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November 30, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Historic Duffield Street Home Saved from Eminent Domain

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB is reporting that the home of Brooklyn activist Joy Chatel, at 227 Duffield Street, believed by many to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, has been spared the eminent-domain wrecking ball.

Given New York City's usual M.O., we checked our calendar to make sure today was not April 1st. It's not, and sure enough, Chatel, FUREE, South Brooklyn Legal Services and the Four Borough Neighborhood Alliance have issued a joint press release.

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Duffield Street Underground has the release.

Posted by lumi at 12:49 PM

Officials redouble call for AY security study, warn that street closings would unleash a “tsunami”

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is coverage of yesterday's Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods press conference calling for an independent review of Atlantic Yards security issues.

Elected officials and community activists yesterday again called for an independent study of Atlantic Yards security, given the belated revelation last week, thanks to the New York Times, that parts of the planned Atlantic Yards arena would be only 20 feet from Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

City and state officials, along with developer Forest City Ratner, have not been willing to explain why the facility would be safer than the Prudential Center in Newark, where two adjacent blocks are closed during (and before/after) events because the arena was deemed too close to the street.

A stern quote from Councilman Bill de Blasio:

“The ball game’s not over,” he said, noting that subsidies and other issues must be resolved for the project to move forward. If the developer doesn’t behave more transparently, “then the future of their project is in danger,” he warned.

Councilwoman Letitia James emphasized the need for an independent security review:

“The project has been shrouded in secrecy from Day One,” declared James, the staunchest political opponent of the project. Acknowledging concerns that too much disclosure could compromise security—the blanket explanation for the cap on public discussion—she suggested that documents could be redacted so some information emerges.

If no independent study is ordered, James said, she will again ask for a hearing on the project before the Council’s transportation committee. Then she topped Yassky's formulation, deeming that the closure of streets near and at a notoriously congested intersection would yield a “tsunami.”

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Posted by steve at 7:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Security Issue Also About Trust

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Reporter Sarah Ryley provides some details from Forest City Ratner's campaign to convince reporters and the public that they have the security and terrorism angle all covered.

BruceWeTrust.gif However, for the public, without the benefit of a third-party analysis, it's also an issue of trust.

A spokesman for Forest City sent along an affidavit from its independent security consultant, Jeffrey Venter of Ducibella Venter & Santore, briefly describing 3,300 hours of work on a security plan for the project, including five meetings with the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau. Aside from that, it’s been said that the company began considering security issues as early as 2003, and continues to do so today. In contrast, the Newark arena apparently underwent little-to-no security review, given that police decided to shut down streets only two weeks before it was scheduled to open. Since security is found not just in distance from the street, but also in structure, that leads one to wonder what other vulnerabilities afflict the Newark arena.

NYPD spokesman John Kelly said, “The department has met numerous times with the builders, who have been very cooperative and have done everything we have asked.” He also said the department doesn’t foresee any street or land closures, sidewalk widening around the arena or the instillation of bollards. And Bruce Bender of Forest City was more pointed in his response, in a prepared statement: “We do not play around with public safety and neither should politicians who have no experience or background in security issues. Our security plan has been vetted and approved by the NYPD and the best anti-terrorism experts in the city. At some point, a base level of common sense needs to be followed and those people who do not have any security experience need to let the NYPD and the security experts do their jobs.”
...
“Part of our distrust is based upon our four years of experience with this project,” said [NYC Councilwoman] James. “They’ve misrepresented the truth, [the project has been] shrouded in secrecy, and there’s been a lot of misinformation. My distrust is based on my frame of reference.” For those who haven’t been following the project for the past four years, the battles have been ugly, to an epic scale (in the urban planning world, at least, no fatalities so far). And James is accurate that Ratner and the state Development Corporation have not exactly been forthcoming about many details regarding the project, including the amount of taxpayer money that would be used.

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Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Opponents slam plan to build Atlantic Yards arena near busy intersection

New York Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

Coverage of yesterday's press conference on City Hall steps called by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

Critics of the Atlantic Yards project renewed their call Thursday for an independent security review in light of news that a portion of a planned basketball arena would be built just 20 feet from Brooklyn's busiest intersection.

The potential security risk at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Aves. is within reach of terrorists hellbent on crashing into the glass-walled arena, opponents charged.

"The [Empire State Development Corp.] and Forest City Ratner are asking us to trust that they have shared a security plan with the NYPD, and that the NYPD is fine with it," said Eric McClure, member of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, an Atlantic Yards watchdog group.

Security has always been an issue for Yards critics, but it was only recently that a spokesman for Forest City Ratner revealed just how close arena walls would be to the street.

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No Land Grab: This article does a good job of summarizing security concerns for the proposed Nets arena. It is inaccurate, though, to characterize the participants of the press conference as "opponents". Attendees included David Yassky and Bill de Blasio who are frequent critics, but not necessarily opponents of the project.

Posted by steve at 6:43 AM

Community Groups Call For Independent Study Of Atlantic Yards Project

BBenderState-NY1.jpg NY1

Several elected officials and community groups gathered Thursday to demand an independent study for the Atlantic Yards project.
...
“The public needs to know why Brooklyn is different than Newark,” said Eric McClure of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. “Why is a 20-foot setback in Brooklyn okay, while a 25-foot setback in Newark is not safe?"

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NoLandGrab: Since we don't have our hands on a political-speak code book, we're not exactly sure what Bruce Bender's statement is supposed to mean, but we think that it roughly translates to "F U."

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

State finally names an overseer for Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

The Brooklyn Paper provides extensive coverage of the appointment of an ombudsman for Atlantic Yards.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an ombudsman!

Two hundred and three days after promising to appoint someone to oversee demolition and construction work at the Atlantic Yards project — and after three other people reportedly turned down the job — state officials have finally hired their long-awaited watchdog.

And the man for the $105,000-a-year job is none other than Forrest Taylor, former chief of staff to once-time City Council speaker Gifford Miller, a former spokesman for Mayor Giuliani, and a former deputy executive director for operations for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“I look forward to working with all stakeholders to insure the community has access to current information and swift responses to questions and concerns,” he said in a statement.

Also included is a fond farewell to the No Land Grab "Ombudsman Clock".

Taylor’s appointment brings to rest the spinning “Ombudsman Clock” on the anti-Yards Web site, No Land Grab. The clock is now frozen at 203 days, 8 hours, 38 minutes and 28 seconds.

“At No Land Grab, we never imagined that it would take the ESDC 203 days to retire the count-up clock,” said the Web site’s publisher, Lumi Rolley. “Like most things Atlantic Yards, reality strains credulity.”

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Posted by steve at 6:14 AM

Rico Suave!

All we asked for was an ombudsman, but after yesterday's article in the Daily News in which the recently appointed Forrest Taylor called Atlantic Yards a "sexy project" and Brownstoner's mention of Taylor's penchant for single-malt, we're kinda wondering if we got more rico suave than we bargained for.

From Brownstoner:

A 2002 Times profile of Taylor, meanwhile, suggested that he relished being second in command to the Council Speaker (''If you want to be an elected official, go out and get yourself elected and then you can agree with yourself all the time,'' he said) but that he could also be demanding in his own right: His prerequisites for assuming that position included a $161,800 salary, an office with a courtyard view, and a supply of single-malt Scotch. While Taylor’s current salary and booze supply have not been revealed, the new ombudsman said he would “insure the community has access to current information and swift responses to questions and concerns.” And if that ends up being true, we’re certainly willing to toast to it.

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Bruce under oath?

BRRidgeHill.jpgCould this be a photo of Bruce Ratner taking the Fifth? [Maybe, if you're talking about the Fifth Amendment eminent domain clause.]

Seriously, it's just Bruce ceremoniously breaking ground in Yonkers for Forest City's controversial Ridge Hill "regional lifestyle center."

Tuesday was a busy day for the popular Bruce Ratner, who appeared later that evening in Brooklyn for the MetroTech tree lighting.

More ground breaking photos and links at Community First Development Coalition.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

GL Analysis: In Ten Years, Will They Ask "How Did This Happen?"

The Gowanus Lounge

The ESDC has stated (through the Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards) that a terrorist attack is not a "reasonable worst-case scenario." Gowanus Lounge takes the step to consider what the ESDC, apparently, cannot.

Whether one supports or opposes the Atlantic Yards project, an arena that ignores the threat of truck bombs and other terrorist attacks is far more than a planning blunder: it is a calculated and almost unthinkable act of public negligence. Bromides from city government that the security threat is under control and that the issue simply can't be discussed are unacceptable and dishonest. The Atlantic Yards security issues need to be dealt with publicly before a single shovel of Brooklyn soil is moved.

...

What if nothing is done? Our fear is that in ten or fifteen years, when maniacal mass murderers espousing a cause no one has even contemplated yet detonate trucks loaded with explosives outside of the Atlantic Yards arena during a basketball game or concert, there will be terrible loss of life. It will be followed by one of those wretched "How did this happen?" moments that inevitably follow catastrophes that could have been prevented. There will be an investigation and a blue ribbon commission. In Albany, there will be a legislative panel that points the fingers of blame at Gov. Pataki and at Gov. Spitzer. In Washington, Representatives and Senators will demand national security standards for arenas so there will "never be another Brooklyn." Then, the arena will be rebuilt, set back further from the street, and become the "Barclays Memorial Arena" or the "Freedom Center." More children will lose fathers and mothers, millions of hearts will be broken and billions of tears will be shed.

The risk of a terrorist attack on Atlantic Yards demands impartial studies, public hearings and corrective action before thousands of people are slaughtered in the interest of expediency. To do otherwise would be criminal negligence on the part of every public official that will have a role in a future tragedy.

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Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

Ratner Claus!

AK-RatnerClaus-BP.jpg

The Brooklyn Paper

On the same day that news broke of his plan to build Brooklyn’s tallest building, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner kicked off the holiday season on Wednesday at Metrotech in Downtown Brooklyn with the borough’s first major tree-lighting.

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Posted by steve at 5:54 AM

Mr. Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
By Adam F. Hutton

Bruce Ratner is planning to build the city’s tallest residential tower — a whopping 1,000-foot skyscraper that would dwarf the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, Brooklyn’s tallest.

But as with Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development, the secret, closed-door deal is already casting a shadow.
...
Earlier in the day, a Ratner spokesman said by e-mail that the drawing “was quite old and not indicative of current plans.” But the spokesman refused to say what the current plans are.

Secrecy is nothing new for Ratner. As at Atlantic Yards, Ratner is partnering with a public agency — in this case, City University of New York — in a process that will not undergo the city’s rigorous land-use review process. Current zoning allows Ratner to build as high as he wants — but neither his company nor CUNY officials would say how high that is.

Read the full article to find out more about what we don't know about Ratner's latest high-rise proposal.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Another backroom deal

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

ConeofSilence.jpg While we can barely keep up with the known unknowns of the Atlantic Yards backroom deal, the Brooklyn Paper has been keeping tabs on another Ratner-style public-private partnership.

Though the editorial concurs that Downtown Brooklyn is the appropriate place for Ratner's latest plan to build the new tallest building in Brooklyn, Forest City's perennial cone of silence, dropped over this deal, too, really makes you wonder.

All developers make promises, and some of them fall short some of the time. But Ratner has fallen short most of the time, and has been paid handsomely for each insult. From the government-subsidized sterility of his fortress-like Metrotech (with its unused retail spaces and poor job-creation numbers), to the government bailout at Ratner’s pathetic Atlantic Center Mall, to the ever-rising taxpayer subsidy that underwrites his shell game at Atlantic Yards, there has been no accountability. Government keeps on partnering with Ratner — not only on the projects, but on the clandestine planning process, too.

There are already many cheerleaders for Ratner’s City Tech tower. But until public officials answer reasonable questions about this backroom deal, and show us that the public, and not only Bruce Ratner, will benefit generously from this project, we will remain skeptical.

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Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

What? Pay for street parking?!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

An article about last Tuesday's parking and transportation workshop reports that residential permit parking got a lot of attention. This is one of the ideas being bandied about along with the Mayor's congestion pricing plan.

Residents in Park Slope are already experiencing problems with on-street parking and fear it will get worse if Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise complex is built.

“As Park Slope fills up, this is not going to solve the parking problem ultimately,” said Stuart Pertz, a Park Slope architect who has consulted the Municipal Arts Society on its opposition to the Atlantic Yards project.

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NoLandGrab: Though Pertz has personally spoken quite forcefully against Atlantic Yards, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) has not taken a clear position opposing the project (see interview with MAS President Kent Barwick).

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Dolly Williams is fined for her conflicted Yards vote

The Brooklyn Paper
by Dana Rubinstein

The Brooklyn Paper adds to the coverage of the $4,000 fine levied against former Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams. The fine comes as a result of a Conflict of Interest Board investigation done three years after a conflict-of-interest complaint was filed.

“I acknowledge that by voting on the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, which conferred a benefit on the Atlantic Yards project in which I was an investor … I violated [the law],” Williams said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The admission was a far cry from her assertion to The Brooklyn Paper in October that she had served her term with integrity.

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Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

City's poor should be Job One

NY Daily News
Columnist Errol Louis

ErrolLouisBanner.jpg

While the city's unemployment rate is under 5%, the rate for black New Yorkers is nearly 8%.

I can't think of a social problem in New York's black neighborhoods - drug abuse, shattered families, crummy housing, failing schools - that wouldn't improve by leaps and bounds with an increase in the number of parents holding solid, good-paying jobs with benefits and pensions.

That's why city leaders, from City Hall to the smallest neighborhood nonprofits, must seize on this unprecedented opportunity to open doors that will give low-skilled, lesser-educated New Yorkers a shot at some of the city's estimated 123,0000 to 175,000 construction jobs.

Here's where Atlantic Yards comes in:

There's rarely been a better time to attack the long, ugly history of nepotism and discrimination in the building trades.

At the same time that megaprojects are being launched around the city - from the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Queens West, Atlantic Yards and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center area - the average construction worker is 40 years old, and 30,000 are expected to retire over the next 15 years.

The Mayor's Commission on Construction Opportunity, the Bloomberg administration's plan to help cure the construction jobs mismatch, is still in its early stages, boosting funding for training and apprentice programs and the newly created Queens-based High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture.

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Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

How to Deal with Urban Construction

Construction Next Door

The Cooperator
By Raanan Geberer

For large-scale construction projects like Atlantic Yards, the impacts of demolition and construction are supposed to be identified in the Environmental Impact Statement.

But what's supposed to happen and how are New Yorkers supposed to deal with hassle and noise from all the smaller projects that are popping up on the landscape?

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Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Eminent domain day at City Hall

Metro NY

Eminent domain was the topic du jour Thursday, as protests here over the Atlantic Yards and Columbia expansion projects were quickly followed by a hearing on the city’s Willets Point redevelopment plan.
Queens Councilman Tony Avella believes eminent domain abuse will be a big issue in the 2009 election.
“We’re talking about three neighborhoods in three different boroughs,” said Avella, one of only two declared candidates for mayor (the other is U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner).
“It’s a fundamental American right to your own piece of property and your own business,” he said. “How can the city say, ‘We need your property, not for a school or a highway but for some rich guy so he can build a project to make more money’? It’s horrendous, and the risk is becoming more evident. If it happened to them, it can happen to you.”

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Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

November 29, 2007

Colorado BioScience Association Announces Winners Of Its 2007 Awards Program, Honoring The Best of Colorado's Bioscience Industry

PR Web

From a Colorado BioScience Association press release:

The Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA) has released winners of its 2007 Awards Program.

And the Partner of the Year Award goes to... (envelope please)

Forest City Development. In 2007, Forest City Development (http://www.forestcityscience.net) signed a 30-year agreement to develop the $2 billion bioscience park on the Fitzsimons Campus. The development of the Colorado Science + Technology Park at Fitzsimons will add much needed real estate to Colorado's infrastructure and will give companies located throughout the state the laboratory space in which to grow.

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Posted by lumi at 8:59 PM

Panel: a stronger public sector might mitigate "oversuccess," but developer reality is scarce

Atlantic Yards Report

The second-to-last panel in the series related to Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, dubbed The Oversuccessful City, Part 1: Developers' Realities, like several predecessor events, aired a good deal of unease concerning the city's situation, with a partial menu of solutions.

The panel, held Tuesday night at the spanking new Times Center, was summarized by the New York Times under a headline “Can New York Be Too Successful?”, with the conclusion that “no one really argued that the city could be too successful.”

That missed the point; “the dilemmas of affordable housing and out-of-scale development” are exactly a challenge resulting from what Jacobs called “oversuccess," and the solution, at least as some panelists suggested, is a stronger public sector.

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Posted by lumi at 8:57 PM

PRESS RELEASE: CBN, Elected Officials Renew Demand for Independent Atlantic Yards Security Study

Revelation of Scant 20-Foot Setbacks from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues Raises Specter of Street Closings or Unacceptable Risks.

What Makes Brooklyn Different from Newark?

New York, NY –The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. (CBN) and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assembly Members Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, and City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, today renewed their demands for an independent security study of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, in light of new revelations that its planned basketball arena would be situated a mere 20 feet from both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

In an interview in the November 24th edition of The New York Times, a spokesperson for Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) acknowledged publicly for the first time that portions of the glass-walled arena, six-story glass-walled “Urban Room” and adjacent glass-walled residential and commercial buildings would lie just 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, two of the boroughs most heavily trafficked thoroughfares. Police officials in Newark recently ordered the closing of two streets adjacent to that city’s new Prudential Center arena during events out of concern that a vehicular terrorist bomb could inflict significant damage upon the arena and its occupants. The streets ordered closed in Newark lie more than 20 feet from the arena’s walls.

Eight Brooklyn elected officials, including all those named above along with Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Eric Adams, and all of whom represent areas in and around the planned Atlantic Yards site, sent a formal request for an independent security study to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg on October 29th. That request and similar calls by CBN and other community groups have thus far gone unanswered.

FCRC, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) – the project’s sponsor – and the New York Police Department (NYPD) have said that police security officials have reviewed the plans for Atlantic Yards and are satisfied with their security provisions. But given the recent developments in Newark, Brooklyn elected officials and CBN have questioned why the NYPD believes the smaller setbacks planned in Brooklyn would be less of a security risk than the larger setbacks around Newark’s Prudential Center.

“Logic dictates that Newark police officials were apprised of the Prudential Center’s design well before they made the decision to close streets,” said Eric McClure, a member of CBN’s Steering Committee. “We can’t have the same after-the-fact scenario play out with Atlantic Yards. Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues are already two of Brooklyn’s most-congested roadways, and they’re already frequently gridlocked. Closing them during arena events – even closing a single lane – would be an unmitigated disaster. We need to know why the NYPD believes Brooklyn’s situation is different than Newark’s.”

The same elected officials who have called for an independent security study, along with CBN and other groups, have also repeatedly raised concerns about the effect that the planned Atlantic Yards project could have on traffic in Brooklyn. Newark-style street or lane closings could so negatively affect traffic conditions as to make the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues – widely acknowledged as Brooklyn’s worst – virtually impassable during arena events.

CBN first raised the issue of security when it submitted comments during the scoping hearing for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement in October, 2005. The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) does not mandate the study of security impacts, but the law governing SEQRA was last amended in June, 2000, well before the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy, in announcing the Prudential Center street closings, told the Newark Star-Ledger “you can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world.”

CBN again asked that the state conduct a security study in August, 2006, in extensive comments submitted at the public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The ESDC rejected that request, and claimed that the threat of a terror attack, including a vehicular bomb, at the proposed site of Atlantic Yards, was not a “reasonable worst-case scenario,” and therefore required no disclosures to the public regarding any aspect of security planning. This assertion is presently under legal review in New York State Supreme Court, and CBN believes ESDC’s position is without merit, since the Atlantic Terminal subway station, which lies beneath a portion of the proposed project site, was the target of a thwarted terrorist bomb attack in 1997.

The Newark police department’s decision to close streets after the Prudential Center was approved and built, along with the NYPD-mandated redesign of already-approved plans for the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, which increased building setbacks from 25 feet to 90 feet, are clear evidence that design and security are closely interconnected. The Prudential Center illustrates how security problems can radically alter the surrounding environment, while the Freedom Tower presents an example of significant changes to building design. Both scenarios appear possible in Brooklyn.

“The public must have the benefit of an independent and transparent inquiry into the design of the Atlantic Yards project and its arena, and the management techniques that will be put in place to ensure security at the site,” said Therese Urban, co-Chair of CBN. “Street closures would wreak havoc, and turning the arena into a bunker as a security ‘compromise’ would cheat Brooklynites of the ‘world-class’ design we’ve been promised.”

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. is a coalition of community groups formed to provide a community voice in the scoping and review of the Environmental Impact process as it pertains to the development of the Vanderbilt Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. All block associations, church, community and business groups regardless of their position toward any proposed development are invited to join CBN and are encouraged to attend and participate in CBN's bi-monthly meetings. A calendar and all CBN documents can be found at http://www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com

Contact: Eric McClure
718-369-9771 / 646-522-2589

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
201 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com http://www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com

Posted by lumi at 8:48 PM

TODAY: CITY HALL LAND GRAB TRIFECTA

There are three events at City Hall today concerning various land grabs in NYC.

However you feel about any or all of these projects, clearly New York City has entered a new era of eminent domain abuse.

BROOKLYN, ATLANTIC YARDS
PRESS CONFERENCE CITY HALL STEPS, 12:00 PM

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assembly Member Joan Millman, a representative of State Assembly Member Jim Brennan, City Council Members Letitia James, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, and representatives of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall to renew a call for an independent security study of the planned Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, and especially its basketball arena, in light of this week’s revelation that portions of the glass-walled arena and other adjacent glass-walled buildings would lie a mere 20 feet from heavily trafficked Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. Newark police officials recently mandated the closing of streets adjacent to that city’s new Prudential Center during arena events; those streets are approximately 25 feet from that arena’s walls.

QUEENS, WILLETS POINT
CITY COUNCIL LAND USE & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE HEARING, 1:00 2:00PM

Representatives from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), a group of the 10 largest land/business owners in Willets Point will testify before the New York City Council's Land Use and Economic Development Committees on November 29, 2007 at 1 2 p.m. in the Committee Room, City Hall.

WEST HARLEM, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAND GRAB
PRESS CONFERENCE AND RALLY ON THE CITY HALL STEPS, 1:00PM

The Coalition to Preserve Community, the West Harlem Business Group, students from Columbia and others will hold a press conference and rally on the City Hall steps from 1:00PM to 2:00PM.

They will point to the need for democracy in all land use processes, including the development of a Community Benefits Agreement. City Council must hear loud and clear that community planning, not selling out, is what must happen now that the land use process is before the Council.

NoLandGrab: With this level of eminent domain abuse, developers should be getting a volume discount or something.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Happy Holidays from Bruce Ratner

Brought to you by photographer Adrian Kinloch:

AK-BRMetrotech.jpg

Photographer Tracy Collins posted more photos from the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony in the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

Proprosed Arena to Sit 20 Feet From Street

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Shane Miller

More coverage of how the proposed Nets arena seems to have some design shortcomings regarding security.

After months of dodging questions about the proximity of the proposed Barclay's Center Arena to the two major streets that will surround it, developer Forest City Ratner admitted to the New York Times last week that at its closest point the arena would only be 20 feet from both Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

The frank admission may have come as a shock to critics of the project, but the news likely wasn't a surprise, as for years opponents have been calling for an independent security study. Many filed a joint lawsuit claiming that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state agency charged with reviewing the project, has been derelict in its duties by failing to consider certain threats in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The litigation is still pending.

Those calls became much louder in past months, however, after the Newark, New Jersey, police director announced that streets around that city's new Prudential Center Arena would have to be closed during events because of security concerns.

"You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post-9/11 world," he now-famously told the Newark Star-Ledger two weeks prior to that arena's opening about one month ago. "So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

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Posted by steve at 6:23 AM

Three years after complaint, Williams departs Planning Commission with a $4000 fine; McRae the replacement

Atlantic Yards Report on Dolly Williams's fine:

The real question here is why it took the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) more than three years to reach a resolution after a complaint was filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). However, the board is prohibited by law from commenting beyond the disposition it issues.

This resolution can’t be good for Williams’ reputation, but she did avoid any criminal proceeding. And from another perspective, it might be seen as a cost of doing business in New York. Consider that Williams last December gave a $4950 campaign contribution to Markowitz, which is nearly 25% more than the fine she paid.

Also consider that, as the Times pointed out, Williams earned $48,000 a year for part-time work as a commissioner.

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The NY Times ran an article on the paper's City Room blog with a curious headline, "A Casualty in the Atlantic Yards Battle." It makes it sound like Williams was somehow a victim.

NoLandGrab: The truth of the matter is that Williams played fast and loose with her governmental appointment and got her reputation handed to her.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

Ratner, Markowitz at the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony

Bruce%26Marty.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared yesterday at the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Ratner's MetroTech project.

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Posted by steve at 6:10 AM

"It's a sexy project" — the AY Ombudsman

Ex-MTA executive Forrest Taylor takes on role as Atlantic Yards mediator

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

The Daily News gets the newly appointed Atlantic Yards ombudsman to speak:

"In my mind it's a sexy project. It's an important project. It creates housing and it creates jobs, and it's going to transform Brooklyn," said Forrest Taylor, 50, a longtime player on the city's political scene who was named the massive project's long-awaited watchdog and community liaison this week.

"My job here is to bring people together to work out solutions to move the project along," said Taylor, who served as chief of staff to former City Council speaker Gifford Miller and oversaw the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in a high-ranking job at the MTA.

The article continues with quotes from local politicos and this anecdote from the Empire State Development Corporation:

State officials told the Daily News last month there was no shortage of people interested in acting as a go-between among the various sides that have clashed over the project, which will bring a Nets arena and 16 residential and office towers to Flatbush and Atlantic Aves.

But, they said, three people offered the $105,000-a-year job turned it down.

Atlantic Yards Report, AY ombudsman: "It's a sexy project"

"Sexy project" caught Norman Oder's attention too, who quipped:

And surely he'll learn that a good number of people think Atlantic Yards is much closer to "rough sex" or even a spaceship.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

Questions Await New Atlantic Yards Ombudsman

JB-Rendering-VV.jpg Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice]
By Michael Clancy

More than half a year after announcing the position, the Empire State Development Corporation has hired an ombudsman for the controversial Atlantic Yards project.
...
After months of waiting for an ombudsman, the public wasted no time in posing questions for Taylor.

Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report wanted to know how to contact Taylor, how much he was being paid, and how long his tenure would be?
...
The folks at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wonder "What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings?"

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NoLandGrab: We want to know if the ombudsman will be blogging.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

A community group set up to be bought out by Ratner?

Atlantic Yards Report

At a panel last night held at the Museum of the City of New York, Modernism and the Public Realm, Fred Siegel, a historian and urbanist, offered a tantalizing Atlantic Yards anecdote.

Siegel, a Brooklynite, was highly critical of Atlantic Yards. (More on the panel tomorrow.) At one point, he said, "I know a local politician who began a community group with the express purpose of being bought out by Bruce Ratner."

I caught up with him afterward to ask him to elaborate, but he begged off. But what politician and group could he have been talking about?

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Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

In the news

Two online news wrap-ups carried Atlantic Yards items from other media outlets today:

City Room [The NY Times]

An architectural rendering, disseminated online, shows a new skyscraper — which would be Brooklyn’s tallest building — looming over Jay Street. The project was proposed by the developer Bruce C. Ratner, but separate from his Atlantic Yards project. Both Mr. Ratner’s company and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership said the rendering was outdated and did not reflect Mr. Ratner’s current plans. [Daily News]

NY1 ItCH

[From The NY Sun]

Ben Sarlin reports: “The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board is fining the city planning commissioner, Dolly Williams, $4,000 for failing to recuse herself from decisions regarding the giant Atlantic Yards development near downtown Brooklyn, the board announced yesterday. Despite her critical role in approving the project, Ms. Williams in 2004 invested $250,000 in the New Jersey Nets, which is owned by the developer of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner Companies. The Nets are scheduled to move into a new arena as part of the $4 billion development, which will also add thousands of units of housing and office and retail space to the low-rise neighborhood.”

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

A New Proposal From Ratner: Brooklyn's Tallest Building

Gothamist, A Bigger Brooklyn Building From Bruce Ratner

A rendering of Brooklyn's proposed City Tech Tower, designed by Renzo Piano, at Tillary and and Jay Street sent some into speculation mode, especially since its height seemed to be up to 1,000 feet tall. Which would make just about twice the height of the 512-foot tall Williamsburgh Savings Bank, currently the tallest building the Brooklyn.

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The Real Deal via AM New York (in AM New York's print edition only)

A new addition may soon top Brookyn's skyline if developer Bruce Ratner gets his way, according to The Real Deal. The real estate publication reports that the project which is not part of Atlntic Yards, "could reach 1,000 feet, a higher height than the borough's tallest building, the Williamsburg Savings Bank."

Posted by steve at 5:48 AM

Dolly's Follies

Disgraced City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams Fined for Atlantic Yards Conflict of Interest

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Though Williams feigned innocence, it only took three years to show that where there's smoke, there's fire:

In August 2004, it was reported in the Brooklyn Paper that Brooklyn's only representative on the City Planning Commission, Dolly Williams, had become an investor in Bruce Ratner's Nets. It was amply clear to us that her financial stake with the team and her role as a Commissioner created a conflict of interest that broke the Ethics Law of the City Charter, which says that a city officer with ownership interest in firms doing business with the city has a conflict of interest. . Days after the disclosure Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn lodged a complaint with the city's Conflicts of Interest Board (click to download the complaint).

At the time, Ms. Williams told the Brooklyn Paper: "It is not a conflict, otherwise I would not do it."

Tuesday, over three years after the complaint was filed, the Conflicts of Interest Board released a disposition by Ms. Williams where she admitted that her partial ownership of the Nets and her vote in favor of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning -- which included a rezoning of a small part of the Atlantic Yards project site which would benefit Forest City Ratner -- was a conflict of interest. The Board also announced a $4,000 dollar fine it has imposed on the now disgraced commissioner. Ms. Williams has not explained why she did not recuse herself from that vote and admit to her conflict much earlier.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Goodby (sic) Dolly

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lobbyist and Forest City Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky's reaction to the NYC Conflict of Interest Board's fining of Dolly Williams:

The news that City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams was leaving the body because of a conflict of interest didn't do much to move us; we just don't hold the Commission in enough regard to really react to the news.

However, Lipsky holds Atlantic Yards in high enough regard to continue:

Others, however feel differently. As the NY Sun reports, DDD's Daniel Goldstein looks favorably upon Williams' removal because of conflicts involving Atlantic Yards, and her replacement by Shirley McRae, a sometime critic of the project: "As for the new commissioner: "It's got to be an improvement over someone who's just been fined over conflicts of interest," Mr. Goldstein said. He added that he was encouraged by Ms. McRae's critical perspective on the Atlantic Yards issue during her time on the local community board."

Goldstein should really temper his enthusiasm, it tends to place too much emphasis on the import of all of this minor maneuvering. After all, a conflict at the planning commission, a body that faithfully discharges the mayor's will, has little impact on the resolution of any individual issue; it's not a venue where democracy is exercised.

He does leave us with a relevant parting proverb that applies as much to Atlantic Yards as it does to the Columbia Expansion plan, though we're sure that he'd split every hair on his head in disagreement.

"The law punishes the thief who steals the goose from off of the common; but lets the greater felon loose, who steals the commons from the goose."

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NoLandGrab: Lipsky is still smarting from the community's loss before the Planning Commission this week (as are we), where the commission shamefully voted to approve the Columbia University expansion plan, despite widespread public opposition.

Lipsky has a point — any one commissioner doesn't wield very much power. However, he's overlooking the point that Williams sought to use her position to further her own financial interests, which is a hallmark of governmental corruption.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Ceremonial groundbreaking at Forest City Ratner's controversial Ridge Hill project in Yonkers

Journal News, Ceremonial shovels finally hit the ground at Ridge Hill development

Elected officials and developers wielded polished steel ceremonial shovels yesterday not far from where Whole Foods and L.L Bean stores will rise as part of the Ridge Hill project, this city's biggest redevelopment project to date.
...
Yesterday was a long time coming. Redevelopment efforts began in the late 1990s under former Mayor John Spencer, who attended the ceremony. Then, in September 2002, the city announced Forest City Ratner would develop the site, which once housed a state drug-treatment center and later Lockheed-Martin, the aviation and aerospace giant.

Forest City Ratner President and CEO Bruce Ratner, however, said the five years of planning was not unreasonable. "People often say to me, 'My God, it took a long time,' but to be honest, a project of this magnitude, with the back and forth on both sides, often does take a long time," Ratner said.

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NoLandGrab: What Bruce means is that political backroom dealing, doing an end-run around the City's own rules and fending off lawsuits is hard work and takes a long time.

Business Wire, Forest City Ratner Companies Breaks Ground on Ridge Hill in Yonkers

From the official press release:

Government officials from the City of Yonkers, County of Westchester and State of New York joined Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), today as ground was broken on Ridge Hill, a dynamic and diverse mixed-use project in Yonkers.

“This is a tremendous day for Forest City and the City of Yonkers, and I want to personally thank Mayor Amicone, City Council President Lesnick, and the entire Yonkers City Council for their leadership in making this day possible,” said Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of FCRC. “Ridge Hill will be the next great shopping and entertainment destination in Westchester and we are very pleased to be a significant part of Yonkers’ continuing resurgence.”

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Can New York Be Too Successful?

City Room [The NY Times]
By Sewell Chan

Has New York City’s remarkable economic expansion of the past decade been too much of a good thing? A panel of developers took up this question on Tuesday night in a panel discussion organized by the Municipal Art Society, with the title “The Oversuccessful City, Part 1: Developers’ Realities.”

Not surprisingly, no one really argued that the city could be too successful. Instead, the often spirited discussion — which at times seemed dominated by angry members of the audience — focused on the dilemmas of affordable housing and out-of-scale development. Projects like Atlantic Yards and the redevelopment of the Far West Side came up. Charles V. Bagli, who covers economic development for The Times, moderated the discussion.
...
[Professor Birch] pointed out that three of the most ambitious projects under way or on the drawing board — Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the Hudson Yards development proposed for the Far West Side of Manhattan, and the creation of a new Moynihan Station at the James A. Farley Post Office Building in Midtown — are going forward not under the city’s aegis but that of the state. “What has happened to city and its ability to lead and direct its own development?” she asked.

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Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

5 Questions: Kent Barwick

Last Exit

Barwick-LE.jpg More evidence that Kent Barwick hasn't been paying much attention or just doesn't like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

You’d mentioned that the Atlantic Yards proposal was one of the wakeup calls that inspired this series. But you’re gotten some heat for not coming out totally against that project. What good do you think can come of it?

There’s the [Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman] Daniel Goldstein school of thought, which seemed to us to be well represented, and they were going to go ahead and do the lawsuit and everything. And there were principles that members of Develop Don’t Destroy shared that we didn’t necessarily share. For instance, we thought that it was a good place for high-density development. You’ve got all the subways there. If Brooklyn wants to have an arena, for whatever combination of emotional and psychological reasons — and it’s true of Brooklyn, the loss of the Dodgers is a defining event for longtime Brooklynites – it’s a good place for an arena. It’s not a great place for a rail yard. The rail yard had divided Brooklyn in two. So, there was a lot to recommend the general direction the project in city planning terms. In detail, it was all over the top.

NoLandGrab: Kent Barwick is either purposely ignoring the work that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has done to promote the UNITY plan — a plan that proposes more density for the railyards — or he just hasn't been paying attention.

There wasn’t anybody playing the role of the government. And so the developer [Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner] was allowed to do whatever he thought best. He has a lot more expertise in some areas than others. If you look at Atlantic Center or Metrotech, you can realize that his company is a lot more comfortable in suburban settings that urban settings.

Anyway, we thought the biggest problem with this project was that it was way over the top, it’s overreaching and there wasn’t anybody paying attention to it.

Here Barwick gets to the truth of the matter:

We have ties to Bruce Ratner. He and I were in the Koch Administration together. Several of my trustees were personally friendly with Bruce and members of the Ratner family. We had a number of trustees were former Koch people, and Ratner is a Koch person. So there was a feeling on our part, yeah, everyone likes Frank Gehry as a person. And Laurie Olin was a very fine landscape architect who has done a lot of fine work in the city and elsewhere.

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So we weren’t dealing with the usual schlock, let’s-rape-the-site-and-get-out-as-quickly-as-we-can developers, using anonymous architects and landscape architect. There was clearly a greater set of ambitions here. So we set out to analyze what we thought about that. So we went out in doing that and met with community groups to see what they thought in the neighborhood.

We were invited out to the neighborhood by these groups. We were kind of apprehensive because it’s easy to dismiss us as some Upper East Side group, with headquarters on Madison Avenue. You’re always vulnerable to that. So we went out and made this presentation. I was the presenter. It was a really good, thoughtful presentation. We didn’t tell anybody anything. It was kind of a Jane Jacobs thing, even though we didn’t know it. So we said, OK, let’s look at the plan. Let’s look at the parks in Brooklyn and see which ones work and which ones don’t work and why. Let’s look at the streets. We used examples. We went through the whole idea of we need multi-use retail, we need parks to be close to major thoroughfares, and people really responded. And that’s when we came up with the idea to say, let’s set up an alternative voice. Not the pro-Ratner, pro-Marty Markowitz. Not Develop Don’t Destroy. We knew they were going to do what they were going to do. But there seemed to be a need for a third voice. But there are a lot of people uncomfortable with “No, we don’t want anything, no.”

So think it was finally a useful thing to do. We haven’t felt so much heat. Norman Oder, who writes the Atlantic Yards blog, is harsh with us, but he’s supportive. He attends almost all these Jane Jacobs things. So I feel we’ve been fairly treated. I am proud of the work that we did. I’m glad we did it, and I think it will lead to more. I think there’s a growing feeling in Brooklyn that the city by itself is not going to adequately plan. There’s so much change going on that there needs to be a broader context, a broader set of discussions. Most offensive about Atlantic Yards was the failure of the city to do anything, the failure of the state to engage in the communities. The communities were just ignored. It was really offensive.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Rats in the City

rat-nyt.jpg The NY Times

Robert M. Corrigan, an expert on rodents with the city's Department of Health, is answering readers' questions this week.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

November 28, 2007

CBN Media Advisory: Thursday, Noon Press Conference at City Hall

November 28, 2007
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN)

WHO: State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assembly Member Joan Millman, a representative of State Assembly Member Jim Brennan, City Council Members Letitia James, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, State Senator Eric Adams and State Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries pending, representatives of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

WHAT: Press Conference on Atlantic Yards Security Issues / Planned Arena Setbacks

WHERE: City Hall Steps, New York, NY

WHEN: Thursday, November 29th, 12:00 PM

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and Elected Officials
Renew Call for Independent Security Study of Atlantic Yards

Press Conference: Thursday, November 29th, 12:00 PM

Brooklyn, NY — On Thursday, November 29th at 12:00 p.m., State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assembly Member Joan Millman, a representative of State Assembly Member Jim Brennan, City Council Members Letitia James, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, and representatives of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall to renew a call for an independent security study of the planned Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, and especially its basketball arena, in light of this week’s revelation that portions of the glass-walled arena and other adjacent glass-walled buildings would lie a mere 20 feet from heavily trafficked Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. Newark police officials recently mandated the closing of streets adjacent to that city’s new Prudential Center during arena events; those streets are approximately 25 feet from that arena’s walls.

A spokesperson for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner last week admitted publicly for the first time that portions of the planned "Barclays Center" would sit back just 20 feet from two of Brooklyn’s busiest thoroughfares. Council Members James, Yassky and de Blasio, Senators Montgomery and Eric Adams, and Assemblymembers Brennan, Millman and Hakeem Jeffries formally requested an independent security study on October 29th, and questioned what would make the planned Brooklyn arena more secure than Newark’s arena. Street closings – or even lane closings – in Brooklyn similar to those instituted in Newark would create a nightmare of traffic and gridlock more than 230 days a year.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 PM

The Atlantic Yards ombudsman cometh, finally, and the questions begin

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder weighs in on the much-anticipated appointment of the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, and wonders just how direct the "direct information" he'll provide to the public will be:

It's hard to imagine that Taylor will pry more out of the agency than it has already said, but it's also hard to imagine that such questions will stop.

Such challenges may cause the ESDC to try to draw a line between questions that are "informational"--easily accessible as long as the right people/agencies are queried--and those that are "political" and "legal," the answers for which the ESDC has said all that it will say because of internal or legal constraints.

Can Taylor do a credible job while maintaining the credibility of such boundaries? He'll surely have opportunities to prove his value.

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Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Is Named

City Room [The NY Times]
By Sewell Chan

Some background on the Atlantic Yards ombuddy:

Taylor-NYT.jpg

The new ombudsman, Forrest R. Taylor, was chief of staff to Gifford Miller when he was speaker of the City Council from 2002 to 2004.

Previously, Mr. Taylor was a protegé of Marc V. Shaw, a former first deputy mayor who now works for the Extell Development Company, and worked as deputy executive director for operations at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where Mr. Shaw was executive director before he joined the Bloomberg administration. Most recently, Mr. Taylor has been manager of Prowess Initiatives and Analysis, which advises companies on government relations and corporate communications.

Mr. Taylor, 46, a Detroit native who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1981, has his work cut out for him. Atlantic Yards, a massive retail, residential and office development that includes a new basketball arena, has been the most controversial project ever to rise in the city’s most populous borough.

As the “dedicated project coordinator,” Mr. Taylor will be the liaison from the development corporation to elected officials, community groups and the public.

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Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

City Planning Commission member fined, successor named

WilliamsMcRae.jpg NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Controversial City Planning Commission member Dolly Williams was fined Tuesday for voting in support of Atlantic Yards while she was an investor in the project.

The $4,000 fine was announced Tuesday by the city Conflicts of Interest Board at the same time Borough President Marty Markowitz named longtime Community Board 2 Chairwoman Shirley McRae as Williams' prospective replacement for the commission's Brooklyn representative.

Williams could not be reached for comment, although she was seen at Borough Hall briefly just before the press conference announcing McRae's appointment to the post.

"We heard it a little while ago," said Markowitz when asked about the fines imposed on Williams, who was representing Brooklyn when she cast the vote.

Asked about the timing of his announcement of McRae and the news about Williams, Markowitz didn't deny a connection.

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Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Looks Forward to Hearing from You

duck.jpgThe Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

After more than six months of searching for the perfect candidate for the job (and after three people had refused offers), an ombudsman for the Atlantic Yards project has finally been found: Forrest R. Taylor, a communications and government relations consultant who worked as chief of staff to former City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and as deputy executive director for operations at the MTA. One word of advice to Mr. Taylor: Duck!

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Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Atlantic Yards Gets Ombudsman

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) announced Tuesday the selection of Forrest R. Taylor as ombudsman for the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project.

The ESDC promised to hire an ombudsman in April, following the partial collapse of the Ward Bakery during asbestos abatement, to act as a liaison between the agency, elected officials and the public in addressing concerns related to construction. Construction is expected to last at least 10 years.

Among other things, Taylor will handle questions and complaints, and regularly brief the community and elected officials on the progress of the project.

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Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Planning Commissioner Fined for Atlantic Yards Conflict of Interest

The NY Sun
By Benjamin Sarlin

This Sun article covering Dolly Williams's $4,000 fine from the NYC Conflict of Interest Board slightly exaggerates the embattled Planning Commish's role in the approval of Bruce Ratner's controversial megaproject.

Despite her critical role in approving the project, Ms. Williams in 2004 invested $250,000 in the New Jersey Nets, which is owned by the developer of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner Companies.

Atlantic Yards is a state project. NYC's Planning Commission played a bit part, approving changes related to the project, but not the project itself, which was approved last December by the Public Authorities Control Board, which is comprised of representatives of the Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Leader.

The article goes into more detail, which clarifies Dolly Williams's actions and the Planning Commission's actual role:

Ms. Williams, the CFO of A. Williams Construction, signed a statement with the Conflicts of Interest Board admitting that she had invested in the Nets just weeks before she voted in favor of the downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan, which would benefit some of the land to be included in the Atlantic Yards project. The decision by the board comes more than three years after the Brooklyn Paper originally reported that Ms. Williams's financial holdings posed a conflict of interest. After her relationship with the developer was disclosed, Ms. Williams recused herself from future involvement with the project, including design recommendations in 2006 that gave the commission's stamp of approval to the plan.

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NoLandGrab: Williams has connsistently displayed a pattern of personal entitlement, as demonstrated by her use of a City Government parking placard to illegally park her signature yellow Porsche.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

$4K FINE FOR DIP IN 'ATLANTIC'

NY Post
By Maggie Haberman

An embattled city Planning Commission member was fined $4,000 for approving part of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn - a controversial plan that she'd personally invested in, officials said yesterday.

Dolly Williams admitted she violated the city charter section saying public servants can't use their positions to personally benefit themselves or associates, the city Conflicts of Interest Board said.
...
In April 2004, Williams put $250,000 into escrow to start paying for her investment in the Nets basketball team and a new arena at the Atlantic Yards site.

Less than three weeks later, she voted to approve the plan that would modify a parcel in the Atlantic Yards plan, she admitted in an affidavit.

NoLandGrab: The appearance of conflict of interest has been festering for more than three years; it is hardly surprising that Williams actually took action to personally enrich herself.

Additionally, the Post reports:

[Williams] continues to serve in her post until Markowitz fills the position.

That explains why Marty Markowitz announced the appointment of Shirley McRae on the same day this decision was handed down.

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Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Bruce to build tallest building in Brooklyn, after all?

NY Post, A TALL ORDER IN B’KLYN

Preliminary renderings of another Ratner building - the proposed City Tech Tower on Downtown Brooklyn's Jay Street - feature a design by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano showing a massive structure, which some online estimates yesterday put at 1,000 feet tall.

Sources familiar with the project say they expect it to top off at around 700 feet.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Tallest? CUNY-Forest City Tower Could Be 65 Stories

The design of the proposed tower on the site of the Klitgord Auditorium on the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) campus, at Tillary and Jay streets, has been revealed and it appears to be between 65 and 70 stories tall. Currently, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, at 512 feet, is Brooklyn’s tallest.

Reported over the holiday weekend first by Wired-NY.com and then by the 110 Livingston blog and Brownstoner.com, it is described as “stunningly tall” and Wired-NY, which counted the floors in the rendering, estimated that, with the spire, the building could top 1,000 feet and could be Brooklyn’s tallest.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Markowitz Appoints CB2 Chair McRae to City Planning Commission

Brooklyn Heights Blog

The Brooklyn Paper reports that Borough President Marty Markowitz has named Shirley McRae, Chair of Community Board 2, which includes the Heights along with Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill, DUMBO and Fort Greene, to be Brooklyn's sole representative on the City Planning Commission.
...
Ms. McRae has called for greater community participation in oversight of the Atlantic Yards proposal, criticized the conduct of public hearings concerning the Yards, and signed a letter (along with other CB chairs) taking Mr. Ratner to task for claiming that the Boards had participated significantly in a report favoring the development.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Atlantic Yards, Part 1

Ecotecture analyzes Atlantic Yards based on the project's sustainability — the controversial megaproject comes across looking pretty green:

GehryModelSkyline-Green.gif

Atlantic Yards relies heavily on its relationship to transportation hubs, as well as providing on-site commercial amenities.

Atlantic Yards is also intended to connect neighborhoods by transforming the current barrier of rail yards into a connective fabric of parks, residences and commerce.

Architect Frank Gehry has developed Atlantic Yards 16 high-rise residential and mixed-use towers, arranged in a public park.

Landscape architect Laurie Olin has designed the open space that connects the multiple towers. The space is primarily public and encourages a wide variety of activities.

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NoLandGrab: When you get your info from the developer, what's not to love?

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

DDDB Threefer

A Question for the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman

There is a particularly pressing question that many, including elected officials have been asking:
What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings?

Fine for Brooklyn's Conflicted Commissioner

Oddly, more than three years after DDDB lodged a complaint about former Brooklyn-appointed City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams with the city's Conflict of Interest Board for her conflict — owning a share of Bruce Ratner's Nets while simultaneously sitting on a commission that took a vote that would benefit the Atlantic Yards developer during the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning in 2004 — the Board has issued a report and fined Ms. Williams $4,000 according to the Wonkster blog.

Atlantic Yards Critic Appointed to City Planning

It's nice for Brooklyn to have a representative on the Planning Commission again who can be independent of Mr. Markowitz and the interests of the real estate industry.
...
Chairwoman McRae and her Community Board 2 members were very critical of the Atlantic Yard project's Environmental Impact Statement and its findings, as well as the process that bypassed the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and thus her Board, and the project's abuse of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

November 27, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: ESDC HIRES ATLANTIC YARDS OMBUDSPERSON

ESDC furthers commitment to increased oversight and information flow

Furthering its commitment to increased oversight and improved information flow at the Atlantic Yards project, the Empire State Development Corporation today announced it has hired Forrest R. Taylor as project ombudsperson.

Mr. Taylor, who has a long and distinguished background in the public and private sectors, will be the dedicated project coordinator and liaison between ESDC, elected officials, community representatives and the public.

“Understanding and addressing the community’s concerns are a high priority for this administration. We believe this important development project will help transform Brooklyn by bringing much-needed housing, transit improvements, open space and jobs to the downtown area,” said Avi Schick, President and COO of ESDC. “Forrest’s background in government, transportation and community affairs makes him ideally suited to provide the public with direct information and direct access to the state and the developer.”

Most recently, Mr. Taylor served as manager of Prowess Initiatives and Analysis, a boutique firm advising corporate clients on government relations and corporate communications. He has also held a number of government posts, including chief of staff to the City Council president, deputy executive director for operations for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and chief of staff for the deputy mayor for finance and economic development.

“This ombudsman position provides an opportunity for me to draw on all of my experiences in and out of government and is an exciting next step forward in the State’s effort to increase the public’s connection to this important and transformative project. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to insure the community has access to current information and swift responses to questions and concerns,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor, who assumed his post on Monday, will be based in a to-be-established office in the Atlantic Yards project area, providing easy access for local officials and community members. As ombudsman Mr. Taylor will oversee the project schedule and activities and meet with elected officials and community groups to brief them on process, activities and timetables. Mr. Taylor will also be tasked with relaying and working through public concerns with the proper administrative agencies.

Empire State Development is New York’s chief economic development agency, encompassing business, workforce and community development. ESD also oversees the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information, visit www.nylovesbiz.com

Posted by lumi at 7:52 PM

Former Commissioner Fined for Atlantic Yards Connection

Gotham Gazette is reporting that Dolly Williams was fined $4,000 by the NYC Conflict of Interest Board on the same day that we find that Shirley McRae will succeed Ms. Williams on the City Planning Commission.

Dolly4000.gif

According to a deposition released by the Conflicts of Interest Board today, Dolly Williams, who has served as a commissioner since 2003 and announced she would leave the board last month, voted in favor of the project while she was simultaneously becoming an investor in the New Jersey Nets - who will move to Brooklyn as part of the major downtown development, Atlantic Yards.

In late April of 2004, Williams put $250,000 in escrow to guarantee her investment in the Nets. A little over two weeks later she voted in favor of the project that expanded the commercial use of a site within the Atlantic Yards plan.

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NoLandGrab: It should be noted that it took over THREE YEARS after Atlantic Yards critics and Brooklyn Papers noted WIlliams's conflict for the Board to act.

Perhaps this closes one of the early bizarre chapters in the Atlantic Yards saga.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 PM

McRae to replace Williams on Planning board

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Borough President Markowitz has named Community Board 2 chair Shirley McRae to be the new Brooklyn representative to the city Planning Commission, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

The official announcement will be at a press conference tomorrow.

McRae has been the longtime head of Community Board 2, which covers Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.

McRae will be replacing Dolly Williams, whose part-ownership in the New Jersey Nets and business relationship with developer Bruce Ratner became a major embarrassment for Borough Hall when Williams — Brooklyn’s sole representative on the Planning Commission — was forced her to recuse herself from discussions about Atlantic Yards, the borough’s largest development project ever.

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Posted by lumi at 7:37 PM

Piano Floods Gray Monolith for New York Times in Gorgeous Light

NYTHead-Bloomberg.jpg Bloomberg

The Times gave up its white terra-cotta chateau-style headquarters just west of Times Square to take 26 floors of the tower it built with developer Forest City Ratner Cos.

Bloomberg's reviewer, James S. Russell, can't find enough nice things to say about Bruce Ratner's latest building, for example:

The building is almost prim at street level, in contrast to the belching crudeness all around.
....
Light is Piano's favorite raw material, and he conjures the most beautiful light I have ever seen in an office building.

'Nuf said...

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Posted by lumi at 6:53 PM

TONIGHT: PlaNYC Workshop On Neighborhood Parking In Prospect Heights/Park Slope

The New York City Department of Transportation invites you to Come and Share Your Ideas

[This announcement was distributed by Brooklyn Community Board 6.]

DOT wants to address community concerns about the possible impact of congestion pricing on neighborhood parking.

Participate in roundtable discussions about:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
6:30-8:30pm
Come between 6:00-6:30pm

Congregation Beth Elohim
274 Garfield Place (at 8th Avenue)

RSVP Required by 11/26/07 to:
planycpark@hshassoc.com or call 917.339.0488.

Use "Brooklyn Workshop" as subject line of email.

To download the official agency announcement click here, or use the following link:
http://www.brooklyncb6.org/announcements/#10.

Posted by lumi at 12:36 PM

Eagle Twofer: Real Estate Round-Up, November 26, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley
link

City Council hopes to expand oversight on massive NYC building boom:

The City Council is proposing a new task force that would examine the impact that large, private development projects have on surrounding infrastructure, included those sponsored by the city and state, reported The New York Sun. Headed by Council Members Daniel Garodnick and Letitia James, a chief opponent of the Atlantic Yards arena and high rise project, the task force would examine impacts on traffic, schools and energy.

So the glass-walled arena and high-rises are only 20 ft. from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, what's the big deal?

The New York Times confirmed that the Atlantic Yards arena, renamed the Barclays Center, would be set back from Atlantic and Flatbush avenues only 20 feet in most places. The issue, brought up by opponents of the project as early as 2005 and the subject of a lawsuit, reemerged after Newark police decided two weeks before the grand opening of the Prudential Center arena to close adjacent streets during events because it was deemed too close at 25 feet.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

FIGHTING AMONG THEMSELVES

The Village Voice, Letter to the Editor

Deb Goldstein sticks up for her bro:

Regarding Dan Ross's November 7–13 letter referring to Daniel Goldstein and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn as an absolutist organization: Mr. Ross surely gives us more power than we were ever afforded.

Downplaying the work of a self-made grassroots organization in the way Mr. Ross does is taking on a sort of "blame the victim" mentality. There comes a point in organizing and social action when "sitting at the table" and negotiating are no longer strategic options. If Mr. Goldstein and the entire organization believed that negotiation with Forest City Ratner was an option, it would have been done years ago. Sure, we would have liked to remain idealistic and think that conversations could have occurred, but good faith went the way of the falling bricks a long time ago. However, Mr. Ross, perhaps you could try?

Deborah Goldstein
Brooklyn

link

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

At the "Priced Out" conference, some Atlantic Yards subtext

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes all out on the "Priced Out" conference, where, as usual, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan makes a few cameo appearances:

At the “Priced Out” conference on “addressing the pressures of living in NYC,” sponsored by by the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus over the first weekend in November at Pace University, Atlantic Yards popped up several times, sometimes not so flatteringly. And it also led to some public diplomacy from both opponents and proponents.

article

Oder also posted a longer article on the conference in general.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

November 26, 2007

EMINENT DOMAINIA: City Planning Commission approves Columbia expansion plan

No surprises here, everything at yesterday's City Planning Commission meeting went according to the preordained script. City Planning voted to accept the Columbia University expansion plan, which would use eminent domain to displace residents and businesses in West Harlem.

Here are today's headlines:
Crain's NY Business, Columbia expansion wins key vote

10 of the Commission's 12 present members voted in favor of the expansion, with one against. One other abstained, citing a provision in the plan that would allow the university to use eminent domain to acquire land for the expansion.

NY Times: City Room, Planning Panel Approves Columbia Expansion

After a tumultuous and bitter meeting replete with persistent heckling, the New York City Planning Commission voted this afternoon to approve Columbia University’s much-debated plan for a 17-acre campus expansion in Harlem. The plan now goes to the City Council, which is expected to modify it before giving final approval.

The commission’s decision marks an important step — thought not the final one — in the often difficult process known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or Ulurp.
...
Adding a wrinkle to the project, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve a similar redevelopment proposal — a community-initiated rezoning proposal known as a Section 197a document — that had been put forward by Community Board 9.

Someone smart enough to write for the Times shouldn't be buying into Columbia's nonsensical pr campaign:

Columbia has defended the plan as necessary and promised not to seek the use of eminent domain to make people leave their homes. (The university has left open the possibility of having the state use eminent domain to acquire nonresidential property.)

NY Newsday, Columbia gets approval for West Harlem expansion
The Newsday reporter didn't fall for the same absurd rhetoric that the Times did:

Although the university has acquired most of the properties in the project's footprint, it hasn't ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the rest.
...
"The record of this commission is that their allegiance is only to other wealthy people," said architectural historian Michael Henry Adams, who harangued the commissioners with chants of "rich, rich, rich" throughout much of the meeting. "I guess the rest of us can just go to hell and die."

Columbia Spectator, CPC Approves M’Ville Plan
The Spectator explains the "wrinkle" that the Times reporter had trouble grasping:

In addition to approving the 197-c plan, the commission approved Community Board 9’s 197-a plan for the area’s development. Yet while the 197-a as written by CB9 covers all of Manhattanville, the commission approved only the provisions dealing with the area outside the expansion zone.

Commissioner Karen Phillips cast the only vote against the 197-c plan, and commissioner Irwin Cantor abstained from voting on 197-c. The 197-a plan passed without any dissenting votes.

Gothamist, Manhattanville, Columbiaville: City Agency Approves Massive Columbia Plan

The old saw is that one can't fight City Hall, and we can apparently add the ivory tower to the bulwarks of imperviousness. Despite fierce community opposition, Columbia University will be expanding its upper-Manhattan campus to surrounding blocks.

NoLandGrab: Gothamist jumped the gun, the plan must pass a full City Council vote for approval before the "University will be expanding."

Metro NY, Columbia expansion heads to City Council

Ten of the 12 board members voted to send both plans to the City Council for a hearing next month and a final vote in January.

Officials said it would be up to the council to reconcile remaining differences in the Columbia proposal and the residents’ plan, which originally had sought to prevent what its sponsors called a dire threat to one of Manhattan’s oldest working-class, low-income neighborhoods.

Posted by lumi at 7:44 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE:
Major Security Flaw Revealed in Ratner's Atlantic Yards Plan
Arena Setback Only 20 Feet From Congested Brooklyn Avenues

Newark Arena Requires Street Closings - How is Brooklyn Different?
ESDC, NYPD, Mayor and Governor Not Saying

BROOKLYN, NY — Developer Forest City Ratner's planned basketball arena would be set back a mere 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, two of Brooklyn's main arteries, which intersect at what is already a heavily congested choke-point abutting the proposed arena site. Security experts agree that substantial setbacks for facilities like an arena are required to protect against vehicular bombs and other terror attacks. Twenty feet is not substantial.

This major security flaw in Ratner's Atlantic Yards development plan in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, was revealed by the developer, after weeks of stonewalling, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a New York Times article.

In mid-October, just two weeks before the grand opening of Newark's Prudential Center arena, that city's police department mandated that at least two streets adjacent to the new arena would be closed during events as a necessary precaution against terrorist attacks. Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy told the Newark Star-Ledger, "you can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world. So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

The Newark arena is set back about 25 feet from its nearest abutting streets. Forest City Ratner's arena would be set back only 20 feet, in most places, from busy avenues. But unlike in Newark, the NYPD says that street closures will not be necessary in Brooklyn; according to the Times, the NYPD "found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days."

"It is a major security flaw to have a mere twenty foot distance between Ratner's planned arena and congested Brooklyn avenues. What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings? This is the key question that Governor Spitzer and his Homeland Security Deputy Michael Balboni, Mayor Bloomberg, ESDC President/CEO Avi Schick and NYPD Commissioner Kelly all need to answer," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "One can assume that during the Newark arena planning process, Newark's police officials ‘found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed'—just like the NYPD is saying now—only to decide at the last minute that streets did indeed need to be closed. There is every reason to think that scenario can occur in Brooklyn; the problem is that Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues cannot be closed for 230 events per year."

Twenty-six community groups, led by DDDB, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in April 2007 (that suit is still pending) in which they asserted, in part, that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) violated state environmental review laws by failing to consider the potential security issues and impacts from a terrorist attack on the proposed Atlantic Yards project in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). During the environmental review of the project, the three jurisdictional community boards, community groups, elected officials and individuals commented on the need for the ESDC to study security and terrorism. The ESDC—the state agency overseeing the project—responded that: "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 of the scope of the EIS." Tellingly, the 20-foot setback distance was never mentioned in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement or General Project Plan which were both approved by the ESDC Board of Directors in December 2006.

"When ESDC denied that a terrorist bomb attack on the arena is a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario' worthy of study, we wonder if ESDC officials even knew that the proposed arena would only be 20 feet from the street. The attendant risks from that mere 20-foot setback present a very reasonable worst-case scenario," said DDDB Legal Director Candace Carponter. "If ESDC did know about the inadequate setback from the surrounding streets, then they have been grossly irresponsible by ignoring it. And if they did not know what the setback would be then they could not have logically determined what is or isn't a reasonable worst-case scenario worthy of study. Since the NYPD and ESDC have refused to answer anyone asking for the simple fact of setback distance, we wonder if they were even aware of the insufficient setback until it appeared in the newspaper."

For more than two years, elected officials and many community groups have been asking for a proper and comprehensive review of the Atlantic Yards project in the context of security and terrorism issues and impacts, but such a review has never been done. About one month ago, eight elected Brooklyn officials sent a letter to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg demanding an independent security review of Atlantic Yards. The officials have yet to receive a response.

"The revelation that the arena would be only 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush, a fact that has clearly been hidden by Ratner and the ESDC for more than three years, presents the final evidence that the Atlantic Yards plan requires an independent security review," Goldstein said.

Atlantic Yards would be a glass-walled arena surrounded by glass-walled skyscrapers, abutting the busiest (and frequently gridlocked) intersection in Brooklyn, on top of 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 United States, by far. Forest City Ratner projects about 230 events per year at the arena.

Renderings of the Atlantic Yards project illustrating the issues discussed above are here:
http://www.dddb.net/homeart/illustrations.pdf

More background can be found here:
What Would the Worst Case Be?
http://www.dddb.net/php/latestnews_Linked.php?id=371

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's July 2005 white paper, "Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise and Arena Development Project" can be found here:
http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/security.php

Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

A short history of Atlantic Yards "rowback" in the New York Times

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR gets back to its roots — pointing out flaws in coverage by The New York Times — with this item about The Times' surreptitious acknowledgment on Saturday that the New Jersey Nets won't be tipping off in Brooklyn in 2009:

On Saturday, when the New York Times reported that the Atlantic Yards arena "is scheduled to open after 2009," (emphases added), the Times didn't say it was correcting a previous report that the arena would open in 2009.

That was a variant of "rowback," which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed." In other words, a correction without formally acknowledging a correction--even though the Times publishes the most minute factual corrections daily.

The Times has done this periodically, publishing updated correct information but without (in most cases) publishing corrections.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:39 AM

Vacant lots, empty buildings = new opportunity for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digs into a report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and attends a Drum Major Institute panel on rehabbing vacant buildings to learn if there might be means of creating affordable housing that don't involve seizing private property and tossing big subsidies at mega-developers:

In the 1970s, New York City took over some 100,000 properties abandoned for nonpayment of taxes, and in subsequent decades helped community development groups fix them to create affordable housing. The numbers remaining are few, so the city now practices new tactics--tax incentives or increased development rights--to stimulate affordable housing.

But other solutions remain, notably the utilization of vacant or abandoned properties that are not in tax arrears. Unlike some other cities, notably Boston (as reported on the DMI blog), New York doesn't keep an inventory, nor has it changed any tax policies to incentivize owners.

(Regarding some seemingly stagnant properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint, the state got around the lack of incentives by declaring them blighted. A rezoning, however, might have done the trick.)

article

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

Behind the Curbline

Business owners in Willets Point explain how their businesses have thrived for decades, despite the City's neglect and regular attempts to take their property, putting their businesses, livelihoods and those of their employees at risk.

www.wpira.com

Brit in Brooklyn posted the full press release along with photos from last summer's City Hall press conference and rally.

The Willets Point gang is gearing up for a very important hearing this Thursday:

Representatives from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), a group of the 10 largest land/business owners in Willets Point will testify before the New York City Council's Land Use and Economic Development Committees on November 29, 2007 at 1 p.m. in the Committee Room, City Hall.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Pass the praise, please

NY Daily News

Columnist Errol Louis is thankful for James Caldwell and got in a plug for the pro-Atlantic Yards group founded for the express purpose of representing "the community" on Ratner's Community Benefits Agreement.

Ten years ago, when a kid in my neighborhood was killed in gang violence - and it turned out he had no family to bury him or even say a word at his wake - one of the few people to step forward with a Bible verse and an offer to help pay for a burial was James Caldwell, who soon after was elected president of the 77th Precinct Community Council.

Caldwell continues to lead a long, difficult fight against street violence in Crown Heights - he recently co-sponsored an anti-violence rally - and works on the root causes of poverty and joblessness as co-founder and president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a group dedicated to making sure locals get a fair share of the jobs at the Atlantic Yards project, www.buildbrooklyn.org.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

TODAY: NYC Planning Commission vote on Columbia University's plan to use eminent domain

Monday, November 26, the New York City Planning Commission will hold a special public meeting to vote on Columbia University's proposal to expand onto 17 acres of Manhattanville. The plan would use eminent domain against thriving businesses, like Tuck-It-Away Storage and Hudson North American, which have invested in West Harlem for years and do not want to sell. We encourage you to attend the meeting and tell the Planning Commission that you oppose the use of eminent domain for private gain.

Show your support for the West Harlem business owners!

Special Public Meeting
New York City Planning Commission
Monday, November 26, 2007
1pm
Spector Hall
22 Reade Street
New York, NY

You can find out more at these two websites:
http://www.westharlembusinessgroup.com and http://www.stopcolumbia.org.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

New York’s Construction Boom Puts More Women in Hard Hats

The NY Times
By Annie Correal

In an article about the increasing presence of women on construction sites, Atlantic Yards is one of the poster-projects credited with projections of more to come:

The foothold that women have gained during the construction boom may expand in the coming years. Developers working on large projects at the World Trade Center site and the Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn are aiming to employ a work force that is at least 15 percent women.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Council's Role in Private Development To Expand

The NY Sun
By Benjamin Sarlin

NYC has been taking a build-it-now-fix-it-later approach to large-scale development projects, including Atlantic Yards, and their attendant impacts on the City's fragile infrastructure. The City Council is trying to get involved:

The City Council is seeking to expand its role in private development with a new task force to assess new projects' impacts on city infrastructure.

The infrastructure task force, headed by Council Members Daniel Garodnick and Letitia James, would report to the council on the projected effects, in areas such as traffic, telecommunications, and energy, of large-scale plans conducted by private developers, as well as the state and federal government. The task force could examine the redevelopment of ground zero, the Atlantic Yards project, the Second Avenue subway line, and the future development of the West Side rail yards. "There is no entity today that considers the impact on city infrastructure," Mr. Garodnick said in a phone interview. "We want to take a long view and see that our infrastructure keeps pace with our development plan."

article

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Straight From The Bleachers: Pair of Champs

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

In case you were wondering who is the subject of this article about a local basketball tournament, it has no details about on-court action, but Brooklyn's head honcho Bruce Ratner has plenty to say:

FCRCTourney.jpg

The Brooklyn Patriots and St. Vincent Ferrer Bulldogs of Flatbush (pictured above) claimed victory on Sunday at Championship Day of the third semi-annual borough-wide basketball tournament, sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the Nets.

Championship Day was held at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights and marked the culmination of two weeks of games played in neighborhoods throughout the borough. Hundreds of young athletes between the ages of 11 and 13 from all over Brooklyn played in the tournament.

“This was a terrific tournament and we salute all the young men who participated for their exceptional athletic talents, hard work and sportsmanship,” said Bruce Ratner, CEO and chairman of FCRC and chairman of the Nets.

“Competitive sports are some of the best ways for kids to learn about working with others, commitment to teamwork and the importance of exercise. We are proud to support these educational and athletic programs in Brooklyn and hope these positive experiences can help these young men continue to grown into the role models and leaders of the future.”

full article

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Forest City in the News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, South Side shopping area rethinks its image

One of the oldest retailers at Forest City's Station Square closes its doors due to disappointing sales:

But recent times have not been so good, as Station Square owner Forest City Enterprises has shifted the emphasis away from retail in favor of entertainment and eating.

"There's no business here," said Shawn Gantz, the manager of the Station Square store.
...
S.W. Randall follows a number of other restaurants or businesses out the door of the Freight House Shops in recent years.

Forest City still has not found a replacement for the Cheese Cellar, which closed in 2004. Neither the Crawford Grill nor the Palm Bar survived in the space at the front of the Freight House Shops next to S.W. Randall. A small retailer near the food court also has closed its doors.

NoLandGrab: In Brooklyn, when Forest City projects fail to maintain tenants, the City or State steps in by moving agencies into the projects: NY State is the largest tenant in the Atlantic Center Mall and NY City is the largest tenant in MetroTech.

MyDesert.com, Planning commissions mull various projects

A 99 cent store will anchor the former Kmart building at the northwest corner of Harrison Street and Westerfield Way.

The Coachella Planning Commission at its Tuesday meeting approved 4-1 the architectural review for a project by applicant Forest City Development.

Commissioner Roger Nunez cast the sole no vote because he wanted to see something more upscale than a 99 cent store as anchor. He wanted to see a clothing store like Ross or Marshalls instead.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Despite opposition, Ridge Hill groundbreaking set for Wednesday in Yonkers

Journal News
By Len Maniace

At NoLandGrab, we've marveled about the similarities between Bruce's projects in Yonkers and Prospect Heights. Now the date is set for the official groundbreaking for the "regional lifestyle center":

Though work crews began cutting down trees months ago, Yonkers and Forest City Ratner officials plan a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday for the long-embattled Ridge Hill Village, the city's biggest development project to date.

Forest City Ratner announced Friday that it had signed leases with Whole Foods, L.L. Bean, Banana Republic, New York & Company and movie-theater giant National Amusements. The Brooklyn-based Forest City, which is behind the controversial Atlantic Yards development in that borough, hopes to open retail stores in late 2009, said Loren Riegelhaupt, a Forest City vice president.
...
Though work is moving ahead, the project is still under fire from neighboring municipalities. The biggest complaint is traffic.

More Ratner-sponsored planning at its worst:

"It's planning at its worst. They've given them the approvals and they didn't think it through," said Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner, criticizing Yonkers officials.

What we don't have in Brooklyn is political intrigue Yonkers-style:

The Ridge Hill development has a long and twisting history that includes a state court ruling that threw out the Yonkers City Council's original zone change. The court ruled that the approval lacked the five-vote supermajority needed to overcome the opposition of the Westchester County Planning Board. Eventually, the City Council gained a fifth vote needed to approve the zoning.

Then in March the Yonkers City Council was served a federal subpoena seeking two years of its records. At that time a source close to the investigation told The Journal News that the order sought information about the City Council's role in the $660 million Ridge Hill Village.

This pretty much sums up Bruce Ratner's traffic-planning strategy:

Kinnally said that Jackson Avenue, a major east-west corridor serving his village, already faces periodic congestion from traffic generated by the Stew Leonard's development in Yonkers. Ridge Hill would only worsen it, he said.

"I think one of the solutions will be once they start building this and they can't get people in and out, they are going to have to rethink it," Kinnally said.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

November 25, 2007

Critic Ouroussoff is much tougher on MTA´s role in West Side plan than in Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Nicolai Ourousoff, architecture critic for The New York Times, reviewed the five plans for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side yards and found them all lacking. Norman Oder contrasts the critical review with the one Ourousoff produced for the Atlantic Yards in 2005.

Here is Norman quoting yesterday's review:

Ouroussoff's tough on the emphasis on the bottom line: "But what is really at issue here is putting the importance of profit margins above architecture and planning. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority could have pushed for more ambitious proposals. For decades now cities like Barcelona have insisted on a high level of design in large-scale urban-planning projects, and they have done so without economic ruin. "

NoLandGrab: Ourousoff wants the MTA to push for high-quality planning in a competitive environment. Here in Brooklyn, we're stuck with an anti-competitive process that produces a development based on the outmoded superblock concept.

article

Posted by steve at 9:48 AM

A busy week of panels on Jane Jacobs and modernism

Norman Oder provides a listing of panels regarding urbanism. If he's recommending them, they've gotta be good, right?

Below are the bare listings. Please click on the "article" link to see complete details.

Tuesday, November 27, 6:30 pm
The Oversuccessful City, Part 1: Developers' Realities
At the New York Times Stage Auditorium, 620 Eighth Ave

Wednesday, November 28, 6:30 pm
Modernism and the Public Realm: Planning and Building in New York
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue

Thursday, November 29, 7-9 p.m.,
Changing Perspectives on Preservation: A Panel Discussion
Sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, at 457 Madison Avenue.

article

Posted by steve at 9:30 AM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Sunday Twofer

Wanted: Official Comment

It's lovely that The New York Times is asking questions about the security for the planned Nets arena, but a few quotes from public officials would give greater depth to the story.

It's a shame that the Times was unable to, or did not, get comment from or cite a single city or state official, or any third-parties to give meaningful texture to the article beyond the NYPD's silence.
...
Perhaps the press will seek these people out and ask them: How are Brooklyn's 20-foot arena setbacks different than Newark's?

What Makes Brooklyn Different than Newark? - Nothing; not even the stonewalling.

From yesterday's article in The New York Times regarding the New York Police Department's security analysis for the planned Nets arena: "The Police Department has said that it does not comment on such matters. The department’s security analysis, which found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days, would stand."

In the case of the Prudential Center arena, the Newark Police Department seemed to suddenly realize, only days before it opened, that the facility was vulnerable because it isn't set back sufficiently from the street. Now street closings are required during event days.

A better decision-making process should be required for Brooklyn.

So at some point in that process, the Newark police department must have "found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days." And then when it was built and two weeks away from opening, the Newark police department looked at it again and changed their minds, and decided they must close two streets abutting their new arena.

Imagine if this same scenario plays out in Brooklyn. We don't have the luxury of closing Atlantic and Flatbush, two already clogged arteries. No amount of congestion pricing will be able to solve the problems at the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues.

Posted by steve at 5:38 AM

Bklink: Too Close to the Street?

The Gowanus Lounge

The Times ventures into Atlantic Yards land by looking at the issues of whether Brooklyn's planned area will be vulnerable to terrorist truck bombs. It discovers the arena will be 20 feet from the street in places, the same distances as Newark's new Prudential Center. In Newark, streets are now closed during events and it's considered a planning embarrassment. In Brooklyn, 20 feet is considered safe. Sort of. Because everyone is stonewalling on giving answers

article

Posted by steve at 5:32 AM

A "few million square feet of commercial space"? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder points out how yesterday's article in The New York Times, "A Brooklyn Arena and the Street: What’s the Right Distance?", is incorrect regarding how much commercial and residential space would be built.

From today´s Times article on the arena setbacks: Atlantic Yards is slated to include more than 6,000 apartments and a few million square feet of commercial space...

Actually, no. At this point, it would be 336,000 square feet in the residential mixed-use variation, which is the variation currently under discussion.

article

Posted by steve at 5:24 AM

New calls for security probe of Yards - Elected officials say terrorism risks at giant Ratner project should be explored

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

This article covers the letter dated October 28 to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg formally requesting a security study for the proposed Nets arena.

“We are asking for something quite reasonable – that the NYPD provide meaningful information to the public, as they have with the developer, regarding possible dangers and precautions being taken to ensure the safest arena/skyscraper complex possible, and the impacts of any security measures on the community and treasury,” said Brennan. “We want to know how the situation in Brooklyn differs from that which has just occurred in Newark.”

article

Posted by steve at 5:07 AM

November 24, 2007

Atlantic Yards Graffiti

AYGraffiti.jpg.jpg

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Ok, now the setbacks story makes the print Times, but

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes that today's print edition of The New York Times carries a new version of its story about security issues surrounding the planned Nets arena, adapted from its Wednesday "City Room" blog post.

From today´s New York Times, in an article headlined A Brooklyn Arena and the Street: What’s the Right Distance?, the news comes in paragraph five (which is better than the original blog post, where the point wasn´t quite made): "For weeks, the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, and its state sponsor, the Empire State Development Corporation, had deflected questions from bloggers about the arena’s location, saying that they could not divulge information related to security."

AYR points out that bloggers haven't been alone in seeking answers about the actual planned siting of the arena, and seeks a little credit for having pointed out the discrepancy between earlier Times coverage that estimated the setback for the arena at "...about 75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue," and the actual setback — a scant 20 feet.

And, finally, Oder describes how The Times has corrected yet another error in its original November 8th article, and now correctly writes that the arena isn't scheduled to open until after 2009.

article

Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

20 Foot Ratner Arena Setback is a Security Flaw

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

An article appearing in today's New York Times confirms that the setback for the planned Nets arena is a mere 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. DDDB calls for Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg to come clean on the security issues affecting the Atlantic Yards development.

With this newly revealed information it's time for Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg to stop ignoring the situation, and at the very least, answer this question: the Ratner arena is 20 feet from the streets, the Newark arena is 25 feet from the streets and they are closing the streets, yet the NYPD says they don't plan on closing streets abutting Ratner's arena. How, exactly, is the situation in Brooklyn different than that in Newark?

Not to answer this question would be grossly irresponsible.

article

NoLandGrab: For 200 days, the ESDC has failed to find the ombudsman who "...will ensure that residents remain in the loop, and that community concerns receive proper attention." How many more days before the State decides to act responsibly and address the question of security, among many other issues?

Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

A Brooklyn Arena and the Street: What’s the Right Distance?

The New York Times
By Andy Newman

The New York Times revealed two days ago in its City Room blog that the planned Nets arena would be set back only 20 feet from adjacent streets. The story has now found its way into the Times's print edition.

The article highlights the evasion and finger-pointing that resulted from inquiries from bloggers regarding what the exact location of the arena might be:

The question of the arena’s planned location lingered, however: a strangely unknowable fact, given that when the arena is built — it is scheduled to open after 2009 — its precise location will be obvious to terrorist and nonterrorist alike.

Eventually, a straight answer emerges:

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Forest City, Loren Riegelhaupt, offered an updated response to a reporter’s inquiries: At its closest point to the street, the arena will be set back 20 feet from both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

In Newark, the newly opened Prudential Center has a similar setback, and security concerns require street closings during that arena's events. Why isn't this an issue for an arena in Brooklyn? Forest City spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt says the police know, but the police aren't talking.

That, Mr. Riegelhaupt said, was a security question to be directed to the Police Department. The Police Department has said that it does not comment on such matters. The department’s security analysis, which found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days, would stand.

article

Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

November 23, 2007

In Philadelphia, at least, “socially patient” capital

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder delves into former University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin's book, The University and Urban Revival: Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Streets, about Penn's efforts to engage with and help improve its community in the 1990s, contemplates the idea of "socially patient" capital, and wonders how it might play in Brooklyn.

Those involved in Penn's West Philadelphia Initiatives aimed to keep the neighborhood from gentrifying, “or ‘Penntrifying’ as detractors would say,” writes Rodin. Though that was more doable in Philadelphia, even there it didn´t quite work.

article

Posted by lumi at 12:05 PM

Elf You!

ElfUBruce.jpg While politicians are eagerly awaiting the appearance of Ratner Clause, the elves are merrily going about their business! [linky]

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Forest City in the News

Lake County News-Sun, Now they're cooking

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Kristi Kirk will not have to worry about the hassle of preparing dinner in a small, old kitchen.

With the assistance of military private developers and a partnership between Forest City Enterprises that provides modern homes for military families, Kirk will have no trouble pulling off the meal.

"Now I have plenty of room to cook," she said while carefully placing items into the brand new pantry with the help of her daughter, Paige, at the Fort Sheridan military neighborhood Tuesday morning. "If we did not get this house, I don't know what I would do."

The Washington Post, Three Eliminated In Fight for Poplar Point Bid

Well, that was fast.

Two weeks after receiving seven bids from companies hoping to develop Poplar Point, a swath of more than 110 acres of parkland along the Anacostia River, D.C. planners have narrowed the field to four.

Last week Neil O. Albert, the deputy mayor for economic development, announced the shortlist: a joint venture from Archstone-Smith and Madison Marquette; Clark Realty Capital; Forest City Enterprises; and a joint venture of General Growth Properties, Mid-City Urban and Doracon.

Rocky Mountain News, New malls living up to projections

Gail Bosh strolls along Main Street with daughter Heidi while shopping Tuesday at Northfield at Stapleton. The mall's developer, Forest City, says business is picking up.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Eminent domain foe dies, but her spirit endures

From the Asbury Park Press:

Anna DeFaria, who died last week 10 years after Antone passed away, never imagined in 1960 that her modest home would one day become a flashpoint in the nationwide fight against eminent domain abuse. She and her neighbors in the working-class Marine Terrace-Ocean Terrace-Seaview Avenue (MTOTSA) neighborhood have been locked in a closely watched legal battle to save their homes from Long Branch, which is trying to seize them so a private developer can build even more beachfront condos for the rich.

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

November 22, 2007

FREE TURKEYS

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! This year, we are giving out free turkeys to a few NoLandGrab All-Stars.

Turkey-Ratner.jpg The Turkey Trot...
is awarded to Bruce Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation, and the New York Police Department for dancing around the terrorism and security issue.

The Leaky Turkey...
goes to Frank Gehry, who came up with this canard last week: "My name is Frank Gehry, and my buildings don't leak." Like, ok, at least half that sentence is true.

The Jive Turkey...
will be delivered to Eliot Spitzer's home, because today is day 325 after "day one," when "everything changes" (except in Ratnerville). One thing that actually has changed is the Governor's approval rating.

Tofurkey...
goes to the ombudsman, because he or she is not real either.

Leftover Turkey...
will be served to the folks who are working on the UNITY plan, just in case this project doesn't happen and someone is looking for a plan B.

Turducken
The red herring stuffed in a land grab, stuffed in a boondoggle, goes to the proverbial three men in a room (you know who you are).

Turkey Gravy...
will be on Vito Lopez's table this holiday, for sneakily inserting a special clause in 421(a) "reform" legislation that delivers special affordable housing subsidies to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

The "Gobble Gobble" Award
This year's recipient is none other than Bruce Ratner, for taking down every building he possibly can in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

The 87% discrepancy in arena setbacks doesn't make the print Times

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR decries The New York Times's failure to print the truth in today's edition about just how close the planned Nets arena would be to two of Brooklyn's busiest thoroughfares, and points out how the newspaper considered a much smaller "cutback" worthy of front-page treatment:

Consider that, on 9/6/05, the Times published a front-page lead story (in the New York editions) that overhyped a rumored "six to eight percent" cut in the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project. It took a few weeks for the Times to say definitively that the cut would bring the project back to the original square footage announced.

Earlier this month, the Times in print estimated that the arena would be set back 75 feet from Flatbush Avenue and 150 feet from Atlantic Avenue. Actually, segments of the arena would be as close as 20 feet.

A reduction from 75 feet to 20 feet represents a difference of 73%.

A reduction from 150 feet to 20 feet represents a difference of 87%.

That's news.

NoLandGrab: News, perhaps, to everyone but the arena developer's development partner.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

Ratner's Arena Only 20 Feet from Streets

In the wake of breaking news on just how close Bruce Ratner plans on building his 18,000-seat arena to Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues (a scant 20 feet in some places), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn calls on government officials to come clean with the public on how the NYPD plans on dealing with this major security flaw in the project's design.

Also, The New York Times screwed the pooch on this story and is now seeking to rectify the situation by breaking the news on Thanksgiving Eve on the City Room blog. It's a nice try, but Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn suggests, "because the Times got it so wrong in its original article and the actual setback distance is of such great importance, the Times must publish this news in the newspaper."

link

NoLandGrab: For years, the Grey Lady has done little to combat the notion that the paper is in its development partner Bruce Ratner's pocket — the decision to rectify its mistake on the arena security story by burying it on some blog on Thanksgiving Eve does nothing to counter this impression.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Barclays $$ a ‘joke’: foes

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

When we saw the headline, we feared we were losing our sense of humor here at NoLand Grab, since we failed to recognize this week's announcement by Barclays and Forest City Ratner as a "joke." Then we realized that the joke is on Brooklyn, with Bruce Ratner laughing his way to Barclays Bank.

Given Barclays’ history, one opponent of the bank called the company’s $500,000-a-year contribution “a joke.”

“This is unacceptable,” said the Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene. “I’ll do everything in my power to hold Barclays accountable for its misdeeds to humanity.”

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) was also disapproving.

“This gesture of goodwill on the part of Barclays … doesn’t go far enough,” said James. “Forest City Ratner should name this proposed arena after Jackie Robinson or some other sports hero, and should get a more reputable bank.”

Nonetheless, the non-profit’s inception was welcomed by some black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D–Bushwick) and state Sen. Eric Adams (D–Crown Heights).

article

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Real-Estate Round-Up, November 21, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Though BUILD Prez James Caldwell is hard to track down, two nights ago, he was spotted in Coney Island:

Has James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), turned on Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Caldwell, representing BUILD, was front and center with the mayor and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at the signing of the Community Benefits Agreement for the project in 2005, and is ostensibly charged with hooking locals up with jobs resulting from the project. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group that opposes Atlantic Yards, noticed Caldwell pictured front and center with Senator Carl Kruger on Monday night in Coney Island as Kruger vowed to stop Bloomberg’s radical proposal to create a 15-acre amusement park there through the transfer of city parkland. Caldwell was unable to be reached — BUILD’s phone number has been disconnected, as has Caldwell’s home number listed in the White Pages.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Barclays disgrace

The Brooklyn Paper

To the editor,

Regarding your article, “More Blood Money,” and your editorial, “End Barclays deal now” (Nov. 17), about Bruce Ratner’s connection to Barclays and the company’s involvement with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, with South African apartheid, the Nazi regime in France and the trans-Atlantic slave trade — a bit of investigation on the Internet shows that Barclays is also currently a large investor in corporations that are involved in racial discrimination practices, the war economy, union-busting and activities detrimental to health.

Barclays is the fourth largest institutional shareholder in the Coca-Cola Company, with more than $3 billion invested. The beverage company, only a few years ago, had to pay out a $192.5-million settlement to their African-American employees for racial discrimination practices. There are currently other lawsuits against Coke for racial discrimination. And Coca-Cola continues doing business in the Sudan, despite an embargo because of the Darfur tragedy.
...
Barclays’ name should not be allowed on any building in Brooklyn. As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said in your story, “Enough is enough!”

Lewis Friedman, Park Slope

Friedman's complete letter contains a litany of investments made by Barclays Bank which would give pause to most team owners seeking an arena naming-rights sponsor.

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Hypocrisy in Coney

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

Indeed, Atlantic Yards supporters who are now foes of the mayor’s Coney Island plan pretend to be blind to the many similarities between the administration’s approach to both mega-projects:

  • In both cases, the government will use the threat of eminent domain to get existing landowners to sell.

  • In both cases, the financial details of the project are cloaked in secrecy, hidden from the very public that will ultimately pay for them.

  • In both cases, opponents are tarred as merely being part of the Not In My Back Yard crowd, as if raising reasonable questions is a crime.

  • In both cases, the government has too cozy a relationship to the hand-picked developer. At Atlantic Yards, that was Bruce Ratner. At Coney Island, the existing landowner, Sitt, is being tossed aside so that the mayor can bring in whomever he chooses. It is unclear whether the public will have any say in that process.

  • In both cases, there is ample opportunity for the area to develop organically, without a top-down, master-planned scheme. It was already happening in Prospect Heights, the supposedly “blighted” area where brownstones sell for more than $1 million. And it could have happened in Coney Island, if Sitt was given a chance to send his proposal through the normal public-review process.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

November 21, 2007

News flash: Brooklyn arena would be as close to the street as the Newark arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes Andy Newman's article from the Times's City Room blog.

His first beef starts with the headline, and he makes a good point — and one we totally missed:

The news surfaced this afternoon on the Times's CityRoom blog, in an article both substantial and whimsical that was marred by the oblique headline Putting the Atlantic Yards Arena in a Secure Place. (A literal reading suggests that some entity is enhancing AY security, which is not the subject of the article.)

Oder suggests that the article could have been clearer if it had more teeth, recommends that an article run in the paper, and notes that the timing of today's revelation is in sharp contrast to other NY Times Atlantic Yards exclusives.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:04 PM

Putting the Atlantic Yards Arena in a Secure Place

This piece should have run in the paper, instead of the Times's City Room blog, but despite a few more details on the distance of the setback of the arena, and what amounts to a mea culpa on reporter Andy Newman's part, the "cone of silence" persists.

Here are some excerpts, but, since the article is a must read and sort of hilarious to boot, you die-hards might want to head on over and read it in its entirety.

After some digging by Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder, Newman kept noodging Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt for some real answers as to just how close the planned arena would be to Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues:

Mr. Riegelhaupt confirmed that this meant that at all points, the arena would be set back at least 20 feet from the street.

Is that to say, he was asked, that at its closest point the arena would indeed be set back 20 feet from the street, or could “at least” mean 25 feet, or 50 feet, or more?

Mr. Riegelhaupt was initially unable to answer. The problem was that the location of the arena falls under the rubric of a “security issue,” a phrase that brings a magic cone of silence crashing down onto even the most innocent-seeming inquiry. Somehow the planned location of an 18,000 seat basketball arena had become as classified a piece of antiterror information as, say, the structural vulnerabilities of a bridge.

NoLandGrab: For the record, the Times should at least run a correction in the paper and an addendum to the original article, which cited the distance at "about 75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue."

Posted by lumi at 6:33 PM

From AY to Coney: Kruger becomes "community" advocate

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder contrasts Monday night's Coney Island grandstanding by State Senator Carl Kruger with last summer's Atlantic Yards public hearing, at which the very same Carl Kruger praised the "jobs and housing and communities and neighborhoods and children" and seemed quite a bit less troubled by the lack of real public input.

The leader of the opposition to the Coney Island plan was State Sen. Carl Kruger, who even said, according to Robau, "This is a backdoor approach to eminent domain!"

(Clearly, the Bloomberg administration didn't hire Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender, a former Democratic operative in southern Brooklyn, to court Kruger's favor, as the New York Observer pointed out last year. Then again, Kruger is politically malleable; former colleague Seymour Lachman, in his book Three Men In a Room, reported how Kruger, a Democrat, campaigned for Republican Martin Golden in return for new district boundaries that protected his seat.)

According to the Brooklyn Paper, Kruger opposed planning without consultation:
"You made a point tonight, and that is that Bloomberg isn’t going to push his Manhattan plans on Brooklyn without hearing from Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay.”

article

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

Barclays, Forest City and the Nets Announce New Community Alliance

Rev. Al Sharpton Praises Move

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Here's the latest CYA move for the Barclays/Ratner deal for the naming rights for a new Nets arena in Brooklyn, which has infuriated many in the local African-American community. So far as we can tell, the Eagle has just reproduced the press release:

Barclays, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the Nets basketball team recently announced the creation of the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, a new organization committed to the athletic and educational development of youth in Brooklyn and surrounding communities.

The alliance says it will invest one million dollars per year in local non-profits that work to improve the lives of young people in the borough through sports and other activities, including education and health care.

“We’re delighted to partner with Forest City Ratner and the Nets in this alliance to foster youth development in Brooklyn and other nearby communities,” said Gerard LaRocca, chief administrative officer, Americas, at Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays PLC.
...
“We could not be happier about this program,” Bruce Ratner, the CEO and chairman of FCRC and chairman of the Nets, said.
...
“From the start, Forest City Ratner made it clear that they would put together programs that were beneficial to the surrounding communities,” Reverend Al Sharpton said. “From the historic community benefits agreement to one of the most progressive affordable and low-income housing programs, Ratner’s team has lived up to its early commitments.”

article

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, Barclays recently added heat to the fire, when news broke that the controversial bank is now providing loans to cronies of the corrupt Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

This news obviously does not concern Rev. Sharpton, who has already received financial support from Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Fascinating...

Kruger-Caldwell.jpg

Ratner supporter and Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development head James Caldwell (right) was spotted last night, with State Senator Carl Kruger (left), at the Coney Island hearing, asking the same questions folks have been asking about Atlantic Yards.

How much $?
How long?
Who pays?

Indeed.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn offers its take on Mr. Caldwell's apparent conversion here.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Public input sought! A stop at the West Side yards storefront gallery

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder the Mad Overkiller "wandered" over to the exhibit of Hudson Yards proposals:

Last night I wandered over to the corner of 43rd and Vanderbilt Avenue to see the storefront exhibit set up by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) featuring scale models, videos, and other information provided by the five bidders for the Hudson Yards (aka West Side yards) development project.

HudsonYardsBrochure.jpg

Frankly, given the information available, it's almost impossible for a layperson to sort through the proposals. Someone should produce a matrix comparing key aspects of the project. Also, though it may have been because I stopped by late in the day, there were only two handouts, such as the brochure unfolded below from Brookfield Properties.

Snark aside, here's the point:

Still, the fact that public opinion is being solicited before a developer is anointed offers a distinct contrast to the sequence involving the Atlantic Yards project. And a layperson can at least offer an opinion about the general design of each proposals.

That doesn't mean the MTA will listen to comments offered in the brochure pictured above, or that public input will truly shape the project. Or that these massive projects are the best alternatives. Then again, the developers responded to a lengthy Request for Proposals, far more detailed than that belatedly issued for the MTA's Vanderbilt yard 18 months after Forest City Ratner's project for that property was endorsed by the city and state.

In other words, in comparison to the sequence involving Atlantic Yards, anything that suggests more transparency inevitably looks somewhat better.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Fort Greene- AY impact

Brownstoner Forum

I am sorry for posting about this if this is old news but I'm really hoping to get some honest insights and info. My husband and I are just starting to consider FG in our home search and I'm trying to learn more about it.

I was wondering what people thought about the AY impact specifically on FG.

After a slew of comments and concerns about traffic, public transportation crowding, loss of light and noise, the user who made the original inquiry concluded:

We are primarily interested in places that are in the AY footprint b/c that same footprint is the most convenient to the Atlantic Ave subway station, which we'd really like to be close to. My husband works in midtown and commute is very important to us. We strongly considered a house on St. Marks a few months ago and did a thorough AY impact analysis (personalized to us, I mean) and in the end, we decided it was wasn't going to bother us. However, the FG side of AY is more heavily impacted by lost sunlight and that's what I'm really trying to understand and evaluate.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Closes on Acquisition of Nearly 3,000 Military Family Housing Units in Navy's Northwest Region

Via Ad Hoc News:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that its Forest City Military Communities, LLC subsidiary has closed on the previously announced acquisition of 2,985 military family housing units in the U.S. Navy's Northwest Region.

The Navy's Northwest Region encompasses multiple neighborhoods associated with three Naval Installations in the Puget Sound area of the state of Washington. Forest City assumes responsibility for demolition, renovation and new construction of homes, representing approximately $158 million in development costs remaining to completion, as well as property management. The acquisition of the Navy Northwest units and ancillary facilities from American Eagle Communities brings Forest City's military housing Portfolio to more than 11,900 permanent units.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

November 20, 2007

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning November 19, 2007 and November 26, 2007

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

TC-VYards.jpg

  • Mid-block Support of Excavation (SOE) piles: re-testing anchors
  • Continue drilling SOE piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue preparing site for mobilization to East Portal to drill SOE and foundation piles.
  • Continue preparing site to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge, north side of block 1120).
  • Continue drilling Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.
  • Removal of DOT light poles on north side Pacific Street, block 1121, and install temporary lighting (current location interferes with future SOE).
  • Re-configure fence separating yard construction from LIRR operations at East Portal.

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 be completed within this 2-week period.
  • Demolition will be completed at 814 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 45) when a remaining portion at the rear is removed in conjunction with demolition at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue. 542VandrbltDemolished.jpg
  • Demolition will be underway at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 46) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will be underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) within this two-week period and continue for the next two–three months.
  • Demolition has been completed at 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 50).
  • Cleanup and back fill is underway.

TC-Upgrade.jpg

Utility Work

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations will be underway in this two week period and is expected to be underway for four to six months.
  • Work will start on Dean Street at Flatbush Avenue, continue along Dean to 6th Avenue and proceed along 6th from Dean to Pacific Street.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 PM

The Times review of Times Tower and the review of the review

NYTimesFloor-NYT.jpg The NY Times, Pride and Nostalgia Mix in The Times’s New Home
Nicky O's filed a mixed review of his own employer's new headquarters.

I enjoy gazing up at the building’s sharp edges and clean lines when I emerge from the subway exit at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue in the morning. I love being greeted by the cluster of silvery birch trees in the lobby atrium, their crooked trunks sprouting from a soft blanket of moss. I even like my fourth-floor cubicle, an oasis of calm overlooking the third-floor newsroom.
...
The tower’s crown is also disappointing. To hide the rooftop’s mechanical equipment and create the impression that the tower is dissolving into the sky, Mr. Piano extended the screens a full six stories past the top of the building’s frame. Yet the effect is ragged and unfinished. Rather than gathering momentum as it rises, the tower seems to fizzle.
...
Architecturally, however, The New York Times Building owes its greatest debt to postwar landmarks like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Lever House or Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building — designs that came to embody the progressive values and industrial power of a triumphant America. Their streamlined glass-and-steel forms proclaimed a faith in machine-age efficiency and an open, honest, democratic society.

Atlantic Yards Report, Ouroussoff on the Times Tower and "a franker reading of contemporary life"

In his mostly approving review of the new Times Tower designed by Renzo Piano and built by the New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner, headlined Pride and Nostalgia Mix in the Times’s New Home, Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff suggests that the building's style reflects some tensions in the evolving practice of journalism.

Ouroussoff writes:

Newspaper journalism, too, is part of that history. Transparency, independence, the free flow of information, moral clarity, objective truth — these notions took hold and flourished in the last century at papers like The Times. To many this idealism reached its pinnacle in the period stretching from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War to Watergate...

This longing for an idealistic time permeates the main newsroom...

Oder posits:

Might someone inspired by working in the building come to the conclusion that the contrast between railyard developments in Manhattan and Brooklyn deserves a bit more transparency?

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

PRESS RELEASE: The New York Times Company Enters the 21st Century with a New Technologically Advanced and Environmentally Sensitive Headquarters

Grand Opening Gala Celebrates Stunning, Innovative Eighth Avenue Tower Developed by Forest City Ratner Companies

NYTimesHead-NYT.jpgThe New York Times Building officially opened this evening with a gala celebration hosted by Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, and Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies. The grand opening, attended by Senator Chuck Schumer, Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a glittering crowd of 500, marked the start of a new era for the storied media company and for its Eighth Avenue neighborhood located on the edge of Times Square.

The 52-story tower, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano in association with FXFOWLE Architects, is an affirmation of the Times Company's commitment to the city, its Times Square neighborhood, and to the transformative power of great architecture. Developed by Forest City, this skyscraper has already drawn thousands of new employees to the area, along with more than a dozen vibrant, growing companies and exciting new retail outlets.

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman, The New York Times Company, and publisher, The New York Times, said, "This is a wonderful moment for The New York Times Company and its more than 10,000 employees; for New York City and Times Square; and for the profession and business of quality journalism. Our beautiful new home will enhance the way we work with one another and with our customers. It reflects our values as a Company and our role in the community."

Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, said: "The New York Times Building is a triumph of distinguished design, good business and solid citizenship. It has already become home to major financial services companies and law firms which have committed to growing and prospering in New York. Forest City is proud to have partnered with The New York Times Company in the creation of this extraordinary building."

Already a recognizable fixture on Manhattan's legendary skyline, the striking 1.5-million-square-foot New York Times Building, which is located between 40th and 41st Streets across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, features a dramatic double-skin curtain wall of clear glass with a screen of ceramic rods.

Architect Renzo Piano said, "I love the city and I wanted this building to be an expression of that. I wanted a transparent relationship between the street and the building. From the street, you can see through the whole building. Nothing is hidden. And like the city itself, the building will catch the light and change color with the weather. Bluish after a shower, and in the evening on a sunny day, shimmering red. The story of this building is one of lightness and transparency."

Mr. Piano's vision of openness and transparency is wonderfully apparent throughout The New York Times Building. There is an open-air birch-and-moss garden with seven 50-foot-tall paper birch trees, which is surrounded by glass walls. The garden, which creates a calm, serene environment in the middle of one of the densest neighborhoods in the city, forms the heart of the building and the focal point of the colorful, airy lobby.

The garden is visible from the lobby, The Times's newsroom, the glass-walled offices above, and the ground floor retail spaces. It also provides a dramatic backdrop for TheTimesCenter, a new 378-seat auditorium/performance space. The lobby features Moveable Type, a dynamic artwork commissioned by The New York Times Company and Forest City. Moveable Type is a text collage, which consists of 560 small digital-display screens that provide a fluid, ever-changing portrait of The Times by parsing its daily content and its 156-year archive.

Forest City Ratner Companies Joyce Baumgarten 212-686-4551 jbaumgarten@getodemilly.com or The New York Times Company Abbe Serphos 212-556-4425 serphos@nytimes.com

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

What's right with this picture? For West Side yards, the market speaks

HudsonYardsProposals-NYTa.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

What a difference a few years make. The city's market-driven effort to develop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side yards continues in blinding contrast to its fait accompli with the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn.

Four years ago, the city announced its support of a deal for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project over and beyond the railyard; crucially, the latter would occupy less than 40 percent of the site. The New York Times offered further anointment with a rapturous review (A Garden of Eden Grows in Brooklyn) by architecture critic Herbert Muschamp.

But, hey, that's no way to develop railyards, is it? PlaNYC 2030 says there should be much more community consultation. Real estate usually generates a better deal when there's an open bidding process. And the design of megaprojects generally improves when there's a detailed request for proposals and an opportunity for the public and interested parties to weigh in.

So today it was big news that five developers had released their plans for the Hudson Yards.

Norman Oder explains how the response to develop the Hudson Yards:

article

HudsonYardsProposals-NYTb.jpg

NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or is anyone else thinking that Forest City didn't submit a bid for the Hudson Yards because it WASN'T a backroom deal?

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Three new GOP council members could block key Echo Bay component

The Journal News
By Ken Valenti

The New Rochelle City Council has to agree on a new location for the city public works yard before Forest City's Echo Bay project can proceed.

Abe Naparstek, development manager for Forest City Residential, the Echo Bay developer, said he could not say how any hitch with the moving of the city yard might affect the project.

He said final plans for the project are expected within six months.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere95.gifBrooklyn is Bitchin'

mcbrooklyn, Icky Really, Really, Really Doesn't Like the Brooklyn Paper

We respect the Brooklyn Paper's stance vis-à-vis Atlantic Yards but -- a rather hilarious diatribe against the paper, by Icky in Windsor Terrace here.

Daily Intelligencer, And speaking of cranky bloggers....

...this Atlantic Yards watchdog takes issue with nymag.com's calling him a member of Brooklyn's "brownstone bourgeois" last week. He'd rather have been called a "policy wonk." Get that!

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

November 19, 2007

A "Speaking" Market and a Gagged Market

HudsonYardsProposals.jpg From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's response to the latest news on the Hudson Yards Request for Proposals (RFP):

Yes, the MTA issued a legitimate RFP and has reeled in five legitimate proposals..."the market speaking." That came after the demise of the Jets' stadium, which of course never involved an RFP.

As we know, the 8.3 acre Vanderbilt rail yards in Brooklyn were "put up for bid" when the MTA issued a sham RFP in May 2005, ending in granting the development rights to the low bidder--Forest City Ratner.

The sham RFP process was undertaken in such a way precisely to eliminate the market from speaking in such a way that Deputy Mayor Doctoroff celebrates today on the west side.

Click here to read the rest of the response, including a list of what might have been if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had issued a serious RFP for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards.

Additional:
NY Post, THE NEXT 'WEST' THING
amNY, Possible plans for Hudson Yards unveiled
MetroNY, Five visions for new West Side
NY Daily News, Five companies bid to remake six blocks of Hudson Yards area
The NY Sun, Proposals for Hudson Yards Reach High, Green

Posted by lumi at 6:07 PM

Lessons not-so-new from the Newark arena: cost overruns, plan changes, and yet-unmet promises

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR takes a comprehensive look at what was promised in Newark, what's been delivered (so far), and what it means for Brooklyn.

The larger story of the Prudential Center, however, may have some sobering if unsurprising lessons for Brooklynites. The arena cost the city more than expected, so far contains fewer neighborhood-friendly features than originally promised, and has yet to be accompanied by the development it was expected to catalyze.

...

The city has money for streetscape improvements and loans to small businesses, and expects "one small development — a restaurant and six apartments" open near the arena next year.

Newark, clearly, has taken a risk, but it also has had to make significant investments to transform a moribund downtown that for decades has mostly closed by nightfall.

Did Brooklyn need one arena mega-project to catalyze a revival? Could a rezoning have spurred development over the Vanderbilt Yard? And if the arena is built, would the rest of the Atlantic Yards project be built in the announced ten years or would interim surface parking persist?

There's nothing to keep Forest City Ratner from proceeding on a timetable that fits with their needs. In other words, despite the design for four (mostly residential) towers to wrap the arena, it's possible Brooklyn might have an arena bordered by some unfinished buildings and empty lots for quite a while.

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Posted by lumi at 10:23 AM

Protesters End Hunger Strike

From Columbia Spectator:

Seven Columbia University students and one professor ended thier hunger strike on Friday in response to a request by the Coalition to Preserve Community, despite the school administration's failure to move on the protestors' demands.

The strikers initially demanded that Columbia immediately recall the 197-c rezoning plan for Manhattanville, now going through the city’s public review process, and revise it until it met with local community approval. They later presented a list of six more incremental demands on the expansion, including that the University forego the use of eminent domain to acquire private property.
“Five days ago, we were prepared and ready to let them [the strikers] off the hook because we saw the handwriting on the wall,” [Coalition to Preserve Community's Tom] DeMott said. “We did not want them to waste their energy for too long in futile negotiation.”

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

465 Dean Street demolition

Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, via flickr

TC-465DeanDemoA.jpg

465 Dean Street near Flatbush Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

this building is being demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Photo, Tracy Collins.

465 Dean Street was the former location of the Brooklyn AIDS Task Force. Tracy Collins snapped this pre-demolition pic of the building last winter.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

A Death in the Family

Fans for Fair Play expresses condolences to Steve Hindy and the Hindy family. The Brooklyn Brewery owner and Atlantic Yards supporter lost his son, Sam Hindy, this weekend in a very tragic cycling accident:

A terrible irony here is that Sam Hindy was a member of Critical Mass, the bicycle-rights group that Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly have made hell for the last couple of years. Sam died because of a breakdown in bike safety.

As a cycling enthusiast, maybe he should have known never to ride with cars and trucks on the Manhattan Bridge's roadway. Or perhaps, as some media have reported, the bridge's bike lane was blocked. If that's the case, there'll be a huge outcry from Critical Mass and all of us who believe the City Hall continues to ignore bike safety issues.

Tonight those issues get pushed aside. Flow of tears replaces the flow of traffic in Brooklyn

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Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

November 18, 2007

A Times editorial skewers some development puffery, on Long Island

Atlantic Yards Report

An editorial in the Long Island section of today's New York Times has critical words for the proposed Lighthouse development in Uniondale. Norman Oder wonders why the Times couldn't see fit to be more critical in its evaluation of Atlantic Yards as he revisits the Times's 2006 endorsement of its development partner's megaproject:

Beyond my criticisms of that endorsement, consider also the Times's failure to analyze developer Forest City Ratner's series of promotional fliers.

To borrow some phrases from today's editorial, if you pore over the glossy images, you may be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Ratner is proposing the mildest, most inoffensive 8 million-square-foot development imaginable.

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Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

Nets attendance is down so far this season

EmptySeats.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Average attendance for Nets games so far this year is 15,105. Last year the average was 16,972.

And what about the New Jersey Devils, gone from the Meadowlands to the new Prudential Center in Newark? Only in the opening game and a game against nearby rivals the New York Rangers was there a sellout (17,625).

With attendance averaging 15,241, the Devils are doing slightly better than last year's average attendance of 14,176. That number of course is skewed by the new building and by one game with the Rangers.

But that masks a difference between the two facilities, and a main reason the Devils moved: the Prudential Center has many more luxury suites than the Izod Center. And that's why a Nets move to Brooklyn would be so lucrative: the Barclays Center would have many more suites than both facilities combined. And, of course, there's naming rights.

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Posted by steve at 8:21 AM

November 17, 2007

Drew Carey's TV Program On Eminent Domain Abuse

reasontv.jpg

Mythsmasher

Comedian and Libertarian Party member Drew Carey is hosting a series of Internet TV programs for the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason magazine. Reason.tv now has its third program "National City: Eminent Domain Gone Wild."
...
Today, we face the New York Regional Interconnect, the Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and Columbia's West Harlem eminent domain schemes. As usual, the public officials and developers lie.

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Posted by amy at 10:05 AM

On "brownstone-bourgeois" policy wonkery and New York magazine

Atlantic Yards Report shows what happened 'behind the news' to inspire the NY Magazine assertion that Brad Lander "is also popular with the brownstone-bourgeois crowd."

Brad Lander directs the Pratt Center for Community Development and is running for Bill DeBlasio's City Council seat.

Other candidates, according to the Courier-Life chain, are expected to include Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6; Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation; and Josh Skaller, president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.

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Posted by amy at 9:50 AM

Green? Whaddya Mean?!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn comments on the recent AP article extolling the Nets' "Green Nights."

AP: "Our goal is to go carbon neutral and to further incorporate environmentally friendly strategies in our daily routine," said Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner. "We are making ourselves accountable and taking a positive approach to the issue of climate change."
DDDB: Really? There are at least 3,800 reasons why we don't buy it. Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project proposes 3,800 parking spaces at a major transportation hub.

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Posted by amy at 9:46 AM

Hunger Strike Continues in Spite of Concessions

Columbia Spectator
Laura Schreiber reports from the Columbia University fight.

Students and administrators’ statements clashed most directly over the strikers’ demand that eminent domain be taken off the table. Griffith said that the University would retain the option of asking the state to use eminent domain if they could not reach agreements with business owners who have so far refused to sell.

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Posted by amy at 9:42 AM

To fill seats in the Izod Center, Nets offer deep (and selective) discounts

NetsBarclays.JPG

Atlantic Yards Report

Like a lot of sports teams, the New Jersey Nets are doing their best to fill empty seats by offering some deep discounts to various companies and organizations.

What's interesting is that some companies, as these screenshots show, get a better deal. For example, employees of Barclays paid $50.50 for a discount seat to last night's game priced at $101, while employees of Starpoint Solutions paid $65. (Click to enlarge.) Then again, Barclays will be paying big-time when/if the Nets move to Brooklyn.

Just this week, the Nets offered 50% discounts to games last night and tonight to those holding tickets to Broadway theaters dimmed by the strike.

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Posted by amy at 9:33 AM

Eminent Domain Abuse: The Fight Goes On

The Huffington Post
Steve Ettlinger

New York City, which seems to rival Texas for superlatives of size, is home to a lot of real estate developers who have done well in the private sector. One of the richest, Bruce Ratner, has done better with government money. He's not only built government buildings, such as a Federal courthouse in Brooklyn, he's managed to get generous public subsidies as well as government tenants to keep his buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn profitable, to the tunes of millions of dollars.

A close pal and former law school classmate of the former Governor of NY, George Pataki and a neighbor of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with their help he's also managed to create, with his proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, what has to be one of the biggest boondoggles in history (it would be the densest residential area in the States). Total subsidies will approach or possibly surpass $2 BILLION, but it is a privately owned, profit-making project. And now that Bloomberg seems about to throw his hat into the presidential ring, the significance of this project -- what Ratner's Forest City Ratner Company calls "Atlantic Yards" -- goes way beyond the NYC budget.

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Posted by amy at 9:30 AM

Why does only Ratner benefit from naming rights at a "publicly-owned" arena?

Atlantic Yards Report

Last January, I raised the issue with the Empire State Development Corporation. Given that the arena would be publicly-owned, should the Local Development Corporation (LDC) that would be set up be in charge of naming rights? Can the LDC pass them on to Forest City Ratner?

Then-spokeswoman Jessica Copen responded, "Financing for the stadium comes ultimately from the team. The team has the naming rights. It's the same deal as with the Mets - who also sold naming rights to their new stadium."

That leaves out that tax benefits from financing, the significant public contribution ($305 million to infrastructure), the conveyance of city streets for $1, the threat (and use) of eminent domain, and more government assistance. (Here's the Independent Budget Office's September 2005 report that cites various special benefits.)

The naming rights, in fact, would pay for a good portion of construction.

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Posted by amy at 9:16 AM

November 16, 2007

CBN's open letter to ESDC: What happened to AY promises?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has issued a public letter to the ESDC asking that the agency honor its promises.

Norman Oder summarizes the issues addressed in the letter:

1) An ombudsperson to provide the public with information and to enhance the cooperation of various government agencies involved in this project has not yet been appointed. (Last month, the New York Daily News reported on the delay.)

2) The ESDC has contracted with Henningson, Durham and Richardson Architecture and Engineering, to serve as the Environmental Mitigation Monitor for the project, CBN said, but the firm's "responsibilities and activities have not been reported to the public or to elected officials." Nor has there been a public report about the Owner’s Representative for Construction Activities announced by the ESDC.

3) While the ESDC promised the creation of an Interagency Working Group "to review approved and planned work on a monthly basis," CBN said that it assumed the group has not been formed, since it would "hold open meetings to ensure that community interests are served." (It's not clear that such a group was expected to hold open meetings.)

4) The promised Transportation Working Group has met only once, to CBN's knowledge, but neither CBN nor its traffic experts from Community Consulting Services were invited.

5) While the ESDC promised to hold regular meetings with elected officials about overall progress and key project milestones, the schedule is unclear, and City Council Member Letitia James, whose district includes the largest chunk of the project site, was not invited to a recent meeting cited by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries regarding transportation issues.

Click here to view CBN's "Open Letter to the ESDC - Is Anybody Out There?"

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Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

On an East Side megaproject, the Times doesn't give the developer a pass

Atlantic Yards Report

In November, 2007, The New York Times seems able to understand when a developer sometimes uses a strategy wherein a building is planned for more height than will ever be built. This helps gives the appearance that the developer is "compromising" when later plans reveal a smaller building.

If only The Times could have been that critical of Atlantic Yards in September, 2006.

Norman Oder covers The Times's apparent evolution in coverage of real estate development.

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Posted by steve at 6:57 AM

End Barclays deal now

The Brooklyn Paper
Editorial

Barclays, the British-based financial behemoth, has been frequently criticized for its institutional role in financing the slave trade three centuries ago, for conducting business in Nazi Germany 60 years ago, and for propping up South Africa’s Apartheid regime 30 years ago.

But Barclays’ appalling lack of civic consciousness continues to this day — and Brooklyn is being tainted by it, thanks to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

This week, the Sunday Times of London, a well-respected newspaper, reported that Barclays is bankrolling the corrupt and repressive regime of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, whose self-enriching terror has devastated his country’s economy and whose twisted agricultural policies have left his people destitute and starving.

This might remain a matter of international, rather than local, outrage were it not for the large role Barclays will soon play here in Brooklyn, thanks to its $400-million deal with Ratner to have its tarnished name emblazoned atop the publicly financed basketball arena proposed for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

When The Brooklyn Paper first raised questions about the Barclays deal in January, Ratner’s courtiers were quick to discount our criticism of Barclays’ practices as “ancient history.” They attacked The Paper for linking Barclays to financial dealings that involved many other international banking firms.

But propping up the sinister Mugabe and his murderous henchman is not ancient history — it’s happening right now.

And Barclays is profiting from it.

And so is Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by steve at 6:41 AM

More blood money

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

Barclays, the slavery- and Apartheid-linked financial institution that paid Bruce Ratner $400 million for the naming rights to his Atlantic Yards arena, is bankrolling African strongman Robert Mugabe, the Sunday Times of London reported last week — prompting one Brooklyn leader to say “enough is enough” with the tarnished financial powerhouse.

...

“The apparent connection between Barclays and the Mugabe regime is deeply troubling,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene). “It provides another example of Barclays doing business either with a regime that has a questionable human rights record or in support of institutions connected to the oppression of people of color.”

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Posted by steve at 6:36 AM

Against Ratner's Domain

The New York Sun
By Steve Ettlinger

This opinion piece is an excellent summary of the federal eminent domain case being brought against New York State, seeking to prevent the transfer of property to developer Bruce Ratner as part of a sweetheart deal.

The underlying argument was that the arena would be publicly owned and merely leased to Mr. Ratner. Truth is, he expects a 99-year lease for the princely sum of $1. If the public really will own it, why did Barclay's Bank agree to pay Mr. Ratner $400 million so it could be called the Barclay's Arena? It seems that if the arena were truly public, taxpayers would be getting that cash, not a private developer. The state's basis in this unusual case for taking private property from one owner and transferring it to another is the declaration of blight, but these properties were never considered blighted until Mr. Ratner asked the ESDC to condemn them, and only them. Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? They are not part of an urban renewal zone — they contain many recently renovated condos that were selling for close to $1 million a piece.

...

It is important to realize what's at stake here: If Mr. Ratner prevails, our traditionally sacred property rights will get trampled. And if the government follows the lead of a private developer's project, it will be a blow to the free market economy.

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Posted by steve at 6:23 AM

Bank, developer form $1M alliance for local youth programs

New York Daily News
by Elizabeth Hays

Barclay's Bank seems to be trying to recover from the public relations problems that sprouted from its having bought the naming rights for the planned Nets arena.

Barclay's Bank - which paid $400 million for naming rights to the planned Brooklyn Nets arena - Thursday teamed up with its developer to announce $1 million a year for local youth programs.

Dubbed the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, the new project aims to support educational and sports organizations that work with kids in Brooklyn.

....

"This is Barclays version of reparations for financially benefitting from 200 years of slavery," James said. "Clearly, $1 million is not enough."

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Posted by steve at 6:11 AM

Electeds Join in Call for Yards Security Study

The Downtown Brooklyn Star
by Shane Miller

This article covers the letter sent last week to Spitzer and Bloomberg calling for a security study for the proposed Nets arena.

Growing concern that street closures like those around the new Prudential Center arena in Newark could shut down some of Brooklyn's major thoroughfares if the Nets arena is built prompted the borough's elected officials to demand an independent security study. The study was called for in a letter sent to Governor Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg that was signed by assembly members Joan Millman, James Brennan, and Hakim Jeffries, state senators Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery, and council members Bill de Blasio, Letitia James, and David Yassky.

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Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

Will Barclays' Bleeding Affect The Atlantic Yards Project?

Pardon Me For Asking

Pardon me for asking, but will the fact that Barclays Bank has accumulated £1.3 billion in losses in the past 3 months alone have any impact on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project?

The giant financial institution after all is willing to buy into Ratner's deal by paying the largest amount ever forked over in a stadium deal just for the pleasure of having the Brooklyn Nets home be named "Barclays Arena."

Now, the bank's losses seem pretty remarkable to me. Note that the sum is in British Pounds, not U.S. Dollars.

Could this derail Brucie's sweetheart deal? After all, how can the bank justify forking over all this money if they are bleeding? Or have they already signed everything and can't back out?

Can anyone better informed enlighten me on the subject?

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Posted by steve at 5:56 AM

As Strike Darkens Broadway, Nets Dangle Ticket Swap

Marketing Daily
By Karl Greenberg

Ticket holders of Broadway shows affected by the current strike are being offered discounts to upcoming New Jersey Nets games.

The author of this article is still behind the curve, though, in thinking that the Nets could be playing in Brooklyn in 2009:

A big change for the team will come during the 2009-10 season--when the team picks up stakes and moves to Brooklyn, where FCR is building a massive, much-publicized (pro and con) Frank Gehry-designed city-within-a-city near downtown Brooklyn. Plans call for the nets will be housed in the complex's centerpiece venue, Barclays Center.

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NoLandGrab: Developer Bruce Ratner has already acknowledged that an arena cannot be ready for the 2009-2010 season.

Posted by steve at 5:18 AM

November 15, 2007

pieces of the past (color)

Via flickr "Atlantic Yards Photo Pool"

TC-Trestle.jpg

Forgotten NY explains:

On Atlantic Avenue just east of 5th Avenue... you'll find the stubs of what used to be elevated train stanchions. These are the last remnants of an elevated connection from the LIRR to a freight terminal located across Atlantic Avenue on Fort Greene Place used by Armour Meats and Rabinowitz Glassworks. Various segments continued to be seen here and there on Atlantic Avenue as late as the 1980s, but these are presently (2005) the only remnants. They will likely be ripped up when the new development gets underway.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Review & Comment: Architects and Cracks

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial

Henrik Krogius casts aside calls for an independent security analysis — despite the fact that Atlantic Terminal has already been the target of a foiled terrorist attack — and concerns that a single architect, who is known for projects plagued with curious environmental impacts, is designing the entire 22-acre Atlantic Yards project.

Why? Because if "the fear-mongering by opponents of Atlantic Yards" is allowed to prevail, "we could end up building nothing."

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NoLandGrab: Krogius is being modest — one of the great fears is that we could be left with less than nothing, since Ratner is in the process of taking down every building he possibly can. This is why some local planners have continued to revise the UNITY plan in order to keep the dialog going as to what could be built on the railyards if common sense and the community were part of the equation.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

In New Domino advertising, phantom poll claims support for... New Domino

Atlantic Yards Report

Mainstream media organizations help with polling if you're Ratner, but what if you're not a heavyweight developer?

It's doubtful that any other megadeveloper has outdone Forest City Ratner in the effort to sway public opinion on a controversial project. But the developers behind the proposed New Domino project in Williamsburg, CPC Resources (CPCR) and its silent partner, Isaac Katan, are pushing the envelope in one aspect of the hard sell.

They sponsored their own poll, then ran an advertisement (click to enlarge) based on the poll, offering the unsurprising conclusion that residents in the area around the proposed New Domino site would accept increased density for increased affordable housing.

Despite Norman Oder's repeated requests for the polling data, the developer has refused to release any details of the poll to Atlantic Yards Report.

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Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Concerns Rise Over Brooklyn Boom

The NY Sun
By Michael Stoler

Everything's ducky in Downtown Brooklyn, according to Joe Chan:

The president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Joe Chan, said: "In the pipeline there are 56 projects which will develop a total of 14,300 residential units, including the Atlantic Yards project. Forty percent are slated to be condominiums, and the balance will be residential rentals. Today we are seeing some developers hedging their bets between condominiums and rentals. Of the 5,600 rental projects, approximately 3,200 will have an affordable component, the majority of which will be located in the Atlantic Yards."

The new apartments, Mr. Chan said, will "create a 24/7 environment and will help to diversify the retail environment and strengthen the local economy. In the long term, this will help the commercial market, and people's perception of downtown Brooklyn will change for the positive."

Others are less sanguine in the face of a credit crunch and an enormous amount of luxury market-rate housing in the pipeline.

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NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that the energetic Chan was hired to sell this third iteration of the vision for Downtown Brooklyn, the first two being Ratner's MetroTech, which failed to deliver on economic promises, and Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning v.1, which has been tweaked since the demand for Class A office space in Downtown Brooklyn failed to materialize.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Forest City in the News

A Forest City "lifestyle center" signs up new tenants as construction begins.

The Press-Enterprise [Redlands, CA], The Promenade's expansion attracts upscale tenants

The tenants include Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Coldwater Creek, Chico's, White House/Black Market, The Walking Company and a Yard House restaurant. The expansion is expected to be finished by spring 2009.

The businesses will be the first tenants in Promenade's "lifestyle center," an outdoor shopping area with a Main Street-like setting featuring fountains, shade trees and other amenities. The expansion will also include two new multilevel parking garages.

At Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion, Kenneth Lee, a vice president of development with The Promenade's majority owner, Forest City Enterprises, said the mall is one of the most profitable in the company's portfolio.
...
Besides going to the mall to shop, [Temecula Mayor Chuck] Washington said he hopes the lifestyle center encourages people to view The Promenade as "a place where people will come together."

The Californian, Developer details The Promenade's expansion

Forest City is billing the expansion as a "lifestyle center," a relatively new class of shopping centers that includes outdoor walkways and more sit-down restaurants than traditional enclosed malls.

NoLandGrab: The word "mall" is clearly taboo amongst retail developers. In reality, it's a mall, but you're not supposed to think of it as a mall.

For the uninitiated:
Lifestyle center = MALL
Open-air lifestyle center = OUTDOOR MALL
Mixed-use lifestyle center = MALL WITH OFFICE SPACE AND/OR HOUSING
Open-air mixed-use lifestyle center = OUTDOOR MALL WITH OFFICE SPACE AND/OR HOUSING
Open-Air Regional Lifestyle Center = OUTDOOR LARGE-THAN-YOUR-AVERAGE MALL

Here's an article on the history of "lifestyle centers."

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Lexicon Alert

"sprawling Atlantic Yards"

NoLandGrab essentially scours the Internet for any mention of anything that might be remotely relevant to the public discussion on Atlantic Yards. When "Atlantic Yards" makes a cameo in articles for related issues and developments, we use it to take the pulse of the public's and media's attitude towards the project.

Today, in the NY Times, the "sprawling Atlantic Yards" partners with "Columbia University’s plunge northward" to headline NYC's A-list of mammoth projects that have sparked controversy.

From Webster's: Main Entry: sprawl
Pronunciation: \ˈspról\
Function: verb
3: to spread or develop irregularly or without restraint

That's 22 acres of sprawl, both horizontal and vertical, in addition to Ratner's two malls and 16-acre MetroTech high-rise office park — are there any problems with Ratner amassing a gargantuan, highly concentrated real estate monopoly?

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

November 14, 2007

When a university was more transparent (about setbacks) than ESDC/FCR

Atlantic Yards Report

Take note Columbia University, Bruce Ratner and Empire State Development Corporation: when one university presented an expansion plan which connected with the neighborhood, it not only took the neighborhood by surprise, but it proved that you don't have to run roughshod over your neighbors to get what you need.

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Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

Namesake of Barclays Center in Brooklyn Said to Be Bankrolling Mugabe's Corrupt Zimbabwe Regime

From McBrooklyn:

The Sunday Times of London reports that Barclays Bank (as in Barclays Center, the proposed home of the Brooklyn Nets) is bankrolling President Robert Mugabe's corrupt regime in Zimbabwe by providing "substantial loans to cronies given land seized from white farmers."

From the Times article:

"BARCLAYS is bankrolling President Robert Mugabe’s corrupt regime in Zimbabwe by providing substantial loans to cronies given land seized from white farmers. The British bank lent £750m to the country’s new landowning elite in the first half of this year, mostly through a government scheme to boost farm productivity. This weekend Barclays was under pressure to say whether it had lent money to five of Mugabe’s ministers — each named in European Union sanctions."

Thanks to Gowanus Lounge for passing the news along.

NoLandGrab: Now that makes TWO LAND GRABS that Barclays Bank is supporting. Could that be the new thing for which the bank wants to be remembered?

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

IBO: tax-exempt bond funding is "uncertain" (for AY & others)

Atlantic Yards Report

The availability of tax-exempt bond financing for Atlantic Yards is one of the issues Norman Oder has been monitoring:

Among the many factors affecting the future of Atlantic Yards is the availability of tax-exempt bonds, a citywide "crisis," as Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan told Congress last May.

The federal government limits the amount of bonds a city or state can authorize, because the tax-exemption represents foregone federal revenue. But various cities want more such "volume cap," and Congress may authorize that--but it hasn't.

The issue came up in a report issued last Friday by the Independent Budget Office (IBO), titled The Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan: Progress to Date And Prospects for Completion. While the IBO offered a mostly positive assessment after four years of the Bloomberg administration's ten-year plan to build or preserve 165,000 housing units, it also noted challenges facing the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), the source of bonds:

HDC’s ability to fund all of the expected units remains uncertain at this date, potentially affecting new construction of both low- and middle-income units.

What does that mean for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject?

If the housing component of Atlantic Yards were in production today, the crisis might be greater. However, delays in construction might have a silver lining, if Congress acts to increase volume cap.

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Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Urban Architecture: The Absurdly Good, the Bad and the Stupid

The Gamut runs two Ratner projects on the list of noteworthy local architecture and gives the Brucester the "Gamut Scabies Award!"

UACinema.jpg

Absurdly Bad Architecture includes the Regal Cinema on Court Street in Brooklyn Heights. Deidre Carson, a lawyer who had previously represented other movie-theater developers and formerly the president of the Brooklyn Heights Association (a neighborhood organization originally created to protect the area from irresponsible development - ah, the irony!) actually had the gall to describe the building as a product of a "world-class architecture firm." What the hell does "world-class" mean anyway? If this building is any example, it means the biggest bull turd they can lay on you. Which brings us to Regal's bastard grandchild: Frank Gehry's absurdly stupid design for private-developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards project.

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NoLandGrab: This photo was the best one we could find of Ratner's UA Cinema. Check out "Betty Blade's" Court St. photo with the cinema in the background to understand what makes this monolith so special.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Atlantic Yards Tenants Strike Out In Brooklyn Appellate Court

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Elizabeth Stull

After finally appearing “in the correct church,” a group of rent-stabilized tenants in the Atlantic Yards footprint found little to praise in a recent decision from a Brooklyn appellate court.

In a judgment released Wednesday, the court rejected the tenants’ claims that the state has no plans to provide them with the relocation assistance they deserve.
...
The statute requires that to condemn real property, the state agency (Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) must have “a feasible method” for relocating displaced families and individuals into “decent, safe and sanitary dwellings which are or will be provided in the project area or in other areas not generally less desirable..., at rents or prices within the financial means of such families, and reasonably accessible to their places of employment.”

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Forest City in the News

The good, bad and the ugly from Forest City:

The Denver Post, Hypocrites or 'hood winked?

Wagner claims he was deceived by his Realtors, Stapleton and Forest City Enterprises, the developer of the area, when he bought his home off Central Park Avenue.

The Wagners bought a modestly priced house and planned to move from there in four or five years to a larger residence. Wagner maintains he was led to believe a "green" space - something soft, open and verdant - would be placed next door.

Wagner now finds himself right on top of 18 units of rental space for affordable living. He claims to have no problem with economic diversification. He has a problem with being deceived.

Instead of a place next door to play with his kid, he says, "people will be able to see me watch TV from one window and feed my son through the other."

Moreover, Wagner believes his long-term investment will depreciate.

Business Wire, Macy’s Announces Plans for a New Store in Tampa

Macy's is coming to Forest City's "new lifestyle development" (fancy term for mixed-use mall):

“Macy’s is an excellent addition to The Shops at Wiregrass, which opens in Fall 2008. The brand brings great value to our property and a great shopping opportunity to the residents,” said Brian J. Ratner, president, East Coast Development, Forest City Commercial Group.

NoLandGrab: Hey, remember when there used to be a Macy's at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall?

The Honolulu Advertiser, MILITARY HOMES MANAGER HONORED

Forest City Military Communities Hawaii has received two national awards for its public-private housing partnership with the Department of the Navy, Hawaii — the Navy Installation Housing Team of the Year award from the Professional Housing Management Association and a Project of the Year merit award from Multifamily Executive.

Newsday, Big changes in store for South Street Seaport?
We don't know what search engine Dave Freedlander was using over at Newsday, but this brief description of the Ratner-Gehry project on Beekman St. is a little moldy:

Just up the road, Forest City Ratner is building a 75-story tower designed by Frank Gehry that will house Pace University, New York University hospital outpatient services and residences.

NoLandGrab: Pace University pulled out of the deal, like, more than two years ago.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

MetroTech Christmas Tree Ushers in Season

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Mary Frost

Rat-ner Clause is coming to town!

MetroTechTree-BDE.jpg

A 50-foot Colorado Blue Spruce was installed at MetroTech yesterday morning, marking the start of the Christmas season in Downtown Brooklyn. Eric Rosenthal, garden designer from Chelsea Gardens, which procured the tree, said that the spruce is approximately 30 to 40 years old and comes from an area near Saugerties, N.Y. The official MetroTech tree lighting will take place Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 4:15 p.m. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus will sing holiday songs and dignitaries including Santa Claus — and Bruce Ratner — will appear.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Victory (????): RFP for Abolitionist commemoration

From Duffield St. Underground:

The NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) released an RFP called Brooklyn Abolitionism Commemoration.
It's unclear what all this means so soon after the RFP was released. On the one hand it's a great victory that the EDC will allow for a museum on the site of their planned parking lot that until this week would have destroyed the Duffield Abolitionist homes. On the other hand, the RFP does not appear to require a museum, so 227 Duffield is not yet safe.

Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Coliseum project may be do or die for Isles

Newsday

NY Islanders owners have filed plans to turn the Nassau Coliseum into a "sports entertainment complex," but what happens if the plan gets shot down?

"Everyone asks me that question," Wang said when asked recently if there is a point at which he would have to move or sell the team. "I've been here on Long Island for 55 years. I don't want to go anywhere else.

"Yes, there is a point. But the last thing I want is for anything to be construed as a threat. If I wanted to, I could have made threats a long time ago. We've got to get it done. Lou Lamoriello got it done in New Jersey, and Bruce Ratner is getting it done in Brooklyn. We've never been this close before."

article

NoLandGrab: Sure, Charles Wang and his real estate partner Scott Rechler would like to be further down the road like Bruce Ratner, but is facing a bevy of law suits and doing an end-run around the local political process really "getting it done?"

Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

November 13, 2007

State secret? ESDC stonewalls on arena setbacks, but graphics hint building's near street

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation would tell you how far the arena would be set back from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, but to do so might undermine the war against terror?

It's a basic architectural detail that would inevitably become public, but the state agency supervising the Atlantic Yards project won't disclose how far the planned arena would be set back from the street, saying security concerns mandate confidentiality.

Meanwhile, though state documents are vague about the setbacks, graphics, though not necessarily to scale, in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) suggest some parallels to the situation that recently caused alarm in Newark, even though the arena there's a standalone box, while the Brooklyn arena would be enveloped in four towers.

Read about how last-minute revelations about the Newark arena opened up a can of worms here in Brooklyn and how the NY Times's claim that the arena would be sited "75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue" doesn't appear to be based on any documents available to the public — or reality.

article

NoLandGrab: Seriously, if the ESDC claims that a security study isn't warranted because a terrorist attack isn't a "reasonable worst-case scenario," then why has one security expert testified on FCRC's behalf that "safety of the arena and surrounding area could be easily compromised" if security measures were disclosed?

The implication is, if they told us how bad things really are, then a worst-case scenario might be within reason.

You may have noticed that this rendering (click image to enlarge), added to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, isn't very promising in regards to current security concerns.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Frank Gehry: has the bubble burst?

The First Post
By Charles Laurence

Gehry-FP.jpg

Superstar architect Frank Gehry is being sued by MIT - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology renowned for technological innovation - and the court action suggests that the Gehry bubble may be about to burst.
...
Gehry, 78, became America's most celebrated architect since Frank Lloyd Wright after building the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He has since created a host of other buildings which have captured the imaginations of both critics and the public. The latest is billionaire Barry Diller's headquarters in Manhattan, which suggest billowing sails on the Hudson river. But do they work?

Guess what Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry have in common? We'd tell you, but we have to check with our lawyers first:

Contracts with Gehry Partners turn out to have clauses gagging public criticism or complaint, so now critics are wondering whether problems are being covered-up at Bilbao and other famous buildings.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere93.gif Bay Bizness, Jay-Z Gives Back (written by Africa)

Brooklyn Nets is coming soon, and not everyone is happy. I remember Jay-Z talking about the idea as if it was great, but the people don’t seem to share the same excitement for the project. There are many discussions and petitions online regarding the issue.

The problem with these types of new developments is that black folks are pushed away from what they have built over the years-when where they lived was the least wanted real estate. Everything that they have worked for is destroyed as though it were only garbage. Eminent Domain is a law where the Government can seize private property without the owner’s consent.

From what I’ve witnessed in the black community there is a great change that happens during this type of new development.

VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE, RATNER, ATLANTIC YARDS, AND THE POLITICS OF HOPE

The politics of fear have worked well for Forest City up to a point. Much has been made recently about the politics of fear nationally. Fear of FCRC is based in Ratner’s immensely clever capacity to martial the appearance of a solid financial base. That alone has made the Atlantic Yards Project (AY) seem inevitable to many, especially politicians who do not want to be on the losing side.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Renter Relocation Lawsuit Tossed

A lawsuit challenging the legality of the ESDC’s relocation plan for 13 renters in the Atlantic Yards footprint was tossed out of state appellate court on Friday. Twelve of the renters live in rent-stabilized units, and their chief argument was that the ESDC had not formulated a feasible plan for helping them find comparable affordable housing.

All Ways NY, One Down Three To Go For FCR & ESDC

In another blow to those seeking to fight for tenants who will be displaced by the Atlantic Yards development, the New York Post reports...

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

Fitting squarely into skyline trends

Merc-FCE-DMN.jpgDallas Morning News
By Holly Yan

Several blocks away, the Mercantile's white spire of lights is getting its own share of puzzled looks.

Mr. Hughes' company, Forest City Enterprises, is remodeling the spire that was regularly illuminated about 20 years ago.

Now that the Mercantile is gaining new life as an apartment building, developers are testing the new beacon before the planned opening in February.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

November 12, 2007

Frank Gehry Environmental Impact Hall of Fame

When centuries of architectural wisdom and common sense are rejected for the sake of art, you end up with a career highlighted by some mind-boggling environmental impacts:

GUGGENHEIM MUSEM, BILBAO, SPAIN
Who cares about personal safety when you're visiting a work of art?

Though folks like to sneer at the curious brown stain that appeared on the facade of the iconic building ("The New York Times reports Mr Gehry as saying that the problem arose when the building contractor allowed a silicon-based fireproofing sealant to spill onto the titanium" — BBC), the more serious environmental impact is the poorly designed public spaces that only appear to be inviting to muggers.

Project for Public Spaces has inducted the museum into its very own Hall of Shame:

Though it is near the center of the city, the Guggenheim shuns any relation to its context. The building challenges locals and tourists (not to mentioned handicapped people) to enter some of the least inviting public spaces and entranceways anywhere.
...
Only seconds after I took the pictures, the two men ran over to the couple and mugged them – they simply grabbed the camera out of their hands and ran off. Anywhere else in Bilbao, we would have yelled something and there would have been people around to try stopping them. But instead, with no one else in sight to help, we felt isolated and vulnerable, and all we could do was watch. We later told police about it, and they told us that there are muggings in that same location very frequently.

CASE WESTERN UNIVERSITY, PETER B. LEWIS BUILDING
Avalanche???

The shiny, swirling $62 million building that houses the business school at Case Western Reserve University here is a marvel to behold. But it is sometimes best admired from afar.

CaseWestern.jpg

In its first winter, snow and ice have been sliding off the long, sloping stainless-steel roof, bombarding the sidewalk below. And in bright sun, the glint off the steel tiles is so powerful that standing next to the building is like lying on a beach with a tanning mirror.
...
"You might have to walk on the road to make sure you don't get hit by ice,'' said Adam Searl, a junior at Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management.

''Maybe they should have thought about it before they had built the building. It's Cleveland. We get ice. We get snow. We get rain.''

2003, gunman loose in a labyrinth

The [seven-hour] standoff took place inside one of the more idiosyncratic buildings in the country. The $61.7 million Weatherhead School of Management was designed by the architect Frank Gehry and opened for this past school year. It is characterized by the jagged, polished metal surface and odd shapes that are prominent in Mr. Gehry's designs.

That made for a "constant cat-and-mouse game," said Chief Edward Lohn of the Cleveland police, with SWAT team members exchanging gunfire with the suspect as he ran to different floors, peeking and firing around corners.

"There are no right angles in the building," Chief Lohn said at a news conference late tonight, shortly after the suspect was taken into custody.

NoLandGrab: Gehry certainly isn't to blame for the 2003 rampage in which one person was killed, but it does call into question the manner in which people are forced to interact with his buildings.

WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL, LOS ANGELES
If you can't take the heat... (then don't hire a starchitect)

Throughout the summer, passing motorists reported being distracted by the reflected rays, while pedestrians described having to cross the street to avoid the intense heat.

The report, which was delivered to local politicians last week, said temperatures on sidewalks adjacent to the concert hall reached higher than 58 C [136 F].

The panels were eventually sandblasted to reduce the glare, at a cost of $180,000 to the taxpayers.

StataCenter01.jpg MASSACHUSETS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, STATA CENTER
All wet

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed a negligence suit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, charging that flaws in his design of the $300 million Stata Center in Cambridge, one of the most celebrated works of architecture unveiled in years, caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, and drainage to back up.

Fool me twice...
Oh, and as in the case of Case Western, the Stata Center has problems with "sliding ice and snow." With any luck, maybe global warming will take care of that problem and Gehry will be deemed prescient.

Posted by lumi at 2:47 PM

Arena, 2011? The three-year bridge reconstruction clock hasn't started

Atlantic Yards Report

AK-CarltonAveBridge01.jpgDeveloper and Nets owner Bruce Ratner has finally publicly conceded that a new arena won't happen in time for the 2009-2010 season, but now recent revelations from the hastily assembled Final Environmental Impact Statement cast doubt on the 2010-2011 season.

Norman Oder politely explains how Ratner kept "leading us astray" and "maintained the charade" and reviews the possible scenarios.

article

NoLandGrab: This article should be required reading for all local reporters covering Atlantic Yards, because, as recently as last week, even the venerable NY Times still hadn't read the memo about the no-go for the 2009-2010 season.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

BLOOMBERG'S BRIBES

NY Post, Editorial

It's easy to cheer Mayor Bloomberg when he criticizes the all-too-common practice of "bribing" businesses to operate in New York City.
...
"I've always been opposed to bribing companies to come and to stay [in the city]," he added, echoing earlier statements. In October 2003, Bloomberg boasted, "We've essentially ended corporate welfare as we know it."

Unfortunately, that's not entirely accurate.

Consider:

Atlantic Yards. Megadeveloper Forest City Ratner has negotiated more than $550 million from the city - and that's before tax-exempt bonds.

Other boondoggles listed: East River Science Park
Yankee Stadium
Citi Field
Pfizer
Bank of America
Goldman Sachs

The Post estimates a grand total of corporate subsidies around $688 million a year and in the final analysis has determined that "a lot of these deals make sense," even though they won't make a difference to the funadamental problems with NYC's economy.

article

NoLandGrab: We're not sure where the Post is getting the $550-million figure. Atlantic Yards watchdogs have the number currently pegged at $205 million with more to come from "known unknowns" (or is it "unknown knowns?").

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

FRANK LLOYD WRONG

CRACKS FINALLY APPEAR IN THE FAD OF GEHRY

NY Post
By Kyle Smith

StataCenter-NYP.jpgWhen there are problems with Frank Gehry's buildings, the startchitect's response is to blame the victim. MIT is the latest of several high-profile projects that display a sincere lack of common sense — will Brooklyn be next?

In a lawsuit first reported by the Boston Globe last week, MIT alleged that the three-year-old Stata Center, one of Gehry's trademark designs from the Four Car Pileup school of architecture, is already suffering from cracks in its amphitheater because of poor drainage, as well as widespread leaks that have been there since virtually the day the building opened. In winter, outdoor mini-avalanching turns entrances into hard hat zones.
...

Professors at the MIT building - including Noam Chomsky - complain that they can't put in bookcases (the walls are tilted) and they're living in a zoo because of the open plan's lack of privacy (actually, it's more like living in a petri dish - there's mold growing on the outside). People with IQs that exceed Queen Latifah's weight have complained that they get lost in the maze-like internal layout. One of the conference rooms stuck into the roof is so bizarrely shaped that a third or more of all visitors - including Gehry himself - suffer dizzy spells in it.

One of Gehry's most praised creations had to be torn up because its floor was too slippery for women in heels. Who could have expected fashionable women to congregate in such a space - the Conde Nast Cafeteria here in Midtown?
...
Gehry is diluting his cool factor so quickly - now he's designing jewelry, wristwatches and the Wyborowa Vodka bottle - that he seems determined to become the Pierre Cardin of design, and once his stuff is everywhere, as it soon will be, future generations will look at his jumbly faddish structures the way we look at shoulder pads or hoop skirts. When he builds the Ground Zero arts center and the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, will he embarrass us the way he has so many others?

article

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Gehry on the "uplifting effect" of "real architecture"

GehryProfileBlue.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

According to Frank Gehry, "Real architecture tends to have an uplifting effect on the people that experience it, and it creates identifiable icons—like the Sydney Opera House—that brand a city, even a country."

Would Atlantic Yards be uplifting or just another "ego trip?" And, what does it mean when your brand is "drunken robots?"

article

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Forest City in the News

Yonkers Tribune, Union Members Stand in the Cold at the Gateway to Ridge Hill

The skies are gray and laden with rain today. The Operating Engineers who clamored for the $650 million Ridge Hill Project to come about to benefit union workers have instead been shunned from the equation as witnessed by the picket line. Forest City Ratner, developer of the Ridge Hill Project is not to blame.

Denver Westworld News, Affordable Housing a Tough Sell in Stapleton
How's the affordable housing plan for Forest City's Denver Stapleton project going?

Five years after its inception, the program is still in its infancy. Of the 3,071 homes on site, just 158 of them — or 5 percent — are available to people like Nagel. That's about half of where Forest City should be by now to keep pace with its own affordable-housing plan. In addition, the units that do exist — largely condominiums and duplexes that border the Park Hill neighborhood — have been slow to sell. Nagel's development still has six empty homes.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indians GM preparing Sabathia contract
Buried within an artice about the off-season for the Cleveland Indians is Forest City co-chairman Sam Miller's presentation to Indian's owner Larry Dolan of the 2007 Starlight Guardian Humanitarian Award from Our Lady of the Wayside at Landerhaven. [Just a reminder that FCE has friends in high places, in case you forgot already.]

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

November 11, 2007

Anyplace, Brooklyn

anyplaceamy.jpg anyplacesteve.jpg

NoLandGrab went a-walkin' this weekend to see what's happening in Downtown Brooklyn with the guidance of the Anyplace, Brooklyn audio walking tour. Even if you know downtown like the back of your hand, it's an interesting and meditative way to contemplate the make-up of the area and the changes around you. Compare and contrast the bustling Fulton Street with the desolate Ratner Metrotech. Experience navigating a giant construction zone. And sample the foods and goods of the local businesses while you still can.

TOURS IN NOVEMBER free and open to the public

Every Saturday in November noon - 2pm

1 hour tours start every 5 mins

WHERE TO GO Come to the public tables @ Willoughby and Adams Streets in downtown Brooklyn to pick up materials and begin the tour

WHAT TO BRING Bring a CD player or an mp3 player with the downloaded files

If you can't make it to the tour, you can check out Amy and Steve's flickr sets:

Posted by amy at 9:59 PM

Coney Island Redo React-o-Matic

2007_11_Coney%20Crop.jpg

Curbed.com

"If anything's going to be built, shovels won't go into the ground until 2009. But if that's a problem in Coney Island, it will also be a problem at the World Trade Center, the West Side Yards, the Atlantic Yards and anywhere else there are large projects that aren't in construction yet. There are a lot of hoops to jump through before anything can get done. [David Gratt/Coney Island USA via Coney Island Message Board]

link

Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

Let Them Eat Hot Dogs

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On Thursday the Bloomberg administration announced its plans to turn Coney Island into Bloomberg's fantasy island. What does the Mayor think of the small people? From the Brooklyn Paper:
...The city was not prepared to say how much it would be willing to pay to buy out existing land owners. But, Bloomberg made one thing abundantly clear: no longer will small, individually owned amusements conspire to create one great carnival.

“Today, you can’t have a bunch of individual little things and have them survive, not when the public has entertainment alternatives,” said Bloomberg. “They can fly anyplace for next to nothing.”...

Apparently, though, eminent domain is good when used on the small people (see: Prospect Heights, West Harlem, East Harlem, Willets Point, Duffield Street), but not on the table when it comes to big developers such as Joseph Sitt's Thor Equities.

link

Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

And what if the city treated Ratner like Sitt?

Atlantic Yards Report

The city's plan to have developer Joe Sitt, who owns much of the Coney Island amusement area, swap that land for city land to the west for high-rise housing development, doesn't mention eminent domain, as I pointed out on Friday, but there's another intriguing contrast.

Consider the New York Times's coverage Friday of the Coney Island rezoning:
[Deputy Mayor Dan] Doctoroff said yesterday that the city wanted to find an experienced, world-class amusement park operator to run the district, which is “a very different business than building a shopping center.”

“He doesn’t have the experience to do it,” Mr. Doctoroff said, adding that the city expected Mr. Sitt to play a role in building housing or retail just outside the amusement park.

And what if the city (and state) had said that Forest City Ratner, experienced, yes, in mixed-use developments with office space and retail, but not in building an arena and housing, wasn't appropriate for the Atlantic Yards project?

link

Posted by amy at 10:11 AM

Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

threecee has posted new photos in the Atlantic Yards Photos Pool. This photo is of demolition at 542 Vanderbilt Ave. near Dean St.

542vanderbilt.jpg

Posted by amy at 10:07 AM

November 10, 2007

Benefit Concert for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn 11/8/07

Jonathan Barkey has posted his photos of Thursday night's big Klezmatics concert for DDDB.

klezevent.jpg

More photos of the event from Adrian Kinloch.

Posted by amy at 11:50 AM

The Blight and Plight of Condoburg

bkrail11.07.jpg

The Brooklyn Rail
B. Colby Hamilton interviews activist Phil DePaolo

At the corner of Withers Street and Union Avenue a massive empty lot has been left dormant since demolition began there nearly two years ago. Further into the heart of the neighborhood, at Union and Ainslie, a three-story skeleton is rusting away. What construction permit could be found indicated a start date of 4/14/04. Obscured by graffiti, the best I could make out as to when the project was supposed to be completed was also in 2004.

There are more of these, all over the neighborhood, with the Finger Building standing among them as par exemplar. Lawsuits and city violations have left the status of that project in limbo. Phil is part of a group of community activists that are trying to get the entire project reduced in size or, better yet, shut down entirely. A hearing with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals is set to determine the fate of the site on November 20th. The board, which primarily handles zoning variances and special building permits, has the power to force the building to halt at its current height or actually be reduced.

“We want the city to send a message to current and future developers,” Phil said, explaining the potential impact of the BSA’s decision. “When someone breaks the law, they should be punished. Considering the sort of development that will be going on in Coney Island and as part of the Atlantic Yards debacle, it’s important that the BSA does the right thing and makes development accountable to the community.”

article

Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

BREAKING: Bloggers Like Writing About Buildings, Bridges

Silicon Alley Insider

What do bloggers blog about, when they're not blogging about each other? Brooklyn-based "placeblog" Outside.in contends that web writers are fascinated by big public works projects.

Outside.In's list of "Bloggiest Places" in the U.S., compiled by surveying posts made over the past two months, is dominated by construction projects which are either planned or underway. Not surprisingly, given New York's high blog-per-capita ratio, two local projects show up on the top 10: Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, and the Hudson Yards project on the West Side.

link

Posted by amy at 11:38 AM

State appellate court dismisses renters' case challenging AY relocation offer

Atlantic Yards Report

Though members of a state appellate court on October 5 expressed some skepticism regarding the relocation plan for 13 residential tenants due to be displaced by the Atlantic Yards development, in a decision issued yesterday, the four judges unanimously upheld the plan.

The case, known as Matter of Anderson v. New York State Urban Development Corporation (the latter now doing business as the Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC), was the second brought by attorney George Locker on behalf of 13 tenants (12 in rent-stabilized units) at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street.

The other case, which contended that the tenants were not condemnees and thus should be able to challenge the state's action in trial court rather than the appellate court designated to hear challenges to the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL), was dismissed on October 16.

Relocation questions

To relocate the tenants, the state has promised to provide, at minimum, the services of a real estate broker, moving assistance, and a $5000 payment—but that, attorney Locker argued, would hardly guarantee similarly affordable housing in today's real estate market. He called it an "illusory plan," thus unlawful.

article and text of the decision

Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

Appeals ruling a win for Atlantic Yards developer

NY Daily News
RICH SCHAPIRO

A state appeals court Friday struck down a lawsuit challenging the way residents would be relocated to make way for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project.

The decision was a victory for developer Forest City Ratner, but there are still two remaining lawsuits standing in the way of the $4.2 billion project.

link

Posted by amy at 10:26 AM

COURT EVICTS RESIDENTS' SUIT VS. ATLANTIC YARDS

NY Post
RICH CALDER

A state appellate court yesterday tossed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Empire State Development Corp.'s relocation plan for Brooklyn residents living in the 22-acre footprint of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.
...
George Locker, a lawyer for rent-stabilized tenants being forced to relocate because of the state-approved $4 billion NBA arena-residential-retail megaproject, said he planned to appeal the decision.

article

Posted by amy at 10:20 AM

November 9, 2007

Regarding Coney Island, Bloomberg pledges public input

Atlantic Yards Report

ConeyRezoneNight.jpgThe Coney Island rezoning, unveiled by City Hall to great fanfare yesterday, differs from Atlantic Yards in several respects. Three hot-button issues are rezoning-vs-zoning-override, community input and eminent domain:

It sure helps when it's a rezoning, though, rather than a state override of zoning, as with Atlantic Yards. (The New York Times once couldn't tell the difference.)

Remember what Municipal Art Society President Kent Barwick said at the town-gown panel on Tuesday, that the Bloomberg administration “came late to the notion that it has a responsibility to protect communities.”

More than one correspondent pointed me to a passage in the coverage from Crain's New York Business:

But Mr. Bloomberg will have to get approval from the state legislature, and acquire the land from Mr. Sitt through a cash or land swap deal.
...
Is eminent domain in this case not on the table?

article

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Bricks fall — again — from Ratner-owned building

The Brooklyn Paper
By Zachary Kolodin

Here's the latest on last week's evacuation of a Ratner-owned building:

Tenants in a building slated to be torn down to make way for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards ran for their lives last Wednesday as bricks fell from the building’s facade — the second time in the last three months that a Ratner-owned building suffered a partial collapse during demolition.

No one was injured, but residents of 540 Vanderbilt Ave. were temporarily evacuated. Tenants were largely left in the dark during the evacuation, according to John Corless, a resident.

But the Department of Buildings said residents had nothing to worry about, at least in the short term, The fallen bricks were not vital to the structural integrity of the building, which is near the southwest corner of Vanderbilt Yards, the train yard that Ratner wants to turn into a 16-skyscraper, arena, hotel, office building and apartment mini-city.

Ratner bought 540 Vanderbilt Ave. in 2005, and inherited the buiding’s rent-stabilized tenants. To evict them, Ratner must win approval from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

What’s Ratner up to now?

The Brooklyn Paper published excerts from the "Atlantic Yards Construction Update:"

Work continues on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project — and even though the state hasn’t appointed its promised ombudsman to oversee construction work (186 days and counting!), Empire State Development Corporation minions are getting increasingly good about filling us in on what’s going on in the project footprint.

Here’s what went on this week and what is expected to transpire next week (“Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions,” according to the ESDC fine print)

link

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Gehry sued! Cracks at MIT cast doubt on ‘Miss Brooklyn’

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Stata-BPCover.jpg

Gehry Partners, the architect’s Los Angeles-based firm, was paid $15 million for the Stata Center design. The innovative building, which Gehry once said “looks like a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate,” has been hailed by critics and its users since it opened in spring, 2004.

But its janitors were never fans.

Almost immediately, according to the suit, the center’s outdoor amphitheater began to crack due to drainage problems. And snow and ice slid dangerously down the angled roofs and piled up in ways that blocked emergency exits.

Mold grew on the exterior and there were regular leaks in the roof, the suit continued.
...
Gehry is currently designing Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development, which has the 52-story Miss Brooklyn tower — and an 18,000-seat basketball arena — as its focal points. A spokesman for Forest City Ratner declined to comment on whether the company was concerned about the design issues raised by the M.I.T. lawsuit.

The arena will be built with public money — and Ratner’s relocated New Jersey Nets would only be a tenant in the state-owned building, said a spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, which is partnering with Ratner to build the $4-billion Atlantic Yards project.

The spokesman declined to explain if the public or Ratner would have to pay to repair any flaws in Gehry’s design.
...
Gehry did not respond to requests for comment from The Brooklyn Paper, but he did tell the New York Times that new buildings such as his “are complicated.”
...
it’s not the first time that Gehry has had problems at one of his trend-setting buildings. In 2004, he sandblasted parts of his celebrated Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles after people complained that the aluminum skin caused a blinding glare.

A swirling, $62-million building that Gehry designed for Case Western Reserve in Cleveland was likened by the New York Times to “a tanning mirror” that “sent snow and ice sliding off the sloping stainless-steel roof onto the heads of pedestrians below.”

The Times also reported that three years after Gehry’s celebrated Guggenheim Bilbao opened in 1997, brown stains on the titanium exterior provoked embarrassment and finger-pointing. Gehry said at the time that it was simply a matter of cleaning.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

Clash of Brooklyn Champions To Open P.S.A.L. Playoffs

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

Here's one press release we missed:

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the New Jersey Nets launched the third Semi-Annual Borough-Wide Basketball Tournament this week, with the first games being played at St. Peter Claver Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant and at St. Vincent Ferrer in Flatbush.

Games will run through Championship Day on Sunday, Nov. 18, with hundreds of boys, ranging in age from 11 to 13, expected to play. Entry to the pool play tournament is free for all participants.

“Brooklyn has some of the best young basketball players around, and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase their talents in this tournament,” said Downtown real estate magnate and Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who is also CEO and chairman of FCRC.

“Competitive sports programs like this not only provide exercise, fun and entertainment, but also help kids develop confidence and teamwork skills that will make them strong leaders and role models in the Brooklyn community.”

All competing players will receive uniforms for game-play as well as giveaways and prizes, courtesy of FCRC. Tournament rounds will be held at different sites throughout Brooklyn, culminating in two championship games that will take place at St. Francis College on Nov. 18.

In addition to the tournament’s decisive matchup, the excitement of Championship Day will feature food, entertainment, prizes, and guest appearances by a former Nets star.

link

Information on other amateur athletic programs that Forest City Ratner supports can be found on the AtlanticYards.com web site.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Page Six: HOT ENTRANCE

NY Post

Bruce Ratner is officially a member of the titan club:

JAWS dropped yesterday in the Four Seasons Grill Room when ousted Citigroup chief Chuck Prince arrived for lunch with Bear Stearns legend Ace Greenberg and Blackstone Group founder Pete Peterson. Seated right in Prince's path was his predecessor at the financial giant, Sandy Weill. All eyes watched Prince make his way around the room, greeting titans Leonard Lauder, Bruce Ratner, David Martinez, Bill Rudin, Richard Holbrooke, Strauss Zelnick, Walter Cronkite and James Wolfensohn. But he avoided Weill, leading to speculation of bad blood.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Pols want Atlantic Yards security review

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

On Wednesday, eight Brooklyn Democrats announced that they had sent a letter to Gov. Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg asking for a security analysis in the wake of developments in Newark, N.J., where local cops decided — at the “eleventh hour,” the lawmakers said — to close off several streets to protect that city’s new glass-walled arena.

The Brooklyn lawmakers said they don’t want to be surprised by potentially major disturbances like street closings of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
...
“[The security review] should be strictly independent of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to avoid any semblance of conflict of interest,” the letter added, referring to the state agency that is the development partner at Atlantic Yards.
...
“Our counterterrorism experts have examined the Atlantic Yards plans and they have met with those involved with its design and planned construction,” the spokesman, Paul Browne, told the New York Times. “They have been cooperative and receptive to NYPD recommendations, which did not require street closings.”

He declined to offer further details, telling the Times that the NYPD does not discuss “any vulnerabilities we’ve identified.”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz puts his trust in Ratner (because the developer has such a great track record in the community?):

“I said this early on, and am confident that developer Forest City Ratner is taking the proper steps in working closely with the NYPD and other relevant security agencies in ensuring the project adheres to the highest standards of safety.”

article

NoLandGrab: So far, none of the spokespersons for NYPD, ESDC or Forest City Ratner have gone as far as to make the claim that “any vulnerabilities [the NYPD] identified” have actually been addressed. By not publicly discussing security issues, the implication is that these vulnerabilities remain and therefore must be preserved as state secrets.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Bad art from good drunks

The Brooklyn Paper

Editor Gersh Kuntzman gets drunk in the footprint of Atlantic Yards in the name of art:

StrikeGersh.jpg

To better appreciate the fine works hanging on Freddy’s walls, I got pretty damn drunk the other night and pulled out a pen and my reporter’s notebook. Through the foggy haze of a pint of Blue Point Toasted Lager (I wasn’t so drunk that I forgot that they don’t sell Brooklyn Lager at this anti-Atlantic Yards bar), I remembered Teraberry’s words — “Drunken art often goes to the dark place of one’s soul” — and went to the darkest place I know: home plate when I was a kid in Little League (pictured).

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NoLandGrab: Lucky for Brooklyn, Gersh is a better editor than artist or ball player.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

MIT Sues Gehry for "Design and Construction Failures"

Online Preservation

Starchitecht Frank Gehry blames the victim:

statacenter-OP.jpg

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week filed a lawsuit against Frank Gehry's architecture firm, citing design flaws in its Stata Center, completed in 2004.

"I think the issues are fairly minor," Gehry told the New York Times. "MIT is after our insurance."

The suit says that the school in Cambridge, Mass., paid $1.5 million to repair the cracked walls of the amphitheater earlier this year. Gehry told the Times, "The client chose not to put certain devices on the roofs, to save money."
...
Gehry has been compared to Frank Lloyd Wright, who, when a client complained that his new house's ceiling leaked water onto the dining room table, replied, "Move your chair."

article

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Carol Rosenthal Joins Fried Frank's Real Estate Practice

EarthTimes.org

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's top lobbyist issued a press release:

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP announced today that Carol E. Rosenthal has joined the Firm as a partner in the Real Estate Department, resident in New York. She joins Fried Frank from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, where she was a partner in the Real Estate & Land Use Department.

Ms. Rosenthal serves as land use and development counsel to a wide variety of developers and institutions. She has represented private developer and institutional clients in land use approvals and development transactions, successfully prosecuting applications for zoning changes, variances and special permits, state and city environment quality reviews, and other governmental approvals. She has broad-based experience in project development, housing, transportation and joint public-private initiatives.

"Land use and development matters continue to be very active in New York City. Stephen Lefkowitz, Melanie Meyers, Rick Leland and Adrienne Bernard, along with the rest of our team, have earned a superb reputation because of their proven ability to drive forward the most complicated projects, including development of the new Yankee Stadium, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the new Moynihan Rail Station. We are looking forward to having Carol as a part of this team," said Jonathan Mechanic, chair of Fried Frank's Real Estate Department.

more

NoLandGrab: Having "Atlantic Yards" on your client list is a badge of honor if you're a lobbyist.

Readers may recall that Ratner paid Fried Frank $995 an hour to make sure that the City and State kept their side of the deal laid out in the 2005 memorandum of understanding for Atlantic Yards (PDF).

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Brooklyn Officials Push for Safety Study At Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Charles Maldonado

After safety concerns forced Newark officials to close streets adjacent to the new arena on game and event nights, local Brooklyn politicians renewed their request for a full security and terrorism analysis for Atlantic Yards:

“We do not want to face a similar failure of planning in relation to Atlantic Yards, a project at least as susceptible to attack as the Newark arena,” said the letter, dated Oct. 29. “The Barclays Center Arena will sit directly above the city’s third largest transportation hub, the Atlantic Avenue station, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, two major Brooklyn thoroughfares.

The letter was signed by State Senators Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery; state Assembly Members Jim Brennan, Hakeem Jeffries and Joan Millman; and City Council Members Letitia James, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio.
...
Jeff Gordon, a representative from Spitzer’s office, said that the NYPD has reviewed and approved the plans.

“The New York Police Department has been very involved in reviewing the project and working with the developer, as they are with most large-scale developments,” Gordon said.

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Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

BUMMED IN BROOKLYN

Village Voice, Letter to the Editor

One letter begat another:

Re Letters [October 24–30]: Daniel Goldstein responded to your "Best of New York" issue's award of Best Noble Failure to his organization, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, by claiming that the award was premature. Some of us in Brooklyn agree that Goldstein's group is a failure, but for a completely different—and less noble—reason. I view Goldstein and his absolutist views as responsible for the failure of the opposition to Atlantic Yards. While his organization is called Develop Don't Destroy, it should have been called Don't Develop Brooklyn. It never engaged in a serious effort to negotiate the size and bulk of Atlantic Yards and permit a reasonable development of that long-neglected neighborhood to go forward. There's no way to know whether a good-faith effort to negotiate a scaled-back version of Atlantic Yards might have succeeded, but Goldstein's absolutist opposition made serious negotiation impossible. You might as well blame him for the fact that Atlantic Yards will proceed as planned, without any real community input.

Dan Ross
BROOKLYN

NoLandGrab: Maybe Dan might want to hook up with the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has been busy doing just what he suggests, unfortunately, without as much success as Dan anticipated.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Save the kudos

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

We missed one of our own from last week's selection:

To the editor,

As with Forest City Ratner's 16-acre Metrotech high-rise office campus, Atlantic Yards is rife with planning problems that are entirely foreseeable ("Big step forward for Downtown," Oct. 27).

Those elected an appointed officials acquiescing to Bruce Ratner again — and leaving these problems to the next generation of planners to fix, as is being done in Downtown Brooklyn — are being wholly negligent.

Lumi Michelle Rolley, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

November 8, 2007

Officials demand independent arena security study; NYPD says no street closings

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR wonders where The Times got its measurements, and how accurate they might be:

Still somewhat unclear, however, remain comparisons between the Atlantic Yards arena and the Prudential Center. The Times attempted an assessment, under the headline Security Study Urged for Atlantic Yards:

Plans for the Brooklyn arena, though preliminary, seem to show it set back farther from the street than the Newark arena, the Prudential Center. The Prudential Center is about 25 feet from both Edison Place and Mulberry Street in downtown Newark, while renderings of Atlantic Yards show the arena about 75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue.

No source of that data was provided, and it's not clear whether "seem" is based on direct information from an official source or an eyeball of renderings.

And for good measure, Norman Oder reminds the "Newspaper of Record" that even Bruce Ratner isn't sticking to the 2009-opening story anymore:

The Times reported that the arena "is scheduled to open in 2009." They didn't get the memo that explained it's impossible.

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Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Tackling university growth

MetroNY reports this exchange regarding the Columbia University expansion plans, from a recent panel discussion:

...audience member Michael Adams — a Harlem historian and Columbia alum who opposes the university’s expansion plans – stood up and said he was “disheartened.” “Do you really believe that much has changed since the era of Jane Jacobs?” he asked. “Seventeen acres to be cleared for a single owner with buildings that look the same? How is that different from Robert Moses?”
[Columbia University President Lee] Bollinger said Columbia doesn’t want the state to use eminent domain against residents, but emphasized the university does things “for the public good” like researching Alzheimer’s and creating art.
But after listening to the panel, community activist Elizabeth Rose said, “I don’t see the difference between what the universities are doing and the developers.”

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Assemblyman Jim Brennan

Local Elected Officials Demand Independent Arena Security Study in Letter to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg

Eight officials representing area of proposed “Atlantic Yards” project unify around public safety and security concerns; lack of planning cited

(Brooklyn, NY) Elected officials representing the site and surrounding areas of the proposed Atlantic Yards arena, mixed-use project sent a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, demanding an independent security study for the project. The eight officials sending the letter included: Assembly Members Jim Brennan, Joan Millman, and Hakeem Jeffries, State Senators Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery, and City Council Members Bill de Blasio, Letitia James, and David Yassky.

Many of these same elected officials wrote a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in December of 2005 requesting information on terrorism and security planning for the project. No response was received.

As proposed, Atlantic Yards consists of a glass-walled arena with a towering glass entrance (with approximately 240 arena events per year), surrounded by glass-walled towers, built to the sidewalks, over the city's third-largest transportation hub, abutting the congested intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues—one of the busiest intersections in the city.

The letter was spurred not only by the lack of response to previous letters, but also by recent relevant eleventh-hour actions at the Newark Prudential Center Arena – actions which validate previous calls for an Atlantic Yards security study. Just days before the Newark arena was set to open, the Newark Police Department announced they would close streets around the arena, citing terrorism concerns and security measures. On the decision and necessity of closing those streets, Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy told the Newark Star Ledger, “You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world.” The Atlantic Yards arena would abut two of the major thoroughfares in Brooklyn.

“We are asking for something quite reasonable- that the NYPD provide meaningful information to the public, as they have with the developer, regarding possible dangers and precautions being taken to ensure the safest arena/skyscraper complex possible, and the impacts of any security measures on the community and treasury,” said Assembly Member Jim Brennan. “We want to know how the situation in Brooklyn differs from that which has just occurred in Newark.”

“The risks are clear and the lack of information that has been shared with us is unacceptable,” said Council Member Letitia James. “As a representative of my constituents I take no comfort in this. We need a proper security study now, well before any potential construction starts.”

The letter from the eight elected officials was also sent to NYS Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni and Empire State Development Corporation President and CEO Avi Schick. The letter is attached, and will be available at: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=044.

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Security Study Urged for Atlantic Yards

The NY Times
By Andy Newman

Like all-things Atlantic Yards, the powers that be claim that the project has met every standard, though details are closely guarded secrets:

A New York City police official, however, said yesterday that the Brooklyn arena would require no street closings.

“Our counterterrorism experts have examined the Atlantic Yards plans and they have met with those involved with its design and planned construction,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. “They have been cooperative and receptive to N.Y.P.D. recommendations, which did not require street closings.”

Mr. Browne declined to offer further details, saying it was policy not to publicly discuss “any vulnerabilities we’ve identified.” The developer of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner — a development partner in the new Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company — said yesterday that it had been working closely with the police and other antiterrorism experts on the design of Atlantic Yards.

And once again, the Times seems to have some sort of exclusive access to info that hasn't been released to the public, because as far as we can tell, plans for the Urban Room, arena and four towers have not been revealed:

Plans for the Brooklyn arena, though preliminary, seem to show it set back farther from the street than the Newark arena, the Prudential Center. The Prudential Center is about 25 feet from both Edison Place and Mulberry Street in downtown Newark, while renderings of Atlantic Yards show the arena about 75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: November 8, 2007

onedollar.gifBrooklyn Daily Eagle

Reporter Sarah Ryley catches on:

The New York Mets paid the city $6 million in rent and $5 million for its parking lot during fiscal year 2007; and the New York Yankees paid $2.3 million in rent and $3 million for its parking lot, according to The New York Post. That might irk some opponents of the basketball arena for the Nets planned at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, who have already complained that developer Bruce Ratner inked a deal between the city and state that promised a rent payment to operate the arena of one dollar.

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NoLandGrab: And then developer and team owner Bruce Ratner and NY State have the chutzpah to call it a "public use" in order to justify taking people's homes and businesses. The last time we looked, NY State was still part of America (but we could be wrong about that).

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Here's what they're saying:

Cup Crazy's National Hockey League blog, Future hope for Devils and Newark pinned on Prudential Center's success

Original plans during this decade had the New Jersey Nets seeking the move to Newark when YankeeNets operated that franchise, but roadblocks in ultimately sealing any agreement to build a new arena there killed it. After squabbling among the YankeeNets ownership group investors led to the eventual sale of the Nets in August 2004, new owner Bruce Ratner announced his intentions to relocate that team to the New York City borough of Brooklyn. So far, an arena project has been put together. It has been endorsed by state and city officials as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to built it in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights section of the city. Plus, the arena naming rights has already been sold. However, despite all of that, it is not completely 100% certain that the New Jersey Nets will ultimately end up moving there. There are still a few obstacles remaining such as court hearings on eminent domain issues concerning the surrounding areas of the Atlantic Yards, a mixed-use commercial and residential development area where the arena would be built. All of these obstacles have to be cleared before an official groundbreaking can take place and seal the Nets' future.

Tubious, James L. Stuckey

A short bio of the recently terminated President of the Atlantic Yards Development Group.

NolandGrab: We're fairly certain that it's James P. Stuckey — "that's a capital... "P" that stands for pool." (Hey, Stuckey always did remind us of The Music Man.)

Medium Happiness, Seriously You Shouldn’t Have Gone To Columbia
How greedy is Columbia University? Some believe, as greedy as Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner:

I read about a group of students that are (or at this point might have already begun) waging a hunger strike to protest the egregious, indefensible transgressions of Columbia University over the past “decade”. It was not long ago that I myself attended a very wealthy, urban school in another city. On a certain level, I can identify with their plight. Ineffably wealthy schools like Columbia, NYU, or George Washington have a knack for overlooking the little people in pursuit of what they are really after–making more money. But, there is one thing, if anything, that you learn once you’ve walked and breathed the rarified air of these places–they cannot be stopped. Much like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn or Foggy Bottom in Washington, DC, Columbia will develop and gobble up what it pleases.

Queens Crap, Coming soon to Atlantic Yards...
It's high-artchitecture, but is it waterproof?

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

The Klezmatics + Kakande + Demolition String Band

From Time Out NY:

Price: advance $20, day of show $25
Venue: Brooklyn Lyceum
Times: Tonight 7pm.
Address: 227 Fourth Ave between President and Union Sts Park Slope, Brooklyn
Phone: 718-857-4816
Travel: Subway: M, R to Union St Plan Route

The Klezmatics aren’t just the best band in the klezmer vanguard; on a good night, they rank among the greatest bands on the planet. For them, Jewish traditional music is just the starting point for songs that jump, rock and swing, sometimes all at the same time. Tonight they headline a benefit for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (developdontdestroy.org), the organization that’s leading the protest against the Atlantic Yards development.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

Gridlock at 30,000 Feet

NY Magazine
By Michael Idov

Here's a sign that "Bruce Ratner" has become synonymous with rampant overdeveloper and pariah to the community [apparently there are some things even Ratner couldn't get away with (but not many)]:

The Port Authority has the power to build new runways, but the immutable fact is that the area’s airports may have reached their natural limits. JFK has been expanded over the marshlands seven times. To make it any bigger, says an FAA official who wishes to remain anonymous, “we’d have to condemn a bunch of buildings in the Rockaways.” That, needless to say, is a project even Bruce Ratner couldn’t ram through without causing some kind of uprising. All the agency can offer at our three airports in the near term is more “holding pads”—the idea being that idling planes might as well get serviced while they wait.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

November 7, 2007

"When the Big Get Bigger": the unresolved challenge of balancing town and gown

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a condensed version of last night’s panel, When the Big Get Bigger: New York's Universities and Their Neighborhoods, part of the series associated with the Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibition at the Municipal Art Society (MAS): 1. It’s much easier to mend town-gown relations in West Philadelphia than in West Harlem. 2. We’re not much closer to a solution about how to balance neighborhood impacts with the larger interests of the city and beyond. 3. When a poster child for bad urban development is needed, Atlantic Yards inevitably trips off the lips.

The contentious issue of Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion plan was the backdrop to the panel; though the issue didn’t overwhelm the discussion, several opponents of the plan were in the audience at Rockefeller University, and the 140 or so attendees, upon entrance, were handed a packet criticizing the plan prepared by the Coalition to Preserve Community.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

Scary Gehry

AP, via MetroNY

metro07-11-07.jpg

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

2009 mayoral campaign shaping up

MartyBobbleheadsm.jpg amNY

Our great leader, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, was cited as a wild card in a list of potential 2009 mayoral candidates, though the Scarlet A could get in the way :

Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president:

Probably too parochial to be formidable citywide; affiliation with Atlantic Yards won't help.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Little-Known Jones Soda Gets Exclusive Rights at Brooklyn Nets Arena

BRJones-sm.jpgFANS PREFER COKE OR PEPSI
‘Nets Name May Change, But Will Definitely Be Brooklyn’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Seattle-based Jones Soda Company officially joined U.K.-based Barclays Bank and the New Jersey Nets as the third out-of-town company expected to make a grand entry into the Brooklyn marketplace once the planned Atlantic Yards arena is built.

The Nets, owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies, announced yesterday that Jones will be the exclusive carbonated soft drink and bottled water provider once the team moves into the Barclays Center, named after the British bank for a reported $400 million.

Most potential fans interviewed by the Eagle said they’ve never heard of Jones, and balked at being denied the right to purchase Coca-Cola or Pepsi during events.
...
“Our goal has been and always will be to try to capture the culinary experience of Brooklyn and bring it into the building,” he added, noting that ethnic foods would also be part of the mix.

article

NoLandGrab: In order to "capture the culinary experience of Brooklyn," Brett Yormark signed a deal with a Seattle-based beverage company? Are we the only ones who think that the NJ Nets wunderkind exec might be losing it?

Reaction from other watchdoggies:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "Public Use? Local Economic Development?"

Forest City Ratner/Enterprises (FCEA) has announced an exclusive soda deal with Seattle-based Jones Soda Company (JSDA) to deliver their 28 flavors of soda to ticketholders in the Barclays Center Arena (named for the British banking giant who paid an estimated $400 million for naming rights for Bruce Ratner's arena).

Yup, and here is the sound of the great public uses and local economic development Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project has to offer, from the Nets' marketing guru Brett Yormark...

Fans for Fair Play, "Keeping Up with the Joneses" An excerpt from a letter to Jones CEO Peter Van Stolk:

It would have been nice if you'd done your homework before inking this deal with Bruce Ratner to sell your soda products in his controversial, divisive new basketball arena. The arena is part of a sixteen-skyscraper development that for four years has caused pain for many neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

You would've discovered that a cool, alternative company like Jones can find better business parters than Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

AIALA Celebrates 150th Birthday, Architecture Month

FCE-TheMercury.jpgMulti-Housing News

Forest City execs were on hand to help kick off Architecture Month in LA, on the rooftop of the former Getty Oil headquarters, recently dubbed "The Mercury." "Adaptive reuse" was the flavor of the month:

The [American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles] selected the rooftop as the celebration’s locale because The Mercury embraces the city’s past architectural heritage and also its promise for the future, according to Carolo Caccavale, AIA/LA associate director. The Mercury represented the trend toward historic and adaptive reuse that has shaped redevelopment in Los Angeles, especially in its downtown core.

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NoLandGrab: Adaptive reuse has been a key component in many of Forest City's most recent inner-city renewal projects, except, that is, in Bruce's Brooklyn (see Demolition Update for more details).

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: November 6, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

An article about vanity addresses coming to Brooklyn mentions one of the borough's worst:

Many of the buildings within developer Bruce Ratner’s MetroTech, constructed during a time when Jay and Willoughby streets were probably synonymous with “holdup,” have addresses on MetroTech Center, not an actual street. The actual sequence of those addresses makes no logical sense (6 MetroTech Center is not across the street from 7 MetroTech Center, it’s up the street and around the corner).

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NoLandGrab: Of course the numbering of MetroTech's buildings make no logical sense — the office campus is not designed to be people friendly and certainly, at the time, no one was sure that the entire project would ever be built out.

MetroTech Map: source, MetroTech BID

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

November 6, 2007

MIT sues Gehry, citing leaks in $300m complex

Blames famed architect for flaws at Stata Center

The Boston Globe
By Shelley Murphy

StataCenter-BG.jpgWhile we spent our day in reverie, trying to imagine a life without developer Bruce Ratner, starchitect Frank Gehry and eminent domain abuse, the following story was sent to us by several hundreds of NoLandGrab readers.

When it rains it pours:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed a negligence suit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, charging that flaws in his design of the $300 million Stata Center in Cambridge, one of the most celebrated works of architecture unveiled in years, caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, and drainage to back up.

The suit says that MIT paid Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners $15 million to design the Stata Center, which was hailed by critics as innovative and eye-catching with its unconventional walls and radical angles. But soon after its completion in spring 2004, the center's outdoor amphitheater began to crack due to drainage problems, the suit says. Snow and ice cascaded dangerously from window boxes and other projecting roof areas, blocking emergency exits and damaging other parts of the building, according to the suit. Mold grew on the center's brick exterior, the suit says, and there were persistent leaks throughout the building.

article

NoLandGrab: Window boxes in the same style as those mentioned above are depicted in four of Laurie Olin's Atlantic Yards sketches — at least Brooklynites and Ratner have been forewarned.

Posted by lumi at 9:14 PM

Happy Halfaversary?

Today marks the half-year anniversary of the Empire State Development Corporation’s promise to hire an ombudsman to serve as a liaison between the state-sponsored project and the community (aka “The Atlantic Yards Community”).

Who knew we’d get so much mileage from the Count-Up Clock?

Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

The Carlton Avenue bridge closure: my errors, ESDC's error

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs a correction, explains the error (the trail leads back to changes made between the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements), and wonders if the Empire State Development Corporation will shed some more light on the matter:

The source of the information was a document sent by a community board member that I erroneously believed to be an ESDC document; rather, it appears to be the summary of a meeting held at the ESDC.

And what was the most surprising piece of information to me, that the bridge would be closed two years, wasn't exactly new--and the reference to it in the community board document wasn't incorrect. Late in the day the ESDC pointed me to the Construction Impacts chapter, where changes are noted from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
...
So, between the DEIS and the FEIS, the construction timetable changed. However, those changes were not marked on the Construction Schedule that remained attached to the FEIS. Those of us who relied on the schedule rather than the text of the chapter were misled.
...
Let's see if the ESDC corrects its error. After all, the agency's board approved the FEIS without anyone pointing out that the Proposed Construction Schedule was already out of date (various activities were supposed to have started 11/1/06, more than a month earlier) and had not been updated to reflect changes made since the DEIS was issued.

article

NoLandGrab: It's no surprise that there are discrepancies within different parts of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, since the State of NY was in a big rush to get it done while the Pataki administration still held power in Albany. After all, the ESDC worked through the Thanksgiving holiday in order to correct those errors it managed to catch.

Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Atlantic Yards demolition block and lot map here.

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning November 5, 2007 and November 11, 2007

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Mid-block Support of Excavation (SOE) piles: lagging is complete; anchor test is complete; begin installing anchors.
  • Continue drilling SOE piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Test pile for Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles is complete; no further testing is required; removing test pile from site.
  • Continue preparing site for mobilization to East Portal to drill foundation piles by creating earth ramps for drilling and excavating site to begin foundation trestle piles.
  • Continue preparing site to drill foundation piles for cable bridge (adjacent to 6th Avenue Bridge, north side of block 1120).
  • Excavating to elevation +34’ and banking soil in preparation to drill Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Begin drilling Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.
  • Removal of DOT light poles on north side Pacific Street, block 1121, and install temporary lighting (current location interferes with future SOE).
  • Re-configure fence separating yard construction from LIRR operations at East Portal.

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 completed at 814 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 45) when a remaining portion at the rear is removed in conjunction with demolition at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue.
  • Abatement was completed at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 46) after a parapet was removed under the review of the DOB BEST Squad. Demolition will begin once 540 Vanderbilt has been properly secured as a precaution per the instructions of the structural engineer.
  • Demolition will be underway at 542 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 50) within this two-week period.
  • Demolition will be underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) within this two-week period and continue for the next two–three months.
  • Demolition, clean-up and black fill has been completed at 818 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 46).
  • At the request of the DOB BEST Squad, jersey barriers will be installed in front of 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25).

Utility Work

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations will begin in this two week period and is expected to be underway for three months. Work will start on Dean Street at Flatbush Avenue, continue along Dean to 6th Avenue and proceed along 6th from Dean to Pacific Street.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

The City's Premature Infrastructuring

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

The following is from the Empire State Development Corporation's bi-weekly "Atlantic Yard Construction Update" released today:

Utility Work
The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations will begin in this two week period and is expected to be underway for three months. Work will start on Dean Street at Flatbush Avenue, continue along Dean to 6th Avenue and proceed along 6th from Dean to Pacific Street.

Now, we understand that Forest City Ratner can (and does) pretend all it wants that their project is going ahead, so they can impress the public and their varied investors. BUT the city is funded by taxpayers, and infrastructure improvements are funded by taxpayers.

more...

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

The serious street shutdowns outside the Newark arena

NewarkClosings-AYR.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder took a field trip to the Newark arena last Saturday. Here's what he found.

the two intersecting streets that lead to the main entrance are completely shut down, though emergency vehicles are allowed on both blocks and one partially accommodates some cars heading into a private parking lot.

(Photo at right of four-lane Mulberry Street looking north from Lafayette Street. A police vehicle is parked at left.)

Remember, on Oct. 10, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that city officials were planning to close, or partly close, one or two streets bordering the arena—a decision that caused some consternation, because it was made only two weeks before the arena was to open.

The Star-Ledger reported that "the so-called 'standoff' -- the distance between the building and a potential terrorist threat -- was not sufficient on Edison [Place] and Mulberry [Street]." The solution has been to use concrete "Jersey barriers," like ones used as highway dividers, on both streets.

This raised questions in Brooklyn about whether the streets around the Atlantic Yards arena would have to close, in whole or in part, to protect against potential terrorist attacks, and led to calls for a state hearing on Atlantic Yards security. So far, city and state officials, and developer Forest City Ratner have stressed their extensive security preparations, but have not answered the questions about potential street closings.

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NoLandGrab: Serious security and traffic issues aside, we're impressed that Norman Oder visited the Pru Center arena before Bruce Ratner did.

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Problem at Ratner-Owned Building

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a one paragraph item on the problems at 540 Vanderbilt:

A four-story rental building owned by Forest City Ratner, 540 Vanderbilt Ave., was evacuated Thursday after part of the top of the façade began falling off. A spokesman for the giant realty firm, which is planning to build its Atlantic Yards development nearby, said the residents were moved to a hotel, but will return when the damage is remedied. Online critics of Atlantic Yards noted that the building is near the old Ward Bakery Building, a vacant Ratner-owned building where a section of the parapet collapsed earlier this year.

Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Local planner gets the big job: Carlton Brown to plan centerpiece of BAM district

From The Brooklyn Paper:

The centerpiece of a world-class arts district that’s going up around the Brooklyn Academy of Music will be built by a local developer, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
...
As The Brooklyn Paper reported in August, Brown, who has lived in the neighborhood for a quarter-century, was initially eliminated from the competition. But Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and local activists raised such a ruckus that Brown’s proposal was resurrected.

Does the City's about-face on hiring local talent get around the sticky problem of using eminent domain to bulldoze an arts venue to build an arts venue?

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Forest City in the News

IT Jungle, Neuwing, IBM to Quantify and Monetize IT Energy Savings

An article about a company that's partnering with IBM to create energy-savings certificates has this tidbit on its parent company, which has ties to NYC's #1 overdeveloper, Forest City Ratner:

Finding out information about Neuwing Global, the parent company of the energy subsidiary IBM has partnered with, turns out to be a bit tricky. I searched the databases of the New York Times back through 1981 and there is not one single citation for the private equity firm; ditto for The Wall Street Journal. When the company says on its Web site that it is "operating 'under the radar screen' of the global and transnational competitors," it ain't kidding. The Neuwing Real Estate division of Neuwing Global is, nonetheless, behind a very large number of key real estate players, some of which I recognize from the local New York City news. The company's top executives started a company called Longwing Real Estate Partners in 2003 with the financial backing of Dubai Investment Group, which is just one piece of the Dubai Holding company that invests wealth of the families who control that oil producing country. Neuwing Real Estate is a big investor in another release estate investment company called Forest City Ratner, which is trying to rebuild the Brooklyn Atlantic Navy Yards and move the New Jersey Nets basketball team to the area. Like other private equity firms, Neuwing is hooked into so many other equity firms (usually in some kind of real estate) that it is hard to determine who owns what.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Power plant’s gas pains

NYC is using eminent domain to take land for a waterfront park — could Trans Gas's eight-acre parcel be next? More on the conflict between Trans Gas and the City at The Brooklyn Papers.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

November 5, 2007

The Carlton Avenue Bridge closure: from nine months to two years (and why?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attempts to read the tea leaves, after getting his hands on an Atlantic Yards memo/notice that seems to further confuse the timetable for the project:

It's another confusing element of the not-terribly-credible Atlantic Yards timetable. The Carlton Avenue Bridge, according to the construction schedule (excerpt at right) that was part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), was supposed to close on 11/1/06 for nine months.

We knew that the project was way behind schedule, but we didn't know that the bridge, over the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, now would be closed for two years. (Why does it need work? According to Chapter 12 of the FEIS, "Carlton Avenue would be widened and converted to two-way operation between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.")

The precise source of the document appears to be a mystery:

Correction: That information came as part of a document (excerpt above; full document at bottom) regarding a 10/15/07 planning meeting hosted by the ESDC. (I was sent the document via a Community Board member. While I initially believed the document was prepared by the ESDC, the agency tells me it was not their document. It may have simply been produced by the community board, summarizing the meeting; I am waiting for an update from the ESDC as to the accuracy of the document.)

NoLandGrab: Could the ESDC's Atlantic Yards Ombudsperson shed light on the source? Unfortunately, the identity of the Ombudsperson is still a mystery, too.

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Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

Does the AY eminent domain lawsuit have a shot? Two law profs are doubtful

CageMatch.jpg Atlantic Yards Report has the details on the cage match between legal scholars and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's attorney for the federal eminent domain suit:

Two legal experts, while not expressing support for the Atlantic Yards project, nevertheless said at a panel discussion last Wednesday at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law that they thought the pending eminent domain challenge would fail in a federal appellate court, given current legal doctrine.

The court will dismiss the suit, as did the trial court judge, they said, because of the presence some public benefits, and because judges are loath to set a precedent in which courts investigate the motives of decision-makers.

The predictions by Cardozo law professor Stewart Sterk and University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein generated a forceful response from the third panelist, New York attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, who represents the plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki and argued the appeal, before an engaged but skeptical panel, on October 9.

Brinckerhoff stressed that eminent domain doctrine seems to be evolving. If the Supreme Court opened up the possibility that motives to confer a private benefit can be questioned, as it did in the 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, he said, there must be some fact-finding to reconcile that with the established “rational basis” (the lowest level of judicial scrutiny) doctrine for finding public purposes.

Hence his hope that the appellate court sends the case back for discovery, the disclosure of information held by the defendants, and then trial to determine that the use of eminent domain is, in fact, legitimate.

Though two law professors who apparently hadn't read all (or any?) of the legal papers don't necessarily represent a consensus, neither Epstein nor Sterk are particularly sympathetic to eminent domain. So that may be a sign that the federal eminent domain case, believed by many Atlantic Yards opponents to be the best chance to stop the project, may be a longer shot than the state court challenge to the environmental review, which remains pending long after a decision was due.

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Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

TONIGHT: BROOKLYN MATTERS SCREENING

BrooklynMattersPost-sma.jpgMONDAY
NOVEMBER 5, 7 pm
THE OLD STONE HOUSE
5th Avenue
btw 3rd and 4th Streets
map

http://www.brooklynmatters.com

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

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

Cash-rich DeBlasio seeks Beep post

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

NYC Councilman Bill de Blasio is running for Brooklyn Borough President, a post he "actually" doesn't have to apologize for:

“I actually think it’s a great office,” he said. “Brooklyn is obviously the center of the most-important stuff going on in the city right now — culturally, politically with our progressive values and progressive ideas, and development-wise. The next borough president will get to shape a lot of that.”

What kind of stuff will de Blasio focus on? Irresponsible development stuff, excluding the Atlantic Yards stuff:

In an interview this week with The Brooklyn Paper, DeBlasio said he would emphasize his support for affordable housing and “protecting neighborhoods” from “irresponsible developers.”

He did not mention his support for the Atlantic Yards project, a position that has earned him substantial opposition from many residents of his Park Slope base.

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To understand, or at least try to wrap your head around the "essential truth" of Bill de Blasio's opinions on Atlantic Yards, check out Norman Oder's in-depth article from Atlantic Yards Report, posted last week.

Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

Forest City in the News

FCErectors01.jpgPittsburgh Tribune-Review, Panel to probe slots licenses
When the Pittsburgh casino license was awarded earlier this year, Forest City came up empty and joined the other losing bidder, Isle of Capri, in a lawsuit challenging the decision. They lost that suit, but questions still remain about how much attention was paid to the financial backgrounds of investors.

The Trib reported that internal reports on each of the three Pittsburgh [casino license] applicants did not include detailed financial analyses for key players or investors.
...
The Supreme Court upheld the license award after appeals by the two losing bidders, Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland and St. Louis-based Isle of Capri Casinos.

Washington Post, Seven Developers Submit Plans for Poplar Point
Forest City Enterprises is one of seven bidders for another swath of land in DC:

The D.C. government has received seven proposals from companies seeking to develop a 110-acre parcel along the Anacostia River, but none is from D.C. United, which has lobbied to build a stadium on the site.
...
Several of the companies have strong local ties.
...
Forest City Enterprises recently launched work on the Yards, one of the largest developments underway along the west side of the Anacostia River.

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

November 4, 2007

Your E-mail Can Save History

*Queen of the Click* has a short sample letter addressed to Jack Hammer (yes, that's his real name) at Housing Preservation and Development, telling him that you favor the preservation of the Duffield St. homes.

Posted by lumi at 3:43 PM

A quick, free way to help the Abolitionist homes (deadline 11/5 5 pm)

Our friends at Duffield St. Underground forwarded this action you can take. Sample letter after the jump.

New York City profited handsomely from slavery, and pro-slavery sentiment was so strong, that New York remained pretty much neutral during the Civil War. The most extreme opponents of slavery were often victims of mob violence, but these Abolitionists stood their ground in Downtown Brooklyn. Some of their homes still exist on Duffield Street, and the owners want to turn their properties into a museum. Historians who have examined these properties even think that there is strong evidence of a connection to the Underground Railroad slave safehouse movement. As Dr. Cheryl LaRoche says, "Duffield Street represents the most exciting site to research the Underground Railroad IN THE COUNTRY."

This could be a fantastic cultural attraction to Downtown Brooklyn. This country could use more celebration of our history of resisting oppression. Instead, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development has a different plan. It wants to confiscate the homes through eminent domain, demolish them, and replace them with an underground parking lot and small park.

The City held public hearing Monday 10/29 and gave until Monday 11/5 at 5pm for the public testimony regarding the use of eminent domain. We need your help in letting the City know that this is not a smart way to promote New York City.

Of course, it gets worse. Using eminent domain, the City also wants to destroy a newly opened African-American owned cultural hotspot... and replace it with a "cultural center." The City wants to demolish low-income housing, and even wants to destroy a high-tech company that employs over 100 people. All in the name of "progress."

How can you help? Simple. Copy and paste the text below and email, fax or hand deliver it to the HPD. And for a bit of comic relief, the real, actual name of the person you send this to is Jack Hammer. Sounds like a Mel Brooks joke, don't it?

Dear Jack Hammer,

I am proud of the history of Abolitionism in Brooklyn. I am proud that the residents of Duffield Street opposed slavery, and I believe the best way to develop Downtown Brooklyn is by celebrating this history with a museum at the site. It is exciting to hear that Dr. Cherlyl LaRoche believes that 227 Duffield Street is the most promising site of Underground Railroad research in the country.

I am glad that Downtown Brooklyn has seen so much new economic activity, but we should insure that the City promotes a diverse economy for everyone. I oppose the plan to destroy our history- MY history- and replace it with an underground parking lot and 1.25 acre park. I also urge HPD to reconsider the use of eminent domain to destroy the diverse businesses and homes in Downtown Brooklyn.

We have a chance to make Downtown Brooklyn a great place. But the current plan to use eminent domain is wrong. Please adjust your plans so that you do not destroy the businesses and homes of people of Downtown Brooklyn.

Sincerely, [your name here]

Send this to: Jack Hammer Director, Brooklyn Planning Department of Housing Preservation and Development Tel: 212-863-8667 Fax: 212-863-5052 Email: hammerj (at) hpd.nyc (dot) gov

Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

All Drawn Out

By Cristian Fleming
for The Brooklyn Paper

cartoon10.07.jpg

Posted by amy at 9:29 AM

Kobe Bryant trying to whine his way out of L.A.

NY Daily News
Mitch Lawrence

Nets owner Bruce Ratner says he is going to go to the new Prudential Center to check it out, but don't get any ideas. Although it makes perfect sense to follow the Devils into Newark, Ratner still intends to relocate the team to his new arena in Brooklyn

link

Posted by amy at 9:25 AM

Port Authority's Shorris on public works and the Robert Moses of today (guess)

shorris_photo.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

It's time for the public sector to reassert itself, says Anthony E. Shorris, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. And that means we should stop looking to real estate developers for key infrastructure.

He was speaking (video) at a New York Law School (NYLS) breakfast on 10/19/07. At about 53:20 of the video, former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, now head of New York Civic, asked Shorris who were the 2007 equivalents of master builder Robert Moses and 30-year Port Authority head Austin Tobin.

Shorris: Well, that’s a good question… The larger answer is we sort of right now we have ceded a lot of that to the private sector. Right now, we expect developers, real estate developers, who will build our train stations and run our ferries… we’ve had a kind of almost a religious obsession with having the marketplace solve all problems, including public works.

link

Posted by amy at 9:15 AM

November 3, 2007

Ratnerville Railyard Illustrated

Photographer Tracy Collins made it out to Bruce Ratner demolition sites in the footprint of the controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project this week.

TC-VRR011107a.jpg
Collins stumbled on a large amount of activity in the Vanderbilt Railyard and posted his pics in the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool on flickr.
TC-VRR011107b.jpg TC-VRR011107c.jpg

The following is a description of the work at the Vanderbilt Railyards as described in the most recent Atlantic Yards Construction Update (demolition block and lot map here).

TC-VRR011107d.jpg
TC-VRR011107e.jpg
TC-VRR011107f.jpg TC-VRR011107g.jpg
TC-VRR011107h.jpg

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

The bonsai Bryant Park and other fudges from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's video

Will%2BSq%2BPlaza%2B-%2Blarge.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report also enjoyed the accents and accidents of the Brooklyn 2012 video, with Sir Ian's repetitive reference to the tree-lined "boo-levard" Flatbush Avenue, and the comparison of the proposed 1.25 acre Willoughby Square park to the 8 acre Bryant Park:

Near the beginning of the video, we're told Atlantic Yards "will transform acres of railyards" into an arena, office towers, and housing, a common fudge about which the New York Times, at least, has confessed error, since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard would less than 40% of the site. Also note that in the video we only see two of the 16 towers.

Atlantic Yards is described as having "signature office buildings," though likely just one (or maybe two) of the towers would include office space. And that statement in the script obscures how the project morphed from including 2 million square feet of office space to just 336,000 square feet (and perhaps 375 new jobs), less than one new building in Downtown Washington.

link

Posted by amy at 7:45 AM

Fool of a luvie!

Gumby Fresh watches Brooklyn 2012 on the NY Post website, a video produced by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, narrated by Ian McKellen.

I won't dwell for too long on Mr. McKellen's reference to the Atlantic Yards imbroglio, since it was rushed and fleeting, reminiscent of the way Jeremy Irons delivered some of his sillier lines in Die Hard With A Vengeance. He sounded, to be honest, rather subdued, although the boosters at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership no doubt are pretty pleased with themselves. Marty Markowitz, whose very raison de'etre is to facilitate such inane audio-visual puffery, is probably still curled up and quivering in post-coital delight. Unless he neglected to get his picture taken with Gandalf during McKellen's visit, in which case he's probably weeping and cuddling the comfort blanket Bruce Ratner gave him.

link
NoLandGrab: The video is an interesting piece - watch homes and businesses be crushed silently by skyscrapers! Learn how Brooklyn is nothing but "a college town!" Those of you who thought Brooklyn was the borough of churches are wrong, so wrong. Just ask the fancy talking bloke from the UK!

Posted by amy at 7:43 AM

November 2, 2007

Another Structural Accident on Ratner's Watch

Brownstoner has the scoop on the story not covered in any of the daily papers, because it generally takes someone getting seriously maimed or killed or some other dramatic structural collapse to impress an editor:

540Vanderbilt-BS.jpg

Just around the corner from where the parapet of Ward's Bakery collapsed last April, another Forest City Ratner-controlled property in the Atlantic Yards footprint began falling apart yesterday, necessitating the evacuation of several tenants. At some point yesterday afternoon, the facade at 540 Vanderbilt Avenue (an 8-unit building which Ratner bought for $2 million in 2005) began "peeling off," according a tipster. When we arrived around 5 p.m., an employee from the scaffolding company confirmed the story.

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NoLandGrab: Assistance and answers about the "peeling facade" and the condition of other Ratner-owned buildings should be handled by the ombudsman promised by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) 178 days ago, because, as the quasi-governmental corporation explained in an official statement after the Ward Bakery parapet collapse, "safety is our utmost concern." That statement was issued more than 100 days before ESDC spokesperson Errol Cockfield told reporters that "safety is our No. 1 priority" in the wake of the Deutsche Bank fire.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had more questions than answers: "Another Ratner Owned Building in Trouble":

Another Ratner owned building, this one residential, apparently has "structural damage" requiring the displament of the four units of tenants in the building. Last time it was the collapse of the Ward Bakery parapet which temporarily evacuated the buidlings surrounding it. This time renters have been removed (as of the last reports we have) from the building due to the "danger;" this is a much easier way to push tenants out as compared to buying them out or using eminent domain.

Again, why is a building Ratner has owned for over 2 years falling apart (if it is)? Could it be the desire to cause blight and harass residents out of their homes because they stand in the way of his land grab? Or is it just incompetency and negligence?

Where is the ESDC and their omubudsman?

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

The Museum of Drunken Art

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

The latest cultural happening from inside the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

What is the Museum of Drunken Art?

Well, it’s not exactly a museum, and the work doesn’t necessarily need to have been created while drunk (though its so-called director, Peter Teraberry, said inebriation helps the viewing). Many are just doodles and dirty jokes inked on bar napkins.

The collection makes its city debut Saturday night at Freddy’s, the bar that sits in the footprint of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

“Some people draw very well when drunk. Others don’t,” said Teraberry, an art handler who’s friends with many artists he collects. “Jackson Pollack did it very well. Teetotalers are welcome to do it. It’s more the drunken spirit. ... It’s basically anything uncouth and unpretentious.”

Much of the work was created at Freddy’s, which has a drop box for patrons’ submissions.
...
O’Finn, a painter, has turned the bar into a haven for kooky artistic happenings like the drunken art museum and other regular events such as Cringe Night (readings of doggerel about high school crushes), Diva Night (professional opera singers stop by to perform arias) and Diorama Lodge (the bar picks a theme at the beginning of the craft night).

And as the epicenter for Atlantic Yards foes, it stopped serving Brooklyn Brewery beer when that company’s owner spoke in support of the $4 billion project. They replaced it with Blue Point toasted lager.

“Business is better every week,” O’Finn said. Though Forest City Ratner owns the bar’s building, O’Finn seems unfazed. “We’ll deal with it when it comes to that, if it comes to that.”

article

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Spelling it out: Artist tapes his anti-Yards message onto buildings

The Brooklyn Paper

Reporter Dana Rubenstein got the story behind the Disgruntled Cow who sent a message to Mayor Moo Moo, first featured last week on Brit in Brooklyn:

Witter-BP.jpg

Scott Witter — the curator of Brooklyn’s Other Museum of Brooklyn (a.k.a. BOMB) — has covered an entire brick wall with a caustic message to Mayor Bloomberg protesting the controversial 16-skyscraper-and-arena Atlantic Yards project, warning that the project would result in a neighborhood getting “raped.”

Witter, who opposed the destruction of the historic Long Island Rail Road Terminal that made way for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal Mall in the 1990s, told The Brooklyn Paper that Atlantic Yards “is the same thing all over again.”

To register his anger, Witter erected the message to “Mayor Moo Moo,” covering a wall of his own home with blue painter’s tape. It took him eight hours and countless rolls of tape (no, really, he lost count).
...
The latest screed is one of about 20 enormous blue-tape messages Witter has erected over the years.

“It was the mayor who taught me to use painter’s tape,” smirked Witter. “I [once] went out [with] a can of green paint and started painting. I got arrested right on Flushing Avenue. I spent 22 hours in jail. [And I learned that] tape is not considered graffiti because it’s temporary.”

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Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

Is the New Domino AY the sequel? Not with ULURP, but...

Atlantic Yards Report

So, would the $1 billion, 11.2-acre New Domino project in Williamsburg really be an echo of Atlantic Yards? On the one hand, as I wrote, the fundamental issue is whether a developer can get a zoning change (ND) or zoning override (AY) to increase the value of development rights. And affordable housing is being used to justify the scale of the development and generate support from some neighborhood groups.

DominoElev.jpg

On the other, the New Domino will go through the city's land use review process, which involves much more public scrutiny than the Empire State Development Corporation's fast-track process. Also, there would be deeper affordability, the preservation of a historic structure, and the open space plan, offering connections to the Williamsburg waterfront, likely wouldn't seem like the private enclave feared at the Atlantic Yards site.

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Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

DBP Does Its Five-Year Vision Thing

Brownstoner

DBPRenderings.jpg

What you see above are the envisioned transformations of two spots—the Metrotech area and the BAM Cultural District—that ran in the paper this morning.

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NoLandGrab: The image on the top shows historic homes on Duffield St. swept away to make room for an underground parking garage and a park to service the nearby hotels. These homes played a part in Brooklyn's abolitionist movement, which will probably be commemorated by a plaque, or something nearly as significant, since history, especially black history, isn't as important as creating amenities for wealthy developers.

NY1 also covered the announcement and presentation [link/video (dialup/broadband)].

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

Atlantic Yards lexiconography

Unnameable.jpg To gauge the public's perception of, and feelings about, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, we keep an eye on the adjectives attached to the project in the mainstream media and the blogosphere.

Today, "the inflammatory Atlantic Yards" is offered as a wayfinder for Unnameable, a great neighborhood used bookstore.

Evoking fears of PID (guys click here), maybe the rage against Ratner's megaproject could be called AYID (Atlantic Yards Inflammatory Disease).

Some say that Brooklyn is the city’s most literary borough. And where do all of those well-read people take their excellent used books? To Unnameable, of course, just around the corner from the inflammatory Atlantic Yards. With a cluttered, top-shelf inventory that could keep you reading great tomes for the next decade, this is a definite boon to Brooklyn’s literati.

Click here to learn more about a great neighborhood bookstore, you know, the type of store that you'd never find in any Ratner project anywhere. [And if you're into "tomes," how about http://www.atlanticyardsreport.com?]

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Northfield Stapleton wins international award

YourHub.com (Denver, CO) By Z. J. Czupor

FCELights.jpgForest City's 1.2 million-square-foot "open air lifestyle and entertainment center" (aka a mall) in Denver was awarded a Silver MAXI Award in Public Relations from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) for attracting "huge crowds over the holiday season with its inaugural Symphony in Lights holiday light show - the first of its kind for a shopping center."

The Symphony in Lights, which was free to the public, ran from November 18 - December 31. More than 250,000 LED lights lit up a football field-sized area of buildings. The lights were programmed to flick on and off, run up and down and pulse to the high-energy music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The show was designed and choreographed by internationally renowned holiday light hobbyist Carson Williams.

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NoLandGrab: We really can't think of anything funny to say that tops "open-air lifestlye and entertainment center" and "internationally renowned holiday light hobbyist."

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

On Political Contributions, Partisan Blogging, and my Firing from the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Huffington Post
By Jeff Coryell

Though The Cleveland Plain Dealer stars in the tale of Coryell's firing, "the Forest City real estate empire" makes a cameo appearance, doing what it does best:

I had written extensively on my own blog, Ohio2006, about LaTourette's 2006 re-election contest. I explicitly supported his challenger, law professor Lew Katz (D-Pepper Pike). I also wrote about him being named in the Jack Abramoff corruption investigation, and what I regard as 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.

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Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

Report: Keep open Izod Center, even with arrival of new arena

amNY

The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority is contemplating keeping the doors open at the arena formerly known as "Continental," recently rechristened "Izod."

IzonCenter-NJBiz.jpg

New Jersey would be better served by two arenas instead of one.

That's the conclusion of a report by a Meadowlands Sports Complex subcommittee on whether to keep the Izod Center in East Rutherford open.

Here's more evidence of the "soft release" we mentioned yesterday, by which Bruce Ratner's pr team is quietly letting folks know that they won't be coming to Brooklyn in two years, even though they've known it for a while and have insisted to the contrary:

The Izod Center is still home to the New Jersey Nets. The NBA team plans to move to a new arena in Brooklyn within three years.

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NJ Biz is reporting that:

Sports Authority CEO George Zoffinger said he believes the Izod Center will be able to compete with the Prudential Center for concerts and family shows like the circus.

NoLandGrab: Both of these arenas would be competing with a new arena in Brooklyn, unless folks start going to the circus more often.

Nets Daily noticed the big news that was bubbling under the Izod Center opening-night hype:

...for the first time, Ratner admitted his new Brooklyn arena won’t be ready at the start of the 2009-10 season.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

A UFO Lands in a Clinton Hill Graveyard

The NY Sun

The Halloween hangover has probably already been replaced by the fear that there are only 53 more shopping days 'til Christmas, but we thought that NoLandGrab readers would probably want to know that this photo of the Clinton Hill graveyard, where some guy named Ratner is buried, appeared in yesterday's Sun.

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GRAVESTONE C0MMENTARY A Halloween-inspired UFO in a graveyard of comic tombstones poking fun at local politics and pop culture on Clinton Avenue between DeKalb and Lafayette avenues in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.

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Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

November 1, 2007

A look at the context and legacy of Jane Jacobs — and a swipe at AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attended the latest panel discussion in the ongoing Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibition last night. Guess which megaproject was the panelists' frequently invoked bete noire?

While the panelists touched on some of those issues, offering worthwhile background on Jacobs and suggesting that her principles could be invoked as a brake against too-rapid change, the discussion was too diffuse and brief, in 90 minutes, to fully engage an urgent debate about accommodating the city's growth and maintaining economic diversity.

And yes, Atlantic Yards was cited more than once as a non-Jacobsian poster child.

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Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

SOFT RELEASE: Brooklyn arena will NOT be ready for the 2009-2010 season

pants on fire Is NJ Nets teamowner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner finally coming clean about one of the project's most prevalent lies prevarications tall tales?

NJ Nets marketing genius Brett Yormark insisted back in September that the new Nets arena would be open for the 2009-2010 season.

Though Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has repeatedly pointed out that this was a near impossiblity (here, here, here, here, here), not one single mainstream journalist seemed to mind that they were being lied to and, even as late as last Saturday, NY Newsday kept toeing the party line.

In what amounts to a soft release this week, staged around the NJ Nets home opener, Bruce Ratner and the Nets organization are finally coming clean by acknowledging that the Brooklyn arena WON'T be ready for the 2009-2010 season, and, if the project survives legal hurdles, an arena opening in three years is more likely.

Yesterday, Newark Star-Ledger columnist Matthew Futterman hedged the date, "the Nets are now the primary tenant and the premiere team in the [Meadowlands arena] until their planned move to Brooklyn in two or three years."

Today, NY Post columnist Jay Greenberg stated it more plainly, "the franchise is at least three seasons away from Atlantic Yards."

Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan cites none other than team owner and developer Bruce Ratner as his source:

The New Jersey Devils of the NHL moved to Newark this season, and the Nets of the NBA plan to leave for Brooklyn for the 2009-10 season. Nets owner Bruce Ratner said Wednesday that the planned arena in Brooklyn probably would not be ready for the start of that season, however.

There was no press release and no fanfare. By slowly releasing the valve, Ratner's PR team has managed to keep this key fact under the radar of the presumably skeptical press corps, who will presumably adjust their coverage accordingly.

LINKS:
The Newark Star-Ledger, Arena makeover is looking sharp dressed in Izod
NY Post, RELOADED FOR ONE MORE SHOT
AP, via amNY, Foundation laid for arena to survive 5 more years, Corzine says

Posted by lumi at 7:51 AM

DoBro promo vid

DBPromoVid.jpgFourteen high-rise towers and the 19,000-seat arena are missing from the rendering of Atlantic Yards in the new Downtown Brooklyn promotional video, narrated by actor Ian McKellan (sick, but it's true).

The NY Post has the exclusive on the promo vid and posted it along with an article by Rich Calder on the paper's web site.

The video opens with Atlantic Yards, which comprises nearly half of the "$9.5 billion in projects now in the works" in Downtown Brooklyn, only, the project is in PROSPECT HEIGHTS, NOT DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN (sigh, whatever).

Ironically, the video shows very little of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, probably in hopes of not freaking out the natives, who have been a little touchy during the past four years.

Here's a peek at what the video is missing.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

Trick or Treat #3: Loch Ness Monster Challenges Floating Tree

Curbed.com

Some things are so strange that you can't make 'em up:

It's hard to know what to make of the Loch Ness Monster public art being rolled out in a salt marsh in Marine Park in the far reaches of Brooklyn, except that it launches the same week as the Floating Tree and that it's sponsored by developer Bruce Ratner. The 12 1/2-foot replica of the mythical monster is the work of artist Cameron Gainer and it's being floating out to its new home as we speak via boat, diver and park ranger.

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Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

RELOADED FOR ONE MORE SHOT

NY Post
By Jay Greenberg

Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets narrowly escaped an embarassing last minute collapse by pulling it out in overtime at last night's home opener.

This morning, Post sports columnist Jay Greenberg takes stock of the team:

The Nets haven't been out of the second round in the last three springs. Kidd is 34 years old. Pending the settlement of eminent domain and environmental lawsuits in Brooklyn, the franchise is at least three seasons away from Atlantic Yards, losing double-digit millions while playing to a fan base that will inevitably be abandoned. But instead of gutting with a mind to being on the upswing for The Big Move, the Nets, five seasons removed from the finals, are taking another run.

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NoLandGrab: Note that the Ratner PR team just let the cat out of the bag and acknowledged to sports journalists that the team won't be playing in Brooklyn in the 2009-2010 season (just two short years away).

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Brooklyn Matters Screening at Toronto's Regent Park Film Festival

NowToronto.com
By Deirdre Swain

REGENT PARK FILM FESTIVAL (November 7 to 11)

Befitting its provenance, the Regent Park Film Festival is all about community and preservation.
...
For a less local, more sophisticated take on preservation, check out Brooklyn Matters (both films screen November 10), a devastating indictment of the Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards development that will, the film charges, disrupt neighbourhoods, cause traffic nightmares and damage the environment without providing any real benefit to the community. Although highly biased against the project, it's a fascinating case study of how class and race get wound up in development disputes, one that's relevant to Toronto's continual battles with developers.

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NoLandGrab: If depicting a deeply flawed, frustrating and un-democratic political process is "highly biased," then questioning the wisdom of the war in Iraq is probably unpatriotic.

More screening info about Brooklyn Matters can be found at www.brooklynmatters.com.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Home Field Disadvantage

The Wonkster

You'd think a sports franchise would pay for the privilege of making NY City its home, but not in Bloomberg's New York:

"...in New York City, taxpayers are being forced to shoulder the burdens of new stadiums to subsidize the multimillionaire owners and players of the Yankees and Mets. The Yankee stadium project alone will receive taxpayer subsidies of nearly $800 million, according to Good Jobs New York, a critic of the project.”

If taxpayer subsidies really are the 21st century version of the Curse of the Bambino, things do not for New York sports fans. The Mets, who just experienced probably the worst late season collapse in baseball history, are getting subsidies for their new stadium. Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (this explains everything), also gets break on property taxes, according to the Sun. And the future home of the NBA Nets in Atlantic Yards will also benefit from the largesse of the city and state government.

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NoLandGrab: Seriously, we'd love to see one, just one team actually make good on the threat to pull up stakes and take an instant hit to the value of the franchise. The Nashville Yankees, the Moblie Mets, San Diego Knickerbockers?? Puh-leeze!

We are witnessing some of the worst kind of corporate welfare, gratis a Bloomberg.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Guggenheim Bilbao

The Guardian
By Phil Olterman and Jonathan Bell

GuggenheimBilbao.jpg An article about the Frank Gehry "Bilbao Effect" also covers some of the controversial back story:

Running a city took a step closer to computer simulation with the apparent discovery of the "Bilbao Effect". The fabled consequence of Gehry's great swoops of titanium was a huge influx of tourist money, as culture filled the void left by Bilbao's fading industry. That, at least, was the theory. The truth wasn't quite so black and white, but it didn't stop planeloads of mayoral deputations arriving from around the world, all eager to imitate its success. Everyone wanted their own culture magnet, often calling up Gehry himself and effectively asking him to replicate the scheme.
...
The initial plans for a Guggenheim museum in Bilbao were not without controversy. Funded entirely by the host country but masterminded from New York, many Basque commentators, including the now-banned separatist party Herri Batasuna, saw the museum as a sign of cultural imperialism, an economically motivated attempt to purge the region of its history. A week before the opening gala in October 1997, police officer José María Aguirre was shot and killed after he interrupted a group of Eta terrorists disguised as gardeners, who tried to plant remote-controlled grenades in the Jeff Koons sculpture outside the museum. When the Spanish monarchs, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia officially opened the museum on October 18, police snipers watched on from the rooftops of surrounding buildings. Whether Gehry's building actually erases the city's cultural heritage, as Eta suggested, is debatable. Bilbao is famous for its maritime history: after Barcelona, it has Spain's largest port. Gehry's building, which edges on to the Nervión riverfront and has been likened by many to a shipwreck, seems to pay tribute to its own surroundings.

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Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM