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January 31, 2008

AY vs. MSG: a larger tax break, but not for the arena

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR uses yesterday's unanimous City Council vote on a resolution asking the state to do away with Madison Square Garden's ridiculous property-tax exemption, and the amendment introduced by Council members Letitia James and David Yassky seeking to pull a similar tax break for Atlantic Yards before it starts costing the City even more money (it was tabled in committee), as a jumping off point for a comparison of the two corporate-welfare packages.

"If the Council thinks subsidizing MSG is a bad deal for the City and State, they should take another look at the tax breaks and subsidies being offered to the proposed Atlantic Yards Development: they are even worse," James and Yassky said in a statement. It didn't make it past a council committee, but it may recur in the future.

Such tax breaks and subsidies may indeed be much larger, as MSG pointed out, but they are not quite comparable. In fact, the tax exemption that now saves the Garden some $11 million a year is much larger than the exemption anticipated for the Atlantic Yards arena, mainly because much of the land would be tax exempt for decades whatever was built on the arena site, thanks to an as-of-right tax break. And if MSG builds a new arena, well, some new subsidies likely would be on the table, as Metro reported today.


NoLandGrab: While Oder does his best to shed light on the differences between the two, the net result is still enough to make one's eyes glaze over, which is undoubtedly just what developers and their political patrons want when the taxpayers' money is being dished out.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

AY "on rail yards"? Error recurs in the Times

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, which appears to suffer from some rare learning disability, yet again repeats one of Norman Oder's (and our) pet peeves:

From an article in today's New York Times, headlined Scaffold Falls, Killing Worker in Brooklyn:

It is in a section of Brooklyn that is being swept up in new development, with the huge Atlantic Yards entertainment, residential and commercial complex planned on rail yards a few blocks to the west.
(Emphasis added)

I thought we'd resolved that the 22-acre project would be built only in part over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard. After all, when the Times had a beat reporter assigned to Atlantic Yards, he wrote that the project "would rise over a railyard and adjacent land...."


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

Council takes a shot at MSG

By Patrick Arden

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution yesterday calling on the state Legislature to end the biggest, longest tax break in New York history. Since 1982, MSG has been exempted from nearly $300 million in property taxes. Now owned by the corporate behemoth Cablevision, MSG will get a 2008 break worth $11.3 million.
MSG has justified its open-ended exemption by citing recent subsidies the city has provided to new stadiums for the Yankees, the Mets and the Nets. The Yankees, for example, are receiving almost $700 million in public support.

But the Independent Budget Office has pointed out that MSG’s break is much greater than similar tax subsidies granted to the Nets ($140 million) and the Yankees ($162 million). At a hearing of the Council’s Finance Committee this month, IBO senior economist Theresa Devine repeated the “consensus” view that “subsidies for sports facilities are not an effective use of scarce public resources.”

But don't worry, the City Council isn't pulling the plug forever; Council Speaker Christine Quinn added that the corporate welfare could return if and when MSG was ready to rehab the current arena or build a new one.


NoLandGrab: When will politicians get it through their thick heads that spending money on sports venues that NEVER deliver on their promises to the public is a waste of taxpayer money?

Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

January 30, 2008

Who's Buried in Atlantic Yards?

A resistance movement drowning its sorrows during a pub quiz in Red Hook

The Village Voice
By Adam Weinstein

A report from Quiz Don't Destroy:

The contestants—anti-sprawl bloggers, neighborhood organizers, and a few Brooklyn newsies—came well-armed. "My head's been filled with this stuff for years," Urban said, "but I may have dumped a lot of it last Friday, after we lost the environmental lawsuit."


Posted by lumi at 8:54 PM


Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)

This message was brought to you by the building at 680 Pacific Street, just across the southern border of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards footprint.

Click here for more information about Forest City Ratner financing of B.U.I.L.D. (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development).

Posted by lumi at 8:36 PM

CBA Blog

These days, every project with serious negative impacts seems to have its own Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), designed to make the project more palatable. It was only a matter of time before someone started blogging exclusively on CBAs.

Earlier today, we linked the entry on the Bronx Terminal CBA. Here are two other controversial CBAs from NYC:

Atlantic Yards CBA

The fundamental problem with the Atlantic Yards CBA is that it is not representative of the community. A significant portion of Brooklyn residents are opposed to the project due to the extensive impacts that it will have on Brooklyn, and they were not invited to participate in negotiations. Rather, the talks were led by community members already on the developer’s side. It can only be guessed what the CBA would have looked like had inclusive and transparent talks actually been held.

Columbia expansion CBA

With Atlantic Yards and Yankee Stadium, New York City established a pretty bleak track record in coming up with CBAs that came anywhere near their Californian counterparts’ successes (like the Staples Center and LAX CBAs). Because of this, CBA supporters were hoping that an agreement concerning Columbia University’s expansion into West Harlem would provide a better model for future New York CBAs.
It seems that the Columbia CBA negotiations were begun in good faith, with intentions to be as inclusive of divergent community interests as possible. Regardless of the LDC’s continuing pledges of support for community interests, though, it has not succeeded in instilling much faith in its efforts among the public. The resignations and hastily drawn up agreement have not helped. Nor has the LDC’s continuing willingness to allow eminent domain to be used in the project.

Posted by lumi at 8:11 PM

Opposition to Taxbreaks for Ratner: Letitia James and David Yassky Team Up

Daily Gotham

Seems Councilmembers Letitia James and David Yassky are teaming up to oppose the massive tax giveaways to developer Bruce Ratner.

From the press release:

Today at the Finance Committee hearing, the committee will review and vote on Proposed Resolution 90, which asks the State of New York to end the twenty-year-old property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden. If the Council thinks subsidizing MSG is a bad deal fort the City and State, they should take another look at the tax breaks and subsidies being offered to the proposed Atlantic Yards Development: they are even worse.

Council Members Yassky and James will introduce an amendment to Res. 90 that includes language condemning public financing of the Atlantic Yards Development, and asking for these breaks and subsidies to be withheld. The arena component alone is slated to receive hundreds of millions in public funds: $100 million from both the City and State, as well as roughly $500 million in effective property tax exemption, and another $100 million saved from the issuance of tax-free bonds to finance the arena. These numbers do not include additional hundreds of millions of dollars that will go towards the residential and commercial components of the project.


NoLandGrab: It's amazing how some City Councilmembers oppose the property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden while shovelling money down Bruce Ratner's gullet.

What's the worst thing that can happen if the City reverses the deal for subsidies and tax exemptions for Bruce Ratner's Nets arena? It's not as if Ratner will threaten to move the team to New Jersey.

Posted by lumi at 8:01 PM

Atlantic Yards strain

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)


624 Pacific Street near 5th Avenue Prospect Heights

a gauge on the facade of 624 Pacific Street. i assume it's there to indicate if the crack is getting larger.

this building, which is still currently occupied, would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 PM

Doomsday? No Way

From the Institute for Justice:


Throughout the public backlash to the Kelo ruling, those who favor eminent domain for private development predicted—and continue to predict—dire consequences from reform for state and local economies: fewer jobs, less development and lower tax revenues.

This report tests those doom-and-gloom predictions. We examined economic indicators closely tied to reform opponents’ forecasts—construction jobs, building permits and property tax revenues—before and after reform across all states and between states grouped by strength of reform.


This report uses reality and facts to debunk the myth that urban redevelopment dry up and cities will stagnate without the power of eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: Keep in mind, Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation's justifiction for using eminent domain is that without "blight clearance" the neighborhood would stagnate. Meanwhile across the street condos and townhouses are fetching seven figures.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 PM

Atlantic Yards, the E.I.S Game and the Destruction of Brooklyn

The Genius of the Development Industrial Complex

by Christopher Ketcham

Journalist Christopher Ketcham, writing for the political newsletter CounterPunch, connects the dots among Bruce Ratner, the ESDC, Atlantic Yards, David Paget, Brooklyn Bridge Park, sprawl and subsidy-slinging politicians in an epic essay that's a must-read if you haven't yet had your daily fill of overdevelopment-driven outrage.

The game is called Developers Gone Wild. Non-sustainability, waste, carelessness, the privatization of public resources, and, of course, the packing of too many rats into too little space are its hallmarks. In New York City, a primary playing piece in the game, if not the queen on the board, is the ironically-named "environmental impact statement," or EIS, which for decades has greased the skids for development by creating the pretense of public environmental oversight. The artfulness and deceit of the EIS process underscores the fact that the most dangerous players in the game are not the private sector's array of bankers, mortgage lenders, construction companies, unions, big name developers, lawyers, consultants, investors, and speculators and elected officials-qua-boosters (think of the inane yet somehow insidious Marty Markowitz, porcine borough president of Brooklyn) that together comprise what we'll call the development industrial complex.

The threat, rather, arrives from public agencies that abet the private sector's predatory ways. The chief offender to sign off on the EIS process is the New York State boosterist agency known as the Empire State Development Corporation. The corrupt collusion of ESDC with developers has had predictable results: During a decade that saw a rush to re-zone or bypass zoning in favor of uncontrolled growth--the boom-time of roughly 1997 to the present--billions of dollars in new development was sausaged through the system without meaningful environmental review, without realistic assessment of impacts, and, by extension, without the public getting a fair understanding of the effect these megaprojects would have on the streets where people live, shop and play. As a political and corporate tool for profiteering, and also as a means of disarming the citizenry, the ESDC is indispensable--and in Brooklyn it has become the key to the kingdom.


NoLandGrab: Did we mention Ketcham's novel reaction to viewing "Brooklyn Matters?"

Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

Which City?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Henrik Kroguis

There’s a tendency to overlook, or to forget, that Brooklyn once reached for greatness through projects like Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Bridge itself. Atlantic Yards could yet become a signature for Brooklyn. Is Brooklyn up to it?


NoLandGrab: Amongst project supporters, "there's a tendency to overlook, or to forget, that... projects like Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Bridge itself" were PUBLIC projects. Atlantic Yards IS a "signature project" — it's the largest single source private development project in NYC history.

But thanks for playing.

Posted by lumi at 5:34 PM

FCRC: "We remain completely committed"

Forest City Ratner spokesperson Bruce Bender apparently released the following statement in response to the rash of news reports about the company's claim in court that lawsuits by opponents were having a "chilling effect" on the project's financing.

"The opponents have lost over a dozen court decisions on the merits and have now decided to try to further delay this important project through appeals. While that's their right, we're confident that we will once again prevail in court.

"But let's be realistic here. Their goal is to delay project [sic] in the hope that they can damage it, eliminating along the way the benefits to the surrounding communities, including the much needed jobs and affordable housing. This scorched earth policy of anything goes to delay a development that has been reviewed, supported and approved by the state legislative leaders and an overwhelming majority of people in Brooklyn, is disappointing but not unexpected.

"FCRC has been part of Brooklyn's economic growth for over 20 years and we have successfully developed throughout many different market cycles. We remain completely committed to making Atlantic Yards and its numerous benefits a reality for everyone. Regardless of the opponents' delay tactics, we will continue to move forward as quickly as possible."

NoLandGrab: "Their goal is to delay the project?" Bruce Bender doesn't give project opponents enough credit. As far as we can tell, the goal of the lawsuits is to stop the project, send it back to the drawing board, and pave the way for a saner development based on real community input. There are also some home owners, tenants and business owners (and a host of people who support them) who believe that the Constitution should protect them from being forced out to make way for a private project.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Nets to Stop Kidd-ing Around?

BRBall.gif Remember how the Nets pledged to their current fan base that they would stay competitive in New Jersey while waiting for their move to Brooklyn? Looks like that pledge was about as solid as Bruce Ratner's promise of 10,000 new Atlantic Yards jobs.

With the 19-26 Nets going nowhere fast (they did manage to snap their nine-game losing streak last night), their clearly disgruntled star point guard, Jason Kidd, will almost certainly be an ex-Net by the February 22nd NBA trading deadline.

There was a time when Jason Kidd was hopeful of winning a championship in the Meadowlands (the Nets went to the NBA finals in 2002 and 2003). Then Bruce happened, and the bad karma of pretending that the Atlantic Yards deal was about bringing professional sports back to Brooklyn started working its magic. While the Nets haven't yet missed the playoffs in the Ratner years, they haven't been real contenders since the 2003-2004 season. And they appear headed for irrelevance, even if they manage to squeak into the post-season, with or without Kidd.

The combination of bad basketball and lame-duck status at the Izod Center does not bode well for a team that has always struggled to draw crowds. Even Brett Yormark is going to have a tough time selling tickets, and that will only add to the financial pressure that's having a real effect on The Brucester's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

FoxSports.com, Kidd forcing Nets' hand on floor

You expect a bonehead decision like that from a rookie or a journeyman reject, certainly not from a guy reputed to be among the five smartest point guards of all time.

That play said it all to me. Either Kidd was trying to show up Frank or he was making it obvious to owner Bruce Ratner and team president Rod Thorn they're wasting precious time and wins.

ESPN.com, Hit Or Miss: Kidd Deal Could Be Last-Second Deadline Shot

Another source, this one close to Nets owner Bruce Ratner, described him as increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the state of the franchise, whose move to Brooklyn has now been put off until 2010-11 while Ratner continues to wait for the first shovel to go into the ground at the team's future home.

Once upon a time, the Nets expected to make that move to Brooklyn with Kidd as the centerpiece of the roster, though aging.

Gothamist.com, No Kidding: Nets, Guard Near End of Road

Nevertheless, this Nets team has plateaued. In fact, it's on its way down. Carter probably isn't going to win a championship with the Nets, but at least he brings excitement and credibility to a team trying to make its way to Brooklyn.

To make matters worse for the Nets, they may have some issues moving to Brooklyn. The poor financial market coupled with ongoing lawsuits, could be an obstacle preventing Forest City Ratner from securing financing for Atlantic Yards and new Nets arena.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Ravitch: MTA obfuscates full cost of West Side Rail Yards project

Atlantic Yards Report

During a panel discussion last night, Richard Ravitch, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, criticized how the MTA is going about planning for the Hudson Yards project and the West Side Rail Yards.

Norman Oder was there, and he applies Ravitch's criticism to point out shoddy practices in allocating civic resources for Atlantic Yards:

Imagine if someone like Ravitch had blown the whistle on the "extraordinary infrastructure" loophole in the Atlantic Yards Memorandum of Understanding, which opens the door for increased public spending. Imagine if anyone with civic responsibility beyond some Brooklynites criticized the Bloomberg administration for more than doubling its announced pledge of $100 million to support Atlantic Yards.

Oder also speculates as to how long it might actually take to build Atlantic Yards, based on estimates for the West Side rail yards:

Juliette Michaelson, Senior Planner, Regional Plan Association, suggested that the rail yards will take "two or three decades to be built out."

Given that the project would involve about 12 million square feet of development, as opposed to 8 million square feet for Atlantic Yards, a rough extrapolation suggests that AY would take not the announced decade but 14 to 20 years to build--which is what even those associated with the project acknowledge in unguarded moments.


Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

Pullout without penalty? Maybe, but not without pain

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner will suffer no penalty from the state should he decide not to build Atlantic Yards, as reported yesterday by The New York Post. Norman Oder contemplates other financial pitfalls.

But the developer wouldn't exactly go away without pain. First, the Nets consistently lose money, and the loss of the Barclays Center naming rights deal would be huge.

And Forest City Ratner would be sitting on a patchwork of property for which it paid generously for under current zoning, but would be a bargain given the expected zoning override that allows for much bigger buildings. But the demise of the project would mean the demise of the bargain and a certain amount of pain.

There's surely much more to the potential scenario; if the project does come closer to stalling, we should expect public officials to be more forthcoming.


Posted by steve at 6:13 AM

Theater critics to review Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

It's Atlantic Yards: the play.

A Manhattan theater company that has garnered rave reviews for previous performances on hot-button topics now has its sights set on the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

The Civilians, a performance group that combines investigative reporting with stories, song and dance, will tackle the $4.2 billion arena project for a play or musical that could be ready by the 2009-2010 theater season.
As soon as this summer, The Civilians expect to descend on Prospect Heights, where they'll attend civic meetings, interview Atlantic Yards movers and shakers and pour through news reports and other project information.

From there, the group will have a better idea of what form the show will take and how it will be presented, said Cosson, who added that while he is critical of the project, the theater company's portrayal will be objective.
A spokesman for Ratner declined to comment.


NoLandGrab: How about a Bloggershop Quartet?

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

It's the crunch, stupid

Gumby Fresh gives a detailed explaination of how the credit crisis really does have an effect on Bruce Ratner's ability to secure financing for his Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise megaproject.

Here are some tidbits below, but you may want to surf on over to the original article to get the full picture of what Ratner's options are:

What happened when these stadiums became treated as bits of essential public infrastructure (with all the debatable claptrap about them being engines of economic development) was that they began to be eligible for tax-exempt treatment. Holders of bonds financing sports arenas stopped having to pay tax on the interest income, and the opportunities for financial engineering became much more interesting.
The most obvious of these is the use of monoline bond insurance. I don't have the time or the inclination to explain bond insurance in detail, but its premise is that bond markets do not necessary charge a reasonable rate of interest, and that for a fee that is less than the excess rate that that the bond markets charge they will guarantee your bonds. The holders of these bonds are now basically relying on the bond insurer for payment if something happens to the stadium, and get a pretty low rate of interest based on what the presumed risk of the bond insurer is.
Problem is, this system got all f*ed up. In another part of the market, for the insurance of bonds backed by subprime mortgages, the bond insurers priced risk pretty bloody badly, so monolines are now teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Not only are bonds with a monoline guarantee now viewed as much more risky, and thus have a higher interest rate, but any financing might have to go ahead without any insurance at all, at which point lord knows what interest rate you'll get.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Ratner Says Legal Delays Could Jeopardize Atlantic Yards Financing

Ratner Says Legal Delays Could Jeopardize Atlantic Yards Financing

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies acknowledged publicly for the first time, in an affidavit filed Friday, that delay caused by lawsuits could jeopardize the project’s financing. According to a financial expert, the company’s concern has merit.
A.J. Carter, spokesman for project sponsor Empire State Development Corporation, said the financing for the arena has not been committed. According to the General Project Plan, the basketball arena would cost $637 million to build.

“The banks are closed. Nobody’s financing real estate, nobody is financing [Leveraged Buyouts],” said a prominent hedge fund manager in the bond market who asked not to be named. “There is a real credit crunch, the worst I have seen since 1987.”


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

MTA prefers leasing Hudson Yards

Crain's NY Business
By Theresa Agovino

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority would rather lease the Hudson Rail Yards to a developer for 99 years than sell the 26-acre site.
A source at one developer said the MTA was caving in to public pressure not to sell the property, which includes active MTA rail operations. But the MTA spokesman says that under a 99-year lease agreement the developer would still control the site.


Since the early days, just after Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner announced his arena and high-rise megaproject for Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the comparison between the Vanderbilt Railyards and the Hudson Railyards has enabled New Yorkers to understand the MTA real estate giveaways. Uproar over the dispensation of the Hudson Yards led to a pro forma RFP for the Vanderbilt Yards, which led to Ratner's low ball bid coming out on top.

Yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn continued the "Tale of Two Yards" on DDDB.net.

Remember the "bidding process" over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards, the 8-acre MTA/LIRR property which comprises part of the Atlantic Yards footprint? Remember how the MTA appraised the Yards at $214.5 million back in 2005? Remember how Ratner bid $50 million and Extell Development Company bid $150 million? Remember how the MTA forced Ratner to up his bid to $100 million and then awarded him the winning bid?

Well, today Crain's reports that at least three of the bidders on the Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West Side offered "about $1 billion."

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed, Comment of the Day

So i guess in NY its no longer fashionable to build single, dominating buildings, but entire sections of the city get "developed" in one swoop. WTC, Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, East River Waterfront. That sound you hear is Jane Jacobs spinning in her grave like a top.

Found in Brooklyn, Rally for Down Zoning with Bill DeBlasio Tomorrow at 16 Court Street at 11 am.
City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio supports Cobble Hill downzoning, however:

Personally, I can't get past his pro-Atlantic Yards stance and view that an $80,000 income makes one qualify for "affordable" housing.

Pardon Me For Asking, Marty Switching Tactic In Fight Against Rats

Gratuitous link about RATS in Brooklyn Borough Hall, if you could imagine such a thing.

Community Benefits Agreement, Bronx Terminal Market CBA
Another controversial project, another Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) — this one seems to have drawn inspiration from the Atlantic Yards CBA.

The 2006 CBA concerning the Bronx Terminal Market mall development has been criticized (here and here) because the negotiation process did not truly involving any grassroots community organizations. While the agreement does include a number of valuable community benefits, the developer will only be fined $60,000 for failing to comply with the CBA (with a cap of $600,000 on the amount of fines that can ever be assessed), weakening the value of the CBA in the eyes of many stakeholders.
Like Atlantic Yards, this seems to be another CBA in which real benefits are going to be provided to the community, but the question is whether those are the benefits that the community really wanted.

NoLandGrab: To say that the community might not have wanted promises of jobs and housing doesn't quite describe the main problem with the Atlantic Yards CBA. Rather, there were large groups of stakeholders left out of the process, and their needs and concerns were not addressed.

Curbed, The Morning After: Atlantic Yards Money Woes & Musical

The little Brooklyn project known as Atlantic Yards has heated up again this week with news about new concerns over financing the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Eminent Reality

Wall St. Journal

Does restricting "eminent domain" -- the power of government to seize private property -- harm economic growth? A new report from the Institute for Justice looks at the evidence and concludes the answer is no.

Since the Supreme Court sanctified eminent domain on behalf of private developers in the dreadful 5-4 Kelo ruling in 2005, 42 states have passed some restriction on the practice. Some reforms have been far-reaching, as in Florida, which barred public entities that seized property from transferring it to private hands for 10 years after the seizure. Other reforms are more modest, changing the definition of "blight" or throwing up other obstacles to overeager planners.

But one constant since Kelo v. New London has been the refrain, echoed by developers and politicians alike, that eminent domain is necessary for redevelopment. In 2006, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed an eminent-domain reform, arguing that it would harm the economy if the state restricted the power to expropriate private property. Groups such as the National League of Cities make similar arguments.

So the Institute for Justice, which spearheaded the original campaign to save Suzette Kelo's home, decided to crunch some numbers. First, the report assigns each state to one of three categories according to the level of reform implemented after Kelo: "strong," "moderate" or "none." Then it compares the data for construction jobs, building permits and property-tax revenue before and after the effective dates of the reforms for each state. The verdict: So far, there has been no discernable hit to economic activity from the restriction of eminent domain, even in those states with the broadest reforms.

This result isn't surprising. Developers love eminent domain because it's easier to snap up land when government forces owners to sell -- no unpleasant dickering over price, etc. Local politicians likewise believe they are best positioned to pick winners and losers and to shape the future of their cities.

But private development went along very nicely for two centuries before politicians began seizing one person's property for the benefit of another private citizen. Sometimes the marketplace adapted in amusing ways, as when major building projects were forced to go up around, or even on top of, older buildings. But in the absence of the coercive state, buildings still got built.

The most grandly conceived plans are also often those most likely to fail. If a project cannot proceed without government interference, it is reasonable to ask whether it is worth putting the hamfist of government on the scales at all. As the Institute for Justice's report notes, Baltimore's much-touted Inner Harbor redevelopment remains dependent on government handouts. At the same time, private redevelopments without eminent domain, such as in Anaheim's A-Town, are thriving.

The backlash against Kelo has had the healthy effect of limiting the hubris of local politicians, which is why they have resorted to these scary economic claims. We're glad to see them debunked on the merits.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

January 29, 2008

Ratner Showing Fear, At Last?

New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer
by Chris Smith

New York Magazine political reporter Chris Smith offers his two cents (sorry, that's all he was able to finance) on Bruce Ratner's appeal for a speedy appeal:

Here's the argument Bruce Ratner's lawyers won't be making in court: "Please hurry up and make a decision on the lawsuits challenging Atlantic Yards, judges, because the delay is cutting into our profits." But while the sentiment goes unvoiced, that's what Ratner's current posturing is really all about.

Smith argues that any sympathy for the Brucester would be misplaced:

The developer and his lawyers want people to believe that the pesky protesters are costing Brooklyn a civic boon. But Bruce Ratner decided a long time ago that fighting it out in court was cheaper than submitting Atlantic Yards to a transparent public-approval process.


NoLandGrab: We imagine the talk at One MetroTech is going something like this: "Curses! If only those pesky Appellate Court judges were elected rather than appointed, we could have added them to the gift list."

Posted by eric at 2:35 PM

An Undone Deal, And Ratner Can Pull Out Without Penalty

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB offers its take on today's New York Post story, and enumerates the many ways in which Ratner's "done deal" isn't.

  • Ratner does not own the rail yard. The developer and the MTA have an agreement over the sale price of the yards (the low bid of $100 million was accepted) but the transfer agreement has not been signed and the MTA has not collected on the money;

  • The city, state and Ratner have not reached financial agreements on the arena bond;

  • The city, state and Ratner have not reached financial agreements on the Payments in Lieue of Taxes (PILOT);

  • The city, state and Ratner have not reached financial agreements on the "affordable" housing subsidies, credits and bonds;

  • The city has not transferred all of its $205 million in direct cash taxpayer subsidy to Ratner;

  • And of course, Ratner doesn't own the property he needs to build his arena and subperblocks.


Posted by eric at 9:35 AM


New York Post
by Rich Calder

Bruce Ratner can pull out of his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project for Brooklyn without penalty, The Post has learned.

That's because the developer never signed binding contracts for the controversial state-approved project or drew on hundreds of millions in government subsidies, officials confirmed yesterday.


NoLandGrab: Go ahead, Bruce. We dare ya.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Room for us all? Reading (and re-reading) Brooklyn Was Mine

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews the essay collection Brooklyn Was Mine (the authors and editors donated their cut to DDDB's legal efforts) and concludes that:

The Brooklyn Paper suggested that “the sum of the collection does end up equaling more than its parts.” I'm not so sure. Yes, as the Eagle review pointed out, the book captures some new angles on the borough's multitudinous life. However, the development changing Brooklyn demands greater attention.


NoLandGrab: Oder laments the failure of "Brooklyn Was Mine" to dig more deeply into the angst of gentrification and the tumult surrounding the Atlantic Yards project in particular. While he may not yet be sick and tired of all things Atlantic Yards, we're more than happy to read about anything but.

Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

Legal Delays Tax More Than the Nets’ Patience

The NY Times
By Richard Sandomir

Choose the most pressing problem for the Nets:

a) Their 18-26 record puts them only three and a half games ahead of the Knicks.

b) Vince Carter finished fourth in a Sports Illustrated poll of N.B.A. players who get the least out of their talent, but he was seen by his 242 colleagues as just slightly more of an overachiever than the Knicks’ perennially underachieving Eddy Curry.

c) Jason Kidd would rather play for a team that is not three and a half games up on the Knicks.

d) The financial markets are a mess, which is not the fault of Isiah Thomas.

The right answer is (d), unless the Knicks overtake the Nets this season, which would be the supreme crisis of the ownership of Bruce Ratner.

If you chose (d), then you sensed that it will be riskier and more expensive than ever envisioned for the Nets to construct the Barclays Center arena that is part of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project proposed to be built near downtown Brooklyn.

Read about how the Nets' change of address cards won't be going out anytime soon; how the Devils, Yankees, Mets, Giants and Jets got their done deals done before the global markets became constipated; Ratner's legal strategy; and Goldman Sachs' contention that they "cannot wrap up deals without the cessation of legal hostilities."


Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Credit whoa?

creditcrunch.jpg News of Bruce Ratner's claims of credit woes in court documents, as reported yesterday in the Post and Atlantic Yards Report, travelled fast.

Here are links from the local media and blogosphere:

Runnin' Scared (Village Voice), TABLOIDED: Political and Sports Battle Royale
From the daily tabloid round-up:

The Post also reports that Bruce Ratner is having trouble raising money for his controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

NY1: Inside City Hall, A Delegate Count Looms As Bloomy Heads To Albany
From the NY1 daily news wrap-up:

Rich Calder reports: “Don't fork over money to reserve seats for the Brooklyn Nets just yet. Developer Bruce Ratner is running into trouble securing funding for his controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which would bring an NBA arena for Ratner's Nets and 16 skyscrapers with residential and commercial space to Prospect Heights, according to court documents obtained by The Post.”

Gothamist, Lawsuits and Recession Hobbling Atlantic Yards Project

Ratner’s lawyers are warning the court that the lengthy appeal process is putting the project in jeopardy because “the credit markets are in turmoil at this time . . . There is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending.” If the appeal is not quickly resolved, developers “are likely to encounter significant difficulties and cost increases in concluding the bond financing that is essential to the arena's completion,” lawyers argue.

Brownstoner, Is Atlantic Yards Funding in Jeopardy?

An affidavit (see copy on jump) submitted by Andrew Silberfein, Forest City Ratner’s executive vice president and director of finance, sheds some light on the complicated web of financing for the “more than $4 billion project,” which involves having Goldman Sachs serve as the lead underwriter for bonds that will finance the Nets arena’s construction.

DDDB.net, Blogland Looks at Atlantic Yards Credit Crunch

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn corralled the early blog coverage.

Curbed, Your Morning Credit Crunch: Will Atlantic Yards Be a Victim?

The Real Deal, Questions raised on Atlantic Yards financing
Here's just the type of paradox that makes you realize that you can't believe what Forest City says:

"The credit markets are in turmoil at this time . . . There is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending." Bruce Bender, a Forest City Ratner vice president, said in a statement that "regardless of the opponents' delay tactics, we will continue to move forward as quickly as possible."

[Um, we can't proceed with financing, but we'll continue to move forward? Give our brains a rest.]

Kinetic Carnival, Will The City Find Investors?

In the end, Ratner may have more to fear from the US's slumping economy than he does from activists like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Daily Intelligencer (NY Mag), Neighborhood Watch

Prospect Heights: It looks like Bruce Ratner's worried that the slow process behind various legal challenges to the Atlantic Yards project could have a "chilling affect" on financing for the controversial, $4 billion high-rise project. [Gothamist]

Field of Schemes, Court papers hint at Nets arena finance woes

Take this with a big grain of salt, given that Ratner is claiming it in an attempt to get a lawsuit dismissed - the New York Yankees, don't forget, threatened to move out of the city if a similar legal challenge against their stadium wasn't dismissed. Still, there have been questions about how the softening housing market will affect the project for a while now, real estate experts have questioned both its cost and revenue projections, and Ratner's own finances aren't looking too great right now either. The big question then becomes, if Ratner clears away the lawsuits but can't come up with the cash, does he back out of the whole project, or just the housing component, leaving Brooklyn with just a basketball arena and a really ugly skyscraper?

The Knickerblogger, Ratner Admits Arena Funding In Peril.

They are essentially admitting that the project is financially risky. Why are taxpayers funding it?

Further, if the market is drying up for credit, its a reflection that both the real estate market is cooling and bankers are more temperate about financing questionable projects - if that is the case, then why would Forest City/Ratner want to build? Because WE Pay for it, and WE absorb the risks.

The Real Estate Observer, The (Big) Round-Up: Monday

Forest City Ratner admits it is having problems raising money for $4 billion Atlantic Yards Project. [NY Post]

Streets Blog, Today's Headlines

Atlantic Yards Running Into Financial Hurdles (Post)

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

January 28, 2008


Weeks beginning January 28, 2008 and February 4, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work


  • Continue drilling SOE piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Excavate soil at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121/lot 47).
  • SOE piles adjacent to East Portal are completed.
  • Drill piles at LIRR East Portal.
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Pour foundations for temporary access ramp to yard level in block 1120.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120 (for future cable installation from cable bridge in block 1120, parallel to 6th Avenue Bridge).
  • Relocate 3 fire hydrants on north side of Pacific Street, block 1121.
  • Begin demolition of southern portion of Carlton Avenue Bridge.

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.


  • Mobilization for demolition will begin at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) within this two week period.
  • Abatement will be underway at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period.
  • Abatement is underway at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Demolition is complete at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54). Back fill, clean up and fencing will take place during this two week period.
  • Abatement is complete at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22). Demolition will be underway within this two week period.

Utility Work

All utility work scheduled to take place in Flatbush Avenue will only take place at night (between 10PM and 6AM) as mandated by DOT.

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations is underway and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Work will continue on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and on Sixth between Pacific and Dean Streets. In the next two weeks, night time work will begin on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and continue north along Flatbush.
  • Transit ducts on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street will be relocated. This work is expected to continue over the next three months.

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.
  • On January 23, 2008, the Carlton Avenue Bridge, located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, was closed. Northbound traffic is being rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which has been restriped as a two way street, or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 PM

FCR official: lawsuit casts doubt on arena financing

Atlantic Yards Report

While NoLandGrab has been unable to confirm rumors that the speedy Norman Oder had posted his analysis of this morning's New York Post "exclusive" before the Post had actually published it, it's indisputable that Atlantic Yards Report adds some context and depth to the story:

Is the legal battle over Atlantic Yards having “a chilling affect” on Forest City Ratner’s ability to get financing? That's what a lawyer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said more than a week ago, according to lawyers for the 26 petitioners challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, though he denied it to the Brooklyn Paper.

Well, that kerfluffle is moot now that an FCR official has said essentially the same thing in legal papers, arguing for an expedited appeal of Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden's decision. (The New York Post has the story first today; the article's headlined COURT TROUBLE: RATNER ADMITS ARENA-FUNDING WOES.)

In an affidavit filed Thursday, Andrew Silberfein, FCR's Executive Vice President and Director of Finance, stated:

As the Court surely is aware, the credit markets are in turmoil at this time. Many lenders and bond insurers are facing financial difficulties, and are becoming much more cautious. It is not clear what the financial climate will be in several months, when the arena bond financing is made available to the public.

Although the decision that was issued by Justice Madden in this case on January 11, 2008 should be helpful in providing comfort to potential investors that there is no significant risk that the courts will annul the approvals for the Atlantic Yards project, there is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending before this Court. (Emphasis added)

FCR wants the appellate arguments to be heard by May rather than held over until September; the developer would like to open the arena in 2010, even though the three-year bridge reconstruction clock, which started when the Carlton Avenue Bridge closed January 23, suggests that the earliest would be 2011.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM



The New York Post
by Rich Calder

Could the global credit crisis and sub-prime mortgage woes be the straws that broke Atlantic Yards' back?

Don't fork over money to reserve seats for the Brooklyn Nets just yet.

Developer Bruce Ratner is running into trouble securing funding for his controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which would bring an NBA arena for Ratner's Nets and 16 skyscrapers with residential and commercial space to Prospect Heights, according to court documents obtained by The Post.

The papers, filed Friday by Ratner's firm in an attempt to speed up the appeal process in a lawsuit by project opponents, reveal for a first time that the biggest development in Brooklyn's history is in jeopardy because of dragging litigation and a slumping fiscal market.

"The credit markets are in turmoil at this time . . . There is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending," one affidavit says.


Read the affidavit from FCRC EVP and Director of Finance Andrew Silberfein [link opens a PDF].

NoLandGrab: The worse the economy gets, and the longer the court cases drag out, the more tenuous the Atlantic Yards project becomes. And with the city and state cutting hundreds of millions from education budgets and other programs that matter to voters, at what point do politicians start looking to cut non-essentials — like huge public handouts for Bruce?

Posted by eric at 8:47 AM

Among Us

If Heath and Michelle’s life in Brooklyn seemed like a wonderful dream, it was ours, not theirs.

NY Mag

From the "Intelligencer" rememberance of actor Heath Ledger:

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams chose Brooklyn.... They could live wherever they wanted, but they chose Brooklyn. Ledger donned all that was good and laid-back about living here as if it were his best role, the most independent film yet, and we his happy extras.

When Brownstoner.com initially reported that Ledger and Williams had bought a home in Boerum Hill, one commenter posted that “roughly half the couples in the neighborhood with babies could be them.” But that’s not true, of course. They’d bought a fantastic corner brownstone. It was huge. There was a garden, soaring windows, an unheard-of three-car garage. The house shimmered as if they had a bit of Wyoming hidden behind that fence, loads of fresh air, mountains, horses, and gorgeous, gay cowboys who were, just then, saddling up to go give Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner hell. We imagined Ledger’s life. We lived it for him, and we didn’t even have to ask permission, because he was a celebrity. Here they could play at being regular people.


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Nuttin' But Nets

While Bruce Ratner has been laying waste to properties he owns in the footprint of his Atlantic Yards megaproject, things haven't been going that well with the basketball franchise he bought to front his mammoth real estate scheme:

amNY, Nets' Big Three on downward spiral

The Nets stink. Even more stunning, a sound argument can be made that they're in worse shape than the Knicks.
Meanwhile, Thorn remains blindly loyal to coach Lawrence Frank, whose concepts are fine but whose substitution patterns and in-game adjustments are as brutal as you'll see. That's partly a nod to owner Bruce Ratner, who has been charmed by Frank the way James Dolan has fallen for Isiah Thomas.

Thorn also is believed to have been following Ratner's marching orders when he re-signed Carter after the 31-year-old shooting guard opted out last summer. Knowing he still had at least two or three seasons left in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn, Ratner didn't want to show fans in the swamp the surrender flag by breaking up the Big Three. Now the Nets are paying the price - both on the court and in the diminished trade value of those assets.

Yahoo Sports, Bryant gets nod over James for first-half MVP
And speaking about Bruce's "favorite son," Jersey sportswriter Adrian Wojnarowski just dubbed the flagging Vince Carter the league's LVP:

Least Valuable Player: Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets

Nothing predicts a Nets freefall better than a comfortable, well-paid and unmotivated Carter. Half-man, half-hearted. They are in the middle of a coach-killing, eight-game losing streak, and no one is playing softer than Carter. He has stopped going to the rim, stopped risking life and limb and declared his new four-year, $62 million contract fit for a suburban jump shooter.

As badly as Rod Thorn would love to trade him, there are no takers. Ownership wanted to overpay Carter last summer – not the basketball people – and they’re stuck with him.

NoLandGrab: Forest City Enterprises has experience in weathering market downturns, but company execs gotta be pissed off by the sound of the NJ Nets' giant money-sucking vortex and the effect that it has on the company's balance sheet.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Forest City in the News

Cleveland Plain Dealer, A green streak grows through traditional Forest City
Forest City Enterprises wants everyone to know that they are "going green" — like, what company isn't making token gestures towards green-ness these days.

A lesser-known fact: The 800 or so employees at Forest City's downtown headquarters produce more than 1,100 pounds of trash daily. More than 50 percent of that could be recycled. Here's another one: Executives estimate that the company could save roughly $70,000 by turning off or hibernating computers and monitors across the country at the end of the workday and during low-use periods.

This sort of thing really gets to Jon Ratner.

"Generally, waste bugs me. Inefficiency bugs me. And indifference bugs me," said the 36-year-old son of Forest City's chief executive.

That's partly why Ratner worked to have "sustainability" - in this case, the effort to balance environmental concerns and business goals - established as a key value at his family's company. And it's one reason that, in recent years, a shift has taken place in Forest City's corporate culture.

NoLandGrab: The shift towards sustainability hasn't trickled down to Brooklyn, where, at this very moment, in the footprint of Cousin Bruce's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, workers are taking down historic buildings that are crying out for redevelopment in a sustainable fashion. Instead, the site will persist as a wasteland (aka "temporary surface parking lot") for years to come.

Dallas Morning News, Forest City Enterprises buying Wilson Building in downtown Dallas

Another feel-good win-win story about Forest City Enterprises buying a historic building:

Considered one of Dallas' most important landmarks, the Wilson Building was converted into loft apartments in the 1990s.

The eight-story, 143-unit building is being sold by Atlanta-based Post Properties. Located at 1623 Main St., the building is valued for taxes at about $11 million.

"It's a neat building in a great location," Forest City executive vice president David Levey said Thursday. "We are going to spend a little money on improvements."

It's catty-corner from where Forest City is revamping the 65-year-old Mercantile tower into 216 apartments. Construction is also under way on an adjoining residential tower.

NoLandGrab: This is in sharp constrast to what the development company is doing in Brooklyn, where historic buildings are being demolished to make way for Forest City's 16-high-rise and arena megaproject.

It's outrageous that Forest City knows better, but doesn't feel the need to pay Brooklyn the same respect as they do Dallas, LA and DC, where the company is getting high marks for adaptively re-using older manufacturing and commercial buildings.

Reed Construction Data, SCHOTT Solar To Build Albuquerque Plant
Manufacturer to build plant at Forest City Enterprises Mesa Del Sol project in NM:

SCHOTT Solar is preparing to begin construction of a $100-million, 200,000-square-foot plant in Albuquerque’s Mesa del Sol to manufacture critical components for solar thermal receivers and photovoltaic panels.

Meanwhile, stock in Forest City (FCE-B) has been taking a beating, trading as low as $35 a share last week, off from the six-mo. high of $73 in August, 07.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

January 27, 2008

The closing of Fort Greene's 4W, the demise of Bogolan, and the AY effect


Atlantic Yards Report

The story of the closing of 4W Circle of Arts and Enterprise at 704 Fulton Street, a unique incubator for artists and craftspersons from the African Diaspora is an "end of an era" in Fort Greene, and I told a good piece of the story in an article a few weeks back the Brooklyn Downtown Star. (Today from 4-9 pm 4W is holding "The Circle is Unbroken Celebration, Celebrate 17 years of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Pride, Ujimma (Collective Work and Responsibility) and the continuation of People Power.")
It's impossible to assess how all the merchants of Bogolan feel about Atlantic Yards, but not all share [Errol] Louis's optimism. [Selma] Jackson, [a co-founder of 4W] commented critically on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
For all the talk about what it will add to the community, including jobs, as a business owner I have seen very little benefit from the Atlantic Center development phase I or II. What it has done is decreased street parking for my customers, increased sanitation ticketing for small businesses—as one sanitation officer said to me “well the neighborhood has changed and we need to keep it clean”. Where was that philosophy when I opened in 1991? Why did it take until 2000 to be concerned about a “cleaner neighborhood? And finally it has given the landlords reason to increase the commercial rents based on the future potential of the neighborhoods, forcing small businesses out of the area now.


Posted by amy at 2:06 PM

January 26, 2008

Senator Montgomery on the Carlton Ave. Bridge Closing

Senator Velmanette Montgomery wrote a letter to Patrick Foye, Co-Chairman of the Empire State Development Corp. outlining concerns about the Carlton Ave. Bridge closing.

Among the concerns were the following:

-The Carlton Avenue Bridge connects several neighborhoods. It is a major thorough fare between Park Avenue and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). The closing of the bridge will cut off a major connector between Park Slope/ Prospect Heights, and Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill; not only for cars but also for other modes of transportation.

-It will create even more vehicle congestion than already exists on Flatbush Avenue. There is no indication vis a vis your map of the increases in congestion on Flatbush Avenue as a result of the Carlton Avenue Bridge closing.

-The map accompanying the “Community Notice” has arrows indicating redirected traffic onto Pacific Street. In addition, there are arrows that appear to direct traffic to several streets in Prospect Heights. That would mean that this neighborhood will experience increased congestion. However, there is no discussion about proposed mitigation for that and other areas, such as Boerum Hill, that will receive impacts.

-The map does not show where other construction and traffic rerouting is taking place such as a few blocks down at the intersection of Flatbush Avenues and Hanson Place and at Lafayette Avenue.

-Other plans and schedules that will affect traffic are the proposed narrowing of Vanderbilt Avenue, another link between Flatbush and Park Avenue.

-The Notice states that traffic will be rerouted to 6th Ave. which will become a two way street; however, 6th Ave is very narrow and is next to the 78th Precinct house where official police cars need to park.

-And, finally there is no mention how long the closing of the bridge will last.

View the Letter (PDF)

Posted by amy at 11:02 AM

The magical vanishing of Pacific Street blight


Atlantic Yards Report

It seemed intractable, didn't it, the blight bordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard. As the Empire State Development Corporation declared in its Atlantic Yards Blight Study:
In contrast, as illustrated by Photographs H and I, the blocks south of Atlantic Avenue host a combination of vacant, underutilized, and physically deteriorating structures and vacant lots, and are lined with cracked and crumbling sidewalks that are overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash...
(Emphasis added)

The ESDC punted on what agency was responsible for upkeep. But in the past couple of days, a clean-up has begun on the blocks. (Who's responsible? I'm not sure--I queried the ESDC and haven't yet heard back. I know it wasn't the same crew that blitzed Pacific Street one Sunday last September.)


Posted by amy at 9:09 AM

Game 42 - Warriors 121, Generals 119

nets net

[Rod Thorne] has an owner, a boss, who could CARE LESS about how that supposed basketball team in Jersey is doing. To him it's not a team, it's a big pawn in a real estate development scheme. Ratner was a client of mine in the 90s, and even 10 years ago Forest City Ratner had been trying to get the redevelopment of the Brooklyn rail yards for a decade, with no success and no momentum. Bringing Brooklyn its first professional sports franchise since the Dodgers left town in 1957 could be just the ticket to get the project going again, and done.


Posted by amy at 8:16 AM

Heath in Brooklyn

NY Magazine's Daily Intelligencer blog characterized Andrea Peyser's practically whiny NY Post column on the passing of actor Heath Ledger best:

Andrea Peyser, shockingly, is the first person to push the "Is it too soon?" boundary.

"Until the end, we had a love-hate thing for Heath," Peyser begins today's column. "In a neighborhood that previously was best known for its churches and Italian block-watchers, an area we loved for its anonymity, safety and fresh mozzarella, we suddenly had royalty." The cranky columnist goes on to complain that after the actor, his child, and girlfriend Michelle Williams (who is back in Brooklyn today) arrived, everything quickly became all about "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" "Heath, Heath, Heath!" "Brooklyn grew expensive, but also generic," she gripes. "We loved it. We hated it. We dealt with it. Brooklyn was turning into Manhattan." Peyser, who admits she was grateful for the wealth that followed them into the neighborhood, also had a problem with Ledger and Williams's efforts to stop Bruce Ratner's development at the Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Paper wrapped up its article about Heath Ledger, who took time to pitch in on the fight against Atlantic Yards, with a statement of condolence from Marty All-Things-Brooklyn Markowitz.

Posted by lumi at 3:58 AM

January 25, 2008

Not a waste of time

The Brooklyn Paper

Last Friday, during a court hearing to discuss scheduling the Yards opponents’ appeal of their recent loss in state Supreme Court, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority apparently asked that the appeal be expedited because the long legal battle over the project is having “a chilling affect” on Ratner’s ability to get financing.

The lawyer, Steve Kass, later denied to a Brooklyn Paper reporter that he had made the comment, but two lawyers who were in the hearing confirmed that Kass had specifically cited Ratner’s financing woes as the reason for the request for an expedited appeals process.
We certainly share Kass’s sentiment that the legal battle over Atlantic Yards should be waged with all deliberate speed — but any delay at this stage is the fault of state officials, who circumvented normal planning review processes during their rush to approve Ratner’s mini-city before his old law shcool chum, Gov. Pataki, left office last year.


NoLandGrab: If Ratner IS having trouble financing his mega-deal, he'll surely lay blame at the feet of project critics, even though there is a global credit freeze and a glut of luxury housing on the market in Brooklyn.

It's nice to use the lawsuits as a scapegoat, but the truth is that Ratner created his own difficulties by proposing a plan that defies market conditions and the true needs of Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

Is NYC becoming a college town?


New York University, Columbia, John Jay, Hunter and Cooper Union are all mentioned as institutions looking to impose their will on the communities that surround them. To help make the point, the poster-child of bad development, Atlantic Yards, is used to illustration how much expansion these institutions desire.

Colleges and universities are forecasting unprecedented growth in the coming years, adding as much as 17 million square feet of space -- or more than either the World Trade Center or the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn -- and may begin to exert an even greater influence on the ebb and flow of life in the city.


Posted by steve at 4:41 AM

In Williamsburg, Vito Lopez wants "real" affordability

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's controversial subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards plan creates an enormous warp in the local political space-time continuum — Brooklyn Democratic Chair Vito Lopez is the latest hypocrite to get sucked into its orbit.

Brooklyn Democratic Chair Vito Lopez, who represents Williamsburg and Bushwick in his Assembly district, is a strong proponent of affordable housing, so strong he's threatening to use eminent domain to ensure that the recently-closed Pfizer site would lead to truly affordable housing.

In a statement to the Observer, he said that the "company’s definition of affordability in no way matches the annual income of working class New Yorkers, nor the low and moderate incomes of Williamsburg residents."

Regarding Atlantic Yards, however, Lopez supported the "carve-out," ensuring a special break for Forest City Ratner and affordability that also departs from the incomes of working-class and average Brooklyn residents.

One commenter notes that it's all about eminent domain abuse:

If eminent domain abuse is used to give big developers, like Ratner, the chance to develop housing to be occupied by people at exceptionally high incomes (like with Ratner’s 421-a exception allowing him higher incomes than anyone else) then Mr. Lopez is in favor of it.


Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

Bloomberg's Budget Cuts

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

These two items make the point that the sweetheart deal made with developer Bruce Ratner looks particularly foolish when the economy calls for belt-tightening.


Mayor Bloomberg proposes key service cuts and cutting $180 million from the Department of Education while handing over $205 million in direct cash subsidy to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, as well as a blank check from city taxpayers for "extraordinary infrastructure costs."

Will the Council go for it?

Bloomberg: Economy is Highly Volatile

Bloomberg Proposes Budget Cuts Across City Agencies NY Times City Room Blog

...“No boom goes on indefinitely today,” the mayor said in a noontime news conference in the Blue Room at City Hall. “I think it’s fair to say that both the national and international economies are in a state of high volatility.”...

The Knickerblogger comments (correctly):

Yeah, Bloomberg, great time for the city and state to subsidize a billionaire developer with a poor track record's ill conceived attempt to build a highly speculative, poorly designed luxury condo/stripmall/arena complex.

Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

How Jacobs would view Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Michael Desmond Delahaye White

I went through the principles set forth in Jacobs’s book to create an Atlantic Yards report card (right). This report card covers all of Jacobs’s standards, such as the need for short blocks, a close mingling of buildings that vary in age and condition and even some of her more-obvious guidance: Don’t expect Jacobian endorsement of the mega-development’s 15-story illuminated electronic billboard.

Across-the-board, the mega-development earns almost entirely failing grades.

Jacobs pointed out that “big plans” lead to “big mistakes.” Her thinking also points out that when enormous subsidies are misdirected with disrespect for the city’s vital fabric, those mistakes are bigger and government is much more culpable for the harm.

The “F” grade that Jane Jacobs would have given this project speaks for itself.


Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report adds:

Would Jane Jacobs approve of Atlantic Yards? I've written before about how the planners behind the project Yards certainly were not unmindful of the Jacobsian qualities for a healthy city, but the project really wouldn't qualify.

Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

January 24, 2008

Carlton Ave Bridge closing traffic

How does the closing of the Carlton Avenue Bridge affect traffic in the neighborhood?

NoLandGrab contributor and photographer Amy Greer took before-and-after photos (view flickr photoset) of traffic at the intersections of Vanderbilt and Atlantic Avenues and Vanderbilt and Fulton Avenues on Tuesday, the day before the Carlton Avenue Bridge closing, and Wednesday, after the bridge was closed.


Note, each pair of photos was taken at the same time of day.


View the slideshow

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

The Carlton Avenue Bridge closes (for two years)

Atlantic Yards Report

Tracy Collins took some photos today (and here's his photostream) of the bridge closing needed to accommodate a rebuilt railyard and a platform for construction. There's apparently potential for some traffic jams. That's Atlantic Terminal 4B in the background, across Atlantic Avenue, one sign of high-rise construction in contrast to more mid-rise and low-rise buildings on the south side of the project footprint.


As I wrote, this starts a three-year reconstruction clock, given that the Carlton Avenue Bridge is supposed to take two years to rebuild, and the Sixth Avenue Bridge an additional year. That suggests that (assuming pending challenges fail) the arena couldn't open until January 2011, unless work speeded up and/or the developer and city agreed to open the arena with an adjacent traffic artery blocked.


Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Atlantic Yards Map Club: Collaborators Wanted

Brit in Brooklyn

Blogger and photographer Adrian Kinloch has revised his Google Map with photos of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan and is seeking collaborators, including fact checkers (Norman Oder?).


Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Ledger's death still mystery; Olsen twin was called

NY Newsday
By Rocco Parascandola

More on the death of Heath Ledger:

[Michelle] Williams, who met Ledger on the set of the 2005 film "Brokeback," has a daughter, Matilda, 2, with him. The two returned from overseas to their Boerum Hill home last night, hopping out of a black Chevrolet sport utility vehicle in the driveway and entering through the garage, but Williams did not speak to reporters.
Fans continued to leave bouquets, notes, candles and stuffed koalas outside the Brooklyn building, as well as at Ledger's Broome Street home.

In Brooklyn, community activist Daniel Goldstein remembered Ledger warmly, particularly because Ledger was on the advisory board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group fighting the Atlantic Yards development.

"He and ... Michelle were very gracious," Goldstein said. "Most of the world's famous actors don't get involved in neighborhood organizations and that meant a lot to us."


NoLandGrab: In an attempt to get a sense of Heath Ledger's life outside of the movie biz and his A-list celeb status, reporters have been interested in his support for local community causes, like the fight against Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

January 23, 2008

More on the death of Heath Ledger


In return for the relative anonymity that Brooklyn afforded them, the big-screen power couple lent their names to a slew of social causes.

For example, Ledger and Williams helped raise funds to fight planned high-rise condos in the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park.

"He was a real mensch . . . He and Michelle were engaged in all the big fights in Brooklyn," said Judi Francis, who heads a grass-roots group opposing the condo plan.

Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for a group opposing the borough's controversial Atlantic Yards project, said the actors also once hosted a fund-raiser for them.

"The fact that he opened his home and gave his name to what we are fighting about was enough in itself," Goldstein said of Ledger.

NY Daily News, Neighbors shocked by Ledger's death

Ledger, who moved into Boerum Hill in 2005 after meeting Williams on the "Brokeback" set, actively opposed the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards development project that threatened to change the face of the neighborhood - one he'd come to cherish.

"I like everything," he said in an interview. "I adore it. I love my neighbors and the coffee shop down the road. We're left [alone] there to live. That's the thing in New York City: You're protected by numbers in a way, particularly Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Atlantic Yards Destruction Update

Nunez-n-after.jpg Brit in Brooklyn

This above, taken May 5th 2007 now looks like this below, taken at the weekend.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Happy Bruce Day to You

This Day ... In Jewish History

On this day in 1945:

Birthdate of Bruce Ratner. Appointed by Ed Koch to the position of Commissioners of Consumer Affairs for New York City in 1978, he became a real estate developer in 1982. He is now the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, his net worth now several hundred million dollars. Ratner is the developer charged with building the New York Times Tower He is a member of the board of the Jewish Heritage Museum.


NoLandGrab: For the uninitiated, Birthday Bruce (62) is also the developer of the highly controversial eminent-domain-abusing subsidy-sucking historically dense Atlantic Yards arena and 16 high-rise tower project in Downtown Brooklyn Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

But when you're slated to receive an estimated $2 billion in subsidies, it's like every day is your birthday.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Atlantic Yards will (eventually) spawn some Jacobsian "investigative theater"

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards has spawned several blogs, at least one documentary film, a book of photography (and other photographic work), and numerous songs. So why not some theater?

In December, the Rockefeller Foundation announced that 16 cultural organizations were the first award recipients of the Foundation's $2.6 million New York City Cultural Innovation Fund, supporting “trailblazing initiatives that strengthen the City's cultural fabric."

One of those grants, $150,000, was awarded to an innovative theater troupe called The Civilians, for “Development and Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a two-year theater lab exploring the Atlantic Yards Project.” The Civilians, in its self-description, “develops original projects based in the creative investigation of actual experience."

Its grant application stressed, "The project is NOT a talking heads documentary about the various positions on Atlantic Yards. Instead, it will draw on the unique skills of theater artists to reveal the fabric of everyday life in these neighborhoods, and to discern how a community interacts with larger forces."


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

546 Vanderbilt nearly demolished

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

January 22, 2008

Our Condolences

HeathLedger01.jpg Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn on the death of Heath Ledger:

We offer our condolences to all of Heath Ledger's loved ones. Our heart goes out to his young daughter. His passing is very sad news.

Heath was a member of our Advisory Board. He was not afraid to speak out against the entrenched power and corporate back room deals that the Atlantic Yards represents. He felt passionately that this project was wrong for Brooklyn. DDDB thanks him and celebrates his life.

We are grateful that Heath chose to contribute to our efforts, and hope to honor his memory through our ongoing work.

Gawker, The NY Press and amNY mentioned Ledger's stance against Atlantic Yards in their obits in reference to his relationship to actress Michelle Williams and his life in Brooklyn:


In Brooklyn, with fiancee Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger became a Hollywood actor that the more sensitive among us could love, or at least tolerate. Why? Well, he lived in Brooklyn, wasn't afraid to kiss a dude in Brokeback Mountain, and showed us all that achieving (temporary, at least) domestic happiness was indeed possible. He and Williams went to community meetings to protest the Atlantic Yards development, hung out in the same places the rest of the parents in their neighborhood, took their kid to Prospect Park, and just generally behaved like normal people.

The NY Press

After Michelle Williams left Ledger, he seemed to drift from the public eye for awhile after being quite vocal in protesting the Ratner Atlantic Yards development. But we chalked it up to being depressed and alone, and it fit that moody artist stereotype.

New York a big part of Heath Ledger

Ledger maintained a low-key lifestyle in the borough but joined an advisory board for Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn in 2006. The group opposed developer Bruce Ratner's plan to build a New Jersey Nets stadium in Prospect Heights.

Posted by lumi at 9:22 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Daily Gotham, VOTE People and Norm Siegel fight Harlem Rezoning this Thursday

As with Atlantic Yards, the Harlem development plan will displace lower and middle income families, driving them from the center of NYC and replacing them largely with luxury high rises.

VOTE People is a community organization that, in its own words:

...works to manifest the needs and intent of the people of communities in which policy and legal reform is proposed, through a holistic approach including legal and political advocacy and social and cultural movements.

They are teaming up with civil rights attorney and former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (and candidate for Public Advocate) Norman Siegel to fight the Harlem rezoning. You can think of it, perhaps, as "Develop, Don't Destroy Harlem..."

HousingAndDevelopment.com, Brooklyn Housing Activists Rebuffed

An organization battling developers over plans for Atlantic Yards along the East River in Brooklyn is dealt a defeat...

NoLandGrab: There's another Atlantic Yards "along the East River?" This thing is bigger than we thought.

For those of you who haven't been keeping tabs on The Gowanus Lounge, who has been keeping tabs on Atlantic Yards:
Bklink: There Goes the Water

The Daily News covers water works in Ratnerville.

Bklink: Atlantic Yards Quiz Upset?

The results from last night's Atlantic Yards Quiz competition are in.... It is also believed that the competition supplied Mr. Oder with libations before the start of the competition in order to soften him up.

NoLandGrab: Mr. Oder managed to soften himself up at another event, which, thankfully, made him a really cheap date.

Upcoming: (De)Construction of the Neighborhood Photos

News of photo exhibit featuring photos by Tracy Collins, "the photographer who has been documenting the changes in the Atlantic Yards "footprint" and creating an invaluable visual record."

Did Judge Believe That Part of Prospect Heights Really Stinks?

If the truth be told, we've always felt that there were parts of the Atlantic Yards "footprint" in Prospect Heights that could have used a bit of a cleanup, particularly since the city and Forest City Ratner had been allowing conditions like dirty streets to get worse over the last couple of years....Yet, that's what the Empire State Development Corp's "blight study" said and what the Judge that ruled in the environmental review litigation accepted. Were residents living in "unsanitary and unsafe" conditions?

Posted by lumi at 7:46 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Columbia Spectator, Possibility of Eminent Domain Worries Manhattanville Residents

Bright orange brick reaches into the Manhattanville skyline, refusing to blend in. Though the business name painted on the wall reads “Tuck-It-Away,” the building’s owner does the opposite when expressing his thoughts about Columbia’s expansion. It is one of only three properties preventing Columbia’s full control of the campus footprint. But above “Tuck-It-Away” reads another message—“Stop Columbia! We Won’t Be Pushed Out!”

Though the city approved the University’s expansion plan, a major aspect of the project remains uncertain—whether the state will invoke eminent domain on the University’s behalf.

NoLandGrab: You can be "certain" that "the state will invoke eminent domain on the University’s behalf."

The article also mentions Atlantic Yards, but gets developer Bruce Ratner's and NY State's official justification of the project totally wrong:

In two of the city’s recent eminent domain cases, developers proposed replacing private properties at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards and Queens’ Willets Point with commercial real estate. The state granted eminent domain for Atlantic Yards and is considering invocation for Willets Point. The Atlantic Yards decision, and apprehension about Willets Point, sparked a fury of opposition from local residents and community leaders who allege eminent-domain abuse.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner defended the construction by explaining that, although it would not be for public use, the project would be more economically beneficial than the existing properties.

The justification for the use of eminent domain is "blight." Initially Ratner used both reasons, blight clearance and economic development. However, after the Kelo *case was decided so closely, with one concurring justice describing an exception that sounded very much like Atlantic Yards, the developer and the State fell back on the old warhorse, BLIGHT."

Castle Watch Daily, The occasional irony of eminent domain

It was to complement the Pfizer facility that the city of New London invoked eminent domain on the properties of Susette Kelo and her neighbors. On January 5, Crain’s New York Business reported:

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, has written a bill to condemn several acres in Williamsburg that Pfizer has owned since the 1800s. He wants the plot taken by eminent domain to make way for affordable housing.

But Pfizer denies Mr. Lopez’s claim that the drugmaker reneged on a pledge to give the land away for public use once it closes its plant there.

Duffield St. Underground, Duffield Street is the #1 story of the year

On Jan. 3, the Downtown Brooklyn Star published its countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2007, and Duffield Street even surpassed the Atlantic Yards.

GroundReport.com, Presidential Candidate Defended Black Church Dispossessed By Eminent Domain

Local Libertarian Party leader Richard Cooper reports from the town of West Hempstead:

The town offered $80,000 for a property that the church paid $130,000 and held a $200,000 mortgage. A member of the zoning board said "We have enough churches here in New Cassel." Rev. Fred Jenkins and St. Luke's Pentecostal Church did not want to sell at any price. The Church wanted to renew the community and the building with "God's plan and their money" instead of "the Town's plan and the taxpayers' money."

2008 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, MD (R-TX) heard our voice as reported in Libertarian Party News and acted. He introduced a bill with the cosponsorship of Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) to bar the use of federal funds to seize houses of worship.

Posted by lumi at 7:12 PM


When President Bush called for a $150 billion economic stimulus package on Friday, it got us to thinking about the Atlantic Yards economic stimulus package, a basket of tax breaks and subsidies that some say could be worth up to $2 billion to Bruce Ratner.

If $150 billion is really enough to re-start the economy and ease the pain for the entire country, then the $2 billion handout for Ratner could go a long way if it were redeployed to New York City residents who actually need it.

On the other hand, if the $2 billion in subsidies being handed over to Ratner is only expected to create 375 new permanent jobs, a $150 billion national package is highly unlikely to be sufficient to stave off a painful recession.

Put another way, either the American people aren't getting enough — or Bruce Ratner is getting too much.

Posted by eric at 7:09 AM


BRPg6-NYP.jpg NY Post, Page Six

THAT Nets chairman Bruce Ratner will marry longtime companion Dr. Pamela Lipkin, a prominent plastic surgeon, on Sunday before a small family gathering at their Manhattan home.


NoLandGrab: Sources say that Bruce Ratner's Manhattan home is NOT under threat of eminent domain.

January must be the month for developers' nuptials — Donald and Melania Knauss Trump are celebrating their third anniversary today.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Before Gehry joined Ratner: "one architect" model was wrong way to go

Atlantic Yards Report


In February 2002, some months (presumably) before developer Bruce Ratner asked him to work alone on the Atlantic Yards project (and towers over the Atlantic Center mall), architect Frank Gehry suggested that a "one architect" model to build "sections of the city" was precisely the wrong way to go.

The video from the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference has just been posted. Gehry's musings on the issue began at about 12:28, under the "City building" segment.
The question is why he agreed; perhaps the opportunity to build his first arena, and a "neighborhood practically from scratch" trumped Gehry's qualms about the "one architect" model.

The Regional Plan Association, using a somewhat different gloss on the term Gehry used, argued last May that Atlantic Yards shows we must get much better at "city building."


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

City Council bills would cost owners who warehouse property

Atlantic Yards Report

In November, I wrote about how Boston, unlike New York, has changed tax policies to give owners of vacant or abandoned properties not in tax arrears a reason to sell or build, and how Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was pushing for new policies in New York.

Now, as the Daily News reported last Wednesday, such empty buildings north of 110th St. would lose a tax break under state law.
What might such changes have meant for the Atlantic Yards footprint? They would've provided some more revenue to the city, and might have pushed the owners warehousing property to sell or build. And such laws would've provided an alternative to declaring stagnant properties blighted, as the state has determined.

In other words, eminent domain isn't the only tool to revitalize an area that has empty buildings or lots.


NoLandGrab: Interesting, though we're pretty sure that most ardent libertarian property-rights anti-tax activists are cringing at the notion of such legislation.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

546 Vanderbilt demolition continues

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)


According to the most recent Ratnerville Construction Update (emphasis added):

Demolition is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue for the next one–two months.

NoLandGrab: "One-two months," ya mean like a one-two punch?

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

AVP, theater hire Yormark, Nets to sell naming-rights inventory

Sports Business Journal, via NBA.com
By John Lombardo

Brett-Yormark.jpgBruce Ratner's pr wunderkind, Brett Yormark, is making his mark outside of the Nets' team operations, as the Brucester expands into the field of corporate naming rights for "civic projects" like the AVP Tour and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino.

The man who runs the Nets and who sold naming rights to two NBA arenas in the past year is now taking a deeper dive into the business by selling naming-rights inventory for the AVP Tour and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino.

In addition, he’s developed a partnership with Atlanta-based sports marketing company Career Sports & Entertainment to help in analysis and public relations around the sales effort.

It’s all part of Yormark’s creative and aggressive style as he expands the Bruce Ratner-owned Nets Sports and Entertainment portfolio.


Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

The McLaughlin Group: The Economy Tanking

Daily Kos

Though it's not specifically about Atlantic Yards, we thought that it was worth mentioning that real estate and publishing mogul Mort Zuckerman was on the McLaughlin Group explaining how and why credit is so difficult to come by.

I don't think it's an exaggeration. It's an understatement. You've heard me say here I think we are facing the worst financial crunch and crisis since the Great Depression. You have the entire banking system now that is virtually frozen and there are not just the sub-prime mortgage thing. There are other things called credit default swaps where they're going to lose as much money, 250 billion dollars on. The banks are frozen. They're not making loans because they have such huge debts that they have to take onto their balance sheets and nobody knows how to deal with that because you had a dramatic...you had two bubbles that have burst at the same time. The housing bubble which has collapsed in this country. The first time since the Great Depression that housing values have gone down for a year since the depression and it's going to go down even more next year. The credit crunch, you've just exploded the whole credit system in this country. We were way over leveraged. The banking system was over-leveraged. People didn't even know about it. The bankers didn't know about it. They didn't access the risk. Now that risk is piling in and every body's going to pay the price. Uh it's going to stimulate nothing other, I mean it's going to destimulate the economy. Nobody has money to lend. They're saving all their money to pay off their debts. They're borrowing money or looking at uh the rest of the world to enhance their capital and it's still not going to solve their problems.


NoLandGrab: This has to affect the local building boom, despite the fact that New York City has so far been immune from the national real estate slump, thanks to Wall St. bonuses and the 421(a) plan, which, for the past two decades, has served to subsidize new luxury housing construction.

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

Downtown Brooklyn Gets College Bookstore

City Tech Prepares for Yet Bigger Changes to Come

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

[City Tech] will gain about 300,000 square feet of additional space across Jay Street as part of one of the largest development projects in Downtown Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner will build a 923,000-square-foot structure, probably rising 50 stories with 600 residential units, 450 of them rentals; as well as 23,000 square feet of retail space.

As previously mentioned, it will be built at the site of the Klitgord Auditorium, and will clearly be the signature Brooklyn building for those coming off the Brooklyn Bridge.


Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

January 21, 2008

Carlton Avenue Bridge closing (postponed)

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

from the Atlantic Yards and ESDC Community Notice (pdf):

In order to allow for utility work to be completed in the detour area before the Carlton Avenue Bridge is closed, the closure has been postponed.

Beginning approximately January 23, 2008, the Carlton Avenue Bridge, located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Brooklyn, will be closed. The one-way bridge is being closed to accommodate upgrading the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yard under the bridge, and also to construct a new bridge as part of the Atlantic Yards project. For the duration of this work, northbound traffic will be rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which will become two-way to accommodate this detour, or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

Advisory signs will be posted in advance of the closure and detour signs will be posted during the work. Traffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

On MLK Day, the question of jobs, housing, and infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, where do we go from here (to quote the title of a King speech)? On Saturday, in a column headlined Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, taking off from the observation that the gap between rich and poor is ever-growing, observed:

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.

Herbert's point, extrapolated to Brooklyn, is that targeted government investment can turn the tide. The need for jobs and housing is far, far greater than the holy grail of the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

"Nice building. Then what?" Frank Gehry on TED.com

Interview with Frank Gehry, February, 2002


Frank Gehry wanted to be a scientist when he grew up. But after blowing up a part of his house, at age 14, he decided against it. He's gone on to create some mindblowing buildings, including the Guggenheim at Bilbao and LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall. This wildly entertaining conversation with Richard Saul Wurman (then host of TED) touches on many topics, including the power of failure, the importance of collaboration, and the need for architects to bring personal expression to the table. (Recorded February 2002 in Monterey, California. Duration: 22:00.)



"When I came out of college, I started to try to do things contextually... and I tried to understand that language as a beginning as a place to jump off. There was so much of it being done by spec builders, it was trivialized so much, that I just stopped.... It didn't feel good to me."

"The issue of city building in democracy is interesting because it creates chaos. Everybody doing their things creates a very chaotic environment. If you can figure out how to work off each other, if you can get a bunch of people who respect each other's work and play off each other, you might be able to create models for how to build sections of the city without resorting to the one-architect (like the Rockefeller Center, model) model, which is kinda from another era."

[...or Atlantic Yards, which makes you wonder if Gehry gets much sleep these days.]

"Bilbao did not leak — I was so proud. The MIT project... sent the facilities people to Bilbao... they were there for three days and it rained everyday. They kept walking around, I noticed they were looking under things... they wanted to know where the buckets were hidden. I was clean, there wasn't a bloody leak in the place — it was fantastic. Well, up until every building leaked."

[Uh, oh...]

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Ratner Nets News

HoopsVibe.com, Four years, $62 Million For Vince Carter: What Was New Jersey Thinking?

Vince Carter had dunked the ball and his forearm. For now, he was on top of the basketball world. A gifted athlete destined for greatness.

That was nearly seven years ago. February, 2000. This must have been the image New Jersey owner Bruce Ratner had in mind when he inked Carter to a four year, 62 million dollar extension this past summer.

Ratner wanted to re-sign Carter, believing the high-flyer would sell tickets when the club moved to Brooklyn.

Six months later, Carter’s contract is a lemon. His play has been shaky. I’m not trying to hate, but he’s done little to justify such a mega deal.

NY Post, It's time to tear down the Nets

The time to make major moves is now; losing to the Knicks three straight times in one season (regardless of whether Kidd called in sick or healthy) should be ample proof the Nets are terrible.

I wish to take this time to apologize to Sports Illustrated for questioning its credibility when it picked them as Eastern Conference dregs.

I assume owner Bruce Ratner realizes it would be an expensive and enduring miscalculation to think a big man like, say, Jermaine O'Neal, can be a difference maker now or next season or the one after that. He's readily available for a reason, $44 million of 'em, actually, as well as being injury prone and a non-winner.

Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

January 20, 2008

Pfizer Offering Williamsburg Plant Site for Affordable Housing—So, Why’s a State Assemblyman Trying to Seize It?


The New York Observer
Eliot Brown

All of Pfizer’s plans, however, could be for naught if State Assemblyman Vito Lopez is successful in a bid to claim the site with eminent domain and develop it for affordable housing. First reported in Crain’s New York Business, Mr. Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been drafting a bill that would have the state’s housing agency acquire the site, then issue its own request for proposals so as to create about 1,700 housing units.

Mr. Lopez, the chairman of the Assembly’s housing committee, has pushed for large levels of affordable housing, often irking city officials and other legislators who consider his demands unreasonable and unrealistic. His efforts, however, received a shout-out from Governor Spitzer in his State of the State address last week, in which he praised Mr. Lopez for his commitment to affordable housing.

Pfizer, in a candid statement, said the company finds it “extremely puzzling that a legislator would propose a government seizure of private property through eminent domain to ostensibly re-develop the properties with the same types of uses we are already considering.”

NoLandGrab: This becomes even more bizarre if you recall Vito's 421-A carve-out for Ratner and Pfizer's role in the landmark eminent domain US Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London...

Posted by amy at 12:03 PM

Bugs Bunny - Homeless Hare

"Hey you big gorilla, didn't you ever hear of the sanctity of the American home?!"

Posted by amy at 12:00 PM

taking a break

The Poem A Day Project does Atlantic Yards...

she rests in a separate room, local
newspaper folded across one knee
the atlantic yards, coney island,
someone else fighting something
without a point we’ve just finished
fighting something without a point


Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

Atlantic Yards Watch: Demo on Dean



With this week's dismissal of the Atlantic Yards environmental impact lawsuit and news this morning that construction on the project is starting to affect the lives of nearby residents, we thought it would be a good time to check in on some of the demolition that's been moving ahead while the pencil-pushers have been fighting it out in court. Over at 647 Dean Street (at the corner of Vanderbilt), the formerly empty lot is now a graveyard of the muscular concrete columns that used to hold up the warehouse building one lot to the west. If you take any good Atlantic Yards demo photos this weekend, please send them along.


Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

SCH Meeting Recap

Clinton Hill Blog

Atlantic Yards was mentioned briefly. The bridge on Carlton Ave is slated to be closed soon for construction of the Ratner Nightmare. This means that firetrucks will be rerouted to drive AGAINST TRAFFIC ON TWO STREETS SOUTH OF ATLANTIC. Giant trucks hurdling the wrong way down one-way streets?! This is a solution?! Maybe in the ‘burbs, but jeez! No one even pulls over for siren vehicles here!


Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

what's going on Brooklyn? (part 2, the insight)


everderame stumbles upon local politics through art...

The message was there, and somewhat clear (quite clear compared to the idiche letterings), definetly someone was trying to call attention to the dark side of the changes the area was passing through.

But What is ATURA, who is Mayor Moo Moo (hehehe) and what about the 'Ratner Plan'. Well it seemed that I need some more information now. But I knew that on the wrong side of the Brooklyn I could gather something to undestand it as a whole. On the way back - through Lafayett Ave. to Atlantic Ave. I could see more of the area development and take a glimpse of what was written in blue on the wall: the whole area was under severe remodelling.


Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

(Still N.J.) Nets Shooting to Wash Fans in Green



While it’s hard to get too angry at the Nets for trying to brand themselves as a green franchise, it’s important to spot the broader fraud behind all this. While the franchise hangs Seventh Generation paper towels in its administrative washrooms, owner Bruce Ratner is simultaneously in the process of spending $500 million in his Atlantic Yards development, an increasingly Quixotic project which promises to leave a Cloverfield-sized carbon footprint upon a borough that seems, frankly, not to want it very much. A move to Newark’s new, significantly more mass transit-accessible (if non-LEED) Prudential Center would seem to be more in keeping with the team’s new green philosophy. That’s assuming of course, that such a philosophy actually exists.

It will take more than green giveaways – fans at January 14th’s Nets/Blazers game received an “eco” ballpoint pen (and a lethargic 30-point Nets loss) – for the Nets sustainability talk to be more than buzz-begging PR. But we’re sure Ratner and his PR maestro, Brett Yormark, are “targeting” that goal, too.


Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

Brooklyn Paper weekly - 1.19.08


The Brooklyn Paper

bla bla bla bruce ratner uses the courts to steamroll any opposition in his path bla bla. thats progress.

Posted by amy at 11:21 AM

January 19, 2008

The "Free Lunch" for sports team owners and the starving of parks


Atlantic Yards Report

In an interview yesterday on Democracy Now, New York Times writer David Cay Johnston described the country's subsidies for sports teams--though he didn't mention the Nets/Atlantic Yards--that he criticizes in his new book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill).

NoLandGrab: AYR offers a transcription as well as descriptions of how other arena subsidies and parkland compare to Atlantic Yards.

Posted by amy at 12:02 PM

TRO denied regarding environmental lawsuit; will appeal be expedited?

Atlantic Yards Report

In an unsurprising decision, a state appellate judge yesterday denied a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge sought by the petitioners in the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review. As part of the appeal of Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden's January 11 decision, the petitioners have asked for a TRO and preliminary injunction to block this "permanent change in the environment of Brooklyn including significant impacts on traffic and significant delays for Fire Department emergency responders."

Should work begin, and petitioners ultimately succeed with their appeal, it's possible that there won't be a working bridge nor adequate funding to reconstruct it, argued petitioners' attorney Jeffrey Baker. Forest City Ratner has argued in the past that any delay increases the cost of the project and delays the expected benefits.

Associate Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli the Appellate Division, First Department, denied the request, pending a hearing on a motion for an injunction to block the project from moving forward without a final decision on the lawsuit, according to Candace Carponter, legal chair of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The burden was high, since the petitioners must argue irreparable injury and the likelihood of prevailing on the merits.

"The only way to preserve our rights is to file these motions," she said.


Posted by amy at 11:59 AM

Atlantic Yards: Ethics vs. Legalities

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

When the Appellate Division refused to hear an appeal on a case brought by rent-stabilized tenants being forced from their homes by Bruce Ratner's land grab, Ratner's mouthpieces sent out a celebratory press release. No doubt they are pleased to be stomping on tenants' rights -- they need to in order to build their project. But in their ecstatic press release, they did not even have the moral sense to express concern for the tenants rejected by the court and bounced out by Ratner.

The appeal was on a lawsuit (a suit in which DDDB is not involved) that charges that under the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDC Act), the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner are required to provide a relocation plan for tenants they force out by eminent domain that will provide replacement housing for those tenants. But neither ESDC nor Ratner are doing this. So first they terminate rent protections by using the state to invoke eminent domain, and then when using eminent domain they don't have the decency--the ethics--to provide new housing for these tenants. Their “relocation” plan actually offers little more than a real estate agent and some cash to move. That does not really meet the requirements of the UDC Act.


Posted by amy at 11:54 AM

People You Know




Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Beth C. Aplin

Crowds packed BookCourt Tuesday night for a reading by three popular contributors to Brooklyn Was Mine, a new anthology released this month by Riverhead Books. In it, current and former Brooklyn-based writers “pay tribute to the borough they love.”

Emily Barton, Darcy Steinke and Alexandra Styron read excerpts of their essays at the Cobble Hill bookstore. The anthology’s proceeds will benefit towards Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the major group opposing the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Boerum Hill Association: Replace Times Plaza — With a ‘Real’ Post Office

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mary Frost

After years of complaints about the Times Plaza Post Office, the Boerum Hill Association (BHA) is gathering hard data — via a survey — to take to the Post Office management and elected officials. The Times Plaza Station is on Atlantic Avenue between Third and Fourth avenues. Complaints range from misdelivered mail and undelivered packages to long lines and unprofessional staff. Many residents say that they try to avoid the Post Office altogether, using UPS or FedEx instead. Others get their packages delivered to friends in other neighborhoods.

A statement sent to Boerum Hill Association members by Joel Potischman, vice president of the Boerum Hill Association, says, “BHA volunteers and many others have met with Times Plaza managers over the years [nobody seems to last long] and our elected officials. We are always promised improvements, but fixes, if any, are modest and short-lived.

“For this reason the BHA now demands that Times Plaza be replaced. The facility was outgrown decades ago, but because USPS only rents the space, they cannot make the changes necessary to run it efficiently. Continued neighborhood growth, plus Atlantic Yards, will only make the situation worse.


Posted by amy at 11:38 AM

Update: No new arguments in Yards case

The Brooklyn Paper
Gersh Kuntzman

After Judge Edward Korman recused himself citing a pro-Atlantic Yards postcard he once filled out, opponents of the 16-skyscraper, arena, hotel, commercial and residential mega-project called for a new hearing so that replacement Judge Dennis Jacobs could fully immerse himself in the arguments.

That motion was denied on Tuesday, but not reported until Friday in the New York Law Journal.

The newly reconstituted panel is expected to rule soon on the case, which centers on the state’s use of eminent domain to seize privately owned properties and give them to Ratner.


Posted by amy at 11:36 AM


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
David Weiss

In all the hullabaloo about Atlantic Yards, no one seems to remember that its developer — the Forest City Ratner Co. — was also the developer responsible for building One Pierrepont Plaza, Brooklyn’s first new office building in decades.

NoLandGrab: Although this is a lovely sentiment to look back on, several other developments were built in the interim that failed to impress the population and secured the reputation of the developer in the area as insensitive to the community and unable to stay in business without government bailouts.

Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

January 18, 2008

An Unnecessary Abuse

The New York Sun
by Dick Carpenter

In an Op-Ed piece, the Director of Strategic Research for the Institute for Justice, citing a new IJ study, challenges claims that reining in the use of eminent domain negatively affects economic development:

The widespread abuse of eminent domain across New York is giving new life to the nickname the Empire State. Virtual empires benefiting private interests — secured through government force — are springing up especially across New York City. For example:

• Columbia University seeks land that rightfully belongs to its West Harlem neighbors so it can expand its campus.

• Developer Bruce Ratner has received carte blanche from the city to seize properties that stand in the way of his Atlantic Yards, an unpopular cluster of skyscrapers and a "public" arena, which the city will lease to Mr. Ratner for $1 for 99 years with Mr. Ratner reaping all the profits.

• After decades of refusing to provide basic municipal services, the city is now considering a proposal to condemn more than 200 thriving businesses in Willets Point in Queens to give the land to a private developer.

Thanks to vocal beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse, like Mayor Bloomberg and his developer friends, New York is one of the few states that has not passed any meaningful eminent domain reform, this despite leading the nation in takings for private gain.

Eminent domain enthusiasts defend their position by predicting economic doomsday if their power of eminent domain is in any way restrained. Despite countless examples to the contrary, Mayor Bloomberg insists, "You would never build any big thing any place in any big city in this country if you didn't have the power of eminent domain." It's that kind of hyperbole that has led New York City officials to use eminent domain for the private gain of politically connected developers over hard-working, tax-paying New Yorkers.

New research released this week, however, demonstrates Mr. Bloomberg's dire warnings regarding eminent domain are not to be believed.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

The ESDC's blight dodge: living "among" but not "in" unsanitary conditions

Atlantic Yards Report

Not only did Norman Oder, an army of one, come within a point of winning the Quiz Don't Destroy event last night at Rocky Sullivan's (rumors of a recount are circulating), and manage to post on the results — he somehow found time to review and comment upon Judge Joan Madden's blanket acceptance of the ESDC's spurious blight claims:

The text from state Supreme Court Joan Madden's decision January 11, as posted by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), pointed me to a curious locution used by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC): "most of the residents in the area continue to live among conditions that are unsanitary and unsafe." (Emphasis added)

Note that the Blight Study does not deal with who might be responsible for the deteriorated sidewalk and the weeds. (More on that below.) Certainly these are not the conditions in (or even among) which residents live, since there's no housing on the north side of Pacific Street.

As for the "old warehouse building," that's the Ward Bakery, which developer Shaya Boymelgreen (who developed the nearby Newswalk) was said to have considered for a hotel, but instead made a quick killing by selling it to Forest City Ratner for more than double what he paid.

The real question is who was responsible for the "unsanitary and unsafe conditions" among which people live.

As I wrote in November 2006, several people commented to the ESDC, saying the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) should be blamed for failing to take care of the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC's claims of blight are so capricious (and infuriating) that one really must wonder how even more private property doesn't get seized for the benefit of private developers in New York State. If the city stops picking up your trash, watch out — it may well mean that some politically connected developer covets your "blighted" home.

Posted by steve at 9:24 AM

There goes the judge: Quits Yards case citing Ratner’s promo flier

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

The Brooklyn Paper provides coverage of Judge Edward Korman's recusal from the panel reviewing the appeal of the Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain case:

A Brooklyn federal judge recused himself from a panel that will determine the fate of the most significant legal challenge to the Atlantic Yards development, citing his early support for the 16-skyscraper-and-arena project — and now the plaintiffs want to re-argue the case in front of the replacement judge.


Korman admitted that during the “early days” of the project, he checked a box on a promotional flier indicating his support for the 16-skyscraper-and-arena development. At the October hearing, Korman said he didn’t give “any thought to the legal issues” when he filled out the flier’s postcard expressing support, but offered to recuse himself if either side wished. Neither side objected.


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

Real Estate Round-Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

The Real Estate Round-up reports on how prep work for the Atlantic Yards project is affecting area residents, beginning with troubles from water shut-offs.

Bruce Ratner's dream of landing an arena and high-rise complex at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues became more of a reality for area residents as they found their water shut off twice this week, reported the Daily News. Residents received notice earlier in the week that, because of upgrades to the area's 100-year-old water and sewage infrastructure, water would be turned off for eight hours on Wednesday and Thursday starting at 8:30 a.m., "peak shower hour" for some. One resident aptly noted that "this is just the beginning" of construction-related impacts residents would be hit with in the decade to come.

Also mentioned is the intention to close the Carlton Avenue Bridge:

Notice was also given that the Carlton Avenue Bridge, between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, will be closed for two years starting next Wednesday, guaranteed to cause traffic headaches on the already clogged streets in the vicinity of the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal, also Ratner projects. And Riegelhaupt said the company has already begun installing soundproof windows and air conditioners into neighborhood homes to help muzzle the earsplitting sound of progress (for those who like the project) as the arena and high-rises are built.


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

Another win for A’Yards

Brooklyn Papers
By Dana Rubinstein

Coverage of the case brought by tenants living in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project:

A state Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an attempt by tenants in Bruce Ratner’s rent-stabilized units in the Atlantic Yards footprint to bring their lawsuit against the developer to the Court of Appeals — but the tenants’ lawyer promised at least another year’s worth of litigation.

It was the second court victory of the week for Ratner and his 16-skyscraper-and-arena mini-city slated (see main story on page 1), but the tenants’ attorney George Locker was undeterred.

“We will pursue every legal remedy and challenge,” he said.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

Flashbacks from the quiz: Gargano, Stuckey, Marty

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder displays impeccable sportsmanship after being edged out by team "No Land Crabs" at last night's Quiz Don't Destroy event at Rocky Sullivan's.

Oh, though I was favored to win, I came in second by a point to a strong five-person team associated with NoLandGrab: Lumi Rolley, Eric McClure, Amy Greer, Steve Soblick, and Geoff Zink. (Credit the hive mind and the free drinks served at the event I attended before the quiz.) The Brooklyn Paper team came in tied for third.

Click here to read about the challenging and entertaining audio round.

NoLandGrab: We are a bit ashamed to say that we put together a five-person team of the greatest minds at NoLandGrab for the sole purpose of stopping Norman Oder from routing the competition. We were prepared to buy him a couple rounds of drinks to soften the gray cells, but were relieved when someone had already taken care of that.

Note: For those of you who were unable to attend, El Quizmeister Extraordinaire Scott Turner has agreed to release the questions and answers to the quiz. Each day next week, we'll run one round of the quiz on NoLandGrab, with the answers the next day, so that readers who weren't able to attend can test their knowledge of easy-and-esoteric facts about Atlantic Yards.

Also, hats off to Tal Barzilai for winning bragging rights as the contestant who travelled the farthest to get to the quiz; The Brooklyn Paper team, lead by award-winning editor Gersh Kuntzman, for leading the pack through most of the quiz; the "Not Daniel" team, who do most of the day-to-day heavy lifting and came from behind to tie Brooklyn Papers for third place; the CBN team for sharing many of their answers (you know who you are); reporter Stephen Witt for adding Olympic-celebrity class to the affair; and all the other teams who came out on a damp and cold evening for a warm and fun event.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Brooklyn Paper coverage of Madden ruling

The Brooklyn Paper explained Justice Madden's ruling to its readers in the following article by Gersh Kuntzman, and its editorial.

Ratner wins big: Ruling brings Atlantic Yards closer to reality

Judge Joan Madden’s 72-page ruling fully rejected the opponents’ contention that state agencies failed to take the required “hard look” at the project’s vast environmental impact, did not fully consider alternative sites or developers, and wrongly condemned several non-blighted blocks around the project site so that they could be turned over to Ratner.

The lawsuit also questioned how Atlantic Yards could be considered a “civic project” when its main element is a publicly financed, yet privately operated, sports arena.

Madden called such arguments “without merit” and “not persuasive” frequently throughout her ruling, citing prior precedents that suggest that New York State environmental law “leaves an agency with ‘considerable latitude in evaluating environmental effects and not choosing among alternatives,’ [and that] the court is not permitted to second-guess the agency or substitute its judgment for that of the agency.”

A weak court ruling

[Justice] Madden was wrong to not challenge the validity of evidence presented by the Empire State Development Corporation — evidence that clearly shows that the agency is not, in fact, serving the public interest at Atlantic Yards.

State officials say the proposed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is a public benefit; that designation, they say, would qualify Atlantic Yards as a civic project and allow the use of eminent domain to condemn privately owned property and hand it over to Ratner.

Opponents of the project dispute how building an arena for Ratner and then giving his profit-making company a $1-a-year lease for 99 years could possibly be construed as a public benefit. Rather than question that scheme, Madden hid behind state law, which she said draws no distinction between a facility leased to a non-profit entity or a for-profit conglomerate.

Opponents also dispute how three blocks on the edge of the blighted Vanderbilt rail yards could be considered “blighted” (and, therefore, subject to eminent domain) when houses there routinely sell for more than $1 million. The state also has alleged that crime is rampant in that “unsanitary and unsafe,” yet those crime statistics have been shown repeatedly to be inaccurate.

Rather than pay some attention to the men behind that curtain of lies, Madden fell back on state laws that were crafted to facilitate raiding the public trough to hand over land and taxpayer subsidies to favored developers and their political patrons without regard to public sentiment or honest analysis.

Madden’s weak ruling makes it clear that in New York, the deck is stacked against truth — and her court couldn’t be bothered.

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Court Rejects Motion to Renew Arguments After Judge's Recusal in Atlantic Yards Case

NY Law Journal reporter Mark Hamblett recaps recent legal developments, including the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision to NOT rehear oral arguments after one justice on the three-member panel recused himself.

Opponents of Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are running out of options following a federal appeals court's refusal to hold additional arguments on their challenge to New York's eminent domain law.

Opponents also failed to convince a state court judge last week that the environmental review of the project had been inadequate.

Lawyers for the coalition Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had asked for new arguments after a circuit panel member recused himself in the wake of oral arguments in October to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Eastern District Judge Edward Korman, who was sitting by designation at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in October, told lawyers before oral argument that he recalled receiving several years ago a solicitation from Atlantic Yards proponents and that he had mailed back a prepaid postcard indicating that he supported the project.

No one at the Oct. 9, 2007, oral argument in Goldstein v. Pataki asked for the judge's recusal. But a letter mailed the next day to the circuit by plaintiffs' lawyer Matthew Brinckerhoff said that the equation may have changed because those who returned the solicitation may have received a free tote bag and a voucher for two tickets to a New Jersey Nets game.

Judge Korman recused himself last month, and his seat on the panel that included Judges Robert Katzmann and Debra Ann Livingston was taken by Judge Dennis Jacobs.

On Tuesday, that panel denied Mr. Brinckerhoff's motion to renew the argument in a one-page order. The new panel will now decide the appeal without additional argument.

The rejection comes on the heels of a major setback for opponents on Jan. 10, when Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden (See Profile) [subscription required; free trial available] found that objections to the handling of the review and approval process were without merit.

And opponents suffered another loss last week when the Appellate Division, Second Department, denied a motion by individual residents to take an appeal of a Second Department ruling to the New York Court of Appeals.

Their only chance now is to persuade the state Court of Appeals to take the appeal from the decision in Anderson v. New York State Urban Development Corp., 2007-00372.

The appeal in Goldstein v. Pataki, 07-2537-cv, was brought after Eastern District Judge Nicholas Garaufis rejected challenges to the project, including an assault on New York's eminent domain law (NYLJ, June 7, 2007) [subscription required; free trial available].

At the circuit oral arguments, after telling the assembled that he had indicated his support for Atlantic Yards, Judge Korman said he was certain he could remain unbiased but that if any of the attorneys on either side wished him to recuse himself, they could do so anonymously before the case was called.

No one objected and oral argument proceeded as scheduled.

Mr. Brinckerhoff, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, followed up with his Oct. 10 letter saying it had been brought to his clients' attention that "Forest City Ratner and/or its agents apparently sent approximately 350,000 copies of the attached mailer" to Brooklyn residents in May 2004.

"The mailer is striking for a number of reasons, most notably because it solicited supporters to return a postage-prepaid card pledging that 'YES! I SUPPORT THE ATLANTIC YARDS and the jobs, housing and open space it will create," Mr. Brinckerhoff wrote. "According to published reports, approximately three percent of the cards were returned and every person who returned the card was sent both an Atlantic Yards tote bag and a voucher redeemable for two free tickets to a New Jersey Nets game."

A centerpiece of the project, which also includes 16 high-rise residential and office buildings, is an 18,000 capacity sports arena that will be the new home of the New Jersey Nets.

The attorney wrote that he did not know whether it was the same solicitation Judge Korman was referring to, "although its nature and timing appear to be consistent with Judge Korman's recollection. If this is the flier at issue, we are concerned about the appearance of impropriety that will accrue if Judge Korman were to remain on the Panel having pledged his support for the project and received material gifts in return for that pledge."

Mr. Brinckerhoff did not request recusal, saying only he wanted the panel to "be aware of this issue."

The parties were informed in late December that Judge Korman recused himself from the case and Mr. Brinckerhoff responded with a motion on Jan. 10 seeking renewed argument.

Review Challenged

Justice Madden's decision In the Matter of Develop Don't Destroy (Brooklyn) v. Urban Development Corp., 104597/2007 [PDF], involved a combined Article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action on the 22-acre site where Mr. Ratner's company, Forest City Ratner, wants to redevelop the Atlantic Terminal area in the Prospect Heights neighborhood.

The plaintiffs claimed they would be "harmed by the substantial adverse environmental impacts of a project of such enormous scale," and claimed the project violated the substantive and procedural requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

They argued that the resolution approving the project by the Public Authorities Control Board was governed by SEQRA and required specific findings under the act.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, they claimed, never adopted an SEQRA findings statement and never took a "hard look" at the project's environmental impact.

The plaintiffs also claimed the Urban Development Corp., which does business as the Empire State Development Corp., violated the Urban Development Corporation Act when it did not consult with the community, failed to provide a 30-day public comment period, designated the sports arena as a "civic project" and "blighting" parts of the site and designating it a "land use improvement project."

But citing the "considerable latitude" given agencies to assess environmental effects under SEQRA and noting that she was not permitted to "second guess the agency or substitute its judgment for that of the agency," Justice Madden found that the "determinations approving the project were neither arbitrary, capricious nor an abuse of discretion, and that respondents violated neither the procedural nor substantive requirements of SEQRA or the [Urban Development Corporation Act]."

Justice Madden's decision will be published on Wednesday.

The next step for opponents is to appeal Justice Madden's decision to the Appellate Division, First Department.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Forest City in the News

The Californian, Commission sold on mall changes

Here's a project where Forest City Enterprises is footing the bill for transportation infrastructure changes — in Brooklyn, taxpayers are the lucky ones:

Improvements to The Promenade's ring road were an easy sell to the Planning Commission on Wednesday night.

The commission voted 5-0 to accept the plan intended to ease traffic conflicts on the road encircling the mall with no objections from the public.
The road improvements are expected to cost about $2 million and will be paid for by the mall's parent company, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc.

Cleveland DBusiness News, SCHOTT Solar Selects Mesa del Sol for New Solar Manufacturing Plant Company to Bring up to 1,500 Jobs to Mesa del Sol’s Renewable Energy Cluster

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) announced today that SCHOTT AG, a global leader in glass and optics and one of the largest solar technology manufacturers in the world, will build a 200,000 square foot manufacturing facility for SCHOTT Solar, Inc., its wholly owned subsidiary, on 80 acres at Mesa del Sol, a 12,900 acre mixed-use project in Albuquerque, NM.

Mesa del Sol is being developed by Forest City Covington NM, LLC, a joint venture between Forest City NM, LLC, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, and Covington NM, LLC, an affiliate company of Covington Capital Corporation.

BusinessWire, Fidelity Investments Selects Forest City's Mesa del Sol for New Operations Center

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) announced today that Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest providers of financial services, will locate a new 210,000-square-foot operations center at Mesa del Sol, a 12,900-acre, mixed-use project in Albuquerque, NM.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

January 17, 2008

Pipe work at Atlantic Yards project shuts water off for residents

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Crazy, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner gives the nabes a few days' notice before shutting their water and then throws in lunch for one of the affected groups.

Here's a slice of life in Ratnerville:

"This is just the beginning, and it's already starting up," griped Dean St. resident Brad White, who learned of the temporary water shutoff Tuesday night.

"Imagine when it's midway through the project. It's gonna get worse."

The water shutoff, which happened at 8:30 a.m. during the morning's peak shower hour, stemmed from the installation of a larger new water main.
Because of the short notice, the church's pastor was unable to postpone her classes, but was allowed access by Forest City Ratner to bathrooms at the Yards ombudsman's office.

Lunch was offered to parishioners, Riegelhaupt said.

NoLandGrab: Can it be true that Forest City Ratner controls access to the "Yards ombudsman's office?" What doesn't the developer control?

The water shut-off is just the latest interruption in Ratnerville:

"It's just annoying," said Dean St. resident Tracy Collins, who, besides missing his morning shower yesterday, said recent road construction has forced buses to stop directly in front of his home, causing pileups and excessive noise.

"People double-park and so the bus can't get through, and then the bus starts honking," Collins said. "It's a mess."


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

The Atlantic Yards quiz, tonight

QDDlg.gif Atlantic Yards Report ran the listing for tonight's Quiz Don't Destroy event at Rocky Sullivan's, including this teaser:

Here's what Matthew Schuerman, then of the *New York Observer, (predicted: "Word is, Norman Oder could play with one arm tied behind his back--and still win!"

After being named the favorite by the Observer, how could I not compete?


NoLandGrab: Word is that Norman Oder is actually an automaton and that someone, we won't say who, has hacked his programming for tonight.

Seriously, the NoLandGrab crew is planning to show up, but since the search function of NLG is broken (so we can't cheat), don't expect our long-term memory (which includes stuff that happened last week) to do us any favors.

We do expect to have fun though, and, who knows, the Quiz Master might even have a prize for the team with the blankest expression.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Suffer Second Recent Blow

The NY Sun

Forest City Ratner makes a big deal out of the most recent setback for the tenants' fight for a fair shake by the Empire State Development Corporation. Tenants' attorney George Locker sez, not so fast:

"This is the second time in less than a week that the courts have decided in favor of the Atlantic Yards project," the executive vice president of government and public affairs at Forest City Ratner Companies, Bruce Bender, said in a statement. "This is an exciting time as we are even closer to making Atlantic Yards and its thousands of jobs, affordable housing units, and professional sports team a reality for Brooklyn."

An attorney for the plaintiffs, George Locker, said that he would appeal the decision. "There is a lot of litigation left before land is going to be broken," he said.


NoLandGrab: We love the high tenor of the latest Forest City Ratner press release, which is no doubt intended to drive a stake into the broad base of supporters funding Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Although Forest City may have prevailed in court so far, they can't force residents in and around the footprint of Atlantic Yards to change their opinion about the project, and gloating about it proves everyone's worst fears, that the development company is obnoxious and cares little about anything but its own agenda.

Meanwhile, this suit was brought by the rent-stablized tenants, who aren't exactly "the opposition." It appears that they aren't running for the hills, either.

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

The "other" AY lawsuits might take a year to resolve

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Forest City Ratner issued a champagne-popping press release; this morning, Norman Oder explains how, if tenants' attorney George Locker has his way, it could be the start of a one-year hangover:

While two legal cases (federal and state) organized by Atlantic Yards opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have gotten the most attention recently, two lawsuits filed by 13 tenants (12 in rent-stabilized housing) in the AY footprint may take another year to resolve, even though both have been dismissed by state appellate courts.

On 11/9/07, the Appellate Division, Second Department, upheld the Empire State Development Corporation's relocation plan for the tenants, who would be displaced by project construction. Yesterday we learned that, on January 9, the court denied permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

However, attorney George Locker said that he will pursue an alternate path and file the same motion before the Court of Appeals, which chooses case on a discretionary basis. "I expect that the state's highest court will see the public importance of the issues presented and that it will elect to address them," he said.

If the Court of Appeals does take the case, that would take a year, he estimated.


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

January 16, 2008

Atlantic Yards photo show announcement


Posted by lumi at 11:07 PM


Nets All Access Online


Bruce Bender, executive vice president of government and public affairs at Forest City Ratner Companies, issued the following statement in regard to today’s New York State Appellate Division’s decision to deny a motion for an appeal brought by project opponents over the State’s use of eminent domain.

“This is the second time in less than a week that the courts have decided in favor of the Atlantic Yards project," said Bruce Bender. “This latest court victory is not a surprise because for the last four years we have made every effort to work closely with community organizations and leaders, and with state and city agencies. This is an exciting time as we are even closer to making Atlantic Yards and its thousands of jobs, affordable housing units and professional sports team a reality for Brooklyn.”


NoLandGrab: This in-your-face press release is rather light on details. Seriously, we had to reduce the logo to fit the NoLandGrab format.

The Real Deal, State court rejects Atlantic Yards appeal

The local real estate trade publication ran news from this release, again without explaining what case or court the decision was made. The following comment posted on Real Deal provides some actual details:

...the case the cout just refused to hear is this: By state law the ESDC and Ratner must provide a particular kind of relocation plan for rent-stabilized tenants they force out by eminent domain. The ESDC and Ratner are not providing that state-mandated relocation plan. Sure, they have some BS relocation plan that will do NOTHING for the tenants they are shoving out. Bruce Bender can celebrate the rapid whittling away of tenant's rights because he is safe in his million dollar park slope home.

In other words, this decision to not hear the appeal applied to the TENANTS' eminent domain case, which is a separate case from FEDERAL case, Goldstein v. Pataki. Reporter Eliot Brown, who recently moved from The NY Sun to The NY Observer sets the record straight:

The Real Estate Observer, Yet Another Atlantic Yards Appeal Dismissed

Tenant attorney George Locker, who lost a case in November related to eminent domain and tenants in the project's footprint, saw his appeal dismissed today, according to developer Forest City Ratner.

The major remaining suit in the eyes of critics is the federal suit brought to challenge the use of eminent domain, currently being considered by a three-judge panel at the appellate level.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Second Atlantic Yards Case Fails Within Week

After having the lawsuit that challenged the environmental impact statement dismissed on Friday, residents living in the footprint of the massive 22-acre project have failed to move yet another court to consider their appeal. The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division-Second Department denied the plaintiffs’ motion to appeal, after it had dismissed their eminent-domain lawsuit in November.

While Forest City Ratner and city officials celebrate victory after victory in court, the legal battles have yet to end.

Posted by lumi at 10:17 PM

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Meets Critical Public

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder
Photo by Jonathan Barkey


It wasn't quite walking into the lion's den, but Atlantic Yards ombudsman Forrest Taylor, a little more than a month in his tenure, met publicly on January 8 with a group of critics and opponents. The meeting showed Taylor's accessible but no pushover-and also that his brief won't allow him to go as far as critics might like. The meeting was held by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), an umbrella group set up to respond critically to the environmental review conducted by Taylor's employer, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). CBN is a petitioner in the lawsuit challenging that environmental review; the case was dismissed three days later by a state judge, though the petitioners plan to appeal.


Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM

It came from the ReBlogosphere...

CityRoom Blog, Morning Buzz
From the CityRoom headline wrap-up:

A Brooklyn federal judge, Edward R. Korman, has recused himself from hearing an appeal on a lawsuit opposing the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, after admitting in court that he once responded favorably to the much-debated plan through a promotional mailer. [New York Post]

NYPolitics.com, Federal judge removes himself from Atlantic Yard Project

A reposting of today's NY Post article.

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Atlantic Yards Judge Off Case

Atlantic Yards Report reblogged:

"Though they didn't say so explicitly, plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case had to be pleased to learn that U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, the most skeptical member of a three-judge panel who last October 9 heard the appeal after the case had been dismissed, recused himself from the case. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which organized the lawsuit and whose spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, is lead plaintiff, issued a press release yesterday stating that Korman had recused himself. Though no formal reason was stated, Korman did in court offhandedly mention that he'd received an Atlantic Yards mailer “some years ago” and responded in the affirmative."

OnNYTurf, Will the Tide Turn on City Parking Policy?

StreetsBlog reblogged:

A few weeks back Atlantic Yards Report posted a compendium of recent writings that point to the contradictions inherent in, and problems resulting from, parking requirements for urban development plans.

Posted by lumi at 9:38 PM

The Golden Age

High-Rise Residential Construction Keeps Going

New York Construction
By Alex Padalka

New York and the tri-state area are now feeling the impact of the national subprime mortgage crunch and slowdown in new home construction and residential high-rise projects, but the boom here is far from over.

Unlike the rest of the country, New York continues to attract buyers and renters alike at ever-increasing prices.

Don't worry, prices in Manhattan may have peaked, but the outer boroughs are still booming?

Pat Di Fillippo, executive vice president of Turner Construction of New York, says that while the condo market will continue to grow, Manhattan may be due for a correction. "Will the people in Manhattan wake up?,” he adds. “You can pay $2 million for a studio in Manhattan or get 3,000 sq ft somewhere else.
Forest City Ratner Cos.'s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project alone will bring 6,430 units spread across 15 high-rises in downtown Brooklyn, according to the latest plans.


Posted by lumi at 9:31 PM

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Yards Review

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project suffered a significant setback last Friday, as a state judge dismissed a lengthy lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the environmental review conducted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). The 26 community petitioners, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), vowed to appeal.

The decision by Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden came eight months after a court hearing and long after she was expected to rule, a consequence, most likely of a voluminous record. Developer Forest City Ratner called the decision "a significant step forward" and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz expressed satisfaction.
A challenge to the use of eminent domain for the project was dismissed last year, and an appeal was heard last October; a decision awaits. Until the lawsuits clear, it's unlikely construction of the arena will begin. Despite questions about the state's look at traffic problems, its unwillingness to address preparations against terrorism, and its claims of blight, Madden noted that courts can't "second-guess the agency," but can only intervene when actions are "arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion." That makes such challenges to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) hard to win, especially when the ESDC created a record of more than 22,000 pages.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 PM

Atlantic Yards

Wall art by Patti and Schellie Hagan, photo by Rob Goodspeed.


Posted by lumi at 9:07 PM

Shopping in Brooklyn: A Shot of the Suburbs


On Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Mall:


Soon, it's going to be overshadowed by the looming Atlantic Yards stadium project, but for now, the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn means just one thing: a super-shot of suburbia in the midst of the city. Rather than go through another themed entry for our last Shopping in Brooklyn post, we had to give a shout-out to our favorite capitalist hot-spot east of Manhattan.

More than just a cluster of chain stores, Atlantic Terminal Mall is like walking through a virtual yearbook highlighting Brooklyn's population diversity.
People talk a lot about Brooklyn's diverse ethnic and racial populations living side-by-side, and it's true, we do live next to one another. The best place to check it out? Atlantic Terminal Mall.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal suburban-style mall would more likely be served, rather than "overshadowed," by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena (not "stadium") and sixteen high-rise tower project.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 PM

Appellate judge's recusal may be good news for AY eminent domain plaintiffs

Atlantic Yards Report

LiarFlyer01-sm.gif Norman Oder considers the possible reasons as to why Justice Korman recused himself from the appeal of Goldstein v. Pataki, and attempts to read the tea leaves.

Though they didn't say so explicitly, plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case had to be pleased to learn that U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, the most skeptical member of a three-judge panel who last October 9 heard the appeal after the case had been dismissed, recused himself from the case.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which organized the lawsuit and whose spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, is lead plaintiff, issued a press release yesterday stating that Korman had recused himself. Though no formal reason was stated, Korman did in court offhandedly mention that he'd received an Atlantic Yards mailer “some years ago” and responded in the affirmative.
DDDB's press release stated, "Pursuant to the rules of the Court, the two remaining members of the three-judge panel may request a replacement judge at their discretion, but must request a replacement judge if they do not agree on how to decide the appeal."

Does that mean that the remaining judges, Robert A. Katzmann and Debra Ann Livingston, are divided? We don't know.
It was clear that Korman seemed skeptical of the plaintiffs' case, and he's a Brooklynite who remembers the Dodgers. Then again, skepticism from the bench, as exemplified by state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden's demeanor in court last May on the lawsuit challenging the environmental review, does not necessarily translate into a result, as Madden's decision last Friday showed.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Judge Recuses Himself From Three-Judge Panel Considering Appeal on Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Goldstein v. Pataki

NEW YORK, NY — Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward R, Korman has recused himself from the pending eminent domain appeal Goldstein v. Pataki. The original case, filed in October 2006, argues that New York state's use of eminent domain for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project violates the United States Constitution. The appeal by 13 property owners and tenants in the development project’s footprint was filed on July 31, 2007 and argued on October 9th in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If plaintiffs eventually win their case and keep their properties, the result would be that the project could not be constructed.

Pursuant to the rules of the Court, the two remaining members of the three-judge panel may request a replacement judge at their discretion, but must request a replacement judge if they do not agree on how to decide the appeal. Judge Korman has been replaced on the three-judge panel considering the appeal by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs. The other two judges who heard the October 9th argument are Judge Robert A. Katzmann and Judge Debra Ann Livingston.

Last week, the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a new oral argument before the reconstituted panel in light of the recusal, because Judge Jacobs did not have the benefit of hearing answers to the numerous questions raised by the previous panel.

Although no reason for the recusal was provided, Judge Korman had announced before the argument on October 9th that he had previously received an Atlantic Yards promotional mailer that he had responded to affirmatively. The only mailer that fits Judge Korman's description is a 4-color glossy "Live, Work, Play" Atlantic Yards promotional direct mailer that Forest City Ratner mailed to approximately 300,000 people early in its public relations campaign. It appears that Judge Korman was one of the fewer than three percent who responded to what many who oppose the project have dubbed the "Liar Flyer" by mailing back a postage paid return card declaring "Yes! I Support Atlantic Yards and the Jobs, Housing, and Open Space it Will Create." In exchange for his support, it is believed that Judge Korman received a voucher for two free tickets to a New Jersey Nets game and a Nets tote bag.

"I have no reason to doubt that Judge Korman would have decided our appeal fairly and impartially, notwithstanding any issues created by his response to Ratner's propaganda campaign," said plaintiffs’ lead counsel Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP,

Brinckerhoff explained, "Our appeal raises important constitutional questions about the propriety of former Governor Pataki's decision to seize my clients homes and properties and give them to Ratner -- a law school class mate and major political donor. The whole project was Ratner's idea. Ratner coveted plaintiffs' properties. Pataki did not consider a single alternative to Ratner's plan. Nor did he consider even one other developer to reap the rewards of the government's largesse. It is indicative of the integrity of this court and a sign of the seriousness with which the court is addressing these issues that the two remaining judges requested a replacement ensuring that this important appeal will be decided by a full, three-judge panel."

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM


NY Post
By Rich Calder


A Brooklyn federal judge has removed himself from hearing an appeal on a lawsuit opposing the borough's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, after admitting in court that he once responded favorably to the controversial plan through a promotional mailer.
Project opponents said they believe the mailer was a glossy flier sent out to about 300,000 homes a couple of years ago. Those who sent back a card attached reading, "Yes! I Support Atlantic Yards and the Jobs, Housing, and Open Space it Will Create," received vouchers for two free tickets to a Nets game.

Korman did not return a phone message, but Matthew Brinckerhoff, the opponents' lawyer, said, "I have no reason to doubt" Korman would have voted fairly.


Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Federal Judge Recuses Himself of Atlantic Yards Appeal

Brooklyn Daily Eagle


A Federal Circuit Court Judge has apparently recused himself from considering the appeal of Brooklyn residents who live in the Atlantic Yards footprint.
The [Federal eminent domain] lawsuit was dismissed in June, and oral arguments on the appeal took place before a three-judge panel in October. One of those three judges, Hon. Edward R. Korman, has now recused himself, it seems.

During those arguments that took place last year, Korman had offered to recuse himself and made it known that he had received an Atlantic Yards promotional flyer and had checked the box on that flyer that indicated he supported the project. Neither side objected to his remaining on the panel.

Nevertheless, Korman is not on the panel anymore.He is replaced by the Chief Judge Hon. Dennis Jacobs, who, according to attorney sources, is the judge who appoints the replacement judge if necessary – meaning, if that is true, then Jacobs had appointed himself.

Normally, if one judge recuses himself, the other two judges will decide the case between the two of them, and will only call for a replacement third judge if the two judges disagree and can’t come to a decision. Perhaps that is the case here – perhaps the two remaining judges, Hon. Robert A. Katzmann and Hon. Debra Ann Livingston, disagree.


Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards Project Ducks Lawsuit

Commercial Property News interviews Forest City Ratner VP Loren Riegelhaupt about Justice Madden's decision:

It's a coup for Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards mixed-use community, as the New York State Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by a group that had disputed the public approval process for the sprawling Brooklyn project.

"It was a long wait for the decision, but it was well worth it," Forest City president Loren Riegelhaupt told CPN today.
Forest City is not done battling the opposition just yet. While two lawsuits by groups challenging the use of eminent domain were wrapped up last fall with dismissals by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, another eminent domain case has yet to be resolved. The remaining lawsuit was dismissed last June and is presently being appealed. "We went before the appeals court in October; there could be a decision in the first quarter, but you never know," Riegelhaupt said. "This is the fourth round of lawsuits we have gone through, and they all have been dismissed."

Disputes notwithstanding, Forest City has already moved forward with the development of Atlantic Yards, having kicked off demolition and pre-construction activity at the site almost one year ago. "Thus far we've taken down about 50 percent of the structures on the site," he noted. "Twenty-five are down, we're working on an additional eight now, and 28 remain standing."


Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Atlantic Yards Footprint: Incredible Blight Study Claim Affirmed in Court Decision

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn highlights a portion of Justice Madden's ruling that bought into Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation's fairy tale that the area is "blighted," claiming "most of the residents in the area continue to live in conditions that are unsanitary and unsafe."

The 26 community organizations who filed the lawsuit claimed that development/rezoning to the south of the rail yard was occurring apace when Forest City Ratner announced its project putting a halt to that development/rezoning. Judge Madden rejected this argument, and affirmed the ESDC's "blight study" claim that, to paraphrase, most of the footprint is unliveable.

Here is the relevant excerpt from Judge Madden's ruling (ATURA=Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area):


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Brooklyn Development: Lost in Transition

AK-LostinTranslation.jpg Brit in Brooklyn is promoting "Lost in Transition," currently on view at the Brooklyn Historical Society, and offers this view of Ratnerville.

The Brooklyn Historical Society is hosting an exhibition of photographs taken by young people in Brooklyn. They form part of the Urban Memory Project, documenting development around Coney Island, The Gowanus Canal, Atlantic Yards and Williamsburg.


Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

Will the Tide Turn on City Parking Policy?



A few weeks back Atlantic Yards Report posted a compendium of recent writings that point to the contradictions inherent in, and problems resulting from, parking requirements for urban development plans.

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.

One result, in the case of Atlantic Yards and the new Yankee Stadium, is an influx of cars essentially legislated into neighborhoods that don't want them, even as the city preaches the virtues of sustainable growth.


The Wonkster, Parking Paradox
Wonkster reblogs StreetsBlog's point about parking, and adds concerns in the Bronx to the mix:

Then there’s reports that Bronx residents fear that lots and garages for the new stadium, rather than being used during ballgames, could become permanent park and rides, bringing more cars to an area already plagued by high asthma rates.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Quiz Don’t Destroy

Time Out New York is carrying the listing for this week's Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quiz, which will test participants' knowledge of all things "Atlantic Yards debacle."

Have you been keeping track of the Atlantic Yards debacle? Pit your knowledge of Bruce Ratner’s pet project against Brooklyn Papers staffers and other know-it-alls at this special edition of Scott M.X. Turner’s weekly pub quiz.

Venue: Rocky Sullivan's
Times: Thu 8pm.
Address: 34 Van Dyke St at Dwight St Red Hook, Brooklyn
Phone: 212-246-8050
Travel: Travel: F, G to Smith–9th Sts, then take the B77 bus to Van Dyke St
Website: rockysullivans.com

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

January 15, 2008

Council Members to Push for Imminent Change of State Eminent Domain Laws

Columbia expansion approval called a warning sign and call to action

City Hall News
by Edward-Isaac Dovere

Several members of the City Council, in the wake of that body's vote to approve Columbia University's expansion plan on December 19th, are taking it upon themselves to push Albany to reform New York State's eminent domain laws. New York is among just a handful of states that have not taken steps to rein in the use of eminent domain in the wake of 2005's controversial Kelo vs. New London Supreme Court decision.

“I think it’s a priority,” said Council Member Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), who voted against the Columbia expansion, and has been an ardent opponent of the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project, which sits in her district.

“A number of us have been talking about this,” [Council Member Tony] Avella said, “but it would be interesting to see how many of the Council members who brought this up would be ready and willing to do something.”


NoLandGrab: Tony Avella asks a pertinent question, since he and Tish James appear to be among a small minority of elected officials with enough backbone to stand up to eminent domain-abusing real estate developers — and their enablers in City and State government.

Long-time NLG readers may recognize the byline of Edward-Isaac Dovere, the erstwhile "Executive Editor" of The Brooklyn Standard. Dovere's a legitimate journalist who's been writing for City Hall News for at least a year and a half, but we can't resist any opportunity to make reference to Bruce Ratner's fake "newspaper." Manhattan Media, which publishes City Hall News, is the contract publisher of The Brooklyn Standard.

Brownstoner, Council Members Look to Take on Eminent Domain

Disappointed that City Hall News doesn't allow comments, snarky or otherwise? Fear not; Brownstoner links to the story, and releases the hounds. Snark away!

Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

TONIGHT: Reading, "Brooklyn Was Mine"

BookCourt 163 Court Street., Brooklyn

Readings by:
Emily Barton
Darcey Steinke
Alexandra Styron


Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker
Riverhead Trade Paperback Original

With 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. And an introduction by Phillip Lopate.

Proceeds from anthology of original work to benefit Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

From $6 million to $120+ million: Newswalk and the evidence against stagnation

Atlantic Yards Report


How much has Brooklyn changed? On January 4, I pointed out a dramatic shift since the production of the documentary A Walk Around Brooklyn in 2000. The Empire State Development Corporation seems to think that the zone bordering the Metropolitan Transportation's Vanderbilt Yard would be stagnant absent the Atlantic Yards project, and state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden didn't disagree.

The story of the luxury Newswalk building in Prospect Heights offers some useful context; in an interview taped 03/28/06 for Michael Stoler's CUNY-TV show BuildingNY, Shaya Boymelgreen, then partner in Leviev Boymelgreen, discussed how he paid $6 million for the former Daily News printing plant less than a decade earlier.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Student focus lenses on development

students-NYDN.jpg NY Daily News
By Joyce Shelby

High school seniors Sabrina Zahir and Margarit Cabral have discovered just how passionate folks in South Brooklyn are about neighborhood development.

"The developers want to come in to the area to change it and make luxury housing," said Margarit, 17, who attends the School for International Studies.

"But," classmate Sabrina, 17, added, "the community is not happy. They don't want these developers coming in. They're bothering them, taking their space.

About 400 teens from five local high schools have been documenting the impact of development in Gowanus, Coney Island and Williamsburg and at Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Brooklyn Nets and Ratner Score in Court

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

The New York State Supreme Court dismissed yet another lawsuit that seeks to stop Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project from being built in Brooklyn.

On Friday, Hon. Joan Madden released her 71-page decision that dismissed the petitioners’ motion and denied an injunction that sought to stop the $4 billion project from continuing. The Atlantic Yards project, which has been described as the largest single-design project in the city’s history, and which is slated to bring the New Jersey Nets professional basketball team to Brooklyn, is currently in the demolition phase of construction.


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Do NYC's Developer-Community Deals Totally Suck?


Community Benefits Agreements, those big documents that are "negotiated" between developers of mega-projects and the "community" around them come with every big development these days. Atlantic Yards had one. Yankee Stadium did too. The Columbia Expansion will have one. Basically, developers use them to trade things like promises of jobs and money for community groups for support from local organizations. So, what's wrong with them? People that follow CBAs as they're called say that New York City's, in a word, suck.


NoLandGrab: Developers use CBA's to divert attention from the fact that their projects' benefits to the community are dubious.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

January 14, 2008


Weeks beginning January 14, 2008 and January 21, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Mid-block Support of Excavation (SOE) piles. Tie backs installed.
  • Continue drilling SOE piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Excavation, lagging, install walers and struts at SOE piles in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121/lot 47).
  • Continue drilling SOE piles adjacent to East Portal.
  • Continue preparing site for mobilization to East Portal to drill SOE and foundation piles.
  • Continue drilling Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Prepare placement of concrete in west abutment foundation of train trestle.
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Pour foundations for temporary access ramp to yard level in block 1120.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120 (for future cable installation from cable bridge in block 1120, parallel to 6th Avenue Bridge).

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.

  • Abatement will be underway at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period.
  • Abatement will be underway at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) within this two week period.
  • Demolition is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue for the next one–two months.
  • Abatement is complete at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22). Demolition will be underway within this two week period.

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 Streets. Work will also take place along portions of Pacific Street.
  • Transit ducts on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street will be relocated. This work will only take place at night (between 10PM and 6AM), and is expected to continue over the next three months.

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.
  • Beginning approximately January 23, 2008, the Carlton Avenue Bridge, located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, will be closed.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 PM

About that bridge closing...

The closing of the Carlton Avenue bridge, scheduled for the 16th of January, has been postponed to the 23rd. See community notice (click to enlarge).

Posted by lumi at 5:27 PM

Deedle Deedle Dees in Concert

Last Sunday, small and tall Brooklynites turned out to hear Audra Rox and the Deedle Deedle Dees (pictured below) at the Brooklyn Lyceum for a fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. DeddleDees.jpg

Posted by lumi at 5:19 PM

The Little Anthologies That Could


Book-publishing industry blog GalleyCat follows up on a recent post about Brooklyn Was Mine with a minor mea culpa:

But, as Brooklyn co-editor Valerie Steiker informed me, the snickering is slightly misplaced: Although she didn't reveal the precise amount, Steiker did confirm that Riverhead did pay an advance on the anthology, and that money has already been passed on to DDDB.


Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

The dubious crime statistics and the missing cloud over the AY court case

Atlantic Yards Report

In its response to comments on the Environmental Impact Statement, the Empire State Development Corporation sidestepped the issue of the misleading crime stats in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan that were used to justify the "blight" determination and the use eminent domain. Last week Justice Madden ruled that the crime stats are only one "determining factor" as she sidestepped the question as well.

Norman Oder explains why this matters.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

City’s brand of CBA bad for rest of the nation?

By Patrick Arden

Community benefits agreements have dampened opposition to projects elsewhere, but they’ve spawned controversy here as politicians have hammered out 11th-hour CBAs just before crucial votes.

This New York style of deal making worries California attorney Julian Gross. “The entire future of the community-benefits movement could be threatened by CBAs being sidetracked and taken over by developers and electeds who want to steer and channel the community participation,” he said.
“The whole thing works better democratically when electeds don’t try to pressure community groups to support projects based on the electeds’ views on what projects are good,” Gross said. When politicians are involved, critics charge, CBAs are weaker — not just in benefits extracted but also in legal protections.

Predictably, nothing has happened on the CBA for Columbia since the City Council approved the university's expansion plans last month.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Atlantic Yards foes vow to appeal ruling

By Amy Zimmer

State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden ruled on Friday in favor of the Empire State Development Corp., the state agency overseeing Bruce Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, by dismissing a lawsuit challenging the plan filed by 26 community groups. The arena for the Brooklyn Nets, to be called Barclays Center, is expected to open in 2010, according to Forest City Ratner Companies, which has awarded more than $40 million worth of contracts for the project and has demolished, or scheduled demolition, for roughly 50 percent of the structures within the 22-acre footprint. The community groups plan to appeal, according to Ratner-foe Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The group wants the project halted while a separate federal eminent domain suit filed by 13 homeowners, business owners and tenants is pending.


Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Manhattan judge dismisses Brooklyn arena foes' petition

amNY carried the AP story from Friday about Justice Madden's decision to dismiss the environmental lawsuit.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

January 13, 2008

Bringing it to Brooklyn!


Submitted by Tom Wentworth, Ft. Greene:

Guess what I found while walking my dog tonight? A Ratner mobile blatantly parked illegally (without a ticket of course). Check out the attached photos...note the yellow curb clearly denoting "No Parking".

It just seemed to me a perfectly ironic metaphor for the whole Ratner debacle. Ratner's "Bringing it to Brooklyn", never mind whether "it" belongs or whether "it" is legal. And New Jersey plates no less (WAH-13A)! Maybe the cops should bring "it" to the Navy Yards tow pound.

NoLandGrab: Hmmm...this looks familiar...

Posted by amy at 10:56 AM

Desktop Day: Together on Atlantic Yards


Brit in Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reports today that the NY State Supreme Court ruled for the ESDC (Empire State Development Corporation) in the Atlantic Yards lawsuit (the challenge against the environmental review by 26 community groups). However, as Daniel Goldstein pointed out;

“...let’s be clear: Atlantic Yards cannot move forward while the thirteen plaintiffs—homeowners, business owners and tenants—are in federal court in a separate case challenging New York State’s unconstitutional use of eminent domain. We expect to prevail in that lawsuit, as well as on the appeal of today’s decision,”


Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

The Superblock lives. Unfortunately.

Alex Marshall, Editor, Spotlight on the Region, via Historic Districts Council Newsstand

Everyone knows the Superblock is dead.

Jane Jacobs put a stake in its heart 47 years ago, with her convincing analysis that large blocks decrease street life and are less versatile than smaller blocks that provide a finer-grained network of connections.

While her analysis was once a dissident point of view, it is now that of the establishment, at least in academic circles. Today it would be difficult to find a prominent urban designer that would speak in favor of the Superblock. It’s a relic, most urbanists say, a leftover of Modernist urban planning that celebrated separating uses, showcasing the car, and denigrating the old-fashioned street.

So if that’s the case, why is the Superblock very much alive and well here in New York City and around the region when it comes to designing new projects? Let’s look at a few here in New York City, Jacob’s old stomping ground.

One of the most prominent examples is the planned Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The rail yards to be built upon now separate the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene like a giant moat. But rather than extend some of the smaller streets in Fort Greene across the site and Atlantic Avenue, the current plans actually demaps a major roadway, Pacific Street. This helps create several superblocks, one of them particularly enormous. Connectivity will actually be reduced by the new development.


Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

water shut-off for Atlantic Yards



565 Dean Street at Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

the notice on the door indicates that water for this building, and for many buildings on Dean and Pacific Streets between Carlton and 6th Avenues, will have their water turned off for "Atlantic Yards Phase 1" work. the water will be off Jan 12th for 8 hours.


Posted by amy at 10:34 AM

Rereading the AY court decision: could "Shoot the Freak" also be a "civic project"?


Atlantic Yards Report

Let's take another look at one of the central challenges to the Atlantic Yards environmental review dismissed Friday by state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, the issue of whether Atlantic Yards would, in fact be a "civic project," defined as a "project or that portion of a multi-purpose project designed and intended for the purpose of providing facilities for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purposes.”
Madden concluded that going to a basketball game is "recreational" under the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDCA). But that conclusion strains logic, since almost anything could be "recreational" under her analysis.
While it might be reasonable to think that "recreational" meant opportunities for active recreation, let's take Madden at her word and consider what other forms of amusement today might qualify as "recreational" and thus be eligible, at least theoretically, to serve as "civic projects."

How about Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated to be demolished for Atlantic Yards? Or, perhaps Privilege New York, home of the lap dance? Or, finally, a venue where spectatorship, participation, and mob psychology meld, a downscale Brooklyn classic beloved even by patrician Department of City Planning Chair Amanda Burden: Coney Island's Shoot the Freak.

NoLandGrab: The most 'civic' of these amusements would be Freddy's Backroom, as it is always free.

Posted by amy at 10:26 AM

Starks raving MaD: New York� uh I mean, Brooklyn's Finest?


Richard Bertin lists the Knick's woes, not the least of which would be the Nets moving to Brooklyn. He also delves extensively into the cult of personality that is Jay-Z.

What makes Jay-Z different from other owners is his ability to make anything he is affiliated with relevant. He'll certainly do the same with the Nets. Whether or not that has anything to do with wins remains to be seen. Still, if he can bring out the school boy crush players like LeBron have in him, just imagine what his affect on New York would be. Very casually the process of converting Knick fans is already under way. Last season, boisterous billboards for the Nets surrounded the perimeter of the Garden. Even before that, a cross marketing platform paired Net tickets with his "Kingdom Come" CD. And don�t take lightly how Jay's appearance courtside at Net games can affect all the "dumb deaf and blind" kids who follow anything their favorite rapper endorses.


Posted by amy at 10:20 AM

Nets arena wins again in court

Field of Schemes

As for local opponents, with legal options dwindling, they may be left to hope for a last-ditch reprieve from someone in state government. Develop Don't Destroy attorney Candace Carponter told the New York Times yesterday, "Our elected leaders, who understand those concerns, must gird themselves to bring more pressure to bear on Gov. Eliot Spitzer, now that we've had this legal decision." Last week, in the wake of the Madison Square Garden tax break kerfuffle, Brooklyn city councilmembers David Yassky and Letitia James said they'd introduce a resolution to reexamine city subsidies for the Nets as well. All-powerful council chair Christine Quinn replied through a spokesperson: "Once the councilmembers introduce a resolution, it will be referred to committee, where it will receive thorough and proper review." If that sounds like an endorsement to you, you have better rose-colored headphones than I do.


Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Review Suit Dismissed

The Gowanus Lounge

Late yesterday afternoon State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden issued her ruling dismissing the suit brought by 26 groups challenging the environmental review process that led to the approval of Atlantic Yards. Judge Madden's ruling weighs in at 71 pages and the crux of her finding is that the actions of the Empire State Development Corp. "were neither arbitrary, capricious nor an abuse of discretion" and satisfied legal requirements. She wrote that "the court is not permitted to second-guess the agency."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn quickly promised an appeal of the decision pending a review.


Posted by amy at 10:04 AM

January 12, 2008

First Horseman of the Apocalypse

Gumby Fresh on Gothamist's proclamation that Mayor Marty Markowitz has "a nice ring to it:"

I've spoken to more than one person familiar with the Borough's politics, and their verdict is that the man has very limited gifts, and little head for the economic and social issues that are going to roil the Borough in the coming years. To be honest, I don't think the man shouldn't be mayor because he's been a proponent of the Atlantic Yards. I don't think he should be mayor because his support for the project shows how he's able to ignore the social, environmental, economic and cultural effects of the project because of some weird fixation on a 1950s egg-cream vision of what Brooklyn could be.


Posted by amy at 3:25 PM

After eight months, state judge dismisses challenge to AY environmental review

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Atlantic Yards opponents suffered a significant setback as a lawsuit challenging the environmental review for the project was dismissed by a state judge. Such lawsuits regarding projects in New York State are always longshots, given the discretion courts give to the reviewing agency, but Atlantic Yards opponents were hopeful after Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden seemed skeptical in court last May of some defenses offered in the case known as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn vs. Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Madden's delay in ruling--she initially estimated she'd take four to six weeks, then predicted September--also gave some reason for optimism, though the best conclusion was simply that she was dealing with a voluminous record. (The administrative record provided by the ESDC was 22,754 pages in 38 volumes, according to her decision.)

Yesterday, however, little more than one business day before the closing and reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge--clearly a "fact on the ground" difficult to reverse and one involving significant city resources--Madden dismissed all the claims filed by DDDB and 25 co-petitioners, some of them broad-based organizations, others block associations.

NoLandGrab: AYR delves into each of the points and reasons for their dismissal.

Posted by amy at 1:54 PM

Markowitz Cheers Court Decision Against Community

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Your Borough President (and future mayoral candidate?) Markowitz issued a press statement about Judge Madden's decision on the community's lawsuit against the environmental review and approval of Atlantic Yards.

Here's Markowitz's statement:

Score a big victory for Brooklyn's future. This latest court decision from State Supreme Court Justice Madden, which comes on the heels of a similar ruling by the Federal District Court last summer, reaffirms the public benefits of the Atlantic Yards project for Brooklyn — thousands of units of affordable housing, thousands of union jobs, and our much-anticipated return to sports' major leagues. The project's world-class architecture, on-site school, street-level shopping, and accessible public open space will enhance Downtown Brooklyn, knitting together surrounding neighborhoods to create a vibrant cultural center over Brooklyn's largest public transportation hub.

Now, as we move to the implementation stage, we must ensure that impacts are minimized and any meritorious concerns of residents are addressed. With these goals in mind, let's get the shovels on the ground, let's get this affordable housing built, and let's get ready to root for the Brooklyn Nets, our new home team!”

We wonder when/how Markowitz plans on addressing the "meritorious concerns of residents." The "meritorious concerns" have been repeated over and over for 4 years, and he has not addressed a single one.

Alas, he seems to have forgotten that you can't "get shovels on [sic] the ground" when there are people whose homes, businesses and properties are located where he wants to "get shovels on [sic] the ground."


Posted by amy at 1:50 PM


NBA.com publishes FCR's statement as well as construction and legal updates. But the important news is the poll on the site:

Should Jason Kidd grow his mustache back?


Posted by amy at 1:39 PM

Reactions All Around: Statements on Atlantic Yards Decision

The Real Estate
Eliot Brown

We’ve put together a compilation of statements and press releases on this afternoon’s Atlantic Yards court decision, which clears a potentially major hurdle for the $4 billion development:

NoLandGrab: Statements included here include Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Empire State Development Corporation.

Posted by amy at 1:35 PM

Mayor Marty Markowitz Does Have a Nice Ring to It



And while he’s done a lot to raise Brooklyn’s profile in the media, Markowitz has his share of critics who object to his support for developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. He got into hot water for dismissing five members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 who opposed the project, and appointed as the borough’s City Planning Commissioner a woman who had invested in Ratner’s move to buy the Nets.


Posted by amy at 1:30 PM

People You Know

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Emily Barton, Jennifer Egan, Colin Harrison, Jonathan Lethem, Elizabeth Gaffney, Katie Roiphe, Vijay Seshadri . . . . Anyone who doubts Brooklyn’s current literary prowess need only to turn to the table of contents of Brooklyn Was Mine, a new collection of nonfiction essays written by some of the biggest names in the writing biz. Though most of them currently call the borough home, in this book they all pay tribute to a Brooklyn that has shaped them.

Released by Riverhead on January 2, Brooklyn Was Mine consists of 20 original essays and an introduction by native son Philip Lopate. It is edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker, both senior editors at Vogue.


Posted by amy at 1:27 PM

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking to Block Atlantic Yards

New York Times

The lawsuit had been widely considered the last major one standing in the way of the project, second perhaps only to an eminent domain suit that was dismissed by a federal judge in June.
Although this sentence structure is creative, this statement doesn't make any sense. This lawsuit is not the "last major one standing in the way of the project." That would be the eminent domain lawsuit, which is in federal court.
In rejecting a claim, for example, that the review failed to properly address the prospect that the project would provide a tempting target for terrorists, the judge said the project did not have as many inherent hazards as “facilities with some degree of dangerousness, such as an oil supertanker port, a gas storage facility or a hazardous waste facility.”

Or an arena in Newark?

Justice Madden also rejected claims that a timetable for the project was inaccurate, and that the environmental impact statement did not consider the major effect the project would have on traffic in the neighborhood, on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.


More coverage:

NY Daily News Court bounces suit on Ratner's Yards


NY1 Judge Throws Out Petition To Stop Atlantic Yards Project

WNYC Atlantic Yards Opponents Suffer a Defeat

Star-Ledger Pierce makes a prediction

AP via Newsday Manhattan judge dismisses Brooklyn arena foes' petition

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Brooklyn Last Minute Motions in Atlantic Yards EIS Case Dismissed

Posted by amy at 12:41 PM

January 11, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: NY State Supreme Court Rules for ESDC in Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

Project Cannot Move Forward While Federal Eminent Domain Case Is Pending
Community Plaintiffs Plan Appeal

NEW YORK, NY — New York State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden has ruled against 26 community groups led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) in their challenge to the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) environmental review and approval of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. The case had been filed in April 2007.

"We believe that the decision was wrongly decided and we are determined to appeal and win," said Jeffrey S. Baker (Young, Sommer,Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore) lead attorney for the community plaintiffs.

“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling. But let’s be clear: Atlantic Yards cannot move forward while the thirteen plaintiffs—homeowners, business owners and tenants—are in federal court in a separate case challenging New York State’s unconstitutional use of eminent domain. We expect to prevail in that lawsuit, as well as on the appeal of today’s decision,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

“The concerns raised by the lawsuit still remain. And our elected leaders who understand those concerns, must gird themselves to bring more pressure to bear on Governor Spitzer, now that we’ve had this legal decision,” said DDDB legal Director Candace Carponter. “With the project in financial jeopardy and the real estate market treading in such troubled waters, and with a pending eminent domain lawsuit, it is time to rethink the Atlantic Yards project. It is time for the Bloomberg and Spitzer administrations to come back to the community and work to implement a development plan that can work, rather than one that is floundering and faces overwhelming community opposition. As Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff recently said, this project should come under local review, not state review.”

All case files and the court’s ruling are here:

DDDB et. al.
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Inc.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc
NY Public Interest Research Group/Straphangers
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID)
Sierra Club
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
The Brooklyn Bear’s Gardens Inc
Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association, Inc.
Boerum Hill Association
Brooklyn Vision, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association
Carroll Street Block Association (5th to 6th Ave), Inc.
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association, Inc. (4th to 5th Ave)
East Pacific Block Association
Fort Greene Association
Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Park Slope Neighbors
Park Place-Underhill Avenue Block Association
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place-Brooklyn Block Association
Society for Clinton Hill
South Portland Avenue Block Association
South Oxford Street Block Association
Zen Environmental Studies Institute

ESDC et. al.
Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)
Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC)

Posted by lumi at 5:21 PM

Apaches Rise to Defend Homelands from Homeland Security

Center for International Policy's Americas Program
by Brenda Norrell

Homeland Security is building a wall along the Mexican border to protect us from illegal immigrants. But who's going to protect landowners from Homeland Security? And what are we protecting if our land and homes aren't safe from eminent domain?

Many landowners, as well as civic leaders and human rights activists, oppose the U.S. government's plans to allow federal law enforcement agents access to private property. The government's demands and aggressive tactics are in conflict with settled rights of private property ownership and are particularly disconcerting to the indigenous peoples' communities impacted by this undertaking.


Posted by lumi at 3:59 PM

Pushing Back as Columbia Moves to Spread Out

Public Lives
The New York Times
By Robin Finn

The Times, in this Public Lives profile, does its best to make West Harlem businessman Nick Sprayregen, the biggest of the little guys fighting against Columbia University's massive land grab, appear unsympathetic.

Mr. Sprayregen, 44, is a multimillionaire thanks to Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, the family business he took over in 1990. What was once a hulking orange-and-black brick building on an unattractive stretch of Broadway at 131st Street (it now bears a banner with the message “Stop Eminent Domain Abuse”) has morphed into five storage warehouses. It’s hard to work up a tear for a fellow who owns one million square feet of commercial properties in New York and New Jersey, has acquired 18 choice parcels in the heart of Yonkers, and last year diversified himself further by purchasing Westchester’s largest chain of weekly newspapers.

Never mind that the City ignored the local community board's 197-a plan for the neighborhood, which didn't involve the use of eminent domain, and that Columbia is a private entity, not a public university, with much deeper pockets and far more political clout than even Mr. Sprayregen.

But then again, isn't an eminent domain blindspot what what we've come to expect from The Times?


Posted by lumi at 1:50 PM

An Atlantic Yards lexicon--and more contributions welcome

Atlantic Yards Report

"It’s Orwellian, almost;" "It's a great piece of real estate;" no, "it's the scale, stupid!"

Before we "go back to Pleasantville," check out the "Mad Overkiller's" "brutally weird" article on the language and terms that have emerged from the "bloggiest" neighborhood, where a "Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn", as we "live, work and play" under the shadow of "jobs, housing and hoops" and Frank Gehry's "ego trip" (aka, "Ratlantic Yards").

Before "you're the victim," "Read, Don't Destroy" the Atlantic Yards lexicon — it's more entertaining than a "liar flyer!"

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

January 10, 2008

Brooklyn Was Mine: 7th Avenue Reading

From Brit in Brooklyn


Susan Choi and Jennifer Egan at the reading for Brooklyn Was Mine last night.

Posted by lumi at 9:20 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Closing of the Carlton Avenue Bridge

The Carlton Avenue Bridge, part of the Atlantic Yards footprint, is scheduled to close in less than a week for up to two years of reconstruction. Traffic is going to be rerouted to Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues. Atlantic Yards Report sees the closing as the start of a "three-year reconstruction clock," since the Sixth Avenue Bridge's one-year rehab is supposed to follow work on the Carlton Avenue Bridge. If that timetable is followed, therefore, it means the earliest the Nets arena would open is January 2011.

frogma, Lunchtime Links

These days, it sometimes seems like our local governments are far too eager to hand over land to private, corporate endeavours - we've got 3 of these in play in Brooklyn alone right now, Bruce Ratner's land grab at Atlantic Yards, the Brooklyn Bridge Park where there's concern that the park is going to just turn into a private backyard for the condominiums, and Coney Island.

The Real Estate Observer, Move-In Day for Brooklyn's Tallest Tower! Condo Owners Get One Hanson Place Keys Jan. 16

Even with the construction of neighboring Atlantic Yards, the [Williamsburgh Bank] tower, at a cool 512 feet, will retain its title as the borough’s tallest structure, as the city pushed Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner to hold its signature Miss Brooklyn tower to 511 feet.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Neighborhood Sustainability Standards: Where is the Community Process?

[Tom Angotti] writes that, while some LEED ND pilot programs, such as Melrose Park in the Bronx, represent sustainable, community-based planning, other pilot projects, such as Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, and Columbia’s expansion in Manhattanville, are, ”large-scale developments that displace local people and businesses.

OnNYTurf, Bklink: Sign on Pacific Street
It's a reblog of a reblog on the Carlton Ave closing.

Posted by lumi at 9:04 PM

Carlton Avenue Bridge closing

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)


From the Empire State Development Corporation:

Beginning approximately January 16, 2008, the Carlton Avenue Bridge, located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Brooklyn, will be closed. The one-way bridge is being closed to accommodate upgrading the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yard under the bridge, and also to construct a new bridge as part of the Atlantic Yards project. For the duration of this work, northbound traffic will be rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which will become two-way to accommodate this detour, or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 PM

Public sees new face of Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin


The state’s newly appointed Atlantic Yards ombudsman met with the public for the first time and promptly squelched lingering fears about future traffic disruptions and security threats at the proposed basketball arena.

Ombudsman Forrest Taylor countered persistent concerns that securing the arena will require street closings — as a similar new arena did last year in Newark — by saying that it won’t happen in Brooklyn.
As ombudsman for the biggest — and arguably most controversial — development in Brooklyn history, Taylor’s job is to smooth relations between the affected communities and the state and developer Forest City Ratner, something he seemed eager to get to.

“I recognize there’s going to be some misery,” said Taylor, and “to the best of my ability I’m trying to lower that misery [for the public].”

One of the first mini-crises Taylor tried to fend off in his calm, casual persona was the Jan. 16 two-year shutdown of the Carlton Avenue bridge, a main link between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

Taylor sounded testy after repeated questions about the bridge and said he had met with high-level FDNY officials who assured him the fire station on Dean Street would be properly informed in time for the bridge closing. He admitted that he did not visit the firehouse.


Posted by lumi at 8:14 PM

Inspired writing

Who woulda thunk it? Crain's Cleveland Business carried a short item on "Brooklyn Was Mine."

Forest City Ratner Co.’s controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn has inspired a lot of things — anger primary among them for residents — but now it has inspired something else: a book.

“Brooklyn Was Mine” features 20 original essays by Brooklyn writers who “draw on past and present to create a mosaic that brilliantly captures the quality and diversity of a unique, literary landscape,” according to the book’s description on Amazon.com.
Proceeds from the book are being donated to the anti-Atlantic Yards legal fund established by a group called Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 PM

Paper to be quizzed on Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper will put its Atlantic Yards expertise where its mouth is on Thursday for the first-ever “Quiz Don’t Destroy” game show at Rocky Sullivan’s Bar in Red Hook.

A team of Brooklyn Paper scribes and editors will compete on Jan. 17 against other supposed Yards cognoscenti, including Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report.

“After being named the favorite by the New York Observer, how could I not [participate]?” quipped Oder, referring to a recent article that suggested that he could “play with one arm tied behind his back and still win.” (As a precaution, though, we will insist that Oder be tied up.)

Click here for sample questions.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 PM

Writing on the wall

The Brooklyn Paper
By Adam Rathe

Subway readers, prepare for a new accessory. Last week, “Brooklyn Was Mine,” a collection of essays by local literati — including Jonathan Lethem, Phillip Lopate, Emily Barton and Jennifer Egan — was released and, from what we can tell, it will soon replace paperback copies of “Everything is Illuminated” and rumpled Dawn Powell novels as prime F train literature.

Conceived by Vogue magazine editors Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker — he lives in Fort Greene, she lives in Brooklyn Heights — the book is comprised of non-fiction works that range from the very personal (Alexandra Styron’s “A Sentimental Education” delves into her relationship with her father, William, famed author of “Sophie’s Choice”) to more historical — Egan’s “Reading Lucy” follows the life of a Navy Yard worker over five months in 1944.
However, it isn’t just to crow about the strength of our writers that the book exists, although that would be enough; all of the proceeds from the book’s sales will be donated to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the community action group dedicated to opposing the Atlantic Yards project.

“From the very beginning, the idea was, ‘That’s what we’re going to do,’ ” said Steiker. “And it was remarkable that 20 writers immediately passionately jumped on board and were excited to write pieces but also to work for a noble cause.” All of the essays in the book were donated by the writers, who usually command very large paychecks.


Posted by lumi at 7:54 PM

Letters to the Editor

The Brooklyn Paper
From the Letters page:

Our Brooklyn (Iowa) coverage earns accolades

...your feature about the 80 people and things to watch in ’08 was great. Thank you for the mentioning BCAT, where Greg Sutton is doing a great job.

Then again, I don’t think Marty Markowitz is going to be mayor — especially as Atlantic Yards continues to blow up.

Steve DeSève, Brooklyn Heights

Some expert

I. Donald Weston’s recent letter to the Editor (“Expert: There is a way to fix Atlantic Yards traffic,” Dec. 22) accused the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods of a “lack of understanding” — a wrong accusation.

Before criticizing CBN’s understanding of building design, it would behoove Mr. Weston to take a closer look at the Atlantic Yards site and plans. With the planned arena setbacks just 20 feet from both Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, it would not be possible to relocate the “stadium” further from the street, unless the Nets intend to play half-court games or drastically reduce the number of planned seats.

And CBN, of course, understands that better blast-resistant materials exist today, but a glass-walled building still presents significant safety challenges. While we hate to dwell on the potential for terrorism, it does exist, and like structural engineers and their modern materials, terrorists and their weapons are getting more sophisticated, too.
In addition to his misunderstanding of CBN’s concerns about security, Mr. Weston offers several traffic “solutions” that are not solutions at all. His proposal to relocate surface parking lots to the less-affluent neighborhoods of Brownsville or East New York smacks of classism, and would make fact the fears that some neighborhoods have about being turned into vast park-and-ride areas by congestion pricing.
While Mr. Weston’s intentions appear noble, his suggestions are a dollar short and a day late. Where were Mr. Weston and the Brooklyn Chapter of the American Institute of Architects when the Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards project was being developed?

Eric McClure

Posted by lumi at 7:49 PM

Pols: Pull Ratner off the trough

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

A City Council effort to reign in a tax break enjoyed by Madison Square Garden should bring about a cutback of the massive public subsidies lavished on Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, two councilmembers demanded this week.

After the Council’s Finance Committee discussed MSG’s $11-million-per-year property tax abatement on Monday, Councilmembers Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) demanded that the city and state revisit its subsidies for Ratner’s $4-billion mega-development.
Both councilmembers said they would put forward a resolution within days that would “scrutinize the effectiveness all the these tax breaks citywide,” James said.

[James] questioned, for example, why Ratner still gets tax breaks for his decades-old Metrotech complex and both his Atlantic Avenue shopping malls.

“He may have needed those subsidies in the past, but Brooklyn is hot right now, so these subsidies are inappropriate,” she added.

Yassky and James have called on Speaker Christine Quinn, who is spearheading the attack on the MSG subsidy yet is also a strong Atlantic Yards supporter, to bring the resolution to a vote.


Posted by lumi at 7:39 PM

PAGES: 'Brooklyn Was Mine' Can Now Be Yours

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Shane Miller

Twenty Brooklyn writers, including novelists, memoirists, poets, and journalists, all donated original works for "Brooklyn Was Mine," the profits from which will in turn be donated to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the group fighting Forest City Ratner’s proposed mega-development at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues in Prospect Heights.
Perhaps the contributor who has explored, unraveled, and mythologized the borough the most in his own work is Jonathan Lethem, who offers a short tale of a future Brooklyn collapsed into disarray and phonetic interpretations of familiar places, such as Schumer’s Horn, Why Cough, and Albeit Squalor Mall.

What follows, however, is a very personal essay about Letham’s own connection with the borough of his childhood. Letham, who is also a DDDB board member along with Egan, Lopate, and Robert Sullivan, writes how he became involved in the fight against Ratner’s project:

The risk, of seeing wrecked what I never completely wanted to protect, felt vertiginous. As it happened, I’d also just quit writing about Brooklyn. I’d reached a limit, for the time being, in the meanings I could plumb from my fantasia. So, this taking-up of a real commitment to the real Brooklyn replaced the writing. Perhaps it was even what the writing had been trying to make possible, all this time. I’d written myself, to my own astonishment, into some long-delayed sense of possession.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 PM

Forest City in the News

Boston Business Journal, Forest City gets financing to renovate former mill buildings

Forest City Enterprises, the developer of Haverhill Mills, will receive a $49 million financing package from MassDevelopment for the renovation of 305 apartments.

Haverhill Mills s a mixed-income complex in Haverhill, Mass. Cleveland-based Forest City is using tax-exempt bonds to rehabilitate four early-20th century mill buildings on a four-acre parcel.

Of the 305 housing units, 61 will be designated affordable and offered to individuals earning up to 50 percent of the area's median income.
MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, works with businesses, financial institutions and local officials to stimulate economic growth across the state.

Eagle-Tribune, Will their pockets be deep? Downtown debates whether 'affordable' housing tenants will spend enough to boost businesses
Not everyone in Haverhill supports including affordable housing in the downtown redevelopment plan.

But several of the projects have a large percentage of their units set aside for so-called "affordable housing," meaning their tenants will have lower than market-rate rents. Critics said that means many people who lack the kind of extra income businesses hope they will spend also will move downtown.

Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland, which plans the biggest housing complex in Haverhill's history - 305 apartments in an old shoe factory complex downtown - landed a $49 million low-interest financing package from the state this week. It requires 20 percent of the apartments, in this case 61, to be kept "affordable" for lower-income people. Those will be tenants who make up to 50 percent of the area's median family income of about $60,000, state housing officials said.

Bloomberg.com, Lennar's New Homes Fetch 60% Less as U.S. Market Slump Deepens
One developer's slump might be an opportunistic developer's steal.

"Standard Pacific is reviewing a number of ways to adjust our business to changing market conditions,'' the company said in an e-mailed statement. "As a part of our plan, we sold most of our excess land in San Antonio and will continue to explore ways to optimize our business, while continuing to provide our customers with high quality homes at an excellent value.''

The buyers were Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. and closely held Covington Capital Corp. The price wasn't disclosed.

CoStar.com, Residential Recession Opening Up Land Opportunities

In Texas, Forest City Enterprises' land group business unit and joint venture partner Covington Capital Corp. acquired more than 2,500 single-family home lots in the San Antonio market.

Forest City and Covington Capital gained an immediate presence in the market by acquiring lot positions and land in several planned communities in the area, including Alamo Ranch, Stillwater Ranch, Ashton Park, Indian Springs and Heights of Cibolo, among others.

The land and lots were acquired from Standard Pacific Homes of Irvine, CA. The properties include finished lots as well as future platted lots and encompass price ranges which will serve both first-time homeowners as well as move-up buyers.

"This is an example of our stated strategy of taking advantage of national market conditions to selectively acquire properties and land in key markets. The solid underlying fundamentals of the San Antonio market, including job growth, attractive cost of living and the recreational opportunities provided by the Hill Country area all provide a positive outlook for the single-family market in the long-term," said Bob Monchein, president of Forest City Land Group.

The Charlotte Observer, 2 giant subdivision projects withdrawn
Developers hoping to get more city support before going forward

MONROE -- Developers of what would have been two of the largest residential subdivisions ever in Monroe withdrew their applications Tuesday, hours before the City Council was to consider them.

Fearing rejection was at hand, developers said they would try to meet with council members next week and start anew.

"I'm not looking for a spitting match," said Peter Cozens, vice president of Forest City Enterprises, which sought to build one of the subdivisions.

Posted by lumi at 6:29 PM

Regarding Hudson Yards plans, a Community Advisory Committee offers pointed criticism

Atlantic Yards Report


If there was a Community Advisory Committee involved in the Atlantic Yards planning, it certainly wasn't heard from. But there is a Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee (HYCAC), set up by the mayoral administration and City Council, and it has issued a forceful open letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority regarding the plans for new development at the West Side yards.

The committee offers praise for the public presentations and models provided by five development teams: This amount of public disclosure with little formal public process is an important contribution to open government and better planning.

However, much is missing, and some of the criticism, as I'll explain below, echoes criticism of the Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

January 9, 2008

A Sign on Pacific Street

Brit in Brooklyn posted this photo and mapped the location of the bridge on Google Maps.


Posted by lumi at 8:07 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Bergen Carroll, Brooklyn writers donate anthology proceeds to fight Ratner’s Atlantic Yards
On "Brooklyn Was Mine":

...the contributors to the anthology Brooklyn Was Mine (Brooklyn-based writers Jennifer Egan, Lara Vapnyar, Jonathan Lethem, Darcey Steinke, and Darin Strauss) plus fifteen others decided to donate all the book’s proceeds to the non-profit organization, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
This is a great gesture towards Brooklyn and one which I personally support. Opposition to Forest City Ratner’s proposed $4 billion Atlantic Yards development remains as strong as ever and even seems to be growing in recent months.

The KnickerBlogger, The Shape Of Things To Come?

Even if Ratner's crap project doesn't go through, future generations will look back at this age as one of greed; earlier generations invested in the future: planting trees and creating parks that future generations would enjoy.

Anyway, here's a better design for Vanderbilt Yards. Feasible and liveable, two things Ratner's plan which is just a public subsidized land grab, is not.

The UNITY Plan: The Community's Plan for the Vanderbilt Yards

Pinky's Paperhaus, 66 degrees. thank you, global warming.

I don’t live in NY but I do know that the Atlantic Yards development is nightmare of horrifying proportions. The authors who’ve contributed to Brooklyn Was Mine are fighting the good fight; the book’s proceeds benefit a nonprofit trying to preserve the community.

One comment posted doesn't quite see things Pinky's way:

The idea of bringing first-class shopping and major league sports teams and top performing arts to downtown Brooklyn has some appeal, and the ones who are most against it tend to be the wealthier residents, the ones who spend a lot of time in Manhattan and don’t see a need for Brooklyn to have its own urban center. Many other Brooklynites welcome the change.

Daily Gotham, Top 80 for 2008 from the Brooklyn Papers

So the Brooklyn papers has a list of it's top 80 interesting things for 2008 ranked from 80 to 1 like a countdown.

Lots of development issues feature in the list, some good, mostly, from a community viewpoint, not so good. Atlantic Yards comes in twice at 47 and 10.

Posted by lumi at 7:44 PM

Closing Bell: New York's Finest, Leading by Example

Gridlock-BSR.jpg Brownstoner posted this photo of midday gridlock two blocks from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. Ratner hasn't even broken ground on the 16 high-rise plus arena megaproject yet, so it makes you wonder what traffic will be like if construction gets underway or on game nights.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 PM

AY ombudsman faces critical audience, says Community Advisory Committee coming

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from last night's meeting, at which the community finally got a chance to meet the recently appointed Atlantic Yards Ombudsman:


Atlantic Yards ombudsman Forrest Taylor met a cordial but sometimes prickly audience last night at a meeting held by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), which has been significantly critical of the project and is a plaintiff challenging the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) environmental review of the project.

Taylor, appointed by the ESDC at the end of November after a 203-day wait, got high marks for his accessibility--CBN co-chair Candace Carponter said he always answered the phone. But several among the 60 or so people at St. Cyril's Belarusian Cathedral on Atlantic Avenue found him not-so-reassuring when he repeated the ESDC stance on issues of security and traffic.
The meeting showed a contrast between two visions of the job: the ESDC wants a communicator, a fixer, who can bridge gaps between the many agencies and interested parties so essential information is exchanged. Community critics want a public advocate who might reach some independent conclusions.

Forrest Taylor outlined plans to resuscitate the "Community Advisory Committee:"

He said local elected officials would shortly be asked to nominate members, as would the three affected Brooklyn Community Boards: 2, 6, and 8. And how often would the committee meet? At least quarterly, he said, a frequency that provoked some derisive sounds from the audience.

Would meetings be open? That’s up to the CAC. While Taylor was asked if CBN would get a representative, he responded, “You know your elected officials just as well as I do.”


Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

TONIGHT: Reading, "Brooklyn Was Mine"

Barnes & Noble 267 7th Ave., Brooklyn

Readings by:
Jennifer Egan
Susan Choi
Darren Strauss


Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker
Riverhead Trade Paperback Original

With 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. And an introduction by Phillip Lopate.

Proceeds from anthology of original work to benefit Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Commercial market still strong ... for now

By Amy Zimmer

Though there's a lot of uncertainty in the NYC commercial real estate market, according to Cushman Wakefield executive Joseph Harbert, “Record asking rents and decreasing available space have given prospective tenants fewer options from which to choose.”

Could this be a boon to Downtown Brooklyn, where 1.6 million square feet of office space — including 336,000 square feet in the Atlantic yards project — is planned over the next several years? Not likely.

“It could become a viable alternative,” Harbert said. But “for advertising and media firms, this is their time to stay in Manhattan. I think they will try to stay in Manhattan.”


NoLandGrab: Why should Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner worry? As with MetroTech, should the market for class A office space in Brooklyn fail to materialize, government agencies could always pick up the slack and move in, thus justifying the massive public subsidies Ratner projects always seem to consume?

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Life at Atlantic Yards

Brit in Brooklyn took a walk in the footprint of Atlantic Yards early this week.


Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Setting Standards for Green Neighborhoods

Gotham Gazette
By Tom Angotti

An interesting article exploring what it means to be green, especially when you're an urban megaproject like Atlantic Yards:


Recent successes with green buildings have spurred new efforts to make whole neighborhoods more sustainable and environmentally friendly. But is the attempt to develop a "green neighborhood" stamp of approval just an industry marketing gimmick? The pilot projects chosen in New York City -- including Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Willets Point in Queens and the Columbia expansion in upper Manhattan -- raise some serious questions about how green these proposed neighborhoods will be.
Some experts have expressed concern that LEED certification is too narrowly focused on individual buildings and does not take into consideration the relationship of the building to the urban environment. After all, individual buildings can be environmentally friendly while at the same time contributing to destructive patterns such as suburban sprawl, displacement of viable communities and demolition of sound buildings and communities.
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards is being promoted as "transit-oriented development," even though the project's environmental impact study found it will encourage auto use. In addition, while the developer says it may build LEED-certified buildings, the environmental review showed that the project will leave most of the area in permanent shadows.


Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Daily News Gives Brooklyn Some Love

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Daily News reported something Brooklynites already know: “Nothing Beats Brooklyn.”

The News described an assortment of businesses, activities, food and people that make Brooklyn the best borough there is.

Making the cut are Brooklyn's activists, like those opposing Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

January 8, 2008

Reviews: Brooklyn Was Mine


Time Out NY, Book Review

Despite the inclusion of some heavy-hitting writers, Brooklyn Was Mine shines brightest when it records the voices of Brooklyn’s nonwriters.
When the writers look navel-ward, however, they start to ring hollow. Lawrence Osborne’s account of feeling disoriented after a mere year in Thailand feels disingenuous. Katie Roiphe’s examination of her doomed marriage crowds out a promising portrait of the Coney Island her father knew. Self-indulgence and creamy nostalgia also mar Phillip Lopate’s wonder-full introduction: Turns out that the “vanished ideal” of neighborhoods still exists in “a few places, such as…Brooklyn.” Just don’t tell that to people who live in Jackson Heights, or to members of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Brooklyn Based, Their Brooklyn

Wary of reading 19 rah-rah stories about a place already filled with insanely proud people, BB expected not to like Brooklyn Was Mine, an anthology of essays by local authors about Brooklyn past, present, and pre-boom.

But I was defenseless from page one.

Posted by lumi at 8:31 PM

So Long Telecom: 470 Vanderbilt Gunning for Residential

TC-470Vandy.jpg Brownstoner

After sitting almost-vacant for years, the Carlyle Group-owned Atlantic Telecom Center at 470 Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene will be going residential if negotiations with City Planning conclude without a hitch. Although details are sketchy at this point, we're hearing that the D.C.-based private equity firm has recently brought in a new partner to reposition the property, which currently has some 700,000 square feet of unleased space.


NoLandGrab: Back in April, 2007, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report published a 1/23/04-email from a Forest City executive Jane Marshall that reveals the development company's interest in expanding to 470 Vanderbilt.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 PM

Cleveland's Forest City acquires 2,500 local home lots from Standard Pacific

San Antonio Business Journal

San Antonio is gaining a new residential developer.

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCEA, FCEB) and its joint venture partner Covington Capital Corp. have acquired more than 2,500 single-family home lots in San Antonio from Irvine, Calif.-based Standard Pacific Homes.

Through this land purchase, Forest City Land Group and Covington Capital now have a presence in several subdivisions in the city, including Alamo Ranch, Stillwater Ranch, Ashton Park, Indian Springs and Heights of Cibolo.

The land and lots include finished lots as well as future platted lots. Forest City will focus on a range of homes, including some that will serve both first-time homeowners as well as move-up buyers.

The purchase is part of the company's strategy of selectively acquiring properties and land in key growth markets.


Additional coverage:
Orange County Business Journal, Standard Pacific Offloads 2,500 San Antonio Lots

Posted by lumi at 7:24 PM

TONIGHT: Meet the Ombuddy!

ForrestTaylor.jpgForrest Taylor, the newly appointed Atlantic Yards ombudsman, will be at the next CBN General Meeting to meet our members and participate in a discussion. This is your organization's chance to meet this key player in the ongoing Atlantic Yards project, so please plan to attend!

CBN General Meeting
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
7:30PM to 9:00PM St. Cyril's Belarusian Cathedral (Atlantic Avenue at Bond Street)

Posted by lumi at 5:36 PM

After criticism of MSG tax break, James, Yassky point to AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday Madison Square Garden and its owner, Cablevision, was on the defensive at a City Council Finance Committee hearing where sentiment clearly has shifted—years after good-government advocates began lobbying about it—to lifting the tax exemption that now saves the Garden some $11 million a year.

In response, Cablevision called attention (right; click to enlarge) to the even larger tax breaks and other forms of support the city has handed out for construction of new sports facilities for the Yankees, Mets, and Nets.

And two City Council members—Atlantic Yards opponent Letitia James and sometime critic David Yassky—issued a statement saying the City Council should take a broader look at all subsidies, including much larger ones for Atlantic Yards.


MetroNY, Council eyes an end to Garden tax break
The New York Times, A Tax Scare at the Garden, Among Other Worries
AP via Newsday, Council committee hearing considers ending MSG tax break
The New York Sun, Garden Consultant Defends Tax Exemption
NY1, Madison Square Garden's Tax Break Under Microscope
1010 WINS, Madison Square Garden's Tax Exemption Under Fire
Daily News, Quinn Fires Back AT MSG
WNYC, City Council Eyes MSG Tax Break
New York Post, MSG Calls A Foul On Quinn For Tax Probe
Gothamist, Garden Could Lose Its Tax Exempt Status
The New York Times, Madison Square Garden’s ‘Godfather,’ Without the Respect

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

The Press Catches On...Ground Has Not Broken

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes that the press got one thing right, "the fact that Forest City Ratner has not broken ground on its arena."

The Associated Press, WNYC-radio, the NY Times, the Daily News, the Bergen Record, the Newark Star-Ledger and others "reported" that no ground has been broken for the arena. As we've been saying for the past year, the only activity that has been going on at the project's footprint has been some demolition activity, because until the eminent domain lawsuits are resolved, the arena and superblocks cannot be constructed. The fact that ground has not been broken was reported because according to Forest City Rartner's latest projections, the earliest they think they can open the arena would be for the 2010-2011 basketball season. First they said 2006-07, then 2009-10, now 2010-2011. There is ample evidence that in reality 2011-2012 would be the earliest.


Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

Brooklyn Was Mine: Book Readings

Brit in Brooklyn reminds its readers that there are two "Brooklyn Was Mine" readings coming up in the next week.


Wednesday, January 9, 7:30 p.m.
Park Slope Barnes & Noble (267 7th Avenue at 6th Street), Brooklyn.

Featuring readings by Jennifer Egan, Susan Choi and Darin Strauss

Tuesday, January 15, 7:00 p.m.
BookCourt (163 Court Street, near Pacific Street), Brooklyn.

Featuring readings by Emily Barton, Darcey Steinke and Alexandra Styron


NoLandGrab: Possible caption for Adrian Kinloch's photo, "Brooklyn is mine! [Bwa-ha-ha!]"

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Can Brooklyn's Literati Fight Off Bruce Ratner?


The roster of contributors to Brooklyn Was Mine—including heavy hitters like Jennifer Egan, Lara Vapnyar, Jonathan Lethem, Darcey Steinke, and Darin Strauss, plus fifteen others—is impressive, but you could say that about any number of anthologies. The same could be said of the decision to donate all the book's proceeds to a non-profit organization, but we're getting closer to what makes this collection unique. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is the group on the receiving end of the contributors' largesse—not surprising, given that four of them are on the DDDB advisory board. Its most prominent role in the community? Vocal, organized opposition to Forest City Ratner's proposed $4 billion Atlantic Yards development, a project they describe as "overwhelmingly dense, grossly out-of-scale with its surrounding neighborhood," and disruptive to longstanding communities.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

January 7, 2008

Jeffries on Downtown Brooklyn development reforms, AY, and the role of critics

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Stephen Witt's article in the Park Slope Courier, headlined "Jeffries criticizes Ratner foes."

State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries commented, “He certainly accurately quoted me, but I don’t know that the tone of my comments were meant as criticism but rather as an observation about the development fights in Downtown Brooklyn."

Taking off from the Courier-Life article, I asked Jeffries what Atlantic Yards critics should do? “What didn’t make it into the article is my observation that I can understand why Atlantic Yards has raised the passions of the community, because it’s going to be put down in the middle of three residential neighborhoods: Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, and Park Slope,” he said. “In constrast, the development taking place in Downtown Brooklyn, with exception of the activity on Myrtle, seems one step removed from residential neighborhoods.”

“As I said to Steve [Witt], it makes complete sense to me on one hand why it’s been easier to organize community residents against Atlantic Yards. That said, I think the consequences of the development that’s taking place in Downtown Brooklyn, in terms of the concerns that have been raised related to the Atlantic Yards impact on quality of life, are very similar.” He cited accelerated gentrification and challenges to traffic and transportation. (I pointed out that an arena adds an extra challenge.)


Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

THE HOT LISTS: Five-for-Five


A snarky prediction from Newsday sports columnist Mark Herrmann:

  1. Nets announce they'll break ground for new arena in Brooklyn the year Thomas is fired as Knicks coach.


Also, amNY ran an article about Kiki Vandeweghe's trial as GM for the Nets, who are planning to "move to Brooklyn sometime in 2010." [Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report figures that 2011 is more likely.]

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Yankee Stadium Is Going Up, but Bronx Still Seeks Benefits

The NY Times
By Timothy Williams

When Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner announced the Community Benefits Agreement for the company's controversial 22-acre megaproject, it was roundly criticized and held up as the example of what NOT to do when negotiating with "the community." Now, one local agreement is winning the race to the bottom:


Several years ago, as the Yankees negotiated to build a new stadium in the South Bronx, the neighborhood faced the realities of a massive construction project in its midst: parks would be closed and moved, traffic would be horrendous, life would be, for a while, a hassle.

So, as one way to make up for these inconveniences, the Yankees and elected officials signed a community benefits agreement. It required that the team would give roughly $1.2 million a year, starting when the work began, to various community groups through a special panel. The deal was similar to agreements in other major projects, like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University’s expansion into Harlem.

But nearly 17 months after construction began, as workers race to complete the new Yankee Stadium by opening day 2009, none of that money has been distributed, and the group responsible for administering it has never met.


NoLandGrab: There are significant differences between the Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) listed above: the Atlantic Yards agreement was "negotiated" with handpicked groups, the Columbia University CBA was negotiated with a more diverse group of stakeholders but was still hammered out behind closed doors, and the Bronx CBA is widely considered to be a slush fund negotiated and "administered" by the Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr.

The Bronx WMD

The new development-watchdog blog critiques The Times's report, and takes the paper to task for allowing the subject of its story to define the terms.

Kudos to the Times for reporting the story, but what’s up with this, in the second paragraph?: “The deal was similar to agreements in other major projects, like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University’s expansion into Harlem.”

Similar how, exactly? Aha: Carrión and the Yankees called the deal a Community Benefits Agreement…and so did the groups negotiating in Brooklyn and Harlem. Ergo, the Times calls the Yankee Stadium agreement a CBA, too. Further down in the story, reporter Timothy Williams clarifies: “The agreement for Yankee Stadium was unusual, however, because it was not negotiated or signed by community members.”

Unusual. Note to copy desk: “Bogus” might be a better word. By its own admission, by calling the Yankee Stadium deal a CBA the Times is using a term, supplied by the subject of its story, that blatantly misrepresents the origins and purpose of the enterprise.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Forest City in the News

Barron's, Insider Transactions (link, subscribers only)

Barron's reported the two sales by Abraham Miller and the one by Geralyn Presti, totaling 120,980 shares and $5,285,587.

Dallas Morning News, 3 developers, not 1, expected to transform Texas Stadium site in Irving

Irving city officials and landowners near Texas Stadium are no longer pursuing a much-hyped plan for a single developer to turn the landmark site and its surrounding land into a massive mixed-use mecca.
City-selected developer Forest City Enterprises this year couldn't come to redevelopment agreements with [University of Dallas] and Southwest [Premier Properties] as expected. Reasons for the lack of consensus depend on whom you ask. They vary from unhappiness with construction timelines to gaps between asking prices and actual offers.

GuruFocus.com, Weekly Guru Bargains Highlights: Forest City Enterprises Inc.

Legendary investor Martin Whitman always looks for “safe and cheap” companies to buy, he rarely sells stocks. Many of his recent picks have had significant decline. Do you want to buy these stocks at lower prices than Martin Whitman paid?
Martin Whitman upped his FCE-a shares by 3.77% to 7,011,858 shares during the quarter ended 10/31. His purchase prices were between $53.56 and $59.67. In the third quarter, Whitman and Ron Baron both increased their holdings by 24.9% Ron Baron and 15.62%, respectively. Other gurus who own FCE-a shares: Third Avenue Management, Chris Davis, Tom Gayner, and Bruce Sherman.

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

January 6, 2008

A gentrification novel set in DC, with a twist


Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times Book Review calls Dinaw Mengestu's novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (the title's a reference to Dante's Inferno) "a great African novel, a great Washington novel, and a great American novel." (It's out February 5 in paperback; that's the third cover below.)

As the artful cover image indicates, the book indeed is many things, but for me, it was a great "gentrification novel," part of that burgeoning subgroup of books (see The Fortress of Solitude, etc.) that capture urban neighborhoods under pressure.
And guess what: Mengestu now lives in Brooklyn. In the anthology Brooklyn Was Mine (about which I'll write more shortly), he celebrates his polyglot neighborhood of Kensington.


Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Predictions from sublime (Kevin Garnett) to ridiculous (Isiah Thomas)

NY Daily News
Mitch Lawrence

Bruce Ratner finally puts a gold-plated shovel in the Brooklyn soil.

But when he digs down, the Nets owner strikes oil - who knew? - and decides right then and there to bag his arena/development project.

The fallout: Ratner decides to keep the Nets at the Meadowlands until his new proposed arena site is built in 2018 on Staten Island.


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

Who's Hot and Who's Not: Atlantic Yards-Related Edition



NoLandGrab: We missed this article in November, so we'll just consider this a 2007 recap...

1) Brooklyn Planning Commission Member Dolly Williams, who got her share of coverage for where she parked her yellow Porsche, was fined $4,000 yesterday for voting on the Atlantic Yards development while having a financial interest in the the project. (Insert Hello, Dolly! joke here.) The Brooklyn Planning Commissioner had a $250,000 investment in the Nets and the new arena. She put it into escrow and then voted in favor of the plan. [NYDN]

2) Speaking of the Planning Commission, Borough President Marty Markowitz, who'd previously said he wouldn't reappoint Ms. Williams after various conflicts, has named a replacement. She's longtime Community Board 2 Chair Shirley McRae, who says she only owns a house in Fort Greene and doesn't have a Porsche. Dan Goldstein of DDDB said of the new appointment: "It's got to be an improvement over someone who's just been fined over conflicts of interest." [Sun]

3) The Atlantic Yards Ombudsperson cometh. In an interesting bit of coincidental timing, the Empire State Development Corp. announced that Forrest R. Taylor has been named Atlantic Yards Ombudsperson. Project watchdogs promptly froze the "Ombudsman Clock" that was counting off the days between the time of a promised hire the actuality at 203 days, 8 hours, 38 minutes and 28 seconds. [AYR]

4) To welcome the AY Ombudsman, Develop Don't Destroy, which has had a burst of posts about all the developments, tossed up its first question for him: "What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings?" [DDDB]

Don't forget to come and meet your new ombuddy on Tuesday!

Posted by amy at 11:04 AM

All drawn out


The Brooklyn Paper
Cristian Fleming

Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

Nothing beats Brooklyn


NY Daily News
JOTHAM SEDERSTROM makes a number of arguments that Brooklyn rocks - all for precisely the opposite traits that Ratner wants to force upon us, from historic buildings to independently owned shops to playing our own sports in the streets rather than paying others to do it for us. Errol Louis clearly did not approve this article.

It may be an underdog at times and just plain scrappy at others, but year after year Brooklyn rises above the fray to prove itself one of the best places in the world.

From dining on the cheap and shopping on the fly to great entertainment and tons of personality, there are plenty of reasons to have faith in the Borough of Churches. Here's why:

Because, love 'em or hate 'em, Brooklyn's activists are the most dedicated brawlers in the world:

They may not always win the battle, but be it the people leading the fight against the controversial Atlantic Yards project or plans to redevelop Coney Island, nearly every neighborhood has a cadre of feisty civic activists.


Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

Ghosts of New York


NY Magazine Intelligencer
Alec Appelbaum

There’s collateral damage from New York’s construction boom. Making room for all those new buildings means tearing down many old ones. It’s a radical transformation of the cityscape: The Department of Buildings issued 3,653 demolition permits in 2006 and another 2,952 in 2007. Landmarked structures are protected, of course, but just because something’s not a landmark doesn’t mean its passing should go unnoticed. Here, some of the notable buildings lost in 2007.

177–179 FLATBUSH AVENUE, Downtown Brooklyn
Built: Circa 1930s.
What it was: Originally a general store; lately, an auto-repair shop, a car-stereo repair shop, and the JRG Fashion Café. Bruce Ratner’s bulldozers demolished the buildings this year.
What it will be: The site for one of Frank Gehry’s controversial Atlantic Yards buildings, eventually.


Posted by amy at 10:40 AM

20 writers, one borough: Brooklyn Was Mine debuts

Meredith Deliso

With neighborhoods from Fort Greene to Coney Island feeling the pressure of development in their future, and others like Williamsburg already in the midst of it, comes Brooklyn Was Mine, a collection of stories on Brooklyn, by Brooklyn authors. From essays on one of the last remaining seltzer deliverers in the borough to the preciousness of Brighton Beach, 20 writers expound on the concept of Brooklyn, which, as Philip Lopate notes in his introduction, has become not just a place, but “an idea, a symbol, and a contested one at that.”


Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

HDC: Duffield Street is Best of 2007

Duffield St.Underground shares the Historic Districts Council email newsletter of 2007's notable preservation victories in New York City, including Duffield Street:

We applaud Joy, Jennifer and everyone else involved in the campaign to preserve these houses for their passion, dedication and fortitude, Hopefully, decision-makers will learn from this that flexibility and community concerns are pivotal in guiding appropriate development within our historic city. There are certainly enough opportunities coming up to exercise this new wisdom; from Admiral’s Row to Moynihan Station to (dare we hope?) Atlantic Yards.


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

January 5, 2008

The resolution revolution

The Brooklyn Paper
Mike McLaughlin, Dana Rubinstein, Joe Jordan and Adam Hutton compiled a list of Brooklynite resolutions. We know Marty is joking, but what about Daniel Goldstein?

Marty Markowitz

Borough President
“In 2008, I resolve to eat right and stay healthy so I can live to be as old as the Brooklyn Bridge, whose 125th birthday we Brooklynites will celebrate with great fanfare in May!”

Daniel Goldstein

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
“To get going on all of the home improvement projects I’ve been planning, [like] some work in the bathroom, some shelving, that sort of thing.”


Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

Arena To Open the First of Never


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

First Forest City Ratner said their arena would open in 2006. Then they said 2009. Now they say maybe 2010. Next...never.

We don't think the arena is ever going to be built.


More from Gowanus Lounge: Atlantic Yards Arena: 2010? 2011? 2012? Etc.

Remember the heady days of predictions that a Nets arena would open in Brooklyn in 2006? For a long time, the official word from the teams and Forest City Ratner has been that the project--which is still tangled in legal challenges and has recently been the subject of questions about security concerns--would open in 2009. The subject came up again yesterday after the Bergen Record noted the team would be playing in Jersey for the 2009-10 season. The story also ran widely via AP. Atlantic Yards Reports Norman Oder, who has been reporting on the slipping timetables, calls the round of stories "bizarre," especially in light of previous coverage in the press and the real possibility that the schedule could easily slip past 2010 to, say, 2011.

Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

The Community Plan for the Vanderbilt Yards


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

When Atlantic Yards finally goes away, the community is ready with the UNITY Plan. The website for the plan has just launched; there you can also download the pdf of the complete plan and view more plan models.


Posted by amy at 10:26 AM

80 to watch in ’08

The Brooklyn Paper
Joe Jordan

64. James Caldwell, Downtown: Fresh from signing onto the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement in 2005, the president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development is now pushing for a CBA in Coney Island — no matter which developer gets picked by the city to spearhead the redevelopment of the amusement area.

47. Atlantic Yards: The smoldering standoff pitting Brooklyn’s elected officials and Atlantic Yards opponents against the city and state over security plans at the mega-development over the Vanderbilt Train Yards (right) shows no signs of cooling off. The electeds and opponents want a public review, but the city and state are staying silent.

19. Hakeem Jeffries: This dreamy Democratic Assemblyman from Fort Greene (below) took a number of controversial stands in 2007 — coming out against the Atlantic Yards mini-city and condemning rapper Nas’s use of the “N word.” We can expect more news from Jeffries as the freshman legislator gains his footing.

10. Atlantic Yards lawsuits: Two suits are pending — one about the state’s use of eminent domain and the other about the allegedly poor environmental review of the mega-development. If either one succeeds, developer Bruce Ratner is in trouble. If both fail, bring on the bulldozers.


Posted by amy at 10:09 AM

ESDC on the way to hiring Owner's Rep for Construction Oversight

Atlantic Yards Report

It may seem a little late to oversee all demolition and somewhat soon to oversee building construction, but the Empire State Development Corporation last month issued an RFP for an Owners Representative for Construction Oversight.

The Owner’s Rep, according to the RFP, will act as ESDC’s "eyes and ears” on site during construction of the Project... More particularly, the Owner’s Rep will help ESDC identify, address and investigate risks associated with construction activities, including; demolition, site and civil construction, rail yard construction, and construction of an arena and 16 mixed use buildings.

Responses are due Monday, January 7. While the ESDC states that construction is "expected to continue through at least 2016"--others have estimated it could take 20 years--the agency says that it's "uncertain" if the Owner's Rep would be required for the entire construction period.


Posted by amy at 10:05 AM

The year in Yards!

The Brooklyn Papers
Dana Rubinstein compiles the highlights. Remember this fun from one year ago?


Slap in the face: Bruce Ratner pulled a fast one on the very African-American constituents he had courted with his “Jobs, Hoops and Housing” plan, by signing a $400-million naming rights deal for the Nets arena with Barclays, a financial giant that has been linked to South Africa’s apartheid government, the Third Reich, and the slave trade.

Community, shammunity: The story breaks that community groups and schools will have to pay as much as $100,000 to rent Bruce Ratner’s Nets arena — an apparent pullback from the developer’s promise to make the arena available to local non-profit groups “at a reasonable rate.” Clearly, the meaning of the word “reasonable” depends on one’s tax bracket.


Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

Scribes attempt to write a wrong

The Brooklyn Paper
Dana Rubinstein

Twenty Brooklyn scribblers and opponents of the Atlantic Yards 16-skyscraper-and-arena development are putting their money where their pens are, not only contributing to a collection of essays and short stories about life in Brooklyn — but allowing the proceeds to benefit the mega-development’s biggest opponent.

“Brooklyn was Mine,” the $15 paperback book that was released on Wednesday by Riverhead Books, features stories by Brooklyn literary lions Jonathan Lethem, whose story depicts Brooklyn in a dystopian future; and Jennifer Egan, whose story evokes Brooklyn’s ship-building past. The collection also features Colin Harrison, who wrote about his obsession with baseball.

The proceeds will go to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the organization spearheading the fight against the project by Forest City Ratner. The writers are hoping that their meager contributions will offset the more than more than $2 million that Forest City Ratner spent in 2006 to lobby state and local lawmakers.


Additional Coverage:

Local Authors’ Anthology Benefits Anti-Atlantic Yards Efforts
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In “Reading Lucy,” Jennifer Egan introduces readers to Lucy — a woman who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II and wrote letters almost daily to her husband overseas. Jonathan Lethem’s “Ruckus Flatbush” is a wild, dystopian ride into Brooklyn’s future. In “A Coney Island of the Mind,” Katie Roiphe remembers the thrill of riding the famous Cyclone roller-coaster while on a date with her future husband. Colin Harrison’s “Diamonds” details Brooklyn’s, and his own, ongoing love affair with baseball.

Local Authors Fight Ratner's Atlantic Yards...With Words

Upcoming readings include one at Park Slope's Barnes & Noble on 7th Avenue next Wednesday (the 9th, at 7:30pm) and one at BookCourt on Court and Pacific in Brooklyn next Tuesday (the 8th at 7pm).

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
The Fader

Gentrification is just one of those inescapable beasts when it comes to the NYC housing market (but hey, it got us an organic market in Bushwick!) That said, few developments cause enough stir to inspire twenty authors (including some favorites of ours) to contribute to an anthology in defense of their neighborhood.

Posted by amy at 9:50 AM

Nets inaction may jeopardize '09 move to Brooklyn


The team allowed a Dec. 31 deadline to pass without providing the 18 months' notice required to break its lease at the Meadowlands, possibly pushing their move to a new arena in Brooklyn into the 2010 calendar year.

The team has yet to break ground on the arena, which is part of owner Bruce Ratner's $4-billion Atlantic Yards development. Team spokesman Barry Baum said about 20 buildings have been demolished since March and work has begun on temporary rail yards to replace the Long Island Rail Road's existing Vanderbilt Yard.


Posted by amy at 9:47 AM

January 4, 2008

Nets push back move to Brooklyn until 2010

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro and Maura McDermott

After the Bergen Record story ran yesterday, The Star-Ledger called up a seemingly exasperated Ratner spokesperson, who explained that they already explained this delay away:

"We said three weeks ago we plan to be playing in the Barclays Center during the 2010 calendar year," Baum said, alluding to a New York Times story from Dec. 12. "That could mean the latter part of 2009-10, or the start of 2010-11."

It is not unprecedented for teams to move their operations in the middle of a season. The Miami Heat moved from a very short distance from Miami Arena to American Airlines Arena in the middle of the 2001-02 season. Though when asked whether this is desirable for the Nets to follow suit, Baum merely replied, "It's a possibility."


NoLandGrab: Ratner's PR team had totally failed to manage expectations earlier in 2007 — even though Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder had already recognized the signs of a delay in the arena opening — and they're doing it again.

Spokesperson Barry Baum's attempt to spin the story is already leaning toward fiction — Norman Oder has already noted the signs that indicate that the arena opening would likely be delayed until at least January, 2011.

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

On the Nets arena, the real story is 2011, not 2010

Atlantic Yards Report ("Exclusive Analysis")

While the local news outlets are reporting that the new arena for the NJ Nets has been delayed a year and won't open until the 2010-2011 season as promised, Norman Oder explains that is yesterday's news and, according to clues in the timeline, the arena would not be ready before January, 2011.

You heard it here first.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Footprint Footprint

Photo by Tracy Collins
Via the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

At last, "The Footprint" has a mascot!


In Collins's words:

this stretch of Pacific Street, between Flatbush Avenue and 6th Avenue, would be demapped for the Atlantic Yards.

i wonder about the person who made this print. who was it? did they live nearby? if so, are they still here? if not, where did they go? soon, most tangible artifacts of the past may be gone.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

A Walk Around Brooklyn: the year 2000 seems like a different era

WalkAroundBklyn.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder revisits the bygone year of 2000?

The acclaimed two-hour public television documentary A Walk Around Brooklyn was released in 2000, but a recent re-viewing shows it illustrating a different era, before Brooklyn crossed the rubicon of a red-hot real estate market (and, of course, before the 2003 announcement of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, much less the opening of the developer's Atlantic Terminal mall, which came in 2004).


Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

January 3, 2008

Nets push back planned move to Brooklyn

AP (via amNY) actually reported that Ratner already revealed to the press that the Brooklyn arena wouldn't be ready for the 2009 season, but that didn't stop the PR machine from spinning, or at least going around in circles:

The Nets had planned to play at its new arena in New York starting in 2009. But spokesman Barry Baum said the move to Brooklyn wouldn't happen until sometime in 2010.

The Nets could possibly begin the season at the Izod Center in East Rutherford and move to the new arena, to be called the Barclays Center, in the first half of 2010, Baum said.

In October, Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner told The Associated Press that the new arena probably would not be ready by the start of the 2009-2010 season.


NoLandGrab: What's really funny is that The Times also carried the AP story (see "Nets Say Brooklyn Move May Be Delayed Further") even though the paper of record ran an "exclusive" on the matter back on December 12, 2007.

If you're thinking this is brutally weird, the Ratner PR machine, which orchestrated the "soft release" in late October/early November and The Times's exclusive, must've felt like yesterday was Groundhog Day.

Posted by lumi at 11:18 PM

Nets will arrive in Brooklyn later than originally planned

NY Daily News
By Corky Siemaszko

Even though this news had been previously reported, some media outlets turned it into a bigger deal today, which brought out the Forest City spin machine:

The Nets intend to tip-off in Brooklyn in 2010.

"We plan to be in the Barclays Center during the 2010 calendar year," said Barry Baum, a spokesman for the NBA team that has played in New Jersey since 1977. "That could mean the latter part of the 2009-2010 season."

"It's a very exciting thing for Brooklyn" added Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for developer Forest City Ratner.


NoLandGrab: So Ratner's new story is that maybe the Nets might play some of the 2009-2010 season in Brooklyn, or maybe not, but probably definitely not before 2010?

Posted by lumi at 11:08 PM

Look who just caught on!

Even though Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has been pointing to clues for several months now, and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner even made an admission to the media in a "soft release" back on November 1, 2007, the big news of the day, as reported in the Bergen Record, is that the Nets arena will not be ready in time for the 2009-2010 season after all.

Go figure:
NetsDelay-MetroNY.gif AP, via amNY, Nets push back planned move to Brooklyn
NY Daily News, Nets will arrive in Brooklyn later than originally planned
Real Estate Observer, Nets Plan 2010 Move to Brooklyn
USA Today, Arena delay
Blogslope, BROOKLYN NETS? NOT TILL 2010-2011

In addition, My9News and WNYC News Radio also carried the story today.

Posted by lumi at 9:18 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

AChildGrowsInBrooklyn.com, Atlantic Yards will affect your family

A plug for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and two fundraising events, because Atlantic Yards will affect your family's quality of life.

Brooklyn Ron, Bococa Really Means: The British are Coming! Man the Gates!
True, "No self-respecting Brooklynite would ever say Bococa," but that isn't stopping the Brits from coming, though maybe Atlantic Yards will.

The Real Estate Observer, Anthology Aids Anti-Atlantic Yards Fight

"Who is to say what will become of the place, or whether Brooklyn will retain its soul?" asks Phillip Lopate in an excerpt from the... introduction [of ["Brooklyn Will Be Mine"]. "Whatever happens to Brooklyn its literary soul is sound and robust, and its writers fiercely loyal."

...And only slightly polemical, but what else would you expect from a band of writers and staunch Brooklynites?

The Daily Intelligencer, The Bike Shelters Are Closing In

Prospect Heights: Brooklyn lit types like Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, and Katie Roiphe have contributed essays to a book meant to raise money for the anti–Atlantic Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which counts Lethem and Egan on its board. [NYS via No Land Grab]

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Atlantic Yards Litigation Guide

Wonder what's up with those Atlantic Yards lawsuits or, simply, wonder what they are? Then, read this handy guide to the suits and to what might or not be happening soon to determine the future of the proposed mega-development.--Atlantic Yards Report

Pardon Me For Asking, Lots Of Rats At Brooklyn Borough Hall

Did you know that Marty Markowitz, our very energetic Brooklyn Borough President is surrounded by rats? No, silly, I don't mean developer Bruce Ratner, though I am sure he has paid many a visit to our B.P.

I mean the real kind.
It has been suggested that the continuous construction in our fair Brooklyn has displaced entire rat populations, so they have simply become more visible as they look for new digs.

Castle Watch, A Columbia Round-Up
An update on the Columbia fight from the Institute for Justice's new daily blog.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 PM

Nets will shoot around in N.J. for another year

Bergen Record
By John Brennan

Jerseyites are going to have to come to terms with the reality that the Nets are going to be hanging around for at least another year:

Team spokesman Barry Baum confirmed a delay in the long-touted move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn planned for 2009.

"We plan to be in at the Barclays Center during the 2010 calendar year," Baum said.

The Nets' lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority requires the Nets to give the agency at least 18 months written notice before leaving the Izod Center in East Rutherford. That meant that the club had until Dec. 31 to give intent of a move to Brooklyn in the fall of 2009.

"We have not received any such notice from the Nets," sports authority President Dennis Robinson said Wednesday, while confirming the resulting commitment required of the team.
Construction of National Basketball Association arenas typically takes 24 months, and the Nets have yet to break ground on their site near downtown Brooklyn. If the Nets are unable to begin arena construction by this summer, they may also need to spend part or all of the 2010-11 season in New Jersey.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 PM

Forest City in the News

Fresno Bee, Recipe for downtown: one street at a time

So why isn't the city doing more to invite grass-roots downtown development?

City Hall is enamored with big-bang projects, even though few have come to fruition.

How long has the city danced with Forest City's various proposals? We're coming up on four years without a shovel in the ground.

Meanwhile, Assemi will have built about 200 lofts and homes downtown or near downtown by the end of this year without massive public subsidies.

GlobeSt.com, Promenade Center Expands by 126,000 SF

Forest City's chain-store division continues to expand:

TEMECULA, CA-Forest City Enterprises plans to expand its one-million-sf Promenade regional mall by 126,000 sf with an open-air addition that will include Williams-Sonoma, Coldwater Creek, the Pottery Barn, White House|Black Market, Chico's women's clothing, the Walking Co. and the Yard House restaurant. The new space will be built between Macy's and Edwards Cinemas in a main street setting designed to add upscale retailers and restaurants to the shopping center.

The new tenants have signed on because "They know that the community is more than ready for their offerings," according to Kenneth Lee, vice president of development for the West Coast Commercial division of Forest City Enterprises.The expansion will also include the construction of two new parking structures that will serve customers visiting both the existing mall and the new lifestyle center.

Charleston Daily Mail, Mall looking for a new restaurant to replace Gratzi
A very life-like village-themed Italian restaurant closes at Forest City's Charleston [it's practically a] Town center:

Now that Gratzi, the Italian restaurant at Charleston Town Center, has closed, the obvious question is: What will happen to the 7,500 square feet of space it occupied?

Mall Marketing Director Lisa McCracken declined to discuss the terms of the lease Forest City Enterprises, the mall manager, has with Mainstreet Ventures, the restaurant's owner. She did say, "We've got our leasing folks on it."

Posted by lumi at 6:28 PM

A Year Grew in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle's year-end wrap has this tidbit on Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan:

Brooklyn’s vertical rise continued faster than ever with a slew of new hotels announced from Coney Island to Williamsburg. In the two most controversial redevelopment plans of the year, Bruce Ratner began construction of his 22-acre, $4 billion, Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project, which would include a new stadium for the basketball Nets, thousands of mixed-income residential housing units and commercial space.


Posted by lumi at 4:28 PM

The Hudson Yards Proposals: Plenty of Glitz, Little Vision

The Wall Street Journal
by Ada Louise Huxtable

The noted Wall Street Journal architecture critic bemoans the proposals for the Hudson Yards, and concludes her review with a scathing indictment of government's role — an indictment that applies just as aptly to the fiasco better known as "Atlantic Yards."

The city thinks like a developer; that vision thing, the long-term overview, the balance of private investment and public utility and amenity, is just not there. The disposition of public land is expedited on the developers' terms even though the land is the most powerful negotiating tool of all -- something so valuable in New York that builders would kill for it -- and the Hudson Yards are an estimated $7 billion prize. It is accepted that whatever the plans are for these vast tracts of squandered opportunity, they will ultimately be controlled, compromised, or scuttled by the winner of the financial contest that is at the heart of the matter. New York will continue to sell itself short all the way to the bank.


Posted by lumi at 10:18 AM

News in Brief

By Amy Zimmer

MetroNY (print edition only) seems to be the only daily that carried the news of the planned Carlton Avenue bridge closing.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

The Carlton Avenue bridge will close January 16

Atlantic Yards Report

We've been waiting for two months for the announcement that the Carlton Avenue Bridge, located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Brooklyn, will close for two years of reconstruction, and yesterday I was sent a document (below, and excerpt at right) that indicated it would close January 16.

(It's not clear whether the announcement is from the state, city, or developer, though it seems they're all working together. Click to [view the community notice].)


The announcement states that the one-way bridge will be closed "to accommodate upgrading the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard under the bridge, and also to construct a new bridge as part of the Atlantic Yards project."

Meanwhile, northbound traffic will be rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which will become two-way for the interim or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue. We'll see how that works, but "[t]raffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic."


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Authors Want Pens To Stop Atlantic Yards

The NY Sun
By Benjamin Sarlin

In a bid to raise money to stop developer Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards project, Brooklyn authors including Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Robert Sullivan, and Katie Roiphe are contributing essays to a new compilation.

"Brooklyn Was Mine" is selling in stores for $15 a copy, with the proceeds going to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella group opposed to the $4 billion plan to add thousands of units of housing, office, and retail space to the low-rise neighborhood as well as a basketball stadium.

Mr. Lethem, the author of such popular novels as "Motherless Brooklyn" and "The Fortress of Solitude," said in a statement that he was grateful for "the brave handful of folks who refused to be bought out of their homes" and have sought to "put the brakes on this process before it was too late."

Several of the book's 20 authors, including Messrs. Egan and Lethem, are members of DDDB's advisory board.


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

Local Authors Donate Works to Benefit Fight Against Atlantic Yards

The Culture Czar (The NY Observer blog)
by Gillian Reagan


Brooklyn writers are joining the fight against Bruce Ratner's vision for Atlantic Yards by donating short essays and stories to Brooklyn Was Mine, an anthology compiled by two Vogue senior editors that will benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The book will be available in stores (mostly in the quaint, tweedy-type joints) near you starting today. According to press notes, 20 authors submitted works, including Jonthan Lethem, who published "a wild, dystopian ride into Brooklyn's future" called "Ruckus Flatbush," and Jennifer Egan, who wrote about a Brooklyn Navy Yard worker who writes letters to her husband fighting in World War II. "Who is to say what will become of the place, or whether Brooklyn will retain its soul?" asked contributing writer Phillip Lopate in the introduction. "Whatever happens to Brooklyn," he answers, "its literary soul is sound and robust, and its writers fiercely loyal."

Jennifer Egan, Susan Choi and Darin Strauss will have a reading at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble next Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m.


Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

6th Avenue utility work

TC-6thAve-n-Dean.jpgPhoto by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)

According to the Atlantic Yards Construction Update:

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.

The festive "caution" tape adds a nice touch. Hope nobody trips on it before falling into the trench.

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

Critic Huxtable on West Side yards plans: New York sells itself short

Atlantic Yards Report

From the perspective of Atlantic Yards critics, the plan to develop the West Side yards (aka Hudson Yards) is inevitably superior, because it starts with an RFP rather than an anointed developer.

And indeed, Gov. Eliot Spitzer this week told the New York Observer: We are pleased with the bids as they came in—in terms of the magnitude financially, the scale of the proposals, the creativity, the involvement of some of our most prominent real estate companies and private-sector employers who want to site headquarters there. … It reflects and justifies our confidence that if we did an RFP [request for proposals] for that site, we could elicit great response.

But critics have already offered several cautions. In New York magazine, Justin Davidson warned that finance will trump design, and New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff called it a "grim referendum on the state of large-scale planning in New York City."

And yesterday, Wall Street Journal (and former New York Times) architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, in a review headlined The Hudson Yards Proposals: Plenty of Glitz, Little Vision, was harsh, writing that only two of the five design teams "appear to have thought about it beyond the standard investment model blown up to gargantuan scale." (She never wrote about Atlantic Yards.)


Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

January 2, 2008

Brooklyn's Literary Community Supports Fight Against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project

[Press Release]

Brooklyn's Literary Community Supports Fight Against
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project
Proceeds From Anthology of Original Work to Benefit
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
In Bookstores Starting Today

JANUARY 2, 2008—In a selfless show of support for the forces allied against Forest City Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development, celebrated local authors have contributed original essays to a new anthology that pays tribute to the borough they love. The twenty novelists, memoirists, poets and journalists donating their work to Brooklyn Was Mine (Riverhead Trade Paperback Original; January 2, 2008; $15), were motivated by their commitment to Brooklyn and its future--a future threatened by a development that is overwhelmingly dense, grossly out-of-scale with its surrounding neighborhood and will divide and dislocate area residents.

"Brooklyn has given birth to some of America's greatest literary voices," note the anthology's co-editors, Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker. "Today, a new generation of authors has grown up or resettled here, a testament to Brooklyn's unique quality of life. These writers simply want to protect a community that has provided them with so much. Fortunately, the passion they feel for the place has yielded a vibrant collection of essays—and we are delighted that, with each book sold, something will be given back to Brooklyn." All of the proceeds from Brooklyn Was Mine will benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB).

"Brooklyn is a raucous amalgam of communities and neighborhoods, of new and old, of questions and attempts at answers," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Brooklyn Was Mine represents that glorious mishmash. Our organization works tirelessly to promote and protect this fragile miracle, and the authors' generous donation of their work to this anthology will go a long way in helping us achieve our goals."

Of the anthology's twenty authors, four (Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Robert Sullivan, and Phillip Lopate) are members of DDDB's Advisory Board; all of the contributors, however, are passionate about the cause they have chosen to support. "We should all be grateful," says Lethem, "that the brave handful of folks who refused to be bought out of their homes put the brakes on this process before it was too late."

Taken together, the essays provide a deeply personal view of the borough's rich history, as well as intimate takes on contemporary life. 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. Jonathan Lethem's "Ruckus Flatbush" is a wild, dystopian ride into Brooklyn's future, meant to serve as a warning shot to the barbarians at the horizon. 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 in "You Can't Go Home Again," John Burnham Schwartz writes about the changing face of the borough his father left––only to return when his son took up residence there. With humor and insight these essays draw on the past and present to create a compelling collection––one that is as colorful and diverse as the borough that inspired it, and as generous of spirit as the cause it supports.

"Who is to say what will become of the place, or whether Brooklyn will retain its soul?" asks Phillip Lopate in his poignant introduction. "Whatever happens to Brooklyn," he answers, "its literary soul is sound and robust, and its writers fiercely loyal."

With 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.
And an introduction by Phillip Lopate.

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 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.

About Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn DDDB, a volunteer-run and community-funded 501c3 non-profit corporation, leads a diverse community coalition advocating for responsible, democratic, community-based development that will unite Brooklyn's communities instead of dividing and destroying them. For four years now DDDB has led the ongoing opposition to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. That struggle is still to be resolved. For more information, visit: www.dddb.net/php/aboutdddb.php

"Brooklyn Was Mine" Book Readings:

Wednesday, January 9, 7:30pm.
Park Slope Barnes and Noble (267 7th Avenue at 6th Street). Brooklyn.
Authors contributing to the new anthology "Brooklyn Was Mine" will be reading from their work. The authors for this night's reading are:

Jennifer Egan
Susan Choi
Darin Strauss

Tuesday, January 15, 7pm.
BookCourt (163 Court Street near Pacific Street). Brooklyn.
Authors contributing to the new anthology "Brooklyn Was Mine" will be reading from their work. The authors for this night's reading are:

Emily Barton
Darcey Steinke
Alexandra Styron

Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker
Riverhead Trade Paperback Original; January 2, 2008

Posted by steve at 9:37 AM

Atlantic Yards: legal endgame in 2008?

RockemSockem.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

If you've been following Bruce Ratner's controversial arena and high-rise Atlantic Yards megaproject, this is another Norman Oder must-read and, at fewer than 1,000 words, it's relatively short, to boot.

Oder looks ahead into the new year to update readers on the progress of "Atlantic Yards," explaining the status of the lawsuits and how they may affect the project timeline, and placing odds on the varied predictions for the future of the project.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

January 1, 2008

Mobil Station Demolition

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

Last week, Norman Oder reported on his blog:

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.

Two years ago, The Brooklyn Paper explained owner John Tsao's concerns to its readers:

The owner of a Flatbush Avenue Mobil station within the footprint of Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project says the developer is having second thoughts about a generous offer made this fall to buy out Tsao for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The deal was put on the table after Ratner bought the land on which Tsao’s eight gas pumps and mini-mart stand. Tsao subleased the land from ExxonMobil.

After the sale, Ratner vice-president Andy Zlotnick stopped by unannounced and offered the buyout, even though Tsao does not have any rights over the land.

At the time, Tsao, a popular figure who calls his customers by their first name, had no desire to leave the neighborhood. He also was uncertain whether Ratner would ever build his sports, residential and commercial Xanadu anyway. But he took the vice president’s business card anyway.

Tsao is wishing he had taken the money and run.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 PM


Weeks beginning December 31, 2007 and January 7, 2007 (sic: plus ça change...)

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).
  • Excavation and lagging at SOE piles in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121/lot 47).
  • Drilling of SOE piles adjacent to east portal.
  • Continue preparing site for mobilization to East Portal to drill SOE and foundation piles.
  • Continue drilling Temporary Train Trestle foundation piles in block 1121.
  • Prepare placement of concrete in west abutment foundation of train trestle.
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Pour foundations for temporary access ramp to yard level in block 1120.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120 (for future cable installation from cable bridge in block 1120, parallel to 6th Avenue Bridge).

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

  • Demolition is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue for the next two–three months.
  • Abatement will be underway at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22) during this two week period.

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 7:49 PM

The Paradoxes of Starchitecture

GehrySketches.jpg Picketing Henry Ford

Stuart Schrader examines the rise of the starchitect and explains how individual style contributes to commodification and banalization of their own work.

Is Gehry Gehryfying Tiffany’s when he loans (well, sells) his brand to the jewelry maker or is Tiffany’s Tiffanyfying Gehry? I suppose it’s both, to the detriment of the individuality of each.


Posted by lumi at 7:22 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Gowanus Lounge, GL's Best & Worst of Brooklyn 2007

Ratnerville ranked two mentions in GoLo's year-end wrap:

Community Groups of the Year
3) DDDB. The model of long-term commitment to a cause they have created will be followed by groups in the future.

The Nevermind Award
The Department of Transportation's short lived one-way proposal for streets in Park Slope. Didn't go over too well.

Joseph Sitt beat out Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for Developer of the Year because, unlike Ratner, Sitt managed to alienate, like, everyone.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, ROCKY SULLIVAN'S PUB QUIZ

Just about every week I get an email about Rocky Sullivan's Thursday Night Quiz. This email was really long and fun (and with a great photo) so I decided to include it here. In February they're doing an event called Quiz Don't Destroy, an entire evening dedicated to the battle over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Pit your knowledge against teams from local newspapers, bloggers and community groups. Watch out if Norm Oder of Atlantic Yards Report is there -- he knows everything.

NoLandGrab: Quiz Don't Destroy is actually January 17th.

Gawker, What Happened To New York: A History Of The 00's So Far

From September, 2005:

The low-income housing and office jobs disappeared from the Forest City Ratner plan for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: The prediction for most of the office jobs "disappeared" and the ratio of affordable to market-rate housing changed fairly dramatically, though the numbers of "low-income" units did not actually change.

Brit in Brooklyn, A Year at the Yards
Adrian Kinloch was one of the photographers featured in NoLandGrab's Year in Pics.

There's a great pictoral roundup of events surrounding the Atlantic Yards project over at No Land Grab today. It features photography from Amy Greer, Jonathan Barkey, Nathaniel Kensinger, Tracy Collins, and yours truly.

Curbed.com, Curbed Awards '07 Neighborhoods III: There Goes The...

Biggest Neighborhood Controversies of the Year
3) Atlantic Yards. As buildings fall, the opposition battles on. We're talking about the Nets season, of course.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 PM

Forest City in the News

LA Downtown News, Downtown Develops
A year-end wrap-up of new development in Downtown LA starts off with the adaptive re-use of a high-rise developed by Forest City.

White Elephant No More: The former office high-rise at 1100 Wilshire Blvd. opened for occupancy last December, but only filled up this year, adding another wave of residents to the once-shunned City West. A development team headed by Forest City Residential West converted the 37-story skyscraper into the 1100 Wilshire condominium complex, one of several new residential developments along Wilshire Boulevard west of the 110 Freeway. Originally completed in 1986 but never leased, the building was once considered the white elephant of Downtown real estate. Now, studios and one- and two-bedroom units in the 228-condominium complex - many with 360-degree views - go for $500,000 to more than $3 million.

Note: Forest City Ratner (FCR) is not only planning to demolish the former Spaulding factory, which was already adapted into housing, but also hopes to force the last remaining homeowner from the ornate Atlantic Arts condos, a former storage building, in order to do the same. On top of that, FCR is passing up the opportunity to adaptively re-use the historic Ward Bakery building.

SeekingAlpha.com, Housing Market Tracker - Commercial Real Estate Review
From Seeking Alpha's "summary of articles and data points on the housing market:"

A World Full of Grand Plans (Wall St. Journal, Dec. 26th): "Some of the biggest cities in the world are proposing the most ambitious real-estate projects in a generation... But banks are sharply cutting back on commercial real-estate loans... Goldman Sachs 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... delayed the expected completion of an NYC basketball arena that is the centerpiece of its $10 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn."

Richmond Times-Dispatch, New retail areas building

Tenants at The Shops at White Oak Village should start opening in October.

"We are very much on target with our construction," said Nancy McCann, spokeswoman for Forest City Enterprises Inc. The Cleveland-based company and Pruitt Associates of Henrico County are developing the project as they did Short Pump Town Center.

The company, she said, sees tremendous growth in the eastern part of the metro area.

The 900,000-square-foot center would have a variety of large anchor tenants as well as space for about two dozen smaller national, regional or local retailers. Tenants include Dress Barn, Freeman's Men Shop, Kay Jewelers and T.G.I. Friday's.

The smaller tenants will have space in a village-like setting in the middle of the center.

And Red Lobster will locate there. Residents asked developers to snag the seafood restaurant for its project.

"That's a very big highlight there," McCann said.

NoLandGrab: Brooklynites can look forward to the continued proliferation of national chains, if Atlantic Yards is built.

Posted by lumi at 4:56 PM



Posted by lumi at 4:00 PM

Where's housing (and other urban issues) in the presidential campaign?

Atlantic Yards Report

The citywide issue central to the debate on Atlantic Yards has been AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Does anybody know where the Democratic presidential candidates stand?

No, Norman Oder isn't stalking candidates in Iowa, instead he looks for clues in a City Limits article and the NY Times.


Posted by lumi at 3:08 PM