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February 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards opponents gain procedural edge in court, with arguments delayed until September

Atlantic Yards Report

The potential timetable for building the Atlantic Yards arena just got pushed back a bit more, with the 2011-12 season now a more likely best-case scenario.

Without explanation, a state appellate court has rejected the request by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) that the appellate arguments in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review be heard before this summer. (The decision, dated Feb. 26, was received today by the parties.)

Instead, the five-judge panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, ordered the petitioners, whose case was denied by Judge Joan Madden in a ruling January 11, to file their legal papers by July 7, in anticipation of the court hearing oral arguments in the September Term.

The defendants, as expected, did see the court deny the petitioners' motion for a preliminary injunction to block the demolition of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

But the court's timetable for the appeal represented an implicit denial of fervent arguments made by the ESDC and FCR.


NoLandGrab: Tarnation! How long are they going to make us wait for our "public benefits?"

Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Bridge-n-tunnel SUV driver for Ratner!

TC-CarltonBridge.jpg Just a couple of weeks ago, photographers gathered together to exercise their First Amendment right to take photos and video in public spaces, such as the footprint of Atlantic Yards. [Until the City transfers streets and sidewalks over to developer Bruce Ratner, they are still public.]

At this gathering, photographer Tracy Collins explained that, unlike many of the other photographers assembled that day, he had had the good fortune of not getting hassled while shooting in and around the footprint of Atlantic Yards. This week, Collins's luck changed when he was confronted by some private-citizen SUV-driving bridge-n-tunnel bee-otch (sp?) who tried to keep him from photographing the recently closed Carlton Avenue Bridge.

From Collins's "freaking blog:"

i manage to take about a dozen shots when i hear a shrill woman's voice yelling:

"You can't photograph that! It's private property!!"

i turn to see a woman poking her head out of the driver's side window of an SUV (with New Jersey plates) that's stopped on Carlton Avenue at the light at the intersection with Pacific Street.

irate woman's ride, originally uploaded by threecee.

the following "conversation" ensues:

me: i'm not on private property, and i can photograph here.

irate woman: no, you can't!! it's private property!

me: you're wrong. i'm not on private property. this is a public road, and i can photograph from here.

i continue to shoot until the light changes and she pulls over on to Pacific Street and gets out of her SUV. i move away from the gate and cross to the other side of Pacific Street, wanting to stay well out of her reach and avoid any possible physical encounter. she's clearly very upset and i have no idea what she might do. i assume that she's some sort of official (Forest City Ratner, Gateway Demolition, the ESDC, the MTA or some other entity related to Atlantic Yards) otherwise, i can't imagine why she would be this agitated.

Things get even weirder when "bridge-n-tunnel" displays her concern that these photos might show up on "some blog" (uh, try like SEVERAL BLOGS) and then takes it out on the security guard.

Crazy! Brit in Brooklyn, who happens to be in Britain (not Brooklyn), managed to get wind of it and posted a link on his blog.

This morning Collins posted this pic in the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, showing that the bridge, though slated for demolition any day now, is still intact.

NoLandGrab: Though we can't say for certain that "bridge-n-tunnel" worked for Ratner or is closely associated with the project, her comment about "some blog" and the way she later berated the security guard would lead one to think that she might be. Seriously, would a regular wacko get out of her car to stop a photographer?

Do Ratner supporters seem more jittery than usual these days, or is it Harass-a-Photographer Month?

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

TOMORROW: Workshop: Rezoning the Atlantic Yards Footprint

From StreetsBlog:

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is sponsoring a workshop by the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development to further the community based planning process for the area around the Vanderbilt rail yards. The area is currently proposed to house the Atlantic Yards development but with the global credit crisis there is a very strong possibility that project will never happen. Community members and elected officials will participate.


March 1, 2008 10:00 am - 2:00 pm


St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral
401 Atlantic Av. (at Bond St.)


Hunter College CCPD 212-650-3328 or ccpd @ hunter . cuny . edu

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Atlantic Yards Report shorts

Norman Oder posted four short articles on Atlantic Yards Report this morning:

Driving Miss Brooklyn, a troubled Brooklyn condo market?

Apparently Forest City Ratner's decision to shift flagship Atlantic Yards tower Miss Brooklyn from condos to office space was based on discernible trends in the industry. (Then again, things can change, given that Miss Brooklyn was supposed to be office space when announced in December 2003.)

In yesterday's New York Sun, real estate columnist Michael Stoler suggested that many in the real estate community see a growing divide between the luxury market in Manhattan and some of the more speculative projects in fringe areas.

AY affordable housing a myth? Better to call it delayed
It seems that each time the press reports the story about the scarcity of funds for affordable housing and the impact on Atlantic Yards, the stakes get raised:

Like a game of "telephone," in which a message gets mangled as it gets passed from one party to another, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing story grows ever murkier.

The New York Observer's summary yesterday:

Federal funding crunch means Forest City Ratner won't be able to build 3,000 affordable-housing units at Atlantic Yards, fulfilling the prophesies of its opponents. [Brooklyn Paper]

But the Brooklyn Paper article reported only that a federal cash crunch threatens the promised 2250 units of affordable housing, adding some more voices to a story I reported a week ago.

That doesn't mean the promised affordable housing is dead. After all, a Democratic administration in Washington just might allow a state like New York much more capacity to authorize tax-exempt bonds.

The change in the Senate and the stakes for housing
When the balance of power shifts in the State Senate, rent laws in New York may get a second look:

The special election Tuesday to elect a State Senator in the 48th Senatorial district reduced the Republicans margin to 32-30, with several vulnerable Republicans expected to face tough competition in November. Portrayed in the press as a victory for Gov. Eliot Spitzer--and it is--the ramifications for New York City may be felt most sharply in the area of housing.

"The election today may change how we look at the rent laws," Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said at a housing panel at the New-York Historic Society on Tuesday, when the results of the election had not yet surfaced.

Since 1971, the legislature, not the City Council, has held the most power over rent regulation, thanks to the Urstadt Law. A Democratic legislature, with a Democratic governor, will be far more receptive to maintaining and strengthening rent protections, and restoring "home rule."

The city's pension funds finally take on "predatory equity"
This article covers an existing affordable-housing concern, rather than Atlantic Yards affordable housing:

When in November, I reported on a conference where participants discussed the practice of "predatory equity"--investment funds making speculative investments in rental housing, intending to raise rents significantly--I was astonished that only the grassroots policy publication City Limits had previously covered the story.

After all, housing advocates had discovered that city pension funds had a stake in such investment funds. Politicians like City Council Member Letitia James weren't making a huge case about it, either, apparently waiting to get New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the city pension funds on board.

Yesterday, the above parties, as well as other elected officials and housing advocates held a press conference in which they announced a new residential real estate investment principles.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

Editorial: Get Moynihan Station back on track

NY Newsday believes that during the economic downturn, there's one project that deserves saving and it's not Bruce Ratner's highly controversial Atlantic Yards:

Because of the down-trending economy and disagreement among principals, many of the city's ambitions seem to be crumbling: the Javits Convention Center expansion, Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards. If there is one that deserves saving, it's Moynihan Station. State and city officials need to put their shoulders into this project and push.


Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

February 28, 2008

Pros fear new towers at World Trade Center site have security gaps


NY Daily News
by Greg B. Smith and Douglas Feiden

This eye-opening article from last Sunday's Daily News must've slipped by us like the Atlantic Yards security plan slipped by the NYPD.

Law enforcement officials have major concerns about security weaknesses in the planned World Trade Center complex, a Daily News investigation has found.

The potential problems expressed to the Port Authority and others involved in the most high-profile development project in New York City history include:

  • A row of three mostly glass towers positioned too closely to city streets, increasing their vulnerability to attack.

  • Difficulties in inspecting some 2,000 delivery trucks and sightseeing buses that will enter or leave the site daily.

  • A vehicle security center that hasn't been fully designed and relies on vehicle inspection technology that hasn't even been developed yet.

Asked about weaknesses uncovered by The News in the plans for rebuilding Ground Zero, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said, "The NYPD has been in talks with the Port Authority, but we don't disclose any information about possible security vulnerabilities for obvious reasons."


NoLandGrab: What is it about Atlantic Yards that makes what appears to be basically the exact same design different from the World Trade Center? Has WTC developer Larry Silverstein been tardy with his donations to Shelly Silver and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee?

Posted by eric at 10:56 PM

Goodbye Mr. Brooklyn

Apparently Bruce Ratner's deal with CityTech to erect the largest tower in Brooklyn, to be designed by Times Tower architect Renzo Piano, is dead. Dubbed "Mr. Brooklyn," as a snarky reference to the inanely named Atlantic Yards signature tower, "Miss Brooklyn," the CityTech project appears to have succumbed to market conditions.

Here are the headlines:

MrBrooklyn.jpgThe Brooklyn Paper, Ratner Kills Mr. Brooklyn

Developer Bruce Ratner has pulled out of a deal with City Tech that could have net him hundreds of millions of dollars and allowed him to build the city’s tallest residential tower, the so-called Mr. Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

“It was a mutual decision,” said a key executive at the City University of New York, which would have paid Ratner $300 million to build a new dorm and lab for City Tech and given him a prime plot at the corner of Tillary and Jay streets where he reportedly hoped to build the 100-story, Renzo Piano-designed building.

“Both sides agreed that the costs had escalated and the numbers showed that we should not go down that road,” added the executive, who did not wish to be identified.

NY Daily News, Ratner tower whittled down

The Jay St. building was also dealt a second blow: World-renowned architect Renzo Piano has bowed out of the ambitious project, a source told the Daily News.
The tech tower had been expected to be 700 to 1,000 feet tall and to house classrooms, labs and offices on lower floors and condos on upper floors.

It will now be solely a CUNY facility, possibly as modest as 10 stories, a source said.

It was unclear whether retail would be included in the new plans or who would now design the building.

Construction costs - including labor, materials and insurance - had also been an issue, skyrocketing by more than $50 million over original estimates, according to CUNY memos obtained by The News.

Under the original plan, the building would not have been completed until 2011. Under new plans, however, it could open as early as 2010, according to the memos.

"In summary, proceeding on this project without FCRC's involvement would allow CUNY to build the project more efficiently and, therefore, less expensively," according to the memo, written by CUNY Vice President Iris Weinshall.

UPDATE, 02/29/08: The online version of this article ran with the above headline, while the story ran today with the following, "Bruce Ratner's City Tech Tower shrinks." Both headlines imply that Bruce Ratner is still involved with the project, though the article states otherwise — more proof that headline writers don't really have to read the article to do their job.

Crain's NY Business, Ratner shrinks (again)

A second Bruce Ratner development is hitting the skids

Atlantic Yards mega-developer Bruce Ratner dropped out of plans to construct a Renzo Piano-designed City Tech tower in downtown Brooklyn, the Real Deal reported Thursday. The residential tower was to be 1,000 feet tall, and would have housed dorms and a laboratory for CUNY, which said the decision to axe the project was mutual. Forest City Ratner might be up against financial realities of the ongoing credit crunch, or perhaps the site’s location, now pegged for a more demure 10-story building, wasn’t ready for Brooklyn’s tallest skyscraper. Some silver lining: the building, which will still include dorms and a lab, might now be complete by 2010, a full year early.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, City Tech Tower is Not to Be

According to the joint statement, “It has been determined that the timing, increased costs and other complexities associated with developing such a mixed-use project could not be reconciled with the college’s immediate need to move forward with a first class academic space to serve its growing student enrollment.”

Ending the partnership was amicable, the statement said.

Brownstoner, Soaring City Tech Tower Cut Down to Size

Whatever the logic is behind the decision, it seems like a pretty big blow to the ongoing plans to change the face of Downtown Brooklyn.

The Gowanus Lounge, Piano Finito: Big Ratner Tower is Dead

Posted by lumi at 8:07 PM

Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

In the February 26 NY Observer Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt said:

“When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

From the March 1 Brooklyn Paper article Fed cash crunch threatens ‘affordable’ A’Yards homes:

Forest City Ratner did not respond to a request for comment about how it would line up financing for its affordable housing units given that other developers are having such difficulty getting these coveted loans.


NoLandGrab: Shucks, we shoulda kept count of every time Forest City Ratner declined to comment!

Posted by lumi at 7:54 PM

Real Estate Round-Up February 28, 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Jacqui Ryan

Developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project Forest City Ratner Companies paid $400,000 to former Senator Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm in 2006 and 2007 to lobby federal legislators on the subject of eminent domain and other issues, reported the New York Observer.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 PM

Flatbush and Atlantic: Hellacious, Deadly, and Likely to Get Worse


Yesterday Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted this photo of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, as seen at 8:45 a.m.

"With Atlantic Yards's 17,000 new residents, and an 18,000 seat arena in use approximately 220 days per year, this gridlock would be the good ol' days," DDDB said.

Without major changes it won't get better for pedestrians or cyclists either. On Tuesday a woman was killed one block away, at Atlantic and Fort Greene Place.
AFCrashStats.gif The police account of Ms. Cattouse's death is on the Brooklynian forum, where one commenter describes the area as "hellacious." A look at Transportation Alternatives' CrashStat bears that out.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 PM

Miss Brooklyn is from … Manhattan

MissBrooklynAmerica.jpg The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Yes, it's sad, but true, "Miss Brooklyn" is from Manhattan, but so is Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:58 PM

A word from the President

Re: City Tech's New Academic Facility

As all of you are aware, in 2005 Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) was selected by The City University of New York as its partner to develop a mixed-use project on the site of the current Klitgord Building. The project included a 340,000 square foot Academic Building for the College as well as a residential tower to be built by FCRC and designed by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano in conjunction with Perkins Eastman Architects.

Unfortunately, it has been determined that the timing, increased costs and other complexities associated with developing such a mixed-use project cannot be reconciled with the College's immediate need to move forward with enhanced academic space to serve our growing student enrollment. Consequently, CUNY and FCRC have mutually agreed to amicably end the partnership.

Please know that the University and the College are moving quickly to expedite the development of a first class academic facility for the College in cooperation with the New York State Dormitory Authority and without a private developer. The full commitment of the University to this project, and the required funding, remain assured and efforts are being extended to bring our much needed academic facility on-line as soon as possible. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Thank you.

[CityTech] President Russ Hotzler

Posted by lumi at 6:02 PM

The UNITY plan expands, and will be up for discussion

Atlantic Yards Report

The UNITY plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard was unveiled in September, the project web site was re-launched in mid-January, and there's a public meeting Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to update people and seek further input on UNITY.

The discussion will broaden to more of the Atlantic Yards footprint rather than just the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard.

What's clear is that two very different visions have emerged. While the UNITY plan would add significant residential density (1500 units over eight acres would be 187.5 units/acre, compared to 6430 units over 22 acres, or 292 units/acre), it would concentrate the tallest buildings at the east end of the site, near Vanderbilt Avenue.

It would place a park at the congested intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, while Forest City Ratner's plan would have an Urban Room, which will serve as a subway entrance and an entrance to the arena and arena block buildings, while housing an atrium, retail, and Nets ticket windows.


NoLandGrab: Click here for more info regarding Saturday's workshop.

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

So, why didn't Forest City Ratner announce the cut planned for Miss Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report

It seems that the flagship Atlantic Yards tower Miss Brooklyn has been cut in bulk, from 908,144 square feet to either 528,000 square feet or, perhaps, with the addition of a hotel of 164,652 square feet, to 692,652 square feet. (It was originally announced at 1.1 million square feet.)

A reduction in some bulk was inevitable, given that the building, once projected to be 620 feet tall, was cut, as the project was approved, to be a sliver below the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.

So why did Forest City Ratner tell investors but not the public?

We're left guessing why developer Bruce Ratner left a major public relations opportunity on the back burner. Was he saving it for a rainy day?

Norman Oder mulls over the possibilities.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

The Brooklyn Paper examines Atlantic Yards affordable housing house of cards

Fed cash crunch threatens ‘affordable’ A’Yards homes
By Dana Rubinstein

Thousands of affordable housing units — including some of the 2,250 rentals that Bruce Ratner promised to included in his Atlantic Yards mega-development — will not be built due to a huge shortfall in federal subsidies available for low-cost housing creation, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

It would take between $6 and $7 billion in federal grants to build all the proposed affordable units in all of the pending projects in the state — roughly five times more money than is available, according to Mike Slattery, the senior vice president at the Real Estate Board of New York.

Indeed, in 2007, the feds only granted $1.6 billion in such bonds — and those numbers won’t change significantly in 2008.

“There’s a lot more demand for affordable housing projects these days and there’s not enough money available,” said Joe Chan, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the quasi-governmental group that oversees the redevelopment of the long-languishing area bounded by Tillary, Fulton and Jay streets and Flatbush Avenue Extension.

“We’re at risk of seeing less affordable housing than” originally planned, he continued.

Bonds bombshell killing projects

"The Explainer" rehashes the issue in Q&A form, but gets one thing wrong:

Didn’t Ratner promise 2,250 affordable units at Atlantic Yards?

What will happen to the units if the bonds aren’t there?
Some of them won’t get built.

Can Bruce Ratner really back away from that promise? Yes, if he writes a $500,000 check — a small amount for his $3.6 billion company — to the housing group, ACORN, which signed Ratner’s Community Benefits Agreement in 2005.

In the "discussion" section Norman Oder points readers to one of his Atlantic Yards Report articles which explains that the $500,000 penalty would be for unfulfilled jobs promises, not for breaking affordable-housing targets.

Ratner’s shell game

In the weekly editorial, The Brooklyn Paper states:

It is becoming increasingly clear that developer Bruce Ratner will not be able to build much of the below-market-rate housing that he’s promised to include in Atlantic Yards.
The affordable housing units at Atlantic Yards remain the project’s principal carrot in the face of widespread community opposition and egregious misuse of public subsidies to a multi-billion-dollar company.

But there’s a problem with Ratner’s promised units: If he can’t get the tax subsidies from the state, he can walk away from the deal simply by cutting a check for $500,000 — which represents a tiny .014 percent of the company’s $3.6-billion total value — to one of the signatories of his “Community Benefits Agreement.”

Then again, he could also call his enablers in state government and complain of the shortfall in subsidies. Perhaps they will do what they’ve always done — repeatedly at Metrotech and at Atlantic Terminal Mall — and lavish more taxpayer money on another of Ratner’s white elephants.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Gridlocked: What, us worry?

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:


This photo was taken at 8:45 am at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

With Atlantic Yards's 17,000 new residents, and an 18,000 seat arena in use approximately 220 days per year, this gridlock would be the good ol' days.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Atlantic Yards Report short post festival

Democracy Now? Ratner Plays Hardball When It Counts

I threaded together some reporting and commentary I've done for the blog into a piece for this week's Brooklyn Downtown Star, headlined Democracy Now? Ratner Plays Hardball When It Counts.

It covers the Atlantic Yards gag order, Michael Ratner's political contributions, Forest City Ratner's contribution to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account, and the New York Times's editorial standoffishness.

Would the AY arena get a billion-dollar subsidy?

Though he can't confirm the info, Norman Oder thinks a comment on Atlantic Yards Report, posted by a lawyer/planner, deserves a close look.

FCR official: no such thing as too much sharing of information
In defense of Forest City Ratner's lobbying activities, spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt explained, “When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

If that's the case, Norman the Mad Überkiller Oder would like to know:

OK, then, how big would Miss Brooklyn be? And why no comment on the slush fund story?

NoLandGrab: Maybe Riegelhaupt was being facetious?

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

End of Workzone

It's the end of the workzone as we know it, photographed by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

MANHATTAN TRANSFERS: It’s His Eminent Domain: Bruce Ratner Scores Upper East Side Townhouse for $6.9 M.

The NY Observer
By Max Abelson

A few more details on the brownstone that Bruce bought:

Mr. Ratner, loathed by Brooklyn brownstone owners who don’t want his Atlantic Yards basketball arena (he co-owns the Nets) or gaggle of skyscrapers, spent $6,965,000 for the Upper East Side brownstone, records show. News of the sale was first reported on The Observer’s Web site on Monday.

While Mr. Ratner fought for eminent domain to get some of the land for Atlantic Yards, the Neustadt Collection spent decades trying to get their neighbors in the building to leave. As Milton Hassol, the president of the Neustadt Collection explained, the brownstone was split into co-op apartments, some that weren’t owned by the doctor. “The process has taken 23 years,” he said. “As other people wanted to sell we bought them out. … And then when we got 67 percent interest, we could sell”—according to co-op rules.

Stuart Saft, a real estate lawyer, confirmed to The Observer that the other owners in the building would have had to sell if they were outvoted by the building’s main owner.

“They had to by law,” Mr. Hassol said, “but people can hold you up and make it difficult—but they cooperated.”

According to records, the Neustadt Collection got over $5 million from Mr. Ratner; he paid an owner named Diane Harris $571,130, and another, Charles Nemetz, $1,309,420. The deal was finished less than three weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals supported Mr. Ratner’s right to use eminent domain. “Today’s decision is more than another victory for Atlantic Yards,” he said then. “It is a victory for public good.”


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

Forest City in the News

Tampa Bay Online, Shops At Wiregrass Will Open This Fall
You probably were thinking, the world needs another Forest City Mall...

The developers of the Shops at Wiregrass say they're about 60 percent finished with the massive retail complex now going up at the corner of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Opening Day is scheduled for Oct. 30, said Jim Richardson, vice president of Cleveland-based mall builder Forest City Enterprises.

Gazette.net, Pollution, traffic emerge as top Konterra worries

After sitting through a Forest City presentation for the Konterra Town Center "2,200-acre, upscale, mixed-use development," West Laurel, Maryland, residents expressed some of the very same issues on the mind of Brooklynites: pollution of waterways by storm runoff, increased traffic and the lack of a regional public-transportation plan, and the strain of several thousand new residents on local infrastructure.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

February 27, 2008

Boulevard of Broken Cars

Review of: Chop Shop
New York Sun
by Nicolas Rapold

Is it just that it's Academy Awards season, or could it be that eminent domain is rearing its ugly specter more frequently on the silver screen? Is it time we start a regular movie-review feature here at NoLandGrab?

Five years from now, if Mayor Bloomberg has his way, the area may well be a hotel and convention complex, but in the new film "Chop Shop," which beings a two-week engagement today at Film Forum, the auto-repair alleys and drab lots that make up Willets Point are the world for 12-year-old Alejandro. Rahmin Bahrani's follow-up to 2005's "Man Push Cart" could be the object of preservation efforts as a historical document, but his neorealist record wobbles as filmed drama, with direction and scripting that's at once shaky and insistent.


Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

Democracy Now? Ratner Plays Hardball When It Counts

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Norman Oder

Atlantic Yards Report's über blogger, Norman Oder, contributes this update on the brothers Ratner and their political gift-giving to the Brooklyn Downtown Star.

Bruce isn’t even the best-known liberal in his family. His older brother Michael, a distinguished lawyer, leads the Center for Constitutional Rights in its admirable effort to hold our government accountable for its off-the-radar detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He co-wrote the book "Guantánamo: What the World Should Know."

John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s, calls him “America’s most important civil libertarian.”

For Bruce and Michael, however, business in Brooklyn comes first. That’s why Bruce’s company has required gag orders of those selling property for the Atlantic Yards project, thus clamping down on criticism and even requiring sellers to say that Forest City Ratner treated them honorably.

That’s why, even though Bruce and Forest City Ratner (FCR) stopped giving political contributions years ago - apparently to dispel suspicion that the donations helped win projects - Michael and his wife Karen Ranucci, the development director of left-wing radio show “Democracy Now,” stepped in to fill the breach. Though residents of Greenwich Village, they reliably wrote checks to Brooklyn candidates from the county Democratic machine. Some contributions, according to state records, even had the return address of Forest City Ratner headquarters in Brooklyn. Michael, who apparently has an office there, owns a piece of the Nets, the sports team his brother wants to bring to Brooklyn. The extended Ratner family controls FCR’s parent company, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.


Posted by eric at 1:53 PM

AY scaleback? Well, at least Miss Brooklyn, apparently

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday's article from Norman Oder on the revelations contained in a transcript of a Forest City Ratner investor meeting sent waves across the internet and local media.

The big news was a possible scaleback of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

But as Oder points out, the evidence for that scaleback is "murky," and the details are not forthcoming.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Blame It on Eminent Domain! Ratner Pays D'Amato

The NY Observer
By Eliot Brown


If you want to know how Atlantic Yards's Bruce Ratner became one of the most powerful developers in New York, check out Eliot Brown's exposé on Forest City Ratner's lobbying activities:

Forest City Ratner paid former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm $400,000 in 2006 and 2007 to lobby federal legislators regarding eminent domain and other issues important to the developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn.

Forest City paid Mr. D’Amato, who left the Senate in 1998 after his defeat by Charles Schumer, about $200,000 in 2007 through the lobbying firm he founded, Park Strategies, according to federal lobbying records. Mr. D’Amato, who made headlines for getting paid $500,000 to make a phone call in 1999 to clear the way for a $230 million deal, listed “states use of eminent domain” as the subject of his efforts on behalf of Forest City, among other issues.

Park Strategies was also paid about $200,000 in 2006, then listing as its targets specific pieces of legislation that would have restricted the use of eminent domain, a key ingredient in the successful development of Atlantic Yards. Most of the potentially restrictive eminent domain legislation came as part of a backlash to the Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court decision in 2005 upholding a government’s right to seize private property for private development.

The payments to Mr. D’Amato’s firm continued for a year following the state’s approval of Atlantic Yards. Forest City, in fact, continues to spend relatively heavily on lobbying, both in Washington and in New York, records show.

But wait, there's more.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn commented:

Bruce Ratner craves the freedom that eminent domain allows him so badly that he paid Al D'Amoto $400,000 to try his darndest to liberate muncipalities and states from any potential restrictions the federal government might have tried to place on their ability to seize private property for whatever use they deem appropriate. That's a pretty special interest.

NoLandGrab: BTW, rumors have it that the NY Times was thinking about working on the same story, but they're still busy covering last week's snow storm, or something like that.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Yassky come lately on AY costs, which still need a thorough accounting

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to Atlantic Yards, David Yassky has been talking tougher lately, especially since he is term-limited out of his City Council seat and is running for Comptroller.

Frequently described as wishy-washy, what has been his stand on Atlantic Yards and what does he want now?

Yassky did not raise the issue of AY subsidies in his comments during the Atlantic Yards approval process. In his 8/23/06 letter to the Empire State Development Corporation, he expressed "grave concerns" and requested "substantial changes," but those regarded the size of the buildings and plans for traffic and transit.
When Yassky ran for Congress that summer, he tried to steer $3 million in job-training funds to AY Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD. He took a distinctly moderate position, refraining from bringing up issues like corporate welfare, while rival Chris Owens needled him for not asking tough questions.
Among the tactics he recommends in an article in this week's Gotham Gazette is ending corporate tax loopholes:

Of course, the single biggest example of corporate welfare is the proposed Atlantic Yards development. The Bloomberg administration has agreed to give the project's developer at least $100 million in direct subsidies, plus another $400 million to $500 million in tax breaks. In the current financial climate, this handout is impossible to justify.

Would the total in tax breaks be $500 million, as Yassky says, and the total in government benefit be $3 billion, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn suggests (right)?

Well, it depends how you do the math.
There's still a significant need for a government-sponsored, fully-vetted effort to analyze Atlantic Yards costs and benefits. Maybe Yassky, or even fellow Comptroller candidate Jim Brennan--who's pushed to get Atlantic Yards financial information but hasn't made AY a rhetorical centerpiece of his candidacy--can put the issue on the agenda.


Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

LeBron James to the Brooklyn Nets? A marketing bonanza, both ways

Atlantic Yards Report


In an article Monday headlined Jay-Z, James relationship should worry Cavs, Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports, suggests that the hip-hop star, a part owner of the New Jersey Nets, may be manuevering to lure the superstar LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers once he can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2010.

That would be the right before the fall when the Nets, as announced, intend to move to Brooklyn, thought construction schedules suggest an arena opening in early 2011 is a best-case scenario.

Wojnarowski noted that James wants to become "sport’s first billionaire athlete," hence the appeal of a larger platform. Says noted sports marketer Sonny Vaccaro, "Jay-Z is the one person that I can put in a parallel universe with LeBron from where they started and where they are now."

Is Jay-Z, part of the NJ Nets ownership group, flouting league rules for tampering? Does anyone care (especially because he's a mogul and moguls don't need rules)? And, what would the marketing value be if James sported a Nets jersey?


Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

The Eagle Pimps Out (Makes Better) City Projects

Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Sarah Ryley comes up with a new-n-improved Atlantic Yards project:

Bored by the debate between advocates of superblocks and Jane Jacobian traditionalists, who prefer the old-school street grids, the delay in the Atlantic Yards project would be used as an opportunity to marry the two concepts. Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues would still be demapped, but the seven high-rises would be adjusted back to the traditional street grid lined with storefronts on both sides, the glittering glass towers creating a monumental archway leading into a park. Cobblestone streets off-limits to cars, dotted by fountain-side seating, would bisect the massive block, creating an effect similar to what Union Square would look like if its bordering streets were turned to promenades. Restaurants would be nestled into the curves of the buildings to accommodate outdoor seating, and retailers would be a mix of national and local boutiques. Landscaping for the park would be a mixture of hardtop to accommodate Saturday farmer’s markets and basketball games, and grassy lawns. A giant glass cube would float 20 feet high in the center, accessible by elevator, containing Mac’s newest flagship store.

Developer Forest City Ratner would make a fortune off retail rents (judging by the success of other promenade shopping districts), urbanists would finally have the car-free streets they’ve only dreamed of, and Brooklyn would have the coolest Mac store in the world.


Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Forest City in the News

Fresno Bee, Forest City funding a priority

The Fresno City Council voted Tuesday to make Forest City's South Stadium project a funding priority and authorized the city's Redevelopment Agency to begin buying property within the project area.

The council also directed city staff to work with Forest City to close a multimillion-dollar funding gap in the $237 million project by scouring state programs for grants and loans.

"The state is a large organization," said Council Member Larry Westerlund. "If you turn it upside down and shake it, it's amazing what falls out."

NoLandGrab: "Buying property in the area" also includes the use of (the threat of) eminent domain. Also, we love how city staff has been directed to work closely with Forest City Enterprises (FCE) to find more state funding, which makes sense because FCE has a reputation for being a master of subsidies.

FoxBusiness.com, Forest City Enterprises Announces Project Financings
Another web site carried Monday's press release announcing project financing for seven projects, "totaling nearly $380 million."

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises completes seven refinancings

At a time when keeping access to debt is a growing worry for realty developers, Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCEA, FCEB)) of Cleveland announced it has completed seven financings totaling $380 million for projects in its development pipeline or properties in its portfolio.

Crain's reporter Stan Bullard explains:

When a real estate developer refinances a property, it extends, renews or increases the size of loans secured by the property. Such deals also allow developers to reap some of the benefit of the increase in a commercial property’s value while continuing to operate it.

Tampa Bay Business Journal, Pasco mall to begin second phase

More news on one of the projects that Forest City just managed to finance:

The developer of the Shops at Wiregrass obtained a $132 million loan to begin the second phase of construction at the Wesley Chapel retail center.

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) financed the loan with RBS Citizens NA as the lead lender and Wachovia Bank and National City Bank, according to a company statement released Feb. 25.

CoStarGroup, Forest City Receives LEED Certification on Promenade Bolingbrook

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCEA) received LEED certification on The Promenade Bolingbrook, a 736,000-square-foot lifestyle center in Bolingbrook, IL that opened April 26, 2007. The center is anchored by Bass Pro Shops and Macy's and also includes 42,000 square feet of office space.

Commenting on the certification process, Valerie Westley, a forest city development representative, said after explaining the company didn't seek LEED certification until after the center's design was complete and construction had begun, "We were able to get certification, but there is such an advantage to incorporating sustainability from the very beginning of a project. That’s definitely the approach we plan to take from now on.”

Forest City now has two LEED certified retail projects in its portfolio -- the first was the 1.2-million-square-foot Shops at Northfield Stapleton in the Denver area.

NoLandGrab: The new NY Times building was supposed to be a third, but after announcing the intention to apply for LEED certification during the planning phase, the development company never followed through.

Cleveland Leader, Cimperman Is Doing Corporate Work
A primer on how the Ratners buy politicians, Cleveland-style, and what they get for their bucks.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Jay-Z and the AY Crew to be Sued

Photo, Brit in Brooklyn


News of the lawsuits against Barclays Bank, Bruce Ratner and Jay-Z to collect reparations for slavery is still reverberating on the Internet, largely because of the mega-celebrity of Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z).

MTV.com, For The Record
Hip Hop Elements, The Scoop
ABC Action News, Jay-Z named in lawsuit
SOHH NYC, The Blogs
AntiMusic, Jay-Z Sued for Slavery
Guardian.co.uk, Jay-Z accused of profiting from slavery
Metro.co.uk, Jay-Z in $5bn slave trade lawsuit

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

February 26, 2008

Atlantic Yards quietly scaled back?

Crain's NY Business
By Kira Bindrim and Erik Engquist

Crain's called Forest City Ratner for comment on Norman Oder's article posted today on Atlantic Yards Report.

On Tuesday, watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report posted portions of a previously undisclosed transcript of an Forest City meeting with investors in early October at the New York Times Building. During the meeting, Forest City executives said the Brooklyn project would span “21 acres in downtown Brooklyn, with 6.5 million square feet of residential and commercial development.” That’s smaller than the 8-million-square-foot, 22-acre project publicly outlined by the company.

But a company spokesman says the 6.5 million figure does not include the Barclays Center, a basketball arena for the Nets, which will be owned separately by Nets Sports and Entertainment, which is 21.5% owned by Forest City. Nor does it include Site 5, current home of P.C. Richard and Modell’s, which will be developed separately. Including the arena and Site 5, the square footage adds up to what was previously projected, he said.

During the meeting, Forest City also referred to the Frank Gehry-designed Miss Brooklyn tower as having 528,000 square foot of zoning rights. Earlier, it had been pegged at over 900,000 square feet. Forest City has nixed plans to include condominiums, instead offering additional office space, which is now seen as more profitable. A company spokesman says the smaller square footage reflects the concession announced last fall to reduce Miss Brooklyn’s height to 511 feet, one fewer than the borough’s tallest building, One Hanson Place.
During the October meeting, Forest City executive vice president MaryAnne Gilmartin said the firm had signed and completed funding agreements with both the city and the state, allowing Forest City to “be reimbursed for investments made in infrastructure and land to date on the project.” Yet company sources suggested to Crain’s last month that said no such funding agreements had been completed because litigation against the development was still pending.

A source familiar with the agreements says they were indeed signed by Forest City Ratner last fall but are still waiting for approval by the city and state comptrollers.

In the comments section, Norman Oder reiterates an important point from his own article:

The evidence suggests there's been a reduction of a couple of hundred thousand square feet, but until full dimensions of the project are released, we can't be certain.


Posted by lumi at 6:56 PM

L.A.'s upscale downtown delayed

As the economy takes a toll on plans, observers focus their concern on two mega-projects: Grand Avenue and Park Fifth.

LA Times
By Cara Mia DiMassa

Frank Gehry's other urban mega-project, in Los Angeles, is being delayed:

More than a third of the approximately 110 residential projects proposed for downtown... have been delayed or put on hold amid the rocky real estate market.

Yet downtown boosters and urban planners are focusing most of their angst on two mega-projects: the Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue complex on Bunker Hill and Park Fifth, which would be the tallest residential complex west of Chicago.

Both projects have pushed back their start dates in recent months as developers sought capital and construction loans in an increasingly difficult market and negotiated the various government approvals needed to begin construction.


Posted by lumi at 6:49 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Would Get Four Times the Subsidy of the City’s Average Per Unit

New York, NY—The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Sarah Ryley is reporting today that the cost of subsidizing Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “affordable” housing with tax-free bonds would require more than four times the funding per unit as the city’s average for all of 2007.

The Eagle article says: Spokesmen for Ratner and project sponsor Empire State Development Corporation declined to comment on why Atlantic Yards’ affordable units require roughly four times the funding as the city’s 2007 average.

The article continues, quoting Ron Shiffman, who did have comment:

Ron Shiffman, professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute and a former planning commissioner, did say that it would be “political suicide” for HDC to approve such costly apartments while rejecting others who could build more bang for the buck. “It becomes a real untenable argument for [HDC] to give [Ratner] priority over any other project,” said Shiffman, who opposes Atlantic Yards.

“Forest City Ratner is getting an unaccountable, sweetheart deal from our government, at the expense of taxpayers, to build a cost-ineffective project,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Our elected officials and Mr. Ratner need to explain why his ‘affordable’ housing units require quadruple the subsidy of an average ‘affordable’ unit. We believe there is no explanation for an indefensible sweetheart deal.”

The Eagle article goes into accounting detail to describe the quadrupled subsidy per unit:

[NYC's Housing Development Corporation spokesperson Neill] Coleman said last year HDC issued $659 million in bonds to finance the construction or preservation of 4,786 apartments for low, middle and moderate-income city residents, an average of $137,000 per unit.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, in 2008 the company plans to request $177 million in bonds for 359 below market-rate apartments in two towers, and the following year $344 million in bonds for 680 below market-rate apartments in three towers, an average of $501,000 per unit. Overall, $1.4 billion in bonds for 2,250 units averages $622,000 per unit. (Emphasis added)

Posted by lumi at 5:51 PM


Weeks beginning February 25, 2008 – March 3, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Excavation, lagging, install walers and struts at Support of Excavation (SOE) piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • Drill piles at East Portal.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120.
  • Prep and begin demo of southern portion of Carlton Avenue Bridge.

Install protection for traffic and pedestrians on Pacific Street near 6th Avenue in preparation for the installation of a footing for the south foundation of the cable 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 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Demolition is underway at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Abatement is complete at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30). Demolition will begin within this two week period.
  • Abatement will begin at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Abatement is complete at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62).
  • Fencing, back fill and clean up is complete at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54). Parging of adjacent walls will be underway throughout 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. Night time work began on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and will continue north along Flatbush in the next two weeks. Work will also begin on a new sewer chamber on Dean Street near Flatbush during the day.
  • 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 5:47 AM

Forest City to investors: more AY office space, slowed railyard, less upfront cash than city & state

Surf on over to Atlantic Yards Report for another Norman Oder must-read.

Norman Oder ponied up the 54 bucks to learn what Forest City Ratner told investors about Atlantic Yards last October. Oder found a few informational discrepancies (read, either the developer is misleading investors or lied to us) and aired some additional info that hasn't been released to the public.

Among the highlights, thanks to the transcript (for sale):

  • The developer has apparently signed funding agreements with the city and state, despite reports that it has not done so
  • It would take 4½-5 years to build a new railyard, not 3½ years, as promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review
  • The size of the project may have been reduced
  • The flagship Miss Brooklyn tower has apparently been trimmed, and would have more office space
  • The number of planned arena suites has been reduced from 170 to 130
  • Additional arena sponsorships were supposed to be announced in January, but that didn’t come to pass
  • The developer has invested $250 million in the $4 billion project, its largest single investment, but that's only 25% more than its developer fee, and less than the direct public investment of $305 million
  • The residential project at 80 DeKalb is a test run for Atlantic Yards.

NLG Lesson of the Day: Ratner makes stuff up so we don't have to.

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Bruce Ratner Buys Brownstone, But (Surprise!) It's Not In Brooklyn

BruceBrownstone.jpg The Real Estate Observer
By Max Abelson

What does the Brucester care about Brownstone Brooklyn, when he can remain cloistered in Brownstone Manhattan?

According to city records, Mr. Ratner just bought himself a nice little 20-foot-wide, 6,408-square-foot, five-floor brownstone, exactly the kind that Brooklynites like so much. But it's on the Upper East Side.

The snark would end there, except for the fact that in typical Ratner fashion, Bruce was able to force the sale of two of the units in the building so that he could have the entire thing all to himself.

The building was split into co-op apartments, some that weren't owned by Neustadt, which meant the museum couldn’t sell the townhouse until it owned two-thirds of the house. Once that happened, according to Mr. Hassol, the other two owners in the building (listed as Charles Nemetz and Diane Harris) were forced to sell as well. “They had to by law, but people can hold you up and make it difficult--but they cooperated.”


NoLandGrab: You probably have to be a little person to appreciate the irony, but you can't make this stuff up, which is why we're all still here.

Brownstoner noted:

We think he could’ve gotten a better deal right here in Brooklyn—maybe even in Carroll Gardens, where we hear values are increasing quite a bit.

Definitely, Bruce could have done better in Brooklyn... but then he'd have to deal with encroaching overdevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Ratner Will Be Treated Like Other Developers, Says City

Atlantic Yards Hasn’t Applied For Bonds, Units Would Cost Four Times As Much

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies has not applied for affordable housing bonds, and when the company does, it will not be prioritized over other developers, said a city official. As earlier reported in the Eagle, the state has more than $6 billion for affordable housing projects in its 2008 pipeline, with $960 million for projects located within the city, but only $1.6 billion in bonds to dole out.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, the company will be requesting $1.4 billion in housing bonds over a five-year period for 2,250 apartments.

IMPORTANT comparison of the cost of subsidizing Atlantic Yards affordable housing with affordable housing elsewhere in the city (emphasis added):

[NYC's Housing Development Corporation spokesperson Neill] Coleman said last year HDC issued $659 million in bonds to finance the construction or preservation of 4,786 apartments for low, middle and moderate-income city residents, an average of $137,000 per unit.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, in 2008 the company plans to request $177 million in bonds for 359 below market-rate apartments in two towers, and the following year $344 million in bonds for 680 below market-rate apartments in three towers, an average of $501,000 per unit. Overall, $1.4 billion in bonds for 2,250 units averages $622,000 per unit.
Ron Shiffman, professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute and a former planning commissioner, said it would be “political suicide” for HDC to approve such costly apartments while rejecting others who could build more bang for the buck. “It becomes a real untenable argument for [HDC] to give [Ratner] priority over any other project,” said Shiffman, who opposes Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Contrary to the headline, Bruce Ratner has NEVER been treated like other developers.

It will be interesting to see how Ratner and his political supporters manage to justify paying more for less and, despite protestations to the contrary, jumping over the backlog of other projects that have already requested financing.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Forest City in the News

BusinessWire, Forest City Enterprises Announces Project Financings
These days, when Forest City completes the financing on a project, they issue a release. It's hard to know whether the release is supposed to buck up their employees (who can't be having fun working in commercial real estate during a credit drought), assure skittish investors, or be a signal to the company's detractors that they still have their mojo.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced seven recently completed financing transactions, totaling nearly $380 million, in the Company’s national portfolio of operating properties and in its development pipeline.

“These successful transactions reflect our continuing ability to access the capital needed to finance our extensive real estate portfolio, make selective strategic acquisitions and fund our robust development pipeline,” said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and CEO. “They also reflect the strong relationships we have with a wide variety of lenders and other sources of funding.”

Q: Don't seven projects whose financing transactions total around $380 million seem like peanuts compared to Atlantic Yards?

TradingMarkets.com, S.R. 56 Road Work May Start Next Month

Tampa Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- FCE.A | news | PowerRating | PR Charts -- Construction on State Road 56 east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard could begin March 12, the project coordinator said Thursday.

GoodForest LLC, the company developing the Shops at Wiregrass mall, plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new road on that day, said Jim Richardson, vice president of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.

NoLandGrab: Who would you pick to run "BadForest LLC?"

New Mexico Business Weekly, Schott to break ground in early March
The German manufacturer is set to break ground on a new plant as part of Forest City's Mesa del Sol plan.

Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

February 25, 2008

$5 B. Claim Filed Against Jay-Z, Bruce Ratner

The Real Estate Observer
By Eliot Brown

JayZNet.jpg This post on The NY Observer's real estate blog begins with a correction:

Editor's Note: This story originally reported that the Clive Campbell who filed the claim was the real name of D.J. Kool Herc, a founder of hip hop. In fact, it is a different Clive Campbell. Mr. Campbell is a Brooklyn-based activist. The story has been corrected.

Brooklyn activist Clive Campbell is seeking $5 billion from rapper Jay-Z, developer Bruce Ratner and Barclays bank, filing a “claim of lien” in property records that seeks the money for slavery reparations.

Mr. Ratner, Jay-Z, and Barclay’s are all linked through the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, for which Mr. Ratner plans to build a Frank Gehry-designed basketball arena for the Nets and more than 6,000 apartments. Jay-Z, a partial owner of the Nets, has been a major supporter of the project, appearing at press conferences to tout its merits. Barclays owns the naming rights to the arena, and has been accused of having links with the slave trade—an accusation the bank denies.

Though the suit may not go very far, it makes a strong case to the public that Bruce Ratner's sale of the naming rights of his planned Brooklyn arena to Barclays bank is a serious slap in the face to the African-American community. Naturally, Ratner's spokesperson declined to comment.


The news of the lawsuit is all over the online hip-hop media, including versions with the erroneously reported mistaken identity.

SixShot.com, Activist Group Filing $5 Billion Lawsuit Against Jay-Z & Barclays Bank For Slavery Reparations
SOHH.com, Jay-Z Hit W/ $5 Billion Lawsuit, Activist Seeking Slavery Reparations
HipHopdx.com, Jay-Z Sued For $5 Billion For Slave Reparations?
AllHipHop.com, UPDATE: Activist Clive Campbell Sues Jay-Z & Barclays For $5 Billion
HHE, Jay Z Named In $5 Billion Reparations Lawsuit

Gothamist, Nets Stadium Has 99 Problems, But Kool Herc Ain't One

Bronx legend Clive Campbell, who as DJ Kool Herc is widely credited as one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, is not suing Jay-Z, developer Bruce Ratner and Barclays bank, as previously reported by the Observer online. The $5 billion lawsuit is being brought by a much less famous Brooklyn activist also named Clive Campbell, and the mix-up is probably a big publicity boon for his lawsuit, as it echoed far and wide across the internets before the Observer corrected it.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 PM


Photo by Tracy Collins.


There's a new billboard advertising the NJ Nets on the corner of Waverly and Atlantic.

If this whimsical photo doesn't sum up many of the local feelings about Bruce Ratner's aggressive Atlantic Yards plan...

Surf on over to the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool for a look at a shot of the entire billboard.

We especially love the tag line, "Nets basketball, more than a game" (try, "more like a real estate deal").

Posted by lumi at 7:22 PM

Where’s the Dough for AY Affordable Housing?

Brownstoner asks some tough questions about subsidies for the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

...does the project’s “scale” mean the city is giving a free pass for construction on the affordable housing parts of Atlantic Yards to take much longer than other aspects of the development? And what if there’s even less funding available for affordable housing in the future? Finally, is it fair for Forest City Ratner’s mega-development to eat into the creation of affordable units in other parts of the city and state?


NoLandGrab: These questions have been on the mind of affordable housing advocates for some time.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 PM

New area threatened by eminent domain in Chicago

CastleWatch Daily

Here's another reminder that the government doesn't use eminent domain on upper-income white neighborhoods:

On Tuesday, the Chicago Community Development Commission approved the Ogden-Pulaski tax increment financing district. The TIF comes with a $100 million budget and the power to use eminent domain for economic development. There are currently 41 properties that would be qualify to be condemned by the city.

The TIF streches across 876 acres of the Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s west side. It’s a tight-knit community in a poor, predominantly elderly African-American community.


Posted by lumi at 7:02 PM

Changing the Way the City Does Business

Gotham Gazette
by David Yassky

Public-policy web site Gotham Gazette offers candidates for City Comptroller the opportunity to tell voters how they would help the city weather an economic downturn.

One idea put forth by David Yassky involves pulling the plug on several hundred million dollars' worth of unjustifiable handouts for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Of course, the single biggest example of corporate welfare is the proposed Atlantic Yards development. The Bloomberg administration has agreed to give the project's developer at least $100 million in direct subsidies, plus another $400 million to $500 million in tax breaks. In the current financial climate, this handout is impossible to justify.


NoLandGrab: Critics point out that Yassky's stance on Atlantic Yards has gotten tougher now that he's running for Comptroller, but in fairness to the Brooklyn Council Member, he has teamed up with colleague (and staunch AY opponent) Tish James to try to push legislation intended to end the tax breaks.

A quick glance at Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's platform reveals no such criticism of similar giveaways for a new Yankee Stadium. No surprise there.

Posted by eric at 6:55 PM


From The Indypendent's events listing:


7pm • Free

Updates and planning. Sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Hanson Pl United Methodist Church, Main Sanctuary, 144 St Felix St, Fort Greene, Bklyn • dddb.net

Posted by lumi at 6:53 PM

Jay-Z’s relationship with James should worry Cavs

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

Two years ago, the Cavaliers heard Jay-Z’s public position on LeBron’s future and could only imagine what might be said in private. When asked about the possibility of him someday joining the franchise, the Nets’ part-owner paid no mind to league tampering rules and gushed, “How amazing would that be? I tell people all the time, he’s my friend first. If Cleveland is building a championship team around him then my advice is to stay there. If it’s the Nets who are building a championship team that could be around him then my advice is to come to the Nets.”

The league office noticed the comments, but never leveled a fine for tampering. What can Cleveland do? Complain? No chance the Cavs will try to tell James who his friends can be, especially when they pre-date his days in the NBA.


NoLandGrab: Jay-Z appears to have as much respect for the NBA's rules against tampering as Bruce Ratner has for private property.

Posted by eric at 6:30 PM

"Bulldozed": on the Kelo eminent domain case and beyond

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the title, Carla T. Main’s recent book Bulldozed: “Kelo,” Eminent Domain, and the American Lust for Land tells the story of eminent domain by focusing on a particularly heavy-handed (but little-known) case in Freeport, TX (population approx. 13,000), a Gulf Coast city some 50 miles south of Houston. Freeport officials wanted to take waterfront property from the salt-of-the-earth Gore family operating a longtime shrimp business to create a low-risk deal for a wealthy developer to build a private marina. The Gores fought back, fiercely, with more resources than the typical eminent domain plaintiff, and the story includes numerous twists and turns.


NoLandGrab: We posted The Wall Street Journal's review of Bulldozed last December.

Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Ratner to Jump the Pipeline?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn compares two quotes from Marc Jahr, president of the city's Housing Development Corporation.

One in response to the affordable-housing-funding crisis:

"It's a pity to have good affordable housing projects in a city that desperately needs affordable housing for virtually all income levels, to have them sitting at the starting line with their engines idling."

The second in which Jahr claims that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards affordable-housing subsidies are NOT in jeopardy despite the backlog of projects that have already applied:

"Given the scale of the project . . . we're not concerned that the money won't be there."

So, either there's a crisis and Bruce Ratner is going to have to wait his turn, or lawmakers in Albany (i.e. the very ones who benefited from a $58,000 soft-money contribution from Ratner) are trying to work out a special deal for their favorite developer (they've done it before).

Develop Don't Destroy posits:

Should we be preparing to watch Mr. Jahr, the city and state put Bruce Ratner's yet to be requested housing bonds at the mouth of the pipe? Is that what's being considered?


NoLandGrab: Given that lawmakers have already fiddled with the "allocation criteria" of the available subsidies, the possibility of another "Ratner Clause" is getting stronger.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Who Walk in Brooklyn, The Law, Language & So-Called Atlantic Yards
The myth of Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder grows as one reader compares him to a Malamud protagonist:

With nothing but a gutsy mind & spirit, [Yacov Bok] opposes the entire apparatus of police, prosecutors, judges and jailers. He is the classic Victim Who Judges, who is easily superior to his tormentors, who psyches them out, exposing their chicanery, their petty motives, who ends with contempt for them rather than fear. He reads Spinoza and does a retrospective analysis of Jewish persecution, and finally comes up with the wonderful idea that “Suffering teaches us only that suffering has absolutely no value.” To me, Bok is an archetype of Norman Oder, at least in respect to his uncompromising judging of his persecutors, to his illuminating insights into the stinking social apparatus which is slowly destroying us, fiber by fiber and cell by cell.

NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Oder doesn't view developer Bruce Ratner, NY City and State to be "his persecutors." From our POV he is merely trying to figure out and report the truth.

Du soleil à la grisaille..., And sometimes you close your eyes, and see the place where you use to live...
Elodie est retourné à Brooklyn, mais pour rend visite, et devine quoi... she is doing her thesis on Atlantique Yards"

Et shame on me, comme d'hab, j'ai pas écrit d'article avant ce soir, tellement débordée à avancer mon mémoire... hum hum. Je pense que l'intitulé initial de mon mémoire "Atlantic Yards, projet contesté au coeur du cosmopolite borough de Brooklyn, analyse des conflits de territoire" va devenir "1000 et une choses futiles et inutiles à faire quand on est censer bosser"...

MetroNuevaYork, Manifestantes en protesta contra acoso contra fotógrafos
Noticias de "Atlantic Yards Camera Club" en Español:

Según informaba el pasado día 11 el blog No Land Grab, pese al tiempo inclemente que se registró en Nueva York el pasado domingo 10 de febrero, se presentaron unas dos docenas de fotógrafos pertenecientes al Atlantic Yards Camera Club a la manifestación convocada para protestar contra el acoso sufrido por la fotógrafa Katherin McInnis, quien fotografiaba las cocheras de Atlantic Avenue por parte de un agente del MTA.

Calculated Risk, CNBC: Insurer Downgrade "Imminent"
One reason that money has dried up for large government-sponsored megaprojects:

CNBC reports: Is Time Running Out for Bond Insurers?

The decision by the big ratings agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch is imminent, and at least one of the raters could make an announcement sometime today.
[A] downgrade of MBIA and Ambac could pose big problems for the banks that hold bonds they insure. Analyst Meredith Whitney said on CNBC yesterday that the downgrades could cause writedowns of another $75 billion at the big banks.

The latest news is that Ambac might get bailed out.

And from the ReBlogosphere, here are links that picked up news of an impending affordable-housing subsidy crunch, as first discussed on Atlantic Yards Report and Brownstoner:

OnNYTurf, Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing in Jeopardy Due to Housing Bond Cap "Crisis"

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice], Could the Bond Market Hurt Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing?

But it's not clear whether Forest City Ratner has applied for those bonds, and there is a lot of evidence indicating that there might not be any money available if Forest City did, Oder wrote. The city's Housing Development Corporation wouldn't say whether the agency received the bond application from Ratner or not.

Either way, sounds like it's gonna be tough to build the affordable housing.

Queens Crap, Affordable housing much less likely

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

B'klyn finds it takes an online village

Crain's NY Business
By Andrew Buck

NoLandGrab gets some ink in this Crain's article about blogactivism.

It's available online to subscribers only (link):

“We used to have to beg papers for coverage on local issues, and if we published anything ourselves it would be waved off as a rumor,” says Lumi Michelle Rolley, founder of No Land Grab, a four-year-old, Atlantic Yards-centric blog. “Blogs are now a natural fit for activists.”

NoLandGrab: Correction, Lumi Michelle Rolley was a late addition to NoLandGrab, which was already active for three months by the time she joined in May, 2004.

We contend that blogactivism, though it is a relatively new phenomenon, has been a natural development since the tools for blogging became available. In an age when kids are doing their homework with friends via IM and are keeping tabs on one another on social networking sites, online activism is really a no-brainer.

Read the full article after the jump for more details.


It didn't seem like a big deal when Bob Guskind posted a rendering of a building for a site on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens several months ago. But within days, other bloggers in the Brooklyn neighborhood had zeroed in on the property. They uncovered fresh details, including the developer's name and the luxury residential project's height, 70 feet, which would dwarf the surrounding brownstones.

Dubbed “the heavy metal building” by Carroll Gardens bloggers, the development quickly became a magnet for local groups and officials determined to preserve the neighborhood's low-rise charm. In response to the opposition, developer Bill Stein has replaced the original architect and modified the design.

“It is amazing how a small community was galvanized after reading one post,” says Mr. Guskind, whose blog, The Gowanus Lounge, was the first to carry an image of the building. “Three years ago, this wouldn't have happened.”

It's a new day for online community activism. According to Katia Kelly, a longtime Carroll Gardens resident and the sole blogger on Pardon Me for Asking, the movement's strength lies in networking. Cross-linking posts lets one person's message spread almost instantly. Blogs are also gaining power as their content makes it into mainstream media.

“We used to have to beg papers for coverage on local issues, and if we published anything ourselves it would be waved off as a rumor,” says Lumi Michelle Rolley, founder of No Land Grab, a four-year-old, Atlantic Yards-centric blog. “Blogs are now a natural fit for activists.”

Politicians are also in listening mode. Democratic Councilman Bill de Blasio, who represents Carroll Gardens, recently began holding monthly “teas” to meet with bloggers and other locals. Late last month, he proposed an immediate study to possibly downzone the area.

That was good news for Triada Samaras. Within days of seeing the picture of the development at 360 Smith St., she and half a dozen other fiftysomething neighbors formed the Carroll Gardens Coalition to Respectfully Develop. Among the details the group has uncovered is that the project will benefit from a zoning rule quirk that allows it to be larger than normal.

CORD has gathered more than 3,000 signatures online calling for city officials to recognize that a sizable number of residents want a moratorium on construction in the neighborhood.

“The land-use and development process has not been transparent,” Mr. Guskind says. “Blogging has changed that.”

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

February 24, 2008

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

NY Newsday, Government abuses eminent domain

How did downtowns - or any set of buildings - ever get built on Long Island without government development plans and politicians threatening property owners with condemnation?

Well, it turns out the private sector works pretty darn well.
Matters go awry when government gets in the way with high taxes and costly, unnecessary regulation, including inflexible zoning. Government also needs to keep the streets clean, fill the potholes, and protect people and property.

Real Estate Observer, Willets Point, A Development Waterloo?
This update on eminent domain in Willets Point, Queens from The Observer's real estate blog was brought to our attention by Queens Crap:

The Bloomberg administration, surely aware of the stumbling blocks of predecessors, seems to be preparing itself for dissent. Earlier this month, the city held a press conference to tout the newly announced support of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley. Mayor Bloomberg has unabashedly supported the use of eminent domain to oust landowners unwilling to sell their land, and the city has brought in a number of high-profile attorneys to work on the plan.

And to drum up support in the immediate area, the city has been giving funding to a Willets Point redevelopment advocacy group led by former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber confirmed, boosting an organization that has brought on a lobbying team of its own for the push. The city has approved up to $250,000 in matching funds for Ms. Shulman’s group.

Washington Square News, Stern grad fights Columbia spread

Through the Freedom of Information Law, [West Harlem property owner Nick] Sprayregen had 167 documents handed over last June revealing the processes of how the state is allowing Columbia to carry through with its plans.

"The state, city agencies have given us some of the documents, but we have not gotten all the documents we believe we are entitled to," said Norman Siegel, Sprayregen's lawyer.

For the state to permit the condemnation of private property for development it must conduct a survey to determine an area to be "blighted." Sprayregen and Siegal do not believe the properties that Columbia is trying to seize fit this category.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 PM

Photoblogger Stopped from Taking Snow Pics on Ninth St. Bridge


The Gowanus Lounge

This is a photo of snow on the Gowanus from photographer Joe Holmes that we found while looking at snow pics on flickr. It's a great pic, but what's even more s interesting about it, though, is what is in the description. Mr. Holmes, whose photoblog Joe's NYC is very highly regarded, writes: "...taken seconds before I was told that photography is prohibited on the 9th Street bridge because of 9-11 concerns. Those crafty terrorists -- blow up the 9th St bridge, and they'll bring this country to its knees." We have taken thousands of pics from all the bridges over the Gowanus and haven't realized we were endangering national security. Thank God he wasn't taking photos of the Atlantic Yards site.


Posted by amy at 1:42 PM

Could the Bond Market Hurt Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing?


Village Voice
Michael Clancy

Could the limited pool of affordable housing bonds jeopardize the 2,250 units of subsidized housing that developer Bruce Ratner pledged as part of his Atlantic Yards mixed-use stadium project?

Norman Oder, of the Atlantic Yards Report, seems to think so. Ratner seeks $1.4 billion in such bonds, which would allow him to borrow money at discounted rate over the course of the 10-year project. But it's not clear whether Forest City Ratner has applied for those bonds, and there is a lot of evidence indicating that there might not be any money available if Forest City did, Oder wrote. The city's Housing Development Corporation wouldn't say whether the agency received the bond application from Ratner or not.

Either way, sounds like it's gonna be tough to build the affordable housing.


Posted by amy at 1:39 PM

Re-Zoning the “Atlantic Yards” Footprint

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

What if our community was given a voice in planning redevelopment over and around the Vanderbilt rail yards?

What’s your vision for our neighborhood’s future?

The original UNITY Plan, the community-created alternative to Forest City Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” project, covered only the publicly owned Vanderbilt rail yards. FCR has since taken control of and blighted or torn down many properties around the rail yards. But now the financing for “Atlantic Yards” is in doubt, even according to the developer – the bond financing for the arena and the affordable housing may not be feasible. What happens next?

Join your neighbors, elected officials and expert planners for a public workshop devoted to creating a community plan for the entire area – now that the global credit crisis threatens to scuttle “Atlantic Yards.”

Saturday, MARCH 1, 2008
10 am to 2 pm
St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral
401 Atlantic Avenue (at Bond Street)

RSVP to Hunter College CCPD at: 212-650-3328 or ccpd@hunter.cuny.edu

Presented by the Hunter College Center for Community Preservation and Development (CCPD)

Sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods


Posted by amy at 1:28 PM

Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing in Jeopardy Due to Housing Bond Cap "Crisis"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The proposed "affordable" housing for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is in jeopardy.

According to information from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) housing would require subsidization worth $1.4 billion in federally tax-free housing bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYCHDC). With the aid of these bonds, FCR proposes that 2,250 rental units out of a total 6,430 units would be deemed "affordable."

The problem is that there is no money now for Forest City Ratner.

New York State has a housing bond cap of about $1.6 billion per year for the entire state, New York City has only a portion of that cap, and there is a long pipeline of applications for this limited amount of financing in front of FCR. It is believed that FCR has not even applied for their housing bonds. According to Norman Oder in a story today on his Atlantic Yards Report, NYCHDC did not respond to a request for confirmation of this.


Posted by amy at 1:25 PM

HDC head curiously unconcerned about AY funding availability

Atlantic Yards Report responds to today's two-sentence NY Post article stating that federal funding shortfalls won't affect Atlantic Yards, because it's bigger than other projects.

Less than two weeks ago, Jahr wrote in City Hall News, as I reported Friday:
It is only February, but over $960 million in private activity bonds are required for affordable housing deals in HDC’s 2008 pipeline alone, while New York State overall has a pipeline of more than $6 billion. Unfortunately, however, New York State’s yearly allocation of cap is only around $1.6 billion.

And, as I reported, he earlier this month told the Bond Buyer, "It's a pity to have good affordable housing projects in a city that desperately needs affordable housing for virtually all income levels, to have them sitting at the starting line with their engines idling.”

Simple physics suggests that the scale of Atlantic Yards, which would require $1.4 billion in bonds, should make it harder, not easier to find the funds--even if the scale makes AY "too big to fail."

Until and unless additional volume cap is found, thus allowing the city and state to issue more bonds, a lot of projects are going to be at the starting line.


Posted by amy at 1:19 PM


NY Post

A federal-funding shortfall that could hamper affordable housing projects in the city likely won't affect the Atlantic Yards project, a top official said yesterday.

"Given the scale of the project . . . we're not concerned that the money won't be there," said Marc Jahr, president of the city's Housing Development Corporation.

link (NoLandGrab: but really, don't bother clicking. That's the entire article. Read Atlantic Yards Report instead...)

Posted by amy at 1:15 PM

February 23, 2008

Plan to Rebuild Penn Station Area May Be Close to Failure

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The sweeping $14 billion proposal to transform Pennsylvania Station and the district around it is in danger of collapse because of the softening economy, shortfalls in government financing, political inertia and daunting logistical problems, government officials and real estate executives involved in the project said this week.

Some government officials and real estate executives are concerned that a slowing economy and the current state of the credit markets, where there is little money available for large real estate deals, could cause problems for both the sale of the railyards and the Moynihan project.


NoLandGrab: And what about New York City's other railyard deal?

Posted by eric at 3:27 PM

Borough of Writers: Q&A: Paul La Farge


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brad Lockwood

Born in Manhattan, author and hyper-creative journalist/historian/urbanist Paul La Farge is now based in Boerum Hill after a stint on the West Coast. A Guggenheim Grant and Bard Fiction Prize winner, La Farge’s works include the novels The Artist of the Missing and Haussmann; or, the Distinction, and most recently, The Facts of Winter.
Where are you now?
Boerum Hill, right around the corner from Jonathan Lethem, I think.

What’s your view on the Atlantic Yards development?
I should know more than I do. But the things I do know make me pretty unenthusiastic about it. What they did to the original Times Square was bad enough and I don’t see the need for another one of those. It’s just overburdening the transportation infrastructure and breaking up the flow of the streets and moving all these people out of the neighborhood that have been living there happily. It just doesn’t seem so great.


Posted by amy at 11:57 AM

The "spirit of the Times," or why there's no editorial criticism of Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe you were wondering why the New York Times editorial board, despite being capable of skepticism about development puffery, has produced confused and lame editorials supporting Atlantic Yards and remained (I speculate) in the gridlock of silence, failing to take a stand pro or con when a questionable process finally reached the Public Authorities Control Board at the end of 2006.

Well, the parent New York Times Company partnered with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner on the new Times Tower headquarters on Eighth Avenue, and the Times even agreed to guarantee a loan, as Editor and Publisher reported last year.

While that doesn't mean the business relationship influences coverage--though I've long argued that obligates the Times to do a better job--the editorial page is not so insulated. The Times itself has acknowledged publicly that its publisher influences the editorials.

NoLandGrab: Read the whole article for an interview with Editorial Board Member Carolyn Curiel from CUNY-TV.

Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

Let’s Chop Up Superblocks



There's the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. While there are a lot of reasons to criticize this project, starting with the process that seemed to reverse the normal way development of a public parcel should proceed. But when you get down to urban design of the plan itself, it has entirely too few streets. Not only does it de-map some existing ones, it doesn't pick up the possibility of creating new ones so that this big area could be divided into smaller, pedestrian friendly blocks.
Why do developers haul out the superblock so quickly when designing current projects, and why do public officials let them, despite its near death in academic circles?
Large concentrations of money affect development in New York City disproportionately, and such large concentrations of money often favor having large concentrations of land to work with. While it may be a disservice to the city to have a large, island-like superblock - traffic flow is disrupted, walking and bicycling trips are made more difficult -- to the developer, a superblock allows for wide floor plates, campus-like settings and a level of land use control that would not otherwise be possible. And since the government sector is weak, large developers often end up doing what suits them first, not the public.


Posted by amy at 11:49 AM

Straight From The Bleachers:Downtown Detour With Brooklyn Several Years Away, Nets Begin Rebuilding in Jersey


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
John Torenli

With future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, arguably the greatest player in the history of the star-crossed franchise, sent off to Dallas and Vince Carter being mentioned in trade rumors as yesterday’s afternoon deadline for deals loomed, the Nets have the look of a team in full rebuilding mode.
But the dwindling crowds at the newly renamed Izod Center and the lack of any evidence that construction is under way Downtown have left the Nets in purgatory, sitting helplessly between destinations with very little fan support or buzz in the tri-state area.

NoLandGrab: Would it be possible to keep this purgatory caused by management in mind when we consider the possible purgatory in Prospect Heights if buildings are knocked down and lack of financing then leaves the project for dead? This surely isn't happening anywhere else...

We would also like to take this time to correct several 'location' mistakes in this story.

A. "When Ratner first informed us there’d be an NBA team in Brooklyn by the 2007-08 season — a declaration he boldly made nearly five years ago — a palpable buzz began circulating throughout our fair borough, be it in favor of a $550 million arena deal or against the overdevelopment of the Atlantic Yards and surrounding neighborhoods."

- That would be the Vanderbilt Yards, not Atlantic Yards. This paragraph also has a timing error - Ratner said the Nets would be playing in Brooklyn in the 2006-2007 season, not 2007-2008.

B. "And the star-studded triumvirate of Kidd, Carter and Richard Jefferson were supposed to be establishing the Nets as a perennial championship contender at the sight formerly known as the Atlantic Yards."

- That would also be Vanderbilt Yards, not Atlantic Yards.

C. "Though Nets team president Rod Thorn admitted earlier this week that the franchise was still going “full bore” toward landing in Downtown Brooklyn by 2010 — three years later than the original plan for arrival — the excitement surrounding what may be our first big-time pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left town in 1957 has waned considerably."

- That would be Prospect Heights, not Downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

Downturn! Big D’Town project hits the brakes


The Brooklyn Paper
Dana Rubinstein

Last month’s abrupt shutdown of a major development project near Metrotech is a setback for planners’ lofty vision of a new, 24-7 business and residential mini-city in Downtown Brooklyn, said experts this week.

John Catsimatidis, the owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain, who tore down a Laundromat, pharmacy and grocery store along two Myrtle Avenue blocks in preparation for a 660-unit, mixed-income residential development, has halted the project — temporarily, he says — blaming both the credit crisis and the lack of affordable housing bonds.
On the one hand, Catsimatidis could abandon the project’s 215-unit affordable housing component altogether and just build market-rate units, but then he’d also be passing up some tax incentives.

So is taking away a neighborhood's amenities and leaving a giant blighted hole keeping him up at night?

“We’re being a little extra cautious,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to jump in a swimming pool unless there’s water in there.”

Too bad neighborhood residents didn't have a chance to not jump in the waterless pool...


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

February 22, 2008

The Dreamer as Tapehead

The New York Times
by A.O. Scott

What does a New York Times review of the new Michel Gondry film "Be Kind Rewind" have to do with Atlantic Yards? It just may be that the project has inspired a bit of the story line.

Mike (Mos Def) works in a shabby video store whose owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), has not yet made the leap to DVD. His business threatened by the dubious improvements of a city-backed redevelopment scheme, Mr. Fletcher sneaks away on a mysterious trip, leaving the blundering, well-intentioned Mike in charge of his stock of battered VHS cassettes. Jerry (Jack Black), an avant-garde auto mechanic and tireless tinkerer, suffers an accident that magnetizes his body, causing him to accidentally erase all the tapes.

So when a loyal customer named Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) shows up for her daily rental, Mike and Jerry must improvise. They do what anyone would: hurriedly reshoot famous movies using a camcorder, various local characters and some common household objects.


NoLandGrab: And the Oscar for eminent domain-abusing poster project goes too...

Posted by eric at 4:05 PM

AY affordable housing jeopardized not by lawsuits but by funding "crisis"

Atlantic Yards Report

For years, affordable-housing experts have been warning that the availability of housing subsidies for Atlantic Yards is questionable.

Norman Oder explains:

Forest City Ratner has heavily promoted the 2250 units of subsidized housing in the Atlantic Yards project, and that's been cited as a public use by two courts. However, there's no money available for it right now, more than a half year after a city official cited a "crisis" in the provision of affordable housing bonds. ...
Wrote Marc Jahr, president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) earlier this month in City Hall News:

It is only February, but over $960 million in private activity bonds are required for affordable housing deals in HDC’s 2008 pipeline alone, while New York State overall has a pipeline of more than $6 billion. Unfortunately, however, New York State’s yearly allocation of cap is only around $1.6 billion.

Atlantic Yards would require $1.4 billion in housing bonds, according to information the Empire State Development Corporation disclosed to the Public Authorities Control Board and made public in the lawsuit challenging the AY environmental reviews.
So those bonds would be well behind requests made by many other developers seeking to make use of a very limited pool of affordable housing financing, a situation Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) told Congress last May was a “crisis” threatening 6700 units in the city’s pipeline.


For additional information on the affordable-housing subsidy supply-and-demand crisis check out Brownstoner's recently posted summary of the press coverage.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Gone Baby Gone

AP, via Brooklyn Daily Eagle


Jason Kidd is all smiles during his first workout with the Dallas Mavericks yesterday. The perennial All-Star point guard finally got his wish to be traded to the Mavericks from Bruce Ratner’s Nets after several rumored deals and a recently nixed trade to Dallas last week.
The Nets’ plans of coming to Downtown Brooklyn are still on, according to team president Rod Thorn, who cited 2010 as the most realistic arrival date for the franchise on Tuesday.

However, Thorn also noted that the first shovel has not yet been planted in the Atlantic Yards, site of Ratner’s proposed $550 million Barclay’s Center. Kidd, who never seemed thrilled with the idea of moving to Brooklyn, won’t have to worry about playing in our fair borough, unless its for the opposition.


NoLandGrab: This is the first we ever heard of Kidd not being thrilled about playing in Brooklyn. Just a few short years ago, the NJ Nets PR machine was bragging that Kidd worshipped in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Forest City in the News

CoStar Group, Forest City Nearing Completion on Orchard Town Center
Forest City's newest mall:

Forest City Commercial Group, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCEA), is nearing completion on Orchard Town Center, a 983,000-square-foot lifestyle center located at the intersection of I-25 and 144th Avenue in Westminster, CO. Anchored by Macy's, JC Penney, AMC Theatres and Super Target, the center will host a grand opening celebration on April 3, 2008.

The New Haven Independent, Science Park Chooses Preferred Developer

Last October, Science Park Development Corporation got three responses to a Request for Qualifications seeking a developer for the lot, said David Silverstone, Science Park Development Corporation chairman and president. The corporation has chosen a preferred developer among the three: Forest City Enterprises, a $10 billion publicly-traded real estate company with headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Proposes $450M Waterfront Project
Though it's likely that Forest City will be using eminent domain in New Rochelle, as they are in Brooklyn, the company has eschewed two of Atlantic Yards' most serious urban-planning concerns, the high-rise superblock campus and parking spaces for all. Also, in New Rochelle, Forest City has turned its back on the big-box mentality that it has perpetrated upon Brooklyn.

The plan calls for the development of a “village concept” that will be bereft of high-rise properties that have cropped up in the downtown district with the likes of the Trump Plaza and Avalon on the Sound developments that have already been built and other proposals in the pipeline there. Instead, the project will feature “stick-built” four- to five-story buildings that will have retail on the first floor with apartments on the upper floors. Parking will be in the back of the buildings. Approximately 20% of the rental housing units will be marketed as affordable.

There will be no parking on the main streets, he says. The project will seek to attract restaurants as well as destination-type retail. The development will not have any “big box” retail, Levey adds.

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Certifies $200M Promenade for LEED

Forest City Enterprises recently received LEED certification for its open-air, mixed-use Promenade Bolingbrook development. Site work is expected to start for the project’s second phase this summer, which will include two hotels and a 600,000-sf power center at the site at Interstate 355 south of Boughton Road. The estimated cost of the completed project is approximately $200 million, says Valerie Westley, development director for Forest City.

NoLandGrab: BTW, "open-air, mixed-use... development" is a fancy term for an outdoor mall with some additional space for offices, a hotel or housing.

Don't worry, Forest City hasn't totally lost its head — the Bolingbrook mall will be rife with box stores:

Retailers include Bass Pro Shops, Coach, H&M, Yankee Candle, Sunglasses Hut and Macy’s. The asking lease rate is between $34 and $44 per sf, net. The asking lease rate for the approximate 40,000 sf of office space at the center is $30 per sf net. The office space is vacant after the Sun Times News Group backed out of a deal to lease the space, she says. A 333,000-sf Ikea store and a 46,000-sf LA Fitness are also at the site.

Posted by lumi at 4:00 AM

February 21, 2008

City’s Sweeping Rezoning Plan for 125th Street Has Many in Harlem Concerned

The New York Times
by Timothy Williams

The Bloomberg Administration has proposed a sweeping re-zoning for Harlem's iconic 125th Street, which has neighborhood residents worried. If recent re-zonings around the city are any indication, they should be.

Amanda M. Burden, chairwoman of the Planning Commission, who since her appointment in 2002 has presided over some of the most extensive rezoning undertaken for two generations, said she was not intent on making 125th Street another generic boulevard.

Ms. Burden said she had spent more time studying the 125th Street proposal — including attending 30 to 40 meetings and walking the street on several occasions — than she had on any other project, including Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University’s expansion in western Harlem.

NoLandGrab: If Amanda Burden had done nothing more than a drive-by while glancing at a map, she would have "spent more time studying the 125th Street proposal" than she spent studying Atlantic Yards. But no, she immersed herself, even conducting her own primary research:

The idea that the street needed development hit her, she said, when she attended a recent Roberta Flack concert at the Apollo with a friend who works on the street.

After the concert ended, Ms. Burden said, she asked her friend where they should eat. “Downtown,” the friend replied.

“There should be a million different eateries around there, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to frame and control growth on 125th Street,” Ms. Burden said. “The energy on the street is just remarkable, and it’s got to stay that way.”


NLG: We're dying to comment on Amanda's dining quandary, but it's better that we just bite our tongue.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Down the EIS rabbit hole: how growing subway ridership was finessed in the AY environmental review

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes another look at the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, analyzing the tension between the methodology used by the ESDC to estimate future growth in transit ridership [not a lot], and reality [a lot!], and how the question of ESDC's projections played out in the lawsuit challenging the EIS.

Given that subway ridership in New York City has been growing steadily and just grew 4.2% overall in one year, as pointed out in news coverage February 7, how could the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) claim an 0.5% "background growth" rate for transit when it conducted its analysis of the Atlantic Yards project?

It's another example of the tension between reality and legality, in which a judge just has to agree that an agency's analysis was reasonable, without being able to second-guess it.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Ward's Watch: Prepping By The Parapet


It's NoLandGrab's opinion that Atlantic Yards spells trouble for much of the surrounding neighborhood, but Brownstoner is hearing that Bruce Ratner's controversial plan could be IN TROUBLE.


While there haven't been signs of backhoes, cranes or other tools of the trade on display at Ward's Bakery when we've checked in on it the past couple of mornings, yesterday we did spot some workmen of some sort surveying the scene of last April's parapet collapse. Meanwhile, we've been hearing more whispers questioning whether Ratner's really got the dough in this environment to get the project done. As one developer told us, "I don't see how it pencils out.


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Found in Brooklyn, Meanwhile back at Freddy's, this one is mine.

First, some Toll Brothers rage, where the author hurls the ultimate invective at the development company's Gowanus proposal, calling it "the mini Atlantic Yards." [Congratulations Bruce, your Atlantic Yards plan is now the poster child for really crappy overdevelopment that only a politician could love.]

Art-FIB.jpgThen on to art in the footprint of Bruce's controversial plan:

ANYWAY back to pimping the art show at Freddy's. This was my contribution to the show. I painted on found book covers and then collaged them together. Any of the images look familiar?

I will be continuing to feature the artists that participated in the show and I remind you to stop by Freddy's and see it for yourself. The demolition surrounding dear Freddy's is enough to drive one to drink. Freddy's is in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards and Bruce Ratner is the man they write their rent checks to, sick isn't it?

Metroblogging NYC, Why Is The Government So Stupid?

An explanation of one of the many stupid things about NYC and Atlantic Yards:

While mayor Bloomberg and many city agencies are actively trying to reduce the problems caused by private vehicles in the heart of Manhattan, fund improvements in mass transit and provide affordable housing; city mandated policies in the outer boroughs promote driving and car ownership by requiring building owners to build parking garages even in areas reasonably well served by mass transit.
Like any market distortion, parking requirements have created their own set of absurd choices.
One such area is Atlantic Yards, in which at least 4000 parking spaces will be put in with over 2000 required for residents in spite of the fact that the site is a major transit hub served my multiple subway lines and the Long Island Railroad. Many of these will come in the form of hugely expensive and potentially dangerous underground parking. Doesn't anyone remember the first World Trade Center attack which thankfully did not involve plastic explosives?

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

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The Big Apple, ProHo (Prospect Heights)
An examination of the name "ProHo" (ugh!) uncovers this interesting boo boo in the Wikipedia entry:

Prospect Heights is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bounded by Flatbush Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Eastern Parkway to the south, and, Washington Avenue to the east, at the end of Prospect Hill. However, real estate brokers with a vested interest often misrepresent the eastern boundary as being as far as Classon, Franklin, or even Bedford Avenues. In its northern section are the Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab readers know that the railyards are named "Vanderbilt Yards." "Atlantic Yards" is the name that Bruce Ratner bestowed on his megaproject — the brand name fits nicely with his Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Malls.

California Real Estate, California Tenants Fight to Save Rent Control
Congratulations Bruce, your Atlantic Yards plan is still a national poster child of eminent domain abuse:

Emboldened by a national outcry against the use of eminent domain to seize property for private developments like Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, California landlords have devised an ingenious attack on the state’s local rent-control laws: Disguising a statewide referendum to ban them as a measure to reform eminent domain.

Walking Off the Big Apple, The New York of Raymond Hood, Architect: Final Thoughts

In thinking about comparable urban developments of our own era, the kind that fuse private economic power with state ambition, the extraordinary projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai come to mind, or maybe, the building of contemporary Berlin. But what new projects await Gotham? Well, several developments of some scale are in the works - the High Line/Hudson Yards redevelopment projects on the west side of Manhattan, Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn, designed by Frank Gehry, and the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site downtown.

Still, whichever of these large projects come to fruition in this uncertain economy, contemporary architects and urban planners could learn a few lessons from Raymond Hood's skills and visionary design. A trip to Rockefeller Center is a start, watching people take pictures of friends and family in front of the fountain and enjoying the scene of people falling down on skates. Sure, the Rock's often crowded, but isn't that precisely the point?

NoLandGrab: Sorry to be a wet blanket, but it seems that Atlantic Yards has defied as many lessons from Rockefeller Center as it has absorbed. Ratner is hoping that if he builds it, they will come.

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

February 20, 2008

Documents clarify FCR's obligation to state, but not city, if AY abandoned

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder identifies one known unknown:

Last month the New York Post reported that developer Forest City Ratner can pull out of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project without penalty, because the developer has not yet signed binding contracts or drawn on direct subsidies. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn picked up the news.

What exactly does that mean? After all, the developer has already spent a chunk of its own funds, and would have to pay for the completion of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, for example. The General Project Plan (GPP) does address a reimbursement obligation to the state, but not to the city.

The GPP is a state document, so it's not surprising that city officials didn't sign it. Does that mean that the city has side contracts, as with the bridge, that require reimbursement if the project does not go forward? Or was there a gap in the documentation? It's unclear to me.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

On WFAN: Brooklyn delay fosters rumor of Nets sale and move to Newark

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday on sports talk radio WFAN, Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo had as one guest New Jersey Nets President Rod Thorn. Near the very end of the conversation, they brought up a new angle on the Nets-to-Newark option--a team sale, rather than a move under the existing ownership.

Norman Oder transcribed the conversation:

Chris Russo: And Rod, Mike and I were discussing it, what is going on with this arena? I mean, it's been delayed, we haven't heard anything about it. Are the Nets still thinking full force ahead to Brooklyn? Can New Jersey and Newark and the Prudential be in the mix? What's going on for the arena for the Nets here down the road?

Rod Thorn: We're, y'know, it's full bore ahead. We expect to be in Brooklyn start of the 2010 season, and--

Russo wasn't convinced.

CR: --How about shovels in the ground, Rod, when are we going to see that?

RT: Well, shovels aren't in the ground yet, Chris.

Thorn chuckled a bit, as if recognizing that he couldn't bluff too far.

Mike Francesa: How about these rumors that someone could buy the team and put it in Newark, we've been hearing those rumblings.

RT: Y'know something, Mike, if that's true, then I don't know anything about it.

Oder's take:

Even though the Nets are losing money, I suspect that the promise of the Barclays Center naming rights deal, as well as the Atlantic Yards project as a whole, means the Nets aren't for sale. I also suspect that any rumors out there quickly find their way to Thorn.


Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Brooklyn was theirs

By Ryan Chatelain

From a short review of "Brooklyn Was Mine":

While those readers with a love affair for Brooklyn, or those hungry to learn more about its history and character, certainly could find "Brooklyn Was Mine" to be a charming examination of the area, holding the attention of those without vested interests from cover to cover proves challenging.


Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Goodbye for the "longevity"

Before we say goodbye to Jason Kidd "for the longevity," let's remind ourselves why he wasn't a very good spokesperson for Atlantic Yards:

From FoxSports.com:

"Jersey is a great city. It doesn't get its just [due]. The state itself. The golf is great. The fans were wonderful. I wish them the best of luck." — Jason Kidd

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Kidd traded: Done deal is done

The NJ Nets' marquee player, star point guard Jason Kidd, has finally gotten what he wanted, a chance to play on a team with a shot at an NBA championship. Since developer Bruce Ratner bought the team, the Nets' playoff fortunes have been flagging.

Here are the articles that finger Ratner in the blame game:

NY Daily News, As Jason Kidd exits Nets, there's plenty of blame to pass around

Daily News columnist Filip Bondy serves up the blame, and has a special helping of harsh words for the Brucester:

Most of all, we can blame the owner, Bruce Ratner, who has sentenced this franchise to limbo, facing untold years in a swamp that has become more a metaphor than a home.

Ratner should be very thankful these days for James Dolan, who has stolen all of the owner's bad thunder. Without the Knicks to kick around, area fans might notice that Ratner's plans for Brooklyn continue to stall, that he has turned his back on Newark and that he has locked himself into a morgue-like location where no self-respecting superstar would ever want to dunk basketballs for long.

Newsday, Swap a good start

This is what the Nets should have done after last season - blown it up and started over.

NoLandGrab: Hey, that's how many Brooklynites feel about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan!

Instead, Rod Thorn was tempted by the possibility that his Big Aging Three had enough left to make another run at the Eastern Conference finals or beyond. And to be fair, Thorn also was influenced by Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who wanted to save face with the New Jersey fans he's abandoning for the cement pastures in Brooklyn - in 2010 or 2011 or sometime in the future. (Maybe.)

NY Sun, With Kidd Now Gone, Is Carter Next?

Why should Ratner care that he's standing in the way of a complete engine rebuild, when the team is just an excuse for an historic real estate deal:

It would be a lot easier to move Carter if he'd signed a shorter deal or, indeed, if he'd been allowed to walk. There are whispers that owner Bruce Ratner's fondness for Carter had as much to do with this decision as any input from the general manager, Rod Thorn, incidentally.

ESPN.com, Trade Vinsanity? That's the next big idea in Jersey

The rumor that Bruce-hearts-Vince and might not approve of any trade isn't something that we made up. Here it is again:

Sources who spoke to Thorn in New Orleans said he is committed to the idea of moving Carter, although the remaining three-plus years of Carter's four-year, $62 million contract is a significant obstacle. And there are questions about whether owner Bruce Ratner's approval would be guaranteed if Thorn were able to work out a trade.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

February 19, 2008

As Nets finally trade Kidd, Carter steps in spotlight

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that star point guard and Nets team captain Jason Kidd has finally been traded, after a brief stall following the announcement Wednesday, we can expect some editing of the Atlantic Yards web site to reflect his departure.

Some other players will have to praise the new development in Brooklyn. Most likely candidate: Vince Carter. Already, as I predicted, Carter has become the face of the franchise, at least according to the Nets store.


Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

CBA Tuesday at Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits (CBA) agreement.

CBADoc.jpg "Substantial legally enforceable penalties"? FCR's claims about CBA raise doubts
Forest City executives claim that the CBA contains legally enforceable penalties. But what are these penalties and are they substantial enough to represent more than a slap on the wrist?

Is the CBA part of the public interest? FCR says yes, but it's barely part of ESDC findings

Is the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) something the courts should take into account to speed the appeal of the case challenging the AY environmental review?

A Forest City Ratner attorney says yes, but an attorney for the petitioners points out that the CBA was not part of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) decisionmaking process.

CBA signatory transition: from All-Faith Council to Faith in Action

CBA signatory All-Faith Council has either changed its name and leadership or has been supplanted by another organization — who knew?

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

NY Daily News, Willets Point plan loses key backer

Councilman Hiram Monserrate told Bloomberg deputies Thursday he is pulling his support for the massive Willets Point redevelopment in his district - just as the project's extensive review process is about to get underway.

"We still have a lot of questions. I don't believe it would be prudent to go forward until those questions are answered," Monserrate said.

He was joined by Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who represent the neighboring districts.

Their opposition comes at a crucial time.

The Willets Point plan was scheduled to be ready for community board hearings on Feb. 25. From there, it would head to the Council, which has to approve zoning changes and other measures before building can begin.

NoLandGrab: The City would also have to approve the use of eminent domain to seize property from local business owners.

1010 WINS, Black History Month: Saving History in Brooklyn

This story about one of the Duffield St. homes was brought to our attention by Duffield St. Underground.

The good news is that Joy Chatel has saved her home at 227 Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn from eminent domain.

A bricked-up tunnel in the building's basement is believed to be an escape route used in the Underground Railroad.

Chatel now hopes to turn it into a cultural center and museum. People have already showed up on her doorstep.

"I believe in that saying that was in the movie, Kevin Costner movie, 'if you build it, they will come'," Chatel said. "People have come from all over the world already."

But in order to turn it into a proper museum, she needs help and a fundraiser is being held on February 29th.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

February 18, 2008

Who's Kidd-ing Whom?

NoLandGrab prematurely reported last week that the Nets had reached a deal to send All-Star point guard Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks, a deal that fell apart when the Mavs' Devean George refused to waive a no-trade clause.

This time, though, George is not part of the package being shipped to New Jersey for Kidd, but importantly for the cash-strapped Bruce Ratner, Mavs' owner Mark Cuban's $3 million is still part of the deal. Several news outlets are reporting that a deal is done.

Mavs, Nets find a way to get Kidd to Dallas: Stackhouse, George out; retired Van Horn in, AP via Yahoo! Sports

Jason Kidd is headed to the Dallas Mavericks after all, although in a trade that's slightly different than originally arranged.

The new deal -- as reported by various media outlets Sunday night, all citing anonymous sources -- has Kidd and forward Malik Allen going to Dallas for point guard Devin Harris, center DeSagana Diop and swingman Maurice Ager, plus a few new pieces: retired forward Keith Van Horn and Trenton Hassell.

New Jersey also will get two first-round draft picks and $3 million

Deal for Kidd Has a Chance to Resurface, The New York Times

Although there were reports that a deal was imminent, and perhaps needing only N.B.A. approval, both teams insisted that nothing was done.

“It’s breathing again,” Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ owner, said in an e-mail message early Sunday night.

Thorn was also cautious. “It’s not a done deal until it’s a done deal,” he said through a team spokesman.

Kidd on verge of joining Dallas, NY Daily News


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Not an error but a "minor imprecision"

Atlantic Yards Report takes on his third day of New York Times "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue." Today's edition: Somewhere Over the Railyards. The Times has consistently referred to the Atlantic Yards proposal as being built "on rail yards." Will they correct their error from January 31?

The article, headlined Scaffold Falls, Killing Worker in Brooklyn, concerned an accident at a site in Clinton Hill and offered this context:
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)

Of course, only 8.5 acres of the 22-acre project would be rail yards, so the distinction is important. If all of Atlantic Yards were to built on public land, there would've been no battle over blight and eminent domain.
On January 31, I emailed Karin Roberts, Assistant to the Metropolitan Editor, with a link to my blog post pointing out the error. I didn't hear back, so on February 9, I wrote to another Times editor.

On February 11, I got this reply from Roberts:
We are not publishing a correction. It was a fleeting reference in an article that had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, and it was at worst a minor imprecision, not an error. And before you cite chapter and verse of the Times ethics guidelines to me, please be aware that Times editors are trusted to use their best judgment. In mine, no correction is warranted. Thank you for writing.
While the Atlantic Yards error was not directly related to the subject of the article, it was a major imprecision. Why major? Because unlike many other errors and not-minor imprecisions the Times corrects regularly, it has public policy implications.


Posted by amy at 7:28 AM

Winchester factory site to see residential, commercial spaces

Yale Daily News
Victor Zapana

The 7.31-acre site of the former Winchester Repeating Arms Co. factory will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and commercial buildings by real estate company Forest City Enterprises, pending negotiations with landowner Science Park Development Corp., the New Haven Independent reported Friday.

The alderwoman whose ward includes the property said she is open to the development but wants to learn more of the details before signing off on the proposal. The area surrounding the property is home to several major pharmaceutical companies in New Haven, including Genaissance Pharmaceuticals and CuraGen Corp.

In September, five months after the factory — home of the “gun that won the West” — had officially shut down, Science Park solicited applications from various developers. But by the Oct. 17 deadline, the company had received only three applications. With the help of New Haven consulting firm Capstan Group, LLC, Science Park chose Forest City, Science Park chairman David Silverstone told the New Haven Independent last week.
Forest City will come to New Haven having gone through contentious development projects in at least one other city.

When Forest City announced its plans to redevelop 22-acre Atlantic Yards in New York City, a coalition of community groups, including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, criticized the company for unsatisfactorily explaining the environmental impact of the development on the community.

NoLandGrab: What this writer might have missed is the eminent domain abuse aspect of Atlantic Yards, which is understandable if he's a New York Times devotee. If New Haven really "solicited applications from various developers" then they are already in better shape than Brooklyn. But it is good to see that the Atlantic Yards boondoggle is making other cities think twice about Forest City's grand plans.

Posted by amy at 7:12 AM

February 17, 2008

Will the Times correct the "same site" error? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman oder continues his Presidents' Day weekend special on "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue."

The New York Times on multiple occasions has suggested that Atlantic Yards would be built on the "same site" Walter O'Malley wanted for a new Brooklyn Dodgers stadium.

That's not true, as I pointed out in an extensive analysis last May. And, while the Times last December made the same error online, apparently because of a reliance on the existing and erroneous clip file, it will not publish a correction for the previous articles.

Why? It's a judgment call, Times editors told me, given that they can't publish corrections for all the "old articles" that deserve them. However, as I argue below, if there is a hierarchy for such corrections, "old articles" that are part of current controversies should be the priority. Indeed, the error gets repeated periodically by project supporters like Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Moreover, the Times does periodically correct older articles than the ones I cited, including articles that have no relevance to any controversy.

Conclusion: it's another case of "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue," which I defined as "the disturbing realization that we too often make errors in covering Atlantic Yards."


NoLandGrab: We take it that by "we," Oder means "The New York Times."

Posted by eric at 7:11 PM

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker vs. Yellow-bellied Developer


Dope on the Slope

NoLandGrab: When Jon Crow of the Brooklyn Bears Garden started telling us about the threat of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, we were all "yeah Jon, we already know about that." Then we realized he was talking about a bird...

Sapsuckers makes two kinds of holes: deep drilled narrow openings and the larger shallow patches shown here. These holes are just deep enough into the bark tissue to allow exuding of sap. The sap, as well as any insects attracted to it, is eagerly lapped up by the bird. Many other species of bird take advantage of this "strip mining" (the lousy parasites), so the yellowbellied sapsucker could be considered a keystone species.

Do the holes hurt the tree? While it's possible that a tree could be seriously damaged by such treatment, it would not be in the sapsucker's long term interest to kill its food source. As several of the gardeners present last Sunday pointed out, not one branch was girdled, so it's possible the damage will be repaired by the tree itself.

If only the yellowbellied real estate developer (Agripeta maximus1) followed a similar strategy. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods that are being pecked to death are not a meaningful resource for this wily species. There is no incentive to preserve anything, because it has no bearing on the species' future success. Our local government will always be there to toss out more seed.


Posted by amy at 12:36 PM

In New Rochelle, a Waterfront Plan Starts to Unfold

NY Times

THOUGH at least several years and a host of bureaucratic hurdles from fruition, a plan to transform New Rochelle’s deteriorated Echo Bay waterfront into a vibrant neighborhood has been proposed, and the mayor calls it one of the most significant prospects in the city’s history.

“This one is really thrilling,” Mayor Noam Bramson said of the 20-acre redevelopment plan. “This has been a goal of the city for as long as I’ve been alive, and probably longer.”

After months of input from the public and the city, the Cleveland-based development group Forest City Residential, which the city selected as the site developer more than a year ago, has created a plan that includes residences, retail stores and recreation.

NoLandGrab: Is "bureaucratic hurdle" the new term for eminent domain? Is it easier to jump this hurdle if you're standing on a stack of money? And for the record, we would like to disclose the New York Times's relationship with Forest City, since it didn't seem to come up in the article...


Posted by amy at 12:23 PM

February 16, 2008

An appeal for justice

NY Daily News letter to the editor:

Your editorial about our court fight against Atlantic Yards was rife with misstatements, exaggerations and fabrications ("Abuse of process," Feb. 5).

From calling an area where two-bedroom condos sell for $1 million "blighted," to implying that creating "a home for the Nets" justifies the taking of private property, it's clear you are willing to ignore the facts to further Forest City Ratner's goals.

For those who oppose this boondoggle, the only opportunity to fight is in the courts. Yet Bruce Ratner and the Daily News cry foul because the community is exercising its legal rights and appealing lower-court decisions it believes are wrong. Interestingly, you found no fault when Forest City Ratner and the state filed appeals.

The judicial process is there to protect all citizens, not just those with money and power.

Candace Carponter

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

NoLandGrab: Develop Don't Destroy has the actual contents of the letter here.

Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

The Times resists correcting the arena setbacks error

Atlantic Yards Report

When, last November 24, the New York Times published the scoop (first online November 21) that the Atlantic Yards arena would be only 20 feet from the street, it essentially corrected a previous article in which it had estimated--and seemed to declare more definitively--that the arena would be at least 75 feet from the street.

No official correction was published, however. Given the Times's policy, a correction should be in order, I thought. I requested one of the Times on January 2 and soon got a response saying no, given that the Times used "the best available data."

However, as my response below indicates, the Times misinterpreted available plans, thus failing to use "best available data."

My response was ignored. It's another example of "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue," which I defined as "the disturbing realization that we too often make errors in covering Atlantic Yards."


Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

Green arts complex neighbor to new Brooklyn Nets arena


Plenty Magazine
Lisa Selin Davis

On the busiest (and second most dangerous) intersection in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY—Flatbush and Fourth avenues—a mammoth development is in the works, one that should accommodate the hundreds of thousands of folks expected to migrate here in the next twenty years for our famously desirable lifestyle: the beautiful architecture, the community feel, the culture factory that is Kings County.

Only problem: the Atlantic Yards’ level of influx—6,430 apartment and condominium units; 17 high-rise buildings; 336,000 square feet of office space, a 50,000-square-foot sports arena for the Brooklyn Nets (don’t worry—they’re still in New Jersey for now); 247,000 square feet of retail space; and a 180-room hotel—means the very lifestyle people are moving to Brooklyn in droves for will surely be squelched.

But Brooklyn is nothing if not resilient, and just a block away, an alternative development is forming. A 61-year-old Brooklyn native named Al Atarra—white Santa Claus beard, heavy accent—has decided to preserve his 45,000-square-foot Neoclassical building called the Metropolitan Exchange, resisting wooing developers in favor of realizing his own vision: a professional arts complex.

Only MEx, as this venture is called, is made of a very specific group of arty types: architects, urban planners, landscape architects, an architectural historian, and, sure, why not, a couple of developers, too—the good kind, who wish to ameliorate neighborhoods and not actually replace them completely. At some point, Atarra hopes members won’t just be renting office space but buying into a commercial co-op that will make the building a model for the world of real estate here.


Posted by amy at 11:44 AM

February 15, 2008

Bronx politicians, Yankees president in a smackdown over stadium

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

News columnist Juan Gonzalez reports that all is not rosy with the Yankees' CBA:

A breakfast meeting between Yankees President Randy Levine and Bronx lawmakers about the team's new stadium erupted into a heated shouting match, with one assemblywoman so mad she stormed out.

The fireworks began after Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. asked Levine for the number of Bronx residents hired to work on the $1.2 billion stadium.

When the Yankees president could not give precise numbers, Diaz and other lawmakers became visibly upset, several people who attended last week's meeting said.

A few minutes later, Levine became embroiled in a second dispute with Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, who wanted to know why a community foundation that was supposed to dispense $800,000 annually in Yankees contributions to Bronx nonprofits had taken more than 18 months to hold its first meeting.

Levine told Arroyo to ask Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión about the delay. She then blasted his response and angrily walked out.

A few participants said they were even more angry at Carrión and the borough's City Council delegation than at the Yankees.


NoLandGrab: If construction ever begins on Atlantic Yards, can Brooklynites expect the same degree of efficacy with Ratner's CBA?

The shenanigans in the Bronx are not exactly helping Adolfo Carrión make the case that he's fit to be NYC Comptroller.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Mum's the word on FCR's gift to Democratic "slush fund"

Atlantic Yards Report


Since Norman Oder broke the story of ther $58,000 contribution to a Democratic State Assembly slush fund on his blog Atlantic Yards Report, only The Brooklyn Paper and WNYC News Radio have picked it up. Both media outlets have received the cold shoulder from developer Forest City Ratner and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office.

WNYC reported:

A spokesman for the company wouldn't comment on the reason for the gift...

The top Democrat in the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, has supported Atlantic Yards in the past, and his continued backing could play a role in securing tax-exempt financing for the apartments and the basketball arena. His office would not return phone calls or an e-mail.

The Brooklyn Paper tried both sides of the deal:

The executive director of the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, Kathleen Joyce, said she could not comment for this story, but promised to find someone who could. That person never called The Brooklyn Paper.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner said only, “No comment.”

Additionally, Norman Oder wonders if The NY Times, which maintains a business relationship with the developer, and the other dailies, will even "acknowledge this story."


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Payback time

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, who said that he stopped making political contributions because they created an appearance of impropriety, abandoned that policy last month with a large donation to a “slush fund” controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Ratner’s $58,420 contribution to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee on Jan. 7 drew immediate criticism from good government groups as evidence that a “pay-to-play” culture festers in New York State — especially in light of the significant role Silver played in getting the controversial $4-billion mega-development approved in late 2006.
A “housekeeping” account is one of many accounts maintained by political parties. In theory, “housekeeping” accounts are set up to raise money for party-building activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives and voter registration, Lerner said.

“But in practice, housekeeping accounts are a political slush fund controlled by the speaker,” she said. “Money given that way is money that gets dispensed and used by the party bosses rather than by an individual candidate. It gives much more bang for the buck.”

And gives the appearance of a payback. After all, Silver held all the cards in December 2006, when Atlantic Yards needed the approval of the three-man Public Authorities Control Board.


The executive director of the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, Kathleen Joyce, said she could not comment for this story, but promised to find someone who could. That person never called The Brooklyn Paper.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner said only, “No comment.”


Ratner’s naked ploy
In an editorial, The Brooklyn Paper adds:

To the list of the many wrong things that Bruce Ratner has done to steamroll public opposition to his Atlantic Yards mega-project — including playing the race card, creating fantasy tax-revenue projections, and saying that the basketball arena would be built with private money when it is in fact being financed entirely by taxpayers — we can now add his donation last month to a political committee controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Silver, of course, holds virtually all of Albany’s cards — and even though he played a role in the 2006 state approval of Atlantic Yards, the legislature still has not formalized any of the tax-abatement, bonding or subsidy agreements that Ratner desperately needs to make a government-insured profit on a project that the free market has already turned against.

Hence, Ratner’s timely donation.
Our state lawmakers have been lied to, manipulated and lobbied by Ratner’s machine. Now they’ve been paid off for their fine work.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

$5,000 for you, $450-million megaproject using eminent domain for me?

Last week, Norman Oder reported that the campaign financing spigot at Forest City was still on, and included $5,000 in total contributions for New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, from Ratner family members Charles Ratner, Ronald Ratner, Brian Ratner, Deborah Ratner Salzberg, and James Ratner, on 08/21/07.

This week The Westchester Journal News reports on the unveiling of the $450 million Echo Bay plan, which could possibly entail the use of (no surprises here) eminent domain.

The Journal News, Echo Bay plan carries support, brings challenges

A day after unveiling a $450 million plan with 600 luxury apartments, 62 waterfront town homes, 42 condominiums and 100,000 square feet of ground-level retail, city officials and members of the development team met yesterday with The Journal News/LoHud.com Editorial Board to begin the public relations push for the project.

"This is one of the few locations that you can create new public access on the Sound shore," Mayor Noam Bramson said. "This has been an industrial area for a century or more. ... The shoreline itself is completely disguised. You can't get there without trespassing, it's completely closed off."
The developer is in the early stages, for example, of acquiring the approximately 12 parcels needed for the project. Forest City has contacted all the property owners, purchased one property and is under contract with another, said Mark Weingarten, an attorney for the developer.

Though "no residents are in the mix," Bramson said, New Rochelle would consider the use of eminent domain, which could prolong and complicate the development timetable.

Here's a variation on the eminent-domain-will-only-be-used-as-a-last-resort refrain:

"We hope eminent domain isn't necessary, but it may be necessary," Bramson said.

Note to Bramson, "eminent domain will only be used as a last resort" is a better sound bite.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Atlantic Yards Week: Expanded Unity Plan Workshop

From Brit in Brooklyn


The Unity Plan is the community-developed alternative to the Forest City Ratner project. Until now it has included only the the area directly on the Vanderbilt Railyards.

"Join your neighbors, elected officials and expert planners for a public workshop devoted to creating a community plan for the entire area - now that the global credit crisis threatens to scuttle Atlantic Yards."

From Unity

Saturday, MARCH 1, 2008
10 am to 2 pm
St. Cyril's Belarusian Cathedral
401 Atlantic Avenue (at Bond Street)

RSVP to Hunter College CCPD at 212-650-3328, ccpd AT hunter DOT cuny DOT edu

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

Down the EIS rabbit hole: Why does Fairway get counted for traffic impact but not Whole Foods?

Atlantic Yards Report

The more Norman Oder stares at the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study, the more discrepancies and glaring omissions he finds. Today's episode is curiouser:


Delving into the rabbit hole of traffic and transit projections for the Atlantic Yards project leads to a glaring discrepancy revealed only in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and not cited in the unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the AY environmental review.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) belatedly added the new Fairway market in Red Hook to its list of sites that should be analyzed regarding future travel demand in the area around the Atlantic Yards site. However, the ESDC continued to exclude the coming Whole Foods Market in Gowanus because it was deemed "distant from study area."

That's absurd. As the graphic shows, Fairway is about twice as far as the Whole Foods site from the westernmost point of the Atlantic Yards footprint, the corner of Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic Avenues.


Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

Avella Eyes Mayoral Race

The NY Sun
By Alicia Colon

Tony Avella, the self described "Conservative Democrat," sits down with Alicia Colon to talk about how eminent domain and overdevelopment are subverting the democratic process in NY City:

Mr. Avella caught my attention when I read his comments on two issues that I believe New Yorkers should be more concerned about: eminent domain and the cable franchise battle. I initiated the meeting with him because he appears to be the maverick of the City Council, a group that I have little respect for as a whole.

This City Council approved the plan for the 17-acre expansion of Columbia University in Harlem. Columbia University representatives told The New York Sun that they aim to reach a negotiated settlement with the remaining reluctant landowners, but have made it clear they would invoke the state’s power of eminent domain to condemn the property if no agreement is reached. Mr. Avella was one of five Council members who voted against the project, and said that the use of eminent domain would jeopardize all New York property owners. Mr. Avella told me, “Nobody’s home or business is safe anymore.”

Neighborhood opponents of the plan have long said it would harm Harlem’s character and displace longtime residents. Of course it will, but the city’s poorer neighborhoods have been on death row city since the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London that gross violation of property rights is permissible. A private developer can swoop into blighted areas, and as long as the city determines that a project has a public purpose, such as generating higher tax revenue, individual property owners will be at its mercy.

It’s happening in nearly all the boroughs, but no one seems to be paying much attention. Mr. Avella, however, views this subversion of the Constitution as “a disgrace.” He noted what’s happening in Willets Point in the Bronx and the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn as examples. Let’s not forget how the New York Times used eminent domain to relocate to a new Times Square building on Eighth Avenue. Ten existing buildings were condemned by the Empire State Development Corporation under a mandate to acquire and rebuild a blighted Times Square that is no longer blighted. The ESDC leased it to the New York Times for a price below market value and, in addition, gave the newspaper tax breaks. How that benefits the New York taxpayer is beyond me.


Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Ward Bakery is Almost Toast

TC-Ward-demo01.jpg The Gowanus Lounge

Ward Bakery is almost toast. Photographer Tracy Collins got some shots of demolition equipment moving in on the buildings, which many had sought to save. Atlantic Yards plans show the site will probably be used as a parking lot for nearly a decade before anything is built there. Mr. Collins has a huge set of Ward Bakery photos here.


Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

Markowitz Fills Boro in on State of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Downtown Star

Here are the Atlantic Yards-related excerpts from Norman Oder's report on Markowitz's State of the Borough address:

He saluted his new appointee on the City Planning Commission, Shirley McRae, but still praised her predecessor, his longtime political supporter Dolly Williams, for "five years of invaluable service." (Williams resigned last November after paying a fine to resolve conflict-of-interest charges regarding her ownership stake in Atlantic Yards.)

Brooklyn's most controversial issue got a few mentions. After asserting that "Brooklyn deserves a sizzling, modern, mixed-use downtown," Markowitz cited growth in "the corridor linking BAM to downtown," then a "revitalized Fulton Mall." He continued: "Walking or biking up a spruced-up Flatbush Avenue to visit friends living at Atlantic Yards. Or going to check out a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center!"

Later in the speech, he discussed the "crisis" in affordable housing, expressing his support "for the maximum amount of affordable housing to be included in new residential projects."

"At Atlantic Yards," he continued, "we celebrate the fact that a Community Benefits Agreement will guarantee that fully one-half of those units will be priced below market rates." (Actually, only half of the rental units would be affordable.)

The crowd was not obviously enthusiastic about Atlantic Yards, but did applaud Markowitz's call for the state legislature to restore rent protections and his salute to the president of the tenants' association at Spring Creek, a.k.a. Starrett City, who fought a sale of the affordable housing complex.


Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Stop feeding Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

A Brooklyn Heights resident wonders why the NY City Council put the Madison Square Garden owners on a diet, while Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has the run of the feedlot.

The $700 million in subsidies for Atlantic Yards cited by Councilmembers Yassky and James is an understatement of the subsidies Ratner is being given by the city and state (“James, Yassky: Ax Yards funds,” Feb. 9).

Among other things, Ratner is basically being given the $637.2 million arena for free through an “R-TIFC-PILOT” agreement (pronounced “Artifice PILOT,” or “Return Total Intercepted For Costs PILOT”).

Then there are 139 years of real-estate tax exemptions.

Then there are several-hundred-million more from the state and city in flat-out direct subsidies.

Then there is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority discount on the land that Ratner is being sold at below market.

Then there is the additional subsidy from the tax-exempt bonds on the arena, which includes exemption from state and city taxes in addition to federal.

And Ratner wants more tax-exempt bonds and housing subsidies for the residential portion of his project.

So even before you get to the subsidy he gains because of the state’s use of eminent domain to make properties available to him, the figure is way over $700 million. It clearly exceeds $1 billion and is quite possibly close to $2 billion.

Michael White, Brooklyn Heights


NoLandGrab: Furthermore, Forest City Ratner has stated in the past that it can't and won't reveal the full details of the subsidies that Atlantic Yards will suck up.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Downtown, Related Developments Bear Out 2004 Projections

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

If you look at Atlantic Yards through rose-colored glasses, it's not as big or boondoggly as it seems:


Although not a construction spade has pierced any of the large ground that is known as the Atlantic Yards site, its enormous size tends to dwarf all other Downtown Brooklyn development projects.

At more than 8.6 million square feet and a total price tag of $4 billion, with more than 6,000 housing units planned, half affordable, Atlantic Yards will hold its own with just about anything except maybe the Hudson Yards project proposed for the west side of Manhattan.

But if you look carefully at what else is in the works for Downtown Brooklyn and separate the developments by area, a different story emerges. And if you break up the Atlantic Yards project into its components, it isn’t as awesome as the whole thing looks.

As a bonus, author Dennis Holt comes to this startling conclusion:

All in all, it is a safe conclusion that the goals of the 2004 rezoning plan, to overhaul much of the old Downtown Brooklyn core area, are being achieved, and there were a lot of people who scoffed at those hopes.


NoLandGrab: The Downtown Brooklyn Plan ran so far off the tracks that the Mayor had to appoint Joe Chan to try to get it back on line. Nowhere in the original rezoning plan does the City predict that the market would deliver primarily high-rise luxury housing and then head into a real estate slump, or maybe it does if you squint real hard.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Prospect Heights Grandeur

The NY Sun
By Francis Morrone

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, counts among those New York neighborhoods people are surprised to learn are not designated historic districts, and among those neighborhoods that seem sure to receive such designation in the near future. Advocates of designation for Prospect Heights point to the losses and potential losses along the neighborhood's northern edge as a result of Forest City Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development. At the same time, Prospect Heights, long regarded as Park Slope's poor cousin, is increasingly well known as a place loved by its residents for its own special qualities.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Valentines Day in the Atlantic Yards Footprint

From Brit in Brooklyn



Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Forest City in the News

The Washington Post, A Different Kind of Park Springs From the Drawing Board

Ballpark and Beyond is adapted from Jacqueline Dupree's blog on development in Near Southeast, an area between Capitol Hill and the Anacostia River that is being transformed by the construction of the Nationals baseball stadium.

Although Nationals Park is getting the lion's share of attention these days as Near Southeast's biggest development, the 42-acre site two blocks to the east known as the Yards is starting its transformation away from its former life as the barren walled-off Southeast Federal Center. And we're now getting our first peeks at early designs for the development's 5.8-acre park on the banks of the Anacostia River.

Designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners, the park will have "passive and active" recreation spaces, along with retail and entertainment offerings that Yards developer Forest City Washington believes will make it a lively year-round destination for residents and tourists in the daytime and at night. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have approved these preliminary plans in the past month, with compliments for what the CFA called the site's "energetic design."

Chicago Journal, Gateway project could cost $4 billion

Forest City Enterprises gets in on the action of another megadevelopment over train tracks, this time in Chicago.

Gerald Fogelson, the real estate impresario responsible for keystone South Loop projects such as Central Station, has announced plans to build another massive development in the neighborhood.

If the project, which is still in its preliminary stages, is ultimately built, more South Loop railroad tracks, the infrastructure that once defined the area, will be covered by development. It is a process Fogelson started with Central Station, built atop an old train depot.

Gateway, as the project has been tentatively called, could include 3,000 hotel units, 4,000 residential units and 300,000 square feet of office space, according to Tim Desmond, president of the Central Station Development Corporation. An office tower could be included in the plan, said Desmond.

The parcel designated for the site measures 23 acres....

Much of Gateway would cover railroad lines currently used by Metra, the commuter rail service. It would cost $4 billion and is expected to take a full decade to complete. Forest City Enterprises, a Cleveland-based developer responsible for such mega-projects as the Atlantic Yards buildings in downtown Brooklyn and the New York Times Co. building in Times Square, will partner with Fogelson on the project.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

February 14, 2008

Goodbye (?), J-Kidd, you helped sell Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Since it's likely that Jason Kidd won't be here "for the longevity," Norman Oder looks back on the legacy of the Nets star guard in the Atlantic Yards fight.


First Jim Stuckey, now Jason Kidd. Assuming that the Nets' announced trade yesterday of point guard Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks will go through after a stall, the two most public faces of the Atlantic Yards project--the executive who shepherded the project, and the star used to sell the team/arena--will have left the scene.
In developer Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards permanent campaign," a Kidd trade is a reminder that the players, as in sports, are ultimately fungible. Kidd was deployed to mouth bromides at an 8/23/06 press conference (at right, with teammate Vince Carter, principal owner Bruce Ratner, and Borough President Marty Markowitz) before the public hearing on the AY Draft Environmental Statement and similarly at the 1/18/07 Barclays naming rights extravaganza.

Kidd's much-publicized record of spousal abuse has nothing to do with his basketball skills, but still Ratner, in a 6/26/05 New York Times Magazine interview, went out of his way to puff the team:

The players are terrific. They are of good character. They are incredibly charitable. They are family-oriented. They have integrity.

Assuming Kidd departs, we'll see no more stories about his tempestuous divorce, his churchgoing, nor his image rehabilitation via Take a Net to School. No more Kidd posters selling season tickets at Brooklyn street fairs.


Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Quinn calls for task force to address housing crisis

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the affordable-housing segment of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's State of the City address through the Atlantic Yards filter.

Here are some excerpts from Quinn's speech:

Now, the single biggest complaint I hear from New Yorkers is the syrocketing cost of housing and the devastating impact it’s having on our middle class. The reality is, if you are a teacher and firefighter, raising your kids in Clinton Hill and together make $110,000 a year, it’s hard to find a decent place to live.

Note that, under the guideline that people spend 30% of their income for affordable housing, the annual rent for such a household would be $33,000 and the monthly rent $2750. Also note that $110,000 is within the top range of households eligible for Atlantic Yards affordable housing.

Quinn is right that affordable housing is a challenge to many people. (Still, there are apartments in Clinton Hill well under $2750.) But Atlantic Yards was endorsed by the low-income group ACORN because its members thought it would help them.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Jason Kidd's Trade to Mavs Hits a Snag

Associated Press, via MetroNY
By Jaime Aron

Talks to trade Jason Kidd to the Mavericks (reported as a done deal), hit a snag last night when Devean George had second thoughts about joining the NJ Nets.

Jason Kidd appeared headed to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday -- until Devean George's contract got in the way.

George was supposed to be among the players headed from Dallas to New Jersey, but he blocked it because of a virtual no-trade clause as part of a contract status called "early Bird rights."

After Dallas beat Portland on Wednesday night, Mavs coach Avery Johnson said there was "zero" chance the deal would get done, but added that was "as of now."

George then said there's still a chance things can be worked out. He was waiting to meet with his agent, Mark Bartelstein, to discuss their options.


Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

February 13, 2008

Breaking News: Kidd traded to Dallas in latest blockbuster deal

Yahoo! Sports
By Adrian Wojnarowski

While Atlantic Yards still isn't a done deal, here's one that is: Jason Kidd is no longer on Bruce Ratner's payroll.

The agreement would send five players, including point guard Devin Harris, and first round picks in 2008 and 2010, for the future Hall of Fame guard.

Kidd, who turns 35 next month, goes to Dallas with an unmistakable mandate: Bring a title for a team and career that are desperately seeking it. As part of the trade, the Mavericks would also send Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, DeSagna Diop, Maurice Ager and $3 million to New Jersey. Along with Kidd, the Nets send reserve forward Malik Allen to the Mavs.

In a separate deal, the Nets are sending guard Antoine Wright to Dallas for a future second-round pick and possibly other considerations, one source said.


NoLandGrab: Given the difficulty in raising financing for big development projects of late, it's likely that the key figure in the deal for the Nets is the $3 million.

With the Nets obviously throwing in the towel by trading their on-court leader and best player, team CEO Brett Yormark is going to have his work cut out for him in trying to keep the Izod Center populated with living, breathing (and paying) fans.

Posted by eric at 5:46 PM

’Bilt to last

A mix of pioneers, beloved stalwarts and hot newcomers has transformed Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue into a dining and nightlife hot spot. Take a tour of Brooklyn’s newest restaurant row.

Time Out New York
by Joshua M. Bernstein

A decade ago, Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue was little more than an automotive speedway lined with liquor stores and barbershops. “There was nowhere to go after dark,” says Anatoly Dubinsky, owner of the pioneering Soda Bar. But since Dubinsky’s saloon opened in 2002, this street—only eight blocks long, from Atlantic Avenue to Grand Army Plaza—has blossomed into a bona fide destination.


NoLandGrab: "Bona fide destination?" But what about the blight? According to the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, one-eighth of this sizzling stretch — the blocks on the west side of Vanderbilt between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street — suffers from irreparable blight, and as such, is slated to be razed to make way for Bruce Ratner's megaproject.

Posted by eric at 5:10 PM

How Late is Too Late for Atlantic Yards Construction?

by Jen Chung

Gothamist picks up the video of Forest City Ratner's round-the-clock construction, and ID's the filmmaker as none other than DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.


[Goldstein] has been told by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner that construction has to take place in the middle of the night because the Department of Transportation doesn't want to stop traffic on Flatbush. However, the two lanes of Flatbush that are closed overnight remain closed during the day - with no work going on.

Goldstein also finds it curious that when the Empire State Development Corporation's Environmental Impact Statement conducted a noise study for the area (PDF of the construction chapter), the study only focused on impact between 7AM and 11PM - not during the overnight hours. Of course, the much-criticized EIS had assumed everyone would be out of the footprint by the time construction started.


Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

Developer's Donation Raises Eyebrows

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Forest City Ratner gave more than $58,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee last month.

A spokesman for the company wouldn't comment on the reason for the gift, but it was the first time in 6 years that the company or its chief executive, Bruce Ratner, has made a contribution to any local or state political party or candidate.

The top Democrat in the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, has supported Atlantic Yards in the past, and his continued backing could play a role in securing tax-exempt financing for the apartments and the basketball arena. His office would not return phone calls or an e-mail.

The contribution, which was first reported on the Atlantic Yards Report blog, makes Forest City the 5th most generous supporter of Assembly Democrats over the past year.


NoLandGrab: If "loose lips sink ships," what do tight lips do? Only Bruce Ratner and Shelly Silver know for sure.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

FCR $58,420 Contribution to Democrats Indicates Need for Campaign Finance Rules Change

The Atlantic Yards Campaign Finance Exception?

Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice picks up on the story first revealed on Atlantic Yards Report concerning Forest City Ratner's large contribution to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. If you weren't familiar with New York campaign contribution rules, you might be surprised that a corporation can legally give such a large gift.

We're sure this very large check has nothing to do with the ongoing legal and political battles surrounding Atlantic Yards. And we're sure that this large check will not influence any politicians should they need to consider controversies around Atlantic Yards in the coming months and years. All the same, wouldn't it be nice if we had real limits on corporate campaign contributions, so that we could avoid even the appearance of buying influence?

Brennan Center: FCR donation points to need for campaign finance reform
Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes how The Brennan Center for Justice is looking at FCR's contribution, and adds recommendations for reform made by the Brennan Center last month:

The Brennan Center, in a report issued last month, cites the Housekeeping accounts among the issues waiting for reform:
* Reducing contribution limits in all categories;
* Closing the corporate subsidiary loophole and the housekeeping account loophole;
* Ending personal use of campaign funds by candidates;
* Introducing thoughtful restrictions on contributions by state contractors and lobbyists;
* Enhancing enforcement by increasing fines and penalties and properly funding the Board of
Elections; and
* Providing meaningful public financing to executive and legislative candidates.

Posted by steve at 5:37 AM

"Demolition Will Begin at 800 Pacific Street"

Brit in Brooklyn and Brownstoner both carried news that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is poised to start the actual demolition of the Ward Bakery building, 800 Pacific St.

Brit in Brooklyn, Demolition Will Begin at 800 Pacific Street: Ward Bakery


Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Ward's Bakery Demolition Imminent

After the (ab)use of eminent domain, the destruction of Ward's Bakery is number 2 on our list of grievances about the Atlantic Yards project, so it was with a heavy heart that we read this week's dispatch from the ESDC. According to the alert, demolition will begin (or should that be continue?) within the next two weeks on the building. What a shame that Ratner couldn't have thrown the preservationists a bone on this one. The demo company with its name plastered to the protective netting clearly has no qualms in its role in destroying a slice of Brooklyn history.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

It’s About You: Nets Give Season Ticket Holders a “Seat at the Table” with Management

Nets All Access News


NJ Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner gave Nets season-ticket holders the opportunity he never offered to most Brooklynites, a "seat at the table:"

East Rutherford, N.J. -- On Monday February 11th, the New Jersey Nets held a Town Hall Meeting where Season Ticket Holders were invited into the team’s practice facility to interact with key decision-makers and hear the State of the Team. On the dais were Principal Owner Bruce Ratner, President Rod Thorn, CEO Brett Yormark, and Special Assistant to the President Kiki Vandeweghe.

An empty seat was set amongst these top members of Nets Management.

Nets Radio Announcer Chris Carrino, who also sat on stage and emceed the event, said: “the empty seat at the table represents you - the fan - and you will sit here and ask what you want.”

“We invited you in because it’s about you.”
Season Ticket Holders were, one by one, invited to take their “seat at the table” and have their voice heard loud and clear. Everyone who had a question – aimed at one of the four men on stage - was given the chance to ask.

The Nets opened their doors to give their best customers the chance to hear exactly what is going on with the team from those who make the decisions. Everyone on hand had the opportunity to have their questions asked and to state their opinion. The night was put together for just that. It’s about you. The valued members of the Nets family on hand had their seat at the table.


Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

Pintchik development sites: the future face of Flatbush

Atlantic Yards Report


Last Thursday's New York Sun article about the Pintchik family of hardware store fame, headlined Brooklyn Family Sitting on $100M in Property, Air Rights, described big plans for the family's properties along Flatbush Avenue between Pacific Street and Grand Army Plaza, including new retail, rooftop additions and other expansions, then "as many as four new, mixed-use buildings on the sites of small commercial properties and lots along the avenue over the next three years."

And where might they be? The Sun reported: The family is planning a 22,000-square-foot retail space at one of the new buildings planned for Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place, which could hold a large national tenant.

Photographer Tracy Collins has filled in the blanks regarding those development sites.


Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

As Costs Grow, NYC’s Grand Redevelopment Plans Shrink

Associated Press, via Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By David Caruso

For a while, it seemed the sky was the limit for the grand public works that sprang off the drawing boards during New York’s recovery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Lately, though, soaring ambition has given way to hard reality.
Forest City officials have since sought to dispel any idea that the Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project is in trouble, saying the court filing was intended to persuade a judge to resolve the legal dispute quickly.

Indeed, Richard Moore, a real estate analyst for RBC Capital Markets, said there have been no signs that problems in the financial markets will put a crimp in Atlantic Yards or other private development in the city.

Demand for new housing and office space remains high, he said, and banks are still willing to make loans to proven developers.

“The capital seems to be out there,” he said. “It is definitely more selective capital,” he added, but even in a recession it could take time for job losses and company downsizing to cool the market.


NoLandGrab: "The capital seems to be out there," doesn't "seem" to inspire confidence, and regardless, that's not what we're hearing. Capital has dried up and what little capital that's floating around can be had at a premium, putting the squeeze on megaprojects like Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

Forest City in the News

CoStar News, Forest City Buys Wilson Bldg. for $20 Million

Forest City Enterprises purchased the historic Wilson Building from Post Properties for $19.9 million, or approximately $139,160 per unit.

The multifamily building, at 1623 Main St. in Dallas' central business district, is across from the Mercantile Project--a $150 million renovation project also owned by Forest City.

NoLandGrab: Something tells us that they won't be tearing the historic building down for an arena and high-rise towers, as the development company tends to do in Brooklyn.

Dallas Morning News, Mercantile building's clocks light Dallas sky time and again

Dormant for nearly two decades, the four giant clocks atop downtown Dallas' Mercantile building ticked to life Tuesday night.

The renovation was no small feat: Up to eight people worked more than half a year to get the clock's 24-foot-wide hands turning again. The price? About half a million dollars.

"It was a labor-intensive and really difficult project. ... And it's pretty high up there," said Dan Hughes of Forest City Enterprises, which is converting the long-vacant building into luxury apartments.The building's 115-foot-tall ornamental spire is also illuminated again. Its white light rings flash upward when temperatures rise, downward when they fall. A star-shaped light at the spire's top glows green when weather is fair, orange-red when it's inclement.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The Columbia Current, Eminent Domain: Properties, Principles, and Strange Bedfellows

Like many members of the Columbia community, I would like to see the University expand into Manhattanville and begin construction on many of the promising projects it has outlined. Such an expansion would undoubtedly benefit the University, enhancing its research capabilities and adding much-needed space for students and faculty. The expansion will also benefit the local community with expanded job opportunities and all the economic opportunities that follow an institution like Columbia. However, the prospect of using the state's eminent domain power is a hard pill to swallow. And the implications of such a decision might outweigh any benefits derived from expansion.

The Day, Eminent Domain Proposed To Grab Pfizer N.Y. Plant
There's one word that's on everyone's lips after hearing how NY State Assemblyman Vito Lopez is proposing to use eminent domain to force the sale of the Pfizer plant in Williamsburg — irony.

Pfizer is the same company that inspired economic-development plans in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London after the pharmaceutical giant started building its Global Research & Development headquarters there nearly a decade ago.

“Ah, irony,” says Scott Bullock, senior attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, the group that defended Fort Trumbull resident Susette Kelo as the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. City of New London — the property-rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The city won the case three years ago.

“It shows that once the power goes to government to take properties on behalf of private parties, the tables can easily be turned on you ... if you're out of favor with the powers that be,” Bullock said.

Ground Report, They Call It Developing Downtown On Long Island
A Long Island Libertarian reminds people that there's a party in Riverhead that does not promote the use of eminent domain to coerce property owners in Riverhead to sell to a developer.

Posted by lumi at 4:05 AM

February 12, 2008


Weeks beginning February 11, 2008 and February 18, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Excavation, lagging, install walers and struts at Support of Excavation (SOE) piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120.
  • Excavate and pour foundations for temporary access ramp to yard level in block 1120.
  • Installation of structure for access ramp.
  • Excavate and pour south foundation for cable bridge.
  • Prep and begin demo of southern portion of Carlton Av 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 will begin at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) within this two week period.
  • Abatement is underway at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Abatement is underway at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Back fill, clean up and fencing is underway at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54) and will continue within this two week period.
  • Demolition is underway at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22) and will continue 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. Night time work began on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and will continue north along Flatbush in the next two weeks.
  • 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.

*Thanks to YouTube user "pacificisland" for the video of last night's construction activity. With utility work limited by DOT to the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and other demolition work taking place during daylight hours, when exactly are residents within and adjacent to the Atlantic Yards footprint supposed to sleep?

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

The new Community Advisory Committee has a seat for the CBA, but the ESDC won't say why

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has begun to recruit a reconstituted and expanded Atlantic Yards Community Advisory Committee (CAC), to meet quarterly and provide comment on the project, and is asking local elected officials for nominations.

Only the chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Executive Committee gets an automatic seat, but the ESDC hasn't explained why.
Why does the CBA get a seat while other organizations, such as the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), not get one? CBN produced an extensive critique of the environmental impact statement and has open meetings, unlike the CBA. Then again, CBN is a plaintiff in the pending lawsuit over the environmental review.

When I spoke with Taylor on Monday, February 4, he said he'd get back to me with a statement. Three days later, he said I should contact the ESDC press office, which I did, twice, with no response so far.


NoLandGrab: This illustrates a very serious problem with Atlantic Yards's lack-of-process — by circumventing local land-use review procedures, the sponsoring state agency, developer and political supporters are making things up as they go along and then pretending that they're jumping through hoops in the interest of the public. It would be funny, if it weren't so serious.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Atlantic Yards Camera Crop

AYCamClub01.jpg Another crop of photos from the Atlantic Yards Camera Club has been posted in the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr). The AY Camera Club met this weekend to protest the recent harassment of a videographer on public property in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Photographer Tracy Collins captured a sign of spring and a reminder of the persistence of nature, a sprouting hay bale in the Brooklyn Bear's Garden.

Even though the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards is littered with security cameras, photographers are commonly questioned, even harassed by Ratner rent-a-cops (and Ratner real cops), an irony that doesn't escape photographer Adrian Kinloch.

In case you're wondering, it is NOT illegal to photograph MTA property. Anyway, Ratner has been very busy preparing to move the railyards to accommodate the construction of a new arena for the NJ Nets.

From the words of photographer Jonathan Barkey (link):

Sunday, February 10, 2008, Brooklyn NY. Two dozen photographers, bloggers, videographers and supporters mobilize at the site of Forest City Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards mega-development -- to defend their rights to engage in lawful activity on public property without harassment by law enforcement or private security.

Coverage in the Blogosphere:
Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Shutterbugs Meet Up
The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Photo Club Meets, Photographers Takes Photos
Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards Camera Club shows up in force

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

The Ward Bakery demolition will finally begin soon

Atlantic Yards Report

After weeks of pre-demolition asbestos abatement at the Ward Bakery on Pacific Street, and weeks of "mobilization for demolition," the Atlantic Yards Construction Update issued yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation puts it plainly:

Demolition will begin at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) within this two week period.

The process is expected to take several months. It wasn't inevitable, since Forest City Enterprises has a history of historic preservation--just not in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Say What--Atlantic Yards Edition

The Gowanus Lounge

TC-SayWhat.jpg It's hard enough to make your way around Brooklyn, never mind feeling your way through local streets when signs have been somehow somewhat altered. GoLo's "Say What?" series features signs that are bent, rotated, plastered, run down, knocked down, etc.

Today's installment comes from Atlantic Yards through the lens of photographer Tracy Collins.

This is a temporary sign announcing the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is now shut down for Atlantic Yards-related reasons. It comes from Flatbush Ave. near Sterling Place. And, yes, the bridge is closed.


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

From Forest City Ratner, CBA grade inflation

Atlantic Yards Report

Developer Forest City Ratner, never shy to tout the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), has been getting more bold, even as city officials back away from the concept.

Quotes from Ratner execs in legal docs and a CBA critic illustrate that the developer thinks increasingly highly of its Atlantic Yards CBA, though it is widely recognized as one of the best examples of what NOT to do if you want your CBA to be taken seriously (like, you're not supposed to be paying off financially supporting signatories).


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

The State of American Architecture

Taking the measure of American architecture depends on where you look. Our week-long series features prominent critics taking the temperature of their hometowns. First up: New York

Business Week
By Clifford A. Pearson

[New Yorker architechture critic Paul Goldberger] also talks about "the democratization of architecture," a process that in recent years has brought Modernism to the masses, or at least, to a larger audience. "What you can get at Ikea and Crate & Barrell is a lot better than what most people used to buy for their homes. At the same time, major architects are finally getting to design large commercial developments in New York," he says, mentioning Norman Foster's Hearst Tower, Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards complex, and Renzo Piano's New York Times Building. "The results are mixed. When things move into the mainstream, they inevitably get compromised. I think, though, where the center of the dial has moved is more important than where the cutting edge is."


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

February 11, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Ratner Puts $58,000 Into New York Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee "Housekeeping" Fund

First Contribution By Developer In At Least Nine Years

Campaign Finance Loophole Allows for Huge Contribution After Atlantic Yards Approval, Before Project's Financing Agreements

New York, NY— Forest City Ratner gave $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee’s Housekeeping account on January 7, 2008. The real estate development firm had not made any New York State political contributions for at least nine years, which is as far back as the state's campaign finance database goes. The contribution was made through a New York State election financing loophole known as a "housekeeping" account. It is a loophole condemned by Common Cause.

Norman Oder first reported about it today on his Atlantic Yards Report, noting that it was the third-largest contribution received by the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC) since at least July, and represents more than ten percent of the DACC’s take for it’s Housekeeping account.

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner seems to have decided to change strategy after having "sharply cut back" on campaign contributions--according to a 2004 article in Newsday--now moving beyond lobbying expenses, and back into direct New York State political contributions.

The donation goes to the DACC, which hardly needs such "generous" help, considering that the Democrats have a strong grip on the Assembly's majority. But the $58,000 does go to the body controlled by Sheldon Silver who approved Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan in December 2006, and who will have a lot of say over the developer’s housing, bonding and other financing needs over the coming months. Forest City Ratner’s key Atlantic Yards financing has not been finalized, including "affordable" housing subsidies, the arena bond, and the amount of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).

Oder reports that Common Cause issued an August 2006 report on New York State’s campaign finance "Housekeeping" loophole. The Common Cause report stated:
The size of these contributions, their origin and the fact that current or hopeful elected officials are involved in soliciting them raise serious concerns about the potential for corruption or its appearance.

The second major problem is that while the theory behind our state’s soft money loophole is that these funds will be used only for party building purposes and not for candidate elections, this legal barrier does not hold up in practice.

Common Cause concluded:
The potential it creates for corruption or its appearance means that New York State leaders must ban soft money.

Oder also reports that Ratner kin in Forest City Enterprises’ hometown of Cleveland and in Washington, DC have contributed to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s 2010 campaign fund.

Just last week Mayor Bloomberg decried the infusion of real estate industry contributions into the 2009 Mayoral campaign. According to the NY Times, the Mayor was saying it appears they [the real estate industry] are trying to buy influence in the 2009 mayoral campaign. He called it a "disgrace" that the three presumed "frontrunners" are receiving equal amounts from the industry.

Posted by eric at 5:44 PM

New York Times Credulity Friday Edition

Here are a couple we missed from last Friday's New York Times, noteworthy because a) they appeared on the same page of the Sports section, and b) both stories swallow the teams' spin hook, line and sinker.

Sports Business: You Can’t Buy the Naming Rights, but Call It the Billion-Dollar Ballpark
by Richard Sandomir

It was Lonn Trost, the Yankees’ chief operating officer, who noted the new costs Thursday during a news-media tour of the construction site. They will be borne by the team, not the city and the state, which are footing the bill for new parks, new garages and a new Metro-North station, and financed by borrowing beyond the $866 million in tax-exempt bonds and $64 million in taxable bonds that are financing the stadium’s construction.

NoLandGrab: Sandomir fails to mention that estimates by Good Jobs New York and stadium-subsidy expert Neil deMause put the cost to the taxpayers of the new Yankee Stadium at between $663 million and $799 million.

The article is also noteworthy for these tidbits:

Another $60 million is to pay for security improvements that were recommended by the New York Police Department and $50 million was associated with starting construction several months late in August 2006 because of lawsuits.

NLG: OK, Newark close streets for security reasons and the NYPD recommends $60 million worth of security upgrades to Yankee Stadium, but the Atlantic Yards security plan is iron-clad without even the need for bollards? And there goes another pesky community lawsuit stickin' it to the little guy — in this case, over something as trivial as the seizing of public parkland for George Steinbrenner's private benefit.

How is that Community Benefits Agreement coming, anyway?

Face-Lift at the Garden Taps Corporate Money
by David S. Joachim

The Devils have moved into their new arena in Newark, and the Mets, the Yankees, the Giants, the Jets and the Nets are building or designing new homes — all of them with more luxury seating and more space for advertising.

But the Knicks and the Rangers are stuck in limbo as they await approval of a plan to move one block west, across Eighth Avenue, to a newly constructed Madison Square Garden where the James A. Farley Post Office stands.

Until the wrecking ball arrives, Cablevision, which owns the Garden and both teams, is busy remodeling some sections of its dowdy yellowing arena in an effort to squeeze out a few (million) extra dollars from its corporate clients.

NoLandGrab: Poor James Dolan! How can he be expected to make a buck in the "dowdy yellowing" World's Most-Famous Arena, even with his paltry $11.5 million annual property-tax exemption?

So far as we can tell, Madison Square Garden suffers from a mediocre hockey team and a downright dysfunctional basketball squad, not physical obsolescence. With $8 beers, $4 waters and a family of four easily shelling out $500 for a Knicks' or Rangers' game, MSG's revenue stream appears to be neither "dowdy" nor "yellowing."

Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

Spitzer Quickly Reduces Revenue Projections, Citing the Gloomy Economy

The New York Times
by Danny Hakim

No, this story on further cuts in the New York State budget, brought on by worsening economic projections, doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, and that's the point. While the State and City are cutting spending on trifling things like education, healthcare and the environment, Bruce Ratner has so far escaped the knife.

Only three weeks after presenting its budget, Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration is lowering projections for tax revenue by $384 million, because of increasingly ominous reports of distress on Wall Street and in the nation’s economy.

To keep the budget in balance, the governor is proposing several new spending cuts, including further paring back increases in Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, and dipping into the state’s environmental protection fund more than had been expected.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Forest City in Politics: Campaign Contributions

Atlantic Yards Report examines two ways Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises has exerted political influence exercized its free-speech rights.


From Cleveland, Forest City shows Spitzer some love

While Bruce Ratner hasn't made any political contributions lately (though Forest City Ratner has done so), the state campaign finance database also shows that five executives from parent Forest City Enterprises have gotten in on the act. Charles Ratner, Ronald Ratner, Brian Ratner, Deborah Ratner Salzberg, and James Ratner on 10/2/07 each gave $1000 to the 2010 campaign of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has readily supported Atlantic Yards.

Read more about how New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson received some "love" and which law firm representing the Empire State Development Corporation in an Atlantic Yards lawsuit has gotten in on the action.


Scorning no-donation policy, FCR gives $58K to Assembly Campaign Committee (which doesn't need it)

Forest City Ratner, playing hardball in court and public relations, has now apparently reversed a pledge to refrain from campaign contributions, with a major unrestricted "soft money" donation last month: $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

The donation--allowed via a campaign finance law loophole Common Cause has decried--may be payback to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and an effort to ensure sympathetic legislators as Atlantic Yards proceeds, given that the Democrats are not about to lose their grip on the Assembly.

FCR consistently spends a lot of money on lobbying, but CEO Bruce Ratner years ago "sharply cut back" on campaign contributions, as a 2004 article from Newsday reported, quoting Ratner's friend Henry Stern: “He decided this was getting him into trouble, because every time he won a project, people would say it was because he gave money."

Then again, as I reported, brother Michael Ratner and sister-in-law Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents, have readily supported the Brooklyn Democratic machine, apparently doing Bruce Ratner's bidding.

The article goes on to explain the purpose of this soft-money slush fund and unearths a contribution to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum from 2001.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

Atlantic Yards Camera Club


FG-StormFencing.jpg Yesterday, despite the frigid temperature, high winds and a sudden flurry, nearly two dozen members of the Atlantic Yards Camera Club convened at the Bears Garden and embarked upon a photo tour, under the watchful eye of Ratner security cameras and an MTA cruiser that kept circling the blocks around the railyard.

JB-McInnis.jpg Videographer Katherin McInnis shared details of her story of how a visit with friends who live on Hanson Place led to getting harassed by an MTA cop who suggested that her time would be better spent in the mall instead of taking footage of the railyards.

AK-MTACruiser.jpg The photographers recounted their own personal stories about being turned away by Ratner rent-a-cops, site formen, and MTA employees and then spread like the plague to take some pictures.

A few of the photographers have already uploaded their photos to the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, set up by Tracy Collins, who has been documenting life and the many changes in and around the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.


Brit in Brooklyn

Flatbush Gardener

Dope on the Slope

AY Photo PoolFRP-NoStanding.jpg

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Forest City in the News

Fresno Bee, Keeping the city on hold
Downtown Fresno property owners have a hard time selling while they wait for a developer's plans.

By Jeff St. John

Last year, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises cut a deal with Fresno, CA to be that city's sole developer of the downtown redevelopment zone. As the city waits for the developer's next steps, property owners remain in limbo.

The case of Forest City in Fresno is a prime example of how the spectre of eminent domain stifles private enterprise and organic redevelopment in a neighborhood that is seeking change.

Randy Miller and Robert Toman have a dream -- a downtown Fresno brewpub within baseball-throwing distance of Chukchansi Park.

And Miller's wife, Nancy, has the perfect location -- a former furniture store at 762 Broadway that has been in Nancy's family since her grandparents bought it in the 1920s.

But Broadway Ale Works -- the business the Millers and Tomans hoped to open in the 3,500-square-foot brick building with the well-known Francisco Vargas "Welcome to Fresno" mural painted on the outside wall -- is now on hold.

That's because the building lies within the six-block area the Fresno Redevelopment Agency intends to buy and lease to Forest City Enterprises, a massive Cleveland-based development company. The project is among 40 properties in the area that face an uncertain future.

Forest City has a $232 million plan to build 700 new homes, as well as stores and commercial buildings, in that six-block zone -- the first phase of the long-range "South Stadium" redevelopment project that eventually would transform 85 acres of Fresno south of the Chukchansi Park baseball stadium.

"Would that be good for downtown? Certainly," Randy Miller said. "Would it be good for us? Absolutely. But taking our building away? That's not so happy."

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Prices of Stadium Name Sponsorship Soar

Associated Press, via amNY
By Janet Frankston Lorin

All sports teams want bragging rights, but with the cost of a new stadium now more than $1 billion, it's naming rights they're after.

As several of the most storied franchises in sports replace their stadiums, sports marketing experts expect corporations to pay record amounts for the right to name them.
If the [new Giants/Jets] stadium brings in at least $25 million to $30 million annually as predicted, and with the four additional sponsorships, the teams could get more than double or even triple what the highest deal has brought in so far.

That belongs to the New York Mets, which will receive $20 million annually from Citigroup to name its new baseball stadium, or about $400 million over a 20-year contract. The New Jersey Nets got a similar deal from Barclays Bank PLC for their proposed new arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Barclays wanted to expand its brand to the U.S., said Nets CEO and President Brett Yormark. The arena, part of a $4 billion project, has also earned cachet with star architect Frank Gehry and Brooklyn's reputation as an up-and-coming borough, he said.

"It's not about the team," he said. "It's about the building. This will be landmark building, a destination area."


NoLandGrab: When hundreds of millions of public dollars are going towards building these new sports venues, why do all of the corporate naming-rights proceeds go to the teams?

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

February 10, 2008

Atlantic Yards Camera Club Meets [today!] @3pm


not another f*cking blog!

the first (monthly? annual?) meeting of the Atlantic Yards Camera Club takes place tomorrow, Feb 10, 3pm, at the Brooklyn Bears Community Garden, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, entrance on Pacific. If there's *heavy* rain or snow, the meeting place will be Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean, corner of Sixth Avenue.

this event is in response to a recent incident involving artist Katherin McInnis, where she was harassed by MTA police for videotaping the Vanderbilt Yard.

i personally have never been approached by police, MTA or otherwise, while out shooting around the Atlantic Yards footprint, but have been told numerous times by rent-a-cops and demolition company foremen that i wasn't allowed to photograph from a public sidewalk, despite that i'm well within my rights to do so.

so, come out and shoot!

Additional coverage:
mcbrooklyn: Atlantic Yards Photoshoot: Right to Bear Cameras
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Sunday: Atlantic Yards "Camera Club" Mobilization
metrodenuevayork: Protesta en contra de acoso policial a fotógrafa
telescreen.org: Sun Rises In East, Pope Still Catholic, Photography STILL Not A Crime
Photography is not a crime: New York City photographers plan protest Sunday against ongoing harassment
Who Walk In Brooklyn Calling All Bears! Calling All Bears!

Posted by amy at 12:10 PM

Connecting the dots between a politician and AY


Atlantic Yards Report

A little digging turns up the identity of the Brooklyn machine politician who wanted something from Forest City Ratner in exchange for his support: former State Sen. Carl Andrews.

Nicole Brydson of the New York Observer wrote Thursday about working in "central Brooklyn politics, commuting south every morning from my apartment in Greenpoint to a state senator's office on Flatbush Avenue near Lincoln Place. The district "includes Flatbush, Park Slope, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights."

While Brydson doesn't mention Andrews by name, he held the seat in the 20th District when the Atlantic Yards plan was announced. (Others have confirmed that she worked for Andrews.) She writes:
Then the first inklings of Bruce Ratner's stadium came up. His representative paid a visit to my office. “What are you going to do for my support?” my boss asked. I sat there, my stomach in knots. I quit soon after.
Under Spitzer, everything changes?

Andrews, despite having been flayed by the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett for his ties to disgraced and convicted Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Clarence Norman, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign fees and leading the borough in patronage court appointments in the 1990s, has landed on his feet--or, rather, in a comfortable chair.

He's now "Director of NYC Intergovernmental Office" for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose reformist tendencies could go only so far.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

Would there be no way to rebuild Carlton Avenue Bridge? FCR says no

Atlantic Yards Report

One issue in the legal jousting over the appeal in the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review is whether the public would be left without a new Carlton Avenue Bridge should the project be stalled.

According to Forest City Ratner, the claim is overblown, though the petitioners' attorney disputes whether completion would be timely.

From a 1/18/08 affirmation by Jeffrey Baker, attorney for the petitioners:
The irreparable nature of the injury caused by the closing of the bridge is not only due to the closing itself, but the planned demolition. If, as expected, Appellants are successful on the appeal, they could be faced with a bridge that has already been demolished without the financial means for its replacement or an extended period of time before it is replaced. That will result in extended significant unmitigated traffic impacts and increase of fire department response times into the indefinite future.
(Emphasis added)


Posted by amy at 11:21 AM

Feds subpoena Yonkers City Council members



Five City Council members have received federal subpoenas demanding records from the $630 million Ridge Hill Development.

link to video
NoLandGrab: Never one to miss a party with hats, Ratner attends the Ridge Hill groundbreaking ceremony.

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

Better Know a Developer: Extell Development Company


Railyards Blog

Extell, formerly Intell Management and Investment Co., has been an NYC real estate player since 1994, although their profile has heightened considerably in the last few years, especially since their name change in 2005. They are steered by CEO Gary Barnett, a former diamond merchant.

The company notably attempted to play the spoiler during the bid process for Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn, submitting a proposal that — unlike competitor Forest City Ratner’s controversial, ultimately adopted plan — would not have required the usage of eminent domain, or have included a stadium for the NBA’s Nets. The Real Deal offers a pretty good rundown on the company here.


Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

February 9, 2008

‘Oh, No He Didn’t’ Says DDDB

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis has really gotten under the skin of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s blogger. In yesterday’s blog, DDDB responds to Louis’ recent Daily News column, headlined “Foes Stickin’ It to the Lil’ Guys.”

The DDDB blogger writes:

“Yup, Errol’s got it right: it’s the BIG COMMUNITY special interest lobby that is ‘stickin’ it to the lil’ guys,’ not the multi-billion dollar, publicly traded Forest City Enterprises (FCEA), and their multiples lobbying, pr and legal firms.”


Posted by amy at 12:33 PM

Borough of Writers: Q&A: Jennifer Egan


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brad Lockwood

“Reading Lucy” — your contribution to the compilation “Brooklyn Was Mine” — is about a woman working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, a story told through her letters to her husband. Talk about how that story came to you.
The truth is, I wrote that to support Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn [www.developdontdestroy.org] which profits from all of the book sales. I don’t know if I have to go into what that is.

Basically to spare Atlantic Yards and Boerum Hill from Bruce Ratner.
Yes, the group opposing the Ratner development. I don’t really like writing personal essays; it’s an area that I’m very weak in. I don’t tend to write about myself — My books have very little overlap with my life. So when I was asked to write some kind of personal essay about Brooklyn I immediately said, ‘Do I really have to do that?’ But I did really want to support this group and I’ve been pretty active in supporting them.

Actually the “Reading Lucy” research was already done for a novel I’m about to start working on, hopefully a year from now — I’m working on something else right now. I was thrilled by that research, I loved it and got very caught up in it. Although it was very interesting in terms of preparing me to make up characters that worked at the Navy Yard, it was nice to have occasion to talk about Lucy in a nonfiction format. I guess I used the necessity of writing this essay as an excuse to write about someone I wouldn’t have written about otherwise. Unexpectedly, her writing voice was so alive and so exciting, and I felt so swept-up in her letters, transported by them.


Posted by amy at 10:21 AM

Atlantic Yards Dung Deal

brooklynvsbush brings you a Valentine's Day love song for Bruce Ratner. Or maybe something the opposite of that.

They say Atlantic Yards is a deal that is done...
It's to be made of glass and steel...
But it's really built from dung.


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

Knowing the landscape: how Miralles outpaced Gehry


Atlantic Yards Report looks at the differences between Gehry and another 'wavy' builder, Enrique Miralles, as seen by critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen in the Feb. 13 issue of The New Republic...

Goldhagen suggests the issue is not so much sculpture but landscape:
When these projects take off into curves, it is because Miralles and company decided that curves are what a particular architectural challenge evoked. There is no aggressive monumentality here, no cookie-cutter high-end product dumped wherever the money exists to pay for it. There is, instead, sensitivity and study. Miralles and his colleagues receptively investigated the landscape and the site. They considered when and how the people who were to use the structure or the landscape might live in, move through, and prospect space; how they might touch, and imagine touching, surfaces. Sure, they made use of computers to actualize their ideas. But their architecture neither starts nor stops with skin, or with what digital technology offers. Steeped in architecture's history, Miralles used architectural precedents when they offered reasonable solutions to problems that, in the words of Viennese modernist Adolf Loos, had already been solved. Steeped in art, nature, and local traditions, Miralles playfully engaged architecture's metaphorical possibilities.


Posted by amy at 10:04 AM

February 8, 2008

Mayor Accuses Realty Firms of Seeking Undue Influence

The New York Times
by Ray Rivera

Yes, we thought this article had to be from The Onion, but no, it really did appear in today's Times.

In a rare public scolding of an industry that is friendly with his administration, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg criticized real estate companies on Thursday, saying it appears they are trying to buy influence in the 2009 mayoral campaign.

The city’s most prominent real estate firms have been flooding likely candidates with donations in recent months, and many of the companies have given identical or nearly identical amounts to three of those planning to run for mayor: the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn; Representative Anthony D. Weiner; and the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr.

“I happen to think it’s a disgrace,” the mayor said about the firms’ giving equally to each of those three.


NoLandGrab: Here's the scary part — if the real estate industry has run roughshod over New York City during the administration of a billionaire mayor who spent $150 million of his own money on his two campaigns, what'll life be like under a mayor who actually owes a debt to the likes of Rudin, Ross and Ratner?

Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

It’s true! Ratner a big liar!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubenstein

As first reported in Atlantic Yards Report:

It’s official, direct from Forest City Ratner Companies: the Atlantic Yards developer is a liar.

Forest City Ratner now admits that its claim of a tax revenue windfall — a justification for the government’s support of the $4 billion project — was actually concocted by Ratner’s paid consultant, and was not based on an analysis by state officials as the developer repeatedly claimed.

“The $4.4 billion figure is in the report of a consultant who had been retained by [Forest City Ratner Companies] and does not appear in the state’s [Final Environmental Review Statement,]” said Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun in a legal document that surfaced this week.

Braun himself previously stated in court that the $4.4 billion number came from the state.


Brooklyn to Bruce: We dare you to tell the truth about something, anything — we double-dare you!

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Atlantic Yards Camera Club: Everyone is Invited

Brit in Brooklyn

It was nice of Adrian Kinloch to post details of this Sunday's gathering of the "Atlantic Yards Camera Club" so that Ratner and the MTA can make preparations to handle the extra shutterbuggers.

A group of Atlantic Yards photographers are getting together to take pictures in the footprint on Sunday. This in response to people getting harassed by official staff when taking pictures there. They hope to use the opportunity to help people both sides of the fence, and lens, to be more aware of photographers rights. The Atlantic Yards footprint offers a surprising range of subjects, including beautiful but quickly disappearing homes and industrial architecture.


Photographers, videographers, bloggers, and supporters. News media are welcome.

A "photographers' rights free expression mobilization" responding to the harassment of video artist/teacher Katherin McInnis by an MTA police officer last Sunday, February 3rd on public property within the Atlantic Yards footprint. We will discuss photographers' rights and the Atlantic Yards situation, then walk and photograph within the footprint. Depending on circumstances, we may have the opportunity to engage in a respectful information exchange with MTA police and/or private security personnel. End point: Freddy's Bar and Backroom, 485 Dean Street, corner of Sixth Avenue.

Meet at the Brooklyn Bears Community Garden, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, entrance on Pacific. If there's heavy rain or snow, we'll change the meeting place to Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean, corner of Sixth Avenue.

Sunday, February 10th @ 3pm

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Brooklyn, The Borough: A Personal Wire

The Real Estate Observer
By Nicole Brydson

A reminisence of the author's first job out of college contains this sleazy account of backroom-politics Brooklyn-style:

Then the first inklings of Bruce Ratner's stadium came up. His representative paid a visit to my office. “What are you going to do for my support?” my boss asked. I sat there, my stomach in knots. I quit soon after.


NoLandGrab: Based on the clues in the article, can you identify this politician?

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

James, Yassky: Ax yards funds

The Brooklyn Paper

James, Yassky: Ax Yards funds, By Dana Rubinstein

Two city councilmembers are not giving up on their bid to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state subsidies from the Atlantic Yards mega-development, despite an initial rejection by the council.

Councilmembers David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) asked the council’s Finance Committee to take up the matter of those Atlantic Yards subsidies while considering a resolution calling for the state to end property-tax exemptions for Madison Square Garden.

“If we are going to say this about Madison Square Garden, we should say it about Atlantic Yards, too,” said Yassky, who said the measure would be re-introduced, this time as a freestanding resolution, not an amendment.

According to the councilmembers’ calculations, the proposed arena for the Nets will get close to $700 million in subsidies from the city and state.

Editorial: Pols must hit Ratner in wallet

After hearing two major lawsuits — one challenging the state’s unjustifiably lax environmental review, the other decrying the state’s use of its condemnation power to hand privately owned property over to the profit-making Forest City Ratner — judges have turned a blind eye to egregious misuses of state power surrounding the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

With judges punting, the most potent challenge to Ratner’s taxpayer-funded payday rests in the legislatures, which have the power to turn off the torrent of taxpayer dollars.

For Ratner, Atlantic Yards has always been about the money — not jobs or housing, not urban design or athletic excellence, but the massive sums expected to flow from the public trough.


As we’ve pointed out many times, Ratner’s public revenue estimates are a fantasy. In fact, the state admitted as much last year, when it downgraded the revenue projection to just $944 million over the same 30 years — a mere $15 million per year, a drop in the bucket for a state and city whose annual budgets are in the tens of billions.

But you don’t have to believe us or the state. For the first time ever, Ratner has finally admitted that he was lying all along.

As the Atlantic Yards Report first reported this week, buried in a footnote in a recent legal filing is this admission from a Ratner lawyer:

“[M]y statement in my prior affirmation that the ‘environmental impact statement for the project estimates that the project will create ... $4.4 billion in net tax revenues for the city and the state over 30 years’ is mistaken, because ‘[t]here is simply no projection at all regarding the net tax revenues contained in the EIS.’”

Posted by steve at 5:44 AM

Ratner Foes eye Supreme Court

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman and Dana Rubinstein

Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project vowed to take their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court ruled unanimously in favor of the developer on Feb. 1. Experts say, however, that this latest defeat is most likely the end of the road for the lawsuit.


Matthew Brinckerhoff, who represented the plaintiffs, said he was “certainly disappointed” by the ruling.

“We believe the decision is wrong,” he added, vowing to will bring the case to the Supreme Court “to re-examine the use of eminent domain.”

Brinckerhoff added that he would re-file the case in state court because the federal courts have consistently declined to take up the substantive issue in the case, preferring to rule on jurisdictional grounds.


Posted by steve at 5:40 AM

At overstuffed State of the Borough address, AY gets mention but not applause

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday evening, Norman Oder sat through Marty's 70-minute address for a tiny mention of the Borough President's pet project, but that didn't stop "The Mad Overkiller" from filing a full state-of-the-State-of-the-Borough report:

The State of the Borough Address delivered last night by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was another marathon extravaganza, invoking a rich mix of issues and places and people contributing to "The Brooklyn Story," and lasting some 70 minutes.

Though Markowitz mentioned Atlantic Yards twice, the project generated not a smidgen of applause from the 2000-plus attendees at the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook.

Not the Barclays Center arena. Not the affordable housing. (In fact, had some Atlantic Yards opponents been in the audience, the BP would've been heckled for falsely claiming that half the housing would be affordable.)

Do Brooklynites--most of them Markowitz fans, given the ovation he got--not care much about the project he's so fervently promoted?

It's hard to be certain. The crowd was certainly worn out by the time Atlantic Yards was mentioned, well into a speech that clocked at nearly 70 minutes, itself following an hour-long reception and a 75-minute series of introductory announcements and performances. And Markowitz didn't offer any particular verbal flourishes to hasten applause.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Martini bar, other amenities help drive cost of Yanks' new home to $1.3B

Associated Press, via ESPN

YankeesStadiumConst-AP.jpg Atlantic Yards critics are not the only groups in town who are being blamed for cost overruns due to lawsuits.

From an article about Yankee Stadium amenities and cost overruns:

[Yankees COO Lon] Trost said the cost overruns included $150 million in enhancements such as the giant video screen, $138 million in food and beverage costs not included in the original estimate and $50 million from delays due to a lawsuit by community groups that sought to halt construction of the stadium.

NoLandGrab: Who would have imagined that Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner and Nets' owner Bruce Ratner didn't factor in delays due to lawsuits, when large chunks of City property was being taken away from the community?

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Ex-MTA Chief Sees Big Obstacles to West Side Development

NY Sun
By Peter Kiefer

Maybe developer Bruce Ratner doth protest too much.

If Ratner's complaint in court documents that the Atlantic Yards lawsuits are threatening the financial viability of the project was meant to simply be a legal strategy, then he can't be happy that reporters have been repeating this claim as evidence that the market is slowing:

New York's real estate market is showing signs of a downturn. Governor Spitzer recently scrapped plans for proposed expansion of the Javits Center, and court filings have questioned the financial viability of developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

This excerpt was from an article previewing an ex-MTA chairman's opinions and testimony before the NY City Council next week.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

LA & Cal Tenants Fight to Save Rent Control

City Watch [Los Angeles, CA]
By Joe Catron

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your controversial land-grabbing Atlantic Yards plan is officially the national poster project for abusing eminent domain for private projects:

Emboldened by a national outcry against the use of eminent domain to seize property for private developments like Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, California landlords have devised an ingenious attack on the state's local rent-control laws: Disguising a statewide referendum to ban them as a measure to reform eminent domain. After the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Kelo v. City of New London ruling in 2005, which allowed eminent-domain takings for private use, California landlords promoted Proposition 90, a deceptive proposal to weaken all public regulation of private property, including rent controls. It lost by a five-point margin in November 2006.


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

UPDATE: Ratnerville in Yonkers

There's a lot going on this week with Bruce Ratner's controversial, highly unusual, business-as-usual Ridge Hill plan in Yonkers.

The Journal News, Yonkers Council members served with federal subpoenas
The Feds just issued fresh subpoenas in the probe of the Yonkers City Council's actions in approving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill mixed-use lifestyle center (aka, mall with housing).

Three Yonkers City Council members say they have received subpoenas demanding records from the Ridge Hill development project and ordering them to testify before a federal grand jury in White Plains.
The subpoenas are believed to be the second round issued by investigators looking into the $630 million Ridge Hill development on the city’s East Side. Federal investigators early last year issued subpoenas seeking documents including agendas, meeting tapes and voting records dating back to the beginning of 2004.

At the time, a source familiar with the investigation said the probe dealt with the council’s handling of Ridge Hill.

Regular readers may recall that, earlier this week, a NY State appeals court upheld a decision that the Yonkers City Council acted illegally when it circumvented its own procedures and initially approved Ratner's Ridge Hill megaproject in 2006.

The Journal News, Court slaps Yonkers Council effort to bypass County opposition to Ridge Hill
Yonkers Tribune, Appeals Court Rules for Citizens' Coalition Finding Yonkers City Council Had Broken the Law

It has also surfaced that Forest City Ratner received $620,547.31 in the way of tax credits from the State of NY, for the creation of THREE(!) full-time jobs.

[Source: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, FC Yonkers]

NoLandGrab: It's very hard to imagine that a $600,000+ tax credit for three jobs is in keeping with the purpose of NY State's Empire Zone program.

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

February 7, 2008

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Duffield St. Underground, Lovely little movie about Duffield

Here's a new short video about 227 Duffield and the fight to save the historic house from the eminent domain wrecking ball.

Columbia Spectator, How City Government Failed the People
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens) airs some criticisms of the land-use review process that rubber-stamped the Columbia University expansion plan, over the objections of the community:

The failure of the process allowed such important issues as the misuse of eminent domain, the preservation of important historic buildings within the designated development area, and the construction of a level three biological laboratory in the midst of seismically active flood plain in Manhattan, to go unanswered.

The City Council and the administration have now set a dangerous precedent for the use of eminent domain. In the future, any powerful developer or politically connected institution, such as Columbia, can tell the city it has a better use for your property. As a result, no property owner in the city should feel safe.

Indeed, this policy is already being considered and employed in other parts of the city—in downtown Brooklyn (the Ratner/Nets Stadium project) and in Willets Point, Queens.

The News-Review, Apollo requests condemnation
In Riverhead, L.I., as per the contract with the town, the developer of the downtown master plan is actually permitted to ask the town to condemn properties within the redevelopment zone:

Apollo Real Estate Advisors sent a letter Monday formally requesting that Riverhead Town use eminent domain to acquire several downtown buildings and then re-sell the buildings to Apollo.

But the letter was sent back for Apollo to clarify certain issues, according to Supervisor Phil Cardinale.

Mr. Cardinale said the town needs clarification on exactly which properties Apollo wanted the town to condemn and whether Apollo would appear at a Town Board work session this month to show what their revised plans now look like.

Apollo was designated a master developer for downtown Riverhead in 2006, in an agreement that gives them the option of requesting condemnation.

They were one of several companies seeking that designation.

Posted by lumi at 10:23 PM

Subway ridership highest since 1951

NY Daily News
by Pete Donohue

Just like its questionable estimates of on-street parking availability, the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement appears to have grossly underestimated future growth in subway ridership. The EIS cited a "background growth rate" in ridership of just 0.5% annually.

Subway ridership continued its upward march last year, hitting its highest mark since 1951, transit officials said Wednesday.

More than 1.5 billion people rode the rails in 2007, up 4.2%, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said in a statement.

But the surge also highlights the need for additional money to expand the mass transit system to meet the growing demand in the coming decades and to alleviate existing overcrowding during peak hours, the NYC Transit chief added.


NoLandGrab: It appears that the real world just ate up eight years' worth of "projected" growth in subway ridership. Is there anything in the Transportation and Parking sections of the Atlantic Yards EIS that doesn't significantly bend the truth?

Additional coverage:


Metro, It’s 1951 all over again on subways

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Brooklyn Family Sitting on $100M in Property, Air Rights

The New York Sun
by Bradley Hope

Brooklyn residents know Pintchik's Hardware, which has been on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Bergen Street since 1940, for the quirky messages on its scrolling digital sign, its free cappuccinos, and the life-size fiberglass cow outside its entrance. What they don't know is the Pintchik family is sitting on as much as $100 million of developable property and air rights, according to some brokers' estimates.

Activity in the area has picked up dramatically as a result of the Atlantic Yards development just to the north. Mr. Pintchik said he received 15 calls last week about one site in front of what is planned to be the new home of the Nets basketball team, Barclay Stadium.

"In all my years over here, I've never received 15 calls in a week," Mr. Pintchik said, adding that he sold three buildings to Forest City Ratner, which is developing the Atlantic Yards project. Property records show that the company received about $4 million for the properties, at 185, 189, and 193 Flatbush Ave.

It sounds like the properties that the Pintchiks plan to develop themselves won't quite stand out like "Ms. Brooklyn:"

Preliminary plans have already been drawn up for the buildings, which he said would be designed in a "seaport cast-iron" and "great brick" style.

"They will not be modern buildings," he said. "They will be crisp, with great light and air, but fitting the neighborhood."


NoLandGrab: The Pintchik family has been a bedrock of the local economy — and philanthropy — for decades. But did they have to help pave the way for Atlantic Yards?

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Ratner's other battle

While Atlantic Yards still faces hurdles, the developer's Westchester project is under way

The Real Deal
by Mark Ferris

Real estate trade mag The Real Deal provides an update on Ratner's Ridge Hill Village, comparing it and contrasting it with Atlantic Yards.

Forest City Ratner is practically a household name in the city because of its controversial Atlantic Yards project, which is set to remake a massive swath of Brooklyn.

But a short distance north, in Westchester County, the developer has another contentious project—one that is several steps ahead of its Brooklyn development.

Four miles from the Bronx border, Ridge Hill Village will be the largest development project in Yonkers history—just as Atlantic Yards will be for Brooklyn.

The mixed-use complex is projected to cost $630 million. After five years of fierce opposition and legal challenges, the company held a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site in November, and construction is now in full swing.


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Foes stickin' it to the lil' guys

The Daily News

Check out columnist Errol Louis's latest attempt to stick it to Brooklynites concerned about taxpayer-financing of a historic $4-billion boondoggle to build the densest residential community in the nation for Bruce Ratner.

Today's screed lays blame for the possibility of losing 100 jobs at the feet of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and spokesperson Daniel Goldstein, who still contend that it is unconstitutional to forcibly take Goldstein's home for the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

There's a real possibility that up to 100 construction and demolition workers could be laid off in the near future, thanks to the delaying tactics being employed by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

It's enough to make the blood boil.
But, as Ratner's lawyers recently stated in court papers, if this blizzard of legal nonsense proceeds much longer, 100 employees at the site, mostly laborers, could be in trouble: "Most of these workers would be demobilized and sent home - in some cases, without pay," the motion says.

There's no danger of a full halt right now, but the fact Ratner has raised the issue is a warning that political, civic, labor and business leaders need to stand up for Brooklyn jobs by urging state courts to resolve the junk lawsuits of the anti-development brigade with all deliberate speed.


NoLandGrab: If Louis keeps foaming at the mouth, he's going to scare people and then we might have to take back everything nice we ever said about him.

Though the inevitable citywide construction slowdown is probably keeping him up at night, Louis should sleep better than Pacific and Dean St. residents, knowing that construction and demolition workers are working ROUND-THE-CLOCK (like, 24/7) in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

ACORN backing the good fight in Queens

Lookie who forgot to take a page from the Bruce Ratner community playbook by promising ACORN a fat contract to administer affordable housing.

From today's events listing on The Real Estate Observer:

12:45 p.m. Queens workers and ACORN members protest redevelopment project that will displace businesses in Willets Point; EDC headquarters, 110 William St.

NoLandGrab: It's nice to see ACORN backing the Willets Point businesses. Hope the grassroots community group doesn't turn its back on its constituents again by signing on to a deal that directs a minimal amount of benefit to its own base.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

City study casts major doubt on state's AY parking availability estimates


Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study (EIS) authored by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) claimed that there's plenty of on-street parking spaces available around the proposed Atlantic Yards site (for example: 47% occupancy on weekdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Now, the New York City Department of Transportation has taken a look at this issue. Guess what -- it looks like the EIS is full of baloney.

A new city analysis has cast significant doubt on the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) generous estimate, in the Atlantic Yards environmental review, of the availability of on-street parking in the vicinity of the project site.

It was hard for Brooklyn residents to believe the ESDC's claim (p. 12-20) that "[u]tilization of these on-street parking spaces was found to be approximately 65 percent in the 5-6 PM period, 47 percent in the 7-8 PM period, and 65 percent in the Saturday 1-2 PM period." ... The ESDC's response was essentially a variant on that famous Marx Brothers line: Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

Concerning the State case brought against the ESDC, the court is forced to accept as fact whatever is presented in the EIS.

The court is not permitted to second-guess the agency or substitute its judgment for the agency. That sets a pretty high bar, since it essentially accepts an agency's response to evidence presented.

But what if another agency offers seemingly contradictory evidence? That might raise questions about the "hard look."

However, Brooklynites know how to call things as they see 'em, as evidenced by some of the responses to the EIS:

Two years ago you could find a parking space fairly easily in Fort Greene. Now people are afraid to drive because they would lose their parking space. The EIS states there is ample parking when this is simply untrue.


The DEIS suggests low 47 percent to 65 percent current utilization rates for on-street parking in near proximity to the proposed arena. These numbers are unrealistic. There is so little on-street available parking that there is competition for double parking spaces between church-goers and police and fire department workers. Availability has been worsened by overflow parking from the Atlantic Center Mall.


The DEIS woefully underestimates the existing capacity for on-street parking and incorrectly assumes the project will have little or no impact.


Posted by steve at 5:36 AM

‘Confrontation Politics’ No Longer Viable Over Atlantic Yards Project

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

This writer has agreed with many, if not the majority, of the arguments put forth by the Ratner project’s opponents. But now, it seems to me, with Forest City Ratner demolishing buildings left and right and publishing weekly “progress reports,” the opponents should take a realistic look around them and shift gears from confrontation to negotiation — perhaps sitting down with Ratner, Borough President Marty Markowitz and others and working out a deal — for example, possibly to reduce the sizes of the buildings, to modify certain aspects of the plan (such as the proposal to de-map several streets) or to minimize the damage from eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: Um, that's what Brooklyn Speaks has been trying to do for over a year now, without anything to show for it, clearly no fault of their own (we blame Ratner).

In the anti-Atlantic Yards movement, however, they seem to have adopted the all-or-nothing tactic of “confrontation politics” — one of the worst legacies of the 1960s, in this writer’s opinion, and one of the main reasons the ‘60s student movement failed. They should realize that at this late date, the odds of totally stopping the project are less than 50 percent. If they don’t at least partially change tactics, their movement could unfortunately meet the same fate as the anti-World Trade Center movement in the 1960s, the anti-Verrazano Bridge movement around the same time, the anti-Cross Bronx Expressway movement of the 1950s and so on. And no amount of celebrities, artists and writers on an advisory board will be able to change that.


NoLandGrab: Win, lose or draw, developer Bruce Ratner made it very clear when he handpicked the groups to "negotiate" the Community Benefits Agreement that he wasn't going to negotiate with any others. Like the student movement of the '60s, if Atlantic Yards gets built, it is everyone's sincere hope that attitudes will change and that an all-powerful developer will not be able to collude with the City and State in this fashion to circumvent local zoning and local land-use review (oh, and uh, democracy) to pull a fast one on the community again.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

New York Can Do Better Than the “New Fourth Avenue”


Just how is Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue supposed to live up to its billing as "Brooklyn's answer to Park Avenue," when developers build crap like The Crest (pictured) and Atlantic Yards looms like a bad omen?


The fate of Atlantic Yards and congestion pricing, still fairly clouded by uncertainty, could either exacerbate the current traffic problem or lead to a more ped-friendly and transit-oriented allocation of street space. But for the immediate future, at least, we can expect developers (some less villainous than Bruce Ratner) to dictate events.


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Real Estate Round-Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

This week's Round-Up notes the strange claim by Forest City Ratner that Frank Gehry is a Brooklyn native.

Forest City Ratner’s attorney may be trying to help the company change the future of Brooklyn, but he is also changing the past, according to the AtlanticYardsReport blog. The blog reported that in the case challenging an environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project, pre-appeals papers prepared by Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun falsely claim project designer Frank Gehry to be a “Brooklyn native.” According to the blog, the line reads: “The project is being designed by Frank Gehry, a California-based Brooklyn native who is one of the preeminent American architects of our era.” By all other accounts, Gehry was born in Toronto, Canada, and now resides in Los Angeles, Calif.

The blog allows the mistake to be just that: an innocent mistake, which it probably is.


Posted by steve at 5:19 AM

February 6, 2008

MTA cop, not "Atlantic Yards cop"

Gothamist recycled Atlantic Yards Report's article on the MTA cop who attempted to stop a visiting videographer from shooting on Pacific St., telling her: "You know the project is probably going to go through."

Interestingly, Real Estate Observer, which took a holiday from accuracy, called the MTA cop a "a Forest City Ratner heavy," and went for the high score on snark:

Dare we say saving the public from an arthouse flick might be a form of civic activism on the part of the much-maligned developer.

NoLandGrab: Ah yes, you know we've gone too far when The Real Estate Observer feels sorry for poor Bruce Ratner — it doesn't matter much that the cop may have broken a few laws and forgot who he actually works for.

Posted by lumi at 8:53 PM

The Stench of '89

The last great New York recession was prolonged and deep. And it’s eerily familiar.

New York Magazine
by Michael Idov

There's the glass-half-full viewpoint:

In terms of construction, optimists say, the current building boom is no match in volume for the commercial-building craze of the mid-eighties, so a major contraction there is unlikely. Another key difference between now and 1989 is that developers and contractors have found an enthusiastic co-sponsor in the government. The city, the state, the MTA, and the Port Authority have tremendous capital budgets compared with the eighties, and they’re using them. From the two brand-new stadiums (and a possible basketball arena in Brooklyn) to subway-line extensions, the city is awash in major civic projects. Even Bruce Ratner, who’s using the atmosphere of economic uncertainty to try to expedite Atlantic Yards before the sky falls, is likely just being clever: His financiers at Goldman Sachs had a banner year and appear to be uniquely unaffected by the bad-debt debacle.

And the glass-half-empty take:

Finally, despite its developer-friendly intentions and healthy capital budgets, city government is proving an unreliable partner. Every big civic project with state or city money in it (save the new baseball stadiums, both well under way) recently took a budget cut. The funding for such much-heralded undertakings as the Second Avenue subway, Santiago Calatrava’s path terminal, and the 7-train extension is in question. Perhaps most surprising, after two years’ worth of adoring press, the dome-shaped Fulton transportation hub—touted as downtown’s answer to Grand Central—is out entirely. Until banks regain the confidence to begin lending again, commercial and civic construction in New York could grind to an almost immediate halt.

The pessimistic line on residential real estate is simple: We’re overbuilt and overpriced. By some estimates, tens of thousands of newly built condos could sit on the market. If the lack of Wall Street bonuses saps demand, we might see quite a few of these condos turned into rentals by 2009, which will, for the first time in ages, make renting a preferable alternative to owning (and speed up the price decline, in a self-propelling downward cycle). The consensus among top real-estate economists quoted in this magazine in September cites the worst-case scenario for New York residential housing as a 5 percent correction this year, followed by a nosedive of 18 percent, in reaction to the sure-to-be-anemic 2008 data, in 2009.


Posted by eric at 5:19 PM

Some Trustees Challenge Polytechnic-N.Y.U. Merger

The New York Times
by Karen W. Arenson

In interviews, alumni leaders said they were concerned that the Polytechnic name and identity would disappear if the merger goes through, and that the students it serves would not find a place at the bigger university.

John Beckman, an N.Y.U. spokesman, said there was no question that the merger “is going to change both of our institutions, and for the better, but in terms of maintaining their identity, their fear is misplaced.”

Despite such assurances, alumni are suspicious. They said they feared that space-starved N.Y.U. was more interested in Polytechnic’s 650,000-square-foot campus in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center and its other assets, including the possible sale of air rights to a major developer, Forest City Ratner, than in rebuilding Polytechnic.


Posted by eric at 5:11 PM

Square Feet: A Plan to Open a 1980 Gehry Mall Design to the Air

The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

Frank Gehry won acclaim as an innovative architect when he redesigned his home in this beachside city. But another local Gehry design, the enclosed 1980 mall known as Santa Monica Place, has long been regarded as obsolete — a suburban-style shopping center that turns its back on a thriving urban corridor.

The mall is often described as a “cork” that cuts off pedestrian traffic from the adjacent Third Street Promenade, a pedestrians-only shopping strip that has been hugely popular since it was refurbished in 1989. In redeveloping the mall, the original back door will be opened up, the steps will be replaced by a ramp, and brick pavers and jacaranda trees will be added, echoing those at the Promenade across the street.


NoLandGrab: Hmmm, "a suburban-style shopping center that turns its back" on the neighborhood. No wonder Frank and Bruce are such bosom (liberal, do-gooder) buddies.

Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

Meaning of the Giants' Parade

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Did Ratner consultant Richard Lipsky play his football in the era before helmets?

Civic spirit on display, a people brought to gether by a sports team, and an annonymous urban sprawl cohering with the a common bond-this is the full possibility of a sports team, and why sports holds the place it does in our hearts. It is also what, hopefully, the future holds for Brooklyn when the Nets rock in in 2010.

When the Nets come to Brooklyn first the borough and then the whole city will, if things break right, be in for a special treat. The team-through the work of the Brooklyn Sports Alliance-will become a part of the communities of the borough in a way that links them all together. And if the rivalry with what Marty Markowitz calls the "Manhattan Knicks" takes off-well, "Fuhgettabout it!"


NoLandGrab: Been feeling blue lately (and we don't mean Giants blue)? Don't worry — when the Nets tip off in Brooklyn, all will be right with the Borough, and you'll be able to flush your Paxil® down the toilet.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Forest City Ratner admits lie (well, "mistaken") about inflated AY revenue claim

Atlantic Yards Report

Is it possible that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is not only prevaricating to the public and press, but also to the courts?

Norman Oder examines the record:


They thought they could get away with it. Three times.

In three legal documents in the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, two Forest City Ratner officials and an FCR lawyer claimed that the Atlantic Yards project would generate $5.6 billion in new revenues and/or $4.4 billion in total revenues. They attributed those highly speculative estimates to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

However, no such figures appear in the ESDC's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), as claimed.

Read about the paper trail of lies, Ratner's lawyer's admission of the "mistake" and how there has been no real "attempt to account for the public costs that the project would incur."


Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Photographers have rights too (at least they are supposed to)

Atlantic Yards Report's account of videographer Katherin McInnis being stopped by the MTA cops in the footprint of Atlantic Yards is not the first incident of its kind. The Ratner rent-a-cops are known to do the same.

The story was picked up by The Gowanus Lounge, which had some action in the comments section:

Gowanus Lounge: We wonder how many other photographers have had incidents where MTA officers or others tried to stop them from taking photos or in other ways harassed them or tried to get them away from the property.

threecee: i've been told on several occasions that i could not photograph buildings or demolition sites, never by the MTA nor police (which surprises me), but by people i assume were either security or demolition foremen.

Anonymous (referencing a comment he/she had posted on Atlantic Yards Report): I'll repeat here what I posted at AYR...

[Quoting Norman Oder's report] "Finally, she said, he asked if she was part of any organization "opposing these Yards." She said no. He said "You know the project is probably going to go through."

That was a very, very stupid thing for the MTA cop to say, because worse than his illegal attempt to confiscate the camera, this makes it clear that his intent was arbitrary in hindering the exercise of her legal rights.

His intent did not seem to be block photographers, but to block opponents of the project.

That's a very big legal no-no.

Last we checked, Ratnerville was still in America — so what are your rights when you're taking a photo tour of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project?

Local photographer Adrian Kinloch explains on his blog, Brit in Brooklyn:

If you are taking photographs or videotaping in the footprint -- or, for that matter, on a public street or sidewalk and not on private property -- you can point your camera anywhere you want and take pictures. How far you stand your ground with cops (regular or rent-a varieties) is down to you. Obviously, it is always best to resolve a situation amicably.

In the U.S., the general rule is that anyone can take pictures of whatever they want as long as they are in a public space, or if they have permission in a private space. Some exceptions to this rule are military installations, nuclear plants, and some bridges. If you are photographing people, continuing to take an individual's picture after they have asked you to stop could be construed as harassment.

It is legal to take photos of infrastructure and transport facilities. And cops.

No private individual can lawfully confiscate your camera, memory card, or film. Cops need a court order or to arrest you to do this.

Kinloch goes further to explain the steps you should take when a cop, or Ratner rent-a-cop for that matter, tells you to stop taking pictures.

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

New York to confront its economic fate

Crain's NY Business

Crain's editor Greg David predicts some of the fallout from the global economic slowdown and increasingly likely recession, including this one, which may or may not affect Brooklynites' most least-favorite project:

Expect dramatic cutbacks in budgets later this year as the governor and, to a lesser extent, the mayor try to catch up with falling collections.Construction jobs will start to decline as government money woes lead to delays and cancellations on public projects, and new residential projects are put on hold.


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Forest City in the News

dollartattoo.jpg BusinessWire, Forest City Announces Expanded Credit Facility

Forest City flexes its financial clout while the global credit market is in turmoil, in a press release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced it has expanded its bank credit facility to $750 million by exercising the accordion feature of its existing revolving credit agreement.

The expansion represents a $150 million increase in the availability of the Company's credit facility while maintaining the existing interest rate structure. The transaction enhances Forest City's liquidity and financial flexibility, which will be instrumental in the continued development and acquisition of quality real estate assets. As of the January 31, 2008 fiscal year-end, there were no net borrowings under the credit facility.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, said, "This increased liquidity – even in the face of stressed credit markets – speaks to our ability to fund our robust development pipeline and to selectively and strategically take advantage of opportunities in the market. The expanded credit also reflects continuing support from our corporate bank group and the trust-based relationship we have with these institutions, including two additional banks that are new to our group with this expansion."

This was also reported by Reuters.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Downtown, Brownstone Brooklyn Development Boosts Realty Market

Several universities are considering major expansions in Brooklyn, including New York University and City Tech, which has chosen Forest City Ratner Companies as a development partner. “From an industry point of view, it’s great because it’s more demand for housing, and we need to continue to produce housing at all levels,” said Slattery.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

Economic Development Agency Has New President

City Room [The NY Times]
By Sewell Chan

Seth W. Pinsky, an executive vice president at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, will become president of the agency and lead it through the end of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s term, the mayor announced today at a noontime news conference at City Hall.
Mr. Pinsky has been with the Economic Development Corporation since 2003, in several positions. He has been involved in projects throughout the city, including the new Mets and Yankees stadiums, Atlantic Yards, Queens West and Hudson Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

Forum Brings Out Complexities Of Traffic and Parking Issues

There Are Simply Too Many Cars

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

The conventional widsom among transportation geeks is that Brooklyn gets screwed if Atlantic Yards happens without congestion pricing, and that Brooklyn gets screwed if congestion pricing happens without implementing a residential parking permit plan.

One Atlantic Yards supporter reports from a local meeting:

Much of the detailed conversation surprised most of the audience, because for the first time it became known that this rather dimly understood concept was being carefully studied by the city’s Department of Transportation as part of the New York City Study plan for 2030.

At the meeting, one of several planned by the DOT, two distinct postulates were advanced: There cannot be a congestion policy adopted without selective residential parking permits, and there is most likely a need for a residential parking policy even if there is no congestion pricing adopted.

The latter is certainly the case in the Downtown Brooklyn area. Advocates and experts all agreed that the major development projects in the area from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Atlantic Yards and everything in between demanded a thoughtful study of parking patterns.


NoLandGrab: "A thoughtful study of parking patterns" should have been included in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study.

For example, according to the EIS, 35% of on-street parking spaces within 1/4-mile of the project site are available during the 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. hour (1,930 of 5,590 spaces). Yet a field survey conducted by the Department of Transportation last month for that agency's recent parking workshops found that a mere 2% of the 2,660 residential (non-metered) spaces it studied in the vicinity of the Atlantic/Flatbush/4th Avenue nexus were vacant at 6 p.m. If both sets of numbers are to be believed, that would mean that 62% of the spaces not studied by DOT would have to be vacant at 6 p.m.

Do you know any neighborhoods near the Atlantic Yards footprint with on-street parking conditions like that? We didn't think so.

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

February 5, 2008

Abuse of Reality by Daily News Editorial Board

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB didn't want to be left out of the fray over today's hyperbolic Daily News editorial:

The Daily News has an editorial today which is so ironic, starting with its headline, and so rife with fabrications, exaggerations, and nonsense that we have to respond here (there is at least one example per paragraph). Note that the editorial, as editorials are, is unfortunately an anonymous voice, so our response is to the whole board-- though there is a question we have for the paper's publisher, developer Mort Zuckerman: How many legal suits have you filed in your lifetime?


Posted by eric at 5:18 PM

Daily News's "Abuse of process" editorial an abuse of facts

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder quickly sets the record straight on today's fanciful Daily News editorial:

An editorial in today's Daily News about Atlantic Yards, headlined Abuse of process, deserves a close look because of the numerous errors.


Posted by eric at 3:19 PM

Delay and Destroy

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, the tag-team partner of the Daily News's Errol Louis (we're pretty sure they would be classified as "heels" rather than "faces"), piles on today's News editorial.

This kind of rear guard legal strategy is exactly why the courts are being held in such low esteem-a failure to deal with the abuse of legal process. All of Brooklyn (or at least the majority of Brooklynites) is waiting for the Nets to come an energize the borough and hopefully, just like the Giants today, parade down the Canyon of Heroes with a NBA championship.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the courts are held in low esteem becuase of their failure to deal with the abuse of eminent domain. The vast majority of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, believing the use of eminent domain should be reined in, and 42 states (you guessed it — New York isn't one of them) have taken steps to do just that.

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Abuse of process

NY Daily News Editorial

Why bother with The Brooklyn Standard when the Daily News's editorial page is perfectly willing to do your dirty work?

On Friday, a federal appeals court summarily tossed a wacko attempt to block the state from using eminent domain to buy a handful of privately owned properties on the site. The opponents argued that Ratner had co-opted or corrupted every official who likes the idea of building 2,250 units of affordable housing there, along with a ton of market-rate housing and a home for the Nets.

Every month costs Ratner $12 million, and financing has become increasingly difficult in the subprime mortgage credit crunch. The developer has asked the Appellate Division to force Develop Don't Destroy to make its case on an expedited basis.

That must happen. The opponents are engaged in an abuse of process that threatens great public harm. The court should order them to proceed forthwith so the matter can be decided on the merits once and for all.


NoLandGrab: Then again, maybe Bruce launched The Brooklyn Standard because he thought the Daily News's tone might turn off supporters and opponents alike.

There're too many inaccuracies and half-truths in the News's editorial to go through them all, but suffice it to say, the lawsuits are worth the cost just for their ability to get under the paper's skin. But here are a couple we're compelled to point out.

"Wacko?" Since when is it "wacko" to try to save one's home or business from being seized by the only means available? If Ratner really is now losing $12 million a month, maybe he should've waited to knock down those buildings so they could have generated a little income on the side. And "abuse of process?" Has any one at the Daily News bothered to take a look at the alleged public process that brought us Atlantic Yards in the first place?

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

For Election Day...

...the Hagan Sisters street artists paint early and often.


Though we're not sure that "Hillary-hearts-Ratner," Senator Clinton has remained conspicuously silent on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards landgrabbing taxpayer-financed multi-billion-dollar boondoggle overdevelopment in her adopted home state of New York, and don't forget her well-heeled flip-flop on the Brooklyn Bridge "a-park-ments."

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

MTA cop tries to stop videographer at Atlantic Yards site

VBYardsRust.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

This past Sunday in Brooklyn was unusually warm. It was a nice day to go out and shoot some video, unless your camera was pointed at the Vanderbilt Yards.

Videographer Katherin McInnis teaches video and photography in San Francisco and is visiting Brooklyn on sabbatical. She told Norman Oder of her encounter with an MTA officer (Video still by Katnerin McInnis).

He attempted to confiscate her camera, questioned whether she was part of an anti-AY organization, and more than once reminded her that the project was proceeding, according to her account.

McInnis plans to file a complaint. Meanwhile, Oder is trying to get the MTA's side of the story.

I called the MTA public affairs office early yesterday afternoon and outlined the incident, as recounted by McInnis, named the officer, asked if there was an incident report, and asked for the MTA policy. I didn't get a response by the end of day, but when one is forthcoming, I’ll add it.


NoLandGrab: In case the MTA doesn't get around to it, NoLandGrab sends a hearty "Welcome to Brooklyn and Prospect Heights" to Katherin McInnis. Also, thanks for helping to remind us camera bugs of our rights.

Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

The ESDC won't ignore the market, in Manhattan, at least

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder points out ANOTHER example of how Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is different from any other New York State-sponsored project:

When it comes to declaring parts of Prospect Heights blighted, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) conducted no market analysis, as a lawyer for the petitioners challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review pointed out in court last May.

And the Metropolitan Transportation Authority waited 18 months after city and state officials announced support for Forest City Ratner's developher as the Atlantic Yards developer to issue a Request for Proposals for the Vanderbilt Yard

When it comes to selling two parcels of land adjacent to the Javits Convention Center to raise money for Gov. Eliot Spitzer's budget, however, the ESDC wants very much to consider the market.

Click here to read ESDC chair Patrick Foye's strategy.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

Street Couch Series: Bruce Ratner Edition

AYStreetCouch.jpg The Gowanus Lounge

A crop of couches in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

These could be our favorite street couches ever. We've seen better ones, of course, but the placement on these--on Atlantic Avenue near S. Oxford in the Atlantic Yards footprint--is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that we got two photos of it within 12 hours of each other.


NoLandGrab (for you Atlantic Yards insiders): The latest Atlantic Yards "street art" has been affectionately named "the Hagan sisters."

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

City Records Show Three Years Of 'NYT' Building Debris Complaints


In the latest news about developer Bruce Ratner's other signature project in NY:

Everybody knows The New York Times' newly-erected skyscraper home has been plagued by falling glass, ice and vermin. In December, the Department of Buildings dropped by the place to investigate after what we thought was the third time debris was reported to have fallen from the building. Not so! A look at records kept by the Department of Buildings shows that people have been complaining about flotsam and jetsam raining from the Renzo Piano building since construction began in 2005—18 of the 33 complaints on record about the building are related to material flying off of it. Screwdrivers, bolts, steel, glass, i-beams, what have you. There was the time that wet concrete fell on to some NYPD cars below. Oopsies! And the time an entire window fell from the sky onto a car below. Then there's the succinct complaint from July 31, 2007: "Something fell off the building." You don't say? Yikes.

Click here for more, including screen caps of the complaints.

NoLandGrab: If only the New York Times ombudsman had the same responsibilities as the Atlantic Yards ombudsman.

Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

Appeals Court Rules for Citizens' Coalition Finding Yonkers City Council Had Broken the Law

Yonkers Tribune

The Appellate Division Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court upheld in a decision dated January 29, 2008, the decision of a lower court that held that a majority of the Yonkers City Council had broken the law and denied the public its right to a hearing when it voted on November 22, 2005 to change the number of votes required for approval of the Ridge Hill Development.

Why do we care? Because this is yet another example of how a local government circumvented its own laws for developer Forest City Ratner.

When the Ridge Hill project was after review rejected by the Westchester County Planning Board, Yonkers’ Law mandated a super majority of five Yonkers Councilmembers were needed to approve the project whereas under ordinary circumstances only four votes would have sufficed.

The Appellate Court ruling noted that the Yonkers City Council vote of November 22, 2005 was taken without following several procedural requirements, including a necessary Public Hearing.


Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

February 4, 2008

Does AY delay cost $6M a month? $12M? Forest City Ratner's fuzzy math

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City is trying to convince an appellate court to expedite an appeal of the case challenging the Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards. The claim is that delays in the project is costing lots of money. But how many millions — 4.15, 6, 12? Take your pick.

How much money is Forest City Ratner losing each month because of delays in the Atlantic Yards Project. In an effort to convince an appellate court to expedite the appeal in the suit challenging the AY environmental impact, a top executive and top lawyer both offer some very fuzzy math.

While last April executive Jim Stuckey estimated $4.15 million a month--a little more than .1% of the projected cost of the project--in an affidavit filed 1/17/08, his successor MaryAnne Gilmartin now claims $6 million a month.

However, the text of the affidavit offers no explanation of why that cost has escalated, and in fact cautions in more than one place that the developer can't predict cost escalations.

Compounding that, FCR attorney Jeffrey Braun, in his legal affirmation unaccountably doubles down, claiming that Gilmartin's affidavit indicates that The expenses that FCRC would continue to incur while a stay was in effect and that are relatively easy to calculate would exceed $12 million per month, and that does not include the operating losses that the New Jersey Nets basketball team incurs while it continues to use an antiquated arena as its home venue.


Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

Forest City Ratner attorney claims Gehry as a Brooklyn native

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder spots a strange claim in Forest City legal papers.

It's a not-terribly relevant exaggeration, a sign perhaps of carelessness or litigation overkill, but Frank Gehry, the Toronto-born architect who said he was inspired by a Brooklyn bride, is apparently a Brooklynite, at least according to a Forest City Ratner attorney.


NoLandgrab: Would the monstrous Miss Brooklyn be any better if Gehry had spent his youth playing Johnny on the Pony and stoop ball?

Posted by steve at 7:05 AM

Bike Detour

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


546 Vanderbilt Avenue at Dean Street (aka 647-669 Dean Street)

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Whose "intricate schedule"? Opponents in environmental suit joust over delay

Atlantic Yards Report


According to Forest City Ratner officials, the pending appeal of the dismissal of the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review is delaying the planned completion of the arena.

The only problem is, last year they claimed that the "intricate schedule" of current work was aimed at completing the arena for the 2009-10 season. Even though no stay was granted last year on pre-construction demolition, they claim that an "intricate schedule" of work is aimed at completing the arena for some time in 2010.

But they don't explain why or whether any alteration in their own schedule has caused delays. Nor do they explain why exactly the lawsuit has to be cleared for bond financing to be arranged; a lawyer for the petitioners contends that such risk should be priced into the bonds. (Presumably, responses will emerge in the final round of legal papers.)

It's all part of legal jousting in which FCR officials have both opposed a stay--which hasn't been granted--and seek an expedited briefing schedule for the appeal so it can be heard by a state appellate court no later than May, rather than in the fall.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Last Exit

The NY Times
By Amy Finnerty

BWM-NYT.gif The Times reviews "Brooklyn Was Mine:"

Brooklyn isn’t Greenwich Village, but many writers — established and ascendant — are concentrated in a handful of low-rise neighborhoods there. In “Brooklyn Was Mine,” a collection of essays edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker, some of the borough’s writers ruminate on arrival and domestic survival in this emerging haute bohemia. The jealous ownership implied by the word “mine” suggests that (à la Walt Whitman) to live in Brooklyn is both to claim possession of a milieu and to be possessed by it. The contributors make the place more sought after and, by a handy symbiosis, the place makes them cool.

With Manhattan financially out of reach, the literary caste has moved to Brooklyn in search of extra bedrooms, parks and cobblestoned charm. Which may be why, despite its very insistent Brooklyn-centricity, the book ultimately lacks a raison d’être beyond the mingling of writers who happen to live there.

The review does not mention one raison d'être, to help fund the legal fight against Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

February 3, 2008



NY Post

The decision comes four days after The Post reported that litigation and a slumping fiscal market could spell doom for the biggest development project in Brooklyn's history.

The report was based on papers Ratner's firm filed seeking a speedy outcome in a separate state suit by the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

In that case, the group is appealing a lower court decision that found the state conducted a proper environmental review before approving the project in December 2006.

Ratner wasn't planning to ask a judge to allow eminent-domain proceedings to begin until all litigation was decided, but he was still celebrating yesterday.


Posted by amy at 9:30 PM

Have courts affirmed the "significant positive impact" of AY? Nope


Atlantic Yards Report

Let's take another look at Bruce Ratner's statement after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case:
"Today's decision is more than another victory for Atlantic Yards," Ratner said. "It is a victory for public good and the importance of investing in diverse communities throughout the City. Atlantic Yards will bring thousands of needed jobs and affordable homes to Brooklyn. We believe, and the courts have repeatedly affirmed, that these are real benefits that will have a significant positive impact on the borough and the City."
(Emphases added)

Let's assume that Ratner didn't mean that Atlantic Yards would be a "public good"--something commonly enjoyed, like air or national defense--nor that it was an example of "public goodness" but rather thought the decision affirmed "the public good."

Significant positive impact?

But have courts affirmed that the benefits are real and will have a significant positive impact? Not in the slightest. While the courts have affirmed that the plaintiffs acknowledge some benefits, the courts have not tried to evaluate them, nor could they.


Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

Donald O’Finn: Jump Cuts at Dean & 6th


Who Walk In Brooklyn

Video artist, bar manager and anti-Eminent Domain activist Donald O’Finn is many things to many people. Beginning this Saturday, he’s also de facto host of the Found In Brooklyn art show and rock concert at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom.
Brian: Kelo versus New London: how did you feel? Also, if you can recall, bring us back to the weeks when the arena– just an arena– was announced?

Donald: Kelo vs New London…very scary, I have been told that there are over a thousand eminent domain case happening in this country right now, more examples of the Have-a-lots taking from the have-nots and have-littles. It is horrible how we are transferring all the right away from individuals and giving them to institutions.

We found out about it watching TV, no one ever even contacted us for at least a year, if not 2 years. It was very emotional, but the way this community has bonded together for the good and righteous fight has been astounding, I am very proud of everyone involved in this struggle.

Brian: Have any of the New Jersey Nets come into Freddie’s? Marty Markowitz?

Donald O’Finn: Nope, we only get the cool people. And we don’t need them just check the reviews.


Posted by amy at 10:52 AM

2nd Circuit dismisses Atlantic Yards Suit


CastleWatch Daily

The main argument lawyers for the property owners tried to make was that the main purpose of the Atlantic Yards project was to benefit a private party, that is, the development company Forest City Ratner, and that benefits to the public, like new park space, some affordable housing and improvements to the transit system were pretextual.

For those who don’t wish to read through the opinion, the court basically admits that the mere presence of a small public benefit is sufficient to disprove the pretextual taking. They admit that the properties in question aren’t blighted, that the development plan was concocted by Bruce Ratner and that there might have been some “irregularities” along the way that might indicate that there was some collusion between Ratner and local officials, but nevertheless, there is a whole 5% percent going to affordable housing, while the rest will be luxury condos, and a stadium, by definition, is a public benefit, even if Ratner has a 100 lease for $1 and will profit from events held there. In the end, the court would rather defer to the state legislature than possibly examine the sentence in Kelo majority that states a city wouldn’t “be allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit.”


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

February 2, 2008

In dismissal of eminent domain case, court cautions against appeal

Atlantic Yards Report

In another blow to the Atlantic Yards opposition, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit yesterday unanimously upheld Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case and even suggested that a U.S. Supreme Court appeal would be tough to mount.

While the court acknowledged that eminent domain is an “immediate and intrusive” power for which “monetary compensation may understandably seem an imperfect substitute,” federal judges may not act on their sympathies, and Supreme Court precedent requires them to let elected representatives balance the costs and benefits.

The Atlantic Yards project clearly has some benefits, which the plaintiffs acknowledge, the court said, and that's essentially the end of the inquiry. Then again, its reading of the plaintiffs’ allegations about economic benefits and blight will be disputed, as will be its willingness to grapple with some allegations of a sweetheart deal.


Posted by amy at 2:04 PM

Classic Brooklyn Writer Recipe


Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brad Lockwood tells you the steps you need to take to become both a Brooklynite and a writer:

Once famous, find a cause: Walt Whitman saved Fort Greene Park from developers.

-Jonathan Lethem and others are trying to do the same for the neighborhoods surrounding Atlantic Yards.

Find another cause, however provocative. Joseph McCarthy had a thing for “Red-loving” Brooklyn writers, including Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, John Dos Passos and W.E.B. du Bois.

-Bruce Ratner can relate. But where’s the Coney Island Concerned Writers Group or Keep Gowanus Canal Stinking Scribe Committee?


Posted by amy at 1:44 PM

CHANGING NYC: As costs grow, New York's grand plans shrink


Forest City Ratner, the company preparing to build blocks of new skyscrapers in Brooklyn, anchored around an NBA basketball arena, recently suggested that the protracted court battle over the $4 billion project could compromise its financing.

"The credit markets are in turmoil at this time," Andrew Silberfein, the company's finance director, said in a court affidavit. "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."

Later, Forest City officials sought to dispel any idea that the Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project is in trouble, saying the court filing was intended to persuade a judge to resolve the legal dispute quickly.


Posted by amy at 12:52 PM

Opponents Of Atlantic Yards Project Vow To Take Fight To Supreme Court



After seeing their latest appeal struck down, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn vow to take their fight to the highest court in the land.

A federal appeals court gave the go-ahead for the project Friday.

It rejected the argument by the group "Develop Don't Destroy" that seizing property for the project under eminent domain was unconstitutional.

The attorney representing the group is hoping to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court to have the use of eminent domain re-examined.


Additional Coverage:

NY Times: Opponents of Atlantic Yards Lose an Appellate Ruling

NY Daily News: Federal appeals court says Atlantic Yards project can go forward

National Post Canada: NBA: Nets win court battle of a different kind

The Journal Record: Court OKs eminent domain use in N.Y.

WNYC: Big Loss for Atlantic Yards Opponents

Posted by amy at 12:43 PM

Atlantic Yards Wins in Court Again

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ryan Thompson

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project have often alleged that the project does not serve a public purpose but rather seeks to enrich the developer, Bruce Ratner. The Court of Appeals said “the claim that the ‘decision to take plaintiffs’ properties serves only one purpose’ defies both logic and experience.”

The court further explained that the legislature is permitted to juggle many policy considerations in deciding whether to condemn private property. And the federal court is only obligated and empowered to review that process objectively, in effect “patrolling the borders” of the decision to use eminent domain, rather than second-guess every detail of such.

“This case has been very well litigated on both sides. At the end of the day, we are left with the distinct impression that the lawsuit is animated by concerns about the wisdom of the Atlantic Yards project and its effect on the community,” the court summed up in its written decision.


Posted by amy at 12:41 PM

Rejected again! Ratner wins yet another big court case

The Brooklyn Paper
Gersh Kuntzman

Project opponents argued last fall that a publicly financed basketball arena that will largely benefit a private developer was not the kind of “public benefit” required under eminent domain law.

But this week, the appeals panel declined to weigh in on that specific argument.

“Federal judges may not intervene in such matters simply on the basis of our sympathies,” the court wrote. “Just as eminent domain has its costs, it has its benefits.”


Posted by amy at 12:38 PM

Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Atlantic Yards Suit

New York Times
Alan Feuer

In a 24-page ruling, the appellate judges said the project could move forward because it would provide benefits to the public, including the creation of park space, new housing units and improvements in the mass transit system. The plaintiffs had argued that such benefits were merely a pretext for the real goal of the plan: to enrich the developer, Bruce C. Ratner.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he planned to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.


Posted by amy at 12:32 PM

Frank Gehry and developer Forest City Ratner’s massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn could fall victim to the credit crisis

Architectural Record

Bruce Ratner is apparently having difficulty securing the $4 billion needed to begin construction on the 22-acre project, which encompasses 16 residential and commercial buildings—including a 620-foot-tall skyscraper that Gehry dubbed “Miss Brooklyn”—as well as an 18,000-seat arena for the Nets basketball team. Goldman Sachs is reportedly in line to be the lead underwriter on several hundred million dollars of bond financing for the arena portion of the project. The Post reported that court papers “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.”


Posted by amy at 12:26 PM

Federal appeals court says Atlantic Yards project can go forward

AP via Newsday

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, who argued for property owners opposed to the deal, said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're certainly disappointed. We believe the decision is wrong. And we think it will present an opportunity for the Supreme Court to re-examine the use of eminent domain," he said. "This case is all about their ability to forcibly take my client's property."

He said the plaintiffs will sue in state court if the federal case is rebuffed.


Posted by amy at 12:22 PM

February 1, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Statement on Eminent Domain Decision

Circuit Court Rules Against Homeowners, Business Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Appeal

Plaintiffs Intend to Ask US Supreme Court to Hear Their Case

Plaintiffs Will Seek All Legal Remedies to Protect Their Homes and Businesses From Seizure by New York State

New York, NY— The Second Circuit Court today ruled against 14 homeowners, business owners and tenants in their appeal of their lawsuit alleging that New York State's use of eminent domain to take their properties for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project violates the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said, "Today's decision is disappointing. We disagree with its conclusion. We intend to ask the US Supreme Court to hear our case, and will continue to pursue every avenue available to prevent the unlawful seizure of my clients' homes for Bruce Ratner's enrichment. The court today affirmed that the government is free to take private homes and businesses and give them to influential citizens as long as one can imagine a conceivable benefit to the public, no matter how small or unlikely it may be. Indeed, it does not matter if all evidence points to a secret back room deal. All corrupt politicians need do to insulate themselves from judicial scrutiny is claim a benefit to the public. This is wrong. It should trouble all citizens who, unlike Bruce Ratner, lack the power and money to coopt the government's power of eminent domain for their private use. We believe that the United States Supreme Court will welcome the opportunity to clarify this area in light of its widely criticized Kelo decision."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter said, "Our support of the fight of citizens to live safely in their homes, and operate safely in their business, will continue. We maintain that the government's motivation in using eminent domain for Atlantic Yards is not to benefit the public, but rather, to benefit a single, very rich and powerful developer. The seizure of our neighbors' homes and businesses is at the very foundation of the Atlantic Yards project. It is a foundation that must not stand. Now is the time for our elected leaders, who have frequently expressed grave concern about the abuse of eminent domain, to publicly stand in defense of everyday Brooklynites and New Yorkers."

The 2nd Circuit Court's opinion on the case, Goldstein v. Pataki, can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain

Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Federal appeals court OK's Atlantic Yards

The court agreed with an earlier ruling that said seizure of property to develop the $4 billion project falls under eminent domain.

by Tommy Fernandez

Forest City Ratner’s controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project won another major legal battle Friday when a federal court rejected a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s use of eminent domain for the site.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judge in Brooklyn who had ruled that the seizure under eminent domain would not be unconstitutional. The suit, filed in October 2006 by property owners and tenants facing eviction, had sought to block the seizures and also sought unspecified damages.

“For affected property owners, monetary compensation may understandably seem an imperfect substitute for the hardships of dislocation and the loss of a home or business,” wrote the appeals court. “But federal judges may not intervene in such matters simply on the basis of our sympathies. Just as eminent domain has its costs, it has its benefits.”


Posted by eric at 3:15 PM

Main Atlantic Yards Suit Dismissed


Curbed carries news of today's 2nd Circuit decision rejecting the appeal by plaintiffs in the eminent domain case Goldstein v. Pataki, including this little bit of hyperbole from Forest City Ratner's press release:

"Today's decision is more than another victory for Atlantic Yards. It is a victory for public good and the importance of investing in diverse communities throughout the City."


NoLandGrab: Yeah, right. Unless you have a very high tolerance level, you might want to skip the comments section full of more tasteful gloating by the done-deal intelligentsia.

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

Eminent domain appeal rejected by appellate court

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR reports the breaking news that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal brought by home and business owners and tenants in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards project:

Breaking: here's a summary and link to the opinion in Goldstein v. Pataki. Forest City Ratner expressed satisfaction. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, organizer of the case, said the plaintiffs intended to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the court takes only a fraction of the cases presented.


Posted by eric at 2:58 PM

Assemblyman Jeffries' "State of the District" Address

Atlantic Yards Report

State of the 57th: Jeffries talks housing, skirts AY

Norman Oder does in-depth coverage of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' "State of the District" address, given this past Thursday evening. Atlantic Yards received only a passing mention in the speech.

The only nod to AY was a repeat of Jeffries' careful formulation that he opposes eminent domain to remove residents to build a basketball arena--not eminent domain for the project as a whole--just as he opposes the rumored privatization of public housing.

The audience clapped much harder for his statement about public housing than his mention of eminent domain and Atlantic Yards. (I interviewed him several weeks ago about eminent domain, and conclude his statement is essentially toothless.)

Looking at Jeffries' opposition to eminent domain for the AY arena

There is additional analysis of Assemblyman Jeffries' stance on Atlantic Yards. His strategy seems to be that he will make statements that cast doubt on the wisdom of the project, but not take action to oppose it.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, elected in 2006, has long held a (take your pick) nuanced or calculated position on Atlantic Yards, supporting the goals for minority hiring/contracting and affordable housing, yet criticizing transportation planning and excess density, and declaring that he opposed eminent domain to build a basketball arena--though not for the project as a whole.

He mentioned that issue again Wednesday night at his "State of the District" address, which allows him to be critical of the project without actually joining the opponents who are suing to block eminent domain.

In response to Norman Oder's questions, Jeffries avers that there would be "consequences" should the State try to exercise eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

“If they pull the trigger,” he said, “it’s a tough political decision that I think will have negative implications on their ability to move forward with their agenda. That’s just my instincts, but assuming my other colleagues are as passionate as I am, there are going to be consequences.”

Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

Book Report

SC-PoI.gif Brit in Brooklyn, A Person of Interest

Last month, local author Susan Choi was published in "Brooklyn Was Mine," an anthology of essays from which proceeds are going to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Yesterday, graphic designer and Atlantic Yards shutterbug Adrian Kinloch launched the website for Choi's new book, "A Person of Interest."

GSavetheFan.jpgThe Brooklyn Paper, ‘Fan’ empowerment

Reporter Jeff Cretan sits down with local sportswriter Will Leitch to talk about his new book and, the topic on everyone's mind these days, Atlantic Yards.

Leitch, who grew up in the small town of Mattoon, Ill., shies away from the kind of excess seen on TV. When asked about Brooklyn’s own sports controversy, the Atlantic Yards, he took an even-handed approach.

“Where I’m from, New York might as well be China. So it would make Brooklyn more national. You live in Brooklyn? That’s where the Nets play.” But personally, he is not in favor of “the Manhattanization of Brooklyn.”

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Bid to cut Ratner’s public subsidies fails

The Brooklyn Paper

The City Council quashed a bid on Wednesday by two Brooklyn politicians to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state subsidies from the Atlantic Yards mega-development.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) asked the Council’s Finance Committee to take up the matter of those Atlantic Yards subsidies while considering a resolution calling for the state to end property-tax exemptions for Madison Square Garden.

“If we are going to say this about Madison Square Garden, we should say it about Atlantic Yards, too,” said Yassky, who added that he and Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) would soon re-introduce the measure, this time as a freestanding resolution, not an amendment.

According to the councilmembers’ calculations, the proposed arena for the Nets will get close to $700 million in subsidies from the city and state.

The failed resolution comes days after Ratner’s lawyers revealed that ongoing legal challenges to the project are likely to create “significant difficulties and cost increases in concluding the bond financing that is essential to the arena's completion.”


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Boro Dems can’t make up their minds

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

If you're like the average Brooklyn Democrat having trouble deciding between Clinton and Obama for President, you may want to know what is on Councilmember Letitia James's mind:

“I’m struggling between my desire for change, versus Sen. Hillary Clinton’s proven record to my district,” said James, adding that she respected Clinton for refusing to take sides in the Atlantic Yards conflict (though many voters see her inability to take a stand as typical of Clinton’s desire to not alienate any potential supporters).


NoLandGrab: Is this some sort of backhanded compliment, something akin to, we really respect developer Bruce Ratner for being an equal-opportunity landgrabber? On the pages of NLG, not taking a stand on Atlantic Yards doesn't buy you any love.

On the other hand, Obama has already issued a statement condemning the Kelo decision and the use of eminent domain for private gain.

Statement issued by the Obama campaign, 28 June, 2007:

Barack Obama is a strong supporter of property rights and disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

The fifth amendment of the Constitution only allows federal, state or local governments to seize private property for public use. Up until recently that meant projects like bridges, dams and highways. Obama is concerned that the Kelo case expanded this definition to private development projects because it could lead to low-income homes being taken and demolished on behalf of more powerful and influential businesses and corporations. Obama also shares the concerns of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who worried that the ruling could lead to farms being replaced by factories or businesses replaced by larger businesses on the whims of federal, state or local governments.

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

546 Vanderbilt demolished

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


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Rapid NYC’s Real Estate Blog, Changes in Brooklyn: City Tech & Renzo Piano

The big buzz in Brooklyn NY real estate these days is Forest City Ratner Company’s planned 22 acre “Atlantic Yards” development in Prospect Heights and Park Slope.

Brownstoner, AY Demos: 626 Pacific Going; Ward Bakery May Be Next
Demo updates from the footprint. Next up, 626 Pacific Street, the Carlton Avenue Bridge and Ward Bakery Building.

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Completely Committed
Reblogging on Forest City's pledge to keep demolishing the neighobrhood to make way for a brighter future. :)

The Knickerblogger, Which Is It Forest City?

So which is it? Is [Atlantic Yards] in jeopardy and thus this statement is a lie...or is the affidavit a lie? We know that Forest City lies. They just have lawyers who make sure its legal.

The Gowanus Lounge, Upcoming: Domino Plan Presentation

The New Domino development would have 2,400 apartments. The preserved factory building would be surrounded by towers up to 40 stories tall. The total project would be 2.86 million square feet--Brooklyn's largest after Atlantic Yards.

Even though the Domino plan is really big, Atlantic Yards is still numero uno, which is the reason you're wasting your life reading this blog.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

New York Candidates Awash in Real Estate Cash

The NY Times
By Ray Rivera

You don't have to be a well seasoned political pundit to read the tea leaves:

The real estate industry, racing to beat strict new limits on campaign contributions, has been flooding New York City candidates with donations for the 2009 campaign at a rate three and four times that in previous election cycles.

The industry, which looks to City Hall for everything from zoning changes to tax breaks, is traditionally a dependable source of cash for city election candidates. But with new regulations set to take effect starting on Saturday, donations have soared.

The New York Times examined contributions from executives and others affiliated with 25 of the city’s most prominent property management, brokerage and real estate development firms.

The companies together had given more than $1 million by Jan. 15, the most recent reporting deadline for the 2009 election. Those same firms had given $239,000 by the same point in January 2004 and $348,000 by January 2000.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner says he doesn't contribute to candidates — his contributions flow through surrogates like his brother, sister-in-law, etc.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM