« February 2008 | Main | April 2008 »

March 31, 2008

More than $20B in developments dead or at risk of never seeing light of day

NY Daily News
by Jonathan Lemire

The boom is going bust.

More than $20 billion worth of high-profile developments across the city - many designed by world-renowned architects and touted by top officials - are dead or at risk of never getting off the drawing board.

The crumbling economy has forced developers to scale back their grand visions and has endangered projects that range from architectural marvels like Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards towers in Brooklyn to crucial pieces of the city's infrastructure, like Manhattan's Moynihan rail hub in midtown.

"It really was an amazing run for cities and particularly for New York," said Elliott Sclar, an urban planning professor at Columbia University. "But it appears that itmay be over now.

Some urban planners say projects like Moynihan Station, Atlantic Yards and another mega-proposal to redevelop Willets Point, Queens, are struggling to get off the ground because plans have grown too bloated.

"All of these projects have been driven by a form of planning called fiscal planning, where the city is not concerned with the physical structure of spaces but only maximizing real estate values or tax revenues," Sclar said. "That's not the right way to promote healthy development."


Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

Sports of The Times: Showing Power, but Weakening a Neighborhood

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

Times columnist Araton rues the sacrifice of scarce Bronx parkland to a new Yankee Stadium.

With the stadiums side by side, the end of one era blurs with the beginning of another. Baseball’s sights and sounds are always familiarly welcome. But I wonder how many visitors inching their cars through the narrow streets from the northern suburbs or New Jersey this season will notice what has been lost, or taken, from that crowded urban landscape.

How many will mourn the fallen trees, the oasis of green that was Macombs Dam Park, the way Joyce Hogi will?

“A lot of people in the neighborhood really never thought it was going to happen until the trees came down,” she said.

In stages, the park was shuttered, the people of what is often called the poorest Congressional district in America, thrown out at home. Finally, last November, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation issued a news release announcing the closing of the last remaining section, including the ball fields, the handball and basketball courts, to make way for another sure sign of artistic urban development, Garage A.


NoLandGrab: Sadly, we can't say it's a surprise that the City would try to claim an existing schoolyard or a pedestrian walkway among the "parkland" "replacing" Macombs Dam Park.

Posted by eric at 4:20 PM

Docs: Low Disclosure Req'd From Ratner For ED Seizure

by Sarah Ryley

Brownstoner's Sarah Ryley has been poring over the State funding agreement for Atlantic Yards, and the details aren't pretty. For one thing, even though Bruce Ratner himself says the arena's the only thing he plans to start building, the state plans to seize all the land in the 22-acre footprint.

Bruce Ratner would only be required to show his financing plan for the Atlantic Yards arena, not its office and residential towers, for the state to seize property and leases spread across the project's 22-acre footprint. According to the recently released AY funding agreement, "Prior to, or simultaneously with, [Empire State Development Corporation] acquiring title to any portion of the Project Site by condemnation, Developer or its Affiliates shall (i) provide a financing plan, subject to the reasonable approval of ESDC, for the financing of the Arena, and (ii) cause the closing to occur under the acquisition contract for the LIRR Vanderbilt Yard." Most of the property the state plans to seize is not in the arena footprint, and the promise of 2,250 units of affordable housing was a central argument in justifying the use of eminent domain. Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt pointed out that prior to the state approving Atlantic Yards, "We have provided a complete financing plan for the entire project ... which outlines in detail all the components of the plan." That plan, dated late 2006, expected the residential and commercial towers to be largely financed by affordable housing bonds and mortgages. ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said in an email exchange, "The residential piece is the most important component and we are working with the developer to ensure that it is delivered."

Lead Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein was momentarily speechless last night when read the terms for seizing his condo, which is located in the center court of the planned arena. "This idea that they're going to condemn 22 acres when the only thing they can assure is an arena, it's an abomination... it's crazy, it's unethical." Goldstein contends that "the state needs to assure that there are financing agreements for the affordable housing before they proceed with condemnation." In a recent interview with The New York Times, Ratner indicated he intends to finish the entire project, but said his inability to find Miss Brooklyn an anchor office tenant and the tightened bond market could delay everything but the arena for years. He's made more headway in financing the arena, now tagged at nearly $1 billion: Barclays Bank agreed to pay $400 million for its naming rights, less than two-thirds the total expected from sponsorship deals according to the 2006 financial plan. Luxury suite and loge box revenue would bring in even more, staring at $38 million a year and steadily increasing.


NoLandGrab: Does the state really intend to sit idly by while Ratner creates a Norwood-style wasteland — or a massive parking lot?

Posted by eric at 3:47 PM

Sunday in NYC: Avella denounces overdevelopment; Luxury Living showcase draws throng

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attended the kick-off event for Tony Avella's mayoral campaign, and then took a gander at the condomania playing a central role in the Queens councilman's platform.

Longshot mayoral candidate Tony Avella, a maverick City Council Member from Northeast Queens, officially launched his candidacy yesterday afternoon at a City Hall press conference. Seeking to distinguish himself from the highly-scripted typical politicians, Avella declared that he hadn't written a speech but instead would speak about three main issues.

Indeed, two of Avella's issues barely registered with the crowd of supporters behind him: lowered taxes and a revamped education system. Rather, they applauded heartily when he condemned overdevelopment, asserting that the real estate industry has too much power and "the city has done very little to preserve quality of life."

"Overdevelopment," he said, "is destroying the character of every community. That absolutely must stop."

After leaving Avella's press conference, where some supporters carried signs asserting "The revolution starts... now!", it took just three stops uptown along the #6 subway line to visit the New York Observer's Luxury Living: New York Condo Showcase at the Puck Building at Lafayette and Houston streets.

Compared to the crowd at City Hall, this group was less gritty and better-dressed. There was a bar, musical entertainment, and other festive accoutrements. And all these projects, and their buyers, gain benefits from the belatedly-reformed 421-a tax break, which has fueled development all over the city, including the Queens districts that constitute Avella's base.


Posted by eric at 3:37 PM

The Community Boards face cuts, but the system needs a boost

Atlantic Yards Report

It was a relatively small article on page 5 of the City section of the New York Times, sandwiched in between pieces on the closing of a beloved laundry in Cobble Hill and after-school life at a coffee/tea/spice shop in Park Slope, but it touched on a very important issue: New Yorkers have way too few resources to pursue democracy at the neighborhood level. What it didn't explain is why the Community Board (CB) system needs reform, and may well become an issue in the next mayoral race.

The article, headlined Not Quite Passing the Hat, but Already Feeling the Pain, concerns cuts of 5%-8% at the CBs, which may not sound like much, but cut into already limited resources.

City Council Member Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, lamented that CBs often don't have the resources to be proactive, to say "This alternative works." The Atlas is an attempt to change that, to show what community planners have been doing.

Support from the Borough President and others, Brewer said, can be key to empowering the CBs. Most don't have the staff to keep up with all the changes in their community and put all documents online. "Maybe Craig Hammerman"--District Manager of Brooklyn CB 6, which has an extensive web site--"because he's a nut," Brewer said affectionately, but few others manage similarly.


NoLandGrab: Brooklyn CB 6 — largely thanks to the tireless Hammerman — has long advocated for a much greater community role in the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 3:28 PM

March 30, 2008

Miss Brooklyn: dead, not dead, or simply not animatronic just yet?


Atlantic Yards Report

OK, is Atlantic Yards dead? What about the Miss Brooklyn tower? Let's try to sort through the coverage, given that the two major Brooklyn weeklies, the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, are providing diametrically different coverage.

The short answer: Atlantic Yards, at the timetable envisioned, is obviously dead, but a major project somewhat like it might arrive on a much attenuated schedule. As for Miss Brooklyn, it's not "killed," but rather delayed, though developer Forest City Ratner seems to be seriously spinning its chances.


Posted by amy at 12:39 PM


The trailer for Brooklyn Matters is now online.

No single event will have a more drastic and long-lasting impact on Brooklyn that the Atlantic Yards Project, proposed by nationally-known developer Bruce Ratner and designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. If built, it would be the densest development in the United States. And yet, this project has circumvented customary financial disclosures, escaped community input, and leapfrogged environmental protections. The public has been misled to believe that the Atlantic Yards proposal was a done deal since the day it was announced. Isabel Hill's documentary, BROOKLYN MATTERS, reveals the fuller truth about the project and highlights how a few powerful men have disregarded planning principles and manipulated a desperate need for jobs and affordable housing in the community to push their interests forward.

The next screening will take place Tuesday, April 1, 7pm
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
357 Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn (btwn. Greene & Lafayette Aves.).
Co-sponsors: Society for Clinton Hill, Fort Greene Association, and DDDB

Posted by amy at 12:30 PM

All drawn out


The Brooklyn Paper
Cristian Fleming

Posted by amy at 12:27 PM

Why mega-projects are falling apart


Theresa Agovino

Successful development projects in New York City rest on a three-legged stool of financing, political support and community approval. When even just one of those legs is broken, the project can weaken and, in some cases, fail.

That reality has become painfully apparent in the past couple of weeks, as some of the biggest projects in the city—Atlantic Yards, Hudson Rail Yards, Moynihan Station and Pier 40—appear to be at risk.

The biggest threat to Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards is the credit crisis.

Two weeks ago, Bruce Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, said that its $4 billion Brooklyn project faces delays because of the financing environment.


Posted by amy at 12:14 PM

David Paterson: Governor Of New York State

Atlanta Daily World

One listener in Albany wanted to know if Paterson the governor will keep the promises made by Paterson the state senator, a position he held for more than 20 years.

"He promised a moratorium on eminent domain," she said. "I wonder if he'll keep that promise and how that'll impact such projects as Willets Point, Columbia University, and Bruce Ratner's plans for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn."


Posted by amy at 12:07 PM

March 29, 2008

On Hudson Yards plan, Times hails "real bidding process"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times editorial yesterday on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan for the Hudson Yards, headlined Finally, a Vision for the West Side:
The M.T.A., we are pleased to say, conducted a real bidding process. That was a refreshing change from years past when it looked as though the yards might be given away in a back-room deal. It would take a lot more vigilance and transparency to ensure that the new Hudson Yards work for all New Yorkers.

And when did the Times editorialize about the not-so-real bidding process for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, a process that began 18 months after the city and state announced their backing for Forest City Ratner's plan?


Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

Meet Avi Schick, New York's New Steamroller


The New York Observer
Eliot Brown

A longtime attorney, today he sits as president and acting CEO of New York State’s powerful development agency, with control over numerous multibillion-dollar projects such as the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station, the Javits Center expansion and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. With a new administration in Albany and the top position vacant following the recent resignation of the Empire State Development Corporation’s co-chairman, Patrick Foye, a well-connected Mr. Schick is pushing to make his temporary role at the agency’s top a permanent one, according to people with knowledge of his plans.
A physically imposing Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, Mr. Schick is cordial and warm in casual conversation, noticeably fidgeting his legs as he sits and talks with a confidence about his work. The posts of LMDC chairman and ESDC president, which also includes overseeing the $4 billion-plus Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and the possible use of eminent domain for Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion, keep him tied to his work, so much so that he has said he’s added a visible set of gray hairs to his previously jet-black beard.

Schick has already earned the love of both Sheldon Silver and Bruce Ratner:

The developers of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner, also give high marks to Mr. Schick, with CEO Bruce Ratner praising him for his intelligence and competence.

“He’s got a combination of legal ability, leadership and also being able to pull together both lawyers, agencies and the private sector,” Mr. Ratner said. “Compared to other people I’ve worked with in government, he’s on the very, very top.”


Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

KARMA: It's what goes around...

This week, a Forest City Ratner spokesperson offered some words of advice after Home Depot told Crain's NY Business that they were having second thoughts about opening a Manhattan store at the East River Plaza.

Crain's reported that "the Home Depot Inc. is close to abandoning" the deal and that the company "confirmed that it is rethinking the location, even though it has already signed a lease."

Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt countered, "We have a lease with them, and we expect them to live up to that."

This isn't the first act of the big-box opera at the East River Plaza mall and some might even say that Forest City Ratner and its development partner the Blumenfeld Development Group had it coming.

Long-time NoLandGrab readers might recollect that in late May 2005, NY Newsday reported that Costco was "close to signing a lease for its first Manhattan store" at Ratner's East River Plaza. Just over a year later, in August 2006, Ratner and Edward Blumenthal gave Costco the heave-ho for Target (The NY Times, "Costco Fails Again in Bid for a Manhattan Foothold," September 17, 2006). Costco's Chairman Jeffrey H. Brotman, recalled his reaction when Bruce told him the news, “I was really angry. From Bruce I didn’t expect it.’’

In Brooklyn — where leases for Nets arena luxury boxes are being offered on May 15, while affordable housing is delayed until further notice, — we expect Bruce and Company to live up to their reputations, it's just baffling when they bristle at consequences of their own bad karma.

Posted by lumi at 10:59 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere...


Who Walk In Brooklyn, Death In Gowanus: Electric Switchboard Co. RIP

WWIB mourns the coming death of one of their "favorite buildings in all of Gowanus: Electric Switchboard Co" and makes the connection between Gowanus developer Marc Freud and Atlantic Yards, as well as heaping praise on Atlantic Yards Report.

Seriously tho’, Norm’s has been on fire lately, hilariously busting the Daily News, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle manque & the unbelievably naive (or just plain dopey) yokels at ACORN, who were played so hard by Bruce Ratner but they won’t stop singing that tune for fear of admitting they were wrong from the start: oops upside your head indeed.

CultureGrrl, Brooklyn/Murakami/Vuitton: It Keeps Getting Worse

CultureGrrl connects The Brooklyn Museum, a French luxury fashion and leather goods brand, Kanye West, Rudy Giuliani, the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Frank Gehry, and of course, Bruce Ratner. Phew...

The honoree of Brooklyn Ball is real estate developer Bruce Ratner, whose company, Forest City Ratner, was just taken to task by the NY Times architecture critic for "a betrayal of public trust" in planning (for economic reasons) to downsize Frank Gehry's "bold ensemble of buildings" for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards---a move that Ouroussoff declared would "only confirm our darkest suspicions about the cynical calculations underlying New York real estate deals." Isn't he the same guy who's taking the N.J. Nets out of my home state?

New Penn Station, Listen to MAS President Kent Barwick on WNYC

Today on WNYC’s Morning Edition, MAS President Kent Barwick described the public benefit of Moynihan Station and suggested that the State should consider using its powers of eminent domain to take the Garden's property. From WNYC:
“The state has been willing to use its powers to take land for Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn to do Atlantic Yards or to take land in Morningside Heights away from private property owners to give to Columbia. Those are arguable public benefits, but there’s no question about the public benefit of having a great new rail station. This is the most important project in New York and is the single most important step in getting the West Side developed which we need for the future of the city. And so the public benefit is clear and ultimately if the private property owners who everyone has been trying to deal with for years can’t be brought into a realistic arrangement then the state should consider using its powers to take the property.”

Posted by amy at 9:46 AM

FCR's Beekman tower finally financed; school will be a year late

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the credit crunch, Forest City Ratner shows it can cobble together major financing from several sources, announcing yesterday that it had secured $680 million in financing for the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

The bonds are issued by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) but are not the tax-exempt housing bonds needed to construct the market-rate and affordable rentals in the Atlantic Yards project. Rather, they are a combination of tax-exempt Liberty Bonds, aimed to revive Lower Manhattan, and taxable bonds.
Forest City Ratner had said the school planned for the site would open in 2009; now, reports the Observer, the planned opening is 2010. Note that the School Construction Authority had cited a delay in steel, while the delay in financing was more clearly to blame. FCR had previously ducked a request from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver regarding the timetable.


Posted by amy at 9:37 AM

March 28, 2008

Home Depot may back out of Harlem site

Home Depot said it is rethinking its long-anticipated East River Plaza location, even though it has already signed a lease.

Crain's NY Business
by Elisabeth Butler Cordova

We're starting to think that there's a permanent rain cloud hovering over Atlantic Yards and East River Plaza developer Forest City Ratner's MetroTech headquarters.

Real estate sources say that The Home Depot Inc. is close to abandoning its long-anticipated store at the East River Plaza in Harlem, a major new retail development from Forest City Ratner and Blumenfeld Development group.

Home Depot confirmed that it is rethinking the location, even though it has already signed a lease.

“We have a lease with them, and we expect them to live up to that,” says Loren Riegelhaupt, vice president of government and public affairs at Forest City Ratner Cos., which partnered with Blumenfeld Development Group to create the project.


NoLandGrab: Does Forest City's Mr. Riegelhaupt mean "we expect them to live up to that" in the same way that Forest City Ratner is failing miserably in living up to its Atlantic Yards promises of 10,000 new permanent jobs, 2,250 units of affordable housing and $5.6 billion in new tax revenues, with all the construction wrapped up in 10 years? Just wondering.

Posted by eric at 3:11 PM

Yard Work

The Brian Lehrer Show
WNYC Radio

A 17-minute segment from yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show, featuring Crain's New York editor Greg David and WNYC's Matthew Schuerman comparing and contrasting the Yards Atlantic and Hudson.

Download MP3


Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

As Builders’ Grand Visions Dissolve, So Does Our Faith

NY Times columnist Clyde Haberman takes a sideswipe at Atlantic Yards in today's column about grand urban development plans and promises broken (emphasis added):

On other fronts, plans to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center were hurled into limbo by the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. (Remember him?) Have you noticed proposals for a new Pennsylvania Station going anywhere? Much of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn now seems about to be put on hold — not that everyone will mourn.

For the ne plus ultra of development delays, we have only three words for you: World, Trade and Center.

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

If you read only the dailies, you're missing Atlantic Yards news

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline for this item is hardly news for regular readers of NoLandGrab and the Atlantic Yards Report.

New Yorkers who limit themselves to newspapers--as opposed to, say, online compendiums and coverage at No Land Grab and AYR--might wind up with a very skewed view of the current status of the Atlantic Yards project, since they sure haven't read about the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) generous deadlines, 6+ years to build the arena, then 12+ years to build the first five towers.

Think about it. The New York Times broke the big news last Friday about the Atlantic Yards stall, but hasn't followed up with reporting about the ESDC's willingness to give developer Forest City Ratner a very long leash (though reporter Charles Bagli mentioned it on the Leonard Lopate show yesterday), nor the developer's plan to sell luxury suites.

The New York Post followed up Saturday with a brief article but Monday offered a much longer article about the suite deal. Nothing about the deadlines.

The New York Daily News offered no news article on the stall but ran two sympathetic columns, then a short article Monday about the suites. Nothing about the deadlines.

Norman Oder goes on to show how coverage from on-line sources and newspapers provide the facts you would otherwise miss when you only consult The New York Times, New York Post and Daily News.

Read this post and see what you've been missing.


Posted by steve at 6:43 AM

Visions of parking lots at stalled Atlantic Yards site

By Amy Zimmer

If you're wondering why Bruce Ratner has been taking down every building he possibly can in the footprint of his stalled Atlantic Yards plan, there's only one answer... PARKING.

What’s next for Atlantic Yards? How about a giant parking lot?

At least, that’s what some Brooklynites fear is coming in light of developer Bruce Ratner’s announcement that the recessionary climate has stalled parts of the $4 billion project.

“He’s demolished a number of buildings,” said Tish James, the area’s City Councilwoman and a vocal critic of the project, at a recent City Hall hearing on congestion pricing. “I don’t want those lots to be turned into parking lots.”

Ratner has said construction on the 18,000-seat arena was scheduled to begin by yearend, but other parts of the project’s first phase — housing, retail and an office tower dubbed “Miss Brooklyn” — are on hold.

Some have already predicted that if congestion pricing becomes a reality, a boom in parking lots and garages will soon follow in easy-access portions of the outer boroughs.

James said she is worried about the parking-lot scenario at Atlantic Yards because “it’s a revenue generator and right now [land is] sitting fallow.”

A Ratner rep insisted the land would not be turned into parking lots.


NoLandGrab: Don't count on un-named Ratner reps to all of the sudden start telling the truth.

Ratner has already revealed that he plans to use cleared land as a "temporary surface parking lot." Only the definition of "temporary" is unclear.

The graphic above shows what Norman Oder calls "Phase 0," in July 2006:

Note that there's no official rendering of what might be called phase zero, which would show the entire site east of Sixth Avenue as either surface parking, staging, or railyards. Phase zero would persist during the construction of the first stage, over four years.

We now know that "four years" could actually be more than a decade.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

A Bright Future for Brooklyn

The NY Times, Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Re “What Will be Left of Gehry’s Vision for Brooklyn?,” by Nicolai Ouroussoff (Architecture, Weekend Arts, March 21):

The cancellation of Atlantic Yards would not be a “painful setback for urban planning” but a victory for Brooklyn and for responsible future development. Mr. Ouroussoff’s grand architectural visions for the Manhattanization of Brooklyn leaves out the effects on individuals.

Dozens of residents have been evicted because of Atlantic Yards, and the project would do further harm:

  • The “Brooklyn Bride” would cast a permanent shadow over the surrounding area.

  • The Nets Stadium would cause impossible traffic congestion.

  • Public streets would be closed for what would be a luxury development.

  • There would only be minimal affordable housing (Bruce Ratner has continually backed off from his initial promise).

A coalition of Brooklyn organizations has come up with a Unity Plan, to provide for the improvement of Brooklyn homes and services. The possibility finally looks brighter for that.

Reva Cooper
Brooklyn, March 21, 2008

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

Rezonings & starchitects: filling in some blanks from the Leonard Lopate Show’s AY discussion

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, The Leonard Lopate Show, on WNYC, had a segment on Atlantic Yards, featuring Charles Bagli, the New York Times reporter who wrote last Friday's story about the stalling of the proposed project.

The discussion missed a few details, and Norman Oder picks up the slack. He comments on several areas covered including: the rise in the cost of the arena, the proposed construction schedule and the lack of affordable housing financing.

There was a notable bit of confusion on the show regarding state override of city zoning for Atlantic Yards:

LL: If the Atlantic Yards project never really gets built or doesn't get built completely, what happens to the rest of the land?

CB: First of all, I think the land has been rezoned, so the value of that property is higher than it was five years ago… I think Ratner may do a portion of it, and then sell it off. But it won't be like nothing every gets built over there.

Oder provides the clarification:

Rezoning is a city process. In this case, the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency, will override city zoning (regarding placement of an arena within 200 feet of residences, current density, signage, and more). That's an important basic fact.


Posted by steve at 6:18 AM

Why Atlantic Yards depends on a Democratic administration in DC

Atlantic Yards Report

While Bruce Ratner is busy trying to convince reporters that Atlantic Yards is stalled because of the economy, Norman Oder keeps pointing out that it's the supply of affordable housing funding, stupid:

Besides the credit crunch and the lack of a market for office space, both acknowledged by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the project depends crucially on a sufficient supply of tax-exempt bonds, a "crisis"--in the words of city housing head Shaun Donovan--evident well before the downturn in the economy.

And, despite efforts in Washington by top legislators representing New York, the problem likely won't be alleviated until a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress revamp the rules and allow hard-pressed states like New York additional "volume cap," or the capacity to issue bonds free of federal taxes.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

"Deeply troubled" Jeffries says it's time to evaluate changes in AY; Brennan's subsidy bill resurfaces

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up with State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and surveys the political posturing in light of recent Atlantic Yards revelations:

Last night, I spoke to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes Prospect Heights and the Atlantic Yards footprint, about the Atlantic Yards stall and the potential response in Albany.

He indicated dismay about the apparent major delay in affordable housing and said it was too soon to assess new Governor David Paterson’s posture on the project.

He said the legislature may look at a bill, sponsored in 2006 by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and revived in February, that would trade a one-third cut in the size of Atlantic Yards for direct and indirect subsidies worth some $700 million over 30 years, with nearly half of that up front.

Also, he said a legislative committee might take another look at the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) stewardship of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Get an art fix at a bar

By Laurel Leicht

It's an unwritten rule: Art and booze go together. But you don't have to sip pinot noir at a gallery opening or the Guggenheim's Free Fridays to appreciate the combo. A number of bar/galleries with varying setups and styles means everyone -- from art aficionados to casual observers of culture -- can get in on the action.

NoLandGrab's pick from the list:

Freddy's Bar & Backroom
485 Dean St, Brooklyn

In business since Prohibition, Freddy's constantly pops up on lists of NYC's best dive bars. Venture into the back gallery and check out the two months-long exhibits of painting, photography, sculpture and video. Manager, painter and booking agent Donald O'Finn does video art with repurposed material from TV -- and recently launched Burrow, an arts and literature journal. The current collection, "Found in Brooklyn," showcases neighborhood artists.

NoLandGrab: Freddy's Bar and Backroon is under threat of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's highly controversial Atlantic Yards project. Freddy's is a plaintiff in the federal eminent domain suit; the petitioners are seeking a date with the Supreme Court.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

Atlantic Yards dead

MissBrooklynBye-BP.gif The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project — which envisioned 16 skyscrapers, eight acres of open space, more than 2,250 units of below-market-rate housing, new top-of-the-line office space and a publicly financed basketball arena — now consists of little more than the arena and two scaled-back residential buildings, the developer told the New York Times last week.

In a bombshell front-page story last Friday, Ratner blamed the downturn in the economy for killing virtually all of his $4-billion mega-development.

As a result, many residents of Prospect Heights fear that areas already cleared by Ratner between Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues will remain empty for decades — in essence causing the urban blight that Ratner promised to fix.

The complete article runs down the shocking revelations from last Friday's Times article, explaining them in greater detail.

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Atlantic Yards Stalled, But Arena Remains Goal

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Norman Oder

Here's a comprehensive overview of the fallout from the front-page Atlantic Yards article that appeared a week ago in The New York Times, and the State Funding Agreement for the project, released, also one week ago, by the Empire State Development Corporation. The agreement had been signed in September but not released to the public.

For months, Atlantic Yards opponents and critics had suggested that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) over-promised plans for the arena-plus-16-towers project, citing, for example, a statement last year by an executive from parent Forest City Enterprises that the project would take 15 years rather than the officially announced decade.

Last Friday, in a front-page article in the New York Times, CEO Bruce Ratner acknowledged that the project was stalled, citing a slowed economy and legal challenges, though he wouldn't predict completion dates. Even the flagship tower known as Miss Brooklyn is on hold, as the developer takes the unusual step of essentially cold-calling office tenants with a letter signed by architect Frank Gehry. Now the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, without any of the other four towers in which it would be nestled, has become the developer's priority, with a stated - if questionable - opening date of 2010.

On Monday, more details emerged, as the blog Atlantic Yards Report (written by this journalist) revealed that a State Funding Agreement signed last September by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) gives FCR up to six years after the close of litigation and the exercise of eminent domain to build the arena, 12 years to build the five towers of Phase 1, and an unspecified time to build the additional eleven towers.

This, said project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), was "bait-and-switch," given that the ESDC, when approving the project in December 2006, endorsed a plan that "anticipated" project completion in a decade.

After reviewing reaction from Atlantic Yards opponents and supporters, Oder looks ahead to what might come next:

On Friday, after the Times article was published, a State Funding Agreement, divided into 37 parts, surfaced on ESDC's web site. Beyond the seemingly flexible timetable, the document suggested that, should the project be abandoned, the city might pursue a plan that would bring 1,845 units of housing, 646 of them affordable, and two acres of open space, as opposed to 6,430 units, 2,250 of them affordable, and eight acres of open space. (The document also makes reference to a City Funding Agreement that has not yet been made public.)

In other words, Atlantic Yards might result in a much smaller project built with or by other developers. Alternatively, some suggested, Ratner's announcement Friday sets the stage to negotiate for additional subsidies to build the housing. Either way, FCR's history, as with the MetroTech office complex in Downtown Brooklyn, is apparently to build projects at a pace compatible with the market rather than any announced timetable.


Posted by steve at 5:49 AM

Take back the rail yards!

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The Brooklyn Paper calls for a complete "do over:"

The news that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has abandoned his plan to build most of the 16-skyscraper arena, office and residential project is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to this ongoing city- and state-subsidized debacle.

The project was always too big, too reliant on public subsidies and too much a betrayal of sound urban planning to ever be built.

Ratner now blames the souring of the economy as the reason for his failure to get Atlantic Yards done — but our current economic malaise is not entirely to blame; indeed, Ratner was unable to secure an anchor tenant for his Frank Gehry–designed Miss Brooklyn tower going back to 2003, when the economy was booming.
More important, we are troubled by new state documents that show that Ratner could leave the rest of the 22-acre site vacant for decades, thereby creating the urban blight that state officials said he would eliminate.

The state must not let him. The state must take back the development rights over the rail yards and put them out for bid. Doing so would not only cleanse state officials of the Original Sin of Atlantic Yards (namely selling Ratner the air rights for $100 million less than their appraised value), but it would also set right Bruce Ratner’s very wrong project.


Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Is arena facing all new review?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Might the proposed Nets arena have to go back to the Public Authorities Control Board for approval because the cost of the arena has grown from $637.2 million to $950 million since is was approved just 15 months ago?

“The reason the PACB exists is to look at the entirety of the financing package for this project,” said Lawrence Schillinger, a lawyer for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“A 50-percent increase in the cost of the arena substantially changes the financials of the project.”

Another DDDB lawyer, Jeff Baker, agreed, saying that the PACB’s approval of the project in December, 2006 assumed a 7.6-percent profit for the developer.

If his costs have skyrocketed, that profit will be smaller — making it less likely that the project is economically viable and will not require additional government subsidies to make it work.

“As such,” Baker said, “the PACB needs to review it again.”

Both lawyers said they were willing to take the matter to court, but, for now, were more interested in making their argument in “the court of public opinion,” Schillinger said.

“People need to look at how government spends money,” he said.

“This kind of bonding scheme is exactly what the state did 30 years ago. We don’t want to repeat those mistakes.”


Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

State: Ratner has no deadline for construction.

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

Bruce Ratner has not been given a deadline to complete the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project — including the 11 buildings that contain the vast majority of the promised 2,250 units of affordable housing and seven acres of open space, newly released documents show, prompting critics of the controversial project to blast it as a “bait and switch.”

“Forest City Ratner has already gotten $40 million from the city, yet we may not see the first affordable housing apartment for 13 years,” said a seemingly frustrated Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).

The arena could take a long time:

Ratner says he will begin construction of the publicly financed Nets arena by the end of this year. It won’t have to be completed until 2015, according to the documents.

Phase One will take even longer:

And Ratner now has until 2021 to complete the first phase of the project, which once called for the arena and five skyscrapers, including the iconic Miss Brooklyn (though it now calls for a lot less — see main story).

As for Phase Two, with the bulk of the eagerly awaited affordable housing, who knows?

There is no deadline or timeframe given for the rest of the project — the 11 skyscrapers and open space that would run from Sixth Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights.

What's worse, the NY City Funding Agreement for Atlantic Yards is so super-secret that our elected legislators on the City Council haven't even seen it.

For his part, [City Councilman David] Yassky skewered the behind-closed-doors nature of the agreement — which he and other elected officials had been hoping to see before it was signed — and the document’s failure to lock into law the elements of a Community Benefits Agreement between Ratner and a handful of community groups that promised job-training and affordable housing units in exchange for support from the groups.

“This funding agreement was the last opportunity to make the promises in the CBA legally binding,” said Yassky.


NoLandGrab: Yassky makes a good point, which begs the question, were the promises in the CBA ever meant to be legally binding?

The secret nature of the NYC Atlantic Yards Funding Agreement leads one to wonder if there's some pretty damning stuff in there.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

More Developers Tracking Projects' Progress With Cameras

The NY Sun
By Bradley Hope

Big Brother Bruce isn't just watching YOU:

The use of live Web cameras by New York City and national developers has skyrocketed over the last several years, as air travel after the attacks of September 11, 2001, became more challenging and technology more reliable. Developers now monitor construction projects around the world from small command centers in their high-rise office towers in Manhattan.

Two of the privately held companies that provide the camera systems, EarthCam and OxBlue, said they have contracts with hundreds of developers and construction companies, including Forest City Ratner, Sherwood Group, and Turner Construction Company. EarthCam has been operating since 1996, while OxBlue was started in 2001.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Is Bruce Ratner Out of Cash?


Bruce Ratner is just a little strapped for cash — this time it's his Frank Gehry-designed tower in Lower Manhattan that's caught in the starting gate:

Looks like Brooklyn isn't the only borough seeing a stalled project care of our pals at Forest City Ratner. Apparently an ambitious FCR-developed 75-story tower planned for 8 Spruce Street, near City Hall, is going nowhere fast. This wouldn't necessarily be news except for the fact that part of the Frank Gehry-designed building is supposed to include a public school, and the local community board down there is starting to get a wee bit skeptical about the school being ready for action in '09, as promised. Downtown Express reports:

When Noah Pfefferblit, C.B. 1’s district manager, asked Ratner and the S.C.A. why no work has happened on the project in six months, he got two different answers. The School Construction Authority said there was a delay in delivering a shipment of steel, but that the steel would arrive soon. After that, work will begin on an expedited schedule to get the school open by fall 2009, the authority said. Ratner gave an entirely different explanation, after canceling an appearance at the community board to discuss the project. “They said they’re having issues with their financing,” Pfefferblit told the Youth and Education Committee Tuesday. Frank Gehry, known for complicated and whimsical buildings, designed the tower that will house the school. Paul Hovitz, a committee member, provided further evidence of funding troubles, which have been rumored for months. He was recently discussing the project with another board member in public, when a man overheard him. Ratner is having problems financing the project, said the man, who added that he worked for a company doing the financing, Hovitz said.


The Real Estate [NY Observer] linked Brownstoner and the same Downtown Express item in its afternoon news wrap-up:

Forest City Ratner might be backing away from another commitment it made to the community in exchange for development rights, but this time we're not talking about Atlantic Yards. Developer Bruce Ratner said he is having trouble securing financing for a planned 75-story tower at Spruce Street near City Hall, meaning the elementary school under construction there probably won't be completed in time for the 2009 school year.

Charles Bagli discussed the Beekman Tower project on WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show, beginning around the 5:26 mark.

Bagli reports that the tower's foundation has been poured and a construction crane has already been positioned on site. While Bruce Ratner is scrambling to close on the financing, the crane continues to be leased and the crew is paid because he can't afford to have workers hired away to another job site.

Bagli reveals that the developer said that they plan to close on the financing by the end of the month. Whether or not Ratner is on track remains to be seen.

NoLandGrab: Ratner-enabler Sheldon Silver can be none too happy with the lack of progress on Beekman Tower.

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

News analysis: The Times gives the ESDC a bye

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder oderizes The Times's coverage of the Hudson Yards deal:

A New York Times News Analysis today of the West Side Yards deal, headlined :For Railyards, the Hard Part Is Still Ahead, leaves out some important Atlantic Yards context:

In the end, the project could take well over a decade to complete, and its look could change significantly from the current designs by Helmut Jahn and Peter Walker.

In Brooklyn, the developer Bruce Ratner has already acknowledged that his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project will take longer than the 10 years originally envisioned.

First, the Times should have pointed out that, not only has Ratner acknowledged that the project would take longer than ten years, others in his firm and outside observers had been making the same observation, and that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has given some generous deadlines: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build the first five towers, and an unspecified amount of time to build the rest.

Also, whatever Yaro says applies equally well to Atlantic Yards. If built, it will change significantly from Frank Gehry's renderings.


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Brooklyn historian befuddled by Brooklyn blogs

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder corrects the record in a rambling essay by historian John Manbeck on the historical value of new media (blogs and web sites) in Brooklyn.

Here's an excerpt from a Brooklyn Daily Eagle essay headlined Historically Speaking: Researching Brooklyn — Online, by former Brooklyn Borough Historian John Manbeck:

The Gowanus Lounge has a blog with its slogan: “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.” The Atlantic Yards Report has news about the Nets.

Adventures in Brooklyn and BK 11201 recount personal tales with pictures. Brooklyn Enthusiast deals with food and recipes as does Bread, Coffee, Chocolate, Yoga and All in Brooklyn. Frisket of Hicks Street recently became Frisket of Main Street: it’s about this dog. Two others have Brooklyn Bridge pix: Never Sleepist and Sam I Am.

To me, most of the material I encountered in blogs has been gossipy and unreliable. While the Web sites are more substantial, information there must be further researched in, say, a book.

Further research shows

Um, The Gowanus Lounge, which includes firsthand reporting often critical of the Brooklyn real estate firmament, is different from the eclectic but homier Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. Suffice it to say that Borough President Marty Markowitz is unlikely to hail GL's Bob Guskind at his final "State of the Borough" address, as he did OTBKB's Louise Crawford, founder of the annual Brooklyn Blogfest (the third annual event will be May 8).

While AYR obviously touches on the Nets, Atlantic Yards is about much more than basketball, as any casual reader would know. For news about the Nets, go to NetsDaily.


NoLandGrab: For a chuckle, check out the beginning of Manbeck's piece, as he brilliantly starts his online research by searching for "Brooklyn, N.Y." on his computer.

Stay tuned for next week's trick when Manbeck attempts text messaging.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

UNITY Plan on Display on Atlantic Avenue

UNITYModel.jpg By way of dddb.net (Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn):

The UNITY Plan architectural model is on display in the windows of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association (ABBA) at 321 Atlantic Avenue between Smith and Hoyt Streets in Brooklyn. The public is encouraged to come take a look and spread the word.

The UNITY Plan is a community development plan and process for developing the Vanderbilt rail yards, a sensible alternative to Forest City Ratner's failing Atlantic Yards proposal.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

Atlantic Yards stalled by slowing economy

Castle Watch Daily [Institute for Justice]

MoneyDrain.jpg Chris Grodecki comments on an all-too-familiar scenario, in the wake of the news that most of Atlantic Yards has stalled, though New York State is still hoping to complete the eminent domain property transfer by the end of the year:

The most egregious presuppositions eminent domain advocates make in their argument for the use of the power against property owners is that whatever plan in place will actually come to fruition. Normally, this seems just to be an assumed occurrence. Seldom does one read about local officials who take into consideration the wide range of economic possibilities. Rather officials assume that the economy will continue on an upward trajectory. While this may be true in the long term, eminent domain is used to maximize efficiency and to make sure those tax revenues come in as soon as possible. But when the economy slows, the complicated financing schemes that fund developments can totter and collapse. So, in places like Brooklyn, officials may find themselves having neglected variables and may end up with a lot of vacant land and less tax revenue. Given that, local officials really do gamble with their citizens’ livelihoods when they force them out of their homes and businesses, as they base their invocation of eminent domain on the probabilities of short-term economic stability.


Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

March 27, 2008

Land owner challenges Columbia expansion

Nick Sprayregen will file a lawsuit tomorrow against the city and Columbia University, challenging the rezoning that paves the way for the school to expand into West Harlem.

Crain's NY Business
by Eric Engquist

Crain's was first out of the blocks yesterday with news of business-owner Nick Sprayregen's lawsuit challenging the environmental review paving the way for Columbia University's controversial expansion plan:

Businessman Nick Sprayregen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city and Columbia University, challenging the rezoning that paves the way for the school to expand into West Harlem.

The suit, filed in Manhattan in New York State Supreme Court, charges that the city did not fully evaluate the environmental impacts of the 2 million square foot “bathtub” that would lie under the new campus.

The case will be argued by Norman Siegel, the civil rights lawyer expected to run for public advocate in 2009, and Steve Silverberg. Such challenges of city actions, known as Article 78 proceedings, do not often succeed. But in some cases they lead to settlements, and this one at least promises to improve the negotiating position of Mr. Sprayregen, whose property is needed to carry out the expansion envisioned by Columbia.

If the businessman—who runs Tuck-It-Away Self Storage—does not agree to sell his parcels, they could be condemned through eminent domain.


The NY Sun, Harlem Landowner Sues Over Columbia Expansion

"I believe there are very significant issues that have not been properly addressed by the city and as a result, I am deeply concerned that if construction is allowed to proceed without proper independent review, a disaster may someday occur," he said in a statement. Mr. Sprayregen said he is not trying to stop the Columbia expansion but rather to ensure that if the underground space is constructed, the community is safe. He also intends to challenge the university's anticipated use of eminent domain to obtain the land for its desired expansion, he said.

Columbia Spectator, CU, City Sued Over M'ville "Bathtub" Plan

The “bathtub,” as it is commonly called, is designed to be a contiguous space, running from 125th Street to 133rd Street and from Broadway to 12th Avenue, that extends seven stories below ground level. If built, it will house a swimming and diving center, business school programs, scientific research laboratories, storage facilities, and a below-grade MTA bus depot.

But controversy has surrounded the project because of its placement along an earthquake fault line and near a flood plane which poses various environmental concerns, particularly in combination with the potentially hazardous chemicals used in the campus laboratories.

NoLandGrab: Critics of Atlantic Yards are well acquainted with superficial, developer-friendly environmental reviews — and the difficulty of overturning them in court.

Posted by eric at 2:53 PM

The Future of Atlantic Yards

The Leonard Lopate Show
WNYC Radio

New York Times reporter Charles Bagli joins Leonard Lopate for an insightful discussion about "how the slowing economy and credit crisis could affect Forest City Ratner’s plans for Atlantic Yards."

Download MP3


NoLandGrab: Bagli has a good grasp of the issues surrounding Atlantic Yards, though he's off-base in one regard — the area has not been rezoned. The state has overridden the zoning in order to allow Ratner to build well beyond what would otherwise be permitted.

Posted by eric at 2:43 PM

Subprime Crisis Sends Ripples Through Sports World

The Business of Sport
The NY Sun
by Evan Weiner

The financial crisis has definitely had an affect on Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. He still plans to build an arena for his New Jersey Nets franchise, but the scale of the project has been cut down because of financing —or, more specifically, the lack of widely available money for an office tower and three residential buildings on the 22-acre parcel at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Ratner’s project started in 2004 and gained state approval in 2006. The arena was scheduled to open in 2009, but construction has been delayed by lawsuits. Ratner has signed an open-ended deal to keep the Nets in the Meadowlands until the Brooklyn arena is done.

The real effect on New York sports teams may not be evident until the opening of the NBA and NHL seasons in the fall. If the financial market loses jobs, and New York officials fully expect a significant loss of positions in that field, that could impact the Knicks’ and Rangers’ high-end seating, along with that of the Devils, Nets, and Islanders.

The American sports world is keeping an eye on Wall Street and the banking industry. While each league — and each individual team — might have a different immediate reaction to the subprime mortgage crisis, all teams may eventually have to face the full impact of the Bear Stearns meltdown.


Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

News analysis: The Times gives the ESDC a bye

Atlantic Yards Report

When will The New York Times learn?

A New York Times News Analysis today of the West Side Yards deal, headlined For Railyards, the Hard Part Is Still Ahead, leaves out some important Atlantic Yards context.


Posted by eric at 1:39 PM

Profit and Public Good Clash in Grand Plans

The NY Times
By Nicolai Ouroussoff

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your Atlantic Yards overdevelopment is officially a "FIASCO!"

According to the NY Times's architecture critic, in a piece about government-sponsored megaprojects in NYC (emphasis added):

The bitter battles over reconstruction plans for ground zero. The unraveling of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. And now this.

Given current economic realities, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s selection on Wednesday of a team led by Tishman Speyer to develop the West Side railyards seems like a wishful fantasy. Yet even if the project takes decades to realize, it is a damning indictment of large-scale development in New York.

Like the ground zero and Atlantic Yards fiascos, its overblown scale and reliance on tired urban planning formulas should force a serious reappraisal of the public-private partnerships that shape development in the city today.

Nicolai Ouroussoff continues by trashing Tishman-Speyer's development plan for Hudson Yards, before getting in another another dig on Atlantic Yards:

In the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner acknowledged last week that it would delay building most of the elements of Frank Gehry’s design for that eight million-square-foot development because it is short of financing. If built, the project would be a pathetic distortion of the original design. And the developer already has city approval.


NoLandGrab: One misunderstanding on Nicky O's part is that Bruce Ratner's controversial project never had "city approval." Atlantic Yards is a STATE PROJECT, which includes all sorts of overrides of local zoning restrictions and is why the building of an arena was approved just across the street from people's houses (think looking out your bedroom window and seeing an arena).

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Fall of Plan: AY Goes From Eden to Fiasco

Ouroussoff's predecessor, the late Herbert Muschamp, had originally and infamously called Atlantic Yards a "garden of Eden." Oh how the grossly out-of-scale, financially infeasible, promotionally overblown have fallen.

Atlantic Yards Report, Ouroussoff: AY a "fiasco" with "city approval"

Wouldn't you know it, Norman Oder already tried to save the hardworking editors at The Times from themselves:

Actually, the developer already has government approval, but the city has nothing to do with it. The Empire State Development Corporation approved the project. I sent in a correction on Saturday after Ouroussoff made the same mistake in his essay on AY last Friday.

The Times didn't address the correction yet. But the distinction remains important; had the project gone through the city approval process, there would have been more public oversight and discussion.

NoLandGrab: Seriously, the sporting thing would be for The Times to correct the errors that keep getting repeated in the "Paper of Record" and reply, "Thanks for watching our backs, Norman!"

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

And what about those for-sale affordable units? The fine print is vague

Atlantic Yards Report

Some details surface regarding one of the big outstanding questions about the deal cut by developer Bruce Ratner to gain support for his controversial Atlantic Yards project:

A major question raised about the 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units, on and off-site, announced by developer Forest City Ratner as part of the Atlantic Yards Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is why they were absent from the General Project Plan approved by the Empire State Development Corporation. That wasn't cause for confidence.

The recently-unveiled State Funding Agreement does, however, mention the pledge that's contained in the agreement FCR signed with the advocacy group ACORN.

However, as far as I can tell, the document has no teeth, since it asserts no deadlines and no penalties, though it does assign deadlines for other phases of the project and penalties for failure to meet those deadlines.

For one thing, if FCR doesn't build as many market-rate condos--and all housing is now on hold--the MOU appears to give the developer an out. Also, the construction of for-sale affordable units depends on unspecified subsidies.


NoLandGrab: In other words, affordable condos for "families in the upper affordable income tiers" are delayed until further notice.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again: Atlantic Yards as Interpretive Dance

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice]
By Julie Bolcer

Bolcer follows up on an Atlantic Yards Report post, in which Norman Oder related some discoveries about the State Funding Agreement for Atlantic Yards, with the news that the Empire State Develoment Corporation only released an important document once the cat was out of the bag: JB-GoogleEarth.jpg

Yesterday, ESDC spokesperson Warner Johnston confirmed in a telephone call that the funding agreement was signed in September and posted on Friday, in response to numerous inquires from reporters.
The existence of the funding agreement, while not discussed in the Times article, seems to provide a rationale for the Teflon-like final words of Forest City Ratner head Bruce Ratner, who told reporter Charles Bagli that, “Good things sometimes take a long time.”

However, exactly how long Ratner can take remains unclear because of a curious portion of the funding agreement that discusses an “effective date” of December 19, 2009. According to this detail, all litigation and property condemnation must be completed by that time, otherwise Forest City Ratner will have to take “reasonable steps” to pursue the project in order to prevent it from being considered abandoned and money returned to ESDC.

What might happen if Atlantic Yards opponents, currently in the appeals process of two lawsuits concerning the environmental impact of the project and its use of eminent domain, manage to outlast the December 2009 effective date?

As far as ESDC is concerned, the litigation has already been completed.

“Essentially, that section of the funding agreement was designed for litigation that was on the table at the time,” said ESDC’s Johnston yesterday. “That litigation was dismissed.”

Or is that open to interpretation, too?

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril, Hillary's hardball tactics backfire
Rattner-v-Ratner.jpg Sometimes the wrong Rat(t)ner gets fingered for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle:

And it's true that these people are no joke - Maureen White was the former finance Chair of the DNC,Steve Rattner was behind the Atlantic Yards project in New York, Susie Thompkins Buell founded Espirit, and Haim Saban created the Power Rangers franchise. These people give massive amounts of money to the party, but it doesn't mean that their voices should count for more than the millions of voters.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and his family also give "massive amounts of money" to New York politicians, but their contributions are directed to those whose political support is necessary for the approval and funding of Atlantic Yards.

Dr. Bagelman's Hour of Hate, my city was gone

According to one blogger, there's something worse than Atlantic Yards:

For all the Atlantic Yards project gets maligned for not being sensitive to the needs of the community, at least it's a centrally-located commercial space that's being repurposed. The West Side yards project is like something you'd cook up in SimCity.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

TALE OF TWO YARDS: MTA actually selects highest bidder, but done deal isn't done

HudsonRailyard-amNY.jpg Like some freak accident, the MTA managed to choose the highest bidder for the Hudson Railyards, but like Atlantic Yards, the project still faces hurdles:

amNY, Developer picked for Hudson Yards project
By David Freedlander

With an already $2 billion price tag to build platforms over the rail yards, some fear that the West Side development could go the way of other mega-projects, such as the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Moynihan Station, both of which have recently hit snags.

The NY Times, For Railyards, the Hard Part Is Still Ahead
By Charles V. Bagli

In the end, the [Hudson Yards] project could take well over a decade to complete, and its look could change significantly from the current designs by Helmut Jahn and Peter Walker.

In Brooklyn, the developer Bruce Ratner has already acknowledged that his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project will take longer than the 10 years originally envisioned.

NoLandGrab: Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards, with the bulk of the housing, doesn't even officially have a solid timeline.

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

March 26, 2008

Forest City in the News

BusinessWire, Forest City Declared Quarterly Dividend

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) announced today that the Board of Directors has declared a cash dividend in the amount of $0.08 on each outstanding share of both Class A and Class B Common Stock of the Corporation, to shareholders of record at the close of business on June 2, 2008. This dividend will be payable on June 17, 2008.

TransWorldNews, Forest City Enterprises Inc (NYSE:FCEA) to Hold Q4 2007 Earnings Conference Call April 2

Forest City Enterprises Inc (NYSE:FCEA) will hold a conference call on Wednesday, April 2 at 1:00 pm to discuss the fourth quarter earnings for 2007.

Engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate properties, Forest City Enterprises operates within three business units.
View the Event page for the Forest City Enterprises Conference Call on Finditt Events.

Forest City Stock Quotes: FCEA & FCEB.

Rocky Mountain News, Orchard mall ready to open in tough times

Posted by lumi at 8:55 PM

Tishman Speyer wins Hudson Yards bid

Tishman bid $1.004 billion for rights to the plot, $112 million higher than the offer from The Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

In a reversal of its own sullied tradition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority today awarded the Hudson Rail Yards to the highest bidder, real estate developer Tishman Speyer.

Tishman Speyer edged out three other development teams to win the fierce competition to develop the Hudson Rail Yards, the 26-acre site on Manhattan’s far West side that is envisioned as an extension of midtown’s business district.

Tishman Speyer bid $1.004 billion for the rights to the plot, where it plans to build 10 million square feet of office space and 3 million square feet of housing while leaving 13 acres of open space. Its offer was $112 million higher than a competing offer from a joint venture of The Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust. That group had lined up Condé Naste Publications as a tenant and its proposed 6.4 million square feet of residential space was the most offered by any developer.

It is expected to cost $1.5 billion to build a platform over the train tracks so construction can begin.


NoLandGrab: How is this railyard deal different from Bruce Ratner's railyard deal? Let's see: high bidder chosen rather than low bidder; $1 billion in midst of failing real estate market vs. $100 million in midst of real estate bubble; city rezoning vs. state override; no eminent domain vs. eminent domain abuse.... Need we go on?

More coverage:

City Room (The New York Times), M.T.A. Votes to Sell West Side Land Rights to Tishman Speyer

The project still faces several prospective hurdles. The $1,004,000,000 deal requires the completion of an agreement over the next 14 days specifying terms and conditions of the deal, and the signing of a formal contract. The slowing economy has prompted some developers, like Bruce C. Ratner, to consider delay the schedule for major developments like the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. And a portion of the rail yards of the Far West Side that would be controlled by Tishman still must undergo a rezoning process that could take up to 18 months.

Curbed.com, Yardsmania: It's Official!, Yardsmania: OK, So Now What?
The Real Estate, Tishman Speyer Win Not Quite Official
AP, via The International Herald Tribune, Developer Tishman Speyer to build skyscrapers, apartments on New York City waterfront

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM


Gumby Fresh

Even though Norman Oder covered the main stuff in the recently released Atlantic Yards State Funding Agreement, "Gumby Fresh" and "Cutesome" take a peek.

Norman Oder got the most interesting news out of the agreement, which was that there is a deadline for the developer to get his buildings up, but it's pretty lenient, and the clock doesn't appear to start ticking till the project reaches financial close.

The remaining details, of what exactly the state and developer are on the hook for, are pretty well-known to the Atlantic Yarderati. This agreement did not cover the overall financing of the project, and the spaces where the project costs would go have been left blank, probably because they haven't been settled yet. My interest was briefly roused by the guarantee agreement from Forest City Ratner's corporate parent, Forest City Enterprises, to the state, but this seems to just cover the phase one infrastructure, rather than the stadium or anything else at the site.

Quick note from Mrs. Cutesome, who has a lovely eye for matters legal (well, a lovely everything), but less interest than I in spending a Sunday going through funding agreements. Quite a few of the subclauses in the agreement have been struck out, with only [intentionally deleted] remaining to let us know they were ever there. According to her, any decent law firm would have moved the clauses up to replace the deleted ones, and gone through the rest of the document making damn sure the loose ends were tied up. And who were the city and state using for the work? Only top Wall Street law firms Skadden Arps and Fried Frank. Poor show, chaps.


NoLandGrab: It warms the heart to know that couples come together and spend quality time cuddling over Atlantic Yards minutiae.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

AY Funding Agreement: This Could Take Forever


[Former?] Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Sarah Ryley follows up on last Friday's release of the State Funding Agreement for Atlantic Yards:


According to the agreement, either party can pull out of the project at any time before eminent domain proceedings have been finalized, pending a decision on an appeal to the federal Supreme Court. In most scenarios, the city would gain control of the land and be required to build at least 1,199 market-rate and 646 affordable units. (By comparison, Ratner's project was supposed to have 4,180 market-rate and 2,250 affordable units.)
Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt said the construction timetable outlined in the agreement is a minimum requirement, a worst-possible scenario. Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein, at risk of losing his home to make way for the arena, said new information in the agreement amounts to a bait and switch, and called on the state to take another look at the project.


Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere109.gif Here's what bloggers are saying about Atlantic Yards:

europaconcorsi, New York — I più famosi architetti del mondo di danno alla progettazione su larga scala

I famosi architetti non si accontentano più di firmare edifici, stanno sempre di più facendo funzione di megaprogettatori. Il progetto di Frank Gehry per Atlantic Yards di Brooklyn è solo la punta dell'iceberg, a Los Angeles infatti sta pianificando un intero 'quartiere delle arti', così come in Utah. Daniel Libeskind sta lavorando a creare un nuovo waterfront in Busan, nella Corea del Sud ed ha un progetto per il centro storico di Copenhagen e per la parte ovest di Berna. Nouvel sta progettando a Rabat e Foster a Duisburg. Vai all'articolo

We prefer the machine translation:

New York - the most famous architects of the world of damage to the planning on wide scale.

The famous architects do not please themselves more than to sign buildings, they are always more temporary acting than megaprogettatori. The plan of Frank Gehry for Atlantic Yards di Brooklyn is only the tip of the iceberg*, to Los Angeles in fact is planning an entire ' quarter of the arti', therefore like in Utah. Daniel Libeskind is working to create a new one waterfront in Busan, Korea of the South and has a plan for the historical center of Copenhagen and the part the west of Bern. Nouvel is planning to Rabat and Foster to Duisburg. You go to the article.

* NoLandGrab: That's funny — Miss Brooklyn looks like the tip of an iceberg.

Hoodman, It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp
One blogger singles out Nets minority owner Jay-Z and blames Atlantic Yards on Bush.

Jay-z a minority owner of the soon to be Brooklyn Nets has been a vocal supporter of the Atlantic Yards project which will bring high-rise apartment buildings, offices and an arena to the heart of BK. For those not familiar with BK or the Atlantic Yards project, Jay-Z will contribute to changing his once beloved hard knock life streets to an upscale neighborhood to accommodate that brand new Bently. But all props due to Bush and his utter incompetence with all matters involving money, the Atlantic Yards project is slowly beginning to unravel.

NLG disclaimer: Hey, we're just saying that this is what folks are saying.

Places and Spaces, Atlantic Yards

Lots has been written over the last few days covering Ratner's changing plans for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: Yes, lots and lots.

ARA NEWS, Architecture: What Will Be Left of Gehry’s Vision for Brooklyn?
Not everyone thinks that Atlantic Yards is a Gehry-clad sixties-style urban planning disaster:

The growing possibility that the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn will be scrapped because of financing is a painful setback for urban planning in New York.

NoLandGrab: Maybe the blogger meant "City Planning," not "urban planning."

JAMIE, Frowny Faced Economy

A blogger under the BQE finds a silver lining on the :( economy:

But, I am not here to deliver more bad news, turn your blues violet. I have heard the first positive news to come out of this whole thing, again from the NY Times. “The slowing economy, weighed down by a widening credit crisis, is likely to delay the signature office tower and three residential buildings at the heart of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer said.” Ratner was not specific, but the delay could be a matter of years. This is good news for Brooklyn residents that have been fighting the good fight for sometime now. This is also good news for my little cabin under the BQE. Honestly, I am surprised that my harshly worded letter did not have the same results.

The Written Nerd, Link-Mad Monday: Bad News, Good News, Other

Wonder if delays at Atlantic Yards qualifies as bad or good news:

Here's one thing that may be going away that I'm NOT sad about: Bruce Ratner's terrible Atlantic Yards project, according to the New York Times and the Brooklyn Paper. The slowing economy (he says) is putting the kibosh on the project, though I suspect the public outcry and the efforts of Develop Don't Destroy have also had something to do with it. Worryingly, while the affordable housing has been nixed, the gigantic arena is still on the table; here's hoping Brooklynites can continue successfully in their efforts to change this project into something that actually makes sense and benefits our borough.

Nets Daily, Nets Offering Half Million Dollar Corporate Suites … in Brooklyn

In another indication Bruce Ratner still anticipates having his Nets play in Brooklyn, the team will soon start selling corporate suites in the Barclays Center arena. A day after announcing a delay in other aspects of his Atlantic Yards project, the Nets’ ownership said it will start accepting deposits for corporate suites May 15. The 130 suites will average $300,000 and top out at $540,000. And it turns out that Ratner’s agreement with the state gives him plenty of time to finish the arena.

NoLandGrab: After news of Atlantic Yards delays broke on "Bad Friday," the best news developer Bruce Ratner could conjure is that luxury boxes go on sale in three weeks (affordable housing delayed until further notice, see details to apply, some parental assembly required).

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Economy Could Stall Atlantic Yards Project

GlobeSt.com reporter Natalie Dolce follows up on "recent published reports" that developer Forest City Ratner is only moving ahead on plans for the Atlantic Yards arena — and that its costs have skyrocketed:


Ratner says in a prepared statement that the company "remains committed to Atlantic Yards in its entirety and our investment in Brooklyn and the city is a long-term one."

Goldstein believes that due to the increase in the cost of the arena, the project may have to go back for review and a vote by the Public Authorities Control Board. The PACB is comprised of Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and requires a unanimous vote.

When the project was unveiled in 2003, [the arena] was projected to cost around $400 million. In mid-2005 it that cost rose to $435 million. It was approved at the end of 2006 at $637.2 million. And now, according to the developer in the published reports, the arena would be much costlier at $950 million.

"Besides facing a new review by the PACB, Forest City Ratner does not own the land it needs to build the arena," according to DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker. A FCRC spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com simply that the company "expects to open the arena in 2010."

DDDB legal director Candace Carponter says that the expected fall groundbreaking for the arena is not possible based on the new review required by the PACB, the eminent domain lawsuit, the environmental lawsuit, and the economic environment. "It's pure fantasy."


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Brooklyn Tech pledge appears, with major caveat, in State Funding Agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember Forest City Ratner's 12/20/06 pledge, upon the approval of Atlantic Yards by the Public Authorities Control Board, to build a new Brooklyn Tech High School?
Initially, the developer stated, "FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough."

That would have been a new Brooklyn Tech to replace the recently renovated Brooklyn Tech, much to the consternation of alumni who paid for the facility upgrade.

Given alumni concerns that Forest City Ratner wanted the Brooklyn Tech building, well located adjacent to Fort Greene Park, city school officials last April insisted that the building would remain a school, and Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco backpedaled from any pledge.

Keep in mind that this pledge was hailed as a significant last-minute concession extracted from developer Forest City Ratner by United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, when the project was approved in December, 2006.

With the public release of the State Funding Agreement on Friday, March 21, 2008 (the agreement was executed on September 12, 2007), it appears that this major concession is worth the paper it's printed on.

The document states:

Developer shall agree to work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a brand new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, to the extent the City and the Department of Education elect to build such a school.
(Emphasis added)


NoLandGrab: At this point, is anyone surprised? We're just amazed how long the State managed to keep this agreement under wraps.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Flashback: the Sun's (wise) failure to offer an AY projection

Atlantic Yards Report

Back on March 3, the NY Sun covered New York City megaproject delays, including Atlantic Yards, which the paper cited as vunerable due to "a shortage of federal housing subsidies and ongoing litigation." The paper didn't include Atlantic Yards in a chart comparing initial and current completion dates and overall budgets. It's just as well, since the paper would have had it all wrong according to recent revelations:

A graphic might have announced 2016 as the official completion date, with the arena due in 2010 (though it was initially projected at 2006) and and simply ??? as the latest projected completion date.

Now, however, we know that the developer has a lot of time--6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years for Phase 1, and an unspecified amount for the rest of the project..


Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

Some Pricey Suites At Barclays Center

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Brooklyn Eagle

The Nets will soon start selling corporate suites in the Barclays Center arena, according to the NetsDaily Web site. Although it recently announced a delay in other aspects of the Atlantic Yards plan, Forest City Ratner, the owner of the Nets, said it will start accepting deposits for corporate suites on May 15. The 130 suites will average $300,000 and top out at $540,000.


NoLandGrab: Luxury suites go on sale on May 15; affordable housing will be delayed until further notice.

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

March 25, 2008


Photos Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Weeks beginning March 24, 2008 - March 31, 2008

[This installment of the "Destruction Update" has not been posted on line. 03/26/08: The update can now be found here.]

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work


  • Excavation, lagging, install walers and struts at SOE piles at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • Continue drilling piles at East Portal.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120.
  • Prep and begin demo of southern portion of Carlton Avenue Bridge.
  • Install MPT on Pacific St (near 6th Ave) for south foundation footing installation.

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 complete at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22).
  • Demolition will begin at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period.
  • Abatement is complete at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29) and is awaiting issuance of the demolition permit.
  • Abatement is complete at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) and is awaiting issuance of the demolition permit.

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. 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 northbound B67 bus stop on the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will be temporarily eliminated in the next two weeks to accommodate the utility work described above. The bus stops in close proximity to the north at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues and to the south at Flatbush and Dean Street will be maintained.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: More Atlantic Yards Bait and Switch

State Had Approved 10 Year Construction Timeline, Later Signs Agreement Allowing Just Phase 1 to Take 12 Years and the Arena to Take 6 Years

Phase 2, The Bulk of the Housing, Has No Established Timeline

Brooklyn, NY— As revealed today on the Atlantic Yards Report, the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) funding agreement with Atlantic Yards proposal developer Forest City Ratner, allows 6-plus years for the developer to build the arena, 12-plus years to build the rest of Phase 1 (five skyscrapers), and no established timeline to build the remaining 11 skyscrapers comprising Phase 2 which would account for the bulk of the proposed “affordable housing.” These details are contained within the funding agreement which was posted in 37 parts on Friday on the ESDC website on the same day of a bombshell article on the front page of the NY Times outlining the financial problems plaguing the failing project (“Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards”).

The General Project Plan, approved in December 2006 by the ESDC, stated that Phase 1 of the project (the arena and 5 towers) was "anticipated to be completed by 2010" and Phase II (11 towers and privately-owned, publicly accessible open space) was "anticipated to be completed by 2016." But that is not now the case as the Atlantic Yards Report explains:

Nine months later, in September 2007, the ESDC signed a funding agreement that gives developer Forest City Ratner much more time and also posits a scenario in which much less housing and open space would be built.

The details:

Ratner would have six years to build the arena after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties.

Ratner would have 12 years to build the five towers of Phase I after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties.

Ratner would have an unspecified amount of time to build the eleven towers of Phase II, with an option for the ESDC to buy back the land from the developer.

Should the project be abandoned, the city might pursue a plan that would bring 1845 units of housing 646 of them affordable, and 2 acres of open space, as opposed to 6430 units, 2250 of them affordable, and 8 acres of open space…

…If the Effective Date [close of litigation and completion of property condemnation] does not occur prior to December 19, 2009 and Forest City Ratner fails to pursue the site litigation or take "reasonable steps" in furtherance of the project, it "will be deemed abandoned," and the ESDC will get its money back.

“The ESDC and the Public Authorities Control Board signed off on a project that would take 10 years to construct. Less than a year later the ESDC has agreed to allow Forest City Ratner to take 6 years just to build the arena, 12 years just to build the first phase of the project, and no established timeline for the second phase where the bulk of the ‘affordable’ housing would be,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “This is a bait and switch of an incredible degree. The project’s political supporters, as well as ‘affordable’ housing partner ACORN, ought to be up in arms about this drastic timeline change negotiated completely behind closed doors.”

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Ouroussoff's Gehry defense was more "hero worship" than civic concern

Atlantic Yards Report

So what exactly did New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff mean last Friday when he counted himself among "we" opponents of the Atlantic Yards project?

I observed that "more likely, he’s an opponent of [architect Frank] Gehry’s vision being stymied." Indeed, more of that perspective emerged in a Sunday essay headlined Nice Tower! Who’s Your Architect? that also involves a Gehry project for Forest City Ratner.

Writing about the architect's Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, Ouroussoff, with satisfaction recounted how Gehry got over on the big developer:

Some architects were able to work around conventional real estate wisdom by forging exteriors that would impose a specific experience on the interior spaces. By the time the consultants at Forest City Ratner, the developer behind Mr. Gehry’s Beekman building, realized that the wrinkled walls of the architect’s tower would be mirrored inside the apartments, for example, it was too late to change without a costly reworking of the design.


Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Comparing Coney Island

Atlantic Yards Report

The Coney contrast: no eminent domain, "constant public input"


As Atlantic Yards has become the poster child for bad public process and inadequate urban planning, it's worth watching the city's posture toward other major development projects.

And the city is treading carefully in Coney Island, where a rezoning plan would avoid use of eminent domain, even though the major landowner in the amusement area, Thor Equities' Joe Sitt, so far has very different plans for his property and has not yet agreed to a suggested swap of city land to the west.

The standalone arena makes the Coney option look stronger

Ok, it's not on the city's radar screen, given other ambitious plans for Coney Island, but Forest City Ratner's intention to proceed with an Atlantic Yards arena and wait--perhaps for a very long while--before building office space and housing suddenly removed some major objections to the once front-burner plan to put an arena in Coney Island.

And the city's intention to press for express train service would remove another objection. That's not to say an arena is likely, but the discussion deserves a second look.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

March 24, 2008

Suite deal: despite skyrocketing costs, arena would be paid for mostly by luxury suites

Atlantic Yards Report


Norman Oder explains how the proposed Nets arena is such a good deal for Bruce Ratner. Ratner will pay no taxes, only payments in lieu of taxes, so we all get to help him.

Let's try the math. At a 5% interest rate, over 30 years, bond payments would be $61.2 million a year. (That's a somewhat arbitrary interest rate and an online calculator, so my math could be off.)

Barclays would pay $400 million, or $20 million a year, over 20 years. Add $39 million in suites and the $59 million total nearly reaches $61.2 million.

Add a couple of million dollars in other sponsorships--"14 totally integrated partners" are expected--and the arena bond is paid for, at least for the first 20 years. Remember, FCR would pay no taxes, but instead the bond payments would act as payments in lieu of taxes.

It's a suite deal. No wonder they're moving ahead.


Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

Luxury Suites for Sale at Proposed Nets Arena

Bruce Ratner tries to press ahead with the portion of the proposed Atlantic Yards project that potentially has the most benefits - for Bruce Ratner!

Daily News, 540G will get you a ritzy suite in new Brooklyn Nets arena

Developed Bruce Ratner has postponed the fancy apartments at his controversial Atlantic Yards project, but he's pressing ahead with something almost as expensive - luxury suites at the complex's basketball arena.

The 130 Frank Gehry designed suites will average $300,000 and top out at $540,000, officials said Sunday, despite the national financial crisis that has crimped plans for other buildings on the site.


"We believe in getting out early and this is according to our original schedule," said Nets CEO Brett Yorkmark, who denied the team or developer Forest City Ratner was short of cash.

He said the three levels of suites will go on sale May 15 - each outfitted with personal servants, access to an exclusive lounge, flat-panel TVs and other fancy amenities. The announcement came one day after Ratner said the Gehry-designed Miss Brooklyn building and three other residential towers at the heart of the 22-acre project could be delayed indefinitely because of the bond and credit crises.

New York Post, It's a Suite Life For Nets Nuts

Basketball fans with deep pockets can be treated like kings while watching the Nets play in their new Brooklyn arena.

Renderings by renowned architect Frank Gehry and obtained by the Post show no expense being spared for 130 spacious, luxury suites to be included in the team's 18,000-seat arena planned for Prospect Heights, which the Nets hope to be playing in by the 2010-11 season.

The cost of leasing a suite at the Gehry-designed Barclays Center will run from $200,000 to $540,000 a year – or an average of about $300,000 -- when sales kick off May 15 at the team's new Manhattan showroom.

In fact, the only thing missing are gold-plated water faucets because there's just about every amenity imaginable for a sports venue.

"The whole white glove, street-to-seat hospitality approach is something we're going to lead with to deliver an unprecedented amount of service," Nets CEO Brett Yormark told the Post.


Yormark said he's not concerned about the slumping economy affecting sales, adding "the suites will be in high demand" because of its amenities, spectacular views, Gehry's design, and Brooklyn's growing number of Fortune 500 companies.

But Robert Boland, a sports business professor at New York University, disagrees.

He said the accommodations and views will probably blow away the Garden's, but the planned arena can't compete with the Garden's events.

Barclays Center is expected to host a little over 200 events annually in its early years. The established Garden averages 400 – or a little over a one a day -- and has three main tenants: the Knicks, Rangers and WNBA's Liberty.

"Events almost always are more of a sell than accommodations," said Boland, adding the Nets must also deal with competition to sell luxury suites from new stadiums being built for the Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants.

Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

Read the fine print: ESDC gives Ratner 6+ years to build arena, 12+ years for Phase One

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at the "State Funding Agreement," a very important document that the Empire State Development Corporation finally made public last Friday, after the story about project delays broke in The NY Times.

The Agreement outlines the project timeline, details developer Forest City Ratner's obligations and specifies any remedies if the Atlantic Yards project is significantly altered or abandoned:

How long might Atlantic Yards be stalled? In the New York Times's coverage Friday of the Atlantic Yards stall, developer Bruce Ratner would "not specify the kinds of delays possible, but suggested that construction could be put off for years."

The Times apparently didn't check with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), but the state agency has been talking out of both sides of its mouth.

The General Project Plan, approved in December 2006 by the ESDC, stated (right) that Phase 1 of the project was "anticipated to be completed by 2010" and Phase II was "anticipated to be completed by 2016." However, nine months later, in September 2007, the ESDC signed a funding agreement that gives developer Forest City Ratner much more time and also posits a scenario in which much less housing and open space would be built.

The details:

  • Ratner would have six years to build the arena after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties.

  • Ratner would have 12 years to build the five towers of Phase I after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties.

  • Ratner would have an unspecified amount of time to build the eleven towers of Phase II, with an option for the ESDC to buy back the land from the developer.

  • Should the project be abandoned, the city might pursue a plan that would bring 1845 units of housing 646 of them affordable, and 2 acres of open space, as opposed to 6430 units, 2250 of them affordable, and 8 acres of open space.

What are the remedies if Forest City Ratner wants to walk away? The document states that if FCR abandons the project before the Effective Date--before litigation is closed--the developer would have to pay back the ESDC the "Required Amount."

What's the "Required Amount"? The state payments, plus interest, plus Liquidated Damages.

Again, we don't know what those Liquidated Damages are. It's time to see the City Funding Agreement.

Though City Councilman David Yassky has asked to see the City Funding Agreement, the "document has yet to surface publicly."


Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Nets go carbon neutral; Times Sports section doesn't check News section

Atlantic Yards Report

A New Jersey Nets press release about going carbon neutral got play in yesterday's New York Times Sports section, though a not dissimilar story in another section of Saturday's Times generated much more skepticism about what actually was being accomplished, calling the tactic "sleight-of-hand accounting."


NoLandGrab: Basically, the Nets can improve the efficiency of their own recycling operations, but they get the most mileage by purchasing "carbon offsets."

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Oops! Unfortunate timing on AY for the Courier-Life chain

Atlantic Yards Report

CourierLife-clip.jpgWhoopsie, despite the cozy relationship between Forest City Ratner and Courier-Life Publications, the development company kept the local weekly paper in the dark when it came to bad news about New York's most controversial project.

Norman Oder explains:

The article is dated March 21, the same day the New York Times reported that the project, except for the arena, was essentially stalled.

Now, given that the deadline for the Courier-Life article was before the Times's report, the Courier-Life can't be completely blamed for accepting Riegelhaupt's spin. Then again, given the copious statements about delays facing the project, the Courier-Life (and the Times) should've been more skeptical.


NoLandGrab: "The Courier-Life can't be completely blamed for accepting Riegelhaupt's spin" — is Norman Oder going soft? Just because another paper falls for the same thing, doesn't absolve the first.

We're not journalists, but we're under the impression that just because a spokesperson says something, doesn't mean that a paper has to report it. Aren't reporters supposed to check things out, or something? [At least that's what Norman Oder has taught us!]

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Arena Costs Spelled Out
GoLo linked our digest of skyrocketing arena costs:

Among the many bombshells in the Times story about the Atlantic Yards Stall on Good Friday, was the fact that the cost of the area has nearly doubled to just shy of $1 billion.
Is a $950 million single-sport arena financially viable? Stay tuned.

The comments that follow center around Errol Louis's weekend column.

nets net, Musing About the Future, Part I

The Nets are not going to the playoffs, of this I am thoroughly convinced. Thus, on a night when I am not particularly angry about their most recent loss, I thought it would be constructive to begin speculating about the future of the team...

Without Ratner punting and selling the team, without him giving up the ghost of Atlantic Yards, [coach] Lawrence Frank is safe, simply by default.

And we can look forward to two or more years of bad basketball...

Nets Daily, Daily News Columnists Blame Critics for Atlantic Yards Delay

Errol Louis and Michael Daly, two Daily News columnists and longtime supporters of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, lashed out –at different decibel levels– against the project’s critics noting that Ratner’s new housing would have more than made up for the few that would have been condemned. Now both worry the city’s housing crisis will get worse and the Ratner plan will die. A critic [Norman Oder] takes both to task.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Mayor Marty? The Idea Entices From a Booth at Junior’s

The NY Sun
By Grace Rauh


Marty Markowitz says he is only in the process of deciding whether to run for mayor, but he is sure sounding a lot like a candidate.

From a horseshoe-shaped booth at Junior’s restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Markowitz, the silver-haired career politician who as president of Brooklyn is known as the borough’s most enthusiastic cheerleader, offered up policy positions and a potential campaign motto (“Keep it safe, keep it clean, keep it working”) — clues to what the city might look like under Mayor Marty.
“Competence, pragmatism as opposed to ideology. Doing what’s right for New York without kowtowing to special interests and competency above all,” he said.
A run for mayor, however, could galvanize New Yorkers opposed to the Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn that Mr. Markowitz has trumpeted. A spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Daniel Goldstein, said his organization “would look forward to a Markowitz mayoral run as it would make certain the failing Atlantic Yards project and the other egregious overdevelopment he has overseen in Brooklyn would be major issues in the race, as they should be.”

Mr. Markowitz has said the project will bring affordable housing, in addition to a new city center and a professional basketball arena, to downtown Brooklyn. He appears to get as excited as a boy on a first trip to an amusement park when envisioning attending the first Brooklyn Nets game in the new stadium.


NoLandGrab: It's an "arena," not a "stadium," but either way, a Marty Markowitz candidacy would give Atlantic Yards critics a citywide platform on which to present their concerns about the controversial project.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Voices: Brace for a new glut of office space

By Neil DeMause

Well, that was quick. In the one week since Bear Stearns suffered its total existence failure, stories of developers bailing on office-tower projects came fast and furious: First J.P. Morgan Chase rethinking its building on the former Deutsche Bank building site, then Bruce Ratner admitting his Frank Gehry-designed “Miss Brooklyn” skyscraper would be delayed indefinitely (though he insists he’s going ahead with the accompanying Nets basketball arena). Meanwhile, two major Manhattan developers had their stocks downgraded amid fears of a coming office glut.

It’s certainly a far cry from four years ago, when then-deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff announced plans for a staggering 28 million square feet of new office buildings — that’s seven World Trade Center towers — as part of a “Hudson Yards” development centered on a West Side stadium for the Jets and the Olympics. Today, it’s clear there will be no Midtown West — at most maybe it’ll be Chelsea North, if the housing market doesn’t collapse next.

Why should you care, unless you’re a developer?
These sorts of deals are sold as “public-private partnerships” — taxpayers prime the pump for developers. The problem is they shift the risk to taxpayers, who when the economy goes south are left holding the bag.


Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

Forest City in the News

Rocky Mountain News, Forest City pre-leasing office building

Forest City Stapleton announced today it will begin pre-leasing a five-story office building to be constructed Martin Luther King Boulevard and Syracuse Street.

“This office building will further Stapleton’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier sustainable communities in which tenants enjoy working in quality, energy-efficient offices within walking distance of homes priced to be affordable to everyone from the CEO to the receptionist,” David Ditchman, director of lesing an business development for Forest City Stapleton said in a statement.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City says it can connect Medical Mart with convention center through Tower City Cinemas

Forest City executives think they have found a way to alleviate a major strike against their proposal for Cleveland's new Convention Center-Medical Mart complex.

The company says it can directly connect a Medical Mart in the old Higbee Building with a riverfront convention center by offering at least a portion of Tower City Cinemas. Previous proposals mentioned a connection through Tower City's mall.

Yale Daily News, Parking, chiller plant slated for Science Park

Recently, notices have been passed around to the Yale staff that many Yale offices will move to the Science Park area.

Forest City Enterprises currently plans to redevelop the former Winchester Repeating Arms Co. factory into a residential and office complex. But the company originally pitched it as a site for biotechnical development.

DALLAS, TX Dallas Morning News, Developer plans 'topping out' party for Element apartment complex

The developer of the Element apartment complex in downtown Dallas will hold a "topping out" ceremony to mark the hoisting of the last beam to the 15th floor.

Topping outs are more common in Europe but have caught on here, too. The Element's event will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at 1800 Main St. just east of the old Mercantile National Bank tower.
Forest City plans to raise a white-painted steel beam signed by everyone involved with the project and to unfurl the U.S. and Texas flags at the top, if it's not too windy, Mr. Hughes said.

Afterward, the company will host a barbecue lunch for about 500 of its workers to celebrate the construction milestone, he said.

The Cleveland-based company does this for its new construction nationwide – a symbolic effort as well as a way of thanking workers.

Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

March 23, 2008

Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Abuse Scheme Confronts Reality

From the NY Libertarian Party Chairman on Ground Report:

Let us cast a Libertarian eye on Ratner's scheme as it unravels.
Eminent domain abuse transfers the private property of the current property-owners to the favored private developer. Libertarians identify this as legalized theft.

Developers like Ratner frequently get tax-exempt government guaranteed bonds or in some cases outright grants. Once again, Libertarians describe these as legalized theft.
Government intervention in economic development distorts the market. Eminent domain distorts the price that the developer would pay for real estate, artificially lowering the purchase price. Government economic development schemes artificially encourage certain plans that are favored by politicians and bureaucrats. This is especially true with corporate sports welfare like the Brooklyn Nets Arena aspect of the Atlantic Yards development.
Libertarians call for the abolition of sports welfare. No taxpayer funds or eminent domain for sports teams. We say separate sports and state.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 PM

Mike Lupica on Atlantic Yards "stall"

The NY Daily News veteran sports columnist cracks wise about delays at Atlantic Yards:

I guess it must be too soon for me to go down and start picking my seats at the Nets' new arena in Brooklyn, right?


Posted by lumi at 8:45 PM

A yard is a yard...

HudsonYards-WNBC.jpg A yard by any other name, would be the Hudson Yards, as published on WNBC.com in its coverage of delays at Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project, which entails building a platform over Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards, which is still not Hudson Yards, which is located on the West Side of Manhattan, which is not in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 PM

Bad news for Atlantic Yards...

Community Benefits Agreements

Amy Levine explains how the delays and setbacks in the controversial Atlantic Yards project will affect developer Bruce Ratner's commitments to signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA):

All of this news suggests that the affordable housing promised in the CBA may not be built until years after the stadium, if ever. Unfortunately, the CBA doesn't give the community any real redress. Consider the following provisions (text of the CBA is available here):

  • The term of the CBA lasts until 30 years after construction begins on the first residential building. If Ratner only builds the arena, it might be difficult to show any breach for not building affordable housing since he can claim that the housing is still in the works (pgs. 5-6).
  • The CBA also provides that "[t]he Developers may change the Development Phases in their sole discretion prior to commencement of the first Development Phase; provided that they shall provide advance notice...as soon as reasonably practicable" (pg. 11). Again, Ratner has free reign here to change the plans, and significantly postpone construction of the residential units, since construction has yet to begin.
  • The affordable housing agreement specifies the percentage of units that will be affordable. It does not set any minimum amount of affordable housing that must be completed, even though the creation of new affordable housing has been one of the key reasons for public support of the project.
  • Ratner is required to submit quarterly status reports to the CBA Coalition and the independent compliance monitor, but those status reports focus mainly on jobs--there is no requirement that Ratner report the amount of affordable housing that has been constructed (pgs. 41-43).
  • If a new developer takes over the project, it will have no real obligation to continue the CBA. Ratner will still be responsible for the jobs development and local employment provisions (pgs. 49-50).

The problem goes beyond affordable housing though. The CBA also includes provisions that the project will include open space (pgs. 30-31), a community health center (pgs. 26-28), and child care, youth and senior centers (pgs. 28-30). If Ratner postpones construction of most of the project due to financial problems, there's a good chance that these will be postponed too. And that means that the community may end up with a stand alone stadium that causes traffic, noise and crime problems without adding many of the benefits that the developer promised.


Posted by lumi at 4:52 PM

Sheldon Silver's Silver Dollar Cash Machine

Brooklyn Vs Bush

He does nice things for the people who gives him money, and terrible things to the people who don't. And Spitzer only resigned over going to a prostitute. . . We don't know if this machine actually exists. We do know that Bruce Ratner gave nearly $60,000 to a sneaky account controlled by Silver, and Silver approved Ratner's massive land grab for the Atlantic Yards horror show: 17 huge, ugly skyscrapers funded with $2.2 Billion of our public money. Good to know Sheldon wouldn't do that to Brooklyn for free . . .

Posted by amy at 4:28 PM

Sunday Comix: Recession Stalls Atlantic Yards


Brooklynian, posted by Karl the Druid

Posted by amy at 4:20 PM

Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn's Vietnam?


Daily Intel

As Kim in Miss Saigon faithfully believed her American solider would return to rescue her, borough president Marty Markowitz and housing corporation ACORN still believe in Ratner's promise: "I remain confident that Forest City Ratner, with its successful track record of development through all economic climates, will fulfill its vision of bringing the Nets, affordable housing, and a new city center to Downtown Brooklyn," Markowitz said.


Posted by amy at 4:08 PM

And Then There Was One

Gumby Fresh is a must-read for those who want to know more about how the credit crisis really affects the project.

The financing picture is beginning to look trickier. First bit of good news for the developer - the bond insurers are still open. The bad news is that they're not that interested right now in the more speculative end of the market (that just above what the agencies describe as speculative grade, and what the rest of us call junk). The ones that are still standing are raking in high premiums for turning silver bonds into gold, rather than bronze into gold, which is a business that is a little more capital intensive.

The alternative would be to turn to the banks to finance the arena, rather than the bond market. They've done this before, but interest on bank loans would not, as far as I know, be exempt from tax. The Times article suggests that if the arena loses its allocation of tax exempt bonds this might push up the "cost" of the arena. This is a little misleading. It won't push up the construction cost of the arena (in fact, banks might demand a less expensive set of insurance contracts for the contractors on the arena), and the upfront fees from banks and Goldman Sachs, as bond underwriter, would not be appreciably different.

But it would increase the debt burden on the project hugely, so much that Ratner, as team owner, would see even less of a return on his investment in the team because he's having to devote a higher proportion of team revenues to servicing the arena debt. I'm doubtful that the arena could go ahead with a bond financing without the bond insurers, unless Goldman can scare up a very highly-rated alternative insurer (Buffett?).


Posted by amy at 4:03 PM


TeedleDumDee.jpg Word is that Forest City Ratner has been running damage control ever since the NY Times ran the page-one story about delays and setbacks for Atlantic Yards, by trying to convince reporters that the blame lies with project critics and foes.

Predictably, two of the most consistent cheerleaders for the project, Errol Louis of the Daily News and Brooklyn Daily Eagle elder statesman Dennis Holt, have bought into the narrative.

Putting aside the difficulty of any mega-developer securing financing for its projects in the current market, the lack of affordable housing bonds, a saturated condo market, Ratner's inablity to find an anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn (not even Barclays!), and the overpromise of community benefits, the two columnists declaim that a bunch of NIMBY activists have gotten in the way of Ratner's quest to deliver important benefits to the community.

Today, Errol Louis depicts critics celebrating at the expense of needy Brooklynites:

The project's foes are taking a victory lap, but they should be ashamed of themselves. The casualties will be felt, especially in the lives of struggling Brooklynites.

Dennis Holt goes further and implies that the project opponents are at fault:

The one thing that has to give some concern to the hard-line opponents of the project is the scorn that will descend on them if some of the affordable housing elements are compromised because of all of the frivolous lawsuits that have been filed.

Most of the politicians who have publicly supported Atlantic Yards have received financial support from the Ratner family, and the signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement are funded by FCRC or stand to gain from the project. What are Errol Louis's and Dennis Holt's excuses?

Posted by lumi at 3:17 PM

Daily News Goes to Bat for Bruce, Again.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In today's Daily News, two opinion columnists, Errol Louis and Michael Daly, express their opinions about Friday's "Atlantic Yards Stall" Times article, but leave out...facts, understanding and honesty. It's understandable that reporters can get things wrong when they buy Bruce Ratner's talking points wholesale and their own paper doesn't report on the economic problems facing Ratner's megaproject. It's amusing to observe the two columnists follow up Bruce Ratner's attempt, in that Times article, to blame project opponents for Ratner's financial woes, considering, amongst other things, that Bruce Ratner once famously said, "I have never, ever seen a project get less protest than this."

Uh, right.

You know how Bruce Ratner could have avoided the mess he finds himself in now? A few suggestions: He could have proposed a project that was feasible from day one in scale, density, and cost. He could have refrained from overstating his job and housing promises. He could have admitted, when the project was facing approval by the Empire State Development Corporation and the Public Authorities Control Board that the bonding he wanted for his "affordable" units was not available. He could have avoided the abuse of eminent domain by just proposing a project over the rail yards. He could have budged an inch on demands by project opponents and critics.

What's the best way he could have avoided the mess he is in? He could have consulted with the community and gone through a democratic process.


Posted by amy at 1:50 PM

Honor Ratner?

The Brooklyn Paper, letter to the editor from Clem Labine, Park Slope

I am outraged that the honored guest at the Brooklyn Museum’s annual ball is Bruce Ratner (“B’klyn Museum honors Ratner,” March 15).

The Museum, in the past, has denied its facilities to events that were deemed “too political” or “too conroversial.” Yet, although Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has totally split the Brooklyn community, he gets the Augustus Graham Medal, “the Museum’s highest honor.”

Could it possibly be that the Museum is setting aside its rule about controversy because Ratner pours money into the Museum’s coffers? Or am I being too cynical?


Posted by amy at 1:46 PM

Ratner’s lies

The Brooklyn Paper, letter to the editor from Michael D.D. White, Brooklyn Heights

Forest City Ratner will not correct misrepresentations on its Atlantic Yards website unless hounded to be truthful (“Another Ratner lie! Gehry was NOT ‘born in Brooklyn,’” March 15).

The Gehry misrepresentation is a case in point.

The Web site also still misrepresents that the mega-development will be “primarily situated over the MTA/LIRR’s Vanderbilt Rail Yards.” In fact, only 40 percent of the mega-development is over the rail yards.

Lost in this misrepresentation is any acknowledgment that additional acreage is being taken through gratuitous eminent domain abuse that allows Ratner to seize control of what will be.

FCR leaves misrepresentations on its Web site because it benefits them when press-release-reading “journalists” promulgate the inaccurate stories.

Witness the way the New York Times has misreported and then failed to make its own corrections.


Posted by amy at 1:44 PM

Daily News columnists Louis, Daly lament AY setbacks, blame NIMBYs, avoid facts

Atlantic Yards Report offers a take-down of today's not-so-fact-filled articles in the Daily News. Following is the Errol Louis version of the Atlantic Yards job situation followed by Atlantic Yards Report's corrections:

That's just fine with the anti-development brigade. Here are the words of one of their number, a man named Joe Boms, who sent a note to me last month that he said reflected the thoughts of his Park Slope neighbors.

"I'm afraid 100 jobs - or 10,000 jobs - are not reason enough. A monster of such scope and complexity simply does not belong in the downtown area," wrote Boms. "We do indeed wish that financiers, insurers, investors and its plethora of assorted cheerleaders will pull out, and let this white elephant die in a spectacular way so as to serve as a lesson to future megalomaniacs."

That kind of smug willingness to condemn others to joblessness is infuriating.

Louis's smug willingness to ignore facts is more infuriating. Remember, Ratner initially promised 10,000 office jobs, as likely as the Easter Bunny. The claimed 15,000 construction jobs would be 1500 jobs a year over ten years.

As for condemning others to joblessness, note that most of the office jobs--however many there might be--would likely be relocated rather than new. Yes, a good chunk of the demolition and construction jobs would go to locals under the CBA--35% Minority and 10% women construction workers, with efforts (though not guarantees) to hire locally.


Posted by amy at 1:34 PM

As vows fade in Atlantic Yards, so do housing hopes

NY Daily News
Michael Daly

The Daily News made a comeback from their "Atlantic Yards-free" editions with two articles today. You can read the Errol Louis column here: "Blight at the end of the tunnel," or just skip ahead to Atlantic Yards Report's analysis of the dynamic duo: Daily News columnists Louis, Daly lament AY setbacks, blame NIMBYs, avoid facts.

Some locals fret that without the surrounding towers, the arena will be like other such venues, which are second only to bus terminals in imparting a seediness to the immediate vicinity.

The bigger fear is that Ratner will end up selling off property that he acquired via eminent domain with the promise of affordable housing. The new developers would be free to erect more of the obscenely overpriced condos springing up everywhere in Brooklyn.

Unless, that is, the city finds a legal way to make all of Ratner's promises apply to anybody who buys property he acquired on the strength of those pledges.


Posted by amy at 1:19 PM

When recession means one less private jet

Sunday Herald UK

Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards development has been promising to transform the Brooklyn skyline for several years now, but last week he admitted that much of it may never be built. Recessions have a history of killing construction projects conceived on an upswing in the cycle of boom and bust.


Posted by amy at 1:17 PM


Blogosphere108.jpg News that Bruce Ratner admitted to The Times that all phases of his controversial Atlantic Yards plan has stalled — except for the arena, which is merely very behind schedule — started a tsunami of commentary in the Blogosphere:

Lost City, Thing That Was Never Gonna Happen Isn't Going to Happen

New York City has always had its economic ups and downs, and we've been due a recession for some time now. And recessions kill big projects like this. So, here's our recession, and, right on schedule, here's Ratner stunning us with news that the stalled economy could force him to curtail his grand plan. No Miss Brooklyn office tower (always hated that name; embarrassing); many fewer residential skyscrapers. Wow. You mean all that non-building we've seen going on downtown for a year actually meant something—meant that nothing is getting built. Wow. I mean, Wow.

Ratner is still pretty certain that we'll see a new stadium for the Nets. Construction will start by the end of the year, he said. But, I don't know. It's still a recession and it doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. And a $950 million stadium costs $950 million, last time I checked.

Dope on the Slope, Goodbye Jumbo???

Well the big news for Brooklyn today revolves around the incredible shrinking white elephant known as the Atlantic Yards development.
While the "affordable housing" component of the project may be evaporating (as if it wasn't all smoke to begin with), one dimension of the project is swelling to super-jumbo proportions - the public subsidies.

Brownstoner, Endangered AY

This morning the Times has a couple articles about Atlantic Yards that more or less boil down to the following: Aspects of the mega-project aside from the Nets arena are likely to be delayed or go unrealized...

As usual, there's lots of action in the Brownstoner comments section, including two requisite "D-O-N-E-D-E-A-Ls" countered by two "U-N-D-O-N-E-D-E-A-Ls."

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards: Miss Brooklyn & Housing to Die as Arena Lives?
Inquiring minds want to know:

Is it simply an extended timetable? Is Mr. Ratner looking for deeper public subsidies for the project? Will much of the project's affordable housing be tossed, which opponents have long predicted? Will he carve up the site and sell portions that are now being cleared to other developers? Will the land the state allowed to be cleared long before it would ever be developed sit fallow for years to come?

The Gowanus Lounge, Brooklinks: Atlantic Yards Stall Special
We copped a bunch of these blog links from GoLo's list, posted on Saturday.

It's hard to say right now whether the stall is a stall in the sense of the car needing to be towed to the shop for some work or needed to be taken to the scrapyard and put in a crusher.

Nets Daily, Nets’ Billion Dollar Arena

Even before surging construction costs, the Nets’ new Brooklyn arena, aka Barclays Center, was going to be the world’s most expensive. Now, Bruce Ratner estimates the arena, which he still says will start this summer, could cost close to $1 billion, up from a $637 million estimate last year and double its original projected cost. Critics say the changes should require a new review for the whole project.

The related comments are worth reading, as Nets fans argue the likelihood of the team being put back on the auction block, moved to Newark, or even to another market.

Curbed, CurbedWire: Special Atlantic Yards Stall React-o-Matic Edition
Marty is "confident" and Bertha has "every confidence" in Bruce. Dan calls for new governmental review.

Green Brooklyn, Ratner Accepts Reality, Folds Up Most of Atlantic Yards

Long-time readers of GBK know that I don’t talk much about the project because I really can’t even stand to think about it — never mind the scorn I have already heaped on the hideous Miss Brooklyn.
To say this is great news is a huge understatement. AY was $435M, now $950M. Uh huh. It went from being the story of the year in 2007 and maybe again in 2008 to being just a stadium minus all the horrific baggage.

Waterfront Preservation Alliance of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, A Cautionary Tale

The reports about the potential demise of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project should serve as a cautionary tale for North Brooklyn. We too have been promised much, but little has been delivered. Yet still developers flock to Williamsburg and Greenpoint promising us the moon.

Nicolai Ouroussoff is right when he says that the public trust has been betrayed. Brooklyn was promised an architectural tour-de-force in Frank Gehry's design. And whether you like the overall Atlantic Yards plan or not, if only the arena gets built, we are getting ripped off culturally.

Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, Wither Atlantic Yards?

Yes, that's wither, not whither. It seems the project that Brooklyn loves to hate may be dying on the vine, so to speak.
This project from the start was a disaster in the making: a naked giveaway to a politically connected developer, a boondoggle of taxpayer financing for a sports arena, an egregious misuse of eminent domain, and a complete disregard for the community's input.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Times' Architecture Critic Packs a Punch Re: Atlantic Yards
OTBKB comments on the scathing critique of Bruce Ratner's flailing Atlantic Yards project by NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff:

Many were lured by the promise of Gehry greatness. Myself included. But as the project evolved and was revealed to be the bloated mess that it is, faith even in the artfulness of Frank Gehry began to wane.

For me, Miss Brooklyn was one thing. But the residential towers were always a big mistake. Even Ouroussoff seems to agree with that assessment now.

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards as "A Betrayal of the Public Trust"?

Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff calls the possible slowing or cancellation of parts of the huge Atlantic Yards project noted in today's Times "a painful setback for urban planning in New York." He also calls it "a betrayal of the public trust" and the possible arena that will result "a piece of urban blight." We would use similar phrases, and have, but for vastly different reasons.

One Way Street, Junking Up Atlantic Yards
A blogger in Chicago sounds off:

This morning Nicolai Ouroussoff fired off an anguished response to the announcement that the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn may be gutted. Ouroussoff goes so far as to publicly urge Frank Gehry, the project's architect, to walk away from the project. The lessons of the aesthetic collapse of the Atlantic Yards project are manifold (that's assuming the reductions in project scope and budget go through), but one question worth asking is, When are these large-scale projects ever a good idea?

Music Heat XL, Economic Crunch May Stall Jay-Z And Partners

The ambitious $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which is expected to include 8 million square feet of apartments, stores and offices, is the latest victim of the current economic downturn. The development has made headlines recently for drawing opposition from many Brooklyn residents, and has also spawned a $5 billion reparations suit from a resident.



Meg Blog, No More Miss Brooklyn?

Those who know me know that I think the scale of the Atlantic Yards project is ridiculous, so I was happy to read that Ratner is sheepishly admitting to the New York Times that maybe, possibly he’ll be chucking huge sections of it, including the main office tower “Miss Brooklyn.”

Off all the victims of the current credit crisis, none could be more deserving.

CelebDay.com, The Economic Downturn South Brooklynites Have Been Waiting For [Atlantic Yards]

Go to any bar in south Brooklyn and start hating on Atlantic Yards and you'll be talking about developing, not destroying Brooklyn in the morning. Still, it must be said: the part of downtown Brooklyn that Ratner wants to destroy is a dump. Of course it's dubious that a Nets stadium, which Ratner wants to start construction on this year, will make the area any nicer.

New A's Ballpark, Nets' project faces delay
Someone in Oakland is keeping an eye on what's going down in Brooklyn:

From at least a business and economic standpoint, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is one to watch as a forerunner of the A's ballpark village. While its scope and associated controversy have been far greater, Atlantic Yards still bears watching due to its basic similarities. Thanks to the economic downturn - er, recession, the first ancillary phase of the project faces delay.

Almost Hypergraphic, You can have your conscience all you want
Reaction to news that the arena will now cost a mere $950 million:

headdesk That’s $950 million from damn taxes.

Who didn’t see this coming?

NoLandGrab: It's not being exactly paid for by "damn taxes." Rather that's tax-free bonds, which are paid back by tax revenues generated by the project, which under normal circumstances are "damn taxes."

Clinton Hill Blog, Atlantic Yards Delayed Due to Economics!

"Lesterhead" kept it short and sweet:

Happy news here in the NYT today about the delay of Atlantic Yards.

THE FOOD OF THE FUTURE, atlantic yards
A blogger who recently had a sublet a block from the footprint of Atlantic Yards posted two polariods.

Posted by lumi at 10:53 AM

Dear Bruce, Wish you were here!

The image from this postcard from the yards was posted by luluinnyc, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


Work in the Vanderbilt rail yards continues, despite setbacks for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

March 22, 2008

Ratner arena costs skyrocket

Arena_pricetag.jpg The price tag of Bruce Ratner's controversial Brooklyn arena has been steadily rising since the project was first announced: starting at $435 million, tweaking upward to $555.3 million and then creeping up to $637.2 million when the project was officially approved.

This week, Ratner gave no explanation to The NY Times when he divulged that the cost of the arena has ballooned to a whopping $950 million, more than twice the original projection and a figure suspiciously just shy of the magic $1 billion threshold.

The cost of the arena has also mysteriously outpaced construction inflation in NYC, which is reported to be around 8%.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 PM

A (somewhat speculative) FAQ on the Atlantic Yards news


Atlantic Yards Report creates an encyclopedia of questions and answers surrounding the stalling of Atlantic Yards. Here's a sampling:

Did this article deserve front-page, lead-story (in local editions) treatment?

Yes, and it also reminds us that the 9/5/06 lead article (headline at right) predicting a six to eight percent cut in the size of the project was way overplayed.

Was "the promise" affordable housing, now "on the back burner, while the arena has been moved to the front burner," as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein told the New York Times?

Well, the arena was always the developer's priority, given the urgency of moving the money-losing Nets from New Jersey, and the towers around the arena couldn't be built without the arena first.

But the political support for the project derived significantly from the affordable housing, and the larger the gap between arena and housing, the more supporters should take a second look.
Does the New York Post like giving credit to other publications?

No. Today's story cites only a "published report" rather than acknowledge a front-page story in the Times. Then again, the Daily News didn't even cover the story today.
Should BrooklynSpeaks be pursuing a proposal for a new governance entity?

Well, if Atlantic Yards goes forward, there's certainly an argument for a governance entity. But BrooklynSpeaks, as well as local elected officials, might be more productive in the short term just getting some clear answers about the project. And they might start focusing on some interim uses for the inevitable vacant lots.


Posted by amy at 2:57 PM

Yeah Bruce, We Thought It Would Happen in a Nanosecond

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In today's Times article, "Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards" Bruce Ratner is quoted:
“[Atlantic Yards is] not going to happen in a nanosecond,” Mr. Ratner said during an interview...
Really Bruce? We thought it would happen in a nanosecond.

Actually it was us, Bruce, other critics, and supporters of the project who consistently kept saying that your construction timeline projections were laughable. We even made that charge in the environmental lawsuit we brought against you. You and your team repeated the ten year build-out mantra up until today's Times article. Whereas so many said you'd be lucky to finish in 20 years.

Here is what was in the legal brief we and 25 community groups filed against you (which will be appealed this summer):

ESDC understated the impacts of the Project by assuming a 10-year construction completion date that is historically unrealistic for a project of this size, complexity and uncertain financing.


Posted by amy at 2:38 PM

Atlantic Yards 'Stall': Timeline of Despair



The road from the announcement of the Atlantic Yards project in 2003 through the possible "stall" making headlines today has not been a simple one to follow. The arena, many will recall, was originally supposed to have been finished in 2006, but along the way there have been delays, controversy, fierce opposition, lawsuits, financial revelations and everything that a New York City megaproject could be expected to have. For those who've forgotten some of the twists and turns, here's a very selective Atlantic Yards timeline touching on some of the, uh, highlights:

link to timeline

Posted by amy at 2:32 PM

With Atlantic Yards Project Fading, Community Groups Demand Review



Two bombshell articles in the Times today may mark a turning point for Bruce Ratner’s plans to build a Nets arena at the Atlantic Yards. Now that Ratner is backpedaling from his initial plans to build 8 million square feet of office space and apartments – some of it for low-income residents – community activists are worried that Ratner will sell off the rest of the site to other developers, replacing Frank Gehry’s comprehensive design with a hodge-podge of expensive condos or barren land.
An attorney representing DDDB is now saying that because of the Times's revelation that the cost of the project has more than doubled from the initial estimate to $950 million, “the law and fiscal prudence suggest that the project will have to go back for review and a vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).” Besides that, a large portion of the land in the arena’s proposed footprint is still owned or leased by private parties who are in court challenging the state’s use of eminent domain.


Posted by amy at 2:27 PM

Ratner kills Miss Brooklyn, most of Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
Gersh Kuntzman breaks down the "shocking developments" from the Times story, including financing:

The cost of the publicly financed arena, whose original pricetag was $435 million, but increased to $637 million last year, has now ballooned to $950 million.

It is unclear where the newly inflated figure comes from — the Times story merely stated it as an aside, “The developer did say he was confident about starting construction on a $950-million basketball arena for the Nets by the end of [2008]” — but if the cost of the area has indeed increased by such a large amount, it would have to be re-approved by the Public Authorities Control Board, an obscure state panel controlled by Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R–Rensselaer).

The panel approved the project in late December, 2006, though Silver later admitted that he voted “yes” without being shown key financial documents.

Under the current plan, Ratner’s arena would be built by New York state and city taxpayers, who would supposedly get their money back via tax revenue from the sales of tickets, food and souvenirs — though analysts have long questioned the economics of publicly financed arenas and stadiums.


Posted by amy at 2:16 PM

Report: Atlantic Yards Project Could Be Delayed By Slow Economy



"It's no news to us that the Atlantic Yards project, which has always been financially not a viable project, is now suffering even more because of what's going on with the economy, " said Daniel Goldstein of the community coalition Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. "Now what we're faced with is a project that no one ever asked for, no one ever bargained for, which would be an arena, and maybe a tower around it, and a bunch of demolition sites or vacant lots."


Additional Coverage:

Gothamist: Atlantic Yards Project Threatened by Recession
WNBC: Atlantic Yards Plans Could Slow Because Of Lagging Economy
Wall Street Journal: Commercial Projects Stalling: Add Ratner’s Atlantic Yards to the List
Reuters: Weak economy could slow Atlantic Yards project
Crain's: Delays don't mean death for Atlantic Yards
Commercial Property News: Wall Street Woes Take a Bite Out of Big Apple
WNYC: Weakening Economy may Delay Atlantic Yards Project
Curbed: Atlantic Yards 'Stall': Ouroussoff Goes Nuclear
UPI: Parts of $4 billion NYC project delayed
Architectural Record: Construction on Forest City Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn could be “put off for years” and Frank Gehry’s design could be scaled back

Posted by amy at 1:59 PM

March 21, 2008

Atlantic Yards: Affordable Housing Still on the Table

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Perhaps still addled by his brush with the Nets dancers, Eagle columnist Dennis Holt rushes to Forest City Ratner's defense, prattling on erroneously (for the second time this week) about how the developer has secured affordable-housing bonds for Atlantic Yards — a claim convincingly debunked just moments ago by Atlantic Yards Report (see below).

That affordable housing still is on the front burner is seen in the decision last week by the New York State Housing Authority to grant Forest City a share of the $628.5 million in tax-exempt bond funding for the Atlantic Yards project.

Holt also does his best to try to pin any affordable-housing backsliding on Atlantic Yards critics, and lets his readers in on the real motivation behind today's Page One Times story.

The one thing that has to give some concern to the hard-line opponents of the project is the scorn that will descend on them if some of the affordable housing elements are compromised because of all of the frivolous lawsuits that have been filed.

It is evident that Forest City cooperated on the Times story; it is even likely they may have pitched it. If so, the story could be a form of stage setting to establish that point.


Atlantic Yards Report, State housing bonds for AY? Eagle says yes, state says no

It's common knowledge that Forest City Ratner is working only on the Atlantic Yards arena, not any of the housing. So, has the project gained state affordable housing financing, as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has reported twice?

No. A spokesman for the state housing finance agency told me that the Eagle coverage was inaccurate and that a separate Forest City Ratner project, at 80 DeKalb Avenue northwest of the AY site in Fort Greene, "was selected to move forward in the HFA application process."

Philip Lentz, Director of Communications for the NYS Housing Finance Agency/State of New York Mortgage Agency, stated, "If ultimately approved by the HFA board, Forest City would get $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds over three years. This would help finance a 365-unit development, of which 73 units would be affordable.... Last week, we notified the four developers selected. You should be aware that the project has just been selected to move forward in our application process. It must still be approved by the HFA board."

Posted by eric at 4:23 PM

Despite AY stall, Markowitz retains confidence in Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

More support for Forest City Ratner's ailing Atlantic Yards in its time of need:

A statement on the Atlantic Yards stall from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz:
“I am obviously disappointed that some key components of the Atlantic Yards project may not be completed on the timetable we had envisioned. But like Coney Island’s famous Cyclone, the economy goes up and it goes down—and I remain confident that Forest City Ratner, with its successful track record of development through all economic climates, will fulfill its vision of bringing the Nets, affordable housing, and a new city center to Downtown Brooklyn.”


NoLandGrab: "Some key components?" Like everything but the arena for our beloved Dodgers Nets?

Posted by eric at 4:10 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Atlantic Yards Is In Serious Trouble

With All Eggs in One Forest City Ratner Basket,
Atlantic Yards Project Is In Trouble

Affordable Housing a Fading Promise,
As Undesirable $950 Million Arena Takes Center Stage

It’s Time for Albany and City Hall to Step In

Brooklyn, NY— A front page NY Times article today, Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards, explains how the economic downturn is impacting Forest City Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

“The article makes clear that Atlantic Yards cannot be built as planned, and was never financially feasible. The economic downturn has served to make that crystal clear,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Our elected officials cannot allow our public resources, as well as eminent domain, to be used to construct an arena--which only benefits Bruce Ratner--surrounded by vacant lots. We call on the city and state to work with the community to develop the rail yards in a responsible manner, without destroying the existing neighborhoods in the process.”

Despite the sub-headline “Arena on Track,” the biggest news in the Times story is that the arena is not on track. The arena would now cost $950 million according to the article, and therefore is subject to new governmental review.

"Due to this substantial increase in the cost of the arena, the law and fiscal prudence suggest that the project will have to go back for review and a vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). In addition Forest City Ratner does not own the land it needs to build the arena,” DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker said.

The PACB is comprised of Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and requires a unanimous vote.

When the project was unveiled in 2003 it was the most expensive arena ever proposed at about $400 million. In mid-2005 it was projected to cost $435 millon. It was approved at the end of 2006 at $637.2 million. And now, according to the developer, the arena would be 50% costlier at $950 million.

Besides facing a new review by the PACB, Forest City Ratner does not own the land it needs to build the arena. A large portion of the land in the arena’s proposed footprint is owned or leased by private parties who are currently in court challenging the state’s use of eminent domain. Next week those plaintiffs will be filing a petition asking the United States Supreme Court to hear their case. Also 26 community groups, led by DDDB, will be in the NY State Appellate Court in September arguing their appeal on their challenge to the project’s environmental review and approval.

"Today a Forest City Ratner spokesperson said they'd be breaking ground for the arena this Fall. Based on the new review required by the PACB, the eminent domain lawsuit, the environmental lawsuit, and the economic environment, this is simply not even close to possible; it's pure fantasy," said DDDB Legal Director Candace Carponter.

“From the very beginning Develop Don’t Destroy has advocated for responsible development and today’s news is evidence Atlantic Yards does not accomplish that,” Goldstein said. “In December 2006 the PACB approved the project as an integrated whole; now it appears that’s not what Ratner plans to do. Governor Paterson, the other two PACB members, and our local elected officials must take this opportunity to send the project back to the drawing board, or scrap it for a feasible project, with multiple developers who can produce much needed affordable housing over the Vanderbilt rail yards. The community has created such a plan; it’s called the Unity Plan and can be found at www.unityplan.org.”

Posted by eric at 3:55 PM

A statement from ACORN: "every confidence" in Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, at least somebody's still bullish on Atlantic Yards:

Bertha Lewis, Executive Director of NY ACORN, issued a statement regarding the Atlantic Yards stall:
"Forest City Ratner made a commitment to ACORN and to the people of Brooklyn to deliver on a historic plan for affordable housing. While the credit crunch and the downturn in the economy may lead to some delay, we continue to have every confidence they will live up to their commitment. This commitment was the basis for our support and the support of elected officials at the local, state and federal level.”


NoLandGrab: Given the existence of the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement, we're left to wonder if ACORN is contractually obligated to maintain confidence in Ratner. If not, then one could read this as "we took a lot of heat for supporting this project — don't make us have to take to the streets against you, Bruce."

Posted by eric at 3:33 PM

Oh, Brooklyn…


The journalist, architecture critic and Metropolis contributing editor and columnist blogs on today's hot story:

Back in 2005, I wrote a Metropolis column called, "Oh, Brooklyn, My Brooklyn” in which I outlined the difficulties of being an advocate of innovative architecture when there were developers like Bruce Ratner and projects like Atlantic Yards. In that piece I concluded:

First thing in the morning I am not an architecture critic—I am a Brooklynite. And I wake up with the local’s mantra running through my head: “May the bubble burst before they get a chance to build.”

And, wouldn’t you know it? It has. This is not exactly news. The intrepid little Brooklyn Paper has been reporting for weeks that the wheels are falling off Ratner’s wagon. (Check out this story!) But now that Charles Bagli has said it in The Paper of Record, it must be true.


Posted by eric at 3:24 PM

Revealed: Atlantic Yards Is A Sham

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn says, "We told you so."

The opening paragraphs of Charles Bagli's article in the Times show that the Atlantic Yards project is shaping up to be the sham we have always said it would be.

To be very clear: a project that promised so much to the public, that appears now to be an arena (which only makes money for Bruce Ratner) and one tower (maybe), with very little "affordable housing" at all, is a sham.


Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

What Will Be Left of Gehry’s Vision for Brooklyn?

The NY Times
By Nicolai Ouroussoff

Frank Gehry fan and Times architecture critic Nicky O digests the grim realities of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan:

The growing possibility that much of the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn will be scrapped because of a lack of financing may be a bitter pill for its developer, Forest City Ratner. But it’s also a painful setback for urban planning in New York.

So if the decision to proceed with an 18,000-seat basketball arena but to defer or eliminate the four surrounding towers is defensible from a business perspective, it also feels like a betrayal of the public trust.

Mr. Gehry conceived of this bold ensemble of buildings as a self-contained composition — an urban Gesamtkunstwerk — not as a collection of independent structures. Postpone the towers and expose the stadium, and it becomes a piece of urban blight — a black hole at a crucial crossroads of the city’s physical history. If this is what we’re ultimately left with, it will only confirm our darkest suspicions about the cynical calculations underlying New York real estate deals.

After offering an unsubstantiated narrative about Gehry's evolving aspirations for the project, including one careless claim about the eastern portion adhering "to the street grid" (they are, in fact, superblocks), Ouroussoff concludes:

No development at all would be preferable to building the design that is now on the table. What’s maddening is how few options opponents seem to have.

We could wage a public campaign to stop it. We could pray that Forest City Ratner comes up with more money. But given that the city approved the plan, we cannot prevent the developer from building the arena. Nor is there any way of preventing Forest City from selling off pieces of the property to other investors, who could then come up with any design they liked, as long as they abided by zoning and density guidelines.

Mr. Gehry, on the other hand, could walk away.


NoLandGrab: "We COULD wage a public campaign to stop it." Why didn't we think of that?

Regarding the public outcry, it would seem like a good time for BrooklynSpeaks to get behind public sentiment and strongly reject Atlantic Yards, which is pretty much gonna be an arena with an enormous "temporary" surface parking lot.

As for Gehry, we've been saying for a long time that this project was going to be a blight on the aging starchitect's legacy. Now that mission creep has set in, any "legitimate architectural hero" would get out before it's too late.

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Times critic Ouroussoff says Gehry should pull out of the truncated “eyesore” AY may become

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder illustrates the evolution of The Times's achitecture critic's position on Atlantic Yards, and corrects the record on a few items in the "elegy" for the project:

After an initial column praising Atlantic Yards, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff in June 2006 wrote a more pensive if hardly tough assessment of the project, taking up the cause of architect Frank Gehry, lamenting his lack of sway with developer Bruce Ratner and the failure of the government to plan for open space.

Six months ago, Ouroussoff was predicting a redesign for Phase One of Atlantic Yards, one that would reveal whether “Brooklyn will receive a dazzling 21st-century version of Rockefeller Center.” It never emerged.

Now that financing troubles (and more) have slowed the project significantly, reducing it to an arena at first, Ouroussoff has written something of an elegy, urging Gehry to leave the project, predicting blight (!), and even seeming to emerge as a project opponent.


Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

A must-read exclusive on the current state of Bruce Ratner's controversial, and now faltering, Atlantic Yards.


Here's the skinny:


Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Ratner admits major AY delays, rising arena cost; NY Times gives him and government some slack

Atlantic Yards Report

Whenever a big story on Atlantic Yards runs in The Times, Norman Oder is there to offer in-depth analysis; this time, he contrasts today's report with the "long history of lies and fibs regarding progress of the project" while outing several overinflated figures and predictions:

Are major delays in Atlantic Yards caused by the recent economic downturn and legal challenges, as a major story in the New York Times today suggests? Sure, those are factors, and it’s good to get developer Bruce Ratner on the record, but the article fails to explore how Ratner has consistently overpromised regarding the project's progress and the government failed to do due diligence, in December 2006 approving a project whose timeline was already out of date.

Also the cost of the arena is revealed to be $950 million, though the article doesn’t explain that the number nearly 50% higher than the cost as approved and more than double the figure announced nearly three years ago--when it was already the most expensive arena ever.

Given that $312.8 million increase in the arena alone, no one should be calling Atlantic Yards a $4 billion project anymore; rather, a more realistic number should be established.

That's just the start — those who are interested should hustle on over to AYR for today's other must-read.

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Taxes Cut and Promises Unkept

The NY Times
By Clyde Haberman

In the midst of a slightly rambling column on the frugal Governor Paterson and corporate welfare, we find what might be Clyde Haberman's first reference to criticism of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle:

So with the sudden collapse of the former governor’s political career, taxpayers may be cheered to have a new man in charge who knows how to rein in costs.
Over the years, Bear Stearns turned to City Hall repeatedly for handouts, usually with threats to move its operation out of New York.
Critics prefer to call the deal-making “corporate welfare.” Some companies got the goodies without even having to threaten to move. Through this routine, hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue have been lost to the municipal treasury.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, holds no love for the process. Not that he is against giving big business a big hand. He has offered other forms of rich subsidies to well-heeled types like the Yankees and the Mets and developers with eyes on the Far West Side of Manhattan and the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

“It’s still a corporate giveaway, no matter how you dress it up,” said Bettina Damiani, the director of Good Jobs New York, an advocacy group that takes a dim view of the handouts.


Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

FCR Foes See Tide Turning in Yards Fight

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Robin Gordon-Leavitt

A changing of the guard in Albany combined with a sputtering economy might mean trouble for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Opponents of the project discussed the status of the ongoing battle at the United Methodist Church Thursday night.

"The project that was proposed in '03 is never going to happen; nothing like it is going to happen," said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), who led the meeting.

Problems in the credit and real estate markets, and soaring construction costs have delayed the project already. Construction has not yet begun on the Barclays Center, the sports arena at the center of the project, and one of the plan's most controversial elements. The 2006 projected cost of the arena, $640 million, is now seen as unrealistic, and the project might have difficulty getting more government funding with no end to the economic slowdown in sight.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

“Let me reintroduce myself….I am David Paterson– governor of New York State.”

Amsterdam News
By Herb Boyd

“Let me reintroduce myself,” David Alexander Paterson told a massive gathering of friends, relatives, and public officials during his swearing-in ceremony before a joint session of the State Assembly and Senate Monday morning, “I am David Paterson, and I am the governor of New York State.”

Many New Yorkers will not soon forget Paterson's clearly articulated position on eminent domain abuse:

Many Harlemites are already pondering what kind of administration Paterson will oversee, and if he’ll repair some of the damage left by his predecessor in which several charitable organizations in the community were victims of his overzealousness. One listener in Albany wanted to know if Paterson the governor will keep the promises made by Paterson the State Senator, a position he held for more than twenty years.

“He promised a moratorium on eminent domain,” she said. “I wonder if he’ll keep that promise and how that’ll impact such projects as Willets Point, Columbia University, and Bruce Ratner’s plans for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.”


Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Favorable Atlantic Yards News For Ratner [a Dreamer]; Will Get Bonds

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Up there with "Dewey Defeats Truman," Dennis Holt's report that Bruce Ratner has secured scarce affordable-housing bonds has been greatly exaggerated:

If all this wasn’t bad news enough for the Yards opponents, the state housing authorities announced late last week that four developers will receive the state’s allocation for tax exempt bond housing funds. One of those was Forest City for Atlantic Yards.

(This is critical, since it makes it easier for Forest City to honor its housing commitments up front, and those, along with the sports arena, are the project’s strongest political pluses.)


NoLandGrab: The Eagle scooped all other publications with this incredible bit of news, which no one we know has been able to confirm. This makes one wonder if Holt's source wasn't actually the state housing authority — or if maybe he received this exclusive in a dream.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

Veteran Activist-Attorney Named as Brooklyn BP’s Chief Aide

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Harold Egeln

It was a big promotion for political activist Carlo Scissura as Borough President Marty Markowitz appointed him as his new Chief of Staff Thursday.

Scissura, who has been serving as Markowitz’ chief counsel, was named to the post to replace longtime top aide Greg Atkins, who has accepted a major hotel development post at V3 Hotels in Downtown Brooklyn. The changeover is effective on April 7.

NoLandGrab: It's hard to understand how Atkins's new job isn't affected by the one-year revolving-door restrictions on taking a job that depends on access and influence of local government.

The incoming chief of staff listed major projects he will on work with Markowitz. "I look forward to helping the borough president accomplish his visionary goals for Brooklyn, including renovating the Loew's Kings Theater, opening an amphitheater at Asser Levy Park, beginning development of Atlantic Yards, building and renovating more affordable housing and schools, and making the borough more 'green' for everyone."


NoLandGrab: With Atlantic Yards stalling out, Atkins picked a good time to jump ship. His departure has also fueled rumors that Marty won't be running for Mayor, afterall.

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

March 20, 2008

Yards foes to picket Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper
by Dana Rubinstein

Atlantic Yards opponents — some of them Brooklyn Museum members — will picket the Museum’s April 3 gala to protest the institution’s decision to honor developer Bruce Ratner.

“Honoring Ratner is entirely inappropriate,” said Michael White, a Brooklyn Heights–based urban planner, Museum member and Yards opponent.

“Part of the job of public institutions with non-profit status like the Brooklyn Museum is to be a good neighbor,” said White. “You don’t accomplish that by honoring someone who has been a bad neighbor.”
“We’re not against the museum accepting money from Bruce Ratner, but we do have a big problem with the museum honoring and celebrating Bruce Ratner,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which is helping organize the protest.


Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

The N.B.A.'s Maestro of Marketing

New Jersey Nets C.E.O. Brett Yormark has turned a second-tier N.B.A. team into a sponsorship juggernaut. Is there anything he can't brand?

by Ohm Youngmisuk

Conde Nast Portfolio gives Bruce Ratner's golden boy, Brett Yormark, the red-carpet treatment:


For his part, Yormark, who often starts his day at 3:30 in the morning and sometimes works as many as 19 hours a day, says his secret is simply that he works harder than everyone else.

"I am probably one of the most aggressive sports executives in the country," Yormark says. "I am giving myself every day, every hour—that is just my makeup." Yormark's twin brother, Michael, is the president and chief operating officer of the N.H.L.'s Florida Panthers and is similarly intense; the two frequently try to top each other with creative ways to advertise sponsors and sell more tickets.


NoLandGrab: Hey, we get up at 3:30 a.m., too. We welcome the company, but seriously, is there no Ratner or Nets executive who works less than twice as hard as the rest of us? With all that effort (and self-promotion), one would expect that Atlantic Yards would have been completed by now.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Planner Burden on balanced growth, community consultation, and "esthetic democracy" (in Brooklyn)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder parses a two-year-old CUNY-TV interview with City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden in an attempt to understand how she looks at rezonings. This passage tells us just about all we need to know.

Burden: That's the thing. Any rezoning, to get it passed or done, has got to pass community boards and elected officials. So we have to build consensus. And the only way you can do that is by really showing people visually what they're going to get, and bringing in the stakeholders and getting them to feel invested in the plan. For instance, in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, here you had two miles of waterfront, it was fenced off, inacessible, derelict for decades. So to really get the community to not only understand the zoning that we were proposing, but to buy into that, we took the committee for open space of the community board there around to all waterfront parks in the city, and they chose the benches and the lights and the paving and the railing that's going to be on their waterfront. So this is really a plan that is created by the community. Otherwise we would have never have gotten it passed.


NoLandGrab: Oh, goody, the Community Board committee members appointed by the Borough President and Council Members get to pick the trim, while developers turn brownstones and warehouses into 30-story luxury condos. We love consensus!

The irony though, is that such meaningless input would be a welcome upgrade to the absence of a community role in shaping Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere107.jpg Carlinwanda’s Weblog, Gag Me: Why Do Mr. Sitt and Mr. Ratner Like Silence?

As anyone who’s been following the Thor Equities Coney Island saga or the earlier Forest City Ratner buyout of property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint, confidentiality clauses are the latest fashion accessory in development deals. The new issue of the Real Deal offers a nice picture of the trend.

HazZzMat, What Governor Paterson Faces in New York

...many giant projects felt necessary by state and regional authorities have become financial disasters. The transportation center near ground zero is a total flop. While the MTA has rebuilt the basic elements of the network that crisscrossed downtown Manhattan, including the lines that went directly under the World Trade Center, the "center" is an empty lot. The Second Avenue Subway, a project already three years and several billion dollars late, won't open until 2012. The Ratner socialism-for-the-rich Atlantic Yards project, which depends heavily on eminent domain and the destruction of several neighborhoods, can't find private financing.

NoLandGrab: If it's true that Ratner "can't find private financing," then this is the first we've heard about it. What does seem certain is that costs are rising and bond financing is scarce at this time.


Steven Hart notes that Michael White's Huffington Post article "is worth your time to read just for the sake of clarity."

Brownstoner, Ratner Feasts on Public Subsidies

B-stoner read Michael White's article too and passed it along to its readers:

In a HuffPo piece White pillories the practice of making developers like Bruce Ratner even richer on the public dime and further allowing them to realize enormous gains via eminent domain. Part of the op-ed examines the extraordinarily murky finances that are making AY possible.
Most disturbing is the notion that support from public officeholders probably means we’re going to continue to see developers dance on the numbers for years to come....

Gowanus Lounge, Fun with Photography: A Vid About Atlantic Yards Police Harassment

GoLo featured the video embed of Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse: Harass a photog edition.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Straight From The Bleachers: Net Reading

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

Former Fort Hamilton High School star and New Jersey Nets forward Albert King (right) took the time to read and talk to children of the Crown Heights Youth Collective at the Emma J. Johnston School (P.S. 241) last weekend as part of Forest City Ratner Companies’ and State Senator Eric Adams’ “Read to Achieve” program.

“Reading is the most fundamental tool that our children have to help them succeed,” said Ratner, the chairman and CEO of FCRC.
As part of the program, FCRC will donate books bought at DARE bookstore in Fort Greene to the CHYC library and will send each of the children home with a book of their own.


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

March 19, 2008

Brooklyn Nets Chooses Food Service Co. For Planned Barclays Arena

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

More Barclays Center menu offerings with a "distinct Brooklyn flavor," this time from a Chicago-based food-service company:

“Brooklynites are passionate about their food and that will be a crucial ingredient for a best-in-class experience at the Barclays Center,” said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment. “We chose Levy Restaurants because it has an award-winning track record as the preeminent premium dining provider at sports and entertainment venues. This is another big step forward as we continue moving closer to bringing a world class arena and the Nets to Brooklyn.”

The Barclays Center’s premium restaurants and luxury suites will feature menus with the flair of contemporary American cuisine and diverse ethnic specialties. At general concessions, guests can enjoy a range of menu offerings with a distinct Brooklyn flavor including pizza, hot dogs, knishes, egg creams, cheesecake, and much more. There will also be kosher dining options in restaurants, suites and concession stands.

Levy Restaurants, based in Chicago, draws upon its roots as restaurateurs to bring the restaurant dining experience to sports and arena venues across the U.S. and U.K., including the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Churchill Downs in Louisville and the 02 arena in London.


NoLandGrab: Arena patrons might want to consider a second mortgage, if prices for the "restaurant dining experience" at the Barclays Center mirror those at the National Tennis Center.

Posted by eric at 8:15 PM

Lack of Yankee Funds for South Bronx

WNYC Radio

Is it the lawyer's fault? The accountant's? How 'bout Bronx politicos? At least the Yankees appear to be holding up their end of the bargain.

The new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is more than halfway finished. It's expected to be ready on schedule by opening day of 2009.

But, the surrounding neighborhood isn't seeing all the benefits that were supposed to come, even while residents are contending with construction noise.

WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman reports.

Download mp3

NoLandGrab: Why are we not surprised that the new stadium will be finished three years before the "replacement" parks will be ready?

Posted by eric at 7:54 PM

Condo of the Day: 535 Dean Street Penthouse Price Cut



Can you say Atlantic Yards Effect? There's no other reason we can think of (other than that pesky global financial crisis, of course) to explain why this 1,400-square-foot penthouse at 535 Dean Street in Prospect Heights just had to cut its asking price from $899,000 to $799,000. In its current configuration, it's also not much of a family apartment either. Still, you'd think there'd be at least one childless buyer out there who would be digging the open space and views (and rather low monthyl maintenance of $701). What gives?


NoLandGrab: 535 Dean Street is perhaps better known as the Newswalk Building — conveniently located in the notch of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

More "Atlantic Yards Effect" from flickr.

Posted by eric at 6:04 PM

Effective Action Needed From Brooklyn Speaks, BHA, etc.


Atlantic Yards critic Michael D.D. White, on BrooklynSpeaks's comments page, urges the group to take a harder line in pushing for changes to Bruce Ratner's megaproject:

Now is the time for Brooklyn Speaks, made up of members including the powerful Brooklyn Heights Association and Municipal Art Society, to shift and adopt effective tactics in fighting Ratner’s Atlantic Yards.

Brooklyn Speaks needs to go beyond stating principles. It needs to be setting forth specific definite bottom line requirements that it should pursue in a hard and fast way. In the end, what should be insisted upon will look less like a compromise that has vaguely influenced the project and will look much more like the project has been taken back to the drawing board.


Posted by eric at 5:43 PM

Sly says...


[We know, you can't make this stuff up — Bruce Ratner's Nets's mascot is really a fox named Sly.]

Seriously, using the school lunch program and our youth for brand building is low, even for overdeveloper and eminent domain abuser Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

The nutritionally switchable Nets mascot Sly Fox enters NYC schools

SlySaysMD.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

How much do you love Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder?

After learning that Bruce Ratner unleashed Sly Fox and a Nets brand-awareness campaign on the minds of our youth, by sponsoring the local school lunch program, the Mad O's first thought turned to the hypocrisy of the mascot!

But the Nets' Fox is particularly Sly. The jumping, dunking, inoffensively feline mascot not only supports SchoolFood, but also promotes the "McDonald's Plan," a ticket deal in partnership with the fast-food purveyor. Apparently, a mascot can be nutritionally switchable.


NoLandGrab: Sly Fox has been served with a subpoena to appear before Congress so he can tell the public, under oath, what he really thinks kids should be eating.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

MTA Police DDDB Database? Photographers Detained at AY Site

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse interviews photographers who gathered to demonstrate against harassment in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, and host Sabine Aronowsky talks to Katherin McInnis, the San Francisco video artist who had a run-in with an MTA cop.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

Second look: the 50% prediction, ESDC dysfunction, and Spitzer's harangue

Atlantic Yards Report

The bookmakers at Crain's NY Business give Atlantic Yards a 50% chance of being built, but Norman Oder isn't taking those odds:

First, I think that Atlantic Yards has a much less than 50% chance of being built as proposed, and in the announced ten-year timetable.
However, I'd bet that the Atlantic Yards arena has a greater than 50% chance of being built.
While legal and financing challenges have delayed the project, the developer and state have not yet lost in court. Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises have a reputation for being "very disciplined" in moving forward. So it could be that Brooklyn (actually Forest City Ratner) "gets" an arena "from" Barclays long before many or any of the other promised project benefits surface.


Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

Forest City Closes $160 Million Refinancing for The Galleria at Sunset

ad hoc news


Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that a subsidiary of the Company has closed on a 10-year, $160 million loan with New York State Teachers Retirement System to refinance The Galleria at Sunset, a 1,048,000 square-foot retail center in Henderson, Nev. The center, which is home to anchor stores Dillard's, Macy's, Mervyn's, Dick's Sporting Goods, and JCPenney, opened in 1996.


Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

Reform must be order of the day?

Tom-and-Jerry.jpg Daily News columnist Errol Louis cautions against backsliding in Albany to the days when special interests ruled the day:

But months from now, after the last "good riddance" jokes about Spitzer have been told - and the final bucks raked in by America's best-known whore - New York will remain the most taxed state in the union, and Albany will still be a place where lobbyists, unions and corporate pitchmen wield far too much influence over who gets the sweet slices of the $124 billion budget cake.

Unless, that is, the effort to reform Albany gets back on its feet.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report concurs, pointing to "Forest City Ratner's significant spending on lobbyists, not to mention the developer's contribution to a "slush fund" controlled by Assembly Democrats."

NoLandGrab: Isn't it nice when we all agree?

Posted by lumi at 3:53 AM

March 18, 2008

NY State takes up eminent domain, sort of

Atlantic Yards Report

A State Bar task force on eminent domain passes on blight but urges transparency


New York State, long seen as hospitable to eminent domain, has achieved no reforms [since the backlash to the US Supreme Cout's Kelo decision]. However, some mild reforms have been recommended by a Special Task Force on Eminent Domain organized by the New York State Bar Association. One, had it been in place, might have caused a second look at Atlantic Yards, given an emphasis on transparency in the selection of a developer.

Another recommendation by the task force, that the state appoint a commission to research and debate some outstanding issues like the proper scope of a public project, has languished, though perhaps the new Paterson administration might consider it.

Why David Paterson should appoint a state commission on eminent domain
Norman Oder goes out on a limb by calling on the new Governor to appoint a commission on eminent domain (ya think?):

That overhyped front-page banner headline last Friday in the conservative New York Sun, Paterson Could Derail Development: Opposes Use of Eminent Domain, put an issue on the table that accidental Governor David Paterson probably doesn't want to touch right now.

After all, his last public statement on the issue was more than two years ago and he has more pressing issues on the agenda than fighting the Columbia expansion plan in Harlem or the Atlantic Yards project, which is likely why he has said he won't change course on AY.

That said, there’s a logical, constructive, and politically safe step he could take. It would honor the sentiments he expressed in 2005 but at the same time not alarm those who want to make sure that governments retain the power to exercise eminent domain for true public use.

He should establish a Temporary State Commission on Eminent Domain to address questions like the extent of eminent domain abuse in the state as well as a revised definition of public use, an issue at the heart of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM



Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?

Huffington Post

Author Michael "Double D" White explains how Bruce Ratner beat George "Double U" Bush at one of the best rackets in town: subsidies, upon subsidies, plus bonus eminent domain, for already-very-rich team owners.

In a nutshell:

New York government officials are committing New York's public to pay subsidies of more than a billion dollars covering all of the escalating costs of a basketball arena that the politically connected Ratner and company will own. The subsidies were awarded on a no-bid basis and the developer is even being promised that after an initial 30-40 year lease term accompanied by tax exemption, Ratner can extend his lease up to a total of 99 years with continued tax exemption.

For you numbers folks, here's how Ratner does it:

The [$692.70 million in municipal] bonds are paid entirely with intercepted tax payments that would otherwise have been going to the public treasury. Other intercepted taxes can defray Ratner's cost of operating the arena, increasing his bottom line. Because the bonds are exempt from federal, state and local income tax an additional estimated subsidy of $129 million goes to the project. Including a $11.7 million exemption from sales tax, donations of public land (and excluding a number of other subsidies that could also be included) it adds up to an arena replacement cost paid for by the public of $905.72 million. From publicly available figures it can be discerned only that Ratner is paying for another $71 million with private money. But beyond this, the public is donating to Ratner the right to name the arena and the neighboring portion of Brooklyn, rights being sold for $20 million a year for 20 years, ($400 million). Just on the arena alone Ratner will clear at least $116.29 million in present value on day one.

And then there's the small feat of taking other people's property:

Bush needed 17 acres to build his Texas stadium. 200 acres were condemned. Ratner has similarly gone after gratuitous condemnations with a peculiar project footprint that would be inexplicable were it not for eminent domain's attractive windfall. The tilted playing field of eminent domain abuse attracts Ratner; the collection of special benefit through below-market acquisition of condemned land is essentially another form of subsidy collection.


NoLandGrab: To address all the apologists who point out that Ratner pays fair- or above-market-value for property in the footprint, consider that the property is valued under the current zoning.

Typically, local governments change the zoning, and original property owners benefit from any apperciation in value — but not in Ratnerville.

The Atlantic Yards project is technically a STATE ZONING OVERRIDE. Ratner purchases the property under current zoning, the State enacts a private rezoning — presto, the property is worth much more — and in effect, Ratner gets the property for a song. Thus the "special benefit" of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Former Bear Stearns’ Offices Seen Staying in Brooklyn

Beleagured Company Was an Original Tenant of Metrotech Development

El Diario, HeartShare Sign New Leases at the Downtown Complex

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

By now, everyone who follows the news on a regular basis knows that the huge investment bank Bear Stearns was sold to JPMorgan Chase for a mere $2 a share, in a deal brokered by the Federal Reserve Bank.

What they may not know, however, is that the company has a big presence in Downtown Brooklyn, with 1,500 employees from various “back office” departments at One MetroTech. The gray-brick highrise has the Bear Stearns logo on its lobby windows — and ironically is a stone’s throw from JPMorgan Chase’s own MetroTech buildings.
Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, which owns MetroTech, and a Bear Stearns spokeswoman both said it was “too soon to know” about the company’s continued presence at MetroTech.

However, a legal analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, says Bear Stearns’ new parent company must assume the responsibility to finish the lease at the Brooklyn location.
In the meantime, Forest City Ratner Monday announced that El Diario La Presna, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in America, has signed a lease for office space at One MetroTech. El Diario is relocating its headquarters from SoHo to Brooklyn. The company, which also provides online news, is leasing 23,400 square feet on the 18th floor.

Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner said, “We are very pleased that El Diario, one of New York’s great, venerable newspapers has chosen Downtown Brooklyn and MetroTech Center for the location of its new headquarters.”


NoLandGrab: Ironically, El Diario is one of two daily papers (the other being The NY Sun) that has taken any editorial position critical of Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

More on the state of real estate in the fallout of the Bear Stearns deal at Bloomberg.com.

Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM

Gov. Paterson Says He Supports Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Dail Eagle
By Brooklyn Eagle

In an interview in Sunday’s Daily News, Gov. David Paterson was quoted as saying that he “expects to carry on Spitzer's support for major development projects such as Moynihan Station and the Atlantic Yards/basketball arena in Brooklyn.”


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

David Paterson's Harlem roots

The Daily Voice
By Basil Smikle

Also important to watch are the powerful agencies where Governor Paterson will have major influence -- namely the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which just hiked painful subway and bus fares as well as tolls on bridges and tunnels. He also appoints individuals to run the Empire State Development Corporation which will have major influence on three large-scale development projects: Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn where the New Jersey Nets intend to build their new arena, Hudson Yards on the West Side whose fate is uncertain and the controversial Columbia University expansion.

What makes the Columbia Expansion so interesting from a political standpoint is that their proposed new construction covers over 20 acres in West Harlem -- Paterson's backyard. Although the project was approved by city agencies and the city council it is vehemently opposed by many Harlem residents concerned about gentrification. It may prove to be an interesting test of the new governor's vision and tenacity.


NoLandGrab: The Columbia University plan prompted Paterson to take a pubilc stand against the use of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

New York Official Resigns Post Amid Shift in Leadership

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli


The changing of the guard at the state’s troubled economic development agency was already under way when Gov. David A. Paterson took the oath of office on Monday.

On Sunday, the state’s top economic development official, Patrick J. Foye, sent a letter to Mr. Paterson resigning as co-chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, which had been riven by disputes between its top three executives and was regarded as dysfunctional by many real estate developers and business executives.
Mr. Foye’s office was telling reporters last week that he had no plans to leave his job. But, according to two people who knew him, Mr. Foye, a friend of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife, learned over the weekend that there was little support for him among Mr. Paterson’s camp.
The Paterson administration announced on Monday that Avi Schick, president of the development corporation, would serve as acting chief executive for economic development efforts in New York City and the surrounding counties. It is unclear whether it will be an interim appointment.

Mr. Schick, who has developed a powerful political ally in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, has been involved in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, Columbia University’s plans to expand its campus into Harlem and the Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena project in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

March 17, 2008

ratner, ratner, ratner! oy!

Frank Lynch's latest photo of the footprint of Atlantic Yards was tagged by a homeowner who is sick-n-tired of talking about you know who:


Posted by lumi at 7:52 PM

Forest City in the News

miniicecreamscoop.jpg The Tampa Tribune, S.R. 56 Gets Scooped For Extension
Developers as performance artists?

Developers and Pasco County officials will formally break ground Wednesday on the long-awaited eastern extension of State Road 56.

Rather than the usual golden shovels, the assembled dignitaries will use an enormous ice cream scoop to kick off the project at 10:30 a.m., said Leslie Reznick, spokeswoman for Forest City Enterprises, one of the two developers overseeing the $25 million road project.

Forest City and its partner, West Palm Beach-based The Goodman Co., are building the 800,000-square-foot Shops at Wiregrass open-air shopping center at the northeast corner of S.R. 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

NoLandGrab: At the risk of sounding unintelligent, what the heck is the ice cream scoop for?

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Medical Mart and Convention Center site selection process should involve the public

The announcement Thursday that Cuyahoga County had reached agreement with a private developer on a new Medical Mart and convention center raises the huge question of where to put the facilities.

One thing is clear now: There are no plans for public involvement early in the process, even though choosing a site is one of the biggest city planning issues facing the city.
Forest City Enterprises, the publicly held real estate company that owns Tower City, prepared proposals for a convention center on the Cuyahoga riverfront in 2003 and 2005.

The company argued that Tower City makes the ideal location because the complex sits atop the rapid transit hub of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

GlobeSt.com, Pfizer Inc. Sees Interest in 2M-SF Mixed Site

ANN ARBOR, MI-Pfizer Inc. has had more than 60 tours of its 2.2-million-sf site that it plans to vacate by 2009, including a visit from Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. The drug maker, based in New York City, announced last spring that it would be closing down the Ann Arbor property, which has 28 buildings spread over 175 acres, and sending some employees elsewhere. The company is cutting 10,000 jobs worldwide, including most of the jobs here.

A Forest City spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com that Michael Rosen, SVP for new business development of the company’s Science and Technology Group, did take a look at the property. However, she refused to provide more details, and Rosen could not be reached for comment. “Touring sites is something we do all the time across the country,” she says. “We really don’t have anything to announce.” The company has bought Pfizer properties before, including a one-million-sf site in Skokie, IL, creating a business park where Rosen himself is now based.
Pfizer is also closing plants in Kalamazoo, and two manufacturing sites in Brooklyn, NY and Omaha, NE.

Conntact.com, Irons in the Fire

Despite the downturn in the national economy, economic development in downtown New Haven continues apace.
Forest City Enterprises is assessing environmental issues at Tract A, the 17-building site of the former U.S. Repeating Arms Co. factory. The company has plans for a mixed-use residential and commercial development, and is working with the Science Park Development Corp., which owns the property.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 PM

ESDC Downstate Chairman Pat Foye resigns

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder sorts through the breaking news from Albany and its mexed missages:

OK, on Friday, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Pat Foye, an appointee (and friend) of soon-to-depart Governor Eliot Spitzer, was staying in his job, according to the New York Observer. Now, according to the Daily News, Foye is resigning.
Paterson told the Daily News he'll continue support for Atlantic Yards. That suggests that work from the ESDC--contractual wrangling, legal strategy, site supervision-- can continue without a chairman and, given delays in the project and emerging doubts from Crain's New York Business, leadership from the top may not be crucial at this point.


NoLandGrab: Foye's departure suggests that shepherding billions of taxpayer dollars for misguided megaprojects wasn't that much fun after all.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 PM

Breaking News - ESDC Downstate Chairman Pat Foye resigns

Daily News, ESDC Chair Resigns

Downstate ESDC Chairman Pat Foye tendered his resignation to Governor-to-be David Paterson yesterday, making him the first of outgoing Gov. Eliot Spitzer's agency/authority/corporation heads to step down.

Foye, a longtime personal friend and former legal colleague of Spitzer's, wrote in his resignation letter:

"Given the Governor’s resignation and my belief that you deserve to work with a team of your choosing, I have determined that it is timely for me to resign and return to the private sector. I will, of course, be available to spend as much time as needed to ensure a seamless transition."

Foye and Spitzer worked together at the law firm Skadden Arps, where Foye served as a merger and acquisitions partner from 1989 to 1998, and was also managing partner of the firm's Brussels, Budapest and Moscow offices from 1992 to 1994.

Before joining the Spitzer administration in January 2007, Foye was president and CEO of the United Way of Long Island. He also was a trustee of LIPA.

Spitzer appointed two people to run ESDC, Foye handled the downstate side while Dan Gundersen's focus was upstate. No word yet on Gundersen's plans.

Albany Times Union, Empire Development chief quits

ALBANY -- Patrick Foye, the co-chairman of Empire State Development Corp., is leaving his job.

In a letter dated Sunday, Foye, who came in with Gov. Eliot Spitzer and focused on downstate development, said it's time for him to return to the private sector. He ran the United Way of Long Island before joining the Spitzer administration. Foye told his staff he will leave at incoming governor David Paterson's convenience. The state's Urban Development board would choose his replacement.

Dan Gundersen, the co-chairman for upstate, isn't leaving. He picked up a $27,500 raise last summer, making him a higher-paid executive than Foye, although Foye seemed to have more to do with Spitzer than Gundersen.

Long Island Business News, Patrick Foye resigns

Patrick Foye, downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., has resigned.

Foye ran the United Way of Long Island from 2004 to 2007 before he was selected by outgoing Gov. Eliot Spitzer for the ESDC post.

Foye had close ties with Spitzer and wife Silda, having worked with both at New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he was considered a mentor of sorts for Silda Wall Spitzer.

Foye was at that firm from 1989 to 1998.

Before helming the United Way of Long Island, Foye had been deputy chairman of the Long Island Power Authority.

"Given Governor Spitzer's resignation and my belief that you deserve to work with a team of your choosing, I have determined that it is timely for me to resign and return to the private sector," Foye said in a statement.

Spitzer resigned his post as governor, effective Monday, after it was discovered that he was involved in a prostitution ring.

At the ESDC, Foye was in charge of overseeing major New York development projects such as the proposed Moynihan Station and the Atlantic Yards plan, which includes a basketball arena that would house the New Jersey Nets.

David Paterson, who will be sworn in as governor Monday afternoon, will name Foye's replacement.

Posted by steve at 12:07 PM

The odds for 10 big projects

Crain's NY Business

The oddsmakers at Crain's give Brooklyn's biggest "done deal," Atlantic Yards, an even chance of getting built.


On his blog Atlantic Yards Report, Norman Oder notes that the business-friendly weekly is only lukewarm to the megaproject's prospects:

There's no explanation for the calculation, so the prediction should be taken with a major grain of salt, but it's telling that the business-friendly weekly Crain's New York Business--heck, the paper locates the project in Downtown Brooklyn--this week estimates the chances for Atlantic Yards to be built at only 50%.

NoLandGrab: The entire report underscores that it might be more useful to commoditize futures on NYC megaprojects, as a meaningful predictor, than to keep taking polls or just leaving it up to Crain's.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Merger or consolidation? NYU’s absorption of Brooklyn’s Polytech is about engineering--and land

Atlantic Yards PolyTech NYU Report

Norman Oder takes a detour from the Atlantic Yards beat to analyze the purchase of PolyTech by NYU, which has all the trappings of a major real estate deal.

They’ve called it a merger, an affiliation, a joining of two institutions. But the planned--and nearly consummated--deal between Polytechnic University, a small engineering school at Brooklyn’s MetroTech that draws mainly on local students, and New York University (NYU), the ever-growing, Greenwich Village-based university with international reach, looks like a consolidation.

Given that NYU would ultimately absorb Poly with no money down, but, among other benefits, offer a loan based on Poly’s real estate--a provision barely discussed publicly--it also has elements of a leveraged buyout.

What does it have to do with Atlantic Yards and MetroTech developer Bruce Ratner?

Poly has signed a letter of intent regarding its air rights with developer Forest City Ratner, its MetroTech neighbor, but has not begun new buildings.

The deal is a source of contention at Poly, while a blip on the radar screen at NYU

Who wins?

Whether the revenue from Poly's air rights would support the engineering school remains unclear. Should it do so, the deal looks better for Poly. If not, the larger school, which has faced little internal controversy over the consolidation decision, may have achieved an ever better deal. But the consolidation is about more than revenue, so, assuming it goes forward, it may take years to assess the true value of the deal.


Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

And Now: The Paterson Administration

Gotham Gazette
By Courtney Gross and Gail Robinson


Wonder how the city could fare under a Paterson administration and some New York City officials say they have high hopes.

So who is this Albany veteran, besides being the state's first black and legally blind governor and a so-called ally to the State Legislature?
A number of major development projects in the city remain at critical junctures: Moynihan Station, Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, the Javits Center Expansion and so on. The state plays a major role in many. Recently, for example, Spitzer proposed selling parcels of the land near the Javits Center, thereby scrapping plans for a substantially larger convention center. This brought sharp opposition from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, among others.

It is unclear whether anyone knows Paterson's position on every individual mega project slated for the five boroughs - or even whether he has a position -- but as soon as Spitzer resigned, if not before, the real estate industry began fretting that Paterson might not be as friendly to them as Spitzer had been.

Paterson "is an unknown quantity in real estate circles," Crain's wrote on Wednesday. "That's in sharp contrast to Gov. Spitzer, who was considered pro-development and a friend of the industry, and whose father is a wealthy real estate developer."

Some of the unease about Paterson in the development industry springs from his stated opposition in 2005 to using eminent domain - the government seizing of private property - for economic development projects.


Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

March 16, 2008

Spitzer Tales

A noteworthy aspect of last week's political flameout of Democratic Boy Wonder Eliot Spitzer (aside from how much he paid for sex) was the total lack of die-hard supporters vouching for the Governor's character.

On Thursday, NY Post columnist Fred Dicker published a laundry list of eye-witness accounts of Eliot Spitzer's exhibitions of arrogance, which should have tipped off reporters and Albany watchers that Spitzer wasn't the "agent of reform" he claimed to be. In Dicker's eyes, the Governor lost his credibility during the cover-up of the smear campaign against State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Dicker's intense questioning in the wake of the scandal earned him his own spot on the Spitzer hit list.

Dicker's I-told-you-so column and the gigantic cone of silence hovering over Spitzer's quickly disappearing allies prompted a recollection of the one Spitzer story that has been circulating for years amongst Atlantic Yards critics.

The very next day, with Spitzer's political career in shambles, Runnin' Scared, the Village Voice's news blog ran this account of the meeting where Elliot Spitzer went off on Atlantic Yards critics:

“Despite the horror this week for New York,” said Candace Carponter, the DDDB legal chair, “It’s a breath of fresh air for us because Spitzer wouldn’t listen to us. He has always either turned a deaf ear to us, or has been abusive to us.” She recalled a particularly rancorous meeting over two years ago, when Atlantic Yards opponents including herself, Goldstein and James met with the then-Attorney General and gubernatorial contender to present their community’s opposition to the project. Although Spitzer had not yet publicly expressed his support for Atlantic Yards, she says the son of a real estate developer belittled their concerns in a shouting match that ran over 20 minutes.

“I have never been berated the way we were in that room,” remembers Carponter. “He was so condescending and so dismissive – I think dismissive is probably the best word –but in an incredibly rude way.”

Political junkies can probably expect more Spitzer as-hysterical-jerk tales in the coming weeks, as it becomes apparent that "The Steamroller" was feared more than he was respected.

Posted by lumi at 3:28 PM

The Atlantic Yards - Oil on Linen by Edward Minoff

Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: Plaintiffs, Paterson, Newswalk

Atlantic Yards Report

The plaintiffs on Pacific Street see their block get lonelier


When I took the photo at right of Pacific Street east of Fifth Avenue in December 2005, the low-rise buildings--garages and a warehouse--were intact, more or less. The building at right was soon demolished as part of an "emergency demolition."

The building to its left was demolished in June 2006, as contractors admitted using a backhoe rather than hand tools for part of the work. Despite the contractors' denials, a judge found that the workers also used the backhoe adjacent to the four-story residential building at 624 Pacific Street.

Now, as the photo below by Tracy Collins suggests, the remaining residents of the two residential buildings--plaintiffs in pending lawsuits-- are increasingly isolated as demolition continues around them.

Paterson will continue support for Atlantic Yards

From today's Daily News article about Governor-designate David Paterson: He expects to carry on Spitzer's support for major development projects such as Moynihan Station and the Atlantic Yards/basketball arena in Brooklyn.

That's not a shock, given the other things on Paterson's plate and the fact that the state has already invested much time and an initial portion of money in the project. Still, it will disappoint a good number of Brooklynites, such as CBID.

And shouldn't Paterson square his support with his 2005 call for a moratorium on eminent domain?

Is Newswalk really in Downtown Brooklyn?

From the On the Market page of today's New York Times Real Estate section: DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN DUPLEX


BROOKLYN: 535 Dean Street (between Sixth and Carlton Avenues), #322

A two-bedroom two-bath duplex in a converted printing plant with a full-time doorman, a health club and free indoor parking. Stefan Hiller, Prudential Douglas Elliman (917) 539-0210; www.prudentialelliman.com

Newswalk is in Prospect Heights, not Downtown Brooklyn, as the Times's most recent "Living in... Prospect Heights" coverage, on 12/18/05, confirmed.

More errors

It further adds, as "Cons": On the border of Prospect Heights but not in a residential neighborhoods, the nine-story building faces the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, which would involve extensive residential and commercial construction.

Dean Street, home to the main entrance to Newswalk, is very much a residential neighborhood. See image by Tracy Collins.

The hint about "extensive" construction means lots and lots of noise and traffic.

Posted by steve at 8:38 AM


Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats

CBID would like to take this opportunity to highlight some issues for Governor Paterson's immediate attention.


Second, we are aware of the New York State's desire to aggressively pursue affordable housing for New Yorkers and we applaud this. Given the state of our economy and other considerations, now is the time for the new Paterson administration to reconsider its support of and participation in the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn. This is clearly not the time for very questionable expenditures at the state and City level to take place on a project fraught with legal, practical and moral challenges. We urge Governor Paterson to place a moratorium on all state support of Atlantic Yards until and unless all environmental and community issues have been addressed and until more critical budget issues, such as the education and health care crises, have been resolved.


[The entire press release after the jump]


"Out of tragedy emerges a new and worthy champion for New York State"

Chris Owens, newly elected President of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), today congratulated Lieutenant Governor David Paterson on his impending ascension to the position of Governor of the State of New York. Paterson will become Governor this coming Monday, March 17, following the resignation of the current Governor, Eliot Spitzer.

"Recent events remind us how the ship of scandal leaves many victims in its wake. It was only a few years ago that our nation suffered the impeachment of President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice relating to a sex scandal. The memories and hurt linger, even now. This week, New York State has suffered a similar tragedy -- another violation of both the public's faith and the private trust of loved ones. The Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats wish the entire Spitzer family peace and love during this troubled time and in the future.

Yet out of tragedy emerges a new and worthy champion for New York State. New Yorkers are indeed fortunate that the incoming Governor is a capable, wise and experienced individual. David Paterson, born here in Brooklyn, is known by all as a compassionate leader and a change agent. For everyone, there is now healing that needs to take place. There is work to be done. The people's business must move forward and Governor David Paterson will do an outstanding job. We congratulate David Paterson and wish him and his family the best in their new roles.

CBID would like to take this opportunity to highlight some issues for Governor Paterson's immediate attention.

First, we urge the Governor to support education at the State level, and to intervene immediately and get New York City to stop its devastating cuts to the education budget. There is no investment equal to the investment in our children and education, in general. It is time for New York State to let Mayor Bloomberg know that there are performance expectations that cannot come close to being met if education budget cuts take place. And, furthermore, we urge Governor Paterson to make clear that the continuation of "Mayoral control" of schools after 2009 is tied to greatly improved communication with and involvement of parents and communities in the education of our children.

Second, we are aware of the New York State's desire to aggressively pursue affordable housing for New Yorkers and we applaud this. Given the state of our economy and other considerations, now is the time for the new Paterson administration to reconsider its support of and participation in the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn. This is clearly not the time for very questionable expenditures at the state and City level to take place on a project fraught with legal, practical and moral challenges. We urge Governor Paterson to place a moratorium on all state support of Atlantic Yards until and unless all environmental and community issues have been addressed and until more critical budget issues, such as the education and health care crises, have been resolved.

Third, New York State has a positive role to play in protecting residents from losing their homes to foreclosure. We urge Governor Paterson to express his support for the moratorium on foreclosures set forth in legislation authored by New York State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn). People across the state need an effective champion, and the mortgage and credit crises beg for Paterson's strong leadership.

Fourth, during his time in the State Senate and as Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson has always taken a strong interest in environmental issues – and we are pleased. In Brooklyn, a pressing environmental issue is the status of the Gowanus Canal. Given the fragile wetlands ecology, the underlying toxicity of the area, and the complexity inherent to brownfield cleanup, we call upon the incoming Governor to protect current and future residents along the Gowanus Canal by insisting on the adoption of a well-supervised master plan jointly agreed upon by Federal (EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers), State (DEC) and City (DEP, DCP) agencies before any rezoning is allowed to go forward – piecemeal otherwise.

There are, of course, numerous additional issues that need to be addressed. In these difficult times, with budget negotiations already taking place, we are highlighting these four as examples of matters requiring the full focus of our new Governor, David Paterson."

Posted by steve at 7:41 AM

Change In NY Governor Could Determine Future for NJ . . . Nets?

New Jersey Zoning Watch

An interesting sideline to the change in the governorship in New York State is the strong anti-eminent domain policy that Lt. Governor David Paterson adopted as a member of the state legislature. As a result, several economic development projects across the Hudson, including the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which is slated to be the home of the New Jersey Nets in 2011, “could be derailed or delayed,” according to the New York Sun.

While Paterson was a state senator, he called for a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain.


Thus, there is the possibility that if Governor Paterson remains consistent with his prior position, that the Atlantic Yards project, already delayed by lawsuits, environmental reviews and other impediments, could be blocked. In turn, the question must be asked, particularly in light of recent public debate over whether the Prudential Center in Newark and Izod Center in East Rutherford can co-exist, whether this will have any impact on future development at the Meadowlands Complex or raise the potential of the Nets moving to Newark if the Atlantic Yards project falls through.


Perhaps the new New York Governor can reconcile his prior views with the broader economic development goals of New York City Mayor Bloomberg and others in the city and the state, perhaps not. One thing is certain; the impact of how New York approaches eminent domain will be felt in New Jersey, regardless.


Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

A New Governor Could Be Good News For Brooklyn

Joshing Politics

This past week and especially the coming Monday heralds a new day in New York. Not only does Eliot Spitzer resign and David Paterson become Governor, but the whole political dynamic in the state is completely shook up. Out of the many examples we will find in the coming weeks and days, there is Brooklyn, and the infamous Atlantic Yards project that Bruce Ratner is so fond of.

Now the AY project was having trouble already, but a Paterson Administration could spell complete doom for Ratner and his quest to remake Brooklyn into gentrified garbage. It is about preserving and beautifying Kings County, not tearing it down and making anew. And there are some that feel that this is the right time to drive the stake in Ratner's heart plans.


Posted by steve at 7:29 AM

Nice-guy David Paterson can be plenty tough, he says

Daily News
By Joe Mahoney

Included in a profile of David Paterson is this mention of Atlantic Yards:

He expects to carry on Spitzer's support for major development projects such as Moynihan Station and the Atlantic Yards/basketball arena in Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 7:18 AM

March 15, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Trifecta

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posts three (yes, three!) items for us this Saturday. Sheldon Silver, Forest City Ratner Companies and FCRC shill Bruce Bender get to share the AY Report spotlight with legendary journalist I.F. Stone.

The legacy of I.F. Stone, independent non-neutral journalist, "proto-blogger"

Oder shows how he has been influenced by "proto-blogger" I.F. Stone, in the course of covering a panel discussion for the 100th anniversary of Stone's birth.

The panel--two biographers, two former colleagues, plus an academic--summarized the lessons from Stone's career: Think for yourself. Get your facts right. Base opinion and analysis on reporting. Read original documents. Don't accept the spin from those in power. Don't be flattered by access to the powerful.

Oder goes on to note how neutrality in reporting (i.e., simply parroting one party's claims) can result in a loss of integrity. Here, he quotes NYU journalism academic Jay Rosen:

Reporters with depth of knowledge are capable of challenging government and getting beyond the he said, she said style of tepid truthtelling. But the media corporation shifts its people around a lot. They switch towns, beats, assignments so often that it’s impossible for most reporters to build up any independent base of authority. They can’t challenge spin because they don’t know enough. So they become transmitters. Neutrality valorizes a loss of footing and self-respect.

This is bad news for the press if you care about having a strong one, capable of challenging the line of the day. But fine for the media, which finds it far cheaper to farm out “context” and “analysis” to ex-government officials. They came by their knowledge at another sector’s expense.

And that's part of the problem with Atlantic Yards.

FCR's Bender: new arena roof plan six months away

Oder takes today's article in the Financial Times to task for some shortcomings. He also observes newly disclosed information.

The article offers a dollop of news:

The original Atlantic Yards plan also called for gardens on the roof of the arena. But that would have required fire escapes running outside the entire height of the building. [Architect Frank] Gehry is back at the drawing board and should have a new roof designed within six months, says [spokesman Bruce] Bender.

That doesn't sound very swift, given that a Phase One redesign was due last fall.

Forest City Ratner's downtown branding, in Manhattan Media's New York Press


In this week's New York Press, page 5--a prominent spot--is taken up with a full-page advertisement from developer Forest City Ratner. The ad appears to be a branding exercise rather than an effort to plug any particular project.

However, the ad also might be seen as an effort to shape opinion among residents of Lower Manhattan, where the newspaper circulates, and where the developer seems to have delayed promised plans to complete a school in the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower, despite queries from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.


Manhattan Media appears to be winner in the dispute between Forest City Ratner and Silver, given that the Assembly Speaker has purchased his own advertisement, albeit on page 32 of the weekly.

Posted by steve at 7:14 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Look With Hope to Gov. Paterson

The Village Voice
By Julie Bolcer

This article uses this past Thursday's Develop Don't Destroy Community Meeting as a jumping-off point to discuss where the proposed Atlantic Yards project stands, and how project opponents are looking to Governor Paterson to step in and see if development better than Atlantic Yards can't be formulated for Prospect Heights.

A slipping economy, credit crunch, battered real estate market, and increasing construction costs all threaten the underpinnings of the Atlantic Yards proposal, of which the celebrated arena portion appears unlikely to reach its scheduled 2010 completion date. Some specific drawbacks include the soaring costs of the arena, estimated to exceed $650 million by this point, and the absence of financing for the affordable housing component of the project, which opponents charge has taken a back seat. In order to build the 2,250 rental units that would be considered affordable under the plan, Forest City Ratner would require a subsidization of $1.4 billion in federally tax-free housing bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corporation.

However, there is currently a housing bond cap of $1.6 billion per year for the entire state, and plenty of other applicants are in line for the scarce funding.

Here is where Atlantic Yards opponents envision a potential role for Paterson, the incoming governor, depending on the circumstances. Should the cap in bond financing jeopardize the affordable housing component, for instance, they ask whether and how he might intervene. They also wonder if the escalating arena costs might encourage another vote by the Public Authorities Control Board, which gave final approval for the financing in December 2006. Then, the all-powerful controlling members of the PACB were Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Now, Paterson enters that mix as one of the proverbial three men in the room.


Posted by steve at 2:52 AM

Building up Brooklyn

Financial Times
By Sharmila Devi

This article tries to give an in-depth overview of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, but doesn't quite get the facts straight.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the Atlantic Yards footprint:

It would cover a vast sunken railyard presently surrounded by low-rise buildings and warehouses near the intersection of three of Brooklyn’s busiest roads – Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Avenues.

The Vanderbilt Rail Yard covers only approximately one-third of the footprint.

Then there's this old story about how Brooklyn has fallen since the Dodgers left and has never gotten back up:

There has been a steady decline in Brooklyn’s fortunes that some residents say began 50 years ago when the Dodgers baseball team moved to Los Angeles. By the 1970s, much of Brooklyn was abandoned to muggers and the poor.

The '70s is an odd place from which to do a fast-forward to the 21st Century. It sort of misses how Brooklyn, and specifically, the area in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint, has been steadily improving.

And, here's a claim straight from Forest City about how there's been a compromise in the configuration of the development:

Local opposition has forced the Atlantic Yards plan to be revised several times because of concerns over the height of the buildings, shadow blight and security. There has now been some compromise and the developers seem to agree that the towers should not compete with a nearby landmark, the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, a neoclassical skyscraper being converted into condominiums and Brooklyn’s tallest building at 512 feet.

Actually, the size of the development was increased after it was announced in 2004, then later "downsized" back to its original dimensions, though there seems to be a redesign coming for the massive "Miss Brooklyn." No mitigations have been offered for any environmental impacts, and no explanation has ever been offered as to how an arena with a glass façade, set back only 20 feet from a major intersection, can be considered secure.

At least there are some things that are reasonably accurate in the article:

Everyone appears to agree that regeneration of the yards is needed but discord has arisen over the fast-track political approval the project has been given and the public subsidies it is receiving.

Forest City Ratner has started demolishing buildings, clearing the area and moving the railyards to a nearby temporary location but construction has been held up by lawsuits and controversy.

Exact details about funding, subsidies and a state or municipal bond also remain unclear amid the recent financial market turmoil. Forest City Ratner says it is forging ahead.


[Read the full article after the jump.]



Building up Brooklyn

By Sharmila Devi

Published: March 15 2008 00:43 | Last updated: March 15 2008 00:43

Atlantic Yards, a planned $4.2bn development of Frank Gehry-designed apartments, office space and a 20,000-seat sports arena, has all the making of a classic New York tale.

The proposal has pitched developers against residents over what the latter call the very “soul of Brooklyn”.

Local opponents to the scheme have included the actors Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez and the late Heath Ledger as well as a host of New York writers and personalities. They claim the project is at odds with Brooklyn’s low-rise, brownstone character and fails to provide enough of the low-income housing it heralded. Meanwhile, the developers say it will bring more jobs, housing and urban regeneration.

The city has experienced a real estate renaissance in less than a decade as people have fled Manhattan in search of more space for less cash. But the credit crunch and economic slowdown have begun to impact on its prices.

Overall rises have softened and there are even pockets of decline. For example, the average price of a single-family townhouse in the well-established Park Slope neighbourhood fell 15 per cent to $1.6m last year compared to the previous year, according to the Corcoran Group real estate company. Prices of two-bedroom apartments fell four per cent to $637,000 but values of one-bedroom apartments rose three per cent to $445,000.

By the end of last year more than 50 residential development projects were in the pipeline across Brooklyn but it remains to be seen how they will be affected by the economic downturn.

The 22-acre site for the Atlantic Yards project appears unprepossessing although nearby are charming streets that form part of Brooklyn’s “brownstone belt”. And while the borough is vast, with almost two and a half million residents, many believe that the impact of the development, positive or negative, could reverberate beyond its borders.

It would cover a vast sunken railyard presently surrounded by low-rise buildings and warehouses near the intersection of three of Brooklyn’s busiest roads – Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Avenues.

Nearby is the Atlantic Terminal, a busy transportation hub where 10 subway lines meet the Long Island Rail Road.

Everyone appears to agree that regeneration of the yards is needed but discord has arisen over the fast-track political approval the project has been given and the public subsidies it is receiving.

Moreover, observers say the grand plan more befits a booming economy than the current state of caution hitting New York’s entrepreneurs and consumers.

But the developer behind Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner Companies (led by former city commissioner Bruce Ratner, who inherited his family’s business), and local estate agents are upbeat, saying the area will boom.

Letitia James represents the area on the New York city council and is an opponent of the plan. She says:

“The proposal is totally out of scale with the character of the community. There is an overwhelming need for affordable housing, not an arena that will only bring low-wage jobs. The project is being marketed to people in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.”

There has been a steady decline in Brooklyn’s fortunes that some residents say began 50 years ago when the Dodgers baseball team moved to Los Angeles. By the 1970s, much of Brooklyn was abandoned to muggers and the poor.

Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey Nets basketball team for $300m three years ago and plans to base the big-league team at the new Atlantic Yards arena by 2010. The developer, who shies away from media interviews, has already invested near the proposed Atlantic Yards, including the Atlantic Center shopping mall, built in 1996.

“Bruce is not a stranger to the neighbourhood or the borough and is unique in that he shied away from Manhattan to be a pioneer in Brooklyn,” says Bruce Bender, a former city council aide who is Ratner’s vice-president for government and public affairs.

He explains the Atlantic mall was criticised when it opened because it was a self-contained box in a neighbourhood of small shops. “I met Bruce at City Hall, where he was trying to distribute a study that showed Brooklyn was bleeding out income to New Jersey because it had no big boxes [malls]. Big retailers wouldn’t come to the area while crime was at an all time high. He was ahead of his time.”

Local opposition has forced the Atlantic Yards plan to be revised several times because of concerns over the height of the buildings, shadow blight and security. There has now been some compromise and the developers seem to agree that the towers should not compete with a nearby landmark, the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, a neoclassical skyscraper being converted into condominiums and Brooklyn’s tallest building at 512 feet.

The original Atlantic Yards plan also called for gardens on the roof of the arena. But that would have required fire escapes running outside the entire height of the building. Gehry is back at the drawing board and should have a new roof designed within six months, says Bender.

Forest City Ratner has started demolishing buildings, clearing the area and moving the railyards to a nearby temporary location but construction has been held up by lawsuits and controversy.

Exact details about funding, subsidies and a state or municipal bond also remain unclear amid the recent financial market turmoil. Forest City Ratner says it is forging ahead.

Daniel Goldstein has led the opposition and founded Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), a local activist group that includes many celebrities and lesser-known locals.

He refuses to move from his apartment that he bought just before the project was announced and has led the local community lawsuits against Forest City Ratner’s threatened use of eminent domain or compulsory purchase orders.

A majority of several hundred tenants and owners have accepted the developer’s cash buyouts but Goldstein says he and about 50 others are standing firm and plan to take a lawsuit to the Supreme Court after it was recently rejected by a lower court.

Goldstein says gentrification started well before the proposed Atlantic Yards was unveiled. “We have people here who spent their own money doing up their homes when the area was abandoned by the rest of the city and they are very angry,” he says.

Local estate agents say while there has been an upsurge in interest in the area, so far it has failed to push prices up in a weakening property market.

Atlantic Yards, tel +1 866-923 5315; www.atlanticyards.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

"FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times. Privacy policy | Terms © Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.

Posted by steve at 1:55 AM

Brooklyn Museum to Get Hit with Atlantic Yards Blowback?

The Gowanus Lounge

Is the Brooklyn Museum in for some Atlantic Yards/Bruce Ratner blowback? Atlantic Yards Report notes there was visible anger at a meeting about Atlantic yards last night about an upcoming April 3 Gala honoring developer Bruce Ratner. AYR notes:

...the crowd’s ire was spurred by breaking news that Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner would be honored early next month by the Brooklyn Museum. And while local elected officials were understandably wary of criticizing the museum, leading the Brooklyn Paper to conclude that that DDDB’s Daniel Goldstein "was nearly alone in his vitriol," that wasn’t the mood last night. Goldstein...said DDDB had received a lot of e-mail about it. Prospect Heights resident Irene Porges told the crowd that she had just purchased a museum membership but would ask for her money back.

Others said they wanted to hold a protest on the occasion of the museum’s ball honoring Ratner on April 3, and met afterward to plan the action. The effect of Forest City Ratner’s contributions to local institutions, Goldstein said, "is to silence a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise be silent."

Stay tuned to see what form protests about the Brooklyn Museum Ratner Gala take.


Posted by steve at 1:47 AM

Paterson's Rule Could Derail Major Real Estate Deals


Another salient difference between the two is Paterson's attitude on eminent domain procedures. As a former state senator from Harlem, he objected to the use of land seizure through eminent domain; in 2005, he stood on the steps of City Hall to call for a halt on such seizures. Eminent domain-reliant projects are Columbia University's Manhattanville expansion, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and the new development plans for Willets Point in Queens.

Without the backing of the governor, it's unclear whether these large projects could remain politically or financially viable. Crain's also pointed out the long-gestating Moynihan Station project could be linger longer. It's also possible Empire State Development Corporation head Patrick Foye, friend of Spitzer, may be replaced.


Posted by steve at 1:38 AM

Could Spitzer Sex Scandal Hurt the Nets?

Nets Daily

Strange headline no doubt, but the critics of the Nets’ arena in Brooklyn think the transition from disgraced Governor Eliot Spitzer to new Governor David Paterson could help them in their last ditch bid to stop Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards. Paterson, it turns out, teamed with critics of eminent domain and the arena three years ago when a state senator. Still, the State has already approved the $4 billion project.


Posted by steve at 1:29 AM

Paterson May be a Foe to Eminent Domain


According to an article in today's Sun, our new governor could end up opposing projects like Atlantic Yards that involve the use of eminent domain. As a state senator, David Paterson participated in a 2005 rally calling for a statewide moratorium on eminent domain. Councilmember Letitia James, who also took part in the rally, says she hopes Paterson's views on the subject haven't changed. "He stood with me and proposed some legislation and I am very hopeful that the lieutenant governor and soon-to-be governor will honor his commitment and will either issue a moratorium or review the abuse of eminent domain across New York City," says James. Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, says it's "premature" to make predictions about where Paterson will stand on eminent domain, but that "It would clearly be a mistake for the state to give up one of its powers to get public improvement projects off the ground." Time will certainly tell.


Posted by steve at 1:24 AM

Dear Governor Paterson:

Carroll Gardens Petition


Scroll down the page a little to see this:

Please see today's GL for this story and please help us write to Governor Paterson: Atlantic Yards Opponents: "Dear Governor Paterson"

Even though Lt. Gov. David Paterson does not assume the governorship until Monday, it's never too early to get the campaign started urging him to "pull the plug" on the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by steve at 12:58 AM

Did sensational assets spare Atlantic Yards?

Set Speed aka onehansonplace.com

Did the tits, ass and lips of Ashley Dupre spare the Park Slope, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights neighborhood from the blight of the Atlantic Yards?

Due to Eliot Spitzer's love of twenty-two year old trim, he's resigned and noted anti-eminent-domainer David Paterson will be taking office on Monday.


Posted by steve at 12:52 AM

March 14, 2008

Ex-ESDC Chairman Gargano's ambassadorship derailed


Atlantic Yards Report

Many watching Atlantic Yards observed Charles Gargano, Gov. George Pataki's appointee as chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, as a stumbler, dissembler, a cheerleader, a canny politician, and, of course, the governor's chief fundraiser. At the very least, Gargano--unlike, say, certain developers--was willing to take questions from the press, even if he didn't answer them fully.

Now comes the news that Gargano, whom the Bush Administration nominated last November to be ambassador to Austria--a step up in size and weather from his one-time post in Trinidad and Tobago--won't be taking the post after all, as the New York Sun reported today.

"The withdrawal likely signals opposition from leading Democrats," the Sun noted. Given the Democratic majority in the Senate, it's likely that stories of unseemly connections, recounted in Radar online, have some had some sway, along with reports of a "slush fund" controlled by Gargano at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and a tale of nepotism on the Brooklyn waterfront.

None of those charges refer to Gargano's stewardship of the Atlantic Yards project, where the scandal might be--in the parlance of Michael Kinsley--not what's illegal, but what's legal, such as dubious declarations of blight.

A lawyer quoted anonymously by Radar said, "Many people think of Charlie Gargano as a shady political opportunist. He is not. He is a classy political opportunist."


NoLandGrab: Does this mean that "The Ambassador," which is what Gargano famously prefers to be called, will have to stop asking others to refer to him as "The Ambassador?"

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

The Domain of the Sun

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lipskian Logic, a condition exacerbated by a kind of temporary blindness brought on by the source of one's paychecks, makes another appearance in lobbyist Richard Lipsky's analysis of this morning's NY Sun story:

In this morning's NY Sun, the paper focuses on the new governor's position on eminent domain; and sees problems ahead for developers: "If David Paterson as governor displays the opposition to eminent domain that he showed as a state senator, several high-profile development projects in New York City could be derailed or delayed, including a Columbia University expansion, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the transformation of Willets Point in Queens."

Of course the Sun has taken a special interest in the issue and its speculation here could be seen to some extent as wishful thinking-particularly for Atlantic Yards where the development is already a way down the road. The Columbia and the Willets Point situations may, however, be something else altogether.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

At DDDB update, Brooklyn Museum honor for Ratner raises ire

Atlantic Yards Report


Norman Oder reports from last night's Community Update Meeting held by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

While there were questions and discussion about the viability of the project given the credit crunch and lack of affordable housing financing, as well as the effects of ongoing construction activities, the crowd’s ire was spurred by breaking news that Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner would be honored early next month by the Brooklyn Museum.

And while local elected officials were understandably wary of criticizing the museum, leading the Brooklyn Paper to conclude that that DDDB’s Daniel Goldstein “was nearly alone in his vitriol,” that wasn’t the mood last night. Goldstein (speaking to the crowd above) said DDDB had received a lot of e-mail about it. Prospect Heights resident Irene Porges told the crowd that she had just purchased a museum membership but would ask for her money back.

Others said they wanted to hold a protest on the occasion of the museum’s ball honoring Ratner on April 3, and met afterward to plan the action. The effect of Forest City Ratner’s contributions to local institutions, Goldstein said, “is to silence a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise be silent.”

DDDB’s Goldstein expressed hope in Governor-in-waiting David Paterson. “I think we’re going to have a more responsible governor,” he said, noting that Paterson in 2005 supported a moratorium on the use of eminent domain. (However, he’s been quiet since and a New York Sun story today, without any comment from Paterson, raised the question of whether the issue would recur; a real estate official said he wasn't concerned given Paterson's other priorities. )

More than 110 people attended the event at the Hanson Place United Methodist Church in Fort Greene. Organizers said 111 people signed cards to Paterson urging him to “pull the plug on Forest City Ratner’s ill-conceived Atlantic yards plan,” questioning whether taxpayers should “be shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for a basketball arena while affordable housing and so many other crucial needs take a back seat.” (Of course, affordable housing is supposed to be part of the AY plan, but there are major doubts about its schedule.)


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Brooklyn Museum honors Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper describes Dan Goldstein as "nearly alone in his vitriol" in response to hearing that the Brooklyn Museum of Art was to honor Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at next month's Annual Gala.

Museum spokeswoman Sally Williams said the honor stemmed from Ratner’s “contribution to arts and culture in Brooklyn and to the museum” and his “generous support of various activities of the Brooklyn Museum.”

Williams declined to provide specific numbers and said the museum’s selection of Ratner did not indicate its support for Atlantic Yards, the 16-skyscraper mega-development that has divided Brooklyn along class, race and socio-economic lines for more than four years.

“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” she said.


Ratner didn’t respond to a request for comment...


NoLandGrab: You can add NoLandGrab to Dan Goldstein to make TWO who think that the Brooklyn Museum is slamming the community, which has long supported the local cultural institution.

It wouldn't be surprising if there were a dozen others who were upset, too.

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Paterson Could Derail Development

NY Sun


If David Paterson as governor displays the opposition to eminent domain that he showed as a state senator, several high-profile development projects in New York City could be derailed or delayed, including a Columbia University expansion, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the transformation of Willets Point in Queens.

As a state Senate leader, Mr. Paterson in 2005 held a rally with Council Member Letitia James and state Senator William Perkins on the steps of City Hall during which he called for a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain.

Mr. Paterson said a decision handed down by the Supreme Court in the Kelo v. City of New London case could lead to a “gold rush” of eminent domain use across the state, The New York Sun reported at the time. He said he would gather legislators and introduce legislation to impose a moratorium on its use.

“He stood with me and proposed some legislation and I am very hopeful that the lieutenant governor and soon-to-be governor will honor his commitment and will either issue a moratorium or review the abuse of eminent domain across New York City,” Ms. James said yesterday in an interview.

Ms. James’s district is in Brooklyn, and she opposes developer Bruce Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project near downtown Brooklyn, which would require use of eminent domain.
At a press conference yesterday Mr. Paterson was asked how his policies differed from Mr. Spitzer’s. His response suggested that positions he previously held had not changed very much.

“There are some points of view I guess that I’ve changed over the years, but I’m pretty much the same person,” he said.

Mr. Ratner is planning to build a basketball arena and 16 mostly residential towers on 22 acres in Prospect Heights. The plans would remake the low-rise neighborhood with 8 million square feet of development, including more than 6,000 apartments, “affordable” housing, and office and retail space in a complex designed by architect Frank Gehry.

As usual:

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner declined comment.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted running commentary on the Sun article.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Another Ratner lie! Gehry was not ‘born in Brooklyn’

The Brooklyn Paper reports on Ratner's latest lie, one that was originally exposed by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report:


Gehry’s birthplace would not be all that newsworthy were it not for the fact that Ratner touted Gehry’s supposed Brooklyn origin as evidence of his 16-skyscraper project’s outer-borough roots.

But Gehry was born in Toronto. In Canada.

The lie was hiding in plain sight on Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Web since at least 2004. The Web page — www.atlanticyards. com/html/ay/gehry.html — said that Gehry was “born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929.”
Journalist Norman Oder said the lie “can’t be an honest mistake,” citing architecture critic D.J. Huppatz, who once pointed out, “the born-in-Brooklyn connection [is] a fabrication designed to further make the Gehry design palatable to the local community.”

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Dan Goldstein makes a good point:

“If they manipulate basic, easily proven facts, it’s not hard to imagine what they do with more opaque, easily manipulated facts like their convoluted financing scheme, ‘affordable housing’ plan, and their overall claims about the project’s ‘public benefit.’”

Here's Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt's best defense:

Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt admitted the error, but said, “The reality is that it was simply a miscommunication between his office and ours. He evidently lived in Brooklyn briefly at one point, but was not born here. We apologize for any confusion and have corrected the Web page.”


NoLandGrab: The irony is that Ratner promotes someone who had lived in Brooklyn for around a year as a baby as being from Brooklyn, while Atlantic Yards supporters consider someone who has lived in Brooklyn two decades, a newcomer.

Back in February, we dared Ratner to tell the truth about something, anything! The offer still stands.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

New York City Cultural Innovation Fund 2008 Competition Announced by Rockefeller Foundation

AScribe Newswire (press release)

March 12 — Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin announced today the start of this year's New York City Cultural Innovation Fund competition.

In 2007, its inaugural year, the New York City Cultural Innovation Fund awarded $2.6 million through sixteen two-year grants of $50,000 to $250,000 for groundbreaking initiatives that enrich the City's cultural life, helping to ensure the continued economic strength and diversity of the City's creative sector.
Selected from a pool of more than 600 organizations, the following were among the winners in 2007:
- The Civilians: For a Brooklyn neighborhoods theater lab exploring the Atlantic Yards Project.

Link to the rest of the press release.

Read more about "The Civilians" on Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

The Stay Strong Foundation Launches National 'Healing Starts With US' Campaign With Celebrity Guests Denzel Washington, Ruby Dee, Mo'Nique, Terry McMillan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Others

Earth Times

The Stay Strong Foundation unveiled its plan today to launch a national campaign entitled "Healing Starts With Us." On the heels of Terrie M. Williams' latest book, BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We are Not Hurting, emerges a powerful movement aimed to provide a support network that encourages open dialogue about emotional distress within the African American community. The "Healing Starts With Us" campaign kicks off at The Malcolm X & Dr Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center, formerly known as the Audubon Ballroom, on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 from 6-8 pm.
Campaign sponsors include The Dixon Group, Inc.; Forest City Ratner Companies; Macy's; Coca-Cola; The River Room; Columbia University Office of Government and Community Affairs; Jonathan Tisch Foundation, CareerPeeks; The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center; The Loreen Arbus Foundation; Moet Hennessy USA; The Middleton Law Group; Shabazz Fish & Grill; The Terrie Williams Agency; Bad Boy Entertainment Worldwide; The Artis Connection; Planet Hollywood; BET; Sean Jean; National Cares Mentoring Movement; Alpha International Travel; and Sean John.

Link to rest of the press release.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

March 13, 2008

Liberal talk radio hires ex-con Ney

The Hill

Good to see Bruce isn't the only Ratner creating jobs, and for an ex-con, no less. Of course, this ex-con just happens to be disgraced former Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, who was sentenced to 30 months on corruption charges back in 2006. Ney, we should point out, is a conservative Republican.

Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has landed his first job since being released from prison last month.

Ney is working in Columbus, Ohio, for the Talk Radio News Service (TRNS), thanks to his longtime friend Ellen Ratner.

Ratner, a self-described “proud liberal” who is the TRNS bureau chief, confirmed that Ney is working for the communications company as the ex-lawmaker stays in a halfway house.


NoLandGrab: God bless those Ratners. They never let ideology get in the way of friendship — or campaign contributions.

Posted by eric at 1:31 PM

DDDB Community Meeting on Atlantic Yards - TONIGHT!

3/13: Community Meeting on Atlantic Yards

Many rounds of legal and political fighting
remain in the struggle against Atlantic Yards.

Find out why at our...

Community Meeting:
Update on the Struggle Against Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project and For Sensible Development

DDDB Community Meeting:
Thursday, March 13, 7pm
Hanson Place United Methodist Church. Main Sanctuary

Church Address:144 Saint Felix Street at Hanson Place
*Enter at Hanson Place
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Subways: 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, R, Q to Atlantic/Pacific

Speculation has been increasing recently that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project could be falling prey to the triple-whammy of a slowing economy, the crisis in sub-prime mortgages and the global credit crunch. Big real estate deals all around the country are being put on hold or are being shelved altogether, and Ratner's planned City Tech tower project, which would have been Brooklyn's tallest building, unraveled last week. The Atlantic Yards project is turning into the deal that couldn't get done.

All of which makes next Thursday's community meeting even more important...

Find out the latest on the community's fight against the destructive Atlantic Yards project, including news on the political and legal effort to stop the project. Find out how to get involved. Also, learn about the UNITY Plan, the community's alternative plan to develop the rail yards with truly affordable housing, community-friendly open space without the abuse of eminent domain. City and State politicians will speak and be available for Q&A.

Invited Elected Officials:
Councilmember Bill DeBlasio, Councilmember Letitia James, Councilmember David Yassky, Assemblymember Jim Brennan, Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, Assemblymember Joan Millman, State Senator Eric Adams, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery

The meeting is open to all. Please save the date, and bring a friend.

Sponsored by:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Society for Clinton Hill
Fort Greene Association
Park Slope Neighbors
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Bears Community Garden
South Portland Block Association


Posted by steve at 12:49 PM

Residential parking permit proposal moves forward, as Bloomberg cites "arenas"

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan proposed a residential parking permit program (RPP) as part of congestion pricing legislation. Many neighborhood groups around the Atlantic Yards footprint believe it a crucial measure to prevent arena-goers from cruising around their neighborhood for free spaces.

If the legislation passes, residents would petition a Community Board, which then must hold a public meeting. Assuming the board approves it, the plan would then go to the Borough President and the local City Council member for approval.

The RPP program, Streetsblog reported, will specifically be aimed at discouraging park-and-ride activity and to help residents secure parking in "neighborhoods that face pressure from large facilities like sports arenas," Bloomberg said.

In the comments section on Streetsblog, City Council Member Lew Fidler expressed his opposition: "I poke my head in, only poke, because I hate the new tax to park in front of my house even more than I dislike CP [congestion pricing]."

Responded Prospect Heights resident Danae Oratowski:
"If you can think of another way to discourage drivers who are going to the Nets arena from cruising around the neighborhood - just in case they can find a free parking space - I'm all ears.

You supported Atlantic Yards. Now you need to help find a solution to the traffic problems brought on when you site a 19,000 seat venue in a low rise residential neighborhood."


StreetsBlog, Details of the Mayor’s Residential Parking Permit Proposal
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, With Clock Ticking, Mayor, DOT Endorse Permit Parking

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

At the Brooklyn Museum gala, honors for (and $ from) Bruce Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

If you have $1000 or more to spend, you can attend the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball 2008 on April 3, honoring developer Bruce Ratner and celebrating the opening of an exhibition billed as "the most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami."


Controversial development company Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the locally loathed Atlantic Yards project has its fingers all over this gala event:

Three of the eight co-chairs have a connection to Ratner, including rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z, who owns a piece of the Nets; FCR president Minieri; and Brett Yormark, president of Nets Sports & Entertainment.

Among the vice-chairs are Barclays Capital, which has signed a naming rights deal for the Atlantic Yards arena, Nets Sports and Entertainment, and, of course, Forest City Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Governor-in-waiting Paterson protested eminent domain in 2005, but quiet since

Atlantic Yards Report

So what does the soon-to-be NY Governor think about Atlantic Yards and eminent domain abuse?

Now that Lieutenant Governor David Paterson is poised to take the governorship Monday upon Eliot Spitzer's official resignation, expect more talk about his past stance against eminent domain (which I missed when writing about him Tuesday).


At a rally on the steps of City Hall yesterday, a State Senate leader, David Paterson, a Democrat, along with a small gathering of Harlem civic leaders and three City Council members, called for a state-wide blanket moratorium on the use of eminent domain following the recent Supreme Court decision that is widely interpreted as expanding the law’s reach.

Actually, the controversial Kelo v. New London decision merely reaffirmed--through with far more public notice--existing doctrine that "public use" could be interpreted as "public purpose," including increased tax revenues.

Also present was City Council Member Letitia James, the leading political opponent of the Atlantic Yards project. However, Paterson's posture was mainly against Columbia University’s expansion plan, within his 30th Senate District, now reprsented by Bill Perkins, who as City Council majority leader also joined the press conference.


Would real estate "angst" about Paterson extend to AY?

Crain's reported yesterday that Governor-in-waiting David Paterson "is largely an unknown quantity in real estate circles, creating angst about how his accession will affect development."

The article suggested that plans for both the Hudson Yards and Moynihan Station, "already challenged by the credit crisis," could be slowed further. One factor regarding the latter project is whether Patrick Foye, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), is replaced.

Foye's ESDC has been shepherding the Atlantic Yards plan, which unlike the two mentioned above, has already been approved. The Spitzer administration vigorously defended lawsuits challenging the project, though the ESDC has taken some steps toward greater transparency in listing meeting agendas and hiring an ombudsman.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

Real Estate Round-Up March 12, 2008

From Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Real Estate Round-Up by Sarah Ryley:

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies was generous to state Democrats, donating an eyebrow-raising $58,420 (that zero is supposed to be there) to their housekeeping committee early this year, according to the disclosure report. But the company wasn’t stingy with the federal senate either. The Real Deal reported a $28,500 donation to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, “which Senator Chuck Schumer, a major Atlantic Yards supporter, chairs.”


NoLandGrab: That's from a developer who has obviously reversed his pledge to not contribute to political campaigns — this unlimited soft-money loophole must have been too enticing.

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

"Brooklyn-born" Gehry claim gone from AY web site; what about "Downtown Brooklyn?"

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, as I reported, Forest City Ratner was still claiming, on its official Atlantic Yards web site that architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn.

That's not true, and it was confirmed in the architect's own words.

Now that the whistle has been blown a couple of times, the developer has tweaked the page at issue, and the Brooklyn-born" claim has been excised.

What about "Downtown Brooklyn"?

If Forest City Ratner is aiming for fidelity, maybe it's time to reconsider the claim that Atlantic Yards is in Downtown Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Forest City in the News

Clarkesville (TN) Online, Lost in Limbo

Congratulations Forest City Enterprises, you are now "a developer infamous for its Atlantic Yards dispute in New York."

Learn how the threat of eminent domian is depressing economic acitivity in Fresno, CA in a redevelopment area promised to Forest City.

Ann Arbor Business Review, U-M may play vital role in Pfizer site transitions in Ann Arbor

The revelation that a major real estate management firm is considering acquiring Ann Arbor's Pfizer campus put a spotlight on the role the University of Michigan is playing behind the scenes in the marketing process.

Forest City Enterprises Inc., a Cleveland-based developer, is considering how the 2 million-square-foot campus could fit into its portfolio, Business Review reported first online March 6.

Commercial Property News, As Cowboys Depart, Retail Planned for Dallas Stadium Site

Retail REIT Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. announced plans today for an upscale outlet shopping center at the site of the old Texas Stadium in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, soon to be the fomer home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

At the end of the 2008 season, the Cowboys will move to a new stadium in neighboring Arlington, leaving about 400 acres of land available for redevelopment. Tanger's announcement makes it the first major project planned for the Texas Stadium Redevelopment Area.
Tanger purchased the land from the University of Dallas.
The plan for the overall stadium site--being overseen by Forest City Enterprises, the City of Irving, Southwest Premiere Properties and the University of Dallas--calls for an urban mixed-use lifestyle center, with a Main Street development anchored by a variety of retail experiences. New civic buildings are under consideration, as well as residential neighborhoods, plazas and hotels.

EYEWEEKLY.COM, Forest City Lovers

WHO ARE THEY? Whitby native Kat Burns came up with the concept of Forest City Lovers back in 2005 when she found herself with a handful of airy art-folk songs that she was loath to release as a solo artist. Instead, she rifled through a posse of talented pals to help her flesh out the aching, string-laced compositions that wound up on 2006’s The Sun and the Wind before settling down with the current incarnation of Forest City Lovers, which features roommate Mika Posen on strings and backing vocals, bassist Kyle Donnelly and, following the departure of Paul Weadick, temporary percussionist Steve Lappano. Save Lappano, all these players — and about 13 guests, including members of Ohbijou and Snailhouse — show up on Forest City Lovers’ beautiful new Haunting Moon Sinking disc. Compared to its predecessor, it’s a warm, strikingly strong collection of tunes that range from glockenspiel- and synth-accented orchestral pop (“Sudden Seas”) to haunting cabaret-folk in pastel tones (“Pirates (All Can’t Sail the Indian Ocean)”) to gentle alt-country (“Charlottetown”).

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

March 12, 2008

How an omission in the LEED formula helped FCR and doomed the Ward Bakery

Atlantic Yards Report


So it's not just critics with hindsight who think LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which aims to produce "green buildings" by assigning points scants the value of preserving existing buildings such as the Ward Bakery and their "embodied energy," the energy that went into building materials and construction.

It's a developer of LEED himself. "I happened to be on a retreat with a founder of LEED," commented planner John Shapiro at the annual conference of the Historic Districts Council last Saturday. The founder, Shapiro said, explained that a committee of the U.S. Green Buildings Council "intentionally downplayed historic preservation, because if they put it in the formula [for LEED], it would blow everything away and architects would ignore it."

Had the cost and value of embodied energy been factored in, it might have changed the equation the Empire State Development Corporation calculated when it asserted that the cost of development at the Ward Bakery site would be an additional $30 per square foot.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

When it comes to PlaNYC 2030, AY is still the elephant in the room

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how Atlantic Yards was the elephant in the room when Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 was presented last April, given that it went conspicuously unmentioned in the housing chapter?


Well, city officials discussing the sustainability plan keep offering rhetoric counter to the sequence behind Atlantic Yards. The issue came up at the annual conference Saturday of the Historic Districts Council, with keynote speaker Rohit Aggarwala, who directs the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.

The plan initially was to address population growth and land use, but quickly grew. “[We began] what we thought was going to be a strategic land use plan," Aggarwala said, "but we quickly realized: you can’t think about land use in a city without thinking about transportation. And you can’t think about transportation without thinking about air quality.”

The chain connects to energy, water, and climate change. “If we solve one problem the wrong way, it’ll set us back on the others,” he said.

Of course, Atlantic Yards was approved by the state without any transportation improvements beyond game-day tweaks, and even supporters think congestion relief is necessary for the an arena to have a chance at the site.


NoLandGrab: HA! Aggarwala appeared at the Park Slope Civic Council's forum on sustainability last Thursday, and gave the EXACT same spiel. His comments spurred a handful of questions on Atlantic Yards, as several attendees were eager to call the Bloomberg administration on its hypocrisy, but the moderator (a known coward) gave Aggarwala a pass on the issue, contending that the forum was supposed to focus on "how to, not how not to."

PlaNYC's map for future residential growth
Norman Oder shares a map that he hadn't seen before. Have you?

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Paterson, Ready To Take Center Stage, Is No Stranger to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

Either Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Dan Goldstein is badly in need of a vacation or someone at the Eagle is, because this article, which looks forward to Lt. Gov. David Paterson stepping in as Gov., stopped making sense when it came to Atlantic Yards (as most things do):

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) said that although Paterson does not oppose the controversial Atlantic Yards development plan as such, he – unlike Spitzer – hasn’t expressly come out against it either.


NoLandGrab: We have it on good authority that what Goldstein actually said was that Paterson, unlike Spitzer, hasn't publicly expressed his support for the project — but he hasn't expressly opposed it, either.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Spitzer Sex Scandal and YOU: How Prostitutes Impact Congestion Pricing and More

Runnin' Scared (Village Voice blog)

Michael Clancy criused some popular local blogs and gathered some predictions on how Governor Spizter's downfall might affect local proposals and policies, including congestion pricing and Atlantic Yards:

Congestion pricing for downtown Manhattan, already nearing the "endgame" now looks more at risk than before, according to Second Avenue Sagas. The Wonkster took the pulse of City Council members and found support fading fast for the deal.
Atlantic Yards Report gives a thorough rundown of how Spitzer’s downfall could impact Forest City Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

March 11, 2008

The Spitzer scandal: any fallout for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reads the tea leaves and analyzes the alliances on Day 436 after "Day One" (when everything was supposed to change).


Is there any impact on the Atlantic Yards project from the political damage--likely career-ending--suffered by Gov. Eliot Spitzer yesterday?

Any analysis is speculation, and it's too soon to tell. The scandal might slow down the machinery of government in analyzing and responding to the project, which began under Gov. George Pataki and has generated no criticism from his successor, who pointedly ignored calls from civic groups to delay consideration until the new administration. Then again, it also might mean Spitzer's successor lets the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) proceed as before.

In the longer term, the occupant of the Governor's Office might have the opportunity to affect Phase Two of the project, which might be long delayed.

Our favorite part is this bit of commentary, which reveals that Norman Oder is as addicted to analyzing Atlantic Yards as Spitzer is addicted to... well, you know:

While the "Client 9" allegations have generated a tremendous amount of ink, Spitzer's failure to live up to the "Day One, everything changes" pledge he made to voters is undermined far more by his effort to skirt the standard he set for campaign contributions, instead directing large donations to the state Democratic Party (as the Times reported March 4), and his unwillingness to stop "the Atlantic Yards carve-out" that gave a special tax break to Forest City Ratner.

[Norman may have a point, but seriously, New Yorkers are far more concerned that Spitzer "undermined" himself by paying $4,300 for sex, than by his aids' attempts to smear political rival Joseph Bruno, campaign-finance hypocrisy, and giving special tax breaks to Ratner.]

Click here to read the rest of the article, which includes some background on Lieutenant Governor David Paterson's relationship to Atlantic Yards critics and the curious cameo of a "Stop Atlantic Yards" poster on WCBS.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

FOREST CITY LOVERS: New Album Released Today!

FCLovers.jpg Starting today, you can buy the latest release from Forest City Lovers, the laid-back Canadian indy-pop quartet with a notable name.

Listen to and purchase trax at the band's myspace page.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM


[Photos, Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool (flickr)]

Weeks beginning March 10, 2008 - March 17, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

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


Abatement and Demolition Work

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

  • 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 be completed within this two week period.
  • Demolition will begin at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period.
  • Abatement is complete at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29).
  • Abatement is complete at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62).
  • Fencing, back fill, parging and clean up are complete at 546 Vanderbilt Avenue (block 1129, lot 54).

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. 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 northbound B67 bus stop on the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will be temporarily eliminated in the next two weeks to accommodate the utility work described above. The bus stops in close proximity to the north at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues and to the south at Flatbush and Dean Street will be maintained.

Posted by eric at 5:07 AM

Forest City in the News

Commercial Property News, Forest City, Etkin Johnson Start Business Park at Former Denver Airport

Forest City Development and the Etkin Johnson Group have begun construction on Enterprise Park at Stapleton (pictured), a three-building, 441,000-square-foot office and industrial park at the site of Denver’s former Stapleton International Airport.

The first building will total 153,000 square feet and feature 30-foot-clear ceilings. The other two buildings, with 24-foot-clear ceilings, will be 139,695 square feet and 148,900 square feet. All three will include 10-foot-high glass windows, suiting them for office, showroom, R&D and assembly uses, and a front park/rear load configuration will favor warehouse/distribution tenants.

The Etkin Johnson Group has operated in Denver since 1981 and currently owns more than 5 million square feet of commercial properties in the Denver metro area.

GlobeSt.com, Etkin, Forest City in Ground for 441,000 SF

The Earth Times, EPA Recognizes Stapleton With 2008 ENERGY STAR(R) Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named Forest City Stapleton, Inc. as a 2008 Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion Award winner for its outstanding contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by sponsoring significant consumer education efforts promoting energy-efficient homes. Forest City Stapleton was the only master-planned community developer selected for this distinction.

NoLandGrab: Before the tree hugger in you gets the warm fuzzies about Forest City Enterprises, remember, this is the same company that severely underestimated every negative impact of the Atlantic Yards project because NY State law says it can.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 2

In the spirit of Forest CIty Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt's creedo, "When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much," Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is wondering why the developer is giving the second most powerful politician in the state the run around.

From the Observer:

Downtown Express reported today that Mr. Silver sent a letter to Mr. Ratner expressing concern about the construction schedule of Forest City Ratner’s Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street downtown, a planned 75-story mostly residential tower that has a school in the base. Mr. Silver wrote that because the school is slated to open in 2009 and construction has been minimal, he wants an update on the anticipated completion.

A spokesman for Mr. Silver said his office hasn’t yet received a response to the letter, which is dated Feb. 25...

Riegelhaupt's "non-answer:"

We have received the Speaker's letter and understand his and the community's concerns relating to the opening of the school. We are very sensitive to the school overcrowding issues currently facing Lower Manhattan as it was the Speaker who originally raised the issue and it was at his insistence that we included the school in our project. We are continuing to work very closely with the Speaker and appreciate all of his efforts in helping to move the project forward as quickly as possible.


Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM

March 10, 2008

Six months later, where's Phase One redesign

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the latest obfuscations emanating from MetroTech:

Delays on the Atlantic Yards project apparently flummoxed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who last September anticipated a redesign of the arena block in the fall.

And delays in another Forest City Ratner project, Beekman Tower, led Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week to query the company about the timetable for a promised school, leading to a non-answer from the developer.

As the Observer reported, Silver recently sent a letter to Forest City Ratner expressing concern "that construction has apparently slowed at your new Beekman Tower site since you generously agreed to incorporate a new K – 8th grade public school into the base of that new building. As you know, the school is scheduled to open in September 2009.... A number of constituents and community leaders have contacted my office in recent weeks with inquiries regarding the progress of the Beekman Tower building."

He asked the developer for its "most up to date schedule for construction of the Beekman Tower and when you anticipate that the new school will be able to open."

FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt gave the Observer a response: "We are very sensitive to the school overcrowding issues currently facing Lower Manhattan as it was the Speaker who originally raised the issue and it was at his insistence that we included the school in our project. We are continuing to work very closely with the Speaker and appreciate all of his efforts in helping to move the project forward as quickly as possible."


NoLandGrab: Translation: "It was the Speaker's idea to include a school in the project, not ours, so don't blame us if it doesn't get built."

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Influence peddlers cash in big time on Manhattan's West Side properties

NY Daily News
By Brian Kates


Politically wired influence peddlers pocketed more than $5 million from 2004 to last year from developers pushing plans to build a midtown metropolis on the borough's last major swath of available real estate.

The article focuses on Midtown Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, Hudson Railyards and Moynihan Station projects; however, Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn lobbying largesse receives a dishonorable mention:

All those projects are on the drawing board at the same time. They involve extensive land-use review, zoning changes and approvals from multiple city, state and federal agencies — and they all need billions more to meet expected costs.

That spells a bonanza for lobbyists.
Fried Frank, the law firm that lobbied for Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, was paid $339,190 to pull strings with the Planning Commission.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Report: Kidd says he didn't quit on Nets


JasonKidding.jpg Recently traded point guard Jason Kidd tells ESPN that he didn't quit on the Nets, and explains that the team has struggled since developer Bruce Ratner bought the team to be a centerpiece for the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn:

"I didn't quit on the team," Kidd told the Daily News. "At the end of the day, I gave everything that I could give to the Nets. There were no more rabbits that I could pull out of the hat. There were no more rabbits that Rod [Thorn] could pull out of a hat. That is as far as they could go. I took them as high as I could."
Kidd led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003 but he said the team never recovered after Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles were dealt in 2004 in cost-cutting moves after Bruce Ratner bought the team.


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Eminent domain is a pain in the Big Apple:
"The Kelo decision provoked an angry backlash in most of the country. By the Institute for Justice's count, 42 states responded with laws limiting the use of eminent domain for private purposes. New York is not one of those states. If you want to get ahead in New York, what you need is lofty goals and left-wing politics. Totalitarians do well here." — Forbes

Queens Ledger, Willets Point owners, tenants, workers unite in defiance

Note the most popular eminent-domain cliché, in bold:

The city's vision for the redevelopment of Willets Point faces a number of hurdles, but none more pressing than the buyout and relocation of the more than 250 businesses and at least 1,500 workers who occupy the site.
The EDC maintains it is continuing to negotiate relocation options with those who own their land and will do everything within its legal rights to aid in the relocation of everyone at the site . But the agency also has declined to take eminent domain off the table as a last resort.
Tom McKnight, vice president of the EDC, said the city will continue to negotiate with the businesses, but only for so long.

D'Real, 227 Duffield Street:Preserving Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

Report and photos from the first fundraiser for an Underground Railroad Museum.

Duffield St. Underground, NY Times: Discussing an Underground Railroad museum

The New York Times continues its coverage of the Underground Railroad home on West 29th Street in Manhattan. They published "Retracing the Elusive Footsteps of a Secretive History" on 2/24, and today they published a Letter to the Editor.

Forbes.com, The Taking of Port Chester

In his essay, law professor Richard Epstein recounts a horrifying tale, from Port Chester, N.Y., of how condemnation law is used to reward well-connected developers at the expense of people who aren't connected.

Forbes.com, This Property Is a Steal

The Kelo decision provoked an angry backlash in most of the country. By the Institute for Justice's count, 42 states responded with laws limiting the use of eminent domain for private purposes. New York is not one of those states. If you want to get ahead in New York, what you need is lofty goals and left-wing politics. Totalitarians do well here.

Columbia University, decreeing that it can make worthier use of some acreage than its present owners, aims to force them out. The mayor plans to bulldoze some businesses in Queens to make room for something nicer; when he's done, the parcel will be transferred to a favored developer. Condemnation is how the New York Times and a developer partner got the land for the paper's stunning new office tower.

The author, William Baldwin, busts the prevailing myth about eminent domain:

Developers insist that they have the public interest at heart: Why, without condemnation power, some spoilsport sitting on a tiny plot could hold up a magnificent renewal project.

But didn't most of Manhattan's high-rises get built without any strong-arming? There's a way of dealing with holdouts: threaten to build around them, leaving them with nearly worthless slivers of land. One developer, Seymour Durst, went so far as to coauthor a book richly illustrating the sad fate of refuseniks who got too greedy: New York's Architectural Holdouts.

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

March 9, 2008

WHO KNEW: No rezoning for Atlantic Yards

WhoKnew2.jpg Even experts, like an architect who penned this "Report from the Field" for eOculus (the online newsletter for the American Institute of Architects' NY Chapter), don't realize that Atlantic Yards is not the product of a rezoning.

While his presentation emphasized pedestrian planning, the public realm, and a variety of uses, the audience pointed out a contradiction in the recent Department of City Planning’s re-zoning efforts that include the waterfront from Long Island City to Williamsburg, West Side Rail Yards, and Atlantic Yards.

Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is a state project. The State of NY can, by law, supercede all local zoning, as they are doing in this case.

That's how Ratner can get away with building an arena just steps away from a three-story clapboard house, According to the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, "the New York City Zoning Resolution prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use."

In an email, Norman Oder pointed out that it isn't hard to believe that a local architect might not be aware of the distinction, given that The NY Times has not only made the same mistake, but has neglected to run a correction. Thus the mistake remains part of the historical record in the paper's own archives and is readily repeated by those who have faith in the "paper of record."

Posted by lumi at 5:17 PM

The upside of the Miss Brooklyn switch: less density, more public revenues?

Atlantic Yards Report

Given that the flagship Atlantic Yards tower Miss Brooklyn has apparently been shifted from a mix of condos and office space to all office space (after being originally announced as office space), that could adjust two statistics that might make the project look better.

As I wrote February 27, the project's residential density would go down from 292 apartments/acre to 273 apartments/acre, still a high number but a 6.5% drop.

More importantly, an increase of more than 200,000 square feet of office space might be seen as significantly recouping the projected $456 million loss the Empire State Development Corporation calculated in December 2006 when 270,000 square feet of office space was cut.

Those dramatic numbers never fully made sense, so any future projection should be subject to more public vetting.


Posted by amy at 11:58 AM

Anthony Weiner's view on Roger Clemens is faulty


Daily News
Mike Lupica

Rep. Anthony Weiner essentially begins his campaign for mayor of New York City by calling for the government to lay off Roger Clemens. Weiner says that the government has more important things to worry about than whether or not Clemens lied to the country and to Congress when he said he had never in his life, not one single time, used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
If Weiner really wants to be mayor, he's going to have to do better than this, or he won't get past Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president and No. 1 boy cheerleader for the Atlantic Yards New Jersey Nets.

NoLandGrab: Somehow we don't think Atlantic Yards is going to be Marty's selling point...

Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

Forest City in the News

Ann Arbor Business Review, Cleveland-based developer Forest City considers buying Pfizer campus in Ann Arbor

Though eminent domain isn't on the table, property-rights activists and Forest City critics will understand the irony of a deal featuring these two prominent players:

Forest City Enterprises Inc., a Cleveland-based developer, is considering how Ann Arbor's Pfizer Inc. campus could fit into its portfolio, Business Review has confirmed.

This marks the first glimpse at a potential buyer for the 175-acre site headed for a pivotal repositioning.

Officials from Forest City [NYSE:FCEA] visited Ann Arbor in the fall to tour the Pfizer facility, said Michael Rosen, senior vice president for new business development of Forest City's Science and Technology Group.
Forest City has a history of acquiring ex-Pfizer properties at a discounted rate. In March 2005, the $10 billion company bought a 23.4-acre, 1 million-square-foot ex-Pfizer site in Skokie, Ill., for $43 million.

These figures do not include Atlantic Yards, which is not yet officially under construction:

Forest City had 19 projects costing $2.1 billion under construction or ready to be acquired at the end of the third quarter of 2007, according to SEC filings. Seven were expected to open in 2008.

Ann Arbor Business Review, Forest City's tours of Pfizer give glimpse into potential for Ann Arbor site

Forest City's tour of the Pfizer site must be pretty big news in Ann Arbor — a local business commentator sorts through the rumors to pick a favorite:

The link to [University of Michigan] should give the city and state hope that the economic engine surrounding the university will help drive what happens at Pfizer. Given what we see from U-M in the community - growth, vitality and relevance on a growing global scale - that is arguably more significant than Forest City's position, at least as the company presents it today.

Ann Arbor News, Real estate giant toured Pfizer site

The $10 billion publicly traded national real estate company that recently transformed a former Pfizer Inc. research site in Illinois into a multicompany biotechnology hub confirmed Thursday that it toured the soon-to-be-shuttered Pfizer property in Ann Arbor last year.

Forest City Enterprises Inc. is based in Cleveland and owns, develops, acquires and manages a large portfolio of commercial and residential real estate properties throughout the U.S., including two apartment complexes in Detroit.

However, Jeff Linton, Forest City's vice president of corporate communication, cautioned that Forest City's touring of the site does not necessarily indicate the company is interested in buying the massive 177 acre, 2 million-square-foot research and development complex.

The Journal News, Tech center renovation costs Yonkers taxpayers $4 million
Though the aritcle doesn't implicate Forest City Ratner in any wrongdoing, the shenanigans at the Ridge Hill Development Corporation are a text-book case of why these private development corporations, mandated by and acting on behalf of government, are frequently slush funds, accountable to no one.

This article may provide clues as to why the Feds have been issuing subpoenas for records pertaining to the approval of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill deal.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

March 8, 2008

i generally have nice photographic encounters


not another f*cking blog!

yesterday, while shooting the demolition of the Ward Bread Bakery smokestack (which, along with its water tower, are my Prospect Heights neighborhood icons), i was approached by an employee of Gateway Demolition, the contractor doing the demolition of the Ward Bakery. he talked about his new optic gear which enabled him to tell the brand of cigarette one of the workers was smoking on his break atop the smokestack, i talked about my trying to capture some of the history of the 'hood before his company dismantles it, and then we got into a short but interesting discussion about the history of the Ward Bakery.

he was pretty knowledgeable about Wards, how it was built in 1905 (or is it 1910? 1911?) and was where sliced bread was introduced. i asked him what is was like inside the old bakery. he told me about ovens large enough that one could drive a truck around inside of them and how the oven floors were on a giant rotisserie to evenly bake thousands of loaves at a time. he told me that it's very cold inside right now, like an icebox, with lots of peeling paint and beautiful light.


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

Academic: public-private partnerships in NY are one-sided

Atlantic Yards Report

A pointed analysis of one-sided development deals from Thursday's New York Times might have led some people to think about Atlantic Yards:
“Public-private partnerships are now one-sided arrangements in which the public actors no longer plan public spaces in the public interest,” said Elliott Sclar, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University. “Instead they facilitate private-sector developments of these spaces in exchange for slight public amenities. In this case, the public gets the chance to catch a train in the basement of a vertical shopping mall.”
Are the Atlantic Yards benefits "slight public amenities"? The courts haven't had to decide. Rather, as U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in his decision last June dismissing the Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge, "This case simply does not require the court to consider whether the Project is a good idea.. the issue before this court is whether the taking of Plaintiffs’ properties is rationally related to a conceivable public use."

The Empire State Development Corporation commented, "We are pleased by the decision, which reaffirms the Atlantic Yards project's many public benefits: affordable housing, a world-class sports venue, improved transportation and increased economic activity."

Well, the affordable housing is delayed, the sports venue would be, an appeals court acknowledged, "generously leased," the improved transportation would include a new subway entrance under a shopping venue, the "urban room," and increased economic activity would be offset to a significant (though never fully calculated) degree by subsidies and public costs.


Posted by amy at 10:06 AM

A Portrait of the Architect as Artist: Frank Gehry in New York


Critical Cities (via Core77)

Gehry’s centerpiece skyscraper of the Yards, the unfortunately named “Miss Brooklyn”, is a “curvaceous” glass tower (of frosted glass perhaps?) and seems the most formally interesting of the 16 skyscrapers. Many of the other towers appear to be simply conventional high-rise condo boxes with a jaunty angle here and there. While Gehry has mastered the singular iconic building, it is hard to see how this will translate to urbanism on such a scale. The designs thus far suggest no radical rethinking of urban space and little thinking about the effects on the existing local community. The increased population density, combined with the absence of adequate parking, schools, hospitals or other social services to service such a huge influx of people, all confirm that the proposed Yards is an exercise in simply maximizing profit by squeezing in as many luxury apartments as possible.

While Ratner’s basketball arena and the promise of NBA in Brooklyn is the sweetener to win over the local African-American community, commissioning starchitect Gehry seems to be a ploy to win over the design-conscious local gentrifiers. The website for the Atlantic Yards interestingly states the following for Gehry’s biography: “Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929, Mr. Gehry and his family moved to California after living in Toronto, Canada, until he was 18.” The born-in-Brooklyn connection seems less an honest mistake than a fabrication designed to further make the Gehry design palatable to the local community. However, judging from the strong local opposition to the project (which even includes local anti-Gehry graffiti at the site), the ploy seems to have failed, and may yet damage the reputation of the rumpled genius, at least in Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

Parking? Lots

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

Residential Parking Permits are one of several tools that the city needs to employ in the coming years to manage supply and demand of our increasingly strained roadways.

Atlantic Yards, for example, is expected to generate as many as 20,000 new car trips a day. For the neighborhoods surrounding Atlantic Yards, permit parking is needed to discourage arena patrons from cruising for free parking.

But permits by themselves won’t be enough if those cars continue to drive to the arena and park in local lots. The city should insist that Forest City Ratner develop alternate plans for its “interim” parking lot, which would accommodate as many as 1,400 cars.

Without improvements to public transportation and disincentives to drive, the costs of free parking and free driving will continue to be borne by residents and pedestrians through increased accidents, elevated asthma rates, noise pollution and degraded quality of life.

Danae Oratowski, Prospect Heights


Posted by amy at 9:57 AM

Civic Calendar

The Brooklyn Paper

Thursday, March 13

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Community update on the fight against Atlantic Yards. Hanson Place United Methodist Church (144 St. Felix St., at Hanson Place in Fort Greene). 7 pm. Call (718) 362-4784 for info.


Posted by amy at 9:54 AM

March 7, 2008

Will the AY Community Advisory Committee get off the ground?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation is having a tough time organizing an Atlantic Yards Community Advisory Committee (CAC). It seems that elected officials who were asked to nominate members to the CAC are reluctant to endorse this toothless organization.

An effort to create a new Atlantic Yards Community Advisory Committee (CAC) seems stalled for now. In January, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) begun to recruit a reconstituted and expanded CAC to meet quarterly and provide comment on the project, asking local elected officials and community boards for nominations.

The first meeting was to be in late February or early March. The only problem: some elected officials aren't playing ball. City Council Member Letitia James told me she wasn't appointing anybody because she didn't consider the group legitimate.


Other elected officials were more diplomatic, but still haven't made nominations. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries told me, "The decision was made collectively with several other elected officials to refrain from making any appointments until we had a better understanding of the role the CAC would play and more importantly, as part of an effort to develop an entity that had real and meaningful input into the situation."

A spokesperson for City Council Member Bill de Blasio said, "At this point, [he] agrees with the other elected officials that the current proposed body should be stronger and have a more formal role. He would like to see what room there is for strengthening this group before committing to appointing someone."

Jeffries told me that City Council Member David Yassky and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke also were refraining from making appointments.

One alternative to the current CAC structure has been proposed by Brooklyn Speaks.

Several local officials have supported a new governance structure put forward by BrooklynSpeaks that would involve additional oversight and advisory input. Jasper Goldman of the Municipal Art Society, who worked on the governance proposal said, of the CAC: "Unless it's set up in a way that’s real and meaningful and has a clear mission, it’s not clear where participation gets you. This doesn’t come close to addressing the needs we addressed in the governance proposal. It falls far short of the standard of governance set by projects like Hudson River Park, Queens West and the rebuilding at the World Trade Center site. None of those are perfect, but they're head and shoulders above what we have with Atlantic Yards."


Posted by steve at 8:35 AM

Yes, Atlantic Yards is the source of the "bloggiest" claim

Atlantic Yards Report

On the Brian Lehrer Live show, Steven Berlin Johnson, co-founder of Outside.in, notes that Atlantic Yards is the reason he proclaimed Clinton Hill as the "bloggiest" neighborhood.

At about 24:00, Johnson explained, "We did a survey of America's bloggiest neighborhoods... We ran the numbers, most posts per neighborhood in all these cities. When it came back, the top five neighborhoods were all in Brooklyn. We decided Brooklyn could have only one neighborhood. So I think it was Clinton Hill, because however we defined Atlantic Yards, it was in there."

As I wrote last April, if the source of Clinton Hill's stature was Atlantic Yards, the bloggiest neighborhood should be Prospect Heights, home to almost all of the project footprint.


NoLandGrab: If ever there was a topic in Brooklyn that deserves coverage in the blogs, it's Atlantic Yards. After all, coverage of this boondoggle has been sorely lacking in the mainstream media. If only Outside.in would notice that the neighborhood being most directly threatened is Prospect Heights and not Clinton Hill.

Posted by steve at 8:16 AM

So, the claim that Gehry's Brooklyn-born comes from the AY web site

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs down the source of the bogus claim, found in court papers filed by Forest City Ratner, that architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn.

I shouldn't have been so hard on Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun, claiming in a 1/25/08 legal filing that architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn. After all, the claim comes directly from the official Atlantic Yards web site.


Well, it can't be an honest mistake, can it? After all, the Atlantic Yards bio of Gehry links directly to the architect's Pritzker Prize bio, which states that he was born in Canada.

For more than two years, since Gehry stated his willingness to meet with Brooklynites but deferred to his client, and since he cracked that protesters "should've been picketing Henry Ford," Gehry's certainly lost some of his aura in Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 8:03 AM

Downtown Brooklyn Housing Falls Short of Predictions

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Sarah Ryley

This article gives an overview of new housing projects for Downtown Brooklyn, and also mixes in Atlantic Yards, which is located in Prospect Heights.

The following contrasts Forest City's opinion as to how well housing might sell in Atlantic Yards with that of Halstead Property Director of Marketing, William Ross.

Ratner’s financial projections for Atlantic Yards estimate market-rate condominiums in each tower would sell out in three to seven months, with construction phased over seven years. Miss Brooklyn’s 335 condos would sell in six months; the towers in the second phase, each with roughly 200 condos, would sell in three months, according to projections.

Ratner doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict market conditions over a decade, and Reigelhaupt cities MetroTech and other large projects as proof of his company’s staying power. “Forest City has been in Brooklyn for over 20 years and developed through all sorts of business cycles,” he said.

But William Ross said those projections seem optimistic even during boom years. He predicts towers with hundreds of condos will sell out in two or three years. “I think the timeline is going to stretch,” he said. “If too much comes on the market too quickly, it’s actually not healthy for the market.”


Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Delay that order! Court pushes back Yards case

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project is suddenly on even shakier ground, thanks to an inexplicable court ruling last week delaying until at least September a final judgment on one of the last legal barriers to the $4-billion development.

Despite a court victory in the environmental lawsuit in January, Ratner and his partners in the Empire State Development Corporation were stunned by a Feb. 26 ruling that put off oral arguments on opponents’ appeal of that Jan. 11 ruling.


Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

Update: CUNY gives Ratner failing grade


The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Here's some insight into how the project to build Bruce Ratner's skyscraper "Mr. Brooklyn" was cancelled.

The City University of New York scotched a plan to hire Bruce Ratner to build a new lab and residential skyscraper in Downtown Brooklyn because the Atlantic Yards developer would be too expensive, too slow and too controversial, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

A newly surfaced memo shows that CUNY wanted out of its deal to pay Ratner $307 million — up from $86 million in 2005 — to build a new facility for City Tech on Jay Street because costs had begun to soar.


Posted by steve at 7:14 AM

Wired Deals

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reprints a thoughtful commentary, originally posted to Atlantic Yards Report, about how judges can fail to do an independent assessment of a project like Atlantic Yards after public officials have fallen into line to endorse it.

Though they may not want to, there is no doubt that our New York justices know that they can second-guess analysis of a public agency. They don’t want to because it is an uncomfortable thing to do. Essentially they are required to make an ad hominem finding about how the public officials have conducted themselves; the courts will have to say that what they see is “unreasonable,” “in bad faith” or “arbitrary and capricious.” Either that or they need to change their presumptions- which in cases of developer-initiated, developer-driven condemnations like Atlantic Yards they probably should.

The public officials who know that a deal like this one was wired should not be surprised to be called off base. An important thing to understand is that not all deals are “wired.” Most deals handled by public officials are not. It may be strange to think that all deals, whether they are wired or not, may be subject to the same standard of judicial review, but if our judges choose not to deal with reality that may indeed be the case.

When a deal is wired, process breaks down and rationalization sets in. Public servants don’t stand up for proper process because they might lose their job or not get promoted as fast. They may believe in taking orders. But they don’t want to acknowledge that there is real harm in this. If a deal is small, a public official may disregard the skip in process as too small to pay attention to. If a deal is big, like Atlantic Yards, then the breakdown in process will lead to cumulatively bad results. Through rationalization, these bad results are probably not even acknowledged by the very public servants who have ushered through a wired deal.


Last in line to say whether the fantasy-land mis-processing of a wired project should be rejected as an unreasonable version of reality is the reviewing judge. The judge can side with reality and reject the work of the public officials. Again, it is uncomfortable to do so- Honestly speaking the public officials who did the work will acknowledge that wired deals are a very real thing- but that doesn’t mean a judge is going to want to render a real opinion that acknowledges this failure of process.


Posted by steve at 6:55 AM

It’s not easy being queen: Miss Brooklyn speaks!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

The newly crowned Miss Brooklyn (who just happens not to be a Brooklyn resident) takes a pass on assessing Atlantic Yards.

And her strong opinions stopped short of taking a stand on the borough’s singular development project, Atlantic Yards.

“You can’t do this to me!” she laughed. “I’ve only been Miss Brooklyn for one week.”

Then again, she’s not alone in punting on Atlantic Yards — even New York Sen. Hillary Clinton hasn’t staked out a position on the project.


Posted by steve at 6:36 AM

Your Tax Dollars Hard at Work For Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Your Money for Ratner's Buyouts

DDDB emphasizes the significance of the story, first revealed on Atlantic Yards Report, of how the City has disbursed $55 million to Bruce Ratner.

It is our understanding (as spelled out so many years ago in the Memorandum of Understanding) that some of that $40 million is to reimburse Forest City Ratner for so-called "site acquisition." Do you know what this means? It means one of the following:

-NYC taxpayers are reimbursing Bruce Ratner for buyout payments he made to property owners under the threat of eminent domain, or;

-NYC taxpayers are contributing to Forest City Ratner's lowball purchase price ($100 million) for the MTA's Vanderbilt Rail Yards.

Crain's New York, Atlantic Yards secures $55M in public funding

Crain's New York repeats the story uncovered by Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder:

After months of contention about whether the city’s Economic Development Corp. had completed funding agreements with Forest City Ratner Cos. for its controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, city officials finally confirmed that at least $55 million in public funding has been distributed to FCRC.

Posted by steve at 6:07 AM

March 6, 2008

AY financing documents have been signed, city official confirms

Atlantic Yards Report, EXCLUSIVE!

Norman Oder has been trying to track down whether or not NY City has signed the Atlantic Yards financing documents. Back in October 2007, Developer Forest City Ratner assured investors that the documents had been signed, but the Atlantic Yards ombudsman in January said they hadn't, and Crain's reported last week that the documents were still awaiting approval by city and state comptrollers.


Seth Pinsky, the new president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), appeared yesterday at a New York City Council oversight hearing held by the Economic Development Committee and the Small Business Committee.

City Council Member Letitia James said that Pinksy indicated that $40 million of city funds and $15 million of state funds had been distributed. The state has pledged $100 million and the city $205 million. At the request of fellow Council Member David Yassky, a member of the Economic Development Committee, Pinsky said he'd release the financing documents to the committee, James said.

Will the documents ensure the provision of affordable housing, part of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)? That's unclear, though state officials had indicated that such guarantees were forthcoming. James said Pinsky acknowledged that the CBA is not incorporated in financing document but some city priorities, such as affordable housing, are reflected in it.


Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

DDDB to get preservation award from HDC, but Ward Bakery demolition continues

Atlantic Yards Report


From the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn newsletter:

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) will be awarding Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn their Grassroots Preservation Award for our "ongoing efforts to stop the Atlantic Yards project." There will be a ceremony in May. We thank the HDC for acknowledging and honoring our ongoing work.

HDC gives several Grassroots Preservation Awards, often to groups that, unlike DDDB, have succeeded in their preservation mission. Last year's winners included the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, the Crown Heights North Association, the East Village Community Coalition, and the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, all of which had achieved preservation progress.

DDDB and allies have succeeded in raising consciousness about valuable buildings within the Atlantic Yards footprint and the general importance of responsible development, but it has not succeeded in blocking the ongoing demolition of the Ward Bakery, though Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises have certainly practiced historic preservation elsewhere. Tracy Collins's photo shows the smokestack coming down.

Norman Oder notes that one building isn't coming down, yet:

If Forest City Ratner is in such a hurry to build the Atlantic Yards Arena, why hasn't the developer started to demolish the Spalding Building, which, unlike the Ward Bakery, actually would be within the arena footprint?

Maybe because it was already renovated into condos, and should the project be scotched, the apartments could easily be marketed.


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

In Alberta arena debate, the AY story gets mangled

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder stumbles over quotes from a professor who hasn't been keeping up with the ABCs of Atlantic Yards:


In a March 2 article headlined Stickhandling a hot debate, the Edmonton Journal described the efforts of phys ed professor Dan Mason of the University of Alberta to bring a new hockey arena in Edmonton. Atlantic Yards came up as a positive example, but the facts were mangled.
The article almost suggests that Atlantic Yards would be a Jacobsian mixed-use project:

It's important that all citizens benefit from the project, Mason says, and the city can ensure this by using its power to push for public spaces and parks to be included in the project, as well as other housing and commercial development.

For instance, in the new $4-billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn for the NBA Nets, half of the 6,000 condo rental units are earmarked for low- and middle-income residents, Mason says. The developer is building an elementary school and day-care centre out of his own pocket as part of the project. The state of New York is helping to subsidize the rental units as part of a broader low-income housing initiative.

Well, half of the 4500 rentals are subsidized; there would be some 1930 on-site condos, of which 200 would be subsidized; the developer says it will built a total of 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, but that's not memorialized in any government document.

Only 900 units would be low-income, so AY is not a low-income housing initiative.

And furthermore, Forest City Ratner has already assured the public that the day-care center and elementary school are NOT being paid for out of its own pocket.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM


Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius rather politely tells Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, exclusive my ass:


When you are the fourth one to report a piece of news, it is a neat trick to claim exclusivity. Both the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Brooklyn Courier newspapers, following the Daily News, were already out with the story that Bruce Ratner had pulled out of a deal with CUNY City Tech to build Brooklyn’s tallest tower at Tillary and Jay Streets, when, late on Friday, the Brooklyn Paper hit the streets with its “exclusive” account. Maybe the paper just meant that its headline, “Ratner Kills Mr. Brooklyn,” was exclusive, or maybe it was that its editor, Gersh Kuntzman, had been away for a week when no issue had been published and assumed that what was news to him was news to the world. Every reader may not watch, but there are readers who do.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

March 5, 2008

Bergen Tile is "just the spot," to be replaced by... ?

Atlantic Yards Report


It's just a matter of time before the retail frontages on Flatbush Avenue change significantly, right? The owners of the building housing Bergen Tile at the southeast corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue are advertising the space for rent as "directly across the street from the new Nets arena at Atlantic Yards." (The building was sold in 2006, according to ACRIS.)

Now that's the plan, though, in a best-case scenario, the arena likely wouldn't open for three years. Still, as the brochure attached to the listing posted by Ripco Realty (yes, that's their name) shows, there are nearly 600 new condo units coming in the area, on top of the 6860 units--actually 6430, and almost certainly fewer, given the changes planned for Miss Brooklyn--planned at Atlantic Yards. The housing could take decades.

Note that the site outline in red suggests that the Bergen Tile building extends all the way from Flatbush Avenue well opposite Building 3, near the corner of Sixth Avenue.

Actually, the triangular plot doesn't go nearly that far.


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Ward Bakery demolition continues

Photographer Tracy Collins has posted several photos of the dismantling of the Ward Bakery building smokestack in progress, including this close-up of the bird's-nest-like scaffold.


Other smokestack photos: TC-WardStackTh01.jpg


TC-WardStackTh03.jpg TC-WardStackTh04.jpg TC-WardStackTh05.jpg

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

The Language of Developers, and How to Understand It

Lost City now offers developer doublespeak translation services. Here are the first two to get you started:

Statement: "Our design is meant to respect the historical and architectural context of the neighborhood."
Translation: "This building is not as big and ugly as we'd like it to be."

Statement: "We support the approval process."
Translation: "We promised City Hall we'd go through the motions."

Click here for the rest of the hysterical-but-true list.

NoLandGrab: Here's one for the Atlantic Yards opponents who have been hanging around for a few years...

Statement: "When I was young I wanted to be a priest."
Translation: "I am a creep."

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM


Photo by Tracy Collins, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


the HOT BIRD building, 540 Vanderbilt, would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

March Madness: Homeland Security Issues Warning on Sports Arenas

A report issued by the FBI and Dept. of Homeland Security warning of the "potential threats against sporting events" is another opportunity for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to remind Brooklynites and the politicians who represent them that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation have not disclosed any potential impact of the planned arena and in fact, "have said that no road or lane closings will take place, and that there aren't even any plans to place bollards around the arena."


Read more about the FBI and DHS joint report at ABCNews.com

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Report on LA CBAs shows a huge contrast with the AY CBA

Atlantic Yards Report


A new report from Environmental Defense, Everybody Wins: Lessons from Negotiating Community Benefits Agreements in Los Angeles, fleshes out some crucial differences between those pioneering CBAs and the "historic" CBA "negotiated" between Forest City Ratner and eight groups, most of them established after the Atlantic Yards project was announced.

Notably, the groups participating in the Staples Center and Los Angeles Airport CBAs based their negotiating position on responses to flaws in the environmental impact review (EIR). The Atlantic Yards CBA was signed on 6/27/05, three months before the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) even issued its Proposed Scope of Analysis for the Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and more than a year before the Draft EIS was issued.


NoLandGrab: Though experts pile on the criticism of the Atlantic Yards CBA, that doesn't stop developer Bruce Ratner from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell predominately African-American Brooklynites that it's great.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Forest City in the News

FCYSA.gif ad hoc news, Forest City Closes $100 Million Refinancing for the Promenade Bolingbrook

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has closed on a $100 million loan with The Prudential Insurance Company of America to refinance The Promenade Bolingbrook, a 736,000 square-foot open-air town center in suburban Chicago. The center, which is anchored by Macy's and Bass Pro Shops, opened in April, 2007.

Commercial Property News, Forest City Refinances Promenade Bolingbroke with $100M Loan

The mortgage, which replaced the property’s construction loan, illustrates that the capital markets are providing liquidity to borrowers with strong track records, high quality assets and strong management teams, a Forest City spokesperson told CPN today.

“The terms of specific transactions may be less attractive than 18 months ago, but we have plenty of access to liquidity,” he added. “In fact, we recently exercised the accordion feature in our revolving credit facility and expanded our line of credit to more than $700 million. That represents our highest level of liquidity ever.”

UrbanOhio, Forest City Enterprises Thread
An online discussion trying to figure out why Forest City seems to be building anywhere but Cleveland.

NoLandGrab: Could it be that Forest City has tapped out Cleveland of massive subsidies and the gig is up, but other municipalities are happy to pony up to be the next boondoggle?

GuruFocus, Martin Whitman Buys... Forest City Enterprises Inc.

Legendary investor Martin Whitman rarely make big changes to his portfolio, but during the past quarter he had one of worst performance periods, he is convinced with his bets on bond insurers, and buying more. These are the details of his buys and sells during the last quarter.

Martin Whitman buys MBIA Inc., Legg Mason Inc., Forest City Enterprises Inc., sells Pfizer Inc, The TorontoDominion Bank, ACE Ltd., Sears Holdings Corp., St. Jude Medical Inc., Nuveen Investments Inc., Ceridian Corp., PAREXEL International Corp. during the 3-months ended 01/31/2008, according to the most recent filings of his investment company, Third Avenue Value Fund.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Queens Crap, Atlantic Yards costs us more than Ratner
From the transcript of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner's investor meeting (via Atlantic Yards Report):

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

Translation: The taxpayers of NYC are ponying up a lot more to get this thing done than the developer is.

NY Sun Blogs: Culture of Congestion, With Recession in the Wind, Local Mega-Projects Scale Back and Slow Down

It was only a couple of months ago that the prospects for growth in Downtown Brooklyn were so rosy. There were estimates of more than 14,000 new residential units to be built in the next few years, the tempestuous but on-going plans for Atlantic Yards, and a lively revamped Metrotech district were just a few of promising developments. Things have changed.

Recent postings in the blog "Atlantic [Yards] Reports" have noticed an apparent scaling back in the description of the Atlantic Yards development — the proposed future home of the Brooklyn Nets and an enormous Frank Geary-designed mixed-use complex.

Curbed.com, Ye Olde Agreement

The latest Atlantic Yards promotional brochure is out and it focuses on the "Community Benefits Agreement" signed by a number of groups. "...critics in Brooklyn point out that the signatories, most of which were formed for the purpose of 'negotiating' the CBA, apparently are funded or stand to benefit from deals with the developer." Three of the eight groups have changed names since signing. The fun part, though, is that the agreement is shown on aged parchment with calligraphy, Declaration of Independence-style.

The Gowanus Lounge, Bklink: Ratnergram
"Ratnergram!" Either we're totally loopy, or that is really funny.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

TOMORROW: Brooklyn Matters Screening

March 6, 6pm
NYU Law School
Vanderbilt Hall, Room 214
40 Washington Sq. South (at Sullivan St.)

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

March 4, 2008

UNITY workshop begins to address the whole AY footprint

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from this Saturday's UNITY planning workshop:


Is it realistic to consider another future for the planned Atlantic Yards footprint, one based on the principles of the UNITY plan unveiled last September? That was the premise of a workshop Saturday organized by the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development, along with the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN).

And while the four-hour session didn’t produce definitive solutions, it did for the first time extend beyond the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard, the major public property in the AY site, to the rest of the footprint, now owned mostly by developer Forest City Ratner. In other words, the project, launched in 2004 as Understanding, Imagining and Transforming the Yards (UNITY), might need a revised acronym.

About 40 people attended the event, held at the Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. Their conclusions were not particularly surprising: development should be contextual; major current buildings should be preserved; space for industry/manufacturing should be maintained; and new public space should be created. (Space for affordable housing was already part of the plan.)

Needless to say, an arena was not on the table, and any new plans would ultimately have to be measured against the costs of development. And the Ward Bakery, a building participants would like to save, is currently under demolition.


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM


Photographer Harry J. Bizzarro added some photos to the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


This one is a good reminder to take your umbrella before leaving the house today.

From the National Weather Service:

Rain likely, mainly after 3pm. Patchy fog after noon. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 59. South wind between 14 and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

The Day Is Set for the Fall; Atlantic Yards Appeal To Be Considered by Court in September

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

The date is set for what may be the final appeal of the last lawsuit that would stop Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards.

With four separate lawsuits having set up hurdles for the Atlantic Yards project, it appears that the final obstacle will be addressed this fall. On Friday, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ordered that the appeal of the lawsuit that claims the environmental impact statement’s approval is defective will be considered by the court in September.

The lawsuit was filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and is the only lawsuit that technically seeks to directly stop Atlantic Yards from being built. The case was dismissed by the state Supreme Court in Manhattan in January, and plaintiffs appealed.
After four separate lawsuits that would effectively stop Atlantic Yards have been dismissed, as well as three of the four appeals being dismissed or denied, this appeal of the environmental-impact case is the last appeal that plaintiffs are entitled to as a matter of right. If this appeal fails, it would take the state’s highest court or the country’s supreme court to choose to intervene.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the lawsuit was filed by a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups, not Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn exclusively, and it seeks to challenge the ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW, and not, technically speaking, stop the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

DBP's Joe Chan: projects improve thanks to compromise

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder summarizes the Crain's NY Business interview with Joe Chan, the man who is charged with keeping the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment on track (including Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights).


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

March 3, 2008

In seventh slick brochure, Forest City Ratner touts "historic" CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder managed to get his hands on a copy of Forest City Ratner's latest pricey four-color multi-page Atlantic Yards direct mail propaganda piece.

This one tries very hard to tout the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), signed mostly by groups that are financially supported by developer Bruce Ratner, and directed primarily at Brooklyn's African-American community.

You gotta love the seven(!) images containing the dummy copy of "Ye Olde Community Benefits Agreement." Complete with frayed and crumbling edges, calligraphy font and faux-antique yellowing — the sub-text that the CBA is make-believe couldn't be more apparent.

Here's an excerpt from Oder's report; you can also check out the article to view the entire brochure.

This flier focuses on the signatories of the CBA, all of whom are black. Several of the previous brochures focused more broadly on the project, with (partial) images of buildings and open space, and pictured a multiracial cast of Brooklynites.

CBA legitimacy

CBA watchdogs and city officials have looked askance at the CBA and critics in Brooklyn point out that the signatories, most of which were formed for the purpose of "negotiating" the CBA, apparently are funded or stand to benefit from deals with the developer. (Here are some details, plus an Observer piece on some unconvincing denials. Here's some criticism from a CBA watchdog, Good Jobs NY.)

Some of the CBA groups do coordination or advisory work, the cumulative support for which is surely much less than the $400,000 the developer paid former New York Senator Al D'Amato to lobby in Washington against eminent domain reform, a story revealed by the New York Observer but not touted in any brochure.

Fledgling groups change names

Some two-and-a-half years after the CBA was signed on June 27, 2005, three of the eight signatories have changed their names. Two changes I've previously reported: The First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee has become Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE). The All-Faith Council of Brooklyn has become Faith In Action, Inc. The flier brings the news that the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium has become Brooklyn Voices for Children, Inc.

Those three, along with the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance and Public Housing Communities (PHC), apparently were formed expressly for this project, while Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) was fledgling at best. Two other signatories--the housing group ACORN and the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC)--had established track records.

Two of the groups, BEE and PHC, both list addresses at 466 Bergen Street. However, the storefront doesn't show the names of those groups.

Note the scroll lists the names of the original signatories and that, in subsequent pages, representatives of several of the signatories pose individually in front of the scroll.

NoLandGrab: Lost in all the effort that went into the production of this brochure, including make-up artist, is the actual CBA, which has been roundly criticized by good-government groups and CBA experts.

If you have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince people that the CBA is really great, then it probably isn't.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Atlantic Yards Report shorts

From Norman Oder's weekend reading list:

Before AY, the necessity of congestion relief

A posting on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn about gridlock at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues led to some serious debate on Streetsblog on the causes, solutions, and the role of DDDB.

Suffice it to say that even Atlantic Yards proponents like Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership of New York City believe the project could work only with congestion pricing.

And even a significantly dense but smaller project like that contemplated under the UNITY plan would require, as its planners suggest, “extensive traffic calming, parking reduction, and bicycle lanes to discourage vehicle use for both local and inter-borough travel.”

Play (NYT)
Why NBA team ownership can be very lucrative

Joe Nocera's article in yesterday's Play, The New York Times Sports Magazine, headlined Big time Losers describes the "Bad Owner" who runs lousy teams:

Why does the Bad Owner seem so impervious to it all?

Actually, there is a reason, a very good one. To own a franchise in any of the three major sports — football, baseball or basketball — is to enter a club in which it is nearly impossible to come away a financial loser.

His case in point is NBA's Los Angeles Clippers; owner Donald Sterling has seen his investment skyrocket from $13.5 million to $300 million.

Nocera points out that the value of the badly-managed New York Knicks has continued to rise, given its stronghold in the nation's major media market.

He doesn't mention the New Jersey Nets, but Bruce Ratner's strategy is consonant with his observation. The Nets are losing money in the Meadowlands and team managers are trying to improve the mix of players. But the key comes in the future: the new arena at Atlantic Yards would prove quite lucrative, thanks to naming rights from Barclays, 130 luxury suites, other sponsorships, and television revenue.

NoLandGrab: In three seasons Bruce Ratner has joined the pantheon of big-time losers. Nothing could feed Brooklyn's historical chip on the shoulder more than his ruining a winning franchise and moving it to "the fourth largest city in the US."

NY Times Real Estate Section
The lottery-like chances for subsidized middle-class housing

A New York Times Real Estate section article yesterday on the chances of the middle-class getting subsidized housing in New York City was headlined Winning That One in a Million.

Atlantic Yards, with 1350 subsidized middle- and moderate-income units and 900 subsidized low-income units, would seem to improve the odds slightly. Then again, if the project takes 20 years, or 30 years--or doesn't get off the ground at all--then the odds improve less and less.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM


Brit (back) in Brooklyn posted this image from last Saturday's workshop for the community-supported UNITY plan.


Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Unease Erodes Ambition in Real Estate

The NY Sun
By Peter Kiefer

Atlantic Yards is on the list of multi-billion-dollar projects that could be in trouble as the storm clouds thicken in the NYC real estate market:

Last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the price tag for the completion of the first leg of the Second Avenue subway line had ballooned to $4.35 billion from $3.8 billion. Critics are questioning whether Lower Manhattan transportation projects such as the Fulton Street Transit Center and the Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH Station are worth their soaring price tags, and the projects' elaborate designs are being pared down.

The planned redevelopment of Penn Station has a budget shortfall of at least $1 billion. A public spat erupted between city and state officials over Governor Spitzer's plan to scrap the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center after cost estimates more than doubled to $5 billion, and last week one of the five original bidders in the proposed development of the Hudson Rail Yards project on Manhattan's West Side — Brookfield Properties — dropped out. A shortage of federal housing subsidies and ongoing litigation from resident groups is threatening Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project near downtown Brooklyn. The list of public and private projects on hold seems to grow on a weekly basis.


Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Sunday Real Estate Round-Up 3/02/08

Bruce Ratner's new brownstone scores a line in Luxist's weekly real estate round-up, which got it from The NY Observer:

--Developer Bruce Ratner has paid $6.9 million at 128 East 62nd Street.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Voices: Bloomie's fuzzy math on stadiums

MetroNY, Opinion

Neil deMause doesn't call Mayor Bloomberg a liar (though he could have) in explaining why the Yankee Stadium deal is so lousy for the City.

On his weekly radio show Friday, Mayor Bloomberg was asked why the city was subsidizing stadiums for the Mets and Yankees. His response: “The city and the state, to my recollection, each put in $75 million” for each new stadium — a mere fraction of the total cost. “It was a really good deal,” he added.

For a data-crazed mayor, Bloomberg can be awfully loose with his numbers.

Tally up the cost of replacing the parkland that was sucked up by the deal, lost tax revenue from tax-exempt bonds, a property tax abatement that runs forever, no sales tax on construction materials...

Add in the new Metro-North station, the three new parking garages and other scattered freebies, and the latest tally for the taxpayer tab is $807 million. The Steinbrenner family, meanwhile, even with the extra $300 million in upgrades they announced last month, will be out just $650 million. (For the Mets, the corresponding numbers are $468 million public of public money and $306 million of team money.)


NoLandGrab: Beware, Developer Bruce Ratner and the City are touting the same kind of funny numbers for the Nets arena and Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM



March 6, 6pm
NYU Law School
Vanderbilt Hall, Room 214
40 Washington Sq. South (at Sullivan St.)

March 11, 6pm
Brooklyn Law School
“Geraldo’s” in Feil Hall. 1st Floor
205 State St. (btwn. Boerum Pl. & Court St.)
Please RSVP: andrew.rafter-(at)-brooklaw.edu

April 1 (No Joke), 7pm
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
357 Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn
(btwn. Greene & Lafayette Aves.)

Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

March 2, 2008

Photoshop this newspaper editor and the Brooklyn borough president



(Caption: "Borough President Markowitz accepts an extremely generous check from Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman, whose ankle cast auction raised $500 for Markowitz’s Camp Brooklyn charity.")

NoLandGrab: Two of our favorite entries below: (And let's hope Miss Brooklyn doesn't come looking for those...)




Posted by amy at 12:14 PM

With Recession in the Wind, Local Mega-Projects Scale Back and Slow Down

NY Sun Blogs: Culture of Congestion
Sandy Ikeda

Recent postings in the blog "Atlantic Reports" have noticed an apparent scaling back in the description of the Atlantic Yards development — the proposed future home of the Brooklyn Nets and an enormous Frank Geary-designed mixed-use complex.
A related article in the same issue of the Brooklyn Paper reports that federal funding for so-called below-market or below-cost residential units is drying up. It would take $7 billion of federal money to build all of the projects currently proposed in the state of New York, but only $1.33 billion was granted (in bonds) in 2007, with no change expected in 2008. Apparently, if the funding for these units doesn't come through, none of the 2,250 units will get built, and Mr. Ratner will have to pay a $500,000 penalty for going back on his promise. Evidently, the rest of the multi-billion dollar mega-project will go on as planned without further consequences.

NoLandGrab: We prefer to get our news directly from the "Atlantic Yards Report" so that we know stuff...like that the $500,000 penalty only applies to job training obligations. That damn "Atlantic Reports" blog is wrong every time.

Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

NYT editorials: "best thinking" vs. "the spirit of the Times"

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, through a spokesperson, offered this explanation to the New Republic about political endorsements: "Our endorsements represent the best thinking of the editorial board and we do not comment on them beyond what we say to our readers."

Well, maybe. But it's just possible that the Times's editorial position on Atlantic Yards was more clearly articulated by editorial board member Carolyn Curiel when she said, "Our goal is to reflect the spirit of the Times and the opinion of the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr."


Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

At MetroTech, no photography; what about AY?


Atlantic Yards Report

Given the hassles that videographer Katherin McInnis and photographer Tracy Collins recently experienced at the Atlantic Yards footprint, the experience I had at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech Center two weeks back was small beans, but still worth noting.

While I was walking around the Commons, shooting a few photos, a couple of security guards told me (nicely) that photography was not permitted. I had already taken the photos I wanted, and they didn't ask for the camera.

Only later did I see and photograph the rules. (Click to enlarge.) While photography isn't explicitly banned, it apparently qualifies as "unauthorized activity."

That raises a question. Should Atlantic Yards open space be built--the eight acres would appear in the increasingly distant second phase of the project--would photography be permitted?

NoLandGrab photographers were also harassed at Metrotech back when this fight began and we wanted to illustrate the stark difference between public parks and "open space." Maybe we should have just photographed the security guardpost...

Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

March 1, 2008


NY POST MISSES POINT - Forest City Ratner wanted this case to be heard before summer, but the appellate court delayed arguments until the September Term, which is actually good for Atlantic Yards 'foes'. You can read the real story on Atlantic Yards Report.

An appellate court yesterday agreed to speed things along for the perennially bogged-down Atlantic Yards project - Brooklyn's largest-ever development.

Developer Bruce Ratner had complained legal delays are creating funding woes for his ambitious $4 billion plan - and an appeals panel ordered opponents in the "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn" group to be ready with their arguments for the September term.

The appeal had been set to be in February 2009; Ratner wanted it heard this May.


Posted by amy at 5:47 PM

Why a photog with a blog may be an essential watchdog

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Tracy Collins's recent run-in with some Atlantic Yards factotum, irate that he had [corrected] been taking pictures through an open fence door to photograph the (public) Carlton Avenue Bridge, serves as a reminder that there's no good structure to oversee projects that would be sustained over decades.

(Collins suggests that there are no visible signs of demolition, despite the professed rush; perhaps the city or the developer can explain what exactly has been accomplished so far.)

Projects that represent city-making demand “different mechanisms… to insure that a part of a city is designed and built well,” observed the Regional Plan Association's Rob Lane last May.

BrooklynSpeaks (remember them? they've been quiet) has suggested a new governance structure, but, as of now, all that's coming is a new Community Advisory Committee. Meanwhile, neighbors like Collins are keeping watch. Could he keep it up for decades?


Posted by amy at 4:37 PM

An Atlantic Yards Case Won't Be Heard Until September


The Gowanus Lounge

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project got nowhere in court trying to get an injunction to block the demolition of the Carlton Avenue Bridge but gained a procedural advantage yesterday. An appeal of a lower court's decision against the challenge to the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Review process won't be argued until September. The decision was issued yesterday afternoon. (For those having a hard time keeping track, there is a separate case concerning eminent domain that is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.)

Forest City Ratner had argued for an expedited hearing, as early as May, but an appellate court ordered documents filed by July and a hearing held after Labor Day. The decision means a delay until fall or winter for any decision and any final resolution of this particular case (assuming a decision goes against the opponents). Atlantic Yards Report concludes the "best case scenario" for the Nets to play in Brooklyn arena would now be the 2011-12 season.


More from Curbed:

PROSPECT HEIGHTS—There's a small development one of the Atlantic Yards lawsuits that means that the litigation will continue longer than developer Bruce Ratner was hoping. Mr. Ratner had asked for an "expedited" argument on the appeal of the case brought by opponents of the project challenging the Environmental Impact review process (already dismissed by a lower court) by May, but a state appeals court will hear the case in September. [CurbedWire Inbox]

Posted by amy at 12:31 PM

Eviction case ends with $103K settlement from Forest City Ratner


Atlantic Yards Report

A Brooklyn woman who wanted to open a day care center in a building in the Atlantic Yards footprint has achived a six-figure settlement her lawyer called a good compromise. Shirley Milligan, according to her attorney, Michael Rikon, had originally been offered $40,000 to reimburse her for her investment, plus the return of her $3000 security deposit.

Milliken signed a lease apparently uninformed that the property was slated for demolition. (Someone--whether it be her or those on the other end of the transaction--apparently could've done more disclosure or diligence.)


Posted by amy at 12:04 PM