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December 31, 2007

Ratlantic Yards 2007: The Year in Pics

In 2007, several local photographers captured events and documented the Atlantic Yards footprint, which sits on the brink of radical change.

We've asked photographers Jonathan Barkey, Tracy Collins, Amy Greer, Nathaniel Kensinger and Adrian Kinloch to submit their own highlights of this year in pictures.

As a resident of Prospect Heights, Tracy Collins has shared the changes he has witnessed in and around the footprint of Atlantic Yards, and published Atlantic Yards: [De]Construciton of the Neighobrhood.

Collins's photo of 493 & 495 Dean Street appears in his book, and is a startling reminder that a house needn't be blighted in order to be declared "blighted."


Graffiti by "Booker" (aka "Read More Books") on 810-812 Pacific Street has become a recognizable landmark, especially recently, after the buildings on either side have been demolished. This building is also under the threat of eminent domain.

In February, just two months after the NYS Public Authorities Control Board granted official approval for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, work in the Vanderbilt Railyards was begun. Brit in Brooklyn photoblogger Adrian Kinloch was on the scene to document the first appearance of workmen on the site.

[Kinloch posted his full selection of 2007 Atlantic Yards photos here.]


In February, upon hearing that Bruce Ratner would soon begin pre-demolition work on the Ward Bakery building, neighborhood activists demonstrated in hope of saving the historic structure, a former bakery distinguished by its white terra-cotta facade.

Photographer Jonathan Barkey presented his dramatic photo-renderings of Atlantic Yards at the August, 2006 public hearing. Since then, he has been documenting many of the community's press conferences and public forums.

In April, 26 community groups and civic organizations filed suit against the Empire State Development Corporation, Public Authorities Control Board, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Forest City Ratner, contesting the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

Barkey's photo from the press conference announcing the suit was featured on the cover of a textbook, "State and Local Politics: Government By the People."

NoLandGrabber Amy Greer has been documenting the fight against Atlantic Yards since the early days. This past April, Greer took this "class picture" of representatives of several local neighborhood, community and environmental organizations, who filed a suit against the Empire State Development Corporation contesting the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

In April, photographer Nathaniel Kensinger posted a series of photos on his blog from his trips into the Vanderbilt Railyards before developer Bruce Ratner started work in preparation of moving the tracks.

These are photos from inside "The Electric Car Shop" underneath Atlantic Avenue.

Kensinger explains:

The Electric Car Shop and the LIRR tunnels next to it are among the most mysterious places I have seen in New York City. There was no graffiti anywhere, when usually graffiti artists are the first ones to find their way into underground spots. The tunnels and the car shop seemed to have been deserted but there were lights on everywhere and equipment left running. It took several years of walking around the area to find the right time to enter into these spaces. Now its looks like the entrance — on the east side of the Vanderbilt Yards — has been rendered inaccessible.

Despite protests, concerted opposition by community groups and civic organizations, and a petition drive, Bruce Ratner proceded with pre-demolition of the Ward Bakery building. While workers were on the roof, a 200-foot section of the historic building's parapet crashed to the ground. Amazingly, no one was injured.

Photographers Tracy Collins and Adrian Kinloch were on the scene that day after emergency crews arrived and residents of the adjacent homeless shelter were evacuated.



Jonathan Barkey made it to the June press conference and rally at City Hall held by groups fighting eminent domain battles in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, who joined together to illustrate that eminent domain is a key aspect of the Mayor's urban renewal policy.


Tracy Collins's work reflects his deep devotion to Prospect Heights. Aside from his book, he also started the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool on flickr, which is a repository of photos posted by flickr users documenting scenes in the Atlantic Yards footprint and its environs.

In August, Collins took the time to appreciate the persistence of nature, while work continued on the Vanderbilt Railyards.


In late September, local community activists, fed up with the unsanitary conditions of the City- and MTA-owned sections of the Atlantic Yards footprint, held a neighborhood clean up. The billowing weeds hid a layer of street litter and household garbage.

Amy Greer and Tracy Collins rolled up their sleeves and took photos documenting the event.



Jonathan Barkey attended the September presentation of UNITY2007, an updated community-based development plan for the Vanderbilt Railyards, at the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's third annual walkathon took place in October.

Participants included a band of Miss Brooklyn Bridezillas and a very annoying rat.




The Grammy-winning Klezmatics held their second fundraising concert for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in November, at the Brooklyn Lyceum where Jonathan Barkey snapped this cool pic.

JN-SecurityPC.jpg Toward the end of 2007, security concerns about siting the arena close to Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues was enough to make even politicians who support Bruce Ratner's controversial project squeamish enough to stand with their colleagues who oppose the plan, and local community groups, to demand an independent security analysis. Once again, Barkey made it to the press conference to capture the event.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

The tale of an ESDC non-correction

Atlantic Yards Report

Our Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is hard at work making sure that Norman Oder's blog is correct. As for its own Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Atlantic Yards -- not so much.

On November 5, shortly after I posted a document I attributed to the ESDC that indicated that the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge would take two years rather than nine months, I got a flurry of phone calls and e-mails from ESDC spokesmen indicating that I should correct my article, given that it was not an official ESDC document.

I did so, though the information--a summary apparently prepared by a Community Board after an ESDC meeting--was not inaccurate.

What was inaccurate was my interpretation that the duration of the bridge's reconstruction had just been announced. However, my error was based on an error in an ESDC document, which has not been corrected

It's swell that the ESDC is looking to be so helpful in keeping the Atlantic Yards Report accurate. If only it would be so careful with its own FEIS, where the error originated.

Though I had read many chapters of the FEIS to track any changes from the Draft EIS, I had not read the revised Chapter 17, which contains text regarding the schedule.

In fact, as an ESDC spokesman reminded me later that day in another flurry of messages, the revised chapter indicated that the time to reconstruct the bridge would be two years rather than nine months.

A correction was in order, I was told.

I agreed, but I was a bit ticked off--after all, I wouldn't have made my error had I not been misled by the ESDC's failure to update the construction schedule attached to Chapter 17.

We can only guess why the ESDC won't correct its own document, but one of Oder's guesses points to the pending lawsuit challenging the FEIS.

A correction might further confirm that the board members who approved the project were approving a flawed document, and might render the ESDC legally vulnerable.


Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

The NYT on AY, 2007: fit to blog, fit to print?

Atlantic Yards Report

How's the "Paper of Record" and Forest City Ratner business partner doing in regard to its coverage of Atlantic Yards?

Some important news about Atlantic Yards this year has appeared only in the online version of the New York Times, not the print edition of the Paper of Record, and some has been ignored completely, some has been distorted, and some has been delayed. (And, yes, some important news appeared in the Times first.)

The other daily newspapers have been quite variable, too, in their coverage of AY; the dailies can't even keep up with the daily flow of news, much less advance the story with enterprise reporting and investigations.

While the advance of the Times's City Room blog holds some promise for more comprehensive local coverage, the dailies can't keep up with AY; readers have to keep consulting blogs, the Brooklyn media, and the New York Observer. The Times

In 2007, The New York Times had one story about security concerns at the proposed Nets arena, which started in its City Room blog and later made it to the print edition.

There were some stories that appeared online, but never made it to a print edition:

-The departure of disgraced City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams.
-The much-delayed appointment of an Atlantic Yards ombudsman by the ESDC.

Some stories just never appeared on The Times's radar at all:

-The Ward Bakery violations.
-Arguments heard in the Atlantic Yards environmental lawsuit.
-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's misgivings on theAtlantic Yards approval process.

There were stories delayed or distorted:

-A delay in reporting the additional $105 million in the city's budget for Atlantic Yards.
-A distortion on a magistrate judge's recommendation that the federal eminent domain suit be dismissed.
-Repeating that the proposed Net arena would open in 2009.

The Times does earn good marks for one story:

The Times did have a scoop regarding documents unearthed in a lawsuit filed by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. I found the report murky, but the documents did (and still could) provide fodder for more analysis, such as the projected rental rate of apartments.

This was the only example of enterprise reporting--driven by journalistic curiosity rather than a reaction to events or press releases--regarding AY that appeared in the Times. And it's fairly clear that the story was generated by Brennan's calculation that the best way to release the documents was via the Times.

Otherwise, the Times (and the dailies, in general) are having enough trouble just keeping up with the news.


Posted by steve at 7:25 AM

Best & Worst of 2007

Preservation Nation


Brooklyn Under Siege

Atlantic Yards is clearly in the "worst" category in this look back at U.S. building preservation issues in 2007.

Brooklyn is becoming too cool for its history. New York City’s largest development, the Atlantic Yards project, made headway this year, erasing the 1910 Ward Bakery building. Developer Forest City Ratner has put at least six more historic buildings on the chopping block to make way for its 22-acre project, whose main feature is a basketball arena designed by Frank Gehry. Neighbors say the new construction is inappropriate next to their quiet historic brownstones.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner has done its "worst" to "erase" the Ward Bakery building, but so far, they've only managed to topple the parapet and perform some "pre-demolition" work.

Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

The Top New York City Stories of 2007


Atlantic Yards gets a mention near the end of this review of 2007:

One Word, Benjamin: Development

The real estate market may have cooled down in the rest of the country, but residential and commercial real estate in New York City - especially Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn - led to a flurry of proposals from developers and investors. The city also got involved at times, as it outlined ideas for the city's growth. Some properties include: The blocked-sale of Starrett City, the city's plans to revitalize Willets Point, approval of Columbia's Manhattanville expansion, the Domino Sugar Factory's landmarking, "condo-hotels" in Soho to skirt zoning, government incentives luring businesses to build downtown, a $225,000 parking space, and the West Side rail yard proposals.

The issues of landmarking and eminent domain also came into play in neighborhoods like Sunnyside Gardens and with projects like the Atlantic Yards Arena. Columbia students even took up a hunger strike to protest the school's development plans. But with the sub-prime mortgage crisis growing, some formerly up-and-coming neighborhoods on the downswing, and some hot neighborhoods losing their luster, will the bubble be bursting soon?


Posted by steve at 6:21 AM

December 30, 2007

Private investment, public costs: Fenway Park, Atlantic Yards, and more


Atlantic Yards Report

So how much would the public contribute to the Atlantic Yards arena? At a panel held at the Museum of the City of New York on 9/27/07, titled Take Me Out to the Brand-New Ballpark (here's a report from e-Oculus), well-respected sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who nonetheless produced a rather skewed Atlantic Yards study for Forest City Ratner, lowballed the figure.

Looking at Fenway

Janet Marie Smith, senior VP of planning and development for the Boston Red Sox and architect behind the redesign of Fenway Park, was the most notable speaker on the panel, sketching out the history of ballparks in the country. Fenway Park, dating from 1912, has managed to not just survive but thrive, even as most other facilities from that generation were demolished and supplanted by suburban or semi-suburuban stadiums. And parks like Fenway (and long-gone Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers) since inspired a new wave of retro urban facilities.

The earlier generation, Smith noted, "fit into neighborhood quite literally, were very civic buildings." New York City power broker Robert Moses, she noted, rejected the plans proposed by Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley for eminent domain and other government support, declaring that this was "in no way a public purpose."

By the 1950s, however, she said, America as a whole began to think of sports facilities as public purpose--the idea of a "civic project" is contested in the Atlantic Yards environmental lawsuit--and multipurpose stadiums, serving baseball and football, obliterated urban areas or were established in suburbia.


Posted by amy at 9:03 AM

The Atlantic Yards Saga: 2007's Biggest Stories


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn compiled an extensive list of the biggest stories of the year. Here are a few of their picks:

Biggest Beneficiary of PILOTS:
Bruce Ratner.

Widest, Intentional, Indefensible Loophole:
421a "Ratner Clause"

Pettiest Political Payback:
Borough Prez Markowitz Doesn't Reappoint Community Board 6 Members Who Voted Against Atlantic Yards

If you think you might have missed anything in the news this year, this list is for you. Then again, if you're reading this blog during a holiday weekend, you probably don't miss much, do you?


Posted by amy at 8:16 AM

Gehry és New York – szeretem, nem-szeretem


If anyone has Hungarian language skills, feel free to visit the blog directly. The best translation we could find (Babelfish does not include Hungarian!) goes something like this:

Regrettable , that Gehry eme quality not run into outcrop one other , afoot lev New York i his work során , the brooklyni Atlantic Yard in the event of. THE then kilenchektáros its territory stray felhkarcolócsoport Gehry yet biggest consignation , which through months trending disputations kereszttüzében she stood. ( last year the authority the concourse os reduction írták off , but the projection yet that way also gigantic ) The constructional negatived according to the lakótorony bite tow the Forte Greenwich and the Flyer Heights városrész amongst. Yet the development directional Bruce Ratnert substantiated , to that hintingly , that Gehry celebrities uses up the eleve he's bad planting presztízsének raising. THE Slate magazine posted Gehry nek solo candid epistolary Jonathan Lethem , the renowned penman this writes : " unable am was it worth , that such a passible man , than Your are , that it had been susceptible such censurable league kötni , whose definitely disastrous outgrowths they'll be "

This all makes sense when the title translates to the Borat-esque "do you like , not - do you like."


Posted by amy at 8:02 AM

MIT Sues Frank Gehry Over Buggy $300M CS Building

vomit.JPG Slashdot
For anyone interested in what the smart kids have to say about working in a Gehry masterpiece, the MIT building was slashdotted. One former employee of the building had this to say after visiting:

The interior spaces are very architecturally interesting. But have so many bugs it is unbelievable. There is one meeting room where the walls are made with perforated plywood; this is a cool idea, but, regrettably, due to the mechanisms that human vision uses to fuse the images between the two eyes, the sea of holes makes people feel queasy in that room. The workspaces are part of a grand open-office design. The previous building where LCS/AI was housed was the antithesis of open design -- a series of small offices -- and it worked very well. With the new building, researchers and students spend more of their time at home, rather than in the building, because the lack of acoustic privacy in the open design makes it extremely difficult to get any research done. In another area, there are ledges high up in one two-story space that are visible only from the story above -- kind of interesting, but these ledges will never, ever be cleaned and are starting to accumulate a goodly layer of dust. This wouldn't be so bad, except that people entering that space from the elevator lobby are immediately faced with this grime.

From what people intimately involved with the planning have told me, Geary approached the design of this building with astonishing hubris and disregard for any of the actual needs of the occupants. Interactions with him were often tense and acrimonious. Geary's willing ignorance of the real use of the building, rather than his imagined fantasy, shows. It's a cool looking structure that works very, very poorly as a research laboratory. Although few people who work there are willing to state it out loud, the rumblings are being felt that the decline of computer science research at MIT has in no small part been due to this negative influence of the building on daily worklife.

A current employee in the building was also not impressed:

There's a brief interview with Gehry in the film "My Architect" about Louis Kahn, and Gehry was interviewed in his architectural office, and it's as traditional as you could imagine: a big rectangular room with drafting tables. That settled it for me: it's not just hubris; he's an asshole. He sits in his comfortable space and designs expensive torture chambers; there's a Gehry-designed level of hell awaiting him.


Posted by amy at 7:49 AM

December 29, 2007

Getting Going (With One Loss)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Henrik Kroguis predicts doom for opponents of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards, and then surveys the latter's footprint while considering the project's potential and pitfalls:

As we enter 2008 two of Brooklyn’s biggest projects are set to move into the construction phase: Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards. Lawsuits against both projects have so far failed, and the likelihood is that further appeals will also fail.
That Atlantic Yards is a big project, as is Brooklyn Bridge Park, is clear enough. Yet, as we see skyscrapers sprouting nearby, along with the developments in the BAM cultural district, it becomes clear that the scale of this general area of Brooklyn has already changed, and that Atlantic Yards is no longer the colossus it may at first have seemed to be. It is, rather, an entirely sane extension of Brooklyn’s growing downtown.


Posted by lumi at 9:45 PM

"Sane extension" of Downtown Brooklyn? AY in some more context

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes note of two articles that look back at Brooklyn development stories of 2007. First up is the "GL's 15 Top Brooklyn Stories of 2007" story in Gowanus Lounge.

Next is an editorial in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle by Henrik Krogius Getting Going (With One Loss).

The context argument is taken further in an essay headlined Getting Going (With One Loss) by Henrik Krogius of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He makes some reasonable points, but they often deserve another dash of skepticism.

Oder adds dashes of skepticism to Krogius's approach to issues such as appropriate scale for Prospect Heights, open space in Atlantic Yards, and the desire by proponents of the UNITY plan to use development to knit together communities that would otherwise be divided by Atlantic Yards.

The issue of the privately negotiated affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards is used to point out the lack of democratic process in approving this publicly subsidized development.

Krogius points out that any new construction would raise questions about gentrification, and that AY would contain 2250 subsidized rentals, "a good percentage by today’s standards."

Yes, but the affordable housing was essentially a privately-negotiated zoning bonus, and that brings us back to the fundamental issue of process, the criticisms of which have led even Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff to reconsider the city's avoidance of ULURP.

Finally, Oder disputes the classification of Atlantic Yards as sane development.

Krogius concludes: Atlantic Yards is no longer the colossus it may at first have seemed to be. It is, rather, an entirely sane extension of Brooklyn’s growing downtown.

Yes, it is no longer as much of a colussus as at first, but that doesn't necessarily make it sane.


Posted by steve at 8:34 AM

GL's 15 Top Brooklyn Stories of 2007

Top%2BStories%2Bof%2B2007.jpg The Gowanus Lounge

The Gowanus Lounge lists the most important Brooklyn stories of 2007, a collection dominated by tales of Brooklyn real estate development. Number 2 on the list — the ongoing saga of Atlantic Yards.

2) Atlantic Yards. If 2006 was the year that this mega-project created deep divisions in Brooklyn, 2007 was the year of delays, new questions and construction prep work. Will 2008 be the year that ground is officially broken on the project that will change Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene and environs forever? Or will a court decision, credit crisis-related issues and a softening real estate market throw more curve balls at this development? Stay tuned.


Posted by steve at 8:13 AM

December 28, 2007

The state of his borough: Marty sits down for his annual chat with The Brooklyn Paper

Markowtiz01-BP.jpg This year, Marty Markowitz didn't blow a gasket when discussing Atlantic Yards during his year-end interview with Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman.

The only time Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project was mentioned was in relation to development of Coney Island and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's recent admission that, if he had to do it again, he'd recommend that Atlantic Yards go through the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

GK: Indeed, in this case, there will be a ULURP [a thorough public review, unlike at Atlantic Yards].

MM: That’s because [Coney Island] is city property. The Atlantic Yards … of course the statement by Dan Doctoroff [a reference to the deputy mayor’s comment that Atlantic Yards should have gone through the ULURP process]. All I can say is the state decided that this was their project. Dan Doctoroff went along with that. The mayor endorsed it wholeheartedly. [Doctoroff] has the right to reflect, of course. Here it is at the end of 2007, and there are no shovels in the ground yet. It’s very frustrating. Those who oppose it are delighted, but for those who think it’ll be good for New York City, it’s frustrating, but it has to go through the process.


NoLandGrab: Marty's City-vs.-State-property argument is totally bogus.

The real determining factor is REZONING:

It's a little disturbing that a politician who claims to "have the intellect to be a great mayor" can't wrap his head around the dramatic contrast between the Coney Island and Atlantic Yards review processes.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Marty says he doesn't know why Doctoroff had second thoughts re AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper's edited year-end interview with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz includes most of what he says about Atlantic Yards, but a link to the full audio segment provides a tantalizing coda. In it, Markowitz tells editor-in-chief Gersh Kuntzman that he doesn't know why Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff acknowledged Atlantic Yards should have gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) rather than the state review.

The answer, most likely, is that Doctoroff is having second thoughts about the procedure behind Atlantic Yards and Markowitz, at least publicly, won't allow such thoughts. Also, Doctoroff can afford to have some second thoughts; his departure comes as he has accomplished many of his goals, while Markowitz's highest-profile project, Atlantic Yards, remains slowed.

Check out Norman Oder's brief transcript of the Atlantic Yards portion of the interview here.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

Balancing community input regarding the West Side yards

Atlantic Yards Report

They're discussing traffic and infrastructure and sustainability and open space before any developer is chosen for the West Side yards.

This goes well beyond the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement or housing advocate Bertha Lewis of ACORN candidly saying, "I can't do environment. I can’t do traffic."

And it's not a developer-funded poll, as with the New Domino development, that sets out a false choice between tall buildings with affordable housing and smaller buildings without it, without presenting the details of the project under discussion.
This doesn't mean community input will have a definitive impact. But it shows the difference between a competition, as with the West Side yards, and a project, as with AY and the New Domino, presented in an effort to gain state approval or a zoning change.


Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

December 27, 2007

Introducing the Ivanka

Ivanka-NYT.jpg The NY Times
By Ruth La Ferla

OK, Bruce Ratner can't talk to the press about mundane stuff like security and the full cost of public funding for Atlantic Yards, but he's happy to discuss the daughter of the Donald:

Insistent on proving herself, Ms. Trump first took a job outside the Trump Organization. Bruce Ratner, the Brooklyn developer, put her to work with the project management team for Ridge Hill, his shopping center in Yonkers. “She did everything,” Mr. Ratner recalled, “from running the numbers of a deal to negotiating with tenants and coordinating where they would go in the center, to helping lay out the space.”

“She was down-to-earth,” he said. “She worked like everybody else. There was no special privilege about her.”


NoLandGrab: Luckily, not all real estate developers show as much cleavage as Ivanka.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

The year in Marty

The Brooklyn Paper's Year of Living Marty-ly includes these three Atlantic Yards items:


Marty loves Bruce, Part I: After weeks of silence on the controversy over Bruce Ratner’s naming-rights deal with slavery-linked Barclays Bank, Markowitz told a constituent that “many institutions with long histories … have had dealings that run counter to the values of all who hold human rights dear.”

High anxiety: Markowitz objects to developer David Walentas’s plan for an apartment building that would be 10 feet taller the 50-foot height limit of the Cobble Hill Historic District. Markowitz, who had no problem with the 16 skyscrapers of Atlantic Yards, said the 60-foot building would set a “dangerous precedent.”

Marty loves Bruce, Part II: Markowitz minimizes some activists’ concern that Bruce Ratner’s glass-walled Atlantic Yards arena would be a terror target. “I am confident that Forest City Ratner is taking the proper steps in working with the NYPD … in ensuring the project adheres to the highest standards of safety,” he said.

In "A year in our neighborhoods," the "Disgruntled Cow" scored a mention for railing against Atlantic Yards in blue painter's tape down the entire facade of his Steuben St. home, while Bruce Ratner tries to Trump the Donald.

Also, Bruce Ratner gets mentioned once in reporter Dana Rubenstein's year-end news wrap-up:

Napoleon complex: Apparently still miffed at the failure of his attempt to make Miss Brooklyn — the centerpiece of his Atlantic Yards project — Brooklyn’s tallest skyscraper, Bruce Ratner decided to give it another go, with reported plans to erect a 1,000-foot skyscraper at Jay and Tillary streets, a skyscraper that would dwarf the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 PM

Real Estate Round-Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Goldman Sachs analysts this month downgraded the stock of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, according to The Wall Street Journal, which identified the move as “an early sign of the pressure credit markets are putting on big projects.” According to the Journal, “The downgrade said increased borrowing and construction costs are making its development projects less profitable.” Forest City Ratner Companies, the New York subsidiary that developed MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn, officially announced this month that opening of the arena portion of its Atlantic Yards project would be delayed to 2010, from 2009, noted the Journal.

A Ratner spokesman told the Journal the delay isn’t related to financial markets and that there is no connection between today’s credit market and the project’s potential for long-term profitability. From the view here in Brooklyn, the delay would be most obviously attributed to the myriad of organizing efforts and lawsuits — some still active — launched against the project, some of the efforts with the express intent of delaying its construction or restarting the entire approval process.


Posted by lumi at 7:54 PM

Last Days to Make End of Year Donation

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is asking you to remember them when you make your year-end charitable contributions (link):

Atlantic Yards cannot move forward while these two suits are contested. The federal eminent domain suit argues that it is unconstitutional for New York State to seize private homes and businesses for Ratner's private benefit. The other pending suit, filed more than seven months ago in State Supreme Court, challenges the project's environmental review and approval.

A victory in either case would mean that we can move forward with appropriate development over the Vanderbilt rail yards, rather than Forest City Ratner's plan.

Regardless of the outcome in these two cases, the winner will face an appeal. If we must, we intend to take the eminent domain case all the way to the US Supreme Court. The legal struggle will continue for years, if the community is willing to fund it . These two suits -- organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn -- are wholly funded by your contributions.

Your generous support is what makes this all possible:

If you believe that "Atlantic Yards" is wrong and Brooklyn is worth fighting for... if you want the community to stay in court... PLEASE DONATE GENEROUSLY.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 PM

Clear enough? Misreading the Extell interview regarding Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman "the Mad Overkiller" oderizes Errol Louis's latest column in Our Time Press:

Errol Louis, columnist for the New York Daily News and the black-oriented Our Time Press, supports Atlantic Yards, which led him to a very selective reading of a recent interview with the head of the Extell Development Company, the only company besides Forest City Ratner to respond to the belated RFP issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its Vanderbilt Yard.

As part of his "Commerce and Community" column (not online, but click below right to enlarge) in the 12/16/07 issue of Our Time Press, Louis included a segment headlined "The Non-Alternative to Atlantic Yards." He began:

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, when asked what alternative use they'd like to see at the site, often trot out the plan proposed by Extell Development, which put in a bid that was rejected by the MTA, which owns the rail yards that dominate the project site.

Louis is a tad late on this, given that opponents first proposed the mid-rise UNITY plan in 2004, then endorsed the high-rise Extell bid in 2005, and this September backed a modified UNITY plan with a high-rise configuration quite different from that proferred by Extell.

But wait, there's more.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

The borough standings-2007 in review

Time Out NY

Picketing Saturday Night Live writer Bryan Tucker ranks the Boroughs and guess who is #1! OK, that's easy, but who would've guessed why (emphasis added):

  1. Brooklyn
    Reason: Big renovations happened this year: hotels in Brooklyn Heights, luxury apartments in Fort Greene and a new stadium in Atlantic Yards. Even Coney Island agreed to a makeover, and promises 20 percent fewer lip piercings and carnival dudes who smell like Jack Daniel’s and Astroglide.


NoLandGrab: Oh no — there's gonna be a STADIUM too???

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere102.gif The Yarn Monkey, Meanwhile... Is There a Doctoroff in the House?

December has been surprisingly cold for this time of the year. I made Freddy's bar owner, Frank, a braided double-knit scarf. It's made from olive merino and trimmed with bronze silk braids. Of all the people who are being rolled in the Atlantic Yard fiasco, Frank Yost has taken the hardest hit. According to the arena's architectural model Freddy's bar is the future entrance to the parking lot.
As we knit in the foot print of an evil real estate titan, the proposed arena is still being crammed down our throats.

Curbed.com, Curbed Awards '07: Architecture Part IV
From Curbed's end-of-year awards:

Thinking Big Award

Awarded to Renzo Piano, for not taking a break after basking in the glory of the glowing reviews that accompanied the completion of his Midtown New York Times skyscraper. Nope, instead the Italian starchitect went big again for the City Tech Tower in Downtown Brooklyn, brought to you by Bruce Ratner & Co. The rendering may not be finalized, but hopefully this ~1,000sf building will rain less deadly debris and ice than the Times Tower.


The reason Nets Fan in NY hasn't posted much lately is because he is busy moving the blog.

To all my loyal readers... I’m in the process of redesigning the website, which should be completed over the next week. Then, I’ll be kicking it back into full gear with an endless array of NBA news and quips.

[NoLandGrab: ...plus aimless musings on why Atlantic Yards opponents are a bunch of fearmongering whack jobs who should move to Pleasantville!]

Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

December 26, 2007

FCR: Atlantic Yards Immune to Credit Crunch

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn "Norman Oderizes" this morning's Wall St. Journal article:

Note that while Forest City Ratner still claims their project costs $4 billion, the Journal calls it a "$10 billion project." If the mammoth project is ever built we'd expect the Journal's number, currently an error, to be closer to the final tally.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 PM

546 Vanderbilt demolition continues

TC-RemoteJackHammer.jpg Oh, boys and their toys, here's one that didn't fit under the Christmas tree.

Last week, local photographer Tracy Collins captured this remote-controlled jackhammer on the top floor of 546 Vanderbilt, currently under demolition by Bruce Ratner in the footprint of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Photo, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 PM

Proponents: Give Ratner a break - Say press coverage is too negative

Courier-Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

Nimmons-CL.jpg Here's the link to the article featured this morning on Atlantic Yards Report, in which two signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement agree that too many column inches are being devoted to opponents of Bruce Ratner's highly controversial, historically dense, publicly funded land-grabbing megaproject:

It's not enough that Bruce Ratner has to pay people to say nice things about him, but now they're worried that they're not getting enough press.

Charlene Nimmons (middle) says she held a successful job fair and all she got was a lousy article:

“We hear more about the opposition, but we don’t hear anything about the groups that are working to bring forth positive action in the community,” she added.

Nimmons said a case in point is the FCRC-sponsored Economic Resource Fair that her organization hosted last week at the Atlantic Terminal Community Center, 501 Carlton Avenue.

“Our event was successful. We know there’s a need for people to receive services. There’s a need for job training and employment. So we set up the event for the local public housing communities,” said Nimmons.

Rev. Herbert R. Daughtry says we can trust in Bruce, but don't ask him to be specific about where the money is going:

“We made it very clear that whatever amount of money is raised, a percentage will go to people in the community having the severest crises and a another percentage to people doing prison work,” said Daughtry.

“We have had no problems with them (FCRC) at this point and don’t anticipate we will have any,” said Daughtry.

NoLandGrab: With the official approval of the Atlantic Yards in hand for over a year, and every newspaper editorial board's blanket approval (with the exception of The Brooklyn Paper and El Diario/La Prenza), it's bizarre that Ratner supporters would cap off a relatively fruitful year by protesting in the media to the media. Seriously, except for some recent bad press, 2007 marked the year in which developer Bruce Ratner managed to secure another $105-million direct cash subsidy from NYC and a special clause in the State's affordable housing reform legislation (worth approx. $150 million).

Based on their comments, one might assume that supporters are worried that the project is in danger of failing and that their primary source of funding will dry up.

Posted by lumi at 4:15 PM

Happy Boxing Day Bruce

ChristmasRat03.jpg This year's gifts from political cronies and corporations to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner include:

Another $105 million from New York City!

A $400 million naming-rights windfall for the allegedly "publicly owned" "Barclays Center."

A 421-a "Ratner Clause" for Ratner Claus!

• An Ombudsman who thinks the Atlantic Yards project is "sexy!"

And let's not forget the in-kind gifts, like:

More tough investigative reporting by The New York Times.

Andrea Peyser!

and a Brooklyn Public Library programs-and-exhibitions director unwilling to offend "the biggest guy around."

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

The Mobil station on Flatbush and Dean has closed

Atlantic Yards Report


The "blighted" Mobil gas station at the northwest corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street has closed, and the building, presumably, will be dismantled. I've been told that franchise owner John Tsao was to reopen on Myrtle Avenue.

More photos here.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Groups receiving FCR aid say more positive stories should be written about FCR's project

Atlantic Yards Report

You know supporters are getting squeamish when they can't stand criticism about their favorite project, especially when they're still ahead of the game:

The article, headlined "Yards proponents: Leave Bruce alone" (not online yet), began by casting Forest City Ratner and its partners as the underdog:

Local supporters of the Atlantic Yards project charged last week that the community is being choked out of any positive coverage occurring between developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the local community.

Well, "the community" isn't being choked, because it's hard to define what exactly "the community" is. Yes, most of the coverage lately has been critical, but that could be attributed to the understanding that, while many arguments have been made in favor of jobs and housing, elected officials have become more concerned about arena security and even Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff acknowledges that the process was inadequate.


NoLandGrab: Note to CBA supporters — send us the press releases, and we'll publish 'em!

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Forest City in the News

The Wall St. Journal, A World Full of Grand Plans
Despite the Credit Crunch, Large Cities Across the Globe Have Large Projects on Tap

Some of the biggest cities in the world are proposing the most ambitious real-estate projects in a generation, a sign of growing confidence in urban living even as the current financial landscape grows bleaker.
The list is long and expensive, with more than 15 ventures, some of which are expected to cost as much as $30 billion: Four in New York City, at least three in Dubai, two in London, Chicago and Milan, and one in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Paris and Mumbai.
In an early sign of the pressure credit markets are putting on big projects, Goldman Sachs analysts on Dec. 14 downgraded the stock of one of the largest builders of urban projects nationwide, Forest City Enterprises. The downgrade said increased borrowing and construction costs are making its development projects less profitable. One of Forest City's subsidiaries, Forest City Ratner Cos., a prolific New York City builder, delayed the expected completion of a basketball arena that is the centerpiece of its $10 billion project above a rail yard in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project includes 16 residential and office skyscrapers along with large retail spaces. The first phase, which includes the arena, is now projected to open in 2010 instead of November 2009.

A company spokesman says the delay isn't related to financial markets and that there is no connection between today's credit market and long-term profitability. Still, the delay lengthens the time before Forest City can derive revenue from its up-front investment at the site, which includes moving the rail yard.

The full article is available after the jump.

NOTICE ON FAIR USE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

NoLandGrab: When a project like Atlantic Yards benefits from billions of dollars in public money, the effect of free-market concerns (i.e. availability of credit) on the "long-term profitability" are dampened. This concept has been demonstrated by Bruce Ratner's MetroTech office campus and Atlantic Center Mall.

The Denver Post, I-MAXimum movie-going

Movie-goers at the Orchard Town Center will be able to watch films using IMAX technology when AMC Entertainment opens its 12-screen theater next year.

The AMC megaplex is among the anchors planned for the center, a 215-acre lifestyle shopping center being developed by Forest City Commercial Group at the northwest corner of Interstate 25 and 144th Avenue.

A World Full of Grand Plans
Despite the Credit Crunch, Large Cities Across the Globe Have Huge Projects on Tap
By Alex Frangos
The Wall Street Journal
December 26, 2007; Page B1

Some of the biggest cities in the world are proposing the most ambitious real-estate projects in a generation, a sign of growing confidence in urban living even as the current financial landscape grows bleaker.

The list is long and expensive, with more than 15 ventures, some of which are expected to cost as much as $30 billion: Four in New York City, at least three in Dubai, two in London, Chicago and Milan, and one in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Paris and Mumbai.

Reasons for the projects vary. One of the most expensive -- South Korea's $30 billion Songdo City -- is positioning its 1,500 acres of offices, apartments, hotels, and parks near the Incheon International Airport as a hub for companies' burgeoning Asian operations. Some projects, like a new entrance to Milan around the city's Garibaldi train station, are designed to improve blighted areas and others are intended to correct earlier planning mistakes.

Most of them reflect the growing popularity of downtowns as places to live, shop and work. For example, developers say New York's Hudson Yards project, to be built over a rail yard on Manhattan's West Side, is needed because the city is running out of office space.

But these are inauspicious times for such plans. Banks are sharply cutting back on commercial real-estate loans. While some projects such as those in cash-rich countries like Dubai are somewhat insulated, developers are worried privately that many of these ambitious, city-changing endeavors -- difficult to complete in good times -- may be at risk.

"We think there will be a lot of projects that won't get started because they can't get financing," says Jeff Blau, president of Related Cos., a private developer involved in several colossal ventures. He is, of course, upbeat about his own company's projects. Related began construction earlier this month on the first phase of The Grand, a $3 billion project near the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles that will feature a 16-acre park and a Frank Gehry-designed tower that will include condos and a Mandarin Oriental hotel.

In an early sign of the pressure credit markets are putting on big projects, Goldman Sachs analysts on Dec. 14 downgraded the stock of one of the largest builders of urban projects nationwide, Forest City Enterprises. The downgrade said increased borrowing and construction costs are making its development projects less profitable. One of Forest City's subsidiaries, Forest City Ratner Cos., a prolific New York City builder, delayed the expected completion of a basketball arena that is the centerpiece of its $10 billion project above a rail yard in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project includes 16 residential and office skyscrapers along with large retail spaces. The first phase, which includes the arena, is now projected to open in 2010 instead of November 2009.

A company spokesman says the delay isn't related to financial markets and that there is no connection between today's credit market and long-term profitability. Still, the delay lengthens the time before Forest City can derive revenue from its up-front investment at the site, which includes moving the rail yard.

Mega projects typically get considered after years of solid real-estate markets. Ironically, this means developers begin shoveling dirt about the time the economic cycle turns downward. A looming recession -- which many economists now see as a possibility, at least in the U.S. -- would wreak havoc with real-estate demand because new jobs are the key driver for offices, stores and homes.

"A lot of these projects involve a major retail component that relies on consumer spending and high-end residential. In this kind of environment, those are problematic," says Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The last commercial real-estate crash in the early 1990s stifled numerous big projects and took down developers along the way. The most notorious was London's Canary Wharf. Though it eventually became a success, weak demand, overbuilding of office space, and the delay of a critical train extension to the area wiped out demand for several years. Canary's developer, Olympia & York, failed and was later carved into several successor companies.

Often it is the second or third owners that make money on these projects. The sprawling Playa Vista development on the west side of Los Angeles near Marina del Ray was the subject of a political battle a decade ago, and the stalled negotiations led to lenders foreclosing on the original developer, a venture led by property tycoon Robert Maguire III. That meant the end of plans for a complex of office and residential towers. A decade later, after negotiations that led to a donation of hundreds of acres of green space to the state, Playa Vista is nearly finished with the first of three phases of a scaled-down version.

Big projects can cause developers to stumble even in the best of times. Mills Corp., a once high-flying real-estate investment trust, was forced to liquidate in 2006 after it failed to manage several mammoth projects, including a retail-and-entertainment center in New Jersey called Meadowlands Xanadu. Colony Capital now owns the Xanadu development, whose cost has gone to $2.3 billion from $1.2 billion.

But developers find such immense projects alluring, despite their patchy track record. If they succeed they promise to be a steady source of profits and fees for years. Reputations can also be made. Rouse Co. became a global leader in developing festival marketplaces thanks to the success of its developments at South Street Seaport in New York and Harborplace in Baltimore. (Rouse was acquired by General Growth Properties Inc. in 2004.)

The sheer size of these ventures, which all include acres of offices, residential, retail and transportation links, means they will take a decade or more to build. And that presents inherent challenges. A ton of cash is put at risk. For example, in Manhattan's Hudson Yards project, close to $2 billion will be needed to build a deck over an active rail yard to support the buildings. That alone will take several years.

That extended time line creates significant risk. "What you can predict with certainty is over the 10 to 15 years it will take to build these, we will have at least one recession if not two," says Susan Fainstein, a Harvard University urban planner who has studied the economics of mega projects.

Delivering complex infrastructure is another hurdle. In that, Canary Wharf and Hudson Yards share a common thread. Both plans are or were predicated on the delivery of a new subway line to the remote neighborhoods. In the case of Canary Wharf, the Jubilee Line came late and over budget.

New York City has financed the $2 billion expansion of the No. 7 subway line to the area. Though a groundbreaking occurred this month, cost overruns and lack of bidders has already forced the project to scuttle one of two planned stations.

Of course, real estate is a local business that relies on the health of regional economies, not national or international ones. But real-estate finance is not local. For large projects where developers are required to inject billions of dollars up front without receiving payback for years, institutional financing and municipal subsidies are key.

The slowing economy puts that in jeopardy. Mr. Retsinas of Harvard predicts developers for big projects will approach local governments seeking more subsidies. But they may meet political resistance. "As the economy struggles, it makes it more difficult to take on the added subsidy because tax revenues are falling," he says.

That's already showing up in the municipal bond market, where localities are having trouble raising funds. In November, Chicago delayed a $961 million offering to fund construction at O'Hare International Airport. Miami-Dade County delayed $539 million offering for its airport. Louisville, Ky., has had trouble raising funds to build a new arena.

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

December 25, 2007

358 days since Spitzer Claus came to town!


Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

"Ratner the Overdeveloper, you'll go down in history!"

ChristmasRat06.jpgBruce Ratner is too busy lapping up public subsidies to answer any of your questions or concerns about Atlantic Yards security, traffic, the total amount of subsidy, or anything else that doesn't concern "Jobs, Housing or Hoops," for that matter.

Please check back next year, when we predict that Bruce Ratner will have "no comment" on these topics and more.

[Ok, clearly someone here at NoLandGrab didn't get enough of Christmas cute this year, because there are scores of other photos where this one came from.]

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

Streetsblog: drivers at Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic resigned to Merry Gridlock

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder checks out the Streetsfilm report from 4th Avenue in Brooklyn on a Gridlock Alert day.

[Aaron Naparstek] doesn't even mention the elephant at the edge of the intersection, the planned Atlantic Yards project, which would certainly exacerbate gridlock. The only hint: one frame capture some anti-Atlantic Yards art painted by Patti and Schellie Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Council.


NoLandGrab: One thing is for sure, Congestion Pricing hasn't caught on with the public, even with Mayor Bloomberg's support.

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Forest City Ratner: King of the PILOTs

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a Christmas story, sort of. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, writing last Thursday in a column headlined, "Deals that lead to lost property taxes," highlighted the city's annual loss of $107 million "in property taxes last year because of privately negotiated deals with some of the world's richest companies." The abatements average "a whopping 60% per company." (Graphic from Daily News)

The report Gonzalez obtained presented Brooklyn's biggest developer as the city's savviest dealmaker. He wrote: The undisputed king of PILOTs is real estate developer Bruce Ratner. His Forest City/Ratner firm paid the city $9.7 million last year for half a dozen commercial buildings the company owns in downtown Brooklyn. That sounds like a lot of money - until you realize it's only one-third of the company's actual $26.3 million property tax bill.
Gonzalez's column also included this tantalizing line:

That doesn't even count PILOTs that have yet to kick in for Forest City's Atlantic Yards mega-project.

The numbers rgarding AY remain murky, but the September 2005 Atlantic Yards Fiscal Brief issued by the Independent Budget Office provides some clue. Low-cost financing for construction of the arena and its parking garage will come from tax-exempt private activity bonds issued by a not-for-profit local development corporation (LDC). But they wouldn't be repaid the way most bonds are repaid...

Not only is Bruce Ratner's development company, far and away, the City's largest beneficiary of PILOTS, read the rest of the Norman Oder's article to learn about yet another way the Atlantic Yards deal is structured differently than the ordinary megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Merry Christmas to Bruce!

ChristmasRat07.jpgWhat's wrong with Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs)?

As this photo illustrates, when a rat eats candy that is supposed to be shared with everyone, then everyone gets nothing and he gets fatter (i.e. when tax revenue is diverted to paying for the tax-exempt bonds on the arena for Bruce Ratner, then these revenues are not going to the general fund where they supposedly benefit everyone).

PILOTs are a sneaky way to get taxpayers to pay for stuff they don't really need.

Back in the day, sports team owners paid their own way. Then they figured out that they could threaten to move their teams if taxpayers didn't sweeten the deal by paying for new arenas or stadiums. After taxpayers realized that these deals were only a net gain for the team owners, several municipalities and states voted down ballot resolutions intended to issue bonds for sports venues.

Now politicians and team owners are exploiting some of the murkier ways to get around that problem. PILOTs, like their predecessors, Tax Increment Financing, are one of their favorites, because team owners and their political backers get to claim that they are not using taxpayer money to pay for the venue, which is an overly simple way of saying that they are using future tax revenue from the project to pay for the financing of the venue. Technically, it's not the same thing and most people are too busy to notice how the scheme works.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Here's a sampling of non-Atlantic Yards eminent domain news from this week, including a short article about an Upstate couple who explain how it feels to live under the threat of eminent domain (and you thought your holidays were stressful).

Though NYC's policy of using eminent domain as a tool for handing land over to developers has been apparent to us for a while, 2007 appears to be the year that others are acknowledging that the City's abuse of eminent domain has reached epidemic proportions.

amNY, City threatens eminent domain on planned museum

Four years after an oil company donated land to a Brooklyn couple for a museum to honor the nation's first commissioned ironclad warship, the property, wedged between industrial warehouses and the East River, still sits vacant.

It's not what Janice Lauletta-Weinmann and her husband, George Weinmann, who have lived their entire lives in Greenpoint, envisioned on Dec. 23, 2003, when Motiva Enterprises gave them an acre of land in their neighborhood where the USS Monitor, the focus of their planned museum, was built and launched in 1862.

Five months after being awarded the land, the couple received a letter saying the city planned to seize the property through eminent domain to clear the way for a 28-acre waterfront park along the East River stretching from North Williamsburg to Greenpoint.

amNY, via Duffield St. Underground, AM New York: Rescue Us

Number Four on the AM New York's [preservation] list is Duffield Street:

Development pressures in downtown Brooklyn threaten the existence of several houses possibly linked to the Underground Railroad. Preservationists say the city ignored documents detailing the historical significance of the houses on Duffield Street.

Crain's NY Business, Columbia expansion forges ahead, despite opposition

The plan has been the fulcrum of an extended battle between Columbia and Manhattanville—a battle containing racial and class overtones. The community fears that the university's expansion will overwhelm it and spark a wave of gentrification that will force out artists and manufacturers, and make rents unaffordable. Looming over the project is the possibility that Columbia will seek to have the state exercise its right of eminent domain for the remaining commercial properties needed to realize the school's vision. Opponents argue that for the state to do so would constitute a misuse of eminent domain.

NY Post, Letter to the Editor, COLUMBIA CALAMITY
Christina Walsh from the Institute for Justice criticizes the NY Post's editorial position in support of the Columbia University Expansion plan:

Worldwide, New York City is regarded as a beacon of hope and endless opportunity. Yet it routinely uses eminent domain for private gain.

This sends a message, loud and clear, that in the Big Apple, the American dream is subject to the whims of a tax-hungry government and land-hungry developers.

The Evening Sun, NYRI has dampened holiday for one family
Despite what you think about the NY Regional Interconnect proposal, here's a good look at what it feels like to endure the fear and stress of life under the threat of eminent domain (Yeah, Happy Holidays.):

“It’s a cloud over the holiday,” said Betsy. “You wonder where you’ll be next year. It’s a sick, sad feeling we have in our hearts.”

If the line is eventually built – it would run along the New York Susquehanna & Western railroad tracks behind the Mahannah’s house – Rick and Betsy say they’d be left without any choices.

“We couldn’t live here anymore,” she said. “Even if they didn’t force us out using eminent domain, the house would be as good as condemned. Medically it would be unsafe and the property value would be worth nothing with that power line in our backyard. We couldn’t live there and no one would buy it. It feels like we’re being pushed out the door of our own house and we may not get a blessed penny.”

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

December 24, 2007

PlaNYC 1950: why parking shouldn't be required at apartment projects like Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs.

Last year, several commentators on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) questioned the provision of parking--not just interim surface lots, but also the 2570 underground spaces intended for the project's residential component and an additional 1100 underground spaces for the arena.

(Map from Atlantic Yards web site.)

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) dismissed the questions, but the issue won't go away.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

546 Vandy, Demo Porn (really)

Local photographer Tracy Collins captured some amazing shots of the demolition at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue for the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, including one that is screaming for a caption and one showing the job site.

View the entire 546 Vanderbilt flickr photoset.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Vanderbilt Ave

From the Plaza to the Yards

Park Slope Reader

Nathaniel Altman includes "the massive (and soon-to-be-built) Atlantic Yards project" in his profile of Prospect Heights for the local culture magazine:


As in other nearby neighborhoods, residents and business owners on Vanderbilt Avenue are concerned at how the massive Atlantic Yards development—with high-rise apartments, stores and a stadium—will affect the area.

Local supporters of Atlantic Yards believe that the project will bring new life to a bleak and unused area. Nick Haven, owner of the Old Brooklyn Parlor and Clinton Hill Design Build (www.clintonhilldesignbuild.com), said: “The abandoned warehouses and empty railroad yards have left that end of Vanderbilt Avenue unanchored as opposed to the other end that has Prospect Park. Now both ends will be vibrant.”

A number of community groups oppose the project because it will change the character of the neighborhood by introducing out-of-scale architecture to the “foot” of Vanderbilt Avenue. It would also bring about increased traffic to an already congested street.


NoLandGrab: The author and the architect builder he quoted neglected their own neighbors when they failed to mention the part of the neighborhood NEXT TO the railyards, which is also being taken for the project and whose fate will be determined by the court's ruling on the appeal of the federal eminent domain case. No biggie, it's just people that live there.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

2008 Predictions

2008Pred-GG.jpgGotham Gazette mentions "Atlantic Yards" in its predictions for next year, though only in relation to a highly unpredictable real estate market, which might affect some of NYC's megaprojects, but City Councilwoman Letitia James goes out on a limb and predicts that "The Atlantic Yards project will go down in flames."


Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Agreed: We Need to "Stop Force-feeding Huge Ideas"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn responds to Errol Louis's Sunday column, in which the Atlantic Yards supporter makes the case against the lack of "explanation" on "wildly expensive solutions to thorny matters" like the "physical development of our city." [Finally, something on which we all can agree!]"

Newspaper editorialists and columnists can only expect their readers to take them seriously when there is consistency in and a principled foundation to their opinions. Without those necessities their opinions really do not mean much. We raise this because today NY Daily News columnist and editorial board member Errol Louis writes a column with which we have no argument. We applaud it.
The shame is that Louis, an unconditional Atlantic Yards supporter, has failed in this column and in his years of writing about Atlantic Yards to critique the big idea known as Atlantic Yards, and its democratic failings; though he has managed to criticize those many who have opposed Atlantic Yards starting from the rotten core of the process.


Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

December 23, 2007

Still waiting for Madden; decision on AY environmental challenge lingers

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reminds us (for those who need reminding) that there are decisions still pending on the legal challenges to Atlantic Yards in the state and federal courts. We've been looking fo a decision from State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden since September.

The case has lingered for three months more, undoubtedly causing nervousness on both sides. I don't think we can read anything into the delay other than that it's a complicated case and the judge is trying to rule carefully.

On the one hand, such challenges to environmental review rarely succeed. On the other, Madden did express skepticism regarding the state's assertions of "blight" and whether the project is actually a "civic project."

A successful suit might block the project entirely--even as Forest City Ratner has sunk significant sums into pre-construction demolition and railyard work--or require a revision of the environmental review, which could delay and change the project.

Also pending is a decision from a federal appeals court, after a hearing in October, regarding an appeal of the dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge.

What will be the result of these pending decisions? Stay tuned!


Posted by steve at 9:10 AM

Late Holiday Shopping Suggestion - DDDB Holiday Gift Guide

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB Holiday Gift Guide


Posted by steve at 8:21 AM

December 22, 2007

Penn’s Jacobsian experience, and the difficulty of planning

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder uses lessons learned by the University of Pennsylvania to illustrate the pitfalls of trying to drive redevelopment with a monolithic plan.

A quote from Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and former president of the University of Pennsylvania:

In his 1990 book Inquiry and Change: The Troubled Attempt to Understand and Shape Society, Lindblom points out the impossibility of being truly comprehensive in urban planning from the start, because there are inevitable biases that frame the work in the abstract and there is an inexhaustible number of forces that enter into the life of cities over time that cannot be anticipated in advance.

Oder applies this issue of uncertainty to Atlantic Yards:

This raises many questions about the environmental review process regarding major projects like Atlantic Yards. Among them: Can a ten-year effect on traffic and transit really be estimated? Is ten years a legitimate endpoint, or an arbitrary one? And what if the buildout would take much longer?


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

Eminent Domain: Just face it Bruce Ratner is more important than you are


Serf City

And the City’s politicians and bureaucrats just like him better. And why shouldn’t they - he’s providing tax revenue that helps pay for their salaries and their pensions. Of course so does your tax money - but you have no choice and Bruce Ratner does. Don’t like it? Who cares? You are just an ordinary citizen. Bruce has friend’s in the government.


Posted by steve at 5:29 AM

DDDB/NY Daily News on Pilots

The Knickerblogger

The Daily News's Juan Gonzalez takes a much needed look at the City's use of PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes). These PILOTS enable large corporations to avoid paying their property taxes. Of course PILOTS are a huge part of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. These payments they'll make in lieu of property taxes, instead of going into city coffers for the common treasury, will go to paying off the construction bond debt for their Barclays Center arena and to the State of New York. One year to the day since the poiltical approval of Atlantic Yards by the Public Authorities Control Board and still nobody has any idea what the amount of Atlantic Yards PILOTs will be. Nobody.


Posted by steve at 5:00 AM

Will Dwindling Columbia Holdouts Sell or Fight?



The list of potential holdouts in the area where Columbia University plans its massive Manhattanville expansion is down to three, but will a nasty and possibly long Atlantic Yards-style battle over eminent domain develop? It's still possible. Two days after the City Council cleared the Columbia plan by a wide margin, opponents are still saying the university shouldn't seize property. Meanwhile, more than three dozen businesses have sold to Columbia, leaving two moving and storage businesses and the owner of two gas stations as the only holdouts. The University won't say if it's negotiating and hasn't ruled out having the state seize commercial property. It owns about 90 percent of the land and intends to leave three buildings standing on about 17 acres between 133rd Street in the north, 125th Street in the south and Riverside Drive on the west. Will a multi-year Ratner vs. DDDB-style standoff develop? Stay tuned.


Posted by steve at 4:59 AM

Jim Cramer's 'Stop Trading!': Buy Forest City


Forest City (FCEA - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) is "one of the savviest" real estate companies around, Jim Cramer said on CNBC's "Stop Trading!" segment Friday.

Long-term value investor Marty Whitman recommended the stock when he made an appearance on CNBC earlier in the day.

"I think he's right. ... I remember when I was at Goldman Sachs (GS - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) ... we were in awe of these guys," he said of the Brooklyn-based builder. "All they have gotten is better and better," he added.


No Land Grab: What's so hard with making a profit, when taxpayers are footing the bill and, if needed, the bailout? Savvy indeed.

Posted by steve at 4:36 AM

December 21, 2007

Despite Earlier Defiance, Holdouts in Columbia’s Expansion Zone Are Down to 3

The NY Times
By Timothy Williams

Sprayragen-NYT.jpgAn article about the holdouts property-rights superheroes in West Harlem.

When Columbia University began buying property north of its Morningside Heights campus for its planned expansion a few years ago, a group of longtime business owners formed an alliance and pledged never to sell.

Now, three years later, all but two of the six family-owned firms in the alliance, the West Harlem Business Group, have sold their property to the university, leaving the two owners increasingly edgy about what might happen next, as Columbia prepares to start the largest expansion in its history.

Those two businesses — both moving and storage concerns — along with the owner of two service stations who was not in the alliance, are the only remaining holdouts in the Manhattanville neighborhood. More than three dozen others — meat wholesale companies, auto body shops, restaurants, construction supply stores, tire repair shops, warehouses and a window manufacturer among them — have sold their property to Columbia and have agreed to leave once construction begins.


NoLandGrab: It's very typical in a contentious eminent domain battle that most property owners who vow not to sell, eventually do. What's amazing is that a full third remain.

During the past couple years the Times earned a reputation of being "allergic" to writing about eminent domain in NYC ("Achoo!"). Can we finally expect a story on the Brooklyn eminent domain superheroes, or is putting their business partner Bruce Ratner on the spot taboo?

Posted by lumi at 7:18 PM

Columbia vote (35-5-6) vs. AY vote (4-0), newspaper coverage, and the value left in ULURP

122007NYTfront.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

What a difference the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) makes, at least in terms of public awareness. The City Council's contentious approval of Columbia University's West Harlem development plan merited front-page, above-the-fold coverage in the New York Times yesterday (albeit attached to graphics regarding Governor's Island plans; click to enlarge), as the vote was 35-5, with 6 abstentions. (Gotham Gazette called it divisive, and highlighted those not toeing the line.)

Consider what might have occurred had the Atlantic Yards project gone through ULURP. It likely would have passed the City Council, thanks to the city's and Forest City Ratner's political muscle, but the criticism voiced by the three affected community boards would have gotten much more airing. And, at the City Council vote, critics like Council Members Letitia James and Charles Barron would have had a platform for their views.


Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Where were you? Brooklyn AIA offers belated, underinformed AY solutions

Atlantic Yards Report

Some of the most sober and trenchant criticism of Atlantic Yards has come from architects, notably Jonathan Cohn in his now on-hiatus Brooklyn Views blog. Now, four years after the project was announced, a letter to the editor published in this week's Brooklyn Paper is the first evidence, as far as I can tell, that the Brooklyn chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)--or any other AIA chapter--has taken a stance on Atlantic Yards.

Despite attempts to be constructive, the message is underinformed and in some ways misguided.

Norman Oder examines I. Donald Weston's bizarre assertion that the "stadium" — oops, it's an "arena" — could be "relocated further away from the street," brings up the temporary surface parking lot, which runs counter to Weston's four-point traffic plan, and explains that had the American Institute of Architects submitted these comments to the Empire State Development Corporation during the environmental review in 2006, they might have received some sort of response.


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Politicians fear Columbia may use eminent domain to expand campus

NY Daily News
By Frank Lombardi

The battle over Columbia University's expansion plan has ended in the City Council

But the bigger war over eminent domain may be just getting started.

"From Queens to Brooklyn, from the proposed Atlantic Yards to Coney Island and West Harlem, today is just yet another example of the threat - and I would argue the abuse - of eminent domain," Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) fumed as she voted against Columbia's zoning application at Wednesday's Council session.


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Expert: There is a way to fix Atlantic Yards traffic

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

The Brooklyn Chapter of the American Institute of Architects supports bringing basketball to Brooklyn but does not "feel that enough thought has been given to the traffic impact of the overall development."

Here is the Chapter's four-point solution:

  1. The city should prohibit the Nets arena from providing any off-street parking at the arena site. Instead, the city should provide municipal parking for approximately 1,000 cars at one or several locations in an industrial area in the Brownsville/East New York area, within walking distance of public transportation. This parking would be used on a daily basis for business people driving to work as well as for patrons attending basketball games.
    However, on game nights, either the Nets or the Atlantic Yards developer should be required to provide shuttle buses from the remote parking areas to the arena.

  2. Eliminate parking on all major thoroughfares going to, or coming from, Manhattan during rush hours, and meter all side streets in the area. Enforce existing “Don’t Block the Box” rules at all major intersections.

  3. Eliminate parking permits for city employees’ private vehicles to encourage them to take public transportation.

  4. Discount bus and subway fares during off hours.

full letter

NoLandGrab: Eliminating "parking permits for city employees’ private vehicles" and discounting "bus and subway fares during off hours" sound like good ideas. Seriously, WTF does it have to do with Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Real Estate Round-up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is “the undisputed king of [Payments in Lieu of Taxes],” or privately negotiated deals between the city and companies, according to the Daily News.

Of the $100 million in property taxes the city lost last year due to PILOT agreements, Forest City saved $16.6 million from its actual $26.3 million property tax bill on the commercial property the company owns in Downtown Brooklyn. Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt responded: “A lot of those buildings in MetroTech were constructed when downtown Brooklyn was not what it was today… Many businesses were fleeing to New Jersey in the 1990s, and we were willing to invest in that area when others wouldn’t.”


NoLandGrab: Loren Rigelhaupt's comment conceals the fact that MetroTech, though originally conceived as a high-rise office park to stem the tide of corporations leaving for New Jersey, has not lived up to its promise.

After high vacancy rates required a municipal bailout, the City of NY became MetroTech's largest tenant. So taxpayers lose revenue through PILOTs, and then get to pay MetroTech's landlord Bruce Ratner for the privilege.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

December 20, 2007

Bus Stop Temporarily Relocated

Photo by Tracy Collins, from the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

In case bus riders aren't diligently reading NoLandGrab or didn't get the Atlantic Yards Construction Update, a sign has finally been posted, alerting riders that the B65 bus stop has been temporarily relocated.

Earlier this week, local photographer Tracy Collins tried to explain to a group of riders that the stop had been moved. They didn't believe him until the bus drove by.

Thanks Tracy, your good deed helped to keep spirits bright during this holiday season.

Posted by lumi at 9:27 PM

Ratner’s ‘Mr Brooklyn’ deal gets sweeter

The Brooklyn Paper

City University is offering to sweeten its deal with developer Bruce Ratner, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Last month, CUNY’s Board of Trustees voted to pay Ratner $307 million to build a new 11- to 14-story laboratory and classroom building for City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn — a whopping $221 million more than the $86 million the university system originally offered the developer in 2004.

The request for additional cash will be taken up by the state legislature next month.

In addition to the fee for constructing the new college building, Ratner would also get control of a lucrative site on the southeast corner of Jay and Tillary streets — a Downtown plot where he is reportedly planning the city’s tallest residential tower, the so-called “Mr. Brooklyn.”


Posted by lumi at 8:43 PM

Beijing’s Olympics: A Marriage Of Corporate And State Abuse


RobberBaron.jpg Bruce Ratner is now officially a "robber baron:"

New York of the 21st century also has its share of robber barons. Bruce Ratner is currently hoping to use eminent domain in the heart of Brooklyn to build a basketball arena and surrounding luxury trimmings at the expense of private homes and business owners. For certain eminent domain has almost always been a weapon against the poor. A study released earlier this year by Dick M. Carpenter II and John K. Ross titled Victimizing the Vulnerable: The Demographics of Eminent Domain Abuse reveals that the areas targeted nation-wide for eminent domain in recent years follow a predictable pattern: 58% of the targeted areas include minority residents, compared with 45% in surrounding communities, 25% live at or below poverty, compared to 16% in surrounding communities.


Posted by lumi at 8:29 PM

Williamsburg Bank View

This photo from Brit in Brooklyn reminds us just how big Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project would be. It basically would obliterate over half of the view.


So what — it's not like Brooklyn is known for low rise nighborhoods, light-filled side streets and the Williamsburg Savings Bank tower.

Posted by lumi at 8:13 PM

Deals that lead to lost property taxes

NY Daily News
By Juan Gonzales

New York City lost more than $100 million in property taxes last year because of privately negotiated deals with some of the world's richest companies.

The companies - including behemoths like JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer and NBC - have paid a fraction of their normal property tax bill for years through these little-known deals, commonly called PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes).

In case you don't already know, Bruce is #1!

The undisputed king of PILOTs is real estate developer Bruce Ratner. His Forest City/Ratner firm paid the city $9.7 million last year for half a dozen commercial buildings the company owns in downtown Brooklyn. That sounds like a lot of money - until you realize it's only one-third of the company's actual $26.3 million property tax bill.

That doesn't even count PILOTs that have yet to kick in for Forest City's Atlantic Yards mega-project.

Forest City spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt defended the company's success at landing PILOT subsidies.

"A lot of those buildings in MetroTech were constructed when downtown Brooklyn was not what it was today," Riegelhaupt said. "Many businesses were fleeing to New Jersey in the 1990s, and we were willing to invest in that area when others wouldn't."


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes Ratner's excuse for receiving PILOTS for MetroTech and wonders if the developer can come up with another excuse for Atlantic Yards:

Yes, Ratner's folks should be proud of how great they are at feeding at the public trough. Forest City Ratner's defense of their use of PILOTs for Metrotech is that in the 1990s "downtown Brooklyn was not what it was today." Then what, exactly, is their defense for receiving PILOTS for their Atlantic Yards project near that Downtown Brooklyn which is what it is today -- a booming real estate market where many are willing to invest.

NoLandGrab: Obtaining any form of public subsidy is Ratner's modus operandi projects and is one of the keys to the company's profitability. As Cooper Union professor Fred Siegel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bruce Ratner is "the master of subsidy. No one does it better. That's not a flat-out criticism of him. It's just that he never builds without someone else taking the risk." That special someone would be the taxpayers.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 PM

Happy Anni Adversary?

Today marks the first anniversary of the Public Authority Control Board's vote to approve Atlantic Yards

It's been a whole year since representatives of Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Joseph Bruno took all of five minutes to approve Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Here's a sampling of what was being said on December 20, 2006. From the FCRC press release, and the lips of the Brucester himself:

“Three years ago we joined the Mayor and Borough President, and officials from throughout Brooklyn, to unveil a work in progress. Today, we’re excited to have completed the public review process and thrilled at the prospect of breaking ground and making Atlantic Yards a reality."
Finally, Mr. Ratner commented on the Nets pending move to Brooklyn and their current home at the Continental Arena in New Jersey. The Nets are expected to move to Brooklyn in time for the start of the 2009-10 NBA season.

NoLandGrab: Or maybe not in 2009.

Here's what Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had to say:

"Brooklyn’s bright future is indeed here today. I am thrilled with the PACB approval of the Atlantic Yards plan. This means our borough will soon be benefiting from thousands of union jobs, affordable housing, an enhanced and vibrant downtown, and our much-anticipated return to sports' major leagues.
Add to all of this the project’s world-class architecture, on-site school, street-level shopping, and accessible public open space, and you can see why Atlantic Yards is the right project, in the right place, at the right time for Brooklyn.”

NLG: "Soon" is apprently a relative term.

And the Mayor?

"Today’s approval of Atlantic Yards is the final step towards starting work on this enormously important project."

NLG: "Enormous?" Yes. "Starting work?" Not so much.

DDDB appears to have been a bit more accurate in its forecast:

The viability of the largest sole-sourced project in New York’s history will ultimately be determined by federal and state courts.

Those courts have yet to issue definitive rulings.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explains that Bruce Ratner is busy doing stuff on the railyards, but he's not getting very far:

As we think back to that swift, uninformed vote by representatives of the three men in a room, we see a stalled project: infrastructure activity is occurring in the Ratner-selected footprint, and demolition has taken place on some of the buildings the developer owns, but there appears to be a lot of soil pushing and dirt shifting on the rail yards. As of today, the construction of the project hasn't moved forward, and cannot move forward.

One year after political approval, and the project seems to be failing. The project is stale. And the markets don't look promising for the overly-dense behemoth.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 PM

Sports of The Times: Hitting the Bottom, the Bottom Hits Back

The New York Times
by George Vecsey

In a column exploring the woeful goings-on on the Madison Square Garden hardwood, columnist George Vecsey displays a level of skepticism about the progress of Atlantic Yards rarely seen in the pages of his newspaper:

James’s occasional forays into the Garden even have a New York angle in that he is committed to his home region Cavaliers through the spring of 2011, but after that he will be a free agent.

His pal, the rapper Jay-Z, has a tiny share of the Nets, and there has been fanciful thinking that James could someday move on to Brooklyn with the Nets, based on the assumption that the Nets will actually put shovels in the ground and be open for business by then. By then, this nasty business with the Knicks will surely have played itself out.


Posted by lumi at 11:51 AM

A Gehry Funny for Thursday



Posted by steve at 11:45 AM

The AY omission in the Jane Jacobs exhibit, some contentions, and the lesson of skepticism

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder concludes his two-part, two-day examination of the Municipal Art Society's Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit by taking issue with the absence of Atlantic Yards from the physical exhibit (it does pop up rather frequently in the companion book, Block by Block), and offering his own Jacobsian critique of the controversial project:

Beyond that, I’d observe that it’s a stretch to consider Atlantic Yards a downtown anyone would want to visit. It’s basically an arena (plus Urban Room) attached to a modern-day (and improved) Stuyvesant Town, with retail at its base. Sure, some people might visit the Urban Room and the open space when there’s programming, but a tiny spot of lawn would not a borough magnet make.

Rather, Atlantic Yards is part of a fabric of mostly luxury housing developing in Downtown Brooklyn and beyond; it would not create that downtown core. (There would be significantly more affordable housing than in other nearby developments, but the pace and provision is hardly guaranteed, most isn't geared to the poor, and it came in a private deal for increased density.)


Posted by lumi at 11:33 AM

Columbia Pulls a Kelo

The NY Sun, Opinion
By Michael White

Atlantic Yards and Columbia University's land grabs are the prime examples of NY's "eminent domain industry":

In a City Council hearing this week I pointed out something our politicians already know: New York has an eminent domain industry and it's thriving.
In New York, eminent domain can be conducted by obscure agencies where accountability isn't transparent. Too few citizens understand Governor Spitzer's responsibility for the persisting political purchase Atlantic Yards has had on its peculiar life. Most know little about the Urban Development Corporation, doing business as the Empire State Development Corporation, which frequently operates through the creation of lesser-known subsidiaries.

Most don't know that a private owner who covets the property of another can, outside the scrutiny of the public eye, start the condemnation process by writing a check to the self-funding government agency — to finance costs, including government staff salaries — so that agency will put together materials advancing the condemnation. In that vein, Columbia University, interested in acquiring a swath of West Harlem, wrote a $300,000 starter check to ESDC in 2004, years before any public hearings.
One reason eminent domain is now being manipulated by powerful private entities such Columbia University and Forest City Enterprises, run by developer Bruce Ratner, is that they feel confident that when they initiate the process, they will be the recipient of property taken. That is because bids or effective bidding is not being required.
Neither the Columbia expansion nor Atlantic Yards would be proceeding as planned if local community boards were listened to.

Nothing as staggering as Columbia's takeover of West Harlem would be allowed were it another institution in another neighborhood, just as nothing comparable to Atlantic Yards would have been accepted in a Manhattan neighborhood like Greenwich Village.


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

City Council approves Columbia University's expansion plan, next step land grab

On fourth down, instead of punting the approval of Columbia University's Expansion plan into next year, the City Council ran a quarterback sneak, by holding a whirlwind day of multiple-committee hearings and a full Council vote to approve the plan.

The city approval clears the way for NY State to authorize the use of eminent domain.

You might be thinking that we've somehow got it wrong, it's a City plan, isn't the city doing the condemnations? Nope, the powerbrokers are bringing in the State and our favorite public-slash-private agency-slash-corporation to do the dirty deed — for the uninitiated, that would be the Empire State Development Corporation.

Here's today's coverage:

ColumbiaU.jpgNY Sun, Columbia Expansion Sets Up Eminent Domain Battle

The vote completes the city's review of the rezoning and paves the way for a groundbreaking, but representatives of landowners within the expansion footprint said they would challenge the use of eminent domain in court. Columbia University representatives have said they aim to reach a negotiated settlement with the remaining landowners, but have made it clear they would invoke the state's power of eminent domain to condemn the property if no agreement is reached.

MetroNY, Columbia gets early Christmas ‘present’

Though the Council had until mid-January to vote, members were called in yesterday on the heels of a marathon negotiating session between the West Harlem Local Development Corporation and the school on a community benefits agreement.
The CBA was still being finalized, and the terms were not disclosed to Council members before the vote.

NY Daily News, Council OKs Columbia U. expansion

Columbia University won zoning approval for its $7 billion campus expansion plan Wednesday in a City Council vote marked by accusations of back-door dealing and political influence.

AP via, Newsday, City Council clears way for Columbia University expansion

Critics promised continued opposition to the plan.
"We're going to stop it in the streets," said Ruth Eisenberg, a member of opposition group Coalition to Preserve Community. "As the outrage of the community becomes more obvious, it's going to be very hard to go forward."

amNY, Council pushes through Columbia University expansion

Backers of the plan dismissed the idea that the vote was speeded through.
"This process has been going on for more than two years," said Robert Jackson (D-Harlem) who represents the area in the council. "If you didn't know then you have not been paying attention."
In the council Wednesday, Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) attempted to keep the issue from going to a full vote by a making a motion to delay. After a brief pause so council staffers could check the rules to see if a delay was permitted, the motion was denied.
"If we've been at it for two years what's the matter with two more weeks?" he said.
"Give the public a chance. We are here to protect out community from eminent domain and the abuse of those in power."

Columbia Spectator, Council Signs Off on Manhattanville Expansion

City Councilman Tony Avella, D-Queens, raised concerns that the Council’s approval of the expansion plan would set a precedent for the use of eminent domain in situations not essential to public good. “Nobody’s private property in this city is safe,” Avella, who voted against Columbia’s plan, said. “Anytime a developer or a private institution with political influence comes along, nobody is safe.”
“This is not just about Columbia University,” Councilman Vincent Ignizio, R-Staten Island, said. “This is about a powerful entity which seeks to take land from honest landowners who are paying their taxes.”

The NY Times, Columbia Expansion Gets Green Light

All but about three buildings will be torn down to make room for the new campus, which Columbia officials said would eventually include many of the university’s science and research laboratories.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

Forest City in the News

The Albuquerque Tribune, Mesa del Sol water plan could be approved tonight

Under a plan that could get approval tonight, every house built within Mesa del Sol would be charged $1,250 to receive water service.

Developer Forest City Covington, once opposed to paying for the water rights that would bring water to the community in far southeast Albuquerque, now sees it as an investment in the city's future.

Cleveland Leader, Is This Forest City’s Bow-out & Jackson’s Cash Cow

Frank Jackson apparently wants to be the Mayor of Tower City.

As I’ve said before, doing favors for Sam Miller is a full-time job.

It’s one explanation I can see in offering Forest City Enterprises and others the opportunity to repay long-term loans at a discounted rate. In other words, long-term loans via the city would be repaid by the borrowers (fat cats) at far below the amount of the original loans.

Denver Business Journal, Magazine likes Stapleton neighborhood

Natural Home magazine has named Denver's Stapleton neighborhood as the third-best "green" housing development in the country.

The magazine, produced by Ogden Publications Inc. of Topeka, Kan., selected Stapleton because it's the largest urban infill redevelopment project in the country. The project is the mixed-used redevelopment of Denver's old Stapleton International Airport, which was replaced by Denver International Airport. The lead developer on the massive, multiyear project is Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, encompasses 4,700 acres of reclaimed land.

Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

December 19, 2007

MTA to hike fares, amount Ratner to pay for railyards unchanged

Subway riders will be paying more for unlimited ride Metro cards, yet meanwhile, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's $100-million lowball bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards stands.

The NY Times's City Room blog reports:

After an unusually vigorous and spirited debate, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted at 10:50 a.m. today to raise fares on subways, buses and commuter railroads and tolls on bridges and tunnels.

NoLandGrab: The debate was "unusually vigorous," considering that the MTA board decided on the sale of the railyard to Ratner and prepped a press release before debating and taking a vote.

More from City Room:

The base subway and bus fare will remain $2, but an overwhelming majority of riders — who use unlimited-ride MetroCards or get a discount for buying multiple rides at once — will have to pay more, starting on March 2. The costs of unlimited-ride cards will rise to $81 from $76 for the 30-day card and to $25 from $24 for the 7-day card; a new 14-day card will be sold for $47.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM

moonrise over Wards

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool


the Ward Bread Bakery Building (on the left) is currently being demolished for Atlantic Yards. the building on the right, 768-772 Pacific Street, is currently occupied, but is also slated to be demolished.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 PM


The New York City Council just voted to approve the Columbia University expansion plan. For those of you who are wondering how our local councilmembers voted, here's the scoop.

Bill de Blasio voted to approve — no surprises there for the Councilmember who notoriously pays lip service to overdevelopment, but does little to nothing in reality.

David Yassky also voted to approve the Columbia plan and in typical Yassky flippy-floppy fashion, he laid out his concerns against the plan: Community Benefits Agreements should not take the place of NYC's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and eminent domain should not be used as often. [Can someone get this guy a spine, because he'd probably make a fairly useful politician if he actually believed in SOMETHING.]

Many eyes were on City Councilwoman Letitia James, who has taken one of the strongest stands against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. However, local supporters wondered, how would their neighborhood champion vote if the project wasn't in her backyard and had the political support of the West Harlem representative.

This evening you can practically hear the sigh of relief on the outskirts of Ratnerville, when neighbors heard that Letitia James voted against the plan. A vote to "abstain" would have sent the same message, but without the emphasis of a "no" vote.

Here at NoLandGrab, we call 'em as we seem 'em, without reading the political tea leaves, so it's hard to know what, if anything, Tish James risked with her "no" vote. We heard from someone in attendance that a total of five Councilmembers voted "no" and another six "abstained," which gave James a little more political cover than if she had been a lone wolf.

We shouldn't be surprised how true to form these three politicians voted, we only wish we had placed a bet on the trifecta.

UPDATE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had these words of praise for CIty Councilwoman Letitia James:

Staunch (the staunchest) political opponent of Atlantic Yards, Councilwoman Letita James, showed a consistency rare for most elected officials and voted against the Columbia plan, speaking eloquently against eminent domain abuse and for community-based planning.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 PM

The Jane Jacobs exhibit: a worthy reaffirmation but just the start of a longer discussion

Atlantic Yards Report

Haven't had the time to tour the Municipal Art Society's Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit? Haven't had the chance to pick up the exhibit's companion book, Block by Block?

Fear not! Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder has neatly summarized both, in the first part of a planned two-part series. His second installment will filter the exhibition through the prism of Atlantic Yards, or vice-versa.

What does the exhibit say about Atlantic Yards? Nothing much directly—an understandable if debatable curatorial choice—but the principles it raises, especially Jacobs’s insistence on neighborhood voices, do call the project into question, even as the project has been proferred as a solution to some challenges of growth Jacobs may not have fully confronted. (More on this in Part 2.)


For those of you who would like to experience the exhibit first hand, it has been extended until January 26th. Click here for more info.

Posted by lumi at 10:25 AM


Rev. Earl Kooperkamp Refuses to Vote for a CBA Which Does Not Address the Impact of the Columbia Expansion on the Community


The Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC) will hold a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall at 1:00PM today, Wednesday, Dec. 19, to protest the vote in favor of the Columbia expansion plan in West Harlem. Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg have been pushing this plan hard behind the scenes with committee meetings left unannounced until the last minute in a disgraceful display of power playing which prevents citiizens from civic particpation in the most fundamental ways. They have ignored conmunity concerns expressed for years by the community and articulated recently in the Community Board 9’s (CB9) 32 to 2 vote against the Columbia plan and its ten point resolution. For years, members of the CPC have objected to eminent domain, displacement, the plan to place biolevel lab #3’s in a residential community, and the construction of a bathtub design foundation for 17 acre carve out in a flood plain area. Neither CB 9, nor the CPC, have been supported from elected officials in City Hall.

[continued after the jump]

Uptown, the elected officials have been equally unresponsive. They have taken control of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation (LDC), a not-for-profit entity specifically created to negotiate a community benefits agreement with Columbia in connection with its proposed expansion. They have adopted a compromising stance. Last month, three LDC directors resigned, and tomorrow, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp will announce his resignation. This is a rigged process and the LDC has refused to be a true advocate for the 197 A plan. It has apparently given the green light to eminent domain for the property owners, and avoided the fact that Columbia’s all or nothing declaration means that longtime residents in the expansion area will be pushed out - whether the process is called eminent domain or not. The LDC met last night with Councilman Jackson negotiating with Columbia officials and apparently this politician-dominated board will also accept biolevel #3 labs and a gutting of demands on environmental issues.

CB 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc recently stated on a PBS show that he expected the CBA to have a value of $700 to $800 million, similar to the percentage provided in the Staples agreement in California. But, as the CPC predicted, the crumbs that Scott Stringer initiated when he sold out the community and voted for Columbia, have underminined negotiations. Community outrage is at an all time high and Columbia’s terrible community relations have reached a crisis. The vote today may well be the end of the ULURP process, but it is just the beginning of an on the ground campaign to stop the Columbia expansion and all zoning plans in Harlem meant to remove longtime residents.

— END —

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

B65 new temporary bus stop

Photo and dispatch by Tracy Collins, via the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

534 Dean Street near Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

this is the temporary location of the B65 bus stop, directly in front of Newswalk Condos, at 534 Dean Street near Carlton Avenue. it used to be on Dean Street at Flatbush Avenue, but needed to be moved for utility work on Dean Street for Atlantic Yards.

most of the riders getting on the bus in this photo had been waiting at the original location until i told them the bus stop had been moved. most didn't believe me until a bus rolled by without stopping. luckily for them, this next bus was not far behind and they didn't have to wait too long in the cold.

it would have been nice if the MTA, when it pulled down the signs at the original bus stop location, had put up signs informing passengers that the stop had moved. but, it's the MTA. unfortunately, details like keeping its customers informed fall through the cracks all too often.

extra bonus points for those who noticed the mini van that's illegally parked in the bus stop. the NYPD has already been ticketing, so heads up, people.

NoLandGrab: Crazy! Is it possible that the MTA and Ratner thought that notifying the public through the Atlantic Yards Construction Update would suffice to keep B65 riders informed?

Posted by lumi at 3:00 AM


eminentdomainia30.jpg Long Island Business News, Apollo asks Riverhead to condemn Main Street property

What does a developer do when they can't come to terms with a property owner?

You write a letter to the redevelopment agency sponsoring the project and ask them to use eminent domain to take the property for you (duh!).

According to Don Secunda, an attorney with the Weber Law Group in Melville, which represents Apollo, a letter was sent to Supervisor Phil Cardinale and the Riverhead town board asking for help to acquire the parcels on the south side of Main Street after efforts on reaching a deal with the owners had been exhausted.

amNY, MTA takeover puts Factory in Flux

At a converted warehouse on the edge of Queens sits a New York of the imagination. More than a hundred imaginations, actually, one for each of the artists who labored on the massive "New York New York New York" installation that presents a sort of wishful alternative universe to the Robert Moses Panorama at the Queens Museum of Art.

But piece by piece, the artists' dizzying scale-model replica of the city is going to come down and with it the Flux Factory, the warehouse turned art space that houses it, in an eminent-domain takeover by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its $6.3 billion East Side Access project.

The Wall St. Journal, BOOKS: This Land Is Not Your Land Anymore

A review of "Bulldozed" by Carla T. Main illustrates one of the most egregious examples of a town hell bent on taking private property in order to turn it over to a developer.

The only obstacle to this sweetheart deal was Western Seafood. It owned the land where Mr. Royall and his friends wanted to build. The city came up with a clever way around this problem. Claiming eminent domain, it proposed to take only part of the company's land -- paying the Gores $260,000 in compensation. But the part the city officially wanted was riverfront land. Without it, Western Seafood wouldn't have access to its shrimpboats, and the "problem" of the rest of Western Seafood's land -- expensive property, crowded with buildings and industrial equipment -- would take care of itself. The city would get it virtually without paying for it.

The tale gets worse.

[Read the full review after the jump.]


BulldozedCover.jpg The Wall Street Journal
This Land Is Not Your Land Anymore
December 18, 2007; Page D5

By Carla T. Main
(Encounter Books, 304 pages, $27.95)

The legal phrase "eminent domain" has become all too familiar to nonlawyers in recent years as the U.S. Supreme Court has gradually expanded the power of municipalities to condemn private property and seize it for "public" use -- even if they just end up handing property over to another private party. The court's now infamous Kelo decision (2005) no doubt pleased the city fathers of New London, Conn., who had taken possession of some residential neighborhoods for the sake of private developers. But it outraged nearly everyone else, not least Susette Kelo, the plaintiff whose home was coveted.

Outrage, appropriately, is the sustained effect of Carla Main's "Bulldozed," the case study of another instance of eminent-domain abuse, this time in the working-class town of Freeport, Texas (pop. 13,500), on the Gulf coast. Six years ago, after decades of decline, Freeport decided to revitalize itself by building a private marina on the Old Brazos River, which runs through the center of town. City leaders hoped that the development would attract hotels, restaurants, art galleries and tourists. But to make it all happen, they needed the land of a local family business. "Bulldozed" tells the story of a fight over domain, eminent and otherwise.

Ms. Main begins with the members of the Gore family, whose shrimping business has operated in Freeport since the 1940s. They own 330 feet of riverfront land, where shrimp boats dock and unload, and a state-of-the-art processing plant nearby. The family's company, called Western Seafood, employs more than 50 people and pays Freeport nearly $20,000 in taxes every year. Not that such good citizenry was enough to shield the company from the hazards of municipal overreach.

In March 2002, a group of private investors, led by a man named H. Walker Royall, formed a company called Freeport Waterfront Properties. Six months later, consultants hired by the city released a redevelopment plan -- and, amazingly, it recommended a private marina, just what Mr. Royall's investors had hoped for. The city did not open the marina project to competition; it just handed it over to Freeport Waterfront. Conveniently, Mr. Royall sat on the board of Sun Resorts, another company that the city selected, also without competition, this time to manage the marina once it was built.

The cozy arrangements didn't stop there. Freeport agreed to give the private investors $6 million in the form of a no-recourse loan. (The city's annual budget was $13 million.) It promised to cover their cost overruns with a loan of up to $400,000. It gave them a tax abatement. And it limited the investors' financial liability to $250,000 in cash, leaving the city on the hook for other cost overruns.

The only obstacle to this sweetheart deal was Western Seafood. It owned the land where Mr. Royall and his friends wanted to build. The city came up with a clever way around this problem. Claiming eminent domain, it proposed to take only part of the company's land -- paying the Gores $260,000 in compensation. But the part the city officially wanted was riverfront land. Without it, Western Seafood wouldn't have access to its shrimpboats, and the "problem" of the rest of Western Seafood's land -- expensive property, crowded with buildings and industrial equipment -- would take care of itself. The city would get it virtually without paying for it.

The tale gets worse. Freeport was in a position to consider building a marina in the first place only because a "guillotine gate" in the river -- insulating boats from hurricanes and storm surges -- made Freeport a safe harbor. When the guillotine gate needed modernization several years ago, Ms. Main reports, the city didn't have the money for the $300,000 job. So the Gores gave the city a gift of $150,000. If they hadn't been so generous, the city never would have tried to take their land.

Ms. Main's legal background and reporting skills serve her well as she navigates the Gores' messy, twisting fight against city hall. Her tone is usually judicious, though not always. (Recounting one insincere proposal from the city to create a tiny buffer between Western Seafood and the marina, she exclaims: "Buffer, my ass!") From time to time, she steps away from Freeport to give a primer on eminent domain and the legal arguments surrounding the claims of municipalities on private land.

But "Bulldozed" is at heart a story about trouble in a small town, a sort of eminent-domain version of "In Cold Blood," although it lacks a satisfying conclusion. In 2003, the Gores and Freeport took one another to court and fought a long, rancorous battle. After a series of defeats, the family was seemingly victorious. Freeport abandoned its plan for a private marina -- only to unveil a plan for a public marina that would also need much of the Gores' land. As "Bulldozed" closes, the two sides are heading back to the courthouse once more.

Mr. Last is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.


Posted by lumi at 2:42 AM

2007 in Downtown Brooklyn: The Year of the Skyscraper

High-Rises Become the Talk of the Town

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial
By Dennis Holt

As most people know, the Chinese calendar honors animals by naming years after them, although I’m not sure what the reason is.

It is possible that sometime in the future, someone will look back at developments in Downtown Brooklyn in 2007 and call this year the “Year of the Beanstalk.”
The plan that started the whole thing, in one sense, is “Miss Brooklyn,” the mixed-use tower designed by Frank Gehry for Atlantic Yards. The developer scaled the building back but, as several observers, have noted, no final design has been announced. Therefore, the tower may still get “up there” as far as height is concerned.


NoLandGrab: We love how Holt starts off the editorial explaining that he doesn't know why the Chinese calendar identifies each year with a different animal sign, but that doesn't stop him from talking.

Posted by lumi at 2:24 AM

December 18, 2007

What's in a name?

cbascroll.jpg Bruce Ratner gave the "Community Benefits Agreement" a bad name, by handpicking and helping form groups that already supported the plan, with which to negotiate.

In the wake of what is widely considered a charade, how does the next developer differentiate its community agreement? By changing the name, of course.

Today, The Real Estate Observer reported that the name of the Columbia University agreement "has changed from a 'community benefits agreement' to a 'community partnership agreement.'"

You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by lumi at 8:11 PM


Posted by lumi at 8:10 PM

City Council to rush to judgement on Columbia Expansion

The NYC Council appears to be moving up the vote on the Columbia Expansion plan to tomorrow, Wednesday, November 19, even though, according to the Uniform Land Use Review Prodedure, the legislative body had until the middle of January to consider the plan.

[Press release from the Manhattanville Preservation Alliance after the jump.]

City Council Fast-Tracks Columbia Plan

Vote Slated for December 19th

NEW YORK, NY-Last week, Councilmember Tony Avella ended the lengthy public hearing on re-zoning plans for Manhattanville by calling upon the City Council to move deliberately and use all the time allotted to it under ULURP. It should not rush to vote on Columbia's 197-c proposal or Community Board 9's 197-a development plan. His words seem to have been in vain as the full City Council is said to be ready to vote this Wednesday, December 19.

Avella chairs the Zoning & Franchises Sub-Committee and last week's hearing was held jointly with the Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Sub-Committee chaired by Councilmember Daniel Garodnick. These are both sub-committees of the Land Use Committee.

The City Council has 50 days under ULURP to consider the proposed plans. That clock started ticking when the City Planning Commission voted on the plans on November 26.

A staff member at Avella's office confirmed that Zoning & Franchises had met yesterday but had not passed the matter on to the Land Use Committee as yet. In spite of this, he said there is a move to speed up the Council vote and it would very likely happen this week.

Fast-tracking the vote does not allow for thoughtful consideration of the two plans or for modifications to protect neighborhood historic buildings. One week is not enough time to take the many hours of public testimony into account in these deliberations.

The 197a plan should be restored because its current modified form was only created at the behest of City Planning. The original contains a long list of buildings to be researched further for possible landmarking. At a bare minimum the 197c plan should only be approved if modified so that Prentis Hall, the Studebaker Building and the Sheffield Farms Stable are landmarked.

The Manhattanville Preservation Alliance is a neighborhood-based organization that seeks to identify, document, and designate historic structures in west Harlem. Manhattanville is undergoing major changes that will dramatically change the face of the neighborhood for those of us who live, work, and own businesses here. Our aim is to ensure that vital connections to the past are retained, through the preservation, re-use, and rehabilitation of the historic buildings that define the character of our neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 7:37 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere101.gif not another freaking blog, where will we end up?
All two friends wanted was to get a freakin' drink in a neighborhood bar before catching a movie; instead, their quest leads them through a section of Manhattan notorious for the lack of nightlife, and ends with some musings on Ratnerville.

The Gowanus Lounge, Offensive Atlantic Yards Hoax Site Makes the Rounds
GoLo lets its readers in on the incredibly offensive Atlantic Yards web hoax that was sent to just about every local news outlet.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 PM

Arena in 2011? New construction schedule suggests that's the soonest

Atlantic Yards Report

Mining the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update for clues, Norman Oder figures out that the recent admission by Forest City Ratner that the arena won't be ready until the 2010-2011 NBA season still does not conform to the previously released schedule of construction, unless the developer is hell bent on closing two bridges at once or opening the arena before reopening the Sixth Avenue bridge.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge would take two years to reconstruct and, after that, the Sixth Avenue Bridge would take one year, according to the ESDC's Final Environmental Impact Statement. (This assumes that pending lawsuits don't delay things further.)

There's no way to close both bridges at the same time without creating ruinous traffic jams. Could the arena open with the Sixth Avenue bridge still under reconstruction? ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter said last month, "Forest City Ratner tells us that while the arena might be able to open without the bridge in operation, the goal is to have the bridge open in coordination with the arena's opening."

Well, the arena could open, but it would be a very ugly situation.

Norman Oder reviews the potential scenarios.


Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

December 17, 2007


Weeks beginning December 17, 2007 and December 24, 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.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us.

Atlantic Yards Demolition Hot Spots

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Mid-block Support of Excavation (SOE) piles: testing in progress; installing tie backs.
  • 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 drilling Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Continue construction and debris removal.
  • DOT light poles have been removed on north side Pacific Street, block 1121; temporary lighting is installed.


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 complete at 465 Dean Street (block 1127, lot 54). Clean up will be completed within this 2 week period.
  • Demolition is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue for the next two–three months.

Utility Work

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

Transportation Update

  • The B65 bus stop on Dean Street at the east side of Flatbush Avenue has been temporarily relocated further east on Dean Street between Carlton and 6th Avenues to accommodate utility work described above.
  • It is expected that early in 2008, the Carlton Avenue Bridge will be closed. In accordance with DOT requirements, the public will be notified two weeks in advance.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 PM

Cable Outage, a Minor Atlantic Yards Impact

TC-CableGuy.jpg Our footprint correspondent writes:

the city crew digging up dean street cut the cable connection for a 4 block area.

luckily time warner was on the scene and had to do a temporary fix, but will have to dig up the street again, later, to permanently fix, because of this "dumb" (cable worker's word) mistake by the city and/or FCR's contractor.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 PM

Forest City Ratner Satirized With Mystery Online Hoax

Racist Imagery Used in Short-Lived Web Site

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

A hoax e-mail purporting to be from Forest City Ratner was making the rounds of the city’s media Monday morning, announcing a new “online park system to serve the young adults of the neighborhoods of Gowanus, Crown Heights and Park Slope.”

The e-mail, which appears to satirize the “conversion of 6 acres of park space” in the Atlantic Yards footprint to “needed office space,” also referenced a Web site, www.atlanticyardspark.com. The site was registered to “Alan Smithee,” which, according to Wikipedia, is a common pseudonym for film directors who want their work to be anonymous. In any case, the site was off the Web by early Monday afternoon.

The bogus “online park system” consists of three mock video games, which are described in what can only be called racist terms. For example, one game, “CrackDown,” allows player “to avoid the local drug dealers, their clients and prostitutes while walking to the neighborhood bodega.” Another, “Our Welfare,” teaches young girls “how to deal with their pregnancies and negotiate the welfare and child services system in New York they will be involved in.”

A Ratner spokesman claims that the site had no connection to Forest City, DDDB spokesperson Dan Goldstein got a look after the site had been sent to several journalists, Jim Vogel notes that the hoaxster has way too much time on his hands, City Councilwoman Letitia James exclaimed "that's terrible" after being told of some of the ethnic stereotypes, and a local attorney explains, "This is a First Amendment issue – people can say this is a parody."


NoLandGrab: In all honesty, the parody site couldn't have been more offensive if Imus had written it himself.

We checked it out and, because we deemed the content to be controversial, snapped several screen shots of the site before the site disappeared.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 PM

Atlantic Yards: The Game Show

The Real Estate Observer

It makes sense that a movement that has focused as much on minute details, uncovered documents, and meticulously analyzed data as the opposition to Atlantic Yards has should find its highest expression in a trivia night. But here it is: the Develop Don’t Destroy edition of Trivial Pursuit, to take place Thursday, Jan. 17, at Rocky Sullivan’s pub in Red Hook.

Click here for sample questions and the odds on the Mad Overkiller.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 PM

"Not the crime but the cover-up": Why the arena security issue is (sort of) like Watergate

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains that it's hard to believe the Empire State Development Corporation and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner's security assurances, when they are acting so cagey. But what could the State's quasi governmental corporation and the mega developer be hiding, and so what?

One of the cliches that emerged from the Watergate investigation was "it´s not the crime, it´s the cover-up," a reference to how a third-rate burglary unraveled the presidential administration.

That's a useful, though inexact, way to look at the still-simmering issue of Atlantic Yards arena security. No, there's no crime. But there was something of a cover-up, and the city and state agencies overseeing the issue, as well as Forest City Ratner, have not been sufficiently forthcoming.

That's not to say that the belatedly released information that the Atlantic Yards arena would be (in part) as close to the street as the new Prudential Center in Newark will unravel the project. Or that Forest City Ratner is not taking security seriously. The city has vouched for FCR's preparations, but it's unclear whether the state has done much review.

However, the pattern of behavior by the latter three entities doesn´t inspire much confidence. Rather than answer the basic question--how far would the arena be from the street?--the developer and state stonewalled for weeks.

And that unwillingness to come clean means that, whatever the further explanations, more scrutiny is needed.

According to Oder, a recent statement by the ESDC suggests four possible scenarios:

  • street closures are on the table, despite denials
  • the Brooklyn arena, despite the presence of copious glass, is designed to a greater level of security than the Newark arena
  • the Brooklyn arena is being redesigned
  • New York officials genuinely believe Newark overreacted but are too diplomatic to say so.

Any of these scenarios deserves greater scrutiny from the outside, even if some of the details may not be subject to public disclosure,


Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Top Stories of 2007

Gotham Gazette
By Gail Robinson

Atlantic Yards ranked as one of the top stories in NYC in 2007, along with other mega-developments:

Despite Economic Jitters, Development Continues:


With Wall Street going through what is at best a period of "volatility" and low-income New Yorkers losing their homes because mortgage foreclosures, development continues in New York. As the year drew to an end, the Bloomberg administration announced its latest plan to develop Coney Island, the Atlantic Yards project wound its way through the courts, and Columbia's plans to dramatically expand its campus into West Harlem moved along the approval process.


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Dean St. Construction

TC-DeanWaterMain.gif From the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool:"

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

work on the water main in progress on Dean Street near 6th Avenue in anticipation of Atlantic Yards.

Freddy's Bar, as well as every other building on this block would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM


[Press release]

Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker

BWM-bg.jpg Featuring essays by:
Emily Barton, Susan Choi, Rachel Cline, Philip Dray, Jennifer Egan, Colin Harrison, Joanna Hershon, Jonathan Lethem, Dinaw Mengestu, Elizabeth Gaffney, Lara Vapnyar, Lawrence Osborne, Katie Roiphe, John Burnham Schwartz, Vijay Seshadri, Darcey Steinke, Darin Strauss, Alexandra Styron, and Robert Sullivan. With an introduction by Phillip Lopate.

The authors and editors are generously donating the proceeds of Brooklyn Was Mine to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. (http://www.dddb.net/php/aboutdddb.php)

A fertile ground that has nurtured literature and authors for over a century, Brooklyn has given readers some of America’s greatest literary voices, including Walt Whitman, Thomas Wolfe, and Henry Miller, and now this legendary borough is home to a new generation of novelists, memoirists, poets and journalists. This new gathering of authors represents a diversity of voices that have collectively attracted outstanding critical and national attention for their work Brooklyn continues to be synonymous with artistic expression and inspiration. It has become what Greenwich Village was for an earlier generation, a wellspring of artistic expression.

Now BROOKLYN WAS MINE (Riverhead Trade Paperback Original; January 2, 2008; $15) edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker, an anthology of original nonfiction essays about Brooklyn, affirms this notable trend in American literary life and gives celebrated writers an opportunity to pay tribute to the borough they love.

In “Reading Lucy,” Jennifer Egan introduces readers to Lucy––a woman who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II and wrote almost daily letters to her husband overseas. In “A Coney Island of the Mind,” Katie Roiphe remembers the thrill of riding the famous Cyclone rollercoaster while on a date with her future husband. Colin Harrison’s “Diamonds” details Brooklyn’s, and his own, ongoing love affair with baseball. And John Burnham Schwartz writes about the changing face of the borough his father left––only to return when his son took up residence there in “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

With humor and insight these essays draw on the past and present to create a compelling collection––one that is as brilliant and diverse as the borough that inspired it.

About the Editors:
Chris Knutsen is a senior editor at Vogue. Formerly he worked as an editor at GQ, The New Yorker, and Riverhead Books. He is the co-editor of the literary anthology Committed: Men Tell Stories of Love, Commitment, and Marriage. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

Valerie Steiker is the author of a memoir, The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story, and a senior editor at Vogue. She previously worked at Artforum and The New Yorker. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker
Riverhead Trade Paperback Original; January 2, 2008
978-1-59448-282-3; $15.00

Two Brooklyn Was Mine book readings are currently scheduled in Brooklyn:

JANUARY 9, 7:30 PM
Park Slope Barnes and Noble (267 7th Avenue at 6th Street)
Jennifer Egan
Susan Choi
Darin Strauss

JANUARY 15, 7:00 PM
BookCourt (163 Court Street near Pacific Street)
Emily Barton
Darcey Steinke
Alexandra Styron

Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children’s trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Berkley Books, Dutton, Frederick Warne, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Grosset & Dunlap, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Riverhead Books and Viking, among others. The Penguin Group is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere100.gif Gothamist, Jay-Z Raps With Charlie Rose

Jay-Z is very enthusiastic about the potential of the team and the virtues of the borough, as he prefaces every statement about Brooklyn with the words "we" and "ours." It is unintentionally comedic then when Rose immediately follows up with the question "And where do you live now?" The answer is a terse "In Manhattan, uh."

brooklyn junction, From NIMBY to NIOBY to NIABY in Brooklyn

Does the specter of Atlantic Yards have the potential to turn NIMBYism into something new?
At some point, when the collective sentiment of NIMBY gets strong enough in an area against a particular project, perhaps it deserves a different name: how about NIOBY, Not In Our Back Yard.

But what if the specter of one uber-development put a scare into folks across neighborhoods and across personalized interests to engender a collective movement against development of that sort in Anyone's neighborhood, we would need yet a third term, NIABY: Not In Anyone's Back Yard.

The Knickerblogger, Doctroff Disaster....Let the Buck Passing Begin

why all this jockeying? Why does the ESDC (while vigorously defending the project in court) throw up their hands and say that horse has left the barn? Because Politicians are probably keenly aware if built, Atlantic Yards will be a financial, aesthetic and possibly terrorist disaster (the WTC and the notorious Pruitt-Igoe Project all in one!) No one wants to be associated with it - and ground hasn't even broken yet. What does that tell you?

OnNYTurf, Doctoroff Now Says Atlantic Yards Should Have Gone Through ULURP

In light of the Mayor's staunch defense of Mr. Ranter, and Dan's prominent roll in removing Atlantic Yards from the ULURP process its hard not to look on his remarks today with cynicism, that they not just more revisionism meant to remake his image of neighborhood steamroller.

Pardon Me for Asking, "Trash Begets Trash": The Effect Of Ratner Architecture In Brooklyn
Katia Kelly gives a nod to Steven Hart's commentary on Ratner and Gehry's Atlantic Yards plan:

Fellow Blogger Steven , a.k.a. Cervo, at "Views From The Bridge", doesn't post often on his site, but when he does, his every word is an echo of what many of my Brooklyn friends are thinking and feeling. His latest post, which I have added below is a wonderfully written piece on how thoughtless, out-of context architecture damages the feel and the humanity of a place.

I agree with him totally.

Uncle Mike's Musings, Walter O'Malley Does NOT Belong In the Baseball Hall of Fame
Thanks to Bruce Ratner's PR machine and the media outlets that aim to serve, it's possible that there are more people who think that Atlantic Yards is located on the same site that Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark for the Dodgers, than there are people who know for a fact that Ratner already built a mall on the site coveted by O'Malley.

Here's another one:

It is true that Robert Moses, who controlled several agencies in the governments of the City of New York and the State of New York, prevented O'Malley from building his domed stadium in Downtown Brooklyn, the "Atlantic Yards" site on top of the old Long Island Rail Road Terminal, where Bruce Ratner now wants to build, among other things, an arena he can move the New Jersey Nets into. Moses did that damage and far more. He was scum.

Curbed.com, Wishing You and Yours a Happy 'Landgrabiversary'

December 10, 2003 doesn't carry quite the same instant recognition as, say, December 7, 1941, but for Atlantic Yards opponents who curse all things Bruce Ratner, the tenth of December (today!) is also a date that will live in infamy.

OnNYTurf, Times critic Ouroussoff offers starchitect defense, but what about public review?
We're not proud of the fact that this is actually a reblogging of our reblogging: Atlantic Yards Report, via NoLandGrab, via OnNYTurf.

A New York Times Week in Review lead article headlined Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles is summarized as "A big name on the blueprint doesn’t mean sellout at play. It may mean visionary at work."

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Forest City in the News

FCXmas.jpg Business Wire, Forest City Announces Promotions of Two Corporate Officers

From the Forest City Enterprises press release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that Linda M. Kane has been promoted to senior vice president, chief accounting and administrative officer, and Charles D. Obert has been promoted to vice president, corporate controller.

“These two outstanding individuals are key leaders in our accounting, compliance and administrative management efforts, and are representative of the depth and quality of talent in these vital areas,” said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. “It is a great pleasure to announce their promotions.”

Dallas Morning News, Plans for master-planned community in Prosper Advance

Forest City Enterprises said Friday that it's moving ahead with plans to develop a 2,100-acre master-planned community in Prosper.

As part of the deal, Forest City and the Mahard family – which owns the land – say they have reached an agreement with Prosper to annex the property at U.S. Highway 380 and FM423.
Plans for the project include neighborhoods of single-family homes, shopping centers, office space, parks and recreational facilities.
Forest City also has large community developments in Colorado and New Mexico. It is best-known in the Dallas area for its redevelopment of downtown's historic Mercantile National Bank tower.

NoLandGrab: Note that Forest City doesn't readily brag about its history of accomplishment in Brooklyn.

Contra Costa Times, Positive message a plus to community
A monument is going up in Fox Square:

The 25,000 square-foot park -- bordered by Telegraph, San Pablo, 19th Street and Williams -- is surrounded by mixed-use residential and retail space, with 665 residential units, currently under construction by Forest City Enterprises and MacFarlane Partners. Forest City is footing the bill for 24-hour security in the area. The long-closed Fox Theatre a block away is being renovated back to its art deco glory and will be downtown Oakland's second live theater, along with the Paramount. The 19th Street BART station is a block away from the monument park.

NoLandGrab: The monument is supposed to be a boost to the community, though the article doesn't mention what the monument depicts or commemorates.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Nets Hold Season Ticket Holder Town Hall Meeting

NetsTownHall.jpg NBA.com

We accidentally stumbled over this one we missed from last summer (and where was the mad-overkilling Norman Oder?). Particularly noteworthy is the title, "Town Hall Meeting" — another marketing device employed by Ratner taken from the world of politics.

June 25, 2007
East Rutherford, NJ- With just days to go before the NBA draft and the opening of free agency, the Nets held an exclusive season ticket holder town hall meeting to give their state of the team. Over 300 people were on hand to listen and pose questions to Principal Owner Bruce Ratner, CEO Brett Yormark, Head Coach Lawrence Frank, and Nets Captain Jason Kidd. President Rod Thorn – who was on the road watching the final draft workouts in preparation for Thursday’s draft - delivered a statement via video tape.

In line with their all-access philosophy, the Nets used this opportunity – during such a critical week – to actively keep season ticket holders aware of what is going on, now and in preparation for next season.
The prevailing message, however, was a simple one: the Nets are committed to winning now and devoted to making the fan experience the best in the league.


Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

December 16, 2007

TODAY: DDDB Holiday Party


Posted by amy at 10:37 AM

Times critic Ouroussoff offers starchitect defense, but what about public review?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times Week in Review lead article headlined Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles is summarized as "A big name on the blueprint doesn’t mean sellout at play. It may mean visionary at work."

Though Atlantic Yards is not mentioned, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff continues his implicit defense of AY architect Frank Gehry, declaring that 1) it's good that starchitects are working on major projects; 2) the architects have no power over a development's scale or density; and 3) it's up to the public to do the hard work to discern the difference between cynical and sincere agendas.

Those are not unreasonable arguments, but Ourousoff fails to acknowledge that starchitects, by virtue of their fame, may in fact have some power, and that the public's capacity for discernment is aided or hindered by the effort by the starchitect's clients to survive what he calls "an often tricky public review process."


Posted by amy at 10:30 AM

Hello Brooklyn: Jay-Z on the Nets, to two disparate audiences


Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn, of course, is a vague and malleable concept. Take for example Jay-Z's invocation of the borough in precincts uptown and downtown. Check out the November 9 conversation talk show host Charlie Rose had with, as he was billed, “rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z,” who, despite his storied days in the Marcy Projects, now lives in Manhattan. (Further below, Jay-Z's new "Hello Brooklyn" release.)
Here are some of the (unofficially transcribed) lyrics [Jay-Z's new "Hello Brooklyn" release]:
She like it hardcore, So I grind slow
Iller than Albee Square Mall back in the 9-0
My fine hoe we got some victims to catch
So in a couple years baby I'm a bring you some Nets.

NoLandGrab: Just don't look for the arena in the 0-9 cuz you'd still be kickin' it in Daniel Goldstein's apartment...

Posted by amy at 10:25 AM

Jane Jacobs exhibit extended through January 26


Atlantic Yards Report

The exhibit Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, originally scheduled to close on January 5, has been extended through January 26.

That gives New Yorkers more time to explore an important exhibit; while it occupies a modest amount of space, in two rooms at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Urban Center, it covers a lot of ground and offers many implications for the future.


Posted by amy at 10:22 AM


Puffin/Nation Prize


NoLandGrab: And what award does Michael Ratner get for investing in his brother's venture, the constitutionality of which is being contested as we speak?

Posted by amy at 10:13 AM

Incidents reason to give players, teams caution

The Morning Journal

The Nets acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that their arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn won't be ready until sometime in 2010.


Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

December 15, 2007


Views from the Bridge

Having sidestepped the public review process, Mr. Ratner now admits the new Gehry-designed Nets Arena will cause a glut of traffic at Atlantic and Flatbush. Grim news when you consider that the intersection is already impossible to pass through safely by car much less on foot. Way back in 2003, long before there was anything other than an arena in question, that was the initial objection posed by the people of downtown Brooklyn.

That problem was explained away by two mystifying diversions. The first fix was adding a dozen or so buildings that would make it all better in some vague way. Why? Because it would all be bigger (including the outrageous, ungoverned cost) and thus work better for some unexplained reason. The second fix was that the Ratner/Markowitz promised better routed and more frequent subway service to the Atlantic Avenue station. Fans, it was assumed, would prefer the subway at midnight to driving home in their own cars. The MTA has since explained that any such expansion of service is completely impossible.


Posted by amy at 9:54 AM

Goldman Sachs lowers rating on Forest City Enterprises, predicts arena construction within a year


Atlantic Yards Report

Three months after RBC Capital Markets analyst Rich Moore nudged Forest City Enterprises (FCE) down from "outperform"--meaning better than its peers in the real estate sector--to the middle ranking of "sector perform," so yesterday did Goldman Sachs lower its ranking from "Buy" to "Neutral," though the analysts did not predict any further delays in the Atlantic Yards project nor consider AY a factor.

When I wrote October 25 about RBC's move, I noted that RBC rather dramatically cut its price estimate for Forest City (parent of Forest City Ratner) from $80 to $54, and that the current price was about $56. Yesterday, Forest City shares closed at $45.53. Then again, as the Yahoo chart above shows, the stock has done very well over five years.


Posted by amy at 9:22 AM


For Immediate Release

“Future Perfect”, an interactive video that visualizes the architectural future of the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn is to be installed in a gallery in the shadow of the Atlantic Yards development.

“Future Perfect” will be displayed in the window of the Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street, Brooklyn. Whenever someone stands in front of the window, a strip of the architectural future is interactively revealed to them, and moves with them as they walk past.
The Soapbox Gallery is located at 636 Dean Street, on the very same block as part of the Atlantic Yards development.
“Future Perfect” will be displayed from Saturday December 15 to Saturday December 29.

Project website: www.futureperfectbrooklyn.com

Artist website: www.edpurver.com

Posted by amy at 9:16 AM

Downtown Arena Ideas

Edmonton Sun
Lucky Canada gets "American expert on new pro sports arenas," Mark Rosentraub, "a Cleveland State University professor and author of Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who’s Paying for It." Good luck, Edmonton!

Edmonton needn’t look any further than the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn to find inspiration for a new downtown rink project, he said.
“There’s no debate. Pro sports arenas benefit the team, their city and its citizens most when they are built like a shopping mall flagship store – as a real estate anchor that generates massive economic growth through new nearby developments,” Rosentraub said.

NoLandGrab: No debate at all. Just put on your happy faces and go home, people. The Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Holiday Party tomorrow is just a celebration of all things Atlantic Yards...

Posted by amy at 9:06 AM

December 14, 2007

Happy anniversary

The Brooklyn Paper

À la the time-traveling Norman Oder, The Brooklyn Paper digs out the press kit from the December 10, 2003 unveiling of Atlantic Yards to see whether, four years hence, the reality has lived up to the hype.

How 'bout that "lushly landscaped... rooftop public park?"


Posted by lumi at 3:32 PM

After AY announcement, Tish James begins to get her footing

Atlantic Yards Report continues to fill in the history of Bruce Ratner's controversial development plan:

On 12/12/03, the same day that Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner appeared on WNYC radio's Brian Lehrer Show, so too did City Council Member Letitia James, who ultimately emerged as the public official most strongly identified with the Atlantic Yards opposition.

In comparison to her current stand, the interview shows James (right) still working through her Atlantic Yards position, opposing the arena but not the office space and housing--the bulk of the project. And while she mentions eminent domain and emphasizes the specter of displacement, she only touches on perhaps the strongest argument against the project: the undemocratic process.


Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Doctoroff’s disaster

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

We always knew that the Atlantic Yards project would afford The Brooklyn Paper with many occasions over the next 30 years to say, “We told you so.”

We just didn’t expect to get them so soon.
There is no question that if Atlantic Yards had gone through ULURP [NYC's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure], many of the project’s worst excesses — its massive scale, its overly generous public subsidies, its use of eminent domain — would have been softened.


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and his political backers obviously felt that ULURP would have stood in the way of Ratner's primary goals — clearly, receiving comprehensive, meaningful input from the community wasn't one of them.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

Now he tells us! On the way out, Doctoroff admits Atlantic Yards process was flawed

cover-BP-0712.jpg The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

In an interview with the New York Observer, Doctoroff suggested that he was wrong to sign off on the state’s oversight of Bruce Ratner’s project — an agreement that allowed the state to supercede city zoning and get approval for the project without having to undergo the city’s far-more-rigorous Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure.

“I’m a huge believer in the ULURP process,” he told the Observer. “If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”

The comment sent shockwaves through the opposition to Atlantic Yards — especially since it was Doctoroff who signed the 2005 agreement between the city, state and Forest City Ratner that allowed the 16-skyscraper, basketball arena, housing, office space and hotel complex to skirt local oversight.

That deal ushered in a truncated review of the project that was orchestrated by state officials rather than analyzed by them, critics say.

City Councilwoman Letitia James says it's not too late:

“What does he mean, ‘If it happened again?’” James asked.

“It’s still happening. This is not a done deal. Dan Doctoroff is still in office and he should pick up the phone, call the governor and get this project reviewed again, this time through ULURP.”

Naturally, the usual suspects have no comment:

A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that sought the override of city zoning that Doctoroff now suggests should not have been done, said the agency would not have a comment on the deputy mayor’s change of heart.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner also did not care to comment.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

"Doing it for the kids"? Sports biz reporter, after AY announcement, dissects the rhetoric

Atlantic Yards Report

On 12/12/03, the same day that Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner appeared on WNYC radio's Brian Lehrer Show, so too did Matthew Futterman, sports business writer for the Star-Ledger of Newark, who made the necessary but obvious point that the developer's rhetoric about "doing this for the kids" or "for the community" shouldn't obscure the basic drive for profits.

MF: It was very funny. I mean, I like Bruce Ratner very much personally. He’s a very engaging person, he’s very enthusiastic, and I think he’s sincere, he has his heart in the right place, but it’s amazing how similar he sounds to the people who wanted to build the arena in Newark five years ago, in terms of, y’know, 'we’re doing this for the community, and we’re doing this for the kids, it’s important for them.'


NoLandGrab: Futterman made a good point — after all, what DOESN'T Bruce Ratner do for the kids?

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Marty's Atlantic Yards Promises in Retrospect

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn strolls down memory lane with Atlantic Yards Report and revists the things Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said about Atlantic Yards, long before we all knew better:

The BEEP's two big promises were that there would be no city subsidy for the project and that the community would be involved and their concerns would be resolved, both promises have been glaringly untrue.


NoLandGrab: It kinda makes you wonder, what did Marty know and when did he know it?

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Garden security has Brooklyn pols asking Yards questions

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Brooklyn Paper follows up on the issue of security concerns at Atlantic Yards:

State officials tried to defuse tension about security at Atlantic Yards, saying that the NYPD won’t need to close streets around the Nets arena because police don’t close roadways next to Madison Square Garden on game nights.

The only problem with the promise is that it’s not entirely true: the NYPD did shut a roadway used as a taxi stand and pedestrian walkway between the Garden and Penn Plaza after 9-11 for security reasons.

While it’s not exactly Eighth Avenue, that closure did raise some eyebrows.
Not only that, Brooklyn elected officials said that the comparison made by ESDC President Avi Schick between Madison Square Garden and the proposed Atlantic Yards arena is like comparing basketballs and hockey pucks because MSG is not glass-walled, does not sit in a residential neighborhood and is more than 20 feet from busy avenues as the Atlantic Yards arena will be.


NoLandGrab: Local elected officals appear to be very serious about lingering security issues; meanwhile, the Empire State Development Corporation doesn't.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

V3 Hotels Breaks Ground for New Hotel Indigo in Downtown Brooklyn

Business Wire

A press release for a new hotel in Downtown Brooklyn mentions Atlantic Yards, which isn't (in Downtown Brooklyn, that is):

The hotel, which will feature high-end, amenity rich rooms, supplemented by more than 15,000 square feet of retail space, is one of the crown jewels in the booming building efforts underway in the Downtown Brooklyn area, which includes the New Fulton Mall and the Atlantic Yards projects, as well as a host of new construction and development in the residential, commercial and retail sectors.


NoLandGrab: For the record (and like the godzillionth time), Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan is in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

This hotel, at 237 Duffield Street, is on the same block as the Duffield St. homes which have been under threat of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

Doctoroff’s Legacy: Pretty Impressive

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

Finally, we've stumbled over an opinion piece extolling the virtues of outgoing Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff:

There are at least four major developments that bear Doctoroff’s fingerprints, including one that was on its way when he joined City Hall — Brooklyn Bridge Park. For some time now, his every major speech refers to the park early in his remarks. It is clearly the centerpiece of the overall plan for waterfront development. Doctoroff gave strong support for the rezoning of Greenpoint-Williamsburg and he also mentions that all the time.

He goaded everyone about the rezoning of downtown Brooklyn, and the press, led by our newspapers, have been recording this rather amazing flowering with consistency. No one can ever say this building or that one is Dan’s building, but it would not be using hyperbole to sweep one’s arm over all the new downtown Brooklyn and credit him for all of it.

And he is a strong supporter of Atlantic Yards, recognizing that underused space of this size, sitting where it is, cannot be left idle at this time in the city’s history. Although it didn’t start out this way, Atlantic Yards remains the largest single development for affordable housing in the city and will probably hold on to that claim for some time.

All these projects, including the much larger and more entangled ones in Manhattan, will get finished and they will look pretty much like what the published designs show them to be.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

A Mural of Déjà Vu

JuskaMural-BR.jpg Brooklyn Rail
By Shell Fischer

A mural by artist Kenan Juska is on display at Flatbush and 7th Ave, depicting life pre-cellphones and "before Bruce Ratner decided to pursue his Atlantic Yards project."


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

And the Doctor is Off! (A Wrap Up)

The Wonkster's wrap-up of reaction to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's departure begins with NYC bloggers, none of whom had anything positive to say about the City Planning Czar, unless you include the fact that Deputy Dan finally admitted that Atlantic Yards should have gone through ULURP:

Reaction from bloggers has been decidedly unfavorable for Bloomberg’s right hand man. OnNYTurf says “good riddance,” and Queens Crap thinks it is a “truly great day for the City of New York.” The Neighborhood Retail Alliance is also happy to see him go, and criticizes his “disdain for the small and minority businesses” also calling into question his relationship with the Related Companies, a major developer. And after Doctoroff’s revelation to The Real Estate that he thinks maybe the Atlantic Yards project should have gone through the city’s land use process, the Atlantic Yards Report, dedicated to “watchdogging” the project, simply says he’s finally “admitted” the fact.


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: December 11, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who will be stepping down at the end of the month, told The New York Observer, “If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the [city land use review process], I would say yes.” Instead, in a move he signed off on, the project went through the Empire State Development Corporation, bypassing review by a legislative body (although the governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader did get a vote).


Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

Forest City in the News

Washington Business Journal, Developers sketch out competing plans for Poplar Point

Jay-Z, Google, a charter school and other attractions were dangled before residents of D.C.'s Ward 8 by four groups vying to develop 130 acres of riverfront property on Poplar Point.

Not surprisingly, Forest City is basically willing to say anything people want to hear in order to land this deal:

Forest City, which is developing The Yards near the Nationals ballpark, said it is in learning more from the community before making firm plans. "This will be what you want it to be," said Alex Nyhan, Forest City development manager and a former official with the deputy mayor's office. The company proposed a set of neighborhoods and parks with street-level retail, a 50,000 square foot floating ampitheater and more housing than the other teams: 4.084 units, including 3 million square feet of condominiums. Nyhan said the Forest City team is seeking 25 percent ownership by companies designated as "local, small, disadvantaged business enterprises."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Discounted loan repayment is hot potato for City Council's Sweeney

[Cleveland Mayor Frank] Jackson has decided to ask developers to pay off millions of dollars in city loans early at a discount, to provide the city with money needed for new city building projects or renovations.

Such discounted repayments in the past have been controversial because they appeared to let developers off the hook for the amounts they borrowed even though the repayments are made at fair market rates.
At the time, Mayor Michael R. White wanted the council to accept a bid from a partnership controlled by Forest City Enterprises to pay off a $9.2 million no-interest loan with an early payment of $3.9 million.

Forest City received the money through the now-defunct federal Urban Development Action Grant program to renovate the old Post Office headquarters on West Prospect Avenue downtown.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

Radio reaction

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

I recently heard your editor on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show and want to thank him for stating the community’s concerns about Atlantic Yards in a balanced way and for putting the security issue in context.

Opponents’ supposedly “unreasonable” concerns turned real in Newark, where, two weeks before that city’s hockey arena opened, people were informed that two local streets would have to be closed every home game.

It’s no wonder Brooklynites fear that two weeks before our basketball arena opens, the NYPD will announce that there will be lanes closings on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, or rerouted traffic, or vehicle inspections.

Given the size and location of Atlantic Yards, any one of these actions would cause incalculable harm to Brooklyn’s economy, traffic movement, air quality and public health by gridlocking the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth avenues. The effects would extend far beyond the area studied in the state’s narrowly focused environmental study.

The only thing that’s unreasonable is to pretend there is no problem.

Alan Rosner, Prospect Heights

Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Columbia talks property swap

By Amy Zimmer

Tuck-It-Away Self Storage owner Nick Sprayregen, one of the chief foes of Columbia’s West Harlem expansion plan, met university officials Thursday to discuss what’s become known as the “Sprayregen swap.”
He would like to exchange three properties he owns west of Broadway that are in the heart of Columbia’s 17-acre proposed campus for two buildings the university owns east of Broadway, where Sprayregen also owns two sites.
Though the university has pledged not to have the state invoke eminent domain for residential tenants, it is still on the table for three remaining property owners including Sprayregen. The swap would save Columbia a long and costly legal battle, Sprayregen said.


Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed.com, Hey, Hudson Yards: The High Line is Watching You
Advocates for the High Line, have "launched the Rail Yards Blog to cover all things Hudson-related and to keep a close eye on the proceedings. It's kind of like another big urban planning blog, Atlantic Yards Report, except not nearly as critical. Until they get fucked, that is."

Norman "oderizes" Curbed.com on Atlantic Yards Report (AYR) by explaining that Rail Yards Blog (RYB) hues more closely to NoLandGrab (NLG) and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) web site. Also, the AYR and NLG are fully supported by its own contributors (sad, but true) and DDDB's funding primarily goes to legal fees, while RYB receives foundation support.

The Gowanus Lounge, GL Analysis: What is a Fair Price for History?

The report that was delivered to a public meeting about Officer's Row at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday night said that the buildings can be saved and put the cost at about $20 million. In a city where the cost of projects now reach into the billions of dollars and public subsidies to corporations and developers run into the hundreds of millions, it is rather hard to keep a straight face when public officials protest that $20 million is simply too much money.
Frankly, $20 million is a tiny sum for a city willing to put out hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize Atlantic Yards.

The Real Estate Observer, Atlantic Yards Blogs Ask: Will Amanda Burden Eat Crow Next?

Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report blog... faults the Times for greeting Forest City Ratner's admission as news when the project's start-date has "been in jeopardy for a long time."

The blog questions whether Amanda Burden, chair of the city Planning Commission and a staunch defender of Atlantic Yards, would follow Mr. Doctoroff's mea culpa with one of her own and admit the project "could have been handled better."

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, PARK SLOPE 100: 100 STORIES OF PARK SLOPE

ISABEL HILL because you got it all on film and made everyone see how much the future of Brooklyn matters.

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Atlantic Yards Memories

Go back four years in the Atlantic Yards time machine, to a time when Borough President Marty Markowitz said the city had "no money to provide" to the big project and said that neighborhood opponents would "be involved."--Atlantic Yards Report

Posted by lumi at 3:40 AM

December 13, 2007

Marty, after the AY announcement: "this city has no money, no money to provide"


Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his series marking the fourth anniversary of the public announcement of Atlantic Yards. Today, there's a look back at a December 11, 2003 appearance by Brookyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, on the Brian Lehrer Show.

Markowitz has been a booster for Atlantic Yards from the day it was announced. In the course of his interview, he puts forth some statements that turn out to be real whoppers, especially in retrospect.

There's a promise, unfulfilled to this day, to involve the community:

...First off, to involve the community, from the get-go, understand number one, that this is not a done deal. To involve the community and get them involved initially, in the planning, when it was far from anywhere completed… I have a pledge, that I’ve made to the residents of that neighborhood, as well as to Bruce Ratner, that is, that my office, me personally, will be coordinating the efforts, through a task force with our community to make sure that their concerns to the fullest degree possible are resolved. But let me tell you the truth, Brian...

Markowitz was making a legitimate point, that it might have been hard to involve the community at that point. Four years later, however, there's a consensus that the community wasn't consulted.

Marty also claims that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will not commit any city funds to the Atlantic Yards Project:

I’m not a finance expert. He made it clear, over and over again, the mayor, this city has no money, no money to provide in any way at all. This is all incremental funds. I have to tell you that...

So far, the city has pledged $205 million and the state $100 million for the project.


Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

Ward Bread Bakery Building demolition continues

From the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.
Photo by Tracy Collins


546-550 Vanderbilt Avenue at Dean Street
(aka 647-669 Dean Street)
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

currently being demolished for Atlantic Yards.

the "HOT BIRD" building, at 540 Vanderbilt Avenue is the wall on the right. it, too, would be demolished for Atlantic Yards, but is still currently occupied.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Reporting live from Development Hell

NY Press featured Deputy Dan, the overlord of Development Hell NYC, on this week's cover, accompanied by a couple articles, both of which mention Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Dan Doctoroff exits as the city’s controversial planning czar, and talks with ANDREW J. HAWKINS about his legacy

And the Atlantic Yards project, controversial in its use of eminent domain, will produce a staggering 16 new Frank Gehry buildings and an 18,000-seat basketball arena.

One criticism of Lower Manhattan could certainly apply to Atlantic Yards:

But Doctoroff’s critics—and there are many—blame him for mismanagement, and fault the Bloomberg administration for ceding too much of the control over the area to Gov. Pataki (R).

Regarding displacement, Doctoroff also counters critics by using the Robert Moses-lite defense:

One statistic he is fond of quoting: 200,000 people were relocated by Moses, while only 400 residents and 700 businesses will have been relocated by Doctoroff.

NoLandGrab: Local vicitms of eminent domain will be cheered by the notion that they aren't being displaced by the worst abuser in NYC history. :-)

Reporter Matt Chaban listened in on the Municipal Art Society's panel discussion covering the question "Has New York lost is soul?,” looking for clues of Deputy Mayor Doctoroff's influence:

While Atlantic Yards may have been largely under the purview of the state, [Ron] Schiffman [sic] believes the city was too complicit.

“He did not go to the badly designed projects like Atlantic Yards and Willets Point and press for change,” Schiffman [sic] said, a refrain that also echoes around Ground Zero, which languished for years while Doctoroff focused on the West Side.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

To re-sign or not, Bruce's dilemma

Bruce Ratner loves Jason Kidd, but is it worth the price of putting off rebuilding the team for another couple of years?

For you sports fans who are tracking Bruce Ratner's turn at the helm of the NJ Nets, his latest quandary seems to be whether or not to re-sign the aging Jason Kidd.

Sportswriter Mike Kahn explains at FOXSports.com:

As seems to be the case every 4-5 years, the passive-aggressive personality of Jason Kidd causes this future Hall of Famer to be halfway out the door. It happened in Dallas where he was drafted, then in Phoenix and now in New Jersey. The problem is Nets owner Bruce Ratner reportedly wants to keep him, but when the 34-year-old Kidd’s request for an extension past his 37th birthday was rejected, he began rumors that he wanted to play with James in Cleveland, similar to last year with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. Heck, there’s even a buzz that he wouldn’t mind returning to Dallas if they’d have him. It all depends on whether or not Nets president Rod Thorn can talk Ratner into blowing up the roster. After all, New Jersey's not going anywhere with the high-priced trio of Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson – so why not see what he can get in return to build around a decent (if very young) crop of players.

NoLandGrab: The opening of the planned arena in Brooklyn has been put off another year — does the sound of millions of dollars being sucked down the drain have any bearing on Bruce's decision, or just add to the pain?

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Poll results for the New Domino poll don't add much insight, but still deserve scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

Reversing course, the developers of the proposed New Domino development in Williamsburg have released the poll (right; click to enlarge) on which they based some recent newspaper advertisements.

(I wrote Nov. 15 about managing partner CPC Resources' unwillingness to release the poll results; to its credit, CPC Resources did provide the results on Nov. 28.)

There's not much new, however. The questions and answers don't add to the unsurprising conclusion that residents in the area around the proposed New Domino site would accept increased density for increased affordable housing.

One thing the poll does prove is that, like Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, CPC Resources hired a "heavyweight consulting firm" to help "shape public opinion."


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

For readers who are following the Columbia University land grab in West Harlem, here are links to the coverage of yesterday's hearing at City Hall:

The NY Sun, Columbia Says Eminent Domain Would Not Affect Housing
Seeking to defuse outrage over the threatened use of eminent domain in its planned Harlem expansion, the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, and Vice President Robert Kasdin say they would not use the procedure to acquire residential property.
Local community board residents and members of the City Council, however, are insisting that the option be taken off the table entirely, including its possible use against commercial landowners.
amNY, Columbia expansion opposed in heated hearing
Opponents and backers of Columbia's planned expansion into Manhattanville took their fight to City Hall Wednesday in a packed and tense public hearing. "We will be here for as long as it takes," said Tony Avella, chair of the City Council's Zoning Committee, told the hundreds of people who filled the gallery for the mid-day session that stretched on for more than six hours of testimony from both sides of the battles.
"This is the people's house. We will make sure everybody has a right to be heard," Avella said.
The Real Estate Observer, Columbia, Sprayregen Renew Talks
“I want to keep my properties where they are,” Mr. Sprayregen told The Observer today outside of a City Council public hearing on the expansion. “Failing that, I would entertain a swap of a few properties across the street so that I can remain in the community. But besides that, unless they want to first take eminent domain off the table or are forced to, I do not want to negotiate my removal.”

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

City Living: Yonkers

Bruce Ratner's other controversial megaproject, Ridge Hill, makes "THE BUZZ" in a multi-page article about Yonkers in today's amNY:

One big controversy in Yonkers at the moment is the Ridge Hill development, which is being built near the Greenburgh border, between the Sprain Brook Parkway and the New York State Thruway. The developer is Forest City Ratner, the company behind the contentious Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner broke ground on Nov. 28 at the 81.4-acre Ridge Hill site, which will includes 1,000 apartments, a Whole Foods, a Banana Republic and an L.L. Bean, among other retail stores, entertainment facilities and restaurants. Some Yonkers residents think it'll bring sorely needed jobs and draw more visitors to the area, but it has faced strong opposition, particularly from neighbors worried about traffic congestion and small businesses worried about survival.

NoLandGrab: As part of our continuous examination of adjectives used by others to describe our favorite megaproject, note that amNY called it "the contentious Atlantic Yards project."

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere99.jpgHere's what they're saying:

Curbed, Columbia Manhattanville Plan Discussion Shifting to Eminent Domain?
As eminent domain emerges as the hot-button issue in the Columbia University expansion, Curbed dubs Atlantic Yards the "Mother of All New York City Eminent Domain Battles."

Gothamist, Nets Brooklyn Arena Delayed Until 2010
A wrap-up of Atlantic Yards news includes the admissions that the arena opening has been delayed another year, parts of the arena are only 20 ft. from the main avenues and that if Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff could do it again, he would recommend that the project go through the City's land-use review process, not the State's.

NoLandGrab: It really isn't too late for Bruce Ratner to admit that Atlantic Yards is a pretty serious mistake on his part — at least it would unburden his soul.

Brownstoner, Not Too Late For AY to Go Through ULURP?
Brooklyn's top real estate blog likes the idea of Atlantic Yards going through the local land-use process, even though it has already been approved through the State process:

Better late than never for Brooklyn’s largest development, a project that is going to receive substantial public financing and forever alter the borough.

The Real Deal, Nets plan for AY arena delay
The "industry" blog shares with their readers news that the opening of the Nets arena in Brooklyn has been delayed another year.

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Nets Say 2010 Looking Good
GoLo called the admission "that the Atlantic Yards arena won't be ready for the 2009-2010 season," yesterday's "'no kidding' moment."

Q: Was the pun intended?

And now OTBKB readers know that Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff admits that NIMBY complainers in Brooklyn were right about how Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject should have gone through the City's land use review process (ULURP).

Sustainable Flatbush, TONIGHT: Imagine Flatbush 2030
The "Atlantic Yards fiasco" is included in some thoughts in the run-up to yesterday's "Imagine Flatbush 2030" presentation:

While these questions do not present any simple answers, getting community stakeholders involved in the process is a crucial step. It is no understatement to say that the ongoing Atlantic Yards fiasco has struck fear into all of Brooklyn (and beyond): no one wants to see a big developer given free rein to bring a massive project into their neighborhood with no public involvement, gravely flawed government oversight, and flagrant abuse of eminent domain that takes longtime resident’s homes and small businesses from them.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

Forest City in the News

Forest City Enterprises is in the running for a second project in DC:

Washington Post, Plans for Transformation Include Mixing Parkland With Community

nbc4.com, Fenty To Unveil Final Four Proposals To Develop Poplar Point

Taking a page from the Bruce Ratner playbook, Forest City Enterprises has a list of community benefits that sound familiar.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

December 12, 2007

Ratner, 2003: "I have never, ever seen a project get less protest than this"

Atlantic Yards Report

In another must-read, the time-traveling Norman Oder transports himself back to December, 2003, to "Oderize" Bruce Ratner's spin-o-rama appearance on the Brian Lehrer Show.

Bruce Ratner: If you look at the area, it’s zoned industrial, right in the middle of neighborhoods, and it looks godawful. It’s got train tracks, it’s got industrial buildings, and it’s extremely unattractive, it’s like a scar in the middle of two neighborhoods. I’ve heard it described as a ditch.

Note that Ratner seems to be using the 8.5-acre railyard for the project site as a whole, and leaves out the city streets and city property he needs. Also note that parent Forest City Enterprises, in cities like Richmond, VA, has restored industrial properties.

Lehrer interrupted.

Brian Lehrer: Certainly the residents who were howling yesterday… don’t feel like they live on a scar or ditch, they feel like it’s their home, they feel like it’s a nice... accessible place from Manhattan that’s still a refuge from Manhattan which it wouldn’t be…so do you want to stand by those words, scar and ditch?

BR: Yes, I do, because you know what, the thing is Brian, I don’t know if you were at the press conference there are about 15-20 people, that’s all, in a borough of 2.5 million, the same 15-20 people, who live—I respect it, I really do, they live in an adjoining neighborhood. You have to really—y’know, it’s important for news of course, to listen to all sides, you can’t let 15-20 or people decide something like this. The UN had protesters, Rockefellers Center had protesters. So you have to really look at it I have never, ever--I’ve done a lot of projects, I have never, ever seen a project get less protest than this. Here you have a major project, you have 25 news people at a press conference, and there are about 15 people with homemade signs out in front, in a borough of two and a half million people, at a press conference. (Emphasis added)

Ratner's assessment of community opposition was about as accurate as his prediction of a 2006 debut for the Brooklyn Nets. The same goes for his description of the project footprint:

BL: Does the city have to approve the project, are there hurdles yet?

BR: It’s on state land, being the Long Island Rail Road,, so it’s a state process, and yes, there’s a whole approval process, the state.

No, less than 40 percent of the site is state land, so the state process was not required. After all, the West Side yards project in Manhattan is going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.

Click on the link below for the rest of Oder's deconstruction of the interview, including Bruce's boast that "our company brought the concept of big boxes to the borough" (a claim conveniently ignored by Ratner henchman Richard Lipsky when he cashes his FCRC paycheck) and his creative defense of MetroTech.


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

After Doctoroff admits AY should've gone through ULURP, will Bloomy, Burden follow?

Atlantic Yards Report

On his way out, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctroff declares that the Atlantic Yards project should have gone through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure).

“I am a huge believer in the ULURP process. I think it makes sense. It allows the issues to be aired in an appropriate way. If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”

Now that the second-most powerful figure in city government admits Atlantic Yards could've been handled better, will his boss, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and would his colleague and ostensible subordinate, Amanda Burden, chairperson of the New York City Planning Commission, do the same?


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

Wait Until 2010, Nets Say of New Brooklyn Arena

The NY Times

Lookie who just caught on — we know that we spend way too much time bashing the Times, but this isn't exactly breaking news:

The Nets, who had hoped to move into a new arena near downtown Brooklyn in time for the 2009-10 season, have acknowledged that construction will not be finished until sometime in 2010.


NoLandGrab stumbled over the "soft release" of this news on November 1, when the new projected date for the Nets arena was quietly reported in the Star-Ledger, the NY Post and AP (via amNY).

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has been covering the improbability of a 2009 opening going back to May, 2007 (see, here, here, here, here, here).

Now that it's yesterday's news and Forest City Ratner feels like it's safe to come clean, the Times gets an exclusive?

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

New York Knicks, Owner Dolan Need Emoticon Help:


Hey, a story in which Bruce Ratner isn't being cited as the posterchild of overdevelopment, eminent domain abuse or big-city bullying.

emoticons.gifToday, sports columnist Scott Soshnick suggests that Knicks owner James Dolan try to act more happy, you know, like the Brucester.

And all the while Dolan wears the same expression. It looks something like this: :(

Just typing that makes me wonder: Does Dolan even know what an emoticon is?
I've walked alongside New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner when, during halftime of a playoff game, he made sure to shake hands with his best customers.


Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

Doctoroff Says Community is Right: Atlantic Yards Should Have Gone Through ULURP

Project Has Not Started Construction, Mayor Bloomberg Can Still Follow Doctoroff's Advice

Yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn issued a press release calling on Mayor Bloomberg to "send the development of the Vanderbilt Yards through ULURP."

"It's notable that Doctoroff says ‘if it happened again…I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process,' because it can happened again. As the project has not begun construction—and can't http://dddb.net/php/status.phpwhile it faces two court challenges—Mayor Bloomberg can get it right and send the development of the Vanderbilt Yards through ULURP; it's what his soon-to-be former, highly praised and trusted right hand man thinks is appropriate."

NoLandGrab: Mayor Bloomberg can't "send" the project back to NYC's land use review process (ULURP), because, by law, the State of NY can supercede the jurisdiction of any municipality. What the Mayor failed to do was to use his bully pulpit, from the beginning, to pressure developer Bruce Ratner and the State to allow the project to go through the local review process.

The notion of the project reversing course and going through ULURP is silly, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

The essential value of Doctoroff's comments to The NY Observer is that it proves that those who have called on the project to go through ULURP, so that our local elected legislators could (we hope) have some input into the project, were, in the end, right, and now everyone knows it.

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Columbia Wants To Grow

Black Star News, Editorial

Subject to the outcome of the negotiations for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), The Black Star News endorses the proposed Columbia expansion.

Ironically, Black Star News cites Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards CBA as an example of working with the local community, even though folks in West Harlem distance themselves from Ratner's process of forming a coalition of handpicked groups (some of which were founded for the express purpose of creating primarily African-American groups to support the project):

At the same time, Columbia officials say the university is negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement with the West Harlem Local Development Corporation. This is good: When the developer Bruce Ratner's Forest City Co. embarked on developing the Atlantic Navy Yard and downtown Brooklyn, it reached an unprecedented pact with the local community there, guaranteeing jobs and affordable housing.


NoLandGrab: It's amazing how wealthy corporations with poor track records in the community can always find SOMEONE to believe that, this time, things will really be different.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Issue of Eminent Domain May Hinder Columbia in Harlem

The NY Sun
By Grace Rauh

A fight over the use of eminent domain is shaping up at City Hall, as the City Council approaches a vote on Columbia University's plan to expand its campus by 17 acres in Harlem.
Although the council is not explicitly deciding whether the university could use eminent domain to acquire land for its desired expansion, several council members said eminent domain would be at the heart of hearings on Columbia's proposed rezoning, because approval from the council would pave the way for its use. The hearings begin today.


Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Queens Crap, Doctoroff reflects
"Crappy" reacts to Deputy Dan's love of ULURP (NYC's local land use review process):

ULURP is a joke, Dan. Deals are "done" before they even get to the community board level. That's probably why you're such a big fan of it.

not another f*cking blog, dysfunctional

"Atlantic Yards" is among the litany of reasons the MTA is dysfunctional:

then there's the fact that they've practically given away the rights to develop over the Vanderbilt Yard in Prospect Heights Brooklyn for the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project. that's 100's of millions of dollars that could have been used to avoid a fare hike. unfortunately, Atlantic Yards isn't the first (and, i fear) not the last time that the MTA did not get fair market value for some very rare and valuable real estate. it appears that the MTA is trying to atone for their Atlantic Yards sins by handling the development over the Hudson Yards in Manhattan in what seems to be a rational, functional and considerate fashion. only time will tell, though.

Curbed, Change of Heart

Actually, what [Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff] says is "If it happened again, and the state were to ask" he'd encourage it not to do an end run around the city.

NoLandGrab: In hindsight, running the ball straight up the middle would have given Ratner more pr cover and probably shaved a few months off the process.

The Knickerblogger, Passenger Ships Didn't Have Lifeboats Before the Titanic, Why Have Them Now?
"Knickerblogger" considers the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) brush-off of calls to deal with security concerns for Bruce Ratner's arena plan, and the agency's screwed up logic.

NoLandGrab: Though we're pretty sure that passenger ships DID have life boats before the Titanic, according to the ESDC's thinking, drivers don't really need that extra stuff like seatbelts and airbags.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM


Planning, Dispositions & Concessions, and Zoning & Franchises Committees
Wednesday, December 12, 10am
City Hall Council Chambers

Public hearing before the Planning, Dispositions & Concessions, and Zoning & Franchises committees on Columbia University's proposal to expand onto 17 acres of Manhattanville.

The plan would require the condemnation of thriving businesses, like Tuck-It-Away Storage and Hudson North American, who do not want to sell to the private school. This is the last opportunity for the public to testify on this abusive plan before the full City Council votes.


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

December 11, 2007

Doctoroff Looks Back on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate


The New York Observer's Matthew Schuerman, one of the more astute observers of Atlantic Yards, offers up an online teaser for a longer article coming in tomorrow's newspaper:

Critics of Atlantic Yards repeatedly argue that there is something about the 22-acre housing and arena complex in Brooklyn that does not jibe with the Bloomberg administration’s rhetoric about community participation in the planning process. In an article appearing in tomorrow’s Observer, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff basically agrees.

“I am a huge believer in the ULURP process,” he said, referring to the seven-month public-review process that involves the local community board, the borough president, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. “If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”


NoLandGrab: Of course, in hindsight, Doctoroff would recommend that Atlantic Yards go through ULURP, it would have shaved several months off of the review/approval process.

Posted by lumi at 2:27 PM

Bait-and-switch from the start? Ratner knew office space projections were bogus

Atlantic Yards Report

On the fourth anniversary of the public announcement of the Atlantic Yards project, Norman Oder examines the apparently bogus prediction, made in 2003, of 10,000 jobs created in 2 million square feet of office space for Atlantic Yards.

The 10,000-job figure couldn't have been correct from the start:

Don't take just anybody's word for it, check with Bruce Ratner from an interview on the Brian Lehrer Show in December 2003:

He told Lehrer, “It’s a very important project, we need housing in this city, we need office space, when the market comes back, for companies not to leave the city.” (Emphasis added)

The implication was that the market was already tanking. If so, why was the developer promising 10,000 jobs? Maybe because it’s a nice round number.


As for the timetable, Ratner told Lehrer, “And in about three to three-and-a-half years, I hope to have an arena up and the start of some residential development.” (Emphasis added)

No mention of office jobs.

The result: a project that is now primarily about condos, not jobs. And government agencies and local media were complicit in failing to take a hard look at Ratner's fanciful numbers. As Norman Oder puts it: "We got played."


Posted by steve at 8:07 AM

2007 Year In Review: Year Of Shake-Ups In Brooklyn

NY1 compiled a year-end wrap-up of controversies and catastrophes in Brooklyn that included our little "uphill fight:"

Residents around the Atlantic Yards project took their uphill fight against the massive development to court, challenging the developer's use of eminent domain. But Bruce Ratner forged ahead, beginning demolition for his controversial $4 billion project. He even landed a more than $300 million deal with Barclay's Bank, which gets the right to name the new Nets arena the Barclay's Center.


Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Re-think East Harlem project

El Diario/La Prenza, Editorial

While Mayor Bloomberg is promoting initiatives to reduce traffic congestion, his administration is doing nothing to address concerns of more traffic generated by two mega-projects brought to you by Bruce:

Years ago, advocacy organizations like West Harlem Environmental Action warned the city about the adverse effects of dramatically increased vehicular volume that East River Plaza would trigger. And recently, when the New York City Planning Commission had a chance to give a thumb down to giving the entities behind East River Plaza—Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Blumenfeld Corporation—more garage capacity, it instead re-granted permits to them. East Harlem’s community board had rejected the renewal.

With another development it is steering—the Atlantic Yards proposal—FCR says it will mitigate the traffic sure to be drawn by a new Nets Stadium at the site. Yet, it is the scale of these projects to begin with that aggravates traffic and congestion.

We urge the Mayor to direct his Office of Sustainability to examine how the East River Plaza project, beyond window-dressing measures, can mitigate its effects on a community that shouldn`t be exposed to more environmental and health risks.


Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Daniel Doctoroff's Legacy

Gotham Gazette
By Tom Angotti

Doctoroff-GG.jpgMayor Bloomberg made the comparison between Deputy Dan Doctoroff and Robert Moses at last week's press conference announcing the Deputy Mayor's departure from city government. How do the two city planning czar's legacies compare?

Whatever Doctoroff’s accomplishments may be, the comparison to Moses is a stretch, and the talk of Doctoroff legacy premature by decades. Moses spent over half a century building public infrastructure while Doctoroff spent little more than a half-decade promoting mostly private commercial and residential development.
There is one major striking similarity between Moses and Doctoroff – they both claimed a monopoly on grand visions and overlooked the diverse ideas emerging from the city’s neighborhoods. Doctoroff reached out to civic leaders and neighborhood groups in a way that Moses never did. But rather than encouraging a two-way dialogue between City Hall and those who might oppose its decisions, Doctoroff's outreach usually resembled a public relations campaign to sell people on decisions that were already made. According to Greenpoint/Williamsburg community activist Phil DePaolo, when the city was pushing its waterfront zoning in that area, “Doctoroff met just with the groups that would get housing and not with others.”

NoLandGrab: Doctoroff might have gotten the strategy of meeting primarily with beneficiaries from Bruce Ratner, or maybe it's in a secret playbook somewhere.

Then there's the spectre of eminent domain and secondary displacement, which, like in the case of Robert Moses, could haunt Doctoroff's legacy for years to come:

By standing by without intervening, Doctoroff gave the city’s blessing to a number of major projects in which the Empire State Development Corporation, a state authority, promised to use its powers of eminent domain to bulldoze residential and industrial properties. Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and the Columbia expansion in West Harlem are the most notable of these projects. In Willets Point, Queens, the city itself proposes to use eminent domain to displace 225 businesses and 1,800 jobs in favor of a hotel, convention center, and giant commercial and residential complex. Any claims that Doctoroff promoted development without displacement must ignore the secondary displacement that occurs when large-scale private development forces rents and property values so high that people cannot afford to stay in their neighborhoods.


Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Hotel@MIT Name Now Le Meridien

Hotel%40MIT.jpg The (MIT) Tech
By Arkajit Dey

Upon the closing of the sale of Hotel@MIT on Dec. 5, the name of the hotel was changed to La Meridien Cambridge.

The 210-room hotel in University Park was sold by MIT and Forest City Enterprises to HEI Cambridge LLC, an affiliate of HEI Hotels & Resorts, for $63.2 million, or $301,000 per room, according to Forest City’s third quarter financial results press release.

The sale generated net cash proceeds of approximately $18 million for Forest City, the press release said. The property was sold at a cap rate of approximately 6.75 percent.


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM



NY Post
By Dareh Gregorian

This bizarre incident seems to be one of the occupational hazards of being the "biggest guy around":

A TriBeCa bar is suing its upstairs neighbor - for being too rowdy.

As punishment, it wants her booted from the building, along with the owner of her spacious digs: trendy restaurateur and former Man Ray partner Carlos Almada.

In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, the owners of the pint-sized pub Smith and Mills say their neighbor Victoria Hillstron has been driving their customers from drink with her over-the-top antics.

The suit says the tiny terror, who lives directly above the Greenwich Street bar, has also been claiming to be developer Bruce Ratner's sister - threatening to use her clout to get cops in trouble with the mayor's office if they don't take her allegations against the restaurant seriously.

A source close to Ratner said she is not related to the Atlantic Yards developer.


NoLandGrab: Who can blame someone for thinking that name dropping "Bruce" would strike the fear of God in most New Yorkers?

For the record, Bruce Ratner's sister is Ellen Ratner, who hasn't been harassing bar patrons as far as anyone knows.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM


City Limits

A wrap-up of comings and goings in the public and public-service sectors had this bit of old news for our readers:

Finally, in the private sector, Joanne Minieri has been promoted from chief operating officer to president of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Cos. Bruce Ratner had been president as well as chief executive and will remain CEO while assuming chairmanship. Minieri has been with the company since 1995. Forest City Ratner is the main developer in charge of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in that borough.


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Not Everyone is Sad to See Doctoroff Go

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice blog]
By John DeSio


In the press conference announcing Doctoroff’s departure Bloomberg invoked the name of Robert Moses, the development bogeyman who has seen his reputation steadily decline over the years, to make a favorable comparison to his departing deputy. "Dan leaves an extraordinary record of accomplishment, and unlike Robert Moses, he worked with communities, not bulldozing over them," Bloomberg said.

But for the communities that faced off with Doctoroff during his tenure, this comment rings hollow.

“He was a bulldozer,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the organization leading the fight to oppose the Doctoroff-backed Atlantic Yards proposal, which will create affordable and market-rate housing alongside a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in Downtown Brooklyn, to be developed by Forest City Ratner. “Specifically, when it came to Atlantic Yards, Dan Doctoroff did not deal with the community at all, which means the administration didn’t either.”


Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

December 10, 2007

Pacific St. Graffiti Panorama

From the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool
By Tracy Collins

this stretch of Pacific Street would be demapped for Atlantic Yards. this location would probably lie somewhere near center court of the arena.


Posted by lumi at 7:11 PM

Lottery? ACORN's Partner Ratner Has MTA's Money

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

While ACORN's Bertha Lewis jokes about her $115 million MegaMillions-jackpot plan for staving off MTA fare hikes, DDDB points out that the MTA left that same amount on the table when it agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for $114.5 million less than what its own appraiser said the land was worth.


NoLandGrab: As Bruce Ratner well knows, it helps to be the only one really in it to win it.

Posted by lumi at 2:15 PM

Happy Fourth Land-Grab-Adversary!


"We are going to get the Nets to Brooklyn, if it's the last thing that I do." — Bruce Ratner, December 10, 2003

NY1's coverage of the unveiling of Atlantic Yards, including the birth of the myth lie that "most of the development would be on top of the train yard".

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's 4th Landgrabiversary shout out reminding everyone that the arena was supposed to open some time last year (oops!).

Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

AY won’t “touch the existing tax base”? Ratner's claim soon contradicted

Atlantic Yards Report's anniversary card to the project looks at one of the original deceptions perpetrated by Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards supporters:

On the fourth anniversary of the announcement of the Atlantic Yards project, a look at a dubious economic claim.

We now know that Atlantic Yards would involve hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies and public costs, and possibly much, much more. And we know developer Forest City Ratner always claimed the project would be “primarily privately funded.”

Less known, however, is that Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner initially went even farther, claiming that Atlantic Yards would “not touch the existing tax base.” That has since been clearly contradicted. But he's never been called to account for it.


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

ESDC gives elected officials the brush-off on arena security

Atlantic Yards Report

Local politicians get a "Dear Colleague" letter in return for their efforts:

The eight elected officials who asked the state for an independent study of Atlantic Yards security got a cordial brush-off from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which sent a brief November 30 letter (right, click to enlarge) reiterating that, just as Madison Square Garden operates without street closures, so could the Atlantic Yards arena.

That doesn't quite answer the issue, as I explained, because the parts of MSG closest to the street are mostly concrete, not glass, as planned for Atlantic Yards and the trigger for street closings around the Prudential Center in Newark, and an interior street next to MSG was closed after the 9/11 attacks.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

New York Shopping: Chains and Bargains

Gotham Gazette
By Gail Robinson

...some argue that the massive development projects promoted by the Bloomberg administration, and particularly by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff. who said last week that he would be stepping down, have promoted chains at the expense of local stores.

[Vanessa ] Gruen has said she fears that the huge Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn would bring more chain stores to the area, which already is home to such businesses as Target, Marshall’s and DSW shoes, and drive up rents in the neighborhood, pushing out the remaining locally owned businesses.


Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

Forest City posts mixed results

ChuckHeadache.jpg Crain's Cleveland Business

Charles Ratner explains the company's disappointing third-quarter performance:

Forest City said the primary reason for the decrease in 2007 results was the larger gains on disposition of properties that occurred in 2006 compared with 2007.

Mr. Ratner said the real estate business “is in the midst of fundamental changes driven by a variety of factors, including the meltdown in single-family home sales, tightening of credit markets, declining consumer confidence, and the beginnings of a slowdown in retail sales.”

“While we face short-term challenges, notably in our land business, we continue to maintain a robust development pipeline and a near-record level of liquidity,” Mr. Ratner stated.


NoLandGrab: Could "our land business" euphemistically refer to the "land grab business" and Cousin Bruce's hemorrhaging of cash in the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards/NJ Nets scheme? Atlantic Yards and the team's operating expenses likely account for a serious chunk of the corporation's losses.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

Towers could top Williamsburgh Bank

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Nearly two dozen existing and proposed buildings — many designed by world-renowned architects — will soar to 30 stories or higher within the next five years.

"All the Manhattanites are gonna be jealous," said Felix Garcia, 34, an employee for the Coca-Cola Co. who was making deliveries at the South Street Seaport. "When you say New York, people are going to think Brooklyn from now on."

An estimated $7 billion is being pumped into mammoth buildings in Brooklyn.

The towers include Frank Gehry's 511-foot "Miss Brooklyn" tower, set to be part of the Atlantic Yards project, a $4.2 billion plan that calls for an NBA basketball arena and 16 soaring towers with residential and commercial space to rise in Prospect Heights.

The former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building is now the borough's tallest structure at 512 feet. But [Forest City Ratner's] City Tech Tower and City Point, both slated for downtown Brooklyn, could reach higher.


Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM


BruceScrooge.jpg Bruce, you've been Scrooged.

[Someone in HR might want to slip this into Bruce Ratner's personnel file, just for funzies.]

This is the sequel to "Elf You (and Your Little Doggie Too!)."

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

New City Tech Tower to be Brooklyn’s Tallest Building

Brooklyn Tech High School News
By Charles Naut

City Tech, the New York City College of Technology, will have a new $186-million home in downtown Brooklyn on Jay and Tillary – not too far from Brooklyn Tech. The tower will replace City Tech’s Klitgord Auditorium and is the result of a partnership between CUNY and Forest City Ratner companies. The school’s website says that the building will “be the most original piece of architecture since the Brooklyn Bridge…” and it “…will also be the first new building for the College in over 30 years where space is designed and constructed specifically for the high-tech programs that will occupy it.”


Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

December 9, 2007

DDDB Holiday Shopping Guide


For those of you who have not stopped shopping, Develop Don't Destroy has helpfully put together a list of local businesses that have helped support the fight against Atlantic Yards.

For even more local shopping fun, you can check out The Society for Clinton Hill's Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair at Habana Outpost at South Portland and Fulton Streets In Ft. Greene, Brooklyn.

Artisans will be displaying their works for sale from noon to 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays, December 1&2, 8&9, 15&16, and 22&23.

You’ll find knit hats, scarves, jewelry, ceramics, as well as the new DDDB long-sleeve tees and doggie shirts...and unusual gift items for everyone.

Posted by amy at 10:26 AM

The Twelve Days of Christmas - DAY TEN


Six Meat Buffet

You may remember playing classic Monopoly as a youngster. Sure the games took forever, but remember the fun you had buying property, setting up houses and hotels? Remember the pride you took in actually owning property and protecting that property from interlopers?

Well, in the new Monopoly Eminent Domain Edition, you can take as much pride in your property as you want, but remember - in today’s version, that property is temporary. Thanks to SCOTUS’ Kelo decision, this new game version reflects the new American reality that, as long as a developer wants your land and government wants more tax revenue, your property can taken on a whim, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!

NoLandGrab: Click on the link for more land grab fun!

Posted by amy at 10:18 AM

Earn a Tax Break: Help Defeat Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

As we mark four years of fighting Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner's project is floundering, and years behind schedule. The project is in serious jeopardy because of two community-funded lawsuits that are in court right now.

Atlantic Yards cannot move forward while these two suits are contested. The federal eminent domain suit argues that it is unconstitutional for New York State to seize private homes and businesses for Ratner's private benefit. The other pending suit, filed more than seven months ago in State Supreme Court, challenges the project's environmental review and approval.

A victory in either case would mean that we can move forward with appropriate development over the Vanderbilt rail yards, rather than Forest City Ratner's plan.

Regardless of the outcome in these two cases, the winner will face an appeal. If we must, we intend to take the eminent domain case all the way to the US Supreme Court. The legal struggle will continue for years, if the community is willing to fund it. These two suits -- organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn -- are wholly funded by your contributions.


Posted by amy at 10:04 AM

New York’s City Shapers


The New York Observer
Chris Shott

“I am so pro-Brooklyn, you can hear it in my voice,” said Joanne Minieri, the newly promoted president of Forest City Ratner Companies.

Born in Bensonhurst, the 47-year-old former accountant is now one of the highest-profile women in the vastly male-dominated field of real estate development.

Her rise followed the departure of Jim Stuckey, who once served as the face of Forest City’s controversial development at Atlantic Yards—a plan she vehemently supports for the new jobs, the new affordable housing and, yes, the N.B.A.’s New Jersey Nets coming to town.


Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

Project Sunlight, Forest City Ratner's lobbying, and the Times's partial eclipse


Atlantic Yards Report

Welcome to Project Sunlight, a database unveiled Wednesday by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, an effort to bring transparency to the intersection of politics and money.

A Times CityRoom post Wednesday on Project Sunlight, to its credit, included a look at Brooklyn's biggest developer:
Speaking of Forest City — developer of the much-debated Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the third-biggest spender on lobbying services in Albany last year — let’s see how much the company has been spending this year. Put “Forest City Ratner” in the search, then click the “Client Financial” link after you get results. Turns out Forest City paid $496,253 for lobbying though the middle of last summer, about one-quarter what it plunked down in 2006, when the Atlantic Yards project was up for state approval. [Click over to Atlantic Yards Report for full screen shots]
The Times hasn't run a print news article about the information in the new database, thus eclipsing some of the sunlight.


Posted by amy at 9:47 AM

TODAY: Chanukah Carnival at Atlantic Center


Marty Markowitz gets another opportunity to mark the holiday season with a ceremony in a Forest City Ratner development. Last time, the occasion was the Christmas tree lighting at the soulless Metro Tech. This time, it's a Chanukah festival at the soulless Atlantic Center.


Posted by steve at 7:15 AM

December 8, 2007

On the Doctoroff legacy: praise, a grudging admission, and some AY debate

Atlantic Yards Report reports on Soterios Johnson's interview with Doctoroff on WNYC:

The announced departure of Dan Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, spurred debate and discussion yesterday on his legacy and comparisons with Robert Moses—and a dogged Brooklynite wouldn’t let a Doctoroff defender get away with diminishing the city’s role in the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

Modern-Day Robert Moses

The New York Observer
Matthew Schuerman interviews Dan Doctoroff...

Location: Well, what do you think about that? Atlantic Yards, in particular?

Doctoroff: I think in that case there was an enormous level of community input. There were hundreds of meetings and enormous outreach to community leaders. The difference was that it was not submitted to a vote of the City Council. In that case, you had a local Council member who was not in favor. On the other hand, you had the majority of the Council—I can’t say this with 100 percent certainty—that wants it.

NoLandGrab: You mean community input, like this?

Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

When Residents Weigh In on Gentrification

NY Times City Room
Sewell Chan reports on panel discussion “The Oversuccessful City, Part 2: Neighborhood Character in the Face of Change,” wher Daily News columnist Errol Louis was a panelist:

But Mr. Louis, who has drawn the ire of Atlantic Yards opponents for his writings in support of the project in Brooklyn, also expressed skepticism about the critics of gentrification.

“Terms like ‘oversuccessful,’ terms that get thrown around like ‘out of scale’ — even gentrification itself – these are terms of art,” Mr. Louis said. “These are differences of opinion. These are things that have to be fought out at the community level, frankly. It’s probably too late by the time you get to the public hearing.”

NoLandGrab: Yes, public hearings are too late, especially when they go down like this...

Posted by amy at 9:39 AM

Rockefeller Foundation Announces First Award Recipients of NYC Cultural Innovation...


Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin announced today the first award recipients of the Foundation's $2.6 million New York City Cultural Innovation Fund.

The Fund celebrates innovation and the creative sector through grants for trailblazing initiatives that strengthen the City's cultural fabric.

One recipient:

The Civilians ... for Development and Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a two- year theater lab exploring the Atlantic Yards Project

NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards: not just for blogging anymore."

Posted by amy at 9:34 AM


NY Post
Steve Cuozzo on the upcoming Doctoroff departure:

WHAT happens now? That's the question about a batch of giant, public-private land-use schemes that Dan Doctoroff either set in motion or decisively kick-started.

They're all deals yet to be nailed down. But it's unclear whether anyone else at City Hall has the brains, technical skills and persuasive power to see them through before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office at the end of 2009.

Most proposals you've read about - such as the West Side rail yards, Atlantic Yards, Moynihan Station, Ground Zero rebuilding and the JPMorganChase tower - have a long way to go before shovels can go into the ground.


Posted by amy at 9:31 AM

Weekend Dime

ESPN chimes in with optimism about both Kidd staying with the team, and the unrealistic prediction of a 2009 move:

I remain convinced that Kidd would prefer to stay if the Nets can find a way to get back to legit contention, especially with the team's high-profile move to Brooklyn looming in 2009.


Posted by amy at 9:13 AM

December 7, 2007

Coney Island Intrigue

Kinetic Carnival blogger Omar Robau has been keeping an eye on State Senator Carl Kruger and his "politics of inclusion," which bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Ratner's neatly signed, sealed and delivered "community support."

BUILDLogo.gif As NoLandGrab readers will recall, Kruger, with B.U.I.L.D. President James Caldwell at his side, effectively scuttled a November 19th "Community Information Session" on the Mayor's Coney Island redevelopment plan.

Kinetic Carnival, All the Developer's Men

At last year's hearings on the Atlantic Yard project Kruger served the same function as BUILD, using his voice as a representative of Brooklyn community's to try to paint Ratner's project as a vehicle for helping Brooklyn residents. "We're not talking about the Nets Arena. We're not talking about Forest City Ratner," said Kruger, "We're talking about Brooklyn, we're talking about communities, we're talking about Brooklyn first." In reality, however, it was not the abstract ideas of 'Brooklyn' and 'community' that Kruger was advocating, but the actual construction of the neighborhood destroying Nets Arena by Forest City Ratner.

The Nov. 19th 'Community Information Session' on the redevelopment of Coney Island was in many ways identical to the hearing on the Atlantic Yards Development project. We have the same politician and the same sham 'community group' trying to portray the plans of millionaire developers as being in the best interest of the very neighborhoods which their development plans seek to destroy.

Robau's not so sure that Kruger really finds the City's version of Coney Island redevelopment so objectionable — rather, he suspects, Kruger is shilling for Thor Equities' Joe Sitt, as he explains in this follow-up post.

Kruger-KC.jpg Kinetic Carnival, Kruger Paid For Coney Protest With Own Campaign Funds

It is unclear why Kruger remained quiet about this for so long. His silence only served to raise speculation that the protest may have been funded- directly or indirectly- by Thor Equities.

The Daily News got to the bottom of the funding question yesterday. Turns out it was Kruger himself who paid to bus in 400 "protesters," and outfit them in hats and other paraphernalia — all courtesy of his bountiful campaign warchest:

NY Daily News, State Sen. Carl Kruger paid for protest to target hearing on Coney project

"I paid for it all out of my campaign fund," said Kruger, whose move forced city officials to cancel the jam-packed meeting at Coney Island Hospital.

"I bought the hats, made the signs, printed the leaflets and paid for the buses. I financed the entire thing.

Kruger's largesse, however, may have violated campaign-finance laws. Oops!

It was unclear whether Kruger's expenditures violated state Board of Election laws, but a spokesman said the matter had not been investigated nor had a complaint been filed.

If a complaint were filed, "Sen. Kruger would need to explain how this expenditure is related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office," said state Board of Elections spokesman Bob Brehm.

Confused? So are we. But Bob Guskind at Gowanus Lounge may have it figured out.

BUILDBruceCarlMike.jpg The Gowanus Lounge, If Bruce Ratner Has Supported BUILD, Which Opposes the Mayor on Coney Island....

There is a strong sense that multiple threads trace back from this "opposition" to developer Joe Sitt and Thor Equities who may not quite be on board with the Bloomberg-Doctoroff vision of a Sitt-Free Coney Island amusement district. This school of thought believes that all Mr. Sitt needs to do is stall and hold up the process through the next Mayoral election and, then, plant the seeds for a mayor more in turn with the Thor Vision.

Is a political debt being paid to the Southern Brooklyn politician that has anointed himself as the chief opponent of the Bloomberg plan? Does BUILD's lineage mean that a major Brooklyn developer, whose plan depends on deep public subsidies, is roiling the waters for City Hall in another part of the borough? It is all likely to become much, much more interesting.

Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the Senator's vociferous opposition to "back-door eminent domain," since he hasn't exhibited any qualms about Bruce Ratner's wrecking ball coming through the front door. And as Gowanus Lounge reports, Atlantic Yards critics aren't the only ones questioning Kruger's Libertarian conversion.

The Gowanus Lounge, Coney Island People Sending Emails to Sen. Kruger

For example, Coney Island USA's David Gratt:

But I am especially disappointed because while I was in the Bronx, fighting to keep the Yankees out of Macombs Dam Park (another potential example of “backdoor eminent domain”) your office was unfortunately silent. Why is this issue important to you now, when it was not before?

NoLandGrab: Why, indeed?

Posted by lumi at 5:09 PM

Yards not safe

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn Heights resident and Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse producer Steve DeSeve weighs in on the Atlantic Yards security issue:

To the editor,

Gore Vidal once called the U.S.A. the “United States of Amnesia,” and the way the governor’s office, the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner are treating the terror threat at the proposed Atlantic Yards, it seem like they have forgotten that a lot of Brooklynites lived through 9-11 (“Pols want Atlantic Yards security review,” Nov. 10).

Is Forest City Ratner depending on our forgetting that the World Trade Center had its own world-class security firm certifying its safety? The NYPD also says it is satisfied with the “secret plan” to prevent terrorism at Atlantic Yards. We are also, apparently, supposed to forget that the same NYPD regarded the twin towers as safe.

link (scroll down)

Posted by lumi at 1:45 PM

Regarding Willets Point, city process essentially repudiates AY sequence

Atlantic Yards Report

Add City Hall to the roster of those seemingly pointing the finger at Atlantic Yards as the epitome of ass-backwards development projects:

Willets Point Article

While coverage of recent City Council hearing on the Willets Point redevelopment seemed to focus on the issue of union jobs (as in this Daily News article), the city seems mindful of the legacy of the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. New London decision--and is operating far differently than it did regarding Atlantic Yards, announced on 12/10/03.

From Wednesday's issue of the Crain's Insider:

The Bloomberg administration is taking the unusual step of putting its Willets Point redevelopment plan through the public review process before picking a developer. It's a nod to the Supreme Court's landmark Kelo decision. In an an eminent domain condemnation, the city would be more likely to survive a legal challenge if a predetermined private developer did not stand to benefit.


Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

Vallone Asks for Atlantic Yards Security Info

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Will the Chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee be included among the "appropriate law enforcement agencies” on Forest City Ratner security consultant Jeffrey Venter's list?

DDDB weighs in on the Brooklyn Downtown Star's coverage of Atlantic Yards security concerns.


Posted by lumi at 9:08 AM

FOIL-ed! State says it can’t talk security

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

What's the point of a Freedom of Information Law if the information is not forthcoming — and it's the developer's consultant who makes the call?

In October, The Brooklyn Paper filed a Freedom of Information Law request for all documents related to security planning at Atlantic Yards by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Last week, we finally got our long-sought documents. So what did they amount to?

A 10-page affidavit from a Forest City Ratner security consultant that explained why all the plans must be kept classified.


NoLandGrab: Let us once again point out that an "independent" security study is not one produced by a consultant hired by Forest City Ratner, a point not lost on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

New York Times Employees Say Renzo Forgot the Bike Parking


Here's one we missed yesterday, about the missing bike parking at Forest City Ratner's new Times Tower:

There was just one problem. While the Times and developer Forest City Ratner were promoting their new Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper as a "technologically advanced and environmentally sensitive" exemplar of green construction, a lack of bike parking and policies hostile towards cyclists were discouraging employees from commuting to work by the city's most environmentally-friendly mode of urban transport.

"I couldn't believe they built such a supposedly 'green' building without a bike room," Bengen said. "This isn't exactly the best neighborhood to leave a bike outside all day."

Does the experience of cycling New York Times employees call into question the promise of some 400 bike parking spaces at Atlantic Yards?

Despite repeated assurances from company executives that the new building would have an indoor bike storage space, as employees began moving into the new offices last spring, the bike parking never materialized.

So, why didn't the Times include a bike parking facility in its original design? Ruttenberg Surfos, Renzo Piano and developer Forest City Ratner all declined to comment [emphasis, ours].

NoLandGrab: No surprise there.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Extell on the Atlantic Yards Process


Brownstoner excerpts an interview from The Observer with Extell Development's Gary Barnett. Extell was the only developer impudent enough to submit a competing bid when the MTA issued an RFP (request for proposals) for the Vanderbilt Yards.

Included is this remembrance of Extell's bid, which was far greater than Forest City's:

The city and the state haven’t partnered with a developer publicly beforehand. What type of chance did you think you had on Atlantic Yards? Did you think that was something of a long shot? You said so, if I remember, in your cover letter [for the bid].

We are shocked—shocked—that we bid $150 million, [Forest City Chairman Bruce] Ratner bid $50 million, yet he somehow managed to get it.


Posted by steve at 8:02 AM

Brian Berger, New York Calling


Brian Berger, co-editor of the collection "New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg," sits down with Gothamist's Jen Carlson for an interview.

Berger takes note of eminent domain abuse and the Atlantic Yards project:

I'm deeply concerned about city's abuse of Eminent Domain and the maltreatment of working industry in favor of shifty real estate schemes. Also, while neither averse to change nor a nostalgic, the prevarication and governmental abuses marking the so-called Atlantic Yards project ought to be an insult to every sentient New Yorker.


Posted by steve at 7:44 AM

City can’t curb Yards security

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

Elected officials and community groups again attacked the city, state and developer Forest City Ratner for their persistent refusal to discuss how they plan to secure the proposed Atlantic Yards basketball arena when it is slated to open in 2010.

A coalition of elected officials joined the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods on the steps of City Hall last Thursday to demand an independent security study of Atlantic Yards. The pols brandished a recent New York Times story that finally reported what many opponents of the project have long known: that the proposed glass-walled arena is only 20 feet from the street along Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.


“They need to answer why they’re doing this in Newark, but not here,” said Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the groups that joined state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Prospect Heights), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill), Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D–Park Slope), Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Cobble Hill) last Thursday.


Posted by steve at 7:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Project Draws Fire


Here's more coverage of the proposed Nets arena's security issues:

The New York Post is reporting that a coalition of groups, comprised of civic groups and elected officials has raised issue with the project for planning to build a new basketball a scant 20 feet from the busiest intersection in Brooklyn. This location, critics contend, would make the arena a security risk, especially susceptible to terrorist attack and have called for an independent security review of the current plans.

This article conflates the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case with the recent agreement by the city not to take one of the Duffield Houses via eminent domain:

The project has also made headlines recently over eminent domain lawsuits that are currently wending their way through the courts. One such case, involving a 150-year-old Brooklyn house that may have been a stop on the underground railroad, was recently decided in favor of the homeowner, one Joy Chatel.


NoLandGrab: It's interesting to see "Encore: The Weekly Performance Industry Magazine" taking an interest in the Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by steve at 7:34 AM

Deputy Doctoroff: Community Was Shut Out

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The resignation of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff draws DDDB comment on how the Atlantic Yards project, which was pushed by Doctoroff, failed to take the community into account.

His last big policy push during his tenure was the PlaNYC 2030 proposal for sustainable development. The mayor's PlaNYC proposal says, “As our search for land becomes more pressing in the coming decades, we must be prepared to work with communities to explore the potential of these sites.”

Clearly Atlantic Yards violated that principle...egregiously.


Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

One Foundation: Update on City Tech’s Tower Complex

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Mary Frost

Here's the latest on Bruce Ratner's City Tech project, which is creating a lot more buzz over what we don't know than what is known, and that's just the known unknowns:

A rough rendering appearing on the City Tech Web site and published in the Eagle Wednesday depicts a complex of two tall towers and three smaller structures, taking up one block fronting Jay Street, the current site of the college’s Klitgord Auditorium.

“Note that there will be one foundation for the building that will replace Klitgord,” Forsten said in an email to the Eagle. Though the rendering appears to show five separate buildings, “there will actually be just one.”


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Could Security Concerns Sink Nets Arena?

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Shane Miller


[City Councilwoman Letitia] James said that she has spoken with both Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., who chairs the City Council's Public Safety Committee, and Councilman John Liu, who chairs the Transportation Committee, requesting that both hold hearings on the possible impacts of the Atlantic Yards proposal.

Vallone has sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly requesting information on any security studies that have been completed on the project, as well as any anti-terror safeguards that have been included in plans for the arena.

"Given the proposed Atlantic Yards arena's close proximity to the streets, its use of large glass structures and its connection to the city's third-largest transit hub," wrote Vallone, "its potential as a terrorist target is a legitimate concern." Vallone cited a study similar to one conducted for the Freedom Tower in his letter.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Williams Out, McRae In

Brooklyn Downtown Star is catching up on yesterday's news:

[Brooklyn Borough President] Markowitz submitted [Shirley] McRae's name to the City Council, beginning the formal review and approval process.

If appointed, McRae will replace [City Planning Commissioner] Dolly Williams, who was forced to recuse herself from any CPC vote on the Atlantic Yards after it was revealed that she had invested $250,000 in the New Jersey Nets.

The revelation, however, came after Williams had already voted in favor of the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan, which affected some areas of the Atlantic Yards proposal.

The same week as McRae's appointment, Williams was fined $4,000 for the vote by the Conflicts of Interest Board.


Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Outlook Not Good for New Tri-State Arenas

NetsinNJ.jpg AOL: FanHouse

If there's any buzz surrounding the Nets these days--that is, other than the possibility of losing Jason Kidd--it's their Jay-Z-backed move to Brooklyn. But as George Vecsey writes in The New York Times, that's "not such a slam dunk after all":

The ownership is still talking of moving into an arena at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, but shovels are not in the ground, and the planned opening at the start of the 2009-10 season has now been pushed back sometime into that season.


The Nets could always detour to the new Prudential Center in downtown Newark, with its potential for an urban renaissance of live human beings on foot seeking out restaurants and transit.


Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Doctoroff's resignation draws praise, but AY is conspicuously ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

So Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff, the city's point man for major projects like Atlantic Yards, will leave (see mayoral press release) to be president of Bloomberg LP, the company founded by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The praise has been mighty--though a close look at Atlantic Yards might cloud some of his legacy.

Indeed, AY is conspicuously absent from the mayoral press release...


Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Doctoroff Resignation React-o-Matic

Curbed.com gathered some online comments on Deputy Dan's resignation, including two that mention Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project:


Our loss was his inability to identify what the city truly needed in the sad days after 9/11 and a focus on achievable and desired goals. That and a bit too close relationship to developers looking for a buck off the city. So here we are -- a city less affordable and with more luxury highrises built by Trump&Co... and a Bruce Ratner nightmare that will live on." [Curbed comments]

"Mr. Doctoroff was most famous for turning the decades old Bronx Terminal market into a shopping mall, turning the Brooklyn waterfront into an Ikea, turning more of the Brooklyn waterfront into luxury buildings and calling it a 'park,' driving out much loved ethnic vendors from Red Hook and pushing through Atlantic Yards, a development expected to be the densest residential construction in the history of the U.S. His departure brought tears from fat cat developers around the city. [City Room comments]

Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

On a mission to lure retailers downtown

In Business Las Vegas
By Mark Hansel

Las Vegas is trying to revitalize the city's downtown area with the help of developers like Forest City:

"If you want a walkable environment, you can't have blank walls and vacant stores," said Julie Quisenberry, real estate specialist with the city's business development office.

"With everything going on downtown now, we think this is a great time for people to start looking at opportunities in the city's core."

Quisenberry said Las Vegas is especially excited to see developers such as California-based CIM Group and Forest City Development of Cleveland planning major projects downtown.


Posted by lumi at 4:10 AM

Kidd: Not tonight, I have a headache?

Kidd-NYP.jpg Nets star guard Jason Kidd sat out Wednesday night's game with a "migraine," at the same time he is chomping at the bit to be traded, a week after Ratner turned down his request for a contract extension:

Adrian Wojnarowski, at Yahoo! Sports:

There was no migraine headache holding Jason Kidd out of the New Jersey Nets' loss to the New York Knicks Wednesday night, but a superstar sending a message to a floundering franchise that he's irate with management and teammates, several league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
In an act of defiance that has been building for most of this season, Kidd, 34, has grown irritated over his belief that the franchise no longer is chasing greatness while his chance for a championship closes.

Peter Vecsey at the Post:

Why now cop an attitude? It's not as if owner Bruce Ratner recently refused to extend his contract a year or two past next season. Contrary to widespread reports, that rebuff actually took place before the season began.

(By the way, Kidd will be three dozen years of age at the end of the current deal. The question is, where will the Nets franchise be - New Jersey, Brooklyn or Chavez Ravine?)

[Trivia question: which two of these locations are notorious land grabs?]

Posted by lumi at 3:57 AM

Forest City Reports Third-Quarter and Year-to-Date Financial Results

Press release, via Reuters

The fiscal third-quarter net loss was $10.8 million, or $0.11 per share, compared with net earnings of $45.9 million, or $0.45 per share, in the prior year. Net earnings for the nine months were $39.8 million, or $0.38 per share, compared with $106.6 million, or $1.05 per share, in 2006. The primary reason for the decrease in 2007 net earnings for the quarter and year-to-date was the larger gains on disposition of properties that occurred in 2006 compared with 2007.
At the end of the third quarter, Forest City had 15 projects under development, representing approximately $2.0 billion of cost at the Company's pro-rata share and on a full consolidation basis. Among the projects under development and scheduled to begin construction during the next year are 13 projects totaling more than $1.5 billion of cost at the Company's pro-rata share and on a full consolidation basis.
At Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Forest City now controls more than 85 percent of the land necessary for the project, which includes up to 6.5 million square feet of developable land on the 22-acre site. Forest City expects to begin construction in 2008 on the Frank Gehry-designed Barclays Center arena, which will become the planned home of the Nets basketball team, in which Forest City has an ownership interest. The first phase of the project will also include commercial and residential development, including an affordable housing component.


Posted by lumi at 3:55 AM

December 6, 2007

NYC is Good for Walkies


We probably didn't need a Brookings Institution study to confirm that New York is a highly walkable city, but we did learn something from it. Did you know that one of the most-walkable neighborhoods is "Atlantic Yards?!"

The walkable NYC places mentioned are: (Metropolitan area) Downtown/Wall Street, Midtown, Brooklyn/Atlantic Yards....

However, there may have been some problems with the study:

The study's author, Christopher B. Leinberger, admits there are issues with the methodology, namely that walkable places are weighted the same in different areas, even though Midtown Manhattan is 30 times bigger than the DC area's Reston Center.


NoLandGrab: One additional methodological problem might be the study's inclusion of places that don't actually exist, except in glossy marketing and public relations brochures. It's possible that they meant "Vanderbilt Yards," though that not-so-walkable site is surrounded by chain-link fence and poses the risk of one's getting run over by a train.

Given the area's walkability, however, one has to wonder why plans for Atlantic Yards call for 3,600+ permanent parking spaces and an enormous "interim surface parking lot."

Posted by lumi at 10:41 AM

Atlantic Yards Security: Louis's Duck About a Fish


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB responds to Errol Louis's column in today's New York Daily News.

Despite Louis's claim that security concerns about the proposed Nets arena in the Atlantic Yards development are baseless, DDDB says:

• These security issues are not new — they were raised years ago by both supporters and opponents of Atlantic Yards.

• An independent security review is warranted, especially in light of required street closings for the new Prudential Arena in Newark.

• A setback of only 20 feet is potentially quite serious, especially when one considers that the setback for the Prudential Center is 25 feet.

Are we opposed to the Atlantic Yards project? Absolutely. Are we concerned that the state did not disclose impacts from security planning along with improperly disclosing scores of other environmental impacts? Absolutely. Are concerns about security the "latest" attempt by "anti-development activists" and "screaming" political opponents to go "fishing in empty waters."? Absolutely not.

Louis's column: it quacks like a duck, and is one.


Posted by steve at 10:37 AM

Would AY arena be more like Newark or MSG? Brian Lehrer Show raises the issue

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides an overview of yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show for those of us who couldn't tune in. Guest host David Cruz moderated a discussion between Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper and Errol Louis of the New York Daily News. The discussion contained more than its fair share of Atlantic Yards misconceptions, particularly on the part of Mr. Louis:

Here's Louis's take on the security issue, and Oder's response:

EL: My sense of it is... the best way to put it, fishing for striped bass, so to speak. Those of your listeners who remember the way the Westway project was killed back in the 1980s was by pushing for what in the end looked like a subsidiary issue, which was whether the Army Corps of Engineers had done an adequate environmental review of the impact of that multi-billion dollar project on the striped bass and the snail darter in the Hudson River. That actually was sufficient for a judge to issue an injunction and kill it. I think the opposition’s tactic at Atlantic Yards has always been three words: delay, delay, delay. They've kind of moved from one issue to another, and they've settled most recently on the security issue that may or may not have any substance to it.

Actually, the security issue, well beyond the question of arena setbacks, was first raised in a 7/22/05 White Paper, and the security issue was raised earlier this year in the pending challenge to the state's environmental review.

And Louis didn't acknowledge that the security issue has drawn concern from elected officials like City Council Members Bill de Blasio and David Yassky and Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries and Joan Millman, who are not exactly opponents.

Louis elaborates further regarding the exact location of the arena, and Oder comments:

EL: What I’ve heard is a number that is either plucked out of thin air or taken from what recently happened in Newark, but somehow the plans that show part of the arena being 20 feet from Atlantic Avenue and 20 feet from Flatbush Avenue is by the opponents now being declared as inadequate, susceptible to terrorist attacks.... I think it’s a red herring, or a striped bass...

It hasn't been plucked out of thin air; it was revealed belatedly by the developer two weeks ago.

Oder ends his post by addressing another problematic Louis remark:

EL: There's a lot in the project.... There are people who like it a lot because of basketball's status as a secular religion in Brooklyn. There are people like me who don't care about professional sports in general and probably would never go to a game, but like things such as the fact that it will create some jobs and it'll create a lot of housing. There's something there for everybody, and that's kind of the whole point of the project.

Well, a lot fewer jobs than originally promised. It may seem like nitpicking to point this out, but that locution--the project "will create"--obscures the mix of private and public and tax-advantaged support needed.

NoLandGrab: Maybe one of these days, The Brian Lehrer Show could host a discussion that would include both Errol Louis and Norman Oder. That would be great radio.


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Nunez Restaurant


Local photographer Frank Lynch shares his recollections of Nuñez (now totally demolished by Ratner) and Hot Bird:

We moved to Prospect Heights from Astoria about fifteen years ago: Gulf War I was just starting up, and I remember working on the new apartment while listening to the world news on a shortwave I had at the time. As long as I've been here, the "Nunez Restaurant" space has been occupied by an auto repair business; a number of the lots in the area are in this industry. But with the looming Atlantic Yards project, this repair business has skedaddled. The Underberg building nearby was torn down a week ago; another building, Vanderbilt Products, is being torn down now.

As we all know, Hot Bird - - a rotisserie chicken place - - left some ten years ago, and is only remembered by the "old timers" and the buildings.


Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

Changes Are Afoot In Downtown Brooklyn

The NY Sun
By Francis Morrone

More buzz about Bruce Ratner's CityTech building — rumored to be vying for the "Tallest Building in Brooklyn" title — this time with a little circumspection regarding Renzo Piano's design:

Those renderings floating around — an old one and a newer one — look a lot alike, and they both look very much like the kind of precision-tooled high-tech modernism we've come to expect from Mr. Piano. It may end up a good building — even a great building. But given that Mr. Piano is hardly likely to do anything more for Brooklyn than pull an old design out of a drawer, and given that Brooklyn abounds in buildings better than anything Mr. Piano has ever designed, might not City Tech tone down its self-congratulation just a notch?


Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Foes' latest plan seems fishy

NY Daily News

Columnist Errol Louis says WE can't be trusted, but meanwhile, journalists had to pull teeth to obtain top-secret info from Forest City Ratner, like how far from the curb Ratner plans on building the glass-walled arena:

Opponents of two mega-projects - Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the Columbia University expansion in West Harlem - have lately taken to arguing that the deals should be halted because potentially dire security concerns haven't been thoroughly examined.


The public should take these complaints with a grain of salt. Every sane person wants to make sure new development is done safely - but project opponents, desperate to kill these projects by any means, are hardly the kind of trustworthy and neutral authorities to decide what's safe and what's not.

Meanwhile, hearty saltwater anglers are still fishing the fall run:

It's not surprising that die-hard opponents are searching for a modern version of the striped bass. But I strongly suspect they are fishing in empty waters.


Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

DDDB Holiday Shopping Guide.

xmaspresent.gif From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

With the holiday season kicking into gear, we've prepared a helpful shopping and business guide to help you support the many local businesses that have helped support the fight against Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project. (Our list is nearly complete, but will be updated, so please come back soon!)

Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

If You Win the Lottery, Where to Invest in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Timothy King, senior partner at Massey Knakal Realty Services, said if he won the $20 million lottery, he’d spend it all on property along Fourth and Atlantic avenues, and other would-be feeder streets to the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project. He said these are the strips that are going to really “pop” over the next few years because of that project, various rezonings that will bring higher density to the area, and high retail rents in adjacent strips.


NoLandGrab: Someone ought to tell Atlantic Yards suporter Bertha Lewis, Director of ACORN NY, that her anti-gentrification plan might not work.

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Two Teams Have a Lot Hanging Over Their Heads

The NY Times
By George Vecsey

A gray cloud over the Meadowlands is probably not the buzz that Ratner was hoping to generate early in the NBA season:

A gigantic steel skeleton looms alongside the arena where the Nets play, looking like an on-ramp to a freeway that does not yet exist. Apparently, it will be an indoor ski jump.
It’s hard to tell where the Nets are headed. Jason Kidd came down with a migraine last night and was not in uniform, which put more burden on the team’s two other stars, Richard Jefferson, who has become the focus of the offense, and Vince Carter, not strong in his second game in two nights.

But where are the Nets really going? Certainly not into that weird structure hanging over the arena. The ownership is still talking of moving into an arena at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, but shovels are not in the ground, and the planned opening at the start of the 2009-10 season has now been pushed back sometime into that season.

The Nets have painted themselves into a corner, but at least management used bright red paint, gussying up the ghastly landscape of cranes and parking garages. Their home, once called Byrne Arena, more recently Continental Arena, has been renamed the Izod Center.


The cloud probably has as much to do with the funeral of Stephon Marbury's father as Knicks' defeat of the Nets last night at the Meadowlands. From the Daily News:

In a few more seasons, the Knicks will be going to Brooklyn regularly to play the Nets, or whatever Bruce Ratner wants to call his team once it clears out of the swamps of Jersey.

But Thursday, the Knicks will go to Brooklyn for a trip that wasn't in their plans when the NBA released the schedule back in July. It's the worst kind of trip, too. The sole purpose is to pay their final respects to Don Marbury.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Maestro Bruce Ratner plays real estate spectators like a violin

Ever since NYC real estate became a spectator sport, and especially since blogs came on the scene to feed the beast, Bruce Ratner has been playing the crowd like a violin. By leaking sneak peeks of projects and then repeatedly telling folks that the renderings are "out of date" and are still being "finalized," the mega-developer has succeeded in creating more buzz than one would think possible.

BeekmanStage-smaller.jpgTake the Beekman St. project — an entire series of renderings of the downtown skyscraper was released, enough to get the fanatics at Curbed.com drooling for months. Then the site was prepped, the crane arrived, and STILL NO RENDERINGS!!!

Now the Renzo Piano-designed City Tech tower has the Brooklyn blogosphere (including NoLandGrab) and local press rabidly trading links and tipping their hats to one another — meanwhile, all of the leaked renderings are out of date? Puh-leeze, it's Beekman Street Redux and we're all buying into it. Ratner is chumming the waters again, and why not — it worked so well the first time.

Sorry if we seem a little cynical here at NoLandGrab, but we're still sitting around trying to find something nice to say about Atlantic Yards other than, "high rises make great arena bollards!"

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

BREAKING: Curbed finally gets fed up with Ratner

Curbed.com reports that a highrise crane has arrived at Ratner's Beekman St. site, where the Frank Gehry-designed tower is under construction.

The lack of a real sneak peak at the final rendering of the project has the real estate blog all hot and bothered and feeling blue:

They can say the designs aren't finalized until the cows come home, but one thing's for sure: Frank Gehry's big ol' motherfuckin' Beekman Tower just got a big ol' motherfuckin' crane. So pardon us, Forest City Ratner, for rerunning a sampling from the famed Gehry Downtown Collection. How long can they keep a starchitected 75-story building secret? We hate to do it, but we're going to have to take away one of Bruce Ratner's Hanukkah gifts this year. Bruce, don't make us pull back on the latkes, too.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

The 3 (So Far) Faces of City Tech’s Tower

All Are Out of Date, Forest City Ratner and City Tech Sources Say

CItyTech-BDE.jpg Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Linda Collins

After reporting last week that the new Renzo Piano-designed rendering (left image) for the proposed City Tech-Forest City Ratner building at Tillary and Jay streets had been revealed, the Brooklyn Eagle learned that it was an old one and there was a newer one (largest image at far right).


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Dateline Pittsburgh: 12/06/07

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Mall at Robinson was recognized for marketing excellence by the 36th annual MAXI Awards program of the International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. The Mall at Robinson, owned and managed by Forest City Enterprises, won a Maxi Silver award in the public relations category.


NoLandGrab: Readers may remember that Forest City also got this award for the 250,000-LED holiday light show at the 1.2 million-square-foot "open air lifestyle and entertainment center" in Denver (link).

Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

Retail Industry Will "Walk the Talk" of Green Building in 2008

CoStar Group
by Sasha M. Pardy

This article looks at efforts by developers of retail space to be more green in their plans:

The retail real estate industry is making great strides in catching up with its office and industrial counterparts in terms of embracing standards for green development as demonstrated by the development of standards for retail space between the two major certifiers of sustainability and green issues.

Forest City is included in a list of developers striving for LEED certification:

Regency Centers is one of the developers that have made public their commitment to achieving LEED certification at their new shopping center developments that is working to get the Core and Shell and Retail CI programs working in conjunction to achieve certification. Others working towards the same goal include Forest City, Macerich, Westfield, Federal Realty, and more.

We hope Forest City does better in other cities than in New York. Forest City Ratner originally said it would obtain LEED certification for the Times Tower, but later decided not to apply for certification.


Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

December 5, 2007

Panel on "oversuccess" raises questions about community review, CBAs, gentrification, and AY

The indefatigable Norman Oder attended last night's Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York panel on "The Oversuccessful City," where Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project made its regular cameo appearance as development and planning-process bugaboo:

Unfortunately, [Ron Shiffman of the Pratt Institute] said, “too many comfortable relationships” favor projects that threaten communities. He cited the Columbia University expansion, where the City Council rejected a plan developed by Manhattan Community Board 9, and the Atlantic Yards project, where Forest City Ratner got “a deal to bypass the city review process.”

Affordable housing, he said, should be achieved not through a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a “wedge issue” used to gain political support for a project like Atlantic Yards, but through policies, “not because we put zoning for sale”—another reference to the private rezoning for AY—“but because it’s a requirement for our society.”

Our political leaders, he suggested, are too insulated from the concerns. “We need to revisit public processes.”


Posted by lumi at 10:23 AM

Holidays persevere in Ratnerville

Brought to you by The Gowanus Lounge:

It's the Christmas tree stand on Flatbush Avenue, standing this year amidst the emptiness of properties that have been demolished by Forest City Ratner.

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

A Hanukkah menorah lies flat on the roof of a Forest City Ratner owned building on Pacific Street, in the Atlantic Yards footprint drawn by the developer.
We wish you and yours the best festival of lights.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Imagine Flatbush, Jane Jacobs, and NIMBYism

Flatbush2030Logo.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

On yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show, a segment addressed Imagine Your Neighborhood 2030: a Community Visioning Project initiated by the Municipal Art Society (MAS)....

One of Lehrer's guests, Eve Baron, director of the MAS Planning Center, described the effort as growing out of lessons learned from both Jane Jacobs and Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030.

Lehrer was a bit skeptical, pointing out that PlaNYC relies on increased density, especially at transit hubs.

Baron: The mayor's plan is critically important... We're trying to bring in neighborhood notions of sustainability, which would probably include more Jane Jacobs-type concepts about planning.

Lehrer interjected: Is it a "not in my backyard" sensibility?

Baron responded: I think not. I think Jane Jacobs was in favor of responsible development that would accommodate growth, but growth that didn't undermine what people love about a neighborhood.

That remains a challenge for the city.


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

New York Times Building Debris Injures Pedestrian As High Winds Rip New York City


More news about Monday's wind storm, which blew out a glass panel at the Times Tower:

According to The New York Times, 911 operators in New York City began receiving accident reports at 3:30 pm yesterday that said a man was hit by debris from The New York Times Building at West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue. The police described the man as in his 30s and said he was treated for a cut above an eye by emergency medical workers. A spokesperson for the newspaper said that glass did fall from a window of the 17th floor of The New York Times Building, but the newspaper was unable to confirm if that is what, in fact, hit the man.

The New York City Department of Buildings said it would be issuing safety violations to the owner of The New York Times Building because inspectors had determined that an exterior glass panel fell from the 52-story tower, causing minor injuries to a pedestrian. The 2nd through the 28th floors of the New York Times Building are owned by the newspaper, while Forest City Ratner owns the floors above that. The ground floor is owned by both companies.


Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Vornado JV Selected as Developer at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal

Commercial Property News

A developer has been selected for the Port Authority Bus Terminal's enhancement and enlargement. Forest City's Times Tower was cited as evidence that the neighborhood is booming.

Office development has been robust around the Port Authority terminal. In November, the New York Times Co. and Forest City Ratner Cos. opened the 52-story, 1.5-million-square-foot New York Times Building at Eighth Ave., between 40th and 41st Streets.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

Special Report: Commercial Property Developers Reveal Market Trends in the Big Apple

Multi-Housing News
By Matthew Marin, Associate Editor

Commercial real-estate industry folks like to tell each other that Atlantic Yards is in "Downtown Brooklyn," because a development of that scale might be appropriate in a place called "downtown" somewhere. Alas, Bruce Ratner's 22-acre megaproject is planned for Prospect Heights, which would bring a 19,000-seat arena to some residents' front doors.

Dubbed a "cool market," by Beninati, Brooklyn has attracted the attention of numerous high-profile celebrities. Before their split, actors Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, who met while filming "Brokeback Mountain," lived in Boerum Hill. Married actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, who worked on "A Beautiful Mind," currently reside in the area. And, Adrian Grenier, star of the hit TV show "Entourage" recently moved into a three-floor townhouse in Clinton Hill.

Downtown Brooklyn, in particular, will become home to Forest City Ratner Co.'s more than $3-billion Atlantic Yards, considered the region's most ambitious--and controversial--master-planned development project. It is scheduled to become the new home for the Nets basketball team and several mixed-use buildings.

The Atlantic Yards development intends to add 6,430 units of mixed-income housing; 1,930 will be market-rate condos, and 4,500 will be rental units. Fifty percent of the rentals will be set aside for middle- and low-income families. Additionally, at least 200 ownership units on-site will be dedicated for ownership by low-, moderate- and middle-income individuals and families.


NoLandGrab: We're not sure if Forest City Ratner has actually guaranteed that the 200 units would be on-site. It's possible that they could be built on another site, even in another neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Duffield Street Saved!

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Phil Guie

Last week, it was announced that 227 Duffield Street, which was slated to be demolished as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan, will be spared through a settlement between the city, owner Joy Chatel, and a local not-for-profit.
Initially, city officials dismissed tunnels and architectural abnormalities beneath several homes in the area, despite the opinions of several respected historians and the fact that known abolitionists once owned the home. But through it all, Chatel never gave up fighting. "I wanted to stop but I couldn't stop," she told a crowd of more than 60 who gathered at 227 Duffield for a celebratory press conference on Monday. "Our ancestors wouldn't let me stop."
As Lewis Greenstein, the owner of 233 Duffield Street, and one of Chatel's closest partners in the fight to save her home, put it: "This project was not a slam dunk the same way Atlantic Yards is not a slam dunk. All we needed is time." But time is exactly what caused Chatel to shed tears as she recalled how her five grandchildren suffered because she spent years immersed in the struggle.


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere96.jpg MotherSister Brooklyn, A MotherSister Minute: Letitia James

As utterly disenchanted as I’ve become with national politics, I am more engaged with my local representatives, and I’ve been particularly impressed with Tish James, who has been on the front lines of community issues large (such as the Atlantic Yards development) and relatively small (saving the Broken Angel’s owners from eviction).

Gothamist, 7 Line Gets Hudson Yards, But Forget Hell's Kitchen

And yesterday, the five developers bidding on the Hudson Yards took their projects to the public last night by having designer present the plans. Reactions ranged from "meh" to "interesting" to "horrifying", but Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder points out that at least there's a public process for the West Side rail yards, unlike the Atlantic Yards.

Curbed.com, Yardsmania: Huge Crowd Packs Cooper Union

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder was at Cooper Union last night for the public presentation of the Yards proposals by the competing developers, and he says that the Great Hall was standing room only. Over one thousand people lined up to hear landscape architects talk? Yardsmania!

The Political News You Need to Know, Brooklyn’s Neverending Story: The Debate over Atlantic Yards Continues with Concerns Over Security
A reblog of our reblog on Nets Fan in NY's defense of the lack of a third-party security analysis for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

December 4, 2007

Lessons from the West Side yards: it's the master plan, not the starchitect

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR contrasts last night's public presentation of five competing plans for the MTA's West Side yards in Manhattan with the lack of public process in the approval of Atlantic Yards.

Norman Oder notes that:

  • There is a big interest in large-scale projects like the West Side yards development (with over one thousand in attendance last night).
  • The plan, and not the architect, is what matters.
  • Frank Gehry never had to publicly present his concepts for the Atlantic Yards.
  • A large development needs multiple styles and multiple architects.
  • None of the plans presented suggest enclosing open space with tall buildings.
  • The proposals would result in a denser development than Atlantic Yards, but not as residentially dense.
  • The Manhattan plans would be built only on MTA property.
  • There is a public process, but it's unclear what, if any, parts of these proposals might be used ultimately.
  • The West Side yards proposals will have to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

and, finally:

Atlantic Yards was proposed (well, publicly announced) four years ago, minus one week. A single-source project like it, on such valuable publicly-owned land, could never be proposed today. We know better.


Posted by steve at 6:47 AM

Gehry flunks MIT


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

The urban legend of O'Malley and Atlantic Yards

Yesterday's news that the famed Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame raised our antenna, because we knew it wouldn't be long before the urban legend — that O'Malley was hoping to build a new ballpark on the same site as Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan — would come back to life like a zombie.

The first out of the box was The NY Times's "CityRoom" blog, which cited O'Malley's plan "within the current boundaries of the much-debated Atlantic Yards development." It has since been corrected to read "the new stadium would have been adjacent to the much-debated Atlantic Yards development," and further amended:

An earlier version of this article misstated the location of Walter F. O’Malley’s proposed Dodgers stadium from the 1950s in relation to the current-day Atlantic Yards site. It would have been adjacent to, not within the modern footprint of, the Atlantic Yards development. The article has been corrected.

TC-AtlanticCenterMall.jpg Still, it didn't stop the article from quoting author John Thorn, who keeps the legend alive: “When O’Malley wanted to build a stadium at Atlantic Yards, Robert Moses didn’t.”

Brooklyn Junction blogger recycles the myth (also favored by Mayor Mike Bloomberg):

At one point before the team moved, there was discussion of a new Brooklyn Dodgers stadium being erected by where the new Ratner-inspired New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets arena is in the pipeline at Atlantic Yards.

How much cooler would it be to have Major League Baseball than NBA basketball in Brooklyn?

We expect more to roll in before day's end.

For the record, the site coveted by O'Malley has already been developed by Bruce Ratner, where now sits his underwhelming Atlantic Center Mall, which sorta looks like a ballpark if you squint real hard.

The article in today's NY Times print edition did get the location right; however, "the paper of record" has made this error at least four other times in the past.

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Hot Bird Hanging On: Atlantic Yards Destruction Update

Brit in Brooklyn got this shot of the Vanderbilt Avenue "nail house" (sigh).


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

2 Are Hurt in New York by Debris From Towers

The NY Times
By Christine Hauser

Wind gusts knocked glass or debris from two skyscrapers in Midtown yesterday afternoon, including the new building that houses The New York Times. In each case, a pedestrian was reported to have been injured.
In Midtown, callers to 911 reported that at 3:30 p.m. a man was hit by debris from The New York Times building at West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue. The police described the man as in his 30s and said he was treated for a cut above an eye by emergency medical workers.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Catherine Mathis, said she had a report that the man was taken to a hospital. “Glass did fall from a window on the 17th floor,” she said. The window had been cracked, she said.
The city’s Department of Buildings said in a statement that it was issuing a violation to the owner of The New York Times Building for “failing to safeguard the public and property.” It said inspectors had determined that an exterior glass panel fell from the 52-story tower, causing minor injuries to a pedestrian. The Times owns the 2nd through the 28th floors, and the developer Forest City Ratner owns the floors above that, Ms. Mathis said. The companies jointly own the ground floor.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Brooklyn’s Neverending Story: The Debate over Atlantic Yards Continues with Concerns Over Security

Nets Fan in New York sends naysayers back to "Pleasantville" and takes his best shot at politicians and residents who have called for an independent security analysis for Atlantic Yards:

The Hearst Corporation’s new 46-story headquarters in Manhattan boasts over one mile of glass office fronts. Yet, this building, with its reinforced blast-resistant glass, is being praised as a new “green” wonder with its use of natural light and sensor-control lighting.

It’s all a matter of how you spin it. Positive preventive security checks and proper planning are important, but using talks of terrorism to create a heightened sense of panic among residents does not encourage healthy discussion. Are we supposed to embrace a no building buildings policy in the 21st century? This recent argument is as transparent as Gehry’s glass-clad arena. With this neverending wave of debate, the AY development project remains in a perpetual state of suspension. With any luck, the Nets will move into their new arena by 2020.


NoLandGrab: This still doesn't answer the question of how the NYPD proposes to protect the arena block, which includes four high-rise towers, without having to close streets, or, as an NYPD spokesperson claimed, not even having to use bollards (unless the high-rise towers ARE BOLLARDS???).

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

City woman leads charge against eminent domain

By Justin Rocket Silverman

Joy Chatel learned in 2004 that the city was planning to use eminent domain to take her 150-year-old Brooklyn house, possibly a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Little did she know then that a court settlement reached last week would not only let her keep her home, but would galvanize a citywide movement against the practice of seizing private property.
"I don't want to say that we beat City Hall," Chatel said through tears yesterday. "What we did was make City Hall see just what they were doing to us."
"With this settlement the city has shown it's always possible to do development without abusing eminent domain," said Daniel Goldstein, a member of Develop Don't Destroy and fierce opponent of the Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

Forest City in the News

HEI Hotels & Resorts Steps Up Commitment to Le Meridien Brand with Two Hotel Acquisitions/Conversions

From an HEI Hotels & Resorts press release, via EarthTimes.org:

HEI expects to complete the previously announced acquisition of the Hotel @ MIT at 20 Sidney Street, adjacent to the MIT campus, from a joint venture between Forest City and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on December 5, and will convert the hotel to the Le Meridien brand. The hotel is situated in the heart of University Park at MIT, a premier, award-winning office, high-tech and biomedical complex, within a short walk of Harvard Square. The property features 7,700 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space, a full-service restaurant, a terrace garden for outdoor functions and a fitness center.

Posted by lumi at 3:52 AM

December 3, 2007

The best reason for not airing security concerns...

...because they know that they're real.

At last week's press conference, 33rd District City Councilman David Yassky, produced the best reason for keeping security concerns of Atlantic Yards under wraps:


"I suspect that when the security thread is pulled, that may well unravel a whole ball of yarn that is holding this project together. We saw this with some of the Ground Zero buildings, we've seen this with the Goldman Sachs building Downtown — people didn't want to air the security concerns because they knew they were real.

"When they were aired they had to make serious, serious changes. I think that when the security concerns get a real look here, people are gonna see that they have to make changes and they don't want to. That is why we have not seen any security plan come to light.

"They will have two choices. They will either have to push the building back significantly and make serious changes in their plan. Or they will have to start talking about streets, and I will say this, if they start talking about street closures, they will see unyeilding opposition. This project will already have such a disasterious impact on traffic, if they start doing that.. they will meet, I believe, a tidal wave of opposition

"I think that may be the reason that they may have been so quiet, so mum, on the security issue. The community, the public, is owed an answer and owed a serious genuine security plan, we are entitled to that."

link to video

Posted by lumi at 7:30 PM

Meet the new drawing. Same as the old drawing?

McBrooklyn and Brownstoner posted the latest drawings of "the tower that Forest City Ratner and City Tech are planning to build at the corner of Tillary and Jay Streets in Downtown Brooklyn," after "a spokesman for the school protested that the rendering was out of date, something that DBP's Joe Chan echoed."


McBrooklyn deems it "remarkably similar," while B-stoner notes that "it doesn't look all that different to us in terms of scale or design."

In the news, the NY Daily News ran an article about parents' concerns over impacts of constructing the new tallest building in Brooklyn next to a public school ("Parents fear Brooklyn tower plan would hike health risk").

Posted by lumi at 7:24 PM

Forest City in the News

The Arkansas Leader, Contractor at air base promising payments

Forest City Enterprises is one of two developers vying to take over four stalled military housing projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts and Florida, after lenders pulled the plug on the Arkansas project.

Posted by lumi at 7:15 PM

Bus stop scheduled to be "temporarily relocated"

TC-B65Sched.jpg From the "Atlantic Yards Construction Update:"

"The B65 bus stop on Dean Street at the east side of Flatbush Avenue will be temporarily relocated within close proximity to the current bus stop in the near future to accommodate imminent utility work. Formal notification prior to the relocation will occur in accordance with regulations set forth by the appropriate city agencies."

Posted by lumi at 5:15 PM

Will "absurd" process make Atlantic Yards this generation’s Penn Station?

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR continues its Monday Kent barwick doubleheader with a report on — and analysis of — last week's "Modernism and the Public Realm" panel discussion:

At every public program these days about urbanism, it seems, Atlantic Yards gets a mention, and Wednesday night, at a panel titled "Modernism and the Public Realm" at the Museum of the City of New York, Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS), offered a striking prediction.

It was a passing, middle-of-the-night thought, he allowed, but maybe Atlantic Yards “will be, in its way, like Penn Station,” the 1963 demolition of which galvanized New Yorkers to finally achieve a landmarks preservation law. “Maybe the absurdity with which that proceeded will awaken the desire for a more rational process.”

(That begs the question about why Barwick and the MAS have not taken a more confrontational stance toward Atlantic Yards, instead hoping to mend it rather than end it.)

Barwick's fellow panelist, urbanist and author Fred Siegel, was considerably less circumspect in his opinion about the mother of all public-funding sinkholes:

After seconding Barwick, Siegel, an urbanist with a center-right bent, attacked Atlantic Yards as a subsidy boondoggle. Brooklyn, he pointed out, is going through an economic boom. “In the midst of this, what is the compelling economic logic for Atlantic Yards?” he said, citing $700 million in subsidies. (Actually, the amount of direct subsidies would be $305 million, but the total in tax breaks, discounted land, and other benefits surely exceeds $700 million.)

In closing, he returned to Atlantic Yards, which he declared not a product of modernism, economic growth, or housing demand. “It is purely and simply a product of the mayor’s politics.”


Posted by lumi at 1:19 PM

Pragmatism vs. principle: a look at the MAS & Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an in-depth look (does he know any other way?) at the recent Last Exit piece on Kent Barwick, and probes the grey areas in the Municipal Art Society's milquetoast approach to Atlantic Yards:

Municipal Art Society (MAS) President Kent Barwick's severe dismay over the process behind Atlantic Yards, suggesting that the project may become this generation's Penn Station, constrasts with his organization's "mend it don't end it" stance regarding the project.

That deserves a closer look. On the one hand, the MAS and allies in BrooklynSpeaks have a legitimate role in steering clear of the lawsuits challenging the project; that allows them to offer constructive criticism if the project does proceed, while groups opposing Atlantic Yards (added: in court) won't get much, if any, attention from Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation.

On the other hand, if Barwick really does believe the process was so bad, the principled extension of that posture would seem to be full-scale opposition. Instead, BrooklynSpeaks believes that better future process can redeem past bad process.


Posted by lumi at 1:07 PM


Weeks of December 3, 2007 — December 10, 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.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us.


Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Mid-block Support of Excavation (SOE) piles: testing in progress; installing tie backs;
  • 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 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).

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 complete at 465 Dean Street (block 1127, lot 54). Clean up and back fill will be completed within this 2-week period.
  • Demolition is complete at 814 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 45). Clean up and back fill will be completed within this 2-week period.
  • Demolition is complete at 538 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 46). Clean up and back fill will be completed within this 2-week period.
  • Demolition is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue for the next two–three months.

Utility Work

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

Transportation Update


  • 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.
  • The B65 bus stop on Dean Street at the east side of Flatbush Avenue will be temporarily relocated within close proximity to the current bus stop in the near future to accommodate imminent utility work. Formal notification prior to the relocation will occur in accordance with regulations set forth by the appropriate city agencies.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

465 Dean Street demolished

TC-465DeanDemolished.jpg Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

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

this building has been demolished for Atlantic Yards.

this now vacant lot would be at the southwest corner of the Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Rising costs may reduce size of Downtown hotel

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Mark Belko

In Pittsburgh, Forest City is faced with having to downsize a Downtown hotel project before construction begins, due to rising construction costs.

Mary Conturo, executive director of city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, said the hotel likely will end up at less than the 500 rooms envisioned when the $104 million budget was set in 2003.

"I would not be surprised if it were below that considering the time that has passed and just considering the escalation in cost since we started working on this," she said.

The authority is expected to meet with Cleveland developer Forest City Enterprises early next year to discuss possible alternatives in scaling back the size of the hotel.
the project continued to be delayed because of a $34 million funding gap. That was not resolved until last summer, when the state Legislature authorized a $34 million subsidy for the hotel to be paid out of a slots-financed development fund. Forest City is putting up $70 million.


NoLandGrab: We're curious to see if politicians will publicly admit that a reduction of the size of the project will jeopardize the economic benefit to the city.

This is also something to keep an eye on here in Brooklyn — rising costs and market conditions could result in long delays and/or huge alterations to the project plan, resulting in serious changes to the the amount of jobs and affordable housing created and net benefit (if any) to the taxpayer.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

City to spare NYC home believed linked to Underground Railroad

AP, via amNY
By Verena Dobnik

After years of battling the city, a group of New Yorkers has saved an old Brooklyn house they believe once sheltered slaves fleeing Southern plantations.
The city has pledged it will not seize the property, which was to be demolished to make room for an underground parking garage.
The brick townhouse was one of seven old homes slated for demolition as part of the redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn, a commercial and civic center that today bears few traces of the residential neighborhood that stood before the Civil War.
The fate of the other homes is still unclear, but activists had a rare victory to celebrate in a larger conflict that has pitted the developers transforming Brooklyn against citizens trying to prevent the "Manhattanification" of the borough.
"So many of us in the community did not want to see the Underground Railroad become an underground parking lot," said Randy Leigh, an area resident.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

New Jersey Nets & L.A. Lakers Should Re-visit Jason Kidd-Andrew Bynum Trade


The Newark Star Ledger reports on the Nets turning down Jason Kidd’s request for a contract extension.
My Quick Take: New Jersey owner Bruce Ratner rolls deep. The billionaire has shown Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson the money, signing his star wings to max contracts.

But the buck stops with Jason Kidd-literally.


NoLandGrab: A-a-aw shucks! Kidd was so looking forward to playing in Brooklyn, though he'd have to find it first, never mind "the longevity."

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

December 2, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

We're still catching up in the wake of last week's news about Forrest "City" Taylor's appointment as the ombudsman, the latest call by local politicians for an independent security analysis, and Dolly Williams's $4,000 fine for using her position on the City Planning Commission to further her own business interests.

Here's what they were saying in the blogosphere:

Brownstoner, Another Call for an Atlantic Yards Security Study

AY opponents are asking for more transparency from the state and Forest City, according to an article in the Daily News: "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 CBN’s Eric McClure. Forest City won’t disclose details of Atlantic Yards-related security studies it’s funded, citing the issue’s sensitivity, but points out that a consulting firm has reviewed AY security plans and found them comprehensive. Atlantic Yards Report, meanwhile, notes that Council Members David Yassky and Bill De Blasio—both of whom have generally supported the project and who are running for Comptroller and Borough President, respectively—came out yesterday to also call for increased scrutiny of the arena’s security. “The ball game’s not over,” said De Blasio, noting that unless Forest City behaves with more transparency, “the future of their project is in danger.”

The Gowanus Lounge, Call for Independent Atlantic Yards Security Study Gets Louder

A broad-based group that includes local officials supporting the Atlantic Yards development renewed their call for an independent study of security at the planned arena at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Citing a setback that is only 20 feet in some places, the officials said a full public airing of issues is needed. Some of the strongest criticism actually came from arena supporters. “If they start talking about street closings, they will have unyielding opposition,” said Council Member David Yassky. "They will have two choices—push the building back, or close streets.”

The Gowanus Lounge, BREAKING: Underground Railroad House Spared

The Underground Railroad House at 227 Duffield Street will be spared from eminent domain and the wrecking ball.
The building is on the site of the proposed Willoughby Square Park atop a big underground garage that will serve some of the massive developments planned downtown. The city was planning a commemorative of the Underground Railroad. Could the shift indicate that after enduring bad publicity in what became a national story, the city might be planning a museum that would include an actual Underground Railroad structure?

The Real Deal, Planning commission member fined for Atlantic Yards vote

City Planning Commission member Dolly Williams was fined $4,000 yesterday for casting a vote three years ago in support of the Atlantic Yards project. Williams allegedly owned property in the neighborhood. The announcement by the Conflicts of Interest Board came as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appointed Shirley McRae, Community Board 2 chairwoman, as Williams' prospective successor. Following the implication, Williams recused herself from voting on a rezoning plan for Gowanus, where she also has a financial stake.

Moving On, 2 offers
One blogger has an offer in on a nearby brownstone. Though she fears for her car, she is looking forward to gentrification spurred by Atlantic Yards.

This Recording, In Which This Area Is Incapable of Building Anything Interesting

A review of the region's new sports venues gives a favorable nod to Ratnerville:

The most interesting of the new stadium concepts was developed by tycoon Bruce Ratner, in a project conceived by Frank Gehry and titled Atlantic Yards. There has been moderate community opposition to this proposal. It’s tougher to build stadiums in cities because of community opposition and other lobbying interests. It’s also important to build them there so that these Babel Towers doesn’t cower in New Jersey, some place where we don’t care if God sees us.

The interior of the arena, a small part of the overhaul pacakge, is an exciting contemporary area, suited for concerts and other cultural events, expansive enough to keep prices down for the people of the area. It is the total opposite of the only New York arena stadium not being totally rethought, Madison Square Garden.

NoLandGrab: "People of the area?" Could one be more condescending, while trying not to be?

Posted by lumi at 7:50 PM

Arena Setback Should Be a Major Setback

Queens Ledger

Now with news that the arena will be closer than an NFL first down to two of Brooklyn’s busiest thoroughfares, it’s time for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), FCR, the governor, the mayor, the NYPD, and whoever else has been involved in heretofore undisclosed security discussions to be more forthcoming with their plans.

The ESDC continues to assert that security talks are ongoing with the NYPD, but that it would be a breach to divulge any specifics. It’s amazing that the same security concerns didn’t prohibit the public from learning that the most high-profile building being planning in the world - the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero - was, in fact, too close to the street.

And how close was the Freedom Tower when first proposed? Twenty feet.


Posted by amy at 12:06 PM

If the Times covered Atlantic Yards like a political race

Atlantic Yards Report

What if the Times applied the same level of scrutiny [that they apply to political candidates] toward the claims of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and project backers in city and state government?

Take the developer's claim, on the Atlantic Yards web site, about jobs and revenue:
The development will produce tremendous economic growth for the borough and city, creating more than 15,000 union construction jobs plus between 1,500 and 6,400 permanent jobs, as well as generating over $5.6 billion in tax revenue for the city and state over 30 years.

The jobs are 1500 jobs a year over ten years, and the tax revenue--well, it certainly doesn't come from any official source.

Or consider this claim, also on the web site, about the Community Benefits Agreement:
In addition, over 200 community leaders and organizations have affirmed their support for the landmark agreement.

However, those entities, as the New York Observer reported, included elected officials, restaurants, and real-estate agencies.


Posted by amy at 12:01 PM

A neo-Jacobsian take on urbanism: "morphogenesis"


Atlantic Yards Report

In this time of discussion about the influence and impact of urbanist Jane Jacobs, it´s interesting to hear a modern take that, while not explicitly referencing Jacobs´s work, seems to reflect her conceptualizations.

Take the innovative landscape architect James Corner of Field Operations. “Sites are always, in a sense, in a transition,” he said at a panel discussion November 8 at MOMA titled The Old Becomes New: Urban Revitalization in New York.

He contrasted the “model of erasure and tabula rasa” and its polar opposite, preservation, when “the historic residue has to be preserved” at all costs, with the notion of morphogenesis,” or “the growth of life,” which allows that “good landscapes, like good cities, are never static.” (The term comes from developmental biology.) Note that, while Jacobs has been embraced by preservationists, that was never her priority.


Posted by amy at 11:57 AM

Desktop Day: Christmas Yards


Brit in Brooklyn

Mac and PC versions of the holiday spirit down on the Atlantic Yards footprint.


Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

Ratner's Christmas Turn-On



Brit in Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner (left): Love child of Dick Cheney + Al D'Amato? (With a little bit of Norman Tebbit?)

Bruce Ratner and his helpers (including Marty Markowitz, right) were at Metrotech last night for the annual lighting ceremony.


Posted by amy at 11:42 AM

Video: City Hall Ratner Arena Press Conference

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Video coverage of the full November 29 press conference sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN). The press conference was headlined:

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

The speakers at the City Hall press conference included Councilman Bill de Blasio, Councilman David Yassky, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Councilwoman Letitia James, and CBN Steering Committee Member Eric McClure.

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse has included the full press conference in a special report called "The Glass Target: New Revelations about the Atlantic Yards Terror Threat." It is embedded here and can be found on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtHYHDSeoqE

NoLandGrab: The press conference will be shown in full Tuesday, 8pm on BCAT1 and Thursday, 8:30pm in Manhattan on MNN.

Posted by amy at 11:35 AM

Develop Don't Destroy Superpost


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has been hard at work delving into security, eminent domain, and political oversight:

Ratner Sound Bite Adds No Comfort
Forest City Ratner spokesman Bruce Bender's response (right) just continues the stonewalling and lack of transparency while adding a new twist with name-calling. The politicians and the community groups want, and deserve, answers from the Empire State Development Corporation (the project's sponsor), the NYPD, and Governor Spitzer's Homeland Security Deputy Michael Balboni.

The Silence Tells Us that Trust Would be Foolish
Common sense is exactly what we and so many others are using when we ask the question (which still has not been answered by anyone and certainly not in Bruce Bender's prepared statement): How is Brooklyn's arena, setback only 20 feet from the street, different than Newark's arena which, setback 25 feet from the street, has required street closings?

Confluence of Eminent Domain Abuse
Yesterday, November 29th, was a City Hall Land Grab trifecta: an Atlantic Yards related press conference, a West Harlem/Columbia University Expansion press conference, and a Willets Point redevelopment City Council Committee hearing. What do those three projects all share in common?

Eminent domain abuse, and fake blight determinations.

More Leadership, Please
On Christine Quinn's assertion that "there’s not a lot that’s left to be done" on Atlantic Yards:
First, there is plenty to be done, including two pending lawsuits and her colleague Councilman Bill de Blasio just yesterday said [as reported on the Atlantic Yards Report]: “The ball game’s not over,” 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.

Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

In Brooklyn’s Badlands, the Coming of the Lattes


NY Times
SAKI KNAFO describes the gentrification of Fourth Avenue...

Finally, there is the prospect of the Atlantic Yards project stretching across a 22-acre site from Fourth Avenue east to Vanderbilt Avenue, a subject of much gloomy speculation.

“We’re nervous,” said Ralph Andradez, 27, an unshaven barista at Mule. “We don’t want the street to become T.G.I. Friday’s.”


Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

December 1, 2007

Ratner Answers Pols, Public With Affidavit

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So, they want to discuss affidavits? The affidavit Ratner's spokesman refers to, in the [Daily News article quoted below], is inconsequential when it comes to legal charges and public criticism regarding Atlantic Yards and security planning.
Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco declined to comment on security, citing the sensitive nature of the issue - even as opponents called on officials to fully explain how the arena would be protected from terrorism.

DePlasco, however, directed the Daily News to an affidavit by security expert Jeffrey Venter, the president of Ducibella Venter & Santore, the firm tapped by Forest City Ratner to consult on security matters at the project site.

The plan "considers in detail the ability of the structures to resist progressive collapse or to otherwise fail in a manner that could compromise life or interrupt facility operations," Venter said in the affidavit.

Well, that's fine if Joe DePlasco wants to discuss affidavits filed in the pending DDDB et al v. ESDC et al lawsuit over the lack of a security/terrorism study in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), amongst other things. (Venter's affidavit is here.)

Neither the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) nor any other state agency was a party to Venter's supposed study and never requested or saw his supposed study and were not part of any alleged discussions with NYPD. Venter's affidavit is of interest, but it doesn't respond to the lawsuit's charge that the EIS failed to follow state environmental laws by not analyzing the impacts of terrorism security planning.


Posted by amy at 10:34 AM


Press Release from South Brooklyn Legal Services

When: Monday December 3, 2007, 12 PM

Where: 227 Duffield Street (between Fulton & Willoughby Streets in Brooklyn)

Invited Speakers: Councilmembers Charles Barron, Letitia James, Tony Avella, John Liu; Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, US Congressional Representative Yvette Clarke, Assembly Representative Joseph Lentol; Rev. Clinton Miller, Rev. Dyson, Joy Chatel, Families United For Racial and Economic Equality, Jennifer Levy Esq., Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, Lewis Greenstein, Raul Rothblatt, Christabel Gough, Jim Driscoll, Richard Hourahan, and others.

What: Press Conference

Brooklyn, NY 11/29/07 - In settlement of a lawsuit filed by Joy Chatel and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) the City has pledged that it will not use eminent domain to condemn 227 Duffield. The property has been the subject of controversy since 2004 when the City announced that it intended to take the property by eminent domain as part of their Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan. The Downtown Brooklyn Plan is a massive redevelopment plan based on a rezoning of the area in 2004. The plan calls for over 4 million square feet of new retail, commercial and luxury housing in the middle of a historically low-income community.

On January 7, 2004, Joy Chatel, an owner of 227 Duffield Street was given a notice informing her that her home would be taken by eminent domain and demolished to make way for a new parking lot. Many believe that her home was a station on the Underground Railroad and a vital cultural treasure that should be preserved. The Underground Railroad was the network of people and places in which fugitive slaves sought refuge when escaping from the plantation system in the South.

The home, built in 1848, was owned by Thomas and Harriet Lee-Truesdell, prominent abolitionists of that era. Their role in the abolitionist movement, coupled with their relationships with other active abolitionists in Downtown Brooklyn, led the City's own researchers to conclude that the property was "quite possibly" linked to the Underground Railroad and the majority of historians commissioned by the City to review its research advocated for the home's preservation. Despite this historical documentation and the presence of several unexplainable architectural abnormalities in the sub-basements from 227-235 Duffield St, the City of New York initially concluded that the home's historic significance did not warrant its preservation. In response to litigation and years of advocacy on the part of those who support preserving the property, the City has agreed to re-draw its plans for Downtown Brooklyn so that the condemnation of 227 Duffield will not be necessary.

"I want to thank the Mayor for listening to our plea," Joy Chatel, an owner of 227 Duffield Street said, "My vision is to continue the Cultural Center and Museum my daughter and I started years ago; so all people home and abroad can benefit from the rich history downtown Brooklyn has to offer. I am also thankful to the many people who have gone to great lengths to make sure that this vision comes to fruition."

"So many of us in the community did not want to see the Underground Railroad become an underground parking lot," said Randy Leigh, area resident and FUREE board member. "Too much of our history has already been lost, and we know the City did the right thing by listening to the community and protecting our history. "

The suit was brought by Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services who says: "I commend the City for their flexibility. They have shown that it is possible to do development thoughtfully, in a manner that is responsive to community concerns, and with an eye to preserving our history."

Tours of the home will be given on request.

Posted by amy at 9:56 AM

West Side yards plans compared; unlike AY, a better chance at "city-making"


Atlantic Yards Report

Friends of the High Line has assembled graphics and compiled a chart comparing some basic aspects of the five competing plans for the West Side yards. (Click on graphics to enlarge.) Likely more information will surface at Monday's public program featuring the design teams, but we still may be waiting for financial details that will drive the deal.

Needless to say, no such offerings were possible for the Atlantic Yards plan. Extell's competing bid for a portion of the site, the Metropolitan Transporation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, came more than 18 months later, and any matrix would've compared apples and oranges, since Forest City Ratner's project extended beyond the railyard. But other issues, such as a basketball arena and the willingness to use eminent domain, would've had to be included in the chart.


Posted by amy at 9:52 AM

In the Izod Center, empty seats and Brooklyn banners


Atlantic Yards Report

At the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, an antiquated arena with no public transit access, the Nets draw better on weekends or against good teams. Tuesday night's game was 1) a midweek game and 2) against the weak Memphis Grizzlies. Wrote David Waldstein in the Star-Ledger: There was an announced attendance of 12,092, but it looked more like half the chairs in the arena, which seats 20,032 for basketball, were purple banners explaining an impending move to Brooklyn.

Given that, in a best-case scenario, the move wouldn't happen until 2010, and quite likely 2011, the question remains as to whether the Nets will consider a move, however temporary, to the Prudential Center in Newark.


Posted by amy at 9:49 AM

Akerman Senterfitt Acquires 21-Attorney Firm


Miami-based Akerman Senterfitt has doubled the size of its New York office with its acquisition of 21-lawyer Stadtmauer Bailkin, a firm specializing in economic development and land use.

Stadtmauer Bailkin co-founders David Stadtmauer and Michael D. Bailkin have both served in senior economic development positions within city and state government, with Stadtmauer previously serving as director of commercial and civic development and director of industrial development at the New York State Urban Development Corporation and Bailkin serving as general counsel of the Mayor's Office of Development of the City of New York. The firm has negotiated incentive packages for some of the city's largest real estate development projects, including the Brooklyn's MetroTech Center and upcoming Atlantic Yards.


Posted by amy at 9:46 AM

The Brooklyn Brand to Expand


NY Press

Well, if you're also feeling the draw to Brooklyn, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is still accepting proposals for arts organizations who would like to relocate to the BAM Cultural District. That would be the hotspot in Fort Greene where the Mark Morris Dance Center and the BAM collective all roost, near the Brooklyn Academy of Music (approx. 150,000 sq ft of space for cultural use). This is not part of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, but of course it would be great to get in before all the rents rise and it'll be impossible to start a hip new performance art/gallery dance project for little people.

NoLandGrab: Maybe Amber Art and Music can apply...

Posted by amy at 9:43 AM

Christine Quinn and the Prisms of LGBT Advocate and Mayoral Candidate


The Village Voice
Julie Bolcer

Development was likewise on the minds of audience members, who asked a limited amount of questions in the final ten minutes of the conversation. One woman mentioned the effort to stop the Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, and asked what Quinn thinks should be done now.

“I think there’s not a lot that’s left to be done and that the project will be getting developed,” the Speaker replied. She reminded the audience that she never took a public position on the matter because it moved forward in a significant way before she took her citywide office. However, she did offer that she believes the development should not be excused from ULURP simply because it is a state process, and she recited her similar belief about the West Side Stadium.

Quinn as future Mayor: "And rats? They were here before I became Mayor, so they are not my problem. Oh, and traffic - that happened before I got here."

And by the way, Quinn took office in January of 2006. The public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was August 23, 2006.


Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

News Highlights of the Week: November 24 – November 30, 2007

Architectural Record

Renzo Piano is working on a skyscraper for Brooklyn that could rise as high as 1,000-feet, making it the borough’s tallest. The New York Daily News reported on November 28 that developer Bruce Ratner, who is building Frank Gehry’s massive Atlantic Yards project nearby, has been working with Piano on the project for at least a year. A spokesperson for the developer said that the office and residential tower’s final height has yet to be determined and that early renderings, which were leaked to the Internet, are “not a reflection of what we’re considering today.” But Ratner might face an uphill battle to build the skyscraper as tall as he’d like. At least one local politician, the paper wrote, opposes any new construction higher than Brooklyn’s current tallest, the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank tower.


Posted by amy at 9:30 AM