online after we'd left our desk at NoLandGrab HQ:

WNYC Newsroom, Ratner's Atlantic Yards Back in Courts
Brownstoner, AY Opponents Head to Court, Again
Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Gets Another Day in Court
Joshing Politics, "Atlantic Yards" Back In Court

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Atlantic Yards Project Challenged in Federal and State Courts

Today, the plaintiffs will ask the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to overturn Garaufis’ ruling and let the case go to trial. They are six residential homeowners, one commercial tenant (Freddy’s), and six residential tenants. Two of the residential tenants reportedly plan to settle with Ratner.

Reporter Elizabeth Stull is also following another Atlantic Yards lawsuit:

Another lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards Project was heard Friday in the state appellate court on Monroe Place, in Brooklyn Heights.

In that case, Anderson v. Urban Development Corporation, 13 rent-regulated residential tenants claim the state has failed to provide them with the relocation assistance they are entitled to receive under the state Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Act.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, George Locker, said the state’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) failed to do any kind of study or to make any recommendation about how they would find alternative housing that is comparable and affordable, except to say that it would provide them with a real estate broker.

Posted by lumi at 10:31 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Appeal Dismissal of Eminent Domain Case

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The appeal, heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, is one of few remaining legal options for the group opposing the seizure of property. If successful, the trial would likely be held in district court, which could delay or block construction.

A federal district court judge in Brooklyn, Nicholas Garaufis, dismissed the plaintiffs' lawsuit in June, before it could reach a trial.

In the arguments today before a three-judge panel, the landowners' attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff, said that a trial was necessary to determine whether New York State illegitimately awarded the project to the developer, Forest City Ratner. He noted that a competing proposal would have brought more money to the state and did not require the use of eminent domain.

"The taking here was motivated by a desire to benefit a particular private developer," Mr. Brinckerhoff said.

The state argued that allegations of motive are irrelevant since the public benefit of the project — a requirement in the use of eminent domain — was not in doubt.


Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

U.S. Court Hears Opponents of Atlantic Yards Argue for Reinstating Suit

The NY Times
By Alan Feuer

A federal appeals court heard spirited arguments yesterday on a lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn, but it reserved judgment on whether to reinstate the suit, which was dismissed by a federal judge in Brooklyn this year.


NY Times readers in Brooklyn are pretty used to the Times failing to disclose that the newspaper is business partners with Bruce Ratner, so it's really no big deal that the paper's legal reporter might have never heard about it, right?

The article falsely reports that the plaintiffs are "leaseholders of about a dozen homes and businesses scheduled to be condemned." The 13 plaintiffs are a combination of owners and tenants of residential and commercial properties within the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards footprint.

Click here to dash off a letter to the editor.

CityRoom, Arguments Are Heard in Atlantic Yards Case

On the other hand, Sewell Chan's report for the NY Times City Room Blog (with additional reporting by Feuer) contained the disclosure and characterized the plaintiffs as "a group of homeowners, business owners and residential and commercial tenants."

Chan's report also added:

The lawsuit, known as Goldstein v. Pataki, was filed in October 2006. It is one of the most significant eminent domain cases to be brought since the United States Supreme Court, in the Kelo v. City of New London decision in June 2005, held that public officials may transfer condemned property to another private interest if doing so would create a superior benefit to the public.

In the Atlantic Yards case, the plaintiffs have argued that any public benefit of the project was only incidental and a pretext for acquiring the land — and that the true purpose was to enrich the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, and its investors.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Fight against development continues

By David Freedlander

The plaintiffs also alleged that Ratner was given unfair preference to develop the site by elected officials, particularly former Gov. George Pataki, who was a former law school classmate of his.

"There are strong indications of an inappropriate, illegitimate public process here," said Brinckeroff outside the courtroom. "Government officials at every level here toed the line and said, 'OK, you are our old buddy from law school, we'll let you do it,' and that's a problem because Ratner decided what he needed was to take my clients' property."

Preeta D. Bansal, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corp., argued that the project will significantly improve a blighted area, even if it does benefit a private enterprise by bringing new parkland and better public transportation to the neighborhood.

She dismissed the contention that the plan was approved because of relationships between Ratner and various public officials.

"Don't confuse motive with purpose," she told the court.
Brinckerhoff vowed to continue the fight to the Supreme Court if his clients lost in the Court of Appeals.

His clients, living in the shadow of one of the biggest projects in New York City history and underneath a cloud of uncertainty, vowed to press on to save their homes.

"My constitutional rights have been violated," said Henry Weinstein, who owns a commercial property on the land that would be taken by the government for the project. "I feel like that is one of the most important things I possess."


Posted by lumi at 9:38 AM

Lawyer: Arena not a public use

AP, via amNY
By Larry Neumeister

We're taking excerpts out of order here to illustrate two of the main legal arguments.


Seeking to revive their lawsuit, Brooklyn residents whose homes will be lost to make way for a new arena for the NBA's Nets urged an appeals court Tuesday to let them find out if the developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project got a sweetheart deal.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, a lawyer for the families, told a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it should return the case to a federal judge in Brooklyn so they can research whether the land is being taken unfairly. ... He said the appeals court should let the case proceed so he can obtain e-mails and other correspondence between public officials and Ratner to see if the deal was purposefully made to avoid looking at other options or allowing other bidders on the project.

Meanwhile, the defense claims that motivation isn't at issue:

The project would still be constitutional even if the families discovered that an e-mail from a public official said: "I want to do this for my friend Mr. Ratner," [attorney for the defense Preeta Bansal] said. And it would be still be legal to take the land and clear out the families even if "there might be an illicit motive lurking underneath."

Brinckerhoff said former Gov. George Pataki had been a longtime friend of Ratner since they attended school together and Ratner had contributed to his political campaigns. He said Ratner also had ties to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"The motives of public officials are not at issue in public use analysis," Bansal said.


Brinckerhoff said the deal will let the Nets' principal owner, Bruce Ratner, kick longtime property owners out of their homes so he can build what essentially is a private business on public land.

"The notion that a stadium is public use is just wrong," he said. "A stadium is a private, money making enterprise no different than a hotel."


Preeta Bansal, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency using its eminent domain powers to condemn and seize buildings on the site, told the 2nd Circuit that the arena will be publicly owned and leased to Ratner.

"This is a valid quintessential public purpose," she said.

Bansal said the arena could be used by schools and would result in major transportation improvements and public space, including bicycle paths.

[This article also ran in the online edition of USA Today.]

NoLandGrab: This debate precisely illustrates why most Americans think that eminent domain has run amok. If ANY "public use" is a LEGITIMATE "public use" and the motivation of the politicians who approve the project is NOT RELEVANT, then eminent domain has become the US government's most expansive power.

Seriously, if the public purpose is to clear blight, build a bike path and give local schools a place to play ball, then allow the neighborhood to continue to redevelop, just as it was before the project was announced and much like the surrounding blocks not under threat of eminent domain, put in a bike path and build a real community facility where schools wouldn't be charged $100K a pop for the privelege.

If meager public benefits are pretextual and a project can be approved by three men in a room for the benefit of a politically powerful developer, then anything goes, the courts have failed to safeguard citizens' rights and the US Constitution is broken in this respect.

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

Judge Hears Arguments In Brooklyn Eminent Domain Case

Brinkerhoff-NY1.jpg NY1

article, video (dialup/broadband)

"The question is: what motivated the government officials who ultimately rubber-stamped this decision? Were they motivated by a desire to benefit the public? Is that what really is driving it,” said the plaintiffs attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff. “Or was it because somebody that they know and they have business relations with came to them with a good idea and they thought, ‘Why not? Let's do it, and we don't care whether or not it's really beneficial to the community.’"

The ESDC says it will not comment on the case until the court reaches a decision, which could take weeks. The plaintiffs say if they lose this appeal, they'll bring their fight to the state supreme court.

Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

Eminent domain appeal faces engaged but skeptical panel

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder filed the only blow-by-blow account of yesterday's oral arguments before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the federal eminent domain suit, including a stunning revelation that one judge on the panel once expressed support for Atlantic Yards:

Plaintiffs appealing the dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case this morning encountered an engaged but skeptical panel of three Second Circuit appellate court judges, who let the argument extend for an hour—well more than the initial time allotted—as more than 60 people looked on in the Lower Manhattan courtroom.

The plaintiffs—13 residential and commercial tenants and property owners—are challenging U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s dismissal of the case, as he ruled that the public purposes associated with the project—among them subsidized housing, blight removal, new transit facilities, and a sports facility—trumped any inquiry into the legitimacy of the sequence.

Then again, they gave plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff (right) a lot of time to explain his argument that the sequence behind Atlantic Yards—in which the project was promised to a private developer without any other bids—differed from that in the cases the Supreme Court had upheld eminent domain, and that Garaufis's ruling should be reversed so the case can actually go forward.
And while the judges did not press attorney Preeta Bansal (right), representing the Empire State Development Corporation and other defendants, as closely as they did Brinckerhoff, they did question her somewhat startling contention that, even if there were illicit motive in the case, as long as the project results in some public use, “that’s the end of the inquiry.” (The other defendants include Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Gov. George Pataki, and Forest City Ratner.)

Click here to read the entire article.

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

Markowitz Declines To Reappoint Williams to Planning Commission

Building Co. Exec Was Often Under Fire for Ratner Ties

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer


Borough President Marty Markowitz has decided not to reappoint construction company executive Dolly Williams, whom he appointed to the City Planning Commission in 2002, to another term.
She was often criticized in the press, even for a seemingly small matter as getting a ticket for her yellow Porsche being parked in front of a fire hydrant when she had her own private parking space nearby. But the main focus of the criticism against her, especially by such anti-Forest City Ratner Web sites as No Land Grab, had to do with her ties to Bruce Ratner and the Ratner-owned New York Nets.

NoLandGrab: Williams was NOT ticketed for parking at the hydrant. On the contrary, she displayed her NYC Gov parking placard in her window, presumably to dissuade parking enforcement agents from citing her.

Calling NoLandGrab.org an "anti-Forest City Ratner Web site" is peculiar. NLG is generally characterized as a critic of Forest City's Atlantic Yards project and the company's use of eminent domain, especially Bruce Ratner's division here in NY. But we're the only web site that attempts to observe the corporate culture of the entire Cleveland-based company, which includes some ambitious and progressive developments elsewhere in the nation, some of which even preserve and adaptively resue old buildings when possible.

In 2005, Williams had to recuse herself from any discussion on the City Planning Commission involving the Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and the Ratner-owned New York Nets because she and her husband were found to have a more than $1 million investment in the basketball team. The Nets, as part the Atlantic Yards plan, would move to a new arena in the Yards’ “footprint” near the LIRR rail yards.

Williams didn't voluntarily reveal that she was an investor in Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets ownership group. The story broke in the Brooklyn Paper and she was subsequently forced to recuse herself.

As each borough president only has one appointee on the 13-member City Planning Commission, Atlantic Yards opponents charged that Brooklyn had “no voice” if the important development plan comes before the commission.

More recently, Williams was barred from any discussion or vote on the Gowanus rezoning, this time because her company owns property within the area under consideration.

More recently, her firm has been involved in a building dispute at an East Harlem mall that is being co-developed by the same Forest City Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Prospect Heights Has a New Logo

I-footprint-PH.gif From Curbed.com:

...we present the latest in Atlantic Yards Footprint Pride fashion. It's a line of t-shirts and other items that ostensibly say "I Heart Prospect Heights," except that the heart is in the shape of the footprint that the Atlantic Yards development would take out of the neighborhood.

I-(footprint)-Prospect-Heights merchandise includes T's, mugs, totebags and attractive magnets from cafepress.com.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM


Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

Weeks beginning October 8, 2007 and October 15, 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

  • Drilling piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Test pile for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles is complete; additional testing to continue to confirm structural failure.
  • Preparing to mobilize to East Portal to drill foundation piles by creating earth ramps for drilling.
  • Preparing to mobilize to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge).
  • Preparing to begin drilling trestle foundation piles.
  • Continue soil excavation and removal in block 1121 west to east.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.

Abatement and Demolition Work

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

  • Roof abatement at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) has been completed. Clean-up will be underway within this two-week period.
  • Demolition at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) is anticipated to 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 6:22 AM | TrackBack

October 9, 2007

The missing Jane Jacobs chapter in The Power Broker

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is participating on a panel this evening on "New Media, New Politics? Jane Jacobs and an Activist Press," sponsored by the Municipal Art Society.

JacobsMosesBooks.jpg Here's an excerpt from Oder's latest installment, based on his research into Jane Jacobs:

Now that Jane Jacobs is back in the news, with an exhibit at the Municipal Art Society, Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, we should look forward to a lot more research into her life.

The one extant biography, Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary, by Alice Sparberg Alexiou, was published last year. (Here's a review by the Regional Plan Association's Alex Marshall and a review by architectural historian Peter Laurence.)

It will soon be supplemented by two scholarly books about her and her era. And someday a long-lost portrait of the urbanist by Robert Moses biographer Robert Caro should surface.
In May, I observed that "The Power Broker, Robert Caro's monumental biography of Robert Moses, oddly omits any mention of Jane Jacobs, now thought of as Moses's polar opposite, and the successful citizen protest against Moses's 1950s attempt to run a highway through Washington Square Park."

I got a response from Ina Caro, the author's wife and research assistant, via his lecture agent, who wrote, "Over 30 years ago, when she typed the original manuscript for The Power Broker, there was a wonderful chapter on Jane Jacobs--as good, she thought, as the one on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Unfortunately, when the book was handed in it was one million words long and had to be cut by a third -- 300,000 words. Entire chapters were cut. One on the Brooklyn Dodgers and Moses, one on the Port Authority, one on the city planning commission, one on the Verrazano Narrow Bridge and one on Jane Jacobs. She hopes those pages are still in storage and can be read someday when a library acquires Mr. Caro's papers."

In other words, Caro, no slouch at research, didn't ignore this angle.

Posted by lumi at 10:38 AM

City's Boom May Falter Over Costs

The NY Sun
By Julie Satow

New York City's building boom may be brought to a halt by something more mundane than monetary policy or global financial disruptions — it could be as simple as copper, diesel, and steel.

By the end of next year, the Producer Price Index for construction inputs — the price of materials that are used in a construction project plus the cost of diesel fuel — will rise by as much as 8% and continue to do so indefinitely, according to a report released yesterday by the Associated General Contractors of America. This is a drastic change from the previous 12 months, which saw construction inputs inch up just 1.6% for the year ending in August.
Higher prices for building materials, compounded by a weak dollar and problems in the credit market, could put in jeopardy some of the billions of dollars worth of development projects now under way in the city. Among these projects are the $3 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the $14 billion redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden, and the $2 billion expansion of the no. 7 subway line.


NoLandGrab: Add Bruce Ratner's controversial $4-billion Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 10:31 AM

Errol Louis: High five and hypocrisy

Here's a round-up of responses to Errol Louis's column, "Death throes for arena foes:"

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, CU and FCRC
In Richard Lipsky's high-five to Errol Louis's "epitaph for Develop Don't Destroy," he compares developer Forest City Ratner favorably with Columbia University, both entities that are seeking to use eminent domain to expand their holdings in their respective neighborhoods. Likpsky discloses that he has and continues "to work for FCRC on the Nets coming to Brooklyn," but does not offer that he is also working with "the West Harlem community-and its leading business owner Nick Sprayregen." The distinction he makes between the two is "affordable housing."

Pardon Me for Asking, An Open Letter To Errol Louis Regarding The Atlantic Yards Project
Blogger Katia Kelly published her hubby's letter to Errol Louis in response to Errol Louis's attack on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's federal eminent domain suit.

Mr. Louis, I have just read your article (10/7/2007) about Atlantic Yards and am surprised that you don't see the hypocrisy in this whole deal.

dddb.net, Reality Check Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn argues that Errol Louis missed just about every point, including the concept that the US Constitution protects, like, all citizens (we think):

Most troubling about Louis's "opinion" is that he actually argues that the exercise of Constitutional rights should not be a matter of right, but rather contingent upon one's tenure at a particular address or the whim of alleged popular opinion. One can only imagine that, in Louis's conception of the Constitution as the tool of a tyrannical majority, a newly naturalized American citizen would have a different, lesser set of rights than someone born in the United States. Perhaps it's time that Louis check his reality.

Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM

TODAY: Eminent Domain Oral Argument

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

500PearlSt.jpgWe encourage you to attend the oral argument on the appeal of the "Atlantic Yards" eminent domain case, Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al, this Tuesday, October 9th at 10am. The owner and tenant plaintiffs are asking the 2nd Circuit Court to simply permit them to prove their Constitutional claims at trial in the Eastern District Court.

United States 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan [Map].
Ceremonial courtroom on the 9th floor.
Please enter the building at the Pearl Street entrance.

We suggest arriving by 9:45am in order to get through security in a timely manner.


Posted by amy at 9:04 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...


Village Voice Blog, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Fight Back in Court

A handful of Brooklyn property owners and longterm renters who are trying to stop developer Bruce Ratner from using eminent domain to take their property will have what could be their final shot in court on Tuesday.

Beloved Dean Street watering hole, Freddy's Bar and Backroom and twelve other plaintiffs, both businesses and residents, will have another chance in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan on Tuesday after a district court judge in Brooklyn dismissed their lawsuit in June.

The plaintiffs are arguing that developer Bruce Ratner's use of eminent domain for the $4 billion basketball arena and condo project is unconstitutional because it may benefit Ratner more than it does the public good.

The plaintiffs argue that if the case should be allowed to move forward because the discovery portion of the lawsuit would reveal without question whether the process was skewed toward Ratner from the start.

Curbed.com, Atlantic Yards to Get Another Day in Court

Not that anyone would know based on how quickly parts of the site where the Atlantic Yards complex might rise in Brooklyn are being emptied of buildings, but one of the court cases that will determine whether it happens or not is still out there. (There's another separate case against the Environmental Review process that's still active.)

In the simplest terms, property owners who don't want to sell to the developer say that taking property for the project by eminent domain is unconstitutional. Our expertise in constitutional law ends there, but if the opponents win and get the case reinstated, they would get a trial in Federal District Court.

Links to yesterday's article in the NY Sun in:
The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards case reaches appeals court
How Appealing (a blog covering appellate litigation), "Appeals Court To Hear Atlantic Yards Case"

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...


My.BarackObama.com, Two for One/Walk for Obama and Develop--Don't Destroy Brooklyn (Community Service)

There is an opportunity to represent Obama as we join Develop—Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) for its 3rd annual Walk Don’t Destory, this Sunday, 10/14th. Obama has spoken out on the misuse of eminent domain, so this is a great way to support our local community needs and walk as a group to let others know Obama’s support of their cause. DDDB host this walk in an effort to raise funds to support the legal battle to prevent the Atlantic Yards project. When you register as an individual the site informs that a donation is not required, but is suggested.

Please see event details at the link below. If you’re able to join us, please remember to wear your Obama attire. Sign-in is at Freddy’s Bar (485 Dean at the corner of 6th Avenue) from 12 – 1 p.m. (please look for the Obama crew), we’ll then walk from 1-3 p.m. and wrap it up with a celebration at the Soda Bar.

Mole's Progressive Democrat, Lambda Independent Democrats Holds a Forum on Atlantic Yards

From Lambda Independent Democrats:

LID and the Atlantic Yards - Oct. 22nd

LID will be taking a hard look at the Atlantic Yards proposal. Until now, the club has remained neutral, but the time has come to take a position. We have invited Councilmember Latitia James (confirmed) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (unconfirmed) to talk about the pros and cons of this project. Please join us on October 22nd, 7:30pm at Camp Friendship located at 339 8 Street, just below 6th Avenue.

NoLandGrab: LID's consideration of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project comes better late than never. However, the timing is curious and makes one wonder if Borough President Marty Markowitz inadvertently lit a fire under local gay-and-lesbian-rights activists when he endorsed the famously anti-gay former City Councilman Noach Dear for Civil Court Judge.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

About those Hudson Yards bids, and the Vanderbilt Yard flashback

Atlantic Yards Report

Anticipation over the deadline to submit bids for the development rights for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Hudson Railyards in Manhattan has sparked a moment of reflection amongst Atlantic Yards watchdogs.

From Crain's New York Business:

About the only certainty as developers put the finishing touches on bids for the Hudson Rail Yards is that the offer, due Oct. 11, will top the $500 million that the city was willing to pay when it wanted to put a football stadium there. ...An appraisal commissioned last year by the MTA valued the yards at $2.74 billion. The agency plans another appraisal to account for current market conditions, but hasn't scheduled it yet.

Remember, the MTA's appraiser valued the Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn at $214.5 million. Some 18 months after Forest City Ratner was endorsed by the city and state political establishment to get the site, the MTA put it out for bids. Forest City bid $50 million in cash; the only other bidder, Extell Development Co., bid $150 million.

The MTA decided to negotiate exclusively with Forest City Ratner, which upped the cash component to $100 million. FCR argues that the total package should be analyzed; it valued the bid at $329.4 million dollars outside of the cash component.

(In the lawsuit challenging eminent domain, the complaint states that the MTA refused to answer technical questions from Extell; it's unclear whether that developer was able to present a complete package regarding railyard improvements. Perhaps we'll hear about that in the oral argument today.)


NoLandGrab: The record clearly illustrates that the MTA knows how to safeguard the public interest by maximizing the value of its real estate assets. The contrast between the disposition of the Hudson Yards and the Vanderbilt Yards in Brooklyn speaks for itself.

It would be interesting to find out how much developer Bruce Ratner paid for the development rights for the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

Forest City in the News

Though in NYC, Forest City is known for eminent domain-abusing overdevelopment, nationwide, the company is big into malls and biotech campuses.

CoStar.com, Forest City Names GM for Orchard Town Center
Forest City names GM for Colorado mall:

Forest City Enterprises appointed Nancy Rezac, CMD to the position of General Manager of The Orchard Town Center, a new 970,000-square-foot development at I-25 and 144th Avenue in Westminster, CO.... Orchard's Phase I opened last year anchored by JC Penney and Super Target. The second phase will add Macy's, a 12-screen AMC and several specialty retailers.

MidwestBusiness.com, The Ease, Difficulty of Biotech Business Beyond Midwest, U.S.
Forest City Enterprises Senior VP for New Business Dev. for the Science and Technology Group assesses the potential for Biotech beyond the US.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

October 8, 2007


...what might have happened if the Metropolitan Transporation Authority (MTA) had issued a good-faith RFP for the Vanderbilt Railyards at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal?

VanderbiltYards-aerial.jpg Crain's, Deadline looms for rail yard bidders

About the only certainty as developers put the finishing touches on bids for the Hudson Rail Yards is that the offer, due Oct. 11, will top the $500 million that the city was willing to pay when it wanted to put a football stadium there.

Meanwhile, the MTA is grousing about not being able to fund the potential boost in ridership anticipated by Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. Go figure...

The NY Times, M.T.A. Says Mayor’s Plan to Ease Traffic Will Cost $767 Million to Accomplish

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to ease traffic congestion by charging motorists who drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for new bus and subway services and mass transit improvements to accommodate tens of thousands of new riders, transportation officials say.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a report to a commission created to evaluate the mayor’s plan, estimated that expanded transit service and capital improvements for city and suburban riders who would give up their cars to get into Manhattan over the next five years would cost $767 million.

Posted by lumi at 10:40 PM


The Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) "Atlantic Yards Construction Update" for the two-week period to start today was not posted on their website, probably due to the Columbus Day holiday.

The irony is, when it came to getting the job done for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, the ESDC was willing to work through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. But when it comes to keeping the community informed, the agency is on holiday.

To be fair, last Thanksgiving the ESDC was operating under the regime of Ratner's college chum, Governor George Pataki. Eliot Spitzer is in charge now and everything changed after day one, which makes us wonder how much worse things could have been.

Once the ESDC gets back from vacation we'll try to remember to publish it.

Posted by lumi at 11:04 AM

SUNDAY: Walk Don't Destroy 3

WDD3-round.gifTomorrow's oral arguments in front of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the federal eminent domain lawsuit reminds us that these things cost money, lots of money.

Unfortunately, NY City and State do not subsidize lawsuits to save people's property from seizure by the State for heavily subsidized developers like Bruce Ratner, so it's up to us.

Join Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, this Sunday, October 14th, for the Walk Don't Destroy Brooklyn fundraiser.

Walkers can register online, or you can sponsor a friend or make a general donation.

Help save homes and businesses from Bruce Ratner's experiment in extreme density, and the spread of Ratnerville into our neighborhoods (as if MetroTech and two hideous malls weren't enough).

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

In eminent domain appeal, plaintiffs say illegitimate sequence means case deserves discovery

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the legal briefs and explains what's at stake at tomorrow's oral arguments before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in the federal eminent domain lawsuit:

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis already dismissed their case for a failure to state a claim, ruling that presence of some measure of public benefits—mass transit improvements, the removal of blight, subsidized housing, a sports facility, open space—trumped any allegation that the project might primarily confer a private benefit on developer Forest City Ratner.

There’s a difference, the plaintiffs argue in a final reply brief, and it has to do with process. Precedential cases, which drew on more egregious fact patterns—severe blight in Washington, DC (Berman), and a land oligopoly in Hawaii (Midkiff)—lead courts to defer to legislative determinations, as the Supreme Court in 2005 did in its narrow Kelo v. New London decision, upholding the use of eminent domain for economic development.

The brief says the courts must “resolve the obvious tension between and among” the three cases, which call for courts to defer to “a legislative determination that a taking serves a public purpose” but, as reaffirmed in Kelo, must look carefully at “plausible allegations that ostensibly ‘public’ purposes are pretextual and that the real purpose of a taking is to benefit a private developer.”

The plaintiffs--13 homeowners, business owners, residential and commercial tenants--suggest that, in this case, no deference is warranted, because “all of the indicia of legitimate public decisionmaking are absent, and most or all of the indicia of illegitimate private decisionmaking are present.”


NoLandGrab: In other words, the plaintiffs are trying to convince the Appeals Court that the court shouldn't defer to a "legislative determination" that the project serves a "public purpose," because events indicate that Atlantic Yards was a done deal, decided by powerbrokers in backrooms, in order to benefit Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Appeals Court To Hear Atlantic Yards Case

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

Opponents of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will argue before a federal appeals court tomorrow in one of their few remaining attempts to challenge the use of eminent domain for the project.

In June, a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn dismissed a lawsuit against New York State brought by a coalition of Prospect Heights residents and business owners affected by the project. An appeal of that ruling is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which sits in Manhattan.

The suit aims to block the Atlantic Yards project, claiming the state's intention to commence taking property and then handing the land over to private developer Forest City Ratner does not present a clear public benefit and is unconstitutional.


Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

L.A.'s major league play: Dodgers' 50 years in Los Angeles

LA Times
By Steve Springer

The story of the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles from the Left Coast perspective explains that eminent domain was invoked at Chavez Ravine well before anyone thought of building a ballpark on the site, but by the time the move was set in motion, the last remaining holdouts had to go.

In 1953, a seemingly unrelated event back in L.A. would push [City Councilmember Rosalind] Wyman's dream one step closer to reality.

Three years earlier, a letter had gone out from the Los Angeles Housing Authority to residents living on more than 300 acres of steep rolling hills near downtown known as Chavez Ravine. It informed them a public housing development for low-income families was to be built on their property, which they would be forced to sell at fair market value under eminent domain. The residents would be given the first opportunity to buy into the new project, to be known as Elysian Park Heights, or would be given public assistance in finding other homes.

"The Dodgers had nothing whatsoever to do with the moving of people out of Chavez Ravine," Wyman said.

Even after the season ended in Brooklyn on October 7, 1957:

There would still be unanticipated hurdles ahead, including a referendum on the move, lawsuits against the Dodgers, the ugly spectacle of the last remaining holdouts on the land being forcibly removed, and delays in stadium construction.


NoLandGrab: In NYC, Robert Moses refused to use eminent domain for a new ballpark for the Dodgers, but that's how they got it done in L.A. Cut to 50 years later: in order to heal the gaping hole left when a young Marty Markowitz had his heart torn out by the Dodgers' move to L.A., eminent domain is being used again in hopes of building an arena for the NJ Nets... eerie.

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

October 7, 2007

Breaking news: City withdrawing eminent domain findings

Duffield St. Underground

In response to the Eminent Domain Procedure Law Petition filed by advocates for the residents and businesses of Downtown Brooklyn, the City is withdrawing its eminent domain findings and holding a new hearing. This does not mean the City is starting over on the issue of historic preservation, but it gives Duffield advocates a chance to use political pressure to change the footprint of properties threatened with governmental confiscation.

This might be an important victory to those challenging the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning. Please stay posted as the situation develops.


Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

New York's soul lost? 'New York Calling' fills in some gaps


Atlantic Yards Report

At the discussion Wednesday, “Is New York Losing Its Soul?”, the first public program keyed to the Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit, panelists expressed varying degrees of dismay over homogenization and rising rents, as well as a general feeling of impotence.

There’s a growing consensus that much of Manhattan and certain gentrified Brooklyn neighborhoods suffer from what Jane Jacobs called ‘over-success,’ as the ‘pioneers’ (of their social class more than anything else) are priced out if they weren’t lucky or smart or well-heeled enough to acquire permanent digs.
So the lively New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, is particularly timely. As with the discussion on Wednesday, the book is light on crucial urban planning issues like housing policy, but it adds many worthy nuances and layers regarding the past 30 years.
As for Atlantic Yards, Berger is scathing: “Whatever happens—and the game is so rigged in favor of Ratner, it seems only the courts can stop or restraint him—the wounds are already deep, laying bare the mendacity that defines illiberal city (and state) politics.”


Posted by amy at 10:17 AM



Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service

NoLandGrab: As a companion piece to the Errol Louis column today, we thought we would share this story and photo from June 2007 that we seem to have missed. The photo is of Errol Louis on the right, Nets legend Darryl Dawkins on the left.

Brooklyn, NY - June 6, 2007 - The Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service celebrated 141 years of building stronger and healthier individuals, families and communities in New York City at a recent event at Bridgewaters in Manhattan. The 141st Anniversary Celebration event, which nearly 500 people attended, was generously supported by Barclays, the title sponsor.
The Honorable Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, and his wife, Jamie Markowitz, served as Honorary Chairs for the event. New York Daily News Columnist, Errol Louis, served as Master of Ceremonies, and New Jersey Nets legend Darryl Dawkins served as Celebrity Auctioneer for the Nets' live sports memorabilia auction.

Notable guests included Jason Kidd of the Nets; Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies; Gerard LaRocca, Chief Administrative Officer, Americas, Barclays Capital; Charles J. Hamm, Chairman Emeritus of the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service; and Brett Yormark, President and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment.


Atlantic Yards Report found this event announcement back in August and had this to say:

I don't know the Daily News's ethical guidelines, but if Louis worked at the New York Times, he'd probably be running afoul of the guideline that says:
[Staffers] may not lend their names to campaigns, benefit dinners or similar events if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or their newsroom's ability to remain neutral in covering the news.

Posted by amy at 10:09 AM

Death throes for arena foes

NY Daily News
Errol Louis gives such an error filled diatribe today, we're glad Norman Oder was up early this morning to deconstruct it:

Atlantic Yards Report: Deconstructing 'Death throes for arena foes'

In his Daily News column today, headlined Death throes for arena foes, Errol Louis repeats many of his past arguments against the Atlantic Yards eminent domain suit.

I've responded to most of them already.

He's also ignoring the existence of other lawsuits, including the challenge to the project environmental review, as well as a challenge to the state's relocation offer. And, personalizing the issue, he calls Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn "Daniel Goldstein's anti-project group," ignoring the many volunteers and supporters.

Smoking gun?

He additionally points out that there's no smoking gun that shows government officials illicitly green-lighting the project. The plaintiffs are asking for discovery, based on a sequence they call illegitmate--an angle of the lawsuit Louis won't address.

Posted by amy at 9:57 AM

You Gotta Expand

New York Times

Sure, Shea is far from fan-friendly, and a new stadium with more leg room, better sightlines, more bathrooms and concession stands will be a wonderful thing. And many of Shea’s upper-deck and outfield seats are crummy and often empty; even this year’s record-setting paid attendance of 3.85 million for the 81 home games meant nearly 10,000 unsold tickets per game (since Shea can hold more than 56,000 spectators). So it’s logical and — in an era overrun by unnecessarily grandiose projects (the Freedom Tower, Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards) — even heartening that the Mets designed something more intimate and suitably scaled.
(emphasis added)


Posted by amy at 9:52 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Downtown Projects, Taken Together,Would Equal a 474-Story Building


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt

For the first time, Brooklyn is offering lots of views, most of which are simply stunning.

In fact, if you add up the heights of the known development projects, excluding all of Atlantic Yards, we are building the equivalent, with 22 projects, of a 474-story building. Take that, Freedom Tower! And this staggering number of new residential floors does not include 14 other projects still in the planning stage, nor what may be built as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Nor, of course, does it include all the sky-reachers in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. This is strictly Downtown stuff.

NoLandGrab: Today, dear Reader, we thought we'd share with you the before and after photos of one of the new views in Brooklyn. Stunning, yes, but only in its resemblance to a prison cell. This new view resulted from a high rise luxury condo being built outside this NoLandGrabber's window...

Posted by amy at 9:43 AM

October 6, 2007


StoopSale2007.jpg PROSPECT PLACE (of Brooklyn) BLOCK ASSOCIATION (Flatbush to Underhill)

BLOCK STOOP SALE to Benefit the DDDB Legal Fund

The Prospect Place Block Association (Flatbush to Underhill) is coordinating a stoop sale on its blocks

Saturday, October 6th, 10 am - 2 pm.
(Rain date: Sunday, October 7th, 10 am - 2 pm.)

Proceeds will go to the legal fund of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, to support the lawsuits challenging the proposed "Atlantic Yards" mega-development by Forest City Ratner. The block association is one of over 20 community groups who have joined the lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the environment impact statement submitted for the proposal.

Posted by lumi at 2:38 PM

Gay Talese, fellow panelist, on journalistic objectivity and skepticism


Atlantic Yards Report

In preparation for the panel discussion Tuesday on New Media, New Politics? Jane Jacobs and an Activist Press, I decided to seek out relevant tidbits written by fellow panelist Gay Talese, author of The Kingdom and the Power (1969), a history of the New York Times.

Said to be an early practioner of "New Journalism" (a term he disdains), Talese in his career has relied on saturation reporting to set scenes and deploy dialogue. He naturally felt confined by a newspaper's conventions and, in his book on the Times, raised questions about the pursuit of objectivity. (I think fairness and integrity are better goals.)
Leaving things out

In the 1960s, the newspaper changed, and so did the Times's posture toward its once-sacred cow. The challenges today are more subtle and the problems less blatant, but they still exist. Why, exactly, has the Times failed to report on numerous issues, such as a close look at the costs and benefits of Atlantic Yards, or shown the project's astounding scale?


Posted by amy at 11:55 AM

Some on appellate court skeptical of ESDC in AY relocation case

Atlantic Yards Report

While on September 26, a state appellate court appeared unsympathetic to a challenge to the state’s demolition plans posed by rent-regulated tenants of two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, this morning some on another appellate court seemed more sympathetic to the same 13 plaintiffs as they challenged the state’s plan to find them new housing.

The state has promised to provide, at minimum, the services of a real estate broker, moving assistance, and a $5000 payment—but that, attorney George Locker argued, will hardly guarantee similarly affordable housing. (Of the 13 plaintiffs at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street, 12 have rent-stabilized leases, and many pay rents that are $500-$600. The case is known as Matter of Anderson v. New York State Urban Development Corp.)

“Isn’t it reasonable to assume there is some comparable housing” in Brooklyn, asked Justice Robert Spolzino, who was the most skeptical among the four-judge panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department, during the oral argument, which lasted less than 20 minutes.

Locker said it wasn’t. He said state law directs the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to offer those displaced accommodation into the project, but has not made any offer to his clients. (Actually, state law says the ESDC should do so if "feasible.")


NoLandGrab: A quick search on Craigslist for an apartment between $500-$600 in Brooklyn turns up 5 results. Two of them are not for apartments, but for renting a room in an apartment. One of them includes the caveat that you must work as the superintendent. Another has an income requirement of $16,800 - $24,800. That leaves one remaining real apartment, a $600 studio in Canarsie. I would suggest that the 13 plaintiffs hurry to apply, as it seems there will be stiff competition.

A commenter on Atlantic Yards Report asks, "Can someone explain to me this. If Bertha Lewis and Acorn is so interested in "affordable' housing, why then didn't they come publicly to the defense of these tenants. Yes, this is a rhetorical question. But I would like to hear from others."

Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

Debriefer: Comic Max Silvestri



We're going to imprison you in the city of your choice for the rest of your natural life. You can do anything you want there, but you must stay in that city forever. Where would you choose?
I will probably come off like a toolbox for saying it, but Brooklyn. It is a huge and amazing city with a lifetime's worth of places at which to drink, eat, and also drink. Also, thanks for specifying that I will only be forced to remain in the city for the rest of my natural life. It is good to know that if I die and science finds a way to put my brain in a robot body, I will be free to leave this hypothetical prison-borough. I imagine the Atlantic Yards to be the center of this terrifying panopticon.

NoLandGrab posters realize our readers are much smarter than us, but just in case the other NoLandGrabbers are reading this...
a building, as a prison, hospital, library, or the like, so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point.

Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

Borough of Writers: Q & A: Colson Whitehead


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brad Lockwood interviews author Colson Whitehead, who describes the beginnings of Brooklyn's creative brain drain:

To paraphrase one of your pieces, ‘Where is that crack house I should have bought?’
Right now it’s next to Atlantic Yards. So I guess Ratner should have bought it for a lot of money [laughs]. In ’93, at that point, there was a sort of mystique about black Fort Greene, bohemian center of writers and artists, Spike Lee, you know? And it was cheaper than Manhattan, so I went and I stayed. That’s where I came of age as a writer.

How do you think development will impact Brooklyn’s literary scene?
I think people are writing and living in Brooklyn because it’s cheaper than Manhattan. But Park Slope’s now a very expensive place to live. Williamsburg is expensive. So, if I were starting out, where would I move? Sunset Park? Queens? The Bronx? Because the city is so expensive, it will determine where the next generation sets up shop.


Posted by amy at 10:53 AM

Land is the new currency in sports

Sacramento Bee
Terri Hardy and Mary Lynne Vellinga see that the easiest way to explain tricky financing for arenas is to start with poster boy Bruce Ratner:

The mother of all the new sports/development plans, however, is the proposal for a fleet of 16 high-rises surrounding a new Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets. Designed by star architect Frank Gehry, the towers would contain 6,400 apartments and condominiums.

While such development plans hold appeal because they don't raise taxes, they still can stir controversy. They often involve less obvious public subsidies -- such as the donation of land or money for streets and utilities -- that can total many millions of dollars.

The city and state of New York are collectively spending $300 million for infrastructure serving the Brooklyn project by Forest City Ratner, a development firm headed by Nets owner Bruce Ratner. Opponents assert that the true subsidies for the development, including tax breaks for the housing, top $1 billion.


Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

October 5, 2007

Jane Jacobs on Kelo; her attorney on post-Kelo legislation

Atlantic Yards Report


Would the late Jane Jacobs have opposed the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project? (A crucial appeals court argument in the case will be heard Tuesday.) We can't be certain, but it's likely, given evidence she was deeply skeptical of eminent domain. And, as I've written, I think she'd find reasons to oppose AY.

Indeed, she filed a brief in the 2005 Kelo v. New London lawsuit, on behalf of the plaintiffs, who lost. One of several amicus briefs in the case, it was authored by Ilya Somin, a professor at George Mason University School of Law with a strong libertarian bent. (Jacobs, essentially a pragmatist, had libertarian leanings.)

Norman Oder mines the Jacobs brief for comparisons and contrasts to Bruce Ratner and the State of New York's controversial plans to use eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 1:52 PM

Park Slope a great neighborhood, but then there's "over-success"

Atlantic Yards Report

While Norman Oder is on his way to become one of Brooklyn's foremost scholars on Jane Jacobs, he filters yesterday's announcement by the American Planning Association designating Park Slope as "one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2007" through Jacobsean lenses — the issues of "over-success" and "economic diversity."


Posted by lumi at 1:20 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

BruceHomeboy.jpgThe Knickerblogger, Seroiusly Could Dickens Have Come Up With A Better Villian Than Bruce Ratner?
Knickerblogger outlines "super-villian" Bruce Ratner's "ethics problem," but "seroiusly," can someone send this blogger a dictionary?

NoLandGrab: Lumi would lend out hers but she seriously needs it.

Die Hard Fans Anonymous, The Dirty Dozen

One sports fan lists his picks for the 12 worst franchises in pro sports, and is under the impression that Ratner's project in Brooklyn "cannot get off the ground... If only the Brooklyn deal could just get done, then these Nets would rocket up the rankings."

Yeah, if only the arena were finished, then order would be restored to the universe.

Posted by lumi at 1:15 PM

Ratner's Ex-Knicks

Former Knicks shooting guard Allan Houston is weighing a decision to sign with the Nets, which, according to Nets Daily, wouldn't be the first time an ex-Knick was poached by Bruce:

NY Daily News, Source: Allan Houston weighing Knicks or Nets

Allan Houston will decide by Friday whether to attempt his comeback with Stephon Marbury and the Knicks or Jason Kidd and the Nets, according to a person close to Houston.
Considering the turmoil facing the franchise in the aftermath of the Isiah Thomas trial, Houston might be better served to distance himself from the current regime. The Knicks have the maximum 15 players under contract and are trying to find a spot for second-round pick Demetrius Nichols. Adding Houston may seem like a good public-relations move, but Houston's presence could delay Nichols' and Nate Robinson's development.

The Nets would provide a more stable environment. Plus, New Jersey gives Houston a better chance to compete for a championship. Houston played with Kidd and Vince Carter on the 2000 Olympic team.

In the 'Zzone, Net Gains?

It comes down to this: Is winning more important than loyalty? To you and I it would seem to be a no-brainer.

Would you want to play with Jason Kidd or Stephon Marbury? Would you want to play for Rod Thorn or Isiah Thomas? Do you want an owner like Bruce Ratner or Jim Dolan? To you and I, no brainers.

NoLandGrab: Would you want to play for an organization reeling from a sexual harassment verdict against head coach Isiah Thomas, or one that is using eminent domain to take people's homes for a new arena — decisions, decisions.

Nets Daily, Nets Grabbing Knick Execs
Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets front office is using the MSG front office as their farm team:

Since Brett Yormark, president and chief executive of the Nets, took over nearly three years ago, the Nets have recruited several key executives from Madison Square Garden to join New Jersey’s operation.

Among them:

  • Petra Pope, Nets’ vice president entertainment and event marketing, the creator of the Knicks City Dancers;

  • Kimberlee Garris, the Nets’ entertainment manager who danced for Pope at the Garden;

  • Neil Davis, chief revenue officer, of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and a former Executive Vice President, Advertising Sales, at Madison Square Garden.

  • Joe Stetson, senior marketing director for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment.

It’s part of Yormark’s overall upgrade at the Nets offices in East Rutherford. Sports Business Journal reports that Yormark has nearly doubled the franchise’s staff since taking over in January 2005, going from 75 then to 138 now. The team has also more than doubled its sales staff to 30 employees. Some of those also once sold tickets for the Knicks.

Posted by lumi at 12:32 PM

RIP, Mr. Muschamp (AY="Garden of Eden")

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards watchdogs will remember the quote by the late Herbert Muschamp, from the project's media debut in The New York Times, "A garden of eden grows in Brooklyn," which made a great tag line for Forest City Ratner's first flier (click to enlarge) and gave project critics their first reason to cancel their subscriptions.

Former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, who died Tuesday, "was governed by passion," wrote Times colleague Verlyn Klinkenborg in an affectionate editorial appraisal, citing "a passion for passion itself... I think he also had a passion for equity — moral, social and aesthetic."

Ok, but there's more. He seemed most of all concerned with the esthetic experience of a building, often decontextualized. By ignoring “the experience most people have,” Muschamp “helped create the world of starchitects,” commented the Boston Globe's Robert Campbell at a May 2006 panel.

Indeed, as I wrote, Muschamp's 12/10/03 review of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards design was an unqualified--and unreflective--rave, offering no reflection on the impact of development.

Posted by lumi at 11:56 AM

Ratner exec helps bags Meadowlands naming-rights deal: Welcome to Izod Center

IZODCENTER.jpgIzod was selected as the new corporate sponsor for the Meadowlands Arena on the same day the NY Post reported that "the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority asked Brett Yormark, president and chief executive of Nets Sports and Entertainment, to help line up sponsors to rename the Continental Airlines Arena."

AP, via amNY, New Jersey arena to be named Izod Center

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has awarded clothing maker Izod, best known for its sports shirts, naming rights to the arena at the Meadowlands. The building will be called the Izod Center.
Two other clothing companies _ Rocawear and Southpole _ had also been bidding to have their name on the arena. Rocawear was co-founded by Def Jam Records president Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, who also is part-owner of the Nets. Southpole is based in nearby Fort Lee.

Izod's 5-year deal is for roughly the same amount, but the Authority's chairman, Carl Goldberg, said Thursday that Izod will pay in cash only. Goldberg estimated that the total value of the contract is closer to $2 million per year when other factors are considered, such as Izod's commitment to provide marketing and advertising for arena events.

Though the Nets plan to move to a proposed new arena in Brooklyn sometime after the 2008-2009 season, team president Brett Yormark was instrumental in soliciting bids for the naming rights.

NoLandGrab: "Sometime after the 2008-2009 season?" Is that like, wa-a-ay after?

It's kinda weird that Yormark is working both sides of the deal: the Nets are trying to get out of the Meadowlands as soon as possible; meanwhile, their president just helped to facilitate a deal that will presumably provide less value for the corporate sponsor if the Nets get out of the Meadowlands as soon as possible.

Posted by lumi at 10:54 AM

The obvious headline is: "GOODBYE DOLLY"

HardbeatNews.com, Trinidad-Born Brooklyn Commish Was Consistent Supporter Of Brooklyn Borough Prez.

This week, Hardbeat News analyzed campaign-finance records and discovered that City Planning Commish and NJ Nets minority shareholder Dolly Williams and members of her family have contributed, over the years, up to $18,950 to her political patron, Borough President Marty Markowitz. That's more than all of their other campaign contributions to local and national candidates combined.

This all may be moot, because...

NY Daily News, Brooklyn Beep will replace City Planning rep Dolly Williams

...a string of controversial and embarassing actions and revelations seem to have forced Marty Markowitz to not reappoint the disgraced Park Slope resident, despite their close ties.

Borough President Marty Markowitz ended months of speculation Thursday when he announced he would not reinstate his Planning Commission appointee, Dolly Williams, to a second five-year term.

"We have come to the joint decision that in this time of great growth and change in Brooklyn, when there are many voices seeking to be heard on land-use matters, it would be best for a new appointee to assume the Planning Commission position," Markowitz said in a statement that praised Williams' role in bringing additional housing and parks to Brooklyn.

"I have asked Dolly to serve until the new appointment is made, and she has agreed to do so," he added.

To recap Dolly's woes from today's articles:


Williams has caught heat for having to recuse herself from voting on at least two development projects in Brooklyn in which she has financial interests, the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project and a Gowanus rezoning effort. (Daily News)


Adding to her embarrassment, bloggers posted pictures in August of Williams' flashy yellow Porsche, which was adorned with City Planning placards while parked illegally in Park Slope. (Daily News)


Just last month, court records show that a judge ordered compensation of over $200,000 for plaintiff, Safeco Insurance Company of America, in its cases against A. Williams Trucking and Backhoe Trenching Inc.

Safeco Insurance claimed it suffered thousands in losses for both a Medgar Evers contracting project and a Harlem Auto Mall project for which it had entered into an indemnity agreement with Williams’ company. Safeco claims it was forced to pay thousands to unpaid subcontractors of A. Williams Trucking and Backhoe Trenching Inc., who claimed payments from them under the terms of a Labor & Material Payment Bond. (Hardbeat News)


Her private company is involved in a billing dispute at a Harlem mega-mall being built by Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project. (Daily News)

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Groundbreaking news at Forest City's other "Yards"

For those of you who are keeping tabs on what Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises is doing elsewhere in the nation, here's the groundbreaking news from their other project, called "The Yards."

DeborahRatnerSalzberg.JPGWashington Post, A Chorus of Praise for the Yards

For decades, the 42-acre stretch of Anacostia River waterfront was a walled-off preserve controlled by the federal government, a place where the Navy once made torpedo tubes and boilers for its ships.

Now, a developer plans to transform that stretch into 5.2 million square feet of condominiums, offices, restaurants, high-end retail and a five-acre park, all of it a stone's throw from where the Washington Nationals' stadium is being built.
The Forest City development is among a slew of projects that are transforming the once-industrial section of the city. On the north side of M Street SE, a developer is building residential, office and retail space along the broad swath that was once home to the Capper/Carrollsburg public housing project.

On M Street, bordering the Forest City project, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently opened a new headquarters.

Washingtonian.com, “A Renaissance of Our City”

Forest City, a real-estate company headed locally by Deborah Ratner Salzberg, is working closely with the federal General Services Admistration, which still owns the land—originally part of Washington Navy Yard. “This has and will continue to be a very significant public/private partnership that will pay dividends for District residents for a long time to come,” Salzberg said.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

$weetest deal for Domino lobbyists

The Brooklyn Paper

The Domino developer laid on the lobbying pretty thick, but Bruce is still #1.


A development firm hoping to build nine luxury condo towers on the Williamsburg waterfront has paid lobbyists more than a half-million dollars to convince city officials to approve its plan.

Over the past two years, Community Preservation Corporation paid the firm Herrick Feinstein at least $537,000 to prod the city to OK the zoning change necessary to build the $1.2-billion, 2,400-unit project on an 11-acre Domino Sugar site currently set aside for manufacturing.
Those lobbying figures pale by comparison to Forest City Ratner, which spent more than $2 million to lobby state and local officials to support the Atlantic Yards project in 2006, state records show.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Developers' Playbook: Hammer down the nail house

Every mega-developer does it!


When you can't get a property owner to agree to sell, or they stubbornly resist the government's power to seize their property for a private developer, you take down every building you possibly can, thus removing the neighborhood, creating a barren landscape for remaining residents, and putting screws to the owner.

In China, these buildings are poignantly called "Nail Houses." This latest nail house, is located in Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong Province (see, Zona Europa, The Shenzhen Nail House). This nail house is not to be confused with the Chongqing nail house, which was covered by the international press earlier this year after pictures were circulated on the Internet.

Bruce Ratner is in the process of creating the same conditions in Brooklyn (see, Atlantic Yards Report, "Coming demolitions mean "urban room" at crucial corner").

The most unfortunate aspect of this tactic, is that, in the end, even if a property owner is able to convince a judge to protect his private property rights, nearly an entire neighborhood has been wiped off the map and the damage to the community and municipality has already been done. The most recent example that comes to mind is in Norwood, OH.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

City Planner Calls Eminent Domain Condemnees "Hostages"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The NYC Planning Commission's hearings on the Columbia University expansion plan provide a good example as to why Bruce Ratner and his political supporters were eager to avoid NYC's land-use reivew process, in favor of the less stringent State process.

Clearly, Bruce would want to avoid city officials mouthing off for the wrong team:

...one city planning commissioner--Irwin Cantor--expressed the same outrage business and homeowners in Prospect Heights and in West Harlem have expressed about the abuse of eminent domain, in one case by Columbia U. and the ESDC, and the other by Forest City Ratner and the ESDC.

From the Spectator:

CU Questioned On Expansion By Anna Phillips and Melissa Repko

...[Columbia University Senior Executive Vice President Robert] Kasdin also took heat from [City Planning] commissioner Irwin Cantor, who said that by threatening to use eminent domain on businesses that refuse to sell, the University is “holding the owner hostage."...

It's no wonder that Forest City Ratner and its political supporters wanted to avoid that kind of scrutiny and criticism of "Atlantic Yards" by avoiding the oversight of every elected and appointed official in New York City from the Community Boards on up to the City Council.


Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

P.S. I Love You: Met life is the only life for him

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

We can really relate to Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman's manifesto on the character-building attributes of another disappointing NY Mets season. Save-Brooklyn-from-Bruce-Ratner's-Atlantic-Yards activists have been "building characters" for nearly four years now, but, unlike Mets fans, local activists only have to actually win once.

After you get past Gersh's whining, there's this little tidbit that makes the Brucester seem like a sort-of-OK guy afterall:


You may know Bruce Ratner as the man who wants to fill Prospect Heights with 16 skyscrapers, but we know him as the guy who’s letting our Park Slope pal Ben Rubin install his beloved multi-media installation, Listening Post, in the lobby of the gorgeous new Times building in Gaphattan. What can we say, the man showed real taste this time.


There has been no word on whether or not arts patron Bruce Ratner has tried to acquire Future Perfect for his "permanent collection."

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Changes Afoot at Grand Army Plaza

NY Sun
By Francis Morrone

Brooklyn's pre-eminent artchitectural historian takes stock of big changes happening at Grand Army Plaza. In his assessment of the Richard Meier building, branded "On Prospect Park," he imagines a more suitable setting and takes a swipe at Atlantic Yards:


Mr. Meier's building might be perfect elsewhere. Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights begins with a bang at Grand Army Plaza, then, several blocks on, at Atlantic Avenue, hits the Vanderbilt Yards, where Forest City Ratner intends to build its Atlantic Yards megaproject. At Vanderbilt and Atlantic, the rather breathtaking prospect of open yards ringed by big and sometimes beautiful reinforced-concrete industrial buildings suggests, as much as does the arch in Grand Army Plaza, that a certain kind of development take place. It strikes me that Mr. Meier's building, which partakes of an aesthetic in part informed by the structural frankness of early 20th-century "daylight factories," would fit splendidly into this context — were gorgeous (and enormous) buildings such as the Ward Bakery (1913) allowed to remain. (Ward is being dismantled right now.) Instead, Forest City Ratner insists on a freak-show ensemble of towers by Frank Gehry.


[Image http://www.onprospectpark.com/]

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

October 4, 2007

Walk On

Brooklyn Based

The organizer of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon talks about how he got involved in the fight against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject:

“I had an inkling the Nets might be coming to Brooklyn,” says [Scott] Turner, who was psyched until he learned the full extent of Bruce Ratner’s plan, and how it would destroy his old haunt, Freddy’s. “I played a lot of music at Freddy’s, and that was my Mother’s Against Drunk Driving moment, the moment I got involved.”

Recruits to the Atlantic Yards opposition are filled with regular Joes who signed on because the project would wreck their lives – if it happens as Ratner has planned. Two lawsuits have delayed substantial work on the 22-acre footprint, costing the developer $4.15 million a month.

“I think a lot of us thought it was going to come down to court cases anyway,” says Turner, a member of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s steering committee, and the organizer of the third annual DDDB walk-a-thon to help fund the legal battle against Forest City Ratner. The first year they raised $50,000, then doubled the amount last year, and are hoping to do the same this Oct. 14, when participants will walk, “New Orleans, Second Line march” style from Freddy’s to Soda Bar, where there will be prizes for “most money raised, best costume, best festooned dog and whatever else we come up with along the walk.”


NoLandGrab: It's TEN DAYS until the Walkathon. REGISTER HERE or SPONSOR SCOTT.

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM


NY Post
By Holly M. Sanders

Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment - an affiliate of Ratner's ownership group Nets Sports and Entertainment - is launching a naming-rights division to secure sponsors for other sports and entertainment venues.

The move comes after Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment got Barclays Bank to pay $20 million a year to put its name on the new Brooklyn arena, where the Nets hope to play in 2009.

More recently the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority asked Brett Yormark, president and chief executive of Nets Sports and Entertainment, to help line up sponsors to rename the Continental Airlines Arena.

"We've sold two naming rights in the same market in the last 10 months, which has never been done before," Yormark said in an interview.

The three bidders in the running - Izod, Rocawear and Southpole - are all apparel companies. Rocawear was founded by hip hop mogul Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, who is a part owner of the Nets.

The Sports & Exposition Authority is expected to vote today on which of the companies will get to rename the Meadowlands arena.

Yormark said the Nets' marketing muscle has drawn interest from colleges and art centers, among others, that are keen to secure their own naming-rights deals.


NoLandGrab: We hope the public understands that sports teams get subsidies from government (that's YOUR money) and tax breaks, and some even benefit from eminent domain, but the revenue from these naming rights deals goes straight into the teamowners' pockets.

In the case of Bruce Ratner's new Nets arena, the Barclays deal will pay for most of the costs of construction.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

Is New York losing its soul? Sort of, panelists say (and one targets AY)

Atlantic Yards Report


“Is New York Losing Its Soul?” was the topic last night in the first installment of the series of public programs keyed to the Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit sponsored by the Municipal Art Society. The panelists at the Donnell Library auditorium, facing an audience of some 250 people, expressed varying degrees of dismay over homogenization and rising rents, as well as feelings of impotence in a developer-friendly city. And Atlantic Yards was again the poster child for unwelcome development.

Leading off, moderator Clyde Haberman, a New York Times Metro columnist, brought up the relentless march of chain banks and chain drugstores. “I suspect history will smile on the Bloomberg administration,” he said, but “it has yet to meet a developer to which it wishes to say no.” (That’s not quite true, given the administration’s posture toward Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities in Coney Island.) The one example he referenced—noting that panelist Alison Tocci of Time Out New York wanted to discuss it—was Atlantic Yards.


There was a post on the NY Times blog and an article in amNY about the forum.

City Room, Panel Discussion: Has New York Lost Its Soul?
amNY, Has NYC lost its soul?

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

Forest City in the News

ForestCityBumBoat-sm.jpg CLEVELAND

The big news from the Cleveland headquarters of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City is that long-time CFO Tom Smith has announced his retirement. Robert O'Brien, currently Forest City's Executive VP of Strategy and Investment Management, has been named to succeed him.

From Crain's Cleveland, Forest City's longtime CFO to retire:

The Cleveland-based real estate giant said current CFO Thomas G. Smith will retire on or about April 1, 2008, following the filing of Forest City’s Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Smith has been the company’s CFO since joining Forest City in 1985.

Forest City said Robert G. O’Brien will assume overall leadership of financial activities next Feb. 1, which is the beginnin of the company’s fiscal year, and will become executive vice president, chief financial officer concurrent with Mr. Smith’s retirement.

Reuters, Forest City Enterprises CFO to retire
AP, via CNNMoney.com, Forest City CFO to Retire Next Year


In other Forest City news, there was a big groundbreaking in DC yesterday:

nbc4.com, District Breaks Ground On Anacostia Waterfront Project

Officials broke ground Wednesday on one of the largest real estate development projects on the East Coast.

A 42-acre site along the Anacostia River near the city's new baseball stadium will feature retail, housing, parks and offices.

"More than 35 development companies are part of the project," including Forest City:

With a band as a backdrop, Forest City developers and city officials formally announced initial construction of the 20-year project called "The Yards" on Wednesday. Some parts of the development are set to open as early as 2009.

Washington Business Journal, Work officially begins revitalization of old Navy Yard site

Forest City Washington broke ground Wednesday on The Yards, a 42-acre redevelopment on property that used be part of the Washington Navy Yard.

The area, formerly called Southeast Federal Center, will be home to 2,700 residential units, 1.8 million square feet of office and retail space. D.C. officials estimate that the project will have 3,700 residents and add 7,700 jobs, which would generate $450 million in annual paychecks.

Washington Times, Ground broken on SE project
What would a major development project be without the opportunity for people to "live, work and play" near a new sports venue?

The space has long gone unused and blocked public access to the Anacostia waterfront. The project is expected to revitalize what was once an industrial area.

"The development along M Street [Southeast] and in the area will be a new neighborhood where people can live, work and play in ... an area that used to be dumping grounds," said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat.

The Yards is three blocks from the Nationals' new baseball stadium, which is slated to open in the spring. It will feature a 5½-acre waterfront park with green space, walkways, a marina and a water taxi landing.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Dolly Williams to be honored by Brooklyn Public Library

Atlantic Yards Report

We laughed our glasses off when we found out that the Brooklyn Public Library was honoring City Planning Commish and investor in the NJ Nets Dolly Williams.

Norman Oder had a few words to say about it this morning:

...[the Library,] we must remember, does owe some fealty to the powers that be. We have to assume the library folk are not closely reading Streetsblog or NoLandGrab regarding Williams's questionable record. Brutally weird.


We hate it when Norman uses little words that are like big words in disguise, so for those of us who barely made it out of high school:

Pronunciation: \ˈfē(-ə)l-tē\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural fe·al·ties
Etymology: Middle English feute, fealtye, from Anglo-French feelté, fealté, from Latin fidelitat-, fidelitas — more at fidelity
Date: 14th century

1 a: the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord b: the obligation of such fidelity
2: intense fidelity

Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

October 3, 2007

Brooklyn Public Library (hearts) Dolly

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the library again...

BPLGala.gif The invitation to the Brooklyn Public Library's 11th Annual Gala arrived in the mail today, announcing the 2007 Honorees: NY Times columnist Jane Brody, children's book author Jacquline Woodson, and disgraced NYC Planning Commissioner and NJ Nets' investor Dolly Williams.

NoLandGrab readers will recall that the last time we discussed the Brooklyn Public Library was in February, when a controversy erupted over the banning of certain works from the Footprints art exhibit that the Library deemed too controversial. In an interview with The NY Times, Jay Kaplan, director of the Library’s programs and exhibitions, described a portrait of eminent domain plaintiff Daniel Goldstein as unsuitable because it was "hagiographic."

BPL2007-Dolly.gif It's hard to understand why Dolly is being honored. Maybe it's because she's a member of the NYC Planning Commission, though she has had to withdraw from participating in decisions on large land-use issues in Brooklyn in the wake of revelations of conflict of interest. Or maybe they're recognizing her work with ICB, chaired by her political patron, Marty Markowitz.

According to the web site for the Initiative for a Competitive Brooklyn:

ICB is a comprehensive economic strategy designed to improve the competitiveness of Brooklyn as a business location and increase economic opportunities for low-income Brooklyn residents.

The Brooklyn Public Library Gala is Thursday, November 8. Tickets start at $350. [There's currently no info on the library's web site.]

Posted by lumi at 1:49 PM

Lexicon alert!

We were cruising blog entries that mention Bruce Ratner, and came across an interesting coinage on the Chowhound message board:

Best 75 cent cup of coffee...

To me, enjoying a coffee need not involve an over-caffeinated, steroid-sized cup of status symbol. Despite the Ratnerization of this fair isle, there are still some decent brews available for 75 or even 60 cents -- and much respect due to any cafe or bodega owner engaged in such culinary-economic resistance. My favorite is Mei Lai Wah Coffeehouse at 64 Bayard Street.

The word "Manhattanization" has long been used to describe Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject. But this is the first time we've heard "Ratnernization" — and used to describe Manhattan to boot!

rat • ner • i • za • tion
Pronunciation: \ˌrat-ˌnər-ˈzā-shən, -bə-\
Function: noun Date: 2007

1 : the process of using eminent domain and public subsidies to overdevelop a neighborhood with soulless high-rises and box stores.

Posted by lumi at 1:05 PM

Feasts and Fetes

From New York Social Diary:


Two weeks ago Wednesday, Lighthouse International held its Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service Luncheon chaired by Louise Grunwald, named in honor of her late husband Henry A. Grunwald, who was the first recipient of the award. The Grunwalds’ longtime friend Liz Smith emceed, and another friend Ted Sorenson was keynote speaker. The honorees included Peter G. Peterson, Ellen Ratner and Jeffrey E. Mittman, a soldier partially blinded in the Iraqi War.

Mr. Peterson is Senior Chairman and Co-founder of The Blackstone Group. Ellen Ratner is Bureau Chief Talk Radio News Service, Political Editor, TALKERS Magazine, and Fox News Contributor; and Jeffrey E. Mittman is a soldier who was partially blinded in the Iraqi War. The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs introduced Sergeant Mittman. The Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service recognizes individuals who are committed to advancing public awareness of vision impairment and vision rehabilitation.
Vice Chairmen and guests included more Grunwald friends: Felix and Liz Rohatyn, Henry Kissinger, Holly Peterson, Barbara Walters, Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis, Alice and Tom Tisch, Gayfryd Steinberg, Mike Wallace, Amy Fine Collins, Mike Wallace, Mica Ertegun, Bruce Ratner.

BruceMichaelRatner-NYSD.jpg article


Ellen Ratner is the sister of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Their brother Michael Ratner is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an investor in the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise, for which the State of New York is using eminent domain to seize property for the team's new arena. There is currently a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of taking private property for the benefit of a private enterprise — Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights are not plaintiffs.


Bruce Ratner does not personally make campaign contributions, in order to avoid the appearance that he's buying political support for his projects.

Michael Ratner has made significant contributions to local politicians who support Atlantic Yards. Ellen Ratner's $4,500 contribution to Atlantic Yards supporter and NYC Comptroller William Thompson was bundled with contributions from Michael Ratner, his wife Karen Ranucci, Bruce Ratner's girlfriend Pamela Lipkin and Bruce's daughter Rebecca.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report uncovered these campaign contributions and more, highlighted in his article, "The Ratner campaign money trail leads to... Michael (& his wife)."

Posted by lumi at 12:06 PM

Brooklyn Matters

Local Filmmaker Captures the Battle for Atlantic Yards

Linewaiters' Gazette
Official Newspaper of the Park Slope Food Coop
By Frank Haberle


For those who want to better understand the Atlantic Yards project — the huge sports, residential and retail complex envisioned by developer Bruce Ratner and architect Frank Gehry — a remarkable resource is now available. Brooklyn Matters, a 50-minute documentary, examines how Atlantic Yards will affect employment, housing, the environment, traffic congestion and the future of Brooklyn. The film sheds light on the battle over eminent domain, the leverage and draw of the Brooklyn Nets, and the aggressive public marketing plan that’s designed to win the hearts and minds of Brooklyn residents. Brooklyn Matters encompasses the many sides of the debate — presenting the views of local residents who support the project as well as many who are deeply opposed to it, and the growing division between them.


Filmmaker and Park Slope resident Isabel Hill takes on the debate from all sides. Isabel, a city planner and historian, has over 30 years’ experience as an urban planner and advocate. She founded Building History Productions as an independent production company that specializes on urban issues. Brooklyn Matters is her second film – — her award-winning first film, Made in Brooklyn, aired on public television. Isabel reports that she spent two years researching the Atlantic Yards debate before she started filming. “In talking with fellow New Yorkers,” Isabel states, “it was so clear that there were many, many misconceptions about this proposed project. People really didn’t understand the project itself and other just felt that it was a done deal, and because powerful developers were pushing their vision ahead, there was no hope in changing or stopping this project. Making a documentary is a great way to educate people — there is just no substitute for actually seeing what something will look like or hearing from experts who have researched in depth the impacts of such a project.”

In Brooklyn Matters, Isabel brings forth the voices of dozens of people directly involved in or carefully observing the project. We hear from City Councilmembers Letitia James and Charles Barron, advocates Michelle de la Uz [Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee], Bertha Lewis of ACORN, Daniel Goldstein (local resident and founder of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn) and Bob Law (National Leadership Alliance); clergy leaders the Reverend Dennis Dillon and the Reverend Herb Daughtry; Professors Ron Shiffman (Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at Pratt Institute and the former Commissioner of the NYC Planning Committee) and Tom Angotti (Hunter College’s Department of Urban Affairs and Planning), as well as journalists, lawyers and dozens of everyday community members who offer perspective on the deep-rooted, conflicting emotions that have risen since the Atlantic Yards project appeared.

Brooklyn Matters outlines the Atlantic Yards project’s evolution, starting with the announcement to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, followed by plans to build a new sports arena. Building from the excitement of this opportunity, the Atlantic Yards housing, office and retail complex was soon unveiled around it. A marketing message — the promise of “Jobs, Housing and Hoops” — was sent out to sell the plan to low-income community residents. Soon after, flyers were mailed out to homeowners in more affluent surrounding neighborhoods showing idyllic couples reposing on park lawns, speaking of acres of public green space and environmentally friendly architecture. The flyers were stamped with a Community Benefits Agreement, suggesting that the plan was going forward with the input and endorsement of the community. Then, with the blessing of city and state government backing and the promise of hundreds of millions of tax dollars, Forest City Ratner has moved forward with eminent domain, bought out hundreds of local residents and begun tearing down vacant buildings in a community now classified as “blighted.”

“One of the most disturbing aspects of the Atlantic Yards project,” Isabel states, “is that taxpayer dollars ($200,000,000 in city money and $100,000,000 in state money) are being used to acquire and demolish historic structures that were just recently renovated for housing. This neighborhood was in fact developing on its own and would have continued to redevelop if Ratner had not stepped in, bought out property owners, left buildings vacant and demolished them.”

Tom Angotti, Hunter College professor and longtime Park Slope Food Coop member, is particularly troubled by how Forest City Ratner effectively exploited tensions about race and class to divide potential opposition, paving the way for his development. As Tom describes it, “The film Brooklyn Matters shows how a multibillion-dollar scheme to make a rich real estate company even richer is cloaked in false promises of jobs and affordable housing. I feel that Isabel’s film deals directly with the sensitive issues of race and class that people do not want to talk about.”

The film makes it clear that, if left unchecked, the Atlantic Yards project will have an irreversible impact on the surrounding community. The current plan calls for 17 high-rise buildings that will literally cast shadows over entire blocks of Brooklyn. The complex will feature a 20,000-seat sports arena, 247,000 square feet of retail space, 6,430 new units of housing and 330,000 square feet of office space. It will be 30% larger than the World Trade Center site in terms of acreage, and its towers will rise 15 to 20 stories higher than the World Trade Center site in terms of acreage, and its towers will rise 15 to 20 stories higher than the massive complex developed by Trump on the West Side of Manhattan. A 60-foot-tall “Urban Room” facing Atlantic Avenue will glow with illuminated advertising. As many of the speakers point out, there is no guarantee that Ratner’s development will include the promised 2,220 units of affordable housing and/or that any jobs will go to local community members.

The film demonstrates the potential impact of Atlantic Yards on all Brooklyn communities, not just Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. As Tom points out, “this is by far the biggest development project in Brooklyn. This is the intersection of six big neighborhoods. it is located at the intersection of three major arteries, numerous subway lines, the Long Island Railroad. This is the biggest traffic hub in Brooklyn.” Conservative estimates put the increase in transit at 83,000 new subway rides daily and 20,000 more cares daily. As Councilwoman James points out, “How are emergency vehicles going to get around this crush of traffic?” Conspicuously missing from any plan is how the surrounding neighborhoods are going to absorb 20,000 new residents — there are no plans for new schools, new transit, new hospitals or new emergency services.

To those who are concerned about the Atlantic Yards project and want to get involved, it is not too late. Tom points to two groups that are still fighting the development, which is now being fought legally. He is part of a team of urban planners who have created the alternative Unity Plan for Vanderbilt Yards, which will be presented September 24 at 636 Dean Street. It calls for a scaled-down development that is more consistent with Brooklyn’s unique neighborhood culture and architecture that is environmentally sound and that creates affordable housing and will not destroy the present buildings. For details about how to get involved, Tom points to the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn web site (www.dddb.net), which includes a link to the Unity Plan. The Develop Don’t Destroy website is one of the best places to learn about efforts to fight the Atlantic Yards project, upcoming events and how you can get involved.

Brooklyn Matters will be shown in public venues throughout Brooklyn in the coming months, including the Old Stone House on October 2. To find a schedule of upcoming screening in the community, or to find out how to get a copy of the film, please visit http://www.brooklynmatters.com/stills.

UPDATE: Brooklyn Matters wasn't screened at the Old Stone House on October 2, but will be rescheduled in November. Please note that the web address for Brooklyn Matters *is now http://www.brooklynmatters.com.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...


McBrooklyn, Walkathon Against Atlantic Yards October 14

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sent word that they will again be hosting the "Walkathon Fundraiser—a Better Brooklyn, One Step at a Time" on October 14 from noon to 5 p.m.

Individuals, teams and families are invited to step out on Sunday, October 14 to help raise funds and awareness for the ongoing fight against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Green Brooklyn, Steppin’ Out for a Better Brooklyn (10/14, Noon-5pm)

"News about the Atlantic Yards project that doesn’t completely suck:" UNITY2007 and the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon.


Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Another look at that Dean Street eviction

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News got the scoop, but Norman Oder gets some answers on what's going on with Forest City Ratner's eviction of a local day care center.


As the New York Daily News reported yesterday, developer Forest City Ratner, which now owns the [487 Dean Street] building, is evicting tenant Shirley Milligan for failing to pay back rent of $3000 a month. But her lawyer tells me the developer told Milligan not to pay that rent.

Milligan told the Daily News she’d signed the lease in 2004 not knowing the building was to be part of the Atlantic Yards footprint, and put money into renovations for a day care center. Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt told the Daily News, "Forest City offered to buy her out of her lease and to reimburse her for money she spent to fix up the space, along with forgiving back rent owed… For reasons unknown to us, she decided instead to continue to withhold rent.”

Milligan’s attorney, Michael Rikon, disputes that statement. “She was specifically told by Forest City not to pay any rent," he told me, going beyond statements he made to the Daily News. "She was told that the developer would present a better offer to settle her potential condemnation claim and until that was done she should not pay rent."

"No new offer was forthcoming and the next thing she knew was a reporter from the News who lived on Dean Street calling to tell her she was being evicted. She was never served and went down to the premises for a copy of the pleadings. She is upset that there is an impression that she is a deadbeat.”


Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

Time Doesn’t Relieve the Pain, or Change the Facts (Except When Times Changes the Facts)

The NY Times
By Dave Anderson


This weekend's article about the Dodgers' traitorous emigration from Brooklyn perpetuates the myth that Bruce Ratner's Nets arena would be located in Downtown Brooklyn on the site on which Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark for the Dodgers.

Fifty years later, historical revisionists have all but beatified Walter O’Malley for absconding to Los Angeles with the Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1957 season.

NoLandGrab: Alas, four years after Bruce Ratner unveiled his plans, revisionists have all but placed Atlantic Yards in "downtown Brooklyn" in an "area O'Malley supposedly wanted."

O'Malley in Ft. Greene NOT Downtown Brooklyn

Yes, in 1955, [Robert] Moses rejected O’Malley’s $6 million offer — a big number in that era — to build and operate a domed stadium in downtown Brooklyn at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues because it did not fit under the Title I Housing Act of 1949.

O'Malley's ballpark would have been located in what was then called the "Fort Greene Title One Area," which was in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Ballpark area ALREADY developed

O’Malley deserves credit for his foresight in expanding Major League Baseball to California, but Brooklyn’s hindsight remains. Basketball is the game there now; the Nets hope to move into an arena in the downtown area O’Malley supposedly wanted.

Um, there seems to be something already built in the "downtown [Ft. Greene] area O'Malley supposedly wanted." What the... could it be... Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall?

Q: If Bruce Ratner's mall is on the land O'Malley wanted, then where is Ratner planning on putting a new Nets arena?

A: Across Atlantic Avenue in Prospect Heights, which is still NOT in Downtown Brooklyn (see, photo and map).

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has an interesting article about the distinction between locating Ratner's controversial project on the "same area" vs. "same site," and how the media casually glosses over the distinction.

Moses vs. O'Malley: Traffic and Eminent Domain
Robert Moses was firm in his belief that locating a ballpark at Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues would create a "China Wall of traffic," and, like most Americans, Moses believed that the government's power of eminent domain was limited to public projects, not a private ballpark (see, Moses letter to O'Malley).

Luckily for O'Malley, Los Angeles didn't share Moses's beliefs about the use of eminent domain, and Dodger Stadium was built (see, Wikipedia entry on "Chavez Ravine").

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

October 2, 2007

Vitullo-Martin takes a second look at Jane Jacobs

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at Julia Vitullo-Martin's second look at Jane Jacobs and first look at Atlantic Yards:

In the wake of the new exhibit, Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, urban analyst Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute has been taking a fresh look at Jacobs and finding some flaws (and enduring value) in the famed urbanist's take on New York.

Notably, Vitullo-Martin suggests that Jacobs--or especially some who invoke her--didn't fully appreciate that towers, even uniform ones, might be needed to add density in a growing city. That sounds like a backhanded partial defense of the Atlantic Yards plan, but we know that Vitullo-Martin, as shown in the film Brooklyn Matters, is no fan of that project.

She has said "Atlantic Yards is throwing out every principle Jane Jacobs ever proposed” and, in reference to AY, called affordable housing "the Trojan Horse these days on big bad projects that shouldn’t get done."


Posted by lumi at 7:36 AM

Atlantic Yards evicting Tiny Town day care

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

A city teacher who was weeks away from opening a day-care center near in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project is being booted by developer Forest City Ratner.

The 15-year-old Crown Heights program, Tiny Town, was expected to reopen by October following $150,000 in renovations to a building on Dean St., said owner Shirley Milligan.

"That arena is going up, and I don't care what anybody does, but to take away my existence? That's despicable," said Milligan, 50, who began renovations after leasing the building at 487 Dean St. in 2004.

The full story involves a dispute over back rent. Bruce Ratner's spokesperson is focusing on that issue, but at the end of the day, Ratner plans to remove Milligan so he can demolish the building to make way for a parking lot, anyway.


Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM


Community First Development Coalition

For those of you who are following events up in Yonkers concerning Bruce Ratner's other controversial metro-region development, Ridge Hill, Martin McGloin offers this report from a hearing on the appeal of a case which determined that the City of Yonkers was in error when it changed its super-majority vote requirement in order to reach final approval for Ridge Hill.

After oral arguments, here's the analysis:

Quite an interesting experience for me in my first visit to this court. I would concur with Mr. Murtagh that it was 1-1 on the case with 2 not decided yet, and I wait patiently for the courts decision, despite the fact that Judge Nicholas Colabella has already ruled in our favor in April of 2006. So we are one nil in extra time. Surprisingly the City of Yonkers has continued with this appeal at the taxpayers expense, something which appears moot as the project was re-voted in July 2006 by a 5-2 supermajority of the City Council.


NoLandGrab: We're impressed with the controversial developer's ability to get elected officials to make extraordinary moves in order to deliver what he wants. In Yonkers, the City Council had to change its own rules to approve Ratner's Ridge Hill project; in Albany, the Legislature passed — and Governor Spitzer signed — a bill giving Ratner's Atlantic Yards project a special break on affordable housing subsidies.

We can't wait to hear the next one, because we're sure that it's going to be good.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Battery Park City

The NY Times

Project For Public Spaces' Fred Kent bashes the design of public spaces at Battery Park City:

Design,” Mr. Kent said, “is a disease. It is almost always at odds with good places.” And design, in his opinion, is what has ruined a potentially extraordinary place, the waterfront parks of Battery Park City.

Hailed as a triumph, favored with multiple design awards and imitated around the world, Battery Park City’s shiny new waterfront is one of Mr. Kent’s least favorite public places in New York. “It’s a mishmash of stuff that doesn’t fulfill human needs,” he said.

NoLandGrab: One of the multiple award-winning designers was landscape designer Laurie Olin, who is working on the publicly accessible open spaces at Atlantic Yards.

What he finds particularly irksome is that apart from the waterfront itself, two good destinations are located here, the Skyscraper Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, whose entrances seem deliberately hidden.

“Good public spaces,” Mr. Kent said, “should reach out like an octopus.”

He is certain that the community itself would have come up with a better design for Battery Park. His strategy is to go directly to a community and then translate those ideas and wishes into marching orders for designers. “It’s magical, how people know what to do with a place,” he said.


NoLandGrab: It's also magical that city planners and designers have to learn the same lessons over and over again, especially when community members, who have to suffer the consequences of bad design and would benefit greatly from thoughtful design, are so eager to pitch in.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

Are Atlantic Yards Opponents Getting Cold Feet?

Nets Fan in NY

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards development project are dropping like flies. Just a few days ago, it was announced that two of the thirteen opponents who had filed suit against Bruce Ratner are now in the midst of settlement talks. Their actions have led to a domino effect. Four more property owners whose homes are in the project’s 22-acre footprint are falling in line and undergoing similar negotiations.
Could it be that the end of this bitter dispute is nearing an end? There may be more appeals for change and suggested reform proposed by UNITY advocates and other grassroots efforts, but it doesn’t look likely that this will turn into another deadly standstill game of cat and mouse a la Robert Moses and Walter O’Malley. Afterall, lightning doesn’t strike twice. With the way the momentum is building, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the new Nets arena.


NoLandGrab: Seeing how NoLandGrab represents, like, four or five people, depending on who shows up to work, Bruce Ratner and Nets fans who are looking forward to a new arena in Brooklyn probably don't have much to worry about — they should be more concerned with the other tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have it in their heads that Atlantic Yards is the poster project for everything wrong with development in NYC.

The point Nets Fan in NY glossed over from this weekend's article in The Brooklyn Paper is that these plaintiffs are TENANTS, who, whether they win or lose, have fewer rights than property owners. It's really a miracle that any of them had the guts to stand up to the Brucester in the first place.

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: October 1, 2007

Brooklyn Downtown Star reports the Brooklyn Paper story on the tenants living in the footprint of Atlantic Yards who are planning on settling with developer Bruce Ratner:

Two plaintiffs in the eminent domain lawsuit against Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner have dropped out, according to The Brooklyn Paper, which declined to release their names but said they were among 11 other tenants and property owners who refused to sell to the developer.


NoLandGrab: This newsbite doesn't specifically identify the plaintiffs as tenants rather than owners.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

October 1, 2007

New Media, New Politics: Jane Jacobs and an Activist Press

Municipal Art Society

Tuesday, October 9, 7:00 p.m., at Housing Works Used Book Cafe, 126 Crosby St.

Moderator: Sewell Chan, The New York Times.

Panelists: Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake.com;
Norman Oder, Atlanticyardsreport.com;
Gay Talese, author; and
Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, El Diario.

Purchase tickets.

Posted by lumi at 10:19 PM

Mapping Ft. Greene and Ratnerville

FortGreenester, Fort Greene Fears Looming Atlantic Yards

The Atlantic Yards development project faces fierce opposition from many of Fort Greene's residents who fear it will transform their neighborhood. In order to protect areas of the neighborhood, several community organizations are working to extend the designated historic districts.

View Larger Map

FortGreenester might think about adding the existing boundaries of Ratnerville, the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, especially because Gehry is designing towers to be built over the Atlantic Center Mall.

Plans for the Atlantic Center overbuild have not been reported in the mainstream media and are "as of right" under current NYC zoning (see Atlantic Yards Report, Gehry's working on “Atlantic Center overbuild” (for 2000+ residents); ESDC punts)

View Larger Map

While we're on the topic of mapping the neighborhood, Brit in Brooklyn has its own map featuring Adrian Kinloch's photos of different locations within the footprint.

Posted by lumi at 10:08 AM

At Antic Yards

BI2B-AYR.jpgAtlantic Yards Report, At the Atlantic Antic, the AY/Nets juggernaut and some pesky locals

The main ring featured "Nets: Bring it to Brooklyn." The booth promoting Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls was curiously off-message (or maybe not):

Unlike in previous years, there were no mall-branded pencils or coffee mugs to be had, just Nets keychains, Marriott Hotel maps, and the latest Atlantic Yards flier.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods were getting out their respective messages too.

There wasn't any swag--t-shirts were for sale--but there was an opportunity for some dialogue, to sign petitions, to learn more about the alternative UNITY plan (below) for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, should Forest City Ratner's plan fail or be built only partially.

Atlantic Yards Report, Another Atlantic Yards flier, another avoidance of scale

Norman Oder grabbed the latest installments of "Atlantic Yards, the Flier."


It is, by my count, at least the sixth slick flier developer Forest City Ratner has distributed to Brooklynites since the Atlantic Yards plan was announced, and it provides a good snapshot of the current project narrative. ...
Two versions were distributed yesterday at the Atlantic Antic; both had the same cover, touting five benefits; on the back, one featured Nets star Vince Carter, while the other had a smiling face-painted black pre-teen in a Nets t-shirt.
Beyond "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," the message now stresses environmental sustainability and neighborhood revitalization, both somewhat contentious issues. And, like its predecessors, the brochure still fails to show the scale of the project in any context.

FCR-at-BHD-PM4A.jpgPardon Me for Asking, Free Junk From Forest City Ratner

Katia Kelly puts the free Ratner junk back but takes a few photos of Forest City Ratner's "Bring it to Brooklyn" booth and notices something ironic.

The Slope Via the Lake, Morning Antics

A Chicago transplant noticed the Ratner troopers as well:

The weather was great and the usual street fair suspects were represented, including the omnipresent Atlantic Yards and New Jersey Net booths that are trying to win over the hearts and minds of the community before they turn Brownstone Brooklyn into mini-Midtown Manhattan.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM